Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cinder Book Review

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0312641894

400 pp.

Reading copy via local library

With one of the most eye-catching covers in awhile, coupled with an awesome concept, Cinder was high on my list of must-reads for 2012. I'm happy to report that it's just as fun as I thought it would be.

Cinder takes the Cinderella story and makes it a fractured fairy tale by setting it in a far-flung future. In that world, Cinder is a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing while a plague sweeps Earth. The only hope of a cure comes from a kingdom on the moon that's run by an evil queen. The queen wants to marry Prince Kai to form an alliance that will eventually make her the ruler of both the moon and Earth. Prince Kai desperately wants to help his people, but after he meets Cinder, he can't stop thinking about her.

The fun of the book is seeing how Marissa Meyer plays with the trappings of the story everyone is familiar with and turns them into Cinder's own thing (e.g. she finds an old orange car in the junkyard that she fixes up and takes to the ball). The big reveal at the end is only a reveal to Cinder as enough clues are dropped that I knew the reveal by page 44, but it's an entertaining (and dare I say, charming) journey getting there. This is the first in a series, the next volume called Scarlet and to be focused on Little Red Riding Hood. Hope it's as fun.

I would recommend Cinder to readers who enjoyed Entwined by Heather Dixon or Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.

Cinder Book Trailer:

Listen to the first chapter of Cinder:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

In Which I Profess My Love for Downton Abbey

Tomorrow night is the season two finale of Downton Abbey, the PBS Masterpiece Classic series that has women (and many men) swooning over Edwardian dresses and upstairs/downstairs intrigue.

The basic story is that the titular grand house belongs to Lord Grantham, who has the misfortune to have three daughters instead of a son who can inherit Downton Abbey (see Pride and Prejudice for a further discussion on entitled estates). The heir, a cousin one of the daughters is set to marry, dies on the Titanic. The next heir is discovered to be a young lawyer named Matthew, who seems rather embarrassed that he's meant to be the next Lord Grantham. As the family learns to deal with Matthew, there's also all sorts of shenanigans with the servants, some directly dealing with the family and some not.

In case you didn't know, Downton Abbey is the brainchild of Julian Fellowes, the writer of the brilliant Gosford Park. Downton Abbey stars a bevy of British actors with posh accents and stiff upper lips, including the indomitable Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess (fun fact: Dowager is the term given to a widow after her titled husband dies).

But don't let the fancy-schmancy pedigree scare you off. This is soap opera at its best. It's great storytelling about characters you care about put in impossible situations. There might not be a cat fight in a fountain, but having the Dowager Countess give another character verbal beat-down can be just as over-the-top.

Sh!t the Dowager Countess Says

Yes, the parodies have started! I can't wait to see what the interwebs come up with next. For now, there's this:

Downton Abbey, the Musical

Saturday Night Live did an excellent spoof, but those killjoys at Universal have pulled it. I did find it still available at Gawker, if you want to take a look.

And now there are even Downton Abbey paper dolls. Yes, they are awesome.

Lady Sybil paper doll
It's not too late to join the Downton Abbey bandwagon! Catch up with season one on Netflix and PBS has season two available online.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Secret Screenplay Project REVEALED

Kelli and me making history at The Four Seasons
I've hinted before that I was working on a secret screenplay project, and I have officially turned in the first draft!

Let me go back a little. Last fall, my friend Kelli approached me about writing a screenplay. Kelli is a producer, actress, writer and all-around awesome person. She wants 2012 to be about creating projects with what she has instead of waiting for projects to come to her. (Take a moment and check out Kelli's website, Think Outside the Box Inside the Box. It could change your life.)

So would I be willing to write a screenplay for her to star in and produce? A screenplay that could be produced for a microbudget? And not a short, but a feature-length screenplay? That could be shot at her house so she didn't have to get permits? And Kelli's character had to have a missing tooth (the reason why is a long story)? And I would get full writing credit but basically no money?

Well, when you put it like that, how could I say no?

I'm pretty sure I'm nuts for doing this, but I really wanted to. I needed a break from the YA novel. And it had been two years since I'd last written a screenplay. It was a crazy challenge, but I was up for it.

Because of the limited locations, I approached it more like a play than a screenplay. Meaning I knew it had to be character-driven rather than plot-driven. I spent time writing full character sketches for the leads. These characters had to have believable backstories for them to do what they were going to do. And I had to know their stories well because the screenplay has to be dialog heavy.

But I also wanted to make sure that the screenplay still felt cinematic. So I wrote my very first non-linear screenplay. I wanted to play on assumptions and plotted things out so each section would have a twist. I wrote a detailed outline of the script before I typed FADE IN.

I had about six weeks to write the first draft, but a family emergency pushed the deadline into February. But I did finish it at 3 a.m. the day it was due and met Kelli later that day at The Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to pick up my (token) payment. (I also got a fabulous lunch, courtesy of a friend of Kelli's, who now gets a producer credit! ... that's right, make sure your screenwriter is fed.)

It is by no means a perfect script, but I am so looking forward to developing it with Kelli. Because creating a story is awesome. And even better when you can do it with a friend.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Reader's Corner - January 2012 Update

"This tesseract stuff is blowing my mind."
And so it begins ...

Another year of new books! Yay!

Last year I did monthly updates of the Debut Author Challenge books that I read, and I want to do that again this year. But I also want to add any other reading news that I may have to share, so I'm making these entries the more encompassing "Reader's Corner" rather just "Debut Author Challenge."

But I will start with January's debut author book ... I missed my chance to get Cinder from Netgalley (can I blame the holidays?), and just got a copy from the library a couple of days ago. So my inaugural debut novel for 2012 ended up being Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig. And it was a pretty good way to start the year.

As I mentioned in my review, there's a big discrepancy between the number of ARC pages and the number of pages listed on Amazon. So there will be an update after the book is released.

In other book news, I wanted to share an oldie but a goodie. A Wrinkle in Time is celebrating its 50th anniversary (!) this year. An anniversary edition is available now, along with a cool book trailer:

I didn't read A Wrinkle in Time until I was much older, and I can't wait to share it with my six-year-old niece. Girls need strong heroines like Meg, who isn't afraid to be smart or to speak up for others. Thank you, Madeleine L'Engle, for the gift of A Wrinkle in Time.


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