Thursday, October 28, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day 28 – The End

And after twenty eight days and thirteen posts my month of Twilight is drawing to a close. What amazes me is how little of the world of Twilight I have actually explored; there are still websites, cookbooks, contests, magazines, documentaries and dozens of spoof videos that I was hoping to get around to blogging about.

What have I learned from my experience in the world of Bella, Edward and Jacob? Basically the following five things.

5) Do not read the Twilight Saga if you like fight scenes – try reading R.A. Salvatore instead.

4) Do not declare yourself part of Team Edward in my hometown (which is decidedly Team Jacob) – My BFF Mike got me a Team Edward Backpack (it even has a picture of Robert Pattinson on it!) and I got nothing but dirty looks on my various outings throughout town.

3) My wife is a saint – she sat through half of New Moon and a bunch of Twilight while I watched and put up with the books as dinner conversation for the last month. Even I would have made me sleep on the couch by the second week.

2) The first and third books are the strongest. If you are interested in reading any of these books, I would honestly stick with the first one – they kind of go downhill from there.

1) If you would like to read some great Supernatural Romance fiction featuring a vampire, try the works of Tanya Huff or Charlaine Harris before you read these (the books are a lot more fun). If you would like to watch some great Supernatural Romance movies, check out Near Dark, The 1992 Dracula (yes the one with Keanu Reeves), or the Swedish movie Let the Right One In – all these films are darker in tone, but quite rewarding - and for the most honest look I have ever seen at how a Supernatural Romance with a vampire would actually end up, see Thirst (but not with any kids, or people who get squeamish around blood, or... well anyone who doesn't like horror, actually.) Which was such a surprisingly good horror flick it will definitely get a review next month.

This last month has been in turns, intriguing, revolting, disturbing, boring, frustrating, horrifying (in the good way – seriously by the time the scary scene happens in New Moon I was getting fearful for my sanity and that brief glimpse of horror did help me get through), and I suppose rewarding. Now when I complain about the series I can do it as someone who has put in the work.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Twenty-Six

I spent today listening to the soundtrack to New Moon, and divorcing it from the film – I’ve got to say that it is pretty good. It starts with the tune Meet Me On The Equinox by Death Cab for Cutie, which is a fun, moody start to the album. Although many of the songs on this disc are slower or darker than those in the soundtrack to the first album it is a lot of fun.

Also – the final song, a theme from the film’s score is simply called New Moon (The Meadow) and really blew me away, as much as I hated the score to Twilight, I’ve got to say the stuff done by French composer Alexandre Desplat is complicated and in Bella’s words “Kinda beautiful.”

With one more post dedicated to my month of Twilight, I’ve got to say that hands down the soundtrack have been the best part of this experience, as they both seriously impressed me, and I’ll definitely be checking out the soundtracks for the remaining films.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Twenty-Five

I just finished New Moon - and you know what, with the exception of the things I didn’t like in the novel (Bella spending months doing nothing as Edward left), and the fact that the original is definitely a better film, there were a few ways I prefered this movie to the original.

The colour of the movie (warm browns) and the visual effects were significantly better than the first film. The music was also quite good (although playing a slow dirge-like song while having a pack of werewolves chase a vampire through a forest seemed like a strange choice). I still liked Billy Burke in the small role of Bella’s father, and both Michael Sheen and Dakota Fanning were effectively scary as members of the Volturi (the royal family of the vampire world), the score was also significantly better than that of the first film.

On the negative side, the film drags a lot, it’s pacing seemed kind of strange and the sequence where Edward leaves Bella made me think of the kid from The Yearling sending away his deer (it is interesting that as much as the Cullen’s resent other vampires considering Bella a “family pet,” they treat her like a pet they would like to get rid of when they move. Also (and this is the fault of the source material), Victoria comes across as a cameo rather than a threat - although she kills people in this film, it’s all off screen and therefore doesn’t seem to be to much of a threat.

In the end the film was ok, unlike the first film it did actually have some horrific parts in it (I mentioned these in my review of the book), and as the characters had been set up in the previous film, there was very little explanation needed in this film.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Twenty-One

Well, having finished every book in the series, here’s what I’ve got to say about the entire Twilight Saga (The books specifically).

1) The series is a supernatural romance series. If you or your kid are old enough to deal with the sex and violence, I would recommend reading the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris instead (the basis for the HBO series True Blood)

2) The series has vampires and werewolves in it, but all of them are only sort of vampires and werewolves. If you’re looking for good books with these monsters in them I would recommend trying the classics (Dracula and The Werewolf of Paris).

3) These books sure are popular. Although both of my kids state that they are no longer interested in the series, both of them have friends who are, or friends parents who are. My personal opinion is that this comes down to a “right place, right time” phenomenon, as the franchise definitely hit a powerful chord with a huge part of the reading audience (many bookstores now have a supernatural romance section, and yes, that is due to the works of Stephenie Meyers).

As a horror fan I was mostly disappointed, although there were some scares, and as a vampire fan I could think of about a dozen books I’d rather have been reading. As a dad however, I’m glad I took the time to read the stuff my kids read – even if I am a few years out of date, as it gives us more things to talk about, and gives me a glimpse into the kind of stuff that they enjoy reading.

In the end I suppose it was time well spent – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, unless you had an equally good reason.

Also today I found a copy of New Moon on DVD at a thrift store (I got 2 DVDs for $5 – this one and Percy Jackson – guess which I’m more excited about!), so I’ll have my review of the second film early next week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Nineteen

Having just finished The Short Second life of Bree Tanner a couple hours ago, I figured that I should give my impressions of the novella on its own before I look at the saga as a whole.

The Good: The book is short, and at 178 pages, it actually feels a lot closer to horror than any of the other books (I've always been a big believer that, Stephen King aside, short stories are the best medium for horror). The book has barely any Bella at all, although she is described as sweet, amazing and special a lot in the one brief interaction Bree has with her. Finally the vampires actually act like vampires, killing people and having serious hunger issues, making them the closest thing I've seen in the entire saga to vampires as I know them.

The Bad: Like Bella, Bree falls in deep teenaged love with a boy about 10 seconds after she meets him. Also the giant fight sequences I missed in Eclipse is also missed in this book. To be fair to the author, writing fight scenes is not her strong suit, so this might be a good thing. Finally there are a number of continuity issues, things that don't match up with the stated events of the novels, which comes across as a little lazy on the part of the editors of the book.

Overall this book is tricky - if you want to read great vampire fiction, this isn't it, but at the same time it is leaps and bounds above the rest of the series from a horror point of view. Unfortunately as it is a fill-in-the-gaps-type story, you really need to read the other books to figure out what is going here, so there you have it.

Next I'll look at the series as a whole and then the soundtrack to New Moon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Eighteen

Having just finished Breaking Dawn, I can now say that I've read the Twilight Series (my current book, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, is kind of a side novel), and I've got some questions about the films.

1) Why on earth is Breaking Dawn being split into two films?
The first half of the novel focuses on Bella getting pregnant by her husband, and her best friend coming to terms with that. The second half of the book features a possible threat that builds and builds and is then removed by a Deus Ex Machina (basically a magic solution which solves all the problems without the help of the main characters). I'm just not sure how many people are going to want to check out these movies - my kids are pretty tired of the series right now, but that might be because my oldest is in University and my youngest has moved on to the Hunger Games.

2) Why is there so much interest in who is playing one-line characters in the films?
I get that a lot of people are interested in who will play Renesmee (Bella's hyper-aging daughter), as her role in the book is pretty big, but Irina (a vampire who has two lines)? or Riley (a fighting vampire from Eclipse)? Seriously, who cares which star will play these roles for 3-5 minutes of screen time?

3) Is there any way I'm going to see New Moon or Eclipse?
New Moon is in high demand at my library (currently over 200 holds) and Eclipse is out of theatres so I'm not exactly sure how I will get to see either film without shelling out $20 for New Moon or trying to illegally download Eclipse (which I'm very VERY against). I'll do my best to see these films, but it may get kind of tricky.

All right, next we're on to The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Fifteen

I'm now halfway through Breaking Dawn, the fourth and final volume in the Twilight Series, and I've got one big question.

How exactly are they making not one, but two movies out of this book?

Basically the series breaks down as follows for me:

Twilight: Girl meets boy - boy is vampire, vampiric baggage nearly kills girl

New Moon: Feeling bad, the boy leaves - girl freaks out, finds out best friend is a werewolf and emotionally abuses him, then runs away to save vampire boyfriend who abandoned her

Eclipse: Vampiric baggage from first book rears its ugly head threatening all, vampire and werewolf (who are natural enemies) make up to protect girl, Twilight baggage is destroyed, promise of vampirism for girl is made, werewolf runs off into the wild

Breaking Dawn: ...Ummm...well, there's some...Unneccessary padding...

To be fair, maybe something will happen in the second half of the book, but so far its a lot of nothing, and when I say a lot, I mean it; the first half of the book is as long as the first book in the series and not a lot happens. The couple gets married and have a kid, the werewolf comes back and is conflicted... really I'm finding it difficult to think of exactly how this becomes even one film, but apparently they're breaking it into two - pretty weird if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Thirteen

Today I can honestly say that at least one day of my month of Twilight has not been for naught (originally I was going to say it had not been in vain, but I have a pretty low tolerance for puns in my blog). While spending my day at work yesterday, I had the soundtrack for the first Twilight movie playing in the background and I’ve got to say it is pretty great.

As I said in my last post, I’m a pretty big MUSE fan (I first came across them when my wife played their tune Take a Bow for me about half a year before it came out in the Watchmen trailer) and saw them in concert earlier this year, so the fact that the album starts with one of their songs is great. The rest of the album moves between poppy tunes, slow tunes and even a song I started humming along with that turned out to have been sung by Twilight star Robert Pattinson – yup, that dude can sing.

If you take nothing else from my blogs this month, at the very least take the time to check out the soundtracks, which I’ve heard only get better and better.

Book-wise, I’m nearing the end of the first part of Breaking Dawn, so the end is in sight. The end of Eclipse let me know who the heck Bree Tanner is, and as her appearance happens to be one of the scariest/saddest parts of the series so far I can honestly say I’m kind of looking forward to the final novella in the series as well.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Eleven

Good morning and Happy Canadian Thanksgiving everyone! Rather than playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 like I have been in the early weekend mornings, I spent the last two hours watching the motion picture Twilight, and I did it all for you.

Book-wise I've just finished Eclipse, which I believe was the latest book out before the film release. Considering I have seen the movie before (I watched it with my then-11-year-old daughter Kaia when it first came out), I'll give you my impressions, both good and bad, having now read the source material.

The Good:
1) I really liked both Billy Burke (who played Bella's dad Charlie) and Cam Gigandet (who played the evil James). The leads were better than I remembered, but as both characters take themselves very seriously, they are easily mocked.

2) The music is pretty great (I'm talking about the soundtrack rather than the score), I've actually seen MUSE in concert and a lot of the other tunes were pretty catchy. I'll be looking at the soundtrack in its own post later this week.

3)The two highlights of the film for me were the baseball scene and the end fight (which thankfully appeared in the movie rather than being reported after the fact, like in the book). The cut scenes of the evil vampires getting closer did build tension in a way the book doesn't until the baseball game. Also the author cameo was cute, as was the (unintentional) reference to Peter Facinelli's work in the TV series Nurse Jackie (which is really REALLY good).

The Bad

1) The effects are pretty weak - with the exception of the fight scene at the end, the vampire effects look pretty rushed.

2) The movie glossed over evil vampire James' back story, specifically his thwarted hunt of Alice (one of the Cullens), that made his hunt for Bella significantly more understandable in the novel.

3) The Score. I actually purchase a lot of scores for films (the instrumental music played in the background of films), so I always have an ear out for music I might want to pick up. It may have been due to the higher quality of the songs throughout, but I just found the score was lacking, which definitely took away from my enjoyment of the film.

In the end, the movie was, like the novel, OK. I wouldn't own it (I watched my now 13-year-old daughter's copy). Like any number of films based on young adult books it appealed to its target audience, of which I am not. I've seen better, I've seen worse.

Next I'm on to Breaking Dawn.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Eight

For the last two and a half books (I’m working my way through Eclipse now), I’ve been pretty concerned that this horror series wouldn’t have anything, you know, horrific in it. Thankfully I was wrong.

In the twenty-first chapter of New Moon, something scary actually happens! Vampires actually eat a tour group of people, and although it is not described in gory detail (Bella had left the room it happened in) she could still hear the screams! Horray, the Horror series I’ve dedicated the month of October to reading actually had something scary in it!

In the end I was less than enthused with New Moon, as I said back on Wednesday, the majority of the book went nowhere and as much as I like young Jacob (I guess I’m on Team Jacob) for attempting to be best friends with a girl he’d like to be dating, the fact that Bella knowingly uses his affection to make herself feel better just made me wonder why exactly anyone likes her character.

So far Eclipse is a little better – stuff is happening, and a significant body count in nearby Seattle seems to be heading towards some sort of payoff. I do find it funny that Bella hasn’t once considered that after she becomes a vampire, she won’t want to be around Jacob at all (for the record this dynamic was handled much more effectively in Canadian author Tanya Huff’s Victoria Nelson series). Also it’s funny that after Edward sees how upset Jacob is, he tells Bella not to feel bad as she didn’t do anything wrong (making him either ignorant, insane or without morals – oh wait, maybe Bella is simply lying to him about her behaviour in the previous book)

Anyway, the third book is better than the second, which wasn’t as good as the first.

This weekend – the first movie.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Six

Currently I’m just over 320 pages into New Moon. Unlike the first book, which I consider a pretty okay Young Adult supernatural romance novel, this book is pretty weak.

Basically Edward, who spent the entire first book saying “I’m no good for you baby, maybe I should go...” finally makes good on his promise and leaves. After this we are left with Bella whining unendingly about the “hole in her chest” that was torn out when Edward left. She doesn’t do anything for months... literally, there is a chunk of the book with chapter headings and nothing else, explaining that as time went by nothing happened.

You know, I don’t mind reading books where very little happens, but absolutely nothing? And worse yet, nothing narrated by an incredibly self-involved teenaged girl. I’m doing my best to give this series a fair shake, but this book is really testing me.

Here are my main problems so far

1) Bella is not scared of her boyfriend. The fact that Bella has absolutely no fear of Edward or any other member of his family has effectively de-fanged these vampires. If they don’t scare a teenaged girl, they can’t really be that scary. (I will note that if Bella was scared of Edward and loved him anyway the book would have unfortunate parallels to Domestic Violence so I don’t have a better solution for this.)
2) Not a lot is happening in book two – Bella is sad, and hundreds of pages go by while she acts like a jerk to everyone around her.
3) There are no “on-screen” fight scenes. Both the fight between James and the Cullens in Twilight and the fight between Laurent and the Werewolves in New Moon happen away from our narrator so we only hear about them after the fact.

Here is what I like so far

1) Charlie Swan. Bella’s dad and the Chief of police in the town of Forks seems like a pretty cool guy working with a very difficult daughter. I wish I could bake the guy a cake and say, Don’t worry man, some of us see how great a Dad you are.

Coming up this weekend, I start Eclipse and check out the first movie – Horay!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day Four

330 pages. So far it kind of feels like the beginning of a marathon - right now I'm feeling pretty good, the series doesn't feel as bad (or as amazing) as some people say, and I'm thinking, "Sure I can do this - no problem!"

Impressions so far - the book is just kind of okay. I've read a lot of Young Adult (YA) books over the years and although this isn't the best (see Harry Potter or Percy Jackson) it is definitely not one of the worst. I'd plunk it down in the middle. Right now Edward has just introduced Bella to his family and has told her how old both he and his creator actually are (105 and 375 respectively).

There is no Team Edward vs. Team Jacob yet (although Jacob is in the book he is described as a little kid), but I suppose there could be a Team Edward vs. Team Mike Newton, as Mike is a nice guy who Bella describes as the friendliest person she's met in this new town and he seems to like her a lot.

So far I give the book a "Pretty Good" rating. It's not the best, but if you're looking for YA books about vampires, it seems okay.

Later this week - the first movie and then on to New Moon!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Twilight of Bookmonkey: Day One

All right, here goes... Chapter One.

“My Mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down.” As far as a first sentence goes, it does the job – I know the story will be from a first person perspective, that the narrator is going on a trip, probably without her mother, and that wherever she is leaving from has a nice enough climate to drive with the windows down.

The start of a new series is always pretty exciting to me, even though it would be fair to say I have a number of preconceived notions regarding this particular series. I guess I should start things off by stating them:

1) I’ve never read any of these books before, but I did see the first movie in theatres when it came out (I’ve always told my kids that I would pay for their movie tickets if they read the source material first).

2) I have not been living under a rock for the last five years, I’m aware of the series, it’s popularity and many of the major plot points

3) Both of my kids went through phases where they liked the series, and then abruptly decided they didn’t like it any more (also they both seemed to hate the main character from the start)

4) My wife is a saint for putting up with me focusing on the Twilight Saga for the next month

As I’m only on the first page so far, I don’t have much else to say. Thanks to my BFF Mike for the new “Wisdom of Bookmonkey” banner art.

Oh yeah, obviously the Twilight-Saga based posts throughout the following month are my own opinion, biased by my experience and taste, but I will do my best to give the series a fair shake.

Alright, on to sentence #2... (And yes I know that the first sentence was technically either the Bible quote or the bit in the preface about dying, but I had more to say about the beginning of Chapter One.) and look at that – she was from Arizona – I called it!