Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer

The Last Dragonslayer

Dreams of bigger, better worlds don’t have to be so great that you can’t have a little bit of fun. Enter Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer.

Jennifer Strange has her hands full overseeing a talent management company for magicians. Even when the fifteen-year-old orphan isn’t fulfilling her apprenticeship in magical management by booking wizards for plumbing jobs and magic carpet riders for food delivery, as well as soothing ruffled egos, there’s also the whole issue of magical energy becoming weaker. Strange herself doesn’t have much power, but even her once skillful clients are feeling the effects. What happens if magic runs out? How are they going to keep a roof over their heads? Where did her boss disappear to months ago when he didn’t come back home? And on top of that, there are rumors that the Last Dragonslayer is supposed to kill the last dragon in a few days. Complications ensue.

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Jeff Guinn’s The Road to Jonestown

Road to Jonestown

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

It’s a phrase that has permanently entered the American consciousness, but it always surprises me when people don’t know that it is a reference to the infamous Jonestown Massacre in Guyana in 1978, especially when it is used flippantly.  (I once had a very awkward conversation with a college classmate about that.) Because even though we may laugh at the phrase now, there’s really nothing funny about mass suicide. (Never mind that at Jonestown they were actually drinking mostly Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid, but that’s a different topic for another day.)

I first heard of Jonestown when I was maybe about 10, 11, 12. There was a documentary commemorating the anniversary of it on PBS, and I remember being riveted by it in absolute horror. In the years since then, I’d read some about the story and also watched on several occasions the famous 1980 miniseries Guyana Tragedy, which stars the late Powers Boothe as Jones in what has to be one of the most chilling performances ever recorded on film.

So, just in general, a recently released book promising to be the most authoritative take on the story yet would have grabbed my attention. But I was specifically compelled to read this one, which was released last month to great acclaim, because its author is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers.

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From Page to Screen: Casino

Hope you were able to join us at Books in Bloom this weekend! I had a great time–got to hear some wonderful talks from talented authors and even acquired a few signed books. I’m already looking forward to next year!

On that note, last week, when we were chatting about authors we’d like to see at Books in Bloom in the future, I promised to unveil two of my picks over the next couple of weeks.

One author I would love to meet and listen to is Nicholas Pileggi. He was a crime reporter in New York City for 30 years, with a special focus on the Mafia. But most people, myself included, are most familiar with him through his books about the Mafia, Wiseguys and Casino: Love and Honor in Las Vegas. He adapted both of them into Martin Scorsese movies in the 1990s, Goodfellas and Casino, respectively.

I’ve been a Scorsese fan since I was a teenager, and though my personal favorites of his movies is probably a tie between Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, I really do enjoy both Goodfellas and Casino.

And because I’ve also found organized crime interesting since I was a child–it’s a little embarrassing how many books I own about the mob–when I found out those movies were based on nonfiction books, I read Pileggi’s books and quickly became a fan of his work in its own right.

Honestly, I’d like to meet and talk to Pileggi just because I’d like to his pick his brain and hear inside stories from his days as a reporter, his research for his books, and his experiences in Hollywood. I’d love to hear his thoughts on what it is like to be both the writer of the original source and the adaptation.

And to that end, I thought we might as well compare his book and his movie about the mob’s fall from power in Las Vegas.

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S.C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon

Empire of the Summer Moon

When I saw S.C. Gwynne was a scheduled speaker for Books in Bloom this year, I decided it was the perfect time to try one of his books that had been on my to-read list for a long-time, Empire of the Summer Moon.

I’ve been interested in the American West and Native American history since I was a child–my family can vouch for how weirdly obsessed I was with Son of the Morning Star as a nine-year-old–so I was excited to try Gwynne’s well-regarded history of the Comanche tribe.

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From Page to Screen: Old Yeller

I’ve talked on here before about my hesitance concerning depressing animal books for children.

There are a lot of books/movies that could be added to the list of depressing animal stories for kids, and Old Yeller is definitely one of them.

However, even though it is the granddaddy of all depressing animal books for kids, it is a story that I have a soft spot for. In fact, I’ve reread it a few times and always enjoy it. I can’t deny that it is terribly sad, but I think it has a lot of good things to offer before it rips your heart out and depresses you for days.

Though the book is something I have revisited on numerous occasions as an adult, I have not watched the movie since I was a child. I remedied that this past weekend.

As always, beware–some spoilers do follow.

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Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse (1982)

War Horse

Joey is just a lovely, somewhat high-strung bay horse, living on a small Devon farm, with his beloved teenaged owner Alfred when World War I breaks out. He’s soon sold to the British military and, thus, begins Joey’s odyssey as a military horse for both the British and the Germans. Along the way, he meets several owners and finds himself doing everything from charging into battle to hauling artillery to pulling ambulance wagons.

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From Page to Screen: In Cold Blood (1967) and In Cold Blood (1996)

My love for Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood (which some ungenerous souls might call an obsession) has been well documented on this blog.

But my interest in the story transcends the book. The 1967 film adaptation is one of my favorite movies and is one of the examples I always point to when people claim that a movie can never be as good as the book.

A few months ago, I watched the 1996 miniseries adaptation of the story with my coworker Jen. If the 1967 version is one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, the 1996 version is easily one of the absolute worst.

Usually the “From Page to Screen” series is a venue for me to compare and contrast books with their adaptations. But this is my series and my rules, and I’ve decided to bend the rules for this one. So, this month we’re comparing and contrasting two adaptations and exploring why one is considered a masterpiece and the other, well, isn’t. Let’s just call it Screen vs. Screen for this month.

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