Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thoughts on the Twilight Movie

I just couldn't get Twilight out of my head, and I kept listening to Muse's Supermassive Black Hole. So today I watched Twilight for the second time. Now I feel I can share my thoughts on the movie.

The plot development disappointed me. Wait, WHAT plot development? I felt that the plot was not properly developed and that a lot of the characters were not properly fleshed out. There wasn't enough exposition on the Cullens. If you hadn't read the book, you wouldn't know why you should care about the Cullens. And I love the Cullens and wish they had played a bigger role in the movie! There wasn't enough exposition on Laurent, James, and Victoria either. How could audiences know why exactly we should fear them?

I think that people who have not read the book will not appreciate or even understand the story. The development of Edward and Bella's feelings and the choices they made that led to them becoming a couple were presented in a shallow and almost lightning speed way. It almost felt like the movie was simply a montage of scenes from the book. Everything just felt so thin and disjointed and went by way too fast.

But enough about disappointment. I still enjoyed watching the movie. Heck, I liked it enough to watch it twice. Within the same week! Part of why I enjoyed watching the movie was because of the audience reactions. It was fun squealing along with other girls (and some guys too!) while watching the movie. :D We all squealed the first time Emmett and Rosalie were on screen. We all squealed the first time Jasper and Alice were on screen. And of course we all squealed the first time Edward was on screen. What surprised me was the squeals the first time Carlisle was on screen. I think those squeals were louder than the squeals for Edward! We all got giddy then whimpered and positively swooned every time there was a romantic moment between Edward and Bella. Those scenes so perfectly captured the intensity of their desire for each other that they made me (and the rest of the audience too, I bet) grin like an idiot, sigh with happiness/contentment/satisfaction, and HYPERVENTILATE. There was a lot of hyperventilating in the audience, I tell ya. And I am not ashamed to say that I hyperventilate just remembering those scenes from the movie. The onscreen chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart was GREAT. They are the perfect pair for those roles.

Which brings me to the acting. Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen was the most glorious part of the movie. He is the perfect Edward Cullen. I think Robert is an amazing actor because he played the role with COMPLETE understanding of Edward's personality, torture, motivation, intentions, and passions. That list could go on and on and on. He really GOT Edward Cullen and was able to effectively communicate that through his facial expressions, body language, tone of voice - through just about every part of the delivery of his performance. Robert Pattinson rocked that role. He is such a good actor. Um, I found Kristen Stewart unremarkable as Bella. But then again, Bella is supposed to be an unremarkable character. So I guess that worked out well. :S

Speaking of unremarkable acting, I was underwhelmed by Cam Gigandet's turn as James. Hmmm, I expected more from Cam since I think he is a good actor. I didn't feel ANYTHING towards him as the main baddie in the movie. Too bad. But I was impressed by the acting from the rest of the cast. Billy Burke as Charlie? WOW. Who would have thought Charlie would stand out in the story? Taylor Lautner as Jacob? Niiice. I really look forward to watching Robert and Taylor duke it out as Edward and Jacob in the next movies. Woot! I could already feel their conflict in the first movie. Good acting! And even though Kris Ivory (Is that really his name?) and Solomon Trimble had the most fleeting of appearances as Embry and Sam, they made an impression on me. Solomon had a grand total of ONE line and he NAILED IT. He NAILED IT, baby. I couldn't be happier with the werewolves' appearances in the movie. :o)

Ok, action. The action was pretty cool. I particularly like the baseball scene. Oh please oh please oh please let me play vampire baseball. With Muse's Supermassive Black Hole playing in the background. Pleeeaaasssseee. The action in the movie was so cool that I wish there had been a lot more. But I did promise to stop talking about disappointment...

To summarize/conclude, the Twilight movie satisfied me as a fan of the Twilight books in the sense that it was a real visual, visceral, and emotional treat for me to see the story come alive on the big screen. In that context I can say that the movie is a good adaptation of the book. But I feel bad that I cannot say the movie is a good movie. It just can't stand up to movie evaluation and criticism on its own. That is a real shame. As a Twilighter, I wanted people who haven't read the book to still be able to know, understand, and enjoy (even love) the story through the movie.

Now it is your turn. What did you think of the Twilight movie? :D

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's finally here in the Philippines!

Twilight was released in Philippine theaters Wednesday, November 26. Of course my girl friends and I had bought our tickets by Sunday. :D In fact, my very good friend Corinne flew all the way to Metro Manila from Zamboanga City just to watch Twilight with me and my best friend CY. We watched the movie Wednesday night and we were not disappointed. That's not to say that we don't have strong opinions about the movie's flaws. It's just that how could we not like a movie that got us hyperventilating? :D I'm STILL hyperventilating from the onscreen chemistry between Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart. And I strangely want to play a game of vampire baseball with Muse on in the background. LOL.

I am watching the movie again over the weekend. After that I will post more details about what I think of the movie.

In the meantime... What did you all think of Twilight the movie???

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Thursday, November 20, 2008

More Book Award News

The winner of the (American) National Book Award for Young People's Literature is What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell! I can't wait to read this book. :D Congratulations, Judy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Some Book Award News

The Booktrust Teenage Prize celebrates the best contemporary writing for teenagers in the UK. The winner of the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.

The Costa Book Awards recognize some of the most enjoyable books of the year and are prestigious and popular literary prizes in the UK. Here is the shortlist for the 2008 Costa Children's Award:

Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray

The Carbon Diaries by Saci Lloyd

Just Henry by Michelle Magorian

Broken Soup by Jenny Valentine

Unfortunately, I haven't read any of these books. :o( But of course I would like to read them all! I better go to the nearest bookstore and hunt these books down...

Which books have you read? What did you think of them? :o)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Author Interview: Paula Yoo

The AMAZING Paula Yoo is the author of the young adult novel Good Enough. In this very enjoyable read, honor student and violin player Patti Yoon shares her worries, uncertainties, frustrations, fun, hopes, and dreams during her senior year in high school. (Click here for my review of Good Enough. I thought it was SO GOOD!) Paula is also the author of the children’s non-fiction picture book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story (illustrated by Dom Lee).

Paula holds a B.A. in English (cum laude) from Yale University, an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College. She is a TV drama screenwriter and her TV writing credits include NBC's "The West Wing," FOX’s "Tru Calling," and The CW’s "Hidden Palms." She has taught English and music and written for The Seattle Times, The Detroit News, and PEOPLE magazine.

As a professional freelance violinist, Paula has been concertmaster of the Detroit Civic Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Santa Monica and Torrance Symphony Orchestras. She has performed numerous classical chamber music recitals throughout the LA area, including concerts with the Los Angeles Chamber Players, and has performed with rock acts, including Arthur Lee of Love, Spiritualized, The Dilettantes, and Random AOK.

Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Paula. :o)

You have worked as a journalist, freelance musician, English and music teacher, and tv screenwriter. Can you tell us about your road to publication as a children's and YA writer?

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a little kid. My first "book" was written when I was in the 2nd grade! It was called - don't laugh - "The Girl Called Raindrop." I was so proud of it that I submitted it to HarperCollins (back then, they were known as Harper & Row). I received a very nice letter from them saying that I was "talented" and should consider trying out for their writing contest for children ages 7 to 10. However, I was so upset they were rejecting "The Girl Called Raindrop" that I tore up the letter! I thought, "I'm not a CHILD writer, I'm a REAL writer!" LOL!

My first children's book was a non fiction picture book biography on Dr. Sammy Lee, the first Asian American to win a gold medal at the Olympics in 1948 for diving after facing much racial discrimination. I submitted it to the Lee & Low Books "New Voices" contest because I loved their books and thought it would be a good entry for them. To my delight and surprise, they called to tell me I had won, so that is how that book got published.

My first YA novel GOOD ENOUGH was written between my TV jobs. I was unemployed and took advantage of the free time to work on a new novel. I wrote about my life as a teen violin geek. I literally wrote this novel in five weeks straight. It just poured out of me. I then revised it and sent it to my agent and he submitted it to yes, HarperCollins, and they finally decided I was a "real" writer and not a "child" writer and published it! :)

Which is the hardest for you: performing music, teaching, writing for tv shows, writing for newspapers and magazines, or writing for children and teens? Why?

The hardest thing, honestly, is everything. I tend to stress equally about all my different projects. For example, if I'm performing music, I always worry about making a mistake - playing out of tune, missing a note etc. When I'm writing, I always worry about subpar writing - is this description too cliched? Is this character not sympathetic enough? Is the plot not plausible? etc. When I was in journalism, I was always paranoid about spelling the subject's name wrong or not getting the exclusive info in time for my editor's deadline. Each of these jobs are equally hard and stressful - but you know what? In the end, the rewards far outweigh the stress!

What books and/or authors have influenced you the most as a writer for children and teens?

My favorite and most influential books growing up included: Charlotte's Web by EB White, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg, Harriet the Spy by Louis Fitzhugh and everything by Judy Blume!

What are your biggest challenges and rewards from being a writer for children and teens?

The biggest challenge is making sure I write from an authentic teen and/or child point of view. I'm still very much a kid at heart because I'm open to new experiences and love learning new things and having adventures. But the grown-up me has unfortunately gotten a little cynical and suspicious, and sometimes that spills over into my writing. So I have to be careful and make sure - is what I'm writing from an authentic teen/kid voice or from a sarcastic and cynical 30something grownup? hahaha! The reward is simple - meeting my readers. I can't tell you how moving it is to have a child or teen tell you in person or via email about how your books made them laugh and escape the harsh realities of life for a little while. Although I don't have children, they say it takes a village to raise a child, and I find it very fulfilling and rewarding to help make a child or teenager's life more enjoyable by making them laugh and have fun through reading one of my books.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for all your books to be award-winning, or for all your books to be bestselling? Why?

OMG these questions are really hard! What a fun and difficult question to answer! Can I cheat and say both? LOL! Let's see, if I choose "award winning," that means I want my books to be well-written. If I choose "best selling," that means I want my books to connect to the largest possible audience which might mean sacrificing some literary quality. Given that I will never sacrifice my desire to write to the best of my abilities, I can safely say I would want "best-selling" because I'd love for my books to reach as many kids as possible to make them laugh and not take life so seriously! I'll just have to make sure they're well-written. :)

What children's or YA book would you like your work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact, popularity, sales, or awards)?

If I could ever write anything as beautiful as Charlotte's Web or Bridge to Terabithia, I would be so happy. I don't think I could ever be "good enough" (haha) but I will try my hardest to be the best writer I can be.

How do you feel about Good Enough being nominated for a Cybils award in the Young Adult Fiction category?

I was surprised and honored! It's amazing how influential and powerful book bloggers are - it's all about word of mouth when it comes to getting books distributed these days because the large bookstore chains do not always carry your book due to too many complex reasons to get into here. So YA and children's book authors depend heavily on word of mouth and awesome indie booksellers, teachers, librarians, and book bloggers to help get the word out on our books. I'm very grateful and thankful for the Cybils' nomination.

What do you want readers to take away from Good Enough?

I hope readers will find GOOD ENOUGH not just funny but also take the message/theme to heart - it's about learning the difference between being successful and being happy.

In Good Enough, the main character Patti Yoon shares three of her mother's recipes incorporating Spam in Korean food (Spam bi bim bap, Spam kimchi ramen, and Spam kimbap). Can you please share one more Spam-Korean food recipe with us? :o)

Oooh, your questions are really creative and great! Let's see. My book has Spam sushi/kimbap rolls, Spam ramen, and Spam bi bim bap. Okay, off the top of my head here ... I am brainstorming... if I was starving and had only SPAM to eat, I would scramble eggs and eat it with fried SPAM slices. Or maybe I'd try to create a Hawaiian pizza - what if you put fried SPAM and pineapple slices and mozzarella cheese on top of a pita bread and toasted it in the oven? OMG!!! I am totally going to try that this weekend. I honestly just made that up on the spot. :) I am a SPAM genius!

I love "The West Wing"! It is still one of my favorite tv series because it's intelligent, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. What was it like writing for the show?

Thank you so much for your kind words. It was an honor and privilege to work for Aaron Sorkin on this wonderful show. It was also very intimidating because we had such a huge writing staff of incredibly intelligent and hilarious writers. The amount of brainpower in that room was overwhelming at times. But at the same time, the amount of silliness was just as overwhelming, so I think that's what kept our show intelligent but not pretentious - Sorkin really wanted his characters to be noble but not full of themselves. He valued humor as much as intelligence, and I think that balance made the show so realistic and not intimidating to the TV viewer. It was also a lot of hard work because you did a lot of research to make sure you were accurate with the facts because you were writing about the White House!

What's in heavy rotation on your iPod these days?

Actually, I just bought an iPhone so instead of listening to my iPod, I've been playing a lot of Solitaire and Video Poker. But on my iTunes, I recently bought the new Oasis album which I love. I'm seeing them on Dec. 4th at the Staples Center in LA! And I also have been listening quite a bit to the new Journey CD which of course features the amazing Arnel Pineda!!!!! I love his Cinderella rags-to-riches story and am so proud that a Filipino is the lead singer of one my all-time favorite rock bands!

What children's or YA book are you currently reading?

I met Ingrid Law recently and loved her novel SAVVY. I also just read THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins - wow. wow. wow.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a new YA novel and hope to have it ready soon to submit to my agent. Fingers crossed it will sell! That's the thing they don't tell you about publication - just because you have a book published is no guarantee your next book will be published. It's like starting all over again! Hopefully this next one will sell. Otherwise, I'll just write another one. :) I do have a new book coming out in May 2009 - it's a picture book biography on actress Anna May Wong from Lee & Low Books called SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY and it's illustrated by Lin Wang.

Do you have a message for your readers in Asia? :o)

Thank you for reading my book! I'm honored to know that this American and Asian American novel has universal appeal. My message to my readers in Asia is the same to my American readers - keep reading books because in this day and age of the Internet, twitter, facebook, cell phones and texting, we need to slow down and savor life, and what better way than to get "lost" inside the world of books? Thank you very much!

Thank YOU, Paula!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Christmas Presents!

I've signed up for Buy Books for the Holidays 2008! This holiday season, I promise to, whenever possible, buy books to give as gifts. :D And I promise to help promote buying books as gifts for the holidays. We all know that books make very lovely and meaningful gifts. And as Amy of My Friend Amy says, this "would be a small contribution that we could make to show our appreciation to the people who bring us books, to give back to the industry that we love, and to help save books." As a book lover, how could I resist helping out everyone in the book community and sharing my passion for books?

Will you join Buy Books for the Holidays 2008? :o)

I've also signed up for the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap 2008!

How it works:
You sign up by sending an e-mail to xmasswap08 at gmail dot com. You have until the 18th of November to do so. You will then be randomly assigned as another blogger’s Secret Santa.

What you have to do next is send that person a little something - it can be a book, a journal or bookmark, a box of Christmas cookies, a mixed CD, whatever you can think of. It doesn't have to be anything pricey, of course. Second hand books are perfectly acceptable, as are homemade gifts.

A different person will be assigned as your Secret Santa, and you'll only find out who they are when you get their package in the mail.

Something to keep in mind:
Because there are book bloggers from all over the world, this is going to be an international swap. Not everyone can afford to send a package overseas though, so if that's the case with you, please don't feel that you can't sign up. Just include a note saying so in your e-mail, and you'll get a blogger who's near you.

What else should your e-mail include?
Other than your name, mailing address and willingness to send internationally, you should include your blog url and a short paragraph about what kind of gifts you like, so that your Secret Santa has an idea of what to get you. You could also include links to online wishlists, your librarything catalogue, etc. Anything that you think will make your Santa's life easier!

Important dates:
The most important date is the 18th of November. It's very important that you sign up by then, because after the 18th of November Secret Santas will be assigned, and once that has been done it would be complicated to include new participants.

As for when to mail your package, if you're sending internationally it's probably best to post it before the end of November. If you're sending within your own country there's more flexibility, but remember that the mail tends to be slow around this time of year.

In any case, you should all know who your blogger is around the 20th of November, which leaves you at the very least ten days to get and mail your gift.

One more thing:
If you could help spread the word by posting about this on your blogs, it would be very much appreciated!

Join the Christmas swap! I think it'll be a lot of fun. I am SO excited to have a book blogger Secret Santa and to be another book blogger's Secret Santa. :D Hurray for making new friends!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Clare Bell Returns with First New Ratha Book Since 1994

Want to know what I am reading these days? ;o) Check out this press release from Imaginator Press!

Kept alive by fans, critically acclaimed teen fantasy series returns after 14 year absence

Ratha’s Courage, book five in Clare Bell’s acclaimed teen fantasy series, the Named, was published in October by Imaginator Press. Ratha’s Courage is the first new book in the series since 1994. Although the books have been out of print for over a decade, loyal fans of the series kept it alive, and teen fans were instrumental in bringing the series back to life.

Ratha, the fiery female leader of a clan of sentient prehistoric cats, ruled from 1983 to 1994, when the fourth book in Bell’s Named series was published. The series, set 20 million years ago in a fictional version of Miocene epoch Northern California, earned recognition from critics and fans for its well-realized characters, thought-provoking themes, and vivid sensory depiction of a harsh prehistoric world through the eyes of a cat. The first book, Ratha’s Creature, won awards from the International Reading Association, the PEN Center, and was a Locus awards nominee. Three of the books were selected for the ALA’s Best Books for Young People List. CBS Storybreak created an animated episode from Ratha’s Creature, which aired in 1987.

Although the series eventually went out of print, it never really died. Loyal fans kept it alive on the nascent Internet, with fan discussions, fan art, and Ratha role-playing sites. Through the fans, Ratha came to the attention of Sharyn November, Senior Editor, Viking Children's Books and Editorial Director of Firebird Books, who created new reprint editions of the original four books, with stunning new cover art by Christian Alzmann. November also suggested to Bell that she write the book which became Ratha’s Courage, but due to the vagaries of the publishing industry, November was unable to publish the new book.

Young fans once again came to the rescue, bringing the book to the attention of Sheila Ruth, publisher at Imaginator Press, through her Wands and Worlds fantasy and science fiction web site. Ruth loved the series, and quickly reached an agreement, through Bell’s agent, Richard Curtis, to publish the new book. “I’m really excited for the opportunity to publish Ratha’s Courage and to help bring the series to a whole new generation of fans,” says Ruth. “I think that today’s teens are going to love Ratha.” Ratha seems to inspire that kind of devotion among everyone who reads the books; with 44 reviews on, the first book, Ratha’s Creature, has a perfect five-star rating.

Recently, children’s literature magazine Horn Book recommended the Named series for older fans of the Warriors series in their electronic newsletter. The Warriors series, by Erin Hunter, is a highly popular children’s book series about clans of feral cats living in the forest. Although the target age for the Named series is a little older than that of the Warriors series, there are enough similarities that Ratha has strong appeal for older Warriors fans and for teens who have outgrown Warriors.

In Ratha's Courage, the Named attempt an alliance with the clan of “face-tail” (mammoth and mastodon) hunting cats introduced in Ratha's Challenge. The hunter clan's group mind, known as "the song," and strange, frighteningly effective unity, fascinates yet repels the independent-minded Named, creating a dangerous potential for conflict. When her own daughter, Thistle-chaser, pleads for the Named to understand and accept the hunter clan, and the Firekeepers Fessran and Bira add their voices in support, Ratha must find a way to bridge the gap.

The Named attempt to share herding skills and the gift of fire with the face-tail hunters, but things go terribly wrong. A herding demonstration becomes a disaster when it reveals the inflexible nature of “the song,” and deaths by fire unleash an uncontrollable splinter group from the hunter clan. The contrasting values of two very different cultures lead to misunderstanding, tragedy, and war. Ratha learns that reaching out to others, especially when the chasm is so wide, takes true courage.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Book of Nonsense by David Michael Slater

The book is ancient, ravaged and full of utter nonsense. But the moment it enters Daphna and Dexter's lives, bizarre things begin to happen. Why is their father, who found the book, suddenly so distant? Is the old man who took it from him some kind of hypnotist? Why is a giant, red-eyed boy menacing them? And what does their thirteenth birthday have to do with all this? Daphna and Dexter can't stand each other, but they'll have to work together to learn the truth about the Book of Nonsense - before their lives come apart completely.

The Book of Nonsense is the first volume of the Sacred Books series by David Michael Slater. It is nominated for a Cybils award in the middle grade fiction category. I wonder why it was not nominated in the fantasy/science fiction category. ;)

What kept me reading The Book of Nonsense? I wanted to find out who the terrifying old man in the shop full of books on magic and the red-eyed bully really were. I wanted to find out what was so special about the ancient book and Daphna and Dexter's thirteenth birthday. I wanted to know the answers to all of the mysteries in the story! What has me curious about the rest of the series? I am curious about the development of Daphna and Dexter's potential mystical powers and the development of their relationship as twins. I want to know how all of the clues will eventually fall into place and make sense and reveal the entire truth about the ancient book, the old man in the book shop, and the twins' dead mother. Who will enjoy The Book of Nonsense? Middle graders who want to read mystical mysteries full of surprises. They will find all of the plot's twists and turns and all of the clues to puzzle over very interesting.

Read my interview with David Michael Slater. I ask him about the possible controversy involving The Book of Nonsense!