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Why did they recast Buttercup in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire?

22 Nov

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In the true form of a movie junkie, I headed to the cinema at midnight on release day to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

I’ve been waiting for it to open since the day I finished reading the book, and nothing like commonsense or the need to get a good night’s sleep was going to get in my way.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk about it too much, because I know the pain spoilers can cause.

But one plot point that did catch my eye, and I think is OK to mention, is Buttercup.

As fans know, the Everdeen’s cat is very obviously described as yellow in Suzanne Collins’ involving trilogy, but in the first film he had become black and white for some reason. This time around though, authenticity prevails.

So I decided to find out what prompted new director Francis Lawrence – who took over from Gary Ross and is pictured above with stars Liam Hemsworth and Jennifer Lawrence – to make the change.

He revealed all in an interview with Meredith Woerner on io9.com

The first big change I noticed from The Hunger Games to Catching Fire was you recast the cat. Why did you recast the cat?

You know what that was actually, and I was happy to do it, that was a request from Nina the producer and Suzanne the author. That they thought the cat from the first movie was not the way he was described in the book. And that had annoyed a bunch of fans, and things like that. But it also just kind of bothered them that Buttercup was not a black and white cat. So I was happy to get one that felt like the Buttercup of the book. It’s funny because now people are split. Some people think we should have continued on with what happened in the first movie. And some people are really happy. You never win.

Personally I think the right move. I can totally understand why changes have to be made to make a book filmable, but a cat colour doesn’t seem to much of an ask to get right.

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Does adamantium really exist?

10 Jun

Some days when I write this blog I want to discover something useful that will enrich my knowledge base. Other times, I just want to find an excuse to run a photo of a naked Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Today was one such day, and fortunately I had a justified reason at the ready, as I’d always been curious about a key plank of the X-Men mythology. And that is whether adamantium really exists.

As anyone who’s seen Wolverine or another X-Men film knows, this is the metal Colonel William Stryker has grafted on to Wolverine’s bones in a bid to make him an indestructible killing machine who can be used/manipulated for evil ends. Doesn’t sound like something our goodie would sign up for, and it’s not. He’s tricked into the surgery when told it’s the only way he can become strong enough to avenge his supposedly murdered girlfriend. Of course when he discovers she was alive all along, and he’s been played, all hell breaks loose. Only now he isn’t just a powerful soldier-turned-logger with unchartered healing powers – he’s an indestructible metal man hell-bent on revenge. You can imagine how that ends for everyone involved.

Anyway, the metal sounded pretty impressive so I wanted to know if it was drawn from the world of real science. And the answer is no. It’s simply another fantastic creation from the superhuman-minded brain of Stan Lee and his team.

You can read more about it at the Marvel Universe. But for now, let’s see some of Wolverine in action here and also below. You’re welcome.

Is ‘e’ really the most common letter of the alphabet?

5 Jun

Pic by Leo Reynolds

As a very shy child, I was far better at collecting books than friends. So while I have few schoolmates in my list of Facebook connections, some of the novels I read back then have stayed with me. Among them is Which Witch by Eva Ibbotson, which remains a cherished favourite to this day.

Sadly, myriad moves have seen most of my other childhood books disappear. And I curse the day I decided to sell all of my original Enid Blytons to buy cassingles (yes I am that old). But occasionally they come to visit, through sections of plot or characters that pop into my head, driving me crazy until I can remember where they are from and what they are called.

So it is with one particular book at the moment. I have no idea who wrote it, or even what it was called, but in involved a treasure hunt in the jungle and a code that was built around replacing the alphabet with various numbers. Even to this day I can clearly remember the lead character explaining the key to unlocking it was the letter ‘e’, as it was the most common letter in the alphabet and would therefore be substituted for the most common number. And right he was, since the treasure was soon in their hands.

In true style, that random fact proved more than a passing sentence for a child who lapped up knowledge like it was chocolate milk. It has stayed with me ever since and has been put to good use in unravelling many a clueless crossword. I even shared it with one of my nephews this week as he prepared for a course in code breaking.

But as I did so, it suddenly occurred to me that I had never questioned it. As a long-time journalist I was certain it was true, but today seemed as good a day as any to double check.

So I turned to the Oxford Dictionary, which confirmed it was not only the most common letter in English text but also the most common letter in English vocabulary.

That goodness I hadn’t given him a bum steer!

And I did discover something else interesting. Despite, or maybe because of, its popularity, several authors have actually gone to the trouble of writing entire novels that deliberately avoid any use of the letter ‘e’. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? But they did it. Which of course begs the question of why.

Read about some of them at The Writing Post.

Did 50 Shades of Grey start out as Twilight fan fiction?

12 May

I’m a terrible one for impulse purchases. I go to the store for a bottle of milk and somehow arrive home with a magazine, strawberries and a packet of Menz Choccy Snakes (not a sponsored plug, I just love them!).

So it was no surprise today when a trip to the local shopping centre for shoes (red, suede, divine) extended into a book-buying frenzy.

Top of the list was 50 Shades of Grey.

I had held off on buying the novel simply because I had been ferociously busy (and was admittedly re-reading The Hunger Games trilogy for the billionth time). But when I saw it on special for less than $10 the decision was made; I love a book bargain and was also curious to investigate the hype, which has labeled the multimillion seller as ‘mommy porn’ for its explicit and risqué depiction of an S&M relationship between a billionaire businessman and a young female student.

As always, I read a chapter or two at the back first, and while the intimate scenes were quite graphic, I didn’t find them as boundary pushing as expected. Probably because I have the open mind/seen-it-all-before mentality of the typical journalist. But what I did find intriguing was the suggestion the novel had started out as a piece of Twilight fan fiction.

For those who don’t know, fan fiction is, like the name suggests, where fans take established characters from books, movies, TV shows etc and write their own stories around them.

This can serve several purposes, from simply the desire to be creative to a chance to bring together two characters a writer thought should have ended up together. Needless to say there’s been plenty of words devoted to Frodo and Sam from Lord of the Rings and Harry and Hermione from the Harry Potter series. There’s even one or two about Harry and Dobby, but frankly I’ve never been interested enough to go there.

Anyway, when I looked into it, I discovered author EL James – whose erotica series continues with Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed – did indeed first draw inspiration from Stephenie Meyer’s tale of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. As her agent, Valerie Hoskins, told Deadline Hollywood

This did start as Twilight fan fiction, inspired by Stephenie Meyer’s wonderful series of books. Originally it was written as fan fiction, then Erika decided to take it down after there were some comments about the racy nature of the material. She took it down and thought, ‘I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve got a couple of unpublished novels here. I will rewrite this thing, and create these iconic characters, Christian and Anna’. If you read the books, they are nothing like Twilight now.’

Thankfully she also lost the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

PS: Yes, Hollywood has snapped up the movie rights. Will be very interesting to see who they cast…

Did Isaac Newton really discover gravity when an apple fell on his head?

4 Apr

Every so often – usually when I’m recounting the alleged thievery of biscuits belonging to an understanding high school Physics teacher – my brain reluctantly turns its attention towards science.

So today I decided to put the focus to good use and look at the truth behind a popular scientific legend – that Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head. And, like all the best myths from history, it seems to have at least a little grounding in reality.

I found one intriguing backgrounder on the topic at the Culture Lab blog at New Scientist, which profiled a historical manuscript that went on to become a biography of the scientist by William Stukeley, who was apparently told the following anecdote firsthand by Newton. He remembers the telling as such..

“After dinner, the weather being warm, we went into the garden and drank tea, under the shade of some apple trees…he told me, he was just in the same situation, as when formerly, the notion of gravitation came into his mind. It was occasioned by the fall of an apple, as he sat in contemplative mood. Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground, thought he to himself…”

You can read the full manuscript here at the Newton Project, which is a non-profit group dedicated to making his unpublished and published works freely available online. If you have time, I do recommend it, as it offers some pretty interesting insights into the development of his theory on gravity and more.

Certainly he did more good with his apples than a certain snake ever did in the garden of Eden…

What inspired Lisa Lutz to write the Spellman books?

3 Apr

Today filled me with a massive amount of happiness. And not because the approach of Easter means times for my annual chocapocalypse. Instead it was because I found out about a new book by one of my favourite authors. And I didn’t even know she’d written it.

Her name is Lisa Lutz and I first stumbled across her several years ago in the same way I discovered Janet Evanovich – because her book cover wouldn’t stop screaming at me from the shelves.

It was called Revenge of the Spellmans and I loved it immediately, not least because she incorporated a really quirky technique in her story, which was to use footnotes to tell what a character was really thinking when it was at odds with what they were saying. It sounds tricky to do but she pulled it off, and today that book still makes me laugh out loud.

Even better it had two predecessors – The Spellman Files and Curse of the Spellmans – so I didn’t have to wait too long (hello JK Rowling) before diving into more of the series.

Anyway, as luck would have it, yesterday brought a phone call from my mother who asked me to buy myself a book she could give me for Easter. So I headed to my favourite online bookstore and there it was – book five, Trail of the Spellmans. Just the sight of it made me a very happy girl. So much so I suspect it will be gone long before the chocolate eggs I will hopefully receive on Sunday.

Of course under my Mum’s rules I’m not actually allowed to read it until she gives it to me. So to while away the time I decided to find out what kickstarted the story. Naturally the tale was to be found on her website, where this interview – old but still relevant – filled in the blanks. Here’s the pertinent bit..

Question  You burst on to the writing scene in your early 20s, penning a screenplay. From what I gather, that didn’t go so well. Fill me in . . .

Answer  I wouldn’t say “burst” — more like stumbled. Eyes were on me for a brief, awkward moment and then they returned to whatever they were previously doing. There was certainly no fanfare involved in my long and unsuccessful screenwriting “career.” I wrote many screenplays over that 10-year period, but only Plan B got any real interest. During that time I mostly made my living doing odd jobs or office work. Plan B was optioned in 1997 and it was finally bought and made in 2000. The resulting film, based on what I’ve read on the IMDB database, is unwatchable. My so-called screenwriting career was over at that point, but I didn’t realise it at the time and continued to write screenplays, because that’s just what I did. As each one was finished, the rejections came quickly and without any signs of hope. The last screenplay I wrote was The Spellman Files. I couldn’t get anyone to read it — and that’s when I decided to write it as a novel. It was a total act of desperation, but as I worked on it, I realized that the story really needed more space to be told properly.

Now, for those who haven’t read any of the books, they focus on Izzy Spellman, whose family runs a private investigation firm. Between her parents, siblings and a straight-laced cop called Henry Stone, things never get boring (or entirely legal). Here she describes how she came to create their world.

I first envisioned the Spellmans over seven years ago. And if memory serves me, which it rarely does, the entire cast of characters sort of came to me over a short period of time. The germ of the idea was always to write about a family of private investigators and how the nature of the business affected their family life. I knew that if the parents were spying on their children, they’d need a motivation. That’s when Isabel’s character took form. I figured a history of rebellion would keep the parental unit constantly on watch.

To whet your appetite even more I figured Lisa wouldn’t mind if I shared the following excerpt from the first book, which is also available here

THE SPELLMAN FILES: CHAPTER EXCERPT

The Interview —
Chapter 1

72 hours later

A single light bulb hangs from the ceiling, its dull glow illuminating the spare decor of this windowless room. I could itemize its contents with my eyes closed: One wooden table, splintered and paint-chipped, surrounded by four rickety chairs, a rotary phone, an old television and a VCR. I know this room well. Hours of my childhood I lost in here, answering for crimes I probably did commit. But I sit here now answering to a man I have never seen before, for a crime that is still unknown, a crime that I am too afraid to even consider. Inspector Henry Stone sits across from me. He places a tape recorder on the center of the table and switches it on. I can’t get a good read on him: early 40s, short-cropped, salt-and-pepper hair, crisp white shirt and a perfectly tasteful tie. He might be handsome, but his cold professionalism feels like a mask. His suit seems too pricey for a civil servant and makes me suspicious. But everyone makes me suspicious.

“Please state your name and address for the record,” says the Inspector.

“Isabel Spellman. 1799 Clay Street, San Francisco, California.”

“Please state your age and date of birth.”

“I’m twenty-eight. Born April 1, 1978.”

“Your parents are Albert and Olivia Spellman, is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“You have two siblings: David Spellman, 30, and Rae Spellman, 14. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Please state your occupation and current employer for the record.”

“I am a licensed private investigator with Spellman Investigations, my parents’ P.I. firm.”

“When did you first begin working for Spellman Investigations?” Stone asks.

“About sixteen years ago.”

Stone consults his notes and looks up at the ceiling, perplexed. “You would have been twelve?”

“That is correct,” I respond.

“Ms. Spellman,” Stone says, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

I cannot pinpoint the precise moment when it all began, but I can say for sure that the beginning didn’t happen three days ago, one week, one month or even one year ago. To truly understand what happened to my family, I have to start at the very beginning and that happened a long time ago.”

See what I mean about her funky writing style? Want another taste of her words? Well you can read excerpts from all the other books at her website, including this selection from her latest. But to finish, I had to share these questions I pulled out from an onsite Q&A, which also revealed another two more Spellman books are on the drawing board.

Q. Is Lisa Lutz your real name?
A. Yes.

Q. How old are you?
A. You should know better than to ask questions like that.

Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I have an imaginary friend named Ralph. I steal his ideas and pass them off as my own.

Q. Do you have any fears?
A. Many. Trucks, mostly. But I’m not fond of moving vehicles in general.

Q. What is a typical day like?
A. Breakfast in bed while reading the New York Times. I do the crossword puzzle, even on Sunday, without any help. Then I write for an hour. In the afternoon, I usually go yachting or I fly my jet. Wait, no. You meant a typical day for me. That’s a typical day for Stuart Woods.
Hmmm, a typical day for me always involves the consumption of coffee (unless I’m being held hostage) and maybe some writing or thinking about writing, and almost without fail some teeth brushing.

Like I said, happy days…

Are strawberry lovers really duds in the sack?

29 Mar

Yet again dodgy internet providers put paid to my quest for knowledge tonight, forcing me to turn elsewhere to learn something new.

Fortunately I was well prepared for such an eventuality given I own more than 1000 books. And while a good 70% of those fall under the tiresome definition of chick lit I just knew there would be a gem to help me out. And there was.

It was a very old title called Fortune Telling With Food by Noriko Kuriyama, which promised, among other things, to unlock the secrets of your psyche depending on your breakfast/snack/lunch/dinner of choice.

Here’s a few of her findings:

* No one is more passionate than lovers of raw cabbage (or more flatulent, but that’s another story)
* Eggplant lovers love themselves too much
* Green onion lovers are jealous mates
* Potato lovers get along especially well with their spouses
* Turnip lovers do well in the stock market
* Fig lovers often become wealthy
* Grapefruit lovers marry for looks only
* Herring fans make mountains out of molehills

And finally, comes my, ahem, favourite – strawberry lovers don’t have good sex techniques but they can keep going a long time.

Anyone recognise themself?