Sunday, October 21, 2012

I Recommend: 'Land of Stories' Book & 'Katy Perry: Part of Me' Film

(Image courtesy of Jeff Dodge)
Jeff Dodge's Recommendations:

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Before I talk specifically about the story, I'll preface this by quickly recapping how I ended up reading this book. As I mentioned here back at the end of August, I had entered a contest from Hypable to win a signed ARC of Glee star Chris Colfer's debut novel--and I won (and as you can see from the above photo, the prize also included a Land of Stories tote bag). I finished reading it recently...and so now you're caught up!

Here's the synopsis from the back cover of The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer:

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change. When the twins' grandmother gives them a treasured fairy-tale book, they have no idea they're about to enter a land beyond all imagining: the Land of Stories, where fairy tales are real.

But as Alex and Conner soon discover, the stories they know so well haven't ended in this magical land--Goldilocks is now a wanted fugitive, Red Riding Hood has her own kingdom, and Queen Cinderella is about to become a mother! The twins know they must get back home somehow. But with the legendary Evil Queen hot on their trail, will they ever find the way?

I Won 'The Land of Stories' Book (ARC), Autographed by Chris Colfer >>>

Not too long after the twins arrive in the Land of Stories, they find out about the Wishing Spell--if they can gather all the necessary items (such as one of Cinderella's glass slippers, tears from a fairy and bark from Red Riding Hood's basket, among many others), it will activate the spell and they can make any wish they want. For Alex and Conner, that wish is to be able to get back home, so they travel through all the lands and get in all sorts of trouble along the way while trying to retrieve these items.

It seems like the past year I've been on cloud nine in a way, being absorbed with all these fairy tale stories on TV, in the movies, etc. (there's ABC's Once Upon a Time, the two Snow White live action films earlier this year and now Land of Stories). And when I heard that Chris Colfer of all people (who is beyond fantastic on Glee) was releasing this book, I knew I had to read it, and I'm so glad I did.

What I love most is being re-introduced to all these fairy tale characters, such as Snow White, Cinderella, Goldilocks, Jack (from Jack and the Beanstock), Sleeping Beauty, and Colfer puts a unique twist on them. This is, again, reminiscent of Once Upon a Time. The illustrator is Brandon Dorman, who does a fantastic job with the cover (very fantasy-like, drawing you in) and the chapter drawings--at the start of each chapter, there's a small image at the top of the page, which takes me back to the days of Harry Potter and seeing Mary Grandpre's illustrations attached to each chapter.

While I absolutely fell in love with this book pretty much right away, once in a while you can tell that Colfer is a first-time writer, because sometimes you read parts and the cliches or typical dialogue come through. I noticed it mainly at the start, while in the real world (though it's greatly diminished through much of the rest). But having said that, if you love fairy tales and/or fantasy stories, this is absolutely one you should read, no matter how young or old you are (if you're an adult, it'll take you back to your childhood). There are some twists revealed at the end of the story, one of which you might pick up on early on, but others that will absolutely delight you when they come about.

Before I wrap up, I wanted to include a couple quotes from the book that stood out to me: "What the world fails to realize is that a villain is just a victim whose story hasn't been told." / "The world will always choose convenience over reality. It's easier to hate, blame, and fear than it is to understand. No one wants the truth; they want entertainment." Powerful, don't you think?

And while I won't give away the ending (that would be blasphemous--the horror!), I will say that Chris Colfer seems to have given himself enough room that he could very well return with a sequel someday, which I hope he does because I want to return to the Land of Stories and discover other parts and maybe more characters that will provide even more depth to this fantastical world he's created. And considering LoS debuted at #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List and stayed there for two weeks in a row, I'd say he's on to something...

Katy Perry: Part of Me

(Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures)
Katy Perry has had some pretty fantastic pop songs over the course of her short career so far. A couple years ago, I decided to listen to both her albums (right around the time Teenage Dream came out), but just wasn't impressed enough to want to actually buy them. However, when this docu-concert film, Katy Perry: Part of Me, was announced, I knew I wanted to see it because of the songs that I did like. And I have to say, no matter if you're just a casual fan or a die-hard fan, you'll still have a blast watching the film, nonetheless. You'll be singing along to her hits, like "Teenage Dream," "Hot n Cold," "Waking Up in Vegas," "I Kissed a Girl," "Last Friday Night," "Firework" and "California Gurls." And the rest of the songs featured throughout will have you sticking around to the very end as well.

But this isn't just a concert; it's also part documentary. You get to see all the behind-the-scenes action of her tour, and interviews with her parents to get a sense of what she was like growing up (including seeing footage of her singing when she was younger). But probably the biggest draw is seeing the evolution throughout the film of her marriage to Russell Brand. In that first half, we see footage of the two of them together and you can tell how madly in love they are with each other. Then it's heartbreaking to see that moment when she's in her dressing room and having a breakdown, and the fake smile she forces onto her face when she eventually rises up onto the stage. The turmoil surrounding her divorce is shown, and it's not sugarcoated. It's very real, and you feel for her. It brings a sense of rawness and humanity to this pop star that is in direct opposition to the (literally) candy-coated set design of her stage.

As I said, when I first listened to her albums way back when, I didn't want to buy them at the time. But since then, I've heard many of those songs over and over again in various ways on TV, and am now used to and enjoy some of the songs that before I had a tepid reaction to. And now after watching Part of Me, I want to now re-listen to her albums and I may very well buy those albums now.

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Jeff Dodge Blog:
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#1 Recommendation: The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

My next set of recommendations in the upcoming weeks will most likely be TV show related, with reviews of Commander in Chief, Revolution and American Horror Story: Asylum.

Follow me on Twitter @TheJeffDodge. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to tweet me, e-mail me or leave a comment below.

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