I have a confession that will probably embarrass my co-workers: I loved Avatar. Yes, there were holes in the plot. And yes, I thought it was predictably annoying that a white guy had to swoop in and save the natives on Pandora. (Haven’t seen the movie and need a summary?)
Throughout the nearly-three-hour movie, though, I watched with my jaw dropped, enraptured by the vibrant colors and awesome plants and animals of Pandora. I completely bought the love story between Jake and Neytiri, and I liked the environmental parable of the story. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever been so engrossed in a movie before, and I might even have suffered from some post-Avatar blues after I returned to regular ole’ Earth.
So, I read with great interest when the news broke that director/writer James Cameron is planning to write an Avatar prequel. The book will not be a “novelization” (a.k.a. summary) of the movie, but rather a “big, epic story that fills in a lot of things,” according to producer Jon Landau. The prequel will be Cameron's first book.
Many reviewers have noted that Avatar’s weak link is the clunky/predictable dialogue (“we’ll fight terror with terror,” “you have a good heart,” etc.), and as the New York Times ArtsBeat blog points out, of the nine Academy Awards nominations Avatar has received, none is for best original screenplay. Are there enough fans out there who’ll overlook Cameron’s shortcomings as a writer, and focus on his ability to transport us to another world?
Since Avatar’s success rests largely on its incredible visuals, I wonder why Cameron’s not choosing to go the graphic novel route with the prequel. What do you think, Avatar fans? Will Cameron’s book be filled with cringe-worthy dialogue and a loose plot? Or will it be a welcome ticket back to Pandora?
If you’ve got a need for fantasy and waiting for Avatar just won’t cut it, check out our February Sci-Fi column on BookPage.com.
Last night the fiction finalists for the Best Translated Book Awards were announced at Idlewild Books in New York City. The awards are sponsored by Three Percent, a program at the University of Rochester (the name comes from the fact that only ~3% of books published in the United States are works in translation). Of the finalists, original languages range from Hebrew to Norwegian. View the complete list here.
The awards caught my attention because two of the most recent books I’ve read have been in translation. I loved the simple, lyrical language in The Solitude of Prime Numbers (originally written in Italian), and I hope future reviews note the work of English translator Shaun Whiteside. I’ve read Isabel Allende in Spanish and in English, and I’ve always been impressed by the English translations—Magda Bogin’s work in The House of the Spirits was especially notable, capturing the author’s flowing prose and mystical imagery. Island of the Sea (translated by Margaret Sayers Peden) is no exception.
If you’re unable to read a work in the original language, it’s hard to tell if a translation is great—although I think it’s clear if one is bad, based on clunky transitions, imagery and diction. What translated works would you recommend? Any you’d avoid?
set in rural West Virginia in the aftermath of WWI, about a veteran who has lost his wife and is caring for their newborn, and finds himself steered in unlikely ways by an angel who has followed him home from the trenches of France
Due first is a five-part graphic series based on Witch & Wizard, Patterson’s YA novel. (“For those who have been waiting for a series as mouthwatering and addictive as Harry Potter, this’ll do it,” said Patterson of the book in a January interview with BookPage.) In June, Patterson’s The Murder of King Tut, a “deft blend of antiquity and whodunit,” will come out as a four-part series. (Both series will be primarily written by coauthors.) We wonder if Patterson will have to re-work the ending of King Tut. According to a report from today's New York Times, the boy pharaoh died from malaria—not murder.
Patterson claims he wants to expand to the graphic novel market so his stories can “reach as many people as possible.” Ted Adams, CEO of IDW Publishing, the company producing the books, wanted to work with the prolific author because he sells a ton of books and he’s a “creative genius.” What do you think, Patterson fans? Will the books translate well to the graphic novel medium?
Also look out for a straight-to-graphic-series from Patterson: Beer Belly and the Fat Boy. (Can’t wait until we get a review copy of that one!)
I’ve made my love for the late Madeleine L’Engle known around the office, so I wasn’t surprised when Lynn showed me a notice from the spring 2010 Farrar, Straus & Giroux catalog: On April 27, L’Engle’s 1949 novel And Both Were Young will be reissued in hardcover with a new jacket (see left). L’Engle’s graddaughter, Léna Roy, will write an introduction.
My battered copy of And Both Were Young features the jacket to the right. Which do you like better?
The novel tells the story of Flip, an American girl away at boarding school in Switzerland, and her unexpected love for Paul, a French boy. Whether you prefer the retro jacket or the new one, the novel’s themes of love, alienation and growing up will no doubt still resonate with contemporary readers.
After learning of the book reissue, I was curious about L'Engle's graddaughter. Turns out that on Dec. 7, 2010, FSG will publish Roy’s debut YA novel, Edges.
It is a story of love and grief, addiction and redemption, set in both NYC’s Upper West Side and in the red rock desert of Moab, Utah. Seventeen-year-old Luke lives and works at the Moonflower Motel in Moab, having fled New York City where his father Frank drowns his sorrows after the death of Luke’s mother. Back in New York, 18-year-old Ava meets Frank at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When these lost souls converge in Moab, what happens transforms them all.
Will you pick up Edges?
The popular Welsh novelist and former RAF pilot and jockey died yesterday at his home in the Grand Cayman islands. His son, Felix, who collaborated with his father on four recent novels, says: “My brother, Merrick, and I are, of course devastated by the loss of our father, but we rejoice in having been the sons of such an extraordinary man. We share in the joy that he brought to so many over such a long life. It is an honour for me to be able to continue his remarkable legacy through the new novels.” Sounds like Felix may continue to write, or at least publish any incomplete manuscripts the two may have been working on?
Dick Francis' long string of mysteries set in the world of horse-racing have been solid sellers since the 1960s. Many were written with the collaboration and support of his wife, Mary, whose death in 2000 caused Francis to temporarily retire from writing. Perhaps his fascination with trackside mystery was spurred by his own involvement in one of the sport's most memorable moments: Francis was riding the Queen Mother's horse, Devan Loch, in the 1956 Grand National. In the lead, and just yards from the finish line, the horse inexplicably collapsed. But whatever his inspiration, it's clear that Francis' writing brought hours of enjoyment to millions over the past 50 years.
Related in BookPage: our review of Dick Francis' Under Orders.
For five more days, you can listen to a dramatized version of Dick Francis' Enquiry on the BBC's website.
If you saw this holiday season's hit movie The Blind Side, you may think you know all about Michael Oher, the young black man who was taken in by a well-off white family and eventually became a star left tackle on his high school football team, then for Ole Miss, and now for the Baltimore Ravens. If you read Michael Lewis' book of the same name (you can read an excerpt on the NYT website), you'll learn more about both Oher and the couple who adopted him, Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy.
Now you can have the chance to hear about the Tuohys' experience in their own words. Publisher's Marketplace reports that the Tuohys' book (no title yet) will be published by Holt this summer, and will explore "the power of giving." Will you be interested to see what this extraordinary family has to say?
Related in BookPage: The power of giving is certainly a timely topic these days! Check out reviews of books on philanthropy and money management in our January feature, "Getting and Giving," or a review of The Power of Half, by an Atlanta family that sold their house and donated half of the proceeds to an organization working to end poverty and hunger in Ghana.
For those of us born in the '70s and '80s, all this news about beloved teen series might be too much to handle. (In case you missed the updates, The Baby-Sitters Club is coming back and Sweet Valley High might be turned into a movie.)
Today, Publishers Marketplace confirmed that Francine Pascal has signed a deal to publish Sweet Valley Confidential in early 2011. The book will follow Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield—and all their Sweet Valley friends—into their late twenties and early thirties. The novel will be published by St. Martin’s Press. No word yet if it will be a single book or the start to a series (here's hoping. . .), or if the target audience will be teens or adults.
Of the book, Pascal said, “I’ve had thousands of queries from fans over the years wondering what Jessica and Elizabeth would be like as adults... Well, Sweet Valley Confidential should give them all the answers. And I can guarantee they will be very surprised. Actually, more like shocked.”
Will Elizabeth get back with boring Todd Wilkins? Are Jessica and Lila Fowler still frenemies? Will the twins still be a "perfect size six"? We’ll have to wait until 2011 to find out.
SVH fans: What are your hopes for the book?
In December we posted the news that The Hunger Games #3 will arrive on August 24, 2010, and asked readers for title predictions. A couple of you suggested “The Victors” (which USA Today claims has been the most popular guess among book bloggers), but BookPage commenter Kali knew what she was talking about when she wrote:
This is my favorite book ever. The whole series is about her being the mockingjay, so I have a suggestion. Mockingjay. That should be the title. Plain and simple, Katniss IS the mockingjay. That says it all.
What do you think, Collins fans?
If you haven’t been sucked into the series yet, it’s not too late. To see if it's something you would like, read an interview with Suzanne Collins about Catching Fire or a review of The Hunger Games.
. . . Katherine Heigl. Variety reports that the "plum" role of buxom bounty hunter in the film version of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money will be played by the "Grey's Anatomy" star. It's been a long time coming; Columbia pictures first optioned the novel for film in 1994 and Reese Witherspoon was previously attached to the project (though Janet E. has said on her website that she envisions Sandra Bullock in the role). Now that Heigl has signed on, the project has gained momentum and is likely to start production.
Now, the question is, who will be cast as Stephanie's two love interests, Morelli and Ranger?