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Movie Review: Slash

27 Mar

I know, another movie review! Yes, I’m sorry to have to resort to this. I think my reading slump is at an end, but I’m still not having much luck of finishing off books. I hope to not do this again for a while. When I was writing the review for ChickLit, I saw related movies and this one caught my eye. It had a lot of awards on it and after watching the preview, I realized it had Michael Ian Black (loved his memoir) so I decided I had to watch it. Plus, it talked about fanfic writing, which is how I got into writing in the first place.

Image via Imp Awards

Slash

Summary from IMDb

Freshman Neil’s Vanguard stories are all he cares about…until he meets the older Julia, who pushes him to put his own fan fic online. When the website’s moderator takes a special interest in Neil’s work, it opens up a whole new universe.

I found this movie highly relatable. Not so much the slash fanfiction (gay pornographic writing about a pop culture reference), but the nerd culture and growing up a fangirl (fanboy for Neil). Julia was easy to relate to because of her nerd obsession. I was a huge Lord of the Rings fan in middle school and many of you now know I’m a hardcore Harry Potter fan now. Honestly, I had a discussion about going to a con with my husband after we watched this movie. Nerd culture doesn’t get a lot of coverage in movies and I guess it takes a small movie like this one to flesh it out well. I thought it was really well done.

I loved Neil and thought he was spot on for someone going through the self-discovery he was. Julia was a little harder to believe. At sixteen, I found it hard to believe she had the sexual history with a guy out of high school that she had. With how much she wrote, she obviously cared some about her education and that’s demonstrated with her narrative writing class. Yet she’s skipping almost constantly and her friends have jobs during school hours (did this not make come up as an issue any other time?). She seemed 17 or 18, but sixteen seemed a stretch.

Neil was my favorite character. He was so shy but also very curious. He didn’t know what to think about himself or those around him and I felt he reacted in a very realistic way. I hope a bunch of nerdy fanboys saw this movie and thought, “Wow, it’s OK to feel the way I do about my interests and there are others who like the things I do!” Yes, there are. They might write weird slash fic about it, but they like it, too. Now, there are more productive things Neil could have done with his fandom, but at least he could find people to bond with.

I would say my fic writing was about on par with Julia’s. I wrote a lot in middle school and early high school, experimenting with plotting without having to develop characters. Like her, I could take elements of the plot I thought were underutilized or skipped and go into detail, making up some elements as I went and genuinely having fun. I found her desire for acceptance in writing relatable and her desire to be read. How do y’all think I got here today? 🙂

The relationship between Neil and Julia was wonderfully built. We see them find a camaraderie and become friends, see them build a tension, and see how that unfolds (I don’t want to give too much away!). The end of the movie leaves you feeling hopeful for them despite the conflict they go through because we see them go through conflict before. For such a movie, I thought the relationship had a lot of depth.

I didn’t like how Neil’s age became such a point of contention in the movie. It made him feel very limited. Yes, he’s 15 which means he’s a minor. If he was 17, would anything have been different? Making him 15 only served to have a girl older than him still be underage. The number of characters who mention his age is a bit astounding.

Everyone can find someone who’s just as obsessed with something as they are. That’s a wonderful thing about the internet. It brings together people who would never connect otherwise. Sometimes, like Dennis, they say things they would never voice without anonymity, which can be positive and negative. But being able to find these fellow fans can be a huge bonding activity for people. Look at the explosion of cons and cosplay in the past few years. The internet is wholly responsible.

Writer’s Takeaway: No one should put a limit on what you write. For Neil, it was slash fanfiction. For E.L. James, it’s erotica. For me, it’s 1920s YA fiction. When we try to label something as ‘wrong’ or ‘countercultural,’ that’s not going to stop it from existing. Just because I don’t read something doesn’t mean no one else can or will. We need to embrace that almost anything we can think of has been written and someone either enjoyed writing it or enjoyed reading it. I have to remember this about Jane Austen sometimes.

I really enjoyed this movie and any other nerd who thinks it sounds fun should watch it. Adult content is talked about, but the movie is not graphic in nature. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Movie Review: ChickLit

20 Mar

In my desperate struggle to find content for this blog while going through a reading slump, I turned to movies. Yes, I know, I’ve done this before. But I want to go a different way with it this time. I remember recently reading an article about writers’ block and how it’s become such a well-known phenomenon that it’s part of several movies (The Shining, Secret Window, Stranger than Fiction). So I got thinking about other books involving writing and I started perusing Hoopla and found this title, ChickLit. It was flagged as a comedy which on a Saturday night when you’ve been reading your purchasing textbook all day sounds wonderful. It was the perfect little movie that I needed.

Movie Poster via CineMaterial

ChickLit

Summary from IMDb

ChickLit is a comedy drama about four guys trying to save their local pub from closing down. They group write a chick lit, or more specifically a ‘mummy porn’ novel in the style of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and it gets snapped up. The only snag is that the publisher insists that the young woman ‘author’ does press and publicity. The guys have to keep their involvement a secret and so engage an out of work actress to ‘role play’ the part of the author. This leads to her becoming the star in the film of the book, the tables are turned on the guys and she is in control – leaving them with the awful prospect of having to secretly churn out sex novels for the foreseeable future.

This movie did make me laugh, which I really enjoyed. Some of the acting was less than superb but the story was fun and I enjoyed that. It started with classic good intentions that were quickly blown out of proportions. I think this movie was probably a bit more relevant three years before it came out, but it still had relatable themes. There’s always a fad, even in literature, and if you can capitalize on it, you can make a fortune. It might not last, so you have to take advantage of it when you can. I think it could easily have been paranormal romance, but the erotica bubble was equally popular.

The four writers were a good mix to me. They seemed to be a close group of friends and their desire to save the bar was believable. I thought it was a bit of a stretch that they were able to write such a good novel, but I guess that’s also a comment on the quality of writing in erotic novels. I thought Zoe went along with the scheme really easily. Even if she is an out-of-work actress, she had to understand that the plan would tie her personally to the project, something that would stick with her long after the bit was over.

Chris was my favorite character. I often find myself the youngest in a group with a shared interest. That happens when your interests are book clubs, knitting, or (apparently) dominos. He seemed like a really nice guy and I wanted him and Zoe to wind up together. That seems like the subject of a sequel. His motivation was the strongest, I felt, because of his tie to the bar. He was also the most realistic character among the four men, except for maybe Marcus. Justin and David were a bit over the top.

I could relate to the four men. There are some things I’ve written that I’m not totally proud of and that I would prefer not have my name tied to. One of my published stories is from the point of view of a man and I think having a feminine name to it would be odd, though not as weird as the situation in this story. I understand wanting to use a pen name and having to go on a press tour can make something like gender a bit obvious!

I appreciated that though the subject of the book was very risque, the movie was rather clean. There were references to some more taboo subjects, but the visual content of the book was nothing out of the ordinary. I can’t find a rating for it, but I assume it’s no more than PG-13 (or whatever international equivalent that may be).

I thought Zoe coming into a position of power in the book was a bit of a stretch. She never seems to act much like someone who’s manipulating the four men. She seems calm and detached through the process. A lot of what she demands of the guys and ends up deciding to act on comes via David and Jen which makes it even less believable. I would have liked to see her be malicious or for her not to push the guys to write more.

 

There’s a price to fame and the guys were afraid to pay it. It’s opening up about yourself and letting your life be on show. Zoe had to pay that because the guys didn’t want to and she was able to use that to her advantage. There was still a price to her for what she did, I think. She’s going to have the stigma of being an erotic writer attached to her acting career for a long time. I seriously felt she would have considered this more!

Writer’s Takeaway: There’s always a bubble you can chase and try to get famous off of. It’s a matter of writing something you believe in, something you won’t be ashamed to have yourself tied to. If David and used the time and effort to write the novel he believed in, he might be a well-respected writer instead of the rep of his sister-in-law who didn’t write a word. I like to think he’ll finally write his book at some point.

Fun story and premise for a writer. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

‘Affinity’ Movie- Still really good and creepy!

16 Mar

Image via MoviePosters2

I read the book Affinity for my book club way back in October of 2013 but my interest in it was recently rekindled when someone commented on my book club reflection for the book. I found out there’s a movie version! And my library owns it! It’s been a while since I read the book, but I wanted to see what the movie had to offer. I don’t remember all of the details of the book but I’ll do my best here to compare the two.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Seeing Peter Quick. I won’t say too much, but I think the final scene with Peter was much easier to follow than the book. I struggled to see the crime scene while reading the book but seeing the film made it a lot clearer how everything was playing out.

The locket. I think I missed the connection with the locket when I was reading the book initially and had to have my book club point it out to me. Being able to see the physical object helped. I’ll add here that seeing other things that were connected was much easier in the film.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Margaret seeing other visitors. It was always clear that Margaret was only seeing other women to appease the matrons so taking that out of the movie was just a way to cut filler. I did think it made Margaret a bit more suspicious, though. She was obviously spending far too much time with Selena and I think more would have been done to stop her.

Less focus on the Spiritual Society. I remember the library playing a bigger part in the book and feeling like the book was a bit off course during those parts. It seemed like a distraction from the action and main plot that wasn’t really developing Selena well. I was fine with the minimized role it played in the movie.

Image from Goodreads

Affinity by Sarah Waters

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

This part is hard to write so long after reading the book. I do remember a big focus on wearing mourning clothes and while Margaret keeps to the black, it’s never brought up or mentioned which I thought strange.

Things That Changed Too Much

Theophilus. I don’t remember him from the book, but maybe that’s time fading the story. I remember the romance between Selena and Margaret, but I don’t remember him. Maybe it was played up a bit in the film? The actor made the part very memorable.

The ending. While the voiceover mirrored the text, you really had to read into the meaning of the words to understand what Margaret was doing (I’m trying so hard not to give too much away for anyone interested!). In the film, it was a little too obvious. I felt like something I had to dig for was just given to viewers.

Having such a long time between the two has really dampened my memory of the book. I remembered the big points, but picking out smaller changes has been hard. Reader, have you see the Affinity movie? What did you think? Was it close to the book?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson (4/5)

13 Mar

I wanted to read this book when I thought Bryson was a little more dry and scholarly and a little less fun and quirky. I thought it would be more systematic instead of picking up on the fun parts of language history. I read another of his books, realized I was mistaken, and still wanted to read another because they are fun and entertaining. They can make a long drive or a long run much less terrible.

Cover Image via Goodreads

The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way by Bill Bryson

Other books by Bill Bryson reviewed on this blog:

Made In America

Summary from Goodreads:

With dazzling wit and astonishing insight, Bill Bryson–the acclaimed author of The Lost Continent–brilliantly explores the remarkable history, eccentricities, resilience and sheer fun of the English language. From the first descent of the larynx into the throat (why you can talk but your dog can’t), to the fine lost art of swearing, Bryson tells the fascinating, often uproarious story of an inadequate, second-rate tongue of peasants that developed into one of the world’s largest growth industries.

Listening to this book was a joy. I didn’t have to worry about the different pronunciations Bryson talked about or read them in the phonetic alphabet because the narrator did it for me! A lot of this book talked about the language’s shift from old English to modern English, the words we lost and gained along the way, where words come from, and how they’re preserved or dropped. It’s clear there were a few resources Bryson relied heavily on for certain chapters. He organized the book well and was able to explain how certain words come to be in a very amusing way. I wasn’t ready for this book to be funny and I got looked at while running at the gym for spitting out a few giggles.

There were two parts of the book I really enjoyed. The first was the detail of how British English and American English came to be pronounced differently. Bryson detailed how English was before the American Settlers came over and then how the two changed since then. I ‘ve always wondered why we speak so differently. The theory that they will one day become so dissimilar as to be different languages is interesting, but as Bryson points out, modern technology has Americans, Brits, Australians, and South Africans speaking to each other via the internet so frequently, that future differences are less likely to happen.

My other favorite part was talking about names and how that developed. It’s fairly easy for me to see where my name, Stevens, came from (likely a shortening of Stevenson, ‘Steven’s son’) but it was fun to hear about other last names. Bryson also went into details about place names and I was happy to hear so many Michigan cities mentioned. Of course, Detroit coming from the French was mentioned, but I was glad he also mentioned Milan. I first saw the city name written down and asked, “Where is Milan?” pronouncing it like the Italian city. I got a stern look and was reproached, “It’s MY-lan.” With a long I. Same with Lima, Versailles, and Charlotte (other cities I drive by in the Midwest pronounced LYE-ma, ver-SALES, and shar-LOT).

The chapter on the dictionary was the least interesting to me. It did emphasize how quickly the language was evolving, but I thought there was a lot more history on a few men in this chapter than any developments in the language. I would have liked to see a shorter chapter on it and maybe a bit more focus on how the dictionary preserved pronunciations or changed them.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Stephen McLaughlin. Kudos to him for having to pronounce so many words in a variety of languages and accents. One of the later chapters had to deal with word games in French and he rambled them off like a pro. If he was off with any of his pronunciations, I’m none the wiser because his Spanish was spot-on when used and the little I know of Italian and German was well done, too.

Bryson’s focus was on how the language has changed, but he also talked about things that had stayed the same. I appreciated hearing about how words had changed very little since Shakespeare’s time. He also focused on how it could evolve going forward which was almost alarming. English words are being adopted into most world languages mainly due to innovation and English words being used for things and concepts that did not exist previously. If you know another language, think of words for technology and new concepts. In Spanish, I’ve heard both ‘el internet’ and ‘el márketing’ used even if there are Spanish words for these things (el red y el mercadotecnica). Bryson points out that Japanese does this the most. With English words infiltrating foreign languages and English becoming the common language for business, we might start to lost the beauty of other languages and in fact, start to lose speakers of those languages.

Writer’s Takeaway: Bryson hides some jokes in his writing, like when talking about where the last name ‘Bush’ came from. I enjoyed these small jokes tucked into the book. I’m not sure how well they would work in fiction, but in non-fiction, which can be dry, Bryson kept it interesting and fun. I really appreciated this in a book that easily could have been bogged down in details.

I enjoyed this book and I’m sure I have loads of fun facts to spring on people now. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way // by Bill Bryson | The Aroma of Books

Books Becoming Movies in 2017: What I’ll read and what I’ll pass on

7 Mar

I’m sure I’m not the only person who likes to read the book before seeing the movie. I love being able to compare the two and come to the ultimate decision that the book is better. (Does anyone ever disagree?) Using this and this articles, I’d like to present a list of books that I’m either going to hurry up and read or let the movie woo me without preconceived notions.

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Diane Ackerman, March 31)- Pass. I might as well write a whole post about how sick I am of books about being the daughter or wife of someone noteworthy. This is me on my feminist soapbox at it’s finest. I’ll consider it for next week.

Wonder (R.J. Palacio, April 7)- Pass. My husband is reading this one now and I don’t want to make him wait to read it. I’ll go to this one, but I don’t want to create a picture of Auggie in my head and have the moviemakers ruin it.

The Circle (Dave Eggers, April 28)- Read. I have this on my shelf and realizing it will be a movie starring Emma Watson is making me think it will be the next one I pick up!

The Dark Tower (Stephen King, July 28)- Pass. This isn’t my genre per say and I’d rather watch an action plot than read one. Sounds like it will be worth seeing, though!

It (Stephen King, September 8)- Pass. No horror necessary for me, print or film! I heard Will Poulter was playing Pennywise and I was excited about that, but the article I read gives another actor. Now I have no reason to see it! (Ha, pun)

Let It Snow (John Green and others, November)- Pass. Just proof anything with John Green’s name on it is selling like wildfire. Can we get a movie of Looking for Alaska first?

Murder on the Oriente Express (Agatha Christie, November 22)- Read. With Kenneth Branagh playing Poirot and Johnny Depp on board, I can break into another Christie novel. I just added this to my Hoopla Wish List.

The Nightengale (Kristin Hannah, TBD)- Maybe. My book club has contemplated this one for a while and if we read it, great. If not, I’ve read enough WWII dramas to last me a while.

The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls, TBD)- Already read, can’t wait to see it! What a moving book and I hope it will be a touching movie as well!

Live by Night (Dennis Lehane, already out)- Pass. I saw the preview for this and I really want to see it, but I don’t think I’ll go back and read the book first. It looks too good to wait too much longer!

50 Shades Darker (E.L. James, already out)- Already read it, will not see it. I didn’t see the first one because I think it’s a cheap money grab and it’s not something that needs to be on-screen. Plus, the book was horrible and I don’t want to endorse it any more than I already have.

Jumanji (Chris Van Allsburg, July 28)- Already read, will see! I just watched the 1995 version a few weeks ago and remembered how much I loved it. It would be great to see what they can do with 20 years of film magic!

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeline L’Engle, July 28)- Pass. I feel like I missed my window to love this book and movie so I’ll pass.

The Bell Jar (Sylvia Plath, TBD)- Maybe. I read this book a while ago and I didn’t appreciate it at the time. If the movie gets good reviews, I’ll probably see the movie, but I won’t re-read the book first.

Any of the ones I’m passing on you want to sway me on? I’m really excited to jump on a few of these now.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Book Review: You’re Not Doing It Right by Michael Ian Black (4/5)

6 Mar

I think it was just after I finished reading Bossypants that I added this book to my TBR. I was on a comedian memoir high and Michael Ian Black seemed like the logical next step. I love his dry sarcasm. I found the book a few months later on the sale shelf at a bookstore and picked up my copy. It’s been a few years, but I’m glad I finally grabbed time to read it!

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black

Summary from Goodreads:

Darkly humorous and told with raw honesty, You’re Not Doing it Right is Michael’s debut memoir. In it, he takes on his childhood, his marriage, his children, and his career with unexpected candor and deadpan wit, as he shares the neuroses that have plagued him since he was a kid and how they shaped him into the man he is today.

In this funny-because-it’s-true essay collection, Michael says the kinds of things most people are afraid to admit, and as a husband and father living in the suburbs, asks the question so many of us ask ourselves at one point or another. How did I end up here?

This book was exactly what I expected and wanted from it. Black is self-deprecating and honest in a way I don’t think a lot of people would be. He fights with his wife and he’s going to tell you about it. It’s not always funny but when it is, he’ll make the joke. He goes through his life in semi-chronological order. There are times he goes back because of something that’s happening to him that causes him to reminisce but I found this book pretty well-organized. I’ve said before, I like logical order. I also like when people can be honest about things that suck and Black did that. Some things aren’t funny, like your dad dying or your sister having a mental disability. I felt he treated things with the respect that needed to be and shared a lot of his life and the parts of it that aren’t funny.

I think Black portrayed himself and his wife very realistically. A lot of their relationship wasn’t a perfect and they had to work at it. Some things were funny and cute and he found time to make jokes about them. I was surprised about how ‘Stepford’ his life seemed at times. I’m used to thinking of comedians as either too rich for childcare or so hipster they wouldn’t live in Connecticut. I guess I need to stop stereotyping famous people.

Black’s wife, Martha, sounds awesome. She’s pushy and sarcastic, but I think you’d have to be to marry him. She sounds like a riot and the way their relationship started makes me want to gossip with her. I wasn’t a big fan of how she and Michael got together, but I respected the way they raised their children when they were young and she seemed awesome to me.

Black talked about not feeling he fit in when he was in high school and I could understand that. As much as I wanted to be friends with my friends, the people I respected, you always feel that pull to be ‘cool’ and have the ‘popular kids’ like you, too. The chapter where he fought Dale stuck out to me, I could see if happening so easily that it frightened me. Black was easy to relate to and he portrayed his life as a misfit very well.

I thought the stories of Black’s life as a father and husband were most enjoyable. Buying a BMW and having a fussy infant were funny and down-to-earth. Not many people can relate to the guy who went into entertainment with no degree and were successful. He would have a very limited audience if he focused on this part of his life. But being a family man is relatable. I could see these things running through my dad’s head and I liked the humor in it.

Black’s dating life wasn’t as interesting to me. He seemed like a pig when he talked about the college student who wouldn’t be intimate with him and he was unrelatable to me. I wish he’d stuck more to his adult life when he was likable though more pessimistic.

Even though Black is pessimistic and down about most things in his book, he still has a good life and he admits it. He has a wife he loves (most of the time) and two kids he admires. Even when he’s making dark jokes and ripping on himself, he’s still a happy person. It’s his internal outlook, not what he expresses, that really seems to matter.

Writer’s Takeaway: I would be wary of a book that adopted this tone if it were by someone who wasn’t known for bleak humor. Black pulls it off because that’s his personality and someone picking up this book likely knows that. If I published a book, on the other hand, and people didn’t understand my brand of humor, that might not find it amusing. Black kept his voice and didn’t sacrifice for book sales, which I can appreciate, but I would caution less-famous writers from adopting a strong tone as he did.

This book made me laugh and was great on vacation. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Book Review: ‘You’re Not Doing It Right’ by Michael Ian Black | Bookpeople’s Blog
Lollygagger’s #CBR5 Review #21: You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations by Michael Ian Black | Cannonball Read 5

‘The ABC Murders’ on Agatha Christie’s Poirot (TV Show)

28 Feb
Image via Fanart

Image via Fanart

One of the things I love about WWW Wednesday is when I learn something new from the bloggers. Huge thank you to 4thhouseontheleft for letting me know there was a television series of the Poirot mysteries! I was able to watch the episode of The ABC Murders when I was home sick last week.

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Sticking to the book. I was ready for some serious deviation in this show, but I was happily surprised. The writers did an amazing job of sticking to the plot and not cutting any major element. I kept smiling while I was watched it because I was so pleasantly surprised!

 

Poirot’s speech pattern. I’ll admit that reading Poirot in Spanish and having him inject French phrases was a little off-putting. I wasn’t ready for it and since I don’t know French, it really messed with my head. It was an adjustment but I managed. In the show, it sounded very natural the way the actor would speak and I really appreciated how smooth it was.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Taking out the land lady’s daughter. I thought she was really unnecessary in the book and just added to an already long character list. What she did to help Cust was confusing and I’m glad it was taken out.

Cust’s interrogation. In the book, because Hastings is narrating, the interrogation is presented as, “Poirot did this and then told me what happened” which came across as a bit choppy and awkward. I’m glad the show got away from this POV because it was much more natural and flowed well the way it was shot.

Things That Were Taken Out and I’m Still Wondering Why

 

Details of the D murder. In the book, it seemed like Cust was messing up when he murdered someone whose initials weren’t DD. That small detail was taken out of the show and I think it added a lot to how tricky Franklin was. I wish it had been kept.

Things That Changed Too Much

 

Franklin. I pictured him as younger, maybe a Silver Fox kind of guy in his 50s. Perhaps it’s a difference in style to when the show was shot, but I didn’t think Franklin would be able to seduce young Betty Barnard. I know I wouldn’t have been tempted at all and she seemed rather shallow so it surprised me that they chose an actor who looked so much older.

Japp’s perspective. I liked getting Japp’s perspective from time to time and seeing how frustrated he was getting and how superior he felt when he got some information before Poirot. I wish that had been added back to the show.

Hastings. He was pretty annoying and dim-witted in the show which I didn’t see as believable. Why would Poirot keep him around if he was like that? He kept insisting on talking about the Cayman he brought back and it was tiresome. I liked it better when he was narrating and painted himself in a good light.

Reader, have you seen Agatha Christie’s Poirot? Did you watch this episode? What did you think?

Until next time, write on.

Book Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling (5/5)

23 Feb

I don’t think there was any chance I wouldn’t read this. My husband got me a copy for Christmas and it sat on my shelf taunting me. I was waiting for a hold to come in at the library and decided I had the time so I might as well read it. I feel even more in love.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

Other books by Rowling reviewed on this blog:

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I and II by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Illustrated by Jim Kay
Harry Potter y el orden del fenix by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter y el misterio del principe by J.K. Rowling
Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)

Summary from Goodreads:

When Magizoologist Newt Scamander arrives in New York, he intends his stay to be just a brief stopover. However, when his magical case is misplaced and some of Newt’s fantastic beasts escape, it spells trouble for everyone…

Having seen the movie, there was nothing in the plot itself that surprised me much. The only thing I might mention is that I was unsure how old Credence was supposed to be in the film. Ezra Miller looks younger than he is and I thought he was supposed to be in his mid to late-teens, not his early twenties. No wonder Grindelwald didn’t suspect him! The art in this book was a great joy. The drawings of the animals I had seen on-screen were really fun and I enjoyed having them as part of the scene breaks while reading.

It’s hard to judge the characters too harshly. I think we’ll learn a lot more about Newt and what drives him going forward. The only character that bothered me was Queenie and I felt the same when I was watching the movie. She seems almost stupid with what she reveals about herself and her ability to read minds but she’s very resourceful at the same time. She uses her looks and flirtation to get everything she can and she seems almost useless besides this. It was kind of frustrating when paralleled with a strong character like Tina.

Jacob is so easy to like and very lovable. Folger did a great job with him in the film and Rowling wrote him well, too. He’s very well-meaning and just stuck in a bad situation. I’m glad the muggle all Potterheads wanted to be was a good person!

Tina loved to try to do the right thing even when it was hard. I think most people can relate to that. Be it saying something no one wants to say or helping someone who annoys you, Tina tried to do the right thing and would put herself at a disadvantage to do it. It made her very admirable and made her easy to look up to and relate to her bad situations that most people have faced from time to time when putting their necks out for someone else.

J.K. Rowling Image via The Telegraph

J.K. Rowling
Image via The Telegraph

I loved the Niffler. I think most people did. I didn’t expect for a little creature to have such a great personality and shine in the book and story so much. Pickett was a close second to me.

I thought the scenes chasing down many of Newt’s creatures were a bit of fluff for movie-goers. They didn’t add much to the plot, but they must have looked good! (I did see it, they did look good.) Reading the screenplay made these stick out to me and I realized how little difference they made to the plot.

 

The pending exposure the magic community is facing is having Grindelwald start something similar to a race war, what Voldemort is able to provoke in the Harry Potter series. I think this is very timely with the escalating racial tensions we’re seeing in America. The things said about Jacobs and other no-maj’s are not the nicest things people could say and there’s a strong sense of superiority in the magical community that Newt points out, doesn’t exist in the UK. I’m really interested to see how this evolves with Jacob as a main part of the plot.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure what else I can learn from the great J.K. that I haven’t already. I think she had fun with this book and that excites me because I thought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was fun, too, but it was so much deeper than that. I think we’ll see a big growth of these characters and a big deepening of the plot in the movies to come and that makes me so excited.

As if there was any doubt, this book gets a full Five out of Five stars from me.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Post:
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling || Review | Romi Reads

Book Review: The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom (4/5)

20 Feb

Mitch Albom is from Detroit and he does a lot of book signings in my area as a result. A good friend of mine and I went to hear him speak a few years ago and I got a copy of his latest (at the time) signed. I hate taking signed books out of my apartment, so using an audio version of this book made the most sense to me. It was a nice, quick read.

Cover Image via Goodreads

Cover Image via Goodreads

The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom

My past post on Meeting Mitch Albom

Summary from Goodreads:

The First Phone Call from Heaven tells the story of a small town on Lake Michigan that gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife. Is it the greatest miracle ever or a massive hoax? Sully Harding, a grief-stricken single father, is determined to find out. An allegory about the power of belief–and a page-turner that will touch your soul–Albom’s masterful storytelling has never been so moving and unexpected.

I’ve read and listened to a few of Albom’s books before and this seems right in line with his style. He’s going to talk about Christianity without hitting you over the head with it and he’s also going to talk about doubting religion and that strengthening belief. This book was hard to read only because my Christian side wanted to believe and my reader side wanted to think ‘Magical Realism’ but following a character who doubted so strongly made me doubt, too. I wasn’t sure what to think until the end, which I’ll avoid talking about. I liked the ride, though. The breadth of characters covered the topic well and gave me someone to commiserate with each step of the way.

I liked that there were characters who were strong believers, skeptics, and people who went through all stages of belief and disbelief along the way. I think that’s a fair representation of how humanity would respond to such a miracle. I’ve often wondered if a great prophet came to Earth, would we believe him or her? Would we discredit this person or recognize that he/she is the one we’ve been waiting for? I think Albom must have wondered something similar when he wrote this book. Some believed it immediately, dropping everything and moving to Coldwater while the miracle was happening. Others came out of anger and a lot kept at arms distance and waited for proof that the whole thing was real. I liked how the people of Coldwater went through this as well, even those receiving the calls. It seemed real and made me wonder where I would fall if calls like that really happened.

Jack was my favorite character. I thought the way he dealt with his son’s calls was really believable. At first he wants to keep them to himself and not call attention to himself, which I could see a police officer wanting to do. I liked seeing his internal struggle to tell his ex-wife and how he told Tess to commiserate with her. I think he really struggled with believing Robby was really talking to him and thought that if he said it out loud, he would have to believe it.

I think I would have trouble believing something as wondrous as phone calls from Heaven at first. I think I would be like Elias or Jack and think it was someone trying to trick me for a while, testing the miracle to see if it stood on its own two feet before I could buy in completely. Even Pastor Warren was skeptical and Father Carole called in his boss to make a decision. This helped me feel like it was OK to doubt but to question and not discredit something that could be a miracle.

Me and Mitch

Me and Mitch Albom, 2013.

I love Sully’s story. It was so moving and complicated and I thought Albom did a great job of balancing all of the conflicting feelings inside Sully. I was scared for a second that he was going to give him a romantic relationship with Liz but I think the way that ended was for the best. Sully was looking out for his son most of all and on his journey to protect the boy, he ended up neglecting him a bit. He needed to refocus his priorities and Liz helped him do this.

I didn’t’ like Amy’s character very much. She was really self-focused and I felt like she was taking advantage of Katherine the whole book. Even when she was taken off the story, she stayed with Katherine because she had no where else she wanted to be. She didn’t even seem to care when her fiance left her and didn’t try to hard to contact him. She seemed unimportant to the plot and just fulfilled Albom’s desire to have a reporter character in the story.

Albom narrated the audiobook himself which I really liked. He gave the characters the voices he wrote them with. There were a few instances of him using audio effects like knocking and thumping to enhance the story which I really liked. He narrated well but that can be expected from a radioman. I hope he does his other audiobooks as well.

All of the characters struggled with belief. Even Catherine, who believed immediately and spread the word, struggled with others not believing her and how to handle those who doubted her. The characters were very representative of Christians that I’ve met. Some believe with all of their hearts and struggle to see how others can live without the faith they have. Others used to believe but have fallen away from God for one reason or another. Others don’t believe and many are somewhere in the middle. The book brought up something incredible that effected people’s faith in different ways and showed how no one Christian is exactly like another and how things can shake or build faith depending on how they’re perceived.

Writer’s Takeaway: I thought Albom had almost too many characters. I struggled a bit to keep Jack and Jeff straight and I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the TV people besides Amy. I’m glad he didn’t include all of the people receiving phone calls but I thought he could have focused on just a few less to help the reader keep more of them straight.

This was a solid book that helped me see how strong my faith is. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (3/5)

16 Feb

I love comedian memoirs. That might be kind of niche, but there are enough books in this genre that I feel it’s safe to make that blanket statement. I’ve read many I enjoyed and about the time I read Bossypants by Tina Fey, I was also binge-watching The Office on Netflix. Logically, enjoying both, I wanted to read Mindy’s book. I found it a few months later at a massive book sale and I’ve been waiting to read it for a while.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Summary from Goodreads:

Mindy Kaling has lived many lives: the obedient child of immigrant professionals, a timid chubster afraid of her own bike, a Ben Affleck–impersonating Off-Broadway performer and playwright, and, finally, a comedy writer and actress prone to starting fights with her friends and coworkers with the sentence “Can I just say one last thing about this, and then I swear I’ll shut up about it?”

Perhaps you want to know what Mindy thinks makes a great best friend (someone who will fill your prescription in the middle of the night), or what makes a great guy (one who is aware of all elderly people in any room at any time and acts accordingly), or what is the perfect amount of fame (so famous you can never get convicted of murder in a court of law), or how to maintain a trim figure (you will not find that information in these pages). If so, you’ve come to the right book, mostly!

In Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka

Having read in this genre before, I knew this book could go one of two ways: 1) memoir of her life up until the point of writing or 2) sporadic, jumping around commentary on life. This book was oddly a mix of the two. Mindy followed her life pretty steadily until she broke into writing and then skipped around with parts that sounded like bits she had no show to write them into. I enjoyed the first part more than the second half. I would have liked to hear more about Mindy on The Office. She devoted one chapter to it and while it was the longest of her chapters, it was still short in comparison to the length of the book.

Mindy portrays herself in a very relatable light. She seems like your average everyday young woman and I think many people have a friend who is reminiscent of Mindy. It was refreshing to read that someone who is invited to awards shows also sits at home in her pajamas or cries over TV shows or calls their mom when something weird happens with her eye. She did seem to focus a lot on how she looked and fret about it, which was something I hadn’t read in a memoir before but I can most certainly understand.

There weren’t any major characters in Mindy’s story. Her parents showed up from time to time, as did her brother, and then a few roommates from college but no one who was a major part of Mindy’s story through the whole thing. I noticed this in a few other memoirs I read about celebrities and I wonder if there’s some celebrity editor who recommends this. How do I get that job?

Mindy Kaling Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy Kaling
Image via Paste Magazine

Mindy made a few predictions in the book which have wound up being true. First was a female Ghostbusters and the second was an Oceans 5 but which will actually be Oceans 8 but close enough. There were some things that dated the book as well. Most notably the Blackberry references and talking about how Amy Poehler and Will Arnett are a great couple that all couples should strive to be like. While funny and grounding, these made the book feel ‘old’ six years after publication.

I think this book would have been better as an audiobook. I know Kaling’s style only as far as Kelly is a reflection of how she really talks. If Kelly is nothing like her, I have no idea how some of her jokes were supposed to come off. I might have missed a few that fell flat without her inflection. I couldn’t tell if she was actually at odds with Rainn Wilson or if they were the kind of super-close friends who rag on each other all the time. Audiobook could have helped there.

 

Mindy stresses her body image a lot. As a woman in Hollywood, she’s pressured to fit into a certain body style and she just doesn’t do that. She says she’s the average American woman and I would argue she’s probably a little smaller than average. Anyway, she’s constantly forced to dress in a way that stylists think is appropriate for her body type instead of what she wants. She talks about the pushback she’s gotten from this and I think it’s her main message. She’s trying her best to be comfortable in her own skin but she’s pushed back on a lot. I think Kaling is a good role model for girls. She’s a minority, a woman, and not a size 0 but she’s still funny. That’s a great combination.

Writer’s Takeaway: The second half of the book seemed thrown together to me. Her stories would bounce back to college or The Office and there wasn’t a strong sense of a timeline like there had been in the first half. I would have liked a little more structure to it.

A fun and quick read by a funny woman. Three out of Five stars.

 

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling | Book Spoils
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling | Literary and Lovely