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Books as Movies or TV Shows: A Debate

15 Feb

My posts this week have really focused on books being turned into movies and TV shows. Books being made into TV shows is a more recent phenomenon that I’m getting on board with. Obviously, Game of Thrones has been wildly successful. I’m also a fan of other series such as Z and The Man in the High Castle on Amazon and I’ve heard good things about The Handmaid’s Tale and the BBC adaptations of the Cormoran Strike novels. Since the way we’re watching TV is changing, the way books are turned into a visual medium is changing, too.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the first book to be turned into two movies. This was followed by Breaking Dawn and Mockingjay and I’m sure many others. It seems obvious that the reason for this was to give more of the book’s content time to come to the screen, an effort to keep more of what readers loved and turn it into more for movie-only fans to love. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a nice cash-grab for the studio as well!

TV shows are taking that even further. Instead of one of George R.R. Martin’s massive books being squeezed into one 120-minute movie or even two, we get ten episodes, 600 minutes, in the first season. Some series have had to go beyond what’s in the novel (The Man in the High Castle is a prime example) because fans are asking for more content than the book provided. Now, instead of cutting material, the problem is adding it.

Either way, we’re never going to get a page-for-page, line-for-line adaptation of a book to a movie or TV show. Someone will look different, speak differently, or be cut because books cannot realistically be turned directly into a visual scene. Some are better than others, to be sure, but none are perfect.

If I head a favorite book was going to be made visual, I’m not sure what I’d prefer. Is it better to have some things cut, maintain the main plot line, and see a movie that’s over in 120 minutes and I can pass my judgment at that time? Or should I hope for a season of 15 45-minute episodes that will add unnecessary characters and change the main plot to something that takes the main character well into season two to solve? Which is better? Is either one?

I’m personally a fan of the TV adaptations. I’m a big TV binger so I enjoy getting to see my favorite books as bite-sized-yet-bingable chunks to enjoy in my PJs while eating ice cream on my couch. (You are welcome for the visual.) I’m excited at the idea of a Lord of the Rings TV show. I hope I can stream it.

What do you prefer? Is there a ‘best’ way to see your favorite books come to life? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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!

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The 5 Stages of Finding Out Your Favorite Book is Becoming a Movie

13 Feb

I’m sure this has happened to us all at some point. You hear the amazing news that a book you LOVED is being made into a movie. This happened to me with Ready Player One and A Darker Shade of Magic I’m sure many of you experience it with Harry Potter. I feel there are some universal stages, like the stages of grief, that all readers go through upon receiving the news of a film adaptation.

Stage One: Denial
I believe my initial reaction to every movie adaptation announcement has either been, “What?!” or “No way!” Clearly, my first reaction is denial. Despite rave reviews of the book, I’m shocked someone in Hollywood agreed with me that a certain title was absolutely amazing and totally worthy of being seen by the millions of non-readers who will see the film.

Stage Two: Excitement
I believe my second reaction to finding out about each movie has been, “Heck yes!” or “I’m so pumped.” The idea of getting to see something that lives in your head on a 40-foot screen with surround-sound is an adrenaline rush waiting to happen. The satisfaction of hearing a good review of the movie from a friend who refused to read the book is the best. Being able to appreciate red herrings and see the small details that get you to the ending you know is coming makes you feel like Agatha Christie. And all of this is really going to happen because the book is being made into a movie!

Stage Three: Nervousness
But then, doubt starts to set in. What if they get rid of your favorite scene? The one that would be visually beautiful if done correctly but might blow the entire budget? What if the adorkable best friend is cast as some Hollywood hottie who is totally wrong for the character? What if the writers add a love triangle to build tension that is completely unnecessary to the amazing story that’s already been created. What if it’s nothing like the amazing book? What if the movie flops and all your friends wonder why you liked such a stupid story?

Stage Four: Anger
Why did they have to make your favorite book into a movie? There’s no way the (insert number of pages here) pages of amazing plot can be compacted into a 90-minute movie! There’s no way they’ll get Natalie Portman/Shailene Woodley/Sophie Turner to pull off the female lead and it’s impossible Leonardo DiCaprio/Chris [Pratt/Pine/Hemsworth/Evans] will get the male character’s personality right. This movie is going to be terrible! Why would your favorite author let this happen? (S)He is just chasing the next easy paycheck, you thought (s)he was better than that!

Stage Five: Acceptance
Okay, the casting is set and it’s not as bad as you thought. It’s not the director you would have picked, but (s)he has made some decent films in the past, some you even liked, and you can put your faith in him/her. Plus, the teaser trailer was way better than you expected and it looks like they didn’t completely cut your favorite scene. It’s going to be a bit different, but you’re okay with that. A movie is a different creative mind’s interpretation of something you loved. They’re not going to imagine it the same way you did.

Have you been through these stages? Any others you would add? I posted yesterday about some movie/TV adaptations I’m still excited about. We’ll see how long it takes me to accept them.

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!

2018 Book to Screen Adaptations I’m Excited For

12 Feb

Each year, I get excited about seeing some books I’ve enjoyed coming to the big screen. Sometimes, I’m nervous. Other times, giddy. There are a huge number of books coming to theatres and the small screen this year. Below are the ones I’m excited for.

Love, Simon (book titled Simon vs. the Homosapien Agenda) by Becky Albertalli. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m really excited to see what the screen does with a very well-received book. I’m hoping to do an audiobook of it quite soon.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Oh. My. Gosh! I’ve been looking forward to this one since I finished the book, forced my husband to read it, and nerded out over the amazing storyline with him. It’s been three years and I’m finally close to seeing it on-screen!

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz. Another one I have yet to read that’s been languishing on my shelf. I loved the three books Larson wrote and I’m hoping Lagercrantz did well adapting Lisbeth and Mikael for his plots. I need to listen to or read this one soon!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. It’s a push saying this is based on a book, but my excitement is no joke! You all know what a Potterhead I am and this is feeding my love and playing into my 1920s obsession.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. This is one of the first books I read because I found it on Goodreads so it has a sentimental place in my heart. It was a cute story and I’m excited to see what’s done with the WWII setting.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. This will be awesome. Some of Bradbury’s ideas actually came to be. Others were a bit off base and off the wall. It will be interesting to see what the scriptwriters decided to do with the crazy world Bradbury created.

Ashes in the Snow (book titled Between Shades of Grey) by Ruta Sepetys. This is another one I haven’t read yet but have sitting on my shelf. I’ve heard amazing things about this author so I better get around to read it soon so I can enjoy the movie!

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan. Confession time: I didn’t know this was a book first. I already watched the first episode and I’m liking it so far! I’m not sure I’ll go back and read the book, but I plan to watch the series through to the end.

C.B. Strike (based on the Cormoran Strike novels- The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil) by Robert Galbraith AKA J.K. Rowling. I’ve loved the first three books so far and I’m excited to see what the series looks like as a TV show. I hope the plots aren’t too rushed and can be spread out over a few episodes if not a season each.

The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton. This book wasn’t a favorite of mine, but I think seeing it on the TV screen and getting a visual of Amsterdam in that time period would be amazing. I’d love to see the town Nella explores and the great sugar stores Johannes has.

I guess I have a lot of watching to do! Any other movies or TV shows you all are excited for, readers? Are you waiting for any of these?

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!

‘The Color Purple’ Movie Review

8 Feb

Movie Poster via Amazon

I was well aware of the movie version of this book. I’m aware of the play as well so I’ll have to keep an eye open and see if it’s being put on anywhere near me. You can read my book review of The Color Purple and I recommend the movie as well!

Things I Thought Were Awesome

Whoopi Goldberg. I didn’t know she was in this and I loved her! It seems like this might have been her first major role and I think she killed it. Celie’s a character that could easily come off as slow or unresponsive but Goldberg played her wonderfully. I got a better sense of the character from her. The young actress was incredible, too. I would have loved to see the two act together.

Harpo. I didn’t understand his characterization in the book, but the way he came across in the movie was great. He was always well-intentioned, even when he fought with Sofia but he was a bumbling idiot a lot of the time as well.

Changes That Didn’t Really Bother Me

Fewer time jumps. The book took place over a long period of time but because of aging the actresses, the movie concentrated a lot on Celie’s marriage to Mister and the year or so on either side of that and then on a time about 12-20 years later. I liked having a more set time period because I struggled knowing how much time had passed and how old children were and how long Shug had been with Mister.

Mister’s work ethic. There was a big point in the book about him being lazy and doing nothing around the house. The movie made it clear he wasn’t good in the home, but it showed him working the fields a lot and putting in the effort to earn a living. I found this a little contradictory but it wasn’t too distracting.

Cover image via Goodreads

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

Sofia’s imprisonment. She comes back with an injured eye but it’s never really explained what happened to her or where she was. It almost seems like the injury happened when she was living with her sisters. I think her injury should have been taken out or it should have been clearer that she’d been in jail.

Mister’s redemption. He really redeemed himself by the end of the book but at the end of the movie, you were just glad he was gone. He might have been a better man when he had to be by himself, but we see him as a lonely drunk who manages to clean his porch, not a man who’s turned his life around.

Things That Changed Too Much

Not thinking Nettie was dead. To me, this was the largest emotional blow and not having it in the movie made the movie a little easier to take. It was alluded to, that there was a letter that went to Mister’s house, but we never hear that Nettie’s ship sank and she’s presumed dead. I wish that had made it in the final cut.

Shug and Celie’s relationship. This was such a big point in the book! The women share a kiss in the movie, but there’s almost nothing about Shug and Celie loving each other and how Shug running off with a younger man breaks Celie’s heart. I wish something more about that had been in because it said a lot about Shug’s character that the movie missed.

I was crying toward the end of the movie and (of course!) that’s when the maintenance guy showed up. I bet I looked silly. Reader, have you seen The Color Purple movie? What did you think?

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 Color Purple by Alice Walker (4/5)

5 Feb

I forget who recommended this to me. I’ve felt for a while like I should have read an Alice Walker book already and a little shocked that I hadn’t and if I was going to read one of her books, it should be this one. I was glad to find an ebook copy that I could check out over and over while I read it slowly. It’s always a treasure for me when I’m able to do this.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Summary from Goodreads:

Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually, Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

Gosh, this book was sad! It cheered up in parts, but overall, I found myself feeling bad for Celie and Nettie and every other character in it. It felt like no one had any luck at all and I wished I could have helped them in some way. I enjoyed Nettie’s story when it came into play and I found her fascinating. Her life was so different from Celie’s that it was almost unimaginable. I was so absorbed in Celie’s world that hearing about living with an African tribe seemed as foreign to me as it must have to Celie.

The characters jumped off the page to me. I believed them wholeheartedly which made it even harder to accept their bad luck and bad circumstances. I did find I had some trouble keeping the grandchildren’s generation straight. I couldn’t remember who was related to who or living with who and I stopped trying by the end. It felt like a big happy family and I think that’s what Celie was able to create.

Nettie was so easy to love. She fostered such a strong love for her sister and cared for her niece and nephew a great deal. I’m not sure if my aunts would find me adopted by another couple and volunteer to serve as a missionary in rural Africa for years just to keep an eye on me! I thought it was amazing that Nettie would make so many sacrifices for her family and she won my heart in doing so.

Sofia was the rebellious voice I think exists inside all of us. She said what she thought when she wanted to and it got her in trouble. There have been many times I wanted to say something but had to bite my tongue so I didn’t suffer the consequences like Sofia did.

Alice Walker
Image via Chartwell Speakers

Shug’s plotline was the most interesting to me. I had trouble imagining a woman like her who was so loved by so many people. She seemed too good to be true. Hearing about her relationship with Celie and how it developed was very rewarding because it was the beginning of Celie’s happiness and I started to finally think that the book could have a happy ending.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but I have to share my least favorite part. Skip this if you don’t want it ruined. Thinking Nettie had died almost broke my heart! I was so sad that Walker included that, especially when it turned out not to be true. I think I cried at work when I read it. It reminded me how poor communication was before telephones and I was just shocked that Celie could get news like that, not have it substantiated, and keep hoping that Nettie was alive. It crushed me a bit, though.

Celie had to deal with a lot. The book started when she was very young and carried her through much of her life. All the terrible things that happened to her were not compacted but rather took place again and again as she grew up. She had to keep her faith. At first, it was writing her prayers. Later, it was focusing on her sister and how much she loved her. Celie’s style of writing and communicating with those she loved kept her going even when everything seemed to be against her. This book is a triumph of the human spirit.

Writer’s Takeaway: The letter or diary style was a great way to write this book. It made Celie approachable and relatable. It allowed Walker to use her dialect and contrasted it well with Nettie’s. It also let Celie talk about intimate things in her relationship with Shug that she might not have discussed in another medium. This style is great for getting to know a character intimately.

I enjoyed the story and learned a lot about life in the time period, something I always hope for in historical fiction. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1900-1919 time period for the When Are You Reading? Challenge. Per SparkNotes, the early chapters took place during the 1910s so I’ll take it.

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
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple | Lambeth Library
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The Color Purple by Alice Walker | Project Pulitzer
Themes in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple | Culture, Literature, and Me
Alice Walker: The Color Purple (1983) | Books, Bikes, Food

Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (4/5)

30 Jan

This is one of those books that I feel I would have read if I majored in English. If I’d taken a writing course, I’d have read this. But, alas, it isn’t taught in Spanish literature courses or alongside Accounting. So I missed this ageless instruction manual of writing and picked up a copy at a used book sale. I ended up listening to a reading of it but I’m glad to have a paper copy that I can reference later when I need to.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Summary from Goodreads:

This style manual offers practical advice on improving writing skills. Throughout, the emphasis is on promoting a plain English style. This little book can help you communicate more effectively by showing you how to enliven your sentences.

I was surprised how much of this I already knew from school. I guess that means I did get a good writing education after all! Or maybe these elements are more commonly taught now and I’m nothing special. They were all good reminders and I think this is a solid reference book. It’s worth reading through every once in a while just to remember how to structure an argument or sentences in general.

I was glad there was a section on parallel phrasing. I try describing this to people all the time and it doesn’t make sense to them. Strunk had a good way to describe it so maybe I’ll just hand people a copy of this book when I tell them to use parallel phrasing in sentence structure. I also really liked Strunk’s advice about how to arrange a sentence to put emphasis on the element that’s most important. That one was new to me and I think I’ll use it.

I found the section on spelling and the one on commas a bit hard to absorb while listening. I think if I’d been reading it, I would have gotten more from those sections. The narrator I had didn’t help, he was monotone and didn’t stress the parts that were different in the example sentences.

William Strunk Jr.
Image via Goodreads

The edition I listened to was narrated by William Bridgewater. I thought he was really terrible. He pronounced some words strangely (semicolon as sem-EE-ko-LON for example) and it distracted me from the narrative. He was also very monotone and had odd inflections that were, again, distracting.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book is worth revisiting from time to time. The advice in it is really solid and at such a short length, it doesn’t take a long time to look through it for a refresher.

A great little reference book that’s probably better read than listened to. 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:
#10: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White | 1 Year, 100 Books
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The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White Review 3/5 | Blogs of a Bookaholic

Book Review: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (3/5)

29 Jan

I found a copy of this book at a library book sale that is from 1964! I lent it to a friend and the pages started falling out of the binding because the glue is so old! He got it back to me with all the pages held between the covers but I decided I was better off listening to this book rather than praying I wasn’t reading it on a windy day that would take my pages away.

Cover image via Goodreads

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Summary from Amazon

Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives. One of the most groundbreaking and timeless bestsellers of all time, How to Win Friends & Influence People will teach you:

-Six ways to make people like you

-Twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking

-Nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

And much more! Achieve your maximum potential—a must-read for the twenty-first century with more than 15 million copies sold!

I had to use the Amazon summary because my Goodreads summary was in Spanish. Is anyone else having this problem?

I really liked this book. It wasn’t the engaging reading I usually have while running, but the short stories did help keep me engaged. They were really good at demonstrating how someone could use the principles in real life. I did feel they were a bit dated, however. The version I listened to was the 1998 publication and I think that it would have felt dated even then. A lot of the advice seems like common sense, but implementing them when you’re in a tough situation isn’t common sense. It would take work to make sure your mind switched to these techniques in throes of anger or frustration.

I can see why this is such a popular book. When I think of my close friends and people at work I want to deal with, I think they fit many of the characteristics in this book. They can win someone over with ease. They’re friendly. They smile, take a genuine interest in something I’m interested in, and they aren’t bossy when they need me to do something.

Dale Carnegie
Image via Biography

I think winning someone to my way of thinking was my favorite section. I’m one who tends to argue when someone doesn’t agree with me. I am quick to anger and I can get to shouting very fast. Carnegie’s advice to get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately is great and I like the idea of it. I’ll try to start doing this one when I have to get my husband to understand cleaning the bathroom is in his best interest.

I thought the first section on how to get people to like you was a little basic and set a lower standard for the rest of the book. The advice here, to smile, to listen, to make the other person feel important, feel like things you do to a boss you don’t actually like, not with a real friend. A friendship in this style would be very one-sided and might not be good for the person following Carnegie’s advice.

My audiobook was narrated by Andrew Macmillian. I felt he did a fair job. His accent reminded me of James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. By that, I mean it sounded ‘old time-y American.’ I’m not sure if Macmillian was going for this, as the original publication date of this book was the 1930s, or if he really speaks like that. As the examples in the book felt dated, the accent didn’t seem out-of-place.

I’m sure we’ve all run across someone, either personally or at work, that was a chore to deal with. This book seems to be written for that person, not for the Average Joe. I know someone people who could really use this advice, but on the whole, most people I know already take some or all of this to heart and are practicing at least some of Carnegie’s lessons unintentionally. It would be a really good backhanded Christmas present for that aunt that no one likes!

Writer’s Takeaway: Carnegie did a good job of illustrating his point with good examples. He drew from a wide variety of people to get good stories to illustrate each example. I’m glad these weren’t as one-sided as I thought they would be (toward dominant men in business). Though I’m not sure how much of that was edited in or included in the original.

I liked this book but didn’t find it as life-changing as I thought I would. Three out of Five Stars.

This book fulfilled the 1920-1939 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

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:
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Book Review: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin (3/5)

22 Jan

This book falls into the broad category of ‘books I’d never heard of until my book club picked them.’ I’m not sure this is one I would have read normally just because it sounds so sad! In reality, it wasn’t very happy but the style was so interesting that it drew me in. I was interested despite how sad the book made me.

Cover image via Goodreads

Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin, translated by Chi-Young Kim.

Summary from Goodreads:

You will never think of your mother the same way after you read this book.

When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station, and vanishes, their children are consumed with loud recriminations, and are awash in sorrow and guilt. As they argue over the “Missing” flyers they are posting throughout the city – how large of a reward to offer, the best way to phrase the text – they realize that none of them have a recent photograph of Mom. Soon a larger question emerges: do they really know the woman they called Mom?

Told by the alternating voices of Mom’s daughter, son, her husband and, in the shattering conclusion, by Mom herself, the novel pieces together, Rashomon-style, a life that appears ordinary but is anything but.

In my typical fashion, I did not read this summary before I read the book. I didn’t know the point of view was going to rotate like it did. I think I would have still been surprised by it even having read the summary because I didn’t suspect such drastic differences. The daughter’s section was written from second person point of view. As it was the first section and then came around again at the end, I have a lasting impression of much of the book being in the second person. This is so unusual in fiction that it threw me off.

Using a family with so many kids gave the author a chance to explore different reactions to grief. Chi-hon was manic in her searching and seemed about to give up her personal life and sacrifice her career to find her mother. Hyong-chol was diligently involved at first but seemed to resign himself to having lost his mother as time went on. The father and younger sister seemed to have the same reaction, which was a petrified shock that prevented them from doing almost anything to help find her, much to the frustration of the elder sister. I felt this was al realistic and I was glad we could see so many sides of grief.

Chi-hon was my favorite character. I could understand her mania in searching for her mother and it made sense to me that she would go to the extremes she went to and be affected the way she was because of the loss. Her second-person narration pushed me away at first, but it started to draw me in soon after and I really enjoyed it.

These characters were hard for me to relate to. I’ve been fortunate not to lose anyone major in my family and the loss of a parent isn’t something I could understand well. I’ve lost some more distant family members but the sentiment is not the same. This was part of why it was hard for me to connect with this book overall.

Kyung-Sook Shin
Image via Numero Cinq

I liked how we slowly learned more about mom and realized her dementia was severe. She seemed in denial herself but the vignettes that her husband and daughter share about her make it really obvious that she had been suffering from declining cognitive function for some time. I thought that was really well done by Shin because early on, you think ‘How could she get lost?’ but then later, you start thinking ‘How could they lose her?’ My perceptive of the blame took a dramatic shift.

I really hated the part mom narrated. It felt like a ghost watching over everything and it bothered me. I didn’t like jumping from character to character and I didn’t like not getting a solid answer about where mom was. I wish the younger sister had been given a part of the book instead and that section left out.

My mom and I work at the same company and we sit in the same office. I started seeing my mom very differently when I started working there. She has working relationships and friendships, she is a good boss, and she has her own stresses. It took this for me to start seeing my mom as someone who had a life outside of our house and who might experience things I knew nothing about. That can be hard to do. Clearly, the children in this book had trouble seeing their mom as anything other than a mother. Her life was focused on her children and they didn’t care for her as a person they way they could have.

Writer’s Takeaway: I’m not sure if the POV switches are more common in Korean literature than they are in English literature, but they threw me off a bit. However, it drew me into Chi-hon’s character and made me sympathize with her. The omniscient narrator during the mother’s part was even more jarring and I wish that had been left out. Shin was bold with her stylistic choices and I think some paid off more than others.

I liked the book but some stylistic choices threw me off. Three out of Five Stars.

This book satisfies the 2000-Present time period in my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

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:
Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin | forthenovellovers
Review: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin | The Book Stop
Please Look After Mother (2008) – Kyung-Sook Shin | A Novel Approach
Please Look After Mom | Willow Books

Book Review: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (4/5)

15 Jan

I bought a copy of this book soon after finishing Middlesex when I was in love with Eugenides. I didn’t have a huge urgency to read it, however, and the book languished on my shelf for four years before I decided to try it on audio.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

Other books by Jeffrey Eugenides reviewed on this blog:

Middlesex (and book club reflection)

Summary from Goodreads:

It’s the early 1980s – the country is in a deep recession, and life after college is harder than ever. In the cafés on College Hill, the wised-up kids are inhaling Derrida and listening to the Talking Heads. But Madeleine Hanna, dutiful English major, is writing her senior thesis on Jane Austen and George Eliot, purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels.

As Madeleine tries to understand why “it became laughable to read writers like Cheever and Updike, who wrote about the suburbia Madeleine and most of her friends had grown up in, in favor of reading the Marquis de Sade, who wrote about deflowering virgins in eighteenth century France,” real life, in the form of two very different guys, intervenes. Leonard Bankhead – charismatic loner, college Darwinist, and lost Portland boy – suddenly turns up in a semiotics seminar, and soon Madeleine finds herself in a highly charged erotic and intellectual relationship with him. At the same time, her old “friend” Mitchell Grammaticus – who’s been reading Christian mysticism and generally acting strange – resurfaces, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

Over the next year, as the members of the triangle in this amazing, spellbinding novel graduate from college and enter the real world, events force them to reevaluate everything they learned in school. Leonard and Madeleine move to a biology laboratory on Cape Cod, but can’t escape the secret responsible for Leonard’s seemingly inexhaustible energy and plunging moods. And Mitchell, traveling around the world to get Madeleine out of his mind, finds himself face-to-face with ultimate questions about the meaning of life, the existence of God, and the true nature of love.

This book started off a little slow for me and I was really skeptical, thinking I wasn’t going to like it. Structurally, I didn’t like it too much. The bulk of the story was told in flashbacks and that annoyed me at every turn. It was too much like this, “Here’s a time jump! Want to know how we got here? Good, because I’m going to go back and fill in the time gap I jumped to build tension.” It got on my nerves really fast. I think that’s why I can’t give the full five stars. The characters and plot were really intriguing and well researched, but the jumps killed it for me.

I loved the characters. I can tell Eugenides spent a lot of time researching manic depression to depict Leonard and Madeline’s stories. I was fascinated with Mitchell’s travels, especially in light of my plan to travel Europe this summer. I felt the Hanna’s were a bit over accommodating, but I couldn’t tell if that was a regional thing or not. Some of the aspects of Madeline’s life growing up in New Jersey were very different from my Midwestern childhood. Maybe that’s why I connected with Mitchell so much better.

It’s a tough call, but I think Mitchell was my favorite character. I thought I was going to type Madeline up until I wrote this sentence, honestly. However, Mitchell was easier to feel sorry for. Madeline seemed to have trouble standing up for herself when it mattered. She seems to be angry with Leonard over and over but be won over by small and sudden gestures. She wants to take care of him so badly that she doesn’t take care of herself and gets into a very bad situation. Mitchell, on the other hand, is searching to find himself and what he really wants. I can appreciate that in a character, even if he gets to the end of the book and hasn’t really found the answer.

It was easier to relate to Mitchell than Madeline, and not just because Mitchell is from Detroit. I found Madeline cornered, stuck into decisions that were bad for her with no way out. She had family members telling her that she was going in a bad direction and didn’t listen, going that way regardless. She needed help but Leonard was in a greater need so she got no attention. She was easy to pity.

Jeffrey Eugenides
Image via Harvard

I liked hearing about Mitchell’s time in Europe. I’ve been before and I could relate to his travels there more than India. Again, because I plan to go myself this summer, I found some escape in this part of the story. Though it’s a bit crazy how much technology has changed travel since the 1980s!

Madeline’s time on Cape Cod was really tough for me to read. She was so trapped and her dependence and her stubbornness kept here there when she really should have gotten out. It was her last chance to make a break and she couldn’t take it and felt like a nurse. I felt really bad for her.

My audiobook was narrated by David Pittu. I didn’t like the voice he used for women. It was very nasal and I thought it made them all sound whiney. Madeline’s mom was the worst, but none of them came off favorably. Other than that, I felt he did well but I wish he’d used a less affected voice for female dialogue.

The book pokes fun at its own namesake, the marriage plot. Eugenides gave an interview at the end of my audiobook where he talked about wanting to write a marriage plot after the rise of feminism and show how that movement changed the marriage plot. In the book, Madeline has a lot more power than the heroines of Brontë or Austen heroines. However, she’s still stuck in a situation she doesn’t want to be in and realizes how the dissolution of her marriage could ruin her life. I found this really fascinating when I heard the interview and I wish I’d heard it halfway through the book instead of at the end. It would have been too many spoilers at the beginning, though.

Writer’s Takeaway: The flashback structure really ruined this book for me. Starting on the last day of college and flashing back through the four previous years was a bad way to start. Having Madeline wake up at home and flashing back to her engagement and honeymoon was even worse. This is something I’ll have to work at avoiding in my writing.

A bit slow, but a great set of characters and good pacing (besides the flashbacks). Four out of Five Stars.

This is my first book of the year and, consequently, my first book for the When Are You Reading? Challenge 2018, fulfilling the 1980-1999 time period.

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 No. 31- The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides | Vishy’s Blog
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The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides | Friends of Atticus

Book Review: The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (3/5)

2 Jan

I’d seen this title around a few times but I don’t think I’d even read the subtitle before my book club selected it for the January book. It has been a while since I read some nonfiction so I was happy to pick this up at the end of December and enjoy a true story. I read through it faster than I thought I would and really enjoyed it.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester

Summary from Goodreads:

It is known as one of the greatest literary achievements in the history of English letters. The creation of the Oxford English Dictionary began in 1857, took seventy years to complete, drew from tens of thousands of brilliant minds, and organized the sprawling language into 414,825 precise definitions. But hidden within the rituals of its creation is a fascinating and mysterious story–a story of two remarkable men whose strange twenty-year relationship lies at the core of this historic undertaking.

Professor James Murray, an astonishingly learned former schoolmaster and bank clerk, was the distinguished editor of the OED project. Dr. William Chester Minor, an American surgeon from New Haven, Connecticut, who had served in the Civil War, was one of the thousands of contributors who submitted illustrative quotations of words to be used in the dictionary. But Minor was no ordinary contributor. He was remarkably prolific, sending thousands of neat, handwritten quotations from his home in the small village of Crowthorne, fifty miles from Oxford. On numerous occasions, Murray invited Minor to visit Oxford and celebrate his work, but Murray’s offer was regularly–and mysteriously–refused.

Thus the two men, for two decades, maintained a close relationship only through correspondence. Finally, in 1896, after Minor had sent nearly ten thousand definitions to the dictionary but had still never traveled from his home, a puzzled Murray set out to visit him. It was then that Murray finally learned the truth about Minor–that, in addition to being a masterful wordsmith, Minor was also a murderer, clinically insane–and locked up in Broadmoor, England’s harshest asylum for criminal lunatics.

This was a story I never knew I wanted to know. The process of putting together a dictionary in Murray’s time is astounding. Doing it all by hand and looking up source quotes the way they did is impressive and so time-consuming that it’s no wonder the project took so many years. Minor’s condition is equally fascinating. That a man can appear so educated and calm and suffer from such extreme delusions wasn’t something I’d heard of before. Minor was obviously a very smart man suffering from a very extreme mental illness. Hearing how it was treated was an interesting read as well.

Winchester never tried to tie a personality to the men that he couldn’t derive from letters and medical records. In that way, he attacked this project much like Minor and Murray attached the dictionary project. From that material, he found their personalities and brought it forward. Murray was very studious and Minor, in his own way, was as well.

Minor was fascinating to read about. Having lived in the asylum for so long, there was a lot of background on him and his condition that Winchester was able to draw from. I loved the descriptions of his accommodations. It almost sounded like my ideal study! That tied with the details of his night terrors kept me fascinated.

Murray faced a huge, almost insurmountable challenge in the OED. While I’ve never faced a similarly large task, his determination was something I could relate to. When I’m assigned a work task or school task, I tend to attack it like I’m attacking Mt. Everest. I come up with a plan, pass out assignments, and put my nose to the grindstone until it’s done. Murray’s determination to see the dictionary finished was a strategy I could see myself taking on.

Simon Winchester
Image via Anderson’s Bookshop

If it’s not clear, I enjoyed the account of Minor living in the asylum best. It must have given Winchester a lot of source material because it was so detailed. In contrast, I felt his account of Minor in America and Murray were a bit vague. Especially with the fascinating source material, I thought this section was very well written.

I felt there was a lot less about the writing of the dictionary than I would have liked. Winchester talks briefly about the system or sorting and storing the slips of paper with definitions and quotations and talks about the history of dictionaries quite a bit. With the title of the book, I was hoping for a bit more on how the typesetting and decisions of what words to include were done.

Sometimes, we have to separate a thing from those who created it. There are beautiful buildings that were built or designed by terrible people. Take Disney World for instance. Or Ford Motor Company. These people led lives that would be deplorable to many people who work for or patronize those companies. But we separate them. We have to separate Minor and his illness from the amazing feats he accomplished and the work he did for the OED.

Writer’s Takeaway: There were very well researched parts and parts where Winchester said he was extrapolating based on what he could find. I appreciated this. Sometimes, the extrapolation is where all the fun is and I appreciated seeing what Winchester believed might have happened and knowing that it was a guess. I sometimes wish there was more of this in narrative non-fiction.

The book was enjoyable and fun though still a little dry in spots. 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:
The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester | Pages Unbound Reviews
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The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester | Booked All Week
The Professor and the Madman | I Know What You Should Read