Sunday Book Club! Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Today’s Sunday Book Club Review is “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Initial Thoughts:
I was a bit hesitant to review this particular book once I saw the date it would be posted, the 15 year anniversary of 9/11. ELIC centers around the aftermath of 9/11 from the fictional perspective of 9 year old Oskar Schell, who lost his father in the WTC attack. I didn’t want this post to come off as attention seeking, I didn’t intentionally choose to review a book about 9/11 on 9/11, but I think there’s something a bit…poetic, in that it just happened to occur this way. One of the themes of this book & a message I’ve been seeing passed around a lot today, is that life must go on. We must continue to find joy, entertainment, & happiness, despite the horrific tragedy of 9/11. With that, I proudly present my review on this amazingly well written & thought provoking story in the hopes that literature like this continues to be created so that we truly never forget this day.

Plot:
Oskar Schell is not your average 9 year old. He doesn’t have much time for kids his own age, preferring to learn French or take photographs on his grandfather’s old camera. Many of these photographs can be seen throughout the book, almost like illustrations, an interesting addition in a Fiction novel. Oskar carries many heavy emotions as he struggles to cope with his father’s death in the World Trade Center on 9/11. One day while looking through his father’s things he finds a key in an envelope labeled “Black” & thus begins a quest to figure out his father’s final mystery. Along the way Oskar connects with many people struggling with the aftermath of  9/11 or their own personal tragedies, learns a lot about his family, & life in general. There is another plot line & narrator, but it’s hard to say too much without spoiling the twist. The other storyline centers around WWII Germany & not only explains some character’s backstories but shows a time where people experienced similar tragedy & terror like 9/11 & how history repeats itself. The use of this other storyline speaks to what I was saying above, the world will always know chaos. It’s up to the survivors to take that tragedy & create something beautiful from it that will make the world a better place.

Characters:
Oskar Schell – I’m always anxious to read novels where the main character is a child because, to be frank, I don’t really enjoy children. However, I felt a kinship with Oskar in that, we both didn’t really connect with kids our own age, preferring relationships with our family or other adult mentors. Oskar is written in a clever but often naive way. There are a few plot lines, such as his mother’s “love life” after his father’s passing, where Oskar definitely shows a more standard child like attitude. However, at the end of the novel, the reader sees how Oskar has grown & his eyes are opened to another perspective he didn’t see clearly before. Again, not your typical child character, which I appreciated & was able to connect with.

Overall/Rating: B+
Without giving too much away, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Oskar’s journey to find something about his dad really led him on a journey to find himself & some peace, which is ultimately more important. However, as a person who lost their dad at a young age too, I understand Oskar’s frustration at that abstract concept. I can sympathize because I too wondered for many years, why was there not one last “I love you”, “goodbye”, or bit of grown up advice? The truth of that unfortunately, is that there is always one last something, we just never know it’s the last until it’s too late. I highly recommend this story, especially if you’ve ever struggled with grief or loss of any kind. ELIC made me laugh, cry, think – it made me feel! Obviously I wasn’t in NY on 9/11, but from my point of view this novel has its heart in the right place. I honestly believe Foer didn’t write this story for attention or to make money on a hot button topic. This is not a political story, the focus is on the people that lived & died on that day & how the survivors still struggled. It’s a noble effort to take an event that hit so close to home & explore it with a child-like sense of curiosity & naiveté & create something that can speak to a variety of people.

Have you read or heard of “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”? What about the film? I’m interested to watch the film based on the book & see how it compares. Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club is September 25th & the book is “Damned” by Chuck Palahniuk.

Music Monday! Harry Potter in Concert – Hollywood Bowl

Hello all!
Today’s Music Monday is going to be a quick recap of Harry Potter in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.
HB occasionally puts on these Special Concerts where they show a movie & have a orchestra play the score live. Previously, they showed “The Little Mermaid” & I’m sad to have missed that because they had celebrities come out & sing the songs. The score for Harry Potter is all instrumental, so I knew that wasn’t going to happen, but I was still excited for another amazing Harry Potter themed adventure! Click the video below for a super quick vlog of the Event & keep reading for my thoughts overall…

The Venue –
I’d only been to the Hollywood Bowl once before for a “Behind the Scenes Tour” when I did the Disney College Program. I remembered there was a LOT of walking & I’d heard Event parking is a complete train wreck. They “stack” the cars so you end up boxed in on all sides, which is insanely inconvenient if you’re ready to leave but no one around you has left yet. On the advice of a friend we purchased off site parking, but couldn’t find the lot. We ended up just driving to the Event & paying again for on site parking. While I was deeply unhappy from a financial standpoint, because we had arrived late the only parking was right in front, not boxed in, & the chances of people arriving later than us seemed pretty slim – woo hoo! We strolled right into the venue but finding our seats was another story…we should have called ahead to find out the options for those with disabilities. We had nosebleed seats & even with the escalators, it was quite a struggle. The venue is extremely dark, which obviously makes sense because they want people to see the movie, but made walking/climbing stairs with no railings quite precarious. When we finally found our seats, we discovered we were in the middle of the narrow row & no one would get up to let us by! While this was rude, the bigger issue was that there was no space for us anyway! We let an attendant know, they conferred with their supervisor, & next thing you know we’re sitting in box seats way down in front! Amazing! Big thanks to the staff that made that happen, it definitely made our experience better! Next time, we will be purchasing more expensive but closer seats – it’s way worth it! Also, arriving late for parking worked in our favor as no one arrived after us, so we weren’t boxed in.  We were on the freeway in about 15 minutes!

The People –
I was disappointed by the negative response from the people in the row we were supposed to sit in. However, I guess I should be thanking them because they helped us get better seats! As I mentioned, super happy with the staff of HB! I wish we had thought to get the names of the staff that helped us because I would have written a “thank you letter” to compliment them personally. Beyond that initial negative experience, the crowd was…unified. That’s the only way I can explain it. Whenever something special happens for Harry Potter, there’s always this feeling of, dare I say, magic in the air. I think that’s because a majority of the crowd are real true fans. They’re willing to wait for hours to buy a new book, see a movie, spend the day in a theme park, etc, these types of Events aren’t for casual fans. They bring out the die hards, people in cosplay or themed outfits (I was wearing a Hufflepuff shirt!), people that know all the words to the movies & cheer when Harry catches his first Snitch or boo when Wormtail appears because they know what role he’ll play later. It’s truly, again, magical, to sit in a crowd of people & know that you’re all part of something. In a world that sometimes feels like it’s falling apart, it’s nice to know you can turn to your fandom.

The Performance –
I had no idea what to expect from a Harry Potter Concert! I had read a few articles leading up to the Event & mostly they talked about how difficult the performance was going to be in regards to pulling the soundtrack from the film but keeping all the audio. I did find the music overwhelmed the audio at certain times, but I realized I had to restructure the way I was thinking about the Event. Somehow, I wanted the music to just quietly frame the movie, but be really awesome & powerful! There’s no way to accomplish that. The point of this Event was to focus on the beauty of the music & how it added to the film. Once I kind of let the film take a back seat & focused on the music, it WAS really awesome & powerful. I noticed certain nuances I’d never noticed before when I’d watched the film & focused only on the dialogue. This is definitely an Event for music lovers. You must love the sound, the feeling, the epic-ness! of live orchestral music. Obviously these musicians are extremely talented & I was thrilled to see the Conductor wearing a Hufflepuff tie & pin!

The Final Verdict –
People always say to arrive early for parking, but we found that arriving later worked WAY better & will most likely do so again. As I said, there may be other options that we were unaware of, but based on what I saw, this Venue is not very “disabled friendly”. I will need to investigate other options for the future & definitely feel it’s worth it to pay for more expensive seats closer to the front. Overall, an extremely enjoyable & unique experience that brought together a lot of people & helped strengthen their love of Harry Potter. What could be better?! I hope Hollywood Bowl continues to put on these Special Events, especially if they continue with the rest of the Harry Potter series & Disney films.

Have you ever been to this Venue or seen a Movie/Concert like this? Please let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading 🙂

Sunday Book Club! Paper Towns by John Green

Hello again!
I hope you’ve all been enjoying these Sunday Book Club posts! I would love more of your book suggestions in the Comment section below or via Social Media! Remember you can add me on Twitter/Instagram: @MissAl_Leigh
Also, please hit the FOLLOW button to get email updates for new posts 🙂
Please keep reading to see my thoughts on “Paper Towns” by John Green.

Initial Thoughts:
This book came recommended by one of my college roommates that really likes John Green. I was nervous because he obviously has a reputation for writing Young Adult novels, which I’ve found to be very hit or miss. Also, I knew he was behind “The Fault in Our Stars” & I didn’t want to read a depressing book. However, my friend assured me that “Paper Towns” was different – so off I went.

Plot:
“Paper Towns” is about a teenage boy named Quentin & the wild adventure his life takes him on when he becomes involved with his next door neighbor Margo – who he’s been in love with basically forever. One day Margo disappears & Quentin sets off on a journey to find her following clues he believes she left for him. It’s a coming of age story that teaches us that first impressions can be deceiving & it’s always important to give people a chance to show us who they are. I really can’t say too much more than that without giving everything away.

Characters:
– Margo: About half way through the book, I was over this girl. I had no idea why Quentin was so obsessed with her, I suppose because she was a mystery to him & he was intrigued. Once you get to know her though, she’s such a brat. She’s super selfish and overly dramatic. There were several points where I thought she was going to die & I was totally fine with it. I’m ashamed to say I was like this at one point in my life. Now that I’m “older & wiser”, I have no patience for whiny teenage girls that think everything revolves around them & every bad thing that happens is the end of the world.

Quotes:
– Pg 75: “I shaved this morning for PRECISELY that reason. I was like, ‘Well, you never know when someone is going to clamp down on your calf and try to suck out the snake poison.'” – Margo
The dialogue in this book is spot on. This is just one of many clever lines that I laughed out loud while reading and thought, “That sounds like something I would say!”. Green is known for having a pretty good handle on clever & accurate young people verbiage.

Overall:
Despite this being a “Young Adult” novel, I could definitely relate to the complex themes presented. They reflect what most of us have been through, life & death, falling in & out of love, growing up, friendship, our general connection with others, & how we tie it all together to make a full life.
Random side note, I was frustrated by the discrepancies between Book Margo & Film Margo’s physical description – which I will admit might be a bit unfair especially because I haven’t even seen the film. Book Margo is described as curvy, her friends make comments on it, it’s part of her insecurities. Film Margo is played by Model Cara Delevingne who according to the internet is 5’8 & a size 2. She’s not someone I can see having trouble squeezing into her friends jeans, as Book Margo does. I know that has nothing to do with the book, but it annoyed me as soon as I read her description because Hollywood had the opportunity to use a curvy actress, & didn’t take it. It’s also frustrating because as I mentioned, her size is part of her insecurities, it’s part of her character. I’m not sure how they would have included that in the film.

Rating: B+
While I didn’t enjoy one of the main characters, overall, I enjoyed this book. Green’s style of writing is smart/on point & helped me identify with the characters. I’m not sure this book will be everyone’s cup of tea as it is about high school kids getting into shenanigans, but if you can suspend yourself from your “serious adult business”, you just might enjoy it.

Have you read “Paper Towns” or any other John Green novels? If so, what are your thoughts? Which one is your favorite? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

The next Sunday Book Club read will be April 3rd & the book is, “The Little Giant of Aberdeen County” by Tiffany Baker.

Sunday Book Club! “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue

Hi everyone!
As mentioned in last Sunday Book Club’s post I’m going to be discussing “ROOM” by Emma Donoghue this week. Did you finish it by today or did you need more time? I’m generally a fast reader, so I can put more time between Sunday Book Club posts if more time is needed, or, if you’re not reading along & you don’t care when they get posted – please let me know in the Comments below!
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Initial Thoughts:
I heard about this book through one of my college roommates when it first came out a few years ago. At the time I wasn’t too intrigued because it sounded super sad & possibly graphic. Now, however, the book has been made into a film that’s getting a huge amount of positive attention in the Entertainment industry. The film was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Actress in a Leading Role (Brie Larson – winner!), Directing, Adapted Screenplay. I was curious to read the source material before I potentially watch the movie. Also, along the way I have added other books by Emma Donoghue to my book list, so I’m more interested to read this novel that first introduced me to her name. As I said, I was a little scared to read this due to the troubling plot…which you’ll read below!

Plot:
WARNING: Light spoilers. If you know the basic plot of the story, you can figure out the path it’s going to take, so I’m just going to describe the basics. However, I’ll try not to be too specific so you can still be surprised by the twists & turns.
“ROOM” is the story of Ma & Jack, told from 5 year old Jack’s point of view. Ma is a young woman who was kidnapped & held hostage by a man known as Old Nick. She becomes pregnant with Jack while being held hostage, so all Jack has ever known is the one room they are contained in. He knows nothing of the outside world or the people that exist beyond Ma & Old Nick. The book follows their life including how Ma shields Jack from the real reason they’re in “Room”, among other things.

Characters:
– Ma: Ma is extremely tough & dedicated to giving Jack the best life possible despite their crazy circumstances. She often has to choose between Jack & herself & has to sacrifice to keep him protected from the reality of the situation, I can’t imagine being in her shoes. There are some scenes at the end of the book that do a wonderful job of showcasing her character, especially who she was before the kidnapping & her commitment to Jack. It’s hard to get into too much detail without giving away the plot.
– Jack: I think overall Jack’s character is supposed to represent a fear of moving on, something we carry with us even as adults. He never quite understands that Room is a bad place. It’s all he knows & Ma did a great job protecting him, so he never fully agrees with her that Outside would be better. I don’t think Donoghue meant for this story to be metaphorical, I think she was just trying to tell a story of a fierce love between a mother & son in unimaginable circumstances. However, I like the idea of Jack representing a fear of moving on because I think more people can identify with that. It’s a little hard to connect to someone who’s 20 years younger than me, different gender, obviously different upbringing, etc – but it’s easy to connect with him when I think about how scared he must be to figure out there’s a big world beyond the only front door he’s ever seen. At its most basic, its similar to leaving home for the first time, ending a bad relationship, starting a new adventure etc.

Quotes:
– Pg 6: “Oh, I forgetted to have some when I woke up.
That’s OK. Maybe we could skip it once in a while, now you’re five?
No way Jose. So she lies down on the white of Duvet and me too and I have lots.”
Jack/Ma/Jack
When I first read this passage I had NO idea what was going on. I know nothing about kids or the way they talk, so I wasn’t sure if I was missing something, or if this is how Donoghue wrote the dialogue. After a bit more reading – that’s how Jack was written. This passage refers to breast feeding, which Jack still does at 5 years old due to the strange conditions of his living situation & Ma’s reluctant willingness. Also, Jack refers to everything in “Room” like it’s a person…Duvet, Bed, etc are names, not just objects.

Overall:
Donoghue did an amazing job of pacing this novel so you feel like you’re in that room with Ma & Jack. Every day/page it’s basically the same thing, a little monotonous & slow, but mixed with anxiety because you never know what might happen. At a certain point there’s only a couple options for the ending so you’re just waiting for it to go down & see HOW exactly it happens. After the excitement, the ending is kind of lackluster, but I think that’s a reflection of what you could expect from the situation – this sounds vague but I don’t want to give too much away. Reading from the point of view of a 5 year old was an interesting writing technique on Donoghue’s part because it gives a very horrific & graphic topic a bit of innocence. Obviously Jack is the product of rape & Old Nick keeps Ma to continue raping her. However, the reader is never really subjected to those intense scenes because Jack isn’t, we only experience what Jack experiences. When Old Nick comes to “visit” Ma, Jack is usually asleep or Ma has told him to hide. We hear about the “bed creaking”, but that’s about as graphic as it gets, which is a welcome relief. I feel like this book could be a different experience for every reader because we can only know as much as Jack knows, yet at the same time, we can make inferences based on context clues & everyone can interpret those differently.

Rating: B+
As dark & ugly as the topic of this book is, I did enjoy it. However, it’s not something I feel a great desire to read again. I’m not even sure I would recommend it, except that the writing was really well done & that’s worth something to me. As mentioned before you kind of have an idea of how things are going to end which might be frustrating for some.

Have you read “ROOM”? If so, what did you think? Have you read/do you recommend any of Donoghue’s other books? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!
Again, please let me know in the Comment section below if you would prefer that I only cover one book a month so you have time to read along or if you’re not reading along & want me to review books at my own pace.

The next Sunday Book Club will be March 20th & will cover “Paper Towns” by John Green.

Movie Review! PAN

Hi y’all, today I’m going to be reviewing PAN – the Peter Pan prequel film that came out this weekend.

I’ll keep this plot description brief, although, please be cautious as there will be spoilers down below. The film tells the story of how Peter Pan came to Neverland and met his famous band of Lost Boys, Captain Hook, Tinker Bell, & Tiger Lily.

Keep reading to see my likes, dislikes, final thoughts, & rating of this film! Be warned – SPOILERS!!!
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Likes:
– Some of the writing/plot points were creative in a subtle way that was perfect for a family friendly film. There were a few instances where the writers created a sort of parallel universe between Neverland and the “real world” which was set during WWII. One example; Peter lives at an orphanage & boys have started to disappear. One character says he hopes they’ve escaped to Canada. You eventually find out they’re being sold by the orphanage to Neverland pirates. In real life during WWII, children were stolen by/sold to Nazi’s or were sent to other countries by their families to escape. These subtle references to that time period would go over the heads of most kids, but adds another layer to the story for those familiar with history. Another way they made things more family friendly was, rather than showing a bloody massacre when the Neverland tribespeople are killed during a fight scene, they explode into a mist of bright colored powder.
– References to source material included lines such as, “To die will be an awfully big adventure”, references to Peter crowing, minor characters such as Nibs & “the twins” who are important Lost Boys in the source material, a few important scenes involving shadows – a reference to the importance Peter’s shadow plays in the source material, a scene with a Neverland Bird’s nest, and a clever line at the end of the film when Peter asks Captain Hook if they’ll always be friends and he says, “Of course, what could go wrong?”. The line was humorous yet ironic, as most viewers know they go on to become enemies, but more importantly, seemed to be setting things up for a sequel.
– There were 3 big animation sequences that were amazing & reminded me of “The Deathly Hallows” scenes from Harry Potter. Overall, the visual effects were stunning, yet dramatic – some might find them cheesy, but I enjoyed them.

Dislikes:
– I don’t know anyone else that experienced this, but I found the accents extremely difficult to understand in the beginning.
– Super slow, kept waiting for something big/exciting to happen, especially between Pan & Hook.
– Garrett Hedlund’s portrayal of Hook felt extremely forced. With that deep voice & disjointed way of speaking, it seemed like a bad impersonation of The Joker or Indiana Jones. This was the first time I’ve seen him perform so I’m not sure if that’s his style or that’s what the director wanted. Either way, it didn’t work for me.
– Tiger Lily, a character that was originally written & is typically portrayed as Native American, was played by a Caucasian actress. I think they should’ve stayed true to the source material & not made the character Caucasian.
– Not a fan of the musical numbers. At first it was cool to hear modern music, but they didn’t include enough & the few songs felt out of place. They either should’ve gone for it or left them out all together.
– Very little about this film felt original. As the film progressed I was thinking to myself, “Harry Potter, Pinocchio, Star Wars, Stardust” etc, etc. I’m not talking about the THEME of the stories aka Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” but actual plot points felt lifted from other stories.
– Why did people grow old on Neverland?!?!!?!?
– There was a lot left unexplained. I feel like they only wrote this film to create/gauge interest & then planned a sequel that would delve into the meat of the story. However, I doubt there will be a sequel.

Final Thoughts & Rating:
– I really, really wanted to love this film. Peter Pan has a huge place in my heart. I love the story, the musical, the Disney film, & the 2003 film – but overall I was disappointed in PAN. I feel like they missed the point of the Peter Pan legend, or at least, the way I see it. Peter isn’t a hero. He’s a bratty little boy that doesn’t want to grow up because he doesn’t want responsibility. He would never want the responsibility given to him in the film – he wants “always to be a little boy & to have fun”, yes, I just quoted the source material, I told you I love Peter Pan. Nothing is real to him, there’s no consequences. When confronted with death he says, “to die will be an awfully big adventure”. Everything is a game, he’s just moving from one wild adventure to the next. I’ve always seen Peter as a warning. Yeah, being a kid & having wild adventures is great, but eventually you have to grow up or you’ll miss out on the rest of life – & the rest of life is pretty great too! Wild adventures don’t stop because you grow up, they just change – & usually involve alcohol, haha! If you can’t change/grow up, the best part of the adventures – your friends – will leave you behind & you end up alone, like Peter does in the source material when Wendy leaves Neverland & takes all the Lost Boys with her. I understand this film was showing us Peter before he becomes “Peter Pan”, so he has yet to turn into the famous character. However, in a film about how a character gets his start…they don’t really explain how he gets there! If you have any feelings at all for Peter Pan, go see this just for the heck of it, but don’t expect too much other than great visuals & the occasional clever reference.
My Rating: C

Did you see PAN? If so, do you agree with my review? If you’re planning on seeing it, please leave me a comment after & let me know what you think! Thanks for reading 🙂

Book Review! Big Fish by Daniel Wallace

Hi everyone!
Today I will be doing a review of “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace. I had a lot to say about this book, read on for my thoughts on the book plot versus the film plot, some character break downs, & great quotes! Also, please FOLLOW me to stay updated with all the book reviews & articles I post here, thank you!

Initial Thoughts:
I feel like I’ve mentioned before that “Big Fish” is one of my favorite movies. I was disappointed that the “Big Fish” musical totally flopped (fish pun intended), so I was excited to read the original source material & see what they were working with that succeed in film, but not on the stage.

Plot:
“Big Fish” is the story of a man named Will Bloom & his relationship with his father Edward. Will grew up hearing all sorts of wild tales from his father. As a child, he loved the stories, but as he grew up he realized the stories were heavily exaggerated & felt that his father lied to him. This created a disconnect between the two until Edward falls ill. Will asks his father to tell him about his real life, not the make believe stories from his childhood, so that he can finally learn who his father is, before it’s too late.
The chapters are written somewhat like short stories, they don’t really flow. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize sections that were plucked from the book. Some scenes play a bigger part in the book & some play a bigger part in the movie. If you are a fan of the film, I’m not sure you will like the book. The way some of the stories were originally written create a whole different tone than is showcased in the film. Of course, this is a typical occurrence when books are turned into films. On the bright side & another note completely, I was happy to see that the characters kept the same names throughout the book & the film. It’s a small nuance that paid homage to the book & I appreciated it.

Characters:
– Will, the son, is a complicated character. It’s not revealed how old he is at first, so there’s no context for you to judge his maturity level. On one hand, I think Will is kind of brat because I found Edward’s stories somewhat adorable. They’re the kind of tales grandparents tell about situations like walking to school – uphill both ways – in snow – even though they lived in Florida. The stories mean more than what they’re really saying, you have to read into them & find the wisdom. On the other hand, I can understand how Will felt lied to. It must be frustrating to never get a straight answer out of someone you’re looking to for guidance, but…suck it up. He could have had a much worse father figure. We all think the grass is greener somewhere else though, & Will is no different. I felt that he was extremely passive & didn’t really seem to care wether he figured out his father & patched things up or not.
– Edward is also complicated. When he passes through Ashland & the townspeople warn him not to test the guard dog, he eventually races by. He is able to leave the town while many others can’t & has a friendly interaction with the dog, which shows his personality as strong & a bit stubborn, but ultimately a fighter & someone who won’t listen to nay-sayers because he believes in himself. In the film, Edward leaving the town later inspires another character to leave as well, showing that Edward was an influential person, he was a big fish all along. A lot of Edward’s movements throughout the story stem from his dissatisfaction with life, he’s always looking for the next best thing, ignoring what’s right under his nose – his family.

Quotes:
– Pg 20: “Remembering a man’s stories makes him immortal”
Definitely one of the main points of this story.
– Pg 21 & 22: Edward: ‘I’ll tell you what the problem was…I wanted to be a great man…”
Will: “…if a man could be said to be loved by his son, then I think that man could be considered great’ For that is the only power I have, to bestow upon my father the mantle of greatness, a thing he sought in the wider world, but one that, in a surprise turn of events, was here at home all along.”
Edward: “Ah…[n]ever thought about it in those terms…”
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own desires, we forget what others need & want from us. Edward wanted to leave behind a great life for Will to remember him by, instead of spending time creating a great life WITH Will. In the end, a life of shared memories mattered a great deal more to Will & he had to make his peace with not having them, or at least not having them the way he wanted.
– Pg 139: “We all have stories, just as you do. Ways in which [Edward] touched us, helped us…lots of stories, big & small. They all add up. Over a lifetime it all adds up…We’re a part of him, of who he is, just as he is a part of us.”
This is what life is all about. Everyone we meet makes us who we are & in turn we’re part of their story too. We live on through stories. We don’t always know why things happen until we look back and see how everything adds up over our lifetime.

Overall:
If you haven’t seen the film, you might enjoy this book as somewhat of a memoir of a father & son trying to patch up their relationship. After all, Wallace did write the story based on his relationship with his father. However, I think it just falls flat. The message of the story focuses on the idea that we all want to be special & mean something to others, especially within the parent – child relationship. The fatal flaw in that thinking though is that most kids just want honesty & at a certain point, to be treated like adults. Instead of being honest, Edward wanted Will to see him a certain way & ended up creating a negative relationship between them. I don’t feel like they were really ever to solve their issues, but I suppose that’s up to the interpretation of each reader.

Rating: C
I hate to keep comparing the book to the film, but the film is so much better! It’s filled with life & is so imaginative. The movie really makes Edward a hero & Will a sympathetic character, while I found them barely likable in the book. Another issue with the book was that there was really no use for the female characters. The film makes MUCH better use of all the characters & the romance within the story. I also appreciate how the film comes full circle & shows a bit of what happens to Will. The book sucks all the imagination out of the story told in the film. Where the film is magical, the book is real life. That isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not my cup of tea, especially when I went in expecting the lush imagery & captivating story that is featured in the film. Despite my criticisms, I definitely connect with this story, to a certain extent, because part of my family is Greek & we’re big story tellers. I really believe in the message of “Big Fish”, that stories keep our memories, and those we love, alive. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately it just couldn’t live up to the film version that I know and love. If you at all have an interest in the film “Big Fish”, read this book if you want to learn about the source material, but don’t expect it to be like the film. If you’re not already familiar with the story in some capacity & are going into this as “just another book”, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Have you read “Big Fish” or seen the film? Which do you prefer? Do you agree with me or am I missing something? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!

Book Review! The Duchess by Amanda Foreman

Hi everyone! Today I will be reviewing a novel called “The Duchess” written by Amanda Foreman. This is a pretty hefty book, clocking in at almost 400 pages with about 40 pages of Notes in the back. To keep the length of this post down, I tried to keep the re-telling of the story to a minimum and spoilers at bay. This is basically exactly what my notes were as I read. Without further ado…

Initial Thoughts:
Foreman wrote this biography based on her doctoral thesis & is supposedly the only person to have ever turned their thesis into a best selling biography.  I thought this was commendable as I’m considering going to Grad school, but the idea of having to write a thesis is very overwhelming. I admire Foreman’s dedication to her education and her passion for the topic. I wanted to read this to get an idea of what a thesis looks like and I wanted to find out more about Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. I had seen advertisements for the film, “The Duchess”, many years ago when it was released and thought the plot seemed intriguing, but wanted to read the book first.

Plot:
“The Duchess” is the biography of Georgiana Spencer Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, circa 1774. She was the great-great-great-great-aunt of Princess Diana of Wales and was just as big a celebrity. The biography, obviously, tells the story of Georgiana’s life and the dichotomy of her public and personal life. From the outside looking in, Georgiana had it all, money, fame, and popularity. Inside, she was a deeply unhappy woman, plagued by years of insecurity and people pleasing that led her down a dark road of addiction and misfortune. It’s pretty interesting how popular and involved in shaping history she was, yet I’ve never learned about her. Foreman addresses some reasons that shed light on how history has been RE-WRITTEN by our ancestors and we’re not always getting the full story about how things happened. I guess this bio is good for conspiracy theory fans too, haha!

Characters:
– Georgiana Spencer Cavendish is obviously the main character. We share a birthday, June 7th, woo hoo! separated by a few hundred years. When her father died he left behind a fortune that today would equal $74 million, so she was certainly well off and used that money to educate herself in several avenues. Georgiana was like 1700’s Barbie, she did everything. Not only was she involved in politics, fashion, etc, she was a published author, and also “…an amateur chemist & mineralogist of note…” (p 269), among other accomplishments. She openly participated in political campaigning even though it brought her much negative attention. For every person that admired her involvement, there was someone else smearing her name. Despite her wealth, education, and popularity, you have to feel bad for this woman’s personal life. Her husband had a child by a mistress before he & Georgiana were even married. Their marriage was a train wreck, they both cheated, had children with other partners, and came very close to divorcing which was practically unheard of then.
– The Spencer, Cavendish, and other popular families of the time remind me of the Kardashian family. Super wealthy, spoiled, the center of attention and scandal, involved in each other’s business – & that’s just the way they wanted it.

Quotes:
– A passage on page 153 shows how attacks on women haven’t changed much in hundreds of years. It lists specific reasons Georgiana was so heavily criticized by certain members of the public for her political involvement. She was criticized for bringing “her own personality to the campaign in an era when the only women who had public personas were actresses & courtesans…”. There were also double standards between her and male campaigners. For a male to associate with the common people and treat voters as equals earned him the title of “Man of the People”. When Georgiana did the same & earned the title, a “Woman of the People”, it meant she was a whore.
– In a way, the reader never really gets to know Georgiana because everything she did was scrutinized & she had to act a certain way. For example, in a one letter, she writes about how the last few months were the best of her life, then at the end of the letter she complains that she’s never been sadder (p 273). Her emotions ranged so wildly, it was hard to tell how she genuinely felt or if she was just acting.
– P 382 gives a very inspiring and flattering description of Georgiana, listing all her accomplishments and contributions to society. She should be proud to be remembered that way & you can clearly see why Foreman was so passionate about her.

Overall:
– This biography is not for everyone. It’s certainly not light reading for most. I found it hard to keep track of the family trees, relationships, and the timeline of Georgiana’s life. There are huge sections of history information, and while I understand its inclusion, it’s not what I wanted to read about. I wanted to get to the juicy stuff about Georgiana!
– Another aspect of the book I found hard to follow were the footnotes. The print was super small and you had to find the correct footnote that corresponded with the number in the main text – it was a lot of back and forth reading of small print. Why not just include the footnote in the main text? I figured that’s the way a thesis is set up, but I’m not sure.
– While the historical content did become overwhelming, I did enjoy learning about the way women’s rights and family dynamics have changed, or not, since Georgiana’s time.

Rating: B-
Honestly, this book didn’t do much for me because I was more interested in the woman, not the time period and you get “too much” of the latter. I can’t fault Foreman for that, she did an amazing job doing her research, I just wasn’t terribly interested. As I mentioned above, this biography is best suited for someone that has a genuine interest in the time period and political happenings within it, not solely interested in Georgiana’s life. I gave it a low B because I admire Foreman’s work, but I couldn’t get past the abundance of historical material rather than focus on Georgiana’s personal life, so the story didn’t really grab me. I feel like I would be more interested in the film version of the bio which of course will be highly sensationalized to grab viewer’s attention.

Have you read “The Duchess”? Have you ever heard of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire? Please share your thoughts on this review or the biography in the comments down below! As always, I welcome any and all book suggestions you might have – until next time, hit that FOLLOW button on the top right to stay updated with all my posts!

Book Review! Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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OH MY GOSH! I’m FREAKING OUT over this book. It’s seriously THAT GOOD! I’m so stinking excited to talk to you today about “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. The inspiration for this book is really unique. Ransom Riggs, the author, started collecting vintage pictures from thrift stores & flea markets. He felt such an intense curiosity to know the story behind these anonymous pictures that, rather than settle for never knowing, he created his own fantastical stories to explain what was going on in the photos. There are several odd photos placed in the book that you would think are Photoshopped, but are real pictures he found while writing. According to Riggs’ website, this series – there are 3 Miss Peregrine novels, the last one slated to be released September of this year – is being made into a film by Tim Burton. OF COURSE IT IS. I’m not a huge Burton enthusiast, but he’s a perfect choice in this case. Okay, onto the review. I’ll try my best to limit the spoilers because I really do want you all to read this book. Really, like right now, click on the picture of the book above & buy it from Amazon. However, if you insist on reading my full review before buying it, it’s fine, I guess. Here we go!

Plot: Jacob grows up idolizing his tall tale telling grandfather, Grandpa Portman. He grows disillusioned as a teenager when he realizes that Grandpa Portman’s stories about being shipped to an orphanage in Wales, a magical place where no one ever got sick or died & was protected by a woman who could turn into a bird, could not possibly be true. Tragedy strikes & through a series of insane events Jacob is forced to admit that Grandpa Portman’s stories were much more real than he previously believed. He embarks on a whirlwind adventure full of magic, danger, romance, and self discovery.

Initial Thoughts: I had no expectations going into this novel. I wasn’t even really sure what genre it was, fantasy, sci fi, children’s literature, zombies, all of the above? Right off the bat, Grandpa Portman tells stories of monsters in Poland circa WWII & I was thinking, “Hmm, real monsters or is this a veiled reference to the Nazi Party? What are we dealing with here?” The answer is, to a certain degree, both! After finishing the first two pages, I wrote a note, “I’m so excited to read this book, will I have nightmares?! Am I ready to welcome another series into my life?! I’m already in a very committed, long term relationship with Harry Potter..”. Riggs’ writing already had me hooked.
I was reminded of the movie “Big Fish”. If you’ve never seen it, you’re living life all wrong. “Big Fish” is easily one of my top 10 favorite movies.Everyone loves it, Yellowcard even wrote a song about it called “How I Go” which makes me weep every time I hear it. The bottom line is it’s an amazing film directed by Tim Burton (a pattern is emerging) about a man with a strained relationship with his father. The father always tells amazing, wild stories of his youth which the son stopped believing a long time ago. Through flashbacks you’re swept up in the father’s magical stories & in the end the film is really about how we stay in the hearts of those we love, even when we’re not around anymore. That’s all I’ll say, seriously, you should watch it. Back to the review…

Characters: Jacob is a wonderful character, well developed, & different from other characters in YA Fiction, which is technically the book’s genre. Usually I’m annoyed by teenage characters, but not Jacob. He admits to being odd, scared, & not macho, but continues on his adventure because he’s inspired by the life of someone he loved. I love that he cries! It’s rare to find young male characters so in touch with their emotions.
A character that helps my “Big Fish” tie in, is Emma Bloom. The main character in “Big Fish” is named Edward Bloom. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence but it made me happy to continue the connection between the two stories.

Quotes – SPOILERS HERE!!!:
– Not necessarily a quote, but on page 48 there’s a passage describing how Jacob’s family deals with the aftermath of Grandpa Portman passing away. If you’ve ever had to go through someone’s belongings after they’ve passed away – you will totally identify with this scene. Riggs writes the most accurate description of that process that I’ve ever read.
– pg 108, Jacob talks about how WWII has changed his family history. It’s kind of a long passage but I thought it was really powerful. “I thought about how my great-grandparents had starved to death…their wasted bodies being fed to incinerators because people they didn’t know hated them. I thought about how the children who had lived in this house had been burned up & blown apart because a pilot who didn’t care pushed a button. I thought about how my grandfather’s family had been taken from him, and how because of that my dad grew up feeling like he didn’t have a dad…[a]ll because of a 70 year old hurt that had somehow been passed down to me like some poisonous heirloom & monsters I couldn’t fight because they were all dead, beyond killing or punishing or any kind of reckoning. At least my grandfather had been able to join the army & go fight them. What could I do?”

Overall: I’m sure you can tell I loved this book with a serious passion. My one hiccup was the romance between Emma & Jacob. No Spoilers, but given her past, the romance between them was slightly uncomfortable for me. The twist near the end threw me for a loop! Again, to avoid spoilers, that’s all I’m going to say. My note literally reads, “Holy effin shit! Holy effin shit! I knew he was suspect but never expected THIS! The nightmares are gonna be so real tonight”. I have referenced nightmares a few times, but please don’t be afraid, I’m mostly being dramatic. While the story was intense, it tied into many other works of fiction that I have a soft spot for. As previously mentioned, “Big Fish”, but also “Peter Pan” because of the whole children on an island that never grow old aspect, “Harry Potter” because of the magic, plus Jacob & Harry seem like kindred spirits, they never know the important details until it’s too late & they’re left to fight on in the memory of those who inspired them, & “Supernatural”, because Grandpa Portman was a hunter, an absent father out fighting darkness, & Jacob continues on the family business. So if you like any of those things – you should enjoy this story.

Rating: A+! Obviously!! After all that raving could I really have given this book any other rating?! “Miss Peregrine’s…” was highly entertaining and engaging. I literally couldn’t put it down & finished reading it in about 3 or 4 hours. I realize a second more thorough reading may reveal plot holes or annoyances in the character’s personalities I didn’t notice before, but this first reading was pure joy. This novel was everything I look for in a “A+” work, well written characters & an engaging, relatable story that was able to suck me in, take me away, & make me care about everything it had to offer. I am definitely looking forward to reading the second installment in the series, “Hollow City”. I would also be interested in prequel books featuring Grandpa Portman’s adventures during WWII – maybe I should write a letter to Riggs suggesting that, haha!

Have you read “Miss Peregrine’s…” or the second novel “Hollow City”? Are you enjoying this series as much as I am?! If you haven’t heard of this series before, what do you think, will you give it a try? Please let me know what you thought of this review in the comments below! Send your book recommendations my way & I’ll add them to my list of Books to Read! Please click the FOLLOW button on the top right of this page to be notified by email when I post my next Book Review. Thanks for reading, until we meet again!

Book Review! The Vow by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson

The Vow

The Vow

Plot:
“The Vow” is the story of Kim and Krisxan (aka Krickitt) Carpenter. I’m sure y’all are somewhat familiar with the film because it stars Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams, but I’m not sure how many are familiar with the true story that inspired the film. I have not seen the film, but after reading the description on Wikipedia & watching the trailer – it is VERY different from the book. The Carpenters address the film & while it was given their approval, they acknowledge it has been given the Hollywood treatment. It only contains the framework of their story, but does not tell it the way it really happened. After a whirlwind courtship & marriage, the Carpenter’s are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves them both with severe injuries. While Kim’s injuries are extensive, he is eventually able to recover. Krickitt, on the other hand, suffers a Traumatic Brain Injury that results in amnesia preventing her from remembering the last year and a half of her life. This is especially inconvenient because that is the exact length of time she’s known her husband. She wakes up from the accident with no memory of her husband or any of their relationship. The book details their life as they struggle to regain a sense of normalcy & figure out how they’re going to move forward.

Review:
– I felt like the Carpenter’s entire relationship was kind of an odd, extreme, only in the movies type romance. For example, they meet completely by chance when Kim is ordering jackets for the baseball team he coaches. Krickitt answers the phone and Kim falls in love with her voice and spunky attitude. He continues to call to “check on his order” & asks only to speak to her. Their conversations quickly become personal and they get to know each other outside of the business transaction. It’s honestly the kind of meet-cute that easily could have been really creepy if Krickitt hadn’t returned Kim’s feelings. I know most people meet completely by chance, but this is just SO random! Out of all the people in the world, he happens to order jackets from a girl that’s his perfect match and then they get in this terrible car accident that makes her forget her perfect husband!? OF COURSE THEY MADE THIS A MOVIE.

– I’m really weird & get excited when I recognize places in stories, I’m not sure why. I guess it helps me feel connected to the story. Henceforth, I was excited when Kim name drops Fullerton, CA & Phoenix, AZ. Krickitt went to Cal State Fullerton – I took a class there and the nearby junior college, so I felt like we were kindred spirits as I’ve possibly wandered the same areas of campus that she had once called home. I travel to Phoenix pretty frequently as I have family/friends there. Kim & Krickitt are traveling to Phoenix, where her parents live, when they get in their car accident. Krickitt spends part of her recovery at the Barrow Neurological Center in Phoenix. Like I said, it helps me feel connected to the story/people to know that we’ve probably driven down the same streets and seen the same things.

– I was a little peeved that the story was 99% told through Kim’s point of view. I understand Krickitt doesn’t remember their relationship before the accident and can’t speak on that subject, but I was interested to know what was going through her mind during the aftermath.

– Kim “doth protest too much”. He constantly assures the reader that the ONLY reason they decided to write the book/go on TV/be interviewed/agree to the film was to spread God’s word. I respect the Carpenter’s relationship with God, that they bonded over their faith, & it brought them peace after the accident. I’m fine with it in theory, I just didn’t know the story was going to revolve around religion so heavily. There’s no way to make this sound nice, so I’m just going to be honest, religion is just not for me. I was borderline uncomfortable with all the references to God. When Kim kept talking about how they didn’t want the attention/money that came with being famous, they just wanted to spread God’s word, I was rolling my eyes. They wrote a book! Obviously, they knew/hoped they’d be making SOME money. I’m not sure they were paid for any of their appearances, but if a Radio/TV station wanted them to appear badly enough, they certainly could’ve paid them. I can’t imagine anyone openly admitting they wanted to capitalize on the tragedy/miracle of their life, but it’s understandable that they would need money considering how expensive their medical bills must have been so I don’t think he needed to justify himself with the religious reasoning.
Another issue I felt Kim talked about way too much was divorce. He mentions numerous times that divorce was “not an option”, “never crossed their minds”, “never on the table”, “never discussed”, “not for them” – dude, we get it! You’re a solid guy that wasn’t planning on leaving your wife in her hour of need. You became famous because we live in a world where you get in a fight with someone and you leave them – and in the face of serious adversity – you both stayed. Granted, you did mention that there was a time you seriously doubted you could live under the same roof together, but you were going to stay married because you made promise to each other & God. I’m not sure how permanently living apart would’ve been much different than divorcing, but okay.

Rating: C
“The Vow” was a quick read for me & I can definitely understand why they chose to make it into a movie. I admire the Carpenter’s commitment to each other and their willingness to work through a very traumatic event. If you like romantic, inspiring tales of love conquering all, especially with a heavy helping of Christianity – this is the book for you.

Book Review! Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night Oh Shakespeare, what can I say about you? First off, let me say, if you’ve seen the Amanda Bynes movie “She’s the Man”, you have seen a modern adaptation of “Twelfth Night”…and one of Channing Tatum’s first films. Congrats! But moving on…”Twelfth Night” is a gender bender star crossed lovers type story, basically the Shakespeare comedy format.
SPOILERS!
Olivia is a Countess who is in mourning over the deaths of her father and brother, leaving her in charge of her own destiny…and fortune and land and all that good stuff. Everyone is trying to get a piece of her, but she doesn’t want anyone…until she meets Cesario, who she believes to be a messenger from one of her admirers Duke (or Count) Orsino. What Olivia doesn’t know is…Cesario is really a young woman named Viola who happens to secretly be in love with Orsino. Viola has been separated from her twin brother Sebastian in a shipwreck, both believes the other is probably dead. She dresses as a man to gain employment from Orsino, but unfortunately falls in love with him and has to help him scheme for ways to win over Olivia.
There’s a side story involving some other characters, most recognizably Malvolio, that involves the characters playing a prank on Malvolio that ends with him being considered insane and getting locked up. Don’t fret, that ends well eventually.
The story wraps up rather quickly when Sebastian finds himself in the same town as Viola and Oliva mistakes him for Cesario. She proposes an engagement, which he agrees to despite the fact that he’s NEVER MET HER, guess she’s just THAT good looking. After a rather awkward encounter when Viola and Sebastian meet up again and everyone is confused as all hell, Viola explains that she’s a lady and in love with Orsino. They decide the best thing to do would be to have a joint wedding. The End.

Thoughts:
Typical rom-com shenanigans. No one is impressed. Didn’t hate this book, didn’t love it, read it just to cross it off my list of classics to read and I wanted to see how it compared to the movie. Honestly seeing the movie kind of helped me keep track of the characters because I assigned faces to them, yes, my imagination could’ve helped me with that too, but the movie characters took over. I was really depressed at the way the couples so easily agreed to switch partners. I can understand Viola and Orsino ending up together because at least they were confidantes/close friends, now it’s even better because he’s allowed to touch her junk! On the other hand, Olivia and Sebastian ending up together…what?! Come on, they’d literally never met. I don’t like it. Alright, overall rating – C.