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! 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!