Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best book I've read all year. It's one of those great, engrossing reads. Kristin Hannah is known for strong female characters, drama, and romance. In her latest forte into historical fiction, she doesn't disappoint. In fact, I hope she writes more historical fiction and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if this turns out to be a movie one day.

I was held in suspense as her characters continually fight for survival in German-occupied France. The book was not only an emotionally charged read, but also it taught me a unique historical prospective. Normally, when I think WWII, I envision individuals on the home front in the U.S., England, or Germany. Now I can add occupied France to the list.

Vianne and Isabelle are sisters, but family dysfunction, age and personality differences have strained their relationship. When a German solider takes up residence in their home, Vianne struggles to remain calm for the sake of her daughter, while Isabelle is eager to rebel. Suspense, action, romance, and murder follow suit.

Highly recommended. Although the subject matter seems grim, I didn’t want my journey with the Vianne and Isabelle to end. I only wish I’d read it sooner!

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Decatur Book Festival 2015

Decatur Book Festival 2015

Once again Oshie and I had a delightful time at the Decatur Book Festival. It truly is a book lover's dream with bargains on new books, author panels, book signings, freebies, and bookish gifts everywhere to be found. We didn't want it to end! I wish every weekend could be DBF weekend, but then I'd be broke.

We attended great panels including:
We wanted to go to more, but that was an action packed day with barely enough time for lunch and creating our own DBF 2015 t-shirt!

Before the New Fantasy Fiction panel
Overall, for us, the DBF is a great way to learn about authors we're not familiar with. I'm excited to read the new releases of all the authors we saw. The DBF helps create my birthday and Christmas lists. Oshie was a great sport for going with me to the Romance Pavilion, especially when I was tempted to use him as an example of an Alpha Male (too introverted for that). Katie AshleyHeather C. Leigh, and Jillian Neal gave some great examples and I can't wait to read their work.

During the "No Better Friend" panel
In the De-Extinction panel, my inner child was disappointed to learn that dinosaurs will probably never be cloned Jurassic Park style. But Wooly Mammoths might! Beth Shapiro gave a flawless presentation, and Oshie picked up some pointers from her style. The New Fantasy Fiction panel was so fun. Cindy Dees and Fran Wilde are both super smart and cool ladies. Hands down, "No Better Friend: One Man, One Dog, and Their Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in WWII" by Robert Weintraub should be a movie. If you enjoyed "War Horse," I think you'll like this book.

It was a great trip and I highly recommend visiting the Decatur Book Festival if you have the chance!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Top Book to Movie Adaptations (Freebie Week)

Top Book to Movie Adaptations

As much as I love books, for years I was more of a movie enthusiast. But when you're broke, it's easier to entertain yourself with books: they last longer than a 2 hour film and they have a higher trade/resale value if you didn't enjoy them. So, I became a bookie out of necessity.

But, now that times are better, I've learned how exciting it is when a book I've enjoyed is being turned into a movie. I'm one of the millions who like to read, wait, watch, and react. Here are some of my favorite book to movie adaptations. Most of them I read after the movie was released. Nowadays, I try harder to read the book before the movie comes out.

To Kill A Mockingbird - I feel like I blog about this one a lot, so I'll just say it does a beautiful job capturing the spirit of the book.

The Secret Garden (1993) - I haven't seen the 1993 version in years, but I'm so nostalgic for it! As a kid, it had the perfect amount of mystery and adventure with a girl main character. Thanks to the movie, I've enjoyed reading the book twice, and many other Frances Hodgson Burnett novels.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) - You know it's great when a preview for a movie makes you excited.  I was only ten at the time, but I remember wanting to learn all about the elegant setting. Now I'm a Jane Austen fan through-and-through.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - This was the Harry Potter game changer for me. Previously, I had enjoyed the movies as nice kid movies. But I loved the dark and more serious tone of the third movie. That, and time travel, made me pick up the book series for the first time.

Bridget Jones's Diary - Even though I didn't get around to reading the book until 12+ years after the movie's release, the important thing is, this movie really inspired me. After watching it, I started journaling/blogging about my life, and haven't stopped since. Life is crazy, why not share it?

Watership Down - The animation does a great job of telling the unique story. I cry at the end because I become so attached to the characters. I first saw it as a small child, but because of the violence, I can't recommend it to anyone's kids who are under ten.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Although I'm typically a fantasy fan, I didn't enjoy reading this one in school (mostly the ending...). However, I loved the first installment of this series. The actors bought the story to life for me in ways I'd overlooked before.

Catching Fire - While 'The Hunger Games' was good, I feel they got more 'right' with Catching Fire (the clothes, the character traits). They added some scenes not in the book, but they did such a good job that it didn't feel out of place, IMO.

New Moon - Ditto for this series. Parts of the first movie are almost campy. Visually, this one makes me want to visit the Northwest Coast very badly.

The Great Gatsby (2013) - I read the book right before this version was released and loved how they captured the excess and mystery surrounding Gatsby. I'm not much for parties, but the party scene in this film is spectacular.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ten Characters You Just Didn't Click With

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

1. Holly Golightly (Breakfast At Tiffany's) - Audrey Hepburn made the character classy, because she was a classy lady through and through. The novel's character is out-of-control and I had a hard time relating to her shocking and trashy ways.

2. Scarlett O'Hara - Although 'Gone With the Wind' is a big part of Atlanta history, Scarlett is a frustrating character. Her obsession with Ashley gets very annoying and because of her mistakes, it's hard not to feel like she gets what's coming to her in the end.

3. Catherine Earnshaw (Wuthering Heights) - Don't get me wrong, I love all the gothic melodrama. But in true old-fashioned soap opera style, Catherine did Heathcliff wrong. Not saying her child deserved to be kidnapped though.

4. Anastasia Steele - I know she isn't from the sort of book that has a lot of character development. Yet, I had a really hard time believing she'd never had a crush before meeting Mr. Grey.

5. Miles "Pudge" Halter (Looking for Alaska) - I have a lot of respect for John Green. He's a good writer. But I really didn't like "pudge"...he's a user.

6. Bilbo Baggins - I love J.R.R. Tolkien's work, don't get me wrong. But I really wanted Bilbo to man-up and fight in the final battle of 'The Hobbit'. I felt like, ugh, do something Bilbo!

7. Newland Archer (The Age of Innocence) - He, too, annoyed me. I know his era required him to be conventional...but I really wanted him to shut-up about Countess Olenska or run away with her. He whined but didn't act.

8. Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman) - The play and the main character depress me. It captures family dysfunction well, but the character's level of denial is really sad to read.

9. Ishmael (Moby-Dick) - He goes on and on and on...and not much happens until the end. For me, he was the slowest narrator ever.

10. Lancelot - He's always play up as this brave, romantic figure. Seriously, dude, stealing your best friend's/boss' wife is not cool.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (28)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that was created by Breaking the Spine to spotlight a blogger's eagerly anticipated new books.

For this Waiting on Wednesday, I picked Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh.

Release Date: December 29, 2015

Book Summary: "Allie Brosh, the “gut-bustingly funny” (NPR), award-winning, and #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Hyperbole and a Half, shares an all-new collection of autobiographical and illustrated essays."

My Thoughts: I am thrilled about this sequel! The last time I checked the author's blog/webcomic, she's been pretty quiet. I figured she was taking a break and half hoped that maybe she was working on more material. The first book was very inspirational to me, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she's been up to since the first release. I only wish this was available before Christmas!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101

Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If I Taught 19th Century Lit 101

Pride and Prejudice- The original bad girl novel. Today, Elizabeth is a role model and inspiration for young women to speak their minds. In Austen's day, Elizabeth was scandalous. Not as scandalous as Lydia, but hey. All and all, it's a fun, and important portrait of 19th century life: what they found important, what they thought was crazy.

Jane Eyre- Whereas Elizabeth had it easy (even though they think they're poor), the first half of Jane Eyre shows how much it could suck to live in the 19th century. The plot twists have probably influenced every modern romance book, movie, and tv show (soap opera) in some small way.

Oliver Twist- This novel explores the underbelly of London, full of criminals, prostitutes, and murderers. Sounds like an HBO show, right? Wrong, it's about an innocent orphan struggling to survive. In a world of 'Please, sir, I-want-another-video-game,' it's important to remember how hard things could be from a child's point of view.

Treasure Island- I'm probably a little biased for this one. Mostly, I'd teach it for fun. It's the grand-daddy of many great adventure and pirate stories and it's cemented in pop culture. It's influence is everywhere and it's a nice example of a coming-of-age tale.

Middlemarch- Although Pride & Prejudice and Jane Eyre are fun, Middlemarch is a slightly more realistic take on 19th century life. Ladies back then didn't always hit the jackpot in the dating department. It has important lessons about knowing who you are, what you want out of life, and having a plan.

Walden- Thoreau was save-the-Earth before Captain Planet. He was a rebel and out-of-the-box thinker. It's an important read because he not only stood up for nature, but also asked the big life questions.

Uncle Tom's Cabin- It's an important novel to read because it caused a lot of stir when it was released. Abe Lincoln actually blamed the author for starting the Civil War. It shows the power of literature as a means to inform others of issues, as well as, how far we've come.

The Importance of Being Earnest - Nothing like a little comedy to make a class fun. And, no, this isn't about Ernest P. Worrell, (equally fun). All the modern characters with alter-egos probably have this play to thank. That and many situational comedies.

Dracula - Vampire, vampires, vampires! Today they are everywhere. Yet, it's surprising how many people have never read Dracula, the book that began the horror and sub-genre of romance craze. In many ways, it shows how far women have progressed in literature, from helpless innocents to strong vampire slayers.

Poems by Emily Dickinson - In most lit classes, you cover a play, poems, and sometimes several novels or short stories. I'm not much for poetry, but to me, Emily Dickinson is some of the best. There's a lot of nature and beauty in her work, as well as, some unintended humor for obtuse people like "I heard a Fly buzz."

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a mixed experience. The thrill that it exists, the excitement of having new moments with classic characters, more of Lee’s writing style, and what-could-have-beens, as well as, the crash and burn when your favorite character, a hero for the ages, has morphed into a narrow-minded old man, fearful of change, on the wrong side of history.

It’s surreal. I feel like the Scout from “To Kill A Mockingbird” should wake up from a nightmare “Wizard of Oz” style and point to Atticus and say, “And you were there,” to Uncle Jack, “And you were there,” to Jem, “And you were kinda there,” and way over to Boo in corner, “And you weren’t there.”

Basically, you’ve probably already heard that readers travel down the rabbit hole when Scout returns to her hometown from the city to visit her aging father. While there, she reminisces about how the town has physically changed, her childhood, and teen years. There are some hilarious scenes about her further adventures with Jem and Dill, which ultimately make the book worth reading. However, the town and the people in it are also changing emotionally. Her high school crush is trying to press her into marriage, her heroes fall from grace, and she sees opposition to the rights of black citizens growing all around her. Scout is now an outsider, set like a watchman, as the people to whom she loves change.

Overall, if the characters names where changed and Harper Lee’s name removed, it would be a good but flawed book, belonging on the shelf with “The Help.” I would say that the main character was annoyingly na├»ve about her dad. She looks at her father as a blameless, perfect man. Apparently, she has never been angry with him before or had reason to think he is not a saint. Then she uncovers a hateful secret about him, the blindfold is off, and she has a meltdown. Instead of acting on her anger right away, either by calling him out or running away, as I would imagine an educated, independent woman would do, she mopes and mopes. She had no problem arguing with her aunt or expressing herself to her would-be boyfriend, but her dad is off-limits. Of course, if you know her dad is Atticus Finch, the character we all consider blameless, it makes sense. Change the name and you have no idea why she worships her father so much.

It’s a brave book, about a setting that a lot of authors would never touch. Few people could really capture it. Although I hate Atticus’ morph, I agree with other reviews, that realistically, there were a lot of men just like him during this era. But I can see why the publisher wasn’t keen on the story at the time. Prior to the realty tv world we live in, people wanted characters who were idealized, heroes who were all good and villains who were all bad.

To me the flashbacks of Scout’s childhood really stand out and shine. I think the publisher made the right call asking for a novel about her childhood. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is still superior. I wanted a little more development and backstory of adult Scout and elder Atticus in “Go Set A Watchman.” If you haven’t read or seen “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I don’t know how well “Go Set A Watchman” would stand on its own. But it is a thought-provoking read and well worth your time.

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