Book vs Movie: Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief by Rick Rourdin

Standard

In an effort to keep these interesting I wanted something a little out of my normal reading and viewing habits. I decided on the kids book Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief.  I’d seen parts of it on TV, it seemed okay and I was interested in how they combine the mythology with a modern day setting. I’ve always loved reading mythology, the Olympian Gods especially.

If this series came out when I was a kid, I would have been obsessed. A thirteen year old kid from New York finds out his father is Poseidon, god of the sea, then goes on a quest to save the world. I enjoyed reading the book, it’s a quick read for me but has a good story. I really liked the way the author wove in mythological aspects into the setting. Especially, how magical elements were hidden in plain sight. For example, Medusa’s victims as garden statues and DOA records as the entrance to Hades. The story was humorous, the characters likable and it really kept my interest.

The movie was okay. It keeps some elements from the book but the story ends up vastly different and not for the better. There were a lot changes to the story, big and small. The movie isn’t terrible but it could have been better if they had stuck closer to the story from the book. One major change to the story took a way a lot of the agency of the characters. In the book, the decisions they make lead to face monsters and various obstacles. However, the movie eliminates all of that with addition of a magical tool that guides them on their way. We know exactly when to expect a fight or action scene, there’s no suspense, no tension. While reading the book, I was always wondering what mess they would get into next and how it would change their path. The movie ended up seeing our protagonist and his friends go on a very different quest.

This time around, I have to say the book was definitely better. The movie was fun to watch, the characters and the humor hold up well. However, they should have stuck closer to the source material. The book just had a better story. Let me know what you think. Have you read the book, watched the movie? Share your thoughts below in the comments.

Fall 2019 To Be Read List

Standard

Well there goes the summer. A a fan of the hot weather it’s very disappointing for me. I don’t mind the fall, or Autumn if your fancy, but the temperature drops way too quickly for my taste; one day it’s 60 the next it’s 30. I do try to look on the bright side and there are some great things to look forward to, garlic festivals, Halloween, and new books. Okay so new books come out all the time, but for some reason this fall seems to have so many great books, a few I’ve been waiting months for.

My Fall 2019 TBR List

Institute by Stephen King

I decided to include this even though it came out in August, technically still summer.  It was only last week, close enough, and it’ll be September when I read it. From the description think it might be a Dark Tower related book. The story takes place at The Institute, where children with psychic abilities are imprisoned and their gifts extracted. I can only guess at who’s running this place and their intentions, but I think I have a good idea. I’ll just have to wait and see.

September

Grim, Grit and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales

Another collection for the list. I’ve kind of been really into fairy tales lately. It might have something to do with binging fairy tale based TV shows; Grimm, Once Upon a Time, etc. I’m also kind of intrigued by the dieselpunk and decopunk aspect; described as alternate histories of the WWI and WWII eras, 1920’s-50’s. I’m not exactly sure what to expect, maybe a flapper fairy godmother or Pinocchio as a Nazi double agent. I don’t know, I have to find out.

Quichotte by Salmon Rushdie

Rushdie is one of my other top favorite writers who never disappoints me. I love the magical surrealism of his stories and the beauty of his writing style. I know he’s not for everybody, but I hope you’ll give him a shot. Quichotte has been described as a modern day Don Quixote, or at least an homage to it. Set up as a story within a story, Quichotte, who is actually the creation of writer Sam DuChamp, takes a cross country trip with his imaginary son to win the love of a famous actress. As always with Rushdie I’m excited to see what ridiculous trials his characters go through and how he intertwines their stories.

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction- 9/17

When I saw this title, I absolutely knew I had to read it. Described as “part biography, part readers guide,” it includes over a hundred women authors. I am always looking for new horror and sci-fi writers and bonus for only focusing solely on women writers. I’m almost certain it’ll have to be a new addition to my library.

October

Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery- 10/1

Here we have a short story collection. The theme of the collection is witchcraft and witches, with all the stories being written by women. The book is described as classic tropes infused with “fresh, feminist perspective and present-day concerns.” Although I have to wonder, with the emphasis on feminism why it has a male editor. Not that I care, just seems a bit odd. Anyway I’m just here for the stories of witchery, but bonus for female perspectives and featuring Kelly Armstrong.

Toil and Trouble by Augustin Burroughs –10/1

It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this book to come out, an excerpt was release early summer, and I still have another month to go. But I’m pretty sure it’s worth the wait. His books include some dark topics, his wit and humor keeps it from becoming bleak and depressing. In this upcoming memoir he shares his lifelong secret of being a witch.

Book vs Movie: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Standard

So far I haven’t been too disappointed with the Valley of the Dollsmovie adaptations, of course that had to come to an end. I have issues with some of the movies but this one by far has to be the worse adaptation I’ve seen. Of course, a large part of that could be the novel’s length and two decade timeline. A movie just could not do it justice.

Valley of the Dolls is an excellent book and it’s easy to see why it was and has remained so popular. It provides an interesting story with genuine characters you care about. It starts as a fish out of water story centering on Anne Welles, a small town girl who moved to New York City. Her job puts her in the center of the city’s entertainment industry, which highlights her innocence and naivety. Central to the story are her friendships with Jennifer North and Neely O’Hara. Switching points of view we get a picture of each of their struggles in the limelight and eventual reliance on prescribed pills, other wise known as Dolls. By the end we can read it as a cautionary tale and social commentary of show business. It’s relevance is not relegated to it’s own time period, many of the themes are just applicable today.

One reason the book works so well is because the reader becomes invested in the characters. We get to know them as they form their friendships and are just starting out in their careers. The movie does a poor job portraying this. None of the women seem to struggle at all, in fact they seem to become famous and wealthy overnight. And the friendships seem to form out of nowhere, we barely even see how they know each other besides being loosely associated through familiar social circles. The character’s in the movie end up coming off unsympathetic, especially Anne and Neely. Almost from the beginning they seem entitled and self absorbed. It’s easy to blame some of the issues on the time constraints of a film, but there are lots of other changes that simply do not add to the story. And the most horrific change of all, the ending. It was completely butchered.

I waited until after writing this to read reviews, or anything else about the film, and apparently many people love it because it’s so bad. I can understand that and yeah I got a few laughs out it. But it was just sooooo disappointing after the book. I was going to say don’t waste your time with the movie, but on second thought go ahead, just remember you’ve been warned. If you do give it a try I’d say watch the movie, then read the book.

Thoughts, opinions, questions? Comment below.

 

Book vs Movie: Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis

Standard

This movie and book are a little different from the rest of this series so far. It’s the first nonfiction book I’ve done and the movie is not meant to be an adaptation. Rather it’s simply inspired by the book. Which makes sense if you know anything about the movie.

I actually came across the book accidentally; I was searching the library catalog for the movie and instead the book came up. I remembered seeing it when I was younger and only vaguely remembered it. I was curious how it’s story could have come from a nonfiction book, much less one written by a scientist. I didn’t expect the book to be as interesting as it was. The full title is, Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Society of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis and Magic. I assumed it would be a dry scientific statement of facts, when actually it’s written as a narrative of the author’s experience. It begins with his first adventure to South America where his interest in ethnobotany began. The rest of the book tells the story of his trip to Haiti in the hopes of discovering the secret to making zombis, assumed to be a drug made from a plant with an anesthetic effect. While relaying his experiences, he includes information about the country’s history, it’s culture and political structure. This provides a much larger story about Haiti’s political and social issues at the time.

It’s been a long time since I saw the movie and watching it again I realized how much I didn’t remember. The images that had stuck in my mind of zombies and magic made up a very small part of the movie, and mostly appeared as dreams or hallucinations. Surprisingly, the movie’s basic plot doesn’t deviate that much from the author’s story. They used a fictional name instead of the author’s and additional changes that enhance the story and gets movie viewers invested in the characters. Including a romantic subplot which of course provides an excuse for sex scenes. And while the main character does have to battle with unseen forces, the scariest parts come from real world horrors.

The book and the movie are both excellent and a preference for one or the other would depend on the type of experience you’re looking for. The book tells a compelling true story that also educates the reader. I’d recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the country of Haiti and the voodoo culture. While the movie does a great job integrating the author’s story into an entertaining horror movie.

 

Necromancers, Time Travel and Boozing Writers: My Recent Reads

Standard

While I’ve always read a lot, it’s gotten insane now working in a library. I’m surrounded by books all day and can pretty much read about anything on a whim. I’m usually reading at least three nonfiction books at once, some faster than others. Meanwhile, fiction I tend to keep at the most two at a time, one at work and one at home. And maybe I’ll have a poetry book or short story collection I pick up randomly. (I’ve been reading a zombie anthology for at least a year now.)

Since I’m horrible at updating my Goodreads account or actually planning out full reviews to do I’ll be adding a round up here a couple times of year for the books that stood out.

My YA streak

Slayer by Kiersten White–Set in the Buffy-verse; not exactly sure of timeline but it takes place well after the show and includes events from the graphic novels. All potential slayers have been activated, watchers council destroyed, and the end of magic on earth. The few surviving watchers struggle to figure out what to do next while the next generation faces the future head on. While it’s a totally new story with new characters it has a very famliar feel to it. It includes the sarcastic quips, witty insults, and goofy slang we come to expect from slayers and supporting characters.

Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride– This was a fun modern fantasy/horror. It includes your supernatural regulars werewolves, witches, fey, and of course necromancers. The story centers on Sam LaCroix who is completely unaware of his own supernatural nature until he meets Douglas Montgomery, a seriously bad guy. What I really love about this book was the characters. They are all very unique, entertaining and sympathetic. Even the villains have a charm to them. I will soon be devouring the second book in the series, which at the moment is the last. I hope there are more to come.

Feed by M.T. Anderson–Future society where you can vacation on the moon, suburbs are built on top of each other, forest are torn down to build air factories, and people are connected to the web 24/7 through an implant; rich boy meets poor girl they both learn how different their lives are. The thing that tripped me out most about the book was the parents talking the same way the kids do, using the same slang and displaying immature attitudes. It just seemed creepy. Otherwiseit’s a really intersting concept and while still being entertaining the book still deals with some pretty heavy morality issues.

The Grin in the Dark by J.A Dark–Okay technically this is a children’s book. It was on my list to read because it was one of few that came up when searching for clown horror. And for a kids book, it’s pretty damn scary. Teenager Hamid Abdi is babysitting his little cousins during a bad storm while the police search for an escaped convict. If that’s not scary enough there might also be a clown hiding somewhere in the house.

Horror/Fantasy/SciFi

In the House in the Dark of the Woods by Laird Hunt–I really liked this book even though I can’t be exactly sure what happened. It’s a twisted fairy tale for grownups about a woman lost in the woods. In her travels, she meets some of the inhabitants of the forest who lead her on an adventure. It starts off simple pretty straightforward, maybe just a little odd, by the end you are questioning reality, but in a good way. As long as you don’t mind a little confusion I would totally recommend this book.

Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker–At first glance this might seem very similar to Sleeping Beauties, which was why I picked it up in the first place. However, it is a very different story. The sleeping disease first appears on a college campus which leads to the small surrounding town being quarenteened. It can affect anybody, man, woman, young old, etc., and it an lead to death in more ways than one. The book takes us through the events on the campus and the town during the epidemic.

Hazards of Time Travel by Joyce Carol Oates–This is another really trippy concept. A future dystopian United States where asking questions in a valedictorian speech is punishable by exile. Adriane Strohl is sent to the year 1959 to serve out her four year excile in a small Winsconson college.

Suspicious Minds: The First Official Stranger Things Novel by Gwenda Bond–This is the perfect read to gear up for the new season soon to be released. Essentially, the novel is a prequel to the series. In the novel, a group of students participate in a research study with the infamous Dr. Brenner. The main character and one of the students is Terry Ives, Eleven’s mother. Eventually, becoming suspicious of Brenner’s true intent they hatch a plan to stop him. Definitely a must read if you are a fan of the show.

Nonfiction

Creating From the Spirit : Living Each Day as a Creative Act by Dan Wakefield–This book is a pretty damn good guide to living a creative life. It discusses many of the myths people believe about writers and other artists. Most of these myths include self destructive and unhealthy behaviors and habits. He debunks these myths and discusses healthy ways to encourage your creativity. Reading this made me evaluate myself, especially bad habits I excuse in the name of my creativity.

The Thirsty Muse: Alcohol and the American Writer by Tom Dardis–The book focuses on four famous writers who embodied and reinforced the hard drinking writer stereotype. It was mentioned in the previous book and piqued my curiosity. It details and examines the role of alcohol in the writing of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and O’Neill. It’s a pretty interesting read and a good cautionary tale for those that think drugs or alcohol will help their creativity.

One Last One

High Heat by Richard Castle–I’ve read a couple of books in the series and they are usually quick and fun reads. I don’t expect much from a book written by a fictional character, but this one was just not good. The story focuses too much on a subplot about Nikki Heat’s mother instead of the central case. Which is likely because the case is so unoriginal and totally predictable. I spent most of the book yelling in my head at the characters for being so stupid. I think I’m done with these books.

These are just a small sample of books from the past couple of months. Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any and how you liked them. If not let me know what books you would recommend.

Praise Does Not Make a Writer Better

Standard

Over the years I’ve taken many writing and English classes. I enjoyed most and did learn some stuff. But only one has ever had a major impact on me and drastically improved my writing. It was a creative writing workshop I took once I returned to school. For the first half of the semester I dreaded it. Once I befriended a classmate we commiserated regularly about how much of a hard ass the instructor was.  The first piece I handed in, he gave back to me refusing to grade it until it was properly proofread and edited. He once told her to completely scrap a piece she shared in class. Essentially he had high standards and was brutally honest when we fell short. It took a while to sink in but we eventually realized he wasn’t tough on us for the hell of it or because we were bad writers. Actually, quite the opposite was more likely.

He was hard on us because he knew we could do better. I eventually came to appreciate it and realized that it was exactly what I needed. Throughout school I always had basic grammar issues and struggled proofreading and editing my work. It was often filled with typos, missing words, and grammatical errors. I don’t remember a time I didn’t get something back filled with red marks. However, my grades were usually pretty good, teachers praised my writing and encouraged me. My first college writing class was a reality check, it was the first time those minor errors had a major affect on my grade. However, I was able to hand in revised papers for a better grade. Unfortunately, my proofreading skills did not improve, instead I relied on the professor to point out the issues in my writing. Despite many of the problems being basic grammar issues I didn’t understand, ie run-on and fragment sentences, she also encouraged me and complimented my writing skills.

The instructor for the workshop, was the first person that ever pushed me to improve. All the praise I had received over the years made me a lazy writer. I had a false sense of confidence and couldn’t see where or how to improve. He did not sugar coat things, he cared more about the writing than hurting my feelings. The last assignment of the semester was a one act play. That’s the one area of writing I never had any interest in so my I didn’t put much effort into it. I don’t remember the exactly what I said but it was some excuse for it not being better. He said, “No, it’s because you gave up.” It was the absolute truth and was better than any amount of praise I could ever get.

Have you ever received feedback that hurt your feelings but helped your writing?  I’d love to hear from other writers about who or what helped you improve your writing. Tell me about the teacher, mentor, etc. that helped you along the way in the comments below.

Book vs Movie: A Simple Favor

Standard

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts and this one is the result of pure coincidence. I had no idea the movie was based on a book and checked it out of library hoping to just watch an entertaining movie. A day or so later before I even got the chance to watch it, I came across the book. My crazy brain decided it was a sign, so I held off watching the movie until after the book. I was able to finish it in a matter of days, it’s a pretty quick read, although I may have rushed it a bit.

The book is okay, it’s a good read. It jumps into the story quickly, with a blog entry from Stephanie about her missing friend Emily. Stephanie is a stay at home mommy blogger, very sweet, and innocent seeming. She comes across very sympathetic especially placed opposite the darker, mysterious Emily. Most of the book is written from her point of view and we get a really well rounded picture of her. She has some questionable actions but she still seems like the victim and you can’t help but root for her. On the other hand the few chapters from Emily’s point of view kind of just make you not like her, at all. It sheds a little light on her motivations, however, she really seems to lack substance. It’s all very surface level making her seem selfish without any remorse of self reflection.

The movie is not so different from the book, we get the same basic story with a few different twists. Some are completely understandable and necessary, for example changing Stephanie’s written blogs into videos. One change I really liked was adding to Emily’s backstory which was pretty non-existant in the book. The movie does a much better job of creating a well rounded character and we can almost understand some of her actions. I really liked the movie, until the end. I’ll start by admitting that the ending of the book is pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, but not half bad. The movie on the other hand is not just unbelievable but actually bad. It ends with this scene that completely does not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie. While the movie does have some humorous moments, mostly due to Anna Kendrick, it’s pretty dramatic. However, the ending is almost comedic. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt like a parody of the rest of the movie. (If that makes sense.)

I think the movie did a good job with the source material. In fact, many of the deviations made it better than the book. But I just can’t get over the ending. In the end neither was that good.

Have you read the book, seen the movie? Let me know what you thought of either or both.

Celebrate National Poetry Month

Quote

OctPoWriMo Day 30 – Celebrate

Come join the gathering party

Cares thrown to the wind

Caused by strong libations

Caressing intimate places

Consumed by the spirits

Careless and uninhibited reveler

Cautions bring nobody joy

Visit my poetry blog to read more.

Writing Trouble

Standard

The past couple of weeks, I’ve felt pretty good about my progress writing. I have several blog drafts I worked on and other projects offline I’ve been working on. I really started feeling like I could do this, you know get ahead and just basically get somewhere. There are so many things I want to do. Things I’ve been trying to do. Goals I’d like to accomplish. Stories I’d like to write. Just in general moving forward. I thought I’d gotten past the excuses and bullshit that I let get in my way.

Then today I sat down, very motivated to finish writing and editing some of the drafts. Before starting I ended up going onto Youtube, big mistake. I wasted an hour watching a video. Okay that’s fine I can recover, it’s early I still have all day. So I finish up the video, move over to WordPress and try to work on something. I ended up trashing the whole draft. The topic, the approach, everything seemed right. It seemed like exactly the kind of thing I should be writing and posting about. Nothing I typed seemed right though. I thought maybe I’ll switch over to something else. Just looked at them and felt absolutely no inclination to work on them. Again a great idea until I actually start to execute. I feel stuck. Now I just don’t want to do anything.

Thought maybe writing this might make me feel better. It hasn’t. But hey I’m posting something. (That is if I actually go through with posting this.)

Book VS Movie: The Shining by Stephen King

Standard

Despite watching the movie The Shining a bunch of times and being a huge Stephen King fan, I never got around to reading the book. When I started this series of posts I decided it was about damn time.

It’s a different experience reading the book after already having seen the movie. I found it really interesting to get more background about the Torence family, our main characters. The novel includes details about their life before moving to Denver, Jack’s alcoholism, how he lost his teaching job, and even memories of his own abusive father. I’ve read that Stephen King didn’t like the adaptation mainly due to the lack of character arc. I can understand his point, Jack’s descent in the novel is much slower and you actually see his struggle for control. You really see a guy that wants to do the right thing for his family. And one thing I did always hate about the movie was Wendy. The character in the book is nothing like the weak and timid woman in the movie. I can’t really say I like the book better, but it was nice to really go in depth into the characters, even some of the minor characters like the cook, Dick Hallorann.

While the novel and the movie share a basic story, they are depicted in very different ways. Few of the iconic scenes from the movie appear in the book. There are not creepy twins,  the elevators do not spew blood, no hedge maze and the ending is completely different. Some of these do take inspiration from the book, for example the caretaker that killed his family had two daughters and the elevators were a major aspect of the haunting. Also the book featured topiary hedges in animal shapes instead of the maze. I assume the limitation of the time kept them from featuring these creatures come to life as they do in the book. For those that pay attention there are also very small details, for example the scrapbook that has a major role in the book does at least make an appearance in the movie.

So now I’ve read the book and really liked it. Still love the movie though. I can’t really say I think either is better. Yes the movie deviates from the book, a lot. But in my opinion many of the changes were due to the change of media. The movie was good because of the visual elements while the book was much more focused on the characters. I’m not sure the movie would have been as good if they tried to stick closer to the novel.