Tag: literature

Book Review: Life After Life

life after lifeThis week instead of doing a Teaser Tuesday I thought I would share with you my latest book review from off of Goodreads. I read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It’s a clever premise but ends up feeling more like a gimmick by the end. I didn’t hate it but didn’t love it either. It’s about a woman who repeats life over and over again. Sometimes she dies as an infant, sometimes as a child. Sometimes she is raped as a teen, sometimes she has affairs, sometimes she shoots Hitler in 1939. That’s quite the deviance!

I think it would have been better if Ursula had learned more from each life. In the end it feels more like a soap opera with a vaguely time travel element. But not a total loss.

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some people will see 2 stars and think ‘how can you hate this book Rachel!’. According to Goodreads 2 stars means ‘it’s ok’ and that’s exactly how I felt about this book. It’s just ok. I didn’t hate it and I didn’t love it. It’s just ok.
It’s definitely a creative premise. It’s kind of Edge of Tomorrow in WW2 era (wrap your mind aroudn that statement!). But once you get over the unique premise it starts to feel more like a gimmick than a truly good story. After all, how interesting is Ursula really in all of her lives? She’s ok but nothing special.
She does kill Hitler in a life but even that is kind of a footnote. Most of the lessons she learns seem to be how to either not die as a child or not be with a terrible man. That’s not as compelling as killing Hitler. I certainly hope if I relived my life again and again I would make better choices than Ursula does. Perhaps Atkinson is trying to say something about fate and destiny but it ends up being kind of meh.
Still she’s not a terrible writer and there are some engaging sequences. The gimmick has some novelty so I’m glad I read it. It might actually make a better movie than book. I think in a movie you could do things visually that might help it not feel so repetitive and maybe skip a couple of the lives that really didn’t matter much.
Overall, it’s fine but not great. Just ok. Maybe in the sequel she can actually live some interesting lives like bet on the stock market at the right time or something like that? At the very least figure out how to not date losers. Give us that!

View all my reviews

So what do you prefer a review like this after I’ve finished the book or a Teaser Tuesday while I’m in process? Let me know in the comments section. And if you are on goodreads follow me!
Have any of you read Life After Life? What did you think? What are you reading these days?

Teaser Tuesdays: Huckleberry Finn

huckleberry finn2

This week’s Teaser Tuesdays s another classic I’m enjoying reading all over again.  It’s Mark Twain’s seminal work Huckleberry Finn. In some ways on this read-through I am reminded a lot of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Both books are dependent upon their narrator for tone, humor and spiritual insight.  Both have very similar narrators in  a way- Southern kids who are skeptical about the world.

On this read-through I’m reminded how funny Huck can be and what a likable character he is.  I particularly like the way he see’s Jim- as just another person.  He doesn’t seem to grasp the danger of his situation until later in the story and there is something refreshing about that naivety.  What’s great about Mark Twain is he manages to carry important messages while not taking things too seriously.  It’s like he tricks you into thinking profound thoughts! This is particularly true later on in the novel in the scenes between the Grangerfords and Shepherdsons. Its considered by many to be the great American novel and I can see why!

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page (or I like to do the page I’m currently reading)
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.

huckleberry finn

This week my sentence is on page 25 of Huckleberry Finn: (Jim is reading Huck’s fortune from his hairball)

“You gwyne to have considerable trouble in yo’ life, en considerable joy.  Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you’s gwyne to git well ag’in.  Dye’s two gals flyin’ bout you in yo life.  One uv ’em’s light en t’other one is dark.  One is rich en t’other is po’. You gwyne to marry de po’ one fust en de rich one by en by”

Do you like Huckleberry Finn or do you think it is an overrated classic?  Which do you prefer Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer?   It’s surprising there has never been a great movie version of Huckleberry Finn.  Maybe Hollywood is afraid of the racial contexts but that hasn’t stopped them with other material.  I would be curious to see what African American director Steve McQueen would do with it (he directed 12 Years a Slave).

NaNoWriMo Tag and My Writing Process

So NaNoWriMo is coming and I feel a little unprepared but am excited!  I filmed this video about NaNoWriMo video today and it included a tag.  In the video I go into my process for writing and has little segments of all 3 of my books (this will be my 4th year doing NaNoWriMo).

Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year?  What are you writing about?  What strategies do you use to finish the challenge?  I would love to discuss it in the comments.  It is going to be a challenge for me this year with everything else I have going on but luckily I am a pretty fast writer so it should be ok.  I will certainly do my best.

If you are doing NaNoWriMo please follow me on the NaNoWriMo website and let’s support each other!

http://nanowrimo.org/participants/smilingldsgirl

Happy writing!!

Nanowrimo Surprise Attack

So friends of the blog will probably be aware 2015 will be my 4th year entering the Nanowrimo challenge.  This is a world-wide challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I am a very fast writer so typically it hasn’t that big of a challenge; however, I have usually had a clear idea of what I am writing about well in advance of November.  This year it has kind of creeped up on me.   And now I am sitting with under a month to start date with no idea what to write about….Yikes!

I am also a little nervous because with two blogs and a youtube channel it is going to be tough to fit it all in (not too mention a job and other responsibilities!).  I’ve got to finish my animated Oscars series over on my channel before the challenge starts.  I have gotten a little bit behind but should post 2012 this week.  That leaves only 10 films to watch (only…).  Plus, there are new films like Bridge of Spies, Suffragette, Macbeth and Good Dinosaur to see and review in the next 2 months.  How am I going to fit writing a novel into all of this? Much less a novel I have no idea what to write about?

nanowrimoTo my fellow Nanowrimo friends has it caught you by surprise before or do you always have a plan on what you are writing about?   The two best ideas I have come up with so far is to basically take another stab at writing my first book.  It’s been a while and I’m not working in accounting any more so I’m not as personally close to the story as I was when I wrote it in 2012.  It would be entirely new prose but just the same core plot of me quitting my job (it’s kind of a Devil Wears Prada type story).

That sounds kind of boring though writing the same plot and characters over again so I’d like to come up with some fresh take on it.  Unfortunately my mind is just blank on what to do.

The other idea I have is to use all 54 Disney films and have a character go through each of the worlds of the films.  It would be kind of like Once Upon a Time but I would cover movies they don’t like Treasure Planet and Atlantis.  It would basically be fan fiction but who cares if it is fun to write!

nanowrimo1This is kind of new territory for me as I have always been so focused in the past.  Do you have any suggestions for getting the brainstorming creative juices flowing?  I just read The Martian by Andrew Weir and loved it (and the movie) so that’s always inspiring and I am currently reading Dracula by Bram Stoker which is something totally new and different.  I wish I could write a book like Finding Audrey- my other favorite book of the year.

Anyway, I would love any feedback on those ideas or anything I could do to help me think of something else to write about.  Thanks so much!

Are any of you doing the Nanowrimo challenge?  I would love to know and follow you on the Nanowrimo website.  That way we can support one another.  Take care!

Talking Classical Novels with My Mom

It was so much fun today over at my youtube channel.  My Mom was kind of enough to join me on my channel for 2 videos about one of our favorite topics- books!  Particularly classic novels.  I’d love if you checked them out and gave them thumbs up.  Thanks!

I’m always open to anyone who wants come on my channel and help me with a video.  If you are willing let me know.  Even better if you have an idea for a video that would be amazing!

Thanks Mom!

My Favorite Books Video

Just wanted to share this with all of you guys.  I made a video on some of my favorite books.  Of course as soon as I finished I realized I had forgotten Jane Eyre and Howard’s End- 2 of my favorites.  Oh well.  These are very good!

I would love it if you would give it a thumbs up and subscribe to my channel if you are not already.  This video is a little bit longer so maybe more of a podcast length.  Put it on while you are doing busy work and I think you will enjoy it.

Here’s just the top 3 if you don’t feel like watching the long one.

Are any of the books I mention favorites of yours?  Please comment here or on the video.  Thanks!

Readers in Books

anne readingRecently I just finished a book called Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. It’s not terrible but it’s not great either.  One of the things that annoyed me about it was the lazy way it treated potentially interesting characters.

The book is set in a New Orleans brothel in the 1950s and focuses on a little girl named Josie as she grows up in this unusual environment.  Every cliche about a hooker with a heart of gold, idiotic but cruel mafia types, police officers who turn a blind eye are brought out and put on display.  The story has a very predictable love triangle and Madame who is tough talking Southern lady we’ve read in a thousand other books.

But I don’t want to talk about those characters because what got me thinking is how Sepetys makes Josie a reader. She even works and lives at a bookstore. It felt like a really lazy way of ascribing a whole bunch of qualities to the character without really developing it.  Just make her a reader and that will mean she is precocious, smart, thoughtful, introspective, a dreamer etc.

matilda readingThen I realized how often this is done with lots of different books, books I love. Usually combined with writing an author can make a character a reader and it immediately associates them with a whole list of attributes and traits. I find this to be particularly true with female characters. Has there ever been a female reader in a book that was silly and superficial?

jo readingI’m sure this is partly because authors are readers and so they like to ascribe lots of positive qualities to the character they most embody. It also saves the author from having to create complex characters in every story.

Sometimes the plot doesn’t need a complex character, or all she needs to be is the type of bold thinker associated with the trope.  There is nothing wrong with using cliches in your story (within reason) if it moves the story.  Certainly many books have gotten mired in unique characters and the plot has suffered.

reader jane austenJane Austen actually plays with the lazy assumptions of readers in Pride and Prejudice. Miss Bingley see’s Lizzie reading and trying to pin her foe down as the very type of woman I’m talking about: the percocious reader instead of the lady:

“Do you prefer reading to cards?” said he; “that is rather singular.”

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am NOT a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

Why is this so rare? Why not have a person who just enjoys reading on occasion? Or why not have a reader who also likes sports or playing cards?  Why do 99% of readers have to be the same?

10thingsBut it just made me think is the brilliant reader trope a thing because that’s actually the way readers are or is it a lazy way to continue a story and create a likable heroine? I feel like I know lots of different kind of readers but perhaps the one’s that self-identify as a ‘reader’ are more similar.  For example, my father likes to read a particular type of book but I don’t think he would list that as his first character attribute.

sound of musicThink about in Sound of Music. When Brigitta comes into roll call reading a book as a viewer you immediately assume tons about her character.  What do you guys think about that?  Is it lazy storytelling, necessary to quickly identify people or actually true to life?

simpsonsPerhaps it doesn’t really matter but I do wonder if it could ostracize certain people from reading because they don’t fit the stereotype of a ‘reader’. What if you are like Lizzie and take pleasure in many things?  What’s wrong with that? Books are so diverse that creating such a narrow definition of what a reader looks like could be discouraging for people who don’t want to be branded with that label or persona?

book theifI think this is particularly true for boys who may want the persona of being a comic book reader but not the more feminine quality of reading novels (although why that is a gender identifier I will never understand).

Maybe I’m overthinking it but I just know I get bored when I’ve seen a character a million times and know exactly what she is going to say, believe and do. Also some of the enlightened reader types are from my favorite books (Book Thief, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women etc) so it has kind of been done as good as you can do it. And those great books were developing their characters in other ways not using reading as a lazy writing crutch.

hermione

What do you guys think about readers in books and movies? Do you agree with me they can be pretty predictable or am I creating a pattern where none exists? What are some examples of more nuanced readers in books I may be overlooking?  Would love your feedback