When the Movie is BETTER Than the Book (Brooklyn by Colm Toibin)

When it comes to books and the movie counterparts, I have a pretty firm philosophy. I believe one should always read the book first. Throughout my life, this has led to some late night reading sessions - I clearly remember being in high school and devouring The Silence of the Lambs as quickly as humanly possible before a Friday night trip to the movies. And I have passed this philosophy on to my kids (or mandated it?) with the Harry Potter films: you don't read it, you don't see it!

And my other steadfast philosophy has been that the film usually: falls short of the book, can live up to it occasionally, and never surpasses the author's original work. The occasional films that I think live up to the books are definitely The Silence of the Lambs (the way they shot that ending sequence of Clarice on the wrong, but right, doorstep was JUST as chilling as the book), The Harry Potter films, The Martian, A Time to Kill, The Hunt for Red October, and Bridget Jones' Diary, to name a few.

I read Brooklyn earlier this year and kept meaning to check out the Oscar nominated film version, but never did. When my online book club chose it as our September pick to compare and contrast with the film, I finally sat down to watch.
Maybe it had to do with the fact that I was slightly underwhelmed by the novel, but the movie surpassed my expectations. I have always loved Saoirse Ronan (and have not so secretly harbored a love of her name), and she is just marvelous in this role. I honestly thought she breathed more life into the character than her paper counterpart, as did all of the supporting cast (especially Tony). Which I think is hard to do, because (more often than not) in the book we get to read all of the innermost thoughts of the character. 

When it comes to conveying a setting, for me, films actually have a slight advantage over written descriptions and I think this was definitely the case. Brooklyn and Ireland were standalone characters in the book and all of the crew behind the camera did an amazing job in this regard. The glimpses of everyday life during the 1950s in both settings were so evocative: the buildings, the dance halls, the stores, the beaches, the people, and the COSTUME DESIGN. Love love love. 

Lastly, I certainly don't mind an ambiguous ending to a book, but in the case where there is a CLEAR DECISION the main character is making and we don't get to be in on it? NO. And the movie delivered on this as well! An ending! A good one! 

Now I've been racking my brain to think of a film that I liked better than the book and I'm not coming up with much... Maybe The Lord of the Rings because, again, I didn't love the books (so slow! too long!) and Peter Jackson's films are some of the best of all time. Any recommendations? 


Everyday Life and Menu Plan 10.16.16

Well, the big news around here was that we dodged a bullet and did not have the disastrous wind storm we were expecting. I was mostly thinking that I did NOT want to postpone one of my favorite meals AGAIN.

But we got it all prepped and, worst case, planned to make it by lantern light. Thankfully we have a gas stove top. And thankfully we didn't even have to do that, AND thankfully we weren't without power for more than FIVE DAYS - which is was happened during the worst windstorm we've experienced during our time living in the Pacific Northwest. That was nearly 10 years ago and beyond terrible. 

Now we're overflowing with batteries, extra lanterns purchased last minute from Amazon, and books! Yes, our disaster preparedness plan calls for a trip to the library. 
By the way, local yokels, from what I understand - this is one of only FIVE shelves of two week checkouts in all the King County Library System. Get thee to the Kingsgate Library for some new and notable releases, or figure out where the other four offerings are!

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus! 


Great 'Odd Couple' Pairings in Children's Books

It's been such a joy to watch my six year old develop as a reader. She consumes the usual stuff - The Puppy Place books, Magic Tree House, any nonfiction about animals, you name it. But, I've noticed that both of my kids tend to re-read and gravitate towards things that are just below their reading level and that are humorous. Funny reigns supreme in our house and for awhile now, my girl has been infatuated with the adorable pairing of Frog and Toad.

Reading Lobel's classics with her has been SO FUN, and the way these two play off each other cracks me up. My favorite story is 'Cookies' wherein they try to have the willpower to stop eating cookies by making the treats harder and harder to reach. Eventually, Frog puts them in a box tied with string on top of the refrigerator. When Toad points out that that he could just climb a ladder to get the cookies, Frog gives them to the birds and, although they've achieved 'willpower', Toad declares he will go home and bake a cake. I am SO a Toad. They make us laugh as much as Elephant and Piggie, whom she still adores, and they are always on the top of the pile in her room.
And that got me thinking about the completely obvious connection between the two: the hilarity of an 'odd couple' pairing. There are so many great early readers she still loves that fit this mold: Fred and Ted .

Mac and Cheese
Toot & Puddle

Bink and Gollie
And probably so many more that I should keep a lookout for, maybe a good Bert and Ernie book...
If you have a six year old, what are they loving right now? Recommendations for readers from six to a hundred are always welcome!


Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (a NetGalley Review)

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Publisher: Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House (October 11, 2016)
Description from the publisher: 
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?
Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

Jodi Picoult's novels pretty much defined my reading life during my early 20s. I have read at least a dozen of her books (three of which I've reviewed here). Not all of them have been home runs, but they have all given me something to ponder. She is truly a master storyteller, and the queen of analyzing moral dilemmas. 
Small Great Things is up there with the best of them, although I had to put it down occasionally, it was so gut wrenching. Reading the parts told from the white supremacist father's point of view was so difficult, and downright nauseating at times. But these are the kind of things to which we must bear witness. I can't imagine what it must have been like for Picoult to write those passages, given that her viewpoint is crystal clear and bordering on political statement. Nonetheless, it's a statement that needs to be made and is made well. I highlighted so many passages - the ones I've included here were just a fraction of them.

"How am I supposed to encourage my son to be better than most people expet him to be? How can I say, with a straight face, you can be anything you want in this world - when I struggled and studied and excelled and still wound up on trial for something I did not do?"

There is so much to unpack in this novel on race, truth and our perception of both. 

"Love has nothing to do with what you're looking at, and everything to do with who's looking."

I thought that it got a little long winded in parts (I'm not the biggest fan of courtroom drama) and that she infused every possible nook and cranny of the character's lives with racial tension, even including a conflict between Kennedy and her mother over whether her daughter should dress up as the black Disney princess Tiana, which felt heavy handed at times - but, again, it is the truth of the world we live in. 

"How many exceptions do there have to be before you start to realize that maybe the truths you've been told aren't actually true?"

It was difficult for me to read and hope for an acquittal for Ruth. Because on one hand I wanted a happy ending - on the other, I couldn't help but think about the many people in her situation that would not receive justice and a happy ending. However, true to form, Picoult broke out some fantastic plot twists near the end and turned the tables on how I thought it would play out. It was a truly satisfying ending. 
I don't think I've read a book on social justice written by a white person. The entire time I was reading it, I couldn't help but wonder what my black friends might think or say about Ruth's point of view. Then her author's note at the end made so much sense, pointing out the fact that:
 "if I'd written only what I knew, my career would have been short and boring...For years I had done my homework and my research, using extensive personal interviews to channel voices of people I was not: men, teenagers, suicidal people, abused wives, rape victims....When it comes to social justice, the role of the white ally is not to be a savior or a fixer. Instead, the role of the ally is to find other white people and talk to make them see that many of the benefits they've enjoyed in life are direct results of the fact that someone else did not have the same benefits." 
I applaud her and her very worthwhile small great thing.

"We met an Aboriginal man, who showed us the Emu in the Sky, the constellation near the Southern Cross that is not a dot-to-dot puzzle, like our constellations, but the spaces in between the dots - nebulas swirling against the Milky Way to form the long neck and dangling legs of the great bird. I couldn't find it, at first. And then, once I did, it was all I could see."


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (10.9.16)

Well, the plague has hit our house and our meals from Friday/Saturday are gettin' pushed back. There was some heating leftovers and takeout going on, since my husband got sick and then my son got sick over the weekend. 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't hit the female contingent in our household.
Luckily, my kids were both healthy for their yearly fun run at school and all the planning that went into it paid off. The kids had a blast and we surpassed our fundraising goal for the year!
I was bummed to miss the Snohomish River Run while taking care of all the sickies in our house, but I don't think I was quite prepared for a 10K yet. I've worked up to one 4 mile run a week, and don't want a setback. I was able to get out for a rainy run on Saturday, my favorite!
And the sick folk were feeling well enough to get out of the house for some lunch and a spin around the bookstore today. I was waiting for the library hold for Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier to come in, but we went ahead and bought it. Smile and Sisters were great fun, so I'm excited to read it, too!
Since I feel like I've been Negative Nelly here on the weekly posts, and the world is a wee bit negative lately (yes, I am burying my head and writing during tonight's debate because I CAN'T EVEN), here are some distractions that have made me smile!


These AMAZING GIFS from The Creative Project are so soooooothing.

The other week I finally got around to determining my Patronus, a Tortioseshell Cat! And I'm a proudly sorted Ravenclaw. I highly recommend sorting yourself as an excellent distraction from real life and watching this video of Eddie Redmayne doing the same, especially if you have a thing for adorably freckled and light-eyed men of English/Irish descent (See also Ewan McGregor, Robert Redford, my husband).
Okay, I'm feeling better already! Here's to the fresh start of a new week!

As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus! 


Books I Read In September

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Definitely my favorite of the month, and you can read my review here!

Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam
This book gave me FEELINGS, and not the good kind. The main characters seemed like caricatures and not real women. I also felt as if it was kind of sexist. The two friends take different paths in life: the cookie cutter 'housewife' and 'career woman' roles. These roles are filled in an annoyingly stereotypical way. Sarah wants marriage and a family - she is shallow and boring. Lauren is career driven - she emotionally detached and sexually liberated. There is much navel gazing, and then... the end. I know that men are quite capable of writing women characters (Memoirs of a Geisha is what immediately leaps to mind), but I truly felt like the author had zero grasp on the female psyche and his style (So. Many. Sentence. Fragments.) was not my favorite. I will admit that it was a somewhat hypnotic read, and that carried me through to finish the book.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Two ARCs in one month! Here's my review on the latest novel from the author of Room.

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben
So this was a recommendation from my mom, who is a pretty big fan of thrillers. Whereas, I need a good convincing to pick one up. Most of the time our recs are hits (she told me about Me Before You, I got her reading The Hunger Games), but this was a miss for me. I liked it fine. It was a pretty compelling mystery, but I need more emotional pull and character development from my books. I think I would enjoy seeing the movie version of Fool Me Once - I appreciate a good action/whodunnit flick. This narrative is the kind of stuff I imagine goes on in those serial cop shows like Law and Order (no, I've never watched one), complete with slightly ridiculous dialogue. Sorry mom! Our batting average is still good, though.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
There are a few stories from This American Life that will always stay with me, and Lindy's was one of them. Last month, as I was looking through past months of Book of the Month Club selections to add to my order, I read the description for Shrill and made the connection that this was her book. It was equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, as I thought it would be - full of great insights:
"Women matter. Women are half of us. When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time - that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women's safety and humanity are secondary to men's pleasure and convenience."
Her story of navigating the pitfalls of life as a woman (and the ubiquitous misogynistic, racist internet trolls) gives me hope that we are on the path to improvement, rather than ruin.


Everyday Life and Menu Plan (10.2.16)

This week has been pretty boring, which I am always grateful for, especially compared with last week. The routine of school, volunteering and soccer is nice to settle into.

No one has been sick, either, so I hope we ride that train for awhile.
I enjoyed seeing so many familiar faces at the Oiselle warehouse sale, and stocked up on running gear I am super excited to break in this fall.
Oh, and our actual anniversary was midweek, and we celebrated by eating Portillos after soccer practice. Is that a tradition for 14 years? Apparently animals are!? I think we have enough of those. They are especially nice for lazy Sunday snuggles.
This week:
As always, I'm linking up with Org Junkie - be sure to check out all the great weekly menus!