Feb 2019 Books to Movies

I learned about ten years ago never to see a movie based on a book you have enjoyed too soon after reading it. After all, how can we expect any two hour rendition to hold up to our expectations after spending a good 15 to 30 hours quietly ensconced in our own vividly imagined version of the author’s meticulously developed world? I also now read critical reviews of such movies with more than the usual reserved skepticism for the same reason.

The “offending” movie ten years ago was the Twilight release in November 2008. My friend who later invited me to join the the book group had avidly read the series and was swept away in the books. It was not my usual cup of tea, but I could see she was eager to share and discuss, and I was eager to share with my friend. She passed the books to me and I set out with some reservation into this YA world. Harry Potter worked for adults, I reasoned.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by the books and when the first movie was released and my friend had arranged a trip down the mountain for us to see it at a big movie theater, I was almost finished with Breaking Dawn. In fact, I finished the last few pages wrapped up in her car in a snowy parking lot outside the doctor’s office that she visited on the way to see the movie. Terrible planning.

I was so disappointed with the casting of Bella and Edward, because they didn’t seem to come close to my own vivid image of the characters, freshly forged in my mind, that I didn’t enjoy the movie for what it was. It was a shame.

I am never drawn to read “romance” novels, but have always derived pleasure from romantic movies. An evening spent by myself on the couch with my pajamas on, and a blanket and the dog for company, while my husband is traveling for work is my time for romantic movies. Years later I did watch the whole Twilight series of movies during these times, and with much more enjoyment. I have known from that one experience that distance from the reading makes all the difference to me.

So that’s where I found myself this weekend. Husband traveling, bitterly cold outside, and in the mood for movies. Starting the blog had me in a book mood so I headed for “search” in the movie sections with the word “book.” Two movies came up that I hadn’t seen, but I had read the books and some years ago. With appropriate distance I decided to give them a go.

What a lovely evening!

Hardback book cover The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

First I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The movie didn’t seem to get rave written reviews from critics, but as far as I can see, it has been more warmly received than those reviews initially indicate with a rotten tomatoes score of 81%. In search of a romantic movie on a cold night in alone, it was exactly what I needed it to be. The movie was beautifully filmed. I believe the principle filming took place in Devon rather than on Guernsey, but I’ve never been to the island, and the setting was perfect. Don Roos and Tom Bezucha wrote a lovely screenplay that, of course, does not copy the book exactly. We need to stop expecting movies to do that. This is where the distance between reading and watching is essential. The book is an epistolary novel whose essence was extracted and enacted. Characters have been embellished for the screen; the story condensed, along with the theme at the heart of the book – the power of literature – which becomes a plot vehicle and more peripheral.

The film has been excessively described as “gentle,” but, I suppose, appropriately so. It was also criticized for being predictable – just how I like my romance movies. If the couple doesn’t end up a couple, well…that turns the movie into something else doesn’t it? In short, I loved the movie, I loved the casting. It was not the book, but I loved it anyway!

UK Book Cover The Book Thief

The second film I watched was The Book Thief . Despite numerous bad reviews, I really enjoyed this one too. Was it a severely diluted version of a beautifully written powerful book – Yes – but with the distance from reading it was a perfectly good movie in its own right with a charming performance from Sophie Nélisse as the orphan Liesel.

January 2019 Reads

Paperback Book Cover Uprooted by Naomi Novik

January’s book group pick was Uprooted by Naomi Novik, winner of the 2016 Nebula Award for Best Novel. I would like to say deservedly so, but that would be suggesting that I had read the other shortlisted titles and had an extensive background in fantasy and sci-fi literature, and that is not the case. I do enjoy fantasy and sci-fi novels, and I list them as favourite genres, but I have read broadly in neither the genres themselves nor the most popular authors within them. I have been lucky! The fantasy and sci-fi novels I have read have been excellent, and this was no exception!

Reset

I have started out the year strong and have boldly challenged myself to a 48 book total on my Goodreads challenge for 2019. Travel, work commitments, and life in general conspired to dampen my reading fire in the last quarter of 2018 and it did nothing to improve my mood. So, when I took some time over Christmas and the new year to read and listen to audiobooks that were stacking up around me, it set me right for the beginning of a new year. My attitude to life is significantly improved by a steady reading quota. Much in the same way that exercise boosts my energy and general disposition, reading keeps me relaxed and adjusts my perspective. It seems that the simple things I recognize as keeping me healthy and happy are the first to go when I get busy (isn’t that always the way?) and it doesn’t take too long for life to feel chaotic with those simple things gone.

It was time for a reset.

So far I have 9 books completed of the 48 book challenge which puts me 3 books ahead of schedule. It makes me smile, but I’m not taking that for granted. It is bitterly cold here right now and it gets dark very early in the evening. I work from my home office and spending a lot of time on my own in a house on the edge of a massive forest at this time of year gives me hour upon hour of free time…even if I work a 12 hour day.

Good old girl, ignoring me reading to her

I am a very lucky woman when it comes to the perfect reading spot. My good old dog and I sit in comfy soft leather chairs in the miraculous silence and I read. Sometimes I read to the dog. She pays no attention at all, but I have fun with the voices and imagine recording an audio book for a while before sinking back into the story and the silence again.

When my husband is home he has newly taken to reading by my side for while in the evening, instead of retreating to watch television, and this makes my heart smile.

I hope that the momentum lasts, now I just have to get the exercise moving in the same direction…

Book Group

I can’t write my reading journey without writing about the book group I belong to. This group has no name other than “book group,” but it has been running for 12 years and I have been a member since 2014.

I did a quick google search to see what people have already written on “reasons to join a book group.” I could sketch out a pretty hefty list of reasons myself, because I LOVE being in this group, but some of the reasons given tickled me.

I can safely say that “because snacks are often provided” didn’t cross my mind, and let me tell you I have a pretty ‘healthy’ appetite. “It gives you a reason to buy new books” also drew a snort. I clearly don’t need a reason, and I’m willing to posit that many members of book groups never need a reason to buy new books, and are drawn into book groups, in the main, fundamentally because they are people who never need a reason to buy new books. Don’t take me wrong – I chuckle only in fun – any reason to read more books is a good reason in my mind. If it’s snacks and buying books for some people then more power to them. I hope their book group experience is a good one, like mine, and they find myriad other reasons why it is worth their while.

I have been in other book groups during my life and I know that they are not all created equal. Finding a good and comfortable book group can make all the difference to your experience and for me it has to enhance my reading life in some way, or I don’t find it fun.

As far as I know, our book group with no name also has no rules, at least not spoken ones that we have to enforce. This makes me very happy indeed. When I joined in 2014 nobody presented me with “the rules,” and my experience so far, 5 years later, is that there are none. Everyone in the group follows the unwritten rules of decent and respectful behavior, and we always manage to engage in polite discussion, welcoming everyone’s viewpoints, and happily disagreeing in an agreeable way. If this sounds too good to be true – then you may be in the wrong book group. No one likes bullies and trolls and we are friends sharing a reading journey.

Our Non-Rules Include:

  1. If members happen to have a busy month and don’t read the book – they can still come to the book group meeting, and they do without embarrassment or stigma.
  2. If you can’t make the book group meeting, and then the next, and the next and so on, we do not banish you! Welcoming back a friend who has been sidetracked by the demands of a busy life is a happy occasion in our group.
  3. You can pick whatever you want on your turn. Our group is voluntary all the way. Members pitch a month they would like to host and pick the book for that month. Our leader emails the list of books and we take it from there.
  4. You don’t have to host at home. If you can’t accommodate everyone at your house for your month you can pick a cafe/restaurant/other suitable location for us to meet at.
  5. Audible/Kindle/hard copy friendly. No snobbery, no judgments, no prejudice. Your reading experience is your own. We like that there are members who have listened to the audiobook, it brings another dimension to the discussion every time.
  6. You don’t have to “lead the discussion.” Some people are not comfortable doing this and that is fine with us. I have never been to our book group meeting where no-one has information on the author, other reading suggestions, discussion questions etc.

There isn’t much else to say to introduce the book group. The relaxed attitude means no pressure and the book list is always diverse (I will post about our books and meetings as the year rolls on).

I hope you find a group that makes you welcome, comfortable, and happy. This group expands my reading horizons with a variety of genres, and fills my reading life with friends who share my passion for books…and there are always snacks!

These are the books we have chosen so far – Jan to October this year (2019)

January Rules

I have an immense stack of unread books. Piles of hard copies litter my office, bedroom, library, and coffee table. Pages of kindle downloads and audible books frown at me reprovingly. There are probably more volumes than I can ever hope to get through, accumulating over years and years as I gratefully accepted gifts, and grabbed discounts and freebies. I still bought more – I think it is a compulsion akin to sickness, and one I know I share with many others. Is there any point in trying to explain it, excuse it, justify it? You probably don’t care, and I certainly don’t. This year, though, I have made a pact with myself – this instead of making a “New Year’s Resolution.” The difference is that this is not something I can fail at. It has nothing to do with willpower and everything to do with rules.

The rules do not require me to stop buying books. That would be a stupid rule, very much like the New Year’s Resolution I just said I didn’t make. I’m not keen to set myself up to fail. I just hit a massive birthday milestone at the end of the month, one that is unfathomable to me, but nevertheless gives me, I believe, the requisite experience to really know who I am by now. Anyway, such a rule would already be broken (birthday visit to The Tattered Cover in Denver, I’m looking at you!).

No. My rules are much more practical and observable:

  1. Give away the hard copy books as you read them.
  2. Use books you already have for challenges.
  3. Use the library for the books you require for Book Group.

So, there you have it. Anyone could follow those rules, even me, and they are working out quite well so far, a full month and a half into the year.