Monday, April 15, 2019

Daisy Jones and the Six

I don't remember how I heard about this book - everyone's buzzing about it, so maybe I saw a friend was reading it via Goodreads, or saw it on #bookstagram. Either way, I put it on hold at the library and didn't have to wait too long to start it. I was so excited to crack open the cover, which felt amazing in itself, because I haven't been reading much lately.

Then I started the story. WOW. Not only do I love classic rock and band drama from the '70s, but it's so well-written, and presented in an interesting way of the author compiling a narrative from all parties involved.

Also, it's totally the book I've been trying to write for decades.

I'm not saying the author stole my work or my idea or anything like that! I'm just feeling validated that this idea I had as a thirteen year old Aerosmith fanatic might actually have literary merit! I thought the story I was writing was glorified fan fiction, but  Daisy Jones and the Six has me rethinking that, and revisiting my story.

There are so many quotes about how you can't be a writer without being a reader, and I've always been a reader. And I've always loved music. And falling in love with Aerosmith as a young teenager gave me a way to connect music and writing. I worked on my fan fiction novel off and on for several years. I'm not exaggerating when I say I think of it often, even as an adult. I think of the title (which I still think is pretty perfect), and the main character, and what really should happen in the end. Because of course I haven't finished it!

But now, on the cusp of finishing Daisy Jones and the Six and honestly having no clue what will happen, I'm intrigued about my own story again. I want to re-read what I wrote so long ago, and see how my age and wisdom (ha!) might influence how the story will pan out. It's so refreshing to find a book that has not only made me fall in love with reading again, but has also made me fall back in love with writing, imagining, and all that comes along with that type of creating.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dahl Study: Neck

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"Neck" from Collected Stories (read 1/3/19)

This story was a little strange overall. It took a bit to get into the action, then I think the ending was over my head (no pun intended). A newspaper columnist meets an important man's wife, and manages to get invited to their estate for the weekend. The husband used to own a newspaper when he was single, but he got rich, his wife nailed him down, and now he is an art collector and has huge statues all over the estate. The columnist hits it off with the husband while the wife is very rude and flirts with other guests. The newspaper columnist and husband walk the grounds and see the wife goofing around with a guest, even kissing him. She gets her head stuck in a statue and the husband has to cut her out with an ax or saw... but the ending was ambiguous to me. I think he lets her die from asphyxiation? 

"Neck" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 1/3/19)

The show cut to the chase quickly, having an art historian (instead of a columnist) come to the estate of an art collector and his wife. The wife came on to the art historian in his room one night - something that wasn't in the story. The backstory of the husband owning a newspaper and his wife chasing him into marriage came out in later dialogue. The sculpture scene and kiss happen, but the husband first tries to put Vaseline on the wife's neck to pull her head out. It makes her mad that he makes her messy trying this, because it makes her look silly. I was hoping the film would show the ending to clear it up for me, but it still had him going for her/the sculpture with an ax, and her screaming, so who knows. Maybe he chopped her head off with the ax in this one?

Friday, April 5, 2019

Dahl Study: The Landlady

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"The Landlady" from Collected Stories (read 1/3/19)

A young man takes the train to a new city for his job. He is supposed to find his own room, and asks for a recommendation. On his way to the recommended pub, he sees a cozy-looking room with a bed and breakfast sign in the window. He stops there instead of continuing on to the recommended place. It's cheaper than he was expecting, so he stays. The woman seemed to have been waiting for him, and she is very...into him. She has him sign the guestbook and he sees two names only. The names sound a bit familiar to him. Then he learns the woman is a skilled taxidermist, and she says her two other guests never left...

"The Landlady" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 1/3/19)

This starts off similar to the story, but is more explicit in laying it out. The landlady gives the young man tea and explains about her taxidermy and then the young man starts feeling sick. She takes him to his bed as he tries to figure out how he knows the two other names in her guestbook. It then shows her "caring for" the two taxidermy men before returning to the newest young man, donning her apron, and readying her supplies.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Reading Life: 1st Quarter 2019

My reading life for the first three months of 2019 has been pretty sad. I read 8 books in January, 3 in February, and 7 in March. You can see all my reviews on Goodreads, but I wanted to share my top three here.

Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival
by Kelly Sundberg 

Recommended by a friend, and I would in turn recommend it to pretty much anyone. Sundberg is so open and honest about her relationship history, her marriage, and being a mother. Her prose is beautiful and emotional and touching. Many sections had me nodding in agreement, others had me biting my nails, and others had me weeping. A must-read.

by Jennifer Mathieu

I cannot rave about this book enough. I keep thinking “I wish I had this when I was in high school” but honestly, it seems just as important to me as an adult. It’s inspirational, moving, and will make you feel empowered. Beautiful writing, wonderful story. Highly recommend for EVERYONE to read.

Alice Isn't Dead
by Joseph Fink

I haven’t really listened to the podcast much due to listening time constraints, so I was excited to get my hands on the book. I loved this creepy, surreal story that made such a realistic commentary about human nature. Now I’ve got to carve out time to listen to the podcast.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Dahl Study: Lamb to the Slaughter

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"Lamb to the Slaughter" from Collected Stories (read 12/28/18)

A woman who was always serving her husband - drinks, homemade dinners, etc. - is told that he's leaving her. On autopilot, she goes to get some meat from the freezer to prepare dinner for him. Before putting the huge leg of lamb in the oven, she clubs him with it, then runs to the grocery (for vegetable sides) to have an alibi. She comes home to "find" her husband dead and calls the cops. Her alibi checks out with the grocer. The cops can tell her husband was hit with a heavy object, so they are looking for it, but agree to take a break when she offers them some of the lamb that's been cooking, since it's way too much food and she's not hungry, anyway. 

"Lamb to the Slaughter" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 12/31/18)

The film was BEAUTIFUL. I actually loved it more than the story. To be fair, if the story had been done the same way, it would seem like the author was withholding information, so I guess it's fine as it is. The film, though, starts with showing the wife coming in from the store and seeing the body. We're in the dark, but the pieces are revealed to us through flashbacks as the cops question her. So well done (no lamb pun intended!). I would love to see this as a play.

There are a few nit-picky spoilers I noticed in the film, particularly since I'd read the story and knew the outcome. When the wife comes in from the grocery store, she is already/automatically looking at the floor where her husband's body fell after she bludgeoned him. Also, she sees her husband dead on the floor and stays in the house to wait on the cops, not worried that whoever killed her husband might also come after her.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Dahl Study: William and Mary

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"William and Mary" from Collected Stories (read 12/28/18)

This is an incredibly weird, Twilight Zone-y story about a philosopher who is very ill and dying. He is approached by a neurosurgeon he knows from working with him at the university. The neurosurgeon convinces the philosopher to donate his brain to science, and the neurosurgeon is sure he can keep it alive. The neurosurgeon works to explain to the philosopher how it will work, how they can even take an eye so the brain can see, and how nothing would be lost if it doesn't work. This is all happening while the philosopher's health is declining.

The reader only finds all of this information out after the philosopher's death, at the same time as his wife. She gets a letter a week after her husband has died, laying out all of this information in his own words. He tells her who to contact to visit his brain, if she chooses.

The wife has been unhappy throughout most of their marriage, but decides to contact the neurosurgeon and check on the status of her husband's brain. It's there, in the lab as he described it would be in the letter. It's hooked up to things that keep the brain alive and eye functioning, so he can see his wife as she approaches the tank.

This is an interesting take on life and thoughts and what it's all worth, and how it could all work.

"William and Mary" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 12/31/18)

The film is quite different from the book, since the bulk of the story is told through the letter the wife gets after her husband's death. This had to be changed so the film wouldn't be boring, watching a woman read a letter while listening to a voiceover. Instead, all of the backstory is presented by the neurosurgeon to the wife, but this presentation lessens some of the shock that comes from reading the story. While the background is given, we are shown footage of a similar experiment done to an animal that succeeded, so some of the wonder of "will it work?" is lost.

The story ended with the wife wanting to take her husband home, but in the film she gets him and it's a bit hokey to see the whole set-up in their living room, with the wife sassing the brain. I like the ambiguity of the story more, but I guess the shock factor and the definite ending were needed for the film version.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Stinky and Dirty Show

I'm loving all of these children shows being developed from children's books! I reviewed the first episode of Pete the Cat a looooong time ago, and unfortunately haven't watched the rest of the show yet! It's one that I feel like I should watch with my son, but he'd rather watch the same episode of Paw Patrol for the hundredth time - anyone else have that problem? I'll probably watch several of these Amazon Prime and Netflix kids' shows on my own, and just let him sit in if he wants.

One we can both agree on, however, is The Stinky and Dirty Show. This show is loosely based on books by Kate McMullan and Jim McMullan. It's such a cute show, with the catchiest theme song ever. I love how childlike the characters are, and how full of wonder they are. Stinky and Dirty (from I Stink! and I'm Dirty!) are the main characters, but Brave and Mighty have their own books, too.

I love hearing the voices picked for the characters on the show. Billy West (Futurama), Wallace Shawn (The Princess Bride), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants), Jane Lynch, Andy Richter, Joan Cusack, and Whoopi Goldberg all voice characters! Mostly I just love that the two main characters are children. When I read the books aloud, I automatically use a tough voice because the stories are all about showing that different vehicles can do. I read it as a "You don't think I can do this? I'll show you," attitude. Hearing the friendly tones of the show made me wonder if I was totally misreading the books! I might have been reading the book characters a little rude - whoops!

There are already two excellent seasons of this show, and my son and I are both excited to see more! The stories are really cute, and I love the animation style! It's pretty true to the book illustrations, but just looks amazing on screen.

Have you watched The Stinky and Dirty Show? Have you read the books? What did you notice that was similar or different?

Friday, March 15, 2019

Dahl Study: Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" from Collected Stories (read 12/28/18)

I was originally put off by the framing of the story - "Let me tell you a story I heard..." It reminded me of stories in undergraduate creative writing workshops, even after we were told to not frame them that way or as dreams.

The meat of the story was SO GOOD. I had no clue what would happen with the pawn shop, and my mind was churning trying to figure it out! I was trying to decide how and why the pawn shop clerk had ripped off the husband before deciding to root for him.

This is a great O. Henry-esque story with a nice twist. It's an interesting case where both characters are "bad" people - so you want to know what happens to them without really being invested, which makes for an entertaining read.

"Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 12/31/18)

In the introduction, Dahl says the story is short but took him a long time to write because he had to get the plot just right. The film was a bit different - no frame of "Let me tell you this story I heard," which of course made me love it more. There were some minor differences in that Mrs. Bixby traveled by train from New York City to Brooklyn in the story, but flew abroad on film, which also changed how long she was gone and how often she visited.

Everything else was so well done, just like in the story. I would pay good money to know what happened in the elevator after the credits rolled!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dahl Study: Man from the South

My author study of Roald Dahl started with a reading of his Collected Stories while watching the accompanying episode of Tales of the Unexpected. Each Friday I'll recap a story and show (with spoilers, just so you know), but I encourage you to read and watch them on your own if you're interested!

- - -

"Man from the South" from Collected Stories (read 12/27/18)

The suspenseful build-up of this story is very well done. I knew the story from Four Rooms, which Tarantino adapted as "The Man from Hollywood" - but the ending of the film is drastically different! I was waiting for that ending, so the suspense might have been ramped up a bit for me. It made the "real" ending seem like a little bit of a letdown, especially after being on the edge of my seat for the bulk of the story. It still has a nice twist at the end, though.

The start of the story had a Salinger-ish feel to it, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in particular. It's interesting to read Dahl's children's books with energy and adventure and nonsensical words, and then read a straight-forward story with tension and little emotion.

"Man from the South" from Tales of the Unexpected (viewed 12/31/18)

Introduced by Dahl, he explains that he only writes two short stories a year because he knows he has to keep the reader's attention for every second, or else he's "dead".

The story is followed exactly, even really filmed in Jamaica. The suspense during the lighter scene had my heart pounding even though I knew what would happen. That's the sign of a good writer and a powerful story - not dependent on a hook or twist ending that keeps you from enjoying it on repeated readings/viewings (ala The Sixth Sense). Very well done.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Roald Dahl Author Study

Roald Dahl has been one of my favorite authors since I read several of his books as a child. I knew he wrote books and stories for adults, but never read any of them until a couple of years ago, when I first read "Man from the South" after seeing Four Rooms.

I've always wanted to do an author study on Dahl, so I finally made time for it! I started reading Collected Stories over winter break. In true booknerd fashion, I also borrowed the DVDs of Tales of the Unexpected - a British TV show that Dahl used to write for.

I will be posting recaps of the short stories from Collected Stories and short films from Tales of the Unexpected every Friday, starting this week and running until my photography show wraps up... and maybe a bit beyond.

Oh, I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Last year, I had a photography show, Full Power of Magic, up during the run of James and the Giant Peach at the Circuit Playhouse. My exhibit was inspired by the book. This year, I'll have a photography exhibit up while Matilda runs at Playhouse on the Square. My exhibit this year is inspired by titles of Dahl's short stories. So I guess the start of this author study could also count as photography research...

Articles of interest:
New Zealand McDonald's are giving away Roald Dahl books in Happy Meals

My other posts relating to Dahl:
Banned Books: The Witches
The Many Matildas

Monday, February 18, 2019

You: Books to Shows

You and Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

I've wanted to talk to everyone about You after I binge-watched it on Netflix, but it's hard to find people who have watched it, read it, or both. A friend loaned me the book in October with the disclaimer that she, a fan of psychological thrillers, bought it based on the back cover blurb alone. I'm always excited to have books recommended to me, and I don't judge reading tastes, so I was looking forward to it... and read it in about a day.

As soon as I started reading, I realized the language is pretty brutal and it’s VERY creepy. Overall I couldn't put it down and sought out the follow-up, so what does that say about me?

It was very twisted but I think a lot of the language was over-the-top, and while it didn’t seem out of character for Joe, it could have been taken out and he would come off just as creepy and horrible. Some of the situations in the book seemed like they were there for shock value - or at least the language used to describe them was for shock value. It made me like the story a little less.

But the show polished up the story and took out a lot of the language and scenarios that seemed to be too much. They added some characters, like the little boy, and added some scenes that weren't necessary, but I won't pretend to understand what makes good TV. I'm sure they had reasons for adding in the kid and the abused neighbor and all the drama that brought in.

I think this has been one of my favorite book-to-movie adaptations, because even though I didn't like the book much, I thought the story was interesting, and that was really given room to shine on screen. The writing was what brought down the book, in my opinion, so having a chance to revise the story really made it better.

As I mentioned, I read the sequel and have heard that it will be "season two" of the show, so I'll definitely be tuning in for that!

Did you watch You? Did you read the book before, or after, or not at all? What did you think of the book compared to the show? I love dissecting things like this, so leave your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Writing Habits

My January writing stats - I got a sticker for every day I wrote 2 pages.

In undergrad and grad school, I studied creative writing and wrote all the time. I'd get writer's block for sure, but often it was not being able to finish a story as opposed to not being able to start anything.

I wrote a lot the years I freelanced and traveled; I kept detailed journals but was also inspired to write fiction. Once I settled down, I woke up early every morning to walk three miles and then come home to write three pages before work.

All of that changed when I had a baby. I still wrote, but it was sporadic. Of course it didn't make things easier that I started my Masters of Library Science a week before my son was born! Most of my writing was book reviews and research papers - still enjoyable, but not too creative and not on a routine, like I used to have.

Even as my son grew older and more independent, I still struggled to write. I struggled to find the time and the energy. The silence the let my own thoughts have a voice. Not that I had any ideas to explore. My brain seemed incapable of doing anything more than writing To Do lists and budgeting money. Great qualities when you're head of the household, but not much fun, creatively.

I tried so hard to find the right creative outlet, because I was sure there were still stories inside me, somewhere. I turned back to photography, which I've always loved and has always inspired me. I tried making miniatures out of clay. I tried to launch podcasts with different formats, none of which felt right. I tried to lessen the creative pressure on myself by coloring in coloring books. Nothing helped the stories come back to me.

Last spring I pushed myself to write a poem a day. It didn't last too long, because I started with haikus just to "get it over with", and then didn't hold myself to the routine. But it still sparked something inside me. When I was making New Years Resolutions for 2019, I knew writing had to take priority. I set the goal of completing one writing prompt a week, then started mining my brain for words, phrases, concepts, ANYTHING that could be used as a writing prompt.

I have a list of prompts in a notebook. I completed one, the first week of the new year. I started another the second week, but haven't yet finished it. It turned out to be more of a novella than a short story, so I wanted to dedicate time to it. What I found, though, was that the routine benefits me more than the goal of writing some-finished-thing.

My resolution has since informally morphed to "write two pages a day". I would still like to finish a handful of short stories this year, but I'm currently more focused on establishing the routine than creating something quality every week.

In January, I wrote 28 days out of 31. I've noticed that waking up earlier helps with my creativity (I woke up early every day I wrote my first short story of 2019) and doesn't give me a chance to put off writing for the day. My goal for February is to wake up early every weekday and write, so I can't use the "I'm tired" excuse when I get home from work.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Shifting Shelves

I know all about switching books out on shelves according to season, themes, colors, etc etc. You can't be on Instagram/#bookstagram and not see that stuff, honestly. While I understand the concept and appreciate the idea, I just never had time for it. Plus, whenever I switched out my kid's toys, he would immediately ask for the toys I just put away, even though he hadn't touched them for two months prior! So playing the same game with his books just seemed exhausting and pointless.

After doing the 12 Days of Christmas Storytime with my son, I realized how fun it was to have a different book to read every night. I'll admit I have some favorites that I love to re-read, just like he does. But... we often don't agree on which ones we'd like to read over and over again. Reading new books together made bedtime fresh and exciting for us, so I realized it was definitely time to go through his shelves and change things up.

I pulled his books into stacks, such as: 
  • spring and summer books, including birthday books because he's a summer babe
  • fall and back to school books
  • Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and winter books
  • series and favorites

I left the series and favorites on the shelves, because we read obviously read our favorites a lot, and with series, there are multiple titles, so while we're reading the same characters for several nights, each book is different. I also left out some of his board books. While some board books can be intended only for babies, the ones I left out have more of a story to them, or are favorites, or are ones he can "read" independently.

We have tons of children's books, so I added some "random" anytime titles to the seasonal stacks, just to have fresh books on the shelf that aren't specific to the time of year. I also culled some to donate, because we already have more than we need, and we go to the library to max out our cards fairly often! We'll donate some to a local women's and children's charity, and keep some to put in Little Free Libraries around town.

As an added bonus, there's now room on his shelves for some of his smaller toy bins. They also fit under his bed, but often get pushed back too far to reach, so this is a great solution. I love how his shelves look right now, but the real test will come in March when I get out the spring and summer books, because... what will I get rid of? I guess I can use his Goodreads account to keep track of what we read this year and put those away to bring out next year after Christmas? Who knows! It's an interesting experiment I hope I can keep up with, especially given the volume of books we own!

Do you change out your child's bookshelves? Or your own? What themes or system do you use to change them out? Share in the comments!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Bird Box: Books to Movies

Everyone has something to say about Bird Box, the book, the movie, or both. So I'm going to assume that if you're reading this, you've read the book and seen the movie. If not, stop here because SPOILERS. I am going to be comparing the two, so be warned: no holds barred.