Monday, April 23, 2018

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

I listened to the audiobook for Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson through Lawson reads the book herself, which in this case is a good thing. I cannot imagine anyone else reading this book and doing it justice.  The same is true for her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. You may have heard of Jenny Lawson; she has been a blogger for a long time as The Bloggess. Some parts of the book are things she’s written about on her blog. Furiously Happy is about Lawson’s struggle with mental illness, specifically depression and anxiety with a few other things thrown in for good measure.

I have struggled some with depression and imposter syndrome, so there are a lot of parts of this book that I can identify with. One of my favorite parts of the book is Lawson talking about doing the recording for her first book. The first day went badly, and she realized just how important to her it was to read her book in her own voice. She got in touch with Neil Gaiman, who she had made friends with and who is a terrific reader. He told her to just “pretend you’re good at it.” Kind of the old “fake it till you make it,” I guess, but the story was powerful to me. One of the other things I love from this book is her mention of Spoon Theory, which wasn’t her invention, and she credits Christine Miserandino with its creation. But if you aren’t familiar it’s a great way to explain to people in your life who don’t deal with chronic illness or pain how you feel. And why sometimes you can do all the things and other times you can’t even get out of bed.

You don’t expect a book about dealing with depression and anxiety to be funny, but this is. Be prepared for some rambling stories that get off topic, but that is part of what makes this book feel like talking to a friend. There are some references to things from her first book or references to posts on her blog that aren’t reprinted here. I do wish they could include the pictures with the audiobook though. I would highly recommend Furiously Happy, and Let's Pretend This Never Happened, and her blog. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel book vs movie

I recently read The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I had been a little stumped with the prompt for the Pop Sugar Challenge to read “A Book Made into a Movie You’ve Already Seen.” I almost always read the book first if I know there is one. But, in this case, I hadn’t read the book, but I did see the movie within a year or so of when it came out. This book might also count for the Read Harder Prompts of “A book set in or about a BRICS country (Brazil, Russia, India, China, Africa),” or “A book of colonial or post-colonial literature.” But, it kind of feels like both of those should be books written by an actual person from the said country, not by an Englishwoman who happened to set her book in India. The whole point is to branch out my reading life after all.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach is a very entertaining book. It introduces us to the various characters one at a time and then brings them together at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I feel like I find this story more inspiring now that I did when I saw the movie six or seven years ago. I guess because I feel closer to the age of the retirees, I can empathize with them even more. Now my parents are the age of some of the characters in this book. I am only a few years away from being an empty-nester, rather than a parent of young children. It’s crazy how much a perspective can change in a few short years.

The book features characters that are not in the movie. In some cases, they have moved storylines to different characters and some of the storylines still appear in the movie. In other cases, they have just cut characters and storylines completely. For whatever reason, I have paid more attention to film adaptation lately. I noticed choices made in adapting Ready Player One to a movie that I feel like I would not have noticed a few years ago. At any rate, the story has been tightened up a little bit for the movie. It makes sense that the screenwriter would have to tighten up the book a bit, it takes longer to read the book than to watch the movie, even accounting for the shorthand of conveying written description visually in a fraction of the time.

As I was reading the book, I kind of remembered who had been in the movie, but I couldn’t remember who played which character, so about halfway through I visited IMDB. I was surprised that Maggie Smith played the working class Muriel. In recent years she is so associated with Downton Abbey in my mind, and even Professor McGonagall behaves in a very upper-class way. So, on rewatching the movie after finishing the book that was very jarring to me. Not that she wasn’t fantastic in the movie, it just didn’t fit the current image I have of Maggie Smith.,

The story covers a lot of life’s trials and tribulations. The movie has more focus on the trials and tribulations of retiree’s than even the book, with the extra young romance thrown in (to keep the young people watching I guess). Overall, both leave me with a hopeful feeling that it’s never too late to find a life that is fulfilling and exciting. The people who came to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel came for various reasons, but they all found a measure of peace and fulfillment and a family that they created for themselves. It resonates with me as I am preparing to watch my kids graduate high school over the next couple of years and then figure out what I do next. It’s comforting to see people older than me finding a new life and new purpose, even if those people are fictional.

As an aside, I also enjoyed The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the movie sequel that I hadn’t yet watched until last week.

So, read The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and watch the movie again, watch the sequel to the movie if you haven’t. I recommend all of them. I would definitely read more books by Deborah Moggach, Marigold Hotel was an engrossing read that passed very quickly, and I would guess her other books would be as well-written as this was. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Nextflix's Lost in Space 2018

I finished the new Lost in Space on Netflix. I will try to keep my thoughts spoiler free. First, yes you should watch it. It was fantastic! We had been watching the original Lost in Space from the 1960s and had decided it was basically Gilligan’s Island in Space. The new one is definitely more than that. It did a much better job of bringing the core cast together in a way that made sense.

As would be expected from a more recently made, high-budget reboot, there is a lot more substance in the new version. I was happier with this reboot than the Anne of Green Gables one. There is more focus on bigger questions and implications of space colonization than the original series. Like the original series, it's mostly about family. 

But, the thing I like best about this version is Parker Posey as Dr. Smith. I have always loved her, and she is at her best in this show. I overall like the casting, but Parker Posey’s casting is especially inspired. I even like the kids. And the robot is a much snazzier design than the original.

It has a more serious tone than the original, but there is still humor to be found. The special effects are believable and the overall look is very cool. There are a lot of nods to the original series. The original had a pet monkey named Debby, and there is a Debby in the new version too, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.

All in all, I really enjoyed the first season and I hope there will be more! This version keeps the spirit of the original and improves upon it. It’s the best kind of reboot we could hope for. Danger, Will Robinson!

Monday, April 16, 2018

2018 Reading Challenges and What I'm reading this month

This year I decided to do at least one reading challenge to help me hit my reading goal and maybe push me into reading books that I normally wouldn’t. So, I decided to do the Pop Sugar 2018 Challenge and the 2018 Read Harder Challenge by Book Riot.

So, here’s what I’m reading for the month of April:

A Book made into a movie you’ve already seen: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

A book involving a heist: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

A book that involves a bookstore or library: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A Novel based on a real person: The Woman on the Orient Express by Lindsay Jayne Ashford

A Book published posthumously: Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

The book made into a movie one was a little difficult, I usually purposely read the book before I see the movie if I know there is a book. Although I could have also used Breakfast at Tiffany’s for this, that book has been on my TBR list for years.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is the April group read for the Pop Sugar Challenge; it was the first book I read for April. I enjoyed it! It had been on my radar for awhile also, and I’m glad I finally read it. It was my first book by Sloan, and I am interested in reading more by him.

So far I have read 11/50 for the Pop Sugar Challenge and 7/24 for the Read Harder Challenge. I have read 21/80 books so far this year for my Goodreads Challenge. 

If you want to chat about any of these books, feel free to post here or follow me on Goodreads

Friday, April 13, 2018

Favorite Standalone Books of 2017

Here are my favorite stand-alone books of 2017. This list will probably be shorter. Apparently, I read a lot of series.

The first book that I loved was The Princess Diarist. I listened to the audiobook in February. It was emotionally rough for me. It was soon after Carrie Fisher passed away and her death had hit me very hard, much harder than celebrity death usually does. So hearing this book in her voice was emotional. But it was a good book. This one talked a lot about the filming of the first Star Wars movie, and included excerpts from the diary she kept at that time. The parts that Carrie read were very good, she has a great conversational style, which isn’t always a given for an author reading their work. She talked a lot about her legacy as Leia, which was heartbreaking so soon after her death. I would highly recommend this book to Star Wars fans, and Carrie Fisher fans.

I also really liked Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It’s mostly a straight retelling of Norse myths. It was a fun lead up to both the American God’s TV series and the new Thor movie. This was a fairly short, light read. Just know that it is the basic myths and not stories that Gaiman made up. But they are very readable.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell is the next book that I enjoyed. It’s a little stalker-ish, or it could be if it were written by a different author. But this book reads more like a rom-com on Hallmark channel, so it’s easy to push away any creeper vibes. The main character has the job of reading emails that are flagged by the filter at an office for containing personal or inappropriate content. An email exchange between two friends seems pretty benign, so he doesn’t send them the usual message to knock off the personal emails. But, he does get caught up in reading them and falling for one of the women. It was a fun book, and I have enjoyed everything I have read by Rowell, this is no exception.

I also loved The Traitor’s Wife by Susan Higginbotham. It is historical fiction during the reign of Edward II. It wasn’t an era I knew much about, which made it very interesting. There is a lot of political intrigues and a lot of character development. I liked that she did not spend too much time on how gross everything was in the late 1200s. In-depth knowledge of British monarchies isn’t necessary to enjoy this book. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you will probably enjoy this, and maybe it’s an era you haven’t read much either.

Vacationland by John Hodgman was a fun and interesting read. I am a regular listener of the Judge John Hodgman podcast and had heard a few of the stories from this book from some of his appearances before I read the book. Some parts are really funny and some that are poignant, but they are all entertaining. And, he gave us a mystery to solve to figure out what famous author lived near where he now lives in Maine. So that was fun. Fans of John Hodgman will enjoy this, as will fans of Bill Bryson, the writing style is reminiscent of Bryson’s.

I listened to the Audible version of Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay. It was thought-provoking and funny and aggravating. I consider myself a feminist and sometimes think I am a bad one. I sometimes like just to enjoy a movie or a book and not look at it too hard through a feminist lens because I know that will color my enjoyment. Sometimes I felt like Gay was in my head, other times she was describing experiences that I have never had. Books like this are what reading is meant to do though, put you in someone else’s place so you can empathize with them and their experience. This book does need a Content Warning for the depiction of rape and abortion. If those things bother you, this book is not for you. Roxanne Gay does not sugar-coat her words.