Books vs. Films 2

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about adaptations of books that I think are better or just as good as the books themselves. As soon as I published the post, I thought of a few other adaptations that fit the prompt. So I’m back for a part two. This time I have three movies to talk about so I hope you enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: I don’t really watch movies anymore and am just not a movie person in general so these are just my opinions don’t attack me lol.

The first adaptation I want to talk about is Pride and Prejudice. There is a lot of debate over which adaptation is the best but I’m really partial to the 2005 film. Pride and Prejudice, is the second Austen book I read and I really enjoy it. But sometimes, I want to spend a cozy afternoon with this story but not commit to rereading the book. This film scratches the itch almost as much as the book does. I think most people know what this story is about and I sometimes find Austen novels difficult to summarize but this is a romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. There are dances, family drama, and misunderstandings. It’s just a nice time. When I reflect on this film, the first thing that stands out is the scenery. The entire atmosphere is beautiful and feels so warm. It’s such a comforting movie to watch and even though you know most of what’s going to happen, it just makes me happy to watch unfold. I also just love the family dynamics in this story. In the film, Kitty is played by Carey Mulligan and she’s one of my favorites. I’m certain I’ll be watching this movie again really soon because just writing about it makes me want to experience it again.

The next film I want to talk about is also based on a classic novel. It also stars Kiera Knightley. And that’s the 2012 Anna Karenina adaptation. I read this book five or six years ago and it took quite a while to finish but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story follows Anna who goes to visit her brother and try to save his marriage. While she’s there, she meets Count Vronsky and starts developing feelings for him. Her husband then says she has to choose between Vronsky, and her family. There’s a ton of characters and other side plots in this story but that’s the main gist. The film leaves out quite a bit because it has to but I still really enjoy the watching experience. I don’t think it will work for everyone, though. If you don’t enjoy stories involving extra-marital affairs or just Russian classics in general, then of course you might not like the movie but there’s also something about the way the story is told in the movie that is a little different. The film is framed in a way where it looks like it’s happening on a stage. I think it’s an interesting thing to watch and really compliments the dramatic nature of the story and the fact that the main characters are socialites performing for each other. I also appreciate most of the cuts the film chose to make because Leo Tolstoy talks at length about Russian politics at the time in a way that doesn’t always feel directly connected to the story so the movie allows you to enjoy the main plot and not trudge through some of the more tedious parts.

The last film I want to talk about is one that I watched before I read the book. I then read the book and realized just how much the movie improved upon the source text. Dumplin’ follows Willowdean, the plus-sized daughter of a beauty queen as she falls in love, mourns the loss of her aunt, and enters a beauty pageant to make a statement. Both Willowdean as a character and the overall plot are greatly improved upon by the movie. Willowdean is definitely more unlikable in the book and that’s fine for me but I know that a lot of people have issues with her in the book. I also just think the plot of the book is a little slow. The movie just feels a little more focused and moves a bit faster. I don’t know how to explain why I’ve watched this movie twice other than the vibes are just really great. The Dolly Parton songs, the small-town atmosphere that reminds me of where I grew up, and the strained relationship between mother and daughter really speak to me. I do think there’s some value in reading the book if you like YA contemporary that’s more character than plot-driven BUT if you’re unsure, I’d just recommend giving the movie a watch because it’s just a nice time.

I’m keeping a list of adaptations I want to talk about for this series but since I’m not a big movie watcher, it might be a while before I have another of these. Let me know any adaptations you really enjoy!

Recent Reads 16

Since I’ve been reading more lately, I just haven’t been taking good review notes. That means these reviews might be a little lacking so hopefully you don’t mind too much. This time I’ll be reviewing Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 454

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return

When the earth and sky converge

Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain

Brief Review

“Usually,” Xiala said carefully, “when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.”

I don’t think I ever would have read this book if it weren’t for Some Obscure Book Club and that would have been a shame. This fantasy story is full of political intrigue and complex characters. While many of the characters are likable, I never knew who to cheer for because what’s right and wrong isn’t really clear. Speaking of likable characters, I was most drawn to Xiala. She is an amazing ship captain but people are scared of her because of her powers but they need her to survive. I adored the chapters that follow her because I love ocean stories and because she’s such a strong character and I always wanted to see what she would do and say next. I’m really hoping to learn more about her as the series goes. Just like with my favorite book, The Fifth Season, I am happy to see more fantasy that isn’t centered around European-based worlds and Black Sun really delivers on this. I am really excited for the rest of the series and will definitely be rereading this one because there is likely so much I missed from only listening to the audio in the beginning.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy romance

Pages: 625

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A Maiden

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Brief Thoughts

“Fear and bravery are often one and the same. It either makes you a warrior or a coward. The only difference is the person it resides inside.”

After DNFing ACOTAR earlier this year, I just assumed fantasy romance wasn’t for me and I had no plans to pick this one up. That was until one of my best friends was like, “no really read it.” So I did. And I’m surprised that I honestly had a pretty good time. I was sometimes confused by the plot and some scenes were a little strange especially towards the end but I was completely intrigued with what was happening. There’s SO much tension, political and otherwise and it’s just a fun time.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Genre: YA fantasy, mythology

Pages: 560

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Since this is the last book in a series, I’ll link the synopsis for the first book here, and this book here.

Brief Thoughts

“You can’t choose your parentage. But you can choose your legacy.”

I finished the Heroes of Olympus series at the very end of last month and I think this is the best book in the series. All of the aspects of the other books I’ve read in this universe are still there – high stakes, friendship, comedy, heartwarming. In this book particularly, I appreciated the jumps between perspectives because it made all of the action seem really fast-paced. I also loved seeing how much the relationships between different characters developed while they are trying to save the world. I am excited to continue reading the books in this universe. I think I’m going to take a little break before picking up The Kane Chronicles but I look forward to seeing what happens with a new set of characters.

What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 15

I’ve been having so much fun reading recently since I have no real obligations for a while so I’m hoping to read more and maybe write a little more here if I can come up with some more ideas. Recently, I’ve read a YA fantasy with a ghost dog, a YA coming of age story about two friends who are very different, and a cute, cozy mystery. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Genre: YA fantasy, mystery

Pages: 362

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family

Brief Review

“Maybe, sometimes, wants felt like needs. Because the alternative hurt too bad.”

This is SUCH a great YA book! The beginning of this story is so cute! A ghost dog named Kirby? Get out of here; I love it so much. I also really like the family dynamics in this story. It is refreshing to see parents involved in their child’s life in a positive way – they believe and trust Ellie. Thematically, this story brings forward so many discussions about microaggressions, white-washing and erasing history, stolen land, revenge, and exploitation by those with some degree of power. Darcie Little Badger is able to weave these themes into the story while still maintaining a fun and exciting atmosphere. I know people have been talking about this book since last year and I just want to add my voice to others who recommend this book.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release Date: February 21, 2012

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 359

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Brief Thoughts

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

This character-driven, coming-of-age story contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. It is heartbreaking and beautiful and I found myself rooting for Aristotle and Dante’s friendship. It isn’t an easy friendship and they go through so much but I still believed in it. I also loved the family dynamic of both boy’s families. They weren’t perfect by any means but they did accept Aristotle and Dante for who they are. I knew I would like this book but I didn’t think it would be something I absolutely fall in love with but I did. I know that I’m late to the party for this book but if you are too and enjoy YA contemporary, you should pick this one up. A sequel was announced not too long ago and I’m really excited to see where Ari and Dante are now.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Genre: Adult cozy mystery

Pages: 336

Trigger warnings in the front of the book: indications of evidence planting and police intimidation, drug use, fatphobia, racism, and domestic violence.

Synopsis

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Brief Thoughts

I’ve never read a cozy mystery before but I definitely think I want to read more. I loved the small town vibes and all the talk about food. I was constantly hungry and I think one of Lila’s later visits to a restaurant made me start wanting hush puppies. I also really liked Lila’s friendship with Adeema. They felt so realistic! There is a small, underlying romance developing in this mystery and it isn’t explored so I am interested to see what happens with the rest of the series. As far as the actual mystery, my second guess was the answer but I still really enjoyed the story. I don’t know if this is a cozy mystery thing, but the end happened so quickly and I might have enjoyed the discoveries slowed down a little more but I still really had a good time. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author.

I’ve also read six volumes of manga so far this month! I’m still trying to figure out how and where to talk about them on my blog. It might end up being part of my larger monthly wrap-up with a special post on my Instagram giving my general thoughts. What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Top Five Books on my TBR (eBooks)

A few weeks ago, I talked about some books on my physical TBR that I was most excited about. I didn’t include the books on my ereader in that post but there are DEFINITELY some exciting books there too and I’d like to talk about. As always, library books are preventing me from picking up the books I own, but I think about the books on my ereader all the time. These are in no particular but I tried to pick books from different genres so I can offer a mix.

The Poppy War

Without even looking at my ebooks, the first one that comes to mind is The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. I think this will be everything I love. It’s based on actual historical events, namely the Second Sino-Japanese War. I know a bit about this time period and I think reading this book will be the catalyst to help me learn more. It also deals with shamanism and that is where the fantasy elements come in. I think the reason I keep putting this off is because it sounds so perfectly matched to my tastes. I love interesting takes on historical events and morally grey characters and just generally dark stories so if I don’t like it, I’ll be really sad and start to question my taste in books.

Sister Outsider

Most of my nonfiction is in ebook format so I definitely have to include one of them in this list. The one I’m most excited about is Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. This is a collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, a Black poet and activist. I’ve read from her before in my favorite nonfiction of all time, This Bridge Called My Back and I’m so excited to read more from her. I have been a little detached from nonfiction recently but I want to get back into reading it. This might be the one to get me back into that genre.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

In my last TBR post, I talked about wanting to get back into thrillers and a lighter thriller/mystery on my ereader that I think will help reinvigorate my interest is Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. An author is overheard talking about her new book and someone thinks she’s a hitman so she gets caught up in this world. It just sounds fun! Like Arsenic and Adobo, which I talked about last time, I am hoping for something a little different from the thrillers or mysteries that I normally pick up. I’ve also just heard some great reviews for this story and I think it will make me laugh. That’s what I’m looking for in these warmer months.

The Only Good Indians

There are also quite a few horror novels on my ereader and it is really difficult to just choose one but I think I’m going to choose The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. This is a horror novel written by an indigenous author and follow a group of men who are being hunted by a spirit. I have a certain idea about what the social commentary will be and if that’s the case, I am excited to see how it is woven into the horror narrative. I am a really big fan of horror that offers some sort of social commentary and I think Jones will deliver on that want for me.

Parachutes

Lastly, I want to talk about a YA Contemporary that I’m really excited about. I’ve seen Ashley from Bookish Realm on Youtube discuss Parachutes by Kelly Yang a number of times and I really trust her taste in books so I’m excited to read this one. This follows Claire who is sent from China to American to live after getting in some trouble. The daughter of her host family, Dani, resents Claire’s privileged background and I think they will end up having to learn from each other. I know that the cover is really cute but I’ve been told it isn’t a super light story and that really intrigues me. I am participating in a readathon next month and I’m hoping that I can work this into my TBR since contemporary is usually good for readathons.

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I’d love to be able to read these soon because I’m just so excited about them. My library holds are still coming through constantly so I haven’t been able to pick up my own books but I’m going to try and use the “deliver later” feature on Libby especially in June during the Clear Ur Shit readathon. What are you excited to read that you just haven’t been able to get to yet? Let me know!

Recent Reads 12

I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have a truly feminist YA fantasy, a “meh” historical fiction, and a YA contemporary where the movie is better. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 432

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

Brief Review

“My anger builds as I realize how thoroughly my mind has been poisoned that I would be shocked to see women in these positions.”

This book does not shy away from the brutality of war the mistreatment and gore Deka and others like her have to face. From the beginning, Forna makes this clear and gets to the point. Forna has also given YA audiences the truly feminist fantasy they need. Women are shown in positions of power at the training facilities and the girls have such a focus on protecting each other, working together, and friendships. While there is a budding romance in this story, Deka’s friendship with Britta (who is absolutely the cutest) is valued just as much if not MORE than her romantic interest. While I had an idea of what the twist was going to be, I still really enjoyed reading The Gilded Ones. This story is largely about building up the word and Deka discovering her powers and origin and sets up for an interesting series. I don’t usually have the urge to annotate fantasy but when I re-read this in preparation for the sequel, there are some places I’d like to go back and highlight.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Release Date: 1945

Genre: Adult historical fiction

Pages: 379

Goodreads Synopsis

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from the American War of Independence (1783), looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

Brief Thoughts

“The greatest thing is to have someone who loves you and—and to love in return.”

I barely have thoughts about this book. It wasn’t bad by any means; I just listened to the story and had no thoughts about what was happening. It was truly the most middle-of-the-road story I’ve ever read. I usually find some enjoyment in books set in this time period but for some reason, I just didn’t feel any connection to what was happening. There is drama and our main character has some heroic moments but by the end, I was just upping the audiobook speed as much as I could. I might try and watch the BBC series and see if that makes me more interested because, by all accounts, this should have worked for me but it just didn’t and I wish I knew why. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 371

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Brief Thoughts

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.”

I was really unsure about this book, especially in the beginning. I found myself preferring the film in part because the plot is lacking and also because Willowdean is a bit judgemental of others. The more I thought about the story, the more I was okay with her being a bit unlikable in the beginning. I don’t need to totally love main characters and I think she learns too as the story continues. One of the major takeaways from the story is that people deserve to exist just the way they are. Whether they’re fat or have imperfect teeth or whatever, they don’t have to want to change. I think people expect people with physical imperfections to WANT to change them but sometimes they don’t And that’s okay.

Speaking specifically about the fat rep, I thought this was pretty good. There’s a balance between insecurity (mostly caused by her mother) and knowing that she doesn’t have to and doesn’t want to change. I really related to a lot of what Willowdean was feeling especially when she felt insecure about being touched. It’s like you become hyper-aware of what your body must feel like compared to what the beauty standard must feel like. While I think the plot was a bit slow, I’ll likely pick up the sequel from my library eventually because there are things I enjoyed about this story including, but not limited to, the Dolly Parton references. I was reminded of how good “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That?” is. Can’t stop listening to it.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 10

I guess my reading slump is kind of over because I feel like I flew through these next books!  This time I’ll be talking about a memoir about a Black man who infiltrates the KKK, a coming-of-age story told in verse, and a whimsical classic. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

Black Klansman

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Genre: Adult memoir

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include racism, racial slurs, and KKK imagery.

Goodreads Synopsis

In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city, Police Detective Ron Stallworth. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man. In the process he battled internal departmental politics to successfully pull off this “sting.” Black Klansman explains how he overcame these obstacles and accomplished this almost unbelievable unique achievement.

Brief Review

“Publicly he would not talk about hate but about heritage and history. He spawned a new racism for the right-wing masses, one that melded the antipathy to blacks and other minorities to general dissatisfaction with government and fear of an ever-changing complex world.”

One of the first things that struck me about this story is that it doesn’t take place in the American south. So many times we want to relegate that kind of hatred to the south but it’s everywhere; just pointing at the south is not the way to talk and think about racism. This story is particularly interesting because it gives so much insight into some of their recruitment tactics in the late 70’s as well as about the ways they tried to push their message. It wasn’t just cross burning and making themselves known by rallying; the people Stallworth was dealing with were active politically and either trying to register their members to vote or even running for office themselves. They also had a lot of ties to religion which is something interesting to consider. I also appreciated the conversations surrounding media coverage and how that gives their group a sense of validation. This was in the late 70s so just think about what the advent of social media means for them. Beyond the serious and intriguing insight this memoir gives, Stallworth finds ways to include humor to poke fun at their ideas and how others perceived them. This is a short, easy-to-understand memoir and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in this topic.

The Poey X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 368

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Brief Thoughts

“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”

I picked up the audiobook for The Poet X while I was on a walk and needed something to listen to. I was immediately drawn into Acevedo’s voice and storytelling and couldn’t stop listening even after my walk was over. This is a short story but one that packs so much into it. I remember thinking that if I’d picked this up at my local library when I was a teenager, it would have been one of those that I checked out over and over again. I really appreciated the discussion about religion and women’s bodies. Xiomara is made to see her changing body as something that will bring her trouble and something she needs to pray about. Seeing her struggle particularly with this aspect of religion was something I don’t think I’ve seen explored in a YA book before. At the end of the story, Xiomara comes to her own conclusion about religion that I think is beautiful and something that would have really stuck with me growing up in the US south.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Release Date: November 1, 1865

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 96

Goodreads Synopsis

After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself far away from home in the absurd world of Wonderland. As mind-bending as it is delightful, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel is pure magic for young and old alike.

Brief Thoughts

“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

I picked this audiobook up because I was at a point where I needed a ton of audiobooks while I was working. This was a re-read for me as I’ve read this story countless times before but I always enjoy coming back to it. It’s probably the definition of whimsical and it’s certainly nonsensical but much like with Oz, I like seeing who or what Alice will encounter next. I particularly love the scene where she’s stuck in the house and the White Rabbit has to get Bill to help. That’s one of my favorite parts of the first Disney film, as well. My other favorite part of the film isn’t included in the book but I’ll share it below. I don’t remember having read the second part of this story before (though I might have as a small child) but I am excited to listen to it the next time I need a quick audiobook.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Books vs. Films

I know we’ve all heard “the book is always better” but is it? A lot of times, the answer is definitely “yes.” I know I get this feeling in my stomach when I hear about a book I love being adapted into a movie or TV show and it sure isn’t excitement. I get nervous because I’m afraid they’ll leave out my favorite scene or character or the casting will be AWFUL or they’ll try to force it to be something it isn’t. But sometimes… I think the movie is just as good, if not better and today I want to talk about three times when I was pleasantly surprised.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t really watch movies anymore and am just not a *movie person* in general so these are just my opinions don’t attack me lol.

Legolas and Gimli from the LOTR films.

The first adaptation that comes to mind is The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m not talking about The Hobbit because those films just didn’t hit for me but LOTR is a different story. I grew up watching these films and I’m sure that has something to do with my opinion but I reread the series this past year and I don’t think my feelings come entirely from a place of nostalgia. It’s clear that in writing this series, Tolkien’s number one goal was to build his own world. He isn’t afraid to spend pages describing the history of places the fellowship travels to and through. He gives so many details and so much description and while I admire the hard work Tolkien put into his writing, sometimes I find it hard to keep reading for long periods of time. I get distracted and sometimes, a little bored. There’s also the way the second and third books are structured that makes the reading process a bit different than what modern readers might be used to. We end up spending SO MUCH time with one set of characters and don’t hear from the others at all. We get glimpses of what they’re doing but it isn’t until much later that we do a rewind and get to spend time with the other group. It’s just not a structure I’m used to reading and it makes it difficult to get through at times. The films choose to jump back and forth between groups and it just makes the story feel more fast-paced and enjoyable. 

This is not to say that I hate the books. I enjoyed reading this series and have a lot of respect for what Tolkien created. I certainly could never create something that complex. I also recognize it as having a huge role in the development of fantasy as a genre. I just think the films are much more accessible and fun.

Cecilia and Robbie in Atonement

The last two examples I want to talk about aren’t so much about thinking the adaptation is better but about me loving them equally. So that means we’re going to talk about Ian McEwan’s Atonement. I have mixed feelings about McEwan and his work but Atonement very well might be my favorite book of all time. It’s a WWII historical fiction that follows Briony Tallis after she accused the wrong man of a horrible crime and her journey to atone for that. The film, whose ending is slightly different and doesn’t work *quite* as well as the book’s ending, is overall just as great and I revisit it all the time. It’s difficult for me to explain why I love this story so much but I think it’s mostly down to the tragic romance. The man who was wrongly accused is, of course, separated from Briony’s older sister, his true love, and seeing what becomes of them just makes me so sad and if you’re new here, I like to consume sad media. It just really does it for me. The first time I read the book, I was shocked by the narrative twist towards the end and immediately had to text the only person I knew who had also read the book because I just needed to scream about it. I then went to watch the film which stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy 😍 and was equally wrapped up in the tragedy and romance. I expected to be totally disappointed but I wasn’t. And for someone, again, who doesn’t really watch movies, this is one I regularly revisit and I’m thinking it’s time for a re-watch (and maybe a re-read but I’m scared lol).

Klaus, Violet, and Count Olaf in ASOUE.

The last adaptation I want to talk about is A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. Now before you think I’m about the say that the film starring Jim Carrey is a valid adaptation, just note that I have eyes and I’m talking about the Netflix show. I grew up reading A Series of Unfortunate Events as the books were released and they will always hold a special place in my heart so imagine how I felt when I saw the 2004 film in theaters. Did I laugh? Absolutely. Did I spend the entire car ride home telling my mom how they changed everything from the vibe to the story order? You bet. Naturally, I was incredibly nervous about the show but I did have a bit more hope seeing as they were going to spend time adapting every book into a couple of episodes. As I sat down with my partner to watch the series, I was still a little iffy about it but halfway through the first season, I was sold on it. I just think it’s a fun way to revisit the story I loved so much growing up and I definitely recommend it.

As I was writing this post, I started thinking about some other adaptations, primarily of classics so I might do another post later on with some of those ideas if people want to see it!

What about you? What adaptations do you think are just as good or even better than the book?

Recent Reads 6

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about an adult contemporary fiction about immigration, a YA contemporary with a thriller twist, and the conclusion to my new favorite series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary/literary fiction

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include: animal abuse, racism, violence, mention of forced sterilization, rape, loss of a loved one

Goodreads Synopsis

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.

They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Brief Review

“She told them her mother was abroad and sent her back to Colombia when she was a baby. But this particular family condition was so common it couldn’t possibly be considered trauma.”

While this book is less than 200 pages, it tells a powerful and important story that I found myself wanting to take my time with and that I think will stick with me for a long time. I was most struck by Engel’s writing. She sometimes is very straightforward and sometimes takes a few pages to give readers some folklore or legends that paint a picture of Colombia and its people and that adds greater significance and context to what the characters are experiencing. There are certainly some heartbreaking moments with this family and the fact that Engel is able to show the complicated dynamics of a family separated in so few pages is amazing. Something that my eyes were especially opened to through this story is the ways so many programs and opportunities in the US set up for immigrants can pose such a risk to those same people and their families. By trying to enter that system, they are bringing attention to themselves and those around them and that increases the risk of splitting up their families even more. I can’t say much else since this book is so short but I do want to end this with some recommendations of books I thought of while reading this one: Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga & Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat. These recommendations are partly to do with themes but mostly to do with the writing style.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller

Pages: 384

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.

Brief Thoughts

“I know that existing as a human on this Earth should be enough to deserve respect and justice. But it isn’t. Instead, we focus on those who we deem worthy, for whom we allow ourselves to feel the weight of their loss.”

*I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The only thing I knew about this book before going in was that it was pitched as “The Hate U Give meets Get Out” and that was enough to get me excited. I dropped everything as soon as I got a notification from Netgalley and found a compelling story and characters I really loved but aspects of the structure and writing didn’t work as much for me. I really liked the set-up of this story. Getting to know all the key players and their pasts that would become important later caught my attention and I especially enjoyed getting to know Kezi and her girlfriend. I also liked the multi-generational aspect of the story. You get to learn about Kezi’s family history and what sparked the road trip in the first place. There is also a mystery element that REALLY picks up in part three and was especially gripping. The ending provided some powerful commentary on how the media portrays Black people when they are killed and how they decide who is worth mourning – who is “one of the good ones” – and the impacts of those decisions.

The main aspect of the book that brought down my reading experience was down to transitions between scenes. Sometimes scenes would end and there was not really an indication we were moving to something else apart from a paragraph break and sometimes it took me a bit to realize what was happening. I would quickly get back on track but there were a few times when I felt like a couple of sentences might have been missing. I also felt like I wanted a little more from the ending. The peak of the action was very late in the story and then it was just over.

Overall, I still recommend this story as it deals with important themes of police brutality, who we decide is worth mourning, and what can happen when racism is passed down through generations. Even though I had some issues with the writing, I think the positives definitely outweigh any of that.

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 416

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is a series, here’s a link to the synopsis of the first book, and this one.

Brief Thoughts

“But for a society build on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”


About halfway through this book, I knew that this would be my favorite series and that I would do a journal spread commemorating it. The stakes were so high and I loved and cared about all of these characters and while a ton of world-building isn’t exactly something that interests me, the way Jemisin does it kept me hooked until the end. I have been on a journey trying to learn what I like in fantasy and am so thankful for this series existing and showing me what I enjoy. What I really appreciate about this series are all of the real-world themes Jemisin covers in this fantasy world. This story is very much about surviving but it also contains discussions of environmentalism, blood relations vs. found family, prejudices, and slavery and exploitation. I was constantly thinking about current events and because of the intersection between environmentalism and oppression, I started thinking about how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and there are so many other topics to think about in relation to this story and that is something that usually comes along with books that I consider to be favorites. I don’t think I’ll stop talking about this series for a while and I definitely recommend it if you’re into adult fantasy and want something a bit different and complex to try. I’ll certainly be reading Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy in the future.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

If you’re seeing this the day I post it, it’s Valentine’s Day and while I don’t normally care much about this corporate holiday, it does make for a good excuse for me to talk about romance. Now, I don’t usually care about romance in my media. In fact, I often actively avoid it but there are instances where I not only have the patience for it but I also LOVE it. I want to use this day of corporate love to talk about five books with romances I can get behind.

First, I want to talk about a book that comes out next month and that I have a dedicated review scheduled for – Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. This is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy but you can read them in any order. This is a romance so my enjoyment of the book really hinges on my enjoyment of the romance and while I like all the books in this trilogy, Eve Brown is definitely my favorite. I have a lot I could say about Eve herself but I’ll save that for my full review. What I want to talk about here is the perfect grumpy/sunshine (or annoyed – to – lovers) trope with two thoughtful people with wonderful banter that made me smile the entire time. Eve and Jacob really couldn’t be more opposite in manner but Hibbert made it work and I was rooting for them the whole time.

Not to completely change gears but my next recommendation is a YA contemporary romance called The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. This soft romance between two girls, Nishat and Flavia. They develop a rivalry during a school competition all while Nishat is fighting her feelings Flavia. Their interactions balance that romantic tension and rivalry tension well and make for an intriguing story. The scenes with both girls alone are really heartwarming as they talk through serious issues such as homophobia and cultural appropriation. The whole time I was just hoping for them to be happy.

Next, I want to talk about a historical fiction called Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know this is a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon but I’ve never seen it. I did, though, pick up this book early in 2020 and immediately found myself wrapped up in Jacob and Marlena’s story. They met at a circus which I think makes for an interesting backdrop for a romance. Marlena is married to a horribly abusive man and works together with Jacob to train an elephant named Rosie; of course, they fall in love. Readers get this story from Jacob as an old man reflecting on his life and that frame narrative really makes it an interesting story.

Speaking of frame narratives, I can’t not mention Atonement by Ian McEwan. I’ll start by saying that this book is heartbreaking. Robbie and Cecilia are in love but ripped apart by a false accusation and the second World War. There are a lot of other things going on in this story but the tragedy surrounding Robbie and Cecilia is something I think about all the time (I like sad books) and I kept wishing they could be back together again and waiting for that opportunity for them. I don’t want to say anything more because so much of the appeal comes from the ending but if you know, then you know.

I struggled for a fifth book. I really did. But I’m going to talk about a book everyone is probably tired of seeing and that’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. While I’m a HUGE Luc fan (don’t come for me), I did really feel emotional at some points in Henry and Addie’s relationship. Addie just wants to be loved and that isn’t really possible when no one can remember her. Addie’s inner monologue at the end of her first date with Henry had me one emotional bitch and I DID NOT see that coming for me. I really liked how the circumstances of their lives worked together and had to be navigated in order for them to work as a couple. Additionally, I really liked the tension in the scenes with Addie and Luc. I know they’re not really the focus but there was *something* there and it was a good time for me.

I like tragic romances and soft romances and basically, romances that make me feel things so do you have any recommendations? How did you feel about these, if you’ve read them? Let me know!

January 2021 Favs

Because I’m doing recent reads every week or so, it doesn’t make sense to do full wrap-ups the way I used to but I do want to have a place to reflect on the month overall so I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite things each month. I’ll start with books but I also want to talk about hobbies, movies, music, TV, etc. so let’s get started!

Books

I have two stand-out books from this past month. If you’ve talked to me about books or read anything I’ve posted about books recently, this shouldn’t be a surprise because these books are from two of my new favorite authors.

First, I want to talk about The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin. This is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy and I loved it just as much as I loved the first book. This is rare for me. I typically don’t pick up a series because I’m afraid of investing time in something only to not like a large chunk of it. I also have never been a series fantasy reader but I think this series is going to be the thing to get me into fantasy and I am so excited for that possibility. I’ve really loved being able to jump into this world. It certainly takes a certain level of time and focus to read and get everything from Jemisin’s writing. As someone who zones out a lot, it can be difficult for me sometimes but for me, it’s totally worth it. I think Jemisin creates such interesting characters; I want to know what happened to them before and what will happen to them in the future. I also appreciate Jemisin’s narrative structure in both of these books. It isn’t linear and she has a way of bringing everything together in a way that seems simple but takes me by surprise every single time. 

I also want to give attention to Grown by Tiffany D Jackson. I never read books in one day. That’s just not my style, but Grown was impossible to put down. This book deals with some difficult subject matter and my heart broke for the main character, Enchanted. I had to know that she was going to be okay and the writing really lent itself to me being able to fly through the story in two sittings. If you’re familiar with Jackson’s work, you probably know that she tends to write hard-hitting YA contemporaries or thrillers. I read a fair amount of YA and enjoy it but it never quite ends up being a favorite but now that I’ve read two of Jackson’s books and they’ve become instant favorites, I’m starting to see what is possible in those genres. With Grown specifically, I appreciated the commentary on the way society doesn’t listen to women, especially Black women, when they have been abused. They are blamed or called liars when they speak up and while this story takes place in the music industry, it has messages that apply to the broader conversation surrounding women and sexual assault, grooming, stalking, etc. 

Music

I’m in a *very* specific mood musically. I’ve made a YouTube playlist to put on when I’m having a hard time focusing on anything that’s primarily live performances by Arctic Monkeys and Neck Deep. I really miss live music and since the seasonal depression is hitting hard, I’m reminding myself of better summer when I could go to shows. I’ll include a favorite performance for each band below in case you want to check them out. I wish I had something new and exciting to talk about musically but my brain just wants old, familiar sounds these days.

TV

There are two TV shows I’ve really been watching this month. First, I started getting back into One Piece. This is an anime that follows a group of pirates. The main character has a special ability that made him essentially made of rubber. It sounds lame but it comes in handy quite a bit. The trade-off – he can’t swim. If I’m not mistaken, this series is the longest-running anime and manga and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’ll never catch up and I’ll never collect all the manga. It’s not feasible. But I love the story so much so I keep trying. Comedy is a must in my anime and while this one has plenty of action, it also makes me laugh all the time. Luffy is blindly confident and sometimes it gets the crew in trouble and a lot of times, it really pays off. Besides him, my favorite characters are Zoro and Ace.

I’ve also been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Again. I can’t help it. I love this show so much. The main characters are totally unlikeable and are awful people and that’s the point. The creators make fun of the worst people you could meet and shows how ridiculous it is to act horribly and hold the worst beliefs. That being said, I do have a favorite character – Mac. He is incredibly religious and tries to use his religion to justify his ignorant beliefs all while struggling with his sexuality. And somehow, the writers turned this into something that is comedy gold (though I will say that the finale to season 13 takes a more serious look at his character and is just such a beautiful episode).

Hobbies

Especially at the beginning of the month, I was playing a lot of videogames. Primarily I was playing various Assassin’s Creed games. I am not great at finishing or sticking to one game so I’ve been switching between Valhalla, Origins, and Odyssey. I get really sucked in when I’m playing because I like tracking quests and traveling all over the world to accomplish small things that add up. I also played a ton of Kingdom Hearts this month. I played Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance the most. This is one of my favorite game series because I like the mix of Disney + Final Fantasy and how it’s kind of surprisingly dark sometimes. I think a lot about the conversations that were had that made Disney decide to agree. I made it all the way to the boss and then just didn’t finish the game. I’m really bad about that.

I also have been learning to cross-stitch. It’s really relaxing and helpful especially when I’m feeling anxious. Since I’m new to it, I really have to focus on what I’m doing which means I can’t think about everything else that’s going on in my brain. I finished this piece a week or so ago and while I left out the French knots (they’re *really* hard, okay), I’m still satisfied with it.

So what have you been enjoying this month?