All posts by Books and Cleverness

About Books and Cleverness

I am a creative writer and editor looking for a nice quiet place to put my thoughts! I love books, dogs, and knitting!

Book vs TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale

Hey guys! As usual, I’m sorry it’s been for-fucking-ever since I posted last, but I think I have a pretty valid excuse: we bought a townhouse! So I’ve been really busy, I’m trying to get acclimated, and get my doggy acclimated (harder than it sounds), and I just started school again. So, that being said, with all the craziness going on, I’ve managed to read a book!

Now I’m sure you’ve gathered this from the title, but I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have to be honest, I’ve heard of this book before, and have seen it in passing and book stores my whole life and never had a desire to read it until I saw a trailer for Hulu’s new original series of the same name. I was listening to Britney Spears radio Pandora (like there’s any other station, amirite?) and a REALLY short commercial came on, because I’m not paying for that “no ads” shit, that basically said something like, ‘My name is Offred. But I had another name, once, in my other life – but I was asleep then. Now I’m awake.’ or something like that and I was like SAY WHAAAAAAAAT?? So naturally I bought it immediately.

And I’m really glad I did. This book has it all. It’s interesting and intriguing from the first page to the last (particularly the last), but it doesn’t go overboard. What I mean by that is that a lot of books, especially books set in dystopian societies, tend to want to cram too much information in there. It’s like the author needs to give an explanation for why certain things happen a certain way, and while I fully agree that authors should give you information, I don’t always believe they should give you all of the information.

There are some books, like The Martian, where more information is needed because most of the readers aren’t fluid in botany, engineering, or frickin’ space travel, But some books, like Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Tony Mendez (the real-life guy that Ben Affleck played in Argo) that overloads you with information. I really, genuinely, honestly, do not give a fuck about all of these acronyms – I understand that a lot of government branches have long names and they require acronyms, but do you really need to bring up like twenty different branches throughout the first fifty pages and then NEVER bring up what the acronyms stand for again? I mean seriously, I was flipping through the book like four times a night trying to figure out what the hell branch of government he was talking about at any given time. I respect you, Mendez, you done good in Iran, but chill the fuck out with the acronyms.

Anyway, Atwood does a fantastic job of giving you enough information so that you know it’s sinister, or enough information to know what’s going on or what could happen, without blatantly expressing such. The novel is expertly written, it ebbs and flows back and forth between past and present, and captures the horror, complacency, terror, and understanding that come with being a Handmaid, and a person, in this society.

While I definitely could have used another 40 pages or so of information, she does offer an “Historical Notes” chapter at the very end that I found interesting, and definitely food for thought.

I will say this: if you don’t like kinda gross, but not gory details, don’t read this book. But if you love women fighting back, if you love the power and strength that women can conjure even in the hardest, darkest, and most oppressive of times, you will love this book.

I’m actually mad at myself that I never picked it up sooner, because to me it’s fantastically empowering. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum!

Now, as for the TV show…. it’s aight. *shrug emoji*

Before I continue: I’m only three episodes in, so this review may be inaccurate after I watch a few more episodes, but so far I find this show fun, entertaining, but only somewhat accurate to the book, with a few small issues hidden in there too.

Look, I’m never one of those people that thinks it needs to be exact to the book. The only time I get upset is when a movie (or in this case a TV show) changes the facts of the story. For example, I was upset when the Burrow burned down in HP and The Half-Blood Prince. I completely understood that it was for action in an otherwise non-action-y time in the movie, but the Burrow didn’t burn down in the book! The biggest problem I had with that was just the complete lack of accuracy. They could’ve just had a fight at the Burrow – that would have made sense – but to burn down the house meant that in the following movie the Burrow needed to look different than it had the previous five movies, which completely threw me off as an audience member. Now obviously that’s a small example, but honestly those are the kinds of inaccuracies that bug me in this show.

They’ve changed little facts. Like in the book we don’t know what happened to Luke, but Offred mentions he’s dead in the first or second episode (not a spoiler at all, though, guys – it happens like 30 seconds into the show). We never know Offred’s real name because her name is supposed to be a treasure and secret that’s just for her, but in the show we know it’s Jen. In the show Serena Joy is not only seemingly much younger, but also does not have the slight handicap she has in the book, and doesn’t even seem very resentful, and actually seems somewhat pleasant most of the time. The Commander as well has dark black hair in the show, but they make it a point to say that he has grey hair in the novel.

Now, okay, am I being nit-picky? Yes. But isn’t that what I’m here for?  I mean, if the question is: Is this a good, entertaining, interesting show? Then the answer is undoubtedly yes. Yes yes yes. But if the question is: Is the show basically the book but in show format? Then no. They’ve added things in, like Ofglen’s story, and they’ve taken things out, like Serena Joy’s background. Also, is it just me or do the characters seem a little disconnected from one another.

Like Nick and Offred obviously have some kind of tension between them, but Nick isn’t as flirty or sarcastic, or even as douchey in my opinion, and Offred isn’t as snarky back to him. In fact I’ve barely seen any of that and that was some of my favorite stuff from the book.

But I’ll be lenient here. I understand that they’re not making a movie, they’re creating a series and that needs to span at least twelve episodes, and from what I’ve heard they’ve been renewed for a second season. So I guess you can’t really take a 300 page book and turn it into 24 hours. Also, I will admit that I’m still early in the game: from my experience, shows start to pick up around the three episode mark, and I’m about five minutes into episode four, so maybe I just need to give it more time.

So, my final thoughts? Read the book. It’s absolutely incredible. The writing is phenomenal, the imagery is spectacular, and it’s just truly extraordinary, ESPECIALLY in today’s society, with all the crap that’s going on, and this patriarchal thought process that says women are just toys to be played with, have no say over their own bodies, and anything that goes wrong in their lives is directly caused by them and not any extenuating circumstances (*cough cough* sexual assault).

As for the show, it’s a very interesting, fun show to watch. It’s not fun in the traditional light-hearted sense, but it’s an entertaining show that keeps my interest. Have I watched better shows? Yes. Am I hesitant to watch more because they’re 57 minutes long? Yes. But if you have the time, and you like extra drama, then this is perfect for you.

But I still highly highly highly recommend the novel. I think it’s something any feminist (and don’t start on me with the feminist term, I understand people misuse it, abuse it, and use feminism as a crutch. But I’m just a traditional feminist who just genuinely wants women, and people in general, to be equal and treated equally, with the right to do whatever they please with their own body – no shaming involved! That, to me, is exactly what feminism represents, and I will use the term as such) needs to have on their bookshelf. If for no other reason than to empower yourself when you read it.

And for any man interested in this novel – good on you! I’m 100% sure that you’ll enjoy this novel, and if you don’t let me know and I would love to hear why. I think this is a great book for men to read, again, if for no other reason than you can get into the mindset of a woman who has no control over her situation and body. I’m also of the belief that the more you’re enthusiastic to learn about new topics, or topics that may not directly affect you, the more prepared and better off you’ll be for life in general. Education is a wonderful thing!

Okay! That said, I will try to continue watching the show and if I change my mind on any of my opinions stated before I just might write an edited review, so if you’re interesting in keeping a look out for that post or any other articles I write in the future, follow me! You can add your e-mail address to the box on the top right, and you’ll get a notification every time I post on here!

In the meantime, if you have any opinions, comments, or questions, please feel free to comment below or to e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Until next time,

Rachel

E-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The Problem With the Media

Hiya!

I’m gonna be honest… I wrote a really long (like REALLY long) article about sexual assault (I know that this is a place for books, but I feel like this is my corner and I can do what I want with it).

So, I had written this huge article, basically essay, about sexual assault and the media and the government and how it’s being shrugged off as something not important, and women are being told they’re “sluts,” “deserved it,” ‘are lying,” or “asked for it.” I found multiple examples of this, and was prepared to post it tonight. But today I read something in the news, which was upsetting in itself, but then I kept reading about it, and realized that people weren’t upset over what I was upset over and that was a huge problem.

Here’s the deal: I’m going to say what’s been on my mind, because I think that it’s an important topic. But if we’re gonna do this, I want everyone to be on the same page: I want you to know that I will never tell you that your opinion is wrong. I will never tell you that if you disagree with what I’m saying that you are incorrect, or are a bad person, or that we can’t be friends. Because I truly believe that we’re all intelligent people capable of having an intelligent conversation about the topic at hand. If you disagree with me, tell me! I’d love to hear your opinions and what you think of the subject. But there will be no fights, no name-calling, and no one telling anyone that their opinion is false. Agreed?

Let’s get started. I saw in the news, from multiple sources (but I’ll only use three), that at a high school in Maryland – approximately twenty miles from the White House itself – a fourteen year old girl was raped by two boys in a secluded boys bathroom.* Of the two boys accused, one is an undocumented immigrant. Now I’m upset because a young girl was raped. But that’s not really what everyone else is upset about – and that’s disturbing.

From what I’ve seen the reason that this case is getting media attention – unlike the other more than 300,000 cases per year – is because one of those kids was here illegally. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary has stated,

“I think part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said. “Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s done — if it’s not done legally. And this is another example, and it’s why the president is so passionate about this.”*

I disagree. I think that the reason the president is so passionate about this is because it feeds into his idea that immigrants are bad and need to be removed. It feeds in to what he was saying about all Mexicans being rapists, and his followers eat it up. They love it.

They also love when people point the blame elsewhere – especially towards former president Barack Obama. According to Fox News reporter Doug McKelway,

“Local County and city officials denied that they are an informal sanctuary city [a city that knowingly houses and helps undocumented immigrants], saying that whenever an illegal alien is arrested in Montgomery County, and in prison, after the imprisoned time, ICE is notified or they are handed over to ICE.  But they know that that occurs only after a crime occurs. They say it was federal immigration officials under the Obama administration who dropped the ball here.”*

What Mr. McKelway is saying is that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is only notified of an undocumented immigrant after that person has committed a crime, and that it was under Obama that this policy had failed to capture a future criminal. According to Fox, the immigrant in question was stopped and released in Texas (though they don’t say when this happened) and because “the Obama administration” let him go, this tragedy happened.

Unfortunately for the people who would like to blame Obama, ICE was formed in 2003 and retains the same policies that it began with… Fourteen years ago! If I’m not correct, wasn’t that when President George W. Bush was in office? How exactly could the Obama administration be to blame for the policies that were formed under Bush’s administration?

Moving on.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that illegal immigration is good. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that illegal immigration is bad. I think there are good parts and bad parts to both.

But if you really want to understand why illegal immigration is happening as much as it is right now then you need to look at the loss of family farms in South America, you need to look at agribusiness, you need to look at the way we’re treating the land, and the people we’re utilizing to produce the things we want in our abundant societies. If we were to pay people a living wage, I can assure you that those people would rather stay in their own countries, on their own land, with their own families. People don’t just want to come to America “cuz ‘Murica!” they come to America because of lack of opportunity, jobs, and security.

What I WILL tell you is this: immigration is not the big picture in this case. The big picture is simply the fact that these two boys brutally raped a fourteen year old girl and no one seems to care about her at all.

Let me just say this: Sexual assault gets almost no coverage in the media, and it’s no surprise why. It’s because when it does, the response is overwhelmingly negative. The consensus is usually that the girl or woman should stay silent and/or is making it up, was asking for what happened to her, or just straight out deserved it, and more often than not there are death threats or threats of physical harm to the person or the person’s family for speaking out. I can understand why someone would be hesitant to speak to the media, or even flat-out refuse to speak to the media about such a case, can’t you?

Also is it really so surprising that two kids would think that sexual assault is an okay thing to do in this day and age? I mean, I went to every assembly in school when I was growing up, but I had one assembly on sexual assault and it was OPTIONAL. And you know what? I was the only one in my grade to go to it. One optional assembly in high school with only a handful of people attending.

So what does that tell me? Well it says a few things:

  1. Schools are spending more money on seminars about the dangers of gambling (yes I had a seminar about the dangers of gambling) than they are about the far more dangerous issue of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  2. People don’t want to speak about it because it seems like too difficult of a subject.
  3. Young boys in particular are not being taught by other men that sexual assault is NOT okay (and you’ll hear me say this again, but sexual assault IS NOT OKAY).

What I see when I read the articles is that two boys, just a short drive away from President Trump, both agreed that an acceptable thing to do was to rape a young woman. Now what I said there is important, so I hope you didn’t miss it: they both agreed that it was acceptable to rape. Why is their agreeance important? Because it shows that two different people, of two different backgrounds, were taught and consistently shown that a woman’s life is less important than theirs, and that this kind of horrendous cruelty is something that they can get away with.

We live in an age where our current president has not only been accused of rape and sexual assault by women around the country, but also domestic abuse towards his ex-wife as well as publicly making degrading comments and displays towards his current wife, First Lady Melania, and his own daughter, Ivanka. Now I know that a lot of people are outraged by this, I can’t say that no one is trying to make this knowledge known because it’s very widely known.

But what I can say is this: It’s widely known!!!! If two high school boys are watching this President thinking he’s the epitome of success and power and what a “man” should be, then of course they’re going to think it’s okay to do.

It’s important for us to stop this. It’s important to talk with the people you know, ESPECIALLY the young people, to tell them that this behavior is deplorable and unacceptable. This is the epitome of cowardice, not power.

I’ll give you a little glimpse into my own life, just for a second: I’m a sexual assault survivor. Had I had even one MANDATORY sexual assault prevention assembly, perhaps I wouldn’t be. Had fathers told their sons that rape and sexual assault is NOT OKAY maybe I wouldn’t be. Had there been a positive role model for young boys who could sit down with them and teach them what is right and what is wrong, maybe I wouldn’t be.

I have an overwhelming sense of heartbreak for all the young girls and women out there who have to go through things like this. But I’m particularly sad for this girl whose entire case is becoming a media frenzy about immigration instead of about getting justice.

Also, real quick: only one of the boys was illegal. I’ll repeat: there were two boys accused, one of them is an undocumented immigrant and one of them is an American citizen. So how exactly can you sit there and tell me that if there were stricter practices in keeping immigrants out that this would not have happened? There’d still be another rapist at large! You can’t tell me that this would not have happened, because the other boy still would have been uneducated about sexual assault enough, and would have had enough exposure to the media that he would still view sexual assault as not a big deal.

I guess all I’m trying to say is this: this young girl’s tragic case should have been about getting justice. Not about immigration. And if we want to stop kids from raping and sexual assaulting and harassing people then we first need to take a step back, look at the big picture, and realize that it’s all about communication. If you have kids, or nephews, or cousins, or grandkids, or family friends… PLEASE just talk to them.

Try to listen to what they’ve been hearing in the media, and then politely correct them when they’ve been misinformed. Talk to them about sexual assault and explain to them that it’s never okay to do – IT’S NEVER OKAY TO DO. Teach them right and wrong, and teach them to treat all people with respect and patience. It’s up to us to teach now, we’re grown – we can make our own decisions, by the time we’re adults we’ve already learned our version of right and wrong. But kids can be molded – even if they’re 17 years old, they can be taught. And it’s important to teach them.

That’s all on this topic. Just treat people well, and teach them right and wrong. And always take a look at the bigger picture.

If you want to have a discussion, you can leave me a comment. If you enjoyed this post or agreed with what I’m saying, you can like the post and click the “follow” button!

I’ll be back to regular programming as soon as possible (although let me tell you, I don’t know if I can finish Heartless. It’s been a real struggle – I truly hate the protagonist. I’m having a real Hector and the Search for Happiness flashback over here).

Until next time,

Rachel

*Sources:

  1. Evan Simko-Bednarski and Lauren Del Valle. Student in Maryland Rape Case Undocumented. CNN
  2. Online VideoRep. Jim Jordan: The health bill does not unite Republicans; Mother of student at Rockville HS speaks out over rape case. Fox News.
  3. Liam Stack. Spicer Says Maryland Rape Case Shows Need for Illegal Immigration Crackdown. The New York Times.

Heartless Pt 1 of 2 Review

Alright we have a little bit of a situation.

I started reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer to start the new year off right – haaaay 2017, whaddup? I’m absolutely in love with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, and I was thrilled when I heard that she was writing a new book – separate from the series – about who The Queen of Hearts was before Alice in Wonderland. That’s awesome, right?!

Except I really don’t like this book so far.

So what’s the deal, you may ask? Why is this even going to be two parts if you don’t like it, you may ask? Well, I got so pissed off at this book that I put it down for three days. In fact, I got so pissed off at this book that I started reading another book! But after careful consideration today, I decided that I’m going to tough it out.

I have not loved a Young Adult fantasy series like I do the Lunar Chronicles since I read the freakin’ Hunger Games in 2010. Six years! It took SIX YEARS for me to find a YA series that I genuinely, absolutely adored. So I think I owe it to myself, and to Marissa Meyer, to give this book a fair chance. After all, the Lunar Chronicles was five books – so I know she’s a great writer.

Now, I’ve made my feelings very clear in a previous blog post back in 2015 why you should stop reading books you don’t like. However, I’m going to tough this one out, and see if she doesn’t disappoint…. For science!

Before I say the bad stuff about the book, let me tell you one great thing: the packaging. The book cover is gorgeous, the hardback is beautiful, and even down to the page it’s stunning to look at it. That’s one thing I can say without a doubt about Meyer’s novels, is that the artwork is phenomenal.18584855

Okay, why do I not like Heartless so far? Well, to start, it’s incredibly slow on the uptake. I understand that she’s trying to build suspense, and set the scene, and I appreciate that. But the way she goes about it is wrong.

The book so far has been about a girl, Cath, who dreams of owning a bakery with her servant, and best friend, Mary Ann. She’s such a wonderful baker that the King of Hearts himself requests for his desserts at parties to include her treats. Now what Cath doesn’t know, is that her parents have arranged for her and the King to get married. At the royal ball, the King is about to announce to everyone that intends to marry her. Spooked, Cath flees from the ball she faints and is revived from the new Court Joker, Jest.

This all seems fine, normal, and dandy right?

Yeah, but that night she discusses with Mary Ann that she doesn’t want to marry the King at all. She wants to open the bakery.

Before I get into that, I want to take a minute to mention that the King is like the world’s nicest man! He’s always happy and kind to everyone he meets, he’s constantly smiling and telling bad jokes, and yes maybe he laughs too much, but I’d rather be around a King who is kind and can laugh at the world than one who can’t stand his people or takes everything too seriously. Just a genuinely sweet man, and she acts as if he’s the grossest thing in the world, and thinks his laughing is so annoying. I mean, look lady, did it ever occur to you that maybe you’re just a stick in the mud?

Anyway, so she complains to her friend-servant that she doesn’t want to marry the King and how awful that would be. Mary Ann, who is a servant, is rightfully upset. She doesn’t understand how anyone could not want to be Queen – she wouldn’t answer to anyone, she’d have all the freedom in the world, she’d be able to do anything she wanted, and the King was a nice man… I mean, come on, you can’t really complain to a servant – who will never be able to move upwards in society, and who has to clean your goddamn bed pans every night – that yeah, I guess it’s a wonderful opportunity for not just Cath, but for her entire family and probably even all of the servants and servant’s families because they’d likely be moved to the castle to serve, but by golly does that bakery on main street sound nice!

Here’s my other thing, if she’s the fucking Queen, why can’t she open a bakery herself? If that’s the only thing in life that she’s concerned with then by marrying the King she would be able to have the money to pay for the bakery, would have all day every day to bake in the royal kitchen which I would assume is pretty top notch, and to buy the specific plot of real estate she wants without going behind her parent’s back and stealing the money they were going to use for her dowry (I forgot to mention that her parents don’t even know she wants a bakery because Cath has never told them, so instead of them listening to her and understanding what she actually wants for her life, they just assume that she would be happy marrying the King. And even when she says she doesn’t want to marry the King, Cath still doesn’t tell her parents what she wants instead). Am I wrong, here? Furthermore, it’s not even like the King would be mad, I don’t think. I think he’d be happy because it would mean she’s making him desserts all day, and bringing in money for the Kingdom. I mean, really.

I understand that in the end she’s going to do something horrible because she is still the “off with their heads!” Queen, but holy crap – I mean, I have no sympathy for her struggle in the least. I’m just waiting for her to know that she’s evil so that at least I can hate her as the villain in this story and not just as annoying narcissistic girl with no empathy for what her loved ones might be feeling.

Now lets move on to this Joker, Jest. Cath feels like she’s in love with him because she had a dream about him and then suddenly lemons and roses appeared in her bedroom. Okay, that’s a little weird, I’ll give you that, but a dream does not a relationship make! Furthermore, in almost every instance Jest has hinted that he’d be happy being the jester to the King and to her – AS THE QUEEN – for the rest of his life. He even talked to the King when he realized she wasn’t ready for marriage and asked the King to slow it down and court her, to which the King was delighted to do because he really, truly cares about Cath for whatever unknown reason other than her goodies (pun intended).

It honestly sounds like a one-sided romance to me. And not in the brilliant way that Meyer’s did in her novel Fairest where we follow the bad guy before she was the bad guy and you can see all of the things that led to her becoming the way she is, including forcing a man to love her by killing his wife and then making herself look like his dead wife. I 22489107mean that character went through some really messed up stuff, and I can’t really blame her for becoming evil. Not that I liked the character, and in that book she did some really dark stuff, but at least I understood. In this, it’s different. The character is just a jerk, but she thinks she’s this thoughtful great person.

So now I’ve reached that impasse where I think, Rae, you’re like two hundred pages in, and even when you skipped ahead  to see how much more of this book you’d have to sit through, she still was on the fence about marrying this King and running off with Jest- do you really want to subject yourself to listening to this spoiled girl go on and on about how she wants this bakery? 

Normally my answer is no. Normally, my response is to say fuck this book – I’m moving on. Life is too short to be reading bad books. But then there’s that flicker that says, Nah, dawg, wait it out. 

Thus, I’m listening to the flicker. Even as I wrote that sentence, I rolled my eyes and put my hand on my face like “oh, I have such a headache, I’m a screw up. Fuuuuuuuuuuuucc…..”

We’ll see. I hope I’m not disappointed, but this bitch better either turn evil real quick so I’m justified in hating her or at least make me sympathize with her in like the next 40 pages because I swear by the time this book is finished I’ll have gouged claw marks into the pages.

I’m going to try to read it as swiftly as possible, but no guarantees it’ll be done in the next few days because at this rate it’s been about four days and I haven’t even touched it. I promise I’ll pick it up, though, guys. I do promise you that, because I’m actually interested in seeing where this experiment goes.

Now I’m off to do me the big science! She blinded me with sciiiiience… na, na naaaa, na…. Science!

I’m sorry I just threw some Thomas Dolby at you. I’ll just be over here if you need me.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Peak by Roland Smith Review

Hello! I hope everyone is having a nice holiday season! I’ve been spending my time off reading (very slowly). I managed to find a book several weeks back that was buried behind a stack of books in the Young Adult Fiction aisle at Barnes & Noble, Roland Smith’s Peak.

I was immediately drawn in by the cover of the book, which features two photos taken by real-life climbers of Mount Everest, which is fitting since the book is about a fourteen-year-old boy named Peak (everyone in the book agrees this is a stupid name for a human), who climbs to the top of the world.peak_cover

Now here’s the thing, the book isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a creative book, with lots of research done on the topic, and with a story that I can really get behind. I just wish there was more to it. Some of the characters are pretty one-dimensional, and a good chunk of the plot that would normally have been really emotional was cut short or left unexplained.

Peak (still a stupid name) is a young kid who climbs skyscrapers in New York City. His step-dad is a wealthy business man, his mom is an ex-mountain climber, and he has two young twin sisters that they all call “the Peas.” His dad, a famous mountain climber, hasn’t spoke to or seen Peak in over seven years. But when Peak comes into trouble when he’s caught climbing  the Woolworth Building – I mean, really dude? – his dad mysteriously appears offering him the chance to leave America and go to Chiang Mai for a little more than three years, until he’s eighteen, where Josh’s office is.

I should probably mention that the judge involved in this case very much wants to convict Peak because unfortunately there was a copy-cat the next day, a young kid who attempted to climb a skyscraper and fell to his death. Josh’s offer is accepted by the judge, because otherwise the judge will sentence him to three years in a juvenile detention center, and while that’s good news for the family who lost a son, and for the judge, it also brings on a lot of publicity and a lot of issues from Peak’s very affluent and powerful step-father.

What Peak and the rest of his family does not know, is that Josh (Peak’s dad insists that he calls him Josh since they don’t even really know each other) has an ulterior motive: to have Peak reach the summit of Mount Everest before his fifteenth birthday just a several weeks away. Why? Because apparently his company is in an extraordinary amount of debt, and the best way to make money is to get on camera the youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest – who just so happens to be his son, and in Josh’s company’s climbing party.

Issue #1:

Peak barely seems phased at all by this. His actions have spurred a kid to attempt doing something extremely dangerous – which is bad enough, except that that kid died! Peak justifies it by saying that he didn’t tell this guy to do it, he did it on his own. His mother attempts to get it into her son’s head saying that this actions are a direct correlation to this kid’s death, but Peak almost doesn’t seem to understand.

At the end of the novel, Peak maybe? kinda? sorta? understands it a little bit better, but he still seems more upset by the dead people he finds frozen on the mountain than he does by the person who imitated him and fell to his death. Dat’s fucked up.

Issue #2:

Peak doesn’t even seem mad that Josh is using him. In fact, he brings the issue up to Josh who of course brushes it off, and that’s a-okay with Peak! And even after asking Josh whether or not he would have come to help him in NYC if it weren’t for the fact that he was fourteen and not fifteen (and thus, would not have been eligible as the youngest person to climb Everest) and gets blatantly no, he not only still goes along with his dad, but also still seemingly wants his approval.

At this point I still felt bad for Peak – he was just finding out some deep things about his dad and I can imagine that’s very hard for a young kid who has only ever wanted his father’s attention. But as the story progresses, more information comes from his dad: he had a backup plan in case Peak didn’t make it to the summit so he would still make money, he had received the letters Peak sent when he was a kid and just never replied because he didn’t want to, he never actually told Peak’s mom that he took Peak to Everest, and when Peak tells her himself Josh blows up at Peak, etc. And still this kid seems to not care. He gets frustrated for an hour or so, but then it blows over. No! No, no, no!!

I waited through the entire book to hear Peak give Josh a piece of his mind, and it never happened. Actually, at the end Peak realizes how much he just doesn’t care about his biological father and that’s that. No! I mean good for him for making that realization, because no one should have people in their lives that don’t care about their wellbeing, but at the same time my patience level with Peak had plummeted HARD.

Issue #3:

When Peak decides he’s going to go with his dad in Chiang Mai, his mom barely seems sad at all. She’s still angry with him for doing something so stupid – and I think we can all agree that climbing a giant building in the middle of the night for the sole intention of graffitiing the the top of it is pretty fucking stupid. But even as they’re in the airport waving him off, there’s a hug and slight dialogue, and then off to the adventure.

Now I’m not a mother, but I am a dog mom, and I know that even if I’m angry at my dog for peeing on the floor or scratching me trying to beg for food that if I had to send him off for any stretch of time, I would be distraught. I would be falling apart. I have a hard enough time leaving him to go on vacation for two nights even though I know he’s in wonderful hands. And that’s a dog child. Not a human child that someone birthed.

I just feel like the way Smith wrote his mother into the story was too forced – almost unfeeling. Generally if a character is upset the author will draw you that picture. In this case it was more like, ‘I’m leaving to Chiang Mai.’ ‘I know. Be good.’ ‘I will.’ ‘I’ll miss you.’ ‘You too.’

I mean, say what? No tears? No heartfelt goodbyes? What is this? It’s almost like Smith didn’t know how to portray a female character and the proper emotions she should have had leaving her son for three years. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I really think maybe he doesn’t know how to portray a female character. There are four females in this novel: the mother, the two twin sisters who are both like six or seven years old, and a journalist who is really only there to be this shrill obnoxious person who annoys everyone around her. Every other character in the entire book is a man. Hmm.

Issue #4:

The parts of the plot that explain why a person behaves the way they do, or explains what a person has gone through in life, are not elaborated on. For example, Josh was saved by a Sherpa the year previously, and the Sherpa died saving him. So that backup plan I mentioned was actually that Sherpa’s son. But there wasn’t a lot of elaboration. They didn’t really go over in a lot of detail what happened, how he managed to save Josh, why that guy went to save him, etc. I’m sure you’re just supposed to infer that the Sherpa thought it was the right thing to do and saved him, and faced lots of hardships getting down the mountain, but I wanted those details! Josh was still alive, and obviously knows what happened on the mountain – he should have explained it all.

Look, this is a short book, less than 300 pages. This guy could have easily expounded on those points and made it a far more interesting novel to read, and still made the book less than 400 pages, easily.

There’s also a part where we find out why Peak’s mom stopped mountain climbing. I wanted more information! I want to know exactly what happened. But we don’t get that. It’s a short conversation between Peak and his mother, and again it’s fairly unfeeling. I want more!

I don’t want to say that everything is bad in this because it was a fun read. I really enjoyed reading a climbing Mt Everest story, which I don’t think I’ve ever done. And I really loved the idea of the story – the plot itself of a kid who has a limited amount of time to get up the hardest mountain to climb in the world. Of a kid who has an absentee dad all of a sudden in his life and telling him what to do. It’s an interesting idea and I think it has a lot of promise. I honestly just wish there was more. I think Roland Smith was spot on with the idea, but just didn’t know how to turn this into the grand novel it really could have been.

Again though, I think it was incredibly fun to read, and I honestly do want to read the second book – which features Peak several years later in the Army’s climbing unit somewhere in the Middle East. I think that sounds really cool. I’m just hoping the writing is a little more detailed.

All in all it’s a good book. I’d give it a three out of five. Not for lack of plot, but for lack detail.

If you guys have read it, or have any comments on it be sure to write your thoughts in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com– I’m always interested to hear other people’s takes on things.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year, and had very happy holidays!

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book vs Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

I finished Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!!! And let me tell you – it was mediocre.

Okay, let me explain: I’m a huge nerd.

I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan. I love everything about it. I love the books, I love the movies, the symbolism, the fan-base. Just everything. And I read the actual Fantastic Beasts book (the encyclopedia version, that came out as a two-pack with Quidditch Through the Ages, which was published in 2001) and I loved it because it opened up a world of new creatures I hadn’t known, or that had only been mentioned once or twice.

So when I heard that they were going to come out with a movie based on that book, but instead of an encyclopedia of animals, it was going to be a fictional story based on the author of that encyclopedia, Newt Scamander, I was thrilled! I’ve waited three years for this movie to come out, and it was fantastic (see what I did there? You can’t see me, but my eyebrows are moving up and down suggestively). It was incredible, and it actually blew me away.

It was an incredible movie. It was so much darker, and much more adult than the Harry Potter movies (I think the books are still just as dark and adult, but the movies never truly portrayed that dark, eerie, messed up world that Harry and his friends were journeying through). This movie was the perfect blend of character development and animal development. I found myself wanting less of the humans, and more of the creatures – but even so, I thought there was a great blend of the two.

The main character, Newt, was wonderful. He was exactly the type of antisocial, awkward, uncomfortable person that I could imagine would make a life out of studying magical creatures. I loved how awkward and how much unease he seemed to feel around humans, but how relaxed and free he felt around the creatures, and talking about the creatures. It’s this spectacular transition that I thought genuinely made this movie come to life. Newt could have been any one of us nerds. He could’ve been me, being awkward around others, with a quizzical nature towards people who want me to feel accepted …. Is this a trick? Do you actually want me here, or should I just go find a dog to pet?

The cinematics of this film were wonderful. The colors were beautiful, the CGI and 3-D animation were seamless, and the music was the perfect at every instance.

But the book. Oh God, the book.

I didn’t realize they were coming out with a screenplay of the book until maybe a week before I saw the movie. I was thrilled, though. I knew it was a screenplay, and not a novel, but I felt like the script for the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Pt. 1&2 was pretty great, so why wouldn’t this screenplay be? I was wrong.

Look, there are great parts to this book: the cover is beautiful, it’s made to look like a 1920’s hardcover novel, and the interior art is absolutely stunning! It’s honestly the beautiful book I’ve ever seen in my life – no joke. But the writing is not as good. I feel horrible saying it, because I love JK Rowling so much, but the writing is subpar. ne60ri1lfofa99_2_b

It’s written in screenplay version. So it’s supposed to be written with very little detail, since the real detail should be in facial expressions, scene art, and story. But that’s the thing – this book is word-for-word the movie.

The only part that is different is the very first page, where they show Gellert Grindelwald killing a bunch of people. Every single thing afterward, including the newspaper articles from the beginning of the movie, are in there. No extra dialogue, no extra information, no extra subtext, or body language, or anything that would make me truly imagine what was going on.

In fact, I’m so happy that I watched the movie before reading this screenplay because I can guarantee I would have been like, “what the hell am I reading?” because there just wasn’t enough description of characters and animals for it to actually make sense, or for me to truly imagine what I was reading.

I saw the movie twice in theatres, once with my boyfriend, and once with the rest of my family – but honestly I feel like I watched it two and half times, and the last half just wasn’t as fun.

I’m really disappointed, actually, because I was very excited for this screenplay and I’ve NEVER disliked something that JK Rowling has written. I was skeptical when The Cursed Child came out, and I was expecting to hate it, but I didn’t. It wasn’t a perfect book, but it was still very good. This book I just don’t like at all.

I’m glad I own it for aesthetic purposes, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend reading it. I DO, however, want you to know that I am not only recommending that you see the movie, but demanding that you see the movie if you like this type of story, or are a Harry Potter nerd like myself. It’s uttertly fantastic!

The movie is obviously the clear winner in this case, so my tally is:

Book: 8, Movie: 6 

Let me know in the comments or via e-mail if you felt any differently. I don’t know if maybe I was just expecting more from the book and was just let down, or if there were other people out there who didn’t like it as much as I did.

Until next time,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Have We Regressed? Or Have We Just Been Silent?

Hi everyone! I’m doing something a little different today.

I’ve been largely quiet on this page as to my views and beliefs, and I want to state right now, before anything else, that I respect and honor your opinions and beliefs and will fight to make sure you are always able to express them; please do the same for me.

Now, like many people in America, I’m upset and disturbed at the path our supposedly progressive country has chosen to go down. I recently discovered that I’ve honestly been fairly naive and arrogant in thinking that the America that I grew up in, and the world I grew up in, is this great, loving, free state of life. In reality it’s still just as backwards as it ever was.

So why am I writing about this? Well, I grew incredibly upset with an article I read in People Magazine titled Jinger Duggar’s Big Day! This article is about a 22-year-old from a well-known reality TV family. The Duggar family is consisted of two parents, Jim and Michelle, and 19 children. They believe that God will give them exactly what they need in the world, so they do not believe in contraceptives, abortions, or medicine interfering when it comes to children. This girl, who I believe is the fourth oldest, recently married a not very well known ex-professional soccer player, Jeremy Vuolo, 29. I think it’s fantastic that these two got married, as long as they’re happy.

What I had a hard time sitting with was this exact quote from Michelle Duggar:

“Jeremy is a strong leader, and Jinger is such a gentle people person and a great follower.”

Let’s read between the lines here: Jeremy, an athletic, wealthy, religious man, is head of the household and is a great leader, and Jinger? Why she’s a pretty young girl who just can’t wait to follow her husband to Texas, and be a little social bee in their upscale neighborhood.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I think anyone who knows me would agree with this) but if my boyfriend ever told me to  be his “follower,” I’d plant my heels in the dirt so fast he wouldn’t know what hit him.

Now I brought this up to my boyfriend (who promptly agreed that this would not be a favorable situation for him, but who also looked me in the eyes and told me, “I want you to know I value your opinions.” D’awww!) and we started to have a very interesting discussion – not about these particular people, who can do whatever they please in life, but about American society as a whole.

You see, before the Duggars, I actually did not think there were many people out there who still had their way of thinking: God is king, man is law, woman is behind man at all times. Again, if this is your way of thinking, that’s great. But it’s not mine, and frankly I don’t personally know of any woman who would agree with this either.

So before this well known family emerged, I thought this type of thinking was in the past. Arrogantly, I thought, okay, I know there are some men out there who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, but there aren’t THAT many. In fact, I distinctly remember when the Duggar’s show came on air, and I thought, wait, is this real? Like actually real? I couldn’t understand that this was a show about real life people and their real life beliefs; that it wasn’t a scripted reality TV program like Laguna Beach, and the people in it were expressing genuine views.

I’m having this same train of thought now, in 2016. Donald Trump had been running for President of the United States of America. A whopping title! I, like many others, believed it to be a joke and he’d jump to the side of the podium one day with jazz hands flailing, yelling, “Gotcha!” And everything would be back to normal.

But nope. Sadly, his campaign has not only succeeded in getting that whopping title, but it’s succeeded in bringing out all of these different people that I thought history had erased. I didn’t think the person across from my apartment complex could possibly be okay with sexual assault, sexism, racism, bigotry, misogyny, and many, many more things that we, as a people, have tried so hard to get rid of. I didn’t think the person that gave me my bagel in the morning was an advocate for inhumane rights, homophobia, and making Muslims wear identification tags. I didn’t think that the friendly people I see every single day secretly hated others so much that they would proudly come forward with Trump. No, sir, I did not.

Growing up in school, the question always raised in history classes was: How could people have let Hitler do the things he did? How could someone have been okay with this?

Well, I’ll give you a new question: How could we, as a supposedly caring, kind, empathetic, accepting group of people, have that age-old-question and still follow Trump blindly?

The answer is so simple. We just haven’t changed as much as I thought we had.

History is doomed to repeat itself. I never thought that the horrible ideals that people had in the past would come back, but apparently they just never left! People are still out there preaching hate, condemning other people based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and even sticking to the idea that women are nothing but pretty objects to look at (but God forbid they talk!) These opinions are nothing new, they’ve just been largely silent for the past 70 years.

I guess what I’m saying is that, it seems to me, large groups of people with ancient and hurtful ways of thinking, have suddenly surfaced in a time where I thought we were civilized enough, advanced enough, and accepting enough to never let history repeat itself in this large of a fashion.

This is a scary time. But remember, it can get better!

My one plea to you is this: Our country and a lot of the people in it are moving backwards. If we, as individuals, can keep moving forward we’ll be all right. We just need to accept people as they are, and understand that you can’t change them – but you can change the way that you react towards them.

I’m going to leave you with a poem that I absolutely love, and find strength in all the time. I’ve tried to live up to this every single day since I first read it.

IN LAK’ECH

Tú eres mi otro yo.

You are my other me.

Si te hago daño a ti,

If I do harm to you,

Me hago daño a mi mismo.

I do harm to myself.

Si te amo y respeto,

If I love and respect you,

Me amo y respeto yo.

I love and respect myself.

Until next time,

Rachel

rachel@booksandcleverness.com

P.S. I’m sorry to anyone who is offended by this post. I did not mean it as an attack, or as hurtful criticism. I simply wanted to get my opinion out there. If we have different opinions, that’s wonderful! I’m glad! That makes life interesting, that makes the conversation better. But let’s keep it at that: a conversation.

The Lunar Chronicles: Winter Review!

I’m back! I know, I know, three months off seems a little excessive, but hey! This is just for fun, right?

I’m finally going to talk to you about the last book of the Lunar Chronicles series, Winter.

I have one word: DAMN!

No, three words: oh my DAMN!

This book was intense. As per the previous novels, each story has a underlying fairytale that accompanies each character that the book kind follows. Each character is loosely based on a fairytale, but mostly the author just rips apart everything you ever knew and turns it into something completely different. The first book was a take on Cinderella, the second on Little Red Riding Hood, the third on Rapunzel, the fourth on the Wicked Step Mother, and the fifth and final book in the series, on Snow White.

Okay, now that you’re all caught up: this book was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a book series that captured my attention from the start and kept it this much even three months after I’ve finished it since Harry Potter. Seriously, if I weren’t so busy (and didn’t have a hundred books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet) I would have already re-read this series.

winterMarissa Meyer does an absolutely phenomenal job portraying each and every character and I’m so impressed that she was able to jump from point of view to point of view, while still keeping track of five different characters at once. It’s absolutely incredible and awe-inspiring to read a book from someone so talented.

Winter is definitely tied for the darkest book of the series, which I didn’t think was possible after reading Fairest. Both books are the type that you read and say, “that’s fucked up.” every ten pages or so, which was (weirdly) a breath of fresh air.

You see, from looking at the beautiful covers of these novels you would not for one second think it would get as dark and twisted as these books do, but I love that!!! Every turn is surprising and new and I never know what is going to happen. I’m pretty certain that those two books have more scarring content of any young adult novel I’ve ever read.

There is psychological and physical abuse. There is madness to the point of taking control of other people’s minds and having them stab people. There is gruesome accounts of burning alive. There’s basically almost molestation, and there’s an all out war. You expect plot points like these for regular fiction novels, but never for a young adult novel! I think it’s absolutely astonishing that Meyer was able to take these very adult themes and manipulate them and turn them into beautiful lessons and just beautiful stories overall.

The ONLY negative thing I can say about this book (and I’m not even sure it’s a negative, really) is that the ending isn’t a traditional happily ever after. It has those elements, yes. But each group of stories within the larger story has a much different ending than I would have expected. But is that a negative? I’m not so sure. I think it just makes it more realistic.

If you love books that are loosely based on very grim fairy tales (ha! – grim fairy tales;  Grimm’s fairy tales… funny right? No? Okay, I’ll just wait over here…), if you love romance stories, action stories, science fiction stories, young adult fiction, alternative future stories, scary-ish stories, I have no reason to believe you would not love these books. Each one is so unique and so special that I just have nothing bad to say.

I’m also going to add an image that was on the inside of the front and back covers for Winter because it’s absolutely ASTOUNDING! Artemisia.jpgFor book cover art, it’s easily one of the most captivating images I’ve seen.

Good job, Marissa Meyer! I can’t wait to see what you produce next!

Again, I’m sorry it took me three months to get to writing this, please don’t ston me to death! I swear I’ll try to do these quicker. For those who stuck around and waited for this last installment, thank you – I hope I didn’t disappoint, because this series sure as hell didn’t!

If you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, I’ll leave my e-mail address below. In case I don’t get the chance beforehand, Happy Thanksgiving all!

Gobble gobble,

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com