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

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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

Cress and Fairest – Marissa Meyer Reviews

Hi friends! I’m almost done with the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer!

When we talked last, I had paused reading Cress, the third novel in the installment, so I could read the newest Harry Potter book (!!! – I’ve already done my review if you’d like to read it!) Well, once I finished reading that, I picked up where I left off, and boy was it good.

For those who don’t know, the series is a play on different fairy tales, for example, the first book is centered around Cinder – a well known mechanic who is trying to save her sister from the worldwide plague, Letumosis. The story gets crazy from there, but let me just say: this is no fairy tale story. Unless you’re counting the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales, in which case – yeah, that seems about right.

The other books are Scarlet (a play off of Little Red Riding Hood), Cress (Rapunzel), Fairest (a prequel following around the evil Lunar queen, Levana), and lastly Winter (Snow White) which is the last of the series.

So since we last talked, I read both Cress and Fairest and holy shit. Let’s do this one at a time:

Cress:

cress-final-e1378337072559This story follows a girl named Cress. She’s been kept in isolation for her whole life spying on Earth for Queen Levana. She’s awkward, anxious, socially inept, and totally in love with Carswell Thorne – a friend of Cinder’s. I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should read this series, but she and Carswell have to go on an adventure together, while Cinder is left to deal with a huge amount of problems and worries with the rest of their crew.

This book hit me harder than the two previous novels. As an awkward, anxious and socially inept person myself, I fit in with her. I also have a shit ton of hair, so I feel like she and I have a connection.

This book was written spectacularly, and I thought the story was above most fiction I’ve read recently. The character development was not only great to watch unfold but felt really genuine. I really feel like I’m watching these characters develop before my eyes and love it!!!!!

This book was pretty big, over 400 pages I think. But it went by so quickly. It’s just such a great read!

Fairest:

5119ihf8lulThis book is fucked up. I’m putting that out there now. It’s fucked up, but it’s awesome. This is the fourth book in the series and serves as a prequel to everything we know from the beginning of Cinder on.

It follows Levana back when she was just a princess, and her jerk sister, Channary, was Queen. It follows her path of destruction, her manipulation and basically slavery of the man she “loves”.

My boyfriend can tell you: I said aloud quite a few times while I was reading, “Wow, that’s really fucked up.”

Seriously I don’t want to ruin everything, but one thing that we know from the beginning of the series (it’s not a surprise) is that Levana killed her niece by burning down her nursery because the young Princess Selene was too powerful. She burned down a nursery to kill her niece. Legitimate murder. Straight up, no remorse, killing an innocent child murder. Dat’s fucked up.

This whole book was just one horrible thing after another, but I thought it was incredible. It was a great way to actually get inside the mind of this horrible Queen and what her justifications are for doing such horrendous things.

I’ve mentioned before that I love crime books, serial killer books, and things that really let you get inside a messed up person’s mind. I like to hear their reasoning and try to understand why someone would do something so terrible: this book did not disappoint. I felt like this book was almost as messed up and as amazing as the book I read about Carl Panzram (Panzram: A Journal of Murder Review) which was an incredibly messed up book. I think because it’s fiction it’s not as terrible and disgusting to read, but the way that Meyer writes the story feel so real that I was sitting there like, “someone better kill this bitch. Oh wait, she’s just misunderstood. Nope. Nevermind, BURN HER!”

highly, highly, highly recommend this book series. I’m about 250 pages in the last book, Winter, and it’s sooo good. It’s incredible. And I just can’t praise this series highly enough.

This series appeals to not just the young adult fans, but also the fans of science fiction, of war, of fantasy, of fairy tales, of romance – it has everything. It’s one of the most exciting series’ that I’ve read in a very long time, and I just absolutely love it!

Marissa Meyer, keep up the good work.

10/10 for both books. 8 thumbs up! 12/10 dentists would recommend.

Until next time,

Rachel

If you have any opinions on the series, or any questions, or even just want to chat – you can leave a comment down below or you shoot me a message to rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II Review

Hi friends! Guess who read the new Harry Potter book? This guy!

I got my preordered copy of Harry Potter and Cursed Child on Monday the first, I believe. I halted the book I was reading (Cress by Marissa Meyer) and went straight into this book. If you can show me a person that says they can sit through a book they’re already reading when they have a new HP book sitting on their shelf, I will show you a liar. Harry Potter waits for no one.

For those who don’t know, I am a HUGE Harry Potter nerd. I love it, I have a tattoo for it, I have a painting for it, my life is basically all HP, and my blog is named for one of my favorite lines in the entire series, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery” … I’ll admit, I omitted the latter half because I mean, really, what’s more important than books?

So I sat down a week ago and read the book. Admittedly it took me three days to do so, but I finished it! And oh my god…

This was completely different than the usual HP books, which was both good and bad:

First of all, it’s written like a play is written. For good reason: it’s the book based off of the play that just took stage in London. It’s supposed to be the same story that they’re doing on stage, only they turned it into a book for everyone to read instead of just the lucky few who get to see it on stage.

I am a huge fan of the fact that they released this book. I remember how bummed out I was when they said there was going to be a play but it was in London. I actually considered just going to London to see that play, so having the play in my hands and only paying twenty bucks instead of probably over 2,000 bucks was an amazing feeling.

The story itself is fantastic. I was hesitant at first because I thought, ,”okay, am I really going to sit down and try to feel okay about Harry being a forty-year-old father?” But I thought they did a great job.harry-potter-and-the-cursed-child-poster-461923

This book picks up exactly where we left off at the end of HP and the Deathly Hallows which I thought was a really great way to start the book. Just from the first few pages in King’s Cross Station I could already start to get a feel of the characters and their differences and similarities to the original books.

The plot was fun. It’s about Harry’s son, Albus Severus, who is trying to find his own identity at Hogwarts while everyone thinks he should be just as great as his dad (or the two wizards he’s named after…. Side note: I always thought it was fucked up that he named his kid Albus Severus because it seemed like a pretty heavy burden to put on someone. They’d constantly be trying to live up to the name. But in the book Harry actually asks a portrait of Dumbledore how he feels about having someone named after him and Dumbledore, being the smarty pants he is, says that it seems like a big weight to put on a kid! Ha! I was right.)

Albus Severus then goes on an adventure with his best friend Scorpius (Malfoy’s son) to try to change the past. Adventure ensues. I won’t give it away because I think it would make it much less exciting if you knew the whole story.

Now, while I enjoyed the books I did have a few dislikes:

As much as I love plays (I’m a Shakespeare girl through and through) I really do wish this were in novel format. Not because it wasn’t an amazing story the way it was, it really was an amazing story, but rather because I feel like there could have been so much more detail. I thought there were times where everything felt like it got cut off – because it was.

Because it’s in a play format, you don’t necessarily have all the imagery that you’re used to with Harry Potter books. There were several times that a scene ended and I was like, “no, there has to be more… Right?”

The problem with play format is that its broken down into what the character is saying, a small descriptive action, and then back to what a character is saying (obviously not always in that order). But because it’s broken up that way you almost don’t get as many of the descriptive emotions going on – you just have to identify it for yourself. Part of me is fine with that, but the other part of me wishes there was more meat to these bones.

The other thing I wasn’t crazy about was the portrayal of Ron. I know this is going to sound nit-picky, and it really is. But one of my favorite characters is Ron because he’s so cheeky, sarcastic, and just kind of reckless. Whereas in this book I didn’t get the same feeling from Ron. I got the same feeling from Hermione, from Harry, Ginny and Malfoy, but there was a disconnect for me with Ron.

Ron in this book felt more staged, almost like they wanted to have him say something funny but it just didn’t work. I wish they had more fluidity with his character.

Now, do I think that that’s a deal breaker? No. Do I think that makes the book any less great? No. I just really wish that there had been more “Ron” in Ron’s character in the book.

Other than that, I really did think this was a great book. It was so exciting to finally read a new HP story with new characters and a whole new generation.

I thought the idea was fantastic, the writing was impeccable (You can always count on Jo), and mostly the feeling of being back in the Wizarding World made me feel as free and welcomed as it always has.

Once again, JK Rowling has done it. She’s made me fall in love with Harry Potter all over again.

Now who’s ready for Fantastic Beasts????

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. If you have any opinions on the book, have seen the play, or just want to talk to me about everything (because I want to talk to you about everything) leave a message in the comments or shoot me an e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Top Five Love Stories (In The Past Twenty Years)

Ta-Da! I’m back!

I haven’t really able to write recently for a myriad of reasons, but mostly the past couple months have just been hard. I don’t want to lie to you guys and tell you that life is great 100% of the time, because that’s not how life works. BUT life is filled with little bits of extreme happiness and love. And fortunately I have love from my family and my significant other to help me through.

It’s exactly that love that I want to discuss today, because on Monday the 16th it will be mine and my boyfriend’s anniversary (whoopie!!! part-ayyy!) and I’m psyched! I love our anniversaries, it reminds me of when my life really began to feel complete (okay okay, I’m sorry I’m sappy!)

Nonetheless, the past couple days I felt an overwhelming feeling of love not only from my boyfriend but from my family as well. And because of that, I began thinking about the books that I’ve read that have stuck with me as great love stories, or stories of triumph in situations because love was prevalent. Some of my favorite love stories actually don’t have that much romantic, intimate love in them. But I remember the following books as incredibly well written and often struck me as the best love stories of all time. Or at least of the past 20 years.

These aren’t necessarily in any particular order, and this is just my opinion – but let’s be honest, my opinion is always right. So here we go:

1.  Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

This is a book that I love. I just absolutely adore this book. In no way is it a traditional love story, in no way is it a happy story – but it’s the story of a girl with a dream so big and a heart filled with so much love for one person that she is willing to do anything to make it a reality. Now I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but had you been thrust into a Geisha lifestyle at the age of  nine-years-old and sold for your beauty, you would probably think this story was the most romantic thing you’d ever heard.

2.  The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

This is an easy one, but I would be remiss if I didn’t add it to my list. This novel, with its beautiful writing and striking humor coupled with an incredibly believable and heartbreaking story, has made me cry more than any other novel I have ever read. And this is coming from a girl who has dealt with the deaths of Dobby, Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin all in one book (madness!!!!) But nonetheless, Green writes a novel from the point of view of a girl dying of a disease. Going to support groups for it, she winds up meeting a boy who also has a disease, but not one he’s dying from. The plot thickens from there, but this book was written with grace, amazing humor, and such unpredictability that I was on the edge of my seat (crying) the entire time.

3. Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Alright, this one I’m honestly a little embarrassed to put on the list, but I cried so much during this book that I had to put it on here. This book, while a love story, is a true story about a woman finding herself and loving who she is. It’s a struggle between living a life she was just comfortable in and a life that has purpose. In this case, her life of purpose includes meditation, lots of pasta and a man she fell in love with. This one struck me as less of a book about the love between two people but rather a book about the love of oneself. The idea that you can live your life, and you can do it your way. The idea of looking at your body in a mirror and saying, “hey, if someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t need to see it. And also, screw them!” and I really like that.

4. All of the Harry Potter Books – JK Rowling

I really don’t need to go into detail on this one, because anyone who has read the books will understand why this is on my list. Despite the romantic relationship stories in this series, the most prevalent, and most important relationship is the friendship and kinship between Harry, Hermione, and Ron/The rest of the Weasleys. If I go into too much detail I’ll start crying over here, so instead I’ll just leave it at this: the HP books have given me a lesson in all the different types of love someone is capable of having. From the smallest bit of kindness to a huge show of affection: love is everywhere.

5. The Valley of Amazement – Amy Tan

My girl! Amy Tan is the shit. I’m in love with all of the books she’s every written, and honestly I wanted to put this book and The Bonesetter’s Daughter on this list, but TBD was less about love and more about over coming obstacles (also I didn’t want to overcrowd you with Amy Tan – but please read that book because it’s fantastic!) Anyway, this novel is incredible. It’s about a woman’s journey as half-Chinese, half-American living in China as a courtesan. Honestly this book has a similar feel that Memoirs of a Geisha has but without the feeling of the main character being a slave and unable to do anything about her own life. This book has so many different moving parts to it, but the thing you need to know is that when this book had loving moments in it, it had heart warming, heart breaking, all consuming, vulnerable, tears rolling down your eyes moments. Read this!

So that’s the last of it. I’m sure if I wracked my brain a little more I’d be able to give you some other books, but for now here are the top five books that center around love that are my personal favorites.

If you have other books that you think ought to be on the list, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The next time you hear from me will be after my anniversary, which means that the next time you hear from me I will have gained twenty pounds from all the pasta I’m going to eat at our favorite Italian restaurant. YESSS! Ciao!

Rachel