River of Teeth – Sarah Gailey Review

Hey guys! I’m so proud of myself – I’ve managed to read two books since June. I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but trust me: it’s been hard to find time. That being said, I’m going to talk about one of them: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey.

Now, before I go into the book I think it’s only fair I tell you a little bit about the historical background of this novella:

In 1910, a man by the name of Robert Broussard, et. al.  proposed an idea to the U.S. government – an idea so preposterous it just might work. Or so he thought.

Broussard proposed the “American Hippo Bill.” What is the “American Hippo Bill,” you ask? Well, you see, in the Louisiana swamplands an invasive plant called the Water Hyacinth was running rampant, destroying animal habitats, “choking” the rivers, and making it near impossible to ship anything from the waters. The government tried everything: including an attempt to pour oil over it to kill the plant.

I mean, why they thought just dumping sludgy oil over a water plant was a good idea, I have no idea. But I guess at least they’re nothing if not consistent because their next plan was even more ridiculous. Broussard proposed that in order to get rid of the Water Hyacinth they could bring African Hippopotamus’ into Louisiana waters and kill the plant.

Now that’s pretty crazy right? Well I’m not done.

Not only did they want to bring the Hippos all the way from their natural habitat to kill this plant, they also wanted to ranch them! Their idea was simple: we’ll bring the hippos in, we’ll put them on a ranch, or a farm, and raise them like you would a cow or chickens – let them eat the water hyacinth, and then when the hippos are ready, we kill them and use them as a source for meat. At the time there was a meat shortage, so why not add hippo into their diets!

Needless to say, despite Theodore Roosevelt being 100% on board with this plan (Because he’s TR, and a true badass), there were no hippo ranches to be made in Louisiana.

So what does this have to do with the book? Well, Gailey – who is on a whole other level of creative that I could never reach, decided to write this novel as if the “American Hippo Bill” had passed!!

I was just scrolling through Amazon books and one of the “also recommended” books was this. I saw the cover and immediately knew I had to at least give it a shot. Well, this book was well worth it.

Gailey took some liberties and made this book set in the 1800’s, and I have to say that was a great idea. She takes her own liberties when it comes to time periods, technology used, and the like, but overall her use of those liberties made for a really fun read.33099585

I’m not going to say that this is the next Great American Novel, but it sure was entertaining and honestly worth another read from me.

The story follows a character named Winslow Houndstooth who manages to get a group of “mercenary hippo wranglers” together to complete a year-long job. What they don’t know is that Houndstooth isn’t just doing a job (although he is doing the job) he’s also looking for revenge!

I thought this book was really fun, light, and an easy read. All of the characters are SO different, they all have a purpose, and they all bring something fun, or different to the table. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, and even while reading it I couldn’t tell what was going to happen next. It was just one big rollercoaster.

If you love historical fiction, adventure, heist, and animal books – this is for you. It appealed to my want for something based on fact, something almost swash-buckling, and it still had animals!  The only thing I will say is this: if you don’t like gore, don’t read it. It’s not overly gory, and honestly Gailey does a very tasteful job with that, but there is death in the book and the scenes tend to take a very different turn from what you’d expect. So just keep that in mind if you wanted to read it. It also does have sex in it. They don’t talk about genitals or anything, but there is kissing, and not-at-all-subtle sleepovers.

So again, buyer beware.

Otherwise, I thought it was excellent! It was fun, it was interesting, it was cool that it’s based off of real life, and I really enjoyed it! Good news too: she’s making a sequel! Comes out in September!!

Also, I just looked it up and it looks like Edward Norton and RatPac Entertainment are creating a movie on the topic! I assume the movie is about the true story of trying to get the bill passed and such, but how cool would it be if it were a killer hippo story??

Anyway, if you like these kinds of books, and like history, and a really short read (160-something pages) READ THISSSSS!!!! It’s summer – buy this book and bring it to the beach! It’s worth it!

As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to leave them here or contact me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com!

Until next time!

Rachel

E-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

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

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

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

Book vs Movie: The Revenant

Well well well, look what the cat dragged in… Or should I say, “look what the grizzly dragged in???” (Forgive me, my vocabulary is limited to sarcasm and dad jokes) I know this review is a little bit late to the game but better late than never, right?

Let’s get started: About a week or so after it came out, my boyfriend and I watched the brand spankin’ new movie The Revenant starring the ever-so-awesome Jack Dawson (aka Leonardo DiCaprio) [… side note, does anyone else think of Leo as Jack still? Because that love will never die in my mind and is always the first thing that comes to mind. DAMNIT LEO AND KATE GET TOGETHER ALREADY!] 

We went in to the movie trying to keep our expectations to a minimum. The last time we saw a movie that was that hyped up we were so disappointed. To be specific, that movie was Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max got something crazy like 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and everyone was saying it was the greatest movie of all time. So of course I’m expecting the best movie ever. Instead I got a two hour desert car chase.

Before anyone argues with me, I want to say that when the movie came out on DVD my boyfriend and I bought it and gave it another shot and actually really enjoyed it! The problem lies in the hype:

You see, for most movies that come out with five star ratings, everyone expects the best movie ever – they don’t go in appreciating the movie for what it is. With Mad Max, it just so happened to be one of the most extraordinary car chases I’ve ever seen. But again, how was I supposed to enjoy that when everyone is saying it’s a feminist masterpiece and the most brilliantly made film since Avatar?

So like I said, my expectations were lower than usual because I just didn’t want to feed into the hype. Fortunately, my expectations were exceeded. The Revenant kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was never a dull moment, even in the slowest moments I was still wholly captivated.

Which is why when we went out to dinner one night and I saw The Revenant in Barnes & Noble under the Page to Screen section, I was thrilled! Should I have spent the money? Probably not. But was it worth it? Definitely. (I can practically hear my wallet yelling from the living room, “Ah’r you f#*&ing kidding me? I’m bleedin’ ova here!”Apparently my wallet is an Italian Mobster – No ragrets)

Anyway, I bought the book when I was still reading the Dan Brown novels  – which I will tell you about, by the way, I just need a break from the disappointment – and mentioned the book in one of my posts. I was surprised that one of my favorite bloggers Bottles And Bookends had heard the actual story of the main character. I was actually impressed that this was a true story and I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it.

Well it took me probably about a week or a week and a half to finish the book. It’s not that big, less than 300 pages, but I’ve been a slow reader recently so I was actually pretty pleased on my timing. But let me tell you … you have to read this book.

This novel was phenomenal. From the very first page I was completely hooked. The author, Michael Punke, did so much research and really got the feel of early 1800’s trappers and Native Americans and put them in this small but powerful book. The writing was an interesting style akin to watching a movie. The constant change of what I’ll call “point of view” for lack of a better word, made the book all the more authentic.

It was poignant, it was different, it was rough at times, incredibly detailed, and all over a well written novel.

Now here’s the tricky part: was the movie similar to the book? Yes. But did the movie take a hell of a lot of creative liberties? Abso-fucking-lutely. For starters, Hugh Glass does not have a child in this book. And anyone knows from the trailer of the movie that this man is seeking revenge because of his son. So that’s plot difference number one.

Number two: the movie, remarkably, is mostly following one man’s journey for revenge. A solo adventure to find the men who deserted him. The book, however, offers a much more realistic take: the main character is seeking revenge on his own, but often needs the assistance of other people in the surrounding areas to survive.

Number three: The ending. I’m not even going to touch on the ending because I don’t want to give it away, but the endings of the two Revenants are different. One is more concrete while the other is open to interpretation.

But let me say this. absolutely adore historical fiction. I think it’s incredible. I love being transported into a world not entirely unlike my own, still based on fact, but obviously maneuvered to make it more appealing and exciting to read. This book hit that mark to a tee. If you like historical fiction, this is the perfect book for you.

As for book versus movie. I honestly don’t think that there’s a way to compare the two. While there were obvious similarities between them, I truly believe that the movie was a 10/10, and the book was 10/10, but for different reasons.

For that I’m calling this one a tie.

I do very highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend seeing the movie and then reading this book, because it was really cool to see the dramatization and get interested in that story and then go and read a more realistic interpretation of what actually happened.

So what are you waiting for? You’ve listened to my dad jokes enough – go read!

Until next time,

Rachel

P.S. Thank you for supporting me for 50 posts! I’m so excited that I get to share my thoughts and ramblings with you guys and I’m so thankful that you find me interesting enough to stick around. Here’s to the next 50!

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com