Book and Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians

There was a lot of buzz recently when the movie Crazy Rich Asians came out.  It was exciting to see a major Hollywood movie with a completely Asian cast.  I saw the movie once it reached DVD and enjoyed it.  Some time later I found out it was based on a book (so many are!) so I decided to read that too.

The storyline in both mediums focused on the very, very wealthy of Singapore.  Nick, who has been living in New York, brings his American-born Chinese girlfriend Rachel to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding…without warning her that his family is, well, crazy rich.  They’re also intensely snobbish, and Rachel is definitely not what they had in mind for their favored son.  Meanwhile, Nick’s favorite cousin Astrid, who married outside her social class, is finding her marriage rocked.  And meanwhile, the conspicuous consumption is rampant.

I think this pretty well encompasses the movie plot–the book plot had a lot more threads going on.  In many ways the movie simplified and focused in–and I think told its particular stories better (though I might feel differently if I’d read the book first).  The book really had a different focus.  The movie is about Nick and Rachel, with Astrid as a supporting character/cautionary tale.  The book is about the entire social class, with a bigger cast of characters who have their own issues and upheavals over the course of the book.  Nick, Rachel and Astrid are probably still most prominent, but definitely part of an ensemble cast.

Continue reading “Book and Movie Review: Crazy Rich Asians”

Blog Hop: Enthusiasm…?

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: At the end of a hard day, how do you get yourself psyched about writing a book review?

I guess…I kind of don’t?  At least, on some level, I don’t.  One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about trying to get yourself to do something is (paraphrased) that you don’t actually have to be excited to do it, you just have to do it.  Taking the pressure off to feel positive about it makes it easier to just buckle down and do it, because you’re not putting willpower into trying to modify your emotions too.

How do I get myself to write a blog post though?  Well, having a schedule is everything for me.  I’ve had a set schedule of when I post since the first day of this blog–it’s shifted a little as my time allows, and I have missed posts occasionally (although I didn’t for years).  It’s much, much easier for me to say, I need to write Friday’s post because it’s Friday and I post on Friday, rather than, hmm, I haven’t posted in a while, I should post…which could easily be put off until tomorrow, indefinitely.

It’s actually the same attitude I have towards writing.  I write every day.  Period, full stop.  I’ve kept that up for…five years?  Six years?  I don’t know, I’ve lost track.  But the key thing is, the question becomes not, do I have a good enough reason to write today?  The question is, do I have a good enough reason to NOT write today?  So far, I haven’t had a good enough reason to break the streak.  Including my wedding day.  Including my honeymoon.  Including international travel and various illnesses.  I won’t say that there haven’t been days when I edited one paragraph, or reread one page that I was revising, or wrote two sentences…but every day, something happened.  Because the question wasn’t will I, it was will I not? [/end divergence]

So along with knowing when I need to write a blog post, inverting the question of whether to do it, I also remind myself that it usually goes faster than I imagine it will, it’s usually easier than it looks once I start, and I do in fact usually enjoy writing it.  Or I probably wouldn’t be doing it to begin with!

For bloggers, how do you get yourself to post?  Non-bloggers, do you have tricks you use for other tasks that you might find challenging to start?

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #7.5

Two weeks ago for Writing Wednesday I wrote about my run away idea, the story that became “The Princess Behind the Thorns.”  I didn’t manage to finish the story in a single day, considering it stretched to 9,000 words, so I finished it on the second day.  I don’t think I knew quite how it was going to turn out until I got there–although to be honest, with a story written that fast, it’s hard to remember the order different ideas arrived in!

For the eighth day and seventh story of my flash fiction writing challenge, here’s another excerpt from “The Princess Behind the Thorns.”  This excerpt is quite near the end, after a prince has come to rescue Rose, but that didn’t go as expected either…

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            Rose sat up, looking out through the gaps in the bower’s woven walls.  There was blackness all around them.

“I think the spell’s breaking down,” Terrence said, sitting up too, staring at the shadows around them.  “That’s the only explanation, it’s been too much time and the magic is coming apart.”

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #7.5”

Friday Face-Off: School Days, School Days…

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It’s time again for the Friday Face-Off meme, created by Books by Proxy, with weekly topics hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog.  The idea is to put up different covers for one book, and select a favorite.

This week’s theme is ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ –A cover featuring a school

The first books I thought of that centered around a school were Gordon Korman’s MacDonald Hall series, a hilarious collection of Juvenile books.  When I was a kid/pre-teen, Gordon Korman was my favorite funny author, the Terry Pratchett of that period in my life, and I still enjoy him very much.  MacDonald Hall are among his best books.  I thought I’d look at covers for the first one, This Can’t Be Happening at MacDonald Hall!  He wrote it in seventh grade, which continues to amaze me.

I like this cover pretty well–it puts the focus squarely on the two friends, Bruno and Boots, with Mr. Sturgeon (the Fish) the Headmaster threatening in the background.  It’s just too bad that the hairstyles really date it… 😉 Continue reading “Friday Face-Off: School Days, School Days…”

Writing Wednesday: Notre Dame Cathedral

I and many, many people were rocked this week by the fire that broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral Monday night.  I’m interrupting my regularly scheduled series of posts on recent short stories to share how Notre Dame Cathedral has figured in my writing, which points in many ways to my feelings about the cathedral.  A beautiful architectural treasure, it’s also a touchpoint with history.  I visited the cathedral in 2012 and 2016, and characters in my Phantom trilogy visited in 1881.  The ability to visit the same place that was standing centuries ago is breathtaking.

More than that, Notre Dame is a constant.  I’m so relieved that the most recent news suggests Monday’s fire marks a new chapter in Notre Dame’s long but continuing story.  For a few hours, it looked like it could be the end of the story, and I found it impossible to imagine a world without Notre Dame Cathedral by the Seine.

Which is exactly how it appears in my Phantom trilogy as well–Meg in particular views it as a reliable source of constancy.  Outside of the Opera Garnier (which is the setting for probably 90% of the trilogy), Notre Dame is the number one setting, woven into some of the most meaningful scenes, and a symbol of stability in an unstable world.  Some passages were seeming painfully ironic on Monday–now, perhaps, they’re just a little more poignant?

Here are a few Notre Dame passages from my novels.

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In Book One, Meg believes she may have to leave Paris soon, and looks for some comfort in the face of those worries.

I kept walking forward because it was the easiest direction, gazing into the distance without paying attention to the view.  I had been staring at Notre Dame’s towers for at least a block before I properly realized it.

I could go there.  I didn’t know anywhere more serene, stable and unmoving than Notre Dame Cathedral.  Where better to go when my world had fallen out of balance?  And it couldn’t be anything worse than the last visit for now.  Beignets and booksellers’ stalls were fleeting, the Opera Garnier might close its doors to me, but I could always go back to Notre Dame.  Maybe not soon, not if we moved away, but Notre Dame would never be gone.  I’d be back someday.

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: Notre Dame Cathedral”

Book and Movie Review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron

In one of the more circuitous ways I’ve found a book, I recently read a nonfiction book by Julia Cameron, where she talks about Nora Ephron’s career, and mentions an audiobook of Heartburn, read by Meryl Streep.  I put down the book to search my library’s catalog and—yes, they had it!  Requested on the spot.  And when I listened to it, it was surprisingly funny and Streep was as good as I expected.  The movie, when I gave that a try, was, on the other hand, much less satisfying.

I’ve been reading more love stories this year, and Heartburn the book is something of an anti-love story.  Instead of being about a couple falling in love, it’s about a couple falling apart.  Rachel learns that her husband is having an affair while she’s seven months pregnant.  In a circuitous narrative, Rachel tells us about what led them to here and about the aftermath, punctuated by occasional recipes—because she’s a food writer who tells family stories.

I know this doesn’t sound funny.  But there’s a dry wit and self-deprecating charm to Rachel’s voice that made tragic events surprisingly funny—while still being tragic.  But it becomes a story about the absurd tragic comedy of life, which is quite different from a story about the tragedy of life.  If you see what I mean.  And along with a comedic edge given to the tragedy, some incidents are just genuinely funny.

Continue reading “Book and Movie Review: Heartburn by Nora Ephron”

Blog Hop: Revisiting to Resume

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: When reading a series, do you re-read the previous book/s before reading the newly released book?

Sometimes yes.  It depends on how much I like a series and how recently I’ve read the earlier books.  Often if I don’t reread earlier books before reading the newly released one, I end up realizing that I’ve forgotten great swathes of things (like, say, the main character’s best friend.  Or the twist ending of the last book revealing the villain is actually a good guy.  It’s happened.)  So in general I probably should reread the previous book(s) before reading a new one, but it really only happens if I enjoyed the previous book enough to want to read it again.

For a while I was doing an annual reread of at least some of Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland series, each autumn when a new one came out.  Because those are amazing.  I reread all the previous four when the fifth one came out and it was awesome.  I should reread those, come to think of it…

When I reread series, I pretty much always read the entire series.  So some, like Anne of Green Gables (eight books!) become a rather lengthy process.  But it just feels incomplete to only read part, and very strange to just jump to the middle somewhere.  Although I can think of a few series (the Oz books, the Bloody Jack series) where the quality is uneven, and I may only reread my favorites next time I revisit.  It would be a shift in habits, though!

What do you do when a new book in a series comes out?  Rereading, or just diving into the new part of the story?