Blog Hop: A Long Time Ago…

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you ever go “way back” to when you first started blogging and look at your old review posts? Do you see any differences from then to now?

 

My earliest posts really are pretty far back by now–since I’ve been writing this blog for almost seven years!  I look back occasionally, when I want to see what I said about something that comes to mind again, to reference with a link back if a topic comes up now, or to choose a Classic Review to repost.

I don’t think my taste has changed hugely since I started blogging.  It may have become broader–I read less YA and more nonfiction, and the various challenges I’ve had over the years have influenced the more specific topics I may have covered (like fairy tales or parallel universes).  But overall, if I liked a book way back when, I still like it now–and if I disliked one, well, I probably haven’t reread it, but I usually still think I had good points.

My reviewing has become more immediate.  In early blog days I did more reviewing of favorite books I hadn’t reread recently.  It didn’t take long, though, to realize that it’s a lot easier reviewing a book I just read, so that shifted pretty fast.

The biggest difference to me may be subtle to other people.  I think I’m more confident in my reviews now.  At first I think I felt a need to defend my opinion–now, I still will tell you why I like or dislike something, but it doesn’t feel like an assertion so much as a statement.  That may not look very different to anyone else, but I can see it!

Readers who are also book bloggers, do you ever go back farther?  How has your reviewing change?

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TV Review: Anne with an E

Because I evidently have not written enough about L.M. Montgomery lately…today I have a review of the recent Netflix special, Anne with an E, a six-hour miniseries.  This retelling of Anne of Green Gables was billed as a darker version–and it was.  Some aspects of it were wonderful and compelling.  Others, not so much, and I do mean the darkness.  It all gave me some new insights into the themes of Montgomery’s books though, and I’m always pleased about that!

The miniseries drew me in with a very good first episode (90 minutes–the rest are 45).  It followed very closely to the original story, as orphan Anne is mistakenly sent to Prince Edward Island and Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who had wanted a boy.  They decide to keep the talkative, impetuous Anne, who wants so much to be good and accepted but just keep running into problems.  That much is exactly the same as the original, though this version included occasional, PTSD-like flashbacks to Anne’s earlier life, where she was verbally and physically abused by the people she worked for (more on that later).  After the first episode, well, the series diverges farther from the book.  Glimmers and elements are drawn from the original, but great swathes of new things arise too.

Aside from having a thing about completion, I think I kept watching because of the characters (and to see how it would all develop).  Matthew, Marilla, Diana, Gilbert, Mrs. Rachel Lynde–all were wonderfully cast and portrayed, very much the book characters come to life (barring a few actions the plot forced them into).  It probably helped that I already knew them, but it also seemed like the series did a very good job giving us insights and understandings into the characters.  Even some of the minor characters came through in their essential elements: Josie Pye, nasty and mean; Jane Andrews, nice if forgettable; Ruby Gillis, silly and sweet (and sweet on Gilbert).

And how about Anne (with her E)?  Well.  The good and the muddled intersect in Anne.  She looked the part, probably more than most, as Anne is usually very Hollywood pretty for being a scrawny, freckled orphan.  She blooms over the course of the book, suggesting she started without much physical beauty.  (Although I have to say, I was bothered throughout to a ridiculous degree by the thinness of Anne’s braids.  She hates the redness of her hair, yes, but she has plenty of it!)  As to character, she uses all the big words and goes into delighted raptures and has all the starved desire for love that the character should have–great swathes of her dialogue come straight out of the book.  But. Continue reading

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Blog Hop: From Screen to Page

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Do you read tie-in novels to movies or television series? If so, which ones?

 

I have been known to read books based upon the universes of TV shows or movies–I put it that way deliberately, because I only read ones that are novels in their own right.  I’ve never been very interested in companion books that are only retelling or commenting upon the screen story.

I’ve read great swathes of books in the Star Trek universe (almost exclusively TOS) and the Star Wars Expanded Universe.  To large extent, my mental conception of those worlds and their major characters are actually shaped more by the books than by the screen versions.  Separated from the sometimes cheesy acting of the TV show, or the complete disruption of the recent movies, it’s the Captain Kirk of the books that I really love.  And I’m deeply invested in the romance of Leia and Han as portrayed in the Expanded Universe (stable and supportive), and particularly in the later lives of Leia (Jedi, diplomat, leader of the New Republic, wife, mother of three) and Luke (founder of the New Jedi Order).  The seeds are on the screen, but all this is so much more developed in the books.

This creates some complications, of course, when the powers that be go back to the screen and disregard the books.  This happened rather famously recently with Star Wars, but has happened with Star Trek too, contradicting specific books (like Federation and Prime Directive, both disrupted at one go through First Contact).  I’m very comfortable, however, keeping the book version in my head as the “proper” story (for me, at least) and the screen version as an alternate universe.

Outside of those two particularly vigorous book tie-in series, I’ve also read a few Doctor Who novels…but those tend to be a bit simpler than I want in books, so my preference here is very specific–audiobooks only, and only the ones about the 10th Doctor read by David Tennant.  Because…David Tennant!  Reading the Doctor!  It’s kind of halfway to a TV episode right there.

I’ve also held onto two Smallville novels from my high school fondness for the show, and I have the complete Hercules: The Legendary Journeys novel series…which is only four books–but they’re good ones.  I also read a lot of Sabrina: The Teenage Witch novels in high school.  I can’t claim those are mostly high quality (not bad for the target age, but not great literature) but though I’ve culled that collection dramatically over the years, I still have several on my shelf for sentimental fondness.

I think that covers it.  Star Trek and Star Wars are the big ones…but those are the big powerhouse fandoms, so it’s not too surprising!

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Book Review: Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery

I’m continuing my way through a reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, and continue to have more thoughts.  This time I’m thinking about Book 7, Rainbow Valley.  Rather like certain Oz books, this is the Anne book that isn’t an Anne book.  But it’s very much a Montgomery book, with certain of her attitudes on full display.

By the time Montgomery wrote Rainbow Valley, I really don’t think she wanted to write about the Blythes anymore.  This was her fifth book (4 and 6 were written later), and because she wrote it before Anne of Ingleside, it was the first with Anne and Gilbert’s children.  With the partial exception of Walter, Montgomery doesn’t seem very interested in the Blythe children.  She gave Anne a happy ending, Anne’s children grow up in the midst of said-happy ending, and Montgomery was not yet at a point in her life when taking refuge in that happy ending was welcome to her (as in Anne of Ingleside).

So she did what other authors have done–billed the book as next in a popular series, then proceeded to write an almost original novel.  We get about two chapters of Anne and her family, then the focus shifts irrevocably to elsewhere in the neighborhood, to tell the story of the less fortunate and more interesting (to Montgomery, and by narrative convention) Meredith family.  I have to admit, the bait and switch has taken me many reads to get over.  I think this is the first time I’ve managed to really accept that this is not and was never going to be a Blythe novel, rather than feeling that we somehow got cheated out of the story that was meant to be here in the series.  And you know, after getting past that, this is a good novel! Continue reading

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Blog Hop: Toxicity

book-blogger-hop-finalToday’s Book Blogger Hop question is: Have you ever read a book or books you would consider ‘toxic’ because of the effect it (they) had on you? If so, which one(s)?

Ooh, what an interesting question!  There are definitely books I’ve found disturbing.  Lolita comes to mind–it was assigned in a class (on American Literature, which I still don’t understand considering Nabokov was Russian) and to this day I’m glad that I got it at the library and didn’t spend money on it.  If you’re (fortunately) unfamiliar with the book, it centers around an adult man’s sexual obsession (and relationship) with an adolescent girl, and it would be less disturbing if Nabokov was a less talented author.  One classmate described it as like watching maggots feed–compelling and horrible both at once.

The Da Vinci Code is toxic in a different way.  It makes me angry–I have an entire rant on the subject of mixing historical fact with theory with utter fiction, sometimes all in one paragraph, without any distinguishing between them.  On the other hand, the phrase “giant albino monk” gets funnier every time I say it.  Not a funny character, but the sheer absurdity of it lightens my mood.

In general I’m disturbed by books that feature sexual violence or child abuse, although I’ve discovered I find those more disturbing in fiction than nonfiction (it’s a stylistic difference).  I can read more in analytical texts (usually taking it on from a psychological analysis) than I can in fiction, though that depends on the level of detail.  And I think we all know that I’m deeply disturbed by fiction involving abusive relationships presented as romantic!

I also have a particular tic against books that address the reader in a hostile or belittling way.  I love books that talk directly to the reader if they’re friendly, but if the narrator is nasty or insulting to the reader?  Yeah, I know not to take it personally, but I still don’t like how it feels.  Part of the appeal of books is that they aren’t judgmental or unfriendly.

Have you read books that feel toxic to you?  What characteristics would make a book toxic?

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