Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

Have you ever heard the term "Unreliable narrator"? Well, in case it's not obvious, this means that the person telling a story might not be the most trustworthy person in all the land. Now this is the kind of thing that can go either way. Some people, when reading a story, want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, whilst others find some mystery and even entertainment value in a narrator who, shall we say, embellishes things a bit. For myself, I am one who enjoys the truth, but if the narration interests and amuses me enough, I'll take some stretching of it. And that might just be what a reader will get in The Gospel of Loki.

The Gospel of Loki is a 2014 novel by Joanne Harris, who might be best known for the book Chocolat. It has a movie. There is chocolate everywhere. I love it. But I digress. This book is a retelling of many stories from Norse mythology about Thor and Odin and Asgard and all the...lovely characters within, all told from the lips of - you'll never guess - Loki! Hence, my discussion of the "Unreliable narrator". I hear Loki can be a trickster. I heard it a lot in this book. I also heard that, apparently, one of his other names is Dogstar, which made me wonder if this is where Keanu Reeves got the name of that band he used to play in. Just wondering.

Anyway, the point of having these stories told by the supposed villain, I think, is because they tend to be told by the supposed heroes. That's probably how they get their respective titles. Now, don't get me wrong. This does not exactly portray Loki as the good guy, but it does allow him to show us the people who we assume to be the good guys from a different angle. And while he may be biased against them, it doesn't mean he's making everything up. Even if he is, though, he does so in a very amusing manner. That's probably the best thing about this book - the way the narration and his dialogue are written. Quickly enough, you get used to his manner of speaking, but then he throws in a surprise, like quite a few modern pop culture references, like the word "chillax". I'm not making this up. Although, that modern speaking makes you wonder when exactly this story is being told. I like that, because it's part of the mystery.

Also, this book doesn't exactly have a traditional plot. As I mentioned before, it more tells a lot of different stories, again, ones we know from Norse mythology, but from a different perspective. The thread is the narrator, which gives it some cohesion and structure. I suppose the plot, such as it is, could be the story of Loki's life. And I enjoy it this way, as it keeps things interesting.

Now I don't know when Joanne Harris began writing this book, but if you'll notice the release year, it seems to have come out in the wake of us getting the version of Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of which, I am not the biggest fan. Thus, I am forced to use a word I despise, and that word is..."fan ficcy". Okay, that might not be an actual word, but it is in reference to, of course, fan fiction, much of which has spawned about Loki since the release of the movie Thor and especially The Avengers. Now this book's concept might fit well into that type of writing, but it goes beyond that. It almost seems like it has the feel of a fan fiction type story, infused with actual knowledge of Norse mythology, all through the filter of someone who is a legit good writer. Look, fan fic people, I am not calling you all bad writers, far from it; I'm just saying those sites tend to not be visited for stellar literature but rather for fun. And possibly titillation. Wow. That's a word I never thought I'd use in this blog. Anywho, whilst we're on the subject of such things, you might want to use this book to challenge yourself. Like I dare you to get through three pages before you start hearing the voice of Tom Hiddleston attached to every word. If you can, you are a better person than I am.

In conclusion, I think anyone, who is into the whole Loki phenomenon, will probably give this book a chance. But I'm hoping that people won't shun it for the exact same reason of said phenomenon. I mean, these stories have been around for hundreds of years, and yes, re-tellings are kind of "in" right now. But the quality of The Gospel of Loki goes beyond any literary or cultural fads. It's done by a great writer who has given an entertaining voice to a kind of character that rarely gets to do the talking. I say it's worth a read.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Swimming Through Life

Greetings Pups,

I grew up in the presence of pools, and I've seen quite a few kids go through the process of learning how to swim. For most of them, it was a step by step process, going from the easiest challenge to the hardest. Makes sense. I'd say that the typical experience goes as such.

You start in the little kiddie pool, then you got to the adult pool, shallow end with floaties and one of said adults holding on to you, then you lose the floaties, kicking and paddling on your own, then you go to the deep end, again with assistance, learning to kick and paddle stronger and faster, then you swim in the deep end on your own. And finally, if you get the chance, you might just be prepared to swim in the ocean. Results may vary.

Anyway, I started thinking that this process is a lot like our experience in life, particularly, our younger years. I know it's different for everyone, but generally speaking, we start off being very sheltered and protected with someone holding our hand every step of the way. With each passing year, as we get older, we become less protected and sheltered and we have to learn to walk on our own. Until one day, we step out into the real world, and whether we succeed or fail has a lot to do with how prepared we are. How strong we are. Some of us are prepared by others; some of us are forced to prepare ourselves. Either way, each day we live, each thing we live through, is part of that process.

So, back to the swimming thing. What do you think might happen if you go straight from the kiddie pool to the ocean, without all the learning and growing and struggling in between? Yeah, you might just drown. Well, it tends to be the same way in life. If you go directly from being protected from EVERYTHING to having to live in the real world, you might not make it. Again, results may vary. But what some people don't realize, or forget, is that the learning, the growing and the struggling, they build our strength and give us the proper tools that will assist us as we live our lives. If you are constantly shielded from anything that is, or that you merely perceive to be, negative, you won't know how to deal with adversity when it comes and is beyond your control. One of the most dangerous things you can do is to never face danger at all. If that makes any sense.

My point is that every difficult moment in our life, every opposition with which we deal, every struggle is a possibility to learn something and to build our strength. And that is up to us. We can bemoan the hardships or ignore them, forcing them away to a safe distance for a while, but then we don't grow. We have to face them, and in the end, we have the chance to be grateful for them. Don't get me wrong. I know that each person has a different set of struggles in their life, and I am not undermining anyone's problems. Despite my own issues, and there are many, I consider myself blessed, and I know that so many others have it much harder than I do. But I hope that, when those difficult moments do come your way, you can be strong enough to handle them, so that you can become even stronger.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, January 16, 2017

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

I recently heard that someone was, yet again, trying to have the book To Kill a Mockingbird banned from schools. Yeah, this happens every so often with this and other great works of literature, probably because someone just doesn't get it. So, what better way to respond than to discuss a documentary wherein some very respected people and writers praise the ever loving heck out of this excellent book and its author.

Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird
is a 2010 documentary directed by Mary McDonagh Murphy. It does what any good biographical doc would do, taking us through the life of its subject, Nell Harper Lee, informing us of her family life, her friends, and those who helped her along the way. So, we learn of her youth in Monroeville, Alabama, where she lived with her family, including her father who was a lawyer and the inspiration for Atticus Finch and her older sister, Alice, who was interviewed in this at the age of 99. It was also where she met another young future writer by the name of Truman Capote, their friendship playing a huge role in two films of the mid-2000's. We also get to hear some of the interviews she did during the early stages of her success, as well as a behind the scenes look at the film adaptation. And of course, there is discussion of her reclusivity after the fact, how and why she never published a book again (this was before Go Set a Watchman was found), and how everyone knows that, despite that, they are sure she never stopped writing. Of course, she didn't stop. She was a writer. We never stop.

In addition to the basics of telling Harper Lee's story in a traditional way, it is interspersed with interviews of many acclaimed writers, such as James Patterson, Scott Turow, James McBride, Wally Lamb, just to name a few. Also, we hear from Mary Badham, the woman who played Scout in the film, Oprah, because she's Oprah and Tom Brokaw, because why not. There are just a load of great discussions from so many people, and I loved hearing everyone's take on the story, how it affected them throughout life and how Harper Lee was such an inspiration in so many ways. They even showed a class where young people were talking about the more difficult aspects of the book. It's almost like they can handle it. It's almost like it's important for them to be able to discuss these things. And that is for anyone trying to get this book taken away from them.

Now when it comes to the style of this documentary, I must say I liked the simplicity of it. The interviews were mainly done in the "talking head" way, but every time a new subject came up, the words appeared on the screen in typewriter font with the sounds of the machine bringing them to life. Simple, but effective, which I think is a perfect for the subject of this film.

But let's be honest. My favorite part of this documentary was the interview with the aforementioned Alice Lee. She just brought a smile to my face each time she appeared. At her old age, her hearing was not good and her voice was strained, but it was obvious that her mind was doing just fine. She was so articulate and she recalled all the memories of her youth with her family, as well as everything that her little sister sister, Nell, had gone through. She was a delight.

By the way, here's a little heads up. There is another documentary floating around called Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman. It's the same as this, but with about five extra minutes talking about the finding and publishing of the Go Set a Watchman manuscript. Honestly, you can watch either, since I'm pretty sure the same people are behind it, but I chose to review this one, because I like this title better. It's got "Hey, Boo" in it, for crying out loud. Was there even a choice?

In conclusion, if you love To Kill a Mockingbird, or books in general, this is a must see. It has great interviews and information, but it also has so much heart and so many wonderful things are said about the book. If nothing else, it shows how powerful the written word can be, even so powerful that it can change the world. And it's just one more thing that makes me very proud to be a writer.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

So, in my last blog post I talked about a new show that gives a darker interpretation to the story of OZ, but today, I am gonna do something totally different and talk about a BOOK that gives a darker interpretation to the story of OZ. I am so versatile! And very perceptive because I knew that starting that Reading Challenge was going to lead to more book reviews, and here we are. Anyway, enough about me. Let's talk about Doroty Must Die.

Dorothy Must Die is a 2014 novel by Danielle Paige that tells the story of a young girl from Kansas who gets swept away to a strange land. No, not that young girl. Well, not yet. The young girl in question this time is Amy Gumm, a teenager living a less than stellar life where she is bullied and has a neglectful mother. But alas, when a tornado hits her trailer, she is taken away to OZ, a place that she is well aware of. See, in her world, The Wizard of Oz, the books, the movie, it all exists, and now Amy is finding out that all the fairy tales were true. But not exactly as she knows them. Turns out, the famous Dorothy went full on Mean put it lightly, and took a lot of people with her. This is no spoiler, by the way. It's pretty much the selling point. In short, everything is turned upside down from what we know, and Amy is recruited in a war to defeat Dorothy, hence the title. Whether or not Amy is ready, willing or able to carry out her task is something that she and the readers will have to stay tuned to find out. For a while, because this is the first book in a series of, currently, three books, but I believe a fourth is coming out this year.

The tough thing about doing a re-imagining of a well known and beloved story with well known and beloved characters is to, obviously, bring something new to the table. With a story as old as OZ, that can be a bit difficult, especially since quite a few things have been done with other stories where characters we love become villains and vice versa. So, how did this one do?

Well, whilst the story could be slow at times, I think overall it had some interesting ideas. I liked getting to know a new heroine, who, while having a few flaws, still came across as someone you want to root for. That is quite important in a book like this. And I was very impressed with the imagery. I mean, to be honest, OZ always had a darkness factor to it, but the author really went out all with describing the horrible things that our once lovable protagonists have become involved in. I particular was struck by the passages about the lion. So, warning. There are quite a few scenes of graphic violence in this book. Not gratuitous, in my opinion, but actually, necessary to get the point across. Basically, if you can't make it through Return to Oz, might want to hold off on this. But if you like upping the creepiness of OZ, I say go for it.

While it's not perfect, I found it to be a good read, and it certainly kept me interested. At least, enough to read the next book in the series. And since I know that it's a series, I can forgive the ending coming about quite abruptly. Knowing that more is coming makes it okay that I maybe didn't get exactly what I wanted in this book, rather than if it had been a standalone.

So, if the plot of Dorothy Must Die intrigues you, I don't think you'll be disappointed. It's a unique take on a familiar story, with interesting and mysterious characters that will leave you, much like the protagonist, wondering who you can trust. I hope that it continues to hold my interest throughout the series.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thoughts on Emerald City

Greetings Pups,

So, when it comes to remakes and reboots, I am generally not a fan, as I have often said before. However, I always have an open mind when something new comes along, because sometimes these things seem to be interestinh..or they just happen to star one of my favorite actors...or both. Anyway, when I started to see promos for Emerald City, I thought two things: First, 'Someone's doing another OZ thing?', and second, 'This looks kinda neat'. So, last night I decided to check it out, and here are my brief thoughts on the first episode. There was a second, but we're doing an official premiere discussion. So, there.

We start in modern day Kansas, where we meet Dorothy, played by Adria Arjona. At first, it looks like she's a doctor of sorts, but she's only twenty, so I'm thinking she's a med student or something. Or else this is also a Doogie Howser reboot. Anyway, she was adopted long ago, and now she lives with other family members. Then, a tornado cometh and sweeps her away to a cop car of all things. With Toto, who appears to be a German Shepard on this go round. Good times.

As she begins to explore, she runs into some interesting characters, some good, some bad, some who knows. Whilst that is going, we, the audience, also start meeting some interesting characters. Again, good, bad, who knows. And be warned. They are not the same as you may know them from other adaptations. But what did you expect? They made it clear that this would be darker, and it is. Although, I didn't expect to see a brothel. Yeah, that happened apparently. So, in case it's not obvious, this probably is not for the little kids.

I will say this, though, I enjoyed the cast quite a bit. Everyone seems well-suited to their roles. Our Dorothy is quite good and likeable, which is important. Florence Kasumba portrays The Witch of the East, who was wickedly delightful, if that's even a thing. The wonderful Joely Richardson does a fine job portraying Glinda, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen portrays Lucas, who I'm pretty sure is supposed to be the Scarecrow, but he doesn't exactly look it. I must say that I was very enthralled with Ana Ularu who portrays The Witch of the West. She totally creeped me out, but I was also captivated by her. Someone has skills! And, of course, we have Vincent D'Onofrio as The Wizard. Yes, he is the main reason I decided to watch this. What about it? I thought he was great, but I am so confused about the accent he was doing. I just can't place it, so I better do some research or it will eat at me something fierce. But whatever, he was still worth watching.

Now this whole series was directed by Tarsem Singh, who also directed The Cell and Mirror, Mirror, so, no surprise, the whole show looks amazing and extremely cinematic. Seriously, however you feel about the movies he has done, they all look stunning. There's just a really good feel to the whole thing. Oh, and the wardrobe is fabulous! For real, I hope someone makes some jewelry or regular people clothes inspired by this show.

So, in closing, whilst I am not jumping up and down over Emerald City, I am intrigued enough to keep watching through how many episodes they've already done, and perhaps, beyond. We'll see how it goes. Frankly, I hope it continues to get better, because, if they give us a good story to follow, things should fall into place, and we'll have a great series on our hands.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Plans

Greetings Pups,

So, it seems that 2017 has begun, and a lot of people are happy about 2016 being over. A LOT!! Why? What happened? Anyway, I suppose I'm always glad when a new year comes around, if for no other than I can make promises to myself that I won't keep and hope for things that won't happen. Oh, sorry. That was upsetting, wasn't it? Well, whatever. The good news is that this year I've made a few plans for what I will be doing, and I figured I would share some of them with you all. Mostly because with at least one of them, you may be able to join in. Stay tuned. Okay, so what do I have in mind for 2017?

Well, the most important thing is that I need a new house. All things considered, this might require a tad bit of miracle working. But I believe in miracles, so we're good. And I work pretty hard, which is also a necessity, so we're even better. Truth is, the house in which I now live is literally falling apart around me, and yes, I am using the word "literally" correctly in this sentence, so you understand what I mean. Needless to say, it's been rough for the last few...for quite a while, but hope and faith are still things, and I still have them. So, on with the house hunting.

In addition to that, I've got plenty of writing plans for the year. I know. What a shock. I have several ideas for the blog, including a month long Disney tribute. We'll see how that one works out. I've got yet another collection of poetry that I'm working on, and I will finally be putting out a novel or two. Or, as some people in my life would call it, a "Real Book". Yeah, you heard that correctly. Four books of poetry published and I still have people asking me when I'm going to write a "real book". Figures. Point is, I have a load of manuscripts that I am preparing for publication, so I will keep everyone posted on that.

I've also got some plans to start a podcast. I've got a couple of good ideas, but I have to get equipment and whatnot. Not to mention a decent place in which to record it, since one idea involves having people I know involved. Yet another reason why I need a new house. Now as I am not technologically savvy, I will have to get in touch with someone who can show me how to do all the things involved in a making a podcast, other than sitting and talking. I might even turn them into videos of sorts for my YouTube channel, another thing I need to get going. We'll see, though.

And I can't forget that, every now and then, I must be predictable and a sheep, so let's add on a "getting healthy" New Year's resolution. I joke, but that's probably the one I need to fulfill the most.

And finally, I am doing an official reading challenge. The Goodreads one, to be specific. Now I've always been a reader, but when I have to spend so much time writing books of my own, it's hard to find time to read those of other people. I know that pretty much every successful writer has said that you must be a reader as well, and I suppose I agree. So, I figured if I decided to partake in this challenge, it would be push me to read more. I mean, you know you totally get shamed if you set a reading goal for the year and don't fulfill it. It's tragic, really. Just kidding. But much like with the whole NaNoWriMo thing, one of the best parts is the feeling of accomplishment. Plus, since I've not done as many book reviews on this blog as I'd like, I will, hopefully, find some good books to tell you all about. I better. In the mean time, I left a link to my reading list below if you are looking for some new things to read. My goal is 100 books, but there are more than that, just in case, and I may even add more. Some I want to get to right away, but for all the rest, I have a TBR jar to pick from. Good times. Also, you can also follow me as an author on there, if you'd like. Oh, and about that list, don't judge. I added different books for different reasons. Some are classics I never got around to reading, some are written by friends of mine, some I heard about from the many "BookTube" people out there, and some are ones that I straight up heard were awful, so I NEED to read them. Here's hoping this all works out.

So, that's about all I have to say. I know last year wasn't exactly the best for everyone, but I do hope that all of you have a blessed and wonderful 2017. Keep me in your prayers, as you will all be in mine.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge list: