Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened - Documentary Review

Greetings Pups,

I'm pretty sure that somebody once mentioned that there is no recipe for success. Sometimes things work out; sometimes they don't. Really, no matter what you throw into your routine, you are not promised the outcome you want or are expecting. And nowhere is this more evident than in the entertainment industry. I mean, how many times have you heard about movies coming out with acclaimed everything, from directors to craft service people, and then, they fail miserably, either commercially or critically or both. You just never can tell what will make people love something. Such was the case of the story that is told in the 2016 documentary, Best Worst Thing That Could Have Happened.

So, back in 1981, a little musical made its Broadway debut, entitled, Merrily We Roll Along. It was based on a 1934 play of the same name, with the book written by George Furth, the songs written by Stephen Sondheim and all of it directed by Hal Prince. No way could this thing fail. Right? Anyway, it's about this guy who works in Hollywood, but he used to write songs for Broadway. And it goes backwards. And he's got these friends. And...Yeah, I really couldn't follow the narrative of this thing. I don't think other people could either. That could be one of the reasons why this production didn't exactly hit the stratosphere. But there were also a few others.

Yes, as it turned out, despite having some players with amazing pedigree, Merrily We Roll Along closed after a mere sixteen performances. It's probably one of the most well-known musicals that didn't do so well. But in subsequent years, other productions have been presented and there is more of an appreciation for what was done with the show. In fact, it's kind of known as a classic now.

As with most documentaries of this nature, it is full of interviews with a lot of the people who were involved. In fact, this film was directed by Lonny Price, who was a member of the original cast. Although, some of us know him as Ronnie from The Muppets Take Manhattan. Good times, indeed. Anyway, it was interesting to get some insight from the young people who were a part of that first production, especially since so many of them were very young, practically kids in some cases. And talking about how it affected their lives, for better or worse, was clearly an emotional experience for them. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that one of those interviewees was Jason Alexander. Isn't he just a delight?

In additions to all the interviews, there is tons of footage of rehearsals and auditions. You really do get to see the whole process that they had to go through, and that most shows have to go through on the road to the stage. As someone who enjoys being a behind the scenes voyeur, I found some of it interesting. Although, since I have seen quite a few documentaries like this, such as Every Little Step or Show Business: The Road to Broadway, it was, for me, a bit familiar.

Still, every story is its own story and while the process of putting together a Broadway production can have similarities to all the others, outside occurrences will cause the path to be a little different for each one. And the story of Merrily We Roll Along is unique unto itself in a lot of ways.

So, if you are a Broadway lover and if you're interested in hearing all those tales behind the productions from the people who lived through them and are still affected by them, I say that Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened might be worth a watch for you.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Top Ten Wishlist for the Overdue Podcast

Greetings Pups,

I've heard that a good man is hard to find. Agree. But I'll tell you something. A good podcast is even harder to find. No bull crap. You'd think with millions upon millions of them out there, it would be easier to find more that are worth listening to. Not in my opinion, but that's why I'm working on starting my own. Eventually. Because everything I do is golden...I tell myself. Fortunately, I have found a few of these "21st Century Old-Timey Radio Shows" (What?) that I do, in fact, enjoy giving a listen to. None of them are perfect, but what is? However, I did find a pretty good one and it's all about books! Hooray! And since I spent all last week doing book reviews on the blog, I thought I'd keep that theme going by talking about this. It's called the Overdue Podcast. Get it. Because books at the library can be overdue. That's right. I'm the one who ruins everything with explanations. Deal with it.

Anywho, the Overdue Podcast is hosted by two friends named Craig and Andrew. And it definitely sounds like it's hosted by two friends. In fact, that's one of the things I like most about it. There's just something very nice about hearing some genuine comradery, and it's even better when they're talking about books. Good times, indeed. Especially good times since they go off on tangents way less than other podcasts I've listened to. For real, when I want to hear people talk about terrible 90's sitcoms, I don't want to go off into uncomfortable territory. Just sayin'. So, as I like to make lists, I decide to make a WISH-list of the books I hope that these guys will one day discuss. Most of them I've read; some I haven't. But all, I feel, are worthy of some examination. Sounds like a decent idea. Kind of.

As it turns out, the very existence of this list may be a bit - and I hate to use this word, as it is my current least favorite - problematic. See, the premise of the podcast is that one of them reads a book they've never read before. And I don't know what they've read. Also, some of these may already be in their TBR jar, which is most likely decorated with stickers and sparkles, just like mine. So, my requesting them may be pointless. And finally, they do have a Patreon, where people who become patrons can request books. But under present circumstances, I am SO not in the position to give money away. Of course, time is money, and this list is taking up my time, so.... Yeah, I still feel like I'm cheating.

Oh, and no, I am not going to request any of my own books. Even though next month is National Poetry Month and I would be happy to send them free copies, I am not that desperate for exposure in order to sell books. I mean, I am, but I can take the day off. Because today is not about me. It's about spreading the word about a very entertaining couple of guys and the great work they do, talking about the wonder of the written word. And it is such great work that now I will proceed to tell them exactly what I think they should be doing where that is concerned. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers a.k.a My Favorite Book - So, why only an honorable mention if it's my favorite? Well, that is precisely why. I'm open to hearing their opinion on it, but I am also very protective of it. I'm like one of those Directioners who come to the defense of those guys no matter what foolish thing they do. Or something. But I suppose I can bring attention to it as a potential possibility.

#10. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende - This is one of the books that I haven't read yet. I'm putting it off because I feel like, as soon as I start reading it, all I'm gonna hear in my head is the theme song from the movie. I just want the guys to read it to see if this happens to them. And if it does, I apologize.

#9. Paper Towns by John Green - They already covered a John Green book, and that was a great episode. I personally did not care for this book, nor anything I've ever read by its author. However, I'm interested in hearing their take on the Margo character, and if they hate her as much as I and many others do. Yeah, I'm mean. What about it?

#8. U.F.O's, J.F.K. and Elvis: Conspiracies You Don't Have To Be Crazy to Believe by Richard Belzer - No, I didn't make this one up. Stop asking. And no, I am not a conspiracy theorist. But I was, and possibly still am, a fan of Richard Belzer's. I just think this one may make for some amusing exchanges between the guys, to say nothing of a discussion on other conspiracy theories. Just for fun.

#7. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver - This is the other one I haven't read yet. But this was an Oprah Book Club selection back in the day, and I remember something interesting that the author said on the show. Apparently, this book has five different main characters (it's a family) and she wrote the entire book from all five different perspectives. Yes, she wrote the book five times, just so she could get to know all the voices and write them distinctly, perfectly. Even I don't work that hard. But I wonder if this effort was worth it, if it achieved the goal and if the guys can tell the difference between those voices.

#6. Anything by Sidney Sheldon, but probably Master of the Game, because that's my favorite - What? I'm allowed to be vague. I may, on occasion, refer to Sidney Sheldon as my favorite writer, if for no other reason than I own ALL of his books, of which there are many. But he is very good. And any one of his books are worthy of some serious discussion. I just happened to like the aforementioned one best, and it is probably the most complex. So, good luck.

#5. Faithful Place by Tana French - Well, they already talked about the first two books by Tana French, and those are a couple of my favorite episodes. This is the third one, which is just as good, in my opinion. I'd love for them to continue exploring the tales of the...Dublin Murder Squad, which totally exists. I don't care what anyone says. Just get out of here with your facts and your knowledge.

#4. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore - When the guys did an episode about The Hound of the Baskervilles, they talked about a group of nerds (their word; not mine) who are super into the whole Sherlock thing. Almost...suspiciously super into. So, I figured maybe they'd like to read a whole book about them, and just mock them to their hearts' content. Or maybe they'll find a decent story in there. You just never know.

#3. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells - If they decide to read and discuss this book, I hope that some part of said discussion is devoted to how we need to give it one more cinematic chance. It's something I believe in deeply, and I want others to be on my side. But just get rid of the "Cat Woman". She's NOT in the book!

#2. Deception Point by Dan Brown - The first episode of the Overdue Podcast that I listened to was about The Da Vinci Code, so it holds a special place in my heart. It also remains one of my favorites. So, what better idea (besides my #1) than to cover another book by Dan Brown, except this time, sans Robert Langdon. I know. What's a Dan Brown book with out Dan Brown's self-insert character? Hopefully, they'll find out.

#1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy - Yeah, that's right. I went there. But only because I trust that they can do this. And I love this book. Not the titular character, mind you, but certainly the book that surrounds her. When I read this, I had to pace myself, but I don't know if they'll have that kind of time, so I'll just wish them luck. Also, if they choose this one, may I suggest the edition that Oprah used when she chose this for the book club. It's actually a very good translation. And why am I talking about Oprah so much? Anyway, I do believe this book is quite rich and will bring forth some great discussion. What more can I ask for from a podcast like this?

And there's my wishlist for the gentlemen of the Overdue Podcast, which you should all check out. Check out? Again with the library puns. I am the funniest person in the world, it would seem. Anyway, these are merely requests; certainly not demands. Hopefully, though, it might give them a good idea or two. I mean, it's the least I can do considering how much I've enjoyed this podcast, even in the moments where I may disagree with them or their opinions. Yeah, I can disagree with them and still like them. I'm magic, apparently. And I will always give credit to people who love books and are willing to share that with others. We need as many of those as we can get.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and Artistic Temperment by Kay Redfield Jamison - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

Last year, I reviewed a movie called Touched With Fire. I thought it was brilliantly made, on so many levels, but it also struck a chord with me, due to its subject. I went into this a bit during that review, but the best way to go even deeper is to talk about the book from which it spawned, Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and Artistic Temperment by Kay Redfield Jamison.

As stated in the title, this book explores how certain mood disorders can lend itself to intense creativity for those who have them. It cites an extremely high number of artists and writers who either definitely had or could have had some form of manic depressive illness, and shows how extreme they were with their work. Jamison also writes about her own struggles and how she eventually sought out the help that saved her life.

If it isn't already obvious by the description, this book is not exactly light reading. It delves pretty deep into the details, using medical terms and whatnot, and you have to stay focused on it. And considering what it's about, it can get heavy. I know all of that may not seem like the most fun reading experience, but it could be very important, especially for those who deal with these issues. It sheds light on things they may be experiencing, giving some valid explanations as to why they are.

What this book mainly does is try to show how all that talk about "mad geniuses" may be rooted is something very real. It has often been said that there is a fine line between genius and madness, and Jamison shows what it may be for a lot of people. As many artists, including myself, can attest to, there is a overwhelming aspect to those bouts of intense creativity. Sometimes it is frightening; sometimes it is captivating. And for the latter, it can seduce you into always wanting to stay in the highest levels of your emotions, even though doing so can be dangerous. But even with that warning, it can often be just too intoxicating. But through the help she got herself, she realized that she could let her creativity thrive without letting it control her to that dangerous degree. It's like how a campfire can keep you warm in the cold night, but if you don't keep an eye on it and keep it under control, it can burn down the whole forest. And keeping that fire in check does not diminish from the good it can do. In fact, when things are not out of control, when you can focus, that is when the work can get done.

Now, I have heard some critics of this book accusing the author of romanticizing mental illness by attaching it to all these great and renowned artists. I don't feel she is doing that at all. In fact, the artists and writers mentioned in the book, whilst, indeed, great and renowned, did not exactly lead the easiest of lives. Far from that. Yes, it may seem lovely to be able to paint pretty pictures and write pretty words, but if you look at many of them, they lived with a lot of turmoil. There is nothing to romanticize about that. Speaking from personal experience, it is a harsh road I have to travel on to get to what eventually comes from me by way of my writing. I am grateful that anything good can come out of it, but that does not diminish the struggle. Only finding a way to deal with it can help you with that. Again, thankfully, in my case, my writing is a result, but also a kind of treatment for what I go through.

So, it is difficult for me to know who to recommend this book to. It is well-written enough that it could interest a lot of different people, but again, some of the heaviness may not be what they're interested in. Still, if the subject intrigues you, it is worth a read. Also, if you are someone who suspects you may be dealing with the issues described in this book, or if the book itself makes you suspect that, please do me, and especially yourself, a favor. Ask for help from a professional on the matter. Do not make assumptions. Do not self-diagnose. And for the love of all things sacred, DO NOT LOOK FOR ANSWERS ON TUMBLR!!! Believe it or not, that last one was not a joke. At all! The best and wisest action is to go to someone who is an expert on the subject who can really help.

In closing, this book was fascinating and very helpful to me, as it was for many people who could relate to its subject, much like how the story told in the film of the same name did so as well. Sometimes, all it takes for things to start getting better is knowing that there is someone else out there who can understand. Someone else who survived.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

My Review of the film Touched With Fire: blogspot

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

I recently wrote on this blog about how people have taken public domain stories and characters and reworked them or used them in some way to, hopefully, bring forth a new perspective on them. I admitted my apprehension, but also my willingness to give these things a chance. And I had that mindset when I picked up The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

The Historian is a 2005 novel by Elizabeth Kostova, and it has quite a - for lack of a better term - history. First of all, it took her ten years to write, which isn't totally unheard of with some writers. But what is unheard of is the fact that, months after she wrote it, she sold it for two million bucks. That's a lot. And that is a WHOLE lot for a first time, unknown author. But this was in the wake of the success of The Da Vinci Code, so, many publishers were looking for the next big successful novel which may have some things in common with it. And this novel certainly has that. So, the story.

The plot has to do with a professor named Paul and his 16-year-old daughter, who is not given a name, looking for the tomb of Vlad Tepes, the person most commonly associated with Dracula. Now, why is this daughter not given a name? Is she not that important to the story? On the contrary, most of the narrative comes from her, so I have no idea. Perhaps, the author was doing something in the vein of Rebecca by not giving a protagonist a name. Anyway, the book carries three separate narratives during three different times, the 30's, the 50's and the present day of the book, the 70's, by way of letters and firsthand accounts. And though, there is bit of a mysterious adventure through history thing happening here, it is also the young woman's quest to find the secrets that are lurking in her family's past.

And that's really all I can say about the plot, because if I go any further, it's a rabbit hole. Yes, this book is very heavy in narrative and in detail, and trying to sum it all up is a bit of a challenge. Not that that's a bad thing. In fact, I'm quite impressed by how much research obviously went into the writing here. As a person who tries to avoid writing anything that would require tons of research, yes, I'm very impressed, indeed. Ms. Kostova was not messing around. There is so much detail in this, which can lead to positives and negatives.

Negatively speaking, it can cause some parts of the book to be slow, especially if you're not much of a history buff or you're not interested in too many of those details. Every so often, that's the kind of person I can be, as I mentioned, so there were some pacing issues that I had with this. And from what I've read with other reviews, the pacing and the detail seemed to be the main complaint from a lot of people. So, in my opinion, if this had gone through just one more round with an editor, it probably wouldn't have hurt. But what do I know? I edit my own books, and I'm not exactly Max Perkins.

However, when it was good, it was very good. And I found most of it good. So, on a positive note, those details, especially in descriptions, can lead to masterfully enabling the reader see these places about which the author is writing. That was definitely a success, as I was very clearly visualizing everything just as I should have. The descriptions really did help to set a nice, creepy mood for this story. And since this book has been labeled as everything from historical to thriller to travelogue to Gothic to so many other things, it's good that the author was able to pick a mood and stick to it.

Whilst the book has its flaws, there is one thing that can't be denied. Elizabeth Kostova has a gift. She writes beautifully. Regardless of the detail, she knows how to put words together and make them sound wonderful. Yes, I know that is something which all writers are supposed to do, but they don't. Trust. And whatever the story, if a good writer is not behind it, what is the point? And all that research she did for this, which is evident on every page, shows that she really loved and respected the story she was trying to tell.

Now, I heard that, several years ago, one of the movie studios bought the rights to this book, but nothing ever happened. That's a disappointment, because I think this could lend itself to being a pretty good film. If and only if the right people are in charge. And the right people are often difficult to find, but I have faith, because I'd like to see it.

So, in closing, I'd say that I'm giving The Historian a recommendation. As I mentioned, if you're REALLY not into historical stuff or historical research, this might not appeal to you. But if you don't confine yourself to any genre, I'd say it's worth a look just to check out that beautiful writing about which I spoke. If you see it in the library or a bookstore, give it a chance. The writing may be able to hook you in enough that you'll want to continue and follow the story to the end.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Other Side of Me by Sidney Sheldon - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

So, what could possibly be better than a writer writing about their own writing? Nothing. That's what. Okay, to be fair, that is not the only thing that inhabits the pages of this book. However, if you are going to read an autobiography, reading one by a great writer means you're already ten steps ahead. Therefore, I've chosen today to discuss The Other Side of Me by Sidney Sheldon.

If you don't know who Sidney Sheldon is, I feel bad for you. Also, where have you been for the last seventy years or so? He was a very prolific and gifted writer, whose range took him from movies to television to countless novels, all of which I own. So, when pressed with the question of "Who is my favorite author?" I usually say Sidney Sheldon, since he's the only one whose books I all own. Anyway, he was extremely acclaimed, winning an Oscar back in the 40's when they still mattered, a Tony back in the 50's when they still mattered and he was nominated for an Emmy back in the 60's when they still mattered. Have I mentioned I don't give much weight to Hollywood awards?

Yes, he had a full life and career, so, in 2005, he finally released this autobiography, chronicling his incredible experiences. And sadly, when I say the word "finally", I really do mean it, as this was the last book he wrote and published before his untimely death in 2007. How can I say it was untimely when he was nearly ninety? Because it is always untimely when a great writer dies. Especially considering how few of them we have left in the world.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, The Other Side of Me is brilliantly written account of one of the most fascinating lives and careers ever to exist. This man did so many things in life. He was a busboy, a clerk, a pilot, a reader for a Hollywood producer, and of course, a writer. Thankfully, because of that, we get a pretty good reading experience out of this.

Now, though he could have probably filled this whole thing with tales from Hollywood, Sheldon naturally opened up about his personal life, as you do with an autobiography. And he did not hold back. This man really did endure a lot of difficulties throughout his life. From growing up during the depression to bouts with suicidal thoughts as a teenager and into adulthood, stemming from an eventual diagnosis of bipolarity, to a devastating loss for his immediate family, he got put through the wringer a lot. But he came out on the other side and survived, because he had to do it.

In the end, if I learned anything from Sidney Sheldon, from his story and this book, it is that you do what you must do to achieve something and you keep going. You want something? Okay, do the work to get it. Life just beat you to the ground? Okay, grieve, heal, then pick yourself up and move forward. The whole world is against you? Tell it to move aside, because you've got business to take care of. That's how we should all be, and it is how I try my best to be.

I know a lot of people just aren't that into biographies, and I get it. Some aren't that great. But The Other Side of Me does not fall into that category. It's not simply a list of life events; it is a story. A beautifully crafted tale of an amazing journey with every high and every low one can fathom. But what would we expect from one of the masters of his craft? So, if you are wanting to read a nonfiction, generally, or a bio, specifically, I would put this extremely high on my recommendations list.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

There is something frightening about watching classic, and even legendary, stories and characters get tossed into that unpredictable abyss known as...The Public Domain! It is where wonderful works of art can be grabbed up by anyone and turned into something not so wonderful at all. I'm lookin' at you, Oz, The Great and Powerful. Honestly, the whole thing is just a crap shoot. However, there is a light at the end of this tunnel. And that is the fact that a precious few have taken all of those previously owned IP's and made them into something that is worth taking a look at. For example, everyone knows that one of my favorite shows, and currently one of the only ones I watch, is Elementary, an updated look at Sherlock Holmes. And I like it because I know why they made the changes they did and it makes sense. For me, if you can put a unique spin on something, I'm willing to at least check it out. So, that said, I had to take a gander at a book called The Baker Street Letters.

The Baker Street Letters is a 2009 novel by Michael Robertson, and the story centers around the Heath brothers, Reggie and Nigel. They are lawyers, more or less (more on that later), and they inhabit a very famous address: 221B Baker Street. As it turns out, one of the clauses in their lease is that they must answer all of the letters that people send to that address, specifically, to Sherlock Holmes. But they are supposed to answer them and nothing more. They are certainly not supposed to contact anyone in person.

However, as Nigel, the younger brother, awaits to see where his future as a lawyer lies after he getting into some trouble concerning a client, he decides to do just that. He contacts the writer of a decades old letter, but only after a supposed, but suspicious, follow up letter arrives, in order to solve a mystery. Unfortunately, they brothers are caught up in a mystery of their own, and Reggie is left to clean up a mess that his brother may have made, leading him across the ocean to Los Angeles for the first adventure to spawn from the titular letters.

As you can see, this is not a straight up reboot or reimagining of the Holmes stories, which is a nice change. You may say the author is using the Baker Street and Sherlock thing as a gimmick, which he might be, but in my opinion, a gimmick is okay if you can follow it up with some good material. I happen to think he did so with this, the first book in an ongoing series. To be honest, whilst this isn't an updated Sherlock story that you might find on my beloved Elementary, or that other show on the BBC, it does have a few aspects that may remind you of the characters.

Other readers and I may be wrong about this, but the brothers do seem like they are a Holmes and Watson team of sorts, if only through their disposition. Reggie seems to be quite arrogant and is very focused on his work, as well as being a bit cold, whilst Nigel is far more kind, understanding and really wanting to help people who need it. And these differences appear to be magnified when it concerns the woman in their life, an actress named Laura, who is Reggie's "on again/off again", and Nigel's..."used to be". Is that even a thing? It is now. And it's too complicated to get into here. However, it does add even more depth to the characters and the strained relationship between the brothers.

If I had to make a big complaint about this book, it would be the fact that it takes place mainly in L.A., as I mentioned. That seems more like something that would be a good plot for a third installment in the series. I mean, if your main premise is the whole "We work at 221B Baker Street" thing, I'd think that you'd want to center your first story around that and stay there. It's like how they made that Emma Roberts Nancy Drew movie and did NOT set it River Heights. But I got a bit of a kick out of that film. And as far as this book goes, just because I may disagree with the chosen setting, that doesn't mean the story isn't good. And I think it is.

So, whilst this may not be exactly what your hardcore..."Sherlockians" are looking for, I found the story enjoyable and I like the characters enough that I'm choosing to continue on with reading the series. And the Holmes thing aside, if you're looking to start a new series with a pretty decent mystery, I say give The Baker Street Letters a whirl.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

As a writer, I should probably hate it when people who aren't actually writers by trade get books published, and to be fair, sometimes, I do hate that. Because sometimes, the books are awful or pointless or both. I believe we all remember...The Tinkerbell Hilton Diaries. Yeah, let's all be thankful that the good Lord did not smite our planet for that one. However, sometimes great things can come from giving even those who aren't technically writers a chance to tell their story. Such is the case with The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines.

If you don't know, Chip and Joanna Gaines are a lovely couple from Texas who make not so great houses into beautiful homes, and all of this is documented on the very successful HGTV show, Fixer Upper. As soon as the show started to air, many people fell in love with them, their family and the wonderful work that they do. So, naturally, with notoriety, comes a lot of questions and a lot of fans wanting to know their story. And what better way to share a story than put it on paper and stick it between two covers! Take that, e-readers.

The book starts out with a chapter about how their television show, and eventual fame, came to be. As expected, it is a unique and sweet story, and it shows how easily things can change for the better in our lives out of nowhere. After that, we learn about how they first met, which was a real life "Meet/Cute", because of course it was. They're Chip and Joanna Gaines. Of course, they had a real life "Meet/Cute"! We learn a few things about their lives before meeting, like Joanna having lived alone in New York City as an intern and all the business ventures that Chip was a part of in Texas, as well as some of the history of their respective families. And then, on to all the events of their life together, both personally and professionally. We get to hear about all the lovely ups and downs. When I say "ups", I mean things like their beautiful wedding and the births of their children, and when I say "downs", I mean that -Spoilers!- the words "microwaved dog pee" are in this book. Use your imagination.

The thing I like best about this book is that it really does feel like you're just sitting down with Chip and Jo, and they are telling you their story, face to face. The narrative actually goes back and forth between them, as though they're talking and you're listening. And it's done seamlessly, just through the words that are written. There's no color coding or anything, so you know who is saying what. But honestly, if you've ever heard them talk, you'll know exactly who is saying what. See, in my opinion, Joanna always sounds quite refined with the way she speaks, and Chip? Well, let's call Chip...'verbally rustic'. And it is charming as heck. Although, it kills me every time he says "You guyses" on the show. Cringe, Chip Carter Gaines. Cringe. But you're a good man. You do you.

So, all of that considered, when I got to the second chapter, I realized something. I think that is exactly what they did. I think they sat down with a tape recorder (or whatever the kids are using these days), told their story and then someone transcribed it into book form. Because, quite frankly - and I mean this in the BEST possible way - it doesn't feel overly professional. By that, I mean it does not feel like they told their story to some hired writer who made them sound not like themselves. Although, they did have the help of a guy named Mark Dagostino, who is a bestselling author, but this still sounds like it comes from no one but Chip and Joanna Gaines. And that was clearly the best way to do this.

Now I know we hear so much about "Hey, those two make a great couple", but with some couples, it would be safe to say that they are perfect for one another. I don't think I've ever seen that be so true than I have with the Gaines marriage. They have things in common, of course, but there are just enough differences so that they have a good balance. It's clear that Joanna likes to think things out and have a plan, which is good, because she clearly uses that asset to keep her husband in line, making sure he doesn't do anything too crazy. And Chip is obviously the one who helps keep the dreamer in his wife alive. There's a great story in the book about when they were thinking of starting the business, where Joanna said,"Someday" and Chip said, "Let's do it!". So, together, I feel like they have the motto of "Look before you leap. But don't be afraid to eventually leap". And because both of them and what they bring to the table were involved, they managed to become a success. In many ways.

On a personal note, anyone who reads this blog knows that I have been dealing with some very difficult times recently...and currently. Ironically, some of them have to do with the "house" that I live in. But watching this couple on their show, seeing how they help people and reading their story, it brings me a lot of joy and gives me so much hope, of which I am in desperate need. No one can deny that they are changing lives for the better and encouraging people they don't even know, just by being who they are and doing what they do. And I'm one of those people.

Bottom line, The Magnolia Story tells the beautiful journey of a husband and wife who work hard, who dream big and who have built a life on love and faith to keep them going. Whether you like them and what they do or not, Chip and Joanna Gaines are a wonderful example of what someone can be when they allow themselves to be nothing less than their best selves.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Monday, March 13, 2017

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick - Book Review

Greetings Pups,

I believe it was Alice of Alice in Wonderland who asked what use was a book without pictures. Well, plenty, but whatever. She was like seven. Still, I have good news for you Alice. I found a book with words AND pictures. So, there you go. Something for everyone. And what is this book, you may ask? It's Wonderstruck by Brian Selznik.

Many people knew of Brian Selznik from his previous book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which became the movie, Hugo. I have not seen the film, nor had a heard of the book, and I picked up Wonderstruck, his 2011 book, on a recommendation. I had obviously seen books with words and pictures before, as we all have, but this was done in a new way that I had personally never seen.

This book tells two stories, simultaneously, one with pictures and one with words. The written story is about Ben, a young, deaf boy in 1977, who is struggling with the death of his mother. Whilst trying to uncover the secrets of his past and where he came from, he finds himself escaping to New York City, following clues and seeking answers. The illustrated story is about Rose, a young, deaf girl in 1927, who idolizes a silent movie actress. Wanting to find this woman and talk to her, she also makes her way to New York City, looking for what she believes is missing most in her life.

With each passing chapter, we go from one story to the other, one life to the other, their individual journeys completely captivating the reader, so we're always wanting to get back to what's happening with both of these characters. And both of the stories are interesting enough, and end at all the perfect moments, that we can't help but propel ourselves forward, waiting to see if they are somehow connected, right up until the end. An end that is extremely satisfying, by the way.

If I may speak personally, as a writer, who deals only in words, this was a very interesting and almost humbling experience for me. We writers are charged with putting words together in the best way, which will invoke visual pictures in the readers' minds, and that is not easy. But now I see what a skill there is in telling a story in only pictures, thus, makings those same readers come up with a verbal story in their heads from just the look of those images. It had never occurred to be what a powerful gift that is. I get it now, and I see how, whilst I find words extremely valuable in the work of storytelling, pictures can be just as important, even on their own. Maybe especially on their own.

It is so difficult these days to find books and stories that are unique and original, and that are told in such ways. I'm happy to say that Wonderstruck was certainly a nice break from the normality and the carbon copies and the conveyor belt that much of the publishing industry has become. It is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. In fact, I am probably more impressed by the drawings, as I do not draw very well, and thus, I am always bowled over by people who can do things that I cannot.

So, if you'd like a very special reading...and looking...experience, I highly recommend Wonderstruck. It will be a great journey and will bring your imagination alive in more ways than you ever thought it could be.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Back to Books Week 2.0

Greetings Pups,

About a year and a half ago, I realized that I had not done nearly enough book reviews here on the blog, so I decided to dedicate a week to writing some. Well, in all the time since then, I haven't exactly learned from my mistakes. In fact, I think I've only done two book reviews since that week, and they were both done earlier this year. To be fair, though, it is hard to find time to read the books of others when you are busy writing your own. And when it takes forever because you are constantly second guessing every choice you make due to lack of self-esteem in your writing. But I digress.

My point is this. I have been taking part in a 2017 reading challenge, with a goal to read a hundred books this year. Yeah, I know, but I'm actually very much ahead. I've read some great books, some good books, and some that are just...NO! I'd say which writer threw off the curve by being so awful, but I hear she goes after those who give her bad reviews, so I'll just stay safe for now. Anywho, those two books I reviewed so far this year spawned from said reading challenge, so I thought I should give some shout outs to other good ones I have come across, and as well as some other books I've been meaning to discuss for a while. And that is exactly what I am going to do this week. Also, March is, apparently, Reading Awareness Month, so, for once, I have good timing.

Anyway, come back tomorrow as we get started. Hopefully, I can give you some ideas for new books you can read. Especially if you're doing a challenge as well. And remember, if GoodReads says it counts as a book, then it does. Even if it's only forty pages or so.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trying to Come Back

Greetings Pups,

So, last month, I told everyone that I was taking a bit of a hiatus from my blog, due to my computer being the worst, and I was not going to be able to continue on until I got a new one. Well, I haven't gotten a new computer...yet. I say "Yet" because faith and whatnot. However, I have chosen to take the chance and try go on with my work here on this blog.

It has not been easy, as I still have to deal with the freezing up and the shutting down. But I have persevered and managed to get some stuff written that I can share with you all. And if you've been saying a prayer for me and all my issues, many thanks. Like I said, I still have faith that my situation will be changing for the better any time now. And when faith is all you have, you still have a lot.

Anyway, I am hoping that in the next couple of days, I will try - TRY! - to be posting some new things, and if all goes according to plan, it will be quite a few things. Perhaps, I could even do one of those theme weeks that I like partake in after a long absence. Again, here's hoping.

Once more, thanks for all the support and you'll be hearing from me soon.

Love and full moons,
Becky the Writer