Books to Movies like Apples to Oranges

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say they didn’t like a movie because “they didn’t follow the book.” Okay, I understand the frustration of feeling like you’ve been jipped out of seeing your beloved characters’ lives lived out accurately on the big screen (*cough*Princess Diaries 2*cough*), but altogether, let’s be honest: comparing books to movies is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re two completely different art forms: what makes a good book is not what makes a good movie. And if you’re going to get hung up on all the little details, then just don’t even bother.

I have a friend who swears she can’t even bear to watch the Harry Potter movies because of the screaming inaccuracies, i.e. Harry standing up on his broom when rescuing Neville’s Remembrall. “That did not happen in the book,” she swears. I’ll admit, there are times that the differences bother me, too (like when Harry stood there and watched Dumbledore die–he was under the body-bind curse in the book, which does seem like a big discrepancy). But I remind myself that the decision was likely made mindfully and with a greater purpose in mind–such as progressing the storyline more quickly, saving the HP movies from being 17 hours each, or for cinematic effect. For the most part, I highly enjoy seeing film adaptations of books I read and loved. And, overall, I don’t let those thoughts ruin the experience for me. Water for Elephants and The Help are both excellent examples of 2011 movies adapted from two of my favorite novels.

Recently, I discovered a new benefit for seeing a movie after reading a book. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo during summer 2011, and was enraptured with the mystery aspect of the novel, but bored with the business and legal matters that book-ended (pardon the pun) the excitement. I couldn’t (and didn’t care to) follow the Wennerstrom affair, and ended up skimming through the last 100 pages of the novel. Fans who had rushed out to buy the second novel after completing the first seemed shocked that I didn’t feel the same sense of devotion to the series. But as far as I was concerned, I had no interest in reading The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Then, a few weeks ago, B and I decided to see the (American) Dragon Tattoo movie adaptation. Seeing the “boring parts” compressed down to about 15-20 minutes, I was able to better understand the connection to the story. By not wading through page after page of storyline that I had no interest in, I connected more to the characters. After seeing the movie, I finally felt compelled to read more about Lisbeth and Mikael. I just finished The Girl Who Played with Fire last week, and while I won’t be putting it on my Top 10 list, I am glad I read it and plan to read Hornet’s Nest soon.

Another pleasant surprise was One for the Money, the movie version of the first book in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. As a recent fan (I read the first novel on our honeymoon in June and have since finished #2, #3, and #4), I was a little concerned with the filmmakers’ choice to cast Katherine Heigl as Stephanie Plum. I still think she’s just too beautiful to play Plum, who I envisioned as a plain-Jane, Heigl delivered and pulled it off well. My mom, though, didn’t feel that the actor playing Joe Morelli was quite dreamy enough. Either way, I hope to see more movies in this series. If they make ’em, I’ll watch ’em.

 

Sisterhood Everlasting

Last weekend, a rare gap in my library holds queue left me perusing the audiobooks on the shelves. I’d picked out a Jennifer Cruise novel–one that would be an easy listen as I waited for a much-awaited read to become available on my list–and was on my way to the self check machine when an author’s name caught my eye. The author was Ann Brashares, and, upon closer inspection, the title was Sisterhood Everlasting. Could it be? I wondered. And it was. A fifth installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. Not just another book in the series, but a “reunion” book–a story of the characters ten years later.

I was absolutely giddy in the aisles of the library, as I practically danced to the check-out line, then to my car, where I had the first CD going before I’d even left the parking lot.

On her blog, Brashares writes:

I promised myself that after taking a break from them and trying out some other things I would come back and find them later in their lives. So that’s what I’ve done in Sisterhood Everlasting. I’ve rediscovered Carmen, Lena, Bridget, and Tibby on the cusp of their thirtieth birthdays. Though it felt right to be away—all of us off doing our different things—it felt wonderful to come back together.

And I couldn’t agree more. Reconnecting with well-known characters is like reconnecting with old friends. You pick up right where you left off, and you get a little thrill whenever a reference is made to your shared past. For the entire week, I found myself taking an extra lap around the block before pulling into my destination and reveling in a little extra traffic–anything to listen to a little bit more of their story.

After recently abandoning another “ten years later” book from a series I’d loved as a middle schooler, I was thrilled to find an author who’d done it right. It’s quite a feat to create a novel with a plotline that holds up on its own, stays true to its characters, and doesn’t discount any of the events from the original series. Brashares took the challenge and delivered beautifully.

Upon reading the first two novels in middle/high school, and enjoying the third and fourth upon their releases, I was pulled into the lives on the four teenage girls. As a reader, I experienced their family issues, first kisses, first loves, traveling adventures, and meaningful friendships. I envied the bond that held them together, and felt blessed to have my own close girlfriends in my life. Brashares created genuine characters with relatable issues, and presented the trials and tribulations of teenage girls with complete honesty.

And now, reading about the same characters who’ve grown to be young adults, as I have, I was able to connect with them on another level. No longer are their problems about growing up, they’re now about being grown-ups. Again, the issues are real: marriage, babies, careers… and death.

Without giving any spoilers, I will admit that, about two discs into the novel (100 pages?? It’s hard to reference since I listened to this one!), I thought she’s ruined the series. What? I found myself saying. How could she do that? But, being so devoted to the characters, I stuck it out, and am glad I did. (That’s all I’m going to say.)

Overall, I would suggest this novel to anyone who fell in love with the original series. If you aren’t familiar with Carmen, Lena, Tibby, and Bee, then I suggest you get reading. And don’t you dare take them out of order. Start at the beginning, and enjoy experiencing the bonds of friendship, becoming a part of the sisterhood yourself.

Side Note: Here’s a review of the book posted on one of my favorite book blogs, Forever Young Adult.

Side Note #2: I had this post all written and ready to go on Monday, hit “Publish” and WHOOSH! it was all gone. Grrr… I was too p.o.’ed to re-write it again until today (while I’m home sick).

The Faith Club

For the past year, every other Thursday night, I’ve been a part of a group of women who meet to discuss their faith. We started out calling ourselves Women’s Bible Study, but recently our name has changed, due in part to our most-recent read: The Faith Club by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver, and Priscilla Warner.

We chose this book after a study on John Stott’s Basic Christianity. Although we’d enjoyed reading about the background of our own faith, we agreed that we’d like to learn more about some of the other prominent religions of the world. We considered reading short books on each of the main five world religions, but in our search we came across The Faith Club, and knew it was right for our group (which now goes by the name Faith Club).

The Faith Club was written by three women–Christian, Muslim, and Jewish (respectively)–living in New York City after 9/11. They originally met with the intention to write a children’s book explaining the three religions, their similarities, and their differences. However, the realized that before they could write such a book, they had quite a lot to learn from one another. The Faith Club details the conversations they had, the stereotypes they shattered, and the relationships they formed. Each woman shares parts of her own story, from dealing with death, to anxiety issues, questions over the existence of heaven and hell, and what is deemed the “Crucifixion Crisis”. Each woman develops in her own faith, yet the respect they form for one another is outstanding.

The Faith Club highlights the similarities between the three religions, while also tackling the over-arching question: How can I be comfortable and devout in my own faith, yet recognize the validity of other faiths?

I believe anyone in my Faith Club would highly recommend this book, and would LOVE to discuss it with you. Now that we’ll be moving on to another to-be-determined book, I know I’ll miss Ranya, Suzanne, and Priscilla. Those Thursday nights, it felt like they’d become a part of our faith club.

Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot

I’ve recently discovered the wonderful land of book blogging. Book blogs, for those of you who don’t venture far into the blogging world (besides my insightful ramblings, that is), are exactly what they sound–blogs strictly about books. I’ve been reading some of Dana’s stuff at Much Madness is Divinest Sense for awhile, and she gave me the idea to try the Mixing It Up Challenge this year, hosted by Ellie at Musings of a Bookshop Girl. Then, more recently, I stumbled across Forever Young Adult, a blog committed to young adult literature. I could hardly contain my excitement when I noticed a link to Meg Cabot’s blog, who has been one of my oh-so-very-favorite authors since I discovered the Princess Diaries in about sixth grade.

Since I can’t pretend that Sharing Closet Space is a particularly focused blog (you’ll find posts on everything from weddings to running to just how cute my puppies are), I’ve decided to add yet another facet to my broad base of topics. Besides just keeping you updated on my progress in the Mixing It Up Challenge this year, I’ve decided to keep a running log of the books I read in 2012. This is really for selfish reasons, more than anything else–I want to be able to go back on New Year’s Eve and reminisce about all the pages I’ve turned in the past 365 366 days (it’s a leap year!). I want to run the facts, like, “I’ve read x number of books this year, x amount of which were by new-to-me authors, x amount of which were fiction, x amount of which were classics, etc., etc.”

Why not keep a list like this to myself? Well, because how much more fun will it be for you to keep track with me, tell me what you’ve read or would like to read, and recommend books I might like? I’m hoping this year, my friends, we can start a bit of a conversation on Sharing Closet Space. So far, I feel like I’ve been talking at you… and if I’ve learned anything in my education classes, it’s that the best things happen in conversation.

So, it’s happened. If you venture on up to the top of my blog, you’ll see a new tab labeled “Book Log“. This is where the list will be housed, and if you click on it now, you’ll see the very first book I read in 2012.

Queen of Babble in the Big City by Meg Cabot

I’m telling you right now that I’m never going to make an excuse for devouring a good piece of chick literature. It’s an important part of modern fiction, if you ask me, and I read a good amount of it. If you haven’t read any of Meg Cabot’s works, you’re seriously missing out. The Heather Wells mysteries are some of my favorites, and for the young adult realm she’s also written the Princess Diaries series, All-American Girl, and a few more series that are currently on my holds list at the library. Meg Cabot is the type of author you want to pick up when you have a few days off work, and can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea or in a bubble bath with a glass of wine. Just like Pringles, once you start, you just can’t stop–you’ll keep flipping pages, and without a glance at the clock, you’ll reach the end of the novel and race to your computer to request or buy the next in the series.

In Queen of Babble, the reader is introduced to Lizzie Nichols, a recent graduate (well, almost) who is jetting off to London to spend a romantic summer with her British boyfriend. However, things don’t go quite as she planned when she arrives in London–starting with the horrific jacket Andrew wears to pick her up at the airport. Soon enough, Lizzie finds herself living with her friends at a chateau in France for the summer, helping the venue put on fabulous bridal affairs. Lizzie is surprised when her degree in the history of fashion allows her to save the day, and is swept off her feet by Luke, the son of the chateau’s owner.

Queen of Babble in the Big City takes place after the whirlwind summer has ended. Lizzie and her friends have moved to NYC in pursuit of their dreams, and Lizzie is forced to realize that a history of fashion degree may not have created the most economic stability in her life. However, after befriending the best-known bride in the city and taking her hand-me-down wedding gown from horrendous to fabulous, Lizzie realizes that she has the cojones to handle life independently. All is not smooth sailing, though. Lizzie’s friend, Shari, reveals her bisexuality by starting a new relationship with a woman. Lizzie’s boyfriend turns out to be a bit of a commitmentphobe, and, to top it all off, his father steps on and breaks her sewing machine. My only complaint (ahem, Meg Cabot), is the cliffhanger at the end. And the only reason I’m complaining is because I don’t have the next in line, Queen of Babble Gets Hitched, to start tonight.

Cabot has done it again, by creating a character you just can’t help but fall in love with. Lizzie is believeable and relatable, funny, and someone who I can imagine sitting down and having a diet Coke with. After meeting Lizzie Nichols, Heather Wells, and Mia Thermopolis, I look forward to getting to know Meena Harper, of Cabot’s Insatiable series, which is upcoming on my TBR (to-be-read) list.

Mixing It Up Challenge 2012

In 2012 I will be participating in the Mixing It Up Challenge. You, too, could participate in this challenge and expand your reading repertoire. Just go here for more information and to sign up.

In an effort to round out my reading this year, I’m vowing to read one book from at least 13 of the 16 listed categories. Although I’m tempted to go for the All the Trimmings and a Cherry on Top participation level, I’m keeping it real and admitting that between my two book clubs, I may be over-committing. So, I’ll be a Two-Tier Cake-r this year. Confused yet? Read this blog for more information on the challenge.

Without further ado, the categories, and my brainstorming:

CLASSICS

Considering some Willa Cather, but considering going back to some of those should-have-read-in-high-school novels, such as Scarlet Letter or Three Musketeers.

BIOGRAPHY

I absolutely love reading biographies, but to be honest, don’t have any on my “to-read” list. However, I know that Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff has been getting a lot of attention recently, so I may have to check it out.

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

The author of this challenge suggested a book on wine for this category. If I can pair this with some real-life research, I’m down!

HISTORY

On tap for my July book club meeting is Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand, a WWII story named by TIME magazine as “the best nonfiction book of the year”. We also have Franklin and Eleanor by Hazel Rowley and Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo coming up in February and April.

MODERN FICTION

And this is the category where I’ll fit in my recent addiction: Meg Cabot’s Queen of Babble series.

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

This genre will (would) be entirely new for me, and quite a stretch out of my comfort zone. May be one of the 1-3 genres I skip. We’ll see…

CRIME AND MYSTERY

Paying homage to my mother, I will probably zip through an Agatha Christie or two in 2012, but I also plan to enjoy a few more of the Stephanie Plum series. In addition, Hardball, by Sara Paretsky, is on my book club’s list for March.

HORROR

I can honestly say I’ve never read a horror novel, but on my to-read list for quite some time has been Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

ROMANCE

The latest Nicholas Sparks? Yes, please.

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Ugh. This is my general reaction to science fiction and fantasy. If I re-read the Harry Potter series, does that count? (Maybe I’ll sign up for the Harry Potter Reading Challenge.)

TRAVEL

B gifted me with travel guides on London and Paris in preparation for our 2013 European vacation, so you can bet I’ll be scouring these in 2012.

POETRY AND DRAMA

I always enjoy poetry more than I think I will. Since I honestly never think to sit down and read it, I will appreciate taking the time to do so this year. I’m thinking some springtime reading…

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

This genre will take some research for me. It’s another one that I’m not too familiar with. Maybe I’ll check out one of those Chelsea Handler books that always look like they’ll annoy me… or maybe I’ll delve deeper and read a journalist’s collected works. Hmm….

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks this year, I’m honestly not sure I can put myself through another work in this genre so soon…

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
In my profession, this one should not be a problem!
I’ll keep you updated on my favorites of 2012.

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY
I gave B a copy of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart this Christmas. The subtitle, Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Not sure this challenge is for you, but interested in learning about some others? Check out this blog, one of my favorite literature-based reads, for some more ideas.

Completed Reads

CLASSICS

The Great Gatsby by F. Scot Fitzgerald

BIOGRAPHY

Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

COOKERY, FOOD AND WINE

Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell

HISTORY

Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure: The True Story of a Great American Road Trip by Matthew Algeo

MODERN FICTION

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

GRAPHIC NOVELS AND MANGA

Homecoming by Meg Cabot

CRIME AND MYSTERY

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

HORROR

ROMANCE

The Villa by Nora Roberts

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

TRAVEL

POETRY AND DRAMA

JOURNALISM AND HUMOUR

Drop Dead Healthy by A. J. Jacobs

SCIENCE AND NATURAL HISTORY

CHILDREN’S AND YOUNG ADULT
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

SOCIAL SCIENCES AND PHILOSOPHY

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca Skloot, award-winning science writer, is well-known for her works of narrative science writing. Her impressive bio includes a wide breadth of topics and media works. Henrietta is Skloot’s first attempt at writing a book, however, and due to its New York Times bestseller status, the multitude of awards it’s received, and the incredible number of publications that have named it “best book”, I suppose it can be considered a success.

The nonfiction novel recounts Skloot’s own journey as she delved into her own curiosity about Henrietta Lacks, the name behind the HeLa cells. After a community college biology professor intrigued Skloot in the subject with a brief introduction to the woman who’d died of acute cervical cancer, unaware of the  effect her cells would have on scientific advances for decades to come, Skloot took it upon herself to track down more information. Eventually, Skloot dedicated her work on the dream of writing a book that revealed the humanitarian side of the HeLa cells–telling the story of the woman who was Henrietta Lacks. However, by the time her research was complete, it was evident to Skloot that she could no longer write the story objectively: “Without realizing it, I’d become a character in her story, and she in mine” (Skloot, 23).

Skloot divides the novel into three parts: Life, Death, and Immortality. She seamlessly glides between fact-ridden, informative passages and personal, dialogue-driven narrative. The heading of each chapter includes a timeline, which helps the reader navigate the non-chronological telling of Henrietta’s story. Complicated biological motifs are broken down into manageable sections, while Skloot manages to give meaningful information without “dumbing down” for nor overburdening readers with a non-medical background.

Through Skloot’s voice, we hear accounts from many of Henrietta’s family members. Skloot is a straight-forward narrator; she recounts her interactions with Henrietta’s colorful daughter, son, and husband seemingly uncensored. Her honest story-telling, combined with the natural dialect she chose to include in direct quotations from the Lackses, leave an empathetic reader wondering how they might navigate the world of advanced science and medicine, without more than a grade school education, knowing that the answers to their family history would be found in the charts and data they could barely understand.

“When I go to the doctor for my checkups I always say my mother was HeLa. They get all excited, tell me stuff like how her cells helped make my blood pressure medicine and antidepression pills and how all this important stuff in science happen cause of her. But they don’t never explain more than just sayin, Yeah, your mother was on the moon, she been in nuclear bombs and made that polio vaccine. I really don’t know how she did all that, but I guess I’m glad she did, cause that mean she helpin lots of people. I think she would like that.”

from the section “Deborah’s Voice” (pg. 24)

Skloot manages to remain unbiased in her writing; though her relationship with and empathy for the Lackses is evident, she presents the view of the medical world, as well. Consent laws were different in 1951 when Henrietta’s doctor sent a small sample of her cervical cancer lesion down to the pathology lab for diagnosis. Dr. George Gey had worked unsuccessfully with multitudes of cell samples in the past–he and his staff were utterly shocked with their results of Henrietta’s cells. Skloot leaves it to the reader to decide for themselves what, if anything, the world of science owes Henrietta’s ancestors.

Although some of the middle section seemed to drag a bit, and many of the Lacks characters became muddled in my brain (I discovered the Cast of Characters [pg. 318] too late in the game), I would recommend Skloot’s first novel to anyone interested in learning more about a subject not widely-covered in the past. The accessibility of Skloot’s writing make it easy for readers to understand the importance and implications of the HeLa cells. This novel, which includes a Reading Group Guide (pg. 356)–at least in my Nook Book edition–makes an excellent choice for a book group looking for a nonfiction choice that reads well and opens up a wide array of discussion possibilities.

All in all, I would give Henrietta 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Watch the book trailer here.