Move over son! This skeptic is hopping on the bandwagon!

Are you a book person or a movie person?

The way you answer that is going to make a big difference on how you feel about books being made into movies.

CringingWhen you are a book person, the words “They’re making it into a movie” can be cringe worthy ones.

When I hear that Hollywood is taking on one of my favorite authors, I nearly always cringe. Yes, I might feel a cautious feeble flicker of hope, but the trepidation I feel tends to squelch that tiny flickering flame.

Movies so rarely do justice to a good book.

Yes, I know that there are exceptions, Lord of the Rings being the most obvious one, but more often than not, what the end result is is a butchery of a truly good book.

butcheryTake “City of Bones” for example. Butchery, sheer butchery!

And, if it’s not an outright butchery, it still just falls so very far short of the written work itself. “Memoirs of a Geisha.”  “Gone Girl.” Decent movies, even “good” ones, but such a pale shadow of the written work!

Given this track record, you can understand the anxiety I felt when I heard the “Game of Thrones” was going to be turned into a TV series…

I wanted to be excited. I really did, but experience had taught me that I was likely to be disappointed. Very, very disappointed. The fact that it was HBO taking it on, and not some alphabet network, did give me some hope, the flame did flicker, but…this was my favorite series of all time. My favorite author of all time. Even if it was good, it was unlikely to be good enough.

bandwagonYou have to understand, I am a true fan, not a bandwagon fan. I’ve been with GoT since the beginning.

I remember well when my father told me, my freshman year of college, that if I liked Robert Jordan, he was about to wow me with his new find, a guy named George R. R. Martin. I was skeptical, as at that time I thought that Jordan was the best fantasy writer of all time. Still, as it was my dad giving me the tip, and he’d never done me wrong, I knew I needed to give it a try. With a fair dose of skepticism, I cracked the cover…

And felt into the pages, real world be dammed! Who needs to eat? Work? Sleep? I needed to know what would happen!

I gobbled “Game of Thrones” up in a day and a half, great tome though it was.

I was stunned. Martin had ripped my heart out, chewed it into a pulp, and spit it out right in front of me, the great red, pulpy mass that it now was–and I loved it.

oliverI found myself muttering to myself for several days, “I can’t believe he did that! Did he really just do that?!” It was unconventional. It was brutal. And yet I felt a bit like Oliver holding out my bowl saying, “Mo’ please.”

He changed the way I looked at literature.

I anxiously awaited every new release, and I re-read all the books that came before in anticipation of each new release. I found myself waiting on pins and needles–just what would Martin dare to do next?

I converted all my friends to fandom. We would sit around and cast the TV series for fun– a good decade before HBO decided to take it on.

eddard-starkWe would argue over which actor or actress would best portray what we saw so clearly in our heads. We’d argue and debate until we came to a consensus.

We dreamed that it would happen. For years we talked about what if it happened, but a part of me dreaded the possibility of it truly happening, because how could they possibly do it justice?

Then I heard HBO was taking it on…I followed all the news about casting, very concerned. So many of the choices just didn’t fit my imagination. Sure, you had some that were just perfect like Peter Dinklage (Tyrion), and LittleFinger (Aidan Gillen), but then there was Cersei (Lena Headey) and she just didn’t fit what was in my head…

Despite my fear, I found myself excited, but when it came down to it, fear won out. I couldn’t watch the show. It might spoil the books, and I just couldn’t risk it.

GoT-1024x512But then began the long wait.

And more waiting.

And yet more waiting.

And the waiting became so long and embarrassing, that Martin himself wouldn’t even project dates any more. Heck, he stopped even mentioning the book in his blog!

He’d talk about Comic Con. He’d talk about watching the TV series as it was filmed. He’d talk about going here and going there. He’d talked about his games. And all the little side projects he did. Anything except the book.

And I began to wonder if Martin would ever finish his series at all. And not knowing how it ended…well, that would be truly awful! (After all, my friends and I use to joke and worry about Robert Jordan dying before he could wrap up the “Eye of the World” and, lo! Our fears ended up being quite justified (Though I will say that Brandon Sanderson did a wonderful job of wrapping up that behemoth!))

Then I heard the news that the late comers, the bandwagon hoppers, the new flock of groupies, officially knew more than we, the true and faithful.

Unacceptable. Diabolical! A true outrage!

outrage

The true fans were being left behind!

And I kept hearing how awesome the show was. By everyone. And their brother.

Then even my brother, one of the true and faithful from the beginning, told me I really had to watch it. That I wouldn’t be disappointed…

So, I swallowed my fear, made myself a drink (A nice strong one for the occasion), and curled up on my couch with a good dose of skepticism.

At first, I noticed every difference from the book.

Cersei wasn’t pretty enough. Brienne wasn’t ugly enough. Jamie wasn’t blond enough.

But, I had to grudgingly admit it was good. Maybe not great, but good.

And the further I got, it was more than good.

And as it picked up steam, and increased in budget, it became everything that was in my head–it became amazing.

winterfellIt truly did this brutal world Martin had created justice.

As it went on, I realized that the casting choices that I had questioned were downright inspired. (Lena Headey, I owe you an apology. You are freakin’ amazing and make the absolute perfect Cersei. I can’t help hating you!)

And I mostly stopped questioning the differences from the book (But,why was Caitlyn Stark not brought back by the Lord of Light? Martin, will you please answer where you were going with that story line??).

The truth is, GoT is one of the rare occasions where the screen version actually lives up to the literary work.

David Benioff and Brian Kirk, you set yourselves up for failure when you took on this behemoth, and yet somehow, you more than pulled it off.

This fan humbly thanks you for not butchering my favorite tale. You won over this skeptic, and I am waiting on pins and needles for the last installment…

I know I can’t hope for a happy ending, it is, after all, Martin, but maybe a semi happy ending?? Pretty please? Just this once?

burningWho am I kidding. The world is going to burn, and yet I can’t make myself look away…

I’m once again sticking out my bowl asking “mo’ please.”

I guess we never learn, do we?

 

 

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I’ll have a pan of brownies, a Bud light and a book on the side please–I’m a little bit stressed

Everybody has heard of the “Stress Eater.” Lots of people fall into this category. When they get stressed, they go buy a chocolate bar or, better yet, they eat a whole pan of brownies. Pretty typical. Pretty normal.

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Or the stress drinker. When you’ve hit that stress point where you feel like you’re going to break, do you grab a Bud Light from the fridge? Or maybe you’re more a merlot kind of gal. Again. Normal.

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Normal was never an adjective used to describe me. When I get stressed, I tend to lose my appetite. Well, except for the sweet tooth. I mean, let’s be honest, when does cheesecake NOT sound good, right? And though an occasional glass of wine at the end of a bad day is not something that I’m opposed to, it’s just not something that I’m ever going to make a habit out of–it’s just not me. No, when my world becomes too big for me to handle, when the daily grind feels like it is going to grind me into flour dust, I don’t reach for a Kit Kat or a Sam Adams–I reach for a book.

A book you ask? Okay, well that’s weird. Like I said, I never claimed to be normal.

I fall into a very small group known as “Stress Readers.” What, you’ve never heard of that before? Well, fine. I confess, I just made the term up. Still, it totally fits–so looky there, I made a new word (or term, whatever)!

Ever since I was a girl, when stress hit, I would escape. I would run from my reality and live someone else’s for a while. I would live their problems and get through them all from the comfort of my bed, leather recliner, sunroom, etc. (Depending on the year, my reading spot of choice differed). I would feel what they felt, and thus, separate myself from what I personally was feeling. I would read until, finally, one day, the stress would feel manageable and I would re-enter my own reality. Of course I couldn’t just take a hiatus from my life until that moment happened, but somehow the hours reading gave me an emotional buffer from its impact in the meantime.

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Through the years, this has morphed and changed. As a kid, Terry Brooks and his “Sword of Shannara” series gave me my first taste of escapism. I then quickly moved on to Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin (yes, I have been a fan from the beginning folks! Not a bandwagon groupie like most of you! 😉 ). I re-read those books more times than I can count. When my problems loomed large and I felt like I would be swallowed whole, I  would become Daenerys for a while and conquer the world, Image

or fight and scrape with Arya, proving my spunk and courage to all who knew me. Image

The books were so much more than books–they were worlds where I was able to be a different version of myself–they became alternate realities where I was tougher, spunkier, wittier, and prettier than I was in my normal life. And somehow, when it was time to re-enter my own skin and get back to being myself, I did so with confidence and a knowledge from all of those whom I had walked with and so my life seemed more doable, more achievable, and I felt more like its heroine–not just a girl struggling through.

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When I was a stressed out mom with three little ones all at home, I have to admit, my crutch, coping mechanism, whatever you want to call it, failed me. How do you escape when you are the go-to person for needy little ones? You don’t. And so for the first time in my life, I rarely read or had any opportunity to escape. I can honestly say that those were the most stress filled years of my life. I wept often. The weight of my stress felt like it would crush me into a formless mass of goo. I think in a lot of ways I survived those years, I didn’t really live them–and I certainly wasn’t able to escape them.

But now, I am in a different phase of my life. My kids are a little older and so they are a little more independent. Guess who’s back? My handy little crutch. And with age and wisdom, I have mastered the art of stress reading. It is not a “one size fits all” kind of crutch anymore. Oh, no! There are different types of escapism for the different levels and types of stress. For your average, run of the mill stress, I still run to fantasy or dystopian worlds. Though my authors of choice have changed because, as we all know, George Martin seems more interested in doing anything BUT writing and if I waited for his next book, I might die (or he might) before it arrived! So, I have branched out.

I have found a lot of fodder among YA authors: Alison Goodman, Libba Bray, Sherry Thomas, Cassandra Clare and Veronica Roth among others. Oddly, in the adult section, there seems to be fewer choices. Charlaine Harris was my favorite until she tanked the Sookie Stackhouse series with very possibly the WORST finale in the history of writing. I stumbled on Gillian Philip who is quite good, as well as Jim Butcher and a few others.

But when the stress gets really rough, I find even fantasy takes more brainpower than I am capable of and so I retreat to light, fluffy chick lit or romance. Kristan Higgins and Susan Elizabeth Phillips are my preferred choices, but unfortunately, I’ve read all of their books and so I’ve been forced to wander further afield. I’ve found that Susan Wiggs’ and some of Nora Roberts’ (sometimes–some are way TOO fluffy) books can do in a pinch.

When the stress reaches epic proportions, and remember, I am a teacher, and there are most certainly times during the school year that I simply cannot bear to speak or even listen to one more syllable or when I cannot read another word (imagine grading 200 Freshmen essays in the course of a few days)–days when my brain is complete and utter mush, on those days I succumb to a TV series marathon for my escapism stress relief. I feed my family dinner, help kids with baths and homework, and then I retreat into my bedroom with my computer and my friend Netflix and begin to burn through every single episode of a series.

For instance, “Walking Dead.” Life had hit the high intensity level when I turned to the zombie apocalypse for my alternate reality. I mean, what eases stress more than the end of the world as we know it and unthinking, gory, once humans trying to make a tasty snack out of you? Not to mention that, should the zombie apocalypse ever become a reality, I now know everything to do (find a remote farm in the middle of no where) and what not to do (ever trust anyone ever again). Escapism and educational!

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So, what’s your “vice” of choice? We all have one–something that helps us get by when life has us in a death grip. Any tips? Have you found the fail safe stress relief strategy that will make the mountain into an ant hill? Any good escapism must reads or sees? Share my friends! I’m running out of stuff to read! 😉

Just Give in and Hop On . . . It’s Well Worth the Ride!

I think I should have been an editor. Why this never crossed my mind when I was younger, I’m not quite sure. I have always loved books, good ones, that is. From the time I could read, I devoured them. I was one of those dorky kids who read a book a day, and yet, thanks to my speed reading ability, I still managed to have a social life as well.

I remember when we got a new librarian at our local library when I was a kid. She looked at me skeptically when I wanted to check out ten books. She informed me that I couldn’t possibly read all of them before I came back next week (it was the summer reading program). The other lady looked at her and smiled. “Oh, yes she can, and she will!” And I did.

As busy as I am as a mom with three young kids and as a fledgling writer trying to get her career off the ground, I still manage to squeeze the time in to read a good book every now and again. Luckily for my family, there are a lot of good authors out there, but only a handful of truly excellent ones. As my husband told me the other day, when I stumble on a truly excellent writer, I become compulsive. I cannot stop reading. I escape into that world and feel like a stranger in my own until the adventure ends.

What’s amazing about these writers is that no matter how many times I read their books, I find them affecting me in the same way. I must have read the first 8 books in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan at least ten times by now, but they still pull me in in.

I have always prided myself as not being a band wagon kind of girl. I feel no real need to que up with the status quo and I don’t mind being the only one in a group to say that I have not adhered to the last Oprah book trend. I will judge for myself if a book is excellent and, frankly, having read more than just about anybody I know, I am a tough critic!

Well, if I ever doubted it, I now have to acknowledge that sometimes things reach band wagon status for a reason.

I had been told that I simply must read “The Hunger Games” before I see the movie.  I knew my mom’s group was planning to see the film so I contemplated on whether or not I should take this recommendation seriously. I hemmed and hawed, and finally decided, “What the heck?” I had just finished two of Emily Giffin’s very mediocre books “Baby Proof” (not good when you find the main character unlikeable) and “Love the One Your With” (her husband should have dumped her sorry ass!) and was looking for something to read, so why not give it a try? I went to half.com, placed my order and it arrived two days later.

When I crawled into bed that night I picked it up, turned it this way and that, frowned at it a bit and contemplated going downstairs and beginning to give Sookie and Charlaine Harris a re-read instead. I just wasn’t expecting much, but if I was going to see the movie next week . . .  I sighed, but began to read.

At 3:00 am I was only half done, but I REALLY wanted to finish it. I contemplated my 6:00 wake up call of Lily at my bed side demanding that I wake up to get her a cereal bar because she’s absolutely starving. I dog-eared the page, reluctantly put the book down and turned off the light.

Thank goodness I am a speed reader, because my house would have green stuff growing from the kitchen counter and some sort of monster living in the kid’s bathroom if I read at a normal person’s pace! I was hooked! Hook, line and sinker!

By late afternoon I was making a Target run to pick up book 2 because I wasn’t willing to wait the couple of extra days that ordering it from Half.com would have taken. Somehow I managed to spend time with my kids, cook the meals and even get some cleaning done despite my frantic pace.

The next morning I finished “Catching Fire,” went to see “Journey 2 the Mysterious Island” with the family (pretty much a snooze fest . . . you know it’s bad when the Rock’s little pectoral jiggle is the most entertaining part of the movie!), stopped at Target on the way back from the theater for book 3 “The Mockingjay,” and anxiously awaited bed time so I could disappear back into the world of Katniss Everdeen.

Few writers are able to draw me in so completely. Suzanne Collins is a master of her craft. Her characters were excellent, well rounded and real. Her plot was irresistible, and her writing had an edge and timing that was something special. Add to that the fact that the world itself is so thought-provoking and philosophically challenging to American modern day society and, well, this is a band wagon worth getting on!

If you love to read and haven’t read this book, block out a few days and prepare to immerse yourself in a world that will pull you in and not let go. It’s brutal. It will leave you feeling raw. But it will also leave you appreciative for all you have in a way that you have not been before.

Thank You Geeky Half Price Books Guy!

            All of us have coping methods we use to handle stress. For some, it is eating (often specifically chocolate or other very bad for you things). Others work out (I really wish that was mine! With all the stress in my life, I bet I’d look great!). My coping method of choice is shopping. Not just any shopping, it’s typically thrift shopping. I love finding a good deal. This coping method only works when you have money, which is definitely a major drawback and so I haven’t really been able to use this one lately. Instead I fallback to my second choice, escapism.

            Around this time last year, I found myself in the doldrums (gotta love that word! Doldroms . . . ) probably having something to do with the fact that I am an event junkie (See my previous blog) and it’s that stagnant time of year. My escapism of choice last year was Charlene Harris, writer of the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series, a very entertaining (and far better than the offshoot HBO series Trueblood imop) read. This year I kind of scratched my head and wasn’t real sure what to try, so I went to Half Price books and kind of meandered.

            I was browsing the fantasy section wishing that George R.R. Martin had a new book (I know, kind of laughable since it took eight years to get his last new book!). I pulled out this book, glanced at it, put it back. Then I grabbed that book ,glanced at it, only to put it back. You see, though I love fantasy, it has to be GOOD fantasy. I am extremely picky. I really didn’t want to try anything without a recommendation from someone willing to say that it was worth the read.

            Well, one of those annoying workers (obviously a complete geek btw!) who feel obligated to come by and ask you if you needed anything came over. I told him I was just browsing, like I usually do. Luckily this guy was persistent. So we started up a conversation about the kind of fantasy I liked.

           I of course mentioned Martin because he is just so awesome. Then I brought up Robert Jordan (yes, despite all the critics dissing him, I still love the Wheel of Time! He may be weak on characterization but he is a master at plot!) I dissed Terry Brooks and the Shanara series (great in junior high, but far too juvenile for me these days).

            I guess that must have given him enough of an idea of my taster, because he pulled a book off the shelf and told me he thought I would like it. Some guy named Jim Butcher who I had never heard of was the author. The series was called the Codex of Alera. It looked like a book that some geeky high school boy would like, but I was desperate. It was only a couple of bucks so I shrugged and said, “Why not” and bought it, honestly, with very low expectations.

            At first, the book was about what I expected. The first sixty pages or so were laborious. But then, it took off and hasn’t stopped. He has the characterization of Martin without ever slowing the plot. No plodding for Butcher! Maybe he goes a little more into the military/battle stuff than I would like, but let’s be honest, I’m not exactly his target audience! How many stay at home moms are into fantasy? Not many I would think! 🙂

I am now on book four and have been more than happy with my New Year escapism! I am looking forward to escaping into his world for us long as I can, and I hope he continues to write more of the same!

            Thank you geeky Half Price Books guy for convincing me to give Butcher a try! I’m hooked! 😀