It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at BookDate, and was adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. This weekly roundup is a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.
Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Author: Ian Fleming / Illustrator: John Burningham
Publication Date: 2014
My Two Cents: I watched the film adaptation of this classic children’s book as a child, and I seem to remember it having something to do with a scary baddie who kidnapped children? I might be wrong, but suffice it to say it didn’t leave that much of an impression on me. I came across an anniversary edition of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the children’s section recently, and decided to give it a go on my commute. I’m glad I did – it was quite a fun and sweet little story about an unusual family and their magical car. I’d finished reading The Hobbit not long before starting Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the two stories feature a similar storytelling style of narration. In both books the narrator speaks directly to the reader, commenting on the characters, hinting at future events, and building a connection with the reader, which makes for a very sweet and endearing reading experience.
And guess what! Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by Ian Fleming – that’s right, the same fellow who created the sexy super-spy James Bond! This edition is also illustrated by John Burningham, creator of the children’s classic Mr. Gump’s Outing.
Title: Flash and Bone
Author: Kathy Reichs
Publication Date: 2011
My Two Cents: I’m reading this for my book club, and while I have yet to finish it, I’ve read enough to know that it’s not really my cup of tea. Reichs’ writing style just does not resonate with me – it’s very direct, with little in the way of description. A writing instructor once told me that strong writing shows, rather than tells, but Reichs seems incapable of doing anything but tell. There’s a lot of “I did this. Then I did that. Jim did this. Then he did that. But he didn’t do the other thing because <insert tedious chunk of unnatural exposition here>”. There’s a lot of clunky exposition, including several pages’ worth of Nascar history clumsily inserted into an otherwise deadly dull breakfast scene (“I ate some cornflakes. Gave Birdie the milk leavings. Took my bowl and cup to the sink, rinsed, and placed them in the dishwasher. Wiped the table.”) There also seems to be a lot of backstory, which I would think would get tedious if you were to read the entire series – how many times can you possibly read about the shape and construction of the medical examiner’s building? Still, if you’re looking for something breezy to help you pass the time on a long commute you could do worse, as this straight-forward and quick-moving text can easily be consumed without too much concentration.
Title: Wolf Hall
Director: Peter Kosminksy
Release Date: 2015
Genre/Format: TV Miniseries
I have mixed feelings about the Masterpiece adaption of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel by Hilary Mantel. I so very much wanted to love it. I found the original novel gripping and engrossing – a cleverly written and thoroughly researched novel of Tudor England. The BBC adaptation was beautifully filmed and stunning (if dark) to behold. Mark Rylance give a sensitive and thoughtful performance as Cromwell, the political genius who rose from poverty to become a close advisor and confident of the king, and Damian Lewis is an engaging and perhaps more historically accurate Henry VIII.
But talk about a slow burn. Holy smokes. was this ever boring. Beautiful, but boring. And I have a degree in history and watch documentaries for fun, so that should tell you something about just how boring this was. Things do pick up a bit towards the end as the stakes grow higher, and the portrayal of Anne Boleyn’s execution is one of the most sensitive I’ve ever seen (if this is a spoiler, you should’ve paid more attention in history class), but the majority of the program moves as slow as molasses in winter. Even Cromwell, as skillfully as he is portrayed, always looks either bored, or sad, or a mixture of both, which really doesn’t help the situation.
And if you haven’t read the book or brushed up on your Tudor history before watching this series, prepare to be hopelessly confused. The story jumps around in time, characters suddenly appear without introduction, and names are casually dropped with the assumption that you’ll automatically know who each individual is, and immediately appreciate their significance to the story. Having read the novel and several others set during this period, I was largely able to follow along with the program, but I can imagine many viewers simply being adrift at sea. And because the action moves so slowly, those viewers likely won’t care enough to muddle through to the conclusion.
Pretty to look at but not as much fun to behold, Wolf Hall is yet another example of why the book is so often better than the movie.
So there you have it, a few titles I’ve been reading (or watching!) this week. What have you been reading?