Category Archives: Reading Adventures

Adapting The Handmaid’s Tale – Thursday Thoughts #3

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

There’s always a sense of excitement I feel when I hear that a book I’ve enjoyed is being adapted for the screen. Not only does it mean there will be more attention for the book and the author, but I know I get to experience the world of the story brought to life. So I can’t let news like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood getting a small-screen adaptation go by without comment.

I make no secret that I love dystopian fiction. In fact, I don’t think I could make a secret if I wanted to. And The Handmaid’s Tale is quite simply one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s a true gem of a work, and those who haven’t read it should run to their nearest library and check it out. (And I suggest doing so before the show airs, since we know adaptation rarely does justice for the book.)

There are reasons I should be worried, I’m sure. Every book-to-screen adaptation has its problems. It’s inherent in adapting a book to a film that things need to be cut. I remember lamenting the things that were cut out of the Harry Potter series of films. There are things I think are critical to the story that are only to be found on the page.

But that’s to be expected in a film adaptation. A book that takes several hours to read would be a film of a similar length if everything stayed in. And while people are willing to go see 20+ films featuring James Bond, there’s something different about an episodic series of films than a seven-volume telling of a single novel.

What one really needs to worry about is when those responsible for the production take too much creative license. I’m thinking of adaptations of books like Geography Club where I felt like I was watching a different story–just set in the same place with the same character names. And there’s the equally troubling adaptation of The Scorch Trials from The Maze Runner series. So many liberties were taken there that I remain completely perplexed about how they will be able to do The Death Cure without writing a completely new plot.

What has me excited about this particular adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale (it was previously adapted for film; a decent production but nothing stellar) is that it’s for the small screen. A television show offers more space and time to deal with the story. A ten-episode season of one-hour episodes gives around 450 minutes versus the 120 minutes where movies tend to top out.

That’s not to say television is the answer to true-to-book adaptations. Examples like The Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars showed clear deviations from the book series early on. Part of the reasoning for changing things up is to give the story something new for fans of the books. Of course, sometimes it’s fans of the television show that influence production. True Blood (which was always presented as being based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries) notably kept a character alive, deviating from the books, due to popularity with the show’s fans.

Even with the tendency for television to explore different avenues of the story, I’m ready and waiting for The Handmaid’s Tale. Due to the ability to explore so many layers with more time, I think I’m just more ready to forgive deviations on the small screen.

But, as a friend of mine says, “At the end of the day, any adaptation is a crap shoot.” That may be true. But every once in a while the dice land in our favor…

Emerald City Comicon: A Semi-Functional Recap

So, I’m sort of recovered from Emerald City Comicon this weekend, and I hope the reviews will start flowing again as usual. In the meantime, I do feel the need to share a few things that I thought were pretty stellar this weekend.

First off, one of my primary reasons for attending the show is the chance to meet some of the celebrity guests, attend their panels, and get an autograph. This year, I picked up two (which is less than in each of the past two years, but it’s also much better on my budget):

Robbie Amell Autograph

My first score was Robbie Amell, who is honestly a very chill guy in person. I later saw him wandering the show floor, and he was able just blend right in with the rest of the crowd.

Sasha Roiz Autograph

And the second was Sasha Roiz, who made the short trip up from Portland. He was also great to meet in person, and I particularly enjoyed his panel held on Saturday afternoon.

Chris Uminga Prints

My roommate has really immersed himself in the art scene at the show the past two years, so I accompanied him on his venture through Artist’s Alley. Although I didn’t pick up any art last year, this year I found a few that I just couldn’t resist. Pictured above are two prints by Chris Uminga–Hocus Pocus and Harry Potter (two faves!). I really enjoy his style and have already picked out places for these to be displayed in my room.

Meg Daunting Prints

I also stumbled across Meg Daunting’s table (I know her work most notably from a set of Teen Wolf fandom teas over at Adagio Teas), and of course I couldn’t resist picking up some Teen Wolf art from her. The three prints I got are pictured above.

I also got a Doctor Who themed poster from Cyanide and Happiness and a Hufflepuff-themed print from another vendor. And I purchased an exclusive TARDIS print at the charity art auction at the end of the show. I don’t have pictures for those ready to go, but maybe I’ll share them once they’re framed and on the wall.

But I absolutely can’t forget the other great thing about ECCC: FREE BOOKS! This year, I scored four–one from my tote bag purchase and three from the Del Rey table in the exhibit hall. My grabs included The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb, Clash of Eagles by Alan Smale, and Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I look forward to reading them all!

Free Books

I had hoped to also meet Peter Brett & Robin Hobb (and get some books signed), but the schedule of author autographs that was published ahead of time wasn’t actually followed and they ended up not fitting in my schedule. But I still had a great time and will work to try to have some flexibility in my schedule next year should the same thing happen with the signings.

Spring Break on the Blog!

It’s Spring Break Here at ConvergenceBookReviews

I’m currently traveling on a mini-vacation to welcome in spring, so the blog has been quiet for a couple of days and will continue to be through the remainder of the weekend. It’s a spring break of sorts. The upside is that I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading. Of course that means I have some great books to recommend to you all once I’m back home. (I always love the amount of reading I manage to get done when I’m traveling.)

I hope each of you had an amazing week! And I wish you all an even better weekend!

Musings on Book Fandom – Thursday Thoughts #2

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

One of the communities I identify with online is fandom. And fandom is a rather broad term, as it consists of so many smaller sub-communities. So, to be more specific, one of the primary groups I’m a part of is book fandom.

The other day, a colleague asked me about my fandoms. She asked, “What do you spend your time on outside of work? What excites you?” And my response included books, reading, and volunteering. It also included specific television shows and podcasts. And since I’d already been thinking about the nature of book fandom, I walked away with more on the brain.

When I talked about being a fan of books, I left it at just “books and reading.” When I described being a fan of other media, I cited specific examples. And I tend to notice this is the case for many when it comes to fandom. In other media, people tend to identify on a more direct level with a specific work. And while there are books and series that have active fandom groups, I sometimes feel like it’s not on the same level.

For me, I think a big part of this is just the nature of books themselves. As someone who would describe himself as a huge fan of books, I don’t often read the same book twice. There have been a few exceptions over the years. But I usually prefer to read something new if I can. So that means that the experience of reading a book isn’t always a sustained one. Yes, I spend time thinking about a book after it’s finished. I usually review it, recommend it, and talk about it (if it’s a good one!). But I’m onto the next book by the next day.

With movies, it seems a bit easier to do a re-watch. And television shows usually run over a period of days, week, months, or even years. There’s an increased ease with which one can engage with a work over a sustained period in those types of media. Thus, I think it becomes easier to identify with a specific work rather than the medium as a whole.

But that identification with specific works brings its own challenges. Television fandom finds itself segmented, and sometimes that leads to tension across fans of the medium. In book fandom, because we so often jump from book to book, it seems easier to feel like a part of the broader community. I don’t have to watch three seasons of a show to catch up to a fellow blogger. I just need to pick up that book she’s just recommended and see if I feel the same way.

When I try to identify what makes me a part of book fandom, I think of my brother. If you ask him what he likes to read, he will tell you the names of the two books he’s read cover to cover. And then he’ll let you know those are the only two books he’s read cover to cover. If you ask me what I like to read, you best have at least a half hour to even just dip below the surface.

I think what defines book fandom is that people who like to read, well, they like to read. And we will read as much as we can. Even though I’m a huge fan of movies, I don’t often go see a film just to see a film. But I will pick up a book because I’m bored and it looks semi-appealing. Readers are as much a fan of the act of reading as they are the books in front of them. And that’s how I think I will identify myself going forward. I’m not just a fan of books (though they are pretty lined up on my bookshelf). I’m not just a fan of specific authors or specific genres. I am a fan of reading.

Hugo Awards – Thursday Thoughts #1

Thursday Thoughts

On Thursdays, I take a break from reviewing books to share my thoughts on all things books, fandom, and random. All opinions are my own. Yours may differ. Feel free to respectfully disagree and discuss in the comments.

The Hugo Awards

Those who’ve followed the blog for a year or longer know this. I am a Hugo Awards voter, and I get excited about the awards season. That means I do discuss them on the blog. And since we’re currently in the nomination period, why not start tis series with the Hugos as a topic?

What are the Hugo Awards?

The Hugo Awards are a fan-driven honor for science fiction creators. They honor both fans and professionals in several categories. The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) presents the Hugos. All WSFS members may nominate and vote. Membership is available to each years Worldcon, at both attending and supporting rates.

Members spend the start of each year looking at the previous year in science fiction and fantasy. And many members take the time to recommend nominations to others. Usually nominations close in March, with the finalists announced in April. Voters then spend the next several months checking out any finalists they missed before. A committee collects and tallies the votes. The awards ceremony takes place at Worldcon with a livestream available online.

Wasn’t there some major drama last year?

There is drama surrounding the Hugos every year. I think most awards have this to some extent. With the ability to vote being so open, many people feel more ownership of the awards. And when the awards don’t turn out the way they want, some people feel particularly scorned.

Some vocal fans haven’t liked the ballot’s more recent increased diversity (creators and stories). They’ve organized a group to stuff the nominating process with a specific slate. Last year this led to many of those nominees becoming finalists. And because many Hugo voters did not appreciate this, they made use of a seldom-used option: No Award. If voters feel all or some finalists aren’t worthy of the award, they can include “No Award” on their ballot. Since the rule started in 1959 through 2014, No Award was only voted 5 times. Last year that number doubled as it was voted in 5 categories in a single year.

There’s much more to the whole story. It generated a lot of thoughtful commentary (including a series of posts by George R. R. Martin). If you wish to go down that rabbit hole, it’s not difficult to find it. And I want to stop there to focus on this year’s awards.

What’s the scoop for this year?

There were proposals made last year to change the nominating process. Amending the WSFS constitution needs approval two years in a row, so nothing’s changed yet.

We’re currently in this year’s nominating period (through the end of March). I’m already close to having my ballot completed, and when it’s done I will share it here. Every novel and novella on my ballot gets a review here. Some shorter fiction doesn’t, because I find reviewing short stories to be a challenge. The categories like editor don’t lend themselves to review. And I don’t review movies or tv shows here. So anything that doesn’t have a review will include a brief statement of nomination.

If you’re a fan of science fiction and fantasy, I encourage you to consider thinking about the Hugos. The deadline to be a member to nominate this year passed. But the Hugos happen every year, so you haven’t missed out forever.

BBAW Day 5: Keeping It Fresh!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day FiveHow does a blogger keep things fresh and avoid burnout? I think if there was a single solid answer to that question, the person who found it could make a fortune. The reality is that there is no single formula, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else.

For me, it’s about finding a rhythm. When I first started blogging, I did a couple of reviews per week, and that was it. That was my goal and that’s what the blog was about. As I started to become more comfortable with the routine, I pushed myself to try to have a post every day. Having some of those be reviews and some of them be commentary pieces proved to be too much at that point, and I almost reached a point where I stopped completely.

Not wanting to give up easily, however, I took a step back and tried to look at where the challenges were. I determined that I took too many leaps forward without giving myself time to get used to a new schedule. I decided at that point to stick with daily (or as close to daily as possible) posts, but to continue focusing on reviews. I put the commentary pieces on the shelf until I could get more comfortable with the productivity required just to accomplish daily posting of material–and that’s worked well since then.

Participation in this week has reminded me that I never did bring the idea of periodic blog posts on book-related topics back to the blog. The daily reviews routine has worked so well for me that I was fine remaining in that new comfort zone. And while I wouldn’t call it a rut, it certainly isn’t providing me with the challenges that come with producing more original content.

So, I’ve been inspired. And next week, I’ll be launching a weekly series of brief (no promises!) commentary pieces on book-related topics. Look for that to start on Thursday. (I’ve brainstormed over two months of ideas, so be prepared!)

BBAW Day 4: Community Connection

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day FourToday’s prompt asks bloggers to look at how they stay connected to the community. And when I think about that, my head definitely starts spinning.

Personally, I would say the way I stay most closely connected to books and readers is Goodreads. Not only do I keep track of my own to-be-read lists, ratings, and reviews there, I also engage with a number of readers with similar (and sometimes differing) tastes. I’m also active in a few groups that offer reading challenges (a great motivator!) and recommendations (awesome for discovery of new books)!

I also have a number of people I engage with (authors, publishers, and readers) on my personal Twitter account. Recently, I started blog-specific Twitter account so that my posts here don’t get lost in some of the other “noise” of my regular, non-book-related tweeting.

One of the reasons I decided to participate in this event this year is to take the opportunity to connect more with other bloggers specifically, as I think that’s one area where I could do more–and would certainly benefit, as well. Unfortunately, this week has turned out to be one of the busiest weeks in recent memory for me, so I’m not able to engage as much as the posting is happening. But I definitely plan to go back and look through all of the collected links once life slows down just a bit…

BBAW Day 3: Blame a Blogger!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day Three

Today the focus is on something that has been recommended by another blogger. And I’ve been trying to pinpoint specific books I’ve read that I could say are the fault of specific bloggers, but I find myself struggling. Many times, I see reviews by bloggers that support books that are already on my to-be-read list, so it just helps move them up on the list. But then I don’t always remember who said what.

But there is one thing I can share that I found as a result of mentions from another blogger (though, again, the specific blog escapes me at the moment): Blogging for Books. Blogging for Books is a book request service for bloggers from Random House Publishing. What makes them a bit different than sites like NetGalley is that a) they offer both print and e-books and b) any books you can see on your list, you’re eligible to request. They only allow you to have one book at a time, but once you post a review, you can request the next book immediately.

It’s through Blogging for Books that I’ve discovered some real gems: City of Stairs (and subsequently City of Blades), The Martian, The Girl in the Road, The Gracekeepers, and The Library at Mount Char–just to name a few. They feature a wide range of titles including fiction from several genres and even nonfiction titles. While I’ve averaged one book a month from them since I first signed up for the service, it’s been a great addition to both my reading and blogging life.

So I figure why not pass it along to bloggers who might not be aware of it. It’s free to sign up, and I truly feel like there’s something for everyone.

BBAW Day 2: Interviews!

We’ll be taking a few days off from reviews here to participate in Book Blogger Appreciation Week, hosted by the lovely people over at The Estella Society.

Book Blogger Appreciation 2016 Day TwoToday is one of the most exciting days of the event for me, as it provided the opportunity to meet and engage directly with another book blogger. I find that I always learn so much from how other people approach blogging, what motivates them to blog about books, and anything else they’re willing to share.

I had the wonderful fortune of visiting with Beth F. of Beth Fish Reads. Beth is a freelance editor, reviewer, and journalist whose blog includes reviews, guest posts, author interviews, and some other great content.

Me: You’ve been blogging for a number of years now. What strategies do you use to stay energized and keep your content fresh?

Beth: I work hard to come up with a variety of ways to talk about books. I get my ideas by paying attention to how I talk about books in other media and to my friends and family. That kind of thinking made me realize it’s okay to talk about a book I’m still reading and to feature books I’m looking forward to reading. Not everything has to be a formal review.

Me: I like the idea of taking different approaches to talking about books. I can certainly appreciate how it adds variety to your blog, while still keeping some consistency that followers can value. Speaking of looking at books in different ways: I notice you’ve reviewed a fair number of audiobooks. Do you find you approach thinking about and constructing a review differently for an audiobook than something you’ve read in print? How much consideration do you give to the narrator vs. the story itself in your overall opinion of the book?

Beth: Because I want to reach a wide audience, I tend to write my audiobook reviews in two sections: first the general book review and then a paragraph or so about the narrator and performance. There have been exceptions, of course, but that’s my general approach. That way print readers can skip the audiobook part, if they want.

It’s definitely true that the narrator can make or break a book, and when I feel the performance strongly influenced my reaction to the overall story, I make sure to say so. I think it’s important to name the narrator and to comment on his or her performance. Lately, I’ve also tried to remember to embed an audio sample right in my post so my readers can make up their own minds.

Me: I’ll definitely have to check out more of your audiobook reviews! Since I don’t get much time for audiobooks myself, I tend to shy away from some reviews for fear that they might not represent the experience of reading the book on paper. Breaking it up they way you described sounds like it’s helpful to both those who listen and those who read.

You note on your blog that you’re not only a reviewer, but also a freelance editor. How has that experience impacted your reviewing and blogging? How has running a book blog impacted your work as an editor?

Beth: I definitely read books with an editor’s eye (which is why audiobooks are my friends). I’m probably much less tolerant than the average reader in terms of plot holes, factual errors, grammatical errors, and writing style. When I read an ARC (advance reader copy), I have to remind myself that most of the problems will be caught before the book goes to press, but it’s still grating. Sometimes, however, I can’t stand it, and I’ve abandoned books (final copies even) because of poor editing. I don’t shy away from discussing editing issues when reviewing a book, but I also try to review from the general reader’s standpoint.

I don’t think my book blog has had an effect on my life as an editor. I’ve been a freelance for many more years than I’ve been a blogger, and I tend to keep those two parts of my life separate.

Me: I can definitely relate to looking at books with an editorial eye. I was thrust into proofreading myself after noticing the frequency with which I was catching glaring errors in the published books I was reading. I’m glad to hear that you’ve been able to find a balance between the two without one getting in the way of the other.

One other thing before we close. While your blog is primarily about books, that’s not all readers can find there. You also run Weekend Cooking, a weekly food-related feature, which encourages other bloggers to post about their own cooking-related adventures. What inspired you to launch that, and have you learned anything unexpected from the bloggers who participate?

Beth: When I first started blogging I thought about having a blog that was all about food and cooking and the books I listened to on audio while I cooked. Fortunately, I realized, even before I began, that I was more comfortable in the book world than in the food world. But because I love to cook and to read about food and cooking, I came up with the idea of Weekend Cooking. The number of people who participate has fluctuated over the years, but I enjoy writing the posts and—more important—I love reading everyone else’s posts.

Me: Well, it certainly doesn’t look like there’s a shortage of participants judging from the past few weeks. Thank you for taking the time to visit with me!

I encourage you to check out Beth Fish Reads for some great content. I consider myself a bit of a foodie, though I don’t get near enough time to cook at home as I would like, so I definitely know I’ll be keeping an eye on the Weekend Cooking posts going forward…

For more Book Blogger Appreciation Week interviews, check out the post over at The Estella Society.