Reading Round-Up: November Edition

I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked during November because I was participating in NaNoWriMo (a novel-writing challenge, for those of you who are unfamiliar), but I did manage to sneak in a few reads. Add your own November reads to the comments below!

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The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by [Samantha Vérant]

First up this month was The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant. If you know me, you know why the title of this book intrigued me—I thought I would be reading scads of French recipes. But alas, there are only a few recipes in the back of the book, and those are not ones I’m likely to make.

Anyway, this was a romance. Let me start by saying I’m not a romance reader unless there’s a mystery to solve, too, and there wasn’t much mystery in this one. The beginning of the story is a little too dramatic to be believable, but who am I to say? I’ve never lost a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Once the main character moves to France, the story gets better. I think readers will find themselves getting hungry while they read this book and they are DEFINITELY going to want to travel to France. Read my review here.

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It’s time I let you all in on a shameful secret.

Until this month, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books. I have, likewise, never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.

I read this book because the Harry Potter books are among my niece’s favorites and she was appalled (read: disgusted, horrified, speechless) that I hadn’t read them yet. I promised her I would read Book 1 before Thanksgiving so we could discuss it together (it may have to be over the phone thanks to COVID, but we’ll still discuss it).

In short, the book is AMAZING. I can’t wait to read the second one. I would love to spend just ten minutes inside J.K. Rowling’s imagination and discover where she learned to tell stories like this. You can read my review and 7 million others here.

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I had never heard of Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet until I read a review of it on someone else’s blog (thanks, Debby Gies!). And what a book. First published in 1923, The Prophet is a collection of short essays that make up a story. The essays (there are almost 30!) cover every topic from good and evil to crime and punishment to eating and drinking to prayer to children to joy and sorrow and everything in between. The beautifully poetic essays are full of spiritual lessons and brilliant metaphors for human life and behavior. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Read my review here.

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THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT a cozy murder mystery full of twists (Dorothy Martin Mystery Book 1) by [JEANNE M.  DAMS]

The final book I had time to read this month was The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery, complete with English setting, a widowed main character, a much-loved cat, and plenty of suspects. I did manage to guess the killer, but the operative word there is “guess.” I was totally wrong about the motive and that was part of what made this book so much fun to read. I highly recommend it. Read my review here.

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Remember, every Wednesday afternoon at 1:45 Eastern, I and the other two authors who make up the BookEm channel on YouTube debut a new episode! This week I’m in the hot seat, talking about the importance of hobbies and introducing you to a few new-to-me reads! Join me here at 1:45 if you can. If you can’t join me then, drop by to watch the video at your leisure anytime after that!

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I wish all of my American friends a happy and safe Thanksgiving! And to the rest of you, have a great week!

Until next time,

Amy

The Book was Better

Last week, I wrote in this blog that books are better than movies. I was referring, of course, to books that are made into movies.

I have taken a highly unscientific survey and found that in general, people who see a movie that was based on a book usually leave the theater saying, “That was good, but I liked the book better.”

A recent case in point: The Hunger Games. I am the first person to admit that the movie was great, but it simply wasn’t as good as Suzanne Collins’ book. It’s not the fault of the movie producers…they made the best movie they could in the time allotted. A movie that closely followed the book would take many hours to watch and few people would take the time to go see it. But a lot gets left off the screen. The subtleties and nuances of each character and their relationships don’t have time to be explored.

But that’s not all that gets lost when a book becomes a movie. When I read a book, I’m constantly using my mind to picture the settings and the characters. When I see a movie, all that work has been done for me. I merely have to follow the plot. I like having to come up with the physical characteristics of people and places for myself. An author’s idea of what a character or place looks like is almost certainly different from my idea, but that’s okay. I only need the idea in my own head to enjoy a book. There have even been times when I’ve disagreed with an author’s description of a character’s physical appearance. When that happens, I can simply adjust the character’s appearance in my own head to what I think it should be. Have you ever seen a movie and then read the book? Or read a book, then seen the movie, then tried to read the book again? It’s almost impossible to see the characters and settings in your own head differently from the way they appeared on the big screen. Before I saw “The Hunger Games,” I didn’t imagine Katniss Everdeen looking like Jennifer Lawrence. Now I can’t even remember what “my” Katniss Everdeen looked like. She will always and forever look like Jennifer Lawrence. The same is true for the rest of the characters.

How about one of my favorite books, “Pride and Prejudice?” The first time I read it, I formed my own opinion of what Elizabeth Bennett looked like. Ditto for Mr. D’Arcy. I purposely avoided watching the old movie based on the book because I knew it would destroy my opinions of what the characters looked like. But when the “new” movie came out in 2005, I had to see it. It got such great reviews that I couldn’t in good conscience miss it. And you know what? Same thing happened. Now, as far as I’m concerned, Elizabeth Bennett looks just like Keira Knightley and Mr. D’Arcy is a dead ringer for Matthew Macfadyen. I can’t remember what the characters looked like in my own mind, but they looked different, of that I am sure.

And there are so many more…Harry Potter (all of them), Twilight (all of them), The Great Gatsby, The Chronicles of Narnia (all of them), Oliver Twist, etc., etc. The list goes on for miles. I have to admit that I haven’t seen all of the movies based on these books, nor would I want to. But I’d be willing to bet that the books were better in each and every case.

Having said that, in my decidedly unscholarly research I have actually found two exceptions to the rule. Perhaps not surprisingly, they are both Disney movies based on books. The first is “Peter Pan.” I tried to read the book once and couldn’t get through it. I was bored and confused. But the movie? One of my favorites. I’m always asking my kids if they want to watch it with me (they always say no). Likewise, the second one is “Alice in Wonderland.” I didn’t like the book, no offense to Lewis Carroll. But the movie is delightful. Perhaps my feeble mind is simply unwilling to dig deep into the book, but it’s much easier and more enjoyable for me to watch the Disney adaptation of the story.

In my humble opinion, the book is almost always better, Peter Pan and Alice notwithstanding. Do you agree? Disagree? What are your personal exceptions? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next week,

Amy