Movies That Are Better Than The Book

As a reader I have found that when I love a book, few things are more exciting (or more nerve-racking) than seeing it turned into a movie.

Unfortunately, not every movie based on a book manages to live up to fans’ imaginations. Conversely, there have been occasions when I have been so absolutely overjoyed about a movie that tracking down the book it was based upon became an obsession. And boy, have I been disappointed with some of these books.

No, I’m not into gadgets or wizzbang technology. It’s personal taste with a preference for the way the movie unfolded. Having said that, kudos to the authors who put the idea out there in the first place.

Here are my top three on “The Movie Was Better” List.

In 1982 W.P. Kinsella wrote SHOELESS JOE about a farmer who hears a voice telling him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfields. When he does Shoeless Joe Jackson and other players from yesteryear come to play.

Less than a decade later this became “Field of Dreams”. Thirty years on people are still interpreting this film. I thought that a young Ray Liotta was a wonderful tonic for a girl. I heard him recently describe Field Of Dreams as “The Notebook for blokes”.

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P.S. I LOVE YOU written by Cecelia Ahern, can be summed as light fluff for those who enjoy light fluff. Not my cup of tea.

The movie featured Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jnr, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, so that makes it a trifecta of delight for me, with sweeping views of Ireland, and a fantastic soundtrack. The storyline was much improved and this is a movie you can revisit over and over again, whereas the book went to the charity bin for those lovers of fairy floss.

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RITA HAYWORTH AND SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION was a novella written by renowned Horror writer, Stephen King. It was transformed into The Shawshank Redemption where in 1994 it was nominated for seven (7) Academy Awards.

Question: Is there anyone who hasn’t viewed this movie?

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Please feel free to contribute to this list…….

 

 

 

 

Reading – Is It The Challenge Or The Journey?

I have always had a love of reading, an interest which was encouraged by family. A reference when I was in search of my first job and written way back in 1976 clearly states “has a love of reading and animals”. Still true on both counts.

My reading choices have always been random, best described as reading to suit the mood. Same with the listening selection really – there is music for all moods.

Well, that is except for my Errol Flynn and Prisoner of War Diary Collections which I have touched upon previously.

When my youngest daughter turned 16 years I chanced upon an interesting book which I felt made an interesting birthday gift – 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. Fruit Of My Loins threw herself into this challenge, a task she continues to this day, and her enthusiasm encouraged me to participate on this journey. In my case, it was more about the shared interest, the hunting through book stores and charity sales together and celebrating our finds over a lunch. It was a bond throughout those years which are usually so full of angst.

Once she flew the nest my interest waned, though I continue to keep an eye out for some of those older and harder to come by reads as birthday and Christmas gifts.(Incidentally, I hit 273 recently whilst FOML is up around the 600 mark. Don’t laugh. It’s a harder task than you think).

I then turned to the Goodreads Reading Challenge, though to be honest I found reading a particular number of books did not equate to enjoying said books. It was music icon Frank Zappa who once said ” too many books, too little time”.

A few years ago, my reading followed that years Popsugar guidelines. You know the ones I mean: read a book printed the year you where born, read a book with a pink cover, or one that has been turned into a movie. Nice and fluffy, never particularly taxing, and a great way of forging a relationship with the local librarian. Having completed this Challenge I don’t need to do it again.

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For the last two years I have been participating in the Australian Author Challenge which has proved hugely rewarding. Firstly, because it is wonderful to support our own talent, and in many cases, read novels set in our own diverse country or utilising our own history. Secondly, becoming acquainted with new authors and reading different genres has broadened my reading experience greatly.

Lastly, this Challenge requires only a maximum of twelve books a year which leaves plenty of time for my random reads.

So just a wee bit of structure meets my requirements. I’m not about meeting targets, but rather, enjoying the journey.

What about you? Is it the Challenge or the Journey?

 

UNDER THE SPANISH STARS by Alli Sinclair- 2017 Australian Author Challenge

Charlotte Kavanagh is a 27 year old single woman working in the family business. Her elderly grandmother, Katarina Sanchez, is lingering in hospital and begs Charlotte to travel to Spain with an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer which was given to her as a child by her father. Charlotte is happy to investigate this mysterious painting as she has been living a life determined by her family.

She is given a contact by an art academic in Granada where she meets Mateo Vives, a flamenco guitarist with a connection to the local gypsies. Mateo assists Charlotte in her search for the story behind the painting, as well as reigniting her passion on several levels.

The search takes them back to a treacherous period in Spain’s history and is told parallel with Katarina’s life story as a renowned flamenco dancer working under the reign of Franco during the 1940’s and the role she played in the underground movement. She has to flee the country with her lover which is traumatic and leads to her disconnection with her place of birth.

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Charlotte and Mateo discover all the family secrets including betrayal and lost love, and Charlotte on her own personal journey discovers self belief, heritage and love.

Did I enjoy this book? There is an awful lot of discussion about the history of flamenco music/dancing and its many forms. To be honest, due to my total lack of expertise in this area, this was pretty much wasted on me. I would have benefited from a CD of flamenco music to help differentiate for me.

I also found the character of a Mateo with his stilted English language skills grating. Yes, I get it; Mateo is Spanish and has not travelled – I just felt it made the reading jagged. I also wonder if the author’s focus on Mateo’s language was so consistent throughout the novel, that she was a perhaps a tad neglectful with characterisation.
Sinclair did such a good job with the Spanglish I can still hear Mateo’s voice in my head.

I have recommended this book to my daughter who is currently attending Spanish classes.

That’s my fleeting moment with Romantic Fiction over and done with, thank goodness!

 

 

Errol Flynn- Actor and Author

I’ve been collecting books about 1940’s film star, Errol Flynn, for just on thirty years.

Why? Well he was a good looking lad, and a dare devil in real life as well as in his swashbuckling movies. Who could forget Errol in his Lincoln Green tights as Robin Hood? Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe as Robin Hood? Pansies, the both of them.

 

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Some biographies have been totally uncomplimentary about Flynn and the lifestyle he chose whilst a lovely book filled with the posters covering the lifespan of Flynn’s cinematic endeavours is just a delightful, nostalgic journey of movies that focussed on storyline and acting, as opposed to special effects and wiz bang gadgetry.

Part of my passion for collecting Flynn books became the hunt. Scrounging through bookstores across the country and internationally has become a popular past time and has led to some interesting finds in charity stores, the back of rural sheds, and antique stores.

Of course, my collection grew to encompass movies, posters, and memorabilia. My daughter gave me soap with Flynn’s visage letting me know quietly, that she was aware that I wanted “to get naked” with the man.

Errol died at the age of 50 in the year I was born.

In 2009 my daughter and I spent a long weekend celebrating in Hobart, Tasmania, alongside a group of diehard fans, what would have been Flynn’s 100th birthday. Watching old black and white movies on the big screen, sitting in the comfort of the classy State Theatre drinking champagne was an experience I will forever cherish. It helped that my child was finally old enough to go to the bar by herself.

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Interest in Errol continues to this day. A movie is currently in production off the east coast of Australia with the working title, “In Like Flynn”. It chronicles the actor’s life before Hollywood and covers the period he worked in New Guinea as a slave trader and gold prospector, among other things, as told in the first of his novels, “Beam Ends”.

9th of June. Happy Birthday, Errol Flynn. Salute.

 

*Do you collect books about someone or something too? Please feel free to share.

 

My War With Pumpkin.

I’ve always had a bad relationship with pumpkin. I think it stems from all those meals as the child of parents who lived through both the Depression and World War 2. In the days of my childhood you weren’t allowed to leave the table until you had finished all the food on your plate. Because of my disregard for pumpkin that dining room table became a battleground and it was quickly confirmed that the Green stubbornness had filtered down the line.

Unlike the child-centric families of today, we suffered no food allergies, and who had ever heard of lactose intolerance? We ate Brussel sprouts and broccoli without any qualms. Indeed, Black Pudding and fish roe were meals that we shared as a family so it wasn’t a delicate tummy that kept my jaws glued together when looking at the mashed, boiled or roasted pumpkin on the plate.

As a young teenager there was that universal anthem of the 70’s whenever I refused that orange mess: ” Think about all those starving Ethiopians”. To this day, I’m not exactly sure where Ethiopia is, though embarrassingly, I admit to throwing this at my own daughters twenty years later.

My late father-in-law, a Liverpool Scouse with a thick accent, would not eat the roast pumpkin lovingly cooked by his Australian sweetheart because it was a vegetable “only fed to the pigs.” Literally.

Many years later and I have a crop of pumpkins growing out of my raised garden beds and spreading across the back lawn like triffids. No idea about their origin, though it is a daily delight to watch their progress. Even better too, when they are harvested.

Who would have thought I would develop a taste for warming pumpkin soup on a cold day?

Pumpkin Soup Recipe

Steam Pieces of pumpkin till pliable.
Mash till smooth
Season with salt and pepper.
Add chicken stock and mix through.
Add thickened cream and mix through. Amount based on your preferred consistency.
Reheat slowly.
Serve hot with diced shallots or coriander on top.
Fresh bread rolls optional.

Pumpkin Scones? Leaving those to Flo.

The Big Score by Peter Corris – 2017 Australian Author Challenge

Peter Corris wrote his first crime fiction novel featuring Private Detective Cliff Hardy way back in 1980. The Dying Trade was a birthday gift from a friend who was well aware of my disinterest in the crime genre, though insisted that I would enjoy Mr Hardy.

A further forty one stand alone Cliff Hardy books later Peter Corris has given writing away due to a medical condition. Although I haven’t read all of Hardy’s adventures I do seem to have aged alongside Cliff. An ex soldier and ex boxer with a penchant for most things that come out of a bottle, as well as attractive and articulate women, Cliff in later books reduced his alcohol intake and underwent a quadruple heart bypass operation.

The Big Score is a collection of eleven Cliff Hardy short stories which I found a good read for the daily train trip to work.

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What’s the appeal for Cliff, you may ask? Cliff is a Sydneysider and all his books mention iconic hotels, streets and establishments across inner Sydney. If you have been reading Corris’ books over the last thirty years you would have shared with him the changes that have occurred in the metropolis: the gentrification of certain suburbs, the areas where freeways have been installed, and some of the beautiful inner city pubs that have been lost to progress.

Hardy is a knock about and represents what a previous generation would have deemed a “True Blue Aussie”: street smart, willing to take a risk, a working man with integrity. He mixes with lawyers, publicans, ex boxers, politicians and punters, as well as the Eastern suburbs set.

More interestingly, the author peppers his writing with cultural icons and current events to add to that feeling of familiarity.

The Big Score is no different as the short stories have Cliff solving petty crimes, investigating the murder of a drinking buddy, and a involvement in a nasty divorce case. There are references to Jack Dempsey and Rene Rivken, with one crime involving trees being poisoned to increase property values.

I will miss Cliff Hardy. He’s become a mate of sorts.

Green Eggs and Ham – an unmitigated disaster.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991) was an American author, political cartoonist, poet, animator, book publisher, and artist, best known for authoring children’s books under the pen name Dr Seuss.

Green Eggs and Ham is one of Seuss’s “Beginner Books”, written in a very simple vocabulary for beginning readers. The vocabulary of the text consists of just 50 different words and was the result of a bet. It was published on August 12, 1960. By 2001, it had became the fourth-best selling English-language children’s hardcover book of all time.

I share all this as this morning I experienced green eggs and ham for breakfast for the very first time.

Thinking I would start the week on a positive note I announced that I would cook bacon and eggs for breakfast, a real treat considering the usual panic getting out of the house by 6 in the morning. Such time constraints make it impossible for a girl to finish her pot of tea.

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The kitchen was found to be in a state following the previous evenings meal so I pressed on putting away all the dry utensils. Unfortunately, not all of said implements had been washed properly so this led to another task before the cracking of eggs could eventuate.

Staying calm I continued to think positive thoughts and planned to serve a Spanish Omelette using fresh herbs from the garden and silver beet. Do you think I could find the plastic mixing bowls? Or the electric beater? Why do we have two cupboards full of empty ice cream containers? Where is the cornflour hiding?

Whilst the bacon is cooking the rearrangement of the pantry commences. Why have I found a carton with a Use By date of 2015?

With all this tidying taking place the oven looks like it could do with a clean, so I spray the glass door with the recently purchased product from the supermarket despite all my previous raging against chemicals.

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Green eggs and ham just doesn’t live up to expectations! When breakfast out at a local Cafe is next offered I will not be so stupid as to decline.

 

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – 2017 Australian Author Challenge

I was keen to read a Liane Moriarty book after all the recent media exposure about another of her novels, Big Little Lies, being transformed into a cinema production starring ” our Nic”, Nicole Kidman.

Three seemingly normal couples gather for a Saturday barbecue, with their three cute children and the family dog, in a suburban backyard in Sydney. All very ordinary.

It takes Moriarty three hundred odd pages to lead up to an incident that occurs at the barbecue. Three hundred pages detailing the issues of ordinary people living ordinary suburban lives: lack of intimacy, parental issues, fractured friendships, child behavourial issues, lack of job satisfaction.
Three hundred pages of ordinary people with their own secrets.

Moriarty then produces another two hundred pages of how the incident affected all the attendees and the changes that are instigated as a result.

The author is clearly a capable writer as she cleverly, albeit slowly, builds up to the crisis, though I found the novel very “ordinary”. There were reminders of The Slap by Chris Tsiolkas, without the punch, and I honestly felt quite drained (yet quietly excited), when the book was finished.

Sorry, Nic, you are off my viewing list.

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Books That Were A Little Too Close To The Bone

I’ve recently been fortunate to read three very different memoirs outlining the exploits during World War 2, of the fathers of some of my good friends.

Doug Roberts became a first time author at the age of 96 years, sharing his stories of growing up in a different England to the one we know today. A pilot in North Africa during WW2, during which time he met and married his wife of over 65 years, this is tale of conflict, of love, of struggle, and making one’s own world a better place.

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We recently lost Doug, but are grateful that he shared so very much of himself. Lovely, too, to meet Bert, whom I have heard so very much about over the years. His daughter inherited his eyes I feel sure.

Margaret Szalay’s father, Jack Schmidt, would have celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016. Margaret, a keen genealogist, wrote Jack’s story to share with his descendants. It too is a fascinating read about a pioneering family from Brisbane featuring historical references that most locals will be familiar with today.

Jack served in Bomber Command as a Navigator and towards the end of the war was a member of Tommo’s Mobs On Ops Again, a Halifax in 466 Squadron. For those of you familiar with the nose art of this plane, Jack is the figure depicted with the walking stick as he was the oldest member, or “the old man” at 26 or 27, of the flight crew. Jack kept notes after each operation and his hand written scrawls indicate the measure of the man. Personal, too, in that this was my own fathers crew.

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To “War On Our Doorstep” edited by journalist, Gabrielle Chan. This book is a series of extracts from the diaries of Australians at the frontline in 1942, the year that the war came to our doorstep.

Meeting Corporal Shears, a Prisoner of War, and others, was both an honour and an eye opener. Although I have previously read so many accounts of POWs this book brought home life after war was over, not only for the service personnel but for the families too.

Bernadette, this one made me cry. Thank you for sharing.

The Fabulous Flying Mrs Miller – Australian Author Challenge 2017

THE FABULOUS FLYING MRS MILLER by Carol Baxter.

Carol Baxter is a fellow of the Society of Genealogists and this is the true story of an Australian female aviator and adventurer by the name of Jessie “Chubbie” Miller.

 Chubbie was born into a conservative family in Melbourne and married young in line with her parents’ expectations. At age 19 she had lost her baby, brother, father and suffered several miscarriages. An Aunt in England reached out to her and invited her over for a visit, which presented as a opportunity to leave the confines of both an unhappy marriage and sad times.
Naturally, she loved the freedom of living in England and it wasn’t long before Chubbie regained her independence, sharing a flat and attending parties and social events with young friends. It was at one such an event that she met Bill Lancaster, a WW1 war hero and pilot.
These were the golden years of aviation, the days of Hinkler and Kingsford Smith, when the boundaries of air travel were constantly being tested. Lancaster, with Chubbie as his passenger, set out to make a new flight record from England to Australia. Their flight path is detailed, as are all their planned and unplanned stops along the way. The pair are treated like royalty wherever they stop and they become  lovers, albeit secretly, as both are still married. Mechanical issues mean that the flight does no go to schedule and Australian aviator, Bert Hinkler, beats them to the finish line.
This journey has only inflamed Chubbie’s adventuring streak and she is now a more than competent licensed pilot. However, it is now the Depression and these are the days when it is inconceivable that women should pilot planes.
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Chubbie enters the first National Air Race solely for women with her friend, Amelia Earhart, in the USA in 1929. Her flight plans and mishaps along the way are clearly detailed by the author ( from diaries kept by Chubbie and media reports) and this is where we really see this brave, young woman shine as she singlehandedly tackles engine issues, forced landings and possible sabotage, during which time several of her competitors become fatalities. She constantly reinforces that women can be as good a pilot as men.
Enter a young gentleman who is employed to write a book about Chubbie’s adventures. Times are tough and Bill travels south in order to take on some questionable work in order to bring in funds. Whilst he is away, Chubbie has a fling with her biographer and agrees to marry him. When Bill returns he is heartbroken but nevertheless behaves “like a Gentleman”, particularly as they are all living in the same house. That night, Bill and the gentleman in question have a chat, a few laughs, and then bed down for the evening. At 3am the biographer is dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
The court case is then detailed and Chubbie’s reputation is in ruins.
For further analysis of  the court case I recommend the author’s blog at www.carolbaxter.com.
Not always an easy book to read, nor about a woman who is easy to read about, I most certainly gained respect for this brave, determined aviator during her flight in the Powder Puff Derby.