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Nota Bene

Reading progress

I found a solution for my next-book indecision. When I’m having trouble deciding what to read, all I have to do is pull a title out of this kimchi jar. Voilà! Problem solved.

What are you currently reading?

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Review: Anne with An E

I am so excited about Anne With An E that I started writing this review before finishing the series (I have since watched all seven episodes). But before I get started, I should admit that I have not read the books (I know: blasphemous). However, I am a huge fan of the 1985 Anne of Green Gables mini-series, which I understand was a faithful reproduction. Any comparisons I make will be to the 1985 series, and not the books.

To be honest I was pretty nervous about seeing Anne With An E. I needn’t have worried. It is an exceptional rendition of everyone’s favorite smart, bold, dramatic, red-headed girl, and I highly recommend you watch it.

In this version, the general storyline is the same, apart from a few enjoyable twists. The characters are wonderfully fleshed out and have a depth that I don’t remember seeing in the 1985 series. Amybeth McNulty plays a fantastic Anne; she is spunky, fiery, and so authentic. I am really looking forward to knowing her better.

This adaptation is darker and more melancholy than its earlier counterpart, which has rubbed some people the wrong way. Certain flashbacks and subtle dialogue make the narrative grittier and not the same kind of wholehearted fun that was the 1985 version. I think this is a necessary and brilliantly inventive retelling of the classic story. To think that Anne was not traumatized and troubled by her past is a disservice to her character; we cannot truly appreciate her lightheartedness without understanding her sorrow and heartache.

One poignant quote in the first episode points to this compassion:

Continue reading “Review: Anne with An E

Civil disobedience, art, and exile

I had to run a bunch of errands on Monday, which meant having to hunt down an elusive parking spot in the city. Luckily for me, I found a place that validated parking. All I had to do was…buy some books! What a wonderful win-win!

I only noticed after I got to the checkout counter that all my picks were non-fiction/memoirs. Maybe my mind is trying to tell me something…

  1. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

    hair
    A hilarious and affecting essay collection about race, gender, and pop culture from celebrated stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster Phoebe Robinson…As personal as it is political, You Can’t Touch My Hair examines our cultural climate and skewers our biases with humor and heart, announcing Robinson as a writer on the rise.*

  2. Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein

    carrie
    Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is the deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music, from ardent fan to pioneering female guitarist to comedic performer and luminary in the independent rock world. This book intimately captures what it feels like to be a young woman in a rock-and-roll band, from her days at the dawn of the underground feminist punk-rock movement that would define music and pop culture in the 1990s through today.*

  3. The Accidental Asian by Eric Liu

    eric

    Beyond black and white, native and alien, lies a vast and fertile field of human experience. It is here that Eric Liu, former speechwriter for President Clinton and noted political commentator, invites us to explore. In these compellingly candid essays, Liu reflects on his life as a second-generation Chinese American and reveals the shifting frames of ethnic identity. Finding himself unable to read a Chinese memorial book about his father’s life, he looks critically at the cost of his own assimilation. But he casts an equally questioning eye on the effort to sustain vast racial categories like “Asian American.” And as he surveys the rising anxiety about China’s influence, Liu illuminates the space that Asians have always occupied in the American imagination. Reminiscent of the work of James Baldwin and its unwavering honesty, The Accidental Asian introduces a powerful and elegant voice into the discussion of what it means to be an American.
    *

  4. Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics by Howard Zinn

    zinn
    Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine, civil disobedience, the importance of memory and remembering history, and the role of artists—from Langston Hughes to Dalton Trumbo to Bob Dylan—in relation to social change, Original Zinn is Zinn at his irrepressible best, the acute perception of a scholar whose impressive knowledge and probing intellect make history immediate and relevant for us all.*

  5. Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat

    danticat
    In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis…Combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. [She] also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe.*

I’m making my way through a couple of reading challenge books at the moment, but I’m hoping to sneak one of these in soon! Have you read any of them? What did you think?

*Descriptions taken from Goodreads

The best indie bookstores

Bustle recently posted a list of the best indie bookstores in every major U.S. city. I’ve made a small dent, but have a ways to go. I think a road trip is in order! 😉

✔ Left Bank Books Collective—Seattle, WA
✔ Powell’s City of Books—Portland, OR
✔ Dog Eared Books—San Francisco, CA
The Last Bookstore—Los Angeles, CA
Tattered Cover Bookstore—Denver, CO
South Congress Books—Austen, TX
Myopic Books—Chicago, IL
A Cappella Books—Atlanta, GA
Books & Books—Miami, FL
Politics & Prose—Washington, D.C.
The Book Trader—Philadelphia, PA
✔ Strand Bookstore—New York City, NY
Brattle Book Shop—Boston, MA

Where have you been? What would you add to this list?

saturday morning

Update: books bought in the last three days!

The wonderful thing about having your boyfriend in town is that every day becomes a “treat yo’ self” kind of day, or in my case, a “treat yo’ shelf” kind of day.

Two cities, three days, four bookstores, and thirteen books later, I present to you: my recent loot.

Powell’s City of Books (Portland, OR)

On Sunday I spent a good chunk of time exploring the many lovely floors of Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon (I would be lying if I said the distance to Powell’s didn’t factor in my decision to attend school in Washington).

This bookstore is fantastic in more ways than one, but I especially appreciated how they tagged books written by Writers of Color (WOC) throughout the store. Given my reading goals this year, it made it easier to head for the content I was really interested in.

Continue reading “Update: books bought in the last three days!”

What more screen adaptations should look like

Netflix unveiled one of its most anticipated shows, A Series of Unfortunate Events, on Friday, January 13 (hah, get it?). If you haven’t yet binged Season 1, I implore you: do it now.

Why, you ask?

  1. The casting is fantastic. Not only is it relatively diverse, but the character I was the most worried about (Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf) does an incredible job. And needless to say, the kids to a wonderful job bringing Violet, Klaus, and Sunny to life.
  2. The pacing is good. Season 1 has a total of eight episodes, two each for books 1-4. This gives the story time to unfold, which is usually one of my biggest critiques when it comes to movie adaptations of books.
  3. The tone is just right. Sombre colors and gloomy settings make up most of the season, which is exactly what one would expect. The cinematography, sets, and music kind of reminded me of a Wes Anderson film, which I love, so that was a plus for me.

Does it deviate from the books? Yes, but if my memory serves me, only a little. Have you seen it? Do you want to?

Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (spoiler-free)

This blog has primarily been for my book reading adventures, however for the past few months I’ve been considering publishing the occasional movie, TV show, or video game review. The reason is simple: it’s fun to apply literary analysis skills to different media. Since I’m an avid movie- and TV-watcher, and gamer, it’s right up my alley.

My first non-book review is going to be on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I haven’t quite decided how to format these yet, but I’m going to start with a non-spoiler review and publish a spoiler review in a week to give people time to watch the movie.

I wasn’t around when the original Star Wars trilogy was released, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a massive fan of the saga. As you can imagine, it was an incredible treat to be able to see The Force Awakens (TFA) in theaters last year and Rogue One (RO) a few days ago. I experienced, for the first time in my life, the magic of seeing Star Wars in theaters (prequel movies don’t count because they were garbage and had 0 Star Wars magic). It’s a little hard to convey in words what it was like, but imagine being able to relive the moments that made childhood so special: the excitement, curiosity, imagination and hope.

Before we talk about the details, let’s start with a quick recap. Rogue One takes place between Revenge of the Sith (Episode III—the prequel trilogy) and A New Hope (Episode IV—the original trilogy). The Death Star has been built by the Empire and a group of Rebels is tasked with retrieving the plans that will lead to its destruction.

Rogue One is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe. It’s not without its faults, but what it does right more than makes up for the things it doesn’t (which aren’t even that many).

First, we get to meet some wonderful new characters, each with their own emotional baggage and unique quirks. The leads—Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna)—have great chemistry and are given a chance to grow throughout the film. Unlike Phantom Menace, where Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé, Jar Jar Binks, and Anakin come together because the script calls for it, the group in Rogue One comes together organically, out of actual need, making their mission compelling. There are relationships I would have liked to see more and less of, and at times the first half especially feels overwhelming, but overall I enjoyed getting to know new people.

Second, the story is coherent and even fills in some Episode IV plot holes. The pacing in the first half is a bit fast and jarring since you’re introduced to new faces and new places fairly quickly, however, the first half of the movie does a good job preparing you for the second half, which is where most of the tension and action are. That being said, there are several scenes I’d have cut out because they take up precious time and don’t really add anything to the story (I’ll get to these in my spoiler review). Rogue One is also a much darker and grittier tale than we’re used to, even toeing the line between PG-13 and R in some places, which is refreshing and exactly the type of tone this story needs. This goes hand-in-hand with a bit more world-building, where we really get to see, for the first time, the Empire’s reach throughout the galaxy and the scale of their forces (something the original trilogy doesn’t do as well).

Third, I thought there was a good balance between the new and the familiar. A huge criticism of The Force Awakens was that it played it too safe by rehashing parts of the original trilogy and littering the film with way too many homages and throwback references. If that bothered you, know that Rogue One does do that too, but on a much more subtle level. There are a few easter eggs and hints of the events to come (Episodes IV-VI), but it doesn’t beat you over the head with them.

And finally, perhaps the most impressive feat Rogue One achieves is how seamlessly it sets up Episode IV; it makes the good movies better. There are a few surprises here that I won’t spoil, but I’m pretty sure you’ll feel like driving home from the theater only to watch the original trilogy (I did).

For those of you on the fence about seeing Rogue One, I hope I’ve convinced you to go for it. My next review will have full spoilers and will get into some critique-debunking. Hope you enjoyed following along, and may the force be with you!

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