Top 10 (Tuesday) Books About Friendship

Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

It has been SO long since I’ve done a top 10! Forgive me, I have a (very) bad habit of disappearing for months at a time. Let’s just say I’m still figuring out how to deal with this whole “life” thing. ANYWAYS, this week’s list theme is books about friendship. I swear to you when I first jotted this down I thought up at least five right away and then when I sat down to write out the list today I could think up a grand total of one. So I ended up standing in front of my bookcase for a long time looking through all my books trying to think of some, which was actually harder than it would seem. I don’t read many books about friendship it seems. Every time I thought I had found one I realized that it was really more of a romance than a friendship, which is weird since I avoid anything too romance heavy. SO, I came up with six in the end. Here they are:

1. Sula by Toni Morrison
I actually wrote on this book a lot over this past semester for Modern Fiction and I don’t think I will ever tire of it. I know that some argue the book to be a lesbian novel, but I disagree. The friendship between Sula and Nel is so tight that I can understand some reading it to be a lesbian relationship, but since I have a friend who is basically a sister to me I completely relate to the deep level of friendship between the two characters. Also, is it strange that I totally want a The Princess and the Frog-esque animated film of Sula?

2. the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Do I really have to explain myself with this one? The entire series is about friendship and sticking together to overcome trials in life. Done.

3. The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
Another easy one. I really love the hobbits’ loyalty to Frodo. Even in the face of danger.

4. Passing by Nella Larsen
I hesitated to put this book on the list because it’s not about a positive friendship. Irene and Clare’s friendship isn’t the tightest nor the healthiest, but it is a friendship none-the-less. In a strange way the two are more “frenimies” than anything else. It counts!

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Though the main relationships of the story are familial, with the exception of Dill, I really feel that Boo Radley builds a sort of friendship with the children, or at least Scout. Even though they don’t really come into contact with each other until the end of the book, the two form a strange sort of bond from the beginning which builds into friendship. I like that idea; that two people can become friends over a shared experience. Also, the fact that Scout is so unafraid of Boo, not because she’s brave (even though she is) but because she doesn’t see anything to fear in him, she sees that he is human just like everyone else. I like that.

6. The Girl With No Shadow by Joanne Harris
I wish I could add this book to every list I create. This is another book where the friendship isn’t really a friendship, but the idea of friendship is still very important throughout. Even though Zozie’s intentions are not good, it is the “friendship” that she forms with Vianne and Anouk that forms much of the novel. It is also interesting to see how friendships can shape individuals, which is a strong theme within this novel.
Read my review of this book here.

Top 10 (Tuesday) Favorite Authors in X Genre

Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish
I don’t really stick within any one genre of books, but I do love poetry, which is why today I’ll give you a list of my top ten favorite poets (as usual, in no particular order).

1. Emily Dickinson

Through the Dark Sod — as Education —
The Lily passes sure —
Feels her white foot — no trepidation —
Her faith — no fear —

Afterward — in the Meadow —
Swinging her Beryl Bell —
The Mold-life — all forgotten — now —
In Ecstasy — and Dell —

2. John Keats

24. On first looking into Chapman’s Homer
MUCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

3. Rumi

Birdsong brings relief
to my longing
I’m just as ecstatic as they are,
but with nothing to say!
Please universal soul, practice
some song or something through me!

4. “obit”

Come out here with me
I’ve been swung from delirious expectation
to the only certain expectation
so I’ve put on this suit,
What’s the occasion?
It is celebration and it is farewell,
Speech, Speech!
But I have no words I stand still enough
for a moth to come and smell my tie
(here I recognize that in the lowest low
everything comes revered and holy).
Watch me before I go,
notice the shape of my eyes
and name the old watered color behind me,
stare a while, grip my thoughts
by a concerned look
clench them and feel their shape.
Shake my hand before I go,
please smile because
we have shared so much good
and brush the dirt off my arms
and maybe blow a strand of hair from my shoulder,
then come out here with me
down just a few steps out the door
so you can watch the street
and hear leaves of grass shake with the weight of the dew.
Wave, a simply fine gesture.
And I’ve been swung to and fro.

5. T.S. Eliot

excerpt from The Waste Land
“You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
They called me the hyacinth girl.”

—Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.

Öd’ und leer das Meer.

6. William Blake

Ah! sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire;
Where my sunflower wishes to go.

7. Jane Hirshfield

This was once a love poem,
before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short,
before it found itself sitting,
perplexed and a little embarrassed,
on the fender of a parked car,
while many people passed by without turning their heads.

It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement.
It remembers choosing these shoes,
this scarf or tie.

Once, it drank beer for breakfast,
drifted its feet
in a river side by side with the feet of another.

Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy,
dropping its head so the hair would fall forward,
so the eyes would not be seen.

IT spoke with passion of history, of art.
It was lovely then, this poem.
Under its chin, no fold of skin softened.
Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat.
What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall.
An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks.

The longing has not diminished.
Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat,
the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus.

Yes, it decides:
Many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots.
When it finds itself disquieted
by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life,
it will touch them—one, then another—
with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame.

8. “epistolary ships”

Our bodies may not be meant for Wild Hunts and blood
carnivals. We may never be able to hold poison under our
tongues, gorge ourselves on pomegranate seeds with impunity, or
tattoo our skin with spells and curses.
We may be swallowed by nuclear winters that will splinter our
bones, radiations spreading in our veins as cold as ice.
What will become of our flesh, love, when it changes and
transmutes? What shall become of us, glass-like and glowing
green in the night, I do not know.
But there is clarity in only one thing:

Winter is savage, but so are we.

Send my regards to the Erl King,

9. John Donne

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
“The breath goes now,” and some say, “No,”

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
‘Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of the earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant;
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we, by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion.
Like gold to airy thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the other do;

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like the other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

10. “the dust dances too”

an avalanche
a whisper
a storm, passing

P.S. – something is up with my polyvore clipper. It won’t clip anything. So unfortunately, there will be no image to top this one off.

Top 10 (Tuesday) Bookish Confessions

Follow along with this meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday is a rewind and since I missed the Bookish Confessions week I’m making up for lost times!

1. I’m a slow reader
I read slow. I admit it. It’s the reason why so much time passes between my reviews. It’s also the reason why I could never keep up with assigned reading in school.

2. I love tattered books
I do, they’re my favorite. I love used books more than new books and the more loved they are the better.

3. I have a difficult time reading before I go to bed
Even though I am a slow reader, I’m a very easily consumed reader with very little control over how long I read. I’m not one of those people who can read a chapter and go to bed. I always end up reading more chapters until I realize that I only have a few hours of sleep left.
4. I have a habit of writing in my books

Ever since my first Literature class I haven’t been able to read a book without somehow marking in it. I can restrain myself when I borrow books, but if it’s mine all mine I underline passages, make notes in places, doodle little hearts next to sections that I fall in love with. It’s one of the reasons I’m so hesitant to make the switch to an e-reader.

5. I study Literature because I love Literature
I know, this one sounds a bit weird, but I keep running into other Lit majors who are such because they either want to become teachers or because they want to be writers. I don’t run into many who are Lit majors because they honestly want to study literature. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but yeah, I study literature because I love the act of studying literature.

6. In high school I couldn’t finish a book
This one might seem as a contradiction to the last one but I really couldn’t finish a book all through high school. I’d only get a few chapters in. Not only was this because I am a slow reader, it was also because I just didn’t have enough attention to do so. This is the reason why I don’t have very deep knowledge of any of the classics. I know of them, and enough to get by, but couldn’t pass a quiz on it.

7. I prefer Shakespeare’s comedies to his dramas
Not much to say about this one. I just enjoy do.

8. I am extremely picky about the covers of my books
I will dig through books until I find the prettiest one. I’ll even avoid buying a book until I can find a pretty cover.

9. I hold graphic novels to the same level as books
I do, I love graphic novels. The stories are just as good as those in books and they have great art work along side them.

10. I can’t listen to audiobooks
I zone out and miss large sections, then I have to rewind, then I zone out and miss the section again. It’s just not worth it, it already takes me long enough to get through a book without having to re-listen to it a million times.

Top 10 (Tuesday) “Older” Books You Don’t Want People To Forget About

Follow along with this Meme over at The Broke and the Bookish

This list turned into more of a rant on under appreciated books, but non the less, in no particular order:

1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
I realize that House of Leaves has pretty loyal cult following, but this book is so great and so different from other books that it would sadden me to see it pass by widely unheard of.

2. She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb
As depressing as this book is, it is so good and so wonderfully written. Definitely one that shouldn’t be forgotten.

3. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
I love this book, it has been my favorite since high school. Janet Fitch’s writing is like milk and honey and is actually a large part of why I tend to write the way that I do. I wish more authors would write with the magic that she does.

4. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Judging from the reviews on good reads, I feel that this book was largely misunderstood. It seems that most who picked up this book became fixated on the fairy tale fracturing and less on David’s story. I adore this book and hope that others’ negative views of it won’t cause The Book of Lost Things to become lost (pun emphatically intended).

5. Ray Bradbury
Even though this isn’t a book, I feel like Ray Bradbury’s work in general needs more love that it tends to get.

6. Chocolat & The Girl with No Shadow by Joanne Harris
These two books are beautiful and amazing. The way in which Harris writes makes even the most mundane things seem magical, not to mention the stories themselves fill the senses with beauty and magic and wanderlust.

7. Poetry
Again, not a book, but I feel that poetry is horribly lacking in the literary field right now. There needs to be a resurgence, if you ask me.

8. Failure to Zigzag by Jane Vandenburgh
This book is so wonderful that I am constantly shocked by how unheard of it is. It is beautifully written and needs to be shared with the world.

9. His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
With Harry Potter coming out around the same time, the His Dark Materials trilogy undeservedly fell on the wayside and deserves more attention than it got.

10. Books with Depth
So many people are looking fast or easy reads, I feel like books with any real depth to them are being widely passed over. I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me on this one, but I just feel that the books that are popular now don’t really hold a candle to the depth and beauty books of the past held.

The Book of Lost Things

by John Connolly

The Book of Lost Things is the story of a young boy named David growing up in London on the brink of the second World War. The story begins with the loss of David’s mother and the struggle he has with his father falling for a nurse named Rose. After a while of dating, Rose becomes pregnant, driving David’s father to marry her. To escape the war David and his father move into Rose’s family home in the country.

Once at Rose’s, David begins to experience strange things, beginning with hearing the books in his room talk. Soon he begins to have black outs, during which he sees glimpses of another world. One night he hears his dead mother’s voice calling to him from a hole in the garden wall. As he is investigating the hole, a fighter jet comes hurtling towards the garden. Just as the jet crashes into the ground, David crawls in through the hole in the wall.

David comes out on the other side through a hole in a tree that enters into the world that he had seen when he would black out. The first person he meets is a woodsman who tells David not only of the horrors of the land, but also about a king who owns a book called the The Book of Lost Things that just might be able to get David back home. So, the two set out to find the king. On the way David grows from a scared, naive boy to a young man who realizes what it really means to care for someone and that life isn’t always fair, but that doesn’t mean that you can blame those around you for it.

The Book of Lost Things is a beautifully written book with fairy tales woven perfectly throughout it. John Connolly is a master story teller whose characters are wonderfully written, each with their own number of vices as well as their virtues. I like that David begins as a bit of a brat, even if he has his reasons. I also like that he acknowledges his flaws and eventually learns from them. I like that there are no true villains and no true heroes, for even the heroes have their pitfalls. I loved the characterization of Rumpelstiltskin, or, in this realm, the Crooked Man. I loved his mythos and I loved his motives. I loved that he was simply a creature trying to survive, even if it was in such a horrible way.

I loved Connolly’s integration of fairy tales, and especially the way that the children’s understanding of the stories changed the world. I also loved that Connolly’s changes to certain fairy tales had their reasons, he didn’t just change them for the hell of it. As well, I loved Connolly’s voice through out the book. He pulled off that fairy tale voice without going over the top or getting to that point of the “okay, we get it” feeling. The part that I really appreciated, though (and this might just be a nerdy thing specific to my obsessive interest in fairy tales and folk tales), was the inclusion in the back of the book of the origins of the fairy tales and what each fairy tale’s presence represents.

The Book of Lost Things is a wonderfully written story and an exciting read, which was a nice change of pace from the more real-life style books that I have been reading as of late. I actually got to a point where I couldn’t read it during my lunch anymore because I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop once I started. This is definitely one of those books that left me wondering why more people haven’t heard of it. So my recommendation is to read it and if you’ve already read it then recommend it to your friends, your family, your neighbors, your coworkers, the person sitting next to you on the bus, whoever you can. I want this book to be as popular as Twilight! Lord knows, we need some actual literature to seep its way throughout society’s kindles/bookshelves/library cards.

The Girl With No Shadow

by Joanne Harris

The Girl With No Shadow (called Lollipop Shoes overseas) is a sequel to the popular novel Chocolat. This is possibly the first book that I’ve come across where the sequel is just as good, if not better than, the first. Once again we are graced with Joanne Harris’ amazing talent for storytelling as well as her outstanding handle of the English language. However, what makes this novel so much better than the first is the depth and conflict not just between the characters but within them as well.

The Girl With No Shadow brings us back into the lives of Vianne and Anouk Rocher, however, things have changed since we last saw them; Vianne is now terrified of her powers and forbids Anouk from using them as well. She has moved them, and new addition, Rosette, to Montmarte, where Vianne, now Yanne Charbonneau, is determined to live a normal life by any means necessary.

In enters Zazi, a witch con artist who wants Vianne’s identity and her talented daughter to complete the picture. With the use of glamours and cantrips she pulls impressionable Anouk, who is frustrated with her mother’s new found normality, into her clutches and begins training her in a new kind of magic.

What sets this book apart from the last is the amped up level of mysteries that have been worked into the story line. Who is Zazi? What made her who she is? What happened to frighten Vianne into abandoning her care-free lifestyle? What is the truth behind Vianne’s birth? Will Zazi succeed at winning Vianne’s life and will she get Anouk as an added bonus? Harris succeeds in not only answering each of these questions, but then bringing up a handful more in the process.

Another difference is the addition of a new voice. This book is told from three perspectives rather than two; Vianne’s, Zazi’s, and Anouk’s. At first I felt like Anouk’s point of view was more of a hindrance and didn’t add a whole lot of weight to the story, but as the book progressed I was pleasantly proved wrong. Anouk acts as a go between for Vianne and Zazi. Through Anouk, you see how Vianne’s new life truly affects her world and at the same time Zazi’s mastery of manipulation.

The book is beautifully writen, amazingly told and so much more fun than the first. If you loved Chocolat and have been itching to hear more from Vianne and Anouk, definitely check out The Girl With No Shadow


by Joanne Harris

Chocolat is a beautifully written story about how a single kink in a chain can shake the whole machine. Vianne Rocher is a beautiful woman with a nomadic past who decides that it is finally time to settle down with her daughter in a small village in the French countryside. Most of the villagers greet her warmly, however a few choice members of the village, including the local priest, object to her presence, as well as the chocolate shop that she has opened across the square from the church. The book enters in the midst of a Mardi Gras festival and takes place through to Easter, highlighting the struggle between Vianne’s secular life style and the strong influence of the church over the village. Through out the story Vianne changes several of the villager’s lives, every one for the better, even if they’re not aware of it. The moral of Chocolat, deep down, is how we each affect each other, even if it is in the slightest.

Joanne Harris’ prose is beautiful and whimsical. The characters are written with such care and detail that it’s hard not to feel for them by the last page. Even Caro, Muscat, and Francis, who are presented as villains are, in truth, just wounded people, trying to make the best of their miseries. The book is written in journal format and switches between Vianne and Francis’ narration of events. I love that Harris doesn’t tell one event through both eyes, but instead tells it from one and continues the story with the other. My only gripe with the book, and it’s only one, is that the narration continually jumps from past to present tense. It’s a pet peeve of mine, so it might not bother anyone else. Plus one could probably argue its existence with the excuse of the journal format. It’s just something that I noticed and had a hard time getting used to, but it doesn’t deter from the story at all (in case you share in my nit-picky pet peeve).

Little known fact (even amongst those in my day to day life), I have a weak spot for canal/river boats. I’ve always loved the idea of living in one and traveling the canals of Europe and the UK. I just think it would be lovely. So all the descriptions of the river people with their boats and parties really captured my heart ablaze for a world I yearn to inhabit. On that note, all of the talk of a nomadic life style, tarot cards, visions in fire, the winds changing, it all caught that nomadic part of my heart on fire and made me ready yet again to take to the road.

In the end, Chocolat is a wonderful story that I would recommend to everyone looking for a timeless story written with beautiful prose, that will captivate your imagination and wanderlust.

By the way, I plan on reviewing the film adaptation, however, I am going away for a few days with my family for Spring Break, and most likely won’t have time to sit down and watch it until sometime next weekend. Also, my aunt has lent me the sequel to Chocolat, The Girl With No Shadow, which I will be starting on our trip (we’ll have lots of driving time, so hopefully I will get through a good amount).

Top 10 (Tuesday) Books I’d Hand a Kid Who Says They Don’t Like to Read

The gals over at the literary wonder blog, Broke & the Bookish have a weekly meme called Top 10 Tuesday. I’ve never really participated because, well, I’m always late to the game. Like, several weeks late. Way back at the beginning of the month (geez, February is just about over already) the Tuesday Top 10 was “Top 10 Books I’d Hand Someone Who Says They Don’t Like To Read”. I couldn’t help but get excited because my mother and I have been tossing around this exact same idea, only with teens. One of my (many) cousins just entered the sacred realm of teen-dom. Now, I have struggled to understand teens most of my own young life, even when I was one I struggled to relate to them (thankfully I found two amazing people who share my confusion), so I have a hard time finding topics to share with the younger crowd in my family. So, when my cousin showed me a book her teacher had recommended her to read, I jumped on the topic. I started asking her about what kinds of books she enjoys and she had to answer honestly, “I have no idea.” This answer prompted my mother and myself to start naming books that we remembered reading at her age; Little Women & Lord of the Rings, fairy tales & poetry books, not to mention anything that had to do with vampires or sci-fi. My cousin hadn’t heard of most of them, the others she had no idea if she would be interested in them. Through this process we realized that it was because she really hasn’t read anything as of yet. By the time my mother and I were her age we had devoured most of the books we could get our hands on. We knew what we liked and what we didn’t like. She, on the other hand, is a blank canvas. So, we came up with a list of books for kids/teens who have never read before and are looking to start (or if you just want to change their mind about reading).

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter is a good introduction to the fantasy genre without throwing something as in depth as Lord of the Rings at them. While I love Tolkien and LOTR, it’s just a bit daunting for someone who is taking their first steps into reading. Also, what I love about the Harry Potter series is that the first three books really can stand on their own. The story progresses, but none rely on the others in order to continue. In this way, kids can pick up the first one and get a feel for the series, if they don’t like it, they can stop there without feeling like their missing out on the greater story, if they do, then awesome.

2. Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
The Goosebumps series is a great introduction into the horror genre. The really great thing is that each book is a different story, and since there are well over a hundred books in the series, kids can pick and choose which ones they want to read based on their interests. For instance, my cousin is really into drama at school (she’s taking Advanced Drama this year), so we lent her Phantom of the Auditorium. Trust me when I say, there’s a book for everyone.

3. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene/Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
Every library has at least a few volumes of the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys series. Though they are a bit dated, mysteries never go out of style. Plus, what book nerd chick isn’t madly in love with the classic Nancy Drew cover designs.

4. Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl has written such a treasure trove of zany, cooky books it’s hard to pick just one. We have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Twits, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, each slightly different from the last, but still just as fun as the first. The benefit to the Roald Dahl series is that pretty much every kid has seen at least one of the handful of Dahl film adaptations, so the curiosity of the book being better than the film is already potentially stewing.

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Personally, I would have put A Series of Unfortunate Events a bit higher on the list, however, the series has had such a half-and-half response that I feel it should take its place directly at the middle of the list. This series is very much something you have to already have an interest in in order to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy dark humor or the Gothic/Victorian era style, you most likely won’t enjoy this series. The same goes for kids; if their not into it, they won’t enjoy it. But if you have a fledgling goth kid on your hands, definitely hand them this series.

6. The Modern Faerie Tale Series by Holly Black
A great place for kids curious about the paranormal genre that is exploding right now in the young adult age group to start. This series actually came out when I was in high school, which was when I started reading them. It’s a great series about a girl who discovers that she is not only a changeling, but also plays an important role in a battle in the faerie world. Definitely a great read and a great place to start if they’re curious about the genre, especially if they aren’t interested in the Twilight series.

7. Reader Beware… by R.L. Stine
The Reader Beware series is a Goosebumps version of the choose your own adventure books. They’re so much fun, which is the only reason they’re on here. Even kids who are the most firm in their disliking of books will enjoy these. In fact, when my brother and I were trying to choose a few to lend my cousin, we got sucked into reading them. We even had a bit of a competition going on; the first to die loses.

8. Shel Silverstein
We’ve all heard it; the kids (and sometimes adults) who whine about poetry and relate it to pulling teeth. Shel Silverstein is an awesome introduction to poetry. His poetry is fun and quirky, it doesn’t follow any of the standard rules, and his illustrations are amazingly nostalgic. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t at least enjoy Shel Silverstein.

9. Francesca Lia Block
I have to admit, the only Francesca Lia Block book I have read is The Rose and the Beast, however, the list of people who have been inspired by her (namely the Weetzie Bat series) is a million miles long. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Block, which is why she grabbed a spot on this list.

10. the Classics Illustrated comic books
The Classics Illustrated series is a series of comic books based on all the classics. If you have a kid that already enjoys comics and wants to take that step into reading, I would recommend finding some of these. It’s an introduction to the classics in a form that they’re already familiar with.

White Oleander Film

Based on White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Directed by Peter Kosminsky
Starring Alison Lohman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Renée Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, Billy Connolly, Patrick Fugit

Where does a mother end and a daughter begin?

The film adaptation of White Oleander is how film adaptations should be. A tool to capture the feel of a book, not just the story. Creating a visual companion to the story the reader is already in love with. Peter Kosminsky did a beautiful job bringing the book to life.

While the film does differ from the book quite a bit, a fan of the book won’t find themselves yelling at the screen about what parts were left out or skimmed over. The most significant change is the number of years and number of placements Astrid goes through. The book takes place over six years, from the summer Astrid is 12 until she turns 18 and can leave the foster care system. Within these six years Astrid goes through six different placements; Starr, Marvel (& Olivia), Amelia, Claire, MAC, and ending with Rena. In the film they cut it down to three placements in three years; Starr, Claire, & Rena. They don’t count MAC as a placement though Astrid is placed there twice. Initially I was a bit annoyed by this. In the book, each placement teaches Astrid a new lesson. Each placement builds up to the final confrontation with her mother. Giving Astrid a new tool to use against her, to pry herself away from her and to eventually show her mother that she is a person and not just her daughter.

However, the way that Kosminsky sets up the story, picking and choosing the most significant lessons, it allows for the story to still be told but in a more visually pleasing and understandable manner. Astrid begins her journey by being placed with Starr. While Starr’s does seem to rush by at lightening speed (Astrid & Roy’s relationship is more hinted at than stated. If you didn’t read the book you’d be left wondering what the hell just happened. There are a few scenes of the two making eyes at each other, Astrid goes to the construction site, asks if everyone is gone, then Starr is running into Astrid’s room with a gun. It’s a bit sudden) you get the gist that Astrid is lost and is searching for something that her mother cannot give her, their tapestry is beginning to unravel. Astrid is placed in MAC with the explanation that there are just too many kids and Astrid needs special care due to the gun shot wound. MAC sets up Astrid & Paul’s relationship. There is a wonderful scene added in where Astrid and Paul sneak away from a group while they are out. It is here where the comic book store is introduced and the two have a brief discussion on art vs cartoons/comics (By the way, I don’t know if it’s just because he’s in my head, but the clerk at the comic book store reminded me a little too much of Noah Antwiler aka Spoony One. Again, I have no idea why, he doesn’t even look that much like him.) which cuts to the two sitting on a pier drawing people that are nearby. It shows their relationship growing and that Astrid is learning how to trust again. Then Astrid is placed at Claire’s. Again, Claire’s seems to go by a bit faster than expected, but I don’t think you would really notice this unless you had read the book. However, like with Starr, you get the gist: Astrid discovers what it means to be cared for then her mother takes this away. Astrid is sent back to MAC where she avoids everyone, even Paul. Paul leaves for New York and Astrid chooses to be placed with Rena. While, again, Rena’s is rushed over (Astrid’s relationship with Yvonne is non-existent and Sergei is never even mentioned) you get the gist: Astrid has been hardened and is now ready to face her mother head on. Then comes the final show down between Astrid and Ingrid. The entire conversation is a paraphrased version of what is in the book, and it is perfect, Lohman and Pfeiffer did a phenomenal job. You can feel the tension between the two. The film comes to a close at the trial, Paul and Astrid are waiting for them to call her in to testify. Court lets out and Astrid is told that her mother asked her lawyer to leave Astrid alone. The film ends with Astrid’s suitcases and a voice over about how her mother was denied the appeal but still received fame for her artwork and Astrid’s connection to her mother now that Ingrid has let her go.

Throughout the film, the only change that really bothered me was the decision to make Claire a blond. While they did try to circumvent this by making her more of a dirty blond with subtle brown streaks, it still doesn’t make much sense to me. Not so much that I will bitch and complain through out the entire film, just enough to tell you guys about it ;). In my mind, Claire’s being a brunette set up the foil to Ingrid perfectly. Claire was soft, sweet, & timid. Her brown hair makes her average. Beautiful, but average. Whereas, Ingrid is hard, critical & sharp-tongued. She is described as the most beautiful woman most people have ever seen. Ingrid’s appearance alone is striking & unique, where as Claire takes something that everyone has and makes it beautiful.

However, there were two subtle changes that I actually really liked. One was the decision to make Ingrid an artist rather than a writer. The reason for this was that it would be more visually interesting to see Ingrid painting or creating an art piece rather than writing. While at first I wasn’t happy with this decision, really, Ingrid is shown actually working so little that it doesn’t make much of a difference. Plus it brought about one of my favorite lines; as Ingrid is brushing Astrid’s hair and showing Astrid her latest work, Astrid says that she likes the piece, Ingrid asks her why she likes it and Astrid can’t say, to which Ingrid says to her, “You can’t be an artist if you don’t see. Why do you like it?” For some reason this line has resonated with me and every time I find myself in front of a piece of art I stop and ask myself why I like it.

The other was the fact that Paul gets a chance. In the book Astrid stays with him more because he is broken like she is. It almost sounds like she doesn’t really love him as much as just wants someone around to keep her humble or to keep her from forgetting what she’s been through. Whereas in the film, she loves Paul. When she goes back to the comic book store and finds that he has been writing her all along, you can see the glow on her face. She is relieved that he remembered her. Again, when he comes back to help her through the trial she is so happy to see him. She watches excitedly as the bus pulls up and the shot holds on the door of the bus as you wait to see him walk out. You can feel her anticipation to see him again. It’s a great scene and I wish that love was presented more in the book.

In the end, I obviously think the book was better, but not by much. The film, though missing a lot, took what it needed in order to tell the story and translate the feeling that you get while reading the book. This was my first introduction to Alison Lohman and Patrick Fugit, who have both burrowed a soft spot in my heart. I adore Lohman’s voice and you get to hear it at it’s best in White Oleander with a monologue in both the beginning and the end. Michelle Pfeiffer is spectacular as Ingrid, I can’t imagine anyone else playing her. Though I have a feeling that some might not like Renée Zellweger’s role, she does it magnificently, flawlessly pulling off the softness and anxiety of Claire. The score is hauntingly beautiful, reminding me of a music box. Most of all, I appreciate Kosminsky’s choice to film from Astrid’s perspective. Most of the shots are from over Astrid’s shoulder or following behind her as she moves down the hall. It feels organic and like you’re there witnessing her story. Which is the feeling that the book creates; it is Astrid’s story from her point of view. To be told any other way would be a betrayal to the book.