Taking a Peek at the Woman in the Window

woman in the windowMy first glimpse of the Woman in the Window was in a wonderful review over at Steph’s Novel Fiction. Her beautiful description and the hints of Hitchcock in the story instantly made me intrigued…  and I’m glad it did! When I did finally check this out I wasn’t disappointed. While I was drawn to it because of the allusion to Rear Window, the movie references were not limited to a single movie. To Hitchcock and beyond! *Ahem* Bad joke (no there aren’t actually Toy Story references 😉 ) Throughout the book, there were clever and insightful connections made to films.

What I loved about that was how it connected to the main character’s view of the world- regarding herself as if she were in a classic movie. Of course she was slightly unreliable, but it wasn’t that she was deliberately dishonest, so much as she was lying to herself. Her sadness pervaded the novel. And the truth behind it was tragic and desperate. Admittedly, this twist was a little obvious- however it didn’t detract from the plot as a whole.

Overall, the mysteries were slow building and well developed. Beneath the distinctly gorgeous writing style, there were whispers of secrets hidden in every corner. Rather cleverly, the first few days held only short entries, giving a stronger sense of incoherence- yet as time went on, the fragments grew longer, and the tension grew. For a moment, I thought I had all the answers and was almost disappointed with the ending. And then BAM- the curtains came up and everything was revealed. Let’s just say I was far from disappointed with what I saw.

Addictive from beginning to end, the only downside there was to this book was that I made the rookie mistake of reading it before bed.

Rating: 4½/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana half-a-hand-drawn-banana

So have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Trying His Bloody Project: A Case in Monkey Business

judge orangutan0003

Order, order!

A brutal murder has been committed and Robert Macrae is guilty… or is he? Well, yes. There’s not actually much doubt about that. But that is not the heinous crime we are here to discuss. No, ladies and gentlemen, the book recounting this murder hereby stands accused of being a cracking good read.

*Murmurs in the gallery*

his bloody project

Let’s call the prosecution to the stand, shall we…

Thank you your honour. What I personally found so compelling about His Bloody Project was how it was reminiscent of so many other great Scottish works. It was in the vein of Confessions of a Justified Sinner– atmospheric and layered. It held references to other works, most notably Ossian, famous for being a hoax, which not only dated the story, but also created a reminder not to trust the source material.

The opening frame really helped to set the scene and present this long-standing literary tradition. I particularly liked how it went on to present the tale through multiple lenses. All the different voices muddled together and created a compelling account. It was great to feel like I was piecing together all the clues as the details built up.

One of the most significant pieces of evidence was the parent’s story. The mother’s reputation allowed for uncanny elements to arise and gave the story an air of the gothic. The father, a never-had-it-so-good kind of man, was rough round the edges and reminded me of the patriarch in House with a Green Shutters. Notably, both men refused their sons an education and, more significantly, came to represent the hopelessness of being trodden underfoot by authority. His presence in the story added further to the haunting tones, particularly in the mirroring with his children, as doubling is always a popular technique in gothic literature.

However, the greatest point of interest was the protagonist and confirmed murderer. I observed a peculiarity in his nature- wavering between seeming incredibly guilty and remarkably innocent. His actions in his childhood denoted some savagery… but also a desire to protect and save. There were hints throughout of odd dealings- but nothing concrete. Indeed, it is a strange account, overladen with inconsistencies.

Very good, very good. Now, in the interest of fairness, let’s call the defence to the stand (which oddly enough is going to discuss the book’s flaws):

That said, by the end of the book, the only mystery remains was whether the crime was sexually motivated or revenge driven. Other than wondering who the primary victim was, there was little left upto the imagination. It was a pity in my view- it could have done with a tad more intrigue and questions left unanswered.

All in all, I find the defendant: guilty as charged. *Murmurs in the docks*. I hereby hand down the sentence of:

4/5 bananas

hand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-bananahand-drawn-banana

Okay- so I hope you enjoyed my silliness! And have you been accosted by this book? What evidence can you bring to the table? Report to me in the comments!

Nitpicky Review of Big Little Lies TV Show

*All the spoiler warnings, cos I’m really gonna sink my teeth into this one… enjoy!*

monkey at the movies 2

big little lies tv show.jpg

I made no secret of the fact I was MASSIVELY fond of the book Big Little Lies. So I knew it would be hard for any adaptation to live upto that. The problem I often find with loving something that much is that desire to nitpick an adaptation’s every flaw, even if it’s totally fine. That said, I don’t think I could deny how frustrated I was with this version. While it was a nice take, it simply didn’t bring the book to life for me. By transposing the story from a small town in Australia to glitzy American coastlines, it failed to capture the claustrophobic and intense feel of the original. More than that, it felt like the narrative had a distinctly Hollywood makeover. It no longer felt like a unique and different tale; rather it was boiled down to a generic TV drama. Though I think the cast did a magnificent job- so much so I almost didn’t regret the change of scene for the price of such excellent acting chops- ultimately the characters morphed into nothing more than Hollywood actresses. The spunky individuality of the heroines was lost and the personalities were gutted to make way for extra glamour.

madeline big little liesThe closest the adaptation came to reaching the original’s panache was with its interpretation of Madeline. However, there were still some decisions made for her story arc that I could only respond to with a big fat WHYYYY?! And the answer always seemed to be ***forced drama***. Of course, there were slight changes, like writing out Madeline’s son, which I didn’t totally object to, yet there were some aspects that basically butchered her role as a mother and a wife. For starters I HATED what they did to her mostly-functioning relationship with Ed. One of the best things about the book was that it showed a realistic, lovely (second) marriage. It didn’t present it as perfect- but I totally loved the way their personalities meshed and how they acted as a team. Book Ed himself was intuitive, worthwhile and one of the good guys- a fact that was so important for the ending when it reaffirms Madeline’s love for him. Here he’s a doormat to be cheated on. Yup- one of the big secrets is *they had an affair*- oohh big whoop, like we’ve never seen that one before. All the interesting parts of their marriage were gutted for this cheap, generic drama.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only relationship lost its complexity. Because of the affair takes centre stage, the mother-daughter relationship is forced out of the limelight. Abigail’s resolution is inserted earlier in the plot, so as not to detract from the *ahem* important stuff. To add insult to injury, Madeline’s focus on her child is sidestepped, since this whole subplot ends up centring on the fact she’s still in love with Nathan (umm why). Where in the book she still feels the sting of betrayal, it’s not like she puts their failed marriage on a pedestal and the fear she’s losing her daughter is the most important thing to her.

renata big little liesOne of the best parts of the book was its focus on mummy drama- and this never quite translated into the show. There were some attempts to broaden the conversation, such as fleshing out Renata’s character, which I appreciated, but ultimately this ended up sending out the oh-so-empowering message that all women ought to fit into a certain mould. Gone was the tension of being a career mum vs a stay at home mum, because in this TV show, like everything Hollywood pumps out, the *correct* choice is career mum. Everyone just admires Renata and wants to emulate her life… which is a slap in the face to people who don’t make that decision. What I liked about the book was that it essentially showed that it didn’t denigrate either choice, while showing the friction between the two. Here, it felt like the sting was taken out of that clash far too early because heaven forbid there would be some tension between the female characters.

celeste whatDon’t get me wrong- the female friendships were one of the best things in the book- and that was executed really well here. Even so, the showrunners couldn’t resist changing things. Instead of exploring Celeste’s misplaced shame and how she deliberately hides the abuse, this has to make her more open. This was important in the book, since it emphasised the idea that it could happen to anyone and no one really knows what a marriage is like behind closed doors. The secrecy was also a way for the narrative to show Celeste’s slow her slow realisation just how dangerous her marriage is. Some parts of this were still done really well- Perry was more controlling for one thing and Kidman did a fantastic job of portraying Celeste’s stress. Nonetheless, it wasn’t perfect and I felt it managed to make a mockery of the therapist (since Perry literally admits to her that he hits her… and she does nothing).

jane big little liesThis was far from the most impactful change. Personally, I felt it was really powerful in the book that the reader had to wade through murky waters to find out what had happened to Jane. The book dealt with her shame, her gratitude for Ziggy and her trauma in a far more multifaceted way- especially since it was never clear if it could be classified as rape. That technicality was significant, since it addressed the fact that sometimes the lines between a crime and human suffering don’t always match up. It was a bold move for the book to deal with these grey areas and it showed how hard it was for Jane to recognise her pain in the midst of all that ambiguity. Her uncertainty added to her distress. Here, there was no such subtlety. With the usual desire to show women as strong all the damn time in TV, Jane is a far more certain, angry and put together character. She lacked the vulnerability and agreeableness of her bookish counterpart- so much so I didn’t see them as the same character at all. This sucked out the possibility for her growth and recovery- because, like Celeste, she doesn’t get to make these conclusions in the course of the show, she’s already there. Every part of the story is laid out, since Jane is far more open and so the intriguing Saxon Banks element is stripped in favour of a far more simplistic *I just want to confront this dodgy fellow* plot point.

bonnieNaturally, this ended up having a massive impact on the conclusion. The motivations were stretched thin and subplots (like the French nanny) were discarded altogether. To me, one of the most disappointing changes wasn’t that it was a collective effort to overcome Perry, it was that half the characters who should’ve been there weren’t on the balcony. However, the main problem was still with the characterisation. Like some of the other representations, Bonnie simply wasn’t Bonnie. This meant that the last scene didn’t have the right impact at all. The shift from the sickly sweet hippy to lioness defending her own never happens- so we don’t get to see how kickass this character actually is. It goes back to what I loved so much about the book: the characters were all so much larger than life, and yet so real. In this show, they were all squeezed into conventional types. Worst of all, they all became distinctly unlikeable. In the book it was such a balancing act to find the good in them and I eventually found every one of them sympathetic. Their hidden depths took me by surprise- whereas this adaptation did everything by the book.

Phew- I hope people will forgive this rant. It’s not that this is a terrible show by any stretch of the imagination. The production value was great, it was beautifully shot and the soundtrack was amazing. I was just aggrieved with the direction it took and it didn’t live do the book justice in the way I’d hoped- but as the final song in the note the show ended on says: you can’t always get what you want…

And yes, I went with the Rolling Stones version, cos the original is always the best 😉 Anyway, no banana rating since it’s hard to determine where this lies between its quality and my *feels*. But dare I ask- have you seen this? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 11

Hello all! Yup, I’m still here with the quote challenge, talking about my favourite first lines. Here are the rules:

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the amazing Marina @Books of Magic for tagging me to do this! I absolutely adore her *magical* blog, because it truly is a fantastical place for all bookworms! Her reviews are always so thorough. Plus she has *the best* taste in books- if I do say so myself 😉 I couldn’t resist ending on this book in honour of that!

the hobbit opening line

I might need a minute to compose myself- because I can’t read this first line without feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. I’m also resisting the (impossibly strong) urge to pick this book up again and reread it for the millionth time. Naturally, this is on this list because it’s one of my favourites and reading this for the first time was the moment when I fell in love with fantasy (incidentally, the last line is just as good- but it took a while for me to find out cos as I’ve mentioned on this blog before *shock, horror* the last few pages were missing!! I’ve never been more desperate to get to a bookshop in my life!!)

I tag:

Susan, CJR Brit and Norrie

So have you read this book? And now that we’ve come to the end of this quote-journey, what are your favourite first lines? Share the love in the comments!

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 10

Hello all! We’re coming to the end of my favourite first lines edition of the quote challenge- I so hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it! As always, here are the rules:

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the wonderful Sarah @Art Expedition for tagging me! I’ve talked about Sarah on this blog before- BECAUSE SHE’S SO BRILLIANT! Seriously, as you’ll see from her blog, she’s super talented and thoughtful in her posts. I just love her blog and can’t recommend it enough!

book thief first line.png

It’s been a while since I’ve read The Book Thief– because *wow* that book punches you in the gut- but I can’t forget being pulled into the story by this intriguing opening… and slowly realising who the narrator is.

I tag:

Beth, Melting Pots and Other Calamities and Jill Jemmett

Have you read this? Do you love it as much as I do? Let me know in the comments!

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 9

Hello all! Welcome back to my quote challenge post! In case you haven’t noticed, I’m doing it on a “favourite first lines” theme. And as with a lot of tags, there are rules to break:

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the lovely Anna @My Bookish Dream! I’m so excited to share Anna’s dreamy blog today (see what I did there 😉 ) I love her fantastic wrap up and reviews- she’s such a great voice on the blogosphere that I know you’ll fall for her style as much as I have! Go check her out!

daughter of smoke and bone first line.png

I’ve talked a lot about classics in these first line posts- but not enough about my other love: fantasy. Laini Taylor is, for me, the pinnacle of what I love about the genre. And this line captures everything, everything I love. It tells you the concept, captures the mood and hints at the lyrical style. Basically, I adore it.

I tag:

Jay, a Novel Glimpse and Bibi’s Book Blog

Have you read the Daughter of Smoke and Bones? Let’s fangirl over it in the comments!

Quote Challenges – Favourite First Lines: Day 8

Hello all! Yup I’m still going with this quote challenge! As always, there have to be rules (to break):

Rules

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote for each day)
  • Nominate three new bloggers each day

Thank you so much to the gorgeous Jenna @Bookmark Your Thoughts– she’s such a friendly, outgoing blogger and she’s always sharing the love for other bloggers! She also does fantastic, in-depth reviews and has a great take on tags and memes. You *need* to check her out!

1984 first line.png

This is the kind of first line that I love because it made me do a double take. On first reading, I was like “what’s the big deal… oh wait… wow.” It breaks all the rules- taking you in one direction and then turning everything on its head. Undoubtedly, Orwell’s 1984 is one of the best books ever written- and that opening should tell you why.

I tag:

J W Martin, No Reads Too Great, Lit Lemon Books

Have you read this masterpiece? Let me know in the comments!