I’m doing the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and you should, too! (Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out.”

  • Read the first book in a series by a person of color.

Sorcerer to the Crown; Zen Cho.

Zen Cho is Malaysian, and the book is book 1 in the Sorcerer Royal trilogy.

Britain’s Unnatural Philosophers aren’t the most inclusive group–they’re not happy with freed slave Zacharias Wythe as the Sorcerer Royal, and have been trying to unseat him, even if it costs him his life. Zacharias has other problems–the country’s magic has been waning for some time. Then he meets another outcast, a woman who doesn’t fit in Society either–who might have the key to the problem.

Though the beginning is slow, when the book picks up, it rolls along well. The world-building and magic system are well-developed, and excitingly dangerous. There’s a little bit of romance, a lot of action, and some high prices to pay for magic. A great start to a series, and I look forward to book 2.

  • Read a collection of essays.

Consider the Lobster; David Foster Wallace

This came highly recommended, so I decided to give it a read, and sadly, wish I hadn’t. This book  didn’t appeal to me, in that vague, hard-to-explain way.

The topics of the essays are interesting enough, and sometimes bits of the writing did catch my attention, but for the most part it required effort to not skim, looking for those entertaining moments. There was discussion of topics I enjoy–literary subjects, like Updike’s work from the view of a fan; a discussion of English language, usage, and dialect; and the title essay which reminded me of an attempt to free a lobster I named Big Red. There are long (pages, even) rambling footnote side stories, which distracted instead of adding to the story more often than not.

Once again, it’s highly rated–so your experience may vary!

  • Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.

The Finest Hours: Michael Tougias & Casey Sherman

finest hour

Movie Review: (no spoilers)

Quite an adventure! A harrowing sea rescue that focuses on Bernie Webber, who, along with three other Coast Guard men, went out in a 36-foot cutter during a terrible storm to try to rescue men on an oil tanker that had broken in half. Because another tanker split nearby, and gotten out a distress signal earlier, Webber and his crew were the only chance for rescue–but first they had to make it over a bar known for flipping ships over, navigate the dark and vicious waves, and figure out a way to get the survivors from the towering, unpowered tanker to the tiny boat.

The waves lash, the rain falls, and you clutch your armrest, hoping everything turns out okay. Following a simple story line, the movie gives time for Bernie and his romance, then plunges into the waves, interspersing that rescue efforts with the ones going on on shore. Based on true events, it’s pretty easy to know how the story ends, but the getting there is still gripping!

Book Review: (no spoilers)

This book has two authors because they both began researching separately, and decided to cooperate instead of compete. As a result, they have a lot of information–much of it from the people who were there when the events happened.

Two tankers split in two during a storm–setting off a flurry of rescue efforts. Taking place over two days, the rescues were complicated, dangerous, and difficult to coordinate–and a little difficult to follow in the book. Providing background throughout, from the start of each rescuer’s career, to the area the wrecks happened, to the history of sea rescues, the story aims to be educational, and does pretty well at that. The construction issues of the tankers, in particular, is tragic and infuriating. Some black and white photos are included, and the story continues for 50 years, following mainly Bernie Webber, who received most of the attention in the aftermath.

Comparison: (some spoilers)

I’ve kept spoilers to a minimum, but some are required to talk about the differences and similarities between book and movie. So stop reading here if you dislike spoilers! Past the second set of asterisks is my verdict on which is ‘better.’

*

*

*

*

Most of the differences in a book and movie fall into the need to cut for time. So, of course, there’s a lot more background about the area, sea rescues, characters, etc. The movie focuses on one piece of the four halves–and the book discusses all four pieces, and how the rescues were attempted. It also shows the results of the rescues–what happened to crew and survivors, all the way up to the 50 year celebration of the rescue. This makes the movie easier to follow, but you do feel things might be missing.

The rest of the changes fall into cinematic choices. For example, Miriam was Bernie Webber’s wife, not fiancee in the book–and she spends the whole of the rescue sick in bed with the flu! Also, the movie uses a character who has history with Bernie as the person who hears the boat’s distress signal, when in reality it was a random woman. Another choice to punch up the drama made one relationship that was a cordial, though not close, work relationship into something a bit more antagonistic. I enjoyed the drama, but the book made me feel it was all terribly inaccurate!

Overall, the feel of the book and movie are similar. Visually, the movie is arresting–seeing the water crash over the characters has more impact than the black and white photos. Both seek to put you there, reader/viewer, to see the danger, and how, on storm tossed seas, lives were saved and lost.

*

*

*

*

*

*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~end spoilers

Both are worth reading/watching. But if I have to choose ‘better,’ I suppose I’d go with the movie. Despite all the information it left out, the movie has the ability to tell a story in a visual way that really makes it an experience as close to being there as you can get.

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About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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