Buzzwordathon 2022 – Review of ‘A Little Princess’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett

With my Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon underway and the start of May around the corner, it’s time for another Buzzwordathon book review! For April, the theme is ‘Big & Little’. Participants had one of two options: 1. Read a book that has the word ‘big’ or ‘little’ in the title or 2. The title has to feature a word associated with ‘big’ or ‘little’. Because I happen to own a beautiful copy of A Little Princess and because ‘little’ is in the middle of that book’s title, I decided to read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic! The 1905 story has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. However, this is the first time I read it in a novel format.

Here is a screenshot of my copy of A Little Princess. Sorry if the cover’s bottom half appears blurry. I tried to capture how sparkly the cover is. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

While reading A Little Princess, I became nostalgic of the 1995 adaptation, as I have loved that film since its release. So, it was interesting to read how similar and different the movie was from its respective source material. One major difference is how Frances provides explanations for character motivations and situations. I haven’t seen the 1995 adaptation of A Little Princess in years. From what I remember, though, Sara’s dad goes missing during battle and is assumed dead. This provides the catalyst for Sara’s struggles and lost fortune. Looking back on the film, it never made sense, to me, for Sara to lose everything simply because her father was missing in action. If her dad knew there was a chance he could be in danger, wouldn’t he have created a will for Sara? The source material provided a stronger explanation for the lost fortune, as Sara’s father invested in diamond mines, but his money was mishandled. Even though this situation is resolved by the book’s end, the inclusion of these explanations was a strength for the book itself!

Princess tiara image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/ornamental-princess-crowns_1109199.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/gold”>Gold vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Another strength of the book is how Frances used descriptions to flesh out the characters and their world. At the beginning of the story, Sara is referred to as “wise beyond her years”. She’s also described as “intelligent”, “imaginative”, and “courageous”. Interactions between characters and narrations from an anonymous narrator provide proof of those statements. On the first day of class, Miss Minchin gives Sara a French textbook in preparation for an upcoming French lesson. Throughout this scene, Sara tries to explain to the headmistress that she already knows basic French, as she grew up learning the language from her dad. It’s not until the French teacher arrives that he and Miss Minchin discover how advanced Sara is in French. In the 1995 adaptation, important and timeless messages and themes can be found throughout the story. That is also true for the source material! Because Sara imagines she is a princess, she assumes how a princess would behave. This includes assuming how a princess would treat others. After finding some money on the ground, Sara plans to buy some food from a nearby bakery. But just before she enters the bakery, Sara sees a girl who appears to be worse off than herself. With the found money, Sara purchases a set of rolls. But she ends up giving most of the rolls to the aforementioned girl.

Here is one of the full page illustrations that is featured in my copy of A Little Princess. Artwork created by Ethel Franklin Betts and found on https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/A_Little_Princess.

Even though A Little Princess has been near and dear to my heart, I’ll be one of the first readers to admit it is not a perfect or near perfect book. Though this flaw wasn’t consistent throughout the text, there were times when parts of the story were repetitive. A portion of the book’s last chapter provides a great example, as it re-caps almost everything that happened prior to that point. As a reader, I don’t like longer chapters. This can, sometimes, cause a book’s pace to be slower. While A Little Princess’ pace was steady, the book contained longer chapters, with thirteen pages given to the longest chapter. In my copy of the book, there are full page illustrations that bring to life certain parts of the story. I honestly wish these illustrations had a more consistent presence, as they could have broken up some of the chapters. Other than that, though, I still enjoyed reading A Little Princess all these years later! I’m so glad I was given the opportunity to read it again!

Overall score: 4.1 – 4.2 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: Because A Little Princess was published in 1905, some of the words and phrases are reflective of that time, with their context different from today. A few of these words are “queer”, “gay”, “fat”, and “chubby”. At one point in the story, a man from India is referred to as “oriental”. There is also a stereotype about Chinese people included in the text. Again, these parts of the story are reflective of the book’s time; 1905.

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘Private L.A.’ by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan

Three days ago, I reminded readers and followers that my blogathon, the Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, was on its way. For those who aren’t aware, this event highlights stories where a trip doesn’t go according to plan. Whether these trips go hilariously or horrifyingly wrong, they have one thing in common: attempting to reach a desired destination. This leads me to address my selection for March’s Buzzwordathon! The theme this time around is ‘Locations’. Since L.A. (Los Angeles) is a real-life location, I selected Private L.A. by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan!

Here is a screenshot of my copy of Private L.A. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

The first book co-written by James Patterson I had read was Confessions: The Private School Murders. Unfortunately, this book was, for me, a disappointment, as a side mystery monopolized the overall story. Private L.A. avoids that issue by devoting a satisfying amount of time to the novel’s main mystery, which involves the disappearance of a powerful acting couple. This book also highlights a mystery featuring a group of criminals called ‘No Prisoners’. However, the text provides an equal amount of attention to both mysteries, going back and forth between first- and third-person narration. When I purchased my copy of Private L.A., I didn’t know it was the sixth book in a series. Despite this, the book does not heavily rely on events from the previous installments. If a character or situation is introduced in the text, Jack (the protagonist) informs the readers of their significance to him. It should also be noted how Private L.A.’s chapters are shorter in page length. This allows the story’s overall pace to be faster, which works for mysteries taking place in “real time”.

Magnifying glass image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/magnifying-glass-with-fingerprint-in-flat-style_2034684.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/flat”>Flat vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

There are some parts of Private L.A. I felt were unnecessary. Breaking the book up into sections was one of them. Throughout the story, there was a prologue, five separate parts, and an epilogue. I recognize this creative decision was made to group certain areas of the story together. But since the chapters were so short, these sections felt like they were included for the sake of being there. Along with the two aforementioned mysteries, Private L.A. contained two subplots. The first one focused on preparations for the murder trial of Jack’s brother, Tommy. Even though I haven’t read the Private series in its entirety, I’m guessing this is an overarching story for the series. However, I wish this subplot was one of the main plots in another book, in order to receive enough time to reach a resolution.

Courtroom image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/isometric”>Isometric vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The second subplot, revolving around Justine Smith, also didn’t receive a resolution. Justine is a close friend and co-worker of Jack’s. Her subplot is comprised of two narratives; dealing with PTSD and her growing feelings for a man named Paul. While it was interesting to read about Justine coming to terms with her PTSD symptoms, her interactions with Paul were lackluster. Justine’s story grew frustrating after she witnesses Paul interacting with a woman, causing her to assume his relationship status with little to no proof. Honestly, I wish Justine’s story had solely focused on how she dealt with PTSD. Some parts of Private L.A. needed descriptive imagery. When characters from the LAPD and ‘No Prisoners’ were incorporated into the story, I found it difficult to decipher who was who. This is because the characters seemed, more often than not, interchangeable.

Therapy session image created by Pressfoto at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/businesswoman-talking-to-her-psychologist_860909.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Pressfoto – Freepik.com</a>.  Image found at freepik.com.

Prior to this year’s Buzzwordathon, I had never read any books from the Private series. Despite jumping into the middle of the story, I enjoyed Private L.A for what it was! It was interesting to read how each mystery unfolded, as well as seeing how each of the dots connected. But because of this book’s subject matter, the story might not be everyone’s “cup of tea”. I wouldn’t say Private L.A is a “good” book, but it was better than being just fine. It was an intriguing and well-written story that was also a nice introduction to the series. Therefore, I wouldn’t oppose reading more Private books!

Overall score: 3.8 – 3.9 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: As I mentioned in this review, the subject matter in Private L.A. prevents the book from being everyone’s “cup of tea”. This content is the following:

  • Swearing on several occasions
  • References to sex toys on a few occasions
  • In Justine’s subplot, it is mentioned she and Paul had sex. However, this interaction is not described in detail.
  • Several murders take place in this story. Some of them are described in detail.
  • References to children in danger
  • References to a dog in distress (the dog in question is never harmed)
  • The use of slurs on two occasions
  • One member of ‘No Prisoners’ disguises himself as a woman. He only does this in an attempt to carry out his mission.
  • Two chapters that feature sexual assault

Sunset Over Hope Valley: Honesty is the Best Policy

In my article, ‘Top 10 Things I’d Like to See in When Calls the Heart’s Ninth Season’, I talked about wanting to see a brutally honest character make a permanent residence in Hope Valley. One of my reasons was how it, sometimes, feels like the characters are afraid to be honest. But in this episode of When Calls the Heart, the characters were more honest than they’ve been in quite some time! This change was refreshing, whether or not it was intentional! While this honesty wasn’t brutal, it did help resolve some overarching issues. Even though this is only episode three, I’m hoping the honesty remains a consistent aspect throughout the season. Now let’s re-cap this episode of When Calls the Heart!

Just a reminder: If you did not see this episode of When Calls the Heart, there will be spoilers within this re-cap.

When Calls the Heart season nine poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel

Season: 9

Episode: 3

Name: Turn of the Page

Major stories:

Elizabeth’s book has finally been published! Everyone in town is excited to get their copy. But not all news is good news. At the Valley Voice’s office, Rosemary and Lee receive negative reviews for Elizabeth’s book. Even though they don’t want to hurt Elizabeth’s feelings, Lee and Rosemary agree to be honest with her. This decision comes after Rosemary read Lee’s first article, when she discovered his bold writing style. Elizabeth is hurt and disappointed by the reviews, especially the ones that criticize her as a person. But the residents of Hope Valley remind Elizabeth of her recent accomplishment, sharing their praise for her book. Meanwhile, Lucas plans a surprise party in celebration of the book’s publication. But things don’t go according to plan. On the night of the party, Elizabeth would rather share a private moment with Lucas on the saloon’s deck. Lucas remains patient, despite a room full of guests waiting downstairs. After several minutes, Lucas reveals the surprise party to Elizabeth. In an effort to salvage Lucas’ plans, she agrees to act surprised when they arrive in the saloon. Though the party is a success, Rosemary figures out Elizabeth knew about the party. Throughout all of this, Rosemary reads one positive review to Elizabeth. This review is from a widow, explaining how Elizabeth’s book helped her cope with her and her family’s loss. Elizabeth is able to put things into perspective because of that review.

Wyman returns to Hope Valley. This time, though, he is heading the foundry project. Wyman has given up on trying to purchase the saloon, as Lucas has decided not to sell. Despite this, Lucas and Bill still have their concerns over Wyman. One evening, at the saloon, Bill sees Wyman talking with Mike. In an attempt to steer Mike away from danger, Bill warns him about Wyman at Elizabeth’s party. Mike reassures Bill and tells him he knows about Wyman’s shake-ups, especially those that happened last season. Later in the episode, Mike pays Bill a visit. He reminds Bill how seriously he is taking his mayoral position. Mike also tells Bill that he needs to move out of the office within a week. Meanwhile, Henry is still considering his future with the petroleum company. In an effort to assist Henry with his decision, Lucas suggests Henry should read Elizabeth’s book. Toward the end of the episode, Lucas calls a woman named Janette and asks for information about Wyman.

Old-fashioned books image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/books-seamless-pattern_1539033.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Minor stories:

Nathan is off bed-rest and now has his arm in a sling. While his recovery has been successful, his attempts to reconnect with Newton have not. Bill shares with Nathan that Mei has been the only person to approach Newton. When Nathan visits the pharmacy to express his frustrations to Mei, she tells him he has to be patient. Later in the episode, Nathan visits Newton. Mei also pays the horse a visit. Nathan wonders if the accident from the previous episode was his fault. He also questions if the accident was some sort of sign. Mei reminds him that he and Newton have been traumatized to some extent. She also states that, because Nathan doesn’t remember the accident, he doesn’t have to relive his trauma. The day after Elizabeth’s party, Nathan goes to Ned’s mercantile to pick up a hat and Ally’s letter. Florence notices how Nathan is looking at Mei through the window. She suggests Nathan may try to start another courtship. But Nathan denies that suggestion.

Joseph notices how Cooper doesn’t want to spend much time with him. He is still concerned over Cooper’s behavior and his lack of desire to attend church. Minnie suggests Cooper tag along with Joseph so father and son can spend more time together. Taking Minnie’s words to heart, Joseph decides to bring Cooper on a building project. Since Rosemary wanted to add another window to her office, Joseph creates a new window for her. He and Cooper carve out new window space and insert the window. But Lee points out the window was placed backwards. After Joseph states he and Cooper will fix the window the following day, he confesses to Rosemary and Lee that he purposefully put the window backwards so Cooper could spend more time with his father. On their way home, Joseph asks Cooper what is wrong. Cooper confides in his dad by revealing he feels guilty. Because he was sick with measles, like Angela, Cooper wonders why he didn’t become blind as well. Joseph and Minnie contemplate Cooper’s guilt while sitting alone at church. They reflect on how a doctor refused to treat Angela long before they moved to Hope Valley. Minnie and Joseph also take note of how Angela never questioned her disability. What they agree on is teaching their children the importance of kindness and on keeping their home in Hope Valley.

Small, western town image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Some thoughts to consider:

  • If you create anything subjective, such as writing a book, you should know ahead of time your work is not going to be everyone’s “cup of tea”. This allows you, as a creator, to handle criticism and learn from the perspective of others. If Elizabeth had known this before she published her book, she might have taken her negative reviews in stride. I blame Helen and Lucas for not better preparing Elizabeth for that part of the process. Sure, Helen’s letter to Elizabeth and the editing pencil were nice gestures. But as an editor, it was Helen’s responsibility to educate Elizabeth on the publishing world.
  •  As much as I appreciate the honesty within this episode, the episode itself was a “filler” story. The plots and character development didn’t progress forward that much. In fact, the stories weren’t that interesting. Yes, we received some closure on Cooper’s story. But it did not receive a resolution. The commercial for the fourth episode makes it seem like the upcoming stories will be exciting. This has me questioning why that episode wasn’t the third episode?
  • As I said in this re-cap, Nathan wondered if the accident was some sort of sign. After he said this, it made me wonder if he was considering stepping down from the Mounties? If this is the case, does that mean Hope Valley will get their first female Mountie? It will be interesting to see how Nathan’s story turns out.
Sunset image created by Photoangel at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Photoangel – Freepik.com</a>.<a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/red-sunset-clouds-over-trees_1254327.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What are your thoughts on this episode? Do you think the next episode will be more interesting than this one? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun in Hope Valley!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘Wish You Well’ by David Baldacci

Another month means another Buzzwordathon review! For February, the theme is ‘Pronouns & Possessive Pronouns’. Because one of the eligible words is ‘you’, my selection is Wish You Well by David Baldacci! Prior to participating in Buzzwordathon, I have read The Christmas Train, which I loved. I also enjoyed its respective film adaptation from Hallmark Hall of Fame. So, when I purchased Wish You Well at a garage sale back in 2019, I thought I might like it. But, in all honesty, I found the book just ok. One of the reasons is about 80% of the book is a “slice of life” story, a type of story I, personally, don’t find as interesting as other stories. Since some parts of the “slice of life” story revolve around farm life, there were times when Wish You Well felt repetitive. Another way the overall story felt repetitive was when the protagonist, Lou, runs away anytime something bad happens. Lou is named after her great-grandmother, Louisa. Because of how similar these names are, it was sometimes difficult to tell which character David was referring to. A few coincidences that seemed too convenient also hurt this book’s case, such as how a restaurant in the small town of Dickens just so happened to be named after the state Lou and her brother, Oz, are from. Wish You Well’s page count is 399. For a story of this nature, I thought this page count made the book longer than necessary.

Here is a screenshot of my copy of Wish You Well. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

 David’s writing style in Wish You Well is lyrical, to the point where it almost feels flowery. So, if you’re not paying attention to the text, you might find yourself confused by what is happening in the story. Fortunately, I never found this to be a problem, as the story itself is straight forward. David uses the chosen writing style in his favor, putting that effort toward his book’s world building and character development! The way locations are described help the reader picture them in their mind. One example is when David writes about a train station as being “a glorified pine-studded lean-to”. Through his writing, David is able to create characters that are unique to one another. With the descriptive details he chooses, a character like Louisa, for example, sounds as if David is talking about a real-life individual. There are tense moments sprinkled into the story, which held my interest. A court case that takes place toward the end of the book was a tense part of the story that held higher stakes. Because I had never read Wish You Well before, I was curious of the court case’s outcome.

Sunny autumn landscape picture created by Kotkoa at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/autumn-forest_1436222.htm’>Designed by Kotkoa</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Kotkoa – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

In the afterword material from my copy of the book, David explained how learning about his family’s history was his inspiration for Wish You Well. From the sounds of that, it seems like his intentions were good and his heart was in the right place. But I wish David had written a memoir about his family’s history and his journey through learning about that history, instead of penning a fictional version of it. While reading Wish You Well, I could see how the book inspired a non-profit organization of the same name; the Wish You Well Foundation. However, as I stated earlier, I thought this book was just ok. In the future, I do plan to seek out more of David’s literary work, especially his mysteries/thrillers, as I haven’t read any of those yet. Hopefully, the next book of David’s I read, as well as March’s Buzzwordathon pick, is stronger than Wish You Well.

Overall score: 3 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: Wish You Well contains some content that some readers may find offensive. This content is the following:

  • One character who uses racial slurs on more than one occasion*
  • The use of the word “hobos”*
  • A chapter focusing on a woman giving birth
  • At least one mention of an animal passing away
  • At least one mention of a child passing away
  • A child smoking on a few occasions
  • The use of swear words on some occasions
  • References to child abuse
  • References to a car accident

(* — This is in relation to the book’s time period, 1940)

Waiting to Board: The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon!

As I start this blogathon announcement, I’d like to thank Gill, from Realweegiemidget Reviews, and Rebecca, from Taking Up Room. If they hadn’t chosen Red Corner for me to review for their Odd Or Even Blogathon, I wouldn’t have found an inspiration for this year’s event! While looking back on the 1997 movie, I thought about all the movies or television show episodes where a trip doesn’t go according to plan. Realizing how many I could think of off the top of my head, my blogathon theme was born! Like past events, The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon invites participants to get creative by reviewing, analyzing, or discussing a movie, tv show episode, piece of music, stage play, book, artwork, or any other entertainment media relating to this year’s theme! If you’re interested in taking a (figurative) trip from April 29th to May 2nd, keep reading as I share my blogathon’s official rules!

Pink travel backpack image created by Pikisuperstar at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/watercolor”>Watercolor vector created by Pikisuperstar – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/travel-lettering-with-watercolor-pink-backpack_2686676.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon’s Official Rules

  1. Please be respectful toward other participants and the subject(s) you’re writing about.
  2. Please let me know in advance if you plan on publishing your post(s) earlier or later than the allotted time-frame (April 29th to May 2nd).
  3. Only new posts will be eligible for this year’s event.
  4. Because this year’s theme is so broad, I am not allowing duplicate entries.
  5. There is a three-entry limit for each participant.
  6. All entries must be original work.
  7. No travels are too big or small. Your entry can revolve around trips as extensive as week or month long excursions or as simple as a trip to the grocery store.
  8. Domestic (within the United States), international, or galactic travel is eligible for your entry/entries.
  9. Entries will be placed in one of two categories; hilariously wrong or horrifyingly wrong. Hilariously wrong means the results of a trip gone wrong are supposed to make you laugh. Some examples are the Walt Disney World episode of The Middle, A Very Merry Mix-Up, and Home Alone 1 and/or 2. Horrifyingly wrong means the results of a trip gone wrong are supposed to horrify you. Examples include Red Corner, the Touched by An Angel episode, ‘The Spirit of Liberty Moon’, and Taken.
  10. If you’re interested in participating, please share your idea(s) in the comment section below.
  11. Pick one of the four banners and let others know about The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, so they can join in on the fun!

Hilariously Wrong

Rebecca from Taking Up Room — Review of Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940)

Hamlette from Hamlette’s Soliloquy — Review of French Kiss (1995)

Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews — Review of Our Ladies (2019)

J-Dub from Dubsism — Review of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)

Ruth from Silver Screenings — Review of Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)

Classic Movie Muse from The Classic Movie Muse — Review of The Great Race (1965)

Crystal from In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood — Review of The Long, Long Trailer (1954)

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Horrifyingly Wrong

Evaschon98 from Classics and Craziness — Review of Flightplan (2005)

J-Dub from Dubsism — Review of Airport (1970)

Debbie from Moon In Gemini — Review of Train to Busan (2016)

Eric from Diary of A Movie Maniac — Review of The Lost Weekend (1945)

Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express
Created by Sally Silverscreen at Adobe Creative Cloud Express

Have fun at the blogathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Buzzwordathon 2022: Review of ‘How to Write Good’ by Ryan Higa

Earlier this month, I announced I was participating in this year’s Buzzwordathon. In that announcement, I said I would write reviews for the books I read during this readathon, as a way to stay motivated throughout the year. Because I just finished reading my pick for January, it’s time for the first review of Buzzwordathon! This month’s theme is ‘Who, What, When, Where, Why, or How’, meaning my choice had to have one of these words in the title. With that said, I chose How to Write Good by Ryan Higa!

Here is a screenshot of my copy of How to Write Good. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

In this book, the Youtuber explains how to write a book by using parts of his life to elaborate these steps. As an avid reader and someone who has an interest in writing, I already knew what these steps were. However, it was interesting to read them from the perspective of a non-professional writer. The parts of his life that Ryan shares are those that were brought up in his ‘Draw My Life’ video from this Youtube channel. In How to Write Good, these parts are explained in further detail, which allows the reader to gain insight into Ryan’s thought process and sense of humor. Speaking of humor, the comedy that Ryan became well-known for on the internet does appear in this book. One area where his humor is present is the consistent comic strips. How to Write Good features comic strips of Ryan and his ghostwriter, Sarah, who appears in these strips as a literal ghost. This play on the word ‘ghostwriter’ shows the cleverness that can be found in Ryan’s Youtube videos!

Here is a screenshot of one of How to Write Good‘s comic strips, to illustrate the point I make in the next paragraph. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

As I already said, How to Write Good contains comic strips revolving around Ryan and Sarah. Even though these illustrations are good, I wish they were more colorful. The comic strips in this book are coated in a predominantly blue hue, with pops of red every now and then. Because a Youtuber co-wrote How to Write Good, I was expecting the book to be filled with mixed-media. Along with the text, I imagined Ryan’s words paired with photos, illustrations, and links to his videos. Unfortunately, there were only two photos within the 224 pages. The only video that is referenced in this book is the aforementioned ‘Draw My Life’ video. Despite these flaws, I did enjoy reading How to Write Good! It was informative and insightful, while being entertaining along the way. If you’re a fan of Ryan’s comedy or want to learn about writing from a different perspective, then this is the book for you!

Overall score: 4 out of 5 stars

Have fun during Buzzwordathon!

Sally Silverscreen

Disclaimer: How to Write Good contains a few slurs and the topic of suicidal thoughts. However, these subjects are brought up in relation to the bullying Ryan experienced in his childhood and middle school years.

My Conclusion to the National Read a Book Day Double Feature

For the remaining days of October, I will try my best to “clean house”. This means I will be publishing articles that I’ve been meaning to post for some time. One of these posts is my conclusion to last month’s National Read a Book Day Double Feature! In September, I sought to answer the question, Would these adaptations [of Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford] encourage the viewers to read their source material or any other book? Now that I’ve seen and reviewed both films, I’ve come to the realization how difficult it is to answer this question.

Library image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stack-of-books-on-library-desk_2509490.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/school”>School image created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

While reading some of Saint Maybe’s reviews on IMDB, one of them stood out to me. Its title read “Made me want to read the book”. Written by someone named bkgmoonstar, they claim the movie was missing too much detail. After they read the novel, they said “the movie was actually quite faithful to the book”. This review represents the opinion of just one reader. There are many readers who choose to read a given book for various reasons. They also have their own preferences and literary interests.

Interior view of library image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business”>Business vector created by macrovector – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Like readers, there are many movie-goers with their own tastes in cinema. Some of the films of their choosing may be an adaptation. But even if they enjoy an adaptation, it doesn’t mean they’ll reach for the source material. This decision could be made for a variety of reasons. When I asked my aforementioned question in my reviews of Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford, I wasn’t really able to give a definitive answer. That’s because the only reader I can speak for is myself. Therefore, if I had to answer the question, I think it all depends who you ask.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

If you want to read the other articles associated with this double feature, I’ll provide the links here:

The National Read a Book Day’s Double Feature Introduction

Take 3: Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe Review (National Read a Book Day Double Feature Part 1)

Take 3: At Home in Mitford Review (National Read a Book Day Double Feature Part 2)

Take 3: The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Review

Whenever I think of Dorian Gray as a character, Stuart Townsend’s portrayal in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comes to mind. While I’ve never seen that film, I did watch a video review of it years ago. However, I know that, sometimes, no singular portrayal of a given character is the “end all, be all” when it comes to story-telling. This is one of the reasons why I chose to review the 1945 adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The other reason is Peter Lawford’s involvement in the project. Once again, I am participating in the Peter Lawford Blogathon, hosted by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes. Last year, I wrote about 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven. At the time, I was not familiar with Peter’s filmography. Now that I have seen at least one of his movies, I had a starting point for which film to choose next! Before Dorian’s portrait transforms on us, let’s get this review started!

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Loew’s Inc.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: I haven’t seen many of Peter Lawford’s films. But based on 1960’s Ocean’s Eleven and 1945’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, it seems like he can be found in movies with larger ensembles. When it comes to the 1945 title, I was disappointed by this, as I was hoping to see more of his performance. Nevertheless, Peter did do a good job with the material he was given! Portraying David Stone, a man interested in courting Gladys Hallward, he resembled the youth Dorian himself desperately sought after. Despite appearing in a handful of scenes, David’s concern of Gladys felt genuine. You can hear it in the inflection of Peter’s voice and the expressions on his face. In a way, these things made David seem like a “voice of reason”.

During the film’s opening credits, I was surprised to discover Angela Lansbury also starred in The Picture of Dorian Gray. But similar to Peter Lawford, she also appeared in a handful of scenes. Despite this, I enjoyed seeing her portrayal of Sibyl Vane! Within this film, she sang a song called “The Little Yellow Bird”. It was nice to hear a musical performance from Angela, as I feel her singing abilities are underrated. When it came to her acting performance, Angela carried her character with a youthfulness I haven’t noticed in her other roles I’ve seen. Her expressions were more subtle, but worked for her character. Another actor who had subtle expressions was Hurd Hatfield. I’m not familiar with his acting work. But based on his portrayal of the titular character, he carried himself with a sense of professionalism. Hurd did, however, have very expressive eyes. At one point during the story, Dorian makes a mistake. When he realizes what he did, his eyes grow wide with alarm. Meanwhile, Hurd still shows a composure that he partly gave to Dorian, which maintains consistency.

The lessons and morals: Since this film premiered in 1945, that means it had to follow the Breen Code guidelines. The Picture of Dorian Gray certainly obeys those guidelines, but it also serves up some good lessons and morals. Toward the beginning of the story, Lord Henry tells Dorian how lucky he is to be young and attractive. He also tells Dorian to not squander his youth. These pieces of conversation can be used as lessons to appreciate the things you have and to not take anything for granted. Certain events in Dorian’s life highlight these lessons well. Another idea that is addressed in this script is actions speaking louder than words. This can be seen throughout Dorian’s relationship with Sibyl. While I won’t spoil what happens, I will say something comes up that relates to the aforementioned idea.

The cinematography: A surprising element in The Picture of Dorian Gray was the cinematography. This is because of how creative and well filmed it was! My favorite use of cinematography was when Sibyl visits Dorian’s house. As Dorian is playing the piano, Sibyl enters his study. But before she walks through the doorway, you can only see Sibyl’s shadow. Even when she does appear in the doorway, Sibyl’s face isn’t shown until she reaches Dorian’s piano. That was a good way to building anticipation for Sibyl’s appearance. A filming technique that appeared in several moments of the film was framing a scene as if the camera was following a character or hiding from them. A great example is when Dorian was placing a letter in his fireplace. The camera is positioned inside the fireplace while he is burning the letter. It provides the illusion of the audience watching from the outside looking in.

The 2nd Annual Peter Lawford Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Hoofers and Honeys of the Classic Movie Era/KN Winiarski Writes

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited use of Technicolor: In the movie’s opening credits, it was mentioned that Technicolor was used in the movie. This made me excited to see how Technicolor would be utilized in the story. While I wasn’t expecting as much Technicolor as in The Wizard of Oz, I was hoping it would be consistently featured throughout the film. Unfortunately, that is not the case for The Picture of Dorian Gray. The Technicolor was applied to Dorian’s painting. But it was only used three times during the whole movie. I think if Dorian’s painting had been consistently presented in Technicolor, it would have highlighted the importance of the painting within the story.

The painting is kind of an afterthought: For those who don’t know, a MacGuffin can be an object that progresses a story forward. In the case of The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s painting is that story’s MacGuffin. However, its presence wasn’t as significant as I expected. In the script, the state of Dorian’s relationships is given more focus than the painting. In fact, the painting is sometimes not shown on-screen. This made the painting itself kind of seem like an afterthought.

Dorian’s confusing choices: There were times when Dorian made choices that left me confused. One of these choices took place during his relationship with Sibyl. Throughout that relationship, Dorian appears to truly love her. He even seriously considers marrying Sibyl. But, out of the blue, Dorian changes his mind. Even the build-up toward that moment was confusing, making it difficult to interpret what happened. I realize all of that connects with the lessons I mentioned earlier. However, Dorian’s sudden change in attitude and choices was, to me, confusing.

Paint palette image created by Freepik at freepik.com <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/hand-drawn-artsy-tools_836777.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/hand”>Hand vector created by Freepik</a> Image found at freepik.com

My overall impression:

There are movies that have fallen short of my expectations. Not all of these films have been bad. However, I was left desiring more from them. The Picture of Dorian Gray has now become one of those movies. Before watching this adaptation, I was familiar with the premise of this story. But that premise led me to believe the film would be more profound and thought-provoking than it was. The script did provide good lessons and morals. But I’m not left contemplating any deeper meaning on any particular theme. I was also disappointed by Peter Lawford’s limited appearance in the movie. Peter’s involvement in the project is one of the reasons why I chose to review it in the first place. Even though I liked his portrayal of David, I was expecting to see him receive a larger spotlight than in Ocean’s Eleven. If the Peter Lawford Blogathon returns for a third year, I’ll try to find a film where Peter was a leading actor.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen any adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray? Would you like for me to read the book? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: At Home in Mitford Review (National Read a Book Day Double Feature Part 2)

Happy National Read a Book Day! I want to let you know there will be spoilers for both the book and movie in this review. If you want to check out this double feature’s introduction, you can visit this link:

The National Read a Book Day’s Double Feature Introduction

At Home in Mitford poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel
1. How did you come to know of this film?

I remember when Hallmark’s adaptation was announced four years ago. The biggest news associated with the project was the casting of Cameron Mathison and Andie MacDowell as Father Tim Kavanagh and Cynthia Coppersmith. This news made fans upset, due to the fact both Andie and Cameron were younger than their characters were described in the book. Their disapproval of the casting led the movie to be one of the lowest viewed films on Hallmark Channel that year, with 1.34 million viewers. I also remember the movie didn’t receive an encore presentation, as is customary for the majority of Hallmark productions. While I’m not sure if this information is accurate, I have heard Jan Karon, the author of the Mitford series, didn’t promote the film.

2. How did you acquire this movie’s respective source material?

Two years ago, I purchased a used copy of At Home in Mitford at a library book sale. I became interested in reading the series before the adaptation’s premiere, as I heard so many good things about it. Since I never got to read any of the books before the movie aired, I was curious to see how different the book was from the film. At the sale, they had the whole series available for purchase. But since I didn’t know if I would like the series, I just bought the first book.

3. Have you read Jan Karon‘s work before? What are your thoughts on her writing?

Like I mentioned in the introduction, I have never read anything by Jan Karon before. So, I didn’t know what to expect from the book. Jan’s emphasis on detail was one of At Home in Mitford’s strengths! An example is when things are being listed off. In the book, Father Tim and Cynthia go to the movies. Within a paragraph, Jan takes the time to mention the snacks they purchased, saying “they went into the empty row with a box of popcorn, a Diet Sprite, a Coke, and a box of Milk Duds”. It’s details like these that make the characters and the story itself feel realistic.

Similar to Saint Maybe, At Home in Mitford is mostly a “slice of life” story. But there are a series of mysteries that are drawn out throughout the text. Because this book has elements of mystery, but is not a mystery novel, the overall sense of urgency was low. At times, it felt like there were too many characters and storylines. Mitford seemed like any other small town I’ve seen in Hallmark’s programming. While reading this book, I kept asking myself, “How is Mitford any different from Cedar Cove? Or Chesapeake Shores?” Maybe if I had read At Home in Mitford before watching any of those programs, I would think differently. But, at the end of the day, I thought this book was a fine, wholesome story.

4. Was the movie different from its source material? If so, how?

Even though there were some similarities between the movie and the book, At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation contained more differences. Some characters were either omitted or changed from the text. One of these characters was Olivia Davenport. In the film, she was a parishioner who was seeking Tim’s guidance for her rocky marriage. Her presence in the movie was very limited, which is different from the book. In the novel, Olivia was a part of At Home in Mitford’s ensemble cast of characters. Her storyline was one of the most important, as she desperately needed a heart transplant. Olivia also helped Mitford’s doctor, Hoppy Harper, move forward from the loss of his deceased wife. As I said in answer number three, I, at times, felt like there were too many characters and storylines in the book. Therefore, I don’t fault Hallmark for leaving out certain parts of the source material. However, if the adaptation’s creative team knew they were going to include one of the book’s characters in their script, then they should have given Olivia a greater significance in the film.

Despite the film adaptation’s differences from the book, some of them had purpose. The novel and film featured a character named Marge Owen. While she became pregnant in both versions of the story, she was given a greater importance in the movie. The book never revealed her occupation, where the film shows Marge owning her own bookstore. She also provides friendship and guidance to Cynthia in the adaptation. As a way to overcome her writer’s block, Cynthia volunteers to restore the church’s paintings. In Jan Karon’s book, Cynthia wasn’t involved with the church. She does attend church services, but she doesn’t go the extra mile for the parish. The movie version of Cynthia tells Tim that she wants to give back. Cynthia’s decision not only gives her a stronger connection to the church, but it also shows how someone living their faith can come in different forms.

This is the copy of At Home in Mitford I purchased two years ago. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
5. Do you think the movie was better than the book or was the book better than the movie?

When it comes to At Home in Mitford, I can’t give a yes or no answer. So, I’ll say it like this: As a movie, At Home in Mitford is a fine, run-of-the-mill Hallmark Channel production, with some of the film’s changes improving upon the book. But as an adaptation, it feels like the network was trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. The first book in Jar Karon’s series was published before Hallmark Channel came into existence. By the time the adaptation was filmed, Hallmark was already well versed in their formula. Because the adaptation’s creative team tried so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into Hallmark’s brand of film-making, the story was watered down. If Hallmark were serious about faithfully adapting At Home in Mitford, they should have adapted it into a television show, as that is how the book read to me. I also think Jan Karon herself should have been one of the movie’s screen-writers.

6. Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford share some similarities, such as how both books are written by women. Are there any other similarities you can think of?

Like I said in answer number three, At Home in Mitford is mostly a “slice of life” story. While there are mysteries within the text, the mysteries themselves feel lower in stakes. In the book, Father Tim finds some stolen jewels in an urn. Even though these jewels were connected to an international crime, Jan finds a way to connect this crime directly to Mitford. Father Tim wonders if his antique shop owner friend, Andrew Gregory, may have imported the jewels by hiding them in antique furniture. However, the culprit was a man named George Gaynor, a criminal on-the-run who found solace in Father Tim’s religious wisdom. Though George was arrested for his crime, he received the opportunity to become baptized. Father Tim even kept in touch with George after he left Mitford.

Saint Maybe is also a “slice of life” story featuring several mysteries. Similar to At Home in Mitford, the stakes of these mysteries were lower. Back in my review of Saint Maybe’s film adaptation, I mentioned how Ian discovered the identity of Agatha and Thomas’ father. Because this information was discovered long after Ian agreed to help raise Agatha and Thomas, there wasn’t a strong sense of urgency to do anything about the situation. He doesn’t even tell his family what he found. In fact, after speaking with Agatha and Thomas’ maternal grandmother, the movie version of Ian says to himself, “Thank goodness I didn’t find this information sooner”.

7. Should Hallmark adapt Jan Karon‘s other work? If so, why?

If At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation had received better reception from the viewers, then I’d be curious to see Hallmark adapt the other books in the Mitford series. Because that didn’t happen, Hallmark would have difficulty adapting Jan Karon’s other work, as most of her books are Mitford related. But since Hallmark created a few animated films in the past, I could honestly see them adapting Miss Fannie’s Hat or Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny. Similar to properties like Hoops and Yo-yo, Hallmark could create merchandise related to these stories as well. I’ve never read Miss Fannie’s Hat or Jeremy: The Tale of An Honest Bunny. But as long as Jan herself is involved with the project, I’d be fine with Hallmark adapting these books.

8. Is there anything about At Home in Mitford you liked or didn’t like?

I’ve heard complaints from Mitford fans about how different Dooley is in the film compared to the book.  While I do agree about Dooley being very different in the movie, I actually liked the movie version of his character. Dooley was sometimes the comic-relief in the story. His grandfather, Russell, even called him “a prankster”. My favorite scene was when Dooley removed the ‘Dog Found’ posters almost immediately after Father Tim posted them. Throughout the film, Father Tim actively sought out Barnabas’ former pet parent. He spreads the word about the dog’s current whereabouts by posting ‘Dog Found’ posters throughout Mitford. Since Dooley doesn’t want to see Barnabas go away, he removes these posters behind Father Tim’s back. This scene was hilarious because of its believability.

Compared to the book, At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation felt formulaic. Like I said in answer number five, the movie’s creative team tried so hard to fit At Home in Mitford into Hallmark’s brand of film-making. Instead, the story followed the same beats and tropes/cliches as other Hallmark titles. The film included an adaptation exclusive character named Jack Emery. Throughout the story, he embodied the “business person is a jerk and/or out of touch” cliché, with his sole purpose being the worse datable candidate compared to Father Tim. At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation was released in 2017, two years after All of My Heart. The 2015 movie was one of the network’s most notable films to challenge the aforementioned cliché. Therefore, it made At Home in Mitford kind of seem outdated by comparison.

Old-fashioned books image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/books-seamless-pattern_1539033.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.
9. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

Similar to Saint Maybe, religion/faith was downplayed in At Home in Mitford’s film adaptation. Both Father Tim and Cynthia mentioned they were Episcopalian. In answer number four, I talked about how Cynthia volunteers to restore the church’s paintings. Even though several scenes took place inside the church, we don’t see any characters worshipping within its walls. The tail end of Father Tim’s sermon was shown as well. The book showed how religion/faith played a role in Father Tim’s everyday life. He quoted a Scripture passage to fit almost any situation, even using Scripture to discipline Barnabas. Father Tim also turned toward everyday life to find inspiration for his sermons. Because Hallmark gave us Signed, Sealed, Delivered and has incorporated faith into When Calls the Heart, I’m surprised the network chose to tone down the religion/faith in the At Home in Mitford movie. But, once again, it feels like a missed opportunity.

10. Would At Home in Mitford encourage viewers to read either its source material or any other book?

Because of how many differences are found in the adaptation, I think it might encourage some viewers to check the book out. I can only speak for myself, but this is what inspired me to read the first book in the Mitford series. When I started reading At Home in Mitford, I could immediately tell how different each story was. I said in answer number five that the book read more like a television show. This is because the story was abundant with characters and storylines, as well as storylines being drawn-out. If viewers find themselves watching more tv series than movies, then the book might be for them.

11. After watching this movie, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

Because the stories in At Home in Mitford revolve around the citizens of a small town, I can see why Hallmark would want to adapt Jan Karon’s series. At the time of the film adaptation’s release, small towns were an exhausted backdrop in Hallmark’s productions, with most of their characters being former or current small-town residents. But it seems like the network was so eager to potentially start a new series, that they lost sight of who this project was intended for. Excluding Jan Karon from the creative process doesn’t help Hallmark’s case. Their inability to adapt pre-existing material, At Home in Mitford in this case, shows how creatively dependent they’ve become on the rom-com genre. In my honest opinion, this movie was made a decade or two too late. Since Hallmark spent so much time showing how every small town was special, Mitford wasn’t given the opportunity to stand out. This movie should have been released either as a Hallmark Hall of Fame production prior to 2010 or on Hallmark Channel between 2001 to 2007.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe Review (National Read a Book Day Double Feature Part 1)

Happy National Read a Book Day! I want to let you know there will be spoilers for both the book and movie in this review. If you want to check out this double feature’s introduction, you can visit this link:

The National Read a Book Day’s Double Feature Introduction

Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe poster created by Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions and CBS
1. How did you come to know of this film?

If you’ve been following my blog, you would know that my least favorite Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is Back When We Were Grownups. Like a lot of Hallmark Hall of Fame productions, the 2004 film was based on pre-existing source material; a novel written by Anne Tyler. Over the years, I discovered that two other Hallmark Hall of Fame movies have been based on Anne’s work: Breathing Lessons and Saint Maybe. Before this double feature, I had never seen either film. All I knew about Hallmark’s 1998 adaptation was that a man took in a deceased relative’s children and that the story had something to do with forgiveness. I also remember how the film would sometimes air during Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ‘Miracles of Christmas’ marathon.

2. How did you acquire this movie’s respective source material?

I purchased a second-hand copy of Saint Maybe at an estate sale earlier this year. As soon as I saw the book on a shelf, it reminded me of my Hallmark Hall of Fame Reading Challenge. Back in 2019, I created a reading challenge based on the books or plays that were adapted into Hallmark Hall of Fame titles. Since I’d like to read as many of these works as I realistically can, I purchased the book with that intention.

3. Have you read Anne Tyler‘s work before? What are thoughts on her writing?

As I said in the introduction, this was my first time reading anything by Anne Tyler. Based on what I read and based on what I saw in Back When We Were Grownups, I’m going to guess her forte is writing about larger families that are somewhat dysfunctional. Out of those two stories, I liked Saint Maybe more than Back When We Were Grownups. There was heart incorporated in the narrative and the Bedloe family had a legitimate reason for their dysfunctionality. I was also surprised by the inclusion of religion/faith. But I didn’t like how the chapters were too long. What Anne should have done instead is write shorter chapters and include them in separate sections for each character. I, personally, am not a fan of “slice of life” stories. About eighty percent of Saint Maybe is just that: a “slice of life” story. With all that said, I thought the novel was well-meaning and fine.

4. Was the movie different from its source material? If so, how?

For the most part, Saint Maybe was faithful to the source material, especially when it came to the most important parts of the story. But there were changes found in the adaptation. One of these changes was Agatha’s personality. In the book, when Agatha was introduced in the story as a young child, she came across as distant and matter-of-fact. As she grows up, Agatha comes to despise religion, as she feels religion was forced upon her life. The movie version of Agatha adopts the personality Thomas had in the book, coming across as sweet and mild-mannered. She grows up to be a friendly doctor who has no known opinion on religion. While she does criticize The Church of the Second Chance, she does this because she wants Ian to live his best life. Her criticism has nothing to do with religion itself.

Another difference between the movie and its source material is how Ian figures out the identity of Agatha and Thomas’ father. Agatha, in the book, is very protective over a jewelry box she claims belonged to her mother. Ian stumbles across this box by accident and finds Agatha’s and Thomas’ birth certificates among the jewelry and other items. These certificates reveal their father’s last name; Dulsimore. Ian learns this information differently in the movie. Similar to the book, Thomas and Agatha own a doll named Dulcimer. While Agatha is at Ian’s parents’ house, the audience can see her trying to remove something from the back of the doll. However, this information isn’t revealed until later in the movie. When the Bedloe family hires Rita diCarlo to organize their house, a lot of items end up getting thrown out. One of these items was Dulcimer the doll. As Ian is leaving the house, he sees the doll in a garbage bag. When he picks it up, he finds a slip of paper hidden in the doll’s back, revealing the doll’s name was also the last name of Agatha and Thomas’ father.

5. Do you think the movie was better than the book or was the book better than the movie?

Like its source material, I thought the movie adaptation of Saint Maybe was fine. Therefore, this is a difficult question to answer. But I will try to answer this question as best as I can by saying this: If you want to see a story about a family dealing with a personal tragedy, I’d recommend the movie. This is because the movie gets straight to the story’s point a lot sooner than the book did. If you’re interested in a story where the protagonist overcomes guilt and sin through religion/faith, I’d recommend the book. As I’ll explain later in this review, the movie didn’t feature religion/faith as much as in the book.

This is the copy of Saint Maybe I purchased earlier this year. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
6. Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford share some similarities, such as how both books were published in the 1990s. Are there any other similarities you can think of?

As I said in answer number three, I was surprised by the inclusion of religion/faith in Saint Maybe. Even though the movie and its source material are titled Saint Maybe, I wasn’t expecting religion/faith to play a large role in the text. But religion/faith is a cornerstone of both Saint Maybe and At Home in Mitford.  References to God, the Bible, and Christianity can be found in each book. However, the way both authors incorporated these ideas into their stories is very distinct.Throughout Saint Maybe, the congregation of The Church of the Second Chance obeyed a rule that forbade them from consuming sugar. While this rule seems ridiculous on the surface, it is used as a metaphor for sin. Reverend Emmett, the leader of The Church of the Second Chance, explains that if one actively avoids sugar, they are actively avoiding sin. If someone tries to make excuses for consuming sugar, they are making excuses for committing sin.

7. Should Hallmark adapt Anne Tyler‘s other work? If so, why?

As of early September 2021, Hallmark has not made any announcements on whether they are bringing back the Hallmark Hall of Fame collection. But if Hallmark does choose to create more Hallmark Hall of Fame titles and would like to adapt more of Anne Tyler’s novels, there are plenty of stories for them to choose from. According to Goodreads, twenty-four books written by Anne Tyler have not been adapted into a Hallmark production. Since I’ve never read any of those books, I can’t say which one is more deserving of receiving an adaptation. But if I had to pick at least one title Hallmark should adapt into a film, it would either be A Patchwork Planet or Digging to America. This is based on each book’s synopsis, as I have not read either book.

Personally, I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing Hallmark adapt more of Anne Tyler’s stories. Based on my experience with Saint Maybe, the movie was mostly faithful to the source material. So, with the right creative team involved, maybe another Anne Tyler story could be lucky enough to receive similar treatment. Because three of Anne Tyler’s books have been adapted into Hallmark Hall of Fame titles, it appears Hallmark has had a good working relationship with the author. I’m not sure how much creative control Anne had on either film. But if Hallmark wants to work with Anne again, I’m pretty sure an agreement between both parties could be reached.

8. Is there anything about Saint Maybe you liked or didn’t like?

Saint Maybe is a story that takes place over the course of several years. In the movie, there were subtle clues revealing which time period was portrayed on screen. One establishing shot showed a boy riding his banana seat bicycle down the sidewalk. This brief image indicated how that specific part of the story took place in the 1970s, as banana seat bicycles were popular within that decade. During the movie, Ian adopted a pair of large rimmed glasses. Because this style of glasses was common in the 1980s, Ian’s accessory is very telling of how much time had passed since the beginning of the film. Movies are a visual form of story-telling. So, I liked how the film’s creative team took the initiative to show the passage of time in a creative way.

 My favorite part of the book was when Daphne tried to set up Ian with her fifth-grade teacher, Miss Pennington. It was in this chapter that I started to like Daphne as a character, her free-spirited personality being introduced to me as the reader. Unfortunately, this part of the book wasn’t translated to the screen. I was disappointed by the omission of the book’s seventh chapter. The audience could have witnessed the evolution of Daphne’s personality, gaining an understanding of why she became who she was by the end of the story. Instead, there was a huge time jump from five-year-old girl to free-spirited woman. Because of missing context, this left questions without answers. But I recognize there is only so much story you can tell in eighty-four minutes.

Antique car image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/red-classic-car_803652.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.
9. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?

While I didn’t develop any questions, I was surprised by how religion/faith was downplayed in Saint Maybe’s film adaptation. Yes, Ian’s introduction to The Church of the Second Chance was similar to the book. Agatha and Thomas tell Ian what they learned at summer camp, which was run by The Church of the Second Chance. Toward the end of the film, the Bedloe family are seen going to church. Other than these moments, religion/faith didn’t have an influence over the character’s lives. The Sugar Rule I talked about in answer number six was never brought up in the script. Reverend Emmett’s beliefs on how his congregation was led didn’t appear in any of the character’s dialogue. Even Reverend Emmett himself showed up in two or three scenes, having a much smaller presence than he did in the book. Saint Maybe’s film adaptation was released in 1998, a time when shows like Touched by An Angel were finding success on mainstream television. In hindsight, Hallmark choosing not to ride Touched by An Angel’s coattails kind of seems like a missed opportunity.

10. Would Saint Maybe encourage viewers to read either its source material or any other book?

I think it depends on what type of story someone wants to consume. As I said in answer number five, I’d recommend the book if you’re interested in a story where religion/faith is one of the key themes. But if you like films from the drama genre, those that explore relationships between characters, then the film adaptation is for you. I’ve said before that I am not a fan of “slice of life” stories. Like I mentioned in answer number three, Saint Maybe is primarily a “slice of life” story. If I hadn’t read the book beforehand, I would probably choose the movie over the text.

11. After watching this movie, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?

I now understand why Saint Maybe was sometimes shown during Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ‘Miracles of Christmas’ marathon. Several scenes took place during Christmas-time, with decorations associated with the holiday shown in the background. But I wouldn’t necessarily call Saint Maybe a Christmas story/movie. I said in answer number eight that this story took place over the course of several years. The themes and messages within the text are not exclusive to the Christmas season. In 2019, I created a tier rank list of every Hallmark Hall of Fame movie I’ve ever seen. Since posting that list, I have renamed each category. For Saint Maybe, I’d place this film adaptation in the category titled ‘Bought It at a Garage Sale for a Dollar’. The movie itself was fine, but I wouldn’t pay $20 if it was sold on DVD.

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen