In my post about what readers can look forward to on my blog this year, I shared my results of 2022’s Buzzwordathon readathon. Because I had four fails and didn’t finish reading December’s book before the end of the year, I chose to participate in 2023’s Buzzwordathon in an attempt to improve my results. Though I’m publishing my review for January’s selection in February, I did complete the book in the month of January. That book is The Life She Was Given by Ellen Marie Wiseman, as the theme for January was ‘life and death’. This means the words ‘life’ or ‘death’ had to be featured in the title.
One component that can affect my reading experience is the quality of descriptive imagery. This part of the story is what helps readers picture characters, events, and locations in their mind. Throughout The Life She Was Given, Ellen uses comparisons to elaborate on an intended point. An example is when she described the physical appearance of Merrick, an employee of The Barlow Brothers’ Circus. When one of the protagonists, Lilly, meets Merrick for the first time, “his face reminded Lilly of pictures she’d seen of the moon, with craters and dents and rocky parts”. In fact, Merrick was sometimes referred to as “the moon-faced man”. By comparing his face with the uneven surface of the moon, Ellen is not only describing Merrick in greater detail, she also writes how a child would view the world around them.
What drew me into wanting to read The Life She Was Given was the mystery surrounding Blackwood Manor, the home inherited by the book’s other protagonist, Julia. While the mystery itself was intriguing and held my attention, it wasn’t prioritized within Julia’s chapters. Instead, more focus was given to taking care of the horses on the Manor’s farm. Readers learn more about Claude, the man in charge of the farm, and Fletcher, the veterinarian, as well as their connection to Blackwood Manor. But because the mystery was not emphasized in most of Julia’s chapters, it took Julia almost the entire book to solve the mystery.
The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through. This is not a poorly written piece of literature and I thought the book itself was just fine. The reason why The Life She Was Given is a tough book to get through is because of some of the topics included, which are heavier in nature. Some of these topics are abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Ellen incorporates these subjects into her story in an honest way, not sugar-coating anything or holding back any punches. If you choose to read this book, please be aware of this fact before you start reading.
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Have fun during Buzzwordathon!
Disclaimer: As I said in my review, The Life She Was Given contains heavier subjects, such as abuse, violence, and mistreatment of animals. Other content some readers may find offensive are the following:
— Characters swearing at several moments in the story
— Lilly being placed in some concerning situations, such as underage drinking
— Dialogue reflective of the 1930s and 1950s
— One chapter featuring a horse giving birth
— Mentions are characters dying, including a drunk driving accident
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!
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!
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!
Disclaimer:How to Write Good contains a few slurs andthe topic of suicidal thoughts.However, these subjects are brought up in relation to the bullying Ryan experienced in his childhood and middleschool years.
Sunset Blvd. is a “classic” that a majority of film fans have seen at least once in their lives. It is so iconic that the Brannan sisters, from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society, have decided to dedicate a blogathon to it! Because I’ve already seen Sunset Blvd., I choose a film that was new to me. As it is a brand-new year, I wanted the first movie of 2021 to be a fresh step forward. After looking through William Holden’s filmography, I selected the 1960 picture, The World of Suzie Wong! Whenever I think of William, I always think of Joe Gillis from Sunset Blvd. But, as a movie fan, I know that William, acting wise, is more than this iconic role. Therefore, I am grateful to be given this opportunity to explore more of his film work!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Since I’ve only seen Sunset Blvd. and Stalag 17, there’s only so much I can say about William Holden’s acting abilities. What I will say is how William’s performance in The World of Suzie Wong was consistent! From what I remember, William’s characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. were serious and had their guard up due to being suspicious of those around them. In The World of Suzie Wong, his character was similar to those from the two previously mentioned movies. However, a major difference was how those characteristics were softened a bit. This was because William’s character, Robert, had a love interest, which is different from his characters in Stalag 17 and Sunset Blvd. I am not familiar with Nancy Kwan as an actress. Despite this, I really liked seeing her performance in this film! It reminded me of the portrayals from actresses in the “Golden Age” of film, where leading ladies not only worked well with other cast members, but were able to, talent wise, stand on their own. While starring as Suzie, Nancy was able to pull off a performance that was captivating, emotional, and memorable! Another performance I enjoyed seeing was Jacqueline Chan’s! As Gwennie Lee, she was able to use her on-screen personality to her advantage. The other female characters in The World of Suzie Wong carried themselves with a sense of sophistication, making themselves seem more mature than they really were. With Gwennie, her personality was joyful, carrying a youthful heart wherever she went. This creative decision helped Jacqueline stand out among the cast!
An educated and aware protagonist: In a story where a protagonist travels to a different country or new place, it can be easy for the screenwriter(s) to create a character that romanticizes a location to the point of being arrogant or clueless about that specific place. With Robert from The World of Suzie Wong, that was certainly not the case! While in Hong Kong, Robert tries to educate himself about his surroundings. When trying to find a hotel, he speaks Chinese to a police officer. Even though he didn’t memorize the question, it shows Robert was willing to go out of his way to learn the language of his temporary home. Robert also seems aware of the people and the customs of Hong Kong. When talking to a business associate, Ben, Robert senses that Ben is attempting to pursue a romantic relationship with Suzie for the wrong reasons. He stands up to Ben and reminds him how Suzie is a person with feelings. Everything I just mentioned effectively drives home a point Suzie made about “a boy cloud with a good heart”.
The use of color: A film’s color palette can help make a scene visually appealing as well as present creative ways to showcase various hues. With that said, I found the use of color in The World of Suzie Wong to be very interesting! At the bar next to Robert’s hotel, all of the female characters wore bright colors. This nicely contrasted the location of the bar itself, a place that didn’t feature a lot of color within the interior design. Color was also used in other ways throughout the movie. One example was the O’Neill family’s home, where a set of red seat cushions provide the only splash of color in their primarily white dining room. Another example is present when Robert tries to find Suzie in the city. Though this scene is brief, the colorful neon lights within this space nicely stand out against the city’s darkness.
What I didn’t like about the film:
The concept of “keeping face”: Throughout the film, Suzie and her friends talk about “keeping face”. One night, Gwennie asks Robert if he will enter the bar with her. She tells Robert that if she were to enter the bar by herself, she wouldn’t be able to “keep face”. Later in the film, after Suzie is physically injured by a drunken sailor, she tells Robert to say that he hurt her so she can “keep face”. Because there were no explanations for what “keeping face” was or why it was important, this concept ended up confusing me.
The run-time: The World of Suzie Wong is a little over two hours long. Personally, I don’t think this specific story needed its run-time. In fact, the film could have easily been set at an hour and thirty minutes. This might be achieved by shortening some of the movie’s longer scenes. One of them is when Suzie journeys to an undisclosed location for reasons unknown to Robert. In an attempt to find answers, Robert follows Suzie all the way to this undisclosed location in a scene that lasts about two minutes. When there are multiple scenes that are longer than necessary, they add up to a run-time that doesn’t feel justified.
An inconsistent relationship: While William Holden and Nancy Kwan had good on-screen chemistry, the on-screen relationship of their characters was inconsistent. Throughout the film, Robert and Suzie’s relationship was “on again/off again”. It also doesn’t help that Robert and Suzie don’t officially become a couple until about forty minutes into the movie. I understand that relationships take time to develop and that they contain good and bad moments. However, when a story includes a couple trying to pursue a romantic relationship, the relationship itself needs to be consistent enough for the audience to stay invested in.
My overall impression:
The World of Suzie Wong is a film that gets hurt by its run-time. This two-hour story could have been an hour and thirty minutes, with longer scenes cut shorter to move the story along faster. This also would help Robert and Suzie’s relationship officially start a lot sooner. Without spoiling the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I will say The World of Suzie Wongis much sadder than I expected. I am aware of everyone experiencing different situations in their lives. However, the sadness in this movie made the story feel like there was a gray cloud hanging over the characters’ heads. There are aspects of this film that I appreciate. One of them is the protagonists sharing an interracial relationship in a time when that idea wasn’t commonly shown in cinema. I also appreciate some of the film’s artistic merit, such as the acting performances and the use of color within various scenes. In the end, though, I found The World of Suzie Wong to be a just ok start to 2021.
Overall score: 6.4 out of 10
Have you seen The World of Suzie Wong? Has a movie ever enticed you to travel to its featured location? Tell me in the comment section!
In my post called ‘Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020!’, I shared that every time I publish 100 posts, I coordinate a double feature in honor of the accomplishment. Because I published 300 posts at the end of last year, I scheduled the double feature for January. In my aforementioned post, I also mentioned the reason why this series of reviews and articles were focusing on youth-led films. This is because January’s theme for MovieRob’s Genre Grandeur is “Youth-Led Movies”. Since I’ll be participating in that blogathon, I figured it would a good idea to use my achievement to highlight my involvement.
While creating my first blogathon, “Siskel and Ebert at the Blogathon”, I came across a video on Youtube of one of their episodes of “Sneak Previews”. While watching that video, I became fascinated by how two youth-led films, Rich Kids and Over the Edge, were not only released in the same year, but also around the same time (according to the Siskel and Ebert video). Not knowing whether or not this scheduling choice was intentional, I chose these two films for my next double feature! While I had never heard of Over the Edge before, I was aware of Rich Kids‘ existence. When I watched Siskel and Ebert’s discussion of this film, I was surprised to discover that it was about a completely different story from what I expected. Before choosing to watch this film, I thought the movie was a documentary style film about a group of rich kids growing up over a period of time.
For these reviews, I’ll be answering a series of ten questions related to the movies I watched. However, the three questions that will receive primary focus are the following:
Is there any aspect of either film that could be seen as relevant today?
Besides having young actors as the leads, do these films share any similarities?
Do the socio-economics of each film’s world affect the characters or the story?
Before I end this introduction, I’d like to say that there will be no pre-movie thoughts and/or questions for this double feature.
Have fun at the movies!
If you want to watch the video I referenced in this introduction, type ‘WTTW Channel 11 – Sneak Previews – “Real Life, Rich Kids, & More” (Complete Broadcast, 9/20/1979)’ into Youtube’s search bar. Siskel and Ebert’s discussion on Rich Kids starts at 1:41 and ends at 7:01. Their discussion on Over the Edge starts at 21:48 and ends at 24:49. If you are planning on watching this video, I just want to let you know there are sensitive topics that do get brought up at some points of the episode.