What’s That DVD? Free Solo – a film by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin

Welcome to What’s That DVD – a new feature on Book Club Mom…because great stories come in many formats!

I recently watched a documentary that can only be described as both amazing and vicariously terrifying. Free Solo is the story of Alex Honnold, a professional adventure rock climber who, with only his hands and feet, scaled El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. El Capitan is the world’s most famous rock, 3000 feet of petrifying vertical ascent. Honnold is the only person to attempt this dangerous climb, and he succeeded at doing the impossible!

Free Solo won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin are the award-winning husband-wife team. (Read about them in the LA Times here.) In their documentary, they introduce Honnold, a climber with extraordinary focus and drive. The term free solo means no ropes, no people, nothing but climber and rock. When Honnold agreed to be filmed on the ground and up on the rock (via drone), Vasarhelyi and Chin faced difficult challenges…and moral decisions. How to film his climb without interfering? Because any distraction could mean death. And what to do if he fell?

Honnold prepared by climbing, and climbing El Capitan with ropes, learning every ledge and crevice, which he would somehow grip and hang onto. He did this with a super-human ability to manage risk and remove the emotion from the task at hand.

Even though I knew he would succeed, my stomach dropped each time I saw him hanging by seemingly nothing on a precarious straight-up cliff. My hands and feet were sweating through the last half-hour of the film.

When someone does something this impossible, we want to know the story behind the story. This is where Vasarhelyi and Chin excel. What kind of person attempts such a dangerous climb? And how did Honnold become a climber? As much a part of Honnold’s story is his girlfriend, Sanni McCandless, who openly discusses their relationship. How they function as a couple. How she loves a man who puts this challenge ahead of everything else. He knows he could die and tells her that’s okay, she’ll move on. That’s a tough statement. Honnold and McCandless are such an adorable couple, I hope he “hangs on” to her too!

Honnold’s memoir, Alone on the Wall, was published in 2018.  For more about Honnold and his book visit alexhonnold.com.

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The movie Charly and Flowers for Algernon

I recently read Flowers for Algernon by William Keyes, a classic science fiction story about a mentally disabled man who undergoes an experimental surgery to increase his intelligence. (Read my review here.)

Today I watched the 1968 movie Charly, which is based on the book and stars Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. The movie was one of the most successful films made by ABC Motion Pictures and Robertson won the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance.

While the film is dated in its style and effects, the main story is close to the one depicted in Flowers for Algernon. As with any book-to-movie, however, not everything is the same. The setting is changed (book in New York and movie in Boston), several side stories are omitted and the romantic element altered. I was disappointed that the movie didn’t include references to Charly’s childhood relationships, especially those with his family, because I feel they explain a lot about how he came to forgive or at least accept how his mother, father and sister treated him. I think if the movie were made today, the directors might focus on some of these aspects.

There’s definitely a 60s feel to it, particularly at its climax, when Charly begins to understand how he’s been treated and what will happen to him. He goes off on a wild spree and at that point, I felt I was watching something out of The Mod Squad because of the effects and music.

I liked watching it so soon after reading the book, which I enjoyed very much. It’s impossible not to compare for accuracy and, even though there are some differences, I thought the movie was entertaining.

Not all reviews were positive, however.

Vincent Canby, an American film and theater critic called Charly a “self-conscious contemporary drama, the first ever to exploit mental retardation for… the bittersweet romance of it.” He added, “we [the audience] are forced into the vaguely unpleasant position of being voyeurs, congratulating ourselves for not being Charly as often as we feel a distant pity for him.”

But Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars out of 4 and, in 2009, Entertainment Weekly included Charly in its “25 Best Movie Tearjerkers Ever.”

Have you watched the movie? What did you think?

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

If you like book-to-movie comparisons, check out these previous posts:

The Age of Innocence
Billy Bathgate
The Dinner
The Great Gatsby
The Light Between Oceans
The Lincoln Lawyer
The Martian


Creative book cover posts – have you noticed this trend?

Image: Pixabay

Lately I’ve noticed how creative book bloggers have become with the way they review books. It’s taken the book cover display to a new dimension. Readers aren’t just attracted to interesting, colorful and original covers. Book stores and libraries know how important displays are. And so do these bloggers.

A quick trip through my WordPress Reader today proves my point. These imaginative bloggers know how to make their posts fun to see and read and they definitely know how to make me want to read the books they feature! Make sure you check them out:

The Food and Book Life – Pride Readathon 2019 Wrap-up

Jennifer – Tar Heel Reader – The Perfect Son by Lauren North

Ope’s Opinions – Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Reading Ladies Book Club – Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee Reading – The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

I’ve been thinking about how to redecorate Book Club Mom and this is one of the things I have started to change with my reviews.

Those People by Louise Candlish

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Lot by Bryan Washington

I may be jumping on a little late, and I’m definitely not in the league of these other creative bloggers, but I’m having fun trying this new way to share a book. Have you also noticed this trend?

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Book Club Mom’s July recap – walking, planting, reading and dreaming

We’re still in the middle of summer, but when July comes to a close, I always feel the rush of days and weeks, hurtling towards fall. And even though fall is my favorite season, my house will be a little less full in a month…children leaving the nest.

I’m also in the middle of my library’s summer reading challenge. This year, it’s called A Universe of Stories, created to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. So I’ve been reading and listening to books outside my usual genres, to complete different categories of the challenge. I listened to two audio books on my walks and I managed to squeeze in a couple books of my own choice, too!

Check out my reviews here:

Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

Audiobook review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Honor Girl – A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

Audiobook review: Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman,
narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Those People by Louise Candlish

I was happy to meet a new (to me) indie author, Jennifer S. Alderson. If you haven’t met Jennifer yet, please stop by and say hello!

Who’s That Indie Author? Jennifer S. Alderson

If you are a self-published or indie author and would like to be featured, email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

I also posted and author update for Geoffrey M. Cooper. His new medical thriller, Nondisclosure, is available now:

BC Mom’s Author Update: new medical thriller by Geoffrey M. Cooper

I also did a little dreaming this month, wishing for unlimited time to read some best sellers and some classics.

Book Club Mom’s dream list TBR

Book Club Mom’s classic dream list TBR

There have been more Friday Fiction shenanigans in a new chapter of “A Man and His Phone.” Feel free to jump into this little series and relive the drama of the twenty-something dating world!

Friday Fiction – A Man and His Phone

Images: Pixabay

I like to think about grammar and new word uses – can you relate to that? Here’s a post about the more recent trend of the word “relatable.”

Grammar check – is relatable a real word?

After reading Those People by Louise Candlish, I thought about all the despicable characters in books I have read, and then I made a list!

Books with unlikable characters – can you add to the list?

I watched The Right Stuff movie as part of the Universe of Stories challenge. Even though there was a lot of hype about the movie when it was released in 1983, I had never seen it!

The Right Stuff – the book by Tom Wolfe, the 1983 movie and how we got to the moon

And last, I was happy to be featured on Norah Colvin’s blog in her special School Days, Reminiscences feature. Be sure to visit Norah’s blog below:

School Days, Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

Did you have a good month? What was the best book you read? For me, I’d say Sounds Like Titanic.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Book Club Mom’s classic dream list TBR

I’ve read a lot of the classics, but I know I have many more to go. I will never read them all, but here are some I still want to read:

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Middlemarch by George Elliot

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolf

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Watership Down by Richard Adams

I’m going to have to fit these in! What classics are your favorites? What’s left on your list?

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Book Club Mom’s dream list TBR

I don’t keep an official TBR list, but I always have a dream list of books I want to read. Oh, but if time weren’t such a problem, how many more books I would read! If I had unlimited time (and resources), I’d buy a bunch of the latest books that have caught my eye, load up my bookshelf and settle myself into my favorite chair. What would be on that shelf? Here’s that list:

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

The Bees by Laline Paull

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Layover by David Bell

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Naturally Tan by Tan France

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Our House by Louise Candlish

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Recursion by Blake Crouch

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

There There by Tommy Orange

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

One of the reasons I don’t make an official TBR list is because I feel pressure to stick to it and that takes the fun out of it. I hope I’m not jinxing it by posting the list! What’s your TBR strategy? Do you make a list? Do you feel obligated once you do?

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Books with unlikable characters – can you add to the list?

I don’t know about you, but I love reading books with unlikable characters. Here’s list of some of my favorites:

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage – Psychological thriller that will make you very uncomfortable. What are Suzette and Alex to do when life with their demonic 7-year-old daughter gets dangerous? What’s their breaking point?

The Dinner by Herman Koch – What would you do if your child committed a horrendous crime? Is it more important to save your child’s future than do the right thing?

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – Psychological thriller in which a stranger may know more about a crime than the people involved. When a woman goes missing, the girl on the train is sure she can help, if she can only dig through her alcohol-clouded memories.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – Creepy story about a completely dysfunctional marriage and the extreme lengths to which the wife goes to get the upper hand over her husband. He proves to be an equal match, however, and as the details emerge and opinions form, it’s hard to know whom or what to believe.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of thirteen integrated short stories about the people of Crosby, Maine, a seemingly simple town on the New England coast and the town’s most complicated character, Olive.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – A nine-year-old girl has been murdered and now a ten-year-old girl is missing. When the second girl’s body is discovered, details of the murder suggest a serial killer. Is the killer a stranger to the town or, more disturbingly, one of them?

Those People by Louise Candlish – On the problem of despicable neighbors, here’s a new book about a couple that moves into an idyllic and award-winning neighborhood in South London and drives the families to desperation.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – Something bad happens during Cadence Eastman’s fifteenth summer on the family’s private island off Martha’s Vineyard. Cady, her cousins and their friend risk everything to break free from oppressive, greedy and narrow minded family pressures.

There are many more – can you add to the list?

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The Right Stuff – the book by Tom Wolfe, the 1983 movie and how we got to the moon

Image: Wikipedia

Did you know that we are approaching the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing? On July 20, 1969, the United States Apollo 11 was the first crewed mission to land on the moon. Six hours after the lunar module landed, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men to walk on the moon!

The race to space began over a decade earlier, when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1957. In response, the United States formed the Mercury Seven, a group of seven pilots who began training to be the first Americans in space. They were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Deke Slayton. This was the beginning of the new astronaut profession and, between 1961 and 1963, all seven flew into space. All this training led to the historic moon landing in 1969.

Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff is about this group and the test pilots that came before them, including Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier. Wolfe’s critically-praised book was published in 1974 and became the Academy Award-winning film in 1983.

I recently watched the movie, starring Sam Shepard, Barbara Hershey, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid and even a very young Jeff Goldblum. I enjoyed the movie very much because, even though I knew about the Space Race, I didn’t see the movie back in 1983 and didn’t know much about the Mercury Seven. What is the most impressive is the tremendous risk these men were willing to take to venture into the unknown. They suffered setbacks and failure and Gus Grissom died in a pre-launch test. But the public’s adulation of these men marked the beginning of America’s fascination with space exploration.

The Mercury Seven/Image: Wikipedia

At three hours, it’s a longer film than most, and I had to split it into two nights, but I’d recommend it. Seeing the cast as young actors was also fun!

Have you read The Right Stuff or watched the movie? Maybe you’re too young, but if you’re around my age, you will remember the lunar landing!

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Book Club Mom’s June recap – books, authors, celebrations, fiction and a survey

Oh boy, June has come and gone! I had a lot of fun on Book Club Mom this month. I read some good books, met an indie author, and celebrated six years of blogging. I also had time to write a little Friday Fiction and conduct a reading survey. Thanks to everyone who visited, commented, shared and participated in my poll!

This is the time of year when all the animals outside get busy and bold. First, I discovered nibbled-down pansy plants and watched a bunny make a nest for her babies in the middle of our yard. She must have decided to have them in a safer place, though. Too bad, we would have loved seeing baby bunnies hopping around. Earlier this week, I was admiring the flowering Morning Glories on our deck, but yesterday I opened the blinds to see a bunch of chomped off vines, with only a few lonely flowers. Oh well, I guess the deer had a good feast. We also had a fox saunter across our front step on the weekend – it’s quite an animal kingdom out there!

In case you missed any posts, here’s a rundown of what went down on Book Club Mom:

I read four books, all great picks for summer reading:

Lot by Bryan Washington
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman
Run Away by Harlan Coben

If you’re looking for more summer reading recommendations, check out these previously reviewed books:

Book Club Mom’s summer recommendations

I met indie author D. Wallace Peach and learned about her fantasy and science fiction books. If you haven’t already said hello to Diana and learn why she went from pantser to planner!

If you are a self-published or indie author and would like to be featured, email me at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for more information.

June is my blog anniversary month and this year marks six years of blogging. I’m happy to say I haven’t tired of reading, writing posts and visiting other blogs, so here’s to more of the same!

Celebrating 6 years of blogging!

If you have been following my Friday Fiction, you’re familiar with “A Man and His Phone,” a fun look at twenty-something dating experiences. It’s easy to jump in to the story so check out these recent episodes:

Friday Fiction – A Man and His Phone – June 7
Friday Fiction – A Man and His Phone – June 21

Some miscellaneous posts included a What’s That Book about The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore and a Book Talk about a terrific book I just finished today, Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman.

What’s That Book? The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Book Talk – Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Hindman

In honor of my father, I shared a Father’s Day tribute about one of many family trips to Dairy Queen.

Dairy Queen with my father

And related to the bunny activity in our yard, I wrote about Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.

A backyard rabbit’s nest and Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown

And last, I conducted a casual readers’ survey and gathered some interesting info about all your reading habits and preferences. Thank you all for your enthusiastic responses!

The results are in! Here’s what you say about your reading preferences!

I hope you had a good month on the blog and out in the world. Summer’s in full swing now, so after a hot and busy day, grab a lemonade, a good book and hop into your favorite chair!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

The results are in! Here’s what you say about your reading preferences!

Image: Pixabay

Hey readers – let’s talk about your reading preferences! Thanks to everyone who answered last week’s five-question poll. I had an average of 60 responses per question. Take a look at the results.

What’s your favorite reading genre?

Many responders had a hard time choosing just one. I’m the same way. I often jump around between many types of fiction and nonfiction. Check out the “Other” category which includes several other genres. I also forgot to list “Thriller/Suspense” as a genre, so thank you for adding that.

What’s your favorite book format?

It’s a tight race between trade paperbacks and eBooks. And hard covers are close behind. I read all three, although most of the hard covers are from the library. I wasn’t surprised at the low number for books on CD. Although people like listening in their cars, many new cars don’t even have CD players and I think books on CD are on their way out.

What’s your favorite time to read?

Wow, hands-down it’s before bed! That’s not me, though. I’m so tired by then, I’d never get through a page before falling asleep. My best time is early morning. Take a look at the detailed “Other” responses – a couple of them made me laugh!

Where is your favorite place to read?

I’m like the rest of you – I like to read inside in a comfy chair or on my couch. And also another mistake on my part – I forgot to include “bed” as an answer, but you all corrected me in the “Other” responses! After reading that so many of you like to read before bed, it’s no surprise that your favorite spot to read is actually in bed!

What’s your favorite reading beverage?

Tea and water are the big winners here, but some of you don’t require a drink while you read. My favorite reading drink is iced tea with a splash of lemonade. It’s a must-have for me, especially because I’m an early-morning reader!

I had a lot of fun collecting and tallying your answers so thanks for taking part. Were you surprised by any of the results? What’s obvious to me is that we all have our styles and preferences and we take them seriously!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!