Book Review – Red Sparrow, by Jason Matthews

Image Source: https://www.framerated.co.uk/red-sparrow-2018/

I recently finished both reading and watching the film adaptation of ‘Red Sparrow’, written by Jason Matthews. The main character; Dominika Egorova, played by Jennifer Lawrence, and Nate Nash played by Joel Edgerton.

Like many of the books I own, I had this book on my ‘TBR” (To Be Read) pile for a while. I first heard of it, and I hate admitting this, when it came out at the cinema. And, I refused to watch the film before I read the book… which I now slightly regret!

Warning: Book/Film spoilers!

What’s the synopsis?

The story is about a young Russian woman called Dominika who is sucked into Russian Intelligence by her uncle. She has a devistating injury which stops her dream of being a ballerina and due to her mum’s ill health, she ends up taking a job her uncle organises and gets sucked into the life. She is forced into a special school, and becomes what is called a ‘Sparrow’; trained in sexpionage. She is then put to work to uncover the mole in the Russian Intelligence, this is where she meets Nate Nash; CIA.

What did I think about the book?

My first impression, when I think back to the book, and how I would describe it to someone else; difficult to read. Although I do find the story interesting; a mixture of spy-thriller and romance (to a point), I actually had difficulty going back to finish it.

I would find myself putting it down after reading it, and sometimes I would take a few weeks to get back to it. This happened a few times, so much so that it took me quite a few months to finish it. And yes, okay, I was completing a MSc at the same time, and then moved house, and had other commitments and hobbies around that. But I found myself wanting to do other things rather than reading that book. Although, I found myself conflicted on occasion because when I got back to reading it, I did enjoy it in some ways. I did find myself wanting to know what happened next.

But the writing style seemed a little… off. At first I didn’t know how to put my finger on it. Some sentances didn’t flow right, or I struggled to understand what was going on. I then realised after getting quite a way into the book that there was a lot of ‘and then this happened, and then that happened, and then… and then…’ which really put me off.

I also felt a little nervous about the author’s portrayal of Russia, especially since President Putin was actually mentioned in it. I have a few international friends and I felt guilty reading the book and worrying what any Russian friends (and fans) might think of me for reading such a book. I understand there is a lot of ‘bad blood’ with Russia, and Putin in particular, but I felt like it was deliberately attacking Russia needlessly. Saying that, I did speak to one Russian person while reading it and they were actually interested in reading the book themselves.

As for things I did enjoy, I did like the depth to Dominika’s character, her motivation to do well and support her mother, and her conflicting relationship to her own country. I also enjoyed the relationship she started to have with other characters; including Nate. Their relationship was clearly more than business, yet complex, like most relationships should be, especially in their situation.

I also enjoyed the little chapter endings with recipes. I started to realise that they were based off what was mentioned in the chapter and then I started to look out for the different foods, to see what would next be mentioned at the end of the chapter. Some even sounded interesting enough for me to want to try them. Although, I will admit, they were a little weird at first, and I found them a little pointless, but I grew to like them, figuring it was just the author’s little quirk.

And I enjoyed some of the clever ideas within the story, such as the diversion stories that were used to find the mole in the Russian Intelligence and how that played out further in the book and the way Boucher, the US Chief of Staff/Senator was killed.

What did I think about the film?

Personally, I was actually dissapointed with the film. More so than the book.

‘We are making a film of the book.’

Earlier in my post I said how I slightly regret reading the book before watching the film, and this is because there was so much that was both left out and changed! A friend once said to me that he prefers watching the film first, then reading the book, because then you get to see all the extra bits that you didn’t see in the film. Although, a part of me worries that I wouldn’t be committed to reading the book because I already knew what happens.

Every bookaholic’s nightmare is having things missing from the film, but I personally understand some things need to be left out because it isn’t possible to fit it all in to a 2-3 hour movie. But due to some of the things that had been left out, the plot had not only changed, but the film didn’t seem to flow right.

One of my favourite parts (mostly because I actually understood what was going on, as the book was so difficult to read!), the little diversion stories, wasn’t in the film! Boucher’s death was also completely different, I mean, yes there were American CIA operatives there (in the book they closed in on her too quickly), in the film she was hit by a truck, but in the film she used a specially adapted pen to administer a poison. She took control of her own death in the book, which I feel was an integral part of her character.

I also noticed that Dominika bleaches her hair (I won’t even go into how difficult it is to bleach your hair that blonde without a professional…). In the book, she doesn’t change her hair colour; she is always her natural brown self. I think, in the film, she does it because she realises that Nate likes blonde women, and what better way to get his attention in the beginning but be the woman he is attracted to.

But I personally think that is a little discriminating; suggesting the age-old belief that men only like blonde women. I feel offended on behalf of men. Why change this in the film, when it’s not in the book? I’m going to assume it had something to do with Jennifer Lawrence and the fact she is a natural blonde.

One of the things that I was really looking forward to seeing portrayed in the film was Dominika’s synesthesia (basic way for me to explain it, she was able to see colours like it was another sense). I found it a really interesting twist in the book; she was able to work out when people were lying to her, when they were being honest, etc. It’s one of the reasons why she was such a brilliant spy. But it wasn’t even mentioned in the film. I know it could have been a difficult thing to portray, but I felt like it was a key part to her character.

And lastly, the ending. In the book, the end was when they made a deal to swap Dominika with the mole; MARBLE, but the Russian’s never intended to let MARBLE go and thus killed him, leaving the ending on a cliffhanger, what happens to Dominika? But, in the film, MARBLE wasn’t anywhere to be seen and instead Dominika ratted out her own Uncle as the mole, which lead to him being killed. It was a clever ending, I will agree. It gave Dominika the look that she was in control, she was a powerful and clever woman. You could argue it was better than the book, and I agree, thinking back at it, but at the time I was deeply disturbed at the change… I just hope that the author was quite happy with this change! I also wonder how this change will impact the next book/film (yes, there are other books, but I’m unsure if they’ll make a second film!)

However, I enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal as Dominika, I thought she was a really good fit for the character. Some scenes were also done really well, such as when Matorin found Nate and Dominika, the little double-agent scene even had me fooled for a few minutes. I also warmed up to Joel Edgerton as Nate in the end, although I feel as if other actors probably would have been a better fit as I felt Joel was a little too stern. I know he was a spy and had to be professional, but I felt his character in the book was a tiny bit softer.

How many stars do I give it?

The book, I give 3.5 out of 5. Although it was refreshing to have well developed characters, and an interesting plot, but the style of writing really let it down.

The film, however, I give 3 out of 5. The changes in the story let it down, making it confusing, and I dislike that they thought it a good idea to change the character’s hair colour when the book doesn’t have this.

References:
Food Picture: www.woodenspoonskitchen.com/2013/01/08/food-photography-backgroundnatural-lighting/

Book to Film cartoon: www.cartoonstock.com/directory/f/film_adaptation.asp

Jennifer Lawrence Picture: www.bustle.com/p/in-jennifer-lawrences-red-sparrow-a-woman-must-be-raped-before-she-can-be-strong-8342129

Gold star cartoon: www.vippng.com/preview/oohxJR_star-smiley-face-cartoon-stars-with-faces/

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Please do give this post a like, and feel free to comment. What did you guys think of the film and/or book? Do you have any suggestions of book/film adaptations?

And, don’t forget to check out my other posts.

I did another book review a while ago, please check it out here!

Don’t forget to check out my own books!

And have a look at my travel blog!

Penny’s Book Reviews

I have unconsciously decided that my new year’s resolution is to read more. Being a self-regarded bookaholic as well as a struggling author, I realised that I wasn’t reading as much as I should (I can’t really count my psychology books for my degree, that would be cheating!)

I have my excuses, of course; being ridiculously busy. But I decided that I shouldn’t make excuses and read those books I bought and get that To-Be-Read pile down. So, the next time I buy a load of books, I don’t feel so guilty!

Anyway, I decided that it would be a good idea to write a short review of what I have read so far this year. Give you my personal opinions of them.

The books I have read this year, so far, are:

  • This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab
  • The Undesired, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

 

This Savage Song, by V. E. Schwab

My first thoughts; brilliant, couldn’t put it down. Want to buy the sequel asap!

If you like YA in a dystopian / sci-fi / futuristic setting and monsters this is for you! The book is based in a world where monsters are real, they are real because of a ‘phenomenon’ where any act of violence, murder or genocide creates these monsters. There are three types, each getting even more deadly than the next. But it has a twist. The book is split into two views, a view of a girl and a view of a boy – but he’s not quite a boy, he’s actually one of the monsters.

I’m going to leave it there as I don’t want to give too much away and of course make this post too long. But one thing that struck me as a little far-fetched in this world was that one of these monsters, which feeds off human souls, do so by playing music. So one of the characters is always carrying around a violin. That was a little weird for me, but once you get around that, the overall book is really good.

Still going to buy the sequel.

Star rating, I’d say 4/5.

 

The Undesired, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

This one, left me feeling a little weird. Like I was missing something. I’m undecided on this one, I have to admit.

I like the fact it was based in Iceland, I love reading books that are based in new places and I might learn a little bit about that place. Even if it might not be 100% true, it still gives me the element of wanting to learn more.

The book starts off really interestingly, it starts with ‘The End’ so you read the rest of the book wondering how the characters got to that point. Although I was a little worried it would ruin the experience of mystery, but it didn’t really.

I will admit, I had trouble putting the book down, as I found myself wanting to know more. But there were times where I could see what was going to happen. Sometimes these bits are fun, you get a sense of “I knew it!” and I don’t necessarily mind that. There were also times where I was left guessing. But when I got to the end of the book and I realised there was no more left – and yes, the ending was interesting and unexpected! – I still felt like I was missing something. Like there was parts in the story that didn’t really make sense.

Star rating; 3/5

 

The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger

Now, this one is a classic. And maybe I read it with high expectations because it was a classic. But I wasn’t overly enthralled by it.

I got this book from a friend, when I was going through a really REALLY rough time. I had just broken up with my boyfriend (whom I bought a house with) and I was extremely depressed. It was a lovely gesture from my friend, but I was left wondering ‘why’ when he bought it for me. Why this book?

At first, I found it a little difficult to get into. A few chapters in and I was wondering where the story was going. Feeling a little curious at the characters and they were going too. Until I got half-way through and realised that there wasn’t really a plot like we get in these days, there wasn’t a huge ‘Hollywood style’ adventure that the main character goes on and I was left wondering ‘why?’

I will admit though, that I did have trouble putting it down. I did want to know what the character was going to do next. And started to grow sorry for the boy and wanted to just climb into the book and help him.

And it wasn’t until the end of the book that I realised at least one point the book was trying to make; the boy was going through a rough time and was just trying to figure out his life. He was sixteen, he was starting to go from a boy to an adult.

I read reviews on Goodreads about the book and one person made a very valid point, that I can’t really agree or disagree because I don’t personally know the answer, but the book was apparently written in the time just after the war, and it was the first book of its kind; to show the true nature of what the world was like in those times, through the eyes of a boy trying to struggle to adulthood.

I think I gave it a 3/5 star rating on Goodreads, but I believe it is somewhere between 3 and 4, maybe 4/5 if I was being generous.

 

Now… onto reading my next book 1985 by George Orwell!

Earn money being a Smashwords affiliate!

Any book lovers, bloggers, reviewers, authors, writers (or anyone for that matter) want to earn money being a Smashwords affiliate?

All you need is a Smashwords account and a PayPal account!

I just came across an article today that explains how you can earn money by just promoting books! I thought it was a brilliant way to help authors get their work out there, by offering promoters a small cut of the profits!

Imgur

So, for example, promote my own book and you could get 11% (going up to 15% soon!) of each sale you helped get!
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287
(for advice on how to do this, keep reading! You need to set up an account with Smashwords and give out a special link for it to work!)
(P.S. My book is now currently on sale, 50% off! Was $1.99 now only $1.00 for a short time. Ends 16th October!)

So, that means, if you share a link and someone buys that book from that link, not only does the author get a cut of the sales but so do you!

All you need; a Smashwords accound and a PayPal account!

How do you do set up and earn?

First, sign up to Smashwords!
Here’s the link: https://www.smashwords.com/signup

  1. Sign up for a FREE Smashwords membership!
  2. Click on the hyperlink to activate your Smashwords membership
  3. Go to your ‘Account Page’
  4. Follow the ‘Affiliate System Management’ link
  5. Click on the ‘Affiliate Marketers’ sign-up button
  6. Read the Terms of Service agreement and click to join the program

It’s that easy to set up!
Next, you want to promote some books to start earning. Read on, to learn how to do this.

Promote and earn!

Once you’re Smashwords account has been created, all you have to do is copy and paste the special link on the webpage!

For example, my own referral link is: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287?ref=PennyRose88

Your own link will be similar, but instead of ‘PennyRose88’ it will have your own username. E.g. if you’re user name is ‘JohnSmith’ then the referral link will be: ‘[…]books/view/744287?ref=JohnSmith’

This can be found at the bottom of the book page, like this:
Imgur

I have suggested you get a PayPal account and link that, only reason is, you do not have to wait for a certain amount to be in your account before you get paid. So, there is no waiting until you’ve got $50 in your Smashwords account before you get paid. If you use a PayPal, payment gets to you every month, minimum is $0.01!
(This information is true as an author, this information MIGHT be different for an affiliate, so please check terms and conditions first!)

I’m forever grateful for those who promote/support my books! Marketing it the hardest part of being a self-published author. But what better way doing it, by getting paid to do it!

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Also:

Earn money blogging! Love photography? Maybe you have a story to share? Click here to read how you can earn money on Steemit to blog about the things you love!


Feel free to check out my work:

My Normal: A short story, By Penny Hooper

Rose Garden Sanatorium: Prologue

It’s My Mistake: Chapter One