Chick Lit into Chick Flick

Out of all the different books I read, I find that the genre turned into movies most often is “Chick Lit”. Like most females in their young 20-something age bracket, I admit that I enjoy “Chick Lit” type novels. I don’t enjoy annoying, bitchy, or sissy heroine main characters (who would?), but I do like the easy-escape read it can provide.

Since I enjoy reading those types of novels, I tend to read them long before the movie comes out. I thought I would review a few of the novels and their movie counterparts for an entry. I would rather prefer to read the books and watch the movies again for a more in-depth review, however the copies of the books now reside several hours away from me. Besides I remember them well enough to give an opinion for each of them. If I happen to get the book/movie versions at a later date, I would happy to review them again if necessary.

McLaughlin, Emma and Kraus, Nicola. The Nanny Diaries (2003). 320 pages. St. Martin's Griffin. $13.95

First I would like to start with The Nanny Diaries. The book begins as a sociological type of framework as if the narrator is conducting a study, where the main character is called Nanny and the parents as Mr. and Mrs. X. Nanny is a college student who starts her first nanny job for the X’s to work around her school schedule. Chaos ensues. The only name the book gives is 4 year old Grayer.  I understand that the authors themselves were nannies for Manhattan higher society types, and this probably helped them keep their experiences with those clients somewhat anonymous. However, I felt that it distanced the reader from the characters. Nanny is very one dimensional except in her love for Grayer (although why I can’t imagine, since he continues to be the biggest brat in the world). Mrs. X is a total bitch who terrorizes the Nanny as she realizes her own son doesn’t love her, much less anyone else.  I have to admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of the book. The love story even fell flat with Nanny’s love interest, nicknamed “Harvard Hottie” (again he is not given a real name). The book can be amusing at times, but the writing style didn’t work for me. It’s a decent read if you enjoy reading about those types of situations. As an avid babysitter for most of my teenage years, I was just annoyed. Annoyed with Grayer’s brattiness, Mrs. X’s bitchiness, and Nanny’s cluelessness. Rating: 2.5/5.

In comparison, the movie counterpart starring Scarlett Johansson and Laura Linney was a vast improvement. The movie began with an archeological study framework which worked a lot better for the film than it did the book. The love story involving “Harvard Hottie” was written so much better (with the help of adorable Chris Evans). Also, certain scenes with Mrs. X were done a little bit differently making her seem not entirely heartless.* Laura Linney did a great job with the role and Scarlett had all the charisma that her book counterpart lacked.  The movie exceeded my expectations, and I enjoyed it a lot more than the book. Rating: 3.5/5.

The next book I wanted to go over is Confessions of a Shopaholic. I absolutely love Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series! Becky Bloomwood is quirky, funny, and smart. She gets herself in the most ridiculous situations, but it always works out and she manages to grow as a character. The movie is based on the first book also titled Confessions of a Shopaholic. It’s not my favorite book in the series, but I still enjoyed it.  Becky works for a financial magazine, including how to save and stock tips, except Becky has a secret obsession called shopping. And her obsession starts to cause a big problem as she becomes more and more in debt. The book is broken up with letters from her banker which get more and more irate as Becky tries to stall for more time. Becky has a great witty, narrative voice that always makes me laugh out loud, and she has a unique, creative way to get herself out of situations. The book also introduces one of my favorite male characters, Luke Brandon. The only problem I had was the book drags a lot in the beginning. I almost had a hard time getting into it, but it definitely picks up at the end and I couldn’t put it down for the last 100 pages.  Rating: 4/5.

Kinsella, Sophie. Confessions of a Shopaholic (2001). 320 pages. Dial Press. $14 Book Cover pictured with Isla Fisher.

I was really excited when I heard the movie was coming out. First problem I had with it: they chose Australian actress Isla Fisher to play an American Becky and set it in New York (the book and characters are actually set in England). I wasn’t sure what to expect.  As a comparison to the book, it was a huge let down. When I realized that this movie was not going to be like the original story, I put the book out of my mind and focused on the movie for what it was. It was very cute. I love Isla Fisher and she really did embrace the character perfectly. The storyline was different, but the situation and resolution was similar. The only thing that really bothered me was how they wrote Luke and his relationship with Becky. Although Hugh Dancy did his best, he just did not embody Luke for me. Also there was a running joke/thing about Luke, Becky, and the green scarf they met/fought over. It was entirely written in and it really bothered me for some reason. As itself, the movie was cute and enjoyable. However, it lacked for me as a true book adaptation. Rating 3/5.

The last book I wanted to go over is The Devil Wears Prada. It was first time novel and best seller by Lauren Weisberger. It follows the story of Andrea Sachs, a recent Brown graduate, who wants to get into the world of journalism. She lands her first job as a personal assistant to the tyrannical Miranda Priestly, fashion editor of Runway magazine (it is speculated that the character is loosely based on the editor of Vogue, Anna Wintour). Chaos ensues. I had heard so much about this book before I finally made the trip to the library, and I wanted to like it. But I just didn’t. As Lauren’s first novel it shows. The book drags on too long, the writing style was flat, and her characters were forgettable. The only redeeming thing about the book is Miranda’s character. Although she’s a huge bitch (Mrs. X times 3), Miranda makes the book at least interesting. Andrea’s character is utterly forgettable and annoying. She hates her job but she doesn’t do anything about it until it’s almost too late. My biggest issue was that the book was simply too LONG. By the time it finally gets to the ending, the show down between Miranda and Andrea is anti-climactic and I just don’t care anymore. Rating: 1/5

The Devil Wears Prada (2006). PG-13. Starring Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt. Directed by David Frankel. 109 min. $14.98

The movie adaptation took out all the filler in the book and made it better. I love Meryl Streep and she nailed the role as Miranda. I adore Anne Hathaway and she made Andrea’s character charming and remembered. They added a couple scenes featuring Miranda that made her seem more human, which added a lot of depth to her character. And I felt Andrea had a lot more growth as a character in the movie than she ever did in the book. Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci add to the cast of characters that just weren’t there in the book. It was so much more enjoyable to watch then the book ever was as a read. Rating 3.5/5

I was thinking of adding one of my all time favorite Chick Lit book/movie duo Bridget Jones’ Diary to this entry, but I feel that I should reserve a whole entry for that one at a latter date (mostly because I want to reread the book again).

And for regular readers (all two of you), I am trying to be posting regularly on Wednesdays for now. We will see how it goes.


*I have issues with books/TV/movies of heartless bitches. Mean girls do not amuse me, I only get annoyed. It’s why Mrs. X** and Miranda did not amuse me. They just annoy and frustrate me. And I cannot imagine why a main character would bother putting up with it.

**Okay, I realize that Miranda maybe didn’t bother me as much. I think Mrs. X annoys me more because she’s a mom and a drama queen. Terrible combination.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Boyne, John. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2007). 224 pages. OUP. $12.99

During my brief stint with working at Border’s, I was in charge of the displays of the newest bestsellers. My manager made me in charge of the kid and Young Adult shelves. His reasoning was that I seemed to care about them most (out of the other employees, which was sadly true). This book was considered as a Young Adult novel, and all I knew was it dealt with the Holocaust. I decided to check it out.

The book started off promising. It begins with very innocent 9 year old Bruno who only cares about hanging out with his best friends, until his dad receives a promotion in the military and they have to move to a place Bruno calls “Out-with” (a not-so-clever name for Auschwitz). The novel continues as the Bruno family move into their new home. The Bruno family is composed of an emotionally distant, domineering father, an alcoholic mother (who presumably has an affair with a German officer), and an older sister who only plays with her dolls. A very bored Bruno explores his new home, and meets a boy with striped pajamas, Shmuel, who lives on the opposite side of the wire fence. They become fast friends in their unique situation as Bruno goes out to meet Shmuel every day.

Bruno begins questioning about all the people living on the other side of the fence in his new home, and questioning what his dad does in his new position. However, he doesn’t question enough. Bruno is very naive which works for the beginning of the novel, and then begins to fall flat. He never develops, never grows, and never seems to understand how Shmuel really lives. He continues to be a selfish brat after a whole year of living in his home, still not pronouncing the name Auschwitz correctly after being told multiple times (he also refers to Hitler as The Fury).

For example, Shmuel asks Bruno to bring food on his daily visits. Pampered Bruno gets hungry on his trips to visit his friend, and most of the food never makes it to Shmuel. Bruno seems to be entirely ignorant of what being a Jew is and even asks his sister if he himself is a Jew. I find this a little hard to believe since Nazi Germany would have certainly educated Bruno on the Jews. Bruno continues to not realize what Shmuel’s life is like and that people die daily on the other side of the fence. Even when Bruno eventually visits his friend by going to the other side of the fence to help Shmuel find his father, (Bruno for some reason thinks he is a detective and can find clues of where Shmuel’s father could be), Bruno STILL doesn’t seem to understand the death, devastation, and despair of Auschwitz.

More depressing is that the book is actually meant for kids (ages 9-12) and some teachers use it as a way to teach children about the Holocaust. There were moments in the book where Bruno’s character should have developed, and instead he stayed static. I don’t feel like he’s a reliable narrator for the devastation of the Holocaust, and there are plenty of better books to teach children with. A book that had a lot of promise fell terribly short of my expectations. I give it a rating of 2/5.

Then I heard there was an indie film released based on the book. And, of course, I had to see how they compare, hoping that the screenwriters might have made Bruno a little more conscientious and little less self absorbed.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008). PG-13. Starring Asa Butterfield and David Thewlis. Directed by Mark Herman. 94 min. $29.99.

The movie begins with a happy family, excited about the father’s new promotion and their move to the country. I was a little thrown off by the movie being entirely cast with English actors, but I got over it and tried to focus on the film. I did not want to like the movie because the book upset me so much. However, I tried to keep an open mind and am happy to report that the movie was marginally better.

The movie initially shows Bruno’s content family, and as the movie progresses the family unit slowly begins to unravel as they continue to stay in Auschwitz. This works much better than the book beginning with a very discordant family, one that has issues from the very start. It helps the viewer have a lot more sympathy for the characters. I cared a great deal more for Bruno’s family in the movie than I did for them in the book. This might not seem a big deal, but it greatly affects the outcome of the ending.

Bruno is still self absorbed, but he does not remain naive. He is taught about who the Jews are and what the camp is for, from his tutor, his sister, and partly by his father. He begins questioning his father’s job and what is done to the people in the camp. After a very key event in the plot, Bruno also begins to doubt if his father is a good man. He changes his mind when he secretly watches a propaganda film on Jewish camps, which makes him think the best of his father.  This worked a lot better than the book because it kept his character naive, not stupid. Of course a young boy is going to want to think the best of his father, even if evidence suggests otherwise.

The liberties they took with the movie actually worked a lot better than the book itself, and a lot of the good parts of the book remained in the movie. The only big difference was that the timeline seemed very different. In the book Bruno lives in Auschwitz for a whole year, while the movie only seemed like a few months. This also worked better for the movie though, because his character did not age nearly as much as he did in the book. A definite improvement over the book, I would rate the movie 3/5.

Marley & Me

Grogan, John. Marley & Me (2005). 291 pages. William Morrow & Co., Inc. $21.95

This was one of the rare cases where I actually saw the movie before I read the book. I didn’t intend to read the book, but after I saw the movie I decided that I wanted to see how the book differed. Especially since that is something that I enjoy doing (if it wasn’t, I probably wouldn’t bother with this blog). Although I saw the movie first, I will start with the book.

The book chronicles the life of John Grogan, his family, and their dog Marley. The book is not one cohesive novel as it is non-fiction and based on John’s columns when he wrote with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  John’s book starts with him and his wife Jennifer, just married, recently moved to Florida, and deciding to own a dog. Strong, powerful, destructive of property, and terrified by thunderstorms, the golden lab Marley turns out to be quite a handful.  However, he makes up for it in his abundance of love and devotion to his owners.

The novel follows the life of Marley through being kicked out of obedience school, protecting his family in a crisis, and a brief stint as a movie star, while the Grogans live through a miscarriage, the birth of their three children, and moving to Pennsylvania.

I’m not much of a die hard dog lover or pet/animal person in general, but the book was heartwarming. It’s a simple light-hearted read written to make you laugh and cry a little (even though I already know what happens in the end).*

The writing is simple and straight-forward. The story is cute with something everyone can relate to, owning a pet no one else will love. I rate it a 3.5/5.

Marley & Me (2008). PG. Starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. Directed by David Frankel. 115 min. $29.98.

The book translates very well into the movie. Most of the scenes in the movie are directly from the book, such as the obedience school, Marley trying to escape out of the car on their way for a  ‘snip, snip’ vet appointment, and swallowing the gold diamond necklace. Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston basically play themselves, and Marley the dog is just as crazy as ever.

The only thing about the movie that was different was a sideline to the story about John dreaming of being a big time news reporter, instead of becoming a family man and columnist. John has a friend who works at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel who becomes a hard-hitting news reporter, and John seems to envy him a little of this. There is nothing of this mentioned at all in the book, and I’m not sure if it was true of John’s life. It seemed sweet that he chose the better life than his thrill-seeking friend, but it seemed unnecessary in the plot of the movie and would have been better without it.

Overall, I actually preferred the movie. The movie paced well over the years it depicted in Marley’s life and it was a cute, simple story (did I mention heartwarming?). I rate it a 4/5.

I am willing to admit that I might like the movie a little bit better because I saw it first. However, I think the story translates better as a visual one opposed to the written book. I enjoyed seeing Marley’s crazy antics more than reading about them. I think Marley’s good intentions and lovable nature through his terrible behavior is better suited to film. Also, I would rather watch the movie again then read the book.


*If you haven’t noticed yet, I tend to cry. A lot.