Movie and Book: Beautiful Creatures

When I initially saw the Beautiful Creatures books, I immediately thought vampires. It was on the wave of Twilight when it was vampire everything. I didn’t realize until the movie came out that it was witches. The movie looking interesting so I decided it was time to read the book.

Beautiful creature book 2

Beautiful Creatures follows the story of mortal teenager Ethan from the small town of Gatlin where nothing happens. Ethan has been dreaming of a girl with a face he can’t see. When he meets Lena, the new girl who has moved in with the mysterious Macon Ravenwood, he knows she’s the girl from his dreams. Ethan slowly gets drawn into a world full of magic, mystery, and danger.

I liked Ethan as the narrator. He was the kind of character who did his best to fit into the small town life but realizing that he did not belong and wanted desperately to get out. The problem for me was the book was SLOW to start. It took 150 pages for him to figure out Lena was a witch. UGH.

After 100 more pages, I genuinely liked Lena and Ethan. But most of all, I loved Macon Ravenwood, Lena’s uncle. His devotion to her is heart felt and he supports her even when he disagrees. The BEST scene is when the recluse Macon Ravenwood visits the school and shocks everyone. If you don’t want to read the book, just read that scene.

Overall, the book was decent. The setting of the South really captured the mystical qualities of the witches. However, I found myself not hooked by the series. I liked the characters enough, but the writing dragged for me too much to want to keep reading the series. The ending was tied up enough for me to think, ‘well what now?’ There was not enough of a cliffhanger for me to continue reading. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Beautiful Creatures movieThe movie started exactly as the book and just as intriguing. The pacing was better considering it didn’t get bogged down by details. Visually, they captured the swampy south so perfectly. Towards the middle of the movie, they started to combine two characters into one which I didn’t like. They at least had my favorite scene of Macon Ravenwood showing up at the school. It was more brilliant in the book, but I was still pleased to see it.

The cast was great. I thought the actor who played Ethan was great. The girl who played Lena was meh. Jeremy Irons as Uncle Macon was fantastic. I didn’t care for Emmy Rossum as Riley. I love Emmy, but Riley’s character is supposed to be blonde!

I would have possibly rated the movie higher, if it wasn’t for the ending. The movie ending did not make sense at all. It was a whole mess of confusion and “WTF just happened?’ moments. The gorgeous visuals of depicting the South redeems it. Barely. I would rate it 3 out of 5.

 

Top Ten Tuesday of 2015

I know it is already the end of January, but I still feel like 2016 just started for me. So here is my Top Ten Tuesday books I read in 2015 (not always books published in 2015, but books I read in 2015).

10.) The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood-

I didn’t score this book very high but I had to include it in my top ten because I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a book I wish I read in Feminist Literary Theory, so I could discuss it with other people. Because I have a lot of things to say about this book.

9.) The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

I am a huge fan of the Percy Jackson series. And the Heroes of Olympus series was even better. The last book was a great conclusion to the series. It also got me excited for his new series, Magnus Chase.

8.) Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

I was a little worried the first novel by an actress I loved. I didn’t want it to be terrible. It was not terrible. It was lovely and delightful. It had awkward moments, but it had all the humor that I associate with Lauren Graham.

7.) Entwined by Heather Morris

I love fairytale retellings and this one was by far my favorite this year. A well done retelling of the 12 dancing princesses (that was a stand alone!) with enough of a twist to make it interesting.

6.) The Heir by Kiera Cass

I was not excited initially when it was announced she was doing more books from the Selection series. I was worried it would ruin the integrity of the original series. I was pleasantly surprised. It was fantastic with a fresh new voice. Can’t wait for the next book.

5.) Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

This book totally took me by surprise as I had no idea where it was going. It’s a little…odd. But in a totally great way. Just read it.

4.) The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I was hooked after I read a excerpt of this online. Game of Thrones meets the Hunger Games. Looking forward to the next in the series.

3.) How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

What a surprising find this was. It’s about what reinventing yourself really means and how things don’t go the way you think they will. If you don’t want to read the book, just read chapter 24. It’s two pages of brilliant.

2.) and 1.) Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot and Winter by Marissa Meyer

Really these books are tied. Excellent ending to both series. You can read my full review of Royal Wedding here. Marissa Meyer’s conclusion was extremely well done and didn’t fall flat as some dystopia society series have done. I love both these writers and look forward to more from them in the future.

Honorable mentions: Snow like Ashes by Sara Raasch, Exile by Kevin Emerson, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfield, and Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

 

Movie and Book: The Help

I remember when The Help came out and how everyone seemed to be reading it. Initially, I wasn’t interested in the story. I became a little bit more interested when the move came out. Then when Octavia Spencer won her Oscar for her roles in the film, I thought ‘well now I really have to see what all the fuss is about.’

ThehelpbookcoverI listened to The Help as an audio book (libraries for the win!). The Help is about the lives of a young white woman Skeeter and black maids Aibileen and Minny. The book begins with Skeeter returning from college and determined on becoming a writer. She lands a gig writing the domestic help column for the local newspaper. Through writing the column, she forms a friendship with Aibileen. Skeeter had a very close relationship with her own family’s maid (Constantine) growing up and decides to write a book about the maids’ experiences working for white families. With Aibileen and Minny’s help, the book becomes published and is called ‘The Help’.

I think when the book first came out, I was daunted by how long it was. The unabridged audiobook didn’t feel that long though. It was actually a lot of fun to listen to. The voice actors were fantastic and really embodied the characters. I loved that Octavia Spencer was the voice for Minny, the same role she played in the movie. Overall, I really enjoyed the book. It was part drama, part humor. There were literally parts that made me laugh out loud while listening to it. I would rate the book 4.5 out of 5.

help movieI felt that the movie was very close to the book. There was a few changes in the scenes and timing of things. Emma Stone was a little underwhelming as Skeeter. But Viola Davis, Allison Janney (playing Skeeter’s mother), and Bryce Dallas Howard (as the racist queen bee of the town) were fantastic in their roles. Octavia Spencer simply is Minny Jackson.

One of the issues I had with the movie was the pacing. The pacing of the movie was really awful as you did not realize how much time passed. In the book, several years pass. In the movie everything seems to happen in a matter of a couple months. I think that was an editing issue. My other big issue with the movie was Cecily Tyson playing the role of Constantine, Skeeter’s childhood nurse. Don’t get me wrong, Cecily Tyson is a fabulous actress and she has done some great pieces of film in her time. However, she did not fit the role of Constantine.

Although the movie was a decent adaptation, the movie lacked the same depth and soulfulness that the book possessed. I would rate it a 3 out of 5.

Movie and Book: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I love audio books.

It’s only been the last few years that I have gotten into audio books. I used to be one of those books snobs who would not be caught dead listening to an audio book. Then I started making an 16 hour drive round trip a few times a year, and I discovered the wonderful thing that were audio books.

Extremely_loud_and_incredibly_close_bookI picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close as an audio book at the library (unabridged because that is the only way to go). I had heard the book was good but that was about it. I had no idea what the story really was about. I’m glad I picked it up. It is about a boy Oscar who has lost his father on Sept 11th in the World Trade Center. Although you don’t figure that out right away because all he calls it is “The Worst Day”. You learn the story of his father in pieces.

Oscar is a unique character with his own terminology of things. He comes across a key and is determined to find the lock that fits it as he believes that his father left it for him to figure out. He comes across many unique characters in his search. It’s a beautiful story well told in the voice of Oscar. My only problem with the book was the side story about Oscar’s Grandma and Grandpa. Oscar’s grandparents suffered the tragedies in World War II and it goes into their story along with Oscar’s journey until both storylines converge. One of the things I really liked about the audio book was that each character was voiced differently depending on whose perspective the chapter was in. The bad thing was there was too much of the grandparents story. I really liked Oscar and I wanted more of his story. I did not really care about the grandparents, especially Grandma. The ending also fell a little flat for such a well crafted story. I would rate the book 4 out of 5.

 

extremely-loud-and-incredibly-close-movieI was interested to see what they were going to do with the movie version and I had heard people rave about the movie. Tom Hanks plays the dad in flashbacks with Oscar and Sandra Bullock plays Oscar’s mom. I loved the little kid who plays Oscar. I thought he did a great job (although I don’t know why his eye color kept changing crazy colors).

One of the things I liked about it is that the movie is strictly from Oscar’s perspective and doesn’t involve the grandparents story hardly at all. The only scenes with the grandparents were their relationship with Oscar. I think I liked them better that way. However, you do lose a little bit of the context of the story. I thought it was a decent movie interpretation but it pales in comparison to rich detail of the book. And actually changes quite a few scenes and add some scenes that didn’t even happen in the book. One of my favorite characters from the book was completely cut from the movie. I understand why it was necessary, but I was still disappointed. There was a lot to put in there. The movie ended on a much more positive note than the book, but I wish the book had come up with it first as it would have been written better. I think I would rate the movie 3 out of 5.

Conclusion- I think it is one of those situations where if you watched the movie, you would be satisfied and thinks it’s amazing if you haven’t read the book. If you read the book, the movie will be somewhat of a disappointment. But don’t listen to this as an audio book while you are driving! There will be tears.

Nicholas Sparks-Part I

How much do I love Nicholas Sparks? Let me count the ways.

I randomly picked up my first Nicolas Sparks novel while I was bored at a family friend’s house. It looked intriguing. It was called The Rescue and to this day it is still one of my favorite Nicolas Sparks novels. (Fact: I have read all of Sparks’ novels including his Autobiography ‘Three Weeks with my Brother’).

Many of his books have been turned into movies, because his novels translate extremely well into movies. They’re heartfelt, chick flick, tear jerkers that readers and viewers can appreciate. A lot of people accuse him for being too sad and always having his characters die, which can be the case. However, tragedy can strike at any time and dying is a part of life. I think that’s what Sparks’ illustrates in his books, love and loss.

I thought of reviewing his most popular book/movie releases such as The Notebook and A Walk to Remember, but I actually watched those movies before reading the books so I have very different opinions about them. I decided to go with the books I had read first before seeing their movie counterparts. The ones I will be reviewing are Nights in Rodanthe, The Last Song, and Dear John.

One of the things I like about Nicholas Sparks is that not all of his books are about young, summer love. He depicts romance across all ages, including those who might be past their prime and get a second chance at romance. Nights in Rodanthe is one of those. Adrienne has been abandoned by her husband and takes the opportunity to get away and tend to her friend’s bed and breakfast. Paul is a successful surgeon, also divorced, and the B&B’s only guest. In preparation of a storm about to hit, the two fall in love.

It’s really a story about two people who have broken down and find each other amidst a storm. When I read it, it wasn’t one of my favorites. Maybe I was too young to appreciate the older and divorced pain that the two have gone through. One of the big differences in the movie was Adrienne’s husband asking her if they can get back together, which becomes a theme through the movie as she ponders the question.

Richard Gere is getting old but I still think he’s super sexy in the movie. Diane Lane was brilliant as well. I liked their chemistry together. I would say that I enjoyed the movie more than the book. I would give the book a 3 out of 5 and the movie a 3.5 out of 5.

The Last Song is about Ronnie (Veronica) and her younger brother living with her estranged dad for the summer, finding first love, and saving the sea turtles. The book was well written, seamlessly plotted, and poignantly told. All the characters were fully developed and evolved throughout the novel. It’s one of my favorites by Nicholas Sparks. (Fact: Most of Nicholas Sparks’ books are my favorite).

I was really hesitant about the movie because Miley Cyrus was playing Ronnie. I didn’t think she could pull off the depth of Ronnie’s character and growth that she goes through in the novel. Much to my delight, the basic storyline was very similar to the book and I felt myself drawn into the story. Greg Kinnear, who played her dad, was fantastic. Although I still think Ronnie should have been recast, Miley Cyrus was not as terrible as I imagined. I enjoyed Liam Hemsworth as the leading man as well. They obviously have great chemistry together.

The movie was a very decent adaptation of the book, despite some minor plot changes. I think the book though was much more enjoyable and included less Miley Cyrus. I would give the book a 4 out of 5 and the movie a 3 out of 5.

Dear John

Dear John is another one of my favorites of Nicholas Sparks. It follows the story of John Tyree who falls in love with Savannah while he’s on leave from the Army. They continue their love through letters as John finishes his assignment. Until 9/11 happens and John has to decide to fight for his country or return to his true love. The book is heartfelt and well written. Nicholas Sparks wrote this as a tribute to the people enlisted in the US military, and I felt it was portrayed well (especially with the aftermath of 9/11).

I initially had not heard very good reviews of the movie, but I had to decide for myself. I actually thought the movie was a decent interpretation of the book. I like that it still involved John’s relationship with his father, as that is a large part of the book. It also of course touched on how 9/11 changed the military, which resulted in John’s relationship changing with Savannah. However, I had two issues with the movie. The biggest problem was the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried falls very flat. That factor alone affects the whole movie. The other problem is that the ending is different. I don’t mind a different ending if it works. In this case, it did not.

The book is extremely good and I cried through most of the last chapter. (Fact: I cry often when reading Nicholas Sparks). The adaptation of the book to the movie was decent, but the lack of chemistry between the actors made it unbelievable. I was a bit disappointed. I would give the book a 4 out of 5, but the movie gets a 2 out of 5.

Eat Pray Love

I initially wasn’t very interested in reading Eat Pray Love. I had a friend who raved about it, but I’m usually not into self discovery, self help non-fiction. When the movie came out, I decided to check it out. I was slightly more interested to see the visual interpretation. It’s a very non-committal way to see if a book sucks before investing in it. After the movie, I obviously decided to give the book a chance.

Eat Pray Love (2010). Starring Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, and Richard Jenkins. Directed by Ryan Murphy. 133 minutes. $19.99.

I admit that I didn’t have high expectations for the movie. The critic reviews were sub-par and I’m not a big Julia Roberts fan. However, I was pleasantly surprise. The movie follows the true story of writer Elizabeth Gilbert who decides to travel for a year, after a crushing divorce and debilitating rebound relationship. She starts with Italy which is purely about pleasure with the food and the Italian language (EAT). She goes to India for her spiritual journey at an Ashram (PRAY). Her last stop in Indonesia brings her to a shaman in Bali, who she had met a couple years previously and who asked her to come back. However, she also unexpectedly finds love (LOVE).

The movie was visually beautiful as it went through every location she traveled. Italy’s art, architecture, and food. Bali’s tropic, exotic paradise. India was probably the least visually stunning but that’s because she’s at an Ashram. I understood the journey that Julia Roberts’ character was on. It reminded me of my own world traveling adventures and inspired me to want to travel again. The only scene that was odd was the flashback/day dream of her wedding day with her husband and the two of them discussing their failed marriage. Although I understood her need for closure, the scene was awkward. I wish I could just imagine a conversation that vividly and receive closure that easily.

I also decided that I love Javier Bardem. I actually never had seen him in anything before (or if I had, it didn’t make much of an impact). His character suits the exotic feeling of Bali and the surprise of finding romance between the two of them. Julia and Javier also had really good chemistry together and I believed the romance. Overall, I would rate the movie 4 out of 5 for the visual beauty of Italy and Bali with the sexiness of Javier Bardem.

After the movie, I decided I wanted to read the book. I think what I found fascinating about the movie was that it was based on a true story. When the movie was enjoyable, I decided that I wanted to know the rest of the story.

Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat Pray Love (2006). 352 pages. Viking Adult. $24.95 (hardcover)

The book filled in all the pieces that the movie was missing. One of the big differences was the movie showed the failing of her marriage and rebound relationship. In the book, those scenes were interspersed with her travels as she explained why she was on a journey. I understood why she structured the book that way (Eat, Pray, Love. Backstory isn’t included in those 3 things), but it cut down her Italy section a lot (which is the only place I would travel to out of the 3 places she went to).

Also, India was much more boring in the book. She discussed meditation and enlightenment which was an interesting topic, but it was hard to keep my interest for over 100 pages. Bali was more fantastic. Overall, it was interesting and inspiring. It really made me miss traveling.

I really liked that it was a true story. That it ended with love like a fictional story would. That she found love when she least expected it (so much like life).

I felt that the movie was a decent visual interpretation of the book. And Javier Bardem fit his character so well in the book, that I pictured Javier in my head. If you enjoyed the movie, you should definitely read the book. If you didn’t enjoy the movie, I would still think you need to read the book. because the book is different enough that you might be able to appreciate the journey she is on more than you would appreciate the movie of it.

In a surprising twist, I would also rate the book a 4 out of 5. I really enjoyed the book, but would have preferred to have more Italy, less flashback, and less India.

Push/Precious

After watching The Blindside, I decided that I also wanted to see Precious. I was running with my theme of Oscar nominated movies (although last years Oscars by now). Then I discovered there was also a book that the movie was based on called Push by Sapphire. Already I was hesitant. I tend to have issues with book/movie counterparts when they change the title. It makes me feel like the movie will be vastly different than the written work it’s based on. But I was still committed to this blog at the time (which is laughable because it really doesn’t seem to be the case), so I decided to start with the book.

Sapphire. Push (1997). 192 pages. Vintage. $13.00.

I had assumed that Precious was based on a true story. I’m not sure why I came to that assumption, but I quickly learned that was not the case. The novel Push is actually fiction. It’s about a teenage girl named Precious who has become pregnant by her father raping her, and emotionally, physically, and sexually abused by her mother. She drops out of high school (somewhat kicked out) and ends up in a reform school/GED program for other teenage girls. It’s meant to be tragic for the social conditions Precious lives in, but also inspiring as Precious learns to stand up for herself and grow as a person.

I have to say that I was very uninspired by my book choice and it was very difficult to get through. Luckily, it was short and an easy read otherwise I don’t know if I would have finished it.

The main problem I had with the novel is the narrative itself. The whole novel is narrated in Precious’ voice, which I understand that this is meant to be her story as if she was telling it. However, Precious is a very difficult narrator to follow. She does not give her story any time line,  and the stories she retells don’t match up with where she is when she’s telling it. I understand it was maybe meant to be artistic for the writer, but instead it was confusing and frustrating.

The depictions of Precious’ family dynamic is flat out disgusting. Although Precious is just being honest, the details used to describe the father raping her are vulgar and her mother’s abuse is disturbing.  I will be the first to admit that I have gentle sensibilities, so it was very difficult for me to read through those scenes (and there are a lot of them).

The other issue I had was how difficult it was to see Precious’ growth. Since it is continuously depicted in Precious’ narrative voice it’s hard to see any actual change, because she still sounds uneducated to the very end of the book. The only aspect that changes is her actions, which somewhat shows a hint of her growth.

I felt that maybe I just didn’t get it. I didn’t feel sorry for Precious, and I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to. You feel sorry for her situation, as the reader understands that no person should be abused this way. It is devastating to think there are children with parents such as that. But I couldn’t pity Precious for it. Mostly because she didn’t even understand how wrong her situation was. It wasn’t a book that I appreciated artistically or enjoyed. I rate the book a 1/5.

At this point, I was thinking anything had to be better than the book I read. I wanted to be able to root for Precious, or to even like Precious.

Precious (2009). Starring Gabourey Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey, and Lenny Kravitz. Directed by Lee Daniels. 109 minutes. $19.98.

Thankfully, I did like the movie better. One of the most important improvements was that it had a cohesive, flowing time line. It was easier to see the progression of Precious’ growth, education, and development with having the story told sequentially. It still was in Precious’ point of view, as they had Gabourey voice over a lot of the movie but without any confusion.

The movie also had a great way of expressing visually how Precious saw herself as a person. In the novel, Precious often has daydreams of being a movie star, which always seemed muddled in her narrative. When things would get difficult, she would also imagine herself in a different place. They cut scenes of her movie star self, her imagined white self, and thought processes with scenes happening to her. It worked much better visually than it ever did in the book.

The movie showed Precious’ horrendous situation in ways that were sympathetic but not disturbing. The mother, played by Mo’Nique, was a brilliant performance and rightfully won the Oscar for supporting actress. I even felt sympathetic for the mother’s character which I did not feel at all in the book.  I wasn’t super impressed with Gabrielle Sidbay’s performance until the very end.

The movie was much more enjoyable and a better representation of the overall story than the novel was by itself. I would rate it 3.5/5.

My opinion is to not even bother with the book, and enjoy the more inspiring, hopeful movie interpretation.


Sidenote: If you want a novel with a unique narrative voice that is artistic as well as making believable characters that are interesting, I would recommend The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time. I think that this was the kind of narrative that the writer wanted for Push and failed miserably.