For 2012

I cannot believe it is the year 2012. I know it seems cliche, but where has time gone?

I actually started this blog in 2010, and what a shoddy job I have done of it. I had this brilliant idea and simply haven’t followed through. Life got in the way.

I think the problem was that I was so focused on my movie/book comparison, that I didn’t leave room for anything else. Do you know how many books are made into movies? TONS. LOADS. I became overwhelmed by the idea that when I realized a book had been made into a movie, I was compelled to see and read both. Even if the idea or plot did not appeal to me. And then when it got to writing it, I felt uninspired. I’ve decided that I want to change that. I want this blog to be not just reviews, but even thoughts, ideas, and opinions on all books, movies, or anything that simply speaks to me.

I’ve also decided that I am going to read more classic books that I missed in school, and reread some classics that I’ve neglected. I even started “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. Granted, I’m on page 2 but I’m working on it.

I also want to get back to what I miss, which is writing. I’m going to stop re-editing myself a billion times (you should see the number of saved entries that have never been posted). Simply write, and post what I have without critiquing myself.

So welcome to 2012, and hopefully a new chapter for this blog.

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.

Inkheart

I went through a Cornelia Funke phase, where I read most of her books from the library. I can’t remember if it started with Inkheart, or if I ended with it. I do know that I love the title Inkheart. It strikes a chord with the writer in me.

Funke, Cornelia. Inkheart (2003). 534 pages. Scholastic. $17.99 (hardcover).

Inkheart is about a girl, Meggie, and her father, who she simply calls Mo. He’s a famed bookbinder throughout Europe and they travel as he rebinds very old books. It’s a mystery about what happens to Meggie’s mother, as Meggie doesn’t remember and Mo refuses to talk about it. Then you find out that Mo has a very rare gift. If he reads out loud, he can read characters in and out of books, but has no control over who and what comes in or goes out. Mo and Meggie get thrown into an adventure with the fire-eater named Dustfinger, book collector Aunt Elinor, a boy from Arabian Nights, and the evil Capricorn.

It’s been awhile since I read Inkheart (as it is the first in the trilogy and I read its sequels more recently), so I don’t remember it as well. However, I love Funke’s writing. She has beautiful imagery and a great storyteller flow. It’s the reason why I read most of the books that she’s written. The English major in me wonders how well it’s translated (since it’s originally in German). As I’m never learning German, I suppose I’ll continue to wonder.

My only complaint really is Inkheart itself. The book titled Inkheart talks about a book, ironically, also titled Inkheart that Mo accidentally reads out some of its characters. As I enjoy the characters and it has its own entire plot, I wish I could read that book. However, I doubt Funke would ever write it. There’s so much told about the “original” story, it made me want to actually read it.

Towards the end of this first installment, it becomes a little predictable. When I learned that it was a trilogy, I decided to read the rest of the books series. Inkheart didn’t really end on a cliffhanger, and I would have been happy not reading the other two books. However, I’m glad I did. The last 2 books of the Inkworld trilogy are truly amazing, and it all comes to a conclusion that keeps you in suspense. For Inkheart alone, I would rate it 3.5/5. For the series, I would rate it 5/5.

I was very excited to learn that they were making a movie of this book. Then I learned Brendan Frasier would play Mo, and I wasn’t as excited.

Inkheart (2008). Starring Brendan Fraser, Eliza Bennett, Helen Mirren, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, and Jim Broadbent. Directed by Iain Softley. 106 min. $9.99

I decided not to have high expectations for the movie. Some great children’s books that have the potential to make great movies never actually turn out that great (Golden Compass, a perfect example). I was also very leery about Brendan Fraser being cast as Mo, as Mo is one of my favorite characters.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I actually was very impressed by the movie. It turned out to be a decent visual representation of the book. This was mostly due to the cast.

As I predicted, Brendan Fraser wasn’t all that impressive (but not nearly as terrible as I imagined) and the girl who played Meggie was so-so. The supporting cast actually made the movie (which made sense as they were my favorite characters in the books as well). Helen Mirren as cranky, bookish Aunt Elinor was fantastic. Andy Serkis as the very evil, creepy Capricorn was also amazing. Jim Broadbent as the absentminded, writer Fenoglio was brilliant. However the actor who stole the show was Paul Bettany as Dustfinger. I might be a little biased as Dustfinger is my favorite character. Half magical, part brooding, all around good guy with the best intentions, but only out for himself. Paul Bettany nails the role like it was meant for him.*

Especially his shirtless, fire dancing scene:

And now you understand.

The movie was a decent visual interpretation of the book, although it could have been a little longer to help explain and develop the movie plot a little better. I rate the movie a 3.5/5. I would still recommend reading the book first though.

And if you love Dustfinger, then definitely watch Paul Bettany.

 


*Then again Paul Bettany is pretty much excellent in everything he does (except for that crap tennis movie he did with Kirsten Dunst. Horrid).

The Tale of Despereaux

The most prestigious award for Children’s Literature is the Newbury Award. Some of my favorite kids/junior fiction are Newbury books such as The Giver or The Witch of Blackbird Pond. When I worked at the independent book store, The Tale of Despereaux was the latest pick and it was flying off the shelves. When the movie came out, I decided I would take the time to read it.

DiCamillo, Katie. The Tale of Despereaux (2003). 272 pages. Candlewick. $17.99

The Tale of Despereaux tells the story about a mouse named Despereaux who doesn’t act like other mice. His ears are too big, his eyes open too soon, he doesn’t scurry, and worst of all, he’s not afraid of humans. The mouse who is not like other mice also learns how to read, and imagines himself as a knight. Unfortunately, his kingdom has been saddened by the loss of their queen who died in a terrible mishap involving a rat (Roscuro) and soup. Therefore the king has outlawed soup through out the land. The beloved mouse has a huge adventure involving falling in love with a princess, a dungeon full of evil rats, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess, and bringing the joy of soup back to the kingdom. It’s heartwarming and endearing. Even the evil bad guys in the plot aren’t all that bad.

Overall, the book reads beautifully. It sounds like a fairy tale, as the author directly addresses the reader to give insights into the motivations and history of the characters. Katie DiCamillo writes a charming story with adventure and romance. I could imagine how it would be a great book to read out loud to children. I rate the book a 4/5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the movie. I had heard that the movie was “boring”. After reading the book, I could understand why some people would think that. Although the story has a sense of adventure, it’s more of a mental story than a visual one. The narrator of the book really sets the tone for the whole story, and the words are much more compelling than what is actually happening. There are a lot of main characters and you better understand the character’s motivation by reading the book. For example, the reader feels the fear and apprehension in the dungeon because Despereaux is so terrified.

The Tale of Despereaux (2008). Starring Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, and Emma Watson. Directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen. 93 min. $14.98

 

 

 

 

 

 

The movie was so-so. It is very slow paced which I think is an effort to draw out the story for the big screen. They changed a couple things that weren’t bad or good, just different. The evil rat (Roscuro) wasn’t exactly evil but not in the same way that it was written in the book. They added the character of the king’s cook and his magical vegetable counterpart. A bunch of random vegetables came to life to help the cook make his soup. My first reaction to seeing it in the very beginning of the movie was “What the hell?” It was really weird and he played a very odd role in the movie. It was never explained how he could come to life or if he was simply a delusion of the cook’s. It was obvious he was added as comedic affect (as the story itself isn’t very funny), but he came off as creepy.  The only parts that redeemed it for me was the voices of Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, and Sigourney Weaver as the Narrator.

Overall, I don’t think the movie was successful in translating into a visual story. Kids would be better off reading the book, and enjoy it much more. I would rate the movie a 1.5/5.

On a side note, I decided I liked Katie DiCamillo and read Tiger Rising. I actually enjoyed it better than Despereaux. Although the symbolism for the novella kind of punches you in the face, it blended realism with a bit of fairytale that DiCamillo did so well in Despereaux. I also really would like to check out her other Newbury Award winning book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

Blogger Fail

I have been very neglectful of my blog lately. And for that I apologize. There are many reasons that have been causing my lack of recent posts:

1.) I became insanely busy the month of September with my cousin’s wedding, traveling to visit a few of my best friends, and picking up a 2nd part time job for about 3 weeks.

2.) It’s also probably because my latest book/movie pick was so uninspiring that I have yet to see the movie counterpart (something I hope to remedy very soon).

3.) Not initially realizing that I had more of a buffer than I thought.

Or perhaps it was a combination of all 3.

In any case, I hope to make a reappearance and try to make a committed effort into giving this a second shot.

Wish me luck.

The Blind Side

(Sorry, I was going to post this a week ago. But work and life got in the way. Better late than never).

During my brief stint at Border’s, the movie-tie in version of The Blind Side were flying off the shelves. I had heard how great the movie was, but when I looked at the description of the book it sounded…boring. The online description made it sound like it was all about the evolution of football and not necessarily the story of Michael Oher. I decided that the book was not worth my time. So I watched the movie instead.

The Blind Side (2009). Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, and Kathy Bates. Directed by John Lee Hancock. 129 min. $29.98

For those who don’t know the story (although it seems like everyone saw the movie before I did), it follows the life of Michael Oher plucked from Memphis poverty and becoming an all-star left tackle for the NFL. The movie starts during his life as a high school teenager. He manages to enroll in a rich, white, Christian school where the coach salivates over Michael’s vast size and athletic ability. He meets Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, the typical rich, Christian, suburban Memphis family who eventually begin to care for Michael and adopt him into their family.

The movie was fantastic. It was a typical inspirational, heart-warming movie. Some of the scenes were not only touching but funny. Leigh Anne’s character was sassy but with a caring heart for those around her. Sandra Bullock nailed the role and made it completely believable. There was moments when the movie dragged a little bit, but you cared so much for the characters that it didn’t matter too much. I absolutely adore Sandra Bullock and was excited to see the movie that garnered her Oscar win. Although the kid who played Michael was decent, Sandra stole the show. Tim McGraw* played the submissive role of Sean Tuohy. I easily give the movie a rating of 5/5.

I loved the movie so much that I decided to take another look at the book. On closer inspection, it wasn’t as much about football as I originally thought. So I took a trip to my library to check it out.

Lewis, Michael. The Blind Side (2008). 288 pages. Norton. $13.95.

The book did end up being A LOT about football. I will warn you ahead of time that if you don’t know the basics of the game, you will be completely lost (or at least skip almost half the book). I happen to be a rare species of females who understand football very well.** The football history is mixed in with the narrative of Michael Oher’s story. There is a lot about how football has evolved with players and coaches that have changed the game over the years, especially in the evolution of the left tackle position Michael plays. Despite a lot of football talk, there was a detailed account of the story surrounding  Michael Oher and the Tuohy family.

I was pleasantly surprised that the movie very closely resembled the true story of the book. I feel that movies based on a true story rarely accurately portray the true events. This is not the case with this movie. Although the time line was a little different in how some things happened, most of the events related in the movie did happen to some degree. There were several quoted lines in the book from the real people that were written into the movie word for word for their characters.

The only real difference was about Sean Tuohy. The movie mostly depicts the relationship between Leigh Anne and Michael (mother-son), and Sean is seen as just supporting whatever she does and rarely doing anything himself. The book relates a lot of what Sean did for Michael (the first one to meet him and introduce him to his family, found a way to replace his ‘F’s with ‘A’s to get into college). Although I liked the movie as it was, I wish Sean’s character would have been a little more proactive. I felt it was relevant to how this family deeply cared for Michael, including the Tuohy children, Collins and SJ.

I think what impressed me most about this novel was the detail. Michael Lewis did A LOT of research to make this book. There were hundreds of football statistics, and thousands of quoted lines from people ranging from NFL football coaches to the gang-bangers who lived in Michael’s neighborhood to the Tuohy family. It’s hard enough to write a novel from your imagination, much less a book based on a true story that required so much research into football and the lives of the Tuohy family and Michael.

Despite the football lectures, Michael Lewis wrote the story well. And it is definitely a story worth telling. I rate the book 4/5.


*I did not even recognize Tim McGraw till weeks after when my roommate mentioned he was in the movie. I think it was the lack of the cowboy hat. I haven’t decided if not realizing who he really was is actually a sign of his superb acting ability.

**My father had a daughter for his only child and I lived in a one TV household. Consequently, I was stuck watching football on Sundays. I figured I might as well learn how the game is played or die at an early age from boredom. I obviously chose the former.

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.