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.

 

Book: In Search of Scandal

*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Romance novels are my guilty pleasure. I started sneaking them from my mother at 16 and have been obsessed ever since. As an English major, I love reading anything. But when I am stressed out or tired with what I’m reading, I have to get my romance novel “fix”. I think of it this way: A romance novel is a playing field and I am rooting for courtship. Courtship wins every single time. In Search of Scandal Book cover

I had the opportunity to review this ARC which is released on December 1st (today!). In Search of Scandal is about Will Repton, travel botanist, recently returned from India running into the beautiful, dazzling Charlotte Baker. She loves him from the start but can Will overcome his dark memories from Tibet to love her back?

Likable main characters can make or break a romance novel. I liked the characters of Will and Charlotte. They each had their own unique voice, which can be difficult to do when switching point of views. They both also had chemistry and I liked them together.

One of the things I couldn’t quite figure out was everyone’s social position. Charlotte’s older sister married an Earl, but the sister was a beard since the love affair was really between the Earl and Charlotte’s brother Wally.*  The Earl died and the sister married a Mr. Ben Paxton (and Wally is in disgrace for obvious reasons), so they are not part of the Ton. Charlotte was raised as a lady (since her sister was married to the Earl and had a proper education) and is a hot commodity in society. The complicated family connections was much more complex and convoluted than it needed to be. I have read a lot of historical romance and my understanding is that if one person in the family is in disgrace, they ALL are. It seemed odd to me that Charlotte was accepted into society but no one else was.

Despite that, the beginning of the novel was promising and fun. Charlotte is besotted with Will before even meeting him, and falls even more in love with him on meeting. Will just can’t even believe this gorgeous girl likes him, and tries his best to avoid her.

The key moment for me is the ‘ah-ha!’ moment when they realize they both love each other. It is a difficult and delicate moment to coordinate. Many authors bumble or outright fail at it. This one was not the best. The moment hinges on them both saying it to each other, even though both of their actions already demonstrated their feelings. One can argue that Will’s character is a little oblivious and Charlotte’s character is naive. But it left me as a reader just frustrated with the two of them. It wasn’t the worst ‘ah-ha!’ moment, but I have read better.

The ending was a little messy. A couple sub-plots became main plots and complicated things to an unnecessary degree.

Overall, it was still a delightful read with solid characters and some sizzling chemistry. I would rate it 3 out of 5.

Another win for courtship!

*I liked Wally’s character, but his sexuality had no bearing on the plot. It seemed as if the writer was trying too hard to be modern and edgy.

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.

Movie and Book: Mortal Instruments- City of Bones

I had heard a lot about The Mortal Instruments series. I never got into them, because after the Twilight craze I became very anti-vampire storyline. My roommate started reading them and explained the plot was not all vampires, and I became more interested in checking them out. This was one of those rare occurrences where I didn’t get a chance to read the book first. I ended up tagging along with my roommate when the movie came out, and the movie finally interested me enough to check out the series.

The Mortal Instruments City of BonesMortal Instruments is about a girl, Clarissa “Clary”, whose mother is mysteriously kidnapped and Clary becomes exposed to an underground world of Shadowhunters, werewolves, and vampires. Shadowhunters kill and destroy demons to protect all of humanity, and Clary gets dragged into the middle of it all by the broody, sarcastic, Shadowhunter Jace. Cue the sexual chemistry and sparks.

Despite not knowing a lot about the series, except the basics, I still managed to follow along with the movie story line pretty well. Clary, played by Lily Collins, suited the role. Jamie Campbell Bower simply embodies the sensual, enigmatic Jace. I liked the chemistry between Lily and Jamie (which makes sense since they were rumored as dating while they were filming this movie). By the end of the movie, I had decided I needed to read the book. My main reason: I needed to make sure the surprise twist wasn’t true. I would rate the movie 3.5 out of 5.

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones bookThe author Cassandra Clare definitely comes off as a first time writer in her first book. It is awkwardly written with a lot of bad similes and metaphors. Despite that, she created a really interesting world and characters that kept me reading. I recognized some of the really good dialogue scenes from the book were used in the movie, which shows the dialogue was stronger than some of the plot points.

Although, the movie actually did some different things with the plot that I actually liked better than how they were done in the book. For example, the first monster you meet in the movie is this terrifying demon dog thing. The first monster you meet in the book sounds like a lame slime monster.

There was only one part of the movie that wasn’t clear and that was due to the script, as it was completely different in the book. I enjoyed getting more involved in the history of the Shadowhunters, vampires, and werewolves in the book.

I enjoyed the overall premise of the series more than the actual writing of the book. Clary was often annoying. Jace was definitely the more interesting character that made reading worth it. I would rate the book 2.5 out of 5.

They set up the movie version City of Bones for a sequel, but I’m not sure if it will be made since the first movie only did so-so in the box office. I would like to see how they would have done with the other books in the series.

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.

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.