Book: Royal Wedding

princess diaries bookI vividly remember reading Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries the first time. I was an awkward freshman, avoiding a family reunion because I could not put the book down. Reading about Princess Mia was like reading my own journal. We had the same birthday, the same frizzy awful hair, and the same neurotic, awkward personality. We obsessed and worried about the same things (grades, boys liking me, complaining about lack of boobs). The only difference was I wasn’t a princess (unfortunately) and my mother never dated my math teacher. I continued to read the series well into college, because I had to know how my literary twin got through high school. In doing so, I felt like Mia and I had become good friends. I was sad when the series had to come to an end. And of course, I had to watch the movie.*

I continued to follow Meg Cabot’s work and basically read every book she had ever written. Meg Cabot quickly became one of my favorite authors. Mia still remained one of my favorite characters.

I fangirl squealed with delight in learning that Meg Cabot was writing another Princess Diaries book, with Mia as an adult. It was a great move on Meg Cabot’s part. Everyone who used to read Princess Diaries when it came out have grown up. What made it better was Mia was planning her wedding. At the same time as the book came out, I started planning my wedding. Princess Mia and I continue to be twinsies.

royal wedding coverRoyal Wedding starts with Mia and Michael getting engaged and wedding planning. Before you know it, the Genovia government is in disarray, the princess has an internet stalker on the loose, and Mia discovers she has a royal half sister. Hijinks and hilariousness ensue.

Royal Wedding can be read as a stand alone by itself. I think Meg did a great job of introducing the characters as if they were new. The plot had romance, comedy, political intrique, and some family drama. It was a fun and easy read. For those familiar with the series, the book was a love letter to the fans. It was great to see all the same cast of characters and find out how they were doing. Mia is still paranoid, but less insecure. Michael is still awesome. Lily is still bold but less bitchy. Tina is still a romantic. Grandmere is still…well…Grandmere. I honestly felt like I was catching up with old friends, only just a little bit older and wiser.

The book was delightful. I can easily rate it a 5 out of 5. I am sad I won’t get another opportunity to check in on my friends, but I am glad with how the book ended.

*I will never do a book/movie comparison of Princess Diaries. The book series and movie are complete separate entities for me. I enjoy both of them equally, for different reasons.

Movie and Book: Divergent

divergent_bookMy roommate started my interest in the series, and I was thrilled when she gave me the series for Christmas. I manged to read the whole series a month before the movie came out.

Out of all the books in the series, the first one was my favorite. Divergent follows the story of Beatrice “Tris” Prior who lives in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where society is divided into five factions. When they are of age, teens choose to stay with their families faction or to join a new faction. Tris makes the decision to leave her family’s faction Abnegation “selfless” to join Dauntless “brave”, where she goes through a series of trials and tests to see if she belongs in Dauntless. But Tris’ brain isn’t like everyone else’s. She is Divergent.

I loved the premise of the series. I liked the factions and how the author explained them.* Although I have never been to Chicago, it describes a lot of the city and would be familiar to those who know it well. I also liked Tris. She wasn’t a perfect heroine but really struggled to belong to her old faction and then her new one. However, the best character by far is Four. Probably one of my favorite male characters to come out of YA fiction in a while. Edward who? Peeta/Gale what? No, it’s all about Four.

I would easily rate the book 5 out of 5. It dragged at parts but I was still intrigued by the plot and the last 50 pages are intense.

divergent_poster_movieI was excited to see what they did with the movie. I wasn’t sure about the casting of Shailene Woodley (since the only thing I knew her from was that horrible ABC Family show). I was pleasantly surprise though, as she impressed me as Tris. Theo James was even okay as Four. The movie plot was very similar to the book and I thought it set up the story well.

A few scenes were changed in how they were told and the timing was a little different. The biggest change was more scenes with the character Kate Winslet plays-Jeanine. It wasn’t necessarily a bad or good addition to the movie, just a different telling of the story. In reality, the second book has a lot more of Jeanine. It would be interesting to see how they add Jeanine in the second movie.

I would give the movie 4.5 out of 5, just because I have impossible standards for Four’s character. I’m looking forward to the next movies in the series

A lot of really good young adult books being turned into movies, so stay tuned.

*I am TOTALLY an Erudite. Except not a jerk about it.

All Things Jane Eyre

One of my favorite books of all time is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I like to call it “the book that doomed me to become an English major.” It feels like I read it for the first time only yesterday. I remember vividly being 16 and spending my summer days at my grandmother’s house, enjoying the cool air conditioning to avoid the 100 degree heat outside and physically not being able to put the book down. I remember falling in love with that book and rereading parts of it over and over and over again all summer long.

I was ecstatic when it was assigned reading in college 5 years later. I was worried that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered and maybe I changed too much to be able to appreciate it the same way. Luckily, it wasn’t the case. I felt like I was 16, falling in love with the book all over again. I passionately defended the haters of Mr. Rochester in my English class, to the point where the teacher pulled me aside and told me to tone it down. The scene where Jane has to leave Mr. Rochester breaks my heart. Every. Single. Time.

There have been MANY movie versions of Jane Eyre over the years and I doubt I will be able to watch them all (some of them you might not even be able to get on DVD and others might not be worth watching). There have been two recent adaptations of Jane Eyre that I recently enjoyed and wanted to share, a modern retelling novel and the most recent movie adaptation.

Jane BookFor those who don’t know the story of Jane Eyre, it is about a character named Jane Eyre and basically her life story. She is an orphan who is raised by her horrible aunt and mean spirited cousins. Her aunt ships her away to a religious school which ends up being just as terrible as her aunt’s. Despite it all, Jane grows up to be a pious, kind, caring, intelligent woman although often described as plain. She goes to work as a governess for the mysterious Mr. Rochester and then things start to get really interesting. Jane Eyre is a classic gothic fiction novel but also a love story woven in.

The novel Jane by April Lindner is a young adult modern retelling of Jane Eyre. Jane Moore drops out of college after the death of her parents to be a nanny employed by the mysterious, brooding, rock star Nico Rathburn about to make his comeback. I was dubious by a modern retelling as Jane Eyre is really a piece of literature that exists in the time period it was written for. I was convinced by my friend’s book review and decided I had to check it out  myself.

To give you an idea of how much I enjoyed this book, I started it late at night planning to only read a couple pages and instead finally went to sleep at dawn. I thought a successful modern interpretation of Jane Eyre would be impossible, but I was wrong. I loved it. Mr. Rochester as a modern rock star was ingenious and modern Jane was smart, strong, and endearing. I spent most of the book waiting to see if it was going to let me down in someway, but it never did. It gave me my Jane Eyre fix in a condensed, easy read version. I would rate it 5 out of 5.

Jane Eyre MovieI was excited when I learned a new move interpretation of Jane Eyre was being released in theaters. I really enjoyed the Kiera Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice and hoped it would be as good. I was devastated when I missed it in theaters, but added it first thing to my Netflix queue.

The movie starred Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester and Mia Wasikowska as Jane. I enjoyed the movie. I thought Mia embodied the awkwardness and plainness, but as well as the determination and strength of Jane. I wasn’t convinced with Michael’s portrayal of Mr. Rochester, but I thought he had good chemistry with Mia. Their interaction and banter were lines right out of the book which I enjoyed. The scenery for the movie was also beautifully done. The landscape and isolation of Thornfield was demonstrated well visually.

One of the really odd things about the movie was that it starts when she is leaving Mr. Rochester which is right in the middle of the novel. The timeline of the movie was very confusing in the beginning and shows a bunch of flashbacks. It picks up for awhile when Jane and Mr. Rochester meet and then becomes very confusing again when she leaves (which is where the movie initially started). For someone who might not be familiar with the story, they could get very confused. I have read the novel in it’s entirety at least twice and I was even confused at times.

The ending was very abrupt and unsatisfying, which I felt unnecessary as the novel has a complete ending. I also think the movie running time was a little short for the very lengthy novel to give it the depth that it needed. Despite those issues, I still enjoyed it and thought certain parts were done very well. I would rate it it 3.5 out of 5.

Movie: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Along with my new years resolutions to read more classic books and actually read the books I own instead of buying new ones (a feat easier said than done), I also resolved to watch more movies. There are so many that come and go in theaters that I end up missing. And my netflix queue is already novel length from trying to watch the movies I have missed in my lifetime. So I have been trying to get myself up in the morning (not an easy task) in an attempt to watch the cheaper, first theater showing of movies I want to see.

One of those movies ended up being The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring and directed by Ben Stiller. I remember watching the trailer and being intrigued. I had to see it to find out more. It was definitely a movie I was glad I didn’t miss.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller plays Walter Mitty who works in the film department of LIFE Magazine and dreams of fantastical adventures only in the realm of his mind until he actually goes out and starts living his own adventure. Sean Penn and Kristen Wiig star.

I really enjoyed this movie. It was a great chance to see Ben Stiller play someone who was more real than the comical characters he normally plays. The movie still had funny moments though. It was also visually stunning. I don’t know where he filmed but some of the shots of the landscape were beautiful. It made me miss traveling and wish I had the means to explore more often. Sean Penn was perfectly cast as the brazen, adventurous photographer. Kristen Wiig* was actually enjoyable to watch interact with Ben’s character. Overall, I would rate the movie 5 out of 5.

I felt really inspired after watching this movie. It made me want to go out and do more. I am somewhat of a homebody (as you would expect from a book nerd and TV/movie enthusiast) but I felt I needed to go out and do more fun things. Studying abroad was a big adventure for me 7 years ago, but it didn’t mean that my adventures had to stop even if I was no longer in Europe.

I was also inspired by the LIFE magazine motto which I had never read before. “To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” I liked the quote so much that I wrote it on my white board which hangs prominently on my wall over my desk.

I didn’t realize until after I had watched the movie that it was a remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Danny Kaye** which in turn was based on the short story by James Thurber The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I’m not sure how this movie compared to the original. It might be one I have to add to the netflix queue.

*I have to say I am not a big fan of Kristen Wiig. I think the SNL characters she played were obnoxious and annoying. It was nice to see her do something different and not rely so heavily on her comedian chops.

**I LOVE Danny Kaye. Probably based on the fact that he is in one of my favorite Christmas movies which I have probably seen 1000 times growing up (mostly because it is also my mother’s favorite movie). 100 awesome points to the person who knows which movie I am talking about.

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 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.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

Niffenegger, Audrey. The Time Traveler's Wife (2003). 546 pages. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. $14.95

I remember seeing this book everywhere when it became a best seller several years ago. The idea of the book appealed to me but I never had the chance to pick it up. My chance came when they recently came out with the movie version starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams. As I always prefer to read the book first, I finally made a library trip.

The novel follows the lives of Henry De Tamble and his wife, Clare. Henry is a time traveler, affected by a genetic disorder that enables him to involuntarily travel through time. Henry and Clare’s lives are completely intertwined as he begins visiting her while she is very young. The novel follows the story of their relationship.

Although the concept of the book seemed interesting, I was a little worried. A cohesive narrative for someone who time travels is not an easy feat. I was afraid that the narrative would be jumbled and the time jumps would be confusing. I am delighted to report that I was wrong.

Each chapter is listed with time, place, and how old Henry is (which helps a lot). And the novel is set up in a way where things all tie together in their own time. Henry is a complicated character who changes and develops as he goes through the unique time line that is his life, and especially grows as a character with Clare. Clare is his perfect match, and some of the chapters of her waiting for him to return from his ventures in time are heartbreaking.

One of the main issues in the book is Henry and Clare attempting to have a child, and Clare has several miscarriages. These scenes are not for the faint of heart as they are very descriptive and gory, but heartrendingly told from a woman who desperately wants a child of her own. The supporting characters surrounding Henry and Clare were vividly told and played some key parts in the novel: Henry’s dad, Clare’s family, Clare’s friend Gomez, and Henry’s neighbor Mrs. Kim. Be warned that the book is somewhat of a tearjerker, and I was crying a bit at the end (like the soft-hearted sap that I am).

Overall, I absolutely loved the book. I thought the storyline was executed well and the story was beautifully told. Henry and Clare had great chemistry together and I believed their story. I rate it a 5/5.

I knew making a movie based on this book would be incredibly hard. There is SO much detail about Henry and Clare’s life, there would be too much to fit in the movie to accurately represent the beauty of the book. When I learned that the movie was only 107 minutes, I knew it would be lacking a lot for me.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (2010). PG-13. Starring Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. Directed by Robert Schwentke. 107 min. $28.98

I was right.

The beginning was set up well considering that it can be a difficult narrative to follow. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams (playing Henry and Clare respectively) represented their characters well, and overall the movie script stayed very close to the book.

However, the slight deviations the writers made from the storyline were not done well. I’m not opposed to writers changing or adapting certain parts in the movie, as long as it is works. Unfortunately, that was not the case. There were two key events involving Clare’s character that change the entire story, and they were only glossed over in the movie. The way these events were written and perhaps performed in the movie ruined Clare’s character for me. Instead of painting Clare as the devoted, patient wife, she seemed manipulative, bossy, and a little b*tchy. Those scenes really irked me, and I had a hard time enjoying the movie afterwards.

Overall, the movie was okay. I wish they had spent a little bit more time on some of the supporting characters’ roles such as Henry’s relationship with his dad or Clare’s relationship with Gomez. I did like that the movie followed pretty closely with the book, and there were certain scenes that were done very well. However, I still was bothered by how Clare’s actions seemed so manipulative in the two scenes I mentioned. I rate it a 2.5/5.

I do feel that the movie was a decent visual adaptation of the book, and could be enjoyed without reading the novel. In this case though, the book is much more rewarding.