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.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday of 2015

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

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

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

9.) The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

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

8.) Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

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

7.) Entwined by Heather Morris

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

6.) The Heir by Kiera Cass

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

5.) Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

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

4.) The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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

3.) How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

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

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

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

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

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

 

Book: The Secret Chord

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

I was very excited when I got access to this book. I have read Geraldine Brooks’ March, which is the story of Mr. March from Little Women while he is at the war. I really enjoyed her taking a character and giving a new voice to him. I knew most of the basics of King David’s story, so I was interested to see her take on it.

The book is from the perspective of the prophet Nathan and David is already King. Nathan is chronicling David’s past from speaking with others from his past, getting stories of his childhood, his defeat against Goliath, and becoming close with King Saul. Nathan is also recalling his past with King David, as he met David as a child who’s family had been killed and began prophesying. David spared him and brought him into his royal court. The current time of the story is right before David commits his grievous sin of adultery.

From the description, there are a lot of jumps in time. At times, this made the book very confusing. Sometimes it wasn’t clear if Nathan was speaking with someone or if he was recalling his own memories. Some of the interviews he had and his own memories overlapped. Once the story caught up with itself, it read a lot easier.

Overall, I thought Brooks’ did a great job depicting the story of David, the man. She paints David as passionate and fiery, but also deeply spiritual and poetic. I loved that she often brought up the music and songs David created. It fit very well with scripture as he is known to have created most of the book of Psalms. Although the timeline was confusing, I liked the story’s perspective told from Nathan. It allowed Brooks to give a more honest portrayal, as he foresaw what was to come.

One of the strengths of the book was Brooks’ portrayal of the female characters, such as David’s mother Nizevet, his first wife Michal, and Bathsheba. Each of them was mistreated in a way or cast out by their husbands, as wives were treated like property. They shared their story with Nathan, and he expressed sympathy for each of them. However, these three female character were not depicted as weak. They were still strong in the ways that they could be strong. I appreciated that they were all given such a strong voice where most Biblical women do not have one (not counting Esther and Ruth).

One of the downsides of the books was the violence and language. I expected most of the violence, since the Old Testament had a lot of war. David fought lots of battles to gain his kingdom, and they were very gruesome. I prepared myself for that. I did not prepare for the very violent incest/rape scene. I am usually not squeamish, but I had to set the book down for a second to keep reading. I didn’t think the scene was necessary in that detail and greatly impacted my feelings on the book.

I also did not expect the profane cursing. I understood what Brooks was trying to do. David’s men were soldiers and they probably had their languages’ equivalent of dirty slang and curses. But I couldn’t handle the use of ‘f***’ in the context of the book. That wasn’t a word that was even created until the 15th century. Using modern curses for a story set in David’s time just didn’t work for me. She should have been more creative then that.

Overall, I would rate the book 3 out of 5. The book had great moments and the writing was still very strong, although I don’t think it is Brooks’ best work.

Book: Noir

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

This review contains spoilers from the first book in the series, Lumiere.

After I requested Lumiere, I realized that Noir, the second book in the series, was available for review as well. I decided that I would read them both. I had not read Lumiere before I requested Noir. If I had,  I would never have requested Noir from NetGalley.

Although I struggled with the plot in Lumiere, there was parts I liked about it. I hoped that the second novel was an improvement from the first. Unfortunately, I think the second book was worse. I almost did not finish it (and I never, hardly ever not finish a book).

One of the biggest issues I have with this book is the movement through time. These characters are supposed to go through full days in their adventures, but they seem to be awake for all hours of the day. When do they sleep? When do they eat? Although the story seems to be jam-packed with action and constantly moving, the characters need to be able to sleep and eat to have their adventures. It makes the characters more believable. Another issue with timeline was the day of the week. The novel started on Thursday, then suddenly it’s Sunday, and then somehow Saturday again? For an adventurous novel, there needs to be a really strong timeline to be able to follow.

The first novel had only Eyelet’s and Urlick’s perspective, but Noir had 4 different perspectives. There was just too many. It also became obvious that one of the perspectives was a secondary character and only used because one of the main characters was captured. It was very jarring to add a 4th perspective in the middle of the story.

Speaking of secondary characters, they seemed to be the only character of any intellect in this novel. All of the main characters kept doing REALLY stupid things like walking in somewhere they shouldn’t be and then getting captured/almost captured/almost caught/almost killed, and EVERY time the secondary characters would tell them ‘NO, don’t do it/let’s leave/this is a bad idea/we should go” And EVERY time the main character was like ‘it will be fine’ and then it wasn’t. Urlick and Eyelet are supposed to be brilliant inventors, but they continued to get themselves in very terrible situations for stupid reasons. It became very frustrating. It was one of the big reasons I stopped caring about Urlick and Eyelet in the second book.

Overall, extremely poor world building, loosing the essence of these characters, and awkward movement in time resulted in a rating of 1 out of 5. It would have redeemed itself if the characters were stronger and the story was more compelling. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.

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.

Fairy tales Retold- PART 1

Fairy tales are timeless for a reason. They lasted as an oral tradition hundreds of years before they were ever written down. Several cultures even have different variations of the same fairytale, such as Snow White and Cinderella. It is interesting to see how fairy tales have become more prevalent in the media.

Disney movies seemed to be the only one capitalizing on the the market of fairy tales for the longest time. Now, it seems to be everywhere. Movies like Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Jack The Giant Slayer, and Red Riding Hood have been released within the last 3 years. TV shows such as Grimm and Once Upon a Time rake in ratings every week.

And I love it.

As a kid, I was a huge Disney fan. I love the princesses and princes falling in love. But there was not a whole lot of variations of fairy tales as I was growing up. You either had Disney or you could plop down with a huge book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales*.

In theme with their movie and television counterparts, more and more books are also doing their own twist on fairy tales. I wish there were as many books based on fairy tales now compared to when I was growing up. Luckily, there were a couple of key books in my young adult life that kept my love for fairy tales alive.

Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)Ella Enchanted – Words alone cannot describe my heartfelt sentiments for this book. Cinderella is one of my favorite fairy tales because of my love for this book.** It is one of my favorite books of all time. It is one of the only books I have read countless times over the years, from age 12 to now. (I even rescued it from my parent’s house because I was craving a read through).

Ella is about a girl who has the “gift” of obedience given to her at birth by a ridiculous fairy. If Ella is given any direct order, she has to obey, no matter how much she doesn’t want to or how ridiculous it may be. She lives in a rich world of ogres, giants, fairies, and gnomes. Despite her curse, Ella is funny, charming, compassionate, and clever. Through her mother’s death, father’s remarriage, and obedience school, Ella falls in love with Prince Char and seeks her own fate to break her curse. It has such a great twist on the Cinderella story, and the main characters are so well told.

There was a movie version done of Ella Enchanted starring Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy, but the book and movie are so different from each other that I don’t think it’s worth doing a comparison. I will say that I enjoyed the movie, but not in the same way that I enjoyed the book.

zelZel – This book is why my second favorite fairy tale is Rapunzel and why I was overjoyed when Disney finally made Tangled. The author Donna Jo Napoli has other great novels based on fairy tales, but Zel was my favorite. It is also one of the first books I ever read written in present tense.

Zel follows the story of a girl who is taken care of by a witch. As the girl grows more beautiful, the witch becomes more jealous and eventually hides her beauty in a tower. One of the great things about this book is that it changes perspective: Zel’s, the young man’s, and the witch’s. I really appreciated the witch perspective, because that is part of the fairy tale which doesn’t make sense to me. Why would a witch basically kidnap a child? In Zel, you learn the witch is so desperate for a child that she takes the opportunity to barter for one. When Zel starts to fall in love with a man, the witch is terrified Zel will leave her alone and builds the tower. The witch was an interesting character and you almost feel sorry for her.

Zel is a beautiful rendition of the Rapunzel fairy tale. Rapunzel is really a darker fairy tale (compared to Cinderella), but Zel balances it well.

 

Once Upon a Time seriesOnce Upon a Time series – Before it was a TV series, it was a set of independent books that retold fairy tales by different authors. I caught onto them in high school and I was obsessed with them, to the point where I looked them up online, bought them the day they came out, and continued to buy them into my early 20’s. Alas, they no longer make them. Oddly enough, they were not always that good. There were a few really good ones in a series of so-sos and sup-par. The reason I really liked them was to see what the author did to the retold fairy tale.

A couple of my favorites was Sunlight & Shadow and Snow. Sunlight and Shadow is actually based on the opera The Magic Flute (which I still haven’t seen). Snow is obviously based on Snow White and was the first one I read. Most likely, if I had not read Snow first, I might not have bothered with the rest of the series. It shows you how desperate I was for retold fairy tales.

I enjoy the new twists and spins that fairy tales are being given nowadays. It gives new life to the fairy tale that it was based on. The old stories get a new chance to live on.

*Don’t get me wrong! I love the classic fairy tales. I specifically took a class in college to study and discuss fairy tales. But no kid wants to sit down and read 209 tales, especially when half of them aren’t even that interesting.

**I wasn’t a huge fan of Disney’s Cinderella. I mean, I liked it when I was 5 but not so much when I was 12.

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.