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: 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.

Book: Lumiere

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

The world has plunged into darkness after the Night of the Great Illumination which has changed the landscape of the world. Eyelet is on the search for her father’s machine, the Illuminator, which is supposed to help cure her affliction. She discovers the machine only to find someone has stolen it, the mysterious Urlick.

I fell in love with the gorgeous cover of this book and it was easily available to review. It started off with a really great beginning in a steampunk world with a smart, strong heroine in Eyelet.

Then the rest of the book followed.

After Eyelet met Urlick, she suddenly seemed to become a needy, whiny idiot who couldn’t do anything for herself. She jumped to the craziest conclusions about the mysterious things happening around her, with no evidence what so ever. The mysterious events in the house were really mild but Eyelet’s imagination went crazy and resulted with her running out of house into poison fog. Where did the smart, strong heroine go?

I liked Urlick’s chapters and I wished they happened more often as I got more and more annoyed with Eyelet. Urlick initially has feelings for Eyelet right away, but Eyelet’s feelings seemed to come out of no where. At one point in the book, she even tried to jump his bones which seemed really out of character for her very protected upbringing.

The world building became very muddled as more and more different kinds of beings were created; ghosts that act like zombies, witchcraft, shapeshifters, and criminals that acted like cannibals. It was all very confusing. At first, none of them could be defeated and then somehow they were immune to certain things once the characters faced them.

That was a big problem with the plot. A lot of quick fixes that didn’t make sense. A talking raven can’t talk, and then suddenly is able to talk again when it was most convenient to help Eyelet. There is no proper explanation for this. Similar plot holes happened A LOT.  It was as if the writer couldn’t figure out how to fix her own issues, so magically made them go away.

I will admit there was some great moments when characters explained the steampunk machinery of their world. I also really liked Urlick and Eyelet together, as they had some cute moments.

Unfortunately, the world building was all over the place and the plot was a mess. It honestly read like a rough draft of a novel that needed more fine tuning. Not sure how I am going to get through the second book. What a disappointment. I rate it 2 out of 5 stars.

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.

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.