Book or Movie: Hunger Games Trilogy

As I write this, the first two movies of the Hunger Games series are out. So, I will talk about those first and then my hopes, dreams and wishes for Mockingjay (even though it makes me crazy that they split the book into two movies. Seriously).

Hunger GamesCatching FireIn the interest of time and space, I will talk about the first two books in Suzanne Collins series together. The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are quick, highly disturbing parts of a narrative that is disguised as a young adult series. Seriously, the whole premise of the first book – that we’ll take children and make them fight to the death so that everyone can remember how horrible and ugly the world used to be…even though the reality is that the world is still horrible and uglyit makes my stomach turn. I was introduced to this series just as the third book came out, so I could read Katniss’ whole story all at once. And, I basically did.

Collins creates a graphic, horrible, but well-written world. What I loved about these books was that it was entirely in my imagination and I could self-filter the really horrible parts into something less graphic and less disturbing in my brain.

I did, however, find myself increasingly exhausted by the love triangle. As my friend Allison said to me once, “does every YA book have to involve a love triangle?” Peeta, Gale. Katniss. For someone who seems completely able to make a decision about life or death things, wondering about boys is so out of character to me for her. And a little annoying to read, quite frankly.

But, the books are engaging and you want to know the rest of the story.

 

Now, the movies…

 

Hunger Games Poster Catching Fire Movie PosterTotal truth time here. Yes, the movie changes some major storylines in the book. Yes, there are parts that become way important later that are edited or left out all together. There isn’t much character development past the main characters, even once Katniss gets into training and the arena. It’s easier to root for her because you don’t know the stories of anyone else.

But, if I’m honest…

I liked the movies better. Especially Catching Fire.

There, I said it. The books are great, but there is something about the fast-paced story that plays out in a movie wonderfully. And, it worked especially well for me in Catching Fire. Middle books in a series tend to drag and do nothing more than set up the final installation. Therefore, movies made out of trilogies tend to do the same thing. I still remember watching the middle LOTR movie and it just stopping. And me being VERY ANGRY about that.

But in Catching Fire, the loss of extra story is almost welcome. The movie focuses on Katniss, Peeta, and the very dangerous game they are playing with the Capitol. As the world falls apart around them and the closing credit roll, you know one thing for sure – everything has just changed.

 

NOW, ABOUT MOCKINGJAY

Mockingjay Mockingjay movie posterI kind of, sort of hated the last book in this trilogy. It was more political and more depressing than I wanted the series to end up being. And, I still say Katniss’ character change is so abrupt and so completely unbelievable that I never connected with her in this story. She went from the girl willing to fight to the girl willing to be bossed around, and I don’t buy it. Not for one minute.

That’s the book.

The first movie comes out this fall. Yes, I said first. They took a relatively short book that could be a great two hour, intense story and instead decided to make it almost 5 hours of content. UGH.

Here are my hopes for the Mockingjay movie: Please let Katniss be stronger than she is in the book. Please let the scene with Peeta and Katniss, no matter how horrible it is, play out just as it is in the book. Please let there be something hopeful, something redemptive, something more to the story as it plays out on screen than it did on paper.

Please.

Final thoughts: The books are great, but really, you get the meat of the story (at least the first two parts) in the movies. If you’re not a reader, I wouldn’t pick them up if you loved the movies. My guess is you’ll be disappointed. If you loved the books and haven’t seen the movies, give them a chance. You won’t be sorry you did!

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Book Review: Queen of Someday

Queen of Somedaynote: I received an advance copy of Queen of Someday from NetGalley and the Publishing House in exchange for an honest review

First things first: I totally picked this book based on the cover. I thought it was beautiful and intriguing, so I thought the book would be worth reading. I didn’t know until I was reading the author’s note at the end that is was a fictionalization of the life of Catherine the Great. That being said, I loved the story of young Princess Sophie and her tough choice: the man she loves or the throne that will save her family.

Author Sherry Ficklin creates a dynamic and conflicted main character in Sophie. A true princess of Prussia, the stability of her family rests on her little shoulders. She is tasked with winning the heart of fickle Peter, who was adopted by the Empress of Russia when he and Sophie were just children. Peter is a spoiled, pampered prince who is used to getting his way and getting what he wants, and Sophie isn’t sure that she is what has caught his eye. In the meantime, she finds herself drawn to one of his men, the romantic and brooding Alexander.

As the empress and Sophie’s mother push for a quick engagement, Sophie must learn the ways of being a wife, the ways of wooing the prince who could save her family, and the duty that she knows she must fulfill.

Queen of Someday follows Sophie as she begins her transformation from strong-willed princess to the powerful, dynamic Catherine the Great.

I loved this story and was more than a little excited when I saw it was one of a series of books scheduled to come out. While I know it’s a fictionalization, it makes me want to learn more about the real story of Catherine, and that’s the mark of a great book to me – it makes me want to read more and learn more about the story that she’s telling.

#madm linkup: Food Pantries

MADM-Circle-FinalIt’s time for another Make a Difference Monday Linkup!

Today I want to talk a little bit about canned goods – and how I just have too many of them in my house.

Honestly, if you looked in my pantry, you’d be shocked at what you saw. I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but Tim and I won’t run out of food any time soon. I have cans of soup, cans of fruit, cans of tuna, cans of  veggies…there are boxes of pre-made food and bags of side dishes. There is candy and sweets. There is uncooked pasta and ready-to-use marinades. There is a lot of stuff in that pantry. Some of it will probably go bad before we even get around to eating it.

And then I look at the food pantries around the county. They are always in need of food. They need basic staples to give so that other people can simply eat. They subsist on the kindness of people who have plenty to fill their shelves. They gladly take the day-old bread from Panera so that they can give it to people who have nothing. They work hard and barely have enough to give to the huge need. I even heard that a local pantry is closing their doors this month. It’s so hard to imagine so much need.

So, here’s what you can do.

  • Every time you go to the store, pick up a few extra items. Shop carefully and choose what is on sale if you’re on a tight budget. Because every single can counts
  • Find food drives to participate in locally. If you can’t get to a local food bank (or your community doesn’t have one), grocery stores and the like usually have ways you can still help
  • Donate regularly. I’m sure it eases a lot of people’s minds to know they can count on you, even if it’s just for a few things.
  • Pay attention to your local organization needs.

That last one is important. For example, every year my church collects cans of yams and cranberries in October to go in the Thanksgiving baskets supplied by our local mission. As a church we commit to 1,000 cans of each. We’re a large church, so it shouldn’t take long to get that many, but we always struggle. Why? Because we don’t make it as big of a deal as it really is (that’s hopefully changing this year). If you’re reading this and local, here is some info about the yam & cran drive.

As the holiday time gets closer, I grow more and more aware of just how much I have and just how much others need. Little ways to give make a big difference.

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Days of Rest

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Sunday afternoons are my favorite.

Sunday mornings are busy with church work, volunteer responsibilities and a busy spouse.

But Sunday afternoons?

They are for naps.

They are for catching up on family time.

They are for enjoying each other.

They are for football.

They are for playing games.

They are for naps (wait, I already said that).

We don’t take enough time to rest. At least I know I don’t. One of my twitter friends said something the other day about how she didn’t understand how “just” working 45ish hours a week could keep a person busy. So I started thinking about my days and naming my minutes and hours. Work is just one piece of the puzzle. I am busy. We all are busy. Probably too busy.

So on Sundays, I try to remember to rest. I don’t go to the grocery. I don’t go shopping after we get home. I put on my pajama pants and I rest.

We watch TV.

We watch a movie.

We rest.

We walk Madison.

I read.

I write.

Rest makes me ready for the next week. Rest makes me recalibrate my inner engine to a slower speed. Rest makes me a better person.

How about you?

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The Reviewing Life

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If you know much about me, you know how much I want to work in a library someday. To say I kind of love books would be a gross understatement and just silly. In fact, I love libraries and books so much that I went back to school and got my LTA (Library Technical Assistant) degree last year. It was the first step for me in realizing just how much I love the library and the written word.

I loved most of my classes (because I’m a nerd like that), but my favorite was definitely learning about Reader’s Advisory and helping people find the books that they and their children would love. It was like being a walking, talking book review machine, and I loved it.

That is why I continue to review books on this blog. I would love to do it more. I know there are about 1,000 book review blogs written by people who have been doing it a lot longer than me, but still. I love it. I love to review books. I love to help people decide whether or not to give a book a chance. I love reading new things and having to talk about them. I love knowing that I need to be a critical reader, not just a casual reader. I love thinking about books!

About three years ago, I signed up for a NetGalley account. And then I did nothing with it. This week I brought it back to life. While you can get some awesome books on NetGalley, they usually go to the people who have a lot of reviews up. So, I just requested a lot of books. I requested books I would LOVE to read and books that I think I might enjoy. I requested my favorite genres and I requested genres that seemed to be more likely to send me review copies. And, I got a lot of responses that no, they wouldn’t be letting me get an advanced copy of the books in question. But the picture above is just a sampling of the books I was approved to read and review. So, I will do just that. I will read them. I will post reviews. And hopefully I will start building up my credentials as a reviewer and move up in the book blogging food chain!

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Writing 101: Write What You Know?

Writing 101 Graphic

Do you remember the first piece of writing advise you were ever given? I do.

“Write what you know.”

And, I do understand the point. The blank page can be scary. It can be intimidating and frustrating and feel like there is so much to do. It can be overwhelming, so someone told me to write what I knew. Write from the familiar voice inside my head. Write where I am comfortable with what I already know.

After a few years of dreaming of writing and trying to write what I know, I’ve come to two separate but equally relevant conclusions:

1. my life is not all that interesting.

Now, before you get all bothered and tell me that my life is not that boring, let me talk about what I mean for a minute.  My life is crazy busy. I do a lot of things I truly love. I am happy, well-adjusted and do my best to try and be joyful. My life is FULL. I am a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend. I work full-time (plus, depending on the week). I read, I write, I play games. I volunteer. I walk my dog. I travel. I take vacations. I believe in trying new things. I live life to the full. But, my normal, everyday life? Not really worth writing about. I have been blessed with few tragedies and am stifled by few huge successes. What I know is deep. I am educated, and believe deeply that a person should never stop learning. But all those bits and pieces? They don’t make up the story I want to write. They are the story I want to tell with my life, for sure. But what I want to get lost in and write about? It’s not what I know…it’s what I want to know.

2. writing only what I know would be undeniably limiting.

See above. If everyone only wrote what they knew, there would be no science-fiction. There would be no fantasy. There would be no questioning of God, the universe and the stories around us. There would be no make believe. And, as an avid lover of fiction and writing that makes me want to believe in other worlds, my favorite works are often ground not in someone’s reality, but in their imagination. I believe if you’re writing non-fiction, you should tread carefully and write what you know – or what you’re willing to learn. But, when it comes the majority of writing, explore, envision, create new worlds. Look at the things you love about the world and incorporate them. What do you not like? How can you make it better? Write on, dear ones. Write the words and the worlds you can only imagine.

Throughout this series of blog posts, I will be sharing what works for me as a writer – and what doesn’t. I will be exploring my own renewed passion for writing and hopefully be giving you snippets and glimpses into the worlds I am creating. It’s going to be a fun journey!

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Book or Movie: The Fault in Our Stars

I usually try to avoid anything “trendy” when it comes to talking and writing, but really…this book and this movie…OH THE FEELS. So many emotions all at once.

First, the book:

The Fault in Our StarsIf I’m being completely honest, I didn’t even really want to read this book. I mean, it’s a book about teenagers dying of cancer. I just wasn’t interested. But then the world (all my book-loving friends, anyway) just wouldn’t stop talking about it and how amazing it was. So, I picked up a copy at the bookstore, mostly because there were close to 100 reservations at the library and I am, by all accounts, a little irrational when it comes to books. And it took a whole 4 pages for me to be hooked.

John Green is a gifted writer, for one thing. He somehow manages to balance unquestionable eloquence with honest, real conversation. It could seem flowery and over the top, but it doesn’t. There are probably three dozen quotes from the book that I would hang on my walls.

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“Sometimes people don’t understand the promises they’re making when they make them.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

“Do the thing you’re good at. Not many people are lucky enough to be so good at something.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Seriously, they can just go on and on! In the middle of a tragic story, there is such a celebration of what it truly means to be alive.

 

And then I heard they were making a movie of by beloved book.

And everything inside of me screamed “NO!!!!!”

But, I saw it anyway.

The fault in our stars movie posterAt first, I kinda wanted to hate it. I wanted to be disappointed by it. I wanted it to do a disservice to the book I loved. Not because I wanted it to fail, but because I was sure there was no way it could succeed. And then, as the date got closer, I wanted it to succeed. I wanted it to be huge. I wanted everyone to know the story, even if they didn’t want to read the books. I wanted to celebrate Augustus and Hazel Grace and their love; their story; their little infinity.

So, I went to the movie. There were brilliant moments. The dialogue, much lifted right from the book, didn’t come off as cheesy, because it was delivered with wry smiles and honest tears in the most important places. It didn’t shy away from Hazel’s cannula, which I know was a big deal for John Green and the entire team behind the story. It didn’t make light of childhood cancer, but it didn’t make it the center of the story.

Because, whether movie of book, the story is about first loves and first heartbreaks. The main characters just happen to have cancer, too. The story is about living well. The story is about dying well. The story is about embracing this moment, right now, because it might be the only one you have.

I cried like a baby through the last 1/3 of the movie. I cried for Augustus and Hazel. I cried for my friends and family who have lived with, loved with and fought through cancer. I cried for little infinite moments that I had taken for granted.

So, which is better? Movie or book?  This quote sums it up nicely:

“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

The movie is maybe one of the best book-to-screen adaptations I have ever seen. But still, the book. Always the book.

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