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.

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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Book Review: The Rainbow Rowell Edition

As of now, I have read all four Rainbow Rowell books. Instead of four different reviews, here are my thoughts on each of her books.

FanGirl

Fangirl.

I seriously adored this book. I saw so much of who I am in Cath, it almost hurt. (Except for the fact that I’ve never written Fan Fiction). Cath is the quiet one, the introvert, the lover of words and the worlds they create. She wants to be challenged, but doesn’t want to get too far out of her comfort zone. She worries about her sister and her father. She wants to fall in love, but gets her heart stomped on in the process. She loves the world of Simon Snow so much and has such a following there that she doesn’t know how to find her own story. She is smart, but insecure in her intelligence. She is the feeler, the girl who wants to make everything right. She is me, in literary form.

Fangirl is such a great book. I am sure I’m not the only one who wants Rainbow to go ahead and write the Simon Snow books, too (yes, I see the blatant comparison to Harry Potter, but still). Fangirl is about finding yourself the first time you’re away from everything that used to keep you grounded. It’s about growing up, but not too fast. It’s about letting yourself be loved and loving in return. It’s about first heartbreaks, recovering from bad choices, and discovering your place in the story. It’s about the power of friendship and the moment that you really see the person who has been standing in front of you the whole time. It’s about expectations and reality. It’s about life.

 

 

 

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park

If I could count the number of people who told me to read this book…well, it would be a lot. I know it’s the book that brought Rainbow Rowell into the forefront of everyone’s imaginations. It’s a poignant love story about two misfits who find each other – and find out who they really are in the process. This is most people’s favorite Rowell, but I think my friends are right – the first one of her books you read is your favorite (for me, that’s Fangirl.)

Eleanor has a horrible home life, and a not much better school life. Park comes from a solid, if somewhat odd family. Neither of them are popular. Neither of them are part of the in crowd. But, over a shared love of comic books, mix tapes and the somewhat odd, they find each other. Their romance is sweet and tender, while being real and containing just enough angst to make their teenage selves feel real.

The “twist” at the end of the book wasn’t all that surprising, but was well written. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think the thing that bothered me the most was how Rowell wrapped up Eleanor & Park’s stories. I felt like it was out of character, and that bothered me.

 

 

 

AttachmentsAttachments

Rainbow Rowell doesn’t just write for teens; she’s also released two adult books. Attachments is about an unlikely office romance; Lincoln was hired by a local paper to monitor email as it first becomes popular. The powers that be are worried that people will misuse the technology, which is probably a valid concern. Instead of addressing the issue head-on, they hire Lincoln to flag, read and reprimand anyone who uses the office email inappropriately.

Beth and Jennifer couldn’t care less. Coworkers and close friends, they use email like an instant messaging service, revealing the highs and lows of their lives to each other in written form.

Attachments is written mostly in email correspondence, especially with Beth & Jennifer. Lincoln’s story is told through “traditional” writing styles. I loved the creative use of style, though it’s not the first time I’ve seen it used. It’s a fun, different way to tell the story. However, it leads to three narrators in some ways, which confused me at times. I had to keep jumping back to see if it was Beth talking to Jennifer or vice versa. At one point, I had their story lines completely mixed up!

Attachments is an easy, fast read. It’s a cute story of relationships, falling in lust, falling in love, and trying to make life work. You learn about people in ways that you wouldn’t normally learn because of the use of multiple narrators. Overall, an easy summer beach read.

 

 

LandlineLandline

Landline is the newest addition to Rowell’s catalog. In this book, another adult work, Georgie is a hot sitcom writer on the verge of finally having her dream show picked up. However, it’s Christmas and to make deadline, she can no longer go back to her husband’s home in Omaha with their two girls. Georgie stays behind while Neal and the girls leave, setting a spiral of strange happenings in motion.

Tired, frustrated and alone, Georgie finds herself in her old room at her mom’s house. Since her cell phone battery keeps dying, she pulls out the old landline, plugs it in, and calls Neal. But, the Neal she’s talking to is not her husband – yet. It’s Neal from the past, during a week when Georgie thought Neal was going to leave her for good.

As Georgie struggles to come to grips with what’s happening in her world, she goes through a hilarious list of potential things that could be happening – including having a magic phone that calls the past. That scene is one of my favorite in any Rowell book.

Landline is a fun, quick read. I enjoyed it, but I felt like there were too many characters vying for my attention. At the core, it is about Georgie and Neal and whether or not their marriage will survive a Christmas apart. But the story is cluttered with co-workers, family (both dead and alive), new loves, random circumstances, and even one too many dogs for my taste (and I’m a dog lover). If you eliminate all the “extra” stuff, the story between Georgie and Neal feels like it takes up barely half the book. I could have done with less of the other stuff and more of Georgie and Neal discovering the magic phone and what it could do to change their lives.

 

Book Review: Ruin and Rising

14061957Leigh Bardugo created a series unlike anything I have read with the Grisha series (Shadow & Bone, Siege & Storm, Ruin & Rising). I fell in love with these books the very first time I read them. They were exciting, different and powerful. There is love, mystery, magic and a fully-developed world where some people are born with extraordinary power. Some wield it for good, some for evil. And, among them all walks Alina, the Sun Summoner – powerful, unique and the one on whom an entire world rests.

Ruin and Rising is the conclusion of this series. If you haven’t read the first two books, go read those, then read this one, then read the review. Alina has faced the Darkling – and lost. She knows now what she must do, but the cost may be too much to bear. Bardugo creates a powerful tension in Alina as she realizes the true strength of her power, and what finally finding the last piece of the puzzle could do to her. She sees a little of the Darkling in herself as she obsesses over making her power stronger. But, she also sees herself in Nikolai (the man who would be king), Mal (the man she would love) and the rest of her fellow Grisha. She knows that they’re depending on her, and she knows that to do what she must will change everything.

I have loves this series from the beginning. It defies genres and expectations as readers learn about the magic that controls Alina’s world, the seductive power of the Darkling, and the belief that there is something bigger at stake than just who is ruling at the end of the day. Ruin and Rising does not disappoint, with more action than the previous books, and a crisp, quick storyline that doesn’t fall victim to too much exposition or explanation. Bardugo assumes that you know her characters by now; she doesn’t rehash the details. So, if it’s been awhile since you read the first two books, you may want to familiarize yourself before you read too far into this one. As the story reaches it’s conclusion, I was both shocked and satisfied with the turns that Bardugo took to bring Alina’s story to an end.

Book Review: Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods and MonstersI have loved Laini Taylor’s series about chimera and angels since it first began with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. There was something immediately captivating about Karou’s bold blue hair, her mysterious friends, her immediate draw to Akiva, and the two worlds that she somehow had to navigate together.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is the final part of the epic story that has taken Taylor years to tell. She creates a beautiful, magical world where Chimera and Angels fight for power and prestige in their world. But when the angels descend on her adopted home of Earth, Karou knows that there is nothing left to do but figure out a way to bring the chimera and misbegotten together to fight to save everyone they love now and may love in the future.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is a complicated end to a complicated story. There are still parts that I don’t quite understand and parts that I don’t quite believe, but I will admit that I read the book quickly because I wanted to get to the end of the story. And, ah, the end. There is the ending I wanted, and the ending that made sense. The end of Karou and Akiva’s story is so perfect, but there is still so much left unsaid, undone, unresolved that I am not sure what I think of it.

These are books that require you to, without pause, believe in the power of the imagination. These are big, sweeping books with big, sweeping characters. And they’re worth every ounce of time it takes for you to read them!

June Goals

June Calendar

I’m joining the lovely Hayley at the Tiny Twig this month to talk about my June Goals! I need the accountability and someone to say, “Hey, how’s it going with those goals.” (Any of my readers are free to do that).

Here’s a little note, though. When I get in the goal-setting/goal-writing mood, I tend to go overboard. I tell myself I can do it all. I make lists of things that, in reality, have no chance of getting done. So, I’m going to limit myself to 5 goals for the month. That still sounds like a lot, but I think they’re a nice blend of complicated and hey, just do this and be done with it already.

  • Memorize lines for Sherwood Kids! and VBX (June 9-15)
  • Schedule Book Review & Blog Posts for month
  • Research and plan for audio book audition reel
  • Get 2013 Smashbook finished (yes, i realize it’s almost 6 months since the year ended)
  • Walk 10-15 miles a week

Some of these goals have deadlines. Some of them NEED deadlines. Some of them just need to be a part of my life.

What about you? What are your goals for June?

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