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 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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The Storm Inside

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Earlier this year, I was invited to be a part of the launch team for a new book by Sheila Walsh entitled “The Storm Inside.” I first heard Sheila speak at a Women of Faith conference several years ago. Since then I have read several of her books, always appreciating their blend of spiritual truth, practical stories, and an honest kick in the pants when I need it 🙂 Here is my official review of “The Storm Inside,” which comes out today!

“The Storm Inside” is a thought-provoking look at what it means to follow Christ through the not so good times of life. it seems like faith is easy when the storms are calm; but, when the waters are raging, it can sometimes be hard to remember Who can calm any storm in life. We so often create our own storms and hold on to our ship as it sinks. This book reminds us that it’s not just about us and our ability to survive the storms intact, but that God wants us to survive the storms in joy, living fully in who He is and what He promises. Nowhere does it say that there won’t be storms, but we are promised that the storms will not beat us, as long as we hold on to God.

Ms. Walsh writes like she speaks; with honesty, vulnerability and integrity. This book references the parts of her life that qualify her to speak into the storms of a reader’s life without asking for pity or making the reader feel like their personal storm isn’t scary enough. Through honest discussions on shame, guilt, forgiveness, pain and acceptance, “The Storm Inside” is the perfect, challenging read for someone who feels like the world is raging against them or even those they love. Full of practical wisdom and solidly built on a foundation of God’s word, “The Storm Inside” is a must-read for people who feel like giving up may be the only option. Walsh’s understanding of scripture and deep faith in God shine on every page.

Start!

Start by Jon AcuffIf you follow me on twitter or facebook, you know that I have been a huge fan of Jon Acuff for years. I started following him because of Stuff Christians Like, a hilarious and often a little too close to home blog about the idiosyncrasies of the Christian walk (and just how ridiculous we are sometimes).

Since that blog, Jon has taken off on a path that has led to extraordinary things. Quitter is a book about how to follow your dreams without just dropping everything and giving up your day job. It’s about knowing what your dreams are, finding ways to work them out, and making an impact – while still supporting your family, your friends and your career. It’s about the hard work it takes to be a Quitter and to do the things you’ve dreamed.

And now, on the heels of Quitter comes Start. While I haven’t had a change to read it yet, I am honored to be a part of the Start Pre-Launch Street Team. Looking at the cover, I see the switch from average to awesome and I know right where my life sits right now. I’m somewhere between. Ready to start living my dreams, but terrified at the same time. I have some big dreams, some small dreams, and some dreams that I don’t know what will happen to as I become older.

I don’t quite know how to Start yet, but I know what is holding me back. It kind of reminds me of the Whatif poem by Shel Silverstein. Here are the Whatifs that keep me from starting to follow my dreams:

  • What if my dreams are too big?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I succeed?
  • What if my dreams are not the dreams I should be dreaming?
  • What if I have to give up something “too important” to succeed?
  • What if my family doesn’t understand my dream?
  • What if the risk isn’t worth the reward?
  • What if it is?
  • What if I’m too late?
  • What if no one cares what my dream is?
  • What if chasing my dream changes everything?
  • What if chasing my dream changes nothing?
  • What if my dream is silly?
  • What if my dream isn’t about me at all?
  • What if I want my dream for the wrong reasons?

These are just some of the Whatifs that keep me from starting. I can’t wait to read this book, kick fear in the face and start doing something toward my dreams. Click on the banner above to pre-order the book and get a ton of free additional resources! Thanks to Jon and the Start team for including me in this project – it’s the start of a dream in and of itself!

B is for Books

If you know anything about me, you know I have a deep, deep love for the written word. That love is what inspires me to keep writing when I really don’t know what to say. That love teaches me to find the story in every day, to live with my eyes open, and to be willing to experience it all.

I am so thankful I grew up in a home that taught me to love books. Every memory I have of my mom and step dad includes them carrying around at least one book. From a young age, they taught both me and my brother to enjoy the written word and to allow ourselves to get carried away in worlds that are both the same and different than our own.

Books speak to my heart – I get caught up in characters and their stories. I love to get lost in a good book and have been known to skip sleep just to finish the next page, the next chapter, the next story. There is nothing more satisfying to me than that feeling at the end of a great read. I will talk later in the month about one of my favorite genres, but here are some of my favorite books: