Tag Archives: reading

Three and a half reasons I am NOT worried about The Giver

Image credit: parade.com

Image credit: parade.com

When I found out a couple months ago that The Giver was being made into a movie, I was beside myself with excitement. I’ve explained here before that The Giver is the book that turned me into an insatiable reader. It sparked my imagination in a way that stories about smelly buses and little brothers never did. Without a doubt, it is the reason that I am so drawn to dystopian stories even as an adult.

The trailer was released recently and has been receiving a fair amount of negative feedback. Comment sections everywhere blew up with, “How dare they ruin this book!?” I’m not going to lie. When I watched the trailer the first time, I thought it felt very Hunger Games and Divergent-esque. That’s not at all how I remember the book feeling.

But that’s not fair. It’s been almost 20 years since I read The Giver, surely there are things I’ve forgotten. Not to mention, I was 9 when I read it the first time. Being 29 is sure to alter the reading experience just a bit. So I re-read it last night. These are my conclusions.

SPOILERS, obviously.

Common criticism: “It’s not in black and white.”
To be fair, this was also my first thought. The scene where the apple “changes” is my most vivid memory of this book even 20 years later. Granted, it’s a 1 minute 30 second trailer for a 2 hour movie. There’s a chance they only included the color scenes. But even if the whole movie is in color, it’s okay. Jonas being able to see color in a black and white world was a device used to show the reader that Jonas was changing. And honestly, it’s a device that really only has an impact when it’s written. When the Giver revealed that the “change” Jonas was experiencing was “the color red,” the reader has a “WTF?” moment. You were DYING to know how the apple changed. It was suspenseful. It was mysterious. And when it was revealed, it blew you away and forced to you look at Jonas’s world in another way. There’s no way this scene is nearly as dramatic on screen because the viewer lives in a world that has red. It doesn’t pull the rug out from under you the way it does when you read it. I’m sure the movie has other tricks up its sleeve to reveal that Jonas is different from the others.

Common criticism: “It looks too much like The Hunger Games. It’s supposed to be a utopia, not a dystopia.”
Oh, how our child minds remember things. I, too, felt like the trailer was way too heavy for what I remembered. Upon my re-read, I realized The Giver is very dark. There was a lot lost on me the first time around. Citizens take daily pills to suppress sexual feelings. Citizens are assigned spouses and those “units” are assigned children. Professions are assigned. Birth mothers? They’re lower than than low. Citizens get “released” when they’re too old, too sick,  or don’t follow the rules. Released, of course, means euthanized. If you don’t remember the scene where Jonas’s father “releases” a newborn because it was an identical twin, maybe you should read it again. Then you’ll realize that the trailer isn’t dark enough.

Common criticism: “What is <insert scene>? That’s not in the book.” 
Yeah, it looks like they’re taking some liberties with the source material, and they absolutely should. There’s a reason that the trailer feels too dark for most. It’s because you’re remembering the story from the viewpoint of a 12-year-old boy who didn’t know any better. How did society get there? Who started it? Were there revolts? Does anyone question the status quo? Are the elders really “good?” What’s outside of the society? Has anyone tried to go there? There are so many things that Jonas isn’t privy to. There are so many things Jonas doesn’t even question. But the movie will. I think the movie will show the dark underbelly of “utopia,” and I’m excited for it.

Bonus reason… The Dude abides.
Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep, ya’ll. Get hype.

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Filed under Books, Fandoms, Movies, The Giver

“Day one, Greenie. Rise and Shine.”

Image credit: themazerunnermovie.com

Image credit: themazerunnermovie.com

I’ve been off my blog game so this isn’t new, but better late than never, right?

The first official trailer for The Maze Runner was released a couple weeks ago and I’m diggin’ it. As I mentioned in my review of the book trilogy, I really think this is going to be one of those rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

Reasons that I’m hopeful: 

  • Dylan O’Brien as Thomas. Dylan’s acting on Teen Wolf has been ON POINT lately. Like, chills-inducing amazing. He can carry this movie and then some.
  • Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt. Thomas currently plays Jojen on Game of Thrones. Needless to say, they don’t cast hacks on Game of Thrones. 
  • Better decision  making in general. At the 1:10 mark of the trailer below, Teresa shows up conscious and immediately recognizes Thomas–which immediately raises the suspicions of everyone else. This is so much more impactful than the way it’s handled in the book. I’m usually a stickler for source material, but I’m hopeful the movie can fill the gaps the book leaves behind.

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Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Image credit: goodreads.com

Image credit: goodreads.com

Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon. Maybe it’s my winter blues. Maybe my expectations were way too high and I expected far too much. Whatever the reason, I just could not stay excited about this book. It seemed to me that everyone was raving about this nostalgic and brilliant literary triumph. I couldn’t believe it managed to fly under my radar and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. What I actually found was a flat, predictable story that consisted of one deux ex machina after the other.

Brief Synopsis: It’s 2044 and the world is in social, environmental and financial shambles. Most of humanity spends its time inside OASIS–a virtual reality simulator that allows each user to be anyone and go anywhere in cyberspace. Before his death, the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (think Steve Jobs type figure), hid an egg somewhere inside the OASIS universe that would reward his fortune and company upon the user who found it first. Wade Watts, aka Parzival, and his fellow gunters (egg hunters) devote their lives to finding the egg. They immerse themselves in the ’80s pop culture and geek trivia that Halliday loved in life, hoping to find clues to aid their search. When Wade becomes the first person to stumble across the first key after years of searching, he enters into a fight to the finish and a fight for his life.

Rating: 2/5 stars

Overall impression: By all accounts I should have loved this book. Dystopia? Check. Geek Culture? Check. Child of the ’80s? Check. It was just so painful to read. My two stars are a nod to a concept that I think is brilliant. It had so much potential but fell horribly flat. I wanted to love it, but the writer in me cringed on almost every page. When I read the premise for this story, I thought the ’80s nostalgia would be woven masterfully throughout like a golden thread holding everything together. Turns out the nostalgia is crudely dumped anywhere it will fit just for the hell of it.

WARNING: There is a high potential for spoilers beyond this point. This part of the review is generally for people who have already read the book and are looking for someone who agreed or disagreed with their own opinion. 

My biggest issues: 

  • The characters are as flat and bland as cardboard. We’re inside Wade’s head and yet I get no sense of him as a person. His aunt is murdered and he keeps it moving. Yeah, it wasn’t the best relationship, but he feels/thinks nothing about it? He’s in love with Art3mis and we only know it because he tells us over and over and over and over and over.
  • Speaking of “over and over,” there’s far too much telling, not enough showing. The story jumps from one info dump to the next with zero regard for character or plot development. At one point, there are at least 3 pages dedicated to Wade’s morning routine. And another 3 pages dedicated to how he uses his computer… right down to adjusting the brightness and contrast of the screen. Not joking.
  • As mentioned above, name dropping for the sake of name dropping. A Lord of the Rings reference here. Some Star Trek there. Sprinkle it with some Cyndi Lauper. Publish.
  • My new favorite word: deux ex machina. I knew a word had to exist for this phenomenon and I’m so glad I found it. Deux ex machina: whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. Of everything I took issue with in the story, this is the one that drove me up a wall. Did I mention that Wade is a 007 level secret agent who also happens to be a master hacker? That’s because HE’S NOT. He’s a high school kid who has lived almost his entire life in a trailer, never leaving his hometown. Yet SOMEHOW, he’s able to hack government files, create new identities for himself, infiltrate the enemy, hack the enemy’s internal files, steal what he needs to win the game, and make it back out again without EVER GETTING CAUGHT. He and his three “best friends” are in grave danger of getting murdered in real life by the enemy? NO PROBLEM! The OASIS co-founder just so happens to regularly hang out INVISIBLY in their PRIVATE chatroom. You kids have gumption. I’m sending my private jets to pick all of you up right now. You’ll be safe at my mansion. There are many many more instances like this, but I’m going to leave it at that.

 

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Scribd releases list of most popular ebooks by state

Image credit: parade.com

Image credit: parade.com

Scribd, the world’s largest online library and (basically) Netflix for books, just revealed the most popular ebooks for each of the 50 states. The list was calculated by determining how many times a book was read by readers registered in that state.

I love looking at information like this!
Some key take-aways I thought were interesting:

  • Neil Gaiman made the list twice (LOVE!)
  • There is far more fantasy than I expected
  • Not one book is repeated
  • There are quite a few older books
  • There isn’t a single “big name” author on the list… ie: King, Koontz, Rowling, George R.R. Martin (though, this may be because people buy these books to physically have on their bookshelves)

Here’s the full list that I stole from Parade.
What are your thoughts on the list/your state?

Alabama
Midnight Angel
Lisa Kleypas

Alaska
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book
Ben Cohen; Jerry Greenfield; Nancy Stevens

Arkansas
The Eve of Destruction
Howard Blum

Arizona
Sh*t My Dad Says
Justin Halpern

California
Just Kids
Patti Smith

Colorado
White Witch Black Curse
Kim Harrison

Connecticut
Prayers for The Dead: A Decker/Lazarus Novel
Faye Kellerman

Washington, D.C.
The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho

Delaware
Summer of Skinny Dipping
Amanda Howells

Florida
Worst Fears Realized
Stuart Woods

Georgia
Worth Any Price
Lisa Kleypas

Hawaii
The Devil’s Star: A Novel
Jo Nesbo

Idaho
The Lost Duke of Wyndham
Julia Quinn

Illinois
American Gods
Neil Gaiman

Indiana
The Strain
Guillermo del Toro; Chuck Hogan

Iowa
The Venging
Greg Bear

Kansas
The High Lord: The Black Magician Trilogy
Trudi Canavan

Kentucky
Devoured By Darkness
Alexandra Ivy

Louisiana
The Scent of Lemon Leaves
Clara Sanchez; Julie Wark

Maine
Everything and the Moon
Julia Quinn

Maryland
Beautiful Ruins
Jess Walter

Massachusetts
Anybody Out There?
Marian Keyes

Michigan
Serena
Ron Rash

Minnesota
Labor Day
Joyce Maynard

Mississippi
When Next We Love
Heather Graham

 Missouri

The Princess Diaries
Meg Cabot

Montana
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein

Nebraska
I Am Number Four
Pittacus Lore

Nevada
Scandal Becomes Her
Shirlee Busbee

New Hampshire
Microserfs: A Novel
Douglas Coupland

New Jersey
When We Meet Again
Victoria Alexander

New Mexico
Murder on a Girls’ Night Out
Anne George

New York
The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee
Sarah Silverman

North Carolina
Keeping Faith
Jodi Picoult

North Dakota
The Mental Floss History of the United States
Erik Sass; Will Pearson; Mangesh Hattikudur

Ohio
Waiter Rant
Steve Dublanica

Oklahoma
Everywhere That Mary Went
Lisa Scottoline

Oregon
Tomb of the Golden Bird
Elizabeth Peters

Pennsylvania
Stuck in Downward Dog
Chantel Guertin

Rhode Island
Raylan: A Novel
Elmore Leonard

South Carolina
The Other Side of the Story
Marian Keyes

South Dakota
Heart of a Warrior
Johanna Lindsey

Tennessee
I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell
Tucker Max

Texas
Murder on the Orient Express
Agatha Christie

Utah
Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story
Todd Burpo; Lynn Vincent

Vermont
The Family Vault
Charlotte MacLeod

Virginia
Dear Cary: My Life with Cary Grant
Dyan Cannon

Washington
Galactic Corps
Ian Douglas

West Virginia
A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning
Lemony Snicket

Wisconsin
Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman

Wyoming
Wishes in the Wind
Andrea Kane

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Welcome to The Glade, ya shanks

Image credit: themazerunnermovie.com

Image credit: themazerunnermovie.com

Okay! So! I was not thrilled with The Maze Runner as a trilogy, BUT (!) that does not mean that all is lost. As I mentioned in my review, The Maze Runner is the best of the three, and I think this is going to be one of those rare cases in which the movie is better than the book. A trailer hasn’t been released yet, but there are publicity stills  floating around the interwebs. I have to say, the casting on this movie is FLAWLESS, at least in terms of how I personally imagined each character.

Take a look. I think you’ll find there’s a little something for the fangirl in everyone. 

Thomas, played by Dylan O'Brien, who you know as Stiles MTV's Teen Wolf.

Thomas, played by Dylan O’Brien, who you know as Stiles MTV’s Teen Wolf.

Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who you know as Jojen Reed from HBO's Game of Thrones.

Newt, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who you know as Jojen Reed from HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario, who you know as Effy from Skins (UK)

Teresa, played by Kaya Scodelario, who you know as Effy from Skins (UK)

Gally, played by Will Poulter, who you know as Eustace Scrubb from The Chronicles of Narnia. (And he was hilarious in We're the Millers.)

Gally, played by Will Poulter, who you know as Eustace Scrubb from The Chronicles of Narnia. (And he was hilarious in We’re the Millers.)

Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee. I don't know him from anything yet, but he's one of my favorites so I had to include him.

Minho, played by Ki Hong Lee. I don’t know him from anything yet, but he’s one of my favorites so I had to include him.

All images are from themazerunnermovie.com

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Book Review: The Maze Runner trilogy

Image credit: goodreads.com

Image credit: goodreads.com

In light of The Maze Runner movie coming out later this year, I thought I’d get a jump on the story by reading The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner over the weekend. It was probably the most frustrating reading experience I’ve ever had in my life.

Brief Synopsis: Thomas wakes up alone in a lift with no memories other than his own first name. When the lift opens, he finds that it has delivered him to “The Glade,” an open arena surrounded by giant stone walls that form the maze. He and the 50 other boys (and eventually one girl) who live in the Glade, have to solve the maze, but they don’t know how or why. Throughout the trilogy, we learn that the outside world has been ravaged by sun flares that reached the earth and threw the planet into chaos. In addition, a deadly virus, dubbed “The Flare,” was inadvertently released and is killing the remaining population. Thomas and the other “Gladers” are immune to the virus, so their brains are the key to discovering the cure. Horrible things happen to them inside and eventually outside of the maze, all in the name of science and studying their reactions to said events inside their brains. If the scientists, aka the WICKED organization, can create a blueprint for an immune brain, they feel they can find a cure. But who can actually be trusted? Who is actually the good guy? How far is too far?

Trilogy Rating: Based on my star average for the three separate books, the whole trilogy gets a 3/5. If you’re the type that likes to read books before seeing the movie, then by all means, read The Maze Runner. It was a very enjoyable and unique read. In my opinion, you can skip the final two books and not miss anything. Also, I’m predicting that this will be one of those rare cases in which the movie is better than the book.

Book #1: The Maze Runner 
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Overall Impression: Without a doubt, this book is the strongest of the trilogy. The concept of the story is pretty unique and has so much potential to be something very cool. I liked the characters. It asked and answered questions at a good pace. I teetered between 3 stars and 4 stars because I felt the writing was a little juvenile and repetitive, but ultimately, I decided the book is intended for a much younger audience than me so I went with four. (Not everything can be The Hunger Games, right?)

Book #2: The Scorch Trials 
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Overall Impression: Honestly, not much stands out for me in this book because it felt like pure filler. The Gladers set out to complete Phase 2. They’ve left the maze and are now trying to navigate the Scorch, the completely destroyed and barren desert remains of the areas around the Earth’s equator. More horrible things happen, but we aren’t given any answers in terms of why or how they are happening. Also, there is zero character development. I didn’t enjoy this read very much. It’s a hopeful 2 stars, in that I’m hoping it’ll pick up after to the dreaded Second Book Slump.

Book #3: The Death Cure
Rating: 1/5
Overall Impression: So mind numbingly FRUSTRATING. I’ll discuss specifics below, but overall, I kind of hated every second of this book. I saw another review that referred to this last book as the “written version of a Michael Bay movie” and that assessment is so spot on. We jump from one fight to the next, one explosion to the next, one problem to the next, all the while having no character development whatsoever. The third book in a nutshell: Problem arises. Make a plan. Plan fails. Succeed anyway. Repeat. Over and over and over again. It’s overkill. And I won’t even touch the completely out of left field, cop out of an ending. Just ugh.

Spoilery Rant WARNING:
So, right in the beginning of book 3, Thomas has the opportunity to have his memory restored. Finally. FINALLY! All that the readers need for all of our questions to be answered is for Thomas to get his memory back. AND HE REFUSES. Other characters get their memories back, but we aren’t in their heads so that’s useless. Thomas gets the same opportunity mid-story and refuses AGAIN. Seriously, WTF? You set up all of these questions and scenarios but readers are supposed to accept “variables” as the answer to everything? I’m sorry, I don’t care that I’m not  the intended demographic for this story, that’s lame no matter what age you are.

Frankly, it makes me think that the author had no idea where to take the story once the Gladers left the maze. He didn’t know how to answer the questions and instead of coming up with satisfying answers, he tried to hide them with explosions and and hand-to-hand combat. I like a good fight scene as much as the next person, but when there’s a blow out confrontation in every chapter, it gets boring.

The lack of character development in the last two books also made it very hard to care about important deaths, including the death of my favorite character from book 1. I wanted to care, but all the characters devolved into bland, boring and predictable shells of themselves.

All in all, if you like answered questions and closure with your reading experiences, avoid this series at all cost. You will get neither here.

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Books make the best valentines!

Image credit: disneybaby.com

Image credit: disneybaby.com

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The book lovers at Buzzfeed Books  put together an adorable list of the reasons why books make the best valentines. You can check it out over there (gifs and all), or peep the list here.

Don’t forget to love a book today 🙂

11 Reasons Books are Better Valentines than People

  1. There’s no bad way to pick up a book.
  2. You don’t have to get dressed up for a book.
  3. A book doesn’t need reservations (it can take you anywhere).
  4. A book will never stand you up (unless you forget it at home).
  5. You don’t have to share your wine with a book (spilling doesn’t count).
  6. You can read numerous books at the same time and nobody judges you.
  7. A good book is guaranteed to keep you up all night.
  8. You don’t get mad at a friend for reading the same book.
  9. You don’t have to introduce a book to your parents (unless you think they should read it, too).
  10. If a book makes you cry, it’s only because it was so good.
  11. When it’s all over, you know exactly where to find the next one.

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