Friday, August 29, 2014

Book-to-Movie-Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I went to see this movie (1) because the preview made me cry when I saw it at TFIOS premiere, so duh and (2) I'm such a dedicated blogger that even though I didn't love the book, I knew I needed to tell the world how the movie held up.

I mentioned a few times over the last few weeks that I've been having this crying issue - nothing has been making me cry. That is until I read Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins last week and it cured me! So at first I was afraid I was going to leave this movie dry-eyed and heartless, just like I'd been with every book for the past month.

I obviously didn't realize that I had nothing to worry about on the crying front. I was a fuckin mess.

     IT STAYED PRETTY CLOSE TO THE BOOK
I'm quite forgiving when it comes to book-to-movie adaptations when things are changed or moved around for the sake of the adaptation being smoother or portraying a feeling or a message better. I hate when things are totally changed around, but I can forgive when the necessary things are moved around.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that If I Stay the movie stayed rather close to the book. Not much was actually added in or changed - it was more like a lot of the tiny less important details were left out. For example, Kim's crazy mom, while amusing, wasn't necessary and was left out of the movie. A couple of other minor things but nothing that changed the story.

The only thing that was "added" in was this weird fight between Mia and Adam. I mean, don't get me wrong, the fight scene was great, Adam was awesome and rude and an asshole, just like they were trying to pull off, but I don't remember anything like that from the book at all. Mia and Adam were more passive aggressive and Adam in the book was a sweetheart but he could be a dick, too. Otherwise I was pretty pleased with how close the adaptation was.

     THE ADDED BONUS OF MIA'S AND ADAM'S MUSIC
We get to heard "Adam's" music!!! Sometimes when a book has a musician as one of its main characters, albums are made in partnerships with one or two real-life musicians, (e.g., Jodi Picoult, Colleen Hoover). The music is often good, but it's nothing like what we fall in love with on the radio or from our favorite underground artists. In the If I Stay movie, Adam's music comes to life - and it is awesome!

We see him rockin' and rollin' and his voice is even pretty great. Now I did absolutely no research whatsoever as far as the music goes and who wrote it or if Jamie Blackley was the one who was singing, but I suspect it was. I could be wrong, but I'm just guessing here. I have no idea, but I know that it was one of my favorite parts of the movie watching Adam sing on stage and getting to briefly be a part of what he loved.

It was also really awesome seeing/hearing Mia play. Now I also did zero research about Mia's music but I suspect Chloë Grace Moretz was not the source of that wonderful sound. It was mesmerizing though, and beautiful. The cello music was enough to have me tearing up at times. Definitely these were my favorite parts.

     ITS A SHAME THAT THE ACTING WAS... JUST OKAY
This Chloë Grace Moretz girl... she looks familiar to me... and she's got quite a lengthy filmography, but I hadn't ever heard of her before this movie. I think she was a good Mia, but she just didn't really do it for me. She was so clean cut (which yes, is like Mia, but the emotional parts [except for one particularly difficult one] I felt should have been more raw) and sometimes I felt like I was just watching a movie, not like I was part of it. It's just like when reading a book and no one wants to be reminded that they are reading a book, ya know? I hope that makes sense.

Jamie Blackley (Adam), quite the opposite of Moretz's performance, was pretty perfect. What a brilliant portrayal of that character! He just tore my heart right up. Plus seeing him up on stage was hot and he looked like he really belonged there. Contrary to the case with the rest of the cast, Blackley was pretty much flawless.

The parents were cute, quirky, funny, and it was hard not to love them, but acting was a bit awkward. I didn't feel much chemistry between the actors other than between Mia and Adam. OMG I forgot the grandfather. He killed me. He was amazing. And he killed my heart. But overall, it was just alright acting-wise.

     I'VE FINALLY DISCOVERED WHY I DIDN'T LOVE THE BOOK
Finally! After reading If I Stay, and after having not shed one single real tear (my eyes got watery, that's about it) I knew a lot of my blogging pals were going to be wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I know so many of you who sobbed and sobbed over the book and I started wondering what was wrong with me, too.

But the movie kept doing this really annoying thing that I realized the book (kind of) did! Every time a really sad part was happening, it would suddenly rip you from that scene and flashback to some random part of Mia's life, or vice versa - we'd be watching a particularly touching flashback then suddenly jump back to Mia in the hospital. It was hard to connect with it when the transitions seemed to be at inopportune times and not very smooth. My sister and mom even commented to me at one point during the movie, "OMG, why do they keep doing that!?" I wondered that myself. I assume it was some kind of technique to get the emotions all over the place, and for the movie it kind of worked (I mean I was a mess either way, even if it was annoying), but with the book it made it really hard to connect.

Also, I've decided I didn't like how focused the book and movie were on the romance. Is this listed as a romance? Probably, but based on the way the story starts, I felt like it should have been more even, with just as much time spent on Mia's family, friends, music, school, boyfriend, etc. So maybe I'm being picky because this probably is listed as a contemporary romance, but I wish it'd been a bit more contemp and a little less romance.

     THE QUESTION YOU'VE ALL BE WANTING TO ASK: DID I CRY?
F*** yeah I cried. Like a damn baby! I shed about one measly tear for the book while reading it. I cried almost from beginning to end with the movie. Even with the choppy, poorly-timed transitions and Moretz's slightly less than stellar emotional scenes, I was a wreck. A freaking wreck. I remember at one point, I thought I was going to lose it - like not be able to hold in my ugly cry anymore and start sobbing and making strangled noises in the back of the theater. It was rough - really, really rough. The movie connected me to all of the feelings that I was totally missing while reading the book.

RATING: ★★★★ - Enjoyed it!

I really liked this movie. The book was alright for me (I rated it 3 stars) but nothing to write home about. I wanted to feel something when I read it and finally after seeing this movie, I do! Everything I wanted to cry over, wanted to rage about, I got the chance to while watching If I Stay in theaters. It was well done, the actors, while not amazing, were great, the music was fantastic, and I fell in love with this story once and for all. I actually left the theater wanting to read Where She Went which I'd written off after finished If I Stay and not loving it. I might actually pick it up!

Did you go see If I Stay this past week? What did you think? Were you like me, blubbering like a baby regardless of the small annoyances? Or did you find it not up to your expectations? Did you read the book first or did you not bother? Loved it or hated it? Let's talk about this book and movie!

A.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

ISBN: 9781471403989
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Series: No, Stand Alone
Released: May, 2014
Length: 240 pp
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.


Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.
     REVIEW

By now I'm sure you've heard all the hype surrounding We Were Liars. Look at the blurb up there ^^^. The end of it specifically says "and if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE." That's basically been everyone's MO who has read this book and reviewed it. No one will talk about it. When I was looking the book up before I read it, it was very nearly frustrating that I couldn't get any information on it other than whether it was good or not. Obviously not that I don't want to even remotely give anything away, I completely understand those reviews and why they were so vague. So I'm going to keep this really, really short.

We Were Liars is beautiful, haunting, poetic, sometimes strange. It spoke to my soul, telling me things I'd never heard before but somehow understood completely. That might sound like I've gone off the deep end, but you will understand once you read the book. It has a real "classic" feel to it that was like being in a dream and even sometimes a nightmare.

Disclaimer: I've see a lot of reviews by people who didn't like We Were Liars for various reasons. The story can be confusing at times. It's slow. It's dramatic. At times it is hard to even like the MCs, even when you understand the feelings being portrayed. And you will have absolutely no idea what is coming (unless you're like my sister who says she guessed what was going to happen like 2/3 of the way through the book, but I still don't know how).

Like I said, this is a slow book. It took me a while to really get into it but every time I picked it up, I was captivated by Cady's and the Liars' story. I loved this book so much that I finished it, then decided to re-read it the next day. That's all I can say to you without giving any of the plot away. I'm going to go cry in a corner now kbye.


     THE BREAKDOWN

RATING: ★★★★★ - Absolutely loved it!

I adored We Were Liars. After a bit of a reading slump and reading some things I just wasn't really into, WWL really surprised me. It was just fantastic. There's a very high chance that this will be a book I re-read over and over for years to come - it is just that dear to me.

Have you read We Were Liars? What did you think? I've heard from tons of people who loved it, and I can't wait to discuss this one with you, but I really want to hear from those of you who didn't like it. Other than it being slow and rather confusing until you realize what the heck is going on, what didn't you like about it? Can't wait to hear from you all!

A.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Really Want to Read but Don't Own Yet

This is gonna be a tough one for me - mainly because I have a serious book buying problem. I have over 60 books physically sitting on my shelves and I still go out and stock up on books on my TBR list just so I can have them. Even when I know I'm not going to read them for months (in some cases, years!)! Basically if I see a book I really want, I find a way to get my hands on it. Surprisingly, right now there aren't a ton of books that I really want that I don't already have. There are a few though:

TOP TEN FIVE BOOKS I REALLY WANT TO READ BUT DON'T OWN YET

1.     Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - Yes, this is a little bit cheating, but I don't care! I NEEEED this book and some people do have ARCs and I DON'T AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW WAAHHH.

2.     Winter by Marissa Meyer - Okay, this is 100% cheating because I'm pretty sure ARCs have not gone out for this yet. Unfortunately this was pushed back so we could read a story about freaking Queen Levana in the beginning of the year. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited for Fairest but I NEED WINTER.

3.     Far From You by Tess Sharpe - This recently made it onto my TBR list and it's probably one of those ones that I will make sure gets into my hands some time very soon. A lot of my trusted blogging pals enjoyed this a lot and that's usually all it takes for me to pick something up that I was already kind of interested in.

4.     The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - I read A Thousand Splendid Suns last year which I thought was fantastic and have been wanting to read his other books and just haven't gotten around to it.

5.     Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - I'd originally had no interest in this one but after finding out that it isn't actually a horror novel, I became much more interested. I'll definitely be making a trip to the bookstore soon for this one.

What books do you really want to read but don't own yet? I can't wait to see all your lists!!

A.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

ISBN: 9780142415436
Source: Purchased
Format: Paperback
Series: If I Stay #1
Released: April, 2009
Goodreads  |  B&N

     SUMMARY
On a day that started like any other,Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, admiring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. In an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the only decision she has left. It is the most important decision she'll ever make.Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting, and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.
     REVIEW

This is going to be one of those tomato-throwing reviews. You know, the one where I tell you that I didn't really like this extremely popular book that you all love. I'm sorry. Actually, I'm not sorry. But I'd still like to not be hit with tomatoes if that's okay?

I was really excited for If I Stay. It had been on my radar as a future read for a while, Gayle Forman being who she is and all that. When I went to see The Fault in Our Stars, the trailer for If I Stay was shown. I actually had no idea what the book was about until I saw the movie trailer (sorry, geez - I'd never really looked into it) and that one little clip was enough to make me need to read it. I picked it up almost immediately and went home to dive in.

The first thing I noticed was that the writing was beautiful but simple and the dialogue was amusing but a tad bit awkward. Honestly, both of these things kind of annoyed me. It made me want to like what I was reading but it also made it difficult to like it. Mia was a teenager, a brilliant one so I can forgive it, but she spoke like a cultured adult. Even the little brother who was what, seven or eight, spoke like he was much older. It was a little too stiff and awkward for me, but like I said - I didn't hate it, it was just hard for me to enjoy as much as I wanted to.

Unfortunately, the thing that really cemented the fact that this book wasn't for me was that it didn't make me feel anything. I think I shed a total of two tears throughout the whole book. Even the love story didn't give me any feels. It was just pleasant but nothing to write home about. It did make me think, which I always appreciate in a book, especially young adult novels which always get such a bad wrap. But to me, the book was supposed to do both and I just didn't really care about Mia's struggles or having to make a choice other than feeling incredibly sad about her losing her family.

Maybe I really have an icebox where my heart used to be and I'm incapable of any human emotion because I know that it should have made me feel but it didn't. I didn't hate this book, but honestly I didn't feel much of anything about it. I had and still don't have any plans to read the sequel because I honestly just didn't connect with Mia. I might go looking for spoilers so I can know what happens to her, but I can't dedicate several days of my life to reading about it. I forgot about If I Stay the second I was done and decided to give it away, hoping someone else might like it more. Winner of said giveaway, I hope you enjoy it.

So please, hold the tomatoes. I'm just not human, that's all.

     THE BREAKDOWN


RATING: ★★★ - It was OK

Though this is a favorite of many of my trusted blogging pals, it just didn't do it for me. I still want to see the movie, actually, because I find that when I can't connect with a book but really want to, I tend to connect with the movie pretty well, such as with Vampire Academy (even though I adored the rest of the series) and TFiOS (yes, I liked this book well enough but adored the movie).

If I Stay didn't do much in the way of moving me but on the bright side it did make me think about life, it's fragility, the deaths that will one day take us all and whether or not we may have a choice to live or die, maybe not the way Mia did, but in the way we live our lives now - and what to choose if we do have that choice?

It wasn't a bad book, just not for me and I really do think it's something that a lot of others would enjoy if you haven't read it yet. I think I'm just emotionally deficient.

Have you read If I Stay yet? Did it move heaven and earth for you or were you like me, just kind of meh? I'd love to hear from you on this one!

Also, the movie comes out tonight (technically tomorrow). I'm going to go see it on Saturday, and don't you worry - if you're not sure about it, I'll let you know what I thought. Are you planning on seeing it, unsure, or totally against it? Let's talk books... and er... movies!

A.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book-to-Movie Review: The Giver, and How it Kind of Surprised Me


Some of you may remember my post last week on 6 Reasons Why I'm Terrified to See the Giver Movie. You may also remember my crazy ranty-ness throughout the post and through other social media avenues the past few weeks as I re-read and reviewed The Giver and had a lot of time to think about everything. I was thoroughly convinced that I would hate every single aspect of the movie and that we'd have a repeat of Beautiful Creatures (I really should write a review on that one for reference, huh?).

I went to see the movie last Friday night with my cousin who grew up on The Giver as I did and had crazy high expectations, and my sister who recently read The Giver for the first time and didn't hold the crazy love in her heart for it like I do, and had little to no expectations. Basically, here's what happened.

THE BEGINNING: My first impressions

As I expected, the beginning started off a lot like Divergent, talking about times of great unrest or something like that. They showed this weird map of the community which I of course scoffed at. The map showed many communities, not just one, and it was this whole strange set up. It looked a bit like a floating island in the sky. That then reminded me of a book by Lauren DeStefano, Perfect Ruin, which indeed was about a floating island in the sky - and the government constantly referring to people as being "lost to the edge" or something to that effect. It was weird - out of place. They could've done anything else to reinforce the fact that the community was isolated and that once you got past the border, memories would go back to the people living there. There was no need for the floating island look with fog around the border. At all.

I was annoyed already, but it was hard to stay mad when I started getting choked up at Jonas' "graduation" ceremony (aka Ceremony of Twelve - because Jonas is like 18 in the movie). It was modern and weird and aged up, but I still couldn't stop the chills skating up my spine at hearing the community chant his name when he was selected.

THE ROMANCE: Did it really affect the story?

I will admit it distracted the crap out of me. I think the movie would have stood just fine if they had played up Jonas lusting after Fiona, developing feelings of "love" as described in the book, but I think the mistake came from making her have feelings back, making her skip her injections, making her rebel, too. Like I mentioned in my post last week, in reality, Jonas would've only had someone else's memory to go off of, and Fiona would have had nothing. Hormones maybe, but don't we think that after living life the way they did, they wouldn't just jump into a romance with ease? I mean, Fiona was freaked out, but I don't think she was freaked out enough considering how things ended up.

I stand by what I said - the actual romance should've been out. Let Jonas feel how he feels, but watching him try to make out with this chick because he had someone else's memories of love and people kissing was just too much.

ASHER WAS A PILOT?: Of all the WTF-ery!

When the kids were assigned their jobs, Fiona was assigned Nurturer. Oh, wait, you noticed something wrong with that, too? Yeah, she was not a Nurturer in the book, she was a Caretaker of the Old. This didn't bother me all that much just because the Nurturing Center played somewhat of a part in story. But Asher, our dear Asher was assigned as a Pilot who flew out of the community limits, probably to deliver things to other communities, but not outside of the real boundaries. Our irresponsible friend almost instantly turns serious, abiding by the rules that Jonas is developing a distaste for. This adds for some extra drama when - gasp - Asher has to hunt down his own friend when Jonas tries to escape. It was wayyyy overdone and not necessary. I think the near-capture scenes would've been just fine if they altered things a little and left that tidbit out. Does it effect anything all that much? No, but like I said, way overdone and it was another thing that made me roll my eyes.

WHAT I LOVED: Yes, there were actual things I enjoyed!

Even with the things I didn't enjoy, e.g., the romance and the overly modern nonsense that you can see right from the trailer, a good portion of the movie stayed marginally close to the book. Surprise, surprise.

I loved Jonas' passion for the memories, the world as he's never seen before, his passion for love and happiness and doing what is right. Brenton Thwaites really pulled this off well. In the book, Jonas' passion doesn't develop until later on, whereas in the movie it's almost instantaneous after Jonas becomes the Receiver, but it was wonderful to watch his thought process play out (even if it was on fast forward).

The acting was on par. In fact, it was above par. Brenton Thwaites did a lovely job as Jonas. I especially loved Odeya Rush as Fiona. Yes, I thought Fiona has too much of a part, but Rush was fantastic playing what was given to her. She got me all worked up at the end. Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgård, they were fantastic. TayTay (Swift), however, whom I adore because she's so adorable, was just alright playing Rosemary, a character that had no real part in the book.

I did struggle a bit with Meryl Streep. Not because of the acting - obviously Meryl Streep is a goddess and is amazing. I just struggled because she was another character who has a significantly smaller part that was played way up. It added to the drama and excitement but she was not a likeable character, so that was hard for me.

JEFF BRIDGES. Oh my heart, Jeff Bridges. He played the Giver and he was amazing. He made the movie for me. He was absolutely brilliant. He was exactly what I imagined, though maybe a tad younger and a tad more groomed than the book-Giver. He is one of the main reasons I didn't hate this movie, or why I actually kind of enjoyed it. Jeff Bridges brought the Giver's character to a new level but not like all the other characters, by adding in things about them that aren't true. He was just... perfect. He was another character who brought me to tears.

Which leads me to the main reason I actually kind of enjoyed the movie: THE MEMORIES. The most perfect parts of this movie were the parts that were actually adapted directly from the book. Watching Jonas receive memories was so fun (like his first memory of the sled, or of being on a boat in the ocean at sunset), but then the movie did this thing: it showed a montage memories, of what the world is. We see everything, people dancing, laughing, crying, praying, going to concerts and parties, having babies, dealing with heartbreak, fighting a war, EVERYTHING. Everything that makes this world beautiful and horrible all at once. Let me also point out how beautiful and appropriate it was for them to end of the montages on a picture of Nelson Mandela. Freaking brilliant. It was the one of the most moving things I've ever seen and every time they showed it, I was tearing up like a fool.

OVERALL: It got the point across

All I could think of when we left besides "I don't know what to think" (which is what a ton of people were saying when it was over) was that Lowry was right. Before I went to see the movie, the production company tweeted me a link to a video of Lois Lowry talking about the adaptation:


She mentions how true the movie stays to the book. I remember watching this clip last week before the movie and thinking, psht, how could you call that staying true to the book? Like, was she even watching the same clips that I was?

But after watching I know exactly what she meant. They changed a lot, they really did, and in my opinion some of it was so simple and it didn't even need to be changed (like the weird birthmarks in place of light-colored eyes on the ones who could see/hear Beyond). But still, she was right. I could plainly see that the movie still delivered its message: making people think about what is important, making people appreciate the world in all of its beauty and glory, realizing that we can't forget our history no matter what horrible things have happened, we need to learn from it in order to grow and be better people. If we forget the bad, we lose the good, too. We lose what makes life worth living. I may not have loved the execution but it stayed so true to Lowry's core values and message in the book that I couldn't be mad.

SHOULD YOU GO SEE IT?

Well... that's for you to decide. Like I said, they've changed a lot. If random little changes, the romance and overly-modern work and rebellion are going to bother you that much then honestly, no. I'm not saying you should pass it up entirely, I'm just saying wait for red box, rather than spending 10 bucks to go see it.

If you're more generous like me and you can see past Hollywood's need to make everything more sexy and exciting and focus on the amazing beautiful scenes between Jonas and the Giver which really made the movie for me, then I say yes. It's only 10 bucks right? And if you're as big of a fan as I am, even though some things will down right piss you off, you'll still find that it did its job. Oh and, FYI, for any changes or stupid things I didn't mention specifically, you can just assume that it wasn't important enough to make any kind of impression on me, and if you see this adaptation at all like I do, then those things won't really matter to you either.

And finally, for those of you who haven't read the book and don't plan to, GO SEE THIS MOVIE (even though I'd really love it if you read the book, too). If you have nothing to base it off of, I promise you, you will love it. The things that annoyed me will seem like nothing if you don't have anything to compare to. It's action packed, meaningful, well done as far as production and acting go, and its overall a good movie when it's totally separated from the book.

If I had a chance to re-do the movie, of course there are things I'd change - lots of things. But there are also things I'd leave exactly the same (the memories, mainly, and the wonderfulness that is Jeff Bridges). The Giver movie really, really surprised me by not being the complete disaster I was expecting. I honestly think I'll be going to see it again, to analyze a bit more.

Did you go see the Giver movie yet? What did you think - and were you a fan of the book first? If you haven't seen it, what do think about the trailers and other reviews? Do you think you will go see it or are you staunchly against this adaptation? I can't wait to hear what you thought!

A.