Two John Green books, a lot of similarities

Like many other women in the world, I was captivated by John Greene’s novel “The Fault in Our Stars”. I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the pain it demanded me to feel. Despite what neigh-sayers may say, it’s a beautiful book.

After I finished it, I promptly bought another of Green’s works, “Looking for Alaska” and put in on my bookshelf. As much as I hate to admit it, that’s exactly where the book has been sitting for over two years—just collecting dust between my Gillian Flynn novels and the classics. I kind of forgot I had it honestly. So many other books have come into my life.

paper townsOne of these other books, was “Paper Towns” another John Green book. After seeing the previews pretty much nonstop for months for the feature film, I really wanted to read it. When I received it as a gift, I read it in about a day. A couple weeks later,  I found myself alone in a movie theater watching it on the big screen.

“Paper Towns” is about Quentin “Q” Jacobsen, a high school senior looking forward to his looming graduation. Throughout his entire life, one thing has been a constant—his love for Margo Roth Spiegelman.  As children, the two of them were inseparable until in the park one night they discovered the body of a man who had committed suicide.  After that insane encounter, the two grew apart. Margo moved on with her life making new friends and becoming the most infamous girl in the entire school. Q, however, held on to his love for the girl who lived on his street. He always held out hope that they would reunite.

Sure enough, only a couple weeks until graduation, she shows up in his bedroom needing him to be her accomplice in a night of mayhem gaining revenge on all the folks who had done Margo wrong. When the night ends, Q feels like his life is finally coming together and he’s finally gotten the attention of the girl he loves, but then Margo disappears. Q and his friends go on an epic journey to find Margo based on clues she left behind.

From the first page, I enjoyed “Paper Towns”. It is a fun read, and sometimes, that’s all you need a book to be. Don’t get me wrong, it is a coming-of-age story that I’m sure most teens can relate to in some ways. Even as an adult, there were elements I could relate to.

After reading “Paper Towns” I realized I still had that other John Green book lying around somewhere. With only a little bit of digging, I found it and began reading. “Looking for Alaska” was actually Green’s first novel, and it received the Michael L Printz award from the American Library Association in 2006—a prestigious award given to the best Young Adult book written each year.

Much like “Paper Towns”, “Looking for Alaska” is told in the perspective a teenage misfit boy. In this story, he is a high school junior named Miles “Pudge” Halter attending a boarding school by his own choice in Alabama. Miles is loner who is oddly obsessed with knowing famous people’s last words. loookin

His first year at the school, he encounters a wide range of different personalities and becomes friends with the most exciting personality there—Alaska Young. Despite the fact that Alaska is in a committed relationship, Miles falls quickly in love with her. He also becomes best friends with his roommate Chip Martin, who is affectionately called The Colonel. The three of them become a crew of pranksters taking out their plots on other kids in the school. As they become closer, Pudge falls more and more in love with Alaska. Then something insane happens, and they are left picking up the pieces of an impossible puzzle.

These two books have a lot of similarities that are pretty undeniable. Both Pudge and Q are quiet unpopular outsiders, whereas Alaska and Margo are both popular free spirits. While both books are in a way about a boy’s great love for a girl, they focus more on the boy’s friendships with a core group of other misfits. In the end of both books, the friends are brought together for a secret mission given to them by the women they loved.

These books aren’t exactly the same, but there are a lot of parallels I can’t really ignore. Regardless of that, though, I did enjoy reading both books. “Looking for Alaska” is definitely the darker of the two, and “Paper Towns” has a little more comedy. In my opinion, “Paper Towns” is the better read, but there are likeable characteristics in both.

John Green is a great writer, and he definitely knows his niche. Despite the fact he is a 30-something year old man, he has a way of getting into the minds of teenagers and knowing exactly how to portray them. Few young adult novels come across as organically as John Green novels do.

If you’re looking for fun and easy reads with just a little bit of drama, either one of these should do the trick.  While I think “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the best Young Adult book ever written, I do merit these as being pretty decent too.

Roped in by “The Longest Ride”

newimagesD1S48B8BI generally have a rule where I won’t see a film adaptation of a novel until I’ve actually read the book. This week, “The Longest Ride” opened in theaters and even though I’ve owned this book for months, I was only about 20 pages in. 

 

While I couldn’t really get into the book, the movie trailer roped me in. Sure enough, I was there alongside my friend with about 20 other women, a few romantic daters and one old man. 

 

I had a feeling the movie was going to be good or I wouldn’t have spent the money, but I had no idea how much I would actually enjoy it. I thought the film adaption of “The Longest Ride” was top notch.

 

longest-ride-poster01In the movie we meet a college senior named Sophia (Britt Roberson) who falls for a professional bull rider named Luke (Scott Eastwood). While on their first date they stumble across a car off the side of the road with an elderly man, named Ira, inside. They call 911 and pull him out of the car. Regardless of the accident, Ira still asked Sophia to grab a mysterious box from his car.

 

Later she discovers it’s filed with letters from his late wife, Ruth. While Ira’s recovering, Sophia offers to read the letters to Ira. Through this technique, we see not only one love story come alive on screen—but two. Like all Nicholas Sparks movies, there are obstacles both couples must face. And of course there’s intensely sad moments too.imagesXN270251

 

This movie truly had everything I want in a romance. I laughed, I cried, and I felt happy when the credits rolled. I loved the cast and thought both couples had dynamic chemistry. The way they wrapped up the ending was great too—it was truly exceptional. I left the theater with tears in my eyes, a smile on my face and wanting to see it again.

 

Good ole Nick’s movies have definitely gone down in quality these last few years, but this one can be ranked somewhere up there with “The Notebook” and “A Walk to Remember”it’s just that good.

 

thelongestride4The book, however, ranks somewhere between completely horrible and a total waste of time. I loved the movie so much that I decided to read the book from start to finish that night. Compared to the movie, the book is horrendous.

 

First of all, the two are completely different. Sure, there are some similarities, but overall they seem like two completely different stories. The core of the story is the same (kind of), but whoever reworked it for the movie knew what they were doing. They took a decent idea and a mediocre book and made something wonderful. 

 

Also, there was a ghost in the book. Haven’t we overdone it a little with the ghosts a little bit Sparks?  Please quit with the ghosts already. It was cute one time. We’re over it. Thank goodness someone else decided to cut that whole thing out and use love letters to tell Ira’s story instead of his dead wife. We get it Nick, you like ghosts. Please find a new routine though. untitled

 

If I would have read the book first, there’s no way I would have paid to see the movie. How sad would that have been? I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much in a long time.

 

Film critics may be giving “The Longest Ride” mixed reviews, but I would recommend the movie to anyone (except my sister that is). You get two beautiful stories for the price of one. So far, it’s my favorite movie of the year. 

 

On the flip side though, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone. 

 

imagesDSXMKPXHMaybe I’m getting to the point in my life where I don’t actually enjoy Nicholas Sparks books anymore. Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many great works these past few months to enjoy something so mediocre. I always knew they were pretty bad, but I always loved them despite that. After this book, though, I may officially be done reading his “work”.

 

I’m going to keep seeing the movies though. And I’ll probably keep loving them too. 

 

*Photo Credit to Fox 2000 Pictures

 

I’m late to the party, but I finally read “Divergent”

divergent picI know I’m late to the party, but I finally read the “Divergent” series.

Even more annoying than that, I actually watched the movie before reading the book. I absolutely hate doing that.

Why did I make this regrettable decision? Let’s just say, I had been judging a book by its cover for far too long.

When the “Divergent” series first hit the shelves I had heard that it was a knock off Hunger Games, and of course, I believed it.

Fast forward to March 2014. It’s my birthday weekend. I always go see a movie on my birthday. There were very few things I was interested in seeing though. I read a few reviews and decided “Divergent” was probably my best option. images Long story short, I loved it. I thought divergent was an excellent film, and completely underrated. I put it on the list of about 599 other books I wanted to read.

Fast forward to about a month ago, and my husband had purchased me the entire “Divergent” series from Costco. So here I am finally getting into them and I am pleasantly surprised.

To go back to my first point, “Divergent” is not a poor man’s “Hunger Games”.

Are they both about young strong girls living in a dystopian society? Sure, they are. That doesn’t mean they are anything like each other though. If that were the case, I wouldn’t have seen any Tom Cruise movie that’s come out in the past five years. I’ve probably seen them all and enjoyed each one of them even though they basically have the same concept. He’s fighting aliens and/or saving a civilization. Similar yet entertaining and original—that’s how I see the two book series.

While you can find many similarities throughout (like the concepts of factions and districts), there are also a lot of differences. Those differences are what makes each story worth reading.

But we’re not here to talk about “The Hunger Games”.  “Divergent” deserves to be discussed on its own.

The story follows our hero Beatrice Prior who is living life in a dystopian society.  In the beginning of the book she must take an aptitude test to decide which faction, or society, she will belong to.

Ultimately the choice is hers, but most people choose the faction the test tells them they were made for. If you leave the faction you’re raised in, you must leave your family behind and take on a new identity and faction.

When Beatrice takes the test, though, her results are inconclusive and she finds out she is among a group she never ever heard of—the divergent. To stay alive she must join another faction and pretend to be someone she is not.

Of course, things are not as easy as she hoped. I’ll stop right there when it comes to synopsis. You should pick up the book if you’re interested in finding out what happens next.   This book has a lot to offer a variety of different readers. There’s action and suspense. There’s blood and there’s gore. There’s even love and romance.

My favorite thing about the book, however, is the vulnerability within the main character. When reading “The Hunger Games”, I never once questioned Katniss Everdeen’s ability to do anything. She’s a beast.

Beatrice is a whole different kind of animal. She’s fierce, but she’s vulnerable. It’s an endearing quality for a hero to have. Telling the story in her voice was great choice on Veronica Roth’s part. Because you get a look into Beatrice’s thoughts, you can see that she isn’t as tough as she may put on to everyone else. Her life may be completely different than every person reading the book, but she has the same thoughts an insecurities we all deal with.

I really enjoyed the first book and have already started reading the next one. Despite what I’ve heard, I’m looking forward to seeing how this series ends. It’s gotten some negative criticism, but that only makes me want to read it more. I think I learned my lesson this time around going off of what other people said.

This year I’ll be spending my birthday the same way I did last year—seeing the newest installment of the “Divergent” series, “Insurgent”, in theaters. The difference is, this year, I’m super excited about it.

 

*Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment

From bookshelf to cinema: Gone Girl

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I started this blog with the intention of writing about sweets and books. However, during and after college I spent much of my time writing movie reviews. The whole idea of this blog was to do something different, but with the recent release of Gone Girl—a book turned movie—I thought I’d make an exception.

I am a fan of the book Gone Girl—a huge fan actually. I was enthralled by the way it was written. I found the depth of the characters and character development to be on a completely different level than most modern day novels, and I got completely wrapped up in the story itself.

When I saw the preview for the movie I felt two emotions: excitement that it was coming to the big screen and fear that it would be a mediocre replica of a book truly enjoyed (as most book to movie transitions are). Plus, there was a rumor going around that the ending was being changed so it would be a surprise. Thankfully, though, that was just a rumor.

gg3When I saw Gone Girl this weekend, I was pleasantly surprised. The truth is, this was the closest book to film adaption I’ve ever seen. The plot stayed consistent, the characters were just how I imagined them and nothing was added to the story that wasn’t a part of the original.  This is probably because the writer of the novel, Gillian Flynn, actually wrote the screenplay, which rarely ever happens. Overall, I was very pleased with the script she created and the movie as a whole.

That, to a certain extent, is lost a little in the film. The movie runs a solid two and half hours and does seem slower paced than the book. However, that didn’t really bother me, because I love a good crime movie, and I generally have no problem sitting for long amounts of time eating Twizzlers and watching whatever is on in front of me. On any given day you can find me watching a two hour episode of Dateline, so adding thirty extra minutes to that for a scripted film sounds great to me.

That being said, even though I knew exactly how it was going to play out, I never once got bored or found the movie to be long winded. I imagine had I not known the ending, I probably would have been even more captivated by the way the story played out. Not too terribly much was taken out of the original story, and the things that were removed weren’t that important to the story as a whole. The film version, for instance, has a lot less back story than the book, but I don’t think that was a key element to making us understand who both Amy and Nick are.

ggbenOne thing I really enjoyed about the film was the cast. Ben Affleck did a great job playing the role of Nick Dunne. He was likable and mysterious at the same time. Unlike the 80 percent of the world who has decided they hate Ben Affleck for no reason at all, I am a huge fan. Honestly, besides the travesties of 2003 that are Gigli and Daredevil, I pretty much think he can do no wrong. Maybe the man just had a bad year 11 years ago and we should give him a break. I mean did anyone else see Argo or The Town? Ben Affleck has talent.

Most of the supporting cast was memorable too. Neil Patrick Harris did a wonderfully creepy job as Desi Collings, and I really enjoyed both Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit in their roles as Detective Boney and Officer Gilpin, respectively.

I never thought I’d utter these words in my life, but Tyler Perry did a great job in the film as well. He plays Tanner Bolt, who has a minor, yet important role in the film.

My favorite character in the book and movie was Nick’s sister Margot (affectionately referred to as Go). In the movie, she was played by Carrie Coon, who you may recognize from The Leftovers. She fit the character of Margot perfectly and actually made me like the character more when brought to life.

The standout performer, however, by far is Rosamund Pike who played the Gone Girl, Amy Dunne.

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Even though I’ve seen her in a few things here or there, when I saw the original trailer, I was thinking, “why the hell did they cast this nobody as the most important person in the whole movie?”

Boy, was I wrong.

I can’t say too much about this character, because I don’t want to give anything away, but I can say that Pike was an absolute fit for the role of Amy. I’m predicting, like the rest of the world, an Oscar Nomination could be in the future for Pike.

If you like the tone and style of David Fincher movies, you will enjoy this flick for sure. It’s got the cinematography of the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the craziness of Fight Club and the tone of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo all rolled into one. Above all that, though, it has a fantastic storyline. I honestly already want to watch it again.

I think Gone Girl is a phenomenal movie, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. However, I think if you see the movie without reading the book you are doing yourself a huge disservice—not because the movie is bad, but because the book is just so good.

 

*Photos Courtesy of New Regency Pictures