Archive for the ‘book review’ Category

It’s rare that I do book reviews but I just finished a book that I feel so fiercely passionate about I have to share. Plus it’s rare to find a book that can make you laugh and cry at the same time.

 

The Fault In Our Stars
Written By: John Green

Fault In Our Stars

“You don’t get to choose  IF you get hurt in the world, but you do have some say in WHO hurts you.”

The Fault In Our Stars tells the story of Hazel and Augustus. Hazel suffers from a terminal form of lung cancer. Destined to live with pain and on oxygen for the rest of however long her life will be. She knows she’s dying and her time on this planet is short but she chooses to be reclusive much to the chagrin of her overbearing, but well-meaning parents. At a support group meeting she meets the beautiful and now cancer-less, Augustus and immediately finds herself drawn to him. Hazel never meant to meet anyone but after meeting Augustus she knew her life would never be the same again.

John Green paints the picture of Hazel and Augustus so vividly that within the first few pages you immediately care for the characters. They feel real and realized as if they have existed all this time and we just didn’t know it. Hazel and Augustus are both bright with sarcastically dark sense of humors. Despite their grim outlooks, dark comments, and the sense they have the weight of their short lives on their shoulders, you, the reader, never really feel burdened. You don’t feel heavy or gloomy reading their story, instead you somehow feel hopeful.

Hazel is a recluse or maybe the better word for it is hermit. She spends her days reading alone and watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model or Top Chef. (Hey, that sounds like me!) She doesn’t want to make friends; she doesn’t want to get close to anyone. She just wants to die in peace causing as little damage to the people around her as possible. When Hazel meets Augustus everything changes. Though she’s reluctant to invite him into her life she finds herself forming a friendship. Eventually it turns into something more and to watch it happen (or rather read it happen) is bearing witness to something special. You want Hazel to want to love.

Hazel and Augustus have a relationship most adults wish they could have. Their sickness takes away their filter and in this way they get to know each other better than anyone could have ever thought. When Hazel becomes obsessed with a book that’s ending is left up in the air Augustus uses his “Make-A-Wish” to bring Hazel to Amsterdam to visit with the author and find out how the story ends. She wants to –no she needs to—find out what happened to everyone else once the main character passes away. And she thinks only the book’s author can bring her that closure on those people.

Fault In Our Stars is a story of courage, friendship, sickness, health, and love despite insurmountable odds. This story will make you cry and then catch you off guard with a hilarious statement so suddenly you are laughing and crying. And you’ll be thinking about these characters long after you turn the last page.

 

NOTE: I hear they are turning this book into a movie, but I urge you to read the book first because there is no way a movie will do this book justice. Especially if they try and turn it into a schmaltzy teen movie, if you know what I mean.

 

 

Over the last two weeks the casting news for Hunger Games has come in huge and frequent waves. I’m jazzed that are now casting unknowns. Something I had wished for in the first place. Here is my reaction to the recent castings.

First the cast that have been confirmed:


     Paula Malcomson as Katniss’ mother: This is excellent casting. Paula looks like she could be fragile, but strong when she needs to be (for the later books).

"   Willow Shields as Prim: I’m glad for a fresh face though I imagined Prim looking a bit younger and a bit fair skinned. Maybe more like Elle Fanning. But Willow could be good. She looks like she has fight in her, which Prim will need later on.

  Amandla Stenberg as Rue: This is perfect casting for Rue. This girl looks so sweet and innocent, it’ll be absolutely heartbreaking to watch her fate play out on the big screen. Am I the only one who is glad that Willow Smith didn’t get this part? Casting an unknown…way better! Added bonus: She looks 12!

   Dayo Okeniyi as Thresh: He has a nice face and I can only imagine how haunting he’ll be as Thresh. My only nitpick is that he doesn’t look like a teenage. He definitely looks like he’s in his 20’s. I just hope he’s tall!

   Jack Quaid as Marvel: Dennis Quaid’s son as the District 1 tribute. Not much is known about the kid in the book so I can’t say how I really pictured the kid. He will have to get a bit bigger, but he looks young and those eyebrows are pretty scary!

Levin Ramblin as Glimmer: I think this is perfect casting choice. Levin is beautiful and a fantastic actress. I’ve loved her work on Grey’s Anatomy and Wizards of Waverly Place, but I know her best from Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles. She’ll be a great Glimmer.

But now lets get to those pesky rumors. And the legit rumors that make are sweeping the news, not the fake rumors of people we want, hope, wish would get the parts.

Elizabeth Banks as Effie is pretty much a sure thing. Even if most of the articles out there aren’t fully committing to saying it is. However, usually when casting rumors spark a big enough name, more often then not they are true.

I know a lot of people were hoping for Kristin Chenoweth to play Effie, but I always felt like the part should go to Banks. Even though Banks has been in so many things, she has this fresh quality about her. She hasn’t been over played, over hyped in the media and you don’t know much about her to distract you from her. Chenoweth, though a fantastic actor and would do great with the part, she’s too well known. Maybe it’s from her time on Glee. Plus, Banks can play the Stepford Wife real well, (just look at her performance in The Uninvited) which is how I imagine Effie to be. Perfect on the outside, even though she’s probably unraveling on the inside. Banks is, once again, a great choice.

The last three characters, essential to Hunger Games, in my opinion are Haymitch, Cinna, and Snow. Though there’s been no real speculation about the casting of Cinna. My vote is for either Ewan McGregor or Cillian Murphy.

And possibly Malcom McDowell or Alan Dale as Snow, though I really picture snow too look like Voldemort.

And lastly, and probably most importantly, Haymitch. The rumor is John C. Reilly is up for the part of Haymitch.

I’ve seen Reilly in so many comedy movies it’s hard to see him being able to do something dramatic. Not to say he wouldn’t be able to handle the material, he just doesn’t fit my view of Haymitch. I imagine Haymitch to be once good looking, but aged by experiences and alcohol, and not taking care of himself. He might have funny humorous moments, but not because he’s trying to be funny. Reilly does not fit this image as all. Some names that had been tossed around Robert Downey Jr, Brad Pitt, Hugh Laurie would have been FAR better picks. Maybe not Brad Pitt, but I’d choose him over Reilly. I kind of imagined Haymitch like a drunk, dirty, loud, scruffy Santa Claus, if that makes sense. Rumor has it Reilly is debating between this and OZ, I hope he picks OZ. (Sorry, I’m sure John’s a great guy).

That’s my two cents. Do you agree? Disagree? Who did you picture as Haymitch, Cinna, and Snow. Are you as excited as am I to see who they will cast?


The Hunger Games:

My Reaction to the Casting of Katniss, Peeta and Gale.

 

Recently, there was the announcement of who Gary Ross and Lionsgate cast as Peeta and Gale in the Hunger Games Series. Below find my reaction to the casting, keeping in mind, I am completely taken with the series!

I work in the film industry. So I know how it works. I know, for the most part, how and why movies are cast with particular people. I may not agree with it, but I understand why such person was cast. However, sometimes, when I am such a big fan of something, all reason seems to go out the window.

I am obsessed with Hunger Games. I am in love with the book. Suzanne Collins built such fantastic characters, and put them in such horrible, horrible situations that you can’t help but care for them. Her characters are strong, and emotional, and good at heart, while at the same time, flawed, and  impulsive and they do things with such reckless abandon.

When you feel so strongly about such characters, they can’t help but form clear pictures in your head as to who they are – or more precisely, who they aren’t.

You can’t make everyone happy, I understand that. But with the decision to cast Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta, and Liam Hemsworth as Gale, I can’t help but feel strongly disappointed. I don’t disagree that Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson aren’t incredible actors. I’ve never seen anything Jennifer Lawrence has done but that fact that she was nominated for Winter’s Bone, which I hear is fantastic, makes me believe she has acting chops. And I love Hutcherson’s work (Zathura, Bridge to Terabithia, and of course The Kids Are Alright). Liam Hemsworth, all I know about him is that he’s Chris Hemsworth’s brother and he did that movie with Miley Cyrus. However, did not picture Katniss, Peeta, or Gale looking anything like these three people.

I picture Katniss as petite, skinny, brunette, darker skinned, and small but powerful. Like a skinnier, longer haired, Ellen Page in Juno. I’m not saying I picture Ellen Page, just there are some similar characteristics in her. In fact if Ellen Page were cast as Katniss I’d consider it a disaster. The actress who I think most resembles the “Katniss” I have in my mind, was probably a younger version of Lyndsy Fonesca (only with gray eyes instead of blue eyes). Even with a hair dye, and losing weight, and a tan, Jennifer Lawrence’s essence (if that makes sense) just isn’t who I pictured. That not to say she won’t do a fantastic job. Hell, she could do such a remarkable job, that I forget the Katniss that now exists in my brain when I see the movie. But for now, she’s just not who I pictured.


My Pick: Lyndsy Fonesca

Their Pick: Jennifer Lawrence

Peeta, is probably my second favorite character of the whole series. Behind Finnick. But he’s definitely my favorite character in Hunger Games. When I picture him, I see a blond guy, tall, good looking, funny, but not a pretty boy. Just a real guy not as athletic, but still big enough for Katniss to disappear in his arms. He should be taller than Katniss, maybe 5’10-6’0. I picture his essence like the character Marty (Wayne Wilcox), from Gilmore Girls, only with more confidence. Maybe throw a little bit of Ryan Renyolds from the Proposal in there too – and that is the perfect Peeta. Josh Hutcherson, I feel has a lot of those qualities. I think he could do a good job. My biggest problem with Josh is that he’s too small. He’s the same height as Jennifer Lawrence, and smaller in size than she is. Or at least that’s how I feel. Peeta’s arms have always been something Katniss could find shelter in. Looking at Josh, I just don’t get that sense. Hunter Parrish, who I know was also up for the role, but know nothing about, seemed like a more logical choice looks wise, acting wise, I can’t judge.

 

My Pick: Hunter Parrish as Peeta


Their Pick: Josh Hutcherson

Then we get to Liam Hemsworth as Gale. Gale, I picture as a rugged pretty boy, the bad boy. I pictured him, tall and lean, with a bit of anger in him. Actually, I saw this guy.(Ryan Rottman) on Victorious the other day, and this is a little bit how I pictured Gale, only more weathered and rugged. (Yes, I’m 28 and I watch Victorious. So sue me!) My problem with Liam Hemsworth, is if his acting skills will be up to snuff. Sure, initially Gale has such a small part, but by book 3, Gale is extremely fleshed out and plays a bigger part in Katniss’ life.

 


My Pick: Ryan Rottman as Gale


Their Pick: Liam Hemsworth

I just hope this movie doesn’t get turned into Twilight. I know this movie is and will be compared to Twilight no matter what. I know many people love this movie and it has an incredible fan base and I have also never read the books so I can’t compare the book to the film. The first Twilight move was fine. It was a little too sappy, and melodramatic, and…well for lack of a better word emo. And I’m sorry, but I also do not find R-Pattz that attractive. That’s just my opinion. The movie, plot line, etc, was pretty good. I like the idea of the Edward’s family trying to protect Bella at all cost, even if their first instinct is to suck her blood and kill her. However the 2nd Twilight movie was, quite frankly a disaster. Who wants a heroine who dissolves into fits of screaming and nightmares and depression over her love leaving her. And not just for a few days, or weeks, but months making her unable to function. I like my heroine’s strong, like Katniss. She’s fighter. And yes, in the later books she dissolved into some dysfunction, but that’s because she watched her friends and family get tortured, people die, all while fighting a big bad evil, who was trying to destroy her both physically and emotionally. I think I’d get pretty depressed about that too.

I do not want Hunger Games to focus so much on the love triangle, though I know it’s Hollywood’s mission to make every teeny-bopper movie about a love triangle. That’s not the point to Suzanne Collins books. Her story is about a girl who is trying to protect her family, no matter what happens. And she herself doesn’t even know how she feels – won’t allow herself to feel – so to turn the movie into some sappy teenage romance would be a great injustice to the books and pretty much to everything Katniss is.

I will try and hold out, and not judge too harshly until I actually see the movie. But in my opinion the Harry Potter casting was spot on. And they cast unknowns. And even when they cast well-known people like Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, they were so fantastic, it gives me hope that Hunger Games can be too. Although show me the person that wasn’t ecstatic about Alan Rickman as Snape. I mean he’s just perfect, right?

Anyway, that’s my reaction to the casting, and my hopes for the movie. What do you think? Am I being too rough on the casting? What do you think of my picks? Who were your idea Katniss’, Peetas, and Gales?

For funsies – check out this website I found where you can cast the movie. My vote is still Danielle Panabaker for Foxface!

 

Today, I thought I’d review a book I’ve become completely OBSESSED with. And when I say “obsessed” I mean obsessed! I literally EAT, SLEEP, DREAM this book. And to make matters better worse, the author does everything humanly possible to make sure I keep during that DAMN page!

Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is the first book of three: Catching Fire, and Mockingjay follow. I first heard about Hunger Games maybe a month ago. I heard they were making Suzanne Collin’s book into a movie, but I knew nothing about it. My friend simply described it as about a book where teenagers are chosen to be on a reality show and kill each other off.

One of my favorite short story growing up, is The Lottery. It’s a short story I read in college, by Shirley Jackson. It’s about a small harvest town that holds annual “lotteries” in order to insure good harvests. At first we’re not sure what’s happening. The town is set up for a party, but no one really seems in a party mood, in fact they seem nervous. Each family picks a piece of paper from a box. Whoever has the black dot is the “winner” then in that family they pick again. And again, whoever has the black dot is the victor. Only there is no prize, and what proceeds is a stoning. But the real shocker is when her little son picks up a stone to throw himself…

That short story bears striking similarities to the first book of Hunger Games. The story takes places in a time where North America no longer exits, but has been replaced by a wealthy Capitol surrounded by 12 Districts (there used to be more but they were destroyed when the citizens tried to rebel.) In order to keep the District’s citizens from rebelling against Capitol, as well as keep population under control, and the wealthy people wealthy, Capitol holds the Hunger Games every year.

In the Hunger Games two teens (ranging from age 12-18) from each district are chosen, and all of the kids are thrown into an arena to fight to the death on live TV. Katniss Everdeen, our heroine, is forced into the games where her little sister draws the “short straw” and Katniss volunteers to take her place. One thing Katniss has always been is a survivor, hunting food, hiding from Capitol, bending the rules. Maybe she could survive this, even if District 12 hasn’t had a winner in over 30 years.

There are two things, I really love about this book, besides the obvious plot: Suzanne Collins has a wonderful way of developing her characters not only with her use of words to describe them, but also in their actions and the way they speak. You find yourself really caring about these characters and wanting to protect them. I LOVE that this book is in first person. We’re inside Katniss’ head. We see and feel her. We understand her decisions even if they are at times cold, or brutal. We feel what she feels. This is good, because on the outside she seems strong, sturdy, smart, but also surly and unpredictable. But on the inside, through first person, we realize Katniss is just a scared 16 year old who spent her entire life trying to run from her feelings. She’s a survivor and knows that she must win the game at all costs, to get back to her family and keep them safe.

The second thing I love about this book is Collins’ ability to keep you “on the hook” so to speak. I first started reading this book late at night. I’d read just an hour or so before bed, I’d tell myself. However, the way Collins’ ends the chapters, sets up for the next one, has the way of forcing you to turn the page. I’d constantly tell myself just one more chapter, but there would always be something at the end of the chapter that left me wanting more. It was ADDICTING. And when I finally could put the book down, I found myself always thinking about it.

And the second book, Catching Fire, did not suffer from the sophomore slump. It was just as engaging, if not more so in some parts because we already know these main characters well enough. As each chapter progressed, I couldn’t help thinking, this poor girl! Everything she goes through, President Snow is truly, truly evil. But I guess that’s the point.

I won’t ruin the book with any spoilers, but I think I read this book in 6 hours. I didn’t even both stopping. It had me at hello.

The third book, Mockingjay took a bit to get going, but once it did, it was riveting. There’s one HUGE twist in the book that I absolutely loved. It wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops.

As the book was coming to the close you get a sense that all points are converging to one ending. I read this book late at night and literally, at 2AM in the morning had to put the book DOWN because it was getting so scary. I was forced to turn on the TV for a bit so I wouldn’t have any nightmares.

By the books end, I was completely exhausted. **SPOILER ALERT** There was a huge death at the end of the book that I couldn’t even mourn because I was so NUMB. And when it was all over, and I couldn’t help but come away from the book, tired, empty, and even a little depressed. Probably because I cried that last 1/4th of the third book. This book haunted me and at first, I thought, why did it end this way? Why did it HAVE to end this way? Why couldn’t it have ended this other way? What was Suzanne Collins’ thinking? We spent so much time on these characters, only for it to end like that. But like the finale of LOST, I just needed time to marinate on it. I needed time to let it sink in. I, like Katniss, was left traumatized.

A for a book to make me feel like that, you know it’s a great one. A lot of people feel cheated about the books ending. But I don’t. I don’t LOVE it, but I get it. And that’s truly how life is.

The Movie


I hope, hope to God, Hollywood and Gary Ross does this book right. I want this movie as gritty as it reads. Not like the mess they made of I Am Number Four. The movie did not do the book justice. I hope I can’t say the same thing about Hunger Games.

The book is gory, and raw, and real, and sometimes Hollywood has the tendancy to lessen these things in order to make it more appealing to the masses. But I want to be traumatized by this movie, in a good way. You hear me Gary Ross?!

As for casting, I feel like they should be new faces, or at least faces that aren’t highly recognizable (i/e: no one from Twilight, or Disney, or Nickelodeon.)

For Katniss: Some websites out there are suggesting Lyndsy Fonesca (Nikitia) who despite the unfortunate first name spelling COULD be a good choice. I know that Abigail Breslin, Hailee Steinfeld, and Jennifer Lawrence are also in the running. I agree that it would be gross to cast a 14 year old to play Katniss, then a 25 year old to play Peeta. I don’t mind if Katniss doesn’t look 16, as long as she’s a bad-ass and more importantly a GOOD ACTRESS!

For Peeta: Websides have suggest Alex Pettyfer is in the running for Peeta but after his performance in I Am Number Four, I don’t think this is a wise choice. In fact, after all the drama out there surrounding him, I don’t think this is a wise choice. Besides, even if he is young, he does not look 16. Peeta needs to be played by someone who can show more range and more vulnerability. I can’t think of a young actor out there like that who could really play the part.

Though casting unknowns is dangerous, I think this would be the best route for both these characters.

 

Anyway, I guess it will be a few more weeks before we find anything about casting. I just hope this movie is done right.

What do you think? Did you love the books? Did you hate the books? Have you read the books? And if not, why not? What do you think about casting choices? Who should play Katniss and Peeta? What do you think of my choice of Danielle Panabaker as Fox Face? Do you agree that this movie should be GRITTY (like Children of Men, Saving Private Ryan, 300, Lord of the Rings violent), or am I just a violent person?