Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: Speak

Written by: Laurie Halse Anderson

I'm not sure how well known this book is---it seems to have earned some recognition and it was turned into a movie so I imagine I'm just a bit behind in the ball game here. I picked it up on a paperback table at Barnes and Noble for new editions. Strangely enough, with no prior knowledge of the book, I read the back cover and was hooked. I liked the premise and I had to see how it ended, so I bought it impulsively.

I had it finished within 24 hours. I'm not sure if it's just a quick read or if I'm just getting to be a faster reader but I really liked it and me finishing a book that quickly is unprecedented. It is an angsty teenage coming of age story nuanced with a lot of serious realities. Despite the fact that I had nothing truly in common with the character, I identified with her. It was so honest and felt so real. Her writing style was a little different and somewhat vague on descriptions which was a little distracting at times for me, but overall she was successful.

All I can say without spoiling the story for others is that I thought the story was very beautiful.

When I found out it was turned into film in 2004 I got a little excited. Then I found out the Kristen Stewart played the main character. Honestly...I can see her being this character, but I still was disappointed since I don't really respect Kristen Stewart as an actress. She's always rubbed me the wrong way. Still, outside of Twilight her attempt seems to be to do difficult luck Kristen. If I see the movie I'll probably review it. Until the book.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Movie Review: Drive

Released September 2011
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Okay, we saw the movie Drive this past weekend and I thought I'd post a quick review. This movie received good reviews from critics, was exciting enough of a concept for my husband to agree to go, and has one of my favorite actresses: Carey Mulligan. So I was looking forward to seeing it.

Drive was filmed well, great cinematography. There were a lot of shots and symbolism that I found to be incredibly well done and artistic. The acting was also pretty good although there wasn't a ton of dialogue. The style of the film was actually kind of a throw back to the 80s. I'm not a fan of 80s pop culture, style, or film in general (there are a few gems of course) so the stylized writing, the soundtrack, etc. were really not doing it for me. That style may evoke an entirely different feeling for someone who is nostalgic about the 80s. Goslings jacket in the film carried heavy symbolism and was very reminiscent of the 80s. I could see the jacket becoming iconic, it reminded me a little of Rebel Without a Cause. That being said, I doubt it will become iconic because the movie seems to have failed on some levels. It was not a crowd pleaser. Most people seemed to leave confused or annoyed. The actual story was lacking. It was predictable but not satisfying. It was slow with a lot of dead silence on screen which was an artistic choice that made it a little bit boring at times. Despite the violence which was very gorey, the film came across as slow-paced and unexciting in general.

I've been mulling over this film trying to decide if I like it or not for days and I haven't really made up my mind yet. What does that say about it? It clearly had some very good elements or I'd just call it a terrible film---I can't bring myself to call it a terrible film when it succeeded on so many levels. Yet, I can't say I enjoyed it either and I know it won't make it into my collection. I'll probably never see it a second time. Mixed feelings.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Mockingjay

Written by: Suzanne Collins

Well I finished the trilogy. I've been meaning to write my review so this isn't super fresh on my mind. I liked the book, I like the series a lot. I found that this was my least favorite of the three. I've heard all sorts of different feelings about series...everyone seems to love the first one, the second and third are mixed. For me, I liked them all but progressively less as I went. I was still excited and a little addicted, and I am satisfied with how it came together. I guess I was just hoping for an ending a little more mind blowing. As I sat reading the story I tried to come up with my own ending and I really couldn't think of anything that wouldn't be nuanced. The concept for the Hunger Games was a fabulous one, but a brilliant ending that leaves you breathless and deep in thought---those are hard to come by. A writer has to be truly brilliant and rare to pull something like that off. Collins ending for the series was fine, just not mind blowing. 

But hey, you know they must be pretty good if I can get my husband to read AND finish them.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Book Review: Catching Fire

"Catching Fire"
Written by: Suzanne Collins

Yep, that's right. I'm going to review each book in The Hunger Games trilogy one at a time (and as I finish them for that matter). I'd probably have a better perspective if I reflected on them as a whole but I like to document my honest first impressions after reading.

I was most worried about book two since it seems to be most peoples least favorite. Was is because I had low expectations that I found it so addicting? Book one was great, no doubt, but I found book two equally as addictive---maybe more so. The entire book kept me hooked and practically shaking with excitement at Katniss's most defiant moments throughout. As is often the case with a middle story, the end was a bit ubrupt. It didn't come together quite as well as the first but helped explain the discontent with the book that I did not at all understand until the last page. I can understand why some people would be less drawn to the book as a stand alone story when it ended so quickly. Perhaps the ending was a bit weak, but it didn't bother me because I knew the third was waiting patiently to wrap the story up.

Still, so far this series has not disappointed me. Yes, it's complete "up my alley" so I may be more enthusiastic than it's due, but I absolutely love it.

As a side note, now that I'm attached to the characters, I let myself check out the cast of the upcoming film to see what I thought about them. I'm skeptical. There are a few characters that I think "Yes, that totally works" like for instance Donald Sutherland as President Snow or Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket. In fact, most all the adults seem like good choices. The only one I'm on the fence about is Haymitch being played by Woody Herrelson, but I think it could work. It'll be interesting to see his interpretation of Haymitch. While Prim seems casted well, the other kids are the casting I'm most skeptical about. After all, they carry the story. My first reaction to the casting for Katniss was "Nononono!" but after further review, I think it may be okay. I'm a little upset about the casting for Gale and Peeta...not sure I believe in the acting skills of these kids. the end of the day...we'll just have to wait and see. They could completely surprise me and they do look the part. The only casting choice that I am truly upset about is Lenny Kravitz as Cinna. Cinna is one of my favorite characters and I don't think Lenny Kravitz has any business acting. For him to win me over as Cinna will take a small miracle.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review: The Hunger Games

"The Hunger Games"
Written by: Suzanne Collins

Okay so the short version of this review is: I LOVED THIS BOOK!

Over a year ago, my best friend Leah recommended The Hunger Games trilogy to me thinking I would like it. It was post apocolyptic/dystopian (my favorite genre) and supposedly one of those series intended for youth that ends up being better than a lot of adult literature. I went out a bought the first book a couple weeks later. And there it sat, collecting dust on my book shelf for months upon months. 

I was just too excited about other books and I kept putting it off. Then about a month or so ago, suddenly everyone was talking about these books. I still put it off but I felt I needed to make it a priority soon since I couldn't participate in any of the conversations I was walking into (which were full of praise for the books). Then, the final straw: I saw a movie trailer for The Hunger Games movie. And that was that. I absolutely cannot let that movie come out without having read the book first (sound familiar?). It was time. 

I found that it took me at least four chapters before I was hooked. I kept starting and it was interesting but not keeping my attention, but once I really committed, soon I couldn't put it down. I read it in a week without even trying (it's a pretty quick read). I was addicted and I loved it. 

The story is dark for a coming of age story, but I got so emotionally invested in it. 

So really, that's all I have to say. Maybe you won't love it is you don't like darker themes or dystopian literature, but I loved it. I'm excited to read the next two although I've heard they're not as good as the first. And I suppose there will be a movie review in the future as well.

But seriously, the hype around this book is there for a reason. Read it.