Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Publisher: Knopf 2015

Format & Page Count: eBook, 303 pages

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

Date Read: February 7, 2015

Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My Thoughts: All the Bright Places is advertised as a cross between The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, both of which I adore, so I was naturally curious about this book. This book basically follows the common contemporary love story plot of two characters with tragic back stories and opposing outlooks on life falling in love after a chance encounter. But of course these love stories can't be simple and happy, there has to be a dramatic and sad twist about two thirds of the way through the book that is supposed to make you burst into tears and grieve for the characters.

If you can't tell from my semi-sarcastic introduction, I did not love this book as much as I was promised. It was funny and cute and clever, but also predictable, expected, and over done. When it comes to contemporary love stories, I do not think this book really added anything new or exciting to the genre. It fell short of my expectations. I expected to be a pile of tears by the end, but I honestly was never hooked emotionally. There were moments when I felt a twinge of heartache, but there was no lasting effect from this book.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, is the theme of mental illness and suicide. These are topics that I feel need to be expressed more in young adult literature, because many teens struggle with these things. If people read more books with characters facing similar struggles, they can connect and recognize that there is nothing wrong with who they are, which is a common issue teens face. While I commend the attempt at exploring these issues, I do not think it was done properly, but I can't get into the reasons why without entering spoiler territory. Basically, this book includes a suicidal character, but does little to promote teens with similar circumstances to seek help nor does it make it seem like things ever get better for a suicidal teen, which is important to write about. This book somewhat romanticizes suicide, which was problematic for me.

I do have to commend the author for her writing. I loved the characters and all the quirks they have. They seemed believable and I was even able to see some of myself in them. The way they communicated and their references to quirky things such as Virginia Woolfe and the Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect. There were also many interesting facts and tidbits that I found extremely compelling, so I definitely enjoyed those little touches.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it definitely felt like the author was beating a dead horse with this overly cliche and tragic love story. I will definitely consider seeing the movie when it is released and would recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick contemporary read.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Dark Places

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books 2009

Format & Page Count: eBook 373 pages

Genre: Mystery, Suspense

Date Read: December 21, 2014

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from book): Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in "The Satan Sacrifice" of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived - and famously testified that her fifteen year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club - a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes - locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She'll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club for a fee. As Libby's search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started - on the run from a killer.

My thoughts: Immediately after reading The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galibrath, I was enthralled with the mystery genre. I also had much more free time, since I was home from college for break, which led me to want to get my hands on another mystery novel as soon as possible. I had heard nothing but good things about Gillian Flynn's books and decided to give this one a shot.

Dark Places is a captivating and entrancing story that kept me guessing until the very end. The book is written through varying perspectives of Libby's mother and brother on the day of the murders and also of Libby currently. During each chapter, a tiny piece of information is shared that alters any perception previously formed. I was constantly changing my predictions about what happened to the family, but never was able to piece everything together on my own.

If you enjoy unsuspected endings, this book is sure to satisfy. Personally, the ending is what dropped the rating of the book down a star. Although it was surprising and unpredictable, which I normally enjoy, it felt entirely unsatisfying. Based on the circumstances provided, it was definitely a realistic conclusion, but I was hoping for something a bit more shocking, scandalous,  and jaw dropping than what was provided in this story.

Overall, Dark Places is a well written and captivating thriller that any mystery lover will enjoy.

Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galibrath

Publisher: Mulholland Books 2013

Format & Page Count: Paperback, 384 pages

Genre: Crime, mystery

Date Read: December 16, 2014

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads)A brilliant debut mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel's suicide. After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. 
Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. 
You may think you know detectives, but you've never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you've never seen them under an investigation like this.

My Thoughts: By now pretty much every book enthusiast knows that Robert Galibrath is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, which generated most of the publicity for this book. I had only heard about it after Rowling was revealed as the author, otherwise I doubt I would have heard of this book, let alone read it. I am very glad I discovered this book because it has sparked a love for crime and mystery novels, which are genres I generally do not find myself compelled to read. This is definitely a good book to read by the fire in the winter when you can curl up in a comfy chair with a blanket and a hot cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate.

This was a book that took me awhile to really get into. The beginning was interesting, but the exposition tended to feel dragged out. The information about the crime was repeated multiple times and reviewed with a fine-tooth comb before something of significance seemed to stand out and grasp interest. It wasn't until halfway through the book that I found myself finally grasped in the story. I ended up staying awake util 3am just to finish the last 200 pages of the book because I was so engrossed in the story. All the clues finally began to erupt and melt together to slowly for a satisfying and realistic conclusion.

My favorite thing about this book is that it was never predictable. I constantly tried to put the clues together myself in order to figure out who the culprit is, but never could guess the actual conclusion. In the end, I was completely taken by surprise, but after everything was revealed, I was completely satisfied, for the motive remained completely realistic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top 5 Tuesday: Book to Movie Adaptation

My productivity level is at an all time high right now, so I'm really excited to make a Top 5 Tuesday post on schedule! This week's topic is book to movie adaptations! I would include a rationale for picking this topic, but it honestly just popped into my head randomly as I was scrolling through Goodreads and it stuck.

5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This book is like a baby to me. I want to protect it and keep it all to myself, so when I heard that this book was a movie, I got a little nervous because 1) so many more people knew about the book now and it as no longer my little secret and 2) I did not want to see any injustice done to this book. Eventually I gave in and watched the movie and it made me just as emotional as the book, so it received an A+ in that regard, but I did have a few problems. Some of the plot got a little skewed in the movie, which disappointed me because I thought the way everything played out in the book was beautifully done; however, I can understand why the changes were made in order for the plot to be better carried out through a film. With this in mind, the film did a good job portraying the emotions behind the book, but it wasn't everything I hoped for.

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This movie came out the year after I had originally read the book for school, so it was still pretty fresh in my mind when I saw it for the first time. I remember distinctly being annoyed by everyone who had hated the book the year prior, but now professing their love for it just because Leonardo DiCaprio was going to be in the movie. With all that aside, I went in with an open mind and tried to ignore the swooning girls around me. I thought the movie captured the story of the book very well, but perhaps made the characters too likable. In the book I remember that the characters were all irritating and unlikable, but in the movie they all seemed more genuine, but that might just be due to placing faces with the names. Overall the movie was very well done and stayed loyal to the plot.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

I could have easily grouped all of the Harry Potter movies into one ranking for this post, but decided to just include my favorite one of the movies to evaluate this time. One of the major reasons why I think the Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the Harry Potter movie adaptations is because it matches the tone of the book the best, which helps the movies transition from them being all about how cool it is to be magical to the more darker, mysteriousness of the later books/movies. I also think the introductions to new characters such as Sirius, Peter, and Remus were excellent and paralleled the book nicely. It is also was easy to follow along for people who hadn't read the book, which I know is important for movie adaptations so that they can appeal to a broader audience rather than just those who have read the book. I also thought the way the characters acted in this movie were very honest (besides Ron) in terms of how they are in the book. 

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is the only movie out of these five that I have only seen once, so it is more difficult for me to find things to say for this one. I remember seeing this in theaters and being in awe of how visually pleasing this film is. The visual elements helped bring out important concepts such as the overbearing presence of Nazis, which was represented with the huge, bright red flags that over powered the feeble, dingy homes and the pure, white snow. [SPOILER] My favorite scene from the movie is when the Nazis are smashing in the windows of shops and homes of the Jews and dragging them out into the streets while the only sound is that of the children singing. This part portrayed the childish innocence Liesel had in regards to the war. [END OF SPOILER] This movie also remained loyal to the plot of the book, for which I am extremely thankful.

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This book to movie adaption caps off my list simply because of how honest it is to the book. I don't think I have ever seen a movie that has remained as loyal to the book as The Help. I actually watched the movie before reading the book, but as I read the book I was thinking "oh my gosh, this is exactly how it happened in the movie too!" Entire monologues were even taken from the book, which is incredible. The movie also captured the era very well, which gave it a layer of authenticity. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

What am I Reading?

Since I have unfortunately put this blog on the back burner, I decided I would post a little something just to stay active. I have finally found a little bit of time to pick up some books and decided to share those with you.

As you can see, I am currently reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer and The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).
I recently received a care package from my grandma and in it she included The Cuckoo's Calling and The Silkworm, which I have been dying to get my hands on. I have wasted no time getting started and have enjoyed everything thus far.
For my English class, I am writing an evaluation essay on Jonathan Safran Foer's writing and am reading Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (again) for "research". Basically I just wanted an excuse to set time aside to read this book again.
I hope you are all reading wonderful books as well! 

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