Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spoiler-Free Movie Review | Divergent (based on the novel/Veronica Roth)

Although this review is spoiler-free and, therefore, safe to read if you haven't seen the movie or read the book, your opinions on the film might be influenced by my and others' opinions. Read with caution. 

About the movie:

DIVERGENT is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late. Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth. (C) Summit.

My Rating:

My Review:
For someone who read the book and wasn't thrilled by it, I loved this movie! The cinematography, action, acting, and chemistry were top-notch. The complexity of the characters, plot twists, inflections of humor, and seemingly brutal action scenes kept the film interesting and me engaged for the entire two hours and twenty minutes. The suspense and anxiety caused me to fidget in my seat. 

For those who haven't read the book, the introduction to this dystopian world is done very well not only right off the bat but the world building is pieced throughout later scenes as well. I noticed a few aspects weren't explained as thoroughly as non-readers may appreciate but in the grand scheme of things, they were minor and we can fill in the blanks. Questions that were raised and left unanswered about divergents and factions are also currently mysteries for the characters and will be answered in the following movies/books so don't let those get you hung up. 

I know fans might be disappointed to see some of their favorite scenes not included, but fan favorite characters were given great lines and the scenes that were included were captivating. It's been two years since I read Divergent so I cannot remember the book scene for scene, but the movie had great pacing, suspense, and humor so I think what was added made up for what was lost. A couple of the cheesier parts of the book were made relevant to the plot through these changes too so that was great. What was changed or left out will not deter fans of the book from enjoying, if not loving, the adaptation.

I've read a number of film critic reviews for Divergent and it fathoms me how many of them can shoot down the concept and theme of the series, criticize the fantastical words (faction, divergent) as if futuristic and dystopian movies aren't allowed to have their own terms, and their need to compare this film to every other film out there. My opinion? Two messages I take from Divergent are: one, people cannot be placed in "boxes" and two, the fight against conformity, corruptness, and confinement from our governments and societies. I think these are strong, wonderful themes for teens and adults alike. But if the theme and everything else about it is going to be argued to no avail, I'll just say that in the end, Divergent was as entertaining as crap. Well, quite a bit more entertaining than crap because this adaptation gets a 5/5 stars from me based on pure entertainment value. And isn't that why we go to the theaters? To be entertained?

Do I recommend seeing Divergent?
Yes, to teens, adults, men, and women alike!

Will I see it again?
If not in theaters again then on DVD for sure.

Will I purchase the DVD?
This deserves to be added to my collection.

Will I see the sequel?

This review was written by Holly of Holly's Reading Hollow.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Reading in Review | Winter 2013/2014

In December, I mentioned 10 books I wanted to read this winter. Yesterday was the last day of winter and here are my reading results!

What ten books did I want to read this winter?
Tandem by Anna Jarzab
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
You Are Mine by Janeal Falor
Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn
Unbreathable by Hafsah Laziaf
Wide Spaces by Shelly Crane
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman
Defiance by Shelly Crane
The Selection by Kiera Cass
Mystery book jar pick - Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Which books did I actually read this winter?
(Click the titles to read my reviews)
Tandem by Anna Jarzab | The Selection by Kiera Cass | The Prince by Kiera Cass | Just One Day by Gayle Forman | The Elite by Kiera Cass | Blood Will Tell by Samantha Young | Wide Spaces by Shelly Crane | Reverence by Shelly Crane | Defiance by Shelly Crane | Independence by Shelly Crane | Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers | That Boy by Jillian Dodd | Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins | Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn | Wide Open by Shelly Crane | The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini | The Other Fish in the Sea by Jenn Cooksey | Shark Out of Water by Jenn Cooksey | Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins | Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys | Cinder by Marissa Meyer | Incarnate by Jodi Meadows | Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker | A Father's Kiss by Colleen Hoover | Consequence by Shelly Crane | Scarlet by Marissa Meyer | Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll | Night by Elie Wiesel | Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi | Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi | Fracture Me by Tahereh Mafi | This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Grace Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl
(The last two were not featured in the collage because...oops!) 
Just One Year by Gayle Forman | Glitches by Marissa Meyer 

Any short stories/extra scenes? Yes,
A Very Hexy Valentine's Day by Rachel Hawkins
Anna and the French Kiss Deleted Chapters by Stephanie Perkins
The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
If I Were a Man by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
Hills like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Everyday Use by Alice Walker

Which books didn't I get to?
You Are Mine by Janeal Falor
Unbreathable by Hafsah Laziaf
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

Success Rate
Based on the top ten I wanted to read, my success rate is a 7/10. But I don't know; do the twenty-five other books make up for the loss of three books?

Most Surprising

When going into these books, I either a) did not know what to expect or b) did not have very high expectations. However, I'm so pleased to say I thoroughly enjoyed each of these books, rating them between four and five stars!

Most Frustrating
The main character in each of these frustrated the HECK out of me!

  • Regina from Some Girls Are is not a very likable character. She's the protagonist so you want to root for and sympathize for her; and yet, she makes some really nasty, vindictive decisions that made me want to pull out my hair.
  • I am not a fan of Warner in the Shatter Me series so whenever Juliette was going all ga-ga over him and swooning at the words he said that I found utterly unromantic, I could not see her point of view for the life of me.
  • I am not even going to go into how much Adam in Fracture Me ticked me off because expletives will soon follow, but if you'd like to read my thoughts on this novella, scroll up and click the linked title. 

Most Disappointing
I read Anna Jarzab's mystery novel All Unquiet Things a few years a go and quite enjoyed it. I was excited to read another novel of Jarzab's but this one simply did not do it for me.

Most Moving

  • The Kite Runner is a historical fiction novel about two best friends who grow up in Afghanistan before the Afghan War. The story that plays out is heartbreaking, captivating, and so indescribably beautiful.
  • This Star Won't Go Out is the collection of journals and drawings of the girl and fellow nerdfighter Esther Grace Earl who passed away from thyroid cancer in 2010. This autobiography/biography of Esther includes updates written by her parents as she battled cancer for almost four years and letters and passages from her family and friends. Her story and friendship with author John Green fueled what would be The Fault in Our Stars. There were so many touching parts to her story and it made me sob.

New Favorites
I loved them all for different reasons, but the aspect they all have in common is that they made me feel.

I read forty-one works of literature this winter! Twenty-five novels, seven novellas, eight short stories, and one children's chapter book.

How many books did you read this winter? What were your favorites? Did any surprise you? Let me know in the comments! 

Click HERE to see what ten books I want to read this spring!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Review | This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl

About this book:

A collection of journals, fiction letter,s and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther's story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.

Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 431
Genre: Biography + Autobiography

My rating for This Star Won't Go Out:

Sometimes I wonder how I could possibly consider myself a writer when I cannot express even my deepest feelings through text. Every passage of Esther’s story stirred something within me that I cannot quite put into words. But as always, I shall try.

Esther was an ordinary girl. An ordinary girl who was diagnosed with, battled, and lost to thyroid cancer early in life, but was typical teenage girl nonetheless. She had hobbies, dreams, friends, family, a love for books and online communities. She wanted to help others but struggled with the conflicts of laziness and a lack of motivation. She pulled pranks on her sisters as much as she spent time playing video games with her brothers and served attitude to her parents as wonderfully as she wrote them letters of appreciation.

And yet, through reading This Star Won’t Go Out, I’ve just brushed upon how extraordinary of a human being she was. Her silly and fun yet empathetic and wise letters, journal entries, and passing thoughts revealed her struggles, passions, gratitude, dreams, fears, hope, faith, and overall essence of who she was as a person. It was real in the truest sense because through Esther’s scribbles, crossed out words, smiley faces, and drawings, her character shined through. She showcased the good times and the bad, her moments of doubt and hopelessness, as well as her strength in striving for a positive, faithful outlook. Esther was an ordinary girl but through her contemplations she showed extraordinary promise and her interactions with the people in her life made her remarkable in the eyes of those who loved her for being her.

I feel like I know Esther. Or at least, as much as I can through reading a book, which I am not discrediting the power of books but rather acknowledging and complimenting the complexity of every human being. I will never have the understanding of who Esther was that John Green has, that her Catitude friends have, that her parents have, that God has, but the minuscule understanding that I have of her—thanks to her journals, her YouTube videos, and the words of those who knew Esther while she was alive—is grand. So grand that the life and words of Esther Earl have knocked on my heart and entered (as well as tore it wide open when her father beautifully wrote her heartbreaking last moments).

While reading TSWGO, I have realized that we do not have to do extraordinary things to make an impact. You only really need to be true to yourself and be passionate about something to make an impact and that is something worthwhile. And when ordinary people come together, the most nature course for them is to play off of each other’s passions and the results always create something wonderful. Esther was like this in the way that she was passionate about Harry Potter, finding happiness in the books, movies, and every Harry Potter community that sprung from it. And then “with Esther” nerdfighters around the world helped the charity Harry Potter Alliance win $250,000. Esther did not particularly do anything to win the money, but John Green was affected by her character and her want to help HPA and so with Esther and John Green and nerdfighters around the world, they were able to win the money. HPA would not have won that money without Esther and that is what I mean by saying all you need is to be true to yourself and pursue your passions because without knowing, one thing leads to the next thing or person and extraordinary happenings result. That is simply one instance of how Esther affected a whole community by being herself. 

I am not capable of imagining how great of an impact she made on the people she knew. All I know is that her story brought me to tears. Tears of happiness and pride in her accomplishments and impacts on others, tears for the love she bestowed on others, tears of sorrow at the loss of such a great person, and tears of joy for remembering that she lived. The life and words of Esther Grace Earl are still impacting people today in vast and various ways, and I can attest to that.

"I know I will always carry her with me, and to have a piece of her grace shine through me 
is a gift I will continually strive to earn." 
- Lindsay Ballatyne, Esther's Catitude friend, This Star Won't Go Out

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #18: Spring 2014 TBR List!

Today's topic:
Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

2014 Releases:

1. Cress by Marissa Meyer | I have the ARC and I read the first two in February. Now I just need to get to it!

2. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi | I read Unravel Me, Destroy Me, and Fracture Me this month. I just picked it up from the library a few days ago and will be starting it as soon as my books for school are finished.

3. Panic by Lauren Oliver | Trina first brought my attention to this book and I've been mildly interested in it since but as I've heard more and more about the concept of the book, the more intrigued I've become! I have an eARC so it'll probably be the next book I read on my kindle.

4. Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover | Somehow, I DON'T KNOW HOW, I was excluded from the loop of Maybe Someday ARCs and now everyone else who has an early bird copy is teasing me with reviews and raves for it! I've been overwhelmed with so many that a review in my Goodreads newsfeed actually spoiled a big reveal in it for me >:( I'm still quite peeved about that but its Colleen Hoover so I will love it regardless. If you haven't read one of Colleen Hoover's books yet, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN???

5. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare | I'm really curious about how this series is going to end. I've heard some interesting whispers floating around the web and after the last two books in the series... yes, very intrigued.

2013 Releases/Series Conclusions:

6. Sever by Lauren Destefano | I feel like I've been nagging myself to read this book forever but this hasn't even been out for a year yet! Ha. I wasn't crazy about this dystopian series but the ending of the second book definitely left me curious so I'm hopeful for the conclusion.

7. Clockwork Princess | I'm actually not a big fan of TID and despite all the crazy rave this one has been getting since it released, I felt no rush to finish the series. Now that the release of City of Heavenly Fire is approaching and I've been hearing that Clockwork Princess needs to be read before reading City of Heavenly Fire, I figured that I needed to get to reading this one. Thinking about it more lately as me excited to read it, especially since it's sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read.

8. Sentinel by Jennifer L. Armentrout | The fourth Covenant book was a bit of a let down when I read it last year. That, coupled with some negative realizations I had on the series, I wasn't in a rush to read this book. Now I'm actually pretty stoked and can't wait to read it.

Not-so New:

9. The Sky if Everywhere by Jandy Nelson | I meant to read this in December. And then January. Then I started it in February. I'm not sure if I read past the -teen pages but I hope to this spring because I have heard good things about it!

10. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein | My aunt told me about this book a few years ago and I just haven't gotten to it yet! That isn't an excuse though and I am determined to read, experience, love. and cry through this book before summer!

What books are you most looking forward to reading this spring? Leave links to your TTT post or just tell me what books you want to read in the comments!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Review | Unite Me by Tahereh Mafi

About the book:

Perfect for fans of Tahereh Mafi’s New York Times bestselling Shatter Me trilogy, this book collects her two companion novellas, Fracture Meand Destroy Me, in print for the first time ever. It also features an exclusive look into Juliette’s journal and a preview of Ignite Me, the hotly anticipated final novel of the series.

Destroy Me tells the events between Shatter Me and Unravel Me from Warner’s point of view. Even though Juliette shot him in order to escape, Warner can’t stop thinking about her—and he’ll do anything to get her back. But when the Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment arrives, he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner cannot allow.

Fracture Me is told from Adam’s perspective and bridges the gap between Unravel Me and Ignite Me. As the Omega Point rebels prepare to fight the Sector 45 soldiers, Adam's more focused on the safety of Juliette, Kenji, and his brother. The Reestablishment will do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam cares about.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent and The Hunger Games. This captivating story, which combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, was praised as “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love” by Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Release Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA dystopian/romance
Pages: 240

My rating for Unite Me (Shatter Me, #1.5, #2.5):

Thoughts on Destroy Me:
I understand Warner more now. I don't think he is a monster, but as I remember some of the things he said to Juliette in Unravel Me, I still don't like him.

Thoughts on Fracture Me:
I am so frustrated! Adam, what the heck?! Acting like Juliette's a burden, something to take care of because she can't take care of herself, instead of caring for her! Juliette's the weak link, Juliette's too trapped in her own head, Juliette can't protect herself...ugh!! I'm so peeved. This isn't the Adam I've grown to love! This sounds more like the Adam Warner imagines in his head, not the real one. I understand him doubting whether they should be together, with everything going on and Juliette breaking up with him but he's acting like he only loves her because she needs him, not because he needs and wants and loves her for who she is. I got the sense that he knows nothing about Juliette from this novella, which is not how I ever pictured him. Again, this is how Warner imagines Adam. Did Mafi do this on purpose? Make us turn away from Adam completely so everyone will be happy when if Warner and Juliette end up together?

On the upside, I love James more and his nickname for Adam. I love Kenji and how he sees strength in Juliette but I also like him just because he's the best. He might be one of my favorite supporting characters ever. I liked seeing what Juliette is like from an outside perspective when she closes herself off and lives in her mind, and how some things trigger her to come back to life. It was interesting to learn that she actually does repeat her words out loud like how she does in her head.

Thoughts on Juliette's Journal:
We already get the chance to see most of her journal entries between Shatter Me, Unravel Me, and Destroy Me, but I liked seeing them all in one binding and simply rereading them all again. It's a very peculiar thing to be in Juliette's mind when she's at the lowest points of her life.

Recommended Reviews: