The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (Book Review)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

My Thoughts:

I read this as, which you may notice by my list at the end of this review, I’m reading books before their movie adaptations are released this year. The Glass Castle, starring Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, is out today in the U.S. and October 6th in the U.K. I’m a fan of Larson, especially after the fantastic Room as well as Short Term 12 (which was also from the director of The Glass Castle, Destin Daniel Cretton). So, even though “true story dramas” don’t normally appeal to me, I decided to give this a read since I’ll happily watch a movie with this film’s cast. I didn’t expect the book to quite possibly be my very favorite that I’ve read so far this year. But, I think it probably is. What a pleasant surprise.

I liked the way in which Walls wrote her story. It’s very matter-of-fact and doesn’t seem to be passing judgement on her parents & the way in which they chose to raise their children. Like a lot of people raised in small-town American Midwest, my childhood was pretty straightforward (and pretty damn boring). Not rich, not poor, working parents, regularly attended school, followed all the rules & the “societal norms”, etc. The Walls family are unlike any I’ve ever personally known and I found their story fascinating. I suppose there are other nomadic families in America but it’s a world I’ve never experienced & can’t even begin to imagine. The Walls family moved from place to place all across America, sometimes homeless & living out in the open, rarely holding down regular jobs despite having the ability to work (including the mother having the qualifications for teaching) and despite the fact that their children had to dig their classmates’ uneaten lunches out of the trash at school in order to have anything to eat. I was often shocked by the horrendous neglect endured by Jeannette, her two sisters, and her brother (and amazed that these children were never taken away from their parents). However, as I said, Jeannette never really speaks poorly of her parents – she just tells her story in a straightforward manner without the need to embellish things. Their story is so outrageous that I don’t think you could make up half of the odd things their parents did. Yet Jeannette does still give us glimpses of the love their parents had for them, especially from her father through his many broken promises that I think he himself may have genuinely believed he’d keep even though his children knew he never would.

This is a hard book to describe without making it sound horribly depressing but it’s not really that way at all. It’s truly amusing and at times had me smiling at some of the bizarre things this family went through (like when they try to move a piano into their house). Jeannette’s parents, though they will sometimes make you very angry if you read this, are truly a couple of unique characters & free spirits. It’s highly unusual for me to enjoy (or even bother to read) a true story but, as they say, sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Do they say that? Hmm. Well, someone said that. Sounds like something Jeannette’s father would say. I don’t know if I’ve talked anyone into reading this but I do highly recommend it. It’s frustrating. It’s uplifting. It’ll make you angry. It’ll make you smile. It’ll make you shake your head in disbelief. You won’t know whether you want to hug or punch the parents (most likely the latter). But it’s also not soppy or trying to be some big tearjerker, which is the kind of thing that gets on my nerves. It’s just a well-written story of a girl who somehow managed to survive & to thrive after living a truly unusual childhood with two very eccentric parents. The movie has “meh” reviews so far & the below trailer doesn’t really blow me away (although I’ll still watch it). So, if you can, READ THE BOOK FIRST.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon comes out today in the United States. It was directed by Stella Meghie and stars Amandla Stenberg & Nick Robinson. I must admit that I really enjoyed this book and am annoyed about the three month wait to see the film in the United Kingdom (the release date is set for the 18th of August here). Here’s my review of the novel…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The novel centers on 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, who has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble baby disease”. Due to her condition, Madeline is stuck inside her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, a physician who takes care of her.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. But I must admit that it’s a full-on “Young Adult” teen book. I know plenty of grown-ups like myself who still read YA stuff and there have been some fantastic novels in this genre. Unfortunately, though, the Young Adult label has a somewhat negative connotation to it nowadays. This is probably partly due to the fact that there seems to be so much of it now. There wasn’t half as much of it around when I was a young adult myself. Man, I’d have especially loved the post-apocalyptic dystopian thing that is so overused in this genre now. 

What’s my point? I’m getting off topic! I think my point is this: don’t automatically assume a book isn’t good just because it has the YA label. Some feel very teenage while others are just really good stories that transcend any sort of recommended age range (is Harry Potter considered YA? I would assume so). And like them or not, The Hunger Games books don’t immediately make me think “ugh, teenagers!!!”. 

Some YA, however, is very teen and Everything, Everything is clearly written with its teenage audience in mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to please your target audience. This would’ve probably been a favorite book of mine if it had been around in my early to mid-teens (although it would’ve been a very rare favorite in the romance genre as it’s not often that I go for a love story of any sort). As an adult, I can’t say this could now ever be a favorite book of mine but I did find it a very enjoyable read (easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far this year). It has a fairly unique story, an unconventional romance, and a really likable main character. 

I think a lot of YA novels don’t always write convincing teenage characters, probably because the authors are usually adults. The characters either seem too grown-up or too childish and are often hard to like. I think Yoon got the right balance with the character of Madeline as she felt like a real 18-year-old with the hopes & dreams you’d expect from a girl who has been stuck in her home for 18 years due to having severe combined immunodeficiency. She was intelligent but not mature beyond her years and, most importantly (to me), she was very likable in a convincing sort of way. I do think that not enough attention was given to the other characters: the neighbor boy she falls in love with, her mother, and the nurse who cares for her during the day. We don’t get to know any of them as well as I’d have liked but I can forgive this as it’s not a very long book. Madeline is very much the novel’s main focus and I was happy with her character. 

I’m having a hard time explaining why I liked this one… I doubt I’ve talked anyone into reading it! But if you do really like YA novels (probably aimed more at a female audience in this case), this is one I’d definitely recommend as a lightweight but entertaining read. Madeline has had to find ways to keep herself entertained while being a “prisoner” in her own home so we get to see some fun drawings & doodles of hers throughout the book plus we get to read e-mails & instant messages between her and the neighbor boy she falls for. These gimmicks may not be for everyone but I like books that have this sort of thing as it makes it a bit more personal & fun to read. It also shows how Madeline has managed to maintain a sense of humor through her illness. Plus, as I said, I just liked the story/setup. It’s a topic I’ve found interesting ever since seeing John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (Ha! The 1976 TV movie… I totally just aged myself). Well, that movie was far from “good” and Everything, Everything has done a much better job of telling the story of a teenager with the “bubble baby” disease. Plus I really wanted to see what/if/how things would be resolved in this book. I will of course stay spoiler-free but the ending probably left people divided (and that’s all I’ll say). I liked it. I hope they’ve done a good film adaptation. 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the trailer for the movie (but I think it gives away too much of the story so skip the trailer if you want to know as little as possible…):

The books I’ve read so far in 2017, from least favorite to favorite:

15. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
14. Tape by Steven Camden
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

And I’m currently in the middle of reading Blaze by Stephen King (so far, so good). 🙂

The Dinner by Herman Koch (Book Review)

I’m reviewing the book The Dinner by Herman Koch as the movie is released today in the U.S. There’s currently no U.K. release date scheduled. The movie was directed by Oren Moverman & stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Steve Coogan, Rebecca Hall, Adepero Oduye & Chloë Sevigny.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened.

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a single horrific act; an act that has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable, insulated worlds of their families. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple show just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but it’s probably not for everyone. I’ll avoid plot spoilers but I’ll tell you that none of the characters are very likable, which puts a lot of readers off (including me, usually). The story was intriguing enough to keep me reading, however, and it’s not a long book so it’s a pretty quick read. It might be worth your time if the plot synopsis interests you. However, it’s also the type of story that should work well as a movie so, if it’s a decent adaptation, you might want to skip the book. I’ll let you know if the movie does the book justice (if the movie ever gets a U.K. release date)! It’s a film I’m definitely wanting to check out as it’s one I feel could possibly improve on the book if handled well. The cast seems promising.

I liked the way the story was presented as courses instead of “Chapters”: Appetiser, Main, Dessert, etc etc (I can’t remember all the posh terms for all the different courses. Never knew there were so many courses to a fancy meal!). We slowly learn more & more about the four adults having this meal together while the story of the horrible act commited by their teenage sons comes to light.

I’m not going to say much more as the story is pretty straightforward and there’s not much more I could say anyway without spoiling it. I’ll say it’s a decent character study but doesn’t explore all the moral implications as much as it could have. By the end, it felt more shallow than I was hoping for. That’s why I’m hopeful for the possibility of a really good film adaptation as there’s some meaty material here for a really good set of screenwriters & actors to sink their teeth into. We’ll see. The Dinner isn’t as deep & meaningful as it could’ve been but it’s still an intriguing story told in a fairly original way and I’d say I enjoyed it more than several of the other 13 books I’ve read so far this year.

My Rating: 3/5

**Yes, I’m keeping a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year. At the moment, this is probably how I’d rank them (from least favorite to favorite). If you really want to know… 😉 I hope to review them all by the end of the year:

14. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

(And, yes, I’m focusing on reading books that have been movies/TV shows recently or will be very soon) 🙂

The Circle by Dave Eggers (Book Review)

The film adaptation of The Circle by Dave Eggers is out today in the US (there’s no current UK release date that I can find. Hmm…). It was directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and stars Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega, Karen Gillan, Ellar Coltrane, Patton Oswalt, Glenne Headly & Bill Paxton (R.I.P.). I’ll probably try to go to the film at some point, so will of course review that if I do. For now, here’s my review of the novel…

The Circle by Dave Eggers

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Fast, thrilling and compulsively addictive, The Circle is Dave Eggers’ bestselling novel about our obsession with the internet and where it may lead. When Mae Holland lands her dream job at the world’s most powerful internet company, she has no idea what awaits behind the doors of The Circle…

My Thoughts:

This is one of those books where I loved the concept & agreed with its stance that, basically, the Internet & big corporations (such as the one that Fincher’s The Social Network is about) are evil. Okay, yes – I’m a blogger and I admit that I love to tweet but I’d happily hop into a time machine to go back to the Eighties and live without this sort of technology as I think we were better off without it. The world is a dreadful place & we’re living in an Orwellian dystopia. But we actually brought this all on ourselves, which I think even Orwell didn’t fully foresee. Hell, even Orwell couldn’t predict something as absurd as the rise of the Kardashi-thingies & wannabes! 😉 I blame them for society’s devolution (enabled by the Internet, of course). But back to this book…

I bring up Orwell as The Circle is indeed in a similar vein to 1984. But dystopian novels are more popular than ever and this is yet another of many that come nowhere near that masterpiece. I was pretty disappointed with The Circle overall. I absolutely love this genre and, as I said, I fully agree with this novel’s beliefs so I did expect to thoroughly enjoy it. In fact, I’ve read 14 books so far this year (that’s a lot for me!) and this is possibly my least favorite. Damn. I didn’t expect that.

I found The Circle a bit too long & meandering. It started out okay but, by halfway through, it was becoming a bit of a chore to read as its lead character (Mae Holland, played by Emma Watson in the film) was becoming more and more and MORE unlikable. I think her character is the main problem I had with the novel as I always struggle to enjoy a book when I hate its main character. This can only very occasionally be made up for if the story is exceptionally good but, unfortunately, this isn’t the case with The Circle. I know the book’s whole point is that The Circle (the evil corporation in the story) is almost cult-like and that its believers follow blindly while the reader can see what’s really going on but, ugh, you just want to slap the shit out of Mae and knock some damn sense into her! I suppose Emma Watson is a good choice for the role in the film, though, as she’s seriously starting to get on my tits lately. But I’m hoping that the film will write her character slightly differently and give her some sense.

Well, I plan to check out the movie anyway since I always like to see how novels get adapted. Maybe they can actually improve on the book (it does happen sometimes). I still really like the overall idea behind the novel & its very obvious message even though I don’t think the story and its unlikable lead character do well to convey that message & the seriousness with which we should be taking it. I think I was just hoping for something a little more insightful and less obvious. The Circle doesn’t tell us anything we don’t already know and I’m not sure if it was trying to be satirical or not but, if it was, it gave the novel an odd tone that didn’t really work. I prefer my dystopian literature to either be proper satire or full-on bleak, depressing dreariness! The Circle can’t quite decide what it wants to be but I do appreciate its effort to bring further attention to a very important topic we should be taking far more seriously. I think, unfortunately, the satire maybe doesn’t work simply because this book isn’t as exaggerated as Eggers may have originally intended. This story doesn’t feel like a distant future – it feels like it has already happened.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Here’s a trailer for the movie (as is often the case lately, I think it gives too much away):

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

The Book Thief & Paper Towns Movie Reviews

Here are two quickie reviews of two movie adaptations of two books that I read recently. Since I read the books, I figured I better finally watch the films. I never really enjoy a movie much after reading the book and, in the case of one of these, I pretty much hated the book so I wasn’t hoping for much from the movie. Here we go!

Paper Towns (2015)

Directed by Jake Schreier

Based on Paper Towns by John Green

Starring: Nat Wolff, Cara Delevingne, Halston Sage, Austin Abrams, Justice Smith, Jaz Sinclair

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
After an all night adventure, Quentin’s life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.

My Opinion:

I did a very short review of the Paper Towns book HERE (I rated it 2.5/5). Full of hateful characters, I didn’t enjoy the book very much. The main boy (played by Nat Wolff in the movie) was okay but a bit bland. The girl he loves (Margo, played by Cara Delevingne) & his best friend (who is a sexist little shit & calls all girls “honey bunnies”) are annoying as hell. Seriously, Margo isn’t interesting & mysterious – she’s a bitch. But I liked the story, which involves Margo’s friends trying to track her down through a series of bizarre clues she’s left behind.

Once I’ve read a book, I always try to watch the movie adaptation but it’s never that exciting to me since I already know the story & get a bit bored. This one is a pretty straightforward & faithful adaptation. If you like the book, you should like the movie. I think this is a rare occasion where the film is better & I’d say it’s mainly down to them making Margo seem a little more human & less hateful. I also thought Nat Wolff did a good job as Quentin & made the character less dull than in the book. If you’re interested in the story, I’d actually recommend watching the movie & skipping the book as the book doesn’t really flesh out the characters any more than the film does and the movie doesn’t leave out anything important (from what I can remember).

Even though I’m WAY past “Young Adult” age, I still really enjoy reading/watching YA stuff as I can still relate to most of it. Trust me – when you get old like me, it’s very likely that it’ll still feel like you only just finished high school yesterday. It’s a traumatic time in life & I remember more from that time than I do from when I was a twentysomething. However, Paper Towns was one I couldn’t relate to at all. Maybe I’m finally out of touch? Or maybe John Green just doesn’t quite capture what teens are really like? The characters didn’t feel real to me, unlike the ones in things like The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (fantastic film & book!). But that one was set in my own era of high school with an awesome soundtrack while Paper Towns is set now & the characters refer to things from their own youth that mean nothing to me (like singing what I assume is the Pokémon TV show theme tune). No, I think the characters are weak and are the real reason I can’t connect with Paper Towns. At least the movie improves on the book slightly so I can’t give it a low rating as it’s a good adaptation and I think plenty of teens/twentysomethings probably really like it. But I’d recommend other YA stuff to people my own age before I’d recommend this one.

My Rating: 6/10

The Book Thief (2013)

Directed by Brian Percival

Based on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Ben Schnetzer, Heike Makatsch, Barbara Auer, Roger Allam

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The film is about a young girl living with her adoptive German family during the Nazi era. Taught to read by her kind-hearted foster father, the girl begins “borrowing” books and sharing them with the Jewish refugee being sheltered by her foster parents in their home.

My Opinion:

I reviewed The Book Thief novel HERE (along with all 14 books I read last year – I ranked this one my 8th favorite out of 14 & rated it 3.5/5). Unlike Paper Towns, this book had strong characters & I really cared what would happen to them. The book was actually let down slightly by its unnecessary gimmick (it’s narrated by Death aka The Grim Reaper) and did feel overlong. I really liked the book but didn’t love it like I was hoping, despite loving the characters. Still, I’m glad it got the characters right as that’s really important to me.


In this case, I’d definitely recommend reading the book before watching the film. It’s a good adaptation with fine performances but they’ve had to leave things out (as to be expected with a long book). The characters are just so richly developed in the book, which rarely gets captured as well in a film. They did come close, however – both Sophie Nélisse (Liesel – the main character) & Geoffrey Rush (Hans, her foster father) are fantastic & exactly as I pictured. Emily Watson (Rosa, her foster mother) & Nico Liersch (Rudy, her best friend) are also very good but have far less time spent on them than in the book. Rosa is a complex character so it will have been hard to capture this but I was most upset with how little we got to know Rudy in the film as I absolutely loved him & his beautiful friendship with Liesel in the book. Ben Schnetzer (as Max, the Jewish refugee they’re hiding) was also very good & as I had pictured but, again, he sadly doesn’t get enough time devoted to him in the film.

Luckily, the movie leaves out quite a lot of the Grim Reaper’s narrative. It’s done well & not distracting, whereas it kind of threw me out of the story every time they came back to it in the book. But don’t let that criticism talk you out of reading the book as I’d definitely recommend it if the story interests you. I’m not sure how to rate this movie… I thought it was quite good but, knowing the novel is better, I couldn’t help but be just a little let down despite great performances & some perfect casting. If you’re someone who really doesn’t like to read, then by all means watch the movie instead & probably add an extra point to my below rating. It’s a good film & they’ve done the best they possibly could with a somewhat difficult novel to adapt but, ultimately, the film doesn’t deliver the same emotional punch as you don’t get to know some of the characters as well as you do in the book.

My Rating: 6.5/10

**Okay, I admit to knowing the Pokémon song very well now since my kid has become addicted to the show….

And here are some of the best Pokémon we’ve caught (I love annoying people with this!) 😉

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Book Review) 

I mentioned this book HERE when I ranked & did mini-reviews of the books I’d read in 2013. It was a super mini-review for this one as I planned to do a longer review of it at some point. So, here you go! It only took me two years!

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The book tells the tale of a boy who, following a horrific family tragedy, follows clues that take him to an abandoned orphanage on a Welsh island. The story is told through a combination of narrative and vernacular photographs from the personal archives of collectors listed by the author.

My Thoughts:

I fully admit that the eerie photographs used throughout this book are what drew me to it. It’s yet another Young Adult book, a genre which has become so popular with every age these days, but at least it’s quite “different” from the rest. I still think the idea behind this book is genius! I love that the author collects weird old photographs & ended up writing a story around them. I think that’s very creative. Unfortunately, I didn’t really love the story.

(Is this one of the creepiest photos you’ve ever seen or what?!)

As I say, I read this in 2013 (possibly even 2012) so I’m not going to get into any specifics at this point. I did think the story was clever, about a group of “peculiar” children at an orphanage who seem to each have strange & mysterious talents or “powers”. It’s a very odd book & I’m usually a fan of odd. But, for whatever reason that I couldn’t quite put my finger on, it didn’t really work for me although it seemed like the type of thing that would be right up my alley. As with most books I don’t fully enjoy, I think I just didn’t buy into the characters that much (including the main boy, Jacob, who has to unravel the mystery of his grandfather’s strange photographs).

I do think a big part of my problem, which probably isn’t fair to this book, is that I had NO idea that it was the first book in a series when I read it. I think the second book wasn’t yet out and, although I do enjoy YA books such as The Hunger Games trilogy, I’d been reading a lot of series books at that point & was looking for a stand-alone book to read. Imagine my disappointment when I got to the end and there wasn’t a satisfying conclusion! It’s very much a “to be continued” ending. As long as you know that before reading it, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed like I was.

I’m choosing to finally “review” this now as, obviously, this is mainly a movie blog & I’ve been wanting to write a little something about the book before Tim Burton’s film comes out early next year. I do love to read but struggle with book reviews – I find it far easier to talk about movies. But I still enjoy discussing books with all of you in the comments so I’ll do my best to give you a few more of my crappy book reviews by the end of this year – I’ve read A LOT! 😉

Anyway, I remember saying to my husband while reading this how it would make an excellent Tim Burton movie. Am I good or what?! Clearly someone read my mind! I was very happy when Burton was later chosen to make the film as, although I didn’t totally love it, the book is very original and had a “look” in my mind that perfectly fits Tim Burton’s gothic style. I know his films have been disappointing in recent years but, if he gets this one right, I think it could be very good. And if it’s good, it’ll probably interest me in continuing with the story. Eva Green, although too “young & pretty” for how I pictured Miss Peregrine, does feel like a perfect choice to match the book’s style as does Asa Butterfield as Jacob. I’m actually really looking forward to this film adaptation! I was probably too harsh on the book but, perhaps if I read the next book, I’ll start to like it a little more. As long as there’s some sort of conclusion? Has anyone read the second book, Hollow City??

My Rating: 3/5

Oh god! It’s those creepy kids again! This photo is the stuff of nightmares!!!!

Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult are Tackling George Orwell’s 1984

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Kind of old news now but I just had to post this so I could say: “What? Are you kidding me?? F&@k off!”.

Now that that’s out of the way, the following and a bit more can be read at this link: Screencrave

[Kristen Stewart] has signed up for a role in a remake of George Orwell’s 1984 that will gear the story towards young romance, and is seemingly called Equals. She’ll be costarring with Nicholas Hoult, recently of Jack the Giant Slayer and Warm Bodies, who is also no stranger to the problems of being young and in love. The film is to be directed by Drake Doremus, best known for Like Crazy.

Whatever.

But in looking for a picture to use in this post (I didn’t want to use Kristen Stewart), I came across this interesting Guardian article where they did a survey asking people if they’ve lied about reading books they never actually read. 1984 is number one. See the top 10 books people claim to read but haven’t here: The Guardian

Really? It’s now many years since I’ve read it but I loved 1984! Also The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird & Lord Of The Rings. Okay – I fully admit that I’ve not read the rest in the top ten. 🙂

David Fincher’s Gone Girl Has Different Third Act From Original Novel

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I love this creepy ass photo from Entertainment Weekly. Click here to read all about what Gillian Flynn had to say in the EW article about her own reworking of her novel to adapt it for the screen (the article stays spoiler-free): SlashFilm.

Very interesting! Well, it could be a good thing. I’m still not sure if I was crazy about the third act of the otherwise exciting & intense book (you can read my spoiler-free review HERE).

First Look: Shailene Woodley Is Sick, Lovesick in The Fault In Our Stars

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Link to full article here: SlashFilm

It’s going to be a big year for Shailene Woodley! I’m looking forward to The Fault In Our Stars (I’ve not read Divergent). I really enjoyed the book (my review is HERE). I do love all the great young adult fiction that’s around these days. Here’s hoping this movie can be even half as good as The Perks Of Being A Wallflower film (which I loved as much as and probably even more than the book). 🙂 Now if only they’d release The Spectacular Now in the UK so I could finally see it…

The Dream Of The Heathers TV Show Is Dead Again

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Um, yeah. Probably a good thing. Because I don’t want them messing up one of my very favorite movies! They’re still saying someone might pick the show up, though.

The following is an excerpt from this link: BuzzFeed

The project was announced last September. It had originally been developed in 2009 by Sony Pictures Television for Fox, with Jenny Bicks (Sex and the City, Men in Trees, The Big C) as its executive producer. Veronica, played in the earth-shattering 1989 movie by Winona Ryder, would move back to Sherwood with a teenage daughter who would have to face the Ashleys, daughters of the Heathers who had survived the movie. Screenwriter Mark Rizzo wrote the Bravo version of the pilot.

The Crow Creator Shares Good News About The New Film

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The Crow creator James O’Barr has the following to say about the new movie, which will star Luke Evans and be directed by F. Javier Gutierrez, according to this link: GeekTyrant

O’Barr talked to Total Film about the director’s plan for the film, and what he thought of Evans’ makeup test:

“It was his idea to go right back to the source material and essentially shoot it shot-for-shot, as in the book, but with a little more backstory for some of the characters.

He wants to be as faithful as possible, even down to all the visual metaphors of trains and horses.

The producers showed me some shots of [Luke Evans] in the make-up and the tragedy really shows on his face, especially his eyes. He has a really commanding screen presence.”