Beautiful Creatures Reading a Deux Week 4

 
 

It’s week four of my Reading à Deux adventure with Ruby at Ruby’s Reads. We’re reading Beautiful Creatures in anticipation of the movie release! We divided the book into four sections, and each Tuesday we’re trading off asking each other questions about each section. Today I’m responding to Ruby’s questions in a post on her blog, so click the button above to read the post and join in the conversation. Come back next week for my wrap-up and movie review!

Missed our other posts? Catch up on Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3.

 

 

 

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Beautiful Creatures Reading a Deux Week 3

 

With the impending release of the Beautiful Creatures movie, Ruby at Ruby’s Reads asked if anyone was up for a read-along of the book. I hadn’t read it yet, and I’m always down for reading a book before seeing the movie, so I said yes please!

We divided the book into four sections, and each Tuesday we’re trading off asking each other questions about each section. Today I’m presenting the third set of questions, and Ruby’s responses. Next week you can visit Ruby’s Reads to see the last set of answers I have for Ruby!

 
 
Well let’s get to it!
 
1) During Thanksgiving dinner, we get some pretty shocking information about who Lena is up against. This makes an already sucky situation even worse, and adds to the feelings of betrayal and helplessness Lena’s experiencing. Have you ever faced a situation where you had to oppose a loved one?
 
Not really. I mean, we’ve all been in those kinds of situations in a minor way but (knock on wood), I’ve never had to seriously oppose a loved one in a serious way. I don’t know what else to say about this, except that I feel so fortunate to have my family, to be close to them, and to not be in constant conflict.
 
2) In the library, we get to see the end of Genevieve’s story play out. The Book of Moons giveth, and it taketh away. Does the bargain she struck seem worth it? 
 
Well, no! But if there’s anything reading paranormal fiction has taught me, it’s that such bargains arenever worth striking.
 
3) No teen outcast story can be complete without a prom-gone-awry sequence. What did you make of their decision to go, given how little they’ve been involved with school? How did you feel about how everything played out at the dance?
 
Well, I knew going to the dance wasn’t going to be all that and a bag of chips, even if Lena didn’t. And I don’t think she made it any easier on herself by the way she dressed. I realize that Gatlin’s small-mindedness isn’t Lena’s fault, but wearing crescent moons and not expecting hostilities? She was dreaming. As for the dance itself, well, shades of Carrie was pretty much what I was expecting, and I was also just waiting for Ridley to make her reappearance.
 
4) At the end of this section, Ethan finally breaks into his dad’s study, and he learns some important things about his parents. Did this change how you feel about his dad? Do you think Ethan’s mom is going to figure into this story more?
 
Learning more about Ethan’s dad did not change how I felt about them. Parents who neglect their children out of grief for a lost spouse are probably my least favorite YA stereotype, after just plain dead parents. I’m hoping to see some functional parent/child relationships in YA one of these days. As for Ethan’s mom, well, once we knew Marian was involved, it didn’t take a genius to figure out she must’ve known something as well.
 
Thanks for the great responses Ruby! Don’t forget to come back next Tuesday, and please chime in with your own responses in the comments!

 

 

 

Beautiful Creatures Reading a Deux Week 2

 
 

It’s week two of my Reading à Deux adventure with Ruby at Ruby’s Reads. We’re reading Beautiful Creatures in anticipation of the movie release! We divided the book into four sections, and each Tuesday we’re trading off asking each other questions about each section. Today I’m responding to Ruby’s questions in a post on her blog, so click the button above to read the post and join in the conversation. 

Missed our first post? Catch up here!

 

 

 

Beautiful Creatures Read Along Week 1

EDIT:  Ha! Just kidding. Sorry for the miscommunication everybody! Ruby and I got our wires crossed, so I mistakenly sent you over to her blog when you really, um, should have come to mine. Gulp.
 
Anyhootles, without any further ado, here is Week 1 of our Read Along!
 

With the impending release of the Beautiful Creatures movie, Ruby at Ruby’s Reads asked if anyone was up for a read-along of the book. I hadn’t read it yet, and I’m always down for reading a book before seeing the movie, so I said yes please!

We divided the book into four sections, and for the next four Tuesdays we’re trading off asking each other questions about each section. Today I’m presenting my first round of questions, and Ruby’s responses. Next week you can visit Ruby’s Reads to see what answers I have for Ruby!

 
 
Thanks again for coming up with this event, Ruby! I don’t know why I resisted this book for so long. I am eating this thing up! You’d think given the number of times I flipped through its pages I would’ve noticed that it’s from Ethan’s perspective, but…um…I didn’t. So anyway, here are my questions:
 
1) How do you like the book from Ethan’s point of view? Does it feel like his story or Lena’s?
 
At this point, the story is definitely Ethan’s, and I like how Beautiful Creatures has turned the trope of the mysterious, hot guy who moves into the small town and catches the heroine’s eye on its head. This time, the mysterious character is the girl and the boy’s about to have his world shaken up.
 
2) Is the small town versus outsider scenario working for you? Or is the jock in love with the outcast too played out?
 
Oh, ha! I didn’t even think about that. It’s more that I’m irritated with Ethan’s holier than thou attitude. He thinks of himself as being different from the people in his town, but then he acts just like them. Doesn’t it make it worse that he’s aware that the behaviors are ridiculous, but he participates in them anyway? 

I mean, Ethan’s constant harping on how things in Gatlin never change was starting to wear on me–especially when they concerned small things like the fact that he and his best friend have the same conversation every morning. He was blaming the town for the rut he was in, but he was responsible, too. Fortunately, Lena’s appearance didn’t just stir him out of his lethargy. It made him consider–for the first time–how much he was contributing to it. 

If anything, I’d say Beautiful Creatures is, perhaps, drawing too many paralells with To Kill a Mockingbird. Or maybe it’s that I wish it would draw on it with a bit more subtlety? Like, without mentioning the book so often? 

Have I answered your question? Maybe not. I will say that I find myself wondering if people are really still that close-minded, even in the South. Of course, having only visited New Orleansonce, I can hardly be considered an expert. Still, the internet and television have globalized even the smallest of towns. I go back and forth. 

3) What is going on with the locket? We’re getting all kinds of odd things happening now – telepathy, hints of voodoo from Amma, broken windows, crazy dreams, songs, and now full blown visions. Does Ethan seem like he’s handling this a bit too well, or is he at an appropriate level of freaked-out-edness?
 
Ah, well, I have my theories about the locket, but I’m not ready to share them. I’m totally the one who guesses who the murderer is at the beginning of the TV show. I’m not great at sitting back and letting the mystery unravel. Which is funny, because I love mysteries. Go figure!

About Ethan, I think his dreams help to prevent a freak-out. He’s experienced the weirdness with his own eyes, so it’s a bit harder to deny. Also, it seems like Amma’s voodoo might have inured him to possibility of magic. Or, er, whatever. Finally, since he’s not making ginormous leaps of logic (SHE BROKE THE WINDOW WITH HER MIND!!), I feel like it’s one of the better introductions to the paranormal that I’ve read in a while. 

4) I’m a bit confused about where the story is going. What are your thoughts on how this is playing out? Are you getting antsy for answers like me, or are you happy to ride it out and see where it goes?
 
Well, like I said, I speculate, even from the beginning, and I’m not antsy for answers. Beautiful Creatures hasn’t pulled me in, yet, like it has you. I’m pretty excited about Ravenwood (the house) and Ravenwood (the uncle), but by this time, we already know that something Big is going to happen on Lena’s birthday and that there’s some kind of connection between Civil War Ethan and Present Day Ethan, and I’m going to assume the same about Genevieve and Lena. I’m kind of hoping that the answers aren’t the ones I’ve already worked out in my head…
 
Thanks for the great responses Ruby! You’ve given me a lot to think about as we move into part two of our discussion.
 
Don’t forget to come back next Tuesday, and please chime in with your own responses in the comments!

 

 

 

Book and Movie Review: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Book: Life of Pi
Author: Yann Martel
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release date: June 4, 2002
Source: Purchased ebook from Amazon

 

Summary from Goodreads:

Life of Pi is a masterful and utterly original novel that is at once the story of a young castaway who faces immeasurable hardships on the high seas, and a meditation on religion, faith, art and life that is as witty as it is profound. Using the threads of all of our best stories, Yann Martel has woven a glorious spiritual adventure that makes us question what it means to be alive, and to believe.

As Yann Martel has said in one interview, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” And for Martel, the greatest imaginative overlay is religion. “God is a shorthand for anything that is beyond the material — any greater pattern of meaning.” In Life of Pi, the question of stories, and of what stories to believe, is front and centre from the beginning, when the author tells us how he was led to Pi Patel and to this novel: in an Indian coffee house, a gentleman told him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God.” And as this novel comes to its brilliant conclusion, Pi shows us that the story with the imaginative overlay is also the story that contains the most truth.

I resisted this book for a long time, for three very good reasons: 1) it’s literary fiction; 2) it won the Man Booker Prize, and I’m historically 50/50 on liking Man Booker nominee and winning books; and 3) everyone talked about how amazing it was, and that kind of lavish praise makes me wary.

It wasn’t until my sister said she wanted to see the movie and I read a bunch of reviews that said the book was one that needed to be discussed that we decided we should read it. She may live 500 miles away and be stuck in baby jail (she has an 8 month old and is a stay at home mom), but we can spend time reading the same book at the same time and then talk about it, right? Thus Sister Book Club was born, and our inaugural read was Life of Pi. A few weeks later, we found an afternoon where we could both see the movie in our respective cities at about the same time so we could see it “together.”

Today I’ll be talking about both the book and the movie, and I’ll provide major spoiler alerts/hides when I get around to discussing that ending. I had the book spoiled for me early on, and it’s a shame because I think the ending serves a very distinct and effective purpose to the overall structure and message of the book, so I promise to avoid spoiling it for those of you who haven’t read it. That said, there is a lot to say about the book and movie that doesn’t rely on spoiler talk, so I hope you’ll still stick around.

First, there was a book…

The book opens by telling us we are about to hear a story that will make the reader believe in God. It’s a tall order, one that seems to purposefully put us on edge. “Ha!” we say. “I’d like to see you try,” we mutter. And we begin by taking the words with a grain of salt, perhaps waiting for the treacly drivel that comes from a boy being lost at sea who needs faith to pull him through his debacle.  

Piscine Molitor Patel, known as Pi, tells us his history of faith. He was raised Hindu, but through a series of encounters with a priest and in a mosque, he becomes a faithful adherent of Catholicism and Islam as well. As a bit of a patchwork quilt of religions myself, I really identified with Pi’s healthy skepticism and yet profound sense of faith. There are many ways in which we express faith, and Pi felt at home in a variety of them. 

Though I have read complaints that this beginning section is slow, I found them to be a vital backdrop for Pi’s journey. Without understanding how he comprehends and converses with God, we have little understanding of how his tale at sea translates into faith. Even more importantly, without the knowledge of how Pi relates to Richard Parker or the zoo animals raised by his family, we will be unable to suspend our disbelief as to how a small Indian boy could possibly survive a journey in a lifeboat with a tiger.

The book is largely told as a story within a story – Pi is telling the story of his life to a young American novelist. There are a couple of POV changes where we see the novelist interject his own thoughts on Pi and his story, but largely the story is told from Pi’s perspective, including the longest section when he is lost at sea. 

The chapters after the shipwreck are short and not chronological. Pi lost most of his sense of time while adrift, and so we get glimpses at varying states of his being. We see him wildly delirious, joyously triumphant, and terrifyingly angry. Through these glimpses into his most powerful memories of this trip, we are taken on an incredibly journey alongside him.

So how does this tale inspire belief in God? Well, if you have any interest in seeing the movie or reading the book, I encourage you to not read too many reviews. I had the ending spoiled by reading comments on Goodreads, and it took some of the magic out of the reading experience. So skip this section and go right ahead to the movie review, but for the rest of you who have read it (or have seen the movie, or don’t care about spoilers) I’ve added my thoughts on the ending in the camouflaged section below.

**SPOILER ALERT – HIGHLIGHT TO READ THIS SECTION**
If you’re reading this section, I’m assuming you’re okay with major spoilers.
 
By the end of the book, we know only one thing for certain – that Pi survived his ordeal in the lifeboat. Beyond that, we have a lot of questions. Did he really travel with a tiger, an orangutan, a zebra, and a hyena? Or did he watch the cook murder the few survivors before Pi killed him out of revenge and survival?
 
The book challenges us by asking us to choose the one we like better. What makes the better story, and more importantly, why? By acknowledging the story as an allegory, it illuminates how other stories function as allegories, too. How does the reading of this story impact our understanding of, say, the stories in the Bible?

I loved being faced with all of the questions presented to us at the end, and I sincerely bow down to Yann Martel for creating such an incredible work of fiction. This is the kind of book that makes me want to throw in the towel on my own fiction, because I can only dream of creating a story so compelling, intelligent, beautiful, and inspiring. 

This one belongs on the Special Shelf, where it will be read over and over again. I strongly encourage you to pick up this book, but if you’re more of the movie type…

Then there came a movie…

After reading such an epic tale, I could see why so many had deemed it unfilmable. I mean, putting a tiger with a young boy is one thing, but throwing them in a boat too? Yikes.

Ang Lee showed us all, that’s for sure. Though the majority of the tiger scenes in the movie were done with CGI, I really only noticed it in a handful of scenes. Digital creation has come a long way, and they spent a pretty penny to make one fantastic looking cat. 

I was a bit sad to see that they added in an unnecessary pseudo-love interest for Pi. Does every story need a romance these days? I can think of plenty of other ways from the book that Pi could stay motivated through his journey, which is the only justification I can come up with for why they added the love interest anyway.

The photography is stunning, and worth the price of admission alone. The movie manages to showcase the immense beauty and power of the ocean, while constantly reminding us of her danger and fury. Some of the shots and scenes were so visually impactful that I easily forgave their inconsistencies with the book. I don’t care that it didn’t happen in the book – Ang Lee can show me that whale jumping over the lifeboat all he wants. Amazing.

The movie succeeded in pulling me more into the emotional journey than did the book. This isn’t unusual for me, as I’m a pretty visual person in general. The moment when Pi last sees Richard Parker was sad in the book, for sure, but absolutely tore me up watching the movie. 

If you don’t think the book is for you, I still highly recommend seeing the movie. The ending may not be as impactful (the movie kind of beats you over the head with the message – what are we, dummies?), but the tale itself is one to see. 5 stars to both the book and the movie!

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

2013 Book to Movie Challenge

 

The 2013 Book to Movie Challenge, hosted by Doing Dewey, asks us to review books and their movie versions. I am a huge movie buff, and will usually try to read the book before I see the movie, so this is right up my alley.

There are four levels to this challenge, and I’m choosing the Movie Aficionado level to review 6 books and movies. As more movie information becomes available, this may change.

Sign up here! 

My list so far:

  1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  3. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  6. Austenland by Shannon Hale

Check my progress all year on the sidebar or on my 2013 Challenge Index.

Trailer Tuesday (2)

Shhhhh. Let’s not talk about NaNoWriMo. We won’t discuss my paltry word count (~5,600) or the fact that I’m considering scrapping it this year to work on the book that actually needs to get finished. We’ll just table that discussion for another day.

BECAUSE.

Because, because, because, because, because!

It’s here!

It needs no introduction, really. Kids, the day has finally come for the theatrical trailer of The Hunger Games, and I admit no shame in the fact that tears were shed upon viewing this magical trailer.

Is it March yet?

Trailer Tuesday

There are very few things I geek out over more than Shakespeare, so imagine my barely containable glee when I saw this trailer for the first time this week:

http://flash.sonypictures.com/video/universalplayer/sharedPlayer.swf

I am rabidly chomping at my metaphorical bit to see this movie. Historical intrigue! Political bribery! And thousands of moments that are just begging for a good “You can’t handle the truth!” to be blurted out. As if Elizabethan England and a plot revolving around Shakespeare weren’t enough, I love that they’re playing the plagiarism/ghost writer angle.

Did Shakespeare actually write his entire canon? I’m certain that a Hollywood production will not provide definitive answers, but it looks to be darn good entertainment at the very least.

Had you seen this trailer yet? What are your thoughts on the movie?

Jane Eyre: A Book and Movie Review

Book: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
First published: 1847
Source: Project Gutenberg free download

Summary: (from Goodreads) Charlotte Bronte’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847, under the pseudonym of Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine–one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved. Hailed by William Makepeace Thackeray as “the masterwork of great genius,” Jane Eyre is still regarded, over a century later, as one of the finest novels in English literature.

First impressions: It’s always a bit of an adjustment jumping into the classics, and Jane Eyre is no exception. I was surprised at how quickly I fell into Jane’s story, though, and consider this to be very accessible even for the most casual reader.

Lasting impressions: What an incredible journey for our young heroine! Jane experiences some of the toughest situations life can throw at you. Throughout the course of the story she is at times loveless, penniless, homeless, and friendless. When she does meet the few people in her life that bring her joy and affection, they are often torn from her in cruel ways. Yet Jane never lets life get the best of her. It’s easy to see why she has been such an inspirational character for nearly two centuries.

Conflicting impressions: While Bronte’s dialogue sings, some of the descriptive scenes can get quite boring. The book covers a large chunk of time, so I found myself getting impatient when I was ready to move on to the next section of the book. In particular, after she leaves Thornfield Hall and moves in with St. John’s family, I was anxious to get to the part where I knew she’d be reunited with Rochester.

Overall impressions: Jane Eyre is definitely one of my new favorite characters. She is a passionate girl in a time where girls should be anything but. Orphaned at an early age, she is brought up by her aunt – her mother’s brother’s wife – who promised her husband on his deathbed that she would care for the child. She despises Jane, however, and shows her absolutely no love or kindness. As if that isn’t bad enough, her son torments and beats Jane when no one is looking, and when Jane strikes back she is punished for it.

After one particularly unjust confrontation, Jane is locked in the room where her uncle died, and she experiences a haunting that terrifies her until she faints. After this incident she is sent away to Lowood School, where she remains both as student and teacher until adulthood. It is at Lowood that Jane makes, and loses, her first friend. Helen teaches Jane the value of restraint and acceptance in the face of brutality, which serves Jane well as she develops into a young woman. The impetuous nature of her childhood seems to cool a bit, and when Jane emerges as a strong woman from Lowood, she is much more reserved and capable of handling tough circumstances.

Jane’s first job outside of Lowood is as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a property owned by Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester. He has a young girl, Adele, as his ward, who he took care of after her mother died in France – a woman Rochester seems to have spent quite a deal of time with. He is blunt, direct, overbearing, and not particularly handsome. He has a dark past that he hints at and ultimately is revealed later in the book. He is an intriguing character to be sure, and given Jane’s own direct nature, the two engage in some zinging dialogue that carries you through the pages effortlessly.

It is through Rochester that Jane begins to understand real partnership. They are equals, relying on each other for strength, comfort, and the joy of each other’s company. Jane has had no real contact with men, and at times Rochester takes advantage of this fact, as well as his station as her employer, to toy with her feelings. What could seem brutish and unseemly is rather understood to be merely the insecurity of a man who feels he is not deserving of any kind of love or happiness. When he finally reveals his true feelings, you get the urge to smile through your tears and punch him on the arm for putting us through all that.

While at Thornfield, Jane also experiences a number of seemingly supernatural events. She hears voices and footsteps in the halls, wakes to find Rochester’s bed on fire, and on the eve of her wedding, sees a strange creature in her closet ripping her veil. I really liked these spooky elements of the story, and I may be developing a bit of a crush on gothic literature because of it. If you haven’t read the book, do yourself a favor and don’t read the plot summary beforehand like I did. I think the reveal behind the ghostly occurrences is quite powerful and surprising, so I promise not to spoil it for you here.

When Jane is forced by circumstance to leave Thornfield Hall, she ends up losing her belongings in a carriage and finds herself suddenly without money, food, or shelter. It is during this portion of her story that Jane proves herself to be wonderfully resilient. With another small kindness bestowed on her from a man called St. John, she manages to slowly build herself back up, eventually securing work again as a schoolteacher and having her own place to live.

I won’t give away the entire ending, but despite all odds against her, Jane’s story is a happy one. It is also a lesson in the power of who you choose to call family, how you choose to live your life, and what you choose to make of the life given to you. Your real family may disappoint you, and complete strangers may give you just what you need to get through the end of the day. One day you can be full of sadness, and the next may bring you complete joy. It is a journey, but one that should be endured and celebrated no matter what happens, for you never know what tomorrow will bring. Jane Eyre is a magnificent and truly timeless story.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

I also saw the movie this weekend, and highly recommend it, particularly if you like period dramas. The movie has to skip over some material, as the book encompasses a LOT of story. We are given only the briefest of glimpses into the time Jane spends with her aunt and at Lowood School, with the majority of the movie taking place at Thornfield Hall. I found this appropriate since Jane’s romance with Rochester is such a major point of the book.

The cast was exquisite, and the two leads portray Jane and Rochester with the perfect balance of decorum and playfulness. They downplay some of Rochester’s faults (because Michael Fassbender ain’t exactly hard to look at, if you catch my drift), and portray Jane as a bit more dense than she comes across in the book. Judi Dench is a dream as Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper, often getting a big laugh from the audience with nothing more than a glance.

I did have an issue with the Big Reveal – in the novel it is quite a bit more shocking than it came across on film. That was disappointing, especially given how much they played up the supernatural stuff throughout the movie. There was also an inexplicable change to the relationship between Jane and St. John that I didn’t quite get. I thought it was much more effective as written than how they handled it in the movie.

The movie seemed to match the book’s pacing – slooooow. Neither version is jam packed with excitement, even given the volume of events that take place and the nature of the action. I found the movie quite enjoyable regardless, though I am always a fan of 19th century British dramas. If the story interests you but you don’t have the time to read the book, definitely go see the movie – and then email me so we can gab about it!

Movie adaptations

This past weekend while at the movies I saw a trailer for an upcoming version of Jane Eyre.

It looks amazing, full of love, spooky stuff and excellent period costumes.  It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, which also happens to be an adaptation of a classic.

While my first introduction to the stories of Jane Austen came courtesy of Clueless with Alicia Silverstone (and pre-superstar Paul Rudd), the Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet version of Sense and Sensibility is the movie that sold me on her work.  To this day, I hold a special place in my heart for that book above all of Austen’s others.

The movie is beautifully crafted thanks to direction by Ang Lee – the patient yet tense builds in each scene, awkward pauses and loaded subtext expressed throughout.  The rigid etiquette permeates the entire movie so that when we see Marianne careening about in carriages and exploding at Willoughby at the ball, we cringe.  Yet we also ache for her at the patent unfairness of it all, the way she and Elinor are stifled and silenced by their circumstances.  It is a beautiful and powerful film, just like the book.

Inspired by the Jane Eyre trailer, I downloaded a free copy of the book from Project Gutenberg.  I think I may look around for a reading challenge to read more classics.  It occurred to me that I haven’t read that many of the traditional classic books, and I would like to.  If I can’t find an existing challenge, I may just have to host it myself!

What are some of your favorite movie adaptations of books?  Besides Jane Eyre, there are Harry Potter 7.2 and Breaking Dawn to look forward to (or dread, depending on your opinion) next year.  What book movies are you excited to see in 2011?