Must Read: The Martian by Andy Weir

There aren’t many books that I gush about anymore. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve read so many by this point in my life that it takes a special one to stick out, or if it’s because when I recommend one to people, I want them to take it seriously. Whatever the reason, I’d like to take a moment to gush about The Martian by Andy Weir.

The_Martian_2014Okay, I’ll try not to gush too much. I know what happens when people do that: Expectations go up, up, up, and inevitably those expectations aren’t met. So, I’ll keep my recommendation short and sweet:

Read it! It’s awesome.

Fine, fine. I’ll gush a little more. But only a little, I promise.

I first heard about The Martian last fall when I went to a writing conference run by publishing guru, Chuck Sambuchino. During the session that revolved around writing great first pages, he mentioned this book. I can’t remember exactly what Sambuchino said, but it went something like this: “If you want to read a flawless first page and a near flawless book, then read The Martian.”

So, of course, I did. And, of course, I loved it! I’m not even a huge sci-fi fan and I couldn’t put it down.

Since then, I’ve recommended The Martian to all of my friends, and they’ve agreed it’s addicting. Just this morning, my mom text me and told me she finished it (she started it two days ago), and then proceeded to gush about it as well.

…I won’t go into any specific details as to why The Martian is so great (I despise spoilers), but let’s just say it’s been about six months since I finished it and I’m still not over it!

book leavingTalk about an epic book hangover! Thanks a lot, Andy Weir. 😉

Okay, okay, I’ll stop now. Just go read The Martian! And definitely read it before the movie adaptation gets released in November. As amazing (and accurate) as the trailer looks below, we book nerds know the movie is rarely better than the book. So read it before you head to the theater!

To read more about The Martian, click here!

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Book of the Month – The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Yet again, one of my favorite young adult books is being brought to life on the big screen. This month, it’s The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

6186357Synopsis

“‘If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.’
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.”

Jen’s Review

I read The Maze Runner forever ago, but even now, years later, I still remember how exciting, adventurous, and suspenseful it was. I also remember how I never stopped asking myself, “What the heck is going to happen next?”.

In a way, The Maze Runner reminds me of Lord of the Flies, except it has a maze, a girl, and oozing, creeping creatures that attack in the night! Oh, and there’s a tiny world-wide plague that gives people zombie-like symptoms, which makes things even more tense and crazy.

I will warn you: if you decide to read The Maze Runner, then you should prepare yourself to read its sequels, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure. There are way too many unsolved mysteries at the end of book one to feel fully satisfied. But, that’s okay. As a whole (yes, I’ll admit, there are some ups and downs to all three books), this is an entertaining series that’s full of action and intrigue. And, in my opinion, they’re totally worth reading.

Mazerunner_minhoquoteSo what are you waiting for? Run out and read The Maze Runner before the movie hits theaters on September 19th!

Jen’s Rating 

5 Star

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for The Maze Runner. Prepare to hold your breath for the next two minutes!

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

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Photo credits: 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6186357-the-maze-runner?from_search=true

http://www.teen.com/2014/08/07/movies/books-turned-movies-second-half-of-2014/attachment/maze-runner-thomas-running/

http://giphy.com/gifs/ColbXXtLhOz0k

http://mazerunner.wikia.com/wiki/File:Mazerunner_minhoquote.jpg

http://wifflegif.com/tags/202690-read-the-book-gifs

Book of the Month – If I Stay – Gayle Forman

On August 22nd, one of my favorite books is coming to life on the big screen. To honor that, I’ve chosen If I Stay by Gayle Forman as August’s Book of the Month.

6564365If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Synopsis

“Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.
I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.
Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?
Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it’s the only one that matters.
If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.”

Jen’s Review

I read If I Stay years ago, and it still makes my heart twist and my stomach drop. Just thinking about it makes me search for a tissue while thanking God I haven’t had to experience what Mia did in this book.

tumblr_mp8lqkavxh1sxy5x9o1_500One of the most important things in my life is my family. If anything happened to them…well, I’m not sure what I’d do. It’s one of those fears that haunts me on a daily basis, just as I’m sure it haunts many of you. To think of having everything you cherish taken away in the blink of an eye…

*shudder*

If I Stay addresses this tragic fear. It makes you live it through the eyes of Mia, a girl whose family is killed in a car accident. She herself is on the brink of death and must decide if she has the strength to stay and live with the pain of knowing when she awakes, her family will be gone; or if she can’t bear their loss and will let go to join them in death.
But, don’t worry. This story isn’t only about making you cry and sob and go through an entire box of tissues. It celebrates life and love, and offers hope when there is no hope to be found.

tumblr_mdg8mwFXNk1rj9ghno1_500As hard as this story is to read, it’s worth it. For me, it made me consider what I’d do if this type of tragedy ever struck in my life. Would I give up? Or would I fight for life? To be honest, I’m still not sure. Like Mia, it’s a choice I can’t make until it I had to.

Jen’s Rating

5 Star

To read more about If I Stay, click here!

And for those of you who’d rather “see” the synopsis, here’s the trailer for If I Stay…I suggest you grab a tissue before you view it 😉

…Just remember: Read the book BEFORE you see the movie!

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Book Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Photo credits: 

http://brynnetervention.blogspot.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4374400-if-i-stay

http://gayleforman.tumblr.com/post/54363068897/the-quote-books-if-i-stay-by-gayle-forman

http://handwrittenonpaper.tumblr.com/post/35663785431

Book of the Month: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

11870085The Fault in Our Stars by John Green 

Synopsis

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Jen’s Review

That about sums things up 😉

Okay, seriously. I’m not normally into stories about cancer and sickness and whatnot. They’re just too sad and depressing. However,  I made an exception for The Fault in Our Stars after hearing so many wonderful things about it. And I’m glad I did! This is a special story everyone needs to read. It has a touching plot, plenty of takeaway messages, and a cast of sincere characters. I especially love Augustus (I think most readers do). Simply put, he’s a good guy. A good, sweet, authentic, lovable guy. In fact, when my sister was trying to think of a name for her next kid, I suggested August…She almost used it, too. Darn!

I won’t lie. This is a heartbreaking story. And you will need tissues. But the pain is worth it, I promise!

1010396_212218672304022_342272204_nPlus, the movie is coming out in a few days, and you know my rule of thumb: read the book before you see the movie. So go read it!

Jen’s Rating 

4 Star

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Confession: I love when books are made into movies

It’s true. I love it when a book gets adapted for the big screen. Gasp! Ugh! WHAT? Yeah, yeah. I know, I know! But, I’m sorry. I can’t help it. Whenever I find out one of my favorite novels has made it to Hollywood, my heart does a giddy leap and my feet do a happy dance.

Oh, and, er, I like Katy Perry, too…

*throat clear*

Yeah…Apparently, this is gonna be “one of those” confessions (brutally honest and slightly shameful). You better prepare yourselves…

On Sunday night, I watched the Golden Globe Awards (wow, two seconds in and already another confession: I love Awards Season; love the glitz and glam, the Red Carpets, the golden trophies, all of it!). Anyways, as I watched Sunday’s show, I realized how many of the films nominated this year are based off books (12 Years a SlaveCaptain Phillips, Philomena, Labor Day). How cool is that? Well, it was cool enough to prompt me to write about this debatable topic.

The moment I hear one of my favorite books is going to be adapted to screen, I think, “Yes! At last, I get to see this awesome story brought to life!” Then I proceed to tell everyone in the world about it. Like, everyone. Example: When I discovered The Book Thief was going to be made into a movie, I almost peed my pants (almost!), and then I went on to blog and Tweet about it, and share the news on Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest…

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I admit, I went a little crazy with the news. But, I couldn’t help it. The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all time…Of course, it’s not the only book I’ve ever shouted, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” for. I’ve done this with countless novels, including The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesBeautiful Creatures, Catching Fire, Divergent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Fault in Our Stars, The Help, If I Stay, The Maze Runner…Sheesh, there have been/will be a lot of quality books put on the big screen. And, yes, I plan on seeing them all (if I haven’t seen them already).

Unfortunately, not all book-to-film projects succeed. Far, far from it (don’t even get me started on Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief or Eragon). That’s why I always try and keep a level head when I enter a theater to watch these adapted films. As I sit down and dig into my popcorn and Peanut M&Ms, I give myself a firm mental slap and tell myself, “Jenna, this isn’t the book. It’s the movie version of the book. Things are going to be changed and slashed and rotated and implanted and screwed up! So don’t get your hopes up.” And, thanks to that personal pep talk, I’ve saved myself from innumerable broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Now, I know what many of you are thinking right: A bad movie means bad press for the book, which means the book will lose readers in the long run. On some level, I agree with you. If a movie bombs at the box office, there will surely be people–many people–who’ll never read its book. But, if you think about it, even if a movie does an amazing job, there’s a good chance people still won’t read its book. It’s sad, but there are (and probably always will be) more people in this world who’d rather watch a two-hour movie than read a 400-page book.

So sad. So disappointing…

Okay, let’s move away from the negative and look at these positive facts:

First, movies raise awareness. How many people would even know about certain books if they didn’t have a movie made for them? We’re not all book nerds. Heck, I AM a book nerd and even I don’t always get the memo, not even for big blockbusters like Harry Potter (yeah, go ahead and mark that down as shameful confession #500 in this post). Movies help draw attention to good (and not so good) books and promote them to the non-reading masses. And, more and more often, they seem to spark an interest in books, especially in younger audiences.

Second, movies can make books more likeable. I can’t tell you how many I’ve read that I just didn’t like and/or didn’t get.

Then I saw their movie version and was like, “Ohhh. Got it!”, followed by, “Ohhh, I like it!” Sometimes, you just need to “see” a plot unfold, or “watch” a character develop, or “hear” a story told. And thanks to movie magic, those things can happen and book epiphanies can take place. Stories that didn’t translate so well on paper can be appreciated on screen (same story, different format).

Look, there are plenty of reasons to love or hate Hollywood for adapting our favorite books. Perhaps you think movie versions discourage people from reading? Perhaps you think a book should be left in its purest, most natural form; it’s a piece of art that shouldn’t be tainted with brutal editing and iffy casting? Perhaps you just don’t like movies?

Or perhaps you’re like me and you think movies honor books? Perhaps you think they take the characters you loved so much on a black and white page and give them life–moving, breathing, colorful life? Perhaps you think movies are a celebration–a giant congratulatory pat on the back to the author who wrote a great book–a double thumbs up for a job well done?

Okay, go for it: tell me what you think. Are you pro-adaptations? Or do you think it’s a crime against nature when Hollywood gets their hands on your favorite book?

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Movie Review: The Book Thief

It’s taken me longer than I planned, but I finally saw The Book Thief last weekend. I grabbed a bucket of popcorn and a box of tissues and sat back to–hopefully–enjoy one of my favorite books on the big screen.

MV5BOTE3NzkyMjAyNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDc5MTE0MDE@._V1_As a whole, I did enjoy the film. I feel the adaptation was true to the book and brought Himmel Street to life beautifully. And judging by the round of applause inside the theater at the end, I’d say other fans enjoyed it too.

Probably the best and most spot-on part about the film was the cast. Sophie Nélisse as Liesel was amazing, and Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson as Hans and Rosa were exactly as I imagined them. And–just like the book–my favorite character was Rudy. In fact, I might love him even more after seeing the adorable and endearing Nico Liersch play him. (I just want to pinch his cheeks!)

_MG_6517April 02, 2013.cr2Okay, now for a couple of things that…disappointed me. And let me preface this by saying 1) These are nit-picky complaints coming from a book lover’s perspective, and 2) Despite these complaints, I still give the film two thumbs up.

First, was Death’s downgraded role. In my opinion, one of the best parts about The Book Thief was Death’s unique narrative. It added such an eerie tone and impending sense of doom. And although the movie opened with Death welcoming us, it quickly faded into the background and only returned here and there. This caused the movie to fall a bit flat for me. Without the ongoing presence of its morbid storyteller, the story just wasn’t as dark or suspenseful or special as it could’ve been.

book-thief-trailer-08212013-125609(If haven’t read the book or seen the movie (and plan to), don’t read this next paragraph).

****

****

Second, was Rudy’s death. One of the worst and best parts of the book was its horrific ending. I knew the moment Hans said goodnight to Liesel and left her in the basement that I was going to need my tissues. And, trust me, I used them. BUT my tears were staunched when Liesel ran to Rudy’s body amongst the rubble, shouting his name and begging him to open his eyes–and he did! Whhhattt? Okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal? So what if Rudy lived an extra couple of hours than he did in the book? He still died and it is still awful.” And yes, it is. But, for me, Rudy’s death was one of the most haunting scenes in the book. The way Death embraced his soul and took extra care of it was both tragic and comforting…I also felt his death scene was on the melodramatic–even cheesy–side. When Rudy opened his eyes and gasped, “Liesel, I have to tell you…” and then died, I felt more amused than sad. It just seemed so cliche and predictable.

****

****

Okay, I’m done complaining. Back to the positive.

Overall, I’d highly recommend this film to both fans of the book and those who’ve never heard of it. It’s a remarkable story that stays with you for days–weeks–months–years after reading/watching it. So don’t miss out!

And, seriously, go read the book if you haven’t. It’s. Amazing!

Jen’s Rating

4 Star