Monday, November 28, 2011

Book to Movie: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Having finally read some of the Percy Jackson series, I was anxious to go back and re-watch the movie and see if my opinion changed any.  I was less than impressed with the movie prior to reading the books and now I know why...

The plot was completely oversimplified. All sorts of major characters were removed and the motives blurred and misleading.  The ending was modified to the point where the villain was absolutely obvious as soon as the character appeared on the screen on my first watching.  My first time through, I had to wonder what the attraction to the series was, and though I would never judge a book by it's movie, the cliche script did not encourage me to pick up the series any sooner.  Now that I've read the book, I find myself wondering how the movie industry can plan on doing a sequel when so much was cut from the first film.

That being said, there were some great things about seeing it on screen.  I thought the casting was excellent.  I love Kevin McKidd and Pierce Brosnan in just about anything and Uma Thurman is an amazing Medusa.  However the movie writers took the whole story and moved it from middle school into high school, which is how I envision Percy when I read it, but I have to wonder if that's because I saw the movie first or because of how it's written?  One of the things that bothers me with that though is it moves Annabeth's and Percy's relationship towards romantic, and, though that may be where Mr. Riordan is headed with them, I am enjoying seeing their prejudiced rivalry turn into friendship in the books, but that's what comes of aging the characters.

I liked the added scene between the gods at the beginning.  It gives a little necessary plot exposition, though it does intimate a closer amount of familial relations between the gods and their children than is portrayed in the book.  Although in the book we only see things form Percy's point of view, so that's an advantage of a movie, I guess.

All the while I was re-watching the film, I was wondering what the author's thoughts were on it.  Apparently prior to it's release, he didn't plan on seeing the film because he didn't want it to skew his view of his characters.  I have to wonder if it had been a blockbuster hit, if he could have stuck to that.  What bothered me most about the plot changes were the sneaking off on the quest instead of having it assigned -it changes the tone of the movie- and the grand omission of the conspiracy part of the plot.   All in all, I'm not sorry to have watched the movie (twice), even though it doesn't quite do the book justice.

Final Take:  3/5


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Children's Corner: Children Make Terrible Pets

Review:  This one might escape the attention of children due to the fact that it's not as vivid as most children's books, but it's definitely worth seeking out.  Especially if you have a twisted sense of humor like my family.

Lucy the bear finds a little boy in the woods, brings him home, and begs mom to keep him.  Mom reluctantly agrees telling Lucy he will be her responsibility, but warning her that 'children make terrible pets'. While Lucy and the child have lots of fun playing together, she's definitely finding her mother's warning to be true.  She can't train him to use a litter box, or have a proper tea party, or stay out of the mud.  There's also, of course, a language barrier ~humans just make squeaking sounds.  In the end, Lucy learns that perhaps the child is better with it's family, but that doesn't stop her from setting her sights on an even more fantastic pet ~an elephant.

There are some great talking points "What kind of animals make good pets?", "Should we keep wild animals we find?", etc.  While my almost four year old may not be getting all the layers of subtext, it's a book that is amusing for both parent and child, and those are hard to come by.  Peter Brown has another Lucy book, You Will Be My Friend! and I think we will be checking it out soon...

Read an excerpt here.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Julie's Review: The Girl Who Play with Fire

Summary: Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.

Review: These books are so intense that I took a long break in between reading the first two of the series. The Girl Who Played with Fire is intense from the get go. While I enjoyed the mystery around The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I loved that this book delved into Lisbeth and her past. I admire Lisbeth for her strength and her perseverance. Do I think she has some issues? Heck yes but most of her reactions have always been because she needs to survive. She's been surviving all her life. She doesn't know how to need someone because she's always relied on herself.

I found the exposition of her life fascinating. Perhaps it's because it's so different than what most of us have known and also because you wonder how someone is still functioning after her childhood. I loved how Mr. Larsson slowly revealed bits and pieces of her life. They were always well timed and always wanted you leaving more.

I thought it was great how Mikael was still involved in the story and spent a lot of his time trying to prove Lisbeth innocent of the crimes she was accused of in the novel. As a reader, you wonder if Lisbeth is guilty but you know that she can't possibly be.

This book never stops. I had to put it down several times to just catch my breath and my thoughts. I finally just had to stay up late to finish it. Luckily, my edition had the first chapter of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest so I can wait until the paperback comes out in early 2012 to read the final novel.

If you haven't read the first book, I highly recommend it. I don't think I've ever read a character as interesting, intriguing and complex as Lisbeth Salander.

Final Take: 5/5


Thursday, November 24, 2011

We just wanted to say...

From all of us to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Jenn's Review: The Sea of Monsters

Summary:  After a summer spent trying to prevent a catastrophic war among the Greek gods, Percy Jackson finds his seventh-grade school year unnervingly quiet. His biggest problem is dealing with his new friend, Tyson—a six-foot-three, mentally challenged homeless kid who follows Percy everywhere, making it hard for Percy to have any “normal” friends. But things don’t stay quiet for long. Percy soon discovers there is trouble at Camp Half-Blood: the magical borders which protect Half-Blood Hill have been poisoned by a mysterious enemy, and the only safe haven for demigods is on the verge of being overrun by mythological monsters. To save the camp, Percy needs the help of his best friend, Grover, who has been taken prisoner by the Cyclops Polyphemus on an island somewhere in the Sea of Monsters, the dangerous waters Greek heroes have sailed for millennia—only today, the Sea of Monsters goes by a new name…the Bermuda Triangle. Now Percy and his friends—Grover, Annabeth, and Tyson—must retrieve the Golden Fleece from the Island of the Cyclopes by the end of the summer or Camp Half-Blood will be destroyed. But first, Percy will learn a stunning new secret about his family—one that makes him question whether being claimed as Poseidon’s son is an honor or simply a cruel joke.

Review:  Well, Rick Riordan did it!  As much as I tried to read something else, I couldn't seem to walk away from Percy Jackson.  I love these books! While Riordan's series certainly starts off as a middle grade read, it's so entertaining and well written that I don't think it should be limited by it's label. The writing combines  fantastic action sequences with enthralling tales.

I love how the gods pop in and out of Percy's life.  But the question always lingers about their motives for helping him.  Do they want to see him succeed, or are they manipulating him for their own gain?  Will history repeat itself?  Or can Percy learn lessons from the original myths and use them to his advantage?

Though I liked the The Lightning Thief better, there are still plenty of captivating plot twists most of which I didn't see coming.  I love the addition of Tyson to this story, I think it let us see a side of Percy we hadn't seen before...  not to mention it is a test of his moral compass. For a while, Percy struggles with having Tyson in his life as he finds it difficult to see beyond his own embarrassment.  It takes a Sea of Monsters for Percy to learn that popular opinion is not as important as your own good judgement and in the end your friends are the ones who have your back.  He also learns some empathy for the plights of others, a lesson that many middle schoolers struggle with.

I also love to see his friendship with Annabeth deepening.  They are learning to count on one another and put aside their parent's differences (another  important lesson for every generation to learn, be they heroes or mortals).  They don't always see eye to eye, but they both have their strengths and they balance each other out nicely.

There is a huge twist at the end that I did not see coming but it was left with enough closure that I think I will be able to visit a few other books in my TBR pile before jumping back in to the Percy Jackson series. I don't want to rush it. This is a series to savor.

Final Take:  3.75/5


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book to Movie: Salem Falls

Summary: Based on the best-selling Jodi Picoult book, former teacher Jack McBradden moves to Salem Falls after a student's crush led to false accusations and a wrongful conviction for sexual assault. He finds a job and settles into a new routine, but everything turns when a trio of teenage girls with dark secrets (lead by manipulative Gillian Duncan) maliciously target Jack with accusations of assaulting Gillian in the woods. Now at the center of a modern day witch-hunt, Jack must once again proclaim his innocence to a town searching for answers and the woman who has come to love him.

Review: Salem Falls is one of my favorite books by Jodi Picoult. I read it before I began blogging or I'd link you to my review. I think why I liked it so much is that the characters were so believable and genuine. Do I remember the details of the book, not really but I remember enough to say that the movie is pretty close to it. I think that's because Ms. Picoult is a Executive Producer on this one. I wouldn't say I'm a huge fan of James Van Der Beek but I don't dislike him either. He was definitely convincing as Jack and gave an understated performance. Sarah Carter was also excellent as Addie.

I definitely remember disliking Gillian and that doesn't change here either. For me, there was nothing redeeming about her until the end when the big reveal happened. Although even knowing that revelation, I still didn't have much sympathy watching the movie.

The movie is slow-paced and it doesn't really leave a lot of time to develop the relationship between Addie and Jack. You pretty much have to buy into it within 30 minutes. Perhaps this is because most of the viewers will have read the book and it's assumed you know all the background.

I was happy that Lifetime didn't shy away for the taboo subject matters that Salem Falls deals with because they could have easily swept it away.

All in all I enjoyed the movie, but if you haven't read the book, go pick it up. You won't regret it.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Monday, November 21, 2011

And The Winner Is...

Congratulations to Tiffany Drew, you have won our copy of If You Give a Kid a Cookie, Will He Shut the F**k Up?: A Parody for Adults.

An email should be waiting for you, please respond with your mailing address so we can get you the book ASAP!!

Thanks to everyone for entering.

As usual GJR used to generate the winner.

Thanks again to St. Martin's Press for providing the giveaway!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Children's Corner: Thanksgiving Day

Review: Thanksgiving Day has been been a staple in our house since my daughter was about 1 year old. We read it every year starting in October and yes, I've taken to hiding it so I don't have to read it in the middle of July. I love the book because it explains the history of Thanksgiving while not getting too complicated. Essentially, the kids in the class put on a play about the first Thanksgiving. Each of them play a role and tell the story.

The illustrations are full of vibrant colors and big so the younger kids have no problem seeing the details. The kids are also diverse, which I think is important to show kids that not everyone looks a like and not everyone has the same Thanksgiving traditions.

I'm sure over the next week this book will be read every night in preparation for the big day. If you are looking for a book or another book to add to your pile on Thanksgiving I definitely recommend Thanksgiving Day.

Hope that all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Julie's Review: The Other Queen

Summary: For years Philippa Gregory’s readers have been asking her to write a novel about Mary Queen of Scots—a request she now fulfills with a tale as engrossing as any she has ever written. A heroine everyone recognizes but few truly know, Mary Queen of Scots is remembered mostly for her death on the scaffold than for her turbulent, romantic life. In The Other Queen, Philippa Gregory resurrects Mary and her world by way of a chapter from her life that is all but forgotten: Mary’s long imprisonment as a “guest” of the Earl of Shrewsbury and his wife, Bess of Hardwick. With the earl and his wife, whose fortune and marriage are jeopardized by the extraordinary woman under their charge, Gregory has found the perfect means for understanding Mary herself, a queen who will lie, seduce, plot, and sacrifice the lives of thousands in her quest to regain her Scots throne—and to take over Queen Elizabeth’s.

Review: The Other Queen is not Ms. Gregory's strongest novel. Honestly, if it wasn't for the 2011 TBR Challenge I probably would have put it down or skimmed the remainder of the book. I will start by saying that is very unlike me and especially with her novels. Typically, they captivate me from beginning to end.

Part of it had to do with the fact that there were not any truly likable characters. I admired Bess but I wouldn't trust her and sure as heck wouldn't count on her to have my back in time of strife. While I did try to like Mary Queen of Scots I just couldn't do it. As beautiful as she was on the exterior, she was a horrible individual in her soul. She thought she was untouchable and divine.I guess back then the royals hadn't learned that they were human just like the rest of us.

You pretty much guess from the beginning of the novel that the Earl and Lady of Shrewsbury housing the Queen of Scots isn't going to turn out well for them. Not only does it pretty much bankrupt them but well it seems that her charms are irresistible for men. I found the Earl to be weak minded and while he thought he rules the house, you knew it was Bess. He states several times how loyal he is to Queen Elizabeth but honestly in the end, the only one truly loyal to the Queen of England was Bess. Although in the end there was something in it for her.

Some might not like Queen Elizabeth and I guess she's not a truly likable person, but she ruled the only way she knew how, by fear. She surrounded herself with people who had their own agendas and at times didn't truly serve the Queen. I guess not much has changed in politics, Monarchy or Democracy.

I would not recommend this to be your first Philippa Gregory novel unless you want to read about Mary Queen of Scots. Even then this only captures three years of her life.

I am looking forward to starting to read her Cousin's War books soon though. The Lady of the Rivers: A Novel (The Cousins' War), The Red Queen: A Novel (The Cousin's War) and The White Queen: A Novel (Cousins' War).

Final Take: 3/5

Lisa reviewed it too!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Congratulations to Kristin L you have won the giveaway copy of  It's a Waverly Life by Maria Murnane.

An email should be waiting for you, please respond with your mailing address so we can get you the book ASAP!!

Thanks to everyone for entering.

As usual, GJR used to generate the winner.


Julie's 2012 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge List

Photobucket This will be my one of 4 reading challenges for the 2012 and is perfect for me to make another serious dent in my pile! I have to thank Adam at Roof Beam Reader  for dreaming up this challenge that makes me  finally read 12 books from your "to be read" pile, within 12 months:  The 2012 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.

The details:
Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile. 2.  You must write an original review/response (it doesn’t have to be anything fancy) for each book, to help us ensure you are actually completing the books you say you are.

Julie's Twelve Selected Reads (in Random Order*) :

1. Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
2. Look Again by Lisa Scottoline  Reviewed on 2/16/2012
3. The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard Reviewed on 3/14/2012
4. My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster Reviewed on 4/9/2012
5. The Lotus Eaters by Tatyana Soli
6. The Stuff That Never Happened by Maddie Dawson
7. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel DNF
8. Innocent by Scott Turow
9. Petty Magic by Camille DeAngelis
10. A Friend of the Family by Laura Grodstein Reviewed on 3/9/2012
11. Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen
12. True Colors by Kristin Hannah
Two Alternate Reads:

1. The Lost Hours by Karen White Reviewed on 7/25/2012
2. Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian Reviewed on 12/11/2012

I'm excited because a lot of these books have been sitting around for a year or longer, not for lack of wanting to read them but lack of time!

I'll be updating this post with my reviews and also labeling any reviews that are related to this challenge as such.

Care to join me on the quest? Here's the link to sign up:

The 2012 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge.  But HURRY!  You need to have your list posted be 12/31, so start compiling...