The Hunger Games does not disappoint! Whew! Thank goodness!

I was worried. Hopeful, but still worried. Thankfully, my fears were laid to rest. The Hunger Games was AWESOME!  They captured the essence of the book, left every major part intact and they added new, additional material that made the narrative even more effective–nicely done, Hollywood, nicely done indeed!

We all know that Hollywood has been known for ruining strong source material before and so, I was rightfully concerned. I was encouraged by a few things: I like writer/director Gary Ross, he is known for creating believable characters in his films and he was working closely with source writer Suzanne Collins, which was encouraging and a good sign.  Then we had Jennifer Lawrence, who is very talented and fit the image of Katniss that I had created in my mind. Add Josh Hutcherson, who I believe is underrated and will have a big future and Woody Harrelson, who is brilliant and I dare say I was a little excited. Finally, the first trailer impressed me (and motivated me to read Collin’s Trilogy, which I loved!).  And all though there were many reasons to be excited, that still did not guarantee a success. 

Well, they did it!  The Hunger Games delivers on all of its potential and then some! 

Ross was able to take his time and introduce all the characters and set up the world properly (as well as allude to the future installments).  Lawrence and Hutcherson were amazing!  Each embodied the spirit of Katniss and Peeta and yes, Harrelson continues his brilliance.  Also add the ever-entertaining Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks (who was the perfect Effie!), Donald Sutherland (a convincing villain) and the unexpected Lenny Kravitz (who was lovely as Cinna!) and you have a great cast of excellent actors!

Of course the stand out is Lawrence.  She carries this film on her shoulders. At this point of the story she is the primary player and Lawrence is able to infuse Katniss with strength and determination, as well a vulnerability and uncertainty.  Absolutely wonderful!  There is a scene in which she is trembling with fear and my heart went out to her–this young woman is going to have a long and brilliant career.

Another great thing is that they successfully created the world of Panem, from the lush forest and poverty of the districts to the cold beauty of the Capital.  And The Game arena was just as I imagined.  The special effects were perfect–from the critters to death announcements.  It is always fun when you get to see what has played out in your mind come to life! 

I have heard some complainants about the level of violence and/or the lack of violence. Here I will have to side with the PG-13 rating.  Yes, it would have been nice to see more gore (like in the books) but I think it would have excluded too much of the target audience. I thought it was just enough–sometimes I think it is more disturbing to leave it to your imagination. 

 

The other negative remark I have heard has been about the “love triangle” situation.  First, let me state that the book does a better job of clarifying Katniss’ intentions towards Peeta (she is playing “the game” of love, to get positive response, which leads to help from the sponsors, in order to survive), but the film does hint at this–you just have to be paying attention.  One of the things I love about Katniss is her clear focus on survival–she will do anything to protect her family and she lets nothing stand it the way of that.  The “love triangle” is not a motivating factor in anything that she does.  Love grows naturally, slowly and understandably so with time, but it is NOT and should not be the main selling point of this narrative.

I will end by saying that I went with my man-friend, who has yet to read the novels, and he was completely impressed with the film and the world he was introduced to.  He stated that it was intelligent, creative and engrossing.  Now, he is going to read the books, (that up to this point he has been hesitant to read because of their Young Adult status). YES!  Hooked!  Welcome to club, my friend!

As you all know the film is a hit! YAY!  And everyone has signed up to finish the trilogy.  So, next up? Catching Fire.  Now the only question left is: How am I suppose to survive until November of 2013?? 

The Strain Trilogy ends perfectly with The Night Eternal

The Night Eternal was the last act and despite some unexpected religious overtones–it was a satisfying conclusion.  Now I can’t wait for the movies!  This trilogy was a very creative and unique addition to the vampire mythology.  They’re written in such a vivid, detailed way that a film adaptation seems only natural (I’m keeping my fingers crossed!) 

I already reviewed the first two installments–The Strain and The Fall–and as stated, I was anxiously awaiting the last one.  I read it 3 days!  I could not put it down. 

Del Toro and Hogan spin a very convincing tale.  I loved the unexpected developments.  After the surprising cliffhanger of The Fall, I was not sure what the world would be like.  The story picks up three years after and I was impressed with new world order that they created.  A world full of blood camps and rebel cells.  Very clever! 

Another strong development is the change of “hero” status of our protagonist.  Eph Goodweather is falling apart and is more of a hinderance than a help.  He gives a new meaning to anti-hero.  It leaves most of the good to be done by Vasiliy Fet, Nora Martinez and Mr.Quinlan (the awesome half-breed who is a major badass).  Former gang member Gus Elizalde, continues to be a badass and has some great moments in this book.  There are many awesome new character turns.

We also get the entire back story on the Master and that is where some “out of the blue” religious origins are explained.  It is a bit odd and mystical, but it is not enough to ruin the story.  I love the relationship that develops between the Master and Zach (Eph’s son)–it is one built on lies and manipulation and it is brilliantly constructed. 

So, if you want to get lost in a cleverly told story that is way more than just a vampire fantasy–settle in with this trilogy–it will be a captivating read!

The Hunger Games Trilogy lived up to the hype! Sweet!

All The Hunger Games hoop-la is real!  Suzanne Collins has created a fast paced, well crafted, addictive narrative.  Her universe is complete and fascinating.  I love it when it is hard to put down the book–you just have to know what is going to happen! Awesome!  The best part are the characters, which are some of the most realistic I’ve read in a young adult novel. 

I am not opposed to young adult literature–Harry Potter, Pendragon series, and House of Night–are a few of the stand outs, but sometimes the angst can be too much and so I tend to be cautious when approaching a new series.  I also am weary of the mainstream “popular” books because 80% of the time–I am NOT mainstream. 🙂  After seeing the new trailer for the upcoming film adaptation I became more interested and thought why not? I will check it out–and I am so glad I did!

The setting is sometime in a possible future of what could be earth (never really stated) and after several rebellions and revolutions the control fell to “The Capital” and the country Panem, which was divided into 12 Districts, now lives under their dictatorship.  As a reminder of their control and as a deterrent for future rebellions they hold an annual “Hunger Game” where 2 tributes (male and female) from each district must compete in a televised death match, that is mandatory viewing for all citizens of Panem.  This premise has been done before–Running Man, etc–but what sets this apart are the characters.

The two tributes (& main characters) from District 12 are: Katniss Everdeen, a strong-willed, determined young woman, who realistically has some intimacy issues and struggles with emotions.  Her driving motivation is survival.  Period.  And Peeta Mallark, who is sensitive and quietly intelligent. He is the opposite of Katniss and relies on his emotions to function.  The entire supporting character list is perfect (Haymitch–Cinna–Gale).  Each contributes to the story in vital ways–there are no fluffy, throw away people–everyone has a purpose. 

I appreciate the politics and moral questions that Collins addresses.  This is a world full of suffering and pain and she does not shrink away from being brutally honest about the reality of that.  I am glad young adults are reading this–I hope it starts some conversations about making a stand and a difference in our world.    

You know me–I will not give away plot points or summarize the story for you.  I want you to read it!!  Lose yourself in the intricate universe Collins has created.  You will not regret it! 

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Asterios Polyp is a work of genius!

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David Mazzucchelli has created a masterpiece.  A shining example of what a Graphic Novel can accomplish and convey.  Although combining words and pictures has been a successful medium for many years, recently the art form has received the attention it deserves.  Asterios Polyp is one Graphic Novel that has garnered awards and accolades and it is all well deserved.   

Asterios Polyp, at its core, is a simple story.  It chronicles a man’s journey to find himself as his world falls apart.  He remembers his past and contemplates his place in the world.  You discover who Asterios really is, almost at the same time he does. 

Mazzucchelli uses clean lines, various drawing styles and specific colors to represent different characters, but what I loved was his use of negative space .In a story full of  heavy philosophical ideas, the white space helps to clarify–to target what is important.  The use of recurring visual cues to emphasize the character’s insecurities and feelings is brilliant and helps to deepen your connection to them.

Out of the many themes discussed in the novel–duality and faith seem to be the two that stayed with me.  Mazzucchelli’s simple style is only a another example of duality–because it is deceiving…it hides the immense complexities that tie the characters together.

I loved Asterios Polyp.  I feel like I will have to read it again to discover what else it is trying to tell me.  A novel that reveals itself to you, is a novel you will revisit over and over.  And that’s cool! 

The Strain & The Fall prove that Vampires DO NOT Sparkle!!

In fact, they are virus infected empty shells of their former selves on an endless search to quench their blood lust. (Whew! said that in one breath!)  And by the way, the sun is still the greatest weapon against them, because it BURNS them, not makes them shimmer.  Just sayin’! 

 The Strain Trilogy is off to an awesome start!  Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hoganhave joined forces and created a unique, imaginative take on classic Vampire lore.  The novels are a quick read–they’re short, about 300 pages & there is the fact that you can’t put them down–yet both linger in your consciousness.  I have a pretty tough constitution and I was a little creeped out–which is totally cool!!   

It all begins with the successful landing of a 777 in NYC.  And within a few minutes the plane is stopped, with no sign of life.  The mysterious occurence garners the attention of the CDC and Dr. Eph Goodweather is called to the scene.  And then as I like to say about most of my favorite books…people start dying!  🙂

I am going to give Del Toro credit for weaving a tale that plays like a movie in your head.  It is extremely visual and has the beats for a well constructed film.  I have not read anything else by Hogan, so it is difficult to feel his presence.  It screams Del Toro to me all the way.  While Cronin’s The Passage  plays like a thoughtful independent film–The Strain and The Fall play like blockbusters.  Moving fast with bad ass action and edge of your seat suspense. 

What was really cool though, were the insights into the victims minds.  It was heartbreaking and tough to experience their transformation.  I also fell in love with the main characters pretty quick. (Abraham Setrakian, Vasiliy Fet and Augustin Elizalde are my favorites.) 

The Strain focuses on the outbreak and the introduction of the main players.  The Fall focuses on the history of the Vampires and elaborates on the mythology.  It is one story–and must be read together–actually the second begins immediately where the first left off. 

So, what did I not like?  Well, they left me on a cliffhanger!  Of course!  The final act–The Night Eternal–is set to release on October 25,2011 and trust me I will be waiting in line.  Now, all I can hope for is that Del Toro will adapt and make the films he had in mind when he wrote this trilogy–that would totally ROCK!

Reading Eat, Pray, Love was an interesting journey…

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 I will admit that I was worried.  Would I relate to Eat, Pray, Love A rich, white woman travels around the world for a year to find herself.  Oh, woe is she!  Really?  Yet, I had heard nothing but rave reviews from friends and I enjoyed the film adaptation, so I decided to give it a try.  And I am glad I did!  Elizabeth Gilbert won me over with her easy writing style and self-effacing humor. 

Having been through a divorce and a self finding journey myself (although not around the world :)), I understood a lot of what Gilbert was experiencing.  I knew the yearning for enlightenment and the guilt of being unhappy.  And I as I read I grew a bond with her.  She was a sister in this adventure we call life. 

The novel is broken into three distinct sections.  Eat in Italy, which focused on pleasure (my favorite part).  Pray in India, which focused on devotion (dragged a bit, but LOVED Richard from Texas!).  And Love in Bali, which focused on self-love (my least favorite part, except for some cool discoveries).  

I understand the hoop-la now.  I am sure that many are afraid to ask the questions that Gilbert asked throughout and many more are terrified of truly looking at themselves–honestly and objectively.  Eat, Pray, Love allows the reader to share this journey of self discovery and in turn helps them begin the journey for themselves.

Take an unforgettable journey through The Passage

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that has engrossed me so completely, that I couldn’t stop thinking about it in between readings, and even now, that I’ve finished, I keep revisiting the story in my mind.  Wow!  What a journey.  A journey that had me puzzled (in a good way), tense, nervous and emotional.  I was lost in the world Justin Cronin had created and coming back to reality was difficult. 

I knew absolutely nothing going in.  Matt had read a little about it and said, “You have to read The Passage…I think you will like it!”  He was right.  And I am glad I went in without any expectations or prior knowledge of the storyline.  It was a happy surprise.

So, I do not want to say too much.  I will say that  it chronicles the beginning of the end of the world as we know it.  From a military research project gone awry to the postapocalyptic future, left in its aftermath.  Cronin has an easy writing style.  He is descriptive and functional, yet there are moments of poetry in how he describes settings or people.   I found myself writing little quotes down and reflecting on words that held so much meaning. 

The characters are fully realized.  Each whole and complete.  Cronin was able to this without spending a large amount of time in their history and thus, keeping the pace brisk.  I finished it in week–would’ve been sooner if not for work and sleeping! 

Go ahead and try it out.  You will know if it is your cup of tea within the first 50 pages or so.  If it isn’t–sorry.  If it is?  Get ready for an unforgettable ride!  I am sad it’s over, but I learned that this is the first of a planned trilogy, which is SWEET!  And makes me happy.  I am ready to go back. 

PS  The book has been optioned for a movie with Ridley Scott producing and Matt Reeves directing!  Hope it turns out as good as the book–but you know how that goes…

Jane Eyre revisited

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I have had a 30 year relationship with Charlotte Bronte‘s classic novel and every few years I find myself drawn to its pages.  Each time, I am excited to see what  new discoveries await among the familiar words.  The story I thought I knew so well surprises me and reveals a layer of itself that had remained hidden until I was ready, not only to find it, but to understand it.

It all started at the age of 10 when Mrs. Donovan, my 5th grade teacher, asked me to stay after class to talk–she had caught me reading a romance novel during class.  I was braced for the stern lecture on paying attention and the importance of not being distracted during the lessons, but instead I was met with a smile and a question.

“Do you like romance novels?”

“Not really.  There are a bunch of these books around the house.  They’re kind of boring, to be honest.  Very predictable.”

“I will make you a deal.  You can read after your work is done–except I will select the books and you will have assignments to complete throughout.”

“Okay.  That sounds like a good deal.”

The next day she handed me a dark hard bound book.  “We will start with Jane Eyre.  It does have romance…yet, it is much more and definitely not boring.”

And with those words and that keenly astute gesture, Mrs. Donovan changed my life. 

(As a side note–the books that followed were all memorable and opened my eyes to a whole new world–Wuthering Heights–How Green was My Valley–The Stranger–The Sun Also Rises–etc, etc–but, none captured my heart and imagination like Jane Eyre.)

Why such a strong a reaction to this story in particular?  Because Jane Eyre was the first character I related to on a personal level.  Like her, I was alone and felt the sting of feeling unloved.  Like her, I felt trapped by the expectations and standards of my environment.  Like her, I was full of passion and opinions.  Like her, I sought to be independent and free. 

“I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen: that I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach…I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes…”

Jane became my first and only role model for many years.  I wanted to be like her–to have the strength of her convictions and the determination she mustered.  Without realizing at the time, Charlotte’s pioneering feminist views would have a powerful influence on my life.  

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally; but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”

The interesting part is the constantly changing interpretation.  At different stages of my life I have walked away with a new meaning that relates to me.  I could see myself in her solitude.  I could see myself in her keen mind.  I could see myself in her forgiving nature.  In this last reading, I was amazed that I could see myself in her absolute love for Mr. Rochester! 

In all my visits to Jane’s universe, I had never truly believed in the soul mate kind of connection, in romantic terms–I may have subconsciously longed for it–but never truly believed.  This time I found myself stopping and rereading passages out loud to my Rochester–Matt Greene.  He would listen and smile or comment on the eerily similar feelings we had lived with for the last few years.  

“I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward’s society: he knows none of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.”

Honestly it kind of shocked me.  Wow!  Creepy and unexpected!  That I would find myself even more connected to Jane than I ever had previously.  I understood all of it now–and it was scary and yet, lovely.  I can only hope that I can live through my happily ever after.  Jane deserved it and so do I. 

I look back and I can not help but feel an immense gratitude to Mrs. Donovan.  What would my life  have been like without her handing me that book?  I shudder to think of my past without  Jane as my faithful companion.  Looking ahead, I wonder what else awaits me–what will Jane Eyre tell me 2 –5–10 years from now?  Only time will tell what my old friend has yet to share with me.  I look forward to it. 

P.S.  Follow this for my review of the most recent Jane Eyre film interpretation–

Tina Fey’s Prayer for her Daughter! Must share…

 

Tina Fey is one of my female crushes! And with that I mean I love everything about her–her humor, wit, intelligence and the grace in which she lives her life.  I had heard about her new book Bossypants and after this wonderful excerpt (shared by the lovely Sandra Greene) I am going to run to buy this book! AWESOME!  She speaks truth…

“First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance.Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. “My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.

Amen.”

-Tina Fey

The new Jane Eyre is not the best version out there…

   

I must begin by saying that I absolutely love Jane Eyre. It has been my favorite novel since I was 10 years old and I have read it many times.  Jane was my first role model.  In a childhood full of isolation and turmoil, I related to her and wanted to become like her–smart–strong-willed–independent–and completely realistic. 

The story of Jane’s life is intriguing.  It is full of gothic suspense and romance–but not the silly, rainbow and butterfly romance but a soul connection with the greatest anti-hero, Mr. Rochester.  (Who I blame for my life-long fascination with anti-hero that then resulted in my finding my own Rochester.  <3)

They are two halves of a whole.  To quote Rochester, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you (Jane)–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.”

Lovely.  And that is the bond that is missing in the latest Hollywood version. (And I have watched every rendition created!) The chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender never quite reaches that level of intimacy.  There are parts that are well executed, but most of it feels rushed.  I am a huge fan of the BBC version released in 2006, which is 4 hours in length and covers the novel more closely, but I have seen shorten takes–of other favorites–that work wonderfully–the last Pride and Prejudice was nicely done, as well as the brilliant Sense and Sensibility. So, I was open-minded, yet walked out unsatisfied–especially with the ending, which did not represent Jane as she should have been at the end of her journey.

Maybe I would have been more forgiving, if I were not so protective of these characters.  Maybe watching this without any earlier acquaintance to them would have allowed me to enjoy it for what it is–a simple retelling of a complicated tale. Maybe, but I can not undo my 30 year love affair with Jane Eyre–for I am afraid I may take to bleeding inwardly.

P.S.  Link to Jane Eyre revisited