‘Tis the Season for Fantasy, Thrillers, and Cheesy Holiday Rom-Coms!

Fa la la la la, la la, la, la! Am I one of those people? You bet I am. I love Christmas, and if it were even remotely acceptable to start celebrating in October, you bet I’d do that, too. But alas, I suppose two months of Christmas will have to be enough.

close up of christmas decoration hanging on tree

Photo by Gary Spears on Pexels.com

So it’s that time of year: the time to rewatch Harry Potter, Home Alone, The Grinch, and all the corny Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s also the perfect time to read all the thrillers, all the dark, atmospheric fantasy reads, and any wintery romance.

Of course, fantasies and thrillers are great to read any time of year, but isn’t it just so much nicer during the holidays? You can cuddle up in a warm fuzzy blanket, light a Christmas-y candle and read.

I say this like it actually gets cold where I am. Here in Hawaii, it doesn’t get below 70 degrees, so if I want to do any burrowing, I have to crank up the AC. But still!

51N8TdfrZ6LSo let’s talk about some of the books I’m planning on reading this holiday season! The first one is so obviously Christmas: My True Love Gave to Me is a collection of 12 short stories all set during the holidays. This will be perfect to read in the days leading up to holiday; I can read one story for each of the 12 days of Christmas! I’m especially excited to read the stories by Holly Black, Jenny Han, and Stephanie Perkins, who is actually the one author who edited and put the stories together.

9781492656623Next, I plan to read Furyborn, a fantasy from Claire Legrand about two women one thousand years apart. From what I hear, it’s full of magic and action, and it sounds like the perfect book to curl up with and read with a cup of hot chocolate. Several of my friends have already read this and said amazing things about this, plus I’m excited to read Sawkill Girls by the same author!

9781101985380_p0_v2_s550x406Final Girls by Riley Sager has been on my TBR ever since it came out, and I can just see myself huddling deeper under my covers and cuddling with my husband while I read this, scared out of my mind. This is about a group of women who are the lone survivors are horror movie-like situations. I’ve been interested in this story since the moment I first heard the synopsis, so I’m pumped to finally dig into this in the next few months! Maybe not the spirit of Christmas but the perfect book to keep you company during the winter months.

9780142412145Another very obvious choice is Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle. This is three different stories about a snowstorm in a town called Gracetown by three different authors. It sounds like the perfect formula for a cozy, adorable read that’s going to make my heart burst with happiness and Christmas cheer. Bring on the cheese, John Green! I’m ready!

815D5sneiNLThe last title I’m going to include in this collection is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This looks like the absolute perfect novel to get me through the cold nights of the AC blowing on my face… wait. Disregard. It will still be perfect magical read for the season!

I’d love to know what you lovely people will be reading during the holidays! Let me know in the comments below so that I can add those titles to my TBR!

BOOK REVIEW: Hank Green “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing”

An-Absolutely-Remarkable-ThingTitle: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing

Author: Hank Green

Genre: Science Fiction

My Rating: 5/5 stars

 

If you’re familiar with John Green’s work and expect this to be similar, you’re going to need to undergo a complete mind-wipe before digging into this masterpiece of a book. Not that John isn’t fabulous in his own way, but Hank’s style is so distinctly his.

Plus all of John’s books are about angsty teenagers who talk like hipsters in their mid-thirties. And Hank’s debut novel is science fiction with an extremely complicated adult main character.

So that’s one thing that needs to be cleared up right away: Hank’s novel is marketed to adults, although it can be a great bridge from YA to adult. The content isn’t necessarily too adult, but all of the main characters are grown-ups well out of college.

This story follows April May, who happens across a sculpture on her way home from work late one night. She’s captivated by it and on a whim, she calls up a friend of hers to come take a look. April tells him to bring his filming equipment, and the decide to make a video featuring their new friend, who they lovingly name Carl.

The next day, April wakes to find that their video has gone viral. Not only that, but their’s isn’t the only Carl; there are 63 others circling the globe, and nobody knows how they got there.

So this starts out as a look at sudden fame and how different people deal with it. April and her friend are immediately thrust into this world of interviews and social media, and they both have to learn how to adapt. It’s interesting to see how April reacts, regardless of how little she cared for media and the news before her newfound celebrity status. She makes some poor decisions throughout her journey, and while it sometimes makes her unlikable, it makes her feel very real.

However, some new information comes to light and the world slowly begins to realize that the Carls are not of their world.

So, aliens.

This makes April’s position, right smack in the middle of it, suddenly all the more interesting because not only was she one of the first to discover the existence of the Carls, she also may have been the first to make contact. The story shifts from being a human examination to an almost Ready Player One-like mystery, where the entire world has to work together to discover what the Carls want and why they’re there.

It’s absolutely fascinating, and I adored this book. I had doubts going into it, and the beginning was a little rough. I also wasn’t a fan of some of Hank’s style choices: unnecessary exclamation points and some ALL CAPS that made the writing seem more juvenile. However, once I got into the meat of the story, I forgave those things immediately in favor of an absolutely remarkable journey.

The characters were all relatable and likable (although as previously mentioned, not all the time). Hank seems to know humans very well because the events of the story unfold in such a way that I believed it could all actually happen. The pacing of this story was excellent and I was never once bored; in fact I read it cover to cover in less than 24 hours because I was so engrossed.

I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat. Those last 50 pages had me losing my mind. The ending was fantastic and it was the perfect bridge between this and the sequel. Yes, a sequel! I thought this might be a standalone but once you get to the end, you’ll agree that if Hank doesn’t give us a second book fast, we’re going to have to go to his house and force his hand.

Not really, Hank! I would never do that!*

This was a wonderful book and it’s the kind of story that stays with you after and makes you think about it for days. So naturally I’ve been bugging my husband about it ever since and he’s about done with me. Sorry honey, it’s what you signed up for when you married me!

 

*Seriously though, I will riot if I don’t get that sequel.

BOOK REVIEW: John Green “Turtles All the Way Down”

9780241335437Title: Turtles All the Way Down

Author: John Green

Genre: Contemporary

My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

If you read the synopsis provided, you would think this book was about a mysterious disappearance of a local billionaire and a rag-tag group of teens (including the billionaire’s son) who take it upon themselves to look for said missing person in hopes of cashing in on the reward. However, in actuality, this is but a very minor subplot to a story centered around Aza, a girl who suffers from severe anxiety and OCD.

In typical John Green fashion, characters often theorize about life and the meaning of it, recite and write poetry, and undergo philosophical and scientific discussions. Fortunately, it seems to add to the story rather than make the characters seem pretentious, which has been something Green has been accused of in the past. In fact, it lends itself to Aza’s instabilities because of her constant thought spirals and the way her imagination gets away from her and causes her to become horribly anxious.

This book has excellent representation of mental illness, and I believe this is partly due to John Green’s own struggles with OCD. It’s a very interesting yet sometimes graphic portrayal of this illness and I can say that I’m better for reading it.

That is to say that while I enjoyed this read, it was quite slow in parts. While it entertained in a way that only John Green can, it still seemed aimless and I struggled to see the point of the story. There didn’t seem to be any reason for the billionaire subplot and it was obviously far neglected in favor of the main plot, which I still have difficulty understanding.

Turtles All the Way Down is definitely not my favorite John Green novel, but it’s safe to say that despite it’s downfalls, this is a good addition to his repertoire.

John Green: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

Noteworthy Standalones

A struggle that I often find as a reader is standalones vs series. While I enjoy a good series, I hate having to wait for sequels to come out and ultimately, they’re a pain in my butt. I have to make sure they’re all the same editions and they’re either all paperback or all hardcover. I have to worry about covers matching and what they’re going to look like next to each other on my shelves. They’re way too much trouble. And sometimes, I want to read one book that I know is going to wrap up, and that’ll be the end of it. No cliffhangers, no need to wait for the rest of the books to be released; it’s all right there under one cover. It’s beautiful.

9780143567592One of the more popular, and one of my favorites, is by none other than John Green. The Fault in Our Stars has received mixed reviews, but I ultimately really enjoyed this book. John Green is always so quotable, and TFIOS is no exception. It’s a story about a girl who is fighting cancer and a boy who beat it, but also so much more than that. Green doesn’t always focus on the cancer-ness of our characters, but also doesn’t ignore it. It’s a theme, yes, but the love between them is central. The dialogue and characters are spot-on, and the book is has humor, heartbreak, and poignancy all rolled into one.

Siren_BookCoverA pleasant surprise for me was The Siren by Kiera Cass. After reading The Selection, I was so disappointed by the way women were represented in her stories. I hated that I hated every female character in her books, but I read The Siren because regardless, I still eat up her stories.

I absolutely loved it. I thought it was a beautiful, original, interesting story, and the relationships between the female characters was so heartwarming. For once, I didn’t want to choke all the characters in a Cass book! This was such an interesting, lovely read that I’m actually looking forward to picking up again soon.

71LkLmxqgjLThe next book is a popular Rainbow Rowell read: Eleanor & Park. It took me a long time to pick this up because I was skeptical, but I was so glad when I finally did. This was such a good, simple story about two very complex individuals who fall in love. They both have their struggles but they end up bonding over the things that make each other hurt, and I think that’s beautiful. At times, this was a really difficult book to read, and the ending tears my heart out, but I believe that in the end, the story is very rewarding.

1428026872053That’s not the only Rainbow Rowell selection I’m including here today. Next up is Fangirl, one of the cutest books you’ll ever read in your life. This is much more light-hearted compared to Eleanor & Park and has just a very sweet story. You’ll fall in love with every single character, and anyone who’s ever written or read fanfiction should easily relate to Cath, our MC.

16143347Next up is We Were Liars by E Lockhart, which is a mystery with a crazy plot twist at the end. I really loved reading this because while I love to try and predict the ending to these kinds of books, I love to be surprised. This book definitely surprised me, practically blew me away. It’s definitely worth the read, whether you liked the ending or not, and I’d definitely recommend this.

9781250050748One of my more recent reads was This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, which I loved. I was surprised by this book as well, but was so happy to have finally read it. This book deals with suicide and thoughts of it in such a great way that I appreciated. I wrote an actual review of this which you can check out here, but ultimately, this book was incredible and heartbreaking and I would definitely recommend it.

The_Book_ThiefThe last standalone I’ll be mentioning today is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is such an important, wonderful, interesting book that I think everyone should read. It’s so cleverly and brilliantly written and completely enjoyable. The narration was spectacular, and basically I can’t think of enough glowing adjectives to describe this book. Definitely a noteworthy standalone.

That’s all for today, folks. Obviously, there are many other wonderful standalones, but that’s for another time and post. I hope that by reading this, you’ve found a new book to add to your TBR list or at least find that you have a few things in common with me. Mahalo!

Hyped Books I Wasn’t Impressed With

We all know the feeling of reading a highly acclaimed novel that just didn’t live up to the hype. It’s disappointing and frustrating, especially when you feel like you’re the only person in the world who didn’t enjoy it and everyone else is giving it raving reviews.

16101128The first book that comes to mind for me is The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey. I remember reading this book and giving it an absolutely scathing review on Goodreads because I was so angry. Rick Yancey is a wonderful writer and The Monstrumologist series is one of my favorites (as you can see here). I had read the first Monstrumologist book before The 5th Wave was released and I was so excited to read more from such an amazing author. I expected gorgeous writing, complex characters and a unique story, and all I got was teen angst and a predictable, unoriginal alien invasion tale. I didn’t like any of the characters and I thought the writing was far inferior to that of his previous works. Now, I since have read The Infinite Sea and thought it was a little better, but that’s only because I lowered my standards. I have yet to read The Last Star and I’m not sure if I ever will.

Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Script_Book_CoverAnother ridiculously anticipated novel that I thought was garbage is The Cursed Child. This book doesn’t deserve to exist, and that’s me being nice. I loathed this. I’ve read Harry Potter fan fiction that was better than this. No, seriously; way better. The Cursed Child is about Harry Potter’s son, Albus, and his years at Hogwarts… and it spat on everything that the Harry Potter series was about. It made Harry out to be a horrible father, which makes no sense. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t have been more understanding of his son. None of the characters were true to the original story. It was a horrible mess and I refuse to accept this as a part of the series. It’s a piece of trash. That is all.

99561I love John Green, don’t get me wrong, but I never really saw the appeal of this book. And maybe that’s just me and I needed to be in a certain place in my life to appreciate the story. Unfortunately, I just didn’t get this. It was slow and boring and I didn’t really like any of the characters. I didn’t really get any deeper meaning it was trying to convey and I didn’t relate to it on any level. It all seemed sort of pointless to me.

City_of_BonesThe next one I feel is a series that everyone I know is in love with, and I just don’t understand it. I can’t stand Cassandra Clare or The Mortal Instruments. Whenever I hear anyone talking about what a great writer Clare is, I almost want to gag. I totally don’t want to offend anyone and I know that this is a well-beloved series. I just can’t see what’s so great about it, and it honestly grossed me out. It’s been a long time since I’ve read this book so the details are fuzzy, but I just remember being very unimpressed with the writing in the book and thinking it was quite subpar.

41rEe4pc3yL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I’m just going to say it: I thought If I Stay was really unoriginal and I did not see what all the hype was about. I’ve seen/watched so many other things with the same premise that I just wasn’t blown away by this at all. I kept waiting for something new or exciting to happen, but nothing did. However, I read the sequel on a whim and was taken very much surprise by it. I absolutely loved Where She Went. It was heartfelt and emotional and beautiful and I was so blown away. So I guess you could say that ultimately, I’m happy that I read If I Stay because I liked seeing what happened afterwards.

29749085One of the bigger disappointments that I’ve experienced recently has been from Queen Leigh Bardugo, and that was Wonder Woman: Warbringer. You can read my full review for all of my thoughts on this book, but let’s just say I expected so much more. The book was boring and the characters were stale and it felt like a less fun version of a Percy Jackson novel. I was just as excited for this book as the next person; I preordered it and I followed Bardugo’s book tour online and everything, but the book just fell short for me. I know that many people enjoyed it and I’m so glad they did. I wish I could have found that same enjoyment, but alas, I did not.

I realize that everyone has different tastes and preferences, and I totally respect that. Let me know which selections you agreed or disagreed with. Or let me know if there are titles that you yourself were disappointed in that should have been on this list. Mahalo!

Book-to-Movie Adaptations: the Good, the Bad, and the Unpopular Opinions

While booklovers get hyped when their favorite books get turned into movies/TV shows, most will swear that “the book is always better than the movie”. And in many cases, this is true. There are lots of amazing books that have been made into crappy movies. I’ve had my fair share of disappointments. However, some fellow bibliophiles might accuse me of blasphemy for saying: I actually like some movie adaptations better than the books.

*Gasps all around*

In all seriousness, it’s all a matter of preference. Some people won’t agree with the movies/books that I enjoyed, and I won’t agree with some of theirs. That’s just that. People have their opinions, and I have mine. This is simply a collection of several book-to-movie adaptations and my thoughts on each of them.

1.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This is a less controversial adaptation among book lovers, so I thought it best to start with this. The Hunger Games took the world by storm and was quickly adapted into what I believe is one of the better interpretations I’ll be talking about here. Many will agree that this series was successful, swooping in in the wake of Twilight’s final installment. These movies skyrocketed Jennifer Lawrence’s popularity as a person and an actress. I found that the movies were accurate enough and that the casting was well done. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Josh Hutcherson, but I believe he played the part of Peeta Mellark well.

My one complaint was the splitting up of Mockingjay into two parts. Even though it ended up turning out okay, I still think the two could have been easily condensed into one, seeing as this was the installment that had the least amount of action.

I give this adaptation a 4/5 stars. Definitely good, but not better than the books.

 

2.) Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Ah, I’ve had many a conversation about this particular series and the movies that followed. Generally, most can agree that this was a horrible adaptation. The movies didn’t really stay true to the books as far as accuracy or casting. And don’t get me wrong, I love Logan Lerman. I love Alexandra Daddario. In fact, 95% of the cast were, like, A+ actors and actresses that I really enjoy. But, Lerman is not Percy, and Daddario is not Annabeth. I mean, come on; her hair’s not even blonde. Get with the program, producers!

So yeah, this movie sucks as an adaptation. However, it’s quite entertaining, and because I like the actors so much, I really enjoy the movies. And I’ll watch the movies on occasion because I choose to think of the books and the movies as separate entities. As long as I don’t compare them, they’re both very enjoyable on their own.

3/5 stars, and definitely not as good as the books.

3.) Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein

There’s a good chance this section might get me murdered.

Let me start this off by saying I think that Tolkein is a very impressive author, and I admire him a great deal. He created an immersive, unique world and I am amazed by his skill and imagination. Which makes what I’m about to say very tough.

I just don’t like his books. 

I love the world and the characters and the different creatures and species he has created. But every time I try to pick up one of the books, I swear I start snoring. The series is just not for me. He manages to make the fight scenes bore me, and I just can’t get through his books without nodding off.

To all the hardcore LOTR fans out there, I’m truly sorry. It’s simply easier for me to remain engaged to the story when it’s in movie format, and that’s why I give the adaptation 4/5 stars and why I prefer the movies to the books.

The_Lord_of_the_Rings_TrilogyRingstrilogyposter

4.) Paper Towns by John Green

This may come as a surprise, but I actually quite liked the movie. This adaptation didn’t do as well as The Fault in Our Stars as far as the critics are concerned, but I enjoyed the heck out of it. It was funny and sweet, and it still had the same emotional impact that the book had on me, but with a much better ending.

(Spoiler in next paragraph.) That was my main complaint about the book, that I just hated the end. Up until that point, I enjoyed the characters and really loved the lesson that the story had to teach us, but I was torn up about the ending. When Quentin found Margo, she reacted horribly and I hated the way she treated him for it. He thought he had been doing a good, noble thing, and she made him feel bad. Their story just doesn’t wrap up good enough for me and I felt so dissatisfied. Yet in the movie, Margo was so much calmer and it made it easier on Q and easier for him to understand, and things were tied up so much nicer by the end. I wasn’t left with a yucky feeling when the credits rolled like I had when I had closed the book.

For these reasons, I liked the Paper Towns movie better than the book and I would give the adaptation 4.5/5 stars.

paper-towns2

5.) Divergent by Veronica Roth

This one could go either way with the YA crowd. Some thought this was a good adaptation, and some did not. I am one of those that did.

At the time, Divergent was such an important story for me. I loved Tris Prior with all that was in me. She was everything that I thought a heroine should be and seeing her in action in the Divergent film? It was amazing.

Divergent still holds a special place in my heart regardless of the small problems that I find with it today. Certain scenes from that movie still make me cry to this day, particularly when Tris runs with the Dauntless and jumps onto the train after the Choosing. I always watch it and think, “This is when Beatrice becomes Tris. This is when she’s born”. It moves me so deeply.

So maybe Divergent didn’t have the best special effects or dialogue; I got to watch a selfless girl from Abnegation become brave, and that’s why I love this movie. Still not better than the book, but I give it a 4/5 stars.

PS – don’t even talk to me about Insurgent and Allegiant. Those movies were train wrecks and I want them to burn.

 

I know there are many, many other adaptations that I didn’t include in this post, but I plan on posting a sequel in the near future. Let me know what you think of my observations, whether you agree or disagree with them. If you have suggestion for the follow-up post, let me know!