Monday, September 29, 2014

Movie Review: The Fault in our Stars by John Green

I'm probably the only YA book blogger that did not see this movie in the theater, but I knew I would make a spectacle of myself if I watched it public.

I picked it up from the library last week for our family movie night.  The first time we saw images of Hazel as a child in the hospital my eyes started to water.  My son started poking my husband and pointing at me.  His response was..."This is nothing new.  You should watch Titanic with Mom".  Preston then went and brought me a box of tissues.  

The movie was exceptionally well done.  The acting was great and the movie stuck to the story line.  Several of my favorite lines from the book were in the movie, which brought a smile to my face...even with the difficult subject matter.

The only thing I wish they would have included from the book was the conversation Isaac had with his Ophthalmologist.  I work for several Ophthalmologists, so I found it to be ridiculously funny in the book.  It wasn't a substantial part of the story, so I understand why it wasn't included in the film...but it would have been great if they could have found a way to include it.

The trip to Amsterdan was absolutely perfect.  Van Houten was just as vile as I remember, but Hazel and Augustus's date more than made up for it.  It was a trip of a lifetime for both of them.  Here is a picture from Amsterdam.

Of course they couldn't leave out the swing set.

This has to be one of the best movies I have seen in a while.  If you read the book, it is a MUST see, but I think anyone will enjoy it.  My husband described it as a chick flick, but he watched the entire film and seemed to enjoy it.  I had to cover Preston's eyes at one point, but there is really only one scene that I would consider to be inappropriate for someone under 13.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Marathon Monday: Ohio State 4 Miler

This weekend was the Ohio State 4 Miler.  It is only the second year for the event, which raises money for the Ohio State cancer hospital.  Last year there were 10,000 participants and this year it sold out with 12,000 runners/walkers.

My son, Preston, and I had a rematch of our 4th of July race.  Fortunately, this time I came out ahead.
I finished the 4 miles in 34:53 with an average pace of 8:44 min/mile.  I was 77th out of 1057 finishers in my age group (35-39) and 387th out of 6762 females that finished.

Preston finished in 36:57 with an average pace of 9:15 min/mile.
He was 131st out of 456 in his age group and 1,233rd out of the 4,133 male finishers

Preston's place finishes aren't exactly fair since his age group was 3-19 and he is only 9.  I can't believe they didn't have a 10 and under category.  I don't know how they expect an elementary school kid to compete with a high school kid. At least he had fun!!

Here is a picture before the start inside the stadium.  You can see the finish line behind us on the 50 yard line.

Here area couple of pictures at the start of the race.

Here we are with our medals.  This is the first race Preston has run in that gave medals to all of the finishers.  He was REALLY excited.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)

It has been over two and a half years since I finished reading Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I honestly could not remember who Isla was prior to starting the book, but I did not feel bad once I remembered.  She had a VERY small part in Anna and the French Kiss.  She is a year younger than Anna and Etienne and attends SOAP...the School of America in Paris.  She has a huge crush on Josh, who was good friends with Etienne, and is a very talented artist in her grade.

Both Josh and Isla are from New York City and have attended the School of America in Paris together for three years.  They are both home for the summer between their junior and senior year and bump into each other at a local cafe.  Isla just had her wisdom teeth removed and is more outgoing than normal, thanks to some pain killers.  This was just the thing these characters needed to break the ice.  Isla has been in love with Josh since her freshman year and he has secretly been interested in her as well.

After visiting Paris last year I was really excited to read this story, which included many of the sites I visited.  Isla's best friend since childhood, Kurt, is obsessed with the catacombs, the underground tunnel system in Paris.  If you have never been there, here are a couple of the pictures I took.  It isn't something most tourists know about, but I would HIGHLY recommend taking a tour if you are even in Paris.  

I'm sure everyone wants to know how Anna, Etienne, Lola and Cricket are woven into this story, but I'm not going to spoil it for you.  I will simply say that Stephanie had a brilliant way of bringing all of these characters together for a short period of time.  Isla has a chance to interact with Josh's friends and we are able to see how their lives and relationships have progressed.

The one thing I can say about Stephanie Perkins is that she writes the most lovable characters.  They are all very unique and their stories are far from perfect.  They make mistakes along the way, but they become better people because of what they learn on their journey.  While I always appreciate a Happily Ever After, it has a greater impact when it doesn't come handed to you on a silver platter.  This is a brilliant series that I consider a MUST read for any young adult fan.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Little Bee

This book was recommended to me by one of the physicians I work with quite some time ago.  One of my blog friends gave it one star and another co-worker said it was "okay", so I have been putting it off.  I needed an audio book and this was available, so I downloaded it.

This book was well outside my comfort zone, but it was a thought provoking story.  It is a fictional story about two British journalists, Sarah and Andrew O'Rourke, who travel to Nigeria on vacation.  At the time, there are oil wars going on and there is a lot of violence in the area.  They venture outside of their hotel compound and encounter two Nigerian girls and some "soldiers" for lack of a better term.  The journalists return to England, but the events that took place in Nigeria have irreparably altered them.  

The story is told from both Sarah and Little Bee's point of view.  (Little Bee is one of the Nigerian girls.)  When we are first introduced to Little Bee she is in a British Immigration Detention center.  She fled Nigeria after the encounter with the journalists for her own safety and is seeking refuge from Great Britain. Sarah and Little Bee's worlds eventually collide and their story unfolds in this novel.

Overall, I thought this book was okay.  I debated between giving it 2 or 3 stars and settled on 3 because it is well written and I can appreciate the author's message about immigration.  The story just wasn't my cup of tea.  It portrays fear and terror and contains a lot of violence.  The ending was also left open, which I don't usually care for.  In this case, the reader can put two and two together to interpret what happens, but the ending is very depressing.  That is probably why the author did not include the additional few pages it would have taken to tie up the loose ends.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars

This is one of the books that I picked up at BEA a few months ago.  I was fortunate enough to receive a copy, but I honestly think this was the longest line I had to wait in the entire convention.  

We Were Liars has a very Kennedy feel to it.  The Sinclair family is extremely wealthy and owns an island a few miles from Martha's Vineyard.  Tipper and Harris Sinclair live in the largest house on the island and built three additional houses for their three daughters.  Each summer their children and grandchildren spend the entire summer relaxing and playing on the island.  Their three daughters are very materialistic and spend a lot of time fighting over who will inherit the houses, money, art...all the way down to the tablecloths.

Three of the grandchildren (Johnny, Mirren, and Cadence) are close in age and develop a strong friendship, but they only interact with one another during the summers.  Mirren's mother is divorced and brings her new boyfriend and one of his nephews, Gat, for the summer.  He is the same age as the three cousins and becomes the fourth member of The Liars.  He returns each summer and is essentially part of the family.  During their fifteenth summer on the island, Cadence was involved in an accident.  She can't remember what happened and has terrible migraines as a result.  The doctors advised her mother to let Cadence remember the events on her own, so nobody in the family will tell her what happened.

The majority of the book takes place two years after the accident...summer seventeen.  Cadence returns to the island for the first time since the accident and begins to remember small details about summer fifteen.  I was absolutely shocked when Cadence eventually pieces everything together.  Until the last thirty pages I NEVER would have suspected the ending.  In retrospect, there were clues throughout the book, but they were very subtle.  I was so emotionally involved and connected with the characters that the ending brought me to tears.

This is the first book written by E. Lockhart that I have read and it was well worth the wait in line at BEA.  I gave it five out of five stars on Goodreads and would highly recommend it.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Movie Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

While my son and I found this movie to be very entertaining, I can't recall another book to movie that deviated this far from the original story.  I have to wonder how much Rick Riordan was involved in the making of the movie.  What were his thought about the changes that were made?

Here is a picture of the main characters: Percy, Annabeth, and Grover.  

Here is a picture of Athena, Zeus, and Poseidon.

I thought the costumes, casting, sets, and action scenes were excellent, but why did they have to change so much of the story line?  Their mode of transportation during the quest was different from the book.  They never encountered Ares while on their quest, which was a HUGE part of the book.  How they got the pearls, what happened to Smelly Gabe, Luke's involvement at the end of the movie....  The list of differences goes on and on.

If a middle school teacher is looking for a highly entertaining book for his or her students to read that will appeal to both boys and girls...I would highly recommend The Lightning Thief.  You can easily decipher which students tried to take the easy way out and watched the movie instead of reading the book.  In fact, I used this as an educational opportunity with my nine year old son.  We discussed how movies always have some differences from the book and teachers will ask questions to see if you read the book or simply watched the movie.  If for some reason you are having difficulty getting through a book, it is best to get an unabridged audio book and take that route before a test.  Never rely on the movie.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

My nine year old son and I started reading this book together at the beginning of the summer.  It has been on my TBR list for a long time, but I don't know if it ever would have made it to the top of the list if Preston hadn't selected it when we were at the library.  It is an excellent mix of Greek mythology and current times.  My son was not aware of any of the Greek Gods and their stories, so we spent a lot of time discussing each of the characters and their history when they were introduced.  (This was one of the few times my four years of Latin came in handy.)

Now that I have completed the book, I have to say this cover is PERFECT!!  I didn't really understand the meaning behind it until close to the end of the story.  The water, lightning, New York City skyline, and specifically the Empire State Building are all significant aspects of the story.  Much like the Harry Potter series, this is a book that parents can share with their children that will captivate and entertain both adults and children alike.

Percy Jackson has been kicked out of one boarding school after the next.  No matter how hard he tries trouble always seems to find him.  He lives with his mother during the summers and has never met his father. He eventually discovers that his father is one of the Greek Gods, but he has no idea which one.  When a monster attacks Percy and his Mother he ends up at Camp Half-Blood, which is a safe haven for the children of the Gods.  They learn to fight and try to discover their true identities.  While participating in a game of capture the flag one of Percy's talents is revealed, which in turn reveals his father's identity.  

Shortly after Percy's arrival at Camp Half-Blood it is discovered that someone has stolen Zeus's lightning bolt. Percy sets out on a quest to find the lightning bolt, clear his father's name of any wrong doing, and to prevent a war between the big three Gods...Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.  Accompanying him on the quest is Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and a satyr named Grover.  Satyrs are half human and half goat.  

I've already requested a copy of the movie from the library and it is ready for pick up.  We should have time to watch it this Friday, so I will have a review either this weekend or sometime next week.  Preston also asked me to pick up the next book in the series, so we will be reading The Sea of Monsters next. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: Still Point by Katie Kacvinsky

Happy Book Birthday to Katie Kacvinsky and Still Point!!  

Still Point is the third and final book in the Awaken trilogy.  It is about a futuristic society in which technology has taken over.  There is very little face to face interaction and just about everything is done through a computer.  The grass and trees are plastic, dating is done exclusively online, and everything you do is monitored.  Maddie and her friends, who are referred to as the Digital School Dropouts, have been fighting to unplug society and bring back face to face schools.

There is a new character introduced in this book, which definitely adds a twist to the story line.  Jax was intercepted by Justin and his team of dropouts when he was about to get arrested for fighting the digital system.  Since then, he has been helping the cause in a more behind the scenes fashion.  Maddie met him during an online museum tour when she was still in Digital School and decides to contact him to see if he will help their cause.  I don't want to give away any spoilers, but he becomes an integral part of the story.  He teaches Maddie that there is a Middle Ground (Hint Hint...that is the name of the second book in the series) and she doesn't have to be such an extremest.  We can use technology as a tool, but we don't need to rely on it for everything.

This series should be considered required reading for most of the younger population.  I'm just as guilty as the next person when it comes to constantly checking messages on my phone and tweeting friends hundreds of miles away while ignoring the people sitting in the same room with me.  This series not only brings to light an escalating problem in our society, but really encourages readers to evaluate their own behavior.  I'm going to make a conscious effort to limit the amount of time I spend online outside of work.  I really don't need to check my Facebook and Twitter accounts countless times a day.  Katie teaches us that we need to focus on the now and live in the moment or life will simply pass us by.

I would like to thank Katie and her publisher for providing an ARC of Still Point.  I thoroughly enjoyed this series and would highly recommend it to all of my friends and followers who enjoy YA.