Gone Girl and Two Movie Review Updates

Before I start my review of Gone Girl I would like to take a moment to review the movies I saw over the weekend. I gave my predictions of both Mama and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters last Friday, and they both deserve an update.

I really enjoyed Mama. My prediction was fairly correct in that it did not haunt my dreams afterward, however it provided nice jolts throughout and the acting was great on most accounts. There was one thing (I won’t give anything away) that I did not like regarding a vision, but one fault in a horror is about as good as it gets. The ending (again no spoilers, I hate spoilers) was unexpected, but very much Guillermo del Toro style. I had my own idea of what was going to happen (something that tied into some information you get earlier on) and when it didn’t end that way I felt like it was a not the perfect ending. On the flip side I can’t say I was exactly disappointed either, it may not have been perfect, but it was the next best conclusion. Also, I have to say visually, it was disturbing, earthy and beautiful, again very del Toro. I change my rating to a 9/10.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was better than I expected. It definitely had The Brothers Grimm feel, but the story was really good and the one liners were funny. I walked in thinking the movie was PG-13, so half-way through you see girl butt and a boob and all I thought was “Can they do that in PG-13 now? Well alright.” Then came a series of head squishing and blood spurting, and I thought “No, no this has to be R.” It was funny how it took a lot to convince me it was R because the commercials, the witches character design, even the cast seemed to be lending to a PG-13 movie. Well, anyways (I just thought that was funny) the way they did the movie was a success. I think if any element was done differently the movie would have been how I predicted, not bad but nothing to get too excited for. I change my rating to an 8/10.

Ok now onto Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

It’s hard to give a summary of this book without giving too much away. So we’ll go with this:

On his 5th wedding anniversary, Nick has breakfast with his wife, Amy and then leaves for work. He later finds the front door to his house wide open, the cat outside, and the living room a mess. His wife is gone. Who took her? Is she still alive? Was Nick actually involved? The cops seem to think he may be, especially as the investigation continues.

Like the synopsis? I know it doesn’t really give you anything to go off of besides “it’s an investigative thriller” so hopefully my spoiler-free review will.

I cared very little about the plot of this story. I did not care what happened in the story, it could have ended in any way and I wouldn’t have cared more one way than the other. That’s not to say the book was bad, in-fact I loved this book and the ending as well. I enjoyed what happened, how it progressed and all the twists, but I was too much enveloped by the characters to care what happened to them. I know that sounds weird, you’d think if I was so enveloped with the characters I would only care more about what their fate had in store, I know and I can’t really explain.

But I can try.

In many books, a bad plot is often waived by amazing characters, or terrible characters are only bearable because of the gripping plot. Don’t get me wrong, the plot for Gone Girl is great, no doubt, but when a good plot is so overshadowed by characters, characters that are literally fun to be around, you no longer care where they go, just as long as they keep going.

It wasn’t just Nick that was enthralling, every character, Amy, his sister, Go, the cops, the neighbors, the parents, every person was so concrete that you pictured this Mississippi Riverside town vividly.

But what made these characters so enriched? Well, to start the writing was solid. Each character was his own. All were convincing but the best thing about the characters was not one of them was perfect, and all of them were in some way very messed up.

I love messed up characters, especially ones as conniving, low, and downright crazy as the ones in Gone Girl. It makes you love them, it makes you hate them, it makes you not care what happens to them and love everything that does, all the good and all the bad they run into through the story… And there was a lot of bad!

So, if you want great characters that will stick with you, a twisting, deranged mystery that deepens as the story continues, pick up Gone Girl.

Also, one little thing I found interesting: in the acknowledgements Gillian Flynn talks about her son whom she simply calls Flynn. I think that for an author, who for whatever reason they may have, wants to not display their child’s name, simply calling them by the surname is kind of genius- and if I have a child I may do that someday.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Soon after Clary, fifteen, is the only witnesses to a “murder” in a nightclub she begins seeing more and more of a world that no one else can see, no one else except Shadowhunters, demons and other supernatural beings; warlocks, vampires, werewolves, and the forsaken. Her struggle to find out how she belongs to such a world, a world where bloodline, family and the Clave are of the greatest importance, begins with her mother, Jocelyn. Jocelyn never told Clary what/who she really was, but before anything can be sorted out Clary’s mother is kidnapped by a feared Shadowhunter that many believed died years before. Now, Clary must find her mother, while piecing together her own history and the world of Shadowhunters.

I rated this book on goodreads with 2 stars and amended it in the comments that it would really be 2.5 stars out of 5. It seemed that I either hated or loved certain parts of the story.

I will begin with the characters. I could not attach myself to Clary and since she is the main character that’s kind of important. I thought she was passive when she needed to be aggressive and assertive when she needed to relax just a moment. However, since there are so many books in the series there is a lot of room for a character arch, I hope that’s the point. Also, it kind of got on my nerves that her name was Clary when the authors name is Cassandra Clare. Also Clary Fray as a name itself was awkward. Every time her full name was used I wanted to invert it and say Fary Clay, i don’t know why, but i think that’s a issue. As an author you need to be conscious of the different little things that may make a name awkward. (I realize I could be 1 out of 100 readers who feel its awkward and that’s a good average, or the author could have intended the awkward name as a symbol or a signifier of the characters personality).

Most of the other characters I like, especially Lucian, except by the end of the book, I felt like I could trust none of them. By the end you hear about 4 peoples version of the same events and nothing is really adding up. You can take this two ways. Either you like it because it causes you to feel like the main character, you’re confused just as much as she is and it’s all intended, or, you feel it’s too much and start to loose author-reader trust as a whole. The strongest parts of the story is when a character tells their story of the past. It really makes them stronger characters and builds up the world Clary has just entered. I feel cheated because as the strongest part of the story I also feel like they are lies.

As for the story, I won’t give away anything, but there were some choices that made me mad, made me feel like it was almost a cop-out. However, because by the time these events were happening my faith in almost every character was out the window, I really don’t think I can trust what happened. I’m pretty sure one thing in particular is completely false.

Now, I don’t know whether it’s intended confusion, intended falsifications from so many in the story, or if its just a terrible story.

I have hopes it all plays out the way I think it will, but I certainly will not reach for the second book with the same anticipation as I did for the first, though I still will be reaching.

Also, side note, I was discussing this book with a friend who has read the entire series. She compared the series to how Harry Potter started off and ended up. This comparison gave me even more hope for The Mortal Instruments because, and you all will surely find me crazy, but, I hated the first Harry Potter… but the as the series continued the story and characters grew and became much more interesting.

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A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is the story of Diana Bishop. Diana Bishop, a witch who has all but forsaken her use of magic, accidentally calls out a manuscript -a manuscript widely searched for, that many believed lost. The calling of the manuscript gathers the attention of many supernatural beings; vampires, witches and demons. One vampire, Matthew Clairmont, though his goal is to access and understand the manuscript, is compelled to protect Diana, compelled to fall in love with her -a forbidden romance. Now the manuscript and their relationship are gaining the attention of the Congregation, an entity designed to govern the supernatural beings.

I thought this book, the plot was decent. However, I think Harkness really did an excellent job with creating strong characters. A Discovery of Witches has a lot of different characters, between witches, vampires, and demons. I think with so many different kinds of characters in a book, readers could become disoriented with who was who or what, but Harkness did an excellent job at making each character very specific. I mostly enjoyed that demons could not sit still.

Another thing I think Harkness does exceptionally well is develop very interesting ways of Diana’s magic pouring our of her. The scene where Diana first experiences witch water is fantastic.

I think I cared very little about the actual plot of the manuscript, but the characters and description of Diana’s magic made me keep turning those pages.

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Bringing Up Books: Asking For Trouble

Asking for Trouble by Elizabeth Young is the book version of The Wedding Date movie From 2005.

Sophy has lied to her mother about a boyfriend she really does not have, so when it’s time to attend her sisters wedding, Sophy resorts to hiring from an escort agency. What she doesn’t plan for is Josh Carmichael. As the wedding preparations and ceremonies proceed, Sophy becomes increasingly confused about how she really feels about the man she hired, stressed by her mother, too perfect sister, and the rest of the family. She becomes just more wrapped up in her ever growing web of lies.

I don’t normally pick up a rom-com, chick lit book, but when I saw this movie (well, I love Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney) and realized it was inspired by this breakout novel, I decided to give it a try.

Like the movie, I thought it was very funny, sometimes sad, but heartwarming as well. A very fast, entertaining read that has me wanting to broaden my chick lit allowance and possibly make Young an author to collect.

I will let you all know, there are some huge differences from the movie (as there usually are) and, to me, both versions are equal (unlike most book to movie adaptations).

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Bringing Up Books: The Lord of the Rings

With The Hobbit coming to theaters this weekend, I decided to pay a little tribute to the Tolkien’s epic.

The Hobbit , by J.R.R. Tolkien is the first book in the epic and the shortest. The story follows Bilbo Baggins, a homely hobbit from the Shire, a quiet, peaceful part of Middle Earth. Scared and somewhat reluctant he decides to leave the Shire to do something different, to go on an adventure. His great friend Gandalf, who has a soft spot for hobbits, both persuades and warns him of the world outside the Shire. His quest becomes to find the treasure guarded by the dragon, Smog. Through his journey he meets many different beings, and finds one very important ring. With the ring, he is able to become invisible, a huge help when his adventures grow more and more dangerous.

The Lord of the Rings is the 3 part continuation of the Tolkien epic.

The Fellowship of the Ring begins the 3 part continuation. Bilbo is now old and ready to stop going on adventures. Part of that past that he is ready to give up clings to him, but ultimately he gives the magic ring to his nephew, Frodo. Gandalf returns to tell Frodo the ring needs to be destroyed. With some hobbit company, Frodo sets off on what will be a very long journey to destroy the ring where it was forged. Faced with increasingly hostile regions, growing enemies, even friends that turn to possess the ring, the fellowship forms – a group of unlikely friends, determined to see Frodo through to destroy the ring.

The Two Towers, the second installment in the The Lord of the Rings, continues with a growing effort to protect Frodo and the hobbits. Alliances are formed and we begin to see corruption in some regions and potential greatness in others as the company journeys closer to Mordor, the Eye, and the fire from which the ring was forged. Frodo begins to show just how much of a burden the ring is, how heavy it begins to weigh on him, and how increasingly possessive he is of the ring and its power.

The Return of the King is the last part for the The Lord of the Rings. In this book we follow each part of the fellowship as they have journeyed in deprecate ways in order to form different alliances, wage war on the orcs and other enemies, re-establish control over kingdoms, and the main goal -to destroy the ring. The enemies are stronger than the previous books and the fellowship is now on enemy territory. What struggles Frodo faced carrying the ring, ignoring its seduction has now magnified and become nearly unbearable as he tries to go unnoticed through Mordor.

The Silmarillion is a collection of stories that basically show the evolution of the various races of Middle Earth.

These books have obviously made a profound impact on other medias and have served as inspiration for many. I loved (like everyone else) The Lord of the Rings movies. I’m not sure whether I will enjoy The Hobbit as much, especially since they are making 3 movies from the shortest book, but I could be surprised. As for the books, I love The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. I think The Two Towers is my favorite. As for The Return of the King, the first half of the book is awesome, but the second half is slow. Tolkien’s style is very descriptive and when the company walks in the forest for pages on pages without anything really happening it becomes monotonous. The Silmarillion has a similar feel, slow but still good

If you haven’t ever read it, it’s definitely an epic that should be on your to-read list.

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Bringing Up Books: Crank

When I picked this book up, I thought I would be in for a treat. I was excited about the format, and for some reason the short, thick dimensions were (unexpectedly) interesting in a good way. Ellen Hopkins decided to tell the story using free verse poetry, so of course I would like it. I love those odd, unique choices. I had read Zombie Haiku which is similar -using the little harmonic 3 lined poems to develop the apocalyptic struggle- short, but extremely successful, so I figured this would be just another verse-full joy. It was not.

Crank tells the story of a young girl, Kristina, who, on a 3 week vacation to see her father, becomes enamored with Adam, who then enables her to try Meth. Upon trying the drug, she falls into its addictive grip. Back from her vacation with her father, her struggle through her addiction becomes even more complicated when she is raped.

Hopkins’ novels are widely respected and simultaneously the center of controversy. She deals with hard subjects; drugs, sex, rape, and suicide and receives droves of criticism as a result. As a voice for these issues, she stands as a roughly real writer and people seem to either condemn her works or give exceptional praise for them. I find myself wanting to do neither.

Initially, I thought that because I have never done drugs there was a lack of connection to the character. Maybe that’s true, but I have not been completely shielded from drugs either. I know people , friends and family, who have suffered from such addictions, some people facing extremely similar situations and consequences. I think the feeling of a lack of connection was from something else. I think that Kristina’s sense of character is lost, which is sad because poetry is the medium in which the particulars a writer chooses to highlight in the story shows the audience the character and the scenes in such a vibrant, precise way. When you choose to write a book in only poetry, you need to allow that format to contribute those minute yet distinct details. It’s a challenge, a real, very difficult challenge that takes more than just knowing poetry and just knowing novels. You need to have a firm grasp of storytelling and movement, rhythm, syllabic importance -even if it is free verse, but above everything you need to be able to allow alterations to the story you have to tell and to the poetry in order to make the best work from them both. It’s a give and take when trying to make two things work together. In some cases what you have set in mind needs to be changed to make it work well. It’s tricky, especially when you are talking about taking a novel (wordy, descriptive in such a way that gives you the most amount of detail) and formatting it in poetry (precise, descriptive in the way that gives you only the most important details).

This novel has all the elements to a compelling story, it has characters that can be interesting, it even has a unique form and delivery, but for me it lacks. I understand it, I know there is pain, I hear the poetry, I can see why people love it and I can see why others hate it, but, for me, it still just lacks. Maybe it’s the sense of a lost connection. Maybe it’s simply that the reputation hyped it up and then it fell short by comparison. Or maybe it’s the choices Hopkins made while writing.

A teacher from high school once told me that the hardest part about writing is picking and choosing what to keep and what to scrap. It is completely true. All of those details you choose to give or cut really decides how well the work comes out. And with poetry it is even more important due to the brevity of the form. It makes me think that in Hopkins’ (undoubted) countless edits, amidst the trash and crumples, there lies pieces, fragments of the story, those little details that would have made a stronger connection and a very successful marriage of novel and free verse.

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Bringing Up Books: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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Seth Grahame-Smith, the same author as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a book definitely fitting his niche. However, in this book he uses Lincoln’s diary entries to work in his vampire world. Through “found” diaries of the late President we are able to follow Lincoln’s journey and his close tie to the vampire society. In his childhood he realizes a vampire kills his mother and sets his mind (and body) on hunting vampires.

The book has a few unexpected turns, and pleasant surprises (at least surprising me). I think this is Graham-Smith at the best I’ve ever read from him. Vampire Hunter works better than his Pride and Prejudice because he is not as entirely constrained by another authors text. Instead, he is able to use history and the journals to highlight his story, making it seem like the truth. The story has just enough violence balanced with an obviously heavily associated protagonist, but the other characters, like the vampire Henry, are just as well developed. There is a compelling sadness to the story, that really gives the novel a meaningfulness not often felt, especially for a mash-up fantasy, horror genre. I highly recommend.

P.S. I have yet to see the movie, so I can not compare the two. I am anxious to see how it compares, though. Soon. Soon.