[BOOKTOFILMFRIDAY] About a Boy

About-a-Boy-TV-Show-ImagesTHIS POST AND THE COMMENTS BELOW CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR ABOUT A BOY.

So before I begin it’s only right to confess that About a Boy may be my favourite film of all time. I mean, it’s a tough group up there at the top but About a Boy is certainly hanging. I had watched the film dozens of times before I even realised it was based on a book, and I only recently got around to finally reading Nick Hornby’s novel. It may make me a little biased, but hey, I’ll try my best to be impartial (Spoiler: I don’t do a good job).

Both the book and film capture a charming story, where the lives of young but wise Marcus and old but childish Will become unexpectedly intertwined. Marcus, having just moved to London with his hippie mum, is having a pretty rough time at school and home. His mum is suffering with depression and he has no where to go when the bullies target him; he just tries to be invisible. Will, however, is living a life of luxury from his one-hit wonder dad’s royalties – no responsibility and certainly no inclination to take any on. Some how, life pushes them together and the story is, to me anyway, all about letting love in.

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The casting of the film is practically perfect. Hugh Grant is the epitome of a selfish and suave British gentleman, and he plays Will exactly how I imagined. Even though I saw the film first, it’s extremely easy to see why he was chosen for the role. Nicholas Hoult, even though super young, is wonderful too. He’s completely adorable in an annoying and persistent kind of way, and does a really good job of creating a believable portrayal of a troubled kid with unusual tastes. Even down to the minor characters like Rachel, Ellie, and Marcus’ mum, each character is brought to life in a way that is evidently inspired deeply by the book. I love to see this in a film adaptation, as it shows a real respect for where the characters came from.

Generally, the story of film stays true to the novel, however the plot deviates majorly in the final sections to create a completely fresh take on the ending. It seems as though the entire climax of the book is ripped out and changed, so while the final scene is almost exactly the same as the book, how we arrive there is totally new. The ending feels different too, even though the setting and outcome are largely the same.

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Rather than make the journey with a drunk and violent Ellie to cut his useless dad loose from his life, the film Marcus enters a school talent show to sing for his mum to show her how much she means to him. It’s immediately obvious that this film plot is the lighter, fluffier version of events. Ellie really takes a backseat in the film; swapping the development of Marcus as a teenager, for the development of his relationship with Will and mum. I get that there isn’t time for everything, so if any of the emotional ties from the book were to be left out I would have chosen this one too. Marcus’ interactions with Will and Fiona are much more important in my eyes.

This is definitely the kind of change that would usually irritate me, but I honestly massively prefer the films version of events. Maybe this really is because I saw the film first, but by the end of the book I couldn’t help but feel this great sadness that just ate away at me. It wasn’t quite the happy ending I was expecting; the original message of the importance of sticking together and growing to accept and support each other simply disappeared on the final page.

I hate that after all Marcus has been through in the novel, in the final chapter he decides to change who he is and how he behaves in order to be liked. I felt cheated that I’d stuck by Marcus as an eccentric but sweet little boy for the entire book, to then just have him brush his life away and decide he doesn’t like Joni Mitchell anymore. He does like Joni Mitchell, he just knows he has to keep it a secret because it’s not ‘cool’. And that broke my heart.

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In the film, Marcus stays true to himself but ends up with a much better support network. The end is hopeful and positive, rather than bittersweet like the book.

I will probably read Nick Hornby’s book again, as I definitely enjoyed seeing more of the story and characters I’ve loved for so long on screen. It surprised me how different the film really is in those final scenes, and experiencing the story the way the author intended is always great. I think Hornby’s About a Boy leaves me with such a strange feeling because his writing is so uncomfortably realistic, cutting straight to where he knows it’ll hurt.

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I’ve just started watching the new television adaptation too, and so far I am loving the American Will! I’ll definitely have to do an update including my thoughts on it when I’m all caught up.

Are there any films adaptations that you enjoyed more than the original book? Let me know in the comments!

Charlotte x

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[BOOKTOFILMFRIDAY] The Maze Runner

the-maze-runner-5402ff05453e4THIS POST AND THE COMMENTS BELOW CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE MAZE RUNNER (BOOK #1)

I made a point of reading The Maze Runner by James Dashner before I would even consider going to the cinema; I’m fussy like that. In the end, because I enjoyed the first book so much, I completely inhaled the trilogy in a matter of days and had to take some time to sit and recover. This series has definitely taken the top spot in my list of unexpectedly incredible trilogies of the year, without a doubt! Needless to say, after falling in love with the books, I was a little nervous over how the film would compare.

At first I noticed that a number of the smaller details had changed, which didn’t really phase me in any way. In the film, the Gladers were deposited in the maze one at a time from the beginning, rather than one large group at the start and one a month since. To account for this, they have been roaming the glade for a year longer than in the trilogy. A few other minor details were different, but nothing really to get excited about.

It wasn’t until further into the film that I realised the whole escape from the maze had changed. I don’t want to reveal too many specific details about the major changes, but the general sense of the escape is the same with a huge battle against the grievers and jumping through the griever hole, however almost every other aspect is different. I think the most likely reason for the change in the escape is that with the all the maps and codes in the novel, it’s just far too detailed to convey properly within a film. This really didn’t bother me too much though as I enjoyed the film as a completely separate entity to the book, and felt like I was just re-experiencing the story in a new way. The Maze Runner as a film doesn’t use the novel as a crutch; it has its own life and these changes work because of this.

While I definitely prefer the novel’s method because it feels as though the Gladers were supposed to work it out rather than stumble across the solution, the film doesn’t do a bad job with its alternative and it was still exciting, dangerous and fun to watch.

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The whole film was visually stunning and filmed in that same gritty, up-close way that I love about The Hunger Games. It really represented the maze and the glade beautifully. I sometimes struggled while reading to picture the sheer scale of the glade but the film captured it in a way that just felt right. The special effects were brilliant too, I couldn’t tell that the grievers weren’t real creatures about to kill us all. Seriously, those things are the stuff of nightmares.

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I thought that every single actor was fantastic. From Thomas to Gally to Chuck, each one was a perfect representation of the characters I imagined in the books. I especially loved how Chuck was cast to look slightly younger than the other boys to evoke that feeling of brotherly responsibility in Thomas. He was sweet and kind and portrayed that annoying but devoted little brother excellently. I was pleased that the Gladers in the film were kinder to him than they were in the book too, he deserved it!

Gally surprised me too. He made sense and seemed almost reasonable compared to his constantly angry persona in the books. Even though he was still clearly against Thomas and had suspicions over his arrival, this slight personality shift made him more believable and complex as a character. Alby was played with a kinder heart and he explained much of the maze to Thomas, unlike in the book where he was harsh and secretive. I liked these little changes as the characters were still the same people but slightly more rounded and real versions of them.

One thing that confused me, however, was the way Teresa took a huge backseat in the film compared to her role in the books. She doesn’t bring with her the exact same message, instead shouting Thomas’ name and falling back to sleep. She doesn’t seem to have a huge impact on anything in the film and only seems to be a bit of a novelty, with no real memories of why she’s there. I’m hoping that she’ll regain her importance in the later films as I really love her complicated and devastating story arc throughout the trilogy. Most disappointingly, the telepathic link between Thomas and Teresa has been completely axed in the film. I’m assuming this was a choice made for suspension of disbelief purposes, but it worked really well in the books for me and I’m sad it’s not there to strengthen their relationship and connection in the film.

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Finally, I was a little disappointed that the characters didn’t make much use of the Glader slang. There were only a handful of shanks and klunks and I really wished I’d heard more of them in the film, as it made the Gladers unique and bonded them together as a community. There was a lot of actual real-life swearing for a 12A though, which surprised me.

I adore the books for their complexity and fine details but love how the film stands out as brilliant too. I enjoyed every aspect of the film and was surprised at how successfully it has been adapted. I’m hoping that future book to film developments can take a leaf from The Maze Runner’s book; no narration, exciting story, believable characters and gorgeous scenery all in one exhilarating package! I really can’t wait for The Scorch Trials!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

Charlotte x

[REVIEW] Panic – Lauren Oliver

panicSummary
Characters – 4/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote

Their eyes, which looked so wise – so bleak, too, as though they had stared into the centre of the universe and found it disappointing, a feeling Heather completely understood.

Review

Graduating seniors in Carp have one last rite of passage before leaving their small town for the big wide world; Panic. A game shrouded in mystery and played every summer, Panic pits students against each other in the ultimate test of mind over matter. People die playing Panic, risking everything for smalltown fame and a huge jackpot, and this year it’s Heather, Nat and Dodge’s turns.

Heather, Natalie and Bishop have been best friends since forever, but this summer of Panic will change everything. Natalie wants to play to fund her move to become a model and Heather throws herself into the first challenge before she even stops to think why she’s doing it. Dodge, an outsider, a loser, longs for revenge.

It would have been very easy to categorise each character into a stereotypical box, and at first it seemed like Oliver was going down that path. Dodge was the loner in love with the gorgeous popular girl, Natalie was vain and naive, Heather: angry at the world… However, I really liked how each character grew and changed to break out of those boxes; the narrative very quickly chipped away at those veneers to reveal both the flaws and the strengths of each individual and their true motives for playing Panic. All the characters transform to complete a full arc of change and no one is the same person beginning to end. I loved this inversion of the expected and was pleased to see some vulnerability in a female protagonist; they’re allowed to be imperfect yanno!

The writing style makes for a nice and simple read; it’s a very easy to digest book and I think it would be perfect for a lazy holiday. I really felt like part of the story from the way Oliver’s style drew me in, I could honestly feel my heart beating and fear rising while I read some of the challenges the players had to complete. I think Heather’s individual challenge actually made my heart stop!

While the tasks themselves are unique and genuinely terrifying, I felt the basic plot followed the recent trend of teenagers being put through their paces á la The Hunger Games and Divergent. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that and it was nice to see that theme realised in a realistic, everyday setting (it certainly made for a more immediate and scary read).

PANIC is very well paced and I enjoyed reading the story from two different perspectives, especially two characters with such different views and underlying motives. Heather and Dodge both make for great narrators and I didn’t find myself wanting to skip ahead to my favourite character like I’m sometimes tempted to do with other multi-narrated books! PANIC drips and dribbles clues throughout the story, so while I didn’t feel spoon-fed I definitely wasn’t completely surprised by some events and revelations.

I really enjoyed PANIC and would absolutely recommend it to lovers of YA and suspense. It’s not your typical high school story and the characters and their actions really sets PANIC apart. I will definitely be picking up other books by Lauren Oliver!

[REVIEW] Broken Angels – Harambee K Grey-sun

Broken AngelsSummary
Characters – 3/5
Plot – 3/5
World Building – 5/5
Style – 3/5
Overall – 4/5

Review
The White Fire Virus has infected thousands of humans and blessed them with extraordinary powers to bend light to their will and dive into the ultimate reality of XynKroma. The catch is that they’re being slowly and painfully consumed from the inside-out by the parasite. BROKEN ANGELS tells the story of infected Watcher agents Darryl and Robert in their hunt for a particularly elusive case; missing teenager Marie-Lydia McGillis. After storming a nest of virus-infected terrorists, they instead find self proclaimed “angel” Ava Darden, the last person to see Marie-Lydia before she disappeared. The search for Marie-Lydia winds around a complex background of the impending apocalypse and a race against virus-infected ID terrorists.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this novel. Anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while knows that I’ve been slowly but surely working my way through BROKEN ANGELS for a good few months now, it’s taken me a lot longer than usual to finish because of a number of factors – life getting in the way being one of them.

The characters were a little hard to connect with in the beginning; Darryl was clearly deluded and Robert was a little too stiff and boring until Ava came on the scene. I enjoyed trying to puzzle Ava out, her lost memories and conviction in her angelic status made her mysterious and she seemed to be the only character really pushing the book forward in the early stages.

I felt a real lack of plot for a long time with this book,when it suddenly kicked into gear in the final third and things turned very exciting, very quickly. For me, far too much time was spent dripping hints and clues before any real action took place, although I wouldn’t say that my stop-start reading helped this feeling at all. The pacing felt more than a little slow and coupled with a thick style, I definitely didn’t find BROKEN ANGELS an easy read. 

Grey-sun has a very deep and philosophical style, which while elegant on the page, did cause me to struggle a little. The whole novel is pitched in a spiritual and religious manner; thought-provoking  and quite beautiful to read. However, I would often find myself reading the same section over and over to try make sense of it. I think this might have been intentional in some places; when the characters visit XynKroma for example, but it was sometimes too often than I had patience for. 

The imagination and creativity behind the world building was wonderful, I loved the concept of the White Fire Virus and XynKroma was Alice in Wonderland in the extreme. From what I understood, XynKroma is an extra-dimensional realm, a different version of reality, which doesn’t adhere to any laws of physics. It is a special kind of chaotic hell crammed with the thoughts and souls of every living being all at once. Only the carriers of the White Fire Virus can visit, and a certain terrorist group of carriers called The ID are attempting to cause this realm to leak into our reality, causing the apocalypse. It’s complicated, but I love it.

I thought the book ended rather roundly with all the ends tied up nicely, however, BROKEN ANGELS is only the first in a series. I will definitely be grabbing DIVINITIES, ENTANGLED at some point but would have to re-read BROKEN ANGELS to try cement the story in my head beforehand.

Overall, while I did struggle my way through this novel I can’t help but feel it was worth it. There was a lot lacking, but exceptional world-building and an exciting ending definitely swayed my opinion. I would recommend setting aside a large chunk of time if you’re planning on tackling BROKEN ANGELS, but I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed if you make it to the end.

I received BROKEN ANGELS for free from the lovely people at HyperVerse Books. My reviews always represent my own honest opinion. 

[REVIEW] Everneath – Brodi Ashton

everneathSummary
Characters – 4/5
Plot – 3/5
Style – 4/5
World Building – 3/5
Overall – 4/5

Quote

“Stay with me, Becks. Dream of me. I am ever your’s.”

Review
When Nikki Beckett suddenly disappeared six months ago she left her world in a state of turmoil. Her friends and family have no idea where she’s been and they wouldn’t believe her even if she told them. Taken to the Everneath, Nikki has been entwined with immortal Cole as he fed on her energy. Now she has six months left to say her final goodbyes and find forgiveness before she disappears again. This time for good.

The thing that initially drew me to this book was the plot; I love Greek mythology and the promise of a modernised Persephone myth caught my attention. It worked nicely on the whole but there are a few unanswered questions and holes once you start to dig deeper into the Everneath (the Underworld) and the premise of the Everlivings’ feeding process. Some of these are answered in the sequel, some I’m still a little confused about.

Nikki, Cole and Jack are all nicely rounded with multi-faceted personalities and motives but some of the supporting characters like Jules and Nikki’s dad felt a little flat. Ashton’s emotional style gave Nikki a really raw and honest voice which I appreciated, it suited the plot very well.

Although there is a love triangle between Nikki, Cole and her ex-boyfriend, I felt it was well explained/justified and didn’t make me want to roll my eyes like most YA romances. Nikki doesn’t tend to flit between the two boys or try to play them against each other; she’s set on what she wants to achieve with her time on the Surface and has a firm approach to it. A breath of fresh air in a genre overcrowded with indecisive and immature teases.

I have to say that I did feel like I was always one step ahead of Nikki and I definitely figured out the ending well before it happened. That could be down to my previous knowledge of the mythology Ashton drew from, but it didn’t make the book any less enjoyable in the slightest!

The organisation of the novel was clear and the non-chronological timeline kept it interesting. A combination of the present day and pre-disappearance memories, each chapter is marked with exactly how long Nikki has left on the Surface or how long until she disappears. I liked this jumping timeline as it filled in the gaps slowly, revealing the full picture of Nikki’s situation and why she chose to leave with Cole piece by piece.

EVERTRUE, the final installment in the trilogy, will be released on 21st January 2014.

[REVIEW] Draykon – Charlotte E. English

Summarydraykon_cover
Characters – 4/5
Plot – 4/5
World Building – 5/5
Style – 4/5
Overall – 4/5

In a Tweet
“Jeweller unearths a gem people will die for, gates to other worlds mysteriously open and the biggest danger imaginable threatens the realm.”

Review
A clever combination of mystery, fantasy and adventure, DRAYKON is the first novel in the eBook trilogy by Charlotte E. English. Following two female protagonists, talented but anxious Llandry Sanfaer and the experienced High Summoner Lady Evastany Glostrum, DRAYKON threw me into a vivid world complete with its own plants, creatures and history.

When Llandry stumbles upon a cave filled with the beautiful but mysterious gemstone istore, demand for her jewellery begins to unexpectedly soar. Overwhelmed by the unexplainable fervour surrounding her work and horrified by the gruesome deaths beginning to be linked to her pieces, Llandry is instructed to stop trading and hand over any remaining istore.

As High Summoner, Eva takes it upon herself to investigate the deaths and randomly opening gates to other Realms, but as her search grows deeper and more complex she discovers much more than she was ever anticipating.

English writes with a careful flair, she knows exactly how to build stunning scenery and her characters are well developed and likeable. The two point of view characters are very different from the stereotypical fantasy heroines; Llandry is young but not inexplicably special or strong while Eva is older, capable and sensible.

I was initially a little put off in the prologue when I realised Llandry had wings as I very rarely knowingly pick up a fantasy book that involves ‘fairies’ but I’m glad I kept going. The Darklanders are essentially humans with added wings, nowhere near the classic fairy archetype.

One of the particularly striking features of this novel for me was the world building. Eva and Llandry both live in the Middle Realms; akin to our world it lays between the two unstable and magical Off-Worlds each with its own wildlife, nature and dangers.

Perhaps the most interesting element of English’s worldbuilding is the differences between the inhabitants of the Daylands, such as Eva, and the Darklands, like Llandry. Daylanders live in perpetual sunlight, while Darklanders’ eyes have grown accustom to only the light given from small floating orbs. This is a completely new concept to me and I loved the originality and how it plays a role in the narrative.

DRAYKON has a great pace and builds piece by piece to a fantastic and dramatic ending that I definitely didn’t see coming. The plot is original and exciting, the mystery genre element kept me guessing throughout and I was totally hooked very early on. As my first free eBook I wasn’t sure what to expect from DRAYKON, but if the standard set by Charlotte E. English is anything to go by I will definitely be downloading more! Sequel LOKANT is already on my Kindle ready to go!

[REVIEW] Shadow and Bone – Leigh Bardugo

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Summary
Characters – 1/5
Plot – 3/5
World Building – 3/5
Style – 2/5
Overall – 2/5

In a Tweet
“Stoic orphan finds she has
immense magical powers &
leaves to train to save the
world. Love triangle, betrayal
& a beauty obsession ensue.

Review
SHADOW AND BONE is the first novel in the young adult fantasy series collectively known as The Grisha Trilogy. Orphan Alina Starkov along with her best friend, Mal, have grown up in a world divided by a dark stretch of land known as The Fold, riddled with unseen horrors. When her work as assistant cartographer in the First Army forces Alina to join the crossing of the void, her unknown power saves everyone from certain death. Dragged away to a new life as one of the magical Grisha, her new-found power means the weight of the world now rests on her shoulders.

With a distinctly Russian feel to most names and places, Alina’s world is an exploration of grand, fairytale castles and sprawling nature which are both vivid and wonderful. While these descriptions are detailed and relatively well written, the emphasis on ‘beauty’ is one of the main sticking points of this novel. Alina’s world felt superficial and shallow to me, as Bardugo’s insistence on force feeding the reader with ‘beautiful’ after ‘beautiful’ started to get old very, very quickly.

This persistence wasn’t only irritating, but definitely helped to throw off the narrative in a big way too. While countless long, sprawling, chapters are dedicated to parties in the castle, gossiping and making Alina look ‘pretty’, life changing decisions and journeys are rushed and glossed over. This leaves little time for Alina to show any kind of inner turmoil, development or even basic characterisation. She takes her new life in her stride without a hint of any real emotion (aside from her belief she just simply isn’t pretty enough to be a Grisha!) yet kicks up a fuss over what colour robe she wants to wear. I mean, really?

And it’s not just Alina who feels shallow and unbelievable. Mal somehow turns from the stereotypical brash, womanising soldier to a pathetic sap within a few pages. His words and actions towards the end of the book feel completely at odds with his original persona, making him seem entirely disingenuous.

The plot itself was relatively interesting with unexpected twists and turns popping up often enough to keep me reading. The concepts and ideas working within SHADOW AND BONE could have made for a better read in the right hands, but Bardugo’s lack of characterisation and annoying obsession with aesthetics made working my way through some chapters a real chore.

Although SIEGE AND STORM (The Grisha #2) was released earlier this year I don’t think I’ll be picking it up; while I’m intrigued to see Alina’s next move after a dramatic end to SHADOW AND BONE I’m not sure I can bring myself to trudge through another round.