Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby (Review + Movie Trailer)

Publisher: Penguin
Page Count
: 249

It’s been so long since I have done a regular review for a book and I know because I checked (for real, I haven’t written one since the end of July). I am not exactly ecstatic that the first book after all these months is Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby now to be honest and it’s a little tough to explain the why of it all.

First, Juliet, Naked isn’t a bad book. It’s about people who feel they have wasted years of their lives, whole decades even, due to wrong decisions and a lack of action to change their less than ideal situations. Even as someone who isn’t in her 40s or 50s, I can relate to that topic. There are times I wonder what I am doing with my life and whether I have gotten into enough trouble, taken enough chances or simply whether I am on the right path for future me. This book chronicles how Annie, Duncan and Tucker have to live with their regrets and make the best of it, all packaged with a good measure of dry English humour, a deep fascination with 80s music, a spin on modern day online conversation/dating and unhealthy fandom culture.

Usually, all those aforementioned elements would draw me in immediately! Who am I kidding? The mere suggestion of them here was the reason I picked up the book and in the beginning it was all really funny. I could see myself in parts of each character, like in Duncan’s passion for something he loved (although I never was on his level of obsession for anything ever and I go deep sometimes), Tucker’s ability to share his deepest thoughts with a stranger on the internet but his inability to do so with his closest family and friends or Annie’s fear of having missed the opportunity to have a family of her own by getting comfortable in a situation because it was easy rather than the right one. I don’t mind having people be the main characters who aren’t perfect. In my eyes, it makes them more realistic and human to have various flaws and even flaws that you don’t have to forgive sometimes.  got all that and I felt that and even though it all sounds rather serious and gloomy, it also had some great humour sprinkled in.

But then there were also all these disjointed parts and characters that truly weren’t necessary. And worst of all the conclusion … it felt so open-ended and with a lack of, well, closure. I understand that not ever story needs to tie all ends together, but here it felt like we stopped a couple chapters short of where Juliet, Naked was supposed to end. I didn’t need for them to live happily ever after, but I did need a couple more infos on their fate. So, while I enjoyed the themes and characters (to some extent), the ultimate execution of the story just lacked something for me. I feel like there was a lot more in there we didn’t get to see.

Fazit: 2.5/5 stars! A rather average story that could have been more.

Now, as the title promised, I am also going to share the movie trailer here. I believe, and please don’t hold me accountable on this, the movie is currently in theaters (at least at the time of writing this post). I haven’t seen the movie yet, so no comment on that, but from what I gathered from the trailer, it looks like a faithful adaptation that expands on all the elements that were lacking or not quite right for me in the book. I am curious to see if I am right and whether they will change the end, but take a look for yourself:

Have you read or watched Juliet, Naked? Are there any other Nick Hornby books you’ve checked out? Let me know in the comments below!

#CurrentlyWatching: Rise

This week’s #CurrentlyWatching is another one I am just going to be cautiously optimistic about. As I have mentioned in previous posts, when I did this last year, a lot of the shows I actually wanted to save or draw attention to with my writing still got cancelled and I was devastated. So, I usually try to not do a whole post for it anymore before at least an entire season has aired, but I couldn’t hold off on Rise any longer.

The show airs on NBC and is a couple episodes away from its first season finale. While it may seem like a cross between Glee and Friday Night Lights, it is actually based on real life events that were chronicled in the non-fiction book Drama High by Michael Sokolove. I haven’t read it, but I checked out some reviews on Goodreads, where a couple of the former students definitively agreed to the excellence of that teacher (while the narrator’s voice and his depiction of the small town is apparently debatable). I know how valuable of an experience it is to have someone like that during your school years, so I always liked the idea for this show from the beginning.

Rise follows teacher Lou Mazzuchelli as he tries to revive the High School’s theater department and faces a lot of pushback from the community about his unconventional approach.

I remember watching the first episode of Rise and it hitting directly home where my heart is. Most of the time, I am not a huge fan of big ensemble casts, just because I like to focus on individuals which gets increasingly more difficult as the plot thickens. So, of course, there’s always episodes that focus on some characters more than on others to the point where there’s still people left to discover halfway through the season. It’s something you have to be prepared for, but I don’t think that it distracted from the overall most important story arcs.

As I mentioned above, many people have compared it to Glee, but the show strikes a much more mature tone. Due to it focusing on a musical production and not Glee club in general, there is also less singing and especially no random bursting into a song when they aren’t actually auditioning or rehearsing for the play. The problems the characters are facing seem very tailored to the characters they are playing in the chosen musical, “Spring Awakening”, so I wonder how that will go over the span of several seasons.

Overall, there’s a lot of different topics that are being treated. There’s a definite focus on the parent-child-relationships and I really loved seeing the various nuances of that so far. In addition to that, there’s conversations about transgender issues, teen pregnancy, underage drinking and alcoholism, exploring ones sexuality, the foster system and general societal pressure to fit into a certain mold. It does all that with a lot of compassion, showing the characters when they overstep or make something about themselves when it’s really not. I am not trying to say Rise does everything right, but it offers a platform for a lot of representation.

I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself, because I am terrible at picking just one person to spotlight, especially when there is such a huge cast. Everyone brings something to the table, but I guess I am a little partial to Maashous’ storyline.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I would like to foster or adopt children in the future. From a young age on, I always had this idea of wanting to help those kids and teens once I was grown up (and able to care for someone else), but somehow I was also too chicken to pursue a career as a social worker. Anyway, before I get off track too much, Maashous is one of those kids in the foster system and I guess that’s why I was so invested in his story.

He is quiet, the kind of person you may not notice, but who is always around. He cares for his friends, seems very open-minded from what I saw so far and is willing to help whenever someone needs him. So, it broke my heart to know that he had troubles in his foster home and ended up sleeping at school. He deserves so much better! I don’t want to spoil what happens, but it gets better and I hope you might tune in to find out how exactly.

Have you watched Rise? Do you want to? Let’s talk!

Famous In Love: Book vs. TV Show

You all know that my love for books constantly has to compete with my love for TV shows, because in the end there are only so many hours in one day. That is why I love it all the more when I can combine those two passions and do a little comparison of a book and its (big or small) screen adaptation. I’ve previously done this for Still Star-Crossed and since I am still getting clicks for that, I am just going to assume you won’t mind more posts of the like! Today’s book vs. show post will feature Famous in Love!

General Plot

The story of Famous in Love follows Portland-raised Paige Townsen on her way to Hollywood fame. She soon finds out that being cast for the main role in a YA trilogy adaptation isn’t just glamorous when she struggles to unite her old and new life, succumbs to the pressure of being a new face in a harsh industry and ultimately finds herself amidst an intense love triangle.

TV Show

I am going to start with the show, because I actually watched it prior to reading the book. I usually try to read stuff before the show/movie comes out, but sometimes that just doesn’t happen and from there on it can go both ways. Anyway, Famous in Love is in its second season on Freeform. Not going to lie, Freeform and I have a strenuous relationship, because they often do very superficial adaptations and tacky content, while easily cancelling the things I actually do like (except for The Bold Type, they are doing great on that one!). I suppose that was part of the reason why I wanted to watch the show without having much knowledge about the book, since I knew they were going to change a lot. Not having any sort of allegiance the content beforehand can be really helpful in those kind of situations.

Freeform shows follow a very simple formula. Have a glossy appearance, get a mix of known and unknown actors and actresses in their early twenties and then just add drama, drama, drama at a varying degree of realism. For some formats that doesn’t work at all and for other things I quite enjoy their take. Famous in Love is definitely one of my guilty pleasures, but mostly because it takes place in the film industry and that is my soft spot.

As someone who has worked in that industry, I always like those supposed behind the scenes kind of shows. Mix it with a typical Cinderella and fish-out-of-water component and you basically have me hooked without question. I may not be the biggest Bella Thorne fan to begin with, but it’s easy to root for her character, Paige, the entire time. Who hasn’t secretly (or not so secretly) dreamed of becoming famous over night and having celebrities swoon over you?

I am a simple girl, I always favour episodes with character development and exploration of relationships over the superficial drama that comes with jealousy, affairs, fake press stories and out-of-the-blue-murder, but I guess it was to be expected with this kind of show. And even if it’s silly sometimes, in the end you just want to know what happened? So, while I do enjoy watching it as a whole, I still think that Famous in Love has a couple weaknesses. For one, the cast is quite big and keeps getting bigger, which often makes it hard to focus on anyone in particular for an extended amount of time without neglecting someone else. Also, I feel like some of the characters changed their personality quite a bit from Season 1 to Season 2 and I don’t get why exactly. None of that has stopped me from tuning in every week so far though.

One of my favourite parts about Famous in Love is the teen novel they are adapting called Locked. I want that book to be a real YA franchise so that I can dig in and read the story myself. OR I want that fake movie they are filming to be a real movie, so that I can watch the entire Locked film one day. *sigh* Those are the dreams of a TV obsessed bookworm …

Book

Now that the second season started up on Freeform, I thought it was finally time to check out the source material. Granted, I went into this with quite a few preconceived ideas of what the story would be according to the show, but I still wasn’t prepared for the amount of actual changes.

The general idea is still the same. Paige is a nobody, but gets the role in this huge franchise. But that’s about it. Whereas the show takes place in LA, the book is almost entirely set in Hawaii. Whereas Paige is in her early twenties on TV, she is only 17 and still living with her parents when the book starts. Whereas Paige’s friends are right there with her not just in life but also in the film industry in the adaptation, they have a huge fight and grow apart while also being in different locations entirely. Whereas the love triangle on the show is between Paige, her co-star Rainer and her roommate Jake, the book’s main romance catastrophe was between Paige, Rainer and ALSO her second co-star Jordan.

Look, I am all for love triangles IF they are done well. I like the idea that one’s heart is torn between two amazing love interests, but that just wasn’t the case here. While I may have understood the slow burn approach of the Paige and Rainer relationship, which was actually really cute and developed slowly, the Jordan part was completely beyond me. Paige was downright ready to sabotage him getting a job on set, just to fall head over heels into him without saying much more than “hi” to each other for weeks.

In addition to that, the version of Locked they were filming in this scenario also sounds less appealing somehow and I don’t even know why that would be different as well? Anyway, I think that I would usually allow for the possibility of me not enjoying the book as much because of having seen the show first, but I cannot imagine myself liking this book in any other situation either.

Fazit: 2.5/5 stars! (click on the cover to be redirected to Goodreads!)

Conclusion

So, in the end, I would say that the TV show is vastly superior to the book and I stand by that statement. Making the characters older and a tad more mature with that, as well as setting the scene right in the high life that is Los Angeles, was a smart move in my opinion. They also created a better love triangle (whether you like them or not) than they did in the book and I will happily continue watching the series even if I won’t read any more of the books.

Do you watch Famous in Love? Have you read it? What is your take on the subject? Let’s talk!

P.S.: Shout out to the unsung heroes of any kind of production – the PAs (Production Assistants)! Or in this particular case, Adam, a reoccurring character on the show who deserves more screen time.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer/Annie Barrows (Book Review + Movie Trailer)

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Page Count: 250

Okay, this must have been one of the longest titles to EVER exist on my blog. The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is quite a mouthful, but don’t get intimidated by the title (which will from here on out just be Guernsey Lit or something for simplicity)! This was the second book that I chose as my giveaway prize from the one Ari @The Romance Corner Blog was amazing enough to host. So another shout out to her for making it possible for me to read that book!

Most of you who have followed my blog for a while now, know that I struggle with books set during or around the time of World War II (especially if you have read my review of Wolf by Wolf). Being from the country that I am from, we just seem to have a continued peculiar relationship with the topic and due to the way it was heavily treated at school, I was usually not very fond of spending even more thoughts on it in my free time. However, all of that doesn’t change that those books usually end up having quite the impact on me and it wasn’t much different this time either.

Guernsey Lit is completely told in letters between various parties. Some people may only appear once while others are visible main characters. It was easy to fall in love with them all, each having their own voice, wit and humour about them. I am not sure I could pick any favourites, however, I do love Dawsey Adams. He is the one who initiated contact with Juliet because he found a second-hand book that once belonged to her. It turns out he is quiet, kind and considerate but it is most of all that shared passion for literature that brought him and Juliet closer. Honestly, this must be the dream scenario for any bookworm looking for romance! I shipped it hard. But seriously, where is my Dawsey Adams??

I enjoyed reading how Juliet got closer and closer to the members of the society with time, yet through letters alone, because it reminded me so much of the 1940s version of our very own bookish online community. I have found so many dear friends that I wouldn’t want to miss from my life through blogging and reading, so whenever someone would suggest she didn’t even know these people for real, I felt offended on her behalf. Also, her meeting them for the first time was just brilliant as well and also reminded me of online friends meeting in real life!

As a whole, I wouldn’t describe Guernsey Lit as a heavy read at all, having marked several paragraphs that had me laughing out loud, but at the same time it does cover the topic of war and the feelings of grief, anger, loss, helplessness, frustration and fear that come with it. There was this one particular part told from someone who was sent to a concentration camp and it reminded me of my visit to one of those camps. They are usually done with school where I am from and by chance we met this elderly man while we were there and even though he only spoke French (me and some of my classmates translated for the rest of the class), he wanted to tell us his story. It was the first time he came to visit as some of his relatives had died in that very camp. It was heart-wrenching and sad, but to that man it was important to talk about what happened. He didn’t need us to reply, I am not sure we would have had the right words, he just needed someone to listen. I feel like that is very much the same thing with the people in that book and the story that they are all trying to tell, whether it was on purpose or not. WWII was one of the most atrocious times in human history and while I understand that some people rather wouldn’t be reminded of it, it is also necessary to acknowledge that it happened and to prevent it from ever happening again.

The last quarter of the book seemed to loose focus a little bit. I was a tad confused by the direction it took on and didn’t really see all of the storylines as necessary, because some of them were quite a bit whacky. However, that did not subtract from my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

And lastly, here is the trailer for the movie adaptation that will release mid to the end of April! I am in love with the cast, and not just because it is a sort of mini Downton Abbey reunion, but because I have followed the careers of most of those actors a while and loved their work. They obviously had to change quite a bit to get the characters together sooner though, since they couldn’t just rely on letters for the storytelling (I think that would not be very visually pleasing?). I am not too anxious, even though I can really see a lot of changes, but I am worried about one of my favourite storylines being cut – the adoption storyline! It’s another topic near and dear to my heart, but I  don’t want to say any more as to not spoil anything. It doesn’t look like that will be in the movie at all though, as well as another, in my opinion, important storyline. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, especially if you have read the book as well!

 

Fazit: 5/5 stars! Did not expect to fall in love with it the way I did.

Are you going to read the book? Have you already? Do you want to watch the movie? Let’s chat!

 

Midnight Sun by Trish Cook (Book Review + Movie Trailer)

Publisher: Poppy
Page Count
: 272

Usually when I talk about books and movies in one post, the movie came AFTER the book. I am not sure that’s the case here. Please don’t hold me accountable for that info, but from what I gathered online, the movie is based on a Japanese film from the year 2006 and therefore they wrote the book for the American movie. I guess this is one of the rare occasions where you wouldn’t have to read the book before watching the movie? The two could still differ from one another, but looking at the trailer it looks exactly the same.

But now on to the actual content! To me, it felt like Everything, Everything meets A Walk to Remember but a tinsy bit less emotional? Despite the seemingly heavy topic, I mostly had a lot of fun reading this book. Admittedly, there were some rather cringey exchanges at times, but I never took them too seriously and therefore could laugh through them. The characters were cute and relatable teens with dreams and aspirations of how they and their love might change the world. The pacing seemed well chosen for the progression of the story and never seemed too rushed. It’s also not a very long read, which is something I gravitate more towards when my schedule gets busy.

All of that is well and fine, except that it never truly hit home on the emotional component with me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the book a lot, but I just think that there was more room for depth and character development. A lot of it felt cliché or stereotypical, for example the mean girl that remains a mean girl for a century and becomes personified evil just because she is jealous of the seemingly perfectly adorkable but hot MC. I prefer a little more reasoning and nuance with my villains. Also, while I get that the lonely girl trapped in her house enjoys people watching and will inevitably develop crushes on reoccurring faces, please don’t ever normalise stalky behaviour as cute. Again, I understand that this is a very particular situation, but I just want to point out that the person on the receiving end should always be a bit wary if they notice tendencies like that.

If that doesn’t bother you, I am sure you will enjoy this sweet love story. I am not going to promise you a happy ending, but a wild ride of adorably awkward dates, some great female friendship, caring parents, melancholy and a tad of broken heart.

Before I leave you with the trailer, I just want to say that I really appreciated that little definition and the provided links to explain XP at the end of the book. They clearly stated that they may have taken a couple liberties (e.g. how fast it progresses in Katie’s case) but they also showed that they have done their research and wanted to portray it as accurately as possible.

But enough from me, here’s the trailer:

Fazit: 3/5 stars! A really great and fast read that could have used some more depth.

Have you read the book? Are you interested in checking it out? Are you going to watch the movie? Let’s talk!

#CurrentlyWatching: Anne with an E

This week’s theme is “literary adaptations not just for kids” (I know, I am so fabulous at coming up with something new all the time) and I am very excited to talk about this particular show. I was pretty late to the bandwagon, but Anne with an E definitely needs to be talked about at one point or another.

This, by far, isn’t the first adaption of the Anne of Green Gables book series, however, Netflix really managed to give it a fresh take with a fantastic young cast and extraordinary detail concerning the set and costumes. So far there is one season, but production for the second one has already started in November 2017. Again, I have not read the book (BUT I have ordered it – progress! But seriously, Anne of Green Gables just wasn’t really a thing in my country, so you can’t blame me for not knowing it.), but I have heard that there were some changes made to the original narrative as well as tone, probably to fit into the darker and more drama-filled TV landscape of today.

Anne with an E chronicles the adventures of a young orphan girl as she finds a new home, love and friendship on Prince Edward Island during the 19th century.

Okay, I have to admit that I started watching this because I missed Canada. I am not sure how much sense that makes, considering the time this is set in and that Canada is huge and I wasn’t actually in that part of the country, but I still got the vibes that I wanted. Anne with an E is such an easy show to fall in love with. The visuals are simply stunning and no one on this planet can tell me that this isn’t the most stylish adaptation of the source material yet. But it really shines because of how emotional and gripping it is. Thinking back, I don’t believe there was a single episode where I didn’t need tissues.

As I mentioned above, there were some changes made to the story and that resulted in the show getting edgier than the books. In my opinion, this added greatly to the realism and the exploration of Anne’s past. Having said that, I don’t want you to think this is a super dark show, because it definitely is not. Anne with an E is a beautiful visual treat with a slow pace to accompany the gorgeous cinematography. You will laugh and cry, both out of joy and sadness.

I also really want to applaud all the actors and actresses involved in this series. Netflix always manages to pull amazing young talent out of seemingly nowhere (at least it feels that way for me), but the adults really hit home with me as well. The performances (aside from a very theatrical Anne at times) were so quietly convincing. It’s all a big part of what makes Anne with an E so charming.

Overall, I just really enjoyed the themes that were explored on the show. It is about all kinds of things, each of them relatably portrayed even with the very different setting from our world today. It is about growing up and finding that place called home. The adoption process and Anne’s background were an emotional roller coaster for me and her continued fight to be heard and accepted was so very inspiring. It’s about poverty and friendship. It’s about first love, loss and grief. Also, there’s a real feminist element to everything Anne does and I love her all the more for it.

Lastly, the show has an amazing theme song “Ahead by a Century” by the Tragically Hip, which doesn’t just fit the vibe of the show, but is another celebration of Canadian culture.

I could talk about Anne for days. She’s quirky, charming, smart, wonderful, has the biggest capacity for imagination I have seen on screen and probably knows more complicated words than me. She can also be overly dramatic and a real scene stealer, but I guess that is what makes Anne so very Anne. Even when I will admit that it can border on the point of being a tad annoying behaviour, Amybeth McNulty really made that role her own and I cannot imagine that being easy at such a young age. However, I feel like this part of the post is not just here to feature the main character and that is why I want to talk about Gilbert Blythe.

Gilbert is the guy everyone loves, except Anne. Even though the poor boy immediately takes a liking to her, Anne feels like he is just making her life harder and that’s true even if he never intended for that to happen. He is kind, smart, confident, incredibly cute (except when he pulls girls’ pigtails) and most importantly he doesn’t judge people by where they are from but rather who they are.

He is an overall good guy and doesn’t give up on Anne so easily, but rather uses her aversion towards him to start an academical rivalry he knew she wouldn’t be able to resist. I hope you can see where I am going with this, but it’s the perfect set up for enemies to lovers/the hate-to-love-trope. I adored seeing how Anne slowly changed her view of Gilbert and through that her feelings for him. I am really looking forward to where this is going in the future (although everyone who has read the books already knows, but the journey still counts!).

So, in the end, I don’t know how this show will fare with people who absolutely adore the books. I went into it pretty unknowing and that might have been the best way to watch the show. After all, there are changes! And they aren’t just minor ones either, but I still think that this show is like a piece of art that should be appreciated anyway.

Did you watch Anne with an E? Did you read the books? What are your thoughts? Let’s chat! (Bonus question: can you guess which show I will talk about on Friday?)

#CurrentlyWatching: The Gifted

As promised this week is all about heroes, villains and people with abilities. The Gifted falls right into the category as if focuses on some lesser known mutants from the X-Men universe. I’ve always had a thing for mutant stories, I think I just liked them better than the regular superheroes because in a weird way, they were more grounded in reality than the others. That could just be me though, lets talk about this particular show!

The Gifted runs on FOX and currently has one season with 13 episodes out there. It started around the same time as another Marvel show, Inhumans, but was greeted by a far better reception (peoples, I am not even going to talk about Inhumans ever. That show was such a massive disappointment!). So, I am happy to once more bring you good news and tell you that even before the season ended, The Gifted was renewed for a second season!

The X-Men are gone. There is only one safe place to go – the Mutant Underground. Together they will protect each other and fight for the life in peace they deserve.

I liked what they were doing with The Gifted from the beginning. While a lot of shows like it focus on origin stories and using all the CGI possible, The Gifted was always more about its characters and their relationships rather than anything else. Do I think the CGI could be better sometimes? Maybe, but if we’re being honest here, I think that about 90% of the things I watch, so that’s a way too high standard anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against origin stories, but it’s also nice to just have all the players ready and laid out for you. As I understood it, we are in some sort of alternate universe here – the X-Men have vanished, and so has the Brotherhood. There are no real representatives for mutants anymore. If they make one misstep, they are hunted by the government no matter what and to see the light of day again after that is more than unlikely.

As so often when it comes to the mutant franchise, this is an underlying way to talk about racism and how society and politics deal with it. The conflict is best represented by the various main characters. On the one hand we have the Strucker family, where the parents are seemingly humans (with the father even being involved in the prosecution of humans) and their children are mutants. Then we have a Sentinel Services agent, whose daughter died during a mutant protest which he blamed people with abilities for ever since and lastly, the various members of the Mutant Underground who all have their own tragic and complicated backstories.

While the Struckers are definitely an integral part of the story and provide some of the biggest conflicts, I have to admit to enjoying the parts with the members from the Mutant Underground more. A lot of the romantic relationships were already established before the show even began, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drama and growth. I liked how they struggled with the use of their powers, when it was morally right to use them for the cause and when it wasn’t.

While I really enjoyed the whole Thunderbird-Dreamer-Blink struggle, it was Eclipse and Polaris that caught my attention the most in the end. Their personalities mirror those of Professor X and Magneto (*cough* like father like daughter?*cough*) so much, which made their relationship even more intense, comprehensive but also bound to explode. If you follow the series until episode 13, you won’t be too surprised by how the season ends, as it reminds us of several stand offs in X-Men history.

Still, they are basically meant for each other. They literally create an aurora borealis, because that’s how their powers act when they are together.

Some of the episodes unfortunately have the tendency to fall into a predictable routine. It’s almost as if we were dealing with a case-of-the-week type scenario, which here is more like “how do we get the police off our backs” coupled with “the humans went off and thought they knew better once again”. It didn’t bother me too much, but it is something to be aware of as you go along. The stakes got higher with time though, and I appreciated that.

As I said, there’s already a second season in the works and I am really looking forward to seeing where our characters end up. Allegiances have shifted a bit by the end, so there’s definitely a lot to explore!

Have you watched The Gifted? What is your stance on mutants? Do you want to watch it now? Let’s talk!