3 Reasons I Wanted to See The Theory of Everything and 5 Things I Came Away Loving

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Over the weekend I finally got a chance to see The Theory of Everything. I’ve been dying to see it for a while now but my schedule and the winter holiday season has kept me pretty busy, which is great, but on Sunday I was able to get together with one of my college friends, have brunch, and go see the movie.

My Pre-viewing Thoughts

I can’t say that I am a science person at all. The last time I took Physics was senior year of high school, and I still believe that the only reason I did well in the class was because I took extremely neat notes (I knew it wasn’t my subject so I was ready to tackle it head on) and I had a really great teacher. But still I actively avoided a lot of science in college, despite the number of friends I have who are into the subject. I’m not the type of person who would leap at a chance to see a Stephen Hawking movie. But I did. So here’s why.

1) Eddie Redmayne

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I have been a huge Eddie Redmayne fan for years, mainly because of his performance in Les Mis (which I am also obsessed with), but I was also sort of aware of who he was a little before then. So when I heard that he was going to be in this, my interest was piqued. Also he is married now, and I am happy for him, but also a little more sad than I really should be…

2) The Trailer I think first saw the trailer for The Theory of Everything a few months ago when I was looking up something on imdb, and I was instantly intrigued. Since then I have watched the trailer more times than I would care to admit in anticipation for the movie. Just something about the music overlaying the voice overs with their selection of scenes and the story as a whole really got me.

3)  David Thewlis aka Remus Lupin

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I only really know David Thewlis as Remus Lupin, one of my favorite characters from Harry Potter, and I don’t think i have ever seen him in anything else, so that also got me interested as well. I must say part of me wanted him to offer chocolate to Eddie Redmayne at some point in the movie to help him along (it works wonders against Dementors).

My Post Viewing Thoughts

So here are my thoughts after watching the movie. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but then again I’m not entirely sure what that was. And if it had ended up being entirely what I thought, I don’t think it would have been as good. They do cover a good portion of the movie in the trailers, but since it is a true story, and Stephen Hawking’s life and work is so well known, it doesn’t give away as much as if this had happened with a fictional story. I thought there was still enough that wasn’t shown in the trailer to make it interesting. I felt like I needed a day or two to fully process what I saw, so here are my somewhat processed thoughts.

1) Eddie Redmayne (again)

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Portraying Stephen Hawking on screen is a huge challenge because of his fame and body of work alone, not to mention ALS, which he was diagnosed with while he was in graduate school at Cambridge. In interviews Redmayne talks about the work and research that went into him learning both about Stephen’s theories and ALS as a whole.

They had to chart what muscles were still working at what points in the film, primarily from photographs, and then Redmayne had to learn how to accurately portray that on screen. Plus, since films aren’t shot in chronological order, he had to be able to jump around to different points in Stephen’s life within the same day. There is some serious acting talent and dedication needed to pull that off well.

I’ve found that I really enjoy hearing about “behind the scenes” stuff like this, whether it is in movies, tv shows or books, so I really appreciated how honest Redmayne was about the work and dedication he needed to put into this job. The other challenge that comes with playing Stephen Hawking is his voice machine.

Since Theory of Everything covers a long span of Hawking’s life, his voice machine isn’t introduced until about the last third of the movie, but it was well into his time in the new wheel chair that I realized that Eddie Redmayne as a actor had no more lines in the movie. And yet his role was far from being over. That just meant that he had to find a way to express himself, whether it was through the pauses in conversation, or expression and eyebrow movements. That is a whole other challenge for him as an actor, which he tackled head on.

I saw this when I was watching interviews about Les Mis, but it was just emphasized even more here – I really enjoy the challenges that Eddie Redmayne goes after as an actor, and the amount of work he does for them. He also has had such a variety of roles that he won’t be type cast any time soon. The other actor that I think of with challenges in roles is Jennifer Lawrence. There are obviously more, but I’ve just seen Jennifer Lawrence and Eddie Redmayne talk more about the behind the scenes preparation that goes on for a role, and they both go after really varied and challenging parts. The third person i think of with this is Daniel Day Lewis. I still haven’t seen Lincoln, but I really want to. I just really like hearing about actors, and authors for that matter, pushing themselves and trying out new things.

No one wants to see your homework,

Redmayne has said in multiple interviews when asked about the research he had to do for the role. The results should be there, but it is not the main focus of the plot. Which leads me to

2) The Story

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While I have read reviews that say there should be more science in the film, I personally like the way they showed the story. I knew the very very basics about Stephen Hawking before this movie, and I didn’t know who Jane was at all.

Stephen is such an icon that I liked that the story focused on the more personal relational side of his life. It  fleshes out his character more than if they had just focused on his fame and theories. They focused on him as a person rather than him as a legend. There is one scene where Hawking’s father reminds him that he is world famous, but it is set in a garden with his family around him – a very private scene compared to a very public fact.

The other thing that the story covers well is Stephen’s humor throughout the movie, which also expanded his character even more. Here is this guy who is going through so much, much more than most other people go through in their lifetimes, and his sense of humor stays with him throughout the film and throughout his life. That is something that Redmayne commented on when he met Stephen Hawking a few weeks before filming began, and the writers and James Marsh, the director, really worked to emphasize. Reedmayne also talked about this in an interview. He said,

Stephen lives with such optimism that there was a sense of optimism that ran through [the movie].

3) Felicity Jones

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I must say I hadn’t seen a movie with Felicity Jones in it before watching this (I am a little hopeless when it comes to celebrities), but this was a great role for me to be introduced to her in. A lot of her character was split between being a young girl in school infatuated with a boy, and caring for him while he has the disease, raising three kids, and doing her own work. I thought she portrayed these two sides of the role really well, and I the stress and the nitty gritty details of dealing with ALS were all shown realistically. While I have heard that there are some parts of the story that aren’t exactly true to life, I think she did a great job emoting her character and really showing it on screen. All in all both she and Eddie Redmayne deserve those Golden Globes they have been nominated for.

4) Science vs. Religion

This was another theme that was slipped in at various points throughout the movie. I wasn’t expecting it, but it makes sense with the themes of the film, and with Stephen’s interest in time and space and the beginning of time that religion would find a way to slip in one way or another. Jane is a Catholic I believe, and that was how that thread started, but it could have been very easy for the science vs. religion debate to become too heavy handed and overdone which didn’t happen, so I appreciated that, and I thought it was well executed.

5) The Cinematography

I am in no way a film student, and usually things like cinematography go over my head, but I really enjoyed a lot of the shots in Theory of Everything. Bits of the more cinematic scenes can be seen in the trailer, but there are more in the film as a whole. There is a lot of spinning and circles throughout the film, but it is all done in a beautiful artistic way that again isn’t overly stated I thought. And the circle motif goes well with time and “winding back the clock” and all that. I also liked the artistic bits because it went well with the “Science?” “Arts” conversation that Stephen and Jane had at the beginning of the movie when they first met, and the cinematography is a good way to fit the arts into a “science movie” (I use quotes because really it’s not a science movie but you know what I mean).

The Theory of Everything is up for 4 Golden Globes including Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones for Best Male and Female in a Drama respectively, Best Motion Picture, Drama, and Best Original Score. But even if it wasn’t up for four awards, and I’m sure more when Oscar season fully rolls around, Stephen Hawking has said that he enjoyed Eddie’s performance, and at time he forgot that Eddie wasn’t himself. If that isn’t the highest praise then I don’t know what is.

Well, this has turned out to be a pretty long post because I have a lot of feelings about this movie, and I knew I wanted to post about it before even watching it, but I would love to hear anyone else’s thoughts on the movie so please leave comments below! I also am planning on seeing The Imitation Game soon, which is also up for a number of Golden Globes, and I’m really interested to see how that all pans out. My bet is on this, but I also love Benedict Cumberbatch, so we’ll just have to wait and see…

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In Which I Obsess Over a New Series (Nothing New…)

Helloo everyone! I hope you have all had a wonderful July 4th weekend filled with relaxation. I am currently in the middle of a two-week mini vacation, which means I have spent a lot of time reading in the sun, watching movies, a bit of the World Cup and Wimbledon, and watching a fair amount of Parks and Rec. (I know I’m late to the party but I am completely obsessed with it at the moment!)

Speaking of obsessions…I am excited to talk about Shadow and Bone today. Usually I like to wait a while (maybe about a year) before re-reading a book, but I am pretty sure I am going to be revisiting the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo (which Shadow and Bone is the first of) well before then. Like I might read it again after the book I’m reading now, and I only first read it a few months ago (still playing catch up here). shaodw_200

I first heard about the Grisha series while having lunch with a college friend, who insisted that I had to read it, and I took out Shadow and Bone from the library not too long after that. And after reading it I can say that my friend was right. I am also debating buying it so I can revisit again in the future.

Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina, a girl who grew up as an orphan with her friend Mal in Ravka, a Russian-based fantasy land where Grishas, or people with specific talents (either for the elements, healing, etc.) serve The Darkling. Ravka is also divided by the Shadow Fold, a dark abyss that splits the country in two, and takes away its sea ports and trade routes. Alina leans that she might have the power needed to help restore Ravka and destroy the Fold, but things in the capital aren’t all what they seem, and Alina finds herself swept up in the middle of it.

There are many things that I really enjoyed about Shadow and Bone. The first thing I noticed as I read the first page was Bardugo’s writing style. It is sparse and to the point, but it also seemed very poetic to me, which I really enjoyed. The world itself also was very unique in terms of fantasy stories. The court life story is well known in fantasy books, but while many of the other court stories are based on European or British culture, Ravka is a Russian based world, which set it apart from the start. Many of the names of lands or people had Slavic roots, the world itself felt vast, and the winters sounded brutal.

At first I thought that Shadow and Bone would be similar to the Graceling series, which I read a few years ago and have recently revisited, in that certain people have special powers and are set apart from society etc. But I wasn’t too far into Shadow and Bone before it was clear that Leigh Bardugo was doing her own thing and was doing it really well.

Another thing I really loved about this book was Alina and her storytelling since the story is in first person. My creative writing teacher in college always said that you had to have a really strong unique narrator to pull off the first person narration well, and Alina Starkov fits that mold without a question. She is a quiet character who doesn’t always have a lot to say, but she is also hugely sarcastic and can hold her own against the other characters, which I really enjoyed. There was something about a quiet snarky girl that I really appreciated. That kind of personality could also be challenging to pull off in writing too, but Bardugo holds the balance well to make Alina a believable and likable character.

Another thing that was interesting about Shadow and Bone, was that as a narrator Alina (and Bardugo) never really stepped back to give the reader any backstory. Instead, things are pieced together as the story moves along, which makes the action more fast paced and immediate. I found that it took me a couple of chapters to figure out the world Alina lived in at first with the different Grisha powers and all, but the fact that I didn’t know everything, or certain things, pulled me in more. I also thought it was an interesting technique as a writer which I appreciated.  There were flashbacks to when Alina and Mal were younger, but the camera never really zoomed out to say here’s what you need to know about such and such. This also emphasized the plot and speed of events in the story, which was plotted and laid out very meticulously. I feel like that would be an interesting exercise – write a piece without zooming the camera out.

I also appreciated the reality of Alina’s relationships, particularly with her instructors, The Darkling, and Mal. The relationships were made very complex as Alina found out more about herself, her power, and the world that she lives in. This also flushed out the other characters in the story as well, and made The Darkling and Mal more than just the men (and sometimes love interests) in her life, which I appreciated. It made all the characters in the series more three dimensional.

Those were the main things that stuck out to me with Shadow and Boen, which I devoured over a few days, along with the other two books in the Grisha series, which I will be talking about next. I could go on but I don’t want to give things away. But you all should read Shadow and Bone, and if you have I would love to hear what you think about it. Also the movie rights for the book have been sold to the same people who did Harry Potter, so hopefully a movie for Shadow and Bone will be coming soon! With such a fast moving, action driven plot, I imagine it would make a great movie if they do it right. What are your thoughts on that? I want to know!

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The Giver Movie

This week the first trailer for The Giver was released. The movie is set to come out this August, and it stars people like Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, and Taylor Swift.

I first read The Giver early on in my school career and then again for my Children’s Literature class in college. It seems like people have one of two opinions on The Giver – either they hate it or they love it – there doesn’t seem to be much in between. Although we did talk about some of the issues with the book during Children’s Lit (I think the numbers in the community didn’t quite add up or something like that), I still really enjoyed the book both times I read it.

I find it interesting that a movie for The Giver is coming out now. The Giver was written as a dystopian YA novel long before dystopian YA novels were cool. Of course there were other dystopian books out there like 1984 and Brave New World, which I still want to read, but The Hunger Games was far from being a thing in the ’90’s when Lois Lowery wrote The Giver.

I was interested to see how they showed Jonas’s world in the trailer. It is a futuristic society, but I always pictured it as being more idyllic as opposed to futuristic. Maybe that’s because I was just learning what dystopian and utopian were at the time. In my mind Jonas’s house, family, and world was very traditional. They had a round, wooden table where they ate (I don’t know if that was in the book or just in my mind), and I pictured a lot of grass everywhere – maybe because of the final scene in the book, if I am remembering that correctly.

SPOILERS in the next paragraph:

It looks like the movie is in color when in fact a lot of the book was in black and white, although they didn’t really emphasize that too much, if I remember correctly, until the end. But I feel like they could do kind of drab colors vs. vivid colors or something like that to show a contrast there. I’m not sure how that will play out, but I am kind of interested to see what they will do.

Also in the book Jonas and all his friends are twelve, while actors such as Brenton Thwaites and Taylor Swift are in their twenties. This is also understandable when compared to The Hunger Games or Divergent movies, and I don’t think that in itself would stop me from seeing the movie. I might just have a book Giver and movie Giver distinction in my head.

So it looks like my image of The Giver world and the movie do not line up, but that is understandable. I wonder if my image of it would have changed had I read something like The Hunger Games, Matched, or Divergent before reading The Giver.

I also think it is interesting that The Giver movie is coming out now. If I remember correctly, it is a pretty visual book, which would lend itself to a movie. I always saw it as the precursor to the dystopian trend in young adult books, so in a way it makes sense to come out now. But it also seems like the dystopian trend is slowing down a bit in the book world, or at least that’s how I feel.

Of course, the movie industry and the book industry are two different things, but they connected with things like this. I just thought the timing was interesting, but I also don’t necessarily think that will harm the movie too much in itself. All in all, I’m interested to see how the movie does, and I guess I’m going to be rereading The Giver sometime before August.

Here is the youtube link to the trailer.

Also, I am going to see the Divergent movie tonight, and I am pretty excited.

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Frozen on a Snowy Day

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This past weekend I went to see Frozen, and I figure the best time to write about it is during a snowstorm, right? I kept on hearing about Frozen for a while before it came out, but it was never in too much detail so I didn’t really know what the movie was about for a long time. All I knew about it was it was about sisters and the snowman was the comic relief character. But as I heard more and more about it after it came out I decided that it was something I wanted to see.

So on Friday I went to see it. I have gone to see a lot of movies recently which is kind of nice because for a while over the summer and fall there wasn’t a whole lot I was interested in seeing. But Frozen was so good! I really enjoyed it. It kind of reminded me of Brave  in that it reimagined the traditional Disney princes
s story.

Frozen, which is based on Hans Christen Anderson’s The Snow Queen, focuses on the relationship between two sisters rather than one princess finding true love. Elsa even says to Anna that “You can’t marry someone you just met” as a kind of nod to Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Mermaid etc.

Also I found the emotion behind Anna and Elsa’s relationship very real and pretty complex which was nice to see in a Disney movie. Elsa has the power to create snow and ice but her parents hide her away from Anna and the rest of the world for her own protection. It’s not in a Rapunzel way where Mother Gothel hid Rapunzel and her hair away for her own gain. It is clear from the movie that Elsa’s parents love her and care about her, but it is also clear that their actions and decisions did leave serious consequences both for Anna and Elsa.

All Anna wants is to play with her sister when she is younger and Elsa wants that too but as she gets older and her coronation day draws nearer, she sees that she really doesn’t know how to control her powers and ends up freezing the town and sending the whole area into an eternal winter in the middle of summer. She ends up fleeing and Anna runs after her to convince her to come back and not hide away anymore.

So that’s a bit of a recap, but I found the characters to be more complex that that, especially when it came to Anna and Elsa. Anna has spent her whole life in an empty castle but always manages to see the good in things. She is very chipper but she is also hugely naive as is seen throughout the movie. But it is after all a coming of age story, and a bit of naiveté is to be expected. She had flaws and weaknesses but is still portrayed as a strong character, which is pretty realistic and nice to see in movies.

Elsa is also going through a lot of her own issues – many of which have to do with essentially being shut out from the world and hiding this huge part of herself from everyone she knew including her sister. Her mantra growing up was “Conceal it. Don’t feel it. Don’t let it show.” There is a lot of anxiety and loneliness in her character and it would have been easy for Disney to make her the villain of the story but they don’t which I really liked. Instead they went into more of Elsa’s character rather than making her a stereotype as she grew up and accepted herself (Let It Go) and then was faced with new challenges like returning to her old home. And she also deals with issues a lot of people deal with all the time which made the movie all the more real.

Frozen doesn’t really have a central villain the way that Aladdin, or The Little Mermaid does throughout the majority of the movie. Yes there are bad people, especially towards the end, but the focus is mostly on Elsa and Anna and their relationship. Also I have been pretty obsessed with Idina Menzel ever since I saw Wicked when I was 16 (I didn’t see it with the original cast but I bought the cd immediately after the performance and have loved it ever since) so this has just reaffirmed my obsession with her and her voice. I had Let It Go running through my head all weekend.

Also there is talk of bringing Frozen to Broadway, which I am super excited about. I read in a comment section of a different article that based on other Disney movie musicals and their timelines of getting shows on Broadway that it could take up to four years but I will definitely go see it whenever it comes out. And I really hope Idina Menzel comes back for Elsa because that would be amazing. I’m also curious to see how they do the magic/snow sequences on stage as well. But it is definitely something to look forward to.

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Catching Fire is on Fire

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Well, I finally did it! Last weekend I finally went to see Catching Fire! I was away when  it came out and then there was Thanksgiving and all. Everyone I was going to go see it with had seen it already by that point but they all assured me that they would be happy to go see it for a second (or third) time in theaters.

So last Sunday after church a friend and I were trying to figure out what to do for the rest of the day before watching Downton Abbey that night (!) and we decided on Catching Fire.

It was rainy and gross outside so it wasn’t like we were missing out on anything else we could have done really, and watching the movie gave us a chance to dry off. And for me it was a chance to finally catch up with The Hunger Games franchise. Plus we ended up using our free movie passes we got after the projector for The Hobbit broke at the midnight premiere, so we didn’t have to pay for the movie itself.

I was determined to reread Catching Fire before watching the movie, which also added to my delay in seeing it. I had first read it two years ago, but it took me about a day and a half to read it. Since it took me such a short time, I don’t think I remembered many of the smaller details of the book so it was nice to go back to it again before watching the movie.

I am one of those people who will point out inaccuracies in a movie if it is based on a book to anyone who will listen (you have been warned). This is also true about anything that is filmed in New York. But I was really pleasantly surprised at how accurate it was to the book.

So many movies that are based on book series cut things for time or try and add their own spin on the plot or characters. I love both the Harry Potter books and the movies but I have come to view them as two separate entities because in a way, they are. And I don’t really like talking about the movie version of Half-Blood Prince since they slimmed it down so much. So while I love movie franchises based on books, I am also a little hesitant around them and I try not to rant about inaccuracies too much.

But with Catching Fire it was different. Yes, there were a few things that were slimmed down (I would have liked to see the scene with Plutach Heavensee’s watch at the ball while he dances with Katniss) and they did add a few small things here and there but I was surprised at how accurate it was. Many of the actor’s lines even came straight from the dialogue in the book and the scenery was really accurate as well.

The three Hunger Games books are so visually written that they really lend themselves well to a movie franchise, especially the arena for the Quarter Quell. I heard so many people say the way it was portrayed in the movie was exactly how they saw it because that’s exactly how it is described in the books. And the ridiculous outfits and parties at the Capitol lend themselves well to the big screen as well.

But I also think that the plot of Catching Fire translates well into a movie as well, even more than The Hunger Games. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is alone most of the time, and a lot of the narrative is internal dialogue, which can be a challenge to translate into a movie. But in Catching Fire she finds herself in a completely different situation.

During the games she is surrounded by people the whole time, which adds more conflict, action, and dialogue to the movie, not to mention what’s happening outside the Games themselves with all the rebellions spreading around Panem. All in all it was a much faster paced movie with more intrigue and action than its predecessor. I really like the first Hunger Games movie, but I this one is definitely my favorite so far.

Also, I love Jennifer Lawrence, and watching Catching Fire has gotten me excited about her again. It blows my mind that she is my age and has a Golden Globe, an Oscar, and is nominated for another Golden Globe this year. And she’s such a real, down to earth person off the screen. She really isn’t afraid to be herself in front of the press and I just find that really refreshing. Not to mention that she’s a great actress on screen as well. She has great facial expressions, and Catching really shows that well throughout the movie (see the following gifs).

Anyway, I can see why so many people I talked to were willing to go see it again in theaters. And the DVD comes out in March! 😀

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Some More Dystopia: Divergent

ImageI first bought Divergent by Veronica Roth last fall at a used bookstore for about $3. I started to read it then but as I read it, I found the dystopian world to be a lot like the one in the Hunger Games, so I put it down.

Since then I have come to realize that when I first started reading Divergent I hadn’t read any other dystopian novels other than The Hunger Games, (besides The Giver) and therefore that was my definition of a dystopian Young Adult novel. I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

But now I have read some other dystopian series, and when I saw the trailer for Divergent, I decided that if I ever wanted to see the movie in the future, which I might want to do, I should read the book first.

So I read it. And I was pleasantly surprised when Veronica Roth’s futuristic Chicago no longer reminded me of Panem.

Beatrice Prior lives in a world that is divided into factions based on virtue. There’s Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Amity, and Dauntless. Beatrice was born into Abnegation, and is taught to be quiet, calm, and to constantly think of others before she thinks of herself.

While Beatrice loves her family, she struggles to maintain these values in her life. When the time comes for Beatrice to chose her own faction, she finds out that she is in fact a Divergent; one who has an aptitude for multiple factions, in Beatrice’s case Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. But Beatrice has to decide which one to join. She is told that her Divergence must be kept a secret, as it is dangerous for others to know about her.

So Beatrice joins Dauntless, changes her name to Tris, and throws herself whole heartedly into Dauntless training. But all the while, it looks like something bigger is going on around her, and while Tris struggles to keep her Divergence a secret, her world starts to change, and her secret might be more important than she originally thought.

Dystopian novels in themselves are inherently formulaic: a seemingly perfect yet controlling society starts to unravel and it is up to a bunch of teenagers to save it. That’s not too surprising. What makes a dystopian novel good then, is how the author uses the formula to tell his or her own unique story, and Roth does this well, in my opinion. There enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The fact that the society is going to fall apart is not what kept me reading, it was the how and why that were interesting. It’s kind of like watching a chick flick and you know the girl is going to end up with the guy, but you watch the movie anyway to find out how it happens.

And of course, what would a dystopian novel be without a love interest? Although there is no love triangle in Divergent, which I find rather refreshing – I tend to get very cynical when it comes to love triangles, and its a pretty big trope that is hard to avoid in YA books lately.  What made this love interest different, and even enjoyable for me, was that Tris is already a hugely strong and defiant character. That is clear from the beginning.

But as Tris starts to fall for Four, her leader in Dauntless training, Roth uses this relationship as a means for Tris to find out more about herself, the Dauntless faction, and her society as a whole. It’s not just a girl swooning over a guy. In a similar way, Four also learns about himself, rather than being the perfectly flawed boy that helps a helpless girl through her life. To me, that makes the relationship all the more real, believable, and enjoyable to read. It should be no surprise by now that I am a huge fan of the strong female character and Roth portrays through a variety of different characters and relationships in her series.

As I was reading Divergent, I began thinking – is this book darker than The Hunger Games? It’s hard to be darker than a book about kids battling to the death for public enjoyment, but I saw The Hunger Games as more of a survival story for Katniss rather than a battle. She doesn’t kill unless she needs to. And while the plot of Divergent is different altogether, there is more outright violence simply within the Dauntless faction, and frequently it is this violence and turmoil that pushes the plot forward. I’m not one of those people who condones violence in Young Adult books, I’m all for it; if the story calls for it, then by all means put it in. I really enjoyed reading Divergent and, I am currently reading Insurgent, and I am looking forward to reading Allegiant when it comes out in October, but the comparison of violence was a thought that entered my mind while reading Divergent.

It will be interesting to see how the violence is portrayed in the movie when it comes out next year. Personally, I found The Hunger Games movie to be darker than the book, simply because it was visual instead of verbal. You are being shown something outright as compared to imagining it yourself off the page. So it will be interesting to see how Divergent is translated to the big screen.

One problem I had with Divergent was there were a few times where it seemed like the narration came to a conclusions about the turn of events before Tris did. This was a little strange considering that it is narrated in the first person. It meant that there were times where I felt like I was ahead of Tris when it came to figuring things out, and it made some of her realizations not as gripping as they could have been if they came slightly earlier in the book. This didn’t detract me too much from the series, as I still tore through the book and enjoyed reading it, but I think some of the realizations could come earlier in the narrative while not throwing off the plot, or slowing down the story too much.

All in all I thought Divergent was a good read. I always enjoy it when authors create unique characters and worlds and Veronica Roth does this well in her series. I am currently enjoying Insurgent and I am debating placing a hold on Allegiant before it comes out so I won’t have to wait forever to read it from the library. And now, if I want to, I can go see the movie when it comes out in 2014.

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The Harry Potter Anniversary

In the spring of 1999, a friend of mine told me to read a fantasy book. I was an avid reader at the time, no surprise there, but I hadn’t really read much fantasy. I was much more interested in American Girl or The Boxcar Children.

“Is the book scary?” I asked. Most fantasy novels that I had seen featured a dark mysterious character holding some sort of menacing weapon on the cover, and were frequently about some sort of epic war that was bound to be bloody and/or scary. So I wanted to know what I was getting into. “There’s one part that could be scary,” my friend told me, “but you should read it.”

So, when spring break came around, I brought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with me on vacation. I devoured the book over the course of two weeks and couldn’t find “the scary part” that my friend had mentioned. And with that I was hooked.

Once my family got back from vacation, I immediately ordered the second book. It had been released in the UK at this point, but was not scheduled to come out in the US until that summer – which was just too long to wait. I devoured the second book as well, and the rest is history.

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J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone circa 1997

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published this week (yesterday, to be exact) in 1997. It was then released in the US in the fall of 1998.

I was lucky enough to be the perfect age for Harry Potter. As I got older, the books got darker and more complex, but still maintained the same magic and wonder that was introduced at the beginning of the series.

Since the series lasted for such a long time, and since each book was fairly hefty, I feel like I know the characters of Harry Potter more personally than the characters in any other book I have read.

I know Harry, Ron, Hermione, their friends, teachers, and families, and the the world that they live in. I know the halls of Hogwarts, the classes that they took, the rules of Quiddich (which I still would love to play), and the parameters of the magic that Rowling’s world is based on.

I have reread the series and listened to the audiobooks countless times; it is a story that I always feel that I can return to. When I was younger,I frequently had the audiotapes of Sorcerer’s Stone playing in the background if I was ever just hanging out in my room.

It got to the point where I had a good portion of the first book down by heart, and could recite the first line, (Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number 4 Privet Drive were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much), in a British accent. To this day, I still hear Jim Dale’s voice in my head if I read parts of the first book. I was obsessed, to say the least.

Rowling’s personal story is also hugely impressive in my opinion. As a young writer, it has always been one that stuck with me throughout the years. Being able to go from a divorced mother living in welfare, to being richer than the queen is no small feat.

To add to that, Rowling is no longer considered to be a billionaire because she has given so much of her money away to charities such as Lumos, which she founded to help children living in poverty. So Rowling’s personal story in itself is pretty amazing.

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The Harry Potter books were much longer than many other Young Adult novels at the time, and they proved to teachers and parents alike that young children could in fact stay engaged throughout a long book.

Summers were defined by a new Harry Potter book or movie release. Kids who didn’t normally read were reading, and other young adult fantasy series, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, became more popular again.

The New York Times Children’s Book Review started around the time the third book was released. This was both to promote reading for children, and to free up the top 3 and 4 spots of the best seller list that Rowling was dominating.

To say the least, J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series has had a huge effect on my childhood, my imagination, my writing, and my life.

I am currently rereading the series for its 16th anniversary, something that I have not done since the last book was released in 2007, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Currently, I am in the middle of the second book. While I love returning to the world of Harry Potter, I have also been noticing how Rowling really constructs the books as an overall series, which is something I could not do before reading the seventh book.

As a writer myself, I have really been able to see how a world that I know so well is constructed and developed throughout the series. The amount of detail, plotting, humor, and strong characterization that Rowling puts into her world is impressive to say the least, and it’s these factors that make Harry’s world become real for its readers.

As J.K. Rowling said during her speech at the premiere of the second Deathly Hallows movie,

The stories we love best do live in us forever so whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

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