When a good book goes bad…

“The 5th Wave” made its big screen debut over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite books in recent years, and had all the stars lined up in my favor, I would have made it to the theater this weekend to see it.

But…

Well, let’s just say the more I watched the trailers and read about the project, the more I worried that my beloved book was in the wrong hands. Or maybe shouldn’t even be a movie at all. I don’t want to blame Hollywood directors and writers when a book-to-screen adaptation goes sideways. Some books just don’t easily make the leap to the big screen.

Whatever the problem, it seems my fears were justified. Not even Liev Schreiber, one of my favorites and a great choice for Vosch, could save it. Critics and audiences were underwhelmed. The sad thing is that reflects on the source material, unfair as that may be.

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Rick Yancey’s story of survival following an alien invasion, from just a cursory glance, seems like it would be in the same vein as other YA dystopian tales. But Yancey really separates himself from the pack by asking hard questions, questions about survival and what it means to be human. The scene with the “crucifix soldier” (as told in the book) is particularly haunting and heartbreaking. The description of Cassie’s weeks alone in the woods, thinking she could be the last human alive, is both terrifying and thought-provoking. He doesn’t shy away from those themes and that’s why the book is so darn good.

Hollywood doesn’t have the best track record for book-to-screen adaptations. For every good one, there are dozens that fall woefully short. My husband usually avoids watching any movie with me when I’ve read the source material because I become a complete psychopath when the movie roams too far afield. I knew I was in trouble with “The 5th Wave” when the trailer showed Evan (played by Alex Roe) shirtless in the water because THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE BOOK!!!! AND WHERE IS THE SNOW FROM THE BLIZZARD??? IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE WINTER!!!!

(deep breath)

Rick Yancey shared this review on his Facebook page, and I give a huge shout out to the reviewer (who had clearly read the book, or at least did a great job of faking it) for separating the film from the source material. It was refreshing, for a change, for the reviewer to not look down her nose at the book because she didn’t like the movie.

I wish Hollywood would stop thinking of just dollars when selecting these books for production. I know a rabid fan base can translate to movie ticket sales, but it’s time to just stop. I read the rights have been purchased for another favorite trilogy of mine, “Red Rising,” and if I had any pull at all, this book would not be a two-to-three-hour movie. The book is way too long, too much world-building, too many characters. It needs to be a 13-part TV program along the lines of “Game of Thrones” or “Wayward Pines.” Three seasons, one for each book. Please. Pretty please.

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I think these episodic programs have done wonders for storytelling. I wasn’t an iota interested in seeing the “Jessica Jones” series on Netflix, until I watched the first episode and was hooked. Great character development and plenty of time to unfold the plot without the dreaded information dump. Same reason I love “Sherlock.” Ninety minutes allows way more time to develop the story. And “Justified.” Elmore Leonard’s short story and great characters came to life over six seasons. I really wish TV would get more involved with these book-to-screen adaptations. I think the success rate would be better.

I’m not saying all book-to-movie screen adaptations are bad. I have the movie version of “The Martian” on hold at the library and can’t wait to see it since I loved, loved, loved the book.

As for the movie, critic reviews were good; audience reaction was great. But, this book was more action-based than thought-provoking, which probably made it a better candidate for big screen adaptation. Just a guess.

Oh, and then there’s Matt Damon. That didn’t hurt either. 🙂

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Happy 2016!

It’s 2016 and while I’ve definitely had some good memories (and not so good ones) from this past 365 days, I’m looking forward to the year ahead. While some of the things I’m excited about are personal (my youngest graduating from high school), I also am awaiting some less-than-monumental events this coming year.

“Morning Star” by Pierce Brown

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Seriously, I wish I had a way to get a copy of this book, then magically make all the responsibilities in my life go away until I could finish this final book in the Red Rising series. Unfortunately, not only is that not likely to happen, I’ll probably have to arm wrestle my youngest for first crack at this book.

This is Brown’s first series, and he accomplished the very rare task of putting out a great first book, then topping it with a sequel that was even better. So I have high hopes for Book 3. Bahhh! I can’t wait.

“Red Rising” was first touted as YA and I’m glad that moniker has kind of faded. It’s definitely adult fare, even if the protagonist is in his late teens. Kind of violent but socially relevant. Great characters, great plot. Did I say already that I can’t wait?

And along those same lines….

“The Last Star” by Rick Yancey

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His first book in the series, “The 5th Wave” is going to be a movie this month, but I’m way more psyched for the final book in his trilogy. This is YA, but it asks some hard questions about survival and what it is to be human following an alien invasion that devastates the planet.

His protagonist, Cassie, is smart, funny and kicks butt in her efforts to save her little brother. As a warning: The book includes some profanity, including the f-bomb, but considering it’s the end of the world, it’s not exactly out of place.

And one more book….

MINE!

“Extreme Measures” is still the working title, and I expect this to be out by summer at the latest, maybe even late spring. The draft is done and ready for editing. I know a mother isn’t supposed to have a favorite child — and I still don’t officially — but I really like this book so far!

More Benedict Cumberbatch? Yes, please!

I am a “Sherlock” junkie. I’ve always had a crush on the literary version of Sherlock Holmes and this BBC adaptation is awesome. While it will be 2017 before the next full season is released (sad face), a special episode will be aired in early January. Since I don’t get cable and the closest movie theater showing the episode is more than three hours away (bigger sad face), I’ll have to wait for it to come on Netflix or on video. Either way, I should be seeing it some time this year. Yay!

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And — I’m aware of this only because my youngest is a complete comic book nerd — Cumberbatch will star as Doctor Strange in a Marvel movie in the fall. So, while I may know nothing about the comic book, I’m game to go. Really, I’d watch Benedict Cumberbatch read from the phone book. It’s not a “oh-he’s-so-hot” thing. I just think he’s a very likable and talented actor.

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But it can’t all be good…

Election 2016

I’m already really tired of the presidential election campaigning and it’s only going to get worse. By August, I expect to be boycotting online media outlets and all commercial television. I still have a bad taste leftover from 2012.

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Yep, this image pretty much sums it up! 🙂 Happy New Year!

Why Not YA?

The other day, my husband asked me what I was reading. I was about halfway through James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner.” He pointed out — quite innocently — that a lot of adults today are reading books aimed at teens. At first, his comment rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t read YA lit to be trendy. I read it because I’ve found a lot of great series shelved in the YA section of the library and book store. I still read books for adults, too, but today’s teen lit is way better overall than the books published when I was still in that age category.

Here’s why I love YA:

1. The books tend to be fast reads. I wish I had hours to read like I did when I was younger. Now, I get a chapter here and there. Most YA books keep the action flowing, the characters lively and don’t require you to keep looking back to the first chapter to remember who a character was.

2. The books tend to be “cleaner” than their adult counterparts. Now, that statement isn’t true across the board. It’s not hard to find raunchy teen lit. And even my favorite series still have profanity or sexuality. But overall, the language is not as pervasive, the violence not as disturbing, and the sex scenes not as graphic.

3. As a mom of two teenage boys, I’ve often shared what I’m reading with them. If they happen to like the same books — it’s happened! — it creates this nice area for discussion. My youngest is a huge “Hunger Games” fan, too, though he’s Team Gale, while I’m Team Peeta.

If you haven’t tried reading any YA lit, but don’t want to embarrass yourself walking around the teen section of the library looking for a book (trust me, I’ve done this and it is embarrassing), here are a few selections I’ve read and liked.

“The Hunger Games,” “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins. Probably one of my favorite series of all times. I picked up THG when it first game out and was devastated when I realized it was only Book One and I had to wait A WHOLE YEAR for the next book. My advice is to wait until all the books are out before beginning a series.

“The 5th Wave” by Rick Yancey. I broke my rule mentioned above when I started this first book in a trilogy about the aftermath of an alien invasion. Book Two, “The Infinite Sea,” is just as good, if not better. I’m really not sure I can wait another year for Book Three (sigh). There is some profanity and some talk of sex, but the story is compelling and Cassie, the protagonist, kicks butt.  I also like that the issues that come up during the course of the story are pretty provocative.

“Unwind,” “Unwholly,” “Unsouled,” and “Undivided” by Neal Shusterman. I’m not sure how anyone can read this series and not be pro-life, but I’ve heard many people say it is pro-abortion. I just don’t see it. I like that Shusterman leaves room for debate on a very complex subject. “Undivided” was just released last month. I haven’t read it yet but based on reviews I’ve read, it should be a great finish to the series. The first three books are excellent.

“Divergent,” “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.” by Veronica Roth. The first book starts out with a bang, the second book is okay, but the third book was just…I hate to say it was bad so let’s just say I was really disappointed. Not so much with what happened at the end — the ending created quite a backlash among fans — but at the quality of the book as a whole. I’m not sure I can recommend starting this series, given the way it ends, but with the movie out this past spring, it may be something you’d want to read.

I’m always on the lookout for a new book. Feel free to post any recommendations!