Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I've Learned from Binge Watching Game of Thrones (Without Reading It First)

I have a confession: I never, ever, ever watch a movie before I read its literary counterpart.

Ever since the travesty of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, my favorite of the HP books at the time of the movie's release, I have refused to trust Hollywood with the task of accurately adapting a book into a movie. (I mean, come on, the movie never even explained that Mooney, Wormtail, Padfood, and Prongs were Remus, Peter, Sirius, and James.)

Don't misunderstand: I'm not a book-to-movie purist. I'm aware that some things need to change in order to take a book and make it a movie. I'm even okay with a different ending, as long as there's a reason for it. No, you won't find me banging down doors because the ending of My Sister's Keeper was changed or because an entire, semi-important character from The Hunger Games wasn't included in the movie (I'm looking at you Madge).

What you will find me doing is judging the snot out of every one of the filmmaker's decisions. I love comparing what was changed, deciding if it worked, and trying to figure out why. I'm less concerned with the accuracy of the adaptation, and more concerned with if it works.

I was the girl sitting in Breaking Dawn Part 2 who wasn't freaking out about that scene, but who was trying to piece together how it fit in with the book's ending. When I was watching The Great Gatsby, I seriously considered the implications of opening with Nick in a mental institution before deciding I didn't like it. I'm the girl who reread Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in two days before the final movie, just so I could know all of the details to compare. My point, dear reader, is that I like to be informed of the tone of the novel, what the reader is supposed to get out of it, and what the characters are supposed to be like before I see it adapted for the screen.

I completely went back on all of my standards when faced with the task of reading Game of Thrones before watching the show. Between a busy schedule and societal pressure to know what on earth a red wedding is, I decided not to wait until I had read the books and dove in to the show headfirst. 

And I enjoyed it. A lot. I liked not knowing where the plot was going; I groaned the cliffhangers and the shocking deaths; I couldn't get enough of the twists and turns. The best part was that I could just watch the show. I didn't care that they added characters, or didn't include such and such plot point because I didn't even know anything was changed.

I just let the show guide me to wherever it wanted, with nary a complaint from my over-analyzing mind. This experience has made me much more open to the idea of watching adaptations before reading the book.

However, I feel almost as if I've let the show Game of Thrones spoil me for the delights of the books. Sure, seeing the events unfold on screen is awesome (and fairly easy on the brain after a long day), but assuming I do eventually read the books: will I enjoy them as much as I would have if I hadn't seen the show? Obviously I will never know the answer to that question, but I'd like to think I will like them just as much no matter how many of the deaths I already know about.

In conclusion, my Game of Thrones experience has taught me that it's okay for me to not read the book first, but it has also made me think about the reading experience I'm giving up by doing that. I think that in the future I will be more open to watching a screen adaptation before reading the book, and my decision will have less to do with snobbery and more to do with which experience I think holds more value.

What about you? Do you like to read the book before or after seeing it's adaptation?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Title: Roomies
Authors: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Release Date: December 2013 from Little, Brown
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Gift
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.


Roomies is the story I wish I'd read before college. It addresses the assumptions people have about others, about college, and about romantic relationships that I certainly had before my freshman year. Had I been able to read this before starting college, I think I would have learned a lot. It would have made me think about the assumptions people hold about others, and the ways our different lives make us who we are. I feel like I've grown enough as a college student that the ideas in Roomies weren't revolutionary for me, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

Roomies is the story of EB and Lauren, two girls who are are assigned to each other as roommates, but who have never met. The book follows their lives the summer before their freshman year at Berkley, and the narrative is connected by their email correspondence. EB and Lauren aren't very similar: they live on opposite sides of the US, Lauren has four siblings and EB is an only child, Lauren has one best friend and EB has a group of friends. The chief similarity between them is the fact that they both enter their roommate relationship with assumptions about the other girl and what her life is like.

Roomies has a dual narrative structure, a personal favorite of mine. Zarr and Altebrando gave EB and Lauren such different tones in their narratives that I was never confused about whose point-of-view I was reading from. The emails the girls send back and forth are the only real connection between the events that occur in each girl's life, and I really enjoyed comparing the emails to the actual events. The emails change as the relationship between the main characters develops, giving the reader a way to see how each girl could be perceived by the other.

My favorite part of Roomies was the transformation I saw in both EB and Lauren. It was exciting to see them grow into friends and realized that they had a lot to learn about each other. I feel that often people make a lot of assumptions about others, and that was certainly true for EB and Lauren at the beginning of the book. By the end, however, they both had grown to realize that their assumptions aren't always correct. I also saw them become more confident in all aspects of their lives, which is an important part of transitioning from high school to college.

I also enjoyed the way Roomies included romance and sex. EB has to deal with her changing feelings for her long-time boyfriend, and Lauren has to recognize that she might actually have feelings for one of her co-workers. The romance in this book is so good. There are so many sweet moments, and so many awkward moments, and it's all just so easy to relate to. I really appreciated that sex was also something addressed, but it focused on emotional readiness instead of explicit scenes.

There aren't enough books like Roomies out there. It addresses the anxiety of entering college without wrapping everything up in a neat little bow at the end. EB and Lauren's email relationship is very realistic, and could be taken from the lives of real girls. Much like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Roomies has the feel of a YA novel, but the emphasis on college will be appealing to an older age group as well. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

Title: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Release Date: September 2013 from Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary from Goodreads: What would you change?
Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.


I'm not the biggest fan of science fiction novels, maybe because science and I don't get along very well. I enjoyed Pivot Point by Kasia West because it didn't have a lot of scifi elements, not in spite of it, and I didn't love Across the Universe by Beth Revis, though many did. Something about All Our Yesterdays compelled me to read it anyway. Thanks to that, I have had a great science fiction experience that I hope can be replicated by other books like it.

All Our Yesterdays opens with Em, locked in a cell with only her friend Finn in the cell next door for company. Em is fixated on a drain in the floor, eventually stealing a plastic spoon to unscrew the grate and finding a note to herself inside...a note that she doesn't remember writing. The note consists of a list, with all of the items crossed off except one: "You have to kill him." From here, we get to know Marina, a normal high school girl with some insecurities, who just wants her best friend to be as in love with her as she is with him. We follow both girls throughout the story, until the climax brings them both together.

The plot in All Our Yesterdays is a bit of whirlwind, but it's not as confusing as you might think a time travel novel would be. Tirrell gives us information in small segments, always just enough for the reader to understand what's happening, but never enough to overwhelm. I enjoyed continuing to get the small pieces of information about how the time travel worked and what exactly happened between Marina's time and Em's time throughout the novel.

Duel narration is a personal favorite; I love getting two different consciousnesses in one book. The dual narration in All Our Yesterdays is a little bit different from the typical boy/girl type, but it's still fun to read. Tirrell definitely uses dual narration to build the suspense--just when you're getting into what Em is doing, she'll switch to Marina, and vice versa. It worked really well to keep the pace up, because though All Our Yesterdays is face-paced, it's not full of non-stop action.

The characterization in All Our Yesterdays wasn't the strongest, but I would have to spoil something to explain why in detail. Short version: there was some disconnect for me, concerning how the reader is supposed to view the characters and the way they act.

Finally, the romance between Finn and Em was minimal, but it was there and it felt like real love between two people, not like infatuation or the very beginnings of love. It made me care about the outcome of the story even more than I would have had there been no romance, because more was at stake. There is also romance between Marina and her best friend James, which was more of the traditional YA love story where the girl wonders "Does he or doesn't he?", but it ended up being more that meets the eye.

Overall, All Our Yesterdays was a very interesting take on time travel that had me flipping through the pages like nobody's business. It wanted to know the connection between Marina and Em, and I really wanted to know how things would turn out for them. It was full of twists and turns and I was very satisfied with the way it all turned out, though the ending was confusing. I think I might try to give some other sci-fi books a chance now that I've had so much success with this one.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine. It's a way to showcase books I'm excited to read that haven't been released yet.

The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Release Date: April 15, 2014 from Poppy

Summary: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound

I've read an enjoyed Smith's two other novels, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and This Is What Happy Looks Like. They are fun, contemporary YA novels that satisfy my cheesy romantic side. I'm so excited to see this one play out as a long distance relationship, and I hope there's quite a bit of Edinburgh in the novel so I can indulge some wanderlust as well.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Introducing Turning Page Magazine

Today is the launch day for Turning Page Magazine, an online publication that showcases bookish articles, such as:
The philosophy behind it: Turning Page is a magazine devoted to exploring the dynamic state of the publishing industry, encompassing the old and the new, electronic and print, traditional and self-publishing, brick & mortar and online bookselling, and more. We're a magazine that, like the industry itself, is capable of embracing all of these aspects at once; our aim is to publish articles that examine and engage this kinetic moment for writers and readers, considering where the production and promotion of creative work has come from and where it's headed.

Please check it out! All book lovers are bound to find something that interests them, as was the goal of the project.