Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book to Movie: The Shack by Wm. Paul Young

the shack
I read The Shack a long time ago. Might have even been around the time it first published in 2007, because I cannot find a review for it on the blog -- which means I read it before I started this baby in 2010. I do remember that I enjoyed it, and I do recall being interested in seeing the movie when I first heard about it. That was awhile back, but now the movie is upon us!

the shack movie


Based on the New York Times best-selling novel, The Shack takes us on a father’s uplifting spiritual journey. After suffering a family tragedy, Mack Phillips [Sam Worthington] spirals into a deep depression causing him to question his innermost beliefs. Facing a crisis of faith, he receives a mysterious letter urging him to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Despite his doubts, Mack journeys to the shack and encounters an enigmatic trio of strangers led by a woman named Papa [Octavia Spencer]. Through this meeting, Mack finds important truths that will transform his understanding of his tragedy and change his life forever.

And here's the trailer:

What do you think about this trailer? Have you read the book? Are you going to see the movie? Let us know in the comments.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Book review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

Book Summary
When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

Flo's Review
I love audiobooks, so when I was given the chance to review this one, I jumped at it. Then I re-discovered that it was written by this guy. But I decided not to let that affect my reaction to the story itself, and I don't think that I did.

The Cruelty will be a good movie. It has been optioned by Jerry Bruckheimer, so it's on the way. The story is action-packed, and the physical details are very well done. Bergstrom does a great job of really showing us a scene -- Gwendolyn really takes in all the details around her, even before she starts her spy training. The plot moves forward at a good pace and I would bet it continues on a steady beat straight through the end. It's perfect for watching. The people making the movie will have a lot of detail they can re-create. The viewer won't feel that there are any lapses or drags.

But I DNF this book around page 140. The reason, I think, that a lot of people believe the book is better than the movie in most cases is because reading the book allows the author to go into more detail. The reader feels more connected to the characters because she can be inside their heads and know intimate and defining details of their lives. For me, that was missing in this story. I never found a way to connect to Gwendolyn. Yes, she is doing this because she wants her Dad back. Because she feels some sort of fire within her to take risks...but I, the reader, never felt that with her. A story like this succeeds when you want to root for the main character to pull off this crazy thing she's doing, but I honestly felt indifferent toward Gwendolyn. She read like a random person going through motions and not like Gwendolyn Bloom: daughter, brave fighter, driven by determination and fire, etc. The same goes for the secondary characters: Terence and Yael, for example, just feel like plot assists and movers to me; not really like complete individuals.

Also, I got a slight vibe from the story of: "The way to be badass is to completely transform into a fighting machine." I don't necessarily agree with that. Yes, that's definitely part of it. But all the badass female characters I admire in books and movies are not just wicked fighters. They are also passionate. They want to make the world better. They are strongly connected with who they are, and their talents accentuate them and not change them. This might evolve with the story, so it's possible I am not seeing the full picture because I did not finish the book. 

Then there were little things. The first few chapters just felt to me like that one friend who is always name dropping. It was just cities and cities and cities. "Oh this in Paris" and "when I was in Algiers" and "that one restaurant in Nairobi" and etc. And would your high school crush really be convinced to give you his life savings after one date?

As I said above, I think this will make for a good movie. It has the makings of a good screenplay. I just didn't feel it as a novel.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an audiobook copy for my honest review.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Book review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Book Summary
This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Flo's Review
I actually was lucky enough to get an ARC of this one and have it signed by Victoria shortly after it was published. However, I heard a mediocre review from a good friend and so it fell a little bit down on the TBR. And in my world, if it's not on the top of the TBR, it's kind of out of mind.

...until I discovered that my library had the audiobook on CD. This is my preferred audiobook method, since I don't have an auxiliary cable in my car or space on my phone to download the digital versions. So any book for which I can obtain the audiobook on CD get catapulted back to the top of the TBR. This audiobook was 10 CDs long, or almost 13 hours. I enjoyed the narrator, but ultimately it just felt really long to me. It seemed like I was listening to this story forever, and that affected my feelings toward it.

I thought Red Queen was a good story. I enjoyed Mare, Maven, and Cal, and loved to hate Evangeline and the Queen. There were several moments where I was at the edge of seat and breaking a sweat because I was so nervous for Mare. I'd be sure she was going to get busted or exposed, but then she pulled through. 

I remember hearing Victoria talking about the book and explaining how she crafted it similar to how she would craft a screenplay -- three acts, with definitive things happening in each act. That stuck with me from when I heard it two years ago, and I recalled it while listening to this book because it did feel a little formulaic to me. I figured out one of the plot twists, which made me proud because I never figure that stuff out! (I didn't figure it out because I was clever and saw through it, but only because I've read so much YA dystopian that I know to be skeptical of some things. Lol.) I didn't, however, see the big twist, and when I heard it, I mentally kicked myself. She dropped so many clues and hints, but I didn't put them together. It broke my heart the way it broke Mare's, and that is a sign of a good book right there.

Red Queen is the first book in a series, and while I enjoyed it, I don't necessarily feel like I have to go running to read book 2, Glass Sword. Maybe if I can locate an audiobook CD I'll give it a go.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Book Summary
When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Jason Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

Flo's Review
I had a really long and rough week, and this book was exactly what I needed to escape into on Friday night. It is fun, powerful, geeky, sweet, and cool. This, to me, is truly a book that accurately describes an example of what it is to be living in this time. (To quote Hamilton: "Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!") I would stick this book into a time capsule so that the generations after us can unearth it and understand a snapshot of life in 2017. 

I loved that I felt so many things Tay felt. Her disappointment over not meeting someone? Pretty sure I've been there. Excitement over the all the cool things on the Con exhibit floor? I've definitely been there. My nephew is autistic and I like to try to understand him and his experience as much as I can. I'm not saying that his and Tay's experiences are exactly the same, but she still gave me a glimpse -- and for that, I am grateful. I also adored this quote:

"Let's say someone is terrified of heights, and in order to get out of the house every day she has to walk across a tightrope from fifty stories up. Everyone would say, 'Oh she's so brave. She faces heights every day.' That's what we do. We walk a tightrope every day. Getting out the door is a tightrope. Going grocery shopping is a tightrope. Things that most people consider to be normal, daily parts of life are the very things we fear and struggle with the most, and yet here we are, moving forward anyways. That's not weak ... We are the brave ones."

Jamie is perfectly understanding, fun, and adorkable. I can see how Tay felt so comfortable around him, and I love that he was there when she needed him, but understood how to give her space when she needed that, too. I also really enjoyed Charlie. She's this new celebrity, but still very down-to-earth and easy to relate to. Her story is one that's so understandable and one I recognize from seeing it around me in people I know: namely, someone who is so strong in herself, yet manages to lose herself in her relationship. The process of recognizing this and coming out of it is a hard one, and I applaud Charlie and everyone who is struggling with that. 

I highlighted so many great lines in this! Two of my favorites:

"There needs to be an app that pops up on screens when a nasty tweet is about to sent that says, 'Are you sure you want to say that? It's mean.'"

"We strut into the party like we're Derek Zoolander."

The story had a happy yet realistic ending, and I really appreciate that. Props to Jen Wilde for her dedication, too:

"To the weirdos, the geeks and the fandom queens. To the outcasts, the misfits and the everything in between. The days of playing the sidekick are over. You are the superheros now. You are my people, and this is for you."

Queens of Geek comes out March 14, 2017 and I encourage your nerdy, awkward, lovable, powerful self to pick it up! #LoveYourWeird

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Book Summary
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.

Flo's Review
You guys. You guys! I ADORED this book. I woke up this morning, grabbed the book (which I'd intuitively left by my bed the night before), and started reading. And there I stayed, reading in my bed, until I was done. (Minus one restroom break.) I kept telling myself, "Okay, after this bit I'm going to get up and get something to eat!" But then somehow I kept on reading. And I kept on jumping ahead a few pages to see when Darien and Elle would text each next - I would get nervous if it didn't happen every 2 pages or so. Like, "Oh no, he said THAT and she hasn't responded yet!! What will he think?!?!" No truer words were spoken to describe me and this book than "emotionally invested."

I think it's because this book speaks to me on so many levels. I mean, this site is Book NERDS Across America. Naturally, I'm a geek. And being all into a fandom? Yup, right here. And the description of the con? Yep! And the thing is, the fact that the story is a take on Cinderella is done so well, that I honestly didn't even notice what the parallels were right away. They just seemed like elements of this own, individual story. For example, I literally remembered reading a scene about the Magic Pumpkin driving through town and thinking, "OH! I get it! It's a pumpkin!!"

The characters were so well, too. Catherine and Chloe were definitely deplorable, but not in a fake, overdone kind of way. The emotional attachment Elle had to her father put everything into perspective and helped a lot of things add up. And Darien was very real; he felt like a regular guy and not a movie star, so it made sense that he and Elle would fall for each other. Sage was also a fantastic character and I loved seeing her get her HEA.

The ball scenes at ExcelsiCon were spot on! Poston captured the magic beautifully, and it really felt like a fairy tale to read. 

Geekerella comes out April 4, 2017; do yourselves a favor and pick it up! 

Thank you to Quirk Books for sending me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Movie Review: Coin Heist

Flo's Review
When the lovely folks at Adaptive Books contacted me about reviewing Coin Heist, they were good to mention that it was going to be a Netflix movie shortly. I was sold! Those of you who have been with Book Nerds for many years (thank you, by the way!) will remember that we used to have a Book-To-Movie post regularly, where we would review a movie based off a book. We don't do them on a schedule anymore, but we certainly do them when we can.

Anyway, I decided to curl up this week and catch this movie. And you know what my final reaction was? It made me want to read the book! True story! Because I could tell in the movie that there was likely a lot of character development that never made it in. That could be for several reasons: it's hard to translate visually, there is no time, it interrupts the flow of the movie. But I just know that there's more to these 4 characters and I want to know it. So I'll be reading Coin Heist soon. In the meantime, I don't regret watching the movie. The heisty (I possibility just made that word up) scenes had me holding my breath, fearing that the teens would get caught and hoping that they didn't.

Here's the trailer:

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrill

Book Sumary
Lydia has vanished.

Lydia, who’s never broken any rules, except falling in love with the wrong boy. Lydia, who’s been Piper’s best friend since they were children. Lydia, who never even said good-bye.

Convinced the police are looking in all the wrong places, eighteen-year-old Piper Sail begins her own investigation in an attempt to solve the mystery of Lydia’s disappearance. With the reluctant help of a handsome young detective, Piper goes searching for answers in the dark underbelly of 1924 Chicago, determined to find Lydia at any cost.

When Piper discovers those answers might stem from the corruption strangling the city—and quite possibly lead back to the doors of her affluent neighborhood—she must decide how deep she’s willing to dig, how much she should reveal, and if she’s willing to risk her life of privilege for the sake of the truth.

From the glitzy homes of the elite to the mob-run streets of 1920s Chicago, Stephanie Morrill’s jazz-age mystery shows just how far a girl will go to save her friend.

Flo's Review
You know how there are some people who are really good at figuring out whodunnit? Well, I'm not one of them. But I find it makes reading mystery novels more enjoyable, because I'm never expecting the outcome. This didn't start off reading like a mystery, which was nice. There was a good amount of world-building, I guess? We spent time getting to know Piper, her family, her personality, and her relationships. Once that was all established, Lydia went missing. 

Piper was a fun character to read. She's headstrong - almost annoyingly so - but she is also human. I thought it was nice that we see her plunge into dangerous situations, but we also see her cry a lot. This story could have worked if it was told in modern time, but having it set in the 1920s gave it an even more mysterious and seedy feel. 

I enjoyed reading about all the gentlemen, though I feel that the story lines and relationships with the ones that Piper did not end up with were a bit...incomplete? They were both introduced as being really big deals, but then after an intense scene or two just kinda faded away. But I really did enjoy the young gent she did end up with; these two have personalities that complement each other well. 

Overall, I read The Lost Girl of Astor Street pretty quickly, growing ever more invested toward the end. It's a unique YA mystery, with enjoyable characters and a very well-done historical setting.

Thank you to Blink YA Books for offering me an advance reader's copy in exchange for my honest opinion.