No Fault in These Stars: A Movie Review

Last week, I shared my thoughts on John Green’s very popular YA novel, The Fault in Our Stars. While I enjoyed the love story that blossomed between Hazel and Gus and the tragedy that separated them, the novel didn’t completely blow my mind as it had for so many others. Maybe I’m too old, I thought. Maybe I’m not reading closely enough, I thought. Maybe I’m just a cyborg completely incapable of forming an emotional attachment to this book, I thought.

Then I realized that last one just sounded completely insane and shook it off…and then something else occurred to me: Maybe this is one of those stories where I need to see it come alive onscreen to really connect with it. Maybe I need more than just words on a page; maybe I need a visual representation of this author’s work to send me over the edge and into full-fledged Nerdfighteria. (And if you have absolutely no idea what the heck Nerdfighters are, you should really click here.)

I guess it’d be a good idea to go and check out the film, I thought. So, after several attempts to make plans to see it with friends and family fell through, I asked The Hubby to watch Joshua and drove myself to the movie theater.

You know, for a movie that fans have said they sobbed through, it’s probably not the greatest idea to walk into the theater without a shoulder to cry on. But there I found myself, sitting alone in an empty theater with 20 minutes before the lights dimmed. (In defense of the film, I attended a 5:30 show that was advertised on Moviefone but apparently not on the showtimes board in the theater itself — I’d be willing to bet that many moviegoers were completely unaware of the showing!)

I may not have had living, breathing accompaniment with me, but at least I had my tissues. And you better believe that I had the pouch sitting on top of my bag in the empty seat next to me for the entire duration of the movie! (Because I figured that hey, it’s better to be prepared in advance than to go scrambling through my bag with tear-blurred eyesight and a major case of the sniffles in a pitch-black theater! Am I right?)

By the time the lights finally dimmed, there were about 20 of us in the theater, and I was the only person foolish enough to be there without a friend or a date or something. Que sera sera. After mostly forgettable previews, the 20th Century Fox logo appeared on the screen before panning up to a star-studded nighttime sky and a voiceover provided by our Hazel, Shailene Woodley. As she spoke, I forgot that I was wearing a watch on my wrist (as I’m notorious for checking the time throughout movie screenings) and that I was supposed to be watching this film for the sake of writing a review for my blog. I was immediately, fully engrossed in the story and the performances. I smirked when Gus and Hazel made eye contact for the first time; I giggled as they bonded playfully over An Imperial Affliction; I fumed at Peter Van Houten (played brilliantly by Willem Dafoe) for acting like a “douchepants” (Hazel’s words, not mine!); I (silently) cheered when Hazel, painfully out of breath, made her way up every step to the top of the Anne Frank House; I empathized with their first sexual experience; I suffered along with Gus when he revealed the resurgence of osteosarcoma to Hazel on a bench in Amsterdam. (Because “pain demands to be felt,” right?)

And somehow, I failed to cry when Hazel’s parents received the phone call notifying them of Gus’ passing. I didn’t celebrate when he died, of course; my heart was completely broken for both of them. But that packet of Puffs remained on their perch until the moment the movie ended.

Maybe I am a cyborg.

My one-word review: Powerful.

And to elaborate: I would be shocked if Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort don’t win award after award for their portrayals of Hazel and Gus, respectively. I was left wondering just how far each of them went to prepare for these roles; I’m sure they met with and talked to cancer survivors and shadowed doctors on patient visits. Each of them made their characters feel completely three-dimensional, like they truly understood what it was like to live with these diseases ravaging their bodies. For me, though, it was the love story that elevated the film adaptation to a completely different level. Shailene and Ansel are young, but they’ve definitely experienced first love by this point in their lives, and it showed in their performances. They were awkward, shy, eloquent, and achingly beautiful as two individuals — two “grenades” — colliding as a couple and exploding into a force stronger than anything their friends or families could ever have seen coming. By the time the lights came back up in the theater, I had experienced “all the feels”, as the kids say. Every emotion I could possibly have experienced, aside from heartbroken sobbing, I did experience. I may not have cried, but I connected. I get it now. I understand why this book is so popular and so relatable and so perfect for so many people. The book may not have been the best book ever for me, but the movie certainly took me to another place.

Final thoughts: I can’t believe I’m saying this, because I never do — and that’s because it’s never true, in my opinion — but I have to say it today: The movie was better than the book. The movie simply blew the book out of the water, at least for me. I’m dying to know if you agree with me. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: O’Shae the Octopus, by Brandee Buble

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by Simply Read Books in 2014.]

So what’s it about?
O’Shae the Octopus is different from every other octopus in the sea — he has ten “arms” instead of eight! His mother explains that this makes him special, and he sees himself as extra helpful. One day, O’Shae is playing at the park with his friend Shelton the Shark when he is bullied by a manta ray named Mean Mike and a crab called Lanny for being different. O’Shae is very sad at first, but then he realizes that he can use his tentacles as swings and slides. The fact that everyone loves to play on his tentacles makes him happy, and Mean Mike and Lanny see the error of their ways. They apologize, all is forgiven, and the four new friends play together!

What did we think of the book?
Bullying is unfortunately becoming a norm in schools these days, and books like O’Shae the Octopus are wonderful teaching tools. The artwork is adorable, and very bright and colorful — I can certainly see it catching the eyes of schoolchildren everywhere (as it did for Joshua, who isn’t yet in school). Joshua really enjoyed pointing out all the different marine life and counting O’Shae’s tentacles! The story itself was both fun and meaningful, told in quatrains with simple language. I loved that O’Shae’s friend Shelton was so warm and encouraging, especially after the appearance of the bullies; it teaches children about the importance of supporting their friends in all situations. Of all the characters in the story, I think Shelton was my favorite! I also loved that O’Shae was based on the author’s real-life son, also named O’Shae!

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
For now, it’s just a fun story to Joshua — he’s too young to comprehend the underlying message about bullying. That being said, he did enjoy it (as did I), and we’ll certainly revisit it in the future! And a fun little side note: the author, Brandee Buble, is the sister of recording artist Michael Buble. How cool is that?!

O’Shae the Octopus will be available for purchase on May 15, 2014.

Joshua’s Bookshelf!: Pig and Small, by Alex Latimer

[This review is based on the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) digital edition published by Peachtree Publishers in 2014, and provided by NetGalley.]

So what’s it about?
Pig wakes up one morning to discover his nose is squeaking. He thinks there’s something wrong with him until he looks closely and notices a bug standing on it! They try becoming friends and doing things together but Bug is too small to ride a bike or play chess, and Pig is too big to appreciate the tiny cake and sweater that Bug makes for him…so they decide they can’t be friends anymore. A surprise brings them back together and they learn that, while they’re very different in size, they still have a lot in common!

What did we think of the book?
Pig and Small is super cute! The illustrations are beautiful and the story itself is very funny. Joshua enjoyed pretending to snort like Pig and squeak like Bug, and I liked that the story explained how some people (and creatures) like to do things that others don’t. It was nice to see that something so simple drew them back together and confirmed that they could, in fact, be friends. This is going to be a valuable lesson for Joshua as he grows up in our diverse world!

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
Yeah! It’s a very cute little book and it’s going to be a great teaching tool in the coming months and years as Joshua begins to take notice of and understand all the ways in which people are similar and different. Pig and Small is a keeper!

Pig and Small will be available for purchase on August 1, 2014.

52 in 52: The Undiscovered Goddess, by Michelle Colston

[This review is based on the digital edition published by Michelle Colston in 2012, and provided by NetGalley.]

Here’s the deal:
Stay-at-home mom Holly decides to take a Cosmo quiz and is disturbed by her “Stylish but Shallow” result; it leads to some self-reflection and to Holly purchasing a workbook entitled Discover Your Inner Goddess. She embarks on a yearlong journey of self-discovery, journaling from start to finish, as she works through her fears and finds her very own inner goddess.

My thoughts:
The Undiscovered Goddess is basically an epistolary novel, in that it’s written mostly in the form of journal entries. Holly treats her journal like a friend, writing as though they’re having a conversation about Holly’s life and experiences, challenges and growth. I enjoy this writing style because it’s the one I try to use when I blog; it’s the easiest and most comfortable voice to read. That being said, I spent a long time reading this — we’re talking on and off for about a week or so. But why, when book reviews are essentially my bread and butter, would I linger for so long on this one book?

Because honestly, I didn’t like Holly at the start of the story. She was selfish and bitchy, unrelatable (for me personally, as someone who doesn’t obsess over Cosmo quiz results), and kind of difficult to like. As I read on, however, I came to the uncomfortable realization that the reason for my initial dislike was because she reminded me a bit of myself (minus the love of expensive shoes and the desire to learn to play guitar). Fortunately, Holly began to change as she continued through the workbook; not only did I find myself starting to like her, but I also wanted to try using the workbook in my own life. Though the novel is a work of fiction, each workbook lesson is based in reality and can certainly be utilized by real people — and that’s what I hope to do. Whether I’ll share my journey publicly remains to be seen, but I’ll tell you this much: if you decide to give The Undiscovered Goddess a read and you’re also looking to make some changes or enhancements to your life, you may find yourself using the workbook lessons, too!

So would I recommend this book?
Definitely. You may feel uncomfortable at the beginning as I did, but over time you will begin to see The Undiscovered Goddess for what it truly is: an encouraging reminder that every woman is worth her salt. Every woman is as good as, or better than, she thinks she is. Every woman is a goddess.

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Joshua’s Bookshelf!: The Little Engine That Could, by Watty Piper

[This review is based on the paperback edition published by the Platt and Monk division of Penguin Young Readers Group in 1986.]

So what’s it about?
A train carrying toys and food for children suffers a malfunction, and the toys work to find another train to carry them over a mountain to reach their destination. After being rejected twice, a small blue engine agrees to help. The famous phrase, “I think I can, I think I can” motivates the engine to keep pushing and keep trying to make it over the mountain.

What did we think of the book?
Joshua is a huge fan of all things locomotive, so this book was kind of a no-brainer. The illustrations are adorable and he was able to point out and name nearly all of the toys and foods pictured in the story. Most importantly, though, was the moral of the story: I think I can (and, later, I thought I could). This is a very important lesson for Joshua to learn; if he works hard and keeps trying, he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to. I fully support that — in fact, it’s hard not to support such a lesson, especially in children so young!

Would we add it to Joshua’s bookshelf?
The Little Engine That Could is a classic story that’s been part of childhoods for more than 80 years! Its longevity is reason enough for me to keep a copy on the shelf forever!