15 Lessons Learned Watching The Maze Runner

MazeRunner

Last night I decided to watch The Maze Runner even though I haven’t gotten around to reading the book yet. Because I’m a rebel. Yup. That’s right. Also my husband was like “Do you want to watch The Maze Runner?” And I said yes.

Having not read the book, I was going into the movie relatively uninformed except that I’ve read a description of said book and read the first few pages. This is what I knew going in (mild spoilers):

A boy is trapped in a box that opens into a big grassy field known as The Glade. He doesn’t know who he is or how he got there but when he gets out of the box there are a ton of other teenage boys who also don’t know who they are or how they got there or why but they all seem to have come to terms with this information until a girl shows up a few days later and then they’re like WTF?? This changes everything????!!!!!”

I’ll be honest, I didn’t love this movie. The plot was fairly interesting but it also felt incredibly rehashed and because it was a movie trying to do a book’s job, it left a lot of questions unanswered that I tried not to dwell over but pretty much failed. After about half an hour I almost turned the movie off but my husband and I found that by making snarky jokes and heckling the movie loudly that it made it enjoyable to watch.

Things Learned while watching The Maze  Runner (spoilers obvy)

So a quick synopsis of this movie would be “If Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games Had a Baby and there were giant cyborg spiders there.”

The-Maze-Runner

Lesson one: The first thing that Thomas learns when he enters the Glade (before he remembers that his name is Thomas) is that nobody knows why they are there and that there is a giant maze all around them that could conceivably lead to an exit but they aren’t allowed to go in the maze because they said so.

Lesson two: Then he tries to go in the maze basically immediately and another boy whose name is Golly or Gabby or Gally or something beats the crap out of him for it and when Thomas is like WTF? the walls of the maze start to close and he’s like “Oh so that wall would have crushed me?” and I was like, you could have led with that guys.

Lesson three: Except the whole maze doesn’t close, just the entrance. But apparently if you get trapped inside the maze you will for sure die because no one who has been trapped in the maze has ever come back because Grievers. What are Grievers you ask? We don’t know. Nobody has ever seen them. But you’ll die. And I’m like “Or maybe they just found the exit and left??”

Lesson four: If you get stung by that thing nobody has ever seen, you’ll die but first you’ll go into a murdery rage and then the other boys will kill you, so for sure, you will die. Look at this wall of names of all the boys who have been trapped here. Look at these names of all the boys who have DIED.

Lesson five: If you run into the maze without permission enough times, the boys will make you an official runner because they are tired of throwing you in the pit and reminding you that you will die but that Golly / Gally guy will for sure keep making slanty eyebrows at you or possibly those are just his normal eyebrows.

Lesson six: Turns out that your memories are coming back waaaay faster than predicted and you are getting more than just your name back. This has either never happened before or everyone else is lying.

Lesson seven: The guy in charge of running the maze has been making an intricate map of the thing for three years now but you’re going to go for a jog tomorrow and find new places he’s never seen and while you are at it, you’re going to kill a griever who happens to be a giant cyborg spider whose leg wants to tell you the way out of the maze like it’s scanning for metal at the beach.

Lesson eight: Don’t tell those guys that have been trapped here for 3 years that you think you know the way out because they will be throwing serious shade your way.

Lesson nine: When a girl randomly shows up in the Glade for the first time in ever and she’s saying your name, it obviously means you are suspicious and also you are the only Thomas that has ever lived so it’s def not a coincidence. Also apparently girls remember their names right away and are like “What’s your dysfunction?”

Lesson ten: Don’t tell the completely harmless chubby kid that everything is going to be fine and you are going to get him out of the maze and help him find his parents (because even though he doesn’t remember them, he obviously has parents that are looking for him). You might as well just shoot the poor kid in the face.

Lesson eleven: Girls should be immediately trusted  as an authority on all subjects because they throw fruit at you and you’ve never seen one before.

Lesson twelve: When you finally escape the maze, you will find out that everything is waaaay more complicated than you thought which makes sense since you don’t remember anything except the five things you remember for no obvious reason.

Lesson thirteen: People who are dead are probably not really dead unless they are. Also wicked is or is not wicked, for sure.

Lesson fourteen: Women of a certain age should not wear sleeveless shirts. Kay thanks.

Lesson fifteen: Dytopian stories are never finished in one book / movie. Even if you don’t want to watch another one, they will leave you on a cliff hanger saying “WTF?”

So has anyone read the book? And seen the movie? How do they compare?

rantingjen

Book Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

4836308

FEELS: liked, moody but modern, shippable

downloadMy book club is discussing The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe this month. It’s been on my To Read list for several years so I was glad to have an excuse to get a copy. As a descendant of Ann Putnam, I’m a sucker for books about the Salem Witch Trials – I devoured books like Tituba of Salem Village as a kid and I thought the concept for this novel by Howe was really cool.

Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin needs to spend her summer doing research for her doctoral dissertation. But when her mother asks her to handle the sale of Connie’s grandmother’s abandoned home near Salem, she can’t refuse. As she is drawn deeper into the mysteries of the family house, Connie discovers an ancient key within a seventeenth-century Bible. The key contains a yellowing fragment of parchment with a name written upon it: Deliverance Dane. This discovery launches Connie on a quest–to find out who this woman was and to unearth a rare artifact of singular power: a physick book, its pages a secret repository for lost knowledge.

As the pieces of Deliverance’s harrowing story begin to fall into place, Connie is haunted by visions of the long-ago witch trials, and she begins to fear that she is more tied to Salem’s dark past then she could have ever imagined.

Description from Goodreads.com.

I liked the contrast of the modern day story mixed with the historical stuff. The chapters featuring Connie read like a young twenty somethings chick lit novel complete with love story featuring a Type A girl who studies too much and probably wears her hair in a too tight pony tail and a tall, lanky laid back guy who teaches her to relax and have fun. When she isn’t falling for him, she spends time roaming the halls of Harvard and the streets of Salem and the descriptions of each made me miss my New England home and college days often.

In contrast, the chapters telling the stories of Deliverance and her family were warm and descriptive, drawing you into the time period and the stories of these women. They read very authentically and would be well enjoyed over a cup of warm tea and dimmed lighting. As the book went on, the two plots become more and more entwined and the “modern” chapters become gradually more and more magical.

Occasionally I felt the book bordered on unrealistic, not because of the mystical elements so much as the character’s reactions to things – when things started to get more and more supernatural in Connie’s world, I found it strange that she wasn’t freaking out more and even stranger that her friends and love interest weren’t freaked out either. But putting that skepticism aside, I did enjoy the story and looked forward to spending time with it each night – the real mark of a good book in my opinion.

What have you been reading lately?

fangirlingjen

BOOK REVIEW: THE ONE BY KIERA CASS

fangirlingjen

the one by kiera cassI first read The Selection back in July 2013, in nearly one sitting. It was a feverish love affair from the start and I think it took me less than three days to finish it. I downloaded the following book, The Elite and her novella, The Prince before even finishing the first book and devoured them in quick succession. I then basically had to sit on my hands and pout for almost an entire year before finally getting my hands on a copy of the final book in the series (not including a novella or two), The One.

I am not alone in my struggle to wait patiently and I was totally like a kid at Christmas when I finally purchased and began to read the beloved and much awaited final installment. Before I get to my review, here’s a quick description from goodreads:

For the four girls who remain at the palace, the friendships they’ve formed, rivalries they’ve struggled with and dangers they’ve faced have bound them to each other for the rest of their lives.

Now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown – or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realises just how much she stands to lose – and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

So. A year later and nothing has changed for me. Like the previous books in this series, it was addictive and completely sucked me in. Not only did I literally set aside the book I was currently reading for this one, I stayed up way too late and ignored a few chores during the day to enjoy it. There is just something about Cass’s writing style that lends itself to binge reading. It’s not a matter of long flowy descriptive chapters to make English majors swoon or complex plot developments though there are a fair share of those. It’s more like that incredibly compelling show on tv that you wait for all week and love in a nearly guilty pleasure kind of way.

The thing that truly makes these books succeed is the character development and the compelling plot. Cass does a great job making you truly CARE about these people and their futures. It has a compelling love story (or two) and enough tragedies and intrigue and action to keep you coming back for more. And it boasts a dystopian story that manages to feel fresh and avoid seeming over done and cliched. I’m sure on a number of levels that it does play off of other dystopian stories but it doesn’t feel that way while you’re reading it.

In some ways the end of the book felt a little too easy, as though half the obstacles facing the characters throughout the series just sort of magically worked themselves out so that everything could be tied neatly with a bow. But overall I think this is actually fitting. Sometimes when one thing comes together, everything else falls into place and frankly some story lines and struggles don’t necessarily merit the same amount of follow through – the book might have felt cluttered and overdone if Cass had taken the time to hash everything out.

One thing I was struck by was the feeling of hope and optimism that radiate from this story, which is rare for a dystopian story but I think much needed. Though America and the rest of the characters certainly deal with their fare share of tragedy, heartbreak and a bit of teen angst, they seem to come back to a feeling of hope and a belief that they truly can change the world which I think is much healthier than “everything sucks and everyone is corrupt eventually” – a sentiment that I’ve felt pretty firmly in a lot of the other dystopian books lately.

In short: LOVED. LOVED. LOVED.

This review is cross blogged at Jen’s personal blog.

Book Review: A Wrinkle in Time

fangirlingjen

awrinkleintimeUsually when I mention that I just read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle to people, the response is something like:

“What do you mean you’ve never read a Wrinkle in Time?”

“Were you living under a rock?”

“What took you so long??”

“Oh my gosh, that was my favorite book growing up!!!!”

Yes the praise is legendary and yes I was very late to the party, especially considering that I am a fan of science fiction / fantasy / young adult / time travel stories. A lot of people consider this book and the following books by L’Engle to be the one that started it all so it was high time I got around to reading it, really.

For those of you who have been under that moss covered rock with me, here’s a quick description of the book from goodreads.com:

Fifty years ago, Madeleine L’Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe. When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil—a journey that threatens their lives and our universe. A Newbery Award winner, A Wrinkle in Time is an iconic novel that continues to inspire millions of fans around the world.

Of course, yes, I adored it. I immediately found myself rooting for Meg and charmed by her family and fascinated by the story. It has a both timeless and classic feel to it that will appeal to the literary snobs and casual readers alike. It’s also a great vocabulary builder – I found myself looking up all sorts of words either because they were just dated enough to be out of use or because I sensed a literary or cultural reference going over my head. Also because these kids are incredibly smart and advanced well beyond their years and possibly mine.

About halfway through the book, I decided that I’d have to read the next one and that really my husband and kids were going to want to read them as well. I found the whole series in a used book store and splurged but they are all available on Amazon and probably everywhere else. The advantage to being a well loved classic.

Another bonus: The books are short, quick reads – a perfect way to slip in a classic in between book club reads and celeb memoirs.

Because the order of the books wasn’t immediately clear, I looked online to find out what order to read them in. Wikipedia revealed that “L’Engle wrote four other books featuring this generation of the Murry family, collectively known as the Time Quintet.” Although the books don’t necessarily need to be read consecutively, here is a list of the books in order of the internal chronology of the series (though not the order in which they were written):

  • A Wind in the Door (1973)
  • Many Waters (1986)
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet (1978)
  • An Acceptable Time (1989)

And when we’ve finished that, we over achievers can also enjoy four more novels that feature Meg’s children. According to wikipedia, “Nearly every novel by Madeleine L’Engle connects to the Murry-O’Keefe series either directly or indirectly due to appearances by recurring characters. See also: List of L’Engle’s works and Major characters in the works of Madeleine L’Engle for further detail.”

SO HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK WITH ME OR IS A WRINKLE IN TIME ALREADY A MUCH LOVED BOOK OF YOURS? WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK GROWING UP?

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

Book Review: Eleanor and Park

fangirlingjen

eleanorandparkI just finished reading Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, she of Fangirl fame (see my review of Fangirl here). Actually she wrote Eleanor & Park first so most people in the know probably know her for this book first and foremost and then consequently also Fangirl. Also I’ve spent way too much time thinking about how to begin this review.

A lot of people before me have emphatically praised this book. After readingFangirl / basically devouring it whole, I was anxious to read this one, but also a little nervous that it somehow wouldn’t live up to the hype and wouldn’t be the same.

My conclusion after finishing it: It wasn’t the same but it definitely lives up to the hype. “Wasn’t the same” by the way, is a compliment. This book stands firmly on it’s own and doesn’t really beg to be compared to her other books. It’s just as well written with another cast of perfectly imperfect characters for you to root for relentlessly. But it doesn’t feel like a Rainbow Rowell formula where she inserts A + B, adds C and divides by X, you know?

Here’s a quick description of the book courtesy of  goodreads.com:

“Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.”

Set in the 80’s and telling a story of two misfit teens who fall reluctantly in love – this book has the ability to make readers nostalgically remember being just like Eleanor or Park once. Unless you are a teenager right now while reading it and then you’ll just go “OMG, me, too Rainbow!” At least where their basic personalities and normal teenage lives are concerned.

Like Fangirl, this book is also more than just a cute little teen love story. These characters are dealing with some serious stuff, most of which I can’t really relate to but emphasized with deeply. Like sometimes when I was not reading because life, dinner, grocery shopping, small needy children, etc. I found myself almost worried about the book – like if I didn’t start reading again soon, lord only knows what might happen to Eleanor while I’m gone. I found myself quickly wrapped up in their story much the same way I was with Fangirl to the point of finally just giving into the urge to sit around reading all day until it was done.

Which means I’m now in bookish withdrawals so send cookies, a mix tape and a good book pronto, kay?

WHAT’S THE LAST GREAT BOOK YOU READ?

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

fangirlingjen

fangirlI am fangirling you could say over Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Everyone who is friends with me on Facebook saw that made abundantly clear when I spent 24 hours absolutely lost in the book, only coming up for air long enough to spazz out about it online for a few minutes before diving back in (okay and a few times I fed my children and acknowledged my dog, briefly).

This is a pretty appropriate book I think to respond this way to as the subject matter is all about being so hooked on a book that you would choose it over reality, but it’s also about SO MUCH MORE.

I feel like this book was tailor made for me – like the author looked into my soul and spilled the contents out on paper through the narrative of one Cather Avery, a girl with severe social anxiety, who is utterly devoted to the fandom of the Simon Snow series which will sound very much like Harry Potter to basically everybody.

When she’s not busy being a twin sister and shutin, she’s writing legendarily famous fanfiction that many people claim is better than the original. Oh also – she just started college to be an English Major and is kinda scared out of her mind at the prospect of living somewhere new and not sharing a room with her more outspoken, fun loving twin. And did I mention the social anxiety? It’s a fairly crippling problem throughout the book for her.

In many ways, this is your fairly standard coming of age story / love story. Certain aspects read as predictable in the way that if the author didn’t write it that way it simply wouldn’t work because this is how it goes. But the characters are so original and soooooo modern and so deeply formed that you can’t help but root for them, especially Cath. And I have left out SO MUCH about the plot because if I told you all the amazing, I’d basically be sitting here telling you the whole story.

This book reminded me of what it’s like to be a college student, a teenager, a girl in love for the first time, a writer, a daughter, a reader, a nerd, an often extremely anxious person – luckily not to the extreme of Cath, but enough that I read her struggles and totally “got” it and felt I understood her deeply. This book also taught me a lot of things that I didn’t know and opened me up to worlds and ideas I hadn’t yet considered. And it made me want to read some  fan fiction, like, immediately.

This book makes me want to blather on incessantly and shove copies of the books in peoples faces and just stamp my foot and wait for them to be done reading so we can all collectively go, “I know, right??????” together and then probably all retreat back into our own respective corners and over think whether or not we’ve made enough eye contact and how many minutes has it been since we spoke and did we lock the car door? I can’t remember but I’d probably better get up and check just to be sure…

Anyone else fangirling hard over Fangirl? Squealing and commentary totally welcome in the comments section.

This was cross posted at Jen’s personal blog.