Film Review: Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Why yes, I did go see a Twilight Lexicon early screening of Breaking Dawn – Part 2. What about it?

So, much like with the books, I have a love-hate relationship with the movies. I honestly think I watch them with a different part of my brain than the part I use for all other movie viewing. Do I see the bad acting, low-budget effects, terrible hair and makeup, and giant oozing portions of cheese? Yes. Does it bother me? Weirdly, no.

Kind of like with the books. I see the poor writing and the absurd relationships and the infuriating characters, and they somehow don’t really bother me. It’s weird and I don’t understand it. Once again, I feel the need to compare Twilight to Twinkies. Nothing really good or substantial about it, and yet it’s tasty.

And also, I think they will both survive the zombie apocalypse.

So if you, like me, also enjoy the books and the movies while remaining totally cognizant of the fact that they are far from literary or cinematic gold, this review is for you.

As I did not marathon the other movies before watching this one, I can’t objectively say how I thought it stacked up to the others. I’m always left with the impression that each one improves on the last, but that may be just because it’s the one I saw most recently. All the typical Twilight movie complaints were still there. Robert Pattinson still makes a weirdly constipated Edward (which is something I still don’t understand, because I’ve seen him in other movies and he can act. It’s just like he has decided that Edward should be constipated. Maybe it’s something about the whole hard-as-granite thing). Kristen Stewart is still an almost painfully awkward Bella. And the combo of constipated+awkward still makes me kind of uncomfortable when they’re getting all hot-and-heavy with each other (which definitely happens at least once in the movie).

The effects were still meh (although the wolves have gotten better), and the hair and makeup people have still not figured out what to do with all the dark brunettes masquerading as blondes (ain’t no way Peter FacinelliJackson Rathbone, and Nikki Reed are believable as blondes. It takes away from buying them as the prettiest people ever when their hair is all dark-rooty and awkward. Sorry.) Also, it’s unfortunate that although the movie is pretty much entirely about pale-skinned vampires, they still weren’t able to make the pale skin attractive. Still just looks like caked-on white pancake makeup. Oh, and CGI-Renesmee was creepy. I know she was supposed to be cute, but no. Creepy.

But again, these are things I expect with Twilight movies. I noticed they were there, shrugged, and moved on.

So now on to what I liked.

I actually liked Taylor Lautner as Jacob a lot more in this movie than in others, probably because he wasn’t nearly so angsty (this is the beauty of splitting Breaking Dawn into two movies — all the angsty Jacob parts are in the first half). Billy Burke as Charlie has been a highlight of every movie to me, and this one is no exception. And while I still think most of the Cullens were miscast, I liked them anyway. It helped that my theater was very enthusiastic and cheered any time a Cullen was on screen. It’s hard to be cynical when everyone around you is beside themselves with glee.

I haven’t read the book in several years, but from what I remember, the movie followed the book pretty closely. Yes, some secondary characters were shoved to the background (although I think they all at least made an appearance). Yes, some very looooong sequences are shortened to just a couple scenes. But overall, it worked. Most of the best lines went to Charlie (as always) and Jacob (not as always — it was nice to see Jacob actually be funny and not all broody).

There is one major, major change…but there’s also not. You may have heard there was a big stink that the ending was changed from the book, and Stephenie Meyer was okay with it. Well, I’m guessing the reason she was okay with it is because it’s actually not changed from the book. Except that it is. Totally. But it’s not.

For the record, I loved the change-that-really-wasn’t-a-change. Best part of the movie, by far. It was exciting and awesome. It’s actually what I would like to talk about the most right now, but I’m not going to, because if you haven’t seen the movie yet, you’ll want to punch me for spoiling it. So I’m not gonna.

In a nutshell, it still had (many) flaws, but I still enjoyed it. Even though I still really don’t like Bella. Even though I’ve never, ever understood the appeal of Edward. Even though, basically, the moral of the Twilight universe is “massive age gaps in romantic relationships don’t actually matter so long as you look good together.” Even though when I compare it to other movies I did and didn’t like, I’m not actually sure why I liked it. Objectively, I shouldn’t like them. I really shouldn’t. And yet I do.

This is not the movie that’s going to convince Twi-haters to become Twi-hards. And really, nothing will. There are a million legitimate reasons to hate Twilight, and even though they are way less prevalent in this movie and there are a lot more enjoyable elements, you will probably still not see the merits of the franchise. But if you, like me, see those reasons as legitimate, yet have decided to like it anyway, I think you’ll like Breaking Dawn – Part 2. Embrace the cheese. Love it. Cheer it. It’s fun that way.

Oh, also, the thing they do with the credits? Yes. YES. All movie series should end that way. I would like to retroactively add that kind of ending to Deathly Hallows: Part 2. Pretty please?

Grade: B+ (qualified with all of the above caveats)

Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence including disturbing images, some sensuality and partial nudity

Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury (@jkbibliophile @PenguinTeen)

I was super excited when I won a contest hosted on Jessica Khoury’s blog to win an advance copy of her debut novel, Origin. Unfortunately, I was a dork and wasn’t able to actually read it before it was released, but I finally managed to squeeze it in over the weekend, and I’m glad I did!

The Plot (from Goodreads)

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home–and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin–a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

My Thoughts

Origin was a refreshingly new take on the YA immortality archetype. For one thing, the girl was the immortal one (for some reason, it always feels like it’s the other way around). And for another, there was nothing supernatural about it (unless you consider the flower that is the basis of the immortality compound to be supernatural…which I don’t). It’s all science. Although the book doesn’t have a big sci-fi feel; it feels more like a mystery/adventure/romance.

Pia was a great protagonist. The immortality and her extremely sheltered childhood, in addition to her super-fast reflexes and superhuman stamina, could have made her hard to relate to, but her emotions felt real and tangible. I really understood her inner struggle between wanting to stay in the scientific environment in which she was raised and wanting to run into the unknown of the jungle with Eio. Her relationship with Eio is a bit insta-lovey, and I wasn’t sure if I’d go for it, but given her cloistered upbringing, I think it was actually realistic. She’s never been around another kid her age before, much less an attractive boy who’s showing her all manner of new things. Of course she falls hard and fast.

As for the other characters, I liked how varied they were, and that there was no “evil for the sake of evil” bad guy. Even the villains had motivations that they felt were noble, and I found that fascinating. Yes, they do some things that I found terrible, but they thought they were doing the right thing. Stories are always more interesting when that happens. And I loved the “good” characters, particularly Harriet and Antonio. They were both heavily flawed and made some huge mistakes, but I really enjoyed how they were developed.

From about the middle of the book on, I couldn’t put it down. The pacing was great and kept me riveted all the way through to the end (which, by the way, is the end for real, as Origin is a standalone novel). And while I’ve read enough sci-fi in my life to have been able to predict the twists at the end, I still really enjoyed watching them unfold. The jungle setting was a great change of pace (I don’t think I’ve read a book set in the rainforest since Michael Crichton’s Congo, which I read in the early ’90s), and her descriptions of the plants and wildlife were lush and vivid.

The only complaint I have about the book is that the beginning was a little slow. While I was engrossed from the middle on, I wasn’t totally into it from the beginning. I was interested, and I found it enjoyable, but it wasn’t really a can’t-stop-reading book for the first several chapters.

But overall, I think Origin is an exciting, original book with great characters and a fabulous setting. The engaging plot kept me intrigued right up through the breathtaking, bittersweet ending. I’d recommend you check it out!

Content guide: Contains a couple instances of mild language, disturbing animal experimentation, some violence.

Top Ten Tuesday (November 13) – Desert Island Books

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Today’s topic is haaaaaard. I’m just going to get that out there.

Top Ten Books  I’d Want On A Deserted Island

Okay, first let’s talk about this Deserted Island. Is it a tropical island? Do I want to be there? Am I there all by myself, and am I there temporarily or forever? These are important qualifiers.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to assume I am by myself, on a tropical yet deserted island (with trees so I can make fires and don’t have to choose the biggest books just so they will burn longer), involuntarily, forever. Yes, all of this matters. (Also, it’s possible I over-think things.)

Here we go.

1. The Bible. Because I’d need it.

2. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (let’s just assume they’ll release a single-volume version someday so they can all count as one book). They’re the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read, and I don’t ever get tired of re-reading them. Which is an important consideration on a deserted island forever.

3-5. The Farseer, Liveshipand Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb. I know I’m cheating by counting each trilogy as one, but at least I didn’t count the entire trilogy of trilogies as one. Cut me some slack here. If I had to count them individually, my Top 10 list would already be full. And boring, because there’d only be three things on it.

6. The Princess Bride by William Goldman. So I could still laugh.

7. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. So I could always keep my situation in perspective. There are worse places to be than a deserted island. Siberia, for instance.

8. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. For kind of the same reason, but also because that book is incredibly uplifting in spite of the atrocities that go on in its pages. And I could probably use something uplifting on a deserted island.

9. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. For the warm fuzzies.

10. Whatever book I happen to be in the middle of whenever I get stranded on this island. Because whatever it is, it will drive me crazy to know I will never know how it ends.

Now, if we’re talking short-term beach vacation…my selections may be different.

Throwback Thursday (November 7) – The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

The Finches’ Fabulous Furnace by Roger Wolcott Drury

 This early reader, about the Finch family and their desperate attempts to keep the volcano in their basement hidden, was one of my favorites when I was in elementary school. It’s funny and imaginative and thrilling (or at least, it was thrilling when I was still in single-digit ages). I read it over and over as a child, until my copy was tattered and torn. Sadly, I no longer have it, but I need to find a copy for my daughter. It’s the perfect book for young readers with big imaginations.

This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

Top Ten Tuesday (November 6) – ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE Edition

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

It’s another freebie week, which are my favorite things ever, but the problem this week is that I’m super-sick with The Crud That Would Not Die, and therefore my creative juices are dried up and caked with grossness around the edges (sorry, was that too much)? Seriously, I’ve coughed so much today that my teeth hurt. I didn’t even know that was a thing.

SO. I’m not so motivated to spend a long time seeking out an awesomely creative topic like last time. Instead, you get a top ten topic that doesn’t require much thought on my part, because that’s all I’m capable of. So without further ado, I give you:

The Top Ten Book Characters I’d Want on My Team in the Zombie Apocalypse

1. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter) – Sorry Harry, but I think that when fighting zombies, Hermione would be infinitely more useful than you. We could all camp out in her giant tent while she saves the world by inventing a zombie decapitation spell, and then she’d probably transfigure their headless corpses into a delightful feast. Mmmm, zombieflesh.

2. Molly Weasley (Harry Potter) – On this team full of people who can defend me from zombies, I need at least one person who can keep me alive by feeding me, and Molly is that person. But, if it comes down to it and she finds herself face to face with the undead, I think we all know Molly’s no slouch.

3. Cato (The Hunger Games) – Yes, I know he’s kind of a sociopath, but remember that the stipulation here is that he’d be on my side. And while Katniss is pretty handy with a bow and arrow, I’m thinking Cato’s sword would be a bit more zombie-appropriate. Plus, he’d probably think zombie-hunting was fun.

4. Logan McEntire (Defiance) – He’s an inventor, but also good in a fight. I’m thinking it would be a good idea to have someone around who could MacGyver his way out of a tight spot.

5. Hector (Crown of Embers) – Both good with a sword and well versed at military tactics and commanding troops. He’d probably be in charge of our little ragtag group.

6. Pia (Origin) – I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but I’m thinking a girl who can’t die and can run really fast would be a good teammate, yes?

7. Zeke (The Immortal Rules) – He’s basically already lived through a vampire apocalypse, so a zombie apocalypse shouldn’t be that big of a deal, right?

8. Aragorn (The Lord of the Rings) – Again with the sword and battle knowledge, but also dude’s got mad survival skills. If he could keep four hobbits alive, surely he could keep me alive.

9. Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia) – LION VS. ZOMBIE. Also, he’s an all-powerful magical lion, so he probably wouldn’t even break a lionsweat.

10. Robert Muldoon (Jurassic Park) – He’s awesome enough to survive rampaging dinosaurs, so I’d trust him to survive zombies as well.

THERE YOU GO. Admit it, my team rocks. Although there’s still a lot of good picks out there in book world, so many of you could pick them and probably also survive. Good luck.

Now, if you need me, I’ll be on the floor over here, trying to locate my lung.