BOOK REVIEW: Within by Aaron Bunce

As a reader of mostly Young Adult books, Within by Aaron Bunce did not promise me a contemporary love story or even a dystopian tale. However, what I got was an epic adventure that included elements of both and much, much more.
There are several storylines throughout this dark fantasy novel, but there are even more plot twists and turns that kept me on my toes. I really cared about each character as they were introduced, celebrated their accomplishments and suffered their pains. Also, there were no prepackaged relationship dynamics; just as in real life, every conversation felt authentic.

It was easy to get lost in the world and experience real fear of the creatures that dwell within it. The imagery is so vivid, I felt like I was watching a live-action movie instead of reading. My favorite parts to read were the action scenes which Bunce skillfully crafted in such a way that my heart would race and my shoulders would tense up. I actually felt like I was personally involved in these scenes and isn’t that what most readers want to feel?

Within is definitely outside of the genre I usually read, but I was hooked a few pages in and truly enjoyed every single page that followed. I am working on getting through it a second time as I wait in anticipation for book two in the series to be released. I am confident that anyone who gives this book a chance, will like it as much as I do.

BUY Within on Amazon by clicking here.

BOOK REVIEW: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout reminded me of all the reasons I love a good mystery story. If you are paying attention, there are enough clues to point you in the right direction. However, a talented author will give you those clues without you even realizing it and in the end you are kicking yourself for missing them. Let me assure you, that’s exactly what happens with this book.
Don’t Look Back tells of Samantha, who has been missing for several days and is found injured and without any knowledge of where she’s been nor what happened to the friend that went missing with her. In fact, she doesn’t have any memories at all, not even her own name is familiar to her. As she recovers from her injuries, Sam struggles to reconcile who she feels she is with how she treated people before the incident. That is only one of the puzzles this book offers.
I read this book in one sitting because I was on the edge of my seat from page 1. Throughout the book, I didn’t know whom I could trust; even the narrator was unreliable due to her memory problems. But I enjoyed turning Every. Single. Page. I thought I had the answers twice before the reveal at the end and I was proven wrong both times. If you are looking for a mystery novel that will keep you guessing, look no further, Don’t Look Back is that and so much more. Armentrout is able to weave witty humor, a bit of romance and plenty of realistic high school dramatics into this mysterious tale. I honestly hope she writes more books like this. ~Jolene

Buy Don’t Look Back HERE!!

Divergent Movie Review

I had the opportunity to attend an advanced screening of Divergent in exchange for an honest review.  The free tickets did not affect my opinion of the film.  I would have gladly paid for my ticket, in fact I plan to pay for several of my tickets when I return to see it repeatedly at the theater.

When it was announced that the Divergent book I loved so much, was being made into a movie, I was cautiously excited.  Excited because I always love to see my beloved fictional friends through someone else’s eyes.  But cautious because of the unknowns…. will they do it justice, will they tell the same story, will the actors get the characters right and will people who haven’t read the book be able to understand it?

Having seen it, I can assure you, I am now ONLY excited to see it again.  I cannot think of anybody (13 or over) that lives and breathes who won’t like this film.  The story flows well, there is plenty of action, and the plot follows the book.  Everyone I talked to after the movie agreed that this is one of the BEST book to film adaptations EVER!! Yeah, I said it.

I don’t care how many times you have read the book, you will still find yourself wondering, “Will she make it?”  “Are they crazy?” “Will she stop on time?”  I promise, you will be on the edge of your seat at times and your blood will be pumping.  The adrenaline rush I felt from watching it paralleled the rush I get from a 30 minute run.  At times, I actually had to catch my breath from holding it in so long in anticipation.

The score and soundtrack of Divergent deserve some praise too.  There wasn’t a moment when I was staring at the screen (afraid to blink and miss something) when my hearing sense wasn’t busy as well.

The music woven throughout the film added depth to the emotions being caused by the spot-on portrayals by the actors.  There is no more wondering; Shailene Woodley IS Tris and Theo James plays Four better than anyone else I could imagine.  I also want to give a shout out to Miles Teller for portraying the convincing douche canoe that is Peter and to Jai Courtney for kicking ass as heartless Dauntless leader Eric.

I feel a special thank you needs to be given to Neil Burger for putting this film together in the way he did with the cast he did.  My sincerest congratulations go to him for making Veronica Roth’s cameo appearance last for more than a fraction of a second.  Without giving away any spoilers, I will tell you that she bursts on to the screen and grabs your attention.  You can’t miss her!!!

Overall, watching this movie was like taking a courageous ride down a zip-line.  I was nervous, I was anxious, I was scared and then I was confident, I was entertained and I was brave.  Seeing the Divergent movie was a hair raising experience that I can’t wait to have again and again!!!! Who’s with me??

***Let it be noted that Casey attended the screening with me and she whole-heartedly agrees with this review.  That makes Divergent 4 thumbs up from Fangirl Moms!!  We are taking the husbands this week and we will let you know what they think!*** ~Jolene

FangirlMoms and FangirlMoms’ husbands at Vampire Academy

Last night was opening night for The Vampire Academy film in our city.  We went to see it, along with our reluctant (yet supportive) husbands.

IMG_3879 new

Date Night Attire: Casey wore her St. Vladamir Academy Guardian jersey shirt with Belikov on the back, clearly indicating her fangirl icon for the evening.  I had no Vampire Academy attire to speak of but I did wear my Mellark Bakery jersey shirt to indicate my dedicated fangirl status, regardless.  We looked fangirlicious, if I do say so myself!!


Dinner: We wanted something quick and delicious to both eat and drink.  We chose a local authentic Mexican restaurant. Having both completed the Shatter Me series this week, with the reading of Ignite Me, we decided to indulge in a FangirlMoms created drink titled, “Warnaritas”, a lime margarita on the rocks with salt.  (*NOTE* FangirlMoms advocate drinking legally and responsibly!)

Fangirl Drink Warnarita

Ticket Line:  Casey identified a fellow fangirl by way of her Beacon Hills Lacrosse hoodie with Stilinksi on the back, much like the sweatshirt my husband got me for Christmas!  We introduced ourselves and fangirled appropriately.

New Fangirl Friend

Before the Trailers: We located perfect viewing seats in the center of the theater and as Casey left to get refreshments, I marched up to our new fangirl friend to discuss other book-to-film adaptations.  I shared our website info and told her to look us up for a shoutout! (“HEY FANGIRL!”)  Her father was with her and he has read many of the same books, including all of the Mortal Instruments.  When Casey joined our conversation, I believe she convinced him to give Infernal Devices a chance.  FangirlMom challenge achieved!

Trailers: We love trailers! Our personal favorite was the Divergent trailer, which included footage from all of the trailers that have been released, including the dog simulation part released this week!  It was so beautiful up on the big screen. Looking at Four, Casey could not even breathe and I was breathing too quickly = fangirling!

VAMPIRE ACADEMY:  To be honest, I squealed when it started.  Having read the book in May of last year, I have followed the fandom through the tightly closed set, fangirling over pictures of signs and chairs or any other tidbit approved for public viewing.  Richelle Mead has definitely kept us aware of anything she could but nothing would have prepared me for how good the movie actually was.

1 va movie pic 96e

Five reasons I loved the movie.

  1. When the credits rolled at the end, I had no scenes left on my “MUST BE IN THE MOVIE” checklist.  All of the important scenes were there.  There were some minor tweaks made which made sense to me, for example calling it a love charm instead of a lust charm.  The only thing I wondered about was I don’t remember seeing anyone under the desk while the headmistress was on top of it with a boy, as I saw in a released movie still.  Maybe I sneezed and missed it?
  2. Zoey Deutch was the PERFECT Rose.  She got her attitude, her snark, her flirtation, and her overall badassery exactly right!  She wasn’t the only one to become the character, either.  Danila nailed Dimitri. Cameron is Mason.  Dominic personified Christian. Nobody could have given us a better Natalie than Sarah.  And if you need Princess Lissa, Lucy is your gal.  The casting department deserves a round of applause and when the credits rolled, that’s what I gave them!
  3. The feels were real y’all. I am an honest reviewer who avoids spoilers and I won’t get specific here about what caused my feels, but let me get specific about what I felt.  I had goosebumps, I had hair raise on the back of my neck, I had hot flashes (and no, I’m not that old of a mom) and I laughed out loud… a lot!!  This movie has chemistry, scary moments, and humor.  The humor you remember from the book is there, but there are new elements added in as well.  You will laugh!
  4. We were in this movie and if you are a fangirl, you were in this movie as well.  In a public area, the main characters encounter a gaggle of girls squealing about something they seemed excited about.  I turned to Casey and whispered, “They’re fangirling!” as Casey said, “That’s us!” to me.   It was an epic moment and as strange as it may seem, really made me feel like that part of the movie was a nod to “our kind”.
  5. Possibly my favorite reason to love Vampire Academy was the cliffhanger they put in the end to point toward the sequel. If you have read the books, you know what the second book entails and the genius filmmakers dedicated a few seconds to a teaser from it.  I was surprised and pleased that they did that and it got me so excited to learn about the sequel getting the green light.  If you want to see that too, do your part and go see Vampire Academy in a theater near you!!!

Wrap-Up:  I know the question you are wanting us to answer, “What did your husbands think of it?”  I will quote our husbands, “I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.”  “That was a funny movie, when can we go see it again?” My answer to that is, “As soon as we can!”

If you go to see Vampire Academy in theaters, let us know what you think!  Share your pictures with @FangirlMoms on Twitter or here in the comments

Why I am Team Warner

Warning * Spoiler Alert* Warning * Spoiler Alert*

Today I’m sharing my thoughts regarding my favorite character from Tehereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series, Warner. Warner is a multifaceted character with many-many sides to him and through each book more and more of him is revealed. When I started reading Shatter Me, I wanted to hate Warner and I tried, but there was just something about him that kept me guessing and wanting more of him. I was intrigued by him and just knew there had to be more to this guy. By the end of Destroy Me I couldn’t resist Warner anymore. I was truly fascinated and by the end of Unravel Me I was way past captivated and sinking deep into the depths of obsession.

In Shatter Me, everyone loves to hate Warner. People are fearful of him and do not see any good in him. He comes across as callous, harsh, uncaring, selfish, power-hungry, not to mention cruel. Warner shoots Private Seamus Fletcher, 45B-76423 on the quadrant in front of Juliette and his soldiers. He forces Juliette to touch, thereby hurting, Jenkins in front of the other soldiers. He wants to use Juliette as a weapon. He is threatens to hurt Adam in order to get Juliette to comply with his rules. He makes Juliette think she is going to kill a child again. He truly seems possessive of Juliette. After Adam and Juliette escape, he tries to kill Adam and Kinji. He is responsible for all of these things and shows no remorse. He does, in fact, seem quite the embodiment of evil and even a bit sociopathic. Nevertheless, I am curious about him. What makes him tick? Why is he doing this? When Juliette seduces him in order to shoot him, why do I want them to keep kissing? Why am I shipping them? There has to be more to his story!

I want more of Warner, so I read Destroy Me, and I find out that there is, in fact, more to him! We find out for instance that when Warner killed Private Seamus Fletcher, he did so because Private Fletcher beat his own wife and his own children daily. Private Fletcher even kept food from them, slowly starving them to death. By killing this man, Warner was trying to protect Fletcher’s family. Fletcher was the monster, not Warner.

The Fletcher incident also served as a cover to make dear ole Daddy, who is none other than the supreme commander, think he is killing insubordinate soldiers who are partial to the resistance. By doing this, is he is trying to save innocent lives. However, when the supreme commander finds out Warner did not kill Fletcher’s family he orders them killed and we see the true expectations held by the Reestablishment for Warner. Warner is not sold on the Reestablishment either.

In the same way Warner tries to protect innocent people, he was protecting Juliette from the thousands of lonely soldiers in sector 45 with the incident regarding Jenkins. If it weren’t for this, soldiers would have undoubtedly harassed Juliette and tried to get their hands on her. Without this necessary and controlled illustration with Jenkins, Juliette might have killed any one of those men and what would it have done to her? Warner didn’t want her to be harassed by them and he didn’t want her to have to deal with the guilt she would experience after killing one of his soldiers because of her touch. Warner was protecting Juliette!

We follow Warner into Sector 45 and we find out he visits the compounds frequently to check on the citizens because he wants to make sure they are cared for, have enough food and have enough medical care. He is concerned for the people. He looks the other way when his men take extra food home to their families. Then there is the scene when he feeds and cares for the stray dog and I have major Warner feels!

When Warner’s father shows up we find out the reasons why Warner is self-loathing, broken, empty and lonely. He has suffered abuse all his life at the hands of his father and this is all he knows. Meanwhile, Warner reads Juliette’s notebook and it becomes apparent that he truly loves her and he never, ever wanted to hurt her. He simply didn’t know how to show love appropriately because he had not experienced it himself and simply went about it in the wrong way. He realizes he has misunderstood Juliette and her happiness was not because of him, but was because of Adam. At this he becomes even more distraught.  At the same time, when he reads her notebook he sees into Juliette’s soul and realizes just how much they are truly alike; he understands her completely in a way that nobody else could, not even Adam, and it changes him! We see him begin to realize who he really is underneath the hard shell of his exterior, which has been constructed to protect him over the years.

Then along comes Unravel Me and Warner’s shell cracks wide open. He is captured and held hostage by Castle and during Juliette’s interrogations, he opens up to her and she starts to see the person inside the shell. He makes her feel “safe and familiar.” He knows everything about her including how she has killed. He accepts her. He encourages her to accept herself and find a way to deal with it. He doesn’t want her to feel ashamed of herself. He sees Juliette as strong and capable.  The more they spend time together; we see that he and Juliette are attracted to each other on an intellectual level and emotional level. And even before the illustrious chapter 62 with their white hot passion, Juliette realizes she is attracted to him physically. Then Warner recites the words he has memorized from her journal to her, explains why he did the things he did and apologizes. And in those moments Juliette understands him and she sees into his soul, which is wide open.

We find out about Warner’s gift and that he can touch Juliette because he can redirect others abilities. He can do this because this very ability is based on empathy, which allows him to intellectually identify with the feelings, thoughts, and attitudes of others. Yes, he has used this to his advantage in order to be manipulative. However, he also understands others. I am reminded of a quote from another book, very different from this one, but it has to do with empathy and war and when I think of this quote I think of Warner and I understand him.

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not   love   them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them…. I destroy them.” ― Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

In the end, we see just how truly horrific Warner’s father is when he shoots Juliette in cold blood, just to punish his son. But, it provides us an opportunity to see Warner with all his defenses down. In the horrible moments when Juliette lay dying on the floor with Warner over her, begging Sarah and Sonya to save her, his shell is completely gone and all that remains is his warm, loving heart beating right out of his chest for Juliette.  This is a pivotal moment for Juliette and it’s at this moment when I realize that although I personally love Warner, I realize that because of all that’s happened and their true persons have emerged, Juliette and Warner need to be together. Juliette and Warner are perfect for each other. They understand each other better than anyone else ever could and on top of it all nature has given them abilities that bring them together-bring them together to be an effective team against the reestablishment. Then, Juliette says, “I’m done being nice. I’m done being nervous. I’m not afraid of anything anymore. Mass chaos is in my future and I’m leaving my gloves behind” and this solidifies my feelings about Warner and Juliette.

So, as you can see, Warner is not the villain everyone thinks he is. On the outside, Warner is a fortress built high with blocks of concrete. But inside, he is comfort and strength and he has the capacity to love beyond all measure. There are so many other things at work for him. He is intelligent. He is empathic. He is a survivor. He loathes his father and what he stands for. It even seems that he hates the Reestablishment and does in fact crave revolution. Warner is the difficult choice, but he is the right choice. Team Warner all the way! ~Casey Anderson






Review: Ender’s Game

I read Ender’s Game this Spring and really liked it. It was one of those books that received a 5 star rating from me on Goodreads because reading it changed me. The book and movie tell a futuristic tale of preparing for war. The method of preparation is the controversial part. In the end, I am left asking myself, “Which way is right?”
The movie stayed true to the book in all the ways that mattered to me. There were parts I would have liked to see more of, of course, but isn’t there always? The actors were well-suited to their parts. Three cheers for Asa Butterfield for pulling off a young Ender!
I loved watching this book come to life. Even non-readers will find themselves enjoying the movie. I know of someone who has seen the movie only once and is planning to use the themes of it to teach out-of-the-box leadership strategies to her staff.
Look for this Ender’s Game Poster at your local theater and go see it!
Please tell me what you thought of Ender’s Game, either the book or the movie.

Rules on Viewing Book-to-Film Movie Adaptations

Everyone has had the experience of waiting for a book-to-film adaptation to be released in theaters only to build it up so much in their mind and then be completely let down. I have been guilty of this so many times I have lost count. This only happens when very specific expectations have been created, though. Therefore, before I watch any more films based on books I love, I have written a list of rules to decrease the likelihood of being disappointed.

Rule #1 Accept that the characters in my head are just that: In. My. Head.
~Nobody on Planet Earth other than me knows what that looks like and therefore casting will not be exactly that. Also, RARELY does hair and eye color, height or even weight matter to the story. And acting ability is far more important than looking the part in film making. So, I won’t pretend that my opinion of whom is the perfect actor to play which character is more valid than that of those who ACTUALLY make films for a living. I am relinquishing my right to be upset when my dream fan-casting fails to happen, because as I often have to tell myself, “I love my book worlds but I actually live in reality.” What choice do I have?

Rule #2 Accept that NOT EVERYTHING I love about the book will make it into the film.
~There is no way to take every detail from any book and make an actual feature length movie. It would be fun for me to watch but it would be so unbelievably expensive to make that no company would fund it. Everyone has a favorite scene and not all of them are the same from person to person. I don’t get to throw a fit when a minor character is removed from the story or when my favorite line of dialogue is left on the cutting room floor. Who am I to say, “I know this story best.” The AUTHOR of the book has signed away their right to say that when they gave the rights for the movie to be made in the first place, so I ask again, “WHO AM I?!?!”

Rule #3 View the movie as a separate thing from the book.
~I love my family. It is fun to get together and celebrate our lives. But although my siblings and I all came from the same two people and grew up in the same house, went to the same high school, etc. that doesn’t mean our journeys have been the same. The same is true for a book and a movie. They both tell basically the same story with similar characters but how they react and make decisions may differ. Just as I wouldn’t dare tell my sister or brothers where to work or what to wear, I won’t tell the movie how to be told. Would it even listen?

Rule #4 Really TRY to enjoy the movie.
~When I start a book, I do so with an open mind and some wonder about who I will meet and where we will go. When I buy my ticket, popcorn and take my seat, I need to prepare myself in the same way. True, each character should be familiar to me, but it will be like meeting “my character’s” cousin, and that should be enough. It’s certainly better than not visiting with them at all. It’s why I bought the ticket in the first place; to reacquaint myself with my fictional friends. I will welcome my fictional friend’s cousins with warmness, because my other option is to be disappointed. Who wants that?

Remember these rules the next time you purchase your Book-To-Film Movie ticket and let me know how it goes. I promise to do the same.  Have FUN at the movies! ~JB