Why Francis Lawrence is My New Best Friend.

Something monumental has just occurred in my life.

Sadly I haven’t met that special someone who is  named after my favorite bread. (Jeez mom, calm yourself down, it’ll happen.) I also still have yet to discover how to make something from Pinterest look like it did on the damn website.

What has happened to today is bigger than that.

I have made a new best friend. His name is Francis Lawrence.

He’s a kind, gentle soul, and many people would say he is downright awesome. He listens, he cares, and he is there for you. Never heard of Francis Lawrence? Well let me enlighten you. Who better to do that since I am his new best friend?

Francis Lawrence is the director of Catching Fire the second book in the enthralling Hunger Games series. He’s also going to direct Mockingjay. He is a simply wonderful man who I have never actually met before. But don’t worry, we’re still best friends.

Acca-believe it.

Before you ask, yes I took a picture of my Catching Fire book next to a candle with a woodland scene on top of it. Have some respect. That candle is from Yankee Candle and it smells heavenly.

Before you ask, yes I took a picture of my Catching Fire book next to a candle with a woodland scene on top of it. Have some respect. That candle is from Yankee Candle and it smells heavenly.

Francis Lawrence is my new best friend because his adaptation of Catching Fire was out of this world. If you haven’t yet seen it, go now. Stop what you are doing immediately, and go pay $10 and go see it. It is worth every penny, even if you’re one of those strange people who hasn’t read the books yet. (Yes I am talking to you Aubrey!)

I have seen this movie twice already, once with a very fun cast of characters I call my friends, and once in IMAX with my goober aka my little brother. (It should be noted that both of these showings I saw were less than 15 hours apart. That is how good this movie is. Or that is how strong my addiction is. It’s either one or the other, specifics don’t really matter.)

As Francis Lawrence and I are now best friends I found it only right that I take the time to commend him on a job well done, and point out the many things he did to make Catching Fire one of the best movie adaptations out there. Period.

Thus without further ado, what set me on fire about this movie: (This is where you should stop reading if you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t seen this movie or read the book yet.)

  • Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson. I love, and I mean love these two as Katniss and Peeta. Their performance in this movie was outstanding, and it really had me believing exactly what they were trying to portray: Two people who care for each other deeply, but are still trying to figure out what that all means.
  • Two words: Finnick. One word: Love him. Finnick Odair is by far my favorite character (besides Katniss and Peeta) in the whole entire series. He honestly is the character that really made me adore these books. He was also the one character I really cared about casting with. In my mind they had to nail him, or I was not gonna be sold and would probably shed a tear for my dear Finnick. Boy was I happy though with Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Finnick. He did that character justice. He made me love him and want to hug him, and if I wasn’t already newly best friends with Francis Lawrence, I’d be best friends with him too by now.
  • Jena Malone is crazy in the best kind of way. Jena Malone portrays Johanna, a very unique victor from District 7. I have a soft spot for Johanna, because I like me some crazy, and that girl is crazy in the best possible way. Jena Malone plays into that crazy perfectly, and when times were really tense in this movie she added the fun and wildness that was necessary for that little comic relief.
  • The merry band of previously victorious victors. All of the actors chosen to play the other victors for this round of The Hunger Games were phenomenal. Even if they only had one line, I loved every minute of them being on-screen. Mags is by far the stand out of this group. Well done Lynn Cohen.
  • The chemistry between Katniss and Peeta. Don’t get me wrong, in The Hunger Games I believed that Katniss and Peeta “liked” each other as they did in the book, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by their “likeness.” But in Catching Fire I was amazed at how much these two characters and actors were able to make me believe that they really cared for one another. And let’s be honest it just looked like they liked each other a hell of a lot more in this movie.
  • The arena. Let me tell you, it took me a while when I read Catching Fire to really picture where they were competing for their lives. I just couldn’t pin point an image in my head. The arena they created in this movie, blew my mental picture out of the water. That arena is the definition of how CGI and real locations can be used to create something mind-blowing.
  • The up, close, and personal IMAX experience. I had never seen a movie in IMAX until this one. Let me tell you it was definitely an experience, and it added to the great visuals of the last half of the film. Also, if you’re looking to learn how many freckles each cast member has on their face, IMAX is your new best friend. The image was so clear, I am pretty sure I was able to see the actors faces clearer than I have ever seen my own.

While I LOVED this adaptation, there were only two small details that put my fire out just a smidge:

  • The one scene I wanted in this film, was cut. Now I know that I preach on here to be happy with what you get, and I am ecstatic about this film, but the one scene I liked didn’t make the cut. For those who know the story it involves two people escaping to District 13 that Katniss briefly meets. Was this scene vital to have? No. But I still liked it, and wanted to see it. (Don’t worry Francis, we still cool.)
  • The Fifty Shades of Grey moment. I love me some Fifty Shades, I do. But I did not expect that in Catching Fire there would be a scene where Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick all make the noises I would expect to hear in that movie. Don’t get me wrong, the scene is great, but I couldn’t help but giggle at that moment like a twelve-year-old girl who sees people kissing. Maybe I am a tad immature, but the sounds in that scene threw a little wrench in the dramatic acting taking place. (For those that have seen the movie, this is the scene when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are “washing off” their burns in the water)

Have you come back from seeing Catching Fire yet? If not, it still isn’t too late.

Suffice to say this movie was by far one of the best book to movie adaptations I have ever seen. It did a fantastic job capturing this book, and presenting a story that I and so many others fell in love with.

Francis Lawrence you are my new best friend.

You have set the bar higher than any of the trees Katniss could climb, and I applaud you for that. You may not care that what I think, but you should.

We are best friends after all.

Fireworks Over Toccoa

Welcome back fellow book addicts. While we may have made a slight detour on our journey of book addiction with the fun yet very enlightening discussion about the Fifty Shades of Grey cast, the time has come to discuss another book from my Never Ending Book Basket.

Today we travel back down to the south to discuss Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff.

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff

I know what you’re thinking: Are all the books on here going to be about the south or take place in the south?

The answer to that question is no, but be forewarned now, I LOVE the south and many of the books set there. I find it very easy to slip myself into a southern state of mind. (It must be the Marylander in me) So it is very likely that a good number of the books discussed on here will take place in the south, but I promise you that each book will have you wishing you lived there, breathed there, and simply felt there.

Now for Fireworks Over Toccoa.

This sweet and charming book is set in the small town of Toccoa, Georgia in a time long ago right after the second World War. The story centers around Lily Davis Woodward and Jake Russo as happenstance brings them together despite their past and present lives. Lily is currently married to a man she hasn’t seen in over three years because of the war. Jake is an Italian American war veteran coming to town with a troubled but endearing past, and brings with him the gift of fireworks for the town of Toccoa.

What ensues when these two meet is a charming story about what happens when you meet someone who you know is going to change your life forever.

What I adored about this book:

  • The setting of the story. You knew this was coming right? The setting is set up well, and it is very easy to picture Toccoa Georgia in 1945. It is written so eloquently, I swear you can even feel the heat on your skin. Toccoa creates a nice backdrop for the story unfolding in the book, and provides the reader with an unforgettable experience. The background and history of Toccoa is also a nice added feature that fits in seamlessly with the characters of the book.
  • The theme of love. I won’t reveal too much of what happens in this story, but it is obvious that this book is about love, which is something near and dear to my heart. The varying levels and displays of love in this book are heartwarming, and makes for a story that will simply make you feel the love. All over.
  • Lily Davis Woodward. I adore a strong female character. (Is that really hard to understand? I am a female, hello?) Lily is a very unique and vibrant character, and is one that does not fit the exact mold of what you think a young woman would be like in post war America. Simply put, Lily defies the mold, but in a way that makes you love her for her vibrancy, tenacity, and desire to simply feel something out of the ordinary.
  • Hello, it’s a love story. What else can I add to that? This is a love story. Plain and simple. Similar to others out there, but Fireworks Over Toccoa is set apart by how the love story is presented and told. Past, present, and future collide here. It also has an air of mystery to it, because while reading there are many ways the story could go. The story simple isn’t told. You feel it. You breathe it. You are immersed in it.

Not to put a rain cloud over all of what I adored, but as always there were a few aspects that left me a wee bit sad:

  • What was left unsaid. I won’t discuss too much about how Lily and Jake’s stories come together, or how they end, but I will say while reading I found myself wanting more for each of the plausible endings that could have happened. This story presents many distinct options for how this book will end, and while I was satisfied with the ending I was left wanting to know more. I know beggars can’t be choosers, and that readers often want more when they come to the end of a book. (Believe me I’ve read a ton of books where that happened) I just felt more information could have been presented about everyone involved in the story, without needing to change the actual plotline.
  • The pace. This is a very fast paced story. I won’t tell you a timeline, but let’s just say it ain’t slow in any way shape or form. I do think the pace was done intentionally this way, and while it keeps you on your toes, I found myself wishing at times things would just slow down. I wanted more time immersed with the characters and the love, and I didn’t feel like I really got that chance.

Fireworks Over Toccoa is a lovely story set in a time that many of us never had the chance to see. It does a nice job of presenting a love story set to an amazing southern backdrop. This story will leave you wanting more for many reasons, but simply put, it is a love story. It is easy to dive into, and immerse yourself in for a short while.

Reading this book is easy as pie, and it will have you waiting for the day that that certain someone will come into your life and change it in ways you never thought possible. And of course, there will be fireworks.

 

If you’d like to learn more about this book the links below will get you to the author’s website and Facebook page. Enjoy.  🙂

http://jeffreystepakoff.com/

https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyStepakoff

It’s High Time We Pull Our Head’s Out of Our Butt’s

Today is a big day for our country, and the world itself.No, world peace has not been reached. (Somewhere out there the current Miss America is silently crying) And sadly we still cannot turn on a red light in front of my neighborhood. Something bigger than that happened today:

The first pictures of the two leads in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie have been released to the all-consuming masses. (Please pause here to let out an audible scream/shriek of some kind)

Photo Credit: Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

While you may not be inclined to admit you read these books, (though I’m not entirely sure why…) God knows almost every person in the free world could probably tell you something about this book series. Be honest, whether or not you read these books, you have an opinion of some kind on them and the movie.

Now if you are not that familiar with me, you may not know where I lie on the spectrum of Fifty Shades fans. Let’s just say judging by the number of people who posted on my Facebook wall, combined with the number of people who texted me about the pictures today, it’s safe to say I have a “slight” obsession/love and hate relationship with these books. (And it’s definitely more love than hate!)

So, since I am sure you are all dying to know what I think about the casting choices, and the newest pictures of Christian and Ana, I will fulfill your greatest wish. Lucky you. Today is your day.

Let’s start with what I love: (Be warned this list will be longer than what I don’t like)

  • The overall look of Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson. These actors look very close to what I (notice I say I) pictured in my head when reading these books. I will also take a tiny leap of faith in saying that they fit the general description of the characters.
  • Jamie Dornan. For those of you who haven’t seen Jamie Dornan and his acting skills, be prepared for him to blow your socks off. I know him from the T.V. Show Once Upon a Time, and he was spectacular on there. He also has the look of a tall, dark, and handsome guy who will be unbelievably sweet one moment, but in a flash can turn to the red side. (And yes, red was used for a reason in that sentence)
  • Dakota Johnson. Dakota Johnson has a lot going for her. She is rather unknown to the mass public, which is what was needed for Ana’s character. Her physical appearance is also spot on for Ana. She is tallish, dyed her hair to brown (as if they’d really leave it her natural blonde people), and she is very striking in a subdued way. Definition of Ana. Period.
  • What they’re wearing. I cannot begin to describe how much I love the clothing they chose for these pictures. I think I will have the mental image of Jamie Dornan in a suit ingrained in my head for quite a while. Am I also the only one who noticed that the dress Dakota/Ana is wearing is plum colored? Cough Cough, that is a dress used majorly in the book. THAT IS ATTENTION TO DETAILS PEOPLE! (That is clearly a very good sign!)
  • Their chemistry. They have not begun shooting this movie yet, so no one really knows the extent of chemistry these actors have, but looking at them in these pictures gives me an exorbitant amount of hope.

    Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly

    Photo Credit: Entertainment Weekly

Now for the things that aren’t exactly my favorite:

  • Dakota Johnson looks a little older than 22 in these pictures. In real life, Dakota Johnson is 24. She definitely looks older than that, but that’s probably because she’s not like most females in Hollywood at her age, and actually has her crap together. This isn’t honestly a big issue for me because she still looks younger than her costar, and let’s be honest about how many actors/actresses have played people significantly younger than their actual ages. (Feel free to insert the name of any “teen” show or movie here.)
  • They need to get their thumbs away from their mouths. ASAP.  I know what you’re all thinking, nothing makes me like a person more than them posing with their thumb near their mouth. As if. This isn’t an ad for thumb suckers anonymous, so do us all a favor and put your hands/thumbs/and various other appendages on each other and not your mouths. Please and thank you.
  • Jamie Dornan needs to be a smidge more scruffier. I’m not saying he should look like he’s on the last day of No Shave November, but a little more five o’clock shadow could go a long way. And it’ll make his appeal sky-rocket even more. Believe me, girls tend to like a little scruff.

So there you have it. My brief, albeit essential opinion of these actors and their first pictures as these characters. Before I depart a few simple side notes:

  • These are their first pictures as the characters, so given them an f*%$ing break. This isn’t the be all end all of the movie. This is step one of like a thousand. Be patient, more will come in time.
  • You may have had a specific mental picture for these characters, but news flash, the production company can’t read your mind. And if they make it perfect for you, it ain’t gonna be perfect for someone else. Get. Over. It.
  • Admit it to the world already that you read these books, and are going to see the movie. They are not that bad, and it is okay for you to like them, have an opinion on them, and even pay money to buy the books and see the movie. If we can all get over all the other horrible crap that’s happened in this world, we can surely get over the fact that you spent $12 to buy a book about love and BDSM.
  • When it comes to ANY adaptation of a book, crap will be different. That is the bottom line; accept it. It is time to get over what will and could be different. We all know you can’t have everything. The production company, director, actors, and the damn author are doing their darndest to make this movie for you. Be grateful. They’re only trying to please us.

Thus, it is high time we all pull our heads out of our butts, and realize that this movie has the makings to be fantastic. (Even if you don’t want to admit it.) Sure they have a lot of aspects they need to get right for this movie to impress us, but they are on definitely on the right track.

So let’s all do ourselves a favor: take a deep breath, pull our heads out of our butts, and put our big girl panties on. This is the real thing people, and love it or hate it, it is here to stay.

p.s. I will also be accepting a monetary donation from those people who HATE the actors and choices now, but in a year and a half will be praising the movie to everyone they know. You know you’re out there, so start saving your pennies now. My piggy bank is ready.

Update: See the Official Fifty Shades of Grey trailer below! Can I tell you how flipping excited I am to see this movie?!

It should also be noted that I’ve officially watched this trailer more times than is probably necessary, but I am still sold on this cast and movie, and I hope y’all are too!