Book Review: Safe Haven

Bookcover_safehavenBook Review: Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
By Kathryn Sinde

Nicholas Sparks is known for writing his novels with a formula in mind: before even reading a work, readers seem to know how the novel is going to end and its basic premise.  As an avid reader of Sparks’ novels and former creative writing student, I can definitely see how some would think that there is a formula to these novels.

Firstly, it is easy to see the similarities of many of Sparks’ main female characters.  They are usually suffering from something that might be revealed in the beginning or held in secret until some point in the novel, and they are running from those secrets.  They end up meeting another character that is there to bring her comfort and form a bond that will carry them throughout the climax of the novel.

Having read a number of Sparks’ novels, I thought I knew what I was getting into when I picked up Safe Haven (mind you, I read this novel before the movie was even announced).  But still as I sat down and immersed myself in this novel, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster ride that Sparks ended up taking me on.

The book follows Katie as she settles down in the small town of Southport, North Carolina, and her arrival is met with whispered questions and rumors as to why such a beautiful young girl would decide to settle into the small town.  Katie, is running from a tragically emotionally charged past that continues to affect her as she meets Alex Wheatley, a widower struggling to raise his two kids.

Katie and Alex form a friendship that helps both to heal from the tragic hand that life has dealt them.  Alex helps Katie begin to feel settled in Southport, and Katie begins to enjoy life in the small town, until that this until her past catches up with her.

It’s at this point that this novel really stands out as a romantic thriller because of the emergence of Katie’s past: Katie’s ex finds her and threatens her life and those she has met in Southport. In the climatic moment of this novel, you’re heart will pound, and you will just hope that everything works out in the end.

This novel goes above and beyond what I have come to expect from Nicholas Sparks, and I urge all English majors, especially creative writing students to read this novel because Sparks has to be doing something right to constantly creating bestsellers.

About the writer:
Kathryn is a junior English major from the small town of Hampshire, IL.   She writes because she feels it cleanses the soul and finds it easier to express feelings through writing than with actions.  Kathryn is also a huge Michael Phelps fan and has seen almost every single Mark Wahlberg movie.

His Name is Not Ted: An Evening with Josh Radnor

His Name is Not Ted: An Evening With Josh Radnor
By Gabbie Zeller

joshradnordab

            Imagine sitting in a coffee shop, catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in years. You have no idea what is going on in his life, and you don’t have the slightest clue as to how he is doing now. You begin to ask him questions such as: “How was life after college?” and “How exactly did you know that you wanted to be an actor?” For many of us, this was a reality last night when Josh Radnor, the star of the television show How I Met Your Mother, visited DePaul’s campus to give a talk. Of course a multipurpose room replaced the coffee shop, and there were a large number of us packed into the space.

Anyone who came to the event, or who happened to be in the Student Center, recalls that the line to even get into the room was extremely long. I happened to get very lucky when I saw how long the line was; I grabbed some homework and rushed over. This was at 4:30, and the event was not even supposed to start until 6pm! I can’t even imagine how many people ended up getting in line, but I guess that shows how popular the event was.

After anxiously waiting for an hour and a half, it was finally time to sit down and get situated before the event got started. The suspense was building, and everyone was getting very excited. When Josh came out, he was welcomed with cheers and applause. Not to mention obsessed fans yelling for “Ted” and saying “Marry me, Ted Mosby!”  When things finally calmed down, Josh told us that DAB, the DePaul Activities Board, had given him a water bottle and some Garrett’s popcorn. He decided that we all needed a snack, and proposed that we pass around the bag of popcorn. Josh started off with a little introduction about other schools he had been to, and then opened the floor to questions. I’ll admit, I was going into this thinking the whole thing would just be a talk, but most of it was actually a question and answer period. I thought that was interesting and preferred the question and answer format.

Many students asked intriguing questions, and Josh would reply and then go off on a slight tangent with an interesting story or fun fact about himself. He talked about his experiences from acting, writing, and directing, and his love for his profession.  At one point he asked the audience, “This is college. We can talk about stuff, right?”  Josh was ready and willing to answer every question that came his way. He shared insightful stories about college and finding yourself.

As great as the event was, I must note my one qualm. One aspect that put a damper on Josh’s talk was the hecklers in the audience. People were randomly yelling pointless comments while Josh was talking, and it was not only irritating to me, but also to Josh, and not to mention disrespectful. We are all adults, not children, and even though we may be big fans of his, he still deserved to be able to speak without being interrupted. Sure, most people were there because they watch How I Met Your Mother, and I believe most people are convinced that Josh is really Ted. I went, and I’m sure many others did to, to hear him share his insights and experiences. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge How I Met Your Mother fan, but yelling out comments and going crazy is not my style.

On a lighter note, it was great to see how open Josh was with us, and hearing about how he tries to shed the “Ted” image. We can all relate to this. Sometimes there are things that seem to define us that really don’t. Although Josh is a lot like Ted in some ways (he’s from Ohio and loves to read) he is not Ted. He is Josh, a completely different, very real person.

Overall, it was a fantastic night and I had a blast! I know that all the students did too, and I believe Josh did as well. He was so nice, and even took a picture of all of us for his Twitter page. A very special thank you goes out to DAB for bringing us not only a great speaker, but also a fun night filled with laughter. And thank you to Josh Radnor, whose name is not Ted Mosby.

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About the Writer:
My name is Gabriella Zeller, and I am a freshman English major at DePaul. I am from Peoria, IL, three hours south of Chicago. I love to write short stories and hope to go into editing/publishing one day. I believe that to be a good writer one must be an avid reader. Reading is an important hobby instilled in me at a young age by my family. I enjoy reading all types of books and here are a few of my favorites: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Starter for Ten by Andrew Nicholls, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larsson.

Book Review: Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler

Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A WWII Memoir Rediscovered

By Anne Malina

some-girls-some-hats-and-hitler-a-true-storyOriginally published in 1984, Trudi Kanter’s memoir about her experiences as a hat designer during WWII made very little impact. However, her book was re-released in October of 2012 and is finally receiving the recognition it deserves.

Unlike most WWII memoirs, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler has an upbeat quality conveyed through Kanter’s buoyant prose. As a Jewish woman from Vienna, Kanter is optimistic despite her numerous hardships and she is truly resilient in the face of ceaseless danger. In this account, we learn how she relentlessly fought to get herself and her husband out of Austria and into safety in England. But she did not stop there. She also took pains to get her aging parents to safety, proving her love and loyalty through her courageous actions.

Additionally, Kanter’s true love story is woven into this memoir. We watch her love grow and develop during times of fear and apprehension. Despite the chaos in her life, her love for her dear Walter only grows stronger and serves as impetus for her to fight all the harder.

This memoir took me completely by surprise with its charming wit and unexpected accessibility. Kanter is a thoroughly modern woman, unafraid to fight for her rights and for the rights of those she loves. She was a divorcee and a small business owner during a time when that was virtually unheard of. She fought with all she had to achieve not only safety, but economic success. Her unfailingly optimistic voice takes the reader on an unforgettable journey through war-ravaged Europe as seen by an unswervingly resilient young woman of Jewish descent.

In short, it is a touching, inspiring, and unexpected memoir that is well worth the read.

About the writer:
Anne Malina is a freshman at DePaul, double majoring in English & French, from Berwyn, IL.

Student Review: Saunders Reading 1.9.13

On Wednesday, January 9th, DePaul’s Student Center was graced with the presence of celebrated author, George Saunders. He read aloud from his new book, a compilation of short stories entitled, Tenth of December after which he graciously answered questions from the audience. The reading was moving and witty, enhanced by Saunders’ enthusiasm and character voices; the audience’s response was tremendous.  We laughed heartily and rooted for his characters even as we were moved by their pain and their hardships.

Latimes_georgesaunders

What is most interesting about Saunders is that he is not merely a writer—he is an entertainer, and he certainly kept everyone entertained. He is also a man of the people, untainted by his great success. He answered questions humbly and often humorously, never taking himself too seriously, but always getting his message across. All in all, it was a lovely evening, and we, at DePaul, were very grateful to have had him here. He inspired many DePaul students and professors that night. We hope he visits us again!

–Anne Malina

About the writer:
Anne Malina is a freshman at DePaul, double majoring in English & French, from Berwyn, IL.

Book Review: Casual Vacancy

From Young Adult to Adult Fiction, J.K. Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, Book Review
by Kathryn Sinde

When you hear J.K. Rowling’s name you immediately think of Harry Potter – the series that made Rowling famous.  Her new work, Casual Vacancy, Rowling’s first foray into the world of writing for adults, could not be more different than the Harry Potter series.  For those that absolutely love Harry Potter, this might not be the book for you–there are no magical elements to be found in this very real, grounded book.  It should be noted that this book is written for adults; there are some heavy topics within the novel. But, Rowling handles these topics in a subtle way that they are not too much to handle for the reader.e Rowling famous.  Her new work, Casual Vacancy, is a drastic departure from Hogwarts and the adventures of Harry Potter.

Rowling effortlessly captures the everyday life of her characters.  Within the first opening pages, you’re immediately engrossed in the lives of the main characters.  She describes with great, yet simple details that paint the story’s scene. You can’t help but relate to these characters because they are described as if they could be your neighbor down the street or one of your friend’s parents. Because of this, you find yourself unable to walk away from the novel: you want to see how they’re going to handle the novel’s sudden tragedy.  Rowling is very direct in this novel–not sugarcoating any of the heavy topics.

This book is a must read for English students because it’s a good way to see how an author can transition from one style of writing to another. Creative writing majors should definitely check this out because Casual Vacancy is Rowling’s successful transition from young adult genre of Harry Potter to mature, adult fiction.  For those studying literature, it’s also a must read because of the way that Rowling handles the heavy topics of death, drug use, and family dysfunction. Rowling does an outstanding job of building the tension within the opening pages that makes it impossible not to see where this novel is going to take the reader.

About the writer:
Kathryn is a junior English major from the small town of Hampshire, IL.  She writes because she feels it cleanses the soul and finds it easier to express feelings through writing than with actions.  In her free time, Kathryn is a huge Michael Phelps fan and has seen almost every single Mark Wahlberg movie.

 

Movie Review: Alex Cross

Movie Review: Alex Cross
by Ruben Miranda-Juarez

WARNING: Do not see this movie if you like the Madea movies like I do…

Alex Cross, based on James Patterson’s various books with a character of the same name, is a crime thriller-mystery film starring Tyler Perry as Alex Cross, Edward Burns as sidekick, Tommy Kane, and Matthew Fox as Picasso as the hired hit man. Tyler Perry takes on his first role outside of his previous films which are usually directed and written by himself and attempts to fill the shoes of Morgan Freeman who played Alex Cross in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider.

The film is essentially another book adaptation gone wrong. Tyler Perry as well the other cast member’s are extremely out of place with the exception of Matthew Fox who does an excellent job playing a sociopath for hire. The character of Alex Cross is a family man, a brilliant psychologist, and an even better detective, but you could not see that in the film mainly due to Tyler Perry’s portrayal. I kept seeing him dressed as Madea every time he was on screen. His movements were forced and so were his emotions in each scene. This is most apparent in the scene where his pregnant wife dies—the forced focus on him made me forget his wife was even pregnant; this, unfortunately, made me feel less sorry for him.

Minor details which were altered also left me uneasy. They changed the setting from Washington D.C to Detroit; in the novel, it is important to note he is deeply rooted in the Washington D.C area. James Patterson’s Alex Cross lives in the most dangerous part of the D.C area which is utterly significant to his character’s development. Here’s a man who came from nothing, living in one of the most dangerous cities in the country, who ultimately becomes a one of the renowned criminal profilers.

There is nothing good to say about this movie besides Matthew Fox’s portrayal of a deranged man, passionate in murdering people and making it look easy. If Idris Elba, Denzel Washington, or even Will Smith would have taken the role with say Christopher Nolan directing this film it would receive critical praise. But instead, you get a film with Tyler Perry in it and an entire cast of bland, stale B-List nobodies. Also, if the director would have cut out the classical music from the background which caused several audience members to fall asleep, that would have helped. Also, if the film had added a grittier storyline where we got to know Alex Cross as a person—this film would have done better even with Tyler Perry.

About the WriterRuben is currently a sophomore English major from Cicero near the south side of Chicago. He has been writing since high school and has experimented with various forms. He describes writing as a “deep sigh of relief” every time he can put his pen to paper. In Ruben’s spare time, he writes rhymes for fun and skateboards.

Book Review: The Book Thief

Book Review: The Book Thief
by Jennifer DePoorter

When I learned that The Book Thief, written by Markus Zusak, was selected as the 23rd book for One Book, One Chicago, I was shocked. I remember reading this book when I was thirteen, and I thought, “Isn’t this book for young adults? Why would this book be chosen?” Well readers, I read the book once more, and I found myself to be wrong. This is not a book for young adults. This is a book for everyone.

Written in 2006, The Book Thief was met with much success and won numerous awards, including being named as Best Book by the School Library Journal and the Young Adult Library services Association.

The protagonist, Liesel, is an orphan who finds love from a strange array of characters on Himmel Street, a poor part of town in Nazi Germany. There is her Mama, Rosa Hubermann, who expresses her love for Liesel by regularly beating her with a wooden spoon and calling her a “dirty little pig;” her Papa, Hans Hubermann, is a kind man who teaches Liesel to read in the dead of night; then there is Rudy, a boy who painted himself black with charcoal and decided to run like Jesse Owens, an American Olympian in the 1936 games.

Liesel is not an ordinary girl, as she has endured more than a young girl should. But after all, it is Nazi Germany, and these are not ordinary circumstances in which she lives. Through the course of this novel, she finds power and love in books and words as Hitler’s regime threatens to destroy everything and everyone Liesel holds dear. I cannot say much more about the plot because events happen quite slowly in Liesel’s life, until Max enters the scene, or more accurately, hides in her basement.

This is also not an ordinary book, as far as the narration. The genius of this book is Zusak’s decision to have Death narrate Liesel’s story, but he is not presented as the Grim Reaper. As Death puts it himself, “I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that’s only the A’s.” Death was vulnerable, and that vulnerability made the novel show that “humans can be worthwhile, and beautiful, even in the ugliest of times.”

This novel is achingly sad, in that while I was reading it, I constantly found myself clutching my heart. This novel forces the reader to be present on Himmel Street while to caring and rooting for Rudy and Liesel. It’s the type of novel that demands to be read.

Although it is 552 pages long, I highly suggest reading this book (if your attention span allows). Liesel’s experiences are hauntingly beautiful, and the people she meets a long the way…well, you should meet them, too. They might just make you believe in the power of words.

If you are interested, the Steppenwolf Theatre is producing its adaptation of The Book Thief from October 16th to November 19th. The public performances are on Saturdays at 3:00pm and 7:30pm, and Sundays at 3:00pm.

About the writer:
Jennifer DePoorter is a sophomore at DePaul, double majoring in Journalism and English, and is from Detroit, MI (Go Lions!). Her favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, and while she is not writing, she enjoys watching terrible reality television shows.

Book Review: The Time Keeper

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
by Anne Malina

The Time Keeper created quite an impact on the literary world when it was released this September. The furor it caused was inevitable if for no other reason than the previously established prestige of its author. As an already respected writer of best-sellers such as Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom had some high expectations to meet. He did it though, and even surpassed them.

Albom has been known to address profound life issues in his work and The Time Keeper is no exception. From the very first page, I was captivated by this nontraditional novel. One could even call it a fable. Indeed, it teaches its readers a valuable lesson but it is not, by any means, a traditional, run-of-the-mill, children’s fable. It speaks to people in all walks of life because it concerns one of humanity’s greatest obsessions: time.

The protagonist of this captivating tale is none other than Father Time himself. It tells the story of the man who invented time and consequently destroyed the peaceful ignorance of humanity. As punishment for what he has done, Father Time (named Dor) must listen to humanity suffer under the burden of time until the end of the world.

Consequentially, two people in particular stand out to Dor and it becomes his duty to teach them the futility of measuring time. As the lives of these individuals unfold, the reader identifies with their struggles. Humans waste so much time worrying about time itself: will there be enough time? How much time is left? Is it too late? Everything is scheduled and organized to the last second so that we are slaves to time.At some point we must realize that all the time we waste worrying about time itself could be spent enjoying life instead.

The best way to express this idea is through Albom’s own words: “When you are measuring life, you are not living it.” This idea is at the very core of the novel and it rings true for all human beings.

The Time Keeper is a great deal more than just a story about the beginning of time; its message resonates for anyone who has felt cheated by time. It encourages the reader to reevaluate his or her own life and priorities. Through this book, Albom points out the futility of counting and measuring our moments on earth; instead, we should cherish every living second and stop looking toward the next one.

About the writer:
Anne Malina is a freshman at DePaul, double majoring in English & French, from Berwyn, IL.

Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Movie Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Jennifer DePoorter

WARNING: Before you endeavor to read this review, I must ask a small request of the reader. Go to YouTube, look up David Bowie’s “Heroes,” and have it on repeat throughout this review. This way, you can feel as Charlie did in the soon-to-be iconic scene where he swears he felt “infinite.”

Have it on?

…Okay, keep reading.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a drama/romance based on Stephen Chbosky’s first novel, starring Logan Lerman (Charlie), Emma Watson (Sam), and Ezra Miller (Patrick). Charlie is an endearing and shy freshman in high school, better known as a wallflower, who struggles with coping with his best friend’s suicide, his first love, and overall mental health with the help of his best friends, Sam and Patrick.

Like the numerous times brilliant novels have been turned into absolute rubbish movies, I expected Perks to be a great disappointment. I can’t tell you how furious I was after watching The Hunger Games, but that is an entirely different story and not the movie I am reviewing.

However, this book-turned-into-movie turned out to be the best one I have seen in ages.

Perks stayed true to its iconic novel, in that its actors perfectly portrayed the characters in such a way that moved me to tears, several times, in fact. Logan was brilliant and the absolute perfect Charlie: quiet and lovable, yet incredibly sensitive and mentally unstable. I believe that Emma Watson was able to move away from her role as Hermione Granger and made the character of Sam come to life on stage. Her chemistry with Logan was undeniable, and in effect, made her an amazing Sam. I think the best actors are the ones who make you forget who is playing them, and that is what this cast did to me.

The most moving scene is “the tunnel scene” where our three main characters drive through a tunnel after their homecoming dance, with Sam standing up in the back. The song that played was “Heroes,” and not only did this scene make Charlie feel infinite, it made me feel infinite, as well.

My only complaint is that due to time constraints, Charlie’s relationship with his family was not portrayed as accurately as it could have been. Of course not everything in the book could have been transferred onto screen, but there is a truly touching scene in the book where Charlie comforts his sister after her abortion. It was scenes such as those that revealed Charlie’s character.

If you have not read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the movie may seem slow moving, as the plot is not action-based. However, if you stick with it, I promise it will not disappoint even the toughest of critics.

If you have read the book, I beg you to see this movie. The actors are not only the perfect fit for the characters, but the dialogue is extremely witty and charming, and the cinematography is quite genius.

Final Grade: A-

About the writer:
Jennifer DePoorter is a sophomore at DePaul, double majoring in Journalism and English, and is from Detroit, MI (Go Lions!). Her favorite book is The Catcher in the Rye, and while she is not writing, she enjoys watching terrible reality television shows.

Book Review: 50 Shades of Grey

Book Review: 50 Shades of Grey
by Kathryn Sinde

You may have already heard…50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, has taken the country by storm. Everyone from mothers to college students has fallen in love with this steamy book, making it (and its two sequels) bestsellers.

The novel follows Anastasia Steele (or Ana) as she interviews wealthy business owner, Christian Grey for her college newspaper.  Grey is an attractive, yet intimidating man that continually flusters Ana throughout the interview.  After suffering through the awkward interview, Ana is more than happy to leave, thinking that she will never have to see Christian Grey ever again.  Since the novel cannot end in the first chapter, Ana inevitably sees Grey again; this time to take a photo for the interview. Ana is still quite taken with the attractive Grey.  Like any couple, they have a few bumps in the road, one being that Grey prefers a certain kind of sexual encounter and doesn’t want to become romantically involved with Ana.  Ana struggles with the terms that Grey has set for her which sets the stage for the rest of the novel.

This book appeals to English majors because of the excellent use of characterization.  James does a great job of making these characters come alive off the page and draws you deeper into the romantic aspects of the novel.  As a college student, it’s easy to connect with Ana. At the beginning of the novel, she laments about how she should be studying for her finals and not driving to Seattle to interview some guy who owns a successful company.  Ana’s clumsy and occasional awkward demeanor also makes her extremely easy to connect to.  You feel as if Ana is your friend and you want her to succeed. As she enters into her arrangement with Grey, you worry about how she’s going to handle such a tricky relationship.  Christian Grey is also an easily likable character– even with his kinky preferences for his sexual encounters.  He is attractive and mysterious, which would draw any woman to him, but he is also honest.  He never sugarcoats it for Ana, instead laying all his cards out on the table and even taking steps to protect both him and Ana.

James uses language so descriptive and vivid that it only adds to the fascination and allure of the novel.  This novel is a prime example of what a novel was created to do, which is to give you an escape from every day mundane activities.  While reading it, I was so engrossed with watching this relationship unfold before my eyes that I didn’t worry about doing my laundry, making my bed, or finishing that one reading for class.  Taking the racy, sexual encounters out of the book, it really is a love story—plain and simple.  Ana is infatuated with Grey and thinks that she can handle a “no strings attached” sexual relationship, but it’s not that simple—this is where the reader gets hooked.

From one English Major to another, 50 Shades of Grey is worth the read.  The characterization is well done— making you fall in love with these characters as they make their way through this unconventional romance novel.

About the writer:
Kathryn is a junior English major from the small town of Hampshire, IL.   She writes because she feels it cleanses the soul and finds it easier to express feelings through writing than with actions.  Kathryn is also a huge Michael Phelps fan and has seen almost every single Mark Wahlberg movie.