Seriously, that’s all I have today. And I can’t even blog about the book until after my book club discussion. Maybe I can try to finish another one this week! Blogger FAIL!
Hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday!
Seriously, that’s all I have today. And I can’t even blog about the book until after my book club discussion. Maybe I can try to finish another one this week! Blogger FAIL!
Hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday!
Watched these films Sunday night and you can probably guess that Jimmy got to pick our selections! I do enjoy a good action film from time to time so I tend to go in with an open mind. I’m just often left disappointed due to lack of story.
First, we watched Haywire, a high-action, rescue-operation-gone-wrong spy movie. And if that sounds fun to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this film. It stars newcomer and MMA star (mixed martial arts), Gina Carano, who doesn’t appear to be the world’s greatest actress, but has the awesome ability to kick major bad guy ass. It’s refreshing to see a powerful, female action hero and would suggest the movie on that basis alone. The supporting cast is also shiny – Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum – so there’s plenty of eye candy. Unfortunately, the story falls a bit flat, the third act is kind of lame, the story has plot holes galore, and the acting can be rather stoic at times. So give it a watch, but make sure to have no expectations.
Man on a Ledge definitely won the award for most entertaining movie of the night. Sam Worthington claims to be falsely accused of stealing hella expensive diamond, escapes prison, and perches his cute butt on the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC to prove his innocence. Fun concept. Elizabeth Banks plays the negotiator trying to literally ‘talk him off the ledge’ and I love her! Another kick ass female role so we were 2 for 2 on the night. Granted, the plotting of this film is outrageous, but the emotions behind the crazy are genuine. I love heist movies and this one has some fun heist-y moments between a bickering girlfriend/boyfriend that lends the movie some comedic relief to break the tension. So many people gave this movie bad marks, but I enjoyed it as did Jimmy. We had lowered expectations which probably helped, but would watch this again – even the terribly cheesy ending.
Final verdict (Skip, Rent, Buy):
Man on a Ledge: Rent/Buy – if it’s your thing!
I’m writing this post a little ‘cold’ and unprepared because I’m unexpectedly going to see The Avengers tonight! To say I’m excited is a ridiculous understatement. I’m a Joss Whedon super fangirl. As far as Perks is concerned, I’ve had a month to soak in the after reading funk and have come out on the side of – not a a huge fan. And I’m entirely unapologetic about this unpopular opinion. (Spoilers below)
Chbosky’s debut novel presents itself as the universal tale of awkward teenagedom, especially that first year of high school. It was published in 1999 and follows Charlie as he writes letters to a ‘friend’ describing his freshman experiences as the ‘wallflower’. Going in, I had reservations and expectations. So many friends have lauded this book for its emotional revelations and ability to capture some truth of adolescence. People who I trust have explained how the book saved their lives or got them through those turbulent years. So. Much. Hype. I avoided it like the plague despite the book being published during my freshman/sophomore years of high school. I continued to avoid it during college and most of my twenties.
To put my expectations into perspective, I feared I’d feel about Charlie the way I now feel about Esther from The Bell Jar. Reading The Bell Jar in college felt life altering. She and I were the same person with the same problems. I felt so much in common with her that I began to fear I was bat shit crazy and would end up with my own head in an oven (I know I’m mixing up Esther with Sylvia here, pretend it’s for effect). But upon a reread a couple of years ago – in my late twenties – my perspective had completely changed. All I wanted to do was shake the shiz out of Esther and yell at her that all this shit won’t matter in 10 years. What if I was too far removed from high school to relate to Charlie? What if I had missed my chance?
But my fears were misguided. I liked Charlie from page one. I enjoyed his voice, loved the execution of the epistolary storytelling, and found myself in several of his thoughts. One particular feeling really registered with me even as an adult – the idea that you could be happy and miserable at the same time. I happily flew through the first 100 pages before I began to get uncomfortable. Something was off about Charlie – and not just in an awkward 15 year old way. His emotional responses to things were not normal. I put the book down and got in bed, ruminating on what could be Charlie’s real problem. When I awoke, I felt positive that he was autistic and read the rest of the novel under that belief until all is revealed in the end. And even though he’s not autistic, he is the victim of sexual abuse/molestation which leaves him physically, emotionally, and mentally crippled. I was enraged.
Not at Charlie or his particular story. I still adored Charlie and was so happy I had gotten to know him. Instead, I was mad at all the people who explained how much they related to Charlie’s life and all the marketers who touted this novel as a ‘universal’ teenage story. Are you kidding me? What is universal about being sexually molested unless you have actually been molested? For those kids who have unfortunately experienced this kind of trauma, then yes, this book is ‘universal’ and probably so incredibly cathartic to read. But for the rest of us who were simply awkward wallflowers in high school, band geeks, sci-fi nerds, etc. – how can we possibly pretend to relate to Charlie? How disrespectful to the truth of his life and his experiences.
I just got really angry. I knew kids who had gone through that kind of ordeal early in their life. Or who were autistic. And to walk up to them and say – hey, I know just what you’re going through because being a teenager sucks and sometimes I feel so sad I can’t even cry – what a holy fucking mess.
Again, I’m angry at the readers – not the book, not Charlie, and not Stephen Chbosky.
My second and far more minor problem with Perks is the misleading title and idea of what being a ‘wallflower’ is. Charlie is not a wallflower. He approaches Sam and her brother to befriend them, he tells Sam he likes her, and he has a handful of friends he spends lots of time with. How is this being a wallflower? I don’t even consider myself a true wallflower and I didn’t have the nerve to tell my crush I liked him or randomly befriend strangers all of a sudden at football games. And just because you aren’t the most popular kid at school or have the biggest social circle doesn’t make you a wallflower either. I had a handful of awesome friends – we weren’t popular; we weren’t unpopular – and most of my high school experiences were great.
And then there’s Sam. When Charlie admits to liking her, she explains that he must not feel that away about her and that she doesn’t return his feelings. And God Bless the boy, he respects what she says and remains her friend – doing his best to support her and her boyfriend. When said boyfriend is revealed to be a total cheating douche, Sam has the nerve to berate Charlie for not immediately rushing in and claiming Sam as his own. God forbid he just give her some space. I mean, she has already told him she doesn’t like him. And then to say he lacks the ability to take action and that if he likes her he should just ignore what she said and take her as his own anyway. EXCUSE ME? What lesson does this teach teenage boys? Girls are stupid, don’t know what they want, never mean what they say, don’t want to be respected – and this is the kicker – No. Means. Yes. Chbosky, what were you thinking? Maybe we’re just supposed to chalk it up to teenage stupidity and lack of life experiences. Sam and Charlie obviously still have much to learn. But for a book that seems to be so validating to its young audience, I just think this path might have frightening affects on a teenage psyche that hasn’t reached full maturity yet.
Has anyone else read this and think I’m way over-thinking things? I absolutely could be. Did I entirely miss the point? Please let me know. Perks was my bookclub’s April selection, but our discussion won’t take place until the end of May so I’d love your thoughts. I firgured I’d cool down the longer I was separated from the novel, but that hasn’t happened. I don’t know why, but this book has affected me more than any other this year. And garnered the longest post known to man. Kudos if you made it all the way through!
You might have noticed the slight change in post title – I’ve decided to rename my ‘reviews’ to ‘views’. A sort of blogging nickname, if you will. Why? One of my main goals of 2012 is to stop taking things so seriously (including myself) and just try to have more fun. So why not start here? So long uptight Reviews and hello whimsical Views! Feel free to mock me in the comments. Basically, just hoping to keep things conversational in the 2012 because reading is meant to be fun – at least outside of school!
Ok…enough already and on with the view! Austenland is one of those Pride and Prejudice spin-offs (or professional fanfiction) that I so dutifully avoid. You see, I’m an Austen purist. Elizabeth Bennet is so close to my idea of a perfect character that I cringe when anyone tries to rework her. FOR SHAME! Earlier this year I gave Pride and Prejudice and Zombies a little read (I mean, who doesn’t like zombies right?) and came away seething in anger. So what convinced me to give Ms. Hale a shot? Very simple: Kindle Daily Deal for which I’m a complete sucker. Also, I’ve dedicated December to reading whatever floats my boats since I’m way past my reading goals for the year.
Austenland follows Jane (shocker!), a thirty-something New Yorker, on a trip to England bequeathed to her by a dearly departed insanely rich Aunt. She’s been booked as a guest at an English resort of sorts that caters to women obsessed with all things Austen – think of it as a huge role playing game for the Darcy obsessed upper class. And for a woman who has sworn off men because no one could ever possibly live up to the incredibly sexy Fitzwilliam Darcy (as portrayed by Colin Firth in the 1993 BBC miniseries), Jane is the perfect nut…er…vacationer.
Essentially, Hale has written chick lit for Austen fans. As with all chick lit, the entertainment lies in the journey, not the ending (since they all tend to end the same way). And Austenland’s journey begins on rocky footing. I had a hard time relating to Jane on any plane existent on planet Earth. Who is ashamed to love Pride and Prejudice – so much so that they hide their dvds in a potted plant? Also, who can’t have a normal relationship because of a fictional turn-of- the-19th-century man? Crazy people who should be committed come to mind. So Jane and I did not get off to a good start, but rather surprisingly, we finally hit it off once she reaches Pembroke Park and recognizes the cray-cray that lives inside, coming to her senses and learning to enjoy her life as it exists in actuality.
I do applaud Ms. Hale for remembering that fans of Austen are often intelligent women who can enjoy the entertainment value of good chick lit without wholly abandoning their literary tastes. She writes a really brilliant moment in Austenland where Jane discovers her behaviors often mimic those of Darcy more than Elizabeth Bennet’s. A great gender switch and blending of gender identity – highly ironic in a genre so tooled towards women. If only there had been more of these brilliant little revelations.
All in all, there’s nothing award winning or knock your socks off about Austenland. Jane suffers as a relatable protagonist and often comes off as a caricature of Austen fans. But if you love the BBC’s P&P, you’ll probably find something to enjoy here – if not, go ahead and skip it. The story is filled with cliches down to the quintessential airport chase scene at the end. You’d be much better off finding a few hours to settle down with the P&P dvds, as long as you promise not to hide them in any household greenery!
I would like to add that many people seem to enjoy Hale’s middle grade and young adult fiction. So perhaps those of you interested in her writing should begin there!
Up next: I’ve just begun Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. A huge chunkster novel that I have no hope of finishing before the new year. However, I’ve also just begun my first audiobook from audible.com – Delirium by Lauren Oliver that I’m quite enjoying thus far. For the January book club discussion, I finished reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern last night and can’t wait to discuss it with everyone (a little hint…I adored it!).
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
As I was strolling down memory lane prepping for this post, I couldn’t help but grin from ear to ear looking at all the books I had cherished as a young reader. I’ve been reading since I can remember, so choosing a mere ten was incredibly hard, but I tried to stick with books that really affected me as a reader – books that moved beyond enjoyable into the realm of inspiring, both as a reader and a writer.
1. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss – This book taught me how to read. My dad and I would sit together in my bed every night reading this together for at least a year. One of the best memories I have with my father and the book that literally started it all.
2. The Pokey Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey – What makes the pokey puppy stand out was the edition I owned. Mine went far beyond the little golden book classic and into the land of puppetry! The pokey puppy came alive with a finger puppet, and yet again, my dad was an awesome narrator!
3. The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner – These books were my first chapter books. My mom was studying to become a teacher at the time and she loved letting me read several chapters a night to her. Great memories of sitting on the couch in our breakfast room, just me and her. The books I loved because the idea of children living on their own was so rebellious and fantastical!
4. The American Girl series by Valerie Tripp – Loved them passionately. My first heroines and I truly believe these stories acted as a precursor to my love of Austen. I especially loved Molly and Samantha – plus, the pages were so silky and smooth.
5. The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks – Toys come to life and far better than the Toy Story movies. I loved books with fantasy elements as they allowed my imagination to take off. Probably read this book 10+ times.
6. The BFG by Roald Dahl – Really, I loved any Dahl novel, but The BFG stands out as a favorite. My fourth grade teacher read this novel aloud to the class which made the experience all the more magical. I immediately purchased any and all Dahl books from the book fairs and the scholastic order forms!
7. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar – The first time I finished a book and immediately turned back to page one and started again. My copy was so worn down and battered. You never knew what was going to happen next at this crazy school and you honestly believed that the stories could change with every re-read.
8. Just As Long As We’re Together by Judy Blume – My favorite Judy Blume by far. Got me through the beginnings of puberty far better than anything else in my life. I felt so grown and adult as I turned the pages – kind of the pre-teen equivalent of dirty romance novels. I even hid it from my mother because I thought it was so salacious.
9. The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin – I read every single one of these including the horror and super specials. Kristy was my favorite and I aspired to be just like her – I loved tomboy characters. I remember reading them so quickly that I won my fourth grade Book-It competitions repeatedly and won an award at the end of that year for most books read in my grade. I loved finding a new one at Wal-Mart.
10. The Fear Street novels by R.L. Stine – These books took the place of The Babysitter’s Club once I thought I was too old for such childish things. The horror aspect made me feel older and far more mature.
I feel sad for all the books I couldn’t list. I’d like to say that Beverly Cleary was also a favorite and it was with great regret that a Ramona book didn’t make the list. Maybe next time! Also, had the Harry Potter books been published before I was a teenager, they would have definitely been included.
The votes are in and counted! (Well, not by us, but by the awesome computer software that does the job for us.) It was a tight race, with three of the four books claiming seven, eight, and nine votes and only one book receiving no votes at all (poor James Herriot). Nevertheless, we have a winner. We will be starting out the New Year with The Night Circus, the highly acclaimed current Times Bestseller by Erin Morgenstern. Obviously we’re no strangers to the circus theme, having read (and watched) Water for Elephants only a few short Litwit months ago. But The Night Circus seems to be a very different beast altogether, filled with mesmerizing illusions and spectacular feats of magic. If Water for Elephants was made of dirt and sweat, The Night Circus promises to be made of gossamer and glitter.
As one of the nine original Lady Litwits, I was honoured and excited to decide on the list of books for January voting. My goal was to provide a wide variety of choices and for each book to be one we’d all be enthusiastic to read. One of the choices, I have to confess, already tops my list of Must Read books. My relationship with Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God began when it was a mandatory read for my African American history class in university. In the end, I had the good luck (and good sense) to fall absolutely in love with it. Hurston’s originally underappreciated novel is one of the most simple, graceful, and soulful books I’ve ever been blessed enough to read. So when you have the time, and if you have the inclination, read it! I can almost guarantee you will be glad you did.
Although I’ve technically never made it all the way through All Creatures Great and Small in one sitting, it’s also a novel I hold close to my heart, my Dad being a Brit himself and having spent a small portion of my childhood in the area about which Herriot writes. If you love animals, Herriot’s care and tenderness for each creature he treats as a rural veterinarian will be sure to charm you. All Creatures Great and Small is also one of the most precious and relaxing books on tape you can find, read by a sweet older British man. I can’t think of a better accent to listen to for hours on end!
In making my final choice for January voting, I had to pay homage to my secret lover – Shakespeare. But I didn’t want to totally bore you with my bordering on nerdy love of the Bard, so I thought A Thousand Acres, a modern Midwestern update on Shakespeare’s King Lear, would be a good compromise. Written by famed author Jane Smiley, I was fascinated by the complex family relationships that beckoned from her Pulitzer Prize winning novel. And by the opportunity to finally read King Lear itself. All said, I hope I provided you with at least one interesting choice for our first 2012 Meetup and that you’re happy with the results of the voting! We had a bit of a low turnout this voting session so be sure to take part in next month’s poll. With close calls like this one you can be sure that every vote counts!
I was taught to read by the time I was 4, my grandparents would buy me a book every week when they made their weekly trips “into town”. I started reading the Mickey Mouse and friends collection about traveling the world and the different cultures.
Everything! I love when historical factors are brought into the story, Steve Berry, Dan Brown, I’m a huge fan of Ian McEwan. I’m also a psych major so I read a lot of social magazines, Psych Today, etc.
I love history, I’m also very active in sports, I play kickball and softball and I run as much as possible. I am deeply involved in my church as well.
Mellow Mushroom / Noche / Sweet Tomatoes
The UK, I love history and England, Ireland and Scotland is full of it. The country-sidesare some of the most beautiful in the world.
When I first saw Hocus Pocus I was 9 years old. It had just come out in theatres and I was beyond pumped to go and see it. Ever since we learned about Salem, Massachusetts and the history of the witch trials that took place there in the 1600s, I was fascinated with all things bewitching. So, I dragged my Mom and cousin, Ashley, to go and see it. It still stands as one of my Mom’s favourite movies. Ashley, on the other hand, got so scared she ran out of the theatre. Let me be clear, though. Hocus Pocus is not a scary movie. It is a Disney movie. And Ashley is a chicken. Eighteen years later she still hasn’t seen it all the way through and needless to say, it has become a bit of a family joke. On All Hallows Eve in 1663 Salem, three local witches lure a young girl out of the village to their cottage in the woods. Sisters Mary, Sarah, and Winifred Sanderson (played by Kathy Najimy, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bette Milder), keep themselves eternally young by sucking the lives out of children. (I’m making it sound scary again. I swear it’s not.) But on this Halloween night, their luck runs out and they are captured by the torch-wielding townspeople and sentenced to hang for their crimes. As they stand at the gallows, Winifred places a curse on the city of Salem. On Halloween night, the one night in which spirits can return from the grave. A virgin will light the magical black flame candle, giving them until dawn to regain their powers. Amazingly, it takes 300 years for such a virgin to do just that. And for what reason you might ask? Oh, you know, to look tough and impress a girl (cause that’s how we roll in 1993). Max Dennison (Omri Katz), his sister Dani (Thora Birch), and Max’s high school crush Alison (Vinessa Shaw) must keep the children of Salem safe from the witches until dawn’s light can turn the three back into dust. And since no Halloween movie is complete without a black cat, they are aided by the help of Thackery Binx (NCIS’s Sean Murray), a 17th century Salem boy cursed to live as an adorable talking feline for the rest of eternity. Although I probably didn’t fully appreciate it at the time (what with being so busy checking out the cute boys), the true star of Hocus Pocus is undeniably Bette Midler. She sings; she dances; she cracks the best one liners. Is there anything the woman can’t do? She is the leader of the terrible coven, the brains behind the operation, allowing Parker and Najimy, in their roles as truly idiotic sidekicks, to provide additional comic relief, which they do well. Parker, as the boy-crazy youngest sister, also brings a little bit of much needed sex appeal to the group (possibly a good practice round for her role in Sex and the City). However, as brilliantly funny as Hocus Pocus is, what sticks with me as an adult is the love Max has for his sister and how he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect her. The great balance seems to strike so well between heart and funny bone is rarely shown better than with Hocus Pocus.
Although I can’t claim to have been a fan of the Casper comic books, or even the cartoons, the 1995 film became an instant classic in my house. I must have watched it every day for two months the summer before 8th grade – and not just because I had a massive crush on Devon Sawa, who makes a surprise appearance at the end of the movie. After all these years, Casper is still one of those movies I can watch again and again. The recently widowed Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and his teenage daughter Kat (Christina Ricci) travel across the country, moving from city to city where Dr. Harvey works as a psychiatrist for the “living impaired,” hoping one day to discover the ghost of his deceased wife. After their latest stint in Santé Fe, Dr. Harvey is called to Friendship, Maine where Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty), your typical Cruella de Vil style villain, is trying to rid the supremely cool and supremely creepy Whipstaff Manor of its ghostly inhabitants. Crittenden and her ridiculous assistant Dibbs (played by Monty Python’s own Eric Idle, are desperate to gain entrance to the haunted mansion to search for the treasure supposedly hidden inside. As resident troublemakers, ghosts Stretch, Stinkie, and Fatso, make it just a little bit difficult for them. Casper haunts Whipstaff along with his offensive ghostly uncles and, true to form, just wants to make some friends. Christina Ricci, who performed most of her scenes alone on set, plays the part of Kat wonderfully. In 1995, when Casper was released, she was undeniably the it-girl of the moment for young adult movies. I’ve always loved her movies; from the coming of age Now and Then to the lesser known Gold Diggers (don’t worry, it’s not about what it sounds like). What I think is most remarkable about this modern update is the level of depth the writers, directors, and producers gave to what could have been a mindlessly entertaining storyline. Casper’s score, composed by James Horner, perfectly reflects the film’s light and dark moments, and we’re surprisingly drawn in by its hauntingly poignancy. We get more out of the film than just “Casper the friendly ghost.” We get a sense of what it feels like for him to exist as both a boy and a ghost, long after the death of his parents. What in the cartoons was his comic search for friends is now a true yearning to be a real boy, able to play and dance and be young. We also get a realistic view into the loss of a parent and an, albeit lighthearted, understanding of the complexities of death and loss.
Over ten years after its release, Practical Magic still holds its dear place as my favourite movie about witches. Based on the acclaimed novel by Alice Hoffman, it portrays witches just as I believe they exist in real life – as beautiful and self-reliant women who find strength and power in their inherent femininity. These witches work in their gardens, eat pancakes and brownies, nurture their loved ones, make homemade lotions, and aren’t afraid of laugh lines. The intuitive magic they possess is the kind I believe can be found in all women. Following the death of their parents, sisters Sally and Gillian Owens, played by Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman, are sent to live a strange yet cozy life with their two eccentric Aunts. In the Aunt’s small seaside Massachusetts town the four live as outcasts, rejected by the townspeople, who for generations have gossiped about the mysterious powers of the Owens women and the tendency of their husbands to meet untimely ends. It seems that in the throes of heartbreak, Sally and Gilly’s ancestor made a vow never to love again. Her vow soon turned into a curse that any man loved by an Owen’s woman would die. The elder Sally (Bullock) lives her life in fear of the curse, afraid to love, and rejects her own powers in an attempt to somehow fit in as normal. Gillian lusts deeply and passionate, but saves her men by never allowing herself to truly fall. Although the movie is a romance, the real story is of the unbreakable bond between the sisters and, in a way, between all women. Aunt Frances, played by the still-spicy Stockard Channing, and Aunt Bridget, played by the always sweet and charming Dianne Wiest, bring much needed humour and light to the story. Where the Sisters make it complicated, the Aunts make it fun. I always find myself wishing I could be invited to live with the Aunts, planting herbs and mixing potions (and having midnight margaritas!). Many of the scenes for Practical Magic were filmed in a breathtaking 1850s style Victorian mansion. Custom built for the movie’s use, it is a spectacular piece of movie architecture and claims a spot on my (large) list of dream homes (right behind every house ever shown in a Nancy Meyers movie). Sprinkle in great music by the fittingly bewitching Stevie Nicks and Practical Magic absolutely transforms from special into magical.