Friday, August 27, 2010

I love a good "book day." A book day is when I spend the whole day (or afternoon or night or all three) reading a book from cover to cover. To top things off, yesterday's book was Mockingjay, one I'd been waiting on for a year and the conclusion of a trilogy. And best of all -- it lived up to all the anticipation.

The story begins in Panem, what's left of America many years in the future after a major war. The Capitol (aka government ruled by evil dictator) controls the twelve districts, and to remind the people who's in charge, each year they hold The Hunger Games. Two children from each district are chosen by lottery to enter the games, in which they must fight to the death in an arena. The games are televised to the entire populace, and the last child left alive is crowned the winner.

Now enter the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Her younger sister is chosen in the lottery to represent District 12, but Katniss steps up to take her place. The trilogy tells her story, from her experience in the games to all of the fallout that follows.

I don't want to spoil it, so I'll leave the rest for you to find out on your own. Suzanne Collins has told a unique, page-turning story of sacrifice, survival, and love. The story stands on it's own-- you don't have ponder the deeper meaning. But I can't stop thinking about the resonance here. Poverty vs. excessive wealth. The subjugation of the powerless. What it means to have power. Our obsession with entertainment. How far we will go to survive. The value of a human life. The value of family. What it means to love someone.

Read these books. You won't regret it.

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

(Here's the book trailer for Mockingjay.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For the past few days, I've been mulling over what I would blog about this week. Maybe I could talk about the book I finished reading, or the amazing pedicure I had on Saturday, or my son's first few days back to school. But something real hit pretty hard today. A few days ago, a FB friend mentioned he was praying for a family. I knew immediately who he was talking about, but I didn't want to think that anything terrible had happened. I found out today that it did.

My favorite teacher passed away this weekend. I'm not sure why I'm having such a hard time with this -- I hadn't seen her in over ten years. I don't talk about my mother's passing often, and of course this new loss rakes up all those same wounds. But I think I just need to give voice to what this wonderful lady meant to me.

I could talk about what she taught, or even how she taught, but all that was secondary to the fact that she cared. She cared about each and every student who passed through her doors, and every one of us knew it. She was there to help when things were messy and inconvenient. She made time to listen.

I didn't want to become a teacher. I majored in English because I love to read. I went to graduate school in the education department because it was a one year program. But somewhere along the way, I remembered the impact that Mrs. Hughes had on my life. My #1 goal in the classroom was to be the kind of teacher that she was. I'm sure I failed early and often, but if I was for even one kid what Mrs. Hughes was for me (and hundreds of others, no doubt) then all the other stuff was worth it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I am all about awesome alternative rock music. The weird thing is most people I know and talk to have never heard of the bands that I love. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Arcade Fire's The Suburbs is the #1 Album in America -- That means lots of people have caught on to their greatness, and I'm thrilled for them! Here is a little taste:

I guess I should be embarrassed to admit it, but I cried the first time I heard this song. It's that good.

On a more personal note, with the school year fast approaching, and my prime writing time with it, I'm having an identity crisis of sorts. I am about a quarter of the way through my second book, but I stalled out a while ago. Genre wise I'd say it is general fiction. I like to read all kinds of things, but lately I've been in love with adolescent lit. I have an idea brewing for an adolescent novel -- the question is, do I abandon book 2 to start a new idea, or do I finish what I've already started? Feel free to share your insights!

Until next week!

A quote from the great Mark Twain:
All you need is ignorance and confidence, and success is sure.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

This week I wanted to talk about the great book that I read, and I have some random thoughts to share.

Last week I read The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. As a former middle school teacher and as a human being, this book is fantastic. A brother and sister discover that they are descendants of two ancient royal Egyptian families. Their ancestry gives them special powers, which they use to save the world. Riordan gives a unique take on the classic good vs. evil, seamlessly weaving Egyptian history and world geography into the complex story. The point of view alternates between the African-American male protagonist and his sister, raised by her Caucasian grandparents in England. It's part science fiction, part family drama, part suspense, with a hint of a love story. I could say I've never read anything like it, but really it's like a mixing pot of different genres, all melded into something new. In case you couldn't tell, I loved it. If I were still teaching, I'd already be angling to get a class set and teach it.

Random observation #1: In the mall parking lot this week I was driving behind a car. I noticed one of those fake bullet hole stickers on the back of the trunk, and I thought, that's weird, because it's just one. Usually people put a row of them, and they're a little more obvious. When I stopped behind the car at a stop sign, I realized it was not a sticker, but an actual bullet hole. Nice.

Random thought #2: I'm not a big fan of Kate Hudson.

Random opinion #3: I've read in several places the assertion that if you like Charlaine Harris's novels, you won't like the show TrueBlood, and if you like the show, you won't like the books. I couldn't disagree more. I thoroughly enjoy both the books and the show. Alan Ball and crew create a perfect balance of the heart and characters of the books, with just enough extra spice to keep you interested, even when you know what's going to happen next.

Random closing thought: The iLuv alarm clock/dual iPod docking station I got my husband for Father's day has really good sound quality. To quote Coldplay, which is playing now,
'Nobody said it was easy,
It's such a shame for us to part.'

Until next week!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My kids spent last week with their grandfather, while I took my own personal summer break. All week people asked me, "Are you getting a lot done?" My stock answer was no, because I should have been doing things like cleaning my house or discovering a source of free, clean, renewable energy. But, to quote a favorite piece of Facebook flair, a clean house is a sign of a wasted life, and I'm no scientist. My lofty summer goals were to read more, write more, and see more movies. I know you can't wait to see how those are coming along.

I read an excellent book (which deserves it's own post), I have a solid beginning to a story down in the saved files, and I saw six movies. Yes, six. In case you're looking for a movie to see this summer, here are the 10-second reviews:

In Theaters:

Charlie St. Cloud *** Boy's brother dies. Boy plays baseball with brother's ghost. Boy meets girl who can bring him back to the world of the living. Not my usual thing, the girly date movie, but it was decent.

Inception ***** Super cool architects/scientists/druggists can steal your innermost secrets while you dream. Oh, and they can plant ideas in your mind, too. I'm really not doing this one justice; it is awesome. If you see one movie this summer, see this one.

Eclipse **** Vampire and werewolf fight for the love of a human girl, but an army of vampires is trying to kill her. Okay, I'm not objective about this one, being a Twihard and all, but it is the best in the movie franchise so far.

Dinner for Smucks **** To get a promotion, a guy has to invite an idiot to dinner. The guy who brings the biggest idiot wins. Funniest movie I've seen in a while. I love Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.

At Redbox:

The Book of Eli ***** A man travels west through post apocalyptic America to protect the last Bible, but lots of bad guys try to stop him. Violent (disclaimer for the faint of stomach) but a beautiful, excellent film.

Hot Tub Time Machine ** Four misfits go back to the 80s to fix their lives and renew their friendship. Couple of good laughs, kind of a dude movie. Craig Robinson steals the show.