Friday, November 30, 2012

What My English Teacher Said

As I think I stated in a previous post, my English class had been reading the famous play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. The Crucible was written in 1953, in the midst of The Cold War, but with a setting during the Salem Witch Trials which took place in the 1690s. I finished the story a few weeks ago, but we completed watching the film just yesterday. Right after the final scene, when John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, and Martha Corey are hung, my teacher stopped the film for a minute or two, at the very final image: a close-up of the rope, against a beautiful bluebird sky.

At this point, the whole class was trying to stifle their tears, but she just turned to us and said, "Write." She then continued to say, "Write about the rope. What's the point? Channel your emotions, and write."

She gave us about ten minutes or so before we shared them out loud, but I've taken the time to develop my piece a bit more here:

The Rope

A rope is something strong and rough, unbreakable my mortal hands. A rope is braided and twisted, each single twine a small part of the whole. Salem, MA, a town created from sweat and empty space, soon became strong like the rope; with their belief in God to hold on to, and the drive of survival burning in their hearts and backs, with each lift of a log in building a home.

But the people who lived in Salem were braided, so tightly wound in their own bitter greed and envy. Their twisted souls ached with pride and vanity. Their twisted paranoia and sick need for hearsay clouded their vision. It muddled the people's choices enough to not see the good in the town's only true heroes - the ones who saw the corruption, but were dealt the wrong fate.

In the end the town and its people together create the rope; the device used to kill instead of strengthen. The rope is a symbol of fortitude, pride, and of life. And maybe most importantly, what we all need to think upon.

Just the one word she spoke, "write", can lead your emotion to come tumbling out of your mind in clusters and fragments, and bridge across your pencil to become whole sentences and imagery on the page. No matter who says it, "write" is a command I have no problem obliging to, even if it means leaving my heart on the page as well.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows
274 pages

It is January 1946, and World War II has left its scars across the world. Writer Juliet Ashton, is looking for her next book subject when she receives a letter from a man named Dausey, who lives on the island of Guernsey off the coast of England. Soon, the two become friendly correspondents, and within the course of their letters, Juliet learns about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This unusual and charming book club was created at the spur-of-the-moment during the German occupation and is made up of everyone from farmers, to wood carvers, and amateur cooks, but all have an excellent taste in books. Captivated by their stories, Juliet sets sail for the island, and what she finds there will change her forever.

Schaffer and Barrow's  unique and uplifting novel is written entirely in letters. Some to Juliet, some from Juliet, but all give an original perspective on the story.

Although a bit slow moving to begin, this novel was undoubtedly satisfying. All of the characters both in Guernsey and back home in England were clever and witty, but overall real. Characters such as Elizabeth and Amelia, were both deeply human in their thoughts and ideals. My favorite was Isola Pribby, a young women who is very frivolous and sometimes quite absurd.

Honestly, I had never heard of Guernsey before, but after reading this, the island seems to have found itself on my list of places to travel. Although written in that letter-style, Schaffer and Barrow still found a way to convey description and imagery.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is truly one of the most uplifting and most genuine novels I have read in a long time, and should find its way to your shelf.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

"It's the most wonderful time of the year, with the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you "Be of good cheer". It's the most wonderful time of the year, it's the hap-happiest season of all!"

I have always said that my favorite time of the year is from Thanksgiving to New Year's - and I might even go as far as to extend it to the middle of January when my birthday falls.

I love Christmas, but when stores like Kohl's and AC Moore start playing holiday songs even before Halloween, something is terribly wrong. Why are the season's being so rushed? Christmas songs in October? Halloween decor on Labor Day? Back to School promotions on the Fourth of July? Swim suit sales in March? It really all leads back to making money; franchises that want to get you into their stores for "Doorbusters". (where did that name come from anyway - are they really that great that they're going to blow up the entrance? Somehow I find that very unlikely.)

In my opinion, once Thanksgiving is over, you're allowed to plug in the Christmas lights, and maybe even bring the wreaths down from the attic. Because if you've been listening to "The Christmas Song" and "Frosty the Snowman" since October, then you're going to be quite tired of them by December. Doing so loses the Christmas spirit and the fun that each new holiday brings.

There is this never-ending joy that arises from this season, derived from the jolly tunes, the smells of baking, the crunch of snow under your boots, and the cackling of the fireplace. There is something nostalgic and humbling from seeing the toy commercials on TV, although by the second week you can recite some of them by heart.

There is the basket of Christmas cards in the hall, and the brown packages delivered and then hidden under beds and in the backs of closets. There is the countdown until winter break in the back of every child's mind, and the feel-good holiday movies on ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel.

And then there are the holiday reads, the ones you curl up on a Sunday afternoon with, the ones that cannot be read without a cup of hot-cocoa in hand.

Here's what's on my Holday To-Read List:

1. Let It Snow, John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
2. Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
3. Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe, Jenny Colgan
4. Clara Claus, Alexandra Lanc

We still have over a month to go until the big day, so no worries - there won't be any countdowns on the right side of this blog, or posts to announce each of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" because that is not really what it's all about. The holiday season is about experiencing all of the joyous things stated above, and really soaking it all in because it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Experiencing Breaking Dawn Part 2

After much long anticipation, I have finally seen Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final movie in The Twilight Saga franchise. I had never seen a Twilight movie in the theaters before, as I just read the series by Stephenie Meyer last spring, so I was not sure what to expect.

The movie was first shown in select theaters on Thursday at 10pm and at midnight, but it started showing everywhere yesterday, November 16th.

Before leaving, some preparation was needed. I felt the need to be a little festive, and painted my nails red and black, to match the covers of the books. I also had to find my ticket, which I had pre-ordered on October 1st.

I arrived at the theater an hour and a half early, as I've heard the lines to get a good seat could be crazy, as no one wants to end up in the front row with their necks inclined.  AMC had an organized system going, so that was helpful and suprisingly, we were to be the first in the "yellow" line.

After standing around, and watching the line fill up with people behind us, we were finally allowed to race in for seats at 6:30. We snagged seats in the dead center, the perfect view. That next half hour felt like forever, as we tried not to finish all of the popcorn before the movie had even started. To be honest, I was just as excited for the previews as I was for the movie, as I was hoping there would be a new trailer for Stephenie Meyer's The Host. They did, and you can watch it for yourself here, the movie comes to theaters on March 29th, 2013. Along with the sci-fi romance The Host, a trailer was shown for Nicholas Sparks' Safe Haven, and a teaser for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - which produced several squeals from the audience.
Breaking Dawn Part 2 opened with a long introduction giving credit to the lead actor/actresses in the movie accompanied with a piano ballad - something unique only to this movie.  The movie began right where Part One left off, with Bella opening her new blood red eyes for the first time. I really enjoyed the several camera angles that were taken from Bella's point of view, zooming to the definite details of her new form of sight (each thread in the carpet, the rays of sunlight, etc.).

To my pleasure, the screenwriter did not stray to too far from the book, except for the end - where I think every person in the audience suffered a minor heart attack. I don't want to reveal any spoilers for those who have not the movie yet, but I will offer a warning, be prepared. I loved the parts featuring Renesemee at all of her various fast-paced ages, especially when she plays the piano with Edward - so sweet! My favorite part of the movie is the very, very end where the director and writer stayed very true to the story. Bella has learned to remove her shield, allowing Edward to finally read her mind, and she shows him every important memory she has of him. It was the perfect way to recap the entire series.

The closing credits were also done differently, as an image was flashed of every character from all of the movies and the actor/actress was named. Overall, the movie was fantastic, and I felt it did total justice to the book - the perfect doses of humor, action, and romance.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Movie vs. The Book: Wallflower

Actually, the title of the book/movie is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but if I had put the whole thing in the title, it would have been a little much.

This movie I had been long anticipating, and it fulfilled all of my expectations. The reason I read the book by Stephen Chbosky was because I saw the movie trailer. (Also, because of Emma Watson...) I can't believe it was already two weekends ago that I went to see this with four other friends.

The main cast is as follows:
Charlie - Logan Lerman
Patrick - Ezra Miller
Sam - Emma Watson
Bill (English Teacher) - Paul Rudd
Mary Elizabeth - Mae Whitman
Charlie's Mom - Kate Walsh
Doctor - Joan Cusack

Very few changes were made to the storyline, which made me very happy. Charlie is still the clueless and lost Freshman he was in the novel, Patrick also known as Nothing, and Sam is still sweet and kind. In the book, Charlie does not disclose last names to the person he is writing to, but in the movie, his English teacher is given the name Mr. Anderson.

I think my favorite part of the movie is when Charlie is given a suit for Christmas from Patrick who says: "All of the best writers in history always wore great suits." Although, this is a super close second.

Many parts of this movie were absolutely hysterical, just like the book, and I swear, I thought my friend was going to fall out of her seat at one point from laughing so hard! I think you have to be a teenager to love this movie...because the events that take place, the characters, the humor, are all things that we see or hear about everyday - it makes you laugh because you know it's true in that weird "Oh my gosh!" kind of way.

This is a must see movie for lovers of the book and even those who haven't read it, as it tackles issues of today's kids, and provokes questions we all need answers to. For example, here's my favorite:

Sam: "Why do I, and everyone I love, pick people who treat us like we're nothing?"
Charlie: "We accept the love we think we deserve."

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

If I Stay

If I Stay
Gayle Forman
234 pages

As a senior in high school, Mia has a bright future at Julliard ahead of her, but when a single second alters that future indefinitely, she faces the biggest decision she has ever had to make. Caught somewhere between life and death, Mia spends twenty-four hours watching, reminiscing, and feeling.

As I have said before, the best kinds of books are those that make you feel something. Whether that is laughter, joy, sadness or love, if the reader can feel those emotions pouring off the page in colors of analogy and imagery, then the author has done their job.

If I Stay is that kind of story.

Mia's story is told very simply, changing between memories and the present time - almost as if her life is flashing before her eyes. This story is told with very little detail and description, but maybe that's what makes this novel stand out compared to others I have read recently. I have heard Forman's style of writing described as raw prose, which seems to be a good definition.

For those of you who feel too old to read this book, at least do me the favor of reading the following -
I know it will be awful for Kim when I die, but I also think about what she said, about not being scared, about jail being easy compared to losing me. And that's how I know Kim will be okay. Losing me will hurt; it will be the kind of pain that won't feel real at first, and when it does, it will take your breath away...But she'll deal. She'll move on....And I bet she'll be a stronger person because of what she's lost today. I have a feeling once you live through something like this, you become a little bit invincible.

Emotions will be on high alert as you read Mia's compelling story that tackles a decision no one should ever have to make. The choice between leaving and staying, and the delicate subject of what we stay for.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Song of the Week: Begin Again

I've decided to start a new series of posts entitled "Song of Week", in hopes of sharing some of my favorites with you. To write a good song, you have to be a good writer, so the songs I choose are ones that I feel spark inspiration, or tell a story.

For the first post, I've chosen "Begin Again" by Taylor Swift. This song was recently released on her new album RED.
Took a deep breath in the mirror
He didn't like it when I wore high heels
But I do

Turned the lock and put my headphones on
He always said he didn't get this song
But I do, I do

Walked in expecting you'd be late
But you got here early and you stand and wave
I walk to you
You pull my chair out and help me in
And you don't know how nice that is
But I do

And you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny cause he never did
I've been spending the last 8 months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again

He said he never met one girl
Who had as many James Taylor records as you
But I do
We tell stories and you don't know why
I'm coming off a little shy
But I do

But you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny cause he never did
I've been spending the last 8 months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again

And we walked down the block to my car and I almost brought him up
But you start to talk about the movies that your family watches
Every single Christmas and I won't talk about that
And for the first time, what's past is past

Cause you throw your head back laughing like a little kid
I think it's strange that you think I'm funny cause he never did
I've been spending the last 8 months
Thinking all love ever does is break and burn and end
But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again

But on a Wednesday in a cafe, I watched it begin again

I have bolded the section that is my favorite, as it really describes just how difficult love can be I guess, although I've had no experience with it anyway. But that's the thing about certain songs, or books for that matter, they make you feel things you might have never before. Whether that is compassion, envy, or even true love. That's why I love this song by Taylor Swift, she makes you feel something in away that has you singing it over and over in your head all day.
To watch Taylor sing "Begin Again at the CMAs click here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door
Huntley Fitzpatrick
395 pages

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts. All the time.”

Samantha Reed is the daughter of the Connecticut State Senator but has always questioned her life at home. Her mother is never around, her father left before she was born, and Tracy is away with friends for the summer. On the other side of the fence live the Garretts. A family with eight kids, and two parents who seem to be the happiest around. Samantha has never talked to any of them, until one night when Jase climbs up the trellis to her bedroom window, and things begin to change for the better, and the worse.

I finished My Life Next Door in just two days. It is the perfect comfort read; the perfect story if you need to forget about yor own problems for a little while (Hurricane Sandy) and read about someone else's.

Fitzpatrick created characters that were laugh-out-loud funny, interesting, and genuinely real. Samantha is a girl any teenager could relate to; Jase the ideal neighbor and friend; and then there's George, the little brother who always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This story of family, second chances, and first love will surely have you captivated.

My Life Next Dooor was written for the teenage audience, the kind who like that sweet contained romance, with a hint of drama and real literary spark. This debut novel was written in that kind of page-turning fashion that leaves you saying "Just one more chapter..." and before you know it, you are up way, way too late.

I usually don't like to jump to conclusions, but this might have just made the top spot on my Best of 2012: Fiction list.

No Need to Worry... I Survived

With Hurricane Sandy now fully behind us, (or so we hope) I can officially say I've survived to write another post. My town was not quite as lucky. Trees are down everywhere, and over 75% is still without power (that includes me in case you were wondering). In that case, I'm logged into the library's Wi-Fi along with lots of other people trying to charge stuff, check email, and get up to date with what has been going on.

On Monday, we lost power at about 5pm, right in the middle of a three-hour-long Monopoly game that I ended up winning, and I didn't even own Park Place!

Thank goodness I went to the library on Saturday where I checked out several good books including My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick which I finished in just to days by flashlight. (Review to be coming shortly). I also finished reading the play by Arthur Miller entitled The Crucible which although it was very good, only made me even more depressed.

Unfortunately, it seems I might be in the dark until at least the weekend, maybe even early next week. We have a generator, but it's not really that useful if you can't get any gas for it. Lines for gas are over 50 cars long, and the supermarkets' shelves are becoming quite bare. This is all freakishly reminding me of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It, and The Dead and the Gone (good books, I suggest you read them. At a later time of course.) It is definitely much, much, much worse that when Hurricane Irene hit last year.

In the mean time, I will start reading The Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, complete my notes on The Crucible, and maybe even log back in here to write a The Movie vs. The Book review  for The Perks of Being a Wallflower which I saw with some friends last weekend. So, until I'm back again, I hope everyone that was in Sandy's path of fury gets on their feet soon, and those which this does not apply to, I hope you are reading something good!