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read on the iPad: Stuck in the Middle

Several weeks ago, as I was practicing my skills as a slug, I watched Millionaire Matchmaker. You know, the show on Bravo in which single millionaires go to Patti Stanger for tough love advice and (hopefully) a love match. Usually the men’s behavior resembles that of pigs and the women act vapid and desperate.

On this show, however, Patti matched a pair of brothers. Cruz brother 1’s pairing was a typical swine/bimbo failure. The other couple, though, was fun to watch, especially when Cruz brother 2 asked his date if she minded if he prayed before their meal. To be honest, it brought tears to my eyes to see a real man acting out his faith. On television, no less.

(Yes, I’m getting to the book part. Be patient.)

I experienced more of the same type of faith-filled male lead when I read Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith. The book followed a recently-dumped young woman who didn’t feel like she was living up to her full potential. She lived with her mother and her grandmother, and as the middle child, she often shrank into the woodwork when compared to her sisters.

Enter hot-young-doctor-man neighbor. She’s interested. He’s interested. So is her sister. And so the games began.

My favorite parts of the book centered around the hot-young-doctor-man neighbor’s faith. He was the type of man that many women want and not enough women wait for. The type to care about people he didn’t have to care for and openly share his beliefs.

The book wasn’t complicated. The ending was happy, of course, and the characters were fairly stereotypical. But for a light read, it more than serves the purpose.

Lest this post get any longer, I must also discuss reading on the iPad. I used the Kindle app, which was awesome. And this particular book came to me free by way of the free list on Amazon.com. (It is no longer a free selection.)

Likes:

  • I can carry multiple books (and an internet browser) at once.
  • I can use the Kindle app on multiple devices (iPad, my school computer, my phone).
  • It fits in my (large but not overly so) purse.

Dislikes:

  • Not all books show page count. Some just show a percentage of book read, this one included. I thought I had 5% more of the book to go when I reached the last page. Boo.
  • I can’t read in the tub on an iPad… especially one issued by the school. What if I dropped it? Eek!

movie review: footloose

Have you ever dragged your heels on something… a movie remake, perhaps… not wanting to give up your old favorite in favor of the new shiny version? And have you ever just taken a peek at the previews of the new version… just for research purposes… to see what the hype was about? And maybe, just maybe, decided to see for yourself if the new version was worth your hard-earned money? You know… just in case you were wrong?

Of course, if this was you, you were fully prepared to hate the new version. It couldn’t possibly live up to the original. After all, the original is a classic. No one can improve on a classic, right?

Um… yeah. Yeah they can. Improve on a classic, that is.

My daughters and I just returned from seeing the new Footloose. And from the very first musical note, I was traitorously in love. Yup… the original (classic) was good, but the remake is much better.

I have no problem being wrong here! And I highly recommend this movie. I may have… at some point… commented to my daughters that I was thankful we went for a matinee and that we sat at the back of the theater because I sort of wanted to get up and dance. (I didn’t though. They were relieved.)

The casting was decent. We all loved Willard. He looked just like he was supposed to. And our favorite scene was the remake of his learning-to-dance lessons. They staged much of it just like the original. Those were our favorite scenes then… and they’re our favorite scenes now.

I also appreciated the musical choices. Much of the original score was used. Some songs, though, were tweaked a little. My older daughter and I looked at each other during one of the tweaked songs to express our displeasure. Oh well. We couldn’t love everything.

One other item for the (very short) dislike column was the inconsistency of the accents. Ren seemed to segue in and out of his Boston drawl. And the Southern wasn’t Southern enough… or consistent enough… for me. But again, we couldn’t love everything. (And I was the only one of our party of three to notice this. The girls didn’t hear it.)

One change that touched me was when Ren approached Ariel’s dad about taking his daughter to prom. In this scene, Ren shared about his mother’s loss, and the reverend shared about his son. I don’t remember this scene in the original. My older daughter said something similar was there, but I can’t place it. Either way, whether the scene was new or adjusted from the old, it was a great improvement.

Other improvements included better explanations of certain plot elements: the reason for the dance ban, the reason for Ren’s move to town, and the procurement of the warehouse for the dance.

Overall, we are very happy that we spent our hard-earned money on movie tickets and soda (no popcorn this go-round). The producers of this movie kept the classic parts of the original and made some awesome improvements. Check it out.

Confidential P.S. to the Movie Makers of the World: Don’t mess with our Dirty Dancing, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller, or Pretty in Pink… unless, of course, you want to hook Andie up with Duckie in the end. We’d be wholly okay with that change.

change in the line-up

If you’ve read my blog before, you may have noticed some posts “missing.” They’re not really missing; I know exactly where they are.

Unfortunately, in my effort to practice my writing and share it with others, I’ve been the recipient of some unwanted attention. It’s sad, but it’s par for the course for the person/s responsible.

So… this blog will now appear very sparse. I may still be posting for myself, but those personal posts will be private.

The only things I will publicize will be book/tv/movie reviews. And pics of my family? No more of those. Not even if they’re relevant.

Thanks for understanding. If you’d like to discuss/comment, please send me a message in the comments.

book review: Magic Hour

Late this summer, I signed up at paperbackswap.com, a service for… wait for it… swapping paperback books. Well, any book, really. They don’t discriminate against hardcovers and audio books. Conceivably, those could be swapped, too.

if you prefer to own the book, you should hasten to this site.

Anyway, if you sign up for a membership and list 10 books, you are given one credit. The credit allows you to request one book posted by another member, and they mail it to you (they pay postage). When someone requests one of your posted books, you mail it away to them (you pay postage) and earn a credit. So far I’ve requested and received five books. I’m waiting for two more in the mail. I’ve sent six to other people.

they're not all perfect, but they're smell and spill free. and perfectly readable!

I’ve been pleased so far. Check it out if you’re so inclined.

Imagine that. I’ve been sidetracked. Good thing I’m not so easy to distract in the classroom. Sheesh.

captivating. kept me up past my bedtime, so i could finish.

The point of this post is to tell you how much I loved Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah, one of the books I received in the swap. The story opens with famous child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates being ostracized from the world she’s known when she wasn’t able to read between the lines and prevent one of her patients from committing murder.

Around that same time, her sister —  hometown police chief and former beauty queen Ellie Cates — has her own unique problem. A wild child, literally, appeared in town. After hiding in a tree and only being captured by net and tranquilizer, she was taken to the hospital. When the girl proved to be nonverbal — and seemingly unaware of the usual world’s norms — Ellie called her sister.

The remainder of the book follows Julia, Ellie, and the wild child — later dubbed Alice — as they try to find the child’s family and teach her how to feel (and act) human again.

The best part of this book is the healing that love provides. Now I’ve believed in fairy tales forever, but I know full well that the world is flawed and relationships often fail. Different perceptions of life events — even events shared with someone else — can cause giant rifts between people. But this book shows that communication and honesty — the tearing down of walls — can allow for people to come together even when they disagree.

This theme is repeated many times in this book’s love stories: between man and woman, yes — but more importantly between sisters, between mothers and daughters, and between friends.

And, as the title suggests, there is something magical about the little girl who is the center of this book, Alice. As a teacher and mother, my heart flipped at her moments of learning and connection. And, as she made her way from feral child to Julia’s world, I loved how the author let her keep nature as part of her essential self.

I fear writing more because I want to tell you that the ending is happy and that the reasons behind Alice’s wildness are revealed. But then I would spoil it. So I’ll just leave you here: with one of my favorite passages.

Girl looks at Sun Hair. Holding tightly to her hand, she wants to look away or close her eyes so that if Sun Hair is going to hit her, she will not have to see it coming, but she forces her eyes to stay open. It will take all her heart, everything she has inside of her to think and remember and make the forbidden noise…

She looks up into those pretty green eyes. Girl wants to be good. She licks her lips, and then says quietly, “Stay.”

Sun Hair makes a sound like a stone falling in deep water. “Didyousaystay?”

Girl gives her the special rose. “Peas.”

faceplant: mashed potatoes.

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I resumed my status as a working girl yesterday.

This means that I was up at 5:40 (after hitting snooze only three times) and out the door by 6:45. After a 45 minute commute, I spent my day talking and typing and thinking. I did not create any bulletin boards or arrange desks like some of my colleagues did.

I did, however, go on to visit friends and stay out late… as if I were still on summer vacation. And proceeded to silently celebrate upon arriving home and donning my pajamas. My bed never looked so good.

You know what didn’t look (or sound) good?

My alarm this morning at 5:30. I was up so early that not even the cats roused themselves to see me off.

This offended me a little. I mean… they’re CATS! They are NOCTURNAL for goodness sakes. You’d think that they could handle a 5:30 wake up and a 6:45 send off. That, and they had the option of returning to bed once I left the building. Lucky ducks.

jealous? um... hmm... ah... YES!

Today I did more talking and typing and thinking. Oh. And I did hang up all my bulletin boards. AND I made some copies. Quite productive, yes?

And now? Now I feel likely to faceplant into my mashed potatoes.

as far as faceplanters go, this girl's my hero.

Which puzzles me. Because I did not exactly slug-it this summer. I thought and typed and talked all the time! I even drove and sewed and read!

And tomorrow’s another day. And next week brings in troups of children. I can’t be faceplanting then. I’m hoping I find my stride.

movie review: The Help

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This review is spoiler-free. (You’re welcome!)

Every time I read a book for which there is a movie counterpart, I am concerned that the movie will “ruin” the book. If you’re a reader, you know: rare is the movie that lives up to its book. Even more seldom, then, does the movie improve upon the book.

After reading The Help last week and seeing the movie tonight, I have to applaud director and screenwriter Tate Taylor.

Though Taylor did make some changes to Kathryn Stockett’s original novel and though he presented some surprises, they were all pleasant ones. Every plot detail he chose to tweak was conceived to improve the story. As a reader, I felt treated to surprises he incorporated into the movie. Little things, like innocent-looking pies, foreshadowed hints to what I knew was to come.

I went into the theater wanting to meet Celia most, as she was easily my favorite character in the novel. Having met the characters “in person” now, though, she is one of a handful of favorites. I loved Skeeter’s more outspoken nature, Aibie’s obvious love for all her children, and Minny’s rarely-shown tender side. The characters weren’t just dressed for the part, they became the people who’d formed in my imagination. Some of the minor characters were narrow, of course, but the ones I loved most were well-developed and satisfying.

What made me happiest was what I was struck with by the end of the movie. The strength of the theme: people are good. Maybe I’m idealistic (okay, I know I’m idealistic), but I want to believe in what Aibie tells her white babies: “you are kind, you are smart, you are important.” This movie told of horrific events in our lifetime, but it held the promise of better times to come.

The Help is rated PG-13 and is 137 minutes long. Its screenplay was written and directed by Tate Taylor, starring Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Octavia Spencer. Watch a trailer, read the book if you’re so inclined, and go see it.

book review: The Help

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As of this morning, I was on page 219 of The Help by Kathryn Stockett. This evening, I’ve buzzed through all 521 pages. As many of my friends have said, “I couldn’t put it down.”

Actually, for a little while I didn’t want to read past page 219. I really didn’t want to know the worst would befall the characters I’d already come to know and care about.

Very rarely do characters in books become as real as the people in my life that I love. These ladies managed to do so in a very short span of time. Even if the worst happened, I had to learn more about them.

That, and the movie is coming out on Friday. I tell my students that they *must always* read a book before seeing a movie because it’s the only way an intelligent person can make an informed judgement in comparison, so I feel obligated to follow the same rule. Plus, I believe in the sense of this particular law. So what if it’s nearly always the book that’s better? (Except, of course, in the unfortunate incident of P.S. I Love You, but I’m really starting to get off track here…)

Anyway… if you haven’t heard, the premise of the book is this. In the early 1960s, Skeeter Phelan has come home from college to Jackson, Mississippi. She wants to write, but the best she can do is the housekeeping column in the local paper. She enlists the help of a friend’s maid because she has never cared for a home, herself. Her family’s own maid had made that possible.

As she continues to look for writing opportunities, Skeeter earns the attention of a New York publisher. As a result, she begins writing the maids’ own stories. In today’s world, fighting for equality is a common idea. But fewer than fifty years ago, the fear of repercussions — blackballing, threats, death — were real.

Besides my concern for the characters in their time period, I enjoyed the little details Stockett wove into the book. For one, I never knew that remote controls were once called Space Controllers! And when one of the characters wanted time alone with her boyfriend because he probably wouldn’t brush her hair off her face if they were around others? Such an old fashioned and simple thrill. If only today’s love stories could be so innocent.

This book is told with poise and humor that few books have. I only hope the movie does it justice. If nothing else, they best not miss the lesson of this book: that no matter the color of one’s skin, or the station of their birth, everyone can be “kind, smart, and important.”

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