Dear Committee Members

9780345807335_p0_v1_s192x300If you’ve ever asked for a letter of recommendation – or had to write one, you can appreciate the humor of Dear Committee Members. I personally have never written one, but had to ask for several when apply to grad school. This book is a collection of fictional hilarious recommendation letters – ranging from job recommendation for their students, to recommendation letters for their coleagues who are sometimes working on new novels, and sometimes up for promotions within their department. Each one is hilarious – and some of them are downright ridiculous.

If you majored in English, or even took an English/literature/rhetoric class and remember how pretentious some professors can be, you will laugh.  The collection of letters is not written by one professor, but the group of professors who work in the same department. The professors are self-important and self-involved, reminding me of some of the worst professors I’ve had, and some that I currently work with. Another thing that is so familiar is the sad state of the liberal arts. Those students who major in liberal arts find themselves upon graduation struggling to find jobs.

“Which I gather is hiring adjunct faculty members exclusively, bypassing the tenure track with its attendant health benefits, job security, and salaries on which a human being might reasonably live. Perhaps your insitutiton should cut to the chase and put its entire curriculum online, thereby sparing Ruefle the need to move to Lattimore, wherever that is. You could prop him up in a broom closet in his apartment, poke him with the butt end of a mop when you need him to cough up a lecture.”

Their department is underfunded, under appreciated, and under respected (if that’s a thing), as are most liberal arts departments. Most of the major funding for colleges and universities these days seems to go to the sciences. And that’s understandable, but there’s an argument in so many of these letters reminding readers just how important English and literature are. And it’s so true – and something I can so relate to. In my own department there have been budget cuts, staffing cuts, as the college has “restructured” degree programs, allowing most students to graduate with fewer liberal arts credits.

Is English dying? That seems to be the conclusion, and the common link between all of these letters. There’s so much snark in everything that was written, the book is pretty hilarious.  I loved this book so much – it’s going to stay on my shelf until one day I need a really good laugh!



unnamed-1Ok, so let’s try this again.  Last night, while working on this post instead of saving as a draft, this published before I was finished.  So here it goes again.  We are amateurs, and always learning as we go!  Two years ago today we posted our first book review.  We started with a review about Mitch Albums latest book, The Time Keeper.  We loved that one, and a bunch more books since then.  There have also been quite a few books that we haven’t loved.  We’ve grown a small following along the way, and have loved sharing books.

We’re still reading, and writing, and sharing.  We’ve become followers and fans of other blogs as well.  We hope to keep going, and growing.  Here’s to many more good books!

Hand to Mouth

9780399171987_p0_v5_s192x300Linda Tirado’s blog post from 2013 set off a hailstorm of responses, some indignant and offended, others supportive and understanding.  I did read the original post when it first hit the web, which went viral, making headlines all over the country. The popularity of the original blog post (both good and bad) led to a book deal. Hand to Mouth is an expansion of the post that sparked so many emotions, of these ideas that Tirado originally expressed online, first entitled “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, poverty thoughts”.

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote the forward to the book. As the author of Nickel and Dimed (which is on a long list of banned books), she once gave up everything to live as an (hourly employee). Her book was first published in 2001; it was brave, real and groundbreaking in the way class was examined.

“She tells what its like to be a low-wage worker for the long term, with an erratically employed husband and two small children to raise and support.  She makes all the points I have been trying to make in my years of campaigning for higher wages and workers’ rights: That poverty is not a ‘culture’ or a character defect; it is a shortage of money.”

Tirado is not a journalist, though she has become well-known for her writing. She focuses her efforts here on the plight of the poor, having experienced so many financial setbacks and struggled so much in her own life.

There are no quick, easy-fix solutions on how to fix these problems. She acknowledges that. At the same time, throughout the whole book (and the now-famous essay) she defends the poor. They sometimes make bad decisions, but so do rich people. Sometimes, as is her case, people end up in bad situations – struggling financially, trying hard to find a decent-paying job – because of bad luck.

She is smart, well-educated, and her husband is a veteran. Why does she face such judgement??  So much has been said, debated, and written about the original post – and now the book.  Just a few days ago I read an article that was published in The Atlantic, making essentially the same argument.  The article argues that it is actually expensive to be poor, which is what Tirado explains in a number of different ways in the book.  They both resonate.

Tirado has something important to say, that we should all be listening to.  I enjoyed reading the book and whether you agree with what she has to say or not, she presents a strong argument, and the book is wort reading.

New Fiction Friday: Undertow

9780544348257_p0_v3_s192x300Can you handle another teen/vampire/mythical creature romance? The cover of Undertow caught my eye, and only a chapter or two in did I realize that this book was just that. Sigh. I’m so over this genre – and although this book was a little different from some of the many that I’ve read, it still followed a similar formula, and I was disappointed.

Lyric is a high school senior living in Staten Island, NY. She and her parents have lived there her whole life, even after the town was “invaded” by the Alpha. The Alpha are some sort of sea creature, who have escaped the sea and are now living on land. And, just as there are many different creatures living under the sea, there are several different types of Alpha. They have been living there for a while at the point when the book begins, and the young Alpha are attempting to enter into her school, which is when Lyric first meets some of them.

“Over time, people sculpt their miserable experiences into something more aesthetically pleasing, stretching the interesting moments and kneading the uncomfortable facts. What they end up with is no longer a memory but a story, and the two rarely resemble one another. The story of the Alpha’s arrival is just as sculpted. Some still call it an invasion, an act of war, even a sign of the end of days. I can’t say that my story is any less convoluted, but I was there when it happened. I saw it firsthand, not on television and not on some Internet site.”

Following the formula for teen drama with mythical creatures (and/or vampires), Lyric falls in love with one of the Alphas, Fathom. They both reject each other, and their developing relationship.  She had been chosen by her principle to set an example for her fellow students, in accepting and perhaps befriending some of these new students. In attempting to bridge the gap between these two cultures, these two worlds, she learns acceptance and shows her fellow students (and the rest of the community) that they can live peacefully together.

Apparently this is meant to be the beginning of a trilogy. The book ends with kind of a cliffhanger. I honestly wasn’t interested or impressed enough to read the rest of the trilogy though. I was kind of into it – and kept waiting for it to get good, and it just never did.  I am, however, interested in reading Michael Buckley’s other books, which seem to get much better reviews.  This might just be the last book I ever read in this genre (or I’ll at least take a long break!!).

Book to Screen

Hello all, Kelly here.  I’m working on a new series of posts that will begin to appear here.  Amy might just jump in and join me.  When she asked me to review the Astronauts Wives Club tv show I began to think about all of the other books I’ve read through the years since I was a kid that have since become movies, mini-series, and tv shows.  Some of them have been great adaptations, other just ok, and still others are adaptations I’ve turned off part way through or refused to even see.

There has been a trend in Hollywood lately to mine the shelves of Young Adult novels for movies, as a former middle school communication arts teacher, you can bet I’ll have an opinion on many of those movies: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, The Giver, Ender’s Game, and even Twilight.

Come December, yes I know that’s a long way off, be on the lookout for a post or two about Christmas books that became movies or tv specials, including the ever popular A Christmas Carol.

By the way after watching another week of Astronauts Wives Club I have to say I do like it, the second week was so much better and more character focused.  It’s going on my DVR for the rest of the series.

I’m looking forward to taking the opportunity to reread some of these books and rewatch some of the movies too.  Make sure to share with us your favorite and even least favorite book to screen adaptaions.

Book to Screen: The Black Cauldron

unnamedDisney’s the Black Cauldron is one of the first book to movie adaptations I ever saw.  At the time I saw it though I had no idea it was ever a book, or rather a combination of two books.  I was just a kid and my parents took us in the old station wagon in our pajamas to one of the local drive-in theaters.

The Black Cauldron is based on the first two books in Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles: The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron.  This series and the movie center around the character of Taran, a young orphan boy, Assistant Pig-Keeper to oracular pig Henwyn.

I loved the movie when I first saw it, which I think puts me in a minority.  This was one of those movies that came out during Disney’s “down” period in the 1980s.  It was a darker movie than others Disney had made, and it was PG movie so it didn’t do so well at the box office.

It was years later that I finally read the Prydain Chronicles.  I bugged my husband until he read them and we’ve read them to our son at bedtime at least twice.  I’ve suggested them to many students.

All by itself the movie is good but it is not a good adaptation of the the books just too many changes and seeing as it’s only 80-90 minutes long there is just so much missing.  I still watch it though, on VHS lol.  Actually with this trend in Hollywood to make movies from YA series I would love to see this series picked up and done live action/CG.  I think it could be so good.

All in all I’d say watch the movie first then read the books on this one or you will be disappointed. But hey for those of you that grew up in the 80s as we did, watching this movie is fun as it takes you back to that definitive animation style.

Do you remember the first movie adaptation you saw?