New Fiction Friday: The Sacrifice

9780062332974_p0_v4_s192x300Have you ever read a book that you totally hated, but at the same time couldn’t seem to put down?  That was The Sacrifice for me.  Written by Joyce Carol Oates, who has mastered brilliant drama, the book focuses on a young Sybilla, who has survived what is described as a hate crime.  The book is racially charged, and so fitting to some of the  that have happened recently.  The subject matter seems fresh and so relevant, even though the time period in the book is supposed to be the 80s.  Set in fictional Pascayne New Jersey, where prosperity and industry have come and gone, all that remains is despair, and empty warehouses that once housed bustling factories.  There are broken families, broken schools, and a broken system.

Ednetta, the girl’s mother, was a product of this broken system.  She had lived through the civil rights era, lived through the riots that tore through their town.  She lived through de facto segregation, and had learned to distrust the police.  So when her daughter goes missing, she doesn’t immediately go to the police.  Even after her daughter is found, just days after her disappearance, in pitiable condition, she doesn’t want to file a report.  Sybilla has been viciously attacked, brutalized, raped. Her mother’s distrust of the system leads to her early exit from the hospital, without having completed a rape kit, or following through with the investigation started by a female police officer.

Even in the 80s, this would have been major news – possibly inciting riots, and protests.  Yet, Sybilla remains in hiding, Ednetta keeping her home from school for weeks – out of the public eye, and hiding her from the police officer determined to continue the investigation.  After being found, she points the finger at white police officers, making this even more difficult for the public to believe.  It then becomes a high profile case, attracting a notable civil rights attorney who had once marched with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

The story is about oppression, of blacks in this community – over decades of economic and educational inequality, of justice, and truth.  Henry Louis Gates wrote a glowing review of the book – yes, that Mr. Gates, notable historian from Harvard.  “Striving to inhabit the ‘procession of voices’ on every side of an explosive racial crime, or hoax, perhaps, she reminds us of what is too easily lost in our world of instant and quickly forgotten news – that there is a story behind, and in between, every word of a press release, that pauses in a court transcript are novels waiting to be written, and that pain, fear, and ambition bind us together in common humanity even as they pull us apart.”

Parts of this book I just couldn’t understand.  It’s impossible for me as a mother to put myself into Ednetta’s shoes.  I kept reading though, and even though I was stunned by the ending, it was quite memorable.  The book is actually based on a similar case involving a young girl named Tawana Brawley.  As shocked as I was at the brutality of the attack on Sybilla, it’s so believable.  That’s probably the most memorable part of the story.  It’s a timely story, one worth reading, one to possibly learn from.


Texts From Jane Eyre

9781627791830_p0_v1_s192x300One of the funniest books I’ve read all summer is Texts from Jane Eyre.  Who doesn’t love a good classic?  The book includes rewritten versions of some classics, both old and new, in text form. They are hilarious – it’s a quick, fun read, perfect for the summer.

One of my favorites was her take on The Hunger Games. In it, Peeta is portrayed as a neurotic worrier, constantly texting Katniss for whatever reason.  Katniss is too busy:

“Peeta I cannot talk right now”

“Oh I’m sorry”

“Remember how we talked about this?”

“I dunno”

“Remember how we talked about how I can’t talk when I’m hunting? Because of what else I need my hands for?”

“Because you need your hands for holding arrows”

“Because I need my hands my hands for holding arrows”

“Yeah I remember”

“So that’s why I said don’t try to get in touch with me unless you’re having an emergency”


“Are you having an emergency?”


“Is it a real emergency” Or is it a f…”

“It’s a frosting emergency”

“Peeta a frosting emergency isn’t the same thing as a real emergency”

“It is to me. It is to this cake and also it is to me”

“I’m turning my phone off”

Some of the other funny takes on classics were Hamlet (he’s like a moody teenager) Medea, trying to get Glauce to put on the poisoned dress, Les Miserables (in which Marius can’t seem to remember what the revolution is about, and where they should “meet up”), and The Great Gatsby, which is one of my favorite books ever. Here it is parodied in text fashion, with Daisy basically drunk-texting Nick.

If you’re a lover of classics, or enjoy a good laugh, this is one book you will love!

Book to Screen: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

unnamedThis was one of my favorite sixth grade units to do every year.  I always saved this for last, after our state testing as it was so much fun.  We watched both movies and read the book.  One of the things we did was to compare and contrast the book with the movies as well as the two movies.  We talked about why the director/screenwriter may have made the choices they made.

I’ll come right out and tell you the original movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is my favorite by a long shot.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy the new movie but the old one is the one I love.

The tale of little Charlie Bucket, his poor family, and the eccentric candy maker Willy Wonka is a great tale of morality that is also a great deal of fun.  Kids love imagining what the chocolate room would look like, discussing what their favorite candy is or would be, talking about which child was worse.  

It’s always interesting to ask people which movie they prefer as well, and it seems almost down the line whichever movie they saw first is the one they prefer.  When talking with students the songs in the first movie often are a bit much for them.

There are great things about both movies.  The more recent Johnny Depp version does stay much closer to the book with the exception of Willy’s back story with his dentist father.  The first time I watched the movie I was a bit horrified that they added to the book that was so great to begin with but then again so did the first movie with all of the songs.  The more I thought about it the more I liked the story of Willy and his father (and I loved Christopher Lee).  It gives an added reason why Willy is looking for a child to take over his factory rather than an adult.

When comparing the actual performances I like Gene Wilder’s mysterious, slightly darker portrayal rather than Johnny Depp’s creepy MJ-esque portrayal.  I was glad that in the new movie Charlie is good throughout the whole movie, as I was always bothered by the fizzy lifting drink in the first movie.

All in all, great book and two really good adaptations.  Which is your favorite?

Kelly’s Summer Reading

unnamedWell summer is not done yet as I type this on August 19th, but the Summer Reading program here at my library ended Aug 1st.  While I’ve done a lot of reading I haven’t done nearly as much as in past summers which is ok because to be honest in the past I’ve often read many many books that I’d read before.  This summer as of now my number stands at 28 but well over half of those are new reads and for a change for me I have a lot more nonfiction books on my list. I thought I’d share the list of books I read with maybe a few words on each, don’t worry there will be longer posts on some as well. 🙂

  1. The Fellowship of the Ring – second time I read it
  2. The Hobbit – read to kiddo at night
  3. Hold Me by Susan Mallery new book in the Fool’s Gold series
  4. The Return of the Shadow by Christopher and JRR Tolkien – this is the story of how JRR wrote the LOTR series, well at least the beginning of how it was really interesting to see the changes he made as he wrote
  5. The Two Towers
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – movies were playing on ABC family a lot and I felt the need to reread to look at what was missing from the movies
  7. Extra Credit by Andrew Clements – read to kiddo at bedtime, I love his books
  8. Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts – beach read
  9. Summer Island by Kristin Hannah – beach read
  10. A Friend or Two by Debbie Macomber -pool read
  11. No Competition by Debbie Macomber – pool read
  12. Texts from Jane Eyre – Amy recommended it to me
  13. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe – the beginning of my Space kick
  14. A New Hope by Robyn Carr – newest Thunder Point novel
  15. Dead Ice by Laurell K Hamilton – newest Anita Blake novel
  16. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess – summer book study with some of my fellow teachers
  17. Failure is Not an Option by Gene Kranz – first read last year and reviewed, I’ve read it twice since, LOVE this book
  18. Earthrise by Edgar Mitchell – Apollo 14 astronaut
  19. Falling to Earth by Al Worden – Apollo 15 astronaut
  20. Voices from the Moon by Andrew Chaikin
  21. Apollo: Through the Eyes of the Astronauts by Robert Jacobs pictures taken and selected by the Apollo astronauts themselves
  22. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield – shuttle and ISS astronaut
  23. Astronaut’s Wives Club by Lily Koppel – read last year and reviewed rereading because of the tv show which was the spark for my space kick this summer, thanks Amy 😉 lol
  24. Forever Young by John Young – Gemini, Apollo, and shuttle astronaut
  25. Apollo 11 Remembered by Piers Bizony – a look back and a look forward
  26. But For the Grace of God by William R Pogue – Skylab astronaut
  27. Spacewalker by Jerry L. Ross – shuttle astronaut tied for most launches
  28. Mission Control: This is Apollo by Andrew Chaikin with paintings by Al Bean Apollo 12 astronaut

I’m just now starting Neil Armstrong A Life of Flight by Jay Barbee, NBC news correspondent almost since the beginning of NASA.  I have a big queue of other biographies, memoirs, and books on the space program on hold.  I have also found some wonderful movies and documentaries about the space program.  I’ll write at least a post or two about my space “study” later.  So how about you?  What have you read this summer? New books? Old favorites?  Maybe a Mix?  Share with us.

Book to Screen: Harry Potter Part 2!

unnamedTime to talk about the last three books/ four movies of the Harry Potter series. I have to tell you I saw movies 1-5 in the theatre, 6 & 7 on DVD, then 8 again in the theatre with a fistful of tissues.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Time for a bit of honesty the first time I read this book I wanted to yank Harry out of the book and smack him, his attitude at the beginning was making me crazy. Might have had something to do with teaching middle school at the time LOL. The second time I wanted to smack Ron and Hermione for not understanding just why Harry was so upset and rather than just apologizing they just seemed to keep making excuses. The movie was another good adaptation. I really enjoyed the scenes of Harry “seeing into” Voldemort’s mind. I missed meeting Neville’s parents at St. Mungo’s that just seemed like such a big plot point to skip. Again what a great casting, Umbridge was so easy to hate, easier even than in the book, the little giggle was just so incredibly irritating. I think I cheered more when the centaurs take her away in the movie than I did in the book. Overall this was a good adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: I was so sad that they changed the beginning of the story, I was just waiting to see Dumbledore sit in the living room with Vernon and Petunia, watching the glasses knock them in the head and nada! The fire at the Burrow at Christmas that came out of nowhere is a great movie scene but I know it bothered some fans of the books. My own sister has said she will buy and watch all of the other movies but she refuses to ever own HBP. As I’ve watched it again and again I’ve decided that I like the movie on it’s own I do NOT like it as an adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1: I love that they split this book into two movies. I know there are those that complain the first movie is too slow but I think those complainers haven’t read the book to know just how slow the first half does seem to move. That’s ok though because it just builds the anticipation for the second half. There were things I missed from the book to the movie the one that stood out to me most though was the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black, but as that portrait doesn’t appear in Order then I guess it would be odd to pull it in now. I loved the 7 Harrys scene, though I have been bothered movie after movie with the Polyjuice Potion and the fact that the characters voices don’t change to match who they look like, with the exception of Mad Eye in Goblet, and um why does Barty Crouch Jr.’s voice change but no one else’s does? I guess it’s a matter of trying to make things easier for movie watchers who have not read the books to keep track of who’s who after the potion has been drunk but it’s one of those little details that’s bothered me. Overall though I liked this adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2: I think this is my favorite movie of the entire series, I’ve rewatched both of the last two so many times. I cried throughout this entire movie, altered with cheers. The only change that really bothered me from book to movie was Voldemort being in in the boathouse rather than the Creaking Shack, come on take us back there, make us go past the Whomping Willow, geez! Dame Maggie’s delivery of the spell to activate the statues to defend Hogwarts and then the gleeful “I’ve always wanted to use that spell” was the perfect tension breaker and I could not have been MORE thrilled with Molly Weasley’s battle with Bellatrix! The change in how Harry is discovered or revealed at Hogwarts is not my favorite, I was just waiting to see him jump to McGonagall’s defense when she’s spit on, but then again I loved her battle with Snape. Oh Snape, the tears when he dies knowing already what’s coming, then the memories oh wow. Neville standing up to Voldemort was wonderful but again I missed the pointing out at how his spells against everyone fail to hold because Harry died for everyone voluntarily as his mother died for him. Breaking the Elder Wand and throwing it away I think wouldn’t have bothered me so much if he’d just used it to repair his wand first. Overall I do like this adaptation.

By the way, if anyone hasn’t had the chance yet you should watch both parts of Deathly Hallows in Maximum Movie Mode, lots of behind the scenes moments and actors reading parts of the books. Part 1 is hosted by Lucius Malfoy, who btw total hottie out of costume, and part 2 by the now adorable Neville.

So what did you think of these last four adaptations of the HP books?

New Fiction Friday: Read Bottom Up

9780062262134_p0_v3_s192x300This is the story of a modern romance.  And speaking of modern romance, Aziz Ansari has a new book out called Modern Romance, that I can’t wait to read.  Read Bottom Up is told through a series of texts, e-mails, and short conversations, it is the story of Madeline and Elliot and their attempt to have a relationship.  Madeline works in publishing  (typical of so many female characters), and Elliot is a beginning restauranteur.  They meet a restaurant opening, and things go from there.  After a few “dates”, Madeline wants to believe that she and Elliot are exclusive, and he doesn’t seem to be taking the “relationship” seriously.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a date.  This month my husband and I will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary, and when we first met, we didn’t even have cell phones.  In 2015, the way dating as depicted in this book, seems so confusing.  Madeline and Elliot never seem to actually talk on the phone, and their text “conversations” make me crazy.  It does make for a really funny story, though.  It reminds me of how lucky I am that I don’t have to experience the uncertainty of dating in the 21st century.

In these texts and e-mails are also the conversations Madeline and Elliot have with their best friends, Emily and David.  They give advice, though them seem to be just as clueless as Madeline and Elliot in relationships.  They get all the details – good and bad – about their dates, and meet-ups.  Elliot’s friend wants to know the intimate details of their dates, and Madeline’s friend helps to dissect their conversations.

“I appreciate the detailed play-by-play, but did you and Madeline make out?  That’s really the only thing I ever want to know.”

They all seem to be messing it up as they go, and for the comedy and entertainment of the reader, it’s great.  It’s the romantic comedy that’s not so romantic.  In the digital age, is this what relationships have come to?  I guess I wouldn’t know – and I’m so thankful for that!  I recently overheard a student telling a friend about a girl he had met on Tinder.  Wow!  Whether or not you can relate to these characters, and their hilarious adventures in dating, you can still enjoy the story of their “romance” in the digital age.

Book to Screen: Harry Potter

unnamedSo I love the Harry Potter books, I’ve read them all more times than I can count at this point. Some of the movies are great adaptations others are just ok so let’s take them one by one.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or in the UK the Philosopher’s Stone:  Ok so this movie does suffer some from the fact that the child actors are just that, children.  There are few actors who are outstanding as children but you know what it’s ok that they’re a bit stiff at times, it’s still a great story.  I was thrilled at seeing Hogwarts, the choice in so many of the professors seemed so dead on, can you even imagine anyone else as Snape or McGonagall? This was a good adaptation.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: I think one of my biggest disappointments throughout the entire series was the lack of Ginny, she just is so much less a character in the movies than in the book.  Labeled Ginny the lamp online she really is unimpressive, however in this movie considering her crush on Harry and nerves about this it works.  Again a good adaptation, loved Moaning Myrtle.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Oh I love Gary Oldman, and David Thewlis was amazing, Hermione punching Draco, sigh…  Even the unfortunate loss of Richard Harris as Dumbledore does not harm the movie as Michael Gambon puts his own spin on the character.  I can’t remember anything that really jumped out at me as something missing.  Another good adaptation.

And here we end this post with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, yeah not my favorite movie in the series, then again not my favorite book in the series.  This was the book that had me feeling like someone should have taken a red pen to it, Rowling began to reach Tolkein levels of description, which is not good thing for a kids book, and can be tedious even in adult books.  I wished this had been two movies instead, the first centering mainly on the Quiddich World Cup and ending with Harry’s name coming out of the Goblet, then the second movie could have been the Tri-Wizard tournament.   I missed Winky, I missed Dobby helping instead of Neville though I got over that as the movies continued.  Overall this movie just felt like it rushed through, and I think it ended up being my least favorite adaptation of the series.

Next time books 5-7.  What did you think of the first 4 HP movies?