Monday, February 28, 2011

And the Oscar Goes to...

Oscar Night.

For some a dream come true. For others just an "honour to be nominated." For me, just an excuse to sit at home watching TV critiquing and gushing about the talented (Natalie Portman) and not so talented (Gwen Paltrow), the handsome (Javier Bardem) and not so handsome (Justin Timberlake - Sorry, ladies. I just don't get it), and great (Anne Hathaway) and significantly less great (James Franco - I wanted to enjoy him, but he just seemed so bored).

But, whether you watched for the glamour, the celebrities, the fashion, or the pure love of movies, with 10 Best Picture nominees it was clear to see that it was a good year for movies.  And I would argue, with 4 of those nominees being adapted from books, I'd say a good year for books, too! (That's 40%... Or nearly half. Commence being shocked by my math skills. Impressive, I know).

Today I have just a brief hommage to those books.

The movie: 127 Hours starring James Franco
Based on the novel: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
This novel first gets my vote based on the hilariously appropriate title given the subject matter. I have no intentions of spoiling any of these stories, so I'll just say that it's the incredible true story of a man who gets himself trapped while hiking in a remote area, and the lengths he went through to get himself home.

The movie: True Grit starring Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld
Based on the novel: True Grit by Charles Portis
Given the fact that the first movie remake of this 1968 novel won John Wayne the Lead Actor Oscar in 1970, it was hardly shocking to see it receive so many nominations this year. (Though it turned out 0 winners).  The story stayed the same.  A young girl witnesses the shooting of her father and sets out to avenge his death.

The movie: The Social Network starring Jesse Eisenburg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake (etc.)
Based on the novel: The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
If you don't know what Facebook is I'm either going to assume you haven't left your house or turned on a computer, TV, or radio in the last 4 years or so. (I'll also wonder how you ever found this blog). Regardless, the novel and movie tell "the high-energy tale of how two socially awkward Ivy Leaguers, trying to increase their chances with the opposite sex, ended up creating Facebook." (quote from

The movie: Winter's Bone starring Jennifer Lawrence
Based on the novel: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
This was one of the few movies nominated this year that I had not heard of prior to award season, but after some "research" it certainly sounds like an amazing read.  It is the story of struggle, poverty, drug addiction, and depression, as a young girl must track down her father (who has skipped bail) in order to keep her home and family together.

Honourable Mentions go out to the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, both of which received nominations in other categories and are also obviously based on books.

So, if you're looking for something good to read, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science clearly recommends those above mention stories.  I would think it's safe to say all would be enjoyable!

I can't wait to see what award winning adaptations come our way this movie season...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

What the Fortune Cookie Says...

One of my favourite quotes comes from a fortune cookie.

I've kept this slip of paper for about a year now, though I can't be sure of the exact date I found it hiding in my cookie. This might seem surprising -- I am the girl who keeps fortune cookie fortunes, afterall.  But, I do know it was around the time I started having to make big decisions... about work, about love, and just generally about life.  So I kept it as a reminder to be proactive.

Despite this, I often find myself "going through the motions." My best example of this will of course come from my recent experiences with this latest addition to my bookshelf: Songs of the Humpback Whale.  In the words of another favourite author [sort of]: I'm just not that into it. And yet, I push myself through another few pages a day. I'm only about 100 pages in of 400. At this rate, I'll be finished next year sometime. 

The point is, I've made a decision to read books and write about them. I feel as though I can't abandon ship just because I'm not enjoying the choice of reading this book specifically.  Sometimes you have to do things you don't like in order to get where you want to be. In fact, sometimes that makes it a whole lot more interesting.

Therefore, even though I might be "going through the motions" with this book or with where I am right now in life in general, the end result of my decisions in literature and life should be pretty entertaining and enjoyable.

So thanks, fortune cookie, for always reminding me from your place on my corkboard to go ahead and make choices and follow them through! ...Even if that means I'll be reading this novel well into my summer vacation.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Celebrate Your Love Story!

I have always loved Valentine's Day. It probably has something to do with the whole Birthday/Valentine's combination, but I also think that I just love the idea of the taking a time out to celebrate love, especially when all over the world there is a lot of non-love: war, hate crimes, bullying . . . and too much more.

I know there's the whole debate about commercialism, and that may be so, but I say there are worse things you could spend your money on today than a card, candy, or flowers to say "I LOVE YOU!" Or don't spend your money at all, and just spend some extra time. Love stories come in all different forms. It's not always about a man and a woman. Valentine's Day is about your own love story. Between friends. Between family. Or with that someone special.

Some of my favourite love stories have some pretty interesting relationships in the forefront. Here are my Top 3 (in no particular order) . ..

1. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer - Insert public groans here. I know, I know. I'm not 15. I'm an educated person. An English major, no less. Jane Austen or William Shakespeare should be the obvious favourites here. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine wants some good old fashioned human on vampire action. Throw some werewolf into the mix and you have a truly exciting supernatural love triangle. It's not conventional and that's why I love it!

2. The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - Speaking of not conventional and supernatural . . . I loved this book, once I figured it out. And isn't that just like a real-life love story? Confusing and yet so compelling you can't quite leave it alone. Add to the fact that at points I couldn't read through my tears, and you've got yourself a winner. Any book that ends up tear-stained is a sure bet for Valentine's Day.

and lastly . . .

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert - If the supernatural isn't your thing, look no further than the real-life adventure of a woman who chronicles her many love stories as she travels the world. In Italy, the love between a woman and pizza, and woman and pasta. In India, the love between a woman and herself, and a woman and a higher power. In Indonesia, the love between a woman and life, and of course, a woman and a man. What more can you ask for in a love story!? Gilbert herself might not consider it as such, but instead, more of a discovery story . . . I say, love and discovery go hand in hand.

So, whether you are spending today with a special man, woman, child, puppy, coworker, friend, or with the extra special person that is YOU, take some time to spread some love in any conventional or unconventional way you can because no two love stories are exactly alike.

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Book: Songs of the Humpback Whale

Up next in my personal library is Jodi Picoult’s first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale. 
With Valentine’s Day only a week away I wanted to indulge myself in a really romantic contemporary love story.  I began my search by looking up titles written by female authors sure to give me all of that gushy love stuff. Nora Roberts. Danielle Steele. Sophie Kinsella. Carole Matthews. Cecelia Ahern.  Despite willing myself to want to read something girly and romantic, nothing I found spurred any excitement in me. Then, I stumbled across Picoult.
In the past, I have only read two of her novels: Salem Falls and House Rules.  Neither was overly romantic, but both novels were concerned with love (and murder – why do these two go together so often in literature?) in some form.  I really enjoyed both novels and was really pleased with Picoult’s ability to make me believe relationships: men and women, mothers and children . . .
My curiosity of where she began as a writer, and my desire for a story about relationships with some substance, brought to me look into her earlier writing, and so, I found Songs of the Humpback Whale.  According to her website, the novel “interweaves five rich narrative voices to tell a story of love, loss, and self-discovery. The voices belong to a mother, her daughter, and three very different men.”
Sounds like an emotional rollercoaster.  A great, yet unconventional, choice for Valentine’s Day.

Happy Reading.

Searching for Purpose . . . And an Ending?

I am more than happy to commence reading something else now that I am finally finished Commencement: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan.

Admittedly, it wasn't ALL bad.  I liked Part I, bouncing back and forth from college and what life has become 5 years later for four close friends who met at Smith College (for women) in freshman year.  The whole women's college aspect is one big cliché, but I always enjoy books with multiple main characters, and the college itself actually is an interesting and at times humorous place to have brought the girls together. 

With such a variety of characters there is usually someone to relate to.  However, with this particular book, I can't completely relate to anyone, what with all the lesbian experiences, extreme feminist activism, clichéd student-teacher affairs, and "well-bred" Catholic Southern belles. (I might ask, which of these things is not like the others?)

I can, however, relate to the struggle of dealing with the fact that life is never quite what we imagine it will be when we're safely enrolled in college, or even high school, planning for our futures.

My enjoyment of the novel ended as Part I ended. Part II dragged on and on. While the plot began to lack purpose, I began to lack interest.  Add to the fact that it didn't really have an ending to speak of, and quickly all of my good impressions from the first part were spoiled.  Although, I do think the lack of an ending was some intentional message about how life never seems to neatly wrap itself up the way you hope it might.

Altogether, the novel made me a bit nostalgic for my own university days, and it heightened my desire to reconnect with old friends.  It is crazy how fast time can go by when you're wrapped up in making plans and figuring out your own business.  It would seem that the message here is to stop planning and worrying, and just start living.  To manage this, I'd probably have to give up one of my three well-used calendars, but it could happen . . .

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's About Time...

Read for enjoyment. Read to relax. Read to escape. Read to laugh... to cry... to be afraid... to feel understood. Read to be alone. Read to gain a new perspective. Read to pass the time...

That's what it's all about, afterall. Time. Whether we read books, magazines, newspapers, plays, poetry, or blogs, we're reading to pass the time, have a good time, keep up with the times, or to be transported to another time.

For me, as a supply teacher working about 2 days per week, I read for all of those reasons. I have always enjoyed reading, and lately I find myself devouring one book after another in an attempt to fill my days off with something that entertains me.

My goal here is to continue reading with this intense fervour but to take it a step further and offer my reviews of the books I read. I will always post the books I'm reading, and if you want to read along with me, it could make for some interesting discussions afterward... our own little 21st century book club.

A few days ago I began Commencement: A Novel by J. Courtney Sullivan. You can find a link to the book on to the left. It's probably a little late to catch up with me, as I'm sure to finish the book in the next day or so, but details are soon to follow about what's next on my bookshelf so you can join in.
For now, check out Commencement and the other tabs.

Happy Reading.