Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oscar Worthy

I recently posted about having read The Reader by Bernhard Schlick. It's not a novel for the faint of heart, but I loved the raw, gritty nature of the story, and the way that life is portrayed as more complicated than the mundane things we consider day in and day out. Well, I noticed that it had circled round to show again here in our valley. I was SO excited, and since I knew I was alone in my desire to see this movie that centered some of its storyline around the Holocaust, I traipsed off to go see the matinee today. Honestly, it was amazing. Just as with the film, it IS NOT for the easily offended, with its sexual content and nudity, but I also have to say, that the sensuality is what creates some of the layers that built this very believable relationship. Complicated and messy on so many levels, I just though it was poignant, and thought-provoking--all the things I love about good art. I realize I've always been a bit of a "tragedy" lover, but have to really defend myself by saying that there just seems to be something so REAL about reading or watching tales about humanity...not human beings living, but real humanity. What I mean by that is all the raw, dirty, sometimes painful things that build our character and make us real human beings. Maybe I'm just too much of a humanities sort of person, and I've let all that artsy angst get to me, but this film and novel really struck a chord in me that has left me thinking about how powerful the reach of each and every human being really is. It's funny that I say that, because only one hour after getting out of the matinee for "The Reader," I got a phone call with some news that had me blubbering in my car and trying to pick up the pieces of my former self. It was so stupid, and I knew it, but my heart and tear ducts didn't know it. So...I let my reddened eyes and nose chill a little, and then walked into the mall to pick up some more Clinique products that I've run out of

(which I tried to switch away from by just using store know, to save money in these tough times...only to have my eyes break out in this horrible rash! Mom laughed and said, welcome to grandma's skin!)--LOVE Clinique. Anyway, I went up to the counter and had one of the girls at the counter tell me she recognized me from BYU. Now that doesn't seem like much, but at a moment when I felt a little "unrecognized" in life, someone from ten years ago said to me, "Hey, I see you." That sounds dumb, but it gave me the real-life punch that I needed to hammer home some of the big-wig ideas I'd been pondering about the film, before I got that phone call.

On a less artsy-fartsy note, I finished listening to Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner. I've seen the movie "In Her Shoes," but can't recall ever reading one of Weiner's books. Since reading has become so hit and miss with me lately, it has been nice to at least listen to something as I drive back and forth from work.

The story centers around the narrative voices of a mother (almost 40) and her young 13 year old daughter who is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. The mother had the daughter with an early relationship in her early 20s, ended up not with the father, and also ended up writing a romance novel about her experience. Enter her daughter some ten years later, who reads the romance novel and gathers that her mother didn't want her, that she'd been something of a nympho at one time, and that her real father didn't love her because of something her mother must have done. It's a very familiar mother vs. daughter, teenage Lifetime movie sort of story, and while I'm not always big on those, it kept me interested. Especially endearing about the story though was the relationship the mother had with her husband Peter, who seemed like and angel come from heaven; a man who had not been threatened away by his wife's constant pushing him away nor by her body issues. In short, I fell in love with her husband and now desperately want to find my Peter!!! :) Overall, it's a good story, with a narrative that bounces back and forth from the mother speaking to the daughter speaking, highlighting the innocent things we do that actually cause pain for our loved ones or cause us to misunderstand one another. I enjoyed listening to it, so I guess that means I give it a thumbs up on the entertainment scale of things!

Well, it's almost 7:30 at night, but since I ate half a sleeve of Biscoff cookies (YUMMM--MMMYYY) this afternoon, I better head to the gym! Until I've something new to report on...happy end of January!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beyonce Sings "At Last" for the Obama's First Dance

For those of you that know me well know that this Etta James classic is one of my all time FAVORITES. I thought Beyonce did an amazing job singing this song, and the first dance was really sweet.

"New" Classic List?

Hi from Idaho! It's a little traumatic since my cousins are growing up way too quickly and I seem to be watching it all happen. Scary.

Anyway, I re-read Twilight this past week, purely out of a selfish indulgence and need to read something that I had already read before so that I didn't have to engage my totally dead-head brain.

Doc and I are in a hotel in Rexburg tonight (THANK YOU DOC for coming with me to keep me sane!), so I'm going to settle in and read a little before going to bed.

Okay, so I noticed on one of the many book blogs I follow, that Entertainment Weekly has posted a "new" classics list. I thought I'd post it for your viewing pleasure...if you like seeing how much there is out there yet to read! Maybe I'm the only one to feel like mount "TBR" (to be read) is always looming over me. :) Anyway, I'll post the list here, and will bold the ones I've managed to read (for my own way of seeing what I've done).

Until later...bye from Idaho!

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Library Loot Wednesday!

I've been avoiding the library, since I've been SO bad about reading (which I'm actually getting better about...reading before bed has helped). Anyway, I returned a couple of things--Oprah Anniversary DVDs, which were quite fun to watch--and picked up the following:

  • King of Queens Seasons 1 & 2 -- I just thought these looked fun to watch here and there over the next couple of weeks.
  • 3rd Princess Diaries
See...nothing to write home about for now. I'm still reading Stephen King's The Stand, and have to say that it's quite gripping. It's about this SuperFlu that basically starts killing off everyone in the world. Since I tend to be a big hypochondriac, I'm not sure if it's good for me, but it's scaring me to consider what would happen if someone let loose some major germ warfare on us! SCARY. Other than that, I'll be starting Les Miserables and Tess of the D'Urberveilles this next week with my juniors and AP. Should be a pretty heavy reading term for me. Well, until I finish something...see ya! :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can't Sleep...

The inauguration is tomorrow. Anyone else excited?!? I'm a dorkus and a half, but I'm always moved by the swearing in of our president. Also, I love hearing the poem read by the invited poet for each inauguration. Maya Angelou's poem for Bill Clinton's inauguration back in 1992 still stands out in my memory.

Okay, so that's not why I can't sleep, but needless to say, I just can't sleep. It was a good weekend: mindless watching of Top Chef online on Friday night, sleeping until 1 pm on Saturday only to be followed by "chillin'" at home, baking bread and other such things I can't recall, and today working out, hanging with cousins, and watching Paul Bart: Mall Cop.

Okay, so Mall Cop was AWESOME and I give it two very high thumbs up. The story felt fresh and well written to me, and there were still things in the film that I didn't feel like I'd seen rehashed in a million other comedies. Honestly, I loved it, and I laughed so hard that my stomach literally hurt! So funny!

Oh, I also watched the first disc in the first season of Samantha Who through Netflix. I won't lie, I LOVED the show and can't wait to get disc two this week some time.

The acting by Christina Applegate is really good, the story feels fresh, and you find yourself wanting to find out about Samantha's past as much as she does! See, in the first episode, she wakes up from being in a coma, and it's only episode by episode that you find out she was kind of a scummy person and now regrets it or wants to rectify it. For a short 30 minute weekly show, I'm thinking I might have to tune in for this one because it's pretty good! I'll have to see if there are catch up episodes for this season online so that I don't get all behind. :)

Well, none of this solves my problem of not being able to sleep. I'm just anxious about going to work in the morning. Sigh... No, I haven't been reading much lately, which is strange. I've been REALLY tired, and sleeping or dreaming of sleep at any given moment. I'm taking my mutli-vitamin every day now, bought some more fruit, exercising 4-5 times a week, and trying to unwind early so that I can get to bed early. Having said that, I better get off of here and try reading until I get sleepy. If all else fails, there's some Nyquil that's sure to do the trick! :)

Happy Inauguration tomorrow. Yay for the democratic process and that we get to elect our leaders!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Reading Loot for January 13th

Okay, admittedly, I've been out of my mind finishing up my grading period. As of 3 pm yesterday afternoon, everything was in, and I walked out of my classroom without my "grading" bag. I went home, put on my exercise clothes, and hit the gym for two hours, grabbed a salad, went home to watch a little TV, and then went upstairs to soak in the tub from 8:45 until 10:15 so that I could read. Where has this lifestyle been my whole life?!? I realize that it will disappear by next week (or even today), but man it felt nice to not have a stack of things waiting for me to grade! After staying at work until 5, 6, and even one night until 9 pm for the past week and a half, yesterday was a much needed evening off. Ahhhh!

Well, I have managed to read a couple of novels, but I'll report really quickly on what I picked up from the library, since I forgot over the weekend (thanks to end of term grading madness).

First, I re-checked out A Bad Bride's Tale. The first chapter is pretty funny, but I just didn't have time to read it over the past THREE library cycles, so I turned it back in after renewing THREE times and will put it back in my circulation of "library" reads.

Next, I checked out Bob Greene's Best Life Diet. I think I'll stick with my trainer's suggestions for me, as white knuckling a plan by weeks doesn't ever work for me. It looks very sensible, and if you like someone to map out what you should be doing, then this might be good. I still wanted the book though for some of the info. and recipes. I'm not kidding myself anymore. I know that with the number of health issues that I have, that working out "moderately" will never bring me results. It's either total dedication, or I have to be happy with where I'm at (which technically, I'm WAY past being down on myself).

I also checked out Chef Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill restaurant cookbook.

Back in 2001, Doc and I ate at his famous Mesa Grill in NYC, and I have to say that to this day, that was the best meal I've probably ever had in a restaurant. Expensive, yes. Amazing and memorable...forever. I just flipped through it last night, and it has some pretty amazing rubs for chicken, and some great soups that I want to try...along with a pretty naughty looking chocolate, dulce de leche cake. Yes...I know! And even after I just posted about the "diet" book. I'm just bein' real here! :)

I picked up Hamlet to compare to the Kenneth Branaugh version of the play to show my AP students next week.

And finally, I checked out Meg Cabot's Princess in the Spotlight (#2 in the series), since I haven't ever really read them and since the last one just came out this week. I LOVE Meg Cabot, and own almost everything she's ever written (including her Patricia Cabot fare), so will move into the rest of the books for a fun, easy read.

Well, that's my book pick up. I thought I'd post on the same day each week, but I realized that my "library loot" days can happen at any time. Anyway, I hope you get a chance to loot your libarary too! Back to work now, so until later...Mahalo!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Library Loot

So, I believe I'm going to join in on another book blogging theme...the Library Loot. Eva, at A Striped Armchair got it started, and here are her rules as explained:

"If you too want to share your week’s library loot, just write up a post, feel free to steal the button (it’d be extra-awesome if you linked it back to me), and then leave a direct link to your post in the Mr. Linky. While you’re there, you should go visit a couple other bloggers who have left their links. That way we can all see what we’ve gotten from the library recently! And you don’t have to write your post today-any time this week will do. If people want to participate, I’ll keep making it a group thing. And if people don’t, I’ll revel in my library loot all by myself. :p"

Having said that, I think I'll probably just post my Library Loots either on Fridays or Sundays, since I'm posting this now. Let me just add here though, that I do have a bit of an obsession with our local library here in Sandy. Sigh. I admitted to my realtor (when I was looking to buy a house), that I didn't want to leave this area because of my access to the library. I've also admitted to my mother and friends that I have a slight addiction to my library account, which has me checking it just about every hour of the day (which also then made it get blocked here at work until I called the tech guy and let them know it was a LIBRARY site I kept visiting). Oh well. Mom says it's at least better being addicted to the library than buying the books, eating cookies, taking crack cocaine, or any other mutiple "addictions" I could have. Oh mom...way to look on the bright side! :)

I'll post what I've picked up so far this week. There's A LOT to remember!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Reader

The day before yesterday I finished reading a book I've eyeballed for awhile, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink. Admittedly, I've looked at the book many times, but have always been dissuaded by reviews that stated it was sensual. Sensual? But it discusses WWII and the Holocaust! Even though this was always my passing thought as I moved on to my mountainous pile of other books to be read, I finally decided that I had to get it read if I wanted to go see the movie with Kate Winslet that recently came out.

Having just finished it, I have to say that I've been left wishing I had someone to talk to about it. The relationship between the woman and the young boy matures as they both grow older, and you're left with the thoughtful wonderings of the man about what happened in his early life with the woman (who left him long ago). Although their later contact is in a courtroom, discussing Holocaust war crimes, the story transcends all the "surface" sort of life things going on to really hit at the depth to which one person can change us forever.

While this novel is gritty, at best, it's subtle messages about man's strengths and weaknesses as human beings was well thought out and beautifully stated in this amazingly short novel. My only recommendation is that if you are easily offended or don't care for stories that don't have chipper, happy endings, then this book might not be your cup of tea. If it is, then leave me a message or something, because I'm dying to talk about this book with someone!!! Doc is supposed to be reading it, but I still can't wait to discuss this one...I'm still thinking about it!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Sick & Tired...but Bumper Crop Year!

Yes, I'm home now. Sigh. I did manage to finish a book on the plane though, and I've since returned to tally up my year. I almost hate to let this out there, but since 1990 I've kept a "Reading Journal" where I write down the date finished, book title, author's name, and page numbers of all I've read. Honestly, it was a way for me to remember what I'd read so that I wouldn't repeat books on accident. Haven't you ever done that? You get part way through the book and say, "Hey...this sounds awfully familiar." Anyway, I've kept a record of what I've read and have to say that this year tops leaps and bounds. I hate to put numbers out there, but they really are quite amazing! I went from 58 books read in 2007, to 82 in 2008, and 19,450 pages read in 2007 to 27,104 in 2008. Honestly, I need to thank AP for pushing me! I taught AP online last year, and then this year at my school. I've also been making a real effort to push myself towards that crazy GRE...which I'm still not taking! Well, I guess reading on the beach in Hawaii added to my numbers this year (and all those long flights) as well!

Okay, so there's my look back at 2008. Sorry. I actually don't like it when people post those every year, since it can only make you feel like a big loser half the time! However, it's been a good year for me in my field: good chunk of reading and I really like my students this year (my issue, not their issue--amazing what getting happy will do for you).

So, on the plane I finished reading Mia King's second novel Sweet Life. I really liked Good Things, so I was anxious to read her second attempt.

I have to say that there is something about Mia's writing that drags me in. While I don't always recognize the characters, as they are usually living some fantasy life before being brought down to my reality, I do recognize the human angst they feel and share through the pages of the story.

In this second novel, Marissa and her husband make the decision to pick up and move to the big island of Hawaii. I so appreciated the culture shock that King walked us through, because it's SO REALISTIC to somehow leave the enclosure of a hotel or resort and be shocked by the rugged beauty and juxtaposition of grit and grime that one encounters in a real tropical location. It really is about living side by side with nature, and not expecting to completely conquer it. The minute you do that is the minute the island throws you back to the mainland, and having spent enough months on the island with mom, I can see that's really true. Well, Marissa and her husband begin to have marital problems, and the rest of the novel is really about the hurt and pain of giving up on a marriage or pushing through it to fortify the foundation of something you've built together. It wasn't a super light or fun read, but I really enjoyed the emotional depth it took me to. I'm sad to say that had I been Marissa, I could think of a lot of really horrid things I would have done to that husband...which is probably why I'm not married! :)

Having said all this, I really enjoyed King's second novel, and will keep my eyes out for more. I still love the fact that she adds the recipes to the food discussed in the novel. Who wouldn't love that? I still have to say that I liked Good Things better, but I still enjoyed this read (and it got me half way across the Pacific). Mahalo!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2009 Reader's Challenge

I leave Hawaii today. So sad. :( I'm most sad to leave mom and the neighbor "family" we've developed here. Let me say too that New Year's Eve was anything but disappointing last night. We watched as two neighbors battled it out for the best firework's show, not to mention all the others throughout the small town who also launched shows to rival any you could imagine. If Kyle and I thought we saw a show last year, well this year topped all with ash raining down from the sky & so much smoke that it looked like the thickest fog I've ever seen. It was NUTS, and absolutely and insanely FUN! I was even forced to light some biggies because they needed more people to "light and run" as I was instructed after stating my hesitation. Talk about adrenaline rush! I'll never forget this New Year's Eve. It was spectacular, and no boxy counting down to midnight with kisses and other cheesiness. In fact, with all the lighting and running, I don't think I even knew when midnight one did! It was mass pandemonium, and I think I like it!!!

Okay, so back to book news. I've decided to join a reader's challenge for once. I never do, for fear I'll never reach the goal, but this one I think I can do. It is the Historical Fiction challenge.

Here are the objectives according to Royal Reviews

So this is how it's going to work:

  • Read 3 historical fiction books in 3 months from 1st Jan 09 - 31st March 09.
  • Historical fiction will be counted as anything set or written prior to World War II. This will include classic novels, time travel novels or anything you feel fits the genre.

For an extra bit of fun, you can choose to participate in one of the following themes:

  • The Royal Twist - Read 3 based on or inspired by 3 different royals. Emporers, Queens, Kings whatever inspires you!
  • The Twilight Twist - Read a selection of 3 of the classic novels that inspired the Twilight Saga. There's Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte or A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare.
I'm not sure what I'll actually read yet, but I'm thinking that once I get home I'll take a look. Sounds up my alley though!

So I did finish another book this morning, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay. If you're a foodie at all, then his name will be familiar. I actually ran across one of his "Kitchen Nighmare" shows on BBC-America and realized what an intense pride and passion in food he had as I watched him revitalize and revamp kitchens across Britain and later across America.

I noticed his autobiography on sale through my kindle for $3 and got it not long after getting the kindle, so before you think I've been really cranking these out over the past several days, I'll just say I've been reading his story for a month and a half. The business stuff was a bit boring for me, but the story of his life and his commentary on how to put together clean, perfect food was really nice. I like autobiographies, so this one was interesting. If you like people's life stories, and you are a foodie, then this autobiography will be a good choice for you.

Well, off to grade some papers and finish getting ready so that we can head to Honolulu & my big bird home. :( Back to reality soon!