Thursday, February 28, 2013

Searching for Sugar Man

This week the Oscar for Best Documentary went to Searching for Sugar Man, a film I'd never heard of. But then again, I hadn't heard of the other films on the list. I always enjoy watching good documentaries so I decided to try this one and I was so pleasantly surprised. Rodriguez was a Detroit based folk singer and songwriter who released two albums in the early 70s both of which flopped in the United States. He never knew that halfway around the world in South Africa he became a household name, more popular than Elvis and The Beatles. It's an amazing story and heartwarming as well. Rodriguez's music is actually very good. Why didn't this guy ever make it in the US?  I guarantee this film will bring a smile to your face. It just shows it's never too late to be what you might have been.

Here's the official trailer for the film:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I read a lot of good books but only once in a while does a book come along that I want to share with everyone I know. A book that transcends genres and literary tastes. A book everyone should love unless they have a heart of stone. Wonder by R.J. Palacio is such a book.

If you've been to a book store in the last six months then I'm sure you've seen this striking cover. I read the blurb but I never picked it up because I'd never heard of the author and I wondered if the story would somehow be like that 80s movie Mask with Eric Stoltz and Cher. It was a good film but I wasn't sure I wanted to read a book about a child with a facial deformity. In the first chapter of the book, little Auggie writes, "I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse."

Well during a book slump, it's always good to pick up a simple book and YA novels usually make the cut so I downloaded Wonder on my Kindle. I wasn't expecting to love it but I did. This is truly a rare and unexpected gem. Immediately after reading it, I wanted to purchase a hardbound copy to have in my library  just so my kids could read it one day, with me and without me. This is a special book, one that reminds us once again of what it is to be human.

August Pullman is 10-years-old and has had 27 surgeries in his young life. The book begins when Auggie enters middle school after being home schooled for most of his life. Here, Auggie comes face to face with the beauty and sometimes ugliness of his peers. I don't want to give too much away but this was truly a moving book. Loved it!

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives.”

 “Kinder than is necessary. Because it's not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

“No, no, it's not all random, if it really was all random, the universe would abandon us completely. and the universe doesn't. it takes care of its most fragile creations in ways we can't see. like with parents who adore you blindly. and a big sister who feels guilty for being human over you. and a little gravelly-voiced kid whose friends have left him over you. and even a pink-haired girl who carries your picture in her wallet. maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end. the universe takes care of all its birds.” 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

January Books

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I had to reread this for my book club. It's still touching and heartbreaking the second time around. Though it's certainly not my fave John Green novel (Looking For Alaska still holds that place), it's still a remarkable achievement.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I'm so glad I finally read this classic. As a teenager I loved the James Dean movie so much that I was afraid to touch the book. I never knew that Elia Kazan's film is based only on the last part of this story that covers three generations. I have to be honest here and say that I loved this book all the way through till the last portion. Somehow the part of the book covered in the film was done better than in the book...or maybe it was just Dean's outstanding performance as Cal. James Dean was Cal Trask and no amount of imagination while reading the book could beat that. But still East of Eden is a powerful and beautiful novel and I'm so glad I finally read it.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
This is my book club read for February. It was better than I thought it would be but I don't think it merits all the outstanding reviews its received. The story of one man walking 500 miles and meeting and touching people along the way sounds like its been done before (i.e. Forest Gump). I'm surprised it made the Booker long list last year.

Where'd you Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
I totally loved this! This was such a breath of fresh air especially after all the sad books I've read lately (see above). It was a quirky story with kooky characters. Bee's mother, Bernadette, has disappeared so Bee sets out to find her using letters, blog posts, emails, FBI documents, etcetera. I don't think I've ever read anything like this before and I wish there were more books of Bernadette and her family. Nothing really deep here just fun, fun, fun!

The Thieves of Manhattan by Adam Langer
I thought I would like this but didn't really and ended up skimming halfway through. The most interesting thing about this comic novel about the publishing world is the use of it's own vocabulary (i.e. Franzens (eyeglasses), pull a Salinger (hide away for a while), Golightly (black cocktail dress).

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