Monday, May 28, 2012

~Sweet Memorial Day - May 28th, 2012~

Today, is a special day. A special day for remembrance. And a special day for prayer. I typically do a ~Sweet Saturday~ post, however, I wanted to save my week and talking about it for this special day. Usually, instead of this, on Mondays, we do a ~Movie Mondays~ post, which last week included the movie "To Sir, With Love" - don't worry, I haven't forgotten, and will be incorporating it into this post. 

So why is Memorial Day so special, you ask? Simply because it is the day that commemorates those who have given their lives so that we can live our lives in peace. It is a debt to the society that can never be repaid, or even fully appreciated, and I'm thankful for the brave soldiers that we have lost. It is a sad thing that instead of pinning medals onto their uniforms, we put flags by their graves - but what bigger honor is there, than to be remembered by generations and generations of the people of your nation for your bravery and valor? On this day, I want to express my gratitude for these soldiers, for without their sacrifices, our great nation would not be what it is today. I want to bow my head, and say a prayer for them and their families. And I want to tell their families, who sent their children and loved ones from their bosom to the battlefield, that we will always remember. Always.

My Week

Since my last ~Sweet Saturday~ post, there have been a bunch of things that I have to report. First of all, I'm really glad that I'm back and in the groove of things, and blogging a little more regularly than usual. Last Sunday, my review for "Overseas" by Beatriz William (a beautiful love story) went up, followed by ~Movie Mondays~ which featured the movie, "To Sir With Love" with Sidney Poitier. On Tuesday, I did a review for "The Car Thief" by Theodore Weesner, which is actually a re-released book, and a fantastic coming-of-age, face your demons, kind of book. I took a break on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, a review for "Coming Up For Air" by Patti Callahan Henry went up on the blog - this is another beautiful novel set in the South, that deals with the acceptance and realization of self, and incorporates history into its narrative. That was the extent of my blogging, this week. Not a review a day kind of blog, this blog of mine - but I hope it's acceptable, anyway.

As for my own personal shenanigans all week - I was pretty depressed earlier on in the week because on Monday, FOX aired the LAST episode of HOUSE. I've been following House since day one, and have grown deeply attached to the characters, especially House. There are quite a few things I learned thanks to House, and none of them had anything to do with medicine (except, as soon as there is any joint involvement, suspect :P). The two hour season finale showcased an hour long episode called "Swan Song" in which Hugh Laurie recollects the years, the journey, till the very end. Followed by an episode called "Every One Dies", which is the actual last episode of the show. "Swan Song" already had me in tears, and sad to watch the show go, and although they didn't make "Every One Dies" an incredibly sad episode (and I'm glad), you could even call it upbeat,  I was still crying because I knew it was the end. I think the ending was perfect, it was the very representation of all that is HOUSE. But my depression didn't end there, the Los Angeles Lakers lost Game #5 to the Oklahoma City Thunders, resulting in their elimination from the Playoffs. This is the second year this is happening, and as a Lakers fan, it makes me incredibly sad! And then, on Tuesday, I had to say goodbye to the class of 2012 on Glee - I was bawling like a baby by the end of that episode...but it was a FANTASTIC episode!!! Thank God, the next day Donald Driver (along with his partner, Peta Murgatroyd)won "Dancing with the Stars" season finale, walking away with the mirror-ball trophy. Since I'd been rooting for this self-deprecating, ever-determined, and sexy athlete from the very beginning, it was an absolutely perfect end to the season. 

Lastly, on Friday, it was "International Day" at the school where I work as a substitute teacher. It was absolutely BRILLIANT, and beautiful - seeing all the children in their traditional dresses, representation many nations and races. It didn't help my diet/workout regimen that a bunch of the students I've taught insisted I try the cuisine representing their culture, that their parents had brought. I took a BUNCH of pictures, but unfortunately, I cannot post them here as I did not obtain consent from the parents of the children in the photos, and I don't want any objections raised - I hope you guys understand. There were a bunch of performances, songs, and lots of yummy food. All in all, that day was a perfect success.

Book I'm Currently Reading

I'm currently re-reading "Coming Up For Air" by Patti Callahan Henry, as there was an app that was just recently launched that goes hand in hand with the book. Yes, you read correct...and APP, that co-relates to the book! How COOL is that, right!?!?!? It's a wonderful book, and I wanted to be able to remember which parts influenced the app, so here I am reading it again! 

Just a little info on the app: it is called "Wildflowers" by Patti Callahan Henry, and is created by Wildflower Wishes LLC. The app is inspired by a gorgeous garden scene in the book, and was commissioned especially for this Patti Callahan Henry's novel "Coming Up For Air", as it was released on paperback on May 22, 2012 by St. Martin's Griffin. Here's a FUN FACT: If you buy a paperback copy of "Coming Up For Air" by Patti Callahan Henry, (click on the book cover below) it features the QR code to the app on the cover of the book!!!!

The FREE app comes with five special wildflower icons, each with a designated meaning (I'm sorry; I love you; Good luck, etc) which can be send to friends or loved ones via email, to fellow Wildflower Wishes users or to Facebook friends, along with a personalized heartfelt message - with ONE click, you could make someone's day. Additional wildflowers (icons) can be purchased for a mere $0.99. You can use it for birthdays, anniversaries, or (my favorite reason), just because! It's FREE, what have you got to lose? Just click on the shot of the app below, and it will take you straight to the app store on iTunes. 

 A screenshot of the cover of the main screen or cover of the app - isn't it beautiful?

A screenshot of the actual app - with a wildflower icon. Again, isn't it absolutely ADORABLE? 

Also, here is a list of flowers available to you through the app, and more will be added along the way, for special occasions, and such.

Infinite Love -- Bellflower
I Am Grateful -- Bluebells
Sending Encouragement -- Black Eyed Susan
Thinking of You -- Zinnia
A Mother's Love – Impatiens
Pure Loyal Love -- Daisy
Bond of Love -- Honeysuckle
I am sorry; Please forgive me -- Purple Hyacinth
Don't forget me -- Forget Me Not
I will never forget you -- Everlasting
Sending Protection -- White Heather
Sending Cheer -- Crocus
Sending Courage and Daring -- Edelweiss
Sending Good Luck -- Clover
Sending Perserverance -- Chicory
Farewell -- Sweet Pea
Secret Love -- Acacia
Love at First Sight – Gloxinia

Song of the Week

As everyone knows, or should know, Coldplay is absolute GENIUS and I love Ri-Ri too (that's Rihanna, just in case you're like who the heck is THAT!?!?!). I think this song is wonderfully done, and the tune is absolutely addictive. The lyrics are an absolute hit too - with the title adding just that added quirkiness that both the artists (the band and the singer) are known for. My favorite lyrics...

Once upon a time somebody ran
Somebody ran away saying 'fast as I can
I got to go, I got to go'
Once upon a time we fell apart
You're holding in your hands the two halves of my heart
Oh oh oh, ohohohoh

I could have been a princess, you'd be a king
Could have had a castle and worn a ring
But no, you let me go...

Thank you for visiting the blog today, I hope you'll leave me a comment telling me about YOUR WEEK, and about your aspirations, dreams, music/books you've enjoyed during your week etc. Looking forward to hearing from you...have a WONDERFUL WEEK!!! :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Coming Up for Air - Like Air for a Reader's Soul...


Title: Coming Up for Air
Author: Patti Callahan Henry
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Release Date: August 16th, 2011
Available to order here: Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble


Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband, she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life. But everything changes when her controlling mother, Lillian, passes away. Ellie sees her ex-boyfriend, Hutch, at the funeral, and learns that he is in charge of a documentary that involved Lillian before her death – and he wants answers to questions that Ellie’s not sure she can face.

As Ellie and Hutch start digging into Lillian’s history, and speaking for the first time in years, Ellie’s closed heart slowly begins to open. Using both a hidden diary that Ellie found in her mother’s things, and a trip to the Summer House, a mysterious and seductive bayside home, they gamble that they can work together and not fall in love again. But in piecing together a decades-old unrequited-love story, they just might uncover the secrets in their own hearts…

About The Author

Patti Callahan Henry is the National Bestselling author of six novels with Penguin/NAL (Losing the Moon, Where the River Runs, When Light Breaks, Betweeen the Tides, The Art of Keeping Secrets, and Driftwood Summer).

Patti is hailed as a fresh new voice in southern fiction. She has been short-listed for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and has been nominated for the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Fiction Novel of the Year. She is a frequent speaker at luncheons, book clubs and women’s groups where she discusses the importance of storytelling and anything else they want to talk about.

Patti grew up as a Minister’s daughter, learning early how storytelling effects our lives. She grew up spending her summers on Cape Cod where she began her love affair with the beach, ocean, tides and nature of the coast. Moving south at the tender age of twelve, she found solace in books and stories. While attending Auburn University, she met a southern boy who later proposed on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina, next to a historic lighthouse overlooking the Sound. After earning her Master’s degree in Child Health, Patti worked as a Clinical Nurse Specialist until her first child was born.

Patti is a full time writer, wife and mother living with her husband and three children outside Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River where she is working on her next novel.

My Review

"Coming Up for Air" by Patti Callahan Henry is a beautiful story about reconciling your past with your present. Ellie's mother Lillian has passed away, and while Ellie is taking care of, and sorting through, her belongings she comes across her mother's journal locked away from the eyes of the world. This discovery raises many questions for Ellie who, in order to find answers for them, decides to leave her home and husband in Atlanta to travel to Alabama to stay with her mother's best friend, Miss Birdie. In the meantime, Ellie's ex-boyfriend, and her first-love, surprises her by showing up at her mother's funeral - it turns out that he is doing a documentary on ten women and Lillian, Ellie's mother, is one of them.

So together Ellie and Hutch try and uncover the real Lillian, before she was a mother and a wife, who she really was. And in trying to uncover the mysteries of her mother's past, Ellie learns a lot about her own self, her marriage and her life. It is this journey within her own self, and coming to the conclusions that she does, that results in Ellie's "Coming Up For Air".

Patti Callahan Henry is indeed, as the blurb suggests, a tour de force. When I won this novel, and looking at it's cover, I thought it would be a sugary sweet, rot your teeth out sweet, kind of a novel. But I was pleasantly shocked to find out that it is nothing of the sort. Although author Patti Callahan Henry sure knows how to spin a romantic tale, she knows its place in the narrative, and never forces the romance beyond its bounds. Although, I must admit, this author definitely knows how to characterize the dynamics between different relationships. And although the narrative deals with the Civil Rights Movement, ethics and social inequities, it never ends up being preachy or tedious. I also love that this tale is set in the South - anywhere else, and this story may have fallen flat. I love the dialect, the way of life, and the tales/stories that emerge from the South - they have a culture of their own down there, and it is absolutely beautiful to read about.

All in all, "Coming Up For Air" really was like coming up for air for me. My past few reads have been really fast-paced thrillers. This books incorporates some mystery into its narrative and is very well-paced, but it is far more about the characters within the novel, than it is about the mystery to be uncovered. I loved being able to connect with Ellie on various levels, and at times with Lillian as well. This book was a breath of fresh air, and I am really looking forward to more by author Patti Callahan Henry. It's a beautifully written novel, and one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys reading about family dynamics, family secrets, the Civil Rights Movement, or generally about "the South". Enjoy! :)

My Rating : 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book via a publicist for the novel/author. I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Car Thief - A coming-of-age novel that will steal your heart...


Title: The Car Thief
Author: Theodore Weesner
Publisher: Astor + Blue Editions

Release Date: May 7th' 2012
Available to order here: Amazon  / Barnes & Noble


Hailed by The Boston Globe as "so poignant and beautifully written, so true and painful, that one can't read it without feeling the knife's cruel blade in the heart", The Car Thief was first published to enormous popularity, and sold over half a million copies.

Alex Housman is a kid who at the age of sixteen has had fourteen cars, harbors many hurts, and seems to fade into his environment while raging inside. His father is an alcoholic, losing his grip on life even as he wants the best for his son. The Car Thief explores the love Alex and his father share, in a tremendously poignant story that is filled with unusual triumphs.

About the Author

Theodore Weesner, born in Flint, Michigan, is aptly described as a “Writers’ Writer” by the larger literary community.  His short works have been published in the New Yorker, Esquire, Saturday Evening Post, Atlantic Monthly and Best American Short Stories.  His novels, including The True Detective, Winning the City and Harbor Light, have been published to great critical acclaim in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Harper’s, The Boston Globe, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Magazine and The Los Angeles Times to name a few.

Weesner is currently writing his memoir, two new novels, and an adaptation of his widely praised novel—retitled Winning the City Redux—also to be published by Astor + Blue Editions.  He lives and works in Portsmouth, NH.

My Review

It is rare, quite rare, to come across a novel that grabs you from the very first page. For me, "The Car Thief" by Theodore Weesner was one such book. As a matter of fact, technically, I was already hooked before the first page. I was hooked from the "Author's Note" onwards.

"The Car Thief" is essentially about the outcry of a teenage son, in reaction to the behavior of his alcoholic and ever working father. But, by no means, is it simply just a novel about that. It is a supremely written "coming of age" narrative, that beautifully explores human frailty, the fragility of the human psyche, and the tender undoing of a young heart. Teetering and tottering back and forth between being a depressed teenager and an adrenaline junkie, Alex Housman is a car thief. He steals cars without knowing why. Alone and abandoned, he passes his days being a delinquent and looking for constant approval from pretty Irene Shaeffer, all the while craving love and attention from his father, yet, not being able to adequately express this sentiment. 

Alex is a young boy, on the verge of manhood, who has to learn how to live and act like an adult in the world of adults due to the negligence of his father. A father who also loves him, and like Alex, is unable to express it. But instead of pearls of wisdom from his father, Alex is faced with a parent who has all but drowned himself in a bottle of liquor. Rebellious, and angered, he finds an outlet for his emotions via stealing cars. 

The literary beauty of this book lies in the stark plainness of its language, but the strength of this book lies in the complexity of it's characters. It may seem like Alex is a character to either be despised (for he is a car thief), or to be pitied (for he is a young boy abandoned by his father) - but I was surprised to realize that I found myself actually admiring Alex. A novel that chronicles the life of one father and son in a blue-collar community, this book is sure to mesmerize you and be remembered for years to come!

My Rating : 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book via Blue Dot Literary for review. I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

~Movie Mondays - To Sir, With Love~

Movie Title: To Sir, With Love
Cast: Sidney Poitier, Judy Geeson, Christian Roberts
Director: James Clavell
Writer: E.R. Braithwaite (novel), James Clavell (screenplay)
Release Date: June 14, 1967
Run Time: 105 minutes
Color: Color (Technicolor)
Rating:  Unrated

Tagline: A story as fresh as the girls in their minis. . .and as cool as their teacher had to be!


Idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London's East End.


If the Godfather is the godfather of all mob movies, then "To Sir, With Love" is the godfather of all movies chronicling the impact of a teacher on the lives of his/her students. 

I first watched "To Sir, With Love" when I was 13 years old, because it was one of my father's favorite movies. He said it was with that movie, that he began to admire the great actor Sidney Poitier. Funny thing is, that's the very movie that made me fall in love with him too. The reason? It's simple. He portrays Michael Thackeray, an engineer who takes up teaching as a stop-gap between jobs. He finds himself teaching a rambunctious and ill-behaved set of children, surrounded by poverty and hardships, who make their resentment for their educators very apparent.Michael Thackeray comes into their lives like a fresh summer breeze, and begins to slowly teach them self-respect, self-control and prepares them for adulthood. His refusal to treat his students as uncouth and misfit children forces them to re-evaluate themselves, and try to conduct themselves in a way that emulates their beloved teacher. 

To most, this movie about a black teacher teaching a bunch of white, unruly, children may just seem cliche given that there have been plenty of movies since then, on the subject. Or even if you were to take the aspect of race and class out of it, there have been many movies about teachers greatly impacting the lives of their students. But keep in mind, this movie was made in a different time...a time before all those other movies...a time when such a movie was considered radical, and was unique in every way. The beauty of this movie is that there are a lot of wonderful teachable moments, and it is magical watching the reactions of the students as they come to their respective epiphanies and realizations. We see Mr. Thackeray, Sir, deal with the surly and stiff-necked rebel of the class, his sensitive way of dealing with the girl in his class who has a crush on him, his reactions to an inappropriate conversation that is designed at provocation, and his dismissal of the off-colored remarks of some of his colleagues. As their teacher molds them, and polishes them, the emergence of children as blossoming young adults displaying intelligence, affection and respect is an absolute marvel to watch. That transformation is the proof that nurturing love and support, rather than reprimanding without pause to reflect, are the way to affect change in a young person's mind. Teach them to respect themselves, and you will automatically garner their respect.

Sidney Poitier is absolutely brilliant in this novel. Staying true to his actual roots, he appears to be a man from the Caribbean islands, and his eloquent manner of speaking, impeccable dressing and polished manners at first alienate him from his students, but soon becomes an example for them. For me, personally, it is an extremely emotional movie, and it made me learn a lot about myself as a teenager, and also about life. It especially affects me because my mother has been an educator for well over 20 years now, and I am in complete awe of the way she interacts with her students. And now that I am a substitute teacher, I feel the same love and respect for my children, my students. There are a lot of lessons learned from this movie...but it is not just an educational movie, it is a thoroughly entertaining movie. Nowadays, people love watching Glee and see Will Schuester teach his glee club kids lessons in life, well...William Thackeray was the ORIGINAL Will Schuester. As a matter of fact, at the end of first season, when the New Directions pay a tribute to their teacher by singing "To Sir, With Love" - guess what? It is actually a song from the soundtrack of this movie, originally sung by Lulu who actually played the role of Barbara "Babbs" Pegg in the 1967 movie. Below are the two songs, the original and from Glee... both make me tear up, EVERY TIME, when I listen to them...and they are BOTH my favorites. How can you not love a song with lyrics like -

But how do you thank someone, 
who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn't easy, but I'll try...

If you wanted the sky 
I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high,
To Sir, with Love

In closing, I'll just say, this is a movie that has an amazing, positive message and is a real pleasure to watch - try to get your hands on it, and watch it with your children, friends from school (and discuss who your favorite teacher was), or your significant other. MUST watch!!!! :)

To Sir, With Love - sung by Lulu
from "To Sir, With Love" (1967)

To Sir, With Love - sung by New Directions
from "Glee" Season 1, Episode 22
(Sorry, apparently, actual clips from Glee are not allowed to be posted online, other than by FOX)

*Trivia* - The film did so unexpectedly well in America that Columbia Pictures did market research to find out why so many people had gone to it. Their answer: Sidney Poitier.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Overseas - Love, Over Time, Over Distance...


Title: Overseas
Author: Beatriz Williams
Publisher: Putnam, Adult

Release Date: May 10th' 2012
Available to order here: Amazon / Book Depository / Barnes & Noble


When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college?

The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer.

Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

About the Author

A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons.

She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry.

My Review

"Overseas" by Beatriz Williams is quite simply put, a game changer. The kind of book that completely makes you re-think a genre. As a matter of fact, it is SUCH an interesting and different novel, that I'd say it simply surpasses being confined within one genre. It is not just contemporary adult fiction, it is also a romance novel, along with elements of historical fiction, and nuances of the sci-fi genre. But instead of being a hodge-podge of confusion, what you get is a melange of literary genres very craftily combined into a witty, charming and wonderful narrative.

I've seen some reviews, and some readers, compare this book to "The Time Traveler's Wife", which is an absolutely amazing book and one of my favorites. I, however, respectfully disagree. There are some similarities, perhaps, because of the element of time-travel but where The Time Traveler focuses on how the time travels affects a romance, I believe author William's book focuses on how a simple romance can exist beyond the perimeter of time. The time travel doesn't encumber the romance, it facilitates it.

Kate Wilson works on Wall Street, and although she has heard many things about Julian Laurence, the mysterious and reserved British billionaire running an enormous hedge fund, she is completely unprepared for how handsome he is, and even more unprepared for the way he looks at her. They meet, they talk and a harmless romance ensues. And yet, despite his gentlemanly and knight-like ways, Julian Laurence seems to be surrounded by secrets. And even as he opens his heart, and his home, to Kate he keeps his secrets to himself. As the mystery around Julian Laurence unravels, Kate uncovers the truth that is SO shocking, it is almost impossible to believe! Will she believe him? Does she trust him? Will this explosive secret bring them together, or tear them apart? And above all, will their romance stand the test of TIME and DISTANCE? 

I must admit, I rarely ever read books like "Overseas" because I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to romantic fiction. My idea of romance is snuggling with your significant other on a couch, watching black and white movies, and eating a pint (or a gallon *shrugs* lol) of icecream. The tearing of clothes, the whispers of sweet-nothings, the showering of presents, and the constant blushing of a heroine does NOTHING for me. "Overseas" contains ALL of the aforementioned elements, YET, they are written with such wit, such charm, and such warmth that instead of becoming cliches, I actually came to enjoy them. But what kept me rooted, above all, was the current of mystery that surrounds Julian, and his past, that underlies the romance between Kate and him. 

Another confession: I almost always despise it when a rich guy comes into the life of a middle-class girl, and sweeps her off her feet, showering her with lavish presents, and turning her life around. I rebel against the idea that a man needs to come and rescue me from anything, even my poverty! lol :P And yet again, there's Kate Wilson, being wooed by the filthy rich Julian Laurence, and being showered with every material object imaginable, clothes, jewelry, etc. But here's the catch, here's why this book is different - Kate never, not even at the end of the novel, takes any of it for granted, and never becomes entangled in the snare of riches and materialism, and she retains her dignity and her character till the very end. Now Kate is the kind of heroine I can live with being showered by lavishness!

Ultimately, "Overseas" completely changed the way I looked at the genre of romance in adult fiction. I've now come to realize that romance in fiction is not the problem, but the usage of cliches to perpetuate such a romance. Beatriz Williams, on the other hand, creates multi-layered characters, who are lovable, charming, sweet and easy to become attached to. She never allows her characters to lose themselves, or changes their nature, for the sake of romance. Kate is a smart, sensible, girl who puts loyalty and love above all else. And Julian is a man of honor, and is reminiscent of another character I absolutely dream (literary) hero, Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice), in his chivalrous ways. This book has me hooked in a way that is purely sinful! The romance...the sweetness.... It's beyond amazing! Do I need to say any more?!?! Go and get your copy, RIGHT THIS VERY MOMENT! 

My Rating : 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer:  I received an Uncorrected Proof of this book via G. P Putnam & Sons (via LibraryThing Early Reviewers). I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

~Sweet Saturdays - May 19th, 2012~

My Week

Okay, so I've started this new feature on the blog, called "Sweet Saturdays", in which I'll chronicle my week, how I'm feeling, and all the things I'd love for my readers to know about my week. Some of it will be book-related, some not. I'd love your feedback on this new feature, to see if this is something you might be interested in.
My week has been relatively easy-going. I spent two days, earlier on in the week, substituting for a 6th Grade homeroom teacher. I really enjoy teaching kids that age. They understand, and appreciate, my humor - and that same humor aids me in reprimanding them without being too harsh. I am quite strict, and I find that very surprising about my teaching style. I prefer children to teenagers, when I'm playing with them but prefer teaching teenagers to children. But with that age group comes the teenage angst, the attitudes, the self-assuredness that only comes with being a teenager! LOL :P

I've also been working on the blog a lot more, and scheduled a bunch of reviews, and such, so that I can stop being a lazy bum, and actually be the blogger I promised myself I'd be when I began this blog. Plus, there are a lot of amazing books I've read, and a bunch of truly inspiring authors, that I'd love to expose YOU, my reader, to. 

I'm also studying "Pharmacology" for my Boards, this week, and I've realized I've forgotten a lot of key things, so there's going to be lots of memorization going on this week. Tomorrow, I'm going to put up a review of the book "Overseas" by Beatriz Williams, which is an immensely interesting read, so watch out for that! Also I've started a new feature called "Movie Mondays", I posted a review for "12 Angry Men" earlier this week, in which I'll be reviewing movies I watch out for that as well.

Question:  What do you think of the new features on the blog? Got any suggestions for me? Let me know in the comments.

Book I'm Currently Reading

Hailed by The Boston Globe as "so poignant and beautifully written, so true and painful, that one can't read it without feeling the knife's cruel blade in the heart", The Car Thief was first published to enormous popularity, and sold over half a million copies.

Alex Housman is a kid who at the age of sixteen has had fourteen cars, harbors many hurts, and seems to fade into his environment while raging inside. His father is an alcoholic, losing his grip on life even as he wants the best for his son. The Car Thief explores the love Alex and his father share, in a tremendously poignant story that is filled with unusual triumphs.

Question:  What book have you been reading this past week? Let me know in the comments.

Work It Out

I just joined CURVES this week, and today was my first Zumba class at the Curves location in Chino. I was extremely apprehensive, but went any way. Had about eight (yes, EIGHT) heart attack scares, and halfway through, I told my instructor that at the end of the hour she'd have to drive me home (or to the emergency room!) but I hung in there, and stuck to my guns and powered through the routine. At the end of it all, my lungs felt like they'd burst, my legs felt like someone had attached 50 pound weights to each leg, and I was soaked in sweat from the top of my head, down to my pinky toe (including my underwear) - HOWEVER, I also felt DAMN proud of myself! 

I know, one hour of Zumba should not be such an achievement, but I feel more proud of not giving up when the going got tough, rather than actually just showing up to the class. Also, I loved that the class was set to music, which really makes the time go by faster' especially when the music has such amazing beats. I can't wait for my next class! :D

Question:  Do you work out? Have any work-out/fitness goals? Let me know in the comments, and maybe we can swap war (as in, work-out) stories! :D 

Song of the Week

Song: "Shake It Out"
Artist: Florence & The Machine
I've always loved Florence & The Machine - these guys are musical geniuses! But I was reminded of the song when Santana, Tina and Mercedes sang it on Glee (Season 3, Episode 18: Choke). And since then (it was aired on May 1st) I've had this song on my playlist, and I've been playing it over and over again. But then again, with lyrics like, the ones featured below, how can you NOT?

"And I am done with my graceless heart 
So tonight I'm gonna cut it out and then restart 
'Cause I like to keep my issues drawn
 It's always darkest before the dawn"

Question:  What about you? What's playing on YOUR playlist? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for visiting the blog today, I hope you'll leave me a comment telling me about YOUR WEEK, and about your aspirations, dreams, music/books you've enjoyed during your week etc. Looking forward to hearing from you...have a WONDERFUL WEEKEND! :)

Monday, May 14, 2012

~Move Mondays - 12 Angry Men~

Movie Title: 12 Angry Men
Cast: Henry Fonda, Jack Warden, Lee J. Cobb, Martin Balsam (and others)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Writer: Reginald Rose
Release Date: April 10, 1957
Run Time: 96 minutes
Color: Black & White (Original)
Rating:  Unrated

Tagline: Life Is In Their Hands -- Death Is On Their Minds!


Eleven jurors are convinced that the defendant is guilty of murder. The twelfth has no doubt of his innocence. How can this one man steer the others toward the same conclusion? It's a case of seemingly overwhelming evidence against a teenager accused of killing his father in "one of the best pictures ever made" (The Hollywood Reporter). 


Court room dramas usually consist of two lawyers offering rebuttals and witty quips in an actual court room setting. But this movie is different because, for a change, the viewer is able to see the entirety of the case, as it is discussed by a cloistered jury, behind closed doors. 

The beauty of this movie lies in the multifaceted and multi-layered characters that are the 12 jurors in this story. Each with a unique personality and each bringing his own bias and experience to the table, as he makes the decision about if a young boy committed a murder or not. There is the jury foreman, who appears confident, squirms under the duty of a position he doesn't quite relish. One juror who is quite and content with his work, finding hard to form an opinion and clearly not comfortable giving it. Another one who seems to be an amiable businessman, but as the trial progresses, becomes more and more passionate and loses his impartiality towards the case. Yet another juror fights his own conscience, worried that he may not be qualified to make such decisions, and wouldn't want to make the wrong one as he could possibly ruin someone's life. Also, there is a juror who seems to be uncaring about the whole situation, and would vote any which way, in order to just get out of the entire ordeal. A wise old sage of a man, a watchmaker who is open to all aspects of the arguments presented - and, of course, the juror who cares the most about making the right decision, and incites others to look at the various complexities of the case, rather than terming it so black and white, cut and dry, and making a ill-formed decision. Another unique thing about this movie is, that these jurors never learn each others names, and neither does the audience. They are always just referred by their numbers. 

The audience watches as this jury delves into matters of prejudice and bias, and balancing emotion and logic in a situation that calls for both. It is fascinating to watch how small little details in the case can steer a certain verdict into the entire opposite direction, however, the REAL beauty of this movie lies in each juror's personality unraveling in front of the audience. Cloistered in one room, around one table, these twelve men decide the fate of one young man. The entire movie takes place inside of one room, and there are no snazzy props to aid the actors - what you get, as the result of this stark environment, is pure and powerful acting. Each actor is perfect in his role as a certain juror, dialogue delivery is tight and the script is absolutely engrossing. An easy going movie to begin with, it soon has you pondering about exactly how much of your emotions play into your decisions - but should that bias and personal emotion to creep into your decision when you are making the decision about the life of someone else? This movie is a unique experience, and for me, the real core of it is one of the best ensemble casts I've ever had the pleasure to see working together. The acting is flawless, the script is brilliant, the subject matter is interesting, and all in all...this movie is A CLASSIC!

*Trivia* - At the beginning of the film, the cameras are all positioned above eye level and mounted with wide-angle lenses to give the appearance of greater distance between the subjects. As the film progresses the cameras slip down to eye level, and director Sidney Lumet gradually changed to lenses of longer focal lengths, so that the backgrounds seemed to close in on the characters, creating a greater feeling of claustrophobia.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

~Winner Announcement - The Spring Fling Giveaway Hop~

Before I announce the winner, I want to THANK every one who decided to participate in the Spring Fling Giveaway Hop. I thank you for your participation, and for all your comments/tweets, etc. It was a pleasure to participate in this giveaway hop, and I've decided I'm going to be participating in a lot more, from here on out. Personally, I didn't get as many responses as I'd envisioned, but that may be because of the choice of book I had up - it was not a famous book, but a book that I really enjoyed reading. I'm going to continue experimenting with different books and prizes, to see what YOU as a reader enjoy. Up for grabs, was a copy of "Scrapbook of Secrets" by Mollie Cox Bryan (click on the picture below for synopsis):

I honestly wish that I could get each one of you a copy this book - but since I haven't struck gold in my backyard yet, I have to pick a winner.

And the winner of the Spring Fling Giveaway is:


Mindy J.

Mindy has been emailed, and she has already replied. The rest of you, please don't fret - I am already planning another giveaway. Again, I am so sorry for those who did not win, happy for the winner who did, and infinitely gracious for your participation as well as for your support. THANK YOU!!! :)