Friday, April 25

my april in entertainment

my april in entertainment
books i read

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy - I picked up this book, set in Afghanistan and narrated by a young girl, at the school book fair, and really wanted to love it.  Trent Reedy is an American soldier who served in Afghanistan and was inspired to write the story by a girl he saw who had a cleft palate.  Reedy does a good job creating a realistic view of a modern Afghani family - the main character, Zulaika, who is taunted for her appearance by cruel boys and occasionally her own family members, lives with her father, brothers and sisters, and her father's second wife.  Her father is a contractor who is building a new school now that the Taliban has left their village, but Zulaika has never been allowed to attend school herself.  New opportunities present themselves to Zulaika - her mother's former teacher begins secretly tutoring her in reading, and the American soldiers who have come to town suggest that their doctors could repair her mouth.  She is torn between wanting better for herself and being loyal to her family, who are busy preparing for her sister's wedding to a rich businessman. While it has some interesting elements and Zulaika is a very relatable character, the story moves very slowly and I didn't get really interested in it until some terrible things happened to raise the stakes for Zulaika and her family. 

Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice - Another book fair pick I had high hopes for, as the cover definitely makes it look like something my boys would love.  The cover art, along with the back cover copy, made me hope for a great outdoorsy novel I could recommend to students who've read and loved books like Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain.  The main character Erik, lives in New York state and has just learned to hunt alongside his best friend.  They are anticipating their first hunting trip when Erik's parents, both National Guard soldiers, are deployed to Iraq.  Erik is sent to live with his grandparents in North Dakota - quiet, reserved Oma and stern, stoic Big Darrell.  Their reception doesn't exactly make Eric feel welcome in their home, and he decides to run away and survive on his own with a stray hunting dog.  Unlike Erik, many of my students are experienced hunters and Scouts, and I think they will be judgmental of some of the rookie mistakes he makes when it comes to survival.  Ultimately, this isn't really a survival story or a hunting story but the story of reconciliation within a broken family.  

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I know, I am late to the party.  I'd been waiting for this one to come out in paperback to purchase since I was pretty sure I'd want my own copy, but I gave in and got the e-book instead after several students informed me that I had to read it.  Despite being almost too smart and witty to seem completely like real teenagers to me, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters are completely lovable characters who meet in a support group for teenage cancer patients and survivors.  Hazel's cancer is in her lungs; Augustus' was in his bones.  They quickly get sucked into each others' worlds the way teenagers often do - trading favorite books and movies, telling childhood stories, and having dinner with each other's families.  When Hazel realizes that Gus is really falling for her, she tries to resist his advances, comparing herself to a grenade that could go off at any time.  She wants so badly to spare him from the pain she knows is an inevitable side effect of being in her life.  I couldn't put this one down, and got completely sucked in to Hazel and Gus's biggest adventure.

Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - I wrote a little bit about this series in my Literary Junkies post earlier this week.  Fun, futuristic fairytale retellings with a healthy dose of teen-friendly romance provided by two young couples: cyborg mechanic Cinder and Prince Kai from the Eastern Commonwealth, and French vegetable farmer Scarlet and street fighting soldier Wolf.  Post World War 4 earth lives under the threat of the lunar colony, whose residents have developed seemingly magical powers to control bioelectricy - to humans on Earth, they seem like psychics and can be overwhelmingly persuasive.  The Lunar Queen wants power, and these four rebels, along with an ex-convict spaceship captain and Cinder's saucy android best friend, threaten to take it all away from her.

movies i saw

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier - I have been a total geek for comic book movies since high school, and while I've been loving Marvel's Avengers movies, the first Captain America movie was not my favorite of the pre-Avengers Assemble first wave.  I loved Chris Evans as Steve Rogers and Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and enjoyed the period setting, but got distracted by the many Indiana Jones and Star Wars visual references.  I liked Steve more in the Avengers movie, where he had some great one-liners and Chris Evans did a great job portraying Steve's struggle to adjust to life in the modern world and to taking a leadership role amongst a group of very gifted individuals.  In The Winter Soldier, Steve is living in Washington, D.C. and working for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow.  He starts to question whether the organization he works for is being honest with its operatives, and why it would withhold certain information from team members, and soon Steve and Natasha have exposed major corruption within the organization that goes all the way to the top.  This movie seemed to feature much more hand-to-hand combat than the other Marvel films so far, and the storyline seemed the most realistic - aside from Steve's superhuman powers, an amped-up villain, and some futuristic technology, the major conflict seemed plausible.  I loved that this was the closest thing we've gotten so far to a Black Widow movie, that Nick Fury and Maria Hill were back, and noticing lots of little geeky details like the arrow necklace Scarlett was wearing.

This Is the End - finally got around to watching this movie when it aired on cable; it's full of my favorite young comedians as exaggerated versions of themselves so I was pretty sure I'd enjoy it.  Seth Rogen and his friends are at a crazy party at James Franco's house when the Apocalypse begins, and their true personalities are revealed while they fight to survive.  There are a lot of references to the projects these folks have worked on together before, from "Freaks and Geeks" to Pineapple Express, and the plot gets more and more ridiculous as time passes and things go from bad to worse.

television favorites

Total Divas - my guilty pleasure show!  In case you are too high-falutin' for the E! network, this is the show about the women wrestlers of the WWE.  Despite growing up in a city heavily populated by rednecks, I have never watched a single wrestling match - shows with titles like "Raw!" and "Smackdown!" and commercials featuring dudes in underwear hitting each other with metal chairs don't exactly appeal to me.  I am pretty sure that when I saw the commercials for Total Divas last year, my first thought was, "that looks even trashier than the Kardashians."  I wanted to see the train wreck.  And now I can't stop watching it.


  1. I can't believe you're only now reading TFIOS! But at least you read it before the movie is out.

    And I've heard such great things about The Lunar Chronicles, definitely a series I want tor read sooner rather than later.

    And finally, I was a big fan of This is the End too, although a lot of that had to do with the Backstreet Boys' cameo at the end.

    1. I know! I kept thinking TFiOS would come out in paperback but I guess since it's so popular that won't be happening for a while. I'm glad I finally read it and know what the fuss is all about. It's actually the fist John Green book I've read so now I want to go back and check out his other stuff.

      Lunar Chronicles is really cute and a breeze to read - it's almost more MG than YA.

      I think I loved This is the End because it was the actors playing really exaggerated versions of themselves. And the Emma Watson cameo.