Friday, November 21

my fall in entertainment

books i read

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead - As an English teacher, I try to keep up with the books that receive the Newbery Medal, but had picked up When You Reach Me at the bookstore a few times to return it to the shelf, even knowing that it included references to A Wrinkle In Time and is in itself a science fiction mystery.  I don't know what finally got me to keep reading the book, but I'm glad I finally did.  When You Reach me is set in New York in the late 1970's, basically the same New York that books like From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, So You Want to Be a Wizard, and The Other Shephards - a city where middle-schoolers can walk to school and around the neighborhood and back to their apartments without fear of being mugged or kidnapped.  In fact, pretty much the only fear the main character, Miranda, has, is of the crazy, laughing homeless man on her street who spends most of his time lying under a mailbox.  The book follows the course of a sixth-grade school year in which Miranda loses one best friend, gains a new one, gets a job making sandwiches, helps her mother prepare for a game show appearance, and receives several mysterious notes from a stranger who seems to know more about her life than anyone should.

The Art of Racing In the Rain by Garth Stein - I picked this one up at the public library after seeing various recommendations, and I definitely wasn't disappointed - I was hooked from page one, when I realized that the narrator is a dog and became curious to find out how an author would sustain a dog's voice for an entire adult novel.  Garth Stein, I tip my hat to you.  Our narrator, Enzo, like most dogs, is loyal almost to a fault, and loves his owner, Formula One race car driver Denny, with all of his canine heart.  The book details Enzo's life with Denny, which is really Denny's maturation into manhood - falling in love, starting a family, and dealing with very real challenges.  It's a book with a dog on the cover, so have the tissues handy, but know that all will be well in the end.

movies i saw

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I - I have a trusty co-worker with whom I have seen each of the Hunger Games movies on opening night, usually in a theater packed with teenagers.  The theater crowd was not as large as I expected this time, but the film had me from beginning to end.  We pick up with Katniss already living in District Thirteen with her mother, Prim, and Gale.  Plutarch is there, convincing the rebel District's President (Julianne Moore being ABSOLUTELY AMAZING) to use the Mockingjay to overthrow the Capitol and President Snow once and for all.  At first, Katniss isn't ready to be used again - until she sees that Snow has made a puppet out of Peeta, and is hurting him to punish her.

Mockingjay Part I has none of the glamour of the first two movies and all of the ominous dystopian themes.  The two things I was reminded of while watching were the sinking of the Titanic and the Holocaust, if that tells you anything about the tempo of this one.  I have trouble imagining destruction and abuse while reading, and seeing the wreckage of District Twelve and poor Peeta's bruised and battered face onscreen probably affected me more than it did when I read the novel.  Effie Trinket's role is expanded from the book (probably because Elizabeth Banks has brought her to life so wonderfully) and she and Haymitch provide enough humor to break the tension and keep viewing the movie from being a completely stressful experience.  As President Snow exercises his grip on Panem and his residents go from cheering on child death matches on huge screens to witnessing it firsthand, it's obvious that the stakes have changed.  The point of view seems to change in this addition to the series - instead of watching and admiring Katniss, we are following her, looking right over her shoulder at the heartbreaks and horrors she witnesses.

A few things distracted me from completely loving the movie: I was distracted by the fact that the nameless residents of the various Districts are characterized using today's stereotypes in what is supposedly the future (i.e. flannel shirts = Lumberjack district!).  I also found it distracting that the propaganda videos starring Katniss use the same sound effects and even fonts as the Hunger Games franchise itself, so I got the feeling I was watching a Scholastic book fair trailer instead of a film-within-a-film.

television favorites

The Walking Dead - I'm digging what the show's producers have done this season: split up the core group of survivors, and spend each week following the smaller factions.  Not that much time has actually passed, but so much has happened.  Since I'm not a huge Rick Grimes fan, I'm perfectly happy spending an hour with Beth and new character Noah, Daryl and Carol, Tyreese and Judith, or Maggie and Glenn instead.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - The television piece of the Marvel universe is finally giving viewers a bigger glimpse of how the superhero Avengers films, space opera Guardians of the Galaxy, and a Tuesday night show about spies are really connected.  One of the biggest complaints I saw about the show last season was the Skye was a Mary Sue character, and the writers clearly took that to heart because this season features a wiser Skye who wants to be a real S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and not just Hacker Barbie.

Red Band Society - For the first few episodes, I wasn't quite sure if I fit into the target demographic for this show - it definitely seemed aimed toward teenagers - but I think it's finally found a nice balance of teen hijinks and adult drama.  The characters are becoming more distinct and realistic, and I like the clever references to other shows and movies - the Breakfast Club inspired episode was cute, and Leo and Jordi's room being called "The Swamp" is a nice hat tip to M*A*S*H.

Nashville - I think this is the show I look forward to most every week right now.  So much drama.  So soap opera-y.  So, so much fun to watch.

So, what's been keeping you entertained lately?  Do 
you have any new recommendations for me to check out?

Linking Up:
Let Your Light Shine at I'm Perfectly Human


  1. I'm so intrigued by "The Art of Racing in the Rain." I'll have to pick it up soon.
    I loved "Mockingjay, Part 1," but I can see some of your criticisms.
    "Nashville" is one of my favorite shows. Love it.

    1. I loved Mockingjay too - I hope my comments didn't make it sound like I didn't enjoy it. However, just like the third book had a very different tone than the other two, I thought this movie was really different. I think I may have actually liked it better than the book - I remember my first reading of Mockingjay making me feel grumpy and depressed, and the movie felt tense and exciting.

      I just realized that I didn't even comment on the music of Nashville, which I totally love as much as the characters. I want to hear the full length version of the song Scarlett was writing when she met her homeless friend.