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Showing posts from 2007

Movie List: Zee's Must See Holiday Movies

Here they are folks, the movies I must see each and every Christmas season. This is as necessary as breathing air to me. Some of the movies are just plain entertaining. Some of them are family favorites and remind of my younger childhood days when Christmas was truly magical. And some of them just make me laugh. Here's the list, in no particular order.

Library Program: Make Gocks!

I kept hearing that teen librarians were making gocks (aka gothic sock puppets), and wondered what the fuss was all about. Well, let me tell you, this program is hot! Usually, the same group of teens come over and over again to my events.

I even had a walk-in older male teen enter the programming room when he heard the announcement, a risky move in a roomful of teenage girls.



The program originally ran in VOYA magazine. You take ordinary socks, any pattern, although plain black or funky patterns work the best. Then, use hot glue to apply hair, googly eyes, facial features, and you have a gock.

Movie Review: Into the Wild

When Christopher McCandless graduates from Emory University, his parents are sure he will follow the path they have set for him and become a lawyer. McCandless wants nothing to do with that. He has grown up watching his parents choke on the American dream. They seem terribly unhappy.
Instead, he wants to break out of the trap, give away all of his money, take only the most essential possessions on his back, and work his way up to his ultimate adventure: surviving alone in Alaska. He left home in summer of 2000. By April of 2002, he was ready to walk into the wilds of Alaska. On September 6, 2002, McCandless's malnourished body was found dead in a bus he had survived in for the past several months. What lead him to this fate? Dying alone is no man's dream. Primary source material for this movie and the book it was based on are the journals McCandless filled while he was on the road.

Book Review: Jinx by Meg Cabot

Jean is known by her family as Jinx because bad luck seems to follow her wherever she goes. It is back luck that has lead Jinx to move to New York. She is running away from some trouble she believes she has brought on herself. Is it just bad luck or something else?
Jean moves in with her aunt and uncle and cousins, including similar-aged Torry. Jean remembers Torry as being a fun childhood companion, but this new Torry looks and acts completely different. She dresses all in black, takes drugs, and is convinced she is a witch. After Jinx saves the life of hot neighbor Zach by pushing him out of the way of a car, Torry believes Jinx is also a witch. But that's ridiculous, right?
When Jinx refuses to join her coven and catches the eye of Zach, who has been a long-time crush of Torry's, it starts a war between the cousins.

Book Review: Middle School is Worse than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer Holm

Ginny Davis and her 7th grade year of school is the subject of this book, which uses notes, report cards, newspaper clippings, birthday cards, and other miscellaneous texts to tell her story.

This is one of many books that has come out recently that uses a multi-media approach to storytelling. One look at the cover, which sports meatloaf and tater tots, is enough to make anyone quote Napoleon Dynamite: "Give me your tots."

Holms is successful in telling this tale. I found myself smiling at Ginny's misfortunes. She lists people she could babysit for, the last one being Tiffany Kurtz, who bites. Of course, it is Mrs. Kurtz that ends up calling Ginny to babysit.

But the story isn't all humor. Her older brother, Henry, gets into some serious trouble. And at one point, Ginny's grades drop noticeably from almost all A's to C's.

This is sure to be grabbed off the shelf often. The audience here is clearly lower middle school. My library classified it in chil…

Six Ways to Get Over Being Sick Quick

No one enjoys being sick, but once you get sick, what should you do to make it end as quickly as possible? I don't get sick very often, but it does happen on occasion. Usually, when I get sick, I get a cold, including a sore throat with chills and sometimes a stuffy nose. I don't usually get a fever or temperature, so keep that in mind when reading this article. Hopefully, by following these six steps, you will get over being sick quick.

Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl

If anyone had told me I would one day be crying during a movie about a man and his blow-up doll, I would have called them a liar. But, here I am, going through at least 3 Kleenex even after the movie is over. Lars and the Real Girl is a touching, quirky film that is a lesson in why people do the things they do. Anyone that is interested in social work, counseling, psychology, or ministry should watch this movie.
Lars is a quiet young man (probably 30s) who does not like to be touched. He works in a cubicle in some random office. Currently, he lives in the garage of his childhood home. His brother, Gus, and new wife, Karin, live in the connected house and are expecting a child soon. Karin puts a great deal of effort into trying to pull Lars out of his shell. Gus, on the other hand, thinks Lars is happy how he is. It's his choice to spend time alone, isn't it?
The status quo is shaken up, however, when Lars brings home a new girlfriend. Her name is Bianca, and she is a blow-up…

Movie Review: Millions

Damian is a very imaginative 7-year old who has just moved into a new house with his older brother and widower father. Damian is one of those rare little boys who would rather read than play sports. Would rather think about what could be than what is. His main interest is the Saints, as he believes his mum is now a saint in heaven. He hopes that by learning about the Saints and being like them, he might one day see his mum again.

One day, he drags all of the discarded moving boxes behind his house by the railroad track to make himself a fort. As the train passes by, a bag full of pounds falls off. To Damian, it seems like the package dropped from the sky, possibly from his mum. At first, Damian only tells his brother Anthony what has happened.

This quickly becomes their dirty secret, and each boy sets out to use the money in opposite ways. Anthony wants to live the grand life, investing in real estate and using his money as bait for friends in his new school. Anthony quickly forms …

Movie Reviews: Double Feature

Okay, two other movies I have seen recently:

Little Shop of Horrors, the 1960 version
Although the audio was terrible on the DVD I watched, I couldn't help enjoying what I heard. This is a more humorous version than the 1986 musical version I watched as a teenager. And there is an early appearance of Jack Nicholson as the masochistic patient who wants visit the sadistic dentist's house of pain. My favorite scene would have to be when the plant brainwashes Seymour into picking him up an additional body to feed his hunger. It was good ol' fashioned cheesy movie fun

The Machinist, starring Christian Bale
This movie will tickle your creepy bone. Christian Bale plays Trevor, a man who is so skinny, it hurts to look at him. He weighs around 120 pounds and writes his weight on a progression of sticky notes. He has wasted away to almost nothing. He doesn't sleep, he barely eats, and now he is possibly seeing visions. What could be torturing this anorexic looking soul? What caus…

Movie Reviews: 3:10 to Yuma

3:10 to Yuma
This was a Western well worth watching. The genre is not dead after all. The film is full of star power but still gritty enough to be appreciated by the arthouse crowd. Christian Bale is Dan Evans, a husband, father, and ex-war veteran with a gimpy leg. Russell Crowe is Ben, the villain, an intelligent crook who commits crimes purely to make money he didn't earn. He's not a bad guy. Ben doesn't kill out of spite.

In a purely dumb luck encounter, Dan ends up helping to capture Ben. The sheriff is going to play completely by the book. Ben won't be hung. He will given a fair trial in Yuma. But Ben's gang is sure to try and stop them. The local sheriff decides to hire 4 men to get Ben to the train on time, Dan being one of them.

Dan's oldest son, William, is so enamored with Ben he can't see straight. On the side, he reads dime store novels about Ben's adventures. He is ashamed of his father and his supposed weakness. After all, his dad hasn…

Book Review: Leonardo's Shadow

Giacomo is the servant of the great Leonardo DaVinci. Several years ago, a mob was chasing him through the streets, convinced he had stolen someone else's possessions. That night, Da Vinci saved Giacomo's life. Ever since then, Giacomo has served DaVinci faithfully and almost comically. Whenever anyone even hints that they are insulting his master, Giacomo is right there defending his honor, although it is most unsuitable for him to speak to his superiors.

His greatest ambition is to paint and learn from his master. But DaVinci seems reluctant to teach him. Giacomo spends his days waiting on DaVinci, hanging out with his small circle of apprentice friends, and bugging his master to finish the painting The Last Supper. Why won't DaVinci finish the painting? The DaVinci household has been buying food, clothing, and art supplies on a credit basis only, but the business owners are beginning to be impatient for actual money. More importantly, the Duke of Milan is most impatien…

Book Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

In nineteen minutes, you can get revenge . . .

Nineteen Minutes deals with a town, a school shooting, and a boy named Peter Houghton, bullied since the day he started Kindergarten. In Picoult's signature style, we hear the thoughts of multiple characters throughout the story.

The introductory chapters are some of the most suspenseful writing you will ever read. We meet Josie, a girl who looks perfect on the outside but is drowning on the inside. She's getting ready for school at Sterling High. She's dating Matt Royston, one of the most popular boys in school, but plans how she will commit suicide when she is discovered to be the fake she knows she is.

We meet Alex Cormier, her mother, a Supreme Court judge who is more comfortable on the bench than in the mother role.

We meet Lacey Houghton, a midwife. She treasure her comfortable home and role as a wife and mother.

And we meet Peter. When we first meet him, he wakes up and goes to his computer to read email messages, only …

Movie Review: Amelie

I watched Amelie over the course of 4 days. It's pretty pathetic when your life is so busy that it takes you 4 days to watch a movie, but I think Amelie might need extended viewing. The material is so rich that it takes awhile to process. Plus, the narrator names off facts as quick as bullets. I had to play several scenes over again to see how all the people tied together.

Amelie is a porcelain doll of a young woman. She was how I imagined Snow White would look minus the rosy cheeks: dark brown hair, gooey chocolate-colored eyes, perfect skin, and red lips. Amelie is painfully shy. She struggles with revealing her deepest needs. She longs to be close to someone and have a friend to talk to, but instead she watches from her window with binoculars. She observes those around her and thinks she might know what might make them happy. She studies them, takes notes, and executes a plan. If special ops needed a happiness agent, Amelie would be their woman.

When she was a girl, she had tw…

Graphic Novel Review: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castelluci and Jim Rugg

Art saves and art heals are the themes of The Plain Janes a graphic novel created in the MINX imprint, a new line of graphic novels that uses the popular media to tell stories that traditionally would be done in written format.

Jane was walking the streets of New York when a bomb went off near her. Her parents freak out and move the family to the suburbs to protect their darling Jane. But Jane wants to stay in the city so she can keep visiting her comatose friend, a man she calls John Doe. He has been in a coma since the day of the bombing. She visits him in the hospital and has taken up sketching to honor him, since he was carrying and dropped a sketchbook that day. For whatever reason, she takes a major interest in him and feels devastated that she won't be able to continue her frequent visits.

Now she is trying to start a new life. Interestingly enough, she is determined NOT to be in the popular crowd. Instead, she finds paradise in the reject lunch table, at which sits three …

Book Review: The Camel Rider by Prue Mason

The timing is right for books like The Camel Rider to appear for children. With the hot success of books such as the Kite Runner, there is a market for books written about the Muslim culture. This multicultural book allows readers to learn about the culture in the midst of an interesting adventure story. Aussie Adam lives with his family in the Middle East on a compound in the fictional city of Abudai. Adam is bored of his life and longs to get away from the thumb of his overprotective parents. His only joys are his beloved dog, Tara, and the hours he gets to surf with his buddies. Walid is a young boy from the Middle East who is a camel rider, a small child trained to ride camels in races that men gamble on. His mother felt pressured to give him up so he could have a better life and a possible education, but he spends his days abused and beaten by his guardians.

The lives of these two boys intersect when bombs are dropped near the compound.

Graphic Novel Review: Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez

I am reviewing this purely for the weird factor. Is this one of the highlights of my graphic novel reading? Absolutely not, but it impresses me that graphic novel creators continue to expand the storylines graphic novels tell. It used to be that graphic novels took simple storylines and made them more complex by adding the graphic element. In Sloth, we have a fairly complicated storyline successfully contained in a short amount of pages (probably less than 100), due to a picture being worth a thousand words.

Now about the weird factor. The cover art on the entry pages shows lemons dropping to the sky like A-bombs. Weird, indeed. Miguel slept for a whole year with no medical explanation. You could call it a coma, but there was no medical explanation. Apparently this was a self-chosen slumber. After three months of physical therapy, Miguel is ready to rejoin the world, but he moves very slowly. It seems his legs just can't work at a normal pace.

He's back together wi…

Teen Program: Nifty 50s Mystery Party

This past Friday, July 27th, teens gathered at my library to solve a mystery set in a 50s diner. This was the first time I had bought a mystery party kit online from host-party.com. I would highly recommend using their pre-made mystery games. The price is good (only $30 in most cases), they have lots of choices (all settings and for all age groups), and you get everything online. This means you can print your kit immediately, email invitations out to everyone, and post pictures before and after the party.

The Nifty 50s was a scripted play. I had teen actors I found from both my TAB and a comedy improv workshop I held back in the spring. The mystery was so cute. John E. "The B" Good is going steady with Peggy Sue, who is having a birthday today. But John seems like he is more interested in the car he is driving, a 1957 Shavy El Domino. When the car ends up missing, John interrogates everyone in the diner, including Maybelle Lean, the waitress, Miss Molly, the high school etiq…

Movie Review: Black Snake Moan

Black Snake Moanis a redemption story cleverly set in the hillbilly South. The acting is superb, including an excellent performance by pretty boy Justin Timberlake . Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) and Rae (Christian Ricci ) are two lost souls, seemingly acting off impulses neither one can control. Lazarus, an elderly blues guitarist, is torn up that his wife left him for his younger brother. He turns to booze and music for comfort. Rae, young, white, and the town slut is addicted to sex and can barely wait an hour after her military boyfriend ( Timberlake ) leaves for his enlistment before her next dip.

Their lives intertwine one night, when Rae, high from a party, is raped and beaten and left in Lazarus's driveway. I know this sounds brutal, but this is not done in a heavy, depressing manner. On the contrary, this story has a whimsical tone peppered with lots of deep fried Southern flavor. Yes, Rae is attacked, but she doesn't seem to mind. She knows it's a natural outcome o…

Book Review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

Ruby is having panic attacks. Her boyfriend has broken up with her, none of her friends are speaking with her, her ride to school won't take her anymore, and her parents are sure she is feeling suicidal or anorexic. Welcome to the story of The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart, a masterful look inside the life of a teenage girl. This girl is every girl. Reading this book was like looking back at parts of my past, and it was amazing and painful to take the journey with her.

Lockhart writes truthfully on the way a girl thinks about boys. Ruby reveals pieces of her life one bit at a time. Her therapist asks her to create a boyfriend list: a list of every guy she has liked, dated, thought about dating, kissed, or had a special relationship with. Ruby isn't sure how this is going to help her solve her immediate problem: getting her boyfriend back and getting life back to normal. But as she examines each boy on the list, Ruby may discover she's not the victim she thinks she is.

Movie Reviews: Fever Pitch and Ocean's 13

Fever Pitchis a cutesy cute and very funny romantic comedy. It was released in 2005 and stars Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Ben is a math teacher who meets Lindsay when he brings his best math students into her workplace to see a real professional who uses math in her career. He ends up going back later to ask her out. Originally, she turns him down because he doesn't seem like her type. She is an up and coming overachiever, while he is a down to earth math teacher. Her friends encourage Lindsay to give him a chance, and she is very impressed during their first date. When Ben arrives, Lindsay has food poisoning, and she is vomiting up every possible shred of food. He cleans up the mess, takes care of her, and even brushes her dog's teeth after Rin-Tin-Tin decides her regurgitated vittals look tasty.

One of her friend's muses, "There must be something wrong with him." Why isn't Ben married yet? But all seems well until baseball season rolls around. You see,…

I Just Met Harry and the Potters!

Last night, the first ever Wizard Rock band came to my library system. And it just happened to be the most famous Wizard Rock band out there, none other than Paul and Joe from Harry and the Potters. The evening truly exceeded my greatest expectations.

The show was set to start at 7:30. The hosting library heard of the crowds this band has gathered in the past and received permission to close the library at 6 p.m. so the band could have time to setup.

The group pulled in around 5:30 p.m. It was the Potters themselves, plus their crew, a drummer, Marty (the amazing sock puppet portraitist and their roadie), and Emily, who lended a hand in taking care of sales of gads and gads of t-shirts and CDs. I bought a green "Save Ginny" shirt. They were setup by 6:15 and ready to rock. I must say, all 5 of them were very well mannered and professional.

We opened the doors around 6:45 to allow the fans in and for the sales to begin. We still are not sure how many people showed up, but th…

Book Review: A Friend at Midnight by Carolina Cooney

Caroline Cooney diversifies her writing portfolio with an inspirational fiction novel for teens. I am unaware of any former ventures on the part of Cooney in writing this type of fiction. If any of my readers know of any such works, please leave them in the comments.

When the novel begins, eight-year old Michael is being told to get out of a car by an unidentified voice. He is being dropped off at the La Guardia airport without breakfast, money, luggage, or a plane ticket. We are then told the unidentified voice belongs to Michael's father. Michael has grown up living with his mother, stepfather, and brothers and sisters. When he decides to go live with his estranged father, the whole family is worried about him, especially his older sister, 15-year old Lily.

Lily receives the call from Michael, who is trapped in the airport, without any means of helping himself. She doesn't know what to do. Her mother and stepfather have left to take her older sister, Reb, to college. Lily i…

Movie Review: Away From Her

Away From Herhad a sense of realism for which I was unprepared. The modern movie has so many special effects, screen touch-ups, and impossible stunts that the viewer stays in a suspended belief stage for most of the film. Movies like this are rare in this day and age. The characters could be your parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles. This could be your life. The suspended belief is removed leaving only a raw, uncomfortable feeling.

The Notebook was another movie about a woman with dementia, but it had many elements that clearly indicated it was still a movie (perky flashbacks, recognizable actors, lots of strange camera angles, and a sun-kissed look).

Away from her is a phrase the main character uses when he is telling people how he and his wife got engaged. "I never wanted to be away from her." But that is exactly what is going to happen, for Fiona is showing the signs of forgetfulness and fading common in a person with Alzheimer's. Fiona wants to be checked into a …

Book Review: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset sisters

Eleven-year old Cornelia is a lonely girl whose mother is a famous concert pianist. Her mother is always travelling and never takes Cornelia on the road with her. Cornelia is always left at home with just the nosy housekeeper, Madame Desjardins. Her quiet nature causes the other students in her class to alienate her, leaving Cornelia to cope in the best way she knows how: by learning loads of advanced vocabulary words. She uses these words as a wall whenever brown-nosing parents want to know more about Cornelia's mom. Cornelia just uses a big words, and POOF!, the questions stop.

Cornelia lives in a high-rise apartment building in the middle of Greenwich Village, and it looks like some new neighbors have moved in. One day, Cornelia is walking down the wall, when a black blur comes dashing out of the new neighbor's door. It is Mister Kinyatta, a black bull terrier puppy. Cornelia meets Mister Kinyatta's owner, the elegant Virginia, and her housekeeper/companion, Patel. Cor…

Movie Stuff: Akira Kurosawa Films and Influenced Films

Last week was Akira Kurosawa week at my place. I have a deep-seated love of everything Japanese. About two years ago, I watched The Seven Samurai, which was one of the BEST movies I have ever seen, hands down. I had heard so much about this movie in pop culture but was never sure what all the fuss was about. It took me several days to get through the film, but it was heavy with meaning. It made think about what is a hero? And what is the cost of being a hero? In the Seven Samurai, poor farmers seek out the help of seven samurai to fight off bandits. The bandits regularly stop by and steal the crops they all slaved to grow. The townspeople know they need help.

They find these samurai superheroes that can kick butt, but most of them also have lovable personalities that make you want to take them home and keep them as a pet. I especially liked the leader of band (played by the amazing Takashi Shimura) and the comic character, Kikuchiyo (Toshiro Mifune). As the town learn how to fight an…

Book Review: Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

Author Alice Hoffman is wonderful at balancing the supernatural with the ordinary. She wrote Practical Magic, which was later turned into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, in which two witch sisters struggle to balance that fine line between wanting to be normal and embracing their unique gifts.
A few years ago, she wrote the Ice Queen, which was about a librarian who is hit by lightning. The librarian can no longer see the color red and is always cold. She meets a man who was hit by lightning and is always hot, and they are drawn to each other in an electric way that leads to pain and pleasure. Hoffman's work has a fairy-tale, dreamlike quality. She writes in a genre called magical realism. In The Ice Queen, there is a character who lives in an apartment building with a lime tree out back. The lime tree is brought up repeatedly, almost like a motif in a fairy story or a myth. There is also a motif of flying or wings. Her characters are usually doomed to some horr…

Book Review: American Born Chinese by Gene Yang

American Born Chineseby Gene Yang was the Printz Award winner for 2007. It's been sitting in my pile for a few months now, even though I was told it would take me no more than an hour to read. All the reviews I read about this graphic novel have been very positive, and I must agree it is a masterpiece.

But, as usual, I have a different viewpoint to bring to this discussion. We all have filters we view the world through, and this is also true of the way we approach media, whether it be books, movies, poetry, etc. My Christian faith is a large filter for me, and it impacts the way I view books.

American Born Chinese is a story told in three separate stories that eventually converge. Remember Holes? Louis Sachar did the same thing. The three plotlines came together in surprising ways that add to the enjoyment of the story. It is part of the mystery of the book.

Movie Review: Now, Voyager

Now, Voyager was a movie that made me think of my mom and watching movies with her. It was very comforting. This starred Bette Davis in what I think is her finest role--even better than her performance in All About Eve. I know many may argue, but she was so unbecoming at the beginning of this movie, I barely recognized her.  Charlotte is a spinster with bushy eyebrows and a scared rabbit look in her eyes. Her mother has driven her to the brink of madness from too much attention and too much control. When Charlotte comes downstairs to meet Dr. Jaquith (Claude Raines ), the word that comes to mind is "trapped." Charlotte is trapped in a world of unhappiness. Her mother forces her to wear unattractive clothes, won't allow her to lose weight, and has chased away every suitor.

We find out that Charlotte was born late in life and probably wasn't wanted. The only comfort her mother takes in her birth is knowing that Charlotte will care for her when she is o…

Movie Review: The Lady Vanishes

I know most people only want to read about new movies, but I feel like it's my job as a film addict to tell you about movies that are oldies but goodies. There may be someone out there who has never seen a classic film. It is hard to appreciate the film world without a full understanding of where things come from. For instance, I was talking to a young man about the movie Disturbia. I found it to be very "disturbia" that he had no idea this was a modernized version of Hitchcock's Rear Window--sad because it elevates Disturbia to a level it doesn't deserve. One might be prone to think that Disturbia is more original than it is. And how can you survive in the world without knowing the works of Hitchcock?

It is in this spirit that I felt compelled to review Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, a 1938 black and white picture from Hitchcock's British period. It has all of the trademarks of a Hitchcock picture. We have secrets, affairs, women who fall in love with a…

Movie Review: Meet the Robinsons vs. Disney short venting

This past Saturday, I went to see the new animated feature Meet the Robinsons. This is a watchable, sometimes amusing flick about a genius kid named Lewis who wants to be adopted. Instead of showing his potential adoptees how cute he is, he tries to dazzle them with his latest invention. The result is disaster after disaster. The funniest case of this is when his doodad that should perfectly mix the right portions of peanut butter and jelly for a PB&J explodes, sending peanut butter everywhere. What our young scientist didn't know was that the man half of the couple is allergic to peanuts. Whoops.

This time, however, Lewis is sure his new project for the school science fair is THE one that will solve all of his problems. He will build a memory retrieval machine to remember who his mother is, meet her, and convince her to be his mom again. A mysterious, evil bowler hat man sabotages the invention during the science fair, humiliating Lewis and convincing him that the machine do…

Book Review: Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

I really wanted to like Haters. It is a school story mixed with elements of paranormal romance. The main character has a strong psychic ability. She can see things before they happen. Over at the Disco Mermaids, Eve suggested you could describe the flavor and plot of a book by combining movies. This idea appeals to me since I am a film addict. I would call this book Heathers (dangerous run-ins with popular girls) crossed with Premonition (seeing the future) crossed with a Harlequin romance (explicit sexuality and romance). No, I'm not kidding.

Part of this book I really liked. The narrator had a very snarky, hip voice that made her appealing. Pasquela Archuleta, or Paski, has just found out that her dad is moving them to California. It seems his comic book, Squeegie Man, has been optioned for a movie deal. He's going to be rich, but he has to move to California. He and Paski move to the OC; Paski must leave her dear friends and new boyfriend behind to start a new …

Movie Stuff: Am I Alone?

Kelly over at Big A, little a had a great idea for a post. She listed the names of books that most people really loved, but she found to be just okay or mediocre. An alternative way to look at this would be to think of books you really loved but no one else seemed to care about. I listed several on her blog in the comments.

I thought it would be fun to do the same thing for movies. I can think of several movies I watched and felt deeply moved by only to discover that others did not share my opinion.

Artificial Intelligence: AI(2001) Directed by Steven Spielberg
In this heartbreaking story, the world has found a way to mass-produce loving child-robots. We meet a couple whose child has been frozen until they can find a cure for his disease. To ease their loneliness, they purchase David, a mass-produced boy that has been programmed to love his mother unconditionally. Then, the bratty son gets defrosted and gets jealous of the relationship David has with his mother. He makes it his missio…

Teen Program Idea: Library Art Trading Cards

This past Saturday, my co-worker showed our Teen Advisory Board how to create library art trading cards in the spirit of Post Secret. This was a very original idea she thought up. I just showed up and participated in the craft. This is not something I would have done on my own. Whenever I actually do crafts, I enjoy it, but graphic arts were never my strong point. My artistic side comes out in my singing and acting. I love a crowd! But now that I have made a few cards and watched others do the same, I would do this again in a heart beat.

If some you are saying, "huh?", then I apologize. It seems that a lot of people are familiar with Post Secret, so I am assuming many of you will know what I am talking about. This Frank Warren guy came up with this brilliant idea to have anonymous people mail in their deepest secrets on a decorated postcard. It can be decorated in whatever style (painting, collage, drawing, glued objects). The only requirement is that it has to be a secret …

Movie Review: 300

There was a time when the movie 300would have been a perfect movie for me. I would have loooved this movie back in the day. "The day" meaning when I loved the gore movies. I used to be a huge horror movie fan, and although 300 is not a horror movie, it is filmed like one. Each scene is meant to shock and make the audience squirm.

There is this really great short story I remember, but I can't remember who wrote it. It was written by an Asian writer. Anyway, it's about this man who sees a painting of a tree. He doesn't purchase it but later wishes he had. He spends his whole life trying to find it and raise enough money to buy it. Then when he finally has it in his grasp, the painting is unveiled, and he is disappointed that it is not the same painting. The point of the story is that the painting WAS the same. It wasn't the painting that had changed; it was the man himself. He was not the same person when he saw the painting the second time, and the painting h…

Book Review: Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd

I just finished reading Monkey Town: The Summer of the Scopes Trial by Ronald Kidd. This was another coming of age novel. It is supposed to be part love story, as well, but the love story is very lightly applied. It is more of an afterthought and seemed like it was there solely to get more girls to read it.
Kidd claims he wrote this book based on the true accounts he heard from Frances Robinson about her life in the town of Dayton during the Scopes Monkey Trials of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee. He does share that Frances was actually only eight years old when this happened, although in the book, she is portrayed as being 15. He obviously thought this story would appeal more to teens, and he is probably right.
In our story, Frances Robinson is a precocious 15-year old who is in love with Johnny Scopes, a teacher at her high school. Johnny Scopes is one of those young (24 years old), cool teachers who breaks the rules of establishment only to pay for them later. He is a football coach but…

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Colin Singleton is a self-professed prodigy. He can anagram the heck out of any word combination (except a few un-anagramabble words), and he was once on a show called KranialKidz. He's the type of character one would call book smart but not very street smart. Colin's one big bummer in life is that he has been dumped by a procession of 19 Katherines. So he walks around looking for the next Katherine, although he is sure Katherine 19 is THE one.


When we first meet Colin, he has just been dumped by Ms. 19. His best friend, Hassan, decides to hornswaggle Colin into a summer road trip, meant to shake him out of his doldrums. They don't get too far. The boys find their nesting place in Gutshot, Tennessee, home to a factory where tampon strings are created.

Book Review: King Dork by Frank Portman

All right, 'fess up? Who was a dork at school? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, I bet everyone's got a hand raised. My horrific school time was middle school. I went through my ugly phase with a combination of large glasses and crooked teeth. I also insisted on this weird hairstyle where my hair would completely cover one side of my face. I thought I was being a skater chick. The boys all had "squeebs" that covered one eye. I thought I should have one, too! I got made fun of a lot in sixth grade. There was also this huge bully that would routinely beat my friends up. Somehow I escaped her physical wrath, but I was terrified of her.

Well, no matter what your story, I think you might have trouble outdorkingKing Dork. In my head, as I read, I imagined a combination of Napoleon Dynamite, Bill from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, one of those computer geeks from the 80s films, and a Will from Good Will Hunting.

Here's some really original things about this book:
He is pic…

Book Review: Sex God Book by Rob Bell

I really enjoyed the book Sex God by Rob Bell. I can't say enough good things about this book. It is completely unique. It compares sex to spirituality. Specifically, it compares sex to having an intimate relationship with God. Bell says you can't talk about one without talking about the other. He makes a strong case, although it is not written in a linear style. He meanders from stories to conversations to scenes from the Bible to secular quotes. His writing style is very meandering.

This is what I got out of this book: Our extreme desire for sex is really a desire for a relationship with God.

Movie Review: Soylent Green

The 1973 movie Soylent Green is often mocked for its campy look, for its overzealous actors (Charlton Heston), and its script. However, it is still a must-see for the American movie buff.

Soylent Green is set in Manhattan, New York, in 2022. The city is overcrowded. People are literally lying in the stairs, waiting for someone to die so they can have an apartment. At the beginning of the movie, we see a rather straggly young man make his way down the stairs past all the bodies. We then see this man having a private meeting with another man inside a car! This is how crowded it is. You have to meet inside a car (with open windows even) to have some privacy. The man is given a meat hook. Next, we see one very rich man's apartment. He is obviously loaded because he has a humongous condo all to himself. No one is lying on the stairs. Rich man's mistress, named Shirl, is playing what appears to be an ancient video game. Shirl is furniture; she comes with the apartment.

Book Review: London Calling by Edward Bloor

Edward Bloor is one wacky guy. He comes up with original plots, and he knows how to execute them with skillful writing. In London Calling, our protagonist is Martin Conway, a bright, unhappy 12-year old with little drive. He is a self-proclaimed hermit. He lives in the basement, which has housed both his crazy uncle and his dad before he set the place on fire. Martin's nuclear family consists of an alcoholic dad that works for an airport steakhouse chain, an unhappy mother who works as a secretary at the private school Martin attends, and a sister who is a genius and works at an encyclopedia company as a fact checker.
Martin has only two friends at his private Catholic school, which is controlled by the Lowery family. The Lowery family claims that their ancestor, Hollerin' Hank Lowery, was a World War II hero. They have some money, and so the school kowtows to that family.

Movie Review: The Prestige, Directed by Christopher Nolan

The Prestige is an enjoyable ride, which I was more than willing to take. This movie was directed by Christopher Nolan, who also directed Memento, one of my favorite movies of all time.
In The Prestige, we find out a murder has allegedly taken place. A magician on stage falls through a trapdoor into a water tank and then drowns. His supposed killer is on trial for this, even though the court has many doubts. The man who drowned willingly went into that water tank as part of a magic act. For all they know, the death was just a magic trick gone bad. We are put into this story with no background, so we need more information.

Great Movie: Apocalypto

I finally got a chance to catch Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto this week. I was completely blown away. I frequently build up a movie in my head and then see it, only to suffer bitter disappointment that it did not live up to my expectations. This was not one of those times. I will tell you up front I am not going to respond to this as some history expert who knows exactly what time and place this story is supposed to be happening during. I don’t think those details matter to the heart of this story.

What made it a great movie, was that I was transported during the 2 ½ hours that I was viewing it. I was completely into the story, even though it was longer than most movies. I read one review of this movie that said they didn’t see what Mel Gibson’s point was in making this movie. Well, first of all, who needs a point when you have an entertaining story, but second of all, I think it’s pretty obvious. At the beginning of the film, it quotes a W. Durant: “A great civilization is not conquered …

Movie Review: Babel

Babel is a torrent of a movie: slow and meditative one minute and heart-pounding the next. It is a multi-perspective movie, where characters’ stories converge in a space where time and location are irrelevant. We want to scream: stop and think! But we know they won’t do either.
I can’t help feeling this movie is misnamed. Babel is an allusion to the Biblical story in Genesis 11 where the people came together as one and decided to build a tower to Heaven. In order to confound this effort, God created different languages to confuse them and make cooperation impossible. But, in this movie, most of the characters can understand each other fine. That is, they can all speak some common language when talking to the other characters in their scene. A more accurate title might be Not Thinking or I Can’t Say. Most of the characters either make a series of poor decisions or they are afraid to say what they really need or want from people. If there are any barriers, they are cultural barriers of …

Book Review: Blade Silver : Color Me Scarred by Melody Carlson

After I wrote my piece on National Self-Injury Awareness Month, I decided to read Blade Silver : Color Me Scarred by Melody Carlson. I am so glad Carlson started writing teen literature. She has done miracles through her work. Thanks to her, we are seeing a refreshing vein in young adult Christian literature. There is now an alternative to the bland novels that Christian authors have written in the past for teens. Either we have the Lurlene McDaniel books where everybody dies, the perky Christy Miller series, or the historical fiction like Anne of Green Gables or Christy by Katherine Marshall which has little relevance for today's teen. I know that all of these have their audience, but what was missing was Christian fiction for today's teen. What teens seem to want these days is books about REAL problems they are facing daily in their schools: drugs, sexual pressure, and self-injury.

Carlson's books fill a much needed gap. I think her books could be enjoyed by Christians …

Movie Review: Marie Antoinette

I have been looking forward to watching Marie Antoinette for quite some time. This movie was directed by Sofia Coppola, who also directed the heartbreaking Virgin Suicides. Both of these movies deal with females who become marginalized in a male-driven society. This truly is a shame, because God created women to be treasured and loved. Yet in this movie, Antoinette is only valued for her ability to bear an heir. Until she does, all she hears is criticism and how precarious her situation is. I still remember a moment in the Virgin Suicides. The character played by Josh Hartnett is finally able to deflower Kirsten Dunst as the "lead virgin." Up until that moment, he was totally obsessed with her. When she finally made love to him, he abandons her on a football field. She does the walk of shame alone into her house. I remember thinking how unfair this was. After she gave away the great treasure of her virginity, she lost all possibility of being interesting to his character.
I …

New Book Review: Love and Crime!

I'd Tell you I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter

This was Alias meets high school. Cameron Morgan is a Gallagher Girl. Translation, she's being trained to be a spy at her private school. She and her other soon-to-be-licensed-to-kill gal pals speak in multiple language, have been using roundhouse kicks for years, and absolutely don't know how to act around normal boys. To make it even worse, Cameron's mother is the principal of said school and so her problems are multiplied. Of course, Cameron meets a normal boy and can't tell him who she really is.

Movie Review: Unforgiven, Starring Clint Eastwood

Unforgiven starring Clint Eastwood This movie I saw about 14 years ago when it first came out in theaters. I remembered it being a really great movie. It is number #98 on the AFI Greatest Movies of All Time List, but this time the movie seemed very depressing.

For those of you that haven't seen this movie, here is a summary. Clint Eastwood plays William Munny, a man who in his younger days killed all sorts of people, committed a multitude of crimes, was perpetually drunk, and mistreated animals. It turns out that sometime later, he meets a woman who is virtuous and kind. Against her family's wishes, she gets married to the nefarious Mr. Munny. We never learn why she did or even meet her. When the movie starts she is dead.

Two years later, Munny is a pig farmer raising two kids by himself.

Movie Review: Shall We Dance

Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez
Richard Gere plays an overworked estate attorney. After your loved one dies, he makes sure all the papers are signed and all the "i's" are dotted. Gere is bored of his life: he and his wife pass like two tumbleweeds, each running to an endless series of work and school-related meetings. One night while riding home on the metro, he looks up and sees J.Lo looking forlornly out the window. Enraptured by her face, he continues this stalker-like behavior until he gets the guts to go into her dance studio and sign up for ballroom dancing lessons. It turns out that J.Lo is the assistant at Madame Mitzi's School of Dance. He and two other guys, one an overweight dude who wants to impress his girlfriend and the other a guy who wants a girlfriend (or so he says), take lessons from Madame Mitzi herself. He begins to enjoy the dancing and feels more alive. Even his daughter starts noticing a change in him. Okay, so …