Monthly Archives: November 2010

Movie Monday: “Ramona and Beezus”

In an effort to encourage my niece and nephew to read over the summer, I told them if they’d complete the summer reading program at the library, I’d take them to see a movie.   And in an effort to encourage the reading, I said it’d be one based on a book so maybe they could read the book and see how it was different from the movie.

I picked the upcoming “Ramona and Beezus” movie for a couple of reasons.  One was that it looked like a movie I would enjoy seeing with them and another was that the Ramona books were some of my favorites growing up.

But between end of the summer activities and back to school, we missed seeing it in theaters.  So, I decided to go one better.  I bought the movie on Blu-Ray for them and went over to their house with popcorn and candy to watch it.

So, was it worth the wait?

I don’t just mean the wait from theatrical release to getting around to seeing it.  I mean from the time I was growing up until now.

Yes and no.

The movie isn’t a strict adaptation of any single Ramona novel, but instead borrows bits and pieces from the series run.   The film firmly centers on Ramona and Beezus, though the grown-up roles each get a moment to shine and have lured in some big-name actors.  The storyline of Aunt Bea and Hobart is fairly predictable (it ends in a wedding) but it’s fun.  The story of Ramona’s father losing his job and then becoming art teacher at the school is one I seem to recall from the books…I believe it was “Ramona and Her Father,” but I can’t be sure.

Where the movie works best is the segments when Ramona gets to use her imagination and the movie shows us this on-screen.  These are moments that capture the spirit of the books (at least as I recall it) and the ones I really enjoyed.   I wish there had been more of them.

The movie tries to be everything to all audiences, covering a lot of bases.  Beazus works fairly well, though the subplot of her having a crush on Henry isn’t the most solid part of the movie.

It wasn’t a perfect Ramona movie, but then again the movie did have thirty plus years of enjoyment, memories and expectations to live up to.  And the fact I enjoyed most of it speaks well.

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Booking Through Thursday: Thanksgiving

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It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. of A. so …
What authors and books are you most thankful for?

I feel like I’ve won an Oscar and only have two minutes to thank everyone.  So many to thank, so little time.  Of course, there are my favorites Elizabeth George, Stephen King, Philip Gulley, Garrison Keillor, Peter David, Donald Miller, Laura Lippman, Charles Stross, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Jim Butcher and many, many more.  I’m just thankful that there are so many good authors I’ve read over the years who have inspired by my love of reading and so many that continue to fuel it.

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Review: Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain FreezeMilo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Superficially, it’s be easy to dismiss "Milo" as a "Wimpy Kid" knock-off. Both books feature first-person narration by a protagonist who is down on their luck when it comes to social skills and who use cartoons to illustrate their points and tell their story.

To do that would be to sell "Milo" short in a lot of ways.

Milo has just moved into the fifth house he’s ever lived and is starting a new school. The move came after Milo’s mother passed away and his family has been in a "fog" ever since. On his first day at the local convenience store, Milo sees the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen, Summer, and instantly falls head over heels in love with her. Milo becomes obsessed with getting Summer to notice him so she’ll fall in love with him as well.

But it seems like his strange neighbor, Hilary has developed a crush on Milo. And he’s got a strange neighbor and a new friend to contend with as well.

All that, while trying to pass math and deal with the loss of his mother.

"Milo" is a story that is far more grounded in an emotional reality than most of the Wimpy Kid books. Whereas we can laugh at Greg for his absurd self-absorbed nature and his staunch refusal to admit he’s wrong, Milo comes across as a more human person. Milo and his family are clearly still hurting over the death of his mother and each person reacts differently, mostly by burying their feelings and refusing to talk about it. Milo’s falling for Summer and his lack of ability to pass math are direct consequences of his mother’s death. For a novel aimed at young adults, Silberberg doesn’t always spell out everything, but instead paints in just enough of the picture to allow readers to understand why Milo is trying so hard or not trying as hard as he should. (An example is his math teacher shaves his head and Milo has a hard time connecting with him or being willing to learn from him because of the nature of his mother’s illness (she had cancer and goes bald from the treatment.))

I’ll admit there were a few times in the story that I got a lump in my throat. The emotions here are raw and real. But the journey is one worth taking with Milo and his friends. The story even has some unexpected moments that work extremely well.

This may be a book that if given to young readers will open up some conversations and discussions.

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Review: God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC

God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SECGod and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC by Chad Gibbs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Similar to Clay Travis’ "Dixieland Delight," the emphasis of Chad Gibb’s "God and Football" is a bit more spiritual and features a lot less swearing.

After seeing the passion displayed by SEC fans for their favorite teams and then comparing that the passion displayed for their Christian walk, Gibbs decided to visit all 12 SEC stadiums and see how other fans balanced their love of football with their love of Christ. The end result is this memoir, a journey to all the campuses in the SEC and a look at their traditions. The journey is an interesting one, though Gibbs displays his pro-Auburn bias a bit too often during the course of the book. (Travis has a pro-Tennessee bias, but it’s less evident in "Dixieland Delight.") Along the way, Gibbs learns a bit more about himself and his own convictions. What he learns isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is worthy of reflection.

And while the SEC may have some of the most fanatic fans in the country, I’m sure the lessons learned and the observations made will translate well to any fan of any conference.

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Booking Through Thursday — The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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Suggested by Barbara:

I’ve seen many bloggers say that what draws them to certain books or authors is good writing, and what causes them to stop reading a certain book or author is bad writing. What constitutes good writing and bad writing to you?

In most cases, this is a really subjective thing. Even if you have two people who love the same book, odds are they’ll probably have different reasons for liking it.

And what I think is good writing and what appeals to me may not appeal to someone else. I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books, which I know aren’t always looked upon in the best light by scholars who teach courses in literature. But I can honestly say there are some books in that genre that I’ve enjoyed more or I’ve got something more out of than one of the “accepted” classics. Does that make my experience more or less valid than the ones by the scholars? I don’t think so. It just makes it different. I think what we have to look at is how rewarding the reading experience is and can be for someone.

However, while good writing can be subjective, there are still some things that I want out of a book. I want it to be well edited and I’d prefer the author follow most of the rules of grammar (unless it’s something like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” where not following all the accepting rules of grammar is part of the perspective of the story). I also like to see the author be allowed to tell his or her story in the time he or she deems necessary, not based on the dictates of page count or a publishing contract. I see this far too often these days in series, where the author has a good idea for one or two books, but it gets stretched out to six to ten novels with a whole lot of unnecessary filler. Or on the other hand, you’ve got a good story that abruptly ends because the page count was getting too high. A story should be allowed to run its length–no more, no less.

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