Monday, December 31, 2012

Books & movies

Our brother and sister dynamic duo, Melissa and Brian, both completed the challenge. They're not comfortable posting, but Brian said I could publish their recommendations.

Books-
Lost Empire by Clive Cussler-  Occasionally over descriptive but a good action mystery. Plus you learn things.

Action Philosophers- Plato Smash. Cartooned Philosophy, entertaining.

What Color is Your Parachute?- Read the second half first. Possibly helpful if you have no direction in life.

The Bartimaeous Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud- Recommended by Rachelle. Rerecomended by Brian and Melissa. Listen to the Audio Book, the reader is excellent.

Poems by Robert Frost- Very good writer, more versatile than originally known.

ABC's of Relativity: Understanding Einstein by Bertrand Russell-  Occasionally technical but entertaining and educational.

The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde- Laugh riot.

Lost in a Good Book and Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde- Recommended by Heather. Quick but highly entertaining.

Nightfall by Isaac Asimov- Entertaining and unique perspective.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick- Read the book don't watch the movie(Hugo). Very quick (despite being over 500 pages) told half in pictures half in words.

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley- Recommended by Heather

King Solomon's Mines by H Rider Haggard- Keep reading it gets better.

Murder at Bridge by Anne Austin

The Murderer by Ray Bradbury (Short)- Just read or listen to it.

A Confederate Girl's Diary by Sarah Morgan Dawson

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (Short)-  Read pdf, looks like a newspaper, with adds, interesting point of view.

Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan- Book 2 in a series (read book 1 first).  If you like the Percy Jackson series, the books not the movie, you'll like it. This one is Egyptian rather then Greek based.

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket- 2nd in the series

The Hunger Games- If you like that stuff.

Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Old Man's War by John Scalzi- Scifi, first in a series (worth reading them all), author with humor.  If you don't like scifi, not for you.

Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan- see Throne of Fire except Greek and Roman mythology.  2nd book in a different series.

Ready Player One- 80's pop culture nostalgia

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens- If you haven't read it yet.

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne- a pleasant late 1800's romp.

Above Suspicion- Predictable and sappy but enjoyable.

Are You Ready for the End of The World (Short)- Scifi short story with a funny twist.

The Book Thief- recommended by a sister



Movies-
Stranger than Fiction- Quite possibly the best Will Farrell Movie.

Winnie the Pooh ~2011

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra- don't think, just watch .

Waking Sleeping Beauty- Insightful Documentary into the 1990s Disney golden age of animation.

Pirates: Band of Misfits

Apollo 18- scifi, suspense. 

A Monster in Paris- French but the dub is good.

Avengers- for the .001% who hasn't seen it, they should.

Sherlock season 2-  Don't have to watch season one, though you should especially if you don't want episode one to ruin the first season.  Only 3 episodes but work it.

Johnny English Reborn-  turn off brain and enjoy.

Brave

Castle in the Sky-  you should see all Miyazaki films

Metropolis~ 2002- animated.

Atomic Mom- documentary, definitely not for everyone.  About the atomic project in the Navy and the bombing in Japan.  Some archival footage that is not for everyone.

Hidden Fortress- Japanese subtitled.  If you are a film person.

Rear Window-  Everyone should watch more Hitchcock.

Get Smart season 1- Original series that everyone should see, but don't marathon it.

Wallace and Gromit- All are a must see.  Of note is World of Invention.  Cleverly disguised educational material.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol- Director Brad Bird (Incredibles, Iron Giant).

Some Like it Hot- classic worth a watch.

Men in Black 3- better than 2.

Haywire- Action a la Bourne.

The Amazing Spiderman- not the best super hero movie, but good.

Fanboys- Watch it once and done if you want a glimpse into uber geek culture.

The Man Who Knew Too Little- Hitchcock (the Man Who Knew Too Much with Bill Murray is a comedy based on this.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A few random movies

I've been trying to catch up on my movie watching over the holidays and have seen a rather random assortment of films.

The Prince of Egypt. I decided to watch this because I wanted to hear Brian Stokes Mitchell sing "Through Heaven's Eyes." It was an animated movie about Moses. Not my favorite, but it was not bad. The best part (other than BSM's song) was the plagues. That was very well done.

Bye, Bye Birdie. This was the original movie from 1963 with Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh and Ann-Margaret. Rock star Conrad Birdie is drafted, and as part of his farewell performance, he kisses one of his fans. I think it was a parody of Elvis hysteria. Mostly, I thought it was lame. The songs weren't even very good.

Arsenic and Old Lace. This is a Frank Capra Halloween movie. It's a strange mix of comedy and murder. A man (Cary Grant) figures out that his aunts have been murdering lonely men. His brother is crazy and thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt. The aunts trick him into digging the Panama Canal in the basement and burying all the "yellow fever" victims there. Then a third brother shows up, a murderer, and he looks like Boris Karloff. It's ridiculous, but Cary Grant is really good.

Mission: Impossible III. Action, explosions, Tom Cruise. Need I say more? Yes, it was directed by J.J. Abrams, and at the very end of the credits (for all of you who were paying attention) there is a Lost reference.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. A beautiful movie, although not as good as The Lord of the Rings. The fate of middle earth is not at stake, so it doesn't feel as important, if that makes sense. I need to see it again because there is too  much to take in during just one viewing. The casting and acting were good, and by the end I really enjoyed it.

Lincoln. I LOVED this movie. It was perfect. I was nearly in tears several times. It's the story of the passage of the thirteenth amendment abolishing slavery. All the acting was excellent, and it was well written. I thought the way they handled Lee's surrender and Lincoln's assassination were very interesting and unusual. Daniel Day-Lewis was great. I particularly liked the way he walked. It's just how I imagine Lincoln would have walked.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

War and Peace

I wasn't really interested in reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but if I wanted to be a "well read" person, then I needed to know this book. So, I decided to use my hour-long commute wisely, and listen to an audio version of the book. This had the additional benefit of preventing me from trying to read a magazine or do anything else that would make me motion sick on the train. The disadvantage is that, I don't know how to spell any of the characters' names.

War and Peace is intimidating. It's one of the longest novels ever written. My concern was keeping all the characters strait. There were many characters, both major and minor, and new ones were introduced throughout the book. Each of them have a given name, a surname, a patronymic, a nickname, some are called by their French name at times, their Russian name at others. I did do myself the favor of looking up a list of the characters shortly after beginning the novel, as I thought seeing them visually would help me sort them out. But once that hurdle was crossed, the novel is very readable and not difficult to understand. As a matter of fact, Tolstoy frequently tells you exactly what you should think and feel by the way he describes the characters' appearances and thoughts. One character in particular was always looking at people with his "cruel eyes." I didn't like him.

War and Peace covers Russia's wars with Napoleon between 1805 and 1812 (although the epilogue takes the reader to a few years later). Our main characters are members of the Russian nobility. Pierre (it was fashionable then for the nobility to speak French)  is the illegitimate son of a wealthy count. He's intelligent, emotionally sincere, doesn't look down on anybody, and is a bit spineless. Pierre becomes wealthy and legitimate upon receiving a title and inheritance upon his father's death. Prince Andre is from a wealthy family, a good man, intelligent, and completely ruled by reason. The Rostov family are good people in financial decline.

Some of the major themes of the book explore the meaning and purpose of life, how wars and great events come to pass and how historians interpret them, power, and free will. The meaning and purpose of life are primarily explored through the lives of Pierre and Andre, and both characters are transformed for the better over the course of the novel. They were my favorite characters. Tolstoy studied many historical accounts of the Napoleonic wars before writing this novel, and he clearly had no use for historical interpretations of the war or anything else. The historians maintained that the "great" and "powerful" men of the age -- Napoleon, Czar Alexander, the generals, brought about the wars. But that is not the case, according to Tolstoy. The wars were inevitable because all the innumerable decisions made by individuals as they interacted with one another. When I tried to explain it to my dad, he told me this was called "self organization." Tolstoy does a beautiful job of explaining the characters' motivations, and very often those motivations were not honorable or selfless or for the love of Mother Russia. This was all evidence that what we think of as "power" is not real and only exists in our relationships to one another. There were thousands of commands given by generals and powerful people that were not carried out because they could not be carried out. And, there is no such thing as pure free will because every action is caused by something else. An individual doesn't do something just because one day he decides to do it. Something else made him think he wanted to do it or should do it. All of these causes and effects made the wars and their outcomes inevitable regardless of what anyone wanted or intended.

Tolstoy covered a lot of ground in this novel. I loved the character development, and he did a good job of making me feel exactly as I was supposed to feel. During a few chapters, three characters died in quick succession. They were very sad chapters, but Tolstoy conveyed it all beautifully. In one case we see the final transformation of one of the characters and are able to let him go. In another case, we see the waste of a young life for no good reason. In the third case, while we like the character and are said to see him executed, it is the effect this has on Pierre that is described so perfectly.

I enjoyed this book. There were times when it was a little slow, and Tolstoy really belabored his explanations of his views on things. I wish the character of Sonya had gotten a better ending. But, I guess novels become classics of world literature for a reason, and this one is very deserving.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Three Poet Laureates

I'm always trying to read poetry (at least one poem a day) and increase my knowledge of contemporary poets. So I thought reading the work of a few poet laureates of the United States would be a good place to start.

Philip Levine's term recently ended. I caught the tail-end of his presentation at the National Book Festival, and became interested in reading some of his work. I selected What Work is, for no particular reason. I think I need to read a few more of his poems to get a better feel for his work. I thought he had very vivid imagery.

Ted Kooser was selected as poet laureate when I was in graduate school. At the time, I was taking a course that was run as a writers workshop. After the announcement the teacher went to the store and purchased one of his books. She read a couple of his poems to us at our next class. I always remembered that even though it took me several years to purchase one of his books. I chose Valentines because it's available on my Nook. Each year, from 1986 until 2007 Kooser wrote a poem for Valentine's Day and mailed it to an ever-growing list of women. He had to give it up because postage to mail postcards to 2,600 women was way too expensive. This book is a collection of those poems. Generally, these are not mushy romantic poems. The poems are not difficult or full of obscure references. They're all short, so it's a good place to start if you fear poetry. I loved this collection. I wanted to read more immediately, but unfortunately, there weren't any available at the time (on my e-reader, as it was at night when I finished). I asked for some other Kooser books for Christmas, so I'm reading one right now. Ted Kooser is my favorite of the poets I've been reading.

This first book I read with Billy Collins's name on the cover only had one or two poems by him in it. As part of his work as poet laureate he created a website and program called Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools. The poems were to be short, modern, and accessible. The idea was to take away the threat and return the enjoyment to poetry and make it a part of everyday life. He collected these poems into a book called Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry. When I found a copy at a book fair, it seemed like a perfect way to increase my knowledge of contemporary poets. It does have excellent, short, accessible poems in it. My copy has a least a dozen strips of paper sticking out of it marking poems I especially liked. This book has a sequel that I will be purchasing.

I also read The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins. I picked it just because of the title. It is another collection with some beautiful poems. I don't feel like there was anything threatening about any of the poems here. Just words and images strung together the way they're supposed to be.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Obert Skye

I love Obert Skye. He combines humor, adventure, imagination into excellent stories.

I finally finished reading the Pillagy or the Pillage Trilogy in which Beck Phillips moves to the small town of Kingsplot to live with a strange relative. In Pillage (which I read a few years ago), Beck discovers he has a gift for making things grow, and this includes dragons. Beck's family is both gifted and cursed much to the detriment of the people and buildings of Kingsplot. In Choke, not having learned his lesson, Beck grows a dragon queen, whom he names Lizzy. It's amazing at first, but once Lizzy gets a taste for pillaging, there is only one way to stop her. In Ambush, the plants around Kingsplot appear to be in open rebellion against Beck. Between pressure from them and his father, who is locked up in a mental hospital, Beck decides to plant the last stone which he knows will hatch a dragon king. Beck lies to his friends and is gradually descending into the madness that afflicts all the men in his family. Can Beck overcome the family curse? Can he save his father, his friends and himself?

These are fun books. Skye is good at mixing intensity with humor. It's enjoyable to see how Beck's character changes over the course of this series. These books involve a lot of pillaging and dragon death, so beware.

Beyond Foo

These books pick up where the Leven Thumps series (which was awesome) left off. You don't really need to have read Leven Thumps to enjoy these books, but you'll appreciate the characters more if you do. The first is Geth and the Return of the Lithens. Geth (a lithen) and Clover (a Sycophant whose job it is to ease the transition of humans who've been snatched into Foo) are kidnapped and taken across the hidden border from Foo to Zendor. And evil human named Payt has taken over and terrorized Zendor by controlling its inhabitants (mostly dreams that have come to life) with the sound of his voice. Geth and Clover are trying to help the people of Zendor fight the tyranny of Payt, even though the people have given up hope. Along the way they save Geth's brother Zale and Clover tames a Tangle. The second book is Geth and the Deception of Dreams. Geth and Clover and their new allies in Zendor search for the wise man Lars who is supposed to be able to help them defeat Payt. As usual, things don't work out like they're supposed to. Among other amusing things in the books is that Geth is really good looking and all the women are constantly trying to get close to him. It made me chuckle a few times.

I guess this series is a trilogy, and book three isn't out yet. Bummer. I enjoyed the stories, but they really felt like parts of one book rather than separate books in a series. I was really annoyed at where the first book ended, but I was much more satisfied at the cliffhanger ending the second. And it looks like were're going to see Leven and Winter and Lilly and Phoebe from the Leven Thumps books. I'm looking forward to it.

A few random reads

I read The Red Pyramid, first in The Kane Chronicles, by Rick Riordan. Carter and Sadie are brother and sister even though they were raised apart and hardly know each other. On one particularly exciting visit to the British Museum they discover they are from a family of Egyptian magicians, and they are descended from pharaohs. Their father, releases some gods, which then inhabit the bodies of Carter and Sadie who must learn to control the gods and develop their own magical powers whiles saving the world from Set and other evil forces. A fun introduction to Egyptian mythology. I thought Sadie's "Britishness" was a little bit forced, but still an enjoyable book.

Work on Purpose is by Lara Galinsky of Echoing Green which provides funding to social entrepreneurs. The book is about using your passion and your skills and knowledge to find the work you should do.

How to be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - at No Cost! by Nicole Bouchard Bolee. These are just everyday actions and resources available to everyone who wants to make a positive difference in the world. I don't think any of these things really make a difference on a large scale, but sometimes the most important thing is to change yourself and your perspective and attitude. The suggestions in this book help with that.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. I was looking forward to this because Selznick has written and/or illustrated some of my favorite children's books. This is a quick read; even though it's 600 pages long, most of them are illustrations. It alternates between the stories of Brian (in text) and Rose (in illustrations). Both are deaf and living 50 years apart. They both run away in search of a place to belong and end up in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I didn't find the back and forth between the two stories confusing. The stories were similar and clearly related in some way, and in fact were tied together by the end of the book. I found it to be a little predictable and too simple, maybe (I'm not sure if that is the correct word). I suspect children reading it would not have the same issues that I did. While it's nowhere near as good as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it was still an enjoyable story and worth reading.

M T Anderson

I really like M T Anderson. Not because I really like all his books, but because he expects a lot from his readers. He writes for children and teenagers, but he never talks down to them. Recently, I've read several of his books.

Burger Wuss. This is satire, similar in feel to Anderson's Feed, except that this is way more annoying and considerably less creepy. With the backdrop of a rivalry between burger chains, O'Dermott's and Burger Queen, Anthony, a "nice" guy, seeks revenge when he catches his girlfriend making out with another guy. He spends the rest of the novel trying to be an idiot and a jerk like most of the rest of the people in the book. I guess it was written well, because the characters really got on my nerves.

The Norumbegan Quartet

This series begins with The Game of Sunken Places, which I read a few years ago, in which Brian and Gregory are tricked into playing a game to decide a territorial dispute between the Norumbegans and the Thusser Horde. The Thussers are looking to invade earth and feed off the dreams of people.

In book two, The Suburb Beyond the Stars, the Thussers try to assassinate Brian who is constructing the next round of the game. Gregory's cousin has disappeared and when Brian and Gregory go to Vermont to look for her they discover that time has gone crazy and the Thussers have broken the rules of the game.

In book three, The Empire of Gut and Bone, Brian and Gregory escape the invading Thusser Horde and find themselves in the Great Body where the Norumbegans have set up New Norumbega. The boys want the Norumbegans to help defeat the Thusser. This novel is clearly a satire and my favorite of the series. The Norumbegans have become lazy and cruel especially to the mechanical people who used to serve them, but have now deserted.

In book four, The Chamber in the Sky, Brian and Gregory must find a way to call the rules keepers to enforce the rules of the game, avoid being killed by unhelpful Norumbegans and escape from the Thusser.

This is an excellent series, part adventure, part satire, part fantasy. But it's also about growing up and growing apart.

Pals in Peril

This is a middle grade series that is goofy, fun, imaginative and a bit of a spoof. It follows the adventures of Lily Gefelty, just a normal girl, Katie Mulligan, star of the "Horror Hollow" series, and Jasper Dash, boy technonaut, who also had his own series of books decades ago. I read the third and fourth books in the series. These two should be read in order, but you don't need to have read the first two books before these (although they are fun too). The two books are Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware in which our heroes must save the monks of Vbngoom and stolen museum artifacts from the agents of the Awful and Adorable Autarch of Dagsboro. And you thought there were only outlet malls and financial services companies in Delaware. In Agent Q, or the Smell of Danger, the monks are trying to help our heroes escape the Autarch's Ministry of Silence and make it safely to the New Jersey border. These books are a lot of fun with humor both kids and adults will appreciate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

SkyFall!

I saw SkyFall last week and I thought it was really good. It was a little long but Daniel Craig is so attractive so it's definitely worth it! I also thought the villain (Javier Bardem) was very talented. I recommend it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Big in Japan, Ann Rinaldi books, Jane Austen Ruined My Life

It's been a while since I've posted and I have a lot to catch up on, but I will just do the highlights of my reading and watching.

A few months ago I won the contest we had on this blog and so received a copy of the book Big in Japan by Jennifer Griffith.  I read it and loved it!  It was well-written and it had me hooked from page one.  I didn't know much about sumo wrestling before I read this book and I didn't realize how intense their rules and training are and the push to be the best.  It was fascinating. This story is about an obese American boy who goes to Japan with his parents and the Japanese think he's a sumo wrestler (or that he should be if he isn't already). It's the story of this boy as he strives to fit in to the sumo world and keep his honor. I highly recommend this book!

I also have read Or Give Me Death and Wolf by the Ears and A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi. Ann Rinaldi is a historical fiction writer for young adults.  My roommate recommended these books to me and I really like them!  Ann Rinaldi does her research for her books and puts as much fact into them as she can and then makes up the rest.  These books are entertaining and a good way to learn about historical events. At the end of each of the books, she tells us which parts of the stories are true. I definitely recommend these books! 

I recently finished Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Pattillo and really liked it!  It was funny, cute, and clean.   I liked it and may or may not have spent my Sunday morning before church reading this book ;)

Some other books I read and enjoyed:
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Burying Our Swords by Kevin Hinckley
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

That is all for my books. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Panama Canal

Ships waiting to enter the canal.
In honor of a cruise I took in October that transited the Panama Canal, I decided to read The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. This book was written by David McCullough in the late 1970s, but it is still an excellent source for information about the construction and history of the Panama Canal.
Tugs coming out to meet the ship.

Entering Gatun Locks
I don't think most of us appreciate what an amazing achievement the construction of the Panama Canal was. McCullough begins with the expeditions and plans made with construction of the canal in mind. He then moves on to Ferdinand de Lesseps who was the Frenchman behind the Suez Canal. He thought he could have the same success building a sea level canal in Panama. He was wrong, and it cost much in money, material, and lives and ended in failure. The Americans later acknowledged how much good work the French had done.

See the rowboat?
The second half of the book is on the American effort to build the canal. It features such people as Theodore Roosevelt, George Goethals, William Gorgas, Philippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla who figured in the story almost from the beginning, and many others just as important. In addition, there were thousands of nameless laborers and army men who contributed to the effort. Initially, the Americans planned to build the canal in Nicaragua (According to a tour guide in Costa Rica, Nicaragua is currently attempting to steal land from Costa Rica to build its own canal. Costa Rica has taken Nicaragua to international court.), but through political intrigue and a bloodless coup, the site of the French canal was chosen.

Entering Gatun Lake




The canal itself is amazing. It is almost 50 miles long and takes about 12 hours to cross. We sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Gatun Locks consist of three chambers that take ships by steps up to the level of Gatun Lake. Ships then sail through the canal, including the narrowest part (and most difficult to construct) the Culebra Cut to Pedro Miguel lock which consists of a single chamber that takes the ship down one step closer to sea level. The last set of locks are at Miraflores and consist of two chambers that bring the ship back to sea level. While sailing through the canal ships pass islands that used to be the tops of mountains which were flooded after the building dams to form the canal and control the river and tides. One of these islands is Barro Colorado which is home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. It's possible that I've simplified this to the point of barely being accurate; please read the book (and sail through the canal!) for more details.



Here is a description of the lock chambers from page 550-551 (Nook version):
The walls, one thousand feet long, rose to eighty-one feet, or higher than a six-story building. The impression was of looking down a broad, level street nearly five blocks long with a solid wall of six-story buildings on either side; only here there were no windows or doorways, nothing to give human scale. . . A single lock if stood on end would have been the tallest structure in the world, taller even than the Eiffel Tower. . . The lock chambers all had the same dimensions (110 by 1,000 feet) and they were built in pairs, two chambers running side by side in order to accommodate two lanes of traffic. . . The chambers in each pair shared a center wall that was sixty feet wide from bottom to top.

Beautiful scenery
In the Culebra Cut.
No force is used to raise and lower the ships in the chambers except gravity. Water flows into the chambers from above or out to the sea below. And it only takes about ten minutes to fill and empty the chambers. Ships are pulled through the chambers by electric locomotives called mules. To attach the ships to the mules, linemen throw the ropes to men in a rowboat!






The Panama Canal is an amazing feat of engineering. It cost many lives, made and ruined careers, and ended up costing the Americans less money than estimated in 1907. (page 570) It was a successful partnership of private enterprise and the government without corruption or graft. (page 571)





The canal is constantly being dredged.
 

Water drains from the Pedro Miguel lock.

There was only two feet on either side between the ship and the chamber wall.

The mule and the lines attached to the ship.


Crocodiles aren't charged a toll
A fun story: the record for the lowest toll paid is held by Richard Halliburton who was allowed to swim through the canal, including the locks. Tolls are based on weight, so he paid 36 cents. (page 572)


Leaving the canal

Panama City
This is an excellent and informative book and a wonderful companion to take along when sailing through the canal.

Jimmy Fincher

I began reading the Jimmy Fincher Saga while on vacation. I think the author, James Dashner, is great, and the books seemed like they could be good cruise reading. There are four books: A Door in the Woods, A Gift of Ice, The Tower of Air, and War of the Black Curtain.

The books follow the adventures of 14-year-old Jimmy and his family and friends as they fight to save the world from the invasion of the Stompers, who are literally our worst nightmares. One summer day in Georgia, Jimmy climbs a tree and witnesses a crime. This leads him through a door in the woods and into a world of magic and crime that his family hoped they'd left behind. With the help of the Givers, Jimmy receives four gifts he will need to defeat the Stompers and save the world. Fortunately for Jimmy, the first gift grants him indestructibility.

I enjoyed these books. Dashner is a good story teller. I liked the ending of the series. I didn't see it coming although it was foreshadowed early in the story. It's not a typical ending for a series of childrens' books. It has echoes of the Atonement. In the end the story is one of coming of age in a fight between good and evil. The stories are filled with magic, monsters, dreams, other worlds, and the Alliance who are willing to sacrifice everything to help Jimmy defeat the Stompers.

The books delve a lot into the nature of sacrifice and what we are willing to give up to meet our goals. These books are worth the read.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Life of Pi

I saw The Life of Pi this past weekend and I loved it!! I thought the story itself was so interesting and it really made me think. It has wonderful graphics and I was captivated the entire time. I highly recommend it! It's such a different story than the usual hero-adventure-lets blow everything up type of plot, and I thought that was really refreshing. I want to read the book now!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Newport Ladies Book Club: Athena



I just finished reading Athena, book 4 in the Newport Ladies Book Club series and I liked it! Author Heather B. Moore compelling captures the different facets and struggles Athena faces as a single woman trying to make her way in a successful career while dealing with the expectations of her mother who longs to see her settled with a nice, stable Greek man.  And if dealing with her mother is not enough pressure, Athena struggles with the emotional loss she feels because of her father’s Alzheimer’s disease and the misunderstanding she has about her parents’ obvious unequal relationship. 

Despite her family turmoil, Athena discovers books and Grey, a man who gradually changes her perception of men, all thanks to a dare from her boyfriend Karl. Books become Athena’s lifeline as she joins Ruby’s book club and connects with women who care about her, especially when tragedy happens and guilt follows.  Moore’s honest, straightforward style draws us into Athena’s life and lets us share her heartaches and happiness, and the power women have to make a difference in other women’s lives.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Books and Movies

Wonder, by R.J. Palacio

Have you ever finished a book and then just wanted to hug it for a moment because you aren't quite ready to let go of it yet?  That's how I felt when I finished Wonder last night.  Wonder is R.J. Palacio's debut novel.  I found it to be a thought-provoking, heart-warming read.  It's about a boy named Auggie who has a severe facial deformity and goes to school for the first time in 5th grade.  He experiences the challenges and joys of trying to fit in when he can only stand out.  A great reminder of the importance of kindness, friendship, and acceptance.

The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester and Michael Vey, by Richard Paul Evans

I lumped these two books together because I found them sort of similar in theme.  Both books are about kids who have special powers and have to use their powers to fight off bad guys.  That's all I'm going to say, because I don't want to ruin the stories for you.  I really enjoyed both of these books.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri

I read this for my book club.  It's not something I probably would have chosen on my own, but I did find it somewhat interesting.  It is a collection of eight stories that focus on the lives of Bengali families who raise children in America and deal with the challenges of holding onto their culture.  


MOVIES:

The City of Ember
Whenever I watch a movie based on a book, I try to be mentally prepared for the fact that the movie will not be as good as the book.  Most of the time, I still enjoy the movie, because I enjoy seeing the characters I love brought to life.  Unfortunately, that was not the case with this movie.  Words cannot express how much I resent this horrible interpretation of a great book.  The book had a serious, thoughtful feel to it, but the movie was turned into an odd, Roald Dahl-type interpretation that just irritated me.  They made changes to the storyline that were totally unnecessary and frankly, totally lame.  I regret wasting 1 hour and 33 minutes of my life watching this.  Okay, rant finished now.

War Horse
This weekend I was flipping channels and was fortunate to find War Horse just starting on one of the movie channels.  I loved this movie! It was heartwarming and just what I needed to get that awful City of Ember movie off my mind.  






Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pricklypear's Picks

I've watched quite a few movies since I last posted. Here are the ones I particularly enjoyed and about which I have something to say and would recommend:

You Can’t Take it With You—An older black and white movie with James Stewart, a comedy about two people in love coming from very different backgrounds. You can imagine what happens when the uptight, status-focused parents of Tony Kirby (James Stewart) meet the eccentric, free-wheeling Sycamore clan. I do like that Jimmy Stewart.

Miss Minoes—A Dutch movie about a cat that turns into a woman, and even though there were serious plot holes and cheesiness, it was pretty funny and enjoyable. I really liked the actress. A good family-friendly movie similar to old live action Disney films like That Darn Cat and The Shaggy Dog.

The Manchurian Candidate – I had seen the original in black and white, and now I’ve seen this remake with Denzel Washington. As far as I could remember, they follow the same story, and it is a good one, although disturbing. The remake is more disturbing and harsh, something to keep in mind. I had to cover my eyes and mute the sound at least once. But I thought the acting was amazing. I keep being surprised how much I like Liev Schreiber.

Columbus Circle - An agoraphobic lady’s life is disrupted by the new tenants that acquire the apartment across the hall when the previous tenant is murdered. Various plot twists (that were maybe a tad predictable), and it had a little too much fighting for me, but I enjoyed it overall. I kind of loved the ending.

They Might be Giants – A man in 1970’s New York City believes he is Sherlock Holmes, when he meets a doctor named Watson, he drags her along in an adventure trying to find Professor Moriarty. Classic goofiness and I loved it all. That part in the grocery store: awesomeness.

Romantics Anonymous - French film about two painfully shy people and how they get together in the end. I don't usually like the generic romantic comedies where they get together in the end, but I enjoyed the French conversations about chocolate and I loved the cheerful rendition of "I Have Confidence in Sunshine" in French ("J'ai confiance en moi").

Here are some other good movies I watched, about which I just don't have a lot to say:

Man on a Ledge
Mirror, Mirror
It’s Kind of a Funny Story
The Debt
Mission: Impossible
Hocus Pocus
The Birdcage

I think this brings my new-to-me-movie count up to 38. Do you think I can watch 12 more movies by the end of the year?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Audio books

I've decided I should use my commuting time wisely, so I've taken up listening to audio books. I'm a visual person and much prefer reading to listening, but I'm getting used to the audio.

The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Short Stories. This was a collection of pretty typical Mark Twain stories. Some better than others, but on the whole, enjoyable.

The Uncommon Reader. This is a novella by Alan Bennett, and he was also the reader. This is a story about the Queen of England, late in life, discovering a love of reading and writing. One morning, she sees the mobile library parked outside the palace kitchens and borrows a book. It's a wonderful story of the transformative power of reading. I wasn't expecting the ending. It was an excellent book.

The Neverending Story. I can't count this toward my 50 books, because I've read it at least seven times. It was written by Michael Ende and translated by Ralph Manheim, and it's my favorite book. Since it recently came out on Audible, I decided I should listen to it. The reader was Gerard Doyle. He did a pretty good job, but there were a few names I would have pronounced differently. This is the story of fat, unpopular Bastian who steals a book and becomes entangled in a story in which he must save the world of Fantastica and the human world. Along the way he must learn how to love. If you ever decide to read or listen to it, you'll probably enjoy the story. If you decide to read it again, you find a whole symbolic layer. I love it.

Vacations are a good time to watch movies

I've had some extra time to watch a few movies recently.

First, The Hunger Games. It was a well-done movie and a good story. I'll probably read the book, but I don't think I can watch the movie again. Way too disturbing (I handle disturbing things better in books than in movies). When the On Demand wigged out and I had to fast forward through three quarters of the movie to see the end, I had to close my eyes a few times because I couldn't watch some of the scenes even at double speed.

Love's Labour's Lost. This is Kenneth Branagh doing a Shakespearean comedy. It's a musical. And it's awesome.

Secret Life of Bees. This was a beautiful movie. It was well written, well acted. It was very heavy. I nearly fell apart a couple of times while watching it. Lily runs away from her abusive father and is taken in by three sisters who are beekeepers. Set to the backdrop of racially divided South Carolina in the 60s, Lily learns a little of how the world works, her place in it, and about the mother she accidentally shot. The cast was great and includes: Dakota Fanning, Queen Latifa, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo, and Paul Bettany.

Mirror Mirror. I watched this in the theater on a cruise ship. It really wasn't set up to show movies on a big screen. The picture was dark and possibly distorted. And I was tired when I watched it. Julia Roberts was the evil queen. It was for a younger audience, but it was a cute movie.

17 Miracles. You know from the outset that if anyone requires that many miracles things are going to be bad.  The impression was confirmed when the first scene in the movie was our main character and others finding the Donner party. The movie was about handcart companies crossing the plains to Salt Lake City. It was kind of a downer in many respects, although many of them did make it all the way to Utah. I thought Jasen Wade did a good job. It was based on true events.

Snow White and the Huntsman. It thought this was good; definitely way better than I expected. I really only watched it because Chris Hemsworth (Thor) was in it. It was very dark, and some parts were disturbing. The queen was very evil. I wouldn't have cast Kristen Stewart, but she did a good job as did the rest of the cast. The special effects were excellent.

This only takes me halfway to 50. I guess I need a movie marathon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Books Read in October

Hello fellow book lovers!  I know I'm joining the blog late in the year, but I look forward to sharing some of my latest reads with you.  I currently work as the elementary librarian at an international school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, so I spend a lot of time reading YA fiction in hopes that I'll find some great books to recommend to my students.  These are a few titles that I read in October: (I had some vacation time and extra time to read-- yay!)

Remarkable, by Elizabeth Foley
There's that old saying that you should never judge a book by it's cover, but I confess it was the bright, whimsical cover of this book which initially got my attention.  Fortunately, the book proved to be every bit as delightful and fun as the cover.  Jane is a plain, unremarkable girl who lives in a town full of remarkable people.  She is accustomed to being overlooked, but thanks to her grandfather, a set of brilliant, mischievous twins, a pirate, and a sea monster, she finds her own remarkable qualities.  I absolutely loved this book!

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanna Lai
At our school, one of our goals is to teach our students to think globally.  I was happy to find this book, as I feel it's a great way of initiating discussion about the importance of empathy and tolerance.  Ha is a young girl from Saigon who is forced to flee to America with her mother and brothers during the Vietnam war.  A sponsor helps them settle in Alabama, where Ha experiences the challenges of adjusting to a new country and culture.  A sweet story told in verse.

City of Ember, The People of Sparks, and the Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne DuPrau
There are actually four books in this series, but so far I have only read these three.  I have a thing for post-apocalyptic stories, so I loved this series.  Basically, a city is built deep underground in hopes that the citizens of the city would survive devastating wars and plagues and eventually emerge (200 years later) to rebuild civilization.  Unfortunately, the instructions for exiting the city are lost, leaving the citizens underground for much longer than intended.  Friends Lina and Doon are determined to find the way out of the dying city.  The series follows their determination to first find a way out of the city, then to learn how to survive in the world above.  I found these books very fascinating and thought-provoking.  

Son, by Lois Lowry
I loved Lowry's book, The Giver, so I was anxious to read this recent addition to the series.  In The Giver, Jonas escaped his community with a baby named Gabe, who was going to be killed simply because he wasn't conforming to the expected sleep and behavior patterns.  Son follows the story of Gabe's birthmother, Claire, who also breaks free of the community in search of her son.  

Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith
While I read a lot of YA literature, I do enjoy some good grown-up reads now and then.  I have read several of McCall Smith's other series and have found this series every bit as charming.  McCall Smith has such an ability to bring his quirky, endearing characters to life.  In this book, I particularly love how we get to see into the mind of Freddie de la Hay, the Pimlico terrier adopted by wine-merchant William.  

Honestly, I've read more books than you probably want to read about all at once, so I'll save some for another post!

MOVIES!
We don't have movie theatres here in Saudi Arabia, so it's always a real treat when we can take a trip to Bahrain to visit the cinema.  This week we were on Eid break, so we went to Bahrain and saw 4 movies:  
The Amazing Spiderman-- loved it!  (Sorry Tobey McGuire!)
Hotel Transylvania-- loved it! 
Pitch Perfect-- liked the music and fun characters, but didn't love the crass humor or excessive vomiting.
Skyfall-- haven't seen a Bond movie for a while, and while it was action-packed and had some great moments, I just find that I no longer enjoy this type of movie as much as I used to.  

Because I get starved for entertainment, I also occasionally splurge on a movie from iTunes.  Today I downloaded Snow White and the Hunstman.  I enjoyed the new twist on a classic story, though I did find it a bit dark and slow at times.  

Thanks for including me in the blog-- I've enjoyed reading all the posts and appreciate the motivation to keep trying new books!






Friday, October 5, 2012

4 More Books and 2 Movies

I've been on a reading kick! Usually this time of year I'm on a writing kick, but I'm painting my house's interior and can only concentrate on one creative project at a time, I guess.

First Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. Okay, this is THE BEST BOOK I've read in a year. Maybe more. It gripped me. It's the biography of Louis Zamperini, 1936 Olympic runner and later an Air Force gunner in WWII. My dad recommended it as excellent (always a good sign!) and when I'd already laughed out loud AND cried by page FIVE, I knew he was right. The anguish, the humor, man's inhumanity to man, the ultimate redemption in this story makes it an absolute MUST READ. I don't usually read much history (sorry, Dad!) or biography, but the writing in this was impossible to put down.

Next, Charlie St. Cloud. It's a romance. I don't read a lot of romance. There's a reason for this. Somehow, though, romances written by men (like Nicholas Sparks) are more palatable to me. This is by Ben Sherwood. It's kind of a ghost story, too. If romance is your thing, this one might be for you.

Next, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik. It's about a 500-page book, but 2/3 of it is drawings by the author, with about 25,000 words of text. It was made into a movie last year, Hugo. My kids saw it, but I was (surprise, surprise) writing in the foyer of the movie theater while they watched. The book, I must say, is excellent. Inventive, with a good, sympathetic main character and lots of conflict, mystery, and a tiny bit of romance--with historical detail thrown in and lots to learn. Came away feeling smarter. Loved it. Plus, it took just two hours to enjoy. I like that, too.

Finally, Identity by Besty Love. Betsy is a friend from my writers group. Her novel is a Mormon-centric suspense thriller. There's a lot of churchy stuff in it, more than in a lot of the LDS novels I've read lately, so it kind of surprised me. Maybe I don't read a lot of LDS fiction? Anyway, the gist is two women who look identical meet in Mexico and are on the same flight back to the U.S. The plane is sabotaged and crashes. Only one of the women lives. And she has amnesia. Which one is she--the heiress or the little perfect Mormon girl preparing to go on a mission? And which life will she live? Fun premise. I wanted to get a little more into the head voices of the characters more, though, to get a better feel for the story as it went along. Still, a fun escape.

Watched a cute rom-com on Netflix called Pizza My Heart, which was a Romeo and Juliet take-off set in New Jersey at two adjacent pizza shops that have been in fierce competition for a generation. The kids of the competitors fall in love, of course, and conflict ensues. Shiri Appleby is always cute. Beware, though. It WILL make you crave pizza. Man! I had to make homemade pizza with creative ingredients just to get that movie out of my system. Oh, and it's a clean movie. I love that.

Another Netflix find was Broken Hill. It was another clean teen romance. Love that. It's directed by Kieth Merrill (a really neat guy). The plot is a kid lives on a ranch in Australia and his dad is a rugby coach. The kid has always wanted to conduct an orchestra that's playing his own composition, and he may have a chance to get out of the Outback and go to a good music school. Plus, he's got a love interest, a stupid American ex-pat, who eventually grows on you. Kind of. Very attractive cast, great acting, really good story. I'd recommend this movie.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A few movies

Someone recommended The Other Guys. He said he thought I'd find it funny. I didn't. The actors did a good job with their characters, but it was so not my kind of humor.

AnnaLisa lent the Ever After on DVD. I enjoyed it. I like fairy tales with spunky heroines. And the prince had good hair. That being said, fairy tales are lies we tell our daughters.

Battleship had good special effects, but other than that it was pretty lame and predictable. How they connected the plot to the game was somewhat clever, if a little far-fetched.

I was downtown a few weeks ago (after taking an awesome tour about the architecture of the National Mall), so I stopped in at the Natural History museum and caught an IMAX movie. It was called Coral Reef Adventure. The film was about threats to our coral reefs and what we can do about it. It was good and had a lot of Crosby, Stills & Nash music. I had wanted to see a 3D IMAX movie, but it's probably good that I didn't, because this one made me motion sick. 3D would have been worse.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The National Book Festival

I went to the National Book Festival on Saturday. It is an annual event put on by the Library of Congress and held on the National Mall. I look forward to it and always try to make time to attend. Authors from various genres give lectures, read from their latest books and sign readers' copies. 
I went to listen to Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum discuss the book they recently wrote together. I liked it so much that I braved the book sale tent to purchase a copy. I got it signed. They were both really nice guys.


Michael Mandelbaum & Thomas Friedman sign books

The lines for the book signings

The Capitol and festival pavilions

 I wanted to make sure I got to hear James Dashner speak. He was interesting and funny and nice to the kids. While I was listening to him, a friend I hadn't seen in months just happened to sit down next to me. Funny.

 James Dashner was also very nice when he signed my books. A very cool guy and an excellent story teller.









James Dashner signs books
 After getting my books signed. I made my way back to the Poetry and Prose pavilion to see if I could catch any of Philip Levine's talk. He is the Poet Laureate of the United States. I only caught the tail-end, but I liked what I heard. He said that when he writes poetry he likes to "make the words happy to be together."







Philip Levine
 I had a little extra time, so I looked through the schedule and author bios to see if anyone I might be interested in was presenting. I stopped in to see Maggie Stiefvater. She writes teen books and also plays seven musical instruments, speaks at least one foreign language, was a professional portrait painter, etc. I suck compared to her! She was also pretty funny. The kids were really excited about her. Someone asked her about writer's block. She said that she thinks writer's block is how her subconscious lets her know she's taken a wrong turn. Interesting. I might have to go find some of her books to read on my vacation.




Maggie Stiefvater
 I think everybody my age grew up reading Jerry Spinelli. He's great. Judging by the crowd in the tent, I'm not the only person who thinks so.



Jerry Spinelli









I decided against waiting in what was, no doubt, going to be a very long line to get my book signed by Jerry Spinelli. I decided to make my way back to the Poetry and Prose pavilion. I heard Margot Livesey speak about her new book which is a re-imagining of Jane Eyre. Sounded interesting, and I enjoyed her talk. She said that she has two computers: one for writing fiction and one for everything else. That seems like a good idea for a writer's brain. When she sits down at her fiction computer, her brain knows what it's supposed to do.

Margot Livesey
It was an excellent festival. If you ask anyone else they're experience, it will be totally different than mine. Awesome. It's great to see so many people excited about books and reading.
Crowds, pavilions, and the Washington Monument

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Not My Type, Hourglass Door, The Dating Deal

I read three fun books this month, all by LDS authors, and just fun.

First, The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum. I met Lisa at a writers conference last spring and found her to be a delightful, bright person. This made me buy her book (which I'd been meaning to do for a while anyway). I ended up buying it as an audio book, and it was great company while I painted two rooms and a hallway in my house. The story is about a girl, Abby, who thinks she has the perfect boyfriend, but longs for a little less predictability in her life. She definitely gets it when she meets Dante, a handsome new guy at her high school around whom controversy swirls. He makes it a point to be close to her, but when he touches her hand, time literally stops. This is a time-bending story. The writing is very poetic (so if that kind of thing bothers you, consider yourself warned) with a metaphor a minute, but all of them are apt and descriptive. I look forward to the rest of the trilogy.

Next, another audiobook, Not My Type by Melinda Jacobson. Do I love this? I do. The snarkiness was a mile thick and wit just dripped from it. I really liked the main character who started out moping because she was in a dead end sandwich shop job (despite her college degree) and because her fiance dumped her a week before their wedding leaving her with a mountain of debt (so he could pursue his American Idol-type dream) and she's forced to move back home. How she gets herself out of these doldrums is a really fun ride in Jacobson's deft hands. Suffice it to say, internet dating is involved, and blogger stardom. It's really fun. I might listen again.

And last, The Dating Deal by Melanie Marks. Years ago when I first was published by Spring Creek Books, I saw this novel as another one of their selections and thought I bet I'd LOVE this. But I never found it to buy it. Then a couple of weeks ago I ran across Melanie on Twitter, clicked her link and found this as an ebook for a great price. I downloaded it instantly and just devoured the good candy it was. Story: High school girl Megan is dumped and hating her life. She gets up to give a speech in a class and when it's time for questions, the snotty popular girl says, "Since Connor dumped you who are you going to the spring dance with, Miss Goodness and Light?" Megan is at a loss for words until Trent, the most popular guy in school pipes up, "With me. Megan's going with me." Megan has had a crush on Trent forever, but would never say so since he's not a member of her church. They proceed to make a deal. A dating deal. Good times, cotton candy readers, good times.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Teen Love Movies!

I love teen love movies. This weekend was movie weekend and we searched on Netflix streaming for teen romance. Jackpot!

16-Love. This fun teen film is about a driven champion teen tennis player girl and the mediocre boy tennis player who pursues her and distracts her from her career. Good clean fun! I found the acting engaging, and while the story isn't deep, it's diverting and nice escapism.

Geek Charming. This is a Disney Channel Original Movie from last year. I'd seen the ads for it and thought, meh, but on teen love weekend, it popped back up. And I'm so glad it did! Honestly, I could watch this again. The love interests (as well as some supporting parts) had these great character arcs, and even though it should have been predictable, I was just along for the ride. Story is: vapid popular girl is dying to be the Blossom Queen and needs to be elected. Film Club guy needs a subject for the regional film festival and wants to do a hard-hitting expose on popularity. He chooses vapid girl. His teachers and mother all tell him to "seek for the truth and tell it," even if it isn't what he expects the truth to be. Charming.

The Book and the Rose. This was a short film and it was nominated for an Oscar, from what I read. It was absolutely lovely. Man and woman fall in love through letters during wartime. Finally they meet. The twist at the end gave me chills and made me get in touch with my inner romantic.

The Jerk Theory. This movie had to be muted roughly 1/3 of the time. The portions of the story with the two love interests were very fun. Every time the sidekicks (or the disgusting Danny Bonaduce cameo) or the priest (Tom Arnold) appeared, it was offensive (i.e., explicit sex talk, very rude references to Catholic Church beliefs.) We muted. Others may choose to avoid it altogether. Which was a shame, because the concept has possibilities: a guy is sick of being dumped for being the nice guy, so he takes on a jerk persona and becomes super popular with girls. Then, a girl he's sincerely interested in won't give him the time of day because she doesn't like jerks. Truthfully, I wish I'd written this story instead. I'd have made it waaaaay more fun and less...gross. Too bad.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Decoy Bride, Something Borrowed, The Secret World of Arrietty

Now onto the movies I've seen recently. I watched Decoy Bride also (Jennifer talked about it a few posts below).  I liked it too! The storyline was fun and it's clean.  It definitely helped that David Tennant was in it, who is really ridiculously good-looking :).   And overall it was a good show! 

I watched Something Borrowed.  There were some cute parts, but I would not recommend it. 

I also watched The Secret World of Arrietty.  It is a Japanese anime film by Studio Ghibli.  It is about little borrowers who live underneath a house in the country and the daughter is discovered by one of the big people and life turns interesting.  I liked it!  It is good stuff!    

Unbroken, Dragons, African Tales, and The Five People You Meet in Heaven

I haven't updated in a while so I will do two posts. One for the books and the other for the movies.  I recently finished reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and I loved it!  It is a biography of Louis Zamperini who was an American runner in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.  When World War 2 started, he joined the air force.  This book tells Louis' story from his childhood, to his service in World War 2, his life in Japanese POW camps and then his adjustment to life after the war.  It is a fascinating read.  I was captivated from page one.  I must say there are some very disturbing accounts in here (as you can imagine from a man who survived World War 2) and it is a tear-jerker but it is so worth it.

I also read a Hero's Guide to Deadly Dragons  by Cressida Cowell.  This is another book in the How to Train Your Dragon series.  They are a fun and easy read!

I read The Girl Who Married a Lion and Other Tales from Africa by Alexander McCall Smith.  Some things I learned about the African culture from these tales is that hares are cunning animals and that hares and lions are enemies.  Gratitude is important and don't cast out a person from your village who has saved the life of the town.  Be loyal to your friends and family. Don't be selfish because one day it will come back and bite you in the patootie. The hyena and the elephant live far away from people because they could not control themselves when it came to eating farmers' crops and they were ashamed of their lack of control and decided to willingly move far away from everyone else. It was interesting, a little odd, but I liked it!

I read The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.  I liked this book.  It made me think about how we are all connected and how we all influence each others lives whether great or small, but we may not know it until we pass on to the next life.  It is an interesting read and it's a pretty easy read but I am not a big fan of his style of writing in this book.