Movie > Book? Impossible!

Rating: Green Leaf

Orphaned and alone except for an uncle, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) lives in the walls of a train station in 1930s Paris. Hugo’s job is to oil and maintain the station’s clocks, but to him, his more important task is to protect a broken automaton and notebook left to him by his late father (Jude Law). Accompanied by the goddaughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) of an embittered toy merchant (Ben Kingsley), Hugo embarks on a quest to solve the mystery of the automaton and find a place he can call home.

~Fandango

Have you ever had faith in an idea that you thought was truly unshakeable, until one day, you realized you were wrong? At that moment, when you realize that everything you thought to be true in the world is just a bitter lie, how do you feel?

When I sat in the movie theater last week and saw my world crumble, I reacted in a way that I could never have predicted.

I was THRILLED.  I walked out of the dim theater like I was floating, set free of some invisible shackles that I hadn’t known existed.

Those of you who read regularly may have picked up on the fact that I enjoy books. I enjoy movies too, but books are my thing. One of the foundations of my entire way of being is that the act of reading is special and unique, and that films just cannot replicate or replace that.

After reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and then watching Hugo, the film based off of the book, I can safely say that I have found a movie that beat the book.

I’m shocked too.  Do other anomalies like this exist?

I love the book.  Don’t get me wrong.  It was recommended to me a few months ago by one of my fourth grade students who was so proud that she had managed to read a “big book.”  In fact, because we didn’t have it in our school library (that has since been rectified), that student brought me in her copy an lent it to me so that I could read it.  Imagine that!  A student loaning a book to a librarian 🙂

Anyway, I did not want to take her book for long so I settled down that night to read it.  It was entrancing.  After I finished the book, I then went on to YouTube to watch “Journey to the Moon.”

The film takes the beautiful idea of the book and weaves it into an artistically masterful work whose delivery enhances its message.  The purpose of the film is to celebrate the way that movies construct dreams.  Scorsese uses intricate technique to mesh together Hugo’s dream world and his own grittily romantic Paris.  The first moments of the movie, when the cogs in a clock transform into the streets of Paris, give a taste of what the audience can expect for the next two wonderful hours.

So yes.  Here is where I admit it.  I was wrong.

Whew!  That was hard.

The Grade

Visuals: 5/5

Plot: 4.5/5

Acting:4.5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already done Moneyball.  Now on to the rest. While you are waiting, try this out.  You know you want to.

Read on for the recipe…

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The Song of Fire and Ice…and Cupcakes

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict lie the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyielding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.

Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no human metal; a tribe of fierce wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

-Back Cover

Hello out there! I am, in fact, alive. You may wonder what I have been doing for the past 4 months. Here is a sampling: full time job, night classes, cooking, cleaning, mourning the loss of Milly (my pet fish), spending time with family, friends, frantically shopping when I woke up and realized that Christmas was only two weeks away, playing in the pitiful amount of snow that we have accumulated, playing with my Christmas toys that Santa brought me, etc.

Oh, and A Song of Fire and Ice Series.  That.  After some calculating (which was difficult because I don’t always work with numbers this big), I have concluded that that monstrosity of a series is a full 4,864 pgs.  Compared to Harry Potter, that may not be so bad, but this series is no Harry Potter.  This series is dense with detail and imaginative ideas that make you stop and think.  I read sloooooowly.  I have been working on this series since Thanksgiving and just finished yesterday.  For me, that is an epic amount of time to spend on one story.

The patience that it required for me to work through this masterpiece is evidence enough to show you that it was fantastic.  If it were a food, it would be my request for my last supper.  If it were a person, we would be best friends.

Because I could not handle having this level of emotional connection with a book, I began to associate the book with George R.R. Martin instead.  Of course, by now, I am familiar enough with him that we are on a first name basis.  As I worked my way through his story, I routinely talked to George, asking him why he had the characters do certain things or when I would get to see another character again.  Now that I have not touched the series for a full day, I am starting to miss George and our (albeit incredibly one-sided) conversations.

I could ramble for hours about this series, but I am going to leave you with this instead.

What I Liked:

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

What Drove Me Crazy

  • Incredibly detailed
  • George isn’t afraid to kill a main character who you love (or hate)
  • The chapters are told from a variety of perspectives

Conflicted much?  Yes.  Read this series.  Now.  Go use those gift cards you got over the holidays. Let me know your burning questions and thoughts in the comments.  Oh, and make these cupcakes too.

Read on for the recipe…

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Thursday Next’s Battenberg Cake

They are a series of books based upon the notion that what we read in books is just a small part of a larger BookWorld that exists behind the page.

A fantastical place populated by off-duty and sometimes mischievous bookpeople from the Classics to Fanfiction, and ruled over by the wheezing bureaucracy known as The council of Genres. It is their task to maintain the pageant and integrity of the books within their charge, and these efforts are sometimes thwarted by the very evildoers and bizarre plot devices that give the Bookworld its appeal.

Aided in this endeavour but sometimes disagreeing with them are Jurisfiction, the policing agency within Fiction. The adventures follow one of their operatives: A woman from the Realworld named Thursday Next, whose reality-based credentials bring a dimension of independent thought to the proceedings, something that is often absent in the mostly predetermined Bookworld.

Confused? Excellent – turn to page one and start reading!

-Jasper Fforde’s description of the Thursday Next Series

I first encountered Jasper Fforde when I, intrigued by the title, read Shades of Grey.  As you can tell from my post on it, I LOVED it.  Later on, when I was basking in the joy known as the library, I noticed that Fforde had published other books. Of course, I took the bait.

Of the several series that Fforde has dreamed up, I chose the Thursday Next series.  Any character whose name is Thursday Next must be pretty darn interesting, not to mention that the first book is entitled The Eyre Affair.  Jane Eyre fan fiction?  Yes, please.

What kept me reading this series is Fforde’s hilarious, fantastical, and original take on BookWorld.  He puts us (readers) in our place.  The characters in books are alive and have their own dramas behind the scenes.  They jump between books, have other jobs, and characters who are linked romantically in books may actually hate each other.  Even more exciting, they have a certain level of free will, meaning that if they are unhappy enough with how the author wrote their story, they can change it!

Hint:  The “original” Jane Eyre has a very different ending from the one we know and love.

Basically, if you enjoy the concept of characters truly coming to life, I suggest you check these out.  They made me giggle some of the time and happy all of the time.  Except when I was sad.  But, that was because sometimes, sad things happen.  But, yeah.  You get my point.  Read them.

Battenberg Cake

Thursday Next is a fantastic and spunky character.  She is surrounded by a wonderfully loony family and her mother is the only one who really cooks.  While most of her cooking is quite awful, she is known for her Battenberg cake.

According to the great brain of Wikipedia, Battenberg cake “was created in honour of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg, with the four squares representing the four Battenberg princes: Louis, Alexander, Henry, and Francis Joseph.”

Typically made with marzipan, this cake does not agree with Thursday, who detests almonds.  I decided to make a Thursday-approved Battenburg cake.  Try making one yourself!  It is not nearly as complicated as it looks.

  1. Mix up the batter for your favorite white cake.
  2. Split the batter in half.  Color one half red (or any color you want, really).
  3. If possible bake each half in a loaf pan.  I didn’t have two load pans so I improvised…

  1. Bake as the cake recipe directs until the cakes are firm.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Cut each cake in half so that you have two long strips of each color.
  4. Heat up the jam of your choice.  I used marmalade.
  5. Assemble the cake.  Stick the pieces together by “frosting” each side and then pushing the cake strips together, to make that lovely checker.

  1. Make or acquire your favorite frosting OR get marzipan (If you want marzipan).  I made a pistachio frosting, basically by mixing pistachio butter in with white frosting.
  2. Frost your assembled cake.  Do not be afraid to use a lot of frosting.  Because you are trying to mush together four strands of cake, frosting is the great concealer.  And it’s yummy.
  3. Eat, preferably with tea, as Thursday would.

Short Reviews of Long Books

So the summer definitely took me away from the computer.  I did not post nearly as often as I had intended (though, to be fair, I had grand aspirations about daily posts), but I read far more than I thought possible.  This bookworm was apparently verrrrry hungry.

Here’s the thing.  I would love to do a beautiful, happy post for every book read or movie viewed over the summer, but I’m not going to.  It’s too overwhelming.  In fact, it has kept me quiet for the past week as I struggle to even begin talking about my summer.  Instead, I will give you a description of the book or movie in under 11 words or less and my thoughts in 20 words or less.  Feel free to add more ideas in the comments.

The Piano Teacher: A Novel by Janice Lee.

Summary: Sad woman and sadder man have affair in Hong Kong.

Thoughts: This historical backdrop (Hong Kong during WWII) was intriguing, but I didn’t like any of the characters.  Meh.

The Twilight Saga Collection by Stephenie Meyer

Summary: Bella must choose between creepy vampire and not-as-creepy-but-still-superhuman werewolf Jacob.

Thoughts: It teaches teenagers that the best kind of love is obsessive, controlling, and dangerous.  No thank you.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett

Summary: 3 witches, one a fairy godmother, must stop a happy ending.

Thoughts: Hilarious.  This is my first Pratchett novel and I now want to read the entire Discworld series.

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Summary: 3 photographers and their relationships as they photograph the Vietnam war.

Thoughts: Well-written and intricate storylines.  The background and the characters are fascinating.  I want to study photography, or go to Vietnam.

Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

Summary: Sweet valley twins, 10 years later.  Sex, betrayal, and swearing.

Thoughts: So bad.  I read it because I loved the series.  It makes no sense and I hated both twins.

Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Summary: Love triangle in Greece during WWII.

Thoughts: Loved it with 15 pages to go.  Then almost threw it across the room.  Still love it.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Summary: Follows two friends through school, love, and duplicity.

Thoughts: I may have used up an entire tissue box on this.  Read it if you want a good cry.

French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mirielle Guiliano

Summary: The title pretty much says it all.

Thoughts: Commonsense advice aside from drinking leek broth for three days and purchase enough champagne to have at every dinner.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell (for the fifth time, at least)

Summary: Big brother knows all.

Thoughts: Love it.  Love it.  Love love love love it.  It gets better with every read.  Read it.

 

Phew!  Now that I have those out of the way, I can get back to posting on what I am reading right now!  Trust me, I have an awesome one coming up 🙂

The One Where Mama Weasley Swears

Well, it’s done.  Over. Ancient History. Ended. Carried off.  At an end. Past.  Bygone.  Settled.  Closed. Up. Completed. Accomplished. Finished.  Achieved.  Concluded.  Finalized.  Put to bed.  Realized.  Settled.  Wrapped up.   Concluded.

The last Harry Potter movie is out and with that, my childhood is closed.  Yes, I realize that I am 24.  A bit late, but heck, I do things at my own speed.

I don’t much to say about the movie aside from that I loved every minute of it, I started crying at several points during it, and finally lost it when the credits started rolling.  I thought I had myself pulled enough together to leave the theater, but then, standing in the middle of a mall food court, I started bawling again.  Good job Lauren.

Instead of focusing only on the last installment, I thought I would share my top ten favorite moments in the series.  They are in chronological order.  Be careful, moments 6-10 do come from the last book, so don’t read them if you are worried about spoilers.  Please, share your favorites in the comments.

1.  The first time that Harry sees Hogwarts.  It is this giant, wonderful castle with moving staircases, all the food he could dream of, and ghosts.  It is a place that he can finally claim as his home.

2.  Harry and Ron flying Mr. Weasley’s car to Hogwarts.  They have absolutely no idea what they are doing and they are breaking every rule in the book, but they are trying to be resourceful and solve a problem.  Sure, it caused more problems than it solved, but they sure know how to make an entrance.

3. Hagrid’s release from Azkaban.  Hagrid did not deserve to be there in the first place and his release not only gives him his freedom back, but also clears him of past accusations.  He can practice magic now and even becomes a Hogwarts professor.  I love Hagrid…and his rock cakes.  I might make some soon 🙂

4.  Sirius’s first smile.  Sirius gets a chance to see Harry and finally convinces Harry that he was not the reason that Harry’s parents were murdered.  He asks Harry if he would consider living with him and Harry is overjoyed.  Sirius did not expect this reaction and he smiles for the first time in years, a smile that lights up his entire face.  I was disappointed because the movie doesn’t include this small moment, but I absolutely love it.

5.  Harry and Hermione’s conversation at the Yule Ball.  Both Harry and Hermione are having trouble being with the people who they want to be with, and Ron is off with Lavender Brown making a fool of himself.  It is in that conversation that we finally see that while Harry and Hermione love each other, they will never love each other that way.  I think their friendship is so sweet and it is my favorite relationship in the series.

6. Professor McGonagall’s duel with Snape.  It was amazing and did complete justice to the most stable character in the series.  Professor McGonagall is unfailingly good and always acts in the way that she thinks is best, regardless of social pressure.  Her duel with him and subsequent protection of the castle was awesome and reminded me of why I should never mess with a strong lady like her.

7.  Snape backstory.  Severus Snape may be the most interesting character of the series because you are not sure until the end whose side he is on.  Even though we get snippets of backstory in the later books, the best sequence is in the last book and movie where we see why he hates Harry and why he chose the side that he chose.

8.  Dumbledore’s concept of reality.  “Of course, it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?”  You know Dumbledore, even if some of your acts over the years are questionable, thanks for your wonderful mixture of wisdom and silliness.

9.  When Harry surprises everyone and is alive.  The look on Voldemort’s face is priceless with “dead” Harry Potter is alive.  I almost stood up and raised a triumphant fist in the theater. I’m really glad I didn’t.

10.  Mrs. Weasley’s cursing.  “Not my daughter you B*#&$!”  Thank you Molly for being a fierce mother with a big heart.  You show Bellatrix who’s boss!

Please share your favorites down below!

Five Things You Should Bring to See Harry Potter in Theaters

Well, folks, I never thought that this weekend would come.  The Harry Potter franchise is releasing its last movie, hoping that it is all grown up and will be able to fly.

Wow.

Since this worldwide phenomenon has been going on for 14 years now, I thought I would offer a few words of wisdom on how to prepare for this final installment.

Here are five things that you should bring with you to that theater tonight…or tomorrow…or next week…or whenever you get around to seeing it.

1.  Knowledge of Harry Potter

Nothing is more annoying to me than someone in a movie theater who just won’t. stop. talking.   Worse is when that person is incessantly jabbering because they have no idea what is going on.  I understand that other people may not have read all seven books and seen the first seven movies multiple times, but for the love of all that is Harry, please know who the main characters are, who is dead already, and why Harry and Voldemort don’t get along.

If you go to the movies with the idea that you are going to be cute and ask a friend for clarification on every facet of the movie, be aware that you may not be so cute by the end…unless you somehow manage to pull off wearing popcorn.

Don't be that guy.

2.  A Good Attitude

Now, I have never been one to dress up for a movie, nor have I ever seen the midnight showing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t let myself get sucked into the energy that these books/movies elicit.  I have on occasion (or for every movie) worn lightning bolt socks.  Subtle, but fun 🙂  You do not have to wear anything special, but don’t be one of those people who gets to the theater and cynically looks around for people to laugh it.  Maybe you are a grumpy-poo, but a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this moment.  If you are not into the magic and fun of the franchise, why did you just spend $15 on your IMAX 3D ticket.  Loosen up and have some fun.

PS.  And laugh when something funny happens.  My favorite line of the series is coming up in this movie.  It has to do with Mrs. Weasley and cursing (both with her wand and her language).  Watch for it.

3.  A friend

For many of us, this love of all things Harry Potter has been going for 14 years.  I started reading the books in late 1997 when I was ten, almost eleven, just like Harry was.  If you let me do the math, the Harry Potter series has been a part of my life for almost 2/3 of it.  Wow.

Anyway, what made this series great was that it inspired people to interact with each other about it.  My friends and I decided what house we would be in (Ravenclaw), who our favorite characters were (Hedwig and Hagrid), and who we would be if we went to Hogwarts (hopefully a less obnoxious Hermione).  Around the book release dates, the books and their plots were topics of conversation as we ran laps for soccer practice and studied for tests.  When the last books came out (I was in college at the point), my friends and I (all with our own copies) sat around reading and reacting to the book at the same time.

If at all possible, don’t go to this movie alone.  Find someone who has shared your experience with this book and go with him.  If these people are too far away or unable to come for whatever reason, at least bring them with you in spirit.  That is the best way to honor this series.

4.  Snacks

Personally, movie theater popcorn and soda are not going to be good enough for this last movie.  Considering that J.K. Rowling spend a lot of space in her books describing food, it only seems right to create and sneak in (I am a bad person) some Harry Potter food.  Earlier this year, I perfected my own version of butterbeer.  Good luck trying to bring that in.

For this most auspicious of occasions, I decided to create something that Harry tends to get on the train to Hogwarts and that has always intrigued me: Pumpkin Pasties.

Basically, they are little handheld pumpkin pies.  I made some for fun.  My taste-testers unanimously approved.

Pie dough:  I used Simply Recipe’s Pate Brisee.

Inside:  Mix together 1 cup of pumpkin puree, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tbsp each of cinnamon and nutmeg.

  • Preheat your oven to 400F
  • Roll out the  pie dough to 1/8″ thick and using a saucer, cut it into 6″ circles.
  • On each circle, place 2-3 tbsp of the pumpkin mixture.
  • Wet the ends of the dough (where you are going to seal it) and fold the dough over on itself to enclose the pumpkin.
  • Crimp with a fork to seal it.
  • Put a few slits in the top so that it doesn’t explode.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden.

These travel really well, so once they cool, you can absolutely stash them in your purse/pocket and they will arrive safely at the movie.

5.  Tissues

Last, but certainly not least, I would recommend a box of tissues or, if you are trying to be environmentally-friendly, a hankie.  I know that I am going to bawl like a little baby simply because this last movie feels like it is marking an end to my childhood.  More than going away to college, living on my own, or getting my first “real” job, this last movie feels like a closure.

For those of you who do not have this personal connection, you may want to bawl because of what is going to happen in this movie.  I won’t sugarcoat it (as I thought of doing with the pumpkin pastie), people are going to die.  People you like are going to die.  You may not be happy with how this ends.

That is why you should be safe and bring something to wipe the tears away, just in case.

The Bookworms: The Academy has spoken and our literary president is…

To check out how the Bookworms work, click on The Bookworms page tab at the top of the page. ___________________________________________________________________________

Albus Dumbledore!

While a number of opponents tied for second place (Mr. Darcy, Arthur Weasley, and Matilda), President Dumbledore managed to secure 49% of the vote at the time of this post.

As a result, he has taken the oath as literary president, ending it with his words of wisdom, among which are “One can never have enough socks,” and, my personal favorite, “Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!”

Of course, his playful side may endear him to us, but his candidacy was supported for reasons more important than charisma.

Over the course of the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore shows himself to be a strong leader who cares for the fate of his people and his world. In his opening address to muggles and wizards everywhere, Dumbledorapplies this vision to his new role as president and the problems that he must deal with during his term.

He discusses these problems with the literary nation, saying that “Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

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