NaNoReMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Write-ins are happening all over the place, including the library. And some people even go a step further: they become published authors as a result of their hard work and dedication to the craft of writing. How cool is that? One year my husband and I decided that we would each write a novel during NaNoWriMo. While we would be writing vastly different stories and not exactly collaborating, we wrote side-by-side in the same room and bounced ideas and grammar conundrums off of each other. Neither one of us finished our novels, but we had a lot of fun and learned more about each other as a result. Which, let me tell you, after being together for almost half your lives is something special indeed!

But this isn’t a post about NaNoWriMo. This is about a new moniker I am giving November: NaNoReMo, which stands for National Novel Reading Month. Reading books out loud together is something my husband and I have done on multiple occasions. Sharing an experience with someone can definitely bring you closer together, and sharing the experience and enjoyment of a book together is one of my top things for us to do as a couple. It’s free, doesn’t take much time, and can sometimes even be done while doing otherwise mundane or boring tasks. I’m going to share with you a few of our favorite books that we have read together, which will hopefully spark your own imagination and enthusiasm!

1-dad-is-fat

The time we read to each other: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
One of the best things about reading a Jim Gaffigan book is when you can get your hands on an audio recording of it and hear him read it to you. As huge fans of Jimbo, we were tempted to go that route. But instead we decided it would be fun to try reading each other alternating chapters. You read chapter 1, I’ll read chapter 2. One of the best things about this method was sometimes one or the other of us would be sleepy and not be up for reading that night. That’s okay; the other person was ready with the bedtime story. I might be sharing too much of myself here, but there is nothing I love hearing more than the sound of my husband’s voice. When he would read to me, I could feel the stress of the day melt away and if I was awake enough I’d be laughing right along with him as he read. I don’t know if he feels the same way about my voice, but I definitely returned the favor. It was a great balance and the fact that the book’s content was about an experience we haven’t yet shared, parenthood, made the experience educational as well.

2-ready-player-oneThe time we listened to an audiobook instead of watching TV: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
When Ready Player One first came out it didn’t even become a tiny blip on my radar. It’s the worst-kept secret that I detest dystopian novels, and this promised to fit the bill. But then the library acquired the audiobook and I saw that it was read by Wil Wheaton. After a quick fangirl dance of joy I promptly checked it out. On the drive home from work that night I listened to the beginning of the story, and over the next couple of weeks I finished the first few discs on my commute. It was a great way to pass the time while fighting rush hour traffic, but I had a better idea. I knew this story would appeal to my husband, so that night I brought the whole set into the house, set up some equipment, and started from the beginning. We were both riveted, and over the next several days we skipped the usual evening television programming in favor of listening to Wesley Crusher relate the story of Wade Watts and his journey into the OASIS system in search of James Halliday’s three keys and, hopefully, his ticket out of poverty.

3-the-martianThe time we read the same book back-to-back: The Martian by Andy Weir
This was another not-on-my-radar book that I almost missed. A few months before the Matt Damon movie was to be released in theaters, my husband read a story about the movie and knew he wanted to see the movie but read the book first. He devoured the book. I mean, he’s a quick reader anyway compared to my reading speed, but in this case he actually lost sleep in favor of finding out if astronaut Mark Watney, who was stranded on Mars for several years, ever made it back to Earth or not. He then began his campaign to get me to read it, too. Our reading tastes don’t often overlap so we aren’t in the habit of pestering each other to read a book we enjoyed. But this was different. He warned me about some technical jargon and heavy use of math (what does that say about me, that I need a math trigger warning?) but said the humor and writing style would win me over, and the suspense would keep me up as well. While I admit that I started reading the book in a thinly-veiled attempt to shut him up, the joke was on me. I absolutely loved it, and consider myself fortunate to have read the book before seeing the movie. Through no real effort my brain read the book in Matt Damon‘s voice.

4-romeo-and-or-julietThe time we will take turns choosing how the book goes: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North
So I don’t know about you, but my Octobers are always super-busy, very stressful, and as a result I always get sick. This year was no exception. It was such a struggle to get through the month that November has so far been a kind of recuperation period. That’s all ending this Veterans Day when both my husband and I will finally have some quality time together. We’ve planned to read this book by Ryan North, aka one of the funniest guys in comics today, aka the crazy mad awesome genius behind The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series for Marvel. He has reworked Shakespeare so that the reader gets to choose the ending. That’s right; it’s a choose your own adventure for adults, and it has been sitting on our shelf at home for months collecting dust, waiting for its turn in the TBR. Our plan is for one of us to read while the other one drives; that is to say if I’m reading, he’s telling me which choice he wants as we go along. I really can’t wait for this one, as it’s another new type of book that is sure to help rejuvenate our spirits before we plan to travel back home for the holidays (stress x 1000).

So there you have it. Whether you’ve been married for decades or just swiped right, I urge you to file this one away in your relationship database. Let’s make America read again!

Great New Films

oscarsWhile on a long plane flight home last week, I watched every single film trailer to get the scoop on the latest movies for you. Oscar season is upon us and there are a lot of excellent titles that you can borrow from your library. For your benefit, I have also researched reviews of these films and have listed them in order of popularity with the critics and the public alike. Here goes!

index (1)Iris is about fashion icon Iris Apfel: the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven with an out-sized presence on the New York & Palm Beach fashion scenes. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, Iris continues to embrace the values and work ethic established in her middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression. If you are a fan of documentaries, art, fashion, individuality or life-long love, borrow this brilliant film!  Great quote:  “My mother worshiped at the altar of accessories!”

 

index (2)Do you like Hitchcock? The Gift is a smart  thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In fact, it was just too scary for my husband so we had to turn it off.  Simon and Robyn are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin. This is not a story about one individual following a family; it’s about the past following you. “You think you’re done with the past, but the past is not done with you.”

 

index (4)Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks as the American attorney tasked with negotiating the release of a U-2 spy plane pilot who was shot down over Russia at the height of the Cold War in this historical drama. Everyone likes this movie and it’s going to be shown at Everett Public Library (February 27th at noon at the Evergreen Branch) as part of Oscar Fest 2016! It is directed by Steven Spielberg and has been nominated for Best Picture. You don’t want to miss this one!

 

index (5)Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation  stars the other Tom (Cruise). You’re hooked right from the start with a jaw-dropping opening sequence which looks completely free of computer generated imagery, and a great but sinister twist on the iconic mission briefing. From there, it’s a fun roller coaster ride and although there are plenty of twists and turns to keep the audience guessing, it stays coherent. There were more than a few improbable moments and the bad guys suffer terribly from an inability to shoot straight, but if you’re ready to suspend your disbelief on occasion, it’s a fun movie. Get into the hold line for this popular action film.

 

index (6)Of course, The Martian is a wildly popular movie and deservedly so because the book was so great. After a bad storm blows across Mars, astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead and left behind. Now stuck on a hostile planet he must find a way to signal to Earth and in the meantime, survive on limited supplies. Smart, thrilling, and surprisingly funny, The Martian offers a faithful adaptation of the book that brings out the best in leading man Matt Damon who has been nominated for Best Actor.

 

index (7)Straight Outta Compton is super violent and super profane, but also super popular. It is a very well-directed, provocative and comprehensive biopic that shines with exquisite camera movements and amazing performances to tell this compelling story of the five young men who popularized the gangsta rap movement that came up in the 1980’s. Using brutally honest rhymes and hardcore beats, they put their frustration and anger about life into the most powerful weapon they had: their music. Up for Best Original Screenplay.

 

index (8)Trainwreck is super funny and a decent romantic comedy. It is a typical Judd Apatow movie with its heart in the right place, flawed characters, truthfulness with sharp humor, and hilarious work from Amy Schumer. Amy is a party girl who starts to wonder if there may be something to the monogamy thing when she starts to have feelings for the charming and successful doctor (Bill Hader) she is interviewing for an article. If you liked Bridesmaids, this one’s for you.

 

index (9)Ant Man stars Paul Rudd (Love him!) fully aware of the silliness of someone shrinking down to insect size while remaining a threat to human beings. The last Marvel film of phase 2 decides to just have fun with the concept. The showdown makes great use of the possibilities of people shrinking and growing back to size within seconds and makes for one of the smallest and funniest end fights in movie history.

 

11191454_oriEvergreen Branch Manager Alan loved Mistress America. This is a wonderful movie filled with excellent performances, some hilarious lines,a fantastic screenplay and sophisticated dialogue, wonderful score and such a big heart. Tracy is a lonely college freshman in New York, having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But then she is taken in by her soon to be stepsister, Brooke, and she is rescued from her disappointment. Heartwarming!

 

indexSVHM9DYNAloha stars Bradley Cooper as a celebrated military contractor returning to the site of his greatest career triumph, the U.S. space program in Honolulu, Hawaii. This romantic comedy has something for everyone: love, a space rocket story and a beautiful island setting. It didn’t get great reviews, but I liked it because of the Hawaiian setting and, hey, Bradley Cooper. It is at the bottom of this list, but still worth your time.

 

That’s all folks! Check out these films and others at the Everett Public Library.

OMG Read This! Or, 5 Reasons to Read the Book First

the martian

OMG guys, read the book. Then see the movie. Then see the movie again. Then read the book again. Then just basically stalk Matt Damon.

Sometimes when I really, truly love something, I have a difficult time adequately describing exactly what specifically it is that I loved, and why you should give a care. Take The Martian and my verbal diarrhea above. That fangirl gibberish is literally what I sent my editor when asked what I was going to write about this month and, strangely, it fits perfectly.

There are oodles of posts out there reviewing in detail both the book by Andy Weir (debut novel that was originally self-published–keep that in mind, fellow NaNoWriMo peeps!) and the Matt Damon box-office smash hit movie. That’s not what this is. This is me trying to tell you why it’s so very important to read the book before you watch the movie.

  1. The obvious snobbery. “Oh, you didn’t read the book? I see…” said with disdain and a mouth full of fake-buttery popcorn. I’ve never actually been a book snob; I read for entertainment at every given opportunity and tend to stay far away from award-winners and Oprah’s book club picks. So when I can actually flash the book snob card, I don’t hesitate, as it’s a rare thrill and I can be that shallow.
  2. The book will have the details that make your heart sing. I don’t care how good the movie is; there’s really no way to get all the detail out on screen, unless you want your film to be 18 hours long. In the case of The Martian, much of the story is told through Mark Watney’s journal entries. You can believe the film is not narrated start-to-finish by Matt Damon. That would test even my patience. Instead, the director made selective use of narration, sometimes leaving patches of silence, which actually works for this stranded-in-space story.
  3. You may discover a new favorite author. I know I’m not the only one who tends to read books that are definitely not candidates for film. The books being made into movies are outside my wheelhouse, and by reading one of them I’m exposing myself to different voices and perspectives.
  4. You’ll know when it’s safe to get refills or hit the restroom. I love experiencing film in the theater, as both the picture and sound quality are usually above and beyond anything I could replicate at home. However, there’s no pause button, so you really have to take a gamble when choosing the best time for a refill on popcorn or a trip to the loo. Not so when you already know the order of events. You have a mental crystal ball that will tell you when it’s safe to rush out and see to your needs.
  5. You might get a more complete ending. Let’s face it: The Martian book ends rather abruptly. You get a general sense of completion in terms of “did Watney get rescued or not?,” but there’s no epilogue to tie it up with a pretty red bow. The movie, however, gave me that sense of closure and a feeling that I really knew what became of all of the main characters.

Full disclosure: the whole reading-the-book-and-then-seeing-the-screen-adaptation-thing is something I rarely ever do. But after my experience with The Martian, I am making it my new standard MO. I’ve seen The Martian twice now, but you can bet it’s likely I’ll be back in the theater before its run is over. There’s just something about this story of hope and humanity that has me glued to my seat, even though I already know what’s going to happen.

On a side note, I have to commend the people creating the PR materials for The Martian movie. Sure, they released your typical movie previews in advance of the release date, but they also have these incredibly fun and fascinating faux documentaries about the Ares 3 crew and its mission. I’ll leave you with my favorite, done in the style of Cosmos and starring everyone’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And for those of you jonesing for a dose of reality, the insanely cool folks at NASA have compiled an interactive repository for all things about the real Martians. I’ll see you all next month, once I find my way out of this new and exciting rabbit hole of information!