My Top Ten…Modern Classics (Part II)

As promised yesterday, here is the second half of my top ten books that will become (I hope) modern classics!

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5.) A Separate Peace by John Knowles (Published in 1959)

While on the surface this story seems like just a coming of age tale, it’s actually much  more.  A Separate Peace is credited with helping further the naturalism literary movement, which basically stated that one’s environment, family, and social conditions all come into play in shaping who you are and what you do.  The main character of the novel, Gene, treads down an enormous introspective path of trying to figure out who he is and why he’s led the life he has.  The story is told via flashback as he dwells on events from his teen years at Devon, a prep school.   The story seems to be solely a journey of self discovery, yet deep within the writing are thoughts on war and youth.

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4.) The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins (Published in 2008-2010)

I’ve only recently read these books (literally I just read them over the course of 24hrs this past weekend) but I’m still reeling from their amazing-ness.  The three books in the series are PACKED with heavy themes that while directed at teens, sure do hit at home.  The ideas of governmental control, survival of the fittest, independence, unrequited love, power, sacrifice, interdependence, etc are all present here.  It’s stunning how much is jam-packed into these three novels without seeming overwhelming.  The plot is incredibly gripping, due in large part to the hauntingly realistic and relatable characters.  As we watch our own country fight multiple wars and deal with political infighting, this series hits close to home.

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 3.) The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Published in 2006)

It seems like the most simplistic plot: a man and his son walking down a road in a post-apocalyptic world.  However, it’s much deeper than that.  The Road is truly a character driven novel, with little detail and no tangents to get in the way.  It is a story about relationships: with family, with emotion, with strangers, with our environment, and with ourselves.  McCarthy creates a frightening land where cannibalism is commonplace and hope is scarce, yet the man and his son persevere.  The themes of survivorship and family shine throughout, and the reader is given new hope for a better tomorrow despite the despair of the present.

2.) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt (Published in 1996)Cover Image 

Frank McCourt’s autobiographical memoir is a rough read in terms of subject matter, but is written so beautifully and elegantly that you look past all the depressing pieces and just see hope.  Telling the story of his childhood in Limerick, Ireland, McCourt sadly but humorously covers every detail of the poor streets of Limerick, from the row of dilapidated houses that he and his siblings were forced to live in, to the various odd jobs he took to earn money for his mother.  This book will always be relevent because even though McCourt and his family faced hardship after hardship, he never lost sight of his hopes and dreams, making this a must-read for adolescents of today and in the future.

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1.) Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe (Published in 1958)

This novel easily makes it into the top five books I’ve ever read.  Set in Africa during times of colonization and religious missionary influence, a local village leader named Okonkwo experiences a fall from power as he refuses to accept any of the influence of the colonials.  An important lesson I learned from this novel is one of perspective.  Just because one thinks what he/she is doing is correct doesn’t always correlate to what is correct for the other party.  This also plays into the theme of the power of change.  Change for the sake of change isn’t always good, and change for the sake of one set of ideals to match your own is often narrow-minded and intractable.  There is a reason why the world is full of individuals with different ideas, personalities, and beliefs.  It is when we begin changing this to make everyone the same that we become some form of a real life dystopian society.

Well readers, what are your thoughts?  What books do you think I’ve missed??  Let me know in the comments below!  Until next time…happy reading!

Winners Announced in The Books That Changed Our Lives Giveaway!

Six lucky winners have been chosen in the Books That Changed Our Lives giveaways! 

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt –  Congratulations to Bethie who left a comment on March 11th. 

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Congratulations to Laura who left a comment on March 24th.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson – Congratulations to Elizabeth who left a comment on March 9th.

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch – Congratulations to Amy who left a comment on March 10th.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – Congratulations to Bianca who left a comment on March 13th.

Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman – Congratulations to Hira who left a comment on March 16th.

 
Congratulations to all our winners!! 
 
 
Winners: Please contact me with your name and mailing address by April 8, 2011 to claim your prize.  Shipment is to the US and Canada only. 
 
Special thanks to everyone who participated!!

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Angela’s Ashes

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the film I will be reviewing this week is Angela’s Ashes.  It is a film based on a memoir of the same name written by Frank McCourt.  Angela’s Ashes is a film of reflection, growing up, and ultimately what a family, in particular a mother, will go through to provide for a family. This movie provides the viewer with heartbreak and humor.

Beginning in 1936; young Frank McCourt (Joe Breen) is living in a tenement in Brooklyn New York, with his mother Angela (Emily Watson), father Malachy (Robert Carlyle), younger brothers Malachy (Shane Murry-Corcoran), and twin brothers Eugene and Oliver (Ben and Sam O’Gorman). They are all over the moon, having recently welcomed a baby sister, Margaret, to the family. Unfortunately their happiness doesn’t last long, as a few days later Margaret dies.  Broke and unable to sustain a life in New York, the McCourt’s move back to Limerick, Ireland, near Angela’s mother, sister, and brother in law. Life in Ireland however is not much better. Malachy, the dad, is extremely prideful and looks down upon begging or asking for help.  Any money he gets from the “dole” is used to buy himself alcohol, furthering their financial troubles.  Tragedy again strikes when Oliver dies, followed shortly by his twin brother Eugene.  After the boy’s deaths, Malachy’s drinking becomes heavier and heavier.  By the grace of God, two more children are born into the family, Michael and Alfie.  Malachy understands that there are no jobs left in Ireland, and leaves to work in a factory in England, manufacturing materials for World War II.  Angela and the boys think that everything will be ok now, but are incredibly crestfallen when Malachy doesn’t send back any money. He returns on Christmas Eve, only to leave again the next day, this time forever. As the story progresses, the movie shows how the family provides for itself and how they carry on with their lives after their fathers deserts them. 

One of the highlights of the movie for me was the performance of Joe Breen, who plays Frank from the ages of 5 to 10.  Breen was a natural on screen, stealing any scene he was in.  He has such an honest quality about him that truly showed the innocence of his character at that age. At his age I am not sure if he was really able to comprehend how exceptionally poor his family was or whether his father was an alcoholic.  As Frank grows up, he loses his naivety and understands the grave nature of the problems his family is in. This is when the sadness of the movie was most profound for me. As I was watching the movie, it felt as if the first part was truly told through the eyes of a child as there was more humor, despite the situation. I also enjoyed Frank’s interaction with Malachy, the dad (Carlyle). I wanted the character of Malachy to have a different outcome.  I wanted him to turn his life around and provide for his family, and I think it was because of how Robert Carlyle portrayed the character that I felt this way. He gave the character charisma and charm, that as a viewer made it hard to see his character go down the destructive path.

I would give the movie Angela’s Ashes my first five out five stars. The movie was brilliantly written, every role perfectly cast, and lastly beautifully filmed. Every scene had really interesting shots and truly showed the despair of the family. The movie will break your heart, but really get you thinking, that if you had to, what would you sacrifice or what would you do to provide for your family?

Like always, I will end my review with a question: what will you remember about your childhood? When you look back on that time in your life, will it be all good memories?  Or will it include some tough times? After viewing this movie and possibly reading the memoir, you will find yourself pondering your childhood with a little more thought.

5 out of 5 Stars

Angela’s Ashes
Paramount Pictures (1999)
R, 145 Minutes

The Books That Changed Our Lives – GIVEAWAYS!!!

Firstly, I’d like to thank my friends and fellow bloggers for contributing such fantastic blog posts for the blog series this week.  I’m so lucky to have had such talent on the blog this week!  I hope that this week’s posts have inspired some of you out there to pick up the books we spoke about. 

Secondly, I hope that some of you have been inspired to start a dialogue about books with those around you.  It’s so interesting (at least in my opinion) to find out how eclectic people’s book choices can be.  I think the group of us that wrote this week have proven that!!

To recap the giveaways that are being offered see below.  To enter, click on the link and leave a comment on that post!  Good luck to all who enter!!  Entries will be accepted through March 30th at midnight.  US and Canadian residents only please.

1 copy of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

1 copy of The Giver by Lois Lowry

1 copy of Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson MD

1 copy of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

1 copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

1 copy of Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman

I just wanted to express, again, my sincere gratitude for those of you who joined us this week.  Another blog series is in the works for next month, so, keep checking back for details!

In the meantime…

…Happy Reading!!

The Books That Changed Our Lives – Kim’s Edition + GIVEAWAY

Many of my friends know that I love having deep discussions, especially about books, films, and life.  I recently challenged some of my friends and fellow bloggers to try to come up with a book(s) that has in some way impacted their life.  It could be a book that helped you through a rough period in life, made you want to choose a certain job path, or just made you want to try something new.  I soon started thinking about what book I would write about and came to the realization that there isn’t just one book that has shaped me into the person I am today.  There are three points in my life where books have helped push me forward and I’ve chosen to write about those points.

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As a child I was super hyperactive, hence my diagnosis with ADHD.  I was always running around and could never focus on one thing to do.  As a result my mom signed me up for a lot of activities to keep me busy.  One of my favorite activities was going to the library with my sister for story-time or arts and crafts hour.  Wanting to mimic everything my sister did, I soon found myself sitting down for hours on end reading the same books she read. I would steal her Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew, and Boxcar Children books all the time.  It was when I stole her Little  House on the Prairie series that I really understood the power of books.  Never before had I read a book that I quite literally refused to put down until I finished.  I had no idea that books could be so enthralling and captivating.  Once I had read through the entire Little House series my sister told me there was a series about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s grandmother, mother, and even her daughter!!  That news had me greedily forcing my mother to take me to the library and the bookstore to keep getting me more books.  Thankfully my mom had NO issues having a child who wanted to read and willingly took me for books every time I asked!  The Little House series was honestly the first books I read for pleasure and I credit the series for the love I currently have of novels, most specifically memoir novels.  It was through reading these books that I learned to control my hyperactivness and learn to focus on one thing at a time.  Without reading these books I’m not sure what kind of focus I’d have as an adult today.

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As I got into my later years of elementary school and early years of high school I stopped reading for pleasure.  I was forced to read tons of books in high school and was so busy with extracurricular activities that I just didn’t find it fun anymore.  My senior year in high school, my english course started reading Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  WOW.  For the first time in a long time I was hungrily reading a book.  Angela’s Ashes was everything you could ask for in a book: emotional, gripping, honest, heartbreaking, inspiring, scintillating, and so much more.  It opened the path right back up for me and I started reading again voraciously.  At 17 I started being able to read as well as learn from what I was reading.  Angela’s Ashes taught me that no matter what life throws at you, with hard work and dedication you can overcome it.  Pride and Prejudice taught me not to be so hasty in judging a person’s character.  It is only through true knowledge of a person that you can really learn what is on the inside.  Things Fall Apart taught me that not all change is bad, but forcing change for the sake of change is not beneficial for anyone.   The Harry Potter series taught me about true friendship and overcoming all obstacles with faith and confidence in yourself.  (It also opened my eyes to this magical word that I couldn’t get enough of).

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As my college years came, the amount of work that was given to us was substantial.  Being a media production major took up most of my free time as I spent it either filming or editing my projects.  As my senior year came and went and my professional life began, I found the time to read again.  Home one night and bored out of my mind I decided to watch the first Twilight film.  (You can all start laughing now) I loved it and wanted to get my hands on the first volume ASAP.  I read the entire Twilight series in 3 days.  I was hooked.  Hooked this time to vampire novels.  I read the Twilight series, the Sookie Stackhouse series, and the Vampire Diaries series all in a short period of time.  Through my vampire craze I found a book called Mr. Darcy, Vaympire by Amanda Grange and that just opened me up to the Jane Austen fan fiction world.  It is through reading all these books again that I found a passion for book reviewing, which has led to my blog!

The three books above have been my gateway books into the world of reading.  I’ve been to Ireland, Washington, regency England, the court of Henry VIII, concentration camps during the Holocaust, a state road during the apocalypse, Hogwarts, and so many other places through the wonderful worlds that have been created by Frank McCourt, Jane Austen, Stephenie Meyers, Homer, Neil Gaiman and so many others.  Reading allows us to take journeys to anywhere we want to go and to do anything we want to do without ever leaving the comfort of our favorite reading spot.

I’d love to know what books have helped shape your lives so leave a comment below!

GIVEAWAY- I’m going to be giving away a copy of Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.  Leave a comment telling me if you’ve ever had a gateway book or had a book completely change your life.  Comments will be accepted through Wednesday March 30th at midnight.  Winners will be picked at random and announced Thursday March 31st.  Giveaway open to US & Canadian residents only.