Wildly Into the Dark: Typewriter Poems and the Rattlings of a Curious Mind

51viohmxugl-_sx361_bo1204203200_Hey guys!  I know this isn’t my usual fare, but I really wanted to let you know about this one.

This is a collection of poems from Tyler Knott Gregson (the guy who has all those typewriter poems that you see on Pinterest).  I was contacted by the publisher about reading this and passing the word on for two reasons.  (One of them is obviously for a review.)

So we’ll start there.  I own Gregson’s first collection of poems and I love that book.  Gregson’s poetry is interesting because he usually focuses on the small yet important details in daily life, like the way the wind grasps your hair and blows it around or the way loneliness can feel like an old friend.  It’s kind of a fascinating way of looking at the world.

Actually, I’m pretty sure Gregson must be an introvert because there’s so much he writes about that is so identifiable.  It’s all of that writing from a curious mind.  He just sees things differently, in a way that makes you as the reader feel not so alone in noticing weird things too.  I like that.

I will admit, though, that I’m more of a fan of Gregson’s love poems.  While Wildly Into the Dark does have love poems, the vast majority of them are more philosophical and, on a couple of occasions, political.  There’s nothing wrong with it (the poems are still quite good), but they just aren’t my usual interest area.  But overall, the collection of poetry is quite good if you enjoy poetry.  (As a teacher, I am well aware of how many people do not.  I get to hear it every day.)

As I mentioned, the publisher had another reason for contacting me: $1 of every preordered book goes to To Write Love on Her Arms.  (Official release date is March 28, 2017.)  This is an organization I have a lot of respect for and I would absolutely love it if anyone interested in this book enough to buy it would preorder it so TWLOHA gets some of the proceeds.  I wanted to give them a shout-out for that.

If you’d like more information about preordering or the book, go here.  It’s Gregson’s website and he’s got all the details there.

Thank you to any and all who give this book a second look!

Beauty and the Beast (2017 Movie)

movie_poster_beautybeast2017_95e8117fBe Our Guest.

I saw it last night, guys.  You ready for this?

(I’m not even going to give you a synopsis of this movie because I truly hope that no one needs an explanation of what this movie is about.  That would just be so sad.)

Let’s start by talking about the story itself.  Obviously, probably about 85-90% of this movie is the same as the original.  (Some of the dialogue is word for word the same as well, a fact that I know because I have the original animated movie completely memorized.)  Your basics are all there: Belle goes to the castle, Gaston is the bad guy, “Be Our Guest” is a huge production, etc.  The plot is essentially the same.

However, there are some differences to the story, and I won’t go too far into specifics because the discover of it was just so much fun as I was watching it.  Some of the differences have been well-publicized, like Belle being the inventor rather than her father, or Le Fou’s gay scene.  (We’ll talk about that later.)  Belle definitely feels like more of a stronger heroine than the original does, and that’s thanks in large part of Emma Watson’s insistence that Belle not be a damsel in distress.  I liked that she was more willing to be part of the fight rather than just watching it happen.

I was happy with other differences as well.  Disney did a nice job trying to fix some of those plot holes from the original (like the much talked about age of the Beast, since the rose would bloom until his 21st year, etc.).  But we also get backstories on Gaston, Belle, the Beast.  It was great.  And more interactions with the enchanted people in the castle!  You’re going to enjoy Stanley Tucci’s new character.

Oh!  And I almost forgot.  For those of you very familiar with the original tales of Beauty and the Beast from about 200 years ago (or the Robin McKinley retellings), you’ll be pleased with a few changes to the story.

I was also very happy with the music.  Obviously, most of the songs you know well are in this movie again.  (I noticed one or two were cut, but they were reprises or additions to the anniversary edition of the movie.)  The singing voices for the main characters were a little bit different than I was expecting, like how Emma’s voice is a bit airy, but I liked the way it sounded.  And I’m a huge fan of Josh Gad, so his singing is always phenomenal.

There are a few new songs added to the movie, but you’ll be pleased to know Alan Menken returns for this and the additional lyrics were written by Tim Rice, who is a longtime lyricist for Disney.  (Howard Ashman, who wrote the original lyrics, died from AIDS before the 1991 movie was released.)  Some of Ashman’s original lyrics, which were cut from the 1991 film, were added back in for this movie.  So even the new songs and verses feel like classic Disney songs.

Now for the acting.  I thought that Emma Watson did a wonderful job as Belle (partly because Emma is Belle in so many way).  Dan Stevens plays the Beast in a way that makes him seem tough but also soft at times.  As I already mentioned, I love Josh Gad for his humor and vocals, and this did not disappoint.  Gad is hilarious as Le Fou.

But you know who the surprises were?  Luke Evans as Gaston and Kevin Kline as Maurice.  I had heard that Evans wanted to play Gaston in more of a way that made him seem like a human before doing a bait-and-switch style shift in his character.  Of course, Gaston is still a complete narcissist, but he’s not as conceited as he is in the original.  And his shift into a monster is more unsettling for that reason.  And Kline gives Maurice more of a backbone (and more intelligence).  One of my issues with the original Maurice is how flighty and helpless he seems, but Kline did a nice job of still keeping Maurice a bit absent-minded but still respectable.  I understood him more.

Of course, I can’t leave out the enchanted cast either.  Audra McDonald is always a favorite of mine, so insert glowing praise here.  Ewan McGregor is fun as Lumiere, Ian McKellen is great as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson does fantastic justice to Mrs. Potts, and the ensemble of Plumette and Chip are scene-stealers.

I was well-impressed with this movie.  Sure, when you know what’s going to happen next, it takes out a little of the excitement and suspense, but it was still a lot of fun to see it all on the big screen.

I enjoyed myself while watching this movie.  And my boyfriend (who not only came to see this with little complaining AND bought me a replica of Belle’s necklace in the ballroom scene) enjoyed himself too, even if he denies it.  From a male perspective, he enjoyed Gaston’s character a lot and the inclusion of “X-Men and Hobbits” in this movie.  (He caught McKellen’s voice immediately and recognized Luke Evans, but it took him until the credits to identify McGregor.)  He was rooting for Gaston nearly the entire time.

Have fun going to see this yourself, friends!  Let me know what you thought!

Dangerous Lies

20909906First Lines: An angry rap shook the motel room door.  I lay perfectly still on the mattress, my skin hot and clammy.

Oh my gosh, it’s a book review!  The odds of seeing one of those on here anymore is like trying to spot a unicorn.  I picked this up at the library a while ago when I got nostalgic for the suspense in Black Ice, Becca Fitzpatrick’s first foray into suspense thrillers.  I thought this would be worth it.

After witnessing a horrific crime, a girl is given a new identity and a new home.  She becomes Stella Gordon and moves to Thunder Basin, Nebraska.  But Stella isn’t ready to give up her life just yet.  Why should she give up her boyfriend, her high school career, her life–because someone else committed a crime and she needs to testify against them?  How can she be expected to start a life in Nebraska, of all places?  Stella begins to count the days until she turns 18 and can legally set out on her own…but things change when she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder for her to keep her distance.  She knows she can’t tell Chet about her past, but the guilt of constantly lying to him is starting to eat her alive.  And just when Stella begins to feel safe in her new home, she’ll realize that her enemies are much closer than she believed…

While this had moments of feeling like a thriller/suspense story, it’s way more mellow than Black Ice. Basically, this is the story of Stella as she struggles to feel normal in the middle of Nebraska after being relocated there by the witness protection program. Yes, there’s quite a bit of stuff about how she landed in witness protection, but this book is equally about her culture shock, coming from Philly.  So it’s not much about the suspense as it is about her learning about life, love, and forgiveness.

Stella is a good protagonist for this story because she’s stubborn and strong, even though sometimes she’s too stubborn for her own good. I kind of like that, though. And I also liked that she had moments of weakness that made her seem more flawed. She’s more annoying at the beginning than she is later.  And I only say that in retrospect because I don’t remember finding her annoying in the beginning at all.

The plot was good as well, though I felt like it tended to jump around a lot. There are quite a few loose ends in this story that never fully get answered. They are left vague, perhaps to force you to make your own conclusions. That wasn’t really a tactic I liked, but I’ll freely admit that I had a hard time putting this book down. I read most of it in one sitting.

Mostly, I enjoyed the characters in this book and how they all interact. I like trying to figure people out, so to watch Stella do that in a town she doesn’t know or truly understand was fun. And there are definitely some interesting characters, as you would expect in any small town. There are secrets, gossips, corruption, and cover-ups. It’s always interesting.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting cast of characters and a serious look at the problems in life from addiction to teenage pregnancy.  But if you’re looking for a hardcore thriller, this probably isn’t your book.

A Life Update: March Comes In Like a Lion…

Hey everyone!  I know I haven’t been posting much lately (story of my life, right?), but I’m about to enlighten you on what I’ve been doing:

Show Choir

tumblr_inline_n8wx2myizn1szcktj

(Yes, show choir usually does look an awful lot like this, if you’ve never seen it before.)

As I’ve posted about before, I volunteered to be an assistant director for my school’s show choir.  I did it for 5 years when I was in school and it’s definitely something I know a lot about–I know how the shows work, what judges look for, staging, etc.  I had no hesitations about volunteering for this.

Aaaaand then the competitions started.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the competitions in themselves.  I love seeing other groups, watching my own group kill it on stage, and those excited butterflies you get just before a performance (even if I’m not on stage).  What I didn’t love was the stress of making sure everything was ready, making sure everything was running smoothly and on time, making sure every person was where they needed to be, making sure the kids were all doing what they should be doing…  The list goes on.  It was also a huge time commitment as well, where yesterday’s competition had me getting up at 4:20 AM to perform at 9:10 and not being able to leave until after 3:00 (the school scheduled awards 4 hours after the last middle school performance, which was really just a ploy to get people to stay and pay for food).

Anyway, my introverted (INFJ) self has sort of been spazzing out.  I’m a perfectionist anyway, so show choir just kept feeding into that anxiety.  I literally had dreams the week before a show about everything that could go wrong.  It’s been hard sometimes to not feel like a lost fish in a sea of hundreds upon hundreds of people at these things.

But my INFJ side is also eating up the fact that I’ve gotten super close to a lot of the kids.  I’ve picked out kids who are spectacular performers but don’t exactly believe in themselves.  I’ve made an impact on kids I don’t even have in class who now smile at me in the halls when they pass me.  I love that I’ve been able to see a number of these kids in a different light.

I’ve had competitions for the last five weekends straight.  We just finished out last competition yesterday, so now it’s just me doing what I want on weekends for a time (re: reading!)

Grading

8w6kf

The last few weeks of the grading period arrived in the middle of all this show choir, forcing upon me a couple of the things I hate the most as a teacher:

  1. Late work that is literally 2 months old.  I’m not taking that.  I’m not grading it.  Stop wasting my time.  You had your chance two months ago.  That’s no longer an “oops, I forgot” thing.
  2. “Can I get extra credit?”  Like, no.  If you’d done your work on time and well in the first place, you wouldn’t need to be asking about extra credit two days before the end of the quarter.  This quarter has been really bad as 8th graders suddenly realized that high school starts for them in a few months and all those resolutions they made (“I’ll try harder/study more/get all my homework in on time”) aren’t going to happen if they don’t start applying themselves now.

I’ve just had so much grading and so little time to work on it.  It’s hard to want to read anything for fun after you’ve just spent all evening reading essays.

Seeing Someone Sweet…

original-7

A couple of months ago I started dating a guy who is, in many ways, my exact opposite.  Where I’m more creative and imaginative, he’s more logical.  Where I’m a planner and have some anxiety if I do not have a plan, he wings everything.  Where I have more emotional reactions to things, he’s more…unemotional is definitely not the right word, but less emotionally invested than I am.  (We’re talking crying during movies vs. not crying.  nbd.)

But through all of those differences, we still have similarities.  If I’m feeling introverted after a long day of show choir, he’s fine with a night in with a Redbox movie.  If I make a comment about something I like, jokingly or otherwise, he tries to get it for me.  (Even if it’s just milk and Swiss Miss.)  And I try to return the favor where I can.  You guys, he is as sweet as the Girl Scout cookies he buys in bulk.  (He also usually reads these posts, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to hear about that one later…)

If you’ve been following my posts for the last few years, you know that some of my past relationships have been rocky to say the least.  But this one feels good.  I’m having fun.  I enjoy the time I get to spend with him and I always look forward to seeing him again.

(He’s going with me to see the new Beauty and the Beast movie this coming weekend, so that’ll be a new review that I will be hopefully getting out to you guys soon!)

Peace!

Holly