Tag Archives: books

The Times They Are A-Changing

The Chanukah list

Lots of possibilities

Chanukah arrives early this year. In fact, for the first time since 1888, the first day is on Thanksgiving! Turkey and latkes anyone?

As usual, I’ve asked my sons for their wish lists. And, as usual, peace on earth fails to make an appearance (or, for that matter, the sentiment that paying for their college educations is present enough).

When I got my younger son’s e-mail with his wants, I about fell over . . . and then I started to laugh. Look at the fifth item, which is one of those “I most wants.” Yep, it’s actually a book!

Love this old list!

Love this old list!

Stroll with me down memory lane for awhile. Remember this blog post from 2009? Yes, number 4 on the above dry-erase board photo from that post says “No Books!” As you might recall, the kid hated the annual Chanukah book night that his older brother looked forward to. So after my younger son put it in writing, I stopped buying him novels and nonfiction works as gifts.

But now that he’s in college, he actually is asking for “The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy.” Will wonders never cease?!? Ironically, it was published in 2009.

Book night is back, baby! Bam!

Books and Movies

Just see the movie.

I started reading “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (a title that I never can remember, by the way; I always have to look it up) before the movie came out. I was only about halfway through the novel when the Mister and I saw the film, finishing the book soon after. That gave me an interesting perspective of both media.

For the first time ever, I thought the movie actually was better than the book! Eric Roth, the screenwriter, did a masterful job separating the wheat from the considerable, overwrought chaff penned by Jonathan Safran Foer. I know there are plenty of people who loved the novel, but I thought it needed better editing. Or it just could be that I didn’t like Foer’s writing style.

The narrator is different in the book.

On the heels (or should that be “hooves”) of seeing and finishing “Extremely Loud,” I next experienced “War Horse,” first by movie and then by book on my Kindle. The Mister and I loved the flick, so I couldn’t wait to read the novel it was based on.

Talk about your quick reads! Of course, it helps that it’s geared towards children, which also meant that those graphic war scenes on the big screen were added to the already-rich story. The biggest surprise for me? The book is narrated by Joey, the horse. What a novel (hee hee!) idea!

I wouldn’t say I was too caught up with the story’s sentimentality and sweetness, but I’ll admit that I felt a little embarrassed when I was finishing the book while eating lunch at Chipotle. I sat hunched over my Kindle trying not to let any of the other patrons see me cry at the ending.

I did discover, though, that tears give guacamole an unusual flavor!

So far, so good!

Right now I’m speeding through “The Hunger Games” (free on my Kindle through Amazon.com’s Prime lending library). It’s so compelling that it’s tempting to just read all day and let the laundry pile up. I love books like that!

I sure hope the movie, set to debut next month, does the novel justice. I can’t wait to finish the book, go to the theater, and judge for myself.

Stay tuned for the review!

The Chanukah List

The #2 son’s Chanukah list

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah. The first and the eighth nights are my favorites of the holiday—all the excitement of the start of the celebration tonight, and then the 18 candles (two menorahs) filling the dining room with a warm glow eight nights from now. Plus all that lovely low-light photography featuring my Nikon D700 and Nikon 50mm lens in between!

Recently, I asked my sons for their Chanukah lists. My #1 son only wants two things: Music and books. Those (and videoing) are his passions. Pretty easy.

But then there’s the #2 son. That’s his list above, scrawled on a dry-erase board. On the left side are the discs he’d like for disc golf; on the right is everything else.

A closer look at #2’s list

#2 knows, of course, that just because he wants something doesn’t mean he’ll get it; he’s not a super-materialistic kid anyway. But it’s nice to know what’s on his mind.

Let’s look at his list:

Jelly Car

1. An iPod Touch. He especially wants this so he can play Jelly Cars, which, apparently, is the crack of app games. I put it on my iPhone for him, and he loves to use up my battery power moving those silly cars through obstacles.

ATM bank

2. An ATM bank. He saw this in a Bed, Bath, and Beyond mailer and thinks it would be a great place to keep his money. Instead of strewn around his room, as it is now.

3. UH stuff. As in the University of Houston, the Mister’s alma mater. Easy to find here in the Houston area, especially with the football team doing so well.

Daunte Culpepper quarterbacking the Detroit Lions

5. Culpepper jersey (not Miami or Vikings). #2 is a big Daunte Culpepper fan. He already has the quarterback’s jerseys from his stints with the Dolphins and Minnesota. Now he’d like one from Oakland or Detroit. The price of Culpepper’s Detroit Lions jersey? 80 bucks. As in . . . don’t think so.

4. I skipped #4 at first, because it makes me laugh so much. First of all, can you even read what it says? At first glance, I couldn’t decipher what #2 wrote after the word “No.” Was that “boots?” Or “Beatles?” #2 shot me a withering glance and said emphatically, “It’s ‘no books,’ Mom.”

No surprise there. It happened several Chanukahs ago when my sons opened their presents one of the nights. I’ll always remember how #1’s eyes lit up when he saw that he had several new books. And I’ll never forget how #2 scowled as he held his mini stack of paperbacks. What he said next are words that will haunt me for the rest of my life:

“I hate this night! I always hate book night.”

And that’s why #2 made sure to note that he did not want any literature gifts this Chanukah.

Now, there’s never been a Chanukah that I didn’t give the boys books as a present one of the nights. Even after that fateful declaration of hatred. What’s my plan this year? And will #2’s list be fulfilled?

We’ll know in a week!

Reading: It’s Great for Insomnia!


For the past two weeks, the #2 son has had one big homework assignment: Read “Kiss the Dust” for honors world geography.

kiss the dust

Sidebar: I have two confessions to make about this book. First, I keep thinking it refers to Oklahoma (as in the dust bowl), not Iraq. You would think the fact that the novel is for “world” geography would be a tip off that it’s not necessarily about the United States. I’m afraid I’ve been losing too many brain cells in my ongoing ant war. Second, I so want to call it “Bite the Dust.” Which is what I wish those ants would do!

To say that the #2 son hates to read is a little like saying the Alamo is old. Or the Statue of Liberty is historical. Or that I really, truly detest ants that invade my beloved Blow Pops. #2 says he only likes books with short chapters; the subject matter isn’t really important. Needless to say, the boy never will read a Harry Potter book.


Meanwhile, the #1 son, who has been reading since age 3, considers a 288-page book like “Kiss the Dust” almost not worth his time. A Harry Potter fan, he loves long novels and nonfiction baseball tomes. He almost always has a book in his hands, while #2 almost always has a football in his. Different strokes for different sons.

The other evening #2 was in the family room supposedly reading his book. He had to be done with it by today for his quiz, plus he has a project due Monday (and has he started it yet? Need you ask?!?). #1 also was reading near him. In my office, I drank in the quiet of the evening and thought, “This is good!”

But after 10 or 15 minutes, I listened to that same silence and thought, “Oh, oh!”

Me: #1 son, is your brother asleep?

#1: Of course he is.

Sigh! #2 almost always falls asleep when he reads. Which is okay right before bed with any old book but not one he’s going to be quizzed about and have to do a project on. And this happens if he reads right after dinner or right before bed. He doesn’t discriminate—almost all books read at any time of the day cause him to nod off. And sometimes even use the book for his pillow!


As long as the #2 son has a book, he’ll never have to worry about insomnia!

Movie review: Not Enough Half-Blood Prince

The sixth Harry Potter book

The sixth Harry Potter book

Potterphiles like myself know two basic truths: First, the seven books penned by the brilliant J.K. Rowling are a tremendous read. And, second, the movies are a sad, sad substitute for the books.

The latest case in point? The recently released “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” which our family saw Wednesday afternoon.

Sidebar: Normally, we only go to the theater before noon on weekends, the better to take advantage of the $5 pricing. However, the Mister and the #2 son were going to be at a disc golf tournament all weekend, so we made an exception for Harry. We were too anxious to wait!

Severus Snape and Narcissa Malfoy utter the Unbreakable Vow in front of the horribly sadistic Bellatrix Lestrange.

Severus Snape and Narcissa Malfoy utter the Unbreakable Vow in front of the horribly sadistic Bellatrix Lestrange.

We all liked the movie, especially all the humor, but for the #1 son and I, we couldn’t help but lament what was left out from the book. The filmmakers concentrated too much on the romantic relationships in the movie at the expense of action and important events. I understand that the movie has to appeal to the millions who haven’t read the book, especially teenagers, but it was so ridiculous that there was hardly any information about the half-blood prince. Snape admitted to Harry that he, in fact, was the prince, but it was almost a throwaway line. There was no storyline about how Snape got to be called the HBP.

The young Tom Riddle and Dumbledore

The young Tom Riddle and Dumbledore

We did find out a bit about Voldemort’s past as Tom Riddle, who was creepily played by Hero Fiennes-Tiffin.

Sidebar: Does that “Fiennes” sound familiar? Young Hero is the nephew of Ralph Fiennes, who plays the adult Voldermort!

Ginny, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron before a quidditch match

Ginny, Harry, Hermoine, and Ron before a quidditch match

The filmmakers really grabbed the Golden Snitch when they originally cast Daniel Radcliffe (Harry), Rupert Grint (Ron), and Emma Watson (Hermoine). The three have grown into their roles and have become fine actors. In fact, everyone in the cast makes this movie so watchable and enjoyable.

There's still no love lost between Harry and Draco.

There's still no love lost between Harry and Draco.

The one actor who was especially sensational in “HP and the HBP” was Tom Felton, who plays Draco. Even though I have a hard time believing that Voldemort would trust a student to kill a gifted wizard like Dumbledore, Draco’s inner turmoil about having to complete such an onerous task was palpable. You could just tell his heart wasn’t in it.

Despite not being at Draco’s hand, Dumbledore’s death was just heartbreaking. Although I knew it was going to happen, it still made me cry. Such a sad moment for Harry in a short lifetime filled with sad moments.

As disappointing as it was for the movie not to include Dumbledore’s funeral, I did really like the wand tribute by the Hogwarts’ students and staff that erased the dark mark from the sky. Tons of emotion during that scene. The end of the movie set up the final films very nicely. Look for me to be intrigued by movies #7 and #8 but also to be disappointed. I have no doubt that Potterphile truth #2 will hold true: Those movies will be a sad, sad substitute for the book version of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

But I already can’t wait to see them!