Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

     Firstly: No, Miranda, it is most definitely not just you.

     Moving on: Miranda Hart's auto-biographical Is It Just Me? tells the tale of her growing up (which continues to this day). The wit and cleverness shown in her TV series shines clear through her writing as well and one can't help but laugh out loud at some of the pages. In fact there were many nights I fear I woke my husband from his slumber as I lay reading late into the night.

     Perhaps one of the most unique features of this book is that it holds conversation between the author and reader as well as between the present-day author and her 18-year-old self. This provides an interesting perspective into Hart's life then and now and, more importantly as a reader, makes one think back to our own youthful, ignorant days.

Author, Comedian and Actress Miranda Hart
     The main lesson of Is It Just Me? is to take things a little less seriously but never let go of your dreams and right to happiness. We live in a funny world that can sometimes seem not at all funny. But it's up to us to be ourselves, drop our shield and allow that raw exposure to our surroundings in order to give and get the most to and from the world.

     I highly recommend reflecting on memories past with Miranda Hart and taking a peek into your own mechanics and history. It's a quick but fantastic read that's sure to have you at least giggling if not rolling about and shouting in public (you'll understand when you read). Be sure to check for Is It Just Me? at your local library, on Amazon for your Kindle, as a paperback or hardcover. You can also purchase Miranda's enhanced e-book edition which includes 18 video sequences. And finally, if you haven't seen her TV series, you're missing out. Become a cultural vacuum or at least have a Miranda marathon and catch up with one my new personal favorites.

Monday, September 16, 2013

People React with Hate to the Crowning of Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri
     It's disheartening to read some of the reactions to the crowning of Nina Davuluri because of her skin color and heritage. Some people respond as if she wasn't born in Syracuse and raised in Oklahoma (before moving to Michigan for college and eventually back to New York). But, alas, she was.
     The pageant, as my husband says, is not "Miss White America." So does it come down to her skin color? So many ignorant Tweeters called her Arab (uh, what?), terrorist (seriously?) and shook their head at the fact that "they" crowned "someone like her" so soon after 9/11 (what the *!$#@?) "I can't even spell it," whines one girl.
     So might I say, on behalf of those Americans like myself who are proud of the diverse and culturally rich country we're lucky to live in, that Miss America is the perfect victor. May she wear the crown with her head held high despite the Americans boldly spewing their ignorance like a fountain.

Here are some of the hate responses, in case you haven't already read them several times over. (Clicking an image or linked name will take you to their Twitter page, but most have closed their accounts. Wonder why...)

An Asian and an Indian?? I thought this was Miss America!?
-Brock May (@BrockMay21) September 16, 2013

How can you be Miss AMERICA and look like you should be a gas station clerk or motel owner? this country though <<< #MissAmerica
-Matt Haney (@OneProudHonkie) September 16, 2013

     With all DUE respect, na├»ve, close-minded bigots, this is a country that's always opened its arms to immigrants and those seeking freedom for all. We don't look at skin color and disqualify people for equal rights and opportunities. It's hard to believe this kind of stuff is still going on in 2013. Let's respond with love and understanding and stop the hate and ignorance.

     Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS to Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014. You worked hard and earned the crown. You live in this country (like me), were born in this country (like me) and are human (like me). Your skin color is irrelevant to the crown. Your Indian-American heritage is something to be proud of and celebrated. So once again, congratulations on a well-deserved achievement in American history. May your accomplishment shine forever in the future as a beacon of hope for all persons from culturally diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

Under the Dome Book vs. Mini-Series

Stephen King's bestseller Under the Dome
versus the TV mini-series based on it.

In Stephen King's bestselling novel, Under the Dome...
  • Junior doesn't lock Angie in a fall-out shelter. He kills her early on along with Dodee Sanders. He even engages in sexual activity with them post-mortem in the pantry he's hidden them in.
  • Junior suffers from a brain tumor which is, in part, responsible for his irrationally violent behavior.
  • Dodee Sanders, portrayed as the radio engineer in the series, has nothing to do with the radio station. In fact, the rock station from the series is actually a "Jesus Radio" station helping to cover up Rennie's enormous meth operation. It's ran entirely by computer.
  • Duke Perkins, chief of police, is working to expose, not turn a blind eye to, Rennie and his illegal activities up unto his death by pacemaker malfunction.
  • Linda, portrayed as the lead cop in the series, is far from the lead cop. In fact she's fired in the book later on for being married to Physician Assistant Rusty (not a fireman outside the dome, as in the book). Rusty is found guilty (wrongly) of attempted murder, resisting arrest and whatever else Rennie and his thugs felt like scribbling down.
  • Barbie is not involved in collecting money from people or killing Peter Shumway (nonexistent in the book)
  • Julia Shumway is divorced. I repeat: No Peter.
  • There is no water dispute with a town farmer or propane bargaining.
  • It does not rain under the dome.
  • Several children and young adults, including Linda and Rusty's girls, have precognitive seizures not just limited to Pink Stars falling but foretelling, in short, a hell on earth and a few murder clues.
  • Phil Bushey, portrayed as radio DJ in the show, is actually a drug addict who cooked meth for Jim Rennie. He was not in love with Dodee, but married and estranged to a Sammy Bushey and father to a baby boy. Sammy was raped by three of the town's new "cop" recruits including Junior who drove out, drunk (and maybe high) to abuse their powers and "teach her a lesson".
  • Rose is not killed in her restaurant. She lives to escape the dome.
  • The mini-dome is non-existent. No egg or cocoon either. There is a small, flat rectangle with a strange symbol and purple flashing light that seems to be the only reasonable explanation for the dome.
  • Nearly all of Chester's Mill dies, leaving just about twenty survivors in the end from a starting population of near 2,000.
  • There are two other selectmen (councilmen) under the dome besides Rennie but unable to overpower him. One simply goes along for the ride and takes the blame for what are ultimately the consequences of Rennie's actions, including the meth lab.
  • The dome let's some air and water as well as sound through.
  • Environmental pollution and destruction is more evident and dangerous. At times it seems it could be more threatening than Rennie.
  • Joe McClatchey is not Angie McCain's brother. No relation.
  • There are not four "pre-selected" youth whose hands are required to conjure a reaction from the dome's "power source".
  • Norrie does not have two lesbian mothers and is a resident of Chester's Mill, not a visitor. The mother she does have is a drunk and does not have diabetes.
  • Insulin and medication shortage is not a major issue (at least not discussed). Prescription meds and alcohol are locked up "for the good of the people".
  • Rennie is responsible for the death of his wife, Reverend Coggins and Brenda Perkins (Police Chief Duke's widowed wife who threatened to expose the secrets Duke was working to bring to the proper authority before his death).
  • Rennie drives a Hummer, not a Chevrolet.
  • Fire trucks are out of Chester's Mill on a "practice run", not a parade, when the dome comes down.
Feel free to comment and let me know what other differences you've noticed that I haven't listed.

     Check out Under the Dome from your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon for your kindle, as a hardcover,paperback or audiobook.

     Also be sure to check out the television mini-series (on CBS or free with Amazon Prime) based on the book for a significantly different, but just as engaging story-line of what happens when the mysterious dome closes over Chester's Mill.

Under the Dome by Stephen King

     Under the Dome by Stephen King takes us to the smallish town of Chester's Mill. When an invisible barrier crashes into existence around the town, its residents find themselves trapped and under the eventual, horrifying understanding that the barrier is an impenetrable dome.

     The town takes no time at all in falling into panic and irrational behavior with large thanks to the ignorance and thirst for power of one of the town's selectmen, Big Jim Rennie. Rennie has no intention of attempting to get rid of the dome and is prepared to murder anyone who stands in the way of him and the realization of his dream for complete control. To ensure he continues to hold executive (and exclusive) control of Chester's Mill, he manipulates the town's residents and incites fear to produce a false trust in his leadership. As long as the dome is up, he can do whatever he wants.

Author Stephen King
     There are, of course, those who oppose the leadership of Rennie. These characters become the minority in the town as Rennie singles them out as internal terrorists, blames the dome's existence on them and even throws in his personal underground meth lab industry for good measure. In short, most of Chester's Mill believes Rennie that these "rebels" can't be trusted and is prepared to murder them "for the good of the town". 

     Under the Dome boasts a phenomenal wealth of characters. We, as readers, are taken from one perspective to another and back again to put together the pieces as the residents of Chester's Mill are. The suspense between personal accounts is wildly breathtaking at times and leaves you burning through the pages to get to each resolution and the final, epic conclusion. 

Television Mini-Series on CBS and Amazon
     No one is safe inside the dome over Chester's Mill. Find out what happens by checking out Under the Dome from your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon for your kindle, as a hardcover, paperback or audiobook.

     Also be sure to check out the television mini-series (on CBS or free with Amazon Prime) based on the book for a significantly different, but just as engaging story-line of what happens when the mysterious dome closes over Chester's Mill.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

     Mockingjay, the action-packed conclusion to Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy, brings us into the final weeks of the rebellion against the Capitol. Things have already been started, caught fire and now are ready to explode. It's hard to tell at times if Nuclear weapons will be the fate of humanity or if careful steps can preserve enough of a population to carry on.

     Katniss Everdeen, our protagonist through the trilogy, is still unsure where her heart beats in regards to Gale or Peeta. They're different but she loves them in a similar way. She continues to go back and forth with pros and cons of each but is undecided.

     Katniss agrees to be the rebel's Mockingjay figure, a face of the rebellion, but often strays from command to get into the heart of the action in dangerous situations risking it all for justice. She refuses to just stand by while people are dying which, in the end, leads her and some fellow rebels into the heart of the Capitol for the final mission to get to President Snow.

     It would seem the Hunger Games never ended. Throughout the streets of the Capitol, the Peacemakers have constructed various pods that release mutts and traps upon a close enough proximity to invaders. Capitol residents have, of course, fled their homes that lie within the booby-trapped blocks to seek safe shelter away from the danger of rebel invasions. Though the force field is gone and not just one can survive this game, the danger is as real as ever and not all that start the mission will be seeing the end. It would seem President Snow is pulling out all stops to protect himself.

Author Suzanne Collins
     As the action heats up to a blistering level, Katniss begins to question everyone around her. She's beginning to wonder if the rebels are using her as a piece in their own game against the Capitol just as the Capitol used her in a piece against the districts...but she doesn't let her doubts and worries distract her from getting to Snow.

     In a shocking, emotional conclusion, The Hunger Games trilogy ends with us in a rocked sense of hope for Panem.

     Don't miss this riveting conclusion to what is sure to be one of the best dystopian stories of our time. You can check it out from your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon for your Kindle, as a hardcover, paperback or audiobook. If you already know you'll love it, check out the entire trilogy.

Book 1: The Hunger Games
Book 2: Catching Fire

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

     In the second book of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire, Katniss finds herself disliking life as one of the two victors of the 74th Annual Hunger Games. In addition to having to parade around Panem in a Victory Tour while maintaining the story that Peeta and herself are lovers, her home life has become very difficult.

     President Snow is unhappy with the rebellion that seemed to spark when Katniss held out the poisonous berries. Districts seem to have found hope and promise in Katniss and are beginning to risk their lives to defy the Capitol. The fire is out of control, but President Snow holds Katniss responsible for the repair which cannot be done at this point.

Author Suzanne Collins
     In a disgusting turn of events, Katniss finds herself back in the arena with Peeta for the 75th Annual Hunger Games, a quarter quell. Every 25 years the Capitol does something even more sadistic than usual in the games and the District 12 victors are no longer as safe as they had previously thought.

Catching Fire Movie (11/22/13)
     With a personal feud between Katniss and President Snow, districts uprising and the Capitol residents experiencing shortage of supplies previously taken for granted, it's obvious that Catching Fire was appropriately titled for what is taking place in Panem. Can Katniss and Peeta survive another round in the arena?

     Check out Catching Fire from your local library. You can also purchase it from Amazon for your kindle, as a paperback, hardcover or audiobook. If you already know you'll love it, check out the entire trilogy or the first book or movie based on it, The Hunger Games. The second movie, Catching Fire, will be released in theatres November 22, 2013.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

     The Hunger Games is the first novel of Suzanne Collins' futuristic, dystopian trilogy. America has fallen apart and taken new form as Panem under leadership of the Capitol. President Snow resides over twelve impoverished districts that are being punished for a previous uprising. The main punishment, the annual Hunger Games, is a last-child-standing fight to the death for 24 youth (a boy and a girl from each district) selected at random. The games are a reminder to each district that the Capitol is in control and is not to be questioned. The event is widely popular (in the Capitol) and televised all across Panem.

     Each district excels in different economical areas such as agriculture or coal mining and owes their various products to the Capitol. Those who try to take the product of their work are punishable by death. Peacemakers monitor each district to ensure cooperation and respect for the rules set up by the Capitol.

     This particular story centers on a character named Katniss Everdeen, an adventurous, strong young woman. She provides for her community and family by illegally leaving the "supposed-to-be-electrified" border of their district to hunt wild game in the woods. People survive in District 12 by trading primarily, but many die of starvation or illness because of limited access to money and adequate care while those residing in the Capitol are wealthy and well-versed in the luxuries of life.

      When the reaping (or the random selection of two Tributes from each district for The Hunger Games) takes place in District 12, Katniss' sister is called, but Katniss volunteers instead and is joined on stage by the baker's son, Peeta Mellark. From the reaping, the two District 12 tributes are taken to the Capitol to begin preparations for entering the Arena. Katniss and Peeta meet the only victor from District 12 in the previous 73 years of the Hunger Games, Haymitch, who is to guide them in preparing for their fast-approaching peril but his faith is lacking and his liquor is plentiful. It seems the only help the two will get will be from each other.

Author Suzanne Collins
     Things change in their team when Peeta and Katniss show themselves competitive and full of potential. A new fire is lit in the District 12 prep team...and possibly between Peeta and Katniss. This could-be romantic flame becomes the focus of the team in preparing the couple for the Hunger Games. This is the angle they can sell to the public to get sponsors (who can send vital life-sustaining supplies via air-drop throughout the games).

      Competing in this sadistic, less-than-human event but having to put up a cooperative, appreciative front to the Capitol just to get sponsors and keep the peace makes it difficult for Katniss to find motivation especially with her odds so low against Districts who raise their children specifically for the Hunger Games. If it weren't for her family back home, it might seem she'd given up before even making it to the Capitol.

     Once in the arena, numerous challenges present themselves to Katniss and Peeta. Gamemaker-produced forks are thrown in the road to make things "more exciting" and life becomes incredibly fragile what with surviving the elements as well as facing 23 other tributes set on winning the games for their own survival and District's benefit.

The Hunger Games Movie
Catching Fire Movie (11/22/13)
     Check out The Hunger Games to see what awaits Katniss in the arena and see what the Capitol (and rest of Panem) find of her behavior and decisions in the Games. The 74th Annual Hunger Games are unlike any other in history and are not to be missed. Check out a copy from your local library, buy it from Amazon for your kindle, as paperback, hardcover or audiobook. If you already know you'll love it, check out the entire trilogy or movie for the first book, The Hunger Games. The second movie, Catching Fire, will be released in theatres November 22, 2013.