Monthly Archives: August 2013

Joyland

Genre: Mystery

Who doesn’t love a good Stephen King novel? His latest Joyland is definitely worth the read. The novel is relatively short and a quick  read, making it the perfect addition to your summer reading list. Though this novel would probably fall far from a literary critic’s idea of great literature, it’s entertaining and gets the reader involved, which is really what I find myself looking for in a book.

Joyland follows the story of 21-year-old Devin Jones. It’s the story of the summer he spent working at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland. It’s the story of how he got his heart broken and survived. And it’s the story of a murder that took place years beforehand on one of the rides at the park.

Devin is a character who is easy to connect to because, in some way, I think we’ve all been him at some point in our lives. He’s at a crossroads in his life and is trying to decide which way to turn. He’s dealing with the harsh realities of growing up and learning to live in the world after college. I have to believe that most adults have been at this same crossroads in their own lives, making Devin’s roller coaster ride into adulthood something everyone can relate to.

As for the murder mystery itself, it’s a good one. I admit, I did figure it out about 200 pages in (out of 283 pages total), but I almost always figures these murder mystery stories out before the characters do. That being said, I didn’t quite see how all the pieces fit together until I had finished the entire book (and I have to say, it was very clever).

On the whole, this is one I would recommend. For those of you who are afraid Stephen King is too scary for you, don’t be. Yes, there’s a ghost in this story. But no, the book’s not one that’s going to keep you up all night. Believe me, I get scared easier than anyone I know and I was fine

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The Mowgli’s

The Mowgli's, Aug. 8, 2013

The Mowgli’s, Aug. 8, 2013

Less than a week after seeing Panic! at the Disco, I was back at the Jewish mother to see another show. This time, The Mowgli’s took the stage. I’ll be honest and say that before going to the concert, I’d really only heard one song by them. But I loved that song so much that I wanted to go see them when they were in town this past March. However, as luck would have it, that concert took place on Easter Sunday, so going to a concert wasn’t very feasible. But this week I finally got to see The Mowgli’s play, and I’m glad I got to go.

I was telling a friend about the concert today, and she asked what kind of music The Mowgli’s play. My response: feel good music.

Even though I wasn’t familiar with most of their songs, they made me want to dance and sing along. The whole concert had an “I love you, you love me” kind of feel to it, like every little thing is gonna be alright. They even had everybody in the audience join together in a massive group hug.

Now, as I’ve said in previous posts, the Jewish Mother is a small venue, so I was a bit concerned about how they were going to fit all the Mowglis on stage (there are eight of them). It was a bit crowded in the end, not a lot of room for them to move around, but they still put on an entertaining show. There was a very small audience in attendance — something I was a bit surprised by — and so the show was very intimate and friendly. Members of the band even got down from the stage and stood among the crowd while performing.

The Mowgli's performing "San Francisco"

The Mowgli’s performing “San Francisco”

The show ended with the band’s most popular song, the only one I knew going into the show, “San Francisco”. The Mowgli’s encouraged the audience to sing along, and even pulled one fan up on stage to sing and dance with them while they were performing.

The exciting moment of the night for me: the one female band member, Katie Jayne Earl, gave me a high-five as she walked past me on her way off stage at the end of the show.

I may not have known much about this band going into the show, but now that I’ve seen them perform and have gotten the chance to hear more of their music, I’m ready to go buy their album so that next time I’ll be able to sing along.

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Elysium

Elysium Movie Poster (from IMDB)

Elysium Movie Poster (from IMDB)

I had high expectations going into Elysium. Some of them were met, some of them not so much. It wasn’t a bad movie, but the end left me unsatisfied. The friend I went with to see it turned to me afterwards and said, “How do you explain where that story line went wrong?” There wasn’t anything definitive to point to for causing the film to come up lacking, and yet, in the end, it was.

Elysium gives the audience a look into a grim future for planet earth. For those who can afford it, the trip to Elysium can mean the difference between life and death, as the habitat has sick beds with the ability to cure more or less any disease known to mankind. After Max (Matt Damon) suffers an accident and is given only days to live, he makes it his mission to get to Elysium and cure himself. Along the way, he runs into an old friend, Frey (Alice Braga), who he grew up with in an orphanage.

At first, I thought the problem with this movie was that they were trying to do too many things at once. There seemed to be several unrelated story lines occurring simultaneously. But by the end, all these pieces turned out being relevant and necessary. Still, I can’t help but wonder if there was a way for the writers to get to the same end result a bit more smoothly without so many individual pieces for the audience to have to keep up with.

As far as the acting, Matt Damon was everything you might expect from him in such a role (which was great). I enjoy his films. The worst thing about the most recent Bourne movie (The Bourne Legacy) was that he wasn’t in it. Damon makes an entertaining hero that is fun to watch as he takes down a whole gang of bad guys (even as he is dying). The acting I was least satisfied with came from Jodie Foster. She seemed to be struggling to get her lines out making it hard to believe her character was an actual person in this world.

On the whole, this movie was entertaining while it was going on, but I kept waiting for a moment of realization or growth within the characters that never really came. As a result, I left the theater with an unsatisfied feeling. Though I can’t put my finger on what exactly was off about it, this film just didn’t do it for my like I was hoping it would.

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Panic! at the Disco

If I had to sum up this show, I would say “high energy”. It’s been a long time since I last went to a punk show, and it was thrilling to be back in the crowd. I had never seen Panic! at the Disco perform before, though I’ve been a fan since A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out first came out in 2005. After a show like this, I would definitely go see them again.

Panic! at the Disco, August 2013.

Panic! at the Disco, August 4, 2013.

The venue where the show took place (the Jewish Mother), is very small and was packed to the brim. One thing I have to say is that I was surprised by how many high-school aged kids there were there. I figured the band would appeal more to an audience my age, since we listened to Panic! at the Disco throughout our high school and college days. It’s good news for the band though. It means they have the appeal to hang around.

The show itself was a lot shorter than I was expecting; the band only played for an hour. But they did a fantastic job of managing that time and choosing a set full of songs the audience most wanted to hear. Among those songs were The Ballad of Mona Lisa, which the band started with; their big hit I Write Sins Not Tragedies, which was a sing-a-long for their closer; and, of course, their brand new single Miss Jackson

If you haven’t heard Miss Jackson yet, I urge you to check it out. I have to admit, the song has been stuck in my head ever since I first heard it several weeks ago. It’s the first single released from Panic! at the Disco’s upcoming album Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die! due to come out in October. I can’t wait!

WP_000665One of the best things about this show was the band was big on getting the audience involved. As I already mentioned, they made sure to fit in all the ‘big hits’ that people knew and would want to hear them play. They were also good about getting the audience to sing along, joking with people in the crowd, and really performing for the crowd. One of the great things about a small venue is that it allows for an intimacy between the band and the audience that you just can’t get at big arena shows (another reason why I love going to shows at the Jewish Mother).

And according to recent reports, it looks like this concert was one of the last for drummer Spencer Smith. He announced the next day that he was leaving the tour to deal with a drug and alcohol problem he had developed over the years. I’m really glad I got to see him play before he left. He nailed it! I wish Spencer the best of luck in getting well.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God

Genre: Fiction

Like most books that get deemed classics, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston was a bit depressing. As I said in my review of The Color Purple, I have a hard time with depressing literature and films. But, that doesn’t detract from the fact that this book had a strong message to send to all readers. In the end, this is a story about living life.

The main character in this story is a woman named Janie whose life, especially in the matters of love and marriage, didn’t start out as smoothly as she had hoped. After being married off by her grandmother to a farmer, Janie runs away from her husband with another man she meets, Joe, and the two of them get married. She hopes her life with Joe will be more fulfilling, but once he becomes town mayor, he never seems to have time for her and never allows her to do anything fun. Finally, she meets a young man (12 years younger than her) named Tea Cake. It is with Tea Cake that she dares to let herself imagine that she might finally be happy.

Though the story is horribly sad at times, there are some happy moments too. As a reader, I found myself sympathizing with Janie and wanting something good to happen for her. She is a strong woman you can’t help rooting for. I particularly like the fact that she leaves the husband her grandmother forced her to marry nearly as soon as she has the opportunity to. She wasn’t about to be tied down by something she never wanted for herself.

A line in the book state, “There is two things everybody got to find out for theirselves. They got to find out about love and they got to find out about living.” In the end, this is what this story is all about: learning to appreciate love and life, simply for how they are given to us, not for what we might have wished them to be.

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The Color Purple

Genre: Fiction

I have to begin by saying, The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker is one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read. I read this book in preparation for a class I will be teaching this upcoming semester. I knew what I was going into when I started this book. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the movie (starring Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg) while subbing for another instructor at the university. However, I still wasn’t quite prepared for the main character’s first hand account of all that happens to her.

The book opens with the main character, Celie, being raped by her father, and follows her through all the hardships of her life thereafter, including the death of her mother, her forced marriage to a man no better than her Pa, her sister running away, and the abuse she endures while living in a household where she is unloved. 

One of the most outstanding features of this book is the fact that it’s written in Celie’s own dialect. This isn’t a new feature used in literature by any means, but it really allowed me as a reader to get into Celie’s mind and her way of thinking, something that simply can’t be done with a film which, by default, tells the story in third person. 

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think it’s going to be a good one to use for my college level course. However, I will say it’s not one I’m dying to read again. This has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or how believable the characters are. This is because I don’t like being so depressed when I read something. I like to enjoy what I’m reading. In the case of The Color Purple, I found my mood falling each time I read another chapter. Only a person with a heart of stone could refrain from being affected by this woman’s story.

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