Book Review of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Friedgreenbook.jpg

I was just a kid when I first watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes and I don’t think my dad wanted me to watch it because of the language and questionable content. I re-watched the movie a year ago and I could see why maybe a child shouldn’t watch it and it has taken probably six years to finally read the book. I only recently found and purchased a copy of the book but I knew one existed since I was a freshman in high school. I must say the book is different then the movie but I like both of them equally. However I think the book explained the history of the times better than the movie did. There was a lot more about the relations between the black people and the white people in the book than in the movie, at least from what I remember. Also the timeline of the book was all over the place. One minute you were reading about an event that happened in 1940 and then an event that happened in 1922. I think this was done because the stories were told from the memory of Ninny Threadgoode. She would remember an event tell it to Evelyn and then the next chapter would the story told in real time. Therefore the story didn’t really follow a coherent timeline unlike the movie. Personally I like timelines that are chronological but I don’t think that affected the book any.

One aspect of the book I must address is: was Idgie and Ruth lesbians? This is a hot topic for this book and personally I don’t think so. I just think Idgie and Ruth had a close friendship. It is possible even though there were moments in the book that I wondered but then again I blame it on my 21st century brain. I think Idgie and Ruth were just close.

I liked the ending of the movie because it felt more final than the book did. I hate open ended endings where you are not sure if the story is done or not. Books that are not part of a series should end with finality so the reader can close the book and move on. It honestly sucks being stuck in a books world because the author left too much for interpretation at the end. I like to be able to close a book and move on because I know the story ended. I guess that is left up to the author though or something like that. One of my English professors said something like that, the ending happens when the author chooses it whether we like it or not.

I really enjoyed reading this book. Every page was something new and exciting. Every story was just plain good and at times I felt like I would have been at home in Whistle Stop. It saddens me to think that there are towns like Whistle Stop in the United States. In fact my moms hometown is like Whistle Stop. There is still a church and they still boast a post office and a beauty shop so I think they are ok but many businesses have come and gone. The bank closed, the café closed, the Catholic church now only has one mass on Sunday nights, people have mostly gone all in my time but the history books say that they once had a movie theatre! To think a town with the population size of less than a hundred people once had a movie theatre in it’s glory days. The next biggest town over struggles to keep it’s movie theatre and they are the county seat! Times do change and it is nice to read a book like Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe to be reminded of the old times. Of what life used to be like instead of always thinking of the future.

Review of Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

IMG_1839.JPG

*Warning this review contains spoilers*

I knew I had to finish the series when I watched the trailer for the movie of the first book which is coming out in September. All I can say is that the direction Riggs took with the ending of the book is something I did not see coming. I wasn’t completely shocked by the ending but it wasn’t predictable, in my opinion. The book starts right off where Hollow City left off which was nice because some series books don’t do that and I find that screwing with the timeline is very irritating. Jacob, Emma, and Addison, the dog, find themselves in 21st century London being chased by Wights. They manage to escape the Wights and by doing so Jacob develops another part of his abilities, controlling Hollowgasts. It’s an interesting concept explored later in the book that peculiar’s have a wide range of abilities but they cultivate the abilities they nurture. Emma could possibly have control over all the elements but since she focused on fire that is the only ability she has now. By using the Hollowgast Jacob is able to escape the wights. Jacob, Emma and Addison finds themselves enlisting the help of Sharona fellow peculiar to guide them to Devil’s Acre where they will infiltrate the Wight’s compound with the help of Miss Peregrine’s other brother, Bentham. Shocker! Miss Peregrine has another brother. I did not see that coming and the way it affects the ending is interesting.

I really enjoyed the pacing of this book. Some books try to cram so much action into one novel it becomes too much. Riggs balanced out the action with conversation and description. I thoroughly enjoyed the pictures and how well they incorporated into the book. I honestly don’t think this series would have had the same effect without the pictures.

I must say I was really annoyed when Riggs introduced Ambro but didn’t tell the reader what it was. It was just this product that all the peculiars were addicted to and then to find out it was bits of a peculiar soul. Essentially the peculiars in Devil’s Acre were cannibals. That was probably the most disturbing thing about Devil’s Acre. I hate to think that any body could become so desperate they are willing to gain off the ultimate pain of others. Peculiars were having their souls harvested from them and their peers were fighting each other for a piece of their soul. I wonder how they would feel if the roles were reversed.

I was a little disappointed by the library of souls. It was described as this incredible interesting library but when everyone finally gets there it reminds me more of a Native American burial site. I guess the loop to the library has been closed for centuries but still it was disappointing.

The final battle between Caul and Bentham was interesting and I say interesting because I am not sure I liked it. It didn’t read like it was a forced ending or just something Riggs came up with to end the book but it read like Godzilla versus King Kong. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. However I enjoyed the rest of the novel. Jacob decides to go back home and while he is hoping everything can go back to normal it clearly cannot. There were several pages left by the time I got to that part and I just knew something more was going to happen. His parents don’t believe him and almost ship him off to a mental clinic until Miss Peregrine shows up to save the day. Apparently when they closed the time loop to the Library of Souls it reset everyone who was there, their internal time clock that is. Essentially everyone who was there for the closing of the loop is now on 21st century time so they will age normally like Jacob instead of aging forward until they are nothing but dust. I thought this was a bit cheesy but it made for a nice ending because now Jacob and Emma can be together,  which we were all rooting for :). Overall I really liked this book but I still think the ending could have been different.

-A

 

 

Summer 2016 Reading Plan

This summer I am working at a camp and if working at camp has taught me anything it is that I have no time to read. That is why my summer reading goal is only 10 books. Even then this is a pretty lofty goal because at the end of the week all I want to do is sleep and watch Netflix because neither of these activities require much brain power or moving.

Here is a list of my summer books and a description of each curtesy of Goodreads.

  1. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

IMG_1839.JPG

I already read this book but since I didn’t start reading it until after finals week I consider it part of my summer reading (I will be posting a review post later).

Goodreads Summary: 

A boy with extraordinary powers. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.

2. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

IMG_1845.JPG

I loved the movie but never had the chance to read the book until now.

Goodreads summary:

It’s first the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women– of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth, who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder.

3. See Me by Nicholas Sparks IMG_1843.JPG

I have to read this before his next book comes out in October.

Goodreads summary: 

See me just as I see you . . .

Colin Hancock is giving his second chance his best shot. With a history of violence and bad decisions behind him and the threat of prison dogging his every step, he’s determined to walk a straight line. To Colin, that means applying himself single-mindedly toward his teaching degree and avoiding everything that proved destructive in his earlier life. Reminding himself daily of his hard-earned lessons, the last thing he is looking for is a serious relationship.

Maria Sanchez, the hardworking daughter of Mexican immigrants, is the picture of conventional success. With a degree from Duke Law School and a job at a prestigious firm in Wilmington, she is a dark-haired beauty with a seemingly flawless professional track record. And yet Maria has a traumatic history of her own, one that compelled her to return to her hometown and left her questioning so much of what she once believed.

A chance encounter on a rain-swept road will alter the course of both Colin and Maria’s lives, challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and ultimately, themselves. As love unexpectedly takes hold between them, they dare to envision what a future together could possibly look like . . . until menacing reminders of events in Maria’s past begin to surface.

As a series of threatening incidents wreaks chaos in Maria’s life, Maria and Colin will be tested in increasingly terrifying ways. Will demons from their past destroy the tenuous relationship they’ve begun to build, or will their love protect them, even in the darkest hour?

Rich in emotion and fueled with suspense, SEE ME reminds us that love is sometimes forged in the crises that threaten to shatter us . . . and that those who see us for who we truly are may not always be the ones easiest to recognize. 

 

4. Master of Middle Earth by Paul H. Kocher

IMG_1842.JPG

My only non-fiction book of the summer.

Goodreads summary: 

As is the case with all great works of art, J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpieces generously repay close attention and study. In this thoroughly entertaining and perceptive volume, winner of the prestigious Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award, Professor Kocher examines the sources that Tolkien drew upon in fashioning Middle-earth and its inhabitants—and provides valuable insights into the author’s aims and methods. Ranging from The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion and beyond, Master of Middle-earth opens the door to a deeper and richer appreciation of Tolkien’s magnificent achievement. Inside you will discover

• Why Aragorn is the most misunderstood character in The Lord of the Rings . . . and its true hero.
• The origin of Sauron—and the nature of evil in Tolkien’s universe.
• The opposing forces of destiny and free will in Frodo’s quest.
• The Cosmology of Middle-earth—is it our world at an earlier time, or does it exist in a fantastic Elsewhere?
• How Tolkien’s ideas of morality, religion, and social order underlie every aspect of his life’s work.

Plus a fascinating look at such lesser-known works of Tolkien’s as “Leaf by Niggle,” “Smith of Wootton Major,” and many others! 

 

5. The Winner’s Kiss

IMG_1841.JPG

Goodreads Summary: 

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

 

6. Hide and Seek by Wilkie CollinsIMG_1844.JPG

Goodreads Summary:

The girl named Mary — they called her Madonna, and she was deaf and dumb and beautiful as a painting by Raphael — was a mystery. The Blyths adopted her from a kindly old woman connected to a traveling circus, but everyone knew she wasn’t from circus folk. All they DID know about her identity was that she’d lost her hearing in an accident, and the proprietor of the circus had treated her horribly, and, and . . . and in her cache of secret personal private things, she owned one thing as precious to her as life itself: a bracelet made of brown human hair with the initials MG tied into it. The Blyths kept it locked in a bureau for fear that Mary’s unknown family might one day claim her. . . 

7. The Lost World by Michael CrichtonIMG_1840.JPG

Goodreads Summary:

The Lost World: Jurassic Park Junior Novelisation captures all the thrills and chills of The Lost World story – with heart-stopping suspense, hair-raising action, and illustrated with colour photographs from the film. Something has survived…In 1993, an ambitious entrepreneur named John Hammond spoke four words which ushered in a new era of motion picture excitement and set worldwide boxoffice records…”Welcome to Jurassic Park”. Now, a few years later, Hammond makes a startling confession to scientist Ian Malcolm: another island of dinosaurs exists…an island where dinosaurs have been living and breeding in the wild…the Lost World.

8. The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

IMG_1846.JPG

I bought this book without a pretty dust jacket.

Goodreads Summary: 

“Alice Hoffman is my favorite writer.”
–Jodi Picoult

Alice Hoffman is one of our most beloved writers. Here on Earthwas an Oprah Book Club selection. Practical Magic and Aquamarine were both bestselling books and Hollywood movies. Her novels have received mention as notable books of the year by The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and People magazine, and her short fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe Magazine, Kenyon Review, Redbook, Architectural Digest, Gourmet, and Self.

Now, in The Third Angel, Hoffman weaves a magical and stunningly original story that charts the lives of three women in love with the wrong men: Headstrong Madeleine Heller finds herself hopelessly attracted to her sister’s fiancé. Frieda Lewis, a doctor’s daughter and a runaway, becomes the muse of an ill-fated rock star. And beautiful Bryn Evans is set to marry an Englishman while secretly obsessed with her ex-husband. At the heart of the novel is Lucy Green, who blames herself for a tragic accident she witnessed at the age of twelve, and who spends four decades searching for the Third Angel–the angel on earth who will renew her faith.

Brilliantly evoking London’s King’s Road, Knightsbridge, and Kensington while moving effortlessly back in time, The Third Angel is a work of startling beauty about the unique, alchemical nature of love. 

9. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

IMG_1848.JPG

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. 

Within these nocturnal black-and-white striped tents awaits an utterly unique, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air. 

Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves. 

Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way–a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a “game” to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. 

As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved–the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune-teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them–are swept up in a wake of spells and charms. 

But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

Their masters still pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance. 

Both playful and seductive, The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern’s spell-casting debut, is a mesmerizing love story for the ages.

 

10. Matilda by Roald Dahl 

IMG_1850.JPG

Goodreads Summary:

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world. For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Mrs. (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable. Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

 

As I finish these books I will be posting reviews of them. Let’s hope I get through all ten books!

-A

 

Innovation at its finest #DigLit

I’m a bit sad as I write this for this is the last blog post for my class but I am grateful for the semester and all the learning.

As I read the list of articles this week I got a little angry and indignant and I remembered a conversation I had with my mother the other day. She just finished up her last week of student teaching yesterday and the fifth graders she was working with were doing MAPS testing sometime these past couple weeks. I did not realize this, but these kids take the MAPS four times a year. I took them one time a year when I was in middle school, 7th and 8th grade, so that was only twice in my entire life. It was awful doing it only twice and to imagine that these students have to take these ridiculous tests four times a school year probably until they are freshman in high school makes me extremely upset. I think something needs to change about testing and innovation needs to happen. No wonder students don’t want to go to school or find themselves not learning because all the focus is placed on these tests instead of worrying about students actual learning. Teachers get evaluated based on how well their students do on these tests so of course that is where their attention is going to be. Teachers don’t want to lose their jobs and they shouldn’t have to based on a computer generated test. A test is not going to tell anyone how students are really doing. The only standardized test I ever cared about was the ACT and even then I could have predicted my own scores so I wasn’t nervous. Students do not care about these tests, they care about learning. If teachers were given the chance to focus on their students and their students learning then I believe more students would be interested in school and learning.

“I am an innovative educator and I will continue to ask “what is best for learners”.  With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.” This is a quote from the blog post The Mindset of an Innovator. I truly believe we as educators need to think of our students first. Don’t think of the test, don’t think of the evals, don’t think of the parents, the principal, the other teachers, think of the student first. That’s why I want to be a teacher. I want my students to want to learn. I don’t want them to live life passively just getting through school because that is something you have to do. I want my students to be excited learners who look forward to going to school everyday. We cannot just give up on school and tell our students that is ok that we don’t have to go to school. You are going to need an education and a high school diploma no matter what anyone says. If anything think of it as an accomplishment. Your high school diploma shows the rest of the world that you finished school when others chose to quit. You toughed it out and learned when others just ceased to care. Maybe like me you slept through some classes, but you still passed and that is something to be proud of.

Teachers want to be there and they want their students to want to be there. That is something that doesn’t get expressed in enough in education or in classrooms. That is something we need to change. If we as teachers want to be there and we want our students to be there we need to let them know that. We need to let them know that we want them to learn and we want them to grow.

“We need to unlearn the premise that we know more than our kids, because in many cases, they can now be our teachers as well.” This comes from The Steep Unlearning Curve and it is something I think all teachers including myself struggle with. Teachers sometimes think they know it all because they are the teacher but “We need to unlearn the idea that learning itself is an event. In this day and age, it is a continual process.” Teachers can learn from their students as well because learning doesn’t stop once we are out of school. Learning happens all the time, all around us and learning never stops. Learning does not have a specific age. Teachers can and should learn from their students. I still like to see myself as a giver of knowledge, but I should see my students the same way.

Education in America needs change. It needs to start in the classroom with teachers and students. Teachers need to innovate to show students that learning is more than just memorizing facts. Learning is a life long process and teachers are just giving students the tools to become great learners.