Saturday, 30 April 2011

Friday Night Every Night

For the past two months I’ve been obsessed with Friday Night Lights. My husband first heard about the TV series while reading rave reviews on an ESPN blogger’s site, and I enjoyed watching the first season when it first aired in 2006. 

We decided to start watching Friday Night Lights again from the beginning; and by the end of the first season,  I was begging my husband for permission (something I only do when we watch really good shows) to watch multiple episodes every night. We averaged about two episodes a night though if it were up to me we would have finished the whole five seasons in one week.

I am not particularly athletic and not a huge football fan, so what did I LOVE about the TV series?

Friday Night Lights on TV

The TV series is set in the small fictional town of Dillon, Texas where everyone lives for Friday Night high school football. The character development is great and the actors form a fantastic ensemble cast. With each episode you feel as if you are watching the kids grow up, with the rare exception of one or two kids who will remind you of someone you knew in high school.

Most of the action takes place at Dillon high where football coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami Taylor (a guidance counselor and later principal) show a genuine interest in the kids and help them overcome personal obstacles in order to get into college. 

The football is intense and it was pretty cool when I Googled the show (which most of us do when we really like something) and found out that it is based on a true story.

The last two seasons in the series really stood out because they showed a different side of Dillon and offered a glimpse into the poverty, crime and racism that is more prominent in the book and film. 

I can’t say that I liked the film “more”, but there were certain things I really liked about it that were different from the TV series. It was grittier and tackled the big issues right from the start: like racism and the pressure the town puts on the kids and coaches to win. It is a quicker pace because of the shorter format but at the same time it didn’t really go as deep into the lives of all of the students and their families, mainly focusing on the football players. Billy Bob Thornton is very good as the coach in the film and all of the other actors are great too.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, And A Dream by H.G. Bissinger

The book is a fascinating read, based on a true story. I wish I’d read it before I watched the TV series and movie. The book offers more than the film and TV series because it shares more of the author’s own observations, research and interviews conducted while living in Odessa, a small Texas town, obsessed with high school football. The book also delves into the history of Odessa and the Texas oil industry; the contrast between its privileged residents and the less fortunate ones; school rivalries; and problems including  racism, alcoholism, crime and problems with the education system. 

I liked the book the most because it put everything into context.  Friday Night Lights, the TV series is seriously one of the best I’ve seen on TV. It is right up there with The Wire and The Shield

The film is great too.  It is grittier than The Blind Side but similar in that it is a really good sports movie.  (My husband says that Raging Bull would be a better comparison.)

My husband and I have added Texas to our list of places we’d like to visit. Because of our FNL obsession, we’d love to go and check out a big high school football game in Texas. 

Monday, 25 April 2011

One For The Ladies: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

Today I received Penguin Group Canada's monthly e-newsletter and was intrigued when I read about The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer.

Great cover!

It is about a group of women in a high school community who have lost interest in their husbands and boyfriends in the bedroom. A "spell has been cast" after the new drama teacher chose Lysistrata (the comedy by Aristophanes in which women stop having sex with men in order to end a war) for the school play. 

The loss of passion affects both  the women and their men who are offended and confused.

I've bumped this book to the top of my list.  It sounds really interesting and after hearing about it I wanted to learn more. I found a great Globe & Mail review. I like the headline "Sexless in Suburbia".

I'm going to start The Uncoupling tonight. Is anyone else planning on reading this one?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

BBTO Book Club Chat: Sing You Home

I’ve struggled with the format for the BBTO “online” book club because I couldn’t figure out the best way to make it interactive for participants who live in different countries, and who are reading at different paces.

Some readers had started Sing you Home by Jodi Picoult, others had bought the book but hadn't started it yet and a few finished the book very quickly.

Rochelle suggested that I start a Facebook page which would allow readers to post comments and chat about books whenever they have time.
I took her advice since she knows all about this stuff and started a BBTO Facebook page . I hope you’ll join in the chat. Feel free to jump in at anytime!

Here are a few questions to begin the discussion:

1. Pastor Clive seems to embody the very essence of fundamentalist religion. How does he make you feel?
2. At the end of the book, did Max do the right thing?
3. What do you believe constitutes a family, a good parent?
4. Has your opinion on gay rights changed in any way after reading this book? If yes, how?

You are welcome to ask your own questions and let everyone know what you liked or didn't like about this book.  

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Book Review: Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin

One of the greatest words in the Korean language is Ajuma. In English it means old lady, but anyone who has ever been to Korea knows that an Ajuma is a force to be reckoned with.

She is the woman selling cabbage at the side of the road who then walks miles loaded down with heavy bundles of fresh vegetables, chili peppers, and roots to take home to prepare meals for her family.

She is tough and resilient with a huge heart, kind eyes, generous, and a virtual saint, but you don’t even want to think about going for her seat on the subway in Seoul. She would not think twice about using her elbows if you got in her way.

Paldong Dam,  Mountains in South Korea
Please Look After Mom begins with the mysterious disappearance of one such woman, a fierce Ajuma who has traveled to Seoul to visit her children and; somehow got separated and lost from her husband, who was walking ahead of her at the busy train station.

The story is told in second-person narration in several sections of the novel. This is uncommon but on reflection it works well as the story unfolds. When Chi-hon, the daughter of the missing woman tells her story, it becomes clear that she took her mother for granted and because the word you is often used in an accusatory manner, the second-person narrative technique reinforces the narrator's feelings of guilt and remorse.

While the family looks for their lost mother they reflect on the sacrifices that she made on their behalf; and how they rarely demonstrated their appreciation for the woman whose life revolved around making other people happy.

Chi-hon is a writer; this makes her mother, who grew up in the country in a different era illiterate, very proud. Chin-hon's story of her mother buying her a book without even asking the price while she haggles for everything else, and later stories of buying another daughter a desk to study at and beating her son to force him to eat food made by his father's mistress so he can focus in class come up as the family reflects on the number of ways that they took their mother for granted. As their mother becomes older, the children are busy and don't realize how she is deteriorating. There is also a lot that they don't know about their mother in general.

The children in the novel represent a new generation and the changing role of the woman in the workforce in South Korea. The contrast between old and new in South Korea is also seen in the mother’s day-to-day life in the country and the lives of her children, who represent the future.
The novel perfectly combines universal themes of love and loss, family dynamics, gender equality, tradition, and charity with the rich Korean culture and values which makes Please Look After Mom such a good read.

Please Look After Mom is bestselling Korean author Kyung-sook Shin’s first book to be translated in English. It will be published in nineteen countries around the world.

This review was first published on

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Thursday, 14 April 2011

Six Books For Spring

I’m halfway through Please Look After Mom. It is hard to put down and I'm starting to think about what I'll read next. 

Time to add a few books to my spring reading list:

1. I'm very excited about Lisa Jackson's new novel Devious. A depraved, devious killer is strangling novice nuns and detectives Bentz Montoya must solve the case. It has been called “terrifying” and a Publishers Weekly review called it a “creepy thriller”. Perfect.

2. Bossy Pants, Tina Fey’s new biography
I’m a 30 Rock fan, the character Liz Lemon totally cracks me up.

3. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly
I saw the movie last week and now want to read the book. It is a legal thriller with lots of exciting twists and turns. 
This was on Amazon’s “best books of the month” list in March. I always wanted to read the author’s first book Natasha and Other Stories but never got around to it. This is his first novel and he was named one of The New Yorker’s 20 under 40 in 2010. 

5. 22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson is a debut novel coming out in May. It sounds really good. One blogger mentioned there was some buzz about it being the next Sophie’s Choice.

6. The Help by Kathryn Stockett is out in paperback. I read this in hardcover, but wanted to include it in case anyone hadn't heard of it yet.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Booklover's Blog Toronto Is Now On Facebook: Please Check it Out

Dear Fellow Booklovers:

Please "like" Booklover's Blog Toronto on Facebook. Join Booklover's Blog Toronto and share your thoughts on reading, books and all your favourite authors.

I need a few more likes to make it official. 

Please check it out when you have a chance!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Improve Your Writing With These Two Books

I recently received the perfect gift from a cousin who knows me well. A gift card for Indigo Books and one for the movies.

I decided to buy a couple of books that I will use often.

If you do a lot of writing at work or enjoy blogging then you'll also find these two books extremely useful.

The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook For Writing, Editing, And Creating Content For The Digital World

I've been using an older version of this book for years, and should probably refer back to it more often than I do. It is great for checking things like titles, punctuation and grammar. 

And I just went to see  The Lincoln Lawyer. It was a really suspenseful thriller. I enjoyed it a lot. A definite "must see". 

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

I've been a bad blogger this week. I went to Ottawa for a big family celebration, and it was a lot of fun. My husband and I stayed at  Arc the Hotel, a small boutique hotel which I highly recommend.

We also had a great meal at the Mekong, a great Chinese restaurant on Somerset street. Both have become favourite spots of ours and the last time we visited both was when we got married in October. 

Dinner at Mekong with cousin Rachel, sister Ad, cousin Robyn, Me and cousin Joey (left to right)

The big event was Saturday night where we celebrated the Jewish coming of age ceremony for my nice and nephew, a combined Bar and Bat Mitzvah called a "B'nai Mitzvah". There was a special service in which both my niece and nephew each had solos and made our whole family very proud. We were joined by cousins from England, Halifax and New York, it was truly a special event.

The service was followed by one of the most rocking parties I've ever been to. We danced, drank,ate and partied until we were kicked out. Hopefully the adults did not embarrass the kids too much when we took over the dance floor.

I didn't even get the chance to ask anyone what they were reading. 

One person, my lovely cousin Debi from Ottawa,  told me that she really enjoyed The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb. I'll have to check it out because I'm sure if she enjoyed it then it is good (the paperback edition will be out in July). I read Sweetness in the Belly by the same author a while ago and loved. 

Thanks Debi!

If you secretly enjoyed watching The Bachelor then you will love Some Girls: My Life in a Harem

I recently downloaded the first chapter of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem on my Kindle, was hooked then bought and finished the book in just a few days. It is a memoir by Jillian Lauren, mostly about how she went from being an NYU theater school dropout to being paid to spend eighteen months in the harem of Prince Jefri Bolkiah the youngest brother of the Sultan of Brunei.

It is hard to believe that the story is true - but it is. The lavish parties where the girls all fought for the attention of the Prince and the cat fights that regularly took place sounded a lot like the Bachelor's famous parties that took place before the "rose ceremonies"on TV. In both scenarios the "guests" at the party are carefully monitored and contained in over the top accommodations to make the women feel special and pampered. In both scenarios the men are not worthy which is frustrating for the viewer/reader.

The book touches on Jillian Lauren's childhood and growing up adopted into a Jewish family. Her adoptive father was verbally abusive but loving and her mother was also loving but was weak and didn't stand up to her husband. She later tries to find out more about her birth parents.

What I liked about the book is that the author is brutally honest and admits to needing to be the chosen one at the palace parties and also to enjoying the money. The epic shopping trips alone would make me question my own morals. But she doesn't make excuses for her decisions even though she was only eighteen at the time, and allowed herself to be exploited by those who prey on pretty young women.
The book is available in paperback and is a good and easy read.