When You Are Engulfed in Flames

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames is a series of essays written by David Sedaris. I’ve read many of his books, and all of them have me laughing out loud at some point or another. Sedaris has a way of taking personal events that have been embarrassing to him and making us feel like they are not so bad and in turn, hilarious.

These essays are from a wide range of subjects in Sedaris’ life. One essay covers his experience in Normandy with a convicted sex-offender that he tried to befriend; another, his unabashed way of handling a rude lady sitting next to him on a plane who wanted him to move so she could sit with her husband. His last and longest essay consists of his experience in Japan, where he and his partner Hugh moved so Sedaris could quit smoking. This essay had the most conviction. He tells of his early encounters with pot and later, his addiction, and resolve to quit smoking altogether.

If you want a quick read (because honestly, I couldn’t put it down) and a good laugh, pick up this or ANY of David Sedaris’ works and you will be in for a treat.

3/5 rating



The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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Finally, I have begun the journey to Oz. I have been a fan of the 1939 movie production since I was very young. I loved the switch over from black-and-white to color film. I loved the Scarecrow, his wobbly legs and unfailing loyalty to Dorothy. The Lion was just hilarious. There are a couple times when you can tell Judy Garland was trying to keep a straight face around him. The Tinman had such a sad smile. All characters I had already known, but never knew the truth. Baum’s story is quite different.

Dorothy does indeed go up in a cyclone, disappearing in the house and swirling away from Aunt Em. She does land on the Wicked Witch. But the shoes. THE SHOES. The shoes are not ruby as we all know them to be. They are SILVER shoes. This blew my mind.

The Munchkins are very different in the book. I’m not even sure they are called Munchkins. One of the good witches directs Dorothy to the road of yellow brick, the path to the Emerald City to meet the Great Oz to take her and Toto back to Kansas.

On the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Lion respectively. Each give their stories and why they are seeking a brain, a heart, and courage. They may not know it, but each one already has these things.

Let’s discuss the Tinman for a minute. Does anyone REALLY know how the Tinman came to be? He was destined to marry the love of his life, but because he was a lumberjack, the girl’s evil grandmother (aunt, mother, I can’t remember) enchanted his axe. Each time he took a swing at a tree, he cut off a limb. He kept getting the limbs replaced until he finally cut off his head and torso. The tinsmith who replaced his body parts forgot to give him a heart. This is why he is seeking one from the great Oz. Now please tell me, if that isn’t the CREEPIEST children’s story I’ve ever heard! I remember reading the Oz book about the Tinman when I was younger and being totally creeped out by it. I mean, who writes that for CHILDREN? Maybe Mr. Baum had a touch of Alfred Hitchcock in him at the time.

Anyway, they go to the Emerald City, where everything is green…because they wear green goggles. And there are no animals. The movie has a “horse of a different color;” whereas, the book does not mention any animals. They go to the great Oz, but he will only see one guest per day. Each time they go to him, he takes a different form. He refuses to grant their wishes unless they help Dorothy kill the Wicked Witch of the West. (Again, a little morbid for a children’s book).

I think you can all guess the ending. Especially if you’ve seen the movie. But let me tell you, the book is way different than the movie. There is no nicey-nice Over the Rainbow music pouring from the pages. It has a lot of triumphs and failures and sleep-inducing poppies and killer Genie monkeys. This is the first of 10 Oz books that I will hopefully be reading in the near future.

I give this book a 2.5/5.

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

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Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Ransom Riggs’ debut novel is surprisingly genius for a first novel. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is definitely not what I expected when I began reading it. I thought it was your typical Y.A. fiction novel: angsty teenager feels no one understands him and he meets these creepy ghost children who show him that yes, he CAN fit in! But boy was I wrong.

Although it does start out about a teenage boy feeling out of place in the world, the book takes an eerie turn from the beginning. Jacob Portman finds his grandfather fatally wounded in the woods after being attacked by a monster. Only Jacob is able to see these monsters; everyone else believes he was killed by a wild animal. Before he passes, his grandfather tells Jacob about a letter from long ago and gives him some vague hints and a date for Jacob to find his old orphanage where he grew up in 1940. Jacob is determined to discover the meaning of these clues. He figures it out, and his dad accompanies him to an island in Wales.

Jacob finds an abandoned mansion on the island, which is where the orphanage was, but it has been destroyed by WW2 bombs. Eventually, Jacobs stumbles into a bog which turns out to be the opening of a time loop. Emma, his grandfather’s long lost love, who remains a young-looking 16 year old girl, befriends Jacob and leads him to the home for peculiar children. These children are peculiar because they all have special powers or abilities. Jacob goes on some crazy adventures with them in the time loop.

The plot thickens when Jacob learns that the peculiars are being hunted down and their mother-figure, Miss Peregrine, is kidnapped. He must make a choice: stay and help the peculiars and possibly never leave the time loop, or leave his grandfather’s friends and Emma and go back to his dull and misfit life.

This book is just the first in a series of 3 novels. Even though the book was not what I expected at all, I still enjoyed it and it was a different change of pace from what I normally read. I thought the writing style was excellent, the plot was very well thought out, and the  medium of photographs throughout was intriguing. Riggs stated in the author interview in the back of the book that he found or purchased most of the photographs in the book and built the story around the characters in the photographs. Many are very peculiar indeed. Here are some of the images used:




Pretty crazy kids, right?

I think if I would have read this as a pre-teen or 15 year old, I would be thoroughly creeped out by some of the characters and especially the wights and hollows (bad guys). Some of the time-loop stuff was hard to comprehend, just because it was hard for me to wrap my mind around which location Jacob was in at which moment. As for the writing and the photos, I applaud Riggs at his risky endeavor, especially for a debut novel.

I give this book a 3/5.

I do not own any of these photographs.

Go Ask Alice

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“Go Ask Alice” is a book that I feel most teenagers should be exposed to, especially 8th grade level through early college. This book would never have passed the curriculum in my high school (private, Christian school) but I think it would have benefited many kids there.

The book was published in 1971, during the peak of sexual and drug exploration in America. The author is a young, 15 year old girl, writing in her diary. We never learn her name, but we learn about her battle with drugs through her personal thoughts in the diary.

The author goes to several more parties and tries every drug in the book, LSD, Heroin, Pot, Cocaine, you name it. Her favorite that she seems to keep coming back to is pot. It gets to the point where she cannot go a day without getting high.

I won’t give away much more of the book, because it is rather short, but the author gets herself deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of drugs (an allusion made to Alice in Wonderland in the book which probably alludes to the title).

Even though this book, this life took place over 30 years ago, many of the elements and themes are extremely relevant today, which is why I think this would be a great book to teach (if I were going to become a teacher).

I give this book a rating of 4/5.

The Last Bookstore: Downtown L.A.

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I have not posted in quite awhile due to work and health issues, but I also just recently got back from an AMAZING trip to California!

We went to visit some friends (my friends since middle school) and we cram-packed everything we could into one week. They live about an hour from downtown L.A. so one of our stops was to The Last Bookstore. Now, I’m a born-and-bred Barnes and Noble freak myself but when it comes down to it, B&N can get boring, predictable, and expensive. And Half-Price Books is always a hit-or-miss on finding what you want. But this place, was a book-lover’s dream come true (and yes, we went to Disneyland 3 times!!)

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This bookstore gets it’s name from the idea that books, unfortunately, are fading out and iPads, e-readers, and Amazon are taking over the book industry. So, it is mainly a used bookstore, but they also sell new books. The prices are great!

I went in just mouth-agape staring from floor to ceiling at the artsy decor and angled rows of books. I walked down a couple of aisles aimlessly, trying to think of what books were on my Goodreads list. My friend and my husband both told me I had to buy something. I hit the YA section, and remembered I had been looking for the Oz books.

Frank L. Baum wrote several books before and after The Wizard of Oz, and I had read one about the Tinman when I was younger and it totally freaked me out. The tinman basically became made of tin because every time he missed a log and hacked off a body part, it was replaced with tin–even his head. Creepy for a 10 year old, right?

I had already purchased one of those enormous books from B&N back home that is the first 5 books in the Oz collection, but I needed to see if they had more. The organization of the store is a little sketchy, so I asked one of the salesmen if he knew where they were. Took him 30 seconds to find them. There they were. About 6 of them were on the shelf and I bought 4. I could NEVER find them at Half-Price Books, and they were only 5 bucks a pop, so I had a STEAL!

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The store is arranged kind of haphazardly but still has a definite pattern. This picture was taken from the 2nd floor looking down at the 1st floor. The bottom left corner is where the stage is located, probably for local bands. The shelves have small signs dividing the genres, but it was still kind of hard to distinguish what section you’re in.

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This is my husband and I inside this little room that used to be a vault (I believe the building used to be an old bank). My friend was trying to get Zach to smile so she said “Andrew Luck is naked!” It obviously worked 🙂iPhone 7_29_15 158

This picture is from the “Rare Books Collection”. Most of them were just books to me because I don’t know what is “rare” and what’s not. Some books were locked up in glass cases. Some where on shelves. But you had to pay for those books before you left the room. I found a ‘making of Star Wars‘ book I liked but it was $35. I like Star Wars, but not that much.

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This display reminded me of Harry Potter for some reason. I thought it was a good “introduction” to the second floor. Upstairs, the books are a lot less organized but still cool to look through. There is a small, overpriced knit shop, an art gallery, and the Labyrinth, which is a collection of used books all for $1. Most of those books are ones they are trying to get rid of, (Windows 99 manuals, Al Gore global warming, Shakespeare Cliff Notes).

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This was a piece of art in the hallway upstairs. There were several images of hearts, but this on stood out to me. As if California is a part of the artist’s very soul.


This was a “book tunnel” upstairs. Everyone must take an obligatory tourist photo.

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I hope you all enjoyed this post, and keep an eye out for more in the near future! PS) If you’re ever in L.A., check this place out.

Tuesday’s with Morrie

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 This book has been a classic for many years. I myself had never heard of it until I was in college. I put it on my “book bucket list” and decided to ask for it for Christmas. Now, 6 months later, I’ve finally read it.

Tuesdays was a pretty quick read and an easy one at that. I really didn’t know what to expect going into it, but here’s a quick summary:

“An old man” befriends and mentors a “young man” aka Mitch Albom in college when he takes Morrie Schwartz’s  class. Morrie is diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). (Yes the same disease that Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with, which you can read about in one of my previous posts here.) So anyway, Morrie goes into teaching this class with a death sentence, about which he is very blunt and real. He starts having special Tuesday meetings with Mitch in his office. These meetings are mostly about life lessons, things Mitch should know about life after college. The meetings end when Mitch graduates.

Twenty years later, Mitch hears that Morrie is dying and decides to go visit him. Morrie welcomes him with frail arms. As Morrie’s physique deteriorates, his life lessons with Mitch increase. They talk about love, careers, wisdom, and the raw feelings Morrie has about his disease. As you guessed it, Morrie dies at the end, but not without leaving Mitch with a book full of wisdom to publish.

I thought this was a good book, one that definitely should be studied in classes (high school). Yes, it was very depressing, and made me feel sad while reading it. The dude is DYING. The whole book is about him passing his wisdom onto his student. Mitch himself seems to have a pretty obligatory life. He’s got a great career as a sports journalist, he has a beautiful wife, he’s got his health, but he’s drifting through life with little purpose. I think Morrie sort of gives him purpose. Every Tuesday, he drives/flies to meet with Morrie, bring him food he can no longer chew, and sit with him, helping him use the bathroom, rubbing his sore muscles, holding him while he cries unabashedly. That right there builds character. Seeing a grown, dying man cry.

From a Christian’s perspective, this book also made me sad, because Morrie doesn’t seem to have anything to look forward to. Mitch describes Morrie as “agnostic” several times in the book. Their discussions are all about life and how to live it to the fullest. But they seldom mention religion or an afterlife. That’s why this book makes me sad, because Morrie could have been, not looking forward to death, but maybe not dreading it so much. Of course, I’ve never been dying myself, and we’re so attached to this world that we would be scared to leave it no matter what lies ahead after death.

I give this book a 3/5.


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To view the trailer, click here.

Whiplash is a story about perseverance, coaching, music, and stamina. It’s essentially a classic sports movie where the coach has to raise a player to his highest potential through any means possible; in this case, the teacher inflicts emotional abuse to produce the next Buddy Rich.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a 19 year old prodigy drummer attending Schaffer Conservatory in New York. His goal is to get into a prestigious jazz band led by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Fletcher notices Teller and gives him a chance to sit 2nd chair drummer. Soon, he proves himself worthy to play core.

Fletcher torments Andrew constantly, to the point of mentally and sometimes physically abusing him. Andrew practices and practices, to where his hands are bleeding profusely. Andrew pushes on, until the band has a performance, and he has to play core drummer. However, this is the breaking point for Andrew. Fletcher threatens Andrew that if he does not retrieve his sticks in time for the performance, he will forfeit his chair, and possibly, his seat in the band. On the way back from the rental car place, Andrew gets into a nasty car accident. He is so out of it (possibly from a concussion) that he runs back to the music hall. Bleeding from his head and arms, he attempts to play, but fails, as he can barely hold the sticks. Fletcher tells Andrew he is done, but Andrew is so furious and distraught that he attacks Fletcher on stage.

Andrew meets with a lawyer per his worried dad’s request, and they eventually de-throne Fletcher from his jazz kingdom at Shaffer. Andrew wanders aimlessly, dismissed from the university and seemingly has no drive left. Fletcher and Andrew are reunited in a jazz club where Fletcher is performing. He invites Andrew to play at a festival concert he is conducting.

I won’t give the ending away, although I will say, it was very abrupt and VERY disappointing. The audience is left hanging, with no real conclusion. I know this is probably just director’s vision, but it’s still annoying. I will say, the cinematography was EXCELLENT. I loved the close-up shots and details of the drums, the blood on Andrew’s sticks, the sweat trickling down his head and face. It was all very raw, like you could feel the pain Andrew was feeling while he was playing.

I thought Miles Teller did a great job of performing in this film. I could tell he really had to practice hard for it, and probably was feeling all the same pain and torment that Andrew was feeling at times. J.K. Simmons really blew his part out of the water. He had my husband and I yelling at the TV, “WHAT A D*CK!” a few times! Simmons really had a way of digging deep to find his inner coach/douche-bag for this part. I believe he won an Academy Award for this picture.

Although I’m not personally a fan of jazz, any fan of concert music would enjoy this film. Actually, anyone a fan of a Rudy story would like this film.

I give this movie a 3/5, mostly because it was a great film, but not one I’d watch over and over again.