The Friday 56: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Friday 56This is a weekly meme hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are as follows:

        • Grab a book, any book.
        • Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader.
        • Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
        • Post it.
        • Add your URL post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

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ari and danteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Synopsis from Goodreads

56%:

What do you want, Ari? That’s what I kept asking myself. Maybe it was the beer. What do you want, Ari?” And then I answered myself: ‘A Life.'”

My review HERE

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Just for Fun: which Baby-Sitter’s Club character are you?

Which Baby-Sitter Are You?

You got: Claudia Kishi

You are the artistic fashionista in your group of friends. You also have the magical ability to eat all the junk food you want (your fave!) and never gain a pound. You add diversity to your group of friends AND you’re a badass. OK, so you have a little trouble in school and your sister is a genius, but you’re 13 and you have your own phone line. Your best friend is city-girl Stacey. You’re Vice President of the BSC and meetings are always held at your house where the snacks are plentiful.
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To the take quiz, click HERE
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Just for fun: which Joss Whedon heroine are you?

Which Joss Whedon Heroine Are You?

You got: Willow Rosenberg
Wikia / Via buffy.wikia.com

You’re the coolest of the dorks, and you don’t even know it. Your quirky sense of humor and intelligence draws people to you, and you have a close circle of friends. You’re intensely loyal, open-minded, and you’re game for staying in and reading a book or going out on an adventure. You can be shy, but you’re more powerful than most people give you credit for.

To take the quiz, click HERE

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

ari and danteAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz is a thing of beauty. Its very simplicity is the book’s greatest strength. I had heard many great things about this book but had put buying it off because the ebook was quite expensive. Eventually though I just had to cave in and buy it and I am very glad that I did. From the very first page the book had me in its grip and I couldn’t bear to put it down.

The book is told from the POV of Aristotle (Ari) Mendoza, a 15 year-old Mexican boy who has never really fit in anywhere. He is the quintessential loner – and he likes it that way. He is not terribly comfortable with others and much prefers his own company. At least he did until he meets Dante Quintana, another Mexican boy his age and the two of them strike up a rather lovely friendship over a single summer.

The two boys are nothing alike: Dante is gentle where Ari is tough; Dante is well-liked by everyone where Ari genuinely prefers people to leave him the hell alone. Dante’s parents are academic where Ari’s family is more blue-collared. Still the two boys become very close friends for although Dante is well-liked, he never really had any close friends either and Ari and he seem to balance each other out very well. Their friendship is struck the moment Dante offers to teach Ari to swim one morning at the local pool. From then on out, the two boys are inseparable.

This is a book about friendship, cultural identity, loyalty and love. Dante comes out to Ari quite early on and Ari struggles with his feelings for his best friend. He sometimes pushes him away which hurts Dante’s feelings (as it becomes obvious that he feels something more for Ari) but their friendship manages to endure. It is not until Dante is hurt that Ari must confront his true feelings for Dante that he has been concealing even to himself.

This was a lovely book. I adored both Ari and Dante (Dante slightly more though I must admit!) both of them were wonderfully depicted, fully realized teenage boys. I never felt like I was reading about make-believe characters – the two of them felt so real to me. The supporting cast consisting of the two very different families were also very well done. I loved the Mendoza and Quintana families. Initially Dante seemed like he had the more perfect family what with Ari’s family being so closed off about certain things (like the real reason Ari’s older brother is in jail) but as the book progressed I became just as fond of Ari’s parents (and to a much lesser degree his two sisters who did not get a lot of page-time).

It is very hard to describe the plot in this book – in some ways it feels like there is none, not that it is non-existent, it just feels so much like real-life that you do not really feel as if you are reading a book – it is more you are living the events of the book yourself (not that I am a teenage Mexican boy but you get the idea!). Ari and Dante have an almost perfect friendship mainly because you so clearly feel the love and loyalty shared between the two even when they are not physically together. I was on edge throughout the last third of the book – I so wanted a happy ending for these two but I was not sure if that was the way it was going to go at all given how realistic the rest of the plot was I almost felt as if a sad ending was inevitable.

Love was perhaps the strongest theme in this book. Not just between Ari and Dante; between Ari and his parents, Dante and his parents; Ari and Dante’s family and so on. Ari and Dante were the main focus though. The bond they have is stunning; they both care so much for each other I couldn’t help but root for both of them. I could understand Dante’s perspective but I am glad that the story was told from Ari’s POV. He is the tougher nut to crack, the one who hides his feelings and emotions. Dante was perhaps the more sympathetic character but Ari was by far the more complex. It was difficult to get to know him precisely because he didn’t really know himself.

This book is Ari’s journey and Dante was really the catalyst that set all the events in motion and allowed Ari to grow and let people into his heart. Their interactions were both compelling and touching and I was really hoping that Dante would finally get Ari out of his own introspective headspace. Dante needed Ari but I think Ari needed Dante even more to become a whole person.

Overall score 5/5 stars 

5 stars

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Favourite quotes:

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”

“I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever. And that somehow it felt like it was Dante who had saved my life and not the other way around. I wanted to tell them that he was the first human being aside from my mother who had ever made me want to talk about the things that scared me. I wanted to tell them so many things and yet I didn’t have the words. So I just stupidly repeated myself. “Dante’s my friend.”

“I had a feeling there was something wrong with me. I guess I was a mystery even to myself.”

“I had learned to hide what I felt. No, that’s not true. There was no learning involved. I had been born knowing how to hide what I felt.”

“This was what was wrong with me. All this time I had been trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, the secrets of my own body, of my own heart. All of the answers had always been so close and yet I’d always fought them without even knowing it. From the minute I’d met Dante, I had fallen in love with him. I just didn’t let myself know it, think it, feel it. My father was right. And it was true what my mother said. We all fight our own private wars.”

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This book has won several awards including: the Lambda Literary Award and Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honour, Pura Belpré Author Award for Latino fiction, and Michael L. Printz Award honour for Young Adult fiction.

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The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick

red sheetThe Red Sheet by Mia Kerick was a thoroughly engrossing read. I would go as far to say it is my favourite book that she has written so far (and that is high praise since I really adored Intervention and Not Broken, Just Bent).

This is the story of high school jock Bryan Dennison. Bryan is not a nice lad. He is a bit of a bully in fact. He is one the popular crowd, full of himself and his place in the social sphere of his small-town high school. Yet one day Bryan wakes up with a strange urge: to buy himself a set of red sheets. He also becomes environmentally conscious, helpful to strangers, and a rescuer of kittens. He offers to do chores for his mother and his neighbours, he wants to help little old ladies across the street and basically right the wrongs of the world. He becomes something of a superhero.

Yet, there are signs that something is not quite right. Bryan is having trouble remembering what he was like previously. He can remember being a bit of an ass to people but he has no idea what actually spurred on that behaviour. On his first day back at school after his ‘transformation’, Bryan sees Scott, an openly gay kid, being picked on by his group of jock buddies. Bryan stands up for Scott but Scott is anything but appreciative.

Scott wants nothing to do with Bryan at all. Bryan is perplexed by this. He cannot remember Scott at all but finds himself becoming more and more drawn to this brave young man. It soon becomes clear he is more than a little infatuated with Scott. Scott on the other hand keeps pushing Bryan away, hinting that something terrible had happened between them previously of which Bryan cannot remember.

As time goes on and Bryan proves to Scott that there is more to him than the facade he seemed to wear previously, Bryan struggles to piece the puzzle of his disjointed memories together. He must if he is ever to have a chance with Scott, who is still having trouble trusting the reformed jock. As Bryan slowly gathers evidence of what happened between them, he realizes that he may just have committed the most heinous of betrayals…

This book was very powerful and affecting. It really conveyed bullying in an extremely realistic way even if it was a little bit disturbing in its realism. By that I mean that some scenes I really wanted to cover my eyes and ears until everything was all hunky-dory and happy again. I was bullied when I was younger (not for being gay but bullying is bullying regardless of what the so-called reasoning behind it is) so some of the scenes were extremely uncomfortable for me. Mia Kerick is a great writer – she really makes you feel that you are there along with the characters, being targeted for being ‘different’. Bullying is a truly terrible thing. It leaves scars that are with you for life but it is possible to try and grow strong for the experience – which is what eventually happens here.

Scott was a great character. Picked on for his smaller size, uncool clothes, and his sexual orientation he nevertheless has a great deal of inner strength even though the bullying he suffers really does take its toll on him (I am not going to give too much away here but suffice it to say what happens to him left me feeling horrified and sick). Bryan too develops throughout the course of the novel. Even when the reason for his complete change of personality is revealed, he faces up to what he has done and becomes a better person for it.

This is a story of forgiveness, courage, and redemption. Bryan has to become someone else in order to truly be the man he wants to be. Scott has to grant forgiveness in order for Bryan’s redemption to be fully realized. They both have to have courage. Although I do feel that in some ways Bryan did not deserve to be forgiven for his treatment of Scott, by the end of the book it is clear just how much his behaviour has hurt both of them and you cannot help but admire the fact that he has the strength enough to change.

Although the theme of the book was heavy, it was far from being a dreary read. The humour practically leapt from the page. There were many funny situations that Bryan found himself in and his escapades had me laughing out loud several times. The serious subject matter was always treated with the right amount of sensitivity but at times the humour was sorely needed relieve some of the tension.

Mia Kerick is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I have yet to be disappointed by one of her books. I cannot wait to see what she has in store next!

Overall score: 5/5 stars

5 star rating

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Damn the Man – Save the Empire!

Empire Records

Empire Records (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Probably my favourite teen film of the 1990s, Empire Records had a distinctly profound effect on me. Released in 1995, the film is a day in the life of the various teenage/young adult misfits working in the Empire Records music store, along with long-suffering manager Joe (played by Anthony LaPaglia). Boasting future stars such as Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler and Ethan Embry when they were young and fresh-faced, and also a terrific soundtrack, this film really captures the mid-90s grunge heyday era. It also really made me want to work in a music store when I got older!

The 1980s had a lot of great teen movies. I loved John Hughes films, especially The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Some Kind of Wonderful, not to mention other classics such as Say Anything and Valley Girl. The 1980s were pretty much the pinnacle of teen movie output but the 1990s had some classics too and for me, Empire Records is right there at the top spot.

Back in the day when renting videos was the thing (seems so long ago now!) I can remember taking the video out of the Library (it had a video lending service too) so many times. It would have saved my parents money just buying the video for me to be honest but I wasn’t really in the habit of purchasing things to keep back then. It was more exciting renting videos for some reason.

Taking the Buzzfeed quiz ‘Which Empire Records Character Are You’ made me reflect back on this movie. I own both the Regular Edition DVD and the Special Fan Edition DVD which restored about 16 minutes of cut-footage. I watch the film every couple of years and I still really enjoy it though perhaps not as much as I did back then. It was critically panned when it was released but it gained something of a cult following when it was released on video (and later DVD).

My favourite character was Lucas (played by Rory Cochrane). He just seemed so cool to my 14 year-old self. I wanted to be him and date him (he was a very early movie crush for me). His anti-establishment and loner attitude really spoke to me when I was a teen.

tumblr_lyxk2sEgAT1qi4c6zo2_500Source: itsallabout2pm.tumblr.com

I also really loved Debra (Robin Tunney), the girl who shaved her head in the bathroom after a bad night and hated nearly everybody. She also rode a Vespa to work – which I thought was really amazing at the time!

The plot is basic and simple. There are no arcs or situations to overcome (except for the potential closure of the store). It is just simply like being transplanted into the life of these characters for a day (and boy did I want to have that life!). The characters were quirky and endearing and great to spend time with. From rebellious Lucas, to crazy Mark, artistic A.J. to shoplifter Warren, these characters drew me into their lives and although we only really get a snapshot view of each of them on this particular day, I still cared for these characters and wanted them to defeat ‘The Man’ (Mitchell Beck – the owner of Empire Records who plans to sell the independent store to a music chain).

tumblr_m3t0foGrPx1rubinpo1_500Source: justlike–themovies.tumblr.com

The various characters all had their own plots and felt real and relatable rather than actors playing a part; this is what really made the movie so accessible for me. It’s not a particularly deep film but it is fun and entertaining. I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a fun piece of 90s nostalgia.

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Fun quotes from the film:

“I don’t feel I have to explain my art to you, Warren.”

“In the immortal words of The Doors ‘the time to hesitate is through!'”

“What’s with you? Yesterday you were normal and today you’re like the Chinese guy from the Karate Kid. What’s with you today?”

“The long arm of the law has embraced our dear friend Warren.”

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Other similar films you may enjoy:

  • Heathers
  • Pump Up the Volume
  • The Craft
  • Dazed and Confused
  • Reality Bites
  • Nowhere
  • High Fidelity
  • Can’t Hardly Wait
  • Ghost World

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WWW Wednesdays: Week 3

www_wednesdays4WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I am already taking part in quite a few memes but this one looked like a lot of fun so I couldn’t pass up the chance to take part!

Here are my answers this week:

www wed3 copyI really need to stop reading so many books at the same time and actually get round to finishing some that are on my currently reading list!

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Waiting on Wednesday: Silver Shadows

wow1

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that showcases the upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating.

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Silver Shadows

silver

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .

Their worst fears now a chilling reality, Sydney and Adrian face their darkest hour in this heart-pounding fifth installment in the New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series, where all bets are off.

Synopsis from Goodreads

Release date:  July 29th 2014

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What books are you waiting on this week?

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Just for Fun: which Empire Records character are you?

Which “Empire Records” Character Are You?

You got: Lucas

lucasWarner Bros

You’re a philosopher who thinks deeply and often gets lost in your own brain. You’re thoughtful and intelligent, but sometimes have trouble conveying your feelings to the rest of the world.

Take this Buzzfeed quiz HERE

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I love this film – it was my favourite teen film of the 1990s and Lucas was my favourite character so yay!!

Empire Records

Empire Records (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Top Ten Tuesday Rewind: Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations

top ten tuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. This week’s theme is:

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND!

Pick from previous topics that you want to do again or may have missed. My choice is:

~Top Ten Book to Movie Adaptations~

Not all book to movie adaptations are good (some are downright terrible in fact!) but there are some really great adaptations that break the mold. Most of the time I will always prefer the book but the movies have their merits too. Here are my top ten book to movie adaptations of all time:

Untitled1. Watchmen – many fans of the graphic novel (I am classing it as a book though as the story is extremely complex) were very disappointed by Zach Snyder’s vision of the film but I personally loved it! To be fair, I saw the film prior to reading the novel which may have made me slightly more forgiving of some of the liberties it took with the story, but although I agree that the novel is superior I still really love the film.

Untitled12. Harry Potter – all of the books/films really. The films in no way eclipse the brilliance of the books for me but I still think they are really fun and showcase the best of British acting talent (not that all the cast is British but close enough!). I feel as if I grew up with the main characters (even though I actually didn’t start reading the books until I was in my late teens/early twenties. They will always hold a special place in my heart.

Untitled23. Stand by Me – I know it is technically based on a novella (The Body by Stephen King, part of the Different Seasons collection) but it is one of my all-time favourite films so I am including it, technicalities be damned! The novella is good but the film is absolutely amazing. A tear-jerking coming-of-age film, Stand By Me never ceases to make me cry, especially during the scene where River Phoenix’s character Chris Chambers fades from the screen – a sad reflection of what was to come for this young actor (yup – huge River fan here!).

Untitled34. The Princess Bride – love the book, love the film even more! One of my favourites (and another Rob Reiner film – he also directed Stand By Me). The Princess Bride is a classic film – it never fails to cheer me up when I watch it (and I have watched it a lot!). Westley was ideal man when I was younger, moreso when he became a swashbuckling pirate though! A fun film for all the family to enjoy.

Untitled45. Watership Down – despite the fact that this animated film managed to scare the crap out of me when I was a child (that bit at the beginning with all the other animals slaughtering the rabbits traumatised me for life!) I still completely adore the film. Although not as powerful as the book, it was still a really worthy adaptation in my eyes and I still really enjoying watching it whenever it comes on the television (I also own the DVD but I am pretty lazy and can never be bothered trying to find things to watch!).

Untitled56. To Kill A Mockingbird – perhaps the only book I read in school that I didn’t immediately hate (I later re-read almost all of the books I was made to read and pretty much loved them all but it always seems a chore when you are reading for school). To Kill A Mockingbird was a rare book that i loved even when I was being made to read it by my out-of-touch teachers. The movie is also excellent (I love Gregory Peck in this!). A true classic in every sense of the word.

Untitled67. The Hunger Games – one of the best YA book series I have ever read. I didn’t expect much from the films but was very pleasantly surprised by how well done they were (well, I’m obviously just referring to the first two as Mockingjay is not out yet!). Jennifer Lawrence made a fine Katniss and the supporting cast are pretty spot-on too (love Woody Harrelson even though he is not who I pictured as Haymitch at all).

Untitled78. The Last of the Mohicans – this one might be a bit of a cheat as I have never been able to get through the entire novel, but the movie just blew me away from the very first time I saw it and it continues to be a favourite. Daniel Day Lewis never really rocked my socks but I always had a teeny crush on his brother in the film: Uncas (played by Eric Schweig).

Untitled89. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – the film did a good job of capturing the nuances of the book and I felt that Kat Dennings and Michael Cera had good chemistry. It is not my favourite film (or book) but I thought the adaptation translated very well and maintained the spirit of the book.

Untitled910. The Lord of the Rings trilogy – this could have failed big-time for me. I have always been a colossal fan of the books so the movies had a lot to live up to. Even though there were some changes that irked me (the whole Faramir plot change for one plus the whole Sam as the ultimate hero part), I still really loved the films and was overall happy with Peter Jackson’s vision.

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For more Top Ten Tuesday topics, check out the host site: The Broke and The Bookish

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