Freedom Writers (2007)


Freedom Writers was released in 2007, starring Hilary Swank. It is a drama based on the nonfiction book, The Freedom Writers Diary, and is based upon a true story.

The book and the movie tell the story of a remarkable teacher and group of kids from Woodrow Wilson Classical High School, in California. At the time of the book’s writing, this was one of the roughest schools in the country, filled with gangs, violence and a failing academic record.

Hilary Swank portrays teacher Erin Gruwell, a novice teacher who reshaped the kids in her classroom, helping them catch up academically and exposing them to the wider world. She worked two part time jobs to pay for opportunities and teaching resources – including English books – that were not funded by the school.

Here is the trailer.

I have seen this movie several times, but was inspired to re-watch it after listening to the book The Hate U Give.

The themes of racial tension, gang violence, education and growing up in rough neighbourhoods are similar.

The movie is entertaining and inspiring. There is violence, which flows well with the storyline and themes without becoming graphic. Although the subject matter isn’t happy, it also brought back a slight sense of nostalgia for the 90s.

I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching this film, and now I am am more interested in the Freedom Writers today. I want to google and see if any of them became activists or educators. I am also going to try to find a copy of their book to read.

Edit: Here is a link to 2017 news article, “where are they now”.

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The house with a clock in its walls (film)

The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a 2018 children’s film, based on the book of the same name that was written way back in the 1970s by John Bellairs. It is a beautiful blend of mystery, fantasy and thriller and although not overtly a Halloween story, it is one I can see myself habitually watching each October.

The film stars Jack Black, Cate Blanchett and Owen Vaccaro.


Set in 1955, a 10 year old braniac is sent to live with his estranged uncle after a terrible car accident kills his parents. Unbeknownst to him, Uncle Jonathan is infact a warlock, lives in a magical house and is best friends with his next door neighbour, an extremely powerful witch. The banter between Jack Black and Cate Blanchett made the movie in my opinion.



The house contains a terrible secret. It is a ticking heart hidden within it, put in place by the evil warlock who used to own it, and which is rumoured to bring about the apocalypse in the very near future. Together, the three must teach young Lewis to do magic, uncover the magical clock, and unravel its secrets to save the universe.


This movie drew a surprising number of adult viewers to the theatre, at least for the showing I attended, and was generally well received. I am not a huge purveyor of children’s films, but I enjoyed it and so did my Mum, who had invited me.

The special effects are well done and there is enough humour in the plot and acting that we were laughing throughout.

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The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold


The Lovely Bones is a beautifully written and utterly gut-wrenching story. It is about the life, death, and after-life of a young girl, as she watches her family from Heaven.

Susie Salmon was lured into a field one afternoon on her way home from school, by a neighbour who had built an underground bunker hidden among the corn stalks. In that place, he rapes, murders and dismembers Susie. Later he disposes of her by locking the pieces of her body into an old safe and dumping everything into a sinkhole outside of town.

The identity of Susie’s murderer is not a secret to the reader. We experience the story from her perspective as she watches from Heaven, following Mr. Harvey, as well as her family and friends, watching them deal with the immediate news of her death and on through the years.

The Lovely Bones takes place over a period of 15 years or so. Initial chapters follow Susie’s parents, sister and brother over the course of a year. During this period, Susie is both watching events unfold on Earth and exploring the afterlife.

In her Heaven, a person can have almost anything they like. It is a peaceful place that is safe, comforting and in a way, timeless. But spirits are trapped there until they learn to let go of those still on Earth. As long as she is tied to her loved ones and to her murderer, and desires answers to burning questions – like why me – Susie will not be able to move one to what is next.

The remainder of the story unfolds with increasingly large leaps in the timeline. Susie is learning to let go of her Earthly life and death and so is her family. By the end of the book, they don’t often think or speak of her. Not because the pain of loss is removed, or because they love her any less, but because she is no longer there. The living have to keep living. This change isn’t sad. Susie wants her loved ones to be happy and truly live, and she delights in experiencing things she missed through others.

One of those moments is when her younger sister has sex for the first time. Susie is so happy for her sister, that she had a special connection with a boy she loves and that her first time is so gentle, romantic, and a tender moment of connection between two individuals… everything that Susie herself was robbed of.

This story is understandably tragic just from the material that is discussed, but the author’s rendition of the events is chilling. She isn’t too graphic in her description or Susie’s rape or murder but her understanding of the grief that envelopes each person that Susie knew is astounding. Between her disappearance and the memorial service three months later, this loss is viewed from the perspectives of her parents and siblings, her grandmother, her teacher, her crush, a classmate and a neighbour.

So many people are affected by her loss, and the reader can’t help but experience it with them. I felt like it was my cousin, my classmate, my neighbour going through such a tragedy.

One of things in this book which really stuck out to me, is that the people whom you expected to feature prominently didn’t always. Very little is discussed about Susie’s best friend and Susie doesn’t follow her life the way she does another classmate whom she barely knew, but who was so changed by this life experience. And although Susie does haunt her murderer Mr. Harvey, as time drags on, years go by without her checking on him.

It has been a very long time since a story has touched me so deeply throughout the entire book. I don’t know if I have ever cried this much through a story. The fact that this was the author’s first novel is crazy. I definitely plan to read more of what she has written. But at the same time, I don’t think I will ever be able reread The Lovely Bones.

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Post-script spoiler

The ending of this book was surprising to me. I really thought that Lin would eventually catch Mr. Harvey. I still felt he got what was coming to him in the end, but it burns that he lived his whole life as a pedophile, a serial rapist and a serial killer, without ever paying for his crimes against so many women and children. I was also devastated that no one ever found Susie’s body. With all the talk of fixing the sinkhole and building a subdivision over top, I truly thought that eventually someone would make that gruesome discovery. I wanted that closure for her family.


The longest ride – a film review


The Longest Ride is the newest romantic-drama based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. It follows two generations through the trials and tribulations of falling in love and merging two lives. The main characters are Luke and Sophia.


Luke, played by Scott Eastwood, is a good ol’ country boy, with the morals and manners to match. And the stubborn, pig-headedness and toughness that goes along with “being country”. He is a professional bull rider, and let me tell you, it would torture me to date someone who did something so dangerous all the time. Sophia on the other hand is a New Jersey girl in the South for school, ready to head for a prestigious fine art internship in NYC.

I may have a little crush on Luke. So sexy!

The other couple followed in the story is Ruth and Ida Levinson, who fell in love in the 1940’s. Sophie and Luke rescue Ida after a car accident, and their stories become interwoven throughout the movie, flashing back and forth between the 40’s and modern day.

The Longest Ride

Although I loved both stories, I would have personally preferred to see more of Sophia and Luke’s. Luke is very country and he influences Sophia to become more that way herself. I am also a country girl so this story-line was more appealing, IMHO.

I love the way that Sparks writes his male characters. Although they are all different, and certainly far from perfect, they also depict many of the characteristics that I appreciate and look for in a man. Physical and mental toughness (not to say that they don’t need someone to lean on at times, everyone needs someone). Protectiveness towards women and children. Someone willing to plan a date or surprise his girl. Come on guys, “netflix and chill” requires zero imagination. There is nothing sexier than a man you can rely on.

This movie was sweet enough to distract me from the project I was working on while watching, and a great way to spend a quiet evening alone. During Luke’s big championship ride, I was biting my lip, praying that he would be ok because you really never know when Nicholas Sparks is the writer!

Spoiler below the picture, letting you know.


Thankfully, yes Luke is okay. This is another Sparks movie that has a happy ending, at least for the couple.

Definitely recommend! Probably just for the girls though.

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The Lucky One – a film review

The Lucky One is a romantic-drama, based on the book of the same name, written by Nicolas Sparks. Released in 2012, it stars Zac Efron (“Logan”), Taylor Schilling (“Beth”), and Blythe Danner (“Ellie”).


Trailer (via Youtube)

While I don’t think that any “Sparks” movie could ever come close to topping the masterpiece that is The Notebook, The Lucky One is another favourite of mine, and one that I have watched numerous times. Especially this time of year (I live in cold, snowy Canada), it is relaxing to watch a movie based in the South, and I do love me some southern accents. The Carolinian scenery is breath-taking. I think I need to take a trip down that was sometime.

Efron plays an American Marine recently returned from Iraq where most of his buddies died. He escaped a fatal blast by stepping out of range just seconds before, to pick up a picture he noticed fluttering in the wind.


Upon his return to the States, he decides to track down the girl in the photo and return it to her, and thank her for saving his life. He doesn’t expect to fall for her, and her son, before he can figure out how to explain.


The Lucky One is a sweet movie. I love how Efron depicts his character. Although Logan seems to suffer from PTSD, it isn’t the focal point of the film. He isn’t depicted as being a danger to himself or anyone else, and is certainly more stable than Beth’s ex-husband, a local cop.


You wouldn’t want to me alone with this guy

It is amazing to see how naturally Logan takes to being a father-figure to Beth’s son and just what a good man and hard worker he is. He inspired me to work hard in my own life, and to look for a man with many of the qualities that he depicts. Beth and her son will never need to wonder about their security in the future, because Logan will make sure they don’t want for anything, and that they are safe and happy together.

The Lucky One

I loved how he was there for Beth as a friend, before they became romantically involved. She is initially an unpleasant character, filled with pain, and verbally lashes out at him multiple times, but is more than redeemed shortly on. Her brother, the one who lost the photo in Iraq, didn’t make it back alive, and Logan can certainly relate to her grief and anger. Together, they help each other through and grow.

** Minor spoiler, as to whether the movie ends happily or not:




The Lucky One is a great romantic comedy. It has drama, and tears, but ultimately, the film ends positively, with Logan and Beth’s relationship in-tact. I have watched this movie multiple times and definitely recommend it to you.

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Dark Places – book review

Gillian Flynn seems to be the darling of bookclubs and studios all over Canada and the United States. Everyone loved Gone Girl and 2015 is the year of Dark Places.

dark plaecs

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars. Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back? She begins to realize that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find. Who did massacre the Day family?

—                 —                     —

If you are a regular reader of my blog (sidenote: do I have any of those yet???), then you will know that this is a deviation from the normal romance and erotica genres that I usually stick to. I’ve been trying to push my boundaries a little bit this year and I read some other books that have been hanging out on my goodreads TBR list for a long time. It’s good to expand your horizons and since I went back to uni full-time in February, I’ve kept my distance from my usual non-fic reads. I get enough of that with text books!

Hence, Still Alice and now Dark Places.

I listened to Dark Places on my Audible account this month and definitely recommend that you read this book. I will have to pick up some more by Gillian Flynn – she has a natural talent for writing twisted stories with multi-faceted characters, and keeping readers on the edge of their seats.

I hate to read a “mystery” where you know who the murderer is from several chapters out. I kept changing my mind as to who killed the Day family throughout Dark Places, marking it in my mind as an excellent murder mystery.

The performance by voice actors on the audiobook were great as well.

I didn’t realize it when I was reading … err, listening … but the movie that is based on this book will be released in theatres in North America on August 7, 2015.

dark places movie cover

Can’t wait to see it. If there are significant deviations from the book, I will probably review it as well and edit this post to leave in a link.

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Jurassic World – a review

I saw Jurassic World yesterday and it was so much better than any of my expectations!

If you haven’t seen it yet, you should, even if you are not a big fan of the first three movies.

I’m 26 and I hadn’t seen any of the original Jurassic Park movies until this year, when I finally decided to watch them so I could be a part of the conversation. And because they were on television for free when I was bored. And because the new one looked good and I didn’t want to be lost.

OK, basically, this idea of dinosaur island has become a part of the pop-culture canon and the idea is just so original that even if I didn’t like the movies, I still respected what the author and filmmakers were trying to create.

I feel like Sea World staff are very jealous right now

I feel like Sea World staff are very jealous right now

I thought Jurassic Park 1-3 were ok, but only based on originality. Admittedly, I watched them for the first time in 2015 so in the early 1990s, well I’m sure that was freaking fantastic special effects, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.

Jurassic World though? Out-Freaking-Standing! It was amazing. The acting was great (go Chris Pratt and those two brothers) and I loved the storyline. I cannot wait for the fifth and hopefully it also features Chris Pratt.

The whole movie I had this little running self-commentary, things like “oh crap” and “they’re fucked” and “how have they still not evacuated this island”. I had this feeling of dread in my stomach, so much so that I couldn’t even finish my slice of theatre pizza. I ate it during the drive home instead. The only other movie I can remember feeling so much dread in, so unsure that things were not going to be ok, was in that train movie, Unstoppable, with Denzel Washington.

Not good. NOT GOOD. So very very seriously not good.

Not good. NOT GOOD. So very very seriously not good.

Seriously, even if you didn’t think this was your thing, I highly urge you to go watch Jurassic World. I might even drag some reluctant friends out to see it. It doesn’t even matter if you have seen any of the others, or if dinos are your thing.

* * * * * no question.


Allegiant: Parts I & II?

I could be way behind the curveball here, but I just heard that they are splitting Allegiant into two movies. So maddening. It is a huge turn-off for me when production companies do this, because it is purely for profit and always produces a sub-par product.

Of course, the only movie franchise that I think could have gotten away with splitting one book in to more than one movie was the one franchise that didn’t try. Until they did. But it was way past late by then.

I’m talking about the Lord of the Rings of course. Now, for those of you who have not read those giants books on which the long-ass movies are based, you have no idea that Peter Jackson took out so much quality literature, like Tom Bombadil and an entire freaking war. My goodness, that made me so mad, it actually ruined the third movie for me and I don’t think I have ever re-watched the series since. Tolkien published three huge tomes of work, plus appendices and others, and each book is incredibly dense. You could have easily produced five wonderful 2.5 hour films without breaking into the territory of the Hobbit. But instead they cut and cut and then produced such long movies that I’m not willing to sit down and watch them because it represents too much of a commitment in one evening.

Wait, what movie am I ranting about? Allegiant? Sorry, got side-tracked for a minute there.

My point is, that some studio person in Hollywood got the idea that turning the last book into two movies in every series is a fantastic idea because supposedly fans want it to postpone the ending at any cost and this way they can make double the money before letting an idea go and creating something new. All the series are doing it now: Divergent, Hunger Games, The Hobbit, Harry Potter…

But is that really the message you want to send, or the final impression you want an audience member to have of your series? That you, the creators, wanted to make a quick and easy buck by drawing something out, decreasing its impact by doing so?

I would hope not. I wouldn’t; I’d rather create something of quality. And I wish that there were more Hollywood stars who felt the same way and were willing to stick up and fight for their franchise fans, even at the risk of their role. Are they really willing to recast Katniss Everdeen for a fourth and final Hunger Games movie? I doubt it. I bet Jennifer Lawrence could have stopped it. So do these so-called artists really not care either? Or are they too afraid to stand up to their studios?

At the end of the day, a 225 page book that is meant for teens, or worse yet, those meant for pre-teens, were not meant to be turned into four and a half hours of feature film. They feel empty, and spaced out like there was not enough quality content to fill the time, because let’s face it, there wasn’t. Or you have someone like Peter Jackson add a whole lot of plot that wasn’t in the book and it doesn’t sit well with fans.

Here’s to hoping this is a fad that passes quickly.


Game of Thrones

Well, it’s here. Game of Thrones. Season 5.  Let the Monday Morning Madness at the water cooler begin.

I haven’t seen the first episode yet.  I am hiding in a cave, trying to head off any spoilers, in a desperate attempt to wait until at least half the season has aired.  I prefer to binge watch a show in a few days, rather than wait a whole week, or two!, for another episode. But it is so hard to avoid the spoilers!

As much as I hate them, I’m getting better at managing when they happen.  In Sons of Anarchy, the only spoiler-free season I enjoyed was the last.  And my blasted siblings spoiled both the Red Wedding and the Purple Wedding for me.  That was cruel.

I have read A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords, which gets me to more or less where season five starts off, so I don’t know too much of what is coming, other than what has been in the promotional material so far. For a saga like this, we all have to decide if we would rather read the books first or see the show first, and personally, I prefer the shock and awe of Game of Thrones on the screen rather than the page.  So each year or so, I read a book, recapping the previous season to lead into the next.

What about you?  Have you read the books? Or do you delight in the twists and turns playing out on screen, like me?

I’m excited to begin this journey into Westeros again, and presumably into Dorne and Braavos as well….. I’ll just be a month or two behind the rest of you guys.


A third sisterhood of the travelling pants movie?!

Holy Moly, am I excited. America Fererra has confirmed that they are working on a third film in the sisterhood of the travelling pants series!

I have always loved these movies. They are about friendship, and love, and growing up and finding your way in the world. I grew up with those four girls, aging more or less as they did.  But after condensing four novels into two movies, they ended. And I kept growing.

I’m hoping that this announcement will eventually lead to two new movies. The first, as new graduates looking for their first “real” jobs and getting married, and the second, embracing motherhood. Hopefully then, not following the plot of the last book too closely.

Hollywood generally fills the minds of young girls with epic love sagas, or petty drama. The sisterhood chronicles the love between friends and the realistic trials of holding onto those friendships when distance and life try to pull you apart. As a twenty-something woman myself, and an Aunt to three nieces, I love the messages that they convey.

I can relate to each of the characters in some way and learn from their experiences. Lena’s reluctance to open her heart and her fear of doing so a second time after it has been broken so badly. Carmen’s frustration at feeling as if her friends are moving on to better things and forgetting all about her – my best friend lives on another continent and has for a few years.  I see her doing wonderful things and making a family of her own, and although I am ecstatic for her, I regret that she is so far away and her new life so removed from our friendship.  Like Bridget, I know how difficult it is to grow up with a parent who suffered from a mental illness and her struggles to overcome this legacy. And like Tibby, I shut myself off from the world when going through hard things, one of the reasons I started this blog.

The love between friends might be the strongest bond in this world, second only to that between a parent and child. It’s importance in our lives is incredibly understated. The sisterhood of the travelling pants celebrates these bonds, and the inclusiveness found in a circle of close friends that truly support one another, rather than pick favourites. It doesn’t perpetuate that Mean Girls style antagonist relationship of this group against that. It just celebrates something we all wish we had more of.

Links to the appropriate interviews: