Reviews by ErinDurrett
Swear to Howdy is a very quick read about the challenges of friendship between two boys, Russell and Joey, after a prank of theirs goes terribly wrong. More than the first half of the book contains stories about the adventures of Joey and Rusty-boy and pranks they get involved with, which attests to the closeness and power of their friendship. In one such scenario, being charged with getting rid of squirrels a buck a pop, Joey accidentally shoots his violent and abusive father’s cat. Russell helps Joey bury the cat down by the river and “swears to howdy” he won’t ever tell a soul! The book turns serious when the boy’s recreation of the “lost ghost” causes a fatal accident and starts a secret that begins to eat at the two. I enjoyed this book, especially the language the author employs in telling Joey and Russell’s story. This book was written for youth, but is definitely enjoyable for adults too, as most of Mrs. Van Draanen’s books are. I’d recommend another book of the authors, Flipped, if you like this book. Silly at first, but serious towards the end, Swear to Howdy is a good way to spend two hours on a Sunday afternoon.
I admit it, I was at first weary of watching another "ripped from the headlines" crime film. However, after watching this movie, I ate my words. Alpha Dog is a severely intense film based on the real-life case of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer in California's San Gabriel Valley who, in 2000, became one of the youngest men to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. The names and some details of the cases have been changed, but the criminal circumstances remain the same: Johnny Truelove (Emile Hirsch) is furious with Jake Mazursky (Ben Foster), when Jake refuses to pay Johnny the money he owes him and then later vandalizes Johnny's house. Johnny and his buddy Frankie (Justin Timberlake) happen along Jake's 15-year-old half-brother Zack (Anton Yelchin) and hold him as collateral until Jake pays his debts. What begins as a casual, seemingly harmless situation escalates into a crisis of capital crime. The whole cast gave good performances even surprisingly Justin Timberlake, who definitely won me over with his cocky yet vulnerable charm. I definitely recommend this movie if you haven't already seen it!
Recently I saddled down to watch the Oscar and Emmy award winning Helen Hunt's 2007 triumph Then She Found Me. Then She Found Me, a film whose screenplay was co-written, directed, starred and produced by Hunt, depicts the story of April Epner, a 39 year old schoolteacher whose main ambition in life to is have a child of her own. April's hopes are put on hold on the day that her husband Ben (Matthew Broderick) leaves her. However, that same day she meets Frank (Colin Firth), the father of one of her students. Also, April's birth mother, a TV personality, played by (Bette Midler), enters her life and turns things upside down. This is a great film with superb performances by all leading actors especially Helen Hunt, Bette Midler and Colin Firth.
At the age of 93, Harry Bernstein started writing a book about his childhood in a mill town in Northern England, where an "Invisible Wall " seemed to separate the Jewish and Christian families. At the age of 96, Invisible Wall: a Love Story that Broke Barriers was published and filled with the memories of Harry's absent alcoholic father, hardworking loving mother, characters from both the Christian and Jewish side of the street, and of course the forbidden romance between his older sister Lily and a Christian boy, Arthur, that lived on the other side of the "wall". Berstein describes the neighborhood with vivid recollection and makes you feel as if you are walking the cobblestone roads with him. If you read and enjoy this book, you might try Bernstein's later memoir The Dream centering around his family's journey to America when he was 12.
Fireflies in December is the debut novel of Jennifer Erin Valent about a 13 year old girl, Jessilyn, and her parents taking in her best friend Gemma, after Gemma's parent were tragically killed in a house fire. The problem is, the year is 1932, Gemma is black, the Lassiters are white, and they live in a small Virginia town. Jessilyn is the character of dreams, taking cues from her father and speaking out against the threats coming from her small prejudiced community. The tone and speech in the novel take you to the south to a time where the people faced struggles not only from the Depression but from intolerance as well. The plot of this novel reminds readers of the evil that ordinary human beings are capable of doing, even in the name of righteousness. If you don't mind some moderate religious undertones, this book is heart-warming yet bittersweet and reminds us that even in the face of violence and terror, goodness can still surround us.