Caging Skies Book Review

Growing up happens in different ways. However, during war time, growing up often happens quicker than during peace time.

Christine Leunens’s new novel, Caging Skies, is set during World War II. Johannes Betzler is a young man living in Nazi occupied Vienna. Like many young men of his time, he becomes an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth.

Then he discovers that his parents are hiding Elsa, a Jewish girl behind a wall in their home. His initial disgust turns into infatuation and then obsession. After his parents disappear, Johannes is the only person who knows about Elsa. Her fate is in his hands.

I hate to use the “p” word (potential) when writing a review, but that is the only word I can use to describe this book. When I started reading this book, I was engrossed in this story of a boy who goes through quite a transformation. The book is described as a sort of dark comedy. Frankly, I did not get the comedy and I was disappointed by the time I reached the end of the story.

Do I recommend it Not really.


Flashback Friday-Judge Judy (1996-Present)

It’s easy to tell a lie. It’s harder to tell the truth, especially if the person who needs to hear the truth does not want to hear it.

Judge Judy (1996-Present) has been on the air for nearly a quarter of a century. Judy Sheindlin is a real life retired New York City Judge. Coming before her are real life small claims conflicts. Held in what looks like a real court room, Judge Judy hears both sides before making her ruling.

Though Judge Judy falls within the reality show genre, it’s far from the brain drain that is most reality shows. Judge Judy is a no nonsense, tell it like it is Judge, who does does not bend because the cameras are on her. Using logic and reason, she makes judgments that may not appeal to everyone, but make sense, given the parameters of the case.

I recommend it.

Law & Order: SVU Character Review: Captain Donald Cragen

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When one is in a management position, it is sometimes akin to being torn in two different directions. He or she is responsible to their bosses, but they also must be there for their staff. On Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Captain Donald Cragen (Dann Florek) was in charge of the Special Victims Unit for fifteen years.

In his line of work, Captain Cragen has a lot on his plate. His detectives are working to solve some of the most gruesome cases in New York City. But if something goes wrong, NYPD brass and the Mayor’s office are only a phone call away.

There are some bosses who are content to sit behind their desk, dictate work from behind their computers and let their staff do the grunt work. But Captain Cragen is not one of those bosses. He is fully involved in each case, providing support to his detectives and in some cases, going into the field. Though going into the field and going undercover is dangerous, he is if nothing else, dedicated to his work.

To sum it up: For many fans, Captain Cragen will always be one of their favorite SVU characters. His mixture of professionalism, dedication, patience and once in a while being a tough boss is what makes him memorable. It would have been easy to write him as the stereotypical manager who is either too hard or too soft on his detectives. But because he is soft when he needs to be and hard when he needs to be, that is why we love him.

New Randy Rainbow Video-CHEETO CHRIST STUPID-CZAR – Randy Rainbow Song Parody

When one declares themselves to be a diety on Earth, they are generally considered to be full of it or not all there.

Last week, you know who’s statement that he is the “chosen one” alarmed many people (myself included).

In response to the statement, Randy Rainbow replied as only he can. His latest video is entitled “CHEETO CHRIST STUPID-CZAR – Randy Rainbow Song Parody“.

Based on the song from the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, this deliciously perfect video is just another reason why he we need to get him out of office ASAP.

We need a President who will lead this country with a clear and mature vision, not an egomaniac salesman who is only looking out for number one.

Removing NYC’s Gifted and Talented Programs is Not the Way to Level the Educational Playing Field

One of America’s greatest sins is racial inequality.

This sin can be fixed if we fix our schools and ensure that every child, regardless of skin color, zip code or parental income has access to a solid education. But we all know that too many children are locked into bad schools because of skin color, zip code and parental income.

In New York City, Mayor Bill De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza are considering a proposal in which the Gifted and Talented programs would be dismantled, along with other admission criteria.

I feel like the Mayor and the Schools Chancellor have good intentions, but you know what they say about those with good intentions.

Removing the admissions criteria and and the G&T programs is not the way to level the playing field. Why should the students who are working their tails off to succeed academically be punished because other students do not have the resources they have?

Granted, the numbers don’t lie. The majority of students in the New York City Public School system are Latinx and African-American. The majority of students who gain admission into the G&T programs and the specialized schools are Caucasian and Asian.

I was born in New York City into a family of teachers. I was educated in the NYC public school system until 9th grade. I completely understand that the system and how flawed it is. I also appreciate beyond words that my parents prioritized their children’s education above all else.

If there is to be a change to level the playing field, it has to start from the ground up. It has to start with the schools themselves and the quality of the education. It it is also tantamount that the parents and the greater community is involved. Only then will every child receive that solid education.

Removing the G&T programs and the admissions requirements into the specialized schools will not resolve the racial inequality within the NYC school system. It will only make them worse.

Throwback Thursday-Extreme Couponing (2010-2012)

When going to the grocery store, having coupons on hand is a regular part of the shopping experience for many.

The subjects of the TLC reality show Extreme Couponing (2010-2012) took the idea of having coupons on hand while grocery shopping to another level. The premise of the show is that the subjects go to extreme measures via coupons to spend as little as possible at the grocery store. The highest point of drama came at the checkout counter, to see if the hard work of extreme couponing paid off.

I don’t know about this show. I certainly understand the concept of the program, but it feels almost like a television side show. We are watching the coupon freaks for the sake of our entertainment and their derision.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

I Wonder if the Boys Were Really Distracted

It’s that time of year again.

The backpacks are packed, as are the lunches. The school buses are gassed up and ready to go.

Along with the school buses, the backpacks and the lunches, the double standard is ready to start school.

Kate Darrow’s nine year old daughter attends Callahan Intermediate School in Florida. Upon wearing a tank top to school, the girl was told to cover up because the male students were “distracted” by her bare shoulders.

Pardon my french, but this is bullsh*t.

If she was fifteen or sixteen, that argument may have a shot in Hades of making sense. But she is nine, the school’s reasoning makes no sense. If that was not enough, I have to question how the school sees this young girl. Is she a sexual object who is there just to tempt her male classmates away from their studies or a fully fledged human being who has the right to a real education?

I understand that the school has a dress code. I have no issue with the dress code. But I do have an issue with the fact that the dress code applies one way to male students and another way to female students.

Perhaps next time, the school will think twice when they over-enforce the dress code for the girls, but let the boys slide.

Mrs. Everything Book Review

Whether we like it or not,when we grow up with siblings, we are assigned roles within the family. However, that does not mean that we stay within those roles as adults.

Jennifer Weiner’s new novel, Mrs. Everything, starts in the 1950’s. Jo and Bethie Kaufman are living an idyllic middle class life in Detroit. Jo is the rebel and the tomboy. Bethie is the little lady and conformist. But their adult roles will not match their childhood roles.

Over the next couple of decades, personal experience and the outside changing world will switch their roles. Jo becomes the suburban wife and mother. Bethie is the rebel who never quite settles down. Though both women seem to be settled as adults, they both question if they have made the right choices in life.

This book is amazing. The details of the time periods that she writes in are superb. I love that the sisters are fully formed, they are so different, but somehow incredibly similar. I also loved that the human quality of the relationships between the female characters. The relationships between the girls and their mother, between Jo and Bethie (a lovely nod to Little Women), between Jo and her daughters was absolutely perfect.

I absolutely recommend it.

I Love Dark Rey

The best characters are the one who catch you off guard. You think they know who this person is and where their narrative is going. Then there is a switch in the narrative and the character goes off in a surprising direction. When done well, this out of left field change in the character arc has the potential to shock the audience and up the dramatic ante by 100. When not done well, it can turn off the audience.

The new Star Wars firm, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in December. As they are during the lead up to every film in the franchise, Lucasfilm is mostly mum on the details. But then they slip a delicious nugget or two into the trailers.

At this point, there are any number of theories about Dark Rey (Daisy Ridley). Is this a vision of what will or could be? Is this the ultimate manipulation of the dark side? Will we learn that Rey is actually a descendant of the late Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDairmid) and has a family?

At this point, there are so many possibilities. I could theorize all day, but I think I will let J.J. Abrams work his magic and tell us in December.

We Never Learn: Hate Flourishes 70 Years After World War II

Warning: this post contains mild spoilers about Blinded by the Light.

74 years ago, World War II ended. Millions were dead and it seemed like the evils that brought on the war were dead. But instead of remaining in the past, the evils of hate and prejudice are alive and well in our world.

I recently saw the new film Blinded by the Light. The film, in case you have not see it (and if you haven’t you should) is about a Pakistani-British boy who wants to be a writer. It is set in late 80’s Britain, at a time when both economic uncertainty and hate are on the rise. One of the neighbors of this young man is a World War II veteran. Upon finding one of these boy’s poems about the local hate groups, this man proudly states that he fought for Britain during the war.

My question is, if we (when I mean we, the cultural we) fought for freedom and democracy 70 years ago, why does this battle seem futile? According to an article on NPR from February, hate groups have risen 30% over the past few years.

I wish we lived in a better world. I wish that we treated each other as human beings. I wish that we judged each other as individuals before seeing someone’s skin color, ethnicity or choice of religion.

But not all wishes come true, do they?

%d bloggers like this: