meg says read this, Read This

Read This: Once and For All

Is it really summer if you don’t read a Sarah Dessen book? YOu may recall that Dessen’s latest Once and For All was on my list of anticipated reads for this year. Now that I’ve read it, I just want to be immersed in the story again. As you know, I’m not a fan of formulaic writing (exactly why you don’t want to get me started on Nicholas Sparks books.) Although some may think that Dessen’s novels are predictable, I on the other hand am pleasantly surprised by her plot twists. There was a gut punch in Once and For All that I wasn’t expecting, (which is sometimes a delicious surprise, but here I was biting my lip, and trying not to cry.) Okay, okay I’m getting ahead of myself. Once and For All chronicles the summer before Louna goes off to college. Her mom owns a wedding planning business with her best friend William. Louna is used to not getting caught up in the “magic” of weddings, constantly seeing the bridezillas or the behind the scenes meltdowns, but you have to wonder how a teenager got so jaded. What happened that makes her question if true love is real? Well, you’ll find out. I love that in this story, we’re introduced to Louna’s best friend Jilly, and the trouble maker ADD son of a client Ambrose – both of their personalities balance out Louna’s serious nature. Ambrose is completely unpredictable, and Jilly is all about “living your best life” (however you do that!) As the story unravels we learn about Louna’s past, maybe what makes her skeptical or hesitant, and we’re also reminded that people aren’t always what they seem to be on the surface. It’s a great summer read, as Dessen finds a way to take us back to her favorite endless possibility beach town, Colby, and even teenagers working hard in the summer have to let lose once in a while. I read this entry on Sarah Dessen’s website where she wrote about some of the things that inspired Once and For All (two babysitters simultaneously planning their own very different weddings.) Then I stumbled across this passage, which not only sums up the heart of Once and For All, but it’s also pretty accurate about life:

As I started to think about all this, I began taking it wider, to the idea of how many “perfect” things we want, or are allowed. I’d had everything I wanted with SAINT ANYTHING: maybe I’d never get that again. Louna, my narrator, has this amazing first love and thinks that’s her only chance, her once and for all. But life goes on, even after those walking into the sunset moments. We can’t always have a perfect day, or a perfect experience. We need to take those great moments, though, and appreciate them. It’s tough for us perfectionists, but it’s true. The best stories, I have learned, often come when things don’t go as you planned. (source)

I definitely recommend this book for some summer reading, but I’ll warn you maybe I’m just a sap, or maybe the content really does go straight to your heat – I found myself tearing up a few times. Even still the imagery will make you laugh a few times, as you imagine Loud Cell Phone Lady in the coffee shop, or Ambrose and his antics, or Jilly’s siblings running all over the house. Dessen did it again with a little world to get lost in, and remind yourself of a few of life’s most important lessons.
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Watch This: Zach Sobiech’s Story

So, here’s the thing. I had a song in mind that I wanted to share with you all for Turn It Up Tuesday, but then as I was driving to work this morning and listening to the radio (Bobby Bones on 94.9 TNT) play the Today show clip where they spoke with a fourth grader whose teacher covered him during the tornadoes in Oklahoma, and even on The Voice last night as they talked about the Red Cross number for relief donations by text message in the wake of utter devastation these storms have caused (text REDCROSS to 909999 or for Salvation Army text STORM to 80888) – I just couldn’t go about a regular post today. I don’t normally do posts like this on here, usually these are reserved for my more personal blog The Life of Mugs, but I think it’s important that everyone take a step back today and just be grateful for what you have, those you love, and try to smile. Even if you’re right smack in the middle of what feels like an impossibly dark day.

Last night, two of my friends shared this video on Facebook (from this Upworthy blog) and I just couldn’t ignore it even though I wasn’t aware of what I was about to watch. All I could think was “wow.” I encourage you to take a few minutes out of your day and see Zach’s story. Here’s the thing, your heart might break a little while you’re watching this. I’m not going to pretend that I maintained a tough exterior, I started crying, tears streaming down my face but you’ll also laugh, and you’ll smile and Zach’s words are going to resonate in your ears. His song, will hopefully get stuck in your head. Think about the little moments, think about how beautiful life is. Think about all the ways you can make the people around you smile or have a better day, and in turn glow with positivity yourself.

And I’ll leave you with this video of “Clouds”

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Watch This: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This week I finally got the chance to watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Tallahassee actually had this film in the theatre for a little bit back when it was first released, so it’s my own fault for missing out but now that it’s on DVD (and it caught my eye in the new films section at the library) I jumped on the chance. My house mate Alex had already seen it before, but she told me how cute it was a few times and gladly watched it again on a rainy Wednesday night.

My word. I had high expectations for this film, and I was not disappointed in the slightest. It really is top notch. I think they found the perfect balance of heartwarming and reality. It really felt uplifting. I didn’t even cry! (Though there were some moments where I teared up.) I laughed several times throughout the film, and it was one of those where I could feel a slap happy smile spread across my face. Basically this is a story of a random group of people who all travel to a “resort” in India to spend their retirement. The random group who start as strangers, soon become friends and an eclectic family of sorts.

The cast is just fantastic and won me over in the opening scenes. The scenery is beautiful. There isn’t one thing I didn’t like about the movie. (Although, at one point when Evelyn and Douglas are walking through the city streets together at night, it occurred to me how wonderful it would have been for this to be a TV show instead and each person’s story it’s own little episodes if only for the fact that I didn’t want it to end yet!)

The film was based on a novel by the same name written by Deborah Moggach, which probably needs to go on my to-be-read list. Why this didn’t get nominated for more awards, I’ll never know. But me oh my, it’d be foolish of me not to recommend it to you! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a softer side of Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson reeled me in the moment he told the boy in the street how to better his cricket batting. Maggie Smith is a delight in everything I watch her in, and this wasn’t any different! Also might I add that Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) lit up the screen in all of his scenes – his youthful energy was a joy and his optimism and gentleness was inspiring. The film vaguely reminded me of Love Actually in the way the characters stories overlapped and intertwined. I am a sucker for those type of scripts! If you’ve yet to experience this great film, I highly recommend you check it out this weekend!

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No Seriously, Watch This: “Love Actually”

You don’t even have to pretend to be surprised that Love Actually is one of my favorite movies of all time, and if you asked me to watch it any day of the year I would say: “let’s do it!” First of all the cast is phenomenal. Second of all, so many story lines intertwining in surprising ways which is one of my favorite things to see unfold on screen. Third – the music is fantastic. Four – it has probably created some unrealistic expectations in love for me. (If I ever get married it doesn’t have to be some huge shebang. BUT the musical sequence in the wedding in the beginning of the film? My heart sprouts wings and flutters as soon as it starts. Also, hello the cue-card scene? I’m slowly disintegrating into a puddle of mush just typing this.) Even the parts that make me cry are still beautiful. I want to be Juliet. I want to dance around in socks with the Prime Minister. I want to give Sam a hug, I want to chase all those typewritten sheets blowing into the wind, sing with Billy and Joe, drink wine with Karen while we listen to Joni Mitchell, and buy Collin a beer.

If you know me, (or even just through reading my posts,) you’ve probably figured out that I’m not a very decisive person. I have a really hard time narrowing any kind of option down – from ice-cream, to have favorite songs. BUT I can honestly tell you that Love Actually has one of the BEST movie intros of all time.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.”

If you’ve already seen this film, then revisit these favorite scenes with me. If you haven’t, then I HIGHLY, HIGHLY (enough to repeat myself) recommend that you go find it – now. Rent it, buy it, stream it, borrow it from a friend – whatever, just go watch it. Love Actually came out in 2003, and as I write this post I can recall viewing it with so many different people. With my family curled up in a blanket on the couch, with Lizzi in the bunks at Phi Mu, with my roommate Alex the first Christmas I lived with her, so, so many viewings because it’s just impossible for me to get tired of. (Kind of like Home Alone.)

Don’t click play if you haven’t seen it because I want these to be a surprise, okay?

Because it’s Christmas, and at Christmas you tell the truth…

And one of my favorite renditions of this song, EVER.

Basically I could share segments of the whole entire film right here, and it might not be enough. Just go watch it. I know I can’t wait to watch it this weekend, myself.

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Watch This: “12 Dates of Christmas”

Last Saturday I was hanging out with my roommate at the house, and after watching an episode of Fringe (where my dream come true – time travel! was happening, but had a tragic consequence so now I’m rethinking that dream…) we decided to put on a holiday movie. I have since repurchased Love Actually, as well as adding The Family Stone to my personal collection but at the time neither of these were in the house so somehow after a bit of searching through free titles (and agree that Jack Frost was too depressing to handle that night) we decided on 12 Dates of Christmas, the cheesy ABC Family movie starring Amy Smart (I loved her in her Felicity days) and Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Zack Morris! Saved By The Bell!) When we first started watching it, we were both kind of mocking the movie. But then as it progressed I found myself genuinely laughing at certain scenes, and wondering what would happen next. By the end my eyes were teary, and when my roommate left the room to use the restroom I made her rewind it and watch the scenes she’d missed because they were that heartwarming.

The basic gist of the movie is that Kate has a minor accident while shopping for a present for her ex-boyfriend at the mall on Christmas Eve. She ends up ditching her blind date Miles in order to meet up with the ex to give him his gift, and hoping to rekindle the old flame. After a particularly rough evening Kate wakes up to realize she’s at the scene of the accident again, reliving the day. (It’s like Ground Dog Day, Christmas-style.) Kate soon finds out that she’ll continue to re-live that day, until she makes some changes in life. She has to recognize relationships for what they are, see the good people she’s surrounded by, the opportunity for her own relationships, and to help strangers-turned-friends relationships better, too. She just might happen to find what she’d been looking for all along, on the way. It’s definitely corny, but it’s also touching. If you’re not a Netflix subscriber you can watch the movie free on Hulu!

You can watch an interview with Smart from last year about the movie if you’re interested: