Friday, January 27, 2012

Unitards - Movie Review

I took my friend Jessica with me to the premier of the new movie Unitards on Wednesday night. She was skeptical but agreed to go because she really needed a night out (a night that included sushi before and ice cream after the movie). I must admit that I was a bit leery too, after all the movie was about dancing teenage boys.

We got our popcorn and settled into seats next to the give-away winner Shilo and her husband.

Louis, the main character, has just won an election as a student body officer. As the president of the men's association, the vice principal gives Louis a charge to find some way to bring school spirit back to the lackluster students of Skyline High. Louis finally decides to create an all-male dance ensemble.

Silly. Right?

But dang, if it wasn't funny. I couldn't help but chuckle. The characters were so likable and young (Louis sports the exact same haircut as my 10 year old). Even though no one is going to win an Oscar for best actor, the guys were completely believable. In fact, the kids in the movie reminded me A LOT of my brother Nick and his friends from high school who learned to tap dance for the school musical. And even though they were pretty dorky, they were always surrounded by cute girls. Imagine that.

I thought it was interesting that much of the laughter in the theater came from the older "grown-up" crowd. Perhaps the subtle humor was lost on the teenagers who are still taking themselves too seriously.

Jessica and I were both won over by this "feel good" movie based on a true story. She plans to take her pre-teen daughters back to see the movie. Best of all, she won't have to worry about letting her kids see it. It is completely clean of vulgar language and sexual innuendo and all the other garbage that regularly fills movies these days.

Unitards opens at theaters all over Utah tonight. Go check it out with your family.

** I did receive free tickets to the movie in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Parent Teacher Conferences

This week was Parent Teacher Conferences, or rather SEP Conferences. I always go into them with a bit of trepidation.  My kids are pretty good (generally) and I shouldn't worry so much, but I do. I might get blindsided with information about my kid that makes me look like a bad parent.

We heard plenty of really glowingly good things about the kids and a few things that can be improved upon--like Neal has not turned in his homework for the last six weeks. (He's always been so responsible about completing his homework by himself, so we were a bit surprised. Needless to say, he is grounded from the Wii and we will be checking his homework for awhile.) Amberly is a bit too chatty in class--not a surprise (Amberly has a brand new teacher who has known her for exactly two weeks but clearly knows our social, little daughter already).

Our last appointment was with Thomas's kindergarten teacher. Utah Dad and I enjoyed hearing all the great progress reports on our little son. Then his teacher pulled out a story he had written. His spelling was remarkable. His handwriting, though giant, was more legible than his father's. The accompanying artwork was cute. The teacher read it aloud to us:

I was hungree so I went down stairs but there was no food.
We chuckled. Then Thomas turned to me and accusingly asked, "remember that day?" And there it was. That embarrassing moment in front of the teacher. Apparently, I don't feed my children. Did I detect a glimmer of reproach in the eyes of the young teacher? Certainly, she doesn't actually believe all the stories she must hear from the thirty (yes, thirty) kindergartners in her morning class? Right?

I hope so.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mom's Cooking Crisis

Back in November (man, that seems so long ago) Amberly, The Mom Nerd and I drove up to Logan to be judges for an episode of the new Web TV show Mom's Cooking Crisis. We had so much fun and the show was a riot. The first season of this new show will begin airing on January 31st.

To gain support for their show, they are currently having a fun contest. Be sure to check out Mom's Cooking Crisis web page to enter.

And check out the promo video.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maisie Dobbs - Book Review

I've been wanting to read a Maisie Dobbs mystery since my niece Anna recommended them over a year ago. I finally got a chance this week. It was a relatively short book and I expected to have it finished in a day or two. Life has been busy this week and frankly, I've used much of my available reading time to study The Book of Mormon (we're right in the middle of the Bishop's weekly challenge) and to read President Monson's biography with Utah Dad. I finally hid away last night while Utah Dad watched a movie with Amberly, and finished Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear is a sharp, unconventional approach to the detective novel. I don't read them often and I won't pretend to be an expert. I especially enjoyed the intelligent and thoughtful way that Maisie Dobbs investigates. As a psychologist and investigator, Maisie is as concerned with the people she helps as she is with solving the case. Skilled at understanding and even manipulating the human mind, Maisie takes a sometimes subtle and careful way in getting to the truth.

Maisie Dobbs, opening her own detective agency a decade after the first World War, is hired by a man to find out if his wife is having an affair. This seemingly simple case will lead Maisie into a more dangerous investigation.

The novel did lag a bit during Maisie's back story. However, it was interesting to see where she came from and how she became a detective and what has shaped her own life. I understand that since this is the first novel in a series of Maisie Dobbs mysteries that there would probably be more of Maisie's story in this first novel. It definitely gets moving again, once Maisie gets back on the probing quest for the truth regarding The Retreat, a home for wounded veterans.

Maisie is also portrayed as squeaky, clean and sometimes dull. She loves everyone. Everyone loves her. While this is refreshing, the very ending is at a sharp contradiction with her character. It is, frankly, hard to believe that she would actually do that.

The case wasn't terribly mysterious and I had guessed at the truth early in the novel. It was fun to see how Maisie figured it out and employed her knowledge of human nature to save those in the harrowing situation.

Maisie Dobbs was an enjoyable read and I will definitely be picking up more books from the series in the future.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Unitards Give-away Winner!

The winner of the passes to the premier of the new movie Unitards (filmed in Utah) is . . .


Congratulations! Send me an email so that I can get your passes to you. And I look forward to seeing you at the movie premier.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Healing - Book Review

It's been quite some time since I've read a book that I could honestly rate five stars--one that I thoroughly enjoyed; found the characters and plot engaging and the writing beautiful, inspiring and emotional and then could actually recommend to any and all my friends.

The Healing by Jonathan Odell is that book.

Granada, a young slave girl and the pampered pet of the grieving mistress, has her eyes opened and her life changed when the master buys Polly Shine, a healer. Polly immediately recognizes that Granada has the gift and Polly sets out to train Granada to take her place on the plantation.

Odell is not simply a good writer, he is a gifted writer. He, like Polly and Granada, have a gift for seeing the human soul and expressing the desires, pains and struggles of each person. In his written note at the end of the book, Odell mentions how pleased he was that after the publishing of his first novel The View from Delphi, that a reviewer thought incorrectly that he was an African American. I chucked at the mistake because several times during the novel, I found myself looking at the cover to verify that the author wasn't actually a woman. This novel is an incredible and beautiful tribute to women and the sacred power of creating new life. Odell writes about these topics so tenderly and powerfully that it seems simply impossible to believe that he is a man.

I was disappointed at the end of the novel, simply because I had reached the end. I would have liked to read so much more about Polly Shine, Granada and the others who worked the Satterfield plantation. With careful attention to historical detail, The Healing is a compelling novel with strong and memorable characters that will not soon be forgotten.

Read this book.

** I received a free copy of The Healing in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Unitards - Movie Premier Give-away

Multi-award-winning independent film


a new family-fun movie will play in select theaters starting Jan. 27.
Excel Entertainment is proud to announce the release of UNITARDS in select theaters on Jan. 27, 2012.

UNITARDS has been honored at every film festival to which it’s been selected and has earned nine awards. This film is based on the actual experiences of Sam Featherstone—the actor playing Lewis Grady.

In the film, Lewis Grady (Sam Featherstone) just won the student-body elections at Skyline High School, and Vice Principal Spooner (Michael Buster) has big plans for the goof-off high school senior.
Charged with the difficult challenge of bringing school spirit back to Skyline, Lewis teams up with his two odd-ball friends (Jamison Featherstone and Zack Spurlock) to change the school forever. And they have the perfect way to do it: a guys-only dance team called the UNITARDS. As Lewis and his friends scrounge up the perfect group of misfits to join the revolution, Ms. Zarolla (Karen Dodge), coach of the school’s award-winning all-girl drill team, vows to bring the UNITARDS to an end before they embarrass her and ruin the school’s reputation. As she makes plans to put an end to the newly formed dance team, the UNITARDS make their own plans to take over the school once and for all. Director, writer and producer Scott Featherstone broke almost every rule of filmmaking in UNITARDS —he self-funded the project, used “real” kids rather than actors, went into production just as the economy turned downward and shot a film requiring nearly fifty tracks of music. More than 90% of the cast was selected from an open audition at Skyline High School.

With fifty-plus songs, the film’s score includes several tracks by Salt Lake City composer Tom Hewitson; six popular songs by well-known artists; nine songs by talented upcoming artists; two original tracks written for UNITARDS — including the main theme, “Gonna Dance”; and more than twenty licensed production tracks, such as “Sledgehammer,” by Peter Gabriel, “My Girl,” by The Temptations, and “Come on Eileen,” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

The crew filmed UNITARDS over a three-month period at Skyline High School. The schedule was ambitious because the lead actor, Sam, had received an LDS mission call and was scheduled to report to the MTC in just six weeks. The show wrapped just six days before Sam departed for Mozambique, Africa.

UNITARDS awards include:
ReelHeart International Film Festival (Toronto, Canada): Best Feature Film Award, Best Actor Award (Ensemble Cast of Lewis, Greg, & Jake); International Family Film Festival (Hollywood, Calif.): Best Musical Award; Santa Clarita Film Festival (Santa Clarita, Calif.): Best Feature Film Award; Fallbrook Film Festival (Fallbrook, Calif.): Best Feature Film Award; KidsFirst International Film Festival (Santa Fe, N.M.): Best Feature Finalist; International Accolade Awards (Los Angeles, Calif.): Award of Merit; Foursite Film Festival (Ogden, Utah): Best Direction Award; BEST OF FEST, Official Selection.
The film is independently produced by Scott Featherstone and distributed by Excel Films. For more information, visit <> .

Release date: Jan. 27, 2012
Running time: 104 minutes
Looks like fun! I am so excited that Utah Dad and I have been invited to attend the premier of Unitards on January 25th. And I'm especially excited to announce that one reader of Utah Mom's Life blog will also win a pass for two to attend the premier of Unitards at Jordan Commons.

To enter to win just leave a comment on this post. Super easy! The contest will be open to entries until 11:59 MST on Friday, January 13th.

The winner will be selected from the comments on this post and announced on Saturday, January 14th.

Good luck! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Face Thief - Book Review

I know. I know. I don't blog for awhile and then I post a bunch of book reviews all at once. Just one more today. And for those of you that want more about what the family has been up to, I'm working on all kinds of posts about our adventures and I even have a give-away on the blog next week. So, don't give up on me as a blogger just yet.

Last night I fell asleep at 7:30 pm. Then I woke up just before nine, took out my contacts, brushed my teeth and got in my pajamas intending to go right back to sleep. Once I was in bed, I couldn't sleep so I pulled out the new novel from Eli Gottlieb The Face Thief.

(By the way, for those of you interested in my progress with my 2012 personal goal to read the scriptures every day, I've given myself a rule that I can't read anything else until I have already completed my scripture reading for the day. So, I'm reading my scriptures earlier.)

The Face Thief is a cerebral, character-rich thriller that I found unable to put down. I simply had to finish it before I fell asleep. The narrative flows so well and suspense kept me turning the pages so quickly that I was able to turn out the light long before Utah Dad finished watching television and came to bed.

The beautiful woman's fall down the stairs was probably not an accident and Dan France, the honest detective who can't help falling for the victim, is determined to find out who pushed her. But as the truth unfolds regarding the victim--a manipulative and deceptive woman, it seems there could be several people angry enough to want her dead.

Brilliant at understanding human nature, Gottlieb brings his characters to life and delves into their personalities to uncover the traits that they hide from the world and ultimately shows how many people aren't even honest with themselves.

While I wouldn't exactly say that I was "rooting" for any of the characters, I felt compelled to find out what was going to happen next. Not only is Gottlieb adept at character development, his skill at writing the psychological suspense is superb.

This is one smart read.

All the Flowers in Shanghai - Book Review

Writing and publishing a novel titled All the Flowers in Shanghai not long after the success of Lisa See's novel Shanghai Girls and then including a cover line comparing this work to Lisa See's work can have several consequences. If you're lucky, readers of Lisa See's books will be intrigued, buy and read your novel (the ultimate goal). However, the downside of this is that you will always be compared to Lisa See. Good luck with that.

Duncan Jepson, the author of All the Flowers in Shanghai, tells an interesting story of Feng, a young Chinese woman forced into an arranged marriage in the years before the country was invaded by the Japanese. The story reads as an explanation from a much older Feng to her estranged daughter. The opening chapters are intriguing and the reader experiences the very real impending doom that seems so much worse since the innocent and young Feng is naive to her future.

The story has holes, however, and loses momentum. The story skips the entire war though it was interesting to read about the changes to China as the communists took control after the war. The character development also seems flawed. Feng, who appears to mature and grow and overcome her abuse, never seems to see the good in the people around her and reacts with selfishness. Her personal redemption comes so late and I was, frankly, disappointed by the ending.

As a writer, I think Duncan Jepson has potential and for a debut novel, All the Flowers in Shanghai is pretty good.

The Thirteenth Tale - Book Review

I took an unplanned hiatus from blogging for the last few months. Between the holidays and a busy new church assignment, I didn't have as much time to blog. Then the kids went back to school and I was busy attempting to put the house back together.

With the busy schedule, I didn't get to read as much either. There were days when the only thing I really wanted to do was climb into my bed with a good book and hide from the world--especially since I was in the middle of such a good book. That didn't exactly happen but I was able to carve out a little reading time to enjoy The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield.

I've heard so many good things about the novel and it's been on my to-read list for years. I was delighted when I found a beautiful, like-new copy at the library book sale this fall.

Using her captivating gift of language, Setterfield weaves as fascinating tale about the secretive world famous author Vida Winters. After years of writing beloved novels, the world had become intrigued by her own story which she had guarded for years by telling other stories to the reporters. Now, Ms. Winters requests that a biographer, Margaret Lea come to her home and write her story--the thirteenth tale--the true story of her life.

With the Angelfield family estate falling into ruins, a mysterious fire, ghosts and strange people the truth seems only another illusion while hearkening to the beloved Gothic stories of the Bronte sisters. The Thirteenth Tale is a spellbinding ghost story with rich language and eccentric and intriguing characters that will keep you up reading late into the night.

One Cool Mummy

Getting back into the school groove has been harder for us this week than I expected. After weeks of playing hard and celebrating, I have been so exhausted.

Yesterday morning as I was sending the kids out the door to school and contemplating going back to bed, Neal reminded me that it was the day for the body wrapping project and a parent was required to be able to participate. I needed to be at the school by 9:30.

What?! I received a note about it but that was back in December. The body wrapping project was in January. Could I really be expected to remember? Couldn't my child remind me the night before instead of the second he walked out the door? At the same time, Utah Dad reminded me that he had to do a presentation at work and would be no help. I panicked. Neal panicked. I shoved him out the door and promised that I would figure something out.

I called a good friend who agreed to watch the little girls and I jumped into the shower. My bed had never looked so inviting.

I walked into Neal's classroom just two minutes late and I caught that brief look on his face of extreme relief as he had surely been worried that I wouldn't actually make it to school. (I know that look. I remember that feeling as I waited for my own mother to arrive at the school.)

And then we got busy turning the sixth graders into mummies (they are studying ancient Egypt). By using clear packing tape and wrapping their body parts they were able to create a pretty cool shell of their bodies.

We get to finish his head at home. I'm guessing the school didn't want to be held liable if we accidentally suffocated our child with tape (disclaimer: we won't actually put tape over their mouths and noses).

Pretty cool though.