Sunday, April 28, 2013

Glasswings: A Butterfly's Story - Elisa Kleven

Illustrated by the author
Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2013
HC $16.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 5.00 (But there are only three ratings to average so far- and mine's one of them)
My rating: 5
Endpapers: lime green with various sized outlines of Glasswing butterflies in white

"Claire was a Glasswing butterfly.
Her wings, as clear as windows,
let the world shine through."

But a huge wind sweeps her away from her family in the country to a street in the city, where there aren't many flowers from which she can sip nectar,  A friendly pigeon and ladybug show her a tiny community garden, but the flowers are sparse.  She sips and flits from flower to flower, day after day, and the garden blooms and flourishes with her help.

There's a prologue that tells a little about Glasswings (they inhabit Central and South America).  I wonder why it wasn't put at the end of the story?

I'm an Elisa Kleven fan, so perhaps I'm biased, but I love her work - her collaged illustrations are wonderful. On one page, the hillside of tall city buildings is created from cut rectangles from the insides of business envelopes and water colors. Mmmmm. The windows of the dull gray buildings are alive with colorful life - curtains, people, quilt-y shades and brightly colored clothing. I could just look and look and look. And, there's a happy, satisfying ending to a relatively simple, thoughtful story that also contains a message - and lesson - or two.

America the Beautiful: Together We Stand- Katherine Lee Bates

Illustrated by Bryan Collier, Raul Colon, Diane Goode, Mary Grandpre, John Hendrix, Yuyi Morales, jon J. Muth, LeUyen Pham, Sonia Lynn Sadler, Chris Soenpiet
Orchard Books, 2013
HC $17.99 (splurged and purchased it)
24 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.10
My rating: 5 (This is an awesome book)
Endpapers: Blue with white stars - Like a closeup of that part of the American flag.
Title Page: Just the title, in huge, bold red and white font

Quotes from presidents Carter, Jefferson, Reagan, Lincoln, Obama, Kennedy, FDR, Washington, GHW Bush, Theodore Roosevelt...

The end pages include national landmarks and symbols.  Gorgeous!

My Goodreads review:  Everything about this book was special. The ten American artists and the illustrations they created. The ten chosen quotes from ten different presidents. The four pages of information at the end. As I teacher, the book SCREAMS mini-lessons. Art, history, language arts, social consciousness....I can even use some of these great quotes for handwriting assignments with meaning and verve. I splurged. I wonder whose brainstorm it was to put it together?

Goodreads summary: Each of our presidents has had a unique vision of America. In AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, these ideas are translated into gorgeous illustrations by such top artists as Bryan Collier, Jon J Muth, Diane Goode, Mary GrandPre, Raul Colon, Sonia Lynn Sadler, Yuyi Morales, John Hendrix, LeUyen Pham, and Chris Soentpiet. Each of these talented illustrators has found a unique way to interpret the values and beliefs that have built our great country.

Through moving illustrations, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL integrates the lyrics of the familiar patriotic tune with inspiring presidential quotations. AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL will help teach children about our country's great leaders while highlighting American values such as diversity, unity, and freedom. In addition, the back cover features a quote from the acceptance speech of the winner of the 2012 presidential election.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

15. The Widower's Tale - Julia Glass

Audio read by Mark Bramhall
Ebook through the library (also read the hard copy, back and forth...)
Publishing Info: Pantheon Books, 2010
Pgs.402 pages
Written for adults
Finished: April 21, 2013
Genre: CRF
Goodreads Rating:  3.63 
My Rating: 5 (I ended up loving it)
Setting: Contemporary just-outside-Boston/ suburbs (Cambridge, Boston, just out Rt. 2 from the city, up the coast a little toward Ipswich & Gloucester...)

1st sentence/s: " 'Why Thank you.  I'm getting in shape to die.'  Those were the first words I spoke aloud on the final Thursday in August of last summer: Thursday, I recall for certain, because it was the day on which I read in our weekly town paper about the first of what I would so blithely come to call the Crusades; the end of the month  I can also say for certain, because Elves & Fairies was scheduled, that very evening, to fling open its brand-new, gloriously purple doors --- formerly the entrance to my beloved barn --- and usher in another flight of tiny perfect children, along with their preened and privileged parents."

My commentsI hated for this book to end as I had become really involved with many of the characters. And there are lots of characters, but it wasn't difficult to keep them straight. Julia Glass' gift for characterization (and beautiful writing) is just splendid. The curmudgeony protagonist is by far the most wonderful voice; humorous, wry, sarcastic, c::ever. His voice dominates the story, but there are three others that we hear; his beloved grandson Robert (a premed student at Harvard), Guatemalan immigrant Celestino (an undocumented gardener/day worker), and preschool teacher Ira (whose gay relationship with a divorce lawyer is interestingly woven into the story). I listened to much (though not all) of this, and the aristocratic lilt that the reader gave to Percy's voice put me off at first. However, as I got to know Percy, it didn't matter. The other three voices were not in this accent, and after awhile I liked the way I could tell the speaker by the way it was read. True, all sorts of socially conscious themes were introduced, but that didn't bother me at all, the story was relevant and interesting. So was the setting, so close to the places that I grew up and still love - the Boston area. I could picture the whole book clearly. Great writing, great story-telling.

Goodreads Review: In a historic farmhouse outside Boston, seventy-year-old Percy Darling is settling happily into retirement: reading novels, watching old movies, and swimming naked in his pond. His routines are disrupted, however, when he is persuaded to let a locally beloved preschool take over his barn. As Percy sees his rural refuge overrun by children, parents, and teachers, he must reexamine the solitary life he has made in the three decades since the sudden death of his wife. No longer can he remain aloof from his community, his two grown daughters, or, to his shock, the precarious joy of falling in love.

One relationship Percy treasures is the bond with his oldest grandchild, Robert, a premed student at Harvard. Robert has long assumed he will follow in the footsteps of his mother, a prominent physician, but he begins to question his ambitions when confronted by a charismatic roommate who preaches—and begins to practice—an extreme form of ecological activism, targeting Boston’s most affluent suburbs.

Meanwhile, two other men become fatefully involved with Percy and Robert: Ira, a gay teacher at the preschool, and Celestino, a Guatemalan gardener who works for Percy’s neighbor, each one striving to overcome a sense of personal exile. Choices made by all four men, as well as by the women around them, collide forcefully on one lovely spring evening, upending everyone’s lives, but none more radically than Percy’s.

With equal parts affection and satire, Julia Glass spins a captivating tale about the loyalties, rivalries, and secrets of a very particular family. Yet again, she plumbs the human heart brilliantly, dramatically, and movingly.

Monday, April 15, 2013

14. Flight Behavior - Barbara Kingsolver

Audio read by the author, beautifully!
15 discs (16 hrs. 56 min.)
2012, Harper Audio, $30.95
437 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished April 14, 2013
Genre: CRF
Goodreads Rating: 3.79
My Rating 4.5
Acquired TPPL
Setting: contemporary Appalachian Tennessee
1st sentence/s:  "A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away, and it is one part rapture.  Or so it seemed for now, to a woman with flame-colored hair who marched uphill to meet her demise.+

My comments:  My rating is actually a 4.5. Why not 5? Because there's just a little too much scientific explanation in places. However, I'm glad I listened to the book instead of reading it, because I would have skimmed over those parts if I were reading and while listening was forced to listen to them - and they were interesting, thought-provoking, and worrisome. The added plus of Barbara Kingsolver's wonderful voice and accent made me upset when the book was over. I wanted more, more, more! At the beginning of the book I was quite unsure whether I'd like the protagonist, Dellarobia  It was a weird introduction to a character - someone sneaking off to cheat on her husband. However, the story was outstanding, and incredibly beautifully written. And tiny, red-haired Dellarobia was a superb character. Kingsolver is my favorite writer. I don't know anyone who can put words together like she does. Global warming. Monarch butterflies. Hardship and hard times in Appalachia. Mothering. Really good mothering. Interesting, REAL, well-fleshed characters. Honesty. Hmmm....I loved it.

Goodreads Review: Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.  Flight Behavior takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

MOVIE - Searching for Sugarman

PG-13 (1:26)
Limited release 7/27/12
Viewed t Crossroads
RT Critic: No reviews  Audience: 92
Cag: Excellent film
Directed by Malik Bendjelloull

Actors: none-this is a documentary (other than its "star," Sixto Rodriguez

A synopsis from Fandango: In the late ‘60s, a musician was discovered in a Detroit bar by two celebrated Motown producers who were struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics. They recorded an album that they believed was going to secure his reputation as one of the greatest recording artists of his generation. In fact, the album bombed and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa and, over the next two decades, it became a phenomenon (as big as The Beatles). Two South African fans then set out to find out what really happened to their hero. Their investigation led them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez. This is a film about hope, inspiration and the resonating power of music.

My comments:  I loved going into this with no knowledge or expectations other than hearing people say they really enjoyed it.  It slowly works its way to a few surprises and is really well done; an interesting and satisfying documentary.

13. Dualed - Elise Chapman

#1 in a supposed Dualed series
Random House, 2013
293 pgs.
Written for YA
Finished 4/11/13
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 3.42
My Rating:  2 - It was less than mediocre
Acquired: TPPL
Setting: The city of Kersh in a futuristic or alternate world.
Author site:
1st sentence/s:   "I've buried nearly everyone I love."

My comments:  Unfortunately, it seemed to just be saying the same thing over and over again. I never understood the personality of West, our protagonist. Lots of questions like why she would ever want to become a Striker, why she would hold Chord off at such a distance, you could never really look inside her and figure out why she was thinking the way she did. I guess I just couldn't understand, or figure out at all, her personality.  The writing didn't do anything for me, the story didn't do enough for me. Oh well, on to another, hopefully better, story.

Becky's review from Becky's Book Reviews

Goodreads Review:  You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

12. The Different Girl - Gordon Dahlquist

Dutton Books, 2013
231 pgs.
Written for Middle & Ya
Finished: 3-21-13
Genre: Fantasy
Goodreads Rating: 3.10
My Rating: 1.5 I actually didn't like it very much

Acquired: TPPL
First sentence/s  "My name is Veronika.  We had been there for years, but I only remember things from part of that time.  Living on the island was like that, because it seemed to be always bright, and always hot, and every day passed like the day before.

Veronika, Caroline, Isobel, Eleanor.  Their caretakers, Irene and Robbert.  And then came May....

My comments:  This book had so many possibilities - but I don't think it quite hit the mark. Why so much "mystery" ... mystery that went unexplained ... and the ending was way too abrupt and nether-worldly....

Goodreads: Four nearly identical girls on a desert island. An unexpected new arrival. A gently warped near future where nothing is quite as it seems.One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned. Sly and unsettling, Gordon Dahlquist’s timeless and evocative storytelling blurs the lines between contemporary and sci-fi with a story that is sure to linger in readers’ minds long after the final page has been turned.

MOVIE - Admission

MOVIE - The Impossible

MOVIE - Olympus Has Fallen

11. Robert B. Parker's LULLABY - Ace Atkins

#1 written by Ace Atkins, but at least #40 in the Spenser series
audio read by Joe Montagna
2012 Random House Audio
320 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished March 22, 2013
Genre:Murder Mystery
Goodreads Rating: 3.87
My Rating: 4/short, entertaining, funny-in-its-own-specail-way, even nostalgic!
Acquired: PBS
Setting: Contemporary Boston
1st sentence/s:

My comments:  I don't' know if it was Ace Atkins' actual writing, Joe Montagna's familiar reading, or a combination of both, but I could hear Parker's voice in most of this. Well, enough of Parker's voice to feel satisfied. Good story, good ole Spencer and Hawk!

Goodreads Review:  When fourteen-year-old Mattie Sullivan asks Spenser to look into her mother’s murder, he’s not completely convinced by her claim that the police investigation four years ago was botched. Mattie is gruff, street-smart, and wise beyond her years, left to care for her younger siblings and an alcoholic grandmother in a dilapidated apartment in South Boston.  But her need for closure and her determination to make things right hit Spenser where he lives- they’re the very characteristics he abides by. 

Mattie believes the man convicted of the crime is innocent and points Spenser to the Southie toughs who she saw carrying her mother away hours before her murder. Neither the Boston PD nor the neighborhood thugs are keen on his dredging up the past, but as Spenser becomes more involved in the case, he starts to realize that Mattie may be onto something. Spenser will need Hawk’s help to find peace for Mattie – a job that’s more dangerous than he ever thought.

10. The Bone Garden - Tess Gerritsen

Audio read by Susan Denaker
2007, Random House
370 pgs.
Written for adults
Finished 3/20/13
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 3.96
My Rating It was okay (2)
Acquired TPPL
Setting: 1830 Boston (with some present-day Boston suburb and southern Maine)
My commentsNope, This one just didn't do it for me. The huge amount of coincidences in the plotline, knowing pretty much what was going to happen, characters that are either goody goody goody or rotten rotten rotten, huge amounts of stereotyping, and absolutely no joy - there are so many better mysteries out there. I read this for book group, and will be interested to see what other people thought.

Goodreads Review:  Present day: Julia Hamill has made a horrifying discovery on the grounds of her new home in rural Massachusetts: a skull buried in the rocky soil–human, female, and, according to the trained eye of Boston medical examiner Maura Isles, scarred with the unmistakable marks of murder. But whoever this nameless woman was, and whatever befell her, is knowledge lost to another time. . . . 

Boston, 1830: In order to pay for his education, Norris Marshall, a talented but penniless student at Boston Medical College, has joined the ranks of local “resurrectionists”–those who plunder graveyards and harvest the dead for sale on the black market. Yet even this ghoulish commerce pales beside the shocking murder of a nurse found mutilated on the university hospital grounds. And when a distinguished doctor meets the same grisly fate, Norris finds that trafficking in the illicit cadaver trade has made him a prime suspect. 

9. Heat Lightning - John Sandford

#2 Virgil Flowers
audio read by Eric Conger
unabridged cd: (9:59)
Putnam Adult, 2008
400 pgs.
Written for adults
Genre: Mystery/ Murder Mystery
Goodreads Rating: 4.06
My Rating:  4/Liked it a lot
Awesome (5) Loved it (4) Liked it (3) It was okay (2) Didn’t like it (1) (WORDS AND NUMBER)
Acquired TPPL
Setting: contemporary Minnesota

 My comments:  I read them out of order, this was the third one I read but the second one in the series. Easy to listen to, quite a bit of humor, I really like the personality of Virgil Flowers. The long hair, the band T shirts, even the womanizing all appeal to me and make his character seem real. This particular mystery was interesting but forgettable, it's the little details about the personalities that I remember most.

Goodreads Review: Flowers is only in his late thirties, but he's been around the block a few times, and he doesn't think much can surprise him anymore. He's wrong.

It's a hot, humid summer night in Minnesota, and Flowers is in bed with one of his ex-wives (the second one, if you're keeping count), when the phone rings. It's Lucas Davenport. There's a body in Stillwater, two shots to the head, found near a veterans' memorial. And the victim has a lemon in his mouth.

Exactly like the body they found last week.

The more Flowers works the murders, the more convinced he is that someone's keeping a list, and that the list could have a lot more names on it. If he could only find out what connects them all . . . and then he does, and he's almost sorry he did. Because if it's true, then this whole thing leads down a lot more trails than he thought and every one of them is booby-trapped.