Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Passing the Music Down - Sarah Sullivan

Illustrated by Barry Root
Candlewick Press, 2010
HC $16.99
32 pgs.
Rating:  4
Endpapers:  Light blue
Title page:  Small oval watercolor of a bridge over a river between two mountain/hills

Based on the true story of the friendship of an elderly fiddle player and a young boy who learns to carry on the tradition of mountain folk music.  The original story takes place in West Virginia, this story takes place in Tennessee.

Come August, with corn strutting high in the fields
and tomatoes plumping out on the vine,
folks get to talking about tuning up and
heading over twisty mountain roads
to hear fiddle players and banjo pickers
make music under the stars.

They travel through the heartland,
past cold factories and drifty towns
to the old, old mountains
slumbering east of Tennessee.

Full page illustrations are just gorgeous.

Full of alliteration, metaphor, simile, personification, and snazzy, snazzy verbs, the eloquent text is a joy, and the story is quite interesting.  I plan to look up some of the tunes mentioned, see if I can purchase or download them to share with my students when I share this beautiful book.  "Peg 'n' Awl," "Bonaparte's Retreat," "Cold Frosty Morning," "Liza Jane," "Yew Piney Mountain."

Author's Note, Lengthy bibliography, and a note on the tunes are at the end of the book.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

51. The Ice Queen - Alice Hoffman

Audio read by Nancy Travis
Hachette Audible Audio, 2005
5 unabridged cds
6 hrs.
224 pgs.
Rating:  4
Publisher Weekly starred review

1st line:  Be careful what you wish for.  I know that for a fact."
Setting:  a Florida college town, present
One-sentence summary:  A woman who has led a self-imposed solitary, invisible life (an "ice queen"), gets struck by lightning, which leads to her allowing herself to slowly melt.

Wow.  Incredible writing.  The first half - at least - was terribly depressing.  But mesmerizing, I couldn't stop listening.  Then, the second half.  Still beautifully written, sad, depressing, but mesmerizing.  Nancy Travis was an exceptional reader for this book.  What a picture these eloquent words painted.

Our unnamed protagonist, ever since making a child's self-absorbed wish when she was eight and then feeling it tragically came true, has become a self-made ice queen.  She is unhappy, makes crazy-wrong choices, and seems to stumble through an uninteresting life.  After any years as a librarian in a small New Jersey town, she moves to Florida to be near her brother, Ned, and his wife Nina. 

And then she is struck by lightning.  She loses the color red.  She hears constant clicking in her head.  She has to reteach her left side to move correctly.  And she becomes even more entranced with death.  She seeks Lazarus Jones, a man who was said to have been struck by lightning, died for 45 minutes, and then "come back."  

So much happens in this somewhat short book.  Sometimes our protagonist (I can't really believe that we never learn her name!) drives me crazy.  She is self-absorbed and single-minded about it.  The people she meets, pushes away, befriends, and loves without realizing she is loving, are well-flushed out and enticingly interesting.  Her brother Ned and his wife, Nina.  Her friend, Renny.  Her New Jersey cop lover and her Florida orange-grower, lightning-survivor lover... even her cat, Giselle.  Interesting twists and turns,  paths and fairy tales, butterflies and rain, fire and ice.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

50. Forever - Maggie Stiefvater

Third - and final - book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series
(after Shiver and Linger)
Scholastic Press, 2011
HC $17.99
for: YA
392 pages
Rating:  5

This book was mesmerizing, by far my favorite of the three.  The font was the same deep cranberry color as the cover illustration.  The story was, once again, told in four voices: Grace, the girl who now spends her winters as a wolf, Sam, her one-and-only, who has been "cured" of slipping from lupine to human, Isabel, reluctant friend to the cold...and.daughter of the powerful lawyer that will do anything to kill the wolf pack, and Cole, the only one who chose to become wolf...brilliant, famous, beautiful, and cynical.

There are twists and turns as spring approaches and Grace returns, shifting back and forth between wolf and human at inopportune times.  And Thomas Culpeper, Isabel's father, has finally gotten the Minnesota state government to allow a wolf massacre.  The time is approaching, and the four friends must figure out how to save the rest of the pack.  And with the help of a young police officer and Cole's scientific genius - they do!  I've got to admit, I shed a few tears near the end of this story.  That in itself surprised me, that I could feel such emotion for these characters and the relationships they had attained.  Quite powerful, actually.  Quite a story.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Movie - Super 8

A modern-day Goonies.  Fun.
Released June 10, 2011
PG-13 (1:52)
Friday 8/26/11 at Crossroads - myself
RT:  82%  cag:  ditto: 82%
Director:  J. J. Abrams
Kyle Chandler, Elle Fanning, Ron Eldard

Five friends (let's say they're maybe in the 13-14 age range) are making a zombie movie.  One is the director, Joe, our protagonist, is the make-up artist, some are actors.  They enlist a cute classmate, Alice, who is too young to drive but who "borrows" her dad's car and drives them to an old railroad stations in the middle of the night to shoot a scene.  They get really excited as they hear a train approach, since it will give reality to their movie.  But what happens when the train gets right in front of them is unforeseen, and really scares them.  It crashes and derails, but there's something really mysterious going on, too.  It's unleashed some sort of mysterious presence that the Air Force is trying to cover up and recover, both.  Joe's father (Chandler) is the sheriff, the mother has been killed in an accident at the local mill.  It is 1979. 

By the end of the film there was a lot of destruction of the small Ohio town where this is set, but most of the storyline is engaging and the cast of young actors is great fun to watch.  I would ALMOST put this as a PG, but there is a lot of destructions, and one murder that makes me hesitate just a little.  It certainly kept me entertained for two hours on a Friday night!

It was filmed in West Virginia, and the soundtrack is great.

49. The Mostly True Story of Jack - Kelly Barnhill

Little Brown & Co., 2011
HC $
for:  YA, or clever Middle-graders, I guess.... some recommendations say 9-12...
323 pgs.
Rating:  Who knows?  I wanted to quit....often....during the first half, but I kept on plugging, hearing myself say to my students, "You're not supposed to "get it", you're supposed to figure it out."  Well, even at the end I couldn't figure it out.  I've thought about it a lot since I finished, and I guess I sort of "get it," but not ALL of it. But, I must add, I've never been much of a FAIRY TALE fan. The last 20 pages helped.  But I didn't really like it.  I liked some of the ideas.  But I guess ultimately I'd have to rate it a 2.

First Line/s:  Frankie was the first to know.  Frankie was the first to know most things -- but since he hadn't spoken since he was eight years old, it didn't matter what he knew.  He couldn't tell anyone. 

I'll add more of my own thoughts shortly.

Here are a few reviews from other places on the net.  Most are shiny, sparkling manifestos:

The Book Element (this came close to some of the things I might have said)
Eva's Book Addiction
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
School Library Journal FUSE8 (2012 Newbury prediction)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

MOVIE - Mr. Popper's Penguins

A surprising delight!
Released 6-17-11
PG (1:35) "Rude Humor"
Mon. 8-22-11 at Crossroads with Rachel
RT: 48% cag: 90%
Director:  Mark S. Waters
Jim Carrey
Created from the book by the Atwaters - but it doesn't resemble the book AT ALL....which is okay....

I enjoyed every minute of this movie.  It was funny and clever.  I haven't read the book in ages, but Rachel just finished it and mentioned some of the extreme differences.  Mr. Popper in the book was a house painter.  They lived in a small town called Stillwater.  In the movie Tom Popper is a wealthy businessman living in a high rise, two-floor, floor-to-ceiling-windowed penthouse in New York City.  He receives the penguins as an unwanted gift from his late father, who Popper had idolized as a child, but who was physically missing from the boy's life.  At first they are a ridiculous pain in the butt, but as they imprint on Popper, his feelings for them change....

His ex-wife and two children begin to see a new side to this previously driven businessman.  There's one scene in his apartment, which has been turned into a snow and ice-filled winter wonderland, that is totally fun and cool.  There are LOTS of parts of this movie that are fun and cool.  I'd watch it again.  I called it delightful before, and I'll stick with that.  I loved it....and I can't believe that I did!

Monday, August 22, 2011

48. Where Do You Stay? - Andrea Cheng

Boyds Mill Press, 2011
HC $17.95
for: Middle Grades
133 pgs.
Rating:  4

First line/s:  "Mr. Willie pulls every last weed in the driveway cracks, then sweeps the concrete clean.  Aunt Geneva comes out to pay him, but Mr. Willie doesn't want any money.  'A sandwich would be nice,' he says."
Setting:  Contemporary Cincinnati, Ohio
One-Sentence Summary:  After 11-year-old Jerome goes to live with his aunt and cousins after his mother dies of cancer, he has to learn to live without his precious piano.
Mr. Willie also played the piano, though he now is a squatter in the falling-down carriage house of the falling-down (and empty) big house across the street.  His fifteen-year-old cousin Damon is mouthing off to his mother, disappearing, and possibly getting into trouble.  His nine-year old Cousin Monte is afraid of everything.  And his Aunt Geneva is determined to adopt him, as she feels was his mother's wish.  The turning point in the story comes when a couple purchase the crumbling house across the street, not to tear it down, as everyone had thought, but to create a school. 

Isn't this one of the homeliest/unappealing book covers you've ever seen?  It certainly doesnt' say "pick me up!"
I wasn't sure how to rate this book, 'cause I'm not sure how kids would like it.  Throughout the book, Jerome is comparing everything that happens to him to his mother's last days and death.  However, it's not particularly depressing, and it's a great way to worm yourself into Jerome's mind.  And the storyline is engaging and proceeds in a believable manner.  I discovered that I rather liked the whole package as I mulled it over after reading.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

47. You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does) - Ruth White

Delacorte Press, 2011
HC $16.99
for:  middle grades
258 pgs.
Rating: 4

First Line:  "When I was in the third grade on the California coast, a crazy man came into my classroom one day and started waving a knife around.  He said he was an alien hunter."

Setting:  North Carolina, then an alternate, somewhat identical, universe

One-sentence summary:  The Blue family, Meggie, David, Mom, and Gramps, try to find a place where they can live a normal, happy family life (spoiler coming) since they had to flee from their own planet.
There's really no way to review this book without spoilers....I was glad I hadn't read the flap information too thoroughly so that I was somewhat surprised when I got to Chapter 4 for the big reveal.  Sure there were hints, but they were delicious ones. The Blue family has to flee their much-loved home in North Carolina and end up in an alternate universe, in a town called Fashion City,  which is heavily controlled and life is boring and there are no choices.  People survive by taking "Lotus", which keeps them tranquil and laid-back, unquestioning and unable to revolt.  "The Fathers" are responsible for everything - and they are to be unquestioned.  However, when Gramps is forced to go to "Vacation 65," from which no one returns, the family has to take quick and immediate action to find another place to live.

Utopia.  The Giver. Alternate universes.  Not a setting or storyline you'd expect from Ruth White. I liked it.

Me...Jane - Patrick McDonnell

illustrated by the author
Little Brown, 2011
HC $15.99
40 thick pages
Rating:  4
Endpapers: brown with shapes and graffiti
Title page has photo of young Jane Goodall holding her stuffed monkey

This is the story of how very much Jan Goodall enjoyed nature, the outdoors, growing things, from the time she was a very young child.  It tells of her curiosity and her love of the idea of Africa, and jungles, and Tarzan, and living there to help the animals.  It shows how her dreams came true.

The story is very simple and quite lovely.  Three of the pages are actually her own drawings!  There is a page at the end that gives more particulars about Jane Goodall, and a full-page message from her.  She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, a UN Messenger of Peace, and creator of Roots and Shoots ( a program to educate kids about how to take action. 

Cool book.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

46. The Beach House - Jane Green

Audio read by Cassandra Campbell
Penguin Audio, 2008
9 unabridged cds
11 hours
352 pgs.
Rating:  4
Setting:  Nantucket

One-sentence summary:  A small cast of characters rent rooms in Nan Powell's "Windemere" one summer, creating a family of sorts:  Daniel, newly divorced and just out-of-the-closet; Daff and her13-year-old daughter, Jess, who is trying to deal with her parents' divorce; Michael, Nan's son, home to Nantucket from NYC and a troublesome affair with his boss.
This is a feel-good book with a happy ending.  Everyone needs one of these once in awhile, and it was read so beautifully that I looked forward to just listening to the words wrapping around me.  Cassandra Campbell has a lovely voice and puts just enough special inflection and personality into the voice of each character that you can tell them apart instantly.

You really get to know the characters, including the exes and dead .  Green makes sure we get a sampling of every part of life and death, joy and sadness, euphoria and misery, uncertainty and despair.  Yup, she's wrapped it all up in this one story.  It was a good "listen."

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why Oh Why Are Deserts Dry? - Tish Rabe

All About Deserts
Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathieu
The Cat In the Hat's Learning Library, Random House, 2011
HC $8.99
45 pages
Rating:  3
Endpapers:  orange

Not as good as trees or butterflies (the two I've read previously), but informative and fun.  My two problems with it stand out strongly, though.   Some of the rhythm seems off, some of the rhyming seems forced.  And although it mentions and describes deserts - the Sonoran, the Namib, the Sahara, the Mojave, Antarctica, it jumps around giving facts.  Some kids might think camels and kangaroos live in the Sonoran Desert!  It never tells where anything's located.  A map of the world showing these deserts' locations would be a great addition.

The glossary includes abdomen, burmoose, burrow, cell, differ,geologist, glare, habitat, mirage, nocturnal, oasis, and shimmering.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MOVIE - The Help

Wish I'd read the book - the movie was very good.
Wide release 8-10-11
PG-13 (2:17)
Aug. 16, 2011 at ElCon with Sheila
2nd viewing January 14, 2012 at Crossroads with Dede
RT:  74% cag: 87%
DreamWorks Studios
Director:  Tate Taylor

Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney

My favorite character:  Minny, played brilliantly by Octavia Spencer.  Emma Stone plays Skeeter, just returning home to Jackson, Mississippi in 1962/1963, with a degree from Ole Miss in journalism.  She gets a job writing the cleaning help column in the Jackson newspaper.  She knows nothing about her subject, so interviews a friend's reluctant black maid, Aibilene (Davis).  The black maids of Jackson raise all the white children and are not even allowed to use the bathroom of the houses they clean and cook and raise the children in.  The white women play bridge and belittle them.  All except Skeeter, who decides to try to write a book from their perspective about their plight.  It's not easy.  All the women are scared to tell any of the white family's secrets, afraid of losing their jobs and afraid of retaliation.

Hilly is the viscious young white homemaker that harrassess the maids and demolishes Celia, the "white trash" bride of her former boyfriend, Johnny.  Some of my favorite parts of the movie were the scenes with Celia and Minny, Hilly's former maid.  Octavia Spencer (Minny) was just wonderful!

Throughout the movie I got outraged again and again at the inhumanity, the insensitivity, the absolute ridiculousness of racism.  I just cannot imagine where it comes from and how some whites could (and can) possibly feel the way they do. 

It was a period piece, and the set was wonderful.  The cars (one Corvette, in particular, was breathtaking), the clothing and hairstyles, the home furnishings, Everyone I've spoken to that have read the book (and there have been many), simply loved it.  Everyone encouraged me to read the book before seeing the movie, but I didn't have the opportunity.  I still want to read the book.  I wonder how different the book and movie are?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

45. Will Grayson, Will Grayson - John Green & David Levithan

Penguin, 2010
paper Speak $8.99
310 pgs.
for:  YA
Rating:  5

First line:  "When I was little, my dad used to tell me, 'Will, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.'"

This is the story of two Will Graysons, written in back & forth chapters, in two  different voices.  That's because each of these two wonderful authors wrote one voice.

I have an eighth grade friend who read this book this summer.  I'm going to ask him to write a brief review of the book for me!  I'll include it soon.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

44. Small Acts of Amazing Courage - Gloria Whelan

A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster, 2011
HC $15.99
for:  Mid Grades
218 pgs.
Rating:  3.5

In 1919 India, being the daughter of a high-ranking British official gives you wealth, prestige, and power.  In Small Acts of Amazing Courage, Gloria Whelan tells of such a daughter,15-year-old Rosalind James.  Rosy's father has been away a lot, leaving her care to Rosy's mother and a huge household of various Indian servants.  Rosy has grown up with her maid's daughter, loves the bazaar and all things related to India.  Her father greatly forbids her to have anything with the native population.  She's strong headed and disobeys him.  And this leads him to send her to England - for the first time in her life - for a "proper" education, under the care of her two aunts.

The setting goes from privileged life in India to a steamship from Bombay to England, to life in England and back to India again.  Along the way we meet Gandhi and many of his followers and sympathizers, learning about nonviolent protesting and the plight of the Indian people.  We learn a bit about Hinduism, the caste system, and the colonials.  It's an interesting taste, but it's just a taste.  I would have liked a little deeper look into life of this girl.  Where some books are just too long and involved, this one needed a little more.  I love Gloria Whelan's work, and I was a bit disappointed with this one.

MOVIE - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

This is all Harry's movie - not enough of everyone else
Released 7-15-11
PG-13 (2:05)
Monday, 8-8-11 at El Con with Sheila
RT: 97%   cag: 79%
Director:  David Yates

This got fantastic reviews, so I was expecting to love it - I loved Part 1, a lot.  But I didn't love it.  I found some parts slow and almost boring.  Hermione and Ron had bit parts, it was all Harry's story.  I missed having more of the other characters.  I'd read the book and I'd seen Part one, but it's been awhile, so some of what was going on took awhile to figure out.  There were a couple of great scenes - the doubling riches in the vault at Gringots and when Harry finally sees the history of Snape's involvement in his life - but I was not enthralled.  I know, I'm in the minority here.

Harry and his two cohorts are on a quest to destroy the final horcruxes that have allowed Voldemort immortality.  They find one, a golden cup, in the vault at Gringot's, they find another, a tiara, at Hogworts.  They know the snake is another.  Much of this final movie takes place at Hogwort's, and it's really sad to see its demise.  Many of Harry's friends and members of the Order are killed, but this is not emphasized.

One of the two YA girls behind us cried through the whole movie.  Interesting.  And her reaction to the end was, "oh, I love this part."  From the book?  I think she'd seen this movie before, and it still affected her greatly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

MOVIE - Win Win

Why do the "Limited Release" movies seems so much better than those released widely?
Limited Release 3-18-11
on DVD 8-23-11
saw 4-17-11 alone
R (1:40)
RT:  95%  cag 90%
Director:  Tom McCarthy

Paul Giamatti

MOVIE - Lincoln Lawyer

Michael Connelly & Matthew McConaughey - a winning combination!
Wide release 3-10-11
on DVD 7-12-11
viewed 4-21-11
R (1:59)
RT:  83% cag:  84% (hey, we agree for once!)
based on the book by Michael Connelly
Lionsgate Films
Director:  Brad Furman
Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey is Mickey Haller, a lawyer whose office is his Lincoln Continental.

MOVIE - Jane Eyre

a lovely film for a classic story
Limited release 3/11/11
on DVD 8/16/11
viewed 4/28/11 alone
PG-13 (2:01)
RT 84% cag 90%
Director:  Cary Fukonaga

MOVIE - Hanna

I expected something more, but I'm not sure what....
Wide release 4/8/11
on DVD 9/6/11
Viewed 4/23/11
PG-13 (1:51)
RT 72% cag 68%
Director:  Joe Wright
Focus Features

MOVIE - Bridesmaids

Rip Roarin' Funny!
Wide realease 5/13/11
on DVD 9/20/11
R (2:;04)
RT 90% cag 92%
Directed by Paul Feig
Written by (and starring) Kristen Wiig

MOVIE - Adjustment Bureau

Clever entertainment
Released 3/4/11
on DVD 6/21/11
PG-13 (1:39)
RT:  71%  cag:  83%
Director:  George Nolfi
Matt Damon, Emily Blunt

26. Stranger in Paradise - Robert B. Parker

Audio read by James Naughton
Random House Audio, 2008
5 discs, 5 hrs.
Rating: 3.5

I'm writing this many months after I listened to it......This is not a Spenser, it's a Jesse Stone, who is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, a town on or near the Cape, if I remember right. He is visited by someone that Jesse knows is wanted, an Apache hitman named "Crow." And although Crow is the "bad guy," it seems that Jesse has some respect for him. Crow's looking for a young girl who grew up in the area and is now hanging with gangs. He is working for her father, who wants her brought to him in Florida. And Jesse's ex-wife is investigating gang violence for the TV station she works for. The story winds around itself and is solved in Parker's ever-clever, no-holes-barred way.

MOVIE - The Beaver

Oddly endearing
Released 5/6/11 Limited
DVD 8/23/11
PG-13 (1:31)
RT:  63  cag:  92
Director:  Jodie Foster
Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster

This is a drama, NOT a comedy!

33. - Piper Reed, Navy Brat- Kimberly Willis Holt

MOVIE - Thor

Just plain fun
Released 5-6-11 wide
PG-13 (1:55)
DVD 9-13-11
RT:  77 cag:  87
Director:  Kenneth Branagh
Chris Hemmsworth, Natalie Portman

MOVIE - Crazy, Stupid, Love

Funny and thought-provoking and sometimes even sad....
Released 7-29-11
PG-13 (1:57)
Sunday 8-7-11 at El Con alone
RT: 75%  cag: 86%
Director:  John Requa & Glenn Ficarra
Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone, Marissa Tomei, Kevin Bacon

I saw this last night and found myself waking up during the night thinking about it - that doesn't often happen.  I really enjoyed the movie and would have rated it higher, but it contained one of my very biggest pet peeves when it comes to movies.  Usually coming at or near the end (it did) the protagonist stops a large gathering (he did) and makes an announcement or speech (yup) that would never, ever happen in "real life."  It helped the movie cruise into an excellent adieu, they'd set it up by showcasing some of the 13-year-old son's antics, but still had me rolling my eyes.

Cal Weaver (Carrell), a happily married 40-something, is told by his wife that she's slept with a co-worker and wants a divorce.  He moves into an apartment and spends his evenings drinking and sulking in a high-end bar where he is observed by swathe man-about-town Jacob (Ryan Gossling), who takes him under his wing and gives him a complete (and much needed) makeover.  Voila!

Marissa Tomei steals the show in the two and a half scenes that she's in.  What a terrific actress!

Of course all comes out right in the end and there's a wonderful twist that has been kept secret in the trailers and reviews of the movie (YAY!!!)  Ryan Gossling is super hunky (Steve Carrell's not so bad, himself!) and Emma Stone is usual...she's become one of my very favorite actresses.  Lots and lots of cool male attire to drool over.  Fun....but sad, too.....

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bay Area Knit Shop Hop August 2011

OOOO-EEEEE, What fun.  Three days of leisurely browsing in a number of yarn shops in the Santa Rosa/Sebastapol and South Bay areas of northern(ish) California.  Beautiful weather, really nice people, the best sidekick ever, and wonderful privately-owned yarn shops.

First stop: 
Balls and Yarns
899 Gravenstein Hwy South
Sepastopol, CA 95472
Service & Friendliness:  5
Yarn Quality:  5
Yarn Variety:  5
Knit Samples:  4
There was a cozy sitting/ knitting area and the owner/ proprietor was super friendly, helpful, and encourag- ing.  There was some frilly black yarn that I didn't get and now wish I had.  I did get some really cool slippery lime & cranberry rayon ribbon yarn (Gelato made by Fiesta Yarns) to make a long, horizontally-knit scarf.  Wonderful shop.  Will happily return.

The next stop, also in Sebastopol was an unfriendly, unforgettable shop, so I won't even mention it here.

Shop #3:  Cast Away
Santa Rosa, CA
Service & Friendliness: 4
Yarn Quality:  5
Yarn Variety:  5
Knit Samples:  4
On a quiet, tree-lined main street sits this inviting yarn shop with a seafaring decor.  The windows have white paper-mache birds wearing brightly knit scarves, and as you enter the shop you're greeted by an old wooden dinghy heaped with colorful yarn.  There was lots to drool over and lots of beautiful project ideas.  I tried on a beautiful, draping scarf that I would have never picked for myself in a zillion years...and it looked really, really good on me.  The pattern was designed by one of the employees, Ramona Gaynor, so I splurged and bought not only the pattern ("Ruffle Scarf"), but the yarn to go with it, Rowan's "Kidsilk Haze" in a deep aqua color.  What a beautiful sheen it has!

Next stop,
#1 Fourth St.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Service & Friendliness: 4.5
Yarn Quality: 5
Yarn Variety: 5
Knit Samples: 5

I've been here before, it's a really special shop.  It's on a great side street with a tree-lined parking lot across from it.  The store is older, dark wood, comfy sofa, huge oak table to knit at.  Great books and patterns....and they even sell stuff that comes in the packages separately.  In other words, if you want one stitch holder instead of the 20-in-a-package, it's yours!  Now that's customer service!

She had samples of an "Improv Scarf", where you hold two yarns together, gartering and putting in a couple of lacy/eyelet stitches in any way that you desire to create a pattern.  I loved of course I went hog wild and bought enough yarn for three scarves!  One of the yarns was Koigu KPPPM by Koigu Wool Designs.  It's 100% Merino Wool.  I got a cranberry with touches of orange, an aqua/green with touches of orange, and a beige with touches of aqua and pink.  Debbie Bliss' "Angel" Super Kid Mohair & Silk yarn is the second yarn in each sweater.  Delightful, huh?

I also bought some Denim Blue Cascade 220 worsted weight yarn to felt myself a belt -  I'm tired of my capris falling down after I've worn them for a couple of hours.  This was her suggestion.  She's says that after it's felted you can even cut it!  Sounds like the felting shrinks it about in half....can't wait to get this one done!

The next morning we headed west from Novato to
Black Mountain Weavers
in Point Reyes, CA
11245 Main Street
Point Reyes Station, California   94956

Although they have a small amount of gorgeous hand-dyed and locally spun yarns, needles, and pattern books, this is a coop of knit and fiber artists, who show and sell their crafts.  It was ultra-inspiring, the creativity, the elegance, the, the, the.....glory! ! of the beautiful works in this shop.  I wish I'd taken some photos of some of the items.  It was a very small shop, and the woman who was holding down the fort was just lovely.

(We ate lunch just down the street at  the Station House Cafe --  I'd LOVE to go back there, mmmmm.) and also did a bit of Christmas shopping next door in ,which carries handmade goods from all over the world...for incredibly reasonable (inexpensive) prices!

Yarn Bombing!  I've finally seen it with my own eyes!  In the middle of Point Reyes Station, on Main Street!  I've GOT TO DO THIS MYSELF! ! !

After leaving Point Reyes, we headed to south Marin Country and
Bluebird Yarn & Fiber Crafts
328A Pine Street
Sausalito, CA  94965
Service & Friendliness:  5
Yarn Quality:  5
Yarn Variety:  4
Knit Samples:  5

What a darling shop!  It's just off the main street and a little half-door greets you, allowing the clean ocean air to flow in with you.  The shop has a little entry way with displays of  yarn and samples to greet  you, then goes quite a ways back.  There are overstuffed chairs to sit in while reading the pattern books, and dark shelves filled with all sorts of yarns.  The lovely girl working today, Chiaki, was helpful and so very nice.  She had designed the felted clutch pattern that I couldn't leave without.    She has her own website, Both Dede and I bought yarns to make a beautiful cowl that was on display, it looked terrific on both of us. (We both started on the knitting of it that night -- Maggi's Mist Slub (100% Viscose) was a very frustrating yarn to work with.  The colors Dede chose....blues....made a beautiful cowl.  I'm not so crazy about mine, but I couldn't get the second yarn with a sparkle in it, like Dede did, so mine was without sparkle and is probably why I like it less than hers.  

 Still in Marin County, we headed a little north to
Atelier Marin
217 San Anselmo Ave.
San Anselmo, CA 94960
Service & Friendliness:  5
Yarn Quality:  5
Yarn Variety:  5
Knit Samples:  5

 Dede's taken lots of classes here, and I've been here before, too.  The gal that owns and runs the store has terrific taste and has set up the quite-large shop in a very appealing way, putting all the baby yarns, fingering yarns, sport-weight yarns, aran-weight yarns, worsted, bulky, chunky...all together with their like kinds along the perimeter of the room.  In the middle are samples, yarn displays, needle racks, chairs, and a big table in the front.  Wonderful shop (she has one in San Francisco, too, although the floor space is smaller, the shop is crammed with yarns of every type and variety...been there before, too.)  I didn't buy anything at Atelier today.

MOVIE - The Double Hour

Good movie.  Good mystery.  Great storytelling.
in Italian, with subtitles
limited release 4-15-11
Unrated (1:35)
July 30 at the Loft, alone
RT  82% cag 91%
Director:  Giuseppe Capatondi

Guido, a handsome guy in Turin, Italy, has been part of the speed dating scene for awhile, hooking up for one-night stands.  But then he meets Sonia, a conscientious hotel chambermaid, and they instantly hit it off.  He takes her to his security job in the country, and while there, the huge country estate he guards is robbed and neither Guido or Sonia come out of it unscathed.  The rest of the movie is a mystery, billed as a psychological thriller, I would definitely agree.  As an onlooker you're trying to figure out what's going on and just as you have a glimmer, a real  twist is added , and then another, to keep you just enough off balance ..... in a great way.  A good one.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

43. Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier

Translated from German by Anthea Bell
1st in a Trilogy
Henry Holt & Co., 2011 (2009 in Germany)
HC $16.99
330 pgs.
Rating:  4

Another vampire-less story in the genre of paranormal fiction for young adults.  Alchemy and science seem to be the basis of a gene that only passes through the years to twelve people, and although Gwyneth's snobby cousin, Charlotte, has been trained for the time traveling ability that the gene produces, it's the unsuspecting Gwyneth that got it.

An average teenager in upper class contemporary London, after the first unexpected time-traveling episode Gwen's life will never be the same.  Although it's all supposed to be top-top secret, she's share the secret with her best friend, who loves the mystery of it all, and researches every kind of clue that Gwen can give her on the internet.  This adds a really fun element - and there's quite a bit of subtle humor throughout.  And, OF COURSE, there's the irresistibly handsome young man that is her time-traveling sidekick/companion.  Gideon deVilliers is two years older than Gwyneth, and, unlike her, has been trained in manners, habits, and skills of the centuries they will be visiting.

I read all 330 pages in one afternoon/evening.  My one complaint is that throughout the first half of the story, the protagonist truly seems like a younger girl, a middle-schooler instead of a high-schooler.  She starts thinking a little older as the story progresses, but I had to change my thinking and attitude toward her,'cause she really did appear to be very young.  And it's not really a Twilight clone!

(HIGHLIGHT THE INVISIBLE FOR SECRETS) The prologue and epilogue totally give away one of the secrets (that the runaway Lucy and Paul are her parents), but that's okay. And you figure out immediately that the Count Saint-Germaine is evil, manipulative, power-hungry.  The book stops abruptly, making you wait for the further adventures of Gwyneth and Gabriel. 

I found it interesting once in awhile to flip back to the male and female lines of descent, which can be found on pages 141 and 203.

Monday, August 1, 2011

42. Evermore - Alyson Noel

#1 in Immortal series
for:  YA
St. Martin's Griffin, 2009
paper, $9.95
306 pgs.
Rating:  3

I'm almost ashamed of myself for reading this book in one gulp, I couldn't put it down.  I spent the whole time comparing it to Twilight, which was a great higher skill on Bloom's Taxonomy for me to use, right?  There are so many similarities, but MINUS THE VAMPIRES, yippee!  Although Immortals seem pretty similar, with an  almost-more-plausible beginning.  There's the super hunky immortal (Damon), the nasty, hurtful immortal (Drina), the innocent young girl (our protagonist, Ever (Ever Bloom, get it???), and the loving but clueless guardian (Sabine).  We also have the two best friends - a goth girl (Haven) and a gay boy (Miles).  Throw in an exotic setting - southern California.  Another YA paranormal fantasy. 

But wait - I liked the protagonist!  She beats Bella by a long shot, at least in this first installment.  She has a head of her own, a will of her own.  She may become a "can't live without him clone" in the second installment, but so far, so good.  One of these days I might even read Blue Moon. ( similar can titles be?????)

41. The Girls of Riyadh - Rajaa Alsanea

translated by Rajaa Alsanea and Marilyn Booth
for:  Adults (and YA's too)
Penguin Books, 2007 (originally published in Arabic in 2005)
paper $14.00
286 pgs.
Rating:  4

This is the story of four upper class Saudi girls and the customs and foibles they live with when it comes to dating (huh!), men, and marriage.  Even though I had some background, some pre-established knowledge, there were many eye-opening new facts to learn. It was written in an interesting way.  Supposedly, every week for a year or so, a "friend" of the four girls writes an email to a list of subscribers to uncover more and more of the girls' story. She gets quite a backlash - both good and bad - from different Saudis.  The book itself was very controversial in Saudi Arabia and other Arabic, Islamic countries.

Read no further unless you want spoilers.  The four friends:

Gamrah - first married, to a man who takes her to Chicago and goes out of his way to show his distaste for her.  Come to find out, he's had a loving relationship, but his parents would not allow him to marry her.  He continues this relationship, Gamrah gets purposely pregnant, and they divorce.  She is left bitter and angry.

Sadeem - becomes engaged to Wahleed, it seems to be a love match until she gives herself fully to him shortly before the actual marriage and he dumps her.  Then she meets Faras, an older-than-her politician and they are practically glued at the hip....until his family refuses to let him marry a "divorced" woman and forces him to marry another.

Michelle - half American, but fully a Saudi, since she's lived there through adolescence.  She falls in love with Faisal, but his parents have someone else in mind for him.  She eventually goes to the United Arab Emirates and becomes a producer.

Lamees - the most playful, flirtatious of the four, she knows how to have fun and finally, in medical school, sees the man she desires as a husband, plays her cards right, and follows the traditional path without too much glamour and fireworks. She was also the character that interested me the least.