Thursday, November 17, 2011

MOVIE - The Big Year

"Obsessed birders with heart"
Fun to watch these three really good actors
Wide Release 10-14-11
11-16-11 at Kolb cheap theater, alone
PG (1:40)
RT:  39%  cag: 86% (at least)
Director:  David Frankel
20th Century Fox

Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black
Stu Preissler (Steve Martin - a retiring business magnate with a very loving marriage)
Kenny Bostick (Owen Wilson - obsessed title-holding birder, ignores his beautiful, trying-to-get pregnant wife)
Brad Harris (Jack Black - 30-something divorced loner, close to his parents, who wants to achieve something great in his life)

Throw in a year of following the unusual birds all over North America so that they get the biggest amount of sitings and some beautiful sights across the country in all sorts of weather, a few good chuckles, and you have a very watchable, enjoyable movie.  I very much enjoyed it.  Having worked for a birding company (as the bookkeeper) for a number of years, I "get" the obsession.....

70. Sisterhood Everlasting - Ann Brashares

read by Angela Goethals (excellently)
"Four friends, one sisterhood....ten years later"
Random House Audio, 2011
$4000 (TPPL)
8 unabridged cds
10 hrs.
368 pages
Rating:  1.5

Constant, nonstop depressing - not a good ending novel, a whole different feel.

Bee becomes a filthy, self-centered vagabond, Lena has spent ten years alone and out of the sunshine for some unknown reason, Carmen has become a somewhat shallow tv actress, and Tibby has dropped out-of-sight by moving to Australia and stopping communication with the foursome.  So what happens in the six month time period that encompasses this book made me crazy.  Hated the darkness, and hated what had happened to the personalities and closeness of these friends over the ten years.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter Inside a Tiny Blue Box – Linda Heller

(And Other Wonders of Tzedakah)
Illustrated by Stacey Dressen McQueen
Tricycle Press, 2011
HC $16.99
32 pgs.
Rating: 4
Endpapers: Bright yellow background, completely covered with a one-piece cut paper illustration
Acrylics and oil pastel. Very nice.
Afterword: An excellent history of tzedakah and tzedakah boxes.

First line/s: Dalia liked to learn things and make things, and she did just that at the community center.

Dalia teaches her younger brother, Yossi, about caring about others by teaching him about her tzedakah box. She adds money to hers from selling lemonade, her birthday, and weeding the garden. She has Yossi join her when she returns to the community center, and the children combine their tzedakah to purchase a warm comforter, a beautiful butterfly bush, and yummy banana cream pie, which they then give to an elderly, lonely shut-in.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

69. The Weird Sisters - Eleanor Brown

audio read by Kirsten Potter (she was great)
Penguin Audio, 2011
$39.95 TPPL
9 unabridged cds
10.5 hours
336 pgs.
Rating:  4
NYTimes Review (from 1/16/11) excellent plot summary
The Reading Lark book review - I love her format, and I agree with so much of her thinking!

First line/s:  We came home because we were failures.

Setting:  Contemporary rural Barnwell, Ohio, a small college town and hour from Columbus (I think)
OSS:  Three very different sisters return home at the same time and show us, the reader, why they hate and love each other.

The three sisters told the story as "we," which I suppose was very clever and difficult to write, but which I didn't really like.  The father, a Shakespearean scholar, professor, and fanatic, and  his wife, a stay-at-home mother who was a free spirit in her own right, have raised three daughters in a home with lots and lots of books and no television.  They go to a "hippie/granola" school, then to the small college where their father teaches.  They are all bright, and all tainted in some way - as we all are.  Named for Shakespeare heroines Rosalind (Rose), Bianca (Bean) and Cordelia (Cordy) love each other fiercely, but while comparing themselves to each other run amok.

I enjoyed the book without really liking any of the characters...well, I did like Cordelia.  Everyone has flaws.  They had lots...and they overcame them all so that the ending is a lovely, tidily wrapped up package.  It's nice to know that you can like a book without really liking its characters.  Lots to think about with that, alone!

Friday, November 4, 2011

68. Waiting for the Magic - Patricia MacLachlan

Atheneum Books, 2011
HC $15.99
for:  Middle grades
144 pgs. (quick read)
Rating:  5

First Line/s:  It was early on a Saturday summer morning when my mother and father stopped arguing and Papa walked away.  He is a teacher of literature at the college, so he could have said words when he left.  He didn't.  And this time he didn't slam the door.  He shut it with a small soft sound that made me jump.

Setting:  A small contemporary college town somewhere in America.
OSS:  William and his little sister, Elinor, deal with the departure of their father and the withdrawal of their mother when a number of new family members are added to their life.

William and his comical four year old sister/princess are left with a grieving mom and a huge surprise.  I think the surprise would be exciting for any kid....I was really excited at the idea, myself, and about how these two children would feel.  So I'm about to add some major spoilers NOT read on if you haven't read the book, because being surprised - and pleased - a tickled - and excited - is part of the delicious reading experience of this book.

SPOILERS:  So Mama takes them to the animal shelter to get a dog.  But they don't get a dog.  Or two dogs. Or even three.  And throw in a cat.  And, near the end of the book throw in a new sibling.  But the biggest surprise, is the way that the animals and the family communicate.

Lots of gentle humor, complex characters despite the simplicity of the book, I absolutely, 100% loved it - and I don't even like dogs!!!!!

Oh, this woman knows not only how to write beautifully, but how to spin a story.  This one was spun.  Elegantly.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

53. Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai

Harper, 2011
HC, $15.00
for:  Middle Grades
264 pgs.
Rating:  5

First Line/s   Today is Tet/ the first day/ of the lunar calendar

Every Tet/ we eat sugary lotus seeds/ and glutinous rice cakes./ We all wear new clothes,/ even underneath

Mother warns/ how we act today/ foretells the whole year.

Everyone must smile/ no matter how we feel.

No one can sweep,/ for why swap away hope?/ No one can splash water,/ for why splash away joy?