Saturday, March 31, 2012

23. The Unwanteds - Lisa McMann

Aladdin, 2011
Rating:  3.5/ It was a good story
for:  Middle Grades
390 pages

Setting:  the community of Quill, unknown present or future.
OSS:  Two 13-year old twins lives are severed forever as one is labeled Wanted and the other Unwanted, sent off to be purged/eliminated/put to death.
1st sentence/s:  "There was a hint of wind coming over the top of the stone walls and through the barbed-wire sky on the day Alexander Stowe was to be Purged."

But there is a surprise awaiting the Unwanteds.  They are 'unwanted ' because their creativity, their artistic inclinations, make them undesirable.  Not so in Artime, where magic and creativity and beauty are nurtured and revered.  That is, until they are discovered and a war begins.  A war with antiquated weapons and rusty vehicles on one side and magic on the other.  There is even a Dumbledore-like leader named Mr. Today.

Monday, March 26, 2012

MOVIE - The Hunger Games

They really did a very good job turning this bestseller into a movie.  Congrats!

22. Here Lies Linc - Delia Ray

2011, Alfred A. Knopf
for:  Middle grades
308 pages
Really good read (4)

First line/s:  Most people end their lives in a graveyard.  Sometimes I think my life began there."
Setting:  Contemporary Iowas City, Iowas, on a dead end street beside Oakland Cemetery.
Linc attends public school - 8th grade - for the first time, and attacks making friends with a sense of humor and a knack for storytelling.  And, what's really cool, is that some of the legends and history in the story are based on reality.

When Linc researches the history behind a huge black angel statue in the Oakland Cemetery, he also uncovers some hidden secrets from his own family's past.  I love cemeteries, genealogy, research -- that's what this book is all about, but in a fun, funny, can't-put-it-down read.  Each of the 38 chapters begins with a real epitaph from somewhere in America - including the location.

Friday, March 23, 2012

21. Delirium - Lauren Oliver

#1 in a series
Harper, 2011
for:  YA
441 pages
Really good/4

First line/s:  "It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure."
Setting:  Dystopian Portland, Maine - contemporary parallel
OSS:  Just a few months before the mandated treatment that cures everyone at age 18 of any feelings of love, Lena falls in love.

This is a well-done dystopian adventure.  Lena and her best friend, Hana, will both be cured in September, and they're ready.  love is a disease that can kill you.  Once  you're cured, the only thing you have to worry about is government regulators and raids.  Your mate is chosen for you as is your job, your home...and people find safety in that.

When Lena meets Alex, she learns more about the Resistance, and the "invalids" who live outside the city's electrified fence.  She's reluctant at first to senak out after curfew, attend secret parties, and meet on the sly with Alex - but she can't help it.

Horrifying ending - you just can't wait to read the next segment.

20. The Amanda Project: The Invisible I - Melissa Kantor

MOVIE - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

MOVIE - Safe House

Released 2-10-12
R (1:55)
RT Critics 54 Audience 69
My rating:  2.5 (It was decent)
Director:  Daniel Espinosa
Universal Pictures

Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington

Matt Weston (Reynolds) sits day after day in a Safe House in Cape Town, South Africa, in an in-between CIA position, waiting for something to happen before he is fully employed in the manner that he wants.  Tobin Frost (Washington) is an ex-intelligence officer who's been "wanted" for over ten years.  There are mercenaries after Frost, as well as the government, as the two have to become reluctant partners...with Frost always seeming to be devilishly untrustable.

19. Prayers for Sale - Sandra Dallas

audio read by Maggi-Meg Reed
2009 Macmillan Audio
8 unabridged cds
Adult Historical Fiction
Lovely story, liked it a lot, 4.5stars

Friday, March 16, 2012

18. Irises - Francisco X. Stork

2012, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
288 pages
Rating: It was okay/2

1st Sentence/s: (Prologue) "Kate had finally agreed to pose under the willow tree. Mother came and stood behind Mary at her easel. She placed her hand on Mary's shoulder. 'It's beautiful!'"
Setting: Contemporary El Paso, Texas
OSS:  Two sister try to figure out how to survive when their preacher father dies leaving them homeless and fully in charge of caring for their mother, who is in a permanently vegetative state.

Both 18 year old Kate is about to get accepted with as a premed student with a full scholarship to Stanford and 16 year old Mary, who has an incredible artistic gift, have had very religious, protected lives.  And since their mother's accident two years previously, their lives have been pretty joyless.  Their father, who truly loved them, was a preacher of a small protestant congregation in El Paso, had no car, no money, and lived simply.  Hand-me-downs and trips to the mall.  Painting was a frivolous endeavor, and the University of Texas at El Paso was nearby and the only acceptable choice of college.

And then he drops dead of a heart attack, and there's more and more problems dropped on top of the two girls.  Tough choices.  Interesting relationships with boys, best friends. their aunt and only living relative, and the new young preacher that has been hired to take their father's place.

I read this book in one four-hour gulp.  I knew that if I put it down I probably wouldn't come back to it.  Why?  I like the way that Stork developed his characters.  The plot was plausible.  I could relate to both Kate and Mary.  There was just something....missing....for me, I'm not sure what.  I was expecting to be blown away like I was with Stork's previous Marcelo in the Real World, and I wasn't.  I wonder what I would have thought about this if I hadn't read Marcelo. I'll have to read some reviews and see how others feel.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

17. Think of a Number - John Verdon

1st in a series:  Dave Gurney, Retired NYC Homicide, Upstate NY
2010, Crown Publishers
BC Library
418 pgs.
Just wonderful writing and storytelling (5)
1st sentence/s:  "Jason Strunk was by all accounts an inconsequential fellow, a bland thirty-something, nearly invisible to his neighbors --- and apparently inaudible as well, since none could recall a single specific thing he'd ever said."
Setting:  Upstate NYC, somewhere in the Catskills near Cooperstown, winter.

This is John Verdon's first book, ever.  It looks like he was a big wig in an advertising firm in NYC, which doesn't even sound like it might be related to homicide investigations.  Well, I don't know what he's best at...intricate, clever storytelling, or writing beautiful prose.  He even used a couple of words that were new to my word bank!  He's created a fascinating protagonist and allows the reader to get completely into his head.  There's an element of psychology in the story that I usually wrinkle my nose at, but this was fascinating.  I couldn't wait to curl up with this story.

Dave Gurney's old college friend, Mark Mellery, discovers that they live fairly near each other in the Catskills of upper New York state and comes to visit him with a perplexing problem.  He's been receiving weird poems in the mail - poems that are threatening and ominous.  Gurney is a retired police wiz from New York City who has an uncanny knack of putting clues together. His relationship with his wife, Madeline, is a bit rocky.  She's ready for him to retire, not be pulled back into his old life, where is becomes obsessed with his cases.  They're only in their late forties, and do seem to love each other.  There's background "stuff" though - a previous marriage with one grown son for him and a son who died in an accident at three years old for the two of them.

The mystery is complex and fascinating! 

The second book in the series, Shut Your Eyes Tight, has already been published and the third, Let the Devil Sleep, will come out in July.  Can't wait to read them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wordless Picture Books

I'm making a collection of wordless picture books for my fourth graders to use for writing.  I've found some magnificent ones (Barbara Lehman is one of my new favorite illustrators!) and I'll keep adding them as I get the chance.

I'm also hoping that before the end of the school year I'll be able to add a bit of my students' writing

Goodreads has a LISTOPIA listing of wordless books here.

Cordell, Matthew - Explorers (4)
Donovan, Jane Monroe - Small, Medium & Large (4)
Frazee, Marla - The Farmer and the Clown (4)
Hare, John - Field Trip to the Moon (5)
Hogrogian, Nonny - Cool Cat (3.5)
Lehmann, Barbara  - Red Book, The (4.5)
..........Secret Box, The (4)
..........Trainstop (3)
McDonnell, Patrick - South (4.5)
McPhail, David - No! (4)
Newman, Jeff - The Boys (4)
Nyeu, Tao - Wonder Bear (2.5)
Paul, Alison - Sunday Love (3.5)
Pinkney, Jerry - Lion and the Mouse, The (5)
Staake, Bob - Bluebird (1.5)
Thomson, Bill - Chalk (5)
..........Fossil (4)
Van Ommen, Sylvia - The Surprise (4.5)
Varon, Sara - Chicken and Cat Clean Up (3.5)
Wiesner, David - Flotsam (5)
..........Tuesday (5)
..........Mr. Wuffles (3)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Let's Go See Papa! - Lawrence Schimel

Illustrated by Alba Marina Rivera
Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2009
40 pages
Rating:  Liked it a lot
Endpapers: Light Blue
Title page:  Beige with illustration of the house where the little girl lives
Illustrations:  Full page on beige, some go over onto the facing page.  I like the illustrations a lot, looking closely I think they're done with colored pencils.
1st line/s:  "On Sundays I wake up early even though I don't have to go to school./Papa's going to call us.  He phones every Sunday because it's cheaper.  Sunday is my favorite day.
Setting:  A Spanish-speaking country, contemporary.
OSS:  A little girl misses her father who has been working for over a year in the United States while she and her mom live with her abuela and wait for him to come home or send for them.

This is a lovely story, of family, of missing a parent, or how life goes on while waiting for change to come when you know it's coming.  The little girl in the story, who lives in an unnamed country, waits for Sunday to talk briefly with her papa on the phone. She keeps a journal for him, telling him what's happening in their life each day while he's gone. He's in America, and this Sunday, after almost two years, he's telling her she and her mom are going to fly there to live with him.  She has, of course, mixed feelings...she'll be leaving her best friend, her grandmother, and her dog, but she misses her father so badly that she's still happy to go.  The book ends as the mother and daughter are flying away on an airplane over the ocean.

I liked thinking about the immigrants that I see here in Tucson and the family they may have left behind, missing them, working hard to make life easier for them, how often do I think about that?  All most parents want for their kids is a good life!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

16. The Hard Way - Lee Child

Jack Reacher #10
audio read by Dick Hill
2006, Brilliance Audio
10 unabridged cds (12 hours)
$36.95 (I got from PBS)
384 pages
Rating:  Liked it a lot/ 3.5

List of Jack Reacher books on Lee Child's website.

This installment begins with Jack Reacher enjoying a coffee on the sidewalk in lower Manhattan when he is approached and asked about something he may have seen the previous night.  The way that he is accepted into the lair of a ruthless, wealthy guns-for-hire Edward Lane is the only part of the story that was hard to believe.  Nevertheless, Lee Child has to figure out a good way to get our footloose-and-fancy-free protagonist involved in the exciting plots he finds, so I had to overlook the less than believable start.  Thank goodness I didn't give up, because it got better and better.

Edward Lane's wife, Kate, and her 8-year old daughter have been kidnapped.  Although Lane's "A-Team" of ex-military sharpshooters and gunhandlers can't figure out what to do, Reacher, in his usual blunt, brusk way brilliantly finds minute clues and follows them to one story, then another, and then on to London and the Norwich countryside. 

This was an excellent story with all the twists and turns that I love, very little "cozy," and just a touch of ooh-la-la.  So far I've read three Jack Reacher novels, and I agree that they don't have to be read in order.  So I have lots more in the future!