Monday, November 25, 2013

53. The Circle - Dave Eggers

Audio read by Dion Graham
11 unabridged cds; 14 hours
2013 Random House Audio
491 pgs.
Adult CRF (I guess....)
Finished 11/25/2013
Goodreads Rating:  3.59
My Rating: It was okay (2) 
Setting: Just outside San Francisco
1st sentence/s:  "My God, Mae thought.  It's heaven.  The campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands." 

Beginning Quote:  "There wasn't any limit, no boundary at all, to the future.  And it would be so a man wouldn't have room to store his happiness." -- John Steinbeck

My comments:  Well.  I'm not really sure what I thought of this book.  At times I was incredibly bored.  At other times I was incredibly pissed. Good books get strong reactions, but what is a good book?  Good plot?  Strong reaction to the plot?  Good characterization?  Beautiful words?  I think every reader has his/her own trigger, and this book helped me think about mine.  Story...a bit tedious, ending rushed.  Writing...okay, I guess. Strong characterization...lacking.  But does it make me think? You betcha!  I'll probably remember it for a long while.  But I can't say, for me, that it was a great book....  (Mae Holland is one of the most unlikeable protagonists I've "met" in a long time....)

Goodreads Review:  When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America—even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

52. Japantown - Barry Lancet

# 1 Jim Brodie/San Francisco Antique Art Dealer/ Investigator
2013 Simon & Schuster
Written for adults
Abandoned - stopped on pg. 146 (401) pages total
Contemporary murder mystery
Goodreads Rating: 3.89 (76 ratings)
My Rating: (2) it was okay
Setting: Contemporary San Francisco; Tokyo, Japan; and an outlying small Japanese town
1st sentence/s:  "Two shades of read darkened the Japantown concourse by the time I arrived.  One belonged to a little girl's scarlet party dress.  The other was liquid and far too human.  City officials would evince a third shade once reports of the carnage hit the airwaves."

My comments:  Well, another big decision to abandon a book.  I don't know what's going on with me - are my tastes changing?  Perhaps it's my interest level....I can't tell.  I greatly enjoyed the beginning of this book, but now it's dragging.  I don't even care why everything is happening.  I'm getting confused about all the people - lots and lots of Japanese names and aliases, waaaaay to hard to remember who's who.  Lots of random killing by people who apparently love to kill and have been trained to do it well for centuries. I have been to Japantown and am getting quite familiar with San Francisco, so I was looking forward to this murder mystery.  Nope.  Gonna go on.  Sorry, Mr. Lancet.

Goodreads:  FIVE BODIES. ONE CLUE. NOT A TRACE OF THE KILLER.  San Francisco antiques dealer Jim Brodie recently inherited a stake in his father's Tokyo-based private investigation firm, which means the single father of six-year-old Jenny is living a busy intercontinental life, traveling to Japan to acquire art and artifacts for his store and consulting on Brodie Security's caseload at home and abroad. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

An Orange for Frankie - Patricia Polacco

Illustrated by the author
2004 Philomel
HC $16.99
40 pages
Goodreads rating: 4027 (332 ratings)
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Front:  an aerial view of the house, outhouses, and landscape during a winter storm/ Back: the same storm, looking at the house from the front, in the evening, and its close surroundings
Title Page:  Double-page spread - a train stopped in the middle of a snowstorm on the middle of nowhere
Illustrations:  trademark Patricia Polacco

1st page:  "Every time I peel an orange and inhale the scent of it and feel the mist that sprays from its skin, I think of a very special Christmas and a flaxen-haired boy who lived many years before I was even born."

My comments:  What a moving Christmas story!  I was actually a little teary at the end.  Based on a true story, as many of Ms. Polacco's are, this one was told by her grandmother and based on her grandmother's youngest brother.  It is a story from a hundred years ago, still being kept alive and honored by her entire family.  It is full of pictures of America's past. A large, hard-working family enjoys a simpler Christmas than we're used to, one steeped in traditions and hard work.  A completely lovely "short story," illuminated by Patricia Polacco's incredible art.  Loved it.

Goodreads:  The Stowell family is abuzz with holiday excitement, and Frankie, the youngest boy, is the most excited of all. But there's a cloud over the joyous season: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and Pa hasn't returned yet from his trip to Lansing. He promised to bring back the oranges for the mantelpiece. Every year there are nine of them nestled among the evergreens, one for each of the children. But this year, heavy snows might mean no oranges . . . and, worse, no Pa!
This is a holiday story close to Patricia Polacco's heart. Frankie was her grandmother's youngest brother, and every year she and her family remember this tale of a little boy who learned--and taught--an important lesson about giving, one Christmas long ago.

Papa's Latkes - Michelle Edwards

Illustrated by Stacey Schuett
2004 Candlewick
HC $15.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.04
My rating: 5
Endpapers: Hanukkah Blue
Smallish drawing of the latkes' raw ingredients
Illustrations:  Oil paintings that my students really admired
1st page::  "Selma and her little sister, Dora, were waiting for Papa to come home.  It was their first Chanukah without Mama.  Selma's heart ached when she remembered how sick and thin Mama had looked last summer.  Thin enough to be blown away by a light summer breeze.  And then, right before school starated, Mama died."

This was a bittersweet but humorous story about a father and his daughters celebrating Hanukkah after the death of their mom.  I read this aloud to my (Jewish) students, which prompted a great conversation about family Hanukkah traditions.  They totally enjoyed it.  There was quite a bit of humor, the difficulty of "creating" latkes was well depicted as was the love of the dad for his girls.  Best of all, for me, was that the kids really marveled over the beautiful oil painted illustrations.  We decided this was a top-notch book.
"Santa Claus, Shmanta Claus!  Whoever heard of a Jewish Santa Claus carrying a fifty-pound bag of potatoes?"
It was Papa.  Selma ran to help him.
"Ho, ho, ho! Oy, oy, oy! Is this ever heavy! said Papa.""
Goodreads:  For Selma and her little sister, this is their first Chanukah without Mama. When Papa comes home carrying all the ingredients for latkes, Selma is worried. Can they make the latkes without Mama? In Michelle Edwards’s poignant story, warmly illustrated by Stacey Schuett, Selma comes to realize that while Chanukah — and especially latkes — will never be the same without Mama, Selma can still celebrate, and will always remember.

"A stirring, tender portrait of beloved children and a father helping them celebrate their mother’s memory." — BOOKLIST

MOVIE - Grown Ups 2

PG-13 (1:41)
Wide Release 7-12-13
Viewed at Century Cheapies on Kolb, Friday 11-22-2013
RT Critic: 7 Audience:  57
Cag: 3 liked it although it was REALLY stupid (it HAS made over $133 million dollars!)
Directed by Dennis Dugan
Sony Pictures

Adam Sandler et al

My comments:  I liked Grown Ups (the first one) and I knew this would probably be the last chance to see this version on the "big screen," so off I went.  I really like to see a movie after school on Friday, and I've been shooting for light faire (Friday is a really tough day at school, full and intense) so this actually fit the bill perfectly.  It certainly wasn't profound or cleverly funny; it was just plain silly and fun to watch.  Yup.  Fun.  It was perfect for the mood I was in, just what I'd expected (and I always enjoy Adam Sandler, no matter how stupid....).

Rotten Tomatoes:  The all-star comedy cast from Grown Ups returns (with some exciting new additions) for more summertime laughs. Lenny (Adam Sandler) has relocated his family back to the small town where he and his friends grew up. This time around, the grown ups are the ones learning lessons from their kids on a day notoriously full of surprises: the last day of school.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Dark - Lemony Snicket

Illustrated by Jon Klassen
2013 Little Brown Books for Young Readers
HC $16.99
40 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.03
My rating: 3/Liked it
Endpapers: Solid dark BLACK
Title Page The widening stream of light from the flashlight that started on the previous page.  Very cool.
Illustrations:  very simple, blacks and browns with a touch of light blue (the boy's pjs)
1st lines: "Laszlo was afraid of the dark. The dark lived in the same house as Laszlo, a big place with a creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs."

I liked this book.  I didn't love it.  I read it aloud to my fourth graders, who seemed to like it, too.  But love it?  I'm not so sure.  We talked a lot more about the illustrations than we did about the actual story, particularly the way the darkness and the light were depicted.  Great conversations. Here are some of their responses:

-"this would be very good to read to kids that are afraid of the dark, because it turns out the dark is their friend." - Tzippi

-"the dark side is actually on the good side." - Berto

- "the dark doesn't want you to be afraid of it, it wants you to like it!" - Panina

- "a good bedtime story for small children." - Levi

-"don't judge a book by its cover, or in this case, don't judge The Dark by its cover." - Michael

-" kids might be scared at first, but by the end they will be brave and not scared of the dark Laszlo." - Sara

- "if you're afraid of the dark, all you have to do is take a step into it." - Terra

- "don't be afraid of the dark 'cause it's everywhere you go." - Sami

-"there's always a light bulb in the bottom drawer..." - Ben

-"in this book the dark will show you what you need to know to not be afraid of it." - Ivan

-"the illustrations fit perfectly with the words." - Stella

-"once you open the book and see the end pages, you want want to read on." - Sophie

Goodreads:  Laszlo is afraid of the dark. The dark is not afraid of Laszlo.  Laszlo lives in a house. The dark lives in the basement.  One night, the dark comes upstairs to Laszlo's room, and Laszlo goes down to the basement.  This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

My Pen Pal, Santa - Melissa Stanton

Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
2013 Random House Books for Young Readers
$9.99 smallish HC w/o dustcover
28 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.56
My rating: 3
Endpapers: lt. blue background with small Santas, snowmen, candy canes, ornaments, and gifts: red/white/aqua/green
Title Page: protagonist looking at plate of cookies marked "for Santa"

My comments:  This series of comments between Santa and Ava are very cute. She writes once a month, from just after Christmas in January to the following December, making comments and asking questions; Santa's return letters answer them.  Much is mentioned about believing in Santa vs. not believing in Santa (he's real for those who want to believe and not real for those who don't want to believe).  I think some ... most ... young children, still strong believers, after thinking about this, would have questions in their minds that might not have otherwise been there.  Therefore, I think this is great for older kids, those that don't really believe in Santa, but definitely NOT for those younger kids that still strongly believe.  Very sweet book.

Goodreads:  Writing a letter to Santa is fairly simple; you make your case and list your hoped-for gifts. But if you're a hard-core fan like Ava, a letter to Santa is something entirely different. A simple New Year's note to the North Pole about some uneaten cookies kicks off a year-long correspondence between a young girl and the jolly guy in the red suit in this joyful epistolary picturebook. This holiday story is perfect for those who believe and those who remember the wonder of the season.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

51. City of Bones - Cassandra Clare

#1 The Mortal Instruments series
2007 Margaret K. McElderry Books
485 pgs.(plus a couple of book beginnings)
YA Fantasy/Paranormal
Finished 11/13/13
Goodreads Rating: 4.13
My Rating: (4.5) Loved it, I've got to admit.....
THA Library
1st sentence/s: " 'You've got to be kidding me,' the bouncer said, folding his arms across his massive chest. He stared down at the boy in the red zip-up jacket and shook his shaved head.  'You can't bring that thing in here.' "
My comments:  I read this book after seeing the movie, and greatly enjoyed it. I loved comparing movie to book and finding a lot of differences.  It's interesting to see the direction that Clare decided to take with the main characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing what's going to happen in the next segment in the series.

Goodreads Review:  When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know... 

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end

MOVIE - Dallas Buyers Club

R (1:57)
Limited release 11/1/2013
Viewed 11/19/2013 at ElCon with Sheila
RT Critic: 95 Audience: 96
Cag: 6/Awesome
Directed by Jean-Marc Vallee
Focus Features

Mathew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Jared Leto

My comments:  This was an almost-flawless, unforgettable movie.  The acting was over-the-top superb. The TRUE story was mesmerizing.  I can't get Matthew McConaughey out of my head.  He looked and acted the part perfectly.  I've always considered him a wonderful actor, but you  sometimes wonder if his good looks are what you're chalking up as a large part of the excellent.  This man can ACT!  If he doesn't get the Academy Award, he's been robbed!  WHY was it a limited release and only in a few theaters?  I don't get it! (I went into the movie not knowing what it was about - I'm really glad.  It made the story fresh and new and even more believable/unbelievable!)

Rotten Tomatoes Write-Up:  Matthew McConaughey stars in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB as real-life Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof, whose free-wheeling life was overturned in 1985 when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. These were the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and the U.S. was divided over how to combat the virus. Ron, now shunned and ostracized by many of his old friends, and bereft of government-approved effective medicines, decided to take matters in his own hands, tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. Bypassing the establishment, the entrepreneurial Woodroof joined forces with an unlikely band of renegades and outcasts - who he once would have shunned - and established a hugely successful "buyers' club." Their shared struggle for dignity and acceptance is a uniquely American story of the transformative power of resilience.

MOVIE - Austenland

PG-13 (1:37)
Limited release 8/16/2013
Viewed 11/14/2013
RT Critic 32: Audience: 71
Cag: 3/Liked it a lot more than I thought I would
Directed by Jerusha Hess
Sony Pictures Classics

Keri Russell

My commentsThis was the very last day this was playing .... forever ... on the big screen, so I decided to go see it, even if it did look stupid AND I'd not liked the book at all.  Pleasant surprise.  I liked the movie!  Although I knew the major "stuff," it didn't matter, it was a just-plain-fun movie.  Keri Russell was fun to watch after seeing her play an entirely different role all last season on The Americans.  Lots of places to guffaw.  (However, it didn't add to my dislike of Jane Seymour....)

Rotten Tomatoes summary: Twilight author Stephanie Meyer makes her first foray into film producing with this romantic comedy about a 30-something woman whose lifelong obsession with all things Jane Austen lead her to an eccentric theme park based on the author's writings, and into the company of a handsome young suitor. For as long as she can remember, Jane Hayes (Keri Russell) has treasured the writings of the author behind such literary classics as Emma, and Pride & Prejudice. For years, Jane had been stashing away funds in hopes that someday she would be able to afford a trip to Austenland - a place where the die-hard fan can be completely immersed in the elegant world of the beloved author. When Jane finally manages to save up enough, she excitedly packs her bags and books a room. Upon arriving, Jane quickly discovers that Austenland is everything she had ever imagined. Every detail is exquisite, save for one small exception: Jane's limited funds mean that she can't enjoy the same luxury experience as the other, wealthier bachelorettes who currently populate Austenland, but she decides to make the most of her trip regardless. Later, when Jane falls into a romance with a dashing young servant, a lifetime of dreams suddenly begin to come true.

MOVIE - Thor: The Dark World

PG-13 (1:52)
Wide Release 11/8/2013
Viewed 11/11/2013
RT Critic:66  Audience: 85
Cag: 4.5 Totally enjoyed it
Directed by Alan Taylor
Walt Disney Pictures

Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tim Hiddleston

My comments"  Good One!  Very enjoyable with lots of chuckles.Chris Hemsworth is such a hunk, I love, love, love Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Stellan Skarsgard running around without his pants on was a HOOT, and the kooky side-kick, Darcy (Kat Dennings) is the really funny one on 2 Broke Girls. I always enjoy Natalie Portman, but I wouldn't consider this one of her stronger roles.  Just plain fun, the perfect movie to be totally outside of your own body for a couple of hours.  Two really fun things to look forward to - a quick, really brief sighting of Captain America in the middle of the film, and the little "addition" at the very tail end of the credits..... (And what on earth did what happened up on the throne at the end of the movie mean???)

Rotten Tomatoes Summary:  Marvel's "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel's "Thor" and "Marvel's The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embarkon his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Santa is Coming to Tucson - Steve Smallman

Illustrated by Robert Dunn & Alan Brown
2013, Sourcebooks, Inc.
Small HC (no dust cover) $9.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: (There are none - except for mine)
My rating: 1 - Didn't like it at all
Endpapers:  Light blue sky with wrapped gifts floating

My comments:  I really wanted to like this book and I feel badly about giving a negative review.  But the story was of the fill-in-the-blank type, a stereotypical story of Santa delivering gifts on Christmas Eve with "Tucson" stuck in here and there and a few place names scattered around.  All the illustrations were pretty generic except for one double-page spread of Tucson highlights. Very unimpressive.

From Goodreads:  It's Christmas Eve, Have you been good? Santa's packed up all the presents and is headed your way! With the help of a certain red - nosed reindeer, Santa flies over:

-St. Augustine Cathedral
-University of Arizona
-Tucson Music Hall
-Pima Air & Space Museum
-La Placita Village
-Sosa-Carillo-Fremont House
-Pima County Court House
-Saguaro Cactus
-Fox Theater
-St. Xavier del Bac Mission
-UniSource Energy Tower

"Ho, ho ho!" laughs Santa. "Merry Christmas, Tuscon!"

Holiday Picture Books

I've been reading about lots of holiday book ideas - particularly thinking about "An Advent Calendar of Books." (which I found on Delightful Children's Books) I've always loved Christmas picture books, giving one to Laura on her December birthday for years and years, even as an adult (I think last year was the first year I didn't.  I wonder why?).  So I'm going to keep a list of the holiday books I've read, and try to read more!  Christmas.  Day of the Dead.  Halloween.  Thanksgiving.  Hanukkah (I do work at a Hebrew Day School, after all....).


Agee, Jon - Little Santa
Appelt, Kathi - Merry Christmas, Merry Crow
Bastianich, Lidia - Nonna Tell Me a Story
Daly, Niki - What's Cooking, Jamela?  
Donaldson, Julia - Stick Man
Donovan, Jane Monroe - Small Medium &  Large
Drummond, Ree - Charlie and the Christmas Kitty
Duvall, John The Great Spruce
Evans, LezlieFinding Christmas 
Frazee, Marla Santa Claus The World's Number One Toy Expert
Hardie, Jill - The Sparkle Box 
Lewis, J. Patrick & Beth Zappitello - First Dog's White House Christmas
Lin, GraceRobert's Snow 
Mader, C. Roger - Stowaway in a Sleigh
Major, KevinAunt Olga's Christmas Postcards
Sabuda, Robert - Winter in White
Shannon, David - It's Christmas, David!
Shulevtiz, Uri - Dusk
Smallman, Steve - Santa is Coming to Tucson
Stanton, Melissa - My Pen Pal, Santa
Strand, KeithGrandfather's Christmas Tree 
Toht, PatriciaPick a Pine Tree 
Underwood, Deborah Here Comes Santa Cat
Wilson, Karma - Bear Stays Up for Christmas


Aylesworth, Jim -  The Mitten
Burton, Virginia Lee - Katy and the Big Snow
Christiansen, Candace - The Mitten Tree
Donovan, Jane Monroe - Small Medium & Large
Gerber, Carol - Winter Trees
Hader, Berta & Elmer - The Big Snow
Harper, Lee - Snow! Snow! Snow!
Lin, GraceRobert's Snow (There's a bit about Santa here, but it's MUCH more about snow!)
MacLachlan, Patricia - Snowflakes Fall
Neubecker, Robert - Winter is For Snow
Pfeffer, WendyThe Shortest Day
Sabuda, Robert - Winter in White

Day of the Dead
Joose, Barbara - Ghost Wings
Luenn, Nancy - A Gift for Abuelita
Morales, Yuyi - Just in Case
Thong, Roseanne Greenfield Dia de Los Muertos
Winter, Jeanette - Calavera Abecedario


Brown, Calef - Hallowilloween
Collins, Ross - Dear Vampa
Gall, Chris - Substitute Creature
Moulton, Mark Kimball - The Very Best Pumpkin
Murray, Marjorie Dennis - Halloween Night
Pulver, Robin - Never Say Boo


daCosta, Deborah - Hanukkah Moon
Edwards, Michelle - Papa's Latkes
Jenkins, EmilyAll-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah 
Polacco, PatriciaTrees of the Dancing Goats, The
Rosen, MichaelOur Eight Nights of Hanukkah


Kirkfield, Vivian -  Pippa's Passover Plate
Newman, TracyAround the Passover Table
Portnoy, Minda Avra - A Tale of Two Seders
Rappaport, Doreen - The Secret Seder
Snyder, LaurelThe Longest Night: A Passover Story
Weber, Elka - A Yankee at the Seder
Ziefert, Harriet - Passover

General Information about Sukkot
Hyde, Heidi Smith - Shanghai Sukkah

Schur, Susan - Taschlich at Turtle Rock

Sunday, November 17, 2013

2014 Newbery Hopefuls - and Other 2013 Titles for Kids

I've got a whole stack of books here that I want to read.  I've been checking out reviews and hitting some of the Mock Newbery lists.  The Tucson Library system has almost all that I was looking for, so I've taken them from the library, planning to read some of them myself and try to entice some of my students to try some out. (Hmmmm....notice all the blue or bluish-tinged covers - and DARK covers, too.....)

The Boy on the Porch
Sharon Creech
Sept. 2013, Harper Collins
a very compact 160 pages
Goodreads rating: 3.84 (404 ratings)
Amazon says ages 8-12/Grades 3-7
SLJ says grades 4-6

Vince Vawter
May 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
224 pages - set up weirdly/interestingly with double space between paragraphs
Goodreads rating: 3.97 (516 ratings)
Amazon says ages 10 and up/Grades 5 and up
SLJ says grades 6-9; Booklist says grades 6-8

Road Trip
Gary Paulsen & Jim Paulsen
January 2013, Wendy Lamb Books
114 pgs. - a slender book
Goodreads rating: 3.66 (286 ratings)
Amazon says ages 10 up/Grades 5 up
SLJ says grades 5-7; Booklist says grades 3-7

The Hidden Summer
Gin Phillips
June 2013, Dial
198 pages
Goodreads rating:  3.66 (61 ratings)
Amazon says ages 10 up/Grades 6 up
SLJ says grades 5-7; Booklist says grades 5-8

Hokey Pokey
Jerry Spinelli
January 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers
286 pages, small-sized book
Goodreads rating:  3.30 (723 ratings)
Amazon says ages 10 up/Grades 5 up
SLJ says grades 5-7; Booklist says grades 7 - 12??

Sure Signs of Crazy
Karen Harrington
August 2013, Little Brown Books for Young Readers
280 pages, another smallish-sized book
Goodreads rating:  4.00 (221 ratings)
Amazon says ages 9 up/Grades 4 up
SLJ says grades 6-9; Booklist says grades 5-8

The Year of Billy Miller
Kevin Henkes
September 2013, Greenwillow Books
Goodreads rating:  3.92 (342 ratings)
229 pages with larger, well-spaced-out font
Amazon says ages 8-12/grades 3-7
SLJ says grades 1-3; Booklist says grades 3-7

Navigating Early
Clare Vanderpool (Newbery-winning author of Moon Over Manifest)
January 2013, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Goodreads rating:  4.11 (1781 ratings)
306 pages
Amazon says ages 10 up/Grades 5 up
SLJ says grades 5-8; Booklist says grades 5-8, too...

Hold Fast
Blue Balliett
March 2013, Scholastic
288 pages (not yet in-hand, so have to check font, etc)
Goodreads rating:  3.78 (1152 reviews)
Amazon says ages 8-12/Grades 3-7
SLJ says grades 6-9; Booklist says grades 4-7

Doll Bones
Holly Black
May 2013, Margaret K. McIlderry Books
244 pages (not sure of size or font)
Goodreads rating:  3.78 (3725 reviews)
Amazon says ages 10-14 /Grades 5-9
SLJ says grades 4-7; Booklist says grades 5-8

The Water Castle
Megan Frazer Blakemore
January 2013, Walker Childrens
304 pages (not sure of size or font)
Goodreads rating: 3.88  (416 reviews)
Amazon says ages 10-14/Grades 4-8
SLJ says grades 4-7; Booklist says grades 5-7

The Center of Everything
Linda Urban
March 2013, HMH Books for Young Readers
208 pages (not sure of size or font)
Goodreads rating:  3.78 (631 reviews)
Amazon says ages 9-12/Grades 4-7
SLJ says grades 4-6 ; Booklist says grades 4-6

Counting by 7s
Holly Goldberg Sloan
August 2013, Dell
384 pages (not sure of size or font)
Goodreads rating: 4.36   (1132 reviews)
Amazon says ages 10 up/Grades 5 up
SLJ says grades 7-10;  Booklist says grades 7-10

Far Far Away
Tom McNeal
June 2013, Knopf Books for Young Readers
384 pages (not sure of size or font)
Goodreads rating: 3.93  (912 reviews)
Amazon says ages 12 up/Grades 7 up
SLJ says grades 6 up ; Booklist says grades 7-10

Dead City (Dead City #1: Blue Moon)
James Ponti
October 2012 Simon & Schuster
328 pages
Goodreads rating:   4.19 (157 reviews)
Amazon says ages 9-13/Grades 4-8
SLJ and Booklist not included in Amazon review

Saturday, November 16, 2013

POETRY PICTURE BOOK: Forest Has a Song - Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Illustrated by Robbin Gourley
2013 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
HC $16.99
32 pages
Goodreads rating: 4.32
My rating:  Lovely book; simple, beautiful poetry; lovely art: 4.5
Endpapers: White with a cascade of small, falling leaves
Title Page:  Center water color of a New England-y house with the forest rising in the background
Watercolor illustrations

I love the woods.  I miss the woods.  And this book, of very simple poems, is lovely.  The poems are simple, the words used are not-so-simple.  Elegant words.  Clever words.  This is a great book.

Goodreads summary:  A spider is a “never-tangling dangling spinner / knitting angles, trapping dinner.” A tree frog proposes, “Marry me. Please marry me… / Pick me now. / Make me your choice. / I’m one great frog / with one strong voice.” VanDerwater lets the denizens of the forest speak for themselves in twenty-six lighthearted, easy-to-read poems. As she observes, “Silence in Forest / never lasts long. / Melody / is everywhere / mixing in / with piney air. / Forest has a song.” The graceful, appealing watercolor illustrations perfectly suit these charming poems that invite young readers into the woodland world at every season.

here's one for spring...and it's a cool tongue-twister, too...

April Waking

Ferny frondy fiddleheads
unfurl curls from dirty beds.
Stretching stems they sweeetly sing
greenest greetings sent to Spring.

and here's one that uses beautiful words and evokes lovely images....


Late at night I look for lichens
tracing flakes in shades of dark.

Messages in cursive code
cover stones and bumpy bark.

Lichens are graffiti artists.
Lichens make their mark.

here's one for my geology unit...


I dug in the creek bed.
I dug and I found
a grandfather fossil
asleep underground.
He whispered a story
of creatures in sand.
I listened as trilobites
filled up my hand.
For one flicker-minute
they tickled my palm.
Alive for an eye blink.
Forever dead calm.

I do love the woods.  And this poem, along with fantastic imagery, even pulls in the fragrance...


Under the giant pines
I hear
a forest chorus
crisp and clear.

Winds whip.
Geese call.
Squirrels chase.
Leaves fall.

ATrees creak.
Birds flap.
Deer run.
Twigs snap.

Silence in Forest
never lasts long.
is everywhere
mixing in
with piney air.

Forest has a song.

okay, one more, very cool, poem to share....


In a red cap
he types poems
with his beak
upon a tree.

hole hole hole hole
hole hole hole

          hole hole

                    hole          hole
                    hole          hole

I'm hoping he
will translate one
for me.

50. Night Film - Marisha Pessl

Audio read by Jake Weber
19 (! !) discs, 23 hours
2013, Random House Audio
602 pgs.
Adult Mystery/Thriller
Finished 11/10/13
Goodreads Rating: 3.89
My Rating:  Awesome (5) (It totally "took me away" for all 23 hours)
Setting: NYC with a few forays a little north into NY state

My comments:  Wow.  This book was mesmerizing.  I listened to it, but also took a couple trips during the listening to the bookstore to peruse some of the actual pages.  There are many emails, photos, newspaper articles (etc.) that look like the real thing.  Once you realize, as you're listening, that the flow of the story has changed a bit, you can still listen without missing a single thing.  The story was complicated and interesting, keeping you guessing and wondering; the characters were interesting and pretty well fleshed out.   I loved learning all the new clues along with the protagonist, as if I were part of his inexperienced investigative team.  I loved wondering whether the occult was really involved, as did the protagonist.  It got a little slow at the end, when I thought the book should be done and Pessl didn't seem to want to end it.  I should have realized she had a reason.  Well worth 19 discs and 23 hours!  Added note:  I REALLY don't like the cover.

Goodreads Review:  A page-turning thriller for readers of Stephen King, Gillian Flynn, and Stieg Larsson, Night Film tells the haunting story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with the mysterious death of a troubled prodigy—the daughter of an iconic, reclusive filmmaker.

On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years.  For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself.  Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawndeeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world.  The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.

Friday, November 8, 2013

49. A Guide For the Perplexed - Dara Horn

2013, W. W. Norton & Co.
336 pgs.(I stopped at pg. 168)
Adult CRF
Stopped reading on 11/8/2013
GoodreadsRating: 3.69
My Rating:  Didn’t like it (1)
Setting: Massachusetts and Egypt (Cairo & Alexandria)
1st paragraph:  "What happens to days that disappear?  The light fades, the gates begin to close, and all that a day once held -- a glance, a fight, a taste of bread, a handful of braided hair, thousands of worires and triumphs and regrets -- all of it slips between those closing gates, vanishing into a dark and silent room.  When Josephine Ashkenazi first invented Genizah, all she wanted to do was open those gates."

My comments:  I've been wading through this book for over a week and am only half way through.  Last night, at my usual "reading time" I didn't want to read it, realizing I didn't like it at all.  I don't like the characters, I don't "get" the second time period that it keeps switching back to (it's boring) and I have absolutely no desire to discover what's going to happen. So why waste my time?  So sorry, Ms. Horn.....

Goodreads Review:  Software prodigy Josie Ashkenazi has invented an application that records everything its users do. When an Egyptian library invites her to visit as a consultant, her jealous sister Judith persuades her to go. But in Egypt’s postrevolutionary chaos, Josie is abducted—leaving Judith free to take over Josie’s life at home, including her husband and daughter, while Josie’s talent for preserving memories becomes a surprising test of her empathy and her only means of escape.

A century earlier, another traveler arrives in Egypt: Solomon Schechter, a Cambridge professor hunting for a medieval archive hidden in a Cairo synagogue. Both he and Josie are haunted by the work of the medieval philosopher Moses Maimonides, a doctor and rationalist who sought to reconcile faith and science, destiny and free will. But what Schechter finds, as he tracks down the remnants of a thousand-year-old community’s once-vibrant life, will reveal the power and perils of what Josie’s ingenious work brings into being: a world where nothing is ever forgotten.

An engrossing adventure that intertwines stories from Genesis, medieval philosophy, and the digital frontier, A Guide for the Perplexed is a novel of profound inner meaning and astonishing imagination.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

MOVIE - The Mortal Instrument: City of Bones

PG-13 (2:10)
Wide Release /23/2013
I saw it after school Wed 11/6/13 at Crossroads
RT Critic: 12 Audience: 65
Cag: 3 liked it, Very entertaining, and I loved watching this group of actors
Directed by Harald Zwart
Sony Pictures
Based on the YA book by Cassandra Clare

My comments:  I found the lead male, Jamie Campbell Bower, fascinating to watch, and when Jonathan Rhys-Myers appeared, I was quite pleased!  I'd heard the plot was difficult to understand, but I didn't find that at all.  Maybe I've read enough YA stories of this sort, but I can't think of a single questions I have about what happened or why.  I loved the creepy shape-changing into demonic characters!  If a second movie is not made - because of bad reviews - I'll have to read the second book, because I really do want to know what happens next!

Fandango synopsis:  Set in contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), Clary must join forces with a group of Shadowhunters, who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures. Based on the worldwide best-selling book series.

Friday, November 1, 2013

MOVIE - The Fifth Estate

R (2:04)
Wide release 10-13-2013
My annual Halloween night movie, 10-31-2013 at Park Place
RT: 37 Critic: Audience:  47
Cag: 3 liked it
Directed by Bill Condon & R. J. Cutler
Walt Disney Pictures

My comments:  I went to this movie so that I would understand exactly what all the ruckus is about on the news.  I guess I've only partially paid attention.  So now I know.Julian Assange, right from the beginning, was an unlikable oddball.  Oddballs are great - but he is one strange guy - at least he's portrayed as one.  The actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, was quite entrancing to watch.  As was the guy who played his devotee, his right hand man, Daniel.  It was a long movie, but totally held my interest.  And it makes me think about where I stand on the issue.

It was my annual Halloween movie-so-that-I-don't-have-to-be-home, and it wasn't playing until 7:05.  I was the only person there until the third preview, when one other person came in.  Strange feeling sitting in that huge theater (almost) all by myself!

Rotten Tomatoes:  Triggering our age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. Now, in a dramatic thriller based on real events, "The Fifth Estate" reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century's most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world's most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of our time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society-and what are the costs of exposing them?