Thursday, September 5, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom

Movie:  Moonrise Kingdom
Like/Don't Like:  Lovely

Dream job: be on Wes Anderson's design team - felt division. Just think of all the hours I could spend making little felt accessories for his movies.  Because there are always loads of them.

That's not the only reason why I loved this movie. Although it has a lot to do with it.  I just love his singular vision.  His characters have these crazy, quirky dreams that they just go for.  And they do it in style.  This time it's teenagers running away together and it's kind of magical what happens. It's a pretty simple story told in a very grand and precise way.  It's right up my alley.


Movie:  Lincoln
Like/Don't Like:  Really good

Does it make me less of an American to say that Steven Spielberg isn't my favorite?  I mean, he certainly can do a Big Picture, but sometimes they're a little heavy handed.  Or a lot.  Like, let's put some magic right here and really make them feel.  You know?  Anyway, that's a beef I have.

But there's no denying that this is a great story.  And that Lincoln was awesome.  And that slavery is bad.  And that Daniel Day-Lewis is scary good. I mean, seriously, who is this guy? I thought it was kind of long, but he was just so convincing that I went along for his performance alone.  Great stuff.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Part I: The Pox Party

Book:  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Part 1:  The Pox Party
Author:  M.T. Anderson
Like/Don't Like:  this was kind of mind-blowing

I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up at the library.  I just saw the cover and thought it looked interesting.  I didn't even read the inside flap. So when I started reading it I was immediately blown away because I just didn't have a clue what I was in for. It surprised me from the very first page.  I was not prepared for how gripping it would be. To tell you the premise would mean giving away most of the story so I'll just say that it's part historical novel (set in Boston just before the Revolutionary War began), part coming of age tale (Octavian is a teenager through most of the book - it's a YA novel in case you decide to look for it), and part vocabulary lesson (you're going to need a dictionary). It was not an easy book to read because of the subject matter but I flew right through it because it was such a great story.  Loved it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Like/Don't Like:  I loved it.

I have very few childhood memories.  There is an overarching feeling of love and well being - I know it was a good childhood and that I was a happy child - but when specific memories come to mind they are often dark. Writhing in pain in the back seat of the van as I'm being driven to the hospital; seeing on the news that someone had escaped from the prison a few miles away; being chased by some teenage boys on my walk home from school. This story deals with the scarier side of childhood, how it can be confusing and uncertain and dark.  How could it not be? When you're small your world consists of very few things so the alteration of any one of them amounts to a tragedy. And any out of the ordinary occurrence (in this case, an unexpected death) can rip a hole in your world, exposing you to new and sometimes terrifying things.

As usual, Neil Gaiman shows that he gets being a kid, like those feelings of finding joy in the simplest things, being powerless against adults, not really understanding all that is going on but desperately wanting to.  He shows that sometimes bad things happen when you let go of some one's hand.  And sometimes you have to let go in order to be brave. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Book:  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
Author:  Jacqueline Kelly
Like/Don't Like:  Enchanting

You know how much I love a plucky young heroine.  Someone who breaks against the norms and is figuring out how to stand out in the world.  Calpurnia fits the bill.

Calpurnia Tate, or Callie Vee as everyone calls her, is the middle child of seven and the only girl. It is the summer of 1899 and she discovers 1. that her grandfather isn't as intimidating as she always imagined and 2. she has the mind of a scientist.  A little reminiscent of Girl of the Limberlost.

There isn't that much of a story, it's mostly little vignettes from a few months of her life that show her relationship with her family and how she deals with the expectations put on young girls at that time - knitting and cooking and such - even though all she really wants to do is look at plants and bugs with her grandpa.  The real joy of this book is that the voices are so, so clear.  Each character is distinct and real.  Each scene could have happened exactly as it was written.  Because there wasn't a story to follow I would put it down for a few days without thinking about it.  But each time I would pick it back up I would be sucked in.  It's just one of those really pleasurable books to read because you like everyone and everything about it.

I'm putting it into the category of books I wish had been around when I was a young girl. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The River Between Us

Book:  The River Between Us
Author:  Richard Peck
Like/Don't Like:  I hugged it at the end so you know I loved it.

This is exactly the type of book that I love the most.  A great story, beautifully told, simple and thoughtful, not too long, and it very much carries you away.

It's about Tilly, a girl from southern Illinois, who meets two mysterious women from New Orleans just as her brother is about to leave for the Civil War. Ugh, war books, am I right?  But no, give this a chance.  Because it's so lovely.

Anyone who has read Richard Peck (A Year Down Yonder, A Long Way to Chicago) will know what a powerful writer he is without being show-offy.  He's not grand in anyway, but his words and phrases and pacing have such a way of putting your right there.  There were many times while reading that I forgot that it wasn't real. This book is meant for people who love to read.


Book:  Bitterblue
Author:  Kristen Cashore
Like/Don't Like:  Liked.  A pretty fitting end.

This is the last of the Graceling series and it finished pretty well.  Although not as strong as Fire, it fit with the series perfectly.

The last time we saw Bitterblue she was a kid hiding from her murderous father in Graceling.  In the 9 years between then and this book she has been crowned the queen and is trying to come to terms with what that means - a very common theme throughout the series.  Each of the women in the three books have unique positions and powers and are fearful of using them to their full capacity because they are all easily abused.  I loved this idea of emboldening young women to be conscientious of their powers and to use them.  I think that's what the series is so strong. 

But as a finale I thought Bitterblue could have been stronger.  It carried over the theme beautifully and most of my favorite characters were back but the story kind of plodded along at times.  There were a lot of extra characters that you didn't know what they were there for until the very end so they seemed to get in the way.  But the end did clear everything up nicely.  And I love these characters and places a lot.  I think I would love it a second time around.