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.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Thai Peanut Sauce

I'm going to give you this recipe for Thai peanut sauce because I love you. I think you're wonderful and you're a hard worker and you deserve something delicious in your life. I've made a few different recipes in the past and all of them have been unsatisfactory. Too peanuty or too spicy or too sweet or too thick or not thick enough. So when I came across this one through Pinterest (on this site) I was skeptical but willing. You guys, it's so good that when I took my first taste I jumped up and down for joy. And then I dipped a cucumber in it and passed out. And then I made chicken tacos with this slathered all over it and I licked the plate clean of any that dripped out.

Here.  Enjoy.
  • One 13.5-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk (I used the light coconut milk because they were mysteriously out of full-fat. It turned out great.)
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • ¾ cup unsweetened (natural) creamy peanut butter (if you have to use regular peanut butter cut back on the sugar)
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
  • ½ cup water
Throw everything into a pot. Bring it to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes and then let cool. Pour it on everything. Brush your teeth with it. Just stick a straw in a big vat of it and go to town.  (While you're shopping for these ingredients you should also get some shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, scallions, cilantro, and cucumbers as you will need these to go with anything that you're putting it on.
Last night at book club I had some out with a bunch of sliced cucumbers and near the end I just took the whole tray and put it on my lap and finished them off. It makes a lot so I just keep it the fridge in glass jars and supposedly it will keep for weeks but I promise you I will not find that out. Tonight I'm going to make Thai pizza with it. Tomorrow it will probably be Thai noodles. I think it would be great on a salad.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Book:  Fire
Author:  Kristen Cashore
Like/Don't Like:  Wow! Loved!

This is the second book in the Graceling series, even though it has very little to do with Graceling.  It's more of a companion piece than a sequel.  It's set in a different land with different people (except for one carry-over character) but it has the same feel.  Mostly because, I'm pretty sure that Kristen Cashore is a genius. There is something about her writing style that I really appreciate and respond to. She tells a great story without a lot of fluff.  And she thinks you're smart.  I've read too many books where the author thinks you're an idiot and you won't pick up on anything so they tell you everything.  Cashore does not do that.  She expects you to go along for the ride and I love that about her.

First, a brief synopsis. Fire is a human monster, the last of her kind in a land that is filled with other monsters.  So there are humans and human monsters, and mice and mice monsters, etc.  Her monster powers include having really awesome hair and the ability to connect to other creature's minds. She can reach out and read other's thoughts and insert thoughts of her own.  Handy.  But it she sees the potential for abuse and tries very hard to not let anyone use it for evil, including herself. She has to come to understand what it means to be a monster and a human, and you know, help save the kingdom.  It was a fantastic story.

I was really struck by how womanly it was.  Fire isn't just a monster she is also a young woman with all the emotions (she's a big crier.  I loved her for it.), problems (periods, cramps, leering eyes), and power (motherhood, sisterhood, intuition, nurturing) that comes with being a woman. I didn't really even pick up on it until about halfway through so it's not so in your face about it.  But it deals with being a woman in a very refreshing and honest way.

And Fire is just really great. She's seems like such a real character; she thinks and acts like an 18 year old woman probably would, even with her supernatural abilities.

The story takes a lot of twists and turns and there's a lot of coming and going but it's well worth the effort of keeping up.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Book:  Graceling
Author:  Kristin Cashore
Like/Don't Like:  Loved!  I couldn't put it down.  Hooray!

This was what I needed.  It's been a lackluster year of reading for me.  I just haven't been taken with a book in a long time.  So this book was the perfect thing to read at the end of the year to leave me with the Blue Bird of Happiness in my literary heart.

Katsa lives in a land where a small percentage of the people are born with special talents or skills - graced.  Hers happens to be that she can kill people.  She doesn't relish in it. In the course of the book she meets another graceling who helps her understand her skill better and they go off and save a few people.  The writing is fantastic.  It zips along and keeps you wanting more. The characters seem believable enough - especially for a fantasy novel, which I often times find hard to stomach. And it was a great story told well, which all I ever want from a book.