Monday, December 10, 2007


Most of the time I've watched this movie after discovering it by surfing through the channels, it's already in progress, and it's on a channel that chops it up and positively ruins it with ads and/or commentary by some self-proclaimed expert who should know better than talk in the middle of a movie. This weekend, however, I watched the entire movie, every minute, from the opening to the credits at the end with every single word, smoldering look, and plot development in order and uncut - as it should be. I felt all the tension the director worked so hard to create; tension caused by the invasion of Casablanca by the Nazis, people trying to get to America to get away from the Nazis, and the relationships between Rick and Ilsa, and Ilsa and Victor.

Humphrey Bogart was not a very handsome man. He had a small jaw, crooked teeth, and he wasn't very buff but he stands among giants when it comes to rugged and tough individuals. Ingrid Bergman, on the other hand, was one of the most beautiful actresses to grace the screen, even in black and white. One thing that stands out in this movie is how her eyes sparkle when there are tears in them. This small thing is either totally lost or greatly diminished in color movies. Claude Rains and Peter Lorre are perfect in their supporting roles as policeman and rogue respectively.

If you have never seen this movie, you must! Run, don't walk, to Blockbuster or Netflix and rent it. You will be amazed at the number of lines you already know from this movie. You will feel like you have seen this movie already, so much of it will be familiar. "This could be the start of a beautiful friendship." "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine." And one of the most misquoted exchanges: "Rick: You know what I want to hear. Sam: [lying] No, I don't. Rick: You played it for her, you can play it for me! Sam: [lying] Well, I don't think I can remember... Rick: If she can stand it, I can! Play it!" You may have heard the line, "Play it again, Sam," but Rick never says that.
This movie won the Oscar for best film for 1943, the American Film Institute voted it as the #3 Greatest Movie of All Times and it also won for the #1 Most Memorable Line -
"Here's looking at you, kid."

Thursday, December 6, 2007


"This is how it happens, I thought, that people become homeless. One thing goes wrong, then another, and then everything unravels, like pulling a thread and having the cloth come apart in your hands." One minute Adam is sitting in the car with his parents going home cross-country and the next he is on the side of the road, alone, after a fatal car accident. Suffering from shock, unable to speak, he has only one goal - to get home.

Aftershock, by Kelly Easton, is about Adam's journey home, the people he meets, the search for money and food to sustain him, and the memories of his life with his parents and friends. I couldn't help but wonder at the resilience of the mind having to deal with a situation like this. Others might just sit down and begin the grieving process right there but Adam's reaction was an overwhelming need to get home. Had someone found him there by the car, there would have been a very different story since he would have received medical attention and not left to wander from Idaho to Texas to Virginia, and finally to Rhode Island. Along the way he met good people, and not-so-good people to absolutely horrible people.
I would recommend this if you like books about hardship and survival.
My rating for this book: +++

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pop up cards

I have had so much fun making pop up cards using instructions from the Wikihow website. The reindeer, the angel, the Christmas tree and the poinsetta are so colorful and (dare I use that word) CUTE!
Since I have done them several times, I have added my own twists to a couple of them. For instance, on the poinsetta, I cut-and-pasted both templates and printed them on one piece of red printing paper. I then did a cut-and-paste and printed the second template on one piece of green card stock. I cut out the double-pointed-end shape on the red template, folded it in half and glued it to the green template over the same shape. I then proceeded to tape the other pieces as per the instructions.
The reindeer card is probable my favorite. I printed the templates out on dark brown construction paper. After I cut out the pieces and before I glued them in, I pasted a small piece of red on the reindeer's nose and inked in some eyes.
The Christmas tree ( and angel ( beg for glitter. I make the tree on green card stock and the angel on white card stock. The angel would definitely be easiest by cutting first, then glittering before gluing. I used my three hole punch and scrap pieces of white, yellow, red, and blue to punch out "ornaments" and then glued them to the tree after the card was glued together.
I hope you have as much fun making these cards as I did.

Monday, December 3, 2007

New Moon

Well, if having a boyfriend who is a vampire isn't enough, Bella's best friend turned out to be a werewolf, sworn enemy of vampires. Could she pick them or what?

At the end of Twilight, Edward and his "family" left the town of Forks, Washington, leaving behind a totally distraught Bella. She reconnected with Jacob, her Spokane Indian friend in order to satisfy her father's wish to socialize again. She discovered that if she involved herself with dangerous activities she heard Edward's voice, so she put herself in peril just to hear his voice again. When she decided to dive off a cliff for a thrill Alice, one of the vampires who has a not completely reliable talent to foresee events, reported to Edward that she made the dive, but not that she almost drowned and was rescued by Jacob. Edward, in true Romeo and Juliet fashion, decided that he could not exist without Bella in the world and went to Florence, Italy, where the only beings that could bring about his demise lived. And the chase was on!

When I read these books, I couldn't help but think of people with HIV/Aids who have a relationship with a non-infected person. On one hand, you want to have a physical relationship, but on the other hand you are totally aware that losing control could mean accidentally infecting your partner. Edward loved Bella so much he held back so that he wouldn't lose control and risk biting her and damning her to immortality even though she loved him so much that the idea of eternally being a teenager in love appealled to her. What a dilemma!
Now I have to wait for the last book, Eclipse, to be returned so I can read it. Definitely something I look forward to.

I would not recommend reading this book unless you have read Twilight first. Bella's emotional turmoil in the first 200 pages would be quite hard to plow through if you don't have the background to help make it relevant.
My rating for this book: +++++

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

"It sucks to be poor, and it sucks to feel that you somehow deserve to be poor. You start believing that you're poor because you're stupid and ugly. And then you start believing that you're stupid and ugly because you're Indian. And because you're Indian you start believing you're destined to be poor. It's an ugly circle and there's nothing you can do about it."

Yes, it's yet another book about a down and out teenager rising above his circumstances and making a whole new life for himself. Or is it? Junior attended a school on a Spokane Indian reservation and hit the roof one day when he opened a "new" textbook and found out that it had been around so long his mother had it when whe was in high school! It was time for a change so he asked his parents to transfer him to an all-white school off of the "rez". Even though they knew they may not have enough money for gas to drive him there and back, they transfered him to Reardon. That's when the real fun started.

One of the things that always happens to our heroes in these books is that they connect with one of two people who befriend our hero and helps him get through the rough times. In this instance, Junior befriended a geeky guy named Gordy, a real departure from his friend from the rez, Rowdy, a bully who was repeatedly beaten up on by his father.

Another thing that frequently happens in this type of book is that our hero returns home to face the people he "deserted" when he went where they didn't dare to go. For Junior, this took place on a basketball court when his school Reardon, met the reservation school team on their home court. Junior walked out on the court with his team, the only non-white member, and the entire gymnasium went completely quiet. I think that would make most people's hearts sink, but our unusual hero responded by laughing! I'll let you read the book to see what happens from this point.

This book won the 2007 National Book Award and joins the ranks of wonderful youth literature including books like Holes and The House of the Scorpion.

My rating for this book: +++++

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Dark Horse Book of the Dead & Hauntings

These two graphic novels are anthologies of stories written by different authors. Of course, the thing I love about short stories is that if one story doesn't appeal to me, I can skip it and go on to the next one. Each book has a story featuring Hell Boy, who helps humans by fighting demons from the underworld. Not all the stories are drawn, some are straight text but are terrific as well. The stories I liked the most were written by Evan Dorkin with art by Jill Thompson. They feature dogs and cats! My favorite, though, is the one featured in Hauntings called Stray. It opens with dogs howling to call "the wise one" to help them figure out how to fix a haunted dog house. One of the neighborhood cats gets involved and even becomes the main event in releasing the spirit haunting the house. This story was, at the same time, scary, funny, and a little sad.
These books will appeal to readers of scary stories as well as readers of graphic novels. If you have never read a graphic novel before, this might be your entry into a new world!
My rating for these books: ++++

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I Am the Great Horse

This book is for lovers of historical fiction and horse stories. Alexander the Great's huge black warhorse, Bucephalus, is the narrator of this story which follows Alexander across Asia in his quest to conquer the world. I've read lots of animal stories written from the animals' view but I think this is the first time I've read a people story written from the animal's viewpoint. Not being a horse person I think I have learned quite a bit about the character of this noble creature and I don't think there are many horses more noble than Bucephalus was.

The story begins when Bucephalus first meets twelve-years old Alexander. Alexander sees the horse is blind in his left eye, the side most riders mount from, and is able to calm him down and mount him from the right side. This is the beginning of a relationship that lasts through battles, hardships, and victories.

I have to admit I have never been a good student of history. Too much so-and-so did such-and-such on this-or-that date for me. Give me a good story placed in history where I get to know the people, their country, their life styles and I'm much happier. One of my favorite series of books is about Horatio Hornblower who rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy on board war ships battling Napoleon and pirates. When I was in high school, I was a big reader and if I had nothing else handy to read I would pull Gone with the Wind, open it up to any page and start reading it for the upteenth time.

I wasn't able to finish I Am the Great Horse, though, because of my problem with animal stories. There is always that point in the book where tears start to fall, whether they are for happiness or sadness, it doesn't matter, and reading through tears gives me a headache! My kids tease me to no end when we watch a movie because they know the exact moment to turn around and catch me reaching for the tissues. If someone reads this book, let me know what happened after page 394.

Pick this book up for a great ride!

My rating for this book: +++

Monday, November 26, 2007


So, you might think that since I had a nice long weekend I must have done a lot of reading but you would be wrong. In between cooking and holiday shopping, I've been knitting. And unfortunately, you can't read and knit at the same time. Last winter I started a vest for myself but I didn't finish it. Since then I've crocheted a couple of afghans (one won a Best in Division award at the country fair). Ihave to admit I'm not very good at finishing projects since I get bored, lose interest, or get stuck. I did fine until I got to the point in the project where the armholes are and couldn't understand the directions. I thought I knew what to do but I was afraid to go ahead and possibly mess it up. I finally got up the nerve to divide the work up and leave stiches on stich holders. I continued up the back part but then realized I was forgetting to decrease stiches after about six rows. I tried to decrease the rows and then read the instructions again and found I was really messing up.
Now I was really in trouble since I needed to rip out about 13 rows (of a cable stich pattern). I laid the vest out on my ironing board and carefully ripped out the rows until I got back to the place where I divided it up. Now I could start over but I couldn't get the pattern to work on the row I thought I was. I struggled and fussed and was generally unpleasant to everyone until I realized I wasn't reading the pattern right. I finally got back on track and I am moving along nicely again.
So, why do I subject myself to such toil and trouble for a hobby? I love the feel of yarn and seeing something grow under my hands. I get a lot of satisfaction out of finally understanding the pattern. And, I hope, someday, to have a pretty vest to wear.
My daughter asked me to knit her a pair of fingerless gloves to wear when she works on her laptop in the winter. She found a pattern on the Internet and we chose a yarn for it. It will be a new challenge since the pattern involves double ended needles. I have wanted to try and knit socks using double ended needles so this should be a good way to learn the process.
In the meantime, we sit under the full sized afghan on the couch, with me knitting and her working away on her laptop.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving with lots of family around you enjoying all the best turkey meals. My favorite recipe comes from a Bon Appetit magazine from 1995. It has been a standard in my house since then. One of the techniques in this recipe involves mashing butter, crumbled bacon and chopped sage leaves together and gently working the combo under the skin. When the turkey is nicely browned, the pieces of bacon and sage are visible under the crisp skin. Chopped leeks, sage leaves, and bay leaves season the turkey from the inside. Here is the link to the recipe on
The dressing that accompanied the turkey in this recipe is our favorite dressing recipe. It uses sourdough bread cubes, mushrooms, bacon, leeks, and other veggies. It is not stuffed inside the turkey but baked in a separate dish (considered safer by most dieticians). My son loves this dressing so much it is what he requests for his birthday dinner.
Homemade cranberry-orange relish, creamed onions, mashed potatoes, string beans, and lots of gravy round off the menu. For dessert I'll make old fashioned apple pie and pumpkin pie with pecans and brown sugar for decoration.
If you need help with your turkey, there are lots of web sites, including which has English and Spanish instructions for beginners and experts alike.

The Alchemist

"You should pay more attention to the caravan," the boy said to the Englishman, after the camel driver had left. "We make a lot of detours, but we're always heading for the same destination."
"And you ought to read more about the world," answered the Englishman. "Books are like caravans in that respect."

This is a "journey" book, a book about discovery and self realization, in which a young shepherd in Spain has his fortune told and is informed he will find a hidden treasure near the pyramids in Egypt. He decides to seek his fortune, he sells his sheep, and embarks on his journey. Along the way he meets all sorts of people and learns something from each of them. When I read this book I couldn't help but think of all the people I have met and books I have read over the years and how I learned something from each of them. We may not always have an "Aha" flash from each encounter like the shepherd boy has but something will sink in and make us wiser in the long run.

This book has an interview with the Brazilian-born author and a reader's guide which gives you some more to consider after you've read the book. This was an extremely popular book and has been translated into 65 languages from its original Portuguese. You can read it as a simple fable or as a deeper, more meaningful story. On either level it's bound to make you think about yourself.
My rating for this book: +++

Friday, November 16, 2007


I had to read this book in the hours (!) it wasn't checked out. So many people asked to check it out that I wanted to see what was the big deal about it. Well, I could hardly tear myself away from this riveting story. The story opens when Bella moves from her mother's house in sunny, warm Arizona to live with her father in a small town in rainy, gray, cold Washington state. She is attracted to a mysterious, drop-dead gorgeous guy in her class who turns out to be a vampire. His family, related only by their unusual eating habits, chose the town of Forks, Washington for its overcast weather (they can go outside during daylight hours) and excellent hunting (not humans). Her relationship with Edward develops and complications abound. It's a very interesting twist on the old boy-meets-girl story and I found myself thinking that I couldn't wait to see the movie because of the scenery of the area, the vampires' appearance, and how their way of moving fast would be portrayed.
It is no wonder this book is on the ALA Top Ten Book for Teens. Twilight is followed by New Moon and Eclipse. I think I will read these books over winter break if they aren't checked out.
I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a love story and you like the unusual and a bit of action.
My rating for this book: +++++

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Books

This just in! We have recently acquired two more books from the ALA Top Ten for Teens. All Hallow's Eve: 13 Stories by Vivian Vande Velde is a collection of short stories that is guaranteed to be a Halloween classic. Bad Kitty by Michele Jaffe sounds like a lot of fun. It is a murder mystery that takes place in Las Vegas. The latest book by Stephenie Meyer is here, Eclipse, as is the latest Anthony Horwitz thriller, Snakehead.
If there is a book you want to read and we don't have it, we have a Suggestion Box. We do our best to get these books for you. Write down the title and author on one of the slips of paper in the box. We try to fill these requests the best we can.

Did you know you can check your library account from home? From the Napa High Website, go to the library page and click on Web Collection Plus. On the far right of the toolbar there is a button called "My Info". Enter your ID number where it says Barcode and your last name for the Password. You can see what books you have out, their due date, and any fines or holds you currently have.
It is possible to place a hold on books yourself, too. If you search for a book title and find one you really want, click on "Place Hold". When it is returned to the library, we will be notified that you placed a hold on it and a note will be sent to you forthwith that it is available. If your hold is for a book that is already in, it will not be checked out to anyone else until you come in to check it out. How easy is that?!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Library Thing

If you want to learn more about the books I've reviewed here, look in the left hand pane for a link called "my library". This connects to a site called Library Thing which is a fun way to list all the books you have read or would like to read. When you add a book to the list you can create "tags" which are subject words you would associate with the book. When you have put a number of books in your library, you create something called a "tag cloud" which displays how frequent a tag appears by making it bigger the more often it is used. For instance, if you like sports books, you may use the words "sports" along with the sport featured such as "soccer" or "frisbee" as tags for your books. The tag cloud would then show "sports" in a bigger font size than the names of the sports.
There are many people who have created their own lists and allow you to peruse their lists. You have the option to make your list public or keep it private.
If you are interested in setting up your own Library Thing account, come by the library. I would be glad to help you get started. It's free!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Echo & Weetzie Bat

Francesca Lia Block really likes to write about the Los Angeles scene. These two books are full of references of places, events, and life styles that are typical of L.A. I found it interesting that the main character in both of these books went to New York and made the Metropolitan Museum their favorite place there. I wonder if it is the same in her other books. Echo and Weetzie are both trying to discover who they are. In the end they both find someone. Echo ends up with a guy and Weetzie ends up with a housefull of characters one might call a family. I ended up wondering how these stories would continue since they end rather abruptly. Weetzie Bat continues for four more books but Echo doesn't.
These are short and very fast reads. I recommend this author if you are looking for a quick piece of candy in between more challenging stories.
My rating for these books: ++

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Arrival

Don't you love to find something truly fantastic before all the critics tell you it's fantastic? Not too long ago I was visiting our neighborhood bookstore with my daughter and my friend and I were perusing the teen books when I noticed a tall, thin hardcovered book called The Arrival by Shaun Tan. I opened it up and didn't move until I was through it. There is not a single word in this book but it tells the familiar story of a man who has to leave his family and move to a new country to make a living. The wonderful thing about this book is that you really understand what it feels like to arrive in a new place where everything is foreign to you.
In this book, when the man arrives at his destination, he is confronted with fantastic and unfamiliar animals and architecture. Even the words are in an alphabet totally unfamiliar to him (and us). All through the story he meets people who are helpful even though they can't speak his language. Eventually he is able to find a place to live and a job and in the end he brings his family to his new country. The story goes full circle when he helps another new arrival.
You can find this book in our graphic novel section.
My rating for this book: +++++

Thursday, November 8, 2007

ALA Top Ten Books for Teens

The American Library Association has released its annual Top Ten Books for Teens.

Not surprisingly, Stephanie Meyer's book, New Moon, is at the top of the list. I've been trying to read her first book, Twilight, but students keep checking it out! Hopefully we'll have the third book, Eclipse, by the time I've finished the first two. This series chronicles the relationship between Bella and Edward. Bella is a normal teenage girl who moves to Washington state to live with her father and builds a relationship with a very unusual young man who is a...., well, let's just say he isn't human. (If you don't already know, you'll have to find out yourself.)
No. 2 on the list is another very popular title, Just Listen, by Sarah Dessen. We have this book and several others by her. I haven't read any of her books yet but she is on my daughter's favorite authors list.
If you are interested in any other titles on the ALA list, we currently have Life As We Knew It, River Secrets, and Road of the Dead. We will probably order the other books on the list but it will take a while until we get them.
It's always a problem of too many books and not enough time. Unfortunately, authors keep writing and I keep adding more titles to my list of want-to-reads so I may never finish reading them all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Help with Word 2007

Just when you thought you had a handle on Word 97/2003, we installed all new computers with Office 2007 in the library. If you would like to learn more about this version of Word, Microsoft offers free on-line tutorials. You need to be on a computer with Word 2007, however. If you would like to try the tutorials here in the library, borrow a set of head phones. The courses run from 30 to 50 minutes. I would recommend the first one called "Up to Speed with Word 2007." Then if you want to learn about advanced features, take more of the tutorials and turn yourself into a real Word Whiz!

Remember, Word 2007 can "read" documents made with earlier versions but not the reverse. If you need to open 2007 documents on other computers, save it as a Word 97/2003 document.

Diamonds in the Shadow (2007)

This is the first book by Caroline B. Cooney I have read and it won't be the last! This is the perfect casual read; it's not too long, it's very exciting, and covers interesting topics.
A suburban New York family fosters a refugee family from Africa and is confronted with issues they could not possibly have anticipated. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that readers will gain an appreciation for events going on now in Africa.
I would recommend this book to readers who like fast action to hold their interest.
My rating: +++

Monday, November 5, 2007

Freedom Writers Diary (1999)

The Freedom Writers Diary is the first book I'm going review on this blog. This book is a collection of diary entries written over a 4-year period by students in an English class led by a most remarkable teacher. Erin Gruwell's first teaching assignment was a 9th grade class of kids that had been kicked out of other classes and other schools. To say it was a challenge to get their attention is an understatement! What she and her class accomplished is a true inspiration.
The kids did not know that anyone would ever read their diaries so there is stark honesty in every word written. What happened in the lives of these kids was tragic. What they accomplished was nothing less than astounding.
I wanted to chose one entry to write about but it's too hard to choose only one. Drugs, gangs, abuse, learning disabilities, homelessness, alcohol, you name it, they've lived it. I would recommend this book to students who have personal problems and think that they don't have the time or energy to spare for school. Hopefully they could see that it is imperative to find support and inspiration and plow through these difficult times to achieve the goal of a good education. That is the reason these kids published their work, to give hope to others in similar situations and show that it is possible to get out and rise above what life has given them.
My rating for this book: +++++