Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Golden Compass (DVD, 2008)

This is a don't miss movie. I'm sorry I missed it in the theater. The CGI is magnificent. I could run out of superlatives describing this film starring a remarkable young woman named Dakota Blue Richards playing the lead role as Lyra. Nicole Kidman plays a deliciously evil Mrs. Coulter and Sam Eliot is absolutely perfect as Lee Scoresby.
Based on a book by Philip Pullman, this is a wonderful, fantasy, gutsy girl story full of amazing creatures and chilly locations.
Fantasy fans should not miss this!
My rating for this movie: +++++

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Juno (DVD, 2008)

Ellen Page plays a teenager who gets pregnant and decides to give it up for adoption. She finds a couple (played by Justin Bateman and Jennifer Garner) who want to be parents to her baby (she much more than her husband). We follow Juno from when she first learns she's pregnant, makes the tough decision about keeping the child, and procedes through her pregnancy. Juno's character is very bright, very sarcastic, and she becomes truly concerned about the future of her child.
With all of the "drama" of high school, this movie shows how pregnancy takes the reality of life to a whole new level and launches Juno into adulthood just that much sooner. Her pregnancy is not glamorized and the decisions she has to make are not trivialized. With all of her wisecracking, she takes care of herself, continues to attend school, and takes the steps necessary to ensure a good place for her child.
I loved this movie but I have grown very tired of the song they sang at the end.
My rating for this movie: ++++

The Miracle at Speedy Motors (2008)

This is the ninth book in Alexander McCall Smith's series which started with The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency and I have loved every one of them. Precious Ramotswe started her detective agency in Gaborone, Botswana after her father died and left her a herd of cattle. Through the series she has been joined by an assistant named Mma Makutsi, married Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni, and adopted two orphans, one of whom is confined to a wheelchair. This series has taken me to a very foreign country and immersed me in its gentle and proud culture. Technology in her business is limited to a telephone and a typewriter. Large women are referred to as "traditionally built". She putters around in an old white van and helps people solve mysteries. In this book, she helps a woman look for information about her birth mother and seeks the writer of threatening notes. Not as exciting as Tom Clancy or as technologically savvy as Patricia Cornwell's characters, Mma Ramotswe uses her knowledge of human character to find answers. When I read these books I purposely slow down so that they last longer. I can give a book no higher praise.
My rating for this book (and the whole series) - +++++

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Looking for JJ (2007)

I didn't do it on purpose. Honest. Somehow I just read two books in a row about girls trying to shed their past. Anne Cassidy is a British writer who has written a story about a girl who made a terrible mistake. This time, however, it is a ten-year old girl, Jennifer, who hit her friend, Michelle, with a bat killing her. The events leading up to this tragedy involve a mother making poor choices, not considering how they might affect her child. The victim was a rather obnoxious child who didn't much think about how her actions affected people. Throw into the mix a family with a sick mother, an absentee father, two nutso brothers and a girl with little backbone. The mother had to go to the hospital so the girl, Lucy, moved into Michelle's house, putting more pressure on Jennifer and Michelle's relationship. Things came to a head when Lucy's brothers put into plain language the unfortunate career choice Jennifer's mother was taking and Michelle made one thoughtless remark too many.
The story jumps back and forth from Jennifer's present life-in-hiding to her past. She spent a few years in prison and was released to live with her parole officer with a new identity. It wasn't easy to hide a secret like this especially with the press clamoring for a good story. When it looked like her cover was blown, what would happen to her? Would her new boyfriend understand? Would she be able to attend the university.
The language and pacing of this story feel a little awkward like many British novels do but it is well worth the time. My rating for this book: +++

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Story of a Girl (2007)

What's this? Two blogs in one day? How can this be? Well, I started "Masquerade" but it was checked out before I could finish. So I started "Story of a Girl". Because of our library being closed, I had lots of time to read so I finished both books in one day. Truely, I do work in the library.
Sara Zarr has given us a story of how hard it is to overcome one event in our lives. Deanna was 13 years old when she started having sex with a 17-year old friend of her brother. Her father caught them in the act and pulled her out of Tommy's car. Tommy displayed his maturity by telling everyone about the event and she was labeled a slut, a reputation that was impossible to live down.
Three years later Deanna has not even had a single date, her father still won't look at her, and everyone still considers her a slut and whispers behind her back. She feels that there is nothing she can do to get past this.
"This is the thing: Pacifica is a stupid small town with only one real high school, where everyone knows everyone else's business and the rumors never stop until some other kid is dumb enough to do something that makes a better story. But my story had the honor of holding the top spot for over two years running. I mean, a senior getting caught with his pants down on top of an eighth-grade girl, by the girl's father ("No way! Her father? I'd just kill myself!") was pretty hard to beat."
Deanna is a strong girl who refuses to be beaten down. Even when she takes a job where she comes in daily contact with the source of her problem, she pushes on, determined to show everyone she is better than they realize.
I highly recommend this to girls in school who feel they are marked for life by one event. Deanna's solution will give them hope and maybe an idea on how to change others' views.
My rating for this book: ++++

Masquerade: A Blue Bloods Novel (2007)

Schuyler is hot on the trail of the Silver Bloods in this sequel to "Blue Bloods" by Melissa De La Cruz. This book opens with Schuyler going to Venice with Oliver to search for answers from her grandfather. Meanwhile, back in the world of the vampires in New York City, plans are in motion for the biggest event of the year, the Four Hundred Ball. Someone is sheltering the Silver Blood responsible for the attacks on the Blue Bloods and they have to be found. The more Blue Bloods he (or she) kills, the harder it will be to destroy him so time is of the essence.
In this sequel, Schuyler learns about being a vampire and how to use her special skills. One of these skills even helps save Mimi from having her blood burned when she was suspected of being the Silver Blood. There's more to come in this series. Also, her relationship with Oliver changes in a very dramatic way!
My rating for this book: ++++