Friday, May 15, 2015

Moving On

Hello, Everyone! I have decided to move on over to Wordpress. I've been thinking about taking a different approach to blogging for a while now, and it felt easier to start fresh. I'll be exclusively reviewing picture books over on my new Wordpress site. So, if you want to take a look, my new blog will be at: So if you're interested in children's books and story times, join me at Wordpress!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Favorite Movies Watched in 2014

Okay, one last post to wrap up my favorites from 2014. Then I can get back on track and start writing about what I'm currently reading and watching. I saw a lot of movies last year, but I've narrowed it down to eight favorites. The first four were movies that actually came out in 2014 that I saw in the movie theater, and the last four are movies that came out in 2013 that I saw on video last year. Here we go:

#1 The Grand Budapest Hotel: I love Wes Anderson. I own all of his movies, and I try to see everything he directs at least once in the movie theater. He is my favorite film director. And The Grand Budapest Hotel did not disappoint. The humor is dark, the cast is outstanding, and the sets and cinematography are incredible. It is everything you would expect from a Wes Anderson film. [Side-note: My brother got the DVD for me for Christmas this year, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the special features include the recipe and instruction video for Courtesan au Chocolat. See this video: How to Make Courtesan au Chocolat]

#2 Captain America: The Winter Soldier: If you have yet to join the Marvel Studios party, I would highly recommend that you do. It has been so much fun going to see all of these movies as they come out in the theater. I love waiting to the end of the credits for a hint of what's to come next. I love tuning into Agents of Shield after an opening weekend to see how the events unfolded in the latest film will effect the next episode. Captain America has become a favorite in this new movie universe Marvel has created. And The Winter Soldier is definitely one of my favorite movies in the entire series of Marvel films.

#3 Guardians of the Galaxy: Another Marvel Studios favorite from this year. This movie was simply a ton of fun! As I came out of the theater, I told the friend standing next to me, "I want to turn around immediately and watch it again." The soundtrack! I can't say enough about the soundtrack. The moment Chris Pratt started dancing to Come and Get Your Love  during the opening credits, I knew I was going to love this movie. [Side-note: I also fell in love with the character Groot because he reminds me of my brother, Will. When he smiles at the end of this scene his face transforms into my brother's for just a second. And I think if my brother didn't have MD, he would be a superhero with a heart of gold, just like Groot. (He's already a superhero, in my book.)]

#4 The Fault in Our Stars: I know that I have mentioned before that I am a huge fan of John Green. I really am. I took tissues to the theater the day my friend Jeanne and I went to see this because I'd already read the book, and I knew what was coming. This movie did such a wonderful job capturing the spirit of John Green's book. I was very pleased with the outcome. And yes, the story made me cry... again. But it's a beautiful story, and I would highly recommend reading the book and seeing the movie, if you haven't already. If you are so inclined, you can also visit the post in which I wrote about The Fault in Our Stars when the book first came out.

#5 Snowpiercer: If you do not like violence, I'm going to tell you right now: do not watch this movie. However, if you do like interesting, and somewhat strange, post-apocalyptic stories, then you might enjoy this one. And to truly enjoy this movie, you must be a person who can suspend their disbelief because it is about an impossible train that can circle the globe without ever stopping. In the Snowpiercer universe, the Earth is frozen over, and it's last inhabitants live on said impossible train.  A class system emerges on the train, and the lower class, tired of being mistreated, plan a revolt against the higher class and the leadership. I really enjoyed this movie, even though there were a couple of scenes I had to turn away from.

#6 In Your Eyes: This is a wonderful film by Joss Whedon about two people who discover they have an inexplicable telepathic link. The movie was never released in theaters which is kind of a shame because it is really good. But it is currently streaming on Netflix, and I believe you can also purchase a digital copy on Amazon. I would highly recommend seeing it. It was definitely a favorite from this year. It's sweet and charming, and I'm becoming increasingly impressed with Zoe Kazan. She is a marvelous actress and does a phenomenal job in this film.

#7 What If: This is another film starring Zoe Kazan, and her leading man is Daniel Radcliffe. He's not Harry Potter anymore, folks. Daniel is all grown up, and he's quite funny in this quirky romantic comedy about two friends who are seemingly perfect for each other. I've come to think of it as my generation's When Harry Met Sally.

#8 Begin Again: Starring Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffalo, this movie is about a down on his luck music producer who discovers a musical talent that might save his career. The film was directed by the same people who directed Once, so it is, not surprisingly, a heartwarming story full of great music.

All the movies I've mentioned in this post are currently out on DVD and you should be able to find them at your local library. Happy viewing! :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Favorite Picture Books of 2014

It's still January, so it's still okay to post about my favorites from 2014, right? Right. Next on my list is picture books. Some of my all time favorite books are picture books. One of my favorite things in the world is to read out loud to just about anyone who will listen. I don't care if you are two or 92, I will sit with you and read a picture book, and I promise you'll laugh. Or cry. Or sometimes both.

Oliver Jeffers

My #1 picture book of 2014 is the best alphabet book I've read since LMNO Peas, by Keith Baker. And, of course, it was written by the very talented Oliver Jeffers. It's called Once Upon an Alphabet. Seriously, Oliver Jeffers is amazing! One of my favorite books to read for story time is This Moose Belongs to Me because you get to yell the phrase, "Hey! This moose belongs to me!"

My #2 picture book is about a shy little boy who loved words. His name was Peter Mark Roget. This lovely picture book tells the true story about his invention of the thesaurus. The book is called The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, by Jennifer Fisher Bryant. 

The next book on my list is by Philip C. Stead. A couple of years ago, I fell in love with his book A Sick Day for Amos McGee, a lovely story about the a zoo keeper who has to take a sick day, and how the animals of the zoo surprise him because he's sorely missed. In 2014, he wrote a book about a boy who goes on an adventure in a hot air balloon made from quilts and afghans called Sebastian and His Balloon. This story is beautiful and magical, just like Amos McGee.

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads, by Bob Shea has to be on my list. I read this out loud with my coworker Linda. We were laughing to the point of tears, passing the book back and fourth and doing voices for all the colorful characters. The Kid Sheriff doesn't know a whole lot about law enforcement, but he certainly has a vast knowledge of dinosaurs. It's hysterical. It's inspired us to do a cowboy theme at the library this spring.

#5 would have to be Gaston, by Kelly DiPucchio. An adorable story about two dogs that were unknowingly switched at birth and couldn't figure out why they didn't quite fit in with their families. I love the illustrations by Christian Robinson, and the story is very sweet. It would be a great pick for children who love dogs or for a dog themed story time.

The first book I ever read by Mac Burnett was called, Mustache, and I loved it! It told the hilarious story about a terrible and vain king who was obsessed with his looks, but not very good at taking care of his subjects. His latest book is called Telephone, and it cleverly describes what happens when important information is passed from person to person along the grapevine (or in this case, from bird to bird along the telephone wire.)

The Pigeon Needs a Bath, by Mo Willems. The Pigeon is back! My list would not be complete, if I didn't include a story by Mo Willems, and I'm so happy he brought Pigeon back in 2014! Mr. Willems is hands-down my all-time favorite writer of children's books. I've read Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus out loud so many times, I practically have it memorized, and still, it never gets old. I just can't say enough about Mo and his wonderful books from Elephant and Piggie to Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Every book this man publishes is a treasure.

The final book on my list of favorites is Mister Bud Wears the Cone, by Carter Goodrich. I fell in love with Mister Bud and his little pal Zorro in the 2011 favorite Say Hello to Zorro, a classic story of opposites reluctantly attracting. In this new installment, Mr. Bud has to wear the "cone of shame." Poor Mister Bud! It's always something. Mister Bud and Zorro would also make a great addition to your dog themed story time or a great gift for dog lovers of all ages.

I hope you have a lot of fun reading these wonderful stories!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Favorites of 2014

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. And I always challenge myself to a ridiculously high number because I read a lot of picture books and comic books. I was looking through the titles I read in 2014, and decided I would create a list of my favorites from the year. It's been over a year since I've updated this blog, so I thought this might be a good way to get back into the swing of things. I'll begin with adult fiction.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman
Coralie Sardie's father owned The Museum of Extraordinary Things on the Boardwalk near Coney Island in New York. He preferred to call the people in his employ wonders, rather than freaks. Coralie grew up thinking of The Wolfman and The Butterfly Girl as friends and not freaks of nature, as the world outside had come to see them.

I fell in love with Alice Hoffman's book, The Dovekeepers, in 2011 and just knew I would love this book too. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is a wonderful love story, and a beautiful portrait of New York in the early 20th century. If you're like me, and you really enjoy historical fiction with a little bit of weirdness, I would highly recommend this one.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler
After reading The Great Gatsby in my Literature of Conflict class my senior year of high school, I knew I wanted to study English in college. That book also began my life-long love affair with the books and stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. So when a novel about Scott's wife Zelda, told from Zelda's perspective, crossed over the circulation desk at the library, I had to read it. I've always been a little fascinated with the mythology of the Fitzgerald's. I've come to learn over the years that a lot of what we believe about them is, in fact, fiction. But they did lead quite extraordinary lives. And even though their marriage was rocky, they were, in fact, passionately in love.

Z is also a work of fiction, but the author tried to remain as true to reality as she could. It is a fast paced and enjoyable read, and it got me interested in doing some research of my own. So I read The Romantic Egoists, a book of pictures and scrapbook pages compiled by their daughter Scottie Fitzgerald. I would recommend both books to anyone interested in learning a little more about Scott Fitzgerald and his very exuberant wife, Zelda.

The Beginning of Everything, by Robyn Schneider
This book would definitely qualify as the best YA book I read in 2014. Our protagonist, Ezra Faulkner, is a tennis star at his school, until a debilitating accident takes away his ability to play and with it, his popularity. He has to make a decision: eat lunch alone or reconnect with his childhood best friend, Toby. Toby is not the most popular guy in school, but he is definitely one of the happiest. Since he and Ezra parted ways in middle school, Toby has come into his own. He is confident and comfortable with who he is.

This book is darkly humorous and thoughtfully challenges high school stereotypes.  It reminded me a lot of this really interesting nonfiction book I read a few years ago called The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. I would recommend The Beginning of Everything to anyone who enjoys the books of John Green or Maureen Johnson. It has a similar type of humor and is full of fun literary and pop culture references.

Trillium, by Jeff Lemire
Trillium tells the story of two people, one from the distant past and one from the distant future, who meet by traveling through space and time. It is a beautiful and a little unusual love story that has one of the best meet-cutes I've ever seen in a comic series.

I really love Jeff Lemire! After reading his comic book series, Sweet Tooth, I was completely hooked. I get really excited when I find out he's going to start something new. He wrapped up his eight issue series Trillium in 2014, and I absolutely loved it! The series is now out in trade, so I would definitely recommend that you go to your local comic shop (or library) and pick one up.

I think I will leave it there, for now, and write a separate post for children's and picture books because a lot of good ones came out in 2014.