Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Little Lit: The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi

Perry is an only child and she doesn't see the world quite the way other people do, a trait she has in common with her grandmother, Honora Lee, who she visits weekly with her father. Perry's parents believe that only children should be kept busy. Music lessons, dance class--every day has something planned. Then her movement class is unexpectedly and suddenly canceled and Perry convinces her parents to let her spend Thursday afternoons with her grandmother, Honora Lee, at the Santa Lucia rest home. As Perry gets to know her grandmother better and learns more about the other residents she decides to create an alphabet book all about Santa Lucia for a school project. What starts out as a simple project turns into an exploration of family, life, and the little moments that tie people together.

What I Liked:

  • I loved Perry's voice. Though it's not explicitly stated there is a sense that she is somewhere on the autism spectrum and I loved the way that was expressed through her language and through the illustrations.
  • The illustrations were beautifully chaotic - I thought they were a perfect representation of Perry's mind.
  • I enjoyed the portrayal of Perry's family. They certainly aren't perfect and her parents are rather stereotypically distracted parents, but they do care about Perry and I liked the way that Perry starts to see the connections between her father and grandmother and her parents and herself.
  • I really loved the way the residents of the rest home were portrayed as well. De Goldi captures the perspective of a child really well in her depictions of Perry's reactions to and interactions with the seniors especially.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • I really wanted to see the alphabet! I wish it could have been included at the end of the book.
  • I thought this was a sweet book.
  • I really enjoyed it and it made me laugh and tear up a bit as well.
  • I will definitely be on the lookout for more books by this author.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Downton Abbey 6.7

Another week closer to the end...

But let's not think about that - let's talk about last week's episode as we get ready for tonight!

Rebecca T: I have to start with my favorite exchange of the week:
Daisy: "Oh my God"
Mrs. Hughes: "Don't take the name of the Lord in vain!"
Daisy: "I hope it's not in vain - I need all the help I can get!"
Daisy cracks. me. up.
It was nice to see all of her studying and plans coming to fruition, but I think what I loved the most was Mr. Molesley getting the recognition he deserves for how hard he's worked to educate himself. The look on his face when the school master complimented him made me tear up.

Jenn N: I love Mr Molesely so it's great to finally see him getting this respect he deserves. And I'm glad that Andy is getting help with his reading but I feel bad that Thomas is once again misplaced.

Rebecca T: I knew no one was going to make fun of Andy for not being able to read. I really wonder if he is dyslexic or has some other learning disability. It was nice of Thomas to try to help him, but I'm glad he's getting more professional help since that wasn't working.

Rebecca T: I know I've been a hostile toward Carson's attitude, so I was excited to see what Mrs. Patmore's idea was and I was not disappointed! That plan was so much better and more effective than dumping a plate in his lap or smashing a pie into his face.

Jenn N: Mrs Patmore's plan was awesome. I loved watching Carson puttering around and trying to cook. Hopefully he has new-found respect for Mrs Hughes cooking efforts.

Rebecca T: And then, of course, there was the race. (side note, I adored Mary's outfit) I knew something was going to go horribly wrong and I'm really glad Mary broke it off. Something just doesn't feel right about Talbot and, as much as I absolutely adore Tom and love the care and brotherly love he shows Mary, I don't think he's right on this. Mary and Talbot are all kinds of wrong for each other.

Jenn N: I'm also glad that Mary broke things off with the racer. It was a shame she had to it on the day his friend died but he was really pressing things too far with her.

Rebecca T: I definitely sensed them nudging Tom toward Edith's editor. As much as I like her in the little bit we've seen of her, I'm kind of annoyed at the feeling like they're desperately trying to pair everyone up because heaven forbid anyone (upstairs or down) be left single. Ahem. But one couple I'm excited to see move things forward is Edith and Bertie. They are so adorable together and I'm so glad he's been there for Edith through all of these things. I just hope she tells him the truth about Marigold before the wedding.

Jenn N: I hope that Edith does tell Bertie the truth about Marigold. He seems like he'd understand.

Rebecca T: I can't believe Violet just ran off like that, but the puppy is so cute.

Jenn N: Does this show really have to end?!!!!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Little Lit and GIVEAWAY!: Becoming Maria by Sonia Manzano

Usually I lean heavily toward fiction over non-fiction, but I've been trying to read more non-fiction and this book, which I picked up at BookExpo America this year, looked really intriguing.

Sonia would grow up to be best known as Maria on Sesame Street. But what happened on the journey that led her there? Manzano writes about her rather chaotic childhood growing up in the South Bronx, her bumpy high school career, and the first steps that would eventually lead her to the Sesame Street audition.
Want a chance to win my advanced reader copy? Just enter using the Rafflecopter form at the end of the post. You've got 2 weeks, so spread the word! (unfortunately we have to limit this to our US followers, but know that we love you ALL)

What I Liked:
  • I really liked the way Manzano dealt with her childhood memories. Rather than trying to package it in a clean, chronological narrative, she titled it "Fragments" and allowed it to be messy and rough, which perfectly reflected the events taking place as well. In the Acknowledgments, Manzano says this: "lives are more often shaped and colored by how we remember those events and the series of feelings that went along with them." This is completely true, and Manzano is more concerned with getting the feeling, the jumble, the mix of emotions and events and she does it well.
  • Even though the narrative begins to feel more cohesive as she recounts more recent events, the style stays consistent. Narrating in first person present tense makes each event seem more immediate and significant.
  • She doesn't sugar coat anything. Her rocky family relationships, her parents' significant problems, her own fears and insecurities are laid out but it isn't all grim. Manzano also doesn't shy away from the good, either, even when the happiness and good things are mixed up in the upsetting or bad.
  • I thought it was so interesting how much she perceived herself struggling with the acting and drama, especially once she goes to the Performing Arts high school. It also shed light on how important teachers are, particularly in inner city areas. A teacher can make or break their students. Sonia had both good and poor teachers, but enough of them encouraged her, or at least gave her opportunities to move forward in her life.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • I honestly don't have anything to add. I enjoyed it completely.
  • This seems to be written to include a teen audience, which is refreshing. It's nice to see good non-fiction books being published with teens in mind.
  • However, this is definitely able to be enjoyed by anyone who likes a good memoir.
  • Highly recommended
I received an Advance Reader Copy of this at BookExpo America - quoted line above comes from this uncorrected proof. This title is now available for sale at your local book store, or you can enter to win my ARC below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Downton Abbey 6.6

And here we are another week closer to the end of the series. Hard to believe it will all be over soon. Maybe Jenn N and Rebecca can host a rewatch from the beginning some time! But for now, let's talk about last week's episode as we prepare for tonight.

Rebecca T: I found it funny how similar the debates over why they should/shouldn't show the house were. The look on Carson's face when Robert jokingly suggested showing "Lady Grantham knitting" or "Lady Mary in the bath" was priceless.

Jenn N: My favorite moment from last week was when Violet confronted Cora about her new position on the hospital - in front of all the "common people" during the estate tour. It was a little out of character to make a public spectacle but I guess her rage got the bed best for her and boy did I find it hilarious. I also thought it was interesting how little the family knew about the art and their own estate. It showed that they take a lot for granted.

Rebecca T: Violet's tour of the dining room was really quite hilarious. And pretty much as intelligent as anything else the others had to say. Part of me was surprised none of them knew much about the history, but part of me wasn't. They live there, but they don't need to know who painted what and why there are no markings on the shields over the fireplace in order to have tea. I do wish Mr. Molesley had been able to chime in, though.

Jenn N: I hope Molesley's possible at the local school works out. Being we're on the final few episodes, it's seems most everyone is moving on to bigger things. I hope the show closes with everyone settled and happy.

Rebecca T: I totally saw that coming with Molesley, but I'm thrilled I hope he does get to work with the school. It would be so great and it would open a footman spot, too. I don't know if Thomas would be willing to "step down" but it could solve that problem as well.

Jenn N: Carson also didn't do a great job trying to "gently" fire Mr. Barrow. This probably wasn't done in the 20s but it's a shame that Barrow can't stay on as a male nanny. He's so good with the kids and little George seems to adore him.

Rebecca T: Haha! I thought the exact same thing. It is too bad it's far too progressive for him to be a "manny" - I guess he's not educated enough to be a tutor, either, which is probably what George would need soon. And while I do wish that people wouldn't just to conclusions, the truth of the matter is that Thomas has spent years making a very elaborate bed of tricks, lies, and undermining authority, and now he's ruing having to lie in it, but it's really all his own fault.

Jenn N: Carson is still struggling to navigate tact in his role of husband. I think he needs to accept the fact that his wife isn't the best cook and either learn to cook himself or just eat all their meals back at the big house.

Rebecca T: Quite honestly, I'm waiting for Mrs. Hughes to blow up in his face. I feel like it would have done her good to just drop the plate in his lap when he was complaining. He's treating her like an employee instead of a wife and she needs to be honest with him about how she feels.

Jenn N: Meanwhile Daisy seems intent on trying to sabotage any relationship between Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason. I hope Mrs. Patmore's B&B that's due to open soon is a success.

Rebecca T: I honestly don't think I "ship" Mrs. Patmore and Mr. Mason, mostly because it will feel like they're just trying to marry everyone off before the end of the series. But I do think they're adorable as friends and Daisy needs to just calm herself down a little.

Jenn N: I've said it before but I really like Tom and Mary's relationship. It's grown so much. He's become her closest friend and confidant. Although it does seem a tad like Tom is encouraging Mary to date the race car driver due to Tom's own interest in cars.

Rebecca T: It is nice to see the inclusion of Tom in these gatherings with Mary's friends. I love their relationship and his comment "I'm a car mechanic, thank you very much" cracked me up. I don't know whether Tom is encouraging Mary or what, but I really don't like the relationship between Mary and Talbot. It feels very forced and I would rather see Mary single than in a relationship just because. On the other hand, the chemistry between Edith and Herbert is adorable. That's the kind of relationship I was hoping she would end up with.

So, what's up this week for our intrepid cast of characters? We can't wait to find out!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Monster Calls: Patrick Ness

You can find out more about Patrick Ness at his WEBSITE,
where you can also find news about how this book is being turned into a movie.
(I actually just watched the trailer and now I'm excited about seeing the movie this October.)
You can find out more about the illustrator, Jim Kay at his WEBSITE.
He also illustrated the new Harry Potter book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

10 Things I Loved About Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick

Truly Lovejoy is twelve years old, almost six feet tall, the middle of five kids, and is once again having to start over at a new school, this time in the tiny little town of Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. Half of the town is named after the Lovejoys, but that doesn't make Truly feel like she belongs. In fact, her entire life has felt inside out and upside down ever since her father was injured by an IED in Afghanistan and became the Silent Man. They had to leave their house in Texas to move to Pumpkin Falls so he and his sister can take over their parents bookshop. But when the bookshop starts failing and a first edition autographed copy of Charlotte's Web goes missing Truly gets caught up in a mystery bigger than she can handle on her own. As she follows clues left in a hidden letter Truly starts to get to know some of the other kids and finds that maybe family and friends are what truly make a place home.

  1. Truly's Family - I loved the portrayal of Truly's family. Books about big families can sometimes feel cliche, but the Lovejoys felt so authentic. The teasing, the caring, the conflicts - all rang very familiar (as someone from a big family).
  2. Truly's Siblings - Yes, I know they're part of Truly's family, but I particularly loved her siblings. Hatcher and his nickname for Truly and the way he sees her when she gets lost in the shuffle, Pippa's lisp and habit for being brutally, kid-speakingly honest. The way they all love each other but also drive each other crazy added a great layer to Truly's story.
  3. Truly - Her voice was well developed through the story. The first person narrative really allowed her to shine through and reveal her frustrations, insecurities, and strengths. I thought she was so authentically drawn.
  4. Truly's Bird Watching Hobby - I loved the way Truly classifies everyone she meets by determining what kind of bird they remind her of. It's a really interesting way of showing a sort of coping mechanism she uses to classify her world that is constantly shifting and changing.
  5. Truly's Friends - I loved how different they were and how they complimented each other. The way their friendships developed was done well, too, with different relationships developing at different speeds and being affected by the different events and challenges they face.
  6. Pumpkin Falls - If I didn't want to live in Stars Hollow, I would totally live in Pumpkin Falls. I loved the picture of small town life and the way everyone knows everyone for better or for worse. Complete with the quirky characters and nosy busybodies that managed not to feel cliche.
  7. Aunt True - What story about a big family moving to a tiny town to operate a book store would be complete without a quirky world-travelling aunt who lives over the shop and has a cat? Yet once again Aunt True is an interesting and entertaining character who has a sweet relationship with Truly and the rest of the family.
  8. Silent Man - I appreciated the way the author dealt with the effects of Truly's father's injury on the whole family, especially the kids. It was heartbreaking to see the way Truly and her brothers and sisters feel a bit like they're walking on eggshells. They have to be careful not to say something that would remind their father of what he's lost or that might make him withdraw back into himself. It was a rough subject to deal with and I thought she handled it well, without a "miracle" cure in the end.
  9. The Mystery - Although it wasn't a huge mystery, I liked the way the coded letters helped Truly get to know the town better and develop friendships with other kids in the town. And I liked that they were able to solve the mystery. It was a light and fun adventure and I liked that.
  10. The hope that, since this is labelled as "A Pumpkin Fall Mystery," there might be more hi-jinks in store for Truly and the rest of the Pumpkin Falls crew.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Downton Abbey Episode 6.5

Everyone else may be ready for the Super Bowl, but we're waiting breathlessly for the next installment of Downton Abbey.

Rebecca T: I hadn't had a chance to watch the episode live, since I was live tweeting Grease Live on our BWOBNY account. When I got home from work on Monday I received this from Jenn N and knew I needed to watch the episode as soon as possible:
So shall we start with the elephant in the room?

Jenn N: I think we can both agree that Robert's sudden attack at the dinner table was the most shocking part of the episode.

Rebecca T: I have been dreading something happening to Robert (and wondering why Cora hasn't insisted he go get more thoroughly checked out with his ongoing complaints), but I certainly didn't expect to see that at the dinner table.
Sorry, Jenn N sent this to Rebecca T
and so we're torturing you with it now
Jenn N: I found it a little odd that Cora and Violet could continue a conversation about the hospital plans while Robert could possibly be dying. I'm assuming maybe they are just in shock.
I myself was screaming "oh my God" and holding on to my blanket for dear life.

Rebecca T: I was trying to make sure I didn't disturb my upstairs neighbor so I was screaming into my own blanket to muffle the sound.

Jenn N: It takes a lot these days for TV to shock and surprise, this scene certainly did it.

Rebecca T: It certainly did. But I'm not sure what I feel about the goriness of the scene. I feel like they could have done it more - well, more Downton style and less GoT style. But it certainly made an impression!

Jenn N: This also made Thomas appreciate all that the Crawleys have done for him. I like that we're getting to see a softer side of Thomas this season.

Rebecca T: I have always been conflicted over Thomas' character and I feel like he has been written very unevenly. There have been a couple (very couple) of times I've felt sorry for him and a very very couple of times I've liked him (him playing with the kiddles this season was one), but then he does something like calling Gwen out last week that just makes me roll my eyes and shake my head. Especially when he's annoyed that people don't like him. Like have you looked at your life? Okay, but I did like the way he approached Andy and offered to help him read. But my cynical "I don't trust Thomas as far as I could throw him" side wonders what Thomas' ulterior motive is.

Jenn N: I also think Andy is sweet on Daisy. Why else would he suddenly decide to help Mr. Mason with the farm. Hopefully Daisy takes the hint.

Rebecca T: Hm. I didn't really get that vibe from him, but I suppose it's possible. I seem to remember him saying something in an earlier episode about enjoying being in the country and wanting to learn more about farming, but I can't remember exactly what it was. I'm also, personally, not sure I want Daisy paired off at this point.

Jenn N: It also seems that Mr. Mason is keen on Mrs. Patmore. I think they'd make a nice match. It's cute how Daisy is a little jealous. It's always hard when "dad" finds a new girlfriend.

Rebecca T: Daisy has changed so much and yet stayed so much the same. It was also really cute to see her admitting to the stupidity of some of her actions. I really kind of want her to go off and be this great independent woman who starts her own restaurant or something. I don't know. I'd just like to see her do more with everything she's learned at Downton.

Jenn N: And I felt so bad for Mrs. Hughes. I guess she never had much occasion to cook for herself so she's not so skilled at it. If only Carson could've asked Mrs. Patmore privately to give his new wife some cooking hints so as not to embarrass her.

Rebecca T: Seriously. Carson was making me so mad. He can't treat Mrs. Hughes like one of his underlings like that. It's a recipe for a very unhappy marriage. I do kind of like the way they're struggling to make the transition after being very independent single people for so long.

Jenn N: And of course Denker had to use her "I know you harbored your fugitive nephew" card against Spratt to keep her job. Since Thomas is changing for the better, it seems Denker is our new "villain."

Rebecca T: I knew that she was going to hold that over Spratt's head sooner or later, but seriously. She's worse than O'Brien I think.

Jenn N: I'm curious to see where Mary's relationship with the race car driver goes. He's good looking and a nice chap but what do they really have in common? Does he want to be George's step-father? I love that Mary and Tom have become close enough for Tom to give her relationship advice.

Rebecca T: First off, I was really surprised that Mary agreed to go see a car race. But I agree. They don't seem to have much in common and there really isn't any chemistry there either, at least in my opinion. But I loved how Tom was like stop playing games and just spend time together if you want for Pete's sake. It's so great to have Tom back.

Jenn N: The prospect of losing her father, also seemed to soften Mary as she stayed close to Edith for the evening. I'd really like to see these two get along better. Not only because they're siblings but they now have quite a bit in common. They're both single mothers trying to work and live their lives in a decade of change.

Rebecca T: It has been nice to see the two of them starting to be a bit less hostile and even share moments of connection (like when Robert offered Carson the servant's hall). They're both older now and have gone through a lot that seems to have started pulling them together. I too would like to see them more completely reconcile, even if it's not a bit overt moment.

Jenn N: I'm wondering though how Mary will proceed with the knowledge that Marigold may be Edith's daughter. I'm actually surprised that she didn't connect the dots sooner.

Rebecca T: Oh yes. I think Mary can just be very self-involved and since Marigold had little to do with her, she just didn't care enough to pay attention. I'm hoping this brings them closer rather than driving a wedge. Also, Edith and Herbert are adorable together. I really really hope they find happiness together. On a side note, I loved the little moment of seeing Cora and Robert as grandparents. That was an adorable scene.

So. What do you think is coming next for the folks at Downton? Only a couple of hours before we can lose ourselves in their world again.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I'm Reading Now: February Edition

I've decided to move this post to the first Wednesday of the month rather than the last, so you aren't missing anything - there is no January edition :) I've been in massive reading mode, and here are the books I'm working through now:

On my Nook:
I just started As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka. I was a little confused at the very beginning, but I'm really starting to get into it now. When I saw it was a Snow White retelling I had certain expectations, but this is not your typical fairy tale retelling. Once I realized that and put my expectations aside I found I was able to enjoy it more. I'm really looking forward to seeing where this mystery goes and am really enjoying the protagonist, Lumikki, as well as the setting.

On my Phone:
The Academy: Thief by C.L. Stone. I haven't read enough of this to have an opinion yet to be quite honest, since I've only read about half a page. Haven't had a lot of opportunities for phone reading recently.

In Print - Fiction:
Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl. I fortunately caught a review that warned this was not a tale of Natasha's teen years, which let me go into the book with the proper expectations. I am really enjoying this. I was a little nervous, because I wasn't a fan of Beautiful Creatures, so I was relieved to love this story. Natasha "Black Widow" is a part of the story and each of the well-known Marvel characters encountered read like the characters should. I have a bad feeling about where the ending is going though, but in a good way.

In Print - Non-Fiction:
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. Picked this up after becoming obsessed with the Hamilton soundtrack and it's so fascinating. It is, however, over 700 pages long. A marathon reading session while waiting for my car to be worked on has gotten me almost 300 pages in, but I have a feeling I'll be working on this one for a while.

On Audio in my Car:
Decided to follow up my re-read of A Series of Unfortunate Events with a re-read of the Harry Potter series. I'm on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was my favorite book of the series. I'm curious to see if that changes on the re-read since I found myself loving Prisoner of Azkaban much more than the last time I read it.

On TV:
I finally wrapped up my X-Files binge just in time for the new series to start. Now I'm going through Star Trek: Next Generation, which I'm loving a lot more than I anticipated, and, when I need something pretty much brainless, I'm rewatching the early seasons of Pretty Little Liars.

How about you? Any books (or TV shows) have you staying up late? Anything I should add to my To Read list?