Friday, February 29, 2008

Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan

The second and third books in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series are just as entertaining and exciting as the first. Fun reading, with lots of references to Greek mythology.

Morality for Beautiful Girls by Alexander McCall Smith

Same as what I thought about Tears of the Giraffe.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Two things I've learned

If the youngest is crying, and you give some bubbles to the big kids so they can distract him, he might stop crying, but the arguing among the elder children might be so loud and vehement that you consider taking the bubbles away, even if the little one starts crying again.

If there is a water and ice dispenser in the door of the refrigerator, there will always be at least 20 cups and glasses on the table, half-filled with water and ice. Even though there are only eleven children.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The next great musical sensation ...

I'm spending this week at Ivy's house while Ivy and her husband are gallivanting around Orlando, Florida. (I totally approve of the gallivanting, by the way. They'd better be having marathon fun!) That makes me, the lone adult, with eleven children, ages 19 months to 12 years. Of course, more than half are my children, so it's not really as big of a deal as you'd think. The days start off pretty calmly, and it's only around dinner time that the noise reaches such a level that I start to feel like joining along with the screaming. And right after that, it's bed time, the best part of the day.

Ivy and I have watched each other's kids several times, and it's interesting to see how interactions between the kids change as they get older. For example, the older boys now spend a lot of their time talking about their "band." Keep in mind that none of them plays an instrument. Well, Ivy's oldest is taking guitar lessons, and my boys play the piano. Occasionally I hear a couple of bars of something familiar from the guitar, but that's about it.

Of course they've discussed band names, and isn't that the most important part of being in a band? A few of their ideas are Fried Chicken, Fudge, and The Band. (There have been a lot of ideas, but I can't remember any more than that right now.) They've had some pretty heated arguments about who's going to play which instrument. I've also heard this sentence spoken: "What if someone doesn't practice enough before the concert?" That's when I wanted to yell, "What concert?!" But I refrained. They are 12, 10, and 9 and don't appreciate their ridiculousness.

I think it would be kind of cool if they actually learned to play drums, guitar, bass, etc. and covered some Foo Fighters songs or something. But I doubt that they'll come to me for suggestions. Maybe they'll let me make anti-suggestions: please not "Ironman" and only "Sweet Child of Mine" if you're joking. I'll just be hoping they don't get anything pierced or tattooed, and trying not to stand too close to the drum set, which is really loud, did you know? Even a kid size one. Even when it's being played by a 2-year-old.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

The fourth book in the Harry Potter series has a pretty slow and meandering start that lasts for about 3/4 of the book. Maybe I was a little burned out on Harry by the time I started it. I also remembered the movie pretty well, and maybe that made it less exciting. I do think the plot moves more slowly than in the others and it's not even really clear what the plot is, because the connections between events are intentionally unclear until the end.

However, the end was so suspenseful and exciting that it made up for the rest. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was riveted. It also set up the fifth book in a way that the movie didn't.

So I guess I'm a Harry Potter convert. I resisted for a long time. But after I finished Goblet of Fire, I had that familiar bittersweet feeling of missing the characters as if they were real friends that I'd lost contact with. I can reread the books and see the movies, especially the coming sixth and seventh, but there won't be any new adventures. So why is that feeling bittersweet, instead of just bitter? I think it's because knowing the characters was a good experience, one I wouldn't give up. And while the Harry Potter books are great adventure stories, there's also a lot to learn from them, and not just about really evil evil vs. regular good, but about friendship and growing up.

And here's my favorite Dumbledore quote, from the movie because the book has apparently been swallowed by the black hole that is the kids' library: "Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

This was the first Harry Potter movie that I really liked, and the book was even better. I loved the time travel stuff.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

I decided to take advantage of my recent desire for purely entertaining reading and read the Harry Potter books I hadn't read yet. After the fifth, sixth and seventh, this was a quick read, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Juno (2007)

Jon and I got to see Juno in Manhattan, which was fun--I think we rode five really long escalators to get to the theater, which was probably on the twelfth floor. From a window up there, we could see the tops of some of the enormous billboards that cover the buildings just off of Times Square. Strangely, the huge ads we happened to see from that height were for QVC products, the biggest for a hose attachment that apparently makes one extremely happy. Judging from the ad, anyway. I didn't expect to see ads for QVC in Times Square. (Okay, just off of Times Square, but still.)

Anyway, the movie was excellent. I kind of wish we'd spent loads of money on it instead of on the play we saw the night before. If it's still playing near you, you should go see it.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

This Lightning Thief is a lot of fun, full of exciting action and humorous characterizations of Greek gods and goddesses. The premise is that those gods really exist, that Mount Olympus now resides on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building (invisible to mortals), and that the gods are still carrying on just like they did in the old days. In fact, they've got some half-blood offspring running around in the world, kids of a god or goddess and a mortal. It won't teach you much beyond the most basic Greek mythology, but it'll remind you of some great stories. My boys loved this book and the sequels (more about them later).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ghost of a Chance by Kerry Blair

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It was fun because it was a mystery and a romance, and also pretty funny. Easy and entertaining. (That's what I've been in the mood for lately.)

Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier

I've read every book by Tracy Chevalier because I loved Girl With a Pearl Earring. None of them have captured my imagination like that one did, but they've all been interesting and well written. Burning Bright features William Blake and his wife as characters. It was pretty good, but not great.

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

The Undomestic Goddess was perfect for the two flights home from New York City, when I was sick and tired and worried about the weather and just wanted something easy and entertaining to read.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith

On the one hand, this is quite enjoyable, nicely written and calming. On the other hand, it's too simplistic and positive. Tears of the Giraffe is the second in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which takes place in Botswana. It reminded me of the one book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon that I've read.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

As far as chick flicks go, Sweet Home Alabama is not bad. This is the second time I've seen it, though, and I don't think it would stand up to any more viewings. So I guess it's not a classic chick flick.

In the Land of Women (2007)

I can't decide if this is a pretty good movie or an just excuse for the main guy to kiss two women. The grandmother, played by Olympia Dukakis, was entertaining. I enjoyed the movie. But I still suspect that it was an excuse for the main character to kiss Meg Ryan and the younger hot thing. Mother and daughter! Woohoo! It kind of messes up my enjoyment a little bit.

Regarding Henry (1991)

This is a pretty good movie where Harrison Ford actually does some acting, since he plays a high-powered lawyer guy who suffers brain damage and becomes a different person after rehabilitation.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Five Children and It (2004)

There's a mad uncle who is writing Difficult Sums for Children, a knowing housekeeper who nevertheless has misplaced Thursday, a horrible cousin, and, of course, "It," a cranky but hilarious Sand Fairy. Upon meeting the five children for the first time, he says, "Have your parents tried boiling you?" I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would.

Freedom Writers (2007)

Freedom Writers is based on the true story of a fresh-out-of-college teacher who ends up teaching the kids nobody wants to teach in L.A., the ones everyone expects will drop out in the next couple of years. They all ended up graduating, and they published a book called The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them, which I'll definitely read someday. The movie was very good--good acting by Hilary Swank and others. Definitely worth seeing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

I'd never seen this classic film, though I've read the book at least twice. It was excellent, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the book. What a great story!

Material Girls (2006)

Our library doesn't have a very big selection, so sometimes I end up watching something like this. It's the first thing I've seen with Hilary and/or Haylie Duff, besides Napoleon Dynamite. Chalk it up to pop culture research.

It was cute, though. And the corporate guy with the Bluetooth headset who was constantly having ambiguous conversations was hilarious. The Bluetooth Robo Guy talking to the air or responding inappropriately will become more and more funny, I think. On being introduced to someone, this guy said, "I love you very much. Yes. 'Bye."

I Am the Cheese (1983)

This was a slightly bizarre movie about a kid who sets out on his bike to visit his father a few states away. There are mysterious things about the trip, some of which are explained. Someday I'll read the book on which the movie was based.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Bella (2006)

Bella is a beautiful film about Nina, a waitress in New York City who finds out she's pregnant, and Jose, the head chef of the restaurant where she works, who walks out on his job to help her figure out what she's going to do. He has a surprising and disturbing past, but also a bunch of wonderful Latino family members who help Nina see that life can be different from what she's experienced. The story is a tiny bit confusing, but it's really a great movie that deserves to be seen by a lot of people. If you have a chance to see it in a theater, please do!

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Lyman Bushman

It took me quite a while to get through Bushman's excellent, scholarly biography of Joseph Smith, and I'm proud of myself for it, in a silly, ridiculous way. After all, I'm a fiction-reader at heart, and this is a big book! And scholarly!

It really is excellent, though, and covers everything you've ever heard about Joseph Smith. He puts Joseph into the context of his own time and, maybe most importantly for me, helped me understand what Joseph and Emma's marriage may have been like. I thought it was wonderful.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye

I found this first Hermux Tantamoq Adventure surprisingly delightful. Hermux is a mouse who makes watches and sort of accidently has adventures. I'm usually not that interested in books about talking animals, but the social commentary in this was funny and clever and unexpected, the story entertaining, and Hermux was gentle and sweet. It's geared for ages 10 and up.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Beautifully written short stories, mostly about Indians who've left India for the United States. I found them interesting and hopeful, for the most part.