I'm a mom of 3 kids, and I love to read and watch movies, and I'm picky about what my kids read and watch.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

BOOK: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (Helen Simonson)

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
by Helen Simonson

This is a delightful first novel from an advertising executive turned stay-at-home-mom-looking-for-a-creative-outlet turned novelist. Major Pettigrew is the ultimate traditional English gentlemen.... retired military, widowed with one adult son, living in a sleepy sea-side village.  His quiet life is turned upside when his younger brother dies and he becomes friends with the village shop-keeper.  It's a sweet and charming story that is also powerfully moving.  A great read and quite clean (3 uses of the s-word and one implied bedroom scene).

Friday, June 24, 2011

BOOK: Okay for Now (Gary D. Schmidt)

Okay For Now
by Gary D. Schmidt

Wow.  Schmidt's books take my breath away.  I first read The Wednesday Wars more than a year ago when someone selected it for our book club.... and I loved it.  I was completely surprised by what was supposed to be "juvenile fiction" (featuring a 7th-grade protagonist) when it turned out to be filled with mature themes (in a good way), a fantastic plot, great characters, and excellent writing. 

Okay For Now picks up where The Wednesday Wars left off.... sort of....with a different protagonist (he was a minor character before)/point of view and setting (I would recommend reading The Wednesday Wars first, though it isn't mandatory).  The story is sometimes heartbreaking (you are bound to find yourself sniffling through much of it, but there is also plenty to grin about), slightly painful and yet tender.  It's a powerful story about love and loss, overcoming and surviving, friendship and family.  It will leave you feeling that most people in this world are actually good people deep down....and you will want to go hug your family. 

As I mentioned, the themes are fairly mature, and the story takes place in 1968-1969, so a younger reader who doesn't understand the context of the Vietnam war might not get as much out of the story.  I'm glad I read this before my 12-year-old (who I know will love it as he did The Wednesday Wars after I recommended it to him) so we can discuss it.  Amazingly, this is still a story that is totally appropriate for the middle-school set..... Schmidt writes for that audience, but doesn't talk down to them.  And yet, it reads like a novel for adults in many ways.  Schmidt does a great job of writing for both audiences, in a very entertaining style.

The only "language" I recall is one or two common exclamations of deity.

Has anyone else read anything by Gary Schmidt?  I can't wait to read more of his books.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Friday, June 17, 2011

BOOKS: (Maisie Dobbs Novels) An Incomplete Revenge AND Among the Mad

An Incomplete Revenge (A Maisie Dobbs Novel) (Book 5)
Among the Mad (A Maisie Dobbs Novel) (Book 6)
by Jacqueline Winspear

I frequently rave about the Maisie Dobbs Novels.  (Read them in order....the first one is called Maisie Dobbs: A Novel.)  The writing is excellent... descriptive and well-crafted.  The characters are wonderful and well-developed.  And the stories will suck you in.  This can be a problem because I absolutely cannot put these books down!  Beware!  (I admit it....I read these 2 books in two days. Yes, I sort of ignored everything else.  Oops.) 

Maisie Dobbs is not your average detective.... the psychology angle is fascinating, and her personal development and relationships add great depth to the stories.  I love that these books are also basically clean.... there is no sex, but you will find an occasional mild profanity.  There are sometimes murders to solve, but generally nothing descriptive or gruesome.  The stories are very intense though, so these books are definitely not for kids or teens.

(The complete series)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

TV MINI-SERIES: Wives & Daughter (1999)

Wives & Daughters (BBC)

The BBC got another one right with this wonderful 4 episode mini-series based on classic fiction.   There are plenty of nasty characters and good ones, including step-relations, lots of plot twists and turns, and enough romance to make you sigh again and again.  The cast is excellent as well.

Contains nothing offensive.

BOOK: The Secret of Platform 13

The Secret of Platform 13
by Eva Ibbotson

This is a fun fantasy for children and makes for a good real-aloud (probably preferable, since some of the british-isms might be confusing for American children).  There is nothing offensive, though there are some moments that might be mildly frightening to very young children.  In addition to being entertaining, there are plenty of opportunities for parents to discuss the differences between the "good" characters and the "bad" ones and how those who are "good" and kind are happier.

Recommended for ages 8 - 12.

BOOK: The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale

This is my least favorite youth book by Shannon Hale so far.  (My least favorite book of hers overall is "The Actor and the Housewife."  Ugh.)  The writing isn't fantastic, but it was more that.....even though the story was quite interesting, the book really dragged.  It felt about 100 pages too long.  Book of a Thousand Days and Princess Academy are much better.

That said it was decent and I did finish it.

Recommended for ages 12 and up.

BOOK: Just Ella

Just Ella
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Bleh.  This youth book was just plain awful.  The writing was just OK, and the story was mildly interesting, but I was absolutely disgusted by the way the author took the wonderful, sweet story of Cinderella and turned it into a feminist manifesto.  Ugh.  Instead of kind and good and long-suffering, this "Ella" despises her step-mother and step-sisters and her fondest wish is to take revenge against them.  She is rude and self-centered and seeks only her own happiness.... and according to the author this is supposed to be a good thing.  It just left me feeling sick to my stomach. 

I will definitely discourage my daughter from reading it. 

FILM: When In Rome (2010)

When In Rome (PG-13)
starring Kristen Bell and Josh Duhamel

This is a pretty typical romantic comedy featuring two ridiculously beautiful and successful people who find love and happiness after several trials that keep them apart.  You know the drill.  Cute and safe.  It was entertaining and Josh Duhamel is incredibly easy on the eyes.  I don't recall any "language" but there are a couple of mildly "suggestive" moments, and a few glimpses of nude art, but nothing obscene or blatantly offensive. 

BOOK: The Forgotten Garden

The Forgotten Garden
by Kate Morton

I really enjoyed this great mystery of sorts, filled with plenty of shocking revelations, great character development and growth, and a little romance.  Though the story jumps around in time a lot, it was well-done rather than confusing.  Kate Morton is a good writer and I look forward to reading more by her.  However, I was a bit annoyed by her frequent use of incomplete sentences.  It was quite prevalent and I had a hard time "letting it go."  I assume it was used as a stylistic/literary device rather than ignorance or poor editing, but it really bugged me sometimes.  Otherwise I thought it was well-written.

Aside from a few instances of very mild profanity, there is really only one thing that might make some readers uncomfortable.  I don't want to give anything away, but there is something revealed toward the end of the book that is a bit shocking but it's not graphic.  I consider myself very conservative when it comes to books and this made me slightly uncomfortable, but it is nothing that would keep me from recommending this book whole-heartedly.

Recommended for Adults.

BOOK: Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale

I think this is the best book I have read by Shannon Hale.  The writing it more mature and more interesting.  I enjoy books written in a "diary" form, and this one did not disappoint.  Aside from one scene that will make some people uncomfortable (a non-sexual nude scene) there is nothing offensive.  There is some mild violence.  This is a great book to be enjoyed by both teens and adults.  There is plenty of action, adventure and suspense, plus a little romance.

Recommended for ages 13 and up.