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.

Monday, January 30, 2012

FILM: Leap Year (2010)

Leap Year (PG)
starring Amy Adams, Matthew Goode

I realized that I don't bother posting about many of the movies I watch because they are just OK... entertaining but nothing worth taking the time to write about.  (Or, it's so popular, like Harry Potter, that I needn't bother.)  But this one is worth it.

Three things led me to watch this film.  First, I'm always excited when a movie is rated G or PG.... there seem to be so few these days.  Second, I love Amy Adams.  And third, it's a romantic comedy, which I always enjoy... and this is a very good one.  Most films in this category are very predictable, and though this one isn't exempt in that area, it also has plenty of surprises.  Plus it's pretty clean (a few mild swear words, a short, mild fight scene in a pub, and some mild innuendo), the love story is cute and "real" (based on real depth, not just physical), it's funny, the characters seem to have morals and values, there is good chemistry between the actors, and there is a traditional happy ending that is very satisfying.  What can I say?  It's the perfect formula for a romantic comedy. 

P.S.  I won't post about them, but two movies I really enjoyed over the holidays were the new installments of Sherlock Holmes and Mission Impossible.  Super fun!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

BOOK: Number the Stars

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

This amazing book about how the Danish people bravely smuggled thousands of their Jewish friends and neighbors into Swedish, right under the noses of the Nazis who occupied their country, is all the more thrilling because it's true!  Though the main characters are fictional (a composite of real people) the events actually took place.  

I love that the author doesn't talk down to her reader in this children's book.  She is straight forward and honest about the events that took place, but not graphic in recounting the horrors.  The book is only 137 pages, including an afterword specifying which parts are fictionalized, but that's as long as it takes for the reader to see the whole picture.  Though the story ends satisfactorily (we all know the Nazis are eventually defeated) we are left longing and hoping for that future happy ending.

Recommended for ages 10 and up

BOOK: Son of the Mob

Son of the Mob
by Gordon Korman

I have enjoyed reading books by this author before (for our elementary school library) so I decided to give this one a try even thought it's not for kids.  The premise was intriguing.... a straight-arrow teenager whose father is head of the New York mafia manages to avoid getting involved in the family "business" and enjoys a fairly normal, traditional family life (two loving parents, typical older brother, home in the suburbs), but things get complicated when he falls in love with the daughter of the FBI agent who has been investigating his father for many years.

Korman's writing is fun and the story is very entertaining; part mystery, part love-story, part comedy.  Now for the "buts."  There is some violence....nothing extreme or graphic, but as you might expect there are a few instances of mob members doing what they do.... the events don't "happen" in the story but they are mentioned.  There is some mild language, but very little.  The most uncomfortable parts for me were the (mostly subtle) sexual references, including a scene where our 17-year-old hero narrowly escapes an awkward situation with a call-girl hired by his older brother.  But Vince is a good kid, and he does the right thing.... throughout the whole book. 

Recommended for 16 years and up

Monday, January 23, 2012

BOOK: A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles
Gail Carson Levine

This is a great read; part fantasy, part detective story, completely clean, and very fun.  AND positive values are reinforced.  I read this to review for our school library, and I'm sure my daughter will love it, but I really enjoyed it too.

When I read books like this and compare them to some of the garbage out there that is written for kids, I want to hold this up to all those authors who resort to trash because they think it's appealing, and say, "See, you can be clean and successful!"  

Recommended for:  Ages 9 - 15 (or younger than 9 if they are good readers)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

BOOK: The Night Circus

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern

This book grabbed me on the first page and I could hardly put it down.  I stayed up until 2:00 am this morning to finish reading it and never even got drowsy.  (Books that do that to me are few and far between.)  I wouldn't say it's the best book I ever read (though I think it would easily make my top-20 favorites, possibly top-10), but the writing is so fantastic and imaginative that I was completely sucked in, and the story is so compelling that I simply had to find out what would finally happen to the many characters I had grown to know and love over the decades through which the story unfolds.

And it unfolds very slowly.... and beautifully.  The descriptions of this amazing magic circus of dreams left me wishing it were all real.  I savored the description of each exhibit and could easily imagine myself there.  The magic is lovely and sweet, occasionally harsh, but rarely dark or evil. 

The one disappointment with this book was actually early on, and it worried me... the f-word appears rather unexpectedly and is quite out-of-place.  Thankfully that was it.  There was one other instance of mild profanity, and a couple of moments of very mild violence.  There is also one love scene near the end that is mild and very vague.

Another great book from a first time novelist.  Impressive.

Recommended for:  Adults

BOOK: The Death of Disco Dancer

The Death of a Disco Dancer
by David Clark

My cousin is a friend of this author so I was offered a free copy to review.  The majority of this "Mormon" novel tells the story of several months in the life of the protagonist at 11-years-old, with a few* "flash-foward" moments when he is 40-something. 

The details of growing up in Mesa, AZ in 1981 are funny (and presumably semi-autobiographical), though I'm not sure if that's because I was also 11-years-old and living in Mesa in 1981, or if they will resonate with anyone my age.  However, I think just about any grown man will be able to relate to Todd's feelings and predicaments.  It's very real.  (There is a fair bit of "language," crude humor and "locker-room-talk" that I suppose are "normal" for guys, but made me a little uncomfortable.) 

There are also very moving moments that brought me to tears.  The story is fairly compelling, and the writing is pretty good for a first-time novelist. 

Recommended for:  Men who came-of-age in the last half-century, especially the 80's

* The flash-forward moments interspersed throughout the novel are a little disjointed, probably because they are very brief (averaging half a page) and only occur every few chapters, which was a little disappointing for me since those are the parts I enjoyed the most.  I felt like they might have been more effective combined and then used as a prologue and/or epilogue.

Monday, January 2, 2012

BOOK: Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

I had a hard time with this youth adult novel.  The story is interesting and compelling and the writing is decent, but it's incredibly creepy and disturbing, and filled with bad language.  The other thing that bugged me was the ending... it was abrupt and confusing.  The whole thing was just so-so.  Don't bother.