Saturday, May 31, 2014

Books read in May 2014

My favorites:
Picture books:  Maple
Middle Reader:  The Nightingale's Nest
YA: We Were Liars, Mostly Good Girls
Grownup: Nothing wowed me.

Picture Books
Mike Austin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Great transformation picture book.  Reminded me a little of the Boston Harbor Islands.

Lori Nichols
Read for Librarian Book Group
Very fun growth of tree (Maple) and girl (also Maple).  If you are like me you will exclaim aloud the name of the second tree when it makes its appearance.

Big Bug
Henry Cole
Read for Librarian Book Group
Good comparison of big/small.  Great colors.

Middle Reader
The Nightingale's Nest
Nikki Loftin
Read for Librarian Book Group
There is much to discuss with young readers in this book, so I heartily recommend it for classroom book groups.  Early-teenaged boy dealing with loss encounters a girl also dealing with loss.  Full of magical realism, vivid scenery and memorable characters.

Dauviller, Lizano, Salsedo
Read for Librarian Book Group
Good entry into the Holocaust for upper elementary.  It's  a graphic novel and the large heads were somewhat distracting, but I think they helped put some distance from the Holocaust for the young minds who will be reading this book.

Mostly Good Girls
Leila Sales
I adored this book because it perfectly captured the general hilarity of two best friends.  The conversations between them are worth the read.  It's teenager girl patter to a T.  Also, it does a nice job of capturing the subtle transitions that happen as friends change and grow.  Very well done.  I'm disappointed that Multnomah County Library doesn't have her 2011 book called Past Perfect, because I can't get enough of Sales writing.

The Here and Now
Ann Brashares
Girl time travels from the future to the present to live permanently with other time travelers because things aren't going so well in the future.  I found it only mildly successful from the sci-fi aspect.    Overall, it didn't blow me away.

We Were Liars
E. Lockheart
Read for Librarian Book Group
There are books that are good and then there are books that take you along an interesting path only to suddenly spin around and point you in another direction. And you realize the bits of this and that you've been encountering on said path are actually clues and wham/wham/wham/wham they all suddenly drop into place and you are reading an entirely different book that is even better than the one you thought you were reading.

This book is like that.

And I loved it.

And I really wasn't able to do much after I finished it.  It took some digesting.

Going Over
Beth Kephart
Read for Librarian Book Group
I've not ever read any YA novel set in Berlin Wall-era Germany.  So that was interesting.  The Romeo and Juliet-style story (the wall kept them apart, not their parents) was interesting and the book had solid subplots.  I was interested to note that I didn't feel terribly attached to the characters, yet I found myself in tears at the dramatic conclusion.

Amanda Maciel
Read for Librarian Book Group
A book about cyber bullying (and slut-shaming) but from the perspective of one of the perpetrators.  I found the stubborn resistance of taking responsibility by the main character to be an effective hook that kept me up past my bedtime reading.  Overall, a very engrossing novel that is quite successful at what it's doing.  There was talk in the book group discussion of wishing it would have delved deeper into why slut-shaming/rape culture is the way it is, and, I agree I agree we need a book about that too, but this is not that book and this book is a good book for what it is.

That said, the foil cover was really distracting as I was reading by lamplight.  I had to hold to book a certain way so the light didn't reflect back into my eyes.

On the Count of Three (aka The Burmudez Triangle)
Maureen Johnson
What happens to three best friends when two of them fall in love?  Filled with authentic teens, great long distance romance, and much awkward falling apart of friendship.

Grownup Fiction
The Thousand Dollar Tan Line
The first Veronica Mars novel!  I found the writing clunky, but enjoyed continuing to live in the Veronica Mars world.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz
Read for Kenton Library Book Group
This was a plodder for me.  I did not enjoy the jumping back and forth between characters.  I wanted more of Oscar, and more of his sister, not so much traveling back in to his mother and grandfather's time.  That said, I liked learning about the Dominican Republic and I thought the characters were great.  There was a goodly amount of non-translated Spanish, which I found difficult, but interesting.  In the book group there was a vehement discussion if including non-translated Spanish did a disservice to the reader.  I figure if you want to read about Dominican culture, you probably need to wade through some Dominican slang.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: What's Your Number

This is exactly the type of movie I want more of because it features: 1)realistic dialogue between women.*  2)Hilarious patter between the two romantic leads.** 3)An entirely stupid premise that I totally went for just because everything else was so perfect.***

Cost: free from library
Where watched.  At home.  By myself, and then two hours later, watched it again with Matt.****

poster from:

*probably because it was written BY women
**One of which is Chris Evans, who is easy on the eyes.
***Including the fact that it was set in Boston and almost no one had a Boston accent.  Because that accent is hard to do and it's best if no one tries.
****Yes, I watched the same movie twice in one day.  Which I have never done before.  It felt rather wicked.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sexism in Parade magazine part II

This comes from an article about two friends who met at the Naval Academy, died for their country and now rest side by side in Arlington Cemetery. All well and good (except for the senseless death, but that's for another post).  But read the part that begins, "Travis even joined Brendan on some of his dates--
First of all, Mean Girls isn't a girl movie.  It's a movie about girl relationships that both females AND males can learn from.  Secondly, if you reverse this statement, "[Two girls] weren't too cool to watch a boys' movie" it doesn't make sense.  Because girls are supposed to like what boys like and be grateful when boys "sink to their level" and deign to watch a movie that is centered on something other than *gasp* men.

Granted, the sexism this time comes from a quote, that is, not the writers of Parade Magazine themselves, but it's stuff like this that should be called out.  So I'm doing it.

Good quote found on walk.

Three sentence movie reviews: The New Girl Season 1

I'm a Zooey Deschanel fan and even with that, I found the first few episodes were a little too much Deschanel for me.  However, by the Thanksgiving episode, they had hit their stride and this became a very amusing show.  I also appreciated it because I enjoyed watching it, but didn't feel compelled to watch ALL of it in a short amount of time.*

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.  (The boyfriend got interested in the show too.)

poster from:

*This sounds like a back handed compliment, but it's a really good thing.  Trying to clear your schedule because you have no willpower and must watch multiple episodes in one setting is no fun.  Even if the shows in question (Friday Night Lights, Mad Men, Heroes Season 1, etc.) are very, very good.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: August Osage County

Women getting to dig their teeth into weighty dramatic material and really tear through it in the best way possible!  Yep, I was a fan of this movie!  I particularly loved how every time I thought Meryl Streep had done her dastardly worst to her family, she managed to top herself.

Cost:  free from library thanks to T. who lent it to me after she watched it.
Where watched: at home.

poster from:

Three sentence movie reviews: X-Men: Days of Future Past

A fan of X-Men movies in general,* I thought this was phenomenal, easily the best of the bunch.  While acting was good all around, I particularly found James McAvoy outstanding as the weepy, confused and mostly lost Charles Xavier.  The future/past setting worked for me and the only thing I was sorry about was the early exit of Evan Peters, who stole his scenes from much more experienced actors and also provided the cinema with the best use of a Jim Croce song in decades.

Cost:  $5.00
Where watched:  St. Johns Twin Cinema with Matt**

poster from:

*I even suffered through that Wolverine Origin movie, which is more than I can say for the other resident of the house.
**A.k.a. the guy who isn't enough of a fan to watch the Wolverine Origin movie.

So true, Burgerville, so true.

The words on the sign say:
"Inconveniently located for most of America"

We stopped for a bit of lunch before catching a movie.

Great Aunt Betty's memorial gathering.

Here's Aunt Betty as a younger girl.

Here are the 15 Whitmore children and their parents.  My grandmother, Helen, is third from the left.
(Update!  According to my mother, this was a celebration for my grandmother's 40th birthday. See her comment below.)  

I love the fact that she still had her War Ration Book (I've never seen one before,) but I love even more that she was 4 feet 11 inches and 98 pounds.  I looked up the house address too.  It's still there.

When you have 15 children, it's not hard for gatherings to get this big.  My copy is blurry, but I think that's my grandfather George second from the right, standing next to my Great-Grandmother.  My grandma is in the first standing row, six (!) from the left.  She's wearing a dark colored dress.

More of the 15.  Not so well composed, as some of them are hidden.

This is a really fabulous photo of Aunt Betty.

As is this.  That's Aunt Joanne standing next to Aunt Betty. 
(Update!  The problem with having 14 great aunts and uncles is you might have trouble with their names.  Mom says this is Aunt Margaret, not Aunt Joanne.) 

This is a picture of my grandmother and grandfather I've never seen before. I particularly love my grandmother's coat, which I'm willing to bet she made.

A Jantzen Swimsuit!

This is the shirt Aunt Betty is wearing in a really fun photo of (nearly) all the Whitmore girls.  I've looked at that picture for years as it's in my Aunt's kitchen, so it was funny to see the shirt neatly folded among the memorabilia.

Then I hit gold!  Aunt Betty's autograph book.  This is from a friend of Aunt Betty's and I laughed at the saying.

From Uncle Harold.

My grandfather!  I was surprised to see him in this book because it was from 1936 and I didn't realize he was around then. My grandparents didn't marry until 1941.

Auntie Bea

Aunt Mary.  (Who is amusingly wicked in her entry)

Aunt Lucretia.

Because Aunt Betty loved ice cream, there was an ice cream shop.

This is Uncle Jack, who was married to Aunt Lucretia (the one from the autograph book).

Aunt Virginia (married to Uncle Harold), Aunt Janet (who was stubbornly looking away from the camera) Aunt Joanne, Aunt Mary.

I waited around until Aunt Janet didn't notice me taking the picture.

A nice poem about the Whitmore Family.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Everyone can wear a maxi dress. No really!

Look!  We have photographic evidence.  Skinny tall women without boobs can wear it, and skinny tall people WITH boobs can wear the style.  That's everyone, right?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Postcards from Finland & Arlington, Virginia

This is from Katja who tells me she lives in a little city in the middle of nowhere, has two gorgeous children and a dog and loves her job as a photographer.

This is from regular commenter Sara, who tells me she say Bill Nye AND They Might Be Giants.  Also that there was a lot of DFTBA* merchandise on people, which does not surprise me at all.
*DFTBA means Don't Forget To Be Awesome and is the rallying cry of Nerdfighters. Also see this post.

Kid signs.

One of the K/1 classes made informative signs which they helpfully hung around the school.

Say sorry when you bump someone because someone might be hurt.

People are talking while going past the office.
Stop.  Don't talk while Patricia is working. Shhhh.  Be quiet.
[the post-it note says]
Or else she will be distracted.

This is my favorite, both for the message and the illustration:
Do not sing "Let it Go" in the classroom or else people might get annoyed!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Postcard from Russia

This is from Dasha, who lives in Saint-Petersburg.  She really loves dancing hip-hop and going to ballet.  Also travelling and skiing. 

The stamps are nice, but I took a picture because they were in two places on the card:  the traditional spot,

And also in the lower left corner, where the postcard message goes.

Just needed some frozen pizzas.

Two, to be exact.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

Three sentence movie reviews: The Departed.

I loved this on first viewing, way back in 2007 and then I forgot nearly everything, which made this viewing almost as fun as the first.  Incredibly intense, enough so that Jack Nicholson was not his usual annoying self.  There is a lot to like here, but I think my favorite thing (except the venerable bad boy scene) was Mark Wahlberg as the entirely unapologetic and annoying jerk who gets to do the best thing in the movie.

Cost: Free from library.  (My hold came in just as I was resolving to walk to the video store because I just could not go another day without watching this.)
Where watched: at home.
Note. Unless at the theater with me, Matt usually watches movies in bits over a few days.  He eats some breakfast, stops the DVD, lunch, etc.  Not this one. He put it in, started eating his dinner, finished eating his dinner and just kept watching.

poster from:

Friday, May 16, 2014

Not a rare Friday sighting.

It's the Brewcycle.  Where you and your friends can pedal your way to three brewpubs in two hours. I'm not so into Brewpubs, but this looks like a lot of fun.

A break from work: Lan Su Chinese Garden

I was done with work at 1:30 on Friday like usual, but I had to come back at 3:30 for a meeting.  What to do for two hours?  A coworker suggested I visit the Chinese Garden.  I'd never been, I'm ashamed to admit, so I thought that was a brilliant suggestion and took myself.

Beautiful stones in the courtyard.  

The garden is designed so you are constantly looking at different frames.

Beautiful carved wood.

Overlooking the water and the Moon Locking Pavilion.

More beautiful carving.

More beautiful paths.

Peeking out onto the city street.  The garden takes up one full block, but it seems much bigger, from the inside.

Nothing makes me want to enter like a "do not enter" sign.

A small courtyard with more great stonework.

The plastic horses in this arrangement amused me.

The fabulous roof tiles are shaped like bats.

Six panels carved from ginkgo wood.  The fourth one says "Most cherished in this mundane world is a place without traffic; truly in the midst of a city there can be mountain and forest."  Wen Zhengming.

This floor pattern is called "plum blossoms on cracked ice."  So pretty!

The scholar's study.

The tea house.

Steps across the water.

A beautiful waterfall.

Though all of the materials came from China, the plants came from the US.  This tree came from a house in Southeast Portland. The men working on the garden found it and asked the owner if it could be transplanted to the garden because the trees take so long to grow.  The owner said if his neighbors (who also loved the tree) agreed it could move.  It did.

This is a Lake Tai rock which is formed underwater over many decades in Lake Tai.  These are meditative rocks and viewing it from bottom to top is akin to venturing up a mountain peak.  It is now not allowed to export Lake Tai rock, so the garden is very happy to have been created at at time when export was still possible.

Keyhole framing.

Our great tour guide.

Nice "oasis in the city" photo.  That's Big Pink, the tallest building in downtown Portland, peering over the garden wall.

More oasis stuff.

Yet more "oasis in the city".

Here I got to tell my fortune.  I shook the can of sticks until one presented itself to me.  Then I looked at the number and opened the corresponding drawer to find my fortune.

Mine was "a long sought position in life will soon be yours."  Sounds good to me.

Beautiful entrance to the Scholar's private garden.

Nice detail here.

Here is the upper floor of the tea house.  If I had more time I would have gotten some tea.

Overall, this was a great way to spend a few hours before returning to work.  It is peaceful and calm and really is an oasis in the middle of the city.