Books read in November 2015

Wow, it was a good month for reading.


Picture books:  Leo, a Ghost Story
Middle readers:  both I have listed below, but if you are going to go for one, go for The Nest.
Young Adult: Again, a really good selection.  Either Dumplin, or All American Boys
Young Nonfiction:  Again all are good.  I’ll go with My Seneca Village
Smart Smut:  Real World
Grownup Nonfiction: Between the World and Me (and not just because it’s the only one)
Grownup Fiction: Where’d You Go, Bernadette
picture books

Leo A Ghost Story
Barnett Robinson
Read for Librarian Book Group
I’m a sucker for these illustrations.

middle grade

The Marvels
Brian Selznick
Read for Librarian Book Group
Beautifully illustrated and cleverly written.

The Nest
Kenneth Oppel
Read for Librarian Book Group
Super creepy in that delightful way.  Is our main character a little crazy, or are angels talking to him?  And what’s up with those wasps?  This was a thrilling middle reader.

young adult

X: A Novel
Ilyasah Shabazz & Kelka Magoon (sp)
Read for Mock Printz
An earlier attempt to read the Autobiography of Malcolm X crashed and burned due to dry prose, so I was leery of this novel.  But I need not have worried.  This story of Malcom Little’s teenage years was engrossing and full of period detail. It was fascinating to watch the growth and changes from his mid-teens to his early twenties.  I happened to be reading Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me at the same time and the two books were good companions to each other.

Julie Murphy
Read for Librarian Book Group
Dumplin’ is a pleasure from start to finish, encompassing so many things about body identity and being overweight as a teenager.  I loved this book.

Tonight the Streets are Ours
Leila Sales
I love Sales continued exploration of female friendships.   This book also explores finding the truth behind the face that people are presenting to the pubic.

All American Boys
Read for Librarian Book Group
Ah, so relevant, which is depressing given that you can’t really write and publish a book overnight.  Told by two authors, from two points of view.  We meet Rashad, a black artist and ROTC student, who due to random unfortunate circumstances that mostly have to do with him being Black, is severely beaten by a white police officer.  The police officer is a big-brother figure to Quinn, a white kid from the neighborhood who witnesses the beating.

From there we travel with our main characters through a variety of feelings about race and loyalty and fair/unfairness. It’s a brutal book, a hopeful book, and an uncomfortable book.  It’s a book I think you should read.

(The authors were featured on NPR in January 2016.  You can find the link here.)

Young nonficiton

Funny Bones
Duncan Tonatiuh
Read for Librarian Book Group
I recognized the iconography, and it was fun to find out it was the work of one man.  Excellent font usage and very good illustrations.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
CB Weatherford
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture book story of Hamer, who I had not heard of.  Brings up difficult important parts of her story with truth and in a way that young readers can understand.  The illustrations complimented the text.

How to Swallow a Pig
Read for Librarian Book Group
I’m the kind of person who loves to learn how to do things.  Even things I’m never going to do.  This book hit a sweet spot that few books can.  I know now how to swallow a pig and so much more.

Rhythm Ride
Andrea Davis Pinkney
Read for Librarian Book Group
Sit back and go for a journey of Motown’s story with a velvet-voiced DJ.  I loved the level of detail and there were so many small facts I delighted in.  They layout was good, with ample pictures.  The voice of the DJ totally worked for me.  Certain things in Motown’s history were glossed-glossed-glossed over, but as this is more of an appreciation of Motown than a down-and-dirty history, I rolled with it.

I read this with my phone handy, so I could listen to the songs I wasn’t familiar with.  I found them all on YouTube, most without commercials.

My Seneca Village
Marilyn Nelson
Read for Librarian Book Group
I loved both the concept and the execution of this book of short poems inspired by Nelson’s research about Seneca Village, which now is known as Central Park in New York City, but prior to the 1850s was a diverse community of free blacks, Irish immigrants and others.

Nelson’s poems are easily accessible for tweens and above. I would suggest reading the book in one sitting (completely doable) so as to best follow the through-line of the stories.

You can read more about Seneca Village here:

smart smut

Real World
Amy Jo Cousins
Cousins has stated that Tom and Reese are her two favorite characters and she wrote this book to give them their happily ever after.  I’m also a fan of Tom and Reese and was happy to read their happily ever after.  But I think Cousins’s love of Tom and Reese got in the way of dramatic tension in the book.  It’s a pleasant ride, especially if you aren’t looking for any drama.

Grownup Nonfiction

Between the World and Me
Ta-nehisi Coates
The entire time I was reading this book I wondered what I would write about it.  A friend’s review “Read this book!” is spot-on.  Coates got me to see the world differently.

Adult fictionWhere’d You Go Bernadette?
Maria Semple
I always check out what’s available in the (many) Little Free Libraries I pass in my travels, but I rarely bring anything home.  This was the exception as I’d heard good things and didn’t have a ton to read.

It was so good!  Not in that National Book Award way, but in that way where you take comfort from the first page because you know the author is in control of the story and you know it’s going to be fun wherever she takes you.

Also, I love to hate Seattle,* so Bernadette and I got along great.

*Sorry Seattle.  You just aren’t as cool as you think you are.








Top Movies of November 2015

Total movies watched: 16

words_and_picturesWords & Pictures
“Grownup” love story and a good meditation on teaching.

internThe Intern
Way more complex than I thought it would be, with great characters and a female-centered plot.

Hard to watch biopic of Jackie Robinson.

all_the_presidents_menAll the President’s Men
Great Redford/Hoffman pairing, and one of THE best newspaper movies.

Another amazing newspaper movie with great acting and frustrating subject matter.

Possibly the most perfect movie I’ve seen this year.

It’s a classic for a reason.  And there’s a subplot with a cat.

all_the_real_girlsAll the Real Girls
Realistic portrayal of early 20s bumbling in love that also captures the beauty of a small mill town.

Requiem: Two coats.

I found this red 50s swing cost many years ago and it’s been my go-to “theater” coat for years.  It’s got 3/4 sleeves, and it always makes me wish I had long gloves to go with it.  I love the button closure at the top and the material.  However, I have a good winter coat (that is actually warm) to wear to the “theater”, so I think it’s time for this coat to find a new owner.


I’m terribly sorry that I only have a blurry picture of the Recess Coat.  I bought this years ago at the William Temple Thrift store, because it was reversible.  I’m a sucker for a reversible coat.  It was also obnxoious in it’s fake fur nature.  It kind of sat around for a few years until I got the job at The Emerson School which came with recess duty as one of its requirements.  This coat then migrated to school and was always ready to keep me warm.  I always accesorized it with those $1.00 stretchy gloves from Fred Meyer and some chapstick.  The white card was my laminated “bug and a wish”* reminder to use with the kindergartners. With it, I wore a wool hat (which I am not getting rid of) that I bought at the Council Crest Thrift Store. This coat kept me warm during many a cold and rainy recess.  When the weather would warm, I would joke that I’d look like a crazy person, because I would still wear the heavy coat.  Because standing outside in shade for 45 minutes is still chilly, even on a sixty degree day.


As I do not have recess duty any longer, it’s time for this most excellent coat to find a new home.  Note that it took me almost two months to part with this coat.  We’ve had a good partnership.

*It really BUGS me when you [follow me around].  I WISH you would [stop following me around])

Three sentence movie reviews: All the Real Girls


Was I going to like this movie as much on second viewing as I did on the first?*   It’s still one of the most realistic depictions of a relationship I’ve ever seen and both Zooey Deschanel and Paul Schneider are perfect (even though they are too old to play their characters).  Also, the angry clowning at the hospital is still one of the best mother-son interactions I’ve ever seen captured on film.

Cost: $4.00
Where watched: PSU Cinema

* Yes, it turns out, I was.  And it looked great on a big screen.

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Three sentence movie reviews: Alien


Oh my god, guys, this is an awesome strong-female-character movie and it also has a subplot featuring a cat!*  I feel the need to point out it’s Sci-Fi tense, not really scary, because if you are like me, you are more apt to watch sci-fi tense.**  I also really enjoyed seeing 1970s view of space, and how our views have changed.***

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home

*You, of course, probably know this as the movie came out in 1979 and is almost as old as me, but I just watched it and thus am just now understanding how good it is.
**But yes, I know that you’ve probably already seen it, because see above, but still!  There are probably five other people who haven’t seen it yet and I feel I must convince them.
***Smoking!  Would not at all happen today. Also, I was distracted because now that whole ship would have closed-circuit cameras, but they hadn’t yet figured that out about the future.  I found myself wondering how one would ratchet up tension today given the closed circuit cameras.  I guess you could go the easy route–cameras suddenly don’t work!

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Song of the month: “Way back when” by Kodaline

New feature.  Once per month, I will feature a song that is “of the moment” for me.  Usually because I have discovered it and can’t stop playing it repeatedly on YouTube.  Because I never buy any music, (and that is very wrong) I will then purchase that song.

This song popped up on Pandora the same night I watched the movie Brooklyn.  Brooklyn is an incredible movie and perfect in many ways, but I left with the feeling of “I will never be that young ever again.” It’s a feeling I’ve had intermittently this year, especially this summer.  I feel it deeply, while at the same time understanding its ridiculousness.  My twenties were in many ways not that great and I would prefer not to return to them.  But some part of me longs to be that age again.  Overlaid with this internal struggle, is my future 80-year-old self saying, “You thought 40 was old? Try being an octogenarian!”

And then this song played and the chorus caught me:

Yeah, those will be the days that I’ll be missing
When I’m old and when I’m grey and when I stop working
I hope that I can say
When all my days are done
We were just having fun

It’s a good song, and one I’d like to work into my song repertoire.  Because eventually I’m going to have a songbook of songs I can play and sing.  You know. Someday.

The video is classic “band on the road”.  The band seems to have an impossibly good looking lead singer–the kind of guy who spells trouble for the girls and trouble for the band.  I wish all of them well.

Three sentence movie reviews: Brooklyn


I’d read the book years ago and didn’t really care for it,* but I’m a sucker for both Saoirse Ronan and Nick Hornby, plus I’d heard the raves, so off I went.  I settled in for 111 minutes of pure pleasure as I navigated the choppy waters of Eilis’s new life.  Emory Cohen** was remarkable, but Ronan was mesmerizing.***

Cost: I think $6.00?
Where watched: St Johns Twin, in the small theater upstairs with a lot of other people with grey hair.

*However, sitting waiting for the movie to start, I thought about just how many scenes from the book I could clearly remember, even five years later. I also could remember the entire plot, which is something I can’t say about some books I read six months ago, or even one month ago. Well done, Colm Toibin.
**He was that sketchy dude in the third part of The Place Beyond the Pines, and completely different in this role.
***Also, you will get your money’s worth just watching Julie Walters trying to keep control of her boarders’ conversation at the dinner table.

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Three sentence movie reviews: Crossing Delancy

crossing delancey

This was on an internet list of good romantic comedies you’ve never seen.  I found it to be an amazing cataloger of mid-80s clothing and hair, and a sweet love story for “older” people.  It was also kind of a snooze, but that might have been because of the wine.

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home.

(I’ve always liked the title, though.)

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Three sentence movie reviews: That Awkward Moment


I like all of these actors, so poor reviews be damned, I watched this.  It was not horrible.  But it wasn’t exactly good, either.*

*Might I recommend some better movies with these actors?  Two Night Stand features Miles Teller and is quite good.  Me and Orson Wells features Zac Efron and is also good. I haven’t been able to make myself watch Fruitville Station with Michael B. Jordan, but I have seen all of Friday Night Lights and he’s quite good in that.

Cost: again I found it for free on the internet. It was cold.  I didn’t want to go to the video store.  I also didn’t want to pay to stream mediocrity either, especially because it wasn’t available to stream and I would have had to pay $9.99 to buy it and own it forever.  I’m terrible, I know.
Where watched: at home on the computer.

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