Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movies I'm Anticipating in 2015

There are several movie releases that I am looking forward to in 2015. 

1.  The "new" Cinderella by Disney, released on March 13th.
click on the photo to watch the official movie trailer!
I am really excited about this one.  I just saw the musical Cinderella, so maybe I am just in the mood! The new Disney version stars Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, and Lily James (Rose on Downton Abbey) as Cinderella. 

2.  Pitch Perfect 2, released on May 15.
click on the photo to watch the official movie trailer.
Okay, Pitch Perfect took me by surprise.  I thought it would be stupid, and my daughters made me watch it and I thought it was cute!

Click on the picture to watch the official movie trailer.  Jurassic World brings the Jurassic Park adventure back to the big screen.  More dinosaurs! coming to theaters on June 12.

4.  Inside Out by Disney Pixar comes to big screens on June 19.
click on the photo to watch the official trailer. 
This movie has a really different premise -  voices in a little girl's head come to life.  This summer, meet Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear -- the little voices inside your head

click on the photo for the official "teaser" trailer
The Walk - coming to theaters on Oct. 2, tells the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit's walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on August 7, 1974. 

6.  A new Star Wars movie?  Of course I'm excited - Isn't everybody?  Coming to theaters on Dec. 18.
click on the photo for the official teaser. 

7.  Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Pohler also opens on Dec. 18th.  They had me at the mention of "Tina Fey". 

no official trailer yet!
The plot revolves around two sisters summoned home to clean their childhood bedroom before their parents sell the house. The two decide to throw one last house party in an attempt to recapture their glory days. Former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock scribe, Paula Pell, wrote the screenplay while Pitch Perfect director Jason Moore will helm the pic. Sisters also stars Maya Rudolph, Ike Barinholtz, John Leguizamo, Dianne Wiest, John Cena and James Brolin.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year's Resolutions - My Reading Goals from 2014, and what I hope to read in 2015

Every year I challenge myself to read a specific number of books.  In 2014, I challenged myself to read 100 books. Although I only finished 92, I feel like a winner - that is the most books I've ever read in a year!  Each year I set some supplemental goals for myself, like reading more classics, reading 10% children's books, mixing up my genres (read mysteries, romance, historical fiction, non-fiction, etc.) I am still formulating my reading goals for 2015, but I think I am going to shoot for 100 books again.  Here is a link to the books I completed in 2014:

I like using Goodreads to keep track of what books I read, what books I'd like to read in the future, and for getting suggestions.  This year they even compiled stats for the books I finished!  I rated 19 of my 92 books 5 stars, and by far the largest category was the 4 star review.  I rated 9 books with 2 stars or less.  Most books I read had 4 stars, which means I really enjoyed reading them!

When making a resolution, I feel like putting a concrete number, and actually committing publicly to the goal keeps me motivated.  Some general advice from "experts" for keeping your New Year's Resolutions, (whether they involve reading, losing weight, exercise, or other goals) can be found here:

1.  Make a Bet with yourself.   Treat yourself to something you like if you complete your goal.
2.  Break down your goal into specific smaller goals - like reading 2 books per week, or exercising 3 times per week.
3.  Do you like Apps?  Use the "Way of Life" app to measure your success.  If you update the app regularly, you can see graphs and trends - great if you are a visual person.
4.  Put your goal in writing - online, on your frig, in a journal - someplace where you will see it.
5. Enlist a friend or buddy to help you reach your goal.  Having a like minded person to talk to, and encourage you can help you reach your goal.

Hope you have a Happy New Year, and a 2015 filled with great books!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Top Ten Books for Middle School in 2014

Here are some of my favorite books (and Children's Librarian Cathy Henderson) choices for the best books for middle schoolers published in 2014.

1.   Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly and her 4 siblings move to a little Maryland town called Pumpkin Falls, and she is dreading it. Not only because her Dad's plane got shot down in Afghanistan, and they decide to move closer to his parents, but also because she is losing her best friend and her Mom's Huge Texas Family. However, once moving there, Truly's family inherits the bookstore from her grandparents and Truly and her Aunt True try to do everything they can to make profits so it can stay open. Truly finds a signed copy of Charlotte's Web and thinks her family has hit the jack pot. If they can sell that book, they can keep their bookstore. However, inside the books she also finds a mysterious letter that leads her and her friends on a wild scavenger hunt through Pumpkin Falls to try and find out what the letter means.

2.   Any Given Number by Sports Illustrated
I love these Sports Illustrated compilation books. They use great photography, have lots of facts, and present the information in a really eye-catching way. The Top 10 of Football, etc. They are all great, perfect for sports fans, and are a hit with teen boys, even though they are published under the "Sports Illustrated for Kids" name.

3.  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.  I really enjoyed this memoir in verse!

4.   Crossover by Kwame Alexander
A great pick for sports fans, reluctant readers, and people that enjoy novels in verse. Although basketball it is topic, this is more than a sports novel about the big game. It's about family, jealousy, and growing up. I really enjoyed this book, and found it heart warming, although very sad.

5.   Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Twelve-year-old Jocelyn dreams of becoming every bit as daring as her infamous father, Captain James Hook. Her grandfather, on the other hand, intends to see her starched and pressed into a fine society lady. When she's sent to Miss Eliza Crumb-Biddlecomb's Finishing School for Young Ladies, Jocelyn's hopes of following in her father's fearsome footsteps are lost in a heap of dance lessons, white gloves, and way too much pink.
So when Jocelyn receives a letter from her father challenging her to avenge his untimely demise at the jaws of the Neverland crocodile, she doesn't hesitate-here at last is the adventure she has been waiting for. But Jocelyn finds that being a pirate is a bit more difficult than she'd bargained for. As if attempting to defeat the Neverland's most fearsome beast isn't enough to deal with, she's tasked with captaining a crew of woefully untrained pirates, outwitting cannibals wild for English cuisine, and rescuing her best friend from a certain pack of lost children, not to mention that pesky Peter Pan who keeps barging in uninvited.  Goodreads and Cathy Henderson call this book delightful!

6.   Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
I loved this middle grade novel! Lucy has just moved with her family to an old cottage on a New Hampshire lake. Her father is a famous nature photographer, and Lucy and her mother will be spending most of the summer there alone while he is on location for a photo shoot out west. Lucy meets the neighbors, learns to care about the pair of loons nesting on their lake, and enters a photo contest. A great story!

7.   Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
Rose is a high functioning autistic child, that is struggling with a one-parent father who has little or no knowledge about what is best for Rose. The only good thing he does is bring home a stray dog on a rainy night, which Rose names "Rain" and bonds with deeply. The book depicts Rose's struggles to fit in at school, cope with her outbursts, and how the rest of her world relates to her love of homonyms (uncle loves them, Dad not so much). Rose's world takes a turn for the worst when during Hurricane Susan when her father lets Rain out to go the bathroom, and the dog does not return.
The way Rose deals with the separation, and her process for finding her dog is inspiring. I loved this book and think it is an excellent choice for middle school readers and beyond.

Each of the nine students on Mrs. B's school bus holds a clue to the mystery of the empty bus stop. Spencer's the smart kid. Shellly's the diva. Matthew's just average (so far). In fact, there's nothing about any of the nine middle-schoolers on Mrs. B's bus route that screams "fame," but before the end of the school year, somebody on this bus is going to be famous.
Part detective story, part tale of self-discovery, this funny and touching novel told from nine very different points of view is destined to be a modern classic.

9.   125 True Stories of Amazing Pets by National Geographic
Meet Paco the pint-size Chihuahua who scared to masked robbers out of a convenience store; a pet cat that takes swimming lessons, a parrot that rides a scooter, a cat that plays piano, a Pomeranian pooch that swallowed $10,000 worth of diamonds, a dog that adopted a newborn potbellied pig, and many other amazing pets. This page-turner offers 125 heart-warming and hilarious anecdotes, illustrated with full-color photos of these intriguing animals. Stories include unlikely animal friends, animal heroes, amazing animal tricks, wacky truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories of animal antics, and more. Plus, loads of animal facts sprinkled throughout the book.

10.   The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Eleven-year-old Ellie has never liked change. She misses fifth grade. She misses her old best friend. She even misses her dearly departed goldfish. Then one day a strange boy shows up. He’s bossy. He’s cranky. And weirdly enough . . . he looks a lot like Ellie’s grandfather, a scientist who’s always been slightly obsessed with immortality. Could this pimply boy really be Grandpa Melvin? Has he finally found the secret to eternal youth?  Funny, quirky, and beautiful. This would be a perfect read-aloud. The grandpa is hilarious.  Best Book for Middle Grade Readers chosen by Amazon.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Coming to a Theater Near You in 2015! the book to movie trend continues

Here are some of the book to movie adaptations that are slated to come to the silver screen in 2015. Inspiration for this post came from Popsugar Entertainment.

1.  Insurgent by Veronica Roth

The Divergent trilogy continues, with the expected release date of March 20 for Insurgent.  One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

2.  Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns is the second book by author John Green to come to the big screen, the first being The Fault in Our Stars.  Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows. After their all-nighter ends, and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they're for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew... The movie's expected release date is June 19.


The second installment in the Maze Runner series, by author James Dashner, The Scorch Trials is set to hit theaters on September 18.  Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.
There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

4.  Mockingjay, Part. 2.
The final movie of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins is coming to theaters on November 20.
Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.
It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans--except Katniss.
The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay--no matter what the personal cost.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ranson Riggs is expected in theaters March of 2016.  Another book to movie venture to look forward to!  A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs.  It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Music: My favorite "Newer" songs

Maybe it's because I have a December birthday, but I love Christmas music.  I love making my own Christmas mixes to play during the holiday season.  I love the classics like Bing Crosby, the soundtrack to a Charlie Brown Christmas, and so many more.  Here are a few of my favorites that have been released since 2010.

1.   Pentatonix "Mary Did You Know".  I love this remake of the classic by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna.  Bonus - it is available as a free download on Freegal with your Greece Public Library card! 

2.   "Let it Snow" track number one on the new holiday music CD by Darius Rucker.  We own the CD here at the Greece Public Library - check the catalog here.

3.   "Cold December Night" by Michael Buble' is one of my new favorite songs! Check our catalog here

4.  "La Vergine Degli Angeli" by Pink Martini - for when I am in a classical mood. 

5.   "Text Me Merry Christmas" Straight No Chaser featuring Kristin Bell.  You have to have a little fun over the holiday! 

6.   "Mittens" by Carly Rae Jepsen. This one grew on me!

7.   "Shake Up Christmas" by Train.  Such a happy song!

8.   "Holly Jolly Christmas" by Lady Antebellum.  A great country version of the Burl Ive's classic song from the Rudolf show.

9.   "I'll Be Home" by Meghan Trainor.  The "All About That Bass" singer sings a Christmas song.

10.   "Christmas Wrapping" by The Saturdays - a remake of the 1980's classic by The Waitresses of a girl chasing her dream guy all year!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Top Ten of Best Teen Books Published in 2014

Here's my list of best books for Teens that I read in 2014.  This list just includes books published in 2014.  Next week I'll have my top ten reads for Middle School! 

1.  Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
I know this is technically a book published for adults, but I think it is perfectly appropriate, and could be appealing to older teens.  I really enjoyed this, and thought the twist at the end served the storyline. Leaving Time is a story of a young girl looking for her mother, a dedicated researcher in elephant grief. Chapters are in different points of view, including 13-year-old Jenna Metcalf (the young woman), her mother Alice Metcalf's (the researcher) journals, a private eye named Virgil, and a psychic named Serenity who has fallen from grace due to a botched "missing child" prediction. You know initially that there was an accident at the elephant sanctuary, where a female caretaker was trampled, and Alice was found near the body, unconscious. After being taken to the hospital, Alice checks herself out later that night, and disappears. I enjoyed reading the entries about the elephants, and the work that Alice did with them, but I am an animal/nature lover.  A great choice for a mother/daughter book club! 

2.   Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot
The Great Gatsby meets Looking for Alaska in this stunning debut novel. When Julia Buchanan enrolls at St. Anne's at the beginning of junior year, Charlotte Ryder already knows all about her. Most people do . . . or think they do. Charlotte certainly never expects she'll be Julia's friend. But almost immediately, she dives headfirst into the larger-than-life new girl's world—a world of midnight rendezvous, dazzling parties, palatial vacation homes, and fizzy champagne cocktails. And then Charlotte meets, and begins falling for, Julia's handsome older brother, Sebastian. But behind Julia's self-assured smiles and toasts to the future, Charlotte soon realizes, she is still suffering from a tragedy. A tragedy that the Buchanan family has kept hidden . . . until now.  With inspiration drawn from Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Chelsey Philpot's moving debut novel perfectly captures the intensity, the thrill, and the heartbreak of our too-brief friendships and loves.

3.   Popular:  A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen
Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at “pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?  The real-life results are painful, funny, and include a wonderful and unexpected surprise—meeting and befriending Betty Cornell herself. Told with humor and grace, Maya’s journey offers readers of all ages a thoroughly contemporary example of kindness and self-confidence.  A freshing, sweet read. 

4.   A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Walker
Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?  My favorite historical fiction for teens in 2014.  

5.   The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin
One of the better young adult novels I've read this year - largely because it is current and very different. Addison Stone is a very promising young artist whose life is cut short by a fall from a bridge. Was it suicide? Was it murder? The reader begins to learn about Addison from a variety of sources - her family, her friends, teachers, business associates, magazine articles, and boyfriends. While learning about Addison, it becomes painfully apparent that with her artistic genius comes a debilitating mental illness. In the end, you can make up your mind based on the evidence. Adele Griffin does a fantastic job blending the story with photos, artwork, and quotes. When I first started reading it, I really got the feeling that Addison was a "real" person.

Sticky Fingers is a vibrant, easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to creating amazing projects with the hottest crafting material on the market today duct tape! The book includes tons of photographs alongside directions designed to make creating a wallet and making a bag even easier, while also providing a steady stream of ideas for personalizing and embellishing your duct tape creations. Each project includes icons showing difficulty level and project time, as well as helpful hints, such as how to keep your scissors clean and what to do with end pieces. So grab a roll of duct tape, pick a project, and get started!  One of the best duct tape books I've seen.  

7.   Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because she thought he'd understand since he died young just like her sister, May, did. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people-Janis Joplin, Amy Winhouse, Ameilia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more-although she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time, how her family splinters apart after May dies. She even writes about the abuse she suffered-while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May, and to see her as the person she was: lovely and amazing and deeply flawed.   I found Laurel's journey to fit in, find love, and seek forgiveness very believable.   In an ideal world, I just wish Ms. Dellaira would have kept the letters to a few targets that were relevant to the story, instead of including so many celebrities. 

8.   Complicit by Stephanie Keuhn
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.  But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.  Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.  You know from the start that Jamie has some serious issues, and you can not stop yourself from reading to find out more.  I won't say anymore - the less you know going in, the better. 

9.    The Jewel by Amy Ewing
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty.  But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude.  Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.  Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel's glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
     Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence . . . and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess's petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.  For lovers of dystopian societies, with a touch of romance.  If you are a fan of "The Selection" this book is for you! Also my vote for most gorgeous cover of 2014. 

10.   The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
Here is the riveting story of the Russian Revolution as it unfolded. When Russia's last tsar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894, he was unprepared to do so. With their four daughters (including Anastasia) and only son, a hemophiliac, Nicholas and his reclusive wife, Alexandra, buried their heads in the sand, living a life of opulence as World War I raged outside their door and political unrest grew.
Deftly maneuvering between the lives of the Romanovs and the plight of Russia's peasants--and their eventual uprising--Fleming offers up a fascinating portrait, complete with inserts featuring period photographs and compelling primary-source material that brings it all to life. History doesn't get more interesting than the story of the Romanovs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hot December Teen Books! What's on Your Wish List?

Lots of great new teen books coming to the shelves of the Greece Public Library this month!  Here are a few - are any on your "To Be Read" list? 

The thrilling Witch World saga continues in this suspenseful paranormal sequel to Red Queen, from #1 New York Times bestselling author Christopher Pike.

Debutantes in Love by Cora Harrison - to tide "Downton Abbey" fans over till January 4th!

Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes, a book #3 in the Gathering Kingdoms series.

King Dork Approximately, the sequal to King Dork by Frank Portman.  The further adventures of Tom Henderson, featuring even more rock and roll, disaffection, social anxiety, and teen romance in a dysfunctional world.

Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay.  "Game of Thrones" meets the Grimm's fairy tales in this twisted, fast-paced romantic fantasy-adventure about Sleeping Beauty's daughter, a warrior princess who must fight to reclaim her throne.

Suspicion by Alexandra Monir.  "Take The Princess Diaries and add magic, murder and mystery, and you've got SUSPICION. A delightful read!"—Amy Plum, author of the of the international bestselling Die For Me series

Zodiac by Romina Russell, the first novel in an epic sci-fi-meets-high-fantasy series set in a galaxy inspired by the astrological signs.

Other big hitters due out in December are James Patterson's The Lost (Witch & Wizard #5), and Vicious, the last Pretty Little Liars book by Sara Shepard.

Happy Reading!