Saturday, April 30, 2016

April Reads (2016) and Movies

April hopefuls; only three actually made it

I finished a lot of great books this month, one or two slogs, and found a new favorite author. It's been a great book month. Our family watched quite a few good movies this month so I'm adding those here, too.

*Girls on the Edge by Dr. Leonard Sax -- Last month I raved about Boys Adrift, also by Dr. Sax, and I couldn't wait to read his take on the other gender side. I didn't find this book as eye-opening (maybe because I am a girl?) but there is still valuable information here for parents, teachers, and caregivers. I fully plan to read The Collapse of Parenting, his newest book, when it finally comes to me at the library (I've been waiting for months, and it's now in transit). The thing I love about Dr. Sax's writing is that it takes huge ideas based on science, and shuffles them alongside anecdotes so the reader-who may or may not have any medical/scientific knowledge base- and explains them in an accessible manner. 

*Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach -- This book was so good. I read it in about 36 hours, and it's such an important book for Christians, specifically, to read, though anyone would enjoy it. It's a spiritual memoir about a boy who was raised by two moms and a gay dad, was brought up in the gay rights community, became a Christian, then a pastor. It's controversial and people within the church, I feel, have a hard time discussing this topic. Often people err on the side of leniency, or inconsideration, and this book qualifies the opposites of both. Read and discuss it with your tweens, teens, and family members. 

* The Age of Miracles by Karen Walker Thompson -- I loved this YA novel! I heard about it from the What Should I Read Next? podcast hosted by Anne Bogel of the MMD blog, and it sounded like a book I'd be interested in reading. I was right, it was fascinating. It's a story about the slowing of the earth, and how that effects everything on earth, including relationships, migration and animal behavior, the atmosphere, and time. The writing is beautiful, and although the story is abut a tween girl, I really enjoyed it because I love reading dystopian stories. Consider this as "dystopian-lite". I'd definitely read another book by Walker Thompson. 

*The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr -- This book has hit me from so many angles, but as much as I love reading memoir, this book about memoirs, was a bit of a slog for me. When a book takes me more than two weeks to finish (heaven forbid if I have to renew it from the library at week 3!), I know it's not a book I'm usually enjoying. I wanted to get through this book because I found the writing excellent (!), and the bibliography in the back to be one of the best I've seen. I have so many new memoirs on my book list to read from this book, but....it just didn't hit the mark for me. Chapters gushing about a favorite writer of Karr's, I just didn't enjoy it as some might. It felt more like a book that should be on a college syllabus. 

*Caught up in a Story by Sarah Clarkson -- This book is about the value of reading excellent literature to the kids in your life, and although the topic is something I fully buy into, I also found this book to be a bust, even clocking in at only 125 pages. The writing is very flowery and like constantly reading a bulls-eye: you have to read around and around and around until you finally get to the point. I like the topic, wouldn't probably pass on the book.

*Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson -- I heard about this award-winning YA verse novel from the What Should I Read Next? podcast, as well, and I loved it. The poetry is beautiful and the plot (a memoir of childhood) moves at a great pace and is very interesting. This would be an excellent book to listen to on audio and/or add to a poetry/civil rights unit for school. If you like verse novels, add it!

Read Aloud with the Kids:

*By the Shores of Silver Lake  by Laura Ingalls Wilder -- This is the story of Laura's family when Pa works with the railroad crew as a store shop keeper. It's the 5th in the series and was a very 'happy' and interesting book, with something wild always happening out on the prairie. My kids really loved this book, as Laura is still getting herself into a pickle every once in awhile and they laugh out loud at what she impulsively gets herself into.

Movies:

*Creed -- If you love the Rocky series (like me!) then you'll probably enjoy it. If you didn't like any of the Rocky movies, skip it. It's the story of Apollo's son who trains under the Italian Stallion. 

*Mockingjay Pt. 2 -- I really enjoyed The Hunger Games series although I didn't find this wrap-up to be quite as good as a few of the other movies. I think this series is very clever in terms of imagination, but I honestly couldn't remember a lot of what was in the movie and how it related to the book. I think I was annoying Stefan when I kept saying, "jeez, I don't remember this part AT ALL". 

*Amy -- This was a really well-done documentary on jazz and pop singer, Amy Winehouse, who died a few years ago when her heart stopped in her flat. It's the story of her well before she became famous, and the demons that followed her trail after she began to make it big. It's a sad story because Amy had one of the most beautiful jazz voices in the last 25 years, and she had so much potential. 

*Cooked by Michael Pollan -- Not to give too much away, but I'm going to write a separate blog post about using this as homeschool curriculum. Although there wasn't too much new information, I really enjoyed watching this four-part series with my kids. We had great discussions after each episode, and aside from the first part being incredibly boring, the last 3 made up for it. 

*A Bear's Story -- My kids really enjoyed this BBC production of a story about a bear cub. It's a kid documentary, and great for animal lovers. The narration is not quite there (that really can make or break a movie like this, right?) and a bit cheesy in part, but for a short, and slow-paced movie about a cute cub, your nature lovers will enjoy it. 

*The Peanuts Movie -- I wasn't impressed with this movie, though my kids thought it was funny. I admit I didn't watch all of it, but the parts I saw I felt like they scrapped everything from the famous Peanuts movies of the past, and pasted them together. I'm quite glad I didn't spend the money in the theaters!

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