Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Raymie Nightingale (Thing 1)

We read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. It's a middle-grade novel about three girls who become friends over a summer of baton twirling lessons. The protagonist, Raymie, wants to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest in the hopes of getting her picture in the paper so her dad will see her and come home. However, her new friend, Louisiana, also wants to compete so she can use the prize money to buy her cat back from the Very Friendly Animal Center. And her other friend, Beverly, wants to sabotage the whole thing.

I always like Kate DiCamillo's books, and this one wasn't an exception. This plot was by far the simplest of any of her stories I've read, but I didn't mind it too much. I like character-driven stories. It wasn't boring at all, it was just a sleepy kind of feel, like a lazy summer read, which I found enjoyable. Beverly's character made me laugh and Louisiana was delightfully quirky. My favorite parts were toward the end when they set out to complete a mission as "the Three Rancheros." The only character I didn't really connect with was Raymie. The other two girls had very distinct personalities, but I felt like Raymie was distant the whole time, which isn't really what you want with a protagonist.

I give this book

I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a quick and simple story. It was really sweet and fun to read.

Raymie Nightingale (Thing 2)

We read Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. It's about three girls who in the beginning seem like enemies but are somehow friends? I didn't really get it. Two of the girls want to win a Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. One of the girls wants to sabotage it for no apparent reason. The three girls go on wonderful adventures like reading to old people, trying to find dead cats, and much, much, more! This book had no plot whatsoever.

 I would give this book

I would have given this book one star, but it had good characters, so, why not!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Rebecca (Thing 1)

We read Rebecca by Daphne du Marier. It's a gothic novel about a woman who marries a rich man named Maxim de Winter, who recently lost his wife Rebbeca to a boating accident. The protagonist feels as if she can never live up to Rebecca as a wife or a woman in high society.

A friend of mine called this "a ghost story without an actual ghost," which is the perfect way to describe it. I loved the fact that the narrator of the book is never given a name. It's done well so it isn't confusing, but leaves you wanting to know. The beginning of the book is really slow, but the payoff is worth it. I haven't read many gothic novels, but I enjoyed this one. I had lots of theories going into it that I was very surprised about.

I would give this book

(actual rating: 3.5).

It has great writing, a simple story with a subtle mystery, and is perfect for a rainy afternoon.

Rebecca (Thing 2)

We read Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. It is a Gothic novel that starts in Monaco, where the unnamed main character of the book meets a man named Maxim de Winter. They get married only days after they meet. Maxim de Winter lives in a giant, beautiful house called Manderlay. Maxim de Winter's old wife, Rebecca, died, and the new Mrs. de Winter thinks that she is never going to be as good as her.

I would give this book 

I liked the ambiguity of the whole thing, wondering how Rebecca really died, and the darkness. But the beginning was really slow, so I decided to remove two stars.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Newsies" (Thing 2)

We watched "Newsies" for school today. It is a musical about a group of kids called the newsies that go around and deliver the news to everyone. They have to go to a newsstand bright and early to buy newspapers to sell. All is going well, until the owner of the paper raises the price of the newspapers. The newsies then have to figure out what to do. After a good while, they decide to go on strike. But what dangers will come?

I would give this movie
because it was funny, had good music, and had good characters. I didn't really have a favorite character; I liked them all.

"Newsies" (Thing 1)

We watched "Newsies." A runaway juvenile delinquent, Jack Kelly, gets a job as a newsie in New York. But when the newsies suffer from salary cuts, Jack convinces them to go on strike. Between the chaos of the riots and Jack trying to hide from the Warden Snyder, trouble follows the newsies everywhere.

This was a really fun musical. Right off the bat, it was full of upbeat songs and constant movement, just like New York is. Jack Kelly was played by Christian Bale, who is the perfect kind of actor for his role, a sort of wannabe cowboy/revolutionary. Partnering up with the more levelheaded David, they worked together to keep the strike going without it getting too out of hand (most of the time). The overall feel and theme of the movie reminded me of a "Mary Poppins" meets "Les Misérables." Les, probably the youngest of all of them, was even like Gavroche. The music was great, too; catchy, but not in a borderline annoying way like songs from "Music Man" might get stuck in your head.

Overall, I would give it

(actual rating 3.5). This isn't something I liked enough to see on Broadway or anything, but I would definitely recommend watching the movie.

Little Women (Thing 2)

We read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. It is about four sisters, Amy, Beth, Jo, Meg, and their mom Marmee. Their dad is off at war, so they have to make their own money in different ways. It takes place back during simple times during the Civil War. Amy, who is the youngest, loves art. Beth, the second youngest, is the kindest and loves playing the piano. Jo loves to write stories, and Meg, the oldest, is the "proper" one. As the story progresses, they go through all kinds of obstacles.

I would give this book

 because it had really good characters and was a simple yet enjoyable story. My favorite characters were Jo and Beth. I thought Jo was kind of a cool character because she didn't take anyone's crap. And I enjoyed how sweet Beth was.

Little Women (Thing 1)

We read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The March family--primarily focused on the four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy--struggle to work together and stay responsible while their father is away in the military. Throughout the story, obstacles and other complications make this goal difficult, but ultimately bring them closer as a family.

I really enjoyed this book. I'd read it a long time ago, but didn't remember much, so it was like reading it for the first time all over again. Jo was my favorite character hands down, just because of how much I could relate to her. She liked to read, write, and get a little messy even if it meant straying from social norms. She said what she thought and stuck to her principles. Really all of the characters were great in different ways, especially because they were so ahead of their time for when the story was written.

The story was simple, but enjoyable. It didn't feel outdated like some books from that long ago did. I really like the Jo and Laurie friendship, Beth and Mr. Laurence's relationship, and all of the girls constantly trying to stay sane when dealing with their crotchety old Aunt March. Each chapter was almost like a short story that connected with all the others, so if we took a break and went back to it, it wasn't hard to remember everything that had happened in the past thanks to it being serialized. The only thing that bugged me was how obvious some of the chapter endings were with the, "What was the moral of the story here, girls?" kind of attitude. I was fine with the overall message, but it could've been woven into the plot better.

I would rate it

. It's a good book for all ages as it's not difficult to read, but doesn't sacrifice any of the beautiful writing to make it like that.

Monday, March 21, 2016

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Thing 2)

We watched 2 movies, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." They are both based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. They are both about a boy named Charlie and the best chocolate maker in the world named Willy Wonka. Charlie's family doesn't have much money at all, which means that Charlie can only have 1 Wonka chocolate bar a year, on his birthday. Mr. Wonka mysteriously closed down his chocolate factory because he was tired of spies from other factories coming in as "workers." They really just wanted to steal his secrets. One day, his chocolate factory opened up again, but he didn't invite anyone to work for him. How is he making all this chocolate? Well, five lucky kids are about to find out, because five and only five kids will be allowed to visit his factory, get a lifetime's supply of chocolate, and one of them will get a special prize. I overall like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" more, because it was funnier, more true to the book, and had better music.

I would give "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

I would give "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

although if I could this one would be more like 3.5, because I liked it more.

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" (Thing 1)

We watched "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in order to compare the two  movies. A poor boy named Charlie dreams about winning a golden ticket in a random lottery and going to visit Willy Wonka's famed chocolate factory.

I really enjoyed both movies for different reasons. We watched the older version ("Willy Wonka") first. And for a movie made in 1971, it did a pretty good job of holding up to modern standards. The special effects, the acting, even the music was all great considering. My favorite part about this movie in particular was Willy Wonka himself. He was sarcastic and didn't take any of the other four kids' brattiness, but he was also quirky and funny. He reminded me a little bit of any of the Doctors from "Doctor Who," down to the unique outfit and fast talking and magical world that seems bigger on the inside. This movie did have somewhat of an abrupt ending to it, though. Not unsatisfying, but quick. I liked the music in this one much better, too.

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was very Tim Burton. It wasn't creepy, necessarily, but definitely a lot darker. Johnny Depp's Willy Wonka was more odd than delightfully quirky. With Gene Wilder, it didn't seem awkward at all when he gave Charlie a great big hug. Johnny Depp always gave off a "don't touch me" vibe. There was something more off and almost cold about him. It wasn't a bad different, I just preferred the other Willy Wonka better. However, this movie had a lot more backstory to it. You get to find out more about Charlie's family (he has a dad in this version, which he didn't in the other), the chocolate factory before it closed down and reopened, where the Oompa Loompas came from and how they came to work for Willy Wonka, and a whole flashback sequences about Willy Wonka's childhood. I liked that aspect a lot. It added more layers to the story. The ending was more complete, too.

I'd rate "Willy Wonka"

and "Charlie"

(actual rating 3.5).

These are both great movies for the family filled with laughs, a good story, and music guaranteed to stay in your head for a few days. Make sure you have chocolate on hand while you're watching, because you will get hungry.

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Hercules," "Tarzan," and "The Lion King" (Thing 2)

We watched 3 Disney musicals: "The Lion King," "Hercules," and "Tarzan." Personally, I don't think "Tarzan" is really a musical, but the music is really good.

"The Lion King" kind of reminds me of Hamlet; the uncle kills his brother, who is the king, and steals the throne. The son runs away and all of the other lions think he is dead. He meets two friends, Timon and Pumbaa. And together they go about life.

"Hercules" is about Zeus' son. Hades wants to steal the throne. The three Fates tell Hades that as long as Hercules lives, Hades cannot steal the throne. So he has his henchmen kill Hercules. They fail and instead just turn him human. He then has to live on earth, not knowing that he was once a god.

"Tarzan" is about a boy who lost his parents to a tiger, and has to live in the jungle. He is being raised by a bunch of gorillas. He soon meets humans like himself. They are trying to find gorillas for research. Tarzan can only speak monkey, and can't communicate with the newcomers.

I would give "The Lion King"
because the music was good, it was funny, and most of the characters were likable. I would have given it 5 stars, but I only do that with movies that are really good.

I would give "Hercules"
because the characters were good and it was funny. I didn't give it any more stars, because I didn't really like the music.

I would give "Tarzan"
because it was funny, the music was  REALLY good, and I enjoyed the interactions between Tarzan and the other humans.

"Hercules," "Tarzan," and "The Lion King" (Thing 1)

We watched "Hercules," "Tarzan," and "The Lion King." It gave us the chance to review and compare three different musical Disney movies.

All of the movies had certain things in common: Musical numbers; some sort of conniving villain; quirky side characters; humor; some tragic event that heavily influences the protagonist in his actions; and a timeline that follows the main character from him as a baby, to a young child, and then as an adult.

But though each movie had all of these things, some of them had better versions of it than others. My favorite parts of "Hercules" were the characters. They all had their funny moments, villain included, and personalities that felt more unique rather than a copy of other Disney characters. My favorite character was Hades, just because he was an antagonist that cracked me up, like Lucifer from "Supernatural."

The best part of "Tarzan" was the overall story. It wasn't your usual "quest for something" plot, but a more interesting approach to bridging two different worlds. I liked the different relationships between all of the characters as well as being pleasantly surprised about what would happen next. I've seen all of these movies before, but it's been so long since I've seen them, I didn't remember everything about them. However, with the other two, it was fairly easy to predict what the next plot twist would be. I didn't feel like that with "Tarzan."

And then I loved the music in "The Lion King" best. It was catchy, fun, but avoided most of the normal cheese that you can expect in a Disney movie. My favorite songs were "Hakuna Matata" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

For movies that are pretty short (some of them not even hitting the hour and a half mark), they do a good job of carrying out an interesting story. I recommend all of them.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"The Music Man" (Thing 1)

We watched "The Music Man." It's about a con man named Harold Hill who pretends to be a band leader in order to cheat a small Iowa town out of their money. What he doesn't realize is that a woman named Marian could make it hard to leave.

This movie was full of life and lightheartedness. The scenes always had bright colors and music you could dance to, and a very simple plot. All of that I liked. It was one of the cornier musicals I'd seen, though a few parts did make me giggle. But the main characters just did not strike me as a good fit for each other. They had absolutely no chemistry.

All in all, I'd give this

 . It's a fun movie for the family, but be warned, the songs will stay stuck in your head for a long time!

The Music Man (Thing 2)

We watched "The Music Man." It's about a traveling salesman who visits a town in Iowa. He tricks them into having him help them start a band for the kids. He makes lots of money. Little do they know, he doesn't play any instruments.

I would give this movie

  because it was funny and had pretty good music. I didn't give it any more stars because the video
quality was bad and it wasn't the best writing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Liesl & Po (Thing 2)

We read Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. It is about a girl named Liesl who meets a ghost named Po. She is locked in her stepmother's attic. Liesl's father died, and she wants to get a box of his ashes and return it to a special willow tree. Meanwhile, in a different part of town, an alchemist's apprentice is supposed to deliver a box of magic to a woman. There is a mix-up with the boxes and he ends up giving it to Liesl instead of giving her the ashes.

I would give this book

because it is funny, has really cool words, and is action packed.

Liesl & Po (Thing 1)

We read Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver. It's a story about a little girl named Liesl whose father has died. She's left to be raised by her stepmother, who locks her in the attic so she doesn't have to deal with her. One day the little girl manages to escape and starts to make her way to her childhood home so she can lay her father's ashes (which she's stolen from her stepmother) to rest. Little does she know that the box of ashes has accidentally been switched with a box full of the most powerful magic in the universe, thanks to a sleepy alchemist's apprentice named Will. Because of the mix-up, Liesl and Will's paths collide, and along with Liesl's ghost friends, they head on an adventure they had never even imagined they could have.

I'd read the Delirium series by Lauren Oliver, which is a young adult dystopian trilogy that is much different than this book, so I was excited to see how it compared. I thought her writing was fabulous in this one. The friendship between the main characters was sweet, and the whole plot reminded me a little of Cinderella, except with a more paranormal magical theme. My favorite characters were probably Po and Bundle, just because the way the ghosts were handled in the story was really unique. I loved the descriptions having to do with them and "the Other Side," as they call it.

I would give it

. This is a great book to read as a family! I don't feel like the story ever lagged. There were twists and turns with each chapter. I definitely recommend it.