Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

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Title: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

Premise:

Learn about different kinds of cats and their occupations in verse form!  This is a collection of feline-themed poems which tell readers about the exploits and foibles of Jellicle cats.  One is a magician, one a criminal mastermind, and more.  Whatever their occupation, you’re sure to find a favorite!

My thoughts:

If you are a cat-lover, then you need to read this slim book of poems!  It’s so much fun and really celebrates the quirkiness and idiosyncrasies of our feline friends.  The length is quite short as well, so you shouldn’t have any trouble polishing it off in a day.

I have difficulty choosing a favorite poem because they’re all so good, but I’d have to say that Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer is my all-time fav.  (Actually we named one of our cats Rumpelteazer.)  Rum Tum Tugger comes in a close second.  Hubby says he prefers Skimbleshanks.  My son loves Mr. Mistoffelees.  When he was younger he watched Cats all the time and when it got to the end of that song, he’d take a flying leap off the couch.  He was also scared of Macavity, but don’t tell him I told you so.

The musical Cats (which I absolutely love) is based on this book.  If you’re familiar with the songs from Cats, it will be very difficult to read the book without starting to sing the words.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.  Even if you do try to sing through the book, you’ll get muddled up because it’s not copied verbatim.

Throughout the book there are playful and whimsical drawings by Edward Gorey.  They’re somewhat simple, but very well done and really show the character of the various cats.

If it weren’t for the racial comments against the Chinese, this book would have gotten a 5-star rating.  It’s too bad that stuff has to be in there.

I recommend Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats to anybody who loves cats.  Because of the few racial comments, I don’t recommend it for young children, but it could work as a family read-aloud (with the offensive bits left out, of course).


Possible Objections:

  • A racial epithet against the Chinese & a couple of verses that talk about the “Heathen Chinese”

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

 

WHICH CAT IS YOUR FAVORITE?

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Kingdom Works: True Stories about God and His People in Inner City America by Bart Campolo

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Kingdom Works is another social justice book which I read some time ago.  For those of you interested in that subject, this book is full of anecdotal stories from an inner-city Christian ministry director.

Premise:

This is a collection of stories from Bart Campolo, the leader of a volunteer organization called Mission Year.  Mission Year brings young people into the inner city to live together in community with other young Christians, to partner with local churches, and to minister in their communities.  All of the stories come out of that setting.  It isn’t meant to be a textbook on how to do ministry, nor does it outline deep spiritual insights that can be learned from each story.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading this book, though there are parts that are uncomfortable to read.  When it isn’t just a made up story, but the heartache experienced by real people, it can be difficult to look at.  Our natural inclination is to turn away.  Each of the stories, whether things turned out good, bad or somewhere in between, has insights to offer and will broaden your thinking.  That is where the value lies in this book–it makes you think and it challenges your preconceived ideas.  Most stories leave you with more questions than you started with and wondering about theological issues and how they relate to the problems shared.

A couple of favorite quotes:

In speaking of the type of ministry that Mission Year engages in, Bart said, “This is not a high-powered evangelism ministry.  There are plenty of those already.  This is a settle-down-and-love-your-neighbor ministry, where the evangelism has to come naturally if it comes at all.” (p.31)

“In that awful moment I realized for the first time that out there in the real world the choices are not always between right and wrong, but sometimes between bad and worse.” (p. 53)

I would recommend this book for adults and possibly high schoolers, depending on their maturity level.  Many of the stories talk about things like drinking, drugs, sex, and violence.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Sexual themes
  • Drug references

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Fault in Our Stars – Movie 2014

Fault Stars - Movie

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I feel like I’ve just had my butt kicked emotionally by this movie.  The Fault in Our Stars is the movie adaptation of the book by the same name.  I loved the book and I’m glad to say that I loved the movie, as well.

First, the main characters (Hazel and Gus) were cast and acted extremely well.  I was fully convinced that they were the real characters and that their story was true.  There was such a wonderful spark and connection between them which really came through in the movie.  It doesn’t take much to imagine that they really are in love.

I don’t want to completely ruin the story for somebody who hasn’t read/seen it before.  In a nutshell, the story is about two teens who have cancer.  They fall in love and learn how to deal with their circumstances.  Their family and friends also learn how to deal with it all.  That is the very vague explanation.  I have left a lot of good bits out of my explanation–bits that you should find out about by reading the book or seeing the movie (or both).

This story explores the complexities of life, death, what makes a life worth living, friendship, love.  It hits deep on several topics and imparts new insights and feelings in the viewer.  This is one of those rare stories that helps you focus again on the important things in life.

A couple of my favorite parts of the movie are when Hazel and Gus are talking while Isaac is freaking out on Gus’ trophies in the background (hilarious!), and Gus’ letter to Hazel at the end.  That letter was amazing and it perfectly wrapped up the story.

I would highly recommend this movie to both teens and adults alike.  It is an amazing story about life, death and love, that will break your heart–in a good way.

Possible Objections:

  • A mild sexual scene
  • A bit of strong language

Rated: PG-13

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Dragon’s Bait by Vivian Vande Velde

Dragon's Bait - WM

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My son brought Dragon’s Bait home from the library and I picked it up to read one night after he’d gone to bed.  I didn’t know what to expect, and let me tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by this short novel.

In this story, Alys is accused of witchcraft and tied to a stake as an appeasement sacrifice for a dragon.  The dragon is intrigued by Alys’ pluckiness even in the face of death, and transforms into a young man so that they can talk.  He learns about why she is there and that she wants revenge on those who falsely accused her.  Selendrile (the dragon) agrees to help her.

The rest of the book follows the pair as they try to keep their identities secret, plan their revenge, and execute it against Alys’ former neighbors.  However, Alys learns that revenge tastes bitter and it leaves her feeling worse than before.  There is also a little love interest thrown in there, but it’s pretty subtle.

I’m not sure what it is exactly that makes this story so charming.  The heroine is admirable and the dragon interesting.  The two of them really make the story special.  I also like that the characters aren’t flat–they’re allowed to experience significant change when they learn important life lessons.

I would recommend this book to preteens through adults.  It’s an impressive little story that most people would enjoy.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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After the End by Amy Plum

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This is not the kind of book that I would normally pick up, but seeing as we’re in the middle of moving, my choices are limited.  I’ve packed up almost all of our chapter books and it’s been quite some time since I’ve gone to the library to pick out a book for myself.  My choices were limited to a couple of books that my 11-year-old son had checked out.  Something is better than nothing, right?  Please note that my commentary will probably spoil the story for you, if you haven’t already read it.

The premise of After the End is quite interesting.  It’s about a girl, Juneau, who harbors some kind of pharmaceutical anti-aging secret, but she doesn’t even know about it.  She grew up in Alaska in a tiny community that lived off the land.  As a child, she had been told that the rest of humanity had either perished in WWIII or were ruthless scavengers who must be avoided at all costs.

When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to find that her entire clan has been abducted, she ventures out into the wider world to search for and rescue them.  What she finds completely rocks her world.  Not only is there a thriving metropolitan city mere hours from her home, but WWIII never happened.  For some reason her entire life seems as if it’s been a sham.  The adults in her clan have lied to her and she doesn’t know why.

Fast forward a bit, and Juneau is being tracked by two different groups who are trying to get something valuable that she harbors.  She meets up with the son of one of her pursuers and they go on an adventure to try and find her people, while evading their pursuers at the same time.  A love interest develops, though it’s quite tame by today’s standards.  (Thank goodness–there’s nothing more annoying than a couple of teens spouting off about how they can’t live without one another.  Yes, you can.  Start acting like rational people, please.)

Juneau also has remarkable powers throughout the book, with the explanation being loosely rooted in Gaia and eastern mysticism.  To be fair, it alludes to the idea that all spirituality is really just tapping into the same source, no matter what you call it.  This spiritual/superpower part is a bit confusing because it doesn’t have any good explanation.  I guess readers are just supposed to accept it at face value.

Towards the end of the book, Juneau’s love interest, Miles, is wounded and she performs the rite on him that is performed on all the members of her clan.  Presumably he becomes like her, though that is left wide open at the end.  When I finished the book, I thought, Wow, either that’s one of the worst endings around or they are setting it up for a sequel.  It looks like there is a sequel.

While I like the premise of the story quite a lot, the execution was just so-so.  The flow of the story is a little strange, but that is partly because the chapters alternate between being told from the perspective of Miles and Juneau.  Also, it’s not super believable.  For example, for being such a bad guy, Miles’ dad is rather dense when he leaves Juneau virtually unattended at his home, allowing her to easily escape.  Whatever.

The story was interesting, and if you’re young and not in the market for great quality literature, it will probably satisfy you.

Possible Objections:

  • Bad language–not a lot, but encompassing most cuss words.
  • A little romance–kissing and one person lying on top of the other.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Inkheart – Movie 2008

Inkheart Movie-w

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So sad, so sad.  Let me shed a tear.  I was hoping, hoping, hoping that this would be a good movie.  I really, really wanted to like it.  I just couldn’t.  After mulling it over for a few days, I still can’t.

Inkheart is based on the book by the same name, by Cornelia Funke.  I must report that there was some creative license taken with the movie.  The characters are not exactly like those in the book, more drama and fantasy are added to the movie, and the plot is changed a bit.

I really hate to say it, but the acting left me feeling like it didn’t quite hit the mark.  While I think Andy Serkis is very talented, I was not convinced that he really was Capricorn.  Farid, I’m afraid, was quite unbelievable.  Even Mo was lacking in the convinceability department.  (I do make up words; just get used to it.)  Surprisingly, two of the characters I most enjoyed were not big players at all–Fenoglio and Flatnose.

I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy Inkheart more, but overall it wasn’t too bad.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea, especially when comparing it to the book.

Rated: PG

Rating: 2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

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I just finished the second book in the Inkheart series, Inkspell.  I’ve found that I kind of waffled between getting absorbed in the story, and thinking that the reading was getting a bit tedious.  It’s was a like, not-like relationship.  The book starts out a little slow, but it does eventually find its groove and takes off running.

Mo, Resa, Meggie and Darius move in with Elinor and live a normal life for about a year before things start to go haywire again.  Dustfinger is read back into Inkheart by a man named Orpheus, a truly gifted reader.  His voice is like budda.  Orpheus fails to read Farid over along with Dustfinger, as he had promised, so Farid seeks out the others at Elinor’s abode.  He convinces Meggie to read the two of them into Inkheart, using the text that Orpheus wrote to transport Dustfinger.  The two of them find themselves in the Inkworld, and luckily they’re found by friendly people who make sure they get to Fenoglio.  Farid moves on and is reunited with Dustfinger, who has already reunited with his lady love, Roxane.  Back at Elinor’s, Mortola and Basta show up, bringing Orpheus with them so he can read them (minus Elinor and Darius) into the Inkworld.  Once there, Mortola shoots Mo, they find the Motley Folk, Fenoglio tries to play God with his story, war breaks loose, people are killed, etc.  There are too many events for me to recount.  Plus I’d rather you read it yourself.

Spoiler Alert!

Towards the end of the story, Farid is killed by Basta.  Dustfinger offers himself in place of Farid and dies.  Meggie reads Orpheus into the story at Farid’s request, so that he can hopefully bring Dustfinger back to life.  That’s where the story leaves off.  We shall see what happens in the next book.

Despite the slow start, once the book got going, I enjoyed it.  There are some characters who are easy to love (Dustfinger), and some who are easy to hate (Orpheus).  I like how some of the characters seem to be evolving and getting more complex.  Many new characters are introduced, which really strengthens the story.  I’m actually curious to see what happens in the next book–always a good sign when reading a book series.  The only issue I have is that on one page there is some bad language thrown in (the b*#!% word).  It seemed unnecessary and because of it, I’d recommend the book for older teens.  I’m a stick in the mud when it comes to exposing kids to swear words.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of violence.
  • Bad language on one page, the b-word.

Rating: 3 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart-w

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While hanging out with daughters 1 and 2 at the library, I wanted to grab a book for myself.  Since I couldn’t let the girls out of my sight, I stuck to the kid’s section, scanning for a fantasy or sci-fi novel.  I came up with this one–Inkheart.  Never heard of it.  Looks interesting.  Grab it and go.

Inkheart is about a man who is able to read things out of books.  This man, Mo, has a magical way with words.  Quite by accident, while reading aloud one night, he reads some characters out of a book, while at the same time his wife vanishes into it.  Nine years later, he and his daughter Meggie are living a quiet life, trying to hide from the nefarious characters who appeared the night his wife disappeared.  One of the characters, Capricorn, is a thoroughly evil man who is smitten with the possibilities of power and money in this new world he’s been brought into.  He has been hunting Mo so that he can read more things out of books–money, henchmen, women.

Eventually Capricorn catches up with Mo and all heck breaks loose in a series of chases, kidnappings and hostage situations.  Capricorn is defeated at the end through the power of words.  Sorry for the vagueness; I hate to give away endings.

There are several other characters who play an important role in the story–Basta, Capricorn’s henchman; Elinor, Meggie’s aunt; Dustfinger, a street performer; and Farid, a boy read out of another story.  Some of them are more well-developed and intriguing than others.  Dustfinger in particular is difficult to classify.  I’m curious to see what happens with him and Farid in the next book.

Inkheart is a long novel, but I like that kind of story.  The pace of it alternates between exciting action and more relaxed scenes.  If you’re looking for something that propels itself forward at a fast pace, this may not be the book for you.  Also of note, there is much more in this book about our world than about Mo’s magic reading.  The fantasy element is there, but it is at least equaled by our earthly reality.  Just some fair warning so that you won’t be disappointed.  I recommend this book for pre-teens and older.  There is quite a bit of violence, threats of violence (slicing people with knives), and the occasional passing reference to relationships of a sexual nature.

Rating: 3 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

 

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The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry

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The Worst Class Trip Ever is about Wyatt, Suzana, and Matt.  They go on a field trip to Washington, D.C.  While they are on the plane, Matt and Wyatt see two men looking at aerial photos of the White House.  They think that the two men are going to try to kill the president when they fly over the White House.  Matt takes something out of the two men’s backpack.  They find out that the thing that they took out of the men’s backpack is a laser radio jammer.  Read the book to find out what the two men were going to do with the jammer. I recommend it for preteens and up.  I would rate it PG for violence, action and peril.

Bubba says good-bye.

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The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

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The Son of Neptune is a book about Percy Jackson.  Percy is wandering around the USA.  He is being followed by the three Gorgon sisters who are trying to kill him, but every time they hurt him Percy does not feel it.  Percy has lost his memory, the only things that he can remember are his own name and Annabeth’s.  He makes it to a camp for Half-bloods, and he himself is a Half-blood.  He along with Hazel and Frank, the guards at the gate  and his friends, must go on a journey to rescue Death and get back the twelfth legion’s golden eagle standard.  I rate it PG for violence, peril and adventure.  I recommend it for preteens and up.  It’s the second book in the Heroes of Olympus series.

Bubba says good-bye!

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

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The Lost Hero is a book about the Roman gods.  It’s a story about a boy named Jason who is a demigod.  (You will find out what a demigod is, when and if you read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books.  I recommend that you read them first.)  Jason and three other demigods are supposed  to go on a quest.  It must be completed by the winter solstice,  four days after they get to the camp.  (I am using movie ratings again.)  I would rate this book PG for action, peril and violence.  I recommend it for preteens and up.  It’s the first book in the Heroes of Olympus series.

Bubba says good-bye!  Oh, Mow wants to say good-bye too (he’s in my avatar photo).  Meow!

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The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

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The Red Pyramid is the first book in the Kane Chronicles series.  It is much less confusing if you read this book first, but it is still pretty confusing.

This is a good book about the Egyptian gods.  It’s a story about a boy and girl whose father awakes five of the Egyptian gods.  Set, one of the five Egyptian gods, tries to build a pyramid to take power from it and become the king of the gods!  I would rate this (I am using movie ratings because it is easier) PG for some violence, action and peril.  I recommend it for preteens and up.

Bubba is signing out!

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