Top Favorites of 2010 (In A, B, C Order)

# – Indicates the book or movie debuted in 2010 or the TV show season aired in 2010. 
(Many of my favorites were books, movies, or shows I discovered this year but debuted earlier.)

Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total read – 13)
# (The) Carnival of Lost Souls: A Handcuff Kid Novel, by Laura Quimby
A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban
# Mamba Point, by Kurtis Scaletta
(The) True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead

Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total read – 9)
# Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
(The) Boyfriend List, by E. Lockhart
Feed, by M.T. Anderson
# Mockingjay (The Final Book of the Hunger Games), by Suzanne Collins
# Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan

Books – Non-Fiction for Adults (Total read – 10)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life (P.S.), by Barbara Kingsolver
# Eaarth: Making A Life on a Tough  New Planet, by Bill McKibben
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are, by Frans De Waal
(The) Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, by Michelle Goldberg
Pink Brain, Blue Brain, by Lise Eliot -review coming

Movies (Total watched – 30)
Blame It on Fidel
# Easy A – review coming
(The) Edukators
(The) Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Good Bye Lenin
Jennifer’s Body

Julie and Julia
# Kick Ass
# Scott Pilgrim Versus The World – review coming
Sin Nombre
Whip It

TV Shows (Total watched – 36)
Being Erica
Better Off Ted

# (The) Big Bang Theory
# Castle
# Doctor Who
# Fringe
# (The) Good Wife
# Mad Men
# Modern Family
# Terriers

Honorable Mentions:
House Hunters International
# Nikita

(Middle Grade Fiction – For around 9-14 years or 4th -8th grades
Young Adult fiction – For around 12 years and up or 7th grade and up)

What were your favorites?

December 11 – 17, 2010: In Brief

Young Adult Fiction:
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins (****) [2010] – This is one of those addictively good books you might accidently stay up all night reading.  Seventeen-year-old Anna Oliphant has lived her entire happy life in Atlanta, Georgia until her father decides on a whim that she should spend her last year of high school at an American boarding school in Paris. 

While Anna would love to visit Paris, she hadn’t planned on leaving her best friend, possible boyfriend, and entire life to live in a country where she doesn’t even speak the language. Meredith, the girl next door, hears Anna crying in her room on her first night of boarding school and offers sympathy, hot chocolate, and an invitation into her group of friends. One of Meredith’s friends turns out to be the boy every girl in the school has a crush on.  Though St. Clair has charisma, great hair, and a British accent, Anna warns herself not to fall for him and instead to just be his friend.

Anna’s a likable character.  Her life in Paris is both realistically charming and difficult at the same time, as is her friendship with St. Clair. [For ages 12 and up.  I read the eBook on Nook for Droid Phone.]

Life Highlights:
"Mrs. Evil Octopus" and Other Names I Should Totally Consider Using –  I subbed this past Friday and Monday for a delightful first grade class.  Their teacher found out she needed surgery unexpectedly a week before.  So by Friday, when I arrived, they were mighty tired of subs.

I commiserated with them about how hard it is having a parade of substitute teachers when all they wanted was their own teacher back.  Then I noted that it must be especially hard for them today because I was sure they were looking at me and noticed that secretly I was an evil octopus.  Having an evil octopus for a sub is sooo annoying.  They perked right up when I said this.

Apparently first graders are pro-evil octopus.  Who knew?  I had a fun two days being their teacher.  I especially got a kick out of the students who raised their hands and said, "Mrs. Evil Octopus, can you explain this problem to me?" 

December 4 – 10, 2010: In Brief

Middle Grade Fiction:
Flight of the Outcast: The Academy: Year 1, by Brad Strickland (***) [2010] – 13-year-old Asteria Locke is the only survivor of a raider attack that destroys her family and their farm.  Now she must find a way to get her new religious guardians to let her take her cousin’s place at the Academy instead of marrying her off.  She’s only a commoner in a world where aristocrats receive 90% of the Academy slots and fighter pilot jobs, but she’s determined to become a pilot to fight the raiders and avenge her family.

Flight of the Outcast is a straight-forward middle grade sci-fi boarding school story.  Usually I’d rate a story with just serviceable writing and a predictable plot two-and-a-half stars. What made this book special was Strickland’s skill at letting me, the reader, feel every frustration, humiliation, and stress that Asteria feels in a divided world where commoners are second-class citizens.   [Middle grade sci-fi for ages 9-14.  Read the eBook on Nook for Droid]

Life Happenings:
"I’m learning to cook from scratch," is not something I ever expected to be writing.  Now that I’m awesomely healthy though, I can stand for long periods of time without feeling dizzy and tired and I can actually focus– the very qualifications one needs for cooking. 

Using Mark Bittman’s useful cookbook, How to Cook Everything, I’ve learned to: make homemade chicken stock, chicken & rice soup, and lentil soup.  Who knew making homemade soups was so easy?  I’ll never have to buy canned soup again. I’ve also learned how to roast a chicken with potatoes and carrots. I’m still learning how to carve it without feeling like an incompetent psycho-killer but these skills take time. Right?

I decided not to let my wheat allergy get in the way of my dessert addiction.  With Annalise G. Robert’s excellent cookbook, Gluten-Free Baking Classics I’ve learned to make gluten-free versions of pumpkin pie, apple crisp, and lemon squares. They were all delicious and tasted as good as or better than the wheat versions, but without the added headaches and extra snot production. Yay for desserts that don’t make me sick!

TV Quote:
"Can I be honest?  I don’t understand the difference between an elf and a slave."
[Brittany on the Christmas episode of Glee]

November 28 – December 3, 2010: In Brief

Middle Grade Fiction Novels:
Whales on Stilts (A Pals in Peril Tale), by M.T. Anderson and Kurt Cyrus (***1/2) [2005] – You know a story is going to be a fun read when it starts like this:

"On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the earth through destruction and desolation."

Whales on Stilts reads like a Saturday morning cartoon in novel form, with lots of clever asides and loopy happenings.  [A middle grade novel for ages 9-12.  I read this in eBook form on Kindle for Droid.]

Web Links:
Create Your Own Comics – This useful link for parents and teachers of comic lovers has a short review and link for 6 different create-your-own-comic websites. 

[Parent note: site # 5 requires registration.  The video for site # 6 is narrated in a Transylvanian-vampire-voice and compares making comics to "making love".  It’s a little risqué but fun.]

Bullying – In this Slate article, Amanda Marcotte offers an insightful take on the root causes of bullying.  Her conclusion:

"The ugly truth is that kids get bullied because they’re not conforming to some social standard the bullies hold, and often the adults in charge agree with the bullies on the social standard, which makes them side all too often with bullies against the bullied. This is the most under-discussed aspect of the problem, by far.

The only people who seem to be talking about how bullying is a direct result of larger social messages about conformity are a handful of people talking about homophobic bullying, and how it reflects larger social messages about queerness that the bullies are absorbing and acting out. And even in this case, most of the discussion around things like the It Gets Better Project are mealy-mouthed condemnations of bullying without looking at root causes.

Until the adults in charge vigorously disagree with the bullies on subjects such as, "Kids who are unathletic are second class," or, "Kids who don’t conform to rigid gender roles are threatening,’" there isn’t going to be much we can do about bullying."

(Emphasis mine)