2012 Favorites (Part 2: Books)

Favorite Books – Middle Grade Fiction (Total Read -10)
The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright (2011) – The charming tale of a friendship between a cat with a secret and a mouse who lives in a pub  famous for its Cheshire cheese.  This is one of those animal tales that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults.  There are some amusing bits about Charles Dickens frequenting the pub that will appeal to adults and lots of mystery and action that will appeal to kids.  The audiobook version is excellent and would entertain everyone on family car trip.

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy, by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2012) – An engaging first book in a upcoming series about 3 orphaned boys who compete in a contest to see who could impersonate the long-lost prince best. The audiobook version is also quite good and would appeal to the whole family.

Aliens on Vacation (Intergalactic Bed and Breakfast), by Clete Smith (2011) – A boy goes to spend the summer with his grandmother at her space-themed bed and breakfast and finds out it’s there’s more to his grandmother and her inn than meets the eye. I liked this story because it’s very assessable to elementary school students.  It’s sort of like a Disney movie but in book form.

Favorite Books – Young Adult Fiction (Total Read – 8)
Cinders (Lunar Chronicles), by Marissa Meyer (2012)– A sci-fi version of Cinderella in a dystopian New China. Cinders is the best mechanic in the land and she’s also a cyborg—part human and part machine.  I loved the voice in this story, it’s refreshingly different from a lot of the other YA dystopian out there.  I guessed the twist early on but that just made it’s inevitable reveal more satisfying for me.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein (2012) – The less you know, the less you’ll be spoiled for this excellent, devastating but satisfying tale about young female spies and pilots in World War II. The audio version is especially good.

The Disenchantments, by Nina LaCour (2012) – Recent high school graduate, Colby, has been planning on going on a year long trip to Europe with his best friend Bev for years. First, the two of them going on a music tour on the west coast with Bev’s all-girl band.  Colby is their roadie and transportation. Right now he and Bev are just friends by he’s sure by Europe they’ll be more than friends. Then she drops the news on him: she applied to college and got in (all without telling him) and she’s not going to Europe and she can’t even tell him why she waited until now to reveal her plans. Now Colby has one week to deal with his betrayal and figure out what to do with his life, all while he drives the girl that broke his heart up the coast for her tour.

Each of the characters is unique and the details of the band’s tour are fun and realistic.   The middle is a bit moody, but the story ends positively with Colby making insightful decisions about who he wants to be.

Favorite Book- Adult Non-Fiction (Total Read – 12)
Surpassing Shanghai (2011) – This thoughtful book describes education in five countries where the students receive the highest scores on international tests, including outscoring students in the US. The book describes education in China, Finland, Japan, Singapore, and Canada.  The first chapter on China is the weakest.  It’s hard to understand and focuses more on what Shanghai is planning to do rather than what it does now.  The other chapters are excellent though.

Each of the four other countries get top results from their students by doing the opposite of what the United States does.  Teaching programs are highly selective and recruit the best and the brightest. Teachers are supported, respected, and given a lot of leeway in teaching.  Also, testing is not done every year in these countries.  Students are only tested between schooling gaps, such as from elementary school to middle school, and the results count as much for the students and parents as they do for the teachers.

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

2012 Favorites (Part 1: TV, Movies, and Music)

Favorite You Tube Series
Husbands (seasons 1 & 2) –  An entertaining web TV series written by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell about a baseball player and an actor who get so excited that gay marriage is legal that they get married during a drunken night in Vegas, though they’ve only been dating for 6 weeks. They don’t want to set a bad example so they decide to make their marriage work– for the cause.  Espenson wrote for Buffy, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Dollhouse, etc.  There are tons of fun cameos by actors from various Whedon projects (including Joss himself in season 2), plus a few actors from other shows too.  Each season is only 25-30 minutes.

The Lizzie Bennett Diaries – In Hank Green’s charming modernized version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie Bennett is a vlogger who tells us about her marriage-crazy mother and her life with her sisters in short weekly You Tube videos.

Favorite Movies (Total Watched – 18)
The Descendants
Hunger Games (2012)
Marvel’s Avengers (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Favorite Music Albums (Total Listened To – 26)
Greg Evain All Better Now (2012)
Ellie GouldingHalcyon (2012)
Lana Del ReyBorn to Die (2012)
Anna NalickWreck of the Day (2005)
Frank OceanChannel Orange (2012)

Favorite TV Shows (Total Shows Watched – 36)
Alphas (season 1)
(The) Big Bang Theory
Castle
Fringe
Girls
(The) Good Wife
Grimm
Man Men
Nikita
Parks and Recreation
Revenge