Friday, April 29, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

This week my Friday 56 comes from Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir.  Ryland Grace has been sent on a mission that is the last chance to save the human race.  If only he could remember that.  

The Friday 56:

Astrophage can propel itself with light and has absurd energy-storage capability.  It's had God-knows-how-many billion years of evolution to get good at it.  Just like a horse if more energy efficient than a truck.  Astrophage is more energy efficient than a spaceship.

Astrophage - could be the cause of the end of the human race but could also be the only way to save it.  If only Ryland Grace could remember why he is in this spaceship and what he is supposed to do next.  

I'm liking this one.  Weir writes with a lot of wit without making his characters feel absurd and silly and without losing the gravitas of the whole extinction level calamity that is taking place.  This is the first book I've read by Andy Weir but I don't think it will be my last.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

To the Rescue!

Today (April 28th) is National Superhero Day!

Everyone loves a superhero.  Except, of course, for the supervillains.  And maybe all the people who live in the many, many houses that superheroes destroy on a regular basis.  But who would fight all the aliens and metahumans if we had no superheroes?

There are a million graphic novels, books, and movies that you can use to celebrate this important holiday.  Here are two movies I would like to share with you in honor of National Superhero Day.

Average Joe starring Jason Sedillo

Joe really needs a job, so he answers an ad in the paper for a superhero.  He gets the job and now this average Joe is on a superhero team.

How does a man with no super powers fight a supervillain?  Well, it's not easy.  But Joe really needs this job so he will give it his best try.  This movie probably didn't have a very big budget.  Some of the costumes are not the best and I don't think they had a big camera or special effects crew.  But the plot is fun.  And (although often goofy) the writing was clever.  It's a fun movie about an average guy stepping up and fighting against the odds.  If you don't go in expecting blockbuster special effects and huge movie stars you will be truly entertained.  

Eternals starring Gemma Chan and Richard Madden

A group of super powered, immortal beings, the Eternals, are sent to Earth to protect it from the Deviants.

This movie felt a lot longer than it was.  Which is never a good sign.  There is a lot of fighting and then big, long scenes where things are explained but there is not much interesting in-between.  You never feel as if you know these characters so it is hard to care about their lives.  There are a lot of things going on at the same time and it makes the story feel disjointed at times.  It just plods along to what turns out to be a lackluster finish.  I can't say I wasn't entertained at times and if the hinted at sequel comes out I will watch it.  But after this one I don't care if one ever does.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Penguins Galore!

 Today (April 25th) is World Penguin Day!

(Not to be confused with National Penguin Day Which is in January.)

Everyone loves penguins.  They are cute and silly and just watching them waddle around makes you laugh.  I like penguins too.  But I don't think I would want them as a pet.  Unlike Mr. Popper.  Who welcomes them into his home.  That might be a fun concept for a book and a movie but I don't think it would be very funny in real life.  Besides, I think it would be illegal.

But that's why we love fiction.  Rules do not apply.

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Mr. Popper is obsessed with the polar regions.  One day, in response to a letter he wrote to an artic explorer, he receives a penguin in the mail.

It's silly and goofy and all sorts of impossible things happen, starting with a penguin being sent in the mail from the Antarctic.  It is a kind of fantasy book since none of this could happen in the real world so don't count on this book for penguin facts.  But the idea of having a penguin (and then lots of penguins) in the house is a fun one.  And I think most kids (and some adults) would find it funny - the penguins living in the refrigerator, sliding down the stairs on their bellies, and riding the bus.  My biggest criticism of the book is Mr. Popper.  After he gets the penguin he starts spending all the family money on it, even after his wife mentioned her worries about being able to afford food.  Mr. Popper treated the penguin like it was more important than his family and I could not forgive him for that.  Although a child would probably not take it all so seriously and just enjoy the silly antics on the penguins and Mr. Popper alike.

Mr. Popper's Penguins starring Jim Carey

Mr. Popper inherits a penguin and it turns his life upside down.

Carey was a perfect pick because he does the silly, goofy thing so well.  And this movie is definitely silly and goofy.  Like the book, it is a fantasy in so far as none of this stuff could actually happen.  But it is fun and there were moments that made me chuckle.  I think penguins in the city are just naturally funny and watching them waddle around outside of their natural habitat will amuse young and old alike.  It is a good family film that turns out to be more about Mr. Popper's family than his penguins.  

Movie vs. Book

I didn't like either Mr. Popper but in the movie he was able to redeem himself to some degree.  Both were full of things that could never happen and sometimes goes to eyeroll levels.  But it's kids fiction so it is forgivable.  Why Mr. Popper comes to have the penguins, and his reactions to the penguins completely different.  They share some elements but they are not really the same story.  Is one better than the other?  Apple and oranges.  I think I would have to say I personally enjoyed the movie more.  But the book is a simpler, less complicated story with less real world problems.  Which does have a certain appeal.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Give Your Local Librarian Some Love

 Today (April 16th) is National Librarian Day!  I think that's awesome.  But I work at a library so maybe I'm bias. 

So in honor of National Librarian Day I decided to learn about some bad-ass librarians.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer

from the book jacket)

In the 1980's, a young adventurer and collector for a government library, Abdel Kader Haidara, journeyed across the Sahara and along the Niger River, tracking down and salvaging tens of thousands of ancient Islamic and secular manuscripts that were crumbling in the trunks of desert farmers.  His goal was to preserve this crucial part of the world's patrimony in a gorgeous library.  But then Al Qaeda showed up at the door.

The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu tells the incredible story of how Haidara, a mild-mannered archivist and historian from the legendary city of Timbuktu, became one of the world's greatest and most brazen smugglers by saving the texts from sure destruction.  With bravery and patience, he organized a dangerous operation to sneak all 350,000 volumes out of the city to the safety of southern Mali.

This was not the adventure story the book jacket and awesome title led me to believe it would be.  The first quarter of the book is about the manuscripts: what they were about, who wrote them, how they were made, how they came to be hidden in various households and how Haidara came to be the one who collected them.  I loved hearing about the rich culture that was collected in them.  But then the librarian and the manuscripts disappear from the narrative for quite some time.  You get a very detailed history of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups in Mali, especially around Timbuktu, and the groups that oppose them.  It is full of dates and names of people, places and groups.  You can tell Hammer really did his research.  And if that is what you are looking for this book is very informative (if a bit dry at times).  But what this book is not, is a book about librarians.  When Haidara reenters the story with his group of helpers they feel shoehorned in.  They are mentioned in short bursts with few details.  I felt that Hammer started out to write about the librarians and the manuscripts but got caught up in the history of Al Qaeda and liked that story more.  I'm glad Haidara's story got told.  I think he deserves to be known for the dangers he risked to save his people's heritage.  I just wish Haidara and all the people who helped him were the story here.  They are not.  They are more of a side note in another story.  I learned a lot from this book and I'm glad I read it.  It just was not the story I was expecting.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.  It is about a boy named Milo who is bored by everything.  Then one day he receives a mysterious gift of a tollbooth.  When he drives through it he ends up in a land he has never heard of.  I was pretty sure I read this book when I was a kid.  That was a long time ago so except for the title I couldn't remember anything about it.  So I decided to give it another go.  But now 70 pages in I still don't remember anything.  So now I'm not even sure I ever read it.  Well, either way it's been fun so far so I guess it doesn't really matter.

My Friday 56:

The bee, who had tangled himself in some bunting, toppled to the ground, knocking Milo over on top of him, and lay there shouting, "Help!  Help! There's a little boy on me."  The bug sprawled untidily on a mound of squashed letters and Tock, his alarm ringing persistently, was buried under a pile of words.

That's what happens when a spelling bee and a humbug get into a fight at a word market.  It was utter confusion until they could get all the words sorted out.  

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Let Me Tell You a Tale (Dolphin Tale Review)

Today (April 14th) is National Dolphin Day.  Dolphins are amazing animals.  You have probably heard stories of dolphins saving people in trouble.  Well, in these movies it is people helping a dolphin.

Dolphin Tale starring Harry Connick Jr. and Nathan Gamble

A dolphin gets injured by a crab trap and ends up losing her tail.

This is a feel good movie.  It makes you happy.  You like the people here and you root for the dolphin.  Yes, you know what is going to happen, but that does not lessen the impact of the happy ending.  It warms your heart to see all the people who rally around Winter, the dolphin, and all the people she inspires.  (Winter plays herself in the movie so you get to see her in the film.  Which is cool.)  The movie is also a coming of age tale for the boy who helped to save Winter.  He finds something to believe in and to fight for, and helping Winter helps him find someplace he belongs.  There is a long scene with a remote control helicopter that annoyed me because it was pointless and impossible and went on for far too long and felt like filler to bulk up the movie.  But that is my only complaint.  The acting was good, the story was heartwarming and it is very family friendly, there aren't even any villains in this.  A great movie to watch with kids who like animals.

Dolphin Tale 2 starring Harry Connick Jr. and Nathan Gamble

Winter's surrogate mother dies and leaves Winter's future uncertain.

This is another feel good movie about the dolphin, Winter.  This time around her surrogate mother dies leaving Winter alone.  But there is a rule that you can not keep a dolphin in a tank alone, they need a companion.  So how can they keep Winter without another dolphin?  There is still a feeling of people banding together to help Winter in this movie but there is also a feeling of menace with the looming inspectors and the looming buyer as money runs out.  And there are some life lessons too as the children are growing up and have to make big decisions and have to choose between doing the responsible thing and what their heart wants them to do.  It is a good, solid, family friendly movie that adults can enjoy as well.  If you like the first movie you will like this one too.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

It Turns Out Vikings Are Kind of Boring (Severed Ways Review)

Severed Ways: The Norse Discovery of America starring Fiore Tedesco and Tony Stone

Two Norsemen get left behind when the rest of the group gets attacked and assumes they are dead

So.  This sounds interesting in theory.  But.  Some of the camera work actually makes it hard to watch sometimes.  It is really shaky (it does calm down a little later but is always jumpy) and there are some really fast pans that your eyes just can't follow.  Then there are the shots of the ground and random trees like no one is looking through the camera to see what is being filmed and the extreme close-ups where we stare at a man's forehead or chin for half a minute.  And then when we can see the Norsemen most of the time we just watch them plod through the woods.  Or chop down six trees.  I got the point after two trees.  I didn't have to see them all.  And then there are the scenes where literally nothing is happening and we watch them sit for minutes at a time.  And when you get a close up of a man's behind as he defecates in the woods I almost gave up on it right there.  I kind of wish I did.  Because it never got any better.  Or more interesting.  It may have been real and gritty as some reviews have said but it was not entertaining in any way.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

National Siblings Day! (Sisters Review)

Today (April 10) is National Siblings Day!  So get on the phone and give your siblings a call.  Or take them out to lunch.  Or have them take you out to lunch.  Or go out for a drink.  Or, well, I'm sure you get the picture.  Get in touch!  Because, like it or not, family is forever.

A perfect book for this special day is Sisters by David McPhail.  It is about, you guessed it, sisters.

These two sisters are different in many ways, and they are alike in many ways as well.  But whether they agree or disagree they will always love each other very much.  It is a simple story told in simple terms but it is a lovely sentiment expressed in a beautiful way.  The sweet illustrations show so much character you can't help but love these adorable sisters.  A perfect book for any sisters.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Beware the Unicorn! (Rampant Review)

Celebrate!  Because today (April 9th) is National Unicorn Day!  And who doesn't love unicorns?  Ok, I'm sure there are some people who don't.  But they are crazy.

Now there are a million books about unicorns.  So, picking one to read for National Unicorn Day was not easy.  But the great thing about National Unicorn Day is there is one every year.  For this year I settled on Rampant by Diana Peterfreund.

(from the back of the book)
Astrid Llewelyn has always scoffed at her eccentric mother's stories about killer unicorns.  But when one attacks her boyfriend - ruining any chance of him taking her to prom - Astrid finds herself headed to Rome to train as a unicorn hunter at the ancient cloisters the hunters have used for centuries.

However, all is not what it seems at the cloisters.  Outside unicorns wait to attack.  And within, Astrid faces other unexpected threats: from bone-covered walls that vibrate with terrible power to the hidden agendas of her fellow hunters to her growing attraction to a handsome art student ... and attraction that could jeopardize everything.

Killer unicorns are cool.  And a band of unicorn hunters is cool.  So, I expected to like this book more than I did.  I like the concept.  I did have to put aside the moral question of training teenage girls to go out and fight killer unicorns.  And there is the point that based on the theory that the book itself proposes about how unicorn hunters came about the fact they have to be female virgins makes no sense.  But there is a long history of virgins and unicorns going together so I just chalked that up to tradition. I did have some slight sympathy for Astrid because she is being forced into a life she doesn't want.  And you can see the struggle she has because she feels obligated since she is one of the few who can do it but she was too resigned to accept her fate, as if she had no say in it.  Some of the hunters don't really have characters.  They are just sort of there.  Astrid's cousin seems too off-hand about the whole affair, even wanting to save the 'endangered' unicorns that go around killing people with no provocation.  She wants to do whatever she wants, without worrying about the rules, but she want to be in charge of the hunters, acting like nothing dangerous is happening and this is just some sort of club.  Astrid's mother turns out to be a horrible person who is really quite mad but the hunters just do what she says without question.  I had trouble finding characters here that I could connect with or feel for and some I couldn't even believe as people you would find in the real world.  And because of that I was never really engaged in the story.  I might read the sequel to see if it answers any of the questions that this one leaves but I am not rushing out to get it.

Friday, April 8, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is No Hero by Jonathan Wood.  Poor Arthur Wallace was just a normal cop.  Then he saw something he wishes he could unsee and ends up in MI37, a secret division that deals with the unusual.  

My Friday 56:

Clyde turns, a look of sudden horror on his face.  For a moment I wonder if he's foreign and I've somehow stumbled across a colloquialism that means I've slept with his mother.

Arthur Wallace was good at his job.  Now he has no idea what is going on.  Even talking to his colleague is an impossible task.  But he just asks himself 'What would Kurt Russell do?' and blunders ahead the best he can.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Prevent Scurvy!

Today (April 4th) is National Vitamin C Day!  The recommended daily allowance of vitamin C for women is 75mg and for men is 90 mg.  (Smoking can reduce vitamin C so smokers should get more.)  And why is it important that you get your RDA of vitamin C?  Well, for one thing, you don't want scurvy.  Scurvy sounds terrible.  But there are other reasons your body needs vitamin C.

Vitamin C enhances wound healing, helps you absorb iron, acts as an antioxidant so it removes unwanted substances from your body.  It also helps produce collagen which you need for tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage, bones, blood vessels and other important parts you can't live without.

Some foods that are high in vitamin C:

Guavas: 228mg per 100g 

Bell peppers: 128mg per 100g

Chili peppers: 242mg per 100g

Black currents: 181mg per 100g

Thyme: 160mg per 100g

Kiwi fruit: 93mg per 100g

Broccoli: 89mg per 100g

Brussel sprouts: 85mg per 100g

Lychee: 72mg per 100g

Snow peas: 60mg per 100g

Strawberries: 59mg per 100g

Oranges: 53mg per 100g

And if you are really hard core about your vitamin C you can try rose hips which have 426mg per 100g or try the kakadu plum which can have up to 5,300mg per 100g.

Friday, April 1, 2022

The Friday 56


* Grab a book, any book.

* Go to page 56.  Or 56% on your ereader. 

* Find a snippet, short and sweet.

* Post it and add the url to your post at Freda's Voice

My book this week is Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore.  It is a graphic novel about a scientist who turns into a, well, Swamp Thing I guess.   I never read any Swamp Thing comics but I have recently become interested after happening upon a series that I didn't know existed until I saw the DVD at my local library.  (Swamp Thing)  So I, again, used my local library to find some graphic novels and decided to start here.

My Friday 56:

The grass outside... I lie a million silver blades threatening the moon and...and the trees!  I.. am. the trees.  A boa of moss hangs about my shoulders... I feel the intricate genius of the lianas... the giant, timeless wisdom of...  the Redwoods?

This poor guy just wanted to make plants grow fast and now he is a plant.  And can feel all the plants for miles around.  Being a scientist in the comic book world is a very dangerous thing.