Good Books and the Random Movie

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Location: Brooklyn, NY, United States

29 March 2008

The People of Sparks (Ember #2)

The People of Sparks, the second book of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau continues the story of Lina, Doon and the people from Ember.

Now that the Emberites have escaped their dying city, they have a lot to learn about living above ground. The come across the village of Sparks. And though the Emberites outnumber the Sparks (417 to 322), the people of Sparks agree to take them in and teach them the skills they will need to survive.

This novel is an interesting look at things we take for granted every day - the sunrise, wind, plants, etc... The people of Ember had electricity, which the post-Disaster village of Sparks does not have, but they lack the basic skills they need to go day to day. Not to mention that after 200 years underground, they are prone to sunburn.

DuPrau looks at people's desire to fight over the smallest slights and what can be done to keep the fight from escalating into war.

DuPrau, Jeanne. (2004). The People of Sparks. New York: Random House.

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26 March 2008

The City of Ember (Ember #1)

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau is the first book in the Ember trilogy.

The city of Ember is a city with no natural light. It is either underground or perhaps covered in a dome that blocks the sun. Electricity is on from six a.m. to nine p.m. each day. Everything needed for the city is kept in the giant storage facility or grown in one of the five green houses.

But in the 214th year of the city, supplies are beginning to run low. And the generator is having problems, causing blackouts.

At the age of 12, kids finish school and start working. Each year there are jobs that need to be filled and the 12 year-olds choose from them. In this year's class, Lina is a messenger and Doon works in the Pipeworks - the underground water system that supplies water from the river to each building in Ember.

Doon has noticed that the city is starting to look older. He is convinced he can improve the generator if he can only gain access to it. Lina is happy just running through the town delivering messages.

When Lina's grandmother finds a box with an ancient message inside, they try to make sense of it to find salvation for the city. Unfortunately, before Lina finds the message, her baby sister has chewed some of the important parts.

Using the incomplete message and what they know of the city, will Lina a Doon find a way to save Ember?

DuPrau, Jeanne. (2004). City of Ember. New York: Random House.

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25 March 2008

Movie: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly, is the story of what the diamond trade did to Sierra Leone.

A diamond smuggler, a fisherman, and a reporter join forces in the midst of civil war. The fisherman, whose family is missing after the raid of his village, finds a huge diamond while working in a labor camp. Instead of giving the diamond to his captors to buy more weapons, he hides it.

The smuggler hears of the diamond and plans to steal it from the fisherman once he is led to its hiding place.

The reporter wants to expose the foreign diamond interests who make the war so lucrative.

Together they will travel through Sierra Leone at the height of danger (1999) to find the diamond and save the fisherman's family.

This is the human story of the diamond trade. It is an excellent film. The acting is superb.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Djimon Hounsou
Jennifer Connelly

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Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance

Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance, by Marthe Jocelyn, is the story of Mable and her sister Viola.

Viola has secured a job as a teacher in Sellerton, Ontario. Mable is to accompany her, finish her last year of school and become the teacher's assistant. They will be lodging with the Goodhands on their farm.

Mable hopes her new life will be full of excitement and romance. But it is quite similar to the life she left behind. There are still chores to do, church to attend, and social rules to follow.

But things change when Mable meets Mrs. Rattle - a writer and suffragist.

Told through Mable's diary entries, newspaper articles, and the adventure story Mable writes to her best friend, this novel is funny and inspiring - set during an era when women has little to inspire them.

Jocelyn, Marthe. (2004). Mable Riley: A Reliable Record of Humdrum, Peril and Romance. Cambridge: Candlewick Press.

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24 March 2008

The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle #3)

The Sweet Far Thing is the conclusion to Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy.

Gemma must decided what to do with the power of the realms. How will she convince tribes who have been enemies for centuries to work together to share the power? If she can find the Tree of All Souls she might find out...

And in her everyday word of England, she must continue to learn the socially acceptable behavior of a young woman. She will become a lady and have her season this summer.

And what of her true love? Kartik and Gemma can never be together in the society of the time. He is Indian and she is soon to be a lady.

Will Gemma be able to save the realms, her friends, herself, and her family? It seems a lot to ask of a seventeen year old.

Bray, Libba. (2007). The Sweet Far Thing. New York: Delacorte Press.

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13 March 2008


Pirates! by Celia Rees is the story of two female pirates.

Nancy lives with her father and brothers. She has no female companions or influence. She runs wild around the house and all over the ships her father owns. That is until her father remarries. Then she is to become a proper lady.

But the final change comes about when she is shipped off to Jamaica to her father's plantation. There she is to be wed to a Brazilian plantation owner as a bargain to save her family's failing business.

It is not surprising when she runs away with her slave. But they cannot stay on the island or they will be found. Soon they join a pirate ship, dressed as men, and begin a life of high seas adventure.

But will the Brazilian ever stop looking for them?

Rees, Celia. (2003). Pirates! London: Bloomsbury.

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10 March 2008

The Moorchild

The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw is the tale of a moorfolk child being raised by humans. It won a Newberry Honor, 1996.

Saaski was not born to the smith and his wife, she was traded by the moorfolk for the human baby. She was traded because she did not have the ability to make herself invisible to humans. And it is no wonder, since her father was a human.

Now Saaski has to try and fit in with the human children around her. Although her memory of her early life has faded, she knows she does not fit in. She will have to find a way to blend, if not for her peace of mind, then for the safety of her parents. Humans are superstitious about Folk.

McGraw, Eliose. (1996). The Moorchild. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

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09 March 2008

Rebel Angels (Gemma Doyle #2)

Libba Bray's second book in the Gemma Doyle series is Rebel Angels. It begins a couple of months after the end of A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Gemma, Ann, and Felicity are going back to London for the winter holidays. They must find a way to get together in London so they can enter the realms and continue to look for a way to bind the magic.

On top of finding time and the privacy to travel to the realms, the friends must attend to London society. There will be many dinners, parties, and balls to attend.

Bray captures the feel of Victorian England and the social roles of the time. The combination of a rather rigid social period combined with the magic of the other realms creates a wondrous story.

Bray, Libba. (2005). Rebel Angels. New York: Delacorte Press.

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06 March 2008

A Great and Terrible Beauty (Gemma Doyle #1)

A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in a series about Gemma Doyle by Libba Bray.

Gemma has been raised in India. She doesn't even remember England. But when her mother dies she is sent back to England to live with her grandmother - who sends her immediately to finishing school.

At first Gemma does not fit in at Spence. Her only friend is Ann, her roommate, who is there on scholarship. But once her visions start to give her a power that her classmates find interesting, she finds she has three friends: Felicity, the most popular girl at the school; and Pippa, who is her shadow.

The four form a secret club and start venturing into another realm. But they are not the only beings capable of traveling between realms...

It is up to Gemma to reopen the door between the realms - that has been closed for twenty years - but not until she is strong enough to stop the evil forces at work.

The next book are: Rebel Angels, then The Sweet Far Thing.

Bray, Libba. (2003). A Great and Terrible Beauty. New York: Delacourte Press.

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05 March 2008

Say Yes

Say Yes by Audrey Couloumbis is another of her stories about survival.

Casey lives with her stepmother. Her father died two years ago. Now it is just the two of them. But one day Casey comes home from school to discover Sylvia is gone.

At first she thinks Sylvia is working late. Casey goes to the diner where Sylvia works and the boss congratulates her on the move. It looks like Sylvia moved without her.

The only person Casey can talk to is a boy who lives in the building. He is in foster care with the super. He has a plan to keep Casey from starving, but it is definitely not legal. Is Casey desperate enough to go along with his plan?

Couloumbis, Audrey. (2002). Say Yes. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons.

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04 March 2008

Summer's End

Summer's End by Audrey Couloumbis is a look at the Vietnam war and how it affected those who stayed behind.

During the summer of Grace's thirteenth birthday her family has a lot to think about. Her brother Collin has gotten his draft card. And he has burned his draft card. Her father throws Collin out of the house and cancels Grace's birthday.

Grace goes to her grandmother's farm to escape her parents arguments about Collin. There she realizes that this same discussion - whether to fight or object - is being discussed by most of the family. She has one cousin and one uncle in Vietnam and one cousin in Canada.

Couloumbis' look at this tough issue is a fresh approach - not looking at the men who had to make the decision - looking at the family members left behind.

Couloumbis, Audrey. (2005). Summer's End. New York: G.P. Putnam and Sons.

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02 March 2008

Getting Near to Baby

Audrey Couloumbis, author of the Maude March books, won a Newberry honor for this book - Getting Near to Baby.

As with her other two Couloumbis books that I have read, this is the story of two sisters and how their lives are affected by the death of a loved one. She has a way with writing that makes her stories a joy to read.

Willa Jo and Little Sister have been taken to live with their Aunt Patty. As the book begins, the sisters are sitting on the roof of Patty's house watching the sunrise. As the day progresses and neighbors stop by to gawk, a look back in time shows how the sisters got to the roof.

This is a beautiful look at family, sisterhood in particular. Not just Willa and Little Sister, but also their mother and Patty.

Couloumbis, Audrey. (2000). Getting Near to Baby. New York: Puffin Books.

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