Category Archives: reviews

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life Review

hedy_lamarrs_double_lifeHedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019. 978-1454926917

Synopsis: To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: STEM! Women in science!

Why I finished it: Hedy Lamarr is one of many Hollywood stars that is celebrated for being talented and beautiful, but she also had a brilliant mind to match. Though she worked hard over the course of her lifetime on several inventions and developed one of the most important technologies of the modern age, it was hard to convince people that she was more than just a pretty face. I feel like this is a challenge common to women trying to break into what are traditionally masculine professions. Lamarr’s dedication to her work and her perseverance are an inspiration for all of us. The idea that we should to continue to think big and do good in the face of adversity and rejection is a message that comes across well for readers of all ages. Wu’s illustrations are fanciful and realistic to match the narrative. The contrasts of the Hollywood sepia tones with the bright colors of Lamarr’s workshop help to give the story a larger-than-life feel that seems to match the book’s subject. This is a fun read that is sure to inspire inventors and scientists of all ages.

Other related materials: Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Hedy and her Amazing Invention by Jan Wahl, illustrated by Morgana Wallace; Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts-; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy; Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky; Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around The World by Vashti Harrison

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Digital Library: Iron Hearted Violet

iron_hearted_violetIron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill; narrated by Simon Vance

Hachette Audio Group/AudioGo, 2013. 7 hours. ISBN 978-1619696006

Synopsis: Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph…or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules. – from Amazon.com

What instantly drew me in was, of course, Violet. I loved that she wasn’t a stereotypical beauty and that she was bold and brash and all the things ‘good princesses’ are not, and that – for the most part – she is comfortable in her own skin. It utterly broke my heart that she had to tell stories with beautiful princesses and not ugly ones, something that is incredibly influential on her as she grows older. Yet, it is her fierceness and tenacity even in the face of danger and doom. I was a little confused as to why a man was reading a voice about a young girl, then I realized that the story was being told by Cassian, the court storyteller and Violet’s most beloved teacher. Vance brings Barnhill’s fantastic world full of magic, mystery, and stories. Vance brings to life the idea behind the power of stories, the notion that stories can be both dangerous and a way to save what we hold most dear. This story is so wonderfully heart-warming and shows us that we need to embrace ourselves no matter how we are perceived by others. When I grow up, I want to be Violet.

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Feature Presentation: The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

lego_movie_2The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnet, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Maya Rudolph, Will Ferrell, Jadon Sand, and Brooklynn Prince

Warner Brothers/Warner Animation Group, 2019. Rated PG

Synopsis: When Lego Duplo invaders from outer space decimate the world as they know it, Emmet, Lucy, Batman, and their friends find themselves surviving in a Post-Apocalyptic wasteland with little hope of rebuilding. When Lucy, Batman, Unikitty, Spaceman, and MetalBeard are kidnapped and taken to the Systar System, Emmet must once again summon his courage and rescue his friends before the 5:15 wedding that will usher in the “Ourmamageddon”.

Filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, catchy songs that will get stuck in your head, and lots of movie homages, The Lego Movie 2 is a well-rounded sequel with a surprising amount of heart. On its surface, yes, this is a kid’s movie, but the range of the jokes and the message it sends about working and playing together hits home with more than just its target audience. Emmet (Chris Pratt) is still as optimistically naïve as ever, spreading the notion of awesomeness all around Apocalypseburg (a nod to the Mad Max universe and Planet of the Apes) as the movie opens. Lucy/Wyldestyle wishes Emmet were not so optimistic; but when she is carried away by invaders, changes her tune and comes to realize that his somewhat childish approach to things has its benefits. There is an amusing moment in which Maya Rudolph’s character steps on a Lego when trying to break up a fight between her children to which most viewers – especially parents – will be able to relate. The film seems to focus in on a theme of working together and showing kindness instead of acting out, which was well-executed, even if it did take its time getting there. Fans of the first film and even those who did not will find something to love about this fun and creative brick-built world. Now, if I could just find a way to get this catchy song out of my head…

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Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code Review

grace_hopper_queen_of_computer_codeGrace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark; illustrated by Katy Wu

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017. 978-1454920007

Synopsis: Grace Hopper coined the term “computer bug” and taught computers to “speak English.” Throughout her life, Hopper succeeded in doing what no one had ever done before. Delighting in difficult ideas and in defying expectations, the insatiably curious Hopper truly was “Amazing Grace” . . . and a role model for science- and math-minded girls and boys. With a wealth of witty quotes, and richly detailed illustrations, this book brings Hopper’s incredible accomplishments to life. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: Another book blog that I follow did an interview with Wallmark about this book that sparked my interest.

Why I finished it: Computing and coding are nothing new for the modern reader and the idea that there was a lot of trial and error to get us where we are today is somewhat mind blowing to me. In the twentieth century alone, computer users have gone from needing to switch out programs to perform a given task (for example, switching between a program that would perform addition and one that would perform multiplication) to having all those same programs being just a click away. What inspired me the most about Hopper’s story is that she continued to push forward in the face of adversity and fought the idea that we needed to keep doing things the same way. Hopper did a lot of thinking outside the box, and today we benefit from many of those off-the-wall ideas that perhaps no one else thought would work. I admire Hopper’s perseverance and passion, and how she never let things like her age, or her gender get in the way; it’s a wonderful example of never being too old to do what you want to do. Wu’s illustrations give the larger-than-life figure a softer side, giving the story a sense of whimsy without losing its seriousness. I love the free-flowing style that uses contrast to outline the drawings rather than relying on thick lines to distinguish between objects/people/etc. Though this is a picture book, the story and its message will resound with readers of all ages and surely capture the hearts and minds of a future generation of scientists.

Other related materials: Mathematician and Computer Scientist Grace Hopper by Andrea Pelleschi; Women Who Launched the Computer Age by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by April Chu; Lauren Ipsum: A Story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things by Carlos Bueno; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts; Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas; If: A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith, illustrated by Steve Adams; Hedy Lamarr and a Secret Communication System by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Cynthia Martin; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu; Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby; Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, illustrated by Megan Hasley and Sean Addy

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The Alias Men Review

double_vision_alias_menDouble Vision: The Alias Men by F.T. Bradley

HarperCollins, 2014. 978-0062104434

Synopsis: After his last mission, Linc thought his undercover junior agent days were behind him and tons of boring studying ahead of him. But when supersecret government agency Pandora wants your help, you don’t exactly have a choice. Sinister criminal Ethan Melais is on the loose in Tinseltown, and it’s up to Linc to find him. But while he’s on the job, Linc is snagged by a famous director to star in a movie. Add “trying to impress the cute Hollywood starlet Savannah Stone” to Linc’s to-do list and this mission has suddenly become more complicated. As always, Linc’s look-alike agent nemesis, Ben Green, is hot on Linc’s heels, and time is running out. Can Linc nab the thief, charm Savannah, and beat Ben at his own game? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This trilogy came back up on my radar when I was searching for a good fast-paced mystery at my library.

Why I finished it: This book has everything readers love about spy novels: action, intrigue, mystery, and lots of twists and turns along the way. What Linc thought was going to be an uneventful weekend at the Baker family reunion quickly escalates into an adventure of Hollywood proportions. Recruited to capture a man of many faces while trying out his newly discovered acting skills, Linc is surprised just how many angles a case can take. “Bond Girl” Savannah Stone’s movie history and industry knowledge proves invaluable to Linc in his mission to make it as an actor and uncover clues that will help them uncover the identity of Ethan Melais and retrieve Chaplin’s bowler hat. Alias Men is a thrilling conclusion to the trilogy that will keep readers engaged from page one and fuel their own secret agent adventures here in the real world.

Other related materials: Double Vision by F.T. Bradley; Double Vision: Code Name 711 by F.T. Bradley; Agent Colt Shore: Domino 29 by Axel Avian; Agent Colt Shore: The Games Begin by Axel Avian; Mysterious Messages: A History of Codes and Ciphers by Gary Blackwood; Upon Secrecy by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by Jeff Crosby and Shirley Ann Jackson; The 39 Clues books; Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer; Alex Rider books by Anthony Horowitz; Young Bond series by Charlie Higson;  The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman; Spy School books by Stuart Gibbs; Secret Agent Jack Stalwart books by Elizabeth Singer Hunt

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What’s On: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 3

series-of-unfortunate-events-s3A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 3 starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Usman Ally, Jacqueline Robbins, Joyce Robbins, Matty Cardaropole, John DeSantis, Kitana Turnbull, Allison Williams, Dylan Kingwell, and Lucy Rush

Netflix, 2019.

Synopsis: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire continue to search for answers about the mysterious organization V.F.D, the importance of the missing sugar bowl, and further discover the volatile nature of people as they race Count Olaf to the Last Safe Place.

The worst was saved for last, as the situation of the Baudelaire orphans continues to deteriorate. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny find themselves at numerous crossroads, both literally and figuratively, as they continue to find themselves in increasingly perilous events. Yet, these crossroads bring numerous revelations about the schism of VFD and the sad story that brought our characters to this moment in time. The cast is still as entertaining as ever and the writing is sharp, humorous, and dark while still leaving room for moments of brevity. Harris seems to really embrace his role as Count Olaf in all its ridiculousness and villainy, and his talent and range are on full display. The audience is treated to a large range of stars reprising their roles in this final season and fans of the books will be entertained by both the parallels and the deviations. And while there are some differences in the translation from page to screen, it still has the same dramatic tone and feel of the books that fans have come to fall in love with. Even though the series is at an end, it will be watched and re-watched over and over again.

 

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The End Review

ASOUE_13.pngThe End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Bret Helquist

HarperCollins, 2006. 978-0064410168

Synopsis: If end means “to cease”, then this is where things conclude. If end means “to complete”, then the story of the Baudelaires may indeed carry on. But that is for the reader to decide.

Why I picked it up: This is the end. Or is it?

Why I finished it: I became so invested in the Baudelaire’s story that finishing the series only made sense. I had to know if indeed there would be an end to the misery or if the poor orphans were destined to be miserable. Given what Violet, Klaus, and Sunny have gone through, it seemed somewhat appropriate that the three children once again find themselves once again with Count Olaf, bringing everything somewhat full circle. They seem to have found themselves at last in a safe place when the foursome is shipwrecked on a mysterious island where the orphans are welcomed, and Count Olaf is the outcast. But when the islanders begin to turn on the Baudelaires for rocking the boat and keeping secrets, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny must find a way to save themselves once again. The discoveries that the children make about the island, the inhabitants, and how it ties into their own sad history is an interesting attempt to tie up loose ends, yet it leaves quite a few strings still dangling. Whether the story is truly ended is left for the reader to decide, a notion that Snicket himself fully acknowledges in the final pages. I will say that it is an appropriate conclusion to the series and while it is open-ended, it entices the reader to review and revisit the earlier volumes to further make those last connections.

Other related materials: The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Wide Window (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 3) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Miserable Mill (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 4) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Austere Academy (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 5) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Ersatz Elevator (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 6) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Vile Village (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Hostile Hospital (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 8) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 9) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Slippery Slope (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Grim Grotto (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Penultimate Peril (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 12) by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Brett Helquist; The Beatrice Letters by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Brett Helquist; Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography by Lemony Snicket; All The Wrong Questions series by Lemony Snicket; The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket; illustrations by Caron Ellis, music by Nathaniel Stookey; The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis

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