Thursday, January 22, 2015

Audiobooks

I went on a road trip last week with the little baby.  Since I knew it would be a long trip, I downloaded an audiobook from the library for the drive.  I downloaded The Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke and with almost 5 hours of listening potential, I thought it would be perfect.

But I have a big problem with audiobooks.  I get distracted.  I can't really immerse myself into the ancient chapel and grounds of John's boarding school when I'm trying to remember my exit and praying that Ali will stay asleep for the full 3.5 hour ride (she did for the most part, by the way.  She's an ace traveller!).

My problem with audiobooks is that I'm always doing something else when I listen to them.  I don't just sit in a chair and let myself be read to.  No, I'm driving, or cleaning, or something.  I can't concentrate on an audiobook the way that I do a book.

I also had another problem with this particular audiobook.  I knew on my return trip that by the time the book was finished, I would be close to home.  So by sheer force of will, I tried to move the book along.  The ending seemed endless.  I'll try to get into a little more in my proper review, but the main conflict was resolved, then the secondary conflict was resolved, then we still had like 4 more chapters.  Let's wrap it up people!  I need to get home!

So, while I'm not giving up on audiobooks, I'm just not the fan that some people are.  I like the convenience of it, like "look, I'm organizing the basement while listening to Little Brother", but I just can't follow the story that way.

Any advice for a audiobook failure like me?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I listening to the wrong books?  Let me know

Happy Reading (or Listening)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

5 Things: Ten Things

5 Things to Brighten Your Day
Despite the BS that May Get in Your Way

1. Here's a first for me since having Alice:  I made it to work on time!

2.  This morning Ali was playing with her wubbanub when I went to wake her up and she was just so sweet.  I must have snuck up on her because I got the startle arms, which is always funny.

3.  A warm house.  Our furnace when on strike over the weekend, and a furnace isn't something you think about until your house is cold.  Thankfully we had it replaced all in one day.  

4.  Had a great night just hanging out with a friend, watching Parks and Rec and talking about how old we feel being out on a school night.

5.  Ali wore her Cabela's dress, which is now a tunic because she's so big, to school today and was just darling.  Until she spit up on it.  But that happens.  

Bonus:  Lucy Puppy, Leggings+Dress+Boots combo, Dougie, my Dad, Bubble Baths, so much to be thankful for!  Definitely enough to get me through the first day of classes. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Book Review: Unleashed










Unleashed:  A Swindle Mystery
By Gordon Korman
Scholastic 2015
Reviewed from NetGalley
Audience: Grades 4 to 6
ISBN:  97800545709354
Publication Date: January 6, 2015


An invention contest, government conspiracies, and giant doberman make up the main plot points in this Swindle mystery.  Luthor the reformed guard dog has started hunting down the exterminator's van, so Melissa, the tech genius that she is, creates an invention to humanely, even by Savannah's strict standards, correct his behavior.  However, this invention is stolen before the contest, and now Melissa won't leave her home, and for that matter, Luthor can't either without terrorizing the neighborhood.  The gang sets their sights on their grumpy new neighbor, but there might be a bigger plot afoot.  Leave it to this band of misfits to figure it out!

I'm hard on the Swindle series sometimes, but I keep reading them.  It's a love-dislike thing.  The books are still quite entertaining, and I have to say that envisioning a middle-aged man strapped to a desk chair trying to escape a top secret government lab is quite funny.  (You'll understand when you read it).  There is a common narrative arc of problem arises, Griffin formulates a plan, Griffin formulates a new plan (because it never works the first time), hilarious chaos ensues, problem-solved, everyone grounded for a week or two, run credits.  

It's a formula that works.  Unleashed, like it's predecessors, is funny and readable.  It's a great book for a somewhat reluctant reader, and great for animal lovers.  It would also make a good classroom read aloud because of all the action and great cliff-hangers toward the end of each chapter.  

Keep 'em coming, Mr. Korman!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Book Review: Ghosts of Tupelo Landing










The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing
By Shelia Turnage
Kathy Dawson Books, 2014
Reviewed from eBook
Audience: Grades 4 to 8
ISBN:  9780803736719
Publication Date:  February 4, 2014



Tupelo Landing is all abuzz about the big auction, but when Miss Lana makes a bid on the old inn, the town really gets to talking.  How with Miss Lana and Grandma Miss Lacy run an inn?  Is it really haunted?  But the kids at school are more concerned about the new kid in town, Harm, who just happens to be the grandson of mean old moonshiner, Red Crenshaw.  Mo and Dale have a lot to look after at the Desperado Detective Agency, what with the ghost being their only shot for a passing grade in history, and the success of the inn being the only shot for the town to stay afloat.  Just like before, you can expect beautiful language and colorful characters in this companion to Three Times Lucky.

Funny story about how I came to read this book.  When Alice was a newborn, she was a fuss face.  I was constantly singing and talking to her, and I found that she liked being read to.  Instead of reading her picture book after picture book, I just read to her from whatever I was reading.  She liked the constant tone of my voice, and it would usually put her to sleep.  However, I was reading Wild Things:  Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature (review to come, I promise!), and she didn't appreciate anecdotes about German stories involving crazy barbers and children burning to death.  Instead, I thought I would read her some beautifully written chapter books and get her started out right.  My first shot was The Westing Game, which opens with the murder of Sam Westing.  Strike One.  Then I turned to Three Times Lucky and it's lovely southern language.  Again, another murder book!  Strike Two.  I settled on The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing.  Same southern tone and pace, but no murder, just a ghost.  Not too scary for a newborn, right?  I'm questioning all of my parenting decisions right now.

Back to the story.  I would say that you could read this book on its own, although it would make more sense if you read Lucky, although I don't necessarily see this as a sequel.  There is something rather cheap about a sequel, or a series, it's likely my own bias, but a book of this caliber doesn't feel like a sequel.  It's too beautiful on its own.

I have to say that my favorite part was Dale.  He's just a great straight man.  Some of his one-liners were just too much.  I did a lot of highlighting in this book-one of the great positives about eBooks, I don't feel like I am defacing a book to mark in it.  

Take this passage for example:

Dale said. “Dogs don’t change their spots.” 
“Leopards,” Harm said, frowning. “Leopards don’t change their spots.” 
“The animal of the saying can be changed,” Dale said, very cool. “The spots cannot.”

Turnage, Sheila (2014-02-04). The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (Kindle Locations 1503-1504). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition. 

That is just typical Dale for you.  He does not exactly understand the world as everyone else does, but it makes for a very entertaining story.

I like revisiting Tupelo landing.  This is a great book to pick up at random, read a couple chapters, and set aside again.  It's a great book to read aloud, and I would recommend reading it to any child in your life, young or older.  I am curious to check out the audiobook because I bet it is just magical.

Happy Reading!



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Girls in Glasses

I have had glasses since I was eight years old.  This is mostly a product of genetics I'm told, but I was also a reader at a young age, and everyone knows, the more hardcore you are about reading, the stronger your eyeglass prescription!  Thank goodness for technology or my glasses would be three inches thick!

Yes, I'm a glasses girl.  Ever since having Ali, contacts are just not possible.  I picked up one nice set of frames just before I had her, and ouch! Sticker shock big time!  I haven't bought new frames for five years and didn't realize how much prices had increased.  (See this piece from 60 Minutes for the reason why.)

Then I heard about Warby Parker, a mostly online eyewear boutique with great fashions for amazing prices-most glasses are under $100 with lenses!  My husband tried their at-home try on and bought some very dashing frames and now they are rolling out their spring line.  I know that I'll be asking for some Warby Parkers for my birthday!

I have been asked to participate in the unveiling of their spring line, so I immediately started thinking about the glasses in terms of which book characters would wear them.  I think I made some very astute observations, see if you agree.

  

Meddy/Sirin from Greenglass House and the Brooks frame in Striped Pacific.  I think any inhabitant of a green house needs some green frames.  Plus, this are the perfect gaming glasses for our little
winged girl.


Zuzana from Dreams of Gods and Monsters and the Archie frame in Citron.  I don't know why these frames say "rabid fairy" to me, but they do.  They are slight in size, but big in style, without being the tortoise print that is so common.  I think that Zuzana would seriously rock these.  


Princess Celie from Thursdays with the Crown and the Newton frame in Aurelia Tortoise.  There is something vaguely princess-y about these frames.  They are youthful and different, just like Princess Celie.  I can see her wearing these while running around the castle and chasing after her griffin.  


Every librarian that reads Wild Things:  Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature and the Chalmer frame in Beach Stripe.  Children's librarians need good glasses (case in point-me!).  And for every librarian that is rolling her eyes at another fluffy bunny book, she is doing so behind classic frames like the Chalmer.

  

Blue from The Raven Boys and the Cass frames in Blue Slate Fade.  Too obvious?  Blue frames for a girl named Blue, who is a little blue because her first kiss will die.  I still think these are a great fit.  They are classic with a twist, and a little moody, like Blue.

 

Lily from Dash and Lily's Book of Dares and the Carnaby frame in Blue Coral.  Lily is a little youthful, but she wants to be more mature.  I think that these frames capture both.  A classic style with a playful twist, just like Lily.

  

Miss Tiff and the Daisy frame in Aurelia Tortoise.  I know I already mentioned this pattern, but I love it.  And here's a recent glasses-less pic of me so you can imagine the look.  Plus, this way you also get to see that baby of mine.  She's just too big!

And come to think of it, Ali will need glasses soon too.  With both parents rocking frames, she'll need them eventually, so let's envision her in something old-school like the Arthur frame.  She would be a very hipster baby in those!  


That's my take on the new spring line from Warby Parker.  What do you think?  Do you ever imagine what book characters would wear in real life?  Maybe it's only me that walks through stores thinking "That's a perfect Katniss shirt", or "Those boots were made for Karou".  Sometimes it's fun to bring your favorite characters closer to life with these types of details.  And it can be a great way to remind yourself of your favorite story.

Happy Reading (Glasses)!



Disclaimer:  I was contacted by Warby Parker to promote their spring line, but all opinions are my own.  Pictures of the glasses were supplied by Warby Parker, but the baby was supplied by me!


Friday, January 9, 2015

I Hate that I Love "Love You Forever"

Any librarian worth her cat-eye glasses and stylish cardigans must hate dozens of the sickeningly sweet, fuzzy bunny books out there.  Mostly it's because as a librarian, you see books from all time periods, not just those that were published when your own darling baby was a child or grandchild.  So instead of half a dozen super-sweet I-love-you-so-much tomes being in existence, there are dozens of these books being published a year and librarians have to buy them because some sappy grandmother must read this pink all over, lovey-dovey bunny book to her little marshmallow face.  It makes you love an irreverent book like Whatever by William Bee.  But among these most hated of books are three champions.


The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister.  Why the hate?  Here is a beautifully sparkly fish, and one of his fish friends asks for one of his beautiful scales.  Then another fish asks, and another.  Is this is book about selflessness and friendship, or a how-to-be-a-doormat guide?  Not in my house.



The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  Why the hate?  The tree's a pushover, the kid's a big time brat, and the author has given us such better work.  No thank you.


But the most controversial of them all is hands down Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.  Why?  So many reasons.  First of all, it's sappy.  But it goes beyond sappy to creepy.  The mother keeps telling her darling boy "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always.  As long as I'm living, my baby you'll be".  She even creeps in his room when he is a middle-aged man to tell him this!  But it's more than that.  Like Shel Silverstein, Robert Munsch has given us so much.  Stephanie's Ponytail, Thomas' Snowsuit, and the classic feminism-for-the-kindergarten-set The Paperbag Princess!  So why would an author known for writing funny, goofy books write something so saccharine?

Did he?  Some people say that this book, like all his others, is meant to be a little tongue in cheek and that it has been misappropriated by all the saps out there.  That could very well be, but children's librarians the world around struggle not to roll their eyes when a patron requests this book.

And now I get it.

At the end of the book, while the mother is dying, the boy rocks his mother and says "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, your baby I'll be".  I said those exact words to my mom the last time I saw her.  I said those words after I told her how much I disliked the book, but that I get it now.  It wasn't becoming a mom that made me understand, it was losing my mom.  No matter how old I get, if my mom is gone or not, I will always be her daughter. I will always be her baby.

I might have lost a little bit of my hip librarian street-cred, but I gained a little part of my soul.

But The Giving Tree?  That book is still messed up.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Derailed



I have written this post a dozen times at least.  While driving, while daydreaming, while laying awake at 2 in the morning.  I've hashed it out over and over, but it's time to just start, because I can't go any further until I do.

My mom died on October 13, 2014.

In June, I told you about my mom's cancer and that we were very optimistic.  Her cancer numbers were low, she was feeling good, her energy was good, but there were some side effects.  Nothing she couldn't handle, but some odd side effects.  When Alice was born, she could not have been more excited.  My parents visited just days after she was born and that moment when mom held Alice for the first time made everything worth it.  The long pregnancy, the 20 hours of labor, the sleepless nights.  It was all worth it for mom to meet Alice.

My mom and I talked on the phone and text each other often.  Her world was Ali Rose.  She wanted to know everything, and wanted to help me out since I was an overwhelmed first-time mom.  We went home for Labor Day to have Ali baptized at my parent's church.  That's where I was baptized, and my parents, and grandparents.  It's where all big life events take place.

Mom was doing great.  I woke up one morning at my parent's house and Alice wasn't in her crib.  My mom had taken her and was holding her in the rocking chair, happy as could be.  I was so sad to leave that my parents promised to visit in a couple weeks, the middle of September, just to see her again.

That trip was a little different.  Mom had more pain, she had migraines, and her energy was low.  She still loved on Ali, cuddled, feed, and spoiled her, but she wasn't as happy this time.  We found out the next week that the treatments had stopped working altogether.  The tumors were growing quickly and taking over.  There was one last type of chemo to try, but it didn't work.  On October 2, my mom started hospice.

We rushed home that weekend.  We packed up Alice, took the dog to a friend's, and went.  By the time we got there on Saturday morning, mom was heavily sedated and barely awake.  I didn't get to talk to my mom much that day, but it was good for my dad to see Alice and play with her.

That night, Ali spiked her first fever.  That can tear apart any new mom, but when I was so close to losing my mom, it really hurt.  That next morning, Doug and I decided to leave early and get home so we could take care of Ali.  My mom was awake, and she agreed.  She told me to take care of my little girl, her light.  She said that she had been living for Alice, and that mom's have to make hard decisions. I don't remember every word she said to me, but it was comforting and encouraging.

In the coming days, mom became unresponsive.  I had left so quickly that I didn't feel like I got to say goodbye, but I also didn't know if I could bear to see her like that, but my aunt told me that I wouldn't regret it, so on October 10, I went home to see mom.  I didn't know what to say to her.  What do you say when you're not sure if someone can even understand you, and you can't come up with the words? Instead I sang.  I sang "Go My Children with My Blessing", "It is Well with My Soul", "How Great the Father's Love for Us", and several others.  I sang for almost an hour, one song after another.  Finally I sang her the Nunc Diminus, or Lutheran speak for "The Song of Simeon".  It's what we sing after communion.  The song says, now let us thou thy servant depart in peace according to they word.  It seemed right.

I didn't know that would be the last time I saw my mom alive.  It could have gone on that way for days or weeks more, but I'm glad it didn't.  She needed to go home.

The past couple of months have been up and down.  I do have a darling 15-pound distraction, but sometimes the thought of Alice growing up and not knowing my mom is crushing.  And more than anything I worry about my dad.  They were married for 42 years.  That's a long time to be with someone and have them taken away.

I thought adjusting to motherhood would be hard.  That part has actually been easy.  It gets easier everyday.  Living without my mom has not been easy.  Sure, everyday it sinks in a little more, everyday brings more healing, but then it hits you all at once again, all new, that you will never hug her again, talk to her, tell her you love her, and it's horrible.  At least I know that I will have all of these things in heaven.  I know that she sees Alice and how grown up she is getting from heaven.

Becoming a mom meant a change in priorities.  Not as much time to read, or exercise, or be with friends.  That's an adjustment that everyone has to make.  Losing my mom feels like a derailment.  One of my constants in life is gone and I feel a little abandoned, lost, adrift.  I'm trying to get it back.  I'm trying to get a little more passion for life, energy, happiness.  I didn't crawl into a hole when mom died, but I didn't try hard to stay excited either.

And that's why I haven't been around here lately.  I haven't known what to say.  Now that I have all of this rambling off of my chest, maybe I'll come around more.  I have reviews to share, books to tell you about, Ali stories to tell.  Now that you know my history, I can move forward.

It's good to get that out.  On to 2015, and a better year.  We can all use it.

Thanks for reading