Friday, March 29, 2013


Kyra is a potion master, but she is on the run since she tried to kill her best friend the princess, but her usual deadly dart missed.  Kyra knows that if Princess Arianna becomes queen, she will destroy the kingdom, and she can't let that happen, so she goes to Arlo, a criminal mastermind, for help tracking down the princess so she can finish the job.  He gives her a tracking pig, much to Kyra's dismay, but it seems like the pig knows what it's doing so she follows her all the way to a handsome stranger named Fred.  Kyra gives Fred the slip several times, but that boy is useful, and attractive and suddenly Kyra had more on her mind than just saving the kingdom.  With a quick moving plot, plenty of twists, and an adorable pig, Poison is a light-hearted adventure for fans of Grave Mercy.  

I found out about Poison from Laini Taylor's blog.  The author, Bridget Zinn, died of cancer in 2011, but she had been working on this book during her entire treatment and it's finally been published.  It's a great story about an author working very hard on her work, despite the fact that she was never able to see if come to fruition.

Also, this book is good.  It's not just some vanity press book that the family threw together in her memory, which makes it all the more sad, that such a talented author died young.

I personally loved Kyra.  Which got me to thinking, there are a lot of heroines out there with K-names.  Katniss (The Hunger Games), Karou (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), Katsa (Graceling), and now Kyra.  I think that she could hold her own with the other girls.  She's tough and talented, but can be light hearted and funny at times too.  I also loved Rosie, the Katenzheim Pig.  I guess I was taken by her because she seemed so cuddly and loving, and she softened Kyra.

Speaking of Rosie, let's talk about what makes this book lighthearted instead of heavy.  At first glance you would think this would be a dark book-a potion master out to kill her best friend- but in reality, the dialogue between Kyra and Fred is flirty, Arianna is anything but a stuffy princess, and the action is often pretty tame.  At times, I felt like the book became too comical for the main plot.  Sometimes the dialogue seemed too modern to me, making references to teddy bears and using the words "jerk" and "mom" just felt wrong.  On one hand, I liked the absurdity of the text, but on the other hand, I wished it would have been more intense throughout.

Another counterintuitive sticking point is that this could easily be a trilogy, and while I'm glad it's not, there were times in the book that you thought there was more plot left than book.  Personally, I'm sick of trilogies and series, but I would like to read more about Kyra, Arianna, Fred, and even Rosie.  So while I'm extremely happy that this was a stand alone book, I could have read more.

Overall, I do think that this type of tough girl, with a touch of whimsy, book has a wide audience.  After reading dystopias, or dark period dramas, it is nice to read about a potions master and her wiley pig.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever

I used to hate easy reader books.  There were some gems like Amelia Bedelia, and Frog and Toad, but so much of it just seems so marginal and drab.  Beginning reader books are when you start to get children excited about reading, not turn them off completely because there is no plot or point in a book. But now is the golden age of beginning reader books, with Elephant and Piggie, Mercy Watson, and these girls, Bink and Gollie.

In this set of three short adventures, Gollie discovers she is related to royalty and goes out to see her kingdom, but learns that even queens need a friend.  Then, Bink tries to become taller with a crazy looking contraption that ends up adorning the ceiling of her home.  And finally, the girls want to start a record breaking collection, but they end up realizing that they are already winners.

Bink and Gollie work well together since Gollie is mature and sensible, while Bink is fun and carefree. I love Bink's determination to be taller, and her intensity as she fixes the stretching machine-the look on her face in that illustration is too much.  The illustrations are great because the characters really stand out against the black and white background, and all of the little details that should be noticed are in color.  Not only does the simple text teach children to read, but this book also helps teach children to read the pictures.

This is a great read aloud, since the characters are so expressive.  It would be wonderful for one-on-one reading, but the small format makes it a little difficult for large groups.  Considering that some of my storytimes were only 5-10 kids, I'd still try one of the stories in a program.  And I can just hear a young reader making their way through this book, and it makes me smile.

Personally, I'm a Gollie.  I'm sensible but I have s whimsical streak, I'm proper at times, but silly at others, and I love my friends.  I think that most readers can see themselves in Bink and Gollie and would love to be part of their little world.  I know that I want to shop at Eccles Empire of Enchantment.

Share this book with any new reader and watch them become enchanted.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Who Could That Be at This Hour?

Do you miss the direct narration and over explanatory definitions of the Series of Unfortunate Events? If your answer is yes, you are in luck!  In the first volume of the All the Wrong Questions series, young Lemony Snicket is whisked away by his new mentor to Stain'd by the Sea to solve a mystery, but the mystery that they are solving only leads to another series of mysteries, and leads Lemony further away from the original mystery that he meant to solve.  Confusing, yes, entertaining, sorta, pointless, maybe, but as always, Lemony Snicket redeems himself with wonderful quotes and one-liners.

At Stain'd by the Sea, Lemony and S. Theodora Markson, his mentor, are charged with finding a stolen statue, although Lemony quickly discovers the statue and also discovers that it is already with the rightful owners.  But again, the with other Snicket books, the adults only get in the way, and often make the problems worse, so he relies on a network of local kids to give him information.  From the twins that run the town's only taxi, to the journalist-in-training girl living in the lighthouse, to a runaway living in a abandoned cottage, Lemony starts to piece together the mystery, or piece together multiple mysteries that in fact add up to one giant mystery with a final mystery lurking on the sidelines.

You really do feel like you are going two steps forward and three steps back the entire time.  And your questions are rarely answered, even the wrong ones.

So why is such a frustrating series popular?  Again, maybe it's the How I Met Your Mother Syndrome. I read all of the Series of Unfortunate Events, so now I find myself compelled to learn more about Lemony and how he came to be, even if it means being in the dark, dark cave with only a dying glow stick to light my way.  No matter how frustrating the plot, or convoluted the dialogue, I'm sticking with it because somewhere in there squattith the toad of truth (A Big Bang Theory reference, I'm mixing my comedy metaphors).

Like I said before, Lemony Snicket often writes these oddly brilliant passages that have a way of sticking with you.  In this book that passage was "They say in every library there is a book that can answer the question that burns like fire in the mind".  Wow, what a great line, because it's so true!  In every library there is that one book that will answer your greatest questions, I honestly believe that.  I honestly believe in the transformative power of books.

I did see Lemony Snicket's right hand man as it were, Daniel Handler, a few years ago at the conclusion of the Series of Unfortunate Events.  It was a weird experience to say the least.  First, Daniel Handler talked and sang and generally entertained and enlivened the crowd, and he went off to sign autographs.  Then, there was some extra entertainment while everyone waited as there were a couple hundred people at this event and the signing was going to take a while.  We were told that a reptile handler would be showing his reptiles.  To set the scene, imagine a large, beautiful old theatre with three large seating sections and a giant stage.  Then imagine all of the house lights going out, a strobe light coming on, dry ice smoke coming down the aisles, Ozzy Osborne music booming over the speakers, and a man dressed all in black wearing a dragon mask and wings carrying a 10 foot long snake over his shoulders coming down the aisles and scaring the living daylights out of the dozens of children there with their parents.  I wish I was making this up.  Children were crawling over their mothers to get further into the aisle.  There was screaming, I'm sure there were nightmares, and I just have to wonder who signed off on this performance!  I did get my book signed and I quickly left before things could get any weirder.

But that is neither here or there.  Again, while I do find Lemony Snicket's books to be frustrating and confounding, I'm hooked.  I do love the witty comments, the snarky asides, and the strange pearls of wisdom.  Not to mention you can blow through one of these books in an evening-always a plus.  And teacher's, Snicket's books generally have great vocabulary, and serve as wonderful writing prompts.  Have your students write their own Snicket Short Story while trying to answer one of the questions in this book.  Maybe, what does the S in S. Theodora Markson stand for, and why is she so secretive about it?

If you're a fan of odd Snicket witticisms, then check out the Snicket Quote page on Goodreads.  I'm sure that you will find some unusual gems.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Rag Wreath

I think that I might be to blame for the wintery weather because I have had the same winter wreath on my front door since November.  But it's so pretty!  I had been planning on making a Spring Rag Wreath for a while now, and since my plans changed this weekend due to an upcoming snowstorm, I thought this was the perfect time to try it out, and see if I could stop Winter Storm Virgil in his tracks!

First of all, let me direct you to the original inspiration for this wreath:  A Beautiful Mess blog.  Check out their pretty autumn wreath.  As you will see, their wreath is much less orderly, but let's face it, I'm all about the order and organization, so it's no wonder that my messy wreath turned out pretty orderly.

Let's talk about the process!

Grab your supplies: fabric, an old wire hanger, scissors, tape measure or ruler, and pilers.  

(Yes, I have pink tools.  I have a whole pink tool set.  This was necessary because my hubby kept stealing my tools and I couldn't find them when I needed them, so I bought pink ones.  Now, if I see a pink hammer or screwdriver in the garage, someone is in big trouble!)

Then, unwrap your hanger, and bend it to your will!  Try for something circle-like.  This part is not fun, at least not for me.  It's difficult, but I think that did a reasonably good job at making a circle, so moving on.

Next you cut your fabric strips.  I used fabric from a bundle, so all of the colors coordinated and looked lovely together.  Even better, it was still all folded up with those little fold lines, so that's actually how I cut my strips.  I just cut down out the sections along the fold lines, and then cut each section into 1/4ths.  My strips are about 9 inches long, and maybe an inch wide (I'm terrible at judging distance and size).  My wreath frame is pretty large, so it worked for me, but if you are using a smaller wreath frame, your strips will naturally need to be smaller.

Then, start tying!  Just tie your fabric strips along the frame.  It's that easy.  Now, like I said, I'm all about the order, so I put my fabric on in a pattern and made sure that the knots where all tied the same way, because I'm weird like that.  For a fuller wreath you'll want to use different types of fabric and ribbons and tie them on more chaotically.  But like I said, I'm about the order, so I like it.

Finally, I added a fun little accent.  I had this E sitting around for a while, but it was black and I wanted it to blend with the greens and browns better, so I gave it a quick shot of metallic, oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.  When I showed my hubs the final product he thought the E looked really cool, and asked how I did that.  I told him that ORB is the crack of Young House Love and that's how I heard of it.  Pretty cool stuff.  I can't wait to ORB something else!

And here is the final product which I proudly displayed on my door Saturday afternoon.  I know the E looks black, but it is a lovely, shimmery bronze in person.  I just love my new wreath, and my hubby is pretty impressed too.  Unfortunately, it did not drive Winter Storm Virgil away, and now my lovely Spring Rag Wreath is facing about 7-8 inches of fresh snow.  Oh well, maybe my mail deliverer will like the new look anyway.  

How are you trying to think spring in this snowstorm?  Are you decorating for Easter, or planning a vacation?  Maybe you're just turning up the heat and walking around your house in shorts.  I've done that!

Happy Crafting!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NCAA Balloon Wall, Part II

I'm not sure if it was a flaw in the design or execution, but our NCAA Balloon Wall now looks like a balloon waterfall.  I even reinforced it with more tape the other day, but as you can see, that didn't do much.  I still plan on popping balloons as we go, and maybe after enough are popped, we can tape them back up.

Also, I don't know if this is indicative of anything, but the Louisville balloon is flat.  It looked great when we put it up, but the next day, it looked pretty pathetic.  Again, I'm not saying that means anything, but I personally do not have Louisville making it past the second round.  

I wanted to scan in my bracket because it's rather funny, but I think my hubby already took it to put in his office pool.  I have confidence in my NCAA Championship Pick, but the rest of the field might be a little weird.  Basically, I look at the teams, make a quick decision, and write it down.  There is no time for second thoughts.  So you end up with some weird match-ups, like Missouri beating Louisville in the second round, and I think picked Nova for a pretty big upset too.  I kinda panicked when I ended up with Illinois playing Marquette, but I went with my guy even though it meant betraying my team.  And my championship pick:  Michigan State!  Gotta love the Big Ten!  

In other news, Lucy is becoming quite the literary critic.  Her feelings toward The Art of Fielding are vicious.  She tore that book apart.  And I know that she looks remorseful, but trust me, she's only sorry that she got caught!

What teams are on your NCAA Finals List?  Has your dog eaten any NYT Bestsellers lately?

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will I Ever Learn?

Will I ever learn that procrastination is not the answer?  Maybe later, but not today.

Procrastination Setback #1:  Book Reviews.  It's always the book reviews.  I got my awesome new pack of reviews and promptly read this series fiction chapter book, and did not promptly write the the review.  So then, I started carrying the book with me and after a couple days of that, I gave it away!  What was I thinking?  Now I have no book, no review, and no idea how I'm going to pull this off.  I'll have to count on my amazing memory for details.  I'm sunk.  But as the internet as my witness, my reviews will go out next week!

Procrastination Setback #2:  Book Club.  Blast book club!  With their NYT best selling books that weigh more than my dog!  This month it's The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  If I were smart, I would have read it weeks ago.  I actually did take it on a little trip last week, but there were Kindle books on my phone, like Ungifted and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, begging to be read.  You can see how I didn't get around to this.  When choosing between a misfit and his robot or a artful tome recounting the interconnected lives of several people at a fictitious college, you can see that I made the right choice.  But with just over half the book finished and book club in two days, I'm struggling.  Plus, the two books that I put on hold at the library came in this week.  I have fun books staring me in the face while I read this "real" book.  Doug looked at me while slogging through this book the other day and started laughing.  He said normally when I read that I look happy or excited or involved, and with this book I just look sad and tired.

It's not that this book isn't good, it's just slow.  I'm a fan of intricate and fully developed characters.  I'm a fan of different narrators and points of view.  I'm even becoming a fan of baseball, but added together I'm just getting bored.  I'm waiting for this book to go somewhere, and so far, it's just not happening.  I'll hang in there since I'm determined to finish a book club book, but I think that I will bow out of book club next year.  It's just not my scene.

To all of my fellow procrastinators out there--fear not!  All this work will get done.  Someday.  Probably not today, but maybe next week, after a long weekend full of napping.  Maybe.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Battle of the Kids Books

Blast it all!  I was so busy reading random books, trying to slog through my book club book, and stringing balloons that I forgot it was Battle of the Kids' Books time!!

Battle of the Kids' Books is a bracket published by School Library Journal matching up the top books of the year, then asking famous children's authors to pick the best book.  You can check out this year's bracket here.

I don't think that filling out the BKB bracket is quite as popular as the NCAA bracket, and it's actually too late now since the battles have begun, but it's still lots of fun to take a look.  Plus BKB has something that the NCAA tournament doesn't:  The Undead Winner!  Before the battles begin, fans vote on which book they would like to see come back from the dead if it gets eliminated.  Then that book faces off with the two finalists, and can sometimes come back to win it all!  Talk about a Cinderella story, well zombie Cinderella, but who wouldn't watch that movie?

Just think what that would be like in the NCAA tournament!  You could have rabid fans cast votes online for two undead teams, then those two teams play the finalists, then the winners of those games play the finals.  I think this is an excellent idea!  This way I have a better chance of seeing my Illini in the finals.  It's giving the tournament back to the fans.  Who do I have to talk to about this?

Anyway, I highly recommend that you check out the Battle of the Kids Books over at SLJ.  And while you are there, check out the brackets from 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 18, 2013

March Madness!

What did you do last night?  I blew up 64 balloons and strung them up on the wall in celebration of the NCAA tournament!

Here's how this whole idea started.

A local bar set up a balloon bracket and we loved it!  So now that Bar Erickson is up and running, we decided to do the same thing.  It worked out great because not only could we invite our friends over to watch the selection show, but it was also St. Patrick's Day, so we could wear green, listen to some Flogging Molly, and eat delicious Guinness Pudding compliments of Sarah.  Plus, my friend Mimi threw a huge birthday party for her husband, Jordon on Saturday so we noshed on leftovers all night. 

So at this birthday party, Doug and I go around casually inviting everyone to hang out, but I guess I forgot to tell them about the balloons because when our friends walked in the basement to see hampers full of balloons they were a little shocked. 

I wish I had an action shot of the stringing process because it got a little involved.  At first we were going to tape them with blue painters tape, but that didn't work.  Then Mike had the bright idea to string them like popcorn on a Christmas tree.  Done!  After painstakingly threading a needle, we rolled out a long length of yarn to string.  From there Doug called the teams, Sarah found the correct team color and wrote the name, Mike strung the balloon, and I threaded it down to Rusty who was at the end of the yarn, lining up the balloons.  And we all tried to keep Lucy from eating the balloons.  We might have been overthinking it at that point.  

Since I had a multi-colored pack of balloons, we were left with many pink ones, so our least favorite teams (I'm looking at you, Notre Dame) were shamed with pink!  Otherwise we tried to match team and balloon color, except toward the end--we have a row of blue and green.

I think that I am more excited about the balloon wall than the tournament, but I've printed my bracket and I'm ready to make predictions!  

Pick your team.  Are you a Zags fan?  How about Marquette?  Or are you trying to teach your dog to bark I-N-I to your I-L-L?  Let me know!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Organized Mess

I haven't shared a little slice of life lately.  Mostly because my life has been work, reading, and housecleaning, and really, reading is definitely the most interesting thing there.

If I had to describe my life right this second, which I do or else I'll have nothing to post today, I would say it is an organized mess.  That's right.  From the outside it looks great, but for the love, don't open the closet!

I say from the outside, but I don't mean the outside of my house.  Please ignore the outside of my house.  Spring is coming and I have no idea what mess of plants and bushes I am left with after "weeding" last fall and all the snow this winter.  I keep telling Doug we should just cover it all in rock, but he keeps talking about "code violations" and other nonsense.  He also won't let me put down astroturf, although if it's good enough for Memorial Stadium, how it is not good enough for us?

You would think that I would be all about the organization since I'm a type A librarian/secretary with tendencies toward perfectionism, but it's exhausting keeping track of everything.  Like my house, it's deceptively clean.  Meaning, looks good, recently dusted, floors look nice, but there are the wispy little cobwebs on the ceiling that I forget to snag.  Or work stuff.  I can stay on top of several professors and a dwindling budget, by cut me some slack on the lab demands that change every week.  Even this blog sometimes.  I feel like there is more cool stuff I could share if only I know how to take and edit amazing pictures, and actually knew how to write code and stuff.

And because I want everything I do to be a 10, I get overwhelmed and overcritical and end up giving myself a 5 on everything.

That's why I say my life is an organized mess.  I'm rocking some big time 5's in terms of effort right now, but my 5 might be someone else's 8, even 9.  I'm sure there are those that think my 5 effort seems like their 2 effort, and those people can just go away, thank you.  But honestly, I look around at my house, my job, my budget, my blog, and everything and think, I'm doing okay.  I'm keeping up.  I'm not setting the pace, but I'm not falling behind.  It's an organized mess, but at least it's sorta organized.

Like today.  I missed an order and got myself all anxious over it-mess.  But I called the company and it looks like, fingers crossed, it will be delivered by Monday-organized.

Or, we've been eating out a ton lately-not healthy, not cheap-mess.  But I have a great menu of easy recipes ready for this weekend, and grilling season is just around the corner-organized!

And, I had nothing to talk about today-mess.  But then I decided to talk about what a mess I am-organized!  It all works out!  It's called coming full circle.

Basically I am saying that if you feel like little picky things are getting away from you, that's probably true, but all you can do is move on and try to fix it.  It might mean some apologies for late deliveries, or frozen pizza for dinner, but that's fine.  We all have to cut ourselves a little slack from time to time, especially if my cleaning is infringing on my reading time.  I'm looking at you, stupid wispy cobwebs!  You're the reason I won't finish my book club book.

So, it's okay to screwup every now and then.  Fix it, apologize, and move on.  Hopefully to a new fun book!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Remember how I broke my rule?  Well, I fixed it by reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Just like I suspected, the book is better than the movie, mostly because there is just more of it.  More Charlie, more books, more Rocky Horror Picture Show, just more context in general.

Through letters written to an anonymous "friend" Charlie describes his first year in high school, and also gives the reader insight into his childhood and teenage years.  The reader gets the feeling that Charlie has always been somewhat troubled.  He had to stop playing sports because they made him too aggressive.  He was always inside his head and had a hard time relating to his friends.  Now in high school, he doesn't have any friends because his best friend killed himself the year before.

But in a moment of bravery, Charlie reaches out to a boy in his shop class, Patrick and starts to get to know him and his step-sister, Sam.  He tries to participate in life, yet he is still content to watch from the sidelines and do whatever he can to ensure his friends happiness.  At his core, Charlie just wants everyone to be happy, even if that means being miserable himself.

This is a very moving book, and knowing the ending didn't exactly ruin it, but I do think that I picked up on subtle clues along the way.  Like every time someone told Charlie, "this is our little secret".  As a reader, I really felt for Charlie.  You want him to succeed, to be happy, but he can't understand how to do that for himself.  He thinks entirely too much.  I love the passage about his math class where he starts performing better when he stops questioning all the formulas and just starts using them.  He wants to understand everything and everyone, but you can't explain all the good and bad that happen in life.

I can see why this book is so often questioned.  Drug and alcohol use run rampant, and there are many episodes and stories of sex and sexual abuse.  It's not a pretty book.  It's not a light hearted, feel good novel, although I felt good at the end, because Charlie came to a better understanding of his life.  I also love how he thinks about perspective toward the end.  Charlie never liked to feel bad for himself because someone always has it worse, and that's true, but it's about your perspective.  What you are going through right now is difficult because it is happening to you.  You can't change what is happening to others, but you can deal with your own problems.

I still wish that I had read the book first.  Say it with me--The book is always better!  But batting out of order didn't hurt me so much this time, and it did bump Wallflower up on my to-read list.  If you are looking for a thoughtful book, then this is the one for you.

Happy Reading

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Donovan Curtis cannot explain why he does the things he does.  No one in his family is that impulsive, and according to, no one in his family's history is either.  But he still gets himself in trouble by acting without thinking-like when he hits the statue of Atlas outside his middle school with a large stick and sends the world rolling off his shoulders.  Atlas' shoulders, that is.  Dr. Schlutz, the strict superintendent, will surely punish Donovan to the best of his ability, but imagine Donovan's surprise when he's called to the office and told that he's going into the gifted program at a new school, not getting suspended or worse.  A couple of good mix-ups and Donovan is suddenly working on a robot with some of the brightest minds in his school district, and he's praying that no one ever finds out.  This is another great school story from Gordon Korman.

Donovan is a great character.  He knows his faults very well.  He knows that he's not smart enough to be at the academy, but you can't blame the kid for hiding out there.  Donovan really does try to fit in, but he's a normal kid and that stands out in a brilliant way at a school full of intelligent students.

Then there's the supporting cast from the Academy.  Perfectionist Abigail who wants nothing to do with Donovan, since he will surely ruin her chances at Harvard; smart, but normal-ish Chloe who wants to be both smart and normal, genius Noah who would give anything to get kicked out of school, and the teachers that just can't quite understand how Donovan got into this school in the first place.  It was wonderful to hear this story told from so many points of view because even though Donovan wasn't gifted in the traditional sense, he is gifted at bringing people together.

The chapter headings were wonderful since every heading introduced the character with their name and IQ score (keep track of those scores, because they are a little surprising).  Also, every chapter is titled with an "un" adjective:  Unforgiveable, Unmasked, Unsorry.  This would be a great writing exercise for a class.  Have them write a short story to follow-up and give it an "un" title.  Maybe write something from the robot's point of view because the poor guy is a big part of the action, but doesn't get to give any input.

This book did remind me of Schooled by Gordon Korman where a homeschooled kid comes in and shakes up a public middle school.  Again, you have an outsider coming into a group and changing it into something so much bigger.  But that's a great theme, so I'm really happy that Korman went back to it.

Ungifted is a great middle grade fiction novel for all types of readers.  It is funny, it has heart, and there's a robot on the cover.  The only thing that would make this book any better is a coupon for free ice cream.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Blogs I Love to Read

I'm a little late to the blogging party.  Honestly, I never even heard of a blog until I read Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell.  For Julie, it all started with an idea to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I by Julia Child and just talk about it.  Then it became a book, then a movie, then another book.

Aside:  Julie and Julia is hilarious, but the girl has a potty mouth, so be prepared.  Also, her second book Cleaving got a little weird.  I didn't even finish it and I have a pretty high weird tolerance, so proceed with caution.

Here's a list of blogs that I read regularly and that inspire me to keep going:

1.  Young House Love.  My former co-worker hold me about this blog after seeing it in the paper because she knew that I just moved into a new house.  It's a home design blog, with a good dose of everyday life.  What I like most about this blog is that it's fun, simple, and they are very honest about their life and work.

2.  Bower Power.  From YHL, I found Bower Power, all about a darling, growing family in Atlanta.  Again, it's mostly about home renovation, but it contains plenty of posts about daily life.  And also quite funny.

3.  Nice Girl Notes.  I'm not sure what the central thesis of this blog really is, but Roo is just funny.  (Do you notice that I have a thing about funny blogs?)   Her blog is a lighthearted look at being a mom working from home with three adorable little girls.

4.  Cinjoella.  Joella and I went to library school together and she is hands down the best librarian I have ever meet.  She works in Utah, which entirely makes me want to move.  I'm either marveling at her programming skills or her crafting skills every time I visit her blog.

5.  Laini Taylor.  Yes, Laini Taylor of Daughter of Smoke and Bone fame regularly writes on her blog and I couldn't be happier about that!  She shares these amazing photos of her vacations, which you can just imagine inspire her writing, plenty of writing tips and tricks, and just life in general posts.  It's like getting a little glimpse into what goes on when writing such terrific books.

Those are the blogs that I like to check out a couple times a week, or day if it's a slow one!  Mostly I just love reading about normal people doing what they love.  Hopefully that's what this blog is too.  I love reading and I certainly talk about it enough, but I also like to chat about family, friends, and other events in my life.

What about you?  Do you have a blog suggestion, or maybe you write a blog that I need to check out.  Just leave me a note and let me know!

Happy Reading

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

In this adventure, Scaredy Squirrel decides that he would like to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of his own home.  Luckily there is a camping marathon on TV, but he needs to plug in his TV to the campground's outlet.  Time to suit up Scaredy Squirrel style!  When traveling through a campground, there are many dangers to for which you must prepare, including skunks, mosquitos, quick sand, and penguins.  But in true SS fashion, you will soon learn how to not only prepare with a lengthy yoga and obstacle course sequence, but also how to overcome your fears and enjoy the true beauty of camping.

I love Scaredy Squirrel!  You might remember that I reviewed his Christmas book and the rest of the series, so of course I'm a fan.  I really appreciate how he gives real life advice for all of us that hate venturing outside.  I will now be properly armed against penguins, simply distract them with popsicles. I know that I should overreact when I encounter a skunk and bath in gallons of tomato juice.  I know that concrete will act as a counter balance to quick sand.  This is the kind of the DIY camping book that I can really get behind!

Also, Scaredy Squirrel teaches you that your fears are largely unnecessary.  Camping is not scary.  There are actually very few penguins involved, and lots of marshmallows, so it's worth the occasional risk.  Despite all of his worry, things worked out just fine.

In some ways, Scaredy Squirrel is demonstrating a valuable life lesson.  You can worry about and prepare for danger all you want, but most likely, you're going to be fine.  And you might even have fun.  And when all else fails, play dead.  Words to live by.

So, grab your camping gear, and don't forget about that tomato juice, and get ready for some serious fun.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Eleanor and Park

Warning:  This post contains spoilers.  Typically I can put together a review and still be vague enough to not give anything away, but not this time.

Eleanor is used to being different, but in this new school, there is no room for different.  It's not that she wants to be this way, but when your family is as troubled as Eleanor's, being normal is not an option.  She shares a bedroom with her four siblings, there is no door on the bathroom and she must tiptoe around her mother's abusive boyfriend.  Meanwhile, Park comes from an ideal family and seems to be a perfectly normal teen, but one move, letting Eleanor sit next to him on the bus, changes everything that is important to him.  They start out by sharing comic books, then music, then start holding hands, then fall dangerously in love.  Told by both Park and Eleanor, this is story about high school love and fighting for something more.

There is a huge marketing push going on behind this book.  I personally received two ARCs of this title and I'm not that well connected in the publishing world.  There are banner adds all over my Children's Bookshelf newsletters, it's all over Goodreads, and it's just plain to see that the book packagers are trying really hard to make this book fly.

In my opinion, all that effort has worked against them.  To me, this is classic case of the book not living up to the hype.

In some ways, the plot is really slow.  You get a lot of Eleanor and Park trying to figure out how to be together, and then just hanging out.  Eleanor keeps holding back from Park, not giving him all of the information, honestly, not letting him love her.  This relationship is super one-sided.  Park tells Eleanor over and over again how much he loves her, and she never says it back.  Maybe she doesn't believe that she is worthy of being loved, or maybe she can't say the words because she'd never heard them before Park.  She obviously feels very strongly for him, but she can't believe that this will end well because she has never seen a functioning relationship in her life.

**Spoiler Alert**

Let's talk about the ending.  I suspected Eleanor's stepdad Richie of the graffiti on her books for quite a while, so that wasn't the shock that it was supposed to be.  And while it was a little chilling to think that he was going to seriously abuse her, but he was just biding his time, that honestly didn't make for much of a climax.  The worse part is that Eleanor's little sister, Maisie is still in the house and seems to have already been abused by Richie.

Then Eleanor runs away, to an uncle that offered to have her stay for the summer, and Park's dad let's him take the truck, because he's that kind of father.  Actually he offers to hurt Richie, which would have been more exciting.  Eleanor and Park start this road trip and long goodbye that's just awkward.  Then Eleanor goes to her uncle's, her family seems to escape Richie, and Park just goes home to pine over Eleanor.  Unrequited love at it's best I suppose, and maybe more realistic than the other options, but ultimately pretty plain for a book that is getting such amazing buzz.

I don't agree.  I absolutely don't agree with the 4.26 average rating on Goodreads, I don't agree with Gayle Forman's blurb, and I don't agree with all of the hype that has been surrounding this book.

I was ultimately disappointed.  I wanted a tale of high school romance that was more nostalgic for 80's, rather than dropping in veiled references when the action was a little slow.  I wanted more music, more action, more intensity.  This was like Edward and Bella in terms of sappiness without the benefit of an action packed subplot.  For all the hype, it just fell short.

Moving on.  I read a fascinating article today.  Think of it as confessions of a former ghost writer.  If you read Sweet Valley High at any point in your life, I highly recommend that you check out, The Ghost Writes Back.

Now, it's on to more middle grade fiction with Ungifted by Gordon Korman.

Happy Reading.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Librarian Fashion

I was feeling very uninspired today.  I haven't finished Eleanor and Park yet, and it's being snowing since 1997 (or at least it feels that way) and I was at a loss.

Enter Pinterest.

I needed something to talk about and where better to find strange topics of conversation than Pinterest!  One quick search for Librarian Fashion and WHAM-results.  It's all about the search terms, people.

My find was Librarian Wardrobe, a fun little site of self-submitted outfits from working librarians.  We are a varied and strange bunch, so some of these posts make me swoon, some make me very jealous, some make me say "yep, that's me" and some make me cringe, and cry, and want to beg them never to wear such an embarrassing outfit every again because you are giving all librarians a bad name!!

Honestly, I stick pretty close to my wardrobe of dress pants, lightweight sweaters, and ballet flats.  I do love heels but my hubby is only 2 inches taller than me on a good day and while he doesn't mind my high heels for special occasions, on a daily basis he would prefer that we be more equal, and I have to say that my feet and joints thank him.

My librarian style is pretty simple and mainstream.  I rarely dress up in costume and the closest that I dare come to a holiday sweater are Old Navy holiday tees worn on the day of the holiday or program under a cute cardigan with some fun jewelry.

Oh, and cardigans, I have to own at least 20.  It's a sickness!

I would totally say that my style is librariany, but not washed up, simple but not plain, and fun but not wacky.

What's your style?

Happy Reading!

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Broke My Rule

I have a rule that you have to read the book before you see the movie.  Sometimes, the movie is not even necessary after reading the book.  Other times, you begrudgingly see the movie only to be horribly disappointed, or satisfied by the overall effort, but ticked that a few crucial lines or moments were omitted.  I'm a book lover, not a movie lover, so when at all possible, I read the book.

I had The Perks of Being a Wallflower on my mind for a while now, and I meant to read it, I really did.  Then my friends told me that they loved the movie.  They said it was a lot better than Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, at which point I might have gone all screechy and told them that Nick and Nora was awesome, but I read the book first.

So, Sunday afternoon rolls around and my hubby and I want to watch a stupid movie and nap.  We start searching our on demand channels in vain.  So many movies, but none with the right blend of lightness, comedy, and napability, so I finally said "Let's just watch Perks of Being a Wallflower."


Perks of Being a Wallflower is an emotionally draining movie.  Charlie is an outcast since he had a rough time in middle school, but he is brave enough to reach out to a guy in his shop class, Patrick, and starts to hang out with him and Sam, his step sister.  Their misadventures though high school lead to Charlie coming out of himself a bit, but an ill-fated game of truth or date brings that crashing down as Charlie is exiled from the group and begins to go dark again.

It's a touching movie.  I was personally ugly crying for an hour.  The whole tone of the movie made me want to cry.  Each of these characters is just so broken.  But you get the feeling that there is more, much more to all of them.  And that's where the book comes in.

I'll have to read it.  I downloaded it after we finished the movie.  But since I'm still thinking about the movie, I'll need some time off before I start it.  Or it might be like The Fault in Our Stars, that great book that I never read because I am too afraid of how it will effect me.

Or, I'll read it this summer, out on the deck, in the sunshine.  Everything, even dark tales of child abuse, is a little more positive in the sun.  Sounds like a plan to me.

Until then, I'm reading Eleanor and Park, which is like Wallflower in a way.  Two people connecting through music.  But I already know that this book is not going to be all sunshine and roses.  Blast!  I could really use one of those books right now!

And does anyone else find it even a little interesting that the tunnel song, Heroes by David Bowie, was recorded by The Wallflowers in 1998.  The Wallflowers rerecorded a song used in Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I think I am the only person that finds that interesting.

Sidenote:  What ever happened to The Wallflowers?  Their CD, Bringing Down the Horse, was the first CD I ever owned.  I still have it somewhere too.

In conclusion, Perks of Being a Wallflower was a great movie, and I do highly recommend it.  I still recommend that you read the book first, but I know that most people don't have rules like that, and that's fine.  Live your life without knowing the joy literature, it's none of my business.

But if you just want a fun movie to watch while you sporadically nap, you'd be much better off with Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist!

Happy, ah, Watching!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Starry River of the Sky

In this companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Rendi stows away in a merchant's cart and ends up in the Village of Clear Sky where he is reluctantly taken in by Master Chao who runs the Inn at Clear Sky.  All Rendi wants to do is keep running away, but the errands at the inn keep him busy during the day and the howling of the night keeps him from sleep.  He thinks that he can't possibly be the only one to hear it, but it does seem that way.  The inhabitant's of the inn are a strange bunch.  There is Mr. Shan, an old man who seems confused and lost most of the time, Madame Chang, who arrived mysteriously one day full of stories and wisdom and little Peiyi, Master Chao's daughter, who is mourning her brother who recently ran away.

Just like in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, the side stories all form one long narrative that effects the main plot.  And as Madame Chang says, the stories we tell say a lot about us.  This book is lovely and moves quite quickly due to short chapters and all of the stories within the story.  This is a rich book that is easily accessible for young readers and would make a wonderful read aloud.

I was personally very excited to hear that Grace Lin wrote another book full of folktales and legends.  I feel that books like this encourage children to read back through the old legends that inspire modern stories.  Here, Rendi is running away, but realizes in the end that what he wants most is to return home. In some ways, that is similar to Lin's experience with her culture, as told in the endnotes.  Lin admits that as a child, her parents did their best to interest her in her heritage, but that she wanted nothing to do with it until she was older.  That's a feeling that many young people have.  It's almost like your childhood was worthless until you look back on it with longing as an adult.

But I'm getting off the main topic.  What I love most about Starry River of the Sky is that it is so readable.  The chapters are short and not intimidating to beginning readers, the stories included feel like individual events, and most readers won't realize until the end how they fit together.  The action is not overly scary, so even the youngest children could enjoy this book if it is read aloud.  Plus the writing is so descriptive and lovely that it is like you are there with Rendi at the lake, on the bridge, trying to roll the moon.

This book gives me the same kind of feeling as Liesl and Po.  There are loving characters, some danger and action, and you come away feeling full of hope and promise.  Have I said that word lovely enough?  That's the best word to describe this book.

Well, I have read five middle grade books in a row, so it's back to YA books for me.  At least for a while.  My goal this weekend is to send out my book reviews and get halfway through Eleanor and Park.  I also have several galleys stacking up so I'm taking a break from the library to focus on my collection for a while.

That's my plan.  Let's hope that I stick to it!

Happy Reading!