Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Image credit. 
Happy Halloweeeeeen, my friends! It's been an interesting day around my house. The majority of my work is caught up (only minimal loose ends), and I took the day to read something Halloweeny, and I currently have a devil's food cake in the oven. Oh, and it'll be topped with marshmallow frosting and a generous layer of graham cracker crumbs. SMORES!!!

I'll pick Greyson up from daycare in a bit, have dinner at my mom's house, and we'll hit the streets of her neighborhood for some Scooby Doo-style trick-or-treating. He won't wear the Scooby headpiece though. Darnit! So cute!

I hope you've all had a fantastic day so far. Be safe if you're out in your neighborhoods tonight!

Greyson says Happy Halloween! For the second I could get him to sit still!

Happy Halloween!

Image credit. 
Happy Halloweeeeeen, my friends! It's been an interesting day around my house. The majority of my work is caught up (only minimal loose ends), and I took the day to read something Halloweeny, and I currently have a devil's food cake in the oven. Oh, and it'll be topped with marshmallow frosting and a generous layer of graham cracker crumbs. SMORES!!!

I'll pick Greyson up from daycare in a bit, have dinner at my mom's house, and we'll hit the streets of her neighborhood for some Scooby Doo-style trick-or-treating. He won't wear the Scooby headpiece though. Darnit! So cute!

I hope you've all had a fantastic day so far. Be safe if you're out in your neighborhoods tonight!

Greyson says Happy Halloween! For the second I could get him to sit still!

Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday! I'm Reading Lots!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney
Happy Monday, everyone! At this very moment I'm sitting in Starbucks, drinking a grande Blonde roast with hazelnut and vanilla. While I should be grading the latest round of essays to come in from my online classes, I'm writing to y'all instead. It's a good thing! I'm tickled to still have my reading mojo, and some library trips as of late have bolstered my stacks.

Currently Reading:


I'm determined to get a little further with my RIPVII reading goals before Wednesday, so I picked up Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, from the library yesterday. I've been seeing this one pop up EVERYWHERE with all the Halloween reading lists and all. While I'd never paid this one any particular amount of attention, it looked really good this time around and seemed like something that would suck me in and be a quick read. So far, so good! I started reading yesterday with limited time on my hands, and I've already wiped out roughly 50 pages. I am finding it supremely creepy, so it might be an afternoon, while-the-sun-is-up type of book. :D

I'm also getting ready to dive headlong into The Count of Monte Cristo for the Readalong we're hosting at The Estella Society. Chris was kind enough to post about a free audiobook version from Lit2Go. If you'd like to check it out, follow this direct link. The link to the audio version via iTunesU is over on the right-hand side of the page. 

I'm also still reading Affinity by Sarah Waters for RIPVII. This is a book I put down many months ago (in the midst of a readalong I was hosting...BAD ME!). As much as I loved The Little Stranger, this one is putting me to sleep! So much dialogue and navel-gazing from these characters. The voice of each narrator is indistinct, but hopefully a writer as masterful as Waters is doing this on purpose, and all will be revealed. Chris says it gets better near the end. I'm about halfway through and hoping to sprint through the rest in coming days. 

Up Next:


Like so many of you, I have a little library problem. I went in to ONLY get Anna Dressed in Blood, and of course one stop by the "new releases" shelf and I came away with Overseas by Beatriz Williams and A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok. Both look like fantastic reads and have been on my wishlist for a long time now. 

So, inquiring (nosy) bookworms want to know...what are you reading?





It's Monday! I'm Reading Lots!

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila from BookJourney
Happy Monday, everyone! At this very moment I'm sitting in Starbucks, drinking a grande Blonde roast with hazelnut and vanilla. While I should be grading the latest round of essays to come in from my online classes, I'm writing to y'all instead. It's a good thing! I'm tickled to still have my reading mojo, and some library trips as of late have bolstered my stacks.

Currently Reading:


I'm determined to get a little further with my RIPVII reading goals before Wednesday, so I picked up Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake, from the library yesterday. I've been seeing this one pop up EVERYWHERE with all the Halloween reading lists and all. While I'd never paid this one any particular amount of attention, it looked really good this time around and seemed like something that would suck me in and be a quick read. So far, so good! I started reading yesterday with limited time on my hands, and I've already wiped out roughly 50 pages. I am finding it supremely creepy, so it might be an afternoon, while-the-sun-is-up type of book. :D

I'm also getting ready to dive headlong into The Count of Monte Cristo for the Readalong we're hosting at The Estella Society. Chris was kind enough to post about a free audiobook version from Lit2Go. If you'd like to check it out, follow this direct link. The link to the audio version via iTunesU is over on the right-hand side of the page. 

I'm also still reading Affinity by Sarah Waters for RIPVII. This is a book I put down many months ago (in the midst of a readalong I was hosting...BAD ME!). As much as I loved The Little Stranger, this one is putting me to sleep! So much dialogue and navel-gazing from these characters. The voice of each narrator is indistinct, but hopefully a writer as masterful as Waters is doing this on purpose, and all will be revealed. Chris says it gets better near the end. I'm about halfway through and hoping to sprint through the rest in coming days. 

Up Next:


Like so many of you, I have a little library problem. I went in to ONLY get Anna Dressed in Blood, and of course one stop by the "new releases" shelf and I came away with Overseas by Beatriz Williams and A.S. Byatt's Ragnarok. Both look like fantastic reads and have been on my wishlist for a long time now. 

So, inquiring (nosy) bookworms want to know...what are you reading?





Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekend Cooking: Basic Breakfast Muffins and Mix-Ins!

Happy Sunday! Greyson is at Chuck's house until later this afternoon, so I made a trip to the grocery store this morning, grabbed a few pumpkins for the front porch, and spent a couple of hours cooking some goodies for this week.

Speaking of food...I kinda started a new project! It's really simple and straightforward if you'd like to join in. I'm encouraging folks to share their dinner ideas nightly on Twitter (follow @NomsNightly), Instagram, or elsewhere with the tag #NomsNightly. I don't know about you, but I can always use inspiration, so pics, recipes, and conversation are welcome! Visit the #NomsNightly tab up top for more info!

With Halloween on the horizon, we will indulge in a few tasty treats 'round here. I'm planning to make a batch of smores-themed cake balls (chocolate cake, marshmallow creme, chocolate coating, rolled in graham crackers). Most of those will go to Greyson's school because we DO NOT NEED them all. One each for his classmates -- don't want to sugar them up too much -- and the rest to the staff.

Image Cred -- Borrowed from Dash
Today I have to thank my mom for sharing a recipe she found in the weekly Dash newspaper insert. It's a recipe for a basic muffin batter with ideas for mix-ins! I love the idea of tailoring the batter to whatever we like and whatever we have on hand.  I was also able to find it on their website if you want to check it out there directly.

Basic Muffin Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  •  2 cups flour 
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 tsp salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup canola oil 
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: 
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line muffin cups with paper liners.

 2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla for 1 minute on medium. Add flour mixture. Beat just until no streaks of flour remain—do not overmix!

 3. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops of muffins spring back when pressed lightly. Transfer muffins to a rack to cool slightly.

Makes 1 dozen.

What I really like about this batter is that it's not very sweet at all. It's a great canvas for whatever you want to add. With so little sugar included, I might try sweetening with honey or some other alternative next time  Today I chose to make my muffins into Banana Chocolate Chip! I simply mushed up one banana and added it to the batter along with 1/2 a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Greyson will looooove these, and it'd be super simple to make a double-batch and freeze them for later. I'm also looking forward to trying Raspberry Almond and Oatmeal Raisin (except I don't like raisins, so I'll probably used dried cranberries!).

What are you cooking this weekend? 

And don't forget to join us with your #NomsNightly!





Weekend Cooking: Basic Breakfast Muffins and Mix-Ins!

Happy Sunday! Greyson is at Chuck's house until later this afternoon, so I made a trip to the grocery store this morning, grabbed a few pumpkins for the front porch, and spent a couple of hours cooking some goodies for this week.

Speaking of food...I kinda started a new project! It's really simple and straightforward if you'd like to join in. I'm encouraging folks to share their dinner ideas nightly on Twitter (follow @NomsNightly), Instagram, or elsewhere with the tag #NomsNightly. I don't know about you, but I can always use inspiration, so pics, recipes, and conversation are welcome! Visit the #NomsNightly tab up top for more info!

With Halloween on the horizon, we will indulge in a few tasty treats 'round here. I'm planning to make a batch of smores-themed cake balls (chocolate cake, marshmallow creme, chocolate coating, rolled in graham crackers). Most of those will go to Greyson's school because we DO NOT NEED them all. One each for his classmates -- don't want to sugar them up too much -- and the rest to the staff.

Image Cred -- Borrowed from Dash
Today I have to thank my mom for sharing a recipe she found in the weekly Dash newspaper insert. It's a recipe for a basic muffin batter with ideas for mix-ins! I love the idea of tailoring the batter to whatever we like and whatever we have on hand.  I was also able to find it on their website if you want to check it out there directly.

Basic Muffin Recipe

INGREDIENTS:

  •  2 cups flour 
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 tsp salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 cup milk 
  • 1/2 cup canola oil 
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS: 
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray or line muffin cups with paper liners.

 2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a large bowl, beat eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla for 1 minute on medium. Add flour mixture. Beat just until no streaks of flour remain—do not overmix!

 3. Spoon batter into muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until tops of muffins spring back when pressed lightly. Transfer muffins to a rack to cool slightly.

Makes 1 dozen.

What I really like about this batter is that it's not very sweet at all. It's a great canvas for whatever you want to add. With so little sugar included, I might try sweetening with honey or some other alternative next time  Today I chose to make my muffins into Banana Chocolate Chip! I simply mushed up one banana and added it to the batter along with 1/2 a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Greyson will looooove these, and it'd be super simple to make a double-batch and freeze them for later. I'm also looking forward to trying Raspberry Almond and Oatmeal Raisin (except I don't like raisins, so I'll probably used dried cranberries!).

What are you cooking this weekend? 

And don't forget to join us with your #NomsNightly!





Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Anya's Ghost

I swear, one can't swing a dead cat around the blogosphere without smacking Anya's Ghost. This is one of those widely read graphic novels that I somehow managed NOT to read until the most recent Read-a-Thon.

Even though I've seen this book pop up in every corner, I had surprisingly little idea of what it's about! That was probably a good thing since this little ditty turned out to be a wonderful surprise.

Anya is embarrassed of her Russian mother, not popular in school, doesn't make good grades, and has low self-esteem all around. Until the day she falls down a well and meets a ghost! The girl ghost fell down the well years before, and her skeleton is all that remains. She befriends Anya and manages to come home with her, begins helping her cheat on school work, and gives her dating advice. I know, a very worldly ghost -- and all is not as it seems.

This was such a fun little book, and it had a few surprises in store. It didn't go exactly as I thought it would when I started reading, and that is a good thing. I was also pleased to see that this is published by First Second books, the same folks who published one of my all-time favorite graphic novels: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.  Anya's Ghost upholds the same standard of solid storytelling and clean, easy-to-read, atmospheric illustrations. All-in-all it's a winning combo, and this was a fun, worthwhile way to spend an hour reading.

Have you read Anya's Ghost? Have you read any comparable graphic novels you'd recommend? Anything else from First Second, by chance? 

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer


Pub. Date: June 2011
Publisher: First Second
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781596435520
Source: Library


Anya's Ghost

I swear, one can't swing a dead cat around the blogosphere without smacking Anya's Ghost. This is one of those widely read graphic novels that I somehow managed NOT to read until the most recent Read-a-Thon.

Even though I've seen this book pop up in every corner, I had surprisingly little idea of what it's about! That was probably a good thing since this little ditty turned out to be a wonderful surprise.

Anya is embarrassed of her Russian mother, not popular in school, doesn't make good grades, and has low self-esteem all around. Until the day she falls down a well and meets a ghost! The girl ghost fell down the well years before, and her skeleton is all that remains. She befriends Anya and manages to come home with her, begins helping her cheat on school work, and gives her dating advice. I know, a very worldly ghost -- and all is not as it seems.

This was such a fun little book, and it had a few surprises in store. It didn't go exactly as I thought it would when I started reading, and that is a good thing. I was also pleased to see that this is published by First Second books, the same folks who published one of my all-time favorite graphic novels: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang.  Anya's Ghost upholds the same standard of solid storytelling and clean, easy-to-read, atmospheric illustrations. All-in-all it's a winning combo, and this was a fun, worthwhile way to spend an hour reading.

Have you read Anya's Ghost? Have you read any comparable graphic novels you'd recommend? Anything else from First Second, by chance? 

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer


Pub. Date: June 2011
Publisher: First Second
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9781596435520
Source: Library


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Books (and Stories) to Get Into the Halloween Spirit!

It's been a minute (ok, months) since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but today's theme -- Top Ten to Get Into the Halloween Spirit -- is just too good to pass up.

Below is a mixed bag of children's/middle grade and grown-up books for getting into the Halloween spirit.


Halloween Night written by Marjorie Dennis Murray and illustrated by Brandon Dorman
See a preview HERE.

This is by far my favorite Halloween picture book. Brandon Dorman is a kickass illustrator (go visit his site), and the pictures in this book will blow you away. The odd perspectives make each and every page so engrossing to explore. Greyson, my two-and-a-half year old, agrees.


Ghostsitters by Angie Sage (part of the Araminta Spookie series)
It's been a while, but this one was a lot of fun -- the illustrations are cute and the story is simple and straightforward. It's marketed for the 7-10 year old set, so it's perfect for read-aloud with the kiddos or a quick afternoon read for the grownups. It reminded me a bit of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events (but less unfortunate).


Magic Trixie written and illustrated by Jill Thompson
This is an illustrated book for children ages 8-12. It's a lightning-fast read at under 100 pages, and the illustrations are definitely the highlight. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!


Now on with the grown-up books! 

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Stephen King's progeny scares the crap out of me. This book didn't have the best ending in the world, but the journey was certainly worth it. There was one particular scene that left me reeling and disturbed. It's not easy to do! I would also recommend Hill's short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts. Awesome. 


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This book will eat your brain. It's one of those meta books that has footnotes and supposedly real things and found pieces and MADNESS. Oh. so. crazy. Who knew a knock on the door could be scary? 


Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates
Maybe not what you'd expect to see on this list. This is a dark, academic novella that left me feeling as if I needed a shower. It falls on the realistic side of scary. 


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
If you've been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you knew this would show up on the list. While many readers did not find this book scary in our recent RIP VII readalong, it terrified me. It's a slow build and largely psychological. Those are the things that go bump in my night.


Affinity by Sarah Waters
More Waters??! Why, yes! I think I should. Last week when I was deciding what to pick up next for RIP VII, I decided on this previously abandoned book. Life got in the way! This one is full of creepy spiritualists and a yucky prison. Love!

And what would my list be without some short stories??? I love them all the time, but especially when they're short and Halloweeny.


"Rose of Fire" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
While I was not totally enamored of Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, it was fun to revisit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in this story. It's a very quick, free read, and it tells how the labyrinth came to be.


"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler
Last but certainly not least, a short story that really made me think. It falls into the sf category, its themes are disturbing, but thought-provoking. Just do yourself a favor and read it. Butler rules. 

Top Ten Books (and Stories) to Get Into the Halloween Spirit!

It's been a minute (ok, months) since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but today's theme -- Top Ten to Get Into the Halloween Spirit -- is just too good to pass up.

Below is a mixed bag of children's/middle grade and grown-up books for getting into the Halloween spirit.


Halloween Night written by Marjorie Dennis Murray and illustrated by Brandon Dorman
See a preview HERE.

This is by far my favorite Halloween picture book. Brandon Dorman is a kickass illustrator (go visit his site), and the pictures in this book will blow you away. The odd perspectives make each and every page so engrossing to explore. Greyson, my two-and-a-half year old, agrees.


Ghostsitters by Angie Sage (part of the Araminta Spookie series)
It's been a while, but this one was a lot of fun -- the illustrations are cute and the story is simple and straightforward. It's marketed for the 7-10 year old set, so it's perfect for read-aloud with the kiddos or a quick afternoon read for the grownups. It reminded me a bit of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events (but less unfortunate).


Magic Trixie written and illustrated by Jill Thompson
This is an illustrated book for children ages 8-12. It's a lightning-fast read at under 100 pages, and the illustrations are definitely the highlight. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!


Now on with the grown-up books! 

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Stephen King's progeny scares the crap out of me. This book didn't have the best ending in the world, but the journey was certainly worth it. There was one particular scene that left me reeling and disturbed. It's not easy to do! I would also recommend Hill's short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts. Awesome. 


House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This book will eat your brain. It's one of those meta books that has footnotes and supposedly real things and found pieces and MADNESS. Oh. so. crazy. Who knew a knock on the door could be scary? 


Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates
Maybe not what you'd expect to see on this list. This is a dark, academic novella that left me feeling as if I needed a shower. It falls on the realistic side of scary. 


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
If you've been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you knew this would show up on the list. While many readers did not find this book scary in our recent RIP VII readalong, it terrified me. It's a slow build and largely psychological. Those are the things that go bump in my night.


Affinity by Sarah Waters
More Waters??! Why, yes! I think I should. Last week when I was deciding what to pick up next for RIP VII, I decided on this previously abandoned book. Life got in the way! This one is full of creepy spiritualists and a yucky prison. Love!

And what would my list be without some short stories??? I love them all the time, but especially when they're short and Halloweeny.


"Rose of Fire" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
While I was not totally enamored of Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind, it was fun to revisit the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in this story. It's a very quick, free read, and it tells how the labyrinth came to be.


"Bloodchild" by Octavia Butler
Last but certainly not least, a short story that really made me think. It falls into the sf category, its themes are disturbing, but thought-provoking. Just do yourself a favor and read it. Butler rules. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Uncommon Reader

The 24 Hour Read-a-Thon was SUCH a great event, especially this year, because it busted a months-long reading slump. Ever since I got laid off, I've put other things in front of my reading. Admittedly, I've also been tackling too-big books, when what I really needed to boost my mojo were some shorties!

With a stack of short selections in the house, I busted through The Uncommon Reader in a matter of a few hours in the early part of the Read-a-Thon.

If you're not familiar (and you probably are!), Bennett's novella is about what might happen if the Queen of England became obsessed with reading. She unknowingly stumbles upon a BookMobile near the palace one day and wanders in to check things out (har!). She ends up with a book, which leads to another book, which leads to another book. And you know how this goes. You're a reader, too. Down the rabbit hole!

As the Queen reads a variety of genres and authors, she learns a great deal about herself. Her priorities begin to shift. She becomes bored with the drudgery of everyday life and the imposed formality of her duties, the repetitiveness of her conversations and appearances.

As one might imagine, her closest advisers are a little bit unseated. They begin to meddle and insert themselves in her reading routine. They reroute her books. They foil her reading plans. It is through reading that the Queen comes to a higher understanding of her purpose, though I won't tell you what that is.

The Uncommon Reader is a fun book. A cute book. A book that most readers will identify with and enjoy, for it reflects our sometimes-compulsive tendencies and the lessons we learn about life and ourselves. Not to mention our voracious appetites for books! While it was a quick read and exactly what I needed to get my bookish heart kick-started, it was just ok. Nice enough. Fun enough. Quick enough. Though, it did not blow my skirt up the way those 4 and 5-star books do.

Nevertheless, it's worth a read! Don't get me wrong on that.


Rating:
Snuggle (a hug for your grandmother) -- Skewer


Pub. Date: September 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780312427641
Source: Library

The Uncommon Reader

The 24 Hour Read-a-Thon was SUCH a great event, especially this year, because it busted a months-long reading slump. Ever since I got laid off, I've put other things in front of my reading. Admittedly, I've also been tackling too-big books, when what I really needed to boost my mojo were some shorties!

With a stack of short selections in the house, I busted through The Uncommon Reader in a matter of a few hours in the early part of the Read-a-Thon.

If you're not familiar (and you probably are!), Bennett's novella is about what might happen if the Queen of England became obsessed with reading. She unknowingly stumbles upon a BookMobile near the palace one day and wanders in to check things out (har!). She ends up with a book, which leads to another book, which leads to another book. And you know how this goes. You're a reader, too. Down the rabbit hole!

As the Queen reads a variety of genres and authors, she learns a great deal about herself. Her priorities begin to shift. She becomes bored with the drudgery of everyday life and the imposed formality of her duties, the repetitiveness of her conversations and appearances.

As one might imagine, her closest advisers are a little bit unseated. They begin to meddle and insert themselves in her reading routine. They reroute her books. They foil her reading plans. It is through reading that the Queen comes to a higher understanding of her purpose, though I won't tell you what that is.

The Uncommon Reader is a fun book. A cute book. A book that most readers will identify with and enjoy, for it reflects our sometimes-compulsive tendencies and the lessons we learn about life and ourselves. Not to mention our voracious appetites for books! While it was a quick read and exactly what I needed to get my bookish heart kick-started, it was just ok. Nice enough. Fun enough. Quick enough. Though, it did not blow my skirt up the way those 4 and 5-star books do.

Nevertheless, it's worth a read! Don't get me wrong on that.


Rating:
Snuggle (a hug for your grandmother) -- Skewer


Pub. Date: September 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780312427641
Source: Library

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Monster Calls

This book is about a pre-teen boy whose mom is dying from cancer. It took me over a year to work up the guts to read this book. In fact, I think this is the last time I wrote about it... in my posted titled "Motherhood Changes Reading." I was scared to death of this book.

And rightly so. It is a tearjerker. It ravaged my heart.

A blurb: The story opens with 13-year-old Conor waking from the same nightmare he has been experiencing for the past few months, "the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming". At seven minutes after midnight (12:07), a voice calls to him from outside his bedroom window, which overlooks an old church and its graveyard and is sheltered by ayew tree. Walking to the window, Conor meets the monster, a towering mass of branches and leaves in human shape. The monster insists that Conor summoned it, and that it will help Conor by telling him three short stories. In exchange Conor must tell his own story afterward—his recurring nightmare. If Conor does not tell, the monster will kill him. (Shamelessly borrowed from Wikipedia.)

This is one of those books that's really hard to write about because it's multi-faceted, and it's complicated, and it deals with some really nebulous emotions. On the surface, Conor is angry. He's blase at times. He's falsely optimistic. He's yearning to be punished when he acts out. He's just trying to be seen. On the other hand, he's broken. He's miserable and lonely. He's a mess of emotions. He's a mess of actions -- as any young (or older) person would be in the face of such a devastating and impending loss. 

What Ness does so well here is to bring some guidance and some outlet for Conor through the "monster." Oft-called the Green Man, he's a force of nature, old as the world, and he understands the power and healing in stories. The stories he tells Conor are tales the boy finds maddening in their lack of sense. Their lack of happy ending. Their lack of convention. They're fairy tales that just don't work out quite right. Through the fantastic writing, all of these not-quite-right tales come together to teach Conor a vital lesson. 

I think it would be damn near impossible not to cry through at least portions of this book because even to an adult, these emotions are SO real. So spot-on in their contradictions. Ness perfectly paints the experience of maintaining hope in the face of hopelessness. Of the guilt that comes with realizing the facts and accepting them in the face of a loved one's demise. 

Conor is a great character. The monster is an unlikely teacher. The whole book is beautifully written and perfectly illustrated. 



So was it worth humming and hawing for over a year? Was it worth all the tears? Yes, I'd say so, absolutely. For such a well-written and truthful story is always worth it. And like Heather says, "It's a good kind of cry." 

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer


Pub. Date: September 2011
Publisher: Candlewick
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780763655594
Source: Library



A Monster Calls

This book is about a pre-teen boy whose mom is dying from cancer. It took me over a year to work up the guts to read this book. In fact, I think this is the last time I wrote about it... in my posted titled "Motherhood Changes Reading." I was scared to death of this book.

And rightly so. It is a tearjerker. It ravaged my heart.

A blurb: The story opens with 13-year-old Conor waking from the same nightmare he has been experiencing for the past few months, "the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming". At seven minutes after midnight (12:07), a voice calls to him from outside his bedroom window, which overlooks an old church and its graveyard and is sheltered by ayew tree. Walking to the window, Conor meets the monster, a towering mass of branches and leaves in human shape. The monster insists that Conor summoned it, and that it will help Conor by telling him three short stories. In exchange Conor must tell his own story afterward—his recurring nightmare. If Conor does not tell, the monster will kill him. (Shamelessly borrowed from Wikipedia.)

This is one of those books that's really hard to write about because it's multi-faceted, and it's complicated, and it deals with some really nebulous emotions. On the surface, Conor is angry. He's blase at times. He's falsely optimistic. He's yearning to be punished when he acts out. He's just trying to be seen. On the other hand, he's broken. He's miserable and lonely. He's a mess of emotions. He's a mess of actions -- as any young (or older) person would be in the face of such a devastating and impending loss. 

What Ness does so well here is to bring some guidance and some outlet for Conor through the "monster." Oft-called the Green Man, he's a force of nature, old as the world, and he understands the power and healing in stories. The stories he tells Conor are tales the boy finds maddening in their lack of sense. Their lack of happy ending. Their lack of convention. They're fairy tales that just don't work out quite right. Through the fantastic writing, all of these not-quite-right tales come together to teach Conor a vital lesson. 

I think it would be damn near impossible not to cry through at least portions of this book because even to an adult, these emotions are SO real. So spot-on in their contradictions. Ness perfectly paints the experience of maintaining hope in the face of hopelessness. Of the guilt that comes with realizing the facts and accepting them in the face of a loved one's demise. 

Conor is a great character. The monster is an unlikely teacher. The whole book is beautifully written and perfectly illustrated. 



So was it worth humming and hawing for over a year? Was it worth all the tears? Yes, I'd say so, absolutely. For such a well-written and truthful story is always worth it. And like Heather says, "It's a good kind of cry." 

Rating:
Snuggle -- Skewer


Pub. Date: September 2011
Publisher: Candlewick
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 9780763655594
Source: Library



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Read-a-Thon Wrap Up and Recovery!

Hey y'all! What a busy weekend. Greyson was with his dad, brother, and sisters for the weekend, so I had uninterrupted Read-a-Thon madness! A good thing since there was much to do. I rose at 5am and the -athon started at 7am my time zone. I spent most of the morning and afternoon hovering near the computer -- Facebooking, Tweeting, and assisting the co-hosts with any confusion they had. Heather was kind enough to host the first four hours of the day, and I got a good bit of reading time in. Overall, I probably got to read more than I'd expected throughout the course of the day. Shesten did a shift in the afternoon and that was another opportunity for down time.  

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
My duties were done in hour 20 (and I'd been up for 22 hours), so I headed off to bed and left the remaining hours in Kate's capable hands. 

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
My favorite of the Read-a-Thon was Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol, published by First Second books. It's a quick graphic novel with great illustrations and a creepy twist. I mention the publisher because these folks published American Born Chinese, another favorite of mine. 

The key to Read-a-Thon reading is still short, quick books. I like to feel like I'm making tangible progress and short choices are definitely the way to do that. 

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year
Heather and I will be brainstorming some tweaks in the coming months. From the administrative side, prizes are the biggest headache! We must streamline!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
As I mentioned above, our co-hosts were vital. I think next year we'll start "training" earlier -- getting the lay of the Wordpress account, working out systems to take care of all the admin stuff, and hopefully we can find some additional volunteers to head up some additional committees. 

5. How many books did you read? What were the names of the books you read?
I completed two: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett and Anya's Ghost. I also started A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. 



6. Which book did you enjoy most? Which did you enjoy least?
Anya's Ghost was definitely the winner. The Uncommon Reader was fun, light, and a good Read-a-Thon choice, but it was just average for me. Didn't blow the top of my head off or anything. 

7. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
We need MORE cheerleaders next year!!! Even if the time commitments are short. With 480ish participants there have to be a lot of cheers to go around!

8. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Heather and I will be your official hosts in April. CANNOT WAIT. 

So after all the Read-a-Thon goodness was over, I grabbed about 6 hours of sleep and headed off to the Central part of Texas to visit with D. I surprised him at an event he organized, and I WISH I'd had a camera to document the look on his face when I walked in. He, of course, knew I was heavy into the Read-a-Thon on Saturday/Sunday, and I didn't bother to text or Facebook to tell him when I woke up (that would ruin the effect!). I think when I arrived at his event around 11:45, he thought I was still sleeping 3 hours away. SURPRISE!!! It was a great way to cap off the weekend, and I'm finally feeling recovered from all the sleep deprivation and travel. :) 

How's your week treating you? Did the Read-a-Thon kickstart your reading mojo? It did a world of good for mine! 
 
Images by Freepik