Feb 19, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Delightfully Surprised

My oldest checked Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward out of her school library a couple of weeks ago, and when she finished it she assured me that I just HAD to read it before she returned it.  It’s a graphic novel (and it was on my list anyway!), so I told her I could make that happen–and I’m so glad I did, even though I was apprehensive at first.  The book starts with the main character–under stress–lashing out at an innocent bystander, which is bad enough, and then suffering agonies of remorse for weeks rather than apologizing in person.  Yes, I know facing up to the injured party is hard, but how can it be worse than feeling guilty about it nonstop?  Spit it out already!

I’ve always struggled with that sort of plot; it would have killed The Kite Runner for me if that book hadn’t been so ridiculously beautiful.  But I digress.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take Peppi the entire book to make amends, and the way in which that scene plays out is an unexpected pleasure.  As for the rest of the book, well–it’s a pleasure, too.  The characters are (mostly) likable and feel alive in a way that has everything to do with the author’s skill, and the conflict and resolution between the Art Club and the Science Club make for a lovely and entertaining fable about growth through making the effort to find common ground and build unity.  (And if THAT sounds stuffy and moralistic, there’s fighting and pranks and punishments by the principal until the two groups figure out a way to live with each other–mostly.)  It’s a book about friendship and compromise, and NOT a book about middle school love–in other words, a winner on both counts!  Don’t miss this one.

Awkward


New From: $6.79 USD In Stock

Feb 17, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Love-Hate Reaction

I picked up The Whole World’s Crazy (Amelia Rules! #1) to see if it was appropriate for my graphic novel-loving 8-year-old, and I really am divided in my impressions.  On the one hand, I’m not planning on giving it to my girlie to read; the level of name-calling and rude remarks by most of the kids in the book is not something I feel the need to invite into my home.  (Getting called on it twice in 168 pages isn’t enough, at least not for me).  Honestly, it reminds me of the 80s movies I loved as a kid and my mother hated and avoided having me watch; Ferris Bueller’s sister talked the same way, and then there were the Goonies…yeah.  Ah, the perspective parenthood brings!

The objectionable conversational habits of the child characters, however, aren’t the whole story.  There is actual friendship here, albeit buried beneath the insults, and there are generosity and emotional honesty as well.  It also feels–authentic, perhaps?  Amelia is dealing with typical child-of-divorce problems, and she was completely believable for me.  AND hilarious, I have to say.  As a parent, I had real problems with this one despite the good I could see; as a person, I got rather a large kick out of it and kind of want to read the next one on the sly.  I’ll leave you to choose what you want to do for YOUR household!

The Whole World’s Crazy (Amelia Rules!)


New From: $8.77 USD In Stock

Feb 15, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Easy AND Flavorful

That’s a win-win, right?  I seriously wasn’t expecting to like this Easy Mexican Chicken Soup as much as I did; it was more of a ‘I need an easy dinner plan and this can’t be terrible’ kind of recipe.  (I’m not the only one who tries the occasional recipe with that attitude, right?)  And while I did take the extra few minutes to saute the onion and garlic before putting it in the crockpot, because FLAVOR, it was still almost criminally easy.  I didn’t bother whisking the spices into the chicken broth–I just dumped them on the chicken together with some bouillon cubes and poured water over the top.  We topped the finished soup with cheese alone, since I’d forgotten to somehow obtain cilantro and we were out of sour cream as well, and that gave the fairly clear broth some body and an almost (but not quite) creamy look.  It was tasty!  The most impressive surprise was the flavor, because it managed to be more than just the sum of its ingredients.  (Although it was also blessedly flexible in the cook time department; I started with frozen chicken but realized an hour or two later that I’d forgotten to plug in the crockpot.  I NEVER do that!)  All in all, you should definitely give this a try on your next busy day.

Just remember to plug in your crockpot.

Feb 13, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Decisions, Decisions

I seriously struggled with what to review tonight, because I tried a new recipe that was both easy and better than I thought it would be, BUT I finished a book last week that’s been kicking around, and reviewing it would make it possible for it to LEAVE MY HOUSE.  Which, when it comes right down to it, trumps the soup recipe for today.  (Something leaving my house is hard to beat.)  Before I start that, though, I did listen to the ALA Youth Media Awards broadcast yesterday–yay for it being in my time zone this year!–and I have to say, I didn’t see a few of those titles coming.  The definite theme to the awards wasn’t shocking, because there’s always a level of awareness of the most visible social/cultural issues reflected in the winners, but at least one of the Newbery Honor books looked awfully young-adulty to me.  I have them all (the Newberys) on hold at the library, of course, so I’ll know for myself eventually.  In the meantime, if you want to see the winners’ list in full, here’s your link:

ALA Youth Media Award Winners

And now, for the book review!  I’m sure Goodreads will tell me when I started Bewitched & Betrayed on the treadmill, but the fact of the matter is, I’m probably better off not knowing.  I have to be in the mood for whatever I read on the treadmill, and I’m not often in the mood for urban fantasy.  On the other hand, when I AM in the mood for a hit-the-ground-running-and-never-stop sort of fantasy with a contemporary feel (although not a contemporary setting), Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares series is tough to beat.  It sucks you in immediately and keeps you reading to the bitter end.  (Okay, yes, I did put it down for quite a while, but I’d only gotten through the first scene or so before I lost the mood and wasn’t ready to fall into the action.  Once I was back in the mood and got past the–brief–initial scenes, I wasn’t about to stop again.)  The writing isn’t perfect–Raine’s invocation of her last name to explain various sorts of things starts to get awfully frequent in this 4th book in the series–but it’s tight and funny and entertaining as heck.  (On the other hand, I’ve officially reached the age when I find myself wishing that the font were a bit bigger, but that’s something else entirely.)

B&B sees Raine going after the escaped evil goblin who’s going after her; it gives us a few new characters to root for and takes a big step towards resolving the series’ love triangle, which is always a plus for me.  I certainly wouldn’t jump into the series at the fourth book, but if my description sounds at all like your thing, grab Magic Lost, Trouble Found, fasten your seat belt, and prepare to enjoy a six book ride.

Bewitched & Betrayed (Raine Benares, Book 4)


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Feb 9, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Sci-Fi Genre Report: Round Two

Have I mentioned yet that my second girlie is now in the genre report third grade class?  And while we have definitely benefited from her older sister’s experience, girlie #2 could not get into the sci-fi title that girlie #1 read.  Which means that I’ve been brainstorming and looking around online, and my friend Britt has been brainstorming and looking around online, and I now have three books out of the library that had potential but weren’t 300-400 pages long (because that’s not going to happen with any book that isn’t my girlie’s own idea).  I skimmed Cakes in Space on the treadmill and then handed it off to #2, who thought it could be fun.  (It was HILARIOUS.)  Last night I read Lunch Walks Among Us (Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #1), and while it’s too easy for her to do a report on (I’m a mean mom that way), it merited its own review, because it was thoroughly (if bizarrely!) entertaining.  While set up as a chapter book, it’s heavily illustrated with impressively sized font; it’s not going to intimidate a new or struggling reader the way many 100-page books might.  And both Franny and the series of books she stars in have quite their own style, one fairly evenly split between creepy and wildly amusing.  Rather than risk spoilers, I will simply recommend this wholeheartedly to lower elementary school readers, because it’s engaging and incredibly entertaining and says some important things about friendship besides.

Oh, and I’ll leave you with a sample passage.  This would be right after Franny’s teacher gets abducted by a monster…

The kids just stood there.  They didn’t know how to help.  A few tried crying.  A few tried screaming.  One tried wetting his pants,

although later on he admitted he had no idea why he thought that might help.

Some of Franny’s new friends hugged her and shrieked, but Franny didn’t shriek.

Franny thought.

Feb 7, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Beauty’s Just A Bonus

Costco currently has 18 oz packages of blackberries for $4.49, which is why y’all need to take a look at this recipe for Blackberry Crisp.  After all, what’s not to love?  It’s got more or less the same topping as apple crisp–the recipe doesn’t call for nutmeg, but I absolutely threw some in because NUTMEG–but underneath it runs a river of gorgeous purple berries and juice.  Even I stopped for a few seconds to admire the color before indulging in the taste, and I’m not known for fretting overmuch about the aesthetics of food.  (Much to my art teacher mother’s regret.  You did try, Mom.)  Once you top the serving in your bowl with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, however–or whipped cream in a pinch–you’ll move past the surface pretty quickly.  The trio of tart, sweet, and buttery is a party in your mouth, and when you marry it with cold creaminess, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

My friend and I may or may not have doubled this recipe and made it twice this week.  I wonder when I’ll make it to Costco again…

Feb 5, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Greedy Little Hands

Tonight I brought the 4th Baby-Sitters Club graphic novel out into the living room to finish and loosened my hold on it; I ended up having to (literally!) pry it out of my 8-year-old’s hands while pointing out that I had fourteen pages left, I would review it tonight, and she and her older sister would find it on the stairs available for them to read when they woke up tomorrow morning.

Me: …And THEN you guys can fight about who gets to read it first.  And by “fight about it” I mean politely use words to come to a peaceful and mutual                    decision.

Since my oldest is in the middle of one of the Frog Princess books, and the 8-year-old specifically chose the shortest library chapter book she had to read tonight so that she could finish it and be ready for the other in the morning, I’m not expecting any surprises.  She is obsessed with graphic novels.

Thankfully, Claudia and Mean Janine makes for a good one.  Sibling conflict is widely relatable, and Mimi’s illness makes a meaningful catalyst for change in Claudia and Janine’s relationship.  The panels depicting the BSC’s summer playgroup scenes made me giggle more than once, and the ending was emotionally satisfying.  It’s true that sibling relationships are more likely to gradually improve, but the sit-down-conversation between the two girls felt representative of that, in a way.  It felt like it ought to seem too neatly and quickly wrapped up, and yet it didn’t terribly to me.

Ultimately, these versions of the old books have been surprisingly enjoyable to me as an adult, and my 8- and 11-year-olds are both nuts for them.  If you’ve got middle to upper elementary daughters, these ought to be a hit.  (Just cross your fingers with me that the change in artists from this book to the next won’t be a terrible change.  I don’t envy anyone stepping into Raina Telgemeier’s shoes.)

 

Feb 4, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Ten Hours Late

That’s what this post is, but last night was one of those nights where you’re doing ALL THE THINGS and it just gets away from you.  On the other hand, it is with the GREATEST pleasure that I review Does This Book Make Me Look Fat?:  Stories About Loving–And Loathing–Your Body, because I have been reading this forever.  (Clearly it’s a day for emphasis and hyperbole.)  It was in the bathroom drawer for a while, being read small bits at a time, and then I brought it into my bedroom and read until a long short story had me stalled, and then I pushed through that only to realize that while I loved the essays, the short fiction didn’t always speak to me.  I made it through, however, and overall I think the target audience might really like this one.  I really enjoyed parts, mostly enjoyed others, and found at least one to be downright bizarre.  I also put myself into a few pairs of shoes that I hadn’t before, metaphorically speaking, and noticed myself pondering events and possibilities that I wouldn’t normally give much thought to.  I’d say that’s a recommendation in and of itself, wouldn’t you?

Feb 1, 2018 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Easy and Cheesy

Who could ask for anything more, right?  I was at my friend Britt’s house looking at tortellini recipes–it both felt doable and sounded good–and came across this Ham and Cheese Tortellini that looked awfully easy.  The bonus?  It called, specifically, for deli ham, and guess what I had languishing in my fridge that needed to be used sooner rather than later?  This recipe, then, was both practical and tasty.  My one issue with it as written was that it didn’t have anything acidic going on (and oh, how I love acidity!).  To that end, I chopped up a couple of tomatoes and tossed them in with the peas (which I about doubled–yay for veggies, right?), and I drizzled some Balsamic vinegar on top of the individual servings (my choice and at the kids’ request!).  I also tossed some garlic into the pan shortly after the ham, because why not?  I ended up quite liking the result, although next time I will salt it less.  The kids were ambivalent, interestingly enough, but since it was quick and easy and I liked it, they’ll probably end up having a few chances to change their minds…

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