Archive from October, 2016
Oct 30, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I Am a Fan of This Book

I Am a Fan of This Book

I read Emma Lesko’s Super Lexi back in February, and I ended my review with “I’m kind of bitter that our library system doesn’t have the sequel.”  My friend Britt, however, instead of nursing bitterness, filled out a ‘request a purchase’ form, which is why I have now read the sequel, courtesy of that same library system.  (I’m so sorry, SLCO Library.  I will never doubt again.  *Bonus points for the “Princess Bride” quote.*)

Super Lexi is Not a Fan of Christmas gives us another glimpse into the life of a child who struggles to relate to the world around her.  While her classmates look forward to the Christmas party/gift exchange that comes just before Christmas vacation, Lexi is dreading the “hoopla” and looking for ways to avoid it.  She is able to share some of that with her best friend, but she can’t express herself to her parents or her teacher, and so they are more or less unaware of her struggle (or at least the extent of it); I wanted to be bugged by that, except that parents and teachers don’t automatically know what children are thinking, and Lexi is exactly the sort of child who struggles to help them out in that area.  The entire situation rang true.  Emma Lesko’s ability to narrate from Lexi’s point of view is fabulous; Lexi’s idiosyncrasies are partly expressed, partly demonstrated, and her linguistic quirks add immeasurably to the overall effect.  Lexi may deal with OCD, she may be autistic, she may struggle with something else entirely.  What she IS is superbly drawn and developed as a character.

Bottom line?  Every child, every teacher, every parent, every ONE ought to read about Lexi.

Oct 28, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Two “R”s

The Two “R”s

On this blog, of course, those two Rs are Recipes and Reviews, and I’ve got one of each tonight!

The Recipe

Tonight my friend was making soup to bring to a Trunk or Treat, so we made two crockpots worth of this Slow Cooker Tuscan Chicken Stew.  Hers went to her Trunk or Treat; mine came home with me and got served with apple muffins.  To be honest with you, although I enjoyed it, I’m a bit undecided about the stew myself–there was a good bit of fennel, which I associate almost exclusively with Italian sausages, and using a slurry to transform a broth-y soup into a stew isn’t something I do frequently.  My middles, however, BOTH gave it a thumbs up, and that is unheard of for soup.  Since my hubby and my 1-year-old also seemed to enjoy it, I will likely keep the recipe but consider playing with it a bit.  The only changes I made today were to use white wine vinegar instead of white wine (it’s what I had) and to briefly saute the celery, onion, and garlic in a bit of olive oil before tossing it in.  (I was also generous with the veggies, but that doesn’t really count as a change for me.)  If you’re needing it to be done in the four hour range, I’d chop your veggies on the small side–mine were firm but not crunchy–but if you’ve got six full hours, you should be good. Overall, this one is worth trying if you enjoy the ingredients involved.  Let me know what you think!

The Review

She Stood for Freedom:  The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland is an awfully clunky title, but the book itself is fascinating in a certain kind of way.  Written by Joan’s son, it chronicles the life of a Southern white woman who believed in doing the right thing, even when it was hard; she was a known figure in the Civil Rights movement.  If you’re looking for a book on that movement for middle elementary schoolers, this one packs a lot in–Freedom Rides, Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins, and the March on Washington, among other things.  I stipulated that it was fascinating ‘in a certain kind of way’ because of the writing.  Loki Mulholland doesn’t do a bad job of honoring his mother, but you can tell that writing for children isn’t quite his forte; he talks slightly down to his target audience (in a totally well-meaning way).  He also isn’t quite sure whether he wants his book to be a true biography or a history of her role in the Civil Rights movement–he includes just enough personal information to make it more than the latter, but not quite enough to be a thorough example of the former.  Both issues are understandable when one considers his relationship to his subject and his day job, though, so I’m inclined to more or less give him a pass there, since I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

And there you have it, folks.  I’ve finished a few other short books recently, so more are coming.  In the meantime, I need to buy pumpkins to carve in the morning!

Oct 26, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on When I-84 And Memory Lane Coincide

When I-84 And Memory Lane Coincide

I read the last quarter of Jim Murphy’s Blizzard!  The Storm That Changed America aloud to my dad on the way to Meridian, Idaho, and ultimately, I wish I’d read the whole thing that way.  I read the first three quarters in tiny bits at the end of long, busy days, which is never ideal for my focus and a book’s continuity.  I brought it with me when we visited my parents last weekend, however, and after eating lunch in Burley, I pulled Murphy’s book out of the back of the car on a whim.  I don’t read well in the car anymore, but the freeway was straight, the weather optimal, and I knew it would interest my dad.  He was a professor of geography before he retired, teaching–among other things–a course on human response to disaster (the blizzard of 1888 changed how cities in America responded to disasters).  I never had the chance to attend any of those lectures, but he also taught a summer field trip course, and he took as much of our family with him as he could on each trip.  In fact, my parents took us all over New England and the rest of the country when we were young, building in us a love of history that I’ve never lost.  Now my father is struggling with dementia, my mother with her eyesight, and both of them are in their 70s.  They love their children and grandchildren fiercely, however, and it made my heart happy to share something with my father in a way that felt a bit like old times again.  (It also helped pass the time–for both of us!)

And what of the book,  you ask?  Bottom line–Murphy does an excellent job with intermediate non-fiction, and Blizzard! was no exception.

Blizzard!: The Storm That Changed America


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Oct 24, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Perfectly Seasonal

Perfectly Seasonal

I put Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts on hold before it came out because I liked the premise AND I liked both Smile and Sisters; I got the chance to finish it this weekend, and really, how perfect is that? The climax of the book involves both Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos!  (Which is apparently November 1st, and please pretend the “i” in dia has an accent.)  Talk about getting ready for the holiday…

The best thing about the book, however, was its surprises–the title gives away less of the plot than you’d think.  At its core, this is a story about facing death, facing loss, and being strong enough to accept and talk about mortality.  (That makes it sound sadder than it is, but it’s the truth.)  It’s also a story about sisters who love each other despite (or perhaps because of) their polar opposite personalities.

It’s also about tamales.  And chocolate.  And it’s funny.

Bottom line?  This is perfect for the week before Halloween, it’s perfect for those looking for a graphic novel with depth, and–really, just go read it before the 31st.

You’ll thank me for it.

Ghosts


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Oct 19, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on More Family Time

More Family Time

I was already in bed when I realized I’d missed posting yesterday, and I couldn’t muster up enough energy to go out to my computer and do it.  AND I’m taking a week off to spend time with family again, so really, have a great few days and I’ll be back sometime next week!

Oct 16, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on The Title Doesn’t Lie

The Title Doesn’t Lie

Here’s the thing–Fowl Language:  Welcome to Parenting has some hilarious moments, not to mention a plethora of amusing to pretty funny ones.  Brian Gordon is a parent who knows.  Unfortunately for me, however,  he’s also a parent who’s more comfortable with casual profanity than I am.  Not f-words, necessarily, but oh, the s-words!  I got a kick out of quite a few of his cartoons–comics?–but it’s not one I can bring myself to keep.  If you have kids, however, and that sort of language isn’t a big deal for you, then rock on.  (If you don’t have kids, I wouldn’t bother.  You are not the target audience.)

Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting


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Oct 14, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Not What I Was Expecting

Not What I Was Expecting

I checked The Cake Therapist out from the library because I love food, whether it’s eating it or reading about it; I was expecting a cake version of Sarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells.

Yeah…not so much.

To be honest with you, it’s hard to pinpoint some of the differences, in part because they’re subtle and in part because I finished this before I left for RI (it was near the bottom of the ‘to review’ stack).  What I can say is that while the past in Garden Spells tended towards flashes of memory or history that aided in characterization, the past in The Cake Therapist was the starting point for the story.  I didn’t immediately see how the story bits were going to fit together, but fit together they did–and I enjoyed the fitting.  It’s possibly a type of women’s fiction that is slightly less my thing, but it was worth the read.  Neely’s transitions–both emotional and physical–are a wonderful thing to see, and the scenes from various points in the past were compelling.  Since trying to give a more detailed synopsis without drowning in either details or spoilers is proving impossible for me tonight, however, I will simply say this:  the story has more appeal than what meets the eye, so if you’re waffling about this one, take the plunge.

Although it may make you hungry for cake.

The Cake Therapist


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Oct 12, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on An Ignominious Defeat

An Ignominious Defeat

Novels by Patricia Reilly Giff range from enjoyable to incredible, which is why I was elated to note the release of Jubilee.  I started it right before I left for RI last week, kept reading in the airport until it was time to board–and then conked.

Did I mention that my flight left at 12:15 AM?

I slept–restlessly–for most of both flights, and when I arrived in Warwick (the actual site of the Providence airport, if you’re interested) I wanted nothing so much as to be HORIZONTAL.  (It’s been a decade or so since I last took a redeye, and my neck and shoulders were supremely unimpressed with my two middle seats.)  My hosts/friends/surrogate grandparents brought me back to Scituate, tucked me in (so to speak) with a glass of water at my side, and let me rest as long as I could; when I got up, the woman who changed my diaper, taught my fifth grade class, and spent $17 to park at the airport and pick me up made me a veggie and Provolone omelette to die for.  Talk about heaven!  I spent the afternoon wandering roads I’d walked and biked on as a child, and then settled in to finish my book and go to bed, my hosts having a long evening commitment.  And therein lies my ignominious failure.

I couldn’t do it.

I had fifteen pages left of a 149 page book, and I couldn’t do it.

This is what happens when you’re a 37-year-old mother of four and a redeye flight makes your 20th high school reunion affordable.  You start to read the same sentences two and three and four times, and your eyes keep closing of their own accord, and you finally admit defeat and throw in the towel–er, bookmark.

Sigh.

The good news, of course, is that I finished it in the morning, and while I didn’t love it with the fierceness that I did Nory Ryan’s Song, Pictures of Hollis Woods, or All the Way Home, it was still excellent.  Watching Judith on her island–off the coast of Maine, no less!  Bliss!–was a beautiful thing, and seeing her blossom as new people and understandings enter her life was heartwarming.  I did wonder about her mutism–I’ve read a few books by a teacher who worked with children with that struggle, but Judith’s had a different feel–but the plot was still lovely.  And the range of subject matter gives Jubilee broad appeal, so, bottom line?  Make sure you don’t miss this one!

Jubilee


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Oct 10, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Vacation is Never Long Enough

Vacation is Never Long Enough

Seriously.  To be fair, though, I was in RI for 3 1/2 beautiful days; I walked, we drove around Newport, I ate, I read, I shopped, I visited, and I slept (some).  It was a pleasure to be there AND a pleasure to be footloose and fancy-free.  I love my children dearly–I wouldn’t trade them or my life for the world–but a few days of being responsible for no one but myself was incredibly relaxing.

Anyway.

I actually managed to finish a few books while I was there, partly because I purposely picked shorter books to bring with me; I’m reviewing The ACB with Honora Lee first because it’s checked out on my second daughter’s library card, and I really need the space on hers.

Yes, I know I have a problem.

The ACB is a bit of an odd little book, to be honest with you.  The story itself is rather sweet, but the tone and the details render it more detached than the subject matter might suggest.  Perry is an only child whose parents believe in keeping her schedule full; when one of her after-school activities is abruptly cancelled, however, she convinces her parents to allow her to visit her grandmother on Thursday afternoons instead.  Gran is a resident of some variety of care center and her memory is decidedly fading, to the point that her conception of Perry’s identity is decidedly sketchy.  She seems to have a fondness for the alphabet, however, and so Perry decides to make an alphabet book with her and the rest of the Santa Lucia community.  Gran’s not big into alphabetical order–hence the ACB–but she does collaborate.

I will say that the detached tone may be a cultural thing; Kate De Goldi is from New Zealand, and I’m not terribly familiar with literature from that area.  I did, however, find the illustrations odd as well.  They’re a level of abstract that compelled me to study them, searching for hidden meaning in each one, and that distracted me from the flow of the story–maybe.  (Reading it on the plane may have been the real culprit.)

Ultimately, I enjoyed this one enough to recommend it; it’s absolutely worth your time.  Just let me know what you think of it!

 

The ACB with Honora Lee


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Oct 4, 2016 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons

I picked up The Life of Ty:  Penguin Problems because it looked like a good length and topic for my 7-year-old; I finished it last night, and I have to say, I’m conflicted.  On the one hand, it was well-written–Ty’s voice worked completely for me–and emotionally complex, which is usually a winning combination for my second girlie.  Ty is struggling to deal with the changes that come with a new baby in the family, especially with the comparative lack of attention from his mother.  (Parenthood gave me an interesting perspective on this one, because I hurt for Ty exactly how Lauren Myracle intended me to, but I also empathized with his mother.)  That coupled with some normal elementary school friend problems leads him to make some choices with unforeseen consequences; luckily for Ty, his family helps him straighten things out.

On the other hand, I didn’t completely enjoy the several scenes unavoidably featuring the word “poop,” often multiple times, and I was truly bothered by Ty’s oldest sister saying, at one point, “G–, Ty, what is wrong with you?”  Yes, I’m FULLY aware that teenage girls talk like that all the time; I’m also fully aware that such an expression bothers relatively few people in this day and age.   Since I happen to be one of them, however, its presence makes me hesitant to hand this one over to my 7-year-old.  (If she chose it, mind you, I wouldn’t have an issue, although I’d probably note to her that different people have different rules, and sometimes characters in books talk in ways that I don’t prefer.)

You see?  Conflicted.  It’s not that I don’t have a 4-year-old boy who quite enjoys trying to work “poop” into conversations, but I’m not really interested in adding any fuel to THAT fire.  What to do?  There is a great deal of good here–indeed, it’s a great book–but I’m not sure how I feel about being the one that suggests it to my kiddos.

Thoughts?

P. S.  I’m heading to RI tomorrow night around midnight, so I’m taking a week off.  My fabulous mother-in-law is coming to stay at my house so that I can go to my 20th high school reunion.  Wahoo!

Penguin Problems (The Life of Ty)


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