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Nov 19, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

No Longer Hanging

Sadly, I have finished the last of Matthew Loux’s Salt Water Taffy:  The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny graphic novels; I could happily read 5 more just like them, but it doesn’t seem like I’ll be given the chance.

Sigh.

Still, you should read them.  Caldera’s Revenge:  Part 2 resolves Part 1‘s cliffhanger nicely, although the wrap-up is perhaps on the speedy side.  With a ghost whaling ship, a cranky albatross, and fermented whale blubber, how can you go wrong?  Sunny the young giant squid and Caldera, a whale of monstrous proportions (and temper!), have impressively drawn personalities, I have to say–even if I still don’t love the way Loux does hands.  (It bothered me again in this one, albeit briefly.)  I wouldn’t vote this best in the series, but it’s not a disappointment, either.  What IS a disappointment is that some of these are out of print; I did, however, manage to buy used copies of all of them.  Seek them out at your library today!

Salt Water Taffy: Caldera’s Revenge! Part 2


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Nov 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Viruses Are Miserable

My oldest stayed home from school today with a cough, exhaustion, and a low-grade fever (but NOT an appetite).  I ended up taking her in since it’s downright freaky to see her that lethargic, and of course, she has a virus.  By the time the day was firmly started, I was experiencing enough of the same symptoms to realize that this is going to be one of those bonding experiences that no one actually wants to have; we had leftover soup and toasted English muffins for dinner, and I’m trying not to fall asleep before my kiddos are in bed and I can do so without failing to do something major, because I just feel yucky.

On the other hand, I did finish Kristy’s Great Idea, the graphic novel version of the first ‘Babysitters Club’ book.  From what I remember–I did read the original when I was a kid–it’s pretty faithful to the story, and Raina Telgemeier’s art adds the kind of emotion that only perfectly drawn facial expressions can.  It’s fluffier than her memoirs, which is no surprise, but it’s fun.  If you have elementary-age girls, give this a try, and if you read the series as a kid, enjoy this one for nostalgia’s sake!*

*If you’re too young for the original series (or lived under a rock in the late 80s!), the Babysitters Club books are about a group of friends who form a club (!) that parents can call to reach four babysitters instead of one.  You read about their babysitting jobs, their friendships, and their problems, and most of the girls I knew were fans in elementary school.)

Nov 15, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Collective Review–Sort Of

I generally don’t review the books I speed read on the treadmill, although I’ve made a few exceptions; one of those exceptions mentioned Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer and its sequel, The Wright 3.  I enjoyed both of those, although the mystic ‘meaning of art’ emphasis is harder for me to relate to.  (I’m weakest in the visual arts.)  The Calder Game was similar, if on a broader scale, and I enjoyed that one as well.  The amount of disbelief to suspend as an adult and a parent grows a bit with each book, but I’ve decided that’s life with middle grade mysteries.  It is what it is.

After The Calder Game I read Balliett’s two stand-alones,  The Danger Box and Hold Fast, because each has a character that shows up in Pieces and Players, which comes after The Calder Game.  I enjoyed those two the most, I think, probably because they emphasized the written word rather than the visual arts, and I’m all over that.  Tonight I finished Pieces and Players, which is why I opted for more of a group review, and I had mixed feelings about it.  The amount of disbelief to suspend grew astronomically for this last installment, and I had some trouble doing so.  My real problem, however, was the randomness of the bulk of the book.  I may have been affected by some of the reviews I read beforehand, but there really did seem to be a lot of announcing random facts as significant bits of information.  There was most certainly an excess of behavior (and people!) described as sinister.  (Also rather a lot of obsessing about various effects of puberty, not all of which came across as completely natural.)  Thankfully, the ending was enjoyable enough to leave a more positive feeling about the book with me; it was, however, still the weakest in the series.  On the other hand, I imagine my artist of a ten-year-old will enjoy it!

Chasing Vermeer


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Nov 13, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Shout-Out to Old Navy

I honestly haven’t shopped there in years, but I’d heard boys’ polos were $5, and now that I’ve scheduled our family pictures I have to figure out what we’re actually going to wear.  (Mere words cannot express how much I loathe this process.)  The saleswomen were incredibly friendly, patient, and helpful; I was there until after closing, and they still went out of their way to help me look for color matches and assure me that I wasn’t the only one left shopping, I was fine.  I think I ended up with a successful color combination, too, although it involves me wearing grey (something I generally avoid like the plague in pictures).  The Old Navy in Jordan Landing is the place to go, folks.  I haven’t had that level of service in ages.

Nov 11, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

The Battle Of The Bars

I made two pans of bars to bring up to my in-laws’ last weekend; one was for my nephew’s baptism, and the other for a birthday dessert for my oldest, since she’s one of the two November birthdays we celebrated on Sunday.  I desperately loved the ones I made for Will’s baptism, let me tell you what.  These Salted Caramel Chocolate Sugar Cookie Bars were amazing to the point that I could not resist them.

Seriously.  I probably ate a third of the pan myself, over the course of fewer days than I want to admit.

My daughter, on the other hand, picked these Mounds Brownies for me to make for her, and she loved them.  (Which is as it should be!)  My hubby’s stomach was feeling iffy on Sunday, but when he finally tried these and I asked him what he thought, he paused with the fork in his hand.

“These are disturbingly good.”

So there you have it.  I posted both recipes so that you could judge for yourself!

Note:  If you want a bar that cuts prettily and isn’t terribly messy to serve or eat, don’t go with the Mounds Brownies–wowsers!  And I didn’t have canned frosting for them–I really don’t care for it–and so I found an easy recipe to make instead (of the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, cocoa, and evaporated milk variety).  The homemade taste was totally worth it.

Nov 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Speedy Speedy!

Well!  Not only did The Stone Heart, sequel to The Nameless City, make it to the library by library day, but I also decided to just take the plunge and read it quickly so my oldest could get her hands on it.

Which means I finished it after lunch today.

I have to say, I personally didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first one; there was more blood and treachery of a personal nature, which is less my thing.  It certainly kept me reading, however, and I doubt that will be a problem for readers who are drawn to the books of their own accord, instead of having them thrust upon them by a child with eagerly pleading eyes.  We learn more about Kai’s and Rat’s families, as well as more of the back story of just about everyone; we also see a great deal more turmoil.  (Stone Heart is also a typical second installment in a trilogy, meaning we’re left hanging instead of seeing resolution to that turmoil.)  Bottom line?  The book may be darker than its predecessor, but it will keep you reading–AND whet your appetite for The Divided Earth, whenever that will be coming out.

Note:  For those who would prefer to know in advance, there is a brief mention (a couple of frames, near the beginning) of a boy having a crush on another boy.  The focus of the book is firmly on political and ideological conflict, however, so that’s about as romantic as the book gets–anywhere.

The Nameless City: The Stone Heart


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Nov 7, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Just–Wow.

I admit, I received a copy of Anna and the Swallow Man for review months ago; parenthood (including a miserable bout of PPD after my first was born) has made me careful about when I choose to read about children in World War II.  Upon picking it up, however, I realized almost immediately that Savit’s debut novel was unlike anything else I’ve read.

Possibly ever.

I’ve read quite a few Holocaust narratives in my life.  They cut you to the quick, and yet their very existence (with the exception, I suppose, of The Diary of Anne Frank, which isn’t really a narrative anyway) guarantees that the author, at least, is going to make it out alive.  Novels make you no such promises, and this novel in particular could have been unbearably harsh if the author had wished it.  Instead, it had a mythic sort of quality, a feeling of unreality superimposed on a reality that (in general) readers are going to be at least somewhat familiar with.

It kind of messed with my head.

Not in an evil way, you understand.  Savit is very choosy about how he relates details, and the unveiling of the path the plot was taking felt very gradual to me.  (This could, of course, be because I had to read more than half of it in very small installments; there were sick kids, there were science fair projects due, and there was Halloween.  Realistically, part of the messing with my head came from the necessity of reading only a few pages right before bed for a week or so.  Early 1940s Poland is really not the best place to return to just before sleep.)  It felt like listening to an skilled oral storytelling, where the Swallow Man and Anna and their travels felt vivid and profound while at the same time removed, somehow.  A story that seems both more and less than real is a story masterfully told.

Ultimately, I can only recommend it as an impressive book, although not one for young readers (despite the age of the narrator).  Young adults, yes, but not my latter elementary schooler, and possibly not my friend’s junior high schooler either.  Haunting and spare come to mind, and yet they seem almost redundant adjectives considering the setting.  Honestly?  You’ll just have to read it yourself and let me know what you think.

Anna and the Swallow Man


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Nov 5, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

When Saying Yes Feels Possible

We all have to say no to our kiddos more than we want to at times, right?  ‘No, we can’t stay at Grandma’s any later on a school night…no, we can’t watch a movie tonight…no, we can’t go to such and such a place when your baby sister is teething and Daddy’s back is sore…no, I can’t read to you right now, because I’ve got to get these dishes done.’  When saying yes to something unexpected feels doable, on the other hand, it can be an extraordinarily happy thing.  After my oldest finished Faith Erin Hicks’ The Nameless City this past week and loved it–“two thumbs up and 10 stars out of 5”–she started pleading with my hubby and me to read it.  I haven’t always had the time (or, I confess, the inclination) to read some of the books she loves and wants me to read, but this was a graphic novel and she could keep it over the weekend (it belongs to her classroom library), and so here I am!  I’ll get to the other book I finished this weekend eventually.  (Also the two new recipes I tried.  I used a lot of butter this weekend!)

Now, while 10 stars out of 5 might be a little more than I’m comfortable with (!), I did really enjoy Nameless City.  The main characters are multi-dimensional, the world is exciting, and the premise drew me in quickly.  The basic plot is a classic done well–two kids from wildly different backgrounds become friends and work together to stop something bad from happening–and I’m looking forward to its next installment.  (My only (negligible!) complaint is that since many of the characters are wearing the same uniforms, it’s sometimes hard to tell all of the minor characters apart.  It’s not a big deal, though.)

I’m also looking forward to the look on my girlie’s face in the morning when I tell her that both Daddy and I read it.  Saying yes can be a beautiful thing!

The Nameless City


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Nov 3, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Cliffhanger

I finished the fourth installment in Salt Water Taffy:  The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny yesterday, and it did not disappoint–I found myself wanting to read a few panels aloud to someone (anyone!) so I could share the laugh, but that doesn’t work nearly as well as you want it to with graphic novels.  Caldera’s Revenge:  Part 1 has all the elements that make this such a delightful series, as well as a cliffhanger ending which I couldn’t possibly spoil for you.  Find these books for your kids, folks.  They’re perfect for eager AND reluctant readers, especially those with any kind of interest in the ocean.  I just wish I could think of more to say that doesn’t involve spoilers or a longer explanation than would be worth it!

What I WILL say, incidentally, is I AM SO, SO GLAD THE SCIENCE FAIR IS OVER.  I hated it as a kid and I hate it as a parent.  That plus Halloween plus my poor coughing girlie has made for a dreadfully long week.  Here’s to a quieter one coming up!

Salt Water Taffy: Calderas Revenge!


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Nov 1, 2017 - Uncategorized    No Comments

I Just Can’t

I wanted to review a recipe tonight.  I wanted to have finished a book to review.  I wanted to sound, you know, intelligent and witty and worthy of your time.

Yeah.  Not so much.  Between the lack of sufficient sleep, the dealing with children who were up late on Halloween, and the science fair projects due this week, I’m running on empty.  I’ll catch you in a day or two!

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