Nov 9, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Speedy Speedy!

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    Comments Off on Just–Wow.

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    Comments Off on When Saying Yes Feels Possible

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    Comments Off on A Cliffhanger

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    Comments Off on I Just Can’t

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!

Oct 31, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Candy, Candy, Everywhere

Candy, Candy, Everywhere

Ah, Halloween–where you worry you don’t have enough candy and so your hubby hits Costco on the way home, only to end up with loads of the stuff left when you’re trying (or, perhaps, trying to try) to make better food choices.

Anyway.

I can’t promise much by way of coherence, because the virus that had my youngest puking and my son just exhausted with no appetite has my 8-year-old coughing up a lung and a half every few hours, ALL NIGHT LONG.  The poor thing coughed so hard she threw up at one point–into a bowl, thankfully–and was so tired and miserable.  I’m tired because I was up with her, and her sister is tired because they share a room and she’s been waking up with the coughing (she ended up in the guest bed last night at 10).  I did finish Patricia MacLachlan’s latest book, however, and like all of her books, it’s eminently worth reading.  Just Dance centers around 10-year-old Sylvie, who wants excitement and is sure it’s not going to be found on her small town farm in Wyoming.  Why her former opera singer mother is content there baffles and worries her, because what if she really isn’t?  How can she not miss the life she gave up–and what if she decides to do something about it?  How Sylvie finds the answers to her questions makes for a lovely little story about love and joy (and may leave you with Con Te Partiro in your head indefinitely!).  If you’re feeling a little stressed going into the holidays–because, say, your older two daughters’ science fair projects are due the week of Halloween and there’s been sickness and out-of-town-ness going on to boot–grab this one and enjoy.

Just Dance


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Oct 29, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Of Purple Cabbage

Of Purple Cabbage

My third grader was the scientist in her class last week, which meant she brought home a book of possible science experiments and got to pick one to prepare and do in front of the class.  She picked one that involved making homemade litmus strips–testers–papers–whatever they’re called, which was totally cool, you understand, except that OH MY GOSH, THE STENCH OF BOILED CABBAGE IN MY KITCHEN.  You chop a bunch and bring it to a boil and use the (very purple!) water to put strips of paper towel in.  (I got that much–I can’t tell you if that’s all there was to it or not, because I was bathing littles while my hubby boiled the cabbage.)  The paper towel strips, when dry, change colors with acids and salt water, which is a lovely effect, but still, the stench in my kitchen.  I always thought the smell of sauerkraut was more the vinegar and spices, but no, no, it’s mostly just the cabbage.  And I LIKE sauerkraut, you understand, but some smells should be rigidly contained.

Anyway.  I lit a candle, we opened windows, and we managed, thankfully.  Now, however, I have purple cabbage to use.   Anybody have any amazing recipes for it?  (That don’t involve nuts my oldest is allergic to?  Because my friend Andrea has one of those.)  I used up the already boiled stuff in this recipe for Spiced Red Cabbage; I thought it was worth eating, but my children were appalled.  (I was amused.)  I don’t know that it’s worth making AGAIN, you understand, but it was the only recipe I found (in the limited time I had to look) that called for boiling the cabbage first.  What do YOU make with purple cabbage?

Oct 27, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on Yet Another Recipe My Children Didn’t Like As Much As I Did

Yet Another Recipe My Children Didn’t Like As Much As I Did

And that gets old, you know?  I needed something easy to fix on Tuesday, since I’d spent the day unpacking and doing dishes and laundry (much of it with an extra child or two, because hey, I was home anyway!), and at the last minute I opted for this Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal.  I really enjoyed it, too–it tasted like fall, in a healthier way than an apple crisp does.  (Not that I don’t love apple crisps, because I SO do, but I can’t bring myself to serve one for dinner.)  Of course, it kind of wanted something sweet and cold and creamy with it–if I’d had whipped cream I would have used it–but a glass of milk alongside (plus maybe a drizzle of maple syrup on top) would do it.  I used craisins instead of raisins (because they taste better!), but other than that I followed the recipe and it came out beautifully.  If you’re looking for a good breakfast (or breakfast for dinner!) that’s full of fiber and feels like fall, try this one.*

*Why yes, that IS some beautiful alliteration.  Thank you!

Oct 25, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on We Have Survived…

We Have Survived…

…barely.

Okay, it could have been worse, I grant you that.  But few things put the lyrics to “Sloop John B” in your head like your 2-year-old throwing up all over herself an hour and fifteen minutes into a five and a half hour drive…and then again two thirds of the way through it…and then again in her bed, in her SLEEP.  (And then AGAIN 24 hours later, after I thought she was done.  I had to catch the first of that bout in my hands to avoid cleaning out the port-a-crib in the middle of the night again, and then shove the bowl under her four more times that hour.)  Add to that the overtired and hangry children, chilly rain keeping said children indoors, and limited cousin time (because who wants to risk catching the stomach flu?!), and I was singing, “I wanna go home” off and on in my head for days.  (My family is wonderful, and it was lovely to be with them, but sick kids away from home pack a lot of misery with them.)

Anyway.  If you’ve had a rough week as well, you should give Shannon Hale’s latest Princess in Black adventure a try.  The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate sees our heroine teaming up with the Goat Avenger AND newcomer the Princess in Blankets to defeat a particularly sneaky monster; it’s pure fun, right down to the blanketed princess’s steed.  This is a perfect series for emerging readers, folks–these books are funny, fabulously illustrated, and full of adventure.  (You can also read one aloud to a kindergartener in a couple of sittings, or one long one.  Think Mercy Watson or Mrs. Noodlekugel.)  If you haven’t already read them, start with the first book and prepare to be thoroughly entertained!

Oct 17, 2017 - Uncategorized    Comments Off on I’m Going On A Break!

I’m Going On A Break!

Really.  I promise I won’t make any stupid Ross-like decisions, but my second girlie got baptized this past weekend, and while it was wonderful, I am now physically and emotionally exhausted.  Add that to visiting family and the science fair–for TWO kiddos this year–and I’m just plain taking a week off from anything that’s not actually required.  I’ll see you on the 25th–in the meantime, wish me luck!  (Tomorrow, for example, I get to do the baking part of my third grader’s project with her.  We’re varying the amount of baking powder in muffins to see what happens.  My hubby’s working with our fifth grader!)

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