Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:50 am

The scene: // Writing this from my desk. I’m in the middle of a mess since I’m decluttering my desk, bedroom, and living room. I want to move this summer so the more things I get rid of, the less things I have to pack.

Drinking: // coffee. I’m going to need as much as I can to get through all of this.

Just finished: // Why Don’t Students Like School?, The Bloody Chamber (reread), and a few children’s books

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Currently reading: // Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit by Dane Hucklebridge. I’m a few chapters into the book and already I wish that the author was more concise with his writing. I may just put the book down and read something else.

I’m also reading Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg. It’s the story of the author and her husband starting a restaurant after being married for a short time. I’ve been baking up a storm lately so I’m reading Delancey at the right time. I haven’t made macarons yet but give me time.

Loving: // that today’s Sunday. I dread Mondays with a passion especially since I have to be out of the house early Monday morning for class. Today I plan on finishing up my decluttering mess, read some more, and work on my resumѐ.

Hating: // that my phone isn’t working. It’s basically a clock and music player right now. If it’s not this, it would be something else. . .

Anticipating: // summer break for me! When we had summer break a few weeks ago, it was for the kids. Next week, I get my break from school and I can’t wait.

Now I’m: // off. Breakfast won’t make itself.

What are you up to today?

 

Review: Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham

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My copy from the library. Do you see all the post-its?

Why Don’t Students Like School? : A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions about How the Mind Works and What It Means For the Classroom

 Daniel T. Willingham

180 pages

Published in March 2009 by Jossey-Bass

Source: Public Library

In Why Don’t Students Like School?, psychologist Daniel T. Willingham shares with readers nine principles of cognitive science that can be applied to classrooms everywhere. From why thinking is hard for all of us – kids and adults alike – to the importance of repetition and motivation, to debunking the theory of multiple intelligences, Willingham’s book is one that should be in the hands of educators, parents, and administrators everywhere.

In each chapter, the author focuses on one of the principles and shares with readers the research behind the principle and gives examples. At the end of each chapter, there’s a summary and ways to implicate the research into the classroom.

One of the best chapters has to do with factual knowledge and critical thinking skills. Willingham argues that for students to critically think about a subject, they have to have background knowledge. That knowledge allows student to hold more information which means they can comprehend more. It also makes students better readers. The whole thing is a cycle.

It’s also why it’s important for parents to start early with their kids by reading to them. If a child doesn’t have the same background information as their classmates, they’re always going to play catch up, but they will always be behind.

Another one of the book’s principles has to do with intelligence being malleable. What’s just as important is a person’s mindset about intelligence. Intelligence can be changed through hard work but a person has to believe that they can get smarter. When a person believes they can become smarter, they seek out challenging opportunities that help them become that way. If a person believes intelligence is fixed, challenging opportunities are avoided as a way not to fail.

There is so much to learn and while I enjoyed reading this book, I had a few issues. This book is less than 180 pages and it is dense. There’s so much information coming at readers. It’s a book you have to work at but it’s well worth it. There’s also illustrations in each chapter to help with the examples given. Towards the end of the book, the illustrations became a distraction and weren’t needed.

If you’re an adult who’s interested in bringing out the best learning experiences for children, you can’t go wrong by reading this book. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

When My Eyes are Bigger Than My Stomach

Do you:

  • Ever have moments when you walk into the library and you want everything you see?*
  • Pick up book after book, taking them home though you know it might be awhile before you’re able to get to read them?
  • Look at those books longingly as they linger unread on your shelves?
  • Guiltily return your stack of books to the library unread and sometimes even late?

*Of course, this situation also applies to bookstores.

If you answered yes to two or more questions, then you have a case of your eyes being bigger than your reading stomach.

I have a case of this right now. There are so many books currently being published that sound amazing. I’ve been checking out stacks of books from the library, though the only way I will get to them is if I took a few weeks off from everything to just read.

For me, one of the side effects from this bookish condition is guilt. My bookshelves are stuffed with unread books and instead of trying to read what I own, I’m constantly picking up books that blogging friends have raved about. I often find new-to-me authors that way but my shelves are collecting dust.

While I think there’s no cure for having such a huge reading appetite, I’ll probably cut back on what I check out from the library for now. It would be nice to read some of the books I’ve own for a year or so.

What do you do when your reading eyes are bigger than your stomach? Do you just go with it or try to cut back on what you check out from the library or accept from publishers?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila over at BookJourney.

Last week, my reading mojo came back when I read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. Now I’m ready to conquer the world read as much as I can. The world looks so much better when you’re able to read.

This week I’m reading:

carter bloodyThe Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. I’ve read most of the books in this short story collection, but not all of them. The book is one that I’ve been meaning to read for years and it would be nice to have this excellent collection crossed off my tbr list.

18601927The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert. I started this book weeks ago and then ignored it. Maybe this week will be the perfect time to finish it.

Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham. I’ve been reading this book for a long time now. It’s the book that I take with me on my Monday errands, but don’t read any other time. I’m halfway through and plan on FINALLY finishing it this week. Why Don’t Students Like School? is one of those books that you need a stack of post-its and a notebook next to you as you read.

For homeschooling:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. We’ll probably read this over the next two weeks or so.

Love that Dog by Sharon Creech

What are you reading this Monday?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:28 am

The scene: // at my kitchen table, nursing a cold cup of coffee. After going to a late showing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night, I’ve had very little sleep.

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For two weeks: // I was unable to finish a book. I would start a book, only to put it down after a few pages. Life has been chaotic and hard lately. There are so many changes coming and I’m trying to brace myself. Yesterday, I needed something fairytale like and found it with Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, a modern-day retelling of the Snow Queen fairy tale. It was just what I needed. I finished the book in one day. Review coming soon (hopefully).

For homeschooling, I’m reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech with my youngest. I’m also diving into A Wrinkle in Time with my middle son.

Celebrating: //my blogiversary! I’ve been blogging for seven years now. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. I may celebrate with a giveaway in a week or so.

Wishing: // I could stop time. I have so much to do today including homework, washing clothes, and a million other things. I need my weekend to be a little bit longer.

Promoting: // Jill’s (Rhapsody in Books) review of Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. Jill heard about Annihilation via Facebook, one of the few online places that I don’t see many book recommendations. What about you, do you get book recommendations on Facebook?

Now I’m off to: // start on my to-do list.

What are you up to this Sunday?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 8:08 am

The scene: // sitting in my living room, relaxing. It has been a long morning as I’ve been up since 4 am. I went for a sunrise stroll on the beach, ate breakfast at a local diner, and now I’m ready to go back to bed!

Currently reading: // Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What it Means for the Classroom by Daniel T. Willingham. I started this book last month but finally found the time to read it earlier this week. I’m only a few chapters in but this book is stuffed with information.

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I needed some fiction to read, so I started reading Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile.

Completing: // the last day of Bloggiesta. I’m more than halfway through with my to-do list. Now I just need to brainstorm some ideas for future posts.

Celebrating: // the fact that the Excel portion of my computer class is over with! Now my class will try to conquer Microsoft Access.

Thinking about: // two posts with similar ideas. Yesterday Shannon (River City Reading) shared what she read in March and how she hasn’t read any books that blows her “out of the water”. Andi (Estella’s Revenge) write a similar post this morning.

I had to check my own Goodreads account and see how many 5-star books I’ve read for this year. The number: 3. That’s not surprising. I’ve read some pretty good reads but not many amazing ones. Hmmm.

Sleep: // is calling my name so I’m off.

What was the last 5-star book that you’ve read?

Bloggiesta!

Bloggiesta1S141

At the very last minute, I’m deciding to participate in Bloggiesta. My schedule is jam packed with things to do so I’m making my list tiny and doable.

 

To do list:

Participate in Kim’s Blog Post Bingo and MotherReader’s Be Brave mini-challenges.

Write one review.

Back-up both the Chunkster Challenge and this blog. done

Set up the April Mr. Linky for the Chunkster Challenge.

Read a book.

Change my blog’s theme. That one was unexpected but I love the new look.

Email bloggers about guest post.

Return emails to publishers.

Update my “about me” page.

Update review policy.

 

Good luck to everyone participating in Bloggiesta!

Saturday Update: I’m taking a day-long Bloggiesta break to do homework. I’ll continue Bloggiesta tomorrow. I hope everyone’s having fun with the event.

Instead of blogging, I am . . .

 

-going on job interviews. I’m hoping to get a summer job once the homeschooling year and the school semester is over in late May. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

-baking. There are few activities in my life that make the hours magically pass by. Reading is one along with library cataloging (strangely enough), but baking and cooking are two activities I’m becoming very good at.

-visiting everyone’s blogs. I’m not writing on my own blog, but I’m trying to get to everyone else’s.

-reading. I’ve been dipping in and out of new (April and May) releases so that’s another reason why I don’t have anything to blog about right now. What I’ve read so far has been a delight.

When you’re not blogging, what are you up to?

Once Upon a Time VIII

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To be honest with you, this reading “challenge” is one of the reasons why I continue to blog. I’ve been blogging for seven years and I’ve joined this event almost every year. If I remember correctly, it was Dewey who got me to join (she also got me to read Neil Gaiman and graphic novels too). Reading events and challenges like Once Upon a Time, Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.), and Dewey’s Readathon always leave me feeling excited and breathless at their arrival.

Anyways. Here’s the details:

  • Once Upon a Time is an annual reading challenge hosted by Carl (Stainless Steel Droppings).
  • Readers can read from any of the four categories: Folklore, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, and Mythology.
  • It runs from March 21st – June 21st.
  • Participants pick how they want to participate from watching movies to reading short stories.
  • The only rule: have fun.

Since I can’t join a reading event of any kind without going overboard, I think I’ll join a quest or two.

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Rule: Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the four categories. It can be a combination or one book from each category. Readers decide.
My pile of books:

PicMonkey Collage

PicMonkey Collage1

  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert
  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine
  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Half World by Hiromi Goto

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A reading event that includes watching movies or TV shows?! Hell yes! I do need some suggestions though.

So that’s what I’m going to read. What are you reading for Once Upon a Time VIII? You are going to join, right?

Ghost Stories: Violet Kupersmith’s The Frangipani Hotel

18167000The Frangipani Hotel: Stories

Violet Kupersmith

248 pages

Set to be released on April 1, 2014 by Spiegel & Grau

Source: Publisher

But as we watched, we realized that the thing approaching us was not a boat after all. I blinked and squinted, not wanting to believe my eyes, hoping that the rain was blurring my vision. Grandpa stopped waving and went silent, his face puzzled at first, then terrified.

Violet Kupersmith’s collection of short stories, The Frangipani Hotel, starts out with a bang. In the collection’s first story, “Boat Story”, a grandmother recalls her first day of fishing with her new husband and meets a mysterious spirit. The imagery was powerful and I found myself spellbound. I wanted to read more and I did.

The stories that followed, while attention-grabbing with simple writing and vivid descriptions, didn’t keep my interest. I found myself reading a story, feeling “meh” about it, and reading the next story only because this book is for a blog tour. After several stories, I decided not to finish the book.

The Frangipani Hotel is described as a collection of ghost stories set in Vietnam. “Boat Story” sets the tone for the book. The past affects the future whether we want it to or not. As the grandmother explains to her grandchild, Vietnam “gives you what you ask for, but never exactly what you want”. The characters in this collection learn that lesson, often the hard way.

While this collection didn’t keep my interest, many of the bloggers on this tour would disagree with me. This just might be a case of a book coming into my life at the wrong time.

Our muddy patch of the world was already shadowy and blood-soaked and spirit-friendly long before the Americans got here. There’s ancient and ugly things waiting to harm you in that darkness. Yes, of course they’re there in daylight, too—they’re just harder to spot. I’m not by any means a small man. I’m not the man you’d pick a fight with if you could help it. But I do get jittery sometimes.

What was the last book you read and didn’t love but everyone else did?

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 6:52 a.m. Sunday

The scene: // sitting at my desk in the living room. The coffee pot is perking and the kids are asleep!! Yes! Spring break started for the kids yesterday and I’m have a four-day weekend filled with Excel sheets to create, a midterm to do, and books to read and review.

Eating and drinking: // coffee! We’re having waffles for breakfast.

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Currently reading: // The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith and Mr. Loverman by Bernandine Evaristo. I’m hoping to finish both within the next day or so.

Up next: // All the Bird, Singing by Evie Wyld and a host of children’s books

Blogging about: // a poem by e.e. cummings and a foodie memoir

Promoting: // as usual, bloggers all over the blogisphere are adding books to my tbr list

 Melissa’s (Feminist Texican) review of Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

Jenny’s (Jenny’s Books/Reading the End) review of Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory

Aarti’s (Booklust) review of Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The quotes that Lu (Reading Rumination) shared with readers make me want to read While Beauty Slept soon.

Last but not least, Laurie’s (Bay State Reader’s Advisory) thoughts on The Accidental Universe by Alan Lightman had me rushing to my library’s website to put the book on hold.

Thankful for: // this nice spring weather we’re having. I’m a winter person but I can’t help but enjoy all the sunshine.

Now I’m off to: // get started on those Excel sheets.

How are you spending your day?

 

Review: L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

9780062202635L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food

Roy Choi with Tien Nguyen and Natasha Phan

320 pages

Published in November 2013 by Anthony Bourdain Books, an imprint of Ecco Books

Source: Public Library

 

Up until that moment, I just didn’t see it. I didn’t realize how much food was a part of my family, a part of me. I was almost too close to it all, too close to the screen to really see the big picture. But the moment Emeril waves those herbs at me, my whole world clicked into place and I saw what had been in front of my face this whole time. Food. Flavors. Sohn-maash. I saw myself in the kitchen. I saw myself at home.

Roy Choi takes readers on a ride through L.A. and beyond with his debut, L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food. Born in Korea before immigrating to the United States at the age of two, Choi went through a chaotic childhood as his family moved from place to place. Years later as a teenager with his family settled into Orange County, California, the chaos was really just starting.

Choi is famously known for breathing new life into street food. He’s the owner of Kogi BBQ, which started back in 2008 and has since baptize people with its Korean tacos. Seriously. Food trucks are a huge deal in SoCal and Kogi BBQ has been known to have crowds waiting for its food.

Now back to the book.

L.A. Son is a raw and honest account of Choi’s life from his childhood to right before he started his business. He described his entry into the world as,

a baby with a big Frankenstein head, drenched in his own blood, with more spewing out through his upper cleft like lava erupting from a volcano. Wailing, crying. . . One hell of a hectic entry into this world, huh?

Love.

Once in the United States, Choi’s parents tried their hand at a number of businesses from owning a liquor store to running a restaurant. It wasn’t until they started their own jewelry business that they found success. But while his parents were chasing their American dream, Choi was a lost kid who was trying to find where he fit in. Wherever he went he found friends, other misfits, but not his purpose. It wasn’t until years later after hitting bottom that he realized his purpose, cooking, was right there all along.

The recipes in L.A. Son coincide with various events in Choi’s life. The dumpling recipe reminds readers of family time every day in Silver Garden, the Choi family restaurant. The comfort of buttermilk pancakes is featured in the same chapter that the author experiences heartbreak. I love that there’s a story behind every recipe.

The diversity of the recipes is also another thing to enjoy. Readers get recipes for horchata right along with recipes for pork fried rice and French onion soup. There’s also a few surprises like ketchup fried rice and windowpane smoothies. You want a homemade recipe, it’s in the book. You want something that’s not strictly homemade? You get that too.

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food is a fantastic foodie memoir. If Roy Choi writes another book, I’m buying it with no hesitation. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

 —–

Cardamom Milk Shaved Ice

Serves 6

  • One 14-ounce can condensed milk, plus a little more for garnish
  • 3 ½ cups of water
  • One 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3 tablespoons cold brewed coffee
  • 1 teaspoon roasted and crushed sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Grated zest of 1 lime

Garnish

  • Fresh or canned lychee
  • Fresh mint leaves

Combine the condensed milk, water, coconut milk, cardamom, coffee, sesame seeds, lime juice, and zest in a big bowl and give it a good whisk. Run the mixture through a sorbet machine or freeze it in a pan, running a fork through it every 30 minutes until frozen.

Scoop and serve the shaved ice in a bowl with the lychees, the mint, and a little more condensed milk drizzled over the top.

 

let it go

let it go

e.e. cummings

let it go – the

smashed word broken

open vow or

the oath cracked length

wise – let it go it

was sworn to

go

let them go – the

truthful liars and

the false fair friends

and the boths and

neithers- you must let them go they

were born

to go

let it all go – the

big small middling

tall bigger really

the biggest and all

things – let all go

dear

so comes love

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 8: 00 a.m. Damn Daylight Savings time. I’m exhausted. At least I have some coffee.

The scene: // Sitting in my living room, most of the kids are asleep. The sun is shining and there are some awesome clouds in the sky.

Listening to: // “Out of My League” by Fitz and the Tantrums. Thanks to Bryan for the suggestion. Thanks to everyone for their music suggestions last week.

Listing: // my Memoir March list of books. I finally figured out what I’m going to read this month.

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  • Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend by Bill Russell – audio
  • Around the House and In the Garden by Dominique Browning
  • The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
  • Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
  • Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfinding by Lynn Darling
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman – (Maybe I’ll finally get to this one)
  • Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story by Peter Bagge
  • The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz
  • Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (recommended by Olduvai)
  • The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
  • L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

I tried to pick some diverse reads, ranging from format (Woman Rebel and Maus are graphic novels) to experience.  I’m currently reading L.A. Son, a foodie memoir, and Out of the Woods. I’m really enjoying both of them.

Blogging about: // everything! I had one of those rare urges to write my ass off this week. I wrote graphic novels reviews, a review of The Perfect Score by Debbie Steir, and a wrap-up of my February reading.

Promoting: // Andi’s Book Nook guest post over on Relentless Reader. Since rearranging my apartment, I no longer have a book nook but it’s nice to look at everyone else’s.

Also promoting: // When the Universe Ain’t Talking by QuinnCreative. I’ve been in a rut for a while now and this post came at a perfect time.  It’s about when you have to wait for an answer from the Universe and you just.can’t.wait.

You should also read: // Buried in Print’s Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi.

Now I’m off to: // relax a bit before I spend the day doing homework.

What are you up to today? Any suggestions on how to get out of a rut?

Graphic Novels Review: Fables Vol. 19 Snow White, Tommysaurus Rex, and The Lost Islands

17290285Explorer: The Lost Islands

Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

128 pages

Published in 2013 by Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

Explorer: The Lost Islands is an anthology of graphic shorts (short stories in graphic format) from new artists like Chrystin Garland and old favorites like Raina Telgemeir. Every story explores the theme of island in vastly different ways.

Like many anthologies, some stories were a hit and others a miss. Some of my favorite stories include “Radio Adrift” by Katie and Steven Shanahan about a witch-in-training and a floating radio station was cute and left me wanting more. Out of the seven stories, there were more that I didn’t care for than I did. The majority fell short. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

16100974Tommysaurus Rex

Doug TenNapel

142 pages

Published in 2013 by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic

Source: Public Library

Audience: Middle Grade

I’ve read every one of Doug TenNapel’s books and enjoyed them for the most part. Tommysaurus Rex is no exception. Ely is a young boy whose best friend is his dog Tommy. When Tommy is hit and killed by a car, Ely is sent to his grandfather’s farm to cope. There he discovers a Tyrannosaurus Rex, names it Tommy after his dog, and becomes friends with it. When news stations start covering Ely and his pet, it brings much-needed revenue to the town. As with any strange and ancient creature, not everyone likes the fact that a dinosaur is roaming their town openly. Randy, the town bully, decides he’s going to do everything he can to destroy Ely and his pet.

As an adult reading a book geared toward the elementary and middle school set, I had to suspend my disbelief several times while reading Tommysaurus Rex. Like the fact that Tommy the dinosaur has been alive and buried deep in a cave all these years after dinosaurs became extinct. Randy, the bully, is a child who would have had been in an altercation with any decent parent after what he did to Ely the first time he met him. There would be no story after that. Seriously. Also the fact that no one thought it was crazy that the dinosaur was alive and walking around with everyone. Tommysaurus Rex is a good book but not the author’s best.  My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

17704953Fables Vol. 19: Snow White

Bill Willingham

168 pages

Published in 2013 by Vertigo Comics

Source: Public Library

Audience: Adult

Guys, I want a do-over with this volume. The previous volume, Cubs in Toyland, was a fantastic read, one of the best volumes in the Fables series. It was so good that I gave it a rating of 5 stars.  This volume’s rating is nowhere near 5. I don’t want to buy this. I want the authors to rewrite this. What really kills me is that Kelly heard a rumor that the series is ending next year.

Throughout the series, readers have learned a lot about Snow’s past like her relationship with her sister Red, her mother’s magical powers, and the curse that landed her with the seven dwarves (so tragic). In this volume, the prince that Snow was once promised to as a young girl returns, refusing to accept Snow’s marriage to Bigby. Tragedy ensues and I would have thrown this book across the room, but I needed to know what happens next. Nothing good happens. I’m still trying to figure out what was the purpose of this book. It adds to the story but not in any way that makes sense. I can’t go into detail because it would be nothing but spoilers. My rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT by Debbie Steir

15796717The Perfect Score: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT

Debbie Steir

238 pages

Published in February 2014 by Harmony Books, an imprint of Harper

Source: Publisher

So here I was, five months in and back to square one: confused, confronting too many options, and feeling overwhelmed and borderline frantic.

I picked up Debbie Steir’s The Perfect Score after years of following her blog and reading about her journey to earn the perfect SAT score. Steir is not some teenager who’s trying to get into her dream college. She’s a middle-aged, divorced, single mother of two teens, who came up with the idea of taking the SAT in hopes of inspiring her son to start studying for the test. She didn’t take the SAT once. She took it seven times over the course of a year.

Steir is passionate, enthusiastic, and focused as she went through her year learning and testing. I love reading someone’s journey as they learned a new hobby or area of expertise.  Steir’s journey was no exception. She asked from help from friends, strangers online, and researched as much as she could. The author also combined her experiences with what she learned about the history of the SAT and tips that will help parents and students who have to take the test in the next few years. No stone was left unturned as she learned as much as possible, trying out various techniques from hiring tutors to trying Kumon to using the College Board blue books.

Halfway through this book, I stand to myself “This shit is crazy.” No seriously.

What I thought was crazy is the pressure that is put on high schoolers (and some middle schoolers) to get high scores to get into decent colleges. There were times that I needed to take a deep breath.  The author herself realizes that the key to doing well on the SATs is mastering math and English before time. Way before time. Mastering a subject means having a strong foundation first. This was something that not everyone has including Steir herself.

The author manages to inspire her son and learns a thing or two about herself in the end.

The Perfect Score is an eye-opening and engaging read that stands out among memoirs about an author’s “special” year. If you have a kid who will take the SATs in a few years, this is the book you need to read. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

February Wrap-Up and Memoir March

It’s ridiculous how fast this year is going by. I did read somewhere if there’s nothing new and different going on in your life, it seems like time is passing by fast. Do you guys think that’s true? Looking at my life, I’m not really doing anything different – yet. It’s just the usual with school for me and homeschooling for the kiddos. I need to change that.

In February I read a total of 16 books, a combination of children’s books, graphic novels, and exactly one book of fiction. Highlights include:

  • The Wizard by Jack Prelutsky (Thanks, Andi, for the recommendation.)
  • Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
  • Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  • Malcolm Little by Ilyash Shabazz
  • Light in the Darkness by Lesa Cline-Ransome
  • Off to the Market by Elizabeth Dale
  • Mousterpiece by Jane Breskin Zalben
  • The Tree Lady by Joseph H. Hopkins
  • Aphrodite by George O’Connor

Favorite children’s book: Malcolm Little by Ilyash Shabazz. The book is about Malcolm X’s childhood. It was a sweet read though a bit sad. I expect it to win some awards next year.

Favorite adult read: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi. You can read my thoughts here.

Overall, February was a pretty good month with a lot of interesting reads especially with all the nonfiction picture books.

Looking forward

One of my goals for this year is to tackle my tbr mountain but I’ve been ignoring it. It’s so hard to read from your own stac k when there are so many shiny new library books to read.

Chris and Debi have decided that their reading theme for March will be Memoirs and I think joining in will be a good way to help me get some of my own books
read.  I haven’t made a list just yet but give me time.

What are your plans for March?

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

18079683Boy, Snow, Bird

Helen Oyeyemi

320 pages

Being published by Riverhead Books on March 6, 2014

Source: From a blogger friend

“Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. . . ”

It’s the winter of 1953 and Boy Novak has finally ran away from her abusive father, winding up in a small town far from home. Later on, she marries Arturo Whitman, a widower, and becomes stepmother to his young daughter, Snow. But it’s the birth of Arturo and Boy’s own daughter, Bird, which changes Boy’s happy ending. Their daughter is born with brown skin and exposes Arturo and his immediate family as African Americans passing as white. Bird’s birth changes Boy’s view of Snow, as the girl turning from an innocent child to a more sinister figure. Is Snow really who everyone thinks she is? Are any of us the images we reflect to others? With Boy, Snow, Bird, Helen Oyeyemi gives new life to the tale of Snow White; expanding and exploring it through the webs of race, beauty, vanity, and above all, love.

Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Helen Oyeyemi comes up with some kick-ass names for her characters.

As someone who has never read anything by the author before, I went into this book with no expectations. I didn’t know this story had elements of the Snow White fable. A note about that: There are fairy tale retellings and modern-day versions of fairy tales, but I like to think of Oyeyemi’s story as a fairy tale expansion because she takes the Snow White story and turns it into a complex, sometimes heartbreaking, enlightening story.

“It was standard-issue stuff. I wanted a family. But it was just as Arturo said-I didn’t know how to start anything from scratch, and I didn’t want to know. Getting pushed around as a kid had made me realistic about my capabilities. I know some people learn how to take more knocks and keep going. Not me. I’m the other kind. . .See, I’m looking for a role with lines I can say convincingly, something practical. ”

Boy arrives at the small town of Flax Hill, Massachusetts with just the money stolen from her father and no idea on what her next move should be. It’s by luck that she finds her way, making friends and through them, meeting her future husband. While things are okay, Boy isn’t always able to shake the feeling of being an imposter. She’s an outsider with no skills who lives in a town surrounded by people who “make beautiful things.” She always comes from such a dysfunctional life, one that she keeps a secret for the most part.

Pretty much everyone in this story is an imposter of some sort: black passing for white, compassionate masquerading as unkind. Everyone is wearing a mask of some sort but the reflection in the mirror doesn’t lie. (Yes, there’s a mirror in this story.) And that’s one of the themes, the strands from the fable that Oyeyemi tugs on. There’s the image that we hope others see of us, the image they really see, and the image that we see of ourselves.

“Bird adored Snow; everybody adored Snow and her daintiness. Snow’s beauty is all the more precious to Olivia and Agnes because it’s a trick. When whites look at her, they don’t get whatever fleeting, ugly impressions so many of us get when we see a colored girl—we don’t see a colored girl standing there. The joke’s on us. . . From this I can only . . .begin to measure the difference between being seen as colored and being seen as Snow. What can I do for my daughter? One day soon a wall will come up between us, and I won’t be able to follow her behind it.”

That insight leads Boy to make a decision that changes her new family and probably not for the best either. It’s a decision that I didn’t see coming but later understood the logic of it.

From what I’ve read about Oyeyemi, she’s known for writing fantasy and this book is no exception. I want to say it’s magic realism but this magic is hidden. Readers will question if Bird and Snow don’t have reflections in the mirror while Boy’s reflection can make faces back in a Peter Pan-ish kind of way.

I can go on and on about this book. There’s so much that I want to discuss and could. Boy, Snow, Bird is a daring and wonderful story.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Go buy it.

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 6: 10 a.m. Thanks to WordPress, I just lost my last draft of this post.

The scene: // typing away on the laptop at my desk.

Drinking: // coffee of course.

Listening to: // all kinds of music. I really need something happy to listen to. Any suggestions?

Reading: // I finished Helen Oyeyemi’s Boy, Snow, Bird earlier this week. I’ve noticed that every year there’s one book that truly stands out for me. Last year, it was The Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. In 2012, there was Please Look For Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin. Oyeyemi’s fairy tale expansion of Snow White is probably this year’s pick. It’s that good. I’m hoping to have my review up tomorrow. There’s so much to talk about with that book.

Do you have years where a certain book stands out above the rest?

Ignoring: // a paper that I need to write and turn in next week. After everything I do during the week, I feel like my weekends should be mine. Sadly, I’ll probably start writing my paper today.

Promoting: // a post that I read on A Beautiful Mess yesterday called “On Changing Dreams“. Emma from A Beautiful Mess writes about how her dreams for her life changed and became something different and totally unexpected. It’s an inspiring post and perfect for anyone who’s doubting the direction of their life.

Now I’m off to: // enjoy my coffee while doing homework.

What are you up to this early Sunday morning?

 

Graphic Novel February, Part One

It’s the middle of the month, so it’s time for posted about the graphic novels I’ve read. Graphic Novel February has been a wonderful idea. If it wasn’t for graphic novels and children’s books, I wouldn’t have any books finished this month.

21326Fables vol. 1 – Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham

Source: Public Library

Imagine that the fairy tales characters most of us grew up with were not only real but still alive and residing secretly in New York. That’s the basis of Fables but the series creator, Bill Willingham, does so much more. Snow White and Prince Charming have been divorced for centuries now and the Big Bad Wolf (now called Bigby) is the sheriff of Fabletown. Those fables who are human live in Fabletown while their non-human counterparts, like the pig brothers from The Three Little Pigs, live on The Farm.  When Rose Red, Snow White’s little sister, comes up missing, it’s up to Bigby and Snow to find out what happened.

This was a reread for me.  I got the idea to reread the series after talking to Kelly (The Written Word). I haven’t read the first volume in years and it was a delight to be reintroduced to the characters at the very beginning of the series.  My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

A17591893 Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Published in 2013 by Top Shelf

Source: Public Library

I’ve seen this book on many of the GNF participants’ tbr list last month, so I decided to add it to my list too. I went into reading it with no expectations but that didn’t help.  A Matter of Life is a graphic meditation/memoir on Brown’s life growing up as the son of a minister and being a dad. As a high-schooler, Brown comes to the realization that he doesn’t believe in God. Brown experiences pressure from his family as well as members of his father’s church to go back to church to no avail. Instead, he chooses to find wonder and gratitude in other ways. The later end of the book is about Brown’s new roles as father and husband.

I thought the book was okay and fairly interesting. Other participants (Lu and Debi) have talked about the book being disjointed and I have to agree. Sadly, when I finished reading the book, I wondered about its purpose. There was nothing “lasting” about it; no scenes or reflections to really take away from it. My rating: 2-3 stars.

 17934391

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (Olympians Vol. 6) by George O’Connor

Published in 2013 by First Second Books

Source: Public Library

George O’Connor’s The Olympians series is a must-read for anyone who loves mythology. The series covers the Olympians of Greek mythology with one book being dedicated solely to each deity. So far, readers can read the stories of Zeus, Athena, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, and the latest one, Aphrodite. I’ve read the whole series and any favorites I have are based on my own biases because all six volumes are wonderful

The book covers the goddess’s first moments of being as a presence to her birth and later her role in the Trojan War. Aphrodite is different from the other Olympians since she’s not a child of Zeus and she’s much older than the rest. Readers see Aphrodite as she influences some of the most well-known characters of Greek mythology like Pygmalion, a sculptor who fell in love with his sculpture of the goddess.  When Eris, goddess of discord, throws a golden apple into a crowd of gods claiming it’s for the most beautiful, a powerful struggle ensues between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. It’s a struggle that will affect later generations.

I love how not only does O’Connor brings these volumes to life by using ancient sources with his writing, but he also makes these stories a little modern. Being the goddess of love, Aphrodite is the most beautiful of the goddesses (though Athena is GORGEOUS to me). O’Connor gives her brown skin which I loved and readers will too. If you haven’t read this series yet, it’s time to start. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon: Thank God for this Three-Day Weekend

sunday salon

Time: // 7: 30 a.m.

The scene: // at my kitchen table, drinking coffee. The kids are watching TV in the living room and playing with the Nook.

Listening to: // Spotify’s Jazzy Romance playlist.

Reading: // everything! Earlier this week, I checked out a ton of books from the library: non-fiction, graphic novels, and children’s books.  Thanks to our lovely three-day weekend, I’m trying to read as much as possible. So far, I read six children’s books and four graphic novels. I plan on reading a few more graphic novels and maybe unreading two non-fiction books that are due back at the library this week. Anyone care to join me for Comics Sunday?

Thinking about: // next month’s reading theme. This month was graphic novels and I ended up reading a lot of books from the library instead of my own stack. It’s been pretty fun though. I think next month’s theme for me will have something to do with tackling my tbr mountain. I also realized that I’ve been neglecting my Project Fill-in-the-Gaps list, so I may focus on my list next month but only the books I own.

Blogging about: // love, what else? I shared a poem on Valentine’s Day from Naomi Shihab Nye called “San Antonio”.

Hating: // vertigo. I’m so dizzy right now. Hopefully, it’ll go away soon.

Loving: // Lettermo. There’s two weeks left in the month and I plan on sending out a dozen or so letters. On Friday, I wrote a letter that was about five pages long to my little brother. I’m sure he’s going to be surprised.

Thankful for: // my family. I love those guys.

Now I’m off to:// make waffles. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday.

What are you up to today?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

San Antonio

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Tonight I lingered over your name,
the delicate assembly of vowels
a voice inside my head.
You were sleeping when I arrived.
I stood by your bed
and watched the sheets rise gently.
I knew what slant of light
would make you turn over.
It was then I felt 
the highways slide out of my hands.
I remembered the old men
in the west side cafe,
dealing dominoes like magical charms.
It was then I knew,
like a woman looking backward,
I could not leave you,
or find anyone I loved more.

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 8:02 p.m. Saturday night

The scene: // hanging out in my living room with the heater on and some pretty tulips on my table

4959061Currently Reading: // so many books right now. I think I’ll spend the next week trying to get through most of them. I set aside The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield to pick up Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham. Willingham is a psychologist who writes about how our minds work and how our theories about thinking can help or hinder kids in school. It’s really interesting.  I’m also rereading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan with one of my sons. Bryan read the series a few weeks ago and it made me want to read the first book again.

Setting aside last Sunday to dive into graphic novels felt great. I may have to do that every Sunday in February. Last Sunday I read Jane, the Fox, and Me by Franny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault along with A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown, and Aphrodite by George O’Connor.

Blogging about: // nothing. I haven’t had the time to write a post. Maybe I’ll review the books I mentioned above.

Promoting: // a few fantastic posts I read this week. M over at Buried in Print wrote about kidlit especially the books she read as a child and current children’s books.

Jenny (Reading the End) wrote another Stuff to Worry About Post about the plague that’s currently affecting starfish. It’s fascinating and pretty sad.

Bryan (Still Unfinished) wrote about his progress on his 2014 goals. It made me remember that not only have I lost my list of resolutions, I don’t remember what they are! At least I remember my word for this year: Leap.

As much as I like bookish posts, I love posts about happiness and gratitude even more. Iliana (Bookgirl) recently wrote about the things that make her happy. It doesn’t take much to make most people happy.

Last but not least is the latest issue of Bloggers Recommend which you can find here. The issue is the best looking one to date. It includes author interviews, excerpts of upcoming releases, and of course book blurbs.

Now I’m off to: // do homeworking, lesson planning, and of course make some waffles.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 7:29 am

The scene: // At my desk with my first cup of coffee, while listening to Gregory Porter’s album,  Be Good.

What’s going on:// I’m anticipating the chaos of this week. Today, I have to submit the kids’ grades to their charter school. When I decide to homeschool my kids (ages 8, 10, and 12), I didn’t think of grades (and still don’t really). Instead, I try to help the kids master the subjects they’re taking without the pressure of getting top grades. I need to finish up since today’s the deadline.

In case you missed my last post, February is Graphic Novels Month. There’s so many people participating and everyone’s welcome. I already finished my first comic: Aphrodite by George O’Connor. I hope I get through my stack this month, but there’s always March. The twitter hashtag is #comicsfebruary.

Between homeschooling and reading graphic novels, I have school myself. The first day of the spring semester starts tomorrow. Luckily one of my class websites opened up yesterday, so I’ve gotten a head start on this week’s homework and studying.

17214302

Today’s plans: // include missing the Super Bowl to do some studying and reading for pleasure. Lu and I decided to have a mini comics readathon today. My stack includes A Matter of Time by Jeffrey Brown and Jane, the Fox, and Me by Franny Britt.

I’m not just reading comics this month so Sam Kean’s The Disappearing Spoon is in today’s stack. Its subtitle: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements tells it all. A plus for this book is that it’s so readable. I wasn’t sure if a book about chemistry would be.

Now I’m off to: // make waffles, sausages, and eggs for breakfast. What are you up to today?

Graphic Novels Month

I’ve spent most of January waiting for February and now it’s here! Graphic Novels Month! It’s the brainchild of Debi and Chris. Last February, the two decided to just read graphic novels and it was a hit. They’re bringing it back again this month and I’m so excited to join them along with a few other readers.

Picture 793Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Explorer: The Lost Islands by Kazu Kibuishi

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting 2 by Linda Medley

Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel

A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown

Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (The Olympians series) by George O’Connor

Jane, the fox & me by Franny Britt

Letting It Go by Miriam Katin

What it is by Lynda Barry

Picture This by Lynda Barry

That’s a pretty small stack compared to other participants (ha!), but it’s going to keep me busy. The only new-to-me authors in the stack are Franny Britt and Jeffrey Brown while Castle Waiting and What it is are both re-reads. I’m so excited. My first read will be Aphrodite by George O’Connor.

Are you joining Graphic Novels Month?

Thoughts: August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

OsageAugust: Osage County

Tracy Letts

138 pages

Published in 2008 by Theatre Communications Group

Source: Personal Library

Winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama

A few years ago, I had this wonderful idea to read as many Pulitzer-Prize winning plays as I could. And I did. I read Angels in America, Fences, Topdog Underdog, Wit, and many more, including August: Osage County. I loved this project and enjoyed almost every play I read.

Last month when I was going through a reading slump, I decided to reread this play once again, especially since it’s been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep. I wish I could say that I loved it as much this time around but I didn’t.

August: Osage County is the story of the dysfunctional Weston family. When the patriarch, Beverly Weston, goes missing, his daughters and their families come home to be at their mother, Violet’s side. To say Violet is manipulative and selfish isn’t going far enough. Violet loves her pills as much as Beverly loves his liquor. As she likes to tell it, nothing slips past her so the family’s secrets aren’t really secrets. At least not to her. Her husband, Beverly is a famous poet who hasn’t written anything in years. Their house is run-down and closed off to the outside world. Every window in their home is covered in shades and taped down so the inhabitants can’t tell night from day.

Of Beverly and Violet’s three daughters, Barbara and Karen left as fast as they could, while Ivy stayed closed by. To have all three daughters and their families back home spells disaster and it is. Long-held secrets are unearthed and the Weston daughters have to take a deep look inside themselves to see what they’ve become.

When I first read this book back in 2009, I loved it. The play was dark and well-written. It still is. I was shocked at the turn of events in the book as secrets were revealed and family turned against each other. I wouldn’t say Violet is a villain but she sees disaster coming and refuses to speak up. As I reread this play five years later, I wasn’t as shocked by the story’s events. They didn’t have the same impact they did years ago and I wondered about that.

With the boom of reality TV and the fact that “news” isn’t the same anymore: more gossipy, more celebrity based, what was shocking even a few years ago is no longer anything to give attention to. Could that be it?

While August: Osage County is insightful and brilliant, reminding me of Eugene O’Neill’s A Long Day’s Journey into Night, I don’t think I’m going to reread it again. I am going to see the movie version.  My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Short Review: God got a dog by Cynthia Rylant

41oDJwYUDzLGod got a dog

Written by Cynthia Rylant

Illustrated by Marla Frazee

48 pages

Published in October 2013 by Beach Lane Books

Source: Public Library

I didn’t know what to expect from Cynthia Rylant’s latest book, God Got a Dog. I just knew that the title was interesting and I wanted to see what it was about. Man, what a good book.

God Got a Dog is a collection of poems written by Rylant and illustrated by the talented Marla Frazee. In each poem, God does something different: gets a dog, goes to the doctor, and catches a cold. The poems are touching and humorous, perfect for both kids and adults alike. I plan on buying my own copy as soon as possible. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

God got a desk job

Just to see what it

would be like.

Made Her back hurt.

God’s always had a

bad back anyway-

the weight of the world

and all that,

She thought Her job was tough,

till She sat at a desk all day.

It was torture.

She could feel the Light

Inside Her grow

dimmer and dimmer

and She thought that

if She had to pick

up that phone

one more time,

She’d just start the

whole Armageddon thing

people keep talking about.

(Not Her idea, not Her plan,

but in a pinch, She’s

sure She could come up

with something.)

The only thing that got

Her through to the

end of the day was

Snickers bars.

She ate thirty-seven.

Plus thinking about the Eagle Nebula

in the constellation Serpens.

That helped.

Review: The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

dubosarskyThe Golden Day

Ursula Dubosarsky

150 pages

Published in August 2013 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

These things were too deep and difficult for the little girls. After all, they knew nothing of wives or armies or desert tribes. At night on the television news they heard gunfire and the sound of helicopter blades and bombs falling. Soldiers were dying in flames far away in a black-and-white land where people wore triangular hats and worked in rice fields and everyone, everyone, was always running away in terror. That was all they knew, all they could know. The little girls hung on to the brink of a hugeness that they knew was there but had no way of discovering.

It’s 1967 and the Vietnam War is raging overseas. But at home in Australia, life is changing in ways that eleven little girls have not yet grasp. The girls make up Miss Renshaw’s class at a small all-girls school. It’s a normal day when the teacher leads her class to the local park for lessons. But something happens and the girls return to school without Miss Renshaw. Their teacher mysteriously disappears, leaving the girls and their small city wondering, what happened to Miss Renshaw?

I picked up The Golden Day after it made a few best of 2013 lists. Before then, I never heard of her and none of my libraries have copies of her books, except this one. That should change.

Dubosarsky performs the hard task of giving each girl a personality of their own, but the one that soars and readers hear the most from is Cubby. Cubby has the perceptiveness of an adult; she knows almost instantly that Miss Renshaw won’t be coming back. That knowledge doesn’t stop her from wishing and hoping for her teacher’s return. Readers are also left wondering about Miss Renshaw and whether she’s still alive or dead as the adults in the story believes. That feeling of uncertainty and loose ends had me turning pages.

With her best friend and fellow classmate, Icara, the pair along with their class, grow up and go their separate ways but never forget their lost teacher. They also gain more insight into Miss Renshaw but it’s still not enough.

The Golden Day is a beautiful meditation on childhood lost after a sudden event. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

But with Cubby, Icara was not far-flung. She was nearby-close-at-hand-a-stone’s-throw-away. They were friends without either of them knowing why. It was as though after that first day, when Icara had taken hold of Cubby’s frightened hand, she had never let it go. Cubby and Icara could sit together in the playground or on the bus or in the library not saying much for hours, just a lovely rhythmic silence, like the sound of breathing when you’re asleep.