All posts by Vasilly

About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 5:32 a.m. Sunday (Insomnia is no joke.)

Listening to: // “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor. What a fun song about plus-size women! Have you heard it?

Reading: // I’m still reading The Canon by Natalie Angier. I’m liking it a lot but I do notice that Angier tries to show off her science knowledge in a way that can be distracting. I’m hoping to finish it in a few days. For some reason, I’m not really in the mood to read fiction right now.

This week: // is the last week of summer before we start back homeschooling. Is it possible to cram in everything I want to do in seven days?! Oliver, my oldest son, has his 11th birthday tomorrow, which means he’s having a cakepops party and food will be all over the kitchen as the kids make their own. With his new bike, I’m sure we’ll spend most of the day outside.

Thanks to my reading mojo vanishing for much of the summer, I didn’t get to half of the books on my summer reading list (or any) but that’s okay. I can read them over the year and it’s a small stack anyway.

I need to spend the next week cramming in time at the beach, reading, lesson planning, and just relaxing. We’ll see if I can get it all done.

Promoting: Melissa’s (Feminist Texican) review of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood on audio. I keep saying that I’m going to listen to this and haven’t yet.

Buried in Print’s post on This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. B.I.P., Candace (BethFishReads), and my daughter have all enjoyed this book. What am I waiting for?

Now I’m off to: // enjoy my coffee and curl up with The Canon.

What are you up to today?

Review: Ruby by Cynthia Bond

rubyRuby
Cynthia Bond
352 pages
Published in April 2014 by Hogarth
Source: Publisher

I didn’t have any interest in reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby until I read the author’s bio. When I read how the author used to teach writing to homeless and at-risk youth, I knew Bond understood that all stories are important, especially those that usually lie in the margins of society. So when a publicist from Hogarth contacted me about Ruby, I decided to finally give it a try.

Ruby Bell is a woman who’s been through so much from an early age. The product of dire circumstances, Ruby was abandoned by her mother as a baby and life after that didn’t get any easier. The citizens of her small hometown, Liberty Township, “wove Ruby into cautionary tales of the wages of sin and travel. They called her buck-crazy. Howling, half-naked mad.”

All except Ephram Jennings.

Even as a child, Ephram understood that there was something different about Ruby, some secret that was wrapped so tightly around her. Unlike the rest of the town, who enjoyed seeing Ruby’s descent into madness and despair, Ephram wanted nothing more than to protect her. What follows is an emotional and devastating debut about a woman’s emotional journey from madness to hope.

I gave you a little summary about the book. Anything else would ruin the plot for you or just scare you off. That’s definitely not what I want.

It wasn’t until after I finished the book that I read praise comparing Cynthia Bond to Toni Morrison. Like Morrison’s Beloved, Ruby takes the past evils of the South to another dimension, a magical one. Because I didn’t really have any idea what the book was about, the magical elements were unexpected but in the end, it really helps in telling the intertwined stories.

Read Ruby. Then, find a friend to talk about it with because you’re going to want to. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I can’t wait to read Bond’s future work.

An excerpt:

Marilyn held her daughter. She would be hurt, of that Marilyn was certain. Helpless to protect her, Marilyn felt a wildness in her own chest, like a bird trapped behind a glass door. But when she looked in the girl’s eyes she could see that she was already gone so she gave her words to help her in the dark days:

“Your daddy and me named Otha. It means ‘wealth.’ You were your daddy’s treasure from the time you were born until he died. He used to say there were rubies buried deep inside of you. Remember, baby, don’t never let a man mine you for your riches. Don’t let him take a pickax to that treasure in your soul. Remember, they can’t get it until you give it to them. They might lie and try to trick you out of it, baby, and they’ll try. They might lay a hand on you, or worse, they might break your spirit, but the only way they can get it is to convince you it’s not yours to start with. To convince you there’s nothing there but a lump of coal…”

Sunday Salon

sunday salon

Time: // 7:14 am

The scene: // with the exception of the fan going, the house is pretty quiet. Almost everyone is still asleep and the air is so cool since it rained last night. I hope it continues today.

Drinking: // coffee because no one is crazy enough to want me to go without it.

July: // wasn’t the best month. I spent most of in a blah type of mood, where I didn’t get much read or done. I finished seven books, three of which were picture books and one was a graphic novel. In terms of quality, six out of the seven I would definitely recommend.

PicMonkey Collage

August: // holds a lot of promise. Hopefully. We start back homeschooling in two weeks. Until then, I’m getting lessons and materials together. The thing I really love about homeschooling through a charter school is all the materials and things the kids can do that they weren’t able to do in public school.

Looking forward to: // reading and reviewing more this month. Ruby by Cynthia Bond is a hard book to review. I’m trying to balance the summary without giving too much away. It’s a book more people should read.

I also plan on finally joining Trish’s Cook it Up: A Cookbook Challenge with my kids. We have lots of recipes just lying around, so I plan on making a recipe scrapbook to help us get started.

So what are you up to today? Have you read any good books?

Monday Salon. . .again

Time: // I originally started writing this post around 8:30 Sunday night as I waited for my son’s x-rays to come back. He was playing soccer and miss the ball and kicked the concrete wall outside instead. Ouch!

The scene: // It’s now 6:55 am Monday morning. I’m sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying my coffee. With the exception of my daughter Piper’s chattering, it’s mostly quiet.

ruby
Reading: // I’m actually reading again! It’s like the world is more beautiful now! On a whim, I downloaded two graphic novels from NetGalley on Saturday and devoured both of them within hours. Now I’m reading Cynthia Bond’s Ruby. From what I’ve read about it, I’m sure it’s a devastating read. You know, the kind of read that breaks your heart with its characters’ lives and beautiful writing.

high summer rat

Promoting: // Michelle’s High Summer Read-a-thon which starts today and ends this Sunday. I’m joining the event in hopes of keeping my reading streak going. I have no idea what I’m going to read after Ruby and that’s okay. I’m going to go where my mood takes me.

Aarti is bringing back A More Diverse Universe event for the third year in a row. In the past, the event highlight speculative fiction by writers of color. This time around Aarti is expanding the event’s reach by highlighting books of all genres by writers of color. A More Diverse Universe is going on the last two weeks of September, so there’s plenty of time to sign up, help out, and figure out what to read for the event. You can find more information on Aarti’s blog.

Now I’m off to: // read.

What have you been up to lately? Read any good books?

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 9:20 a.m.

The scene: // Sitting in bed as the sun shines through my window. The fan is on, my cup of coffee is on my nightstand, and I feel so good.

Reading: // a bunch of teaching books before we start back homeschooling the middle of next month. For some reason, it’s been hard for me to settle down with a book. The weather is pretty mild right now but I have almost no desire to read. I’m thinking about returning all of my library loot unread and just waiting this mood out.

Promoting: // I may not be reading too many books right now but I’ve read several interesting online articles this week. Penelope Trunk wrote a fantastic post this week called “Leaving Your Options Open Sets You Back”. Y’all, I am the queen of leaving my options open. I thought it was smart but over the past year or so, I’ve been kicking myself in the ass big time. My problem is every option looks GOOD. This is why I’ve changed majors a million times: Anthropology English Psychology Anthropology and why so many occupations sound right up my alley.

So anyway, Trunk writes about how it’s important to stop trying to multitask since it’s foolish and start taking action. She writes every day and says that the only way she can get it done is to give herself no choice in the matter.

“You might tell me that I do have a choice. When we have a choice to not do something big, we don’t do it. Each of us has a challenge to find something big that we want and then convince ourselves there is no option but action. Focused action does not include hedging our bets with something else. Because hedging your bets is like multitasking: everything degrades. And taking action toward a goal we’re committed to is like splashing cold water on your face: it’s difficult and jarring but you feel power to do anything in that moment.”

Go read the post.

Now I’m off to: // go back to bed.

What are you up to today?

Sunday Salon

Time: // 7: 28 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my desk as the family sleeps. With summer here, the kids are staying up late and sleeping in pretty much every morning. I’m loving it. I can enjoy my coffee in peace without anyone wanting to talk about Legos or trying to plan my day.

What’s happening: // I haven’t been in the mood to blog for ages now. It still amazes me how hard it is to try to blog again after taking so much time off. I’m going to try though one post at a time. . .

Finished reading: // The Bees by Laline Paull. The author made bees so fascinating! Now I want to read a few interviews with the author to see how this story came about. I’m so curious.

For some reason: // I always have a problem figuring out what’s going to be my next read. I think it has to do with having too many books to choose from. Has that ever happened to you? I have library books, my own tbr pile, and advance reading copies to choose from.

Hating: // the weather. Yes, I’m complaining. Can I get the cool kind of summer? You know, mostly in the mid-70s? It’s 7 a.m. and it’s already hot!

Loving: // how carefree my summer has been so far.

Now I’m off to: // relax.

What have you been up to so far this summer? Have you read The Bees? How do you choose your next read when you don’t have deadlines to think about?

Review: Losing Touch by Sandra Hunter

18668195Losing Touch

Sandra Hunter

224 pages

Published in July 2014 by OneWorld Publication

Source: Publisher

“There is some pain you cannot breathe through.”

When I read Sandra Hunter’s Losing Touch, I found out that it’s a book of small moments. Of parents not understanding their teenage children, of the longing and regret that can exist between a man and woman, and of past hurts fueling future pains. I didn’t expect a debut novel to read so well.

Losing Touch follows Arjun, a man who traveled from India to west London with his family years earlier. His wife is no longer as carefree as she once was, his children are strangers living in his home, and he is slowly losing control of his body. Arjun has no idea how things came to be the way they are but his family know. Arjun is rigid-thinking, always believing himself to be right. His wife, Sunila, whose view is also told, isn’t perfect and can be just as narrow thinking herself. The two dance around their problems as Arjun is forced to stop ignoring his health problems.

This may be Hunter’s first book but she is a master observer of life. I found myself reading sentence after sentence, turning pages to know more about this ordinary couple and their family. The last chapter left me in tears. Losing Touch is a book that I will definitely reread. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: The Day I Became an Autodidact

698417The Day I Became an Autodidact: And the Advice, Adventures, and Acrimonies that Befell me Thereafter

Kendall Hailey

288 pages

Published in January 1989 by Delta

Source: Public library

A few days ago, I started reading The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. Hailey, the daughter of a playwright and novelist, decided to graduate from high school a year early at the age of 16. Her turning point came when days after tenth grade ended, her school sent out a mandatory summer reading list. I don’t blame her. After being told what to read, what to write about, and what classes to take, the last thing anyone wants to do is slave away during the summer. I remember not wanting to do that during the school year.

So Hailey calls it quits with school and decides to become an autodidact, learning everything she needs to know through books. She reads Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, Vile Bodies and Great Expectations. She takes trips with her family, reads, and takes more trips.

It’s great and all but I soon found myself wanting more. Part of the problem has to do with the fact that Hailey doesn’t do anything but read. Coming from a well-to-do family, the author doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to but it doesn’t make for a good story. I DNFed the book after reading sixty pages, so I can’t tell you if she ever does anything out of her comfort zone. Within the pages I read, she doesn’t volunteer, search for others like herself, or anything. What’s the point of educating yourself if you’re going to stay in a bubble? Granted, the memoir was written in the late 1980s and Google wasn’t a click away.

Maybe the problem is that I’m not the right target for this book. I mean, I love reading. If I could, I would read all day long, except I can’t. That’s why read-a-thon days and various breaks are like Christmas to me. Even while writing this post, I had to stop and play Legos with one kid and make a snack for another one.

It doesn’t matter.

Hailey’s thoughts are insightful at times and I found a few paragraphs that I want to photocopy. That wasn’t enough for me to want to finish this book. My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. It’s okay.

Sunday Salon

sunday salonTime: // 8:14 am – Sunday morning

Place: // the usual: at my desk with a cup of coffee.

What’s happening: // Now that my sisters’ graduation is behind us along with Avram’s birthday, I can finally relax!

Just finished reading: // the first two books in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle quartet: The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. I finished both books in the past three days. That says a lot since I rarely read young adult books. The next book comes out in October and I’m looking forward to it.

Up Next: // I have no idea. Maybe Brando Skyhorse’s Take This Man, a memoir about the author’s childhood with his mother, grandmother, and the five stepfathers he had. I read Skyhorse’s previous book, The Madonnas of Echo Park and loved it so much.

Loving: // 100 Happy Days meme. I saw a few people via Facebook participating in the meme and decided to join. I love finding a moment that captures my day.

PicMonkey Collage happydays1

Thankful for: // everything. I’m really enjoying the time I’m spending with my kids and these lazy summer days.

Not thankful for: // various neighbors. I wish they would move but I’ll move instead.

You guys should read: // Jill’s review of Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty, a children’s book. I haven’t read this yet but I’m sure I’m going to start crying once I do.

Now I’m off to: // enjoy my coffee.

What are you up to today?

Review: My Real Children by Jo Walton

18490637My Real Children

Jo Walton

320 pages

Published in May 2014 by Tor Books

Source: Public Library

If there were two worlds, then what caused her to slide between them? They weren’t two times as they were for Charlotte. It was the same year, whichever year it was. It was just that things were different, things that shouldn’t have been different. She had four children, or three. . . Had she made a choice that could have gone two ways and thereafter had two lives?

It’s 2015 and an eighty-something year old Patricia Cowan is losing her memory. Not only is she losing her memory, but she’s remembers things that couldn’t have possibly happened. She remembers having a life with Bee and being mom to three kids, but she also never met Bee and instead married Mark and had four living kids. Nuclear bombs were dropped on Miami and in the other life, this never happened. As Patricia looks back on her lives, she wonders why did these two lives come down to one seemingly innocent decision she made in the past. My Real Children is a wonderful exploration about the choices we make in life that can affect not just ourselves but the world.

Jo Walton takes the question of ‘what if?’ and explores it in depth. It’s probably a question many of us have asked ourselves throughout our lives. I found myself fascinated and pulled in to Patricia’s lives from the first few pages. Her lives were vastly different from each other with just a few connecting strands. The two Patricias (Pat in one life, Trish in the other) found love and joy in almost unrecognizable ways.

This book has been compared to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson with My Real Children being the clear winner. Since I haven’t read Life After Life, I can’t tell you which is better. I can say that after reading My Real Children, I need to go and read more books by Jo Walton. My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon – Busy, busy, busy

Time: // 6:31 a.m. – Good morning.

Drinking: // coffee. Have you guys tried the Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut coffee? It’s heaven.

The scene: // Sitting at my desk after watching the first episode in the second season of Orange is the New Black. I don’t watch a lot of shows but I really enjoy this one. I’m trying to space the episodes out so that I can enjoy the show longer, but I already know after writing this post, I’m going to watch the next episode.

18490637

Currently reading: // My Real Children by Jo Walton. It’s about an elderly woman who remembers living two lives – one in which she says no to marrying a boyfriend as a young woman and another life in which she says yes. Readers experience both possibilities and the consequences. I’ve read some reviews that compare it to Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life but an overwhelming majority prefers this book instead. This is my first book by the author and I’m pretty impressed.

Up Next: // The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney. This book came at the perfect time last week. The kids and I were doing a unit on Ancient Egypt and learned a little about Hatshepsut. I’m so excited to read this.

Blogging: // about nothing much but I will start back with reviews this week.

Anticipating: // how busy this week is going to be. My sisters are graduating from eighth grade on Thursday, which means I need to do some last minute shopping for dresses, take them to get manicures, and do their hair. My youngest, Avram, is turning nine on Tuesday so I need to do some Lego shopping. Plus, I want to see Maleficent today with the boyfriend.

Now I’m off too: // watch Orange is the New Black before I have to start my day.

What are you up to today?

2014 Summer Reading List

The school year officially ended last Friday and since then, my days have been filled with watching the kids spend time being outside, playing Uno with the kids, and vegging out on the couch. According to a family friend, my family is glowing. It wasn’t until I heard the words, that I realized she’s right. There’s no notes to take, reading logs to type up, or textbooks to check. It feels good.

While the kids are making plans on how to spend their summer (building huge Lego sets, swimming, and starting their own blogs), I’m making plans too. I’ve posted my bucket list so now I get to share my summer reading list. Sometimes I think one of the best parts of reading books is making lists about the books we want to read.

  • Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver
  • The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
  • Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Trokia by Adam Pelzman
  • The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (may read this one with my daughter)

 

  • Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (essays)
  • Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss (essays)
  • Among Others by Jo Walton
  • Starting From Scratch: What You Should Know about Food and Cooking by Sarah Elton (future cooking classes with the kids)
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Known World by Edward P. Jones

 

  • Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington
  • Love by Toni Morrison (reread)
  • The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My list will probably change from week to week as I add and subtract things so you can always see the most updated list on Pinterest. It seems like a lot of books but I have plenty of time on my hands. I’ve already started reading The Iliad. Surprisingly, I’m enjoying it.

What are you reading this summer?

Review: Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman

2744Anansi Boys

Neil Gaiman

384 pages

First published in 2005 by HarperCollins

Source: Personal library

It begins, as most things begin, with a song.

In the beginning, after all, were the words, and they came with a tune. That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world.

They were sung.

I first read American Gods years ago and it’s probably in the top three of my favorite books of all-time. Since then, I’ve been meaning to read Anansi Boys and never got to it. Yesterday, I needed something to read while I sat in a waiting room and hastily grabbed Anansi Boys off my shelf. I didn’t put it down until I finished the last page a few hours ago.

“Fat Charlie” Nancy has been called Fat Charlie all his life. It started with his father and when his father names something, it sticks. Mr. Nancy dies and Fat Charlie thinks that’s the end of his father upstaging and embarrassing him. But when an old friend tells Fat Charlie about Spider, the brother he never knew, Fat Charlie’s life changes as he is chased by killer birds, hated by mythical beings, and learned the truth about his powerful father.

Though Anansi Boys features Mr. Nancy, a funny and lovable character from American Gods (AG), this isn’t AG #2. I didn’t know that before I picked this book up. It’s took several chapters for me to realize the fact. While it didn’t bother me, I’m sure readers who are expecting the same characters from AG to appear might end up disappointed.

There are a lot of differences between Anansi Boys and AG. One of the things that stands out is the tone. While AG was a pretty dark book, Anansi Boys is more light and funny. You can’t go wrong taking this light read with you on vacation.

Though Anansi Boys is an enjoyable read, it’s not my favorite Gaiman book. It can’t be because I love AG too much. Readers new to Gaiman’s novels will love this book. For the rest of us, I suspect it’s just another “good” book. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

My Summer Bucket List 2014

 

You might think it’s a bit early to think about a summer bucket list since summer officially starts in late June. With my summer vacation a little bit more than a week away, I figured now is a fantastic time to write down the things I want to do with my kids. I made the list doable so as to not get overwhelmed.

  1. Make watermelon gazpacho
  2. Swimming lessons for the kids
  3. Go to the movies at least three times
  4. Wear sunscreen everyday
  5. Make iced coffee Pioneer Woman style
  6. Tackle math (which I’ve been doing)
  7. Go to Farmer’s Market at least twice a month
  8. Watch a movie at the park
  9. Take kids to an amusement park
  10. Buy an air conditioner
  11. Have a movie marathon day
  12. Make my own ice cream
  13. Make popsicles
  14. Have one date with each kid individually
  15. Introduce the kids to funnel cake
  16. Go to the beach more often
  17. Take the kids ice skating on a really hot day

What are you looking forward to doing this summer?

Sunday Salon

 

Time: // 8:08 a.m.

The scene: // sitting at my desk, waiting for the donuts to finish rising. I have about 45 minutes left before I can start frying them. Most of the kids are asleep and I’m enjoying the silence.

Listening to: // Melody Gardot’s album, My One and Only Thrill. It’s jazz and her voice is so beautiful. Take a listen:

This week: // Bout of Books was a fail. Well, not really. I did manage to finish and review, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. I’ve started reading Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok. I’m really enjoying it and will try to finish it today.

Grateful for: // the fact that I start work tomorrow. It’s a warehouse job through a temp agency but it’s a start. I was looking for a job that I can work late afternoons or nights so I can still homeschool during the day and be around the kids. I’m glad I found one with compatible hours.

Appreciating: // my extended family. My cousin recently passed and Friday was his funeral. There was so many people there and we laughed and cried over my cousin’s antics. He was one of the most giving and friendly people you could ever meet. Going to his funeral was sad but it didn’t end that way. I was so happy to see my family and will keep in touch.

Writing down: // my summer bucket list. I saw a post on How Sweet It Is and within minutes came up with a ton of things for me and the kids to do this summer, which includes making watermelon gazpacho. Have you ever made a summer bucket list?

Now I’m off to: // fry some donuts.

What are you doing today?

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

18166936The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton

320 pages

Published in March 2014 by Candlewick Press

Source: Public Library

“To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did.

I was just a girl. “

I’m not going to lie. I picked up The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender because of its beautiful cover and the fact that it’s magic realism. The book is steeped in the genre and doesn’t have a tinge of magic like other books that are also labeled the same way.

The main character, young Ava Lavender, is a girl who is born with wings. Her wings aren’t the wings of an angel, white and magnificent. Ava’s wings are the wings of a bird: strong brown wings that cannot fly or be cut from her body without killing her. Her twin, Henry, wasn’t born with wings but maintains a silence that most people can’t break. Along with their mother and grandmother, both heartbroken over past loves and loss, the twins live secluded at their family home away from the world and all of its dangers.

I think the best books of magic realism are those whose magical aspects aren’t distracting and also make readers feel at home in a world where anything can happen. Beautiful writing helps too. Luckily, readers of this book won’t have any problems with the things I listed. This is Walton’s first novel and for the most part, the book doesn’t read that way.

Ava’s family, the Roux, have a long history of heartache. From Ava’s great-grandmother losing her husband, to various members dying as the result of love, forbidden or otherwise. As a result, Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne, and mother, Viviane, are closed off to pretty much all types of love.

Love. That’s one of the biggest themes of this book and it’s also the reason why I don’t understand this book being deemed as a young adult read. Walton expertly explores various forms of love: between parent and child, the young love of teenagers, and the love of two friends. It felt more like a book I can recommend to an adult but not a teen.

The one disappointment of this book is that the characters are kept at a distance from not only each other, but from the reader. I didn’t really care about any of them. The only feelings I had for a character was Viviane, whose willingness to ignore the man that truly loved her and her children, infuriated me. I wanted to reach through the book and slap her many times. Because of this distance, I couldn’t give this book a perfect score.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a book that readers of magical realism will enjoy for its imagery and beautiful writing even with its fault. My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars.

Bout of Books 10 and Update Post

BoB10-200x200

Bout of Books have officially started. I’m typing this on Sunday night since Mondays are always busy with meetings, homeschooling, and errands. Don’t worry, I’m taking my reads to the beach with me Monday afternoon since summer has pretty much hit Southern California. (I’m not bragging. I actually wish it was winter here.)

PicMonkey Collage

I’m starting the read-a-thon off with two books that aren’t on my original list: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton and For Today I Am a Boy by Kim Fu. I also plan on using this post to update my progress as I go.

Enjoy your Monday!

What are you looking forward to reading/doing this week?

Monday’s Update

Monday was fantastic! I started and finished The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It was filled with beautiful writing and though I didn’t really get attached to any of the characters, it was still a nice book to read.

  • Books finished: 1
  • Pages read: 320

Now I just need to figure out what to read today (Tuesday). Any suggestions?

Tuesday’s Update

Tuesday was a total reading disaster. I couldn’t figure out what to read so I didn’t do any reading. Plus, this heat was so bad that all I wanted to do was sleep yesterday. Ugh.  Today (Wednesday) it’s suppose to be 98 degrees. I can’t hibernate since I have a ton of things to do. Today’s book will either be There is No Dog by Meg Rosoff (a reread) or The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld.

Day 3 Mini-Challenge

Today’s mini-challenge is from My Overstuffed Books. B.o.B. participates are to pair a book with something.

My pairing is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton and probably French bread.  In the book, the main character’s grandmother owns the bakery in their small town and believes bread helps to heal almost anything. I love that idea.

 

 

Weekend Cooking: Donuts!!

14618917My son, Oliver, begged me for weeks to make donuts. We’ve made cookies, cakes, and even cinnamon rolls before but never donuts. Last weekend, I reluctantly agreed. Oliver downloaded a sample of Jessica Segarra’s Mini Donuts: 100 Bite-Sized Donut Recipes to Sweeten Your “Hole” Day and went to work. Even though he’s only ten, he refused to let me help him. These donuts are so good, I couldn’t help but say “oh my God,” when I took my first bite.

Glazed Fried Mini Donut

            Yields 26 Mini Donuts and 26 Mini Donut Holes or 14 regular-sized donuts

Prep Time: 2 ½ hours  Cook time: 2-5 minutes

For Donuts

2 tablespoons warm water

1.25-ounce envelope fast-rise yeast

¾ cup warm whole milk

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

3 tablespoons shortening or lard

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Vegetable oil or peanut oil for frying

For Glaze

2 tablespoons whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl if you are going to knead the dough by hand), mix together warm water and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Add milk, sugar, salt, egg, shortening, and 1 cup of flour. Mix on medium-low for 2 minutes, then switch to the dough hook. Slowly add the remaining 1 ½ cup of flour, ½ cup at a time. Once you have added all the flour, knead on medium for 2-3 minutes, until dough no longer sticks to the bowl. Turn up the speed to medium-high, and continue to knead dough for 3-4 minutes, until dough is smooth. [Keep some extra flour on hand in case you need it like we did.]

3. Transfer dough to a greased bowl, and cover with a slightly damp tea towel. Place bowl in a warm area (or in an oven preheated to 200˚F and then turn off) for about 1 hour. Dough is ready when it has doubled in size.

4. Transfer raised dough to a lightly floured surface, and carefully roll out until it is ½” thick. Cut out donuts with a floured 2” biscuit cutter, and then cut out the center of each donut with a floured 1” biscuit cutter.

5. Place donuts and donut holes on a lightly floured cookie sheet, and cover again with a slightly damp tea towel. Place in a warm area (or in an oven preheated to 200˚F and then turned off) for about 1 hour. Dough is ready when it has doubled in size.

6. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or a deep fryer to 350˚F.

7. Once oil is hot, working with 4 to 6 donuts at a time, carefully drop donuts into oil. Fry for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown; flip each donut and fry the other side.

8. Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towel or newspaper. Continue this process until each donut has been fried.

9. Place wax paper under a wire rack to collect any drippings for any easy cleanup. Then, in a small bowl, whisk together milk and vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar, whisking until smooth.

10. While the donuts are still warm, dip the top of each donut and donut hole into the glaze, transfer to a wire rack, and let set for 5 minutes. Serve immediately; donuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days but are best served fresh.

Note: Oliver didn’t like it the glaze, so we ended up dipping the warm donuts into cinnamon and sugar. We used 1 stick of melted butter, ½ cup of sugar and 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon, dipping the donuts into the butter than the cinnamon and sugar mixture. We used a mason jar top to cut the donuts out and the tip of a piping bag (you know, the ones used for icing cakes) to make the donut holes.

Bout of Books 10

After reading Candiss’s goals for Bout of Books, I decided to join the event. Bout of Books has been going strong for a few years but this will be my first time joining.

BoB10-200x200

 The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 12th and runs through Sunday, May 18th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 10 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

 My goals for Bout of Books are:

  • To read for at least two hours a day. I need to get back into the habit of sitting down to just read again. I already finished my homework for the next two weeks, so I can find some time to read.

  • To review 90% of the books I read during the event.
  • To read at least four books.

 I have a ton of books that I would like to finish in the next few months, so my pile comes from that stack. My pile of possibilities:

PicMonkey Collage10

The Namesake by Jhumpi Lahiri.

Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington

A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip by Kevin Brockmeier

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

PicMonkey Collage11

I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henriquez

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Are you participating for the event? If so, what’s on your reading?

What I’m Grateful For

I haven’t written a post about gratitude in years. I need to change that. There’s always something to be grateful for. But first,

Things I’m not grateful for:

-The fact that I don’t have a job yet. I’m trying as I fill out application after application, submitting my resumѐ and waiting for calls. I’m tired of hearing that I’m a good or great candidate but I’m not experienced/extroverted enough. It reminds me of Susan Cain’s Quiet. I’m not apologizing for being an introvert.

Things I’m grateful for:

-My upcoming summer plans. Our school year is over on the 30th of this month. I plan on reading as much as I can this summer. I feel like hugging my books.

-My family. We make each other laugh as fast as we make each other cry. I’m glad that I know each and every one of them. I’m talking about my immediate family. My extended family? Well, that’s different!

-Carrot cake. My local store makes some amazing carrot cake. It’s getting to the point that it’ll be cheaper if I just learned to make it myself.

-Last but not least, all of you guys. You guys are what keeps me going online. I love reading your posts on your lives and thoughts about books, movies, and anything else. I love the letters I receive from you guys and all the nice comments. Thank you. I appreciate every single one of you.

What are you grateful for today?

Review: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

18467818An Untamed State

Roxanne Gay

368 pages

Published: May 2014 by Black Cat, an imprint of Grove Atlantic

Source: Publisher

Once upon a time, in a far-off land, I was kidnapped by a gang of fearless yet terrified young men with so much impossible hope beating inside their bodies it burned their very skin and strengthened their will right through their bones.

            They held me captive for thirteen days.

            They wanted to break me.

            It was not personal.

            I was not broken.

            This is what I tell myself.

Mireille, a woman visiting her parents in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is kidnapped in broad daylight, as her husband and young son looks on helplessly. Her kidnappers, a group of men, demand a ransom of one million dollars, an amount Mireille’s father can afford to pay. When her father refuses to give the kidnappers what they want, it’s Mireille whose life is a stake. For thirteen days, Mireille’s father refuses and the kidnappers do their best to break the young woman in every way possible, repeatedly raping and torturing her. An Untamed State is a book that seizes readers from its beginning and have them going through an abundance of emotions as they journey with Mireille through her ordeal and life after.

I was discussing An Untamed State with Shannon and we both agree that this book is so hard to put into words. There’s so much I could talk about but how?

Before the kidnapping, Mireille’s life was normal. The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Mireille grew up in the Midwest before becoming an immigration lawyer in New York. Her father, Sebastien, made as much money as he could in construction before moving back to Haiti with his wife to have his own business. Now a very wealthy man living in a poor country, Sebastien feels as though the world is basically his oyster. Excuse the cliché.

So when Mireille is kidnapped and the ransom announced, Sebastien just knows that he’s going to get his daughter back without a fight. The kidnappers might even give her back for free. As days go by with the kidnappers refusing to budge for the million-dollar ransom, Mirielle’s husband and mother begs Sebastien to pay the ransom. Finally, he pays it.

Damage done, Mirielle will never be the same person again.

The first part of the book deals with Mirielle’s life during her life before and during the thirteen-day ordeal in the form of flashbacks. The second and last part deals with her life afterwards as she tries to heal both mentally and physically and find peace. I found the second part realistic and there were times that I had tears in my eyes.

While the subject matter is dark, readers are left with hope for this character at the book’s end. My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Books read in April

April has come and gone. Thank God. It was just a stressful month. My neck is still sprained and I’m starting to understand – really understand that I’m getting older and it’s time for me to start taking better care of this body.

Now on to books.

I read an amazing 20 books last month. The books were in a variety of genres and for the most part, it was a good reading.

PicMonkey Collage2

  • Cress by Marissa Meyer
  • The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (reread)
  • Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel T. Willingham
  • Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

PicMonkey Collage3

  • Duffy and the Devil by Harve Zemach
  • Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin
  • Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman
  • Here I Am by Patti Kim

PicMonkey Collage4

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers by Michael Brian Bendis
  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Saga Vol. 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • Delancey : A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

PicMonkey Collage5

  • Dog Loves Counting by Louise Yates
  • Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein
  • Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock
  • The  Fantastic Art of Jacek Yerka

I decided to include the children’s books for those of you who read and enjoy the genre.

An Untamed State was the best book I read last month with the third volume of Saga a close second.

How was your reading in April?

Review: Mr. Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo

17879710Mr. Loverman

Bernadine Evaristo

320 pages

Published in April 2014 by Akashic Books

Source: Publisher

“If I had more courage, I would hold Morris’s hand for, say, one second. All-a my life I’ve watched couples holding hands, walking arm in arm, ruffling each other’s hair, sitting on each other’s laps, dancing closely, romantically, jazzily, funkily, badly, bawdily.

And never, not once, have I felt able even to link arms with the man I love.”

 Guys, I love it when a book surprises you. You know that book that you had no expectations of, picked up for whatever reasons, and then it takes you and shakes you silly, leaving you stunned? For me, that book is Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr. Loverman.

Barrington “Barry” Walker is a transplant from the West Indies. He’s lived in West London for decades with his wife Carmel and daughters. At seventy-four years old, Barry is ready to leave his loveless marriage to Carmel and live with the love of his life. Problem is, the love of his life is his best friend of sixty-plus years, Morris. Barry wants to break the news to his wife and daughters but he doesn’t know how to take that first step. Mr. Loverman is a hilarious, thought-provoking read on a lot of the big themes of life.

Of the many books I’ve read so far this year, Mr. Loverman is one of the best ones. It’s a tie with Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State. Shannon, you know that’s saying a lot.

You would think from the description I gave you that this book would be depressing but it’s not. Because of Evaristo’s talent, readers are able to understand Barry’s reasons for deceiving Carmel all of those years. Growing up in Antigua, Barry knew that if people even thought you were gay, you could end up in jail on trumped-up charges, beaten, or even thrown in a mental institution. Even as young boys, Barry and Morris loved each other but decided to marry women to disguise their love. It wasn’t right and for decades, Carmel believes that Barry has been cheating with women.

When Carmel goes home to Antigua to bury her father, both she and Barry are forced to look back at their years together and figure out what should happen next.

While readers spend a majority of the book through Barry’s eyes, they also come to see this marriage from Carmel’s view and learn why she stayed so long. Carmel has secrets of her own and it makes her more sympathetic.

This book isn’t just about marriage and love, identify – racial and sexual are woven in by the author’s talent. Mr. Loverman is a pleasing and smart read that left me wishing I had someone to discuss it with. How about it, Aarti? My rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Short short reviews: Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and Cress

13206828Cress

Marissa Meyer

550 pages

Published in February 2014 by Feiwel & Friends

Source: Personal Library

Genre: YA, fantasy and science fiction

I picked up Cress after enjoying the first two books in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. Also in an effort to get Piper reading more chapter books (she prefers manga and graphic novels), we agreed on reading Cress together.

Instead of giving you a plot summary of the book, I rather just tell you what I thought of it. Cress is probably my favorite of the three books. The books in this series are fast paced and use elements of various fairy tales without relying on them. I found the female characters like Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder believable. This book also gives Piper and me a lot to discuss as we wait for book four to be published.

I told you this was going to be a short review. My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

 

17910570Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Karen Foxlee

240 pages

Published in 2014 by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Source: Public Library

Genre: Middle grade, fantasy, fairy tale retellings

A few weeks ago, I was going through a reading rut. I picked Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy up because it was on my tbr list for months.

Ophelia is a girl who doesn’t believe in magic; she believes in science. After the death of her mother, her father throws himself into his work while Ophelia’s older sister becomes selfish and mean. When an offer comes for a new job curating a museum’s collection, Ophelia’s father takes it, moving the girls to a city that never stops snowing. It’s at the museum that Ophelia finds a strange boy locked up in a room, a prisoner of the Snow Queen. His captivity sends Ophelia on adventures through the museum in search of a key that will free him. What happens next is more than the young girl thought was possible.

I found Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy to be the perfect read to get me out of my rut. The book wasn’t perfect as I often found myself preferring the story of the boy and how he became the queen’s prisoner to Ophelia’s story. I think young readers will enjoy this fairy tale retelling. My rating:  3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday Salon

sunday salonAnother read-a-thon has come and gone. I didn’t try to read for the full 24 hours, so I don’t have a reading hangover. I did pretty well, as I read and finished Cress by Marissa Meyer, a chunkster, yesterday. My daughter finished two books and my son finished a comic. We ate, relaxed, and really enjoyed ourselves yesterday. I’m thankful to Ana for reminding me what the read-a-thon is all about with her post about Dewey. Thanks also go to Heather and Andi for pulling off another fantastic event.

Now that the read-a-thon is over, it’s time for me to start writing reviews. I have about five books to review including a few DNFs. I plan on spending the next few hours writing reviews, reading, and nursing my migraine.

What are you up to this Sunday?

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon: Hour 12 Update

24readathon

We’re now at the halfway point of the readathon!

Mid-event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? I’m about to start Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley
50714342. How many books have you read so far? Just one. I finished Cress by Marissa Meyer. It’s a chunkster and I barely started it before the readathon. I’m so proud of myself.  Piper has finished two books: Otomen #1 and 2 by Aya Kanno. Oliver finished his Lego comic book and is now making rubber band bracelets.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? That’s a good question. It’s probably Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Nope. My kids know that they either read or find something to do quietly. ;-)
5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? No interruptions.
6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? I love the effectiveness of the cheering lists this year along with the ease of cheering. Great job, Heather and Andi. The cheerleaders are doing a fantastic job!
7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope.
8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing!
9. Are you getting tired yet? Surprisingly no. It may help that I just made another pot of coffee.
10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Just have fun.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon

As I type this, it’s Saturday night, hours before the readathon’s 5 am start date in Southern California. I’m not getting up that early to start reading but I still wanted to make sure my post was up.

The start of the readathon is always exciting. The house is quiet at 5 am and the only sounds to be heard are the ones coming from the coffee pot. I always tell my family that the readathon is my Christmas; it’s the day that I get to sit back, ignore most of the errands and chores that need to be done, and do something I really enjoy: reading.

IMG_2382

My reading stack includes:

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

Midwinter Blood – Marcus Sedgwick

Running Like a Girl – Alexandra Heninsley

Noggin – Corey Haley

A Snicker of Magic – Natalie Lloyd

When the Emperor was Divine – Julie Otsuka

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Ella Enchanted – Gail Levine

Today I Am a Boy – Kim Fu

Cress – Marissa Meyer (already started)

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean (already started)

Usually, I have graphic novels, children’s books, and a bit of poetry in my stack but I was unable to get to the library in time. What I have should keep me busy as the books are in a variety of genres from fantasy to dystopian, nonfiction to young adult.

Readathoning along with me is my twelve year-old daughter, Piper. Her stack includes a ton of manga and hopefully Cress for school. The boys may join but I’m not holding my breath.

What books are in your stack?

First Update

I’m up! I’m up! It’s hour one of the readathon and I finally woke up. Piper, on the other hand, has been up for hours reading. Now she’s asleep. Hee hee! I should take a picture of her with her beauty mask on, but I want to live.

Intro Meme

1. We’re reading from Southern California.

2. I love my stack of books so I’m excited about everything I end up reading. I think Piper feels the same way.

3.  The snack I’m looking forward to reading is actually a meal. I’m making red beans and rice for dinner early this morning.  I can’t wait.

4. Telling you something about myself is always hard. I never know what to say. I’m a mother of three lovely kids, my favorite thing to do besides reading is to ride my men’s beach cruiser named Dorothy. She’s red. ;-) Piper is a 12 year-old girl who loves anime, baking, and riding on her roller skates. Her dream is to go to school in Paris to become a pastry chef.

 5.  I  participated in the last readathon. I know to just have fun and keep the pressure low.

Hour 8 Update

Since my last update, I have:

  • read more pages in Cress
  • started making dinner (red beans and rice)
  • took a break to do some cheerleading

Piper has finally woken up and she’s eating lunch.

Oliver (my 10 year-old) has joined the readathon and is currently reading a Lego comic.

Food consumed: Special K, coffee, and some water.

Back to reading.

Sunday Salon on a Monday

Time: // 7:12 pm

The scene: // Sitting in my living room, typing this. Spring break for my sisters and I have started. I still have homeschooling but since spraining my neck (didn’t know that was possible) earlier last week, I’m going to be lying down a lot.

18467818

Just finished reading: // An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. Shannon and I were discussing it a little via Goodreads. I recommend it to Aarti, Ana, Jill, and Jenny.

Now I’m continuing: // a few books I started earlier last week like A Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean (nonfiction) and Cress by Marissa Meyer. I like I’m going to DNF Delancey by Molly Wizenberg for now. It’s an okay book but I’m not pulled in to the writing.

17465709

Next up: // Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Someone (who?) reviewed this book a few months ago and I had to pick it up.

Promoting: // Though I haven’t been blogging a lot lately, I’m still reading everyone’s posts. On the Read-a-thon blog, Andi wrote why Dewey’s read-a-thon is a lot like a choose your own adventure book.

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride was recently nominated for a few awards. Heather at Between the Covers recently wrote a review about the book as hard to read but still impressive.

Now I’m off to: // start my day.

What have you been up? What are you reading?