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.

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 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:

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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

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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.

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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!

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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.

once8jquest1
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.