Life, misc.

Why I Vote


Why I Vote is a blogging event hosted by Colleen at Chasing Ray.

Why do I vote? I vote because it’s never been a question. Growing up, my parents voted. They would watch the news and talk about the issues with each other and their friends. I turned 18 right before the 2000 presidential election. I knew I had to vote and I did.

I vote because it wasn’t so long ago that African Americans and women weren’t allowed to. Our voting history is short. I can’t turn my back on the sacrifices made so I, and many others, can have this right.

I vote to have my voice heard. I want government officials to know exactly how I feel about the state of education, civil rights, health care, and everything else I can think of.

I vote because it matters.

Why do you vote?


Tuesday Morning Book News

There’s something about our society that has everything feeling rushed. Before Halloween arrived, stores were already putting out Christmas things. If I wanted to, I could have picked up costumes for the kids and a few Christmas ornaments. It seems like we can’t celebrate one holiday without thinking about the next one.

But I was still surprised to see “best of 2011” lists being released. Why so early? Is it to ensure that readers buy the books featured on the lists now instead of in December as Xmas presents? As an avid reader and blogger, I’m definitely curious about these lists so I’ve started reading them and adding more books to my tbr list. I don’t often buy books so the most that’s going to happen for me is that I’ll check them out from the library.

  • Publisher’s Weekly Best of 2011 list I’m not impressed with PW’s top 10 but I did find a few books to add to my reading list including Leche by R. Zamora Linmark and Love and Rocket #4 by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez.

  • Amazon just released their Best of 2011 list this morning.  Comparing Amazon’s list with PW’s is almost like comparing oranges and apples. While there are very few books I added to my reading list from PW and fewer more that I heard of, looking over Amazon’s list I found plenty that I heard of and wanted to read. I also saw a few of my favorite reads so far this year.

    As everyone knows, this is the start of the book awards season. I love following along and making notes on what to read. Last week the finalists for Books for a Better Life Award were announced. I love this award because there’s always a lot of interesting nominees and the award focuses on self-improvement. A few that I noticed were bloggers’ favorites like Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer and The Long Good-bye by Meghan O’Rourke.

    So that’s it. How do you feel about best of 2011 lists being released now? Are you going to join the Hurston read-along? 

    misc., quote

    Small Wonder

    Photo by OregonDOT

    The land still provides our genesis, however we might like to forget that our food comes from dank, muddy Earth, that the oxygen in our lungs was recently inside a leaf, and that every newspaper or book we may pick up is made from the hearts of trees that died for the sake of our imagined lives. What you hold in your hands right now, beneath these words, is consecrated air and time and sunlight.

    -Barbara Kingsolver, from  the essay collection, Small Wonder

    misc., Uncategorized, Videos

    Ted Talks: Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight

    I have no idea who recommended this video on their blog this morning but thank you for doing so. Years ago neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor had a massive stroke and experienced her brain shutting down. Usually when I think of strokes, I think of all the people I know who didn’t recover fully from one. It took Taylor eight years to fully recover and it’s a pretty inspiring story about how we see ourselves and where we fit in this vast universe.

    Vodpod videos no longer available.

    Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight, posted with vodpod


    Giveaway Winners and 25 for 25

    Winner of the 4-pack of ARCs is H at Raging Bibliomania!

    Winner of the Sisters Brothers ARC and poster is Anastasia!


    Right now Unbridled Books along with the American Book Association and Indiebound are doing something amazing. For the next two days 25 books from the Unbridled Books backlist will be on sale for only 25 cents. That’s right. Just a quarter.  These are ebooks and you can only buy them through indie booksellers to get them.  Here’s a link to the list of participating indie bookstores along with more information, including which books are on sale. Happy shopping!

    children's books, Middle Grade, misc.

    A Very Short Post

    The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente is a book that’s been receiving a lot of positive buzz lately. It’s in my tbr pile and on my daughter’s summer reading list. I’ve read a little of the book so far, and the imagery is just so beautiful and different like the golem made of lye or the three witches who can see the future.

    I don’t watch many book trailers but when I saw this one, I thought it was excellent. I know there’s going to be more songs to go with this book and I can’t wait to listen to the rest of them. Have you read this book yet? If you haven’t, any plans to read it?

    misc., Uncategorized

    Back in Business

    Just Watching by NJ (Creative Commons)

    It’s so good to be back and blogging! I’ve missed you guys. I hope everyone had a great time during BBAW. I see that a few bloggers are getting ready for Banned Books Week in the United States, which starts September 25th and ends October 2nd.

    As you know, I’ve been sick. It felt so crazy to recover from bronchitis only to get sick with the flu. At one point, I would lose my voice for a few hours and get it back. It’s really strange but I feel much better. Though I’ve missed a lot of class, I didn’t miss too much that I had to drop. Woo-hoo!

    I’ve been gone two weeks and there’s so much that I need to catch up on. Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my last post. It made me feel better mentally that people were sending me “get well” wishes. I plan on replying on everyone’s posts and see what you all have been up to. I’ve done a ton of reading while I’ve been away and I can’t wait to share my thoughts.

    The sun is shining here in Southern California, so I wanted to ask: Any plans for the weekend? What are you currently reading?

    Note: I just love that picture of the bench and wanted to share it with you.


    September is. . .

    Did you know that September is Library Card Sign-Up Month?

    I signed up for my first library card when I was thirteen. Since then no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve always made getting my library card a priority. As a mother I’ve made signing up for a library card a special occasion. My kids and my sisters didn’t receive their first cards until they were able to write their names. It wasn’t a rule of the library but a rule I had, to help share my love of libraries and show my children how important these kinds of public institutions are.

    I don’t know where I would be right now without books and libraries. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t devoured The Baby-Sitters Club series as a girl or the year I read every book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Who would I be if, as a child, I hadn’t been allowed to ignore life so I could sit and read as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted?

    Here’s how special libraries are according to OCLC’s 2003 report, Libraries: How They Stack Up

    • U.S. libraries circulate over 1.9 billion items a year
    • One out of every six people worldwide is a registered library user
    • Between 2001-2002 there were more than 1.1 billion library visits

    Isn’t that cool? As a blogger, the library has helped me get my hands on the latest books without me spending a dime. The library has also helped me indulge in my obsessions from cultures to religion, writing to education.

    If you’re not a library user there are other ways of supporting libraries in your area such as becoming a Friend of the Library, donating your unwanted books that are in good condition, and even volunteering.

    So are you a library user? Do you have a library card? Why or why not?


    Blogging Break

    Right now with so much going on in my life I need to take a blogging break. It’s the end of the spring semester and I have so many projects due within the next week, that I need to focus on school and family right now. I’ll be back on Sunday with a giveaway of children’s books but other than that, I’ll only be online to check email and reply to comments.

    When I come back next Thursday I should be more relaxed, mostly free from school obligations, and will hopefully have reviews of some of the great books on my shelves.

    Until then, take care.


    Seven things About Me as a Reader

    sevenI’ve been subscribing to Bookmarks magazine for almost a year now. A couple of days ago I explored their website and found in their forum a discussion entitled The Seven Things About You As a Reader. It made me think: what are seven things unknown about my reading life?

    1. I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to short story collections and anthologies from writers like Lauren Groff, Zadie Smith, Donald Ray Pollock, and Amy Hempel. Most I have never read. All are brand new. This is why I’m on a book-buying ban.

    2. I was the slowest reader in my kindergarten class. The summer after I was determined to become a better reader. My father was unemployed at the time so he took care of my little brother and I. That summer I put my little desk next to the back door and stayed there in my father’s way all summer. He taught me to read by answering every question I had on sounds and words. I am forever indebted to him for that summer alone.

    3. I didn’t own a library card until I was almost thirteen. Before then my mother would just buy me books from the thrift store she worked at. We couldn’t afford the books and she still bought them without hesitating. I owe my mom just as much as I owe my dad.

    4. In the eighth grade I received an award for reading a thousand books that school year. Instead of going to the award assembly where I was told I received a standing ovation, I went to get my hair done for the eighth grade prom. I received the worst hair cut ever. Not going to the assembly is one of the biggest regrets in my life.

    5. I dislike hardcover books. I rather have a paperback that won’t weigh down my backpack or purse. Paperbacks are easy to bend and I don’t have to worry about the dust jacket. Besides paperbacks are cheaper.

    6. I was the only reader in my family until I started having kids.

    7. I go through reading obsessions. Some of my obsessions  have included Pulitzer prize-winning plays, homeschooling, fantasy books, children’s books, and authors like Judy  Blume, Ann M. Martin, and John Steinbeck. Sometimes the obsession lasts a month while  other times it lasts for several months. My current obsession is to get the ton of books I checked out from the library read and returned on time.

    What are seven things about you as a reader?


    Love makes the world go round

    premio-darioI know it’s a cliche but I had to say it. I’ve been given three awards by three great bloggers. Yvonne at Socrates’s Book Reviews gave me the Premio Darios award. The award acknowledges

    “the the values that every blogger shows in his or her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.”

    Then Molly surprised me with the Zombie Chicken award. zombie-chicken

    “The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all…”

    I’m giving this award to:

    Wendy at Caribou’s Mom

    Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot

    Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on

    Gavin at Page247

    Claire at Kiss A Cloud

    On top of that Aerin the Great gave me the Proximidade Award. For this award

    This blog invests and believes in the PROXIMITY – nearness in space, time and relationships. These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in prizes or self-aggrandizement! Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers! Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this clever-written text into the body of their award.

    J. Kaye





    Thank you guys so much for thinking of me and giving me these great awards.


    Sick Week

    The past seven days have been very chaotic. Hours after coming home from school last Tuesday, I became very tired and went to sleep early, hoping that all I needed was some rest. Wrong! I ended up with a fever of 104 and unable to go to the doctor because I was too sick to get myself there. Soon everyone in the Vasillis household was sick. From Grandma to the baby, all of us except my oldest were coughing, feverish, miserable lumps.
    Today is the first day I felt okay. Everyone else has felt better for days but every time I thought I was getting better I would later end up exhausted and in bed again. I couldn’t even read while I was sick which is a first in my life. I want to thank everyone for their get-well wishes. I really appreciate it.

    February Update
    February turned out to be a horrible month for reading. I read a total of nine books:

    1. Fables Vol. 1: Legends in Exile – Bill Willingham
    2. Fables Vol. 6: Arabian Nights – Bill Willingham
    3. The Poet Slave of Cuba – Margarita Engle
    4. Daphne’s Book – Mary Downing Hahn
    5. Ziggy’s Blue-Ribbon Day – Claudia Mills
    6. Chicken Feathers – Joy Crowley
    7. Potato Joe – Keith Baker
    8. A Couple of Boys have the Best Week Ever – Marla Frazee
    9. A Child’s Day – Ida Pearle

    I enjoyed every book but I can’t believe that I only read two adult reads. Let’s hope March will be a better reading month. Now I’m off to sleep. I’m exhausted still.

    meme., misc.

    Ten Things That Start with "F"

    It’s my turn! The lovely Cornflower gave me the letter “F” weeks ago. Surprising enough it took me less than ten minutes to come up with my ten.

    French Vanilla Ice Cream. It’s plain but tastes great with a waffle bowl.

    French Vanilla CoffeeMate in my coffee. I’ve tried other flavors, but vanilla is the one for me.

    Feist. Listening to her puts me in the best mood.

    First, Body: stories by Melanie Rae Thon. I read this haunting collection of short stories many years ago and have not been able to get it out of my mind since. I have only one book left of Thon’s to read.

    Fridays. Not because there’s no school for me, but because it’s one of the few days I get my mother to myself for a couple of hours.

    Family. That’s not cheating. Their last name starts with “F” also.

    Fables series by Bill Willingham. This series is so addictive.

    Fresh Flowers. I try to buy fresh flowers just once a month. Even if I’m broke, I know I can buy some baby breath for two or three bucks.

    Four weddings and a Funeral. I just love great movies.

    Folgers Coffee. I’m a zombie until I get this stuff into my system.

    misc., reviews

    A book for journal writers

    How to be an explorer of the world (2008)
    Keri Smith
    208 pages

    When I was eleven years old my mother gave me a diary to write my thoughts in. It was small, white, and one of those diaries you’re supposed to write in every day. I remember being in sixth grade and writing in that small book often about crushes, school, and family life. I don’t know what made my mother give me a diary but I’m glad she did.

    Since then I’ve kept diaries. Over the years those diaries have changed in size, shape, and purpose. Currently I write in large sketchbooks that can handle glue, paint, different kinds of pens, and whatever else I feel like using. My journal is more than just an account of my everyday life; it’s a commonplace book filled with quotes, prayers, collages, blog entries, book reviews, lists, pictures, newspaper clippings, recipes. . . I’ve always thought of my journal as a field guide to my life. You can pick up any of the many journals I have and know who I was at that time.

    So you can imagine my excitement when I found out about Keri Smith’s latest book, How to Be An Explorer of the World. Keri, if you don’t know, is the genius behind Wreck this Journal, a book that is suppose to help readers start or finish their journals with creative prompts. I bought How to be an explorer and decided to test it out. The goal of the book is to get you to notice your surroundings, savor the moment, and to focus on who you are.

    Two of my favorite prompts were to describe in detail my favorite street and the library exploration prompt:

    Choose a subject, theme, or item. Go to a library. Conduct research on your chosen item. Collect as many different materials as you can to display later, such as sketches, notes, drawings, and photos. . .

    My problem with the book is that I didn’t realize it’s for beginners. A lot of the prompts are great but are things I’ve done many times before like the consumer prompt which asks for you to keep track of all the things you consume for a week. It’s a great prompt for someone who hasn’t used it before. Overall it’s a great read and perfect for anyone who wishes to start journaling.


    Happy Thanksgiving!

    This year has been a pretty challenging one with me going back to college and learning through experience how to balance school, kids, and free time for myself. Right now as I look around, I see only blessings.

    I am so thankful for my family who supports me as I deal with homework, tests, and late-night studying.

    I am thankful for finally having the opportunity to go back to school.

    For every book I get my hands on.

    The four walls around us and the roof above our heads. There are so many who don’t have that.

    For decent health.

    Our love for each other.

    Now it’s time to go back to cooking. How are you spending Thanksgiving and what are you thankful for?


    For the love of books

    “The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undefering about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic.” -Alan Bennett, The Uncommon Reader