Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Storytime with Venessa: Video Review of The Trouble With Tink

This episode of Storytime With Venessa features a video review of The Trouble With Tink, part of the Disney Fairies series of books! Take it away, Venessa!

Additional thoughts about this book from a parent’s point of view: This was a fun book. It's a cute story of Tink losing her hammer and too afraid to tell anyone and the trouble she got into for keeping it secret. There was even an appearance from Peter Pan which was fun and Tink still doesn't like “The Wendy". However, this is one of those tongue-tied books that make it difficult to read aloud at times. You try reading “fast-flying-talent fairy” or “pots-and-pans-talent fairy” fives times fast! Or have them all clustered in one sentence!

Now we're off to read The Emerald Atlas together!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hello, My name is Sarah and I’m a Book Hoarder

Last year my husband, Steve, surprised me with a Sony Reader. I’d been debating with myself whether to get one or not and he took it upon himself to decide for me. And I’m so glad he did! It’s wonderful!

I had known of Project Gutenberg for a while and knew of all the free ebooks available. But while I can spend hours wasting time on the internet I can not read long and involved stories on a computer. Thank goodness for the ereader! I immediately loaded it up with all the classics as soon as I could. Now, take a guess what the first thing I read on the ereader… actually, forget it, you’ll never guess because it was a surprising choice even to me. It was The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Why that one? So I could conquer nations, of course.

This weekend the reader was in need of some recharging… and some new additions!

The Alchemist by Ben Jonson
I saw a recommendation for this in a comment on some blog I can not track down. Darn you internet and your nearly untraceable web of link sharing!

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lewis Wallace
Lew Wallace was governor of New Mexico Territory from 1878 to 1881. He was mentioned in To Hell on a Fast Horse, a book I recently read, for having tried to make some sort of deal with Billy The Kid over the Lincoln County War. It’s also the book Anne Shirley got in trouble for reading in class.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
One of those classics to read to Venessa.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
This was a recommendation when looking up Lost Horizon on Amazon and it sounded interesting. I immediately went to Project Gutenberg to see if it could be downloaded for free and there it was!

Le Mort d’Arthur: Volume 1 by Sir Thomas Malory
I liked the title and I have some interest in the Arthur legend.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Recommendation from another book blog, Vintage Pop Fictions.

The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West
This was recently added to Project Gutenberg and featured on their index page. I also did some research on Rebecca West and what an interesting woman!

But just because I have the ereader doesn’t mean I’ve forsaken real books. Not all books have been digitized yet... and of course I get distracted by pretty book covers. So this weekend I picked up these three books:

Watership Down by Richard Adams
I gave this one a try a few years ago and didn’t get very far. I thought I’d give it another go. Besides, a vintage copy in great condition for twenty five cents at a church rummage sale, who would pass that up?!

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
This was another recommendation from my friend Caz. I read half of Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson but had issues with a character and stopped reading. I want to give him another try with a different story. Also, he has a new book coming out so if I like Snow Crash then I’d like to read Reamde. I bought this one at Loud Voice Books. It reminded me of my favorite bookstore in Clearlake, Wild About Books; small, quiet, cozy with new and used books mixed together on the shelves. I’ll be back for sure.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
So Venessa and I went to the library to return some books and DVDs. I intended to just get more books for Venessa, for her 15 minutes of reading she has to do for homework each day. Yes, I'm weak. I picked up Imaginary Girls. So sue me!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Movie Madness and What’s New on the Shelf!

I would have posted this on Monday, but a certain little girl wanted everyone to see her first video review...

Anyways, over the weekend I saw Fright Night! Yes, it was awesome. Two words: Colin Farrell. Even better, the vampires DIDN’T SPARKLE. Oh no, they were scary and bad and oh, David Tennant was awesome with his dueling diva sidekick. There were laughs, there was plenty to jump and cringe at and I saw one of the best uses of a Century 21 sign on a vampire! You go Toni Collette! Mom’s rule and vampires drool! The best part was seeing the movie with friends who were not afraid to enjoy the movie and laugh, jump and talk about the movie afterwards while wandering around the mall window shopping.

It was nice to get out and see a movie. Lately I haven’t been watching very many. Sad indeed because Tombstone had been sitting on top of the TV for almost 2 WEEKS! Horrible, I know, it’s an awesome movie! Believe me, after watching Fright Night and re-catching the movie-watching-bug I corrected that asap! And now I need to see the original Fright Night.

But that did not keep me from adding more books to the shelf. Oh no, because I got my library card finally! Here’s what I picked up for myself:

A book I heard about during the opening of some No Reservations episode. It’s supposed to be about finding Shangri-La or something.

I think enough time has passed to finish up this series. I was super excited because a kind librarian got “the key” to a locked room to get this for me. I’m about half way through it now and, well... it’s kinda getting on my nerves... anyways, you’ll find out when I review it.

And these came in the mail on Monday from Amazon:

I’d been seeing this book all over Amazon so it had been on the back of my mind. Then one day in Barnes and Nobles I happened to flip it open and saw the prettiest inside cover I’ve seen in a book so far.

I’d seen this one on a couple of blogs I visit and the cover art caught my eye. This will be the next book Venessa and I read together (We finished the The Trouble With Tink. Video review next week!). There’s a character named Emma who, after reading the back of the book, I know I will like.

If you happen across The Map of Time or The Emerald Atlas at a bookstore, stop and pick them up just to get a feel for them. The covers are so lovely and, hopefully I’m not setting myself up for disappointment, they feel magical. And they’re so shiny!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Storytime With Venessa: Video Review of The Boxcar Children

This episode of Storytime With Venessa features a video review of The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner! Take it away, Venessa!

Additional thoughts about this book from a parent’s point of view: I really liked it. For a while I've grown weary of reading picture books. I think we've read through them several times now and, well, most of them are not written to be read aloud, and you would think they would be!

So I decided to sit with Venessa each evening to read chapter books. She’s getting older and I think we’re ready to tackle some more advanced reading for her age group. The Boxcar Children was a good book to start with. It was such a wonderful book to read aloud. No tongue tied sentences that didn't sound right and it was very easy to read with expression and give personality to the characters. Venessa and I both approve of this book very much and hope other parents will read it aloud with their own kids.

Now off reading "The Trouble With Tink" together!

P.S. Happy first day of 2nd grade, Venessa!

New On The Shelf: Oil, Blood, Hell, Pretty, Leaves

What do these words have in common? They are all part of titles that are New On The Shelf!

There are perks living in a State Capital and a college town: Excellent book selections at the local Goodwill!

Here's a run down of treasures I found:

I read David Sedaris’ Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and loved it so I’m sure I’ll like Me Talk Pretty One Day, especially after reading this!

I’ve wanted to read this since watching the movie so this book has been on my mind for a very long time. Imagine my excitement when I saw it on the shelf at Goodwill!

Look at this cover! Reason enough to pick up this book!

I’m not big on movie tie in covers but fortunately it’s not as bad as some like this, this and this. Give a starving artist more creative freedom then slapping actors on the covers!

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie didn’t make the cut. But I know where you are, Satanic Verses, and with a title like that, who could resist waiting much longer to add you to the shelf?

But that’s not all! My friend Caz lent me House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. He said it’s a weird trippy book and flipping through it I’ve never encountered a book like this so I’m excited to read it.

Now, what to read...?

Monday, August 15, 2011

To Be Borrowed: Divergent

After the whirlwind that was Catching Fire, I needed a book to take it easy with and Divergent by Veronica Roth seemed to be the one. I didn't feel like I had to rush through it. It was written at a pace I could sit back, relax and enjoy the journey of Beatrice (who ends up changing her name to Tris).

The book is about a dystopian society in Chicago separated into five different factions, each with their own values. It wasn't a roller coaster book like Catching Fire but it was still engaging. As I read, I visualized it in a similar style to M. Night Shyamalan's, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable; very mellow and low key.

There were a couple of intense moments as Tris learned to navigate the waters of her new faction. However, near the end the narrative just got sloppy and confusing. A certain character was conveniently somewhere so he could be found and saved by Tris. Then after some very traumatizing events she's making out with her boyfriend in front of her brother! Oh, and there was the running across the "unyielding ground" (pg. 483) that really bugged me. Okay, yes, the ground is usually unyielding unless there's an earthquake or you're trying to escape a volcano. But considering there were no natural disasters or bombs going off, it's safe to assume the ground is unyielding without having to tell me. From that point on the book lost me and whatever I liked about it in the beginning was forgotten as I read what was a failed action/adventure ending. I finished this book on Thursday and since then, my frustration has grown as I've thought about it over the last few days.

I think the problem for me was reading three young adult books in a row about dystopian societies. I have nothing against YA books. My three woobie books are young adult novels. But there is a big difference in style (and substance) between Divergent and, for example, The Dark Is Rising, where the latter appeals to me more. Oh well, it started out well but lost me in the end. This is the first book of a planned trilogy. Will I read the next two books? Yeah, if I remember.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Woobie Books

At some point you may have had a woobie. It could have been a stuffed animal or a dingy blanket that was nearly eaten by "Jaws".

I have one. I didn't acquire it until I was married but it's my woobie. It’s a beautiful quilt Steve's grandmother made for us. In California, I would wrap up in it on chilly Winter evenings watching a good movie or reading a good book. I don't get to snuggle with my quilt so much in Florida but it's still my woobie.

And it’s not just my quilt that’s my woobie; I also have books that are my woobie. They are my favorite books that I can just wrap myself up with and feel comfortable and secure as I read. It's a book I can open at any page and start reading, knowing what has happened and what will happen next and still feel the rush of excitement while I read the adventure. I still care about these characters and events. They feel like old friends.

I had a big stack of books I thought were my Woobie Books. They were books I've read more than once and will read again; books that I really really love. But as I started to think about it more, it wasn't just about how many times I've read these books. It was how I really felt about them and how they have affected me. So the stack shrank until it became just these three books:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper
Redwall by Brian Jacques

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the one book I went to get at midnight. I was a late bloomer when it came to Pottermania. I didn’t start reading the books until after the third movie. I loved the third movie so much, and my sister had already told me so much of the story, I decided that I should see for myself what all the fuss was about. By that time, there were six books released so I only experienced the excitement of waiting for the last book and it’s this one that has become my favorite.

The Dark Is Rising. I read this one because of the movie and as we all know, most movie adaptations of books are not all that great. So I had to read the book first so I could say, “Hey, that’s now how it goes in the book!” while I watch the movie. It's a YA novel but written in a more mature style compared to most that have been written recently. And it's about a boy who is very solemn and mature for his age. His family looks upon him as an "old soul". He feels very genuine and real despite being the last of the Old Ones, a group of immortals who protect humanity from The Dark.

Redwall is the book I've known the longest. I discovered it in my Jr. High library and the cover called to me. I've read it at least three or four times since and I still think about Matthias and his fight to rid Redwall of Cluny the Scourge. “Tell the devil Cluny sent you, Skullface!” After reading that line I was hooked.

These books are a bit dark and ruthless. But they also portray themes of loyalty, honor and friendship that I love. These heroes really can’t get along without a little help from their friends. They may feel alone at times but they're not.

Am I too old for these books? Maybe. Do I care? No. Will I give up my woobies? Hell, no! I love them and I will always go back to read them and one day, Venessa and I will read them together. And as I read more and more, I hope to discover more woobies!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Storytime With Venessa: Battle Of Storytime

ME: Venessa, let’s read The Graveyard Book next.

VENESSA: No, it looks scary.

ME: No, it’s fine. Neil Gaiman is awesome. He’s the genius of Sandman, Anansi Boys, I liked American Gods and he was brilliant with Terry Pratchett in Good Omens!

VENESSA: No, it looks scary.

ME: You like Coraline and he wrote that too!

VENESSA: No, it looks scary.

ME: What are you taking about?! Look, let me read the back cover to you...

Nobody Owens, known as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a graveyard, being raised by ghosts, with a guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor the dead. There are adventures in the graveyard for a boy – an ancient Indigo Man, a gateway to the abandoned city of ghouls, the strange and terrible Sleer. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, he will be in danger from the man Jack – who has already killed Bod’s family…

Well, anyways, you’re no fun! How about we read The Boxcar Children?


ME: Now, when I was little, I read The Boxcar Children, it was one of my fav…

VENESSA: Just read it already!

ME: Okay, okay…!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

To Be Read: Catching Fire

It’s just a book, I had to tell myself. IT’S JUST A BOOK. This is not much of a review of Catching Fire. It’s more about my reaction to this book:

Catching Fire is like The Empire Strikes Back of trilogies! (Please note I said “like”. Nothing can achieve the awesomeness that is ESB!)

I found myself much more engaged with the characters this time. Maybe because I had gotten to know them and I loved reading about the after affects of the Hunger Games. But oh my goodness, I found myself on the edge of my seat! At one point I had to stop to collect myself! This book had me worked up just like when I finished reading the events of a certain wedding feast in A Storm of Swords, where I started out as mildly annoyed, that then turned into anger, which then produced a raging lunatic babbling about George R. R. Martin being a bastard but unable to stop reading!

Seriously, I had to get up for Kleenex and half an hour later there was still a lump in my throat. I was hesitant to continue reading Catching Fire because of my reaction but I REALLY needed to know what was going to happen next. I finished the book in a day and a half.

It’s just a book, these characters are not real, Panem does not exist BUT OH MY GOODNESS I NEED TO FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS IN MOCKINGJAY NOW!!!

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system I am forcing myself to wait to read Mockingjay. I need to be a sane, functioning person for a bit.

Monday, August 1, 2011

To Be Read: The Hunger Games

I wrote earlier I was hesitant about reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It has the same idea of Battle Royale and The Running Man: futuristic society, games used to entertain/exert government control, yada yada yada…

The Hunger Games takes place in what was once known as North America, in the nation of Panem. Panem is separated into districts, each one specializing in a certain industry that basically supports the Capitol, where the government of Panem is located. Every year each district must send a tribute, one boy and girl, between the ages of twelve and eighteen, to the Hunger Games, where they will be thrown into an arena to battle to the death until one emerges as the victor. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, is only sixteen and has been struggling to survive in District 12, being the sole provider of her family. When it’s time for District 12 to send their Tributes, it’s Katniss’ little sister who has been chosen but Katniss volunteers to go in her place.

I’ve only see the movie versions of Battle Royale and The Running Man, and it’s been years since I’ve seen them. I don’t know if I can watch Battle Royale again. The scene with the girls who turn on each other still haunts me. While The Hunger Games describes how some of the children – who have been forced to participate in the games – were killed, it is quite graphic but it didn’t really hit me. It is a YA novel, written in a certain style that didn’t make me cringe compared to the type of cringing I did while reading the first three books of A Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R.R. Martin. Although, it was written from the point of view of Katniss, and it could be that she herself had shut herself off in order to survive the Hunger Games.

The book is definitely a page turner though. I got through it in a week and I recommend it. Oh, just a warning, the names are horrible and don’t work well when read aloud. As a book it did its job; I was entertained. Though being entertained by the death of children may not be something I should be admitting…