Monday, April 29, 2013

That Time I Met Ann M Martin & Neil Gaiman

Also known as The Best Weekend Ever!! This is going to be super long and there will be lots of pictures, so be warned! :)

So, on April 19th I found out there was this thing called the Texas Library Association Convention and it was going to be in Ft Worth on the following weekend. Library con, awesome right? Then I found out Ann M Martin was going to be there. And I nearly fell out of my chair. I made it my mission to go and meet her. I figured I could go on Saturday, since the exhibit part was only $20 and hopefully she would be signing that day. (Spoiler: she wasn't) I posted on Facebook how excited I was...evidence:

And then my amazing, wonderful, fabulous coworker told me that our manager was going to be there with a booth for our magazine (for obvious reasons, I'm not going to say which one). She said I should email her because she had taken people in the past to help out. I freaked lol. So I did, she took an agonizingly long time (days) to reply, but it was worth it, because she said I could go on Friday with her! Woo!! Which turned out to be an excellent day, as that was the only day Martin was signing but I could still get in again on Saturday if I wanted to. Then I had to make the tough decision of what books to take to get signed lol. I decided on Kristy's Great Idea and Super Special #1 because those were the beginning of it all. And I know you're all wondering if I took anything to get signed for a giveaway...well, I did. :) More on that soon!

Friday morning, I got on the train to FW (much easier than driving) with my tote bag full of BSC goodness and was on my way. It was a short walk to the convention center, my manager met me with my badge and showed me to our booth and also where the authors would be signing. Here's our view before it actually opened.
Our booth did okay, I think, we had a fair amount of interest. My manager was super awesome about letting me go off and wander around. Ann was signing at 11, so I got in line about 15 minutes early. They were handing out free copies of the first in her newest series, Family Tree, and also Ten Rules for Living with My Sister and the remake of Kristy's Great Idea (which I didn't bother getting). As I am typing this, I took a break to check out Ten Rules and it looks pretty cute. :)

My BSC copies were definitely the most worn (my Super Special is completely falling apart actually) but that just shows how much they were loved, right? Ann noticed and we laughed about it. I was too shy to ask her for a picture, but I did get this (blurry) one of her before she signed mine (and her assistant who was really nice too). And stupidly, I didn't use my regular camera for any of the pics, but my cell phone. Dumb. Did I mention this was my first real book event? Or convention even? And mostly by myself? I've been to a PostSecret event before, but with my sister and other friends and it was very low-key. So this was pretty nerve-racking. But she was super nice and I managed to tell her that I've been rereading the BSC books for my blog and she thought that was great and I am so happy I got to go. And what did I get signed for all my lovely readers, you ask? Well, I got her new one, Family Tree, and BSC #2: Claudia & The Phantom Phone Calls and yes, I will be doing 2 giveaways SOON for those 2 plus some extra goodies! :)
So, after all that excitement I was wandering around looking at all the booths & came across a small sign that said "Ask us for Neil Gaiman signing tickets for Saturday" (or something like that). What??! I knew he was speaking on Saturday, but hadn't heard anything about a signing and wasn't even sure if I would come back Sat. I asked them if they still had any tickets and they said yes and gave me one...I was number 84 out of 100! I was definitely coming back! :) Saturday, I got there around 11:30 (the exhibit hall closed at noon) and picked up a few books super cheap. Here's my haul for the whole weekend: I bought Friends with Boys (which I have started & love), Emiko Superstar (one of the only Minx comics I don't own), and Twins (just cause). The rest were it!

Then I went to get in line for Neil's signing. There were about 15 people ahead of me and half didn't have tickets. :( I felt bad for them, especially the girl who was first in line! (She ended up getting a ticket after all though.) They let us in in groups of 10 and we found out that he would only be signing his ARC of Fortunately, The Milk which is a very cute children's chapter book. I was super sad though, because I had wanted to get one signed for my dad for Father's Day since he was the one who first made me read Sandman and Gaiman's other books. And I had tweeted Neil that morning asking if it would be weird for him to sign my Little Endless Storybook, because I only have the giant Absolute Volumes of Sandman. He said no, not weird. :) But I got over it, obviously. Neil is so funny and gracious and has awesome hair and a great accent and I was so happy to get to meet him. I was even more shy with him though, I know I said thank you, but that's about it. :/ He drew a stegosaurus in everyone's books which was adorable.

I did get my picture with him though! I'm wearing my Harry Potter shirt lol...and yeah, I'm always that red. Pttthhh....Then I got to see his speech, which turned out to be the closing speech for the convention, which I should not have been in as I am not a librarian, which I got into anyway because they had old men and ladies for security hah! And it was wonderful, as I knew it would be. I tried to find video of it, but it doesn't seem to be up yet. I will update later if I find it, but the title was "What the [very bad swear word] is a children's book anyway?" :) And that was my super awesome, fabulous weekend!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Review: "Claudia & The Middle School Mystery: The Baby-Sitters Club #40"

Claudia & The Middle School Mystery: The Baby-Sitters Club #40 by Ann M Martin
3 out of 5 stars

This title doesn't make any sense. Claudia is accused of cheating on a math test, but she knows immediately who the culprit is. There is no mystery. It should be called "Claudia & The Cheater" or "Did Claudia Cheat?" or something. Also, they never do any of her crazier outfits on the covers, so annoying. And now I'm ahead of myself, sorry.

Okay, so the book starts out with Janine the Genius helping Claudia the Dunce with her math homework. And I will admit right now, I couldn't figure out the answer to the problem in my head. It's been way too long since I've had a math class apparently. Claudia has a big test coming up soon and she really needs to get a good grade on it, because her parents have threatened to make her drop the Baby-Sitters Club (foreshadowing) if she doesn't. Janine is being super patient with her and actually helping, but of course Claudia keeps zoning out. She plans out her outfit for the next day, which is one of two(!) What Claudia is Wearing in this book...

Since I had the big test, I thought I'd start with my lucky earrings - the ones that look like Princess Di's. [my sister bought a Princess Di purse on eBay when she was a teenager lol.] They're huge (pretend) emeralds, surrounded by thousands of tiny (phony) diamonds. Then I thought I'd work downward from there, wearing my new green-and-blue-tie-dyed T-shirt dress (the casualness of the dress would be an interesting contrast to those fancy earrings) over green leggings. The only thing I hadn't figured out was the shoes - should I go with my old ballet flats, or the black leather high-tops I'd just gotten? [Spoiler: she picks the flats.]

After Claudia is done studying, she goes up to her room and begins her reminiscing about the club and its members. A few tidbits: Kristy's dad lives in California and she *hardly* ever sees him. As far as I've read, she hasn't spoken to him since she was at least 11. Stacey seems kind of tired and weak still from her diabetes...when are they going to get to her story?? And Jessi is black. In case you didn't know.

Alright, time for Claudia's big math test. She has a minor freak out at first, but then realizes she knows this stuff and flies thru it. After school, she pulls out snacks for the BSC meeting: M&M's & Fritos for the normals and whole-wheat crackers for the healthnuts. No drink for either? They're not going to be able to answer the phone with a mouth full of dry crackers. The next day, she gets her math test back and ZOMG, gets a 94! That's an A-. Honestly, I would have suspected her of cheating too. The teacher calls up Claudia and another girl, Shawna Riverson, after class and has them compare their tests. They are exactly the same, both getting the wrong answers in the same way. Seriously, Shawna, have you never cheated before? You gotta change up some of the answers! (Not that I ever cheated, nope not me, never.)

Shawna immediately defends herself, but Claudia is too dumbstruck to say anything, so of course she looks guilty. Shawna is Miss Popular and Claudia knows it looks bad, so she doesn't really even try to convince the teacher. And later that night, she doesn't try to tell her parents what happened. She lets them hear it from the teacher. Big mistake. That just makes you look like you're trying to cover it up. (Again, I wouldn't know.) Janine, surprisingly, defends Claudia when her parents doubt her, saying Claud is not a cheater. Claudia asks her parents not to get involved, even though she could end up getting an F on the test.

Meanwhile, over at the Pike household (they are the only baby-sitting mentioned in this book, weird) the triplets accidentally break a window playing baseball and refuse to say who did it. They've decided to stick together, which kind of backfires on them when all 3 get grounded and lose their allowances until they confess.

Janine and Claudia are not only getting along for once but are working together to try and figure out Claud's problem. That was really nice to see, since usually all we get is "Janine is a genius and therefore she sucks". The BSC is behind Claudia too, except for Mary Anne. She kind of thinks Claud did cheat and thinks she should just confess. Everyone else goes off on her and she starts crying. Psshh...if you're gonna accuse somebody, have the backbone to stand by it. Dawn has the bright idea to break into Shawna's locker to look for incriminating notes and everyone is all for it, except MA of course. Before they do though, Claudia overhears Shawna and her friends talking in the bathroom bragging all about it and how easy it was to cheat. She did it because she overheard Claud saying that Janine was helping her study, which I'm sorry, would still not make me want to cheat off Claud. Janine helps her all the time, you think it's going to pay off this one time? What if it doesn't? Stupid Shawna.

So Claudia and Dawn decide to check Shawna's locker after school and find a note that says "Congratulations on your A-. Who would have guessed that C.K.'s paper would have so many right answers?" Hah. Claudia takes it but then realizes that she can't show it to anyone without admitting where/how she got it, so she puts it back. Then the BSC decides to try and trick Shawna into confessing, like they did with Cokie Mason (several times). But Shawna is smarter than airhead Cokie and Claudia just ends up looking like a lunatic in math class after getting caught actually reading Shawna's notes.

And the triplets? They're still grounded and getting really sick of it. While Jessi and Mallory are sitting for the kids, they use Pig Latin to try and sneak out of the house. Jessi, master of all languages, catches them and teaches them a new language, Op-Talk. Basically, you spell out the word and add OP to the consonants. Byron's name, for example, is Bop-yop-rop-o-nop lol. Seems difficult to listen to. That keeps them happy for about a week and then they're miserable again. Mal finally has the bright idea to reenact the moment they broke the window and they realize they were all partly to blame and it was mostly an accident. (But really, who breaks a window on purpose?) So the triplets are ungrounded finally and the Pike parents celebrate by taking them for ice cream and a movie. Okay.

Claudia thinks that reenactment thing might work for her and Shawna too, but Janine points out the (many) problems with that. Janine instead decides to help her by going to the school and talking to the principal, because she's like their prize former student and stuff. Claudia says it all doesn't matter anymore and to prove it to herself, decides to dress super wild the next day at school. And then we have the infamous Ms Frizzle outfit...I decided to do a Good vs Bad version of this outfit.

I [Claudia] decided that my theme for the day would be The Sea. I put on a blue skirt with brightly colored tropical fish printed all over it. Then I put on a green blouse. I figured that could represent seaweed or something. I pulled my hair into a ponytail, over to one side, and I pinned it with a sand-dollar barrette I made last summer. I ran to my closet and pulled out a pair of shoes. They're the plastic kind called "jellies" that I had decorated with stickers of seahorses and shells. Was it too much? I shook my head. I looked great. 

Janine convinces the principal and teacher to give Claudia another chance because "Nobody gets away with calling my little sister a cheater." The teacher agrees to let Claudia retake the test in class the next day (duh, why didn't they think of that in the first place?). She ends up getting a 96, 2 points higher, which obviously means she knows the material. When they speak with Shawna and tell her she will have to do the same thing, she freaks out and confesses to everything. She ends up getting the F and suspended for 2 days. The BSC throws a "congrats for not cheating" party for Claud, she gives Janine a collage as a thank you, and her parents give her a cake to say "sorry for thinking you cheated" or something. And The End. :) Whew, this was a long one! I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Thought I'd Like More/Less

Today's Top Ten Tuesday on The Broke & The Bookish is all about popularity and peer pressure. ;) What books lived up to the hype and which ones went splat. For me anyway, you may have had different results, which is totally okay. That's what makes reading awesome, right? Everyone has different tastes. I tried to pick books this week that are more contemporary and recent (so no Steinbeck or Anne of Green Gables lol) and most of these I haven't even reviewed. (Probably won't on the "not so great" category.)

Okay, let's start with 5 books that I thought I would like a lot more or even love...and one that I absolutely hated.
1. Cinder by Marissa Meyer --okay, I did enjoy this one and even gave it 4/5 stars. But, I didn't think it was the super amazing, ZOMG awesome book that everyone else had been saying. My expectations were super high and it just didn't reach them. But I will still be reading the others. :)

2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver --I read all 3 books from this Jan-Apr. The first I really enjoyed, but like Cinder, wasn't blown away. Pandemonium was okay and then Requiem just...pissed me off. (I was going to put a big old rant here, but deleted it.)

3. Looking For Alaska by John Green --as much as John Green's books get hyped by *everyone*, I expect every book I read of his to be incredible. This was enjoyable but not overly.

4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith --with a title like that, you expect something off the charts amazing, right? I didn't *believe* the love connection, maybe if it had been a longer book or switched POV's that would have helped. But the main problem I had with this book was [highlight for spoilers]: the relationship between the girl and her father reminded me too much of my dad after the divorce. :( And that's not something I want to think about. /end spoiler

5. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick --when I realized I do not like books about fallen angels at all and wondered why these books about stalkery, abusive, creepy boyfriends continue to get published. Hated it. Hated the sequel. Hated the 3rd and 4th even though I didn't read them.

Whew, that was hard! This should be easier...5 books that I loved SO MUCH MORE than I thought I would.
6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern --I wasn't too sure about this one, since I had seen so many "love it or hate it" reviews. But I succumbed to peer pressure and I am so glad I did!

7. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han --I bought this book for $2 on the clearance rack at HPB. I'd never heard anything about it...I didn't have high expectations. But I read it late one Saturday night and absolutely loved it. The other 2 in the series are decent reads, but the 1st is the best.

8. Bloodlines by Richelle Mead --I wasn't sure if I would even try this spinoff of Vampire Academy because I really didn't enjoy the last book or two in that series. The 1st Bloodlines was just okay, but Golden Lily and Indigo Spell really took off for me and I can't wait for the future books. I love Adrian. Also [highlight for spoiler]: Baby dragon!! OMG, cutest scene ever! I hope she brings it back. :) /end

9. Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent --I got this at Walmart one day because I *needed* a book and it was 2 1/2 stories in one for fairly cheap and looked semi interesting. Promising beginning, right? Well, turns out it was a really interesting, different story and I loved it. And yes, it does have one of those "girl twirling in a big poofy dress" covers, but ignore that! :) I still need to review Vol 2 arg and can't wait for Vol 3 this fall.

10.Endless Summer/Boys Next Door by Jennifer Echols --also an impulse *need* book, this was my first Echols book. (And if I recall, I wandered around forever at the bookstore that day with my sister trailing along behind and I settled on this book lol.) Such a great story about relationships and that feeling of summer lasting forever. I'm going to eventually do a real review of this one.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: "A Separate Peace" Classic a Month #4.2013

A Separate Peace by John Knowles
3 out of 5 stars

I'd never heard of this book before until it was recommended by several people that I follow. I can't say that I loved it or really connected with it, but it was overall a decent book. My stepbrother is going into the Marines this fall, maybe I should let him read it. He seems like the perfect person for this book...young, male, possibility of going into a war.

So this is a story about a boys' boarding school in New Hampshire, set in the beginning of World War II. Gene is attending the summer session before his senior year, along with his roommate and best friend, Phineas. (That is a great name) Although the two boys are best friends, they seem to have a competition going, at least in Gene's mind they do. Gene is super smart and a decent athlete, but he has to work for it. Phineas is a natural at a lot of things, but just doesn't bother trying most of the time. He is an enigmatic character, always able to make people laugh and feel better about themselves, always able to get out of any scrapes he causes. And he does get into a lot. Gene finds himself dragged along whether he wants to or not, like jumping off a tree limb over the lake. This was the scene of an incident that changed both boys' lives forever.

This book is pretty slow-moving at times. The narrator, Gene, is telling us these things that happened and how he feels, but he seems so removed from the whole story. Maybe if it had jumped from Gene to Phineas' head it would have been more interesting. We're supposed to feel the remorse and guilt seeping out of Gene, but it just isn't there. I honestly felt that Leper, a friend of theirs, was far more interesting and believable as a character. Leper is always on the outskirts of the "cool group" and kind of a quirky individual. He decides to enlist in the army, so that he can choose his own path, but it turns out he is not meant for the army. Leper's story was more heartbreaking, to me, than what happened with Gene & Phineas. I'm not giving spoilers here, because I do think it is worth reading, for the right person. And that may be you. :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sleeping Guys in Libraries...

What's the deal with people coming to the library just to sleep?? I come for the free internet and books lol. And it's almost always older guys; do their wives not let them nap at home? Anyway, I try to get a sneaky pic when I can, because I think it's funny :) so I thought I'd start sharing them with you! Today, we've actually got dueling nappers...maybe y'all can help me choose a winner?

First up is this guy, who fell asleep 2 minutes after finishing his snack cake (he woke up 15 minutes later, ate the 2nd one, and went back to sleep).

And second is this guy, who is snoring like crazy and keeps leaning more and more to the side. I'm inclined to call him the winner, because if he actually falls out of his chair, I'm gonna laugh my butt off. =D (I'll come edit this post if he actually does!)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

TILT: Book Owl Posters

I thought I'd feature some more book posters on today's THINGS I LOVE...and then I realized I hardly ever do owl stuff. For shame. So this TILT is Owl-Centric! :)

(if you do not want your art featured, please contact me!)

Me & My Friends by GreenNest --my friends are super cool hipster owls with glasses and fancy feather patterns. Jealous?

Read More Books by ArtOfThePage --distinguished owl says it, so you'd better listen!

Bookish Owl Too by TheFoxandTheTeacup --look at her bow! So cute!

Herbert the Owl by Maggieshurley --I love when people give things names, saves me the trouble. :) Herbert is very serious, we'd better not disturb him.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Special: Baby-Sitters Club All Grown Up: Dawn!

I know I'm a little behind on my latest installment of the BSC: All Grown Up, since I read the last Super Special back in January. Oops. But Dawn has been a little difficult in coming up with her details, so I was having trouble. Anyway, here she is now: Miss Alternate Officer, long blonde hair, health nut, Dawn Schafer.

(click here for larger view & details)

Dawn, or Sunshine as she was known to most of the commune, returned to California for good at the end of 8th grade (or one of the ends of 8th grade lol). She couldn't stand the cold, dreary East Coast weather anymore. Plus, Mary Anne's hysterics over Tigger's cuteness were getting old. Dawn finished out high school with her best friend Sunny, and loved being back with her dad & brother. She tolerated Carol, the stepmomster, and the new baby. After high school, she decided against going to college, since she really had no ambitions or dreams at all. Instead she worked at the local food co-op and became close friends with Diego, a guy who came in every Saturday for fresh veggies. Diego introduced her to the commune life and, against her dad's protests, she moved in with them at the age of 19.

This wasn't a cult commune, just normal hippies living the natural life. :) Dawn went completely vegan and came up with an all-natural deodorant and soap line that Diego helped her market at the local street fairs. She named her line "Hello, Sunshine" and was mildly successful, much to her mother & Mr Spier's shock. When Dawn got pregnant a year later, Diego asked her to move in with him, but he didn't believe in "shackling himself legally to another human being". Despite that bad omen, the two remained together and have 4 kids total with more being suggested. Luckily, Dawn did not inherit her mother's scatterbrained attitude and remembers to feed her kids every day and keeps them healthy, but otherwise she pretty much lets them run wild on the farm.

She is very relaxed with her parenting (and appearance), which drives Mary Anne absolutely batty when she visits each summer. Mary Anne, being a public school librarian and Richard's daughter, obviously has issues with children being homeschooled and allowed to decide themselves when and what they should learn. (I personally, do not have an issue with this, please don't take that as me saying it!) Mary Anne tries to encourage the kids to go to a "real school" whenever she can, but she's had no luck so far. Although the youngest boy, Free, is showing signs of being interested in different laws like his Uncle Jeff, so it's a start!

If Mary Anne weren't her sister, Dawn probably would have lost touch with her a long time ago. The only other BSCer she speaks to regularly is Claudia, when they have their monthly recipe exchanges over Skype. She just doesn't have the time or energy to deal with Stacey's latest boy-crazy antics or to hear about Kristy's Krusher's winning against Bart's Bashers that one time back in 8th grade again. Dawn is happy being semi-isolated in her own little family. She does have regular dinners with her father and Jeff (who is now a lawyer and happily married) and Carol. Unfortunately, she is no longer friends with Sunny or any of the other We <3 Kids girls. When Sunny's mom finally died after her long battle with cancer, Sunny turned into a completely different, darker person and Dawn couldn't deal with it. The two had a huge blowup when Sunny said she liked a big, juicy hamburger every once in a while and they were never the same after that.

And that is it for another All Grown Up special! I hope you enjoyed this one as much as the others. (Have you read the others? Check out the "All Grown Up" tag if not!) Is this how you picture the girls growing up? I'd love to hear your thoughts! And I have decided it's beyond time for another BSC giveaway, so be on the lookout for that soon. :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Book to Movie Adaptations

Today was a freebie over on The Broke & The Bookish, so I decided to do my Top 10 Book to Movie Adaptations, since I'd never done that one. I limited this to ones where I have both read the book AND seen the movie, but I'm sure I missed some. :)

1. Harry Potter...saw that one coming, didn't you? I'm still working on convincing my sister to read the books with me this summer. The movies are some of her favorites, but she's still missing so much!!

2. Anne of Green Gables (LM Montgomery) I actually did a comparison of this one already, so be sure to check it out. I'm about to start book 4, but I'm not sure where the 2nd movie stops (I know it's more than just the 2nd book) so I haven't watched it yet.

3. Stardust (Neil Gaiman) I adore this movie...the princes, Tristan, Captain Shakespeare, Mr Weasley as the Goat Man, the boy as the girl, it's all just wonderful.

4. The Help (Kathryn Stockett) I thought they did a wonderful job translating the book onto the big screen. It was very true to the story.

5. Princess Bride (William Goldman) this is one where I think the movie is way better than the book. It just translates so much better as a "story within a story". Plus: Fred Savage. :)

6. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) It's been a long, long time since I watched this movie but I know it is as good as the book. I actually just checked it out at the library this weekend and am planning on doing a Book vs Movie for it!

7. Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) have you seen the new trailer for Catching Fire? Of course you have, who am I kidding lol. I can't wait. I've only watched HG once, in the theater, need to watch the DVD soon.

8. Fried Green Tomatoes (Fannie Flagg) one of my favorite movies. My mom made me read this and several others by Flagg as a young teen and I loved them all.

9. In Her Shoes (Jennifer Weiner) I read this book so long ago, I hardly remembered it. My sister loves the movie though (and the book) and we watched it the other day; I was trying to read but got sucked into it lol.

10.The Grinch (Dr Seuss) I love the live Jim Carey version, the baby Grinch makes me squee lol. And Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who? Adorbs.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee"

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J Shields
4 out of 5 stars

It's been a little over a year since I read To Kill a Mockingbird and I have been meaning to read this biography of Harper Lee since then. It was recommended to me by my nonrelated-aunt :) and I'm glad I finally picked it up at the library the other day. Harper Lee is an intensely private person (honestly, before I reread TKAM last year, I didn't know she was still alive) and has refused to do most interviews or even talk about her book since the 70s. So obviously, she did not consent or assist in this biography at all. Taking that into context, I think Shields did a good job of protecting her privacy while still giving us a decent picture of her life and work.

I hadn't realized how much TKAM was based on her own family: Atticus Finch was almost an exact replica of her father, AC Lee, right down to his law degree and penchant for pocket watches. Her mother had a "nervous disorder" and was absent, physically and mentally, much of her childhood so Lee just wrote her out of the story completely. Big brother Jem was there along with next-door neighbor BFF Dill. Only her two sisters were missing from the book, maybe because they were so much older? Seems kind of odd, considering most of her hometown neighbors and friends are in the book as well.

Truman Capote was her real-life only and best friend; I knew next to nothing about him other than his name before this. Now I want to read more about him too. He was a character for sure. "It was the 1930s, the Great Depression [...] children came to school with no shoes [...] Truman in Hawaiian shirts, white duck shorts, blue socks, sandals, and Eton caps from the best department stores in Mobile and Montgomery, he looked, as one teacher expressed it, "like a bird of paradise among a flock of crows." The implied insult to the other children could not be ignored." Lee ended up protecting Capote a lot of the time in their younger years and they grew to be life-long friends. Shields did seem to be overly fixated on Lee and Capote's relationship in regards to Capote's book In Cold Blood though. I enjoyed those chapters greatly, so much that I want to read his book next, but I don't think every little decision that the 2 made was based on the other's approval. I do think it was rotten that Capote did not give Lee credit for her extensive help researching the book though.

It was so interesting to read how Lee got TKAM written and published. She had wonderful friends who supported her (literally) for a year so she could just sit and write, she was incredibly lucky in finding a publisher and agent that loved her and her work. She was not lucky in traffic tickets though, the same cop gave her 2 tickets in one day for jaywalking lol. (Reminded of The New Girl when Nick kept getting tickets!) Lee had no idea how popular TKAM would be, she just didn't want to be completely ripped apart by reviewers. It's incredible how humble she was and is still about a book that won the Pulitzer Prize a year after its publication and created a classic movie as well.

I think that's why people are so frustrated that she never published a second book. She worked on one for ages after TKAM, but it never came together apparently. No one knows why, except a statement from her sister that "just as Nelle was finishing the novel, a burglar broke into her apartment and stole the manuscript." We will just have to be satisfied with one perfect novel from her, I guess.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

TILT: The Night Circus

I'm loving the magical circus theme lately thanks to The Night Circus, so I thought I'd continue it with today's Things I Love! And you may see a special circus themed crafty project from me soon too...if I can manage to make it work. :) What are you loving this week? Has a recent book inspired you in different ways? I want to hear about it!

(if you do not want your craft pictured, please contact me!)

The Night Circus Postcard Pack by LostPlotsShop --the illustrations on these are just lovely. And since I've recently joined Postcrossing again, these would be perfect to send out around the world!

Starry Night Circus Tent Night Light by TheRekindledPage --this is kind of brilliant, y'all. They took the super popular dictionary prints and made their own, awesome twist on it. Oooh, I love the Hot Air Balloons in Paris one too!!

Mini Top Hat by TempleBeautiful --so stinking cute! I wonder if I can pull off miniature top hats...

Reveur Necklace & Earrings by BeadsByTheBook --love the clock charm! Now you can show you're a reveur in the summer time without wearing a bulky red scarf! :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Review: "The Night Circus"

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
5 out of 5 stars

I've seen lots of "love it or hate it" reviews for this book, so I was kind of hesitant to start it. I'm so glad I finally did though. I am absolutely in the "love it" group. Before we get into my reasons though, let's start with the incredibly misleading Goodreads summary, because I think that is a big problem for most people who pick this book up.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

This book is not about the "fierce competition" or the "high stakes". The story spans about 30 years, set in the late 1800s, so this is obviously not a fast-paced book. There's no big climactic battle between the two magicians. The magicians aren't even the main character, in my opinion, and aren't truly fleshed out. If it's possible for an inanimate object to be a main character (and I do believe it is) then I would have to say that would be the circus itself in this story. It may not breathe or walk on its own, but it is definitely a living being. And that is what makes this story so special. The magical wonder of a circus that "arrives without warning" and is open from sundown to sunup and is designed in all black & white. "Le cirque des rêves", the circus of dreams, where anything can happen: from a maze of clouds to an ice garden to a tree of candle wishes. The imagery is just beautiful, so much that I had to create a Pinterest board just for it (may be spoilers). And since I don't have much more to say in this actual review, I'm going to share some of the pretties with you here! :)

First up, the official book trailer...although I much prefer this fanmade one by Zozomagod. That one may have some spoilers, so be warned if you haven't read it yet.

This perfectly illustrates the relationship between the two main characters and the magic of their meeting. "The Illusionist & The Assistant" by Smileys-4-Eva on DeviantART.

Poppet & Widget, two of my favorite characters. I believe this is by The-More-I-Arty on Tumblr, but if I am mistaken, please let me know! I also adore this one by *Pinkie-Perfect on DeviantART, but only click it if you have read the book already! (Minor details spoiled)

And I'm going to stop there, but leave you with this quote that I think sums up the book and my experience with it perfectly:

Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. [...] Do not forget that... there are many kinds of magic, after all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Pre-Blogging Faves

I've only been blogging since January 2011, so this week's Top Ten Tuesday should have been relatively easy. But I decided to make it harder on myself and do pre-Goodreads too, which was Jan 2008. And then...I made it too difficult. I couldn't remember very many lol. So I went to my pictures, where I found this one of my bookshelf from 2004, which was a few months before my sister & I moved into our apt together. And that helped quite a bit, but some of these might be in general terms (if I can't remember details) or maybe not quite my favorites, but ones I just wanted to highlight. Yeah, that sounds right. ;)

(go here to view it extra large in all its messy glory!)

1. Why Girls Are Weird by Pamela Ribbon --I remember having a "this is me" moment while reading this book. Like I felt connected to the author.

2. Stone Garden by Molly Moynahan --this is obviously a little-known book, because Goodreads doesn't even have the cover I have listed. I think I might still have this one. I know it made me cry.

3. Jane Green & Marian Keyes --I was waaaay into Pink Books (chicklit generally had pink covers for a long time, so my dad coined them "Pink Books") for a long time. I still have all of these two authors, along with Sophie Kinsella, but I haven't read any of them in a loooong time. I gave extra bonus points if the book was set in England.

4. The Cheerleader by Jill McCorkle --I was assigned this book in a psychology class in college. The girl is super popular and successful in high school and then goes off to college and everything falls apart. I can see now why the teacher assigned it, but at the time, I was like "OMG how did she know??!". I read several more of her books too and remember liking them. Maybe I should pick one up again...

5. House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski --the best book I never finished lol. Seriously, this book is so big and confusing, it's kind of like 1Q84. I read it for like 3 years and would think I was totally getting it and was completely astounded and then I'd read one of those odd footnotes and I'd just have to give up and beat my head against the wall for a while. If you've read it, you will understand. If you haven't, don't pick it up. Yeah, it's that odd.

6. Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford --my mom gave me her paperback copy to read when I was a teenager. What do you think she was trying to say? Lol...I don't care if it was "fake" or not, it's still a crazy good story.

7. Anita Shreve --I was very into those tear-jerker stories for awhile. I devoured all of her books.

8. A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer --this was another one for a pysch class (I took about 4 different ones). The whole series is very interesting and I felt very "grown-up" reading these. Like I had moved beyond those silly Pink Books and was super intellectual now lol.

9. Bad Boys To Go by Lori Foster & Others --haha just kidding, not intellectual at all! :) There are several of these "Bad Boys" compilations and they were always good for a quick, dirty read. I actually want to find some again soon for our cruise next year. :)

10.Dean Koontz & Mary Higgins Clark --I looooved both of these authors for so long, it seems funny that I never, ever read them anymore. I still have a few of Koontz's, including the first 4 Odd Thomas (I haven't read #4 yet though and really, there are 6 now??!). They are both so good at writing truly disturbing books.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

TILT: Bookends #2

I thought I'd revisit bookends for today's Things I Love Thursday, because I've found several cute ones lately and uh, because I couldn't think of anything else lol.

(please contact me if you do not want your work featured)

Skeleton Keys at Homegoods --I saw these on Pinterest first and loooooved them because I am obsessed with skeleton keys and then my sister & I were at Homegoods looking for a birthday present and I saw them there! I may have squee'd ;) But alas, I did not have any extra money to buy them and they'll probably be gone next time we go in. Curse you, Homegoods, and your revolving door of merchandise!!

A Book's Heart by BeautyOfHeart --I love the cascading effect on these. They would be fun to make yourself too. I would probably shellac them or something to make them stiff and more sturdy.

Mermaids on LuxeYard --sold out right now, but you could probably make a similar version yourself with some thrift store finds. Epbot has a wonderful tutorial on how to paint that aged, under-the-sea look yourself.

Eiffel Towers by RedLovesGreen --my sister would love these in her room, if she had some books! ;)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: "Kitchen"

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
5 out of 5 stars

I'm not sure where I heard of this book (I need to start tracking that), but I know it came highly recommended and had been on my to-buy list for a while when I finally found it one day at HPB. And I'll admit, the thing I liked the most about the book at first was the title and author. I dare you to say "Banana Yoshimoto" and not smile. But hey, if that's what got me to read the book, then I'm okay with it! The book itself is pleasing's the perfect sized paperback to slip in your purse or bag, slightly floppy, with an inside flap front & back, and the uneven pages that make the edges feely.

This was truly a magical little book. I actually went back after I finished it and underlined all my favorite parts and phrases that jumped out at me. I haven't done that since The Book Thief. It's split into two different stories, "Kitchen" and "Moonlight Shadow", but both have similar themes of young people dealing with grief and finding hope in small, seemingly insignificant things. "Kitchen" is about twice as long and my favorite of the two.

Mikage is a young, Japanese woman in her early twenties (maybe mid) and has just lost her last living relative, her grandmother. She doesn't know what to do with herself and can only find comfort in the kitchen, "the place [she] like[s] best in this world...". She has even taken to sleeping in the kitchen at night, lulled to sleep by the humming refrigerator. When Yuichi (I pronounced it Yoochee in my head, don't know if that's right), a young friend of her grandmother's, shows up and asks Mikage to come stay with him and his mother, she agrees.

Yuichi's mother, Eriko, was probably my favorite character. "--the whole of her gave off a marvelous light that seemed to vibrate with life force. She didn't look human. I had never seen anyone like her. There was a warm light, like her afterimage, softly glowing in my heart." Eriko gathers Mikage up into their lives and makes her feel human again. Even with all the hardship Eriko has faced (and there is a lot), she is still an incredible human being. You might think that this is just a fluffy little story, but it's not. There is another moment of loss (not going to spoil it, so don't even try!) around the middle of the story and you begin to feel that loss acutely with the characters. But the hope that Yoshimoto is able to convey thru words is amazing. This is a book I would turn to in the future (way, way in the future I hope) when I have experienced a great loss and do not know how to move on.

As I grow older, much older, I will experience many things, and I will hit rock bottom again and again. Again and again I will suffer; again and again I will get back on my feet. I will not be defeated. I won't let my spirit be destroyed.

So where does the kitchen come in, you ask? Well, besides loving the room, Mikage decides to learn how to cook and begins a scientific study almost of the culinary arts. "The sensation that my brain cells were multiplying was exhilarating." Have you ever had that feeling? I think I get it sometimes while reading...To Kill a Mockingbird gave me that feeling and Cannery Row. I felt it when I came up with the idea for the Anne of Green Gables tote bag I made for a friend, but that was the first time in a very long time I'd felt it while crafting. Which makes me sad. I used to be a Crafter, capital C. Now I just craft, occasionally. Mikage wants to Cook and she finds that she is good at it, excellent almost. And this new talent helps her to move forward and on. "Over and over, we begin again."

"Moonlight Shadow" is a bit darker story and slightly supernatural, but still deals with that lung-crushing, mind-numbing, can't move your legs, feeling of despair and loss. The hope is still there though. "It's all right, it's all right, the day will come when you'll pull out of this." This is a story of how people come to terms with that loss and pull themselves along, whether it's by running for miles every morning or wearing your girlfriend's school uniform (as a male) or believing in miracles.

I hope I've managed to convey the wonder and magic of this little book. I checked out another of her books at the library, Asleep, and I'm really looking forward to seeing if it's as good.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Book Boyfriends

Mmm....boys. :) Today's Top Ten Tuesday is sure to be a yummy one over on The Broke & The Bookish, so let's get started! These are my book boyfriends, in no particular order. Oh wait! To start us off, how about some real life hot guys reading books?? Woo! (Unfortunately, they no longer update but still lots of pages to go thru.)

1. Adrian Ivashkov of Vampire Academy & Bloodlines. I know lots and lots of people will pick Dimitri, but as I've said before, I am Team Adrian all the way.

2. Ron Weasley of Harry Potter. I wouldn't pick Harry because he's all "damaged" and stuff lol. But Ron still has that slight "bad boy, adventurous" edge to him, plus he's funny and cute and has a great family. Wouldn't you love to be included in the Weasley family??

3. Gilbert Blythe of Anne of Green Gables. Seriously. He waits for YEARS for Anne to forgive him one silly mistake and realize she loves him. Ugh, Anne don't be so stoopid!! Speaking of, I've finished books 2 and 3 and should have reviews up for those this week hopefully. :)

4. Etienne St Clair and/or Cricket Bell of course, I had to include the wonderful Stephanie Perkins' boys! And if you don't know why they're included, well 1. For shame!! and 2. Get thyself to a bookstore stat!! :)

5. Joe Fontaine of The Sky is EverywhereJoe with the mega-watt smile, the lovely eyelashes, the vivacity for life.

6. Shane of Morganville Vampires. I really love Shane, but his last book left me a little scared of where his story is going. Of course, I'm 3 books behind, so maybe that's all been sorted out by now lol.

7. Charlie Shepherd in Talk Nerdy to Me. He's hot, super smart, kind of a nerd, likes to build stuff, rides a motorcycle, and wears leather chaps. Yeah. 

8. Percy Jackson. He's a cool kid, just an average teen thrown into an above-average world. Plus, he's son of Poseidon, so hey! Beach vacations! Lol...

9. Kyle from Beastly. Falling in love with someone for who they are, not what they look like. The ultimate test.

10.Adam in If I Stay & Where She Went. Another one that I know will be on everyone's list :) so I don't need to say why.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: "Bad News Ballet Series #1-2"

4 out of 5 stars

I went to a book fair for my 2 youngest sisters' school district recently and walked out with a plastic bag full of old-school goodies. And I must confess: I haven't put them up on my shelf yet, they're still in the bag on the floor. :( But look at the goodies! I never find any Sweet Valley books at HPB so I snatched up all that I could find there. Plus I got several for giveaways woot. But the ones I was most excited about were these ballet books. When I saw the cover for the first one, I immediately said "Oh my gosh! I remember these!!" I had completely forgotten about them, so it was a pleasant surprise. Have you ever had a book moment like that? You pick one up and the cover triggers a memory and you can remember everything about that moment when you first read it? Yeah, that was me lol.

Anyway, they had a couple but I only picked up the first 2 because I wasn't sure how good they would be. Now I'm wishing I had gotten the rest though, especially when I found out there were only 10. Boo. (I found the list of books on this blog called CliqueyPizza and if you are a child of the 80s, you should go check it out! Lots of trips down memory lane, like this other series I'd forgotten about, Camp Sunnyside Friends!) I also found out they were rereleased in the 90s (not successfully, obviously) under the name Scrambled Legs, which ugh, does not work at all.

Okay, so how are the books themselves? Well, the first is the best probably. (I'd say out of the whole series, even though I haven't read the rest.) The late 80s was a time when they were churning out middle grade series left and right (kind of like dystopian trilogies now!) and some of them worked (ahem, BSC) and some didn't. This was one of the average, middle-of-the-road ones and it's probably a good thing it didn't last too long. Following the formula of the time, this is a series about a specific activity, ballet, a group of friends (usually girls, usually 10-12 years), and their trials and tribulations.

"McGee, Gwen, Mary Bubnik, Zan, and Rocky are five misfit ballerinas." I'm not sure why they call Mary Bubnik by her full name all the time. So, these 5 girls don't really have anything in common, except they were all forced to join a ballet class by overbearing parents. They band together in class when a group of snotty "bunheads" makes fun of them. None of the girls are quitters, so they decide to stick it out, even when they get cast as the rats in the Nutcracker. Lots of hilarity ensues as the girls deal with new steps, ugly costumes, and mean girls. And of course, in the end, they are successful in their performance and the best of friends.

The second book, Battle of the Bunheads, continues to follow the girls at ballet school where they have to deal with their arch-nemesis Courtney Clay and her Bunhead followers. The best part of this story for me though was the side story of Gwen, the chubby redhead, being forced by her mother to buy a bra. "Brassiere. The ugliest, most embarrassing word in the entire English language and Gwen's mother had just said it out loud." Ah, the very special episode of the 80s lol. Remember when Punky Brewster had to ask Henry to get one? They don't really do that special very often anymore, do they? The rest of the girls decide to help Gwen out and go with her to buy one, because that's way less embarrassing than going with your mother. I really liked Gwen's reason for not wanting one though:

"It meant she would have to become a whole different person. First she would have to wear a bra. Then she would get taller. Pretty soon she'd be wearing high heals and nylons and having her hair done once a week, just like her mother. She'd never be able to be just a kid again."

When the girls go to the department store, poor Gwen drags them all over the place, making them hide in the purses, not letting them get off on the "unmentionables" floor when a man gets in the elevator with them, and finally just freaks out when they actually make it to the "foundation garments". It's pretty hilarious. (Again, Punky & Henry in the dept store hah! About 4 min in)  But these 5 girls stick together and they help each other out, even if that means wearing an uncomfortable support garment. ;)