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Preview: Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic

Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic



A place to review and chat about books, my favorite subject!



Last Build Date: Wed, 08 Nov 2017 13:16:04 +0000

 



Under Construction.....a New Blog for a New Year!!!

Wed, 02 Jan 2013 13:43:00 +0000



It's been way too long.    I've missed blogging, and I've decided I need to get back.   Just to stay in touch.   No more joining a hundred challenges I will never finish.   No more worrying about "stats".   No more worrying about who is getting more views.    No more worrying about getting ARC's because I don't have the traffic.   Nope.  

I'm going back to the basics.   The purity of blogging just to spend time doing it.   Posting reviews of books that I want to read.   Talking about things I like to talk about.   No more of the bullshit that drove me away in the first place.   Well....that and the time.   Between working 2 jobs and going to school, the last semester was crazy.   But I'm taking the spring semester off.   For my own sanity's sake (and my bank account), I'm focusing on work and the kids.   I can't afford tuition and my mortgage at the moment.   Sad face.    But I will finish eventually.   I haven't sweated blood the last 3 semesters for nothing.  

So....I'm working on a re-vamp for this old blog.    Not sure what I will do....trust me, it won't be anything fancy.   But look for me in the weeks to come.   Happy 2013!!!

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Sunday Salon - Children's Lit

Mon, 30 Jan 2012 17:17:00 +0000

A day late and a dollar short....but since I started this on Sunday, we are just going to go with that!  Wow!  Two Posts in ONE WEEK!   The world must be coming to an end!   I just wanted to thank you for all your comments this week.   It means alot to know that as busy as I am, you are all still here to fall back on whenever I need something!   Truly awesome!This last semester I took a Children's Lit class.   In the span of the class we had to choose 40 books to read and essentially write "Book Reports" about each one.  I know it sounds like a lot, and it was.  We were supposed to choose books that fit the age level of the children we would eventually be teaching.   Since I am looking to secondary education (probably Jr. High or freshman level), my books were a bit longer than someone wanting to teach Kindergarten.  I spent a lot of time on this class, but found some amazing books!  We had Categories of Books to read, and had to choose accordingly.    Newbery Awards, Caldecott Awards, Picture Books, Modern Fantasy, Traditional Literature, Poety, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Informational, Biographies, and Multi-cultural Literature.   The books below are the best of the ones that I read.   The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was kind of a cheat for me.   I read it before.  BUT I loved it so much I wanted to read it again!!   The adventures of Nobody Owens is one of the best books I've ever read.    It fit both Newbery and Modern Fantasy. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by  Jacqueline Kelly was a Newbery Honor book in 2010 and it was wonderful.   The year is 1899, and Callie was the lone girl in a large family of boys.   She was smart and eager to learn, especially sciences.   Unfortunately, the only Science she was able to learn was the Science of Housewifery.   Her grandfather, a "fellow scientist" takes her under his wing and opens up new worlds for her.  The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron won the Newbery Award in 2007 and totally deserved it.   Lucky was a little girl that lived in Hard Pan, California (Pop. 47)  Her mother died, her father left, and she was living with her guardian, Bridgette.   She learned about "Higher Powers" by eavesdropping on the twelve-step Anonomous groups.   This book is her journey to find her higher power.  Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples is a wonderful book.  It is the story of two women alone in wartorn Afghanistan.   When the Taliban come to take Najmah's father and brother she steps up to help her mother.   But when a bomb drops on her family's hut, she finds herself all alone.   Nusrat is an American woman living in Afghanistan.   She is patiently waiting for her husband, a doctor, to return from the war zone.  She spends her days teaching refugee children in her little school, under her Persimmon Tree. The Lion and the Mouse is a Caldecott Winner in 2010.   It is an adaption of Aesop's fable about the lion and the mouse.  But the beautiful artwork by Jerry Pinkney makes this a perfect book for young children. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the Caldecott in 2008.    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I would love to take the girls.  The story of Hugo, a little boy that lives within the walls of a Paris train station is beautiful.   To survive alone, Hugo has to steal.   When he meets Isabelle, a rather odd, bookish girl, he finally finds a friend.   But when he sees the key on a chain around her neck, he just knows it will fit the automaton that his father was working on before he died in a fire.   This story is amazing and if you haven't read it, I highly suggest you do! The Absolutely True Diary of [...]



Another Post? My Pledge to do Better.

Tue, 24 Jan 2012 17:47:00 +0000

Good Morning!!  The sun is shining and the snow is melting.   Makes for a beautiful day!   I've been so out-of-the-loop for so long now, I'm not even sure I can make it back.  But I figured, "What the hell.  Gotta Try, right?"   So....here I am with the 1st post of 2012. Lately I've been trying to decide what to do with this blog.   Since I haven't regularly posted in over a year, I have been contemplating just shutting it down.   But that seems so sad.  I started this blog oh, so many years ago and it would be too hard to shut it off completely.   Do I just post once every blue moon?   I don't like that idea either.   In a perfect world, I would get my baby back up and running just like the "old" days.   However, I'm not sure that is reasonable.  My life went from busy to just plain out-of-control when I started back to school.    I very rarely have any time for just me.   Unfortunately, me-time IS blogging time.   When I'm not at school, I'm doing homework.  Or helping a kid with homework.   Or trying to keep my house from being marked for demolition.   Or playing chauffeur.    Or grocery shopping.   Or working.   And this list goes on......But if I am honest, I MISS my blog.   I miss interacting with all of you...if there is anyone out there that actually checks this blog anymore.  I miss talking about books.   I miss reading other blogs.   I miss signing up for reading challenges I never even come close to finishing.   I miss finding out about new books from people that I trust and respect.   I miss....THIS. So, I hereby pledge to do a better job at managing my time.   With that pledge, I also plan on keeping this blog going.   Even without posting more than a handful of posts last year, I STILL get bombarded with review requests.   I will probably take it easy on the ARC's for a bit.   I just need to read more for pleasure.   This will be hard, but I really plan on doing it.  I get cranky when I don't get a chance to read!  With a wonderful Christmas and birthday already behind me, I have some new toys to play around with.   Thanks to a wonderful family (and this includes my in-laws), I now have a great new laptop to take with me to school....and let me stay connected almost anywhere!  AND I also got a Nook!  I swore up and down I would never have one.  But the girls picked it out for my birthday, and the family got it for me.   So, I HAD to give it a try.  Truth be told, I really like it.  The amazing B&N gift card from my brother came in handy and I have already downloaded some great  books to my library.   Since it's a Nook Color, I'm able to connect to the Net and maybe keep up better that way too.   Hopefully. I'm hopeful I will do better this year.  I don't make resolutions on New Year's cause I never follow thru with them.   But this pledge is different.   It's something I need to do to keep my sanity, so follow thru is a must for me.   I'm even looking into self-hosting...finally.   A blog redesign is definitely in the works, though I may not get to it till summer break.  This semester is already going to be tough enough.   One week of classes down, and I am already struggling.   Had to have a Lab Science class, so I'm taking Chemistry. Yuk.   Exceptional Learners (Intro to Special Ed).  Modern Humanities.  Modern Western Civ (for my History Minor) and Masterpieces of Classic Lit.    The Lit class is an honors class and is going to be tough.  Had a writing assignment on the first day (though I did get an A) and the reading list is HUGE and TOUGH.   Starting with Homer's Odyssey.    And I'm trying to get in about 5 shifts a week, so my time is going to be limited.  BUT I WILL DO IT THIS TIME.   Looking [...]



Where Does the Time go.....

Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:05:00 +0000

I ask myself that question constantly. For a number of reasons. At the end of each day I try to figure out where all my time went. I feel like I'm constantly behind....in just about everything! Of course, I'm pretty sure it's mostly my fault. I've stretched myself so thin, you can barely see me sometimes!! I'm taking 18 hours of class this semester. Yes, I know. What was I thinking?? Well....I was thinking that as much as I love being a college student, I REALLY need to finish this degree and get myself back out into the world of the steady paycheck again. Money is TIGHT right now. Seriously tight, and I struggle with it on a daily basis. Mike's year is coming up quickly at FedEx, and we are hoping for full-time for him soon. We are also even looking at relocation. Memphis and San Diego are both huge FedEx depots, and there are always jobs coming open. But the girls are so against it, it's hard to even bring the topic up when they are around. I understand their frustrations....I really do. They have friends and school here, in the only home they've ever known. But economically speaking, Illinois is ranked at the bottom for jobs and at the top in families that are considered poverty level. A new start for all of us would be welcomed by Mike & I, but it would have to come with a serious paycheck for us to really consider it. Back to time....it is so fleeting these days. I'm working more hours than I have in a long time on top of my class schedule. And yet, I am making less than I did last year. But I keep put on that uniform and trying to make it work. Then there is the chauffeur aspect of my life. Each kid is completely immersed in activities, and I need a spreadsheet to keep up!! Ana made the travel softball team, and is in soccer. Practices and games seem to happen almost every day. If I had one child that would be great. But then there is Bella. She has taken to Jr. High like a fish to water. She shook off her disappointment of not making the school's softball team, and starting joining. She joined the speech team (which isn't really speech if you ask me. It was called Literary when I was in school). Being in band, she is now in concert band, mixed choir, and Show choir. Ah....she also tried out and MADE the school basketball team!! I am super proud of her, but she has practice for something everyday. Sometimes before school at 7. Sometimes after school....and can be there as late as 7. Pile on the homework, and she is as busy as I am.Chad just got his learner's permit, and is ALWAYS bugging me to go driving. He decided he was going to focus more on school this year and didn't go out for football. However, he is joining the wrestling team again this year, and they are already starting workouts. Oh...and the girls! That boy has more would-be girlfriends than anyone I know!! They are constantly calling or texting or coming over. Sheesh. He just goes with the flow....he's going to Homecoming with his best friend, Carly. I just don't think he actually wanted to choose a date! Time....I should be cleaning my house right now. Or doing laundry. Or grocery shopping. My house is close to being designated a hazard. And yet, here I sit. Another thing to put off. I have a paper due on The Crucible tomorrow. As well as my first set of Reading Cards for Child's Lit, a Humanities test on the Modern Assault.....and a group research project on the ancient Greek Playwright, Aeschylus. And that is just what I have due for tomorrow!! Time.....I wish I had more to read for fun, though I have 40 books I have to read for Child's Lit!! Of course, some of those are actually picture books, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds at first. For the Newbery selections I just reread The Graveyard Book (always a favorite of mine), The Higher Power of Lucky, Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (EXCELLENT!), Holes, and I'm trying to finish Tal[...]



Alas, Summer is Almost Over......

Sun, 14 Aug 2011 15:14:00 +0000

and still, I haven't been able to post! It seems that not blogging has left this big hole in my life. And yet, there seems to always be something that is taking my time away. I always thought not working full-time would mean I had MORE time to blog. Just doesn't seem to be the case. Ever since we moved the kids back to our house full-time, I have been non-stop on the go. When Mike and I both worked 3rd shift, the kids spent a majority of nights with my in-laws. It was the only thing we could do. They were too young to be alone at night. I missed them like crazy, even though I saw them every day. It just wasn't enough. Losing my job was hard, but not being with my kids was harder. It seems we are closer than ever. All that time apart really helped build some special bonds with those little rats....who are not so little anymore. Although sometimes I feel more like a chauffeur than a mom, I count my blessings every day. So....what has been going on since I have been away?? Here, it's more of the same. The summer was spent attending numerous softball practices/games. Both girls played, only this year it was 2 separate teams. Both girls also spent 2 weeks at Kid's College. What an amazing experience for them!! They were both enrolled in a class called "Broadway Bound". Their instructor was a really talented lady. At then end of the session, the class put on a vaudeville style show with singing, dancing, poetry and skits. It was really good. Bella also took an art class. She loves art, and they did some sculpting, Batik and sketching. Ana, the little scholar, took a Chinese Language & Culture class. As the youngest there, she was still tops in her class. She wanted to learn a foreign language, and has now started with Mandarin Chinese. She's scary sometimes. Me? Other than running them around all summer, I worked at the restaurant. I was going to take a class, but figured I needed the summer to decompress. Last semester was hard, being my first one back. I ended up on the Dean's List with a 3.8 GPA though. So I must have done something right! Fall semester starts in a week, so I'm working almost every day until then. Books aren't cheap folks! Damn. I'm in the hole almost $600 for the Fall's books. Financial aid is a strange thing too. As financially strapped as I am, I don't qualify for any type of aid yet. It's my last semester at the Junior College before I transfer. Since I already have a bachelor's degree, I have too many credit hours to qualify for aid. And that includes student loans too. Which sucks. I'm hoping once I'm enrolled at ISU, that will change. It has too, otherwise, I don't think there is any way I can finish without help. After taking to the registrar's office at ISU, I'm hopeful though. My class load is even bigger this fall. 6 classes: Children's Lit, Shakespeare, Educational Technology, Education Psychology, Nature of Theater (need that extra Fine Arts Credit), and Early Western Civ (for my History minor). I wrangled my schedule to only have classes Tues/Thursday this time, so I will have more time to work (and study of course!) The kids are as excited to get back to school as I am. Chad will be a sophomore this year. I already got the letter about his "Behind the Wheel" Class. Driver's Ed!!!! I can NOT believe my baby is going to be driving. I'm still a little nauseous about it! Bella starts Jr. High this year. She got her schedule last week and it's packed full. Only 1 study hall on Friday afternoon! All the other free time goes to band, chorus and mixed chorus. Ana will be in 4th. She is almost as tall I am now!! Time has a way of speeding up the older you get. I may be a college student, but I feel so old sometimes. Especially when I look at my kids. It seems like just yesterday they were all in diapers. Now, I have one that is going to be driving soon! Reading?? How I done any? This has been a good summer for books. I haven't really been blown away by anything lately, but I have r[...]



The Lady of Shallot

Thu, 24 Mar 2011 14:31:00 +0000

I have to be honest. I'm not a huge fan of poetry. Never have been. Sometimes, it just seems like too much work for the benefits. And I feel stupid reading poetry. Words that don't make any sense....why wasn't my time?Then I read Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot...and everything changed. Since The Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge started, I thought this would be a good time to talk about it. I mean, this is a Fantasy poem about Camelot, Sir Lancelot, and an evil curse?? Sounds like it fits the OUaT bill to a tee!Originally written in 1833, The Lady of Shallot has been depicted in many paintings (a few pictures I've added here), song, and verse. It is an incredibly beautiful poem, and if you haven't read it, DO IT. Take the word of someone that really dislikes poetry. It's worth the time. Fair maiden cursed forever to never be able to see the world, except through a mirror, spends her time weaving a magical web. Until she sees the beautiful knight, Sir Lancelot....and risks the curse to glance at him. Unfortunately for her, she can't escape the curse, even for Lancelot. It's actually incredibly sad to think that she risked everything for love....a love that was never returned. In fact, Lancelot never even had a chance to meet the Lady of Shallot."There she weaves by night and dayA magic web with color gayShe has heard a whisper say,A curse is on her if she stay to look down on Camelot.She knows not what the curse may be,And so she weaveth steadily,And little other care hath, sheThe Lady of Shallot."Then she sees Lancelot:"His broad clear bow in sunlight glowed;On burnished hooves his war horse trode,From underneath his helmet flowedHis coal-black curls as on he rode, as he rode down to Camelot.From the bank and from the riverHe flashed into the crystal mirror"Tirra Lirra", by the riverSang Sir Lancelot.She left her web, she left the loom,She made Three paces through the room,She saw the water lily bloomShe saw the helmet and the plume, She looked down to Camelot.Out flew the web and floated wide,The mirror cracked from side to side,"The Curse is come upon me," cried, The Lady of Shallot."Arthurian literature has always been something that has intrigued me. And after reading this wonderful poem, I know that I have to read more. This lovely poem made me cry the first time I read it. It brought on deep emotions, and I can see how it has stirred many an artist. The last picture, I found on the internet is a Steam-punk Version/rendition of The Lady of Shallot. So Cool. And if you have a few minutes, please listen to the Lorenna McKinnet video I posted at the end. She adapted this poem to music, and it is truly beautiful. It makes my heart ache. title="YouTube video player" height="390" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Vw_cZGrVFqw" frameborder="0" width="640">[...]



Once Upon a Time....Again

Wed, 23 Mar 2011 03:17:00 +0000

Every once in a while you stumble across something out there in the great big blogosphere that changes you. Sometimes this something is little, like a new book that will take your breath away. Sometimes, it's less tangible, like a feeling that you get when you read a post that fires up your sensibilities. And sometimes, it's meeting a new person that you have so much in common with, it's like you've known them all your life. For me, when I stumbled across The First Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge, all of these things happened. This challenge literally changed my life. I had just begun blogging, and Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings hosted the first challenge. The month before I had read American Gods by Neil Gaiman....a book that literally did take my breath away. A few people had commented on my review, Carl being one of them. He told me about this challenge and suggested some more books that I might like. In that moment, one little comment literally changed the way I read forever. A relatively new reader of fantasy, I had little experience with authors in the genre. Hell, I had little experience with the genre as a whole. But once I joined the challenge, I found a whole new world out there. And in that world were people that definitely knew their way around. Those people acted as guides to me, showing me books and authors that I would grow to love. Short stories that excited me. And graphic novels that would rock my world. For this I am forever in your debt. Carl, Chris, Nymeth, Debi, and Kailana....you guys have led me down a path that has taken me to worlds and places I will never forget. And for that I thank all of you!! Your friendship and reading guideance has meant the world to me. So....with my blogging "break" (if you can call it that) officially over, I find it incredibly ironic that it coincides with the Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge V! There is NO WAY I would miss this challenge, even though I will be finishing up my first semester back! I can't guarantee that I will be able to complete the challenge. But that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I do read some books, write some reviews, and follow along with everyone else. I definitely plan on trying to do the Short Story Challenge. And the movie Challenge. When the dust clears and the challenge is over, we will just see how far I make this year. I'm just happy to be back and be able to add my name to the little Mr. Linky....and hopefully transport myself to a few new worlds this year. I don't have an exact list. And since money is EXTREMELY tight, I probably won't be able to buy anything new. But I have some books on my shelf that will definitely fit the bill....and maybe I'll even take a few out of the library to fill in the gaps. My reading list, while not complete, may include a few of the following: Stories: All New Tales Edited by Neil GaimanThe Eyre Affair by Jasper FfordeA Hat Full of Sky by Terry PratchettDead Witch Walking by Kim HarrisonThe Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson Book 3) by Rick RiordanThe Maze Runner by James DashnerMatched by Ally CondieThe Replacement by Brenna YovanoffThe Eternal Ones by Kristin MillerGraveminder by Melissa MarrBone Doll's Twin by Lynn FlewellingA Game of Thrones by George R. R. MartinDaughter of the Blood by Anne BishopThe Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott LynchMistborn by Brandon SandersonHis Magesty's Dragon by Naomi NovikThe Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine HoweSnow White and Rose Red by Patricia WredeBeauty by Robin McKinleyThe Goose Girl by Shannon HaleDreams Underfoot by Charles de LintFrom a Whisper to a Scream by Charles de LintAnd these are just the books I have on my shelves. I will do my best to pick a few good ones. Any suggestions?? Once again, I just want to thank Carl. You might not realize how important you are to the blogging community. But you are. And I, for one, appreciate all the effort you put into your chal[...]



Spring Break

Sat, 19 Mar 2011 13:54:00 +0000

Well, I knew going back to school was going to be hard. I just didn't realize HOW hard!! When I had classes before, I found the time to squeeze in a social life as well as studies. But now I have 3 kids, a husband, a part-time job and a household to run. It might have been a bit naive to think that I could handle 15 hours of class as well. BUT, I can honestly say I have never been happier! I may be sleep deprived and a bit mentally unstable some days, but I am doing well. Midterm grades are in and I'm carry 3 A's and 2 B's. I spent 13 years at Cat, locked in a cubicle and working for "the man". I loathed going to work. Especially the last 7 years. That is way too long to hate what you are doing. The Red Cross started out well. I liked the idea of working for an organization that helped people. Problem was, said organization was even more political than Cat. Who would have thought? And when push came to shove, being smarter and more educated than your supervisor is NOT a good thing. Some people just can't get over it. I know that sounds kind of arrogant. Not something I would generally say. But it was true, and when I tried to put in for a job that was a higher salary grade than my manager (even though it was in a different division), it was made pretty clear that I should learn my place. Unfortunately, that kind of thing doesn't fly with me....and I'm pretty sure it was the main reason for untimely layoff. Of course, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me a chance to reevaluate where I was heading. It got me back to school. In a place where I am most comfortable. In higher learning. Sitting in a room with others, learning new concepts and ideas....discussing literature and history. Learning teaching techniques and child psychology. THIS is where I was meant to be. Even though the market for teachers is horrible right now (and Mike thinks I'm making a huge mistake), this is where I need to be. I'm happy. I enjoy getting out of bed in the morning and going off to class. I figure if I can't stay a student all my life, then I can become a teacher and spend the rest of my days in a classroom. Hopefully, it will all work out. A few of the drawbacks include a lot of travel time (with gas prices going up this sucks) and a severe tightening of the budget. My lack of full-time income is going to be a tough one for awhile. I'm still working part time, but as anyone in retail or restaurants know, business is SLOW. It's been really hard trying to make ends meet, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon. I am going to do my best to finish as quickly as I can, but if push comes to shove and I have to get a full-time job again, I'm still going to finish. I have to do this for me. I'm going to do one more semester at the JC, before I transfer to ISU. It's closer and cheaper. I even have my classes picked out for next semester.....including Intro to Special Ed, Humanities, Sociology, Educational Psych, and Sexism in History. Once finished, I will transfer to ISU to get a degree in Secondary Education (I will have at least an endorsement in English, if not a degree....although lately, I have been contemplating History as well). One day at a time...... I have done a lot of reading lately, although mostly for class. In the last couple of months, I have finished Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, tons of short stories, Beautiful Creatures, Wither, Infinite Days, Nightshade, The Sea of Monsters, a re-read of The Hunger Games, and Full Dark, No Stars. I just got some books from William Morrow that look amazing....and I'm going to start dropping some reviews. It's time I got back into the reason I started blogging in the first place. Don't give up on me yet. I'll find the time. Spring Break has come and almost gone. I have spent most of it cleaning. My house was a disaster, and although not completely done, it's st[...]



Sunday Salon - The Longest Week Ever

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 21:40:00 +0000

OK....well, I know I said I was coming back to blogging. I meant it too. And I still plan on being back full-time, posting at least 3 or 4 times a week. But the past week has been amazingly full, and I haven't had a free minute!! First of all, I have to thank each and every one of you. Not only did you restore my faith in blogging, but you welcomed me back open arms. THAT is the part of blogging that I have SO missed. What I didn't miss was the stress of posting a certain amount of times a week. Worrying about "stats", and whether my blog is "good enough" for certain publishers. Feeling pressured to read a book that I really had no desire to pick up. Feeling like I had to review all of the numerous book review requests that I received. But what all of you told me, and what I finally realized is this: That stuff doesn't really matter. I started my blog oh-so-many-years-ago for me. I wanted an outlet for all my creative juices, and a place to record the books I read. I was never a 1000-hit a day blog. I don't have millions of followers, and not the one that publishers immediately think of when choosing the Best Blogs. BUT I think I have carved myself a nice little niche, with a few followers, some really good friends and, hopefully, some great discussion about one of my favorite topics: books. And that makes me happy. The funny thing is, even when I didn't even post for over 9 months, I still received tons of review requests. In my possession I have a least a full tote (if not two) of books that I received during my "sabbatical". I'm looking forward to getting back to reading and reviewing and blogging. I can't wait to catch up on all your blogs...and maybe even join a reading challenge of two. It's time...and I'm finally ready. Of course, I alluded to the fact that this was a busy week. That is an understatement in the biggest way. Mike started working...which is great and wonderful...and he LOVES it. BUT, he has to get up between 2 and 3 am. And it never fails that I end up getting up too. His alarm wakes me, and I usually see him off. Then I try to get at least a couple more hours of sleep. I'm an incurable insomniac, so there are days when I just can't get back to sleep. Either way, I have to be up by 6 to shower before the kids get up. Chad has to be at the high school by 7:45. Band days, Belle has to be at school by 8. And Ana needs to be there by 8:45. The hours from 6 to 9 are just crazy trying to get everyone up, dressed, fed and ready. Classes started this week, and I can honestly say I absolutely love them!! 4 classes and 1 online class. I'm so looking forward to getting into all of them. And for all of you readers, we are starting with the Romantics in Brit Lit. Poetry, so far by William Blake and Charlotte Smith. And listen to this: a huge project for this class includes creating a blog and doing a "salon" for a British Author!! I'm pretty sure I can handle that one!! I may be posting here on this blog, and am open to any suggestions you all have. I was thinking about Oscar Wilde or Thomas Hardy.....but would love to hear what you guys suggest!! Frankenstein is my required reading this week in Lit111: The Short Story and The Novel. In fact, I actually picked this section BECAUSE of the reading list! The texts includes a book called Fiction 50, which is a collection of short stories by authors such as Agatha Christie, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Alice Walker and Joyce Carol Oates. The other required reading is Frankenstein, The Haunting of Hill House, Dracula, Jane Eyre, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Eyre Affair. Of course, getting back into the hang of studying has been a bit difficult. The last time I was studying this many classes at a time, I wasn't married. D[...]



OMG! Yes, I am STILL ALIVE!!

Mon, 10 Jan 2011 03:14:00 +0000

Holy Shit. I honestly didn't realize how long it had been since I posted till I logged on today. For the last few months, I've contemplated a return to blogging....but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I don't know why. I took a much needed break. But when it was time to come back, I just froze. What if all my friends were gone?? What if I didn't have anything to say anymore? What if no one came back to read what I did have to say?? I just couldn't take the rejection. Things in my life have changed immensely. So many changes, in fact, I don't know where to begin. First of all, my blog is in need of a change. A much needed face lift for starters. But I figure I should start with baby steps. So I'm starting with a post. The summer brought on a change in our family dynamics. When Mike and I were both working 3rds, the kids spent time with Mike's parents. In fact, they spent more time with them than they did with us. At the time, it was good for us. The kids were taken care of, and we worked. And slept. But losing my job...and Mike getting laid off changed all that. Then a huge blow-up between Mike and his parents occured at summer's end.....and mentions of that little word custody thrown out there, and suddenly, it didn't work so well. In fact, it wasn't working at all. In August, the kids cleared all of their stuff from my in-laws and now they are in our house full-time. In fact, we don't actually speak to the in-laws any more. I thought around Christmas, we were going to patch things up, at least for the kids. But some words can never be taken back. I don't think there is enough forgiveness in the world for our families to ever come together again. And as sad as it sounds, I can live with that too. My family and I have mended many fences in the last year. In fact, this was the first time in years that we spent the entire holiday together....and it was wonderful. I've missed them terribly. Although we had some issues in the past, my parents are so much more loving and forgiving than Mike's. They accept us for who we are, and that means the world to me. Next bit of news....Mike got a job!! Not a full-time position. Yet. But awfully close. He just started as a material handler with FedEx. Even though it's only part-time, he has the most incredibly benefits! Medical, dental, vision, vacation, 401K, sick days, even tuition reimbursement! I'm so happy for him! He's looked for something for SO long. And this kind of just fell into his lap at the right time. He was told with hard work he could be made full-time within the first year. They NEVER lay workers off. This is a job that he can retire with. And once he is full-time, we can move with FedEx anywhere in the country. With the family issues we have right now, a move actually sounds good. And me?? As of January 18th, I am once again, a full-time student! I am working towards a 2nd Bachelors in English/Secondary Education. I'm taking 5 classes this semester at the Jr. College, then transferring to ISU in the fall. I've wanted to do it for SO long but I never thought it would really happen. But I figured if I don't do it now, I never will. SO......I'm back to being a student again. And it makes me really happy. I went and bought my books last week. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was! Like I said....baby steps. My reading has been all over the place lately. Not really reading all that much. With classes starting next week, not sure how much I will read that isn't on a syllabus, but I guess we will see. My reading list for the lit classes is pretty awesome. I have a semester of The Novel and The Short Story and also English Lit. Hoping for some great reading. So....that's it for now.[...]



Sunday Salon - The What the Hell Happened to Me Post

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 13:46:00 +0000

Good morning!! I really just wanted to thank all of you for your kind words this past week. I don't want to get into specifics, but the past month has been challenging to me in so many ways. 3rd shift has been taking it's toll on me for the past 2 years, and I think I finally hit rock-bottom with it. Things with the Red Cross went from bad to worse....and it put me in a serious depression. I mean, I've been depressed before, but this was different. This was the kind of depression that left me feeling drained. All I wanted to do was stay in bed all day (or night) and pull the covers over my head. I didn't want to read or blog or check my email or twitter or ANYTHING. So I took a mental-health break. I apologize if I concerned you at all. I got a few emails that I know I should have answered and a few phone calls as well. But I just couldn't answer them. But this week, I feel better. On Tuesday, I started a new job!!! One that I hope I'll be at for quite awhile. I am working for DHL Export Company. I've been looking for awhile, but after the first of the year, I kicked that into overdrive. With my background in IT and my experience in Logistics, they gave me the job right away. It's first shift, Monday thru Friday. (at the moment there is also unlimited overtime, but I don't know how long that will last). I am an Ocean Export Rep, and basically what they are training me for is to set up bookings of ocean shipments across the world for Caterpillar. I met the Regional Manager this week and told him I'm already a certified 6 Sigma green belt (if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. It's a business thing and stupid as hell...but looks great on a resume!). He was super-impressed with that, so keep your fingers crossed that I'm here to stay!! I'm also sticking with the restaurant, as well. Scary thing is, I'm actually good at waiting tables. And the money is really good. I'm cutting my hours pretty drastically, but will use the money for my property taxes this year....and basically just as catch-up money. It was nice this year to pay cash for our entire Christmas!! Maybe another year of waiting tables, and I'll be able to pay for a really nice vacation for 2011. God knows, this family could use one!! I even went to the library on Friday!!! I haven't done that in months. You know it's bad for me when I don't even want to go to the library. And I started doing a bit of blog hopping yesterday. Just so you know, I plan on catching up with all of you this week!! I saw that Carl has posted for the Once Upon a Time IV Challenge. If there is anything that could get me back into the blogging/reading mode again, it's one of Carl's Challenges!!! So look for a sign-up post from me this week. During my month's hiatus, I finished a couple of books. Hex Hall, that I reviewed yesterday. Horns by Joe Hill. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Liga. And the 3rd Sandman and Fables. I don't know if I'll get to any reviews or not, but I will try. As for now, I am reading Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah and Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland. I also have a copy of the new Holly Black book on deck, White Cat. And for the first time in over a year, I have the entire weekend off!!! Mike and Chad are out of town. They went to a racquetball tournament in Lombard, so it's been a "Girl's Weekend". This is something that I needed in the worst way. We went to see Alice in Wonderland. We went out to dinner both Friday and Saturday. And have been watching basketball and basically just hanging out. It's been incredible. That's it for me today. I just wanted to thank all of you again. Not only for all you[...]



Blog Tour - Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Fri, 19 Mar 2010 20:47:00 +0000

When Nicole from the Book Reporter asked me if I wanted to be a part of the "Hex Hall" Blog Tour, I jumped on the chance. As you all know, I have a huge affinity for YA, especially the paranormal. So, this was a pretty big chance for me. Unfortunately, I have been on a blogging break for the last 5 weeks, for personal reasons. But now I am back, and I'm ready to get started again!! Felicia was crying in the bathroom. Again. I knew it was her because in the three months I'd been going to Green Mountain High, I'd already seen Felicia crying in the bathroom twice. She had a really distinctive sob, high and breathy like a little kids, even though Felicia was eighteen, two years older than me. I'd left her alone before, figuring it was ever girl's right to cry in a public bathroom from time to time. But tonight was prom night and there was something really sad about sobbing in formal wear. Sophie Mercer discovered at the age of 12 she was a witch. It was at that time she came in to her powers. And it was pretty confusing for Sophie. Apparently, her father was a European Warlock, and she inherited his powers. But Sophie had never even met her dad. Her mother had a relationship with him until she found out about the whole warlock "thing", then ran screaming for the hills. But she was pregnant at the time. Now, he was a part of the "Council", or governing body for the Prodigium, and he kept tabs on Sophie in that way. But a runaway "love spell" at Sophie's last high school is the final straw and the Council decides to send her to Hecate (or "Hex") Hall, which happens to be a reform school for Prodigium, including witches, faeries, and shape shifters. Here she will learn more about her powers and how to use them without Humans knowing. Because in the world today, there are people that want to see all Prodigium annihilated. Especially the group called L'Occhio di Dio, or "The Eye of God". For centuries, this offshoot of the Knights Templar have been killing Prodigium....and not in nice ways. But when Sophie gets to Hex Hall, she realizes that living with her human mother has kept her sheltered from who she really is. Not growing up with Prodigium, she really has no idea about anything. And her first week at Hex Hall is anything but great. She immediately falls for the "hottest" guy in school, a warlock named Archer. Then she makes enemies with the 3 other dark witches who approach Sophie to join their coven. They just happen to be the prettiest and most popular girls in school. A weird ghost seems to be following her around. AND her roommate is the biggest outcast around: the school's only vampire. I have to say I was really looking forward to reading this book. The last few months my reading has been really kept to a minimum, and I love a good YA book. Hex Hall and Rachel Hawkins did not disappoint!! What a great book!! I loved the story. I loved the characters. Sophie is so funny and sassy. With one foot in the human world and one foot in the Prodigium world, she is doing her best to find her way AND do the right things. Archer, although his motives are a bit suspect, is snarky as hell. And Jenna, the vampire-roommate, is tough. Not only is she forever destined to be 16, she loves the color pink, is cute and sweet, AND the only real friend Sophie has ever had. But learning about the Prodigium is second to the mystery that surrounds Hex Hall. There is a series of murders/attacks on witches that makes reading this book even more fun! Of course, there is the whole "I'm-going-to-be-a-trilogy-and-this-is-just-a-taste-of-what's-to-come" thing that happens at the end of the book. *Sigh* It seems today there are far too few stand-alone books anymore. BUT I know for a fact that I'm super-excited about reading the next installment...just as s[...]



I'm Back!

Sat, 13 Mar 2010 20:37:00 +0000

Well....I'm back. I'd like to say that I am better than ever. But things have been a bit rough for awhile now. Honestly, a break was needed just to keep my sanity. Between work (which is in a really bad place right now) and my marriage (which is having a rough spot right now), things have just been really bad. I've spent the last 5 weeks pretty much in a huge depression.

But I've missed blogging, and I've missed my friends. So, I'm back. Hopefully things will be better all around. Tomorrow, I have a post for an awesome new YA book, called Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I even have a great T-shirt to giveaway with it!! See? Things are looking up already. (image)



We Interrrupt this Blog....

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 13:03:00 +0000

For an Unscheduled Break. Something personal came up at the end of last week, and I have been a bit preoccupied. I need to take a bit of a break. I will be back later this week to explain. Till then, I will miss you all.(image)



January in Retrospect

Tue, 02 Feb 2010 09:28:00 +0000

Hmmmm.....what is there to say about January?? A new year. A new decade. It was bone-chilling cold most of the month. And that's when it wasn't snowing!! It was also my birthday this month. I always hated a January birthday. Too close to Christmas and usually the weather was too bad to do much. But this year's birthday was nice. And I found out that a lot of book bloggers out there had either January birthdays or were, at least, Capricorns! It's nice to see I am in good company. January was also a month of a lot of work. Extra shifts. A job interview (that apparently didn't go so well!) Hope for the future of Mike's employment. Concert going with Chad. Speaking of the boy, last week he came home with a packet of orientation "stuff" for his first year in high school. Good Lord, I almost had a heart attack. It is so NOT possible that I will have a high schooler in the house next year! I'm extremely proud of him. Not only has he been recommended for Enriched or AP History, Math and Science....but he's also trying out for football AND running for Student Council. My well-rounded boy. He wants to go to Harvard. Sheesh. I'll worry about that when the time comes. Till then, he's already receiving college fliers in the mail. He's only in 8th grade!! On the reading front, January was a decent month for me. I read 7 books, including 1 Graphic Novel, 1 book of essays, 2 non-fiction, 4 fiction novels, with 2 of those being YA: The Body Scoop for Girls by Dr. Jennifer Ashton Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S. G. Browne American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang Couldn't Keep it to Myself: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters by Wally Lamb and the Women of the York Correctional Institution How to Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates GillThe Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Liga (review to come)Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (review to come) All in all a pretty good reading month. Since the big Challenge push early in the month, I only joined a couple more challenges: The Speculative Fiction Challenge, Hosted by Caroline at Book Chick City and the PoC Reading Challenge, hosted by Pam at Really enjoyed the books I read. Right now, I'm in the middle of Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah and Horns by Joe Hill. 2 very different books, but both very good so far.Also coming up in February, I'm involved in a couple of Book Tours. The Classics Circuit is doing a Harlem Renaissance Book Tour in the month of February and I am participating this month. I'm also touring the book, The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran for TLC Book Tours this month. I've got lots of books going, and lots of goods ones on the horizon. So hopefully, February will be as good as January!! Now...I'd better get back to work!! [...]



TLC Book Tour - How to Save Your Own Life by Michael Gates Gill

Fri, 29 Jan 2010 09:07:00 +0000

Wow. This is such a weird year of reading for me so far. I barely got to 50 books by the end of last year. Already this year, I have finished 7. I only read 3 non-fiction books in total last year. So far, I've read that already this month. And I never, EVER read Self-Help books. But when Lisa contacted me about doing a book tour for How to Save Your Own Life: 15 Lessons of Finding Hope in Unexpected Places by Michael Gates Gill (208 pgs, Gotham, 2009), I just couldn't help myself but say yes. For some reason, I really wanted to read this book.Michael Gates Gill was the privileged son of Brendan Gill, who wrote for The New Yorker. Gill grew up in a 25 room mansion, rubbing elbows with the rich and famous, such as Rex Harrison, Ernest Hemingway and even Jackie Onassis. He went to Yale, since his father was a Yale graduate. He became a member of Skull & Bones because his father was a member. Upon graduating, he even got a job because of his father's influence and his Yale connections. This is how Gill started his career at J. Walter Thompson, ad agency.Gill worked at JWT for 26 years, until he became redundant. In the world of advertising, apparently to be successful you must be young and new. So Gill lost his job. This started a horrible downward spiral for him: He also lost his home, his wife, much of his dignity, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. But with one step into the door at the local Starbucks, Gill found a place to hang his hat and a calling to serve coffee to the masses. Now...this doesn't seem like much. But to Gill, it was a chance to redeem himself. Not only that, but he realized how much he actually disliked working in the ad agency....and how much he actually enjoyed this slower, simpler life. His first book, How Starbucks Saved My Life, shares more of his personal story.This book is broken into 15 chapters or "Lessons". With titles such as "Listen...To Your Own Heart to Find True Happiness" and "Live....Each Day With Gratitude Like it Might be Your Last", Gill could come across as preachy and condescending. But he really doesn't. There are a fair amount of references to God and the Bible. These are important to Gill, and therefore a big part of his writing. While at times a bit cliche, Gill's message is a good one: Be Happy with Who You Are. And if you aren't happy with your job or your life, then you need to make the steps to change that. Before it's too late. He was forced out of his job, only to find it was the best possible thing to happen to him. In this book, he is trying to get the reader to self-examine and make life changes if not happy.Filled with lots of personal examples, this book is a quick read. It has a lot of heart, and you can really tell that Gill is happy with his life today. Maybe those of us that aren't quite so happy, should stand back and take a little stock in our own lives. With today's economy, some of us are being faced with a lot of the same situations Gill was faced with. It's nice to see that there really is light at the end of a dark tunnel. And while I'm not sure it was enough of a push for me to actually change things in my own life, 15 Lessons will definitely be something that will stick in my mind for quite a while to come. 3.75/5 [...]



Essays - Couldn't Keep it To Myself

Tue, 26 Jan 2010 20:35:00 +0000

Essays. Webster's defines an essay as "a short literary composition on a particular theme or subject, usually in prose and generally analytic, speculative, or interpretative." I can't remember the last time I sat down and read an essay. College, I would presume, and it certainly wasn't for pleasure. But part of my goal for reading challenges is to try to "expand my reading horizons". So one of the books I picked for the Women Unbound Challenge was a book of essay called Couldn't Keep it to Myself by Wally Lamb and the Women of the York Correctional Institution: Testimonies from our Imprisoned Sisters (368 pgs, Harper Collins, 2003). I'm afraid this is going to be a rather long review, but even then, I don't think there is a way to do justice to this book. Wally Lamb, the bestselling author, was a teacher first. When he wrote his first two novels, they were both picked up by Oprah Winfrey and her book club, causing them to become instant successes. Because of the success, Lamb was forever being asked for speaking engagements or to support causes. And because he is such a nice man, he has an incredibly hard time saying no. In fact, Lamb had to write down his refusal on an index card and keep it next to the phone. It was the only way he could say no. But when the prison librarian at York Correctional Institution called to ask Lamb to lead a writing workshop at the prison, he couldn't find the card. And so he said yes. A rash of suicide attempts had happened at York. The overall mental well-being of many of the prisoners was despair, and the staff there thought that using writing as a coping tool might be of value to the women housed at York. I used to keep a hand-written journal. I wish I knew why I stopped using it, to be honest. When I could put feelings on paper, it always made me feel lighter. In the way using this blog for my venting has lightened my mood, writing in a journal was indeed therapeutic for me. The same was thought about the women at York. Maybe if they could write down their feelings, it would make them feel better about themselves. And Lamb was asked to lead the workshop. But once the workshop had ended, Lamb was once again put on the spot. "Are you coming back?", they asked him. He gave each woman an assignment: Write an essay. Entrance to the next "class" was that essay. What started out as a committment that seemed like a burden, to something that fills him with hope and love: Lamb returned to teach another workshop. And he has not stopped returning. What he came to realize, is that these women were more than just criminals. More than just their crimes. "There are things that need to be known about prison and prisoners. There are misconceptions to be abandoned, biases to be dropped. There are a heart and a mind that need opening. There are many. We are a paradoxical nation, enormously charitable and stubbornly unforgiving. We have called into existence the prisons we wanted. I am less and less convinced they are the prisons we need.""To imprison a woman is to remove her voice from the world, but many female inmates have been silenced by life long before the transport carries them from the court house to the correctional facility. Because incest and domestic violence cut across the economic divide, women of all means are schooled in silence. Of the eleven contributors to the volume, eight have been battered and nine have been sexually abused, a statistic that reflects the norm for incarcerated women. Their essays, then, are victories against voicelessness -- miracles in print."I think this book has two points. The first being, using writing as a tool for coping with the ba[...]



1st Graphic Novel of the Year - American Born Chinese

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 11:28:00 +0000

Even before I started my obsession with Graphic Novels, I had planned on reading Gene Luen Yang's American Born Chinese (233 pgs., First Second Books, 2006). Not only did it win the Michael L. Printz award in 2007, but so many other bloggers have read and loved it, including Dewey, our beloved friend. So....I'm not only using this as a selection for the 2010 Graphic Novel Challenge, but also as a notch on the perpetual Printz Challenge.One bright and starry night, the Gods, the Goddesses, the Demons, and the Spirits gathered in Heaven for a dinner party.This book, told in Graphic Novel format, contains 3 separate tales:The first tale is the legendary Chinese fable of The Monkey King. The Monkey King was the ruler of all the monkeys on the Flower-Fruit Mountain. When the Gods were having their dinner party, he tried to attend. But because he was a monkey (and didn't wear shoes) he was denied admittance. This changed the Monkey King. He was embarrassed by it, and decided to change himself. He required all monkeys to wear shoes. He studies the 12 disciplines of kung fu to become more than just a monkey. In fact, he transforms himself into a different type of deity all together.The second tale is about Jin, an American-Born Chinese. His parents immigrated from China and met in college. Jin's mom told him the reason she chose to marry Jin's father. "Of all the PhD. students at the university, he had the thickest glasses. Thick glasses meant long hours of studying. Long Hours of studying meant a strong work ethic. A strong work ethic meant a high salary. A high salary meant a good husband." When Jin is 9, his family moves out of Chinatown, and Jin has to start a new school. Where he is different; the outsider. He suffers from bullies and bouts of embarrassment over his culture.The final tale is of Danny, the American boy that has a Chinese cousin, named Chin-Kee. Chin-Kee is the epitome of a negative Chinese stereotype. He has buck teeth, a thick accent, and even eats cats. Danny is so embarrassed by Chin-Kee's yearly visits that he has to switch schools every year.What can be said about this beautiful little book that hasn't already been said?? It truly is a masterpiece. We follow Jin through grade school, where he befriends the student, Wei-Chen, who has just arrived from Taiwan. At first, Jin tries to ignore the other student, but when the two boys start talking about toys (Transformers), they soon become best friends.The 3 stories eventually come together, all related in a surprisingly beautiful ending. It is basically the story of loving the person that you are. And if you try to change yourself to fit another's persons image of how you "should" be, then you will eventually lose yourself. It sounds deep, and it is. But it is told with a light-hearted humor and really great pictures. Just a small example: "The only other Asian in my class was Suzy Nakamura. When the class finally figured out that we weren't related, rumors began to circulate that Suzy and I were arranged to be married on her thirteenth birthday. We avoided each other as much as possible." Not only is this a wonderful tale that highlights the pain of stereotyping and racism, but also teaches a lesson on self-appreciation and self-awareness. An incredibly quick read (I was finished in about an hour), American Born Chinese is absolutely a must-read. Warm, heart-breaking and yet uplifting, this is one book that I can not truly recommend enough. And for anyone that ever says Graphic Novels are just "comic" books, I think you have a lesson waiting for you. A true 5 Star read!!! 5/5[...]



What?? A Review?? How Unusual! Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Fri, 22 Jan 2010 09:15:00 +0000

Yeah, I know. I'm lame. The month is over 2/3's over and I've barely had time to review any books. Of course, I'm going to make this a banner reading year. I've already completed 5 books. Hopefully, I can manage to get all of my reviews in a little quicker this year!! I picked up Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S. G. Browne (320 pgs, Broadway Books, 2009) for one reason only: Chris' recommendation. Which makes it a selection for the 20/10 challenge - Bad Bloggers Category!! Well...that and I happen to love Zombies!!I wake up on the floor in the darkness.This is the tale of Andy Warner, zombie. He reanimated after a car crash killed him and his wife. In this world, sometimes the dead reanimate and become zombies. Although there are a lot of different theories, no one actually knows why this happens. It just does. Now Andy lives in his parent's wine cellar. Andy's father can barely contain his disgust over having a zombie for a son. His mother can't even touch him without rubber gloves, Lysol and a can of air freshener (sorry, but zombies are still decaying!) At at least he isn't in a kennel at the SPCA or worse.When Andy isn't drinking wine or VO5 Shampoo (if you've never needed a daily intake of formaldehyde to keep your decomposition rate slow, you probably wouldn't understand!), he is attending UA meetings. Undead Anonymous is group therapy for the recently undead. Because it takes some adjustment to being a zombie. Literally at the bottom of the food chain, zombies in our society have no rights whatsoever. If a zombie doesn't have a human (or "breather") guardian to claim him, he can be shipped off to a research facility or become a crash test dummy or worse (and yes, there really is a worse!)It's at the UA meetings that Andy comes to realize how much has been taken away from him after he reanimated. But with the help of his new friends and the lovely Rita, Andy decides it's time for Zombies to have rights too.Man, where do I begin?? This book is part romance, part zombie/horror, part black comedy and part social statement. It opens with Andy finding out that in a drunken state he murdered, mutilated and stuffed his parents in the side-by-side frig. (not a spoiler...this happens by page 2). The first half of the book shows us how Andy got to this point....then the aftermath. So funny in parts you just can't help giggling, it's a hard book to put down. Andy is such a great character, but in a really warped sort of way. Kind of like Tony Soprano. I mean, when watching The Sopranos, Tony is the anti-hero. You WANT him to succeed. You don't want to see him get arrested, even though you KNOW he's a bad guy. You KNOW he's a killer and had his best friend whacked. And yet, you still cheer him on. Andy is like that. You want him to find happiness with Rita. You want him to win his fight for zombie oppression. And yet, he's still a flesh-eating zombie.Even through the dark humor of the book, is the underlying social statement of racism, bigotry, and discrimination. Zombies have no rights at all, even though they USED to be human. Are they still? Can you be undead, and yet still have your humanity?? Lots of questions.But mostly, it's just tongue-in-cheek, black humor. "You don't find many zombies in the southern states, since heat tends to speed up decomposition. That and when you're a zombie in a region that has a reputation of prejudice against minorities and outsiders, you tend to stick out like good taste in a country-western bar.""Maybe it's just me, but a bunch of reanimated corpses wandering around a graveyard after ten o'clock on a Frid[...]



A Long Week of Good Stuff

Wed, 20 Jan 2010 10:25:00 +0000

See? It's not always doom and gloom over here!! This week, there will be no whining or rantings. Just a rundown of the last week, and it's been a pretty good one!! Last Wednesday was my birthday. I don't usually mention it. I hate the idea of getting older. It's not so much the number that bothers me anymore. As far as I'm concerned, age is just a state of mind. You are only as old as you feel. Trouble is, I'm starting to FEEL old. I'm on my feet alot more with all the hours I'm putting in at the restaurant. And my knees have been bothering me a bit. My shoulder seems to be taking a long time to actually heal up. I know it's because I'm getting "older". Sucks, that's for sure. But this was a pretty great birthday. I had to work a double on my the actual day, and I woke up to sound of someone banging on my door. As I staggered down the stairs in my Jammie's, I found the most gorgeous flower arrangement sitting on the steps. Yellow roses and all sorts of pretty yellow flowers (I have no idea what they are called. Wish I had taken a picture now) in a beautiful vase. All from the wonderful Michelle @ Michelle's Masterful Musings....one of my very best blogging friends. Such a sweetie!! My co-workers decided it would be fun to torment me by singing all night. They even made me a cake. It was just nice that no one forgot. I got a check in the mail from my parents that was way over the top. All in all a great day even though I worked most of it. We had planned on celebrating with the family later on in the weekend, since I didn't have to work then. A few weeks back I won tickets to a concert that was on Friday night. It was 3 Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin and Flyleaf. Bands that I like ok, but nothing I'd really bend over backwards to see. HOWEVER, 3 Days Grace is Chad's favorite band. So, plans were made for him to go to the concert with my nephew. Nic is 17, and I'd be pretty comfortable with the two boys at the Civic Center (Chad's only 13). Besides, the Red Cross is literally one block from there. I'd be able to drop them off and make sure they got home ok. Unfortunately, the day before the concert I find out that Nic was home with a horrible fever and a bad case of the flu. So, I took Chad instead. I would have loved to do it in the first place, but I know 13-year-olds. Figured he wouldn't want to go with his "old" mom. Of course, with no other options, he was stuck. BUT, we had a great time. Apparently, I'm not TOO uncool. I knew most of the songs, and free tickets aside, they were 2nd row in the lower bowl. Fantastic seats. I bought him a cool hat. Sang songs. Had a blast. Sunday, the girls had their first basketball game. 2nd - 4th graders. Not very experienced. But we won 15 - 9. Bella scored a basket and Ana played a fantastic defensive game. The coach even told the other girls if they all played like Ana, they'd be winning by 40 points! She tied up another player at least 5 times for jump balls, and hustled her little butt off. I'm such a proud mama!! Then we went back to my in laws for my "birthday" party, complete with balloons, dinner, a red velvet cake (my favorite) and presents. Mike got me the coolest Jack Skellington hoodie and tote bag (huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan), some Ed Hardy sneaks, and a Ramones tote. My in-laws got me some good smelly bath stuff, money, and flannel PJ's. And the kids actually spent their own money to get a present. They seem to know me better than anyone. They got me a book. And not just any book, but Under the Dome by Stephen King. Yeah. THEY know me well. Ana and Bel[...]



Another 2009 Review: Monster by A. Lee Martinez

Fri, 15 Jan 2010 09:17:00 +0000

I guess if I could get my act together and finish reviewing all the books I read in 2009, I might actually get to the current years! It's weird, because I'm usually not this far behind. And I should probably be doing, I don't know, mini-reviews? But so far, each book I've read deserves its own full-blown review. As does this book, Monster by A. Lee Martinez (304 pgs, Orbit, 2009). This book was a 100% purely impulse read. Not for a challenge or because I'd seen it reviewed on someone's blog or I'd read something else from the author. Nope. None of those things. I saw it, I liked the cover, I decided to read it. The thing was big and white and hairy, and it was eating all the ice cream in the walk-in freezer. Four dozen chewed-up empty cartons testified that it had already devoured half of the inventory and it wasn't full yet. From the safety of the doorway, Judy watched it stuff an entire carton of Choc-O-Chiptastic Fudge into it's mouth with a slurp. The creature turned it's head slightly and sniffed. It had vaguely human features, except its face was blue and it's nostrils and mouth impossibly huge. It fixed a cobalt eye on her and snorted. Judy beat a hasty retreat and walked to the produce aisle where Dave was stocking lettuce. "I thought I asked you to stock the ice cream," he said. "No need," she said, "Yeti is eating it all.". When a couple of Yeti's decide to run amok one night at the Food Plus Mart, Judy, a 3rd-shift stock-girl, has her first encounter with Monster. Finding no one else to call for help, she decides on Animal Control, even though she's sure they won't believe her. But when she calls, Animal Control transfers her to the Cryptobiological Containment and Rescue Services. And they send out an agent: Monster, who happens to be be blue tonight. (He was bit by a basilisk, and the anti-venom treatment left him with an "unstable enchantment". IE, he changes colors each time he wakes up. And with each color comes some bizarre side effect! Blue is good. It means he's invincible.) With Chester, his paper gnome assistant (who's really a 6th-dimensional entity using the paper gnome as a way to interact on this plane), Monster spends his nights catching cryptobiological creatures. See...there is magic that fills the world today. But not everyone can see it. Merlin's Lobe is a cluster of nerves in the brain, dealing with the perception of magic. In most humans, or incognizants, the lobe is not developed. These people can't see magic, even if it's right in front of them. There are also a few people that CAN recognize magic, but they forget about it almost as soon as it's not in front of their faces. They are light-cognizants, and that is what Judy seems to be. Once the Yetis have been dispatched, she completely forgets she ever saw them. But Judy seems to be a magnet for all things magic. After the Yeti incident, she comes across a bunch of trolls, a kojin that destroys her apartment, an Inuit walrus dog-type monster, and a hydra, just to name a few creatures. A little too much to be a coincidence. But why are all these strange things happening to Judy? And will Monster be able to help her and save the world at the same time? I have to say, I picked up this book on a complete whim. I hadn't heard anything about it. I hadn't read anything by the author. But the cover TOTALLY stood out and I loved it! After reading the first page, I knew I hadn't made a mistake. This book was hilarious! Tongue-in-cheek humor paired with all sorts of mythical creatures. What more could a person [...]



TLC Book Tour - Body Scoop for Girls by Dr. Jennifer Ashton

Wed, 13 Jan 2010 00:22:00 +0000

When I was asked to be a part of Dr. Ashton's book tour, I hesitated a little. I'm not usually one to review books like this. But with 2 girls in the house, I was a bit intrigued and figured I'd give it a go. The Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You by Dr. Jennifer Ashton (304 pgs, Avery Trade, 2009) is a no-nonsense look at the teenage girl's every changing body.First off, just let me say this: Dr. Ashton is not your mother's OB. She is young, hip, and understanding of the teenage girl. From page 1, she becomes an advocate for her patients. In her practice, she specializes in treating teenagers. This book is written as a guide to help those teens understand their bodies just a little bit better.The book is laid out in 3 sections: What to Expect When You're Adolescent, The Straight Talk on Sex, and Your Body's Lifetime Warranty: Staying Healthy for Life."The way health, sex, and physical information is handled by schools, teachers, doctors and even some parents, you'd think today's girls were living in a time warp. Sex ed is still taught exactly the same way it was 30 years ago (often it's all-abstinence-all-the-time). Most parents still have a tough time talking with their daughters about their bodies. Even doctors don't seem to want to talk straight with girls. Old-school doctors always seem to fall into two groups: The "Just-Say-No" group (as in "Can we talk about safe sex?" "No.") and the "Free Love" group ("Whatever you do is beautiful. Just use condoms.") Come on people! This is the information age! If you ask me, both these approaches are disrespectful to girls. I believe in giving you all the information you need, at the right age, so you can make smart choices for your body and your emotional health. That doesn't mean I'd tell you it's OK to have sex at a young age. In fact, I'll tell you the medical reasons why that's not a good idea. But I'll also expect you to use your own best judgement and I'll treat you accordingly, with respect for the choices you make." That paragraph pretty much sets the tone for the entire book. She is frank and honest, and treats the reader as an adult. Dr. Ashton doesn't preach to girls at all. Instead she gives them all the information necessary for THEM to make informed decisions. I think this book is perfect for the young, teenage girl because it's an excellent resource. It was hard being a teenage girl when I grew up. I can't even imagine what it's like today. The world we are living in has changed immensely since I was a teen. and I know the pressure has increased exponentially. In the first section, she guides you through explanations about your changing body, from puberty to piercings. In an easy to read format, complete with Dr. Ashton's "Playlists" (certain advice that she offers over and over) and questions to ask yourself, Dr. Ashton gives a no-holds barred explanation for all topics, especially those that girls might find embarrassing to talk about. Each chapter is filled with facts, do's and don'ts, and "myths" to be debunked.The second section is a forthright discussion on sex. I am under no delusions that girls are having sex at younger and younger ages all the time. I hope to be able to talk to my own daughters about it, and using this book would be a great idea. Dr. Ashton gives many reason why it's important for your physical and emotional health to wait until you are older. But if you aren't going to wait, she gives the 4-1-1 on birth control and information about STD[...]



Sunday Salon: 2010 Challenge Edition, Volume 2 and the Melancholy Post

Mon, 11 Jan 2010 05:55:00 +0000

Technically, I can still call this a "Sunday Salon" post, since I started it on Sunday!! I was actually going to write this up last night, but the time got away from me at work. Most weekends when I work at the Red Cross is super-slow. The last few nights have been extremely busy though. So...less time to read and post. And right now, I seem to have the blues. Hence, the melancholy nature of this post. I'm not really sure why. Probably a combination of any number of things: The weather. The past week it has snowed a foot, and the temps have been in the negative numbers. When I went out to start my truck this morning, the gauge said -9! I just can't ever seem to warm up. I hate being cold. How about the fact that it is dark so much of the time?? It's already 10 days into the year, and I've only finished one book. There was no time for Bloggiesta this weekend, and I would have loved to spend some time on my blog. I had wanted to move to my own domain, but the name I wanted is already taken. Or maybe it's because my birthday is this week. Another year older. For the most part that never bothers me. But I have to say this year is a bit different. Not much has changed, and I think that's the problem. Another year....and not much to show for it. Sounds kind of silly when I put it into words. But I worked SO hard this year, and yet, everything is the same as last year. Still struggling. I do have an interview this week, so maybe things will start to look up. Regardless, I need to get myself out of the blahs.And what better to curb the blahs than join more challenges!! If there is one thing that I like more than challenges, it's making lists!! And I've had fun this week finding more challenges for 2010!A Tournament of Reading is a Medieval Literature Challenge hosted by Meghan @ The Medieval Bookworm. Now, actual Medieval Lit would probably be a bit more than I could chew off at this point in my life. Would love to read a little Chaucer, but not sure if I'm up to that challenge right now. BUT I do love Historical Fiction. It's been awhile since I've stuck my toes in that particular pond, and I really miss it.Here are the rules:This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010. The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm. Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe. There are 3 levels:Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.You’re not required to make a list or stick to one, but it would be fun if you did! A recommendations post will also be up today, to help you make choices.For me, I'm sticking with the Western Europe lit because I'd never be able to whittle down my choices. I'm also going for a Lord/Lady designation, but who knows what will happen once I get started! Here is my pool of books that I would love to draw from:Here Be Dragons by Sharon Penman (this is a re-read for me, but since I haven't read the rest of the series, I thought I would revisit this wonderful book!)Falls the Shadow by Sharon PenmanThe Reckoning by Sharon Penman The Queen's Man by Sharon PenmanKatherine by Anya SetonThe Arthurian Series by Bernard CornwellThe O[...]



GLBT Challenge....AND the January Mini-Challenge

Thu, 07 Jan 2010 09:42:00 +0000

One of the main challenges I wanted to join in 2010 was the GLBT Challenge, or the Challenge That Dare Not Speak It's Name. For some reason, I actually didn't get around to signing up. So...this post is not only my sign-up. My initial post. My list of books I'd love to read. But it's also my chance to the do the first Mini-Challenge!! See? I really can multitask! Which is what I will do first. The point of the mini-challenge is "to write a paragraph or two on why this challenge and/or this issue is important to you."Goodness. Seems like it would be easy. It should be. But like everything in life, there is always a little more to it than just black and white. I grew up in a small farming community here in Illinois. And when I say small, I mean "TINY". My hometown has a population of about 520. My high school, when it existed (it has since consolidated with other schools and was actually leveled!) never topped 80 for all 4 grades. Life was simple and everyone came from the exact cookie cutter family. Differences weren't really tolerated. In fact, they were bad. Being gay was against everything that was taught to us. Hell, the bible said it was wrong...so it must have been. Fast-forward a few years, and I went to college. Differences were not only common; they were celebrated. I now had friends from different races, nationalities, religions, and dare I say, sexual orientations. Amazingly enough, I embraced all that was different in the world around me and just accepted. I've seen first-hand what hate can do. During my years at Bradley, I had the unfortunate opportunity to take classes with a guy named Matt Hale. If you are from the area, or even Illinois, you probably will know who he is. If not, I'll explain. Mr. Hale was a local area boy that became the leader of the World Church of the Creator. A White Supremacist. A particular nasty one at time. I even had a class with Hale, and if I say he was an ignorant, redneck pig, that's being way more generous than he deserves. He led a KKK group onto MY campus, reeking all sorts of havoc. It was a really scary time, and it brought out a lot of hate, the likes of which I had never seen face to face before. And which I never want to see again. After I graduated, I met a guy that turned out to be my best friend. To this day, I can call him that. He's the sweetest, kindest person I know. He's my children's godfather. He is mine and Mike's closest friend. He loves me and my family unconditionally. And he's gay. He has experienced the bigotry of the uninformed. I would love to shield him from that if I could. But that is the way of the world, as much as I hate it. So, in my own little way, I'm working to change it. I had a friend one time comment on a BBQ we had at our house. She said coming to our house was like going to a meeting of the Rainbow Coalition. I looked around and realized it was true. We have friends that are black, Native American, Chinese, Spanish, gay, straight, white....and just about any mixture you can imagine. I want my children to grow up in a world where THAT is normal. Where being different isn't a bad thing. Where there is no such thing as different. A world where people just are. A place where every person is free to love whoever they choose, no matter what gender. That is what I believe in, and it is what my children are going to believe. As far as the reading challenge, I have a few books that I want to read. I'll do my bes[...]



2009 In Review

Wed, 06 Jan 2010 14:36:00 +0000

It feels weird to do a review post when I haven't even finished posting all my 2009 reviews. But the way I'm going these days, I didn't want to end up posting this wrap-up post in February!! I sometimes find it rather depressing to read everyone's wrap-up posts. I can not even come close to touching the numbers of other bloggers. There are just not enough hours in the day. But since I've decided to go with the Zen approach to blogging, I'm carrying that over to my reading!! So....since my numbers are low, this shouldn't be too long for all of you to read! I finished 2009 with a total of 49 books. That's one less that last year and the same as 2007. I'm nothing, if not consistent!! Of course, with the addition of Graphic Novels to my reading, I would have thought I could squeeze in a few more this year. My hopes of ever hitting 100 are swiftly getting dashed. Maybe when I retire, and only have puppies and kittens to take care of! Till then, it's a Dare to Dream kind of thing. I will forever put up 100 as a goal I'd love to make it to someday. Since 49 is the total, I'm going to give you the top 5....and a few that made the runners-up list. (in no particular order) Looking for Alaska by John Green such a great book. Heartbreaking, but ultimately a wonderful look at teens, love and grief. Hunger Games/Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - It's hard to have one on the list without the other. I can't even tell you which one I liked better either. Both were fantastic. YA dystopian series. My son thinks these are the Best. Books. Ever!The Knife of Never Letting Go/The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness - The same as above. Can't very well have one without the other. Although, this time I actually think I liked The Ask and The Answer better than the first (boycolt!) YA Dystopian Series, like none I've ever read. Gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, heart-pounding intensity. SO GOOD! I actually bought both for Chad for Christmas. Though he insists nothing will be better than HG, I'm trying to get him to read these soon! I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - I can't begin to describe what a surprising delight this book was! A look at one of the oddest, most eccentric families ever. Just plain wonderful!! The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - A year-end Best of List would not be complete without something from Neil Gaiman!! He's been on my list the last 2 years, and this book was no exception. Fantastic YA book, so deserving of the Newberry!! Well....those were definitely the best I read this year. To be honest, there were very few books I read that I didn't enjoy. I have a few that also made my Honorable Mention:North of Beautiful by Justine Chen HeadleyWicked Lovely by Melissa MarrThe Sandman Series by Neil GaimanFables Series by Bill WillinghamMonkey Beach by Eden Robinson Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth EnnisMonster by A. Lee MartinezMorganville Vampire Books 3, 4, 5 by Rachel CaineMagyk: Septimus Heap Book 1 by Angie SageFinally, a few numbers to add to my (pitiful) list of stats!! Books Read in 2009: 49Total Pages Read: 16,286Novels: 37Comic/Graphic Novels: 6Non-Fiction: 3 (AWFUL!)Short-Story Collections/Essay Collections/Novellas: 2 (AWFUL!)Young Adult/Children's: 24By Men: 22By Women: 27New-to-Me Authors: 30So....all in all, it was a rather low in quantity year. But I do have to say, the quality of the books I read was fantastic!! I still have a couple of reviews to finish up before I start[...]