Thursday, December 31, 2009

Total Books Read in 2009

The Books I've Read in 2009 are as follows... please click on the review if you'd like to read it, some don't have reviews... not all books I read are listed.
The Last Summer (of you and me) by Ann Brashares MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Coraline by Neil Gaiman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Poems of Emily Dickenson by Emily Dickenson
Mars Series 1-15 by Fuyumi Soryo MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Catwings by Urusla K. Le
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Apart from the Crowd by Anna McPartlin MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien MY PERSONAL REVIEW
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Lady Elizabeth: A Novel by Alison Weir MY PERSONAL REVIEW
At Gettysburg; or, What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle by Mrs. Tillie (Pierce) Alleman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Chimes by Charles Dickens MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Girl with No Shadow: A Novel by Joanne Harris MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Meet Kirsten: An American Girl by Janet Beeler Shaw MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Kirsten Learns a Lesson: A School Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Kirsten's Surprise: A Christmas Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Happy Birthday, Kirsten: A Springtime Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Changes for Kirsten: A Winter Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Kirsten Saves the Day: A Summer Story by Janet Beeler Shaw
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening by L.J. Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle by L.J. Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Diaries: The Fury by L.J. Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Diaries: Dark Reunion by L.J. Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Peter Pan by James M. Barrie MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Pride Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Metzengerstein by Edgar Allen Poe MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Vampire Diaries: The Return- Nightfall by L.J. Smith MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The G-Free Diet: A Gluten Free Survival Guide by Elisabeth Hasselbeck MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Fox Went Out On A Chilly Night MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant by Darren Shan MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Angel Time by Anne Rice MY PERSONAL REVIEW
A Very Scary Haunted House MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Stranger in the Woods MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Beckett and the Panda-monium! MY PERSONAL REVIEW
If You Take a Mouse to the Movies MY PERSONAL REVIEW
T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Blueberry Girl by Neil Gaiman MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Fancy Nancy: A Splendiferous Christmas MY PERSONAL REVIEW
If You Take a Mouse to School MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Holidays On Ice by David Sedaris MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Matilda by Roald Dahl MY PERSONAL REVIEW
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde MY PERSONAL REVIEW
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink MY PERSONAL REVIEW

That leaves my total to 96 books.
(Some might not be listed here but my full list is located here on goodreads)
62... if you're counting books with chapters
72... if you're counting books that have or haven't chapters and are not labeled as 'children books' (Manga).
But 96 counting all the books, including the children books. I'm quite proud. :)

My goal is to reach 100 next year with 75 of those books being books that aren't labeled as children books. I think I can do it. :)

Monday, December 28, 2009

L.A. Candy

I want to first make a statement of my opinion of Lauren Conrad. The Hills was a show my friends and I loved in college. We loved Lauren and we watched the show each week. Going out, getting obnoxious amounts of Taco Bell, then sitting in front of the TV snacking on our tacos and coloring while we watched the show. We enjoyed the brainless entertainment and stopped watching the show promptly when Lauren left the show.

So... I like Lauren Conrad. I don't have any special hatred for her. But I wasn't jumping for joy when I found out she was writing a book about a girl who moves to LA and stars in a reality show... uh... sounds familiar, yes?

I took the book out, no way was I going to buy the thing, and attempted to read it. Now let's see the facts because I don't even want to waste my time writing out everything in detail:

  1. The grammar wasn't horrible. 
  2. The storyline was sickeningly familiar and predictable.
  3. It reminded me of silly stories my friends and I wrote when we were 13. Literally.
  4. It was boring. BORING. boringboringboring.
  5. I really couldn't get over how simple the book was. Nothing exciting or surprising happened and there was very little substance in each chapter. 
Really, it was quite horrible and I didn't even make it to the end. I knew it was bad when I was only on Chapter 5 and already skipping a paragraph or so each page. It makes me sad that she was paid to write this when there is obviously very little thought or creative power placed into it. There is so much more to a book then what she displayed. The fact that the dialogue consisted of 'like' in the center of sentences ("like, it's really annoying!") and literally switched from work, boys, party, work, shopping, going out; bored me to no end. I was disappointed, bored, and kind of disgusted. 

Lauren Conrad, I enjoyed you on The Hills, but I think you better stick to designing clothes and leave writing books to the real writers.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Important Facts of the Past Decade

Consider this a list of memories and memorials of 2000-2009. With the decade ending I feel it's appropriate to think of how much has happened in the past 10 years. I feel like 2000 just began.

Those I have Lost:
Aunt Karen- 11.18.2001
Jasmine- 1.20.2004
Dave - 3.18.2006
Cathy- 10.14.2007
Uncle Tim- 8.12.2008
Tasha - My doggie- 1.29.2009

The Milestones (And Important Events) That I've Had:
Graduating Middle School
Starting High School
Being Inducted into the National Honor Society
Being Nominated the Most Artistic Girl in School
Getting Into College(s)
Graduating High School
Starting College
Falling In Love for the First Time Ever
Getting My License
Being Inducted into the English Honor Society (Sigma Tau Delta!)
Having My Heart Broken for the First Time Ever
Graduating from College
Learning to be a Strong Independent Woman (I don't need to be in a relationship to be happy!)
Getting Jobs in Which I Can Pay ALL of My Bills
Getting A Namesake In The Writing World

A Comparison
Age on January 1st 2000: 13
Age on January 1st 2010: 23
State Living In On January 1st 2000: New York
State Living In On January 1st 2010: Pennsylvania

When I was a kid I used to read a bunch of books... compared to my friends and classmates I was a bookworm who read far too much. It was one of the things I was known for. But comparing my intake of books from the past couple of years (let alone when I was 13) until now.... well the numbers jumped, tripled even. When I was in school as an English major I read less than I do now with a 30hr/a/week job.

I've definitely grown up a lot. I can't get over how much I've grown in the past two years alone! It's just very eye opening for me. When I ended my first full decade of life (1990-1999) I had been far too young for a good portion of the 90's to clearly remember or appreciate how I've grown and changed. This is my first chance and it's certainly eye opening!

I've lost some wonderful people in my life but the lessons I've learned from them still live strong in me. I've changed, in some ways for the better, and in others for the worst. It all depends on who you ask. But for me... to me... I'm quite happy with who I am. I'm still working on the details but I'm impressed with the results so far.

I have a few wishes for this upcoming decade and year:
-to be happy
-to not have so many deaths
-to not have so many illnesses
-to be joyful
-and to always be grateful.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

I've had a mission in recent months to try and read as many 'classics' as possible. The Picture of Dorian Gray I considered to be one of these classics. It's been made into countless films, the character popping up in different sci-fi films, and the book is endlessly referenced in literature and shows.

But what is The Picture of Dorian Gray? I was expecting it would be a lengthy read where I was generally bored out of my mind with fancy words discussing topics that I had little interest in. At least, that tends to happen with a few of the 'classics' I've read.

I was pleasantly surprised that my assumption was far off and I truly enjoyed reading Dorian Gray. The book isn't immensely long and is quick with entertainment. I adored the painter Basil and felt for his emotional persona, I disliked Lord Henry right off the bat, and I enjoyed Dorian Gray at first but grew to hate him as he grew to be a terrible person.

I typically don't like the horror genre. Gothic literature is not my forte and never has been. But I truly did enjoy this book. The great philosophical ideas of Lord Henry (and in turn, Dorian Gray) was worth a thought and the possibility of it all was great. What struck me most important about the book that if it were possible to place your soul into a portrait so that you may claim your beauty for years there is no time where people would be more willing to do that than the present.

With so many youth rejuvenating items out there it seems like many people are already trying to trade in their soul for youth. They should be able to easily understand what Dorian's dislike for age is. Lord Henry only makes it all the worse. He reminds me of the snake in the Garden of Eden. Whispering poison into Dorian's ear all the while.

Dorian really is poisoned by a book and not so much the portrait. The portrait, I feel, is more of an innocent bystander. But I feel that Lord Henry was the orchestrator for all of this. He provided the initial thoughts for Dorian to place his soul in the portrait and he provided the book which Dorian reads and in turn slowly becomes an evil character.

It was a great read, something I'm happy to have given a chance to. I can now see why it is such a classic and used so often in pop culture. I think that anyone who has an interest in the classics of literature should pick this book up from their local library or book store. Give it a try and see if you're more of a Henry, Basil, or Dorian Gray.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

On a Winter's Day...

My apologies for disappearing once again. My internet was more or less down for two days and work has been busy. My days off have consisted of my resting because I've been so exhausted from the constant flow of people in the book store. And it's been said people don't read anymore, ha!

I come bearing photos to make up for my lack of appearance. Just a brief display of my day and a smidgen of important family history.

We received our first official snow storm today... it was supposed to begin sometime during the night but instead didn't begin until this afternoon. The snowflakes are tiny and find their way in through anything... the wind strong and making great piles. I'm wearing my favorite pj pants in this picture.... blue pants with blue moose on them. The moose are wearing scarves and hats. I think their adorable and comfy.

Our Christmas decorations are in full force. The house has a constant scent of pine and the gentle glow of the lights are comforting, especially with such a cold white day. 

My nativity scene is simple... only three pieces depicting what's important. But the meaning of this nativity is much greater than the religious aspect. My great grandparents went to the Passion Plays in Europe where these were carved from wood. They're delicate little things that are nearly 40 years old and have been passed down to me for my own Christmas celebrations. I never got to meet my Great Grandpa and Nonnie but I've heard much about them. Having this little memento makes them feel closer and that they're still alive in my heart.

And now, I leave you all for this: 
My laptop and Matilda book.
I have a deadline looming and a lot of stuff to distract me and keep me busy from my work.

I'm going to enjoy the snow, enjoy being nestled in. I called off of work today because of this storm and very well might not make it in tomorrow if it continues into tomorrow as some weather channels have predicted. 

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great Expectations

While some classic literature authors tend to scare me away with their large words and confusing 'old' sayings Charles Dickens is one that doesn't necessarily freak me out... he just takes me ages to read his work.

I read it easily enough, I understand what's going on, but his books are just so long! So of course, it takes me forever to finish them.

When I picked up Great Expectations I wasn't so sure what to expect. Many of my friends gasped at the idea of me reading it and quickly told me how much they despised reading the book in school. I had never had to read this book in school so it was a complete mystery to me. All I knew was that my friends had hated it.

I wasn't so sure what to take of that though.... I've discovered for myself that the majority of books I was forced to read in school I hated but if read outside of school- by my own choice- I love them.

Well, I certainly enjoyed Great Expectations! Although the main character, Pip, annoyed me at times I think it's because he had many a fault and they were all very normal faults of any person. I truly enjoyed his original home life friends- Joe and Biddy- and adored reading about them. Therefore, when Pip moved away I became slightly bored.

Miss Havisham was an annoying twit to me. She bothered me so greatly and granted... I can see her characteristics living through real people today... she still bothered me just as much as any real person who would hate on men for being stood up at her wedding would. I think it also annoyed and weirded me out that this woman remained in her wedding dress and didn't change a thing in the home after that fateful wedding day. That's a reaction I would expect from a character who is heartbroken and waiting for her loves return... not so much from a character who has proclaimed her hatred of men and her determination to make them suffer.

Estella is equally annoying... I really liked the character Biddy much more. When Pip began to ignore Joe and Biddy I was sad, when he returned home with the expectation that he'd marry Biddy it annoyed me. Maybe, that's because I'm a bit of a feminist and I really hate when men expect women to wait for them after the men treat them horribly. Who knows.

The tale was certainly captivating- although very long- and I was glad that Joe and Biddy seemed happy towards the end of the novel. The assumption that Estella and Pip will also be happy annoys me though... I hate being left to wonder what happens after a story. And with this, although Pip assumes that he and Estella will never part again, it doesn't scream as a definite answer. Therefore... I wonder if it really did happen (as if these were real people!).

The twists and turns and connections between the characters is always a thrill. There are always those 'oohh!' moments which I enjoy and think help a novel along in becoming good. But really, Charles Dickens doesn't need all that much help in writing a good novel. I always enjoy how much of his subject matter can resemble the subject matter of the current age.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holidays on Ice: Seasons Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!

In this dark-humored yet hilarious 'letter' David Sedaris strikes again with his comical writing. Written as a letter that is sent out a Christmas with an update on family members (I know a couple of people do this, the yearly 'this is what's going on in our lives' letter) the wife of a family writes in a way that makes you immediately feel that she's either got a screw loose or is about to crack.

Continuing through the 'letter' it mumbles and grumbles on about the many issues in the family of the Dunbars but hints at some tragedy right off the start. Through the reading I kept taking guesses as to what the tragedy must be. Is it the love child that randomly showed up from the husbands past? Is it the drug addict daughter?

The end of the story reveals all and I have to admit, I was kinda shocked. I like dry humor but this was a little too dark for my taste. I had a very reassuring 'whose done it?' but sometimes I think I feel that way simply because I pity a character. While I could understand and appreciate the dark humor of SantaLand Diaries, this one... not so much. Still, the start of the short story was indeed amusing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I know I have a list of books which I proclaim "I loved this book as a kid! This was one of my favorites!" And it can seem awfully unbelievable. "Another book that was 'one of your favorites'? Really?"

Yes, really. I was as much of an avid reader as a kid as I am now. Maybe even more-so because as a kid I'd read three books at a time, finishing all three within two weeks time. I loved books and I loved to read. My mother still complains, "I must have been one of the only mothers out there who used to scold my child to stop reading and watch some tv. I just wanted her to give her eyes a rest! She'd go to school, come home and do her homework, then read until bed. All she did was read!"

And it's true. I have many memories of rushing through homework just so I could read afterwards. But some of the most prominent memories are not just of me reading the books- but of how I acquired them.

Matilda is one of these books. I didn't ever own a copy of Roald Dahl's Matilda until only a week ago. As a child, we had a library day and I would always take out Matilda... well, if it was available. I remember the exact location of the book in that pastel colored elementary library. I remember switching between Matilda and The Witches. But Matilda held a soft spot for me.

When given a chance to do a book review for a website I saw that Matilda was one of the books needing review. I jumped to the chance and bought the book but soon rediscovered a much loved childhood book.

Matilda is a polite little girl who has raised herself to be an exceedingly smart child. Learning to talk and read at an early age and then being incredibly advanced at school. Her parents ignore her though, she's only seen as a useless nuisance. But the polite little girl quickly finds her way into the heart of her teacher Miss Honey and her classmates.

But Miss Trunchbull, the child-hating headmistress, is there to ensure Matilda doesn't have that much of an enjoyable time in school. She terrorizes the children and abuses them horribly. She doesn't get caught because who would really believe a miserable child whose claiming the woman throws little girls hundreds of yards away by pig tails?

When Matilda discovers Trunchbull might have some relation to a possible murder and has been the long time leader in making Miss Honey's life miserable Matilda feels it's her job to teach Miss Trunchbull a lesson.

And a lesson she does teach, with extraordinary powers to boot.

When I was a child I adored Matilda. She loved books just like me! She was incredibly polite and the pretty Miss Honey just adored her. What was even cooler was that she could move stuff with her eyes. I found that amazing and would sit around my room trying to move stuff with my own- to great failure- but it's an amusing memory that I have now.

The book was made into a movie years ago which I watched and enjoyed, but I still liked the book better! Go check out the book and movie at your local bookstore. It's a great read even if you're an adult!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holidays on Ice: SantaLand Diaires

Sick of the holidays and all of the grumpy people who seem to fill the stores? David Sedaris is and in a humorously sarcastic way highlights his woes of being a Macy's SantaLand elf for one holiday season.

With quick blurbs about the rudeness of customers, the creeps, the funny ones, the overly emotional ones, David Sedaris manages to embody all of the odd things people experience if they are involved in retail- especially during the holiday season.

The first short story in Sedaris' book Holidays on Ice it causes you to get in the exact mindset for his level of sarcasm and dark humor.

If ever you wanted a backstage look to SantaLand, this is the short story for you. If you enjoy dark humor and sarcasm, again this is for you. I read the story (and heard parts read on NPR) and laughed the entire time. I can relate to many of the stories he tells about nasty customers- people whom you can just not believe exist in this world. It'll put your entire shopping experience in a whole new light.

I think if I were to give a present to a friend who works retail or the Christmas/Santa circuit... it would be this. Misery loves company, eh? Well for those who hate their seasonal jobs they'd certainly find their company here.

I'll continue with future short posts about each of the short stories in the book Holidays on Ice.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Welcome Winter, Welcome Snow

This was what I woke up to this morning:
And this is my favorite picture that I took from this snow covered start of day:
I'm not incredibly religious... but when I have mornings like this it's hard not to believe in something. :)

Spent the day reading and watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy which I deem to be the perfect way to spend a Sunday. Tomorrow I am taking my mother to the closest 'big town' to do some shopping. I plan to pick up some underwear (I have a coupon! I know, everyone laughs at me when I announce this but it's a coupon for underwear!) and then it's off to my job to pick up a SLEW of books.

I know, I said I wouldn't buy anymore until I finished reading the ones I have. But I've been steadily working on them and my parents cannot really buy me anything for Christmas so we're doing it this way. I have a two sided sheet of paper filled with the books I've been hoping for and can't wait to get my hands on them. A declaration of my findings will be had.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When it's snowing....

Today I worked from open until 1pm. As I drove to work... it began to snow. I'm most excited when it snows before Christmas. Generally, I hate snow. I hate winter. But give me snow for the holiday season and I'm ecstatic. I could never live somewhere that never gets snow... maybe just not so much of it in the January-March months.

None the less, my point is that it flurried on my drive to work. As I got to work though, it stopped and was just gray out until one when I left work to discover it had begun to snow. Little did I know that it had been snowing at my house for over an hour already.

So I drove home, saw two car accidents along the way (the further south you go, the less people are able to drive in winter weather) but then drove into my neighborhood just as the snow began to stick and to my excitement we decided to get our Christmas tree!
We drove to the closest tree farm to my house (the road I live on has about 15 tree farms... we're tree farm country. Not only do the farms sell their own trees from their doorsteps but they also ship them out to be sold at stores).

Our favorite place (although a bit expensive) is the one closest to home which has two black horses, covered in sleigh bells, who bring you up until the mountain side to pick your tree.
Once in the mountain you find your tree, cut it, and someone will bring it down for you to be shaken (to get rid of loose needles) and then wrapped in string for safe keeping.
They always have other animals to be ridden or fed. I love their horses simply because they all love getting their pictures taken and they pose.
We chose a pre-cut tree because my dad is injured and can't saw at the moment. It smells wonderful and is currently drying off from all of the snow on it.
(like my snow boots? And PS: I totally made that scarf)
We have over an inch of snow on the ground right now and it's still coming down heavily. I'm glad I'm home from work and don't work tomorrow. No driving in this weather! I'd rather cuddle up with a book and drink some hot cocoa anyway. :)

PS: Readers don't forget to make your January suggestions for the book of the month on this blog post here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Mitten

Many times I have commented on a children's books illustrations as 'wonderful' and other such positive things. But for this child's book I cannot use any of those terms. I feel that in this case Jan Brett, author of this book, is an artist. She she should be praised for her fantastic capabilities to draw such wonderfully accurate and beautiful pieces of art.

What I was mostly drawn to with The Mitten was that itself- the artwork. There is so much beautiful detail to all that is included. The amount of things Brett has included is outstanding. Even the smallest inclusion is beautiful.

The Mitten is loosely based on a Ukrainian folktale that tells of a group of forest animals who all try to fit into a pot or mitten- depending on the version of the story. But this one is much sweeter than the traditional versions featuring a little boy who goes out to play in the woods and of course, the winter animals who climb into his lost mitten.

Again, the detailed and beautiful artwork captures the imagination and takes the story right along with it. All of Jan Brett's books detail her fantastic creative power and strength in artwork but I enjoy this particular book.

I enjoyed it enough to buy it today. :) I'll be wrapping it in snowflake covered wrapping paper after I post this and mailing it to Virginia to my 'niece' and 'nephew' for Christmas (my cousins children, I've adopted them as niece and nephew though, and I am an adopted aunt in turn).

So go out, enjoy the beauty of winter, and pick up a Jan Brett book (particularly this one!) for the child (or child who is not so much a child- like me) in your life.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Book of the Month: The Book Thief

The December Book of the Month
suggested by Sarah
When I took this book out on loan one of my managers at work exclaimed, "This is such a fantastic book. It's amazing. Narrated by death and just so well written. It's so good!" Then she breezed off to do something at the registers. I was assuming it was good. It was featured as a best seller for the young adult fiction and we had plenty of copies in the store that were quickly being bought.

I intentionally didn't read what Sarah thought of the book, or why she had suggested the book for me, until after I was finished reading it. I also stayed away from all comments on about the book. I wanted as clear of a mind when I went into reading this book as I could have so that way I would be allowed the most true feelings for the book.

Sarah's impression of the book is as follows:

It was recommended by my mother (she works at the library so always has great suggestions for when I can't find a book to read) and she sent it to me in a care package when I started school. Right away you know that the book is different in many ways, which is one reason why I suggested it to you. It is from the point of view of "Death" personified and narrating a story that is set during the Holocaust. However, it isn't scary or creepy in a way you would think Death would tell a story.

Death talks about colors and the significance of them in beautiful metaphors and is saddened by the souls he had to come and carry into the afterlife. This addition of noticing colors and beauty and not just the darkness of death, turns him into an actual humanized character so he is not just an unbiased narrator.

It is so interesting that it is narrated from an unseen, unheard onlooker that was there but wasn't really present, if that makes any sense. And although other deaths are mentioned, since he was very busy retrieving souls because it was the Holocaust, one girl's (the book thief's) story is told in full which makes up the amusing, sad, disturbing, ridiculous, eventful plot. The book is really fast read because of how it is divided into parts and its random bold notes throughout. And personally, it's nice to know that the Germans were actually speaking German, although "translated" for the audience with some German words occasionally stuck in for emphasis. I don't know why but it's annoying when stories are set in a different country but the characters speak English. In movies, I would rather have subtitles and in books I would like to know that it was translated from the original language. It seems more authentic. =]

The subject matter of this book is a little heavy, but I liked how Liesel was so in love with reading and with books, and I thought of you and thought it would be perfect and different which was the main reason I chose to suggest it.

The book is fantastic. It is amazing. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read and I completely feel that this should be considered a classic. I hope that in a hundred years people are reading this book and realizing how fantastic it is all on their own.

It's labeled as a "young adult" book but I feel it is most definitely more of an adult nature despite it's main character being that of a child. The issues at hand are something that I'm not sure a 12-year-old could completely grasp but an adult would surely appreciate.

The book is narrated by death and eloquently so. With little jabs at the human race, Death can even be funny at times but generally is overwhelmed by the sadness of taking so many bodies during the Holocaust - which is where we find this story taking place. But despite how busy Death is he does find himself drawn towards one particular life. The life of the orphan Liesel who has moved to Himmel Street after her mother is 'taken away'- most likely to a concentration camp- and her younger brother Werner dies on the train ride to her destined home.

She's frightened and upset but quickly begins to love her new father "Papa" and befriends her neighbor Rudy. At first the book follows the antics Liesel has and her growing relationship with Papa and Mama. The book begins it's tale just before World War II has begun then plunges head on into the war.

The chapters on the war itself are filled with the anxious fear, stress, worry, and heaviness that the period of time must have possessed. There are many accounts of what the Jewish people went through during that time and it's incredibly frightening. But this is the first book I've read where the prospective is that of the 'arians' of the land - the Germans who are more or less being forced to follow Hitler's lead or else face death themselves. The fear they feel as the war progresses and their families - brothers, fathers, sons - are being forced to join the German army. The parade of Jews through their town and the emotions they feel when they see the starving individuals... the punishment they receive when they try to help those people.

It was a dangerous time for any German. I feel that no one was really safe and the book highlights that. I grew to love all of the characters, even Mama who was hard as nails, and I feel that is because Leisel was the one who loved these characters. Her love shown through and brought it into myself.

The motifs of the book are outstanding and in the forefront through and through. Death is what ties all of the characters together, Death is what is seen in Nazi Germany daily, and Death is who narrates the book and also will be the one who ends your story. Literature, or the power of words, is also prominent. Hitler has a great power with words and drives people to support or fear him. Words are taught to Liesel and she learns how to read only to later on drive people to comfort during air raids.

Despite that the book is surrounded so very much with dark things... death and war... it is beautifully written and shines as an outstanding read. I was so absorbed with it that it was hard to put down. I'd read until my eyes ached (and this would be after a 9 hour shift at work) and then sleep only to rinse and repeat. As horrifying as it is fantastic... it's worth the read.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

In this heartbreakingly honest memoir Jean-Dominique, former editor of Elle magazine in France, writes of his thoughts and memories during the course of time that he is trapped within his own body.

In 1995 Jean suffered a stroke that left him with 'locked-in syndrome' which essentially traps a person within their own body. He could not move, could not speak, and had no control over his body. His brain was fully functioning though and this is how this book came about.

How is the possible? Well, Jean did have control over one part of his body- his left eye. And by blinking each time someone guessed a correct letter to what he was trying to say he stated his memoir letter by letter, blink by blink.

The language used in this book is powerful and allows you to realize that although most people would state that this man was a vegetable, more or less, he still had a fully functional brain. The book is short, just over 100 pages, but I find I can't critique that aspect.

This man could not talk and yet he managed to blink out over 100 pages of a memoir. Over 100 pages of memories he finds himself dwelling on, over 100 pages of his feelings of loneliness and death now that his former life is dead, and I think it's an amazing feat.

Take any person and have them try to tell an entire story letter by letter and I doubt it would be very long. Despite that I still feel it was beautifully written although sad. I don't think I could continue living if I was in his position and I credit him for giving doctors a chance to see inside the mind of someone with locked in syndrome.

It's worth the read if only to take a moment to appreciate the life you have, even if at times you think it's not quite right.

Jean-Domonique died two days after the publication of this book from pneumonia but his life lives on in the pages of this brief memoir and the film adaptation of it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

If You Take a Mouse To School

I love these books!

I'm totally sorry, I do realize that I am a 23 year old adult and all... but I love these books! I can't up-sell them enough. I just think they're so adorable.

Really, give me any books that involve cute fuzzy animals that do cute little things and I'll love it but I cannot get enough of this little guy!

Much like If You Take A Mouse To The Movies we follow our fuzzy friend as he goes to school for the first time and the antics that ensue from that little trip. The illustrations are, once more, adorable and colorful and I enjoyed reading it.

I am totally going to read more of these books. The If You Give series is just far too cute. I might even buy them to keep around the house and I'm thinking of buying a couple for the little kids I know and love in my life.

So go to a library or book store and read them asap, because they're just too cute to pass up!

Friday, November 27, 2009

This is very important.

I'm just dropping in to note....

.... that I survived my first year of working retail on Black Friday.

.... and I never want to do it again....

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

Nancy, a fancy little girl who is displayed wearing sparkles and bright frilly clothes, is set for Christmas. This popular children's character has a list of other books but what was on the display during my break time was Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas. I had never read a Fancy Nancy book before and was interested in seeing why children and parents alike enjoyed it so much.

Silly me, the answer is so clear!

While Nancy's book pages are filled with bright colors, frills, flowers, and butterflies there is also an overlying layer of sparkles- that can attract anyone. But what I truly enjoyed was that each and every page in the book has some lesson for kids. What an educational book! Because Nancy is 'fancy' she uses fancy words. So each page, while she's telling her story, she'll say something using a 'big' word and then quickly explain what the word means. For children who are learning words these books could certainly open their minds to an advanced vocabulary.

My eldest cousin has two kids who both have a very advanced vocabulary for their age and it's hilarious to hear these words come out of their mouths- but also impressive. Anthony, the eldest of the two (at a ripe old age of 5) was quoted to say "I was disappointed. I would like a nap." after seeing an air show (at the age of 3). What 3 year old says that?! But it's impressive that they know 'big' words and how to use it. I think it will help them when their older and in school.

And here, Fancy Nancy creates a great way for little girls who are filled with the fascination of fancy girly things can also get an education while they're at it. I need to ask my cousin if his daughter has these books because otherwise I've discovered an excellent Christmas present for his daughter (who is 3). I'd suggest this for anyone who has a little girl in their lives. What's better then an entertaining and bright book that also educates?


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blueberry Girl

I picked up the Blueberry Girl just after I retrieved it from the stock room. It's written by one of my favorite authors: Neil Gaiman and I had heard mention of some book by him called Blueberry Girl. Little did I know it was a childrens book and little did I know just how surprised I'd be when I read it.

I feel that this book is a perfect gift for a mother or daughter, something to give someone at a baby shower who is going to have a little girl, it's filled with beautiful pictures of mothers, daughters, and animals. I truly appreciated the artwork and thought that in itself was wonderful.

But the story, well calling it a 'prayer' might be more appropriate, is beautiful and well written. A wish for a child- a little girl- and that her life be filled with wonder. That she is strong and adventurous and the problems of the world do not hurt her. All wishes for a blueberry girl.

I feel Neil Gaiman eloquently points out all of the hopes and prayers a person will have for their daughter. What do you hope your child will experience? What do you pray they will possess in their lives? I feel this is placed perfectly in this lovely story.

Please watch the youtube video if you're interested in the actual story. It includes the artwork featured in the book and is read by Neil Gaiman himself. It's beautiful and I hope that one day, if I am lucky enough to have a child and it be a little girl, I will buy this book for her. My own prayers for my own blueberry girl.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

T'was the Night Before Thanksgiving

With bright quirky drawings and expression filled turkeys this book looks pretty cute. The tale is told in a copy of "T'was the Night Before Christmas" but tells a very much different tale.

A group of children go on a class trip to a local farm where they meet a group of turkeys. They love and cuddle the turkeys and become quick friends with the feathered creatures until they discover that the turkeys are to be killed for Thanksgiving.

Quickly the children 'save' the turkeys and bring them home to have as guests for Thanksgiving while all of their meals become vegetarian ones.

The story is quirky and cute and to be honest I wondered where the story was going to go when these children met these turkeys. I mean, it's Thanksgiving, we all know what the main course tends to be. But I also feel that the story kind of forced a horrible view towards people who do eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

This would be a great book for a family that eats meat free come the holidays but I'm not quite sure it's something I'd want to introduce to a group of kids who are just about to eat the bird that they just read about saving.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If You Take a Mouse To The Movies

Following the course of If You Give books and a Christmas filled follow up of the much loved If You Give a Mouse a Cookie this book is filled with adorable, bright pictures of the little mouse and his pal all while describe the adventure that ensues if you take a mouse to the movies.

This is definitely a bedtime story that is short and sweet with artwork to catch the imagination of a child but a story that isn't too long. It was enjoyable, even for me, who had never read the book before and decided to read it last night at the ripe old age of 23.

This little demanding mouse (who is just so cute!) is taken to the movies but if you take a mouse to the movies he'll obviously want some popcorn. And if he has some popcorn he'll want to string them together. If he strings them together then he'll want to put them on a Christmas tree! The continuing wants and needs of this little guy wraps you up and quickly takes you along. My personal favorite part of the story was looking at the artwork. If all mice were as cute as this, I wouldn't mind if we had one in the house!

If you have a little one who you will be buying for this holiday season I'd highly suggest taking a peek at this book. The version I had even had a 'workbook' of sorts in the back with fun activities for kids so it's double the pleasure!


Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Gifts

The holiday season is upon us. We might not have our holiday decorations out just yet but the volume of customers in my store are definitely proving the onslaught of holiday 'cheer' is near. People are snatching up Christmas gifts as quickly as they can with general surprise on my part.

And in my home life I've noticed the crease in my mothers forehead that she always gets when the holidays arrive. That stressed out 'what am I getting people for gifts' line. I provided her with a list of stuff I'd love for Christmas and every item on the list is a book title.

Call me a bookworm, I don't care.

But really, every year as I get older I don't want very much. I could sure go for some new clothes, I need new sweaters to last me through the cold wintery weather, but I hate having people buy me clothes because I am too long of a person to just fit into any such size. I need to actually try on all of my clothing before buying it (this makes online shopping impossible). What else could I use? $25,000 so I can pay off all my student loans? Well I don't suspect I'll be getting that wrapped up in a box. But really, what do I need? Nothing really. Just stuff to spoil and educate myself with... like books. Oh, and these owl bookends I discovered- but I'll be buying those for myself. Otherwise, I don't need anything.

So that leaves me wondering... what do you all want for your holiday gifts? I do mean gifts, not peace on earth- that goes without being said. What are you asking your loved ones to hand you this holiday season?

And as a public service announcement: Please be nice to your cashiers during this holiday season. We're people too and we hurt a little when you're mean to us.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Children's Books and a Promotion

I'm sorry I've been so absent and delayed. Here is the d00m report:
  1. My boss is in the hospital with the H1N1 flu (swine flu) and has been for the past week. Please keep her in your thoughts for a speedy recovery.
  2. The majority of my co-workers are sick. Not H1N1 but we're all, understandably, worried.
  3. I have been very sick since Sunday night. I've been suffering from a horrible cough and a congested head. I called off of work today and during the rest of the week I have been very distant with friends. Not intentionally, I've just felt sick and haven't had the energy to be on the internet.
So during the course of my being sick I've done very little reading... and the reading I have done have been short and sweet children's stories that will be great gifts for the holiday season. So let's check them out!

The Polar Express

This classic has become greatly popular in recent years due to the recent movie hit. The movie is, hands down, one of my most favorite Christmas movies. It's artfully done with beautiful music and an enjoyable point to simply believe. If you have not seen the movie, I urge you to check it out, I guarantee you'll enjoy it.

I always wondered if the movie was anything like the original story and when I picked up the book I was impressed to see that although they extended scenes and made them more creative many of the impressive points in The Polar Express movie were all featured in the book. So good job movie makers, you stuck to the story.

With beautiful large pictures and the story urging children to believe, truly believe, it's a comforting story that could be read at night before bed with the Christmas lights twinkling in the distance. A lovely book, a lovely story, lovely paintings, and a lovely movie adaptation. A must have for the bookshelves of children.

Stranger in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy

I've seen this book sitting on bookstore shelves for years and I never knew what it was about aside from an adorable photograph on the front cover of two deers eerily peering at a snowman in the woods.

Picking up the book I discovered that it features a quick story of the different woodland animals and their curiosity towards a stranger that has been seen in the woods. Each page shows a photograph of that voiced animal in the snowy woods and when the story progresses the animals discover the stranger- a snowman with a carrot nose and seeds in it's hat. The animals are photographed eating the carrot nose and feasting on the seeds. The stranger is then discovered to have been placed their by two children who refurbish the snowmans now missing nose and the seeds that were eaten.

This book, all based around real photos, reminded me so much of my childhood. I loved to build snowmen and always made it a venture to try and make a huge one. Even now in my adulthood I still get the urge to make a snowman. But as a child I would always be excited to see the few animals and birds that were left behind in the cold weather emerge from the woods to investigate my snowman and eventually eat the carrot nose I had placed. I feel this story would be very appropriate for a young child, one who would be more satisfied with the pictures of the animals, because the story itself is generally very simple. It's appropriate for Christmas but also for any other point in the cold of winter.

Beckett and the Panda-monium

This cute story has adorable photos of fuzzy, happy little pandas all over it's brightly colored pages. It follows Beckett, the featured panda, and his hunt for bamboo. But along the way he gains a following of other pandas who want some yummy bamboo too.

Each new sets of pandas Beckett finds is a number up from the last. First two pandas join him, then three, then four. A great way to work in numbers and counting to the cute story. Quite possibly a decent book for children who are learning to count from 1-10.

And currently at Borders bookstores they are selling a TY Beckett bear for $8.99 if you spend $30 or more. (that would be the promotional part of this entry)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Betsy In Spite of Herself

In this cute sixth book of the Betsy-Tacy series Betsy enters her sophomore year of high school and "the winding hall of fate". After a restful and happy summer Betsy goes back to school and discovers a new student, Phil, whose wealthy and has something exciting to talk about: an automobile! (Remember this book takes place before 1910).

With the new year Betsy gets to face an assortment of new adventures. She travels by herself out of state for the first time to visit one of her best friends Tib in Milwaukee. Her family gets to dine at the exotic Moorsih Cafe. And most exciting of all, Betsy has her first true beau- Phil, the wealthy newcomer.

But with dating Phil Betsy changes herself so that he will like her more. She's not her normal happy self and forsakes her beloved writing and time spent with her friends. When Phil see's Betsy's true personality shine through will he appreciate it or turn away?

Betsy is obviously growing up and treading through the emotions and events of a teenager and even more life changes approach as her beloved sister Julia graduates from High School.

Once more I was caught in the nostalgia of my own High School experiences. I am still amazed that a book written 100 years ago can be so truthful as to the ordeals girls face in this present day and age. I'm excited to pick up the next four books to the series!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

One Year Anniversary!

Today is the one year anniversary since I started this blog. :) Back then it was only for fun and I had very little hopes that anyone would ever read it. Now I have over 20 readers and I love each and every one of them!

For the anniversary I figured I'd make a list of 12 different facts about me... since usually we don't dive too far into my personal life. So here we go!

12 Facts for 12 Months
  1. I am an only child and always wanted to have siblings. But I think being an only child helped me develop my creative streak!
  2. I had white blonde hair as a little kid, it's darkened since then and during the summer I get wicked thick blonde streaks from the sun.
  3. I used to be a dancer in High School. I've taken classes in tap, jazz, swing, ballroom, belly dancing, lyrical, hip-hop, ballet, and a cultural mix. I've also done a mock audition for the Radio City Rockettes and learned three of their dances!
  4. I originally was going to go to college for art but then changed my mind and went for English. The only regret I have is that I didn't simply dual major in the two. Art is still my second love to reading.Self-Portrait via what one would look like pressed up against a photocopier.
  5. I am a MUTT. My heritage goes as follows: German, Sicilian (or Italian), Swedish, Dutch, English, and Irish. :-)
  6. My favorite seasons are summer and fall. I definitely enjoy spring and winter for certain aspects but they aren't my favorites. Despite that I despise winter from the months of January til it's over with... I could never live somewhere where I don't experience seasons. One of my favorite aspects of fall is the changing of the leaves, the crisp air, and the smell of wood smoke. And my favorites of summer consist of my birthday, the warmth, the shade, swimming, birds, and all of the fun things that you can go and experience!Musikfest August 2009Hawk Mountain October 2008
  7. I grew up in New York in the Catskill Mountains. I was about 30 minutes from the Woodstock Festival site and 30 minutes from Orange County Choppers which are featured on the tv channel TLC. Gavin DeGraw went to my High School. He's actually a very sweet and down to earth person. I moved to Pennsylvania the week I turned 21 and now live and work near where TLC's Jon and Kate Plus 8 live. I also live by the Amish.
  8. I am really good at coming up with crafty fun things and baked goods. Not so much at the hard labor. In fact, I'm kinda scary with it.Habitat for Humanity circa 2007
  9. I am gluten free due to celiac's disease (an allergy to gluten). It's hard to resist cookies and cakes, pastas and breads, and microwavable snacks but it will be beneficial in the long run. I've been g-free for one month and in a months time I'm already seeing my health improve and I've found a lot of g-free foods that taste like the real thing!
  10. My 'life dreams' consist of the following: taking more art classes, taking classes to raise my GPA, get into a grad school, graduate from a grad school, learn a foreign language, get married, have children, and raise them to appreciate life and books. And also have them steeped into the tradition of appreciating food (by making meals from scratch and growing our own plants!)
  11. I want to travel to Europe. I want to travel there SO BADLY. I have a map of Europe taped behind my bedroom door and the countries I want to visit are all colored in with highlighter. I will literally fall into a (brief) depression if I think about how I'm not in Europe and will likely not be able to afford it for a very long time. I feel like traveling Europe is very much a 'calling' of some sort.
  12. Detailed description of me is needed! I am 5'9", I have blonde hair, I have blue/gray eyes that turn green when I cry (my face also gets a very patchy red color to it). I have incredibly long fingers, I surpass the finger length of most guys, and my feet are a bit big- but average for someone my height. I have horrible knee and hip problems due to dance injuries and fear how I'll be when I'm old. I wear glasses for distance and I hated having them splattered with rain so I finally got contacts a year ago. My hair is just past my shoulders... although it used to be only a bob and before that... almost to my butt. I miss the long hair to be honest. I care for my family and friends with a fierceness that can be frightening- I'm equally protective to them. I'm the same way to people I don't really know but show me kindness. And I love you, my readers, because all of your comments have been so genuine and sweet. You're all fantastic people and I am proud that you're my following.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Heaven to Betsy

This is one of those situations where I totally judged a book by it's cover. I do it more then I should, probably, and totally ignore the old saying. Thing is, if you have an interesting cover to your book I will likely pick it up to see what it's about.

I did just that with Heaven to Betsy. It's 1920 style artwork on the front cover caught my eye as did it's bright colors. I picked up the book and decided I'd buy it, not realizing that it was the 5th book of an entire series (The Betsy-Tacy Series).

However, Heaven to Betsy is the first book of her High School career and as I quickly realized as I read one did not need to have the previous four books to jump right into the thick of things. You get to see the life of Betsy Ray through her eyes in the early twentieth century. With the turn of the century just occurring we're thrown into a world filled with pompadours, houses with no electric, and the very start of the introduction to horseless carriages.

Any time period between 1900-1940 kinda creeps me out. I don't exactly know why... it just always has. I immediately think of my younger self traipsing through local museums and looking at all of the beauty supplies of that era which reminds me more of torture devices. It seems like such another world and one I never was very interested in learning about. But these Betsy books slipped me right into that age without me really noticing.

Suddenly I was deep into the book and craving more. Betsy is such a modern day girl and it's incredibly interesting that Maude Hart Lovelace, who was born in 1892, could make a character who could be so likable 100 years later.

Betsy's existence takes place before women had the right to vote, before women were really seen as much else then a house wife and mother. Betsy is a talkative girl who has a passion for writing and has little interest in just settling down. She'd much rather see the great world first! Her best friend Tacy is even more interesting in that she is completely uninterested in men which is almost unheard of for this time period.

Betsy has her typical teenage issues: crushes that go no-where, confusion about boys, qualms over the way she looks. She is a terrible ice skater but a decent writer. She's a great friend and a loving sister. What a wonderful and refreshing character to read about!

All of her friends are decent and fun loving also and the book is a very enjoyable read. I felt happy while reading it. It might not have loads of adventure or anything too exciting to occur but you feel as if you are seeing Betsy's life first hand and feel for her through her worries and happiness.

I'm excited to read the following books in the series and hope to acquire the earlier books of Betsy's childhood. I can see why there is a Betsy Ray society which consists of fans of the series. Such a happy read and I'm so glad I did judge this book by it's cover! I'll surely read it again and I would happily suggest it to anyone who is looking for a fun loving book for themselves or a daughter.