Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Very Scary Haunted House

In honor of the holiday I pulled out one of my favorite Hallowe'en books from my childhood. A Very Scary Haunted House was a short glow in the dark book that while the pages looked like one thing in light they looked much different once the lights were shut off.

Elinor Ghoul, the main character, adores visiting her Aunt Agatha's house, but her imagination gets away from her when she visits one week. Thumps and growls make Elinor's wild imagination believe that there are monsters in each of the rooms as she creeps up the stairs to the only lit room in the house: the bathroom.

When she comes into the bathroom she discovers a dragon and is relieved! It's just a normal night in the house with Aunt Agatha giving the pet dragon a bath.

Silly, cute, and short. A perfect holiday treat for any child. I recall reading the book by flashlight then shutting it off to catch the glow in the dark imagery. It would make a perfect present for any child during this celebration of the season.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Angel Time

Anne Rice, best known for her outstanding Vampire Chronicles and the infamous vampire rock star Lestat, turned to writing for and about God a few years ago. I was a fan of her Vampire Chronicles and tried as I might to get through her first God-related book it bored me terribly.

For me, I felt that the Anne Rice I knew and loved had disappeared. While I was at work on Tuesday I spotted Anne Rice's newest book Angel Time sitting on display. It had just been released and it caught my eye.

I was raised Roman Catholic and always had a fondness for stories of angels. Seeing the book title and knowing a very vague description of the book I immediately grabbed hold of it with all intentions of reading it.

And read it I did.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I was interested, entertained, and at the same time expecting some of the more homoerotic and/or gruesome detail that her old books used to contain but this book had none of it.

It was a beautiful tale of a young man who had more or less lost his path in life. A horrible childhood and an adult life with the job of a hit man Toby O'Dare has lost his way. Once he believed in God, once he had believed in angels and the powers of heaven, but that was before he lost his entire family.

But Toby is given a chance that he had never expected. An angel comes to him with an opportunity to truly work for the 'good guys'. He goes back in time to thirteenth-century England where Jews are being accused of murder. He is asked to help these people and in helping them slowly gains back his own humanity.

The book is lovely and written perfectly. Anne Rice always has a tendency to over-describe different things and dive into memories for more time then needed but I feel she worked out exactly as much 'time' as needed in this story. Each memory was presented to the degree of information we needed and each description was perfectly executed.

My mother, who likes literature about spiritual matters and angels, has not read this book and I quickly recommended it to her.

Although Anne Rice might not be writing vampire literature anymore (and believe me, I wish I could get another story about Lestat and Louis one of these days!) I think that her strength in writing has returned. Her tales are interesting with an edge of education added to it. They might not be as dark as they once were, but there is still that edge of darkness, that eternal struggle for what is right from wrong.

It's an interesting book that is thought provoking and easy to turn the pages. I really adored it and enjoyed that I feel like the old Anne Rice I knew and loved is back once again. Writing different genres of fiction, yes, but she's just as strong a novelist as ever.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Book Store Pet Peeves

It's cold and rainy. My mother and I are feeling under the weather with sniffles and coughs. Blame it on the rain if you will but I've been in quite the cranky mood today and I decided to express some of my pet peeves with working in a bookstore.

1) Plastic Bags.
Just because you've made a purchase does not mean you need to have a bag. Seriously. Plastic bags are a danger to the environment (hello poor little animals being trapped in them) and such a waste. Unless you are about to take that plastic bag and use it for other things around the house, don't grab it, please! The only two reason I can understand someone getting a plastic bag is 1) if it's raining- RAINING- not drizzling. 2) If you have more than two items.

Really it's a pet peeve of mine when someone will buy a book light, bookmark, or a small book and ask for a bag. We only have big bags too so it really feels like a waste.

2) Rude Customers

This goes across the board. I know anyone whose worked with the public has dealt with less then pleasant people but it drives me mad. This weekend I had a mediocre annoying customer, our conversation went as follows:
Me: Hello, how are you today?
Man: CASH. *throws the book on the table*
Me: Oh, uh... did you find everything you were looking for?
Man: *waves a twenty in my face*
Me: *I take the twenty and ring him up* Would you like a...
Man: *has his hand sticking in my face waiting for the book to be placed in it*

Come on people, be nice! I understand if you go to a store and have an employee who is acting like a snob and you get annoyed but if the employee is trying to be nice, try to be nice back. Believe me, I can tell when people are rushing and I try to keep conversation short, but no need to be rude.

3. "You're my slave" Customers:
Customers who come in and know the book title, know the author, know where the book is located, then ask you to get the book off the shelf. When it's eye level. If you know where the book is and you can reach it yourself, grab it! There are always customers who are looking for a book and are completely lost, they're the ones who deserve to be helped, not the people who expect you to obey every wish.

4. Angry Customers:
Now this all depends, if someone has treated you wrong then I can understand anger. But if you are mad at the company and the companies policies please don't take it out on me. I have no say in what the company decides and I can't control any of their decisions. I am sorry they have upset you, but really, don't attack the cashier or greeter, ask for a manager and discuss it with them. They might be able to help you further and they might even have the phone number you might need to get a hold of the company themselves!

But I can't let this be only a cranky pet-peeve filled post. There are a lot of awesome aspects out there, such as follows!

1. Adorable kids:
When little kids come up to me and ask me politely, or shyly, for a book, I melt. When they make their first purchases, their first experiences with money, I melt. When they're talkative and tell me whole stories about how they like trains or American Girl dolls, I melt. Cute happy babies? Little kids dressed in their halloween costumes? All awesome.

2. Nice people:
Sometimes people surprise me, I'll help them and they will repeatedly thank me. Some will give you a hug or even a kiss. I don't think I deserve to be thanked so much but I appreciate it none the less and think that these people are pretty much awesome and have the right mindset for the world.

3. Helpful people:
People who help other customers, people who put their books away after looking at them, people who hold doors open for others, it's all so nice no matter where the customers are.

4. Finding people who have the same enjoyments as myself:
I adore getting to talk to people about books I love. I feel like I'm doing something right if I can stand with a person I don't know and talk forever about something that was written ten years ago. It's great.

5. Getting people interested in books they never knew existed:
Seeing their eyes brighten and watching them purchase the book I suggested makes me, once more, feel like I'm doing something right. The only worry I have is that I hope I did the book justice and they will indeed enjoy it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant

Where A Living Nightmare had left us The Vampire's Assistant picks up. After a brief chapter summing up what had occurred in the previous book we're left with what Darren has been up to since his mortal death.

Still fighting with the facts of his life Darren appears at the start of the book unhappy and not adjusting to the vampire lifestyle very well. Still refusing human blood and missing his family and friends Mr. Crepsley decides to take Darren back to the Cirque du Freak so that he may bond with other 'freaks' such as himself and potentially have friends.

While there he does indeed become friends with the snake boy Evra and becomes more familiar with all of the freaks that were presented in the Cirque du Freak show he saw in the first book. So now, instead of marveling at them from a far and seeing them as simply entertainers, Darren introduces the freaks as real characters for the book.

There is more action and the book is a little bit darker than the previous one. An easy read that's quick to get through and is perfect for this time of year with Halloween on the horizon. The adventure is there and gives room for more in the upcoming books. While they're not really of my own taste, I cannot deny the splendor the series has. I'd definitely suggest this to people who are looking for a fun, adventurous, supernatural series to pick up.

It's pleasant to see that this second book was better than the first. Now that all the introductions are out of the way and the setting has been made (all which happened in the first book) the second has room for actual action.

I am a firm believer that these would be great vampire books for young teens, specifically boys. Right now many of the vampire books that are on the market are driven towards girls and it's refreshing to have a series (although out for a couple of years already) that is meant for boys but are still enjoyable to people of any age or gender.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Fox went out on a chilly night

Another childhood story. The Fox went out on a chilly night is an old song put into the pages of this book filled with beautiful illustrations of autumn and country life.

The fox leaves his home on a chilly night and goes into the town to catch some dinner. The farmers wife hears that the fox has run off with their goose and raises an alarm while the fox runs back to his home.

It's a cute short song worthwhile to teach to your child but the illustrations of the book are my favorite part. It seems to be the perfect book to read after the harvest when the air is turning chilly and the leaves have changed their colors.

Take a listen to the song sung by the oh-so-awesome Burl Ives:

A Mouse Mess

Diving into my childhood bookshelf I pulled out an assortment of books that I cherished as a child but don't quite recall. Looking through them were as nostalgic as looking through photos of my childhood. I could recall how much adored certain books and different photos and how I decided just two years ago that I didn't want to throw these childhood memories out but pack them up and move them from New York to Pennsylvania.

Other books weren't so lucky. Some of my childhood books didn't hold many memories for me and I opted to donate them to the library I used to work at. But the ones I kept, these are the special ones.

A Mouse Mess is a cute little book with a lesson of responsibility. Sweetie, the baby mouse of the family, is left alone when her older Brother and Sister decide they'd rather play then watch their younger siblings. Due to their lack of responsibility Sweetie destroys the kitchen in her determined attempt to get a hold of the basket of cookies.

The artwork is bright and fun with a rainbow of colors and details of the little mouse families world. I recall craving the jam that is all over the kitchen (courtesy of Sweetie) and although it was simply a little story to me as a child I now see the hidden message.

Brother and Sister decide not to follow instructions from their parents and chaos ensues. They initially say that Sweetie was the one who broke the cups, destroyed the kitchen, and ate the cookies. That it was her fault but her parents are quick to point out it's their fault. Had they listened to instructions this would not have occurred. A subtle way to tell children to listen to their parents because they know best.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

70 Books

Each year I set a goal to read 50 books from January 1st to December 31st. I feel accomplished to think that I have read 50 books from cover to cover. Sometimes, it's been hard to get that many books in- especially when I was in college (at that point if I read a book for school I'd count it in my list). But since graduating I've found that at times it's easy to read (when I was unemployed) and at times it's not so easy (when I'm working a lot and have few days off).

But this year I surprised myself. With A Living Nightmare I reached number 70 on my 'books read in 2009' list. Seventy books in a year?! I never expected to read that many books!

Some of the books I've read were children's stories, but still, those count. How many of you have a memory that is very clear of a children's book you read 15 years ago? I certainly don't. A lot of the books I picked up going, "Oh I loved this book as a kid." But I couldn't, for the life of me, remember all of the little details that were put into it. It was great to really recall books I loved as a kid but also a great help with my book selling since a lot of kids come into the store looking for something specific, although they don't know what that specific book is.

I've decided that next year I would like to make a bigger goal: 100 books in one year. I think I'll try to break it up into genre's though... a certain number of children's books, a certain number of young adult, and then adult fiction. Who knows if I'll be able to do it or not but considering the past three years I've surpassed 50 books easily... I think it's time to up the level of competition.

My complete list of books read in 2009 will be up around New Years. But otherwise, wish me luck for next year!

Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare

With the upcoming film The Vampire's Assistant quickly approaching opening day (Friday) I thought I should have a taste of the books it originated from. Whether or not I see the movie is a completely other subject but the book, now the book is something you can sink your teeth into.

Cirque due Freak is a series of over 10 different stories that are relatively short reads. The first book in the series is A Living Nightmare and was surprisingly enjoyable. I wasn't exactly sure if I would like it or not, especially with so many vampire books being broad casted, but A Living Nightmare was published in early 2000 and I am the one whose a bit delayed in catching onto these books.

The book is split up into very short chapters and if you're like me, I enjoyed feeling the accomplishment of quickly getting through a chapter. The language was easy and stuck to the dialogue that a teenager would use (the main character, Darren, is a teen in High School). It wasn't a brain scratcher and quick to the point.

Moving on into the plot line...

Darren and his best friend Steve go to see the Cirque du Freaks- a freak show that was showing in their town- and see an assortment of different beings perform a list of hard to believe acts. From a snake boy to a real bearded woman the friends are glued to the entertainment.

But Darren, with an obsession for spiders, is attracted to one of the freaks for his poisonous arachnid. Lead by a surge of greed Darren steals the spider and tries to train her. When the spider attacks Steve and poisons him Darren only has one option: to find the 'freak', who just so happens to be a vampire, and beg for his help to safe Steve's life.

Saving Steve's life doesn't come without consequences. In exchange for the life saving serum Darren has to give up his own life to become the assistant to the vampire.

Leaving his loving family behind and making enemies in places he never thought he would, Darren's world turns upside down.

The book ends rather abruptly leaving you wonder, what happens next? A great way to hook the reader into grabbing a-hold of the next book. While this book was somewhat of a set up for the new life Darren will lead it gives barely any suggestion as to how it might turn out.

The following book to this is titled The Vampire Assistant. Another relatively short book that will hopefully be just as entertaining as the first in the series.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are- Movie

So I went to see Where the Wild Things Are on Friday for a date. Awesome date you say? I think so! Any guy who is willing to sit through a 'kids' movie wins points. Whether he's just a date or your husband, I give the guy points. This also applies to romances and girlie movies, generally anything they have no interest in.

None the less, the movie came out on Friday and I was excited for weeks (if you couldn't tell) to go and see it. My initial surprise of the movie started when I saw the audience at hand. It was as if the audience aged as the rows went from front to back. Down in front were an assortment of kids, all about 10 or so, then with each passing row the ages grew until you hit the back row where I and my date sat: both 23 years old and having a great time.

Max is adorable in the movie. The typical little kid who can be a little too rambunctious and yet full of imagination. He's somewhat lonely and you can see he loves and adores his mother (very, very cute!). I feel they did a great casting job for the part and the costume was spot on for Max's 'wolf' outfit.

The story-line followed the book but they did add other elements as time fillers. The thing that's great? It worked. It still felt very much like the story itself- just an extended version.
Is the movie for kids under the age of 10? I don't quite think so. Without giving the additional story-line away there was a seen that I found to be heightened in fear. If I were a little kid it would've scared me!

But the story was wonderful with many parallel issues that were in the Wild Things world and the real world. The music is fantastic- hands down. I'll totally buy this movie. I think it's great for people who are teenagers or older because we've grown up with the book (it's been out since the '60's ) so we can appreciate it. They didn't butcher another childhood memory as many people believed, they only made me realize that the childhood memory is still there and still very strong.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vampire Academy

I appreciate that my friends will approach me and question my opinions of different books. It makes me feel not only knowledgeable but trusted by my friends for what thoughts I have. With that, for the past two years I've had a couple friends who have asked repeatedly what my opinion is of the Vampire Academy series.

I had no opinion, because I never read the books.

Now, I've seen the books on display for the past two years and I've tsk-tsked the books each time. A book called Vampire Academy? Are you kidding me? A book about a school of vampires who age like everyone else? Come on, give me a break. The flashy covers didn't win me over either so I ignored their general existence until I realized last week (when yet another friend asked of my opinion of this book) that I would never be able to express a real opinion if I never read the books. Maybe there was something there that I didn't know about seeing that so many people brought them up.

I took out the first book of the series, Vampire Academy, earlier this week when I knew I'd have a few days off. It didn't take me long to finish it and I was left feeling empty.

The characters are incredibly flat and have no depth. The main character, Rose, is the only one who has any sense of character. There could have been so much done for the characters Lissa and Demetri but they were left being only shadows of a person.

For the majority of the novel there would be hints of something 'dark' in Lissa's character and hints of some other things that happened in the past but you never find out what, at least not for a long while. It took chapters before I got enough information to understand what these people, vampires, whatever were exactly.

Lissa is a mortal vampire, she can go out in partial sun and eat like a human. She's born and grows up. However, she still has some level of fangs and needs blood. Rose is a guardian in training to the mortal vampires. Somehow, these mortal vampires ended up being incredibly weak. They're pathetic creatures that are nothing like what you know of when it comes to vampires. Rose has more power and stamina than the vampires she guards and seems more like the classic idea of a vampire herself then the mortal ones do.

Rose isn't sweet and kind in anyway, aside from the love she has for Lissa, and that was a hang up for me to really like her. I probably would've enjoyed Lissa's character more if she didn't come across so weak and she had more character traits.

The story took over 200 pages for a real plot to develop and finally when it did the plot came and went and the story was over with. The first 200 pages were filled with fillers of Rose being a rebel and popularity contests. The idea of vampires seemed to come last place to all the high school drama that was going on. I've been through High School and finished it five years ago, if I wanted to go back to High School and deal with all of the ridiculous bothers of it I could go visit.

Seeing that I spent countless filler pages until I got to any real action I finished the book feeling very disappointed. After all the talk of the book I had thought it would be better then I had expected, instead it was much worse. I had originally taken out the first two books of the series but... to be honest I have no interest in even continuing with the series. For this time around, I feel that I'll be better off reading through other peoples reviews and getting my information based off of that. I have much more entertaining books I could be reading.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Twilight Series

I've decided to finally write my opinions of the Twilight books on this date for a reason. It's an anniversary of sorts, one that is tied into the books, and I'll get to that later on.

I've been weary of writing my opinions of Twilight because I know that people have opinions which are very emotionally fueled. People fight over it passionately and I wouldn't want to upset any of my readers because of a difference of opinion. And yet... I wouldn't be honest if I did not stick to my intentions with this blog and write my opinions of these books.

I read all of the books twice. For the first time it was two years ago... this very date (and no that is not the reason I was talking about, we'll get to that later). The second time was the summer after when Breaking Dawn came out.

I had completely different reactions to the books after both reads.

The first time I read the books I adored them. I was sucked right in and couldn't bring myself to step away. I was glued to every word, every chapter, every character. I wanted to know what happened next and I recall ordering the rest of the books when I was still only halfway through Twilight itself. My mind ran away with the books and didn't want to come back. It was entertaining, distracting, and something I had been looking for.

The second time I read the books I was left asking a number of questions. First, 'why did I like these books so much the first time I read them?' and it took me a long time to answer that one. The other questions were basically, "Stephenie Meyer uses so many of her descriptive words over and over. This is ridiculous.", "Wow, I really dislike Bella. She's kind of really annoying and a weak character. The other characters are so much greater.", "Why are so many people so obsessed with these books?", and other such questions.

I mulled over my questions and answered them one by one. Stephenie Meyer isn't a genius when it comes to writing. She is not the next Shakespeare or Jane Austen. Her dialogue is simple and pretty much straight to the point. If you are looking for a hard read, then don't try reading the books, but if you are looking for what I like to call an 'easy read'- something that doesn't leave you scratching your head every few sentences because of the vocabulary used- then these are the books for you.

Bella... I just really grew to dislike her character. The story line has been heard of before, girl who is new/lonely/clumsy/unloved/outcast/in need of a savior (take your pick) falls in love with a vampire. Believe me, there are plenty of other books that have the same gist. But, to be fair, it's just a form of the general love stories that are out there. Girl falls in love with someone who she should really not be involved with. Like Romeo and Juliet, Atonement, the ending might be different. The guy might prove he is worthy of her love. He might prove he's not. But it's the general sense of most love stories.

The obsession with these books... okay some of the fans I think are a little overboard. But there are overboard fans for numerous things. Just look at the celebrity gossip site TMZ, browse through their stories and I'm sure you'll find a 'crazy fan' article somewhere. It happens.

Some fans claim these are the BEST books ever written... and yet they have never read anything else. This unnerves me to no end. Don't judge the wide range of literature only through your one taste of it. However, for those teenagers that became interested in reading all sorts of books due to Twilight, I applaud you.

There is one point that seems to be argued about all over the place. Edward sneaking into Bella's room to watch her sleep. Now... that is very much cause to be arrested in the United States. Let's make that clear. If I, personally, woke up to see a guy in the corner of my room watching me sleep I would probably spray him with my pepper spray and then beat him until the cops showed up. In fact, I know someone who did wake up (years ago) to find a guy in her room watching her sleep. It does happen and it's not cool. So I hope that some love struck, lonely, or just silly kid who reads these books doesn't start to think that having someone creep into their room at night is okay. Because it's not.

However for the books it goes with the story. It adds to the mystery and the romance of it all and with Stephenie Meyers writing puts forth that this is an innocent gesture and Edward isn't being a creep. He's a vampire after all, he could just as easily hang off the rain gutters to check her out as he can sneak into the room soundlessly. It's fiction. Straight and simple.

I can see why people find themselves in love with the books so much. Here is this teenage girl who suddenly finds love in the most unexpected of places. Don't we all have some form of a fantasy of that? Not only does she find love, but she practically has people falling over each other to get to her. Good people (Edward, Jacob) and not so good (hello nasty little vampires).

Aside from this Bella has the most freedom I've ever seen given to a teenager. Now that's something I could be envious of if I were 16. I was always craving freedom when I was a teenager and here is this character that just says, hey I'm going to a city to go shopping. Or she suddenly runs out of the house intending on leaving to go to Arizona. If I told my parents while I was in High School that I was going to take the car and drive to my aunts house in DC because my boyfriend broke up with me and I needed to get away they probably would've shot the tires before I got out of the drive way (okay they didn't have a gun, but still, they wouldn't have let me go). She has freedom. Her father has great trust in her and lets her go as she pleases. In more ways then not, she's an adult. Tending to the house, getting groceries, making dinner. A dream that seems all too far away when you're a teenager and in teenage angst. It's captivating and really nice to read and daydream about.

The books are good for teens, I feel, because they do make sure to not be too graphic. If you want graphic books there are so many more out there and the majority of vampire literature is graphic. In comparison to some of it's neighboring vampires, Twilight vampires are pretty docile and simple. Reading Anita Blake or the Vampire Chronicles is a whole new ghastly world. But when you're writing young adult lit those grotesque or more graphic scenes kind of do need to be let out.

So... basically, I understand why people dislike the books. I really do. But I understand why people love them too. I think my biggest annoyance with the Twilight series is when some of the fans screech when they see the book covers (remember, I work in a book store and I worked in one when the first movie came out). People have screamed. Literally. And it's very startling and annoying... I feel that way for anyone who screams over a book though so this doesn't only go towards Twilight fans. The books are a fantastic read if you want something that's quick and easy to read. Something that can entertain you from cover to cover and leaving you wanting more.

If you want a book that is any different then this, then the books aren't for you. I am so tired of having people go "The Twilight series are crap! They're so stupid!" and they never read the books themselves. Or, "The writing is horrible and I feel like I'm loosing my IQ when I read it!" Okay, if you need something 'greater' to stimulate your IQ then find a different book. It's pretty hard to not know what Twilight is about, even if you haven't read the books, so if you know the subject matter already and that your IQ will turn to smoosh then don't read it and stop complaining.

But getting to the reason why I originally fell so in love with this book is for this reason and this reason alone...

I read the books two days after my friend Catherine died.
Cathy was a wonderful, bright, happy, forgiving, beautiful angel of a girl who made everyone around her happy and didn't have a mean bone in her body. She was fantastic and I... I really cannot express just how wonderful she really was. I met her when I was 14 in my dance class. She and I danced together all through High School and thanks to Facebook kept in (occasional) touch. College, and a move on my part, kept us from rarely seeing or speaking to one another. I had the opportunity to see her the summer before she died and she was happy and wonderful, wishing me all the luck in the world, giving me a tight hug before we parted.

Two years ago, today, she died very suddenly and very unexpectedly. She had written on her facebook just a few days before saying she had a cold. Suddenly her temperature rose, she was sent to the hospital, then her organs shut down and she was gone. It wasn't for another six months until we (her family and friends) found out the cause of her death.

She caught Q-Fever, which is generally unknown, and completely curable. With a quick dosage of medication it can be out of the persons body in no time but without proper medication the person will die. Just as Cathy had.

I was shocked, numbed, I had never had a chance to say goodbye, I wasn't able to get back to New York for her viewing or funeral, and I felt completely wronged. I picked up Twilight shortly after and began reading the books. They took me out of the world I was in, away from the pain and feeling of emptiness, it distracted me and kept me going. They brought me back to life in many ways. I was so empty, my brain was useless, I could barely carry on normal conversations, but reading the books got my brain working again. They made me daydream and think of something else.

I have, unfortunately, dealt with a lot of death in my life. Each time someone dies I react generally the same. I'm lost and looking for comfort. I read books for comfort. Books that usually have some form of a character who lives on even though they should be gone. Somehow, it makes me feel better. That maybe if Cathy is no longer here she is now simply joining my other family members and friends who have passed. She's sitting amongst them, cheering me on, and urging me in decent directions in life. Kind of like watching a ball game. "No, no, don't do that! Turn the other way. That's good, that's good, you've got it now. You'll make it!" That's how I picture it at least. Here are some characters in this series that should be, quite possibly, very angry at the world. Jasper for instance had a more recent rough life and now he's working on it steadily to become something with morals, although vampires generally don't have such a thing. It made me feel that I could move on, I could get back to living my own life. After all, Cathy wouldn't want me sad forever.

Who knows, maybe I'm putting too much credit into the books. But for me, I tend to push people away when something bad happens. I need to regroup on my own until I come back strong and I always get help through books and writing. It might be silly to say, but I do believe this, the series helped me deal with her loss.

So kudos Stephenie Meyer and your books. I might have my grievances for the series but I do appreciate them showing me entertainment, getting my mind working, and waking my soul up again when I needed it. I appreciate it truly.

And on this, the two year anniversary since Cathy died, I miss you. I love you. When I am in a tough situation and unsure how to act, I think of you and your grace. You will forever live on in my heart and I'll see you again some day.

This entry is dedicated to you, Cathy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Coming Up: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer on Wednesday
Now: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I pulled this book because the fourth installment was being released today. I hadn't read any of the other books and after shelving hundreds of book number 4 I realized... this book is popular, I need to know what it's about!

I read the book in less then a day. It's cute, sweet, short, and doesn't need much concentration to easily get through it. The book is meant for middle schoolers and younger but adults can easily enjoy the book also.

Greg, the self proclaimed wimpy kid, has written his 'journal' through a year of school. All of his misadventures are mentioned including jokes played on him by his older brother and how Greg has gotten into trouble over what he's done to his own younger brother.

Scary bullies and the 'cheese touch' plus all over activities that consume the life of a middle schooler are written in an amusingly witty narrative voice. I kept laughing at the different antics the wimpy kid goes through and the frighteningly accurate portrayal of middle school life.

The story is cute and brings back many of my own middle school memories with humor and a shaking of my head. How this author so aptly described middle school, I do not know, because I can only recall these memories when reminded of them by this book. (At the very least, middle school was not my favorite period of schooling).

If you're looking for a cute read to pass some free time that will be bother entertaining and amusing I suggest checking out!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

American Girl Kirsten Set To Retire

American Girl will be retiring it's second historical (and oldest) dolls this year, Kirsten the Swedish pioneer doll and moving her into the American Girls archive. Last year Samantha, the 1904 era doll (and again, one of the oldest of the doll series) retired.

This has particular pulling of my heart strings since Kirsten is very much my doll. All of the granddaughters in my family had a chance to choose an American Girl doll. At that time there were only three to choose from, Samantha, Kirsten, and Molly. When my youngest cousin got old enough to choose Felicity had been added to the mix and she ended up being the only one with a Felicity doll. For the rest of us it was a toss up between Samantha and Kirsten (poor Molly, none of us wanted her).

I have no qualms in saying that Kirsten was my best friend as a child. I used to go on countless adventures with her. I recall a summer day where it was cloudy with a threat of storms and I had laid out my beach towel under our maple trees and pretended we (Kirsten and I) were going fishing. Right along with her little fishing pole and the fake fish that went with it.

I own the outfits from all of the books for Kirsten plus a number of little knick-nacks that go with it all. I always wanted her dresses for me to wear, but that never happened.

Despite that I am quite upset over the loss of Kristen, which equals a lost chance for my unborn children to play with their very own Kirsten dolls, I am glad to say her books will remain in circulation.

I still own my doll and her supplies and I think I'll care for her a little bit more now that I know she's a character that no one can readily get anymore. So, goodbye Kirsten. You've brought so much fun to my life.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

November Book of the Month

Thanks to those of you who left comments. It's pretty obvious what book I will be reading and I want to repeatedly thank the two lovely ladies who 'voted', so to speak.

You girls are awesome, thanks so much!
I'll try to figure out a way to get ahold of the both of you so that I may get a entry from each stating why you loved the book (which you both chose) and why you think I should read it and why you think I would enjoy it. I'll be featuring it in my journal entry come November 1st!

Also, we are a mere twenty three days away from the start of NaNoWriMo. I hope you have all signed up and are getting ready for the kick off!

For those of you who do not know NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is the month of November and a great way to celebrate it is to join the thousands of people who, at midnight of Halloween night, will set off to try and write a 50,000 story by midnight of November 30th. That's about 175 pages worth of a story, poem, whatever and you all have to write it within the month of November.

You get a snazzy internet button and print out certificate if you win and my favorite prize of all: the pride that I can write that much in so short a time.

I honestly feel some of my best ideas come up during NaNoWriMo. It's incredibly fun and I go all the way by stocking up on soda cans and downing them two hours before midnight on Halloween. Then I sit at my computer and type like crazy until I can't keep my eyes open anymore. It might not sound like too much fun for some people but the sense of unity- so many people doing the same exact thing- and the pride you get out of completing it all is amazing.

So go check out NaNoWriMo and prepare for November 1st!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Show me your Shelves.

A house without books is like a room without windows
-Horace Mann

I am a self diagnosed book snob. I weigh my opinions heavily on people based on whether they do or do not read and what they like. I also really adore bookshelves. It's my thing, really, to get multiple bookshelves and put all the books I have read- or will read- on display. It's like proof that I am a bookworm, that I have seen many places an
d met many people without even leaving my house, that I am educated in many ways.

I think that bookshelves say so much about a person so I implore you all to show me photos of your own bookshelves, or where ever you keep your books. But first, let's dive into my own.

The Spare Bedroom
Every birthday and Christmas, as a child, I would be given a porcelain doll. I've kept them all and cherish them as my special gifts from my grandparents and mom. I also have a few other odds and ends that are collectibles. I tend to stick those in front of my books on bookshelves. The majority of the books on this shelf are all my mothers books from when she was a child and my own childhood books.

My grandfather built this bookshelf and it will likely follow me where ever I go. These are all of my books, random series, yearbooks, and study guides. The top of the bookshelf is filled with photo albums. I love capturing as much of my life as I can in pictures.

This shelf is my parents shelf through and through. Photo albums, card collections, random books my father and mother have collected. They are not as big of readers as myself but it is what it is. Next to the bookshelf is my beloved Kirsten doll from American Girls in her summer outfit. She has one for each season that I change her into. It might sound silly but that doll was my best friend when I was a kid.

My Bedroom Bookshelves
I have an organizational madness to my bookshelves in my room. The bottom shelf are my informative books. The next two shelves up are my classics, the shelf after that is my collection of Anne Rice books and the top shelf is my collection of 'magical' books. Of course, pictures adorn the rest of the space plus a candle I made each year I was in college during the Spring Fever week my school had. The Red, black, yellow, and blue ropes hanging from the left corner are my graduation ropes representing different things and there is a name badge stating I was an alumni from my homecoming festivities this past weekend!
My other bookshelf in my room is still a work in progress. Bottom shelf is Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.... next shelf is 'real life' type of stories... the following are miscalaneous books... the following have my few Marine Corps books (or books by Marines) and the top shelf is just going to sit and look pretty until it's time comes to be filled.

My family and friends are taking bets on how quickly that time will come. When I started working at Waldenbooks last winter I was only there for three months when the store closed and yet had to buy a new bookshelf to fit all of the books I had bought. In the month that I've been at the new bookstore I've already filled a shelf with books and keep purchasing more. Hopefully my family will hear my cries and buy me gift cards for my store for Christmas then I can buy even more.

I still have a ridiculous amount of books on those shelves I have never read. A sensible person would just read the books they have before purchasing more, but I've never said I'm sensible. =)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book of the Month

Readers! I need your help.

This will be a test run, if it goes over well then I'll keep up with it, if not the I'll let it go. But the idea is this: You all suggest to me a book that I MUST read. Something that you claim could change my life or you think it's just simply that good. Something that you would suggest a complete stranger because you loved it so much.

That's what I want from you all, to suggest to me this book. I'll look over all the responses (if I get any) and with that try to pick a book to read. I'll read it then at the start of the following month (November) I'll post a review on it and you- the reader whose book I pick- will (if you so please) write up your reasons as to why I should read the book and how you feel about it and I'll post that along with my review!

So please, if this interests any of you list books that you think I should read in the comments to this entry!!! I'll keep asking for the next two weeks and then cut it off so I can get the book I pick and have time to read it. So ready, set, GO!!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Five Quarters of the Orange

This book was frustrating to me. The two books I've read previously by Joanne Harris captivated and mesmerized me and yet this one didn't exactly do that. For the first one hundred pages or so I kept glancing at the page number and letting out a long sigh thinking "Oh my God... I've only make it that far?"

Well, that was my feeling for the majority of the book. The story itself finally gets exciting around the very end but I still truly was not interested in it. The book was a slow read and spoke of a lot of nonsense that I didn't really care about. At the end of the book I thought, if she had just gotten right to the point and told the good stuff this book would've been great!

The concept surrounds a group of children and their relations to a German soldier during WWII. If you are a mere child, a silly child, and you don't exactly live in a town driven by news of 'the war', would it make you an evil person if you befriended the soldiers? You're simply a child and you don't know any better.

I feel like history has made the German soldiers of that time equal to the devil and I think what they did in no way was wrong... but they were people. This book and others like The Reader, Summer of my German Soldier, and others kind of make these German soldiers have a conscious and brings life into them rather then they remaining these frightening devil creatures. And it's a hard idea. It's hard for me at least... I catch myself liking the character and feeling bad for their struggles then I recall that they're Nazi's and I feel guilty for any feelings. I'm German by heritage and have faced prejudice for that. As a child I had a school teacher who used to yell at me and the other German students in the class saying how we were all evil for what the people in our heritage had done. For many years as a child I was ashamed I was German and therefore many mentions of Nazi Germany only reminds me of the rude comments and glares I received as a child- of the hurt I felt. So to write a Nazi character that you can actually like, in itself, is a really tricky idea to be brought up and I do applaud any author willing to go there and not sound like a Nazi sympathizer. I think it's a hard thing to do without crossing that line.

However, this book really did bore me otherwise. I feel that the narrators voice was so bitter and annoying the entire time. Who wants a narrator you cannot exactly like? Or a narrator that you cannot just hate? You need one of the two extremes and not something that's in the middle. I really did not like the narrator so I think that dimmed my like for the book.

I ended up reading the first half of the book and skimming the rest, desperate to see if it got any better and desperate to come to a close with it. Disappointment is really the best word I can use to describe this book. Hopping from her books like Chocolat with it's almost magical quality to this was a let down.

While I've given the two other books I've read high marks... I can only give this book two stars.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Conclusion of Banned Books Week.

I decided to opt out of writing another book entry on this last day of Banned Books to throw out my opinion of the whole situation. This is all a touchy area that is neither black nor white. There is so much gray that I can hardly see.

On one hand... if we are to ban books or censor them then that is taking away our right for free speech and freedom of the press. And yet... not being able to speak up and share our opinion- even if it's to say that you don't want a book at your child's library- would be a crime too.

I think some people feel that they can get books banned from the world entirely. That they can set out make sure no one ever speaks of or reads that book again. That's where I feel they are wrong. That's where I feel you need to take an entirely different course of action.

Let's take The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy as an example. I chose not to go into too much detail about what exactly happens in the book on my blog. That was my choice. It's an adult book about adult concepts. But these adult concepts are also something you need to have a certain taste for and not many people do. If I were a parent and found out this book was on my child's bookshelf in school I would be furious because I simply do not feel it would be appropriate for a school environment. However, can I control what's at the library? No. I shouldn't be worrying about that. Why spend my energy on something like that when I could spend it on something so much more positive?

Can I control what ads are in magazines, what provocative clothing is worn around my (if I had) children, what billboards are up on the road. Can I control what ghastly upsetting negative story is the headline of today's news? No. So why would I, or anyone for that matter, feel that they can control what goes on a bookshelf at a library?

If it is not up to your taste, if it is something you do not agree with, then do not read it. Tell your children not to read it. If they disobey then you obviously have something else to work on and you shouldn't be worrying about a book. So I feel that no one has any right to say 'this book can not be allowed on my local library and/or school libraries shelf.'

Libraries are collections of books catering to any ones tastes and pleasures. Just because you do not like something does not mean that someone else doesn't like it either. In fact, it might be just what they are looking for.

So. That is one way of looking at the censorship's and bannings. Another is when schools decide to include a certain book into their curriculum which parents feel their children should not read. This is one of the bigger gray areas for me.

I went to a High School where I read so many novels that covered every issue in life it's hard for me to believe that there are high schools that do not allow that kind of reading. I went to a bookstore with a friend who went to High School in a different district then me. Not just a different school district but a different state entirely. There was a table of 'summer readings' and I became immensely nostalgic over it. All the books I had read in one grade or another and I could remember my feelings for each one. My friend? She had not read a single one of those books because her school hadn't felt it right to read works that were primarily about African-American history. They didn't support reading of Holocaust studies. They didn't try to get their students to read about the history of other cities. This girl knew more about the ways of the Amish then she knew of our own country all due to what she had been taught in school.

I recall a few times when I was in school that my teachers presented us with permission forms to watch certain movies and read certain books. They didn't want to step on any ones toes and if someone disagreed with what we were about to see or read they were given a separate assignment. But that also meant they didn't partake in the class and were sent elsewhere. Instead of sitting with all of their peers learning about this interesting and raw read or watching a heartbreakingly accurate movie they were elsewhere with some assignment that was less 'controversial'.

I can tell you right now, there was only one time in my memory that we had any students not receive the permission form to partake in one of these assignments. It was the first time we had ever been giving a permission slip and it was so that we could watch Schindler's List in 8th grade. For those of us who did get the permission from our parents we were left crying in our seats by the end of the movie; passing around tissues to each other and suddenly we had a much more clearer idea of the Holocaust. The kids who didn't see the movie heard what it was about, they saw how it affected us, never again did a kid not get permission from their parents to see or read something in school.

I feel schools that intend on placing something on their curriculum that could be controversial should enlist a permission form type of program. Give alternative options for children who are not yet mature enough to read the material given to them (or whatever reason they might not be able to read the books). But don't, please don't, deny other people the chance to read something that could be awe inspiring and life changing simply because of your prejudice towards it. You might have the right to control what goes into your household but you haven't the right to control what others can and cannot have access to.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Banned Books Week: Winnie the Pooh

When I was an infant my mother decorated my bedroom with a Winnie the Pooh theme. My oldest cousin is named after the little boy Christopher that's in the series. And to this day I own my very first Pooh-Bear. He is tucked away in a container that has all of my special childhood toys. Maybe one day I'll throw them out or maybe I'll give them to my children. Either way, Winnie the Pooh has been a comforting object and friend for my entire life.

Winnie the Pooh is listed at 22 on the top 100 most challenged or banned classic books list. Although I did not find direct sources as to the reasoning for Pooh's ban many sites said more or less the following:

Winnie the Pooh has made it on to a list of banned extremist material in Russia. As far as I can tell, here’s how it happened. Regional courts from all over Russia submit lists of symbols, objects and materials that have been associated with arrested extremists. These lists are compiled into a master list that is distributed to all Russian police who can then consult the list when investigating other crimes. If any of these items on the list are found when a crime is being investigated, then additional charges of extremism can be levied. The bear got onto the list when a resident in the city of Ufa was arrested on extremism charges in 2006 and amongst his possessions was Winnie the Pooh.

Excuse me while I laugh. Now, that's just silly. Winnie the Pooh is somehow tied to anti-Russian terrorists? What? Then again, if it wasn't for this the books could have been banned because they contain talking animals and as we learned from Charlotte's Web, talking animals are blasphemous.

The story is sweet and very loving. The narrator (author A.A. Milne) is telling little Christopher Robin (his son) about the adventures he had with his toy bear- Edward Bear- also known as Winnie the Pooh. Each chapter is a separate adventure and the series can be read out of order since none of the books plot lines flow from one book to the next. In this way, I think it would make a perfect bedtime story for little kids- to simply read one chapter and have a start to an end- then move onto another chapter the following night.

Pooh is joined by a list of characters such as Piglet (a toy pig), Eeyore (a toy donkey), Rabbit (a real live rabbit), and Owl (a real live owl). The other characters, such as Kanga, Roo, and Tigger arrive later in the books.

The stories were made into different cartoons and live action shows by Disney and became even more popular. They're happy little stories about a happy little bear and seeing it on the 'banned books list' just makes me laugh with disbelief. I mean... it's Winnie the Pooh!

The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide

This is not apart of the Banned Books Week book blogs.

Having Celiac's Disease (although unofficially tested) I have been craving something that is informative to read yet comforting. A book where I can feel as if someone is relating to my health problems and sympathizing all the while guiding me in what to do.

Celiac's Disease effects 1 of 133 people and isn't very well known. The disease is an allergy to gluten which is a composite of proteins that are found in such things as wheat, barley, and rye. Basically your cereal, bread, cookies, and pasta are filled with gluten. My problem is that my body attacks itself when I ingest gluten leaving me very sick.

Celiac's disease can effect a number of things in your body. It can cause depression, weight gain or loss, cancer, inflammation of the heart muscles, incredibly horrible stomach pains (I speak from experience), bathroom problems, trouble becoming pregnant, miscarriages, and an assortment of other problems.

The problem is that the majority of people who have the disease don't even realize it. For a full list of symptoms please follow the link and check it out for yourself.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck has suffered from Celiac's disease for years and could not find what was causing all of her symptoms. Doctor visit after doctor visit she was told she had IBS or some deficiency and yet no one tested her for celiac's. It took her 10 years before she was properly diagnosed.

You might know Elisabeth Hasselbeck from Survivor and The View. I'm not a big fan of her views and if I happen to catch The View she tends to annoy me (sorry Ms. Hasselbeck!) however I have to support her for writing this book.

I have suffered from the symptoms of celiac's disease for two years now and it is something that runs in my family. I've gone to doctors in continuous attempts to be diagnosed with celiac's but due to lack of knowledge of celiac's a lot of doctors simply refuse to do the test. The average amount of time it takes for a person to be properly diagnosed with celiac's is 10 years while in Europe it's only 1 year.

Taking control of my health and deciding to take gluten out of my life is a hard decision. I am 25% Italian and live off of bread and pasta. I love to bake and make many different cookies, cakes, and breads for fun and I love to taste them. Without gluten I would not be able to necessarily eat these, only substituted versions made from rice flour (for example). But feeling sick for two years is a long time. Being afraid to go places in case I'd have an attack is a lot to deal with. It's life hindering and evasive.

However, I've decided to start a new year off with a new diet come January. I will be taking gluten out of my life and seeing how it goes. I've gone gluten free twice in the past two years, both for as little as 2-3 weeks at a time before I succumbed to temptation and had gluten again. Both times I lost incredible amounts of weight and felt better then I had felt in years. This is simply something I need to do.

But I figured I wanted guidance and assurance that this is something I need to do before I actually do it. I've read a couple of gluten free 'handbooks' before and they've never convinced me much to stay gluten free. I usually brush them off and got bored quickly due to the ongoing slew of medical and food terms. But The G-Free diet was somehow different.

Elisabeth has a real voice and that comforting feeling comes through that here is someone who has gone through the same pain as myself. She includes lists of restaurants, beauty merchandise, and food companies that are gluten free or make it easy to see what products they contain. This in itself was amazing and incredibly helpful for me. Now I have a list of restaurants that have gluten free menus and many are near my home!

The book is incredibly helpful and informative for me and I hope for others who are diagnosed with celiac's disease or simply interested in removing gluten from their diets. I'm even urging my parents to both read the book so that they too can come to a better understanding as to why I need to remove gluten from my life and how we can do just that. I know that come January I will be using this book again and again as a reference guide.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Banned Books Week: Charlotte's Web

I hope you all know of Charlotte's Web. It's the classic and beloved children's book that has been made into classic animated film and read and re-read to children for generations. The book has won an assortment of awards since its first publication in 1952 and is a staple in children’s literature. Now, you ask, why is this book on the banned books week list? It's because talking animals are blasphemous of course!

Charlotte's Web has been ranked number 13 on the most banned and/or challenged classics list. Thirteenth place out of 100! 

I loved talking to animals as a child. I always believed they were trying to talk back to me and I just couldn't hear them. It was a part of my imagination and forming creativity. But sometimes, I could have sworn that I did hear them talking back. What's fantastic about this book is that it's something that can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. The subject matter is cute and entertaining for children. For adults, who may have read the book when they were children as well, it can be nostalgic.

Everything “good” is in the book. Friendship, caring for one another, love, and compassion all make their presence known. When Wilbur, the pig, is up to be slaughtered on the farm, Charlotte, the spider who lives in Wilbur's stall, writes out "Some Pig" in her spider web. This causes great praise and the farmers to think twice about slaughtering poor Wilbur. She continues these declarations of how wonderful Wilbur is with various words created in her web.

Wilbur gains friends through the community of animals at the farm and soon is brought to the county fair where he wins a prize. Charlotte, unfortunately, does not make it home. Seeing that she is a spider, her life span has come to an end and she dies. Wilbur in turn takes Charlotte's eggs back to the farm where her children are born. Three remain behind (Joy, Nellie and Aranea) and are good friends with Wilbur.

The story describes losing someone you love in a poignant way and for some children this could be seen as one of their first introductions to the concept of death. But with death comes life and Charlotte's legacy lives on. Although Wilbur misses Charlotte, he still has a piece of her (in the form of her children) that lives on. The story can be comparable to human existence in many ways. Being born, growing up, facing hardships and having the opportunity to have people there to help you along the way, and eventually death. Losing those you love but going on, living on, and embracing the new life brought to you is key. It's a great story and always something to have on your bookshelf. To think that the caring and nurturing animals in this book could be banned because they are 'blasphemous' as talking creatures is simply silly. If only more people in the world had the same level of compassion as Charlotte had.