Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Choose to Recycle

I haven't written about any children's books in a really long time... sorry!

Earth Hour just passed us by and Earth Day is quickly coming upon us so I figured I'd write a couple of posts pertaining to some cute kids books that have to do with the environment!

First up is Choose to Recycle. It might not have a very attention grabbing title but this touch and feel book, made out of recycled paper, is bright and informative for children. With each page there is an example of what you can recycle and the power of the action.

Example: if you were to recycle a worn out bike tire it could ultimately be made into a ball of which you can play with. There is an assortment of examples such as these and they use objects which children know, toys they play with, which could potentially help children to remember to recycle with a little more ease. Add to that the touch and feel side of the book and it's all the more enjoyable.

It's quick, only ten pages long or so, but the point of the book is worth mentioning:
"What will you help to make when you remember to recycle?"

A good message to teach your children at an early age. Hopefully they'll grasp the concept and dive straight into taking care of the environment and learn to do it all their lives.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Continuing with my read through of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles the next book on my list after Vittorio was Merrick. Another novel that is part of “The New Tales of the Vampires" category and one that I have read only once way back during my days as a High School student.

My memory of reading this book in High School goes as followed: I remember skipping through as much of it as I could because I was only interested in reading about Louis de Pointe du Lac and finding out what was going on with him. He’s one of my favorite characters and I was thrilled that this book seemed to feature a lot of him. But… I remember disliking the majority of the rest of it and being annoyed by the end.

But why did I dislike the rest of the book? Why was I annoyed with the ending? I couldn’t quite remember until I sat down and read through Merrick for the second time in my life.

The book, despite its thickness, only covers a few events. Its thickness comes from the character David recalling his relationship with the character Merrick. Now, I didn’t like Merrick while I was in High School and I never was able to remember why I disliked her. I enjoyed her character a little more, at the very least, reading the book now. I even enjoyed her life story a little more.

Merrick, a beautiful woman with a little bit of a drinking habit, can converse with spirits and is skilled in the art of voodoo. I know as a teenager I wasn’t very knowledgeable about that subject but now I understood it a little more (by no means am I a know it all with voodoo, just so you understand) and therefore enjoyed the concept of her life story.

But still, my heart was completely devoted to Louis. God, I love his character so much. Even if he is kind of a wet blanket I loved him the very moment I read Interview with the Vampire at the ripe old age of 12. I like to nurture… or at the very least a lot of people say I mother them… Louis is the kind of character who, in my mind, needs to be nurtured. He also is calm and happy to just be left alone to read- my type of guy. He’s filled with emotions just like me so maybe, I see myself in him, if only a little.

Although Louis has made brief appearances in the previous Vampire Chronicle books he was never present very much since Interview with the Vampire, which is his life story. Now it’s the present day and we’re returning to Louis and his heartbreak over so much that has happened in his life. I find him fascinating and was eager in High School, just as I was reading it presently, to see how he reacted to the ghost of his immortal daughter being brought forth. His downfall and resurrection is just… something exciting for me. Most of the book is backstory of who Merrick is and I found myself not really caring. I got it, she’s a force to be reckoned with, she knows how to speak to spirits, but I wanted to hear what was going on with Louis.

Finally we stop hearing about Merrick’s past and the story moves along with Merrick working alongside the vampires to bring forth the immortal child Claudia’s ghost to earth so that Louis may converse with her. Suddenly, all of this action is taking place and the story is moving along. It only took more than half of the book to get to this point- and that is what annoys me about Merrick.

What also annoys me is that there are all of these looming possibilities for plot at the end of the book. A secret order known as the Talamasca (if you have read The Vampire Chronicles before then you likely know what I’m talking about) has decided to rise up against the vampires of New Orleans. They’ve decided they’ve had enough. And then… then the book ends. That’s it. Just this big temptation then nothing more and it annoys me greatly.

So, I suppose if you are a fan of the characters David, Louis, or Merrick it’s worth the read. If you enjoy reading a series straight through, then you should read this book because some important stuff does happen to the characters, but otherwise I just find it annoying that so little happens in this book.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vittorio the Vampire

It's amazing what a couple of years does to the opinion of a book. I read Vittorio for the first time while a student in High School and just finished my second reading this past weekend. I recall enjoying the book while in High School, thinking it was pretty and fascinating, also loving the character Vittorio. But I found myself coming to the conclusion that my opinion has altered.

Since High School I've willingly read up on an assortment of historical details and yet I know so little. That's the thing with History, there is so much to learn and while you're trying to gather all the information more history is being created. So now I know who the Medici's are. Now I have a better understanding of Tuscany. I also have a better understanding of human behavior and emotions than I did when I was a teenager. Granted, I'm not omniscient of such a topic but I certainly know a little more than I did when I was younger.

Vittorio, as a character, doesn't quiet grab hold of me. I feel that he is the most mortal of the vampires in the rest of Rice's chronicles. Five hundred years and he still exists in his little home with his immortal bride. He's not very adventurous, in my opinion, so that bores me. I'm always itching to travel, to move to a new place, and yet he's settled in Italy for hundreds of years. His immortal bride, Ursula, not only makes me think of the Little Mermaid character but I find her sort of annoying. She sounds beautiful and fascinating to watch but she seems so weak. Two hundred years old and she's always crying and depending upon a newborn vampire (Vittorio). She's incredibly weak and so… clingy.

Vittorio's story is interesting, his love and fierce loyalty to his family is something I can relate to. Because, really, if my family was hunted by a group of vampires I'm pretty sure I would react the same way he did. The sight of angels is something I particularly enjoyed because when that idea is tossed into a story (and it fits, it's not random or sappy) I'm always interested to see how the author describes these beings. They emerge from the paintings Vittorio so loves and their description (which I don't want to get too into, best for you to read it yourself) is what I picture an angel to be.

(Slight spoiler) When Vittorio goes against his promise to destroy the coven of vampires by allowing Ursula to live he more or less damns his soul. He had the aid of the angels and broke his word so in retaliation he is given the ability to see the souls within every living being. The idea is terrifying if you consider what he is at this point- a vampire. With the need to drink blood from the living and yet seeing the soul within the very creature you are depending on for strength you would have to see that light, the soul, suffer and dim as you take the life. It's not just a physical thing anymore but you see the spiritual affect you are having on the creature you're living on.

The historical references only made me want to read my history books. I've been on a need-for-history kick recently and this certainly didn't help. But that's okay! It's a good thing! I like reading about history!

This book differentiates from the other Vampire Chronicle books because Vittorio is a vampire that has never been mentioned before and generally just stays off by himself. His story isn't tied into any of the previous stories we've read and he's never mentioned again. It's completely separate although the vampire as a being is still the same. It's much more spiritual than some of the other books and Vittorio is much more devoted to his religious practices so this might turn the reader away. Despite that I did not enjoy the book as much as I originally had in High School it's still an interesting read and I enjoyed myself while flipping through it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday- March 22

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title; author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

His boots were soon wet, and so he stretched out his arms, summoning the Cloud Gift without words, and began his ascent so that he might travel low over the land, listening for others of his kind, hoping to find an old one like himself, someone who might welcome him. Weary of the Mind Gift and its random messages, he wanted to hear spoken words. 
Blood and Gold by Anne Rice

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog Hop- March 18th!

Blog Hop:
Book Blogger Hop

This Weeks Question:
"Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?"

I have a horrible tendency to read more than one book at a time. As a kid and teenager I would easily switch from one book to another. I distinctly remember being in bed and reading a chapter from one book, move to the next to read another chapter, and then on. I had to learn how to read more than one book at a time all through my years of education or else I would never have had a chance to do pleasure reading. Being an English major, I would regularly have four books to read from cover to cover during the course of one week, all as class assignments. It was incredibly hard to do any pleasure reading at that point but when I could squeeze it in, I would.

Now that I have all the time in the world to do pleasure reading I'm not quite hopping from one book to another anymore. However I am forever 'reading' a selection of books. I've been taking my time with these publications, reading a little bit every couple of weeks or months, but I feel that the works call for such treatment because they're rather lengthy and I'm so easily distracted by other books.
The Complete Poems of William Blake
The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe
Modern European History
Don Quixote

And then, I'm reading Vittorio the Vampire by Anne Rice. I also have a couple of other books open that I haven't really begun to read (only have read a page or two). I just can't help reading multiple books at once. I've been doing it since grade school and it's now a part of me. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Reader

The Reader has gained great popularity with it's Oscar winning film adaptation from the past year. However, Bernhard Schlink's book has been out in the book world for over ten years.

Unfortunately I never knew the book existed until after I watched the film of The Reader. I found the movie breathtaking and meaningful in ways that I wasn't sure I could explain. Discovering that it was a book excited me and I felt a little guilty. Generally, I try to read the book before I see the movie adaptation.

It's taken me nearly a year to actually go and buy the book. A poor paying job and being unemployed kind of put a damper in my acquiring a copy of the book. But finally, I had it in my hands and my manager pointed out that it was the only book she's read in which the movie was nearly the same exact thing.

I opened up the book and began to read it a few days ago and quickly was enraptured in it. It's beautiful in it's simplicity and depth of morals. Disturbing and thought provoking the story is narrated by the character Michael who as a boy meets and falls in love with a woman by the name of Hanna who he has an affair with.

The affair does not last long but the affects of it continues through Michael's life and reappears in his future. First when he is in college as a law student and she is placed on trial for a terrible crime, and later on when he is a grown adult.

The book brings forth the question of what are you willing to do to keep your greatest secret just that- a secret. What are you willing to give up? Hanna gives up herself and what she knows. She more or less, literally and figuratively, gives up her life.

Read the book and see the movie. Both are fantastic and great in so many ways. I'm including the trailer to The Reader as a quick overview of what is both in the book and movie.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post: A Little Bit Wicked

Guest Blogger: Brandon
Writing About: Kristin Chenoweth's A Little Bit Wicked

Hello, My name is Brandon and I am what can only be described as a South Korean, trapped in an American's body. I was adopted through Catholic Charities and raised in Baltimore by my parents who helped form me into the man I am today. I love to listen, or to hear people's stories either face to face of through films and books. I first found this obsession while reading Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything". Since then I have crammed every Malcolm Gladwell and enjoyed books like "Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls and "Easy Rider, Raging Bull" by Peter Biskind.

When I was first told that one of my favorite actors has written a book called “A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages” I may have knocked over a few things to get to my computer to order this book. I am of course speaking of Kristin Chenoweth, who has some hardware in the award case for her roles in “You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown” and “Pushing Daisies”.

I want to start with this note. I not only read books but I also listen to them during my commute to the office. If you question the idea of listening to a book over reading it, this is one of many books I suggest. Kristin reads the book herself and her energy and emotions come through the reading. As suggested by the title, this autobiography focuses on Kristin’s life, loves, and faith which is fairly predominant in her life. And of course her amazingly popular sitcom “Kristin”.

I am a sucker for motivational and inspirational type books and this book is no exception. Kristin comes across as the good old girl, modest and a little quirky. There is so much to take in from this read that I really don’t know where to start. For someone that is so accomplished in what they do, it’s interesting reading about what went wrong in their journey, and why those things were the best events in their life.

As Kristin takes the reader through her life there is a lot to be said about her faith in good things happening, her love of music and family. The stories are heartfelt and add humility though the good and bad times and how this two time pageant second runner up made it to Broadway and Hollywood.

Kristin has a very different outlook on being a Christian. When I say different, I do not mean weird or strange, I mean LOGICAL. Her stories were not all serious, to be quite honest, it is quite the opposite. There is just something about a person who can laugh about the events of the past especially when it involves mild humiliation and hair tumors.

Coming to the second half of the book we get to Wicked but there really wasn’t as much as I expected. There are so many stories that sometimes they seem rushed. This is a little bit of a problem for me in the audio book but I can see how that wouldn’t come across in the book. I think the book balances between life and work pretty good and I think the stories get funnier as the book goes on.

I am kind of taken back by how much she lingers on The West Wing and Aaron Sorkin. Her description of The West Wing experience is nothing less then a family. As a HUGE fan of the show It is just as wonderful as I expected. Yet another reason to try out the audiobook is a Sorkin cameo when it goes into their relationship and experiences through productions like Studio 60.

One thing I was not expecting was the better part of chapter one being about her adoption. Wait, What? This caught me off guard and as I read on I think there were several points where I teared up a bit. I have never heard someone with such a similar beginning and a solid understanding on how they feel about their family and biological family.

Check out more about Brandon at his website: 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesday- March 15

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title; author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"When I was a small boy I had a terrible dream. I dreamt I held in my arms the severed heads of my younger brother and sister.
Vittorio, the Vampire by Anne Rice

Monday, March 14, 2011

Little Women

My mother and I enjoy watching old movies together. We would watch all the classics made into films or the MGM musicals with Gene Kelly dancing across the stage. It’s beautiful, romantic, and captures my attention completely. One such movie was Little Women. Not that 1994 version. Oh, no. I mean the 1949 film with June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien, and Elizabeth Taylor. It was then that I fell in love with the March girls and picked my favorites of the sisters (Jo and Beth respectably). But what about the book the movies were based on? We own a lovely hardcover with beautiful artwork from the Illustrated Junior Library that I have tried to read since childhood and yet, for whatever reason, I could never get past the first Christmas at the March’s.

Enter my lovely Kindle and I flew through the book. It’s lengthy, but not of the War and Peace sort. The book was so much like my beloved film! Or, well, vice versa. I try to read books prior to seeing the movie adaptation but it just didn’t happen that way. I don’t regret my first introduction to Little Women though. The book was more detailed while the movie only hit on major plot points.

I love the relationship of the sisters in this book. I can only read it with the knowledge of an outsider, I haven’t any siblings of my own, but I picture siblings acting much in this way. The arguments, occasional jealousy, one sibling connecting to another in a more specific way, and the bond that seems to never be broken. Each of the little women have a specific character trait. While Meg is the mature one, Jo the rebel, Amy the flirt, and little Beth the mother hen, I adored each character in their own way. However, as I mentioned before, I had my favorites.

I felt that I could identify with Beth’s comforting ways although she was the most heartbreaking of all characters (Yes, I am one of those girls who cries while reading books, especially if there is a dramatic scene). But Jo made me most happy. Her stubborn and powerful nature was something that I felt, or wished, reflected myself. Here is this woman who is going against the odds. She’s running around and acting much like a boy during a period of time where that wasn’t exactly expected of young ladies. I enjoy that she sticks to her opinions and doesn’t let others sway her.

The first half of the book, for me, was much more entertaining and a quick read than the last half of the book. I think part of that was because the sisters were more separated- all going their different paths and not corresponding with one another directly. So while the first part of the book was much about the sisters and the events of their lives as a whole, the second half of the book would focus on one girl with each chapter. So if I didn’t like a character as much as another I would drag through that portion of the book.

But I can’t complain much about the structure of the book. It did exactly what I hoped it would do: introduce characters you could identify with, show their up’s and down’s and not so good sides, and wrap up the story in a nice and complete way. You know what is going on in each of the girl’s lives and how they surpassed troubles. I really hate when books leave you hanging however this does not. It’s the type of novel I can picture myself sharing with a daughter, should I ever have one. A total ‘girls’ book but with the different personalities I think any girl could identify with at least one of the little women. I understand now why it’s such a classic and am pleased I finally got myself to read the book. I’ve been missing out on this book for years!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hello, my name is Erica and I am a Kindle owner.

So I came upon some extra money recently. I had it tucked away with the intention of buying myself something big and fancy as a birthday present. I’ll be turning 25 in July, the quarter century mark, which totally freaks me out but that’s beside the point. I figure turning 25 is something worth spoiling yourself over. So the money was set aside and I had my brain set on a list of different presents for myself. I was pretty dead-set about getting myself something and yet… I kept returning to tumblr and reading over posts written by bloggers who own e-readers. Their arguments as to why e-readers are awesome were pretty convincing to me so after doing some comparison research I decided- I was going to buy myself an Amazon Kindle.

I won’t lie, I have been a Kindle owner for only two weeks and I am in absolute love. I was worried that I would suffer buyer’s remorse but have yet to feel any woe due to the purchase. There is an assortment of reasons why I absolutely love the kindle and I hope, expressing these reasons, anyone who is considering an e-reader might find this of some help.

My household is filled with books. I live at home with my parents, it’s just the three of us, but my mother and I love to read. She has two bookcases of her own books that she’s collected since childhood, shelves of children’s books from my own childhood, and a large bookcase my grandfather built that is packed with books from my teenage years. Then we move into my bedroom where I have two more bookcases that are packed solid. I have no more room for books. None. And I’ve known this day was coming for months. I’ve been actively looking for the bookcases I have, to buy another, but keep coming back empty handed. The family jokes it’s OCD, that I must have all of my bookcases be exactly the same, well, it’s true. They need to be the same. I wouldn’t like to have a random bookcase that was different. My own obsessive behavior aside; I have no room for books and I really haven’t the money to buy a new bookcase anyway.

Well. Okay, so I did have the money for the new bookcase (if I had found it) because I went and spent $140 on my Kindle. However, that $140 Kindle already has nearly 30 books stored in it that I got completely free. Yes, that’s right. Thirty books for free. If I had gotten them as Mass Markets those thirty books would have easily cost over $200. They’re all the classics, which is exciting because I’ve wanted to read so many classics and yet many times thought, “I’m not sure I’ll like this book, do I really want to buy it?” No problem, I have it for free. So even if it takes me three years to make my way through the book it’s okay, because it’s on my Kindle and I didn’t pay a cent for it.

So just acquiring those free classics already paid off for the Kindle. Those thirty books that, if they were printed, I wouldn’t have any room for them.

Not only that, but the Kindle is so light and easy to carry around. I slip it into my purse or bag (nestled into the little ‘Kindle sock’ I crocheted for it) and it isn’t that added bulk that my books give. I adore that there is a function to look up words. If I am reading a book and I pass over a word that I am not 100% sure of the definition I like to look it up. This is all fine and good if I’m at work or at home with a dictionary available. But when I’m traveling or out and about I won’t have a dictionary handy. On the Kindle I can simply scroll to the word and there’s the definition.

I can go onto the internet from my little Kindle, I can update my twitter and facebook with quotes from the books that I adore, and I can download games, magazines, and newspapers. Say I’m cooking but really would like to read, well, I can set the Kindle to Text-to-Speech and allow it to read to me. Suddenly I have audio books without even shelling out the money for them.

Now, for all the naysayers who are completely against the e-reader because they feel it’s the death of publishing, hear me out. I was in that category for a long time and my opinion has changed fully. The availability of books on my Kindle is wonderful and convenient. I appreciate not having to find that bookshelf (at least for awhile), I appreciate the lack of bulk, and I appreciate the low price of these books when I typically haven’t much money to put towards book. But all of this does not take away my love for a published copy of a book. Don’t think that for a second. I know I could download I Capture the Castle to my kindle, a book I have already read and adore, but I don’t want to. I want the actual copy. I want to be able to look at the cover, smell the pages, and relive the memory of reading that book for the first time. Printed copies have in no way gone completely out of my life.

I would suggest an e-reader (specifically, the Kindle, because there is seriously nothing wrong with it!) to any avid book readers. If you don’t read a ton of books each year or are happy to just take books out from a library, then maybe an e-reader would be a waste of money, but if you don’t fall into that category then hop to it and order one!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Vampire Chronicles: Pandora

I have mentioned it before, but surely, I will mention it again even after this. I began reading The Vampire Chronicles when I was 12 and in 7th grade. At my school the middle school and high school shared a library, giving me the opportunity to read books that might have been a little mature for my age. Do I regret reading those books at such a young age? No. I was intelligent enough to realize if a books topic made me uncomfortable I would simply put the book back. But by the time I reached Pandora I was in High School, a little older, and completely in love with The Vampire Chronicles. All of the books are from the point of view of a male character until Pandora.

A brief history of The Vampire Chronicles: Vampires have been in existence for thousands of years and Pandora is a Child of the Millennia, about 2,000 years old, and just totally kick ass. (sorry for the language) After reading book after book about male characters that are quite powerful it was refreshing to enter the world of a beautiful, educated woman who is stronger than so many other vampires within the V.C. group.

Pandora is stubborn and opinionated and unlikely to easily accept help from anyone. It doesn’t matter that she is a woman, mortal or immortal, if she needs to travel alone then she will. I adore that in her character, that she is in control of her own destiny and happily so. She doesn’t fold to the expectations of society, at least not easily.

The love story between she and the other character Marius is one that I enjoy, particularly the way it is told in this book, and her relationship with the other men in her life (her father, Flavius) is written in a way that you can clearly see the emotional bond she shares with them- even if they are not spoken of from cover to cover.

Back in High School when I had originally read this book I flew through it in a day. I loved it so much and then for whatever reason, which is beyond me, I never reread it. Well, not until last week. And rereading it last week I fell in love with the book all over again. She isn’t just a powerful vampire but a powerful woman, who I feel we can not get enough of in literature.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Teaser Tuesday- March 1st.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title; author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
Little Women (Oxford World's Classics)
"Poor old Jo! She came in looking as if bears were after her," said Beth, as she cuddled her sister's feet with a motherly air.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott