Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cat Thursday--Halloween Style (16)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It's all for the love of cats! Enjoy! Hosted by Michelle of The True Book Addict.



Happy Halloween, ya'll!!!!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Nick and Tesla's High-voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Quirk Books
I have only great things to say about this book! I read it aloud with my son Gabe. He followed along for most of it and was so excited by the experiments at the end of some of the chapters. We can follow along and build what Nick and Tesla built to solve mysteries and save themselves.

Science and is beautiful and cool. I'm so glad there is a great new series out helping to get kids excited about science and learning.

Nick and Tesla are twins. They've been sent by their parents to live with their very strange Uncle Newt. Mom and Dad are studying soy beans in Uzbekistan and feel they would be safer in California for the summer. Uncle Newt has his own souped up lab in the basement where they can perform their own dangerous experiments. They even meet a couple of kids from the neighborhood to help them solve the mystery of the old Landrigan Mansion.

I also loved the interplay of Nick and Tesla. Tesla is the one always ready for action, the one who scares less easily. While Nick is the cautious one. Tesla is a strong and awesome female character!

I'm just can't gush enough about this book and look forward to the next installment!

*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

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What can I say? This was a crazy book to listen to. I didn't follow all of it, but overall it was OK.

The characters were interesting. Cameron is annoying and big-time loser, according to his sister. He gets high all the time and never shows up for work on time or class. His sister considers him a social piranha and his parents are also clueless. They are painted as the hyperlogical and unfeeling (scientist dad) and the super laid back mom to the point of never having a conversation with her son because she doesn't want to say the wrong thing.

So he ends up getting mad cow disease, totally incurable all the while putting holes in your brain until you die. Not a great way to go. So of course the hallucinations set in and now Cameron must save the world from dark energy forces and find Dr. X so he can be cured!

It's crazy. But he's hallucinating, so yeah, and he's dying so why not have the hallucinations mean something?

I can see why it won some awards. It's wacky and has some interesting things to mull over throughout the story, but it just didn't pull me in. I liked Balder the Norse God yard gnome and Dulcie the angel. She was kind of fun. But in the end she  throws in post-modernism and I just didn't buy it. 

Overall, I am glad I read it but it just wasn't my kind of book.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mansfield Park Readalong First Volume Questions

This has taken some time and it's a process even still but I will finish this hopefully before the end of the year....

So first round of questions from Misty's blog The Book Rat for her Austen in August are:

  • What were your initial impressions of the story? Not just the characters and their respective situations, but also the style and tone - if you've read Austen before, do you find Mansfield Park to be very different in any significant ways? 

My initial impression? Long, boring. I have not identified with any of the characters other than Mary. This is very different from her usual tone and style. We are usually rallying around the heroine by now and her love interest. But the only one I'm rooting for is Mary!

  • Going more into the characters now, Mansfield Park's inhabitants are pretty universally considered Austen's hardest to love. What was your response to them through the first half of this story? Do you feel for any of them? Hate any of them with a vehemence beyond that which you normally reserve for fictional characters? And if you try to look at them objectively, do you have any more sympathy (or disgust) with their actions and behavior?

I have no great love for any of the characters. Poor Fanny Price is just a pawn. She has no power. She's less than a servant because she is dependent upon her aunt and uncle. She's thus been raised to have no voice. Yes, that does change as time goes on but not much. 

Mrs. Norris and Lady Bertram are really terrible as is Henry Crawford. Hate is a strong word but vehemently dislike is what I'd describe for these characters.

I do sympathize for many of them. The way society has set up their respective roles is stifling and horrifying. Mrs. Norris is also dependent but acts as if she isn't. Lady Bertram does nothing and has no cares and therefore no passion or desires and ways to cultivate empathy. She does nothing and therefore cares for nothing. 

The men have their own roles that box them in. The eldest Tom has no desire to be the responsible one; it's too much pressure so he's the spoiled son and destroys his inheritance and that of his younger brother Edmund. Sir Thomas must keep up appearances and keep his estates going. Always away from his family leaves him unimportant in his family's eyes.

  • Fanny is often considered to be a very milquetoast, frustratingly passive heroine. Do you agree with this perception of her? Do you find yourself making excuses for her or holding things against her? Or do you feel that Fanny is underestimated as a character? Consider the scene in the Rushworth's park, as Fanny sits for hours, waiting to be noticed again, while everyone around her seeks their own amusement.

She is morally superior to all of the characters. But that doesn't mean much. She's a bit self-righteous but circumstances force her to be more humble about it than Edmund. Is it environment? Being a 'beggar' in the Bertram family, does that force her to be more contrite and to see the world differently? She has her convictions and she shows them later on. But in this volume she's jealous and self-righteous.

  • "The Play" and preparation for it is one of the most telling and pivotal scenes in Mansfield Park - discuss your reaction to the entire Lover's Vows storyline: what it brings to light in the characters, what changes and ruptures it causes among them, things that amused or irritated you, etc.  Did your feelings about any of the characters change as a result of The Play? How did you feel about Fanny during this whole incident? Would you have liked to see the play - and its aftermath - without the intrusion of the returning Lord Bertram?

The play. It seems so amusing from a modern-day perspective but it's so telling. Poor Rushworth who the bumbling idiot and no one likes him or takes him seriously. The back and forth between Edmund and Mary about playing the lovers. The shaming of poor Fanny who refuses to participate. The excuses Edmund makes to alleviate his conscience is quite telling. Who loves whom comes out and who is playing who. We start to see the true colors of Henry as well.

Yes, I would have loved to see the play play out. Too bad Lord Bertram comes home to such chaos.

Fanny begins standing up for herself here. This a good thing. She's having to separate herself from what Edmund can do for her and see where her own convictions and values lie.

  • Many of the relationships we've been introduced to so far are very contentious: Maria and Julia, sometimes Tom and Edmund, Mrs Norris and everybody. And in fact, the story starts with a rift in the family. What do you make of the "friendships" and family dynamics in the story, and of the changes wrought by the entrance of the Crawfords?

Everyone seems to be competing against each other. Who loves me best? Why do others hate me or annoy me so much? I'd say there are no real friendships in this story, just pretend ones. Mrs. Norris loves no one and therefore no one loves her back. She's a nuisance and a busy-body who forces her way into everything to feel important. Maria and Julia must fight for love and affection from others. That's how they have been taught. It's not all about family; it's about how society views you. Who's on top and who's on bottom. Competition for the best mate. Edmund is a self-righteous arse. Tom is lazy and hates the societal and familial pressure of being the first born male. Of course, they are going to not get along.

The Crawfords add an interesting dynamic. Love interests for all!

  • Is there anything else you'd like to talk about from Volume One? 

Volume One was tough. This is a hard book. It's taking me a lot longer than I ever imagined to work my way through it.


Monday, October 21, 2013

A Reading Life (4) October 21, 2013

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes On...is a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

Listening To: The radio? Not much. I just need to finish some books and a few podcasts and I'll be on to listening to another book!

Books finished last week:

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson, What You Don't Know About Religion But Probably Should by Ryan T. Cragun, Going Bovine by Libba Bray, Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay

I didn't actually finish all of these last week but it's been a few weeks since my last Reading Life post!

Books Reviewed:

Sky Jumpers and The Historian

Reading:
  • Once Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales by Paula Guran
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Halloween: The Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre by Paula Guran
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

Coming Up:

Finishing off a few scary stories before the end of October!

Watching:

Zombieland as I type this with devoted hubby! Just watched This Is The End. So hilariously good :)

Making:


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Soups and pumpkin bread and muffins! I made a fabulous Tex-Mex chicken and rice soup this weekend. I have plans to make some ghost cookies and try out a new chicken orzo soup.

We will also be carving and decorating some pumpkins this week and weekend!

Grateful For:

That my devoted hubby is home and that we had a fabulous time in Boise last weekend!

Looking forward to:

Warm and comfy foods and treats and an epic Halloween party this weekend!

Pictures: We had a fabulous time in Boise. Beautiful there. I had no idea there were so many fun things to do!





Took a walk to the Anne Frank Memorial and tribute to human rights. Beautiful.


Beautiful Autumn in Boise!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Historian By Elizabeth Kostova Read-a-long Review and Wrap-up!

I finished! This was a really thick book but it didn't seem that long and it moved along pretty fast. Thanks to Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings for the R.I.P. VIII challenge and The Estella Society for hosting this fabulous readalong!

Publisher's Summary:

For centuries, the story of Dracula has captured the imagination of readers and storytellers alike. Kostova's breathtaking first novel, ten years in the writing, is an accomplished retelling of this ancient tale. "The story that follows is one I never intended to commit to paper.. As an historian, I have learned that, in fact, not everyone who reaches back into history can survive it." With these words, a nameless narrator unfolds a story that began 30 years earlier. 
Late one night in 1972, as a 16-year-old girl, she discovers a mysterious book and a sheaf of letters in her father's library -- a discovery that will have dreadful and far-reaching consequences, and will send her on a journey of mind-boggling danger. While seeking clues to the secrets of her father's past and her mother's puzzling disappearance, she follows a trail from London to Istanbul to Budapest and beyond, and learns that the letters in her possession provide a link to one of the world's darkest and most intoxicating figures. Generation after generation, the legend of Dracula has enticed and eluded both historians and opportunists alike. Now a young girl undertakes the same search that ended in the death and defilement of so many others -- in an attempt to save her father from an unspeakable fate.

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My Summary:

Kostova really knows how to weave stories and characters and times and places. I felt transported to the lands and times she wrote about. I could taste the food and feel the cool mountains.

There are only short bouts of real time when the author (the daughter of the main characters) writes about her real-time journey. The rest is told through very long letters. And some are told letters within letters or a story within a story. It gets pretty layered quickly and sometimes I had a hard time remembering whose story was who's. But it worked for the story she needed to tell and so I just went with it.

She paints quite the trail for Drakula. His story is creepy and his minions are always around the corner. I liked how she drew the myth of Dracula into a modern-day legend, tying him in quite nicely.

The ending was a bit anti-climatic but still satisfying! I thoroughly enjoyed this creepy and beautifully written book!


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman

Publisher's Summary:


12-year-old Hope lives in White Rock, a town struggling to recover from the green bombs of World War III. The bombs destroyed almost everything that came before, so the skill that matters most in White Rock—sometimes it feels like the only thing that matters—is the ability to invent so that the world can regain some of what it’s lost.
But Hope is terrible at inventing and would much rather sneak off to cliff dive into the Bomb’s Breath—the deadly band of air that covers the crater the town lives in—than fail at yet another invention.
When bandits discover that White Rock has invented priceless antibiotics, they invade. The town must choose whether to hand over the medicine and die from disease in the coming months or to die fighting the bandits now. Hope and her friends, Aaren and Brock, might be the only ones who can escape through the Bomb’s Breath and make the dangerous trek over the snow-covered mountain to get help.
For once, inventing isn’t the answer, but the daring and risk-taking that usually gets Hope into trouble might just save them all.


My Summary:

Go, Peggy Eddleman! Thank you for writing a fun post-apocalyptic story that features a strong female lead!

I love post-apocalyptic stories that focus on how humankind deals with the fallout, without necessarily focusing on the whys and hows. Let's see how we pick up the pieces. Eddleman does this beautifully.

I really enjoyed seeing humanity come together in the aftermath. It's not just dog-eat-dog in this world. It's tough and rough but people are helping each other out. They are loyal and love each other and they love science!

It's an adorable story and I'm really looking forward to more in the series as well as getting these books to read with my son as he gets older.

*I received this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mini Book Reviews (Non-fiction Edition)

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Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim.

Fabulous book! Lots of history on how society has treated women and our menstruating ways. Both depressing and fascinating, but it never dwells too much. Lots of snarkiness and ways to make us think about how we view our bodies and what the future holds.

The Violinist's Thumb: And Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Kean.
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I read Sam Kean's earlier book on the periodic table. This one was just as fabulous. He focuses on our genetic code and he teaches with stories and facts. Can't wait to read his next book!

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Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Fascinating look on how we can engage with our lives, no matter what our daily lives look like. Tips on how to find flow activities and find meaning in what we do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Autumn Tag

I was tagged by Lisa from Lit and Life for some musings on the new season...Autumn!

Fall is my absolute favorite time of the year! Halloween, fall leaves, pumpkin everything, mulled ciders and wines, a hint of coolness, Thanksgiving...roaring fires...and Christmas and wintertime festivities. I love it!

What is your favorite thing about autumn?

The colors, cooler weather, the holidays, and snuggling up with loved ones for the long winter ahead.

What book reminds you of school?

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I read that huge thing twice in 8th and 9th grade.

What is one of your favorite autumn-related book covers?

Zen Ghosts by Jon J. Muth. It's also my favorite kid's Halloween/autumn-related book!

What is your favorite horror or Halloween story?

My favorites are Dracula by Bram Stoker and as a kid I loved all of those scary short stories. I think I bought all of them as a kid. There was just something about those short stories that weren't super scary but could be.

What are some of your favorite horror films?

Night of the Living Dead, Watcher in the Woods, What Lies Beneath, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, Zombieland, Carnival of Souls...just a few ;)

What is a book release you're looking forward to this autumn?

Not any one book, but I am looking forward to Night Film by Marisha Pressl, which is on hold at the library!

What is a film release you're looking forward to this autumn?

Catching Fire!

What are 3 books you want to read this autumn?

World War Z, The Psychopath Test, Night Film

Consider yourself tagged! Link back if you are so inclined ;)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Reading Life October 1, 2013

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A Reading Life...hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict, and also inspired by Lisa at Lit and Life--Life: It Goes On...is a meme where we get to talk about other stuff we're doing in our lives along with reading!

Listening To: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Books finished last week:

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Finding Engagement With Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi.

Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein

Books Reviewed:

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Reading:

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova for R.I.P. VIII
  • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  • Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman
  • A Skeleton at the Helm: Tales of Ghost Ships, Derelicts, & Hauntings at Sea by John Richard Stevens also for R.I.P. VIII
  • World War Z by Max Brooks


Coming Up:

FrightFall Readathon is going on so I'm looking forward to a couple of books like Stepford Wives by Ira Levin and another zombie book or two ;)

Watching:

I'm putting a hold on my scary movies while my hubby is gone for a few weeks...too scary and lonely without him, but I'm catching up on my season TV premieres or will be soon. I got the Mindy Project and Saturday Night Live with Tina Fey hosting. The Blacklist looks fascinating and I'm excited for Bones!

Making:

A Halloween advent calendar with Gabe and two of his friends today and some Frankenstein Rice Krispie treats :)

Grateful For:

Good friends who hang out with me and my kid and go on hikes with us and let me bring over scary movies to watch ;)

Looking forward to:

Our trip up to Boise, Idaho to visit the hubby while he's there! Very excited for that!

Picture:

We went hiking yesterday to see all the gorgeous fall leaves! Breathtaking!
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FrightFall Read-a-thon Begins!

I'm planning on reading a few scary books along the way and I've already watched a couple of scary movies! I'm planning on reading World War Z by Max Brooks and Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. Hopefully, I'll find time for more! Very excited for Halloween!

Go over and join Michelle at Seasons of Reading!

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