Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Friday, December 13, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: Black Star, Bright Dawn, Furious Hours...


Published: January 1st, 1988 by Fawcett
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Adventure
Format: Paperback, 112 pages, Own
Rating: 3.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Bright Dawn was a teenaged Eskimo girl. Black Star was her part-husky, mostly wolf, pet. Together they were about to begin the famous Iditarod dogsled race through the bitter cold of Alaska. Bright Dawn knew they would win, but she didn't count on the cold, blinding whiteout, the belligerent bull moose, or ice that could crack and splinter at any time. And she soon realized that she was not only depending on Black Star for the race, but for her life...

My Thoughts:

I think it was an important story for its time. But I don't think it's a book that still needs to be read by young kids. There are better stories out there actually written by Indigenous authors. I think those stories should be promoted.

I read this for my son's school Battle of the Books. It's a very quick read. I had a hard time remembering Bright Dawn was actually 17 in the book. I kept thinking she was 11 since that's how she's written. This book could have easily been expanded into a full-of-adventure novel. But it's only 112 pages and it's over before it has even begun. But like I said before it was an important book for its time but let us let other better stories be read in schools.


Published: May 7th, 2019 by Knopf Publishing Group
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, True-crime
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages, Library
Rating: 3 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend.

Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case.

Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South.

My Thoughts:

I had a hard time with this one. It's different. Yes. But was it necessary? And was it a cohesive story? Not so sure about that. Casey Cep takes three different stories and tries to throw them all together. Insurance fraud and the murderous Reverend Maxwell, the murder trial of his killer, and a short biography on Harper Lee. Yes, this crime was something Ms. Lee had been working on and never finished but... I don't know. What was the point? I never felt like I got enough of any one story. I felt a bit cheated. It was a bit interesting and I didn't know much about Harper Lee before this book. And yes my hero has been destroyed. Do NOT meet your heroes... But yeah, I have mixed feelings. 

Published: 1990 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 208 pages, Library
Rating: 4.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart - and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon - and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Cimorene's story of daring to be herself and kicking ass and saving dragons and kingdoms along the way. I wish I had read her story when I was a tween. Fantastic characters and a wonderful world make this a true classic.

Published: 1998 by HarperCollins
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Format: Paperback, 144 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak, so principal Walter Russ dashes off a request to Flowing Waters Fountains, Etc.

...We need a new drinking fountain. Please send a catalog.

Designer Flo Waters responds:

"I'd be delighted...but please understand that all of my fountains are custom-made."

Soon the fountain project takes on a life of its own, one chronicled in letters, postcards, memos, transcripts, and official documents. The school board president is up in arms. So is Dee Eel, of the water-supply company. A scandal is brewing, and Mr. Sam N.'s fifth-grade class is turning up a host of hilarious secrets buried deep beneath the fountain.

My Thoughts:

This was a fun story told in letters about solving a mystery, creating a new fountain, and thinking outside of the box. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Cat Thursday--Christmas Edition (2)


Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat 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! 

I can't resist this face. So enjoy my baby Shadow this week!

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Now some cute cat Christmas memes!





Wednesday, December 11, 2019

November-in-Review and December Goals!

This is a very late in-review post but better late than never.

We got snowed out over Thanksgiving! We set up our Christmas decor. I took care of my neighbor's cute kitties. And we got in our annual gingerbread house decorating.

And the annual winter sinus infections and flu goo have hit our family. The goo usually waits until January or February...I'm hoping this means it'll pass us by midwinter... (fingers crossed, knocking on wood)

NovDecCollage

Last Month I...


Read:

12 books: I'm reading a few books for G's Battle of the Books at school...only three more to go this month!
  • A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
  • Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
  • More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
  • Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco
  • Wabi Sabi by Mark Weibstein
  • Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shackleton
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O'Dell
  • More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
  • Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
  • Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks by Kate Klise


Listened to:

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante on Audible (actually started it in November and finished it just a couple of days ago)

Watched:

TV:

  • Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Three
  • The Expanse all three seasons to catch up for the new season on Friday!
  • Nailed it! Christmas special
  • Sugar Rush Christmas special

Movies:

Lots of horror from Halloween and holiday shows from Netflix!

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Tagline: The family just got a little stranger.

Thoughts: The story isn't always consistent but the cast is superb and the summer camp storyline is my favorite!

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Tagline: Enter a universe where more than one wears the mask.

Thoughts: Beautiful animation and fantastic characters make this a charming addition to the comic.

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Tagline: A Gothic folk tale.

Thoughts: It's one of those mind-bending movies where you're not sure what you just watched.

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Tagline: In a small town on Christmas Eve, a snowstorm brings together a group of young people.

Thoughts: For cute teen holiday romance, this one hit the spot.

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Tagline: This Thanksgiving survival is a blessing.

Thoughts: Super dark but I liked it. One of the better entries into the series.

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Tagline: A modern-day romance with a medieval twist.

Thoughts: My suspension of belief was too much. Not my favorite.

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Tagline: A romance off the beaten path.

Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this cheesy Rob Lowe movie. I cried and laughed. Just what I needed.

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Tagline: Welcome to the jingle.

Thoughts: Charming origin story on Santa Claus. New Christmas classic in our home!

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Tagline: Let go of the past.

Thoughts: A more mature storyline for the characters but lacks the charm of the original.


Made:

Pumpkin no-bake cheesecake for Thanksgiving. Oh man, so yummy. I'll be making more of it all season long.

I've been making lots of soups and stews as well cuz tis the season for all things soupy.

Also lots of crochet projects for Christmas which will continue into December!

Reading Goals:

I'll be finishing up quite a few in December for G's Battle of the Books but for some fun I have:

  • A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg
  • Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders
  • One Day in December by Josie Silver
  • Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Currently listening to:

Letters from an Astrophysicist by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Looking forward to:

December is always full of fun times! We have winter break, the Solstice, Xmas parties, our 16th wedding anniversary, Christmas, and a trip to Boise, Idaho for a week with friends over New Year's. Plus lots of baking and holiday movie watching and reading. My favoritest time of the year.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: City of Ghosts, Monstress Vol. 3: Haven

I realized I missed three books during October for book reviews so I'm going to make them up here! yikes...


Published: August 28th, 2018 by Scholastic
Genre: Juvenile fiction, Horror
Format: Paperback, 272 pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Cassidy Blake's parents are The Inspecters, a (somewhat inept) ghost-hunting team. But Cass herself can REALLY see ghosts. In fact, her best friend, Jacob, just happens to be one.

When The Inspecters head to ultra-haunted Edinburgh, Scotland, for their new TV show, Cass—and Jacob—come along. In Scotland, Cass is surrounded by ghosts, not all of them friendly. Then she meets Lara, a girl who can also see the dead. But Lara tells Cassidy that as an In-betweener, their job is to send ghosts permanently beyond the Veil. Cass isn't sure about her new mission, but she does know the sinister Red Raven haunting the city doesn't belong in her world. Cassidy's powers will draw her into an epic fight that stretches through the worlds of the living and the dead, in order to save herself.

My Thoughts:

I thoroughly enjoyed this middle-grade novel about a young girl who's best friend is a ghost. I enjoyed visiting Edinburgh through their eyes. And there were some genuinely creepy moments! Overall, a great little haunted series. I look forward to the next book.


Published: September 11th, 2018 by Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 168 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Maika Halfwolf has begun to unlock the mysteries of her past - but the challenges are only going. In this third volume of MONSTRESS, collecting issues 13-18, Maika's journey takes her to the neutral city of Pontus, where she hopes to find temporary refuge from her pursuers. Unfortunately, Pontus may not be as safe as Maika and her allies had hoped.

As the impending war between humans and Arcanics creeps ever closer, and powerful players fight for the chance to control her future, Maika finds she must work with Zinn, the Monstrum that lives inside her, in order to ensure their mutual survival. But even that alliance might not be enough to prepare Maika for the horrors to come.

My Thoughts:

Another fantastic addition to this amazing fantasy series. While it's sometimes hard to follow, I get the gist and I love the tragic heroine Maika is and how she surrounds herself with people her make her better. The world-building is phenomenal. I'd love an actual book fantasy series to read. It would help fill in some of the gaps.

Published: June13th, 2019 by Celadon Books
Genre: Mystery, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 355 pages, Library
Rating: 3.5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed "The Whisper Man," for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter's crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window...

My Thoughts:

I liked it. But I didn't love it. The characters didn't quite come alive for me, and how it all connects, in the end, was a little over-the-top. But it's still a good, creepy story and I did enjoy the elements of the supernatural in it.


Published: 1991 by Scholastic
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
Format: Paperback, 128 pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Storytellers know — just as they have for hundreds and hundreds of years — that everyone enjoys a good, scary story!

Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories 3 joins his other popular collections of scary folklore, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark and More Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, to give readers spooky, funny and fantastic tales guaranteed to raise goosebumps.

Who is the Wolf girl? Why is a hearse filled with men with yellow glowing eyes? Can a nightmare become reality? How do you avoid an appointment with Death?

Stephen Gammell's splendidly creepy drawings perfectly capture the mood of more than two dozens scary stories — and even a scary song — all just right for reading alone or for telling aloud in the dark...

My Thoughts:

Another great collection of folk horror stories. G and I had a great time looking at the creepy drawings and reading all the funny and creepy stories! The best collection and drawings. Then we watched the movie! It was fun to pick out the stories we recognized from the books.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

Cat Thursday-- Christmas Edition (1)



Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite lolcat 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! 

I figure it's time for all the Christmas cat love this month!






Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl: A Memoir by Jeannie Vanasco

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Published: October 1st, 2019 by Viking
Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Format: Hardcover, 360 pages, Library
Rating: 4.5 stars


Publisher's Summary:

Jeannie Vanasco has had the same nightmare since she was a teenager. She startles awake, saying his name. It is always about him: one of her closest high school friends, a boy named Mark. A boy who raped her.

When her nightmares worsen, Jeannie decides—after fourteen years of silence—to reach out to Mark. He agrees to talk on the record and meet in person. "It's the least I can do," he says.

Jeannie details her friendship with Mark before and after the assault, asking the brave and urgent question: Is it possible for a good person to commit a terrible act? Jeannie interviews Mark, exploring how rape has impacted his life as well as her own. She examines the language surrounding sexual assault and pushes against its confines, contributing to and deepening the #MeToo discussion.

Exacting and courageous, Things We Didn't Talk About When I Was a Girl is part memoir, part true-crime record, and part testament to the strength of female friendships—a recounting and reckoning that will inspire us to ask harder questions and interrogate our biases. Jeannie Vanasco examines and dismantles long-held myths of victimhood, discovering grace and power in this genre-bending investigation into the trauma of sexual violence.

My Thoughts:

I literally had to let this one percolate for awhile. It's been over a month since I read this. I wrote down all my thoughts right after so I wouldn't lose that but I just barely looked my notes over. This book was visceral. Vanasco writes in real-time her feelings about "Mark" and her reactions to their conversations. You cry, you yell, you're disgusted, and empathetic towards Mark all at the same time she is.

It tells a story of a larger cultural phenomenon-- we don't take care of our own. Ms. Vanasco was emotionally abused by her boyfriend in high school-- she was 14 and he was 18 when they started dating! She says her dad really liked him and so she figured his abusive nature was normal!

She always had a protective-type relationship with her father since he was 61 when he had her. He was more frail while she grew up and didn't want to cause any problems where he would feel his age and how he couldn't protect like he would want to. So she never felt like she could tell her parents her problems. Like when her high school journalism teacher was sexually harassing her and stalking her and no one cared--not the police, not friends, and she couldn't turn to her parents.

I feel like her story is how everyone in her life who was supposed to protect her and love her, didn't. I don't know if she meant to write about that but that's what I got from it. It's about Mark, her best friend, who raped her when she was drunk, but it's also about everyone else in her life who failed to protect her and support her when needed. That also translates into our culture of rape. Blame the victim, turn a blind eye when it's a loved one doing the abuse or someone in authority, or a beloved sports player, or that pillar of the community.

This is a book about working through trauma, recognizing it, and trying to find a way forward and asking society to look at how we treat our women. It's a punch to the gut and I recommend it for everyone.

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