Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sing A Song Of Dragons

Ahhhh that is much better, I'm in the middle of rereading on of my favorite sets of books The Harper Hall trilogy by Anne McCaffrey.  These books always feel like coming home to me, they never ever ever disappoint no matter how many times I've read them.  This is a unique set of books, they are set in the world of Pern during the Dragonriders of Pern series time period.  What makes this set of books so different to me is the sheer normalcy of them, the first two books in the trilogy pretty much sums up a few short months in a young girls life, the third book has a bit of a larger storyline and deals more with a different character.  Overall it feels like Ms. McCaffrey took her big, epic, well developed world that normally features the brave and heroic dragonriders and gave us a series to show us how everyday non-hero people lived.
The first book Dragonsong introduces us to Menolly of Half-Circle seahold.  She is the youngest daughter, quiet and unassuming.  We start with the funeral of the old Harper (who is a musician/messanger/history keeper/teacher/bard type professional).  Menolly is the only person in the hold capable of playing the traditional funeral song, and the only one who knows enough and can be spared from teaching duties to teach the younger children.  This irks Menolly's father because he feels that it is not a girls place to be a Harper.  All Menolly wants to do is play music and be free to invent her "tunings and twiddlings" as her father calls them. This all causes conflict between Menolly and her traditional albeit hard working family.  Once the new Harper arrives Menolly is told to keep to herself, to not let the new Harper know she was the one who taught the children, and to not put herself forward during the nightly singing's.  Menolly injure's her hand while  gutting a fish called packtail and it gets horribly infected, her mother does her best, but the scar heals puckered and she loses the fine motor control in her hand.  Told she will never be able to play with that hand again, Menolly falls into despair.  One morning she decides to head out on her own, with no plan in mind.  She comes to some sea caves where earlier she had helped a creature called a fire-lizard (think miniature dragon) rescue her clutch of eggs from the rising tide.  Up until now these creatures had been a near mythical presence as sightings were rare and one had never been caught.  As she is in the cave Thread (a voracius organism that devours anything organic, the main "nemesis" of most of this series) arrives and to save the hatching fire-lizards she starts feeding them.  This leads to her Impressing nine of them who from then on look to her to take care of them.  Menolly decides if she can survive Thread without a hold (pretty much unheard of) then she is never going back.  She makes a home for herself in the cave with her fire-lizards and is pretty content.  A couple weeks later she is out gathering supplies when Thread arrives again, she starts running for her life and is saved when a dragonrider (the dragons flame the Thread and destroy it so it never reaches the ground) spots her and rescues her.  She is taken to Benden Weyr (where some of the dragons/riders live) and is taken care of. 
Menolly also finds out that a few other people have discovered and Impressed fire-lizards as well (though no where near as many as she has)  She helps them find another nest which results in her being hailed a hero.  Meanwhile the Masterharper Robiton has been searching for the person who wrote several songs that an old Harper sent to him with no name.  He eventually puzzles out that Menolly is responsible for the songs and offers her a place at Harper Hall, despite the fact that she is a girl.  She is taken to start her new life of music and fire-lizards.
This is a very quick read, in fact the first time I read it was out of my English text book in high school.  I was having a really rough time, I wasn't fitting in (I was a really weird kid and hadn't found any other weirdos to hang out with yet).  I remember sitting outside on my rock at lunch and half-heartedly flipping through my English book when the title caught my attention.  I devoured that story, and promptly raced of to the library to find the rest of the series.  Imagine my delight when I found a whole plethora of books by the same author.  To this day every time I am feeling lonely or overwhelmed I just read this book and it helps.  Sweet, simple and to the point, a great start and a great book to get a younger person reading.  I will babble on about the other two books in the series later 'cause they both have very significant meaning to me as well.
What book "fixes" everything for you?  What author did you discover in high school that was all your own? Anybody want to take bets on how dorky a hairstyle I had in high school?

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Apologies

So...Hmmm...about that book, you know the one your best friend/sister/book critic/favorite blog recommended to you and swore up and down that you would love 'cause they just loved it sooooo much and they can't wait for you to read it so that you can rave about it with them.  You are so excited to crack into this critically acclaimed novel/biography/collection of essays and about two or three chapters in it hits you...you really are not into this book, in fact you kind of hate it.  You keep reading, thinking maybe it will get better, you know you've read books that don't get good until half way through...only this one doesn't, you finish it because that is just the kind of reader you are, giving it the benefit of the doubt all the way to the last page.  So now what?  Do you politely smile as your mother/co-worker/hairdresser excitedly "discusses" all the "wonderful" parts of the book?  Do you quietly slip it into your library donation stack and pray it never comes up?  Do you get on your blog and do a full on rant about how horrible said historical fantasy/biopic/sci fi novel was and how nobody in their right mind would ever read it, much less recommend it to anybody else?
What if you are on the other side of that coin?  Have you ever picked up a book or series and absolutely LOVED it, you thought the story was great, the characters engaging, the writing well done.  You hop on to your favorite book review site, ready to bask in the glow of the being part of a commenting community that can't help but rave about this amazing work of art/collection of poetry/most wonderfully witty satire ever produced...(I'm loving my ellipses today)only to find out it is being bashed in almost every arena.  Comments run towards "hacky writing"  "unoriginal story" and "what the heck was that author on when he/she/it wrote this?!?"  It kind of feels like somebody is bad-mouthing your best friend.  So what do you do?  Do you write back scathing retorts on how uneducated and illiterate they must be to not get the genius that is this book?  Do you go back and reread it, doubting yourself?  Do you quietly get a book cover for it so nobody see's you actually reading it?
Good news folks...IT DOESN'T MATTER!  That's right, you are allowed to love, hate, like, meh, woohoo, any book your little heart desires.  Reading is like food, different people have different tastes and just because your "supposed" to like something doesn't mean you have to.  Take caviar for instance, it is supposed to be the epitome of fine dining and sophisticated taste, but what if you really really really don't like the taste of squishy fish eggs, you can still be a gourmet chef and not like caviar.  You may also not like a food that is commonly loved, I know a person who hates chocolate...I mean seriously who hates chocolate?!?  Books are the same way, they come in every type of category, flavor, length, style and voice you can possibly imagine.  If you are a true reader, you will find what you love and be okay with what you don't.  You do not have to love a book because somebody else does, nor do you have to be ashamed to read books you love (I'm looking at you Twilight fans :-) )
All I ask is three things, try and finish a book before you judge it, my biggest review pet peeve is people who say "I only got through the first chapter then I put it down, I give it one star"  There have been a very few books I put down after the half-way mark, but even books I hate I try and get all the way through, 'cause then I feel justified in giving a review of why I don't like it.  There are also many books that all of a sudden come alive later in the book, a few of my favorites don't even get started until the 5th or 6th chapter.  The second thing is try and be adventurous and open minded to some degree, we all have our favorite books, just like we have our favorite foods, but just like I would never have discovered my love for goat cheese if I had not tried it, there are many books outside my comfort genre that I never would have found without a little leap of faith. Third and maybe most important, don't judge others on what they like to read, anybody who reads is awesome.  Sometimes a persons book choice may be baffling to you, the urge to deride a person based on what they are reading is really strong sometimes, just remember that you probably have a book you love on your shelf that another person thinks is absurd as well. (The exception to this is if you have a blog about books 'cause sometimes you just have to let loose with a rant, just don't make it personal)

Ok so this turned into a much longer post than originally intended, so I will end it here and let you all get back to whatever fabulous/trashy/awesome/judgmental book you are in the midst of right now.
What book do you love that others seem to hate?  What book have you tried and tried to get through and just couldn't?  What is supremely popular right now that just isn't in your wheelhouse?  What is your favorite way to hide books that would be totally embarrassing in public?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Fanfare

DUM-dum-DA-dum-dum-dum-DAdumdum-Dum-dadum-dadadadaDum! That my friends is the theme song of the Olympics (which is actually two songs combined).  I am an fervent (I've been wanting to use that word since Darcy used in Pride and Prejudice) fan of the Olympics and have been driving my poor Hubbin and anybody else unfortunate enough to get stuck within earshot of me with schedules and plans and interesting tidbits.  This year with the Internets and such I can literally watch every round of every event!  I've already been watching podium training for Gymnastics.  My favorite sport to watch is Gymnastics both men's and women's  I follow them through out the year so I am all prepped.  I also really like diving and the shorter races too.  Here are some great books to get you in the Olympic Spirit
Great Moments In the Summer Olympics
A great way to introduce kids to some recent Olympic history
How To Watch the Olympics
Great insight into the origins of some sports, also gives the rules to the games
The Olympics Strangest Moments
A look at the weirder side of the Olympics
The Naked Olympics
Ancient Greek Olympic history...plus I really wanted to put naked in a post
Inside the Olympics
A nuts and bolts of how the Olympics work

What is your favorite Olympic event?  Do you root for your home country or for individual stories?  When are they going to make reading an Olympic event?!?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Libro De Arte

Alicia Martin is an amazing artist who has done some really cool pieces with books.  Here are a few of my favorite.

What do you think of these pieces?  What kind of huge art piece would you make out of books?  How much do you want to climb to the top of the first one?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Boy or Girl or Pickle?

So excited, my Lil Sis is (hopefully) finding out if the newest addition to the family is going to be a boy, a girl, or some kind of green pickle/alien hybrid (this is kind of what I'm hoping for). Her son lil-G has decided that no matter the results the baby will be named George :-) Regardless of what we say we are all hoping and praying for a healthy baby 'cause either way I predict this kid is still gonna be a fire cracker.
This is for Girl George
This is for Boy George
This is for Pickle/Alien Hybrid George

I am just so excited to have a new member of the family to teach wild crazy non-normal things too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Words To Live By

Some of my favorite quotes from some of my favorite books

What is your favorite quote from a book?  Who said it?  Why do you love it so much?  Why do I ask so many questions?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Invisible Fairies And Sour Skittles

On my last excursion to the book store a book called Fairy Bad Day caught my eye. I was in the mood for something on the lighter cotton candy side and this fit the bill. First of all this seems to be a stand alone book, which is a nice break from the ongoing need to spread teenage angst out over multiple books.  It was a fun, quick read that will appeal to most groups who like a fun fantasy story.

The quick and dirty details are this, a group of kids who are sight-gifted (can see elemental's) all belong to Burtonwood Academy.  This is a school for kids who can see one or more of the various elemental's (fairy, dragons, trolls, goblins etc.) and train to slay them.  At some point in history a gate got opened up to another dimension and all of these pesky elemental's came through and started causing havoc.  The story centers around Emma and her friends Tyler and Loni and the new boy Curtis.  Emma just knows she is going to be designated a dragon slayer (every kid is given a designated elemental to train to slay), her mother was a famous dragon slayer before she died and Emma is the best at Burtonwood Academy.  Of course nothing can go according to plan and Emma ends up stuck as a fairy slayer.  Fairy slayer is about the farthest thing you can get from a dragon slayer and Emma is not a happy camper.  To make matters worse the new boy

Curtis get the coveted spot as dragon slayer.  Emma and Curtis are paired up on an assignment to cross train between designations which irritates Emma all that much more. Emma is hurt in an explosion at the mall while chasing down fairies. At this point Emma starts to see a mysterious dark shape that nobody else can see, but that the little fairies call a darkhel.  Apparently this darkhel squeezed through the gate when it was open for a few minutes and is now searching for the Pure One, a guy who's blood is passed down through generations and was used to seal the gate, and now the darkhel wants to use it to open the gate and let all his hideous brethren through.  Emma goes up against this thing a couple times and only escapes death with the help of her friends, and Curtis who she starts liking more and loathing less.  Eventually Emma figures out what the darkhel wants, and that the Pure One is her dad!  Her friends help her track it down and there is an epic fight that eventually ends when Emma pours ground up sour Skittles into a wound on the darkhel.  Everybody escapes with minorish injuries, Curtis and Emma hook up and they all live happily ever until somebody decides that there needs to be a sequel.

This was a fun quick read, I finished it in two days.  The story was fun and actually made sense the whole way through, the adult/kid relationships were actually fairly believable and the idea of using hairspray to try and kill fairies is kinda funny.  I liked that the lovey dovey part wasn't instant attraction, Emma early on was aware of Curtis's hotness, but that did not stop her from hating his guts for a while.  The "falling in love" was built up pretty well, she went from loathing, to tolerating, to liking so that was a nice change of pace.  I also liked how there was consequences for actions, when Emma's bad attitude and desperate attempts to change her principles mind on her designation went to far, she wasn't praised for her spunky persistent attitude as in some books, but got put in detention as would probably happen in real life. I liked the use of modern technology mixed with old school lore about these creatures, and I loved that the electronics geek was also the bouncy pretty shopaholic girl. The author made really weird use of italics to emphasize certain spoken quoted words in a way that was kind of confusing, and the story felt a lot shorter for all the words that you had to read (I'm not sure if any of that made sense :-) )  It was definitely written for the 10-16 crowd, but still fun.  I give it 3 out of 5 packs of Skittles.

What do you read when you need a break?  Do you ever use YA novels to stay caught up with all that young wippersnapper tech and lingo?  What is your "slayer" designation? (Mine is working on a way to slay mornings)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Don't Want To Be Here

Blah, I so don't want to be here today...I wish I was on the Dawn Treader sailing for parts unknown.  I wish I was looking for the portkey to take me to the Quidditch World Cup.  Right now I would be so happy to be flying on dragon back over Pern.  I want to be climbing the Tower of Time in the Archipelago of Dreams.  I could be wandering around the Fairy Market on the other side of Wall or sampling a feast of words with King Azaz. I could be resting up for an amazing evening at the Night Circus, or waiting for Peter to take me to the Mermaid Lagoon. I wish I was walking under the trees of Lothlorien listening to the elves sing. I would even be happy just lying in the grass watching the fairies fly around at Fablehaven.  Oh well I guess it's time to crack open another book.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Denizens Of The Deep

I love water, I love how it looks, how if feels, I love looking at it, swimming in it, smelling it (unless it's a stinky harbor that shall remain nameless).  I also love stories about water beings of all sorts.  Mermaids, Selkies, Sirens, Kelpies, Undines, Naiads, Kappa's, I love them all. When I was little...ok even now, I was/am obsessed with aquariums and always wanted to get in with all the fishies and swim around like a mermaid, my wonderful Hubbin made that dream come
 true snorkeling in Hawaii a few years ago, seriously it was just like all my young four-year old self dreams come true, it was amazing and now has me wishing I was a Selkie :-)  The most well known story about "mythical" water creatures (I'm convinced they actually exist, just they are smart enough to stay hidden) is of course The Little Mermaid, either the pretty princess Disney version, or the much darker original walking on knives and dissolving into sea foam version.  Here are some books and stories that I really enjoyed featuring our favorite denizens of the deep.

The Mermaid's Madness-This is the second book in the Princess Novels series by Jim C. Hines.  It is a very different retelling of the original Little Mermaid story, and also deals with the aftermath of her being jilted.  Very dark and tragic, not for your little princess.

Midnight Pearls- This is a book from the Once Upon A Time series that is a set of books that retell the various classics to varying degrees of success (more on that in another post).  This is another retelling of The Little Mermaid, but this one spends the vast majority of the time above the waves as the mermaid in question is mostly raised on land.  Pretty good story and a fairly quick read, perfect for the beach.

Petaybee Series- This series and the one that follows it (The Twins of Petaybee) are a collaboration between Anne McCaffery and Elizabeth Scarborough that combine Alaskan and Irish culture and myth.  It is set on a sentient world that produces strange effects in some of the inhabitants, including one of the main characters essentially being a selkie.  This trait is passed onto his children in the second series.  This is one of those great/weird combinations of futuristic sci-fi and environmental fantasy.

Quest For A Kelpie-This historical fantasy set in Scotland is a great one for the young adult crowd.  It sneaks in a lot of history (think Bonny Prince Charles and such) but still keeps the pace moving...plus mythical horse of the sea, so pretty cool.

Kappa- This was a bit of an odd one.  The story is told by Patient 23, an asylum patient.  It is the story of his journey to Kappaland and his twisty, weird adventures with these little green water sprites.  Read this one and tell me what you think.

What are your favorite water creatures?  Do you like the classics or the re-telling's better?  Did you ever dream of swimming in the big aquariums?  Have you ever wished you could breath under water?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


I am a sucker for a really beautiful notebook/journal.  I love the open empty pages just begging for a story to be written in.  I myself have a whole shelf full of journals with story ideas that I want other people to write, bits of dreams that have inspired stories I tell my nephews and long suffering Hubbin, and any other little literary tidbits that tickle my fancy at the moment.  Here are a few awesome books to jot your own stories down in.
Tolkien Quote Journal
My baby sis has got me hooked on this quote, I love it!
Alice in Wonderland Journal
Nothing like Alice and the Mad Hatter to remind you any story is possible
Nefarious Ideas
Bwahahaha (That is my evil laugh)
Lapis Lazuil Journal
This one looks like a magic book that will later be discovered in a dusty old temple
Romeo and Juliet Journal
The perfect place to put that romantic novel you know you are secretly dying to write
Tree Journal
I love love love love love love love trees!
Quill and Ink
Of course you will need the perfect writing tool to inspire your amazing stories

What do you use your journal for?  Do you fill them up before getting a new one?  Does anyone else wish somebody would write the book out of all the story idea's in your head?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Elephant's, Trains, and Circus's Oh My

Randomly all the girls in my family decide to read the same book at about the same time, which is always really fun 'cause then all four of us get to talk about it.  The last book we did this with was Water For Elephants.  When my Mamma first heard I was reading it she was surprised, she didn't think it was my kind of book (which is silly 'cause EVERY book is my kind of book), but I understood her confusion as I am more of a fantasy/scifi girl.  Anyways the book is mainly set at a circus which is still pretty fantastical so not so far off from what I usually read.  I have to say I really loved the book, it was a great story but the part I liked the most is all the research the author Sara Gruen did on circus's during the Prohibition era.  The details and stuff I learned, and the amount of times I went and researched on my own to learn even more was awesome.  I love a book that gets you so interested in a topic that you don't stop when the book is done, but want to continue to learn more. The movie was pretty good, but being a movie couldn't put in all the little tidbits that made this book absolutely fascinating to me.

The book starts out in probably one of the most heartbreaking ways ever.  A 93 year old Jacob is excited to go see the circus with his family, he has been in a nursing home for years and is really looking forward to this event. Eventually it  become apparent that his family is not coming, which is extremely disappointing for Jacob (I have a huge soft spot for nursing home residence as I worked at one for years, these are people who have led lives, raised families, have interests and personalities and they more often then not get stuck in a place where they are treated like small children. So please go visit your local home and just hang out with these people, they have some amazing stories to tell).  Fortunately for the reader Jacob decides to go on his own. He is stopped at the ticket booth and eventually starts to tell his story to one of the workers there.
Back when Jacob was a young man of 23 during the Prohibition era, he was working towards his veterinary degree.  On the day of his final exam he is called to the office and informed his parents had been killed in a car crash. Heartbroken and penniless (his parents had mortgaged there house and put every penny they owned into his education) Jacob skips his exam and hops on a random train in the middle of the night.  The train turns out to be a circus train on it's way to the next town.  He is eventually hired to take care of the animals.  For a while we follow along as Jacob learns about the circus culture and the many layers of social classes, etiquette, unwritten rules, and offenses that outsiders never know about.  Again I found this part to be really cool.  We also learn that it is tough times for the circus, as I said earlier this is set in the Prohibition Era and the author did a great job showing the affect this had on the circus and the people working on it. Eventually Jacob makes friends with the animal trainer Augustus and his wife Marlena who is a performer with the animals.  Augustus is a man who can be charming and wonderful one minute and a raging, jealous brute the next.  Augustus will beat animals (and people) who do not do what they want, this includes the circus's newest acquisition the elephant Rosie.  
Turns out Rosie can only understand Polish and since Jacob is the only one who can speak it, he becomes Rosie's "interpreter".  Jacob and Marlena fall in love and we follow them as they first try and resist it, then try and hide it from the jealous and possessive Augustus.  Augustus eventually finds out and takes his wrath out on Rosie, beating her severely.  The owner of the circus Big Al tells Jacob he had better fix things between Augustus and Marlena or he will "red-light" his friends the old man Camal and the dwarf Walter (this is when the hired muscle tosses people off the train on the way to the next destination, either because they were causing trouble, they were useless or the circus did not want to pay them anymore.  They did this while the train was moving so that  they could not return and cause more trouble).  Marlena agrees to come back and perform, but refuses to let Augustus near her, this results in Camal and Walter getting red-lighted over a bridge resulting in their deaths. Eventually men who had been previously red-lighted find the circus and release all the animals in revenge. This causes a stampede during which Rosie kills Augustus.  Jacob is the only witness to what Rosie did, so he decides to keep quiet. Jacob and Marlena end up getting married and keeping Rosie, along with several other of the animals.  They work at another circus for a while before settling down and having kids.  They lived a long and happy life together.  After telling his story, he asks the manager if he can have a job selling tickets, after a moment of thought the manager agrees, thus Jacob at the age of 93 once again runs away with the circus.
I love the ending of this book, I thought it was sweet and it made me happy, especially after how it started.  I would highly reccomend this book to anybody who is interested in the circus, the Prohibition Era, or just wants a really great story.  I give it 9 out of 10 peanuts.

What book have you picked up randomly that turned out to be amazing?  Do you like the circus or do clowns freak you out?  What part would you want in the circus (I would be a lion tamer)?

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Stitch In Time

I found these cross-stitched found books to be kind of interesting, I could see a page displayed like an old fashioned sampler.
Back and front of cross-stitch
This is just neat
I can see this on a book stand in a parlor
Do you think you could ever dream up something like this?  Do you like book art or does it make you sad to see books become unreadable?  Do you think book stitching will be the new crocheting.