Monday, July 21, 2014

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

For a long time, I thought I had read Judy Blume. If you're a bookish kid, and I was, of course you've read something by her. As I got older, I thought about it, read about her books, looked at her catalogue, and realized that I hadn't ever read one of her books. How did that happen? How did I read, and read, and READ, and not one of those authors was her? As an adult, I wondered if I should fix that gap in my reading life, especially since I felt that in just a few years, this was the kind of book my daughter might be reading.

Then, the day after I had finished reading Slaughterhouse-Five, having NO idea what I should be reading next (big book hangover), there it was on a big book table, marked down... A children's classic missing from my life, on sale! It called to me and I took Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. home and started reading it the same day.

I could have easily read the story in one day. It’s not long; reading it in one day would have been a snap. The plot flows, follows Margaret along on her pre-teen adventure.  Moving, boys, breasts, and periods, what is the next disaster going to be?  I really sympathized with Margaret, thought she was crazy, mean, nice, and hormonal.  I related with Laura Danker.  I have known more than one Nancy. We have all learned the lesson that looks aren’t everything, but it’s hard to learn that at twelve.

There’s something about finding out a book is banned that makes me want to read it more too.  I’ve read so many articles and lists about banned books and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is so often on them.  That was one of the reasons that if I were to only read one Blume, this would have to be the one.  I can tell why it was banned.  Periods and God.  No one wants to read about a girl trying to discover those two things.  Gross, right?  Also, blasphemous.  I actually thought that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. is a great book to help a young person learn about those things.

The ending was the only thing I wasn’t completely happy with. It felt too open, there was too much left unsaid. It's not like I need books to wrap up every loose end, I just like books to feel finished. Maybe part of my problem was that there were about 20 more pages after the end of the story, previewing another of Judy Blume's books. I didn't know that, so I turned the page expecting more story. It was a very disappointing moment, and not the first time that has happen, when I saw what was on the next page. Please publishers, note somewhere that there's a preview of another book included so I'm not sad at the end. Thanks.

I am glad I finally read this book. It’s a modern classic, fun, sweet and something I’ll be recommending to my children and my friends’ children and anyone who hasn’t read it.  I know Blume has written books for adults, I’m interested now in reading one of those. If anyone is missing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. from their reading lives, you should fix it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slaughterhouse-Five


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21903582-slaughterhouse-fiveSlaughterhouse-Five was brilliant.  It was perfect.  Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death was engaging, intriguing and could easily be read in one sitting.  I wish I could have read it in one sitting; it was so difficult when I had to put it down.  When the mood struck me to finally read Kurt Vonnegut Jr., I had a choice between Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat's Cradle, both of which I own.  I decided to let the internet help me.  Slaughterhouse-Five is touted as Vonnegut's best novel.  If it's his best and I start with his best, then will all his other novels leave me unsatisfied?  However, if it's his best and I don't like it, then I wouldn't likely bother with any of his other books.  So, I cracked open my lovely edition of Slaughterhouse-Five.

One of the reasons I felt eager to read Vonnegut was because of the Classics Club.  I recently posted about Alias Grace for the Club.  While on the site, I noticed that their July event/era was Postmodernism.  Postmodernism is a curious thing.  There is no date ending postmodernism, because we may still be in it, though some say it ended in the 1980s.  As the name suggests, it comes after modernism (some modernist writers: Ernest Hemmingway, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, James Joyce).  Postmodernism includes writers like Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Haruki Murikami.  Is everything they write postmodern?  I don't know.  I've always felt like postmodernism is something difficult to pin down.  There's definitely an overlap between modernism and postmodernism, postmodernism and postpostmodernism
 
I wasn't planning on giving a lesson on postmodernism, but I do think Slaughterhouse-Five exemplified that epoch.  I wish we had read this book way back in high school when I was learning about different eras in literature.  I can't remember the example of postmodernism we read (shows how much it made an impact on me); I know that my teacher explained it as something that uses the writers' real life experiences and fictionalizes them.  There's often time-jumping and flashes of scenes.  I understand what she was trying to tell us now, more than I ever have before.  Billy Pilgram is the main character, but he's not the narrator.  The narrator is someone who knew Pilgram and was around him when a lot of these events occurred. The narrator and his friend, O'Hare are researching the Bombing of Dresden, they were both there, for the narrator's book.  I tried to explain all this to my Hubby, as I was telling him how this book might be a new favourite and I don't know if I did a good job.  Vonnegut did an amazing job of making the time-jumping aspect of the story part of the plot.  It is just something that happens to Pilgram.  Everything about the novel seemed to evolve and flow naturally.
 
There is also often an aspect of metafiction to postmodernism, as there is in Slaughterhouse-Five.  Metafiction is another literary (and can be used in other media) device that can be difficult to understand.  I've know people to run away from the word metafiction, but in Vonnegut's novel, it is used brilliantly.  The narrator openly discusses the book he's writing, includes conversation with his friend O'Hare.  O'Hare's wife tells the narrator that a book on World War II should be called The Children's Crusade, the alternate title for Slaughterhouse-Five.  "Slaughterhouse-Five" doesn't show up until much later in the book.  Another aspect of metafiction is the author putting themselves in their story.  At first, it appears that the narrator is Vonnegut, but Vonnegut also speaks through the character of Kilgore Trout, a science-fiction writer, who is also partly based on one of Vonnegut's friends.  Is Vonnegut then in his own story twice?  Maybe they represent two different sides of Vonnegut's personality or this thoughts on the book.
 
Phew! I did not mean for this to be an essay... Slaughterhouse-Five was just such a fascinating novel.  I loved it.  I could re-read it right now.  I'm sure there's loads I missed.  Pilgram and the narrator are both intriguing.  I'm glad that the Classics Club put it into my head that I should read Slaughterhouse-Five now.  I read Generation X recently, maybe I should tackle some more postmodern novels?  I definitely want to read more Vonnegut.  It's a good thing I already have Cat's Cradle.  I might need some recovery time for my brain though.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Books of 2014 - So Far...

I've seen a lot of "best of 2014, so far" lists lately. The end of June marks half the year; I suppose that has people thinking about what has passed in 2014 this far. 

If I think about the first six months of 2014, I think about some great new food I've made, like my quinoa salad recipe, which I hope I'm not making too often now. I also think about how my kids have grown. My son's vocabulary has ballooned. My daughter finished her first year of school. My Hubby is preparing for Warrior Dash. I became unemployed, but have enjoyed the extra time with my children...and the extra reading and writing time. 

I've read some fantastic books this year, so far. I don't think I could make a "best of" list right now because I loved them so much. I've read some new favourites, additions to great series, stories full of fun, fright, love and sadness. 2013 was full of great reads and it looks like my choices are still going strong; 2014 will be a fantastic reading year too. 

Reviews this year, so far:
 
 
Food:
 

Some thoughts:
 
 
Umm... Wow.  I did not realize I had posted so much in the last six months (and that's not everything).  What was I thinking linking to everything.  Ugh!
 




Friday, July 11, 2014

The Silkworm

The Silkworm was everything I hoped it would be. Robert Galbraith's* second novel was every bit as good as The Cuckoo's Calling. I love Strike. I love Robin. I'm really interested to see where their relationship is going, as I think it is the driving force behind the book and series. I'm also interested in seeing how Robin and Matthew's relationship changes as she changes.

Minor  Spoilers

In the aftermath of the Lula Landry case, Strike built on his 15 minutes of fame. (It is what I hoped would happen.) Then one day, tired, he takes on a case from pushy Leonora Quine. I really hoped that Galbraith wouldn't do a second time what he did with The Cuckoo's Calling and make the killer the person who hired Strike. I was pleased with that and everything that happened in the novel. It was exciting and fluid. I had to know what happened next.

I really liked all the new characters we got to meet. We got to meet one of Strike's half-siblings on his father's side. I loved Al. I definitely want to get to know him better. I felt so bad for Nina, though she was a bit pushy and presumptuous. Strike has some interesting and diverse friends. I really liked Robin's mother too. I'm excited to see how their social circles expand and collide. I'm already checking, hoping, to soon have another Coromon Strike novel.


* I know it's really J.K. Rowling.  I just like to pretend.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Lone Drow

The Lone Drow is the second book in R.A. Salvatore's Hunter's Blade trilogy.  It is also book 15 in the overall Legend of Drizzt series.  That means I've read 15 Drizzt books!  When did that happen?  It doesn't feel like 15.  I still remember how excited I was when I read The Crystal Shard.  Was that really 15 books ago?  The more it doesn't feel like 15 books, the more I think I'm enjoying it.

The Lone Drow was everything I want in a fantasy book.  There was loads of action, so much more than the previous book, The Thousand Orcs.  This was a book of war.  The dwarves of Mithral Hall and their allies, fighting valiantly against hordes of orcs, with frost giants and trolls thrown in to make the situation even more dire.  There were moments of love, of hate, of tragedy and emotion.  There were heroic resurrections and heroic falls.  The Hunter's Blade books have really hooked me back into Drizzt.  I have to know what happens to him.

Vague Spoilers....

I wish Drizzt had been reunited with the other Companions.  They're so close and yet so far.  They know he's alive, but he really believes that they're dead.  I understand why he thinks Bruenor is dead, but the others?  Why doesn't he believe that at least one of them is alive?  Maybe it's just a "prepare  for the worst" kind of thing. 
 
I am really interested in seeing where Drizzt's relationship goes with Innovindil.  She's his first real elf friend.  There are things he can learn from her that he can't from humans, dwarves or halflings.  She isn't just a flat character either, goodly all the time.  She has a dark side that might be growing.
 
The ruby thing with Bruenor was clever.
 
There is so much story left to tell.  This is definitely a "middle" book in a trilogy.  Lots of things happen, there is a lot of action, and there is no conclusion.  Where will the characters end up?  Will any of them die?  Will they come back to life? I'm excited to see where the Legend of Drizzt will take me.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Alias Grace

Alias Grace was brilliant.  Margaret Atwood created a world I fell completely into each time I opened the book.  Grace Marks was an intriguing, unique character.  Did she do it? Atwood doesn't judge, but gives the reader clues and information needed to make up their mind.  She created a sympathetic character in Grace.  I wanted so much for her to be innocent, but the more I got to know her, the more I knew the answer would be more complex than a simple yes or no.

Simon Jordan was an interesting character.  How much of what happened between him and Mrs. Humphreys did Atwood make up? How would she even verify any rumours?  I don't really want to know. While I enjoyed him as a vehicle for Grace to tell her story, I also enjoyed his own sub-plot.

I loved reading a story set in a place where I've lived (not the penitentiary).  I like that it's the city, but in the past, like looking through a lens backwards in time.  It's interesting hearing about the muddy streets of Toronto and the long journey from there to Richmond Hill.  It added an extra dimension that I found fascinating.
 
There was so much driving this novel.  The plot was flawless.  It was detailed, complex and reality based.  The characters were deep, varied and engaging.  The pacing was steady and quick.  I was surprised at how quickly I read it.  I fell completely into the story, from the descriptions of the penitentiary, to Mr. Kinnear's farm, to all of Grace Mark's inner dialogue.
 
I read Alias Grace as part of the Classics Club Spin.  The spin really encourages me to keep working on my Classics List.  You don't need encouragement though, to read Alias Grace.  It is Atwood at her finest.  It might be my new favourite Atwood.  We'll just see how I feel after I re-read The Handmaid's Tale.
 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Quinoa Salad

Who else has fallen for quinoa salad?  My daughter, my 5-year-old daughter!  I don't know how that happened, but she loves quinoa salad.  Specifically, she loves the one I make (the recipe will be included below).  A couple times I bought pre-made salad.  My Hubby and I liked it fine, but she did not.  She said it tasted funny.  It was a bit oilier and has a slightly different taste than the one I make, but I thought the difference was negligible.  Whatever.  My kid eats quinoa salad.  Even if I have to always make it myself, I call it a win.

Here's what's in it...

Ingredients:

1 cup Quinoa
Cucumber
Bell Peppers
Grape/Cherry Tomatoes
Broccoli
Parsley
Feta
Greek Dressing

Note: I recommend making quinoa according to package directions. I didn't once an the quinoa came out funny.
 
I feel like you could put almost any vegetable you like in this salad and it would still taste good.  I've made it without feta, still good.  I've used various amounts of the veggies and different colours. Orange tomatoes, yellow peppers, whatever.  I don't always put in the broccoli. I'm almost at the point where I would say that quinoa can replace pasta in any pasta salad.  I'm almost there, but not quite.  It's healthy, tasty and simple to make.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Clockwork Princess

I'm not sure how I feel about Clockwork Princess.  I enjoyed it, but I feel like the book was written to make everyone happy.  (If you've read it, you know what I mean and please feel free to discuss in the comments.)  I was excited, entertained, riveted throughout the story.  I love that Tessa comes into her own. I do like that her end and Jem's wasn't as "neat" as Cassandra Clare could have written it.  I loved all the connections to The Mortal Instruments series.  I loved that a man took a woman's name.  There were so many good things about Clockwork Princess.  I may wonder about the end, but I loved it too. So, even if Clare did write it to please as many people as possible, I think it was successful.  Or maybe I'm just jaded because I've read several series where central characters are killed off.... 

The Infernal Devices is a great series.  I can see myself reading it years down the road when I needs something fun and exciting.  I also think it was a lot of fun to read it staggered with the last three books of The Mortal Instruments.  I wonder what the connections will be when I read City of Heavenly Fire.  I can't really say anything else without giving away the whole book.  I feel spoilery even mentioning Henry's red hair!  I'm hoping though, that we'll see Tessa again one day.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Delirium

I seem to be reading books because I "have to" this month. Alias Grace, The Strain and now Delirium. I'm happy to say none of these books have disappointed me.  I heard that the Delirium pilot was going to be made available online for all the fans to watch. I have watched tweet after tweet, comment after comment, loving this pilot that wasn't picked up.  Well, I better read this book and watch this pilot, because for whatever reason* I have to know what's going on.

Delirium was fantastic.  Lauren Oliver creates a world where love is a disease.  Romantic love is the focus of the disease, but by taking that love away, they also take the love a parent feels for a child.  Reading the descriptions of parents ignoring the pained screams of their children when they hurt themselves (even just minor booboos) really resonated with me.  What disturbed me more were the cases of parents who couldn't bond with their child at all.  I know that Delirium has the teen-romance-dystopian thing going on, and it was great, well-written and believable, but that people could choose not to love their children bothered me.

I thought Delirium had a fascinating premise, which is what drew me to it.  The characters, Lena, Alex, Hana, Carol, Grace, they kept me reading.  What I want to know more of is, how did this happen?  How did Romeo and Juliet become a cautionary tale of the love disease?  I'm hoping to find out more in the second book, Pandemonium.  I've noticed this with some YA dystopian series.  The first book hooks you with a crazy story, the second and/or third books gives you the why, the explanation.  I wouldn't have minded a little hint in the first book though.  I would have also liked for Delirium to be a little more enclosed.  It doesn't exist on it's own as a novel as much as other first books have.  The ending was exciting, but there was too much left unwritten.  I'm still prepared to soak up every bit of the series.  

*Honestly, I don't usually read because of hype, but something about Delirium's buzz (and The Strain's), I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Strain

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2654620/The Strain television series is making it's way to FX (and FX Canada) this summer.  I've had The Strain sitting on my shelf for quite some time.  I don't know why I hadn't read it.  With the television show premiere date fast approaching I figured I aught to read it right now.  I don't know why I waiting so long.  The Strain was more than I expected.  It was dark, gruesome without being overly gory.  It reached for my emotions with a stinger.

I loved Eph.  Everything about him.  A scientist, a healer, a father and a vampire hunter.  He was a fantastic main character.  I can't wait to see what he does next.  I'd also like to see what Nora does next.  I feel like she wasn't developed enough and she only existed to deepen Eph's angst.  A few of the characters were like that.  They either existed for Eph or for Setrakian.  I loved Setrakian's story. Holocaust survivor and vampire hunter.  He had a cool basement.

The Strain was creepy, tense and. great flow to the whole story with characters that you care about. I was in the novel's grip.  I wanted to know what happened next.  Too many nights I stayed up because I just had to finish "one more page".  What happened when the flight came down, seemed so real.  If a strain was going to be let loose on a city, they would do it this way.  I'm so excited to read The Fall, which I have... staring at me right now with its red and black eyes....


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

City of Lost Souls

City of Lost Souls is the fifth book in Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series. Before I get into the story, I have to ask, who is proofing the books? I saw more than one error in City of Lost Souls. It wasn't many, maybe three, but I also noticed it in the last book of Clare's I read. Is it a coincidence? I don't know. What I do know is that I find errors disturbing to the flow of my reading. Please, remember commas.

I loved Isabelle & Simon, and Magnus & Alec. I'm really interested to see how these relationships turn out. They aren't the star couples of the series, but they are the most appealing to me. I'm continually annoyed at Clary. I think the conversation that she and Jace have at the end is to try to justify her behaviour, but I still found some of her decisions questionable. I do like the development of her relationship with Izzy though. Clare has developed Sebastian in Lost Souls. He's grown beyond the monster he was in Fallen Angels.  Sebastian is a complex antagonist and there are moments where you feel sympathy for him. He's batshit crazy, but you know it's because of his father, who treated all his children as experiments.  I'm excited to see what happens to him.

I'm really looking forward to City of Heavenly Fire. I want to see the war they keep portending. I'm looking forward to some shocking, gasp inducing moments. I'm glad I won't be waiting too long.

Friday, June 06, 2014

The Dark Tower: the Gunslinger - The Man In Black

The Dark Tower: the Gunslinger - The Man In Black was everything I've come to expect from the Dark Tower graphic novel series.  The Man In Black is the "end of the beginning".  It deals with Roland's relationship with Jake (just like in the novel), and Walter sends him on the path to the Dark Tower.  I loved that it stayed true to the original story, but with the added bits you can only include in a graphic novel.  The art very much suited the mood of the story, and Roland's appearance in The Man In Black was pretty much how I imagined it for the entire series.

I know there's another Dark Tower graphic novel.  Last Shots I believe tells the story of Sheemie, so it's sort of a prequel/parallel story instead of a continuation.  I wondered as I drew closer to the end of The Man In Black if there would be more graphic novels. The second novel, The Drawing Of The Three is one of my favourite Stephen King books and I'd love to see it in graphic novel form. However, there are eight novels.  They can't all be adapted, right? I'm slightly obsessed with this series though, so if they write them, I will read them.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past was pretty much exactly what I wanted from the latest X-Men film. It brought together the mutants from the old trilogy and the last movie.  They blended together so well.  I really enjoyed the new mutants too, Bishop, Blink, Warpath and Sunspot... and Quicksilver!  I thought teenage Quicksilver was fun, cheeky and added the right bit of humour during an action filled movie.  I love all the moments, the mutants from the past/present/future popping up to say hello.  I love that they acknowledge Wolverine being in First Class.  I loved the end.  I loved the post-credits scene and as soon as I saw the sand, I knew what it was going to be about.

I have a complicated relationship with time travel in movies and television.  Sometimes I hate it.  I hate when no one remembers the original timeline.  I hate when all the characters lose time and it isn't even acknowledged.  I hate when it's used as a tool of convenience.  I like when time travel allows characters to witness events, even if they don't change them.  I have enjoyed time travel as a fix, with a celebration or acknowledgement of the fix by someone.  I liked the time travel in Days of Future Past.  I maybe would have rather had Bishop or Professor X doing the time travelling, but I understand why it was Wolverine.  I also liked that they kept Kitty as the vehicle for the time travel.  I know that a lot of people (including myself) were not happy with the ending of X3, but Days of Future Past makes up for it.  If you haven't seen it yet, Days of Future Past is worth your time.  It might be my favourite of all the X-Men movies.

Monday, June 02, 2014

A Few Words About Alias Grace


Alias Grace was simply amazing.  I don't know why I waited so long to read it.  I'm going to be waiting just a bit longer to post about it.  Alias Grace is my Spin book from the Classics Club.  As such, the post is not supposed to go up until July 7th.  

I started Alias Grace so early because it's not a short book and I wanted to have it completed on time.  When I read Villette I was late and when I read Lives of Girls and Women I barely made it.  Now, I'm much too early, since the post won't be going up for over a month.

I couldn't let this moment pass, however, without saying that I thought Alias Grace was a fantastic novel.  I couldn't stop reading it.  Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite writers and it is because of stories like Alias Grace.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Culling eBooks is SO Much Easier Than Print Books


Why?  Because I don't really get rid of them.  I remove them from my device, but they're still mine.  They exist on the "cloud". Whether it's the Apple Cloud for my iBooks, or the ones for Kindle or Kobo, they are still there.

When I first got my iPad (as an awesome gift from my husband), the first thing I did was get the iBooks app and start downloading all the free classics that I've always wanted to read.  For the classics I couldn't find, I downloaded the Kindle and Kobo apps and started searching.  I just HAD to have them.  I spent a lot of time doing this.  Then, I became a searcher for Kindle and Kobo book deals.  I downloaded a lot of free books that I still haven't read.  I also found it difficult to resist ebooks deals, especially on books that I had my eye on previously.  Soon, about 1/3 of the memory on my iPad was books.  Eventually this became a problem.

I realized that most (not quite all) books I had in my eReading apps would be saved to a cloud.  First, I only deleted books I'd read from my device.  Then as my memory problem worsened, I deleted the books that I knew I wasn't likely to read soon.  It was so easy.  I just had to pay attention to whether the book would be saved on the cloud or not, because there are a few, for whatever reason, that will not save to the cloud; if I delete them, they will be gone forever.  I also don't typically delete books that I've paid money for.  Two reasons: I feel like if I've paid for them, I might read them soon and don't want to wait for the downloading; and because I've paid money for them, I don't want to risk them getting lost, though I know logically that it won't happen.

Print books don't have a cloud.  If I get rid of them, I can't easily get them back if I suddenly decide I want to read them.  If I get rid of a print book, I have to be sure that I will not ever want to grab a hold of it again. There can't be even a remote possibility of me wanting to read it again.  Though my bookshelves are [severely] overcrowded, I can get more shelves for much less than an iPad with a bigger memory.  Also, print books are so much prettier to look at.  I don't see my eBookshelves unless I open the app, then I only see the books that belong to the specific app AND I have to scroll through them instead of just stepping back and staring.  I very much enjoy have both ebooks and print books, I think I will always enjoy having both. Culling eBooks is just easier.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Clockwork Prince

Cassandra Clare delivers a fast-paced, action packed story with the second book in The Infernal Devices series. Clockwork Prince had everything I expected from Clare. There were secrets, surprises, love, hatred, confusion and vendettas. I'm still enjoying the lives of great-great (etc.) grandparents of characters in The Mortal Instruments. Also, I continue to enjoy Magnus Bane.

Clare knows how to create an intense plot. Everyone keeps moving. Even moments of rest for the characters have something else going on, thoughts and feelings they can't control. I really enjoy Will Herondale. I like that, for a moment, we are reminded that he is just 17 and that the bad thing that happened to him, occurred when he was 12. I think Tessa has so much possibility, I'm eager to see what will happen to her in Clockwork Princess.

I'm not 100% happy with Jem's emotional outburst at the end, the one with Tessa.  I don't want to reveal anything to anyone who hasn't read it yet, but I'm just not sure I liked it.  It was a lot coming from a usually reserved character.  I get that it was suppressed emotion finally bubbling up to the surface, but I still don't know if I'm happy with it.  Poor Jem, though.  I feel like I'm going to spend a large part of the next novel waiting for him to die.  

I know Clare plans on writing other series set after The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.  I know not everyone may like that, but I read series with 15+ books in them.  As long as I'm enjoying the stories, I'll keep reading about Shadowhunters.  I wonder how far Clare can stretch their world.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

The cover for Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children is difficult to resist. Reading the synopsis and looking at a couple pictures makes it even more enticing. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children was an exciting read. I don't know why I waited so long. It was a story I could barely put down. The first line was a great hook, "I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen."

The pictures were an interesting, unique addition to the story. I know people love the pictures and I thought they were great, but they didn't make the story for me. I think I would have enjoyed the story as much without the photos. Author Ransom Riggs writes well. I had no problem picturing Emma or Olive after they were described. The vintage photos were interesting though, especially knowing they were real photographs from peoples' private collections. I appreciated Riggs acknowledging everyone at the end of the book.

I really liked all of the characters, Jacob, Emma, the villain. They made the story for me. I liked getting to know Jacob's father, but I would have liked to get to know his mother too. He makes some pretty big decisions without his parents for being just 16. Why was his life so miserable? Why did he have just one friend? Was it just because of his grandfather's influence. I understand the author making him into an outsider, for the various plot reasons, but what I wanted to feel more was why. Maybe with some more information about his relationship with his mother... in Hollow City perhaps... I will understand Jacob's decisions more. That being said, the plot was great.  I loved the twists and turns. There were so many unexpected little quirks. The end was mysterious.  I'm looking forward to Hollow City.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Generation X


Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture has been a book I've been wanting to read for years. Even if you don't think it represents all of Generation X (and I don't think it does), it popularized the term. For that alone, I think it is an important book. I've read several of Douglas Coupland's other novels and enjoyed them all. I could have chosen a different Coupland book that I own and haven't read, but Generation X had been waiting too long.

If Generation X was the book of Gen X, then the television show of Gen X was Friends. Though there are only three members of Generation X's group of friends, I found the characters similar, though not the same. Claire very much reminded me of Rachel, but Claire had a certain aloofness that I appreciated. Early on in the novel, I felt like the entire book had been written with a sense of irony. The tone is very similar to the early seasons of Friends. Generation X is not a comedy, but I feel like if you were a fan of the show, you'd like the book.

I found the characters intriguing and I'm a sucker for good characters. Claire made some interesting life choices. Dag did too. Andy was a great narrator. I enjoyed the way he explained things about Dag, Claire, and his life through story. I really liked that the characters told stories to each other. What I found Generation X didn't have was a tangible plot. I don't know if it needed one, but I've been reading a lot of plot heavy books lately and with this book not having one, initially I missed it. Stuff happens in the novel, with personal and familial relationships, jobs, life choices. They just aren't related a clear way. The characters have no goal, no mystery to solve or treasure to find.

One part early on that I found funny and ironic, in a non-intentional sort of way, was when Andy was talking about communicating in short blurbs.... If only these guys knew about Twitter and other social media! I don't know what Andy would think of 140 characters or less. In some ways, I can relate to these characters, but since this book is so 90s, it's almost a period piece. Does that make sense?

Will Generation X be a modern classic? I don't know, but I think it might be. I'm not sure what else I can say about this novel. It made me think a lot. I like to think sometimes. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Spin Spun


...and the number is 1!!

Which means I will be reading Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood.

I'm excited and nervous.  I love Atwood and Alias Grace is one of her most famous novels.  I think the main reason I haven't read it yet is that it is a big book.  I tend to delay reading big books.  I want to read ALL the books, and big ones take longer.  The Classics Club Spin is just the push I need to cross this big book off my list. Hopefully, my post on Alias Grace will be up on July 7th!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Fiction Writer's Handbook

This post has been sitting in my drafts for ages.  I don't know why I didn't get around to finishing it.  I guess I just wasn't sure what to say. I didn't know what to expect when I won The Fiction Writer's Handbook from Goodreads.  I was very excited.  There's a forward by Christopher Moore, followed by some interested instructions for how to use this book.  The Fiction Writer's Handbook isn't necessarily a book you're going to read from start to finish. Though Moore and author Shelly Lowenkopf do recommend that you read the whole book. It's structured more like a reference book, but after reading several entries, I can see what they mean.

I thought that I'd try to read the book from the beginning, but it didn't feel right.  My next thought was to begin my journey through the book with an entry that had already jumped out at me.  I started with Agenda. Agenda referenced 18 more entries.  With that kind of start, I figure by the time I was done, I would have read the whole book or at least close to it.  I started with the first reference term, Character, read it, then instead of going back to the next term mentioned in Agenda, I went to Narrative, the first term referenced in Character.  So many terms are referenced in each entry that after a while, I knew I couldn't keep reading it like this.

In the end, I'm treating it like a reference book.  If I want to know something or am stuck somewhere, I can pick it up. I can also pick it up and browse a few terms if I'm feeling stuck. Moore's introduction was definitely worth the read.  I think one day I might read it from beginning to end.  The descriptions of each term are in depth and interesting.  I keep it nearby when writing as I think it is helpful.  To read it like I would another book, I just can't do it.  If you are a writer or interested in writing, however, I do think this is a great book to have in your reference collection.  

Friday, May 09, 2014

Popular Authors I've Never Read

When I tell people I love reading, many (usually the ones who don't read very much or at all) assume I read the "bestsellers" or the very popular authors that even non-readers know of (usually through their books being made into movies).  My usual response is something like, I've heard her/his books are good. I'd like to read them at some point, I'll get to them one day, etc. ,whether it is my actual intention to "get to them" or not.

I thought I'd compile a short list of authors that are popular, who I'm frequently asked if I've read.  

1. John Grisham - I keep thinking I aught to read him.  He has written so much, I wouldn't know where to start. I'm also not sure his stuff is for me.
2. E.L. James - and I won't.  Ever.
3. Nicolas Sparks - I probably won't ever read him either.  For more than one reason.
4. George R.R. Martin - I aught to read him. It seems like he writes stuff I'd like to read, but the books are just... so... big!
5. John Green - see #1
6. James Patterson - see #1
7. Mary Higgins Clark - see #1

The same goes for classics. I've never read:

8. Fyodor Dostoyevsky - So intimidating.
9. Anne Brontë - Though I've read both Emily and Charlotte.

I also haven't read some of the really popular current authors like:

10. Gillian Flynn - I feel like there's too much hype for me to be objective.
11. Rainbow Rowell - I really want to read Attachments.  Of all her books, the story appeals to me the most, though I know Eleanor and Park is being made into a movie.

I think the above eleven are enough.  Which popular authors have you never read?  Why? 

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Another Classics Spin

I couldn't resist another Classics Club spin. I was so happy about my last selection. I hope that this one is just as enjoyable. If you want to join in, posts up by May 12. Books are supposed to be read by July 7, but it's okay if they aren't. I've had a late book... 

I've decided to continue splitting up my list the same way as I've done for the previous spins. I've kept a lot of the same titles as last time with just a few changes. 


Novels
1. Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
2. Appointment with Death, by Agatha Christie
3. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

Short Stories / Novellas
5. Sherlock Holmes: A Study In Scarlett, by Arthur Conan Doyle
6. The Big and The Little, by Isaac Asimov
7. Dracula's Guest, by Bram Stoker
8. Under the Knife, by H.G. Wells

Poetry / Theatre
9. Lady Lazarus, by Sylvia Plath
10. Queen Mab, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
11. Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmund Rostand
12. Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Children’s / Young Adult / Juvenilia
13. Tales of Angria, by Charlotte Brontë
14. Tales from Hans Christian Andersen, by Hans Christian Andersen
15. The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
16. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter

Re-Reads
17. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
18. The Stone Angel, by Margaret Laurence
19. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
20. Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

What are you looking forward to? What are you dreading?

Macaroni, Cheese & Spinach Cups

Really, this recipe needs a new name.  But it's an accurate description of what I made.  I've made it a few times and it gets tastier with each batch.  I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Pinterest (yes, I make things I find on Pinterest), so I want to definitely credit the original recipe.  The original is healthy. Me? I think I'm kind of half way.  I used 2% milk.  I used regular cheddar and old cheddar (Mmm...)  I also add a dash of nutmeg and two dashes of cayenne.  I also used rotini instead of macaroni, mostly that's because of what I had on hand... and I think rotini is fun.  I should try it with macaroni and see if it makes difference.  I also used fresh spinach. - Honestly, I always forget to thaw frozen spinach before I'm ready to make something. Then I have to do a "quick thaw" under the tap.  Then it's too soggy and I get too much water in my recipe. In general, using fresh spinach is easier for me.

The adults who ate it had lots of compliments.  The children looked at me like, what the f* is this?  It's the green.  It doesn't matter what you do, if they see that wilty green, they don't want it.  You can't even really taste it.  Most of the time I throw spinach in stuff for the health benefits.  I'm not a fan of cooked, straight up spinach either.  In the cups, you mostly taste the cheese and garlic.  Since I love cheese and garlic, that's awesome.

In pictures, here's what happened:

I got out my muffin tin and sprayed it with cooking spray.

I chopped some spinach.

I made the sauce.  I made sure to whisk in the milk gradually, so I wouldn't get any lumps.

Mixed in the spinach.

Mixed in the pasta that I had to wait a few minutes for. Now, I will remember to set the pasta to boil before I start.  I forgot until after I had chopped the spinach and had to wait.  Ugh.

Into the pan it goes. The above picture is actually after it has been in the oven for 13 minutes.

There are two Cups on a plate.

I'm not sure how copyright works with recipes.  I like blogging about food, but I don't know if I can type out the whole recipe without getting in trouble... even though I made some changes: adding nutmeg and cayenne, using 2% milk, using fresh spinach.  I linked to my source; what else can I do?

Also, all these photos were taken with my iPhone. I don't know what it is about my kitchen. The photos always seem to have a yellowish tinge to them.

I'm looking at these pictures and I'm hungry.  I hope my kids learn to like this recipe, because it is a hit with the adults.





Monday, May 05, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


I finally got to see Catching Fire this weekend.  I tried to see it in theatres, but that was a very busy time for me and it just didn't happen. There was just never any time. I don't know when my life became so busy!  I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner.

I don't know if I've ever been happier with a book adaptation. Though there were a few bits and pieces missing from Catching Fire, the movie captured the spirit of the book. As we were watching it, my Hubby called it a stressful movie. The tension that I loved in the book was playing out on screen. I was glad that we watched it together and I could hear his comments as someone who had not read the books and was seeing the story unfold for the first time.  

I love Finnick and Johanna.  I loved them in the book.  They were fantastic on screen.  I think the casting was perfect.  I was so happy that they kept Johanna stripping in the elevator.  I think it's fun and some needed relief when so much death and craziness is happening.  

I'm know I'm late to the Catching Fire movie party, so I don't think I'll add anything else... except for a bunch of movie posters.  In general, I enjoy movie posters, but the ones for Catching Fire I found very "Capitol".  One more thing, I forgot that they were splitting Mockingjay into two movies. Apparently this is a thing now.  So, I'm exciting for November 2014 and November 2015 and hopefully my life won't be as busy and I'll get to watch the movies in the theatre.