Friday, March 29, 2013

This is Me!

I found a pretty good description of myself on Book Riot the other day. I am reposting it here, just so I have access to it forever and always. The only difference for me is the ending. I will die trying! This was written by Jill Guccini on on March 28, 2013. Read it from the site too.

"It’s happened again. You’ve logged on to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, just minding your own business, when suddenly someone has recommended a book you haven’t read, its TITLE IN ALL CAPS practically demanding you go put it on your “to read” list right now. Later, you learn there’s a library used book sale where you can buy a hundred wonderful hardbound books for like $10 and isn’t that just fan-freaking-tastic. Then there’s the danger of walking by a bookstore, any bookstore, where they have sales tables, and they have staff recommendations, and they have plain old stupid shelves filled with plain old gorgeous stupid books, and you can’t stop yourself and your stacks of unread books are starting to grow into mini cityscapes on your floor and you won’t admit your problem although maybe your spouse will.

And like an idiot, you’ve surrounded yourself with kind, interesting, well-read people who are always talking about the books they’ve read, and you get yet another freaking Goodreads update email and all of the books people are reading look so goddamn fascinating. There are some books that sound so great and that so many people are talking about that you start talking about them, too, but have you actually read them yet? No, of course you haven’t! But you’re going to REALLY SOON. Oh, and look, some organization has gone and crafted another Best Books Of All Time list, just to remind you once again how many “classics” you haven’t read but you WANT to read them all; you do, you really do!

Look, now some thoughtful asshole’s given you more books to read as presents! And you say, ohh, these books are so beautiful and shiny and new and I can’t wait to read them! You think, I’m going to read this as soon as I finish the book I’m on now! And then you realize you’ve already said that about 35 other books since you started the book you’re on now! And let’s be honest, you’re going to be on the book you’re on now for a while, because you are a busy person and a slow reader and you waste all your free time thinking about books you haven’t read! And did you know that your favorite authors often keep writing books when you haven’t even read their last ones? Terrific. Swell. Thanks a lot for being so creative and productive, authors. Jerks.

And then, at some point, you have to realize that it’s okay. You will not read everything. You will not read the cityscapes threatening to tumble on your floor, no matter how hard you try. You will not make your Goodreads reading goal. You will not read as many books as your best reader friends. You will probably only read a few more classics in your lifetime. You won’t read every book your favorite authors have written, even if you really want to. You’ll never stop trying, of course. But it’s okay. You are not a bad person. You are not even a bad reader.

Because if you’re too busy to read all the books, there’s a better chance than not that you’re out there living the life that people want to write books about, anyway. And you’ll still find time to read something, and maybe that something will only be one book a month, and maybe it’ll be a book no one else cares about anymore, or that people never cared about at all but you found somehow, and maybe it’ll move you, and you’ll feel that calm and satisfaction deep within yourself that you are always searching for that a book that moves you brings, and just that moment, out of all the other busy, stressed, non-reading moments, will be worth it, and is enough."

The Fault in the Hype

What is it about an author or a book that catches people? It's hard to say and I think of it again with my first John Green experience, The Fault in Our Stars. I love the title, a play on Cassius' line in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/But in ourselves, that we are underlings." The idea that it is the human condition that drives men to the lengths to which they will go. John Green switches it up and blames fate for the problems and unfairness of this life.

I cannot say I am absolutely enthralled by John Green and this book. It was a good book and I will read more of him. I will also buy his books for my classroom because I know my student readers love him and those I've talked into trying his books have loved him. (Yes, I recommend books I've never read based on perception, what I've heard, read,'s one of the many talents of being completely absorbed in the book world.)

So, overall, not top of my list. I'm not sure why, but my guess is that I heard too much hype about it before reading (and YA authors have to be tip top to catch me, as it's one of the genres I'm edgy about). I fear hearing hype about books sometimes (although I don't generally fear hyping the books I've already read and love). It builds expectation and you have a 50/50 chance that the book is worth it. And yet, I'd rather my trusted reader friends give me their hype than not. I'd rather take the chance than miss out on a great read. I even have friendships that started from the suggestion of a book and continued as true friendships. And besides, I want to be in the know about the current trends in the reading world.

So never fear all who hyped The Fault in Our Stars to me. I enjoyed it. What I enjoyed most were John Green's many dazzling one liners. I like that in a liners that make me stop and think. My favorite in this book: "The pain was always there, pulling me inside of myself, demanding to be felt." The main character suffers from a terminal form of cancer, so at that moment she is talking of physical pain, but I think this applies to all forms of pain. Pain is so hard to fight because it demands your attention. Great thought in one little sentence.

Which hyped books have you read? Were they as good as everyone said

Monday, March 25, 2013

The History of the World According to facebook

Thirty three isn't considered old, but at this point in time, it's old enough to remember when "your world" consisted of just those around you. The family who lived near by, the people with whom you went to school or work, and your neighbors/community. That was the typical person's world.

My high school students volunteer at the elementary school and come back in shock that kids in fourth grade have cell phones. Here I am just getting over the awe that cell phones exist! Anywhere I go people can find me (I have opinions about this, but that's for another book at another time). Anytime I need to know some random fact, I can go to Google, not only on my computer, but also on my smartphone! My calendar, phone book, music, books, and games are always right at hand. For people born in the past 10-15 years, none of this is amazing. It is as commonplace as eating or bathing.

You get the has really advanced in a decade or two. Social media is the most recent and hottest thing on the Internet. Once again, there are many implications here, but that's another topic for another time. We are going to take the fun side of this.

What if facebook had been around since the dawn of time? What would the newsfeed look like? Well, you can sit and imagine or you can read Wylie Overstreet's 2011 book, The History of the World According to facebook. And what a newsfeed! It starts 13 billion years ago with members like The Big Bang and Dark Matter and proceeds to Osama Bin Laden's death in 2011, the publication year of the book. The book is also broken up into sections of time: Introduction, Dawn of Man, Age of Wonder, Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, Information Age, Conclusion.

Those who are easily offended in the realm of politics and religion may not like the author's obvious stance taken at certain points, but I figure you shouldn't take yourself too seriously anyway. This usually shows up in the way the author mixes history from one age to the next, which is also clever. An example of this is the event post made by Boston in 1773 entitled "Tea Party!" The comment underneath, made by Benjamin Franklin, states "A worthy cause! Let's hope that in the future this event isn't misappropriated by ignorant, angry white people to advocate a backwards political agenda!" Obviously, referencing today's right wing Tea Party. Characters from the past also show up with such comments on posts way beyond their time in this same fashion.

Examples of what to expect:
Among the best posts is the Astroid, which is also on the cover.

Astroid: hitting up earth today, if you know what I mean

               T-Rex: Noooooooooooooooo!!!
               Earth: FML
               Cockroach: Whatevs...

In 1885 and 1955, Marty McFly shows up with a post, playing off of the famous Back to the Future movies. (Being my favorite movies ever, these are my favorite posts in the book. I literally LOLed.)

Famous directors, authors, and fictional characters show up, and not usually with posts. You have to pay attention to who "likes" which posts. For example, director James Cameron "likes" the check in by Titanic that reads "Titanic checked in to the Ocean Floor." The state of Oklahoma posts a picture captioned as "Dust Bowl," which is liked by John Steinbeck. And Jay Gatsby creates an event "Another Obscenely Sumptuous and Utterly Shallow Party, Darlings." The wonderful part about such posts is that you have to know these people, places, and events to get the joke. You would have to know that James Cameron directed the ever popular Titanic movie. That the Dust Bowl/Great Depression era were favorite settings for John Steinbeck's books. And that Jay Gatsby was the millionaire party boy looking to show off and find love with one woman through his over done parties. Well read and historically informed people will like this book best, as they will understand and appreciate the jokes and cleverness on every page. (It's also important that said reader has a working knowledge of FB.)

A couple years ago, my co-worker and fellow book buddy gave me her idea for a character FB with our novels using the education friendly interface Edmodo. This book is that concept exactly. It is an easy and quick read and I highly recommend it for a good laugh. It will be on my classroom shelf ASAP.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Lego Bible

Unlike me, my son, who has to read half an hour a night for school, only seems happy when jumping from one author to another. When I find an author I like, I consume everything they've written. Cade was done after two of the seven Wimpy Kid books,the first Fart Powder book, and the first few Boxcar Children. But I may have fixed the problem at least for the next week or two. 

I always peruse the clearance tables at bookstores. You never know what you may find at a really good price. I hit the jackpot at Barnes & Noble tonight. I found The Brick Bible: A New Spin on the Old Testament, by Brendan Powell Smith. Aka: The Lego Bible.

Think comic book/graphic novel, but instead of drawn pictures, Legos are set up as the pictures. The Lego Bible compiles Smith's 5,000 Lego made Bible scenes and organizes them to tell over 400 stories of the books of Genesis through Chronicles (skipping Ruth). You may be thinking, "Yea, I've seen Lego buildings, how good can they really be?" You would be impressed. The scenes are detailed and cover all aspects of the Bible, from the joyous moments to the dark. It is an amazing work of art and a unique way to reach people.

From the moment it hit his hands, Cade has not put it down. He runs from one of us to another, exclaiming over the detailed treasures each page contains. At this moment he sits next to me in bed examining the fight scenes in Judges. We are going to get good use out of this book. My 11-year-old daughter has already claimed dibs next.

More of Smith's work can be found at his site:

Adam and Eve in Genesis                                        

The Plague of Frogs in Exodus

                                                                                              David and Goliath in Samuel


Monday, March 18, 2013

Story Cartel's Top Ten Finalists

I received some pretty exciting news today. My blog made it into the top ten book lover blog finalists! I am one of twenty and quite honored to be recognized, as well as find myself among so many great writers and book lovers. So thank you to all of my readers and fellow book lovers/writers. It is thanks to you that I am comfortable being my crazy, book loving self! Special thanks to all who nominated me, starting with "writer friend" MB and "book buddy" RD. They are truly my biggest fans...always encouraging me and keeping up with my work. As Jeff Goins says, "Every writer needs a tribe" and I am finding that. In this time and place, I couldn't ask for anything more than what I've got here. A love of writing and books and a place to talk with others about it.

If you'd like to visit the site, it is called Story Cartel. Joe Bunting does an amazing job with this site and I also follow him on FB, where he often posts links and interesting tidbits.

Here is the link to the finalists, where you will find more amazing book blogs, my favorite among them so far is The Book Wheel. (My blog is listed by the URL, instead of name. I am "Living a Writing Life.")

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What A Son Needs From His Mom

I've almost finished my first NetGalley book, What a Son Needs From His Mom, by Cheri Fuller. It is categorized as both Christian and Parenting &Family and released March 15, 2013. The coincidental thing about the reading of this book is that I did it completely while on my lunch duty in a high school cafeteria. So as I read, I would look up and study a room full of teenage boys, gaining some perspective on certain points as they relate to the nature of boys.

As the title tells us, the book is about what a son needs his mother to think, feel, do, etc., to help him grow into a true man. I chose this book right away, as my son has morphed into a being I don't understand at age eight. Sometimes it's hard to know what I should and should not react to or the most effective way to communicate with him. Cheri Fuller's book is full of such advice. She pulls her advice from her experience as a mother of sons, grandsons, and a large survey of men of all ages. With the advice comes examples of how she's seen it play out in her life and the lives of those around her. 

Not only does she talk about how moms can nurture their son's confidence and emotions, but she also addresses the things moms need to keep under control in order to allow their son to grow. Fear and over protection are among the top that stunt a young boy's growth. (And I'd say that goes for girls too.) She includes stories of good intentions with less than favorable results, which validate her advice and the testimonies of the men surveyed.

Unlike other Christian parenting books I've read, Fuller branches out into schooling with discussion on learning styles and helping your son find his strengths as well as how he learns best, as to help his weaknesses. This is an important topic because America's current school system really does work against most boys' styles of learning. The most successful students are those with involved parents and boys often need more understanding of how they learn, which a parent would see best.

Overall, the book was full of helpful advice. Although it's never too late to start connecting with your son, I think I found it at an opportune time.

Any tried and true advice about raising boys?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rainy Day Inspiration

My daughter played in her annual piano competition at my alma mater, Youngstown State University, today. The room she played in was across from the band director's office. I noticed because I played in YSU's Marching Pride two years. Perusing the bulletin board I found this paragraph. I'm not sure who Ira Glass is exactly (a radio/TV guy I guess), but I think what he has to say is something many artists need to hear. So on this rainy Ohio morning I'm sending out these words of inspiration.

Friday, March 15, 2013

All that Glitters is not Gold, Anna Karenina

(Some info, but no ending spoilers here!!!) 

Finishing up a reread of Anna Karenina. I first read it in 2007, but have since forgotten much of it. Now, being a more mature reader and having bought the best translation (Pevear and Volokhonsky - best for any Russian Lit), I set out to read it again before watching the new movie from December 2012. (One of my book buddies also reread it for this purpose...we're going to watch the movie together! And then I'll probably make my husband watch it with me again!) 

Of 817 pages, one line in particular popped out: "...the eternal error people make [is] in imagining that happiness is the realization of desires." This is Count Vronsky's realization as his affair with Anna Karenina proceeds down a path neither of them expected to encounter. Vronsky, normally proud of his bachelorhood, convinced himself that Anna Karenina brought him the ultimate satisfaction.  And she, having neither a very loving nor doting husband, soon felt the same. 

And they found the love affair glorious as it took off. Everything they wanted was at their fingertips and not much else mattered. Vronsky turns down a military promotion to travel with Anna, while Anna abandons her husband, son, and home to be with Vronsky. 

However, all that glitters is not gold. Anna and Vronsky each have expectations of the other and the new life they've formed. As a social outcast (due to her affair) Anna lacks anything to do, take care of, or become in her new life. She spends her time reading anything and everything she can while she desperately grasps at Vronsky to be her everything, including her will to live. Vronsky, on the other hand, sees the change in Anna's character and she begins to repulse him. He cannot make a move or take a trip, but she is throwing a fit and making life difficult. He asserts at one point that he can "give her everything, but not [his] male independence." And he isn't being stand-offish...Anna clings to Vronsky so much that she even admits to herself she cannot love their infant daughter because everything she has goes to him. 

I won't spoil the end for those who haven't read or watched it, but I cannot help but see how something our current culture seeks so much through any means (happiness) is portrayed as the wrong answer in this timeless classic. Happiness is good when it is here, but it will not last and so it is not the meaning of life. Life is meant to have its ups and downs and contrary to how we want to see it, it is not happiness that will make us better people. The things, people, and events that we see as the realization of our happiness will never satisfy us once we reach them, we will just start looking for the next answer to our happiness. Joy, unlike happiness, presents itself even in the hard times. Ironically, joy is found in the things we neglect on our self made path to happiness. Like Anna and Vronsky, we usually learn this the hard way.

What brings you lasting joy, as opposed to fleeting happiness?

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Adventure

I recently signed up for NetGalley, a wonderful website I learned of from one of my favorite blogs, The Book Wheel. NetGalley posts selected books prior to publication for members to request. Members, who have built a detailed profile around their areas of reading influence, can request books from publishers in numerous genres. If a publisher approves you, they provide an electronic Advanced Readers' Copy (ARC) that you can download to a number of reading devices, apps, or even your computer. Once read, members can post reviews on his/her blog, website, etc., and send a link of the review with comments to the publisher. Reviews are not required, but will aid in receiving ARCs in the future. NetGalley is free to bloggers, reviewers, educators, librarians, and others who have a love of books and wide range of influence in the reading world.

I have a small pile of ARCs awaiting me. So you can get an idea of the wide range of topics and authors, here is a list of books publishers approved and sent me. These reviews will be popping up on my blog as their publication dates draw near:

What a Son Needs From His Mom - Cheri Fuller (Christian/Parenting&Family)

What Your Daughter Isn't Telling You - Susie Shellenberger & Kathy Gowler. (Christian/Parenting&Family)

The Allure of Order - Jal Mehta (Nonfiction/Professional&Technical) This book is on America's constant and failing efforts to reshape education...most recently NCLB.

The Silver Star - Jeanette Walls (Literature/Fiction Adult) There's a big name for you, author of the popular memoir, The Glass Castle.

Shakespeare Saved My Life - Laura Bates (Biography/Memoir)

I am really excited about this new aspect of my reading adventures. I guess some would wonder if this is a paid gig, it's not, but if you love something and want to gain experience, you've gotta start somewhere. You never know where any given experience will take you.

Friday, March 8, 2013


While watching the Oscars a couple weeks ago I saw a face I hadn't seen for awhile. Octavia Spencer, who played Minnie in The Help, presented an award. Remembrance of the movie brought remembrance of the book and a smile popped to my face. My husband didn't recognize her...he had never seen the movie. I promptly put it at the top of our Netflix list.

I teared up rewatching it as much as I did the first time and when I read the book. My husband teared up as well. But as I watched this time I noticed something more so than last time. The relationship between the white women is an obvious case of high school follow the leader. One or two popular people (Hilly Holbrook in The Help) influencing all others (mainly Elizabeth Leefolt in The Help) around them. A form of bullying barely in the disguise of friendship. And while it seems logical almost to blame the follower, after all she could always not be friends with the bully, there are personality and social differences to consider. Some people naturally conform and others just aren't strong enough to stand up for themselves. 

This is nothing new to me and probably not to you. But what I thought seeing this play out in the movie this time around, was that this happens in varying degrees in adult relationships too. I don't live in high society or have rich friends that put pressure to keep up with them and so I never thought of it further before. Very strange that even as adults we (not everyone, of course) feel the need to subtlety bully those around us. Maybe it's a case by case thing...a specific action in one person is not the same as in another. Sometimes you can catch it in the way a person talks to you and the way they act in a just feel bullied instead of cared for.

Something stranger? I think I bully myself. I put pressure on myself to go the extra mile and do a little more when it comes to situations with people (even those who aren't friends) to prove I care, that I'm responsible, and that I can be trusted. And when I fail at it, I bully myself about it until the next opportunity comes. 

Knowing is half the battle right? Any bullies in your life?

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Name

I am thinking about changing the name of my blog...aiming for something more book/reading centered. And it seems I write best when relating books to life experience or lessons, not just book reviews. I would prefer the title gives a hint to this...that it's more than book reviews.

All I've come up with thus far is "My Life Spent in Books" or "Nose in a Book"

I'm not very creative, so I'm willing to take some suggestions! Thanks all for your help and support.