Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - My homerun hitter :)


School is out officially...even though my youngest has been out unofficially since I've been out.  Does that make sense?
We've enjoyed some time together just she and I while everyone else goes on about their merry ways.  Our two oldest have part-time jobs, thank the heavens above.
She and I sleep in, drink coffee leisurely (that would be me actually), watch a little tv (her), blog a little (or a lot), eat breakfast at lunchtime, read books, swim, read books, and back to bed again :)
Sound boring?
Not to me.  Sounds like and is HEAVEN!

Thanks to our crazy MS Springtime weather though, softball season is still ongoing with make-up games and a tournament today.  

I've always taken loads of pics of my kids participating in whatever activities they choose but the thing about softball is the pesky fence.

After she hit a homerun the other night though, I decided we needed a reminder of that special game, pesky fence or no pesky fence...

so without further adieu...

here's my homerun hitter through the fence (designed to keep obnoxious parents on their benches :P)



And yes, it's Instagrammed up a bit...why do you ask? ;)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ At Home with Books.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Blogger Hop - Negative Reviews



This week's question is:

How do you handle the writing of a negative review?

My answer:

First of all, I don't write that many "negative" reviews.  The very simple reason for my lack of negative reviewing is that I choose the books I'm going to read very carefully.  As we discussed in last week's hop, I have a bajillion books on my TBR shelves.  There is no reason in the world for me to read books that don't sound good from the get-go.   Secondly, I've always been an adamant follower of reader response theories.  Just because I don't like a book, whether it's the plot, the characters, the format, the setting, etc, that doesn't mean those same elements won't touch someone else.
When I first started reviewing books on my blog, I struggled with the "negative" review...specifically the fact that I never had any and it looked like all I did was sing the praises of all the books I read.  That's when I decided to switch to a format that consisted of two specific sections, "What I Liked" and "What I Didn't Like."  That way, others could decide, based on my specific details, whether or not that particular book might be for their personal tastes.  It also gives me the opportunity to explain why exactly I didn't like a particular book, when and if that happens.
I've just recently been receiving some emails from outside sources asking me to review new titles.  At first I felt a little guilty about saying no, but then, I decided that saying no is better than accepting a book I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like and then not liking it.  That doesn't seem fair at all.

There you have it! I'm very interested to see where other bloggers stand on this issue!
Hopping out!

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Jenn @ Crazy for Books.

Book Review - Breaking Silence


Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
Macmillan, 2011
Format? downloaded on my Nook

Why?  I've always been fascinated by the Amish, and I love a good detective novel...SCORE 2!

What Now? this one's a keeper...but that brings me to a dilemma I've been having with both my ebooks and audiobooks.  What do I do with keepers that can't go on the shelf?  If I buy the book, I've essentially bought the book twice.  That seems silly and of course, not very cost efficient.  I haven't figured this conundrum out yet.

Golden Lines

A few feet away, the four Amish children huddle, their eyes filled with hope that the Englischers and all of their high tech rescue equipment will save their mamm and datt.  I see faith on their young faces, and my heart breaks, because I know faith often goes unrewarded.

By the time I leave the barn, the Amish have begun to arrive in force.  Men wearing work clothes and insulated coats congregate near the barn.  I know they're here to feed the livestock, clean the pens, and keep the farm up and running.  The women will busy themselves with household chores - laundry, cooking, and caring for the children.  In the coming days, the Slabaugh house will be overflowing with the help of a community that is as generous as it is selfless.

"Maybe this is God's way of bringing those children back to me.  Maybe it's His way of punishing those with small minds."
The statement takes me aback.  It seems odd at a time like this - when he's just been informed of his brothers' deaths.  Anyone who's ever lived any length of time knows God doesn't even the score and that sometimes that bitch Fate gets her way, right and wrong be damned.

I swore long ago the one thing I would never be is the clinging-vine female.


Summary

Amish don't press charges - "God will take care of us" makes Amish "easy pickins" according to Sheriff Rasmussen since everyone knows the Amish won't involve outsiders at all costs.  In this, the 3rd installment of  Linda Castillo's mystery series about former Amish community member, now Chief of Police, Kate Burkholder, what looks like a tragic accident involving a large Amish family's Mam and Datt, becomes a murder investigation when evidence shows one of the parents was bashed in the head before falling into the grain vat.   This time the evil seems to be coming from inside the community somehow, and it's Kate's professional as well as personal responsibility to her former and current communities to figure out what's happening, no matter how much it costs. 

What I Liked

Both Tomasetti and Kate's point of view - since Tomasetti has become a huge part of Kate's life by now...and, possibly more importantly, an integral part of this series, it makes sense for the reader to begin to see inside the man...not just the man he is within his relationship with Kate...but the man himself, what makes him who he is, his history, his demons, etc. 

Separation of emotion from logic - whether it's their relationship, their jobs, the investigation, or Kate's ties to the Amish, both Kate and Tomasetti are able to fight (sometimes) through their emotions and look at the big picture.  

The title - the Amish have to communicate with the outsiders solve this crime and Kate and John finally talk about the way they feel about each other...I don't think this title was an accident :)

The scene where Kate and John finally have their first "relationship" talk - I giggled a little here...they're both like little kids almost...neither really would like to admit that they need each other...but they do.  Both are also wary of giving too much of themselves away before they know how the other person feels.  

Compatability - after Kate's nightmare - because of their demons...Tomasetti is able to really understand Kate's psyche.  Whether they like it or not, these two are made for each other.

Police procedure when someone is killed - Castillo goes into a lot of detail here...even more detail, I think, than what you see on crime show tv.  I find the addition of these kind of details adds a lot of meat to the bones of a story...especially a mystery/detective/thriller type.

What I Didn't Like

2 months with no communication - ok, 'scuse me, what? This I can't imagine...of course I've never been in a relationship like this one either...?

A couple of extraneous characters - when the case was finally closed, I wondered why Castillo included them...unless she was trying to take us as far off track as Kate got...due to emotions, false perceptions etc. when the murderer was really right under her nose.

I wasn't ready for Kate to go all maternal on me - until I realized that her feelings were related to her past, not a yearning for a child.  I honestly get tired of folks assuming all women are "baby crazy"...even though I think I'm a good mom, I don't look at other people's babies and go all gooshey bc I want another one....every now and then I like to read about other women who don't go around "yearning" for babies.


Overall Recommendations

Obviously, if you've read any of the books in this series, you'll want to tackle this one...I do think it's necessary to start from the beginning of this series in order to appreciate the evolution of both Kate and Tomasetti's relationship as well as Kate's coming to terms with her present and past lives.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review - The Storytelling Animal


The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall
2012, Houghton Mifflin
Format - Hardback provided to me by publisher via TLC Book Tours

Why?  When the May/June TLC list came around, I was drawn to this book.  I enjoy non-fiction as much as fiction and really enjoy a well done academic type text.  This sounded like it had my name written all over it.  

What Now?  This is a little book packed with resources for an academic like me who has to constantly try to control the amount of distraction...things I need to look up, journals and books that need to be read, research that needs to be investigated, and on and on and on it goes.  I'll be highlighting the bibliography for a while and seeing where it takes me.  I've written and underlined all through the book, so it will stay with me on my keeper shelf :)


Golden Lines

Like Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence, authors trick readers into doing most of the imaginative work. Reading is often seen as a passive act: we lie back and let writers pipe joy into our brains.  But, this is wrong.  When we experience a story, our minds are churning, working hard.

In the Grimm's collection of fairy tales, for example, children are menaced by cannibal witches, wolves bolt down personified pigs, mean giants and innocent children meet grisly deaths, Cinderella is orphaned, and the ugly stepsisters slash off chunks of their feet in hopes of cramming them into the tiny glass slipper (and this is before getting their eyes pecked out by birds).

...fiction, by constantly marinating our brains in the theme of poetic justice, may be partly responsible for the overly optimistic sense that the world is, on the whole, a just place. And yet the fact that we take this lesson to heart may be an important part of what makes human societies work.


People bolt down the sweet jam of storytelling and don't even notice the undertaste of the powder (whatever message the writer is communicating).


A "life story" is a personal myth" about who we are deep down - where we come from, how we got this way, and what it all means.   Our life stories are who we are.  They are our identity.  A life story is not, however, an objective account.  A life story is a carefully shaped narrative that is replete with strategic forgetting and skillfully spun meanings.

While the novel has ancient precursors, it rose as a dominating force only in the eighteenth century.  We were creatures of story before we had novels, and we will be creatures of story if sawed-off attention spans or technological advances ever render the novel obsolete.  Story evolves.  Like a biological organism, it continuously adapts itself to the demands of its environment.

Summary

Whether it is through children's play, a book we read, a movie or t.v. show we watch, or even commercials, video games and music, according to Gottschall, our brains are "wired for story."  We don't just use story  to escape our everyday lives; we also use story to practice responses to real life dramas and even to unconsciously tie us with other members of our society.  Our brains are constantly telling stories, many times when we don't even realize it.  Marketing strategies, religion, our own personal identities, and even propaganda are based on the fact that our brains are wired for story that explains the world around us...something to fill in the blanks, whether or not that something is actually true or false.
Story touches many more parts of our lives than most of us probably realize, and this has been true historically as well.  

What I Liked

The notes section and the bibliography - for researchers, these sections are like drugs...
This is one of the reasons my PhD took 8 years to complete.  I just couldn't focus on one question...every document I read led me to 6 more, and those 6 led me to 6 more each...before I knew it I was flailing around in academic Neverland trying to make all the pieces fit, no matter how vague the connections were.  Only because of my sweet, loveable, but strict and serious chairperson was I able to be turned around time and again to the only question that mattered right then...my dissertation question.  She told me I could do all that other research later...we had to finished one thing at a time.  
Because of 8 years of searching endless bibliography sections to make sure I wasn't missing some key piece of research, it is an OCD habit of mine to read them when they are offered by authors like Gottschall.  That doesn't mean I'll read all of the items on his resource list, but I will probably look up many of them.  

Gottschall weaves in characters and plotlines from literature...classic selections as well as more contemporary examples.  

The very thorough discussion of story morals and violence...essentially that some of these very stories we think cause more violence in a sense force us to think about these acts and the consequences of them and become an even more moral or nonviolent society.  However, the science and research behind the effects of fiction such as horror movies also shows that our minds can be "molded" and even traumatized by fiction.  The brain can also be led to believe things that are not actually true.  This part was a little scary to me, but I think very important for all of us to remember.
The discussion of historical literary effects on the world at large was one of my favorite parts.

The Future of Story - I loved the discussion of how story has evolved and will continue evolving and the specific examples used.  


What I Didn't Like

Redundant information - for me, the investigations of Bruner, Piaget, Chomsky are old hat...information that was drilled into my head all the way back to undergraduate days.  As an elementary ed major, it was imperative that I understood the purpose of children's dramatic play.  I also spent a lot of time reading and writing about children's literature, classic fairytales, gender roles among children at play, etc.  I was very worried at first that I would have to slog through The Storytelling Animal ...until I reached the chapter on night stories.  

I HATED the part about Jouvet's 1950's experiments with cats.  I don't even want to talk about it.

The example of Tom and Sarah's Paris affair...even the author admits it was "questionable taste"
Ewwwww.
I understood the author's point just fine with literary examples like Swift's "A Modest Proposal" - I understand satire and know that its intent is to make people uncomfortable to point out the ridiculousness of a situation but gracious!

There were at times extended examples of story that got on my nerves, and I skimmed...I realize the author was just giving detailed examples of what he was saying, but I didn't feel he had to explain to me every minute detail of the newest technologies, specifically the grown up role playing games.  In all fairness to the author, the only experience I've ever had with these games is through a student essay every now and then.  


Overall Recommendations

If you're the least bit interested in brain research, psychology, learning theories, etc. I think you'll enjoy this one. 


FTC Disclosure: I was provided a copy of The Storytelling Animal from the publisher via TLC Book Tours; however, the opinions are my own.

For more information about The Storytelling Animal, please check out the author's website here
and the book trailer here.


Other stops on the TLC Book Tour


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Blog Sites You Read that Aren't About Books


It's been a while since I've made a Top Ten List over at The Broke and the Bookish.  Honestly, for a while there I felt like the lists were a little repetitive...and then I just completely forgot :(  This is one of my favorite memes so I'm very glad to participate this week.  Even though this is bookish meme, I'm honestly glad to have an opportunity to see what other readers read about when they're not reading books.  (How about that sentence for monotony?)  Seriously, my TBR shelves are overflowing, Amazon is soon going to cut off my WishList and I will never have enough money or time to read all the books I want to read.  I also LOVE to explore new blogs...I can't wait to see what others have found.

From time to time, I find myself spending more time reading blogs than writing on my own.  So, one of my first tasks of summer vacation was to clean up my blogroll a little bit.  I had created such a monster list that I would frequently miss updates that I really wanted to see.  I've also struggled with whether or not to lump all my blog reading material into one blogroll or to separate them into categorized lists.  And, yes, I've tried Google Reader...I just don't like it :(  
Anyhoo, I separated the gargantuan blog roll into categories again and created a list of blogs whose updates I do not want to miss.  I call them my Daily Distractions :) Some are book blogs, but others are not, so here they are, my top ten blog sites I read that don't have anything to do with books:

1.  Pioneer Woman - Ree Drummond - Love her or hate her, she's my #1 bc honestly stumbling on her first cookbook right after it was released and reading it cover to cover while actually sitting in the bookstore is what really introduced me to what blogging could be...and then to this fabulous community of people I had been missing out on all this time.



2.  The 7MSN Ranch - Linda Carson, her dog Smooch, a host of cats, chickens, donkeys, a rawther large pig and a horse live "7 Miles South of Nowhere" in New Mexico.  I fell in love with Linda's black cat Deets (who unfortunately disappeared) but have come to love all of the animals.  Linda's known for her participation in donkey rescue as well as ranch antics with her animals participating/leading the conversations.  Funny stuff here on most days :)


**header created and owned by Linda Carson @ The 7MSN

3.  This Old House 2 - Karen lives in a big old house, which she and her family renovated.  She loves horses, dogs, her home, and finding unwanted animals new homes.  Karen's is a place I go to remind myself that one person can make a difference in the lives of shelter animals, even if she can't necessarily bring them all home with her.


**header created and owned by Karen @ This Old House 2

4. Pawcurious - Dr. Jessica Vogelsang is a fairly new discovery for me. She was a 2012 Bloggie nominee and provides vet advice as well as information pertaining to animals in an easily accessed, easily understandable way.  Dr. V., as she is called, is a personable vet and talks about all kinds of animal related issues, not just symptoms and diagnosis.


**image belongs to Dr. V @ Pawcurious


5.   Chronicles of a Country Girl - Kate, her husband and their Border Collie George live in an older home in the country in Maryland.  Kate's blog is the most peaceful of all the blogs I visit...while she has a job outside her home, and her husband is a recovering cancer patient, her blog focuses on her photography.  The pictures she takes of the nature around her are incredible, and Kate knows when to apply layers and techniques to photos in order to make them look like works of art.  Spectacular stuff here, but it never feels like a random photo blog or sales pitch.


**header created and owned by Kate @ Chronicles of a Country Girl

6.   The Coupon Goddess - Melanie Feehan is exactly what her blog title says.  She is a coupon goddess.  Her blog is not a list of specials at the store as some other coupon blogs are, and she is not one of those freaky people you see on tv.  Melanie blogs about life, her family, shares her commitment to the military in her area through community projects, and almost a year ago began sharing with her readers her long exhausting recovery from being hit by a car.  Melanie has a lot of spunk and gumption.  A strong, determined woman who refuses to give up and challenges others to live their lives to the fullest...definitely a pick-me-up :)



7.  Joyful Always - Roan Johnson - a friend of mine from college, Roan has 5 kids who she homeschools brilliantly, a husband, a beautiful home and extended family and is a runner.  Roan is concerned, as am I, about the food we feed our families, saving money, and faith.  Roan just recently was diagnosed with breast cancer and walked through the first part of her treatment and surgery with her readers.  Roan inspires me every day...I am honestly amazed at how much she manages to manage ;)



8.  Our Front Door  - Mindee is the mom of this blog.  She writes about family, school, recipes in a no-nonsense, non frilly sortof way...real life here, folks.  Mindee's sarcasm and humor keep me coming back for more, two characteristics one must have when raising kids :)


**header created and owned by Mindee @ Our Front Door

9.  Queen of My Castle - Paula is an army wife with grown children, some hers and some his.  Since I've been reading her blog, Paula has moved twice, first from Hawaii to Rhode Island and more recently from Rhode Island to Washington (the state, not D.C.).  Her blog is about life as an army seargant's wife, a stepmother, mother of the bride and brand new grandmother.  She throws in a little cooking, entertaining and home and garden from time to time.


10.   On the Way to Critter Farm - Danni was a big city girl who got tired of the high stress environment.  She moved her husband and two sons to the country and now takes care of her farm, her animals, including dog, cat, llamas, and donkeys. 


**snapshot from Danni @ On the Way to Critter Farm



So there you have it!
My Top Ten Blogs I Read that Have Nothing to do with Books :)


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Review - The 11th Hour


The 11th Hour by James Patterson
May 2012
Harback - auto shipped from Amazon

Why?  The Women's Murder Club mysteries are another series I was hooked on...until the last installment.  10th Anniversary was sooooo bad that #11 was James Patterson's last chance as far as I was concerned.

What now?  I'll pass this one on to my firstborn; she also read the series after my recommendation and also hated #10.  These are fast reads for us...anywhere from a few hours to 1 day usually. 

Golden Lines

A 3D representation had been made of each skull by a laser scanner that utilized light, mirrors, and sensors to capture the image and generate a wire-frame matrix.  Information from CT scans of living persons was added, and the sophisticated software program distorted reference points on the 3D skull to correspond with points on a reference CT scan, creating a facial shape for each skull.


What if [he] was home and had committed tonight's shooting?  That meant he had most likely committed all of the shootings we attributed to Revenge.
The [name] house was full of kids.
What if [he] decided to make a stand?
If I had been wearing boots, I would have been shaking in them, thinking about all of the truly bad things that could happen if we went into [his] house.  But I saw no choice.  If he knew he was being watched, there was no telling what he would do.  We had to get him away from his children.
Summary
Sgt. Lindsey Boxer of the San Francisco Police Dept. is happily married to Joe (former FBI agent) and has a baby on the way while working on two high profile cases at the same time.  Severed heads are found in the backyard of a famous womanizing Hollywood star, and a serial killer called Revenge is on the loose, killing drug dealers one by one, leaving no threads of evidence to his identity.  Revenge's professionalism and skill lead the SFPD to believe he is one of their own, a policeman gone rogue, so they must procede with caution  in order to find the killer before he strikes again without accusing an innocent officer.  Lindsey is called in to lead the investigation of Revenge but also wants to find the identities of the murdered young women as well as the murderer.  She also has to sidestep an obnoxious reporter who is determined to get the scoop, even if he has to make it up.  As always, Lindsey works with her friends Yuki, Claire and Cindy in order to find out the truth.

What I Liked

Lindsey and Joe - thank goodness these two are finally together and finally happy.  Every once in a while it's nice for things to work out.

The suspense - I didn't figure this one out until close to the end...The Women's Murder Club mysteries had become pretty formulaic, and in all honesty, this one follows the basic outline that is Patterson...but I stayed interested and kept wondering what was around the corner.  I found myself having to pay a little closer attention as well...the details in this one were much better than the last few in this series.

About mid-way through, Patterson jerked the rug out from under me...of course I can't tell you what happened.  But, I can tell you that the family and I were sitting around the pool and I gasped outloud and spooked everybody :p  I was so distraught that I had to peek at the ending to make sure all would be well...(don't tell my firstborn; she gets sooo angry when I do that).

I love it that Lindsey's pregnant...and working.  Nobody around her questions her abilities bc she's going to be a mom.  Even when she herself knows her emotions are in overdrive, Lindsey is the only one who mentions it.  Of course, there are the normal recommendations to take it easy, but it's so nice to have a character for whom pregnancy is not seen as a crutch, illness or disability.

Claire - she doesn't play a major role in this plotline but she is one the sidelines working all the science.  There's a little more science this time...almost "Bones"ish.  Claire also is a mother of a very young child and her brain is still intact.  She can even talk about her kids and still do her job better than most.  

What I Didn't Like

Cindy - I'm sorry; I just cannot like this character.  She is obnoxious, untrustworthy, and a pest.  She doesn't care about the rules...as long as she gets what she wants.  She's willing to put other people's jobs on the line in order to get the scoop...even the jobs of those she says she loves.  I think Rich deserves much better...as long as it's not Lindsey.

Overall Recommendation

Patterson returns to the early suspense of the Women's Murder Club with this one so previous followers (whoever's left after the 10th Anniversary fiasco) should give this one a go...it's worth it.  It's a fast read...I read it in less than 24 hours.