Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snapshot Saturday - Puppy Love Vegas Style

The Head of My Household and I are in Vegas this weekend for the Miss USA pageant.  Neither of us are pageant people in the least but a former student of ours is in the pageant and we are here to support her as official representatives of our school.
Sacrifices, sacrifices. ;)

We arrived late yesterday afternoon, early evening to 107 degrees temps.
I'm not kidding, nor exaggerating.
I thought MS was hot.  

When we checked into our hotel the AC in our room was not working.  
We waiting patiently (actually pretty impatiently) for the AC "engineer" to arrive and then ended up changing rooms anyway.  By the time we got settled, I was pretty done for the night...the husband couldn't stand to let the night go without a round at the casino so I sent him downstairs with my blessings, and I went to bed.
Pretty romantic, right? :/
Hopefully, today will be a much better day and next Saturday I'll have fabulous Las Vegas snapshots to share :)  

In the meantime, you'll have to rest your eyes on my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Lizzie who really belongs to my middle daughter.  Lizzie was a gift to me from my mom but likes my kid better :/  
Ain't that somethin'?

Anyhoo, Lizzie gets depressed almost when my middle daughter is gone for several hours... 

I try to talk to her and she does respond somewhat...

But, the minute she hears her mommy's car in the driveway...

she comes to've never seen so much wiggling once my middle daughter walks through the door :/
Go ahead and roll your eyes...I rolled mine :) 

I think I'm more of a Big Dog mommy anyway ;)

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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book Review - Catching Fire

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic, 2009

Format? Hardback
Why?  Because.  No, really, my firstborn said, "Mom, have you still not read Catching Fire and Mockingjay??  
What Now?  The books belong to my firstborn so they'll be keepers on her shelf.  She's already told me I won't like the next one, so I'm a little nervous.

Golden Lines

"I didn't mean to start any uprisings." I tell him.
"I believe you.  It doesn't matter.  Your stylist turned out to be prophetic in his wardrobe choice.  Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have produced a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno that destroys Panem," he says.

The smell of was on his breath.
What does he do?  I think.  Drink it?  I imagine him sipping it from a teacup.  Dipping a cookie into the stuff and pulling it out dripping red.

While they try to predict what dishes will be served, I keep seeing the old man's head being blown off.

"Yeah, I guess so," I said.  But it's not true.  A mockingbird is just a songbird.  A mockingjay is a creature the Capitol never intended to exist.  They hadn't counted on the highly controlled jabberjay having the brains to adapt to the wild, to pass on its genetic code, to thrive in a new form.  They hadn't imagined its will to live.

The idea of being strong for someone else having never entered their heads, I find myself in the position of having to console them.  Since I'm the person going in to be slaughtered, this is somewhat annoying.

Because this is so repellent to think about, my mind frantically tries to change topics.  But the only thing that distracts me from my current situation is fantasizing about killing President Snow.  Not very pretty daydreams for a seventeen-year-old girl, I guess, but very satisfying.

I can hear him weeping but I don't care.  They probably won't even bother to question her, she's so far gone.  Gone right off the deep end years ago in her Games.  There's a good chance I'm headed in the same direction.  Maybe I'm already going crazy and no one has the heart to tell me.  I feel crazy enough.  


After the Hunger Games, Katniss is home with her family awaiting the start of the Victory Tour.  Life should be great; she and Peeta are celebrities as 1st time double victors of the games, and their families have plenty of food to eat and money to spend as does Haymitch, their mentor.  But, Katniss must continue the facade of loving Peeta so much that their almost Romeo and Juliet type ending to the games was because of temporary lovesick insanity rather than a rebellious act.  This situation doesn't suit well with Gale or Katniss or for that matter, Peeta.  Katniss thinks they've pulled it off until President Snow visits her home and tells her that she will pay for inciting unrest...and she will pay dearly.  Katniss desperately vows to do what she can to change the mindset of the people in the other Districts in order to keep her family alive.  
The Victory Tour doesn't turn out quite like Katniss hoped, and unrest is fueled rather than squenched.  Even an honest, emotional, unplanned act by Peeta does not convince President Snow that Katniss is a law abiding citizen of the Capitol.  Using the 2nd Quarter Quell (50 years of the games) as his cover, President Snow announces the new rules of the games, and Katniss's punishments begin.

What I Liked

Peeta - yep, Peeta.  I was a Gale girl in book #1, but I changed my mind in book #2.  Peeta loves Katniss unconditionally...he's even willing to give his life for hers, accepting that she may never return his love.  Peeta also seems to have a little more of a realistic eye...he sees the big picture, the future, what's best for all instead of just what's best (or what he wants) for himself.

Cinna and his costumes - I'm constantly wondering what he'll come up with next.  When the wedding dress costume is unveiled for what it really is, I was immediately overcome with grief bc I knew without a doubt what message was being sent by whom and what the consequences would be.  My firstborn told me she was sobbing when these particular consequences were carried out.  I was blown away but not shocked at the same time.  I felt a growing sense of acquiescence as the story went on...but I think that's what the author had in mind.

Katniss's mom and her healing touch.  I didn't have much sympathy for this character in book #1...I wanted her to get up and go on with her life.  Well, she has.  I love the way she morphs into her zone when wounded appear...her intelligence, her ability to make what's necessary out of whatever supplies she has and  her natural surroundings, her level headedness...these are characteristics of her that, in fact, the reader only sees when she's using her healing gifts.

Mags - oh Mags.  I love you.  When I'm an old grandma person, I want to be like you.  Kisses. That's all. 

What I Didn't Like

Katniss - I can't believe I'm saying this, but GOSH, she started getting on my nerves.  What a whiner.  Yes, I know she's only 17, but really??  

The violence - the level of violence is ratcheted up in Catching Fire, but not in a glorified way.  I think the reader needs to see the intensity of the situation to feel the helplessness that any of these characters must be experiencing as they all prepare to offer their lives in order for others to live.  

President Snow - duh, right?  I swear he reminds me of Hitler.  The evil, the violence, the evil, the hate, the shock, the evil...have I mentioned the evil?

Overall Recommendation

If you've read the first one, go ahead and read this one.  I was expecting a more negative reaction from myself because of what others have told me and almost didn't read this one.  I'm glad I did.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday - Kiss the Dead

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
Just what I need, right??  More temptation to buy more books? :) 
Bring it on! 
My pick for this week will be in my mailbox next Tuesday bc I have it on my Amazon auto ship list :) 
Don't bother me next Tuesday bc I probably won't be coming up for air...I've been waiting on this book since I closed the cover of Hamilton's last, Hit List :) 

From Amazon:
June 5, 2012 Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter (Book 21)
When a fifteen-year-old girl is abducted by vampires, it’s up to U.S. Marshal Anita Blake to find her. And when she does, she’s faced with something she’s never seen before: a terrifyingly ordinary group of people—kids, grandparents, soccer moms—all recently turned and willing to die to avoid serving a master. And where there’s one martyr, there will be more…
But even vampires have monsters that they’re afraid of. And Anita is one of them…


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies over @ The Broke and the Bookish

This week's theme was a thinker for me.  As I browsed my shelves to see what books I thought should be tomorrow's classics, I found myself thinking not only which books would make my list but WHY.  I must admit that I'm in a political state of mind right now; I've just finished reading The Hunger Games trilogy and have been thinking deeply about comments my students have made over the last year as we read Cold Mountain and The Book Thief in classes. 

I'm worried that today's young adults have become incredibly self absorbed. 
Please don't laugh; I realize they've always been that way.  But, during the times we've had sensitive disucssions in class, many seem to fall back on "Well, that's just my opinion and that's all there is to it."  My problem has not been with them having their own opinion; it's having their own opinion but not having any earthly idea why they have their opinion.  Logical discussion is out of the question in many cases, and they resort to "meanness" quickly. 

My other problem is their lack of knowledge of anything outside their own little worlds.  Yes, they've all been taught that there was a Civil War, for example, but they don't see the point in even talking about it anymore.  It happened. Past tense. 

And, my last problem is their complete lack of interest in anything that doesn't affect them directly.  You mean there are other people in the world, other cultures, other histories?  I don't care about that.  Let's talk about me. 

So with those specific issues in mind, from my own personal teacher's perspective, I made this week's list.  

Top Ten Books Published in the Last Ten Years that I Hope People are Still Reading in 30 Years

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak -  Death, the narrator, I think is what gets under your skin in this novel.  You can't overlook the evil, you can't help but feel, you can't help but be bothered by the life of a young German girl during Hitler's reign of power. 

2.  The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - we all think we know about life in Afghanistan...those evil Muslims over there just waiting to attack our country.  Oh yes, we really have students who believe that.  While I never believed that particular urban legend, the first time I read Hosseini's novel I was blown away about how much even I didn't know about Afghani history...even the current history. 

3.  The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins - what I think this trilogy does well is provide a look into a possible future scenario...the possible results/consequences of citizens who don't learn from their past, who take their freedoms for granted, who practice blind conformity and allow themselves to be duped into captivity.  There are images in this trilogy that are difficult to consider, but I think that's exactly the point. 

4.  The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls - I can't convey to you the number of excuses I hear on a daily basis about how hard life is and why students can't get their assignments done.  I would like a stack of Walls' memoir in my office so that I could hand them out to every student who comes into my office thinking their life is hard...I would tell them to read this and then come back and talk to me if their life is more difficult than Walls' and her siblings. 
And, this book takes place inside the good ole US of A.

5.  Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung - while this wasn't my favorite read, I think it covers a part of history that many of my students simply don't know about.  My students are quick to point out the prejudice in other countries, but they are not aware of our own country's prejudice, mistreatment of immigrants from other countries.  Koreans, like Germans, Japanese and Vietnames, are steeped in negativity in many of our students' minds without any consideration for another view.

6.  Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani - the immigrant story is one that my students think they know.  They think everybody wanted to come to America bc it was and is the greatest country in the world and like Oz, the streets were paved with gold and life was so horrible in every other country in the world.  Now, part of that is true...many early Americans did need to leave their countries, but it wasn't always bc they wanted to and it wasn't always peaches and cream when they got here either.  My students think of The Godfather when they think of Italian American immigrants or any other of the mafia films. 

7.  Gods of Gotham by Lynsay Faye - did you know that we didn't always have a police force?  I didn't.  It never even occurred to me that people wouldn't want a police force...slapping my forehead with my palm here.  What I think Faye's book does well is paint a picture of old NYC as the hub of America, the melting pot, or tossed salad or antipasta or whatever analogy you think fits best...this is the NYC without all the bright lights, big city, The Big Apple, Sex and the City etc. 

8.  Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin - this is a history my students are familiar with...and one they roll their eyes at the most.  Set in MS Franklin's novel never feels preachy and the life stories of the two main characters are not good guy vs bad's it is most of the time in real life.

9.  The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown - if only you could truly imagine me trying to teach with this particular book...I live in rural MS...the Bible Belt...with a Baptist church on every corner...where Harry Potter was actually X'd off of every kids' Scholastic book fair order form bc the principal refused to sell the books at "HER school."  Oh, yes, I'm serious. 

10.  Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen - ok, don't laugh at me; I just finished reading this one.  I hooted with laughter through this one, but I think that's what makes it work.  What most of my students know about Mennonites is that they dress like Little House on the Prairie people and make stuff.  Janzen discusses the Mennonite lifestyle from the point of view of a woman who has chosen to leave the Mennonite community but manages to accept the Mennonite life for what it is and still appreciates the faith, security, and traditions of the community in which she grew up. 

And, there you have it, folks.  My top ten books published in the last 10 years that I hope people are still reading 30 years from now.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Sunday Salon

It's been a while since I've Sunday Saloned, but I've found myself with the workings of one in my head over the last couple of weeks since school's been out :)
And, what a glorious couple of weeks these have been!
Especially once we got the middle child graduated last Friday night.
Since then, I've taken it slow and easy.  Resting, reading and slowly but surely putting my house back together again.

From a teacher's standpoint the last few weeks of school are, for me, the worst.
Tensions are high; students realize that ohmygoshwasIsupposedtoturnsomethinginforthisclass????
Paperwork, year end surveys, assessment reports, closing out the books, luncheons, graduation practice, policy changes, policy changes back again, technology working, technology not working again, course evaluations...
It's enough to send me into a fetal ball under my desk.
I cannot get out of there fast enough.
Don't get me wrong; I love teaching.  I am happiest in my classroom with my students.  It's all the other mess I could do without.

Home is my place to just be, and I know how lucky I am to have a place like that. 

I've been reading and writing a lot...I've read and reviewed The Storytelling Animal for TLC Book Tours, Deadlocked and 11th Hour, auto-shipped from Amazon, completed and posted my reviews for Death du Jour and Breaking Silence.

I finished Tom Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and have almost finished that review...can't believe I waited so long to read this one :)

I've also finally finished The Hunger Games trilogy, just last night!!!
I read and completed my review for the first book in March of 2011...yeah, yeah, I know.
I started the review for Catching Fire before I began reading Mockingjay because I wanted to keep my thoughts about Catching Fire separate from how I feel about the entire trilogy. I'm finding myself not feeling the same way about this trilogy as a lot of other people do...more about that in my review though ;)

I'm almost done with Gods of Gotham on audio...and of course am now going to buy it for my keeper shelves :)  Thankfully, this was an ARC audio though so I won't be buying it twice. 

 I'm still processing Cold Mountain and The Book Thief with my students from this past semester, which is why I haven't talked much about that yet, but I do want to get my own personal review of The Book Thief up this week.  What an awesome story!

From Net Galley I have 3 books that I need to finish up, Hit Lit, Enchantments, and Darkness Visible.  I learned the hard way with Net Galley that the books you've been sent to review will disappear in a certain amount of time if you don't download them to your Kindle.  I lost The Ruins of Us, If Walls Could Talk, Good in a Crisis, and A Difficult Woman that way :(  I've decided to use my Kindle as much as possible for Net Galley period.  I hate losing books :(:(

The youngest finished up softball season yesterday with a 4 game tournament.  
I'm in MS ya''s already in the 90's here with just about as much humidity.  Talk about hot.
It's so dry right now that in between games we had to run the sprinklers to keep the fields from blowing away.
Our girls decided to use the sprinklers for their own purposes 

Tee Hee...oh, to be this young again...:)
Mine is the child on the far left, screaming in ecstasy! :)

I was proud of our little girls: they have beautiful spirits playing the game, making new friends, learning the rules, and really and truly at this level could care less who wins and who loses.
Not so much for some of the parents.
It was very difficult a few times to stay in my seat and not join in the stupidness, but then I remembered that I'm not stupid, or ignorant, or an idiot, or immature, or ridiculous.
Most of the time anyway ;)
I thanked our coaches sincerely yesterday as we left the field because these guys and one woman kept their heads up through it all, stood up for our girls in an adult manner, and kept our girls positive.  
That's what I want for my kid.  

The Head of My Household and I will be traveling to Las Vegas this coming up weekend.  We'll be on an official trip for our school, so we'll have no kids with us.  
Wait, did somebody say no kids??
Las Vegas?
I'm in!

As far as the blog itself goes, I'm in the midst of writing a review policy.  I LOVE reviewing for TLC Tours and Net Galley.  They don't bombard me with stuff I haven't asked for and don't send me anything unsolicited.  My email requests, however, have increased.  Some from smaller publishers and some from new authors.  I know I should be pleased...and I am...but I also want to retain control of my blog.  I also have sneaky suspicions with some of the requests that they're just sending out emails to every blog on the block, not even looking at the individual blogs to see whether or not the book is a good fit.  I'm not going to read something that doesn't sound interesting to me...I'm just not.  I have TBR shelves full of books that sound interesting to me, and those are the ones I want to spend my time on.

Any advice on issues that need to included in my new review policy??