Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Pictures

January: Chad's Annual Bowling Birthday Party
February: Petsmart Charities 5K PetWalk with Stephanie and Corey's Family
March: Angi and I See Fran Lebowitz Together
and a Visit From Amy!
April: Date Night to See Sucre
and Girls Night to See Florence + the Machine
May: 3 Graduations in Kansas
June: Trip to Palm Springs
July: Jaws Pool Party with Mini-Pack
August: Hottest Hike Ever
September: Diamondbacks Lose to Cubs :(
October: Suns Game on Halloween
November: Trip to Titan Missile Museum
and South Mountain Birthday Walk
December: Corey Puts Up Christmas Lights and Declares He Does Like Christmas
Love and Happiness to All in 2013!

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge

This was the only book I was able to read for the challenge this year, but it was enough to earn me Initiate status at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.

No Rest for the Witches is 4 short stories by 4 different authors: MaryJanice Davidson, Cheyenne McCray, Christine Warren, and Lori Handeland. Unfortunately it was not as much fun as I had hoped it would be. I had never heard of Paranormal Romance before and that is what I discovered this book is. The Paranormal element was fun, but they lost me at the Romance part. One story ended with people having sex to save the world. The whole thing just seemed ridiculous to me. At least I got this book free from a pile at work.

If you're looking for some Paranormal Romance, I suggest sticking to Twilight.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2013

I had a lot of fun doing the Eclectic Reader Challenge this year so I'm going to try it again next year. I have to read 1 book from each of these categories by the end of next year. Some of them I had never even heard of and had to look up.

Here are the categories and some of the books I've decided to read:

Translated fiction

Historical mystery - The Egyptologist: A Novel by Arthur Phillips

Romantic suspense

Made into a movie

New Adult - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Urban Fantasy

Dystopian - Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins



Action Adventure


Published in 2013 - The Painted Girls: A Novel by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Who's ready to join me?

P.S. I found the top picture at redlipsandicecream but I don't see it there any more.

What's in a Name 2013

I found a reading challenge that I did a few years ago which now has a new host. I'm very excited to accept the challenge thrown down at Beth Fish Reads.

Here are the categories and the books I own with suitable titles:

A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title:

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title:

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake: A Novel by Aimee Bender

By Bread Alone by Sarah-Kate Lynch

Like Water for Chocolate: A Novel in Monthly Installments with Recipes, Romances, and Home Remedies by Laura Esquivel

Five Quarters of the Orange: A Novel by Joanne Harris

and I have 3 unread Chicken Soup for the Soul books

A book with a party or celebration in the title:

Happy Deathday! by Alfred Hitchcock

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish

A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title:

Angela's Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt

A book with an emotion in the title:

Getting to Happy by Terry McMillan

Must Love Dogs by Claire Cook

Loving Frank: A Novel by Nancy Horan

The Forest Lover by Susan Vreeland

Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire: A Novel by Margot Berwin

The Walking Dead, Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire by Robert Kirkman

A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title:

The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay

Lost Highways by Curtiss Ann Matlock

Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell

Who else wants to join in?!

P.S. I found the awesome library pic at Epic Win FTW.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2012 Completed!

Here's what I read:

Literary Fiction: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese finished 1/19/12

Crime/Mystery Fiction: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson finished 12/28/12

Romantic Fiction: Horseplay: A Novel by Judy Reene Singer finished 7/9/12

Historical Fiction: Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel by Susan Vreeland finished 7/28/12

Young Adult: The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket finished 6/3/12

Fantasy: Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman finished 3/31/12

Science Fiction: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov finished 8/25/12

Non Fiction: Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints by Sam Brower finished 2/5/12

Horror: Desperation by Stephen King finished 5/26/12

Thriller/Suspense: Bag of Bones by Stephen King finished 6/29/12

Classic: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey finished 10/9/12

Your favorite genre: After Dark by Haruki Murakami finished 12/15/12

My favorite from this challenge was probably The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson.

P.S. Give A Hoot, Read A Book is by Stephan Britt.

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

I can't believe I waited a year to read The Girl Who Played With Fire, the sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But the story picks up about 2 years after the last so in their world I'm ahead of the game.

We find Mikael Bomkvist back at Millennium, ready to change the world by publishing a story written by a new character about the illegal sex trade in Sweden.

Lisbeth Salander is living it up, traveling the world and spending the money she stole from the bad guy in Dragon Tattoo and reading math text books. As soon as she gets back to Sweden though, she gets pegged for 3 murders. Did she do it? Blomkvist believes she's innocent but needs to find the real killer to save her.

This book was as fast-paced and exciting as the last. Definitely recommended if you liked Dragon Tattoo.

This book fulfills my Crime/Mystery Fiction requirement for the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

It's been over a year since I've read a book by Haruki Murakami, so after reading almost every category from the Eclectic Reader Challenge I rewarded myself in the Your Favorite Genre category by reading After Dark. Really I don't know if I could choose 1 favorite genre, but many of my favorites had already been covered so I chose Magical Realism. I think it's hard to put Haruki Murakami's writing style into a genre box, since he has a style all his own, but Magical Realism comes pretty close.

Anyway, here is my summary of After Dark:

Just kidding. That's Micah Lidberg's summary.

After Dark centers around one night in the lives of 2 sisters, Eri and Mari. Mari seems hell bent on staying up all night reading in Denny's. She meets a guy on his way to band practice who knows her sister. He plays the trombone because the first time he heard the song Five Spot After Dark by Curtis Fuller he thought, "That's the instrument for me. The trombone and me: it was a meeting arranged by destiny."

Meanwhile Eri is asleep in her home. She's been asleep for months and nobody can figure out why. But we see through an omnipresent narrator that something evil is watching her and perhaps controlling her through her television.

I don't want to give any more of the story away because the journey is the joy of a Murakami story. I loved this book, but it does all take place in one night and was only 244 pages. I'm used to really long, super involved books by him.

Here's one of my favorite scenes:

"You know what I think?" she says. "That people's memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn't matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They're all just fuel. Advertising fillers in the newspaper, philosophy books, dirty pictures in a magazine, a bundle of ten-thousand-yen-bills: when you feed 'em to the fire, they're all just paper. The fire isn't thinking, 'Oh, this is Kant,' or 'Oh, this is the Yomiuri evening edition,' or 'Nice tits,' while it burns. To the fire, they're nothing but scraps of paper. It's the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories: there's no distinction--they're all just fuel...You know. I think if I didn't have that fuel, if I didn't have these memory drawers inside me, I would've snapped a long time ago. I would've curled up in a ditch somewhere and died. It's because I can pull the memories out of the drawers when I have to--the important ones and the useless ones--that I can go on living this nightmare of a life. I might think I can't take it anymore, that I can't go on anymore, but one way or another I get past that."

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

I saw the movie One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest over ten years ago so I thought I had a good buffer to read the book finally for Banned Books Week.

The story is told from the "Chief Broom's" point of view. For many years he's been a patient in the mental institution which is the setting for the story. He never talks, making people assume he has no brain capacity and making him privy to the true horror that surrounds him. The ward he lives in is ruled over by the terrible, power-hungry, and unjust Nurse Ratched. She has everyone stepping in line when the main character, McMurphy, gets sentenced to reform in a mental institution. In a choice between the institution or hard labor he thought he was choosing the easy way out.

Much of the story is a heroic, sometimes comical battle between McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. McMurphy loves a good game and believes he can beat Big Nurse at her own game. But what made me love McMurphy was when his struggle stops being a game and starts being about the people around him that he comes to care for.

The hardest part for me was not picturing McMurphy as Jack Nicholson from the movie. It shouldn't be a big deal to just go ahead and imagine him as Jack Nicholson, but he is described as a linebacker-sized redhead. His size and hair color come up constantly in the story and it was a little jarring for me. That detail aside, I loved the whole story and would highly recommend it.

Why was this book banned? My guess is because it makes people who question authority look like cool heroes. And we can't have that folks! Or it could just be the way McMurphy talks about women...if you know what I mean.

Does anyone watch American Horror Story: Asylum? I read this right before the season began and it seems to borrow heavily from the book. Power trippin head nurse? Check. Same song being played repeatedly on the intercom to drive patients crazy? Check. Torture used to punish heal patients? Check. But I still like it.

This book fulfills my Classic requirement for the Eclectic Reader Challenge.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot is a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov originally published in magazines between 1940 and 1950. No, it is nothing like the movie.

The stories all take place in our present time or the future, and are all linked together through their connection to Susan Calvin, born in 1982. She is a "Robopsychologist" and sees that through the years robots are actually evolving into Cylons. Well, I call them Cylons. Everyone around her sees them only as machines.

The Three Laws of Robotics are programmed into each robot. They are:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Almost every story deals with how The Three Laws of Robotics are misinterpreted by robots or cause robots to malfunction. One of my favorites is when a scientist tells a robot, "Get lost," and how the robot deals with that command while also following The Three Laws of Robotics.

I liked this book but it won't make it on my Favorites list this year. I think I prefer watching Sci-Fi to reading it because movie makers often have a better imagination than I do when it comes to dreaming up space stations and things. However, I got a kick out of reading what Mr. Asimov envisioned 2012 would look like, and I still plan to read Foundation. I also got a lot of enjoyment out of reading this after Curiosity first landed. I pretended the two scientists found in most of the stories, Michael Donovan and Gregory Powell, were Bobak Ferdowsi and Steve Collins.

As a side note, I also loved it when one of my favorite Louis Armstrong songs made a cameo appearance in Escape! Please ignore the slide show that has nothing to do with the song:

This book fulfills my Science Fiction requirement for the Eclectic Reader Challenge. It is also on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Clara and Mr. Tiffany is a historical fiction novel about Tiffany Glass in its early stages and subsequent take-off after the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

In real life Clara was a designer for Mr. Tiffany. The story centers around her as she fights for women's rights in the work place and passionately designs stained glass lamps. My favorite parts of the story were all the period pieces: Clara's love for Walt Whitman and sorrow upon hearing the news of his death, Clara getting a "wheel" (bicycle) and enjoying the freedom of exploring the city on it, and the plight of the suffragettes.

I liked this book but I didn't love it like I loved Luncheon of the Boating Party. There is a lot of time spent in the story describing the process of making, selecting, and cutting glass. I felt like it became tedious after awhile, but my friend Audrey from book club loved that part. So I think your enjoyment of this book will center around your desire to learn in a technical way how those beautiful stained glass lamps are made.

Susan Vreeland is a talented writer no doubt. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

A year passes like a revolving wheel, and when the spoke of January comes round again, it finds itself in a different place. And so with pain. It does not leave us where it found us.


You can keep upright only by moving forward. You have to have your eyes on the goal, not on the ground. I'm going to call that the Bicyclist's Philosophy of Life.


Son, if the mountain was smooth, you couldn't climb it.

and one from Susan B. Anthony:

The true republic -- men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less.

and one from Emily Dickinson:

We never know how high we are

Till we are called to rise;

And then if we are true to plan,

Our statures touch the skies --

I read this in July to fulfill the Historical Fiction portion of my Eclectic Reader Challenge. Now I am scrambling to get all my reviews posted before the end of the year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Hope you got everything you wished for this Christmas!

P.S. Carte Noel is by Anne-Julie Aubry.

Friday, December 14, 2012


I found out about the Sandy Hook shooting today while on my lunch break. Going into the cafeteria to pick up my class always means being inundated with hugs from my former students, big smiles and "I missed you!" from my first graders -- I felt extra thankful for all the love they give me today.

We have a "high needs" population at our inner city school so I spend a lot of time reinforcing to my kids that my classroom is a safe place. How can they believe me any more? How can I say that without feeling my words are empty?

Peace and love to all the teachers, students, and families affected by this tragedy.

P.S. I found some comfort from Mister Rogers today. A Rotta Love Plus is a rescue organization and their website can be found here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

handmade christmas

After finally finishing Angi and Dan's honeymoon scrapbook wedding gift (only took me a year!) I feel inspired to continue the handmade love by making a few Christmas gifts. Hopefully I can get them done by this Christmas! I also did a lot of my Christmas shopping on etsy this year. Hooray for Handmade!

P.S. That crafty bird was made by Lisa Golightly.