Archimedes and the Door of Science

August 10, 2016 at 7:18 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

517SvkV79rL.jpgTitle: Archimedes and the Door of Science

Author: Jeanne Bendick

Publisher: Bethlehem Books

Genre: Children’s Biography

I love these Living History Library books and Jeanne Bendick has a wonderful way of introducing great people in history and what they did/discovered on a child’s level without truly “dumbing” anything down. These books should be a part of any child’s library, and for sure any homeschoolers’ library.  My kid’s eyes have been opened to so many ideas because of this book.  At age 5, she’s already been checking out levers and experimenting with density while playing in the bathtub, she showed me how her ball has a pattern of concentric circles on it and informed me that it was three dimensional… These aren’t things that would be in her vocabulary without me reading this book out loud to her this month.

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Fever Dreams and Egyptian Myths

July 16, 2016 at 9:05 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

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This sweet boy, so sympathetic and comforting.

I’m playing hooky from work. To be fair, I have what I’d like to call the plague. It’s not the plague, but the green crap I’ve been coughing up out of my chest, the high grade fever, and the over all attack on my body has made me contemplate the potential peace of kicking the bucket.  Instead, unable to physically kick anything at all, I’m home wrapped in blankets when it’s easily 100 degrees outside.

Briefly, between fever dreams yesterday, I thought it would be amusing to read Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and chronicle my own impending doom – but alas, I passed out about two seconds after the thought, slept for a few hours, and arose only to hack more crap out of my lungs, cry a little, and crawl back onto the futon… the bed was too high to climb.

As amusing as a post on Garcia’s work would be while I drink my calories in the form of honeyed tea and chicken broth, I have no desire to spend the energy it takes to walk across the room in search of it. Instead, I reached to my right where I had been cataloguing my ancient literature collection, prior to plague, and plucked up a thin little piece called Egyptian Myths by George Hart.  It took me two days to read all 80 pages, because – you see – I’m dying.  But I made it.  And my laptop, conveniently in arm’s reach to my left, said “Hey, You have been USELESS for days. DO SOMETHING other than sleep and troll Facebook.”  Did I actually hear the computer speak to me? It’s possible. After all, fever dreams.

All in all, I am surviving, and this little George Hart piece has helped me feel as though I didn’t entirely fry all my brain cells with my 2 day fever.  I learned some things I didn’t know, refreshed some previous mythology tales I hadn’t heard in a while, and found a cool list of suggested further reading.  It was a great addition to the Ancient History stuff I’ve been studying with my kiddo over the last many months, and it went hand in hand with the arrival of my Archaeology magazine subscription.  If you can get your hands on one, it’s a great addition to any library.

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Deadly Dunes

July 2, 2016 at 3:53 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Title: Deadly Dunes51ldRn0Us+L._UY250_.jpg

Author: E. Michael Helms

Genre: Mystery

Length: 220 pages

E. Michael Helms has done it again. He’s written a fun, spunky mystery involving Mac McClellan, and I find myself crushing on him much like the overly spirited cop, Dakota.  Mac is the token ex-marine turned P.I., equal parts gentleman and appropriate amounts of perve. Cunning, but not too lucky.

I like that in this installment, Helms works in the fact that private investigators don’t have the luxury of only working one case at a time if they want to get paid. Mac has to take time away from the big case everyone is grumbling about to an unseemly one that will cut him a check.  As per the norm with Mac McClellan books, it was easy to get into, a breeze to read, and satisfying to finish.

My only lament was due to my over excitement at the possibility of more archaeological tidbits. I love archaeology and was anticipating Mac going a little more Indiana Jones in this book than usual due to the nature of the big case.  This is to no fault of Helms, who included what was appropriate for the story and the characters, merely a personal disappointment.

As usual, I look forward to the next Mac McClellan book. He’s a personal favorite of mine and made a great addition to my summer mystery binge reading.

Be sure to follow E. Michael Helms on twitter: https://twitter.com/EMichaelHelms

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Such a Cozy Summer…

June 13, 2016 at 6:26 pm (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Cozy mysteries are where I go to find solace when I’m too tired for anything else… when my imagination is too exhausted to fly with dragons… my intellect burned out or otherwise occupied reading homeschool material to my daughter.  Cozies are for bubble baths, for “I’m so tired, I can’t sleep” nights (thanks, Sarah).  And right now, I’m hooked on a few new ones.

7457122.jpgManor House Mysteries

So far, I’ve read Grace Under Pressure and Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy.  The series stars Museum Curator (and mansion manager) Grace as she sleuths around a small town, helping the local police solve the murders that keep happening at her new job.  Naturally, there’s an unfortunate past relationship that didn’t go well, and a new budding one with the local landscaper to keep us involved in the character’s life as she manages to avoid looking like a serial killer – because in real life, how many people are tied to so many murders?  The touch of tourist seasons, southern drawls, and Civil War reenactments remind me of home.

Library Lighthouse Mysteries

ByBookorByCrook-1.jpgI’m now in my third installment (Reading Up a Storm) of the Library Lighthouse Mysteries by Eva Gates, which began with By Book or By Crook.  This series features a lighthouse that has been renovated into a library.  Book Nerds and Jane Austen references abound while the newest librarian and the library cat stumble across – yep, you guessed it – one murder after another.  Again, no one would dare think the Nancy Drew wanna-be is indeed a serial killer with no many murders suddenly happening right under her nose, and of course, she’s the heroine with a terrible romantic past and TWO attractive men vying for her attention. Brain candy indeed.  Each book in this series have occurred within weeks of the one previously and all during summer tourist months near the beach.  Southern drawls, check.  Meddling mothers, check. (Booked for Trouble) Food stuffs and baking references, check.  Also, weird guy who pretends to be British… this character confuses me, but I got used to him.

Next up, a Miranda James series that begins with a title called Bless Her Dead Little Heart. Seriously, how can I pass that up?

 

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Our Own Little Walden

June 1, 2016 at 4:01 am (Education, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This spring has been all about chasing sunshine, growing green things, and avoiding floodwaters.  Since moving to Walden we’ve been attempting to create something closer to Thoreau’s version than the golf cart variety of Houston… But mostly we’ve been tackling our Classifications of Living Things, getting our kitchen garden going, learning to fish, and  dipping our toes into the world of museum membership at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Kiddo helped me plant teeny tiny tomato plants, acorn squash seeds, cucumbers, and green onions.  Marigolds galore, mints, parsley, basil, lemon balm.  We’ve got lots of blooms for the butterflies and the hummingbirds, a variety of lilies, roses, and snapdragons.  We’re in love with our little patch.

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All this, but we’re not yet living the heaven of the picture book we just discovered this week: On Meadowville Street by Henry Cole; because, frankly, I want my backyard to look like this:

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How cool would it be if everyone’s back yard looked a little bit more like this? Ponds, birds, trees, overgrown grass and wildflowers… yes, please.

We also fell in love a little with Bees, Snails, and Peacock Tails.  Kiddo is pretty fascinated with bees, so even while surrounded by gorgeous butterflies around the world in the Cockrell Butterfly Center, she finds the bee hive and watches them the most.

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So now that spring has passed and summer is upon us, we’ve burned up all the vacation days I possibly could trekking around, established our garden, and purchased a fishing license for my days off.

Fishing mostly looks like kiddo playing with a pole, naming earth worms, sinking our toes in mud, and me lounging lazily in the sun, but we pretend we care about catching things – sometimes.

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So far in 2016…

May 10, 2016 at 4:34 am (Reviews, Uncategorized) (, , , )

  • City of Ember – DuPrau (January) *

It took awhile for me to read City of Ember out loud to the kiddo, but she loved it.  I loved it.  Both of us were enthralled with the city under the ground.  The most beautiful aha moments when the story peeled it’s way back and made itself known were written all over my five year old’s face, and I loved watching her discover the patterns of storytelling.  I highly recommend this book for children, but I especially recommend it as a family read a-loud.

  • Last Child in the Woods – Louv (February)

This book is my motto and mantra for parenting and has been long before I read it or knew about it.  It’s truly the only parenting book I’ve read so far that I think is worth a darn.  And it’s not just worth a darn, it’s amazing, and should be read by every citizen of the planet Earth, or at least America where we’ve succumbed to too many silly rules.  I read this back in February, but now in May I still find myself thinking about it as we now live on a golf course ironically named Walden, where the rolling hills and ponds are not for playing in or experiencing first hand, but for driving by in a cart (walkers are looked at funny).

  • One Day in the Woods – Jean Craighead George (February) *

Charlotte Mason curriculum followers look for Jean Craighead George in the bookstore often.  Specifically these One Day titles that I rarely see.  I snatched this one up the second I came across it and it was a joy to read it with my little girl.  We love the woods.  We love discovering the woods.  And although I don’t follow Charlotte Mason thoroughly, this is definitely a wise educational choice for someone wanting to raise their kid as close to the natural world as they can.

  • Pym – Mat Johnson (February) #

Bizarre, and I loved it.  Mat Johnson is snarky and clever, and thoroughly well educated.  I found myself riveted by the idea of Edgar Allen Poe’s little known novella having a basis of truth.  I found the not-so-mythical Pym amusing and the creatures encountered in the depths of the snow a fascinating take on social commentary and dealing with racism.  Not everyone’s cup of tea, but worth the time of every student of social customs, genetics, and race relations.

  • Power of a Praying Wife & Power of a Praying Parent- Omartian (February)

I was encouraged to read this by a marriage counselor in our area.  In some ways it’s great, pray for your spouse, constantly.  That’s a good message.  Some of the how to’s, however, were a little bit out of not just my comfort zone but my belief system as well.  About 3/4 into the book, if I remember currently, Omartian just seems to begin to embrace a lot of fluff Christian mysticism, putting power in anointments and rituals as much as in the prayers themselves.  And that is not where power lies.  Power lies with God alone, not oils being sprinkled on your family’s belongings.

  • The Sterile Cuckoo – John Nichols (February)

I cried pretty early in the book.  I still have not seen the movie starring Liza Minelli, but it is on my list of things to watch eventually.  Sometimes I feel so much like Pookie in my soul, it’s scary.

  • The Gardener’s Year – Karel Capek (February)

I find gardening memoirs exceptionally soothing.  This one was no exception.

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Gaiman (February) #

This book was a joint read in a book club with my co-workers at Half Price Book (as was Pym).  I had posted a review written by someone else on my blog that Neil Gaiman himself read.  I adore this book, and will probably read it again and again for years to come.  But I cannot write a review that does it justice, nor one that competes with the review already posted here.  Hers was heartfelt and lovely, and mine could not capture that level of personal involvement no matter how hard I try.  It would take me years to write something half as eloquent (and I’m speaking of both the book itself and the review).

The nonfiction book we are reading along with this one is The Ocean of Life.  Topically, some mythology criticism would be more appropriate, but I was moved by the word ocean and therefore thought I’d read about bodies of water in general.

  • The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell (February)
  • The Pale Horseman – Bernard Cornwell (March)
  • Lords of the North – Bernard Cornwell (March)
  • Sword Song – Bernard Cornwell (April)
  • The Burning Land – Bernard Cornwell (April)

I am so in love with the Saxon Series by Bernard Cornwell that I have written a novelette as an ode to Uhtred.  You’ll just have to download it when the ebook is released.  Right now it’s in the hands of my publisher awaiting either a blessing or the axe.

Currently, I’m reading Death of Kings.  Also, if anyone knows of a great biography on Alfred the Great or any of his children, I’d love to check it out, especially come this fall as our homeschooling ventures move into the Middle Ages.

  • The Castle in the Attic – Elizabeth Winthrop (March) *

The Castle in the Attic was a childhood favorite of mine, I was so excited to read it to the kiddo.  We enjoyed our time fighting evil magicians and venturing on a quest together, and I look forward to reading her the sequel.

  • The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan (March)

Marina Keegan was a writer of significant merit before she died far too young.  I find her series of essays, published by her teachers and family after her death, inspiring.  She was diligent.  She had a goal to develop her craft and be a better writer every day than the day before.  I admire that and if there is any stamp she left on the world, it is absolutely that diligence is something to respect and aspire to.  She was also, apparently, Harold Bloom’s research assistant.  I officially want to be someone’s research assistant, I hope at the age of 32 it’s not too late for me to add that to my bucket list.  Anyone willing to show me the ropes?

  • Corruption – Camille Norton (March)

When I was in my twenties, I found most poetry pretentious.  It annoyed me to read a lot of it.  Sure, there’s beauty in it, but I did not have the true respect for it that I have now.  The older I get, the more I enjoy the concise manner of poetry.  How someone can have the fortitude to dwindle their words down to only the most beautiful elements and retain meaning.  Maybe it is social media and the realization on twitter that saying something truly profound and lovely in few words is indeed hard.  So, the older I get, the more often I find myself plucking up poetry books.  Edna St. Vincent Millay and Housman are my favorites, but Camille Norton has great talent and is worth keeping an eye on.  I look forward to discovering more of her work.  (Currently, I’m falling in love with Pablo Neruda, I know, I’m so very late to this party.)

  • Warm Bodies – Isaac Marion (April)

Still my favorite zombie movie, so fun!  But it was an even better book.  Marion is funny and brilliant.  The Gray’s Anatomy excerpts at the beginning of each chapter were an especially nice touch.  I read this on my lunch breaks at work, and it was just the thing I needed to enjoy a rest between a lot of hard work.  People think bookstore jobs are leisurely, and they can be, but I work my tail off.  Seriously, I used to have a sizable ass, now I can’t find it anymore…

  • Endurance – Lansing (March) #

I like to read nonfiction books alongside my fiction books.  I alternate and pair up topics and bounce around genres like a rabid animal hungry for words, words, more words.  Nonfiction always, naturally, takes me longer to read than the fiction counterparts.  This was paired with Pym, for its arctic scenery and lost on a journey scenario.  It’s fascinating, until its not.  I tore through a good chunk of the book and then couldn’t force myself to finish to save my life, until I did one day.  Like the members of the crew, I found myself in a state of listless drudgery.  Being lost isn’t fun.  The play by play was accurate and thorough, and a little bit painful.  Glad I read it though.  Wouldn’t necessarily encourage anyone else to.

  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan (April)

A bookstore, a secret society, and data.  My heart went pitter patter.  And the cover glows in the dark.  Seriously, how could a book be any more awesome?

  • His Majesty’s Dragon – Novik (May) #

Napoleonic Wars with DRAGONS.  THAT TALK.  This pleased me to no end.  Also, it’s a series, so expect to hear more from me on the subject.  It’s also one of the co-worker read a-alongs with a nonfiction pairing book club picks, so later this year expect me to happily share a (hopefully) good history title.

  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (May) #

This book started out good, and slowly became AMAZING.  So lovely and beautiful.  Despite the present tense that I hate, Morgenster’s writing voice is wonderful.  It’s unique, but grounded.  She gives you all the detail without overselling any of it, just a taste so that your imagination may run wild. There’s a teaser toward the end regarding a museum… I’m curious if she’ll ever elaborate on that.  In the meantime, I think I’ll be picking up The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.  It seems like an appropriate book to follow the mood…  Also, I’ll be reading Under the Big Top by Bruce Feiler, as this is another pairing selection that I’m reading along with others.  I’m also eyeing Topsy by Michael Daly and a biography of Barnum.  I might just run away with a circus this year…

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Since February…

April 20, 2016 at 11:12 am (Uncategorized)

I cannot believe it has been two months since I have posted a single thing.  In my defense, I have read quite a bit, moved into a new house, built a kitchen garden from scratch, been working the bookstore full time, homeschooling the kiddo, working on my third novel, wrote a novelette,  and…

I’ve been incredibly busy.

As are most of you, I am sure.

Oh yes, I’ve fallen in love with Bernard Cornwell.  That has happened.  If you ever enjoy historical fiction, dive into the Saxon Tales.  They are well worth your while, beginning with The Last Kingdom.

…More eloquent and engaging updates to come, hopefully… maybe… I’ll be picking up my reviewing habits come May and have some news as to whether this novelette shall see the world.

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Running in Heels

February 28, 2016 at 6:40 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

51RViTYQLSL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTitle: Running in Heels

Author: Mary A. Perez

This book was hard for me to read, mainly because – post motherhood – I have discovered that reading about terrible childhoods pulls at all the wrong heartstrings.  Getting through the beginning and wanting to scoop little Mary away from all the mess, while simultaneously wanting to save her mother from herself, was stressful.  The things I loved about The Glass Castle are the same things that, after having a daughter, held me back from finishing The Liar’s Club.  Things I have the stomach to deal with in real life, because it needs done, is not something I have the stomach for in past tense memoirs, because what is done is over with now.

Mary’s memoir remains hopeful and hope filled.  After all the trials and tears, she comes out the other side, not just ok, but happy.  For this reason, I plan to donate my copy (that was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review) to the women’s ministry down the street.  There are so many people who could be blessed by her story.

She’s a quick paced writer, a little repetitive at times, but that is the way it is with memory: certain things stick out and you rehash them trying to make a bit of sense from them.  A mother who doesn’t like to cook is one thing, one who won’t cook is quite another.  As an adult, a mother, a grandmother, I imagine much of this repetition is bafflement and she articulates the differences at different ages through her life.  A child will say “mama doesn’t like cooking” whereas a woman would look back and think, “Why didn’t my mother cook for me?”

Through much of the book, Perez tells you the facts, and leaves you to infer your own conclusions as a nurtured adult.  Through obviously more emotional periods she tells you what she was feeling and leaves you to infer the facts.  It’s a riveting tactic.

 

 

 

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Mr. Emperor Should Be Serialized

January 23, 2016 at 3:00 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

what-was-it-like-mr-emperor-9780989377669_hr.jpgTitle: What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

Author: Chiu Kwong-chiu & Eileen Ng

Illustrations: Design and Cultural Studies Workshop

Translation: Ben Wang

We received this awhile back in exchange for an honest review and it took us awhile to get through it – not because it isn’t brilliant, but because it is long, especially for a kids’ picture book.

The information is fantastic, the pictures fun.  But What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor? should have been serialized.

It wouldn’t be hard to do as there are already mini chapter-like breaks.  Kids like my own five year old would respond better to it being shorter titles that they could collect like a series as opposed to reading bits of the same book each night.  Ultimately, it’s the same amount of reading for the same amount of time, but kids see it differently for some reason, and they tend to like to collect things anyway.

We loved all the tidbits about Life in China’s Forbidden City, but as a customer, reader, mother, author, bookseller, reviewer, and someone who possesses a BBA in Marketing, I think there could be a lot more money into turning this title into a series of smaller books.

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Storied Lives

January 17, 2016 at 2:15 am (Reviews) (, , , , , )

 

Title: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry91hvgvo-tl.jpg

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Books about books and bookstores… it’s my achilles heel.  It’s the thing I cannot live without.  It’s absurd how these things find me.

A.J. Fikry soothed my soul when I was too tired to appreciate much in the world of anything involving humans or words or life… yet, the book is all about humans living with words.  It’s lovely.  After a depressive hiatus that resulted in me binge watching The Flash, A.J. Fiery got me reading again.

The romance of reading is simply one of my all time favorite topics.  I suppose because it’s the only romance I truly trust.  The books will not abandon you.  Books are sturdy.  And more than anything, they are one sided and require little from you to continue to exist and offer you their best.  A book does not cease giving you all it has to offer just because you are in a bad mood – or emotionally unavailable.  A book loves you back no matter what.  A book won’t surprise you when it ends, you can feel it coming as it becomes more weighted in your left than your right.  You know on the last page that it will not speak to you again unless you start over.  And you always have the option to start over.

A.J. Fikry’s island bookstore is just what the emotional doctor ordered, I plan to repeat the experience often.

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