Dear Duncan Jones…

August 12, 2017 at 12:55 am (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , )

Title: The Zebra Just Couldn’t Decide

Author/ Illustrator: Duncan Jones

We had the pleasure of receiving a new Duncan Jones picture book in the mail. Years ago, we were privy to his first book. My kiddo attended a book signing of his at Half Price Books in Humble. She has been wearing t-shirts he designed ever since.  Needless to say, she was pretty thrilled to discover he had sent her a NEW book.

“Dear Duncan Jones,

I think it’s a silly a book because every single animal wants to be the color that they already are. The flamingo wants to be pink and the flamingo IS pink. All rhinos are gray, people know that. The green snake already is a green snake. The wildebeest wants to be brown like the ground and he already is brown like the ground. The zebra just can’t decide and I’m kinda glad he can’t decide, because if he chose the color that he already was, he’d be as crazy as the others. I don’t know why the others want to be the color they already are.  I think it’s a pretty silly book, but I like it. And thank you for writing it.

Love, silly me”  [Ayla, age 6]

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

October 16, 2015 at 6:10 pm (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , )

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Review by Guest Blogger Elis10419572_853266564768515_9044367270498300191_nabeth K. Simmons

There’s no right way to love a book. For me, there are books I am in love with because of their story and there are books I am in love with because of the figurative and literal places in my life I ended up reading them. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is brain-fluff wrapped up in too many truths about growing up. Because of that paradox, and the fact that I’m currently ignoring that I am technically an adult, I fell in love with it immediately.

The week I found it was one of the longest weeks of my new adult life. I worked 30 hours in closing shifts at work in six consecutive nights on top of going to school four days in a row and all the homework that comes with it. I was in no way looking for something to occupy my time. There was none to spare.

In between class and work, I walked into Book People in Austin just a couple blocks down from my campus. This two-story bookstore has become my new happy place in between responsibilities since it is large enough to wander and contains hundreds of books to leaf through. Usually I pick a book at random, read a couple chapters and put it back on the shelf when I leave. I haven’t wasted my time and a book gets to feel loved.

On my second day of work, I wanted something easy. I didn’t want to wander, I just wanted to hide. In this particular bookstore, Neil Gaiman’s works have their own shelf and almost every book, its own personal review by the booksellers. Without pausing to even read the synopsis of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I grabbed it and rushed to hide in the chair resting up against the classics section with a cup of coffee.

And I disappeared.

Gaiman has this magical simplicity to his writing where a 19-year-old college student can cancel out the constant foot traffic of a busy bookstore and be emotionally invested in the life of a 7-year-old boy who grew up suddenly and quickly after he met the strange Lettie Hempstock at the end of the lane with her ocean. The story is told in a flashback of a middle-aged man who you can tell never quite felt young. Innocent maybe, but he didn’t know that until he no longer was.

When I came back to reality an hour later, I decided this book was what I needed that week. I couldn’t have even told you why, but there wasn’t any way I could’ve left without it.

I didn’t pick it up again for several days. Work and school got the better of me and I might have gone insane a few times over the course of the weekend. Sunday night was night 6 of 6 of closing and after serving angry people their coffee, I had an insane craving for diner food. I wanted coffee and waffles and the kind of food coma that comes shortly after. And I wanted a place to read my magically simple book and not worry about having to leave.

So Magnolia’s it was. A 24 hour diner in the middle of Austin with omelets and giant pancakes sounded wonderful at 9 pm on a Sunday. Little did I know that the last day of the Austin City Limits music festival was just letting out.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I looked behind me and saw the multitudes waiting to cross the street and wait for hours for the same pancakes and omelets. My mission then changed from finding diner food to racing the masses for a table. They had won Magnolia’s, but there was the 24 Diner off of 6th Street that they wouldn’t have time to walk to. I raced to the heart of downtown Austin and beat the majority of the masses.

After saying it was just me, the hostess smiled at me and said there were several spots open on the bar if I wanted to eat immediately. I had beaten the swarm people. I had my spot. And I was not moving. Busy people behind the bar gave me menus and I told the waitress I just wanted a cup of black coffee and a waffle. 10 minutes later, I had a giant waffle in front of my face and the ACL crowd had begun to take over, yelling drink orders over my shoulder and squeezing in the 6 inches of air available at the bar. I did not care. I had my spot. I was not moving.

I opened my book and disappeared again. I met the villainous Ursula Monkton and her twisted desires and methods of making everyone happy. She was a Dolores Umbridge-like character that you hated simply because there are too many controlling, manipulative, and oppressive people like her in real life. I got to know the Hempstocks better and found out they were the family everyone wishes they had as friends growing up. The kind that just took care of things and knew enough to make you think they knew everything.

I was vaguely aware people being replaced with more people on my left and on my right, but I couldn’t tell you how many. The bartenders ignored me entirely, leaving my sticky plate as a marker that I deserved to sit there, only interrupting me to ask if I wanted more coffee. I looked up and it was 11:15. Neil Gaiman had done the impossible and canceled out a swarm of ACL attenders.

The next day, I had no brain function. I went to class and stumbled through the day just waiting for when I could disappear again. I made it to Mozart’s on Lake Austin and fought my way through the line of fellow Austinites to buy a bottomless cup of coffee and made my plan to disappear.

I discovered that oceans can be put in buckets, if you ask nicely enough, and that there are some people whose hearts just need more time to grow back. Different people remember events in different ways and some things are best forgotten.

And then it ended.

I felt like I had gotten pulled out of a dream by having a bucket of ice water dumped on my head. I had not planned on it ending and now that it had I was a little lost. The only thing I could think to do was write a thank you note to Neil Gaiman and share it with everyone. Whether he will ever see it is anyone’s guess, but anyone who can make a week like mine slightly less defeating deserves some recognition.

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Tidbits from Miss Golightly Make a Come Back…

May 1, 2015 at 3:36 am (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , )

“In a small square on the left bank of the Seine, the door to a green-fronted bookshop beckoned…”

Another swell recommendation from Andi Kay and Emily. Sally likes it too, y’all.

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A Tidbit from Miss Golightly

January 27, 2014 at 1:48 am (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , )

A Thoreau quote is a good way to start a novel. Also, sometimes it’s good to choose a book based on its cover, and it’s nearly always good to have coffee and chocolate while reading. (at Cultivar Coffee & Tea Co.)

– Miss Golightly

Brian Kiteley

I will be joining Miss Golightly in reading this book this week.  You can join us too and discuss later! – Anakalian Whims

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MORNING COFFEE: FRIDAY EDITION

January 24, 2014 at 3:47 pm (Guest Blogger, In So Many Words, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , )


“My children are screaming at me.” – Coffee Cups in Trees

“Isn’t this about the time Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven?” – Anakalian Whims

“Proba- OMG MY HUSBAND DRANK ALL THE COFFEE CREAMER!” – Coffee Cups in Trees

“….and that is actually when Sylvia Plath stuck her head in the oven.” – Anakalian Whims
Hannah's Coffee

Photo compliments of Hannah from Coffee Scribble.                                                                                (Formerly known as Musings from the TARDIS.)

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A Tidbit from Miss Golightly

January 14, 2014 at 2:45 am (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , , )

I was made for yellow tea sets, books about books and the people who read and write them, brown branches, painted bookshelves, brightly colored rugs and papasan chairs, and rooms filled with sunlight. The afternoon hours of today in Dallas, TX are sublime. – Jennifer Joy Golightly

Yellow Tea Sets

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Blood Myth – A Book Review

January 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

from Guest Blogger Angelina JoiAnn

Blood MythTitle: Blood Myth

Author: Stacy Moran

I did not know there was a glossary at the end of the book because I tend to just jump into books… I don’t even read the back cover.  So at first it took me awhile to understand what was going on.  (Words of Wisdom = Read the glossary first)

It was very interesting and unique.  I enjoyed the dom/sub relationship, the broken past that Zakan had and dealt with, and the passion.  While reading my kept going back to Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  The mystical parts with witches and shape shifters, “little rabbit” blood and gore took my mind to the Anita Blake series by Laurel K. Hamilton.  (If you like those books, you’ll like this one)

There is definitely a lot going on in this book.  Not just the dominate/ submissive relationship, but good vs. evil,  sex, violence, drama, myth, family history, and more.

It took some time for me to wrap my head around everything that was happening, but it did end with a decent shock.  And the best way I could describe Blood Myth is “interesting.”

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Whispers for the Soul

November 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

nemerTitle: Whispers in the Dark

Poets: Ashley Nemer, Stacy Moran, Torie N. James

Genre: Poetry

A Product of The Art of Safkhet

A Guest Review by Angelina JoiAnn

As I was reading Whispers of the Heart by Ashley Nemer I felt depressed at the beginning by reading words like cry, darkness, kill, and beat. The first poem “They Say” gave me hope with “angel, strength and spirit.” I did not understand why “I walk and feel wetness” is in the “Darkness” poem – I am guessing it is raining, but to me darkness is not wet. Rain is more of a cleansing – a way to feel alive – not isolated. The the depression goes into a vampire and human relationship with “Forever you are mine” and “Immortal Love.” I can picture a vampire saying/writing those words after biting a human. I kind of get the darkness feeling going into the Vampire poems but after that I get thrown off with memories, dog, and grandpa.

While reading Whispers in the Storm by Stacy A. Moran I felt like the section would have been more aptly named Whispers of the Soul. It felt like the poet was writing poems from different growths of her soul, and perhaps had even lost a child. The poetry seemed to speak from a child to a woman, from a woman to a mother and so on. I would have liked to see them organized from love to heart break, but I felt a lot of growth over all and really enjoyed this section.

Whispering Flames by Torie N. James has to be my favorite. I felt like a phoenix flying out of the fire. I felt free while reading the different poems – as though the weight of the first two sections were being lifted off my shoulders.

Overall, I was taken on different feelings and journeys throughout the book and felt the different aspects and growth from the souls of the writers. I did feel that each section had a weird, random organization, and that the poems could have been better placed within each author’s portions, but that’s just my OCD. I enjoyed peeking into each poet’s lives.

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Kim, World Traveler

September 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , )

KimMeet today’s Guest Blogger: Kim Ogonosky.  She’s a reader, a writer, has the most *amazing* singing voice, and loves to travel…

I firmly believe that people who love to read are natural born travelers.

There is no scientific data to back this up; it is my [completely biased] personal opinion based on firsthand experience. Simply put, I love to read, and I love to travel.

Of course the word “travel” does not necessarily need to be understood strictly as the physical act of traveling. For avid readers who get metaphorically lost in literature, are they not, in a sense, traveling as well?

pemberleyYou bet they are, and I can attest to this. I traveled to Pemberley with Elizabeth Bennet where I fell hopelessly in love with Mr. Darcy. I partied with the wild, over-indulgent upper crust of society at Jay Gatsby’s mansion on Long Island’s West Egg. I’ve been to post-apocalyptic worlds and dystopian societies. I’ve traveled halfway around the world and broken the barrier of time. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve thrown things across the room in outrage.

And if anyone dares tell me this is not a form of travel, I assure you they have never gotten lost in a book!

Aside from traveling through books, I also love to physically travel. Never one to sit still, I am always looking for the next adventure. I once said my life’s goal is to visit every single country before I die. I have 13 under my belt, which means I have approximately 183 to go. Hey, a girl can dream!

florenceMy favorite place in the world is Florence. My favorite family vacation has been to Disney World. And I definitely recommend taking your significant other to the Caribbean for a vacation that looks like it came straight from your computer’s screensaver. But the most influential trip I have ever taken was to Tanzania.

In graduate school I was given the opportunity to travel to Dodoma, Tanzania to help film a documentary about a nongovernmental organization called BRAC. Another student and I were sent there to highlight their Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescent girls program. I had never picked up a video camera before in my life, and I only knew a few choice phrases in Swahili, but off I went with just one other person, malaria pills in tow!

Side note: I have never taken any sort of illegal substance, but I’m pretty positAfrica - BRAC ELA Girls Club 2ive if I did, the effects would be similar to that of taking malaria pills. That stuff is no joke.

When I got back from Africa, I remember people asking me if I had “fun.” Yes, it was the most influential experience of my life thus far, but I would choose other adjectives to describe it: Eye-opening, humbling, transformative, educational, challenging, and emotional all come to mind.

The pinnacle moment of the trip came when the Internet at our hotel went out, and I almost had a nervous breakdown.

My Family

My Family

Now, in my defense, the reason I had the nervous breakdown was because I wanted to contact my loved ones, not because I wanted to update my Facebook profile, so it was coming from a well-intentioned place.

However, we had just spent the day in the nearby villages interviewing these incredible young girls who had faced more hardships in their lives than the majority of us could ever imagine. Many didn’t have shoes. Most didn’t have clean water. And a startling number were in danger of not finishing their educations. Yet they came together to sing, dance, play, learn about how to start their own businesses, and support one another through strong female friendships.

And here I was at my hotel, with a pool, a nice restaurant, and plenty of clean water, crying about the Internet going out.

Needless to say, I was dealt with a healthy dose of perspective in that moment.

So yes, my trip to Africa was the most eye-opening, humbling, transformative, educational, challenging, and emotional experience of my life. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I learned so much from these brave young women, and I was inspired to immerse myself in similar travel situations again. Not because it was “fun,” but because I learned so much about the world, about humanity, and about myself.

Sounds a little like reading a really good book, doesn’t it? And here we are, coming full circle!

I recently stumbled upon what I consider to be the opportunity of a lifetime. An up-and-coming travel website called Jauntaroo is hiring a “Chief World Explorer” who will travel the world for a year, while blogging and filming webisodes about their experiences. Moreover, this person is encouraged to participate in “Voluntourism” activities while traveling. Sign me up!

Yes, the competition is stiff, but if I’ve learned anything from my books it’s that you must go after your dreams. Or simply put, if you don’t shoot, you don’t score!

I went for it and submitted a video application for this position, which can be found at www.bestjobaroundtheworld.com/submissions/view/12992. It is only a minute long, so should you decide to watch, it will not take up a lot of time. After having read this and watched the video you feel I would be well suited for the job, I would be incredibly grateful if you “liked” my video. You don’t have to fill out any forms, and you can do it once every 24 hours if it tickles your fancy! This would be an incredible experience, and I would love to be given the chance to travel the world and take others with me on the journey- through the fun, the relaxing, the challenging, the emotional, and the meaningful times.

Africa - BRAC ELA Chicken Farm

Thank you for taking the time to hear my story. I wish all of you safe, exciting, and meaningful travels, be it in the metaphorical or the physical sense. Life would be so less interesting without them.

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This Is Monstropolis

August 14, 2013 at 1:32 am (Guest Blogger, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

A Weekly Low Down on Kids Books and Guest Blog by Maura M! (2 in 1!)

Maura guest blog photoTitle:This Is Monstropolis!

I’m excited to share this little piece of toddler entertainment gold. This Is Monstropolis is an adorably illustrated flap book that is stuffed to the brim with things for little hands to explore. There is not much text here. The real beauty of this book is the vast amount of things there are in the illustrations to describe to your little one. In the 3 days that we have owned This Is Monstropolis, I’ve probably spent more than an hour discussing the scenes on the 14 pages of this book and what is happening behind each flap. This book is recommended for 3 year olds and beyond, but my 2 year old enjoys it immensely. The Richard Scarry-esque illustrations can be adored by child and caregiver alike and curious 2 year olds can’t get enough of the flap flipping.

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