Drugs, Hallucinations, and Time-Travel

July 25, 2015 at 11:40 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Most people dive into their drug induced literature in the high school and college years.  I didn’t have time for all that – I was in school, a lot of school, back then.  So now, in my early thirties – I’ve stumbled into a curiosity I didn’t really have before.  I’m not curious enough to DO the drugs – just enough to read about people doing them.  Sure, I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces 15808242back in the day.  Requiem for a DreamFight Club… I’ve read the usual suspects.  But sparingly, and not in the same year.This year, however, I noticed a trend.  And it wasn’t purposeful.  First, Philip K. Dick and then some.  Then, this week, City of Dark Magic
by Magnus Flyte and Screw-jack by Hunter S. Thompson.

What is real? What is not real?  These are the hard questions for a fiction writer from a long line of dementia patients.  But for all my solid grounding in cold hard facts and realism, I’ve always steered pretty clear of drugs and enjoyed the fantastic staying between the pages of a book and not parading around my living room.City of Dark Magic is weird.  Really weird.  The storyline travels and veers and rants, and I love that about it.  No strictly linear annoyingly plot pointed story here.  So much so, I refused to shelve it in Fantasy at work, instead I placed it in the literature section, hoping someone would pick it up for the same reason I did – historical dives into Beethoven.  Time-travel? Is it?  You’ll have to read and find out.  I can’t say without spoiling it, but I will warn you, it involves ingesting the genius musician’s toe nails.

UnknownScrew-jack was a nice little taste of Hunter S. Thompson.  I’d never read anything by him, and obviously I know who he is and what he stands for – because I don’t live *entirely* under a rock – but I’ve managed to never finish any of the stellar movies made about him or his work either.  A fan over heard this at work, and handed me Screw-jack to devour over lunch.  What a trip! It’s about a 45 minute read (it’s only three short stories), and let’s just say, I hope that last one was really about his cat or I might have some trouble digesting his bio later.

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Echo

July 1, 2015 at 3:45 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

imagesTitle: Echo

Author: Lorena Glass

Genre: Fantasy/ Romance

Length: 408 pages

I was sent a free copy of Echo by the author in exchange for an honest review. (I am not otherwise associated with the author.) In my honesty, I must say, I’m not a fan. However, that wouldn’t keep me from recommending it to people I’m sure would be. (That’s one of the joys of being a bookseller, I can find all sorts of things to put into people’s hands that will make them happy even though it’s not my particular cup of tea.)

Other reviewers refer to this as a young adult fantasy story, but I didn’t get that from it at all. The main character is in her twenties and her lover is in his fifties. That’s not really young adult material in my book. There is, however, time travel, undying love, and a number of other fun details that might call to teenage readers these days. I think more than the young adult crowd, though, romance readers who favor Diana Gabaldon’s work or historical fiction gurus that enjoy Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge might find Glass’s work enjoyable.

I appreciate all the characters went through to stay committed to each other, but I’m not a fan of the whole soulmate concept – that only one person in the world is meant for you ever. I think that people decide to be soulmates, and that is not just fine, but a beautiful thing. But overall, I found the story awkward and the telling of it a little awkward as well.

The setting is definitely original – you don’t get a lot of Gaul and people speaking Latin in most historical fiction.  It was a nice touch to keeping me flipping through to take a look around, so to speak, but I was not as riveted as I would have preferred for such a tale.

Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean it can’t be for you – check out some other reviews: https://bernieandbooks.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/requested-review-echo-lorena-glass-read-6615/

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Voyager

October 1, 2014 at 4:23 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

P1000526Title: Voyager

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Genre: Defies Genres, but most commonly found in Historical or Romance sections, sometimes Fantasy

Length: 1059 pages

Seriously, the first thing I exclaimed when I was done reading via illness induced three day marathon was “Holy Crap on a Cracker!”  Clearly I need to find new expletives.  That particular one was not worthy of the book it came on the heels of.

As always, Diana Gabaldon is fabulous and a wonderful storyteller.  Where I’ve usually plucked my way through her books, reading a little here and a little there as a fairy tale adventure before bed – this time I just plowed right through until I was done.

I picked up the third installment of Gabaldon’s book – a first edition mass market paperback from November 1994 that life threw in my lap somewhere along the way – after watching the new Starz series to date.  Putting Gabaldon’s story to film has been a long time coming, but it was worth the way.  I watched 6 episodes in a row, tucked neatly in my bed with a bag of jalapeno chips and lots of hot tea.  Don’t let me fool you, I’d been planning my all-day cave viewing for nearly two weeks, and it would have happened whether I’d been sick that day or not, but being sick definitely helped me get away with it.

See, I planned on writing a review for the show to accompany my other Diana Gabaldon related posts. But the show doesn’t really need one. They’ve done so well, in my opinion, and followed the story hook, line, and sinker. Although I find my fairly prude self fast forwarding through the sex scenes, I think the show is wonderful.

Especially awesome was seeing the author – Diana Gabaldon – pop up in The Gathering episode.  She has such a lovely and obvious face, I was so excited for her to be IN her own creation in that manner.

Naturally, when I ran out of episodes I sought out the next installment of the book – having started reading the series ages ago, but never finished. (I can’t finish it all at once, I have to savor it.)

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Magic Tree House Adventures – Knights!

January 23, 2013 at 1:40 am (Education, JARS) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

(… Castles! And Medieval Times!)

the-knight-at-dawnToday we read up on everything Knights and Castles we could get our hands on in our house.  We started with The Magic Tree House #2: Knight at Dawn then moved onto the Research Guide Knights and Castles.  While I read these two easy readers aloud to the kiddo, she perused The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World, mostly staying on the page on European castles in between jumping on my bed shouting our Feudal System chant.

“A Feudal System has four parts! From top to bottom it goes: King, Barons, Knights and Serfs!”  Sadly, I’ve already forgotten the tune to which we were singing/chanting this bit of information, maybe one day it will come to me again, or maybe we’ll find a new tune.  Either way, munchkin was climbing in and out of the laundry basket this morning singing,  “King! Baron! Knight! Serf!” so I win.

magic-tree-house-research-guide-2-knights-castles-mary-osborne-hardcover-cover-artIt was at this point that I decided: in addition to reading through this pairing and prepping kiddo’s future education (when she’s old enough to tackle these projects properly with crafts, writing assignments, and vocabulary tests), I’m going to blog our prepping routines… separate from the Weekly Low Down on Kids Books installments.  I know I will find it handy for when we repeat this reading exercise in a few years, but maybe someone else can find it handy now.

I can’t wait to take the kiddo to Medieval Times. I’ve always enjoyed the place and once she is old enough to go, I think it would be a great way to end an educational adventure.  As she’s only two and today’s reading was somewhat (though not completely) impromptu, I took her to the closet thing to a castle we have readily available.

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The Spring Community Playground, part of Liberty Park looks like a giant, wooden castle to me.  It has several keeps, a palisade, horses to ride, and all sorts of castle/fortress styled fixtures.  According to the park’s website:

This playground was built by the Spring community for the betterment of the Spring community ultimately for the enjoyment by our children with community donations and community volunteer labor. It was built in 5 DAYS from January 29th to February 2nd 2003 with over 900 community volunteers. A large majority of the volunteers were parents, grandparents and friends of students from Hirsch, Smith and Jenkins Elementary Schools. We also had volunteers from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Kingwood, Conroe, Laredo, and Mexico.

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Obviously, there’s a huge difference between this and an actual castle! But it’s fun to walk the park and read the engraved pieces of wood that tell who donated what.  I want the kiddo to grow up with a strong sense of community… our neighborhood is our manor, and all that.

When she’s older, we’ll be able to spread the study over the course of a week and add more books and activities. For instance, on day two we could read The Time Warp Trio: The Knights of the Kitchen Table over breakfast.  I like the idea of making a lap book with artwork, tabs, and pop-ups out of a manila filing folder afterward.  (Visit this pin: http://pinterest.com/pin/118923246380148367/)

This unit would also be a great opportunity to spend the week going through one Sir Cumference book a day for the start of math lessons.

For lunch, I’ll take the opportunity to serve “feast foods.”  I found an entire web page dedicated to recipes of the day, and I love to eat to match our educational themes.  Plus, I want my daughter to know her way around the kitchen before she goes off to college, unlike me.  So as she gets older, we’ll be making all our meals in the kitchen together – themed or not.

I would definitely try to work in her first horseback lesson during this week if she hadn’t started them already, after all knights, caballeros, Ritters, and chevaliers, are all just soldiers on horseback, as the MTH Research Guide will tell you.

lapbooking

Click image to visit a lapbooking tutorial website.

For the most part, though, we will spend our days reading, making lap books, journaling what we’ve learned, playing dress up, and gearing all our artistic energy at the topic.  Homeschool Mom and Blogger of My 2 Small Boys has images of her kids’ notebooks on Knights and Castles here: http://my2smallboys.blogspot.com/2012/01/middle-ages-knights-and-castles.html.

When the weekend roles around, if the study lands in the summer, perhaps we will go to the beach and build sandcastles;  If in the fall, maybe we’ll head out to the Texas Ren Fest.

Knights and Castles Library List
Saint George and the Dragon (a great precursor to have on hand for Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, we’ve already read it quite a few times)
Castle Diary by Richard Platt
The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne
Knight by Christopher Gravett
Knight ~ A Noble Guide for Young Squires
100 Things You Should Know About Knights and Castles
by Jane Walker
If You Lived in the Days of Knights by Ann McGovern
Castle: Medieval Days and Knights by Kyle Olmon
Knights in Shining Armo by Gail Gibbons
Knights and Castles by Seymour Simon
The Usborne Book of Castles by Lesley Sims and Jane Chisolm
What If You Met a Knight? By Jan Adkins
Imagine You’re a Knight by Meg Clibbon
Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie DePaola
In the Castle by Anna Milbourne
The Castle That Jack Built by Lesley Sims
The Tournament by Heather Amery

Some more ideas: http://www.angelfire.com/dc/childsplay/castleunit.htm

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Dinosaurs!

January 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm (Education, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dinsaurs before darkI read Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark to the kiddo today, all the way through this time.  We have started it before, but she wasn’t old enough to listen to it all and grasp the concept yet.  We’ve been practicing our alphabet and started a notebook together, though, and now at age two and three months she knows that ‘D’ is for ‘dogs and dinosaurs’ and can identify their images in illustrations.  So reading Mary Pope Osborn’s first adventure was a little more exciting this time.

We had to stop a few times to draw a rhinoceros onto our ‘R’ page, check out whales and their sizes in relation to dinosaurs in our encyclopedia, and to correct behavior as she climbed in my living room window sill that is about three and half feet off the ground.  We even had a brief whistling lesson after reading how the wind was whistling around the tree house.  Overall, she enjoyed it, so we moved onto the Research Guide.

dinosaurs research guideMary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne joined forces and started writing nonfiction companion books to the fictional Magic Tree House adventures.  When I first discovered this, I started purchasing them in pairs, vowing to use them as fun assignments while home schooling.  I’d like for kiddo to grow up in the habit of reading a nonfiction title that somehow relates to every fiction title that she devours, expanding both her facts and her imagination.  What better way than to start with research guides to her first chapter books?

Why am I reading these to her so early?  Frankly, it’s quite hilarious to watch a two  year old run circles in your living room chanting, “Fossils! Minerals! Dinosaurs!” at the top of her lungs, while her dog (who happens to be the biggest one we own) lays in the center rolling his eyes.

wanna iguanaChapter three of the research guide Dinosaurs talks about iguanas and how Gideon Mantell though the dinosaur teeth he and his wife found were giant iguana teeth.  Of course, we had to stop to re-read I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow.  It has quickly  become a favorite since we came across it at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, and the tie-in to our dinosaur lesson was flawless.  The banter between mother and son is downright fun and the illustrations are extra spunky.  It gave us a chance to talk about different iguana sizes and different ancient dinosaur sizes again, bigger and smaller is something I think the kiddo is really getting the hang of after our discussions today.

All in all, we had a good ‘school day’ this morning, something we have been working on being more diligent about now that kiddo is two and it has actually managed to get too cold to venture out as much.

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The Secret Adventures of H.G. Wells

June 11, 2012 at 8:36 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: The Map of Time

Author: Felix J. Palma

Publisher: Atria Books

Length: 611 pages

It may have taken me longer than I first supposed to finish Felix J. Palma’s The Map of Time.  Yes, there may have been days between reading that I had not expected, because the marketing was so astonishingly gripping.  But any distaste I had for this book while I was reading it was purely psychological.  It had to have been, because Palma’s writing is brilliant.

My psychological beefs? Let’s see if I can express them.

#1 The premise described in the jacket isnt even remotely a familiar story line until the last 60 pages of the book.  Good thing I don’t usually read dust jackets, I just dive in, but I have friends who do who were reading this book roughly around the same time as myself, so on this occasion I went against instinct and read the synopsis.  While reading the novel, I felt a bit duped by the summary, anxiously waiting for a time traveling book thief that didn’t arrive until over 500 pages in.  The front cover is applicable to all three story lines, but the inner art work is directly related to the end, so the anticipation literally killed my reading mojo.  I wish the advertising had been a little more straight forward, except I love the advertising and it clearly worked, therefore on that count, I have not a single suggestion.

#2 The book is really 3 books.  At least in my  mind it is.  Its 3 separate but interconnected stories, overlapping characters and puzzle pieces and the theme of time travel, though not actual time travel.  In my perfect world, this book would have been a series of novellas (which I inevitably would have begged to have in one complete volume as an omnibus – see… psychological issues!).  Instead of being broken up in generic Part One, Part Twos, etc, I would have mentally prepared the reader for the disconnected yet interconnected adventure with titles.  Example: Instead of being called The Map of Time, call the book The Secret Adventures of H.G. Wells.  Part One, would be “Book One: The Murder of Jack the Ripper”, or something of the sort.  “Book Two: Captain Shackleton’s Love Story” and “Book Three: The Time Lord and the Book Thief.”  Perhaps Book Three could keep the original title “The Map of Time” it wouldn’t really matter.  I just want to go in with the understanding that these are separate but connected adventures, rather than flailing about wondering if the next paragraph has any relevancy – which it does!

#3 There’s a word mis-used at one point where I believe ‘ancestor’ should have been utilized instead of ‘descendant.’  But that’s really trivial, and no one cares. (It also could have been me getting my time loops all mixed up.)

The story itself, I wouldn’t change a lick, because it’s marvelous.  It’s the present structure that I clearly have issue with.  Feeling as though the story was disconcertingly disconnected (when in reality as a series I would find it beautifully interconnected) made me set it aside in irritation one too many times.  With the internal structure slightly altered with silly titles, I suddenly feel better about the whole thing.  I would have found both jacket and description equally fitting and not misleading at all.

Moral of the story (my story, not Palma’s story)… this book is bloody brilliant and I’m keeping it, despite having kicked and internally screamed several times while reading it.  Don’t be put off by your own expectations.

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A Romance to Last the Ages

April 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

Title: Dragonfly in Amber (second in The Outlander Series)

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Publisher: I am reading from A Dell Book, pocket papberback, published in 1992.

Length: 947 pgs

Although the book covers are a bit outdated and have been revamped and republished, The Outlander Series itself will never be outdated… will never get old.  Often shelved in the romance sections for its sexual content and love story, its a little more dramatic, a little more fantasy, and has a little more historical detail than your average romance.  Gabaldon has written a saga that is a “little more” no matter where you house it in your bookstore.

Where I devoured Outlander (the introductory book of the series, published in the UK as CrossStitch), Dragonfly in Amber I mosied through.  I kept it on my nightstand and read 20-30 page here and there, until I finally finished it this morning over breakfast.  But not because it wasn’t good.

Jamie and Claire Fraser are the kind of characters you like to let linger with you.  By book two you see more of their faults and weaknesses as well as their strengths, and they are less token flat romantic leads strictly enamoured with each other.  Still definitely a romance, these books are also clearly about a marriage tried by time travel, war, and witch hunts, and more.  There’s a real element to them that traditional romances don’t have, the Outlander Series is all adventure but never fairy tale.  Knowing there’s a whole series of nearly 1000 page books, its easy to set it down after a little bit, assured they will be there when you come back.

Of course, the moment you get to the end of one, Gabaldon has teased you with some lingering story line that makes you want to immediately start the next.  I recommend having several of the series set aside before you begin so when that moment comes you aren’t left with the deep urge to leave your house and run to the nearest bookstore hoping they have the one you need in stock.  Just buy them all up whenever you see them, and toss them (in order) on your TBR pile.

Like Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, I think The Outlander Series will be a romance that lasts through the ages.

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