Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Silkworm (4.5), Robert Galbraith

If you know anything about me (besides that I read, I guess) it’s that I am not a morning person. I say this because it is important to the further understanding of this review. When I wake up, I am a demon Jana from another planet. I might bite your head off for asking me how my morning’s going. I’ve burst into tears just because I didn’t want to be awake. I’m basically a four-year-old until I’ve had coffee.

On Monday at 5am I woke up with a start. A few weeks ago I slept through my alarm and missed an hour and a half of class so and I’m still a little nervous every time I wake up that I’ve forgotten something very important. But after a quick glance at my phone’s calendar, I fall back asleep no problem. Except on the 17th I woke up and went, “Crap! I fell asleep! The Silkworm’s due today. Did they take it off my Kindle already?” and in a panic I unlocked my Kindle. And instead of going back to sleep, I finished reading the book. I just had to know who did it!

“The whole world’s writing novels, but nobody’s reading them.”
- The Silkworm

The Silkworm is the second in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith/J.K.Rowling. Feel free to go read about book one, TheCuckoo’s Calling if you want to hear more about that and don’t want me to spoil a couple things. I liked this book infinitely more than the first one, probably because I finally let go of Strike being grown up muggle Harry Potter. It was hard.

Strike's more like Mad Eye, really.
In The Silkworm, Strike’s rise to fame after solving Lula Landry’s murder in The Cuckoo’s Calling is finally starting to ebb, and so is his patience with his endless stream of rich, spoiled clients hiring him to spy on their spouses and lovers. When Leonora Quine, the mousy, frazzled wife of author Owen Quine, asks Strike to find her wandering husband, he accepts gladly. Owen Quine is a reclusive and eccentric author, and has been known to disappear for days on end to work on a novel or shack up with a mistress, but he has been gone for an exceptional amount of time and Mrs. Quine is beginning to run out of money.

If you haven’t hopped on the Robert Galbraith/J. K. Rowling bandwagon, you probably should. There are only two books now, but you can bet there are going to be dozens more. Knowing how Rowling likes to write, you can bet that there’s some little details in books 1 and 2 that are going to make all the difference and have a huge payout in like book 16 because that’s what she does.

SOS There is no news that she is writing a third book. Where is my third book Jo? I may not wait five years like I did for Order of the Phoenix. I may find a new favorite author. Jk I will read everything Rowling writes because I’m obsessed.

Harry Potter forever

More Books

fans of Harry
fans of Galbraith
something old
something new

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

This is the creepiest cover ever...

This is seriously the creepiest f-ing cover in the world. I promise there is not some terrifying monster under there...oh wait that's probably exactly what it is.

I'm just writing to warn you that the 3.5th book in The Lunar Chronicles is coming out January 27th, so you should get started reading and catch up. Book one is Cinder and it's about Cinderella in the year 3000 or something and she's a cyborg. This is usually the point where people look at me like I'm a crazy YA fantasy reader who has no idea what a good book is. And there is absolutely zero way I can convince you otherwise and still talk about these books, because they are absolutely YA fantasy but they are also absolutely amazing and I'm more obsessed than I should be.

I keep telling myself that they aren't that great. I tried to not be excited about this book, in fact I was quite angry when I found out that instead of Winter (Book 4) we were getting Levana's origin story (Book 3.5??), but I'm a sucker for this series and I'm excited and I'm going to assume that we need this story to properly enjoy Winter when it comes out...supposedly November 24, 2015 which is in over a year. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

American Gods (5), Neil Gaiman

Shadow is days away from being released from prison. Days away from seeing his beloved wife Laura when he gets the phone call. His wife has died in a car crash with is best friend at the wheel. But time ticks on and Shadow is still released from prison, but where to go? What’s the point anymore? Enter Mr. Wednesday, who hires Shadow to do…odd jobs. Like, really odd jobs.

(Spoiler alert?) Mr. Wednesday is old. Like, centuries old. Like, used to be a god worshipped by thousands. When settlers came to America, they brought their gods with them. Now, these abandoned gods are left to live as best they can, hunted by the new gods.

This book was crazy. I don’t even feel like I can rate it because I feel like if I give it less than a five it means I didn’t “get it” the way everyone else did. It was also super weird to read after The Ocean at the End of the Lane which feels so innocent and simple by comparison. American Gods is dense and awesome. If you’re ready to hibernate for the winter with a giant, creepy book, this one’s for you.

Fun fact, Neil Gaiman was on NPR's Ask Me Another last week. It was hilarious and reminded me about how adorable his British accent is. I wish he read all of the audiobooks I listen to. He also mentioned that, when people ask him what American Gods is about, he replies, "oh, it's a big book," because he doesn't really know how to explain it. Which makes me feel a lot better. 

This is a super belated post, this is the book I read before The Bloodletter's Daughter, I'm trying to play catch up! 

Previous Reads 
Eleanor & Park
The Bloodletter's Daughter

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Eleanor & Park (5), Rainbow Rowell

WARNING: Some swearing. Loads of swearing in the book, so if you're not into that, move along and read Cinder or something. 
Oh my God, you know when you finish a book and then all other books are ruined for you forever and you just have to lay there and wish there was someone else who had just finished being in this world so you could talk to them because why is this book over? Where will you go now? That was Eleanor & Park for me.

Eleanor is a chubby redheaded misfit who has just moved in with her mother, stepfather, and younger siblings after spending some time kicked out by her stepfather and living with her mother’s friends.
Park is a gangly half-Korean kid who manages to fit in with the other kids on the bus because his dad’s a vet and they’ve always been part of the neighborhood.

On Eleanor’s first day, the back of the bus kids immediately smell the scene of fresh meat. She has nowhere to sit on the bus until Park takes pity on her and whispers, “Jesus, fuck, just sit down.” They don’t talk. They never talk. But Park begins to catch her reading his comic books out of the corner of her eye. And then he begins to turn the pages more slowly, to make sure she has a chance to finish the page. And then he’s giving her comic books to read and she’s giving them back and before you know it they can’t stop talking to each other.

love is listening to a mixtape he made
You guys, I tried so hard to pretend this book was overrated. But I was so in love with it by like the third chapter. It dresses up as a love story, but it talks about bullying and abuse and all sorts of real stuff. Even the love story feels so real, you can feel them sneaking up on each other, you can feel them fall in love. And the end? The end is so smart. I tried to write a book once that began on the premise this book ended on and she sums up what I tried to say in 50,000 words in one sentence.
I’m not going to tell you what that sentence is because I don’t believe in spoilers.

So I finished this book at like 11:30 on a Wednesday and had no one to talk to so I went on twitter which was a mistake because all the teenyboppers who read it were like “sigh. SO IN LOVE. SO ROMEO. SO JULIET.” And I was like, “omg. Shut up. You understand nothing,” which is really the sign of a good book that it speaks to everyone on the level they’re on. Me? I’m in grad school and studying middle schoolers. Them? They’re in middle school dreaming about falling in love one day. And yet this book speaks to both of us.

But I have to admit, the love story was so cute.  I think I literally said “aww” out loud. More than once. In that really squeaking "squee" way like I saw a puppy or a unicorn. And now I’m ruined and can’t read anything else. It’s like playing a really pathetic game of Duck, Duck, Goose.

fine, I guess
Stay tuned to see what I actually finish.

I can’t even go back to Hunger Games because I literally just finished rereading the series after I finished Outlander

If you like this, read The Perks of Being a Wallflower, more Rainbow Rowell, or something. I need to go read something that is a complete 180 because I can't even.

Up Next:
American Gods

Friday, November 7, 2014

Netflix + Series of Unfortunate Events = The Best?

A Series of Unfortunate Events is coming to Netflix?


“I can’t believe it,” Snicket said from an undisclosed location. "After years of providing top-quality entertainment on demand, Netflix is risking its reputation and its success by associating itself with my dismaying and upsetting books."

I am so happy. If this is not real I am going to go cry. The worst thing about growing up was that, unlike J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter series to grow up with us, Lemony Snicket wrote all 13 of his books for the same age group, so I grew out of them mid-series. Don't get me wrong, I eventually read all of them, but it is not the same to read A Series of Unfortunate Events as a 5th grader than it is after you've just read The Bell Jar in 9th grade. And you know it.

Lemony Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler, who begins the series like this:

Dear Reader,

I'm sorry to say that the book you are holding in your hands is extremely unpleasant. It tells an unhappy tale about three very unlucky children. Even though they are charming and clever, the Baudelaire siblings lead lives filled with misery and woe. From the very first page of this book when the children are at the beach and receive terrible news, continuing on through the entire story, disaster lurks at their heels. One might say they are magnets for misfortune.

In this short book alone, the three youngsters encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune, and cold porridge for breakfast.

It is my sad duty to write down these unpleasant tales, but there is nothing stopping you from putting this book down at once and reading something happy, if you prefer that sort of thing.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

The series is deliciously smart and dark and funny. You should read them. The movie was pretty horrible which was sad because Jim Carey and Meryl Streep and a bunch of other fabulous people were in it. It's a testament to the books and my laziness that I sometimes still watch it, as I no longer own the books. I did, however, read a picture book by Lemony Snicket awhile ago.

Hopefully your reading will go better than the last time I picked up a book just because they made a TV show out of it, "so it must be good." 

Found the news here/on the facebook.
Or you can read about it on NPR, where I found out that they don't even have a director yet so don't get too excited!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Bloodletter’s Daughter (4) – Linda Lafferty

Right now I'm doing a weird backwards/forwards thing where I'm currently reading books, which I'll hopefully continue to post about, but I also read a half dozen books that I haven't posted about because I was in grad school and doing plays and didn't have time to think about anything else. So, if you're curious, this is the book I read before Outlander 

Marketa is a young woman living in a remote corner of Bohemia. Much of her time is spent with her mother working in their family’s bathhouse, where her mother is preparing Marketa to become a full-fledged bathmaid, preparing her to auction her virginity to the highest bidder. But what Marketa wants is to apprentice with her father the bloodletter. She often is brought along to help with his bloodlettings, and loves to study medicine and how to best balance the humors. If you think that’s juicy – just wait. The emporer decides to cloister away his insane bastard son, Don Julius in Marketa’s village. Where, you guessed it, he needs a bloodletter. He can see Marketa from his window and swears that he will not let anyone but her draw blood from his veins. As the prince’s obsession with Marketa grows, so does his ability to hide his insanity from her, and she finds herself drawn to him.

Bathhouse, circa sometime in history
Based on a true story, but one I’d never heard of, which is my favorite kind of historical fiction. This book really got interesting once Don Julius showed up in town. Before that I was a little confused about where it was going. But Lafferty hit the trifecta when she introduced a like-minded scientist love interest, dangled the threat of the bathhouse, and brought in a creepy obsessive lover who Marketa’s mother wants to sell her too because FAME AND FORTUNE. Obviously. All Marketa wants is to be a doctor/bloodletter, but even that throws her into her mother’s crazy schemes.

This book snuck up on me. I don’t know how I found this book exactly, I think Amazon told me I could buy it for a dollar so I did. And then Audible was like, “but wait! For just $2.99 you could have the audiobook as well!” so I bought it too. Oh impulse buys…sometimes actually the best buys? There’s nothing better than browsing a book store or library and just picking up the prettiest most you-est looking book. That’s how I found The Creation of Eve which is also great historical fiction but less creepy and I loved it just as much.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (3)

First things first, sorry for the radio silence! I did a show in August. It was awesome, thank you for asking. Then two days after it closed I started grad school. And did some staged readings. And started directing a children's show. I've been mostly "reading" via audiobooks as I fall asleep, so I haven't been paying as much attention as previously. 

Second, this post needs a giant, flashing SPOILER ALERT sign at the top. 
You have been warned. 
I get into spoilers pretty quick, and while I may not tell you what characters live and die I spoil some pretty big moments. 

I gave it a 3/5. Three stars means I liked it. I wasn't bored but it didn't change my life. I will probably some day read the next one maybe. Time will tell.

Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, a former combat nurse recently reunited with her husband after the conclusion of World War II. While on their reunion-second-honeymoon in Scotland, Claire wanders off and falls through a mystical stone and ends up in Scotland, 1743. Stuff happens, she tries to get back to her own time but kind of falls in love with this other dude. 

Claire and Jamie from the show.
I say "kind of" because they get married so that the Scottish don't have to turn Claire over to the villain because plot. And then she starts to admit to liking him. But mostly she likes her real-time husband. And eventually she's just really in love with her Scottish Highlander husband, James "Jamie" Fraser. 

I was actually way more into the plot than the love story. I really, really like Claire. Claire is super interesting and fierce. Jamie really likes her, which is cool I guess but I found the not-love story part more interesting than their love story quite frequently. Which is saying something, because I love a good love story.

There are also some things I found problematic about the book. 
1. That time Jamie beats Claire for not doing what he says. 
"But Jana, that's how the world worked back then!"
Nope. Don't care. Nope.
"It made them closer as a couple."
Definitely nope.
"He kinda sorta apologized when he found out Claire was from the future."
"Later there was a character who beat his child ALL THE TIME FOR NO REASON, and he was a bad it's not like Gabaldon is saying it's ok to beat people..."
...unless they really deserve it. NOPE. 

2. The only gay character, Jonathan Randall, is a horrendous villain. (This part gets REALLY spoiler-y so please stop reading now if you don't like knowing really climatic scenes)
Am I being super liberal here or is that weird? WHY is there this super big plot scene where Jamie literally sacrifices his body to Randall to save Claire's life? 
I feel all kinds of uncomfortable about all of this.
Oh DID I MENTION he's also super into torture and people being in pain? So it's not that he's a villain BECAUSE he's gay...but it does feel like Randall being gay is almost as big of a deal as him loving to torture people. 

Again though, I really liked Claire. I found the novel really interesting and the problematic elements were surrounded by stuff I cared more about so I accepted it. I kind of judge myself for looking past it but we can't all be super liberal all the time can we. Can we? 

Now, please excuse me, it's time for my semi-annual re-read of The Hunger Games, because I'm an addict.
Neither Peeta nor Gale would beat Katniss.
And if one of them tried, she'd kick his ass. 

Does anyone love Outlander? Is it all camp 50 Shades of Grey people or am I just crazy?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Killing Ruby Rose (3.5) & Books That I Would Rather Die Than Finish

This, like I Am Livia, was a free Amazon Prime book of the month. And like many of the Amazon Prime books, I feel like I give it a giant sigh and a shrug, “eh, at least it was free.” But there are a lot of free books in the world, and there are a lot of books I haven’t finished (more on those later), so why this one? Basically I was on a roll of reading some silly books (I actually finished A Mad, Wicked Folly right before I read this one), and the problem with silly books is I don’t have a whole lot to say about them. This one, for example is: here is the plot. Plot very interesting. Talked much about shoes. Shoes very boring. Why is she wearing yellow leggings as pants? I feel that is wrong on a lot of levels.

ANYWAY the book is about Ruby Rose, and it’s basically Veronica Mars but not really as good….Ruby’s dad was a police officer and he died a few months earlier and Ruby has decided to take out her anger at the world by stalking serial killers who got away with murder. THEN some guy starts stalking RUBY and putting her in the position to kill the bad guys. Is he going to kill HER? Is she going to go to JAIL? Is she going to sleep with the cutest guy in school? Read the book if you care to know. I mostly liked her except the shoe tangents made me yawn. It’s like the show Pretty Little Liars, I liked it when it was about their dead friend texting them. I didn’t like it when it was about pretty clothes and sleeping with teachers.

Entertainment: 5
Love Story: 4
Do you hope the main character survives the book? probably
Better than Twilight? No
…now I’m reconsidering my life choices.

This book is satisfying to read in the same way it’s fun to read Cosmo magazines are or eat an entire bag of potato chips…it’s fun for a minute, and then you feel kind of gross. 

Charlie is like, SO much smarter than the girls that live above him. He is an unemployed wanna be writer, and they are unemployed, hot, and drink a lot. Charlie eventual gets off the couch and attempts to talk to them. 

I somehow stumbled across the "dear girls above me" twitter feed last year, and thought it was pretty funny. This book is just as quirky, following Charlie's life and interactions with the girls, but….he’s kind of an entitled asshole and feels really sorry for himself that he isn’t getting any blowjobs…and I personally feel grossed out by the idea that some guy thinks he’s entitled to blowjobs from pretty girls. Ugh get over yourself. Thinking you deserve blowjobs just for existing is basically rape culture.

Read Hyperbole and a Half instead. 

I don’t even know how this got onto my to-read radar. I think I was depressed from reading Room or something and just wanted something light and fun. It’s an epistolary novel (which I just had to google because I can’t remember how to spell it. And was only 80% sure it was the right word…it means its written as letters, or emails in this case) about a lawyer doing something. There’s a divorce. I don’t know I got like ten pages in and got confused. I didn’t care about any of the characters because I didn’t know who any of them were. I would rather read Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason and OMG part of that book got spoiled for me and now THERE’S NO WAY I will read that book. And I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t believe in spoiling things*

I am SO disappointed in myself but I cannot bring myself to finish this book. It just goes on FOREVER. It’s supposed to be like, SO GREAT, but, ok, here’s the premise:
This girl can’t die. Every time she makes a decision that makes her die she has to go back and relive her life and make a new choice. And she can kind of remember her past lives and what happened when she made the wrong choice. But after she’s died at the end of every chapter for 200 pages I’m like…just die…just die, die, die…is this book ever going to end. I will try to finish it but I’m not making any promises.

I'm really judging myself that I liked Timebound more than this book.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Chorus Line (5)

Conceived by Michael Bennett
Book by James Kirkwood & Nicholas Dante
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Edward Kleban

This book is everything. I’ve listened to the cast recording countless times. I’ve choreographed to “One” for my musical theatre classes, and I’ve danced to “I Hope I Get It,” but I’ve never seen it. And the next best thing is reading it, right? (wrong. but. I spend a lot more time on a bus than I do in front of a tv)

If you DON’T know what A Chorus Line is LET ME TELL YOU REAL QUICK. Michael Bennett had some long conversations with some of his dancer friends about what life is like for a Broadway chorus dancer. The interviews were turned into this musical. In A Chorus Line, a room full of dancers are auditioning for a musical, and are told by the director that not only their dancing will be judged, but their personalities, and he tries to get them to open up. What follows is a story of love, loss, and theatre. Will watching it help you understand why we crazies do these shows? Maybe.  

CASSIE: “But I don’t want to prove anything anymore. I want to do what I love as much as I can and as long as I can. But at least, now – I’m doing it for me.”

For me, this new path I am taking, diving into teaching and studying child development and learning is so fascinating. Teaching is rewarding to me in the way that I think making art should feel. If you've missed this in the past, I'm an actress. I've wanted to be an actress since I was five, but have pursued it timidly, never being the child who desperately wanted to move to LA or New York. I wanted LA to want me so badly they made me move because that's where I was going to be working. But the nomadic reality of becoming an actor, doing touring shows (if you're lucky!) before you break into Broadway, going from LA to New York, to a regional house that will pay you.... I just don’t want that enough. I want to do the shows and the roles I want to do and not worry about whose watching or how doing show A might get me to theatre Z at some point maybe.

Reading this play was like hearing a resounding "that's ok!" from the artistic community. "Do what you love! Love what you do!" I am so proud of all of my friends who are literally chasing their dreams to New York or Broadway, and I am equally excited about my next year studying teaching. Who knows what the future holds.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I Am Livia by Phyllis T. Smith (4)

Ok, first off: I liked this book way more than I thought I would. I mean, the cover? First glance: it’s kind of mosaic-y with leaves falling on her face, kinda making her look all disheveled and lying there with her mouth slightly open. It SAYS it’s about one of the most powerful women in the history of Rome but….it looks like a romance novel. On closer inspection, she's standing there defiantly, wind whipping her hair, with her mouth parted in a provocative way...still looks like a romance novel, but one with a likable character. First glance at the cover was on my phone while I was getting ready to spend 30 minutes crimping my hair for a play. And it was the perfect book to read while crimping my stupid hair, except the one night I got too into the book and almost missed my entrance because I was super slow at getting my hair did.

What I Did For Love, indeed
photo cred: Jeff Carpenter Photography
It’s written as though Livia is writing her own memoir in her old age, and she starts by talking about how infamous she became, which is weird because I have no idea who she is. I don’t even recognize the guy that ends up being in charge of Rome, probably because he’s Julius Caesar’s heir – also called Caesar – which means I probably lumped their histories together into one story. This is why history is confusing: everyone has the same names.
Julius Caesar
Caesar, the adopted heir
The story begins with Livia, age 14, overhearing her beloved father discussing Julius Caesar’s assassination. Which we all know is going to happen. (I mean, even I remember that much of history class.) As part of the plot, her father marries Livia to one of this fellow senators. And blah, blah, blah…history. A lot of things happen. Read the book. Or be familiar with history. Eventually she meets Octavianus (Julius Caesar's heir, also called Caesar) and more things happen. And she meets him again, while pregnant with her husband's second child, and more things happen. Intrigue. Scandal. (Spoilers?)

I LOVE historical fiction when I can trust that it is remotely historically accurate. It helps me keep all the facts and players straight when I have a linear story with a hero I find relateable. It makes me feel smart and like I learned something. Plus, it helps to keep history in perspective, that all humans that live now and have lived in the past have possessed human emotions. And the #1 reason to read fiction is to cultivate your sense of empathy. (I’m not kidding, people study this: Scientific American, The GuardianScienceThe NewYorker.) And, as I’ve mentioned before, if there’s a good love story I am 95% more likely to like the book. We all have our weaknesses. This love story was very "aww" worthy.

Stick through it to the end, I know it gets a little lost, but I promise the end is worth the journey. I wasn’t wholly convinced that Rome found Livia as conniving and infamous as she started the book saying she was, BUT a book has to have a hook, so I’ll let that go. 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Out TODAY! 6/10/14
"Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad."                                                               - Goodreads description, because it's too good to try and do my own.

So, this is pretty uncharacteristic of me, but I haven't actually finished this book yet.

Wait, that is actually SUPER characteristic of me. Once I went on this LONG rant about how AMAZING Angels & Demons was and how much I appreciated that Dan Brown was depicting a priest as a good guy (as opposed to The Da Vinci Code)...and then the next page I read all insanity broke loose and everything I said was wrong.

Whatever, take this with a grain of salt because I only read the 10 chapter excerpt that's free on GoodReads right now. But I was just browsing Goodreads, deciding what to read next while taking a break from all of the three books I'm currently reading (more if you count the ones I haven't admitted to myself I've abandoned). The Girl with All the Gifts looked interesting, and I saw there was an excerpt, so like any good procrastinator, I clicked on it. And WHOOPS looks like I'm not getting anything done till I read this lengthy excerpt of a generous 10 chapters.

It's so good you guys. It kind of reminds me of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but with more of a horror/SciFi element. It's got the perfect amounts of thriller oh-god-whats-going-to-happen-next and actually-makes-you-question-society-and-humankind.

*Real review out tomorrow 8am! Historical fiction/romance*

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June Books For (& About) Kids

(for the littlest readers)
Cute little story about a little panda named Chu who might have to sneeze. Bad things happened when Chu sneezes. 
(slightly older)
A fun nonfiction read about the life of mathematician Paul Erdos. What I love about it is that it shows math as being a) creative and b) social and NOT c) boring. The illustrations are filled with colorful numbers and real-life uses for math. Its all about why math is cool. 

For more picture books check out my May recommendations

(middle reader)
When mom leaves dad with the kids for the week, disaster strikes at breakfast. There is no milk. Not for breakfast cereal, and not for dad’s tea. Dad goes out to get milk but takes ages and ages to get back. Upon his arrival, he regales the epic story of his hunt for the milk, filled with time-travelling dinosaurs, aliens, wumpires (NOT the sparkly kind), and other mayhem.

Verdict: A fun bedtime story for the kiddos. It reminds me of a Shel Silverstein poem that I memorized in elementary school. If they liked it, try reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to them. If YOU liked it, try TheOcean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman, which I would not recommend reading to the kiddos.

The book was also gorgeous, and used all of the illustrations (and even the fonts) to tell the story and add emotional colors to the book. It’s definitely worth getting the physical book as opposed to the kindle version. 

For Grown Ups, but About Kids

In How Children Succeed, journalist Paul Tough explores the education system and current research on what factors make a child grow into a successful adult. The story told to children now is that if you study hard and get good grades AND good test scores, you will get into a good college and then you will get a good job and be a successful adult. According to Tough's research, intelligence and a good SAT score will only get you so far, and children who are well equipped with skills like grit, curiosity, conscientiousness, and optimism will be more successful in college and beyond. Having these skills can help a child/adult more than raw intelligence or even growing up in a more financially stable home. Tough discusses how we can teach children these skills and how they will help them in later life.

I don't know if you've heard yet, but I'm going to grad school to get my Masters in Teaching. I've always been very interested in teaching, but that whole being super interested in acting thing took over my life for a little while. I always assumed I would one day be a teacher, but what and where I was going to teach were questions that kept me from getting my BA in Education.

I feel like it got a little lost near the end, when we got so involved in the chess world I sort of forgot what was actually being discussed. Overall, this book reminded me of all the reasons I want to get involved with the public school system.

For more on teaching, read The Book Whisperer

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth (4)

I was told that this book was “The next Hunger Games!” which immediately made me skeptical. I do not want to read the “new” Hunger Games, I’ll just read THE Hunger Games eight more times thankyouverymuch. AND since I was told it was “the next Hunger Games,” obviously I had to compare it to The Hunger Games every moment I could.

The story starts with sixteen-year-old Beatrice (Tris) Prior who lives with her family in post-apocalyptic Chicago. Their city has been divided into five six factions: Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), Erudite (the intelligent), and the Factionless (the outcasts). At sixteen, Beatrice gets to decide what faction to choose to live her life in. Once she has chosen, there is no going back, and if she chooses Not Abnegation, then she will leave her family forever (except for visiting days). So naturally there’s a test where the kid goes on an LSD-trip-spirit-journey to figure out where they are Meant To Be, but Beatrice is Different Than Everyone Else. And thus our story starts.  

Beatrice vs. Katniss: the film actresses
Similarities to The Hunger Games:
-dystopian world where people are sorted
-Book 1 (Divergent) will be consumed in a 24-72 hour period, depending on how much time you have on your hands.
-you must immediately begin Book 2 (Insurgent/Catching Fire) upon finishing Book 1 (Divergent/The Hunger Games) AND even more pressing is the need to read the third book (Allegiant/Mockingjay)
-The third book is the worst, but you realize that that is the only way to end the series. Mockingjay was a struggle because I read it in one sitting, and the end felt disjointed (you know why if you’ve read it), I had the same problem with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) because I wanted to know WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN as opposed to what the characters were thinking and feeling. In HP, I felt like they were stuck in that tent in the woods for ETERNITY. On the second read of both Mockingjay and HP7, everything made sense and felt Right. Allegiant took me two weeks to read. There was a lot of things I wanted to happen in Insurgent that then were fixed in Allegiant, but then…I got bored. And the end…

Differences from The Hunger Games:
-In Divergent, the city-state is divided into factions, as opposed to The Hunger Games, where the country of Panem was split into districts. Factions are divided by a personality trait, and jobs are given based on that trait, as opposed to The Hunger Games where the country was divided based on industry
-no love triangle (HOLD THE PHONES, WHAT?! A YA book with no love triangle????). Yes, really.
-By Book 3 Tris actually has a real relationship with a boyfriend where they talk and work through things instead of breaking up at every freakout like teenagers (which I appreciated)
-Tris actually cares about her relationship unlike Katniss who is a badass and is really confused why everyone’s worried about who her boyfriend is when she’s seventeen and the face of a rebellion, which is one of my favorite things about The Hunger Games series, because it’s a discussion with the reader. Why do you care about who your boyfriend is? Does it matter? You could be solving world hunger. I’m not saying its not ok to have a boyfriend, I have a boyfriend. I like my boyfriend. But I don’t like him because he’s my boyfriend, he’s my boyfriend because I like him. In high school (and after…), I feel like there can be pressure on girls to Have A Boyfriend, and that’s not really healthy. I’m totally getting on a tangent but to wrap it up, in the Divergent series Tris actually learns how to communicate within a relationship, and is still a badass, and that is awesome too. Things can be different and still awesome.
-In Divergent, once the rebellion starts, war is happening basically all the time, as opposed to the Boy Troubles/Normal Life à The Games/War conceit that is in a lot of YA (also see Harry Potter: Happy Magic School à oh it’s halfway through the book, time to fight Voldemort!)

I read these books in JANUARY and haven’t posted this because I had too many thoughts on the books, and my main problem with them is that they are NOT The Hunger Games, which isn’t REALLY a fair assessment. A friend of mine likes them better because it presents war in a more realistic light. I think the most fair thing to say about the books is that they are clearly a reaction to The Hunger Games, but I wouldn’t say that it talks about as many things as The Hunger Games does. Where Collins is discussing war, the media, and how women are viewed. (You can read a super smart interview with her here.) Roth seems to have a Strong Female Character dealing with war and rebellion. And while I think that Divergent is extremely entertaining, I’m not sure that I would get much more out of it on a second or third read. So I have to say that is DEFINITELY worth reading but NOT as good as The Hunger Games, but I love The Hunger Games too much to give anything but a biased verdict.

POSSIBLY one day I’ll read it again or see the movie and realize how brilliant it is.

If you didn’t like The Hunger Games, DON’T read it. If you loved Divergent, tell me about how wrong I am and what brilliance I’m missing. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Mad, Wicked Folly (3.5)

1909, an art class in France, a young, wealthy English finishing student named Vicky decides that to be a real artist, to be taken seriously by her peers, it is absolutely necessary for her to pose nude in front of her classmates. (You can skip the next paragraph if you just want to hear my opinions.)

So she gets kicked out of finishing school and sent home to parents that are way-less-than thrilled and give her two choices: marry a man of their choosing, or go live in a desolate countryside with her Aunt Spinster the Cat Lady. She decides it would be super fun to marry a rich man and then be able to do whatever she wants because she will no longer be under her parents thumb....but THEN she meets a super hot (but poor) cop after she gets kind of arrested while drawing some suffragettes. What follows is a story about love and a young woman learning how to be her own person.

I don't have much to say about this except that it's cute. If you have any passing knowledge about feminism or suffragettes, want to learn more, and are already a feminist this book certainly won't open your eyes to any new information. If you want a love story and a woman who is more feminist-friendly than Bella, you're probably good to go. If this book BLOWS YOUR FREAKING MIND that things used to be that way, you should go read/see A Doll's House IMMEDIATELY.

My shiny new rating system:
Entertainment value: 5
Love Story: 4
Value as Feminist Literature: 2
More Feminist than Cosmo? probably
Better than Twilight? yes
More aww-inspiring than the end of Pride and Prejudice? nope

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Line (4)

I loved this book. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is because it didn't change my life in some profound way, but it was a perfectly fun book. I binge read the second half of instead of sleeping last night. (I mean, I slept, but not for a proper 8-hour length of time.)

Twenty-year-old Mercy has been following in her twin sister, Maisie’s, footsteps ever since they were born. Pretty, smart, and powerful Maisie is sure to be the next matriarch of their family. Mercy, on the other hand, is a redheaded tomboy who received none of her family’s powers. When disaster strikes her family, the twins are separated, and Mercy has to learn to rely on her own brand of power.

On the surface, this book has everything every other paranormal YA book has: a young woman whose mother died giving birth to her and has never known her father, being raised by a family who despises her for being different. AND she’s dating her best friend from birth but is actually in love with her sister’s boyfriend, and is torn between him and her love for her twin. But author J.D. Horn takes all of those paranormal YA stereotypes and turns them on their head and breaks them. Right when I think it’s turned all sappy BAM! You thought that was the direction the book was going but NOPE, isn’t this more fun? (Yes, it is. No one needs another cut and dry Edward-Bella-Jacob(-Bella’s Daugther???) novel ever again.) Yes, there was some stuff I saw coming, but it was framed nicely. Every character and every situation was put into the novel for a specific purpose, and it all tied together nicely.

Renesmee?? This is definitely how I named one of my characters when I was 15.
Also, creepy. I almost want to watch this movie now to see how they made this work.
(If you don't know what I'm talking about you don't want to. ...but google "Jacob & Renesmee" and you'll figure it out)
I did feel like the end dragged on a bit. I kept expecting it to be over with a nice “to-be-continued” swoosh so you have to go read the next book to see what happens, but unlike most YA series, I felt that this could be a stand alone novel, kind of like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s (Philosopher’s) Stone. You come back to the next book for the pure enjoyment of reading and attachment to the character, not because you have to see if Bella and Edward get back together*. And I really appreciated that.

*I feel like I just ragged on Twilight a lot, which is silly because I totally binge read all four of those books and definitely enjoyed them. I get that the writing style felt like reading my 14-year-old journal but it was super entertaining and I was totally Team Edward. The end of the last book was RIDICULOUS. The movies were ridiculous. That being said, I found the whole story very satisfying. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My New Spirit Animal + May Kid's Books

Boyfriend: Are you reading a picture book?
Me: Yes
My inner monologue: Don't you read my blog? what kind of a boyfriend are you? the non-stalker kind?
Me: For teaching. I want to find good books to read to the kids. And I use them for acting class scripts sometimes.
Boyfriend: Oh!
His Inner Monologue: I thought the recent Game of Thrones had so psychologically damaged you you gave up reading books for grown ups.

See, he cares.

This Month's Picture Books

Super cute book for little ones that gets them involved in the action, with something for them to do before you turn each page. 

"Make loud noises to distract them!" -- my favorite thing to do in class, probably not my neighbors favorite thing for me to do in class...

Definitely saving this one for the little kid classes I'm teaching this summer!

I have a confession: I was never super into Maurice Sendak, as a child. I think Where the Wild Things Are scared me. (So did The Muppets and most of the rides at Disneyland, to be fair.) This book is like an acid trip eulogy, so also probably would have scared me as a child.

I mean, it is a eulogy. To his brother, his partner, his youth. So it's sad. But pretty.

Good thing I have like six months till I'm actually teaching because I'm pretty bad at finding kid's books I would actually read to children.

This Month's Middle Reader
(good enough for adults)

I LOVED this book. I would argue that this is good enough for adults to read -  like the Disney movie equivalent of a middle reader book.

 Thirteen-year-old Nate, with the help of his best friend Libby, decides to run away to New York City to audition for E.T. The Musical.

This is every (theatre) kid's fantasy, obviously: to run away from his hick town where no one likes him or understands him, and find a place where he feels home. Yet, author Tim Federle makes the tale feel fresh, peppering Nate's inner monologue with his own brand of swearing -- using sensationally terrible Broadway musical flops instead of your average swear words, such as: "Holy Sideshow! - A Broadway musical about circus freaks." This made it extra fun for me, since I have actually heard of most of these shows. I really believed Nate's experience in the audition room, and I think it's the kind of story every theatre kid should read, because it's filled with some Don'ts, but also some Do's, aand I think it really shows that the most important thing in the audition room is to Be Yourself and to remember that Broadway is are here because you love it more than anything. And sometimes, that's a fun reminder for adults as well.

It's everything NPH is singing about at 6:00
(PS I am 100% sure he deserved his Tony Award nom this year, even if he is super famous.)

Tim Federle used to dance on Broadway and now writes children's books and cocktail recipes, which I realized when I glanced at the cover of this book that I bought last week sitting on my desk:

SO BASICALLY Tim Federle is my new spirit animal and I'm going to go stalk him on twitter now.