Friday, December 31, 2010

100 Word Review: Sworn to Silence

If you are a fan of crime/thriller novels, then you may have heard of Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.  I saw it on multiple "to-be-read" lists on Goodreads.com and it has good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.  It was also a NYT bestseller, so I downloaded it to my Kindle and began reading it on Christmas Eve.  Maybe this thriller was a poor choice for the holiday.  Maybe I should have chosen an inspirational book or a historical romance for this time of year.  I wasn't aware of what I was getting into, that's for sure.  If you are a big fan of Criminal Minds, CSI, and other crime shows, you will probably enjoy this book.  I enjoy those shows, but I'm uncomfortable with how explicit some of the material can be.  I often get completely "creeped out" by them (especially Criminal Minds).  This book is very much like that, but with the freedom to be completely graphic where network television (and even cable) cannot go.  I had a little trouble sleeping a couple of nights and I'm glad I am finished with this work of crime fiction (please, oh please, let it be completely fiction). 

Here's my 100 word review of Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo.


An evil, sadistic, serial killer in a small Ohio town.
An Amish girl fights back ending the killing spree.
No one must know...A family sworn to silence.
Sixteen years later, the killer returns.
But, how?  Who will stop him?



Graphic violence...way too much for me.
Horrific detail...really hard to read.
Excessive bad language...gratuitous.
Disturbing...Intense...Suspenseful...Terrifying...


The plot seemed very familiar...like a Lifetime Channel movie.  I Googled to find out if a television movie had been made (not yet).
Too much of the crime story...not enough of the much more interesting Amish story.
(100)





Thursday, December 23, 2010

100 Word Review: The Graveyard Book

I don't read a lot of YA literature.  It's not that I don't like YA, but my to-be-read list is huge and very little of it is YA.  I know of a lot of avid readers and bloggers who read mostly YA, and after reading Neil Gaiman's Newbery Award winning The Graveyard Book, I can see why.  If this is a typical YA book, I'm switching genres. 
I decided to read this book because my almost eleven-year-old daughter, an extremey avid reader, asked if she could read it.  I had heard the book was a bit "controversial" (whatever that means these days), so I told her I would read it and decide if it was right for her.  Even though the beginning and end of the book are a bit scary, this is not a horror book.  It's really a retelling of a children's classic.  I think my bookworm daughter will thoroughly enjoy it, as I did.  I plan to read more Gaiman.  He's a very talented storyteller.  And, guess what?  No vampires! 

Here's my 100 word review of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.

Three murders...not four.

A knife-wielding man named Jack.

An orphan without a name...a real Nobody.

Raised and protected by the residents of the graveyard.

Isolated, but never alone.  Safe among the dead.
 
The man named Jack, somewhere outside the graveyard gates, waits for Nobody.

An amazing cast of characters, dead and alive.

Funny...Sad...
Eerie...Creepy...
Whimsical...Clever...
Mysterious...Suspenseful...
Charming...

A mature, deep, emotional story with beautiful language that makes the reader learn to live from the lessons of the dead.

Rudyard Kipling would enjoy this modern and crafty retelling of his classic, The Jungle Book.

(100)







    

My son, the Ninja Magi...

My darling children participated in our church Nativity play last Sunday.  I knew Darling Daughter (almost 11) would do just fine.  She played the prophetess Anna who worshipped day and night at the temple.  She knew exactly where to stand (or kneel in this case), what to say, and what NOT to do. 

But, Darling Son (3 1/2) had me worried.  He had a pretty big role, a dual role in fact:  one of the Magi and Jesus ("Not Baby Jesus, Mommy.  Almost four-year-old Jesus." he proudly told me after the dress rehearsal.)  DS had done great in his school Christmas play the week before and enjoyed himself so much, maybe this would go really well.  Maybe...

I knew we were in trouble when DS awakened Sunday morning and stated that he wasn't going to be in the play at all.  His stubborn streak is immeasurable.  We all coaxed and begged, but he wouldn't budge.  DH told DS that he would be in the play or he would be in time-out all day (Oh, sure. That'll work! Just like a man).  DS didn't budge an inch.  He wasn't doing it.  Period.

We arrived at church and the children were all getting into their adorable costumes.  DS began to scream and cling to me as if the floor were covered in snakes.  I was ready to give up, make our apologies, and find a new congregation, when DD came up with the one trick that changed DS's stubborn mind.  "If you do it, Mommy will buy you a toy."  Bribery.  Why didn't I think of that?  Oh yeah, because it's Christmas, I have no bribery money, I didn't want to stoop to that level, I DON"T want to go shopping, AND DS wins!

It surely worked.  The tears immediately stopped.  A big smile appeared on his chapped lips.  An "I knew if I threw a big enough fit I'd get a toy" twinkle appeared in his eye.  Grrrrr....

DD got him dressed and I went off to join the other parents praying that their kid wouldn't be the one to ruin the whole production.

DS spent much of the time waiting to hit the stage picking his nose, adjusting his Magi hat, and climbing over the back of the chair. 

We're so proud...


DD did her part perfectly (in the middle). 
Of course, she's a pro by now. 


Well, Baby Jesus had been born and it was time for the Magi to visit.  DS didn't have the "gold" to bring to the newborn King.  He'd left it in the dressing room.  No problem.

It was time for his big line:  "Where is the King of the Jews?"  He delivered it almost perfectly in his sweet 3 1/2 year old voice with his mouth completely engulfing the microphone:  "Where is the King of the Juice?"
The audience smiled and laughed softly.

As the Magi sat around the throne of King Herod, it was time for another older child to speak.  He had several lines.  He was dressed as a soldier with a sword.  I believe he was one of King Herod's highly trained guards, but DS managed to unsheath the soldier's sword while he was delivering his lines.  Another magi and DS wrestled over the sword for at least a minute.  Neither would even consider letting go.  DS finally wrenched it away from the older, stronger, magi (as DH pointed out).  For the next several minutes, things turned "bloody".  DS "sawed" off the arm of the soldier, put several viscious "slashes" across his back, and finally "beheaded" the soldier just as he finished his last line.  DS had become Ninja Magi! 
The audience was rolling in laughter, as were DH and I.  There was nothing else to do.  It was hilarious!  DH didn't even take a picture because he was laughing too hard.


Once the magi and shepherds went to visit Baby Jesus in the manger, DS decided to "shoot" at the narrator across the stage during this dramatic scene where he was supposed to be worshipping the newborn King.  I guess Mary and Joseph could have hired DS as a bodyguard for Baby Jesus.  I mean, it was a dangerous time.  So, DS really had three roles in the play:  Ninja Magi, Baby Jesus's bodyguard, and "almost four-year-old" Jesus.  DH and I might become stage parents!
The other young children quickly followed DS's lead.  One was twirling his crown on his arm while spinning in a circle doing some pretty good tricks.  A shepherd boy was tripping others with his staff.  The star refused to climb the ladder above the manger.  And so on...
The older children were either cracking up or mortified (guess which one DD was...totally emabarrassed).

The play came to an end with DS playing "almost four-year-old" Jesus (He grew in wisdom and stature...).  He had the last line of the play, which I think was supposed to be "Joy to the world."  The director tried to hand him the microphone.  DS crossed his arms and refused to speak.  I wonder if "almost four-year-old" Jesus had this kind of attitude?  Somehow, I doubt it.
 
Oh well...we all knew how the story ended.  The audience gave the children a standing ovation. 
When DS came to us we hugged him and told him what a great job he had done (what were we supposed to say?).

Can you guess the first words out of his mouth?  That's right..."Mommy, I'm ready to go get my new toy now." 
And do you know that DD followed with, "Can I get something too since I got him to do the play?"  Seriously?

I think I'm about to become Ninja Mommy!                          
(DS with bribery toy.  DD got a book.  Grrrr!)

Merry Christmas from our loony family to yours!  If you need your Nativity yard display guarded by a Ninja Magi, just let me know.          

     

   

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010 Wrap-up



Another big thanks to Katrina @ Callapidder Days for hosting this annual challenge.  I can't wait to see everyone else's conquered lists.  Mine is longer than I expected (mainly because I don't want to read my grad school books--BORING!).  Here's my original list

I've reviewed, in exactly 100 words, each one of the books I finished on this blog as I finished them:  World Without End, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, On Folly Beach, Her Mother's Hope, The Confession, and Pearl in the Sand




Katrina asked the questions below of her Fall Challenge participants.  I'm happy to oblige.  Also, I'm looking forward to the spring challenge.  You should give it a go, too.   

1,  Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not?
I read 3 of the 4 on my original list.  I'm reading two that were not on my original list now.  I plan to read Sworn to Silence next, but I bumped it for a couple of others along the way.
2.  Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?
My goal was set low because of the business this time of year, but I was able to add a couple of books. 

3.  What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why?
They were all very different and I liked them all, but I really enjoyed Pearl in the Sand above the others.    The story is just captivating and I couldn't put it down.  My least favorite is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  It took way too long to become interesting.  Maybe it was the translation. 


4.  Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? Did you love them? Not love them?
Tessa Afshar (Pearl in the Sand) is definitely someone I plan to read again.  She's a great storyteller.  I love historical fiction, but Biblical historical fiction is becoming one of my favorite genres.


5.  Did you learn something new because of Fall Into Reading 2010 – something about reading, about yourself, or about a topic you read about? 
I learned more about the imbalance and inconsistencies of the U.S. justice system concerning the death penalty in The Confession.  I learned a lot about Israelite culture in Pearl in the Sand.  I'm still really, really, glad that I wasn't born in the 1300s (World Without End).  I've decided to get a bottle tree in my backyard after reading On Folly Beach.  And, I sympathized and related to the mother in Her Mother's Hope and want to make sure my daughter feels my love each day because of the relationship presented in that great story.

6.  What was your favorite thing about the challenge?
No pressure!  It's just for people who enjoy to read at the pace they want to read.  I also enjoyed the weekly questions Katrina emailed to the participants.  How different people are!  I'm looking forward to the Spring challenge.  I guess I'll be catching up on my grad school reading until then.  Blah!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

100 Word Review: Pearl in the Sand

I had never heard of Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar until my BFF, amazon.com, recommended it to me because amazon.com loves me and wants me to be happy (and knows what purchases I've made over the past fifteen years).  I added it to my ever growing wish list and forgot all about it.  But, it just wouldn't seem to go away.  I kept seeing it on people's "must read" lists and decided to bump it up to the top of my own list.  I'm really glad I did.  I thoroughly enjoyed this account of Rahab (yes, that Rahab).  The story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho is one of my favorite Bible stories.  It's always seemed odd to me that Rahab chose to save the Israelite spies.  This historic Biblical work of fiction made this story really come alive.  You should add it to your "must read" list soon.  Here's my 100 word review.

100 Word Review:  Pearl in the Sand

 A future believed lost to save her family.
A Canaanite harlot...disgraced and full of shame.



Impenetrable Jericho walls and an inpenetrable human heart.  Neither can keep out the one true God.

Two spies...
stalks of flax on a rooftop...
a lie...
a promise...
a scarlet cord...
an entire family saved...

Falling in love...impossible?
Being worthy of love and forgiveness...how can that be?

A beautiful story of the span of God's love and forgiveness and how He can use anyone from anywhere to fulfill His plans. 
Maybe this fictional interpretation is Rahab's real story.
I hope so.

(100)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

100 Word Review: The Confession

It's been a long time since I've read a John Grisham novel.  I used to read them as soon as they hit the shelves, but I guess I just got out of my Grisham phase somewhere around the time I had my first child.  I preordered this book on my Kindle about a month before it came out.  Honestly, it was just fun to preorder a book and know that it "arrived" at midnight on the day of its release.  It took me a while to read because of grad school papers, full time job stuff, and, oh yeah, parenting.  But, I'm glad I read The Confession.  It's classic Grisham with a bit of a twist.  Fair warning:  if you are a death penalty proponent, you'll be challenged.  If, like me, you struggle with the death penalty, your reasons for opposing it will be strengthened.  Sadly, I think The Confession is more fact than fiction.  It's a good legal thriller.  See what you think.  Here's my 100 word review.

100 Word Review:  The Confession by John Grisham

Innocent but "proven" guilty in a court of law.
Racism...
Perjury...
A forced confession...
A life ruined...
A family torn apart...


A lawyer determined to stop his client's execution.
A preacher forced to break the law to try to save a life.
The real killer decides to tell the truth, but is it too late?

Suspenseful...Painful...Gritty...Real...Believable

A close-up look at the U.S. justice system through the eyes of an innocent man.
How do you defend yourself against a lie?
Is anyone innocent until proven guilty?

Not Grisham's best, but a very readable, emotional, challenging, story.

(100)


     

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Forty-Two

I turned 42 yesterday.  I got my hair cut.  We went out to eat and to a movie.  My 3 year old didn't throw food or burp loudly.  I got a zebra Snuggie (with pockets!) and a Starbucks gift card.  I slept well.  It was a nice day.


A few of my friends have read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.  I'm not a big sci-fi fan, so I haven't read it or seen the movie.  When one of my friends found out I was about to be 42 she said that "42 is the Answer to the Ultimate Question, the Universe, and Everything."  Apparantly there's a big deal about the number 42 in the book.


So, I guess I'm supposed to be super intelligent now.......for one year. 
I can deal with that. 

And, since I'm so amazingly genius-like, I thought you needed to benefit from my awesomeness.  
(You're welcome.)        
I have compiled for you two lists of 42 brilliant suggestions. 
The first list is 42 books I'm so glad I read (which means you should definitely read them...because I'm 42 and the answer to everything...including which books you should read).
The second list is 42 movies I'm happy I watched (which means you should watch them...you get it by now).
This is by no means a complete list of all the books and movies you should experience, but I have this 42 thing going on. 
The lists are in random order (spat out as I remembered them). 
Feel free to reorder them to your inferior preference. 
I will read any suggestions you leave in a comment for a movie to watch or a book to see, but I'll wait until I'm 43 to do it. 


42 Books I’m so glad I read:

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini 
3. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
4. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
6. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
7. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
9. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Winston Rawls
11. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
12. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
13. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
14. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
16. A Time to Kill by John Grisham
17. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines
18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
19. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
20. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
21. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
22. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
23. The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye
24. The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory
25. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
26. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
27. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
28. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
29. The Shining by Stephen King
30. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
31. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
32. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brian
33. A Bride Most Begrudging by DeeAnne Gist
34. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engel
35. The Giver by Lois Lowry
36. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
37. The Red Tent by Anita Diamont
38. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
39. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
40. Oh the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
41. Same Kind Of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
42. The Green Mile by Stephen King


42 Movies I’m so glad I saw:

1. Braveheart
2. Gladiator
3. Forrest Gump
4. The Princess Bride ("As you wish.....!)
5. The Shawshank Redemption
6. Glory
7. The Godfather (trilogy) (especially the 2nd--DeNiro and Pacino!)
8. The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)
9. Pride and Prejudice
10. Seven
11. Platoon
12. Fried Green Tomatoes
13. Steel Magnolias
14. Ghost
15. Sea Biscuit
16. Apollo 13
17. The Last of the Mohicans
18. Million Dollar Baby
19. Cinderella Man
20. Sleepless in Seattle
21. Remember the Titans
22. Star Wars
23. The Empire Strikes Back
24. Return of the Jedi
25. Rocky
26. Titanic
27. Up
28. Field of Dreams
29. Dances With Wolves
30. Gone With the Wind
31. Say Anything
32. Schindler’s List
33. The Lion King
34. Finding Nemo
35. The Silence of the Lambs
36. Jaws
37. The Pianist
38. The Sound of Music
39. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
40. Ladyhawke
41. Hoosiers
42. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

What do you think? 
How many have you read/seen? 
What should be #43 on each list?



Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Early Bird...and The Thankful Worm

My Darling Son has never slept in on a Saturday morning, and today is no exception.  He rolled out of bed full-steam at 6:12 demanding his cup of milk and chocolate chip granola bar.  I've wished so many times that he would sleep late...just once...so maybe I could.  But, alas, he's an early bird...and I'm the worm. 

While I was checking my email...blurry-eyed...wishing I was snoozing away like Dear Hubby and Delightful Daughter, Darling Son was curled up in his Daddy's chair watching cartoons.  Suddenly he says, "Mommy, can you come over here and give me a big ol' hug?  I just love you and you're awesome!" 

What a hug it was.  Better than sleeping in, by a long shot.  I'm glad I'm the worm.  I'm one thankful worm.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

100 Word Review: Her Mother's Hope

I really enjoy reading Francine Rivers.  Redeeming Love is one of my all-time favorite books.  She's a master storyteller and does great historical research for her epic novels.  You can't read a Rivers book without learning a lot.  Her Mother's Hope does not disappoint and I'm looking forward to the sequel, Her Daughter's Dream.  Here's my 100 word review of Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers.

Epic story of the complicated relationship between a mother and daughter.
 
A fear-driven mother, determined her daughter will not repeat the past.

A daughter who has never felt the love and acceptance of her mother.

Emotionally gripping...
Thought provoking...
Raw...
Painful...
Powerful...

Realistic, genuine, flaw-filled characters...


Made me think about the way I talk to and treat my husband and children.

Cutting words...Biting tone of voice...Perceptions and assumptions...Dangerous for relationships...

A lesson in faith, the power of prayer, and redemption.

A bit rushed in the last few chapters, but an engrossing and well-written story.

(100)

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Awesome Hubby! Educator of the Week!



Like most teachers, my Dear Hubby works very hard and brings home hours of work each week.  Today he came home with a framed "Educator of the Week" certificate on top of his huge stack of papers to grade and lesson planning books.  I'm so proud of him!!!  It was really thoughtful of one of his students to nominate David for this award.  Middle schoolers aren't always known for their thoughtfulness.  David is very humbled (and a little embarrassed), but extremely deserving of this award.  So, here's my "shout out" to a great hubby, father, role model, and teacher.  Congratulations, Honey!
Love,
Mrs. "Educator of the Week" 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

100 Word Review: On Folly Beach

We spent the past week in South Florida visiting my parents, so I wanted to read a "beach book" while I was relaxing at the beach (actually, I was chasing kids, collecting shells with kids, applying sunscreen to kids, keeping kids from getting caught in a rip current, trying to get sand off of kids--you know...relaxing).  Amazon.com "suggested" (many times) that I would like On Folly Beach by Karen White.  Since Amazon.com and I have a very intimate relationship, I downloaded the book to my Kindle and hit I-75 south.  After finishing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earlier this week, I eagerly looked forward to something, well....less brutal, horrifying, and haunting.  On Folly Beach was exactly what I was looking for (and, unlike Dragon, Folly is refreshingly clean in language).  What a great historical mystery novel set in South Carolina.  This was my first Karen White book, but it won't be my last.  Thank you Amazon.com!  You know me so well (and you should after all the $ I've given you).

Here's my 100 word review of On Folly Beach.

Two wars. 

Two widows.

Seamlessly interwoven stories.

Lulu—a Nancy Drew wannabe—the character that ties past to present.

Bottle Trees—An African slave tradition to ward off evil spirits—central to both stories.

A brilliant blending of history and mystery…

Secret messages written in book margins…

A wonderful story of bravery, grief, redemption, love, forgiveness, and…learning when to move on.

Not a predictable, mushy, romance novel.

Read it on the beach or in front of a crackling fire…just read it.

I’m very tempted to put a bottle tree in my yard.

I bet you will be, too.


(100)

Monday, October 18, 2010

100 Word Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

For awhile, I thought I was the only person that had not read this book.  But, since it is still on the New York Times top ten best seller list I guess I'm not.  I only recently found out that Stieg Larsson died in 2004 after writing the Millennium Trilogy (Dragon is the first of the three novels).  I also read that he, at 15, witnessed a horrific crime against a young woman and never forgave himself for not being able to help her.  That pain and regret is obvious in this novel.  Larsson was definitely a talented storyteller.  Let me say, this is NOT a book for teens.  At 41, I'm not sure I'm old enough for some of this story.  Downright creepy.  Here's my 100 word review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Not your typical crime thriller.
Hard to get into.  It took 7 chapters to find the story (actually 3 stories) at all interesting.
Lots of characters, some of them lifeless, with difficult Swedish names.
There is a geneology page (thankfully) to help out.



Suspenseful...
Complex...
Intense...
Intriguing...
Violent...
Graphic...
Disturbing...

A mysterious disappearance.
Unspeakable family secrets.
Contractual obligations.
Corporate warfare.
Revenge.

Fascinating peek into elements of Swedish society.

A bit overrated and over-the-top at times, but a very interesting story.

I'm glad I didn't quit in the first 100 pages, but I'm not sure I'll read the sequels. 

(100) 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

100 Word Review: World Without End

After reading Pillars of the Earth last spring, I just had to dive into this "sequel" (if you can call it that--it takes place 200 years after the end of Pillars).  Ken Follett is quite a storyteller (he would have to be since his books are 1000 pages +).  Here's my 100 word review of World Without End by Ken Follett.



Powerless serfs...
Ambitious and cruel earls...
Not so shining knights...
Cowardly and corrupt priors...
Naughty nuns...
and infamous outlaws...

Throw in a collapsed bridge, murders and murderous plots, a one-armed monk with a secret past, a buried letter, accusals of witchcraft, the plague, and forbidden loves and Follett has written another fascinating story set in 1300 England.

Not for the faint hearted:  barbaric and graphic throughout.  Follett likes to shock and even offend.
But the story always shines through with strong characters, plot twists and turns, and strong historical accuracy.

Not as good as Pillars, but hard to put down.
(100) 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Garrett's Caterpillar Dance

My parents bought a remote controlled Caterpillar bulldozer for Garrett for his 3rd birthday. He has played with it often, but yesterday he decided to dance to the Caterpillar tune it plays when you hit a certain button...over and over and over again. We're so proud. We're thinking he has a Dancing With the Stars Future. By the way, his arm is supposed to be a guitar. It's hard to tell.  I'm not sure why his eyes are closed. Maybe he's picturing himself onstage at a concert. Or maybe, it's just fun to jump around with your eyes closed. Try it. I did. I still have a headache. I'm too old to jump around with or without my eyes closed.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yes, (fill in name here)...there is a Santa Clause!

Last night, I had one of those parenting moments when you just don't know what to say. 

I should have known it was coming...there have been clues.
 
The Easter Bunny fell first last spring.  She told me the day after Easter.  He just stopped making sense to her.  Why would a bunny, and a giant bunny at that, bring eggs?  Good question, darling brilliant daughter.
 
Then the Tooth Fairy fell during the summer.  I think the movie had something to do with that.  How convenient that the Tooth Fairy had just left $5 for a particularly yucky dentist visit that involved the early removal of a molar.  Dear daughter was smart enough to "keep believing" in the Tooth Fairy until she had cashed in.

But Santa? 
Not dear, old, Saint Nick. 
Not yet.
 
I'm not ready for this part of her childhood to be gone. 
It's too soon.
(Is it bad for tears to soak my laptop?)

When I was a little younger than my ten year old daughter, I stopped believing in Santa.  My parents wanted my younger sister to keep believing, and I guess they feared that I would destroy her childhood with my disbelief (I probably would have), so they got my uncle to dress as Santa and arranged for my sister and I to "catch" Santa in the act of leaving presents under the tree.  It worked.  I believed in Santa until I was thirteen.  (Yes, I was the only eighth grader in the world who still believed in Santa and, yes, I still have emotional scars from the ridicule of my classmates and my little sister who had stopped believing long before I did). 
I guess I was just really sad that Santa was no longer a part of my life.  My parents and grandparents had always made Christmas wonderful and they knew it would never be the same again once it wasn't about Santa anymore. 
Anyway, my mom found a copy of a letter written to The New York Sun back in 1897 by a little girl named Virginia who wanted to know if Santa was real.  Newsman Francis Pharcellus Church wrote The Sun's response to Virginia. The response is exactly what I wish I could have said to my darling doubting daughter last night when she asked me if there really was a Santa.  I've never forgotten this letter.  When I was sixteen, I purchased a Christmas ornament with the letter and response printed inside.  It's still one of my favorite ornaments. 
I plan to print a copy for my daughter.  Maybe it will affect her like it did me. 
Deep down...I still believe in Santa Clause.  Don't you?  I bet you will after you read it.    

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.



"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.  Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'  Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
VIRGINIA O'HANLON
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET."


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.


You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

(Okay, lots of tears on my laptop.  I'm glad I bought the extended warranty.)

Now, go start your Christmas shopping.  And don't forget to hide the Santa gifts really well. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010

Katrina @ Callapidder Days is sponsoring her annual Fall Into Reading challenge.  I enjoyed the Spring Reading challenge, so I thought I'd participate in this challenge as well.  Because I'm in graduate school and working full time (not to mention raising two kids), I'm keeping my list reasonable.  I hope to finish these books and maybe a couple more by the end of the challenge (December 20th).  This is a no pressure challenge and it's fun to see what the other participants are reading.  You can challenge yourself to a few books or a dozen--it doesn't matter.  I'm always looking for books to add to my "To Be Read" pile (like it's not big enough already).  I'll post my reviews of the books as I finish them and post a summary in December.  Why don't you join the challenge, too?  Just click on this link


1.  World Without End by Ken Follett:  After reading The Pillars of the Earth for the Spring Reading challenge, I had to pick the sequel for this challenge.  It takes place in the same town as Pillars, but 200 years later.  Follett is a master writer who really does his historical research.  This book is a little over 1000 pages, so I think it should count as 3 entries.  But, the way Follett writes, I won't be able to put it down.  


2.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson:  I guess I'm one of the few people who hasn't read this book.  I've seen it everywhere and the reviews are promising.  It's the first of a trilogy.  If I like it, at least I won't have to wait for the sequels to be released (as I did for Mockingjay).  The third one was released in May.

3.  Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo:  I'm in the mood for a good thriller, and I've heard this is a great one.  It's set in Ohio Amish country where a serial killer is on the loose.  The female police chief left the Amish faith and knows a secret that involves the case.  Could be interesting...I'll let you know.




4.  Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers:  I really love Francine Rivers' other books, especially Redeeming Love, so I'm looking forward to this book.  It has great reviews and is the first of a two part series.  Francine Rivers is one of the best out there for telling great stories with captivating characters.  I'm sure this book will not disappoint.



Well, that's it.  A short list, but I'll be spending most of my time reading books for my master's classes.  Believe me, they're not near as exciting. 
I hope you'll join the challenge.  Tell your friends.  The more, the merrier.  

100 Word Review: A Great And Terrible Beauty


A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray


Not great...Not beautiful...Mostly terrible...

The characters never really come together and were
unlikable, unsympathetic, and lifeless.

Just whining, pouting, teenagers each chapter.

Silly...Dull...Disjointed...Scattered...Confusing...

Concepts not explained throughly.

Lost my interest very early.

No moral compass.

Very inappropriate at times, especially for young teens.

Seeks to hit every modern "edgy" issue (the occult, homosexuality, cutting) even if unrelated to the plot.

Sad to say this is the first book I read on my new Kindle.  :(

Difficult to finish.

I will not read the sequels.

Wasted my money.   Don't waste yours.

I still LOVE my Kindle. :)

100 Word Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne collins

Like many of you who are fans of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I COULD NOT WAIT for the release of Mockingjay back in August (Tuesday, the 24th to be exact).  I pre-ordered the book from Amazon in June, received it on the August 25th, and tore into it.  I would like to say that I've been pondering this final book of the series for the last month before writing this review, but I've just been too busy to blog.  With work and graduate school and, oh yeah, kids, blogging has slipped on the priority ladder.  So, now that everyone has already read Mockingjay and half of you have written your own reviews full of literary analysis and expert criticisms, I will throw in my 100 words...exactly 100 words.  No spoilers below.  Oh, and if you're one of the few people who hasn't read this series, you might want to try it.  It's not for everyone, but it was sooooo for me.

     
100 Word Review....

Heartbreaking...

Haunting...Chilling...

Intense...

Brutal...Dark...

Painful...

Superbly written. 

Unpredicatable

Moments of greatness...

A YA book about so much more than teenage angst or romantic love.

What must a society be willing to lose to defeat evil?

A complex, heartwrenching, story with a cast of well defined characters and a suspenseful storyline.

A war story full of sacrifice and impossible choices.

A brave, strong, heroine (so rare in a YA book).

Buttercup (I cried)...

A fitting ending to an utterly amazing story.

Not what I expected...better!

I devoured this book.

By the way, I now dislike roses.  You too?

One Lovely Blog Award

Thanks to Annell @ Dragonflowersandbooks for the award.  My very first for blogging.  It made my day...and then I got really guilty about my blogging absence.  You've inspired me to get back to it, Annell.  Thanks again! 

Rules:
1.Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
2.Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
3.Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.


So now I pass on this award to bloggers I've recently discovered and really like (in no particular order). Here's to you awesome bloggers!

Lisa Notes...On Seeing God
My Friend Amy
Callapidder Days
Love Well
Amy's Humble Musings
The Art of Doing Stuff
Sock Monkey and Gee
Coal Creek Farm
Country Mouse Chatter House
The Mama Bird Diaries
Bugs In My Teeth
No Ordinary Moments
A Holy Experience
Because I Said So
The Mother Load

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A little quiz...

Okay, this is an interactive post.  Sally over at Queenie & the Dew posted this great reader's quiz and challenged others to answer the questions and post them.  The questions and my answers are below.  I would love for you to answer any/all of the questions in a post and provide a link in the comments.  (Or, you can just answer in the comments if you don't want to post it.)  I always find it interesting what others are reading/have read/want to read/loved/hated... 

Don't be shy.  Jump right in.  Nobody's "grading" these answers.  Everyone gets at "A+" for effort. 

The "Quiz":

1.  What are you reading right now?
I just started Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

2.  Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
Either An Echo In The Darkness by Francine Rivers or The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon.

3.  What five books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Sophie's Choice by William Styron

4.  What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, Shape, Ladies Home Journal, All You

5.  What’s the worst thing you have ever read?
That's a tough one.  I don't read a lot of things that aren't reviewed well on Amazon.  But, I recently read Dear John by Nicholas Sparks and thought it was pretty terrible.
 
6.  What book seems really popular but you actually hated?
Well, see # 5.  I also really disliked Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.  I thought it was gross and horrible most of the book.  I wanted all the characters to die horrible deaths.  :)  It seems that I'm in the minority since it is critically acclaimed and receives great reader reviews.
 
7.  What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?
Can I have two?  I guess so since it's my blog.  :)

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

8.  What are your favourite poetry books?
The Poetry of Robert Frost:  The Collected Poems, Complete and Unabridged
Where the Sidewalk Ends and Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

9.  Admit it, the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
Not a chance.  I don't love the library.  I LOVE book stores.  I don't want to "borrow" a book that other people have already smudged.  I know...I'm a book snob.  I like to be the first to read a book and that's tough at the library.  I also keep a book forever if I love it.  The library has really picky rules about that.

10.  Do you read books while you eat? While you bathe? While you watch movies or TV? While you listen to music? While you’re on the computer?
Yes to all of the above and, sometimes, at red lights.  :)

11.  When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?
My Mom would make me go outside to play.  I would take a book and read under a big tree inside a Honeysuckle bush.  Ahhh... the smell.  I still love the scent of Honeysuckle.

12.  What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

13.  Have you ever “faked” reading a book?
In 9th grade, I "faked" reading Wuthering Heights.  In college, I went back and actually read it.  I loved it.

14.  Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
I loved the paperback cover of Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese.
It was also fabulous on the inside. 

15.  What was your favourite book when you were a child?
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  My 5th grade Language Arts teacher read it to us every Friday.  She never got through it without crying.  Neither have I.
I also loved the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series, Where the Red Fern Grows, and A Wrinkle in Time

16.  What book changed your life?
Simplest question on the quiz:  The Bible.

17.  What is your favourite passage from a book?
Such a hard question, but I found this passage from The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver to be particularly poignant and memorable. 

"A first child is your own best foot forward, and how you do cheer those little feet as they strike out. You examine every turn of flesh for precocity, and crow it to the world. But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after--oh, that' s love by a different name."

18.  What are your top five favourite authors?
John Steinbeck
Jane Austen
Suzanne Collins
Francine Rivers
Khaled Hosseini

19.  What book has no one heard about but should read?
The Far Pavillions by M.M. Kaye

20.  What books are you an “evangelist” for?
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

21.  What is your favourite book by a first-time author?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

22.  What is your favourite classic book?
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

The End.

Now I'm ready to see your answers.  Please send the link to the quiz to your friends and family to take, too.  The more the merrier.

Renee

Monday, July 12, 2010

100 Word Review: Hearts Awakening

My last two reads were a little heavy, so I was hoping for something easy and light this go around.  I won Hearts Awakening from a blog giveaway, so what's lighter than a free book?  This is my first Delia Parr book, but probably not my last.  Here's my 100 word review...

100 Word Review:  Hearts Awakening by Delia Parr

A spinster with exceedingly plain looks and nowhere to go.

A handsome widower with two young sons, a broken heart and spirit, and apple orchards needing his full attention.

An insulting proposition...only a business deal...nothing more...

A challenging cookstove...blistered hands and burned bread...

Gossip...Scandal...Secrets...Storms...

Yearning...Faith...Prayer...

Misunderstandings...Assumptions...Hurtful words...Unbridled anger...

Carved initials in a family apple tree...

"Poor Thing"...Griddle Cakes...Apple Fritters...

River Stones...a Sunday House...

A second chance with a lost love?

Inward beauty always shines through.

A quick read that is a somewhat predictable, but sweet story.



(100)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

100 Word Review: The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven



(I have decided to try something new. As I finish reading a book, I'm going to review it here in 100 words...exactly. I don't like to read long, drawn-out, spoiler, book reviews, so you won't find that here. I should hopefully be able to persuade you to read, or not read, a book in 100 words. I have found book reviews to be a lot like politics: both sides are right and wrong...and wordy. Those who like a book are right, except to those who disliked it. Those who dislike a book are right, except to those who liked it. So, whether I like a book or not, 100 words is all you get. And, I promise not to give away too much of the story. Here we go... )


The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fistfight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Twenty-four interlinked stories that take place in and around the Spokane Indian Reservation.


If you've seen the movie Smoke Signals, you'll recognize many characters.


The Introduction is a must-read (hilarious). 


Brutally honest.

Rough, but often sweet.


Funny at times.  Profoundly sad in between.


Alcohol...Anger...Basketball...BIA...
Crazy Horse...Despair...Diet Pepsi...
Dogs...Dreams...Drugs...Drunkenness...Fireworks...
Fry Bread...Hopelessness...Humiliation...Laughter...
Racism...Tradition

Dark.

A LOT of bad language (too much for me). 
Disruptive to the stories, in my opinion.

Favorite story: Indian Education

I wanted to like this book.  I tried.  I couldn't.

Maybe you will.

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