Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Scary Stories illustrated by Barry Moser....Review

Scary Stories

Illustrated by Barry Moser

Published: 2006

This is a book of short stories compiled of different authors. There are twenty stories in all. This is the first time I have read a book of short stories by different authors, and I am so very glad I did! It made me want to read more of this kind. I found quite a few new authors that I want to read more of, and several scary stories that I really liked, although I didn’t like all of them. There weren’t any that I found awful, but I definitely had favorites and some that I didn’t care for.

My favorites were:

Kittens by Dean Koontz

The Bus-Conductor by E.F. Benson

The Terrible Old Man by H. P. Lovecraft

John Charrington’s Wedding by E. Nesbit

The Furnished Room by O. Henry

The Man Upstairs by Ray Bradbury

The Music on the Hill by Saki

There were several others I liked by Edgar Allan Poe, Truman Capote, Roald Dahl and a few others, but they weren’t favorites within this collection. There were only a couple I didn’t like, the main one of which was Thanksgiving by Joyce Carol Oates. It didn’t feel like a story, no real beginning or end, it felt more like an excerpt of a larger story.

Overall I really enjoyed reading these stories, they all had a good creepy feel to them without being too gruesome. It was shelved as Young Adult at my library, but I am not sure why, it didn’t feel Young Adult to me and most of the authors represented within it don’t write or haven’t written Young Adult books, It would be appropriate for young adults though. I would recommend this to anyone who likes short stories, especially spooky ones, and likes to look for new authors to read. It would also make a great gift for someone that likes to read haunting tales of various kinds.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Son of a Nutcracker!!

One of my VERY favorite Christmas traditions is going to watch The Nutcracker, performed by Texas Ballet Theater at Bass Hall every year. Everything about it is magical...the music, the costumes, the dancing, the other patrons dressed up in holiday dress, as well as dressing up ourselves. The feeling of Christmas is in the air!
      We sit in the upper gallery as usual to get a great view of the action. When the lights go out, the music starts, and the opening scenes begin, my eyes and heart get a thrill. I love seeing the Staulbaum family gathered for their Christmas party inside their house. There is a beautiful fireplace, Christmas tree, and grand staircase. Along with a large amount of floor space for all the dancing and carrying on. When Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara's godfather, arrives with the nutcracker the excitement kicks into overload.
      The Christmas tree really seems to grow bigger when Clara awakes a small girl in her dream and goes downstairs to find the nutcracker. The mice are funny but do a great job at scaring Clara, and the nutcracker is so wonderful as her rescuer. When he turns into the prince and transforms the mansion into the land of snow the theater starts to have snow falling down on the audience. This is one of my favorite parts, it doesn't actually fall on us in the upper gallery, but it is so magical to see it falling through the air in front of us.
      After intermission Clara and the prince arrive in the Kingdom of Sweets and the dances that are performed for her are an enchanting spectacle. The music makes me want to jump up and dance myself, even though I can't dance haha! When Clara awakes and the story is over I clap wildly and my smile is as wide as a Cheshire cat!!...but I am also sad I have to wait a whole year to see it again.
      The Nutcracker premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia in December of 1892. Tchaikovsky's music was blended with the choreography of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov to form the ballet which is based on the story 'The Nutcracker and the Mouse King' written in 1816 by German author E.T.A. Hoffman. The San Francisco Ballet premiered the ballet in America in 1944. I love that every year I get to be a part of something that has been making Christmas magical for people for that long. The only way it could get better for us is if the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra were to play the music live in the pit as we watched. My eldest wild thing and I lament that missing piece every year, but we don't lament long, it's just too good to worry about it.
      Another fun part of the evening is shopping before the show. They have all kinds of Nutcracker goodies set up in the foyer area of the Hall. We bought two ornaments this year, one of Clara with her nutcracker, her dress is made of real lace. The other is Herr Drosselmeyer with his nutcracker gift, his cape is real and velvety. We had a fun, enchanting evening at the show, full of magic and wonder....can't wait for next year!!
Merry Christmas everyone and  have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote...Review

A Christmas Memory
By Truman Capote
Original Copyright: 1956
Published as a book with illustrations by Beth Peck: 1989

I love this book. Let me just say that again, "I love this book." It is so very sweet, and sad, and sweet, and sad. It is sadly sweet. Truman Capote does a wonderful job at putting the reader in the story. I can imagine and feel everything that happens. I am in the little old house, I am a seven year old boy but also a sixty-something year old woman. I am excited for Christmas, and fruitcake making, I love Queenie the dog and am completely enthralled in everything that happens and all of the preparations that have to be made in the story. Every word evokes the love that the two main characters have for one another, and the simple friendship that keeps their lives interesting and full, even though they don't travel far from their "kitchen with its view of a sky that stops". In fact it reminds me that to have a rich life one doesn't need to travel far or do extravagant things, all that is needed is a joyful and generous heart, gratitude for the people around us, and a cheerful imagination.
      The sixty-something year old woman in the story calls the seven year old boy Buddy, they are distant cousins and live together in a little old house that is "inhabited" by other relatives. She is "still a child" Buddy explains to us, he is the one that tells us the story. He explains that they do all sorts of things throughout the year to earn money so they can make fruitcakes at Christmas. A day in November comes when the woman declares it "fruitcake weather!". They gather, prepare, and buy everything they need and then make the fruitcakes. Their little rat terrier Queenie is with them throughout the story. They also cut down their own Christmas tree, make their own Christmas decorations, and their own presents. The other adults in the house are not always nice to them, but they stick together. The woman loves the Lord, always tries to do good, is always thinking of others, and is very superstitious with a funny little set of rules that she lives by. When she wishes she could get Buddy a bicycle for Christmas she tells him, "It's bad enough in life to do without something you want; but confound it, what gets my goat is not being able to give somebody something you want them to have."
      Tears come to my eyes several times throughout this story every time I read it. It is autobiographical to Capote's life, which makes it even better. My favorite quote from the book comes from the woman, at the end of Christmas day when they are flying the kites they made for each other she tells Buddy, "As for me, I could leave the world with today in my eyes."
      I would recommend this for kids and adults alike. It is a favorite that I pull out each Christmas, and even read it at different times throughout the year.
Happy Reading and Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Help for the Haunted by John Searles...Review

Help for the Haunted

By John Searles

Copyright 2013

In the novel Help for the Haunted, John Searles did a good job at keeping me interested and wanting to know what would happen next. There was a lot of suspense throughout the story, and many of the chapters ended in a cliff hanger so that I couldn’t wait to move to the next one. The main setting was a small town in Massachusetts called Dundalk. Most of the action took place in the main characters home which was the only home in a neighborhood of nothing but foundations where houses had been started and not finished. I could picture this lone home vividly as well as the abandoned neighborhood surrounding it. There were some other locations thrown in that added to the haunted feel of the book, an old church with looming statues and a dilapidated old theatre with faulty wiring. The atmosphere was a good one for anyone that likes to be put in an eerie and uncertain mood.

                The story begins with 14yo Sylvie lying awake at night hearing her parents talk to someone on the phone. They do this often, people call them at all hours to ask for help with their “haunted” problems, they are paranormal investigators. They agree to meet this person at an old church despite the fact that there is a snowstorm outside, they take Sylvie with them. First her father goes in the church leaving her and her mother in the car, when it takes him too long her mom follows and leaves Sylvie alone. She falls asleep, and when she awakes some time later they are still not back so she heads to the church to see why. Once inside something frightful happens that even Sylvie can’t quite explain despite the fact that she was there. With her parents now gone she ends up in the care of her 19yo hard to manage and irresponsible sister, Rose. The rest of the novel is made up of memories Sylvie slowly remembers, answers to questions she asks from others around her, and information she is able to dig up through haphazard research. I liked this process of learning about the story, it unfolded slowly but kept me interested most of the time. Sometimes I felt like I knew where things were going, then they would switch once Sylvie remembered something else. Sometimes Sylvie would realize something without telling the reader, I would have to wait in wonder for a chapter or so before I too would be shown the revelation.

                Now that I have said I liked the process of the story unfolding slowly, let me also say it felt a little too slow sometimes. There was a lot of detail to remember and refer back to, it was fun and the author did a good job at writing an intelligent mystery of sorts that kept me guessing, but at the same time it was so lengthy and detailed that by the time I got to the end I was glad it was over. My favorite books are the ones that leave me wishing for more. I felt like it had climbed toward a major climax, like a roller coaster slowly clicking its cars up a mountain, but then the climax didn’t seem as eventful after climbing for so long.

I liked the characters in the sense that they were multifaceted, they weren’t always good or always bad. Sylvie, Rose, and their parents had faults and things that drove me crazy about them, but they also had redeeming qualities which made me care about them. I felt the story and characters were believable, and the storyline stayed with reality all the way through. I was glad, I don’t like reading a book only to find in the end that it has impossible aspects thrown in after I’ve invested a ton of time in it thinking it was grounded in reality. I was worried about this all the way through, it had the potential to go either way. “For centuries humans have believed in God, Buddha, Yahweh, and so many forms of a higher power. And yet, not one can be seen. Why do the same people who believe in those deities doubt the existence of darker spirits? I ask all of you, how can a person believe in the light but not the dark? How, when all evidence points to the basic facts of dualities?” This quote sums up the theme of the story, and because of that the believability factor could have gone either way. So could the darkness factor. I don’t like stories that lean toward being dark, I was worried about that as I read along also, but this one wasn’t. It stayed light and leaned toward the good, never really making fun of religion or a person’s beliefs, just telling a neutral story about an interesting, and spooky topic. It always came back to the darkness that humans are capable of all on their own, no darker spirits needed.

I really enjoyed the perspective also, I had never thought about what it would be like to be the daughter of paranormal investigators. Sylvie doesn’t always have it easy with her peers, she is whispered about, made fun of, targeted for pranks, and her family is referred to as the Addams family. Her parents are not liked or understood by most people, many don’t agree with or believe in what they do. As a kid those things would be, and are for Sylvie, hard to deal with.  

All in all I thought this was a good read, a little long and drawn out, but good! I would recommend it for anyone who likes suspense and a paranormal, ghostly feel to their stories.



Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Who Wants a Dragon? by James Mayhew...Review

Who Wants a Dragon?
By James Mayhew
Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner
Copyright: 2004

This is a sweet and simple little book with BEAUTIFUL illustrations. I have to say, for me, the illustrator steals the show in this book. There is a small amount of text about a poor lost little dragon that no one wants. He tries to make friends with several different characters at the castle, but it isn't until his mommy finds him at the end that he ends up with someone who will, "cuddle him, and kiss him, and help him sleep tight." Cute! Very sweet! The wow factor though are the drawings. So bright, adorable, whimsical, and full of fun little details. If I were having a baby now, or if I had when I bought this several years ago, I would decorate the babies room in these illustrations. Bravo to the artist!!!
     My kids enjoyed this book also, and it is simple enough that they could read it when they were early readers just learning how. The illustrations helped there too as they really liked looking them over as they went along. It is a great book to read aloud to preschool age, as it is short and sweet with vivid pictures to hold their attention.
Happy Reading!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hottest State by Ethan Hawke...Review

The Hottest State

By Ethan Hawke

Copyright 1996

The very first thing I must say about ‘The Hottest State’ is that its author, Ethan Hawke, pleasantly surprised me. It was good! I wanted to read this for several reasons, none of which were that I like romances (because I don't for the most part), or that I thought it would be good. I wanted to read it because as a teenager I LOVED the actor Ethan Hawke, he was so handsome and cool, on screen and off, his characters were always exactly what I wanted in a boyfriend. Then I saw an ad a couple of months ago that he had written a book (a different one, he has three now), and was doing an author meet a couple hours from my home. WHAT?!?! I was going to have a chance to meet Ethan Hawke?! I am an adult not really thinking about boyfriends now, but I still like him as an actor. He is still handsome, has stayed pretty Ethan-esque, same cool guy personae he had 20 years ago, and as far as I know hasn’t gone off the deep end like a lot of actors do over time. So, I wanted to meet him, and as a reader I wanted to have read at least one of his books when I met him, but I wasn’t really expecting much.

                The story is told by William, a young actor born in Texas but living in New York. He isn’t a big time actor, but works enough at small parts to pay his bills. Although he has lived in New York and New Jersey since he was about six, when his mother left his father and moved east, he thinks a lot about his dad and the time that he spent in Texas. He meets Sarah, a young, shy, and self-conscience girl trying to make it as a singer. Sarah isn’t conventionally pretty, but he falls in love with her quirky looks and personality. A simple-for-him, but complicated-for-her, love story makes up the rest of the novel. “Back at my window, looking out at what was now HER door, I had the profound feeling that my life had changed. I did. Like when a kid lying in bed late at night stares at his dark ceiling and figures out for the first time that he, yes, even he will die.” William is mad about Sarah, but she can’t figure out why, or be confident in his feelings for her. He can’t figure out why she can’t just be happy they found each other, and move forward with their relationship. He tries all kinds of things he thinks she will find romantic to win her over.

It was a very sweet story, but tinged with sadness throughout, not just the love story but also the thoughts and memories William has about his childhood and his relationship with his mother and father, as well as how he feels about himself at times. “I saw any success I had as an actor as the mark of my greatest character flaw. The one thing I was good at was pretending to be someone else. I was disappointed that there was a market for it.” William’s character felt autobiographical to Ethan. I was able to hear his voice as a writer loud and clear through the whole novel, sometimes I felt like I was sitting and listening to him tell it over coffee. I read his biography and many things about William were the same as himself. I couldn’t shake the feeling that many of the thoughts and feelings William had, maybe not the story itself, but the emotions and reactions William had to people, circumstances, and situations were torn from Ethan’s own experiences and heart.

The story was well structured, short and simple, but had a richly textured depth to it. His characters were believable and I found myself invested in them and their story. I smiled at the end, was glad that I had read it, will try one of his others, and had a different view on Ethan Hawke. I was very disappointed because I did not get to go to the author meet after all. The timing of it didn’t work out for me, but I will NOT miss the next one if there is one, and I truly hope there is. If I get another chance I will be there in line, but not to meet Ethan Hawke the actor, it will be to meet Ethan Hawke the writer.
As an extra bit of goodness…being the nerdy reader I am I read a book from cover to cover once I decide to invest in it. So, I read the acknowledgements, and I thought he put cute ones in there to his mom and dad: “Special thanks go to my father, James Hawke, for being so accepting of all the baggage that accompanies a son who aspires to a life in the arts. And finally, I thank my mother, Leslie Green Hawke: Lost Princess of Abilene, Queen of the River, and Patron Saint of my favorite bird, the lark.” *smile*



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Descent by Tim Johnston...Review


By Tim Johnston

Copyright 2015

                Tim Johnston, author of ‘Descent’, did a good job of keeping me interested in his story throughout the 374 pages of his telling. Set in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado the scenery was breathtaking. I could imagine the mountains, the thin air, the fog snaking through the trees, and the biting cold of winter as well as the radiant sun through the summer. It helped that my family took a vacation to this very setting while reading it, but I could have been transported there either way, being there just gave it more texture.

                Caitlyn is an 18yo girl when the story begins; she is a runner from Wisconsin about to go to college on a track scholarship. She and her family decide to take a trip to Colorado from their home in Wisconsin so that she can train in the mountains before starting school. She and her 15yo brother head up the mountain trail early one morning alone, mom and dad stay at the hotel, Sean (brother) is on his mountain bike. Dad gets a phone call while they are gone, hikers have found Sean unconscious with a badly broken leg, he is in the hospital. Dad asks for Caitlyn, there is no Caitlyn. There starts the remaining part of the book. Where is Caitlyn? How her family deals with her disappearance, the turns each of their lives take, and how they go about looking for her in a place far from their own home makes for interesting reading and kept me curious about where it was going to lead.

                I can’t say much more about the story itself without telling its secrets. It bounces around to different viewpoints throughout the novel, sometimes I liked this, sometimes I didn’t. It also slid into different time periods, I found this a little confusing, I would have to stop and make sure I understood where, and what time in the story I was in. Once I got further in the book this got less noticeable, and it read more smoothly. I found the book good enough that I wanted to keep reading, but not one I would call a favorite or a page turner. There just wasn’t enough suspense for me, I felt like I knew too much too soon. I also never really felt completely invested in the characters. I was detached from them as if I were reading a story in the newspaper about people I didn’t know, instead of being in a story about people close to me that I cared about.

                I found it to be well written, and constructed nicely. The author had some very good metaphors, similes, and descriptive adjectives that helped me visualize the story and added rich ambience throughout. The “aspens chattered”, the “woods of the mountains went on and on like the sea”, and “the sun on the lake was a rich, wobbling yolk of deep yellow”. The deep, binding love of family and the destruction a tragic event can cause to a family and its individual members was a strong and vivid theme. “And if the country was no longer strange to them, it was still strange in that it had never again astounded them, nor awed nor excited them again, but only reminded them every day and almost from hour to hour what it had taken from them and what it had made of them.” I liked this quote because I could imagine that is exactly how I would feel in the same circumstances. Our family visited Colorado with awe struck visions of the gorgeous mountains, snow, and trees ahead of us, but if one of us had disappeared while we were there, all of those things would have changed dramatically in our minds. Every piece of the story was well thought out, researched, given plausibility, and described in every detail. All the loose ends were tied up, and I was satisfied with the ending.

                I would have a hard time putting this in a genre, there wasn’t a lot of mystery, or suspense, and it wasn’t really a thriller. There were a couple small twists, but most of the time you knew what was happening even if the characters themselves didn’t know. I would recommend ‘Descent’ to anyone who enjoys reading a well written story about crime and its rippling affects to family and people.



Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner...Book Review

Skippyjon Jones

By Judy Schachner

Copy Right 2001

      Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner is another one of my all time favorite children's books. I just love reading it snuggled up to a little one, or to a whole group of little ones. I got this one back in 2001 when it was first published, but there are many in the Skippyjon series now. Every time I see a new one I buy it, but this one is still my favorite.
      Skippyjon is a Siamese cat that likes to pretend he is anything besides a cat, but a Chihuahua is his favorite thing to be, much to his mommas chagrin. He is always into mischief, and his momma is forever getting after "Mr. Kitten britches." She sends him to his room to think about how he is a cat, "Not a bird...not a mouse or a grouse...not a moose or a goose...not a rat or a bat! You need to think about just what it means to be a SIAMESE CAT!!" So Skippyjon sulks to his room, but he can't stay still for long. He bounces on his big boy bed and as he catches himself in the mirror he sees..."A Chihuahua!" (That was always my youngest wild thing's favorite part, I would have to read it over and over.)
      Then Skippyjon wanders into his closet where he meets the Los Chimichangas band of Chihuahua's and all sorts of things begin to happen. It is such a cute, sweet, FUN story. I love getting into it with different voices and facial expressions. I usually have the kids rolling before it is over. I also like asking questions about it when it is over, and my favorite question is, "Do you think Skippyjon REALLY did all those things in the story?" I love to see how many little ones can infer from the story that he was pretending, and how many think it really happened.
      This is a great addition for anyone who likes to have a good stock of children's books, or the perfect library book to check out, and it would make a great gift!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Vampire Dairies 3 & 4, The Fury and Dark Reunion...Book Review

The Vampire Diaries 3 & 4

The Fury & Dark Reunion

By L. J. Smith

Copyright 1991

                L. J. Smith did a good job in 'The Fury' and 'Dark Reunion', the third and fourth novels in the 'Vampire Dairies' series, of continuing on with the story without a hitch. Again, as with the first and second I am reviewing them together because I read them together. I really enjoyed the third one, ‘The Fury’, it stuck to the same characters and story line as the first two. I continued to care about each of the teens and what happened to them, and I was interested in what would happen next in the story.

                There were still vampires and other supernatural beings preying on Fell’s Church, and it was still the same setting in the small Virginia town. There was less about high school or small town life in this one though, and more about an “other power” that is preying on the towns people. There is still quite a bit of folklore and history woven into the story, and mystery behind who people are and why they are doing things. I don’t want to say too much about plot as it would give away some of the mystery and fun of reading these.

                I liked her continued theme of good fighting to stay good, even in the face of evil being the victor. Matt asks Stefan in Dark Reunion, “The world. You’ve seen a lot of it, Stefan. You’ve got four or five centuries on the rest of us, right? So what’s the deal? I mean, is it basically the kind of place worth saving or is it essentially a pile of crap?” and “And what about people, huh, Stefan? The human race. Are we the disease or just a symptom?” Stefan replies, “So what are you going to do, Matt Honeycutt, if every bad thing you said is true? What are you going to do personally? Are you going to stop fighting and swim with the sharks?” and “There’s no excuse for giving up just because it looks like we are going to lose. We have to try-because the other choice is to surrender.” I cut this dialog down, the whole exchange was good, but that’s the gist of it. That’s what’s so great about Stefan, he is always fighting to be good even though he is inherently bad because he is a vampire, even though giving in to temptation would make him stronger and on the winning side, he still wants to be good because that is his character. It is refreshing to read about a person in a story that values their own character, and staying good even when faced with so much bad.

There were more things I didn’t like about these two than the first two though. There were several loose ends that were never tied up by the time I got to the end, and things that happened that weren’t explained very well. This may have been on purpose so she could write more though, and indeed she did write more in 2009. Although, I have to wonder if she wrote more because she planned to all along, or if the t.v. show coming out about that same time had anything to do with it.

                One of the main characters was barely in the fourth one at all. I didn’t like that; it made the tone of the fourth book very different, so that it felt like it was missing something, in a negative way.  The ending was good, as far as being happy, but even this felt a little contrived at that point. Dark Reunion just ended up twisting and turning in ways that I wasn’t really satisfied with.

                All in all I think this was a good series, well thought out for the most part and sticking to its theme of good versus evil, and being true to self regardless of the consequences. I would recommend it to any teen or adult that enjoys supernatural thrillers. 



Saturday, November 7, 2015

the Art of Marching

     Today I had to highlight my eldest wild things marching band, The Marching Green Pride, as an art post. Marching band is something many people know very little about, but is so much fun and full of all different kinds of art. There is the music, the uniforms, the show itself, and the designing of all the different formations and props used in the show. Plus, the color guard and the band perform together, and the color guard does a lot of dancing and visual aspects, like their flags, for the show. So many people have to work together to make the show a success.
      The show isn't just there for the football games, as many people think they are, they have their own competitions that they participate in. The competition is stiff and they work many hours to perfect their show to have a chance to compete at the state level. My daughters last competition of the season was last week. They received second place at the area level, so unfortunately they will not get to compete at state this year, but they did a great job! Second place out of eight, very good bands, is awesome! They worked super hard this season, and all of the fans and parents are very proud of them! Their show was titled "To the Edge", and the edge is definitely where they took it.
      The show/band that won was also very good. It gave me chills when I saw it! Their show was called "A Royal Tapestry". It centered around a queen. In the beginning a King and Queen walked through a path in their tin soldiers (band) and waved at the audience.
      That's them waving at everyone. There was a stage upfront with a giant chair that the king went up and sat in. Just as he got up there an evil man in black came up and challenged him to a duel, much to the queen's dismay. The music to all of the acting going on was mood setting, it told you this was a scary time for the king, queen, and their subjects.
      There they are dueling. The king gets killed, darkness reigns. At first the queen is devastated, she runs to the dead king crying and unsure what to do. She walks forlornly among her musical subjects, but slowly she gains more strength among her people, by the time she gets back to the stage she is defiant and ready to conquer what lies ahead for her. The dark man comes back, she picks up the kings sword and duels with him. A little shaky at first, but then STAB!! She gets him, and he dies...the crowd, and her subjects are so excited!! At that same moment a villager (color guard) runs out of the sea of tin soldiers and subjects, throws his rifle high in the air, leaps off the stage and catches it at the crescendo of the music!! WOW!! Everyone went wild....the queen, and goodness prevails after all!! The queen runs to her castle (prop), the villager runs to get her. He leads her back to the stage, parting the tin soldiers with arm movements as they go. They get to the stage and he crowns her with the kings crown to everyone's cheers...goose bumps.

      That is the queen taking her seat on her throne. It was perfect, and inspiring. Even their slogan was awesome (yes, the schools even come up with their own slogans and make t-shirts around them), it was "Why live when you can Rule", I mean..... I loved our show, and I know how hard our kids worked, so me saying all of this is not me trying to take anything away from them, but I felt the right show won. Ours didn't have as much of a story line, and theirs just had that extra special sparkle that this art lover cannot deny. What I can say is for our band to have received second is really saying something! Our kids did wonderful, I thought their performance was the best they had given all year long. I am already looking forward to next years season/show!!
      I sure love my little clarinet playing tin soldier!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Passenger

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by   that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection by me is:

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Expected Publication Date: January 5, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Passenger (Passenger, #1)
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever
Hardcover, 464 pages
Expected publication: January 5th 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Why this book?...The cover alone is beautiful and draws me to it!! I love that the main character is a violin prodigy; classical musicians are not characters that are often used in books, but my daughter plays clarinet and loves orchestra, so I can relate to, and like that trait in a character. The time travel aspect means there will be a lot of historical references, locations, and atmospheres woven in. The piecing together of clues also means there will be some mystery...Can't wait!    


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Parts by Tedd Arnold...Review

by Tedd Arnold
Copyright 2000
      'Parts' by Tedd Arnold is a hilarious book that I always get great feedback for when I read it to elementary classes. It is about a young boy who keeps having things happen to his body that he doesn't understand. Like lint in his belly button, or earwax in his ears. He starts thinking all of these things mean he is falling apart. One of my favorite lines from the book is, "The glue that holds our parts together isn't holding me!"
      Every time I read it the kids love to say, "Eeeeeewww!" and "GROSS!" after every page. I usually get lots of, "Read it again" from my audience as well. It is gross, but so clever and hilarious. It feels like it is really written by a young boy, as you can imagine one thinking the things that are written in the book.
      I would recommend this book to anyone with kids age 3-10...and even older would think it was funny. I do! It is also great to read out loud to classrooms full of young kids, it keeps their attention very well. Happy Reading!!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween

      In honor of my favorite holiday I just HAVE to post about my favorite movie...HALLOWEEN (the first one)!! This has been my favorite movie since I was five, yes FIVE. I watched it on repeat like some little girls watched Cinderella. I still think it is one of the best creepy movies ever made. It isn't super gory, or satanic, or use a bunch of tricks to scare you. The boogie man never even talks! It's the music, the mood, the atmosphere, the shadows, and the unknown that is scary. Why is he just standing there? Why doesn't he say something? Why does he look like that? This movie is most definitely full of artful cinematography,'s just creeeeeeeepy!! Jamie Lee Curtis is awesome in it too! Still love it, all these years later. Can't wait to watch it after trick or treating tonight!
      Thought I would add a pic of my wild things, well two of them, my oldest is on a band trip tonight and so doesn't get to go with us. Boo! I think Halloween should be considered a family holiday just like Thanksgiving, no school scheduled activities!
      Teen Zombie, he's so handsome he reminds me of the zombie in Warm Hearts. How can you be scared of such a handsome guy? He would definitely get my brains.
      This wild thing is going to be a ninja tonight, but he hasn't put his costume on yet so this is a pic from earlier today when he got a hair cut. He is the cutest ninja I have ever seen!
      Have a Safe and Happy Halloween everyone! This creature of the arts is ready to get started on some tricking and treating, and then a little watching of my favorite movie while helping the wild things devour their candy!
      I came back to add Ninja pics. He looked so great I had to! Plus, there was a house with an awesome graveyard and other spooky scenes, I took a pic of him in front of it that I wanted to show. They always put so much creativity into their décor, I love it. They also play little games with the kids when they come up for their candy, such Halloween, and artful spirit!!
I hope your night went as well as ours!

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Ad-Dams Fam-i-LY.....LIVE

      The Addams Family! Live! What a great play to see as we are almost at Halloween. This family IS Halloween. The wild things and I set off for Plaza Theatre last night to enjoy some dark comedy, and be a part of the Addams family. We laughed and whispered about all the fun little details through the whole of the show, (and munched on popcorn of course). I have always loved the tv show of this kooky family, but have never been able to watch it with the wild things as I have never found it on Netflix. They have seen the movie with Anjelica Huston though, so they knew a little about the family, but still had a lot of questions when it was over.
      The story for the play centered around Wednesday Addams, that made me happy as she has always been one of my favorite family members. She has met a boy, a very main stream boy, and they have decided they want to get married. She breaks the news to Gomez, asks him not to tell Morticia, and says she wants to have him and his family to dinner. Gomez is anxious about this, he doesn't like the idea of Wednesday getting married, but more than that he doesn't want to keep a secret from Morticia. Wednesday makes him promise though, and so he does.

      All kinds of dark hilarity ensues after this. Morticia begrudgingly allows a dinner, but the fiancé's family are all squares, so they do not understand the Addams' at all. There is a very Addamsish scene at the dinner table, a moment when Morticia finds out that Gomez has been keeping something from her and gets furious (in a slow and deliberate way that only Morticia can show anger), and then the audience got much enjoyment when Morticia and Gomez realize the grandmother that lives with them isn't either one of their who is she? Lurch was dragging around through the play making everyone laugh with his Lurchiness, and Pugsley (played by a 12yo) did a great job being a creepy younger brother. By the end Morticia got over her anger, the fiancé's family accepted the kookiness of the Addams - and the Addams accepted them and all their squared edges, and there was a terrific tango scene among all the cast to finish it off....they never did resolve who the grandma was, in true Addams fashion they just accepted her anyway!
      We had such a great time! We always do when we go to this theatre. It is a small theatre in the round where the stage is at ground level and there are only about 50 seats. So, you really get to feel like you are a part of the show. The cast interacts with the audience, and everything is happening mere feet in front of you. We can't wait to go to the next show!
      When we got back I looked up ordering the box set of the Addams family series, thought I would share the link for anyone who may be interested. Have a safe, happy, and spooky Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #1

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick this Wednesday for the book I am most anxious to be published is:
Fallen Land

Fallen Land

Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward.

Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South.

Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers.

In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives.

Dramatic and thrillingly written with an uncanny eye for glimpses of beauty in a ravaged landscape, Fallen Land is a love story at its core, and an unusually assured first novel by award-winning young author Taylor Brown.
Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: January 12th 2016 by St. Martin's Press
I can't wait to sink my teeth into this one! History, danger, romance, intrigue...sounds like a good meal to me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Vampire Diaries 1 & 2, The Awakening and The Struggle...Book Review

The Vampire Diaries 1 & 2

The Awakening and The Struggle

by L.J. Smith

Copyright 1991

                L.J. Smith has done a very good job at surprising this very realistic loving reader into thoroughly enjoying her books, ’The Vampire Diaries’, ‘The Awakening’ and ‘The Struggle’. I am reviewing these together because I read them together. They are commonly both in one book and flow seamlessly into one another. I originally began reading these because my daughter talked me into watching the t.v. show by the same name, originally aired on the CW and now on Netflix, with her. I was also surprised when I enjoyed it, at least the first three seasons, then it lost me, but that’s a different review. I decided I wanted to read the books to see how closely they aligned; since I enjoyed the show I thought I might also enjoy the books. I was right.

                Something that intrigued me about these books were that the first four were published in 1991 & 92. That is after ‘Interview with a Vampire’ by Anne Rice, published 1976, but before ‘Twilight’ by Stephenie Meyer, published 2005-08. ‘Twilight’ got so much hype and attention, but I personally like these better. ‘Interview with a Vampire’ was a great read, and movie for me, but hard to compare when one was adult and the other young adult. Where as these and ‘Twilight’ are both Young Adult. I am not a fan of ‘Twilight’, the books or the movies, but again, that’s a different review. These held my attention through all nearly 500 pages, and I can’t wait to dive into the next two.

                These novels are set in Fell’s Church, Virginia, a small southern town, rich in history and steeped in tradition. I could picture this town and everything about it, the people, the atmosphere (dark and gloomy with temperamental weather), the buildings/houses/surroundings, and all of the circumstances that the characters found themselves in within the setting. While the supernatural elements of vampires and druids seems unrealistic to the skeptics mind, the author did a great job putting me inside a setting where I could believe that maybe they could be out there, and maybe they aren’t all bad after all. The attention paid to small town details was a great extra, the Founder’s Day celebration toward the end of ‘The Struggle’ for instance was something I wanted to be a part of, and something that is similar to a lot of small town celebrations in the real world.

                ‘The Awakening’ begins by introducing you to Elena Gilbert, several of her friends, and Stefan Salvatore. They are all high school students in present day (1991) Fell’s Church. Elena and her friends are the popular girls in school, Stefan is new and mysterious and Elena is intrigued by him. He ignores her at first and she is determined to get his attention, slowly she starts to break through his seemingly disinterested attitude, and learns about his past and who he is. There is a lot of folklore, and history intertwined in Stefan, and soon enough we learn of his and his brother Damon Salvatore’s story. Both are devastatingly handsome, and aristocratic in nature and dress. Elena learns they were born in 15th century Italy, turned to vampire’s by a girl who looked exactly like her, Katherine, and that they were both in love and competition for her affection. Katherine was never able to choose between the two of them, and left them angry with one another over her memory.

The Salvatore brothers were of noble blood in historic Italy, and were expected to act as such. Stefan remembers his tutor telling him, “An aristocrat should dress as befits his position. If he does not, he is showing contempt for others.” This is something that defines their character even in modern times. I like all of these details curling and uncurling with in the story. Each new little detail brings another thrilling aspect to the story. How exciting it would be to meet someone so rich in ideas and perspectives to have lived so long, and know so much.

                Elena is soon devoted to Stefan, Stefan to her, but…enter Damon. Stefan only feeds on animals, he is sensitive and doesn’t like killing humans, nor does he want Elena to become a vampire. Damon on the other hand is dangerous, shows little regard for human life, wants Elena for himself, as well as wants to turn her into a vampire.  Elena loves Stefan, but can’t deny a connection she sometimes feels to Damon. History seems to be repeating itself. This causes many conflicts as you can probably imagine, especially since Damon is the stronger vampire because he feeds on human blood and Stefan doesn’t. Another aspect of the story that adds further supernatural detail is Elena’s best friend, Bonnie, who is of druid descent. She is not strong or even fully aware of her powers as a druid, but she is able to help Elena and Stefan through many problems they have with the townspeople of Fell’s church, and also with Damon.

                There is an exciting climax toward the end of the second book, and then a cliffhanger at the very end that leads you into the next two books. I found these very imaginative, and well thought out. I find myself wishing I could know the Salvatore brothers. The consequence’s our lives would face if supernatural beings were among us is a well-executed theme throughout. Not just from the human side of things, but also from the supernatural beings perspective. Vampires are inherently evil, whether real beings or imagined, bloodlust is what drives and sustains them. Stefan’s tutor tells him, “Evil will never find peace. It may triumph, but it will never find peace.” This feeling of being evil is something that haunts Stefan, and peace obviously eludes Damon even if evil doesn’t bother him like it does Stefan. Even in human form, evil isn’t synonymous with peace. It is a tortured soul that has evil in their veins.

                Another aspect I really like of these novels is that the main characters don’t always win, or get their way. I don’t like reading a story where everything works out just right, because in reality it doesn’t, sometimes things just don’t go the way we want. These books are very simply written, while there is some great detail, I feel like it is lacking in some that would be present in an adult novel, and I miss it. I am happy that it isn’t over sexualized, the teens do fall in love and have deep feelings for one another, but the actual physical parts of it have more to do with vampires needing to drink blood rather than have sex. While their feelings for one another are mentioned quite a bit, there are also many other aspects to the story that make it more than just an overdramatized romance. As the mom of two teens that these books are directed at, I appreciate that. There are some instances that I think the characters do more mature things than most teens would be able to do, they are still minors and I know that at least I pay more attention to what my 16yo is doing than the parents in this story. I know though, that it is a novel and some things need to be fictionalized and written that way to move the story along, and appeal to teens. Overall, any critiques I have are small. I am really enjoying these books, and look forward to the next two.

                As for whether it is like the t.v. show? Yes actually, while some things have changed of course, there are a lot of characters, personalities, situations, and settings that are the same. I am glad I have read these because now I understand the show, and some of the feelings of the characters in greater detail.





Saturday, October 24, 2015

Time warp to the Speakeasy

     So two of my wild things and I got the chance to go to a Speakeasy Soiree fundraiser for one of our favorite community theatre's, Plaza Theatre. We jumped at the chance, and went all out in our attire. When we were done dressing for the event we decided we looked like Daisy, Jordan, and of course Gatsby! I loved being Jordan, I always thought it was a fun, and interesting choice for Fitzgerald to make her a professional golfer in the 1920's. That's a rare profession even for a man, but for a woman in the 20's? Almost unheard of! So I was thrilled to be her part.
When we pulled into the parking lot there was a beautiful vintage Roadster sitting all alone in a remote part of the lot. I thought my oldest wild thing was going to hyperventilate, it was beautiful!! We HAD to go take some fun pictures by it and dream about what it would be like if it was ours. I can only imagine the fun we would have rolling up to one of our events in that beauty!
Then we went inside where the community center was decorated in 20's style, with tables all set up for the guests. There were quite a few humans dressed in period clothes, but there were some that just came for the entertainment...such squares! We had yummy food delivered by students of the theatre all dressed up in fun fashion, and were treated to an array of small skits, dances, and singers revolving around the Jazz Age.
     We got a lot of compliments on our willingness to go all out, and felt very fancy and nostalgic all night. The show wrapped up to a round of applause and smiles all around. We were sorry it was over, but so glad we had gone and put so much emphasis on getting ready for it.

     As we left we said goodbye to the Roadster, blew it kisses, and hoped we would see it again some day (maybe even get to ride in it! Or better, own one!!) I think Daisy would give up her left arm for one, so long as she could still drive it. The whole night was the berries, we would  definitely jump on the chance to revisit a speakeasy!!

My favorite part of my whole costume was my wig, it was the only thing I bought extra for the night, well that and the pearls Daisy and I wore. Everything else we found in our closet. It was cheap, but worked perfectly. I will add a link to one on Amazon incase anyone is interested, I am glad to have it as an addition to my collection.