Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Under Construction.....a New Blog for a New Year!!!

It's been way too long.    I've missed blogging, and I've decided I need to get back.   Just to stay in touch.   No more joining a hundred challenges I will never finish.   No more worrying about "stats".   No more worrying about who is getting more views.    No more worrying about getting ARC's because I don't have the traffic.   Nope.  

I'm going back to the basics.   The purity of blogging just to spend time doing it.   Posting reviews of books that I want to read.   Talking about things I like to talk about.   No more of the bullshit that drove me away in the first place.   Well....that and the time.   Between working 2 jobs and going to school, the last semester was crazy.   But I'm taking the spring semester off.   For my own sanity's sake (and my bank account), I'm focusing on work and the kids.   I can't afford tuition and my mortgage at the moment.   Sad face.    But I will finish eventually.   I haven't sweated blood the last 3 semesters for nothing.  

So....I'm working on a re-vamp for this old blog.    Not sure what I will me, it won't be anything fancy.   But look for me in the weeks to come.   Happy 2013!!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sunday Salon - Children's Lit

The Sunday

A day late and a dollar short....but since I started this on Sunday, we are just going to go with that!  Wow!  Two Posts in ONE WEEK!   The world must be coming to an end!   I just wanted to thank you for all your comments this week.   It means alot to know that as busy as I am, you are all still here to fall back on whenever I need something!   Truly awesome!

This last semester I took a Children's Lit class.   In the span of the class we had to choose 40 books to read and essentially write "Book Reports" about each one.  I know it sounds like a lot, and it was.  We were supposed to choose books that fit the age level of the children we would eventually be teaching.   Since I am looking to secondary education (probably Jr. High or freshman level), my books were a bit longer than someone wanting to teach Kindergarten.  I spent a lot of time on this class, but found some amazing books! 

We had Categories of Books to read, and had to choose accordingly.    Newbery Awards, Caldecott Awards, Picture Books, Modern Fantasy, Traditional Literature, Poety, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Informational, Biographies, and Multi-cultural Literature.   The books below are the best of the ones that I read.  

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was kind of a cheat for me.   I read it before.  BUT I loved it so much I wanted to read it again!!   The adventures of Nobody Owens is one of the best books I've ever read.    It fit both Newbery and Modern Fantasy.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by  Jacqueline Kelly was a Newbery Honor book in 2010 and it was wonderful.   The year is 1899, and Callie was the lone girl in a large family of boys.   She was smart and eager to learn, especially sciences.   Unfortunately, the only Science she was able to learn was the Science of Housewifery.   Her grandfather, a "fellow scientist" takes her under his wing and opens up new worlds for her. 

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron won the Newbery Award in 2007 and totally deserved it.   Lucky was a little girl that lived in Hard Pan, California (Pop. 47)  Her mother died, her father left, and she was living with her guardian, Bridgette.   She learned about "Higher Powers" by eavesdropping on the twelve-step Anonomous groups.   This book is her journey to find her higher power. 

Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples is a wonderful book.  It is the story of two women alone in wartorn Afghanistan.   When the Taliban come to take Najmah's father and brother she steps up to help her mother.   But when a bomb drops on her family's hut, she finds herself all alone.   Nusrat is an American woman living in Afghanistan.   She is patiently waiting for her husband, a doctor, to return from the war zone.  She spends her days teaching refugee children in her little school, under her Persimmon Tree.

The Lion and the Mouse is a Caldecott Winner in 2010.   It is an adaption of Aesop's fable about the lion and the mouse.  But the beautiful artwork by Jerry Pinkney makes this a perfect book for young children.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the Caldecott in 2008.    I haven't seen the movie yet, but I would love to take the girls.  The story of Hugo, a little boy that lives within the walls of a Paris train station is beautiful.   To survive alone, Hugo has to steal.   When he meets Isabelle, a rather odd, bookish girl, he finally finds a friend.   But when he sees the key on a chain around her neck, he just knows it will fit the automaton that his father was working on before he died in a fire.   This story is amazing and if you haven't read it, I highly suggest you do!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie is one of my favorite reads of last year.   Told in a first person narrative by 13-year-old Arnold "Junior" Spirit, the story is about a young indian on the Spokane Indian Reservation.    Living here, Junior sees poverty, alcoholism and violence every day.   His parents are alcohlics, and his best friend spends most of his time beating up other people.   After an incident with a teacher at the rez school, Junior feels the only way to ever come out on top is to go to the rich all-white school 20 miles away.  Strong and courageous, Junior is an amazing character.   If transferring to a school where he is the only Native American is hard, coming home to the reservation and having people think you are a trader to your heritage is even harder.   READ THIS BOOK!

The Tale of Desperieux by Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery in 2003.  It's an excellent little fairy tale about a mouse with big ears that falls in love with a Princess.    It's also about a rat named Roscuro that lives in the darkness but secretly covets the light.   It truly is a beautiful story about acceptance.

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a collection of poems by Shel Silverstein.   I've never been a big fan of poetry, but Sliverstein is just the master.  He's funny and profound all at the same time.    I loved this book and read most of the poems with the girls.   "One Sister For Sale" was a huge hit with both of them!

Deadline by Chris Crutcher is a truly inspiring, yet heart-breaking story of a boy named Ben.  He is getting ready to start his senior year in high school, when he finds out at his pre-cross-country physical he has a terminal illness and probably won't live thru the year.   Without telling ANYONE, including his parents or younger brother, he sets out to make his Senior year unforgettable.   Honestly, I'm having a hard time not tearing up just writing this paragraph.   It really is an exception book.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson won the Newbery in 1977.   It's a story we all know.  I can't believe I put it next to Deadline, because now I really am crying.  This story is just beautiful about friendship, family and absolutely aching loss.   If you haven't read it, you really should.

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett is book 2 in the Tiffany Aching Series (of Discworld).  I needed another book for Fantasy and really wanted to finish out this series.   Terry Pratchett is a master-storyteller!    Eleven-year-old Tiffany is about to start her apprenticeship as a witch.  To do so she has to leave the Chalk and her friends, the Nac Mac Feegle (or Wee Free Men) to study with an experienced witch.   On the way, she runs into trouble....and the Nac Mac Feegle are to the rescue!!    Such a funny book!!   I'm thinking of getting the trilogy for Bella to read.   She loved the Hunger Games so much, I think she will really like this one.  She is like me....loves a strong female protagonist! 

Lon Po Po is a Red Riding Hood Story from China.   Ana actually brought this one home from school and we read it together.   The pictures are gorgeous and it is a great way to learn about fairy tales from other countries!  Definitely recommended for kids.

Finally, I'm adding The Spider and The Fly.  The poem is from Mary Howett's 1829 poem.   The reason I loved the book so much though is the absolutely GORGEOUS pictures by Tony Di Terlizzi for which he received a Caldecott medal.  It is all done is black and white.   It really is amazing.  

Well....these are just a few of the books I read for my class.   Almost every book I picked I liked.  These just happened to be my favorites.  So if you are looking for books to read with your kids....or if you just like YA and children's books, you really should check some of these out!! 


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another Post? My Pledge to do Better.

Good Morning!!  The sun is shining and the snow is melting.   Makes for a beautiful day!   I've been so out-of-the-loop for so long now, I'm not even sure I can make it back.  But I figured, "What the hell.  Gotta Try, right?" I am with the 1st post of 2012. 

Lately I've been trying to decide what to do with this blog.   Since I haven't regularly posted in over a year, I have been contemplating just shutting it down.   But that seems so sad.  I started this blog oh, so many years ago and it would be too hard to shut it off completely.   Do I just post once every blue moon?   I don't like that idea either.   In a perfect world, I would get my baby back up and running just like the "old" days.   However, I'm not sure that is reasonable.  My life went from busy to just plain out-of-control when I started back to school.    I very rarely have any time for just me.   Unfortunately, me-time IS blogging time.   When I'm not at school, I'm doing homework.  Or helping a kid with homework.   Or trying to keep my house from being marked for demolition.   Or playing chauffeur.    Or grocery shopping.   Or working.   And this list goes on......

But if I am honest, I MISS my blog.   I miss interacting with all of you...if there is anyone out there that actually checks this blog anymore.  I miss talking about books.   I miss reading other blogs.   I miss signing up for reading challenges I never even come close to finishing.   I miss finding out about new books from people that I trust and respect.   I miss....THIS. 

So, I hereby pledge to do a better job at managing my time.   With that pledge, I also plan on keeping this blog going.   Even without posting more than a handful of posts last year, I STILL get bombarded with review requests.   I will probably take it easy on the ARC's for a bit.   I just need to read more for pleasure.   This will be hard, but I really plan on doing it.  I get cranky when I don't get a chance to read!  

With a wonderful Christmas and birthday already behind me, I have some new toys to play around with.   Thanks to a wonderful family (and this includes my in-laws), I now have a great new laptop to take with me to school....and let me stay connected almost anywhere!  AND I also got a Nook!  I swore up and down I would never have one.  But the girls picked it out for my birthday, and the family got it for me.   So, I HAD to give it a try.  Truth be told, I really like it.  The amazing B&N gift card from my brother came in handy and I have already downloaded some great  books to my library.   Since it's a Nook Color, I'm able to connect to the Net and maybe keep up better that way too.   Hopefully. 

I'm hopeful I will do better this year.  I don't make resolutions on New Year's cause I never follow thru with them.   But this pledge is different.   It's something I need to do to keep my sanity, so follow thru is a must for me.   I'm even looking into self-hosting...finally.   A blog redesign is definitely in the works, though I may not get to it till summer break.  This semester is already going to be tough enough.   One week of classes down, and I am already struggling.   Had to have a Lab Science class, so I'm taking Chemistry. Yuk.   Exceptional Learners (Intro to Special Ed).  Modern Humanities.  Modern Western Civ (for my History Minor) and Masterpieces of Classic Lit.    The Lit class is an honors class and is going to be tough.  Had a writing assignment on the first day (though I did get an A) and the reading list is HUGE and TOUGH.   Starting with Homer's Odyssey.    And I'm trying to get in about 5 shifts a week, so my time is going to be limited.  BUT I WILL DO IT THIS TIME.   

Looking forward to hearing from you, if anyone is still out there!!   I gotta go now.  The books are calling.   Textbooks, that is!!    I'm leaving you with a quick pic of me and my Nook!!   Later all!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where Does the Time go.....

I ask myself that question constantly. For a number of reasons. At the end of each day I try to figure out where all my time went. I feel like I'm constantly just about everything! Of course, I'm pretty sure it's mostly my fault. I've stretched myself so thin, you can barely see me sometimes!! I'm taking 18 hours of class this semester. Yes, I know. What was I thinking?? Well....I was thinking that as much as I love being a college student, I REALLY need to finish this degree and get myself back out into the world of the steady paycheck again. Money is TIGHT right now. Seriously tight, and I struggle with it on a daily basis. Mike's year is coming up quickly at FedEx, and we are hoping for full-time for him soon. We are also even looking at relocation. Memphis and San Diego are both huge FedEx depots, and there are always jobs coming open. But the girls are so against it, it's hard to even bring the topic up when they are around. I understand their frustrations....I really do. They have friends and school here, in the only home they've ever known. But economically speaking, Illinois is ranked at the bottom for jobs and at the top in families that are considered poverty level. A new start for all of us would be welcomed by Mike & I, but it would have to come with a serious paycheck for us to really consider it.

Back to is so fleeting these days. I'm working more hours than I have in a long time on top of my class schedule. And yet, I am making less than I did last year. But I keep put on that uniform and trying to make it work. Then there is the chauffeur aspect of my life. Each kid is completely immersed in activities, and I need a spreadsheet to keep up!! Ana made the travel softball team, and is in soccer. Practices and games seem to happen almost every day. If I had one child that would be great. But then there is Bella. She has taken to Jr. High like a fish to water. She shook off her disappointment of not making the school's softball team, and starting joining. She joined the speech team (which isn't really speech if you ask me. It was called Literary when I was in school). Being in band, she is now in concert band, mixed choir, and Show choir. Ah....she also tried out and MADE the school basketball team!! I am super proud of her, but she has practice for something everyday. Sometimes before school at 7. Sometimes after school....and can be there as late as 7. Pile on the homework, and she is as busy as I am.

Chad just got his learner's permit, and is ALWAYS bugging me to go driving. He decided he was going to focus more on school this year and didn't go out for football. However, he is joining the wrestling team again this year, and they are already starting workouts. Oh...and the girls! That boy has more would-be girlfriends than anyone I know!! They are constantly calling or texting or coming over. Sheesh. He just goes with the flow....he's going to Homecoming with his best friend, Carly. I just don't think he actually wanted to choose a date!

Time....I should be cleaning my house right now. Or doing laundry. Or grocery shopping. My house is close to being designated a hazard. And yet, here I sit. Another thing to put off. I have a paper due on The Crucible tomorrow. As well as my first set of Reading Cards for Child's Lit, a Humanities test on the Modern Assault.....and a group research project on the ancient Greek Playwright, Aeschylus. And that is just what I have due for tomorrow!!

Time.....I wish I had more to read for fun, though I have 40 books I have to read for Child's Lit!! Of course, some of those are actually picture books, so it's not quite as bad as it sounds at first. For the Newbery selections I just reread The Graveyard Book (always a favorite of mine), The Higher Power of Lucky, Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (EXCELLENT!), Holes, and I'm trying to finish Tale of Desperieux today. I'm going to be soliciting ideas for my next set of books. So get your thinking caps on!! I would love to be more involved with blogging, join me some challenges. RIP is going on, but I just don't have the time. I will try to pop in on all of you though and see how YOU are doing.
Time......sometimes I look in the mirror, and wonder "When did I get so old?" There are days I just feel my age in my bones. It seems like just yesterday I was in college the first time....or picking Chad up out of his crib. Where has it all gone?? How does it slip by so fast?? I guess if I had the answer to that, I would be a very rich woman. Doesn't keep me from asking though.  This past weekend, Mike and I celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary!    It has been a long 17 years, and we've had some good times as well as bad.....but I don't think I would trade them in for anything!

Time....I have to be at work in about an hour. So, I guess that means this post should end soon. Hopefully, there is some money to be earned today. And if not, then I just come home and start my paper. You know...that paper I should be writing instead of posting here!! I just felt the need this morning to try to re-connect with my friends. You know who you are. The people that are always there even when I seem to be completely ignoring you. Just know that I am not ignoring you....and you are all always close to my heart!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alas, Summer is Almost Over......

and still, I haven't been able to post! It seems that not blogging has left this big hole in my life. And yet, there seems to always be something that is taking my time away. I always thought not working full-time would mean I had MORE time to blog. Just doesn't seem to be the case. Ever since we moved the kids back to our house full-time, I have been non-stop on the go. When Mike and I both worked 3rd shift, the kids spent a majority of nights with my in-laws. It was the only thing we could do. They were too young to be alone at night. I missed them like crazy, even though I saw them every day. It just wasn't enough. Losing my job was hard, but not being with my kids was harder. It seems we are closer than ever. All that time apart really helped build some special bonds with those little rats....who are not so little anymore. Although sometimes I feel more like a chauffeur than a mom, I count my blessings every day.

So....what has been going on since I have been away?? Here, it's more of the same. The summer was spent attending numerous softball practices/games. Both girls played, only this year it was 2 separate teams. Both girls also spent 2 weeks at Kid's College. What an amazing experience for them!! They were both enrolled in a class called "Broadway Bound". Their instructor was a really talented lady. At then end of the session, the class put on a vaudeville style show with singing, dancing, poetry and skits. It was really good. Bella also took an art class. She loves art, and they did some sculpting, Batik and sketching. Ana, the little scholar, took a Chinese Language & Culture class. As the youngest there, she was still tops in her class. She wanted to learn a foreign language, and has now started with Mandarin Chinese. She's scary sometimes.

Me? Other than running them around all summer, I worked at the restaurant. I was going to take a class, but figured I needed the summer to decompress. Last semester was hard, being my first one back. I ended up on the Dean's List with a 3.8 GPA though. So I must have done something right! Fall semester starts in a week, so I'm working almost every day until then. Books aren't cheap folks! Damn. I'm in the hole almost $600 for the Fall's books. Financial aid is a strange thing too. As financially strapped as I am, I don't qualify for any type of aid yet. It's my last semester at the Junior College before I transfer. Since I already have a bachelor's degree, I have too many credit hours to qualify for aid. And that includes student loans too. Which sucks. I'm hoping once I'm enrolled at ISU, that will change. It has too, otherwise, I don't think there is any way I can finish without help. After taking to the registrar's office at ISU, I'm hopeful though.

My class load is even bigger this fall. 6 classes: Children's Lit, Shakespeare, Educational Technology, Education Psychology, Nature of Theater (need that extra Fine Arts Credit), and Early Western Civ (for my History minor). I wrangled my schedule to only have classes Tues/Thursday this time, so I will have more time to work (and study of course!) The kids are as excited to get back to school as I am. Chad will be a sophomore this year. I already got the letter about his "Behind the Wheel" Class. Driver's Ed!!!! I can NOT believe my baby is going to be driving. I'm still a little nauseous about it! Bella starts Jr. High this year. She got her schedule last week and it's packed full. Only 1 study hall on Friday afternoon! All the other free time goes to band, chorus and mixed chorus. Ana will be in 4th. She is almost as tall I am now!! Time has a way of speeding up the older you get. I may be a college student, but I feel so old sometimes. Especially when I look at my kids. It seems like just yesterday they were all in diapers. Now, I have one that is going to be driving soon!

Reading?? How I done any? This has been a good summer for books. I haven't really been blown away by anything lately, but I have read a lot. Mostly YA books. I reread both Hunger Games and Catching Fire, so I could finish the series with Mockingjay. As much as I loved the first two books, I found the end of the trilogy a little wanting. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale was an ok read. Although I liked the premise, the book was a little on the blah side for me. Fire by Kristine Cashore was a really good book. I liked it even better than Graceling. I read the second book in the Thursday Next series, Lost in a Good Book. I am constantly blown away by Jasper Fforde. His use of literary characters and word play is just so much fun. I read the first book in the 39 Clues series: A Maze of Bones. This one was written by Rick Riordan. The series itself is written by a number of authors. The premise is a hunt across the world for 39 clues that will lead the winners to something that will make them the most powerful people in the world. There are 7 teams of people, all members of the Cahill family. FUN series, though targets a younger audience than I usually read. What else? hmmmm....I started rereading The Dark Towers series by Stephen King. I read the first 4 books years ago, and I finally decided I needed to finish the series. So far, I've just read The Gunslinger, but will definitely pick up The Drawing of the Three soon. I just finished The Summoning (Darkest Powers) by Kelley Armstrong. Another good book, and another series I seem to have gotten stuck in. Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison was also a great beginning to the Rachel Morgan series. That's all I can think of now, off the top of my head.

Since school is starting in another week, and my for fun reading is going to be cut to a bare minimum, I have a stack of books I'm going to try to get through before I get back into all that homework. They include Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead by Scott Kenemore; Enna Burning by Shannon Hale; A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett; Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; The Good, the Bad, and The Undead by Kim Harrison; The Awakening (Darkest Powers, Book 2) by Kelley Armstrong; and finally Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters: Heroines in Folktales From Around the World by Kathleen Ragan. Let's see what I can get done in such a short time!!

On a sad note, we had to have my beloved St. Bernard, Rocco, put to sleep a few weeks ago. In all my years as a dog owner I've never had to make that decision before. And it SUCKED! But he was getting old and in constant pain from arthritis, lost most of his hearing...then started having neurological problems. By the end, he couldn't walk. He was way too big for us to have to carry outside anymore. It was heartbreaking for all of us, but the kids especially. Still breaks my heart to think about it.

Now...I want to hear from all of you! What is happening in your lives??? I've missed you all terribly and want to know.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Lady of Shallot

I have to be honest. I'm not a huge fan of poetry. Never have been. Sometimes, it just seems like too much work for the benefits. And I feel stupid reading poetry. Words that don't make any sense....why wasn't my time?

Then I read Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot...and everything changed. Since The Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge started, I thought this would be a good time to talk about it. I mean, this is a Fantasy poem about Camelot, Sir Lancelot, and an evil curse?? Sounds like it fits the OUaT bill to a tee!

Originally written in 1833, The Lady of Shallot has been depicted in many paintings (a few pictures I've added here), song, and verse. It is an incredibly beautiful poem, and if you haven't read it, DO IT. Take the word of someone that really dislikes poetry. It's worth the time. Fair maiden cursed forever to never be able to see the world, except through a mirror, spends her time weaving a magical web. Until she sees the beautiful knight, Sir Lancelot....and risks the curse to glance at him. Unfortunately for her, she can't escape the curse, even for Lancelot. It's actually incredibly sad to think that she risked everything for love....a love that was never returned. In fact, Lancelot never even had a chance to meet the Lady of Shallot.

"There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with color gay
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay to look down on Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath, she
The Lady of Shallot."

Then she sees Lancelot:

"His broad clear bow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war horse trode,
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode, as he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror
"Tirra Lirra", by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left her web, she left the loom,
She made Three paces through the room,
She saw the water lily bloom
She saw the helmet and the plume, She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide,
The mirror cracked from side to side,
"The Curse is come upon me," cried, The Lady of Shallot."

Arthurian literature has always been something that has intrigued me. And after reading this wonderful poem, I know that I have to read more. This lovely poem made me cry the first time I read it. It brought on deep emotions, and I can see how it has stirred many an artist. The last picture, I found on the internet is a Steam-punk Version/rendition of The Lady of Shallot. So Cool. And if you have a few minutes, please listen to the Lorenna McKinnet video I posted at the end. She adapted this poem to music, and it is truly beautiful. It makes my heart ache.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Once Upon a Time....Again

Every once in a while you stumble across something out there in the great big blogosphere that changes you. Sometimes this something is little, like a new book that will take your breath away. Sometimes, it's less tangible, like a feeling that you get when you read a post that fires up your sensibilities. And sometimes, it's meeting a new person that you have so much in common with, it's like you've known them all your life. For me, when I stumbled across The First Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge, all of these things happened. This challenge literally changed my life. I had just begun blogging, and Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings hosted the first challenge. The month before I had read American Gods by Neil Gaiman....a book that literally did take my breath away. A few people had commented on my review, Carl being one of them. He told me about this challenge and suggested some more books that I might like. In that moment, one little comment literally changed the way I read forever. A relatively new reader of fantasy, I had little experience with authors in the genre. Hell, I had little experience with the genre as a whole. But once I joined the challenge, I found a whole new world out there. And in that world were people that definitely knew their way around. Those people acted as guides to me, showing me books and authors that I would grow to love. Short stories that excited me. And graphic novels that would rock my world. For this I am forever in your debt. Carl, Chris, Nymeth, Debi, and guys have led me down a path that has taken me to worlds and places I will never forget. And for that I thank all of you!! Your friendship and reading guideance has meant the world to me.

So....with my blogging "break" (if you can call it that) officially over, I find it incredibly ironic that it coincides with the Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge V! There is NO WAY I would miss this challenge, even though I will be finishing up my first semester back! I can't guarantee that I will be able to complete the challenge. But that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that I do read some books, write some reviews, and follow along with everyone else. I definitely plan on trying to do the Short Story Challenge. And the movie Challenge. When the dust clears and the challenge is over, we will just see how far I make this year. I'm just happy to be back and be able to add my name to the little Mr. Linky....and hopefully transport myself to a few new worlds this year.

I don't have an exact list. And since money is EXTREMELY tight, I probably won't be able to buy anything new. But I have some books on my shelf that will definitely fit the bill....and maybe I'll even take a few out of the library to fill in the gaps. My reading list, while not complete, may include a few of the following:

  • Stories: All New Tales Edited by Neil Gaiman
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
  • Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
  • The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson Book 3) by Rick Riordan
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Matched by Ally Condie
  • The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
  • The Eternal Ones by Kristin Miller
  • Graveminder by Melissa Marr
  • Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
  • A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
  • Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • His Magesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
  • Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede
  • Beauty by Robin McKinley
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint
  • From a Whisper to a Scream by Charles de Lint

And these are just the books I have on my shelves. I will do my best to pick a few good ones. Any suggestions??

Once again, I just want to thank Carl. You might not realize how important you are to the blogging community. But you are. And I, for one, appreciate all the effort you put into your challenges. You are a good friend and I just want to say thank you!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring Break

Well, I knew going back to school was going to be hard. I just didn't realize HOW hard!! When I had classes before, I found the time to squeeze in a social life as well as studies. But now I have 3 kids, a husband, a part-time job and a household to run. It might have been a bit naive to think that I could handle 15 hours of class as well. BUT, I can honestly say I have never been happier! I may be sleep deprived and a bit mentally unstable some days, but I am doing well. Midterm grades are in and I'm carry 3 A's and 2 B's. I spent 13 years at Cat, locked in a cubicle and working for "the man". I loathed going to work. Especially the last 7 years. That is way too long to hate what you are doing. The Red Cross started out well. I liked the idea of working for an organization that helped people. Problem was, said organization was even more political than Cat. Who would have thought? And when push came to shove, being smarter and more educated than your supervisor is NOT a good thing. Some people just can't get over it. I know that sounds kind of arrogant. Not something I would generally say. But it was true, and when I tried to put in for a job that was a higher salary grade than my manager (even though it was in a different division), it was made pretty clear that I should learn my place. Unfortunately, that kind of thing doesn't fly with me....and I'm pretty sure it was the main reason for untimely layoff. Of course, it was the best thing that ever happened to me because it gave me a chance to reevaluate where I was heading. It got me back to school. In a place where I am most comfortable. In higher learning. Sitting in a room with others, learning new concepts and ideas....discussing literature and history. Learning teaching techniques and child psychology. THIS is where I was meant to be. Even though the market for teachers is horrible right now (and Mike thinks I'm making a huge mistake), this is where I need to be. I'm happy. I enjoy getting out of bed in the morning and going off to class. I figure if I can't stay a student all my life, then I can become a teacher and spend the rest of my days in a classroom. Hopefully, it will all work out.

A few of the drawbacks include a lot of travel time (with gas prices going up this sucks) and a severe tightening of the budget. My lack of full-time income is going to be a tough one for awhile. I'm still working part time, but as anyone in retail or restaurants know, business is SLOW. It's been really hard trying to make ends meet, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better any time soon. I am going to do my best to finish as quickly as I can, but if push comes to shove and I have to get a full-time job again, I'm still going to finish. I have to do this for me. I'm going to do one more semester at the JC, before I transfer to ISU. It's closer and cheaper. I even have my classes picked out for next semester.....including Intro to Special Ed, Humanities, Sociology, Educational Psych, and Sexism in History. Once finished, I will transfer to ISU to get a degree in Secondary Education (I will have at least an endorsement in English, if not a degree....although lately, I have been contemplating History as well). One day at a time......

I have done a lot of reading lately, although mostly for class. In the last couple of months, I have finished Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, tons of short stories, Beautiful Creatures, Wither, Infinite Days, Nightshade, The Sea of Monsters, a re-read of The Hunger Games, and Full Dark, No Stars. I just got some books from William Morrow that look amazing....and I'm going to start dropping some reviews. It's time I got back into the reason I started blogging in the first place. Don't give up on me yet. I'll find the time.

Spring Break has come and almost gone. I have spent most of it cleaning. My house was a disaster, and although not completely done, it's starting to look like a home again. And, drum roll please....I have lost almost 30 lbs! I'd love to say it's healthy eating and exercise. But it started out as stress and a general loss of appetite. A lot of it was due to the pain from my back, neck, hips and joints. The pain meds took away a lot of my desire for food. But once I realized how much better I felt, I really kicked it up a notch. Now, I'm down 3 pant sizes and I am starting to feel great, pain aside. I'm working through most of it with some therapy and starting next week, acupuncture. Still taking way too many pain meds, but I'm hoping to start decreasing those soon. Included a picture of me and my babies (aren't they getting big?? sob!)

So...I guess this is just one big post about how life is tough and a struggle and painful....and yet, I'm happier than I have been in years. Book reviews to start POURING out this week. Come back and see me!! Love you all!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Salon - The Longest Week Ever

The Sunday Salon.comOK....well, I know I said I was coming back to blogging. I meant it too. And I still plan on being back full-time, posting at least 3 or 4 times a week. But the past week has been amazingly full, and I haven't had a free minute!!

First of all, I have to thank each and every one of you. Not only did you restore my faith in blogging, but you welcomed me back open arms. THAT is the part of blogging that I have SO missed. What I didn't miss was the stress of posting a certain amount of times a week. Worrying about "stats", and whether my blog is "good enough" for certain publishers. Feeling pressured to read a book that I really had no desire to pick up. Feeling like I had to review all of the numerous book review requests that I received. But what all of you told me, and what I finally realized is this: That stuff doesn't really matter. I started my blog oh-so-many-years-ago for me. I wanted an outlet for all my creative juices, and a place to record the books I read. I was never a 1000-hit a day blog. I don't have millions of followers, and not the one that publishers immediately think of when choosing the Best Blogs.

BUT I think I have carved myself a nice little niche, with a few followers, some really good friends and, hopefully, some great discussion about one of my favorite topics: books. And that makes me happy. The funny thing is, even when I didn't even post for over 9 months, I still received tons of review requests. In my possession I have a least a full tote (if not two) of books that I received during my "sabbatical". I'm looking forward to getting back to reading and reviewing and blogging. I can't wait to catch up on all your blogs...and maybe even join a reading challenge of two. It's time...and I'm finally ready.

Of course, I alluded to the fact that this was a busy week. That is an understatement in the biggest way. Mike started working...which is great and wonderful...and he LOVES it. BUT, he has to get up between 2 and 3 am. And it never fails that I end up getting up too. His alarm wakes me, and I usually see him off. Then I try to get at least a couple more hours of sleep. I'm an incurable insomniac, so there are days when I just can't get back to sleep. Either way, I have to be up by 6 to shower before the kids get up. Chad has to be at the high school by 7:45. Band days, Belle has to be at school by 8. And Ana needs to be there by 8:45. The hours from 6 to 9 are just crazy trying to get everyone up, dressed, fed and ready.

Classes started this week, and I can honestly say I absolutely love them!! 4 classes and 1 online class. I'm so looking forward to getting into all of them. And for all of you readers, we are starting with the Romantics in Brit Lit. Poetry, so far by William Blake and Charlotte Smith. And listen to this: a huge project for this class includes creating a blog and doing a "salon" for a British Author!! I'm pretty sure I can handle that one!! I may be posting here on this blog, and am open to any suggestions you all have. I was thinking about Oscar Wilde or Thomas Hardy.....but would love to hear what you guys suggest!!

Frankenstein is my required reading this week in Lit111: The Short Story and The Novel. In fact, I actually picked this section BECAUSE of the reading list! The texts includes a book called Fiction 50, which is a collection of short stories by authors such as Agatha Christie, Nikolai Gogol, Leo Tolstoy, Alice Walker and Joyce Carol Oates. The other required reading is Frankenstein, The Haunting of Hill House, Dracula, Jane Eyre, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Eyre Affair.

Of course, getting back into the hang of studying has been a bit difficult. The last time I was studying this many classes at a time, I wasn't married. Didn't have kids or other responsibilities. I have a feeling this is going to be tougher than I originally thought. I really hope I can do it.

To top it all off, we had kind of a rough week. Chad is on the wrestling team this year. It's his first year doing it. His HS freshman football coach is the head wrestling coach, and actually suggested Chad try out for the team. Turns out, he's good. Real good. So good, in fact, this could lead to scholarships in the future. 2 weeks ago, he hurt his shoulder. We spent all day in the ER, but it was just a sprain. It put him out for a bit, which just killed him. Yesterday was the conference meet, and he was SO excited to get back to it. Then he hurt knee. Badly. We go to the orthopedic tomorrow, but his trainer is pretty sure he blew his ACL. Which is going to mean surgery and months of PT. He's devastated, but I told him at least it his freshman year. Actually, I'm kind of devastated for him. It kills me to see him so sad. He hasn't left his room since he got home from the meet yesterday.

And if that wasn't bad enough, I had to work last night. About 7:30, I was coming out of the back room carrying a bunch of plates, when I rounded the corner of the kitchen. Someone has spilt some balsamic vinaigrette (all greasy) on the floor, and I wiped out. I fell on my left hip, and hit my elbow hard on the metal counter. I jumped up pretty quickly, and went right back to work. But in about 15 minutes, the throbbing in my elbow as too much, and the swelling was pretty bad. They shipped me off to the ER too!! Good news for me is that I didn't fracture anything. It hurts like hell, is swollen, and is starting to turn ugly colors. But it won't keep me out of work too long.

This week it seemed like it was just one thing after the other. Belle is sick. I'm pretty sure it strep throat. Ana has had basketball and we've spent many hours studying multiplication tables. Chad's had a couple of doctor's appointments with his week it will be his knee. My washing machine took a dump, and now I have to go up the street to the Laundromat to do my laundry. Cross your fingers that I can hold it all together!

For now, I will let you all go. Check in frequently, I have a lot of books I'd like to talk about that I've recently finished, including the YA books Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Wither by Lauren DeStefano and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. Also the 1st 3 books in the Walking Dead Series. I also want to talk about the 9 new books that I've received the past few weeks, and the 3 that I got for my birthday. Till then, take care and I will be back soon!! Later!

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Holy Shit. I honestly didn't realize how long it had been since I posted till I logged on today. For the last few months, I've contemplated a return to blogging....but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I don't know why. I took a much needed break. But when it was time to come back, I just froze. What if all my friends were gone?? What if I didn't have anything to say anymore? What if no one came back to read what I did have to say?? I just couldn't take the rejection.

Things in my life have changed immensely. So many changes, in fact, I don't know where to begin. First of all, my blog is in need of a change. A much needed face lift for starters. But I figure I should start with baby steps. So I'm starting with a post.

The summer brought on a change in our family dynamics. When Mike and I were both working 3rds, the kids spent time with Mike's parents. In fact, they spent more time with them than they did with us. At the time, it was good for us. The kids were taken care of, and we worked. And slept. But losing my job...and Mike getting laid off changed all that. Then a huge blow-up between Mike and his parents occured at summer's end.....and mentions of that little word custody thrown out there, and suddenly, it didn't work so well. In fact, it wasn't working at all. In August, the kids cleared all of their stuff from my in-laws and now they are in our house full-time. In fact, we don't actually speak to the in-laws any more. I thought around Christmas, we were going to patch things up, at least for the kids. But some words can never be taken back. I don't think there is enough forgiveness in the world for our families to ever come together again. And as sad as it sounds, I can live with that too.

My family and I have mended many fences in the last year. In fact, this was the first time in years that we spent the entire holiday together....and it was wonderful. I've missed them terribly. Although we had some issues in the past, my parents are so much more loving and forgiving than Mike's. They accept us for who we are, and that means the world to me.

Next bit of news....Mike got a job!! Not a full-time position. Yet. But awfully close. He just started as a material handler with FedEx. Even though it's only part-time, he has the most incredibly benefits! Medical, dental, vision, vacation, 401K, sick days, even tuition reimbursement! I'm so happy for him! He's looked for something for SO long. And this kind of just fell into his lap at the right time. He was told with hard work he could be made full-time within the first year. They NEVER lay workers off. This is a job that he can retire with. And once he is full-time, we can move with FedEx anywhere in the country. With the family issues we have right now, a move actually sounds good.

And me?? As of January 18th, I am once again, a full-time student! I am working towards a 2nd Bachelors in English/Secondary Education. I'm taking 5 classes this semester at the Jr. College, then transferring to ISU in the fall. I've wanted to do it for SO long but I never thought it would really happen. But I figured if I don't do it now, I never will. SO......I'm back to being a student again. And it makes me really happy. I went and bought my books last week. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was!

Like I steps. My reading has been all over the place lately. Not really reading all that much. With classes starting next week, not sure how much I will read that isn't on a syllabus, but I guess we will see. My reading list for the lit classes is pretty awesome. I have a semester of The Novel and The Short Story and also English Lit. Hoping for some great reading.

So....that's it for now. I'm in the market for a new look. Have to get on that soon. BUT....I am back. I have been reading your blogs lately, but haven't had the nerve to comment. Wasn't sure who would ever remember me!! Hopefully your lives have been wonderful the past 9 months I have been absent. I will do my best to catch up with all of you!!

Later!!! (and this time I do mean it!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Salon - The What the Hell Happened to Me Post

The Sunday Salon.comGood morning!! I really just wanted to thank all of you for your kind words this past week. I don't want to get into specifics, but the past month has been challenging to me in so many ways. 3rd shift has been taking it's toll on me for the past 2 years, and I think I finally hit rock-bottom with it. Things with the Red Cross went from bad to worse....and it put me in a serious depression. I mean, I've been depressed before, but this was different. This was the kind of depression that left me feeling drained. All I wanted to do was stay in bed all day (or night) and pull the covers over my head. I didn't want to read or blog or check my email or twitter or ANYTHING. So I took a mental-health break. I apologize if I concerned you at all. I got a few emails that I know I should have answered and a few phone calls as well. But I just couldn't answer them.

But this week, I feel better. On Tuesday, I started a new job!!! One that I hope I'll be at for quite awhile. I am working for DHL Export Company. I've been looking for awhile, but after the first of the year, I kicked that into overdrive. With my background in IT and my experience in Logistics, they gave me the job right away. It's first shift, Monday thru Friday. (at the moment there is also unlimited overtime, but I don't know how long that will last). I am an Ocean Export Rep, and basically what they are training me for is to set up bookings of ocean shipments across the world for Caterpillar. I met the Regional Manager this week and told him I'm already a certified 6 Sigma green belt (if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry. It's a business thing and stupid as hell...but looks great on a resume!). He was super-impressed with that, so keep your fingers crossed that I'm here to stay!! I'm also sticking with the restaurant, as well. Scary thing is, I'm actually good at waiting tables. And the money is really good. I'm cutting my hours pretty drastically, but will use the money for my property taxes this year....and basically just as catch-up money. It was nice this year to pay cash for our entire Christmas!! Maybe another year of waiting tables, and I'll be able to pay for a really nice vacation for 2011. God knows, this family could use one!!

I even went to the library on Friday!!! I haven't done that in months. You know it's bad for me when I don't even want to go to the library. And I started doing a bit of blog hopping yesterday. Just so you know, I plan on catching up with all of you this week!! I saw that Carl has posted for the Once Upon a Time IV Challenge. If there is anything that could get me back into the blogging/reading mode again, it's one of Carl's Challenges!!! So look for a sign-up post from me this week.

During my month's hiatus, I finished a couple of books. Hex Hall, that I reviewed yesterday. Horns by Joe Hill. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Liga. And the 3rd Sandman and Fables. I don't know if I'll get to any reviews or not, but I will try. As for now, I am reading Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah and Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland. I also have a copy of the new Holly Black book on deck, White Cat.

And for the first time in over a year, I have the entire weekend off!!! Mike and Chad are out of town. They went to a racquetball tournament in Lombard, so it's been a "Girl's Weekend". This is something that I needed in the worst way. We went to see Alice in Wonderland. We went out to dinner both Friday and Saturday. And have been watching basketball and basically just hanging out. It's been incredible.

That's it for me today. I just wanted to thank all of you again. Not only for all your concern and kind words, but for your patience with me. And the fact that you still keep coming back to see me. I need you guys in my life!! The last month has proven that to me more than ever. So, thank you!! You have my undying appreciation!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blog Tour - Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

When Nicole from the Book Reporter asked me if I wanted to be a part of the "Hex Hall" Blog Tour, I jumped on the chance. As you all know, I have a huge affinity for YA, especially the paranormal. So, this was a pretty big chance for me. Unfortunately, I have been on a blogging break for the last 5 weeks, for personal reasons. But now I am back, and I'm ready to get started again!!

Felicia was crying in the bathroom. Again. I knew it was her because in the three months I'd been going to Green Mountain High, I'd already seen Felicia crying in the bathroom twice. She had a really distinctive sob, high and breathy like a little kids, even though Felicia was eighteen, two years older than me. I'd left her alone before, figuring it was ever girl's right to cry in a public bathroom from time to time. But tonight was prom night and there was something really sad about sobbing in formal wear.

Sophie Mercer discovered at the age of 12 she was a witch. It was at that time she came in to her powers. And it was pretty confusing for Sophie. Apparently, her father was a European Warlock, and she inherited his powers. But Sophie had never even met her dad. Her mother had a relationship with him until she found out about the whole warlock "thing", then ran screaming for the hills. But she was pregnant at the time. Now, he was a part of the "Council", or governing body for the Prodigium, and he kept tabs on Sophie in that way.

But a runaway "love spell" at Sophie's last high school is the final straw and the Council decides to send her to Hecate (or "Hex") Hall, which happens to be a reform school for Prodigium, including witches, faeries, and shape shifters. Here she will learn more about her powers and how to use them without Humans knowing. Because in the world today, there are people that want to see all Prodigium annihilated. Especially the group called L'Occhio di Dio, or "The Eye of God". For centuries, this offshoot of the Knights Templar have been killing Prodigium....and not in nice ways.

But when Sophie gets to Hex Hall, she realizes that living with her human mother has kept her sheltered from who she really is. Not growing up with Prodigium, she really has no idea about anything. And her first week at Hex Hall is anything but great. She immediately falls for the "hottest" guy in school, a warlock named Archer. Then she makes enemies with the 3 other dark witches who approach Sophie to join their coven. They just happen to be the prettiest and most popular girls in school. A weird ghost seems to be following her around. AND her roommate is the biggest outcast around: the school's only vampire.

I have to say I was really looking forward to reading this book. The last few months my reading has been really kept to a minimum, and I love a good YA book. Hex Hall and Rachel Hawkins did not disappoint!! What a great book!! I loved the story. I loved the characters. Sophie is so funny and sassy. With one foot in the human world and one foot in the Prodigium world, she is doing her best to find her way AND do the right things. Archer, although his motives are a bit suspect, is snarky as hell. And Jenna, the vampire-roommate, is tough. Not only is she forever destined to be 16, she loves the color pink, is cute and sweet, AND the only real friend Sophie has ever had.

But learning about the Prodigium is second to the mystery that surrounds Hex Hall. There is a series of murders/attacks on witches that makes reading this book even more fun! Of course, there is the whole "I'm-going-to-be-a-trilogy-and-this-is-just-a-taste-of-what's-to-come" thing that happens at the end of the book. *Sigh* It seems today there are far too few stand-alone books anymore. BUT I know for a fact that I'm super-excited about reading the next installment...just as soon as Rachel Hawkins publishes it!! If you like a fun, exciting bit of YA/paranormal fun, I totally recommend Hex Hall!!! 4.5/5

AND I have this snazzy Hex Hall T-shirt to giveaway!! Isn't it fun?? If you'd like a chance to win it, just leave me a comment. I'll contact the winner for a size next week when I draw!! (For the record, I got one myself. And it's cute as can be!) Good luck!!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I'm Back!

Well....I'm back. I'd like to say that I am better than ever. But things have been a bit rough for awhile now. Honestly, a break was needed just to keep my sanity. Between work (which is in a really bad place right now) and my marriage (which is having a rough spot right now), things have just been really bad. I've spent the last 5 weeks pretty much in a huge depression.

But I've missed blogging, and I've missed my friends. So, I'm back. Hopefully things will be better all around. Tomorrow, I have a post for an awesome new YA book, called Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I even have a great T-shirt to giveaway with it!! See? Things are looking up already.

Monday, February 8, 2010

We Interrrupt this Blog....

For an Unscheduled Break. Something personal came up at the end of last week, and I have been a bit preoccupied. I need to take a bit of a break. I will be back later this week to explain. Till then, I will miss you all.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

January in Retrospect

Hmmmm.....what is there to say about January?? A new year. A new decade. It was bone-chilling cold most of the month. And that's when it wasn't snowing!! It was also my birthday this month. I always hated a January birthday. Too close to Christmas and usually the weather was too bad to do much. But this year's birthday was nice. And I found out that a lot of book bloggers out there had either January birthdays or were, at least, Capricorns! It's nice to see I am in good company.

January was also a month of a lot of work. Extra shifts. A job interview (that apparently didn't go so well!) Hope for the future of Mike's employment. Concert going with Chad. Speaking of the boy, last week he came home with a packet of orientation "stuff" for his first year in high school. Good Lord, I almost had a heart attack. It is so NOT possible that I will have a high schooler in the house next year! I'm extremely proud of him. Not only has he been recommended for Enriched or AP History, Math and Science....but he's also trying out for football AND running for Student Council. My well-rounded boy. He wants to go to Harvard. Sheesh. I'll worry about that when the time comes. Till then, he's already receiving college fliers in the mail. He's only in 8th grade!!

On the reading front, January was a decent month for me. I read 7 books, including 1 Graphic Novel, 1 book of essays, 2 non-fiction, 4 fiction novels, with 2 of those being YA:

All in all a pretty good reading month. Since the big Challenge push early in the month, I only joined a couple more challenges: The Speculative Fiction Challenge, Hosted by Caroline at Book Chick City and the PoC Reading Challenge, hosted by Pam at Really enjoyed the books I read. Right now, I'm in the middle of Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah and Horns by Joe Hill. 2 very different books, but both very good so far.

Also coming up in February, I'm involved in a couple of Book Tours. The Classics Circuit is doing a Harlem Renaissance Book Tour in the month of February and I am participating this month. I'm also touring the book, The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran for TLC Book Tours this month. I've got lots of books going, and lots of goods ones on the horizon. So hopefully, February will be as good as January!!

Now...I'd better get back to work!!