Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day

Special Thanks to all who gave their lives or are giving their lives so that we may live free...

In celebration of our armed forces here is an excerpt from my grandfather's journal as he left New York harbor on his way to serve as a Chaplin to an Army Battalion in France in 1918.

What mingled emotions come as the great drama of life unfolds! Here we are on board the U.S. President Grant bound for "somewhere in France..."

We have left old New York far behind. How hard it is to see the glorious harbor for the last time- for perhaps years! How one does love one's country when leaving it under such conditions as these. It stands for life as each one delights to live it, for happiness which comes through the great normal channels of divine ordination; for service unto others as God gives us opportunity. The men have been silent, thoughtful and serious. They realize also what it means. Yet not one of us would be elsewhere.



Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Amazing Animal Pix

Check out these amazing photos of a pride of lions, a mama lion in particular, who are trying to save a lion cub who's fallen into a ravine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Found this on, So Cool

  From the San Francisco Chronicle, a female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was so weighted down by the traps that she struggled to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was freed, the divers said she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Review: The Giver

The GiverThe Giver by Lois Lowry is set in the community, a place where everyone dresses the same, lives in similar houses and life is free from unemployment, disease and war.

This utopian society is not without it's flaws. And as the story begins, we are slowly shown the cracks in this carefully constructed society.  Young Jonas, age 11 is about to experience the Ceremony of Twelve. It is the last of the ceremonies in the community. They occur each December. At age nine, the youngsters receive their bicycles, at age one, the babies are given a family. At age 12, the kids are given a career path.

At the ceremony, Jonas finds out he is to be the Receiver of the community. The Receiver is the one person who has access to how things used to be before they formed the community--it's memories, it's history, all locked up in this one person. As one Receiver ages, another one must be trained. Jonas will be that person. As the Receiver, he can ask questions that other members of the community cannot and the members must tell him the truth. That's when things start to fail. Jonas asks what happens when someone is released from the community. The current Receiver, known to him as The Giver shows Jonas a video of someone being released. Jonas learns later that it was the Giver's daughter. It is this knowledge that changes everything Jonas thought he knew about the community and leads to him choosing a difficult path...

The Giver won the Newbery when it was released in 1994--way before the trend of dystopian fantasies. Lowry first shows us the structure of the community --it's sameness, by showing everyone eating the same thing, wearing the same clothes, even riding the same bicyles. Then she unpeels the layers like you would an onion--slowly, carefully. The community seems slightly creepy in it's concise functionality, making it more and more dysfunctional. You root for Jonas to ask the right questions and make the right decisions. The writing is straightforward, there is no navel-gazing, no flowery words. The language is simple and clean much like the community itself. I found the book to be slightly disturbing and didn't like it at first. But upon further reflection, I believe this was Lowry's intent. We shouldn't like a society that eliminates individuality. We should celebrate our differences not suppress them.



Next up: The Penderwicks

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Born like an Artist

I love this. Janet Reid posted this to her blog yesterday ( ) It's awesome.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

Product Details
 To Kill A Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize, was picked by librarians as the best book of the 20th century and was made into a wonderful movie starring Gregory Peck. This American classic scrutinizes with unwavering honesty the racism and poverty that exists in a small Alabama town in the 1930’s. Told through the eyes of Scout, a young girl whose father has been tapped to defend a black man accused of raping a  poverty-stricken young girl.

Harper Lee eases into this storyline, choosing to begin by first showing the reader the town and its inhabitants. She explores Scout and Jem’s attempts to see Boo Radley, the recluse that lives next door and is rumored to be a blood-thirsty peeping tom. She also explores the unique family dynamic that exists between the kids, their father Atticus and their housekeeper, Calpernia. By the time the trial rolls around, the reader knows the characters and the town; it’s an easy leap to discern what effect a trial of this magnitude will have on this small town.

Scout’s father, Atticus Finch must defend a man already convicted by most of the town’s white inhabitants. He can only show that Tom Robinson, a tall black man with a withered arm from an accident with a cotton gin could not have beaten and battered the simple Mayella Ewell.Her injuries were clearly done by someone left-handed and well Tom's left arm was rendered useless by the accident. Clearly, he couldn't have done it. Even with a preponderance of evidence in Tom’s favor and the knowledge that Mayella receives frequent beatings and possibly more from her father; Tom is still convicted of the crime and sent to prison. Tom's conviction seems to be a fait accompli as he is a negro in the rural south and few if any juries at that time would choose to believe a black man over a white man.

A constant theme in the book is that one must spend time in another person's shoes in order to really know him. Or as Atticus puts it “climb into his skin and walk around in it." Once you see things from the other person's point of view--you may be less likely to judge him. Atticus suggests this to Scout in regard to Boo Radley, Walter Cunningham and Bob Ewell. It's at the climax of the novel that she is really able to do that and you really see her growth.

Great book. Read it. You'll be glad you did. If you've already read it. Read it again.

Next up: The Giver



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review- Tale of Despereaux

Tale of Despereaux- by Kate DiCamillo

I enjoyed this book. It's a light read  and the words delightful and charming come to mind when I describe it to people. DiCamillo does a skillful job of using multiple POV's She begins by telling the story of Despereaux a little mouse born with his eyes open. He lives in a palace and spends time in the library where instead of chewing on the pages of the books, he reads. He reads stories that begin with Once upon a time... He has a chance meeting with Princess Pea. She's kind to him, refusing to let her father kill him. Despereaux falls in love with Princess Pea. For this, he is banished by his own father to the dungeon. Despereaux's story comprises the first of four sections or books. The second section is about a rat name Chiaroscuro who, unlike the other rats of the dungeon he does not like the dark, preferring instead to seek out the light. In doing so he ends up in the queen's soup. The third book is about a young serving girl named Miggory Sow. Mig has been "clouted" so many times her ears now resemble cauliflowers.The characters' stories converge in the fourth and final book placing them all in the dungeon.

DiCamillo uses the four POV's in such a way that she begins with one story, gets to certain point and then tells the story of the next character, until all four characters are at the same crossroads. From there, she moves the story forward with all four characters interacting. This technique could have ended up a mess of head-hopping but it doesn't. DiCamillo constructs these four stories in a very organized and entertaining manner and the result is a delightful story.

She also at times will break the fourth wall and speak directly to the reader, this is a risk, but it works with this type of fairytale. It does work better in some chapters than others.

Next up: To Kill a Mockingbird



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Review of Speak- by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson

When Melinda calls the cops at an end of summer party, she finds herself the pariah of her high school. Her friends won’t talk to her and people she's never met hate her. Melinda is alone, trying not to think about what happened to her that night. If she thought about it, she would have to SPEAK the truth and then her life could really unravel.

I have to say upfront that I read this book in one sitting and loved it. Now the hard part, what makes it so good? I think it’s the simple language that Anderson uses. The metaphors she uses to describe what happens are not cliché, they are hers alone—new and unique. The voice is in first person and the reader learns in heart-breaking detail what the school year is like for her. No friends to speak of, no one to talk to, she is alone in her own head and for a girl like Melinda, that’s the last place she wants to be.

The novel is broken down into the four marking periods that comprise the school year. The sections are further broken down into vignettes that occur during that time. Things like gym class, job day, pep rally are used to move the novel forward.

Melinda finds an abandoned janitor’s closet that becomes her refuge when the day becomes too much for her to handle. She also finds solace in her art class, trying all year to draw the perfect tree. These two things provide her with the strength she needs to endure.

It’s clear that Melinda is depressed, but Anderson never states the words outright. She portrays Melinda with the symptoms of depression. She shows a lack of interest in almost everything; she needs and wants to sleep all the time, she shows a lack or disregard for personal hygiene. Her grades have plummeted from the year before. Even the town she lives in is dreary and gray. For writers trying to master the mantra “show don’t tell,” Speak provides the perfect example of what that means. Anderson shows the reader Melinda’s turmoil, never once does she tell us how she feels, she shows us her inner wrath in every scene. By the end you want her to finally SPEAK the truth.

Next up: Tale of Despereaux



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Alchemyst

The Alchemyst(The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel)-by Michael Scott
Cover Image

Twins Sophie and Josh Newman take summer jobs across the street from each other in San Francisco. Three strange men enter the bookstore where Josh works looking for the Codex- The Book of Abraham, the Mage. The Codex is in the possession of Josh’s boss, Nick Fleming. The twins soon learn that Nick Fleming is really Nicholas Flamel—the Alchemyst and the holder of the elixor of life. The men swipe the Codex (and Flamel’s wife Perry), but not before Josh is able to tear out the critical last two pages. The twins learn that they may be mentioned in the book’s prophecies, a fact that will forever change their lives and have them on the run with Flamel.

In The Alchemyst, Scott weaves mythology, history and fiction together to create a story which begins at a breakneck pace and builds from there. Scott doesn’t begin with a scene or two to let the reader know a little about the characters—he starts almost immediately with action before the reader really knows who the characters are. It’s a riskly move but it pays off for him in the end as he sucks you with the action and fills in the other parts as the story evolves.

From a writing standpoint, The Alchemyst uses several different points of view, but never once did I get confused as to whose point of view it was that I was reading. Scott usually separates the POV’s as different sections or chapters. It helps that the pov changes follow consistently within the structure of the plot. Scott also includes a lot of historical and mythical information throughout the book. The background information is woven into the dialogue but it never feels like he’s using one character to lecture the other characters.

There are some plot points that do seem a bit contrived. The mirrors as a leygate (or passage) seems a bit reminiscent of HP 6, and the cabinets acting as passageway in and out of Hogwarts for Voldemort’s followers. The mirrors appear at a time when it seems that the main characters are trapped. Other than this flaw, I really enjoyed this book. It's a great example of how to write a fast-paced Fantasy novel as it doesn't get bogged down in world building or try to be more than it is.

Next up, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson



Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Last year, I only read about two or three books the entire year. Granted, I work two jobs and I did a lot of writing, but that's still pretty dismal. This year, my New Year's Resolution is to read 25 books--a little more than two books a month. Of the 25 books, I plan to focus on reading novels. This includes classics I never read in high school or college; young adult and middle grade books; and books that come highly recommended by friends. I'll blog about each book and what I learned from it. Afterall, books should teach us something right? Stay tuned. First up is a young adult book called The Alchemyst by Michael Scott.