26 August 2008

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists
Daniel DeFoe 4/5 stars
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Pantheon (October 31, 2006)

In this, the Pirates! most recent escapade, they find themselves in London with the Pirate Captain mistaken for, and arrested in lieu of, Karl Marx--due to the beard of course. This horrible case of mistaken identity--Marx's beard is no where near as luxuriant as the Pirate Captain's beard!--leads to a strange adventure in which the Pirates attempt to clear the Communists of some extremely bad press (including claims of drowning kittens). Can-can girls, opera singers plus deranged genius equal excitement for these nameless pirates, but with such a spirited leader (and thankfully a second-in-command with his head on straight), the Pirates are sure to save the day.

As with the other Pirates! books, this is a lighthearted story with lots of laugh out loud bits and is just plain quirky fun. It's not, however, as fully enjoyable as, say, the first Pirates! book. At times, it felt a bit strained, and I went paragraphs without exploding in laughter, as I've come to expect from Defoe. It also lacks a strong conclusion and has a weaker plot that the first two. That's not to say it wasn't good, but it fell just short of great.

One of the best things about the Pirates! books is the funny little lines Defoe uses for title chapters. They a) have nothing to do with the chapter and b) are different between the table of contents and the chapter title. This gives an extra little dimension of fun to the reading.

If you like silly fun, give Defoe a try. I recommend the first book, The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists.


24 August 2008

The Almost Moon

The Almost Moon
Alice Sebold 4/5 stars
Hardcover: 304 pages (out in Paperback - Sep 8, 2008)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 16, 2007)

Helen Knightly has spent all her life looking after her mother, Clair, in some form or fashion, being tied to her in an unhappy, unhealthy, unrelenting relationship that has taken a toll on her in various ways. Now, Clair's dementia has reached the point that something has to be done; she is going to have to leave the house--a task that was psychologically painful and difficult for Clair--as she is no longer fit to stay home by herself. Helen is relieved and anxious at the same time and as she deals with her mother's vitriolic tongue and loose bowels, she surprises herself by smothering Clair.

Over the next 24 hours, Helen behaves as irrationally as any human being would, becomes entangled more and more in a web of lies and (through memories) exorcises some of the demons of past as she deals with the mental illness of her family.

Sebold has done an incredible job of writing about mental illness, and as an author she passes no judgments, gives no advice, just has Helen tell her story and leaves the rest to the reader. In Helen, one sees a character so human and unpredictable that it was almost uncomfortable at times to read her thoughts, feeling like an intruder or eavesdropper.

I read several negative reviews and I think it was really Sebold's amazing talent that prompted these. Those readers that complained about this or that action of Helen's appear to have been expecting Sebold to pass the appropriate (to them) moral judgments on said action and when she didn't these readers assume she condones these actions. Other readers couldn't believe Helen would act the way she did, having apparently never acted irrationally under stress themselves, and didn't see the deep realism of Helen's character acted out in her irrationality.

I found it a very moving book and at times it was too emotionally taxing and I had to take a break from it. It's hard to say I "liked" it, because, how can one "like" a story about mental illness in all it's dirty, real life, day-to-day struggles. I was reminded of Nabokov's Lolita--I didn't "like" the subject matter, but loved the book. This is another instance of that. The Almost Moon, while not for everyone, is a emotion-packed, realistic novel from a very talented author.

My friend, Deb, passed her copy onto me to read (you can read her review here) and I'd like to pass it on to someone else. After all the adamant negative review on amazon, I'd like to see what other people have to say about. If you're interested in reading it, especially in reviewing it (even if it's just a line or two), leave me a comment. I'll wait till this time next week and if more than one person are interested, I'll do a random number generator and send it out.


18 August 2008


Just ate half the tub thingee of Ben and Jerry's Karamel Sutra and now I feel sick. And the worst part is that it's bed time. What a horrid thing to do. But, I'm hoping that confessing it will A) make my tum feel less yucky and B) make the calories go away.

Excellent day at work. New kiddo was a Baby Genius; we're up to 5 in our Asperger's class. All boys, all bright, all adorable. :D I love going to work!

Another day without reading a single word in any book. I have a stack of overdue library books, several of which are half read, and a bunch of half written reviews that just WON'T become polished into something more interesting than a high school book report. Still working on them. But I didn't buy any this weekend. :P Didn't leave the house, actually. . .

Cleopatra is still not well; third time to vet, still no change. I'd chat about it more but am too tired right now. I'll just say that those of you that pray, add a little prayer for my baby.

In other news, I had falafel for lunch and it was yummy.

I go now--go groan and moan in bed with a belly ache. Night y'all.

14 August 2008

Hate That Cat

Hate That Cat
Sharon Creech 5/5 stars
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Joanna Cotler (September 23, 2008)

Wow! What a lovely book! I was taken from laughter to tears and back and finished with a sense of absolute satisfaction. It's a simply stunning book!

It it told all from the point of view of Jack's writing journal, directed to his teacher Miss Stretchberry. Apparently, Miss Stretchberry was Jack's teacher last school year (during the book Love That Dog), but not having read that book, I'm going only on what I've picked up from Jack's journal. His class in school is learning poetry, and through Jack's attempts and one sided conversations with his teacher, the reader learns so much about Jack, his relationship with Miss Stretchberry and his family--and about poetry!

Ms. Creech tells more in this one sided story that many books tell for all their omnipotent narrators! It was a thrill to watch Jack grow emotionally, to see how his poetry progressed, to see his family through his eyes, and to be a part of the gentle, gradual changes in Jack himself.

This would be a wonderful book to read out loud with a child, in part because of some of the beautiful wording and language in this book that so deserves to be shared but also because some rather important elements are implied (perhaps known if you read the other book?)and younger readers might have a more difficult time processing the clues. Otherwise, I cannot begin to recommend this book enough, even for adults, and look forward to reading the poets she mentioned as well as Ms. Creech's other books. As soon as this is published (September 23, 2008), I recommend purchasing it for yourself or your children!


ARE copy reviewed for Harper Collins Children's.


11 August 2008

The Good Thief

The Good Thief
Hannah Tinti 4/4 stars
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: The Dial Press (August 26, 2008)

Ren has no memories of, or even idea of, life outside the orphanage with the monks. He was left there as an infant and has spent all his eleven years imagining who he might be, and why he is missing a hand. Then one amazing day, Benjamin Nab appears, claims him as his long-lost brother and his life makes a drastic change from the comforting, if sparse, routine of the monastery to a whirlwind life involving crime, confidence trickery graverobbery, Resurrection men, hired murderers, a motherly housekeeper, a mysterious dwarf, a sinister factory owner and--most importantly--the answers to his past.

Ren is a wonderfully sympathetic character while Benjamin Nab is, I hate to admit it, an attractive rogue that one can't help but like despite his crimes. Ben's partner Tom has a deep sadness that shows itself in depression and drink and comes out slowly over the course of the story. The minor characters are well-written and engaging, Mrs. Sands, for example, with her hinted back story. And while I was able to figure out most of Ren's history about 3/4 of the way through the story, that made it no less enjoyable or thrilling.

I had some qualms about half way through the book, thinking that petty crime was being a bit too glorified, and perhaps wasn't going to be shown as "not okay", but I was satisfied in the end; it wasn't preachy or moralistic but the life of crime was shown to be of no benefit. I was also quite pleased with how Tinti chose to end the book--I'll not say more than that but any other way and I would have thought less of Benjamin.

Overall this was a wonderful story that will appeal to children and young adults (and adults, of course!) who enjoy a sometimes dark adventure with well written characters and a sound plot line.


10 August 2008

Weekend's Over. . .Already?

Oh man, the weekend's over, I've a stack of books to review (why, oh WHY don't I review them immediately instead of starting another book?), laundry still to wash and numerous "get-ready-for-work" duties not yet done. *groan*

On the other hand, I DID take a stack of around 20 books to the used bookstore.

Of course, I came home with fifteen and the hubbie with five. . .

Our kiddos start school tomorrow. One will not be there for certain, he's a T-Th only kiddo, but the other four should be. I'm excited! A class of five little boys between three and four years-old, diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome should be SO much fun! Two of them are my students from last year, so I'm thrilled about that, one of them I know slightly from his previous class and the other two just turned three, so this is their first school experience. Can't wait to see how tomorrow goes!

07 August 2008

more about Sonny's House of Spies

Debi read Sonny's House of Spies and enjoyed it too. :D Here's the link to her lovely review. This book really is a good read--see if you can find it!

Debi's review

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday

1. Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live? Tolkien's world, without a doubt, and be a Shield Maiden of Rohan. Also, Discworld, though I'm afraid the humor of it is lost on the actual citizens, with the possible exception of Vetinari--but I would love to live in Lancre with Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax.

2. Or where you certainly would NOT want to live? Any world created by Dean Koontz--terror and scary things live around every corner and drive all the vans.

3. What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life? Diana Wynne Jones, because it would most certainly be magical and humorous. Terry Pratchett, for the same reason. I really like Neil Gaiman, but he'd have me literally in hell and back again and I'm not sure I'm ready for that. Christopher Moore is another top favorite of mine, but again, I'm not really eager to be having personal relationships with sea monsters or become embroiled with cargo cults or be "helped" by loony gods.

05 August 2008

July 2008 Reading List

Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman
Incredible book that deserves a review that I can't seem to write. . .

Sonny's House of Spies by George Ella Lyon
my review

The Evolution Man, or How I Ate My Father by Roy Lewis
my review

Automated Alice by Jeff Noon
my review

Tideland by Mitch Cullins
my review

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey
Some were funny, but some of them. . . well, I just didn't get the joke! :(

The Pirates! In an Adventure with Communists by Daniel DeFoe
review hopefully coming soon

Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer
my review

The Almost Moon
review coming soon

04 August 2008

Back to Work part II

Not bad, not bad. Emotions ran pretty high for me all day, but all in all I think I will work well with this teacher and okay with the other TA. The teacher is very excited and is looking forward to a class of just kids with Asperger's Syndrome. We'll be focusing on structured play (my speciality), social skills and the like so it should be a good year. I told Caroline about wanting to look into the grants for going back to school and she encouraged me to do it. So, come this spring, I will! I'm sure it's too late for this year and besides, I feel rather committed to this year, the teacher and plus I'm getting two of last year's kiddos in my class! J, whom I loved and cried when he left, and L who had just started but has SO much potential. So, I'm feeling pretty positive right now. Very sleepy, put positive.

I'm also three book reviews behind, having just finished my book for the 1% challenge, which is also non-fiction. I've GOT to get these reviews posted. But it won't be tonight. I'll be in bed in less than an hour, I can promise you!

Thanks to all for the well wishes for today! (((hugs)))

Back to Work

Vacation is over; it's back to work time. I woke up at 2:30 this morning and never could go back to sleep, nervous, excited, worried. Had a good long chat with Caroline last night, so I feel much better about it, but it still doesn't ease up the emotions.

Kids won't start back until next Monday, so we'll have a whole week to get our classroom set up and all in readiness for them. I can't wait to see my young'uns from last year! There are several of them that I really missed this summer and several of them that I will miss this year, who will have moved on to other classes or other schools.

It's been a great summer though! I got quite a bit accomplished. Nothing like what I had planned, of course. Only about a third of my house cleaning/organizational project got finished, but I still feel pretty good about it. I threw bags and bags of stuff away, gave away some things, sent three boxes of kitchen stuff to the basement and at least five boxes of other things to the attic. We've been resisting the urge to have more "things" and over the spring moved into the next phase with it--having less things around us. It's been great and quite freeing! Many of these things have sentimental value or other value or for other reasons we just weren't ready to part with them quite yet, but I boxed them all up carefully and put detailed lists in page protectors and taped them to top of the boxes for easy future reference. Pretty much every thing of a knick knack, bric-a-brac, collectible type nature has been or soon will be packed up, along with memorabilia and mementos. We're keeping out just a few that will fit on two separate small shelves, and all else will be stored away. I have a feeling that, as time passes, it will be easier to part with more of it.

Stoney hurt his back, so until the steroids and anti-inflammatories kick in, bookcase building has had to be put on hold--my back doesn't let me move furniture by myself either! I still haven't gotten even half my books in my LibraryThing, but I'm working on it slowly. That's a project I continue into the school year, I hope.

It's been a great two months for reading--I've read a total of twenty books and finished two reading challenges! Hopefully I can keep up with my challenges even during the school year. Work just exhausts me--I don't know if it's because I work with special needs kiddos, because I give so much or because I just don't have the ability to mulitask very well. I'm hoping the new addition of thyroid medicine will help out.

So, I'm off to the shower and to start a new school year--after a cup of Starbucks: no way I can make the whole day with out a large dose of caffeine, and I rarely use the drug but today it will be a necessity!

Moody Monday: Schadenfreude

This week's Moody Monday is Schadenfreude (a malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others). This certainly isn't a good photo, in quality, composition, the like, but oh how it fits the subject!

It's my Cleopatra, who was playing with a Q-tip which, unfortunately, got stuck on her crooked tooth. Like any good Momma, I got out the camera before I helped her out.


01 August 2008

Disappointments Abound

Got our classroom assignments in the email a short while ago; I'm being moved to another teacher. I don't want to work with another teacher. I work with the best and I don't want to work with a teacher that doesn't have the same philosophy of teaching that I do, that doesn't command my respect, that doesn't (to be honest) know more and better than I do about teaching special ed preschoolers.

Vain, you think? No, I've just worked with the best, that's all.

Frankly, I'm devastated. Of, course, I got moved around last year too and it all worked out okay in the end, but. . . I don't like the feel of it this year.

I've been saying for years that I need to get the special ed teaching masters and come back and be the lead teacher myself. I just wanted a few years under Caroline to learn as much from her as I could, soak it all up, try to get as second nature about it as she is. This may push my hand. There are some grants I can apply for--the time may be now, depending on how the year unfolds.

Gaiman Giveaway

On Gaiman's journal, he linked to a giveaway for his latest book. The rules were to write last words for the following:
1. A famous (or infamous) living character of your choosing

2. Someone on the very cusp of dying in a very stupid manner

3. And you, personally — in the brief moments before you shuffle off this mortal coil.

Here are my entries:

1. Virginia Woolf, on walking into the river, “At last, I can be my own self, have my own room, be free. . .”

2. Stupid Person’s last words, “Here, hold my beer!”

3. My last words will most likely be, “But I’ve still got another chapter left to read!”

Number two is an old joke between Stoney and I, that has gone on for years now--we always imagine nearly every stupid thing that happens in our area to start with those four words. LOL

Anyway, put on your thinking caps and see if you can win an advance copy. I've not read all his books, by any means, but I do dig him! I've got two in my to-be-read shelf right now. :D

Double Woot!!

Got my first two books from the Amazon Vine program today. I'm really excited and pleased that they sent me an invite! Oh, sure, I know that lots of people get invited to receive and review AREs, and that it's nothing hugely special, but I'm just glad to be one of them! :D (Besides, two free books a month, with nothing more required than a review. . . Pshaw! Easy done, mates!)

Woot! CueCat!

My CueCat came from LibraryThing today and it is awesome! It is going to save me mondo amounts of time in the adding of books to my library catalog. I am SOOOO excited! So easy, too. Just plug it in, and scan the bar code. Granted, LOTS of my books don't have bar codes--or even ISBNs. . . or even publication dates--but many do, so this will make it a cakewalk. Here's an image of it that I borrowed from the Wikipedia:

(I had to borrow the image, as my CueCat is plugged into the slot that my digital camera output is normally plugged into; some rearranging may have to be done.)

It's history is simply amazing; even if you have no interest in owning one for LibraryThing, reading the Wiki article might be of interest, giving an insight into the fickle world of computer gimmicks.

Beedle the Bard release date announced

Rowling's charity foundation, Children's High Level Group, is to publish The Tales of Beedle the Bard in December. According to Border's: "All net proceeds from the sale of the books - expected to be in the region of £4 million / $8 million - will be donated to CHLG." So, those nay-sayers that will be yacking about how she's just out to make more one the Harry Potter label can shut up. She's got a wonderful imagination and I look forward to reading these!

The Border's article says this is the book Dumbledore left to Hermione, and now she has translated these five stories, complete with his footnotes. Amazon raves about the historical backstories--right down my alley! Again I say, I'm really excited! I want to know more about this world, prior to Harry, more about Dumbledore and his peers, more about the pre-Voldimort world. Hopefully this will give a nice taste of that, and be good imaginative fun. I've got to wait till December to find out. . . sigh. . .