the cutest blog on the block

Friday, December 30, 2011

Gosh DARN It!

You realize what this means, people? 

It means I am going to have READ the dang book, WATCH the dang movie, and possibly develop another ridiculous book obsession. 

I hate that I am so easily swayed by a song from one of my favorite artists.  

Over & Out,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After (...Or Two)

Two days after Christmas and now I choose to update??!!

Wow, I'm lame.

Anyways--great news, wonderful news, fantastic news, absolutely awesome and amazing news!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I HAVE A NEW LAPTOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After four years of struggling with my old one, which I've had since I was twelve, which is now sort of the family hand-me-down (though I wouldn't wish it on anyone), which by today's standards is like using a horseless carriage, or being powered by steam or coal, I write this entry on a beautiful, shiny new Acer laptop. My sweet girl handles like a dream, she does.

Did I just call my laptop a girl? Even though I've never understood that practice and I've always teased my brother Aaron about calling his laptop 'girl'?

Why yes. Yes, I did. And I totally get it now, even though I still think it's a little weird.

My mom and dad, who are the BEST parents in the history of parents, surprised me with this one for Christmas on Sunday. I totally and completely didn't even see it coming; all I saw on Christmas morning after coming home from church was a large wrapped package sitting away from the general debris. My brothers were handing envelopes in wrapped paper, which turned out to be the order forms for their new laptops, since they do need them. I was happy for them, of course, though I do remember thinking, "Okay, well, now that they have new laptops, maybe I'll get one of their old ones." It wasn't the brand new, shiny laptop I originally had in mind, but I figured, Okay, I can still work with that.

Then my mom said the mysterious wrapped package was me.

I had a thought in my mind, Oh, maybe it's a new laptop, but I dismissed it almost immediately. I knew I was getting a new laptop in the spring. That's what I was saving up for. I thought it was a new pair of boots. A very tall, heavy pair of boots, but I was okay with that too.

Then I started unwrapping it.

I saw the brown box first, with the words Acer on the side. I knew Acer was the same people who made my old laptop, but it didn't really register in my mind. It was like my brain was saying to my eyes, "I know that word, I know what it means, but it couldn't be, could it? Could it?" 

It was.

I screamed then, one sharp, short sound of joy and hysteria combined, ear-splitting enough to make Aaron protest, "Woman!" from the other side of the room. Then I started crying. Full on tears of joy were shed in my family's living room, my hand over my mouth and shoulders heaving. I kept saying over and over again, "You didn't? ...You did! You did, you did, you did..." like a broken record. It must've been five whole minutes before I could compose myself enough to lunge across the room and lock my father in a hug, sobbing and saying, "Thank you...thank you...thank you..."

Like I said: Best parents in the history of parents.

My cup runneth over that day, because of the generosity, the love, the blessings that my parents shared with us. And also more importantly, because of the blessings God has given to us, last year and this year. Two days after the fact and I still can't believe this beautiful machine is mine.

We're gonna catch fire, my girl and me. Just watch us run.

Over & Out,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pretty Things and Lovely Pictures

I. Have. REVIEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you libraries who provide the books I desperately want to read, but am too lazy (or too cheap, take your pick) to buy for myself. But think of it as a way to discern if I really want to the book, or am I just seduced by a pretty cover.

The being seduced by a pretty cover bit is more likely. And do I commit that worse of childhood sins by, in fact, judging a book by it's cover? Yes. Yes, I do. I am not in the least bit ashamed. Ha-ha!

Anyways. Moving on. So, first up on the review docket is a book I've heard some really great things about, from critics and other published authors. The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, is her debut novel and what a debut it is. The Night Circus takes place through the 19th to the early 20th century, all around the world. It's main setting is Le Cirque des Rêves or the Circus of Dreams, a name that suits it perfectly. It's fantastical circus where the kind of beauty you only dreamed of exists, and as you read the book, you find yourself wishing that it did in the real world, just so you could see it for yourself. The story centers around two young magicians, real magicians, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. They have been trained since childhood for a mysterious and fierce competition, Celia under her careless, sometimes cruel magician father, and Marco under an enigmatic man in a gray suit. Despite being competing against each other, Celia and Marco eventually fall in love, with Le Cirque des Rêves being the backdrop. 

As I read the book (devoured it, really), I kept thinking of one of my dearest friends, Jamie. I kept thinking, Jamie would love this book. The kind of beauty and elegance that exists in The Night Circus is exactly the kind she and I could spend hours gazing at, simply marveling. And I'm pretty sure the costumes and the acts described within it would send her into raptures too, if she were to see them exist in real time. Ms. Morgenstern write the story like a fairy tale, like a myth, like Shakespeare (and that is the highest compliment I can give anyone whose works I read). I kept skimming back through the pages, reading beautiful descriptions over and over. So, anyone who wants to get me a Christmas gift? The Night Circus is at the top. 

My next review is a children's book, the debut novel of William Joyce, best known for the Rolie Polie Olie animated series, Dinosaur Bob and Meet the Robinsons: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King. In this work Joyce, along with Laura Geringer, take on what he calls the Guardians of Childhood, those mythic and elusive figures that only children can believe in, and maybe a few special adults. Starting with, just in time for Christmas, the one and only St. Nick, alias Santa Claus. But before he was St. Nick or Santa Claus, he was Nicolas St. North, dashing bandit and mythic highwayman of Russia. 

Nicholas St. North, the daring devil.
Yes. Santa Claus as a bandit. The Bandit King, no less. He is described as "he once defeated an entire regiment of cavalry with a bent steak knife--while he was eating." Remember what I said last entry about their being fantasy for children and then there was fantasy for children? I'm honestly not sure where this one lies. Because me, the incorrigible child at heart? I enjoyed this book, and I think any child under the age of twelve would too. And any child over the age of twelve might enjoy, but in the same way they might secretly believe in Santa Claus--they'd never admit it out loud. 

It's pretty much exactly the kind of book that only a really special child would enjoy, where the children are the heroes, the adults are kind and wisely (and in the case of Nicholas St. North, a swashbuckling buccaneer of fun and good times), the magic straightforward and simple (light--good, darkness--bad), and the villains are creepily evil. The story is again, simple enough. Pitch, the Nightmare King, has returned to do battle on earth and send every living thing nightmares. The only one who can stop him is the Man in the Moon, Tsar Lunar and the great wizard Ombric Shalazar, the last survivor of the great city of Atlantis. Ombric lives in Old Russia, in the enchanted village of Santoff Claussen (sound familiar at all?), where he teaches all who live within it's magical borders magic, curiosity and the languages of creatures (insect is included). When Pitch, the Nightmare King, returns to the land, help comes from an unlikely source: the titular Nicholas St. North. At first, Nicholas could care less about the oncoming onslaught of nightmares about the unleashed on the world. He just wants treasure, adventure and excitement. But the children of Santoff Claussen convince him to help them and the adventure begins. 

This is the book for a child who already knows and the adult who remembers what it was like, to believe in something so fiercely, it could come true with the power of that belief. 

I have a couple more reviews, but I'll save them for next time. To whet your appetites, as it were. So y'all come on back now, y'hear? I am chock full of devious, people. 

Over & Out,

P.S. The next book in The Guardians series is E. Aster Bunnymund and the Battle of the Warrior Eggs. 
...I'm honestly not sure if that's really awesome or just extremely silly. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Return of the...Blog

Ahem. There are lots of things I could say, such as "I had work" or "I had school" or "I had fleas" (no, I didn't actually have fleas. No, really. That's just me making things up). Or I could just say, "I am a lazy bum and I humbly beg everyone's forgiveness for not updating earlier."

Yeah, I could just say that.

So yes. I'm back! And hopefully, more entries will be coming up here soon and I won't be acting like there aren't people waiting on me to actually open my mouth and say something. Though I'm pretty sure you guys all have lives of your own and do not, in fact, wait with baited breath for a new blog entry to come up here (though I wouldn't mind if you did. It would make me feel like my ramblings are worthwhile).

Apologies out of the way now? Good.

So it's a bit of a mark of embarassment for me (or at the very least, mark of a lack of ambition) that most of my reading material comes from the children or young adult fiction section at the library/Barnes & Nobles/Amazon. And okay, yes, I still read picture books. But only the ones with pretty pictures and good stories! I have my standards. They may be low, but I have them.

I have a whole list of children's books that I need to get on. The Invention of Hugo Cabret (because the movie looks beautiful and I want to read the book before I see it), The Humming Room (inspired by The Secret Garden...loveliest book about gardens ever), The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: Book II: The Hidden Gallery (it's like Jane Eyre, for the younger generation) and just, a whole bunch of them, okay? I don't have time to name them all.

But I'm keeping up with the trends! I'm staying aware! I know what kids like to read, what works and what doesn't. And what goes beyond even my extended realm of disbelief. There was one book I tried to read, The Mousehunter. It's this alternate reality where there are different breeds of mice that are extremely valuable and there are pirates and sailors who hunt them down to sell. Now, I love me a good mouse story. Brian Jacques fan, right here. But even this one was sort of like..."You're risking life and limb for a special kind of mouse?" They weren't even talking mice, either. They were like...really specialized dog breeds. And sort of absurd, honestly. So that didn't work. Then there was this other book, Dormia, about a young boy who can do all kinds of incredible things, like karate or climb walls...only when he's asleep. And if that's not enough to raise your eyebrow, he's also the heir to an underground kingdom, whose royal line is apparently defined by this sort of thing.

There is fantasy for children and there is fantasy for children. The trick is knowing the line between the two. Another trick is writing well enough, passing a message important enough, crafting a story believable enough for adults to enjoy them too.

 And don't even get me started on the young adult genres. They go through trends like my little sister goes through tennis balls. I mean, first it was vampires and werewolves. Then it was fallen angels and angels falling in love with humans. Then zombies/ghosts/undead had to get in on the action. Then there's the mash-ups that have vampires, werewolves, fallen angels and (just for the heck of it) magic-users and let's throw in the Knight Templars, just for fun! Yes, I've read a book just like the one I described above. It wasn't that great, for obvious reasons.

I promise you all, there is a reason for my wandering ways. It's because I'm teaching myself, what makes a good book for children/teens to read? Is it a believable plot? A touch of fantasy? An inhumanly good-looking boy with mysterious origins? (They do seem show up quite frequently, I've noticed). Or (amazing thought!  Shocking thought!) a story that be enjoyed by everyone. It can be done. It can be done with amazing results. It's not impossible.

But you've got to educate yourself. What sounds good in your head can be completely ridiculous on paper--trust me, I've had a lot of experience with that one. And keep reading! Always read! That's why I'm always happy to see writers who actually published still read children and young adult books. It means I am not alone and that there are others who share my philosophy. Or my lack of motivation/ambition.

Over & Out,