Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Favorite Children's Books #3: The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish

Today is my dad's birthday, so I thought it was fitting to pick this book. :) He would probably rather be traded for 2 squirrels though. Also fitting, he shared his love for Neil Gaiman with me when I was a teenager and I am so glad he did. Happy birthday, Dad!

The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
Written by Neil Gaiman
Pictures by Dave McKean

Two Goldfish (as I shall shorten it) is a cute little story about a boy who decides that his friend's 2 goldfish are so awesome that he must have them, at any cost. He offers him a variety of things, including baseball cards, books, a penny whistle, and Clownie the Clown. His friend wisely declines all of these offers. The boy sits and thinks and finally comes up with an outstanding offer...his father. The friend agrees and goes home happy with his trade.

When the boy's mother gets home, she is not quite so happy. In fact, she is a little peeved. She sends the boy out to retrieve his father and return the 2 goldfish. Unfortunately, the friend decided that Dad wasn't such a great deal after all. "All he did was read the paper." So begins a string of trades that takes the boy and his younger sister all around town, trying to get their dad back. In the end, they realize that he really is "a very good daddy" and are glad to have him back.

The artwork is different for a children's book, but knowing the author, it works well with his style. It's an interesting mixture of drawing, watercolors, and some collage of real pictures (the goldfish in particular). Overall, a great book for younger children. Especially those who are feeling grumpy towards their parents or have a tendency to want to trade their possessions.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: "Landline"

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
4 out of 5 stars

Rainbow Rowell is magical. Seriously, she is a magical awkward unicorn (and I mean that in the best possible way). I think I've said this before, but 2014 is for sure the year of Rainbow. I've read all 4 of her books since February and can't wait to pick up My True Love Gave to Me for the holidays. That anthology is going to make my winter faaaabulous!! :) Oooh, I just had a thought...I'm off the whole week of & after Christmas til New Year's. Maybe I should save it til then and read one story a day? If I can wait that long lol.

Okay, back to Landline! Georgie McCool (best name ever) is a TV sitcom writer and married to Neal, a stay-at-home dad of 2 little girls. Noomi might be my favorite character, just because she thinks she's a cat. >.< Georgie and Neal's marriage has been kind of rocky for a long time and they have been avoiding the problems, focusing instead on the kids. When Georgie gets a big job opportunity at Christmas-time that conflicts with their trip to Neal's hometown in Omaha, it becomes a catalyst for change. Whether it's good or bad change is up to them though.

Georgie stays home to work and ends up spending a lot of time at her mom's house in her old room. Due to a faulty cell phone battery, she pulls out her old yellow rotary phone from the depths of the closet and calls Neal on that. But something is off. And that's where the magic begins. Literally.

This is Rowell's second adult book and just as good as her young adult books. I don't know how she does it. The story of two adults in a not-so-great relationship is told well and with sincerity. We feel for Georgie when her dream gig might finally be happening but her partner isn't so excited about it. Neal's frustration with her long hours and unpredictable schedule is understanding. And yet, their love for each other still shines throughout the story, told in flashbacks to when they first met at school and present day.

I'm not sure how many people have heard of the "twist" in the story (even though it's sort of in the Goodreads summary), so I thought it'd be a good idea to put the spoiler owl up.

I loved the magic phone. Who hasn't dreamed of being able to talk to your past self or go back in time to a certain point to fix some huge mistake? I have a big soft spot for stories like that, Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux is one of my favorites. I didn't really care that the phone was never fully explained, how or why it became magic, what she did with it afterwards, etc...It didn't matter to me. Maybe it was all in her head, but as the great Dumbledore says, "Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?"

The ending was great, in a way, but I wanted more. That's just me being selfish though. Same with Eleanor & Park. I would love to see a companion/alternate book where Seth finds the magic phone and starts talking to 1994 Georgie and convinces her to pick him instead of Neal. I liked Seth and I think he and Georgie would have been good together in a way and it would have been interesting to see where their story went. I loved her sister, Heather, and the story with the pizza person. That was adorable. Oh, who am I kidding? The whole book was adorable! Go read it again! And if you haven't read it yet, what the heck are you doing down here in the spoilers?? ;)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Authors I Own the Most Books By

Today's TTT topic on The Broke & The Bookish should be an interesting one! Using a fancy formula of checking my Goodreads stats + looking at old pictures of my bookshelves + trying to remember off the top of my head should = the authors I own the most books by. :) Luckily, I have some very recent pictures of my shelves, because the "off the top of my head" part always gets me.

The #1 author is easy, because it's Ann M Martin. :) I own the entire regular Baby-Sitters Club series + all the Super Specials, all the Friends Forever, all the Portraits, about 15 of the Mysteries, and 3-4 random BSC books. Total is around 185? Maybe more. These take up the whole bottom shelf, stacked upwards, plus another stack on my trunk. (A makeshift 3rd bookshelf lol.)

These are authors that I own a majority or all of a series they have written, so obviously lots of books! It's interesting to see that the majority of these are supernatural series. I still love me some vampire stories but have cut way down on them this year! I'm all about the contemporary romance now (much like most of the world!)

12 Books & Counting: Richelle Mead, Gena Showalter, Lemony Snicket
11 Books: PC Cast
10 Books: Sara Shepard, Cecily von Ziegesar, JR Ward, Charlaine Harris
5-9 Books: JK Rowling, Francine Pascal, Michael Grant, Rachel Caine, CL Stone, Joe Hill, Robert Asprin

And these are the authors that I own a hodge-podge of books by...some are multiple series, some I just really like their writing and devour everything they put out. :)

10-12 Books: Terry Moore, Brian K Vaughan, Mike Carey, Neil Gaiman, John Steinbeck, Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes (this is interesting because the first 4 are all graphic novelists! and the last 3 are "chick lit" authors that I've had forever-ever!)
5-9 Books: Scott Westerfeld, Christopher Pike, Vicki Lewis Thompson, Anna Godbersen, Gayle Forman, LM Montgomery
3-4 Books: Rachel Vincent, Ann Brashares, Nora Roberts, Jane Austen, Tarryn Fisher, David Moody, Libba Bray, Suzanne Collins

It's weird how much my taste has changed. It used to be tons of Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Jodi Picoult, Piers Anthony, Phillipa Gregory. I love seeing the progression of change on my bookshelf though. :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Review: "East of Eden" Classic a Month #6.2014

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
4 out of 5 stars

This book is epic. There's no other way to describe it. At its basic level, it's a retelling of the Bible's Cain & Abel, which I was a little leery of at first but ended up enjoying immensely. There's enough grit and darkness, plus some comedic moments, in the story to keep anyone interested. However, if you are coming into Steinbeck's work fresh, this is not where you should start. (Nor Grapes of Wrath, in my opinion.) This book is too grand, too immense in all its lessons and themes of mortality and love and choice for a beginner Steinbeck reader. I am so glad I waited until after all the others to read this because I don't think I would have liked it as much.

Steinbeck's great love is Salinas Valley, CA and he takes us back there in this epic saga of the Hamilton & Trask families. The two families start out on opposite coasts and eventually intersect in Salinas. The Hamilton family, based in part or whole (not sure how much) on Steinbeck's own family, is a good Irish family living on a large farm in Salinas. Notwithstanding the large amount of land they own, they are not rich people, mostly due to patriarch Samuel Hamilton's lack of business sense. Despite this, Samuel is well-loved and respected among his family and friends. Adam Trask comes to California after many years of being physically and emotionally beaten by his father and half-brother Charles. (The first Cain & Abel) He brings with him a young wife named Cathy who is pregnant with his twin sons. Cathy is evil. Flat out evil. Wow, is she evil. And yet, she was probably the most interesting to read about. From an early age, Cathy learned how to get what she wanted, no matter what the cost. She killed, stole, lied, used her body, she didn't care.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly re-spawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.

Adam and Samuel become good friends, along with a Chinese-American named Lee, who works for Adam. When Cathy runs off, abandoning her twin babies and husband, Adam collapses into himself and Lee is the one who raises the boys. They don't get names until they are a year old: Aron and Caleb. (And the Abel & Cain story continues.) The 3 elder men spend a good deal of their time discussing Bible verses and alternate meanings of words, which can drag on a bit, but still had some gems that stuck out.

"Timshel. Thou mayest.-that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For if 'Thou mayest'-it is also true that 'Thou mayest not.'
It took me by the throat and shook me. Thou mayest rule over sin. That's it. I do not believe all men are destroyed. It is true of the spirit as it is true of battles-only the winners are remembered. Surely most men are destroyed, but there are others who like pillars of fire guide frightened men through the darkness. Thou mayest, Thou mayest! What glory!"

Friday, July 25, 2014

Review: "Jessi's Wish: The Baby-Sitters Club #48"

Jessi's Wish: The Baby-Sitters Club #48 by Ann M Martin
2 out of 5 stars

Ugh, this is a "Very Special Episode" book. :P Jessi's sister, Becca, comes home from school upset one day because her volunteering group, Kids Can Do Anything, might break up. One of the teacher volunteers is leaving for an extended amount of time and the other teacher can't find anyone else to help out. Jessi thinks this is rotten, because Becca really loves the group, so she decides to volunteer for the group. And then she brings it up at the next BSC meeting and suggests that all the members spend some time volunteering. Surprisingly, Kristy agrees with this, even though it isn't earning her any money. And amazingly, there are no emergency baby-sitting jobs that come up. So they all have time to volunteer for like a month.

We don't get a lot of story about the other sitters' gigs, unfortunately, because some of them could be pretty interesting. And wow, are there a lot of volunteering opportunities in the area for 11-14 year old girls! Kristy helps out at a day-care center that David Michael used to go to (which contradicts their original story, I believe?); Dawn helps some physically disabled kids; Stacey counsels kids who are newly diagnosed with diabetes; Claudia helps with an art class (way to get out of your comfort zone, Claud); Mary Anne is helping (baby-sitting) a boy who is mentally disabled; and Mallory volunteers at a recreational program at a park. We get to see a little bit of everyone's story except Mary Anne and Mal, which is kind of odd.

But the main focus is on Jessi, of course, and her time at the Kids Club. The kids have recently gathered and donated toys to the local children's hospital and they receive letters from the patients, thanking them and such. One of the letters is from a girl named Danielle, who used to go to their school and has leukemia. (Here comes the "Very Special Episode" part.) Danielle is getting better and will be released from the hospital soon and probably joining the Kids Club again. Most of the kids are a little stunned that one of their own is sick and don't really know how to process it at first. When she shows back up at school, the kids are all a little shy around her for awhile but Becca & Charlotte actually befriend her and the 3 girls start hanging out together outside of school and become good friends.

At an informal BSC meeting in Dawn & Mary Anne's barn, Jessi tells them all about Danielle and how she only has 2 wishes: to go to Disney World and to graduate from elementary school. Excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye. *sniff* Let's take it down a notch on the drama train for a minute, okay? Here's a funny little passage from Miss City Girl, Stacey McGill followed by a totally made-up, totally dibbly, What Claudia Would Be Wearing This Summer. :)

[Stacey] climbed into the loft and stretched out flat on her back. "This is the life," she said with a sigh. "I think I was meant to be a country girl."

"You mean, life without Bloomingdale's?" asked Claud.

"Oh. No. What was I thinking? I'm not a country girl at all. My mistake."

Okay, back to the serious. Mary Anne tells Jessi about a program called "Your Wish is My Command" (essentially Make-a-Wish Foundation...I guess they couldn't use it, which is odd since there's a blurb in the back of the book about it) that helps sick kids get their wishes. Jessi calls them up and asks all sorts of questions and tells them all about Danielle and they tell her to have the parents call. They do and surprise! They get Danielle on the list right away and she gets her trip to Disney within, like, 2 weeks! Oh BSC-Land, you are so naive. After Danielle gets back from her trip, she gets sick again and has to go back to the hospital. Becca & Charlotte are totally distraught, of course, and scared for her. And dang, I have something in my eye again. This book is really emotional. And it doesn't end with Danielle getting better either, she's still in the hospital at the end. I wonder if we'll get a mention of her again later? Okay, I have to go hug my cat now. ;)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

TILT: More Bookish Goodies!

Time for another Things I Love Thursday? I think so! I've got a couple of lovely wearables plus some cute crafting items, so let's get started! And as always, share below anything you are loving this week!

(if you do not want your item featured, please contact me!)

Bird Page Bag by Retrofied --this is such a cute bag, I love the fabric and the shape! Would be perfect for a quick trip to the library or maybe for an afternoon at the bookstore.

Book Lovers Masking Tape at LightLife --seriously??! I NEED this tape! Love it so much and cheap! I've been getting into the washi/craft tape lately (not a good idea, so addicting) and I fell in love with this one as soon as I saw it. Just think of all the things you could do with it!

Build Your Own Penguin Book Truck at --okay, this is just adorable. I'm going to print me one out soon and build it. Maybe I'll take it on adventures around town too lol.

Shoes of Note on ModCloth --more adorableness!! I can't stand it. :) I saw some others recently that were the cheap white canvas sneakers with notebook paper lines drawn on and I think I might try to recreate them. I'll let you know how/if they work out!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: "Secrets: Sweet Valley High #2"

Secrets: Sweet Valley High #2 by Francine Pascal
2 out of 5 stars

Before Reading: This is one I got at the library book sale a few weeks ago and got to go back to the beginning to fill in some of the stories I've already read, so I was pretty excited about that. Haven't managed to find #1 yet though. My copy was a reprint from 1991, the original came out in 1983. That's crazy. And the reading level is 12 and up? Okay.

The Main Plot in 50 Words or Less: Jessica wants to be queen of the fall dance so she can win Bruce Patman. She will do anything to win. Anything.

The Second Plot in 20 Words or Less: Jessica finds out a secret about Enid, her competition for the dance. She uses it to win.

Opening Lines: "My very own sister! How could she do such a hideous thing to me?" Jessica Wakefield fumed.

Closing Lines: There was a hint of invitation in his smile, and more than a spark of interest in his sexy blue eyes. Some of her misery faded. Could it be? ...

Best WTF Lines: (George's letter to Enid) "It's like the time we took all those bennies, and before we knew it we were cooking along in the GTO doing eighty or ninety..."

"Well, actually, I've never been dumped by anyone, but I can imagine what it's like. You must feel awful!"

Happenings in SV: Ken Matthews might be having an affair with their French teacher, Ms Dalton. She's 25 years old and completely denies it, of course. Does it come back up again later? Who knows. Lila has another party, because her daddy is ignoring her again. Jessica pretends to help Liz & Enid's friendship, even though she's the one who ruined it. There is a big dance at the end of the book, no real reason or theme given, but they are choosing a King and Queen who will do all the events for the rest of the year together. Odd. Which is why Jess wants her and Bruce to win so badly.

Fashion Icons: [Bruce Patman] was loping toward the staircase, looking impossibly gorgeous, as usual, in a pair of off-white cords and a heather-blue sweater that matched his eyes.

As for Dana [lead singer of The Droids], she was fairly straight underneath the outrageous clothes she wore. Tonight she was decked out in tight black velvet jeans, a pair of sparkly pink leg warmers, and a purple satin blouse.

Jessica twirled before her sister. She looked stunning in a slinky red silk formal with a wide embroidered belt and black sandal heels. Long rhinestone earrings dangled from her ears. She looked as though she'd stepped out of the pages of Cosmopolitan-which was exactly the look she was after.

[At the dance] Elizabeth spotted Caroline Pearce, looking hideously girlish in a ruffled pink organdy dress that clashed with her hair. Ms Dalton had never looked prettier. She wore a long velvet skirt and an old-fashioned blouse with lots of ruffles and tucks. Her hair was perfect, and she had a silk rose pinned over one ear. [Enid] wore a pale mauve off-the shoulder dress that showed off her slender figure to perfection. Her hair was pulled back, anchored by delicate mother-of-pearl combs. The shimmering whiteness of the flower George had given her set off her radiant smile. Liz had never seen her look so beautiful.

Twin Hijinks: None? Odd.

Other Thoughts: Enid's secret? Two years before, she was a party girl with bad boy George Warren. Yep, same one who cheats on her a few books later with former fluffy girl Robyn. Enid and George drank and did drugs and almost killed a little boy. This is like the most unbelievable story ever. Goody, goody Enid doing drugs? Yeah, no. That's like Liz partying. Oh wait, she does later on doesn't she? Anyway, Enid confesses to Liz but is terrified of her domineering boyfriend, Ronnie, finding out. Which he does of course. Jessica finds some letters between Enid and George and decides to tell Ronnie, in an attempt to win the dance title. It works. Enid thinks Liz blabbed about the letters and gets totally mad at her. When Liz finally finds out that it was Jess, she gets even by rigging it so Winston Egbert becomes King and Jess is furious.

The Next Book*: Can Jessica play Bruce Patman's game and win? Find out in Sweet Valley High #3, PLAYING WITH FIRE.

*(not necessarily what I'll be reading)