Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Favorite Children's Book #4: Madeline's Rescue

What was your favorite picture book as a child? What book did you return to, over and over again, until your parents were completely sick of it? Was it Madeline? Max & the Wild Things? Paddington? This feature shows off some of my favorite children's books, in no particular order, and I also want to hear what you think! So comment below. :)



Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans

I asked my sister, A, what children's book I should do this week and she said Madeline, because "she has red hair like me". And then my mom mentioned a Madeline doll she wanted and it seemed like that was the book to do. Turns out I don't actually have the first Madeline book though! I really thought I did too, weird. This is the second book in the series, published in 1953 and a Caldecott winner in 1954. I always loved finding books with the Caldecott or Newbery seal on them as a kid, it made them seem so special. (Which I suppose they were or they wouldn't have won.)

I'm sure you know the original story of Madeline: "twelve little girls in two straight lines. The smallest one was Madeline." Madeline's Rescue can be taken two ways: the first in that she is rescued from the Seine river by a stray dog and the second in that Madeline herself rescues the dog from living on the streets. This book is super morbid for a children's book.

Poor Madeline would now be dead
But for a dog
that kept its head,
And dragged her safe from a watery grave.

Of course she is safe though and they take the dog home with them and name her Genevieve. All is well until the evil board of trustees arrive for their annual inspection and Lord Cucuface (really, that's his name) makes the dog leave. The girls scour the city, looking for her but she is gone. That evening, Genevieve shows back up at the home and the girls are ecstatic to see her. Even more so when she has puppies. (How and when did she have time for that?!) In the end, each of the twelve girls has her own puppy to walk in two straight lines and Genevieve has Madeline.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: "Jane Eyre" Classic a Month #7.2014

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2.5 out of 5 stars

I've decided that I am not a fan of the Bronte sisters and am definitely more of an Austenite. After the fiasco of Wuthering Heights, I should have known better, but I'd heard so many good things about Jane Eyre, that I decided to give it a shot. Looking back at WH now though, I'd be more likely to give it 1.5 stars. :/ I finished this last week and last weekend, I was super bored so I decided to give the Jane Eyre movie on Netflix a shot. It seems like they added a ton of classic movies/series on there recently. (Maybe because I've been searching for them lol.) I got about halfway thru the movie and will probably finish it this weekend, so I'll try to do a Book vs Movie next week for it.

So, Jane Eyre had some interesting parts in the beginning of the story and then around the middle and towards the ending, but everything else was booooring. They could have taken out 100 pages in between each interesting section and made the book half as long. Part of the problem was that there was a good amount of conversation taking place in French, with no translation. "To speak truth, sir, I don't understand you at all; I cannot keep up the conversation, because it has got out of my depth." Also, there was a strong religious theme, which is fine for some people, I just don't enjoy reading about it too much.

The first part of the book deals with young Jane Eyre, who is an orphan and living with her uncle's widow and her incorrigible children. She has a rough time, barely better than a servant, getting attacked by the eldest boy, completely misunderstand by her guardian. Finally, Mrs Reed has enough and sends Jane to a boarding school and away from the family forever. Jane is elated to be away from them, but unfortunately, the school is not much better. Worse, probably. Run by a religious tyrant, she barely gets fed, lives in near squalor but forced to maintain their high education standards, and has to watch her best friend die. (So sad) But Jane perseveres and eventually the school gets better and she becomes a teacher there. (Remember, back then, girls became teachers as young as 16 or 17.)

After a while and too many pages of introspection, Jane decides to leave the school and magically finds the perfect job in the paper. She travels to a far away place to become a governess for the Rochester household. When she gets there, she is welcomed heartily by Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper (whom she confuses for the lady of the house) and her charge, the young French child, Adele. Jane begins a somewhat comfortable life there but is still a kind of restlessness. One day, she is taking some letters to town when she runs into a frightful man and his horse and giant dog. Literally. She frightens the horse and the man falls and sprains his ankle. Any guesses who that man is?

Yep, the not-so-dashing Mr Rochester. They make a great point throughout the book of how unattractive both Jane and Mr Rochester are. Which I suppose is rather refreshing to not have practically perfect people, but comes across as overly insistent. "No, no. I am quite ugly. Well, I am quite ugly too!" Psshh... Mr Rochester is an unfriendly, gruff man and of course, Jane falls for him immediately.

Jane to herself: He is not of your order: keep to your caste, and be too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised.

And then there is a very large amount of pages of them having witty banter, one-sided conversations of Mr Rochester saying lots of stuff, and how Jane feels about it all. I could not unlove him now, merely because I found that he had ceased to notice me. Mr Rochester throws Jane off for a while by showing an intense interest in a young woman named Blanche, who is one of the "pretty people".  But it's all a (stupid) ruse because Rochester has fallen for Jane as well.

Rochester to Jane: "I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you-especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame."

This review is so long already, y'all, and I haven't even gotten to the weird parts yet! Let's speed it up, okay? Rochester loves Jane, Jane loves Rochester, he asks her to marry him, she refuses because she's a lowly servant, he doesn't care, convinces her, Mrs Fairfax disapproves, there's a fire in Rochester's bedroom, someone is messing with Jane, Rochester tells her it's all cool, the wedding day comes, and welcome to Crazy Town, population 2: Mr Rochester and his FIRST WIFE THAT HE KEEPS LOCKED UP IN THE ATTIC. Yes, I had to do all CAPS on that, I'm sorry. This is so weird, it doesn't even feel like the same story. Rochester claims it's all perfectly innocent and acceptable, because the first wife is unhinged and mentally ill. And he still wants Jane to stay and be his mistress. Of course, Jane freaks and runs off.

Jane to Rochester: "Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton?-a machine without feelings? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!-I have as much soul as you-and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you."

She travels across the countryside for days and nights and ends up on the doorstep, starving and sick, of the Rivers siblings. Spoiler alert: she's related to them. She convalesces there for a month or so and thanks to St John, the eldest sibling, gets a job in the local town as a schoolteacher. And then there's more weird when he asks her to go on a missionary trip with him to the Middle East...as his wife. She's come to think of him as a brother (she doesn't know she's related yet) and still loves Rochester, so she's like "uh, no. But I'll go as your sister." He refuses and says it's her duty and her mission, etc...She still refuses and around that time, gets a letter forwarded from the Rochester house about a distant uncle who died and left her a ton of money. Then it all comes out that she and the Rivers' are cousins, Jane is ecstatic to finally have family, and she splits the money with them.

Finally, Jane gets happy with her money, decides she is worthy of Rochester and still loves him and needs to see him again, so she takes the trip back to him. There, she finds the house burned to the ground and no one around. She learns from the locals that Rochester was badly injured trying to save his crazy wife but she died and now he is blind and missing a hand and living in the woods somewhere. She runs to him and vows never to leave him again and all that mushy stuff. He can't believe his ears at first, thinking her a spirit that he called to him, but he comes around and asks her to marry him again. She says yes, of course, and then spends the last chapter of the book talking about St John. More weird, right?  And that's it, thank you very much. Why do I always spend the most amount of time on the books I don't like that much? Strange.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TILT: Reading is Awesome!

What do all the cool kids do these days? They read! Why else would all these teen book movies be so popular these days?! (My sister is getting really sick of all the "dying kid" movies lately lol.) So this week's Things I Love Thursday is dedicated to the cool kids. :)

(If you do not want your product mentioned, please contact me!)


Read TShirt by ShopGibberish --this is the kids version, but they do have adult sized also.

Hot Girls Read Printable by MaidservantOf --yeah, we do! ;) (This shop is on vacation right now, but check back in September!)

Smart Boys Poster by MeganLee --I'm in total agreement!

Reading is for Awesome People Print by IkeStudio --love the colors in this one.


Bonus: This cute little print by Wayah is only $4.00!! Seriously adorable...think how great it would be hanging above a shelf full of Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, etc...!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: "The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line: Veronica Mars #1"

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line: Veronica Mars #1 by Rob Thomas
3.5 out of 5 stars

Are you a marshmallow? If you said yes, this is the book for you. If you have no idea what I'm talking about and are just craving smores now, stop reading here and go get Veronica Mars season 1 now! Alright, now back to you marshmallows...I figured this would be a good review, since the news about the web series just came out (although I still don't really understand the premise). This book picks up right after the movie, so there may be spoilers for that here. (OMG, the movie was soooo gooood!! *flailing* still 5 months later lol) The first book in the VMars series (yes, it's going to be a series!!) shows Veronica back in Neptune and back in the spy biz, against her dad's wishes.

The best thing about this book is that it is an all new case, it's not a remake of the show or the movie. You get brand new VMars stories. I had a bit of a hard time at first getting into the story and "hearing" Veronica's voice. I've read several reviews that the audiobook (read by Kristen Bell) is very good, so that's what I would suggest to you. Then you can literally hear Veronica's voice! Once I got into it though, it was really good. Most of the favorites are there: Keith, Mac, Wallace. Unfortunately, we don't get much of Logan, as he is off on military duty. Boo. Need more Logan. Shirtless, preferably. Also, more Weevil. He is one of my favorite VMars characters and his story in the movie was just heartbreaking.
(thanks to maneater for the pic!)

The case itself is interesting...it's spring break in Neptune, which is apparently a hot party spot, and girls are going missing. Veronica is approached to help find the girls, since Sheriff New Lamb is just as incompetent as his little brother. Did anyone else find it odd that they made Dan Don's older brother? Veronica takes on the case, because money, and ends up running into someone from her past that she'd never thought she'd see again. Not spoiling it of course, because it could be any of dozens of people, but it was pretty shocking.

Veronica has her smarty-pants on for this case and with Mac and Wallace's help, blows things up for the sheriff and various bad guys. She gets into plenty of trouble along the way, of course. Pretending to be a college girl only interested in how she looks in her bikini, throwing herself at Dick Casablancas (love him, but still want to see him grow up a little), sneaking around and getting caught, a trip to the hospital, tazers, guns, knives, drugs...all a typical day in Neptune.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

TILT: Book Furniture

I am obsessed lately with getting more book space and have started branching out from just plain old bookcases, so I thought this would be a fun Things I Love Thursday. I am especially intrigued by the bookshelves built in and around the bed. I would love that. How about you? Do you have books stacked up into a bedside table? Turned into a chair? Throw a blanket on a stack and sleep on them? ;)


Side Table
Behind the Bed (check out the calligraphy comforter too!)
Staircase
Bed Cocoon 


Drawers
Around the Bed
Chair
Side Table 2

I did manage to turn a few of these colorful Readers' Digest books that my mom found for me into little shelves. Eventually I want to hang them all and spread my Wild Things out on them. :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: "Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street: The Baby-Sitters Club #49"

 Claudia and the Genius of Elm Street: The Baby-Sitters Club #49 by Ann M Martin
4 out of 5 stars

This was a pretty good one, especially compared to the last sobfest. Rosie Wilder, genius extraordinaire, is the Child of the Week, who needs a 13 year old to show her parents that they are doing it wrong. Maybe the parents of Stoneybrook should take a child-rearing class, so they don't need the baby-sitter psychiatrists.

The book starts out with Claudia watching a documentary on Andy Warhol and Janine is like, "I don't understand how you can call that stuff art." Psshh...whatever Janine, go study your calculus or something. Side note...why did Janine not skip a grade or three if she's such a super genius? She's taking college level classes but is still technically a junior. Anyway, Claudia gets a Kristy-sized Idea to make a series of pop-art style paintings of junk food. Twinkies, Doritos, Ring Dings, Milk Duds...is anyone else getting hungry? Kristy takes it a step further and suggests she have a show in her garage for the public. Claudia thinks this is a great idea and gets to work on her pieces. Before all that though, we have a What Claudia is Wearing:

I'm into wild clothes and different hairstyles. That afternoon, for instance, I was wearing a man's paisley vest I'd found at a yard sale, over a striped button-down shirt with tuxedo-stripe black Spandex stirrup pants, held up with pink-flecked black suspenders. [Sorry, it's hard to find suspenders!] My hair was pulled straight back with a paisley comb, and I was wearing electric-pink ankle boots. The boots really set off the formality of the rest of the outfit, sort of like the punchline of a joke.

So at the BSC meeting, Mrs Wilder (who is apparently British?) calls and needs a semi-regular sitter for 7 year old Rosie, because her mother has had a rash of illnesses/injuries lately. (Get it? Rash? I crack myself up.) Claudia gets the job and is kind of excited about it, until she actually starts the job. Rosie is apparently super talented in everything she tries and her parents want her to do it all: piano, ballet, violin, singing, tap, acting, science club, math club, modeling (she goes on go-sees, just like on America's Next Top Model lol. (My sister and I have been binge watching ANTM from S1 this summer, it's so great and so much better than the later seasons.)) On top of all that talent, Rosie is really smart too, and ends up making Claudia feel even stupider than usual.

Janine, in her glasses, was explaining things about animal migration and habitats. Rosie, in her glasses, was nodding and asking intelligent-sounding questions.

And Claudia Kishi, with no glasses, was drawing half a Twinkie.

She tries to get to know Rosie better, especially after Claud sees how hard her teachers work her, but it's no good. Then Stacey has to baby-sit Rosie one day and gets totally embarrassed when she has to help Rosie read a script and messes up. OMG Stace, forreals?! That's like, totes mortifying! Jessi also sits for her and tries to bond with her over ballet, but Rosie isn't having it and says she only wants Claudia to sit for her from now on, because she likes her best. Seriously? Okay.

The BSCers help Claudia clean out her garage for her art show and it totally sucks, because it's a big old mess, and Claudia gets kind of upset because everyone is complaining. Then Stacey comes out with this Mary Poppins-esque gem: "Every fun project begins with some dirty work. But you do it because it has to get done. There's no law that says you have to like every single thing you do, right?" And Claudia has an epiphany, that maybe Rosie doesn't really like doing all these things. Duh. At her next sitting job, this is confirmed when Rosie starts drawing with Claud (and she's good, of course) and says that's what she really likes to do. Claudia encourages her to talk to her parents and later, talks to them herself. Of course, this all goes well and the parents don't resent Claud for butting in, and they let Rosie get rid of some of her activities. Another family, put back together by the Baby-Sitters Club!

Claudia's art show, named Disposable Comestibles, a Pop-Art Multi-Media Extravaganza is a huge success, despite that jerk Alan Gray showing up, and she even sells a couple of pieces. Rosie shows some of her work too and her parents agree she can take lessons; Rosie picks Claudia to be her teacher. We'll probably never hear from/of Rosie again though. And that's the end of that! Guess what's next? Another Super Special and then another BSC: All Grown Up!! Yay!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Double Review: "Lost Lake" & "Promises to Keep"

Last time I was at the library, I checked out 3 adult books, as opposed to the massive amounts of young adult I usually get. I feel a little weird calling it "adult" sometimes, do you? Like it should be censored or something lol. Anyway, I picked up two old favorite authors and one new to me. I've read the first two so far and thought it'd be good to do a double review day for them. Mostly because I'm lazy, but also because they share a similar theme of over-coming hard times and having the strength to move on. Have you read any good/great adult books lately? I'd love to hear about them...sometimes I do feel like I read waaay too much YA.


Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
3.5 out of 5 stars

I've read all four of SAA's previous books and adored them, so I was really looking forward to her first new book in four years. She was battling a big health crisis in that time (happily recovered now) and you can feel a tinge of that in this book, along with the magical hope that is a trademark of her books. I really want to go reread one of her other books now, maybe I will as a reward when I finish Jane Eyre (I'm having an awful time with that one, unfortunately.)

Lost Lake alternates between two main stories: that of Eby Pim, an elderly woman who is ready to close down the lakeside paradise she and her late husband built up so many years ago; and Kate Pheris, a young woman who is finally waking up after losing her husband a year before. When Kate's daughter, Devin, finds a postcard from Great-Aunt Eby, they decide to make a spontaneous road-trip to see her and the old lake. Eight year old Devin is an adorable and precocious child who likes to wear crazy mismatched clothes and sees things that others don't, such as the alligator at the lake who wants to help her save the camp.

There is an all-star cast of secondary characters, any of whom I'd love to read a full story about: Lisette, a small beautiful French woman who cannot speak but still has a way with words; Jack, the man who has loved her for 30 years but can't seem to tell her; Bulahdeen & Selma, best friends but complete opposites; and Wes, the boy who helped Kate have the best summer of her childhood. Oh, and the alligator...he's a big part of the story too.

I loved the flashbacks to Eby's honeymoon in Paris and Amsterdam and the glimpses we get of the older folks' lives too, especially Bulahdeen. "You can't change where you came from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don't like the ending, you make up a new one."


Promises to Keep by Jane Green
3 out of 5 stars

This is hard to review. I picked it up because of the Goodreads summary, which is blatantly wrong (and I plan on trying to get it fixed soon.) I was expecting a light-hearted typical Jane Green book and this was so not it. If you've read any of her earlier books: Jemima J, Mr Maybe, etc...you'll know what I'm talking about. Well, apparently Jane is sick of writing the fluffy, twenty-something, chick-lit books and wants to write serious books for "grown-ups" now. Kind of disappointing.

This book started out decent, two sisters, one 30 and one 39, living great lives in and around New York City. The 30 yr old, Steffi, is a perpetual dater of up & coming wannabe rock stars, a chef at a booming vegan restaurant, and is constantly ready for change. Callie is 39 and very happily married with 2 wonderful kids, a lovely home in the suburbs, and a booming photography career. Then there's Lila, the 42 yr old BFF, who gave up on having a happily ever after years ago because she's too fat, too Jewish, too blah blah blah. And of course, as soon as she gives up and becomes happy with just herself, she finds a man.

Sounds like a normal chick-lit book right? The first half really is, telling about the 3 women's lives and relationships with various men (for Steffi, at least) and it's decent. But you start to get this sense of foreboding, when Callie says, for the millionth time, how perfect her life is. Something is going to happen and it's going to be bad, right? This is about when I posted on FB that I needed to put my book in the freezer and read something lighter for a while lol.

I'm going to try to be really non-specific here, okay? The last half of the book gets serious and while it's still a good read and all, it wasn't what I was looking for. The 3 women and their loved ones have to deal with this serious thing and it's hard to read. Green does to try to have an uplifting message in the end, but it feels kind of flat to me. "[She] sees pain, and grief, sadness and loss. And yet...and yet...there is love, and laughter, and life." So, if you're looking to have a good cry, this is a perfect read. If not, maybe try one of her earlier books.