Thursday, April 17, 2014

Journal Circle: Challenge Check-In

Last month, I posed a challenge to you for our monthly Journal Circle . . . to journal a minimum of 10 days, possibly using the list of prompts that I provided.  It is now time to check in and see how we did!

Before we delve too deep, however, let's remind ourselves of the list of prompts.
  1. Why do you journal? 
  2. Talk about your day. 
  3. Make a list. 
  4. Doodle. 
  5. Clip something from a newspaper. Attach it into your journal and respond. 
  6. Choose one . . . my mother, my father, my daughter, my son, my grandmother, my grandfather, my spouse . . . 
  7. The year I was born. (Check out this website to help you record some memories!) 
  8. Listen to a song. Write about how it made you feel, where it took you, any memories you associate with it, etc. 
  9. Discuss a current read that has impacted you in some way. 
  10. Green.

Now, this is where I must confess . . . I did not even write in my own journal 10 times this past month.  I wrote almost every single day, but my journal took a hit and I did not complete my own challenge.  I did incorporate a number of the prompts when I did write though, including #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.  My favorite prompt was the list.  I wrote a list of things that made me happy.  That one put lots of smiles on my face, especially considering I included this little note I found laying around my house courtesy of my children . . . 

I may not have completed my own challenge, but I am still continuing to truck along and will continue to shoot for a minimum of 10 entries per month.  I have finally realized that I don't have the time to necessarily write every single day, but I do know that I can be writing a lot more than I currently am.  I really love when I am journaling!

Did you participate in the challenge?  How did it go for you?  What was your favorite prompt?  Would you like to do this little challenge again, but with a different set of prompts? 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Last month, Kristen at We Be Reading celebrated DWJ March once again - a month devoted to the great author, Diana Wynne Jones.  Kristen was the one who first introduced me to DWJ, and it was her read-along this year that influenced my reading of my latest DWJ book, Enchanted Glass.

We are first introduced to Andrew, a young professor on the night his grandfather dies.  After inheriting his grandfather's home and all its possessions and responsibilities, Andrew is determined to write a book.  However, his magical past has completely different plans for him.

That's when we meet Aidan.  In a week's worth of time, this young boy's grandmother dies, he is shipped off to foster care, he is pursued by strange beings, and escapes, landing on Andrew's doorstep.

With the assistance of the household employees and community members, Andrew and Aidan set out to discover their real magical purpose before disaster strikes.

DWJ brings us the beauty of magic through her unusual beings - lovable and villainous - as well as her amazing characters.  Her imagination takes us to lands that her mere human readers can only wish to inhabit.  Her unforgettable characters are ones we hate to leave behind after turning that final page.  Enchanted Glass is no different.  It's a sweet story that leaves me with only one complaint -- why can't there be a sequel so I can keep discovering more behind these characters?!?

Have you met Andrew, Aidan, and the rest of the community surrounding Melstone House?  Who were some of your favorite characters?  What did you think of this tale?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Maunder: My Life in Pictures (1)

For today's weekly check-in, I have decided to switch things up a little bit.  I will briefly share my current reading status for those that desire the bookish news, but then I am going to share with you my other hobby.  Let's get to this . . .

Over the last week, I finished The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and started reading The Dyerville Tales by M.P. Kozlowsky.  I am also towards the end of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline on audio and am currently reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling with my kids.

Now for my other hobby ... I have always had an interest in photography.  I started shooting pictures with a 35mm when I was in elementary school, had a good stint after college, but then stepped away from it for a number of years for a variety of reasons.  After my father passed away, I was given a few of his photography things and my passion has been rekindled.  I have been out and about on photography walks, taking little hikes, and discovering the beauty of everyday life and everyday things.  I thought today I would throw myself out there and share a handful of my latest shots.

What are you reading these days?  What are your hobbies beyond the books?  Any other photography fans out there?  Which of these pictures is your favorite?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Chew #1: Taster's Choice by John Layman

I have heard so much chatter about Chew by John Layman that I decided I had better pick it up and give it a try.  I obviously did not pay much attention to the details, however, because as soon as I started reading I was in shock and a bit of disgust.  Let me give you a quick, spoiler-free synopsis to give you an idea . . .

Tony Chu has an unique talent that he keeps to himself.  He is what is called a Cibopathic - an individual who can see things by ingesting them.  Sometimes, these things are as simple as the orchard that an apple came from.  Other times, it can be the butchering of an animal.  And yet, there are times that he can see so, so much more, and it is then that his talent comes in handy for his job with the Special Crimes Division of the FDA.

Chew has a very different and intriguing concept, but it is also one that is violent and gruesome.  There were a couple of parts that literally made me gag while reading.  I think it is the combination of food and gore that caused this reaction because the gore usually does not affect me as it did in this book.

The question is . . . Will I continue to read Chew?  I think so.  The concept is grossly fascinating.  The next time I will be better prepared for what to expect.  I will likely take my time in reading them though.  I think this is a series you have to slowly savor; not devour without time to digest.  I will likely not try to read this one while eating either!

Have you tried Chew?  What did you think?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring 2014 Releases from Arbordale Publishing

I recently shared with you the fall releases from Arbordale Publishing (formerly Sylvan Dell Publishing), and now it is time to share their most recent titles released this spring.  Get your wish list ready so you can write these down!

First Fire:  A Cherokee Folktale by Nancy Kelly Allen

In First Fire, Allen shares a Cherokee tale that explains why some animals get their colors and why they have certain physical features.  I personally loved seeing the addition of diversity through a Native American tale in this round of releases.

Click here for more information.

Daisylocks by Marianne Berkes

Berkes, author of The Tree That Bear Climbed and Anybody Home?, brings us a new release following the life of a daisy and the perfect environment for it to thrive.  With a reference to the classic Goldilocks tale, Daisylocks discovers a place too hot and too cold, and so much more.

Click here for more information.

Animal Helpers:  Aquariums by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Curtis returns to her Animal Helpers series with a look at life underwater.  As in her previous books in this series (we have read Wildlife Rehabilitators and Zoos), you can expect wonderful photographs of life in an aquarium as well as great information for young animal lovers in your life.

Click here for more information.

Kali's Story:  An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue by Jennifer Keats Curtis

Curtis has been busy with not one, but two releases from Arbordale Publishing this spring.  In Kali's Story, we follow the path of an orphaned polar bear after he loses his mother until he finds a new home.  This true story shares Kali's journey through up close and personal photographs, making readers easily fall in love with the young bear.

Kali's Story:  An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue wins both my daughter's favorite book as well as my own!

Click here for more information.

The Shape Family Babies by Kristin Haas

Haas brings us an unique mathematical tale in The Shape Family Babies.  Mother Rhombus and Father Rectangle are pleasantly surprised with tripletts.  One looks like mom.  One looks like dad.  The third has qualities of both mom and dad, but is something else entirely.  I also found myself pleasantly surprised by how well this geometric tale worked and how much I enjoyed it.  The true indicator of the success though is demonstrated by how frequently my daughter returns to this book again and again.

Click here for more information.

Polar Bears and Penguins:  A Compare and Contrast Book by Katherine Hall

Let's be honest.  Polar bears and penguins are some of the most adorable animals.  In Hall's book, we get a double dose of their cuteness by examining what makes them the same and what makes them different.  I think you might be surprised at what you might discover.

Click here for more information.

The Beaver's Busy Year by Mary Holland

Have you heard the saying, "busy as a beaver?"  I have, but have never really understood why it refers to a beaver.  That mystery has now been solved by Holland's book!  I now know how busy beavers are all year round.  It's actually quite fascinating!

Click here for more information.

A Cool Summer Tail by Carrie A. Pearson

A Cool Summer Tail follows in the footsteps of Pearson's previous book, A Warm Winter's Tail.  Readers discover through the views of animals how they stay cool during the warm summer months.  With little humorous illustrations of humans using animal ways, there is so much to discover throughout this story.

Click here for more information.

Sea Slime:  It's Eeuwy, Gooey, and Under the Sea by Ellen Prager

Sea Slime is all about slime under the sea . . . where it can be found, what it is used for, and what animals utilize it.  As the subtitle suggests, it is eeuwy and gooey, yet quite intriguing.  The illustrations, courtesy of Shennen Bersani, are an added bonus to this tale, making this a fun and informative read.

Sea Slime wins my son's favorite award!

Click here for more information.

Another great round of books from Arbordale Publishing (formerly Sylvan Dell Publishing)!  Don't forget to also click on the links above to check out the supplemental activities to aid in going beyond the books.  These books just keep on giving!

Thank you to Arbordale Publishing for review copies for each of these books.

Have you had the opportunity to enjoy any of these titles yet?  If not, which one(s) are you most interested in?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Allegiant is the final installment in Veronica Roth's trilogy that started with Divergent and was followed by Insurgent.  We finally get to find out the fate of Tris and Four.  We finally get to find out the whole truth behind the factions.  We finally get to have some closure.

I have no intention of sharing details of Allegiant for fear of spoiling everything for those that have not yet read any portion of the trilogy.  Instead, I will just share a few of my general thoughts . . .

(1) Allegiant switches things up by alternating between narrators (i.e., Tris and Four).  I found this to be confusing, and oftentimes, had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to remind myself who's head I was in.

(2)  I found the ending to be predictable.  I don't really have a strong opinion in the positive or negative about this ending.

(3)  I found myself taking forever to get through this book.  I could not read Divergent fast enough, but my interest waned as I progressed through the trilogy.

As a quick conclusion, Allegiant was simply okay for me.  I think I began losing my connection with Tris in Insurgent, but it only got worse in this final book.  I enjoyed the mystery of Four, but the enigma of his character faded with the change in narration.  I turned the final page and only felt meh.  I guess I just wanted more.

Were you satisfied by the ending of this trilogy?  Or, were you desiring more like myself?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Maunder: March in Review

Happy, Happy Monday!

Now that the month of March is officially over, I thought I would share a little wrap-up for the month - what I've read, the top posts on the site, and the top picture from Instagram.  If you want to hear anything more, just let me know and I will answer in the comments and consider including the information in future monthly wrap-ups!

The TOP POST for the month was none other than my Bloggiesta Challenge on Getting Organized {Evernote + More}!  I am not surprised at all that this was the one with not only the most comments, but also the most hits for the month.

The TOP PIC surprises me a little bit!  It was not my personal favorite from the month, but I can't argue that it was my Insta-friend favorite.  A little back story on the picture ... my family went out for an evening adventure to a small fossil gorge.  We explored and I took a few pictures along the way.

Finally, here is a list of my BOOKS READ for the month . . .
  1. Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record by Annie Barrows
  2. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
  3. Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi 
  4. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling 
  6. Allegiant by Veronica Roth
  7. Chew #1:  Taster's Choice by John Layman
I consider that a pretty good reading month, especially compared to last month.  The best news is that I am currently ahead of my reading goal for the year, too!  At the time of this posting, I have read a total of 21 books for the year!  Woohoo!!

Before I sign off for the week, I will leave you with a quick current reading update . . . I finished Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones and am over halfway through The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I am going to log off now so I can go read more of the latter!

How was your March?  Any highlights you want to share?  How about your current reading?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fairy Tale Fridays: A Fairy Tale About A Boy Who Left Home To Learn About Fear

Welcome to Fairy Tale Fridays!

Today we are going to talk about a tale that I have never even heard of before:  A Fairy Tale About A Boy Who Left Home to Learn About Fear, or also known as The Story of a Boy Who Went Forth to Learn Fear.  Why did I choose this one?  As I was browsing The Bicentennial Edition of The Annotated Brothers Grimm that I still have checked out from the library, I came across this tale.  Since it was previously unknown, I thought I would give it a try.

In this story about a boy, we are introduced to a man with two sons.  The firstborn is essentially perfect.  He works hard.  He is smart.  And, he does the right thing at the right time.  Unfortunately, the second boy was exactly the opposite.  He did not work at all, was referred to as stupid, and never did the right thing.  Even when his father asked what he was going to do to earn money and make a living, the boy gave a ridiculous answer ... he was going to "learn how to get the creeps."  What?!?  Apparently when all the boys were sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories, he never felt fear.  He simply didn't understand what could have the other boys shivering and getting "the creeps."

Alas, this boy set off on a journey to discover fear.  He was faced with a number of challenges, none of which affected him in any way.  Then, in enters the princess!  The fearless boy takes on the challenge to stay in a haunted castle for three nights.  If he is able to survive, then he will be able to marry the princess.  Needless to say, he defeats all that he faces, winning the princess and being set for life ... except for never completing the task he originally set out to complete.  Thankfully, his wife was able to take care of that in the final paragraphs of the story!

This tale was simply weird for me.  The unnamed boy was exposed to the dead, and he treated them like the living.  He didn't blink an eye at mutilated individuals or disappearing guests.  Is this really bravery or courage if one cannot feel?  If he cannot feel fear, how can he feel remorse?  How can an unfeeling man live happily ever after?!?  Of course, the ending does indicate that the wife did finally introduce her husband to the feeling of "the creeps" (in a very odd, but almost humorous way).  Does this imply that it takes a woman to make a man feel fear?  Or, does it mean that a woman brings out the "weaker" characteristics in a man?  Or, does it mean that this story is just a crazy tale that has no real message?!?  I really don't know, but I do know that it is a disturbing tale -- even more disturbing than characters who are tarred and feathered and put in a barrel of burning hot oil.

If you have not yet read this tale, you can check it out here.  (Please note that this version uses different words -- "makes me shudder" vs "gets the creeps").  In fact, I want you to click over right now, read it, then come back and tell me your thoughts on this crazy tale about a boy searching for fear.  I really want to chat about this one!

After reading this tale, what do you think?  Is it creepy?  Is it weird?  What lesson or message do you take away from it?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Recommended Reads: Read-Aloud Chapter Books

It is time for another edition of Tif Recommends!!

Today, I will be sharing with you a list of our favorite chapter books to read aloud.  Since my children were infants, I have read chapter books to them out loud.  Over the years, I have gotten better about using different voices for the characters, even though I often confuse them!  And, now that the kids are older, they even like to participate in the read-aloud as well.  

The following list is the books that have been the biggest hits over the years, both in the enjoyment of reading and in the response from my children.  The books range in level from early chapter books to those that are more complicated.  Without further ado, I give you the top ten favorites . . .

1.  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

2.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

3.  The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

4.  The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner

5.  Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo

6.  The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

7.  Bunnicula by James Howe

8.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

9.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

10.  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Which of these chapter books are your favorite?  Do you think I'm missing a favorite?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

I had to know what would happen to Tris and Four after reading Divergent.  I had to know what would happen to the factions.  I had to know everything, so I caved and bought myself the rest of the series.

Divergent impressed and intrigued me.  I liked the characters of Tris and Four, and the concept of the factions made me curious.  Insurgent helped to alleviate some of this curiosity.  I got to learn more about the factions and the factionless.  And, both Tris and Four continue to grow into their characters and their roles.

Divergent was a book that I could not finish fast enough.  I devoured it over just a couple of days.  However, Insurgent did not cause this devouring hunger.  I took my time with it and I believe it was for a couple of reasons (beyond a busy schedule) ... (1) Tris began to get on my nerves.  I understand that she had experienced a lot of bad stuff, but something was off to me.  I just could not connect with her as I did in Divergent.  (2) We spent a lot of time with the Dauntless adrenaline junkies in Divergent.  In Insurgent, the faction is divided and we get to see the lives of the other slower-paced factions.  I think the lack of constant action simply slowed down my own reading.  Don't get me wrong ... there is still action, but it is different.

Overall, I enjoyed Insurgent, BUT it just does not compare to its predecessor.  I do desire to read more, however, and I am immediately picking up the finale.  After the bombshell of the ending, I HAVE to know how the story of Tris and Four ends.

Have you read Insurgent?  What are your thoughts of this middle installment in the series?