Winter

winter

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Winter isn’t completely the completely useless crazy princess all the nobility on Luna maker her out to be. She is beloved by the common people, something her stepmother Queen Levana has never been, and the Queen hates her for it. Winter, in turn, despises her stepmother for using her Lunar gift to permanently scar her face and not allowing her to be with the love of her life, Jacin, a palace guard. She allies herself with Cinder, Emperor Kaito, Cress, Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet as they plot to take down Levana and install Cinder as Queen of Luna. Will they be able to defeat Levana and each be able to find their happy endings? To find out read the exciting conclusion of The Lunar Chronicles! Recommended for ages 14+, 4-1/2 stars. 

I reviewed the other Lunar Chronicles books here and here, and although I ultimately loved this book, it was so freaking long I nearly gave up several times. It took me about a month to finish on audiobook, though that was with several interruptions. I mean c’mon, it was 19 discs. We’re almost getting into Game of Thrones territory here (it had 28 discs). I really think it should’ve been divided into two books as the story took so much buildup to get to the point, which was to take down Levana and install Cinder on the Lunar throne as queen. The theme of this book was about Winter, the stepdaughter of Queen Levana who has been mentioned in previous books but you hadn’t heard much about until this book, and was a reference to the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Winter was so flighty and weird that at first, I kind of hated her character, but as the book progresses the reader realizes that her odd behavior isn’t completely her fault. She has chosen to withhold the Lunar gift (mind control) and therefore has essentially driven herself crazy. 

I loved the character and relationship development between the couples: Kai and Cinder, Thorne and Cress, and Wolf and Scarlet. Kai and Cinder are so awkward when the book starts, probably because of the kidnapping but once he understands everything, they are too cute together and apart (especially when he is dealing with Levana). Wolf and Scarlet were interesting because she was tortured and he was genetically modified, but they are still so in love with each other no matter what has happened. Thorne and Cress are my favorite relationship and characters, aside from Cinder. Cress is very brave despite feeling insignificant all of the time. And Thorne is such a dashing rogue (very Han Solo in my opinion), though at the same time completely petrified at the thought of losing Cress, even though he can’t seem to voice it until the very end.

I found the part at the end, the face-off between Cinder and Levana in the audience room to be completely insane but fantastically written by the author. The way Levana keeps using Cinder’s friends against her physically and keeps thwarting all her attempts, even pretending to surrender; it honestly was kept on the edge of myself till the last minute wondering who was going to come out on top. Apparently there’s a short story about one of the characters getting married in the author’s book  Stars Above, so I am definitely going to check that out later. 

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Saving Hamlet

saving-hamlet

Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth

To be published: Nov 1, 2016

Emma Allen just got a cute new haircut and she can’t wait to start her sophomore year of high school. She is especially excited this year because she will be the Assistant Stage Manager for the high school’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and her senior crush Brandon is directing the play. Only things start to go wrong from the beginning. She is thrust into the role of Stage Manager, the cute soccer guy with no acting skill gets cast as Hamlet (which infuriates her best friend Lulu who had wanted the role and is not talking to her right now), and Brandon is a horrible director. Plus, as Emma discovers one night, she can go through the trap door of her high school stage and ends up in Elizabethan London at the Globe Theater where Shakespeare and the King’s Men are performing the original Hamlet. Because of her short haircut and clothes, she is mistaken for a boy and soon becomes Master Allen. She catches the attention of Master Cooke, the young man playing Ophelia. What is a girl to do? To find out, read this fascinating glimpse into the play Hamlet as seen through teenage eyes. 

I did find it interesting that I managed to read two ARC time-travel books back to back last week. This one was completely different from the other one, but has similar qualities, i.e. about growing up and rediscovering yourself and what you can be. I loved the in-depth study of the play and the characters and their motives, as it is one of my favorites and I enjoy watching different interpretations of it. I’ve never seen the play in street clothes, but it seems like it would work just fine, as it did in the text. The David Tennant version of Hamlet they mentioned in the book is really quite excellent, I recommend it. 

I liked the interpretations of Hamlet and Ophelia that Josh and Lulu came up with during the course of the play. During the “To be or not to be” speech, Josh suggests that “maybe this is about being stuck in a weird place. Knowing that you have to do this thing, but not being brave enough to do it. Being too much in your head.” I am totally guilty of doing this, especially with events going on in my life right now, so I can see where he is coming from about it. My favorite part was about Lulu’s interpretation of Ophelia, which also has points about it that remind me of my life at the moment. She says:

“I’ve always thought that Ophelia was this throwaway character and that Shakespeare was a sexist pig for writing her so fragile…But lately I’ve been thinking: she’s always being controlled, right? By her father, by her brother, by general sexism and the court. But then she has this love and she does everything correctly but loses everything, including Hamlet…She’s just so alone  and so done with living in this sexist world that doesn’t make any sense. So she just lets it take over, and gives in, and lets herself drown in it.” 

Emma is actually a pretty interesting character. She has decided to do drama instead of soccer (even though she was awesome at it) and changed to a whole new better group of friends. Her best friend is bisexual and her friend’s parents are super traditional and are in denial about everything, and making their daughter’s life miserable. Emma likes Brandon, the unattainable older hottie, but he barely acknowledges her existence outside of the play. Then there’s Josh, the untrained actor who rescued Emma from a party last year and she’s kind of attracted to, but not ready to admit it. Then of course, there’s the whole part of the book in Elizabethan England, where Emma becomes a boy assistant stage manager and uses the skills she acquires there to help out Josh in the future. I loved the mysterious Master Cooke character and I kind of would have liked to get to know him better or maybe have her pick him in the end. 

Disclaimer: Thank you to Disney Hyperion, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read a copy in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Moment of Zen: Oct 21-27

This has been an insanely long week for a number of reasons I won’t go into right now. Suffice it to say, that I am very much looking forward to the weekend, especially as my favorite holiday is coming up, aka Halloween! Plus it will be a nice distraction for my son to play in his newly finished costume and have a little fun. 

Fri: Human Body DiscoveryTime went better than I would’ve thought. I found this adorable Brain Hat and used it in the storytime, which went over really well. So well that a colleague wants to use the idea this weekend for one of his programs (so yay for Brain Hat! or as my friend called it, the Brain yarmulke!). 

brain-hat

Sat: Going to Bilingual DIY storytime for Dia de los Muertos with Liam at the library I work at, led by my friend Joanna and new acquaintance Cassi, where I learned how to do “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” in Spanish. Then he got to decorate sugar skulls as an ofreda, offering for a Dia de los Muertos altar. Then we went up to the 5th floor, so he could pick out another adult dinosaur book. 

Sun: Oct Bookclub meeting, where we discussed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and ate some yummy French food prepared by our members. We had seven people and had a nice discussion about love and war. 

Mon: Eating the second half of my sandwich from Wildflower Bakery – the Roasted Sweet Potato, it’s amazing and enormous : roasted sweet potatoes, fresh mozzarella, fig confit, arugula, marinated fennel and balsamic vinaigrette on Herb Focaccia, whilst reading more of A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir. Also started listening to Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, for our November bookclub as a refresher, as I have read it before. 

Tues: 5 years of blogging on WordPress! Creating an activity sheet for my Construction DiscoveryTime for Friday, glad to feel semi-productive as I’ve been pretty distracted. 

Wed: Getting to go to my son’s school and observe him and his teacher in his slightly advanced Kindergarten class. I was fascinated by what they did, and managed to cram into 3 hrs of school, which included: phonics, reading, comprehension, learning to tell time, math, and learning rhythm with drums in music class. 

Thurs: Finishing up Liam’s Halloween costume with the help of my friends Marlene and Caren (and it is pretty damn adorable) and getting to see the gleeful look on his face when he got to put it on. He’s so excited for this weekend and Monday. Pics below. 

costume1                                                  Toothless Costume Front View

costume2                                               Toothless Costume Back View

costume3

Slightly Clearer view of wings and tail

“Just Right” Books: So Much More Than a Level by Melanie Fuemmeler

I agree with her, there should be more I’m reading this book because I love the author vs. “it’s in my level”. We want to encourage kids to read not put them into categories and make them feel bad about their reading level.

“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.” – Marcus Zusak I recently worked in a classroom h…

Source: “Just Right” Books: So Much More Than a Level by Melanie Fuemmeler

Moment of Zen: Oct 14-20

Back to the grind on Friday – Sunday after three days off this week. Should’ve taken off Friday too if I didn’t need the money, to rest and recuperate from vacation (ironic right?). 

Fri: Honestly, I went to my room and closed the door, read for an 1-1/2 hrs and then went to bed early. I didn’t get as much sleep as I would’ve liked on this week’s mini-break, so the extra relaxation and sleep really helped. 

Sat: Playing SWTOR and reading a good chunk of Saving Hamlet by Molly Booth, my second YA time-traveling book this week. 

Sun: I did Crafty Science today on Owls today. Name is just like it sounds: I did a mini-Powerpoint presentation on Owls and then we did 4 crafty projects that the kids could choose from (create an owl out of beads and feathers, create a owl mask with crayons/colored pencils/feathers, create an owl out of multicolored cardstock and owl paper bag puppets). I did an owl made out of beads and it was very calming and therapeutic, which was fantastic because my day previously had kind of sucked. Also finished the 2nd ARC of the week, Saving Hamlet, and finally got to catch up with Joanna (who I hadn’t really seen for a couple of weeks). 

Mon: Finally unlocked a Twi’lek and created a bounty hunter character on SWTOR, and she is a pretty curvy bad ass mofo. Got to work on my Dragon Age fanfiction short story some more and got Joanna to agree to be my beta (editor/idea person) for them (so I have been feeling really creative this week). 

twilek

Nashar’a looks like this color with the headband ^

twilek2

But with this facial tattoo ^

Tues: Got to have lunch and talk more with my friend Joanna; also have been working more on my DA story. 

Wed: Started working on Liam’s Halloween costume. He’s going as Toothless the Night Fury from How to Train Your Dragon, and my friend Caren is graciously helping me because I do not know how to sew. Went over to Joanna’s house and had lunch. Just nice to get out of the house and be somewhere else and just chill on my day off. 

toothless   toothless-wing

toothless-tail The costume should look something like this. 

Thurs: Working in Mach1 on Liam’s costume. They were having “Sew Family” and the whole month they are working with the kids on Halloween costumes. Some people brought their own projects but others were making capes and learning how to use the sewing machines. It was just nice to see so many working on their own project with so much inspiration and creativity. Lol, now I remember how much I hate to cut felt. 

A Darkly Beating Heart

a-darkly-beating-heart

A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

To be published: Oct 25, 2016

A dark time-traveling tale that alternates between modern day and nineteenth-century Edo era Japan, this story is all about Reiko, a rancorous teenaged girl whose last relationship went spectacularly sour. Because of the ripple effects of this relationship, she ends up going to Japan to stay with relatives for the summer. She is so full of hate that she has no time for anything, not even learning the Japanese language. Reiko ends up working for her uncle’s graphic design firm and travels to Kuramagi, a preserved Edo village, for work and it seems like the perfect place to plot her revenge. Only she doesn’t count on going back in time to inhabit the body of a young girl named Miyu, whose family is plotting to overthrow the shogunate. She can feel the hatred in this girl and quickly discovers that she enjoys going back in time more than real life. Will she be able to find some peace or will her need for revenge overtake her life? To find out, read this well-written novel. Recommended for ages 15+, 3-1/2 stars. 

I did really like the time-traveling part of the book, and going back to a Edo Japan was fascinating, as was the plot to get rid of the shogunate. I liked Jiro’s character, until he turned on her and showed his true nature. I loved Kenji’s character, and was glad at the end she ended up collaborating with him on a comic and he got to get some happiness as well. I am very glad that I’ve read a lot of manga and other things on Japan or I would’ve gotten really lost when they just started throwing out Japanese terminology, especially with the clothing. It would’ve been nice to have footnotes or something in the back of the book to help explain things. I also wished it would’ve been a bit more clear about who we were dealing with, as the story tended to jump around a lot between Reiko and Miyu. 

Wow, this book was dark! I was expecting it to be a little bit but not as much as it was. In retrospect though, it made sense with amount of crap she had to go through. She has her first mature relationship with a girl who encourages her artwork, then promptly stomps all over her heart. Then there’s the whole messed up relationship with her brother (who has got quite a few skeletons in his closet), and in turn, her unforgiving relationship with her parents. I also didn’t like the idea that a girl who may or may not be gay automatically must cut herself in order to feel okay. You can be conflicted about your sexuality (that’s honest and normal) and have other outlets to deal with the stress. I just want to give the girl a hug and tell her everything will eventually be okay but it just takes time. I could identify with a bit of the hatred and need for revenge, but not to the extent that she takes it. I wanted to smack her annoying girls she had to work with, and Reiko’s family treating her like a damaged thing that can’t take care of itself. With the incredible amount of hate, the unsurmountable need for revenge, and Reiko’s unstable mental state, the ending seemed a bit too tied-up-with-a-bow perfect. It could have been more realistic. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this ARC from MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group on Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. 

 

Moment of Zen: Oct 7-13

Finally got to have a bit of mini-vacation during Liam’s Fall Break. Nothing too fancy, just got up to the mountains near Prescott, Jerome and Sedona. This was only my second trip to Prescott since we moved to Arizona, the first one being back on Labor Day, so I was glad to get out of town for a bit and relax. It was nice not to have to think about anything for a few days. It was a little weird being without computers and TV, as the house we were staying in had neither of those, but also kind of awesome. We (me, my son and my mom) ate some good food and saw some cool things. 

Fri: Enjoying my Oyako Chicken at Blue Fin while finally getting to read some more of The Girl Who Fought Napolean. Not getting much of the girl’s storyline at the moment, but enjoying the bit about Grand Duke Aleksander, who later became Tsar Alexander I. Makes me want to research Russian Tsars from Peter the Great through Nicholas II. 

Sat: Made mincemeat filling with my Mom now so it can cure for two months and be ready in time for Christmas. I haven’t made it from scratch in awhile, and it smells like it is going to be amazing. Also had a long political discussion with my Dad as he basically summed up the presidential race since the Republican/Democratic National Conventions, which was interesting because I rarely get to talk about it in detail with someone has the patience to explain it all to me. 

Sun: Feeling useful (on a completely stress-filled day) as my son asked me to put together his Lego Star Wars toy with him. 

Mon: Feeling myself unwind a little (from tightly coiled spring, the way I’ve been feeling for days) by finally sitting down and reading new teen time-traveling ARC A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith

Tues: I had several hours in a row after dinner to read (the first time in forever) and managed to finish reading A Darkly Beating Heart (review to follow in the next couple of days). 

Wed: Finally getting to visit Jerome, AZ and browse all the shops and the beautiful views. My favorite sign there said “Attention Parents: This store is not childproof! All unattended children will be given a RED BULL and a KAZOO. Please watch your children.” The combination of Red Bulls and Kazoos just cracked me up. 

jerome-view

This was the view from the top of Jerome,AZ (it’s a town on the side of a mountain and the road at the top is at about 5200 ft)

jerome-view-outside-town2

This was a view looking up towards Jerome from a gift shop on the edge of the town

Thurs: Seeing how much my son enjoyed Mortimer Farm (in Prescott Valley, AZ) and their corn maze.