Moment of Zen: Aug 15-19

As I said before in the previous post, things have been pretty crazy this summer in my professional and personal life.The Summer Reading program is fun but keeps us super busy at the library. Plus I’ve been trying to decide where I want my career to go next within the library system I currently work in, and have only just now made a decision. Plus my personal life is a whole other minefield I won’t go into right now. So I’ve been trying to find new ways to become less stressed and more calm. I should take some examples from Bill the Cat and Opus the Penguin and have a spontaneous “monarch flash mob” instead of a nervous breakdown. 

Bloom County July 10, 2016

Because of all the stress and worry I’ve been having lately, I thought it would be good if I could find one awesome moment that made me smile each day. I’ve been thinking about this for ages, but have never managed to write it out. So in the future, I will be having at least one post a week about my daily “Moments of Zen” that I’d like to share. 

Tues: I was working at one of the branches for the first time, to get a feel for what it was like working there and they assigned me Kids Cafe. I’m the site supervisor at my location, so doing this on my own is no big deal. This little girl who was probably about 7-10 yrs old started talking to me as she was one of the first ones in there. She was so positive and happy to talk to me, excited even, and helped me put away chairs at the end of the program and gave me a hug. I had never met her before or visa versa, but it was just a nice experience. It made me feel really loved. 

Wed: I got complimented by one of my fellow co-workers who just became a supervisor. It was interesting because before then I had never really ever got direct positive feedback from him and to hear him praise me to another new co-worker was very cool because it made me feel very wanted/needed (which I hadn’t been feeling that there lately).

Thurs:  Experimenting with a completely new recipe and using beef (which I hardly eat) and having it turn out really tasty. 

Fri: Reading Imprudence by Gail Carriger, a book I’ve been waiting months to read and it was really hilarious and just enjoying my lunch break whilst reading it.

What to do with $700 Million?

Hi everyone!

I hope you had a good holiday season and a Happy New Year! My family’s Christmas/New Years breaks were quiet and low-key. In keeping with my promise to write more, I decided to do so today. I found this pic this afternoon on my Goodreads feed that made me laugh and think of this blog:

Hermione is the Smartest

Hermione

I have had my first Art Explorers program and got a respectable six kids. It doesn’t seem like a lot but given I couldn’t really advertise for the program due to a flyer issue, it is pretty spectacular. I will do my best to advertise the heck out of the program and work on extending the length. I’m so used to not have any time to do the program (as I did with Kids Cafe), that the first one was rather short. So I’ve added a bit to the next two to make them longer. This month’s program was on The Color Wheel and Pop Art”, and February’s will be on Dale Chihuly. The activity for that program will take longer so I’m not too worried about it. I’m so excited to do the Anglo-Saxon program in March! I’ve worked really hard and managed to squish 600 years of history into 18 slides. I just have to sort out my activity and everything will be awesome.

My first Page Turners (tween book club) meeting will be on Thurs Jan 21st. My co-worker and I asked the kids to have read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I have read it before, but of course had forgotten that I had, so this time around I listened to the audiobook version narrated by English actor Michael York (which was fantastic). We’re hoping we get more than one kid this time around, though the past one kid per program have been very enthusiastic about the books, and have some cool activities planned. We’re going to create our own shields and hopefully that’ll segway into talking about the author, why and how he created the book and discussion questions. We plan on having Turkish delight and hot cocoa, snacks featured in the book. I’m rather excited about it!  I’ll post more about it in a couple weeks after it’s occurred. February we will be discussing Jacqueline Woodson’s autobiographical verse novel Brown Girl Dreaming (which I totally loved), and we’re hoping to help the kids create a timeline of the last 10 years of their own life, write their own haikus, and create a self-portrait using their hands and filling in activities that make up their lives.

I had my first DiscoveryTime (Preschool Storytime plus STEM) of the year last Fri and it went pretty well considering it’s the first storytime I’ve done since before Thanksgiving. I ended up having a co-worker watch it, as she is preparing for her first one in two weeks when I’m on vacation to lovely Las Vegas to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary! I did it on Robots, and thought it was a bit short, the kids has a lot of fun creating their own robots out of foam shapes, aluminum foil, pipe cleaners and toilet paper rolls (see my example from last year below). I’m teaching 2 ASL signs per program, as Sign Language is the next big thing in our library’s storytimes. They are using them more heavily in Baby & Toddlertimes where the kids may not be able to speak, but since mine is for ages 2-5, I kind of figured that they would have the hang of that by now. So I’m teaching the word “Silly” (because I like to use the Raffi song Shake Your Sillies Out as my intro music) and whatever the theme is for the day. I’m also teaching my son the signs at home, so we’ve been having fun with that calling each other “Silly Robot”. This week’s topic is on Clouds and the final one of the month will be on Rainbows.

My Robot example

In other news, the Powerball Lottery here in Arizona is up to $1.4 Billion, which is just insane! So naturally everyone is trying to win it. My husband’s job did a pool at $20 a piece to get tickets, plus he went out and got another one for us. So if we were to win, that would be about $700 million a piece after taxes (I think). What would you do with that kind of money? Would you keep it or give it away? I don’t think I would quit my job b/c I know I would get bored otherwise, plus I love it. I could do a lot of things with that kind of money, including the following:

  • Pay off my student loan and though my hubby would probably hate me for saying this, maybe take some in-person classes at a good university for fun/to get a PhD because I could
  • Pay off my husband’s truck
  • My hubby would like a brand new Raptor truck, one of those stupidly expensive trucks with all the bells & whistles (I’ve seen a few around here because of the rich folks that live in Scottsdale)
  • Buy us a house and fix it up – or more precisely, move to the NW coast somewhere and buy a house
  • Put our son into a really good school and put aside a trust fund for going to university
  • Donate a sizable portion to children’s literacy and/or the library
  • My hubby would like to buy a house for his parents in England and have all of us go visit them
  • I would love to be able to travel more, all over the world; to Northern Europe again, or to Greece, Istanbul, or Japan
  • My hubby thinks I should get a new car, but I would probably just fix up his truck and make it really nice
  • Buy some nice art/vintage books

Favorite Books Read in 2015

I’ve done pretty good this year with reading, as I ended up trying to read 285 and have read 290 (that’s over 42,000 pages!). I know it’s been awhile since I’ve done a proper non-review post as life and work especially has been crazy. I’m getting ready for 4 library programs that I’m presenting in the New Year and so have been busy working on those and making sure everything is put together. I’m doing an Art History/Craft program called Art Explorers (which is basically what I was doing before with Kids Cafe but no longer have time for), Discoverytime (Storytime + STEM for 2-5 yrs olds), a Tween Book Club called Page Turners, and I’m assisting with another program called Crafty Science. And that’s not counting my duties with Kids Cafe as Site Supervisor (mostly organization and paperwork) and occasionally presenting an easy craft on a Wednesday session. Anyways, on to the books in no particular order. The links are to my reviews of the books, might have to scroll a bit as the monthly reviews can be long. Liam’s choices are books my four year old son particularly liked and I read to him multiple times.

Favorite Picture Books

Emilys Blue Period 

Emily’s Blue Period   – a cute book about self-expression and dealing with parent’s divorce

Hi Koo

Hi, Koo! – a great way to introduce kids to haikus, plus adorable illustrations as always. I love Jon J. Muth’s books!

How to Cheer Up Dad

How to Cheer Up Dad  – This book made me laugh out loud b/c it is exactly what it is like to have to deal with a toddler, and the author/illustrator should know as he was inspired by his own son. Great illustrations.

Snoozefest

Snoozefest – loved the idea of this book and the illustrations, plus cutest name ever in a picture book (Snuggleford Cuddlebuns)

If You Plant a Seed

If You Plant a Seed  – Kadir Nelson, what can I say? I love the man and his work keeps getting better and better every time he comes out with a book. I loved the moral message of this book and even my son got it.

The Big Princess

The Big Princess – I love Taro Miura’s storytelling and bold simple graphics in this book and The Tiny King!

Beautiful Birds

Beautiful Birds – Another gorgeously decorated illustrations for an ABC book

I Will Take a Nap

I Will Take a Nap – I love naps so a book advocating them is always a bonus in my book. Plus this one is extra silly, and I love Mo Willems books.

Liam’s Choices

What to do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot

What to Do if an Elephant Stands on Your Foot – a funny book that my son adored and had me read over and over again, including to his Preschool classmates

Mustache Baby  Mustache Baby Meets His Match

The Mustache Baby series – Hilarious books with adorable illustrations, trust me, kids and parents will love these! Both me and my son loved these!

  Wolfie the Bunny.jpg

Wolfie the Bunny – I loved it for the fabulous illustrations and got the humor of the “Wolf in Rabbit’s clothing”; My son just loved the story of the misunderstood Wolfie

Bee Makes Tea

Bea Makes Tea – A Rhyming/Phonics book that my son just fell in love with and we both knew most of the lines by heart (in separate voices) after we finally returned it.

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef - Book 1

Rutabaga: The Adventure Chef – really cute graphic novel featuring your classic knights and dragons tale but with an “adventure chef” kid for a hero and his kid companions. Looking forward to more from this author/artist; My son also really enjoyed this one as well.

Favorite Children’s Books 

Alvin Ho
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters 
– I haven’t read an Alvin Ho book in a over a year and forgot how funny it is, esp because of his Shakespeare cursing father.

I am Albert Einstein

I am Albert Einstein – A great simple introductory biography to the world famous physicist

Widenss and Wonder

Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe – after using O’Keeffe for one of my Kids Cafe Art Lectures, I was ready to learn more about her and this biography was very-well researched for a kids book and a great introduction to this fabulous artist

Telegmeir-Smile    Drama

Smile and Drama – Cannot express enough how much I love these two graphic novels!

The Hollow Boy

The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) – love this series (adore the author’s work in general) and this is the latest one which literally keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. Can’t wait for the next book in the series, but hate when they end on a cliffhanger!

Favorite YA Books

Kamisama Kiss

The Kamisama Kiss series by Julietta Suzuki- both the anime and manga (I’ve read through #19, though review is for #1-5) are a lot of fun to read, even though they are a bit silly and over the top

Prudence

Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) – a continuation of the Parasol Protectorate series by the same author but from the viewpoint of Alexia Tarabotti’s daughter Prudence many years later and all sorts of supernatural steampunk fun ensues

Manners and Mutiny

Manners & Mutiny (Finishing School #4) – Adored this series by Gail Carriger! Really her stuff just keeps getting better and better!

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes – Hard to believe this is her first book as her world-building is so awesome in this pseudo-Roman world! Probably one of the best books I read this year, definitely one of the best ARCs (Advanced Reader’s Copies).

Wolf by Wolf

Wolf by Wolf – Another of the most original stories I’ve read this year, this alternative history (what if Nazis and Japan won WWII) with a shape-changing Holocaust survivor

Templar

Templar – Fantastic illustrations and a great story (very well-researched), very Indiana Jones meets Ocean’s Eleven in terms of an impossible task being pulled off

Library Wars 12

Library Wars #12 & 13 – Futuristic militant librarians battle censorship with a bit of romance thrown in, what’s not to love?  I have had #14 on hold forever waiting for it to come out

Favorite Adult Books

Outlander

Outlander series – introduced to this series by watching Season 1 Vol 1 of the new Starz show; have now read through book 5 and loved all except 2nd book (which was okay but not as good as first one); Jaime is seriously one of my favorite book characters ever

Lord John and the Private Matter

Lord John Grey series – Usually spin-off series aren’t this good, but she puts just as much work and research into this series as she does with Outlander and I really like Lord John’s character (have read/listened to 10 out of 13 stories)

Major Pettigrews Last Stand

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand – This book club selection was a fabulous first book by the author, despite being about 60 yrs old romance and racism; looking forward to her new book coming out in March 2016 called The Summer Before the War.

Transatlantic

Transatlantic – another book club selection, I really enjoyed this book even though I was a bit lost for awhile as to what the connection between the stories was

Fool  The Serpent of Venice

Fool and its sequel The Serpent of Venice – hilarious comedies based off the tragedies King Lear (Fool) and The Merchant of Venice/Othello/Cask of the Amontillado (The Serpent of Venice). Two of my favorite Christopher Moore books.

Did She Kill Him

Did She Kill Him? – a fascinating look at Victorian True Crime and sexuality/gender

Kids Cafe Lecture: Ancient Near Eastern History, Pt 1

This was one of my favorite that I have done because I have been in love with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) history and art since I was an undergraduate in college and took a class on it. I’m currently taking a free online class about it. It is always fun to share something new with the kids and this is a great example. I did this over the summer because I knew the audience would be bigger. Because ANE History covers such a huge time period, about 3000 years, I decided to break it into two sections and talk about five civilizations in total (there were many more but hard to squeeze all that into a 20 minute lecture). The first one was on Sumerians and Babylonians. I had originally planned to get the kids to build Lego ziggurats but no one was really interested, so I let them create what they wanted and I built my own version of a ziggurat.

KC Ancient Near Eastern Art History, Pt 1 – June 12

Mesopotamia Map

  • Mesopotamia
    • From the Greek, meaning “two rivers”, which referred to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; also called the Fertile Crescent
    • Contains modern day Iraq and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey
    • They may have invented the wheel and later used it to invent the chariot and to make pottery, domesticate animals, irrigation etc
    • Using their advanced math, the Mesopotamian astronomers were able to follow the movements of the stars, planets, and the Moon. By studying the phases of the Moon, the Mesopotamians created the first calendar. It had 12 lunar months and was the predecessor for both the Jewish and Greek calendars.
    • The Mesopotamians may have invented the simple machine called the Archimedes Screw. This would have helped to raise water to the heights needed for the plants in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • Sumerians (c. 5000 – 1750 BCE)
    • 1st civilization c. 3300 BCE – “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry and government have been reached” – dictionary.com
    • They had the 1st complex cities, they had central government and organized religion, they developed advanced technologies such as the wheel, sail, and plow; they had a surplus of food and traded with other empires
    • Sumerian Map
  • Ziggurats
    • They built temples, to their 3,000 gods and goddesses, called ziggurats
    • They shaped it like a mountain, almost like a step-pyramid, because they believe their gods lived at the top of mountains
    • The largest ziggurat was in the city of Ur, c. 2100 BCE
    • Today Ur-Nammu Ziggurat
    • Artist Rendering of what it might have looked like - Ur-Nammu Ziggurat in Sumeria
  • Written Language
    • Oldest written language in cuneiform on clay tablets or cylinders– 3600 BCE
      • Cuneiform translates into “wedge-shaped”; they were pictures or pictograms meant to represent the real thing
      • Writing was developed in Egypt, the Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica afterwards
        • 2150-1400 BCE – Sumerian Epic poem Gilgamesh written on clay tablets
        • Cuneiform on clay tablet
        • Hero_lion_Dur-Sharrukin_Louvre_AO19862
  • Sumerian Art
    • Sumerian Votive Art – small sculptures used in religious ceremonies, found in the Sumerian city of Eshunna
    • Votive Statuettes from the Square Temple, Eshunna c. 2700-2600 BCE
    • statuettes-of-two-worshipers
  • The Standard of Ur
    • Possibly decorations for a music box – c. 2600 BCE
    • Peace Side
    • The Stardard of Ur in Peace
    • War Side
    • The Standard of Ur - War side
    • Made out of wood, lapis lazuli, red limestone and shell
  • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, c. 2600 BCE
    • Music was very important to Sumerians, and this one was buried with its musician
    • This one features a bearded bull, created with lapis lazuli and gold leaf and inlaid Gilgamesh-like figures
    • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Close-up Bull-headed lyre
  • Old/1st Babylonian (1795 – 1595 BCE)
    • Things Babylonians are most famous for:
      • They made several advances in medicine. They used logic and recorded medical history to be able to diagnose and treat illnesses with various creams and pills.
      • They had one of the earliest written down code of law – Hammurabi, King of Babylon, c 1754 BCE
      • Basalt Stele with Hammurabi Code c. 1780 BCE
      • Up Close Stele
  • Ne0-Babylonian (612 – 529 BCE)
    • King Nebuchadnezzar II, the one mentioned in the Bible, destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon
    • The city of Babylon, according to the historian Herodotus, “Its outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high.”
    • Plan of the City of Babylon
  • Ishtar Gate

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Leonardo Da Vinci

Only two weeks till my Tween Book Club (Page Turners) meets for the first time! I have finished my re-read of Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins and enjoyed the quick read, though it really makes me want to re-read the whole series as the first book was so short. I’ve done my best to promote it, giving out the flyers to an entire school of 4th-8th graders, a homeschool writers group, posting the flyer in the Children’s area, and telling any kid I think is around that age about it. We shall see soon.

I’ve not been doing a whole lot of these kind (i.e. art lecture) of Kids Cafe because of the new system they want us to use (kids have to kill out membership forms once, but with our kid population being a bit odd -we don’t have a steady population since we’re the big downtown branch, we can have up to 15 new kids a time). It is useful I guess for statistical purposes, but is annoying because it takes so long to fill out the forms that by the time they hand them in and get their food, half the time has gone. Anyways, on to this week’s topic, Leonardo Da Vinci. I have been fascinated by Da Vinci ever since I took a class on Renaissance art while I was doing a study abroad there and got the opportunity to see the Da Vinci museum in Vinci (outside of Florence) and see some of his inventions, along with his beautiful original works in Florence and Rome. He was a genius in art, science, architecture and many other fields, so it was fun to share his genius with others. This is one of the best presentations in my opinion. It was rather hard to squish Leonardo’s life into eighteen slides, but I think the kids/adults got a good understanding of the man. I found out about his inventing robots after I did a DiscoveryTime (storytime + science for 3-5 yr olds) on the subject. I had a lot of fun with the activity, though it wasn’t my original choice.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Biography
    • Born April 15, 1452
    • Leonardo was part of the Italian Renaissance, which lasted from about 1330-1550. Leonardo is referred to as a “Renaissance Man,” not because he lived through the period, but because he was good at everything.
    • Da Vinci refers to the place of his birth, the town of Vinci outside of Florence, Italy
    • Italy Region Map
  • Early Art Career
    • At age 14, Leonardo is apprenticed to the artist Andrea del Verrocchio (an important Renaissance artist in Florence, whose patrons were the ruling family, the Medici’s) , which is how he improved his drawing and learned how to paint and sculpt
      • Verocchio – The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
    • Verrocchio - The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
      • Verocchio – David, c. 1475
      • Verrocchio - David, c. 1475
      • First work attributed to Leonardo – The Annunciation, 1472-75
      • Leonardo - The Annunciation, 1472-75
  • Famous Paintings
    • His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Only 15 of his paintings remain. He was very famous and known for his paintings while he was still alive.
    • The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most well-known painting in the world. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa around 1503. It is also known as “La Gioconda”, the last name of the woman who is believed to be the subject of the painting.
      • It has been on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris for over 200 years. Because of numerous thefts and attempts at defacing the painting, it has been put under bulletproof glass.
      • Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Illinois used face-recognition software to determine that the Mona Lisa is “83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.”
      • Mona Lisa, 1504-19
      • Mona Lisa - large
  • Mona Lisa Parodies
      • A parody is an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration
      • Squidward Mona Lisa Miss Piggy as Mona Lisa Minecraft Mona Lisa
  • Leonardo’s Time in Milan (1482-99)
    • The Last Supper is a frescoed painting located in the dining room of a church/convent in Milan, Italy called Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) and is huge (15 x 29 ft)
    • Painted while Leonardo was under the patronage of Duke Ludivico Sforza of Milan
    • His version of this painting was the first to depict real people acting like real people and was the best example of one-point perspective – everything radiates from the head of Jesus.
    • Instead of using tempera paint on wet plaster (the preferred method of fresco painting), Leonardo thought he’d use dry plaster. His experiment resulted in a more varied palette, but this method wasn’t at all durable. The painted plaster began to flake off the wall almost immediately, and people have been attempting to restore it ever since. Last restoration was in 1999.
    • Leonardo’s The Last Supper, 1495-98
    • The Last Supper, c. 1495-98
    • Giampetrino’s The Last Supper, copy of the original from 1520
    • Giampietrino - The Last Supper, c 1520
  • Leonardo’s Notebooks (1482-1519)
    • Leonardo was also an architect, writer, natural/biological scientist, cartographer, and mathematician. He is famous for his notebooks where he kept over 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which were both art and science-related. In fact, he was the first one to explain in the year 1500 why the sky was blue.
    • The notebooks are written in mirror-image cursive with his left hand (i.e. backwards and right to left). And he was ambidextrous – could write with both hands
    • His conceptual drawings included plans for musical instruments, war machines, calculators, submarine, an automobile driven by springs, multi-barreled missiles (machine guns) and many more ideas. Many of these plans were limited by the level of technology at the time.
    • He was interested in civil engineering projects and designed a single span bridge, a way to divert the Arno River, and moveable barricades which would help protect a city in the case of attack.
    • Leonardo’s Inventions: Robots, Tank, and Single-Span Bridge
      • Robots
      • Tank
      • Single Span Bridge
    • Inventions: The Orinthopter
      • He was particularly interested in flight and studied birds to understand how they flew. The Orinthopter was a human-powered flying machine but he also created a design for a helicopter.

      • Orinthopter outline
      • Orinthopter, c 1490
      • Orinthopter
    • Understanding Human Anatomy
      • He became an expert in the anatomy of the human body, studying it in detail and creating hundreds of drawings to help explain his thoughts. Leonardo didn’t just study the human anatomy either. He also had a strong interest in horses as well as cows, frogs, monkeys, and other animals.
      • Anatomical study of the arm, c. 1510
      • The Lungs
    • Animal Studies
      • cats
      • Studies of Crabs
  • Sforza Horse Sculpture
    • In 1482, Duke Ludivico Sforza (Leonardo’s patron in Milan) challenged him to build the world’s largest equestrian bronze statue in honor of Ludivico’s father Francesco
    • Leonardo did a multitude of sketches for the sculpture, and he created a clay model of the horse in 1493, but it was never cast
    • It wasn’t until after Leonardo’s notebooks were re-discovered, and a wealthy American took on the project in 1977, that the sculpture was finally created in 1999.
    • It was installed in Milan (with a copy in Michigan) – it weighed 15 tons (33,069 lbs) and is 25 ft tall [you can see the scale to a human in the bottom picture]
    •  Sketches for Cavallo dello Sforza
    • Studies for an equestrian monument
    • American Horse, 2006
  • Codex Leicester (1506-13)
  • Activity: Invisible Ink using Lemon Juice
    • Let’s Be a Spy and Leave a Secret Message
    • Here’s a simple explanation of this
      • Send a secret message to a friend using invisible ink

        Small glass of lemon juice or milk
        Q-tip
        Piece of white paper
        Blow-dryer or light bulb

        Dip the end of the Q-tip into the lemon juice or milk, and use it to write a secret message on the piece of paper.

        Let dry completely. Your message should be invisible.

        To decode your message, heat the piece of paper by carefully blow-drying it (or holding it near a warm light bulb).

        As the paper heats up, your message will appear yellow or brown. That’s because milk and lemon juice are acidic and weaken the paper, Anderson says in her book. “When the heat source is put near the paper, the weaker part begins to brown before the rest of the paper does.”

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Mosaics

It was nice to have a little downtime after the busyness of summer, but now we’re starting up Fall programs. I am presenting my first Tween Book Club on Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins on the 24th and I still need to re-read it. But now I have co-worker to help me out, so that should make it a lot easier. I just hope I get some kids to show up for the program. It’s been posted in the Children’s Area for about a week, and I dropped off a bunch of flyers yesterday at an elementary/middle school, and I’m hoping to catch the homeschool group this week to give them some flyers (we have a writing group that meets in our Makerspace once a week). I’m still assigned to DiscoveryTimes (basically Preschool storytime + Science or STEM), so those should be getting a bit easier. I say this because I hadn’t done these storytimes since November 2014 before I started again 3 weeks ago, and it is slightly different than ToddlerTime in that there is more planning and you usually do an activity/experiment during the storytime or I like to make up a Take-Home sheet so they can continue the lesson at home.

Anyways, on to Kids Cafe. I rather enjoyed doing this lecture as it taught me some stuff I didn’t know,  like the differences between Greek and Roman mosaics. Plus the Roman mosaics are so detailed that it really does look like a painting. The thing I loved most about this lecture was the art project, which I had a lot of fun with, though it was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. I originally wanted to do bean mosaics, but we didn’t have any at work and I didn’t want to use dried pasta as we only had mini penne and farfalle. So I came up with using pony beads, the largish beads that are easier for little kids to grab, and white posterboard circles that I had leftover from last summer’s summer reading theme (space). The only problem with this was that you had to completely make sure the glue had dried or the beads would fall off.

KC Mosaics – April 24

Paper Sea Mosaic

Paper Sea Mosaic

  • What is a mosaic?
    • A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile, or glass.
    • Mosaic Rock
    • Garden Mushrooms Mosaics
  • Early Beginnings of Mosaics
    • Artists have been creating mosaics since around 700 BCE (for over 2700 years). In the beginning, they used different colored stones to create patterns,
    • It was the Greeks, in 300 BCE, who raised the pebble technique to an art form, with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals.
    • Ex. Lion Hunt Greek Pebble Mosaic – 300 BCE
    • Lion Hunt Greek Pebble Mosaic, 300 BCE
  • Roman Mosaics (200 BCE – 450 CE)
    • By 200 BCE, specially manufactured pieces (“tesserae”) were being used to give extra detail and range of color to the work. Using small tesserae, this meant that mosaics could imitate paintings. Many of the mosaics preserved at Pompeii were the work of Greek artists.
    • Ex. Alexander mosaic from Pompeii – Alexander and Darius at Battle of Issus, Pompeii – 100 BCE
    • Alexander and Darius at Battle of Issus, Pompeii - 100 BCE
    • Ex. Close-up of Alexander Mosaic
    • Battle of Alexander mosaic from Pompeii
  • Roman Britain (43-409 CE)
    • The expansion of the Roman Empire took mosaics further afield, although the level of skill and artistry was diluted. If you compare mosaics from Roman Britain with Italian ones you will notice that the British examples are simpler in design and less accomplished in technique.
    • Ex. Roman Townhouse Mosaic in Dorset, England. c. 300
    • Roman Britain townhousefloor
    • Ex. Detail of Stones Used
    • tesserae detail of townhouse floor
  • Byzantine Empire (400-1453 CE)
    • With the rise of the Byzantine Empire from the 5th century onwards, centered on Byzantium (now Istanbul, Turkey), the art form took on new characteristics. These included Eastern influences in and gold or silver leaf on top.
    • Ex. Virgin and Child with Justinian I and Constantine I at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey – c. 900s
    • Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)
    • Christ Enthroned at Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy – c. 500s
    • Basilica of San Vitale - Christ Enthroned, 547 CE
  • Islamic Influences in Spain (711-1492 CE)
    • In the west of Europe, the Moors brought Islamic mosaic and tile art into the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. It was not pictorial, but was very geometric.
    • Ex. Tile mosaics from Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain – 1400
    • Islamic Tile Mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain - 1400s CE      Islamic Tile mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain
  • Decline in Europe but revival in Mesoamerica
    • Mosaics went into decline in the Middle Ages in Europe
    • Mesoamerican (Mexico and some of Central America) art used mosaics, especially the Aztecs (c. 1195-1522 CE)
    • Ex. Double Headed Serpent (Quetzalcoatl) chest decoration, Aztec – 1400s
    • Aztec Double headed mosaic Serpent chestpiece - 15-16th centuries AD
  • 19th Century Revival
    • Mosaics had a major revival in 19th Century, esp in public spaces and cathedrals like Westminster Abbey in London and Sacre Coeur, Paris.
    • Pulpit in Westminster Cathedral, London – 1800s
    • Pulpit in Westminster Cathedral - 19th Century
    • Close-up of Pulpit Column
    • Closeup of pulpit
  • Art Noveau (1884-1910)
    • The Art Nouveau movement also embraced mosaic art. From 1900-1914, in Barcelona, Spain, Antoni Gaudi helped produce the stunning ceramic mosaics of Guell Park
    • Guell Park Benches, 1900-14
    • Antonio Gaudi - Guell Park benches,
    • Material taken from: http://www.thejoyofshards.co.uk/history/
  • Modern Mosaics
  • Activity: Bead Mosaics
    • This was harder than I thought it would be mostly because the beads were round and it’s hard to make geometric-style patterns, aka copies of the ones from Alhambra Palace, because they are meant for point-edged tesserae
    • Islamic Tile Mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain - 1400s CE   –> I used this one as the basic design of my mosaic, but again, hard to completely duplicate due to round nature of beads
    • Bead Mosaic example

 

August Book Reviews 2015

I have been rather busy reading for the last month or so. I am on a bit of a tight schedule at the moment because of so many good-looking ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) coming out in the next couple of months. I’ve finished the book club selection for August early, Colum McCann’s Transatlantic, which I rather enjoyed. I just started an ARC called Ophelia’s Muse by Rita Cameron, about the Pre-Raphaelite model Lizzie Siddal and the artists of that group, which is pretty amazing so far. I will review both of these next month. I should be pretty busy with ARCs until the new year.

The cool new book news I have is that I’m about to be in charge of a Tween Book Club, which I discussed previously a bit in the first paragraph here. It has finally been named Page TurnersWe will be reading Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins first, then Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, and finally The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. All were books that I loved, so I figured they would be good books to start with. If it goes well, we’ll be continuing it in the new year and I can pick some books I’ve not read yet.

On to the book reviews. I rate books from 1-5 stars, 1 being the lowest. I will include illustrations from the children’s books I enjoyed.

Children

Digger Dog written and illustrated by William Bee Digger-Dog-interior-3

I found this book for my Toddler Dog Storytime and just adored it, though the story does get pretty repetitive, especially if you are reading it out loud. The kids loved the fold-out pages. Digger Dog loves to dig up bones but can’t seem to dig this one up, so he gets progressively bigger diggers to help him. It would also be a good book for a Construction Storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Stanley the Farmer written and illustrated by William Bee

I discovered this book after browsing the children’s section for more William Bee books. He’s done a series of Stanley books and my son just loves this one. The illustrations are simple but really stand out. Stanley has a farm and has decided to plant some wheat. The book goes through all the steps needed to plant, take care of and harvest wheat. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Sea Rex written and illustrated by Molly Idle Sea Rex

I love these books because they are so expressive and fun, plus the illustrations are always great! I got so excited when I saw the latest one at a local bookstore and immediately reserved a copy at the library. This installment sees the two children and their dinosaur friends going to the beach to play in the water and sand and leads to some interesting adventures. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Dragon Stew written by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Lee Wildish

I originally picked this book up to use as a back-up book for my Toddler Dragon Storytime but decided not to use it because it was a bit too long. But I figured my son would think it was funny because it mentions poop and burning bums (he did). A group of Vikings are bored and don’t know what to do, until one suggests getting a dragon and making dragon stew. They have no idea how to do this, but go for it anyway. I loved that the dragon is very posh drinking tea with a little top hat and bow tie! He naturally objects to being cut up into stew and attacks them, setting their bums on fire. They decide rather quickly to do something else. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosailing written by Deb Lund, illustrated by Howard Fine

Since we had read the second and third book in this series, it made sense to go ahead and read the first book. This one was not as good as the other two. Our intrepid group of dinosaur adventurers decide to get a ship and go sailing, but things aren’t as easy as they originally thought. They hit a squall and all get nausceous and decide they have no more sea legs. They are happy to return to their families. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Orion and the Dark written and illustrated by Emma Yarlett

Orion and the Dark

I picked this up for my son while browsing in the library because it looked intriguing, and it was. The book is about Orion, a little boy with a very active imagination, who is scared of everything. He is especially scared of the dark, and one night he gets so fed up that he screams that he “wishes the dark would just go away.” Instead of that happening, it turns into a physical manifestation and invites Orion to explore his fears to see what they really are. After a while, Orion realizes that he has nothing to be scared of and gains a best friend in the process. Both my son and I really enjoyed this book, and it had fabulous illustrations that really drew you into the book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

The Conductor by Laeticia Devernay

I’ve been trying to find more wordless picture books for my son, so I leaped at getting this one. The problem is , I just didn’t connect to it. It is about a conductor who climbs up a tree in a forest and makes all the leaves turn into birds and fly off the trees. This goes on for many many pages until all the leaves are gone. Then he climbs down and buries his baton in the ground, where it sprouts and turns into a tree. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Goat in a Boat written by Lesley Sims, illustrated by David Semple

This was one of a group of phonic learner beginner books we had gotten in to the library but the illustrations were funny, so I decided to give it a chance. My son loved it. The goat likes to eat oats, but wants something different for dinner. So he decides to go fishing in the moat with his best friend Stoat, but Stoat is busy. So he goes by himself and starts catching only suits of armor someone has dumped there, and his friend Stoat joins him later in the boat. They see an approaching army but can’t shout loud enough to be heard (and Stoat can’t shout at all because of his sore throat), so the resort to banging on the armor. The guards finally hear, raise the drawbridge and the two friends save the day. Plus they get fish for dinner. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Bee Makes Tea written by Lesley Sims, illustrated by Fred Blunt Bee Makes Tea

I love this phonics reader with rhyming text and precious illustrations! The story is so cute. A Bee is making a birthday tea for her Queen Bee, but she can’t get it all down to the beach. So her friend Ant and his friends help out, but her giant birthday cake doesn’t make it out of the house, before falling apart. But Ant saves the day when he suggests she make the broken up cake into a bee-shaped cake, which of course the Queen loves. I love doing all the voices for this book and my son liked helping saying some of the lines in a tiny bee voice. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Llamas in Pajamas written by Russell Punter, illustrated by David Semple

Another phonics book with cute illustrations, this one was a cute story about four llama friends who get together for a sleep-over. They decide to stay up and tell each other spooky stories, but are frightened by scary noises that the house makes when their grandmother comes to bring them a midnight snack. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Wolfie the Bunny written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Wolfie the Bunny

Dot and her Bunny parents come home one day to find a baby wolf on their doorstep. Dot warns them “He’s gonna eat us all up!”, but they are just taken by how cute he is. This becomes her refrain for the rest of the book, and she seriously doesn’t trust little Wolfie. He is raised with the Bunny family and fed carrots, growing bigger every day. One day he eats all the carrots and Dot must go to the store to get more, but Wolfie wants to go with her. She is about to put the last carrot into her shopping bag when Wolfie puts on a scary face and Dot is convinced that he is finally gonna eat her. A large bear has decided to make Wolfie his meal and Dot stands up for him. They are a lot closer afterwards. I loved the illustrations. This is a great book to read to children who have recently gotten a younger sibling, or experience a bit of sibling rivalry. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Is There a Dog in This Book? written and illustrated by Vivianne Schwartz

I discovered this book by accident at the library while browsing, although I knew about the author/illustrator from reading her stuff before. My son loved this very interactive lift-the-flaps book about three cats, Moonpie, Andre and Tiny, and a dog they find and befriend inside of the book. I loved doing the voices for each of the three cats. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

There are Cats in this Book written and illustrate by Vivianne Schwartz

There are Cats in This Book

I liked the third book in the series so much, I hunted for one of the first two books and this is the book I could find. I really like Ms. Schwartz’s stuff as it is very original and funny. Like Is There a Dog in This Book?, this book is the story of the three cats, Moonpie, Andre, and Tiny and their adventures with the reader throughout the book. They play with yarn, go fishing (sort of) and play with pillows. Again, the voices were fun to do and my son liked to do them too. It was a fun and silly book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

I Will Take a Nap! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

How can you not love a book about naps! This one was totally silly and me and my son had a lot of fun with it, especially all the sound effects. Gerald just wants to take a nap, as not taking one is making him tired and cranky (I know the feeling). He dreams that his friend Piggy has woken him up, and of course over-reacts to this happening. She decides to take one too, but is so loud that Gerald cannot nap. With turnip-headed animals and singing stuffed animals, this book is a lot of fun. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Regards to the Man in the Moon written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

I picked this book up because I love Ezra Jack Keats’ work and I needed a book for a Moon Preschool Storytime. It’s not exactly what I’m looking for, and would be better for a more general Space Storytime. Louie and his parents are planning a journey “right out of this world” on his ship the Imagination I, which no surprise, runs on lots of imagination. Early the next morning, him and a girl named Susie blast off into space seeing seeing all kinds of planets and galaxies. Eventually they bump into two of their friends, Ziggie and Ruthie, who have followed them into space but ran out of imagination and are now stuck. They manage to make it through an asteroid field and back home again. Then of course, all the kids want to take off on adventures of their own. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

Children and Young Adult

The Ancient Persians written by Virginia Schomp

I had originally set this out as an additional book for a Kids Cafe I had done on the Ancient Assyrians and Persians, but it looked cool, so I picked it up for myself. I’ve been fascinated by the Persians for a while now, and I’ve tried (and failed) to read “The Shahnameh (Persian Book of Kings)”, so I thought this might be a better introduction to Persian literature. The book gives a small introduction on the Persian empire and its early history until the 7th century CE. It talks about the teachings of Zarathustra, the prophet of the Zoaroastrian religion, which was one of the first monothesistic ones in the world, and influenced Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. The book features the Persian Creation story and the Triumph of the Light over the Dark, the First Sin, and four epic hero tales from the Shahnameh (an epic poem on ancient Iranian myths and Zoroastrian traditions). The back of the book has a Glossary of terms used in the book, a breakdown of the major texts used in the book, a booklist and websites to explore and find out more information. Recommended for ages 8-12, 4 stars.

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile. It won a 2015 Caldecott Honor and the 2015 Sibert Medal. I adored this book and its illustrations, done by the same team that did the Caldecott Honor-winning book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, about the famous American poet. The illustrations really helped the book come alive and do look as though a child wrote them out and included snapshot illustrations of his life throughout the pages to bring everything together. Peter Roget loved lists. He began making them early, after the death of his father. He was a shy child and started writing a book with these lists at age eight. When he was a teenager, scientist Carole Linnaeus was developing his classification system for plants and animals, to make them easier to study, so it seemed natural for teenage Roget to continue his lists as well. He was a bit of a genius, entering medical school early and was only nineteen when he graduated. He decided to become a tutor for awhile in France, before coming back to England to become a doctor to the poorest families in Manchester. He finished his book in 1805 and used it daily. He joined scientific societies and was asked to give lectures, and he used his book to help him with those talks. He married late and had a couple of kids and eventually published his Thesaurus in 1852. The publication of the text has been continuous and updated since 1869 by Roget’s family. There is an author and illustrator’s note in the back of the book, along with a bibliography and further reading materal list. I would love to own this book.  Recommended for ages 8-12, 5 stars.

Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe by Susan Goldman Rubin

Ok, so I’m a late Georgia O’Keeffe convert. I knew about her art of course, but had never really studied it until I decided to do a presentation on her for Kids Cafe. I found her art and life fascinating once I started researching her, so I decided I wanted more information and got this book for that purpose. I liked that she decided early to become an artist, but changed her mind based on personal illnesses, but then decided she wanted to do it full-time. And this was a time when very few women had a career, and even fewer were unmarried. Though she did eventually marry Alfred Stieglitz and he helped publicize her name, I like that she didn’t let him hold her back and started painting more and more original works like her famous flower painting, and the abstracted desert landscapes with animal skulls. I no longer believe her works are hyper-sexualized like some people believe because they look like women’s genitalia, but yes they were rather sensual. For a woman who was competing with dozens, if not hundreds of men that were artists during the same time period, she did really well for herself and was famous during her own lifetime. I really enjoyed this book and would love to add it to my personal collection. Highly recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

Adult

Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston

The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew is, above all, about manners, respectability, and having a stiff upper lip. He lives alone after the death of his wife a few years before, in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary. His brother Bertie recently passed away and the Major has been feeling a bit adrift. Right after receiving news of his brother’s death, he inadvertently blurts it out to Mrs. Ali, the local corner shop owner, who he’s never spoken to before. As the Christian Science Monitor review says, “He strikes up a friendship with Mrs. Ali, the widowed local shopkeeper, and they bond over Kipling [which made me want to read more of the author] and the loss of their spouses. It doesn’t hurt that Mrs. Ali is a lady of quiet thoughtfulness and innate dignity – whose tweedy neighbors don’t even see her because she is Pakistani and runs a shop.” The book is the story of their friendship, which eventually grows into love and shows that everyone has a chance at finding happiness, no matter your age. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

This book immediately made me think of my best friend, who is also Pakistani, and made me want to share this with her, as I know she could identify with parts of it. It is a hilarious but honest look at following your heart no matter what others may say, and I really loved it. I have seen first-hand how small English villages and towns can sometimes react towards foreigners, and it isn’t always pretty, so the author’s descriptions of that part of the story were pretty accurate although not pleasant. I liked the secondary story about Mrs. Ali’s nephew and his love troubles. It was a little hard to believe that this was the author’s first novel as I thought it was rather good.

Lord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey Book #1) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodman

It is 1757 and Lord John Grey is in turmoil. The major has witnessed something shocking about his cousin’s betrothed Joseph Trevalyn and is trying to decide what he should do about it, to avoid a scandal. Meanwhile, the British army has asked him to investigate the murder of a possible traitor, an officer in his company. He soon discovers that the two events are linked and must figure out how. 5 stars.

This book was my first foray into her spin-off books and she does not disappoint. I had always liked Lord John’s character in the Outlander books and was happy to learn of this second series. I read this one before the short story Lord John and the Hellfire Club, so I was a bit confused at some mentions of the previous story, but gathered enough not to be completely lost. This one was jam-packed full of intrigue, spies, secret relationships, prostitution (both male and female), and multiple mystery murders. The book definitely delves into the seedy underbelly of London of the eighteenth century and its relation to the outer more respectable parts of the city and its inhabitants. While it doesn’t tell you too much more information than you already might know from reading the Outlander books, it was enough to keep me thoroughly interested and wanting to read more.

Lord John and the Hand of the Devils by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

This book is a collection of Novellas of the in-between stories in one collection, namely Lord John and the Hellfire Club, Lord John and the Succubus, and Lord John and the Haunted Soldier. Jeff Woodham is again the narrator and thank goodness because he definitely makes the books a pleasure to listen to, even when the story isn’t all that interesting. I was not really a fan of the Hellfire Club, it was just too weird and way too short. The Succubus story was better and we really got to know Stephan von Namtzen, the dashing Hanoverian commander. The Haunted Soldier required you to have read the second book Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade to really have any idea what was going on in the novella. Overall, I would give the collection 3 stars.

Lord John and the Hellfire Club (Lord John Grey #0.5)

It is the autumn of 1756 and Lord John has finally returned from temporary exile in Scotland. He witnesses the murder of a recent acquaintance named Robert Gerald. At the request of a relative of Gerald’s, Lady Lucinda Joffrey, he agrees to look into who murdered Gerald and find out who is trying to slander the poor dead man. He quickly discovers that the man to question is Sir Francis Dashwood, and Lord John gets himself invited to a party at Dashwood’s house. It is here that Lord John discovers the truth about the Hellfire Club and George Everett’s (a man from Lord John’s past) possible involvement in Robert Gerald’s murder. 2 stars.

Lord John and the Succubus (Lord John Grey #1.5)

It is 1758 and Lord John is an English liason officer to the Hanoverian army in Germany. He is also in charge of local issues in the town he is stationed. A young Hanoverian and an English soldier have been killed and the locals are blaming it on a succubus, a demon female who seduces men and claims their seed. Needless to say, this has severly spooked the armies. Lord John is staying at the castle of a local noblewoman named Louisa, Princess von Lowenstein, who is trying as hard as she can to flirt with him. He is also trying not to fall for another nobleman, Captain Stephan Von Namtzen, also staying at the castle and the head of the Hanoverian troops. Will he be able to discover who the succubus really is? 5 stars.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier (Lord John Grey #2.5)

It is 1759 and Lord John has been brought up before the Commission of Inquiry after the battle of Crayfeldt at the end of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, as a cannon exploded and the officer in charge of it was beheaded right in front of Grey. Some of the members of the commission are trying to blame Grey for the explosion saying he was negligent and others say that it was his half-brother Edgar who manufactured the powder, but Grey soon realizes that there are other forces at work behind the scenes. Will he be able to find the culprit in time? 2 stars

I’m not actually sure who the Haunted Soldier is supposed to be. My gut tells me it is Captain Fanshaw, but Lord John kept seeing ghosts too, so I’m not sure. This one was rather slow, and if you didn’t read the previous book, you would be pretty lost. But the volume did tell the reader more about Lord John’s family, and I thought the side trip to discover Philip Lister’s wife was interesting as well.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Lord John Grey #2) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

It is 1758, and John’s mother is getting re-married. This has dredged up memories of his father, the Duke of Pardloe, who was found dead and charged as a Jacobite rebel seventeen years before. After pieces of a missing diary of his father start showing up, Lord John is nearly killed twice. He seeks the help of Jamie Fraser, who is working as a stablehand at the house of a friend of John’s family for the truth about his father’s possible Jacobite connections. It is the middle of the Seven Years’ War and Lord John and his brother Hal (the Earl of Melton and commander of the company) are with the army fighting with the Prussian army. Will Lord John be able to find out the truth about his father? 4 stars.

Diana Gabaldon wasn’t kidding when she said that this book is all about honor. Of course, men in England have been obsessed about this for ages, so it’s not surprising. For those following the Outlander series, this book is set during the time that Jamie was a prisoner in England, although he is a minor character here. I would just like to say “Yay, about time for Lord John Grey to have a love interest!” Though of course, Gabaldon almost completely ruins it by figuratively getting rid of him by the end of the book. I was so happy to see Stephen Von Namzten again and wished that him and Lord John would get together (Gabaldon is such a tease with their relationship!).

The Custom of the Army (Lord John Grey #2.75) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

This was an odd book. It started out in 1759 with Lord John attending an electric eel party in London (who knew such things existed!?!), went through a bit of trippy dream sequence in which he is involved with a duel. The story ends with with an army promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and on his way to Canada to bail out friend Charlie Carruthers who is being court-martialed under ridiculous circumstances. The scenes with the Native American Manoke were quite hilarious, and I enjoyed those immensely. Lord John arrives in Canada in time to participate in the Battle of Quebec with General Wolfe. This was thankfully a short novella, as I had listened to all the previous books back to back and needed a bit of a break from his story. 3 stars.

I Am Livia by Phyllis Smith

Livia is the daughter of a Roman senator loyal to the republic. He knows about the plot to kill Julius Caesar, but does not take part in the actual stabbing. Livia is married to at age fifteen, and has a rather loveless relationship with her husband Tiberius Nero, even though she does bear him two children, Tiberius and Drusus. Octavianus (aka Octavius) is Caesar’s adopted son, and wants to take revenge on those who murdered his adopted father. Livia finds herself strangely drawn to Octavianus, even though he is her family’s political enemy and proves himself as a personal enemy over the years. After Octavianus has gotten rid of all his adopted father’s killers, and also rids himself of Pompey and Mark Antony, his next move is to marry Livia. She has to ask her current husband to divorce her so she can be with Tavius (as she affectionately calls him), even though she is pregnant with her second son by Tiberius Nero. The story ends just as Tavius becomes emperor of Rome. 5 stars.

I have been fascinated with Livia ever since I watched I, Claudius in college. So when I saw this book at the library, I had to read it. It was almost completely different approach to her, as compared with Robert Graves’ example, especially as this book ends before Octavianus becomes Emperor Augustus and that’s where the book/series started. It seems she was an incredibly smart and shrewd woman who lived an incredible life during a period of immense change in the Roman Empire. I’m honestly surprised that she managed to survive as she did given all the crazy circumstances she managed to live through, especially that fire in Greece. Her relationship with Tavius, as portrayed in the book, was intriguing to say the least. I rather enjoyed this book and would be interested in reading other books by the author.

Heritage by Sean Brock

I had originally seen Sean Brock on the PBS series The Mind of a Chef and so I knew about the kind of cooking he did. As a Southerner, it is always fascinating for me to see how others interpret the cuisine, and he definitely has an interesting approach. He is big on heritage ingredients, especially those around Charleston, so you have an emphasis on things like Carolina Gold rice, benne seeds, heritage beans and other veggies. And the man is not afraid to use bacon and other pork products, which are staples in Southern cooking. So when I heard about this cookbook, I definitely wanted to check it out (it’s been on to-read list forever). I finally grabbed a copy from the library. A lot of the recipes are really ingenious, with several takes on classic dishes. Mostly I’d rather go to one of his restaurants to have the food because I’m sure I couldn’t really recreate his masterpieces at home, even with instructions. I did however want to try the Chilled Fennel Bisque with Citrus-Cured Scallops and Almond Oil, Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese-Smashed Potatoes and a Cucumber and Pickled Green Tomato Relish, Stone Crab with Cucumber Juice, Fennel Jelly, and Raw Apple (which gets the award for the most creative looking), and Grilled Tilefish with Asparagus Broth and Oyster Mushrooms. He also had a couple of recipes for pickled veggies and eggs that I wanted to try as well. 4 stars.

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti The author/photographer decides to take a trip around the world. His grandmother worries that he will not eat well and makes him his favorite dish before he leaves, Swiss Chard and Ricotta Ravioli with Meat Sauce. He tells her not to worry and he will eat well. He goes to 60+ countries and visits with and gets recipes from 60 grandmothers and includes their picture, recipe, and story in the cookbook. It was an interesting concept and I had originally wanted to read it as an ARC, but didn’t have enough time to do so. There were three or four recipes in here that I would want to make again. 3 stars.