Moments of Zen: Jan 3-8

This week has been really slow for me because I came home from Alabama with a really bad cold/cough/bronchitis or whatever this horrible thing is. Not getting much sleep for the past few nights (well less than normal) hasn’t helped either. This is my first week back since my trip. 

Tues Jan 3rd: Honestly, it was napping after I dropped off my son at school because we got home so late from the trip the night before. Well that and playing Dragon Age 2 after a week’s hiatus. 

Wed Jan 4th: I had picked up a copy of Star Wars: Rebels animated TV show before Christmas intending on watching it with my son but we never got around to it. So we started it on Wed and enjoyed it so much, I let him watch 3 episodes. 

star-wars-rebels

Thurs Jan 5th: Watched a few more episodes of Star Wars: Rebels with my son and we both agree that Jedis are pretty awesome. I was pleased to find out that Freddie Prinze Jr, who also voiced Iron Bull from Dragon Age: Inquisition (one of my favorite game characters), also voiced the Jedi in Rebels.

Fri Jan 6th: Getting back in the storytime groove again as I haven’t done it since end of Nov 2016. Today we were talking about robots and a co-worker who was observing me today said I did a good job and called it “stand-up for 3 yr olds” which cracked me up. I had not been feeling great and it perked me back up. 

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Sat Jan 7th: Finally got a copy of Ouran High School Host Club Vol 18 by Bisco Hatori, though I am very sad the series is over. 😦 I also managed to find a copy of Star Wars: Kanan, the Last Padawan which I discovered while looking for some Star Wars: Rebels books on our library’s catalog. I think it is so cool that they did an origin story from the most interesting character on an older children/YA TV show. 

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Sun Jan 8th: Played pretty much the entire DA: II Legacy download and loved it. The final battle with Corypheus was nearly as hard than the final battle in Inquisition, even in Casual mode, in my opinion. I loved the dialogue between Hawke, Anders, Varric and Fenris in this premium content. I wish I had gotten the content sooner as this makes so much more sense to do before Inquisition because it explains so much of the storyline before you see Hawke in Skyhold. 

Moments of Zen: Sept 24-29

happy-banned-books-week

I had a bit of extra zen when I sat outside and watching the Angry Birds movie with my son, on a giant projected screen, the previous Friday night Sept 23rd. It was a nice time and we both enjoyed it, though next time I would probably bring my own food and drinks and a bigger blanket and a cushion. Sept 25-Oct 1 is Banned Book Week, so please do celebrate your right to stand up and read what you want to read. Here is the Banned Book list of 2015 in pictures. I’m hoping to get to at least one of them on the list this week that I haven’t already read. 

Sat: The few minutes of by myself without worrying about Liam during his swim lesson, where I got to float on my back in the pool and not think about things. This is also a time where I feel particularly lovely and graceful. 

Sun: Sept Book Club meeting, where I presented a mini-talk about author Jonathan Swift and a bit about his book Gulliver’s Travels, and we talked about the book, politics, satire and anything else that caught our fancy. The potluck theme was British food and we had homemade pasties, salad, appetizers, scones (apricot oat ones made by me) and tea. It was perfectly delightful. We decided next months theme would be the French to celebrate our reading Kristin Hannah’s book, The Nightingale. 

Mon: Listening to my Spotify music while I write a new Dragon Age fanfiction story. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish this one. Honestly it’s just nice to have a creative outlet again. 

Tues: Finally starting to weed my parts of the Children’s collection which I’ve been meaning to do for months but haven’t gotten around to doing; working more on my DA story. 

Wed: Playing SWTOR and enjoying my Sith Inquisitor character Skarnax (Force Lightning FTW!). 

Thurs: Finally finished up The Nightingale, which I really enjoyed reading though it definitely was an emotional roller coaster and had me guessing till the end. Should make for an excellent discussion at Bookclub next month; Watching Green Wing on Netflix and absolutely cracking up at Season 1, Episode 3: The Lodger (probably the most random and hilarious episode ever). 

Moments of Zen: Sept 17-23

Well this week has been a bit better and a bit worse. I had a job interview on Wed for a Librarian position, so fingers crossed on that!

Sat: Got a new car, well new-t0-me car anyways, at the first place my mom and I went to: a Nissan Altima. It’s a nicer car, better than I would’ve thought to be honest. And it’s got decent reviews on Kelly Blue Book/Edmunds. 

Sun: Going to church with my parents and Liam and just enjoying the space. We went to a different church and it was gorgeous inside. Also identified a bit with the sermon, though not in the way the priest intended (he was talking about the true meaning of stewardship and how all our wealth comes from God). Later, it was nice to just listen to some Classic Hip Hop and Rap and relax for the first time that day, even though it was the end of the day. 

Mon: Watching back to back episodes of Mr. Selfridge Season 2. I recently discovered it and love the Edwardian-era Masterpiece Theater show.  My favorite part of the story is the love triangle between Victor, Agnes and Henri (the right three people in the below photo).

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Tues: Finally getting to sit down and, in the quietness of the Children’s workroom in the evening, read some more of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale during my lunch break at work. Also psyched that one of my favorite British comedy shows, Green Wing,  is available on Netflix and I got to watch an episode – which really helped me decompress after work!

green_wing_poster

Wed: Got to politely show off storytime skills in an Librarian Interview for Maricopa County. 

Thurs: Sitting down and started to crochet two scarves and finishing up a third, whilst watching Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Fri: Presenting my Cloud DiscoveryTime storytime and eating lunch at Blue Fin while reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. 

June 2015 Book Reviews

I’ve been reading a lot of really long books lately, and so haven’t read as much as I usually do. In fact, according to Goodreads, I’m constantly about 9 books behind schedule for the year. I apologize in advance for all the book titles in bold, I’m having a bit of a formatting issue on this post and this was the only way to really make them show up. I am currently reading Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) by Diana Gabaldon, which was a little slow in the beginning but is finally starting to pick up a bit. I have really been enjoying that particular author’s books, but the first one was the shortest at over 550 pages and I think this one is 1000.  I started going to a book club last month which a work colleague originally started a few months before and enjoyed it, so I look forward to reading more books for it. I am listening to Albert Camus’s The Stranger on audiobook, which is really odd so far.

I also have restarted my Nobel Prize Challenge, which I started back in Sept 2014. Basically it just means that I have to choose one book/poem/play written by a Nobel Prize for Literature winner, read it and write a review of it. I had previously read only 5 books from  111 winners, plus 1 poem from another winner, so I have a lot to read. I decided to do it as I didn’t know most of the winners and I thought it would be fascinating. This will take me a long time, but I’m okay with that. This month I have managed to get through two more, and working on a third.

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

Freddie & Gingersnap Find a Cloud to Keep written and illustrated by Vincent X. Hirsch

Freddie and Gingersnap Find a Cloud to Keep

This was a bit of an unusual book but I enjoyed it and so did my son. Freddie is a dinosaur and Gingersnap is a dragon, and they are both flying looking for a cloud for Freddie. Gingersnap keeps explaining that it is impossible. They happen upon two children, a boy and girl in a hot air zepplin who are singing about home. They’ve never seen a dragon and a dinosaur before and so have a billion questions. The kids decide to show them a little magic and suddenly they are all in a lightning storm. They sing until the storm disappears and they find their way back to their homes. Freddie sings their song after they go. The words/lyrics/music are written by the author and included in the back of the book. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Today I Will Fly! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Piggie is determined to fly, even though Gerald doesn’t believe she can do it. She starts by getting a dog to chase her, but only succeeds in jumping really high (as pointed out by Gerald of course). But it was a very high jump. After Gerald leaves, Piggie decides she needs help and enlists a bird (I’m guessing a pelican) to help her. Soon floating underneath the bird, tied to a string and Gerald is convinced she is flying. Now he wants to try it himself. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Watch Me Throw the Ball! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Watch Me Throw the Ball

Gerald is way too serious about learning to throw the ball, whereas Piggie is just there to have fun. She throws the ball and it ends up going behind her and she thinks she is the greatest thrower ever and keeps making up all these things like calling herself “Super Pig” and making up little chants. It is up to Gerald to break the news to her gently.But she doesn’t care, she had a lot of fun doing it. Gerald me think of adults and how we tend to take things too seriously. Then of course, Gerald wants to have a little fun himself. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Big Plans written by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith

I discovered this book on a website while trying to come up with some new books to check out in the children’s area. Honestly most of the appeal for me where the Lane Smith illustrations. I thought it was pretty cute, but it does go on for way too long. It’s all about this little boy who is always getting in trouble. While in his latest punishment in the classroom, he declares that he “has plans, big plans I say!” and that continues to be his mantra for the rest of the book. He means business, and puts on his dad’s shiniest tie and pointiest shoes for emphasis. He recruits a mynah bird to join him in his endeavors. He takes over a corporate board meeting and all the big-wigs listen to him because he speaks with such authority. He takes their helicopter, driven by the mynah bird, and heads over to the local football game to help the team beat the out-of-towners. Then he flies to the moon and puts his mantra there for the whole world to see when he flies back. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Chu’s Day at the Beach written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex Chus-Day-at-the-Beach-internal-shot-2

I love the Chu books, although this one didn’t have as much pizzazz as the other two books in the series. However, the illustrations by Adam Rex were still awesome, cute and hilarious. Chu and his parents are going to the beach, and everything is going alright until the inevitable happens and he sneezes. He does it so hard that he literally breaks the ocean, parting it in two and the fish and other marine life (including merpandas!) are trapped on both sides unable to get through. The beach goers need to make him sneeze again so that everything can be put right, but for the first time ever, Chu can’t seem to sneeze. It’s not until Tiny the snail suggests that the bright sunlight might help him, and Chu takes off his sunglasses and immediately sneezes. Everything is relatively back to normal, or as normal as it can be with the hurricane force sneeze that flips everything around (my favorite is his parents who have actually switched bathing suits). Chu still has the best day ever. My son loved this book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Rules of Summer written and illustrated by Shaun Tan

I had seen this book on the Guardian’s children books readers had read for April or May 2015, and hoped that we had a copy at our library. We did, so I grabbed it for me to read to my son. I love Shaun Tan’s work usually, but this one just didn’t grab me the way he others have in the past. The book gave rules that two boys learned during one summer, and shows an event and the the effect of that event. For example, they boys go to catch some shooting stars and one of the boys drops his jar, and the text says “Never drop your jar”. The pictures got darker the further the story went. I think my son enjoyed it more than me. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars

I Am Albert Einstein (Ordinary People Change the World) written by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos I Am Albert Einstein

I also found this book while browsing children’s review websites. I fell in love with the illustrations before I even read it, but they were even more adorable once you got into the story especially as they showed Einstein as a baby with white hair and a mustache. I loved that the first major thing he says is “My hair is awesome!” and other people mention it throughout the book. It was a basic biography of the scientist, but a nice introduction for children who may have not heard of him and what he did to change the world. Einstein thought in pictures instead of words (which made him take a very long time to speak his mind) and his fascination with a compass his father gave him plus music kept his curiosity alive throughout his life and wanting to keep asking questions. I loved the Einstein quote at the end of the book. Recommended for ages 6-10, 5 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

Young Adult

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Adult

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

The Book of Speculation written and illustrated by Erika Swyler

Yes Please! by Amy Poehler

This book was the first book I read for the new all-female book club I recently joined with a colleague from work. It wasn’t so much of a memoir as a stream-of-consciousness glimpse into Ms. Poehler’s life and career as a comedienne. Plus a lot of name-dropping. I honestly knew next to nothing about her other than she was on SNL and also that show Parks and Recreation, which I didn’t find all that funny. The only things I could latch onto with this book was a quote she made early in the book on page 20, about being a plain girl and learning to accept that, and her sentiments regarding her kids and being a mom. 2 stars.

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel (Outlander #1.5) written by Diana Gabaldon, illustrated by Hoang Nguyen DG_exile_spread

This was supposed to be Outlander from Jamie’s perspective instead of Claire’s, but it ended up basically just being that book in graphic novel form. That in and of itself is interesting, but I privately call it the “big boobs” graphic novel as that is pretty much all you get out of Claire (you can see what I mean in the pic above). It was touted as 1.5 in the series, in-between Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, and that would’ve actually been more intriguing as book 2 was rather long and way too slow until the end. 2-1/2 stars.

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager takes place twenty years after Claire went through the stones, pregnant with Jamie’s daughter Brianna. She gives birth to her back in the 1940s and stays married to Frank, who doesn’t believe her story, but wants to take care of Brianna. So they live together for twenty years until he dies and she goes to Scotland with her daughter to try to tell her the truth about her real father. While there, she enlists the help of Roger Wakefield, Reverend Wakefield’s adopted son (who was a small boy in Outlander) and is now a full-grown Oxford historian taking care of the Reverend’s personal effects after his death. He falls hard for Brianna and agrees to help them. They find out that Jamie survived and decides to go through the stones to find him in Edinburgh, where he has set himself up as a printer/smuggler. After a smuggling operation goes bad and his nephew Ian is abducted by pirates, Jamie and Claire set off in one of his cousin Jared’s boats from France to the West Indies to find Ian. Will they be able to live together after so long a separation? Will they be able to find Ian? To find out, read this amazing third book in the series.

Ok yeah, I was pretty pissed off when I thought the author killed off Jamie at the end of the second book, and she was vindicated when it turns out that he survived after Culloden. I actually liked this book slightly better than Outlander because Claire was less whiny (despite the crazy situations her and Jamie always seem to get into, and there are a lot) and a bit less sure of herself as it has been so long since they’ve seen each other. But they fell right back into trouble and had no problem with the long separation. For some reason, older Jamie seems so much more appealing than younger Jamie. I’m sure he’s hotter, although I’m not sure how that’s possible. Geillis Duncan made a very surprising appearance at the end of the book and I’m still not 100% sure if she is actually dead, although I’m sure she’ll pop up in the story again at some point. I found the meeting between Lord John Grey and Claire fascinating, and I’m sure he’ll pop up in the next book as his feelings for Jamie were definitely evident in books 2 and 3. I adored the pledge that Jamie makes at the end of the book to always be with Claire, le sigh. The only thing I did think was a little weird was that she was able to bring back items from the future into the past, other than her clothes, i.e. photos and medicine.

Phoenix Comicon 2015 – Day 1

I haven’t been back to a comic convention since I went to my second one (though my first major one) two years ago. Again this year, the library is allowing people to help out in the Youth Art Room at Phoenix Comicon and I jumped at the chance to do it. I missed it by two weeks last year. Extra added bonus, I got a free full event pass to the event! So I went today to pick it up, despite only having about 4-5 hours of sleep last night, which was mostly my fault as I had stayed up to read more of the third Outlander book, Voyager. The author, Diana Gabaldon, is supposed to not only be signing copies of her book on Saturday but also doing a panel at Comicon, so naturally I will be going back. I am a latecomer to the Outlander series, having only discovered it about a month or so ago after finally getting to watch the first season of the new Starz show, highly recommended if you haven’t seen it yet. It has a bit of everything in it, for guys and girls. I mean how can you not totally lust over actor Sam Heughan’s version of Jamie Fraser, with his long curly red hair, kilt-wearing, Gaelic speaking, Scottish-accented self! (Note: the pics below don’t really capture the hotness as well as I would like, but you get the idea.) I was definitely enthralled, but the show actually has a really good storyline too, except for the fact as I found out after reading the first book, that the first season only covers about 40% of the actual story. Not to mention, if you read further in the books, you discover that Jamie’s incredibly strong yet vulnerable, well-read, and pretty smart. So pretty much the perfect fictional man…Le sigh.

Jamie Fraser in KiltJamie Fraser shirtless

Anywho, back to my original story. I decided to pick up the event pass, which I assumed would be a pretty quick thing but the process dragged on for an hour. I was thankfully saved by the lovely volunteer coordinator who not only waited in line with me to get my pass at the correct location but also showed me where I was supposed to go tomorrow. I was impressed by the kinds of kids programming they had available there, which is great as there was a ton of kids. I had a little time before I had to go pick up my son from daycare, so I decided to walk around and see if I could check out the Exhibition Hall (example pic below at bottom of page), where the main vendors, authors, comic book artists, and celebrities were going to be. Only problem, as I found out, was that the freaking hall didn’t open up until 4pm and I had to stand around for roughly another hour before I could get in. Plus then I only had an hour to browse before I had to leave. I did get some free stuff from Dark Horse Comics and bought a couple of things while there, but as usual, most of the cool stuff was out of my price range.

Comicon logo

If you’ve never been to a Comic Convention, it can be a little overwhelming, but still pretty fun. It’s definitely the best place to be as nerdy as you want and celebrate that fact, as well as wearing whatever costume from popular culture you can think of – mostly today there were a lot of video game, anime, manga/comic, movie and TV show characters. There was a guy dressed up as Butthead from Beavis and Butthead (it was more of a giant head), there was a gaggle of girls dressed up as My Little Ponies (both shows originally were popular and came out when I was a kid, and I know for certain most of these kids weren’t even born then, but that’s a whole other thing), a kid dressed up like a tape recorder, a guy dressed up as a Nintendo Game Cube, someone with a whole Loki costume, many girls in scantily clad outfits (mostly anime characters I think), one really cool looking Red Royal Imperial Guard (ala Star Wars), a kid in a Darth Vader costume, a kid in a full Stormtrooper costume, and tons more. The energy there is crazy. For example, about 10 minutes before we were allowed to go into the exhibition hall, one of the staff guys starts getting everyone to make noise, i.e. screaming and clapping and we all did it. Mostly b/c we could be loud and also because I think most people (or at least me) were tired of standing in line and just wanted to get in already. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic because the amount of people in there was insane! And it was a freaking Thursday, a day I figured most people wouldn’t be there because they had to work. While I had been waiting in line the third time to get my pass, the vounteer guy told me they were expecting anywhere from 75-90K people this year. I can believe it. Last year they apparently had over 77,000. They’ve got an impressive list of actors there again this year, and I am hoping to see some of them, at least from afar as I can’t afford to get signatures or have a photo taken at $30+ a pop. Last time I was there, they had John Barrowman, star of Torchwood and several Dr. Who episodes, who is so campy but I love him. After my 3 hours there today, I was tired, had sore feet and felt totally drained. I will be back tomorrow morning to do my volunteer shift as part of my work shift and then have to come back to work in the library in the afternoon. Hopefully my feet will stop throbbing by then.

Phoenix Comicon Exhibition Hall