Thursday, April 28, 2011

Updated Book Review: In Front of God and Everybody Confessions of April Grace By KD McCrite

in front of God and everybody: CONFESSIONS OF  April Grace
by KD McCrite

I am going to say something about this book that I NEVER say about Christian book selections - HILARIOUS! I mean Laugh-Out-Loud and read it to your husband funny!

April Grace is an eleven year old (going on 15) living in the Ozarks with her older sister, Myra Sue, her parents, her suddenly-hip grandmother and her new "citified" neighbors.  April Grace is not about to tolerate being talked down to by her new neighbors, nor her grandmother's new Texas boyfriend.  She keeps her guard up and tolerates them to keep peace, but when push comes to shove - she speaks her mind. 

What April Grace doesn't realize is that rather than being judged, she's the one being judgmental and it takes a family crisis for her to recognize her own faults. I loved reading the outrageous thoughts April Grace has about the people around her. Her description of her grandmother's driving is unforgettable and spit-take worthy.  My other favorite parts are when Mr. Rance, Grandma's boyfriend, invites April Grace to go to town with them for a cheeseburger. April thinks,
"Now, I was of two minds about this. While I was downright overjoyed that I might be safe from Grandma's driving this week, I really, really did not want to sit  in a cafe with those two senior citizen lovebirds.  What if they started smooching right at the table in front of God and everybody?"
"How anyone can be that dumb and still be able to eat with a fork is beyond me!"
Not only are April Grace's thoughts entertaining as all get-out, she's unravelling a mystery and learning to be like her parents -  Christians who never judge and constantly put others before them, serving tirelessly and generously.

I give Confessions Photobucket 5 sweet-tea stars!

This book was provided to me by Booksneeze.Com - opinions my own.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Check Out Cleverly Inked's Birthday Phenomenon Giveaway

She's giving away 75 books AND COUNTING + swag  and the Grand Prize winner gets to pick 10! She's got lots of paranormal like my favorite, Firelight by Sophie Jordan.
She's even got Like Mandarin and The Duff and many, many other signed copies to choose from.
  Pop on over to Cleverly Inked and wish Liz a Happy Birthday! Don't forget to become a Google connect follower and enter her contest.
Thursday, April 21, 2011

Are You Smarter Than a 2nd Grader? Super Challenge

Ummmm, only on Wednesdays, certainly NOT on Mondays! 

Super Challenge: Ms. Pitt pays her students $100 a month for cleaning services. Suppose she offered the students a 10% raise this month and a 10% raise again next month.  Or they could have no raise this month and a 30% raise next month.  How much would they earn with each offer? Which way gives students more money?

I helped my son with this last Monday and forgot a step. I must not have been paying attention because I tried it again this morning and got it right.

So, that means I should NOT make any executive decisions on Mondays - especially if it's related to my pay-rate. Ask me again on Wednesday!

Are you smarter than a 2nd grader? If so, is it related to the days of the week???????
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What The Giver Gave Me.......

The Giver, written by Lois Lowry, made it around the blogs about a year ago. It caught my attention again in the school bookstore so I thought I'd give it a try and the old saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover" certainly applies here.  The Giver is a story about a seemingly-utopian society. I see that it's been labeled dystopian so that makes for an interesting discussion. The main characters are The Giver of Memory and a young boy who becomes The Receiver of Memory.  I don't want to spoil the story here so I'll just say if you enjoy being shocked - read this book!  If you enjoy following a character questioning society - read this book! If you are faint of heart, unable to read even as much as a chapter of Stephen King - Don't read this book. And most importantly, don't read the second half on your break at work. Talk about angst! Talk about a surprise freak-out moment! I was really shaky when my break ended and I was almost at the end.

My only problem with this book was the age recommendation. I assumed Newberry winners were PG, but I have to say, this book contained two graphic scenes that I consider over the top for very young adults. I would say, maybe high school age.

Overall, in a matter of 179 pages, Lois Lowry takes you through the characters' feelings in depth. She takes you through the transformation of two characters - which makes it very unique and interesting to read. She proposes the idea of questioning authority and the society we accept as normal. And she takes you through turmoil, adventure, and...........(I can't give away the end here).  Bravo Lois Lowry! 

For those of you who already read The Giver, would you raise the recommendation age? Would you recommend it to your best friend? Would you read her other novels? Lord of the Flies anyone?

The Giver Part 2

The Giver part 3

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Big Reveal - Palm Sunday

     Who really knows what Palm Sunday means?  The palm branches mentioned were the ones placed over the dirt on the road in front of Jesus when he entered Jerusalem riding on a young donkey. He was given a king's welcome just as it was prophesied 700 years before. 

     What's so fantastic about this day is it was the moment when Jesus revealed his true identity as king to the people. He'd been keeping it quiet, only revealing it through parables and to his closest friends until then. They had been believing what he told them and showed them. On that Sunday, even his best friends didn't put two and two together. They didn't realize that he was fulfilling an event prophesied in Isaiah and Zechariah. The summary explains that it wasn't until reappearance three days after his death that they put it all together. Luke says they were on cloud nine! They went back to the scriptures and found all the good news prophesied in the earlier books of the Bible and were filled with joy. 

     We all love a book with a twist, a story that brings us back to earlier clues we noticed but didn't place importance on. Writers work in keys and throw-away hints.  Can you imagine realizing that your best friend and mentor, who just received the death penalty for it, is suddenly proven before your very eyes to be the fulfiller of prophecy? Wouldn't you just freak-out? For me, this event is key for explaining my faith. The Bible tells us to be ready to give the reason for your joy. Well, there you have it. It was predicted and set in writing, it happened many times over exactly as it was supposed to, and even that was recorded by his four best friends and disciples.  From now on Palm Sunday will no longer be just another day with a pre-printed title on the calendar. It's the day proof was revealed for our salvation.

What does Palm Sunday mean to you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Book Review: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner

I first saw this cover on author Shannon Whitney Messenger's blog and hoped I'd win her Middle-Grade-Monday ARC giveaway and Viola! Where do those windy stairs lead? What are all those unusual things lining the walls? A Museum for Thieves? Ingriguing!

It's rare to find a middle grade book written about young children overcoming dystopian societies. What I loved most about this book is that it features both boy and girl characters as strong, important individuals that hold each other up when faced with adversity.  Even though the main character is a girl, the boy character is not far behind in importance and heroism.

Can you imagine being leashed to your parents any time you leave the house? Or can you imagine walking up a flight of stairs that eventually lead you to and underground city with portals to other times and places? 

I loved how Lian Tanner connects you to the story by including the story of Broo and the children's curiousity and love for the dog. The bonding scene where Goldie and Toad spit get into a mud-slinging fight was fabulous. I found that the best part of the story was how the children went from being something to control, to deliverers. Their abilities were apparent to an adult character before their final act of heroism.
"No!" said Ma.  "It's much too dangerous!" 
"She's right. I forbid it!" shouted the Protector.
     Sinew laughed and whacked the Protector on the back in a friendly fashion.  "forbid it all you like! I swear they'll go anyway, the minute you take your eyes off them! And besides, we need them.  They're quick and they're clever.  We won't get the area cleared without them."
This was a  great adventure, far surpassing many middle-grade works. I only had a problem with the names in the book: brizzlehound, Sinew, Broo,Olga Ciavolga,and Goldie. They were like stumbling blocks in the reading for me. I did love the name Toad-Spit and how he got it. It doesn't mean that middle-grade readers won't enjoy the names, though.

The epilogue was fantastic as well and had me laughing out loud. It was a fun surprise reading about what became of the two figures that were in the glass dome of the Great Hall during the flood.

For a middle-grade adventure I give this book ***** 5 stars!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Have your cake, and eat it too....

Should one person's choices re-define motherhood? 

video here

In her essay, this New York writer goes on to say how her 6 month work trip made her realize she no longer wanted to be a traditional mother. She says never even wanted to be one in the first place, but does love her kids and spends quality time with them.

Luke 12:53 talks about parents and children dividing against each other in the end days. I wouldn't say she's against her children, but against their needs and the sacrifices that come with parenthood. She mentions how her husband does all the lunch packing, etc.  It's really a sign of the times.

I can respect her personal choices about her living arrangements with her family, but the thought of her selling her idea in a published essay and on tv makes me so sad for her children. Words are so powerful, especially from a published author. Add to it her tv interviews and new book promo and she may develop a following. I hope that as a result of her essay promotion, no other kids have to hear, "Mommy's getting her own place and will be back when she feels like it."A few years back I had a friend who one day seemed like she loved full-time parenthood, but the next was trying to do the same thing and get an apartment just for herself. I hope that mothers will read this and reaffirm how grateful they are to have sons and daughters to love and care for daily.

Matthew 19:14 says: but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven."

Monday, April 11, 2011

Would you like me here or there? Would you like me anywhere?

A few weeks ago, my oldest son, Joshua, insisted I pick up the cd copy of Hunger Games for him to listen as he read. He's so pumped up about it!  I remember listening to my little Hobbit record and following along with my book.......So, I go to park at the new 50,000 square foot library downtown. It's packed to celebrate Dr. Seuss's birthday. I usually park about 50 feet away, just past the Handicapped rows, but this time I noticed some new new signs.  I love signs, I love to hate signs, I love to ponder the logic behind signs. You can always look at the signs from the past and see what our culture was thinking during that era.

Hmmmm.....first sign says "Hybrid Car Parking Preferred" with expanding arrows left and right.

ooookay....Second sign says the same thing! So I take it they get an entire row within the first available parking for non-handicapped parking within 50 feet.

I turn around and see what's available there and the sign says "Carpool Parking Preferred" with expanding arrows left and right.

The arrows do not indicate where it ends. Is it just three spots per sign? Unending? Logic tells me anything past a few cars PAST the signs is probably available, but they are all full.

I go ahead and leave my van in the hybrid parking, just wishing a city employee might look at me cross-eyed and invite me to a healthy discussion about the new labeling. It's obvious the signs originally said "only" not "Preferred" and somebody doctored them up.

So just what IS the name of the parking area for us unleaded, used mini-van drivers with multiple children, but only one child at the moment? Do they have a sign for "Confused Parkers"? Seriously, our entire family has a much lower than average carbon footprint (just ask my Energy and Sustainabilty Professor), but we are judged solely by our vehicle?
 So I ask you , Sam I Am,  would you like me here or there?
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Book Review: The Books of Elsewhere

This volume by Jacqueline West, The Shadows, is first in the series of Elsewhere.  I saw it in the Juvenile section at the library and vaguely remember another book blogger mentioning it. If that's you, drop me a comment! I'd love to re-read your review.
Right away - loved the cover. If you see it in person, the cover actually reflects light and looks like it's glowing. The drawing is a perfect likeness to Olive, the main character. Each illustration is a mix of creepiness and adorability.

I am amazed by Jacquline West and her ability to pack in multiple story lines, adventure and several twists with a few heapfuls of angst in 241 pages.  She tells the tale of Olive Dunwoody moving into her family's first home - the McMartin mansion. This is no ordinary creepy old house - it's a keeper of secret portals disguised as paintings.  Olive discovers a pair of enchanted spectacles that allow the paintings to come to life when she looks through them and even enters them.  Olive meets a distraught boy, Morton, in a painting of her own street and works to free him. Olive battles the evil that lurks in the paintings in a way that parallels Christianity. In order to explain that comparison I'd have to spoil the story so I'll just leave the ending for you to discover.

I loved Olive's spunkiness in this story. When she battles evil old Aldous McMartin, she stubbornly tells him, "I am not afraid of you," and later "Is that supposed to be scary? Because it isn't."  Even when he induces the feeling of spiders covering her body, causing her stomach to lurch, she simply tells herself This isn't real, this isn't real, this isn't real. In today's world of catastrophes and powers that be, who wouldn't want to be like Olive?

The best part of the story was how she threw in twists early into the story line as well as in the middle and end. The story never sagged and was full of surprises. Olive's predicament is resolved, but not the entire big picture, leaving the door wide open for a sequel but not to the extreme that it weakens the book. The only thing I didn't care and took my by surprise was the dark elements of witches discussed by the cats. The sequel gives a hint to potions and such. I may decide not to read the sequel if it's based on dark arts, but will be anxious to check out any works by Jacqueline West.

I would recommend this book for upper-middle grade because of the scary elements.
I give this book ***** 5 stars
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Saying Yes" Part 2

"Saying yes" is more than just being agreeable - it's a choice to open new doors for yourself.   I complain a lot about aging, but with aging comes experience and confidence to say yes. It allows me to think "worst-case scenario - I look like an idiot if I fail - so what?"

Yes to God: Sunday morning I filled in for the kids' ministry pastors which required me to be the go-to person for up 100 kids and their teachers. I team-taught class of 30 using their curriculum - music, puppet skits and a lesson with props. The subject was spiritual gifts and the ages were K-10. Teaching an abstract subject to young kids is like trying to hold jello in your fingers! Still - they got it! And they loved making their own sock puppets (thanks to Dakota's inspiration).

Yes to a promotion: Monday night was my first night as closing manager at the grocery store. I had to get a late start because I had one sick kid that couldn't go to the neighbor's like planned , and of course on my first night, the single employee I depend on for the closing tried to beg off his shift 30 minutes before he was scheduled - challenging! The hardest part was the paperwork. Let's just say I didn't get an "A", but I did balance within $27 - and 10 of it was accounted for.

Yes to education: Tuesday  was my "microteaching" day. Our group of 4 worked together on and off for a month building a lesson plan for college students with the works - a skit, objectives, theories used, strategies, assessments and handouts. I told my husband that at least one of our kids would likely choose March 29th to be sick ; ) and sure enough two of them were. I couldn't miss - it was a quarter of my grade so I kept Josh home to babysit and rewarded him with a pint of Butterfinger ice cream after lunch. On 4 hrs sleep and two days without a shower I managed to act and teach our Ed Psych class for 20 minutes and the professor said we did a great job! I may not have looked great, or smelled great, but so what - have you seen what college students wear?

alien finding American artifacts

Saying "Yes" to college has opened the door to meeting people with great minds. Next Thursday, our Native American Studies class gets a guided tour of Bently Spang's exhibit. He's a Native American artist and performer. I know he may not be familiar to most, but one look at his serious art and his performance appearance and I'm completely psyched see his exhibit.

Saying yes makes my soul rich.

although I may draw the line for a few things...

What has saying Yes done for you lately?

Friday, April 1, 2011

"Saying Yes" Part 1

Yesterday, while I was exploring the foyer of the cultural art center, I came across a "Free Poetry Dispensor". What? A dispensor that gives you free poetry? Yes, that's right! I couldn't resist.  Created by local poet, Michelle Corriel. I had been working on a post on the topic of saying "Yes" (see part 2) and was blown away by the poem that I pulled out:


When in the land of ifs,

Which is grown-up land,

Should you want a Yes,

A for sure, rock hard Yes,

Of course don't ask a grown-up.

Grown-ups say but perhaps later maybe

If only except that and possibly, no.

A kid says,

"Why not walk in the creek with your socks on?

That's why we've got a washing machine."

John Heilman