Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: "Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You" by Ray Bradbury and Guest Post at Traveling with T

Click here to read my guest post over at Traveling with T!

Did you guys participate in the Dewey's 24 hour readathon?  It was my first one, I only participated in a cheerleader capacity (Team Butler!) and I had so much fun! I don't think I could stay up and read for 24 hours but I will try one of these years. For now, I will just wave my pompoms! It was a really fun 24 hours to be on twitter!

Last year I was messing around on Goodreads, as I am apt to do (you can friend me if you like!) and made a fantastic discovery: a Ray Bradbury book I'd never heard of! This is not to say I've read all of his books, but I thought I had at least heard of all of them before. (Oh Wesley, how prideful of you). Anyway this was the book and I was so pleased to find it and now I'm so pleased to share it with you!

So it's not a story per se, but a collection of essays. Ray wrote almost his whole life, and it was a long life, he died in his 90s. He wrote this book about how he wrote, what helped him, his writing habits and the like. The book title cracks me up because it sounds like something that they would sell on QVC at 4 am and some struggling writer would buy it and hope that it would help him write a blockbuster. But I digress. Some of Ray's most famous quotes come out of these essays and the stories are great.

I really love some of the titles of the essays, like "Drunk, and in charge of a bicycle" (been there,amirite? haha) or the name of the preface "How to climb the tree of life, throw rocks at yourself, how to get down again without breaking your bones or your spirit: a preface with a title not much longer than the book". He isn't joking this is a fast read at only about 158 pages. (Honestly if you have an English/Creative Writing/something wordsy or artsy major in your life, get this book for them for their birthday or a holiday or what have you. Inspirational, thoughtful and books always make the best gifts).

From what I gather from this book I'd say there are a few ways to "release you're creative genius"

- Experience things. Don't sit around "contemplating your navel". Go do things, have experiences, talk to people, do things that scare you. It's a good way to get material and have a good and interesting life.

-Write everyday. Write down things that seem strange to you, things that scare you, things that puzzle you. Write write write write. Even if you think something is bad, or you don't really understand what to do with it, don't throw it away. Put it in a folder and tuck it away. A lot of Ray's stories he got from looking back on things from when he first began to write and improving on them.

-Read. Good readers make good writers. Take notice of the things that you love to read, words you love, settings that you are intrigued by. Take note of the things that drive you crazy and remember that when you're writing too.

Quick story: Ray wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the basement of  a library at UCLA. They had rows and rows of typewriters you could rent, you just put a dime into the machine and it bought you half an hour of writing time. So there Ray sat in a slightly creeping musty basement, on the clock, typing away at the book that would become his masterpiece. Also two of the main characters in F451 are named Faber and Montag. He realized years later that Faber is a pencil manufacturer and Montag was a paper manufacturer. How fitting for a book about books, the tools of the trade. (Also, subconsciousness are tricky things!)

I loved this book. I squealed in delight once or twice reading it.I loved hearing the back stories of some of my favorite of his works and how his brain ticked. I give it a 4 out of 5!

Zen in the Art of Writing

Friday, October 17, 2014

Book Review: "October Sky" by Homer Hickam

My husband asked me to read this for him because he wanted to use it for class that he is teaching, but he knows that I'm a faster/better reader than him :) , and he's was on a time crunch. I barely charged him anything for this wonderful service I provided because I figured I could use it here on the ol' blog.

This is the story of Homer Hickman. He grew up in the small town of Coalwood, West Virginia. As you might have guessed from the name, the whole town revolved around the local coal mine (and the high school football team.) His dad is one of the higher ups at the mine, and is there all the time. His mom paints beach scenes in their kitchen to distract herself from the layer of coal dust that settles on everything. (Even on the bedsheets, when Homer wakes up in the morning and pushes back his comforter a thin layer of dust rises from it. Bleh). Her main concern is keeping Homer and his older brother Jim out of the mining business. Jim will get to college on a football scholarship, but Homer starts high school pretty rudderless and mom begins to worry.

During this time, Sputnik and the space race have begun. Homer takes a keen interest in it and does research to find out as much as he can about space. He becomes borderline obsessed with Wernher von Braun, a German scientist who works at NASA. If they'd been around at the time Homer would have totally had a "W.W.W.V.B.D?" bracelet. He's so inspired by this brave new world of long distance rockets (and sees it as maybe an oppurtonity to get out of Coalwood and avoid working in the mines) that he starts the BCMA (Big Creek Missile Agency) with a few friends. They all teach themselves about rockets, and chemistry and black powder and explosions. They manage to blow a few things up on accident, but always avoid major injuries to themselves, somehow.

What I liked about Homer is that he took on this ambitious task aaaaaaand he's not good at math. I feel like all rocket scientists (or rocket scientists in training) are doing math equations that I can't even comprehend at a very young age. However it turns out that Homer just can't handle algebra, and he manages to teach himself trigonometry. Which is amazingly impressive.

The story isn't just about boys and rockets. It's about a small town that will die soon because the coal is running about. It's about living in your brother's shadow. It's about a marriage in strife. It's about the incredibly dangerous work that happens in mines. Not everything and everyone has a happy ending.

Considering this wasn't a book that I picked on my own to read (and that I don't know much about rockets), I enjoyed it more than I thought it would. If you're kind of on the fence about reading this, they also made it into a movie with Jake Gyllenhaal, and it followed the book pretty closely. It's one of my dad's favorites! I give this tale of coal dust and star dust a 3 out of 5.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: "All the Night We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr

The giveaway winner from my blogiversary post is Andi of the wonderful Estella's Revenge! Thanks to everyone who entered, the amount of people who participated was great! Congrats Andi :)

Also I was the featured blogger over at Jamie's blog Books and Beverages. And today on her blog there's a discussion going on about the Hobbit. So stop by if either of those things be ticklin your fancy!

Okay, down to business!

There was all kinds of buzz around the book world about this title. I was seeing it everywhere! But I was a little wary of the hype, and was a bit of a WWII book hiatus so I waited on it. Then I got myself on the uber long waiting list at the library (that's how it always is with this girl)

Marie Laure and her father live in Paris. (Do we ever find out what happened to Mom? I don't remember.) Her father is the locksmith at the (I think, in English) the National Museum of Natural History. She goes blind at around 6, but her father doesn't want her to be shut out from the world so he comes up with a pretty genius solution. He carves her a little model of their neighborhood, down to every street light and sewer cover so she knows where everything is and she has more confidence when they are out and about. Life is pretty good, but then the Nazis come to France and they must flee Paris, and her father is holding onto more than just a huge secret. (Dum Dum Duuuuuuuuuum). They flee to Marie's uncle's house. He is a recluse after watching his brother die in combat during World War I.

In Germany (it might as well be on a different planet for how different the situation is) Werner and Jutta are living in an orphanage. This brother and sister have a bare bones, but not cruel existence in the orphanage. Werner comes across an old busted radio and manages to coax back to life to the joy of the kids in the orphanage. Werner is naturally inquisitive and engineering inclined and soon other people in the neighborhood are bringing Werner their devices that need fixing. This eventually gets him noticed by some Nazi higher ups in the area, and he is accepted into a competitive, brutal military academy. He does well in his classes but hates the cruel brutality that pervades the school. He has seen other boys turn into ruthless, mindless thugs and doesn't want to be like them.

The war is long and brutal for both of these characters, though Marie Laure is not ever on the front lines. I was waiting impatiently throughout the book for their lives to intersect and when it finally happens I wasn't disappointed.

One of the things that I loved most about this book was the settings. Even if the descriptions of the settings weren't particularly vivid they were so easy to picture for me. This was especially the case at Uncle's house and at the beach nearby. I felt like I could feel the sea breeze on my face and smell the saltiness in the air. And I love that the house seemed like it would smell a little bit musty and "shut up" no matter how often Madame cleaned it.

I loved this book. I loved the short chapters. I loved how even the side characters were complex and interesting. I loved that basically all the questions I had got answered in the last few chapters (I mean, how rare and wonderful is that!?) This book gets a hearty 4 out of 5 stars for me.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Graphic Novel Review: "Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout" by Lauren Redniss and last day to enter the giveaway!

(Everyone, don't forget to enter the giveaway before midnight tonight! Winner will be announced on the 15th! Thank you to everyone who has entered so far, the response has been great!)

Are you ready to have the "Radioactive" song stuck in your head for the rest of the day? Because thats a real possibility.

First things first, part of the cover glows in the dark! Which is fun, though puzzling when you see it when you are stumbling out to the kitchen for a glass of water and see something glowing in the living room. So, that's my PSA about that.

This is basically a biography of Marie that is interspersed with shorter stories about radiation and it's affect on history (the 7 Mile Island disaster, the Chernobyl disaster, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) I'm not going to recount the whole thing but it includes: heartbreak, working your butt off to get what you want, love,a horrifyingly public accident resulting in death, all kinds of scientific discoveries and the Nazis (because those a-holes ruin everything).

The most horrifying part of this story is hearing the details of Marie's health declining due to her exposure to radiation. At one point she kept a vial of it in her apron pocket, and she and Pierre would keep a vial of it near their bed. It was almost 24 hour exposure. When I read that I was like "Marie noooooooooooooooooo!". It's kind of amazing she lived as long as she did.

I think my favorite part of the story is that Marie named polonium after her beloved homeland of Poland. She wanted to bring recognition to her native land and was a little bit sad that the discovery of radiation overshadowed polonium for that reason. So in the middle of the GN they stop and devote  two pages to all the wonderful things and people who come from Poland: Chopin, Copernicus, all kinds of other achievements and even flowers that are native to Poland. I think she would have loved the Poland shout out.

(If you have more interest in Chernobyl I highly recommend the book "All that is Solid Melts into Air" by Darragh McKeon.)

A few complaints. A lot of the time the text was hard to read. It would be like blue text on a blue background. I felt like an old person because I had to hold the thing under a lamp to read it sometimes. Also the pictures were not what I had expected at all, like I kind of feel like the pictures didn't add to the story. They were a little too abstract for my taste but maybe you will think they are awesome!

Overall I thought this was so interesting and I learned a lot, though there were definitely some sad bits! A high 3 out of 5 stars!


Friday, October 10, 2014

1 Year Blogiversary and Giveaway!

Well, we are coming up on the big one year anniversary here at Library Educated HQ. (It's technically the 12th, but wanted to celebrate on a Friday not a Monday. Monday = Bleh)

Basically, I think that the book blogging community has some of the most smart, funny, creative, lovely people on the internet. At least in my experience I think this is basically a fact.  I enjoy reading my way through so many other book blogs, it's usually I highlight of any day! I am always inspired by the cool things that other people are doing.Thank you for guest posting here, thank you for letting me guest post on your blogs.

Thanks to everyone who reads the blog for your kind suggestions, your kind comments, your support and everything else. You make my day all the time.

TL;DR: I love you all. Thank you.

To thank you I'm doing my very first giveaway! (Well I've been a part of giveaways before, but this is just from me to just you. Just for the USA and Canadian readers, sorry beloved International readers. I will get you in on the next one.) Also using Rafflecopter for the first time. It was easy and they're websites make them seem like they are funny bunnies.(Having said that, if it isn't working let me know!)

So here's the deal with the giveaway. If you are the winner, you get a scarf lovingly handmade by me! I'll even let you pick the color so it matches your favorite fall/winter jacket.

The second prize you don't actually get to keep, but you get to pay it forward for women and children in need. I will make up a box of needed supplies and donate it in your name to the local women's and children's shelter in my city. A prize to keep and a prize to give, I thought it was fitting considering we are barreling towards our seasons of gratitude and gift giving.The last day to enter is the 13th, so get to scooting!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Review: "Entwined" by Heather Dixon and Guest Post at Traveling with T!

This book is one of many of the recent trend of retelling fairy tales. This happens to be based on one of my favorite fairy tales (that Disney hasn't gotten their mitts on, yet at least!) If you want to read the original fairy tale check it out here. So Disney hasn't gotten to it, but Barbie has...which is worse I think.

(I remember seeing a live action presentation of this. Maybe it was Masterpiece Theater or something like that? We got it from the library on good old VHS. I've been poking all around the internet for it but haven't found anything. Mystery!) Update! Tip of the hat goes to Katie who mentioned that it sounded like The Dancing Princesses from Faerie Tale Theatre which it totally is AND IT'S ON HULU. Oh my gosh you guys, it's a mid eighties delight. There's a ton of famous people in them too but they are intensely 80s. I will spend the rest of the day watching these and hoping I don't get fired for reliving my childhood.Also the prince is Peter Weller aka ROBOCOP! (I'm like I recognize this guy's voice, who the eff is this guy. Oh, it's robocop, nbd)

The story is based in a poor kingdom where there king and queen have 12 daughters. The queen loves gardening so all of the girls are named after plants. They are: Azalea, Bramble, Clover, Delphinium, Eve(ning Primrose), Flora and Goldenrod (twins!), Hollyhock, Ivy, Jessamine, Kale (hahahahaha), and Lily. (PHEW!) The king is a little bit distant,but the girls all love the queen, even though she's often bedridden and ill. (Could it be because she has had 12 kids between a newborn and about 17? Good freaking gracious.) 

A tragedy upends the family, and Azalea (also our narrator) finds herself in charge of her 11 sisters and the crumbling palace that they call home. Since they are broke and in mourning she tries to entertain her sisters with stories of a distant ancestor who dabbled in magic. He went mad and was overthrown but little pockets of magic remain around the palace and in a few objects. Specifically, there's a sassy tea set that gives everyone trouble. (I think it's kind of like Chip from Beauty and the Beast going through his jerk teenage years).

They come fae to face with some of this leftover magic when they find a secret passage through the fireplace in their room. (Yes, their room. All of them share a room. Even though they live in a palace, although it's a crappy sounding one). The secret passage leads deep beneath the palace, where they finally emerge into an amazing silver forest. In the middle of this forest sits a lovely pavillion, perfect for dancing and music from an invisible orchestra starts to play. The girls suddenly realize they aren't alone, there is a man with them. He says he is the Keeper and that he tried to start a rebellion against the mad, magical king who banished him here to this enchanted spot.

The girls spend night after night returning to the pavilion to dance, wearing their slippers out every night. Their father is suspicious of their activities but the girls swore an oath "on silver" to not tell their father about their nocturnal activities. Everything is wonderful for a time but then the Keeper tells them he needs something from them and things get sinister...

Among this main storyline there is romance, danger, and the looming responsibilities of Azalea having to marry and run the kingdom.

My main qualm with the story was that there were just so many characters! Not that you can blame the author for trying to stick with the original tale, but yeesh! It might be a weird thing to say but I liked that the kingdom was broke. Stories of princesses in regal beautiful places are common but a group of 12 princesses trying to scrap by was more interesting. It also made the girls' fears of being forced into loveless marriages just to bring the kingdom some cash more realistic.

It's an entertaining, light but just different enough story to be interesting. There's some plot holes but no one reads these types of books for their air tight plots, right? 3.5 stars out of 5!


Click here to go over to Traveling with T to see my guest post that goes up today!
Displaying Rl Stine Confessions.jpg

Monday, October 6, 2014

20 Questions and an upcoming guest post!

I am doing guest posting over at Traveling with T this month. On the 8th, we will talk about my relationship with Goosebump books.Here is a little teaser about what the subject matter will be! (Also how fun is that graphic? I need T to give me lessons.) It will be fun so I suggest you come on by! I'll be tweeting about it in case you forget :)

But in the mean time (and in between time) here are some fun questions.

Question 1: How tall are you? I am 5 foot 3. I think I stopped growing (height wise) in like 8th grade.

Question 2: Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what? I don't know that it's hidden talent per se but I feel like I'm a good reader of people. My first impressions of people are always right. Also I can guess movies just by their musical scores a lot.

Question 3: What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve? When after proof reading something several times, hit publish, and then find spelling mistakes. Argh!

Question 4: What’s your biggest non-blog related pet peeve? When you're sitting at a metered on ramp and people go when their light is red. Did you not learn how to take turns in kindergarten? It's such a stupid simple thing but it irritates me to death.

Question 5: What’s your favorite song? I like all of the recent Maroon 5 songs, which makes me kind of hate myself, but there it is.

Question 6: What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours? Poppy and Pinecone. I needed a thoughtful present for a friend and she customized just what I needed and did it fast. Also uber friendly. Love Etsy!

Question 7: What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone? Reading, watching movies that my husband wouldn't be interested in, sleeping (haha)

Question 8: What’s your favorite junk food? All the junk food is my favorite. But if I was having a junk food binge it would be cheetos and brownies and soda.

Question 9: Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names? I have no pets. I'm desperate for a corgi. Have been since forever. His name will be Watson.

Question 10: What are your number one favorite nonfiction and fiction books? Impossible to say. How about some of the best that I've read recently? Without You There is No Us: My Time with Sons of North Korea's Elite  and The String Diaries

Question 11: What’s your favorite beauty product? I'm not big on makeup, but I do love me some mascara. I'm not brand loyal but like the castoffs from my sister's Ipsy subscription box. 

Question 12: When were you last embarrassed? What happened? I'm almost impossible to embarrass. Which might make me a sociopath.

Question 13: If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be? Coke in a can, mmmmmmm bubbles.

Question 14: What’s your favorite movie? I have several favorite movies, so I will say the last really good movie that I saw, which is The Railway Man.

Question 15: What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep? I was none of those things.

Question 16: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live? Someday I'd like to live somewhere where I don't have to have tons of anxiety about driving in snow. (Or somewhere where I wouldn't have to have a car...) I have a very lovely and detailed and imaginary European apartment that I fantasize about a lot.

Question 17: PC or Mac? PC, which doesn't make me cool but that's ok.

Question 18: Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse? My husband cooks all the time. Even though he enjoys cooking I know after a long day of teaching he doesn't always feel like throwing something together, but he does. I keep trying to expand from the 4 dinners I make but results are...mixed.

Question 19: Favorite celebrity? I don't have a favorite celebrity, but there are a few actors actors/esses that if I see they're in a movie I pretty much have to see it. Namely, Liam Neeson.

Question 20: What blogger do you secretly want be best friends with? Here's the thing; pretty much every blog I read and enjoy I totally think I'm friends with that blogger. I'll talk about them to people I know and be like "Oh so and so just talked about that book and really liked it." 

The whole sense of community and camaraderie thing is so real in the book blogging community it makes me feel like we're all just long distance friends who haven't met yet. (Cheeseball alert!) 

To end I will show you my favorite picture of a corgi I've found on the internet:

donut corgi - hahahaha no way would Bogart sit still, that thing would have been eaten!