Monday, July 28, 2014

How To Choose Board Books For Your Flight: A Guide For The Bookish Adult

You're a bookish mom/dad/aunt/uncle/grandma/grandpa.  I know it.  If you're anything like us, you have just as many books as you do toys.  And your little one loves them all.  So, how do you choose which ones to take with you on the plane?

Tips from a mom of a one-year-old who has been on more flights than she can count with her fingers and toes combined before turning 1½:

Three books I would take on a flight: 1) Frankenstein by
Jennifer Adams has many things besides the words on
the pages to play games with. 2) Hungarian souvenir
A Tenger has a lot of pictures and is very small.
 3) Queen Quail Is Quiet by Erika Barriga is a very fun e-book
for young ones.
1. Don't limit yourself to paper or electronic.  Both are important!  Pick 2 physical books per journey. (LAX-DEN is one journey, even if you have a layover at PDX) You are also going to be taking toys and hopefully, if it's a long enough flight, there will be some sleeping going on.  When we traveled 24-hours straight to get home from Budapest, 2 souvenir books combined with our ebooks was plenty.

2. Load up on e-books on your reader or tablet.  This is a great place to have any books with moving parts such as pop-up, lift-the-flap, or any motion books.  Your child can interact with the book, but you don't have to worry about pages or flaps getting torn on the way.  It's also a great medium for younger readers to engage in books that don't come in the board book format because they won't get ruined by overeager little fingers.  Plan on a 1:2 ratio of ebooks:hours on the plane.  Do not calculate layover and ground travel time into this, as your little one will want to get the wiggles out and view the world around them as much as possible during these periods.

Little Owl's Night by Divya Srinivasan is the
perfect souvenir book: it is new, has many
animals that don't appear in other books and
we got it at a trip to a super-fun Indie in Fort
Collins, Colorado, The Old Firehouse Books.
E-books we love: Flora the Flamingo by Molly Idle, Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You by Dr. Seuss, The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss, Professor Whiskerton Presents: Steampunk ABCs by Lisa Falkenstern.

3. Only pack for the outbound flight.  If you're as bookish as we are you will buy new ones on vacation.  No need to pack fresh ones to bring home because you know you will buy them while you are there, right?  We buy books as souvenirs instead of plushies or toys because it's a fun reminder of the places we've been.  When we visited the Rio Grande Interpretive Center, we saw all kinds of waterfowl and many were ducks.  So, we purchased the Ugly Duckling at the shop and every time we read it, I am reminded of the trip.  I'm not naive enough to think that the little one is, but it's a great memory for me, and a very functional souvenir that provides at least an opportunity to share the memory with your little or remind them of the trip.

4. Pick newer, more unfamiliar books.  You may be tempted to take old standbys, or favorites, but this is a great opportunity for your little to forge a relationship with a different book.  Plus, it's a good break for you.  Download one of the good ol' standbys to your device in case of fits.  (Though, we've never had any issues with that.)

Krtek books ended up being the perfect souvenir from
Prague.  We brought home a national hero and tiny little
books that took up no room, yet entertained the whole flight.
5. Pick books with less words and more illustrated items than the words describe.  Use the book as a tool to play different games rather than just reading words.  No doubt you already do this often, but take this into consideration when selecting for your next flight.  The more details, the better.

6. Think small.  This is sort-of a no-brainer, but the smaller the better.  Board books take a lot of room, and bigger doesn't mean better.

7. After all of these considerations, make sure it's a book you like. There's nothing worse than being stuck on the plane with a teething toddler reading a book over and over that you just can't stand.

It's always hard to select only two books to take, but I'm always glad we did!  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Quote of the Week: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

page 131
Delirium starts the series, followed
by Pandemonium, then Requiem. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quote of the Week: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Context for this quote brings spoilers, so, suffice it to say, Maddie says this in reference to losing someone she cares about.  Also, anyone know how many covers were made for Code Name Verity?  To date, I've seen four.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Young At Heart: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein This Thursday

Hey hey!

If you're an east-valley local, come join us at Bookmans Mesa this Thursday, July 17 for a great discussion about Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity.  7pm.  Comic book area.  17+ are all welcome.  For those coming, don't forget to compare this to similar books you've read and be ready to suggest to people who enjoyed this book!

If you're not a local, and you're interested in doing a Young At Heart Google Hangout to discuss, drop me a note, because I think this could be a fun way to spend about an hour chatting with each other about a book.  If enough of you are interested, we'll pick a day and time!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quote of the Week: Sweet Peril by Wendy Higgins

pg. 369, Sweet Peril, the second book in Wendy Higgins' Sweet Evil series starring Anna Whitt, a half-angel, half-demon girl whose father is Belial, a Duke of Hell. Anna is narrating when she says this, speaking of the Dukes mandate that their children not have love for themselves, but tempt others instead through various vices such as lust, greed and adultery.  She sorta has it bad for the Duke of Lust's son, Kaidan Rowe.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Kitchen Confidence by Kelsey Nixon

When I decided to review this cookbook, I thought it might fit nicely into a post about fun books to send with your college freshman as he/she flies the nest.  I was wrong.

Don't worry, it's not a bad cookbook.  In fact, I think it's a really versatile and hella handy cookbook to have around.  For newlyweds.  People who are out of college and have their first job.  People who don't have to scrape the coins out of the couch to buy ramen for the week, you feel me?  I even consulted a real live college student on this one (Thanks, Katie!) and she said they just took too many ingredients.  Too much time.

The recipes are straighforward and pretty easy, but a majority of them do take some time.  And they do take some ingredients you don't typically find in a dorm room.  Like prosciutto.  And kalamata olives.  The typical recipe in this book has an average of 30 minutes of prep time included in each recipe, separate from the cook time involved.  So there is a definite time commitment in most of the recipes involved.

But the great thing about this book?  It touches on everything: appies, sandwiches, main dishes, even desserts (peanut butter cookies, yum!).  And there are 6-9 recipes per section, which gives you a good variety to choose from.  There are great directions in the front on pantry staples and the like, which would be primo for anyone setting up a kitchen for the first time, or who finally decided to give up takeout and didn't know where to start.

So, add this as a definite yes for the person you know who just got his first apartment, just finished paying off her student loans, or as a really great bridal shower add-on.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Slenderman, Content, & You: How to Screen Content For Your Child or Teen

After reading about the Slenderman killers, I've reflected on content. A lot. Did you hear?  Two twelve-year old girls stabbed one of their classmates 19 times, in an attempt to kill her and gain access to an online wiki whose supposed owner is Slenderman.  The girls maintained that in order to "creep into his realm," one must kill someone.

Reportedly, the girls have read online horror sites for a very long time. One of them, Morgan Geyser, was just found incompetent to stand trial.  The report did not include details on whether or not the girl was mentally ill, that will be determined later.  But the fact that she is incompetent leads me to postulate that she may be incapable of discerning truth from fiction.

I'm not writing because of the atrocity committed by these girls.  I'm writing because they were reading content that was intended for a much more mature audience.  And that's what we talk about around here.  Reading.  And content.

I've maintained through several web-battles that children and teens should have their content monitored by a parent.  My opinion hasn't been very popular.  I believe that the parents know what their children and teens can handle more than the child or teen does, and that they should have an active role in helping their child or teen select material that is good for them.

The other side says that teens can't be free to learn about things in the world with parents hanging over them.  That they need to be able to read things with swear words and horror elements because that's what real life is like and why shouldn't they be exposed to elements of real life while in a fictitious world?  How are they supposed to learn to make up their minds about issues if parents are lording over them and making decisions on their behalf?  No one says that children shouldn't have their content monitored, but many argue that rating systems are in place for a reason, so that parents don't have to pre-screen or research anything.

And I agree with them - to a point.  Children and teens need to be able to select what they are reading and decide for themselves if it is appropriate for them... under the supervision of a parent who can veto a choice that is actually inappropriate for them.  Parents need to read along, or seek out sites who detail potentially objectionable content, so that they can address the behaviors and morals being taught.  They need to be parents!  They need to reinforce good behaviors and correlate poor ones with real world examples of why these behaviors are considered poor.

I'm not going to dare comment on whether or not the Slenderman girls' parents did their jobs as parents correctly.  That's not for me to judge.  What there is for me to do is to tell you that PARENTS NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN ALL FICTION YOUR CHILDREN AND TEENS ARE CONSUMING. Our brains aren't fully developed until we're 25.  Children and teens are considered minors for a reason.  We need to guide them.  Is it a daunting task?  Yes.  Can you possibly read everything your child does?  No.  I'm not saying you should.  But you should take the time to research content and to provide content to your child or teen that you feel you can discuss with them.

"But I have a voracious reader/watcher, and I can't possibly keep up with everything they take in."  Not only can you, it is imperative that you do!  And here's how:

  1. Establish the process of choosing material with your child or teen.
    • Be present when they are choosing what to read or watch: be it the library, the bookstore, Amazon, or Netflix. 
      • If you are unable to be physically present, use all the parental controls at your disposal.  Netflix has them, and you have an account password on your Amazon and Hulu accounts.  Remember, our job as parents is not a convenient one.  Change passwords and passcodes if your children already know them.
    • Create a culture of checking-in with your family.  
      • Talk about what you are reading.  Ask what they've read about that you might not know about.  The key is not to sound like a warden.  It's to be interested.  And if you can't bring yourself to be genuinely interested in what they are consuming?  Fake it.
      • Use methods like tracking charts and free book programs from local and national businesses (like this one from Barnes & Noble) as a platform for monitoring and recording what your child or teen is consuming.
  2. Read and watch with your children or teens.  Yes, even your teens!
    • We all interpret what we hear and see differently. Children don't always see the allegorical inferences apparent in their books or shows.  Teens don't always recognize that a behavior is destructive when everyone else is doing it.  We, as adults, see the destruction, but they just see it as stuff everyone is doing.  They don't see the long-term perspective.  Teens, you see a lot of it! You do!  It's the little bits of it that are unveiled through the experience of getting old that you miss.  Sometimes those little bits are the key to understanding the whole picture, and even though it can be really hard to trust your parents because sometimes they screw up, you have to know they have your best interest at heart.  They want you to be cool, they want you to fit in, they want you to get asked out by the hot girl/guy... but they have to weigh that against your safety and your mental health, because that's their job.  That's their job that's more important than the one that they leave the house every morning and get paid for, to make sure that they do everything in their power to see that you become a healthy, responsible, happy and contributing member of society.  And it's the one they're scared to death they'll screw up the most.  Part of that job is monitoring what you consume - both with your mouth and with your mind.  Don't hate on them for doing something right.  Even if it sucks.    
      • Think about contemporary teen books such as Pretty Little Liars.  Fiction?  Absolutely.  More drama and raunch than I experienced in all of my high school and college days combined? Absolutely.  But to your teens, these books are set in our world.  So in their eyes, there are some parallels to what they are going to experience and how they are going to behave.  Trust me.  I've had multiple discussions with teens about PLL specifically.  Discussion is a must. 
      • Books like We Are The Goldens and #scandal are great books to read alongside your child so that they can discuss with you the issues that they are seeing.  Teacher-student relationships and cyberbullying were almost unheard of when we were in school, but now?  They're everywhere.  Use fiction to your advantage!
    • Talk about what you are reading and watching. The great thing about reading as a family vs. watching as a family is that it's easier to discuss.  We all assume that what the other person saw with their eyes is what we saw with ours, but we all know that words have multiple interpretations from the get go. 
    • Buy two copies of a book. Expensive? Sure.  But worth the investment to have that experience alongside your teen.  Or, buy one and check-out one from the library.  Read separately and have some amazing discussion. 
  3. Research what you can't read or watch.  There's no way you can actually view everything your child does, but you can find out what's inside.
    • There are blogs, such as this one, which tell parents what content is inside a book that might need to be discussed. Address these topics in creative ways:
      • Ask them what they think about a news story whose criminal had a similar path as a character in one of their books.
      • Ask who got in trouble at school that week and discuss why, then relate it to a book you have read.  Allow them the opportunity to do the same, to relate that behavior to one they've seen in fiction.  Teach them how to make the real-world connection with a fictional character's behavior so that they can learn from said character's mistakes.
    • Talk to other parents about what their children or teens are reading.  Be each others' helpers! There is a water cooler at work, and its job doesn't only have to be hosting office gossip or discussion about last night's TV show.  Ask what their kids are reading or watching.  If they don't know, maybe it will prompt them to find out. 
  4. Don't glorify bad behavior in fiction as a way to relate to your children. 
    •  It's tempting.  I know.  This means not calling a character a slut.  Do you want your children calling someone who did what that person did a slut?  No.  You don't.  Even if you're the meanest mean girl in the world and you think you do.  I promise you, you don't.
    • Don't do something questionable in an attempt to relate to your child.  You are not your child's friend, you are their parent.  Act accordingly. 
  5. Don't be judgemental.  
    • When being open and relating these things to or with your child or teen, don't put your parent face on and expound on why these things are bad ideas.  You are sneakier than that.
      • Listen.  Hear what they think and what their perspective is.
        • "Dad, in that scene, Hargrave said that he wanted to kill her."
      • Repeat.  Tell them what you think they are saying, in your own words.
        • "Hargrave said that he wanted to put his sword through her heart..."
      • Addend & Ask. You've let them know that you heard them.  Now ask what they think. 
        •  "...What do you think about that?"
      • Frame.  After listening to their answer, add perspective where necessary. 
        • "I think that's awesome.  She deserves to die."
        • "Well, if she was your sister, that would make me sad.  Do you think she might deserve another chance?"
      • Guide.  This is your chance to weigh in on what they think.  
        • "No.  She's a horrible person.  She killed all 14,000 of the Doinhelm with one swipe of her sword and she burned all the bodies so that their relatives couldn't bury them.  Then she let her horse pee on them. And she didn't even care."
        • "But the Doinhelm killed her brother."
        • "So what, that didn't mean she had to wipe out all of them!"
        • DISCUSS.  Play devil's advocate, hear what your child or teen is thinking. Give them food for thought.  Then follow-up.  
  6. Say No.  If it's inappropriate, don't give them permission.  Will they do it at a friend's house?  Maybe.  Will you find out about it?  Maybe.  
    • Get to know your child or teen's friend's parents.  Be involved. 
      • Stances like, "No porn" or, "No violence" don't really get heeded if a parent isn't like-minded, but if you explain that Billy doesn't handle violence well, or that you believe porn is very harmful, you're more likely to have another parent be cognizant of what media they're feeding your child, much as if you'd mentioned a food allergy.
    • Don't give them access to something they're not ready for as a reward. Even if they think they want it.  Guard them.  Prepare them.  Help them by saying "no."
      • This also means finding age-appropriate material for advanced readers and for curious kids who want to learn more about a subject.  Make sure it's something they can handle.
The key is to know what's going on so that if a questionable behavior arises or an incorrect perception forms, you can correct it.  Your children are exposed to so much that you don't have the opportunity to know about, but books, movies, and online content are something that you can monitor and you can keep your eye on.

I know the majority of this is common sense. I'm not advocating censorship.  I'm a grown woman and I know I can't watch zombie movies, but there's no one there to stop me, so I do.  And I pay the price with nightmares and minor panic attacks that a zombie might be at my front door.  It's in our natures to push our limits, but as parents, we are the ones who set those limits.  What I'm advocating is to be involved in your child's fiction and to make sure that they know that Slenderman is photoshopped and that you can't join his cult by killing someone.  Be there.  Be involved.  What they read and what they watch matters.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Reading Lists: GROWN UP EDITION

Happy Independence Day!  Since you've got the day off and you've got nothing better to do than read, pick up one of these adult titles and dive into our summer reading list right now.  Well adult?  It has some... unfortunate connotations.  So, we're going with the Grown Ups.  Regardless, here's the list:

Shield and Crocus by Michael R. Underwood

In a city built among the bones of a fallen giant, a small group of heroes looks to reclaim their home from the five criminal tyrants who control it. 
The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities. It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life. 
Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal 
It’s one thing to take a stand against oppression, but with the odds stacked against the Shields, it’s another thing to actually triumph.

Mr. Underwood gave this to me at Phoenix Comicon and I dove right in.  It's superheros and high fantasy and awesome.  It moves quickly for an adult epic fantasy book, which is my major beef with fantasy in general.  Gratefully, he doesn't spend what feels like eons writing about the street his character is walking down.  You find out the details you need before need them, but you're still allowed the freedom to think and picture things in your own light, which to me?  Is paramount for successful world building.

Hemlock Grove by Brian McGreevy

The body of a young girl is found mangled and murdered in the woods of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, in the shadow of the abandoned Godfrey Steel mill. A manhunt ensues—though the authorities aren’t sure if it’s a man they should be looking for.  
Some suspect an escapee from the White Tower, a foreboding biotech facility owned by the Godfrey family—their personal fortune and the local economy having moved on from Pittsburgh steel—where, if rumors are true, biological experiments of the most unethical kind take place. Others turn to Peter Rumancek, a Gypsy trailer-trash kid who has told impressionable high school classmates that he’s a werewolf. Or perhaps it’s Roman, the son of the late JR Godfrey, who rules the adolescent social scene with the casual arrogance of a cold-blooded aristocrat, his superior status unquestioned despite his decidedly freakish sister, Shelley, whose monstrous medical conditions belie a sweet intelligence, and his otherworldly control freak of a mother, Olivia. 
At once a riveting mystery and a fascinating revelation of the grotesque and the darkness in us all, Hemlock Grove has the architecture and energy to become a classic in its own right—and Brian McGreevy the talent and ambition to enthrall us for years to come.

Have you seen the Netflix exclusive series?  It's based on this gothic novel. And it's fabulous.  I'm planning on reading the book before I watch the second season! The second season premiers July 11th, by the way.

Vicky Peterwald: Target by Mike Shepherd

Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Victoria Maria Teresa Inez Smythe-Peterwald, daughter of wealth and power, was raised to do little except be attractive and marry well. Then everything changed—her brother, her father’s favorite and the heir apparent, was killed in battle by Lieutenant Kris Longknife, daughter of the Peterwald’s longtime enemies. Vicky vowed revenge, but her skill set was more suitable for seduction than assassination, and she failed. Angry and disappointed, her father decided she needed military training and forced her to join the Navy.
Now Ensign Vicky Peterwald is part of a whole new world, where use of her ample charms will not lead to advancement. But her father is the Emperor, and what he wants he gets. What he wants is for Vicky to learn to be efficiently ruthless and deadly. 
Though the lessons are hard learned, Vicky masters them—with help from an unexpected source: Kris Longknife.

This is a new spin off from Mr. Shepherd's Kris Longknife series.  I'm intrigued by a main character who fails at her goal because she is more of a seductress than a warrior, who is then sent off to the Navy to learn, aren't you?

Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town. 
There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own). 
Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...
A brand new series from the mind behind Sookie Stackhouse?  Bring. It. On.

California Bones by Greg van Eekhout

When Daniel Blackland was six, he ingested his first bone fragment, a bit of kraken spine plucked out of the sand during a visit with his demanding, brilliant, and powerful magician father, Sebastian. 
When Daniel was twelve, he watched Sebastian die at the hands of the Hierarch of Southern California, devoured for the heightened magic layered deep within his bones. 
Now, years later, Daniel is a petty thief with a forged identity. Hiding amid the crowds in Los Angeles—the capital of the Kingdom of Southern California—Daniel is trying to go straight. But his crime-boss uncle has a heist he wants Daniel to perform: break into the Hierarch's storehouse of magical artifacts and retrieve Sebastian's sword, an object of untold power. 
For this dangerous mission, Daniel will need a team he can rely on, so he brings in his closest friends from his years in the criminal world. There's Moth, who can take a bullet and heal in mere minutes. Jo Alverado, illusionist. The multitalented Cassandra, Daniel’s ex. And, new to them all, the enigmatic, knowledgeable Emma, with her British accent and her own grudge against the powers-that-be. The stakes are high, and the stage is set for a showdown that might just break the magic that protects a long-corrupt regime.
Greg's second novel for grown ups, I'm completely intrigued by what these bones are going to do for Daniel.  Join me and find out in this intriguing tale that will surely crossover from grown ups to young adults.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Quote of the Week: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross

In Belle Epoque, Elizabeth Ross paints a picture of a young girl who has run away from home only to find solace in an agency that hires ugly girls to be companions to other girls to make them look better at social events.  Maude gets paired with a high-society chick and then has to learn a few lessons the hard way. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Did You Catch The Delirium Pilot?

If you haven't caught the Delirium Pilot, know this before you go in: There will not be more episodes.  But, if you are curious to see what the show, based on Lauren Oliver's book Delirium, would have looked like, head to Hulu and watch the pilot there.  I did, am glad I did, but somehow I just want more...

You only have the chance to see this for 24 days, which started on June 24th, so time will run out on or about July 18, 2014, folks.