Friday, July 10, 2015


Surprise, I moved my url. For lots of reasons, which I'll explain at some point. You can check out what I've been posting by clicking here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

5/5 stars

Before the end of the second page you'll know whether this grotesquely beautiful coming of age story is one you can read. 

          Penny Wilson wanted a baby of her own in the worst way. That’s what I figure, because she was only supposed to watch me for an hour and a half, and obviously she loved me a little too much. She must have hummed a lullaby, fondled each tiny finger and toe, kissed my cheeks and stroked the down on my head, blowing on my hair like she was making a wish on a dandelion gone to seed. I had my teeth but I was too small to swallow the bones, so when my mother came home she found them in a pile on the living room carpet. The last time my mother had looked at Penny Wilson she’d still had a face. I know Mama screamed, because anyone would have. When I was older she told me she thought my babysitter had been the victim of a satanic cult. She’d stumbled upon stranger things in suburbia.  
          It wasn’t a cult. If it had been, they would have snatched me away and done unspeakable things to me. There I was, asleep on the floor beside the bone pile, tears still drying on my cheeks and blood wet around my mouth. I loathed myself even then. I don’t remember any of this, but I know it. 
          Even when my mother noticed the gore down the front of my OshKosh overalls, even when she registered the blood on my face, she didn’t see it. When she parted my lips and put her forefinger inside— mothers are the bravest creatures, and mine is the bravest of all— she found something hard between my gums. She pulled it out and peered at it. It was the hammer of Penny Wilson’s eardrum.

Maren is a teenager with a problem she can't control. She is an eater--a cannibal, a ghoul, a monster--and she was born this way. Her hunger is insatiable, but not constant. Maren feeds on love; she will gobble you up if you show her the smallest bit of affection, bones and all.

On the morning after her 16th birthday, she wakes up alone.

I came down the hall and found a note on the kitchen table: 
I'm your mother and I love you but I can't do this anymore.  
                                                                DeAngelis, Camille. Bones & All: A Novel 
She is an eater--a cannibal, a ghoul, a monster--and she is alone. With nothing else to lose, Maren packs her belongings and sets off to find the father she suspects is just like her. Along the way she discovers eaters who feed on power, knowledge, peace, and more. What she doesn't anticipate finding is self acceptance.

This is philosophical horror done perfectly. As readers we are compelled to explore our conscience and determine whether our actions align with our values. I suspect DeAngelis, a vegan, was making a statement on the political, spiritual, and ethical ramifications of eating animals and their secretions, but other reviewers have called it an exploration of female power and sexuality. The best books allow you to draw into the narrative your personal line in the sand.

Using a deftly crafted mix of horror and profundity, DeAngelis created in Bones & All a book that is macabre, astute, and infinitely readable.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fine Art of Negotiation

Mikey: Nico, get out of my face.

Nico: I'm not in your face.

Mikey: Nico, please! [tap tap tap]

Nico: ...

Mikey: Dude, I can't see what I'm doing. [tap tap tap]

Nico: ...

Mikey: Oh my...Nico! You're hovering! It's annoying. Stop.

Nico: I'm not hovering.

Mikey: Are you seriously [tap tap tap] kidding me right now? [tap tap tap] I can feel you breathing. Stop hovering!

Nico: But I want to see what you're doing!

Mikey: [tap tap tap] Too bad. Go away.

Nico: Dude, I can't see what you're doing if I go away!

Mikey: Not my [tap tap tap] problem.

Nico: Okay, how about if I hover from a distance?

Mikey: [tap tap tap]

Nico: Well?

Mikey: You can hover from a minimum of 10 feet away. [tap tap tap]

Nico: Dude, I can't see anything from 10 feet away!

Mikey: [sigh] Fine. You can hover from a distance but that means I can't feel you breathing on me at all. If I feel your breath, you're done. [tap tap tap]

Nico: Yes! Okay, move over. I need a better spot to hover from a distance.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Score 5 out of 5 stars
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Genres Young Adult

My disease is as rare as it is famous. It's a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, but basically, I'm allergic to the world. I don't leave my house, have not left my house in fifteen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. But then one day, a moving truck arrives. New next door neighbors. I look out the window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black--black t-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. I want to learn everything about him, and I do. I learn that he is funny and fierce. I learn that his eyes are Atlantic Ocean-blue and that his vice is stealing silverware. I learn that when I talk to him, my whole world opens up, and I feel myself starting to change--starting to want things. To want out of my bubble. To want everything, everything the world has to offer. Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.

Yes, I gave a book 5 stars!

There is a face + hand motion + word combination I make when I'm annoyed and feeling superior. It makes one of my best friends laugh whenever she sees it. She claims it's because she knows exactly what I'm thinking but I know the real reason is because I look a chubby Kermit making a scrunch face. I made Kermit Scrunch Face several times while reading Everything, Everything.  

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon is one of the young adult buzz books for fall 2015. It certainly managed to insert many of the hallmarks of previous young adult buzz books. There's terminal illness, plot twists, socially awkward yet remarkably well spoken teens, difficult parents, star-crossed lovers, and the intense rush of first love. 

Any of the above is cause to bring on an extreme case of Kermit Scrunch Face. Despite that, it's a book I would recommend to fans of young adult fiction, especially the 8th grade girls whose parents okay'd The Fault in Our Stars (they have similar levels of sexual content). I wish the book didn't have that one sex scene (mild, tastefully done) because it's a book I would love to carry in the library. Diocesan rules are real.

The primary reason Everything, Everything is so worth reading to me is its excellent treatment of diversity. When I read that Madeline, the main character, had brown eyes, I read the sentence twice to make sure I read it correctly.

How sad that a main character with brown eyes took me by surprise.

You can imagine my reaction when I read Madeline was half-Japanese, half-African American. I was thrilled, especially when her heritage was treated as a nonissue. She explained her race (in an online chat) the way one would disclose their favorite book: like it's just another piece of trivia. Olly, the cute boy next door, wanted to know what the "F" in Madeline F. Whittier stood for.
Olly: i was going to email you back, but saw you were online. your recipe cracked me up. has there ever been a spy in the whole history of spying that’s admitted to being a spy? i think not. i’m olly and it’s nice to meet you. 
Olly: what’s the “f” stand for? 
Madeline: Furukawa. My mom is 3rd generation Japanese American. I’m half Japanese.
Olly: what’s the other half?
Madeline: African American.
Olly: do you have a nickname madeline furukawa whittier or am i expected to call you madeline furukawa whittier?
Madeline: I don’t have a nickname. Everyone calls me Madeline. Sometimes my mom calls me honey or sweetie. Does that count?
Olly: no of course it doesn’t count. no one calls you m or maddy or mad or maddy-mad-mad-mad? i’ll pick one for you.
Olly: we’re gonna be friends
I don't care if your black, brown, green, or purple. I'm concerned that you don't have a proper nickname.

Other things I loved:
  • The illustrations by Yoon's husband. They were a sweet addition to the story.

  • That Madeline was 18 years old. Her maturity, her feelings, and the risks she took were those of a true young adult.
What I didn't love:
  • Exuberant descriptions
    • "He squeezes my hand and my lips part and we're tasting each other. He tastes like salted caramel and sunshine. Or what I think salted caramel and sunshine taste like. He tastes like nothing I've ever experienced, like hope and possibility and the future."
      • I guess we should be glad he didn't taste like Doritos, but salted caramel and sunshine? Reign in your unicorn steed, Oh Mighty Hipster, and stick with descriptions that are a little less twee. 
  • Dialogue between teenagers that occasionally suffered from an extreme case of John Greenitis. 
    • “In my head I know I've been in love before, but it doesn't feel like it. Being in love with you is better than the first time. It feels like the first time and the last time and the only time all at once.” 
      • So weird! That's exactly what my high school boyfriend said to me after he refused to see Pretty Women because it was too "chick-y."
Conclusion, because this review has gone on long enough: I would normally give this book 3-3.5 stars. given the previous addressed Kermit Scrunch Face triggers. In fact, originally I did. I changed my mind the more I thought about how rare it is to see a person of color as a main character without race being part of the story. We need diverse books! Also, this picture of Nicola Yoon, her husband, David, and their daughter. It wins the internet and is the only known cure for John Greenitis.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Casualties by Nick Holdstock

Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
The Casualties by Nick Holdstock 
Genres: Apocalyptic & Post-ApocalypticBiography & AutobiographyFictionGeneralHistoricalLiteraryScience Fiction 

In Nick Holdstock's The Casualties, a man recounts the final weeks of his neighborhood before the apocalyptic event that only a few of the eccentric residents will survive.Samuel Clark likes secrets. He wants to know the hidden stories of the bizarre characters on the little streets of Edinburgh, Scotland. He wants to know about a nymphomaniac, a man who lives under a bridge, a girl with a cracked face. He wants to uncover their histories because he has secrets of his own. He believes, as people do, that he is able to change. He believes, as the whole world does, that there is plenty of time to solve his problems. But Samuel Clark and the rest of the world are wrong. Change and tragedy are going to scream into his and everyone's lives. It will be a great transformation, a radical change; and it just might be worth the cost.Written by a rising literary star whose work has been published in notoriously selective publications such as n+1 and The Southern Review, The Casualties is an ambitious debut novel that explores how we see ourselves, our past and our possible futures. It asks the biggest question: How can we be saved?

The Casualties is the rare post-apocalyptic novel where life is better after then end. The end being August 2, 2017, the day a shower of meteors struck "North America, Europe, and Australia, and nowhere else (excepting the small fragment that struck poor Socotra, 'The Island of Bliss,' whose people had never attacked or enslaved anyone, and which had such beautiful trees as anything...)."

The world benefited from the unexpected tabula rasa, and this is why the real story is what happened before on Comely Bank in Edinburgh, Scotland, back when Samuel Clark, murderer, believed if you studied something enough, learned its history enough, attempted to fix it enough, it would get better. It doesn't. Sometimes you need a fresh start.

What made Comely Bank exceptional was the small pocket of eccentric residents. Samuel was one of them.
Whilst most of its people were wholly of their time—in that they did not believe in God, had small families, took holidays to faraway places, enjoyed electrical consumer goods, believed in things like equality, democracy, and the worth of the individual—there were a few who stood out. This was partly due to the way they looked) their size, their face, the way they walked), but mostly because their ideas went against the grain. They worshipped God, wished for death, or were chaste. They refused to own property.
The nymphomaniac, the man who lived under a bridge, the girl with a cracked face, and many others were worth remembering. People you remember after the world ends deserve to be called exceptional.

The novel is in two parts. In the first part, we meet Samuel and the exceptional people of Comely Bank. Samuel runs a used bookstore/charity shop. He thumbs through the pages of discarded books, looking for history and meaning. Slowly, over years, he finds snippets of history belonging to some of Comely Bank's most eccentric residents. He collects everything he finds in a chest--a pandora's box of history. He uses what he finds to change the future. 

In the second part, we learn the role Samuel plays in his neighbors' death or survival--and it doesn't happen quite like you think it will. 

The Casualties is a book that can't be categorized. The narrative is nonlinear. It's a book about the weeks before the end of the world--a world that is better for having lost nearly everything and everyone. The book's uniqueness is what made it so enjoyable. My only problem with the book was the ending, oddly enough. The writing throughout was tight and precise, but the last chapter became increasingly stream-of-conscious as the past and the present narratives collided. The intent, I imagine, was to finish the book on a crescendo as all the pieces rapidly slid into place. Instead, I was left feeling like one of the casualties, knocked about from page to page and waiting for the end to come.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Back Fat

I threw my back out the day of the Mercy Watson party. It wasn't the kneeling on the floor making the poster, or hovering over the kids while they worked on their origami pigs that did it. It wasn't even hours later as I stood in a Compassion International exhibit with the family as part of Mikey's birthday celebration, though by that point I was shifting from foot to foot and stretching my back. It was when we got home and I took off my bra.

Turn, twist, slide and huh. That hurts.

My back still hurts, although the pain going down my legs is almost gone. I think it would be better if I wasn't cleaning and preparing the classrooms (and library) for summer cleaning. Lots of bending over, lots of moving piles, lots of movement I should be avoiding. I'm there through Tuesday, and then I'm off for the rest of the summer. I can't wait.

I haven't been to a doctor--yet. I'm waiting to see if my backache magically disappears when the stress I've be hiding disappears as well. In the last month I experienced my first school drama. It's a very long story, but the gist is that we may have new leadership next year. One of my best friend's had her marriage convalidated, and as the matron of honor I had to find a dress and be in pictures. I know, not stressful for the majority of the world, but being "almost" the center of attention and posing for pictures is, possibly, my least favorite thing ever. Last week the woman who was my mentor for volunteering died after hard-fought battle with cancer. She was two years older than me.

To be sure, stress goes on, but the overriding feeling of panic is starting to fade. I'm hoping the back pain fades with the stress.

I also haven't gone to the doctor because I feel I'm in the boat I'm in because I have to lose weight and exercise. I've gained so much weight in my three years at the school! I've also stopped exercising. I feel ungainly and my clothing doesn't fit.

I also feel it's time to research breast reductions. This isn't something I take lightly, but it's time. My back hurts. My neck hurts. My shoulders hurt. It's difficult to find shirts and wearing something with buttons is out of the question.

Weight loss, exercise, and (maybe) surgery. That's what I see in my future. Now I have to decide how to reach my goals.

For the last few months, I've been reading every book I can get my hands on about dieting and health. I researched studies and looked at outcomes. I watched lectures and listened to experts and, sadly, everything I have read and heard confirms what I wrote about years ago: diets don't work. God, I wish they did. I won't be doing paleo or Whole30 or Weight Watchers or anything with a doctrine. God, I wish I could. But then, doing that for most of my life is part of what got me in the mess I'm in now.

The latests books I'm reading on avoiding diets stress the importance of accountability. This is a relief for me. I believe diets don't work, but some books stop there and don't tell you what to do next. The books I'm reading now encourage calorie tracking and food logging for at least a few months so that I can get a feel for when and where I'm going wrong--because I am doing something wrong. I'm not listening to and/or ignoring hunger cues, I'm eating for the wrong reasons, and I'm doing both to the detriment of my health. Case in point: I love, love, love healthy food. Fruits, vegetables, SALADS...but I skip them because they seem like a lot of trouble. It's easier to just grab a coffee from Starbucks or fries from the cafeteria.

Researchers espouse a "crowding out" eating plan, where you try to meet your nutritional requirements before you dive headfirst into the ice cream. I like this. I have always been one to find comfort in order and expectations.

Weight loss and exercise, but not too much. That's what I see in my summer. The surgery will have to wait until I get a handle on the first two. Feel free to cheer me on. :)

UPDATE: I used to be a member of My Fitness Pal, and now I'm back! My username their is RosyPaige. (No clue why--all my usual usernames must have been taken.)

p.s. I'm currently looking for apps that help me track calories, activity, and glycemic index, if possible.

p.s.s. I feel this video is necessary to end on a positive note, because I know this post sounds a little gloomy. Two words: Alan Thicke.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Mercy Watson Party

We did it! The first grade and I read the entire Mercy Watson series. I'm so pleased with how the read-aloud went! What started off as a random book choice turned out to be my favorite memory of this school year. I was able to read an entire book in 30 minutes, so each week we read something new but familiar. When I would get to the part in the book where the narrator says where Mercy lives, the entire class would yell "54 DECKAWOO DRIVE!"

Or when I read about Mercy being hungry, the class would yell, "BUTTERED TOAST!"

They knew character names, favorite foods, and predicted plot lines. Even my voices became familiar. Eugenia Lincoln had an angry, trembly old voice. Baby Lincoln sounded a bit like Rose from The Golden Girls, and Mr. Watson sounded like Mr. Howell from Gilligan's Island. Listening to me read was probably a lot like staying home sick and watching TVLand all day.

In honor of our achievement, I put together a Mercy Watson party. I had a ton of help, thank goodness! Even down to the sign, thanks to some industrious 4th grade girls who used their recess time to craft and color. They grabbed their yearbooks and wrote out the name of every 1st grade student and also drew pictures representing the plots of each of the 6 books.

Here's how the party went. Keep your expectations in check, please. We had an hour--at most!--and I had a limited personal budget.

Reading an entire series is a big deal! I wanted to show the kids how proud of them I was for reading (listening to me read) 6 books over the course of the 3rd trimester. Each student received a medal. I let them know how proud I was and thanked them for helping me reach our class goal. The "Yee-Ha" sign is because Leroy Ninker is a small man who wants to be a cowboy. We first met him in Mercy Watson Fights Crime. He always says "Yee-Ha!"

The butterscotch candy in the pictures was part of the menu. Mercy loves anything butter flavor, and at Halloween (Princess in Disguise) she discovered butter barrel candies.

Speaking of the menu, the room mom, our food services manager, and one of my best friends helped buy, prepare, and serve the food. Buttered toast (every book), buttered popcorn (Something Wonky This Way Comes), butterscotch candies (Princess in Disguise), and lemonade (Thinks Like a Pig). We could have had some more buttered food items from other books, but I felt the menu was revolting enough.

 Craft time!

We scheduled the party so that when it ended the kids went home. This meant I had to come up with a craft that didn't require any of their school supplies (I didn't want to have to run it back to the classroom). We made simple origami Mercy Watsons using directions I found online. The 7th grade choir, Mikey, and another 5th grader helped me with this one. The helpers were slightly horrified by the less than perfect end result, but the 1st graders were over the moon with the their Mercy Watson faces. Then, while we got their buttered toast ready, they colored all over the table. Permission to color all over the table = party central.

And that's it! I have a ton of pictures, but of course I can't blast them all over the internet. Those I put in an album detailing our day. I'm bringing it to school on Monday so that the 1st grade students can sign it and I'm going to keep it in the library in a photo album/party album shelf I just this very second decided I'm going to create. I'm already thinking of what book series to read next year. Maybe The Notebook of Doom or Kung Pow Chicken?

I wish I could do something like this for every class. Maybe I'll leave the album on the teacher's lounge table as a hint. :)