Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Prosers, Part 2

You'll never, ever in a million years believe it, but I am the new Saturday poster for The Prosers, that blog I was just barely gushing about. Seriously. It's true. If you don't believe me (and even if you do) go check it out!

The Prosers: Melanie is now an integral part of our team. Don't believe us? Look, here's a post

That means there is one less thing this blog has to be. I still want to do a million things with it, but it won't ever have to be a writer's blog. This gives me great hope that it will all sort itself out one of these days.

Anyway, I am over the moon excited to get to work with all those talented authors. Life is good!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Prosers

No way! It hasn't really been nearly 5 months since I posted here, has it? Where did that time go? It was filled with trying to sell our house, writing the rough draft of a new novel (!) and great family stuff. I'll try and be better, but I've got a few chapters left on that novel, the house is under contract, and Christmas is right around the corner, so it may be awhile. :(

In the meantime, let me recommend a new blog, not to take my place (heavens, no. Not that!) but to entertain you while you wait. It's geared toward aspiring writers, but it's lots of fun, regardless. It's called The Prosers and it's written by a talented group of ladies who are going to be famous someday!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

July's Books


by: Elana Johnson
published in 2011
405 pages
4 stars


The world has been divided into the Goodgrounds and the Badlands. Goodies live without hunger or crime, but they also live without control over their own choices. Vi knows she isn't like everyone else, but she wants to fit in so she can be with Zenn--her best friend and her future Match. Still, she can't help rebelling in small ways, and when she is arrested for walking in the park after dark with Zenn, she is assigned a cell with a man from the Badlands--egotistical, charismatic Jag. The Thinkers who control the Goodlands want Vi to join them, and soon she and Jag are on the run together.

Dystopian love triangles. I find myself irresistibly drawn to them even though I always think I've reached my dystopian limit. I've been thinking about how dystopian worlds are very well suited for love triangles--do I stay with the guy I've always loved in the world I've always known or do I go with the guy who keeps me off balance and has the promise of a better world? I only like love triangles to the extent that I'm satisfied with the ending for all three characters. Possession is the first book in the series, so the jury is still out on that one.

I haven't had much time to read lately, but I stayed up late to finish this one. I'm on pins and needles for the sequel to come out.

Unfortunately, I'm getting to be such a critic these days--I can't read a great story and leave it there. Parts of this book were very jarring for me. Elana Johnson never slows the action to examine the feelings of her characters. I hate that. Jag was constantly doing things that should have caused intense turmoil in Vi, and when I can't get into her head to feel that emotion I get confused and wonder if I'm misunderstanding things. When the action is over, she finds time to ruminate on it all, but by then I'm emotionally detached. On the other hand, Johnson is very proficient at explaining Vi's feelings during the kissing scenes. :-) I found myself wishing for more character growth, but that's just a personal preference. All in all, this was a very fun book.


by: Robin Merrow MacCready
published in 2006
198 pages
2 stars

Summary, which I took directly from the front flap:

Claudine has long buried her own needs and dreams to cover for her alcoholic mother. She protects herself with careful planning and constant control. Order is her weapon. How deep do you dig to uncover the truth?

After Mom suddenly disappears--another alcoholic binge?--and seventeen year old Claudine finds herself all alone, a much darker reality emerges from beneath years of angry denial and enabling behavior. And as the truth comes closer to the surface, Claudine must dig for the answers she's always worked so hard to cover up.

A suspenseful and mind-twisting psychological thriller, Buried is about the drama and destruction of co-dependency and the redemptive power of secrets revealed.


I've been eyeing this book at the library for quite a while now, and finally decided to read it. Parts of it were very enjoyable, but I am a big fan of Character stories, and this was an Event story masquerading as a Character story. The story was much darker than the writing style prepared me for, and I only finished it because I needed to know what was happening. Once I found out, I wished I'd never known. People who enjoy mysteries and books about obsessive-compulsive disorder and co-dependency might enjoy this book, but it left a bad taste in my mouth.


by: Ann Aguirre
published in 2011
272 pages
4 stars

As a Huntress, Deuce's short life is mapped out. She lives in the Enclave, but ventures out to hunt for meat in the tunnels while evading zombie-like creatures called Freaks. It's all she's ever wanted to do, but things become more complicated when she is partnered with Fade, a strange but lethal boy who claims to have come from Topside. The Freaks, who have always been dangerous, but mindless, are showing signs of intelligence and strategy, but the Elders of the Enclave refuse to believe Deuce and Fade. To Deuce's horror and Fade's delight, the pair of them are exiled, and forced Topside.

Yep. Another dystopian young adult novel. With zombies. And a love triangle of sorts. It couldn't be more different than Possession-humans are barely hanging on in this book. It had more of the feeling of Ship Breaker, which is a high recommendation. Deuce lives in the tunnels underneath New York in the years following what sounds like a nuclear war.  The romance between Fade and Deuce is breathtakingly innocent and beautiful. Fade was my favorite part of this book--he makes the flaws worth it. 

I can't really get into it without spoilers, but let's just say that although I enjoy getting into the head of a leader who seems purely evil and discovering that said person is fighting to bring civilization out of chaos, some reprehensible actions require more contrition and restitution than others. Redeeming an evil character is not something an author should undertake lightly.

Enclave is the first book in a series. I won't be racing to pre-order my copy of the sequel when it comes out, but I'll definitely be reading it. I recommend this book for most teenagers--it doesn't quite earn a Books for Boys seal, but I imagine many teenage boys would enjoy it. There is some frank discussion about rape and keeping women for their sexual and breeding capabilities. There is also a human hunting scene (a la The Most Dangerous Game) that was disturbing, though short.

Monday, June 20, 2011

June's Books, first edition

I haven't read much this month. In fact, I thought I'd only have one book to talk about today, but I whipped through another one at the last minute.

"A Book For Boys" means it's a book I think boys and/or men would like. The market is so inundated with books written for girls that I feel like I've found a treasure when I find a book for my sons, and I want to share it. I hope girls love them too!

The Boy at the End of the World
The Boy At The End Of The World
by: Greg van Eekhout
This book doesn't come out until tomorrow.
224 pages
4.5 stars*
This is A Book For Boys book!

My awesome friend Karen Smith sent me this book as an ARC (an advanced reader copy). It was so much fun to read a book that hasn't been published yet that I had to make sure and get my review of it up before it came out tomorrow. I hope I get that chance more often in the future.
Many, many years ago, humans realized that we had used Earth up, and it could no longer sustain us. So they created 4 arks--places where endangered species (including people) could rest in a kind of cryogenic sleep until it was safe to reintroduce them into the environment. But when a young boy named Fisher wakes up, he knows something has gone wrong. All the other sleeping pods in his ark have been destroyed. He is the last surviving human. Luckily he is not completely alone. He has a broken robot named Click and a pet mastadon he names Protein to keep him company. This is a thrilling story of survival and friendship.

Middle grade science fiction. Have you ever heard of it? It's a genre that is sadly filled with holes. What child doesn't want to read a breathless story of survival filled with mutant robots and perilous adventures? This is a book for the whole family. I loved it, and can't wait for the next one. Greg van Eekhout has crammed so much into this book--it will spark conversations about our responsibility to the Earth and the animals on it, about artificial intelligence, and about the importance of morals in scientific inquiry--and yet the whole thing is wrapped up in a rolicking adventure that is pure fun. I highly recommend this one for girls and boys of all ages.

by: Heather Dixon
published in 2011
472 pages  
Young Adult fantasy
3.5 stars*

In the not too distant past, I could count on loving every single book my teenage daughter read, and she loved nearly everything I did. But then a book called City of Bones changed everything. We both loved it, but it was a sort of aberration for me. I loved Cassandra Clare's writing style, and her characters were great, but I'm not interested in trying other dark, romantic fantasy books, and J is. So lately, most of the books she checks out of the library just stay in her room, and I pick them up only to do motherly things like reading the synopsis and opening to random pages to make sure it isn't TOO dark or TOO romantic. And because of that, I very nearly missed this book.

Entwined is not that kind of book. It's a novel based on the Grimm's fairy tale "The Worn Out Dancing Slippers". It was a lovely story, with well-developed characters. Some of the character development felt clunky to me, but the way they interacted with each other more than made up for that.You know how in the old fairy tales, the hero blasts in and saves the day? And you know how, in the new fairy tales, the heroine figures out how to save herself, and then usually has to go rescue the hero? Well, my favorite thing about this book is that there was none of that. In this story, of a whole bunch of people get to try on the hero's hat. My favorite hero is her father.  I hope you like it.

My rating system:
1=I couldn't finish it. Blech.
2=I finished it, but I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
3=I don't regret reading it, but I probably won't search out anything else by this author.
4=I loved it!
It is nearly impossible to get a 5. To get a 5 would almost always mean that it has taken its place among my favorites. Occasionally, to get a 5 might mean that it ought to take its place among my favorites, if only I had slightly better taste.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Life is good--the Crouse's new pool

L was the first person to swim in our newly lined pool.
She was also the first one to jump off the diving board.

J was the first person to jump in the shallow end.
J was also the first person to catch some sun in a dry spot near the edge of the pool.

I was the first person to jump off the diving board fully clothed.
I was also the first person to dive off the diving board.
Life is good.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Once Upon A Time update

Believe it or not, the middle of June is nearly here, and that is the deadline to finish the Once Upon A Time Challenge. In April I published a list of books I thought I would be reading for the challenge, but only 2 of those books stood the test of time. (I tried to read The Mists of Avalon right after being heartily annoyed by Waiting For Odysseus, and gave it up for awhile. Instead, I'm reading a much shortened version of King Arthur to my younger kids, and that's going to have to be good enough. I couldn't finish City of Fallen Angels either. So here's where I stand:

For fairy tales: A Tale Dark and Grimm
For fantasy: Eyes Like Stars and Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
For mythology: Waiting For Odysseus
For folktales: King Arthur (Not finished yet)
And I haven't even started reading: A Midsummer Night's Dream, which is sort of the point of the whole contest.
Plus I've got to watch the movie!!!! Lots of work to do. I think I'd better give up house cleaning for a while. :^)

Monday, May 30, 2011

May's Books

I've figured out that I don't much like waiting the whole month to tell you about the books I've read. I think in June I'm going to try writing it every two weeks instead. Still, this was a great month for reading! I read a lot of books I think both boys and girls would enjoy, which is always a plus for me. I hope you enjoy them!

A note about my rating system.
1=I couldn't finish it. Blech.
2=I finished it, but I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
3=I finished it, and I don't regret it, but I probably won't search out anything else by this author.
4=I loved it!
5= It is nearly impossible to get a 5. To get a 5 would almost always mean that it has taken its place among my favorites. Occasionally, to get a 5 might mean that it ought to take its place among my favorites, if only I had slightly better taste.

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja
by: John Flanagan
438 pages
published in 2010
 4.5/5 stars
This is a Book For Boys!
This is book 10 in The Ranger's Apprentice series, which starts with The Ruins of Gorlan. 
This is a great series for all YA teens, especially boys. I have no idea if the sword fighting is true to life, but I'd be surprised if it was not, it's so well thought out. I love the intelligent, interesting characters and their interactions, but it's really the action that makes these books exciting.

It took a book or two before I got used to the omniscient point of view. John Flanagan is from Australia, and writers from outside the US are not nearly as locked into the limited third as we are. I'm not sure whether the author's writing has actually improved, or if  I've simply gotten used to it.

The books are about a boy named Will who becomes apprenticed to the ranger named Halt in a magical world based on European medieval history.  The rangers are a select group of men who serve as the intelligence force and police for King Duncan. They are masters of camouflage and certain kinds of fighting, especially the saxe knife and the long bow. These stories are Will's adventures. In each book he is older and travels somewhere new. In this particular book, he is in Nihon-Ja, a country that reminds me of medieval Japan, though the fit is not perfect.  I highly recommend the series, but I think you need to start at book one.
(I read this for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
A Tale Dark and Grim
by: Adam Gidwitz
192 pages
published in 2010
There is some confusion in my mind about who this is for. It's definitely for middle grades and up, but it's recommended as a read aloud for ages 6 and up. More on that in a moment. 
4 stars  (I loved it!)
This is a Book for Boys!

My oldest daughter started reading this to my younger children before I read the book. They were all completely entranced. I kept hearing little pieces of the story, and I would say, "Are you sure this is appropriate to read to little kids?" She would assure me that it was. Plus, every place I could find on-line said it was a great read for school age children. So I let it go.

And it was probably completely fine. This book is "“...well... awesome. But in a horrible, bloody kind of way." As if poor Hansel and Gretal didn't have it bad enough, Gidwitz has taken their story and added some of the more obscure and horrifying Grimm fairy tales and tied them into one gruesome tale.

In a world where most of the original tales have been softened and most of the uglier parts have been taken out, Gidwitz has "bloodied them back up." But his narrator has such a snarky sense of humor that it comes across as funny. Every gory scene has a warning in front of it, like this example: "Are there any small children in the room now?” he asks midway through the first tale, “If so, it would be best if we just...hurried them off to bed. Because this is where things start to get, well...awesome.” In addition, adding the horrific pieces back brings the meaning of the fairy tales back, and the narrator makes sure we get it.

So, as I read it, there were times when my eyes got big, and I turned to my daughter and said, "You REALLY read this part out loud?" But mostly I think it was great. All my kids, even my six year old, have picked that book up to read parts of it again.

The Magic Thief: Lost
The Magic Thief: Found

The Magic Thief (Books 2 and 3)
by: Sarah Prineas
416 pages and 384 pages respectively
Lost: published in 2010
Found: published in 2011
For middle grades, though I think YA readers would like them too!
These are Books for Boys!
4 stars

In April I reviewed the first book in this series. I had listened to it as a book on tape and I said that although I enjoyed it, I thought it went a little slow. I read the sequels instead of listening to them, and it completely solved the problem. These are such fun books! I finished them both in less than a day, and when I was done I wished I'd read them to my younger kids. 

This is the story of Connwaer after his locus magicalicus is destroyed. Without it, he can't communicate with the magic, and the magic desperately needs him. I especially enjoyed book 3. The magical world in these stories is so complex for a middle grade book. I love it when an author doesn't dumb things down for kids. I'm especially fascinated with Connwaer's relationship with Kerrn--the captain of the guard, who obviously respects Conn, yet doesn't flinch to have him arrested if that is her duty.

(I read this for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
Waiting For Odysseus
by: Clemence McLaren
published in 2000
160 pages
Young Adult
2 stars
This is the story of the women who loved and waited for Odysseus--his nurse maid, Penelope, Circe, the king's daughter (whose name escapes me at the moment) and Athena. I love books with strong female protaganists, and I was excited to read more about the stories of these women. But this was not the story of these women. This is the story of them waiting around until they hear a story about Odysseus. It was just his story of them hearing stories about Odysseus, meeting him, falling in love with him and then pining away after he was gone. And you know, there was a lot of sex in the Odyssey, which is remarkably more obvious when being told from the point of view of the women he had sex with. Blech.

by Celia Rees
374 pages
published in 2003 
Young Adult (Mature)
4 stars!

Nancy Kington is a wealthy merchant's daughter living in Bristol, England in the early 1700s. She has promised to marry her childhood sweetheart, William. When her father dies, she is sent to live on her plantation in Jamaica, where she meets Minerva Sharpe, a black slave. Their lives entwine as they live through an attempted rape, an arranged marriage and a brutal murder. Together they escape to the high seas, where they live as pirates.

This book was exciting and well researched. I love stories set on ships, and found this to be a rollicking adventure. It's more mature in theme than a book like The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and yet it has that same strong willed female protaganist that I love so much. The one thing I didn't like was that the overarching plot sometimes took a backseat to the action. 


Death Cloud: Sherlock Holmes, The Legend Begins
by: Andrew Lane
306 pages
published in 2010 
Young Adult
This is a Book for Boys!
4 stars

When Sherlock Holmes is fourteen, he spends the summer with his eccentric aunt and uncle, and spends his days wandering the English countryside with an orphan named Mattie. When two local people die with symptoms resembling the plague, Sherlock Holmes begins his investigative career. This is the first book about a teenage Sherlock Holmes to be endorsed by Conan Doyle's estate. It's attention to detail is remarkable. I love thinking about how Holmes became the man he was. 

I enjoyed this book every bit as much as I enjoy a good Sherlock Holmes story--which is to say, it's an occasional pleasure for me. The story was far fetched, as Sherlock Holmes stories often are, but the character development was well thought out and fun.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My House

Good old-fashioned superstition has kept me from posting a follow up to Help Me Find A House!

We found one, and I'm still afraid that by letting that information loose on the internet I will provoke some spiteful little nixies and the whole thing will fall through. Drat those little nixies. Hopefully, if everyone knocks on wood while they are reading this, the nixies will be none the wiser. Go ahead.

Thank you.

I love the house we've chosen. Not as much as I love the one we're in right now, but I like the location loads better. Hopefully we'll learn to love the new house as much as we've loved this one. It's on a great street, in a neighborhood I've never heard a bad thing about. A neighborhood! The stuff of dreams. There is a girl in the same grade as my oldest daughter right next door. Does that give you chills? And...she has a younger sister in the same grade as my oldest son. won't believe this, I'm sure, but I swear it's true. They are not the only kids in the neighborhood.

We can walk to the library, or if my kids want to take karate or dance, we could walk there too. We could ride bikes to school, if we so desired, and we won't have to get up at 3:30 a.m. just to get to seminary on time.

In the words of  the famous scientist, Dr. Ray Stantz, "Wow. This place is great. When can we move in? You gotta try this pole. I'm gonna get my stuff. Hey. We should stay here. Tonight. Sleep here. You know, to try it out."

In later posts, I'll probably moan about all the things we're leaving behind--including my swimming pool, a great neighbor or two, and the hiking trails my dad built in the backyard. But for now, I want to celebrate where we're headed. A gorgeous backyard, a lovely sun-room and a music room. And people. I might not be able to stay in my pj's on computer mornings anymore. Who knows? A neighbor might stop by!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hawthorne or Alcott?

When my husband and I went to Boston for the weekend, we hiked on the Battle Trail--a 5.5 mile trail that marks the path taken by British soldiers marching from Boston to Concord.

It's a gorgeous trail in early May, especially if you're coming from Maine, where green hasn't yet asserted itself as the dominant spring color. All the trees along the trail are arrayed in the vivid greens of brand new leaves, and the meadows are covered in spring wildflowers. It's a feast for my winter weary eyes. We pass tourists and joggers, and one incredibly tough woman jogging uphill while pushing two children in a stroller.

On the map of the Battle Trail, it mentions a place called The Wayside, where you can visit the home of authors Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and Margaret Sidney. I love Louisa May Alcott, and so we decided to stop there. I was expecting a little neighborhood--and I thought how incredible that one neighborhood could boast of so many famous authors. But it wasn't one neighborhood. It was one house. Seriously. The Wayside is the name of a home that was originally built in 1717. And not only famous authors lived there. Samuel Whitney was living there in 1775. He was the Muster Master for the Concord Minutemen during the Revolutionary War, and munitions were hidden in this house.

 Bronson Alcott bought the house from him and named it The Hillside. I never thought that I had much of a problem distinguishing fiction from reality, but as I looked around the house, I couldn't figure out exactly where Teddy's grandfather's mansion would have been. To the left of the home were paths through a woods that had been there since before Louisa's time, and to the right was an old barn. Teddy couldn't have looked through his window to spy on the March's house. O.K. Melanie! No matter how similar Louisa's personality was to Jo March, it doesn't make Little Women an exact autobiography. Get over it.

Nathaniel Hawthorne bought the home from the Alcotts for $1,500. After buying the house, Hawthorne wrote, "Mr Alcott... had wasted a good deal of money in fitting it up to suit his own taste—all of which improvements I get for little or nothing. Having been much neglected, the place is the raggedest in the world but it will make, sooner or later, a comfortable and sufficiently pleasant home."[1] Nathaniel renamed it "The Wayside" 'because it stood so close to the road that it could have been mistaken for a coach stop.' Doesn't he sound like a pleasant fellow?

Daniel and Harriet Lothrop bought the house in 1883. Harriet Lothrop used the pen name Margaret Sidney, which didn't mean anything to me until a few minutes ago when I was doing a little research for this blog post. Margaret Sidney is the author of Five Little Peppers and How They Grew! I love that book! What an awesome thing to find out the author wrote it while living in Louisa May Alcott's house.

I loved seeing the home and thinking about its unique history. Look at this picture though:

Notice how Nathaniel Hawthorne's name is written in big block letters? Humph.

My husband says I need to reread The Scarlet Letter before I say this, but in my opinion, Louisa May Alcott's work is so much more important to our society today than Nathaniel Hawthorne's books are. His works are definitely valuable! Yikes, I don't want to start that battle. But Louisa May Alcott is a voice our children need to read today, to be transported back to a time when people spent time with each other and played together.

I wish I knew how old this sign was, and why his name is so much larger than hers. I suppose he may have been much more famous at some point in his life. But is he now? Or maybe it was because he was a man. Or maybe my perception is just skewed.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Help Me Find A House!

I knew I wasn't going to be writing as much for a while, but I didn't expect to stop so abruptly. My mind is so confused lately that I'm finding it hard to complete sentences, let alone blog posts. In spite a lot of prayer, the heavens seem determined to wait until I make a decision on my own. So I'm opening up my mind to that collective conscience called the internet. How do people cope with this thing called moving?

There are two truths battling for supremacy in my mind. We've found a house that will cost us almost exactly the same amount as we're paying right now. We're not exactly house poor, but we say no to a lot more things than I wish we had to. I'd hoped to buy a house that would free up some money. I have dreams of buying new furniture, and a new-to-me car. We'd love to have money to spend on doing things and going places. And don't forget the days of college and missions, which are marching inexorably closer.

So we could keep looking for a house that costs less. But I've seen what's out there. To have a house cost less would mean giving up a great location, giving up a nice yard, and that we'd have to spend a lot of time on fixing up a house with problems. I honestly don't know what the best choice is.

If you were me, what would you do?

Monday, April 25, 2011

April's Books

In an earlier post, I came to the conclusion that writing book reviews and travelogues in the same blog wasn't such a grand idea. But then I came up with this brilliant plan--why not write up all my books at the end of each  month in one crazy long post?

A note about my rating system.
1=I couldn't finish it. Blech.
2=I finished it, but I wish I hadn't wasted my time.
3=I finished it, and I don't regret it, but I probably won't search out anything else by this author.
4=I loved it!
5= It is nearly impossible to get a 5. To get a 5 would almost always mean that it has taken its place among my favorites. Occasionally, to get a 5 might mean that it ought to take its place among my favorites, if only I had slightly better taste.

(I read this book for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens
Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
by: Brandon Sanderson
published in 2010
292 pages

For: Middle Grades and Up! This one needs stars and trumpets to announce that it's a book boys would enjoy.
Rating: 4/5 stars (I loved it!)

If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Brandon Sanderson's less serious side, you're really missing out. This is book 4 of the Alcatraz series, so you should start from the beginning with Alcatraz Versus The Evil Librarians. Alcatraz doesn't realize that his propensity for breaking things is actually a talent--all the Smedry's have talents like that. He'd have found out a lot sooner if his grandfather's talent wasn't always being late for things. Now that he knows, the future of the human race rests on his shoulders.

A quote from the book: "Being a Smedry--I was coming to learn--was like being a mix of secret agent, special forces commando, diplomat, general and cheese taster."

And a great quote for all you authors and theater people: (from page 260)
"Anyway, what just happened is something we call a teddy bear on the mantle. This is an ancient storytelling rule that says, "If there's an exploding teddy bear that can destroy people's clothing in a given book, that teddy bear must be used to destroy someone's clothing by the end of the book."

You: On A Diet: The Owner's Manual for Waist Management
YOU On A Diet
by: Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz
published in 2006. (There is a newer version, but this is the one I read.)
370 pages
Rating: 4/5 stars

Some time ago, I told myself that I'd never read another diet book. I'm so glad I didn't listen to myself. I'm a real sucker for science mixed with humor, so I would have enjoyed this book even if I didn't have any weight to lose.

A random quote: "Technically, (CCK) stands for cholecystokinin, but for our puposes, let's think of it as the Crucial Craving Killer because its main purpose is to tell your brain via the vagus nerve that your stomach feels fuller than a Baywatch swimming suit."

This book is full of great wisdom for people who are sick of dieting but don't know what a healthy lifestyle would look like without it. I just wish I'd found it before I signed up for 3 useless months of Weight Watchers. Oh well...

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard
by: Chip Heath and Dan Heath
published in 2010
305 pages
Rating: 4.5/5 stars (I really loved it!)

The first time I heard about this book was during a marriage class at a Women's Conference at church. It caught my fancy, so I checked it out from the library. What an amazing book! Whether you want to change your interactions with your family, lose weight or change the direction of a multi-billion dollar company, this book is for you! But it's not just your typical self-help book. It was as hard to put down as any action-adventure novel could claim to be. I wanted to take notes, but instead I read it from start to finish. Luckily there's a handy-dandy section at the back for people like me.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist
by: Paulo Coelho
This book is an English version of O Alquimista the Portugese original edition. which was published in 1988. It was published in English in 1994.
167 pages
rating 3.5/5 (I liked it)

From the back cover: Paulo Codlho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its simplicity and wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids.

The beginning of this story really spoke to my soul. In the beginning, it's a story about change--and how we can't continue to grow if we become too content with our lot in life. It's told like a fable--only one person is actually given a name. Everyone else is called something like "the shepherd" "the old man" and "the Englishman". I'm going through a time of change in my life right now, and it's simple message quieted my soul.
The end was disappointing. It stopped being about personal growth and became more a search for something that seemed to me to be nirvana. It just got kind of odd. I still liked it, but the ending made it drop from 4 stars to 3.5. This would make SUCH a great book group book. If only I belonged to one...

(I read this book for the Once Upon A Time Challenge)
Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I
 Eyes Like Stars: Theatre Illuminata, Act I
by Lisa Mantchev
published in 2009
368 pages
For: Young Adult and up.
rating 3/5 stars (I liked it)

What a quirky book! It's quirkiness is one of the strongest things it has going for it. Someone who had a love for the behind-the-scenes part of theatre would probably be completely smitten. It's the story about all the characters from all the plays that ever existed, who live inside the Theatre Illuminata, and act when they are called upon. Ariel, from Shakepeare's The Tempest, is the only character who doesn't like his imprisonment, and he wants to figure out how to free everyone. Beatrice must stop him, and find a way to convince the theatre manager to let her stay. I was bothered because Beatrice never took the time to think "Am I doing the right thing?" I'm not convinced she was, but there was no room for a moral dilemma. The writing was great, and I'd love to find out what happens next, but I'll probably just read the spoilers on wikipedia.

The Magic Thief
The Magic Thief
by Sarah Prineas
audio version recorded in 2008
For: Middle Grades and up! Another one that needs to be circled and trumpeted because boys will enjoy it.
 4/5 stars

I listened to this on CD, and the story was a trifle too slow for listening. If I'd read the book, it probably would have been a much more solid 4 star entry. I can't wait to read the sequel. Magic is somewhere underneath the ground, and cities have been built on the places where it bubbles up to the surface. Magicians have a locus magicalus--a stone that helps them harness the magical power. Conn is a homeless boy and a pickpocket, and when he steals Nevery's locus magicalus it ought to kill him--but it doesn't. Intrigued, Nevery takes him on as an apprentice. Meanwhile, the city's magic seems to be disappearing, and Nevery has to find out why.

City of Fallen Angels (Mortal Instruments, Book 4)
City of Fallen Angels
by: Cassandra Clare
published in 2011
432 pages
1/5 stars

Yep. You read that right. My very favorite Mortal Instruments series, and I didn't even finish reading the fourth book. Let me rant for a moment.

I HATE IT when an author decides to push the envelope once she's got her readers hooked. We're pretty fastidious readers, and the Mortal Instruments series was already a little close to the edge. But I loved Jace so much--there was such a pure, shining spirit inside that sarcastic, gorgeous hero. I am one of Cassandra Clare's most devoted followers. But I won't follow her here.

Luckily, I was pretty happy with the way book 3 ended anyway. It seems a bit sadistic to throw these characters back into the action. I got through about page 75 before I stopped reading, and even more luckily, I really wasn't that into it. Jace had some nightmares, and Simon was perched to get involved in a turf fight between 2 vampires, and that's all! I wasn't hooked, except by my previous love of the characters, so it was not too gut-wrenching to stop.

Here's where I stand for the Once Upon A Time Challenge:

Book 1: Alcatraz and the Shattered Lens
Book 2: Eyes Like Stars

Still to go before June 20:
Folklore: Mists of Avalon
Mythology: Waiting for Oddysseus
Fairy Tales: A Tale Dark and Grimm
and A Midsummer's Night Dream