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Friday, January 31, 2014

Hyperbole and a Half - Allie Brosh

I first became acquainted with Hyperbole and a Half when a friend linked to one of her many blog entries. I don't remember which one it was exactly, but I do remember I laughed until I cried. For the rest of the day I would burst into laughter when I'd think of the elementary drawings accompanied by her absurd and sometimes crass narrative.

I find the majority of Allie's stories relatable whether they remind me of myself or somebody else I've met. Her way of coping with people who spell Alot made me giggle and had me looking for my own ways to cope with spelling and grammatical errors when I encounter them. I've always found her entry of the Sneaky Hate Spiral amusing and apt.

One of Allie's most popular entries, which is included in the book, is on the serious topic of Depression. Her description of what it is to experience depression is accurate, while still managing to give it a humorous narrative.

This type of humor certainly isn't for everybody, so I'd suggest checking out her blog before purchasing this book. If you find that she makes you laugh out loud, I'd say purchase her book or maybe a few of her accessories to add some humor to your life.

Author's Blog:
Hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com

Monday, January 27, 2014

SoulSpace - Xorin Balbes

What is SoulSpace? SoulSpace is a living space that reflects a person's character, nurtures their spirit, and echoes their aspirations. Through an 8-step process Balbes leads the reader through the process of creating something truly imbibed with the self.

Part One contains the first 3 stages: Assess, Release, and Cleanse. The first step is to Assess what one finds pleasing and displeasing about the area. Is it too cramped? Is it too big? What about the objects within the space? Many people hold on to things that no longer hold good feelings or are simply out of place, this is when the Release stage comes into play. Does that mural still inspire or does it contain painful memories? Is that set of dishes useful or is it just taking up space? If it's not fitting into your new vision, it's time to let it go by donating or throwing things out. In the Cleanse stage, it's time to purge out the bad with ceremonies or simply by acknowledging the importance of the objects.

Part Two contains 3 stages, as well: Dream, Discover, and Create. The Dream stage requires the individuals to consider what they want to achieve. Dancing or exercise requires room, so places to store or move things when needed is important. Various forms of art will need space to work and storage room for materials and tools. Relaxing and entertainment will require comfortable spaces. The process of Discovery can be done in a multitude of ways. With the internet, it's easy to seek out what a person is looking for or get ideas; however, thrift stores and auctions are both avenues to explore when in search of the best option. When the pieces are found, it's time to Create the space, which may even mean finishing a few project pieces to bring it all together.

Now that the living space is good, it's time to Elevate with some accents, like candles, flowers, or paintings. And finally: Celebrate. If the space is for relaxing, light some candles or incense; if the space is for entertaining, invite some friends over. It's time to use the space as it was intended.

I had my decluttering journey many years ago, and this book was like reviewing my own experience. I was a notorious packrat as a child, and it only got slightly better as I grew older. When I moved out into my own apartment I had even tossed a lot of stuff, but even then I felt choked by everything stored away in boxes in the closets. Once I decluttered my life, I noticed a profound change in my overall behavior. I no longer wanted knick-knacks; only things I could use. I found myself seeking experiences, rather than things. And I also discovered that I could be more open to friendships.

Anybody who is looking for motivation, inspiration, or ideas on how to make a house a home will benefit from reading this book.

Recommended Reads:
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You - Sam Gosling
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things - Randy Frost, Gail Steketee

Friday, January 24, 2014

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

When an adult brother and sister decide they need an extra hand for the farm, they decide to adopt a boy from the orphanage. Unfortunately, what is sent to them is an incredibly talkative, inquisitive, and opinionated girl. While Matthew is rather fond of the girl, Marilla is determined to have the boy they requested rather than a girl.

But when Marilla goes to return the girl, she has a change of heart and brings the little girl back to Green Gables with her. Anne's overactive imagination and precocious nature often lead her into trouble. In the midst of having a wonderful tea party, she manages to pull the wrong bottle from the shelf and make her dearest friend sick. When she takes on a dare, she manages to cause herself bodily harm. And in another instance, she nearly finds herself drown when trying to play King Arthur with her friends.

However, that same nature causes her to bring imagination and joy to others in her life. Her unique way of seeing the world brings fun to the lives of other children, insightful lessons for herself and those around her, and a new way of life in the town of Avonlea.

Readers of all ages will enjoy the misadventures of Anne as she grows from childhood to adulthood. Readers will learn how mistakes grow into lessons, how grudges become forgotten slights, and how an open heart can lead to a full life.

Recommended Reads:
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Little House in the Big Woods - Laura Ingalls Wilder

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Day Boy and the Night Girl - George McDonald

A witch named Watho wishes to learn everything in the world, which often sets her to cruelty. The clever witch finds a way to acquire a baby boy and a baby girl, each of whom she keeps in very particular conditions.

Photogen has never been permitted to see the night. He is only allowed to see and experience the outside world when once the sun has risen and is brought in before sunset. Nycteris is only permitted out at night and she is also only given dim light to see by during the day.

How will Photogen and Nycteris develop in their own unique circumstances. What does Watho hope to learn from her strange experiment? And what will happen when Photogen is exposed to the night and Nycteris to the day?

This tale can be viewed in many ways. It can be read as a fairy tale with an evil witch, like a horror novel of terrifying possibility, or even as a romance when two completely unlike people come together. In whichever way a reader reads this story, it still has the final lesson of overcoming adversity and helping one another.

Recommended Reads:
The Little Mermaid - Hans Christian Andersen

Recommended Viewing:
Tangled

Friday, January 17, 2014

Mythology - Edith Hamilton

One of my favorite units in middle school was studying Greco-Roman mythology, which included the use of this particular book. The jealous and powerful deities fascinated me, as did the incredible tales of heroes and martyrs.

It's been quite a while since I reviewed Greco-Roman mythology, and I was surprised to find I remembered more than I had forgotten when listening to this book. I enjoyed reviewing the tales of the womanizing god Zeus and his reasonably jealous and angry wife Hera. I loved hearing the stories of intelligent, strong, and sometimes vain Athena. Then there are the tales of magical beings like the Gorgons, Pegasus, and the Satyrs.

Since we only read for the sake of Greco-Roman mythology in school, I wasn't aware until this second reading that there is a small section about Norse mythology. This portion is disproportionately small compared to the rest. It's not nearly as in-depth, but it is useful as an introduction to the lore of that area.

Hamilton gives a short introduction to each portion, including an explanation of what authors she pulls the information from. In all cases, I feel she does an excellent job of bringing out the most important parts of the story and conveying the underlying themes for the reader to understand. She also does a great job of explaining about customs that cause or prevent characters in the stories to do certain things. I enjoyed the style, but I've heard some people say they found it to be dry reading. I hope many others will find this informative work an excellent starting point or a place to review this fantastic lore.

Recommended Reading:
D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths - Ingri d'Aulaire, Edgar Parin d'Aulaire
Bulfinch's Mythology - Thomas Bulfinch

Monday, January 13, 2014

Life Expectancy - Dean Koontz

A strange thing happened on the night of Jimmy's birth. His parents named him James, of course, but just as his grandfather predicted, nobody could seem to call him James. Even strange, though, is that his grandfather predicted his exact height, weight, the time he was born, and even the that he would be born with syndactyly. So when his grandfather also predicts he will have five terrible dark days to contend with in his life, his parents take it seriously.

Jimmy had lived the better part of his life following in the footsteps of his father to become a baker, a pastry chef. He's happy with his occupation, and he still lives at home with his parents and macabre-loving grandmother. Until the first of the five terrible days predicted.

His grandmother's worst imaginings of safes falling, car accidents, and more cannot compare to what awaits Jimmy Tock on these terrible days. Nobody could guess that the strange characters who were there on the day of his birth and live in the nightmares of the townfolk would return to haunt his life. Somehow Jimmy has to find a way to persevere to live the rest of his life.

Koontz did an amazing job with pacing and drama in this novel. I felt that the dialogue sometimes got a bit cheesy, but it mostly seemed to add to the drama. I loved it and look forward to reading more from this author.

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Knot in the Grain - Robin McKinley

Having been born mute, Lily faces daily feelings of alienation since she cannot join in conversations. When her parents die at a young age, she decides to apprentice herself to The Healer. Despite having many suitors, Lily turns them all down in favor of her occupation. Then one day she meets a man who can somehow hear her silent voice.

Although Ruen was born into privilege as a princess, she falls prey to her uncle's ambitions. When her uncle wishes to cease the throne, he decides to dispose of her through an old rite of sacrifice. Just as she is about to expire, a strange figure of The Stagman appears.

Erana is surrendered as a baby to save the life of her other sibling, which is how she came to be in Touk's House. As she grows, she finds that she is not adept at the herbalism her caretaker wishes to teach her, and she decides to wander to find herself.

An farmer is instantly enchanted when he sees a young woman at the market. After only a few days he proposes and she agrees to join his life. Coral is leading a wonderful life with her new husband, until the curse of her family catches up with her causing Buttercups to take over the farm. Can love pull them through?

Annabelle's family moves from her lifelong home to a new place. With the house in disarray, she escapes to the attic, where she finds a Knot in the Grain of the wood. Will this discovery lead her to finding purpose in her new home?

While I didn't feel that any of these five tales stood out on their own, they are enjoyable tales with young women who are heroines in their own way.

Recommended Reading:
A Wizard of EarthSea - Ursual K. Le Guin
Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume 3

Like many kids growing up in the 90s, I first became acquainted with the spunky Sonic the Hedgehog by first playing Sega Genesis. One day while my parents were browsing the magazines in the small bookshop of our town, I managed to find issue #33 of Sonic the Hedgehog among the funny comics and the superhero comics. This particular issue was something like The Magic School Bus where Sonic gets shrunk down in order to fight the sickness that has left his friends invalid. I also recall a terrible pun about "Auntie"bodies (get it? Like antibodies!). It was a bit silly, but I enjoyed it.

The very next issue I picked up took a serious turn with Sonic encountering his roboticized Uncle Chuck, which was actually a familiar plot plucked straight from the television series. For quite a while the writers and editors kept the series going with more serious plot lines. Because of that, I figured the previous issue had been a reprieve issue like the cartoon television series Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) sometimes had.

Going back as an adult to read the previous issues in these "archives" I've discovered that the more humorous issues were the standard up until about issue #29. Archives Volume 3 contains issues #9-#12 of the series. Every single story is filled with terrible puns and what could probably be best described as Looney Tune-like humor.

In issue #9, Robotnik creates a robotic Pseudo-Sonic to infiltrate Knothole Village (Sonic's home), which Tails promptly destroys using his speed to create static electricity to short him out. When Sonic gifts Sally with an unusual and troublesome Needlebird for her birthday, she wonders What's the Point? But this strange creature manages to show his worth by the end of the story.

Both stories in issue #10 are perfect examples of the bad puns this comic made a regular feature. Sonic and the Freedom Fighters stumble upon some odd creatures who are in the middle of a battle of Robotnik. By the end of the story they somehow end up fulfilling the Revenge of the Nerbs. Then in Twan with the Wind, Antoine proves his prowess with hot air balloons and his boasts.

Issue #11 contains three stories, each cornier than the last. In The Good, the Bad, and the Hedgehog, Sonic finds himself in an alternate universe where Robotnik is apparently a good doctor and Sonic is the bad guy. In the next story, Sonic will have to Beat the Clock if he expects to save his friends from the antics of Robotnik's least favorite robot: Coconuts. And finally when Sonic has a late night snack, he's going to have some Food for Thought and consider what happens if You Are What You Eat.

Sonic finds himself making A Timely Arrival in the past when Robotnik zaps him to prehistoric times in order to ensure the survival of his ancestors. Cyril isn't sure how much worth he is to his clan, but he makes his presence known when he defeats Robotnik as The Bold-Headed Eagle. The Lynx is a Jynx proves to be helpful to his friends when Robotnik makes an unexpected attack on their home.

These tales will tickle those with a corny sense of humor. Fans of the comic series will either find them fun for nostalgia factor or interesting as a look back at what once was. Otherwise this is probably a volume best worst skipping.

Books in the Series:
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume 0
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume 1
Sonic the Hedgehog Archives Volume 2

Related Cartoon:
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

Friday, January 3, 2014

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk - Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish

Does your child seem to always forget to close the door or turn out the light? Is getting ready for bed a constant struggle of wills? Does your child take forever to get ready when you most need them to hurry? Maybe what both you and your child need is a different approach.

While children are not small adults, they are still autonomous beings with their own feelings and thoughts. Have you ever stopped to notice how parents, caretakers, or even you yourself interact with children? A child says "I'm tired" and the adult responds "Stop whining" or "No, you're not." The parent complains back or even denies the child's feelings. So what can the caretaker do instead?

Sometimes a child may just want acknowledgment of his or her feelings: "I know you are tired. So am I." Maybe the child wants options: "I know you are tired. Would you like to take a nap or read a book when we get home?"

Sometimes children need a simple reminder to do a chore: "Teeth" to remind them to brush their teeth. Sometimes they need to know they are responsible: "When you leave the milk out, it will turn sour. Let's make sure we have good milk for tomorrow's breakfast." Be sure to acknowledge what they are doing right and be specific. When a child is given something specific, they will learn how to improve "Thank you for making the bed. The comforter covers most of the bed." And perhaps next time you will find it covering the bed completely.

Multiple studies show that punishments, like no television or spankings, tend to only teach a child how to hide or lie about their bad behavior. So what can you do instead of punishment? Try negotiating: "I noticed you are always late for dinner. What can we do to get you home on time?" Make a list where both you and your child write down options. Go through it together and try to find a solution that works for both of you. You may be surprised that they ultimately choose what you want, or even use their own ingenuity to come up with something you'd never think of.

What if that child keeps doing the same thing wrong? You can try to renegotiate, and you may also try natural consequences. If your child is leaving tools out after borrowing them, you may have to lock the tools up. Notice how this is a consequence and not a punishment because it is directly related to what the child has done wrong.

While these techniques will not work with all children, this book provides a great toolbox for caretakers and parents to utilize. Readers may also find ways to use these techniques in daily life with other adults, as well.

Recommended Readings:
NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children - Po Bronson, Ashley Merryman
The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are - Kevin Leman
How Full is Your Bucket? - Tom Rath, , Ph.D. Donald O. Clifton