Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley

. . Clever Girl follows the life of Stella, the daughter of a single mother, from her childhood through middle age. The writing is spectacular. Hadley's prose made me feel as if I could see Stella's history and her current life all at once: Stella as the young girl I met at the beginning of the novel, and at the same time, Stella as the adult narrator, a mother with two children. However, I had issues with Stella's relationship with her mother and stepfather, as well as her connection to a creepy teacher who turns into a dear friend. The dynamic between Stella and these characters shifted suddenly and without much (if any) explanation. I had trouble believing or understanding…

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March 2014 Reading Wrap Up & Bloggiesta Finish Line

I read eight books during March! Three of them were very short (Stack, American Born Chinese, and I Kill the Mockingbird) so I think this was still an average-ish reading month for me. My review of Clever Girl posts tomorrow, and I'm hoping to have No Book but the World ready later this week.Bloggiesta Spring 2014 ended last night!I'm happy to say, I completed everything on my long to-do list, and made it to most of the Twitter chats. I ended up with new social media icons in my sidebar, a (very slightly) tweaked banner image above, and added a favicon to the site. I was also inspired by Friday afternoon's chat about the technical aspects of blogging, and finished up a post explaining how…

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Sympathetic People by Donna Baier Stein

. . .    These may be short stories, but each one is chock full of substance and detail. Donna Baier Stein has an understated, quiet way of capturing the reader's attention; no fuss, no showiness. Each story was engaging and satisfying ("News Feed" was probably my favorite), but I didn't exactly have any kind of "wow" response immediately upon finishing the collection. Instead, the stories stayed with me. I thought about those characters and their situations... and after they'd simmered in my mind for several days, all at once I felt the weight of how great this short story collection is. Sympathetic People is one I'd read again in the future, and I don't feel that way very often. Fantastic read.   Thanks…

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Drop-Down Menus In Blogger

I recently found a need to install drop-down menus in Blogger. I searched and searched the web, and after reading a bunch of tutorials, I was able to put all the info together to finally figure out exactly what I needed to do. What you see below is mostly based on the best of all the tutorials I found, with my own modifications for aesthetic purposes and added notes.   Drop-Down Menus in Blogger UPDATE (January 2015): This tutorial seems to work best with bloggers using the Picture Window or Simple templates. Bloggers using other templates have reported this process doesn't work as well (or at all). UPDATE (August 2015): I no longer use Blogger, so I'm unable to provide personal or updated help…

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The Remedy by Thomas Goetz

  The Remedy takes you through medical and literary history, right around the time the foundation was laid for modern medicine. Handwashing was controversial. Hospitals had open jars of ointment in the operating room, and surgeons would scoop out what they needed without washing their hands in between patients. This book made me thankful for germ theory. For basic hygiene. For vaccines! I couldn't wait to find out what happened next. I really got a feel for how relentless tuberculosis was, and how hopeless it seemed. Would the public be convinced of Koch's findings? Would other scientists be swayed? I found this book to be absolutely riveting, and that surprised me when I considered it's basically a non-fiction book about germs,…

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I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

. . I Kill the Mockingbird is such a clever novel! Best friends Lucy, Elena, and Michael come up with an idea to honor the memory of Mr. Nowak, one of their favorite teachers: They want to get everyone to want to read To Kill a Mockingbird. You know how sometimes demand increases as supply decreases? Well, their campaign feeds upon that effect, and quickly becomes bigger than they ever imagined! A backdrop to the novel is how Lucy and her family are dealing with the aftermath of her mother's cancer scare: "Books carried us away. They'd definitely carried me through this past year." This is handled in a positive but genuine way. I usually make copious notes to myself…

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Review: American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

. . American Born Chinese consists of three tandem narratives. A second generation immigrant and the only Chinese-American student at his new school in a predominantly white area, Jin Wang just wants to be a typical American boy. The immortal Monkey King is a proud kung fu master who is trying to become more than just a monkey. And all-American Danny is embarrassed by his Chinese cousin Chin-Kee, who puts every Chinese stereotype into loud, off-putting action. As I read along, I wondered what, if anything, these storylines had to do with each other. Were they merely different perspectives on common themes, since all three addressed issues such as racism and intolerance? When the connections between these three narratives were revealed: wow!…

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Raising Readers Through Wordless Picture Books

My preschooler has reached an interesting stage. She's been working through Reading Eggs and can read most of the books in set 1 of the Bob Books, but it's still so new that the effort tires her out quickly. I'm always watching closely to make sure I'm not pushing her and her enthusiasm toward books stays high.When I noticed C reading Good Dog, Carl to her stuffed animals one afternoon, I realized how powerful wordless picture books could be. What a great way to spark the imagination, foster a love for reading, and give children an "I can do it all by myself" feeling!Since Good Dog, Carl is the only wordless picture book we own, I headed over to the library to find others. Here…

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The Big Tiny by Dee Williams

  After being diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, Dee Williams started to re-examine her life, her possessions, and what matters most to her. She decided to build an 84-square-foot tiny house on a flatbed trailer, from scratch, on her own. I'm fascinated by the idea of living in such a small space, especially one that can be moved from place to place. The author's introspection gave me a lot to reflect upon personally, and it was fascinating to read about how she went about downsizing her life. However, Williams would often jump around in her narrative, following rabbit trails as she reminisced, skipping around in time, and that detracted from a sense of coherence. Scattered as it…

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