Book Review – Son by Lowis Lowry


Buy Son (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: Son
Author: Lowis Lowry
Print Length: 405 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0547887205
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; Reissue edition (October 2, 2012)
Language: English
ASIN: B008454X2Y
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive? She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice. Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

The stories we love best do live in us forever – J.K. Rowling at the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 London Premier (July 2011)

While this is so true, I think good ole’ J.K. forget one thing. Some stories haunt us forever. Son by Lowis Lowry is one such book. In fact, the entire Giver Quartet applies.

I can still remember the first time I encountered The Giver several years ago. My then teenage nephew recommended I read it after having been required to read it in an English class. Nephew and I enjoyed talking books: Harry Potter, Eragon. So when he suggested it, I listened. Especially since it didn’t sound like the same sort of books he usually read and he was very emphatic about this story.

Since I was doing a lot of driving at the time,  I picked up audio books from my library to pass the time. The Giver took such firm hold of my imagination and my emotions I couldn’t wait for the next drive to hear the ending. I popped it in the CD player while folding laundry one afternoon. I had solitude because Minions #1 & 2 were at school and I think I might have been pregnant for Minion #3. Anyway, I was absent-mindedly folding socks and T-shirts while I listened in fear and suspense to the ending of The Giver.

For those of you who have read, you’ll know what I am talking about. For those of you who haven’t, I won’t ruin anything, but it was a cliffhanger. Except, I wasn’t sure. Desperately I searched the CD case for the missing disc. It couldn’t end like that! Had someone forgotten to put a disc back? How could my trusted librarian have put it back on the shelf with a missing disc?! But no, there were just enough CDs for the slots allotted. It was not missing a disc.

Incensed, fearful, heartbroken, I pulled out my computer and fired up the trusty internet. Tear were rolling unbidden down my cheeks, the laundry forgotten. My only concern was discovering the fate of Jonas and Gabe. How could Lowry do this to me? It was cruel. it was heartless. I was deeply affected.

When I discovered there were two more books in the series, I was able to calm my ragged emotions, but needless to say I had to read those books and soon. Neither of the next two left me disappointed either. The stories are moving, the characters complex and believable, and the underlying messages both disturbing and beautiful. Lowry has the power to take away from a character that which we prize the most deep in our hearts, but maybe take for granted. The reader is left moved and changed by the experience of reading her lovely prose and heart shattering stories. Even her happy endings are bittersweet, as any true life journey should be.

My expectations were high when I found Son at my library. It had been years since I had read her other books, and based on some recent experiences of completing a series I once loved, only to be disappointed in the writing, I was nervous. Would this be ruined for me too? I hoped not, because my intense memories of Lowry’s previous books are treasured, if poignant and troubling. I did not want this experience taken from me.

I was not disappointed. In fact, Son may have been even more special to me because of the subject matter. Having had five children of my own, I could empathize with Claire’s loss and love. When she begins to become attached to her Product, I cheer for her emotions to take root, growing into the loving tree I know motherhood to be. Okay, that might have been a little bit of purple prose, and motherhood is not always blooming flowers and sunshine, but we’ll forget that for now.

The reader is reintroduced to many characters from the other three books, tying up story lines that may have been left untended. We see Jonas’ father from a different perspective, which was a great touch as his reactions from Jonas’ view were disturbing to me. They are still disturbing, but seeing more of him, understanding more was a special treat I enjoyed.

Other than a slightly lagging middle, and I say only slightly, because I was anxious for Claire to find her son, the suspense and tension move the story along smoothly. It had me reading frantically through the last quarter of the book (much as I did for the previous novels) in a rush to know the story. But finding her son is not the only plot line, and as I said before, the other characters are wrapped up, if not with a bow, at least neatly. Lessons are learned, prices are paid, and while I was satisfied with the ending, it still left me with sorrow for all that had been lost. These are the stories that haunt us forever. Those that end with a new beginning, but do not erase the pain of the journey.

My review: 4.5/5 stars (1/2 point for that lagging middle)

Please share your thoughts if you have read any of The Giver Quartet. Even if you didn’t love them. I’ll try not to hold it against you! 🙂 But I’d love to hear whether you enjoyed them as I did.


Buy The Giver (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com


Buy Gathering Blue (Giver Quartet)on Amazon.com


Buy Messenger (Giver Quartet) on Amazon.com

The Obligatory Mommy Blog: Home improvement shows and why they suck!

00250-cartoon-tv-vectors-1013tm-setsv

So I don’t actually watch a lot of home improvement/DIY/remodel/resale etc. TV shows anymore, but I’ve seen quite a few in my time. They’re an easy thing to tune in while eating lunch or feeding a baby a bottle. And easy to turn off when you’re done. Since the “babies” drink their bottles while running around the house now, that sit down time is pretty limited.

http---makeagif.com--media-6-21-2014-iaxGXu

I used to watch them, back when we were remodeling our 1920’s house. Boy, did they have some great—I mean difficult—I mean insane—ideas. Of course we had to try some of them, with varying success. It’s always, “Oh, it’s so easy!” or “This is a very cost effective option!” Yeah, I think your idea of cost effective and mine are like Darth Vadar and Luke on the Dark Side spectrum, okay?

Darth_vader_luke_skywalker

Image courtesy of The Solid Six Wiki

Now I limit my viewing time to when my mother-in-law visits. She pretty much only watches HGTV, Hallmark and Tigers baseball. Don’t get me wrong, she’d never demand anything be put on the TV, but if Grandma’s helping me with my little terrors—I mean angels—then she can watch WHATEVER she wants. She does so much for all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I’d deny her nothing. Except another grandchild!

Anyway, there’s a lot to pick apart on these “helpful” shows. Like how they try to make everything look so easy, when it’s not. Or how they spruce up the place with paint, new furnishings and Presto! everything looks new and beautiful and clean. But you know what really gets me? It’s the Before and After pics. Before, there are shoes on the floor, toys in every corner and dishes in the sink. After, it’s all disappeared. Where does it go? Yeah, I know they build in some storage and organize and what not, but something doesn’t look right. I’m no math and science major, and I’ve never taken a physics class in my life, but even I know that the total mass of junk shown in the Before pictures, does not equal the total mass of non-junk displayed in the After photos. Something’s missing . . .

Pic courtesy of Wkipedia

Pic courtesy of Wkipedia

Of course, they threw the stuff away, or tossed it in the basement out of the pictures. But that’s not real life. Anyone who’s ever tried to pry a rocket ship made from a pop bottle, cardboard and duct tape from the hands of a determined six-year-old knows it ain’t that easy!

photo

They treasure that junk like throwing it away would start the zombie-apocalypse. Sometimes I think zombies would be easier to deal with than kids on cleaning day. I bet if some TV show came through my house they could make it sparkle too, and maybe reduce the collection of things we don’t need. (Yes, I’m staring at you piano, that no one can play, but Hubby holds out some fond desire of having a musician in the family!) But just try to do it when the family is home. I dare you!

I’d like to see a show where the hosts have to work with a realistic budget. They can’t buy any decorative items, new dishes, wall hangings or fancy lamps. And why do they put breakable items on end tables for a house with six kids? Seriously? My twins would have those shattered in 2.3 seconds. They have to work with what is in the house and only buy materials like paint, carpet, trim, etc. And they have to put EVERYTHING back in the house somewhere. And show pictures of it. They can dispose of some items, I guess, but the kids have to be present. And the hosts have to listen to the crying, screaming, breakdowns that ensue for as long as they last. Every. Miserable. Second.

A little girl with a sad face

Am I alone? Does everybody else love the unrealistic expectations created by DIY TV? Or what is the one thing you love to hate about home improvement shows?

What Do YA Readers WANT?!!

alphabet-tech-color-punt-quest-012714-swa

Wouldn’t we authors like to know! Preferably, a good two years before YA readers actually want it, so we can write, edit, publish and market just in time to reach your ever changing moods, er needs. Just kidding. I read as much YA as the average teen, possibly more, so we’re in the same boat. I have wants of my own, and I also want to write a book that will resonate with readers.

Lucky for you, we have a little—just a little—insight into this very question. Recently Teens Can Write Too! ran a blog chain entitled What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? All of the respondents are teens who blog and write beyond their blogs. In fact, quite a few of them have some pretty amazing things to say, so when you’re finished reading this, check out their posts too.

While I was patiently—or not so patiently—waiting each day to read a new teen’s perspective on what they’d like to see published, I was also following a thread on Absolute Write entitled What would you like to see more or less of in YA? Between the two I was reading some great ideas about what books should be published in YA.

247-1013-A0250

Light bulb moment: I should compile the information and write a blog post about it!

Stress. Woman stressed

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The sheer mass of data was daunting. It’s taken me hours to compile it into any sort of usable format. You can check the data here if you like. But I’ll try to make some kind of intelligent response, since I promised I would, and I always keep my promises!

Part of the problem is that I didn’t really know what I was doing while compiling the data. Now that I’m finished, I might have done it a little differently, but there is no way I’m doing it over again! It’s like having a term paper almost finished two days before it’s due, and realizing you should have taken a different approach. No ‘A’ is worth the work it would take to start over. Sorry, but I have a life. 🙂

And what everyone wants is as diverse as the respondents themselves. I saw everything from wanting fan fiction traditionally published to requesting a book from the POV of a toddler! Funnily enough, I did have the idea to write a novel about babies and toddlers who turn into teens when they fall asleep and wake up in a fantasy adventure. Yeah, I haven’t written that one yet.

But there were some clear winners, and losers, so if you want the nitty-gritty details, check out the data, but I’ll give you an overview of the most common responses in this post.

alphabet_1100012956-1013int

22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums.

 

Dragon

Fantasy received the most votes for a genre with at least 34% of respondents requesting more in some form. I say at least because it was one of those cases where I would have tallied the votes differently in hind sight. I might have missed a few votes asking for a specific aspect of Fantasy without actually requesting Fantasy in and of itself. Anyway, you get the point.

There wasn’t any one type of Fantasy that was a stand-out winner, but many different kinds were mentioned. In fact, I got the impression that readers would like to see more pure, traditional fantasy, not other types of stories posing as Fantasy, i.e. Romance set in a Fantasy world, Dystopian set in a Fantasy world, etc. The one thing they did not want to see was more Fantasy worlds based on Medieval Europe or books based on Western (Greek/Roman) Mythology. Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian and Celtic were mentioned (I know Celtic is Western, but at least it’s something other than Zeus and Poseidon!)

eye

On a similar note, Science Fiction, which 17% of respondents requested more of, also seemed to center on more pure forms of its original genre. Readers especially seemed to dislike Dystopian disguised as Science Fiction. They want to see robots, cyborgs, cool technology that’s not the bad guy, and fun adventures that explore new worlds and revel in the joy of future technology and uncharted worlds.

Dystopia was a mixed bag with 9 readers wanting more while 5 wanted less or none. One thing was fairly clear though. Readers want something different than the tried-and-true Dystopia we’ve been experiencing over the last few years. Diversity, LGBTQ+, new settings, and most importantly, move away from the cliched tropes. No big, bad, government that’s outlawed something as the end-all of society and the rebel character fighting against it.

Re-tellings as a category received 10 nods, with respondents asking for non-traditional and non-European fairy tales, classics, Shakespeare, mash-ups and even re-tellings of Anne of Green Gables. One interesting note: only 1 of the 10 votes for re-tellings came from the unidentified age group. Clearly, teens are more interested in re-tellings than their older counterparts who read YA books.

Other than specific genres, another winner was seeing more Families in YA. 26% wanted to see healthy family units in some form, whether it’s present parents, quirky families, complex sibling dynamics, big families and any of the aforementioned relationships being the main emotional stake of the story.

valentines-day_1100011024-1013int

One of the clear losers was Romance. Not so much the genre of Romance, but rather romance in YA books in whatever genre it happens to appear. 26% of readers said they are completely tired of or would like to see less romance in YA books. 18% said they’d like to see fewer or no love triangles and no “insta love” stories. 9 respondents asked for healthy teen love relationships with a wide variety of realistic relationship requests from LGBTQ+ to mutual breakups to relationships that end and the characters actually learn from them.

kids-rainbow-background-1113tm-bkgd-116

While there were many other responses I could talk about, the last one I’m going to discuss is Diversity. This was another category with a broad scope that I wish I had compiled the data differently. For example, 12 respondents requested diversity in all forms, while 16 specifically said they want novels where the diversity is not the issue of the book. I could have tallied all respondents that called for diversity in any form and had a large number of people wanting something more from their YA, but I didn’t do it that way. And since some readers requested multiple kinds of diversity, I couldn’t just add up all the specific requests because the number would have been inflated.

Anyway, over and over again I heard YA readers saying they wanted to read more about people of color, characters of all sexual orientations, people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, neuro-diversity and ethnic people living their culture in contemporary and futuristic settings. The one overriding theme to all of this was the diversity needed to be a part of a character’s life, and the readers want to see how it affects their lives, but it can’t be the point of the book. They want to see people of color in fantasy, a teen detective with Chron’s disease, a wheel chair bound action hero, and romance between characters of all sexual orientations. Those examples are made up based on some of the comments I read, but they’re pretty spot on from the types of diverse ideas they want to see written. They want to see a cross-section of America, and in some cases the world, that isn’t white, Christian and straight.

So, how do we use this information? Well, first of all it would be great to see agents and publishers take a look because my agent research has indicated that agents are looking for Contemporary right now. Yet that had extremely low response numbers from this completely unscientific poll. Unfortunately I don’t have any agents or publishers that follow my blog, so chances are slim for that. 😉

I guess, if you see your book in these results, then congratulations! Get working and get it published! If you see some inspiration in any or several of the requests made by these responses, then once again, get busy! You’ve got some writing to do! But, if you see your book in some of the requests for NO MORE!, well, don’t despair. Even these YA readers couldn’t all agree on what they wanted, so there are readers out there for all kinds of novels. Just keep writing what you love. It’s all any of us can do!

What Do YA Readers Want? – Data

22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums. This is the data.

The responses are organized and tallied as close as possible into pertinent categories with relevant subheadings. If a response has two numbers, the first is from the teen respondent group. If it has only one number, it could be from either group. If it has no number then it is either just a heading that no one specifically requested, or only one person requested it. Though I put things in my words for clarity, sometimes I used the respondents exact words. You should be able to tell!

Check out my post What Do YA Readers WANT?!! where I discuss the results.

22 Teen Respondents + 40 Unidentified Respondents

  • POV
    • Male (2) + (3) = 5
    • Multiple POVs (1) + (4) = 5Less first person POV (3)
      • Third person with multi POVs (4)
    • No series where each book is from a different person’s POV
  • ROMANCE – (Existence of, not genre)
    • Tired of Romance or less romance (7) + (9) = 16
      • More topics about things kids deal with
      • Sexual uncertainty and ambiguity
      • Characters embrace singularity
      • Tired of great stories being steamrolled by romance
    • LGBTQ+ Romance (4)
      • Not just 2 guys: explore other couple dynamics (2)
    • Less or no love triangles (5) + (6) = 11
      • Unless done well
      • At least change 2 boys after one girl formula
      • Don’t have girl end up with the guy who treated her like dirt
      • Make MC be the one who is chosen, not the chooser
    • Real love triangles with LGBTQ+ characters
      • a likes b, but b likes c, and c likes a
    • Clean Romance
    • Healthy teen love relationships (3) + (6) = 9
      • Romance done well w/ a slow build and deep commitment (2)
      • No abusive relationships with happy ending
    • Less “one true” or “insta” love (11)
      • See relationships fail
      • Be happy alone
      • Romances that don’t have happy ending
      • Relationships that end mutually
      • Stories where you learn from failed romance
      • Accepting flaws in partner and learning to live w/ problems
    • Books without romance, or at least where lack of romance isn’t central issue (2)
    • More romance
    • No more romances between “good girl” and paranormal “bad boy” (2)
      • At least reverse the cliché
    • Less glorified first kiss, first time having sex, etc.
    • YA satire of teens and their multiple forever-love affairs
  • DIVERSITY
    • Diversity in general (9) + (3) = 12
      • All forms
      • Not secondary characters
      • Asian or half-Asian
      • Help those of us who don’t care about seeing diversity have an opportunity to see it
      • Chronically ill
      • Physically disabled
    • LGBTQ+ Characters (4) + (5)
      • Romance
      • Explore all kinds of orientation
      • Question sexuality and don’t necessarily resolve by end of book
      • Gay older mentor characters shouldn’t be stereotypical
      • Friendships between LGBTQ+ characters and also straight characters
      • Asexual characters
      • Honest-to-God Lesbians
    • LGBTQ+ Series
    • No diversity issues (8) + (8) = 16
    • Characters w/ diverse hobbies
    • Diverse group of misfits
    • Ethnic Americans living their culture (5)
      • Contemporary stories
      • Futuristic stories (2)
      • Afrotruism (3)
    • Diverse authors writing about their own culture
    • Characters of color where color is not the issue (4)
    • Translations of international YA books
    • Characters with disabilities (2)
      • Disability not the issue
    • Neuro-diversity (2)
      • Important to character development but not the issue of the novel
      • Like Carrie in Homeland – bipolar, but not the story
  • CHARACTERS
    • Detailed character descriptions – paint a picture
    • Female
      • Smart nerdy girl who gets the hot guy
      • Diversity in female fantasy characters
      • Believable females – not always kick-ass, can be weak, intelligent, have to deal w/ emotions, solve problems w/ intelligence not brawn
      • Strong female characters (4)
        • Bad-ass girly girls like Buffy (2)
    • Well developed characters
    • White characters should get sunburned
    • More anti-heroes who carve their own way to hell (2) + (3) = 5
      • Morally ambiguous
      • POV of antagonist
      • Don Draper
      • Walter White
      • Also females
      • Use chessmaster skills to achieve their means
    • Homeless characters in a big city
    • Books from POV of toddler
    • Families (4) + (12) = 16
      • Big families (2)
      • Present parents (1) + (5) = 6
      • Healthy family units
      • Quirky/original family dynamics (3)
      • Rich, complicated sibling dynamics
      • Relationships focused on friends/siblings/parents not LI (4)
    • Characters who step out of their bubble
    • Large cast of characters with secondary characters we care about (7)
      • Quirky secondary characters
      • No more lame secondary characters who only exist to highlight MCs perfections/purity (2)
    • Fewer quirky characters who only like media from past generations
    • Quirky fun characters
    • Characters who learn from mistakes; especially communication
    • Complex adults – less stock or cardboard adult characters
    • Less sarcasm, snark and characters who try too hard to be funny
    • Less “chosen ones” in stories that don’t follow the structure
    • Less angst ridden orphans with black hair
    • Characters from the southern United States
    • Normal, likable religious characters who are not hypocritical
    • Kind-hearted/nice/benevolent rich/privileged protagonists
    • Characters who aren’t rich or privileged
  • PLOT
    • No books w/ open endings
    • Tired of MC has to change the world
    • Plot like National Treasure where unconnected clues lead to big finale
    • Less commercially viable formulas and more unexpected (3)
      • MG quirkiness
      • Unpredictable plot twists
    • Well researched and not cliched or stereotypical
    • Road trip stories
    • Realistic deaths
    • Less characters being confronted by overwhelming odds only to be saved by someone else at the last second
    • Deal with social topics (4)
      • Politics
      • Ethics
      • Religion
      • Real issues that aren’t afraid to be dark
      • Male POV
      • Characters who suffer from slut-shaming and bullying is actually addressed (2)
        • Victim responds by becoming successful and moving on
    • Less depressing books (4)
      • No grief/suicide as main issue (2)
    • Optimistic fun adventures (2)
    • Family as main emotional stake (2)
    • Plot driven books with twists and turns (2)
    • No megacorp/government bad guys and resistance good guys (6)
      • or reverse it, how about average citizen comes in conflict with more than one-note government
    • Unpredictable twists, especially in mysteries and thrillers
    • No more mean girls/bullies against MC (2)
  • SETTINGS
    • Unusual settings (2)
    • Locations other than U.S. (1) + (6) = 7Settings in the southern United States
      • Obscure countries
      • Coming of age stories in obscure countries
      • Stories about people of different cultures in those cultures
      • Scotland
      • Asian location with Asian characters
    • Vivid settings that pay close attention to details (2)
      • Not average American town with no distinguishing features
  • GENRE
    • Fantasy (9) + (12) = 21
      • LOTR
      • Dragons
      • LGBTQ+ (2)
      • Sea stories
      • Diversity (2) + (2) = 4
        • Non-white MC
      • High/epic (1) + (2) = 3
      • Mermaids (1) + (1) = 2
      • No vampires
      • Non-Greek/Roman mythology (2) + (1) = 3
      • Egyptian mythology
      • Celtic Mythology
      • Non-western mythologies
        • Japanese
        • Chinese
      • More books like SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series
      • More Arthurian legend books like Gerald Morris’
      • Second world fantasy with well-constructed world
      • Not medieval England-like setting (2)
      • Diverse Settings
      • Multiversal
      • Powerful female characters
      • Cool magic systems (3)
      • No more steampunk
      • Lady pirates (could be historical fiction too)
      • No more fantasy or speculative fiction
    • Magical Realism and Paranormal
      • Cool magic systems (3)
      • Less paranormal
      • New paranormal beings besides vampires, werewolves, angels, etc.
      • Less realism and more surrealism – cross-over contemporary with paranormal (2)
      • Less supernatural academies
      • Urban Fantasies (2)
        • Settings other than NY
        • Settings in Europe other than Victorian London
        • Everything but the kitchen sink – not just one supernatural being
    • Science Fiction (4) + (6) = 10
      • Pure sci-fi
      • Cyborgs & robots (1) + (1) = 2
        • Giant robots
      • LGBTQ+
      • Diversity of all kinds
      • Not dystopia (1) + (2) = 3
      • Space opera (2)
      • Diverse Settings
      • Multi-planet, plane or dimension
      • Fun adventures where science and technology are desirable, not the bad guy
      • High powered settings with flashy powerful magic or technology
    • Contemporary (2)
      • More books like John Green’s
      • More books like WONDER
      • Less issue books
      • Realistic summer camps
      • Less John Green clones
      • Less Eleanor & Park clones
      • No more contemporaries based on a big secret that’s revealed later in book
    • Dystopia (2) + (7) = 9
      • No or less dystopia (1) + (4) = 5
        • Especially post-apocalyptic cliche
      • LGBTQ+ especially w/ romance subplot
      • Well-constructed worlds that pass logic test
      • Outside U.S. Settings
      • Move away from tropes and cliches (2)
        • Controlling government
        • Ceremony signaling adulthood at beginning
        • One-not government tyranny (love outlawed or something)
        • Use other forms of dystopian
    • Re-tellings (10)
      • Fairy Tale (5) + (1) = 6
        • Non-typical fairy tales (2)
      • Shakespeare (2)
      • Classic literature
      • Mash ups (2)
      • Anne of Green Gables
    • Historical Fiction (7) + (1) = 8
      • Based on an event, not romance
      • French Revolution
      • Braveheart
      • Asia
      • LGBTQ+ (2)
      • Diversity of all kinds
      • Historical mixed with fantasy/immortality/time travel
      • Fiction books on The Monuments men and how they recovered the art
      • All kinds
      • Include 20th century
      • More 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and centered around music
    • Mysteries (6) + (4) = 10Post-apocalyptic
      • Agatha Christie (2)
      • Dorothy Sayers
      • Irene Hannon
      • Dee Henderson
      • Prolific
      • Teen detectives that aren’t Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys
    • Thriller/Suspense/Espionage (3)
      • YA books similar to Tom Clancy’s books
      • More Ian Fleming/John Gardner type James Bond (less girls, more guns)
      • Books like those written by Jill Patton Walsh (detective?)
    • Horror (2)
      • Contemporary
      • Psychological
    • Creative genres (1) + (1) = 2Alternate histories
      • mix it up with sub genres
      • Don’t just stick to establishment
      • Like Grasshopper Jungle
    • Classics (2)
      • Oscar Wilde
    • Literary
      • Books that focus on word craft like Catcher in the Rye and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
      • Not purple prose
  • RANDOM
    • Fan Fic/Books by friends/Books by me (4)
    • More series (2)
    • More humor (4) + (1) = 5The last of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place books
      • Hitchhiker’s Guide
      • Clean
      • Subtle and intelligent
      • Absurdist but meaningful
      • Puns
    • Groundbreaking books
    • YA with illustrations like Miss Peregrine’s
    • Scrafy in the Middle
    • A YA novel/series akin to Welcome to Night Vale Podcast series
    • Stand alones
    • Stories influenced by anime/manga
    • No clones of anything already big
    • Unique format like Where’d You Go, Bernadette, or Lover’s Dictionary
    • Originality
    • Weirdness/ambiguity

There’s something special about Minion #3 . . .

IMG_4175

CNN was bound and determined to make me cry this morning. First, they ran the story of Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, a former Olympic gold-medalist swimmer for the U.S. who has been paralyzed in an accident. She was inspirational and so positive and the type of story that makes you tell yourself that your first-world problems can be overcome if she can overcome this.

Then we get the story of Jake Daniels, a seven-year-old boy who beat Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and heard that David Quessenberry, a football player, has the same disease, so he made a Youtube video to inspire him.

Finally, to really get the tears flowing, commercials come on and it’s a commercial of a mother taking care of a special needs boy. You see his struggles, and her struggles to help him, all the while filling his life with love. She also mentions his stay in the NICU which always hits home for me after my own twins spent 2 1/2 months there.

I couldn’t even breath, I was trying to hold the tears back so hard. But no, we weren’t done yet. As I’m wiping moisture from my eyes, my six-year-old speaks up:

Minion #3: Mom, I want to be just like that little boy

Me: (Choking back more tears) Why is that buddy?

Minion #3: Because . . . he’s trying new things, just like he tried to pour his milk back in the container, but he spilled it, and that’s okay. I want to be like him.

Me: (seriously, I’m a waterfall) Well, that’s a good thing. And you can try new things too.

Minion #3: Yeah, he’s really special.

He didn’t mention the braces on the kid’s legs, or that the commercial shows him fighting his mom when they try to wash up for bed and brush his teeth. He didn’t point out his trouble walking or that the mom steps out on the porch after the boy is in bed because she needs a moment to collect herself. He saw that a little boy with difficulties was trying new things even though they were hard for him. If only we all could see the world through the eyes of my little boy!

Ninja Training Birthday Party

IMG_3999

For Minion #3’s 6th birthday, he asked for a Ninja Party, so my hubby and I came up with this great idea to create a Ninja Training Birthday Party! For all the paperware I ordered through Birthday Express. Plates, cups, invitations, thank yous, favor boxes, favors, balloons. Pretty much most of it came from here.

ninja party ware

For the favor boxes we filled Chinese take out boxes with toys, candy and stickers. (Didn’t get a pic. I wasn’t in charge of the camera and the cameraman didn’t know what I wanted!)

96213

Before the party I made Ninja headbands for all the kids. I used a simple white cotton fabric I purchased from Walmart. It was pretty cheap. Maybe $2 a yard. I bought way more than I needed because the blog post I consulted said to make the headbands 4″ wide. I ended up making them 2″ wide which was plenty for their little heads. They were 36″ long (the width of the fabric) and I ironed on a heat fusing backing that was about $2 a yard as well. It keeps the edges of the cotton fabric from fraying. I did this before cutting into 2″ strips.

Once I had the strips, I downloaded a creative font to make Japenese-looking letters called Japonesa from Da Font.com. For those of you, like me, who don’t know how to add a font to your existing word processing program, here’s the link I used for OpenOffice. It might help you as well. Once this was done, I made a document with all the kids names using the cool new font and setting the font size to 100. After printing, I had a great stencil to put the names on the bands.

IMG_3990

Using a Sharpie Fabric pen, I outlined and colored in all the names. All 24. And only 13 or so came, but hey, I wasn’t going to have any disappointed kiddos. I even made them for some little sisters I thought might show up!

IMG_3989

And here’s the final product! They must have liked them, because they kept them on the whole party!

IMG_4005

We also used the Japonesa font to make huge numbers on red paper for the Ninja obstacle course we set up. They were a little hard to read, but they helped set the scene!

As for decorations, I tied red, white, and black streamers to the tree in the front yard and pretty much everything else I could find. Once again, didn’t get a great pic, but it was really cool seeing all those streamers blowing in the wind. We also had Ninja balloons I purchased from Amazon, and they come in to play later with the obstacle course as well.

The main attraction for the party (besides my adorable son) was the Ninja Training Obstacle Course. We started at the rock climbing wall on the play fort, worked down the curly slide, back up a ladder and down another slide.

IMG_4006

IMG_4017

Then we proceeded to the backyard where we had some games set up.

IMG_4029

The kids had to toss a volleyball into a large flower pot, throw Ninja discs at a velcro board, throw mini frisbees into a frisbee golf target and knock ping pong balls off toilet paper tubes with paper ninja throwing stars.

IMG_4013

We painted toilet paper and paper towel tubes red, then hot glued them to a board so they wouldn’t fall over. My hubby made the throwing stars, calling on sixth grade memories to do it. The directions I found online were far more difficult than how he did it, but I’m still mystified.

This is the ninja velcro board I bought on Amazon.

Here’s where those ninja balloons came into play. Attached to weights, the kids had to punch their way through to the next Ninja Test. Hint: the black ones will pop in the hot sun!

IMG_4010

My hubby set the Training Course up, but the jewel of his obstacle course was the Laser Challenge. First, he attached pool noodles to rope and strung them from the ceiling of our big, white tent. Then he used red yarn to create a “laser” maze that the kids had to climb through. It was by far the favorite obstacle and the kids came back to it again and again after everyone had their full turn.

IMG_4031 IMG_4023 IMG_4039

That last one is Minion #3 pretending his arm was lasered-off after touching the “red hot” strings!

When they’d had their fill of Ninja Training, we at finger foods, most of which the little ninjas were too busy to eat. Then we moved onto cake and ice cream, which of course they all had room for.

IMG_4081

Making cakes for my kids is sort of a hobby of mine. I love it! They’re getting better every year. This is a white cake with two layers for the bottom and two for the top. I made my own white frosting, which I’ve only done one other time. It turned okay the first time, but it was amazing this time! I followed a recipe, but made a few changes for my own taste. Even my sister asked where I got the frosting, since she knew I made the cake. She thought I got it straight from a bakery!

Frosting Recipe:

1 cup butter

1 cup shortening

1 1/2 tsp CLEAR vanilla (if you want white frosting)

1/8 tsp almond extract

2 lbs confectioners sugar

5-7 tbsp half-n-half

Cream butter, shortening, vanilla and almond extract together. Will be very thick. I’d recommend leaving butter out for a little bit to soften. I used my hand mixer, but I’m going to have to get something more heavy duty if I’m going to make frosting on a regular basis.

Slowly add confectioners sugar a little at a time until sugar is blended in.

Add half-n-half one tbsp at a time until you reach the right consistency for your project. Since I didn’t plan on any decorations and I wanted to frost the cake smooth, I ended up using all 7 tbsp. If you’re going to make flowers and things out of frosting you’ll need the frosting to be stiffer.

For the red stripes, red circle and black dragon, I used Wilton’s colored sugar sheets.

I free-handed the stripes and I used a bowl to get the circle. You can cut easily with scissors or an exacto craft knife. (Not a box cutter!) For the dragon, I photo copied one of the napkins, shrinking it to the right size. Cut it out of the paper, then used the paper as a stencil to cut out of the sugar sheet with an exacto knife. The sugar sheets adhere to the frosting pretty well, but I had to very lightly wet the back of the dragon with a paint brush to get it to stick to the other sugar sheet. Also, the red stripes broke at the 90-degree bend by the the time of the party, so they don’t bend the greatest. Plus, you shouldn’t refrigerate or cover the cake before the party because the sugar sheets will absorb moisture from the frosting and get gooey if you do.

Oh, and here are the “bomb” candles we used. We used them for the super hero cake I did last year too!

 

So that’s about it. If you’re interested in more Ninja party ideas, check out my Pinterest Board: Ninja Party

I have to add these cute pics of Minions #4 & 5 thinking they’re big boys and eating ice cream at the picnic table!

IMG_4088 IMG_4087

Yeah, so I did it again!

20140617-141946-51586195.jpg

Not only do I still have two library books to read and several from my last post about my TBR pile, but I got two more from the library today: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I also bought a Beverly Cleary at a garage sale for Minion #3 and found the original Mary Poppins by PL Travers that my husband and I have been wanting to read to him since we saw the movie about her. Do you think there’s therapy sessions for bookworms?

Book Review – The Shade of the Moon by Susan Beth Pfeffer


Buy The Shade of the Moon (Life As We Knew It Series) on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Title: The Shade of the Moon
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: Life As We Knew It Series (Book 4)
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 13, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547813376
ISBN-13: 978-0547813370
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars

I purchased this e-book through Amazon.com

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com

The eagerly awaited addition to the series begun with the New York Times best-seller Life As We Knew It, in which a meteor knocks the moon off its orbit and the world changes forever.

It’s been more than two years since Jon Evans and his family left Pennsylvania, hoping to find a safe place to live, yet Jon remains haunted by the deaths of those he loved. His prowess on a soccer field has guaranteed him a home in a well-protected enclave. But Jon is painfully aware that a missed goal, a careless word, even falling in love, can put his life and the lives of his mother, his sister Miranda, and her husband, Alex, in jeopardy. Can Jon risk doing what is right in a world gone so terribly wrong?

Is there something wrong with me? Have I become cynical and too critical? Did becoming a writer mean death to my unadulterated enjoyment of fiction?

Yes, I’m being overly dramatic, but I have a reason. Really. You see, eight years ago I decided to become a writer. I did this mostly in a vacuum, writing and editing with no outside input and no effort into studying my craft. Consequently, when reading other’s published books, I could concentrate on the story, the characters, the way it made me feel.

Fast forward several years and we get to the point in my life where I started interacting with other writers, receiving and giving critique, reading books, articles, and blog posts on writing, and reading critically. It wasn’t overnight, but I learned.

Which brings me to now, and my difficulty enjoying said stories without thinking about how the author could have written it better. Don’t jump to conclusions and think I’m saying that I am a better writer. What I’m saying is, I recognize good writing now, where I didn’t before. My ability to create it is still in question.

So what does that have to do with The Shade of the Moon? Well, when I read the first three novels in the series several years ago, I loved them. Absolutely loved them. The characters, the plot, the utter dismal outlook and unabashed look at how life would be if Pfeffer’s world came true. Yet, they were still written for a teen audience. Pfeffer didn’t shy away from the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world, she just didn’t revel unnecessarily in the details. It worked for me. Tell me there’s mud, but don’t make me wallow in it. I come equipped with my own imagination and I love an author who lets me use it.

Needless to say I was looking forward to reading this fourth, and sounds like final, installment in the series, so imagine my disappointment when the writing didn’t measure up to my memories of the past novels. I think I can explain some of this without saying Pfeffer is a bad writer. Because she’s not. She’s older, in fact after this book she decided to retire after thirty years and 78 books. 78 books! Can you imagine that? But Pfeffer is from a different time, a different era, where books for teens and children were written in a more simplistic manner. And she continued that style through out her career. There is a natural simplicity to her work that although it can be called telling, not showing, it’s good telling. **deep breath** I’m afraid I will be critical of Pfeffer’s writing in this review, but keep all that I’ve already said in mind as you read.

This book started out a little slow for me. Combined with the conflicts I felt about the writing style made it difficult to fully invest in the story and the characters. We are introduced to Jon’s point of view, which is something I enjoyed about Pfeffer’s previous novels. They are not all from the same person’s POV. But there was a lot to catch up on. It’s been two years since the characters left Pennsylvania in hopes of finding a safe enclave with the three passes they have. This is where the book gets a little sticky. Some characters have died. Some have married. Some are pregnant. And there’s a whole list of new characters and terms to learn and get used to. Suffice it to say there’s a lot to remember. Which was another problem, albeit something I can live with.

One interesting difference between this book and the previous three is that it is not just post-apocalyptic. It borders on dystopia. Or at least it gives some insight into how a dystopian society could start. It’s actually quite chilling how Pfeffer slowly brings you into the scary world Jon lives in. I never really liked Jon the entire story, but you could sympathize with him and understand why he did the things he did. Pfeffer shows us how one could be seduced by a sense of entitlement combined with the fear of losing it, justifying all kinds of atrocities to yourself. The slow build intensifying the fear and uncertainty as you progressed through the story was done well.

Another thing she does well is the bad guys. Through bits of dialog and many actions Pfeffer demonstrates the psyche, however twisted, behind the mindset of these people. It’s truly sickening, but unfortunately realistic. I could imagine these people existing. Who they were before the PA event and who they are after. They’re in control of this country now, and God help us if they ever get unlimited control. I’m sure we’d all be grubs, assuming we survived in the first place.

The dialog, unfortunately was very unnatural. It took me out of the story too often. And Jon’s love interest was a poorly developed character. Plus, Jon meets her maybe twice and the next thing we know they’re kissing. I needed more to justify his attraction and sacrifice for a girl who he was told by powerful friends to stay away from. Considering everything he does to ensure his and his family’s security, you’d think blowing off a girl you’ve had two conversations with would be no big deal. I guess not.

I was literally 46% into the book before I was so caught up in the story I barely noticed the problems I had with the writing style. I know, because my Kindle told me. Though I prefer a hardcover, there are some good things about e-readers. But 46% is pretty far in to hook your reader. Not everyone is as stubborn as me. Some people will just give up. But I digress. So at that point, about Part Two, I was hooked. Even though I didn’t much like Jon or Sarah (his one-dimensional love interest), I still cared about what happened to him (not so much her) and all of Jon’s family. The big plot twist I saw coming, though not very quickly, so I wasn’t surprised, but it was still interesting. And based on Pfeffer’s previous books there was no guarantee these characters were going to make it out alive. Of course, some of them don’t, but I won’t ruin anything for you.

So I think I’ve droned on enough for one book review. In summary the writing was simplistic. Pfeffer tells instead of showing. The dialogue is stilted and unnatural and she moves too quickly through parts of the story and lingers over others she could have skipped. But if you read and enjoyed the previous books then you have to finish off the series. And if you don’t have my neurotic issues with writing styles then read the whole series. It’s actually very good. An asteroid hits the moon, knocking it of course and changing the gravitation of the earth which wreacks havoc on the tides, causes earthquakes and volcanoes erupt everywhere, even places they never existed before. Add on characters who are exactly like all of us: selfish, self serving, narcissistic. Throw them into previously described apocalypse and what’s not to love?

My review: 3/5 stars (I took away points for the writing, but added for the fact that I loved the story when you take the whole series into account)


Buy Life As We Knew It (Life As We Knew It Series) on Amazon.com


Buy The Dead and the Gone (The Last Survivors, Book 2) on Amazon.com


Buy This World We Live In (Life As We Knew It Series) on Amazon.com