Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

I actually wanted to read this book last year, after I read all of George's Dragon series, but it was never at the library and it got bumped down the priority list. I was very curious as to whether or not I would like her books outside of that story, whether she could spin a great tale with different characters. I was also drawn to this book as several fellow readers had high praise, and really, I'm a sucker for a quality fairytale retelling.

This is the story of a girl whose mother is so exasperated at finding not only that she was expecting again, but that the new baby was another girl that she didn't even bother to give her a name. She adores her eldest brother, but his return from work has left him changed for reasons she doesn't know. Along the way, this girl discovers she has a talent that ends up benefiting her and opening the possibility of adventure that will require her to cling to her courage and develop her wit.

This is really a beautiful book. I think the story telling is better than the Dragon series books, the characters mysterious and adorable, even the ones that shouldn't be. As I am not familiar with the original tale in all its variations, I'm not sure which parts are the original fairytale and which are George's imagination, but I adore her writing style, pacing and character development. She really is quite talented.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Sometimes things like this just make my day.

Dear Tasha,

As a senior member of the family that established the Nobel Prizes, I understand the tradition and importance of recognizing excellence. Your name and accomplishments have been brought to my attention by your student Malorie ________. Malorie is a member of The National Society of High School Scholars, an organization I formed in 2002 to extend to the youth of the world my family's legacy of encouraging excellence.

I asked NSHSS members to select one teacher they would like to honor as an Educator of Distinction and thank for being an exceptional role model. Malorie has selected you as a favorite teacher and an educator who works hard to make a difference in the lives of students. I want to thank you for your efforts on behalf of all students and particularly for contributing so much to Malorie's academic success.

Your dedication and your commitment to excellence deserve recognition, and I want you to know that your efforts are appreciated. Please accept a warm thank you from Malorie and my personal congratulations on your success.

Kind regards,

Claes Nobel
Chair, Advisory Board

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Smore's Stuffed Brownies

Yes ladies and gentlemen, you read that correctly. I found this fantastically easy and sinfully delicious little treat on one of my favorite food blogs and knew there was simply no way this was a recipe that would take me months to get to. It's RIDICULOUSLY easy and super good.
Curious? You need to go here and chances are really decent you already have all the ingredients in your kitchen to make these bad boys. I did make two boxes of brownies which filled my little bigger than 9 x 13 pan very well. Really, why just make an 8 x 8 - they wouldn't last long at all. And if you have time, browse around her site - it really is impressive.
Happy sugar high!

The Hourglass Door

I heard about this book a little and then found out the author is a good friend of my friend Ally, which added to the intrigue. I had a couple students who read it last year and really enjoyed it and even heard it referenced when looking for the next big thing after Twilight. I think it has been out for a year, that the buzz about it is picking up and then when my sweet mother in law bought it and got it signed for me at the ULA conference this year, well then I had my own copy and just couldn't let it sit there and not read it. I read the prologue one morning just to start and was hooked.

This is the story about a girl named Abby who always does what is expected of her, applies to the schools she is told to apply to, is the assistant director of the school's play production, has a safe and predictable boyfriend who has been her friend her whole life. Then a foreign exchange student, Dante, moves in and things start to change with her view on the world, her relationships with her boyfriend and life long best friend and there are the secrets that make her unable to quite figure Dante out. The process of discovery leads to an amazing mystery that stems in Italy - centuries ago.

Remember when I said I started this book and was hooked? Yea, well that is an understatement. Reading this book was like the first time I read Twilight for the reason that Twilight was given to me before the hype and I was obsessed with the book until it was finished. That is precisely the reading experience I had with The Hourglass Door. I read it in a day. It was in my purse and if I had any downtime, I read it. The characters are mysterious, but new and not copycatted (is that a word?). The complexity of the plot was amazing. The depth Mangum went to to ensure the reader could understand the concept added so much intrigue, great detail and complexity. Truly, truly, an amazing book.

The best part? The sequel is out already! The worst part? The third isn't and won't be available until NEXT YEAR!!! I'm going to have a year long wait. So, do I read the second now and wait for the year or do I wait and read two and three in a year. ARGH.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Red Pyramid

Remember how much fun the Percy Jackson series was? All five of them? Rick Riordan launched the first book in a new series with a similar theme (kindof) to the Percy Jackson series, except this time around, it is Egyptian gods. When I first found out this was coming, I did a little dance inside my head and secretly hoped that this series would be as enjoyable as Riordan's last. I pre-ordered and made myself wait until school was over because I had a suspicion that if I liked it, I wouldn't want to do anything until it was finished. So how was it?

This book is about Sadie and Carter, siblings who live their lives apart ever since the death of their mother. Then, when they are getting together in England for a Christmas visit, they accompany their father to a museum where something impressive and tragic happens. Sadie and Carter then begin to discover they have ties to the Egyptian culture beyond a father who visits historical sites and is known for his research. They embark on a journey to learn of their identities, what really happened to their mother and realize that though they have lived most of their lives apart, they cannot have success unless they work together.

There are so many things I like about this book. The story is told from both Carter and Sadie's point of view, and the voice for each is developed perfectly. While each chapter starts with who is telling, after the first few chapters I didn't have to look at the name to be able to identify who it was. The creativity that I adored so much with the Percy Jackson series is still here, still strong and the description accompanies harmoniously. Furthermore, the research Riordan has done to be correct in his dealings with Egyptian gods is as precise as it was with the Greek gods. Needless to say this was a fun journey. It is quite a bit longer than any of the Jackson books, but never feels tedious or drawn out. Don't know when the next one is coming out, but I'll probably be pre-ordering again :)

Friday, June 4, 2010

The House on Mango Street

I have had the intention of reading this book for close to four years but just never really got around to it. I grabbed a copy and was surprised at how short it was - that was probably some of the reason for my delay was not sure I wanted to conquer a huge book. I also had the expectation that the level of reading would be harder than it was. Again, I have kicked myself for waiting so long to read this.

This is the story of Esperanza, a young girl who is living in a house that she does not have any pride in. It is in a rundown neighborhood with all sorts of events taking place that children learn about before they should. She shares stories and memories of this house, revealing incredible details about her culture and the conflicts that arise in desolate circumstances as people are trying to improve their lives, maintain their identity or escape their various prisons.

The voice in this book is incredible. Esperanza felt real, like she was taking me on a tour of this town and speaking with a truth that is only afforded to a child. I had read many different multi-cultural books dealing with the African Americans and their conflicts in assuming an American identity, and even a few with Oriental narrators, but this was my first with a Latina. Their issues are real and I am still torn by the character who, when her baby starts to speak English instead of Spanish, cries loudly "No, no, no". Very powerful and truly beautiful little book.