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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fickle February's TBR List

Hey Readers!

Want to know one of the easiest ways to combat literacy? Read! And read a TON! Whether you're helping your kiddos with their homework, are reading an interesting news article or internet piece, reading is one of the best ways to combat illiteracy.

Jumping in on that notion, here is my February TBR! Tomorrow I'll have a fun post about a new Book Battle I'm a part of.

Until Next Time,


Here's my TBR... yes it's crazy, but so am I!

  • The Bear and the Nightengale and The Girl in the Tower (both by Katherine Arden!!)
  • Hidden Figures
  • Welcome to Nightvale (YES! The amazing podcast has a BOOK! Several actually)
  • It Devours (By the WTNV peeps!)
  • The Lost Sisterhood and Juliet (both by Anne Fortiner)
  • Frog Music (From the author who brought you Room)
  • Spindle Fire (in anticipation of April's stunning conclusion to this duology!)
  • Queen of Hearts Trilogy
  • Vassa in the Night
  • My Lady Jane
  • Reign of the Fallen
  • The Immortalists
  • Kulti
  • Hound of the Baskervilles (look, I needed a dog book and this is the only kind I'm cool with!!)
  • The Rule of Four
  • The Determined Heart
  • Let's Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson FTW)
  • The Hamilton Affair (because everyone needs a kissy book club book)
  • Cormoran Strike Trilogy (I've been trying to read these for ages!)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: Exhibit Alexandra

Exhibit Alexandra Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story is, different, eccentric perhaps? Definitely different. The bulk of it is pure imagination, and very creative, but I had to keep re-reading parts to determine what was actually happening from what was imaginary, which made a few twists harder to spot. Enjoyable for sure, and best read in as few sittings as possible.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

When you can't find the sunshine, be the sunshine...

The title of this post was taken from a bulletin board at the facility we visited.
It struck a chord with me and why we were there..

Hello Readers,

Continuing on my new path of literacy, I wanted to tell you about a program that I'm a part of, the Alzheimer's Poetry Project.

Founded by Gary Glazner, the Alzheimer's Poetry Project aims to improve the quality of life of those living with Alzheimer's disease and Dementia, by facilitating creative expression, particularly through poetry. By removing the boundaries surrounding those with Alzheimer's and Dementia, by listening to them and giving them an outlet for their voice, it is a powerful way to show that all members of the community matter. This program is inter generational as well; it involves high school students learning about poetry, Alzheimer's and Dementia, and teaching them how to craft and facilitate a facility visit. Yes, that's right, we're taking this front row and center to the patients, staff, and families, in local facilities that cater to Alzheimer's and Dementia patients.

So how did I end up involved with this program? Easy, I submitted an application to Vogue Robinson, current Poet Laureate of Clark County Nevada, and Jennifer, Vogue's co-coordinator on this project. I laid out my experiences, both personal and professional, and a few weeks later met up with Vogue, Jennifer, and another participant named Andrew. After reading some introductory information we laid out what our expectations were, what our potential hold ups were, and moved forward scheduling the first training with Mr. Glazner. (Additionally, my spell check keeps wanting to make his name Mr. Gladness, which I find fitting and amusing.)

The first training was at the beginning of January. After reading some interesting material, particularly this article about the power of play with dementia patients, it was time to learn from the master. We also added a fifth person, Charlene, making our initial group number five. Five is a very good number to start with by the way, it lends the group to a very easy combination of personalities, and you can always tag team with a different partner during the facility visits. Over the course of a few hours we went over ice breakers, open ended questions, guiding a group through writing a poem collectively, and facilitating discussions around poetry. We also learned about call and response recitation, the importance of projection, and what a typical visit looks like, along with what an ideal seating chart looks like, a circle. As the training adjourned we were instructed to have a facility prior to our next training.

The Adult Daycare Center of Henderson was kind enough to host us on our first time out. We were met by a group of 15! 13 patients, two staff members, and one observer. They were seated in rows, and now all the circle recommendations from the training make sense. While the group was just the right size, the lack of a circle made it a tight squeeze when interacting with the patients on a personal level. After introducing ourselves, we began with the poetry. The poems we selected had a nature theme, and themes are a good thing to have. Andrew did Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Eagle (which no one knew was about an eagle until he told us the title), and was followed by Jennifer reciting Christina Rossetti's poem, Hurt No Living Thing.

Discussing poetry with seniors, or with people who don't voraciously consume poetry is a fun experience. The conversation flowed as freely as possible and spiraled through snakes, eagles, why bugs are wonderful (minus cockroaches), and finally settled enough for us to bring out the props. Yes, props! We had feathers, fake birds and butterflies, artificial flowers, plastic grapes, and even a bright green feather boa. Many of the participants became brighter and sillier upon being given a simple feather. The discussion we had with them about the props was funny, enlightening, and insightful. Listening to the patients it was clear that they probably hadn't been asked any creative or open questions for a long time. While it took a little prompting for a few people to answer, the answers themselves could be this groups first poem!

(holding plastic grapes)
Grapes make wine!
(holding a feather)
Hoot hoot, the sounds owls make.
(holding a butterfly)
Butterflies remind me of butterflies.
(speaking of butterflies)
They live a long time.
(when asked what type of bird she might be holding)
It might be a canary.
(not holding a provided prop, but used her cane as a prop)
Cane, don’t break it. Reminds me that I’ve got some issues.
(one gentleman hid a blue bird prop in his pocket)
Hidden bird, it’s cold. Blue reminds me of being in Cuba.
(a couple shared the green boa)
Makes us think of cardinals, beautiful colors, anything that I like.
(holding a seashell)
Going to the beach, picking up shells.
(holding a small bird)
Thinking of Wilcox, Az. Wings Over Wilcox,
you could hear the cranes before you saw them land, people came from
all over to watch them.
(holding a seashell)
Shell reminds me of the beach, I have a lot of shells that I picked up from the beach.
(holding a shell)
Sally sells seashells by the seashore!
(holding a shell)
Ditching school to drive to California on the weekends.

Next up were two more poems! And a ten pound tree! Charlene was doing the classic Trees, a  poem by Joyce Kilmer, and brought a small tree, (again, a circle would have made showing that thing off so much easier!). As she was reciting, even before the call and response, a few participants were reciting this poem with her, so it was exciting to see those moments of memory come back, even if people thought they were in a classroom again. I was the last to do a poem, and decided to go with something I was familiar with, and did Emily Dickinson's “Hope” is the thing with feathers. When discussing what people thought the poem was about, most thought birds, and revealing that it was about hope, you could see wheels turning inside their heads. Also, after sharing a sweet anecdote about my bird tattoo I tried asking them what they thought about birds, and we had a hilarious conversation about hummingbird residue, to put it politely.

The last portion of the visit was the creation of the group poem. Hands down this was the best part of the morning. Vogue was the scribe and Jennifer went down the rows asking for a word or phrase that the day had made them think of. Some truly offered up only a word, some a paragraph, and only two or three participants declined to offer anything, and that was beautiful too.

Here's the group piece they wrote that day.

I respect the trees.
Trees help birds with nests.
Birds sing.
I think that I should never see a poem as lovely as a tree.
Igualito de Cuba parajitos azules cantan muy bonitos.
I had a little green tree, it grew higher than our house and the tree had birds and it was beautiful.
Birds have their own nests.
I love to hear the birds sing.
The woodpecker would peck the trees and wake us up.
Birds and trees are beautiful.

This program is built on many things, among them are consent and autonomy, along with poetry, play, and memory. The small act of letting someone decide to shake your hand, or speak if they want to seem inconsequential, but they aren't. These participants loved being able to share, or stay quiet, or play with a feather, or have someone listen and understand them in their own language, or remember something from their childhood that made them happy. And as much as this experience was about and for them, it was also a learning experience for us as well. Changing the agenda around kept this group's attention better. Realizing the importance of a circle and the powers of projection are notes we are going to take with us into the next group. Learning to memorize and recite poems, leading a discussion, our group is made of (mostly) soft spoken individuals, and this takes and stretches our comfort zones with beautiful results.

As we head into our second training, and further facility visits, I'm excited to see what our group becomes and what we are truly able to do.

Until next time,


Jennifer, Vogue, Ami Rebecca, Charlene, Andrew
January 20, 2018
After the first facility visit. 

Literature Goals has a new goal

Hello Readers,

Today I would like to announce that in 2018 I will shift the focus of this blog and let you know that on top of focusing on books, I'll be focusing more on literacy as a whole.

While literacy is defined as the ability to read and write, I find that it is so much more. It's the complex understanding of the written word. Literacy is also about having effective communication skills, even using the Internet is an example of modern literacy; and the astonishing rate of illiteracy worldwide means that global problems take decades and centuries to solve. Literacy is a compound and complex skill that needs to be developed. 

So what exactly does this all mean for me? Well, I'm hoping to better craft my posts to encourage reading, writing, and understanding, along with encouraging more "challenging" reads; all while doing some self discovery to see where I stand with my own literacy knowledge. I'll be posting book reviews, reflections, and streams of consciousness revolving around books and the media. 

The goal here is to encourage literacy whenever and however I can, and we'll all just have to see how that plays out. 

Until next time, 


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Anatomy of a Scandal

Anatomy of a Scandal Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am pretty sure I held my breath through this entire novel. It is captivating, thrilling, and somehow relevant to the current political vibe. From every perspective, characters are giving you emotions, there were enough details to keep you interested in the story while still spinning you around so you didn't see everything coming. Which meant the explosion towards the end is just that. Additionally, this was a story with an ending. A complete and fitting summation that didn't feel open ended, or forgotten. I know I threw this book across the room a few times, but that was needed, sort of. The emotions in this book are palpable. You will want to read this book and you will want to read it again. It is that compelling.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: The English Wife

The English Wife The English Wife by Lauren Willig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part Gothic novel, part romance, part soap opera, this is a historical fiction readers type of guilty pleasure! I loved this novel, I found it to be thrilling in places, a little pedantic in others, but it was an enticing read and an oddly great palate cleanser. The mystery at the heart of the story is simple, but Ms. Willig does a great job of adding in enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Told from a few perspectives, and in current/flashback form, you can get dizzy while reading if you aren't paying attention, but I think that's simply so the obvious and predictable elements of the story still have a chance to sneak up on you. It was a very fun read.

View all my reviews

Review: In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917

In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917 by Leslie S. Klinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you think of a collection of mysteries you tend to think of those that are either current authors, or perhaps the ones in collections of stories similar to Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. However Leslie Klinger has done a truly masterful job at piecing together this collection of masterpieces that are not only influential and on par with Agatha Christie, but I'm sure of writers today. Each one has a unique voice, and has been seemingly shadowed by Ms. Christie. However, I do not think that is because they weren't as good, simply that they weren't as popular or perhaps published. During this time period women weren't exactly lauded for their creative writing skills. It is nice to see a diverse collection and that these women's stories are finally being given their credit.

View all my reviews

Review: Carnegie's Maid: A Novel

Carnegie's Maid: A Novel Carnegie's Maid: A Novel by Marie Benedict
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading The Other Einstein I knew Marie Benedict had a particular passion for writing about historical figures with a female perspective, that didn't and doesn't revolve around who they're sleeping with. So when I saw Carnegie's Maid was up for grabs, I grabbed it. While written about a true historical figure, it is told from the perspective of Clara, and fictional Clara's are always sweet and soft spoken, yet Marie's Clara is somehow the voice for all Irish immigrants in this novel. She's somehow the catalyst for Andrew's free libraries, and quite honestly I got Beauty and the Beast vibes a few times. Ms. Benedict delivers a second well researched novel, giving us an insight on the Irish immigrant experience in America at the time, while also giving us a realistic view. There is a love story in this novel, but it doesn't feel forced and it isn't the sole focus. Clara is a passionate character, and it is hard to distill the legacy of the Carnegie's and not see the compassion and philanthropy shown by Andrew. I cannot wait to read what she writes next.

View all my reviews

Review: Enchantress of Numbers

Enchantress of Numbers Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This fictional account of Ada Lovelace's life exudes fact and passion, while blending it with a narrative that makes you feel as though you're in the novel with her. It was extremely well researched, and is written so that you feel as though you're inside her head. The lack of dialogue is troublesome, but not bothersome. At least for me, I was more fascinated by the detail and attention that was paid to really notice any or many flaws in the writing. The author has written the whole of Ms. Lovelace, though it is written as a novel, it could hold its own as an actual biography; very little is left out. It is interesting to see how she's portrayed Lord Byron as well, both as who he was and as Ada's father. There are many historical figures that get brought up, or stay at the periphery of this novel that you might think it was accidental, instead of purposeful. This novel is truly, a remarkable account of one of the most important and remarkable women in history.

View all my reviews

Monday, January 1, 2018

One January Two Thousand and Eighteen

Good Evening Readers,

Did the first day of the new year treat you well? Mine did. Put in new bookshelves, read Celtic Gods and Heroes by Marie-Lousie Sjoestedt (Pop Sugar 2018 - A book about or tied to your heritage.) I also started reading Ulysses by James Joyce on the Serial Reader App, and holy crap do I ever understand why this book is so impossible for people.

The Serial App is giving me a piece a day to read, for 109 days. April 19, 2018 cannot come quickly enough! This is one impossible read that is seriously giving me Quixotic vibes; and I may just need to read it under a tilted windmill.

However tomorrow's piece is new, and one day closer to an end goal. Plus, I have another quick book to read on my Kindle for the Pop Sugar challenge, one that takes place on a different planet. All leading up to spending the bulk of my time reading a Cyberpunk tale.

Until next time,