Monday, March 28, 2016

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Grabenstein, Chris. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  New York: Random House, 2013. Print.
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My Thoughts
This was a FUN read! Grabenstein creates a story about a new library opening. It's been twelve years since this Ohio town has had a library. A group of twelve year olds get to play the ultimate Luigi Lemoncello game--to get out of the library.

The allusions are FANTASTIC (I'm sure I missed some). The insertion of using the library is very educational (I want my aides to read this!), and I loved trying to figure out the game clues. I know I'm biased, but I love how Mr. Lemoncello loves the library (and for the reasons he does). "The library is more than a collection of dusty old books. It is a place to learn, explore, and grow!" (Grabenstein 75). Through this story, readers definitely do all three. I liked the insertion of all the many games (Do you remember Husker Du?). I liked that the kids acted like twelve year olds (sometimes in fiction, kids are the smartest thing and adults are written as bumbling buffoons). I loved the imaginative, thoughtful library design.

What I didn't like: nothing. I thought the structure was solid and the characters are believable.

The title reference is on page 73.

Now, a little more about the author. I got this book at TLA in 2014. I was actually in another author's line. Chris was nearby and cracking jokes. He was so personable. When I finished whoever's line I was in, I got in his line. I wasn't sure what he'd written, but I thought I'd get a copy for my daughter. He even signed it "For Bailey's Library!" Sadly, she didn't finish it (even though she says she read over 200 pages!). I'm going to start recommending this one to all of her friends, and I've already made sure the intermediate and junior high have copies.
Here's Chris autographing my daughter's book.

I found on Grabenstein's website a list of books mentioned in this story.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

On Writing

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Pocket Books, 2000. Print.

My Thoughts
My coworker was reading this book and gushing about the advice. As I've honestly never read a Stephen King book (some of the movies scared me too much), I didn't know what to expect from this read. I did remember an excerpt from this book was in the literature book I taught out of when I was an English teacher (I can't remember now which adoption, which publisher, but I do remember seeing the cover art in the lit. book).

Ok, so this book was GREAT! It is part autobiography and part writing coach. King is honest (and there's quite a bit of cursing). He's also very funny (I'll admit I was surprised) and the narrative voice is very conversational. I felt like King and I were just sitting in the living room having a chat.

One reason I really wanted to read this book (after my coworker sharing bits with me) is I've been asked to help a friend edit her book. I've read a few chapters and offered advice more from a former English teacher's perspective than a random reader. I hoped King's book would help me help her. WOW! It did. I am thinking I need to start over with the editing and look for some things I hadn't thought about before reading King's book---like adverbs and the writer inserting the reader's thinking and how the story should be told as true to the characters as possible, but the author has to find the fossil of the story first (read King's book and you'll understand this).

Some nuggets of advice from King:

  • "The object of fiction isn't grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story" (King 134).
  • "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot" (King 145).
  • "Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones" (King 145). 

I enjoyed how King wrote about writing his own books and how his personal life influenced the story (even subconsciously, we write about what we know on some level). In fact, I think I will challenge myself to give King's fiction a chance. I'm not sure what I'm afraid of, as I enjoy Southern Gothic Literature. Isn't King almost an extension of Poe (one of my favorite writers)?

Some practical advice King gives (besides the nuggets previously included) is a list of publications to read if you want to write. He suggests that you should read the "kind of stuff you write" as well as Writer's Market, a pricey publication that is "the most valuable of tools for the writer new to the marketplace" (King 239). King also includes a booklist of "the best books I've read over the last three or four years...In some way or other, I suspect each book in the list had an influence on the books I wrote. As you scan this list, please remember that I'm not Oprah and this isn't my book club" (King 285). I did scan the list. It's all over the place in so far as topics, authors and modern/classic reads. I can appreciate this list, as I read all over the place, too (occupation requirement, I think).

This book was easy to read, informative and enjoyable.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out

Hall, Mark and Tim Luke. Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. Print.   
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My Thoughts
I love Casting Crowns! Their music reaches me, humbles me, and makes me grow as a Christian. I've had the pleasure of hearing them twice in concert--once after a Rangers game (the concert was why I wanted to go to the game on that day) and then my husband surprised me for our anniversary with a concert in Abilene. I was singing along and enjoying myself. When we left, I stopped at the souvenir booth and bought a t-shirt and CD. I saw books. Wait! What? Mark Hall wrote books? How did I not know this? I didn't buy a book that night, but I kept thinking about it, so I got on Amazon and bought this one. It's been sitting on my night stand waiting for me.

This book is not a devotional nor is it a bible study. Hall has a very friendly narrative voice. He isn't talking over my head. In fact, I think some of what he writes in the book is what I heard him actually say at both concerts. He is real--meaning he is flawed. He doesn't profess to have THE answer. He just writes about walking with God and his experiences. He challenges the reader to not just go through motions, but actually dig in to God's word and see for yourself how you can thrive. He shares stories, shares scripture and challenges the reader.  At times, I know God was talking to me through what I read.

I love the illustration of our lives should be like a large tree. The root system should be as big as what's seen. We have to dig into God's word to be planted in God's word. "When we grow roots, we dive into God's Word and prayer and learn from other believers. As we reach out, we show Jesus to people" (Hall 16). I need to work on both.

At the end of each chapter are "Points to Remember." At the end of the book is the Thrive challenge.