Monday, September 19, 2016

A couple of Newberys, and a couple of HP's.

In a world of avid Harry Potter fanatics, I, Season Giles (with a handful of other nomads), remained alone and indifferent. After nearly two decades (two decades!) of people disowning me for my casual apathy towards this series, I finally decided to give it a whirl. I mean, if anything, it seemed like it was time to learn the name of He Who Must Not Be Named. Kidding! I'm kidding guys! I knew it was Voldemort. Ol' Voldie for short. 

I've never had anything against HP. I'd even seen some of the movies with friends in years past and they'd somewhat mildly amused me. It's just that fantasy hasn't ever been my genre—I'm a historical fiction kind of girl, thank you very much. But in my aging years I've learned to accept foreign genres—like science fiction (you should hear me rave about the Lunar Chronicles!)—and it seemed only appropriate to give fantasy an overdue, albeit arms-length hug. 

And THEN one night I had a conversation with my mother-in-law and it went something along these lines:
Me: I've never read the Harry Potter books.
Me: Really? I thought you had.
Her: Only the first two. SHOULD WE READ THEM????!!!!
Her: This could be OUR year!!!
Me: Let's do it!!
And then there was excited whoops, and tap dancing to beat the band.

Or something along those lines. And what with book challenge categories that fit so nicely with ALL of the Harry Potter books, it felt like a ray of heaven's light was shining down on those books like we were meant to be. I have goosebumps just thinking about it. However, unless I'm mistaken, I don't think Marilyn has tackled them yet. So hop to it, Marilyn. It's already September 19.

On that note, I'll begin my reviews of my February books. I realize there is nothing that could be said about the HP series that hasn't already been said. But I'm forging onward anyway. For the kids.


Category: A book with a one-word title
Paperboy, Vince Vawter
Goodreads review: 3 stars

Well shucks, nothing really stands out too much about this book. I didn't love it, nor did I hate it. Thus the 3 stars. It's a Newbery honor book and it's historical fiction, so it gets two gold stars for that. I believe I read somewhere that the main character was inspired by the author's own childhood? Don't quote me on that. Set in the 1960s, it's about a boy with a terrible stuttering problem who covers his best friend's paper route while he's on vacation. He's downright terrified to have to talk to people because of his speech. One of his customers has lots of wisdom to offer him and another customer, an attractive housewife, drinks to much because her marriage is bad news. And gosh, I guess that's all I've really got. It's a quick read and I'd recommend it, but wouldn't promise that it's life changing.

Category: A popular author's first book
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling (duh)
Goodreads review: 4 stars

Let's see, this is the one with that one owl, and that one dude, and then there's a few broomsticks and wizard hats and jelly beans—I think? Or maybe that's the second one. And then there's that monster named Grendel? No no no, I'm getting confused. Gosh, these books just all get swished around in my head and start to run together. I'm kidding again! That was just me trying to be funny. Harry Potter fans can be so sensitive sometimes! (But please note: these books DO all run together for me. I wasn't joking about that.) So the Sorcerer's Stone—I thought it was cute! Am I allowed to call it that? I will admit that a creepy guy's face on the back of somebody's head covered up by a turban is a liiiiiiitle weird. But don't mind me, that's just my aversion to fantasy showing. I thought the writing was clever and enjoyable and the quirky characters are superb. I'll read it to my girls someday, once they stop being afraid of everything. I mean—Clara works up a nervous sweat just from watching Sofia the First, so. Anyway. Go Harry Potter!!! Wooooooo!!!

Category: A book with magic
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling
Goodreads review: 4 stars

I think we can all agree, these books are way better than the movies. Don't get me wrong, some of the movies were pretty great, but the books! There is so much more going on. Plus, Dobby bugged me in the movie but he doesn't anymore! And the twin Weasleys in the movie annoyed me as well, but they're enjoyable in the books. I get it now. I get it. Professor Lockhart is just a jolly ol' fellow, isn't he? I'd like to be his friend. It humored me that he didn't know how to do anything but kept on smiling. I can relate to that in so many ways. And then in the end Harry saves Ginny—thus the start of a blossoming relationship that we all saw coming. Or did we? I didn't. But I'm sure somebody did. I am getting carried away. 

Category: A book at the bottom of your to-read list
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
Goodreads review: 5 stars 

I'm not singling this one out or anything, I just needed to put it in a category. Really it was the whole series, if we're getting technical. But this book was a good one. How awkward that Ron was carrying around a human disguised as a rat for so many years. The time-hop trickery at the end was clever. And they were able to heroically rescue that...griffohip?? What was his name? Beakbuck? Kidding! Kidding again! I can sense the HP fans pulling out their hair and shaking their fist to the heavens right now. Anyway, I was glad that Harry managed to have an ally in Sirius. His death in a later book was a disappointment. So that's all. Oh, and my patronus would be a sloth. Or maybe a gerbil. Penguin? No, elephant. Final answer. And by the way—SPOILER ALERT.

Category: A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
Goodreads review: 1 star

The only other Pulitzer I've ever read was All The Light We Cannot See. Considering how ah-mazing that book is, I thought all Pulitzers would be as such. I thought I was in for a potentially long-winded, possibly cry-your-eyes-out treat. This book was the worst. It got so much acclaim because of its writing and because it's just so gosh-darn honest. It features a cranky lady named Olive Kitteridge, living in a coastal Maine town, and a handful of other weirdos. It's told through a series of short stories. I should mention that I really don't care for short stories. Especially short stories that have nothing to do with each other except for one or two characters popping up here and there throughout each. Just pick one story and develop it, for Pete's sake. As far as I can tell, this book is about a whole bunch of old, miserable, messed up people—many who try to gratify their own desires by being unfaithful to their spouses—and who eat too many doughnuts. The book contains: infidelity, thinking about infidelity, suicide, thinking about suicide, loneliness, crime, sickness, and so on and so forth. I kept reading! Thinking that it might offer some sort of inspiration at the end, I plodded right on through. But nope. It's just a full-on downer. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the depressing characteristics listed above, or who has a loyal love of doughnuts.

Category: A book by an author you've never read before
The Crossover, Kwame Alexander
Goodreads review: 3 stars

This book took the 2015 Newbery Medal, and since I'm in the habit of reading Newbery winners, I picked it up. Upon reading a short summary and excerpt from the book, I was certain that I wouldn't like it. First, it concerns basketball. Second, it's written in verse. Poetry is not my thing, and I don't care how unsophisticated that makes me sound. And third, well, just read this and you'll know what I mean: "With a bolt of lightning on my kicks....The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering."  ...Seriously. That's the line from the book that they use to advertise it to the world. If there was ever a book that did NOT have my name written all over it, it would be this. However! I was surprised to find that the book was a lot better than it's summary led me to believe. Once you get past the initial cheesiness of it, it's actually pretty witty and tackles tough issues. It's also a quick read because some of the pages only have a total of 10 words! That's the beauty of poetry, right there. And you'll find some fancy font-work throughout the pages too, which adds pep. And zip. And fun. Also? Sadness. Bet you didn't see that coming. The book has sadness too. The ending seemed abrupt. I would have kept reading for sure. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a Newbery aficionado like myself, and to 13-year-old boys, and to anyone who is dying to know what "fancy font-work" is.

In March I tackled 7 books. One of which I'd been reading since like, 2012. Or something.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Epic book challenge of 2016

This year I'm in the middle of a rigorous reading challenge. 50 categories = 50 books. I've been reading feverishly trying to check off books. Highlights so far include: the Harry Potter series! I always said I'd get around to it eventually, and this was that year. I've also taken on classics by Jane Austin, Emily Bronte, and Mary Shelley. And let's not forget the Roald Dahl marathon I've had with my girls. I know full well that I may not actually get through all 50 categories, because—hello: kids. Kids who can be playing fine one second, and then I sit down with a book, and suddenly they remember that they have a mother and they NEED her. My year-and-a-half-year-old is the worst. She came pre-wired with this mom's-got-a-book-in-her-hand antennae. She can sniff out a book from three rooms away and she'll sneakily creep over to me because she loves to try and snatch a book out of my hand, laughing maniacally all the while. And you better believe she'll yank the bookmark out if I have the oversight of setting a book down within her reach. I'm starting to suspect that her one goal in life is to foil my reading challenge endeavors.

Anyway. I've got 18 books left to read. Right now I'm simultaneously reading 4 books. Well, not simultaneously simultaneously. You get the idea.

So. With all these books I've read, I thought it might be useful to get my thoughts and feelings down on paper. And by that, I mean on my blog, because what self-respecting human in 2016 still uses paper?! Talk about a hand cramp.

So I commence my reviews. Now, they aren't going to be spectacular reviews, by any means. Some of these books I don't remember many of the details because I read them at the beginning of this year, and my memory pretty much taps out after a week's worth of time. But here they are. In no particular order. Actually I'll order them by the month that I finished them. (Just ignore that part about no particular order.)


Category: A book set in a different country
The Nightengale, Kristen Hannah
Goodreads review: 5 stars

This was a good book. One of those put-off-bed-time-for-hours types of books. Some parts were SO tough to read, as is almost every book set during WWII.  It features two sisters, Viann, the older sister, and Isabelle, the younger sister. Viann lives in the country in France with her husband and daughter, next door to her best friend. She and her best friend's husbands go off to war, and they are left to fend for themselves and their children. There is SO much more to her story than that, though. Isabelle is younger, single, and completely fed up with the Nazis and decides to do something about it. She joins the resistance and ends up guiding British and American soldiers through the mountains to escape France. I think I appreciated Viann's story a lot more than Isabelle's story—even though Isabelle's story is one of the reasons the book became so popular. In short—I would absolutely recommend this book. I own it and you can borrow it. Keep tissues on call.

Category: A mystery or thriller
The Secret Keeper, Kate Morton
Goodreads review: 5 stars

First of all, this book only loosely fits the category of mystery and certainly doesn't fall into thriller. I originally had it in a different category but ended up moving it around a bit, and here it sits in mystery or thriller. It does have an interesting mystery in the plot—and, not to brag or anything—but I totally figured it out. The story is told in modern day and through a series of flashbacks from the 1960s and 1940s. Laurel is the main character, who at the age of 16 witnesses her mother murder a stranger that comes to their home. She tries to find answers years later, before her mother passes away. I enjoyed this story. At certain times it felt a little long-winded. But I kept at it because the story was intriguing, especially the latter part of the book. I would recommend it.

Category: A book you can finish in a day
Jonathon Livingston Seagull, Richard Bach
Goodreads review: 4 stars 

This book is 120-something pages. But probably a quarter of those pages are just blurry pictures of seagulls flying around. So that's something to look forward to. I read it in the course of one evening, and if I remember right, it's about a seagull named Jonathon Livingston Seagull (which is a very distinguished name for a bird, mind you) who doesn't fit in with the other birds because he wants to fly extra fancy. He's kind of an outcast, because apparently the seagull species thinks you should just fly normal, get your food, and then fly normal some more. Terribly intolerant, these seagulls. THEN, if I remember right, Jonathon dies? And he starts training other outside-the-box seagulls. He gains a lot of popularity in heaven. I think?? Honestly—don't take this review seriously because I'm not sure I'm remembering this right at all. Anyway, this book isn't meant to be taken at face value, because it's most definitely not about a seagull who wants to do tricksy tricks in the air. And if it were, well, that would be dumb. This book is most definitely symbolic and hints at spirituality, and even Jesus Christ. It's worth a read. If anything, just to get a glance at those blurry seagull pics.

Category: A book that made you cry
Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
Goodreads review: 2 stars

Okay, here's the thing. I liked this book. But I was so ticked off about the ending, and in a moment of reader's rage I gave it two stars on Goodreads. Looking back on it now, I maybe could have afforded it more. And let's get something else straight: I don't actually remember if I cried or not. This book originally was in a different category, but things have been shuffled around and I moved it to this category because this book most definitely has the potential as a tear-jerker. At the very least my eyes were moistened. Anyway, to go into why I felt so angry at the end would be to spoil everything. But chances are good that everyone's seen the movie by now anyway (I haven't.) Here I go anyway: I just hated that Will found no meaning to his life—even after he'd found someone who was willing to accept him for what he was after his accident. Right?!? I don't want to make light of his troubles as a quadriplegic. It would be the worst. But there is more to life! Look inward, Will! Inward! Anyway. I guess I'd recommend this book....maybe. I don't know. Do whatever you want. I don't even care.

Category: A trilogy
Three Tales of My Father's Dragon, Ruth Stiles Gannett
Goodreads review: 4 stars

I read this aloud to my girls, and they really enjoyed it. This edition of the book contains My Father's Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, and The Dragons of Blueland.  I think our favorite was My Father's Dragon. We particularly enjoyed studying the maps on the front and back inside covers. The chapters are nice and short—which is perfect before bedtime—and the illustrations are cute. Illustrations are a MUST for Maren if we want it to keep her attention. I definitely recommend this as a read-aloud with kids.

Up next: February books! I started the Harry Potter series, and I also read a Pulitzer that JUST so happens to hold the title as my least-favorite book I've read so far this year.

Now, back to reading. For realsies, I've already lost so much time.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An awkward re-entry into blogdom so that my 3rd daughter doesn't feel like she's getting gypped.

At first it seemed like I was just taking a little hiatus from blogging. Who doesn't, right? And then more time passed and it seemed easier not to. And THEN before I knew it there was so much time in between that it's now made for an uncomfortable re-entry back into a culture that I'm not even sure fully exists anymore. ...Do people even blog still? Has everyone moved on to a newer trend? I wouldn't know—because not only did I stop blogging but I've also stopped reading blogs, so, I mean, for all I know blogging is so 3 years ago and heavens to betsy—how embarrassing would that be?

But I had to show up here today because I was starting to feel guilty that my 3rd daughter was getting no air-time. Kind of like home videos of old where the 5th child—me—got a total of 3 appearances while the oldest brother got hours and hours of footage—all while he laid helplessly on a blanket as a baby. Ridiculous!

So with that said, I give you Giles baby 3—lying helplessly on her blanket:

Meet Norah Jean Giles. Born on Valentine's Day if you can believe it—February 14, 2015. She rounded out the Giles crew to 5, weighing a dainty 6 pounds 15 ounces—and I've already forgotten her length and what time of day she was born.

Those poor 3rd babies.

I really do feel for 'em, being a 5 and all. I mean, it's no secret that after Clara was one month old we had already managed to pile up a million digital photos of her. So far for Norah, we've got around 20.

However, she fits right in around here. We think she's lovely. And boy howdy if C and M don't just love her to shreds. (I've shortened their names to first initials out of the total convenience it brings!)

Some fun facts about Norah:
• She is the noisiest eater. I worry we'll never be able to take her in public. She hums, purrs, grunts, gurgles, whirrs, trills and warbles. (I may or may not have looked up some words in the thesaurus...)
• She only spits up out of her nose. Why spit up out of your mouth when you could go through a much more innovative and uncomfortable outlet? All the new newborns are doing it these days.
• And since she's only 1 month old, that's about all I can come up with for fun facts.

And since I haven't blogged in over a year, here are some fun facts about the C & M.

• Maren is 2 1/2. She's the class clown of the household—and she knows it too. She thinks she can get out of anything by being funny—and often does.
• Maren repeats everything that Clara says and does. EV-ER-EE-THING. I can assure you that this is no exaggeration.
• She loves to sing and her voice is the cutest to hit the town since 1979.
• She's got quite the knack for running into walls.
• She often pronounces things wrong, just as normal 2-year-olds do. My personal favorite is "cock-a-noodle-noo."

• Clara will be 5 next month. She attends preschool and thinks she already knows everything.
• She's always asking me to put pigtails in her hair, and then I counter by telling her she's getting too old for pigtails. But in the end she usually wins with pigtails because I eventually remember that I don't know how to do anything else. If there is one thing I specialize in, it's uneven pigtails.
• Clara asks a total of 30,000 questions a day, give or take a few thousand. And I have to be completely forthcoming here—a lot of times they're really dumb questions. Sometimes she asks just for the sake of having something to ask. And she often already knows the answer—and I know she knows the answer because she's already asked the question at least 29 times that same day. So yeah. Whew.
• Homegirl has gotten tall!
• She loves to build. She makes the most amazing creations with Magna Tiles. I'm convinced that Magna Tiles are the best toy in this entire world.

So there. That's all out of the way. It wasn't the most magical of re-entries, but if you must know, there is a circus of little girls surrounding me and this was the best I could muster under my circumstances.

We'll feature you again, Norah, when you're about 5 1/2.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Presumably, it's 2013's final post.

This morning my mom e-mailed me to tell me that she still had not received my Christmas card. So first I growled and silently badmouthed the mail system. But then I did some investigative research and opened up my master Christmas card address list. I found some interesting pieces of intel—mainly—that I never even sent a Christmas card to my own parents. Whoops.

So to anyone else that may not have received a Christmas card from the Giles family, feel free to blame it on the fact that my incompetency increases with the rising of each day's sun. And here it is.

AND! As a bonus, I'm even throwing in a teensy-wheensy family update! Just completely for fun! Exclamation mark!

MAREN (17 months)
• Without anyone's permission, Maren is soon headed into nursery. Don't look at me! I don't know how it happened either.
• She LOVES to brush teeth. About once an hour she says something that slightly resembles the word "teeth" and motions me to the bathroom so I can lift her up to the counter to brush her pearly baby whites.
• Maren makes super-awesome facial expressions. We all know who she got that from. (Note: See my Inheritable Hopefuls list from 2009.)
• Maren doesn't talk too much, but when she does talk, it's completely incomprehensible and in total whispers. So it's like everything she has to say is a deep, dark secret.
• Lastly, she just loves poking people in the eyes. She gets a real kick out of it. Laughs her little curly head off.

CLARA (4 months out from 4)
• A week from tomorrow she'll be a Sunbeam! I can't even believe it. She's pretty pumped.
• Clara is an awesome storyteller. Sometimes she'll make announcements like "I have a story to tell you in 30 minutes." Other times she doesn't make us wait in anticipation—she'll just lay right into it. For a long time, all her stories started out with the phrase "A long time ago there was a very old man..." But since the Christmas tree popped up, her old man main character has taken a hiatus and has been replaced with a Christmas tree character who walks and talks and shops at Costco. So, he's pretty much just a Christmas tree version of the old man.
• Clara really rocks at the big sister role. She's a great mentor and so, so protective of Maren. If I ever get after Maren for doing something she shouldn't be doing, Clara gets all puppy-eyed and comes to her defense. Isn't that just adoracute?

SEASON (nearly 29 and a half)
• Goodreads e-mailed me the other day with a summary of the books I've read in 2013. It said: "Congratulations on reading TWO books!" This, friends, is a bold-faced lie. I've read plenty more than 2 this year! But who to believe? It's my word against Goodreads'.
• In November, I was given a directive to go gluten free or die. (It wasn't that dramatic.)  I've been gluten free for 2 months and feel pretty amazing. Maybe I'll do a full post on that someday. (But let's be honest. With my year's track record? Probably not.)
• Being a mom is a joy and a challenge. Before becoming a mother of two little girls, I used to see little girls with completely wild and unkempt hair and I'd think, "How hard is it to comb your daughter's hair???" Well, as it turns out: IT'S VERY HARD. Nay—IMPOSSIBLE. As a result, my daughters run around with completely wild and unkempt hair MOST of the time. Also? My girls watch a lot more TV than I ever imagined they would before I had kids. The way I see it—if anyone in this family wants to eat dinner, then My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake it is. But the good news? At least now I can give a total plot-summary and character analysis to each of these stellar shows. Plus: sing along to all of the songs. (Fist pump!)

TOM (32 and 13 days)
• Tom has had a work-filled year at the LDS Motion Picture Studios. He works in the visual effects department. You know—explosions. (It's no secret that church films have a lot of explosions.) He's not technically "full-time," even though he works full time (and then some); he was brought on for some specific projects and we don't know how much longer those projects will last. As such, he's been polishing up his portfolio in case he needs to start doing some job hunting.
• He's taken on about a million (I'm rounding up—but barely) illustration and story board freelance projects in the last month or so. He keeps busy.
• Also? He keeps funny. (That sentence was not grammatically correct. Rest assured.)
• Maybe Goodreads was referring to Tom when it mentioned 2 books? 'Cause homeboy has definitely not read as many books as me this year. Is it too obvious that I'm really ticked off at Goodreads for defaming my reading ability?

• This year I've read:
The Princess Bride
Moonlight over Manifest
Nothing to Fear
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Fault in Our Stars (twice)
Dead End in Norvelt

And I almost finished Ender's Game and I re-read The Book Thief and I skimmed The Hidden Gifts of an Introvert Child and Wheat Belly (a skim counts, right?) and I'll be done with Wonder before the year's up so take that, Goodreads.

• Anything else about Tom, you'll have to ask him yourself. He's like an open book, just waiting to dish out details of his life.

Merry Christmas three days late. Here's to 2014!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And then it was five years.

Tom and I recently celebrated our 5th anniversary, and I was bound and determined to have a getaway before we get too much older and too much more decrepiter. (Yes, I know decrepiter is not a real word.)

So his mom came down to hang out with the girls (they ate a lot of delicious ice cream—a sure-fire way to the hearts of my children) while we headed up to Park City.

As far as times of the year to visit Park City, it was a pretty dead one. But of course we didn't care. That didn't stop us from running circles in our hotel elevator as soon as the door closed, only to slap on our most serious of faces as soon as the doors opened again. It was a liberating activity.

We visited the Olympic Park in hopes of riding the zip line, but alas—all the rides were closed. Please note: If you want to do almost anything in Park City, do not visit over the first weekend of November. We did, however, watch some people train for the bobsled and skeleton, which was exciting and made me feel like I was carrying the Olympic torch around. (It's a metaphor.)

And then—ooooooooh then—we put on our fanciest clothes that we'd already been wearing all day and headed over to Ruth's Chris Steak House for an evening of fine dining.

As you can imagine, we discussed indepthly why it's called Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Tom's theory: So this guy named Chris started this Steak House, but then his wife Ruth stepped in because he was doing it all wrong, so it became Ruth's Chris Steak House.

Season's theory: There were a bunch of guys named Chris who started a Steak House and nobody knew which one belonged to which Chris. So then everyone was like, "We're gonna go to Ruth's Chris tonight."

We've both lost sleep over it.

Anyway. Whatever the reason for the name—Ruth's Chris Steak House is the best steak one could EVER possibly hope to have. I mean, is it appropriate to gush about a piece of meat? Anyway, here's another please note: If you tell them it's your anniversary when you make your reservation, they will adorn your table with real rose petals and then give you a free dessert.

Now that we're back, it's down to business as usual—with Tom at work and me at home, reminding Clara to chew her food and Maren that she's not allowed to stand up in the bathtub. The usual. No more of this globetrotting around in elevators and eating cinnamon bears around the clock.

But that's okay. It was just the break this old married couple needed.

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