Friday, May 31, 2013

fitting in fitness.

Our society is always pushing SKINNY SKINNY SKINNY! This can give a teenage girl with a little extra baby fat the wrong impression. Erin Whitehead and Jennipher Walters are pushing HEALTHY HEALTHY HEALTHY in their guide A Girl’s Guide to Fitting in Fitness.

Teenage girls are busy. They have school, friends, family commitments they are forced to be a part of. They juggle boyfriends and part-time jobs. How is a girl who doesn’t play seasonal sports all year round supposed to fit in a little exercise? It’s tough, especially for those who aren’t athletic at all. Whitehead and Walters have designed a fitness guide that focuses on a healthy lifestyle, including physical activity and healthy eating habits. The sample cardio and strength training workouts, recipes, and progress charts are very easy to follow.

Honestly, after age 18 gravity hits. I wish I would have developed the healthy habits I have now as a teenager so that I never would have had to feel uncomfortable in my body. This book does not promote revolving your life around exercise; it shows teenage girls that there are ways to fit a healthy lifestyle into a busy schedule more naturally.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

well that was different, in a good way.

The main character and narrator of Lori Carson’s debut novel, The Original 1982 fell in love with a man who was not good for her. Been there, girlfriend. Back in 1982 Lisa was a misguided girl trying to get into the music industry as a singer/songwriter. She was young and stupid and got knocked up by her way too old for her musician boyfriend who convinced her to get an abortion. Thirty years later and full of regret, Lisa decides to go back to that moment in her life and choose differently. She takes us back to 1982, and tells the story as if she had the child, rewriting her past into something more complicated but easier to live with. Lisa gives her unborn child a name and a story, while turning herself into a mother. She is the writer of her story, so she can do whatever she wants, and she does, flashing back between the real and the make believe. Author Lori Carson’s fresh style is sure to shake up your summer reading list.

GIVEAWAY: If you would like the opportunity to win a free copy of this new release, follow this blog and email your name, address, and this book title to:! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

tailor your sales message to fit the sale.

After I read The Secret Language of Influence by Dan Seidman, I passed it along to one of my friends who started a Mary Kay business this year for a second opinion. She’s doing very well selling the products because she is so passionate about the company and their mission, yet she still found ways to improve her on selling skills in Seidman’s resource.

Seidman covers all of this bases focusing on how to handle a customer and also how to handle yourself. In the first part of the book Seidman explains that in order to master the art of selling, you need to develop the skill and ability to influence others and gain understanding of why people do the things they do. Seidman explores the various types of buyers in great detail (there are way more than you’d think, so this aspect is very useful). There are toward buyers and away buyers. There are artist buyers (creative, spontaneous) and accountant buyers (systematic and deliberate). There are big picture buyers and detail buyers. Lots and lots of buyers here people, and they cannot all be sold the same way.  These personalities all require a different approach.

The second part of the book is all about influencing yourself. According to Seidman, you need to learn how to be resilience, how to handle rejection (you cannot be sensitive in sales), and also how to set goals and priorities for yourself. What you need to do to be a successful sales person is all spelled out for you.

Monday, May 27, 2013

can the real jane austen please stand up?

The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne is not your average biography. Byrne tells her story by taking an item that Jane Austen owned, used or would have seen and uses it as a springboard to discuss the different aspects of her life and her family. The objects that Byrne describes allow the reader to glimpse Austen's life from a perspective somewhat over her shoulder. The first object Byrne describes is an engraving of Lyme Regis, a West Dorset coastal village, showing us Austen’s love of the sea. Also included is an East Indian shawl that introduces some of Austen's more exotic relatives. And her notebooks containing her youthful writings show how her family nurtured her writing. This strategy causes the biography to jump around a bit, but it’s still a genius idea with impeccable research.

I learned a lot. For example did you know that Jane Austen, contrary to what people might expect, was firmly not of the belief that there is only one person in the world whom you can love? I find this comforting.

This biography is different, informative, and fun to read. Three of my favorite things.

Friday, May 24, 2013

only includes the good stuff.

I am not even remotely tech savvy. Web wise, can’t go much further than this (very basic) blog. Other than my general disinterest, I also don’t have time to figure out how to use different web technologies, I’m busy molding the minds of America’s youth/trying not to hit them. Peter Gasston's The Modern Web, Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript is exactly what people like me need. When I say people like me, I mean people who would benefit from building their own website, but don’t have time to research it themselves.  For me it would be useful for this blog, or a classroom website, for you it could be for something else like your own business. Gasston doesn’t give you a bunch of different directions in this resource; he gives you the RIGHT direction. He’s done the research for you; all you have to do is follow his lead, and BAM you’ve updated an outdated website, or created a brand spankin’ new one that suits your needs perfectly. We’ve got a reference that is worth it over here people, don’t miss out!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

so you had a bad day.

At the start of Changing Lanes by Kathleen Long, thirty-year-old Abby Halladay has a really bad day, pretty much the worst. First she lost her job as an advice columnist, she recently purchased her first home and finds out today of all days that it has extensive termite damage, AND her fiancé suddenly left the country, and presumably her, a mere two months before their wedding. Abby girl, go back to bed.

Abby is now forced to stay with her parents until the house issues are straightened out, and before the days end she runs into her childhood buddy, Mick, whom she has been estranged for over a decade. Which doesn’t exactly add to her bad day, just makes it more surreal. He’s still handsome, and when Abby tries to get the gossip on his return to the neighborhood, she learns that she’s not the only one with bad luck lately. 

Long takes us from feel bad to feel good pretty quickly as the pages turn, things for Abby start looking up, and this novel turns into the perfect summer read.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

since it’s golf season.

I am so glad manfriend doesn’t enjoy golfing. He’s not all that great at it, and the few times he’s gone, he is bored out of his mind until the beers start opening. He’s much too exciting for the likes of golf, he’d much rather watch Young and the Restless.

Golf caddie and author Oliver Horovitz’s memoir titled An American Caddie in St. Andrews: Growing up, Girls, and Looping on the Old Course adds a little UMPH to the game. Horovitz has been a caddie since the age of twelve and he takes us through that first summer and his journey to the top. He’s actually a pretty impressive guy, with a 1.8 handicap (whatever that means), but more importantly he was accepted into Harvard, but took the year off and spent it at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Horovitz was just a New York boy trying to fit in with the caddies at St. Andrews. His storytelling is excellent, making this memoir enjoyable for every reader, even those like me who don’t take it any farther than mini golf, which I’m excellent at by the way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

revisiting fables.

I’ve noticed that my 9th graders have a difficult time deciphering the theme of literary works. Apparently they have been taught that a theme can be a simple word, like family or responsibility, when in the land of literature, theme is a statement. A central idea or message revealed, something learned. I have taken to going back to fables to help the message finding process along.

I brought Aesop in California by Dough Hansen into the classroom recently, which got a few chuckles. Hansen includes fables such as The Grasshopper and the Ants, The Lion and the Mouse and The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, ones with obvious messages, and ties them into popular locations around California. For example, The Fox and the Grapes takes place in Napa Valley. It’s actually quite clever, and the illustrations are as gorgeous as the Golden State itself. 

For a chance to win a copy of this title, follow this blog and email your name, address and this book title to:!

Friday, May 17, 2013

when life hands you Tourette’s…

Imagine how stressful growing up with Tourette’s syndrome must be. Now go a step further and picture Tourette’s along with Mormonism, and throw in a very large bodied librarian. If you can’t manage to imagine any of this, or you are just plain confused, or both, no worries, Josh Hanagarne paints a very descriptive picture in his memoir, The World’s Strongest Librarian.

Hanagarne, who works at the Salt Lake City Public Library, is six-feet-seven-inches tall and weighs two hundred and sixty pounds. He was raised as a Mormon, has extreme Tourette’s syndrome, and in his spare time trains for strongman competitions. In a very straightforward manner, Hanagarne details the ways in which his condition, coupled with a Mormon upbringing, multiplied the countless embarrassments and miseries of adolescence. Not surprisingly, he also didn’t have much luck with girls. “Two things kept getting in the way … God and Tourette’s.” Those major obstacles, and the fact the people were not exactly kind to Hanagarne, lead to a deep depression that lasted until he made the decision to rebuild his life, and so he did.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

a novel recommendation from lorelei gilmore.

A Redbook magazine recently had a brief interview article with Lauren Graham (Lorelei Gilmore) where she recommended books she has read to readers. Gilmore Girls is my all-time favorite show and reading is my all-time favorite pastime, so you can imagine how seriously I took her recommendations.

"I love YA crossover fiction! In Jennifer E. Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, a girl misses a plane and meets a guy. It's a 'what would happen if…?' You don't have to be a teenager to enjoy remembering this crazy time—I watch Homeland and I don't work for the CIA." – Lauren Graham

You can read the rest of the interview here.…which leads me to my next review…

Hadley Sullivan is on her way to London to watch her father get re-married to a Brit she has never met. This wouldn’t be particularly strange if her dad hadn’t fallen in love with this woman while he was temporarily teaching abroad at Oxford STILL married to Hadley’s mother. We see a broken side to the seventeen year old Hadley as she journeys across the pond for the very first time at her mother’s request. Her mother may have forgiven her father, but she couldn’t bring herself to get there yet.
Having missed her flight, Hadley was stuck at the JFK airport when she met him. Oliver. It turns out that maybe fate had something to do with her missing the first flight, and seating her in the same row as this handsome stranger. They spend the entire flight talking, learning about each other, neither telling their whole story. Oliver attends Yale, not far from Hadley’s house. There’s that fate again. As they descend into Heathrow, both in a hurry to get to their separate events, they share their first kiss in front of customs, not exchanging any contact information. London isn’t all that big if you really think about it, and Hadley does survive her father’s wedding vows, but I will leave it for you to read for yourself.

Monday, May 13, 2013

eleanor & park.

I literally just closed Eleanor and Park, which I read cover to cover in less than twenty-four hours. Seeing as I’m young, when I would come to school looking tired at the beginning of the year I would get some questioning looks from students, one even had the nerve to ask me if I was hung over. I explained that I will never come to school hung over (except for the day after St. Patrick’s day, that was the truth), and that I was up late reading a book I got sucked into. Surprisingly, that was an acceptable reason to them. I read until past midnight last night, and finished the novel during my planning period today. My tiredness is now tacitly understood with my students. I kind of like those kids.

When I received Rainbow Rowell‘s Eleanor and Park, I assumed it was a young adult novel, which it is. But seeing as the “fucks” began on the very first page, I have to consider whether I should keep it in my classroom library. Sixteen-year-olds Eleanor and Park met on the school bus. She was strange, with crazy clothes and uncontrollable red hair. He was quiet, with music blaring in his ears, wearing black. They seemed like an odd couple, and really, they were. They really didn’t care much for each other at the beginning. But somehow they managed to fit together in a way that knocked the both of them off their feet. It was that beautiful reckless kind of passionate love you can only experience at that age. Where nothing else mattered, not where you came from or where you’re going, just that you can sit still together for that moment. The kind of love that doesn’t end by choice, but by circumstance, and turns into a lovely memory to carry with you as you continue to grow up. That was Eleanor and Park.
I’m thinking my recommendation is obvious?

Friday, May 10, 2013

on my to-see list.

I have been to several parts of Southern California; LA, San Diego, Catalina, Disneyland…but I have never been to Northern California, and it is on my list. San Francisco is known for its flamboyant and artsy style, so I was pleased when I received San Francisco: Arts for the City by Susan Wels to check out.

San Francisco is notorious for a couple of things; the Golden Gate Bridge and Coit Tower, deemed the “most walkable” city and it’s a place where you can soak in the art for cheap. There’s also a history in San Francisco that may surprise you, and Susan Wels does an excellent job of giving us background on San Fran’s most infamous projects and public art.
Seen through the lens of the San Francisco Arts Commission's history, the full page photography spreads by such renowned artists as Imogen Cunningham, Richard Misrach, Jim Goldberg, and Henry Wessel say more than words could ever, although Wels does make an excellent historical storyteller.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

for the love of poetry.

I have never read a collection of poetry that told as many stories as Charles Harper Webb did in What Things Are Made Of.  Typically poets hide behind literary elements and figurative language, making their meanings subjective to readers. You never really know for sure what the poet thinking exactly. Well, Charles Harper Webb lays it all out there in this poetry series.

Webb gets very personal in the stanzas about the birth of his son. He is relatable in the poem “Bed & Breakfast,” where Webb and his wife are spending a childfree holiday and his poem about his first unrequited love. Webb has slapstick humor down pat, and had me laughing out loud as much as he had me thinking about my own memories on past and present love.

This collection is modern, real, and FUN to read. Take THAT poetry haters.

Monday, May 6, 2013

a welcome addition to any library of dark fantasy.

The Resurrectionist: The Lost Work of Dr. Spencer Black by E. B. Hudspeth is broken into two sections. The first is the fictional biography of Dr. Spencer Black, which might as well have been put together by compiling excerpts from his personal journal as well as his brother's. It starts with his childhood and quickly moves to adulthood, summarizing his career and his obsessions. Hudspeth has done a great job making the book both fantastic and believable. It’s heavy on the art, but I was especially taken with Hudspeth’s writing ability. Had it not said fiction in the description, I would've thought Dr. Black was an actual person and this was a real biography. The book is paced well, at about 80 pages there isn't much room for every detail, but since Dr. Black is a fictional character, I am surprised that Hudspeth didn’t add a little more detail to his life.

The second half of this volume consists of The Codex Extinct Animalia. I’m thinking it’s a crowd please as this section is filled with anatomical renderings of mythical creatures and beasts. There are both skeletal and muscular/connective tissue plates, each annotated. Details are provided as well as footnotes about Black's process of constructing and displaying each creation. The novel is dark for sure, and based on the images, you can assume that Black quite mad. Oh wait, I forgot that Dr. Black isn’t a real person, again.

Friday, May 3, 2013

churchill as a dinner companion, yes please.

Cita Stelzer's Dinner with Churchill sheds a lot of fascinating new light on the way that Winston Churchill used the dining table to advance his military and diplomatic strategies. Quoting Stelzer, "No matter the circumstances - whether in the dining room at Chartwell or on a picnic chair in the desert - Churchill's profound belief in the importance of face-to-face meetings, and his unshakeable confidence in his ability to get his own way in such intimate encounters, never wavered." Anyone who used food and fine dining to get what they wanted out of people is my kind of person, especially if there was wine, or in Churchill’s case, champagne. Here, here!

Speaking of booze, Stelzer devotes a chapter to the much-discussed issue of Churchill's drinking. She absolutely has Churchill’s back, as would I, and examines the evidence for his supposed alcohol abuse, and concludes that the charge is not proved. Just because you enjoy the occasional seven cocktails, does not make you an alcoholic. Thank you very much.

Dinner with Churchill is basically the best historical biography I have ever laid my seeing double eyes on. Highly recommended to the history buffs and beyond.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

let's ride.

I am not what you would call a country girl, but I work in a country school, and out here in the country my students milk cows, raise chickens, and ride horses. When I was younger I used to visit my aunt and uncle who lived in the country, where I learned how to ride and also participated in a few horse riding competitions where I inevitably received the “participation ribbon” because let’s be honest, my sunflower leggings and I were totally city slicker. I do like to connect with my students and their interests, and I don’t necessarily feel the need to inform them of my horseback riding glory days, which leads me to my next review…

The Gentle Art of Horseback Riding by Gincy Self Bucklin is a step-by-step riding guide for those who want to learn everything important before mounting your steed. Bucklin even incorporates a lesson-plan format to help you experienced riders teach others.

This resource includes:

·         The seven steps for dealing with fear-related stress

·         Interpreting your horse’s behavior and body language

·         Saddling up, riding in half-seat positions, and using the reins

·         Basic movements, including walk, trot, canter, turns, and transitions

·         More advanced trotting, cantering, galloping, hill work, and fence jumping skills

If you’re new at this, and you don’t want to take lessons, or feel stupid going into your first lesson with no knowledge, this is the perfect resource for you.