Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Chalk Man

The Chalk Man
by C.J. Tudor
To be Published: Jan 2018

Reminiscent of Stand By Me (/The Body) this whodunnit centers on a group of 12 year olds and the unsolved  mystery that plagues their small town. Flashing between 1986 and 2016, we piece together events from their childish misadventures leading up to their discovery of a brutal murder and the resurrection of the mystery decades later.

3 of 5 stars : Definitely a page-turner, it has a good pace, solid story and a satisfying conclusion.** I unintentionally breezed through the book over the holiday weekend thanks to some cold and gloomy book-friendly weather! Without treading into spoiler territory, let's just say, not impressed overall. Ending every chapter on a cliffhanger really brought me back to my Goosebumps / Fear Street days, so maybe the overarching "meh" feeling comes from it feeling a bit YA fic. Which isn't a terrible thing in and of itself - just not my cuppa anymore. One thing I did really enjoy was the occasional asides on existence and memory - never forget kids, deep down we're all unreliable narrators.

**that said I'm still left with some questions and I can't decide whether this was sloppy, intentional or I'm just dense. Usually the latter so *shrugs*

PS: Found a nice summary video from C.J. Tudor herself:

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Book of the Month

~~~ wake up wake up wake up, it's the book of the mooooooonth ~~ 

// Disclaimer: Book of the Month has not paid me to promote them, I am a corporate shill of my own volition and with no foreseeable benefit to myself. Don't mind me, I'll just be sitting here re-evaluating all the choices I've made that have led me to this point.

Book of the Month Club was founded in 1926 as a way to distribute and discuss new and upcoming books. From the Wikipedia page, I bring you some fun tidbits of history:
"The club has a tradition of focusing on debut and emerging writers, and is known for having helped launch the careers of some of the most acclaimed authors in American literary history. In 1926 (its first year in operation), the Club featured Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. In 1936 (its tenth year), the Club selected Gone with the Wind by unknown author Margaret Mitchell... In 1951 (its 25th year), the club distributed its 100 millionth book and selected J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which became both the most-censored and the most-taught book in America."
Since it's the holiday season, I've had this bouncing around my brain-- that I'm pleased with my subscription and thought I'd spread the joy. This is for anyone who still needs a gift for that picky bookworm who you love just enough to spend one of three convenient price ranges ($45 bucks for 3 books, $80 bucks for 6 books or $150 for starting at ~$15 per book). Each month, members are presented with five new books and the option to either pick one or skip the month. There is also an archive of books offered in the past that are available to someone with book credits.

Honestly, I'd wait until BOTM is doing a coupon or offer to make sure you're getting the best deal i.e. Groupon / RetailMeNot / sporadic promo sales.

Q: Kay you've convinced me, where do I go to check this out?
A: Haz click aquĆ­ --> If you use my own personal referral link I get a free book. Thanks in advance, stranger! That's some genius marketing right there, yea? Falls right in line with their self-perpetuating stream of Instagram Book Looks. *cough*

Q: What if my friend is super particular and doesn't like the books available? 
A: They can always skip that month and get something the next month! Or the month after that. Or the one after that. Or they can prolong the wait indefinitely and get off on how unreasonably high their standards are #neversettle #neverbackdown. But seriously there's no shame in skipping months, save those credits for books you're excited about. Though the curation team does deserve some credit here: the picks seem pretty well-regarded in the grand scheme of things.

Q: Why can't I just get my friend a gift card to their favorite local book store? Or to Half-Price books instead?  
A: I never said you couldn't do that. Those are fantastic options! Do it! Some local bookstores even offer subscription boxes now - like my lovely neighborhood Brazos Bookstore makes personalized gift boxes tailor-made to suit the recipient with 1-2 books and several gift items. Book of the Month is neat and all but nothing beats supporting local. Find your nearest indie bookstore on IndieBound!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Gingerbrain Cookie Ornaments

This year for our annual holiday gift exchange, I decided to *spice* things up a bit with an easy cinnamon craft (don't worry I'm rolling my eyes right there with ya). There are millions of recipes for this online, but the gist is:
  1. Mix 1 cup applesauce and 1 1/2 cup cinnamon into a doughy consistency. Some recipes call for Elmer's glue, other's don't. I added a tablespoon of it to make sure everything would bind together and mine turned out pretty resilient.
  2. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/3 of an inch. Keep in mind, the thinner you make it the faster it will dry but if you make it too thin, your little brains will be frail and more prone to cracking. 
  3. Cut into a brain shape. I used this cookie-cutter I found on Amazon but your options here are limitless you can even draw an outline yourself! Then use a straw or toothpick to cut out a hole on the top so that you have something to poke the ribbon through.
  4. Air dry or bake. What kind of time frame are you working with here? Because I baked mine at 200 degrees for about 2 hours to get em started and then left them out to air dry for the next week just to be sure. It really depends on how thick you made them and how long you are willing to wait for them to stop being squishy. 
  5. Decorate with fabric paint "icing."Get creative! Or go off some anatomical diagrams. I made sure to include the lateral sulcus and sensory/motor cortices but anything beyond that was squiggletown.
Apparently these will last for years and years if you keep them nice and dry in storage. If you find the powerful cinnamon smell has started to fade, just use some sandpaper to rough up the backside again and re-expose some of that spice. Smells like Christmas!

Here is some inspiration to make sure your brain buddies are as anatomically correct as they delightful:  
From Brain Anatomy Slideshare
From What When How
This illustration from Shuttershock
Oh! and be sure to blast Sia's Christmas album as you go along, otherwise they won't turn out. Sorry it's true.

Recipe references: