25 February 2015

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

An academic book review by an author who was inspired by C.S. Lewis: Lemony Snicket.

Macabre and Humor for Children in The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

            A lot of children’s stories involve daring adventures, life lessons, examination of faith or simply entertain the reader; an excellent example of children’s literature that examines faith while also entertaining the reader would be C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  Not all together so with The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket. This first story in The Series of Unfortunate Events collection, though entertaining and providing a great moral, does not contain a plethora of cheerfulness and good will.  This review will give you a glimpse into Snicket’s macabre tale and how, though the story is completely unlike Lewis’ works, Snicket uses some of the same style as Lewis.

            There once lived three small children named Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire. They came from a loving home and were quite happy.  Until the day their lives were turned upside down in a terrible tragedy and afterwards became filled with all sorts of misery. The Bad Beginning recounts their woeful tale from that tragic day on, including a creepy house, bad food and sinister villains with dastardly schemes. The siblings, however, stick together and use their wit and love for each other to overcome adversity.

            Though Snicket’s novel deals with some very serious issues using quite a macabre tone, he does use a great deal of humor to lighten the subject matter.  While any inquisitive youngster with a penchant for reading, exploring and learning about the world around them and how it works can relate with the Baudelaire siblings, Snicket over emphasizes his villain to make him seem a little less believable, though still quite creepy. At times, the trouble that the Baudelaire siblings find themselves in can be quite frightening to a very young reader; hesitancy should be used with a child younger than age ten in reading this novel. For the slightly older reader though, the humor sprinkled throughout can help alleviate the tense parts of the story. The juxtaposition of the comedic and macabre bring a great balance to the story and without one or the other, it probably wouldn’t survive. Snicket’s writing will have the reader gripping the page one paragraph and the very next paragraph the reader will be laughing out loud.  To that end, any child that lives in the tragic world in which we reside today can easily relate to the very positive moral of this story.

            What about Lewis? Snicket and Lewis both write in such a style that when reading their books for children, it feels as though they occasionally take a sentence or two to speak directly to the reader - or in Snicket’s case sometimes a whole page to go off on a personal tangent – but this only adds to the humor of his writing. This kind of writing directly to the reader brings a much realer relationship between the author and the reader, while also providing reassurance that this book is in fact, a made up story, scary parts and all. Lewis and Snicket also use these little quips as opportunities to teach a child little life lessons.

            Should The Bad Beginning enter into your child’s library? For the mature reader, even the sensitive ones, yes. The Baudelaire siblings face terrible tragedy and reading about tragedy helps make it seem not quite as scary, or at the very least, not an end all forever. The Baudelaire siblings survive, learn and even grow while the lessons they learn help them overcome their tragedy in a positive way, something that most people would be better off knowing.  Lewis used his works to help teach children to be brave in order to face a sometimes scary world; it would not be far off to say the same of Snicket.

15 February 2015

PSA: Signs of a Stroke

In my goal to post at least once every week, I am bringing you this Public Service Announcement, based on a flyer I made when I was in nursing school (years and years ago). Without further ado, here you go - who knows, maybe you'll save someone's life by learning the signs of a stroke:

What are you doing to Prevent Stroke??

Stroke is one of the most preventable illnesses

Stroke is also the second leading cause of death

In the United States

Stroke is the LEADING cause of long term disability


Risk factors for stroke:

·        High blood pressure

·        High cholesterol

·        Smoking

·        Poor diet and lack of exercise

·        Atrial fibrillation

·        Drinking alcohol excessively
What can I do???

·        Lower high blood pressure through diet,
Exercise or take medicine as prescribed

·        Stop smoking

·        Eat less salt

·        Exercise for 1 hour at least 3 x a week

·        If you do drink, drink in moderation (1-2  beverages)

·        See your doctor and find out if you have an abnormal heart rhythm. If you do, get treated for it


How do I know if a loved one is having a stroke???

          Act F.A.S.T. :

Face – Does one side of the face droop?

Arms – If both arms are raised, does one arm drift downward?

Speech – Is their speech slurred or sound strange?

Time – If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 or get to the nearest hospital. It’s time to Act FAST!!

(2007). Preventing Stroke. Harvard Women’s Health Watch.

         Retrieved 14April2008 from CINAHL Database.

“Stroke Facts” National Stroke Association. www.stroke.org

08 February 2015

Memoir Snippet: Full Circle

I wrote this back in August, at the beginning of the school year . . .

Clank-clank. Clank. The metal snaps on the flag clank against the pole, while the Stars and Stripes snap to attention in the brisk breeze.  A bright New Mexico blue sky looks down on a deserted and quiet playground. The heat of the summer has yet to calm and fade away to the coolness of autumn.  I walk down the hall of my daughter’s new school and see kids busy at desks and tables, heads bent intently over books, or sitting gathered around a teacher eagerly leaning in to hear a new story, over-head projectors lighting up dimmed classrooms as a new lesson is taught. My oldest daughter is a part of this world of learning and exploration now. She has entered the world of kindergarten.

            I feel a slight tug in my stomach as my own childhood academic memories flood back to me, set off by sights, sounds and smells at my daughter’s school. In the course of my school career, I went to ten different schools.  Such is the life of a military brat. Though there were many teachers, lots of new classrooms, differently designed schools and a plethora of names to learn, some things remained the same. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, I did. I loved it.

            I think back to when I was a tiny child with an oversized backpack and a long brown ponytail, starting school on a tropical island under a steamy sun on a small island in the East China Sea. How I loved the smell of rubber shavings emanating from new erasers, the feel of granite pencil tip on paper gliding smoothly under the direction of my clumsy child fingers, the smell of slightly decayed fruits and vegetables alongside peanut butter sandwiches, waiting in lunch boxes at the back of the classroom in their respectable cubbies. I loved that there was a whole world of newness that was opened up to me, and it was huge, waiting for me to come and take in more and learn everything I could absorb. I could never get enough. I delighted in skipping ahead in the reading, or continuing counting on past one hundred until the lines on the paper ran out on a quiz, just to show that I was ready to learn more.

            The rules at every school remained the same. The type of work was constant.  And there was a flag pole at every school, and the clanking metal on metal in a breeze under the red, white and blue. That feeling the school had when it was full of students abuzz with new thoughts and ideas. And the empty feeling of a lonely playground, abandoned until the next recess.

            These sounds, smells and feelings connected one school to another, across the country, around the world, and now, here, at my daughter’s school. Things have come full circle and I am no longer the little girl with the over-sized backpack. Now it’s my oldest daughter’s turn as she starts Kindergarten.

            As I think on these things I ponder what her school experience will be like. Like me, she is a military brat and doubtlessly will attend numerous schools before she graduates. There will be similarities, but there will also be many differences. I wonder if she too will come to find comfort in the small and ordinary, as she moves from school to school. The pencils, the desks, the overhead projectors, the lunches, and the playgrounds, all bringing uniformity and, therefore, comfort. And the clanking flagpole in the wind as the American flag flies overhead.

03 February 2015

A Glimpse into an Evening of our Home . . .

As described on Facebook . ..

Just a typical night at home with the VB's: made meatballs from scratch tonight for an Italian soup (first time I've made meatballs from scratch in years, incidentally). After, not during, but after, the meatballs were finished in the oven and the oven was turned off, the smoke alarm starts to go off. Butterfly immediately starts crying because it's too loud and she got sensory overwhelmed. Mike starts running around opening windows while simultaneously getting the fan out of the garage (and opening the garage door) to fan the alarm. I start chopping an onion. Flower starts crying. The cat is running around wide-eyed between all the kids. The smoke alarm upstairs goes off, but not in sync with the one downstairs, so the beeping is more constant, of course. Mike ushers all the kids outside to the backyard. I add the onions to a small saute pan and start cooking them, (without forgetting to add the garlic). The smoke alarm downstairs shuts off. The kids run inside, two out of three are still crying. Little Man closes the back door. The smoke alarm starts back up again. With the onions still sautéing, I get the broom out of the pantry and push the little button on the smoke alarm. I have no idea if this will work or not. The kids go back outside, where they sit with Mike on a chair. The alarm shuts off. I remove the broom handle from the button. The alarm turns back on. I pause to check on the onions and then push the button again. Alarm gives me a resistant, blaring, continuous beep and then stops. Ahh, silence. And brrr, it got cold in the house. The soup continued to simmer and was enjoyed by all.

I write a lot of these kind of posts on Facebook about homelife . . . I really need to find that one about the spider . ..

02 February 2015

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

Anna O'Brien is a quiet, reserved map librarian with a sharp mind and a witty tongue to match. Working in the Library of Congress, she is living her dream and works hard to keep her position, even though that means giving up the idea of marriage. When she stumbles upon a mistake in an old report regarding a missing ship and brings it to the attention of the Navy Department, she finds every attempt to correct the report blocked. Then she meets Luke Callahan, a rising star in Congress -  before being shrouded in scandal. Together they work towards solving the mystery of the ship only to find themselves immersed in shocking secrets that could alter the course of history.

Elizabeth Camden's writing is right on par, once again. This wonderfully beautiful historical fiction makes one feel like they are in Washington DC in the late 1890's. When I read Beyond All Dreams, I felt like I walking the halls of the Library of Congress, or the streets of D.C. where streetcars made their way along their routes through the city. Anna's character feels so real, her wit and intelligence really bring the pages to life. The plot is extremely intriguing, especially the sparks that fly between Anna and Luke. I loved how the story played right into actual historical events; it felt like I was being transported back in time and was living in the heady times of 1897-8 in Washington D.C.

I highly recommend this book to any book-lover who enjoys a good historical fiction, or historical romance. You won't be disappointed in this captivating tale of political intrigue, humor and amore.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Bethany Publishing Company book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”