Saturday, December 31, 2011

I DIG READING 2012

You may or may not have been a participant in last year's I Dig Reading Challenge. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, let me give you the scoop.

WHY? Most years I think to myself that I'd really like to donate money (not a lot, by any means, but a little here and there) to charities that I think are doing important work. Most years I go through month after month without donating anything. While I don't have a lot of extra money, I find that at the end of the month, whatever is left kind of disappears anyway... so I thought, why not make an effort to give consistently throughout the year.

The BIG idea: I love reading. I want to challenge myself to read more. Why not kill two birds with one stone, by merging reading goals with donating to my favorite charities? I read more, I give more. It's a win-win situation. It also allows me to do something "for the greater good" while I'm also doing something that I enjoy.

HOW it works: YOU make all the decisions. You decide how much you'd like to give per book, or per page. Participants have done a penny a page, a nickle a page, a dollar a book, five dollars per book, or more. It can be ANYTHING.

YOU decide where to donate. In 2011 I gave to local, international, and national organizations (sometimes with the help of Charity Navigator, which rates charities).

YOU keep track of what you read during the year and periodically (or at the end of the year) blog about your experiences.

I decided to donate monthly and blogged about it.  


Keep track of the other I Dig Reading Challenge Participants by linking to their posts and updating their work in the handy-dandy tab at the top of the page.

Over the year, I noticed people shying away from listing amounts as the challenge proceeded, and I think that might be because of a general dislike of talking about money.  In response, I stopped listing amounts myself.  Do whatever you feel comfortable with. Talking about the actual amounts is not important.

For me, it's about realizing that I can give more. If I get to read more in doing it, then all the better. 


So, join me if you like, or keep watching here for my updates if you prefer.


If you'd like to take part, here's what to do:


1. Grab a button and put it on your blog.
2. Send me an email [insectwriter (at) gmail (dot) com] so I can add you to the ALL-STARS page. 
3. Let me know when you update and I'll link to your posts in a blog and on the tab.
4. Read more.
5. Give more. 


Check the tab above to see who has already signed up for 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Superlative blogfest: best in show

Here is my list of 2011 reads:

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko (MG)
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Flutter by Erin Moulton (MG)
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske (Adult)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ms Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (Adult)
Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller

I'll try to stick to the YA titles...

Friday, December 30: Best in Show
Favorite Cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Cutest Couple Henry and Miranda from Screwing up Time

Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner) The Piper's Son

Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (The book you just couldn't put down) Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Breakout Novel (Favorite book by a debut author) Before Ever After

Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2011) On the Jellicoe Road

Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry: The Piper's Son

Most Pleasant Surprise (The best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did)  Daughter of Smoke and Bone 

Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle Invincible Summer

Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more) No Passengers Beyond this Point
 
What about you?


Do you have some favorites from the Class of 2011? Tell me about them. I'll put them on my to be read pile!


Visit our hostesses blogs [AlisonTraceyJessica, and Katy ] to read what others loved this year.



I'll be posting about the 2012 I Dig Reading Challenge on New Year's Eve (you can also get details by clicking the tab above). Check back for updates.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Superlative blogfest: elements of fiction

Here is my list of 2011 reads:

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko (MG)
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Flutter by Erin Moulton (MG)
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske (Adult)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ms Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (Adult)
Bossypants by Tina Fey (non-fiction)
The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin MacPherson (non-fiction)

Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller

I'll try to stick to the YA titles...

Thursday, December 29: Elements of Fiction
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself). It's not like what I write at all, but No Passengers Beyond this Point really kind of blew my mind. I loved the concept, and it was so perfectly executed. 

Most Wonderful World-Building, Laini Taylor made me believe in Karou's world in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Absolutely. 

Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you most definitely would NOT want to travel to) Divergent- I'd want to be Dauntless, but I don't think I can hang.

Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you'd happily travel to) Bodiam, the Medieval Castle in Screwing up Time (though Keller does a good job of showing it wasn't very clean or comfortable, I'd still like to see it in its glory).

Loveliest Prose:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Taylor is a master of word choice. I geeked out over many of her descriptions and lines. 

Best First Line- I don't have actual copies of most of these... bummer. 

Most Dynamic Main Character: Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Most Jaw-Dropping Finale:   Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Best Performance in a Supporting Role: It's as much her story as his, but Aunt Georgie from The Piper's Son was incredible as a supporting role in Tom's story. 

What about you?

Do you have some favorites from the Class of 2011? Tell me about them. I'll put them on my to be read pile!


Visit our hostesses blogs [AlisonTraceyJessica, and Katy ] to read what others loved this year.

I'll be posting about the 2012 I Dig Reading Challenge on New Year's Eve (you can also get details by clicking the tab above). Check back for updates.





Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Superlative blogfest: popularity contest



Here is my list of 2011 reads:

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko (MG)
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Flutter by Erin Moulton (MG)
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske (Adult)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ms Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto (Adult)
Bossypants by Tina Fey (non-fiction)
The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin MacPherson (non-fiction)

Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller, which I just finished last night!


I'll try to stick to the YA titles...
Most Likely to Become a Rock Star: Tom from The Piper's Son, if he can just stop the self-sabotage.
Mostly Likely to Start a Riot: Tris from Divergent
Fashion King and/or Queen: that would have to be the beauty queens AND the pirates from Beauty Queens
    Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF: Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Because she kicks a**.
Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School: Tom from the Piper's Son. I think I did date him, but later, in college. IRL, the moody artist is much less fun (especially without the personal growth).
Most Likely to Become President: Taylor Renee Krystal Hawkins of Beauty Queens. I'd vote for her. She'd get stuff DONE. 
     Quirkiest Character: I loved the little girl who floated in Miss Peregrine's Home, but all of those kids were quirky and amazing.
Villain You Love to Hate: The nemesis of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (can't remember his name/didn't want to drop a spoiler). Also, the hunter man (guy in the cabin) from Daughter of Smoke and Bone... I kept waiting for him to reappear. When he does, it will not be good. 
Favorite Parental Figure: Parents? Were there parents in these books? Given the choices, it's definitely Brimstone from Daughter of Smoke and Bone.  He's such an intimidating character, I don't think until late in the book I realized how much he cared for Karou. 
Coolest Nerds: Brian and Henry from Screwing Up Time. I loved that they were intellectually curious enough to get themselves into ALL sorts of trouble. Even Kate was nerdy in her own cool way.  
What about you? 


Do you have some favorites from the Class of 2011? Tell me about them. I'll put them on my to be read pile!

Visit our hostesses blogs [AlisonTraceyJessica, and Katy ] to read what others loved this year.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

superlative blogfest!

I am typing this post on my new iPad (cue the squee)! Thank you, Santa!

Now, onto business... The superlative blogfest. Thanks to Alison, Tracey, Jessica, and Katy for this awesome idea.



Okay, first a confession... I have not read a lot of books published in 2011! I know! for SHAME!

I've read eighty-eight books in the last twelve months... but only a handful from this year. It makes me doubly glad to be trying out the 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

Here is my list of 2011 reads:

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
No Passengers Beyond this Point by Gennifer Choldenko
Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz
Divergent by Veronica Roth

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Flutter by Erin Moulton
Making Waves by Tawna Fenske
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Ms Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto
Bossypants by Tina Fey (non-fiction)
The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin MacPherson (non-fiction)

Screwing Up Time by C.M. Keller, which I just finished last night!


So, with this in mind... here are my picks


Tuesday, December 27: Head of the Class
Favorite Dystopian: definitely goes to Roth's Divergent
Favorite Science Fiction/Fantasy:  Daughter of Smoke and Bone, thanks to Tracey for making it a book club read.  It blew me away!
Favorite Contemporary: Before Ever After. It's a romance, a mystery, a dabble of science fiction... and a GREAT read. I highly recommend it. 

Favorite Action/Adventure: I am loving the self-pubbed Screwing up Time by CM Keller. Time traveling kids, mystery, and a touch of romance. Look for a review in the next week.

Favorite Comedy: It's billed as a romance, but Fenske's Making Waves is as funny as it is romantic. (There's also a mystery that kept me guessing).

Favorite Family Drama: The Piper's Son, no contest. Back me up, Marchetta fans..  

Favorite Genre Bender: again, a book that defies classification, the middle grade No Passengers Beyond this Point had me thinking FOR DAYS.  Is it a mystery or a contemporary? Science fiction? I can't say... but I loved it.

What about you?

Do you have some favorites from the Class of 2011? Tell me about them. I'll put them on my to be read pile!

Visit our hostesses blogs [AlisonTraceyJessica, and Katy ] to read what others loved this year.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

I'm scheduling this ahead.

By the time you read this, we will have traveled across seven states, seen at least twelve aunts, uncles, and grandparents, and about nine cousins.


By the time you read this, I hope to be working hard at putting together a Playmobil Knights Castle for my kids, or perhaps just watching my husband do it while I play with my new toys!


Then I'll get to eat all the grits I can at my sister's house plus the delights of many breakfast-oriented casseroles. I'll get to see both my sisters and their families, who I haven't seen since the summer of 2010.

I hope your holiday, whichever one you celebrate, is filled with lots of joy, love, and kindness.

Mine will look something like this

and this

I hope yours is just as nice!
See you next year!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

CONTEST WINNER and Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

I've been on a bit of a Agatha Christie binge lately. I bought a 5-book volume of her work and have loved tearing through it.


I recently read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. It's seems to be a typical Christie book featuring her sleuth Poirot.

It plays along in the usual way (big manor house, mysterious death, many clues, lots of people who could have done it, many people with motive). You, the reader, are led down several false paths until you think you've finally figured out who the murderer is.


And then, she blindsides you. In the most incredible way.

I don't want to spoil it, but I REALLY WANT TO SPOIL IT! But, I won't. I promise.

It was so great I woke my husband UP after finishing it to tell him who the murderer was (he had NO IDEA what I was talking about, of course, but he kindly grunted appreciatively at the big reveal).

If you've never read a Christie, I think this is my favorite so far... I may have to follow her lead and plan something similar in a book down the road (but it would be quite a dark book if I did). I recommend it!


Contest update: I'm tallying the votes in my contest to win a cool bug print like this one! I'm at my in-laws and things are SOOOO busy. I hope to have the results in a few hours!

CONTEST WINNER: After tallying all the entries, scrambling them in an excel sheet and using a random number generator to select the winner, I'm happy to report it is:
SOPHIA of My Fleet-Footed Self

Congrats Sophia! Contact me at insectwriter(at)gmail(dot)com and we can talk about which print you'd like. Check out what's available at my etsy shop. ANY print is available!



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am not reading this book because I'm pregnant or plan to be.
Let's just get that out of the way. I feel extremely fortunate to have two handsome, healthy boys that fill my life with lots of fun. Right now, we're not planning to add any more kids to the crew.

I'm reading this book because it was written by blogger friend Erin MacPherson of the Christian Mama's Guide. I met Erin somehow on the web through blogs (I never remember exactly HOW) and have enjoyed watching her launch her book and post about family and life.

I read just a few books when I was pregnant... let's see if I can recall them now... hmmm... six plus years later, I'll admit it's a little difficult. I read the very popular What to Expect When You're Expecting, which my husband and I called What to Freak Out About When You're Expecting. I often felt WTEWYE erred on the side of waaaaaay too much information. Maybe in the days before the internet it would be useful to know every potential complication on a month by month basis, but post-internet, it was at times overwhelming (and downright scary).

I read Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way (at the recommendation of a sister in law who saw it on Baby Story) because I planned to use the Bradley Method. In the Netherlands, where I had both my kids, the custom is home birth without anesthesia. I wanted home birth, but I also wanted to be sure to go into it well-prepared. My husband and I got a kick out of all the "book dads" in NCtBW who invariably were featured wearing denim cut offs and no shirt. Still not sure why this is the clothing style preferred by the dads in this book. (Our best guess was that the photos seem to be from the 1980s). I can say that even after being present at two home births, my husband does not wear cut-off denim shorts. :0)

I read The Girlfriend's Guide to pregnancy, which was light and funny and most certainly balanced out the denim-short wearing dads of NCtBW and the worst-case scenario stories of WTEWYE.

What does Erin's book offer that these others didn't? Well, it's not going to be a huge surprise, because it's right in the title: Faith.

Erin's book on pregnancy answers the usual questions that ALL pregnant women have-- she covers all of that practical advice. Her section on the different types of nausea was so on target I found myself nodding my head the WHOLE time I read it.

But, she doesn't stop there. She takes this practical advice and weaves her faith throughout in a seamless and wonderful way. She describes how  you can use pregnancy as an opportunity to grow your faith, to strengthen your relationships, and solidify your family.

Of course, you may not find yourself in the market for a book on pregnancy right now, but if you're pregnant, I recommend it!

I'm glad to have read it. I've already sent it to a cousin's pregnant wife, and I will continue to give this to friends and family who are pregnant.


Don't forget to enter my contest to win a cool bug print like this one!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Lego Fest! with everybody's favorite Danish brick

You read that right.

We took the boys a few weekends ago to Lego Fest at the convention center to get our play on. It was just as awesome as you're probably imagining.

Because I'm in the throes of exams, and am sick, and have a sick kid, I'll leave you with photos and a few comments.

 You could build whatever you liked on a green square and they placed it in this giant USA-shaped section.


There were huge models, like this dinosaur.



and lightning mcqueen

Don't forget to enter my contest to win a cool bug print like this one!




Monday, December 12, 2011

Contest: A bug in your (mail) box for the holidays




Your reception to my prints was so great I decided to hold a contest and give one away.

I've opened up an etsy shop http://www.etsy.com/shop/KatOwens25 where you can view the prints I make.

The winner can select one print (any value) and I will sign and send it to you.

Here are the details:

To enter, simply comment on this blog and leave an email address for me. That will give you one entry.

For more entries, you can do the following:
(+1) tweet
(+1) new follow
(+2) old follow
(+1) blog about it or put it on the sidebar

Just post in your comment what you've done and for what amount of points.

The contest ends December 22nd and I will mail your choice of print out on the 23rd. You'll have a bug of your own by New Year's.

Open Internationally.

Here are a few of the bugs available, but check the ETSY site for new additions.

The full details are on ETSY, this paper measures 4 13/16 x 5 14/16.
This one measures 5 x 6 1/8 (paper size)



This is much larger, 13 x 17 inches

Here's a detail from the wing.

This measures 10 x 13 inches.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Girls Night / Book Club


Photo open to creative commons use (by 416Style on Flickr)

It began as a simple idea. The way all great things do.

A group of us were talking and our friend Jeannie said, "We should start a book club". We talked about how some people are burned out on reading, about how some of us can't get into anything deeper than the latest US Weekly, we talked about how we never do anything without our kids (but would love to), we discussed books we loved, we mentioned a couple of books we hated, and then made a plan to launch the inaugural North End Ladies Book Club.

The official rules of book club are:
1. No hummus and carrot sticks
2. No one will judge you if you don't finish the book

Eleven ladies came to my house this past Friday night, just after the kids went to sleep (collectively leaving behind a total of 21 children).

Our plan was simply to select a book to read by the meeting in January.

The wine began to flow, the discussions started, and I'm pretty sure I committed to getting at least three tattoos (some of them book related).

We started at 8PM. I fell asleep on the sofa at midnight (my college roommates will confirm that this is not unusual behavior for me) and at that point, a handful of ladies walked to a neighbors' house for an after-party that lasted until 2AM.

Waking up at 6 AM for the kids was not a good idea in my case. Thankfully my husband (who said the sound of our "book club" was deafening) watched the boys until Mom was back on her feet.

I heard all weekend from the ladies about how much FUN everyone had.

We all agreed in retrospect that while hummus may still be a non-starter, FOOD in general is a good idea.

Our book club selection for the January meeting is Swamplandia by Karen Russell

The selection for the February meeting is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexi

I have a feeling that this book club is going to be something special.

I'll keep reporting on our adventures here. If we can manage to sit still for a photo, I'll post it next month!

Are you in a book club (online or IRL)?

Have you been in the past?

Did you love it?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The night the lights went out in Connecticut

So, during our recent snowstorm, without power for six days, I needed something to DO.

The days were bright and sunny, which made things much easier to bear (until the sun set, that is). On most of our powerless days we got the kids dressed and outside to play as much as possible.

I couldn't work, couldn't write, couldn't chat or tweet or blog. Couldn't watch television or call my sisters.

We read, played outside, and I did a LOT of woodcuts.

I studied printmaking in college but haven't had time to devote to it since about 2003, when we moved to the Netherlands and I started my PhD.

As a testament to this, my husband Mike bought me printmaking supplies for my birthday in May of 2010, and I hadn't even touched them until the snowstorm.

So, I wanted to share some of the images here. These are all insects mentioned in my books about a mystery-solving bug-collecting 13 year old girl.

These first three are scans of the prints (that's the actual size), which are small enough to fit on the bed of our scanner. I hand-printed them, and you can see they are not consistent-- the blacks aren't getting dark enough. I've been researching printing at home on the internet, and I think the next run will be a lot better.

Wasp














Katydid



Beetle




These last three are photos from my phone, so they're not great quality, but you can see the images. these prints are too large to fit on the scanner bed. The ant and mantis are about 8x12 and the dragonfly is about 12 x 14

The Velvet Ant-- she's kind of the star of my first book


Praying mantis




The one I think came out the best/the one I spent the most time on, cutting out every tiny cell in the wings: The dragonfly


 So, what do you think?

Do you hate bugs? (I know lots of people do- it won't hurt my feelings, I swear)

Do these prints give you the willies?

I think the strongest images are the katydid and the dragonfly (which not coincidentally took the most time. Maybe I like them because I literally poured blood, sweat, and tears into them?)

I would say the wasp and the beetle are my least favorite.



Friday, December 2, 2011

I dig Reading Challenge: November edition

November and April are my nuttiest months for teaching.

So. Many. Meetings.

And this year was not helped by #snowpocalypse or was it #snowmageddon? Whatever. You get the idea. I had several e-books in the TBR pile... and then my computer died. Ug.

Fortunately the computer was still under warranty, so I got a new motherboard and new screen FOC. Huzzah.

I was able to read a little in November, but not a ton.

Here is what I read:

Before Ever After by Samantha Sotto. Read my review below. I adored this book. It's a keeper.







Bossypants by Tina Fey. Love her, love her style. It was a quick read with some LOL moments.
All that said, I find the cover photo... um, disconcerting.
Yet I can't stop staring at those big hairy arms.
Look at them.
No, stop looking at them.
Can we please stop talking about it?

The 39 Clues #1 by Rick Riordan, with my middle grade book club. I dug it. Good times. I reviewed it here.

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie. I enjoy her books, and am  working my way through a collected volume of five of hers right now.

This is a "Tommy and Tuppence" mystery... which means there must be more books out there featuring these lovely lead characters! Tommy and Tuppence remind me of The Thin Man's Nick and Nora Charles, played here by William Powell and the super-chic Myrna Loy (and don't forget cutie-pie pup Asta).

Tommy and Tuppence are charming, clever, and, ya know, just happen to solve a ton of mysteries while looking fabulous! Who wouldn't dig them?

The Christian Mama's Guide to Having a Baby by Erin MacPherson. Can I start by saying, the answer is "no". I am not pregnant. I am not planning on becoming pregnant.
:0)
Just wanted to clarify.

Erin is a lovely blog-writer-friend and I won a copy of her book. I certainly enjoyed NOT being pregnant as I read about food cravings, morning sickness, and weight gain. :0)  Look for a real review of the book in the coming week.

Stolen Harvest by Vandana Shiva. Shiva is one of my environmental activist heroes. Her book about what she describes as "food totalitarianism" (a handful of corporations controlling all of the world's food supply) is an eye opener and also a great source for my enviro-disaster book THIRST.


















That makes 6 books for the month, and my donation will be going to The Jonah Center for Earth and Art.