Minecraft Party

minecraft

I had been planning this Minecraft Party for MONTHS. It was a “tween” program, meaning for kids going into grades 4 through 8. I didn’t think it was realistic for our library to set up a server so I decided to go with a “live action” Minecraft program, in which the kids would be able to build out of boxes, and then “creeper” would come destroy, then they’d keep building, etc. They made pickaxes out of popsicle sticks. I had a couple of other things I wanted them to do, but it was too crazy. Here are my notes from the program:

Minecraft Party 7/18/13

Supplies:
– Boxes – as many as possible (from TS)
– Electrical tape
– Brown/green/blue Construction Paper
– Scissors
– Popsicle Sticks
– Paper crafts (color printouts)
– Foil
– Prizes (homemade creeper heads and swords)
– Hot glue

Cost: $17.93

Set up:
– Stack boxes in the “mine”
– Crafting tables to make pickaxes
– Trees out of construction paper on the walls
– Photo booth backdrop and camera on tripod

Program outline:
– Gather kids in the room and explain the details
– Kids get one piece of construction paper off the wall trees to exchange for the materials to make a pickaxe.
– Line up at the crafting tables to get hot glue for the pickaxes – hot glue guns run by staff – wrap in foil.
– Head to the pile of boxes to “mine” – hit each box 5 times and then take it to build.
– Staff with creeper masks on go around destroying their buildings.
– Paper crafts throughout
– Photo booth throughout

Results: 135 kids showed up for the program. It was pretty chaotic. They did wait in line to make their pickaxes, but they had to work together with the boxes because there were so many kids. We ran out of the paper crafts, and there wasn’t any room for them to make them anyway. The photo booth got quickly overrun with more kids building, so we just got the camera out of the way and let them build there as well. A few kids took pictures after the program was over. We ended a little early because it was difficult to keep them from getting out of control. We did the drawings at the end and most of them took a few boxes home with them as well. We did hear mostly positive comments, but there should be a lot of changes if this program is repeated.

Comments for improvement: This should definitely be a registered program. There were simply too many kids in the room. There wasn’t much space to build, and there was no space for the kids to do the paper crafts. It might even be a good idea to put them in teams from the beginning and have them work in specified teams to build. Prizes could go to most unique buildings, etc. If there was more space, there could have been more tables set up for them to do the paper crafts as well. A lot of the kids did seem interested in those. They can be printed off at http://minecraftpapercraft.com.

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So as you can see from my notes, it didn’t go EXACTLY as planned. But it was my first tween program that I planned myself, and at least it was a popular one! Anyway, my supervisor and manager were both present during the whole program, so I was afraid they were going to say something to me about how out of control it was, but I guess no one could really get it under control, so no one said anything. Anyway, certainly not the smoothest program I’ve done. :/ I did get kids here, and boys at that, which was my goal, but man, they were INTENSE. Not sure I’ll be doing that program again any time soon!

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^^ That is my boss in the act of getting pickaxed in the head^^

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Review: Gulp

gulpTitle: Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal
Author: Mary Roach
Release Date: April 1, 2013
Pages: 348

First Line: “In 1968, on the Berkley campus of the University of California, six men undertook an irregular and unprecedented act.”

““America’s funniest science writer” (Washington Post) takes us down the hatch on an unforgettable tour of our insides. The alimentary canal is classic Mary Roach terrain: the questions inspired by our insides are as taboo, in their way, as the cadavers in Stiff and every bit as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. Why is crunchy food so appealing? Why is it so hard to find names for flavors and smells? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We meet scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks—or has the courage—to ask. And we go on location to a pet-food taste-test lab, a bacteria transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: Ah, Mary Roach. I love all her books.  Although, I have to say, for some reason I wasn’t as interested in the subject matter as I was in some of her other books, but when Mary Roach is writing, it doesn’t matter if you think you’re interested. It’s always interesting. And hilarious. And this one is no different. There’s not really much else to say about it. I learned a lot. It probably wasn’t the best choice of reading material for while I was reading during lunch at work, but I read it then anyway, and not only got grossed out, but laughed out loud a couple of times (luckily, working in a library, you are exempt from looking crazy while reacting to books in the break room). Anyway, not sure what’s next for Mary Roach, but I can’t wait!

My Ratings:
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality:4/5
Kept me interested: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Review: Life After Life

lifeTitle: Life After Life
Author: Kate Atkinson
Release Date: April, 2 2013
Pages: 529

First Line: “A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the cafe.”

“On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: I see how this idea was a cool one. I was really curious about this book when I heard about it. But it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be. I, unlike some of the other reviewers I’ve read, actually liked the beginning of the book the best. Even though it was a little repetitive, we were learning something new with each visit to birth day, and each day she died. And in the beginning, Ursula at least has feelings or some intuition of things to come, and found ways to avoid them. But then as the book goes on, it’s like she loses that, I guess because she’s older? I’m not sure, but I think what I was expecting was for her to remember more and more of past lives rather than less and less. To me, that is what made the book redundant. Even though we, the reader, see that Ursula is reliving her life over and over again, if she doesn’t realize that, we are really just reading the same life… over and over again. Yes, this book showed how different traumatic events or choices we make can affect our lives in such significant ways, but that’s something we knew already. What I wanted was for Ursula to know that. I wanted her to remember. I wanted her to change the outcome of her life because she remembered her mistakes and because she wanted to. I didn’t want to just watch her stumble into different fates without understanding why. Once I realized that was not what this book was, and it wasn’t going to happen that way, I could enjoy the beautiful writing for what it was without the high expectations of something spectacular happening in the story. I think the prologue threw me too, because (it’s not really a spoiler if it’s in the prologue, right?) after you knew you could kill Hitler, would you ever live your life another way?

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:4/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Review: Siege and Storm

siegeTitle: Siege and Storm
Series: The Grisha (#2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Pages: 432

First Line: “The boy and the girl had once dreamed of ships, long ago, before they’d ever seen the true sea.”

“Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: I’m feeling really “meh” about this whole series actually. It makes it kind of hard to review. I don’t really care about it. I still don’t really like Alina, and I don’t really care what happens to her. I was happy that there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of “triangle” to the love triangle at the end of the first book (sort of)… but then OH A NEW MAN. He must be pretty and nice and perfect for her. BAM ANOTHER LOVE TRIANGLE. And honestly, it’s been a little while since I finished this, and most of what I remember is the love triangles and there might be a fragment of action holding on to a memory spot in my brain. Anyway, it’s not that it was terrible, but I just feel like it has the potential to be so much BETTER. I mean, she’s the f-ing SUN SUMMONER. DO SOMETHING AWESOME! I’m still going to continue to read the series when the next book comes out, but I expect more, Bardugo. More action, less angsty romance.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Review: The Silver Star

silver starTitle: The Silver Star
Author: Jeanette Walls
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Pages: 288

First Line: “My sister saved my life when I was just a baby.”

“‘Bean’ Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who ‘found something wrong with every place she ever lived,’ takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.” – from Goodreads

My thoughts: This book was a quick and easy read, though it did deal with some uncomfortable situations as Jeannette Walls’s books always do. I did like Bean’s character, but I grew more and more disappointed with Liz. Not that Liz needed to be more mature because she was still a child as well, but Liz took care of Bean without complaint at the beginning of the book so I thought that would continue throughout the story. Instead Bean ended up taking care of Liz, even before the trauma Liz had to go through. It was just kind of a weird change of characters I guess, but I still enjoyed the story. I just wish we got a little more out of the other characters. I think they all could have had more to say, including the girls’ uncle and Bean’s cousin and aunt.

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Subject: 3/5
Originality:3/5
Kept me interested: 3/5
Overall rating: 3/5

Review: The Great Hunt

hunt

Title: The Great Hung
Series: Wheel of Time (#2)
Author: Robert Jordan
Release Date: November 15, 1990
Pages: 705

First Line: “The man who called himself Bors, at least in this place, sneered at the low murmuring that rolled around the vaulted chamger like the soft gabble of geese.”

“The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.

And it is stolen.” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: I’m terrible at reviewing fantasy books I think. As much as I read, I did poorly in reading comprehension in school. I get caught up in the story and forget about all the details and stuff, and I don’t really like rehashing everything. I just talk about how I felt about it I guess. So I hope no one comes to this blog for a summary of anything, because I just pull that from Goodreads, hehehe. But anyway… on to the book. I really liked this book! I have to say I liked it a lot more than I liked the first one I think. The characters have grown on me now. It took me a while to find a liking for them in the first book, but I liked them all at least at some point in this one; even Nynaeve had a pretty awesome part, and usually I can’t stand her. And whereas I was pretty indifferent about Egwene before, now I like her as well. I think right now though, my favorite is Loial. Loial is awesome. So based on this book, I’m expecting the series to just keep getting better and better. 🙂

My Ratings:
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Subject: 5/5
Originality:5/5
Kept me interested: 5/5
Overall rating: 5/5

Review: Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity

homeward

Title: Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity
Author: Emily Matchar
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 288

 

First Line: “The draw of nostalgic domesticity is not surprising.”

 

“Amid today’s rising anxieties—the economy, the scary state of the environment, the growing sense that the American Dream hasn’t turned out to be so dreamy after all—a groundswell of women (and more than a few men) are choosing to embrace an unusual rebellion: domesticity. A generation of smart, highly educated young people are spending their time knitting, canning jam, baking cupcakes, gardening, and more (and blogging about it, of course), embracing the labor-intensive domestic tasks their mothers and grandmothers eagerly shrugged off. Some are even turning away from traditional careers and corporate culture for slower, more home-centric lifestyles that involve “urban homesteading,” homeschooling their kids, or starting Etsy businesses. They’re questioning whether regular jobs are truly fulfilling and whether it’s okay to turn away from the ambitions of their parents’ generation.

How did this happen? And what does it all mean? What happens to American culture as a whole when our best and brightest put home and hearth above other concerns? Does this sudden fascination with traditional homemaking bode ill for gender equality? What role have the media and blog culture played in making domesticity look so darn appealing?” – from goodreads.com

 

My thoughts: I really wanted to read this book because I am so conflicted about what the author calls “The New Domesticity,” and I think she was too when she set out to write this book. Emily Matchar goes into the lives of educated young women choosing to leave their usually pretty lucrative jobs to stay at home and keep house. These women find it empowering in a way to take back “women’s work” or what for women is more “natural.” And this is where I become so at war with myself. On the one hand, I totally of course see the appeal to leaving the corporate work world behind and concentrating on yourself and your family, especially if you have young children. As this book points out, it’s not as isolating as it used to be with all the blogs, mom groups and other activities you can do with your kids. Plus the DIY culture has the pull of creativity, making something with your own hands. Forget playing politics at work all day, getting home late only to have to find something to eat, maybe a couple of hours of leisure time and then going back to bed.

But then, on the other hand, this new culture is deeply concerning to me. As some of the critics of this New Domesticity point out in the book, women still have a ways to go to gaining equality in the workplace, and it feels like this is all a step in the wrong direction. I’m a librarian, so my workplace happens to be 95% female, but you can easily see that women are horribly under-represented in so many career paths. I can’t ever judge someone for wanting to stay home with their kids, I don’t know that I wouldn’t make the same decision if I could afford it, but it’s still hard to see educated women taking their places by the stove.

Although Matchar did talk about more and more men joining the DIY movement, there weren’t very many men in the book. In fact, there were hardly any comments from the women she interviewed about what their husbands do at home. My mother recently told me when I voiced my concern about my husband’s problems with “icky” things that it was just her job to change diapers and clean up pet messes when we were growing, because my dad didn’t do that. And that seemed to be okay with her. I don’t think I’m really okay with that. Even if I was staying home and my husband was working, I would expect help with parenting when he was there. Some of these women (especially the attachment parenting followers) seem like single mothers aside from the fact that they don’t work.

I think one of my main issues with this whole thing is the loss of a woman’s identity. I realize that being “mom” is an identity, but I will never believe that it should be your only one. And as is clearly stated in the book, I do believe that some kind financial independence is always a good thing. You can’t always just jump right into a career if something were to happen with your husband or his job.

I guess I just mostly agree with Ms. Matchar’s opinions on the matter, which of course made the book more likable to me despite her over-use of the term “crunchy.” While it seems very nice to stay at home making money on Etsy while DIY decorating and baking bread from scratch, that’s not always really realistic, and some of us don’t even LIKE to cook that much! The homemaker blogs may just show us the sunny sides without getting “real” with us, and not everyone can make a bunch of side money on Etsy or even have a significant other’s income high enough to allow us to stay home. The fact is that there is more pressure than ever on women to not only be the perfect nurturing mother, but also to have a house that looks like Martha Stewart’s. I feel like while our fight for equality lays stagnant, or maybe is even slipping, and we are under growing scrutiny for our “natural women’s” skills.

And as always, screw the United States’s lack of maternity leave and complete disinterest in ever even entertaining the possibility of public day care for young children. I totally understand why women are giving up on “having it all.” Although I feel like we are judged less for our choice, I feel sometimes like it is a choice between being a mom and staying home or having a career and no kids. It eats at me sometimes. Can I be a good mother if I’m working? Can I even afford to have kids either way?

Okay, I’m going to stop ranting now before I rewrite the whole book. But I definitely recommend this book. As women, we have to continue to stand up for each other and fight for each other, for equality both in the workplace AND at home. We are not there yet.

 

My Ratings:
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality:2/5
Kept me interested: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5

 

Review: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

nothing

Title: Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
Author: Prudence Shen
Release Date: May 7, 2013
Pages: 288

“You wouldn’t expect Nate and Charlie to be friends. Charlie’s the laid-back captain of the basketball team, and Nate is the neurotic, scheming president of the robotics club. But they are friends, however unlikely—until Nate declares war on the cheerleaders. At stake is funding that will either cover a robotics competition or new cheerleading uniforms—but not both.” – from goodreads.com

My thoughts: Hahahaha…

Yes, I laughed a lot reading this. The cheerleaders in particular for some reason always cracked me up. Friendship, rivalry, and violent robots, what more could you ask for?

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality:4/5
Kept me interested: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5

Review: The Rithmatist

rithmatist

Title: The Rithmatist
Series: Rithmatist (#1)
Author
: Brandon Sanderson
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 378

First Line: “Lilly’s lamp blew out as she bolted down the hallway.”

This is a fantasy book in which grown men and women draw shapes and figures in chalk. In fact, some students in Joel’s school are there specifically to learn the skill, which is called Rithmatics. Joel has a great interest in Rithmatics and understands the principles of it more than some of the students chosen to practice it. But in the case of his drawings, they simply stay chalk drawings on the ground, whereas when a Rithmatist draws the chalk figures, they come to life and fight. The Rithmatist students at Armedius Academy are training for service in Nebrask, where they defend against the wild chalklings that are trying to escape and attack more of the American Isles.

When Rithmatist students start mysteriously disappearing, leaving behind only blood trails and the remnants of a Rithmatic chalk battle, Joel finds himself using his interest in and knowledge of the practice to try and help solve the crimes, along with the quirky Professor Fitch, and his new friend Melody, a struggling Rithmatist with a penchant for unicorns.

My thoughts: Yes, the magical element in this book is two-dimensional chalk drawings that come to life when drawn by certain people called “Rithmatists.” It doesn’t actually sound that exciting, but it is! I enjoyed the different defense drawings and explanations throughout the book. There is strategy involved in Rithmatics practice, and it’s interesting that Joel is so good at it despite the fact that his drawings can’t actually come to life. I have heard great things about Brandon Sanderson, and I’m currently reading the Wheel of Time series, which he finishes (although I’m still near the beginning of the series so it will be a while before I get to his writing in that). I figured a new fantasy YA book by him would be worth reading. This book would be good for anyone interested in dipping their toes in some fantasy, or who likes magic, strategy and drawing.

My Ratings:
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Subject: 4/5
Originality:4/5
Kept me interested: 4/5
Overall rating: 4/5

 

Review: Winger

winger

Title: Winger
Author: Andrew Smith
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 448

 

First Line: “I said a silent prayer.”

 

“Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.” – from goodreads.com

 

My thoughts: Ah, the elusive 5-star YA review. I’m not going to say much about this book, but I loved Ryan Dean. My husband kept wondering what I was laughing at while I read this, as I do not usually laugh out loud while I’m reading. Then one night he turned around in bed and looked at me like “what the hell?” because then I was crying. It was SO GOOD. 🙂 Just read it… unless you are offended by profanity. There is realistic amount for a teenage boy.

 

My Ratings:
Writing: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Subject: 5/5
Originality:5/5
Kept me interested: 5/5
Overall rating: 5/5