Thoughts From Places Spotlight: Mount Vernon, VA (2010)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


My Trip to Mount Vernon!

Mount Vernon

I don’t remember when or why we decided to go to Mount Vernon, home to our first President George Washington, but I’m glad we did (and not just because it was in National Treasure 2).

The Statues of the Washingtons and grandkids.
When you first go into the grounds of Mount Vernon there is this beautiful archway with what I’m assuming was probably a guard house or something of that nature. Above this arch is a painting of the mansion. I stood there looking at the painting and wondering how much the actual mansion today would look like the bright portrait. To my delight when the mansion came into view I realized that the painting could have been completed the day before for that was how close the actual physical house looked still to this day.

A staircase on the grounds.
Before we went into the mansion we went into the information center. Here they had life size statues of George (age 53), Martha (54), and their grandkids “Washy” (4), and Nelly (6). I don’t know why, but I adored those statues, they were very domesticated. And then there was this practically to scale doll house version of Mount Vernon. That thing was amazing and it MOVED. When we first went over there we circled the (huge) doll house and saw the house’s outside walls and then the back wall just came DOWN. It showed the perfect to scale miniature of the house we were about to see. My mom loves doll houses, and my grandma used to make them so this was an unexpected delight for my mom and we stayed there for a while looking at it. I actually remember the doll house more than the actual mansion. It was worth going there just for that doll house.
One of the paths on the grounds

We then went on the tour of the actual mansion then. We couldn’t take any photos inside though and I think that’s why I don’t remember much of the tour or anything. I am very visual when it comes to trips. When I go on a tour I tend to remember the story of the thing if I take a picture of it while it’s being explained but because I was prohibited from doing so almost everything has left my head. I do remember that the rooms were very brightly painted, that they were quite small for a mansion so big and that the beds were tiny because people were smaller then.

A breezeway connecting the new
 and old parts of the mansion.
I do remember a lot of the grounds though because not only was I allowed to take pictures, they were also extraordinary. Everything was very symmetrical, planned out, and just absolutely astounding. The landscaping was very ordered. According to one of the signs Washington took the symmetrical organization of English gardens and applied it to the America’s natural wilderness. He really liked designs to be balanced and I particularly appreciated this because so do it. But it’s not all straight either there are winding, curving paths that guide visitors to these ordered places (and of course they are balanced as well). We didn’t see all the grounds though because there are like 8,000 acres or something like that. To do Mount Vernon properly one must take a full day or maybe even two. I mean, this place even has its own forest!

The Lower Garden

The top of the tomb.
We did what we thought was most interesting and close. We saw the out buildings like the stables, paint cellar, his carriage house and the necessary. There were a lot of animals there as well because it is still a farm. We also saw his tomb which I liked. It was a large brick enclosure with a iron, gated door. It was in a very peaceful place and there was an air of elegance to it. I wish I would have thought to take a picture in front of it but alas I did not. I guess that just gives me a reason to go back again. 

The view from the porch of the river.
One of the best bits of the grounds was the view from the mansion’s back porch. It overlooked the Potomac River. There were chairs lined up on the porch for the visitors and as my parents, G., and Daisy were sitting up there I ran down the lawn a bit to take a picture of them sitting there. It sums up my trip. My mom was on her phone (probably sending a picture of the view with a “haha I’m here, you’re not” to facebook), dad and Daisy were looking very confused at what I was doing, and poor G. looked exhausted and amused.

One of Martha's exhibits in the museum.
There was a fabulous museum about Washington as well on the grounds. Washington was such an amazing man, not just as the first President, which in itself took a heck of a lot of guts (he set the precedent for every single person who takes the job after him). He also had a good sense of humor and humility. I am pleased that his home has remained for future generations to see it. The museum was quite complete too, with wax figures of him doing the most memorable things such as being the General of the Continental Army and being sworn in as President. They had a lot of paintings and artifacts. They also had a good collection of Martha Washington’s things as well because, of course, Mount Vernon was her home, too, including one of her dresses.

One of the most memorable bits of this visit had nothing to do with Washington. At lunch (which was kind of cafeteria style) we had picked our food and then we went to pay for it. Dad went to pay for the bill for all of us (me, dad, mom, G., and Daisy’s) but G. was 3 steps ahead and had already bought ours. I think that’s when dad decided that a) G. was not an ax murderer and b) he started a war of paying for things. For the rest of my trip, dad and G. were trying to race each other to cash registers. It was pretty hilarious for us girls to watch.

Needless to say I could probably talk about just the grounds of Mount Vernon for a long time. There was so much to see in just the tiny bit we did. I would love to spend a week there and just explore. Maybe one day I will.


Review: Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto

Release Date: August 26th 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 320
Source: ebook via Netgalley

Summary (  After the loss of her mother, Chloe Kennedy starts seeing the ghosts that haunted her as a young girl again. Spending time at her grandmother's country estate in the south of England is her chance to get away from her grief and the spirits that haunt her. Until she meets a mysterious stranger…

Alexander Reade is 157 years dead, with secrets darker than the lake surrounding Grange Hall and a lifelike presence that draws Chloe more strongly than any ghost before. But the bond between them awakens the vengeful spirit of Alexander's past love, Isobel. And she will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him from her.

To stop Isobel, Chloe must push her developing abilities to their most dangerous limits, even if it means losing Alex forever… and giving the hungry dead a chance to claim her for their own.

My Review:

I don’t normally pay attention to the reviews on goodreads until after I read and form my own opinions about a book but this time I happened to notice how harsh the reviews were before I read Ghost House. They were unnecessarily horribly cruel which just goes to prove that while reviews are sometimes useful one should make their own opinions. This book sounded really good in the summary and it was, really good I mean. It reminded me a lot of one of my favorite series, The Mediator by Meg Cabot in that a girl can see ghosts and has feelings for one. However, beyond that they really cannot be compared for they are two separate series.  

Ghost House is a fast, slightly cheesy, but still very entertaining read. I have realized that I have two settings while reading a good book: so good I savored it and went slow so I could stay in the world longer and so good I read it really quickly because I just can’t stop reading. This was the latter. It was compelling not only because of Chloe’s relationship with Alex but the ways Isobel was trying to compromise their relationship. It was a story set both in the past and present through flashbacks and visions. I also really liked the setting of the English countryside. I liked how real this book was without the ghost aspects. It’s about a family that is dealing with the grief of losing someone they all love dearly. The secondary characters made this book really good though. I loved Chloe’s relationships between her grandma and her brother. I liked the amateur ghost hunters Mavis and May who knew along that something was happening.  I was also quite pleased when I discovered (or hunted down the information) that this was a first in a new series. Just before the end of the book I was okay, but slightly disappointed that this was a standalone (or so I thought) and then I read the last page and just FLIPPED OUT mad that this was the end of a standalone! I read this on my kindle and kept pressing the next button thinking that there was an epilogue. Thank the stars for goodreads and their ability to tell me that it is a series. Overall, if you liked The Mediator and similar ghost stories you will enjoy this book, I know I did. 


Llama George in Downtown Buffalo (Part 1)

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Llama George in Downtown Buffalo!

One day on a lunch break Llama George and I explored Downtown Buffalo. 
I'm sure we'll do it again one day because there is so much to see which is why I labelled this part one!

Llama George visits the Central Library
Llama George visits the outside of City Hall
Llama George taunts one of the lions on the McKinley Monument

Llama George and the Soldiers & Sailors Monument in Lafayette Square 

~Laura (and Llama George)!

Review: This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl

Release Date: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 431
Source: Preordered during the Project for Awesome 2013

Summary ( A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.

My Review:

I have so much to say and I know none of my words will come close to what Esther’s words deserve. I am kicking myself for not taking notes while reading this particular book. I had so many things to say and yet now in front of this blank document none of them will come to me.

I pre-ordered my copy the moment I learned that Esther’s parents were putting together this collection. It has taken me most of the year to read it to no fault of the book or author but because I needed the courage and strength to read Esther’s words. I never knew Esther, most people who love her and this book haven’t either, but that hardly matters. Esther Earl will be in the hearts of every nerdfighter and reader of this book for as long as they are alive to remember it.

I learned a lot about Esther from this book. I learned a lot about myself and the world around me as well. Esther, though I never met her, has taught me lessons. One of the most important things that came from reading this book was actually not to deify people. Esther seemed to be afraid that with all the attention she was getting near the end of her life because of her friendship with John Green that people would think that she was special and she didn’t feel like she deserved that because she didn’t think she was. She didn’t think she was because she had cancer and she was dealing with it. It was this thinking that, to me, makes Esther special in her own way. Esther wasn’t perfect but she was one of a kind special.

My favorite part about this is actually Esther’s unfinished story, Anderaddon. It is about these creatures called Ebitillies (cousins of hedgehogs) and Ebitties (beaver-like creatures). The draft focuses on Docknel the king of Anderaddon who is trying to solve a riddle. This story is amazing. Esther had such an ear for dialogue and accents! I don’t think I will ever find a story that I long for more of. She had promise and although she didn’t get to finish this story she has become a successful author through This Star Won’t Go Out. Here’s praying that Esther is continuing to write up in Heaven because I will definitely be searching for the rest of Anderaddon when I arrive.

I should also add that I am really quite surprised and pleased with the format of this book as well. For a publishing company to put this much effort into a memoir of a young girl is heartwarming. This Star Won’t Go Out is huge and heavy and colorful and wonderful. Every page is in color, it is color coordinated according to the section and who is writing. It has so many wonderful family photos, photos of the famous Make-A-Wish sleepover, of Catitude chats, of Esther, of her drawings. There are copies of her actual journals so the reader can see her handwriting and she how much love she put into every letter. I am so glad that the physical book is worthy of Esther. 

Read This Star Won’t Go Out.
Read it, cry, and remember.
Read it and listen to Harry and the Potters.
Read it and tell your family and friends you love them.
Read it and then make someone else read it.
Read it and go buy a wristband to support TSWGO.
Read it and remember Esther.

Read it and DFTBA. 


Thoughts From Places Spotlight: Manassas, VA (2010)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


My Trip to the Manassas Battlefield!

Plaque that marks the site of the First Battle of Manassas or Bull Run.

Monument to the fallen Union soldiers.
One of the main things you must know to understand my dad is that he is a Civil War buff. He knows everything about the Civil War, his favorite battle is Gettysburg, and I think he was secretly very pleased that I was born on July 1st, the first day of that Pennsylvanian battle that changed the course of the war (even if me being born that day meant that I was over a month early).  He’s been to Gettysburg twice already so this time he wanted to see a different field of battle.

Here’s a little history for you who don’t know about the Manassas Battlefield (commonly known as the Battle of Bull Run to us Northerners): Technically, there were two battles, the first which took place on July 21st, 1861 and the second which happened a year or so later between August 28 and 30th, 1862! It is most memorable for being the place that Confederate General Thomas J. Jackson received his famous nickname “Stonewall.”

Jackson's Statue.

The stars sort of aligned to get us to the Manassas Battlefield. As luck would have it some friends of my mom’s lived in Manassas and offered to take us sightseeing while we were there! We had never met them before because mom had met them via facebook but it didn’t matter as soon as we met G. and Daisy (nicknames) it felt as if we’d known them forever. We were worried about dad though because he doesn’t get the internet and for a little while was convinced we’d be going to our deaths (which is reasonable of course) but as it turned out Daisy was just as big of a history nut as dad so they had plenty to talk about.

The Battlefield is part of the National Park Service and obviously because it is a battlefield it is rather huge so we only saw the most exciting bits. Because let’s face it battlefields are really just a lot of grass. No matter what happened there they aren’t EXTREMELY exciting (unless you’re my dad or someone similar that is). We went to the visitor center and then to the Henry House near Matthews Hill, which served as the opening phase of the first battle. This was a very large, you guessed it, field of grass with a scattering of monuments, plaques and a tiny graveyard with only a few stones. 

The Stone House
Despite how boring I make it sound, it was pretty cool and slightly strange. There were several plaques that said would mark the spot of some famous person or another who had been wounded or died there. There was a monument to the fallen Union soldiers and the statue of “Stonewall” Jackson that marked the spot he got his nickname when someone famously said “There stands Jackson like a stone wall.” I think what Dad and I liked the most about the battlefield actually. I think it’s incredibly cool that they put up a giant statue of him on his horse to mark that. His nickname is literally set in stone!

The cannonball in the side of the
Stone House.
Next we went to the Stone House which served as a hospital during the battles. Which like the battlefield is exactly what it sounds like. We, as a country, suck at naming things, I’ve come to notice. Most things are very obvious. The Stone House was important not just because it was a hospital but because it served as a landmark for the soldiers. Everyone knew where that house was because it was the only thing at a very important intersection. It was a cool house. A lot of it was still original and the NPS restored the rest of it and added historically accurate items to the house such as a maps and newspapers. 
I took this while sitting on the steps outside looking in.
The camera is on the floor and with both doors open you
can see the worn path to the battlefield.
My favorite part was the cannonball that is still stuck in the bricks of the house near the door and that if both front and back doors were open I could see straight through the small house out onto the battlefield.

If you want to read more about my week long trip to Washington, DC in 2010 click here!

Review: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

Release Date: September 2007
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 120
Source: Borrowed from the Library

Summary ( A deliciously funny novella that celebrates the pleasure of reading.
When the Queen in pursuit of her wandering corgis stumbles upon a mobile library she feels duty bound to borrow a book. Aided by Norman, a young man from the palace kitchen who frequents the library, Bennett describes the Queen's transformation as she discovers the liberating pleasures of the written word.
With the poignant and mischievous wit of The History Boys, England's best loved author revels in the power of literature to change even the most uncommon reader's life.

My Review:

I first found out about this book in a Bas Bleu catalog several years ago and checked it out from the library. For some reason, despite its small size I couldn’t get through it, I just couldn’t get into it, and returned it. By chance I found it again and decided to give it another shot. This time I couldn’t put it down. With a degree in Literature I feel like I understand the Queen’s view points on reading better now than I would have before. The Queen was new to reading and was exploring the classics much like a college student must. Every time I recognized an author or title that the Queen was reading I would get excited. At one point she quotes Dickinson’s poem “Tell the truth but tell it slant” and almost misnames the author, but catches herself. Before she did, however, I caught her mistake right off because I had read the poem not a week before for my seminar class. The plot of The Uncommon Reader was incredibly intriguing to me because I myself am a reading anglophile so the fact that the Queen of England is the title character alone had my interest. The depth Bennett gave to the Queen was extremely well done and very convincing. She is understandably wise while also being short sighted when it comes to dealing with commoners. After reading this I had a hard time fighting the temptation to search for video of the Queen sneaking out of public events with a book in hand!


My Ideal Bookshelf

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I got the idea for this post from the book, My Ideal Bookshelf. It asks readers to think about the books that shaped their lives. Each contributor writes a few paragraphs about why the books they chose mean so much to them. The writing is accompanied by amazing drawings of the spines of the books. I cannot do that. I tried and failed so instead I took a photo of them. 

I had to think about this for months. Finally, I decided on these 6 (I count HP as one) because without them I wouldn't be me. I decided to keep my reasons short because it seems more powerful, if that makes sense. 

P&P was the first “classic” I ever read. I love everything about it.

84CCR is everything I want in life.

Before I read 13LBE I never wanted to travel.

Inkheart's main plot is that characters come out of books; it is my imagination in book form. 

TFIOS is the only book that has simultaneously made me laugh and cry hysterically in the same sentence.

Harry Potter is the reason I am the person I am today.

Review: Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Sunday, July 6, 2014


Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

Release Date: October 7th, 2005
Publisher: HarpersCollins
Age Group: Children’s Middle Grade
Pages: 512
Source: Bought at a Used Bookstore
Series: Fly by Night (#1)
Other Titles in the Series: Fly Trap (#2)

Summary ( Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye hasn't got much. Her parents are dead, her cruel uncle keeps her locked away, and her only friend is her pet goose. But she does have one small, rare thing: the ability to read. In a world where books are dangerous things, this gift will change her life—but it may also be the death of her.

My Review:

First off, this book isn’t exactly what is advertised. The summary makes it seem as if the fact that Mosca can read is what will be the most important plot point and while it is pretty important it isn’t the main thing of the story. Neither is the big warning on the cover “Imagine a world in which all books have been BANNED” accurate, all books are not banned just those not printed by the Stationers Guild. Fly by Night is much more than either the summary or the cover imply.

Fly by Night is one of those children’s books that can be read at any age. There are complex plot lines and characters and politics that to a child would seem fantastical, but to adults would seem all too familiar. Fly by Night has one of the most thought out worlds that I have read and everything is important to the story and all of it is incredibly interesting. I would call it a fantasy without magic. Mosca and Clent were incredibly well-written and by the end of the book I felt as if I really knew them. Saracen the goose was a welcome addition to their little crew, too. I love when authors give pets personalities, I don’t know why but it just makes me like the whole book more if you have a funny animal. Reading this book gave me a whole new appreciation for words. Mosca loves words and by the writing I could tell that it was the author’s love that created Mosca. I recommend this to all those who love words and the complex worlds those words build!


HPA's Esther Day Project

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Llama George sees TFIOS
On June 5th, I received an email from the Harry Potter Alliance about the Esther Day Project. The main idea was "if you’re seeing The Fault in Our Stars, take a selfie or a picture with your friends making the shape of a heart with your hands. Tag your photos #EstherDay wherever you upload them." So when my cousin Kelly and I went to see the movie later that day we took a photo in front of the poster outside the theater. I also took a picture of Llama George, as well.

Who is Esther and why are you doing this? Well, Esther was a nerdfighter who semi-inspired John Green to finish writing his book about a girl with cancer. Why would she inspire him to do so? Because she had cancer. In fact, she died from it in 2010 at the age of 16. Before her passing, however, John told her that he and his army of nerds would celebrate her birthday (August 3rd) every year. John asked her what she wished the holiday to be about and she suggested a day devoted to telling those you love in a non-romantic way that you love them (ie: family and friends).

Kelly and I before TFIOS!
I am particularly felt that the Esther Day Project surrounding TFIOS was appropriate on a personal level because I was seeing the movie with someone I don't necessary express my love of her all the time (mostly because we are very awkward people. Um, hi Kelly! I love you lots just so you know!). I am so glad that I got to experience the movie premiere with her. She is the only fellow nerdfighter I know (because I forced it upon her) so she was the only one who understood how important it was that we stand in front of a poster and figure out how to do heart hands while also taking a picture of ourselves.

I decided to post this in July, instead of June because I figured that most people would be but I believe that the Esther Day Project shouldn't just be concentrated in June, but for as long as people are going to see TFIOS.  I hope this reminds people who haven't seen it yet or those who didn't know about it to add their own photos!

Thoughts From Places Spotlight: Smithsonians (2010)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


My Trip to (some of the) Smithsonian Museum 

during my trip to DC!

Elephant at the Natural History Museum
The main purpose of our trip to DC was so that we could see some of the Smithsonian Museums. We saw 3: Natural History, American History, and Air & Space. We probably would have seen more except that we took 2 days to go to Manassas and Mount Vernon.

Easter Island Head
Natural History Smithsonian Museum:

            I suck at museums. I love them a lot but I am a horrible museum goer. I spend 99% of the time going around, ignoring signs and taking pictures of things that look cool. That’s pretty much what I did at the Natural History Museum. The only thing I knew about this is that it was the setting of the Night at the Museum movie so after I saw the Easter Island head I went a bit stir crazy. So needless to say I didn’t learn much. I saw a lot of stuffed animals and that was it. They did have an aquarium though and I found a Dory near a Marlin so I imagined how those Finding Nemo characters would have felt if they suddenly turned up in a museum across the world. My favorite thing though was the Elephant in the Atrium. He was just so big and cool.

Edith and Archie Bunker's chairs (All in the Family)

American History Smithsonian Museum:

            Even though I still took a lot of pictures in this museum this is an experience I remember better because I was so excited to be around the artifacts that I had studied for as long as I could remember. Here’s a little back story: I had never heard of the Smithsonians until I was watching that episode of Gilmore Girls when Rory is in DC for the summer because she was elected class VP. In passing she said, “Well, I got to see Archie Bunker’s chair at the Smithsonian Museum, so it was a big thumbs up for me” and Jamie replies, “Yes, there are times when this country’s priorities are exactly right.” I immediately knew two things: that I needed to see that chair and that I needed to see what else this “Smithsonian” thing had if they had cool stuff like the chair!
Ruby's Ruby Slippers
(If you don’t know who Archie Bunker is I am very disappointed in you.) Once I did more research into it I realized that Archie’s chair was in American History Smithsonian and that the majority of the museum’s collection was not pop culture memorabilia, but very important artifacts from our history.

This museum might be my favorite museum in the world BECAUSE of our priorities. This museum honors everything from Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers from Wizard of Oz and Disney World rides to Lincoln’s Top Hat and the famous “Teddy” Roosevelt bear! The museum represents American’s diverse, often misplaced interests. They just had so much STUFF! I really cannot give you an accurate description of even a percent of the coolest items but I am adding 6 photos of my very favorite ones.
Dumbo Disney ride!
Lincoln's Hat!
I had so much fun at this museum. I also realized that my dad is not to be trusted near anything because as soon as you put a “don’t touch” sign my dad is there poking it. He put his finger up all of the mannequins’ noses (I am not kidding, he is pretty much a huge kid). There was also a great moment when my mom was leaning over a train display and her sunglasses fell in. So my dad CLIMBED into it and got them out. Alarms went off, but my dad was able to climb out and look innocent before the guards could surround him. (Where was I through all this? Well, as soon as I saw the glasses fall I skedaddled to the next exhibit in case my parents got arrested I wouldn’t be associated with them so I could bail them out.)  I could have spent at least a full day just there but after a while my parents were getting tired and we needed to move on. However, one day I will go back to DC and spend as much time as it takes from me to see everything!

Greenough's Washington
 Air & Space Smithsonian Museum:

Famous Teddy Bear!
Dad was the one who really wanted to see this one. I could not have cared less about it and yet the few cool things I found were SO COOL that it made the whole experience worth it. I saw the Wright’s Brothers’ plane, vehicles that went to the moon, and I touched a MOON ROCK. My favorite bit of this trip happened in an empty display room with my dad. We were alone and looking up at some plane or another and then when we looked down we were SURROUNDED by about 20 or 30 little kids all wearing bright yellow. They were in a single file line holding hands. The chain of kids was turning around and the kid at the end looked exasperated as he said, “WHAT?! We’re turning around AGAIN?! HOW BIG IS THIS PLACE? I like planes as much as the next kid but this is too much!” I connected with that kid. That museum was huge and seemed endless if you aren’t a fan of planes, or space. 

If you want to read more about my week long trip to the DC area, click here!

Review: Rare Finds: A Guide to Book Collecting by David and Natalie Bauman

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Rare Finds: A Guide to Book Collecting by David and Natalie Bauman

Release Date: June 2007
Publisher: Bauman Rare Books
Age Group: Adult Non-Fiction
Pages: 106
Source: Borrowed from Library

Summary ( Rare Finds is a friendly, wide-ranging introduction to the world of rare book collecting. It is intended for those with a budding interest in this exciting field rather than simply professional booksellers and librarians. The guide contains an easy-to-use Glossary as well as sections devoted to Frequently Asked Questions, Book Production, and Format. Lavishly illustrated, it includes chapters on all major collecting areas.

My Review:

I think this is a must have for book collectors and people who might not collect but still love books. I borrowed this from the library and found it so useful that I’m going to buy my own copy. It’s a good introduction to the terms used by book collectors. It offers several categories that are popular among collectors, ranging from Americana to Music and everything in between. I was most interested in the Children’s and regular Literature categories. It has photos of the most prized first editions in the world, many of which I have had the honor of seeing and in some cases holding (for more on this see here). It’s a surreal feeling reading a book about the rarest books in the world and knowing that you’ve actually held it and leafed through its pages and are one of the few in the book world who have had that privilege. 


Llama Extraordinaire

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


It all started with the simple, but strange message: 

"*insert of scary music, Llama George peaks around the corner of a wall during the night, spying on a girl with dark hair and glasses, sitting in her room, waiting for his chance to attack*"

Meet Sir Llama George, my travelling companion.

In the wee hours of a forgotten day at the end of July in 2009 my best friend Ariel and I were Instant Messaging. This was not unusual. It was summer and as such we were allowed to be night owls if we wanted to be. No, what makes that particular conversation important is the semi-imaginary llama that sprung from it. This llama, Llama George to be exact, has been an amazing inside joke between the two of us ever since. I have told others about him (my mom for one understands the Llama just as much as Ariel and I), I have named my personal tumblr after him, I have started writing the adventures of Llama George, I love llamas (and alpacas) because of him and now I shall take this little stuffed Llama George with me on all of my travels. 

The idea came to me as I was perusing my copy of The Lonely Planet Guide to Experimental Travel. It contains a chapter on "Mascot Travel" and all you need is a personal mascot, a camera, and a desire to travel. As I travel locally, nationally, and abroad I will take Llama George with me and take pictures of him in front of famous landmarks and anything else that takes our fancy. I will record my literary and historical travel experience through this extraordinary llama.

~Laura (and Llama George)!

Review: The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun

Sunday, June 8, 2014


The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun

Release Date: 1966
Publisher: G. P. Putnam
Age Group: Adult
Pages: 216
Source: Borrowed from Library (will buy soon)
Series: The Cat Who… (#1)

Summary ( Former award winning news reporter Jim Qwilleran is assigned to the art world as his new news beat. When a murderer sticks a knife in the neck of a local gallery owner and goes berserk among the works on show, Qwilleran gets help from his Siamese cat solving the mystery.

My Review:
For as long as I can remember my mom has been reading or listening to The Cat Who… books. Braun’s death a few years ago hit my mom hard and it was like she was mourning a member of our own family, not only Braun’s death but the death of an amazing series. There won’t be any more books about Jim Qwilleran and his Siamese cats and that to my mom is still unfathomable even years later. I never really understood her sadness until I picked up The Cat Who Could Read Backwards the novel that launched an extremely successful and long running series of mysteries.

I couldn’t put this book down! The mark of a great mystery novel is, of course, that it should keep the reader guessing. Several times while reading I was convinced that I had figured out whom the murderer was and then a plot twist would happen and I was left to guess again. Qwilleran is a veteran reporter who knows how to look for something fishy and together with Koko, the cat that can read backwards they solve a mystery. It was the cat thing that made me concerned over how this book would work. I wasn’t sure I could read an adult mystery book about a strange cat. I wish I had never doubted. Koko is not a cat out of high fantasy but a normal cat that is extremely gifted. He doesn’t talk, he doesn’t do things other cats can’t do, and instead he just does what most people suspect their cats could do. Together these two should become iconic figures in literary history if they aren’t already.  They are just precious together, a great sleuthing team, and they make the book stand out.  It was a short, fast read, and I can’t recommend this book enough!