Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Title:  Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism

Author:  Georgia Byng

Paperback:  373 pages

ISBN:  0439567300

Orphan Molly Moon hates living in Hardwick House.  For starters, the orphanage is run by hairy-faced Miss Adderstone, who makes Molly clean the toilets with her toothbrush.  Mean Hazel Hackersly torments her, and to make matters worse, Molly’s best friend Rocky has just been adopted and is moving to New York City!

But when Molly stumbles upon a mysterious old book on hypnotism, her world is suddenly turned upside down.  With a dazzling flash of her bright green eyes, she discovers that she has the amazing power to make people do things — crazy things.  There’s nothing holding Molly back now, and what better place to begin her adventures than in spectacular New York City as a Broadway superstar?

What Molly doesn’t know is that a sinister stranger is following her with dastardly plans of his own.

-from the first page of Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng

Okay, this was NOT the best book to pick right after reading The Glass Castle, a book about real child abuse and neglect.  I just couldn’t help thinking about the Walls children, and whether they would have appreciated life at Hardwick, or whether Molly would have preferred being a Walls.  Hard to say, both books had hard living for children as a central theme.  Whereas the Walls experience was an inescapable reality, Molly’s is an average child’s fantasy.  “Oh, how I wish I could get back at Mom for making me eat lima beans.  She knows I hate them, that’s why she gives it to me!”  The idea of being able to get revenge for being served vegetables they hate and being force-marched to bed at 9 o’clock makes Molly Moon a fun and silly read for the 8-12 crowd.

I also made the mistake of reading it by myself.  It was actually a restart.  Mags and I had started reading it last spring and had to set it aside when we were 1/3 the way through while she went to visit her dad.  We never picked it back up, and I figured it’d be a quick book to help me hit my 75-book goal (this one makes number 68, only 7 to go 😀 )  I remember we’d laughed and laughed until tears came into our eyes and my throat was hoarse from doing the voices and cackling so much.  Without her, however, I only chuckled a couple times and found myself wishing I was sharing it with her.  Children lend their magic to some books, a magic we adults seem to have lost.

I do plan on re-reading it with Mags, all the way through.  But as it stands now, I give Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism by Georgia Byng 3 out of 5.  I read someone’s review that said how Molly was an unlikeable character, but I disagree with that.  Molly is a fairly blank character, with as little of her own personality and quirks as could be gotten away with.  This isn’t a bad thing, in this case, because what she provides is a template for kids to put themselves in her shoes.  She’s not blank as in “underdeveloped”, rather like a costume has nothing inside.  Which makes me wonder what the reviewer didn’t like about her… hmm…

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Blaze by Richard Bachman

Title: Blaze

Author: Richard Bachman (pen name used by Stephen King)

Hardcover: pages 286

Publisher: Scribner (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc)

Publish Date: June 2007

ISBN: 9781416554844

One hungover Saturday morning when not much was doing, Clayton Senior staggered out of the bedroom in the second-floor apartment he and his son shared while Clay was sitting crosslegged on the living room floor, watching cartoons and eating Apple Jacks. “How many times have I told you not to eat that shit in here?” Senior inquired of Junior, then picked him up and threw him downstairs. Clay landed on his head.

His father went down, got him, toted him back upstairs, and threw him down again. The first time, Clay remained conscious. The second time, the lights went out. His father went down, got him, toted him upstairs, and looked him over. “Fakin sonofabitch,” he said, and threw him down again.

“There,” he told the limp huddle at the foot of the stairs that was his now comatose son. “Maybe you’ll think twice before you tote that fucking shit into the living room again.”

Unfortunately, Clay never thought twice about much of anything. He lay unconscious in Portland General Hospital for three weeks. The doctor in charge of his case voiced the opinion that he would remain so until he died, a human carrot. But the boy woke up. He was, unfortunately, soft in the head.

So began the life of Clayton “Blaze” Blaisdell, Jr. the main character of this noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Stephen King, Richard Bachman’s real name, writes in the foreword that Blaze is a “trunk novel,” which is to say a manuscript written long ago which the author decided was unworthy of publication at the time, but now that he’s a famous author he’s pulled it out, dusted it off and shipped it to print. Well… not exactly. Actually, Blaze went through some rewriting and editing and updating. Where as Blaze had grown up in post WWII America, the new-and-improved, modernized Blaze grew up in “America, Not All That Long Ago,” as King calls it. It’s an interesting mix of old and new: George says “Shag, baby,” others say “far out” and the money goes a LOT farther in the book with dime payphones and $200 buying a complete baby outfitting, from the ground up (crib, changing table, clothes, formula, the works!).

Blaze is, as I said, a noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Just imagine what that classic novel would have been like if Stephen King had written it: George is a small time con-artist looking for that big score he can retire on, Blaze… well, he’s still a huge hulking man with the mentality of a 10 year old who doesn’t know his own strength and who relies on George to know what to do. George is still a gruff, insulting, small man for whom (Lenny) Blaze would do anything for, including jump off a building or in Blaze’s case, take 2 years in prison and not rat out his friend. And oh yeah, in King’s version of OMaM, George is a ghost and Blaze has a sixth sense about things.

Blaze is a character you can feel sympathy for. A rough childhood in Hetton House, lovingly dubbed “Hell House” by John, Blaze’s only friend, the state-run orphanage. He’s huge, standing 6’7″ and 270 lbs, with the power of life and death literally in his strong hands. As a kid and teen he stands up for his friends and protects them, even pursues vengence for them from their bullies. He’s lonely and alone, with George as his only friend. Blaze could have turned out to be a good, law abiding person had he had the right influence, as it was he fell in with criminals and therefore became one himself, though never really grasping the morality of the right and wrong of their activities.

When Blaze decides to carry out “the big score” that George had planned out before his untimely death, which was the kidnapping of a wealthy couple’s six-month-old baby, he inevitably fails to cover all his tracks, thus dooming the caper before it’s even begun.

Blaze has no desire to hurt the baby, but George tells him he has to because the baby will just slow him down. He grows very attached to little Joe and decides to collect the ransom and run away with the money and the baby, like he’s a puppy to carry off (and remember what Lenny did to his puppy 😉 ).

As I loved Of Mice and Men, and Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, you will no doubt guess that I also loved Blaze. Though it’s more like a crime thriller than say, a psychic psychotic murderous prom princess, it’s still noticeably King. And though it’s not my favorite SK book, it’s definitely an excellent read that never gave away it’s ending. The book also includes a short story called “Memory,” which later became Duma Key, the book that I believe is King’s masterpiece. Well written and constructed, Blaze gets 4 out of 5 stars.

TSS – Mummies, Mishka, and More!

The Sunday Salon.com

Wow! What a week! It’s Sunday already and I don’t know where the week went! I only read one adult book and on children’s book, but I’m okay with that. I gave away $50 in Borders gift cards, announced a giveaway for a signed copy of Mishka: An Adoption Tale, I helped capture a dangerous sociopath, and more.

This week was the last week for Maggie’s summer school classes. One of her classes was a drama class which held their performances on Wednesday and Thursday. Sammi and I went on Wednesday, and were the only family audience that day, then I took my little actress out for a fish sandwich at Burger King afterwards. Then I went to sign Gwen, my 14-year-old, and Mags up for school. Meg’s happy because she’s got a sweet teacher and all her friends (and none of her enemies) are in her class this year. Sammi’s in 10th grade this year, and high school registration is on Tuesday.

I thought I was excited and ready for them to go back to school… until I went clothes and supplies shopping. YIKES! Three outfits a piece totalled $270. Supplies, backpack, unmentionables for growing girls, and a Hannah Montana outfit I promised to get Mags two weeks ago added up to another $260 at Wal-mart.  We might have to cut back to one meal a day, but at least they’ll look great when they go back to school 😉

Thursday was the last day of the giveaway contest. So Friday I ran the numbers through Research Randomizer and posted the winners: M, The True Confessions of a Book Lover Named M, won the $20 Borders gift card and a bonus gift, then Jessica and Dawn, She Is Too Fond of Books…, won the $10 cards, and Suey, It’s All About Books, and Judy Brittle won the $5 cards. I still haven’t heard from Jessica or Judy Brittle and if they don’t email me their address by 3 pm today, then I will draw two new names for their $10 and $5 cards.

Friday night, while y’all were fighting in line for Breaking Dawn, I haven’t read any off them and have a copy of BD on hold, we went to the movie theater to see the new Mummy movie.

It was an incredible movie. It has something for everyone (except small children I suppose), mummies, dragons, Yetis (is that the right word for more than one Yeti? or is it like the word “fish”), new love, reclaimed love, animal love (yeah, but is strictly platonic), action, battle, immortals and Shangri La. The kids came home and immediately put the first Mummy movie in the DVD player, and they’ve been flipping back and forth between one and two. I want to see this one again!

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THIS WEEK, blogwise that is. Seriously, I can’t say this enough, Mishka: An Adoption Tale is an exceptionally good book. Not only is the book a really wonderful and heartwarming book, but for each book that’s sold, and any other DRT Press book, 5% of the profit is donated to charities that help orphaned children in the EE and Russia. How can you go wrong with that? You get a great book to keep, AND the knowledge you are helping a child, who has no one, eat or get a new pair of shoes. It’s win-win!
Don’t forget to check out my Interview with Adrienne Ehlert Bashista and be sure to enter to win a signed copy of Mishka!

OH, and by the way… tell me what you think of my new look!  I’ve added a “Quote of the Day” to my sidebar, as well as rearranging the widgets (thanks readerville for the text box trick!)

Interview with Adrienne Ehlert Bashista

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista

Adrienne Ehlert Bashista

The Kool-Aid Mom

The Kool-Aid Mom

Q & A with Adrienne Ehlert Bashista, author of Mishka: An Adoption Tale

 

 

 

 

 

An Adoption Tale

Mishka: An Adoption Tale

Hi, Adrienne! I’d like to thank you for taking time to do an interview with me. First off, I must tell you I found Mishka to be a very touching story, and was a bit weepy by the end. The illustrations are beautifully detailed and the simplicity of the writing makes it perfectly understandable and understandably perfect for both children and parents.

Thank you so much! I’ll take the fact that it made you “weepy” as a compliment 😉

Q My first question is, what is the back story for Mishka?

My husband and I adopted our son Jamie from Russia in 2003. When we adopted him there were no books for children adopted from Russia or EE available, and so I decided to write one with a great deal of encouragement from my family, particularly my mother! My first book, When I Met You: A Story of Russian Adoption, came out in 2005. When I Met Yougot a great reception and I am really happy with it, but When I Met You is also more of a concept book – it doesn’t tell the actual story of adoption. So I felt like there still needed to be a story about the actual process of adoption from Russia or EE. That’s why I wrote Mishka. It took me a long time to figure out the character of Mo, actually, but I’m so glad I did! At first I had the story from the point of view of the parents, but in my (not so humble) opinion, books written about parents are actually written for the parents, not the children. Then I had it from the little boy’s perspective, but there wasn’t a story there. So once I invented Mo I had a character who could go through the whole process with both the parents and the child.

Q. In your dedication, you wrote your son Jamie is your “Yuri”, and I read in your bio you have an older son Jacob. What made you decide to adopt, and why did you choose to go to Russia for a child?

Jacob

Jacob

After we had Jacob I had a series of miscarriages, and the last one was at 22 weeks. I was pretty exhausted from the whole thing and after that last, late miscarriage I finally convinced my husband that we should look into adoption. Up until then he hadn’t been very interested, but the miscarriages (and fertility treatments, which did nothing in my case – I got pregnant the months I wasn’t taking the drugs) wore us both out. We went to an agency that did domestic adoptions and they suggested we go international – specifically Russia – because of the stress we’d been under from the miscarriages. Russian adoption has changed a lot in recent years, but when we were in the process things were very cut-and-dry: you filled out all the paperwork, applied to the various governments, paid the fees, and then bam – you got your child, quickly. That’s how it worked for us. From start to finish Jamie’s adoption took 7 months. We’d been told that any other adoption – domestic or international – would take a lot longer. So that’s the main reason we chose Russia. Now, I understand, it takes a lot longer and there have been some uncertainties in recent years. We adopted him during an easier time. If we were to adopt again, which I’d love to do, I’m not sure which way we’d go. Part of me is drawn towards Russia, but we have lots of friends who’ve done foster-to-adopt and it worked out well for them, and in the past several years I’ve also learned a lot about open adoption, which I think really benefits the child.

Q. Here in Logansport, there is a large group of families who have adopted from China and they all get together once a month to celebrate their children’s heritage and holidays. Do you have that where you live in North Carolina?

Jamie & Adrienne

Jamie & Adrienne

We belong to a group called FRUA – Families for Russian and Ukrainian Adoption (and other countries) – which gets together occasionally, and we also have a playgroup we attend that is made up of children adopted from Russia and EE, but we haven’t been in a while. Jamie loves it when we can get together with these kids, but we don’t have a super active group like many other places. I would love to do more of this.

Q. Do you do anything to encourage Jamie to remain connected with his heritage?

Jamie

Primarily, I answer any question Jamie has about anything to do with his adoption as openly and frankly as I think he can handle. But that doesn’t really answer the question about “heritage” – more about adoption. As for that – we have lots and lots of books about Russia and we talk about it a lot. He is very interested in the non-fiction books we have and he is quick to pick up on any time Russia is mentioned. We also attend the playgroups, as mentioned, and we’ve gone to events like the Russian Festival in Amherst, Massachusetts (we live in NC but grandma and grandpa live in western Mass). As he gets older we’ll do more of this. He’s just turned 6 now and has just started to show interest in the subject.

Q. In Mishka, Yuri is an young child, as opposed to an infant, during the adoption. Was this the same for Jamie, and was this something you chose?

Jamie was a baby when he was adopted, but not an infant. He was 15 months old. You cannot adopt infants from Russia as they’re on a national orphan database for 6-8 months after they’re placed in the orphanages. Many children are “older” when adopted from Russia or EE, however, as they enter the orphanages as older children or they just aren’t adopted when they’re babies. There are 600,000 – 700,000 children in orphanages in Russia at any given time and the past couple of years only about 3-4000 have been adopted into the U.S. each year and even fewer are adopted within Russia by Russian people. So there are kids of all different ages available for adoption. If my husband and I adopt again and if we go to Russia we would adopt a slightly older child about the same age as the little boy in the book (except we’d want a girl!). Yuri, by the way, is Jamie’s middle name now – it was his given name at birth: Yuri Yurievich.

Q. You also run DRT Press, which is your own micropress, which is expanding to include other authors as well as releasing your first activity book. How are you balancing your time as writer/publisher/mother/wife?

hubby

hubby

Well, this is a pretty funny question to me because while I was typing this my husband came in and started talking to me about something random…then Jamie came in and started telling me what he wanted for breakfast(even though his dad was in the kitchen and I was in the office) …as if I was doing nothing sitting here at the computer. I find it really hard to work out of my house, actually, although it helps when the kids are at camp. I also work full-time as a school librarian during the school year, which I started doing a year and a half ago. Before that I worked part-time. I am really hoping that after this year I’ll be able to stop (although I love my job and the kids at my school) or at least go part-time, because I am trying to do way too much. My ideal situation would be to have an out-of-the-house office where I did my work. When I came home, I’d be home. But that’s at least a year off. I know some people love working out of their house, but I am not one of them. But I’m stuck with it for the time being. I don’t make enough to quit my job and I certainly don’t make enough to justify renting another space. But I’m trying really hard to get to that point.

Back to your question – how do I balance? I don’t think I do. It’s more like a see-saw. One day it’s all wife/mother stuff, the next it’s all work. Once school starts I’m going to have to give up television (not a bad thing to do, but one of my pleasures in life is sacking out on the couch with my husband, watching whatever we’d Tivo’d for the night). One of the great things about my life is that I have family around – my mom moved here right before we had Jacob (my older son) and she’s been a great help. My husband is also very hands-on with the kids and he has a pretty flexible work schedule, which is also crucial. If we were both 9-5ers working 12 months/year there’d be no way for me to have this little business on the side. Next year the kids are coming to school with me, too, which will help with our commute (last year we were at 3 different places which was a pain – where I live is fairly rural so my daily commute was a good 45 minutes in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon with all the pick-ups at various places).

Q. One thing that especially touched me was the very last page of Mishka. Five percent of DRT Press’s profits is donated to various charities that are close to your heart. Why have you made this choice, and to which charities does the money go? Why these particular charities?

I don’t think anyone who’s visited a Russian orphanage can come away from it without feeling very strongly about the plight of the children left behind. I wrote this earlier, but between 600,000 and 700,000 children are in the orphanages over there at any given time, and most of them will live their entire childhoods in an institution. I don’t want to sensationalize what it’s like in the orphanages, nor do I want to condemn what the orphanage workers do over there, but in the majority of the children’s homes the conditions are substandard. I’m talking 17 babies to 2 caretakers, no diapers (too expensive), no hugs or kisses or stimulation. I am not saying they don’t try or they don’t value things that we value in Russia – not at all. But if you were in charge of feeding, changing, and keeping 10 toddler safe and relatively clean that is all you would have time to do. You wouldn’t have time to teach them to talk or to walk or any of the things that children are taught in a family. It’s all about crowd control. Add to that the fact that the longer children spend in institutions the more developmentally delayed they will become and the harder they will be to take care of – it’s an awful picture. Then they turn 16 and if they’re lucky, the government helps them a little and finds them a place to stay and a job or some training, but if they’re not (which is what I understand happens to the majority), out they go onto the streets.
It wasn’t a hard decision at all for me to commit a tiny portion of what little profits I make to helping the kids!

As for how I choose the charities, it’s fairly random! I hate to say it, but it’s true. Some of the organizations, like EEAC, are specifically for people who are adopting from Russia, but most of them help children directly. Two of my favorites are Ascent Russian Orphan Aid Foundation and ArkAngels for Russian adoption. They are both relatively small organizations that have very specific missions.

self-sustained orphanage

self-sustained farming orphanage

My family also has a yearly party/potluck/fundraiser called “Family Day,” around the anniversary of Jamie’s adoption, where we ask all our guests to contribute to whatever organization we’re interested in. One year we asked people to bring a pair of new shoes, which we donated to Buckner’s Shoes for Orphan Souls project – I think we had 35 pairs of shoes we sent, and another year we “bought” some sheep for a self-sustaining farming orphanage in Siberia through Ascent Russian Orphan Aid Foundation. This year I’ll let my kids pick where they want to give.

Q. Finally, my favorite question for everyone: I’m a big fan of the shortlist. What books are on yours?

This is a HARD question! I am a children’s librarian as well as a book lover so it’s really tough. For kids books, I have TONs that I love. How about adoption books? The Sea Chest, by Toni Buzzeo, is a picture book I think is just perfect. Another is The Family Book, by Todd Parr. A Mother for Choco, by Keiko Kaska, is another, simple adoption book that any kid could enjoy.

As for other books for kids, someone I work with told me I’m actually a boy because I love lots of books that my 3rd grade boys love, like Captain Underpants or the Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage, or the Hiccup Horrendous Haddock books by Cressida Cowell, and at school I can talk those books up much better than I can the princess or pony books. But I think it’s because I read a lot with Jacob, who’s 9, and I also like a story that’s funny and fast-paced. I am not against princess or pony books, they’re just not what I’m picking up in my spare moments!

Books for grown-ups? Ha! Who has time? When I do get a chance to read for pleasure I like to read mysteries by Elizabeth George and Ruth Rendell and P.D. James, and I also admire Alice Munro quite a bit. I just read Eat, Pray, Love, too, by Elizabeth Gilbert, and loved it – but who didn’t, really?

Maggie has a question I never thought of: Was there a “Mishka” in the true story with you and Jamie?

Please let Maggie know that we gave Jamie some toys in between trips, but he didn’t have a mishka of

Mo the Bear

Mo the Bear

his own. He was actually too little to keep track of toys and in his orphanage they didn’t let kids sleep with stuffed animals like they did in Yuri’s. In the book, Yuri is probably about 4 or 5, but Jamie was a baby (14 months) when we first met him and he was only a month older when he came home with us. I know that many children *do* get to keep the toys their new parent(s) bring them, because people have written to tell me so, but Jamie didn’t.

Also, in the review Maggie said she wished their was a plushie to go with the book – lots of people say that! I think Miranda, the illustrator, did a great job creating Mo. He would make a perfect stuffed animal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thank you, Adrienne, for taking time out for this interview.  I’m grateful for the wonderful book both for Maggie and me AND for the one lucky reader to win!

I am giving one SIGNED copy of Adrienne’s book, Mishka: An Adoption Tale her at Mt. TBR. Along with you entry on the giveaway post, comment here and at Mishka‘s review, as well as post the link on your own blog, and you’ll get a total of seven entries!