Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fish! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul & John Christensen

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Fish! by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul & John Christensen

I was given a copy of this book from my principal, Mr. Seto. It is easy to see why one would want to implement the Fish! Philosophy at Curtis [high school I worked in at the time of reading], however, it is a large task to undertake. To bring more energy to the workplace, these are the Fish principles:
  1. Choose Your Attitude
  2. Play
  3. Be There
  4. Make Their Day
I know I've done these things before, but I feel as though I have abandoned some of them. I hope to help in being a force to make Curtis, more specifically, its math department, a more pleasant place to work!

Dated: 05/17/03

It didn't take long at Curtis, and even less time in the math department, for everyone to choose their attitude. I don't know what the shift was exactly, but when I had to leave teaching due to my illness, I must say the single biggest heartache was leaving that castle on the hill that embraced (and maybe even rewrote some of ) the Fish! Principles.

Does your workplace embrace these principles? Do YOU?

Monday, February 27, 2012

My Oscar Monday

Well, I can pretend that I was out partying until all hours of the night at various star-studded affairs and say that is the reason for this fashionably late post, or I can tell you the sad truth; my sinus infection and NyQuil kicked my butt hard last night. I didn't wake up until 12:30 pm!!

Either way, I had already decided I was putting book love on a break for this week to give you my own reflections on last night 84th Annual Academy Awards. So, here's to hoping that late is truly better than never!

Billy Crystal as Host

While I was really looking forward to Eddie Murphy's hosting debut this year, you'd never hear me complain about the return of Billy Crystal to the event's stage. He was, as always, brilliant!

When Colin Firth came out to present the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, I turned to my husband and said, "Oh no! It's almost over!" He astutely pointed out to me that the fact that I did not feel like I was waiting forever and ever for the end to approach was a sure sign this was a good show.

We both credited Billy Crystal, of course, but I think he was just one piece of the puzzle for me. From the moment the show started with Billy Crystal's parody of the opening of the scene in The Artist, I was ready for Hollywood to recognize those who I loved and admired this year.

My Favorite Book to Movie

You may expect me to say Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2  was my favorite book movie of the year, but it was not. Unequivocally, it was my most anticipated book movie of the year and it did deliver on much of the excitement that had built up for so long, but it was not the best of the Harry Potter films and, in turn, not my favorite book to movie of the year. There was another. There was The Help.

I found out The Help was being made into a movie in the midst of me reading it. I thought that was a very good move, but I did not think Academy Awards at the time. When I saw the movie I was pleasantly surprised that the entirety of the book seemed to be captured. My husband, who had not read the book, got to know the stories and the characters as I had known them. The women who portrayed the women in the book seemed to come right off the page and on to the screen. Even then, after seeing the movie I didn't hink of Oscar.

Last night, when Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help I was extremely happy for her (as well as for all of the recognition The Help got throughout the award ceremony), however I was still unsure. My comment to my husband was, "It is so hard for me to tell if she deserved the Oscar, or if her character was just so well-written. I mean, does everyone just love her character?" In other words, does the Academy want to give the award to Octavia Jackson or to Minny Jackson? But in that question lies my answer, doesn't it? If the two are so intertwined, then Ms. Spencer did an award-winning job! (I think this sinus infection is affecting my comprehension of normal things!).

The Happiest Movie of the Year

I go to the movies for all types of reasons - entertainment, laughter, maybe to learn something, but every once in awhile there comes a film that in the midst of all of its other purposes all serves up a big giant serving of happiness. I'm not even sure this can happen every single year, but 2011 was one year that will go down in the books for me because this year was the year of The Muppets (which is coming on DVD on March 20th YAAAAY!!!). Let me say this as calmly as possible: if The Muppets did not win the Academy Award for best song this year, I am not sure I would have been able to watch the Academy Awards EVER again. In all honesty, there are a number of sings on that soundtrack that should have been nominated, so I thought they had it hands down, but this is the Academy so you never know...

I am happy to say that The Muppets won all of the Oscars it was nominated for this year!


How many, you ask? Well... um... do numbers really matter? The movie is awesome and if you haven't seen it yet, you need to go buy is next month.

They won one Oscar. It was for this magnificent song, Man or Muppet:

I think I am a Muppet of a person, so this song really speaks to me personally.

THE Movie of The Year

I've written about this before. Now I feel a bit validated. Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of Best Motion Picture of the Year according to the Academy Awards and Nicole Rivera is The Artist. I was incredibly nervous about this one. While I believed that the film was beyond deserving of every nomination it received, I can't say that I have I huge amount of trust in the Academy's choices over the years. And when the night started with the Hugo love-affair, I thought, for sure my movie love of this year was doomed for sure.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

Although it seems impossible for a Scorscese film to be conquered on all fronts (Hollywood loves Marty!), The Artist pulled through with some pretty incredible wins for the night.

“The Artist” Ludovic Bource

“The Artist,” Mark Bridges

Jean Dujardin

The Artist

In my eyes, this truly was one of the best films I have seen in a very long time. 
The Glitz and the Glamor 

I'm not normally one to ogle at the red carpet or to buy up magazines looking for the fabulous fashion from the big night, but there were two women last night that caught my eye whose looks I simply can't stop thinking about!

First, there is the dress that actually made me say, "Whoa!" Not only because of how beautifully it was worn, but because I felt like it has been ripped out of my own daydreams! It was worn by the beautifully adorable and hilarious Elie Kemper:
Are you kidding me right now?! THIS is how I imaged the fabric of Katniss Everdeen's interview dress in the Hunger Games would look. Did Elie Kemper find Cinna to be her stylist?! I am not even sure this still photo can do it justice. When I first saw the dress Kemper was being interviewed on the red carpet and she was moving in the sunlight - the changing colors as she moved were mesmerizing. I love, love, love this dress. Go Elie! You rock once again!

The second lady to catch my eye was another comedienne. What is it with these funny ladies? They are just masters at manipulating me - they make me laugh, they make me think, and now they make me WOW! Although my hair is short and spiky now, I spent many, many years with long luxurious locks desiring feminine yet fabulous up-dos. Tina Fey's up-do for last nights Academy Awards is exactly what I've been looking for:
The hair is completely out of the way without being tightly pulled or slicked down. I don't want to think about how much hair spray and stick stuff there might actually be up there, but the fact is, it doesn't look like there is any. The style looks natural, elegant and interesting (there's definitely something cool happening around the gathering of the bun). 

My Question to the Academy

My one disappointment was a long shot by far, but I still stand by my opinion that the Academy should have awarded Transformers for their sound and/or visual effects. That was, hands down, the most charged up, exciting movie of the summer for me and when I saw it was nominated I was so excited the Academy noticed. However, I lay claim that perhaps I don't know enough about sound editing or mixing to recognize that it was not clear winner. Here's what I do know: the team of film makers behind Transformers created sounds for actions that don't necessarily exist in my world and made them sound real, seamless and exciting to me. While this was not the first Transformers film, in terms of sound and visual effects I feel it upped the ante quite a bit. I saw Hugo, too and while I liked the movie, I can't say it moved me in such ways or caused me to wonder about the magnificence of the sound editing and mixing going on, so I am left wondering what exactly qualifies as the best sound and visual effects in a film and how do we determine that.

The Grand Finale

I don't have a grand finale, but, you know, neither do the Oscars. Well, at least not for those of us viewing at home - the attendees have the biggest party night of the year to top it all off - for us it's just Billy Crystal wishing us a good night and letting the credits roll. I suppose that's enough. For me, this year, it was. I can't remember the last time I jumped, cheered and high-fived so much during an awards show. I hope you enjoyed it too!

Did you watch the show last night? What did you think?
What were your best moments of the show last night?
Did you have any disappointments, any surprises?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

JK Rowling's New Novel Deal

Heading over to today may cause some die hard fans' hearts to go a-flutter. The time has come. JK Rowling is getting ready to wow us all again. 02-23-12
In an effort to prepare for her new novel which she is publishing for adults, the site is under construction. We now wait, with bated breath, for the site to be relaunched later this Spring with the knowledge that JK Rowling is a planner who has a reason behind nearly every action when associated with her books. For the truly attentive fan, the new site will be a welcome distraction as they count down the months, weeks and days until the book's release.
For now, we celebrate all the news. First and foremost, Rowling's new book is for adults and something completely new. She said:
Although I've enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world. The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life.
The details of the deal are not completely disclosed, but Publisher's Weekly has been able to share some insight:
The author has signed a world English deal with Little, Brown, selling print, e-book, and audio rights to her first novel for adults. David Shelley, publisher of the Little, Brown Book Group in the U.K., will be editing the work, which is currently untitled; he brokered the deal with Neil Blair of the Blair Partnership. Rumors have surfaced that Little, Brown was given an exclusive on the work.
In the statement from Little, Brown, David Shelley's understandable excitement could be felt:
For me, quite simply, it is a personal and professional dream come true to be working with J.K. Rowling. She is one of the best storytellers in the world, and I am looking forward enormously to helping bring her new novel for adults to her fans and admirers, and to introducing her writing to new readers the world over.
As one of the millions of the JK Rowling adult fans and admirers, I'm here to say I CAN'T WAIT!!
And in true nerd fandom, my mind is already bubbling with questions like Why Little, Brown? Is this just a choice of publishing preference or, in itself, some clue for the attentive reader to find? JKR didn't just happen upon them, it looks as though she chose them. It is these kinds of moves that get my spidey-senses tingling. Also, in that same thinking, What is the significance of today's date 2-23-12? Even more than my first question, I feel that there is some clue or message in the selection of this time to transition the website and announce the publishing union.

My fellow book nerds, what do you think? What other clues has JKR already started to sprinkle? What type of book do you think this will be? So, so many questions!! Time to get ready for another incredible Rowling ride!
Much thanks to Susan Sipal of Harry Potter for Writers
who shared this news with me today!!

This announcement was also shared on The Word of the Nerd blog. 
(You should totally check us out over there!)

Broetry: Poetry for Dudes

broetry cover
Gentlemen, I have found a new book for you. It's a great conversation starter, good for a couple of laughs and it was written with you in mind. In fact, it was written to make you think about its implications. It is called Broetry and, as the name suggests, it is poetry for bro's, or, as the subtitle declares: Poetry for Dudes.

Brian McGackin, the book's author, explained his own motivations for writing the book this past July in an article for The Huffington Post,
Personally, I love poetry. I've been reading it and writing it my whole life. But as a 25-year-old American male who also likes sports and sex and beer and video games, sometimes it's hard to find poetry that feels like it's speaking directly to me.

You may be wondering what implications such a book could have., Well, through Broetry, McGackin is hoping to send a message to all of his fellow "broets" out there:
"Broetry" is meant to be fun, and it is certainly meant to be funny, but it is also meant to be poetry... See, what I think is more important than the physical text of my "Broetry" is the idea that there is no reason why broetry in general cannot and should not exist. "Broetry" isn't just one book written by one person; it's poetry that's smart, accessible, and relevant, and it can be written by anyone.
So,go check it out, Broetry, the book you've been waiting for published by Quirk Books. Within you will find poems about ex-girlfriends, hangovers, frat parties, video games, nerd-life, looking for work, living on your own, and all sorts of other randomness. But, perhaps, even more importantly you will also find some inspiration to start writing some broetry of your own.

In the Huffington Post article, McGackin shares one of his favorite broems, O Captain! My Captain America! I am happy to say it was one of my favorites, too and I found video of the author, himself reciting it. Here's a little taste of what you'll find in the pages of Broetry - Enjoy (note: there is some profanity):

This review was also shared on The Word of the Nerd blog. 
(You should totally check them out!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

This book was written by the son of the author of 7 Habits for High Effective People (which I have not read). This is a fantastic book for any teen (or anyone else for that matter) who is a little lost in the game of life. The 7 Habits are:
  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin With The End in Mind
  3. Put First Things First
  4. Think Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw
I am happy I read this book on my week off, so I can reread it and start practicing these habits! I plan to recommend this book to all of my students!

Dated: 04/20/03

I believe this is the first self-help book I ever read, which is one reason I found it so enlightening.
Do you remember the first self-help book you ever read? Are there lessons from that book that still resonate with you now?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Enigma of My God

Today I wondered if it would be easier if I was an atheist.

I sat and thought, What if I didn't believe there was a higher power watching over me? And I wondered if that would make it easier for me to understand why some things happen the way that they do.

Today I got a phone call that informed me that my neighbor died. She was getting treated for cancer and died during her treatment. It was unexpected, it was unfair and I was stunned.

And then, just like each night is broken by the dawn and finds morning, I, in my sweet blissful life of waking sleep, with this one call, was broken and found my mourning again. I thought of the unexpected suddenness of this woman's death and couldn't help but relive the shock of losing my father. I thought of her disease, her treatment and even her shared first name and nearly drowned in the mourning over my mother. I thought of her husband, her daughters and felt the anguish for them and with them and I thought

    ...WHY does this continue to happen?

So I turned to who I always turn to in these moments when I am drowning in my tears and sorrow. I turned to God whom I know is always there for me and is always watching and listening and guiding me and I asked the unanswerable, Why?

Of course, there was no answer. So I decided to be a little more specific, God, why can't my mother be here on Wednesday to celebrate her 64th birthday? Why couldn't this other woman who I've lived across from my entire life at least have lived until hers? Why must they all leave so soon?

In some corner of my subconscious I heard whispers, It was their time... but I don't know if it is my own grasp of some semblance of sense in my insane world, or the Almighty answer.

I don't know.

The only three words that resonate any kind of truth:

Which returns me to my original query - Would it be easier if I didn't believe? 

It's so far outside my reality it is difficult for me to conceive of what that actually means. The question arose in my mind, but I don't think there is any way for me to aptly answer it. The facts are the facts: I believe in God and no matter how much I am continually confused (and occasionally infuriated) by that which can be attributed to God's actions, I have been unable to un-believe

So, like everyone else on this Earth, I am pained by the suffering of others. I feel that if I had the power to do so, I would wipe it from the planet.

The God I believe in is all-powerful. He is forgiving, loving and all-knowing. As I carry this belief I carry the weight of believing that this God chooses to not wipe suffering from the planet. This is the greatest enigma in my life. This is the enigma of my God.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reevaluating My Own First Book Love

On Friday, while thinking about books, first book loves and all of the great stories I have come across so far from the people who have participated in the book love project, I suddenly craved more stories. Since I had also just signed up for a book exchange on Reddit (read about that coolness in my post at Word of the Nerd), I recalled that I was part of a pretty cool book community there and decided to ask my "big question": What was your first book love? of the reddit community. The discussion was amazing, so much fun and, most important of all, enlightening to me.

You see, while engaging in discussions with lots of other people about their first book love I was reminded of my own: The Monster at the End of this Book! When another redditor claimed it as their first book love, I was instantly swept away to multiple memories of laughs, rereads and sharing the book with my little brother. I responded on reddit with the following comment:
In all honesty I keep wondering if I should rewrite my own first book love story and write about this book. The only problem is that I don't readily recall when I was introduced to it, how I was introduced to it or when I first read it. I simply remember this book always being around, always reading it, always laughing and loving it. I cherished my original oversized copy of this book until it was destroyed in a flood we had here in 2010. If I EVER see the oversized version of this book again, I am grabbing it up. My husband just recently bought me the sequel to this book that came out recently pairing Grover with Elmo. Also a great book, but there is nothing quite like Grover laying bricks across the page.
It was part of the redditor's response that really struck home to me next:
It was like my little brain's Sixth Sense--the twist was just mind-blowing.
That was it! Or at least part of it... Not only was this book visually engaging, about a character I knew and loved, but, on top of all of that it had this wonderful twist in the end. It was great storytelling in all of its simplicity. Jon Stone, like any good mystery writer, had not held back anything, all the clues were there. In fact, everything was right on the cover, we readers needed to look no further. However, in our fascination with the lovable and furry Grover we could not not see what was plainly before us. As Mike Smollin's illustrations distracted us from the obvious page after page, our curiosity drove us to keep turning against all of Grover's pleas because, as scary as the conclusion might be, we thought, If Grover can do it, so can I.

I will not spoil the ending for those of you who have not yet had the joy of reading this book. I will, instead, share the book with you through the wonderful magic of YouTube. However, before I leave you with this techie treat I will say that there is some real reader magic missing in this translation. For the purists, I highly recommend that you find this book in its tangible form to read and turn the pages with your own fingers and hands. I will tell you personally I don't think anything made me feel so powerful as a child as my ability to pull down each of Grover's constructs. I believed him when he said I was strong.

So, I'm pretty sure this is it. This is my earliest book memory and, as both my parents have passed on, I have no one to ask if there is one that I connected with before it. However, as I said on reddit, I don't remember the first time I read this book. I don't recall if it was read to me, with me or by me on my first read. What I do know is that this book is in my forever memory, as if I never lived without it. I know that when I saw it float by me in my basement flood I felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. I know that I can still read this book today and capture a moment of childhood within its pages.

I don't think I could ask much more from a book. Therefore I have a couple of thank yous to dole out:
Thank you Jon Stone, not only for this book, but for all of your work on Sesame Street.
Thank you Mike Smollin for drawing such a lovable Grover and such believable brick walls.
Thank you Grover, for being just as scared as the rest of us, and showing us how silly that can be!

What are your impressions of The Monster at the End of This Book?
How do you feel about the read aloud videos like the one here in comparison to a tangible book?

If you would like to share your story of your first book love, e-mail me at!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writers, Are You Reading?

Last night I was pretty surprised by the title of an article from GOOD magazine that showed up in my twitter stream. It was a simple enough question, but it perplexed me all the same:

Why Don't More Writers Buy Books?

I read the question over and over. I mean, honestly, buy more books? I'm drowning over here and I also owe the library some money as well! But, I happen to love GOOD magazine, they are usually straight forward and not completely irrational, so I thought let me click the link and actually read the article to see what this is all about.

What's This All About

When it comes down to it, the numbers were simply not adding up. Publishers and literary magazines are being overwhelmed with a growing number of querys and submissions for publication, but their books and magazines are not selling off the shelves. In a time when everyone is questioning the future of the publishing world, the number of aspiring writers has suddenly grown astronomically. Those behind the books got to thinking - if all these writers were supporting the industry they want to be a part of then, perhaps, its future wouldn't be in question at all!

It ends up that this article that found new life on Twitter last night is actually from July 2010, but I wonder how off the mark it is. Without access to the data myself, or my own behind the scenes look into the publishing world, all I can offer is my own perspective and opinion on this subject.

My Thoughts 

Personally, I believe if you are going to submit work to a literary magazine for a possible submission, you should read that magazine. If you are going to continually submit to the same literary magazine, you should probably just subscribe to it. This is not just to support the industry, but also to know what types of work they are looking for and tend to publish.

The same goes with larger publishing dreams. If you want to write a romance novel, well, then, read romance novels. If you want to write mystery, then read mystery. Whatever it is that you are writing, you should become familiar with what's going on in the genre. You should know what is popular, what's been done and where you fit.

By the way, in my opinion, you should be reading a little bit of everything else also. You never know where you will get inspiration for your latest work, or what kind of author voice will move you until you are face to face with it. Learning happens in the strangest of places, usually when we least expect it, too, so you must expose yourself to as much as possible.

Yes. This can get expensive. (I'm living that right now.)

Yes. You can go to the library. (As I mentioned, I owe them some money, too!)

However, if you never pay for your reading, don't you feel the slightest bit insincere asking someone to pay you for your writing? I know I would.

I know writers love to read. The two go hand in hand. All the writers I meet are voracious readers, so I don't know if the article I read is even still relevant today. But here's a thought: the next time you absolutely love a book you picked up in the library and want to recommend it someone who you know will love it too, go buy it for them! The person you bought it for will love the unexpected gift and you can consider it your little thank you to the author of the great read.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Nicolae: The Rise of the AntiChrist by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Nicolae: The Rise of the AntiChrist by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

Book Three in the Left Behind series. The Tribulation Force has now experienced the beginning of WWIII and the end of peace. It seems the AntiChrist now knows the true allegiance of all of the characters and will soon break all ties. While his true nature has not yet been publicized, more people are turning to the way of Christ. The novel ends with another cliff-hanger. The "Wrath of the Lamb" hits Earth in a world-wide earthquake to mark the end for more tribulation saints.

Dated: 02/18/03

I was obviously enjoying this series when I was reading, but somewhere along the line, I stopped reading it (I think this was the last book I read). Has this ever happened to you with a book series?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

That Boy in The Coffee Shop

Before the turn of the millennium I met a man (who was then a boy) in a coffee shop in the Mall. He told me jokes, sang songs to me from the radio and danced silly dances. We quickly became friends as we worked together in the shop and I looked forward to the days I shared with him, as they were the days that would fly so quickly.

The summer passed into Fall and with the winter came the hectic holiday season where the job consumed us. Our home lives were replaced by our Mall family and we all grew closer in those months. When the holidays ended we all longed for more of each other...

Valentine's Day arrived and, as it was a holiday where our store became crowded with candy shoppers and gift-buyers, it felt as though a bit of the holiday spirit had been recaptured again. We were busy, it was crowded and we, the employees, were all together again. Then he came in, my friend, to work the late shift. I had been in all morning and would be in all night.

I had a special job that day. I was out front freshly dipping strawberries into chocolate for the most luxurious Valentine's Day shoppers. He walked right up to me smiling. I smiled too, I didn't realize he was working that day. He made some small chat about my station at the strawberries and I made some joke about how I was eating more than giving the customers. Then he asked me to be his Valentine. He asked me to go out with him that night after work, not as friends, but as something more.

My heart soared.

Then it crashed.

I was already going out with someone else that night... it would be our second or third date (and he also worked with us).

In that moment, when I had to decline, I suddenly knew what I wanted. I wanted to say yes. I wanted to go out with this boy. It had never occurred to me that he had wanted the same.

We spent the rest of the work day together, like we always did, joking and laughing, except this time any time a broken hearted love song played on the store's radio - he would sing it to me. It was adorable and, as it was typical in his fashion, very funny.

When the work night ended we said goodnight and he told me to have fun.

That was Valentine's Day 1997. It was the only Valentine's Day that I knew him that I wasn't his Valentine. (Although, if I'm being honest, I think he stole my heart that night, too...)

So, while I may not buy into the commercialism of Valentine's Day - the cards, the balloons, the gifts, the flowers, the "special menus" at the crowded restaurants - there is one boy (who is now a man) that I met fifteen years ago in a coffee shop that always reminds me of the magical romance of February 14th.

Thank you, Robert Rivera, for fifteen years of Happy Valentine's Days!

Still Adjusting One Year Later...

One year ago today I wrote my first post on this blog. The post was about a sign that has been in my house for a really long time. Last year the sign was in my bathroom as a sort of amusement for myself. You see, at the time, my bathroom was gutted, had no walls, no shower, no bathtub and would be a daily reminder of how broken my "normal" had become. I am happy to say the bathroom has finally been renovated and that the Riveras can bathe in peace.

This is not, however, to claim that our "normal" has been realigned. To the untrained eye, our home is still missing its "sweet" factor and as we adjust, our sign has moved out into the hallway. It really belongs on the kitchen door so people will laugh when the doorknob falls off in their hand, or on our front door where people are greeted with my paper number sign instead of the actual house numbers that "normal" houses have. If the sign were bigger, I would drape it over the stairway to the basement that remains unfinished and sickly since our flood...

But the sign is not big. Its message still is, though. Each time I see it and think of it I am reminded of some pretty powerful things:
  • Life is not perfect.
  • My world is always changing.
  • My home is uniquely mine.
  • My normal does not have to live up to anyone else's standards.
  • I am still growing, learning and becoming.
And while I wholeheartedly agree with Oprah Winfrey's sentiments that a home should rise up to meet you, at this point in my life I am grateful to have a home to meet me at any level. The fact that it happens to be this home warms my heart as I know that it rises to meet me in spirit and patiently awaits each healing repair as finances allow.

So while I suppose this post should be a reflection upon all that Rivera Runs Through It has accomplished in its first year on the Internet, I am instead thinking of my home. That may seem strange, dear reader, but in my heart these two things are intertwined. I have written every post under this roof, within these walls, behind these doors. With every post I write I find myself closer to healed spirit. As this house heals, so do I. 

In the past year the bathroom was renovated (including all of the leaks!), the roof was resealed, the tenants' apartment got a new door, we got a new dryer, we fixed our own washing machine, bought the tenants a new refrigerator, got my husband's car out of the backyard and back on the road and got my grandfather's clock to start ticking again. When people visit they see my missing numbers, my broken doorknobs, ancient lighting fixtures and my ugly basement, but as I live I see the progress. I see the adjustments. I know I'm getting there.

Here on Rivera Runs Through It I see the progress and the adjustments as well. It is amazing how much I have learned in the past year. I want to thank you for being here today and all the days you visit. I feel incredibly lucky to have the group of followers on this blog that I do and I hope to continue to connect with you in the years to come.

Happy Valentine's Day and Happy Blogiversary!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Book Love Begins in French Class

In my home, Les Miserables was a title spoken about with a sense of respect, awe and admiration. I have seen this musical more than any other on all of Broadway and I have been told many times that Hugo's work was my mother's truest book love. It is for this reason I was overjoyed to see that this week's book love participant, Susan Silver, was sharing her own story of book love about this magnificent work.

A French Student Finds Hugo
My mother was introduced to Hugo's masterpiece from a family member, but Susan found Les Miserables in her quest for a deeper understanding of the French culture in high school while taking on the language. It started out as supplementary school materials, but soon enough, "It became a love affair," Susan says,
The opening of the novel was amazing. This may only be true if you read the unabridged version. The book doesn’t start with Jean ValJean’s story. It starts with the Bishop of Digne otherwise known as Monsieur Bienvenue (translation= Mr. Welcome). A whole chapter is dedicated to a man who will be quickly forgotten once the protagonist enters. Yet his kindness to Jean ValJean is the launching point for that character’s redemption. That attention to detail captured my heart and drew me deeper into the story.
Susan's admission here, as well as both book love stories about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have me wondering how important this level of depth is in captivating readers for a lifetime. We all read books that don't go to this level, but do we only fall in love with books that do?

Reading Before and After Book Love

Susan admits to being quite an avid reader even before Les Miserables, "In fourth grade I was already reading the classics like Orwell’s 1984. I guess it was a form of escapism, but it helped me get through some tough times and gave me an education. I learned a lot about the world through the books that I read and the opinions they introduced me to." However, once she was swept away by Victor Hugo she had a hard time finding books that captured her in the same way, "It did ruin me for other books. I guess you could say that I like a particular style and it is quite old." She recommends it often, and reminds us that there is no shame in reading the abridged version!

The Lesson From Hugo 

If you are wondering what's to be gained from reading this classic, here's what Susan had to say when I asked her what life lesson she learned from her experiences of reading Les Miserables about eleven times:
There are many themes and every year I pick up on new details. I can sum up my main take away in the form of my favorite quote:

"Deep hearts, sage minds, take life as God has made it; it is a long trial, an incomprehensible preparation for an unknown destiny. This destiny, the true one, begins for a man with the first step inside the tomb. Then something appears to him, and he begins to distinguish the definitive. The definitive, meditate upon that word. The living perceive the infinite; the definitive permits itself to be seen only by the dead. In the meanwhile, love and suffer, hope and contemplate. Woe, alas! to him who shall have loved only bodies, forms, appearances! Death will deprive him of all. Try to love souls, you will find them again.”

Essentially here are is what the quote means to me:

We all love and suffer. We may want to cut ourselves from others because of a hatred. Yet  If we can see the larger picture then we can transmute our pain and return to a place of love. In other words, feel compassion for others and forgive.
Recommended Reading 
I don't know about you, but I love this. Susan has inspired me to give this book another shot (I tried reading it in middle school, got really overwhelmed, and never looked back)! Susan also has two other book loves that I haven't read and am putting on my to-read list now:
“Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck. I don’t like any of his other books, but I will keep coming back to this one. Perhaps it is because of my familiarity with Monterey Bay.

“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry. Sometimes it is nice to see the world through a child’s eyes.
Connecting With Susan Silver
If you would like to connect with Susan to talk to her about books or just to see what she's up to these days, I'm happy to tell you she has a fabulous web presence. Susan Silver works as a contract SEO copywriter. She is a weekly contributor to in the media category. Her unique writing talent is telling stories that explain mundane topics through the lens of pop culture. Susan currently writes about Word-of-Mouth marketing on her website Cirquedumot.

Twitter: @susan_silver


Thursday, February 9, 2012

10 Thoughtful Tweets

Playing catch up on my week has not given me much time to write today, but there are some great quotes that I've been collecting from twitter that I have been meaning to share with you. In no particular order, from my "Favorited Tweets," here are ten quotes that either made me smile, think, laugh or wonder when I read them. Enjoy!

10 Thoughtful Tweets
  1. "Beware how you take away hope from another human being." - Oliver Wendell Holmes
  2. "The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time." - Thomas Alva Edison
  3. "I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." ― Groucho Marx
  4. DEAR HATERS, I COULDN'T HELP BUT NOTICE THAT.... 'awesome' ends with "me" and 'ugly' starts with "u" -- Twitter user: itsMeLiane15
  5.  "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." - Theodore Roosevelt
  6. "I ask Finnish educators, how do you hold teachers accountable? They answer, 'We trust our teachers. They are professionals.'" --DianeRavitch
  7. "I didn't get old on purpose, it just happened. If you're lucky, it could happen to you." - Andy Rooney
  8. "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho
  9. "The soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all." - Wendell Berry
  10. "Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much." - Blaise Pascal 

Do you need 10 more?
10 Thoughtful Tweets - Part 2 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Dropped the Oars! [ROW80 CheckIn]

It was not intentional at all, but my entire challenge fell by the wayside since Sunday. In fact, to be perfectly honest, my whole life did. At this moment, I feel as though I may be able to pick up all the pieces when I wake up in the morning, but I know better than to speak definitively.

The adorable term for what I am is a Spoonie. As defined in the urban dictionary, a spoonie is

A person living with chronic illness, that identifies with Christine Miserandino's Spoon Theory.
Spoonies are people that live with chronic illness; theoretically measuring personal daily abilities much as one would measure the proper amount of spoons needed for an event or occasion... sometimes having an abundance, other times coming up short.
The reality of it is I have a chronic disease (two, actually). So... that gets in the way. Hence there has been zero progress for me, but there is a tale of frustration in the blog post I wrote earlier today called Doppleganger Days

For now that is all I can contribute. However, I have hopes that this week still has more to offer, so don't fret, you haven't heard the last of me yet!

Doppleganger Days

My doppleganger returned. I don't even know who she is, but she looks just like me, sounds just like me and she gets inside my head. However, she is the furthest from the "real me" than I can ever imagine.

She is sick. Not just with a cold or a stomach ache or something that can be worked around - she is bedridden. She is imprisoned by pain and her only journeys from the bed are to the bathroom.

She doesn't eat. She can not write or read or watch TV or even participate in normal conversations. Every time she arrives I am caught completely off guard.

I fight her, but she has allies within. She has somehow won my body over and I must lay in defeat as my system turns against itself. I wonder if she has never left and I only dreamed of moments of humanity, of personal connections, of health, of anything that could be perceived as progress. I wait and cry and pray that she'll leave, but have no idea how to show her the exit.

I hate her. But I can't. She is me. I am sick. I have two chronic diseases, one of them is a rare disease, and this is what life is like. Like everyone, I have good days and bad days. The only difference is that my good days are not as fantastic as a healthy person's and my bad days are so much more extreme.

My doppleganger threatens to stay for a while on this trip (this is day 3 where I find myself typing my story on the notepad in my iPhone while still laying in bed) and thoughts of hospitals have danced in my head since her arrival. But what will the professionals say? "It must be a flare up," or when I remind them of my rare condition, they'll all freeze, "Perhaps you should see your specialist."

Perhaps, if I could get out of bed I would see someone, but what can be done once a diagnosis has been made? "Yes, Nicole, you are sick. We actually told you that already. That's why you see us so frequently."

Alas, I will find my way back. I will find pseudo-healthy me again, I hope. I will be pain free for hours on end! I will be confident enough to take a shower while home alone! I will make dinner for my husband and feed the dogs! The world will stop spinning. The intestines will stop twisting. And my brain will become uncrushed.

But most of all, the doppleganger will leave my eyes alone. She can hurt me and torture me on these visits she makes, but if she dares to threaten my vision again a war will be waged at the conclusion of which I know only one of us shall remain standing.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The following post is taken directly from my hand-printed Reader's Journal. I will be sharing these reflections each week on the Rivera Runs Through It blog. The date at the end of each post is the date of the original writing, which is typically the date I completed the book. The reflections are short, but represent my initial reactions to a book, a brief summary of the book or the questions it raised for me at the time. I hope you enjoy this segment in my blog and feel free to comment on what you read here.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Another of Book Magazine's top books of 2002. It tells the story of Pi Patel, an Indian boy intrigued by religions and animals. Pi grew up on a zoo in Indian and left himself open to various religions as he came upon them. Already leading this unique life, things take a turn for the stranger when his family decides to move to Canada. On the trip one night the ship sinks and Pi is a lonely cast away on a strange adventure with even stranger boat-mates.

Dated: 02/01/03
Have you read Life of Pi recently, or do you recollect it? I personally remember having a coupe of burning questions about the conclusion of this book, or perhaps it had something to do with Pi's philosophy by the end of the tale... No one I knew had read it at the time, so there was no one to query. If you have any thoughts about Pi, I'd love to read them in my comments! (Maybe they will jog my memory!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thank GAWD for College!

I was going to my first fraternity house. I wasn’t in college yet, my friend’s brother was, so we were going to go see him. I worried about only knowing two people there. I worried that I was too young to be there. I worried I would spend the night up against a wall, by myself.

But then they heard me speak.

I don’t remember what I said, but before I knew it, there was a crowd of fraternity boys surrounding me asking me to, “Say something else!” because they loved “that New York accent!” Never before had I thought I had an accent, but evidently I was entertaining these boys from around the country with some sort of intonations that set them reeling with joy.

I gave them the typicals, the “tawlk” and “caw-fee” but I didn’t know what else to offer. My pseudo-celebrity status was disconcerting when even after I thought the show had ended I would catch some eyes looking at me in envy. “Am I saying things wrong?” I asked.

“No, it’s AH-some!” they would say, but I still wondered...

Years later, after spending time working in Manhattan, going to a college that was local, but attended mostly by students from all over the country, without intending to, my New York accent slipped by the wayside. In fact, I didn’t even realize it until one day I thought I’d share a video of my Sweet 16 with my boyfriend.

I thought it would be nice if he could see me on my big day.

As the video played he looked at me in horror. And I, on the other hand, couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. I recognized the girl on the screen. I could even remember her thoughts as the images played before me, but what was she saying? The Staten Island/New York/Italian-American accent that now causes me to cringe when I catch snippets of Mob Wives or, lord help me, The Jersey Shore was coming out of my mouth.

“I will tell you right now, if you sounded that way when we met, there’s NO WAY I would’ve asked you out!” and there it was. From my boyfriend, now husband, a judgement placed on me based on the speech of my home. It was what I had expected from the strangers in the frat house, not from the man I loved.

This post was written in response to this week's RemembeRED writing prompt on the Write On Edge blog. 
This week’s RemembeRED prompt is: Write a piece of creative non-fiction in which turns of phrase, dialect, slang, or colloquialisms feature prominently.
Choose ONE moment and explode it. Please, no laundry lists of phrases. This is a memoir, not the urban dictionary.

Time To Get Hunger Games Gear

You know I love books.

You know I love movies.

What could I possibly love more than books that become movies, right?

Well, I happen to love showing up at said movies all decked out in an appropriate t-shirt. I am happy to say that Hot Topic is finally stocking their Hunger Games movie t-shirts for all of us to go grab up before the March 23rd release. Click the banner below to be taken to their pages of goodies including t-shirts, jewelry, backpacks, key chains, journals, watches and more.

And just to get you in the right shopping mood, here is the latest Hunger Games trailer:

For fellow readers of The Hunger Games, what do you think of the omission of Madge (the mayor's daughter) from the movie? This trailer seems to give the first hints as to how the Mockingjay pin will be introduced without her.

Monday, February 6, 2012

My Passion for Books [Book Love Guest Post]

If you've been keeping up with my writing challenge check-ins this month, then you know I've made some online writing friends. This week's Book Love post comes from one such new friend, Morgan Dragonwillow, who writes on three different blogs: Writer's Universe, Shadow Rhythms, and Dragonwillow Journeys in addition to working towards completing her creative writing projects. Every writer is influenced by the reading they do in their life, so to get a taste for what we can expect from Morgan in the future, here is her book love history in her own words.

The first book I can remember falling into a serious book love crush with was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton in the ninth grade; I was fourteen years old. Before that I didn't much like reading; it was a family issue. I can still remember how I felt while I was reading that book. It was like walking into a magical world where nothing else mattered except what was going on within those pages. I happily lived there to the very last page.  

The Outsiders was actually the first book that was on a reading list for school that I liked and wanted to read. The characters were close to my age, and well yeah, they were outsiders and that is what I was. I never fit in and I definitely could relate. It was the first book that made me cry. Wait... I think I cried when I read Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry in grade school too. Wow I had completely forgotten about that book. I wanted to go back in time and help her rescue slaves. (I was eleven years old and I never reread Harriet Tubman.)

I believe I did reread The Outsiders once about a year later but as I grew older, I lost interest in reading it.

When I was in my early twenties I began reading romance novels. I cringe even to admitting that. I preferred reading books that had a bit of adventure, were magical, and with a little mystery thrown in.

I quickly found the wonderful world of Fantasy. I was in love. I devoured the Arrows of the Queen Series by Mercedes Lackey. I don't even know how many times I have reread them. They are like an old friend that I revisit from time to time. Once again it was about an outsider that didn't fit in with her people. I remember staying up late and never wanting to put the book down. It was magical, there were companions that were like horses only better, and most of the main characters had some form of power that they used for good. Just writing about them makes me want to go find the first in the series to read again.

I often tell others about this series of books. Every time I hear an adult say they love Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling I say, "Oh, if you like Harry Potter, you should read Arrows of the Queen because it is like an adult version of Harry Potter; which I loved by the way."

I didn't even know about the Harry Potter series until the third or fourth book was already out. I saw something on television that showed people standing in line for the most recent book release. I didn't understand. This was a children's book, right? Why were people of all ages in line to get this book? I had to find out what this was all about.

I read the first Harry Potter book in one sitting pretty quickly. I loved it. I read all the books that were already out and then impatiently waited for the rest to be published. When it was time for the last Harry Potter book to be released, my partner and I decided to go to the Midnight Party at Borders. We had a blast. This last book I stayed up reading all night and into the day to finish in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. I don’t think I even ate or drank much. I remember being on the floor that night in my room, with a flashlight, so that I wouldn't disturb my partner. We had a full house then and even the living room had someone sleeping in it.

My latest book love is the Twilight series. I resisted it for a long time. All four books in the series were already out. I thought it was some silly teenage book and didn't understand what the entire ruckus was about. When the Twilight movie came out, I thought maybe I should go ahead and get the first book; just to see if it was any good. I couldn't put it down. I know some may think it is silly but I loved it. I have reread the first and last book twice and I am about to reread the second and third books.

All of the books that I most love have a common theme. I guess you can say I can relate to misfits and outsiders being a child that never fit in; that grew into an adult that didn't fit into a typical mold. These books helped me to see I am not the only one that has felt out of sync with the rest of the world; that good can prevail over evil, and happy endings are possible even if they aren't what you thought they would be.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quickie Check-In #2 for ROW80 2/5

This might be the quickest check-in ever. It's SuperBowl Sunday, I'm a New Yorker, and the GIANTS are in the game!! Much needs to be done celebrated on this day...

With that said, I do have obligations to my ROW80 Challenge. On last Wednesday's check-in I reassessed my goals and rewrote a number of them. In the short span of time that has elapsed between then and now, some more rewriting needs to happen!

A Shift in Focus on "Spreading Out"
Since I have started ROW80 I have placed a large emphasis on writing for the Yahoo Contributor Network. This was part of my "Spreading Out" goals. Well, this past week I got a couple of offers to allow me to spread out without feeling like a hamster in a wheel. First off, I have been asked to do guest posts on a couple of blogs (one of them being from Chris at The Carpe Diem blog who shared his book love story with me) and secondly I have become one of the regular writers on The Word of the Nerd website, which I am very excited about. So, my Yahoo Contributor's Network is going to go on the back burner right now, which is where it was starting to feel like it belonged anyway (there is an insane amount of competition for visibility when you're a newbie like me, I have to work up my presence there slowly).

Reading Like I Have ADHD

I haven't finished any books since Wednesday (except for the preview issue of a comic book called Stick City I did a review for on Word of the Nerd), but I have started (I wish I was joking...) at least three more books on top of what I was already reading. My brain will implode shortly, but I'm riding this wave until Wednesday, at least. At which point I should have completed at least one of the books.

Three Hours of "Writing"

I forgot how much time editing takes. I was working on a short story piece for the Write On Edge prompt this week that flowed pretty quickly. I was happy with my work, but at word count time found that it was nearly 700 words. The prompt specifically said 400 words or LESS. I spent the entire day pairing it down. I made it, but my time set aside for writing on Friday was gobbled up by this process. So... does it count? I think so. Editing is a part of writing and I was working on a creative piece. Although it ended up on my blog, I don't really consider participation in the Write on Edge activities as "blog writing" in the strictest sense of the term. I participate in them regularly to hone my craft.

Those are my biggie thoughts about my ROW 80 challenge at this point in the week. Tomorrow begins my month long online writing workshop where I'll learn some of JK Rowling's greatest writing lessons from the expert in the matter, Susan Sipal. I can't wait!

Here's the list of the ROWers checking in this weekend - show your support!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

NiNoCon: An Online Writer's Conference

Today is the day! It's NiNoCon!

Wait... Did you just say, "What's NiNoCon?" Well, then, let me tell you, NiNoCon is
Ninja Novel Conference ~ an online writers conference for the daring, the dedicated, the ninja writer!
Is that me? Maybe.

Is that you? Why not?!

You lose nothing by just going to check it out. Head to the writer's dojo and spend the day there. My mantra for these things is: If you learn just ONE THING then it's worth it. And I think that's sure to happen.

I really, really hope to get there as much as possible today, but I did not plan ahead! I'll be checking in, perhaps we'll virtually bump into each other... See you there!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Soul Music

"There's no music," she says pulling the covers over her head.

"Well, let's put your radio on, then." Her iHome has been playing since the day we got it for her. She wakes to it, plays it after school and falls asleep to it. My little girl loves her music.

"Not that music," she muffles from under her comforter. "Please turn it off Mama."

I notice tears in her eyes. I climb over to lay beside her, "What music, then?"

"The music from Daddy. The music on the inside."

I've read books and remained active in the Church, but these moments are hollow. I want to cry with her, but she doesn't want to cry now. Right now, my baby wants music.

"Don't I give you music? ...and your sisters?"

"Yes, Mama, but it's not loud enough. Daddy's music was louder. Will he ever come home from Heaven?"

Pull your heart back together.
                                             Find your strength.
                                                                           Your child needs you.

"No, Baby, but he misses you. I know the Church says Heaven is always happy, but sometimes the people in Heaven get sad."

"That's not what Father Joe said," note to self: kick Father's ass on Sunday.

"Well, he's wrong," as I talk I feel her start to unwind, "I know because of the rain."

"The rain?"

"Yep. Rain means someone in Heaven is crying," as I talk, I wonder, Why can't this be true? "Sometimes they're happy tears --"

She looks at me and smiles, rolling her eyes, "Like you do sometimes when you watch those boring movies?"

I laugh, "Yes, like that. Some rain is like that, but sometime, like when a Daddy misses his ladies, the tears are sad."

"I hope Daddy's not sad a lot of the time."

"I know and I know he's hoping that you're not sad, too," we both sit quietly for a moment, then, "So... Should we get up now?"

"Not yet..."


The room stays quiet. I'm filling with the warmth of hope for our family. I could lay here all day, maybe she could too, but then

"Mama?" she whispers, "Do you hear it?"

"I can't believe it... I do."

"Mama," she leaps out of bed crossing to her window,  "I think Daddy is crying happy tears this time."

This post was written in response to a Red Writing Hood Prompt about music from the Write On Edge blog. Here's this week's prompt:
Show us in 400 words or less how your character reacts to a piece of music. It can advance a story line or provide a character sketch–or both! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My January 2012 in Review: Books

You may or may not have noticed the challenge button I have on the sidebar of my blog from goodreads. It's my 2012 reading challenge. If you haven't seen that, then perhaps you've been keeping up with my ROW80 check-ins where I discuss this challenge. Either way, if you have not, here it is:

I will read 52 books in the year 2012.

This is doable. All I have to do is read at least one book per week, or four books per month. Well, January ended and I was already behind! I only read three books. No worries, though. I've got a whole year ahead of me. Right now I just want to tell you about those three books!

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

I was introduced to this book thanks to the good people at the WriteOnEdge blog. This was the second selection for the online reading discussion ReadOnEdge after we read Stephen King's On Writing. I must say Lamott's book was an excellent choice.

As I am endeavoring to take the leap into the writing word it is important to get sage advice from those who have been through the ringer a couple of times. While King discussed the idea of rejection and his own experiences with it, I don't think he captured the emotional tumult that one goes through during the process of writing as vividly as Lamott did. Reading that the feelings of insecurity I am having now seem to be a natural part of the game was strangely comforting.

Along with anecdotes from a writer's insecure mind were some incredible pieces of advice. So many of them so simple one has to wonder why the thought of them has been so elusive. A perfect example of this is the story behind the title of the book. Lamott reflects upon her brother, ten years old at the time, waiting until the last moment to do a report he had months to do. He was besides himself, this project was on multiple types of birds and was overwhelmed. Their father (also a writer) walked in the kitchen to find his son distraught over his enormous project. The father calms him by saying he needs to just take the report "bird by bird." Lamott, a writing teacher, tells her students this story year after year so that they too understand that their manuscripts can not be written en masse, but rather piece by piece, or "bird by bird."

There are so many snippets of advice, so much writers can learn from reading this. I highly recommend this book if you are interested in writing at any level.

Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins

I have had this audiobook for years. I bought it back in 2009 when I was first diagnosed with IIH and couldn't read anything, not even a computer screen. I had just finished The Hunger Games and I wanted to see where this Collins woman came from. I don't know if it was the narrator. I don't know if it was that I was so sick at the time. I don't know if it was because I was always laying down when I listened to it. All I do know is I literally could not stay awake in this book. When I saw it still in my iPhone in January I decided I would give it another shot, but only play it when I was wide awake.

Well, that was the trick! I really loved the book. I was listening to it like crazy just to know what happened next. I couldn't help but make comparisons to The Hunger Games while listening, but otherwise it was a book all its own. Suzanne Collins seems to have a real knack for creating worlds that run on different rules (Panem in The Hunger Games and the Underworld in Gregor). While the Underworld's rules are not as shocking as Panem's in THG, the setting is.

Taking place completely underground, this book takes a young boy, Gregor, and his little sister Booth to a place they had never dreamed of. There are larger than life creatures and characters, a prophecy and a mission to save a father. The book is filled with adventure, action and just the right touch of "icky" that I believe it would be especially appealing to a young male audience.

Although this book is the first in a six book series, the story itself contains enough closure to be a one-shot read if you so desire. However, I can tell you I'll be back! I'm too fascinated by the Underworld and the fascinating cast of characters I left there.

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres

The third book I read in January was one of my Christmas gifts. I asked for it because I read Ellen's first book, My Point... And I Do Have One back in 1995, and I seriously thought it was one of the funniest things in print. I bought it because Ellen amused me, but the book had me wiping the laughter tears out of my eyes. My friend and I can still quote excerpts from the book.

Also, Ellen's stand up has the same affect on me. Pure, unbridled joy brought on by hilarity. My husband knows, any time it is on, he can flip over to it, I can recite the jokes along with the show and still be laughing. My husband and I often pull out some of the Ellen jokes whenever apropos.

So I'm an Ellen fan. I was really looking forward to the book. Maybe I raised my expectations too high. Maybe I'm not as easily amused anymore... who knows.

The book was funny, but not hilarious. It was more of a memoir with a twist. It was a stream of monologues from the Ellen show all wrapped up together. Do I recommend the book? Absolutely. It is a fun, quick read and I still love Ellen for her messages of positivity and living in happiness. She is my idol in this way and in her silliness (when my students would tell me I reminded them of Ellen I would secretly dance in my heart for the greatest compliment paid, second only to, "Thank you, Miss."). She explains why she left American Idol, she discusses her pride in her show and being the spokeswoman for CoverGirl, her love of her wife and family, and she even included coloring pages for your kids (I thought that was pretty great)! There are some seriously funny parts, I suppose I just wanted more.

Want To Get Your Own?

If you suddenly feel so inclined to purchase one (or more) of these books, and you were planning on doing it through, I would be extremely grateful if you followed one of the links below to do so. By following these links, rather than going to Amazon directly, Amazon will pay me a commission at no extra cost to you. It's just one small way you can show your support for the Rivera Runs Through It blog. Thanks!