Friday, March 30, 2012

The Kreativ Blogger Award

I got such a surprise Thursday night on my blog, when I saw that Sandra from A Writer Weaves A Tale selected me as a recipient of The Kreativ Blogger Award along with six other Kreative Kats! Check out her blog post for the fellow honorees.

In the meantime, I am now supposed to tell you seven interesting things about myself. I suppose that is to replace any sort of embarrassing acceptance speech that can go on unchecked as there is no polite music to cue to let me know to cut it out. So, in that case... let's think "interesting." (Now it's time for me to get really "kreativ"!)

Paul Erdos, famous mathematician and collaborator
  1. I'm kind of a liar, and an über-geek. It occurred to me yesterday, after putting up my post about Write On Edge that, while I started out by saying "I am not published," that I was incorrect in making that statement. I am published. In a Mathematics Journal called Congressus Numeratum. I was a coauthor of some research in Graph Theory that I worked on in Rutgers University. This publication gives me the distinct nerd qualification of a having an Erdos number of two, the highest possible now that Erdos has passed away, but only the geekiest of Math nerds have any clue what that means! (Or you can read this. I coauthored a paper with the fantasticly fun John Gordon Gimbel.)
  2. I respond to sugar and caffeine the way most people respond to drugs and alcohol. I don't drink coffee, tea, or soda on a regular basis. My body has no threshold point for caffeine or sugar. When I do have any of these beverages, even if it is one glass, I can not sleep. If I consume more than one glass, or if I have more chocolate than I really should, then I have the energy and focus of a five year old child. This can help or hinder the writing the process - some days it helps me write a lot very quickly and gives me quirky, funny ideas, other times it gets me so distracted I can not even form sentences. Luckily, today was the former. (I, idiotically brought my chocolate bar OUT of the refrigerator and sat it next to me while I wrote. I ate half the thing in minutes - that bar could've lasted me weeks!)
  3. My first beagle, Chewy, literally walked into my house in the middle of a winter's night. It was 2am, I was making some Mac n' Cheese for my friends in the basement, my mom was asleep when all of a sudden my brother came into the kitchen saying he heard a dog crying outside. It was snowing, so we opened the door, worried it was our Wheaton terrier, Ashley. The door opened and a blur of fur blazed through my legs. My brother and I both barely got out, "What the heck was that?!" When all of a sudden we heard the "Awww!" from my friends in the basement. Chewy was a four month old beagle puppy with no tags that hadn't grown into her ears yet. I tried to find her owners for weeks, then she cut her ear and I had to take her to the vet. There they asked her name and put her under my care. She was my furry baby for twelve years. 
  4. I can't do a push-up. This was something I suspected for a while, but finally confirmed about two weeks ago with my face planted on my hardwood floor, completely unable to move it up. I am now working on striking this interesting fact from my list by attempting to do weird-o push-ups with my legs across my couch so that my face is already off the floor. These are more like hold-ups than push-ups, but I have to start somewhere with my pathetic weakness. I can't believe this was once a certified lifeguard swimmer's body! I'd probably drown just doing a 25 now!!
  5. I'm terrified of aliens, but I love sci-fi. I'm really not sure what to say about this. It started with E.T. He is a brown, ugly turd who scared the hell out of me as a child. Then there were glimpses of the movies Communion and Close Encounters of the Third Kind - both terrifying again. However, in the interim, I fell in love with Star Wars, Star Trek and all of their characters, no matter how alien they looked. And now I am in love with the Doctor, you know Doctor Who, another alien and a show full of aliens. So I really don't know what's up. But I promise you this, if you show me a picture of E.T. or try to eat Reese's Pieces (E.T. food) around me, I will scream... some fears are just embedded.
  6. Those "You Know You Love It" commercials were made to torture me. Back in 2010 I found out that one of the reasons that I have so many digestive issues is that I have an intolerance to both dairy and gluten. Before this diagnosis I could eat Kraft Macaroni and Cheese every single day of my life without a single complaint. I didn't, but I'm just saying, I could have. So, after buying a CostCo wholesale pack of ten boxes of the stuff and then finding out about my allergies, I had to sever the tie completely. It has been difficult, as all of my gluten-free and dairy-free living has been, but those damn commercials really make me want to cry. When they say "You know you love it," I always answer, "I do, you sick bastards, now LEAVE ME ALONE!" I've gotten pretty good at avoiding the commercials, I recognize them now, but last weekend they showed one in the movie theater and the cheesy goodness was enormous and delicious looking. It wasn't right. Someone should do something about this brilliant marketing campaign.


7. My home is my home, which is my home. People always find it interesting that I have lived in the same home for my entire life. I suppose it is. The first time I "moved" was when I got married and I moved from my bedroom to the master bedroom. I love my home, it is truly all I know in terms of a home. This home is where my heart is. I am lucky to have it and pray that I can keep it. I think everyone who is in the unemployed, disabled position that I am has the same fears, but in the case of an inherited home I just hate to think that after all these years I was the one who dropped the ball. 
    And NOW (drum roll, please!) I present to you the seven bloggers that I deem to be Kreativ Bloggers! You should check them all out (as I do), so that you can be further enlightened by their Kreativ -ity.
    • There is Morgan over at A Writer's Universe who is, among other things, working on her memoir these days. Morgan shares prompts and writer inspirations regularly.
    • Pandora Poikilos is an author and blogger who is not only creative, but she is also a great sharer. On her blog she hosts a blog-a-licious tour that is a fantastic place to meet new bloggers from all over the Internet and world.
    • Chris over at The Pedestrian Writer is also working on a book right now, but I think he might actually be heading home for the holidays soon. I love Chris' blog posts for the sincerity of his voice and his take-no-prisoners stance on all topics he is passionate about.
    • There's Dawn over at Fabulous Follow Through who's been experimenting with photography in between sharing golf stories and reflections. Dawn is an amazing mom, wife and friend for life.
    • Then there's Eric from I Can't Brain Today; I Have The Dumb who continues to entertain me with his musical (and geeky) musings when he isn't too busy at the helm of Studio30Plus.
    • Each week I am treated to wonderful stories from JDaniel4's Mom all about JDaniel. They are so sweet, endearing and give a unique voice to the Mom blogging world.
    • And the final blog and blogger is Galen from 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). Galen's blog is a happy place all its own and I love to visit for quiet reflections of wonder and wellness.

    So that's it. Now I have to go congratulate all those who I have bestowed this great honor upon! Thanks again to Sandra!

    Who would you nominate for a Kreativ Blogger Award, or plain old Kreativ Person Award, if we had one?
    What do those people do that inspire you to think of them this way? 

      Thursday, March 29, 2012

      Rewatching Buffy from the Beginning [Throwback Thursday]

      I love writers and I love good stories. One writer that has captivated my imagination for years is the über-talented Joss Whedon. I hear his name associated with a project and I simply MUST know more. However, it wasn't always that way. It began with the story of a high school girl starting in a new school, wanting desperately just to get along without making any waves; it started with Buffy Summers who had the unfortunate burden of being the Vampire Slayer.
      Dani, author of the GeekGirl's Manifesto, and fellow contributor to Word of the Nerd, organized a virtual viewing party for us as she gets ready to read Season 8 of BtVS in graphic novel form (Buffy fans, you need to read this!). I am using the time to read my new book The Psychology of Joss Whedon before his version of The Avengers hits theaters this May.  It's a great opportunity to share insights about the show and just geek-out, in general.
      For fellow Buffy fans, I hope you join the conversation, for others, perhaps this will intrigue you enough to give the old show a shot! I present to you our reactions for the first two episodes, as collected and transcribed by Dani: 
      For the next few weeks some of the lovely ladies from Word of the Nerd, are going to join me as we complete a re-watch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

      Joining me this week are BeccaNicole and Corinne.

      Episode 1: Welcome to the HellMouth

      DANI: Okay...the first thing that jumped out at me on the rewatch is that the first guy to die (I have to look up his name) went on to have a regular recurring role on 'CSI-Miami'. So, for some people, being vamp bait in BtVS is not the career equivalent of being a red shirt on Star Trek. *lol* Besides that, I love a series that starts quickly and a vamp bite within the first 2 minutes counts as 'fast'. And the writing. I love the fact that the 'quips' start flying so early in the series.

      BECCA: The actor who died is Eric Balfour who went on to die in many more movies & tv shows.

      DANI: All that aside, I've always found 'The Master's' main henchman to be annoying. And it strikes me as funny that after he is killed off in this season, he reappears in a later episode as another vampire. Talk about being type-cast. The poor only guy ever plays bad guys (the BtVS equivalent of the red shirt actor curse, perhaps?)

      ...Girl Power as an Archtype
      Thinking of episode 1 there were a number of things that struck me. The first was that one major theme of the entire show was made clear from that very first vamp bite - girls can be powerful, too. I know it is almost cliche to bring up such a thing when talking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it seems to me that the first scene was designed to make us think the girl was going to be the typical horror story victim, and them - WHAM! - she's a monster! So that scene really was a huge one-two punch: 1. there will be action, 2. females are powerful. I loved that.

      DANI: You are so right about the opening sequence and the idea that the female would be the victim. It does set the tone for the rest of the show, really.

      ...Angel's Fashion Sense
      DANI: Oh yeah...and WTF is up with that 'shiny' satin/velvet coat they put on Angel in Ep 1??? Are we going for vampire kitsch here or what?!

      NICOLE: I'm cracking up over here about Angel's jacket! I had to go back and check it out after reading Dani's comment! It really IS shiny! How did I miss that? And... what was costume design thinking?? I'm desperately trying to remember the styles of the late 90s to see where that fits, but I can't figure...

      ...YA Novels Related to the Series
      CORINNE: Did anyone ever read the YA novels that came out for the series?

      NICOLE: I did not read any of the YA novels, but I did get started on season 8 in the comics and I read FRAY, as well. I didn't know there were YA novels!!

      CORINNE: The YA novels were really good. Amazon has a few used. Christopher Golden was one of the writers, I can't recall the other woman that wrote for them. They did a 3 or 4 part series on Dark Willow too that expounded on some stuff that she might have done between scenes in the series. The books tried to keep a good handle on what was going on in the series and gave fans a chance to see old characters from the show and movie return. Pretty cool.

      ...The Bronze and Music in the Show
      NICOLE: I also was wondering when I watched this episode whether or not Buffy was the first teen show to set up the whole "regular hang out with music" place. I'm sure it wasn't, but the inclusion of the Bronze and the new music in every episode seemed to flow very naturally for me in this series. I hadn't remembered that it started all the way back in episode one. 

      DANI: I noticed something similar, only my issue is more with the fact that I never saw a place like that when I was in highschool. And even if there was one (I went to HS in Orlando, and heaven knows that city is big enough) I wouldn't have been allowed to go out to a club like that. That said, the music forms a kind of linking 'net' throughout the series as a whole, often showcasing up-and-coming bands of the time, while using songs that speak to the actions/emotions of the characters.

      ...Continuity Issues
      NICOLE: The only other comment I can think of about episode 1 is: I hope when they first aired the show they started it off with a two hour special and did not leave people hanging for a whole week to see what would happen to Buffy!! I started watching the show in season 2 or 3 (I forget which one), so I had the benefit of flying through the first season on the wonderful technology of VHS tape borrowed from my friend.

      CORINNE: I noticed the time/continuity issue as well. I wonder if it had something to do with the fact that Whedon was unhappy with how campy they ended up making the movie and maybe the series was his chance of a 'do-over' since he was acting as the showrunner/exec producer?

      CORINNE: I remember when I first saw this ep thinking okay the movie ended with her graduating high school and the series is starting with her being a sophomore, yeah I can live with that. 

      ...On Willow, Xander and Cordy
       DANI: I was such a Willow in HS, so I'm sure that is why I can completely appreciate the whole 'high school' is hell thing that Whedon was going for -- and it works for me. I spend most of my time wanting to throttle Cordy. And actually think in the early episodes that Xander is cute in a 'geekily endearing' sort of way. 

      CORINNE: Oooh Angel and Xander, drool!

      Episode 2: "The Harvest" (AKA: Welcome to the Hellmouth - part 2)

      Did you find Xander and Willow's reactions believable or not?
      DANI: I liked the 'mini-history of vampires' Giles gives near the start of this episode. In many ways I think it points to the later 'book-sessions' that the Scooby-Gang has to find out info -- while at the same time playing up the stunned reactions from Xander and Willow. I think Willow's reaction was very believable (I would have reacted similarly). I love this exchange:

      Willow: "I think I need to sit down."Buffy: "You are sitting."Willow: "Oh. Good for me."

      NICOLE: I almost addressed this in my discussion of episode 1 since Xander had the weird eavesdropping in the library discovery of Buffy's slayer status. I'm happy I waited. I find them believable BECAUSE Xander has had a little more time to mull this over than Willow. He confronted Buffy with it in ep 1 with the appropiate "this girl is crazy" type of reaction. Then, both Xander and Willow were in a situation WITH Vampires where they actually saw one turn to dust BEFORE Giles tried to explain them away as if they were a normal part of everyone's lives. Had they not had these experiences, I would have expected a lot more laughing, skepticism and, ultimately, avoidance of the library.

      Angel's random 'pop in/give cryptic message/vanish' act -- Does that annoy anyone else?
      DANI: I can SO understand where Buffy is coming from when she complains about him doing this. The fact that Buffy complains about his 'Mr. Cryptic' routine makes me wonder if it is intentional. In many ways, Angel is doing the same sort of thing that Giles does -- popping up with doom and gloom warnings, then leaving her to do all the hard work. Kind of like Angel is the 'Anti-Giles' (non-father-figure), but does the same sorts of things that Giles does.

      NICOLE: I think, in the beginning episodes, the mystery of Angel was laid on a bit too thick. In hindsight, it all made sense, but going through the motions it felt a bit annoying. Like DUDE WHO ARE YOU?! It seems evident that he is interested in Buffy (estowing her with gifts), but one has to wonder... is he some sort of creepy stalker?!

      What do you think of 'The Master'?
      DANI: I like the idea of him as a plot point, because the first 'baddie' needed to be something that would galvanize the group. But at the same time, I find it kind of funny that he has so many 'Nosferatu' qualities similar to the first vampire movie -- minus the fluffy eyebrows and huge ears. That said, I think his 'finger of death' trick at the end of the episode was completely cheesy and totally paying homage to Nosferatu.

      NICOLE: Without a doubt, Master = Nosferatu. Also, I think the Master was the opportunity for Whedon to demonstrate the level of campiness he is willing to accept. It is obvious that the Buffy movie came from Whedon, but someone made a caricature of it. Whedon can be hilariously funny, and then there are times his humor rides the line of corny (which is fine with me). I think they both have their place and he (and his writing team) do a great job of balancing it all with the horror elements of the show. In my opinion, the Master is one tool for this purpose in the first season.

      So that's it for now.
      Fellow fans, what are your thoughts about the first two episodes?
      For those who have never seen BtVS, did you just miss out on it, or were you avoiding it?
      What show from your past would you like to get nostalgic with and re-watch?
      **this last question is important... I have plans in the works here!

      Don't forget to check out all of these lovely ladies at their respective websites, or to  see more of us all in one place, come check out Word of the Nerd!

      Wednesday, March 28, 2012

      Write On Edge: My Distant Teachers

      I am a writer. If you ask to see my credentials, I will show you all I have written. I did not say I was a published writer ...yet. To be a writer all it really takes is to set to the task of writing on a regular basis.

      That is fulfilling, but, personally, I don't like to do anything half-assed and I know that I am on the steep end of the learning curve when it comes to all that is involved in the craft of writing. I did not study writing or even literature in college. I was a double major in Mathematics and Education. These studies have served me well, and, I believe they continue to serve me, but there is much I don't know about that which I spend my days doing now, and I am thirsty for knowledge.

      Enter Write On Edge. This is a website often linked to from Rivera Runs Through It and discussed in passing. I was recently asked in an interview for the Carpe Diem blog what my number one favorite website was (besides my own). I nearly dismissed the question as unanswerable, until it occurred to me, I visit Write On Edge every single day. Here's just a piece of my answer:
      I have gotten an incredible amount of inspiration from Write On Edge. This group has two weekly writing prompts that I try to participate in as much as possible. Those prompts, in part, are what inspired me to start Rivera Runs Through It so I would have a blog space to write creatively.
      I realized that if I had a computer that could only access one website and nothing more, I would set it to because I could sit by my computer with a notebook and some paper and still write, still learn and still grow as a writer only with access to their site.

      It began with a quest for writing prompts and community. I sought out the two prompts a week from what was then known as The Red Dress Club, and let them unleash my creative juices. (Off My Trail  was the first post I wrote for the community, I am still so proud of it.) Then, as each prompt came with a word count, I began to learn about word efficiency. Through reading the posts created by other bloggers linking to the community, I began to see how many different angles one theme could be perceived from, which led to even more creative thinking. Finally, I started to read the posts in between the prompts that were filled with writing tips, experiences, lessons and the creation of a book club for writers.

      I did not intend to write about the Write On Edge community today as I sat down before my computer. My intention was to write about and review the book I finished yesterday, The Memoir Project by Marion Roach Smith. The book taught me so much about writing, research and observing life, but I would never have read this book if not for Write On Edge. It was the selection for our current book club. We will be discussing the first three chapters tonight on Twitter at 9:30pm EST (use hashtag #writeonedge if you want to join the discussion).

      The other two books we read as a group were On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. With each turning page I feel more connections being made, more dendrites growing and a new skill is blossoming at my fingertips.These are incredibly exciting reads for me. So, just as I wrote about On Writing and as I reviewed Bird by Bird, you can be certain you will be reading my reactions to The Memoir Project, but it appears that story was not for today. Today's story is about my distant teachers, the wonderful people behind the scenes at Write On Edge and the community of people who participate there as well.

      Today's blog post is a long overdue Thank you to a community that probably has little to no idea what a large impact they have had on me.

      Do you participate in an online community?
      How have they helped you grow, learn or just share in your time with them? 
      For fellow writers, where do you find your inspiration and your education?


      The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

      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 Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis

      The first of seven books in The Chronicles of Narnia begins an interesting tale. A story of two children thrust into a magical world against their wishes. Aslan, the Lion from Narnia, is a fascinating character. I was enthralled by the birth of the land and touched by Aslan's warning to our world as he left Digory and Polly at the end of their time together. I am curious enough to explore the rest of the Chronicles.

      Dated: 11/22/03

      I will spoil the ending by telling you that I feel in love with this series.
      For those who have read The Chronicles of Narnia, when were you introduced to it? 
      For fans of the Narnia films, have you read the books?

      Tuesday, March 27, 2012

      The Muppets DVD Bonus Material Reviewed

      Kermit the Frog
      March 20th was a big day for the Muppets and Muppet fans. It was declared Muppets Day in Hollywood. The Muppets DVD release was scheduled alongside the furry crew receiving a star on Hollywood Boulevard. While a couple of muppets (Kermit the Frog and Big Bird) as well as the Muppets' creator, Jim Henson received stars previously, this was the first time the Muppets as a whole were recognized.

      It was a day to celebrate. We could finally own the most sensational inspirational celebrational Muppetational movie of 2011.

      Buying A Movie Means Making a Choice

      Since the advent of Blu-Rays and digital media, going out to "buy a movie" is not as simple as grabbing the first DVD off the shelf on the first day of its release. Now we have Combo Packs to choose from. For The Muppets, Disney gives us four main options to choose from when looking for a physical copy of the film. In increasing price and added material, they are:
      • The DVD which includes the movie and blooper reel.
      • The DVD with complete soundtrack.
      • The Blu-Ray Combo Pack which includes the Blu-Ray, DVD and digital edition of the movie as well as bonus material.
      • The Wocka Wocka Value Pack which includes everything in the Blu-Ray Combo Pack as well as the complete soundtrack.
      The Muppets Wocka Wocka Combo Pack
      Reviewing The Muppets Bonus Material

      To help you in making the choice, let me give you my perspective of what you'll find in this fabulous box.

      Outside of the scope of the film itself, for Muppet fans, I highly recommend the soundtrack. Whether you are in the car, the gym or just hanging out at home, who can't find a reason to have a little "Me Party," to re-examine your place in the world with "Man or Muppet," to find the "Rainbow Connection," or to listen with fascination as Oscar-award winning actor Chris Cooper raps in "Let's Talk About Me"? It's a must-own, so its inclusion in some packs is an important consideration.

      Once we get back to the movie, there is a little bonus embedded within the viewing called Disney Intermission. This is a cute feature that is triggered whenever you pause the movie. Press pause and you will see a red curtain appear with a lit up intermission sign hanging over it. If you stick around you'll be treated to visits from the Muppets waving, laughing, showing off a "Muppet dance party," and lots more. Waldorf and Statler provide most of the voice-over commentary during the intermission which goes on for at least fifteen minutes.

      The blooper reel, which is entitled The Longest Blooper Reel Ever Made (In Muppet History**) **We Think is just about ten minutes long. It is full of Muppet mayhem as well as bloopers from the live action actors. It's fun and interesting to watch because, even when the bloopers are muppet related (Walter's arm is "stuck" because it had to be taped down for the shot), the Muppets never seem to break character and the live actors appear to even be joking with them, not the invisible puppeteers.

      The rest of the bonus material is only included on the Combo Packs, so this is what (along with the Blu-Ray technology) your extra money will be paying for:
      • Scratching The Surface: A Hasty Examination Of The Making Of The Muppets is a fifteen minute documentary/mockumentary made about the making of a Muppet movie. There are interviews with nearly all of the actors who had cameo appearances as they discuss why they got on board with the project. Some Muppets are also interviewed, including some behind the scenes Muppets such as "Muppet Director Bobin" who works with "Human Director Bobin." A fun watch that does include some interesting Muppet facts.
      • A Little Screen Test On The Way To The Read-Through is an extra couple of scenes of Muppets at their best interacting with Jason Segal. A definite plus to those who loved the film.
      • Explaining Evil: The Full Tex Richman Song not only has the draw of more Chris Cooper rap, but also answers one question fans might be asking throughout the film, "Why does Tex Richman hate the Muppets so much?"
      • Deleted Scenes gives a purview into what The Muppets might have been. There are some cameos that hit the cutting room floor, an extended dream sequence for Walter that ended differently than the shorter one in the film and the Muppets even landed in jail! This is one set of deleted scenes which shows true evidence of incredible rewrites of the script and vision of the final film.
      • Unreleased Theatrical Spoof Trailers --And More! If you've been following the Muppets on YouTube, then you were privy to the parody trailers they had going all year long in anticipation of their movie's release. To have them collected in one place with a cool "Play All" feature is fantastic.
      • Audio Commentary is done by Jason Segal, Nick Stoller and James Bobin and it is a fun interaction. The three are still discovering things about each other's motivations and decisions in the movie making process as the commentary goes on. This serves as a fantastic rewatch of the film as you are guided through in the company of fellow Muppet fans.
      The Final Decision

      For my money, I went out and bought the Blu-Ray Combo Pack. This is only because I already had the soundtrack and did not need another one. I think, for fans, the bonus material is worth the extra money and will be enjoyed multiple times over. There is one added consideration, just moments before I was going to go out to get my very own copy, I was told of even more perks depending on the retailer you purchase from, but honestly, that's enough fodder for another post entirely. The fact is this, no matter which retailer you go with, you need to get yourself this movie.

      Did you get the DVD yet? 
      If so, what did you think?
      This review was also shared on Word of the Nerd.

      Pottermore Shop Is Open For Business

      Hang on to your wands, fellow Potterheads, our books have finally been digitized. Today Pottermore announced via Twitter, Blog and e-mail to its followers, that the Pottermore Shop is open.
      Pottermore Shop Home
      In the Pottermore Shop one can purchase all seven Harry Potter books as they have finally been transformed into eBooks and digital audiobooks. According to the shop, the eBooks are compatible with "all leading eReaders, tablets and smartphones.." The digital audiobooks, narrated by the incomparable Jim Dale, are compatible with "MP3 players, including iPods and hundreds of other audio devices."
      Boy Who Lived
      The eBooks will cost you $7.99 USD each for the first three books and $9.99 USD each for the final four. If you wish to buy all seven eBooks at once, this will save you 10% for a total cost of $57.54 USD. The audiobooks also have varying prices for the first three books, which cost $29.99 USD each, and the final four books, which cost $44.99 USD each.. Again, you can save 10% on the set with a total cost of $242.94. For those who are in the giving mood, the Pottermore Shop provides an "Instant Gift" option, whereby you can send anyone with an e-mail address a code they can redeem in the shop for an eBook or audiobook of your choice.

      The books are only available in English (US and UK) at this time. However, according to the Shop, "French, German, Spanish and Italian language eBooks will be available soon, and many further languages will follow. Digital audio books in German and Italian will also be available shortly."

      So, while you wait for the wide release of Pottermore - the interactive site which brings the Harry Potter books to life with added story elements, and opportunities to immerse the reader in Harry's magical world like creating your own potions, wand dueling, and picking out your owl - you can now get your 21st century supplies ready for the adventure. I can only imagine that today's announcement is a good sign Pottermore's public gates will open sooner rather than later in the month of April.

       What will you do?
      Are you buying the set?
      Are you giving it as a gift?
      Are you waiting for birthdays, Christmas, etc."
      Are you happy with your print and paper and sticking to it?

      This news was also shared on Word of the Nerd,
      because everyone loves Harry! :)

      Sunday, March 25, 2012

      First Book Love Vlog from SableCaught

      Back when I first learned about Pottermore I stumbled upon a fantastic book vlogger, SableCaught (Stevie Finnigan) whose videos I have subscribed to ever since. I love to watch her reviews of her latest reads as well as her great advice for book lovers, in general. She's fun, honest and has a great passion for the books in her life.

      It finally occurred to me a couple of weeks ago, while watching Stevie's latest video that she would be a very interesting person to ask about first book loves. I sent along my request and am happy to report that not only did we get an answer for the Rivera Runs Through It Book Love Series, but I also have the distinct pleasure of introducing you to SableCaught in the way she is most well-known on the Internet - in video format!

      Without any further adieu, I present to you SableCaught, straight from her YouTube channel:

      1,000 thank yous to SableCaught for participating in this series and for, once again, describing books with such enthusiasm that I want to dive right into each and every one of them right now. I'm convinced if I ever had the privilege of visiting Stevie's book shop, she would sell me everything she had on her shelves just by telling me of her experience with each book!

      SableCaught posts new videos every Monday and Thursday. As a subscriber to her channel, I highly recommend it to fellow book lovers.

      Do you share any of Stevie's book love choices?
      What about her experience of bringing books home from her grandparents' home, this sounds wonderful, did you have a similar relationship with anyone in your family?

      *Remember, everyone is invited to be a part of 
      If you have a story to share, or are willing to be 
      interviewed, contact me via e-mail

      Friday, March 23, 2012

      Someday I Will Look Back and Laugh [Fiction]

      This post is written in response to the Write On Edge Red Writing Hood Prompt this week. It is a piece of short fiction based on the following:
      According to Dante, the gates of hell are inscribed “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
      Let that inscription lead, but not necessarily define, your piece for Friday’s link-up.
      500 words or less.

      Concrit welcomed (and desired). 

      “Brandon?” he’s pretending he doesn’t hear me again, “Brandon!”

      “What?” I should expect that attitude by now, instead of flinching every time it comes flying.

      “What the hell is this supposed to mean?” I can’t help but flail his binder in his direction.  I bought it two days ago for the new school year, and now it has, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” scrawled across the cover in large, sloppy printed letters.

      “It’s a joke, Ma. Re-lax,” he says which he then sees fit to demonstrate by slouching down onto the couch with his back turned to me, and his senses numb to the beautiful world outside our door. In one move his headset is back on, the controller is back in his hands and my son, five feet in front of me, is virtually swept away to a dystopian universe where he is fighting for his very survival with people he has never even met or seen in real life.

      Since he’s distracted, I open his binder in the hopes of finding the punch line to the “joke” on the cover.  What I am greeted with is a lot of work. There are at least 30 pages filled back to back with notes, diagrams and even highlighted sections. I feel the weight of the world easing it’s gravitational pull on my person until my eye catches on one conglomeration of letters and symbols that is not readable in the English language, but I recognize it immediately: G4m3r_F0R_L1F3.

      That’s him. It’s Brandon, except it is not the Brandon I gave birth to sixteen years ago, that is his avatar, his virtual representation. That is not the name he would be using in his schoolwork. Which means one thing – this book contains no schoolwork. As I flip through the pages again, this time with a more critical eye, I see that all of this “work” is some sort of plan for his virtual survival in a world that isn’t real.

      I’m about to confront him when he is literally saved by the bell, or , rather, the ringing of the phone. I gather my composure, answer it up without checking the caller ID.

      “Hello, Mrs. Ward?” responds a polite, but unfamiliar voice.

      “Yes, who’s this?”

      “Mrs. Ward, I am Ms. Fere, Brandon’s guidance counselor. We need to talk about Brandon’s future here. I’m not sure he’s going to make it.”

      "You know, Ms. Fere, it's funny you should say that, I was just wondering the same thing," and I couldn't help but laugh. I had just found the sadly ironic punchline of my son's "joke."

      The Hunger Games: Book VS. Movie [Review]

      It's just before 3am here on the east coast and I'm back home from The Hunger Games movie's midnight showing. I am overjoyed to let you know that I thought it was amazing.

      My Preconceptions of the Film 
      I went to this movie excited, but guarded. I worried about how a PG-13 rating might diminish the ominous threat posed by the Capitol and their games. I wondered if the absence of characters like Madge (the mayor's daughter who gives Katniss Everdeen her mockingjay pin in the book) would pull apart themes in the story before it even truly began. I was sure that this book, written in first person, would get lost in translation as it was adapted for the screen. As I sat in the theater filled with squealing teenagers ogling over Peeta Mellark and his every romantic gesture, I realized that all of my worries were unnecessary.

      I may not have told you this before, but I do not work in the film industry. While I tend to have creative outbursts from time to time, I was reminded tonight that I lack the scope and the vision to have fully imagined how true professionals in the field could bring this book to life on the screen maintaining its tone, its themes and its unique setting of the world of Panem. 

      First Person Perspective Versus Third Person Omniscient 

      The most powerful tool used in the film adaptation of this book to movie was the cutting of the strings of our first person perspective. In Suzanne Collins' novel we are taken through the story of the Hunger Games through the eyes of our protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. This makes for an emotionally charged and intimate story. The reader feels connected to Katniss, they understand her motivations and they root for her through and through. The one weakness in it, however, (which is present in all first person tales) is that we are limited in our understanding of Katniss's world since we know it only as she does. While we are privy to her internal monologues and feelings on all things happening to her, we still may not know why such things are occurring.

      The Hunger Games movie did an amazing job of taking us "behind the scenes." For the first time we are able to see plots and plans made by the Gamemakers, by President Snow and even witness reactions to the Games in one of the Districts. Although these are all things that Katniss eventually learns about in The Hunger Games series, to see them happening in real time helps bring the dystopian world of Panem to life.

      How PG-13 and the Violence Were Maintained
      As far as my worry over the PG-13 rating of this film, I, again, must give credit to the creative thinkers behind the film for showing me how one can portray violence without great gory offense. When the rating for the film was initially announcd, I declared that the story was doomed - How could a story with teens violently killing teens get a PG-13 rating?! I imagined they would be glossing over the violence and, in turn, be glossing over the very nature of the Hunger Games. So here's the trick I observed - when a violent scene approached and was needed, the cinematography itself seemed to shift.

      It felt as if the camera was unsteady, shaky, perhaps one could even describe it as dizzying. Horrible things were happening on the screen, but as the camera jerked this way and that, we only saw bits and pieces of the act. This sounds like it may be annoying to watch, but what I found was that it was unsettling and I can't imagine a better feeling to have in the presence of horrific violence. So, with a little creative twist, the appropriate mood was struck, the audience was more than aware of the violent act and the rating for the target audience was maintained. Brilliant.

      Character and Setting Design
      My final commentary is reserved for the overall look of the people and places in the film. As I watched the trailers getting ready for the film's release, I was taken aback by the stark looking Capitol that kept flashing before my eyes, I thought the children of district 12 looked too uniform and I wasn't sure about the brief glimpses of the Capitol citizens I saw. Silly, silly me to make such rash judgements on snippets!

      Within the full context of the movie, there was nothing "uniform" about District 12 citizens except that their clothing all looks drab - in the book this is alluded to due to the nature of their industry, coal mining. As for the my impression of a "stark" Capitol, this is simply a reflection of the very modern, sleek design of all that is there; most of the details which add a unique flair and personality to the place were left out of the trailers. The most magnificent Capitol detail of all, however, was its citizens. Collins writes of a population obsessed with personal appearance and enhancements through make-up, surgery, tattoos, fantastic hair designs and loud, garish style, but I was unsure this description could be appropriately presented on the screen. The people of the Capitol were just the right kind of eye-catching - I wanted to see their every detail, but when I would look closely, their unnaturalness would turn from fantastic to disturbing.

      Final Comments
      As I assess this movie from the perspective of a reader of The Hunger Games books, I am happy to report that this movie adaptation is one I think readers will be happy to come home from. Madge is not the only character missing and, yes, there are a couple of changes here and there made either due to time limitations or story flow that may initially sting. However, by movie's end I will be surprised if my fellow readers don't leave this film feeling satisfied.

      Hunger Games fans, this time the odds were ever in our favor - go get your friends, get your tickets and enjoy!

      Have you seen it yet? 
      What are your impressions of the movie?
      Have you read the books yet?


      Wednesday, March 21, 2012

      Blogworld New York Early Bird Pricing Ends Tomorrow!

      Register Now for BlogWorldExpo 2012 in New York City, June 5-7!

      It goes without saying that I learned an incredible amount from last year's Blogworld event here in New York City. As the date of the event creeps ever nearer I dance with the question of what I can truly afford one year later. The first question is, can I even afford to go to Blogworld this year? However, as the first question enters my mind, a second quickly challenges, can I afford not to?

      As an attendee last year, I was a sponge sucking up whatever knowledge I could from every panel I could get into. I was having a virtual identity crisis as I had just started this blog and wasn't entirely sure I was walking away from another. When I was asked questions like "What kind of blogger are you?" I was honestly stymied, not knowing which passion I wished to pursue or what Rivera Runs Through It was meant to be.

      Register Now for BlogWorldExpo 2012 in New York City, June 5-7!
      Things are different now. I could go to Blogworld not only to learn, but also to network. In fact, my brand new (FREE) business cards arrived from VistaPrint today. Is this a sign? Shall I go into the red, start skipping breakfast or grow my hair out again just to jump in the waters again?

      As far as I see it, I have 24 hours to decide. The early bird pricing ends tomorrow.

      I figured I would share this news with you too, just in case you wanted to take advantage of this great deal. According to the Blogworld people you can Save up to $400 off your BlogWorld registration with Early Bird pricing! Early Bird pricing ends on 3/22/12!

      Here's a small sampling of what I learned from last year's event:
      And when I unearth my notebook from the event, I'm sure there are even more posts that can be written and shared.

      Here are the various passes available for this year's event:

      Important Dates and Pass Prices:

      Pass Type Thru
      Mar 22
      May 15
      May 15
      3-Day Blogger and Podcaster Pass $197 $297 $397
      Social Media Business Summit $697 $897 $1,097
      Expo Pass $47 $57 $77
      Virtual Ticket $197 $247 $297
      Virtual Ticket Add-On
      (add to 3 Day or SMBS passes only)
      $47 $47 $97

      Check out who is speaking at Blog World Expo in June!

      So is it worth the money? Absolutely. Now if I can just FIND that money!

      How do you make the decision of how much you will invest in your own education - is it based on how much you have, how much you'll learn, a balance of the two, or something else entirely?
      Have you ever attended a blogging conference? What lessons did you learn?

      Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

      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.

      Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

      (read sometime in July 2003)
      I am quite upset that I did not write in my Reader's Journal right after finishing this book, but I was drowning in school work. I loved this book and happened to be reading it at the perfect time. I found myself going through much of the same self-realization as Siddartha while I took my Philosophy course. I probably will read this book again in order to fully absorb its message. I highly recommend this book, but I do think you have to be in the right mood in order to get into it.

      Dated: 11/25/03
      When was the last time you felt that you were on a similar journey as a character in a book you were reading at the time? 
      What was the book and did it help you or distract you from your own goals?

      Tuesday, March 20, 2012

      Dancing With Diavlo

      This post was written in response to a writing prompt from Write On Edge. We were asked to write about hope remembering the algorithm taught to us by Marion Roach-Smith in her book The Memoir Project. To put it succinctly, here is the prompt:

      This is a piece about (x), illustrated through (y).
      So, for this week, we want the (x) to be hope.
      This is a piece about hope, illustrated through (y).
      What is the (y)? Only you know. You have that truth—those stories in you. Now share it with us.

      Below is my story of hope illustrated through my yesterday. In my quest for constructive criticism for this particular post, I would like to ask if you feel that the hope is evident in this piece, or if you can only see it because the prompt was added.
      Last night's dinner was delicious. I made, for the first time, Shrimp Fra Diavlo. I burned my arm with splattering oil when I put the shrimp in the pan. For the entire night my arm was on fire. My wrist glowed red and by the time I went to bed my flesh had browned as if it were charring as each minute passed. I had enjoyed the hot spices of my meal but felt as though fate mocked me in my devilish endeavor.

      It was one of those days, you know the kind, where the world wants to shake you.

      You see, before the the shrimp debacle I was watching the evening news. A story came on about a new treatment for cancer. I found it fascinating. My husband came into the room, sat beside me and was equally enthralled by the story.

      As I sat and listened I realized something, There will be a cure. My mind reeled with this epiphany. I questioned myself, Will it be for all cancers, Nicole? Or just this brain cancer? All I could muster was those five words, There will be a cure.

      I don't know if my husband saw my fascination, or was just awash with his own, but he started to tell me of another similar treatment he had heard about. As he spoke I could hear nothing but my five words swirling in my mind. Before I could stop myself I was in tears.

      It was guilt.

      I realized that at the beginning of the story some part of me wanted to find anything wrong with it. My mind wouldn't allow a cure. A cure wouldn't be fair. If my mother couldn't have one then how could I live knowing others could?

      Then I remembered her suffering, her pain and her end. No one deserved that.

      My husband didn't need to ask what made me cry, he knew it was thoughts of my mother, but I felt I needed to clarify, "They're going to cure this. And when they do that's going to be a hard day for me." It scared me to think that I must have felt this way for almost six years and I didn't consciously know it, but saying it out loud was such a great release.

      Review: Taft 2012 by Jason Heller

      Since the moment I learned about him, I was desperately in love and deep admiration of one Mr. Theodore Roosevelt. It came as a small wonder to me that I knew little to naught about the man who, while large in stature, could do nothing to fill the behemoth space left by him when he left the Oval Office. William Howard Taft did not even rate in my radar as second best, he rated as a possible after thought.

      What was I supposed to think of a man who was obese before that was the unspoken accepted shape and size of the nation? What was I supposed to think of a man who got stuck in his bathtub?

      I thought he was an amusement, a punchline, a caricature; in the process I forgot he was a man. I forgot that he was a president of my country. I forgot that he must have stood for something for the people of his time to support him.

      When I saw the book Taft 2012 in the Quirk Books catalog I wondered, "What could this man offer us now?" and, I will admit this, I also thought, "Why not Teddy 2012?" because I am so sadly predictable. Either way, I was intrigued by the premise, feeling, like so many others that anyone could be a breath of fresh air in the current political race for president.

      I decided I needed to read this book.

      This has been one of my most enjoyable reads of the year so far. The premise of the book is wildly fantastic - one hundred years after a mysterious disappearance before the inauguration of his successor, Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft wakes up in November 2011 in Washington D.C. If you can suspend disbelief long enough to jump into the the story without worrying about how Taft made it to 2011, then you are in for a treat.

      In November 2011, President Taft finds a whole new country before him, and Americans find a man who once carried the weight of political office without being distracted by the glamor of the title. Jason Heller, the author, does an amazing job of balancing Taft's early 20th century sensibilities within the fast paced 21st century world. While written in third person, Taft's voice is fully realized and thoroughly entertaining. He is a man out of his time simply trying to find a nice lunch, a game of golf and a place where he belongs.

      As Taft finds his way around our new world we are treated to transcripts of politically charged television shows discussing his return, reports from the secret agent assigned to his protection, Craig's list reports of Taft sightings, excerpts from books written about his return and tweets from Taft fans and followers. The narrative keeps moving you forward as you find yourself unavoidably wondering, When will Taft get back into politics?

      I couldn't help but be enamored with William Howard Taft and wish that there was some way this man could be here to run in 2012. A man with such a profound respect for the law and the will of the people sounds so truly American, I couldn't help but wonder what "truly American" means when we elect men who do not fit this description.

      On a personal note, I was overjoyed that the state of our food industry played a role in the telling of this tale. While it is a work of fiction, there can be no denying that the inadequacies presented in Heller's book are evident in our reality. Perhaps it takes a larger-than-life food loving political being such as Taft to shine a light on the problems we have become far too accustomed to on our plates everyday, but whatever the case may be, I appreciated that Taft's call to civic duty was finally received from an issue that deserves far more press than it gets.

      Whether you are a history buff, a fan of time travelers, alternate realities, fiction or politics, I highly recommend this book. It is thought provoking while still being light hearted and often funny (I did laugh out loud at a couple Taftisms). In the end, for fellow Americas, I can also say this book is hopeful. It is a reminder of who we are, what we stand for and how great movements can come to be.

      Have you read Taft 2012? If so, what did you think of it?
      What do you know about William Howard Taft?
      If you could bring any US President back from the past to run for office in 2012, who would it be and why?

      Monday, March 19, 2012

      My Room

      Back in business with the Scintilla Project. Here are the prompts for today:  
      Day 4: Monday, March 19, 2012
      • Prompt A: Talk about your childhood bedroom. Did you share? Slam the door? Let someone in you shouldn't have? Where did you hide things?
      • Prompt B: What does your everyday look like? Describe the scene of your happiest moment of every day.
      I truly enjoyed journeying back in my memory to tackle Prompt A. 

      The centerpiece of a my magical childhood private palace was a four post full sized bed with room below for my Wheaton terrier to sleep and hide. The wallpaper was peach with tiny flowers and the blankets were frilly with peach ribbons woven through in design. The furniture was a rich dark wood, Victorian in style, which didn't seem strange to me since we spent most weekends browsing through antique stores in quiet towns so unlike the place where we lived.

      I would lay diagonally across the bed as I was swept away from island to island on the words of the books my father brought home for me to read. I would spread out across the hardwood floor pouring over thousands of bits of cardboard with pieces of pictures on their backs as I painstakingly worked on jigsaw puzzles night after night, sliding them under my bed until I was finished. I would take a running jump from the door on to the bed when I came home with a new cassette I would play incessantly in my stereo while reading the lyrics to every song in their tiny print on the folded inserts.

      I would tell my little brother stories in that room and from that room. His room was beside mine and when it was time to go to bed, oftentimes we would lay awake whispering from room to room. He, laying normally in his bed since the head was near the door, and I, flipped upside down, with my head at the foot of my bed so I could squint in his direction. Oh how I wish those conversations could be recorded! If words could become realities, I promise with those bedtime chats we two created kingdoms, creatures, space adventures and hilarity we would still enjoy until this day. We were imagineers, inventors and innocent.

      I slept soundly in that room. It was safe. It was comfortable. It was certain in both day and night. When the sun rose,  my window to the world didn't see too far, but it was enough to fill my days with happiness. My bedroom window faced an enormous crab apple tree over my bed of strawberries in our backyard. Whatever the season, I felt connected not only to the world within my room, but that which I could see beyond it.

      It was my home, it was my room and I pray that every child has one just as magical.

      Thursday, March 15, 2012

      My Overdue Thank You Note

      It's day 2 of the Scintilla Project. Here are the prompt offered up: 

      Day 2: Thursday, March 15, 2012
      • Prompt A: When did you realise you were a grown up? What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?
      • Prompt B: No one does it alone. Write a letter to your rescuer or mentor (be it a person, book, film, record, anything). Share the way they lit up your path.
      I went for Prompt B this time.

      To the Song that Saved my Sanity,

      I was 29 years old and there was a day when I lost myself completely... I stood in the shower and all I knew was that my hope was all gone. I just had to keep strong. For my mother, for my brother, for everyone... for me.

      I was hysterical. I had hoped the water would mask the tracks of my tears and the sounds of my sobs. I prayed for something to grab onto, something to believe in. Then, above it all I heard you. My shower radio had been playing all along, but it hadn't truly sung to me until that moment. I never heard you before that moment.

      You sang to me and you saved me. You told me to move along. You said that even when my hope was gone, and all that I needed was to keep strong that what I should do was move along. It was only two words, but it was as much as I could handle. I moved along.

      I don't think I would have made it without that instruction. So, I thank you. I did not come out of the drama unscathed, but I came out. You rescued me from hopelessness, from my own despair. I was able to emerge from the shower and face my dying mother again. For the rest of the week I had her I moved along.

      Thank you for finding me.

      Forever Grateful,