The Crimson Thread or How Rumpelstiltskin Became the Good Guy

Project Fairy Tale

As a part of Project Fairytale, hosted by The Cheap Reader, I’m supposed to do some book reviews of Rumpelstiltskin re-tellings. I picked up this young adult novel for my Nook. The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn. In a premature excitement, I may or may not have collected several of the tales from this “Once Upon a Time” series. Not to be confused by the ABC TV show of the same name.

The Crimson Thread

Maybe I got a little ahead of myself, because I was not inspired to read the rest of the books in the series. It’s not that it was a bad novel. It just wasn’t delicious enough to warrant another serving.

The Crimson Thread takes us back to 1880, where an Irish princess is introduced to us by some royal fairies or something. It wasn’t very clear. But apparently she always thought she was a princess, and it turns out that she was, but it never really did anything for her. It was a side plot that didn’t add, rather detracted from the tale.

Back to the Irish princess, Bridget, who upon coming to America changes her name to Bertie Miller (Bertrille Miller, from Wales, like the fire red hair and Irish accent wouldn’t give her away…) She is helped by Ray Stalls, who turns out to be Rudy Stilchen from Germany or something-it’s never really clarified. He used gold packing material and this stunning thread to embroider dresses and help her get the young millionaire’s son. Of course, he does it because he loves her and not because he ACTUALLY wants her first born child.

********************************SPOILER ALERT*********************************

Eventually the millionaire’s son turns out to be a douche, leaves her stranded and broke…then Ray shows up somehow and “kidnaps” her little sister while she passes out from starvation. But he was only trying to help. They fall in love and live happily ever after, running a clothing business with their business partner with the last name Rumpole. Get it? Rumpole Stilchen. Ugh.

******************************** END SPOILER **********************************

So it had an okay plot, but with so many holes and weird transitions, I found myself mostly annoyed. I get that it was written for young adults. The language was too trite. While Weyn has an excellent vocabulary, or uses a whole lot of shift+F7, the conversational tone of the book was far too formal, and I didn’t find myself relating to the characters at all.

Additionally, it seemed that the historical fiction aspect of this novel was way the F off. It’s like she just threw a bunch of ideas out there and didn’t really think about the details fitting in. Katie at Words for Worms recently spoke about accuracy in the research before publishing, and it really feels like Ms. Weyn left that part out. It didn’t feel real.

So I’m off to attempt another re-telling and hopefully the next gets me a little more hyped, because so far, I’m a little disappointed. But it only makes me want to write more fairy tales.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Product Review: PAIRSinPEARS

Yes, it is Monday, and for today’s Memory to Make You Laugh, you can head over to my WordPress blog to read about back pain. But here at Quirky Chrissy, I’ve got an exciting post lined up.

As many of you may remember, I was invited to attend a really spectacular event in Chicago, last month: The Chicago Toy & Game Fair.

At this event, I was invited to meet with game inventors, visit booths, and learn about new and popular games. I was also given a variety of free products to try out, and write about for you, my loyal readers!

One of the games that  I was very excited to play was Pairs in Pears, by the creators of Bananagrams.

If you haven’t heard of Bananagrams, shame on you! It’s the perfect game for word ninjas or word ninjas in training. I first played it when I was student teaching. We used it in the resource room on Fridays. The students loved the break from homework or silent reading, and I loved playing with words. It worked out really well. But this review is about Pairs in Pears, so I will leave Bananagrams for another day.

PAIRSinPEARS® (Suggested Retail Price: $14.95- Ages 3+)

PAIRSinPEARS or PAIRS in PEARS

What an excellent game. Much like its counterpart, Bananagrams, PAIRSinPEARS is a word ninja game. With several play options, this game is absolutely perfect for a variety of ages. The letter tiles are larger than those found in Bananagrams, which makes it easier for younger (and older) eyes.

As some of you may know, I spent the last two summers teaching reading comprehension, a position that I am incredible proud of and humbled by. I worked for a truly amazing company that not only worked with students who were sometimes considered “unteachable,” but we were able to teach them to read, spell, and write. My 5-year-old niece, The Princess, and my 7-year-old godson, Little A (or A, for short), both have some difficulty with the process of reading/writing. Now, they’re relatively young, but with my knowledge of literacy, I know that it’s important to boost their reading skills younger rather than waiting. PAIRSinPEARS is the perfect game to help Auntie Chrissy.

Kids don’t want to feel like learning is a chore. Especially when they’re hanging out with their favorite aunt. A loves games. Loves them. Like me, he developed the love early on, and it was evident that most of the grown ups in his life were not down with playing games. As I once spent many a Life games playing with my dog, I feel that it’s my duty to play with A and teach him about the joys of gaming. So a few weeks ago, I brought PAIRSinPEARS out to play with him.

The beauty of Pairs in Pears is the versatility. There are 8 different formal activities documented in the game rules, and 2 different competitive games (with varying degrees of difficulty for varying ages/reading levels).

A and I played the basic competitive version with my cousin, Rachel (A’s mom). I would be lying if I said we played fair…We definitely let A win, because with him it’s a learning game, and we want him to know he’s doing well (and we want him to have fun…and winning is definitely fun). The basic play for this game involves dividing up the letters equally among players, and racing to see who can build cross words faster. Here were A’s favorite words to use. Cute right?

PAIRSinPEARS Toy Joy

A required a little help, and it took him a while to get the basic idea of the game, but once he was in a groove, he was all over the place. he loved rhyming words because it was easier for him to find the same letters, so we let him play that way for a while…Then we upped the ante, by telling him that all of the letters had to be different. In addition to building his spelling skills, we were working on his vocabulary, too! By the end of the day, A was begging to come back and play more games with us.

PAIRS in PEARS Review

Definitely related to me…

A few days later, I had The Princess over. We were talking about school (she’s in Kindergarten) and she told me it was really hard for her. She said that she could read the letters, but had trouble spelling the words. Of course, I broke out Pairs in Pears to play-after I told her my secret: “Auntie Chrissy is really really good with words. She knows how to teach spelling and reading, so that you can be the smartest girl ever. Do you want me to help you?”

Her eyes got really big and wide before she said yes. (What can I say? I’ve got a magical way with the kiddos.) So we started playing some of the basic skill building activities that are discussed in the PAIRSinPEARS instruction booklet. We played Letter Hunt (in which I tell her what to look for, she finds it and uses it for whatever purpose. She found her name and spelled that. She found the vowels. She found a few other short words that she knew.) It was fun for her. And she was showing me what she knew.

Then we played Sound it Out, where I showed her letters and she sounded them out, telling me words that started with the same letter. She loved that game too. After a little while, she did get tired of letters…I could tell because she looked at me and said, “Auntie Chrissy…I think we should let my brother play with the letters.” He’s 2. You see where this is going. But it’s understandable. Her brain was working super hard! I used to have a student who would like at me with an adorable little lisp and say, “Yoooouuuuu make me so tiiiiiiiwed. Yoooouuuuu make my bwain huwt.”

All in all, PAIRSinPEARS is an AWESOME game. Both The Princess and Little A will be returning to our place to play the fun word game that they just learned. Their parents are thrilled, because it’s helping them learn, and they just think they’re playing games! I’m not sure that I would recommend this for a 3-year-old, but my 5 and 7 y/o niece and nephew think it’s a great game. As an educator, an auntie, and a gamer, I think so too.

You can buy a copy of PAIRSinPEARS for yourself at Barnes & Noble or Target (in stores and online!) With a low price of $14.95, this would make an awesome stocking stuffer for any kid or kid at heart!

**The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own. The fine people at Bananagrams DID give me a free copy of PAIRSinPEARS to sample and review. They DID NOT compensate me for my opinion in any way, shape, or form.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Confession Friday: I’m a Sucker for Midnight

Confession Friday: I went and saw Twilight last night. Yes. I’ve seen all but the first one at midnight. And all but the first two Harry Potters. (And the last 3 Harry Potter books at midnight.) And the Hunger Games movie. I’m  a sucker for things that teeny boppers dig. Sometimes I think that I’m a 12 year girl stuck in a grown up body. Except that I mostly dislike 12 year old girls. And I don’t want to be around them while I’m enjoying my kiddie movie. At midnight.

Twilight meme

So the last few years, I’ve spent an extra couple of bucks for all you can eat popcorn in a swag leather seat with free refills on my coffee and bar to seat service of booze, snacks, and desserts. Definitely worth the price in order to avoid the annoying…the lines, the wait, the screaming teenagers, the giggling teenagers, the unaccompanied teeny boppers, the text messaging, the talking, the swooning, and the biggest movie pet peeve of all–the clapping at the end. Movies are where a lot of my pet peeves happen…

But this time around, my fancy-pants movie theater decided to charge $35 for an all-day affair. Fuck. That. I’m too old to sit in a theater all day to watch a Twilight marathon. And I’m a Polak, unwilling to spend $35 on anything.

And for some strange reason, the movie was shown at 10, 10:15, 10:30, 10:45, 11, and so on until 1 o’clock in the morning. This made it less magical, but it also made it easy to choose which show to go to. The big “open” was at 10 PM…and there was only one 10:30 show… no lines? no crowds? Not even a full theater? I’m OK with this. What baffled me, though, was the line of camped out midnight die-hards. Dude. Go see the movie. Don’t sit there waiting while the rest of us are already on our way into the theater. Seriously.

As I was driving home shortly before 1 AM, I realized last night, that I may be too old for Twilight. I spent more time making fun of the ridiculous in the movie than scoffing at how it didn’t measure up to the book. I think that says it all. Harry Potter is done. Twilight is done. I think that when the next Hunger Games comes out, I’ll see it at a respectable time on opening night. In my fancy-pants-no-kids-under-21-allowed-theater.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Confession Friday: My Jealousy Complex Leads to the Project: Fairy Tales

Yes, it’s true. I have a jealousy complex. Honestly, I think that most people do…

I’ve always been a little bit jealous of the majority of my pals (I mean, they all have qualities that I admire–that’s why they’re my pals!), jealous of girls who are skinnier than me, prettier than me, taller than me, shorter than me, have more money than me, are smarter than me…you get the point. Jealousy. It’s a problem.

I love my best friend with all my heart. Alas, I am just slightly jealous of her brilliance (and her adorableness, and her amazing-ness). My favorite Word Worm over at Words for Worms proclaimed yesterday that she was participating in a super cool reader-blog-dealie… in which everyone reads a fairy tale of their choosing and then reads other versions/modernized versions of said fairy tale and discusses them in future blog posts (sometime in early 2013).

Obviously, I wanted to play. I realize that I am not a book blog. Or a reader blog. But I love reading. In fact, I have several posts dedicated to books. OK. I have two posts dedicated to books. But still… you get it.

Luckily for me, in her post, she directed me, just as I shall direct you to Project: Fairy Tale if you, too, would like to be as cool as the other readers and writers and play the fairy tale game.

The rules for said game are simple: Choose fairy tale. Read fairy tale. Read 3 like-stories. Write. Write. Write. Write. Excitement! I happen to have just the book for the assignment!

Classic Fairy Tales

I knew this book would come in handy one day!

So, I made my way over to the Project: Fairy Tale page, perused the already chosen stories, and decided on Rumpelstiltskin.

Rumpelstiltskin Fairy Tale

I’ve always been a fan

As Rumpel is my favorite character on Once Upon a Time, and it was one of my favorite Faerie Tale Theatre episodes starring Shelly Duvall, I got super stoked to look into his tale a little deeper…and find more stories like his.Wikipedia gave me a few suggestions, but I’m going to try to find some more.

So I’m pumped! I’ve already got a bazillion fairy tale esque blog post ideas brewing in my brain. The month this blog circle goes live is going to be so so fun.

From slightly feigned/slightly real jealousy to fun with fairy tales…does that mean a happy ending?

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Why Banned Books are Better

Obviously, because when things are censored, everyone wants to read them!

Warning: This post uses the word, “fuck” a lot. I feel very strongly about books. You understand.

If you’re new to my bloggy blog, then you may not know it, but I spent a little bit of time as a teacher

During my stints as a student teacher and an observing teacher, I taught the following banned reading materials:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (My all-time favorite American novel)
To Kill a Mockingbird (sort of–I was working WITH my cooperating teacher)
A Farewell to Arms (I taught one lesson. I fucking love Hemingway.)
The Call of the Wild (just an excerpt, but still…)
Brave New World (A summer reading book–which I never actually read)
Cat’s Cradle (Another summer reading list book–this one was great!)

I also taught reading comprehension for a spell…we used the following banned/challenged books:

The Lord of the Flies (You want to teach a 13 year old boy how to read? Give him this book.)
The Outsiders (One of our middle school girl students read and loved this book)
Fallen Angels (I had a student who would literally change the language so that he wasn’t saying the “bad” words, even though I told him it was okay.)

So I’m no stranger to banned books–there’s a huge list of them that I read before I was 12 (Shel Silverstein, anyone? Alvin Shwartz? R.L. Stein? Roald Dahl? These dudes taught me to read, dammit!) I mean, come on–someone fuckin’ banned Where’s Waldo?!

I digress. Reading. It’s important. Reading something that’s “forbidden?” All of a sudden you’ve made it fun to read. In fact, you’ve made it downright exciting to read. So go ahead, ban books. Just don’t fucking burn them. Then I’ll have to hunt you down. And you’ll face the wrath of me. And trust me…I don’t tread lightly when it comes to destroying books. Ever.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a post about books, if I didn’t talk about an actual book for a little bit… (You want full fledged bookwormery, visit my bestie and her blog, Words for Worms) So you get my love affair with Mark Twain.

I love Huck. When I was planning with my cooperating teacher, she said that she hated Huck, and if I wanted to teach it, I could. I got really excited! I had all sorts of big plans. I remember the first time I read it on my own when I was a sophomore in high school. I loved it.

I’m not going to lie, I actually had a few students who actually enjoyed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (I had a significantly larger number who thought I spent far too much time with it…but whatever). I got to teach this DURING banned books week, so that was super fun! We did a formal debate. It was stellar. Additionally, I gave the students options for their final Huck project. Write a paper (which way too many of them did, btw) or create your own project. I had one student who wrote The Huck Finn Rap. It was REALLY well done–covered the whole story.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. If you’re not the best reader–get the audio book. It helps. and if you really want to understand what’s going on, and need a little booster, we can set up a mini book club and Gchat about it. Because I love Huck that much. O:-)

Huck at Tom Sawyer Island

Tom Sawyer Island at Disney

Fuck yeah. (OK, that was gratuitous.)

 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

A Bookworm’s Guide to Slackerdom

Mom, you may not want to read this…

Confession Friday: I have a degree in English from an excellent university…but I never once read an entire book for class.

True story.

In the third grade parent-teacher conference, my teacher, Mrs. Jacoby, told my mom that I was lying to her about all of the books that I was reading. Mom knew that I had no life but the one in books, so she got really mad and bitchy. I’m pretty sure that was mom’s last parent-teacher conference. I also think this scarred me for life in regards to school, teachers, and reading books.

I was talking to the Word Worm about blogging–She writes a fantastic bookworm blog–and she mentioned something about Shakespeare (you can read her blog to find out what she said). I, the lover of Shakespeare that I am, told her that I was a fan of reading Shakespeare. I read Romeo and Juliet (which everyone says wasn’t very good, but I loved it) when I was 12. for fun. At home. I’ve read Much Ado About Nothing SEVERAL times. I did attempt to read Twelfth Night several times to no avail, but other than that, I’m kind of a fan. Hamlet, MacBeth, even Julius Caesar…all enjoyable reads for me.

She then questioned my tactics in college…and asked if I ever read a full book for school. In all honesty… not counting a graphic novel called Maus… no. No, I did not.  I had read bits and pieces. Excerpts. Listening to class discussion (when I showed up for class). Talking to my classmates. Sparknotes. Cliffsnotes. Gradesaver.com. Classic Notes. Classic Reader. And when in doubt, I Googled it. And it worked. I never got lower than a B in my English classes. (OK, and to be fair, there were some books and stories that I had already read.) My mad-writing skills got me exactly what I needed: A decent grade and plenty of time to do other things.

As an English major, required literature was something Chrissy considered...optional. She managed to pull off a splendid GPA considering she didn't read one entire book for class.

College and Computers 🙂

I was a very organized slacker…I had a notebook for every class. Each notebook was filled with excellent doodles (as doodling would help my brain calm down so that I could actively listen). Each notebook had a very important front cover. The cover listed the number of excused absences that I was allowed in that particular class, a dated list of missed classes, and the excuses that I used to not go to class. I made sure that I didn’t overuse cramps or migraines (though those pesky headaches happened regularly). There was even a time that I thought I was having a panic attack…that turned out to be the results of a little too much booze the night before…

That being said, you all know that I’m a voracious reader. And if you don’t, you should see my gratuitous post discussing my ridiculous unwavering love for Pride & Prejudice. The obsession is almost disgusting. But whatever. I read. I do. I just don’t read when someone tells me that I must. I saved every book from all of my classes, college and high school (sans Childhood’s End, which, until Fifty Shades of Grey, was my least favorite book in the history of ever.) Then, I spent summers, and even free time during school, reading. Yes, that’s right. I’ve read a good portion of the novels that I should have read for class…long after class ended.

Here’s a list of the best books I never read in college:

Candide (even though I walked into class after reading the Sparknotes version and told the prof that I had, in fact read it and loved it. After actually reading it–it’s pretty awesome)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which ironically became my favorite American novel)
Tess of the D’urbervilles (which is really super depressing, but well written and uber Victorian… Stupid 50 Shades of Grey for ruining the association.)
The Canterbury Tales (In my defense, the teacher tried to make us read it in middle English. Do you have any concept of how hard that is?!)

OK, and here’s a list of some of the best books I read in college for no reason but to read:

The Stand
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Les Miserable
Great Expectations (Actually a reprise from my youth…thanks to those marvelous Great Illustrated Classics)
The Tenth Kingdom (A book based off a cheesy TV mini series on NBC. If you watched it and like it—I think I love you.)

Have a great weekend!

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!