We started this blog in 2010 after a New Years' Resolution to read 60 books between the two of us. (40 for C, 20 for D.) After reaching our goal, we decided to keep going in 2011. This year, C has pledged to read 30 books, and D will read 12. By no means are we professional reviewers; we're not even professional bloggers. We're just two people who love to read and decided to share our thoughts and offer our limited insights. We hope you enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Special Post: Mockingjay Craft

Even though I have a really awesome Hunger Games t-shirt (it says, "Keep Calm and May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favor"), gifted to me by my best friend Lindsey, I decided to make something inherently awesome to celebrate the opening of the movie version of Suzanne Collins' masterpiece.

Thanks to the wonder of Pinterest, I found a great Mockingjay template and a neat idea for putting a symbol onto a shirt. Basically, you cut out a symbol/letters on paper, place it on a shirt, and spray bleach around the image. This way, the fabric around the symbol becomes lighter. Peel away the symbol, and you're left with darker fabric underneath.

Here is a link to the Mockingjay template.
Here is a link to the DIY tutorial for a bleached shirt.

My work space is not the most organized, but I work better in chaos.

My crafting partner stayed at my feet during the process.

I started out with an old black t-shirt, the Mockingjay template (on plain paper, but I suggest using cardstock), an X-Acto knife, and a bottle of spray bleach. My bleach was completely undiluted, although some tutorials will tell you to use a 70%/30% solution. I'll be trying that eventually.

For my "trial run," I cut along the lines on the template exactly. The template was originally made for carving a pumpkin, which is why there are breaks along the circle. I thought it would look cool that way, so I cut the spaces out just as it's shown. Here is what the template looked like when I tested it on scrap fabric:

As you can see, because the template was in several piece, the bleach leaked under the edges. The arrow in the Mockingjay's mouth is almost invisible because it's so thin.

So, I decided to print another template and trace around the entire image. I cut on my mark, not the edge of the template.

I also didn't cut out the breaks this time.

I didn't take pictures of the bleaching process, but I just took the shirt and template outside and laid it on my glass patio table. I placed some cardboard in between the layers of the shirt, and put the template in the center. Spray the bleach above the shirt and let the mist fall down onto the shirt. Because I used black, the color was radically altered. If you used a lighter color shirt, you may not have to bleach the entire front, but on black I pretty much didn't have a choice. After the front dried a little, I hung the shirt on a hanger on the clothes line and sprayed the back to match.

I read (after the fact) that you should dunk the shirt in a sink full of cold water soon after the color starts to turn. This will keep the bleach from eating through the material. I think I left mine on a little too long before rinsing it, because it feels a little thin. It was an old shirt, anyway, so maybe that's why it seems a little frail. I rinsed it in the sink, then thew it in the washer with detergent. Some of the tutorials I read said to run it through a wash cycle with no detergent... Mine turned out fine with soap. It's up to you, I guess. I ain't no expert... But I know I have a pretty cool shirt!

February 2012/March 2012

8. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeliene L'Engle (Young Adult Fiction)
1 out of 5 Stars. Bleh.

9. Looking For Alaska by John Green (Young Adult Fiction)

Let me point out that I spent a solid two weeks in between A Wrinkle in Time and Looking for Alaska trying so, so, so hard for the third time in my life to read Little Women. I made it about 35% in this time... but I just can't do it. I have no interest whatsoever. That probably makes me some sort of Communist, but that's fine.

I also want to say that I freaking LOVED Looking for Alaska. I highlighted so many passages that practically the entire book is black in my Kindle.

Here are some of my favorites:

"If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane."

"You can say a lot of bad things about Alabama, but you can't say that Alabamans as a people are unduly afraid of deep fryers."

"I've never been religious, but he told us that religion is important whether or not we believed in one, in the same way that historical events are important whether or not you personally lived through them."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book #6: Hatchet

I read this in conjunction with the Descripted Book Club, which I thought was dead, but apparently not. Those of us who are still participating (so... two of us) are taking our choice of books on the Battle of the Books list, which is designed for 3rd-12th grade students.

This is the review I wrote for Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I figured if I had to write one for the book club, the least I could do is post it here. You're so welcome.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a classic survival story written for children ages 10+. So it's like Castaway, but for kids. Brian Robeson is on a small charter plane to visit his father for the summer when the pilot (and only other person on board the plane) has a heart attack. Brian miraculously survives the plane crash, but he's a city kid lost in the Canadian wilderness with no food, no change of clothes, and no hope... Except he's got this hatchet that his mom bought him as a going away gift for the summer vacation. The book describes Brian's life in the woods and documents the development of his survival skills.

I really enjoyed this book, although I could not stop thinking about the fact that if I were Brian, I would already be dead. I doubt I would've even survived the plane crash, much less several weeks in the woods. Actually, I probably would've had my own heart attack if the pilot of my plane had a heart attack, so I wouldn't have ever had to worry about landing the plane to begin with. There is no way I would be smart enough to start a fire with sparks from slamming metal against a rock. There's no way I'd ever be able to spear a fish, and the first time I tried to de-skin a bird, I'd vomit and swear off food for the rest of my life. Also, if I were lucky enough to find berries, they'd almost certainly be poisonous... They always were when I played Oregon Trail on the computer in elementary school. So, kudos, Brian. Glad you're a kid and smarter than me.

I'm not sure how much I would've enjoyed this as a 10-year-old, nor do I think my kids at school would like it very much. There are some action-packed parts here and there, but for the most part, it's pretty slow. It makes sense for it to be slow, because it's mostly about Brian teaching himself to survive, usually by trial-and-error. This book won the Newberry in 1987 (what a good year that was...), and I can see why it would've been popular for kids then.

I think -- no, I KNOW -- kids don't have the same attention span now as they did 25 years ago. If I asked my kids what they would do if there were stuck in the woods alone, they'd say, "Get out my cell phone and call my mom" or maybe, "I'd update my Facebook status so that everyone would know to look for me." Who the hell needs a hatchet? That being said, I think kids today SHOULD read this. Not only could they use the survival information, but Brian learns to take nothing for granted. I don't know of a kid in my life who couldn't stand to learn that lesson.

3.5/5 Stars

Read from February 13, 2012 - February 16, 2012


Monday, February 13, 2012

January 2012/February 2012

Confession: Toward the end of last year, I started to regard writing book reviews as more of a chore than something I really enjoyed doing. I'm not sure why, but it just seemed like one more thing on my never-ending To-Do list. Rather than force myself to continue doing it, I decided I would just back off for a while. Who knows? -- I might decide I miss it in a few weeks and start back up. That being said, I still want to keep up with the books I read and let others know what I'm reading. So, for the time being, I'll just be posting the titles of the books I read (with a link to the book on Amazon so you can learn more about it with minimal effort), the author, genre, and a 0-5 star review. I'll probably do this monthly. If I come across a book I really want to review, I'll jump back on the wagon and write one.

Of course, if you want to know more about my thoughts on any of the books I read, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email: rowbseat13@gmail.com. (Before you ask, "Row B, Seat 13" is a lovely song by my favorite band of all time, Jump, Little Children.)

January 2012

1Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (Young Adult)
5 out of 5 Stars

2Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Young Adult)
3,894,892,038,409,328 out of 5 Stars

3The Girl Who Couldn't Say No by Tracy Engelbrecht (Memoir)
3 out of 5 Stars

February 2012 (So Far)

4The Long Run (Kindle Single) by Mishka Shubaly (Memoir)
3 out of 5 Stars

5. Eleven Twenty-Three by Jason Hornsby (Science Fiction)
3 out of 5 Stars

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Special Post: Another Year Over

Well, we have seen another ball drop here at the old blog. Let's recap what happened this time last year:

  • We changed the name of the blog to Descripted, due to the fact that "Sixty Books" wasn't really accurate anymore.
  • We started a monthly Descripted Book Club via Google Groups.
  • I (Chassi) resolved to read thirty books in 2011, while Derrick made the gutsy resolution to read a whopping twelve -- one for each month of the book club.
Now, let's see how that stacks up:

  • We're sticking with Descripted. Not that it matters. Raise your hand if you care... Didn't think so.
  • The book club lasted for about four months, although I don't think we ever had a single month where every member read the book and participated in, you know, actually discussing it. I gained the nickname "Book Club Nazi" because I was constantly reminding people to nominate, vote on, and post about books. I tried. I really did. Unfortunately, the club was comprised of real adults with real lives. Truth be told, even if the book club had kept on truckin' after the summer, I probably would've dropped the ball around August because things got crazy at work, with school starting back (job #1) and football season rolling in (job #2). It was a pleasant idea, and I wish we had all had more time to devote to it. I read books I never would have read without the book club (Life by Keith Richards, American Gods by Neil Gaiman) and... kind of... enjoyed them. Sort of. Who knows, maybe we'll try it again sometime when we're all a bit more settled, or perhaps we should give longer time periods... Or maybe I just shouldn't be such an anal-retentive jerk about it. We'll see.
  • I read thirty-four books, because I'm an over-achiever like that, and Derrick probably read abboouuuttt... .three, unless you count comic books or text books about educational leadership. (But let's give him some credit -- he is a mere internship away from completing his Master's Degree in May!)
As for my goals for 2012, I think 30 is a good number of books to read in a year. I had plenty of time, I read a variety of things, and I didn't feel rushed or tempted to opt for a short, easy book just to help myself meet a deadline. So... 30 more in 2012!

Here's to reading a book that'll change your life this year. Cheers!


Book #34 -- Water for Elephants

Uhhhhhh, woah. This book was aaaaaamazin'.

Sarah Gruen's Water for Elephants has been immensely popular since is publication nearly six years ago. I'm not sure why I ignored it for so long, but earlier this year, when it was turned into a movie (starring none other than Twilight's Robert Pattinson -- gag), I definitely know why I continued to ignore it. Just didn't seem like my cup of tea.

I recently found out that because I'm an Amazon Prime member, I can take advantage of the new Kindle Owner's Lending Library and "borrow" some select titles for free. I was browsing through the titles, and this one was the first one I came across that I recognized. I clicked to borrow it, mostly just to see how the whole lending thing worked. I had access to it for ten days, so I thought, "Why not give it a try?" So. Glad. I did.

The story is about Jacob Jankowski, a young student in veterinary school during the Depression. After a family tragedy that forces him to miss his final exams at school, Jacob takes off and jumps a train to try to escape his shambled life. He finds himself on board with the Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show On Earth. At first, the shady circus workers he encounters on the train car are threatening -- in the days of the Depression, circuses were suffering, and free-loaders looking for work weren't welcome. When they find out that Jacob has a background as a vet, they realize his talent could come in handy with the show's exotic animals. Jacob land himself a job travelling with the show and soon learns about the strange (and often horrifying) things that go on behind the scenes of a train-circus in the 1930's. He also finds himself falling for Marlena, the beauty that performs with Liberty Horses as one of the show's biggest highlights. She also happens to be married to one of the easily-angered circus bosses. As more and more circuses around the country are closing due to the economy, things get heated, and eventually the Benzini Brothers' train takes a turn for the worst.

This is such a beautiful book. Gruen is a genius, and she absolutely did her research. One of my favorite parts of this book was reading an interview with the author at the end where she talks about how deeply she delved into circus archives from the era and describing that many of the events that take place in the novel -- the ones that are either so strange or so gut-wrenchingly horrid that you can't believe they're true -- actually did happen on train circuses in America. That really adds a lot to the emotion of the book, and I kind of wish I had known it before I read it.

The novel alternates between chapters told from Jacob's perspective while he was on the circus train, and chapters told from Jacob's perspective as a 90-something-year-old man in a nursing home. It's really just... awesome. I want to say so much, but I want you to read it so you find out for yourself.

And I suppose I'll watch the movie soon. Robert Pattinson (and Reese Witherspoon, too... bleh!) make me a bit nervous, but I found out that one of the deliciously evil characters is played by Christoph Waltz, who plays one of my favorite villains ever in Inglourious Basterds, so that alone is enough for me. We'll see how it holds up.

Read from December 22, 2011 to December 30, 2011.

5/5 Stars


Book #33 -- Atonement

Hmmmm. This is going to be a tough book to review, but I'll do my best.

Ian McEwan's Atonement is a much-celebrated novel that was made into an even-more-celebrated film in 2007. I knew of the film, due to its wide critical acclaim in the award season following its release, but had not seen it before reading the book.

The book begins in pre-World War II England and is centered around the well-to-do Tallis family. There's the always absent workaholic father whose name I don't even remember, and Emily, the mother who is such a poor motherly figure that her children call her by her first name. There are three Tallis children -- Leon, Cecilia, and Briony. Briony is a brilliantly talented writer, even at the young age of twelve, with a very active imagination. So, when she  "accidentally" witnesses a couple of awkward, flirtatious situations between her sister, Ceclia, and Robbie Turner (the son of the Tallis family's live-in help), Briony lets her imagination twist the situation into something that it isn't. Later in the novel, a young cousin of the Tallis' is raped. Briony's mind is so skewed that she aides the police investigation with some false information. Obviously, false accusations can easily ruin lives... So the rest of the book is about Briony dealing with her own guilt and seeking atonement (see what they did there?) from those she has wronged.

I should also add that there is a layer of (what appears to be) self-critiquing in this novel by McEwan himself. He uses Briony's writing to discuss the struggles of authors and the guilt associated with "playing God" and determining your characters' fates... Blah, blah, I don't really like all that abstract, introspective crap, so I'm not going to discuss it in the review, although I thought I should mention it so that no one thinks I'm an idiot who just didn't notice it. I did; I just don't care.

Let me start by saying that I think McEwan is a terrific writer. Really, he's got beautiful phrasing, and he's very good at playing out emotions. The novel itself lagged in a few places, but overall, the pace was good. I enjoyed reading the novel, but I did not enjoy the actual novel itself. That doesn't seem like it makes sense, but, as I have said many times -- the ending of a novel will make or break it. In this case, it wasn't really just the ending, but... maybe the lack of an ending? I mean, it ended, but it was utterly pointless. I kept waiting on some giant secret revelation that was going to crack the whole book wide open, but it never came. The latter parts of the novel cover about ten years, and I thought surely something was going to come of all those words on all those pages, but... No. Maybe I'm completely crazy, because there are tons of people who rave about this book, but I felt like I wasted my time. I realize that all books don't have to have a happy ending where all the lose ends are tied -- in fact, I prefer books that aren't like that -- but this one just didn't work for me.


I'm about to say something I do not ever, ever, ever say, and I will probably never say it again, so prepare yourselves.

Are you ready?


The movie is so, so much better than the book.

..............Bleh, that leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. But it's true. The film stays very, very close to the plot of the book with only a few minor changes, so it doesn't make up for anything that's wrong with the book. Same plot, same ending, same everything. But somehow, it is a beautiful movie. That's so strange to me, but it's true. Joe Wright, the director, must be some sort of cinematic genius. I have never seen a movie directed so well. I don't want to turn this into a movie review but I do want to say this:

One of my biggest issues with books-turned-to-movies is that you often lose the sense of perspective that you get from being inside different characters heads. Atonement brilliantly worked around this by using a specific  cue (e.g. a close-up of a doorknob turning) to signal the beginning of an important event (e.g. the first time Briony witnesses Robbie and Ceclia's flirtation). You watch it from Briony's perspective. Then the movie returns to that same cue and goes through the event from Ceclia's perspective. It's not that clean-cut, but you get the idea. Really well done. For once in my life, I am telling you to watch a movie but skip the book. I must be going crazy.

Read from November 28, 2011 to December 21, 2011

2/5 Stars