All Hallows' Eve

Give this book to the teen who loves a quick scare.

Of all of the Vivian Vande Velde books I picked up and read voraciously over the week of Christmas, All Hallows' Eve was by far my favorite. Tragic and gruesome (but not explicitly so), filled with horror and Vande Velde’s trademark surprises, it’s a collection of 13 wonderfully scary short stories—some of them so short you can read them in less than 10 minutes—that any thrill lover would be happy to read.

This was my first time experiencing real horror at Vande Velde’s hands. I’ve read some stories where she displayed elements of horror and crime, but never stories that were horror at their center. I think she needs to venture into this territory more often because she does it quite well.

One of my favorite stories in the book features a misleading title—don’t they all when it comes to Vande Velde?—and a building tension, a creeping dread, that makes me shiver and want to read it all over again at the same time. I love tension building in scary books and movies—any books and movies, really, as long as it’s done well; that’s why I’m such a fan of No Country for Old Men, Mystic River, and other films many people consider simply “slow.” Make no mistake: this story is far from slow. All of the stories in the book carry a quick pace that is sure to wow you and keep you up at night—not from reading, as it’s a fast read, but from staring into the dark, waiting, waiting…

All I See is Part of Me

This book is one of the most gorgeous and meaningful stories I’ve come across in a long time.

Several years ago, I read Chara M. Curtis’s book All I See is Part of Me to my little girl. She picked it out to read again this week, not having remembered it at all. As we read the gorgeous story together and looked at the beautiful pictures, it reminded me how much I love this meaningful little picture book and how I would love to get a copy of it for my daughter.

The story starts out as a child—who could be a girl or a boy; my daughter assumed the child is a girl—explains how she is part of everything she sees, from her community to her puppy, the moon to the stars. The child used to think that she was small, nothing more than a little body; but after the universe—the sun and stars—explained that she is a part of everything, and everything is a part of her, she now feels so much bigger, a part of all that was, is and ever will be.

Mr. Sun and Sister Star not only tell the child, “We are one,” but they also explain that everything we ever need to really know is already in our bodies; we just have to find the answers and listen to ourselves. There is even a lovely illustration of questions going into the body, with the answers inside the outline.

In addition to the lovely gentle text, the illustrations are also lovely. They are completed with layers of colored pencil, and my daughter found them absolutely breathtaking. “They look real!” she told me as she snuggled into my side. Completely calm and enamored with the book, she murmured, “Can we get a copy of this one to keep?”

Of course, I said, “Of course.”

The book goes on to show not only the light within your body and all of the amazing energy and cosmos within, but also the connection of you to everything else in the world—including a gorgeous drawing of various people and animals of the world, which is my daughter’s favorite page. In addition to people of every shape and color, there are all kinds of farm and wild animals—from a bear to a giraffe to a tiny mouse—all drawn in the two-page spread.

If you purchase one picture book this year, I would recommend this one—especially since it’s a harder-to-find book on top of its loveliness.


Now this is supernatural romance!

Several of my adult friends tell me they like Twilight because of the romance. “What romance?” I think. The stalking, the emotional and physical abuse? That’s not romance. That’s violence against women.

If  you want some real romance—and I mean those gorgeous descriptions, those goose bump-inducing moments, the anticipation—then read Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. It’s the first book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, and it’s all the romance you’ve ever craved, plus some suspense and thrills.

Stiefvater is one of those authors you wish you’d heard of all your life; she has several other books out that I am now dying to read (and will soon). Her lyrical writing, her gorgeous word choices and description of a moment, will take your breath away. She weaves the relationship so naturally; not one sentence is forced. And she does it with realistic dialogue, intriguing characters, and heroes you’d love to make out with.

Oh, and did I mention that she uses strong female characters who don’t stand around waiting for things to happen to them? Yeah, that works for me. There is a reason this book has nearly 800 positive reviews on Amazon, folks. This is the way romance was meant to be written—and read.

Great Dates for Music Lovers

Not everyone loves animals or books or even weird foods, but most people love music—at least to some degree. Whether you are into top forty music or oldies and classic rock from your mother’s hippie days (my personal favorite), there are plenty of ways to share your love of music with your date, and hopefully connect through that interest while you’re at it. Here are just a few.

Go to a concert. This is the most obvious musical date, right? But you don’t have to go to the latest U2 concert (whether you can afford to go or not) when there are so many musical adventures right at your fingertips. Detroit, after all, is the home of Motown; if you can’t find an amazing club, bar band, coffeehouse performance, or other musical adventure here, you can’t find one anywhere! Check the college listings for classical performances by students as well as local bands. Ask around at your favorite pubs and bars to see where the best local talent will be playing next. There’s likely something to do every weekend, if not every night.

Share your collection. Believe it or not, one of the most romantic dates I can remember is one where we bought some cheap convenience store eats—loaded hot dogs and drinks—and hung out in the car, listening to each other’s CDs. It was really fun to hear what we both loved to listen to and to be introduced to new music. Can you believe that he didn’t even know who Led Zeppelin was?! He has “Kashmir” on his car playlist to this day. We also listened to my old record collection in the dark, laying side by side on my old ottoman as the music crackled. There’s no better way to listen to Journey or REO Speedwagon, I assure you.

Jam together. If you both play instruments, have a private musical performance a la Once. Talk about one of the most romantic moments in movie history! If you can pull it off in a music store, all the better, of course—though it could be fun to set up your own street performance, complete with a guitar case open for tips (there’s your money for coffee afterward!). And if your instruments don’t work together, simply play a song for one another. Too shy to pull this off? Just browse the music store and share music through headphones, or try out a few instruments together quietly.