Tuesday, January 22, 2019

KidLit Challenge - Raymie Nightingale by Kate Dicamillo

Title: Raymie Nightingale
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Age Range: 8-12 years
Publication Year: 2016
Length: 263 pages

Official Summary

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.


As I sit here with a mug of hot tea, thankful for a snow day free from work, I'm also thankful for books like Raymie Nightingale. I don't know why it is that some adult fiction tends towards the absurd notion that life is all wine and roses. That has never been, will never be, the case. Which is why I love books that acknowledge sometimes life hurts but while still offering hope. That is pretty much this book in a nutshell.

Raymie, as the summary says, is trying to win a contest so she can get her picture in the paper and win her father back to their family. Her grief at his betrayal is to try and rectify the situation. You know and I know that her plan will never work, but she's a child where all the impossible things become possible so she has hope. 

But if she hadn't wanted to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, she would have never met Beverly and Louisiana. She goes from being a little girl with no friends to a little girl with 2 best friends.

This book is both an easy read physically but a difficult read mentally. It deals with adultery, with suicidal thoughts, with broken families, and with the horrors of an animal center that takes in abandoned/unwanted pets in the 1970s. Not pretty pictures for children. But all so very real scenarios.

I'm glad I read Raymie Nightingale

I'm glad because the end of the book is so hopeful and I know these children will be alright. There's even a bit of a miracle that crops up at the end, some special magic that made me smile. Sometimes the most improbable miracle is the miracle you most wish could happen.

If your children prefer books about realism than you really don't get more realistic than this novel. I've never read anything by Kate DiCamillo and if I don't ever read anything by her again, that's okay, because I loved Raymie Nightingale.

2 books down from this challenge, 13 to go!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

KidLit Challenge - Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley

Title: Tumble and Blue
Author: Cassie Beasley
Age Range: 8-12 years
Publication Year: 2017
Length: 390 pages

Official Summary

Blue Montgomery is cursed to lose. At everything. And to make matters worse, his dad abandons him at his grandmother's house, which is full of madcap relatives with terrible fates - all fighting for the one chance to have their curse lifted.

Tumble Wilson is a hero in training. She lives by her idol Maximal Star's self-help book, How to Hero Every Day. But whenever she tries to save someone, she fails - and fails spectacularly.

When Tumble and Blue meet one fateful summer, they dare to ask a dangerous question: What if you can make your own destiny? They don't know that only a fool would dare to mess around with fate.

Determined to be the heroes of their own stories, they'll journey into the Okefenokee Swamp in search of a legendary creature with the power to change fate itself - a mysterious golden alligator named Munch.

In the heart of the swamp, under the light of a bloodred moon, Tumble and Blue will finally learn if the legends are true..

Munch is about to meet two very brave fools.


Tumble and Blue is my starting point for kidlit in 2019.

The story incorporates a lot of real-life difficulties, such as an absentee father, or the death of an older sibling, etc. I appreciate children's fiction that acknowledges a child's loss or struggles, and Tumble and Blue fits that bill. It's also a delightful, magical, wondrous tale of friendship, zany relatives, and a family curse, so the fantasy element is brilliant.

But I think where the story really shines is in the development of the hero and heroine. Tumble's real name is Lily, implying a soft, delicate flower petal, but that's not the identity she wants at the moment. Hence the name Tumble, chosen by her as an excellent name for a beginning superhero. Blue loses at everything. It can be a footrace or a deadly game of tiddly-winks, but he is destined to lose. And yet, he's a caring, compassionate young boy who gives a lot to the people around him.

Friendship is crucial in storytelling. Get that right, and the rest of the story will follow. Tumble and Blue have a delightful friendship. Both of the children have the same goal, but for different reasons, and so of course, friction must happen. But that's a part of friendship. People make mistakes, get angry, apologize, and forgive. It's a cycle of reality that is captured really, really well in this story.

I didn't care for the ending because it felt unfinished, something I don't really like in book or film, but I get why the author left it that way, so I'll shrug and move on. If readers go in to this book realizing that reality and fantasy meet at the end of the novel then they'll be fine. Children who love fantasy will love this book.

Overall, Tumble and Blue entertained and delighted me despite a couple of "meh" moments. I'm glad I read it, and can definitely recommend it to parents looking for a fun magical realism/fantasy story for a slightly advanced reader in the 8-12 age range.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2019 Reading Challenges

I've pretty much kicked Goodreads to the curb. Too many rules and fields to fill out and too much to update on a regular basis when I already have a blog that I want to update instead. Who needs that type of pressure? I'd rather just choose one social media platform to engage others on so I can do it well.
One of these days I'll share info about my reading journal and how very much I LOVE it, but for now, let's just get down to the nitty-gritty of reading challenges.
To start off with, say hello to Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2019!

The rules are super simple.

Challenge Levels:

Pike's Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

The Rules:*Once you choose your challenge level, you are locked in for at least that many books. If you find that you're on a mountain-climbing roll and want to tackle a taller mountain, then you are certainly welcome to upgrade. All books counted for lower mountains carry over towards the new peak.

*Challenge runs from January 1 to December 31, 2019.

*You may sign up anytime from now until November 1st, 2019.

*Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2019. No library books~. If you're looking for a library book challenge or one that counts books on your non-owned TBR list, then please see my new Virtual Mount TBR Challenge (click the link). 

I'm going with the Pike's Peak challenge of reading 12 books from my TBR pile this year. That should be simple enough and leave me time for innovation and creativity in what I choose to read.

It'll be interesting attempting this when I can only go off books I already own. Thank goodness I purchased a copy of Bleak House last year so I can count it!

And now for the 2019 Children's Literature Reading Challenge - Middle Grade Fiction focus.

I usually try to participate in a Children's Classic Literature challenge when I'm actively blogging, but Simpler Pastimes isn't hosting that challenge anymore so I'm starting my own. Hence no link history other than my own. This is mainly for me, but if anyone else wants to participate, go for it!
My goal for this personal challenge is 15 books, more aggressive than the TBR challenge above. A dear friend of mine, Lindsay Lackey, wrote a middle-grade fiction book called All the Impossible Things that is set for publication on September 3rd.
Consider this challenge to be in mental preparation for Lindsay's book, and also because I love kid's books. It's fun to no longer limit my children's lit reading to only classic literature. There's a ton of awesome modern KidLit out there, and my list has grown even longer since Lindsay and I browsed through the kids' section of Barnes & Noble last weekend. YAY!
  1. Tumble and Blue by Cassie Beasley
  2. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
  3. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
  4. Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  5. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
  6. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  7. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
  8. The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth
  9. Took by Mary Downing Hahn
  10. Savvy by Ingrid Law
  11. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
  12. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  13. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  14. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  15. All the Impossible Things by Lindsay Lackey
If you do plan on joining me in reading KidLit please post about it on your blog and share the link in a comment below, if you please. I would greatly appreciate it! My only requirement is that the books be Middle Grade fiction, so for children between 8 and 12.

The Back to the Classics Challenge for 2019 - hosted by Books and Chocolate
I like that I can participate in as few or as many of the choices as I want. So far I'm planning to read a classic by a female author, a comic novel, a tragic novel, a classic novella, a classic from the Americas (is it bad that makes me laugh?), and then a classic play. I may read that many or I may not. 
I haven't even decided yet on titles, but it's something to work towards since I was planning to read classics this year anyway.
  1. 19th Century Classic
  2. 20th Century Classic
  3. Classic by a Woman Author
  4. Classic in Translation
  5. Classic Comic Novel
  6. Classic Tragic Novel
  7. Very Long Classic
  8. Classic Novella
  9. Classic from the Americas
  10. Classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania
  11. Classic from a Place You've Lived
  12. Classic Play
And there you have it! It may seem a little overzealous, but I actually read quite a bit in 2018 and recorded them in my reading journal instead of anywhere online. So I think it's doable. It gives me something to strive for anyway and I nice way to possibly engage the thoughts of others. Blessings!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

hope is the thing with feathers

So begins a new year!

A part of me wants to throw confetti in welcome, but another part of me looks back on 2018 with a bit of sadness for everything that happened and can never be forgotten. Some of it's good, but some parts of it were overwhelming, hence the never to be forgotten bit.

My hope is that the growing I did in 2018 will benefit me in this new year. A new year is never going to be perfect and trouble-free, that much I know for sure, but I still want to approach the year with the same belief that God is faithful and in hope that I can handle anything that 2019 might throw my way.

How do you approach the new year? Optimistic? Hopeful? Fearful? Anticipatory?

What are some of the organizational decisions you make for every new year?

Now that I'm renting an apartment instead of living with my family, organization has become a must. To be transparent, it's never been my strength either. Which makes it a bit daunting. But there are a few things that I'm implementing this year that I've never tried before.

  • Time to move from card to cash. Starting with grocery money at the beginning of every month and then progressing by mid-summer to everything being paid for with cash unless it's an internet purchase.
  • Time for the daunting daily planner! Because, like I said, I suck at organization. I hate daily planners, though, so I'm going to research a variety of designs before choosing one. I'll have one in my possession by the end of the month. It may even end up being a whiteboard.
  • Meal planning. I've gotten used to eating out since I lived with my family and paid minimal rent. Not the case anymore, so it's time to reserve eating out for special occasions and get-togethers and implement tasty and cost-effective home-cooking.
  • Chop the website shopping! I'm addicted to Etsy. People have such incredible crafting ideas and every single one of them is listed on Etsy. It's time to switch my attention from web browsing in my spare time to crafting instead, with supplies I already have, of which there are many. 
  • And because I'm done with a small laundry basket, time for a bigger one. This will keep my closet, drawers, and room so much tidier.

How about the fun decisions? Things that are beneficial for you, but will also be fun once you get going?

There are so many things I love doing, but usually end up putting aside. Such as this, for one thing. A good friend of mine said something very profound recently. She reminded me that the important things with my hobbies, including my writing, is to just do it because I love it. And to not quit out of fear.

  • Read books, books, books, lots of them. A combo of middle grade fiction and classic literature with a solid focus on Charles Dickens. I'm already partially through Bleak House and loving it!
  • Knitting and crochet, finishing projects that are halfway done, so Hufflepuff fingerless gloves, a peacock inspired purse, a crochet Dobby, and a gorgeous blue shawl made of yarn from Finland.
  • Personal journaling of favorite memories.
  • Blogging for fun
  • Strengthening exercises because I really like not having lower back pain and I kinda love how the exercises make me feel, so much more capable.

Happy New Year to all of you! May you have the best success in 2019 with your dreams and goals!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Merry Christmas! & The Guest House at Graceland

May you all have enjoyed a wonderful Christmas season, full of the light of Jesus, friends, and family!

So much, oh, so much, has happened. 

The main change being that my sister and I are now officially independent adults, rooming together in charming little apartment right around the corner from work. This change occurred in September. No longer living with my parents. I love them, naturally, but it was far past time to be in a place of my own. And while I might possibly be able to afford living without a roommate, I really didn't want to try. My sister and I are already know we can live together and this way we avoid being lonely and now our sweet parents can enjoy life as emptynesters but still seeing their daughters at least once a week. It's an ideal arrangement.

I visited Memphis in November with a dear, dear friend of mine, mainly as an Elvis tour, but we also stopped in Beale Street where the blues was born and then to the Lorraine Motel in memory of Martin Luther King.

We spent 2 nights in the stunning Guest House at Graceland, a decision I highly recommend to anyone visiting Graceland. The hotel is well-deserving of its high rating and we simply adored the subtle Elvis touches sprinkled through the building.

Stunning carpet patterns.

An example of the artwork on the walls, so shiny and so Elvis.

A fun and ridiculously over-sized purple plush sofa with gold pillows. 

Love the asymmetrical chairs in the lobby.

Complimentary peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were served every night!

What I like to call the reading nook.

A replica staircase from the one in Graceland.

Getting ready to eat at the EP Bar & Grill - DELICIOUS!

Our gorgeous hotel room!

There we go, just a small look into The Guest House at Graceland. When I get around to it, I'll share some photos of our time in Graceland, oh, and also, pictures from our visit to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. 

If you ever get a chance to visit Memphis, do it. The experience is beyond incredible!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Little Jane Austen to Combat the Boredom

All of the illustrations in this posting are from the C.E. Brock illustrated copy of Northanger Abbey from 1922. His illustrations are my favorite so far and it's my idyllic dream to own a complete set of Brock illustrated Austen.

Today was an awesome day for boredom.

By awesome, though, I mean that if I hadn't been bored, I would have never gone to chat with Devin which means that Tiffany (his cube mate) wouldn't have shown up at the end of our conversation, so I would have never looked at her space and noticed a coffee mug from The Screwtape Letters on her desk. This coffee mug led to a conversation where I learned The Screwtape Letters is a live stage play of phenomonal impressiveness, according to Tiffany at least.

Then I searched for college courses on CS Lewis where I inevitably found the glorious website of Hillsdale College where entire courses of lectures are placed online, for free, for anyone interested in the topic.

My instinctive first response was to take the CS Lewis course, but then I noticed a course entitled The Young Jane Austen Northanger Abbey.

I was hooked by the word GO.

A part of my brain, probably a bigger part than I'd care to admit, has been bored ever since I graduated college almost 5 years ago. I'm not bored enough to go back to college and be stressed about exams and papers and discussions (at least not yet), but I'm desperate for intellectual literary stimulation that is almost impossible to find in my current job. I miss the stimulation of reading a book, writing down my thoughts about the plot, characters, themes, setting, etc.

I suppose that I could do it on my own, but I don't want to. I like being part of a group, part of a cohesive unit that is studying, reading, and listening to the same text and lectures. I know I won't be participating in online discussion which is part of the excitement of online coursework, but that's okay, I'll live.

Already I've learned that there's an actual genre for the novels that were popular in Jane Austen's day and especially the genre that Catherine Morland reads in Northanger Abbey. Jane Austen herself read both kinds of novels and they're called sentimental novels and gothic novels. The sentimental novels are about young beautiful, virtuous women who never had to strive at being either who face troubles that aren't too weird and eventually live happily ever after with a man as virtuous as themselves. The gothic novel throws in elements of the supernatural and horror (before there was such a thing in literature).

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe referenced in Northanger Abbey is a gothic novel. I've never read it myself, but I have to agree with Professor Murphy that this and other novels of the same ilk were predecessors to our own Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Even though I know I probably should read Udolpho, I probably won't just because the predictability of gothic novels at that time doesn't really appeal to me all that much.

Anyway, I've listened to the first 2 lectures and 2 Q&A sessions with the professor and the president of the college. It was a great way to spend 2 hours of my working day! I fought the temptation to start in on the 3rd lecture because I know that I really need to do the assigned reading which is chapters 1-9 of Northanger Abbey. I've read the novel a few times, but it's been long enough and I love it well enough to want to read it again.

What a great thing to look forward to every week!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Making Regency Era Undergarments

The one thing I didn't think would happen has happened.

I ordered a custom Regency corset from a seller on Etsy back in February of this year. I was supposed to get it this week. I get a message from her yesterday politely backing out of the transaction.

I get why.

She's a new mom and the baby is colicky.

She didn't anticipate motherhood being so time-consuming.

I'm not angry or anything, but WOWEEE.

Here is Plan B, the brassiere on the left.

The unanticipated Plan B that will likely be much more comfortable than the custom Regency Long Stays that I had previously ordered. After all, I'm not a skinny minnie.

The pattern is coming, should be here tomorrow since it's shipping from the city I live in, and then I'll shop for supplies on the way home from work since I already have the list. It'll give me something exciting to do this weekend!

Life has an exciting way of tossing curve balls at one. In this case, it will also result in my saving money. And that is God's intervention.

I'll share the results here, be they successful or unsuccessful.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Day in Denver - Visiting the Edgar Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum

Degas masterpieces bring to mind my years spent in ballet classes as a child. My grandmother Jeanne, Granje to my sister and me, gave me a gorgeous canvas zipper bag one year, likely to carry my ballet supplies in, and the design is one of Degas' dancers.

I still have this bag, even though it's a tiny bit worse for wear. The zipper had problems for many years and then my sweet mother figured out how to fix it, so I can actually use it again. I think it must be at least 20 years old by now, maybe closer to 25 years old.

So when I heard that a Degas exhibit was coming to Denver, you can imagine my ecstasy!

Caitlin and I bought tickets to the exhibit for today and as our parents headed out of town with their travel trailer for a long weekend, we headed up to Denver to experience some artwork!

I confess, the exhibition is rather small if you're accustomed to large museums. But Denver is not New York City so we're pretty much thankful for any opportunities we have to experience culture. 

The exhibit was charming.

It covered Degas' progression in both style and medium throughout his life. He spent time on portraits and landscapes in his youth, then the nude form (both male and female) before progressing through a period of derby horses and their movements and the lines of their bodies, before finally landing on the nude female form, usually bathing and/or drying themselves.

Ballet dancers were last and Caitlin and I are both in agreement that, for us anyway, his finest representation of the ballet dancer are in his charcoal drawings. They were stunning and I could have stared at them for hours.

Like I said, the exhibit presented a smattering of his work throughout his years.

We learned that he truly did work in a variety of mediums, sometimes blending them into a single piece of art. He also worked in monotypes that produced haunting dark landscapes that I personally had never seen before.

For me, I consider his finest work to have been done in his later years. His early work wasn't iconic enough and you see very little of the later Degas in the portraits and landscapes he created as a younger man.

But that's okay.

It reminded me that we're all going somewhere and who we were before doesn't mean we can't mature and grow into something amazing and different.

Needless to say, Caitlin and I loved the exhibit. She came away with scads of postcards for her collection and I have an enchanting ballet dancer poster to hang in my work cubicle. I know just where I'll put it.

I can mark Degas off my bucket list, although I would love to see even more of his work someday, particularly the ballet dancer paintings in pastels that I love so very much. Now to hope for an opportunity to see Monet's work. I'm quite a fan of the impressionists as you might guess!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Dreaming of a Jane Austen Immersion Weekend!

Photo Credit: BBC's Emma (2009)
I've been in a retrospective mood lately, feasting intellectually on nothing but Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis. Every time that I read Austen, I'm reminded how I wish I could have a Regency immersion experience. Reading Katherine Reay's latest book, The Austen Escape, probably didn't help much since it's all about taking a 2 week Regency immersion vacation in a manor outside of Bath. The book itself, while entertaining, didn't quite follow every plot thread through to fruition, so while I enjoyed it, it won't be a re-read. 
But, like I said, it gave me such an intense longing to just get away and live Austen for a week, or even a weekend. 
The only problem is that most hotels and bed and breakfasts, for some absurd reason, don't host such things.  Pooh on them.
But I did find one lone manor, called The Governor's Place in Hyde Park, that opens itself up regularly for Jane Austen weekends!
My heart skipped a literal beat, or several, at the very idea of getting away for an entire weekend to spend time in Regency garb, take English Country Dance lessons, and simply revel in all things regency and Jane Austen.
Photo Credit: The Governor's House in Hyde Park
True, the pricing is $465 for a single occupant, but you know what? I have a charming, loving sister who would gladly accompany me, and perhaps even a friend who might give it consideration, although Vermont is quite a ways away. If 3 of us shared a room, the charge would only be $395 per person instead of $465, and that's actually saying something. Friday evening through Sunday, PLUS if we decided to stay longer after the weekend, the room would only be at half the nightly rate! 
I know, I'm currently just fantasizing right now, but there's a reason to be gainfully employed and to tuck funds away. One can't spend one's entire life hoarding money like Ebenezer Scrooge without having any intention of really living and experiencing the time that God has given us.
My original thought was to host a Regency Garden Party this summer, and while that may still happen, my horizons are trying to broaden themselves. The last time Caitlin and I went away together, just sisters, we shared a lovely Disney experience. I could see us doing this and cherishing every moment. 
If a certain someone who will remain nameless, but you know who you are, would consider joining us, that would be icing on the proverbial cake! Of course, at this point I haven't even mentioned it to Caitlin. I think she just might go for the idea now that has that full-time job (thank you, Lord!) and will have a decent amount of time off accrued by the time one of the Jane Austen weekends rolled around this year.
Photo Credit: The Governor's House in Hyde Park

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Book Review: Cloaked by Rachel Kovaciny (A Western Retelling of Little Red Riding Hood)

I confess to having read this book a year or so ago and, to my shame, never got around to reviewing it. But I know Rachel is working feverishly on her next book in the series, a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses called Dancing and Doughnuts.

Anyway, here we go, jumping into the first review I've written in many, many months.

Cloaked is an endearing jump to a simpler time, when westerns ruled the world. Sadly, Hollywood doesn't really dish out decent westerns anymore, but Rachel has captured the look, the feel, and the characters that used to run rampant through the western towns of America, at least to hear Hollywood tell of it.

This book is precisely what it claims to be, a western retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. You have the innocent heroine, Mary Rose, who is blossoming into a lovely young woman, taking a journey to meet her grandmother living in Wyoming Territory, a woman she's never met.

While on her journey, Mary Rose encounters a man named Mr. Linden who knows her grandmother and is trusted by her, but Mary Rose simply can't shrug off the sensation that Mr. Linden gives her the creeps. Something isn't quite right about him, and she doesn't know why, at least, not yet.

I've always been partial to Little Red Riding Hood, ever since I watched the Faerie Tale Theatre version with Mary Steenburgen as the heroine. But I never really imagined one in a western setting until Rachel began publishing her retellings. There's no magic here and no actual wolf eating granny. Which makes the villain a little more terrifying because he's simply a man yielding to his wicked tendencies.

An entertaining read, Cloaked is diverting for fans of westerns, particularly those who don't mind a little Christian faith tossed into the mix. Light entertainment, the book is an enchanting experience that I now intend to hand off to my mother who is a western aficionado, both in literature and film!

If you want to follow Rachel on her writing adventure, try her FACEBOOK or her WEBSITE.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...