a not-hiatus…

I’ve been writing on my blog so little, that I’ve wondered whether I should actually declare (like some do) that they’re taking a certain period of time off from writing. But in the end, I don’t want to do that, because when something interesting which I do actually want to write about comes along… I need somewhere to write it!

But if I’m being honest with myself and my readers, I have reached a different stage in my life from when I started this blog. No adventures in Australia await me, until I can graduate and save up more money, even though I might see some Aussie friends in the next month (possibly in DC). I’m not stuck in a job that doesn’t require much thought, so I don’t have tons of spare time to go take photographs, either on campus or around the local botanical garden.

Instead, I’m continuing on a different “adventure” that occupies most of my time, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I made the Dean’s List in my first semester back in school, and then reached the President’s List on my second. I hope and plan to stay on the President’s List for as long as possible, hanging onto all those A’s. Admittedly, it still annoys me that I couldn’t quite make that A in Military History, during that first semester. My ability to remember and explain military strategy for essay exams “did me in”, just slightly.

I try and remind myself of all these things, when I feel like I’m neglecting my blog. But when you spend a lot of time writing for school, and editing and re-editing everything, you don’t always feel like writing anything else! This semester, while I feel a bit like it’s a slower collection of classes, the differences in what I’m required to write fills in the gaps enough to keep me running full tilt.

For example, my Geology and Western Civ classes never have any written homework, only reading, and it’s just a matter of keeping up and being prepared for tests. Other classes have homework, but no exams, and the homework is fairly easy in Geography. The writing for my other class… well, let’s say that it’s a different type of writing than I usually do for my history or literature classes. I have to work hard during the week, sometimes, to give myself swathes of time to write on the weekend. Or at least, empty my head enough of other things, in order to be able to write.

And certainly not least of all, I’ve been getting back into my Bible studies, on my own, and realized the need for my daily times spent in the Word of God. I always make time for that after I’ve finished my homework, which means that I have to stay on top of everything, so that I will be finished.

Perhaps I’m only reiterating what I’ve written about, on and off, in the last few months. But sometimes, I need to write it out to convince myself. I am a writer, which means I always need an outlet to write on. If not on a blog, then in e-mailed letters to friends. But now, I have other outlets that allow me to blow off some of that writing steam that builds up inside.

So, busy as I get, I never plan to go on hiatus from this blog… if I did take a vacation of any sort, I would probably spend more time blogging, especially if I went somewhere interesting. But it may be a long, long time before I come back to blogging as a very regular thing. Because I need the time and brain power for other things right now. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you read through all that, thanks for staying with me. Have a marvelous week, and I promise I’ll come back eventually, ok?

is it a weekend yet?

Time and again, this semester, I’ve found that Thursdays seem like Fridays. I think it’s because unless there’s a test in Geology on Friday, I’ve survived the three long days that sit in the middle of the week. I really do not like being in school until 4:30 or 5pm, so I look forward to signing up for classes that get me out earlier, next semester.

Packing the classes closer together, if possible, allows that early departure… and then a time to relax before beginning homework.As of this moment, it doesn’t really feel like I have homework, but that’s just because I’m taking a deep breath after finishing my first essay exam of the semester, and there’s nothing major happening tomorrow. Just go, pay attention, and head home. This I can do.

But I’m not really short on things to do, and plan to get to work on some things for my English class, later. If I whip through the next 5-10 pages of writing for that, in the next few days, then I can breathe easy while finishing all the rest of my homework. My semester is starting to feel busier, but I’ve been able to fit everything in still… without staying up terribly late!

10718210_10152715804469976_362259217_oLet me rephrase that… I really am a night owl, but I don’t do well at staying up impossibly late doing homework, like a lot of college students do. There comes a point when my brain gets fuzzy, and nothing I read is actually comprehended, so what’s the point of attempting to study then? Also, having to get up relatively early for my classes, I can’t stay up all night and stay awake in class.

So, I keep close track of what’s due and try very hard to clear large gaps of time, when I need to write papers, whether it’s fiction or history or whatever. Often that’s on weekends, when some homework can wait. But most weeknights, I finish with my schoolwork at 10pm, study my Bible for a while, and then get ready for bed. I rarely go to sleep before 12:30am, though I do try and get settled before then.

But even with these good intentions, I know that I’m getting a lot more sleep and going to bed a lot earlier than most college students. And thankfully, it’s reflected in my grades. Some people would look at my life and think I don’t have one, because I’m not out partying every night. I look at my life and think that I’m not wasting the loan money that is allowing me to return to school, and hopefully, being on the President’s List will get me another scholarship.10720671_10152715127664976_886496010_o

Anyway, rather than ramble on about schoolwork, the only pictures I have to share are of some of the construction machines that are spending time on the Clemson campus. Not very exciting, unless you’re like some of the two year old boys I know, who love their machines. I took the picture of the crane, with a 2 year old in mind, who I still have yet to meet. But his family’s moved back east, so I hope to meet all the kids soon. There was something so fun about taking a second look at the construction machines, and to try and make a child happy by taking a picture. Especially when he knows all the names of those machines, and I don’t.

I hope that you enjoy your weekend! I plan to, once it starts, but don’t have any new and exciting plans for myself. Outside of schoolwork, of course. I’ve been reminded that there’s a football game this weekend, and tell myself that maybe I’ll go to one, someday. But who wants to go to one alone? Not me, that’s for sure.

falling saturdays…

For the last week or more, we’ve been keeping our windows open to let in the (mostly) cool breezes at night. I’ve had to get used to hearing the crickets, because during the summer, you can’t hear them over the air conditioning. But fall is on its way in, and the leaves are starting to fly by the windows. Wasn’t it just a little while ago, when I was actually remembering to take photos of the leaves changing, last autumn? Hard to believe I used to get my camera out more often, too.10712227_10152705560894976_2100707239_oSaturday was a little lazy, sleeping in and goofing off a bit before starting schoolwork. It was quiet, because some people were away and not everyone was up. But I remembered to go outside with my phone, and check out the last bunch of blooms that we’re likely to have this year, lit up by sun at noon.

If you’re wondering what I’ve been working on in school, then you’ll be thrilled to know that I spend some of my time coloring maps for my geography class. Yes, it’s right back to elementary school for me. But I doubt that our unit homework would be handle-able by an elementary student, so there’s that. Not that it’s difficult homework, just questions about different countries and videos that we’ve watched, with the intent to make us think. If you use your brain just a little bit, and show up for class, there’s no difficulty in acting the course. 1503014_10152706350404976_648931595_o

All my other classes are going well and keeping me busy, and with my first “official” German test and early Western Civ test, I’ll be spending a good chunk of the next few days studying. When that’s done, I’ll be studying sedimentary and metamorphic rocks for my geology lab quiz and my next geology class test. You get the idea. It’s a lighter semester, in some ways, and busier in other ways. My ENGL 345 class keeps my brain occupied on the weekends in a way that writing my history papers never did.

I hope you’re enjoying the fall colors, or the beginnings of cooler temps, wherever you are! Grab a cup of coffee, and just soak it up.10685953_10152703854974976_762651423_o

another week, another friday…

Who doesn’t love Fridays? Actually, though I don’t pay much attention to the “hump day” commercial, Wednesdays always trigger the almost-weekend feels. Probably because my Geology Lab is that day, and though not usually difficult, I still don’t like having to stay at school until 4:30 to 5. Yes, I know, you’re very sad for me. But my last two semesters, my classes were always done by 2-3 and I had a full schedule. So that gave me some time to veg out and get a breather, before working on school work.

But Mondays and Fridays fly, because there’s only two classes and not too huge a gap between them. Except my Geology class had a sub, and then he went through the slides on sedimentary rocks in twenty minutes. And announced that that was all. We blinked in surprise, and moved out. So, I had more time to sit outside in the cool fall breeze, eating my lunch and reading a few chapters of Mere Christianity.

Hmmm… I really should have taken some pics on campus, but I’ve been lazy. There’s still plenty of construction, but at least the second parking lot at the library has reopened, so that area doesn’t look as chaotic. It also seems really wide open, because they took a tree out over that corner of the pond. I had to stare at it for a long time in order to locate where the tree’s trunk must have been, because I know that spot used to be shadier. But when you walk past the library, heading towards Riggs, now, you get a nice view of the old and new sections of Rhodes Hall, so I guess that’s a plus.

Some tests are coming up next week, the first ones in my Western Civ class and one in German. I’m a little nervous about the history one because it’s essay format and you never know how a new teacher will grade or what he might throw at you for an essay question. Especially when you don’t get the question in advance. so, have to spend some of my weekend, reviewing the Greeks, Romans, and Mesopotamians, and try and forget the hogwash he taught us about the Israelites. Well, maybe I mean to remember some of it, but forget it when the test’s over.

I’m glad my cold is getting better, and hopefully by Monday, I won’t sound like a frog anymore. I keep reminding myself that no matter how much my nose runs, I’m thankful to be past the sore throat part. That’s always the worst.

Enjoy the weekend and the fall weather!

yes, school did begin…

Wow, I obviously haven’t blogged in a long time, since a bunch of the layout of WordPress has changed since I posted last. While I pause and take it in, I was also amused to see the words “beep beep boop” appear, while it was loading something. I like it. However, if I had time to write a longer post, maybe I would find things I don’t like, who knows? Later is soon enough for that. I’ve been dawdling too long before starting my homework, since I only got home a little after five o’clock.10663419_10152641779959976_2114633157_o 10631944_10152639017179976_1356275817_oAs you may have guessed, school has started, and while it MIGHT be a slightly easier semester, that doesn’t mean I’m not busy. On the contrary, when a class decides to make things easier for me by not assigning homework or not having exams (believe me, I’m not complaining), I make sure I’m not slacking. I will read the required chapters in the textbooks, even if my classmates never do…10631615_10152632571709976_1372230258_o10677506_10152652087769976_751291241_oClemson campus is a bit chaotic in spots, because construction seems to be going on everywhere. Well, they ripped down the front of Freeman and are rebuilding it, and they’re building a HUGE new building behind the library that will play “bookends” with the Academic Success Center. In the meantime, it’s a mudhole surrounded by blue walls, and the amphitheatre in front of (or is it out back?) Strom Thurmond might be gone forever. I’m not sure.10647438_10152652332859976_1213714174_o10612340_10152656663014976_2081171943_oI will try to be less remiss with my writing, in future… but school comes first. And I have plenty of writing to do for a few of my classes, as I’m sure you understand. Have a great semester, and I’ll try to get on here a LITTLE more often.10667837_10152652362439976_1318342408_oP.S. Please notice that while construction seems to be everywhere, there are still plenty of lovely views all over campus. It’s good to not ignore them, amidst the chaos.

booking my way through…

Maybe this is cheating, but for those who like to read and might be interested in what I’ve read, or how many books I’ve read so far this year, I’ve just updated my list. But since glancing through the list, it might just be more interesting to make a post of it… also to wrestle with the font size on my blog. Probably the only thing I dislike about this layout, is the fact that I can’t make the font any slower when I want to. So, when you write a list of books… it gets spaced out and things look worse, I think. No MLA format here, except when I’m writing up the post. Which is cheating. I have an idea that the font will look normal, and then it doesn’t. But I like the rest of this page’s layout, so I deal with it.

In the process of transferring the list over, I have discovered that using bullet points may help my list look more compact. I may have to start doing it that way on the official book pages.

  • January
  • Maid to Match – Deeanne Gist
  • The Far West (Frontier Magic #3) – Patricia C. Wrede
  • Rosemary Cottage (Hope Beach #2) – Colleen Coble
  • The First Dragon (The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica #7) – James A. Owen
  • Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire #8) – Naomi Novik
  • Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 – Stella Tillyard
  • Total: 6

You can probably tell that my January list is a combination of a slowly starting semester at school and me trying to finish all the books that I received for Christmas (or bought myself, afterwards). The First Dragon was a long-awaited finale to a fantastic series, and I’m only sad that there will be no more books in that series. But I can always read them again, because there’s always more to get out of Owen’s amazing stories. But the final book, Aristocrats, is the start of my school reading, and I had decided since it was a fairly thick book, I was going to get started long before we needed to read it for Irish History. So, a month or so later, while my classmates were racing to read it or skim it, I just reviewed. It was quite an interesting true story, based completely on the letters of the four sisters… but the writer makes it read almost like a novel.

  • February
  • The Phantom Ship – Frederick Marryat
  • Never Trust a Liberal Over Three: Especially a Republican – Ann Coulter
  • Head in the Clouds – Karen Witemeyer
  • Latino Immigrants and the Transformation of the U.S. South – Mary E. Odem & Elaine Lacy (editors)
  • The Foundling – Georgette Heyer
  • Total: 5

You may already have guessed, but I never would have read that book on Latino immigration, if it wasn’t required for one of my history classes. Not a heavy read, by any means, but so many big words and explanations of moving populations and things. We later had to do research on immigrant populations in our hometown, which was an interesting project, since some of us did our research on modern times from newspaper articles, while others researched back into the early 1900’s in their towns. The Phantom Ship was a Gothic novel that we read for my British Literature class, and definitely not what I expected, either in the book or the class. Based on the tale of The Flying Dutchman and Captain Vanderdecken, it’s a slightly different spin on the story than some of us have heard… if we’ve heard any of them at all.

  • March
  • The Spanish Bride – Georgette Heyer
  • The Black Moth – Georgette Heyer
  • The Eternal Paddy: Irish Identity and the British Press, 1798 to 1882 – Michael de Nie
  • These Old Shades (Alastair #1) – Georgette Heyer
  • The Opposite House – Helen Oyeyemi
  • Devil’s Cub (Alastair #2) – Georgette Heyer
  • Friday’s Child – Georgette Heyer
  • The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire (Hunger Games #2) – Suzanne Collins
  • The Burning of Bridget Cleary – Angela Bourke
  • Mockingjay (Hunger Games #3) – Suzanne Collins
  • The Quiet Gentleman – Georgette Heyer
  • Death in the Stocks – Georgette Heyer
  • Total: 13

While doing some heavier reading for Irish History, in March, I went on a Georgette Heyer binge, to give myself a bit of an escape. I was writing plenty of papers at this time, too, so Heyer was perfect for reading while I ate. I think I saw the movie Catching Fire, somewhere around this time, so I decided I needed to read the trilogy again. And while I did NOT enjoy reading The Opposite House in British Literature (I developed a hatred for “magical realism” during the previous semester), I do credit Oyeyemi’s book with re-introducing me to the poetry of Emily Dickinson. I had a vague impression, left over from elementary or middle school, that Dickinson was dark and depressing. No, she’s delightful and fascinating. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for her, when I was younger.

  • April
  • They Found Him Dead (Inspector Hannasyde #3) – Georgette Heyer
  • The Misfit Soldier: Edward Casey’s War Story, 1914 to 1918 – Edward S. Casey
  • No Wind of Blame (Inspector Hemingway #1) – Georgette Heyer
  • The Unfinished Clue – Georgette Heyer
  • Behold, Here’s Poison (Inspector Hannasyde #2) – Georgette Heyer
  • Envious Casca (Inspector Hemingway #2) – Georgette Heyer
  • Why Shoot a Butler? – Georgette Heyer
  • Royal Escape – Georgette Heyer
  • Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature – L. Perry Curtis, Jr.
  • Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life – John Conroy
  • The Unknown Ajax – Georgette Heyer
  • Ireland: A Short History – Joseph Coohill
  • Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  • Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy #1) – Francine Rivers
  • Total: 14

In April, I continued reading my entire collection of Heyer, including her mysteries, while I developed a sincere dislike for the character of Edward Casey. His small memoir was required reading during Irish History, and gave us another viewpoint during WWI and the Easter Rebellion in Ireland. But Casey was not a nice person, let’s just say, and I didn’t appreciate some of the dirty spots in his narrative. On the other hand, Belfast Diary was a fascinating book, and I had difficulty believing that I wasn’t reading a dystopian novel, instead of about Northern Ireland, just a few years ago. And Apes and Angels was a short read, with lots of pictures, because I had to write a paper comparing it with The Eternal Paddy (previous month’s reading) for Irish Hist. I had some difficulty figuring out how to compare them, since I had never written a paper for that teacher before, but the books were very interesting, which helped. And with the end of the semester, I rounded off that month with rereading Mansfield Park, and as always, trying to figure out how they could turn that into a movie that does the book justice. Because no movie version of this Austen book can ever get it right, because Fanny Price is shy, quiet, and physically weak. In this day and age, how do you get an audience to root for a heroine who never speaks up for herself, and doesn’t have the strength for a long walk? No, they always mess with that formula, because the studios can’t figure out how to do it. Maybe they could take a page from the BBC production of Little Dorrit, though…

  • May
  • Venetia – Georgette Heyer
  • Mirror Sight (Green Rider #5) – Kristen Britain
  • The School for Good and Evil, #1 – Soman Chainani
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict – Trenton Lee Stewart
  • A Turn of Light (Night’s Edge #1) – Julie E. Czerneda
  • Total: 5

I got a surprise package in the mail, in May, because I had ordered Britain’s latest book in the Green Rider series… and forgotten about it. I think I pre-ordered it in January. So, it didn’t matter HOW many pages were in that doorstop of a book. I finished it in 24 hours. And while Stewart’s latest book about Nicholas Benedict was aimed at kids, I found it charming and a wonderful read. After that, I took a swing at a completely new author (to me) from the fantasy book section, and really liked Czerneda’s A Turn of Light.

  • June
  • Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education – Glenn Beck
  • The Reluctant Widow – Georgette Heyer
  • Frederica – Georgette Heyer
  • Arabella – Georgette Heyer
  • The Talisman Ring – Georgette Heyer
  • The Nonesuch – Georgette Heyer
  • The Host – Stephenie Meyer
  • The Maiden of Mayfair (Tales of London #1) – Lawana Blackwell
  • East – Edith Pattou
  • The Sable Quean (Redwall #21) – Brian Jacques
  • Ballet Shoes – Noel Streatfeild
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Year 1) – J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Year 2)- J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Year 3) - J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Year 4) – J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Year 5) – J. K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Year 6) - J. K. Rowling
  • Total: 17

When I didn’t find a part-time job for the summer, I continued to work on straightening up my other room downstairs, going through boxes and donating things. Also, rearranging the books after I had to empty the shelves and move them, because of a water leak. I promise, when I read this many books, I’m still finding other things to do, I just have plenty of reading time on my hands, late into the night, or whenever. While I enjoyed rereading Meyer’s The Host, I finally watched the movie version. They obviously didn’t have a very big budget, and a few good actors didn’t make up for some of the sets or special effects. Also, the fact that Saoirse Ronan’s character had an “inner voice” was played for too much effect, and it became annoying. The book is much better. And yes, I went on a Harry Potter kick and read them all in about a week.

  • July
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Year 7) – J. K. Rowling
  • The Masqueraders – Georgette Heyer
  • The Corinthian – Georgette Heyer
  • Cotillion – Georgette Heyer
  • Lady of Quality – Georgette Heyer
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J. K. Rowling
  • Pistols for Two – Georgette Heyer
  • Bath Tangle – Georgette Heyer
  • Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning – Jonah Goldberg
  • In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror – Michelle Malkin
  • Bamboo & Lace – Lori Wick
  • Total: 11
  • Grand Total: 71

And now, my total for reading this year, thus far, puts me well ahead of my reading goals for the year. I set myself a lower number on Goodreads, in case being in school caused me to read less. Well, I was keeping up just fine, even before summer started. Because I can never read my school books while I’m eating, so I’m always reading multiple books at the same time, during the school year. If you’re checking my July list, I finally finished up with my Georgette Heyer books, INCLUDING some of her serious historical fiction books, which are a lot heftier than the mysteries and romances. At the same time, her books that concern the Napoleonic Wars, some of them have been used at military academies, in the past, because her write-up of certain battles were that good. The Spanish Bride (which is based on a real couple, and Harry Smith’s diary was one of the references) is supposed to do a phenomenal explanation of some of the battles and campaigns, as well as the descriptions of some of the generals.

How did I get off on that tangent? For July, I also decided I had to finish one of the books that I started after Christmas… but got totally sidetracked when school started. I just could not get back into it while the semester was underway, so I have finally finished reading Liberal Fascism. I’ve owned it for several years, but then my brother borrowed it and it took a few years to get it back.  : )  At present, I am racing through Whittaker Chambers’ Witness, with every intention of being finished with it before school starts. Let’s see, it has about 800 pages and I began it slightly over a week ago. I’m just over halfway through. He was one of the men that broke with Communism before WWII and testified against Communists in the State Department. And if you HAVE heard about this subject, and disbelieve it, his testimony has been verified by the Venona decrypts, which were declassified several years ago. Chambers was vilified by liberals as a liar who slandered Alger Hiss and others… but he was right. There were Communist spies working in the State Department, doing their best to help the Soviet Union and bring the United States down.

But it’s a FASCINATING book, not just because of the subject matter, but because he’s a phenomenal writer. He reminds me a bit of G. K. Chesterton, and I have difficulty reading some of Chesterton’s stuff because he’s so brilliant. Chambers has a power of description and a way of explaining both his early life and his times with Communism… taking you into why people really become Communists and turn against their country. And how he managed to break free, when he became disillusioned with it.

As I said, I still have at least 350 pages to go. I should be finished in another week, because rather then read constantly, I’ve been doing other things around the house, and studying my German. I want to be ahead of the game when school starts, rather than completely out of practice, like the rest of my classmates. So, otherwise, I’d finish the book a bit sooner.

I hope the rest of your summer is enjoyable, and I’ll keep updating my book list, as the year goes by.

blueberry summer…

Nothing says summer quite like picking and eating lots of blueberries! My family freezes over 100 quarts of them every summer, for daily eating year-round.

image

image

And now, it’s peak season again, and I picked 3 gallons in two hours. That’s about 18 pounds of blueberries, and to pick that many, that fast, the berries need to be hanging in clusters that seem almost like grapes. We were just stripping the bushes as quickly as possible.

image

image

Well, I hope your summer has been as yummy as ours!

image

image

havin’ some slow days…

I suppose I could cheat and just post lots of pictures from my phone, for Wordless Wednesday… but WW is only fun when there are one or two really quality pics to show off. It’s much more fun to explain what’s in them, when possible. For now, I just caught up on emptying last month’s photos off of my phone… even my Seabrook phone photos (with a few small exceptions) hadn’t been pulled for those posts. I had to go and review what pictures I had posted last… and it was all dessert and Seabrook and Asheville! Wow, those were some time ago… IMG_20140516_200126IMG_20140517_223833IMG_20140518_181259Well, since my time at Seabrook and in Charleston, I’ve been doing a few things around the house, searching for a part-time job, and enjoyed having my brother’s best friends over with their new baby. Not necessarily in that order. As you’ll see, I’ve included a few of my Instagram pics from my weekend in May…IMG_20140519_141438IMG_20140519_141541IMG_20140520_091511And then Jon’s friends came over with their little A, and isn’t she a beauty? My mom and I, of course, volunteered to hold her as often as needed, so that our friends could chow down on the homemade spaghetti and Italian bread (yes, homemade pasta, as well as sauce and bread). IMG_20140528_205044IMG_20140528_190953IMG_20140528_220747While at home, and in-between trying to remember that the pool is open, and I can also go to the gym again, I’ve been working on my spare room, rearranging things, and emptying more boxes. I found my old Barbie clothes (handmade, by my grandma, mostly) and took the time to wash them all. Then I discovered a past water leak had warped one of my shelves… and I had to empty them! Trashed the room again, in order to move the shelves around, but finally got that done. Some paint and plastic sheeting, and finally they were ready to go up again, which is what I spent some of today working on. But I either got a charley horse the other day, or pulled a muscle, so I’ve been moving slow for the last few days, and trying to get things back to normal. IMG_20140601_205827

IMG_20140603_220831IMG_20140605_191530Oh, and before I had to take the big shelves apart, I did manage to get another desk set up in the corner, with my Temeraire picture and Gandalf set up, as well as hanging another shelf in my bedroom. Trying to be good about getting rid of things I really don’t need, and find a place for everything that I keep. It’s not easy, is it?IMG_20140617_200257IMG_20140618_140623IMG_20140618_225150Hope you like the photos… I really enjoy how some of my Instagram pics look, so I’ve included them here, since I used camera photos for my last few posts. I hope you are having a wonderful summer! (Ok, if you’re in Australia, I hope you’re having a great winter!)IMG_20140624_203219Now, I’m going to get another cuppa, and go back to reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (again).  : )IMG_20140528_183319IMG_20140622_124812

the best of books, pt. 2…

If you’ve been following along with my last book post, I began this lengthy write-up for an Australian friend who wanted some book recommendations for her kids. And then it grew from there… except I got completely side-tracked by being back in school, and never finished it until recently. Or I suppose I can’t say I’ve finished it yet, since this is the other half? But honestly, I went through my entire book collection (not including what might be on my Kindle) and wrote down all the authors that would be excellent for teens and pre-teens to read. And these are all books that I enjoyed when I was a kid, or still enjoy, now that I’m a grown-up.

But if you’ve ever read any of my posts about books before, you’ll know that I have a bone to pick with bookstores that provide all sorts of fantastical books for the “young adults”, and deceive them into thinking that the only “good” reading is about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are decent, and most of them are not. And that’s not even getting into the dystopian category, which is the new writing fad. I like to remind everyone that Barnes & Noble (and other brick-and-mortar stores) have a dreadful habit of putting a lot of the good reading in the “children’s section”. You know, the 12 and under section. Going to try and convince your teen to walk past the picture books, in order to find something good to read? But that’s where the Newbery Medal books are, as well as many other good books!

Sure, there’s garbage in the Childrens’ section, also. Every adult/parent needs to search through these books, and make good choices for their children or for themselves. There are a lot of fantasy tales out there… but there are still amazing family oriented stories like the Penderwicks (Jeanne Birdsall) and the Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner), with not fantasy involved. It can be done, people! And if it’s well-written, there’s nothing wrong with a retelling of a classic fairytale, or a new story about an amazing new world. Ask for advice from friends that read, and look for recommendations on Amazon and Goodreads! There are even books listing good books for children (and the one I found was printed in the 90’s, so I’m sure it has some good stuff in it.

Now, I’ll try and get off that rabbit trail and get back to work, talking about books that I love now and books that I remember loving from when I was a child. Remember, no matter what I recommend or the age group I suggest, check up on it yourself, and read along with your kids! Some of these books, I’ve read many, many times, and will continue to do so until I can’t read anymore (perish the day…). And so, continuing with my list of authors and some of their books…

Astrid Lindgren – Pippi Longstocking, Pippi in the South Seas, etc.. –  Ah, Pippi… for some reason, I didn’t have a copy of the first book, when I was little, so I grew up reading Pippi in the South Seas, though I had seen the movie version of the first book and loved it. It was always excessively comical, her amazing strength, despite her size, and how she didn’t think quite the same way as normal kids and people. Just really good fun for the readers.

Lois Lowry – The Giver, Number the Stars, etc.. - I always tell myself that one day, I need to read Number the Stars. Any author that can win TWO Newbery Medals with her books, as well as several Newbery Honor mentions… her books are known to be fantastic. But for some reason, I’ve never gotten around to it, because it’s well-known that this particular book concerns the Holocaust. Serious subject, not a long book… everyone should read it, including me. However, I’ve always been fascinated by her book, The Giver. Yes, I know some of you are aware that it’s being made into a movie, but I’m very skeptical of all the trailers. It seems like they decided they needed more action, and the trailer does not seem to be completely true to the book. I love Walden Media, but I do NOT want them screwing this up. When I first read it, I didn’t know what a dystopian future was, nor am I still sure it’s even set in our future. What is understandable that Jonas is just like every child in his village, waiting to see what his vocation will be, when he turns twelve. In their world, they don’t choose for themselves, but their leaders always choose correctly, as far as the children know. He has a family that loves him and jokes with him… but only when he meets the Giver himself will Jonas realize that his life is NOT in fact, normal. This book is part of a series, now, but it stood on its own when I first read it, and I’ve never needed another. The other books to follow are well-written, especially the last one (which I thought fell flat at the end, as if an end was required, but not enough heart was put into it), but I don’t find that they tie well together, and none of them ever held the fascination of the first. You and your kids can decide for yourself, of course.

M. I. McAllister – The Mistmantle Chronicles: Urchin of the Falling Stars - I actually have three books from this series, and I’ve only read the first one. They reminded me of the Redwall books, and yet they’re not QUITE as good. However, the characters and the drawings were delightful, and I think that anyone who loves animals would enjoy the adventures involved. But like I said, keep an eye on things, since I didn’t read the sequels.  : )  My opinion remains that no author can beat Brian Jacques, however.

Robin McKinley - The Blue Sword, The Hero and the Crown, Chalice, Pegasus, Beauty, Rose Daughter, Spindle’s End - Please be warned… as much as I love McKinley’s books, I do not recommend them all. If they are not on this list, be very careful. Sunshine and Donkeyskin, especially, are NOT for children. Several of her other books are fun or strange, by turns, but the above list are my favorites. Well, except for Hero and the Crown. For some reason, her Newbery Medal book is not my favorite, but that’s not because it’s bad. My older brother really liked it, but I always found the dragon strangely creepy or dark… I can’t explain it. But this is personal preference, whereas the ones I warned you against have stuff you do not want your kids reading. Hero is actually the “prequel” of sorts to The Blue Sword, which is one of my favorites, and understandably, it won a Newbery Honor. My younger brother and I still rave about Harry’s adventures… Anyone would enjoy that one! Beauty and Rose Daughter are two different retellings of Beauty and the Beast, one having been written many years before the other, and the first was for younger readers. Both are excellent. Spindle’s End is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty and it’s probably my favorite of them all. Unless Pegasus beats it, but I’m still waiting for the Pegasus sequels. Again, some of her books are for young readers, and some are definitely NOT. Please be aware of it…

Marie McSwigan – Snow Treasure - This one is supposed to be based on a true story. I wouldn’t know, but it’s a fantastic story. Set during World War II, the country of Norway is invaded by Nazis, and the villagers must figure out how to rescue the millions of dollars in gold bullion that has been hidden from the Germans. The local children, with their sleds, are drawn into the race to save the gold bullion from the enemy, and get it safely to America. I never grew tired of this book, and eventually, the cover got worn off from too many readings.

Catherine Marshall – Christy - Loosely based on Marshall’s own time spent teaching in the Appalachian Mountains, Christy tells about a young woman from the city leaves her family to teach in the backwoods. The poverty of the locals is extreme, prejudice against her city ways is rampant, and while not set during the pioneer times, it might as well be for the little these people had. While the author writes very true to life, she doesn’t paint over the hardships… but unlike some books nowadays, she doesn’t glorify the hardships, either. Maybe “wallow” is the word I’m looking for. Some books can be very dark, because the authors seem to revel in the dirt. Marshall only tries to make you see the backwoods people through her heroine’s eyes, but people do die of disease or injury. Just be aware that an avid young reader can handle this, but you may want to read ahead of them, in case they’re not ready for it.

L. M. Montgomery – Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, Anne of Green Gables series, Pat of Silver Bush (duology), Emily of New Moon (trilogy) - Oh, dear… I shall try my best to avoid one of my favorite “rants”. We’ll see how I do. But if you’ve read or watched Anne of Green Gables, yes, it’s a fantastic book and great movie. But you need to read the rest of the series. ALL of them. And while I enjoy the first two movies, which are an amalgam of 4-5 of the books, I have never and will NEVER watch the third movie, because it’s a load of hogwash. Gilbert does not go to war… but I can’t rant about that, because I may give away some of what happens in the later books. The truth is, I love Anne, but I love her children just as much, and it’s very possible that Rilla of Ingleside (#8) is my favorite. Rilla was Anne’s youngest daughter, if you’re wondering, and that book was set during WWI… but I won’t tell you any more because I can’t give away Dog Monday or anything else. But since I’m talking about Montgomery, please remember that these may SEEM like girl books, but they’re wonderful stories, and boys should take the time to read them, too. The mischief, the fun! And for the record, Anne may be the best-selling of her books, but she’s not my favorite character in the books. My favorite set is probably the Pat of Silver Bush duo, and probably because not only is Pat great fun, but those books contain Judy Plum. There’s never been a more amazing character, I’m quite sure. And yes, I love the Emily trilogy, as well, and everyone needs to read those, too.

But if you’re looking for a SINGLE book of Montgomery’s to read, no series or trilogy involved, it’s a toss-up between Jane of Lantern Hill or The Blue Castle. Well, the best one is definitely The Blue Castle (probably my absolute favorite book), but I can see where the younger kids may enjoy Jane, first. While both books center on characters that have been lonely and put upon for their whole lives, Jane is a pre-teen who is sent to Prince Edward Island to meet her father, while Valancy is a 29 year old spinster who dreams of love that she thinks she can never have. Don’t be deceived by any blurb that’s ever been attached to The Blue Castle… you won’t believe the incident that brings Valancy out of her shell, and the hilarity that ensues. But no matter which book of L. M. Montgomery’s that you read, one thing never changes… even in her short stories… the characters are REAL. They are so well-written that you expect them to walk off the page, and you will adore them and break your heart over them, every time. It doesn’t matter how many hundred times I’ve read some of them, my heart still cries out over certain parts, and I still laugh over others. Sit your family down and read them ALL. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Robert O’Brien – Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Silver Crown - If you’re like me at all, you were raised on not only Disney animated films, but on Don Bluth films such as The Land Before Time, An American Tail, and… The Secret of NIMH. I have no recollection if I knew beforehand that NIMH was based on a book or what, but if you’ve seen the movie, they really changed the storyline around a LOT. It’s still a good film, but concentrates on magical elements which aren’t in the story. That said, I finally got around to reading it, and it’s really a wonderful book (no wonder he won a Newbery for it), following the story of these super-intelligent rats that have made a home for themselves in the country, and how they work together with Mrs. Frisby to save her son. My memories of The Silver Crown are rather vague, but I just read a review of it on Amazon. That reviewer says that they’ve loved this book since they were 10 years old, but that it has a few mature or alarming incidents that some less mature readers might not be ready for. It all depends on your reader! But I do remember that the little girl wakes up with a silver crown next to her pillow, and must find out what it’s there for and what she’s capable of doing with it… Tantalizing, don’t you think?

Scott O’Dell – Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Black Pearl, Sing Down the Moon, etc.. - I’m pretty sure that O’Dell wrote about a million books, because I’m always coming across them in used book stores, and many are stories that I’ve never heard about. Many are historical fiction, but parents should also be aware that they do not all end happily. The one that I read the most was Island of the Blue Dolphins, and maybe some of the sadness of the book was a bit much for me, at the time… but I still liked it. What would it be like to be stranded on an island, alone, and to have to make your own clothes, a shelter out of whale bones, and befriend the wild dogs and the cormorants? And I’m pretty sure at that age, I thought the “elephant fight” was between real elephants, instead of elephant seals… but even that doesn’t change anything to a child’s imagination. You learn from these things. The Black Pearl was darker, as I remember, and tells the story of Ramon and his finding of a lustrous black pearl, which may set El Diablo after him… I don’t even remember what happens, I think I thought it was scary, at the time. It isn’t very long, however, so you can easily read through it to see whether your child can handle it. But I should perhaps mention that Island won the Newbery Medal, while Black Pearl won a Newbery Honor, as did Sing Down the Moon, which is a tale of soldiers forcing a Navajo tribe on a forced march (though I don’t know if I ever read it). Others of his stories involve Eskimos in the Iditarod, and pioneers all over America.

Baroness Emmuska Orczy – The Scarlet Pimpernel - Everyone should read this. I don’t care how old you are, this book is amazing. Yes, there are amusing movie versions, but even they never get it quite right. This is the story of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, made up of some of the rich lords of England, doing their best to save the aristocrats of Paris from the Terror, but it is also the tale of the beautiful Marguerite, married to the stupidest Englishman of them all… but is he really? Blackmail and intrigue are involved, and some of the best comedic scenes ever… I can’t even describe the wonders of this book. My older brother and I read my mom’s copy so many times that the cover came off and the book was falling apart, so we had to buy her a new one. This story doesn’t have anything too hard for the young folk to read, though the wording might be a little more formal than they’re used to. And for those that are worried about issues of a touchier nature, there is an episode with a Jew, near the end of the book, which talks about the qualities of their “race”, and isn’t very flattering. I only mention this in case your children take note of it, and you want to know what they refer to… but I had probably read the book a hundred times before I even noticed anything odd about it. All in all, a fantastic adventure/love story.

James A. Owen – The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica: Here, There Be Dragons, The Search for the Red Dragon, etc.. -I’ve been reading this series for about ten years now, and the last one was published this year. It’s very sad. But it’s an amazing series, and I highly recommend it! Especially if you not only love a fantasy adventure, but love literature. Because Owen involves three famous authors, right from the start of the first book… and as the books progress, you meet more of them. In this world of the Chronicles, there are always Guardians of the Imaginarium Geographica, a book of maps of the worlds of fantasy. In every century, there are new guardians and apprentice guardians, who can travel back and forth between our world to the Archipelago of Dreams. And the Archipelago itself? It’s where all our favorite magical lands are located, and some that have never been written about. For example, the land of Prydain. But the lands are not always exactly like how we read about them, because different authors/guardians use them for inspiration, or invent their own lands. And when they invent a new land in a book, it’s very likely that a new one will appear in the Archipelago. By the final book, I was amazed at how Owen could bring characters like Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Jules Verne, and many more, to life within the pages, and keep it from being confusing! But it doesn’t start that way. With the first book, John, Jack, and Charles are swept off on an unexpected adventure after the death of their mentor… and they are thrown headfirst into a guardianship that they know nothing about. You’ll meet the talking badgers, led by the wonderful Tummeler (who always calls the scholars “Scowlers”), as well as Captain Nemo, Mordred, and the descendants of Arthur Pendragon. It’s a wonderful tale, just right for all those book lovers and literature geeks… some of whom are still only kids. Be aware that there are a few dark themes, and some characters don’t make it through the story, as a result of run-ins with the Shadowborn (think something like a Ringwraith, but different). These are great for kids, but keep an eye on them, in case they can’t handle a few scary spots or the loss of a beloved character. You should read them with your kids, if you have the time… I just LOVE this series.

Linda Sue Park – A Single Shard - Set in long ago Korea, this story is of an orphan who dreams of becoming a master potter, and even travels to the Royal Court eventually, in hopes of achieving that dream…. It’s been several years since I read this, so my memories are vague except that it’s excellent and won the Newbery Medal. I find that I get it mixed up with one of the following books by Paterson, but Amazon says it’s for Grades 5-8.

Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia, Lyddie, Of Nightingales That Weep, Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins - Not every person likes Bridge to Terabithia, and I don’t even remember all of what I thought as a child, reading it. It ends sadly, so please be aware, for your child’s sake. But the other part that sticks in my mind is how the children go to a remote location and pretend it’s their own country, and they use their imaginations to make up the adventures they have. What child doesn’t love that kind of thing? But despite it being a Newbery Medal winner, the adventures they had in their own world… I didn’t remember much about it, until I saw the movie and then reread the book. But while it may have fantastical elements, this is a story of friendship between outcasts and how life doesn’t always pass us by, when the hardships come. So, you may want to read it before your child, or keep an eye on them, in case you find them in tears at some point. Still, an excellent book. Lyddie is much more of a farm story (I think), but Nightingales is a totally different ballgame. I’m not sure whether to recommend it for the kids or not, despite it being a fascinating story about a young girl in Imperial Japan… but the twist at the end and who she marries… it’s a good story, but is it appropriate for the kids? You might need to read this one ahead of your child. Or wait. Katherine Patterson is an amazing author, so no wonder she received a Newbery Honor for Gilly Hopkins and a Newbery Medal for Jacob Have I Loved. I’m pointing this out ahead of time, because I’m completely prejudiced when it comes to Jacob Have I Loved, and want you to understand that it’s probably a good book. But I have a history of disliking most books that I had to read in middle or high school, because we had to “dissect” them so much, or even because I just didn’t like the stories. Maybe I should re-read it, but I’ve yet to get past my dislike of several books I had to read in middle school (including Jack London’s Call of the Wild). This book deals with a pair of twins, one who feels like she is the least loved, and how she deals with her growing up years. The reviews are good on Amazon, so I’m just trying to be honest… you should probably give it the chance I’ve never been able to give it.  : )

Edith Pattou – East - A retelling of the tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon, this story follows Rose as she lives in a land where significance is seen in the direction a child was facing when they were born. Rather than admit her child is a wild North-born, her mother hides the truth, but Rose can’t deny who she is. Eventually, she will go on a great adventure, in order to save her family, an adventure you will love to read about. Now I want to read this again, it’s been so long since I read it.

Donita K. Paul – DragonSpell, DragonQuest, etc.. -There is a genre known as Christian fantasy… I don’t know what you think of it, but some is good, some is strange. I really enjoyed this series, though it won’t stand up to Tolkien, by any means. Kale is a young girl who starts out as a slave, raised amongst a people not at all like her, sent on an adventure, where she encounters dragon eggs and then the small dragons that hatch from them. The people she meet tell her about the wonders of Paladin (you can see the parallels to Jesus), who himself is the servant of Wulder. It’s very obvious where the parallels are, and I’m not really a fan of stories that make it so obvious, because Jesus and God are… well, they’re not meant to be trivialized. But somehow, these books manage the parallels, and some of the characters like the Wizard Fenworth are enormously fun… and I love stories about dragons. So, while I think the early parts of the series are better than the later books, these are an enjoyable read, and you could probably have some interesting conversations with your children about what the author’s trying to say about us, as well as about God and Jesus.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson, The Heroes of Olympus - I enjoy mythology, just like I enjoy fairytales. So, I got a kick out of Riordan’s modern take on the mythology of old, both Roman and Greek. And even if these are written in a manner to imply it’s narrated by a teenager, the Percy books are still quite fun. However, I think Riordan stepped it up a notch when he reached Heroes, because he has to really work at mixing Greek and Roman mythology, and making sure the characters are believable. So, while I’m enjoying the second series more than the first, you have to read the first series to get to the second. And while I’m remembering, I started to read his Kane Chronicles, and didn’t enjoy them at all. Those are stories based on the mythology of Egypt, but I quickly stopped caring about the story or the characters.

J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter series - Of course, everyone has heard of Harry Potter. At this point, you’ve either read them all and watched all the movies… or you’ve still avoided them completely. Back in 2000, I was working in a book store and still avoiding them completely, because our store would put on really ridiculous parties for the days when a new book was published. My coworkers and I all avoided those books, because they were so popular and the kids in their costumes were SO annoying. Lightning bolts on foreheads? I didn’t know why and I didn’t care. I knew what all the covers looked like, though, and hated them. Some of you are still like this, I’m sure. Many years later, probably a year or three before the final book came out, I think I discovered that a cousin of mine, whose opinion I trust, had read and enjoyed them. I decided it was time to give it a chance, and I was hooked. You know what? They’re fun. I already like fantasy, and this was good writing with a believable world, and yes, everyone wishes they could magically make doors open and that they could fly on broomsticks. But while I truly enjoy the books, and I’m still working on getting one of my bookworm brothers to give them a chance (my less book-reading brother started them at Christmas, and then bought himself the series, reading them within two weeks), I understand the people that still avoid them. I was one of you, so I’m not going to judge… well, not much. But while they are not Tolkien by any means, they do have a very recognizable fight between good and evil, and we want for the good guys to win. If you don’t mind your kids reading about magic, then your whole family will enjoy these. Though you may want to keep an eye on them with the last book or two, because it can get pretty dark in spots. Also, for the movies… if you haven’t seen them, please be warned that the opening scenes of Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1 is really creepy and scary. I was a bit horrified, and I knew it was in the book. And that isn’t the only frightening scene with the snake in the movie (or the book), so please be cautious.

Brittney Ryan – The Legend of Holly Claus - This is such a beautifully illustrated book, don’t miss out by getting a Kindle edition, even if they do include pictures. Ryan’s book tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is the ruler of the Land of the Immortals, and he is finally asked what HE wants for Christmas. He and his wife want a child, and so Holly Claus is born… but she has a spell cast upon her at birth (rather like Sleeping Beauty). She is raised by her loving parents, but someday must figure out how to break her curse. I love this story.

Ruth Sawyer – Roller Skates - I remember loving this book, though I only vaguely remember what it is about. It won the Newbery Medal, and follows the story of a little girl who goes around New York City (early 1900’s) on roller skates, making friends, and having adventures. I was younger than 10 when I read it, which is why I don’t remember what happened at all, except that it’s a wonderful book.

George Selden – The Cricket in Times Square - Likewise, I don’t really remember what adventures that Chester the Cricket has with Mario, Tucker the Mouse, and Harry the Cat, just that it was a fun book (also a Newbery Honor book).

Brian Selznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret -This is a good book, but technically, it isn’t very long. You see, this one won a Caldecott Medal, which is for illustrations. So, while it looks like a really thick novel, it’s mostly pictures. They’ll be fascinated to your kids, I’m sure, but I felt like I’d been robbed, when I realized the story wasn’t as long as the pages of drawings. The artwork is amazing, though, and the movie is good fun, too.

Elizabeth George Speare – The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Bronze Bow, The Sign of the Beaver, Calico Captive - Many years ago, I think my older brother gave me a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond for my birthday, and I never looked back. Kit Tyler arrives from Barbados in the colony of Puritans in Connecticut, to their great surprise. But while she is welcomed, they are not well-to-do, and don’t understand her outgoing ways. She knows how to swim, makes friends with Quakers, and wears silk dresses. But she comes to love her family and when Kit is accused of being a witch (think like in the Salem Witch Trials), what will happen next? This book definitely deserves the Newbery Medal it won, and remains one of my favorite childhood books. Speare also wrote other books that won the Newbery Medal (The Bronze Bow) and the Newbery Honor (The Sign of the Beaver), as well as an Indian captivity tale (Calico Captive). If you want to get some historical fiction, as well as learn how the main characters strive to get along or understand those that are different from them, these are excellent reading for you.

Johanna Spyri – Heidi - My favorite version of this movie stars Michael Redgrave, Jean Simmons, and Maximilian Schell. Not Shirley Temple. Though, in a strange way, the Shirley Temple version is more true to the story. Well, maybe, I can’t remember exactly. But in the book, Fraulein Rottenmeier is a very strict lady who is not a big fan of Heidi, while the Jean Simmons version has her as a delightful woman who loves the girls. For once, I don’t care, I adore that movie. My heart stops every time Clara is left on the mountain to try and walk… Ok, I’m getting away from the point. This is a wonderful story of an orphaned girl who goes to live with her grandfather in the Alps, but when she has to leave him to go to the city, she becomes dreadfully homesick. However, she comes to love the spoiled Clara, who can’t walk, and hopes to make her better by coming to see her on the mountain. It’s a heartwarming, wonderful story that every boy and girl should read. And watch the 1968 television version of the movie… because Redgrave, Simmons, and Schell! That’s why! They’re amazing.

Trenton Lee Stewart – The Mysterious Benedict Society trilogy, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict – A mysterious ad in the newspaper brings any number of children to a building to go through lots of mind-boggling tests and riddles. The rewards for the winners? To create a society that will be able to go on a secret mission that only children can fulfill. These books are delightful, with their fascinating puzzles and riddles, with the children each finding many different ways of solving them. And after reading the trilogy, I really enjoyed the prequel, though it had less riddling and more development of Nicholas Benedict’s character. It was fascinating to see how he didn’t really believe in love, despite his extensive learning, because he had never seen love in action. You and your family will enjoy these books.

Noel Streatfeild – Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes - While Streatfield wrote several dancing stories after Ballet Shoes, that one is the first and best of the set. The story is about Great-Uncle Max (known as GUM) who brings back several baby orphans from his travels. Named Pauline, Petrova, and Posy, their family becomes poor while Gum goes away on his travels, so they set out to help their family earn some money. Along with learning to dance and act, the girls have many adventures in the process of finding out what they are good at and what they can become when they grow up. This is a WONDERFUL book.

Sydney Taylor – All-of-a-Kind Family - While this book is part of a series, they have mostly been out of print until recently, so I haven’t read them all. But my cousins and I love them. This is the story of a Jewish family in New York City, in the early 1900’s… a family with five girls. They are not precisely poor, but they are not rich, either. I grew up, delighting in how their mother makes dusting the front room into an adventure, how one of the sisters becomes so very stubborn that she won’t eat her dinner, but her parents lovingly expect obedience from her. The girls have adventures at the library and buying penny sweets at the general store, and always, they are celebrating the Jewish holidays with their family. One of my favorites was when they visiting their papa’s shop and found books that had been donated, and they took some of them home. Do these sound like very simple stories? But you see, the quality of writing is excellent, and the love of family and friendship is palpable. I wanted to sample the foods and see the book of paper dolls that they discovered… I still hope to read all of these books, someday. You should, too.

J. R. R. Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit - By now, you know that I compare many other fantasies to Tolkien. That’s because he sets the bar. And despite my mom being raised on LOTR and my older brother reading them through our childhood, I think I was intimidated by the scary picture of Gollum on the cover. I’m not sure, exactly. It wasn’t until the first trailer came out for the first movie, that I went and picked up a copy at the book store. And was hooked from the first word. Perhaps you think they’re too long or too wordy. Don’t be intimidated by the length, because the story is so amazing that it’s completely worth it, once you’re caught up in it. And while I love the movies, the books are so much better.

Mark Twain - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - I first read Tom Sawyer when I was very young, though I reread it a few years ago, and was amazed at all the details that I didn’t remember. The mischief that Tom would get into! I’ve since discovered that Twain wrote sequels to it, but most people don’t know of their existence, because they’re not in print. I have them on my Kindle, though I haven’t read them yet. And Huckleberry Finn is a harder read, but just as worth it. It often gets put down by certain literary critics because of how it was set in the American South when there were still slaves, and words are sometimes used that would be considered racist, nowadays. But you can make your own decisions about what you want to read and how to approach the truth about history, and how we can always treat people better and more kindly.

James Ramsey Ullman – Banner in the Sky - This Newbery Honor book follows young Rudi, whose father died trying to climb The Citadel, the unconquered peak of the Alps. Rudi would like to conquer that portion, in his father’s memory, but can he get past the heartbreak of his father’s memory?

Cynthia Voigt – Dicey’s Song, A Solitary Blue - I haven’t read all of the books about the Tillermans, but Dicey’s Song is about how she’s brought her siblings to her grandmother, and no longer has to be the one in charge. But can she figure out who she is and what to become, without her usual role? I only vaguely remember the Newbery Medal book, but some of Voigt’s other books have also won Newbery Honors, and they’re all supposed to be excellent books.

Gertrude Chandler Warner – The Boxcar Children - I didn’t get around to mentioning the Bobbsey Twins books or even the Nancy Drew books, because I don’t know if I ever read them, and remember… this list mostly includes what I own. But if your children like mysteries, those books can be looked up, also. But I grew up reading the stories about the Boxcar Children, a wonderful story about the Alden family, who make their home in a boxcar… and end up finding a grandfather. It’s been so long, I don’t remember how it happens, exactly. And while the series continues for many, many books, you may wonder how they always fall into mysteries. But why does it matter? They’re wonderful, fun books, and you’ll be glad your kids have gained such a love of reading, when they make their way through the entire series.

Kate Douglas Wiggin – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm - Written in 1903, this book was beloved by Mark Twain and Jack London, amongst others, and follows the story of young Rebecca, who is sent to live with her stern spinster aunts. They are unused to having a child live with them, but are trying to help out her mother, who has many children to look after. I haven’t read this since I was a little girl, but anyone who has ever read it will tell you it’s wonderful, and you’ll be thankful to have your children reading such a classic. But the Amazon reviews even suggest that adults continue to love it, also.

Laura Ingalls Wilder – Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Little Town on the Prairie, The Long Winter, Farmer Boy, By the Shores of Silver Lake, etc.. - Of Wilder’s 9-book series, she won Newbery Honors for five of them. I’ve been wishing I could re-read them all, but we must have worn out my mom’s copies, some time ago. These are for school age children, I don’t care what country you’re from, and American kids (at least when I was growing up) were raised on them. Yes, maybe you’ve heard of the old TV show, but I’ve never watched it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it’s nothing like the books, not at all. I even bought the series for one of my Aussie girls, for her birthday. These semi-autobiographical stories follow Laura Ingalls’ family from Laura’s early years in the big woods until she marries, while living on the prairie. How I loved to read about Ma and Pa making and baking food for the winter, and parties with family, and making snow candy from maple syrup… and that was before they reached the prairie! On the prairie, there were locusts and Indians and blizzards and other adventures. If I recommended any series of ALL the books I’ve talked about so far… this is the one that I most highly recommend. Boys and girls. My brothers and I read them and loved them. Your children MUST read them. And I’ve heard good things about the prequel and sequel series, which were written by Wilder’s daughter, but I have never read them myself.

Patricia C. Wrede – Dealing With Dragons, Sorcery and Cecilia, Snow White and Rose Red, The Seven Towers, Thirteenth Child, etc.. - The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which includes Dealing With Dragons are SUCH good fun. While being wonderful books, they don’t take themselves overly seriously, telling about Princess Cimorene, who is tired of being a princess and wants adventure in her life. So, she runs away to live with dragons. Who wouldn’t? You and your children will laugh over them. Sorcery and Cecilia, or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot starts off a trilogy set in an earlier time in England, but in a world that includes magic. So, if you want to imagine your Regency era (or maybe slightly later) while wizards were around, these are for you. My recollection says the kids will enjoy them, too, though they may be a little wordier than the dragon books. Snow White is a fairytale retelling, of course, and The Seven Towers is a standalone fantasy tale that I haven’t read in years, but should be fine for young teens. Take a look for yourself and see what you think. Also, I’ve recently been reading her newest series, which starts with Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic series), and takes place in a frontier America where magic exists. She explores what it’s like to be the unlucky thirteenth child, who happens to be the twin of an excessively lucky double seventh song, and how they grow up and explore the frontier. I think a mature reader of ten years old could handle them, but again, you know your kids best.

Johann David Wyss – The Swiss Family Robinson - Maybe you’ve seen the Disney movie, which is wonderful, but the book is quite different (while still amazing). In the book, there are more kids, and much more details about the many, many dwellings that the family builds on their new home, after they’re shipwrecked. And I’m telling you, the father of the family has SO much knowledge about everything, it’s fascinating, and I always  wonder what he read when he lived in a “civilized” land. But this book was written before all the countries and islands of the world had been discovered, so Wyss was able to create an island where every animal or tree or plant that he wanted could live. Penguins, flamingos, and everything else… they’re all there. But this is a classic, excellent story that every child will love reading, because who doesn’t want to know that they can survive if they’re shipwrecked on an unknown island? An excellent story.

Jane Yolen – The Devil’s Arithmetic, Briar Rose - Yolen is an interesting author. While she’s now well-known for writing a series of picture books about dinosaurs, some of her literature is much more serious. While Briar Rose is technically a Sleeping Beauty retelling, it is tied to the Holocaust and is no easy read. I’m not even positive that I’ve read it, but you’ll know best whether your teen can handle it. The Devil’s Arithmetic… now, I do remember reading that one. Set during more modern times, it tells of a young girl who has little appreciation for her grandparents’ having survived the Holocaust, but during Passover, she opens the door to symbolically let Elijah in… and is transported to the past. Along her historical journey, she begins to see signs of what she knows about the Holocaust and does her best to warn people… but they think she’s silly. She is swept away on the trains to the death camps… but will she survive to return to her family? This story is not an easy read, but no Holocaust book ever is. But Yolen takes an interesting route of showing you what the times were like, and how this young girl grows up and learns to understand her own family’s history.

Wow, I finished it! Wasn’t sure if that would ever happen!

But already, my previous book list has caused my Aussie friend to have some good memories of the book Baby Island, and how much she used to love it. This is what I’ve been hoping! That people will remember their old favorites, that they lost track of… or that they’d find new ones! So many books that showed up in our elementary school book fairs, school libraries, and the Weekly Reader style book pages that we would take home to order from! I still have an old favorite that I must have lost, but the title isn’t well-known and at the moment, I can’t remember the author. But I still remember the cover and the time travel involved, and how the teenagers went back in time and one of them got stuck in an old-fashioned elevator fancy wire elevator during a power outage… and there was a maid named Pegeen! I know that must sound idiotic, but this is the one book that always slips my memory, even though I bought it from a school Book List, and I think the author’s first name was Richard. Hopefully it will come to me later.

But while I was searching for authors by first name, I came up with this list on Wikipedia of Children’s Literature authors, and when I eventually finish this post, I may go back and see what books I missed. I’m sure there are many that I’ve read and never owned. Presently, I’m going to go see if Astrid Lindgren is on this list, because every child, boy or girl, should read the Pippi Longstocking books.

How nice! It wasn’t on this post, originally, so good thing I checked.  : )

Now, I really hope that this very long list will give you some excellent ideas of what to read, or for your kids to read, and take advantage of how Amazon says that “people who bought this book also bought”, and see where it takes you. You can find some excellent reads just by seeing what others are looking at, if they’re already looking at some of the classics outside of the recent run-of-the-mill fantasy novels. Enjoy and feel free to share if I’ve missed something that I shouldn’t have!

Thanks for being patient with me!

P.S.  I found it! After scrolling through pages of Richards on Amazon, I finally found Richard Peck… who wrote a lot of great books, too. Including a Newbery or two, I’m pretty sure. Anyway, the book I couldn’t remember was called Voices After Midnight. But be sure to check his books out, as well, when you’re looking for good reading!

congrats to the blues…

When I woke up this morning, I discovered that the large number of views from Australia mean there was another State of Origin game happening (or actually, had already happened). So, I skipped over to FB and discovered my one Aussie friend that cheers for the NSW Blues… well, she was yelling her head off, let’s say. And googling the subject confirmed my suspicions. So, congratulations to New South Wales for ending the Queensland Maroons’ 8 year winning streak! It must have been quite a game, and I’m sure a few of my friends screamed themselves hoarse over that game. Yes, I can be generous because I wasn’t there watching, even I’ll always cheer for the Maroons.  ; )  But honestly, from what little of rugby league and State of Origin that I saw… those players are ALL just phenomenal, so all props to the winners, and I know that QLD will be just as determined to take back the title, next year.

On a totally different note, for anyone keeping up with my book posts, I promise I’ve been working on the other half of my “best of books” list, and should have that up in another day or so. And now, I better go sit down and relax after that meal I just ate. I had some curry fried rice at the Thai-ger Cafe in Clemson, and it was pretty yummy. And filling. 10471395_10152482293854976_1946647377_o