september bullet points…

It’s been too long, you’ll say. Well, that is completely true. You’ll have to forgive me, because it’s going to last a while longer. But let’s review the main stuff, shall we?

  • This is my senior year. While I am kept busy (and occasionally swamped), that means that within a year, I will be a college graduate searching for a job. Which means, some sweet day, I will have time for non-school related activities. Like blogging.
  • I still take photos, but mostly post them to Instagram from my phone. My camera only tends to travel with me when I visit family, and then I try and take pics on camera AND phone, because of occasional lighting and speed issues on my phone. But my phone quality keeps improving, so it’s my go-to. Laziness? Maybe. Sometimes,  you do what you have time for.
  • The Lord has blessed me with a lot of spiritual growth this year, partly because of attending a new church. Sometimes, I want to shout for joy… and then a new school assignment “calms” me down. But my Savior has been gracious, and is working on me in the patience area, as well as the worry area. Not the same, I assure you.
  • I am enjoying my history classes, as always, as well as taking another fiction workshop. So, I spend a LOT of time reading for class, and writing assignments. Which is why most of the time, I don’t have brain space for any other kind of writing. Except, you know, on FB or on my Instagram posts.
  • What else is there? Some of you began following me because of my trip to Australia… what is it, 5 years ago now? While I keep in regular contact with my Aussie friends, I do hope that in the next year or two, I will be able to afford to go visit them, finally. And visit all the places that I didn’t get to, last time. But maybe, once I graduate, I will have time for more trips here in the U.S., too.
  • Continuing that thought, I have been on several road trips this year, mostly to the beach and PA and Virginia. To visit family and friends. But mostly, I wasn’t in a writing mood, because I’d been “schooled out” at that point. There are times when you never want to go near a computer again.
  • Along with the above JOY about knowing the Lord better this year, along with that comes a renewed interest in a few things that I’ve slacked on over the years. Playing my guitar or playing the piano. Trying new things, mostly art-related. Getting a bike, and taking some leisure skills at school, like tennis and top ropes. So, since writing and blogging still remain in my list of things I like to do, I’m more likely to do them when I’m not busy AND when I’m particularly happy/joyful about something. When worry and frustration crowd things out, the fun things slide, because… well, that’s playing with avoidance tactics, as I see it. If I’m blogging in order to avoid studying, then I’m shirking what I have to be doing. I want to keep my GPA up high, you know. 🙂
  • So, all that to say that, I’m praying for more patience and to hand over the worries, as well as to make sure I’m not slacking on my schoolwork. It’s a mixed bag when it comes time to thinking about blogging. But I’m trying to get it back into the list of things that I CAN do, when there is time and freed up brain space.
  • Thanks for hanging in there! I just thought I’d include a collage of photos from this last month, just for a bright spot in the writing blather that I’m including here. I hope you have a blessed month and the rest of the year, in case I get tied up totally with school until Christmas!

surely i oughta…

Honestly, I ought to go back to bed. Come to think of it, I probably ought to go upstairs and study some more. But while I might be a night owl in normal life, I can’t make myself a night owl for my college studies. Especially when I’m not one of the teeny-bopper students that I trip over all the time. 🙂 12168714_10153620567529976_1870777962_oThough I find more and more that being a “returning student” is not a completely unheard of thing, nowadays. We are not alone. Sort of.

I wasn’t asleep, but just getting comfy and then decided that I needed to check some things on my computer. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on here, hasn’t it? But while snippets of story ideas and photo opportunities come my way, at the end of the day, I don’t have any brain space left for blogging. Unlike my time in Australia, when all I had was a constant story to tell, right? Or when I was jobless before school started? Perhaps I still have that 12124494_10153625474544976_1265596368_ostory to tell… but I’m too tired to tell it, mostly. Or when I do feel like telling it, it’s usually because I’m avoiding something. You know, like going to bed or doing homework. Fall has begun, here in the South, and I’m looking forward to taking some pictures of the changing leaves… with my phone, at least, though I tell myself I really should get over to the Botanical Gardens on one of these glorious cool days. I might even do it, between books that I’m reading for my history classes. I’m taking three of them, by the way. Modern South America, Britain from 1688 til now, and Museum History. The latter was to see what’s what in the field of Public History, but I don’t really think I’m going into that field. But I have learned one thing… no matter whether you agree with a museum curator’s method of arranging 12171063_10153621803034976_751679144_otheir exhibit or not, give them due credit. They work their backsides off for next to nothing, and often, their only reward is criticism. So, be nice to the museum people, they work hard.

What else has been happening? Weddings and receptions and drooling over DIY projects on Instagram. So, of course, after every wedding, I have tons of pics of my cousins’ kids and my friends’ kids. I have to take pictures of SOMEBODY’s kids, you know, if I can’t have my own yet! If you remember my darlings from Australia, then I can’t survive for long without playing with the kiddos. Come to think of it, I really don’t have much time for that, either. No wonder I’m always tired… haven’t gotten my baby fix. I was going to try, the other week, but then SC had serious flooding along the coast and in Columbia (the capital, at the center of the state). Interstates got shut down, roads got broken up by flooding.12022006_10153581173309976_1545617657_n

If you’re into certain shows on TV, I manage to watch Dancing With the Stars and Once Upon a Time, every week… but at the moment, I’m at least a season behind on Castle. It’s very sad, but two shows is the limit for TV goof-off time. Movies? I haven’t been to the theater in eons, but we did finally watch The Avengers: Age of Ultron during my fall break. That was quite fun, and it taught me my new favorite quote.

“The elevator isn’t worthy.”

Speaking of movies, yes, I am paying close attention to all the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Star Wars movie. However, I am a serious Star Wars BOOK geek, more so than the movies. I love the movies, especially the originals, but I’ve been reading the books for 20 years of my life. So, now, they have declared most of that 20 years of book to be NON-CANON. Don’t even talk to me about it. My 12033463_10153581340084976_447329520_nbrother and I have been cringing for a long time over it. So, yes, I’m thrilled by the newest trailer, but as much as I love J.J. Abrams, ask the Star Trek fans about their last movies. I am seriously looking forward to THIS movie, and yet I’m positive they’re going to ruin it. Because the books are brilliant… at least many of them are. So, they’re not allowed to change the story, sorry. Ok, I need to stop… this subject gets me steamed.

Books…. yes, I’m always reading books. Haven’t updated my list in a while. Sorry. I’ve been bingeing on Georgette Heyer again, though I also read through some of Juliet Marillier’s books, recently. The Shadowfell series, and then rereading Wildwood D12162874_10153606713649976_1342687055_oancing and Cybele’s Secret. I was even in a Barnes & Noble, recently, and that made my week. What did I buy? Oh, right, the new Rick Riordan book. Which I enjoyed, but I’m not awake enough to go into detail. Also, a kids’ book called The Doldrums, which I’m still reading slowly, interspersed with Heyer. Because you know, Georgette Heyer remains brilliant, and I go back to them like comfort food. If I could write like she did, I’d die happy… and rich, too, probably.

I’m running out of steam. I do actually have to get up in the morning, even though my class isn’t until afternoon, because as I said, I have a math test AND I need to make an attempt at reading some pages (in German) more in depth. We’re starting to study sports in Germany, in GER 305.

11939122_10153526703864976_2017429301_oAnd blast, do you know, I just remembered I should have looked at the school website and decide on which classes to register for, for next semester? I have a meeting with my advisor this week, and really need to have my list ready to show him.

So, to close this rambling post of mine, I’m going to include some of the latest pics I’ve taken, some selfies, some kiddos, one abandoned mill that my museum professor took us to see, and proof that I’m still an honorary Aussie… I have to have my Vegemite! Especially when it’s on my mom’s homemade toast. If we have them in the house, I add avocado slices, too. Heavenly!

I hope to be rambling at you again soon. Have a great week! 🙂

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.

not a book review…

I say this isn’t a review, because I’m not even finished with the book yet, nor am I commentating on whether it’s a phenomenal book in general or not. I find it informative and interesting, but you can form your own opinion. But I think that any parent who is having issues with the Common Core Education standards should have an opportunity to take a look at this book, and read up on it.

I’ve been reading Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education, by Glenn Beck. Now, not everyone out there likes Beck, and I understand that. Personally, I think talk radio is very informative but I prefer to READ when I want to learn about something. So, I’m more likely to read a transcript of a radio show, if I want to know what’s up. I’m just telling you this because I know some people may immediately come back with their opinions of Glenn Beck, and quite frankly, I’m not interested.10414330_10152438131869976_1996288812_o

What I am interested in is Common Core, and how it’s affecting American children, and how did it come to be a standard in the first place? If you don’t pick up Beck’s book, you should look for another book on the subject, and find out why you and your children are yanking your hair out trying to learn math in a totally scrambled way.

Since I’m reading a Kindle version, I’m not sure how to give you the page number, but I’m reading Chapter 12 right now, which is called “Common Core is “State Led”” and it’s 25% of the way through the book. It is especially interesting to know that the 2009 stimulus plan had earmarks to help “encourage” states to join Common Core, as well as to give them waivers for “No Child Left Behind”. But who voted on it? This says that our unelected state school board members were the ones that chose to adopt it, state by state. And when I say “encouraged”, I mean that federal money was waived under their noses in order to get them to do it.

I bookmarked a page that quotes former Texas education commissioner Robert Scott, who explains why Texas did not give in and use Common Core. Does anyone else think it’s odd that he was asked to sign off on the standards, before they were even written, even when he needed to consult with the Texas legislature and other Texas teachers? Those standards were written “behind closed doors” and he was not allowed to view them beforehand.

You may want more details on what the book talks about, but I think everyone can do their own research and decide if the book’s for you. Just telling a bit about it, and you can take it from there.  : )

I am sharing this recommendation because I’ve read enough tweets and heard enough complaints about Common Core, in person and online, to know that people are asking where these standards came from, and why are American children being required to follow them. So, if you’re frustrated with Common Core, it pays to study up on how it got into schools. But again, I haven’t finished the book yet, and I may not even agree with everything Beck says about everything (in the book or elsewhere). That’s okay. You can learn from this one, and expand on your knowledge elsewhere. It’s a place to start, wouldn’t you say?

P.S. I was not asked by anyone else to write about this book, I just wanted to share in case there’s a parent somewhere who is interested to learn more about the subject.

new year ramblings…

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Sure, I set goals sometimes, but I think there’s a jinx attached to “resolutions”. Especially the ones that you announce publicly, which supposedly gets others to cheer you on… but increases your fear of the crash that will occur WHEN you fail. And you know how the comics and everyone else (including myself) makes fun of New Year’s resolutions. Do we really believe in them, this making fun of them so ingrained in our makeup? Don’t psych yourself out. Set some goals, and if it helps, keep it to yourself, so you’re the only one that knows when you achieve it.

Maybe it’s because we don’t always make realistic goals. I could resolve to lose a certain amount of weight in the following year, but since that piece of information is no one else’s business, why would I announce it? If you screw up a resolution to diet, somehow that equates to failure, while getting tripped up while heading toward a goal… well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Scramble back to your feet and keep trying.

Anyway, I started on that rabbit trail because I was thinking about my only goal for last year. Sure, I was aiming to read 100+ books again, but how is that difficult? I managed it the year before, and for a serious bookworm, it’s not a difficult plan. The difficult part about my goal for the year involved being thrifty with my spending habits. Especially when it comes to books, but I eventually added music to the list.

Goal for 2013: Buy no books or music. Eventually, I had to adjust it when I started back to school, but I only bought books that I needed for school. And I took advantage of all the free books that you can download to your Kindle. But I managed it, even going so far as mostly staying out of bookstores and book sections at Target and Walmart. If you can’t have any, why even tempt yourself, any more than you would if you were avoiding sugar and stayed out of the bakery section?

So, on January 1, I went to the Mall of Georgia, and made a beeline into Barnes & Noble. It was wonderful to get a coffee and to be able to meander through the bookshelves, even if the Young Adult Fantasy section drives me absolutely bonkers. The brick-and-mortar stores should encourage teens to read more GOOD books by including stuff that’s now in the “Kids” section into the teen fiction. Since when is The Giver and all the Newbery books only for children from age 7-12? Borders knew that, before they closed down.

I used to love going into the YA section at Borders. Yes, all the books about angels, werewolves, vampires, and the lot were in there, but they were mixed in with the good books written by Brian Jacques (Redwall), Tamora Pierce (Legend of Beka Cooper, Song of the Lioness, Trickster’s Choice), Juliet Marillier (Wildwood Dancing, Cybele’s Secret), James A. Owen (Here There Be Dragons), Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted), Shannon Hale (Book of a Thousand Days, Princess Academy), Patricia C. Wrede (Dealing With Dragons, Thirteenth Child), as well as Harry Potter, Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Lord of the Rings.

Nowadays, the Young Adult section is full of all the wannabes that can’t write worth crap, but the teens buy them because that’s ALL THAT’S THERE, and because if it’s next to Harry Potter, it should be just as good, right? WRONG!

And since I just poured out all the (mostly) recent fantasy fiction that I happen to love, what about reminding teens that there are classics that are good, quality reads? Some classic books SEEM to be only for girls, but if you think Little Women and Little Men are only about girls, you’re missing out. Same for the Anne of Green Gables and every other book by L. M. Montgomery. The adventures of children and teens abound in these pages, and the characters never grow old. The same goes for Frances Hodgson Burnett and A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and my personal favorite, The Lost Prince (so many people have never heard of that one).

The Wizard of Oz series? The Hobbit? The Jungle Book and others by Kipling? Almost any book that received a Newbery medal or Newbery Honor mention? Charles Dickens is awesome if you give him a chance, don’t panic about the length. Start with The Pickwick Papers. Sherlock Holmes? The Three Musketeers and its sequels? How about the awesomeness which is The Scarlet Pimpernel? Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn don’t grow old, either.

Ok, that’s a rant I didn’t mean to go off on, but it’s a rather normal reaction when I come out of a bookstore. One funny thing that came of that trip. I didn’t buy a single book, because I had checked the Amazon prices before going. Everything was cheaper online, so I made my order after I got home… but I dearly hope that B&N figures out to stay competitive with Amazon, because the world would be a sadder place without bookstores.

Yes, I know, libraries are wonderful places, too, but even those are threatened by the digital age, and not having enough space or enough donations. I was very thankful for the existence of libraries, this year, when I was borrowing books to make up for not being able to buy any.

And now that I’ve mostly run out of steam, I don’t have any goals for this year, yet. I’m only aiming for 75 books on my Goodreads list, but that’s easy. I have to concentrate on school, mostly, so we’ll see how many I end up reading when I’m hardly trying. Feel free to tell me what you’re reading, too!

another year for reading books…

As 2014 approaches, I am considering what reading goals I would like to achieve. This began as an update for my new Books ’14 tab, but when I couldn’t stop typing, I switched it over to a new post.

Obviously, reading 100 books in a year isn’t difficult. Even when I started college, I knew that I would have to read several books, entirely, in class. But by that time, I had gotten ahead of my reading goals, so that I wouldn’t run out of time when school started. I shouldn’t have worried, as I’m now up to 110 books, with no sign of stopping before New Year’s. Even if you count that I read several Paddington books, which are only slightly over 100 pages, I read a lot of books that had 400-500 pages, so it makes no odds whether I throw any children’s books in there or not.

My goal of reading only books I had not bought for myself (with the exception of school books) has been achieved. I have gone an entire year without buying any books for my own reading pleasure, or buying any new music, for that matter. I’ve been very frugal, and hoping that my spending habits will stay under control, in the New Year. But I do look forward to entering a book store again. For the most part, I stayed out of Barnes & Noble, because I didn’t want to be tempting. Later, I told myself “What’s the point?” because if you can’t buy anything, why wander through and torture yourself with longing? I think the closest I’ve been to anything resembling a bookstore is the book section in Walmart. And after I stop to look, I run away because I just can’t have any of them.

But don’t worry, I have lots of books on my Christmas list, and the year’s almost up. So, what to do for the next year? Just keep track of my reading, and not worry about reaching 100, because college will probably interfere this time? Or maybe I should keep track of my reading, but make the new goal to read 75 books I’ve never read before. Of course, I read plenty of new books, but still, who doesn’t love re-reading their old favorites? How many times have I read my books by L.M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgsen Burnett, Francine Rivers, and many, many other authors?

Ok, 75 new books might be asking a lot… maybe only 50. I can’t just ignore the old favorites during the year. But a few friends of mine, who have only just seen my bookshelves for the first time, asked me if I’ve read them all. No, I haven’t. Pretty sure I’ve read 75% of them, now, because I donated a huge number of them, in the last few months. But many of the ones I haven’t read are non-fiction, and some of them are huge, so it’s no joke to try and read all of my unread books, in one year.

While Christmas comes up fast, and the New Year runs up right behind it, I’ll continue to think about whether I’ll have any specific goals or not. For now, I’m going back to reading The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, by Anthony Esolen. Now that school is out for the Christmas break, I can read whatever I want, for fun, and not get confused between the history I like and the politically correct stuff at least one of my profs has shoveled down my throat. If he could see the book I’m reading, he’d probably have a heart attack, in fact. So, happy reading for everyone, over the holidays!

i’m behind again…

Too many photos, too little time? Is it really that I don’t have enough time? I don’t feel like I’m doing that much, but let’s think that over again. I found out a week or so ago that a grad student friend’s wife was expecting and… I think her due date was yesterday. So, in addition to raiding my mom’s baby bootie stash (I don’t know how to knit, yet, so I can’t make them myself), I’ve been working on crocheting a baby blanket. I’m not posting pictures yet, because I haven’t had time.DSC_0176

DSC_0177As many of you already know, you can’t type on your computer and crochet at the same time. Nor can you read. Yes, some FB friends recommended that I listen to audio books, and I did dig up my Audible account, and find I had a few credits to my name. So, I’ve started listening to Brian Jacques’ Doomwyte, which I’ve read before. But if there’s one audio book series I like, that would be the unabridged Redwall books. Jacques narrated them himself, with a full cast to do all the voices. Of course, it makes all the bad guys creepier, and the descriptions of the Doomwyte cave even creepier than it ever was when I read it.DSC_0178

DSC_0180So, suddenly I’ve realized that I have a lot of photos piling up, from a visit to the Botanical Gardens, wandering around in my own yard, pictures of my bedroom before we started stripping the wallpaper, and a number of other things. But if I throw my weekend into catching up on photos and writing, I’ll never finish that blanket! And I haven’t heard if the baby arrived yet…DSC_0184

DSC_0188My preference is to watch movies while crocheting, though, which I find much more entertaining than just listening to an audio book. The crocheting just flies by. But I feel like a lazy bum, sitting on the couch all the time! I haven’t watched this many movies since… well, since Imogen and I had our movie binge, in Australia. No, I didn’t start watching any Austen or Gaskell movies yet. Instead, I’ve been watching my way through The Hobbit (with my family), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, While You Were Sleeping, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Tangled. If I can talk my brother into watching The Hunger Games with me, I’ll watch that again, too. DSC_0189

DSC_0191Also, I should have lots of time, because I haven’t gone to the gym much in the last week. I’ve been pretty tired, despite not working enough to make me so, and my foot has been bothering me. But I avoid going back to the doctor for it, and hope that the lack of energy isn’t from having a mono relapse. I don’t think it is. Even if I did HAVE a mono relapse, it’s nothing like what I’ve heard other people go through with it. But it keeps me from having enough energy to do what I want to do, and I feel like I’m doing little enough, as it is!DSC_0198

DSC_0201And so, all this rambling is to tell you that I’m really trying to accomplish something with my last week or so (finish a beautiful baby blanket!), while I’ll go ahead and share some pictures of the most recent flowers that have come up in our yard. They’ve survived, despite the beating that has been administered by all the rain… but I think these were taken before the worst of the storms AND the heat. DSC_0206

DSC_0208Last week, it was in the 90’s, all week. This week, it’s “cooled off”, staying in the 80’s. Practically a cold front, you know. And it’s only getting started! This is only June. July and August are just waiting to knock us flat… or send us running for cover, in the air-conditioning of our homes. The humidity is here to stay, as well. If it were just a dry heat, we could handle it. But no, this is the South, and humidity comes with the heat, no ifs, ands, or buts. DSC_0210

DSC_0213I hope you enjoy the brightness of these lovely flowers, and I’ll attempt to catch up on my latest, bit by bit. After the blanket is done!DSC_0214

DSC_0215P.S. Please note that NONE of these photos have been adjusted. No photoshopping at all. Those colors really were that brilliant, in the bright summer sunshine!DSC_0218

the horses of a frightened sea..

I just finished reading The Scorpio Races, and I’m still slightly stunned over the whole thing. Stunned in a good way, I suppose, and not by the ending, though I liked that very much. Stunned and… a bit befuddled over how to describe this one to you. Did I like it? Eventually, yes. Did I start out by liking it? Not really. For the first half of the book, I couldn’t figure out whether I liked it or hated it, because the story is so… abhorrent at times, and yet, you still want to know the outcome. The characters and the island and the horses, they still draw you in.The-Scorpio-Races

For all my love of fairy tales and fantasy, I have no recollection of ever reading any legends of water horses. So, from the start of the book, I had no idea what was going on or what the islanders were dealing with. What were the capaill uisce, and why were they being raced every year? Why were they so vicious, and what kind of places was this?

[Depending on who you believe, the pronunciation of capaill uisce is either “CAP-pall ISH-ka” or “copple OOSH-ka”. The latter is spelled out, early in the book, by a character in the story, and the former is spelled out by the author, in the afterword. Does this mean she couldn’t decide, or what?]

The island of Thisby is full of islanders that either grow up from the ground, and never want to leave, or they can’t wait until they can afford to get to the mainland. And what a place it is, surrounded by the Scorpio Sea, which is home to the dangerous, terrifying water horses (the capaill uisce). Bigger and faster than horses on land, they are predators and a danger to any land creature, if they come ashore hungry. Think of it like sharks being able to come onto land, at certain times of the year.

I found the story to be dreadfully depressing, at first, but I was caught up in the parallel tales of Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly. He was the returning champion of the Scorpio Races, a man of few words, impossibly wedded to this strange island, and only wanting one thing from his unbending employer… the champion water horse that he rides every year. Puck Connolly is the first woman to ever ride in the Scorpio Races, and she’s breaking all the unspoken rules to do so, but she isn’t doing it to prove anything to the men. She begins with the goal of keeping her brother away from the mainland, for a few days longer, and it becomes something much more.

The capaill uisce are killers, and every chapter brings it home to you… and then makes you want to believe that they’re just as beautiful as Sean Kendrick knows them to be. The author brings you to love the horses that the islanders love, and then cringe when the same animal causes someone’s death. Everyone loves to read about horses, even when they don’t know anything about them in real life, so how do you make them predatory and yet sympathetic? But no matter whether they’re meat-eaters or not, I still almost cried when someone was cruel to a water horse, and a horse that hadn’t harmed anyone.

This is not a horror story (and those who read horror will laugh over my use of the word frightening, but get over it, already), nor is it a tale that takes place in another world. It seems to be somewhere off the coast England, in a sea that no one on Earth has ever heard of, nor will they ever. But it’s real, for all that, and with an American horse buyer in the mix, you know that they could just hop on a ship or plane, to go to California. You wonder where this island is hiding, and pray that you never find it, because I would never be willing to set foot there. And still, your imagination is seized by the wonder of this island, the people that populate it, and the sea creatures that make them who they are.

I would highly recommend this book (I think it’s Young Adult fiction), but not if you’re looking for something happy and full of sunshine. Nor is it constantly depressing. After the halfway point through the story, I felt like the sun was trying to peek through the clouds, kind of like Sean Kendrick’s rare smile. This book is fascinating, terrifying, and wildly beautiful. Just like the Scorpio Sea and the capaill uisce.

i’m not reading fast enough!

I’m doing it again. Worrying about my reading speed. For someone who usually reads 10 books in a month, I shouldn’t ever have to worry about this. But it’s just so funny that I’m not reading at my normal speed, held up by both my blogging and my continued interest in non-fiction books. I have always loved to read about history (and politics, more recently), but having that interest supersede my edge_evolutionfiction reading is unusual. Does it have anything to do with my reading goals for the year? I don’t think so. I can get the latest fantasy books from any library, if I want to, without having to buy them (this doesn’t keep me from wanting to buy them, however).

I’m blaming my reading issues in February on there being less days in that month. Surely I could’ve managed another book, if I’d just had 31 days. What were the creators of February thinking? But rather than run into a last minute fiction force-feeding, in record time, I thought I’d have it easier this month. I finished reading In Defense of Thomas Jefferson: The Sally Hemings Scandal, just a couple of days into March.leestrobel

Then, I told myself I needed to read something light and fictional, before picking up either The South Was Right! (James R. Kennedy & Walter D. Kennedy) or The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (Michael J. Behe). Why couldn’t I have found the box, in my storage unit, with Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution? Or The Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, by Lee Strobel? For some reason, I was really wishing I could start with those. Oh, well. I’ll have to get them from a different library, because Cooper Library doesn’t have them.

When you’re fully into non-fiction mode, I’ve found it can be very difficult to switch over to fiction mode. Usually, I’m in fiction mode, with a sideswipe at history, here and there. Turning on my Kindle Fire, I made myself open up 100 Cupboards, by N. D. Wilson, which I hadn’t read yet, thoughin_defense_of_thomas_jefferson_phixr I downloaded it months ago.

I was pleasantly surprised by the book, as it completely immersed me in the town of Henry, Kansas, and the descriptions were so good, you could practically chew on them. You were so set in the realistic family, with the father being seemingly uninteresting (at first), and yet capable of quoting Shakespeare and even turning the words to his own purpose, making both him (and his words) funny and impressive. The fantasy part of the tale sneaks up on you, as the curiosity of the children leads you to uncover one cupboard after another. Literally. By the time I was finished, I was ready to read the second book, immediately.

My head really wanted to leave the fiction behind, but I kept telling myself I needed a few more fiction books under my belt, first. Of course, being on spring break will help me catch up, but there are so many other things I need to be doing!32107 It’s not just a week for goofing off, as much as I would like to do so!

The time had come for another foray into a Georgette Heyer book. I will try to resist the urge to preach on this subject, as I do so often on this blog. Suffice it to say, Heyer is the queen of the Regency romance, and she will never be beaten. If you judge her books by the genre, you have already sold yourself short, and missed some of the funniest, most clever tales of REAL people you’ll ever come across. So, I picked up Sprig Muslin, and dove into a story that I’ve read so many times before, but it never gets old.

After that, I braved the Cooper Library’s kids’ section, trying to avoid being in the full view of any of the college students. It’s not that I mind anyone knowing what I read, but when they’re all sitting around studying so hard, it made me want to squirm. Would them seeing me be like I was showing off that I could read fun stuff, or would I just feel like I was reading childish things? I didn’t want to find out, Darwin's black boxso I stayed amidst the shelves.

I carried away Cybele’s Secret, by Juliet Marillier, along with a few other books. Several years ago, I read Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing, which was based on the fairy tale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I remember enjoying it immensely, but the details of the story are a bit vague in my memory. Now, I’m going to have to read that one again, because I absolutely loved this one. Cybele’s Secret continues the story of one of the sisters, as she accompanies her father on a trading expedition to Istanbul, Turkey.

The story contains both adventure and romance, of course, but what I really enjoyed was how the author dwells on the joys that come with being with family and looking at a person’s character, rather than their outward appearance or occupation. In the original story, the sisters were very close, and this comes across in the new book, even without all the sisters being present. And without giving 26486 Pan_CybellesSecret_covaway the ending, I was thrilled to find that the story didn’t just end with a kiss and a promise of a happy future. It ended with a return to family and taking that loved one into the fold, reminding you that others are involved in your life, even when you’re wrapped up in the discovery of true love. Only THEN did it end with a kiss.  : )

Now, I’ve started reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, and I don’t really know what to think of it. I’ve never read Shiver, or any of her other books, because I didn’t feel the need for another tale of a girl and a werewolf that have to be together, no matter what the consequences. Yes, I know that might not be the story at all, but how many teen novels out there are about falling in love with love, and giving up your family and who you are, in order to be with that person? Selfishness reins, in some of those books, and I like to remember what love is really like.The-Scorpio-Races

Thus far, it is very well written, and I enjoy the characters, but it isn’t a very happy book. The characters seem to brood, and the water horses are quite frightening. A secluded island, perched on the edge of a brutal sea, peopled by lives regularly touched by tragedy. I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished it.

And I’ll probably continue to tell of my “woes”, as I try and reach my book goals, while reading my way through the history sections of the library. It’s definitely a challenge.

a boatload of boxes… & some books…

My room is a wreck. It looks a bit like I’m moving out… or maybe moving in… or maybe both. Actually, I’m just trying to empty my storage unit (the one in PA), a bit at a time, because renting a U-haul is still too expensive. Last I checked, it was still double the price to go south as it is to go north. My wallet hurts, just thinking about it. So, every time I go north for a conference or to see friends & relatives (sometimes I do all of those at the same time), I stop at the unit to get a load of boxes and other things.DSC_0024

This time, I didn’t have an awkward cart to fit boxes around, so I was able to cram my CRV to the limit. At first, I thought I’d overestimated how much I could fit, bringing down more boxes than I should have. And then I figured I could manage, if I beat a couple of them into submission. At that point, I didn’t want to take them back upstairs on the storage elevator, so I just hoped I wouldn’t break anything. Fortunately, one of the back boxes, despite saying FRAGILE in big letters, seemed to have a sleeping bag in the bottom. The breakable stuff must be at the top of the box. I bashed in the back of that box, in order to get my back window closed. DSC_0026

Filling the car to the brim also resulted in another long trip where I couldn’t see out the back window, but since when is that unusual? I’ve done that, many and many a time. Of course, my “favorite” trip was probably one where I could see out the back… but I had a very long dresser in the car. So, I had to put the driver’s seat almost up as far as it would go, and drove for 10 hours with the steering wheel trying to eat my rib cage. Considering how much I enjoy leg room, when I drive, this was not comfortable. Nor was prying myself out of the seat, at every stop.DSC_0027

I managed to find my bulletin boards, so those are waiting to be loaded with pictures and other odds and ends. Several boxes are labeled Christmas Stuff, which some people might think was funny. How many single people have several boxes of Christmas decorations? Yes, I can decorate an entire Christmas tree, and several mantels, all by myself.

Some boxes had dishes, some have candles (I haven’t opened it yet, but it sure smells good), and some are from my office. I just removed whatever boxes I had room for, knowing that I couldn’t really be picky about what was in them (aside from the bulletin boards, which were necessary). My favorite boxes, though, are the two that held books. Ok, maybe there are others, but I think these are the only two. The rest of the book boxes are probably in the very back of the unit, near the shelves.DSC_0028

If you’re a fellow bookworm extraordinaire, you will appreciate the excitement of opening two small book boxes, curious to see what’s in them. I felt like I’d hit the jackpot, no matter what was inside. One contained a bunch of picture books, from “coffee table books” that I bought in Ireland (back in ’99) to beautifully illustrated Caldecott Medal-winning story books. That one also contained some of my yearbooks, which is kind of frightening. But I was too distracted by the second box, to pull everything out of the first.DSC_0029

I’d lucked onto a box of mostly hardbacks, with some classics mixed in with some history. When I pulled out That Devil Forrest: The Life Of Nathaniel Bedford Forrest, I really wanted to jump up and down. Except I was sitting on the floor, so that didn’t work very well. Since I’ve been on an American history binge, lately, I’ve been wishing I had access to some of my other history books. And I really want to read about this famous Confederate General.DSC_0036

After that, I found A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens, by Lawrence E. Babits. If you’re not familiar with the subject, this book is about an American Revolutionary War battle, not one from the Civil War. Cowpens is an hour or two up the road, here in South Carolina, and I have some mixed up memories of visiting it with my grandma, before she went into the nursing home. I don’t think we actually went anywhere but the gift shop… was that because of time constraints or what? I can’t remember. But I bought a ceramic mug and a book, and had some time with just my grandma. I remember the togetherness part, if not what else we did while we were there. Just because of that, I should read the book (finally) and go visit Cowpens, again. And yes, it has that strange name because it was originally referred to as “The Battle of the Cow Pens”, as I recall. Eventually, it turned into a town name.

I have a bad habit of picking up every old copy of Little Women that I find, in thrift stores, if it’s in hardback. I think I need to give away several copies of it. But during one of those thrift store trips, I once came across a set labeled “World’s Greatest Literature”, and I took a whole stack of them home with me. It included The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Washington Irving’s Sketchbook, Emerson’s Essays, Wakefield’s Vicar of Wakefield, and several more which aren’t in this box. I still haven’t read any of them, but I know I should, because they’re classics. My memory says that Ralph Waldo Emerson was a good writer, even if he was a bit of an idiot. Anyone who thinks John Brown (of Harper’s Ferry fame) was a saint (he was a murderer) is definitely an idiot.DSC_0038

Once upon a time, I started to read David Herbert Donald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln, but I never finished it. It is quite a tome, you know. But though I’ll probably still read it, eventually, the book I really want to read is Donald’s Lincoln Reconsidered. Over the years after he wrote the original, I believe he learned some new things and rethought others concerning the myth of Lincoln, and wrote his newer book, accordingly.

Other classics like the Sherlock Holmes books are in this pile, and maybe I should re-read them. I remember when I first read The Hound of the Baskervilles, someone warned me that if I read it before bed, I wouldn’t sleep. I think I did it anyway, just to prove them wrong… I can’t remember exactly. DSC_0042

Over the years, I’ve come across numerous books written by Thomas Costain, or books that he edited, and I’ve picked up most of them. I don’t remember why I started doing that, maybe because he had some good collections of stories that he had edited. The funny thing is that while my mom has read them all, I’ve never read any of them, though I continue to collect them. I suppose I should try some of them now, right?  : )

I’ll let you know if I come across any other interesting books and things. This unpacking of boxes is quite fascinating, because it’s been in storage for over two years now, and I don’t remember some of it. Which should make it easier to get rid of some of it, right? That’s part of the plan, at least, to donate anything that I really don’t need. Including some of the books, if I decide I really don’t need them. Not easy to do, part ways with books, but I manage to do it, now and then.DSC_0043