Saturday, October 9, 2021

Two Tasty Books

 Just in time for Halloween, I read a book about a monster AND a book about a ghost.  

But first let's discuss reading as a kind of nutrition. The books that teach you a LOT but are hard going are like, um, that soup that you get when someone wants to build up your strength. Good for you but not the easiest thing to swallow.  Sad to say, I avoid those books unless I need to learn something for a project.

The books we read for fun - romances, mysteries, graphic novels - they count as snack food, chips and dip, pretzels, chocolate. You could survive on these books but you won't be very healthy. NOW, some of the snack books are more like pretzel sticks and hummus or celery and cream cheese. Still you don't want these fun books to be all you read.

Some fiction is tasty AND good for you, too. Think Thanksgiving dinner (go light on the stuffing and potatoes, though). They are delicious and sooo nutritious. Here are two books to  savor.

Willodeen by Katherine Applegate  This book is so yummy! Willodeen is an orphan brought up by two ancient women. She loves creatures of all kinds and sizes but she is especially interested in the animals that others abhor - the monsters.  The "screechers", large, ugly, loud and very smelly, have a special place in Willodeen's heart - along with her wounded hummingbear.

Hummingbears are crucial to Willodeen's hometown's survival. When the hummingbears return each spring to the blue willow trees, tourists come from all over.  But the screechers and their horrific odor scare people away. So the town puts a price on the screechers' heads.

What happens is disastrous to everyone. Willodeen makes friends with a boy who fashions hummingbears from branches and vines. Can the two friends save the screechers, the hummingbears and their town?

Let this book sit on your palate. There are more flavors to this book than a four course meal. It is food for thought, tastefully served.


Dead Wednesday by Jerry Spinelli .  Everybody calls him Worm. He's in eighth grade, shy, pimply, not so very tall and his best friends is a popular, athletic, Boss of the School. They are off to the best day in an eight grader's year, Dead Wednesday. It's a half day and once the 8th graders are assigned their "Wrapper", they become INVISIBLE to the teachers and adults in their school. Because they are "dead".

"Wrappers" are teenagers who lost their lives in the past year in car accidents caused by drinking, texting, willfully ignoring traffic precautions, reckless driving. The School Administration goes through Dead Wednesday in hopes that the "dead" will learn enough from this experience to avoid reckless driving. HAH! What eighth graders get from this is a half day to go INSANE!

Except it doesn't work out that way at all. Worm is haunted for the whole day. Seriously weird.

  This book will feed your soul for a long time. And the ending is sweeter than pie.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

I Read Books for Young People

I love Miss Silver, a "personal inquiry" agent of old. She features in books that were written before I was born. She is genteel, old-fashioned even for her time, and very clever. People tell her things. But, her books were not written for young people.  (Kids could read these books. The author hints so broadly at certain characters' misdeeds that even I wrinkle my brow. Kids would probably be bored, though. Just saying.)

I do read books for young people and here are three that I read in the past month.

Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price. Jane Austen's character, Elizabeth Bennett, appears here as a feisty 17-year-old, who desperately wants to work in her father's law office. When a young gentleman acquaintance is accused of murdering his scoundrel of a brother-in-law, Lizzie "takes" the case. Being a young woman of the early 19th century, (please read the author's notes at the back of the book if historical accuracy is important to you), Lizzie is discouraged from investigating the murder by every single male in her sphere and even some of her female friends. Does that stop her? Indubitably not!

Her would-be client is represented at the bar by none other than the arrogant and irritating Darcy. Yep.

So we have all kinds of evil-doers here and a lot of social practices are flaunted. There is a bit of melodrama when the culprit is exposed. But it's the 19th century when footpads and villains of every stripe traveled the byways and alleys of London. 


Three Keys  by Kelly Yang. If you read Yang's triumphant debut Front Desk, then you will be all ready for this sequel. Mia and her parents are now the proud owners of the Calivista Motel - along with their many investors. BUT the year is 1995, and immigrants are not particularly welcome in California. A bill to severely restrict immigration into the state is up for a vote. Mia's sixth grade teacher is not impressed with Mia's writing at all and appears to approve of Proposition 187. And even though the Calivista Motel was on TV, a sign saying Immigrants Welcome causes business to drop. 

Mia and her best friend, Lupe, have to find ways to help the motel thrive, protect fellow students whose families are not here legally, and convince their teacher that Mia has talent. 

The book addresses an issue that still raise hackles here in the USA. A country of immigrants still fights over whether or not to keep our doors open.  Mia's family is stalwart in their support of other immigrants. When problems arise, it is Mia's friends who find the answers.

The book is an inspirational read. For us hardened adults, it may be too optimistic. But kids love it when kids save the day and the kids save the day in Three Keys.


Linked by Gordon Korman. Korman addresses vandalism, anti-semitism and racism in his latest book. This is a lot less fun that Korman's usual fare. When Michael runs back to school to fetch his forgotten phone, he discovers a huge swastika painted in the hallway. Michael is the president of the Art Club and his locker is full of paint so, guess who comes under suspicion.

This book concentrates on Michael, his circle of friends, Link, one of those friends who is a popular athlete and prankster, and Dana, the only Jewish student in the whole school. As more swastikas appear all over the school, Link discovers his family's connection to anti-semitism, the community revisits its shameful racist past and Dana finds herself the center of unwanted attention.

Then a social media vlogger moves into town to cover the frenetic attempts to "solve" this by making a paper chain to represent the Jews killed during the Holocaust. Michael spearheads this attempt. But the swastikas keep coming.

The ending stretched my credulity a bit. Then, I saw how Korman laid the framework for his climax. This is not my favorite Korman book, (The Unteachables is awesome), but it is a worthy effort.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Avoidance Part 3 - TIME LIE!

 NOTICE: Chances are HUGE that most of the personal remarks - about me -- in this post will be lies.

Friends, I am completely honest and I NEVER EVER lie to myself. BUT, I have been given to understand (isn't that an awesome phrase, "given to understand"?) that some people DO lie to themselves.

In doing that, those people - not me, of course, - find themselves suddenly short of time. Here are some examples of this that I have been made aware. (Should I add "of" there?)

1. Telling yourself that this will be the LAST game of solitaires that you will play. HAH! I have personally seen someone make that last game stretch into four or five 'last' games.

2. Watching videos of crafters because they will give the watcher cool ideas - that will never be made.

3. Looking outside and deciding that it is too hot or cold or muggy or windy to do whatever it is  without even stepping outside.

But the biggest worst lie of all is this. I WILL DO IT LATER WHEN I HAVE MORE TIME.

Look at that statement. With every second that passes, we have LESS time. We will never have MORE time than we do RIGHT NOW. So sitting back on the sofa with one's feet up and thinking, "I'll do it later when I have more time." doesn't work. It is physically impossible to have more time than now.

That said, we all have obligations and neglecting those obligations does not make us good people. There may be future periods where we will have uninterrupted time. 

Even saying that "I will do it when I have a stretch of uninterrupted time," easily turns into a lie. Uninterrupted time gets snipped apart if we allow ourselves to become distracted (a future avoidance topic.)

Successful "task completers" do not wait until they have more time. They get stuff done in the time they are given.

Don't lie to yourself. You WILL probably play another game of solitaire especially if that last game ends after one deal of the cards. Watching other people make crafts is satisfying in itself.  Go outside! 

But most importantly:  You will NEVER have more time. Do it - whatever it is - NOW.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Avoidance Part 2 - I'm TIRED

Oh, PERSONS! This excuse is is universal. I should practice the piano but...I'm TIRED.

I wake up in the morning and before my eyes are fully open, I tell myself that...I'm TIRED.

And so it goes.  Edit my poems? Too tired.  Get out the ukulele. Too exhausted.

A half-hearted swipe over the counter, a push of the broom. STILL tired.

So what do I do about all this tiredness? Sleep? Eat better? Take a walk to encourage blood flow to my "tired" body? HECK, NO!

I lie around, move like a sloth. Nothing gets done and the NEXT day I am even more tired.

Yesterday was one of my tired days. I DID get out the accordion after months of neglect.  (Whoopee!)

At 7:45 pm, I decided to sweep off the back porch. I had been (say it with me) too tired to do it earlier. The back porch looks great by the way. (A "discussion" is ongoing about the sand box. The grand is entering double digits. Does she still need a sand area? Maybe not, but I think I do.)

Suddenly, I was not so tired. And I was awake until 1 am.  But just doing that one chore, gave me...

a Lightbulb moment! I am going to be tired whether I do stuff or not. I am older and the less I DO, the harder it gets to DO anything.  Once I start moving, the fog lifts.


If I am so tired that I can't function, it is time for me to consult a medical professional. I have, actually, and there is nothing physically wrong. 

I am not too tired. I am afraid - afraid that any effort to create will fall short of my expectations. So I grab whatever excuse I can come up with. At my age - and in this trying time - being "tired" is an easy quick all-purpose excuse. 

I am not tired. I am resentful. Why should I have to do whatever stupid chore needs to be done when I don't want to? And that resentment spills over into the activities that I actually enjoy. (This is actually Avoidance Part 3. Stay tuned.)

I am not tired. I am waiting. Exactly what I am waiting for has never been clear. But I will receive a sign when the waiting is done.

The answer to all these avoidance techniques is to push through. I know it. You know it. Push through. There are bouquets to build and skies to view and rain to inspire our music. So, tired or not, do ONE beautiful thing.

The world will thank you.

(I wonder if this blog post counts or if I have to do something else. Because, you know, I'm....tired.)


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Avoidance - Part 1. Who Do I Think I am?

 For Mother's Day, I got a gift certificate to a painting party place. So, yesterday, three generations, (me, my son, my granddaughter), joined other party goers to create paintings.

I do not "art". I don't draw, color, paint with any regularity. I get the art stuff out when D is here and we mess around.

That said, the two hour class was delightful. We each produced a sunlit underwater ocean scene.  There were 8 people in the class and 8 colorful wall-worthy pictures at the end.

It was so much fun that I had to ask myself, why I don't do more visual art-y stuff? 

Because avoidance is one of my real talents, I have a lot of different excuses for not doing things. Visual arts have always been hard for me. So, I understand my reluctance to indulge in them. But I avoid writing and writing has always been something that I WANT to do and do better than a lot of people. (How do I even have the nerve to say that?) And that brings me to Avoidance Excuse #1.


Who do I think I am?

Art is created by ARTISTS. Am I an artist? Am I? Well? Um. I don't think so.  Am I a writer? I want to be a writer. I have wanted to be a writer for the past 60 years. 

Producing stories or essays or poems or blog posts requires a level of faith that one can put ideas, images, feelings, into words in an engaging way. Who Do I EVEN THINK I Am to imagine that I can do that?

 If I just accept my unworthiness, if I face up to the sheer effrontery of my feeble attempts at composition, then I save myself a lot of trouble AND rejection.

This feeling of misplaced humility(?) is perfect for allowing me to avoid taking action. I am nobody, so I should not write that story or poem. I am a mere inkblot in the copybook of literature. 


This excuse makes the assumption that all art is produced for the consumption of others. My two hour dip into painting yesterday showed me that the ACT of creating is enough. Even if no one else ever saw that painting. I brought it into being. And that is enough. 

AND this excuse assumes that artists, writers, etc., are preordained to those positions. The excuse assumes that there is a hierarchy to creators. Yes, some people do have innate abilities that are better than others. But there are a lot of published authors, with wildly popular books, who are merely average at putting words together. Their plots carry the books. Other authors produce simple plots but their fluid writing wins over readers. Asking, "Who do I think I am?" before I even attempt to write ignores the truth that one who writes is a writer, regardless of their talent or skill.

So I wrote this post. Hence, I am a writer.

THAT is who I think I am... well, for now, anyway. 



BTW, if you are looking for other excuses to avoid following your passions, or trying new things, stay tuned. I have dozens of them.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Book Report

I decided to re-read some of Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness mysteries and found a recent addition that I never read! The Last Mrs. Summers!

Georgie (Lady Georgiana etc, etc, Rannoch, of late 34th(?) in succession for the throne until she married Mr. O'Mara in a Catholic ceremony and gave up her place in line) and Darcy have been married for three whole months when he is "called away". He is some sort of undercover agent in the service of the Crown. Bored and lonely, Georgie goes to London and finds that no one is available to cheer her up. Even her old Granddad -(not a royal AT ALL) - has a volunteer job.

She arrives home at Eynsleigh, the estate that one of her step-fathers has "given" to Georgie and Darcy, to find Belinda, her best friend arriving. Belinda has been left a cottage in Cornwall so off the girls go to check out the property.

Note: Bowen opens the book with a tribute to DuMaurier's classic suspense novel, Rebecca. If you ever read that book or watched the movie you will appreciate the setting.

Anyway, the cottage is a wreck and they go into town to find a hotel. Belinda meets a childhood friend (she spent her summers in Cornwall) who invites them home to a large and possibly haunted estate. A gruesome murder takes place. The ladies are suspects. There is some sort of tomfoolery at a nearby stately home. Smugglers? Ghosts? 

And was that Irishman really Darcy? 

Bowen knows her audience so well!


I have read Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity and have found a few that I know I never read. Ngaio Marsh and her lovely Inspector Alleyn has gotten me through some hot days. And Patricia Wentworth's endlessly patient and serene Miss Silvers continues to unravel startling mysteries. 

But what about the Kids' Books?

Most recently - The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm finds Bell living in the American station on Mars. The station has cut itself off from the other stations on Mars for the past 10 years. Bell takes us through his routine with the other young people and their mentors. When a stow away mouse brings a virus that attacks only the adults in the station, the children and teens have to get help. Help from earth can take 8 months! Bell and his former best friend head out in the train tunnel and they discover that the other stations are filled with lively, generous people. Why did the Americans cut themselves off?  I will not tell you who or what the LION is in this book.  Read it.

Max and the Midknights: The Battle of the Bodkins by Lincoln Peirce is a quick, heavily illustrated fantasy by the author of all the Big Nate books. Max and her fellow knights in training must battle an outbreak of Bodkins - evil spirits that look exactly like people already in the kingdom. The real people are imprisoned while their evil twins destroy the kingdom. It's a romp through a Middle Ages-ish landscape.

Stefan Bachman returns with another delightful fantasy, Cinders & Sparrows.  Zita Brydgeborn receives a letter - delivered by a scarecrow - telling her she has inherited a castle, Blackbird Castle the ancestral home of a long line of powerful witches. Zita is the last.  And, of course, she must quickly learn all she can to fight the forces of Evil. It is much richer than this formula promises. Zita and the reader struggle to see who is a friend and who is a foe.  Spritely written, this book is classic fantasy.

Keep cool and READ ON!

Friday, July 9, 2021

Fans, Films, Folderol

 Grab bag blog post coming up.

FANS: Moving air is a blessing in these sweltering times. We function on window air conditioners in this house and some rooms are out of their reach. So, we use fans. They work. You can find hacks to lower the air temperature on YouTube. Hanging bottles of ice on the back of your fan, or placing a block of ice in front of your fan is a decades old fix. But moving air against your moist skin will cool just enough to make life bearable.

 FILMS: I am not a movie fan. I never want to sit still for that length of time. I can sit still and, if it's thinking or reading time, I will. But watching someone else's story for 90 plus minutes does not appeal to me. 

However Vox put together a look at the 25 best films of 2021 and some of them are so enticing, I may sit through them. I want to watch Concrete Cowboy. The film, Truffle Hunters, looks fascinating. There is a documentary - without a voice over - that features farm animals. And The Heights! The Heights! I love singing and dancing movies.  Take a look at the trailers. Find a film to love.

FOLDEROL: a list of all the things that occupy my mind.

My Mom turns 95 tomorrow.  We will gather for lunch at a restaurant to sing Happy Birthday. Hopefully, we can get the youngest sibling on FB Messenger to help us sing. He lives in Japan and it will be wee hours there. Mom will not be the oldest person there. Her sister, Aunt Mary, will turn 98 this year. 

Peace Camp at Home. The local peace and justice organization, LEPOCO, has held a week long camp for kids for 30 plus years. Last year, we went virtual because no one was going anywhere. This year, we decided to do virtual again because kids are not vaccinated yet. We put together a packet of activities for each day and send them out to registered campers. So I have been hunting up ideas to go into the packets. Click on the link above and look for Peace Camp at Home for more information. 

 And I discovered PORCUPINE VIDEOS!!!!!!

Teddy Bear is a North American porcupine, I think. And he LOVES to eat.

 Kemosabe is a South American prehensile tail porcupine who loves to eat, too. 

 The noises they make are so adorable.  They sound like cartoon animals!

 Books: I have read so many books lately -kids' fantasy and adventure and family stories - but mostly, as recent posts have reported, mysteries written in the first half of the 20th century by Patricia Wentworth or Ngaio Marsh (Dame Edith), or cozy mysteries I read so long ago that I can read them again with gusto. I stray into non-fiction from time to time. I keep promising a full report. Someday.

Other Amazing Stuff:  The grandgirl is awesomely fun. We made some puppet show videos this week. They need editing but they are typical homemade silliness. We are so lucky to have her in our lives.

I have given up on getting any beans. That plot of ground is not even growing weeds - well, not many. I suspect that my salt and vinegar weed killer may have leached into that area. DO NOT SPREAD SALT on your weeds. It will render the ground infertile. Get horticultural vinegar at your garden store if you want to kill weeds without killing bugs and birds or the soil. Save the salt for paved areas.