Photo Challenge #17 / Abstract


“Icy Yellow” / Theme: Abstract

A little about this photo…

This is a follow-up in my flowers in ice experiment, but I felt this one had a more abstract feel. The bubbles and crackles in the ice. The glowing and various shades of  yellow of the flower.

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Newbery Verdict: The Higher Power of Lucky

The Higher Power of Lucky // by Susan Patron

higherpoweroflucky1.jpgWinner of the Newbery Award (2007)
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: Ten-year-old Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California, population 43. Her mother has died and Brigitte has come from France to be her temporary guardian. It’s Lucky’s job to clean up after all the twelve-step anonymous programs, so she finds herself eavesdropping on their meetings and hearing the stories of how they hit rock bottom, only to find their Higher Power. That’s when she realizes she wants to find her own Higher Power.


I really liked the town with all its quirky characters. Everybody from Lucky, Lincoln, and Miles to Short Sammy, Dot, and Brigitte. I thought Susan Patron captured this very well. Especially all those twelve-step anonymous programs on which Lucky eavesdrops! I particularly liked how she portrayed Miles and his obsession with the book Are You My Mother? …and how that connects to the search for his own mother… which is connects to Lucky’s own search for a mother. (I also happen to really like Are You My Mother? I love it when books are referenced in books! 🙂 )

I thought the ending wasn’t set up quite as well as it could have been. I actually had to go back and re-read it. Which means it didn’t have that cathartic feeling that it should have had. I mean, I saw how the situation with Brigitte was going to pan out. But that just made me think Lucky was totally over-reacting. I didn’t fully believe that this was enough to cause her to reach her rock bottom.


Miles is trying to get Lucky to read to him from his all-time favourite book, Are You My Mother?

Lucky had no time to be nice. “That book is wrecked,” she said. “It looks even worse now.”

Miles smoothed the duct tape. “It’s still fine inside,” he said. “Could you read it to me?”

“Miles, get a life. You already know the story by heart, and it’s boring.”

“No, it’s not! The part about the Snort is good, and so is the part where he finds his mother at the end.”

(Chapter 16)


So… did it deserve the Newbery Award? Well, I happen to know that Rules by Cynthia Lord was also in the running for 2007. I really liked that book and I probably would have given it the Newbery instead. Not that I didn’t like this book. I would have given this book a Newbery Honor.


Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? What did you think of the ending? Do you think it deserved the Newbery? Let me know in the comments!

Newbery Verdict Reading Challenge: This is a personal challenge for me to read books that have either won the Newbery Medal, or are a Newbery Honor book. The Newbery is named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. Since 1922, this annual award has given to the author of the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” A Newbery Honor book is given to the runners-up.

What’s in a Name?


It’s Shakespeare’s birthday! But really the only Shakespeare reference in this blogpost is the title. What I really want to talk about is… names.

There are certain names I cannot stand.

Other names that I just don’t really care for.

When I stop to think about it, I realize that these names fall under two categories:

1) As a kid, I knew somebody with that name. (Most likely a person that wasn’t particularly nice to me. So, I have somehow come to associate the name with meanness or hurt feelings.)

2) The name was given to an “evil” character in a book or movie. Again, usually dating back to my childhood. (When I really think about it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the name Ursula. Except I associate it with a certain sea-witch. Thanks, Disney!)

Interestingly enough, this goes both ways. I LOVE certain names because of certain people. And this extends to the book world. There are names I love because of certain books.


Apparently, I liked to wear hot pink pants. You can see the same pants in the pic below. (It was the ’90s)

When I was 16, I lived for a year in Spain with my grandparents. It was something that I wanted to do. And it was a great opportunity. My grandmother and I had a great relationship. My grandfather spoiled my with chocolate and churros. We walked everywhere. We spent time at the beach (we lived on the Mediterranean). We did our weekly shopping at the open air market.

But I was an ocean away from my family-family. I was living in a place that did not speak English. And I did not have access to many English books. (I was learning Spanish, so I did read Spanish books. Starting with “baby” books and eventually graduating to the Spanish editions of The Babysitters Club!)

So, at times I was lonely. Homesick. (Not that I EVER admitted that. However, when I look back, that’s really what I was.)


The garden where “my cats” hung out. Too bad I never got a photo of the cats.

There were these feral cats that lived in the garden at the base of our apartment building. A mother cat with a “teenaged” kitten, and twin baby kittens. I would sit at our balcony on the second floor and watch them come and go from their home in the hedge. (You can see the hedge in the photo.)

I decided to name those cats. The mother (a black and white cat) was called “Marilla” and the teen cat (a black cat) was “Anne”. The twin kittens were “Davy” and “Dora”. (Can you tell that I was, and am, an Anne of Green Gables fan?)

And then there was “Mr. Phillips”.

He was a male cat that came by every once in a while. He was orange. And I did NOT like him. (For some reason, I am not crazy about orange cats.) And so I gave him the name “Mr. Phillips”. It was the nastiest name I could think of. Meant to be an utter insult. (Once my grandmother pointed out that perhaps Mr. Phillips was the father of the Davy and Dora. Never! I cried to her. Never say such a thing!)

Come to think of it, it’s not that there’s anything wrong with name Phillip, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I would never bestow that name on any creature (real or fictitious) that I like. (My apologies to all the Phillips out there!)

What’s in a name? Shakespeare claims a name doesn’t matter. And it probably shouldn’t. But somehow, it does.

And sometimes, our reasons for liking or not liking a name may not exactly make a lot of sense.


Do you find certain names are a turn-off? Are there other names to bring you happiness? Do you think a character’s name can ever affect the way you view a book?

Photo Challenge #16 / Vintage


“Vintage Dodge” / Theme: Vintage

A little about this photo…

I know very little about cars. Very. Little. (The only reason I know this is a Dodge is that it says so on the front!) But still, I love the look of old cars. I love how this one is peeking out from behind the fence. And I love that the fence behind it seems to be almost as old as the car itself! I took this right around sunset. I love how you can see the faint hints on this in the hood of car.

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Review: Not If I Save You First

Book: Not If I Save You First
Author: Ally Carter
Genre: YA, Contemporary/Thriller
Rating: 3.5 Stars

not-if-i-save-you-firstBasic Plot: Maddie and Logan are best friends. He’s the son of the President of the United States. She’s the daughter of the head of the Secret Service. Then, all of a sudden, Maddie and her dad move to Alaska, with no access to the outside world. Maddie writes letters to Logan, but he never responds. Then, six years later, he shows up in Alaska. Maddie is furious with him. But then he gets kidnapped, and she realizes that it’s up to her to save him.


1) The setting in Alaska. And while there IS snow, that’s not really why it’s cool. They’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere… a world so different from our own. (Unless, you happen to be reading this in an isolated cabin Alaska. But then, why do you have internet? Maddie doesn’t. UNLESS, you’re a spy with some fancy satellite connection. Then, if that’s you, why are you reading this blog?)

2) I really liked the opening chapters that are set at the White House. I love the juxtaposition between the “two lives” that Maddie has led. The one in DC versus the one in the middle of nowhere, Alaska.

3) Each chapter opens with one of the letters Maddie has written to Logan over the past six years. At first, this seems like just a neat way to show how Maddie has spent the lonely hours in the wilderness. However, as it turns out, those letters do prove to be plot-important.

4) Stefan makes for an interesting “bad guy”. He had some good points about him. But there were also some not-so-good points. (See What’s Not Cool)

5) The final phrase of the book gives us the context of the book’s title. (But don’t read it ahead of time!)


1) Re: Stefan. I didn’t understand why he lets Maddie and Logan talk so much after he’s kidnapped them. I kept thinking: “If I were Stefan, I wouldn’t let them do that.” I might have even gagged them. Maybe I’m a better kidnapper than Stefan? (Uh oh. That’s probably not a good thing.)

2) I felt the story got a tiny bit convoluted at the end.

3) People get shot throughout this book. Some of these same people don’t die. I find that pretty amazing… and kind of… unbelievable? Not that I WANT them to die. It’s just pushing my suspension of disbelief…


This quote comes at a time when Maddie is showing Logan how to start a fire in the middle of nowhere. (Note: Mad Dog is her father’s nickname for her. Logan also uses this nickname from time to time.)

“I told you, Mad Dog,” he said at last. He made himself meet her gaze. “I remember everything I read.”

(Chapter 20)


My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – Overall, I did like this book. I felt engaged pretty much from the outset. I liked the letters and thought they tied the book together quite nicely. It’s just a little convoluted at the end. (But for the ending, it would have gotten 4 stars.)


Have you read this book? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

5 Reasons Why I Loved 84, Charing Cross Road

When I finished reading this book, I was overwhelmed. I’m actually giving this book a 5-star rating. (And I NEVER give out 5 stars. Well, hardly ever.) This is definitely on the list of the Best Books I’ve Read This Year! Note: It’s an older book, originally published in 1970. But I hope that won’t stop you from reading this wonderful peek into the past.

So, in honour of those 5 stars, I’ll give 5 reasons why I loved this book…

84, Charing Cross Road // by Helene Hanff

#1 – The Letters

84-Charing-Cross-Road.jpgIf you’ve never read this book, then let me tell you that it is written in a series of letters. What makes this so unique is that the letters are between a woman writer who lives in New York City and a bookseller in post-World War II London. Why is she writing to a bookseller across an ocean? She wants books! (Yes, these are the pre-Amazon days. She apparently was ahead of her time.)

This is probably one of the best epistolary book I’ve ever read. First, because it uses the art of letter-writing so well. And second, it doesn’t fall into the trap of most epistolary books… where letter-writing characters write about things for the sake of us (the reader), thus creating unrealistic correspondence. The reason for this is probably due to the fact that the letters are indeed real. (This is a non-fiction book, after all.)

#2 – The Books

This is really a must-read if you love books or bookstores or … well, anything related to books. (Come to think of it, if you like books, you’ll probably like bookstores and anything related to books!) I love how Helene talks about her favourite books. And in one letter, reveals how much she despises novels. Then in a later letter, well… I’ll let her words say it all:

Favourite Quote: “You’ll be fascinated to learn (from me that hates novels) that I finally got round to Jane Austen and went out of my mind over Pride & Prejudice which I can’t bring myself to take back to the library til you find me a copy of my own.” (p.51)

#3 – The Unanswered Questions

I love that there are unanswered questions in this book. Just like in real life. People come and people go out of that life. (Often I think of a person from my past and wonder “What ever happened to them?”)

And there are missing letters in this exchange of correspondence. But I was never confused. I felt that it all gave an air of reality. Yes, I loved the reality of this book.

#4 – The Friendship

If you’re looking for a romance in this story, you won’t find it. Now, I love a good romance as well as the next person. But I LOVED that this book was about friendship. A friendship chronicled in letters.

The correspondence starts with Helene addressing a letter to the “Gentlemen” at Marks & Co. (Bookstore), 84, Charing Cross Road, London. The response is to “Dear Madam”. In subsequent letters, we see the salutations evolve to “Dear Helene” and “Dear Frank” (or sometimes, in Helene’s case, she’ll address him as “Hey, Frankie” or “SLOTH”.

Favourite Quotes: “[Letter from Helene] I hope ‘madam’ doesn’t mean over there what it does here.” (p.3)


“To All at 84, Charing Cross Road: Thank you for the beautiful book… Would you believe it arrived on my birthday? I wish you hadn’t been so over-courteous about putting the inscription on a card instead of on the flyleaf… And why didn’t you sign your names? I expect Frank wouldn’t let you…” (p.27)

#5 – The History

The historian in me was in heaven as I read this… realizing that this book is written in letters by REAL people at the time in which this story is set. This book is actually categorized as non-fiction. Which means it really happened! And knowing that the book-Helene is the same as author-Helene, well, I can certainly believe she didn’t fiddle with artistic license. (With her disdain for fiction!)

While I love a well-written historical novel, there’s something wonderful about a book that actually comes out of experience of the time period. And this book has that in spades. We have the post-war rationing; the death of the King George; the re-election of Churchill; the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth…

Favourite Quote: “11th June, 1953… Dear Helene, Just a note to let you know that your parcel arrived safely on June 1, just in time for our Coronation Day celebrations…” (p.59)

Finally, after reading this book, I wanted to go to 84, Charing Cross Road! But alas, the bookstore is no longer there… (I read somewhere that it’s a MacDonald’s now??? Say it ain’t so!)

Have you read this book? Did you love it as much as me? Let me know in the comments!

Photo Challenge #15 / On the Shelf


“Blue Glass” / Theme: On the Shelf

A little about this photo…

This is my grandma’s collection of blue glass. She is my last surviving grandparent. She still lives in her own home (with my aunt). The shelf is located above her kitchen sink. These blue bottles have been there for as long as I can remember. We just celebrated her 91st birthday. She can’t see so well anymore thanks to macular degeneration. But every morning, she stands by her kitchen window. What does she see? She must see at least a blur of blue, right?

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek

Speaking of Spoilers

Have you ever had a book spoiled for you?

Usually, I find that this happens with books that deal with death in some way. Or with some secret. Often, the spoiler is unintentional. We assume the other person has already read the book. Oops. They haven’t.

I have tried to keep this blog post Spoiler-Free! So, even if you haven’t read these books, you should be good… I hope.

The First Four Years // by Laura Ingalls Wilder

TheFirstFourYearsThe first time I recall this happening was when I was about 10 or 11 years old. I was reading the final instalment of the Little House books. I was right in the middle of the story when we went on a family trip to visit some friends, people we only saw maybe once a year. During the visit, I told my friend what I was reading (because that’s the kind of nerds that we were).

And that’s when she said to me… “Oh, isn’t it sad when SO-AND-SO dies!”

My eyes probably nearly popped out of my head… because SO-AND-SO hadn’t died yet! In fact, I had no clue, saw no hint, that tragedy was about to strike. I was in shock.

But, I didn’t say anything to my friend. I didn’t tell her that she just spoiled the awful, awful secret of this book. Maybe she guessed. But probably not. I remember telling her that, “Yes, it was very sad.” Then tried to quickly move on to another topic.


Walk Two Moons // by Sharon Creech

Walk-Two-MoonsThis one happened more recently. Different culprit.

I had recommended the book to this person, because I knew the author’s work is good. And it won a Newbery. But, for some reason, I hadn’t read it yet.

This person returned the book to me and then proceeded to “discuss” the INSERT-SPOILER-HERE. Shades of The First Four Years came back to me. I closed my ears as best I could and tried to forget what I had just heard. In fact, I put the book away and didn’t even read it…

Until about a year later.

By that time, I couldn’t quite remember what the spoiler was. And so I finally read the book. And really enjoyed it. And when I did get to the SPOILER, it partly came back to me. But it was still a good book…

Jane Eyre // by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

Well, don’t think my friends are the only culprits who blab about spoilers. As it turns out, I can be just as guilty.

I made the assumption that a friend of mine had already read Jane Eyre. Or seen the movie, or something.

I mean, hasn’t everybody?!

So, I made some witty statement to her involving the words “secret”, “mad”, and “attic”… (which, if you don’t know, is a HUGE spoiler in the book). Now this friend of mine (unlike cowardly me) was brave enough to tell me: “Um… I haven’t actually read Jane Eyre.”

Oops! Sorry…

Just try to forget everything I just said.

What about you? Ever had a book ruined by a spoiler? Have you ever been guilty of dropping a spoiler?

Review: The Snow Child

Snow-ChildBook: The Snow Child
Author: Eowyn Ivey
Genre: Adult, Historical/Fairy Tale
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: A childless couple moves to the wilds of Alaska in the 1920s to homestead. A mysterious child and her fox capture the hearts and imagination of Mabel and Jack. But this girl seems other-worldly. She disappears every year with the melting of the snow… only to return with the winter winds.


1) The snow! (ha ha) 😉

2) This book is based on several versions of a fairy tale where a childless couple builds a little “snow child” only to have the child come alive. This is a beautiful re-imagining of those tales. I love the fairy tale elements of this story, the unexplainable.

3) The story is also firmly set in the real, historical world. While there are some fantastical elements, they are very soft. In fact, like Esther in the book, you can explain it all away. Or at least most of it. Which I also find appealing. (Note: This aspect of the story reminded me a lot of the book Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman.)

4) The relationship between Mabel and Esther is wonderful. The bond of two women in a world of men. Esther is no shrinking violet. And in many ways, this is an unlikely friendship. But it works. One of the most wonderful sections of the book is when (slight spoiler) Jack is injured and Esther comes with her son Garrett to help with the farm work. Why? Because she’s determined not to lose her neighbours.

5) The relationship between Jack and Mabel (the husband/wife duo of the story) is also wonderful. They don’t always agree, but their love for one another is beautiful. What a marriage should be.

6) I love the cover of this book. The child and the fox peeking out from behind the trees… Lovely!


1) This isn’t a quick read. Now, that’s not necessarily bad, as long as you realize this. It’s not a page-turner. It’s more like a meandering walk through the woods. (Although, by Part 3, the pace does pick up a bit.)

2) I don’t get WHY they never name the dog. Why not?! (Poor dog.)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I love this historical fairy tale. It blends elements of a Little-House-on-the-Prairie-type book (set in Alaska) with a Russian folk tale. Beautifully written. (Note: Even though it is a fairy tale, it is meant for adults, rather than children.)

Photo Challenge #14 / Still Life


“Pink Tulips at Night” / Theme: Still Life

A little about this photo…

I’ve been meaning to do a still life shot for awhile now. The chance came with these beautiful, pink tulips. I love how they are nearing the end of their blooming and are kind of flopping all over the place. Since I shot this at night, I was working with two off-camera flashes. I don’t do a lot of flash work, so this was part of the challenge for me.

THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2018picoftheweek