Photo Challenge #26 / Sweet

20180621ma_3616
“Giant Ice Cream Cone” / Theme: Sweet

A little about this photo…

This ice cream cone is proudly displayed in front of one of those old ice cream stands. I think the stand has been there since the 1960s. The cone itself is pretty big, at least 3-4 feet tall. I left the trees in for scale (Yes, they’re at a distance, but I think they still help you understand that this ice cream cone is giant!) I also love how it’s made of wood.

It’s going to a HOT day today. I think we’re going to need some ice cream!


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

Advertisements

Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow

clockwork-sparrowBook: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
Author: Katherine Woodfine
Genre: MG, Historical/Mystery
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: Sinclair’s, a new department store in London, is approaching its grand opening. But then, the priceless Clockwork Sparrow is stolen. It’s up to Sophie, Lilian, Billy, and Joe to figure just who the villains are and to return the Clockwork Sparrow to its rightful home.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I liked the atmosphere around the opening of the department store: Sinclair’s. I thought the little petty competition between the shop girls was nicely done. This certainly made me like Sophie more. And of course Lil.

2) Which brings me to Sophie and Lil… The two characters are opposites and nicely complement each other. Lil is spontaneous and self-confident. Sophie is more proper and refined.

3) I liked that the mysterious Baron remains mysterious.

4) This book has secret tunnels! Did you get that? Secret. Tunnels. Under London. Ah, who doesn’t like a secret tunnel?

5) The book cover is wonderful. It’s even better in real life. The gold lettering against the blue. The silhouettes are especially fun.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) While I liked the boys (Billy and Joe), I felt it almost too early for them to join the cast. I hardly know the girls and I think the boys might have been better suited to being introduced in later books???

2) The mystery was okay. However, what I don’t understand is why the grown-ups are not looking out for the young people. The Private Detective says at the end that he had a man shadowing Sophie, so… Hmm… Without spoiling the plot, all I can say is I don’t get why they didn’t ACTUALLY protect her.

3) Things were a little too neatly tied up at the end of the book. Like the location of the clockwork sparrow and how it is discovered. Really? (Is the Baron that careless?)

4) The word “bomb” felt out of place in this book world. I would have preferred the word “explosives” instead of “bomb”. It’s supposed to be prior to World War I. I don’t know how much the word “bomb” would have been on the tongues of the people in this world. It felt wrong.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I liked the story. I loved the setting in the department store. I’m being a little picky here, but there were just a few things that took me out of the story. There are two more sequels. I’m not rushing out to get them, but I will probably give them a go and see where the next mystery leads us.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Don’t you just love that book cover? (The cover looks even better in person!) I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Review: Okay For Now

Okay-for-NowBook: Okay For Now
Author: Gary D. Schmidt
Genre: Upper MG, Historical Fiction (1960s)
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Doug and his family have just moved to a new town and he hates it there. But then he discovers Audubon’s book, Birds of America, in the library. He goes every Saturday and the librarian sets him on a path to to learn how to draw the birds. Soon he discovers that the birds are slowly being cut out of the book to be sold by the town council. That’s when Doug takes it upon himself to find the missing birds and return them to their rightful spot in the book at the library.

Note: This is a companion book to The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I loved learning about John James Audubon. Each chapter begins with a picture of one of the birds from the book. And I enjoyed the art lessons at the library with Mr. Powell! I was definitely rooting for Doug to get all the missing birds back into the book.

2) Doug’s English teacher decides that her eighth graders are going to study Jane Eyre (the 160-page abridged version, which for Doug is 160 pages too long). I love Jane Eyre and any book that uses this book as part of their plot is almost a sure bet in my eyes. I also love that this book (Jane Eyre) ends up inspiring other aspects of the plot.

3) I liked how the author had Miss Cowper’s “County Literacy Unit” fit into solving one of Doug’s problems in the book. I love this teacher.

4) The Baseball Quiz/Game at the work picnic for Doug’s father’s work was a fun chapter. Especially in light of the fact that Doug is dealing with some hard things at this time and here he really is able to shine. He’s the one that is able to help his “partner” go for the gold.

5) I loved the character growth and arcs for Doug’s brothers, his father, Coach Reed, Principal Peattie, et al.

6) The relationship with Lil is very sweet.

7) I liked how Schmidt worked the various themes into the book… The flowers (or lack of flowers) for his mother show the growth and the family’s ability to flourish (or not flourish). And the use of the various stages of the Apollo moon mission (Apollos 8 through 11) also is used well to show how much hope and hard work can accomplish.

8) Doug has a great voice in this book.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I felt that some of the teachers/classes were not necessary to mention. I kept getting some of the lesser ones mixed up with the teachers we needed to know about. (For example: I think the Geography teacher could have disappeared from the book and nothing bad would have happened.)

2) In one of the chapters, Doug lists the birds that are missing from the book. I wish this list had been repeated later on in the book with an update on which birds had been successfully retrieved and which ones were still missing. I even tried to go back to find that first list and couldn’t find it easily. That annoyed me.

3) The title of this book is just… OKAY. (Ha ha!) The Wednesday Wars (the companion book) is a great title. Okay for Now… Hmm, not so memorable. (I keep having to look it up to know what it is!)

FAVOURITE QUOTE

Can you imagine anyone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Can you imagine Joe Pepitone buying tickets to Jane Eyre?

Me neither.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Okay, so I LOVED The Wednesday Wars by the same author. This is a companion book and I LOVED this one just as much (almost as much?). If these two books had to be ranked in which one I liked better, I don’t know who would win. 🙂


YOUR TURN…

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

Photo Challenge #25 / Modern

20180610ma_3569
“Wind Power” / Theme: Modern

A little about this photo…

I took this photo while we were driving. (Don’t worry. I wasn’t the one in the driver’s seat!) These modern windmills pepper the landscape on this one stretch of highway. They are huge! You can see the power lines in the back and that one tree is pretty big in and of itself.

For this pic, I wanted to capture some of the motion of the car, which is why you see the foreground all wispy and streaky. I wish I could have gotten some movement to the actual windmills, but they were going too slow, and we were going too fast.


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

Tag / This or That?

20180607ma_3567
I don’t often do tags, but I thought this one sounded like fun. And I was nominated by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer. Thanks, Dani! This is for you!

The Rules

  • Mention the creator: Anita from Discovering Your Happiness, of the This or That Tag as a way to get to know bloggers’ preferences.
  • Thank and link back to the person who nominated you so they can read your answers.
  • Answer the Questions.
  • Nominate 10+ bloggers.

This or That // My Answers

Dog or Cat?
Um… Probably neither. Our family was more a bird family. I like dogs, but I wouldn’t want to walk a dog everyday. And cats… hmm, I’m not really a cat person.

Netflix or YouTube?
Youtube. I’m frugal (Read: cheap?). I don’t like the idea of paying for Netflix.

Phone Call or Text?
Phone call.

Toast or Eggs?
Is this an either/or? I usually have toast for breakfast. And when I eat eggs, I need toast. So, I guess that answers the questions. Toast, all the way!

Cardio or Weights?
Cardio.

Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook.

Ice Cream Cone or Snow Cone?
Ice Cream Cone.

Mobile Games or Console Games?
**Rolls eyes** (I haven’t played a computer game since the 1980s.)

While walking: Music or Podcasts?
Neither. I talk to myself instead. I think through writing ideas mostly.

Although I do like to listen to music while I’m working. Usually while I’m in Photoshop. I find music inspiring! And I also like to listen to podcasts. Again, while I’m working.

iOS or Android?
Can you believe it? I do NOT own a smart phone!

Cake or Pie?
Pie. (Unless it’s pumpkin pie. If it’s pumpkin pie, then I’ll have the cake, please!)

Swimming or Sunbathing?
I’m not crazy about either.

Big Party or Small Gathering?
Small Gathering!

New Clothes or New Phone?
I’d rather have a new piece of photography equipment instead.

Rich Friend or Loyal Friend?
Loyal Friend. Definitely.

Football or Basketball?
Figure Skating?

Nice Car or Nice Home Interior?
Nice Camera.

What’s worse: Laundry or Dishes?
Dishes. Especially pots and pans.

Jogging or Hiking?
Hiking. (So, I can take my camera.)

Bath or Shower?
Shower. I don’t understand why grown-ups like baths. I understand why kids like baths, ’cause you can actually float in the bathtub. So, unless it’s a hot tub, I don’t care for baths.

Sneakers or Sandals?
Sneakers.

Glasses or Contacts?
Glasses. I’m scared of contacts.

Hamburger or Taco?
Both!

Couch or Recliner?
Couch.

Online Shopping or Shopping in a Store?
Online.

Receive: Email or Letter?
Letter.

Passenger or Driver?
Passenger. I’d rather daydream. I rather somebody else pay attention to the road. (But I am glad I know how to drive.)

Tablet or Computer?
Computer.

Most important in a partner: Intelligent or Funny?
The problem with this question is that I want both. I wouldn’t want somebody to be intelligent but have no sense of humour. And if somebody was funny without being intelligent? That person is probably NOT for me.

Car or Truck?
Car.

Blue or Red?
Blue.

Money or Free Time?
Free Time.

Amusement Park or Day at the Beach?
How about going to the Theatre.

At a movie: Candy or Popcorn?
Neither. Too expensive. (I’m cheap, remember?)

Pen or Pencil?
Pen. (Except when I’m lining a script. Then pencil.)

Toilet paper: Over or Under?
Over.

Cups in the cupboard: Right Side Up or Up Side Down?
Up side down.

Pancake or Waffle?
Waffle.

Coke or Pepsi?
I used to like Coke better. But I don’t drink either anymore.

Coffee Cup or Thermos?
I prefer a Ceramic Mug, if that’s what you’re asking.

Blinds or Curtain?
Blinds.

Train or Plane?
Train.

Phone or Tablet?
Neither. I’d rather have a Laptop.

Iced Coffee or Hot Coffee?
I don’t drink coffee.

Meat or Vegetables?
I don’t eat a lot meat, but I do like meat. I also like vegetables.

International Vacation or a New TV?
International Vacation. Think of all the photos…

Save or Spend?
I love to Save!

Honesty or Other’s Feelings?
Other’s Feelings.

Coffee or Tea?
Tea!

TV or Book?
Book!

Movie at Home or Movie at the Theater?
Probably, Movie at Home.

Ocean or Mountains?
Mountains.

Horror Movie or Comedy Movie?
Comedy. I don’t do Horror.

City or Countryside?
It depends.

Winter or Summer?
Spring.

Mac or PC?
PC.

Console Gaming or PC Gaming?
Haven’t I answered this question already?!

Soup or Sandwich?
Soup in winter. Sandwich in summer.

Card Game or Board Game?
Board Game.

Camping or Binge Watching Shows at Home?
I guess I’ll pick the Binge Watching Shows at Home. I’m a home body.

Working Alone or Working in a Team?
Working Alone.

Dine In or Delivery?
Dine In.

Sweater or Hoodie?
Hoodie.

Motorcycle or Bicycle?
Bicycle. Motorcycles scare me.

Book or eBook?
Book!

When sleeping: Fan or No Fan?
Usually… No Fan.

TV Shows or Movies?
Movies.


Wow! That was A LOT of questions…

As for Nominations… I nominate YOU… if you want to do this. And if you do, please link back to me so I can read your answers. 🙂

Newbery Verdict: Gone Away Lake

Gone Away Lake // by Elizabeth Enright

gone-awayNewbery Honor Book (1958)
Genre: MG, Contemporary (Historical)
Rating: 2.5 Stars*

(Note: *Sorry, Elizabeth Enright, I usually LOVE your books, but I just couldn’t love this one. Although, I think that I’d probably have given it a higher rating if I were a kid reading it.)

Basic Plot: Portia and Foster are a sister and brother, who along with their cousin, Julian, discover secrets of a forgotten lake-side community called Gone-Away Lake.

MY THOUGHTS…

Gone-Away Lake and the old houses are uber-cool! As a child, I would have really liked this and as an adult I did. Bonus points! I liked Mrs. Cheever and Mr. Payton who were a little like Miss Havisham, but in a good way. I enjoyed the old stories about the people who summered at the lake. Rescuing the cats. The Philosopher’s stone. These stories in themselves are worth the read.

However, I wasn’t crazy about the main characters. I didn’t hate them, but I didn’t love them either. Then when the grown-ups come in, some of the magic disappeared. (And I’m not talking about the Gone-Away grown-ups).

FAVOURITE QUOTE…

Portia and Julian drew in a breath of surprise at exactly the same instant, because at the northeast end of the swamp, between the reeds and the woods, and quite near to them, they saw a row of wrecked old houses. There were perhaps a dozen of them; all large and shabby, though once they must have been quite elaborate, adorned as they were with balconies, turrets, widows’ walks, and lacy wooden trimming. But now the balconies were sagging and the turrets tipsy; the shutters were crooked or gone, and large sections of wooden trimming had broken off. There was a tree sticking out of one of the windows, not into it but out of it. And everything was as still as death.

“Now who would go and build a lot of houses on the edge of a mosquitoey old swamp like that?” inquired Julian. But the next time he spoke it was in a whisper. “Porsh! Those houses are empty! They’re all deserted, Porsh! It’s a ghost town.”

(Chapter 2)

NEWBERY VERDICT…

This book was published in 1958. I hate to say that I don’t think it has aged very well. I love, love, love this author’s The Saturdays (and its sequels). I wish I could say the same for this book. That said, I do think I probably would have loved reading it as a child, just because of the old, abandoned ghost town. However, the mark of a truly great children’s book is for an adult to pick it up and love it (despite not being a child anymore). Did I just read this book too late??

YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? Did you read this a kid? Did you love it? Am I being too harsh on this book? 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.

Photo Challenge #24 / Sparkle

20160228ma_0486b
“Peek-a-Boo Fish” / Theme: Sparkle

A little about this photo…

This is kind of a sad post for me. This is Roger, my fish. He died this week. Many will think: Who cares! It’s a goldfish. They never live very long anyway. Did you know that Roger lived for almost 10 years! I know. Who knew goldfish could live that long?

I inherited him from my sister’s kids who were moving away for a year (summer 2010-2011). Their mom (my sister) told me NOT to let Roger die or else the children would be devastated. When they came back after the year, I was happy to return Roger to them, safe and sound. A year later, the family moved away again. Guess who got the fish? Yes, Auntie Maria has taken care of Roger for over seven and a half years now.

Okay, so this little fish’s death hasn’t devastated me, but it is still a little sad. He was such a happy, sparkly fish! (Hence the theme: Sparkle)

P.S. This is the first photo I’ve posted for this challenge that wasn’t taken in 2018. (I took this back in 2016.) At first, I thought this was a throw-away shot. But it has since become my favourite photo of Roger. I love its simplicity. The diagonal lines and other shapes. I love how it looks like he’s playing peek-a-boo.


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

What Do You Consider a Historical Novel?

20180613ma_3589
I love history. I love novels. Put those two together, and you’ve got one of my favourite things: Historical Novels!

But what exactly makes a novel “historical”?

Jane Austen’s books are set in the 1800s, but that doesn’t make them “historical novels”. And yet Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is considered to be a historical novel simply because Dickens was writing about historical events that took place sixty-some years earlier.

But what about more recent history?

Last month, I read Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. As I was reading, I got the sense that this book wasn’t set in today’s world… a realization that was solidified with the mention that the sitting president was Bill Clinton. Aha, said my brain. It’s the 1990s!

little-fires-everywhere.jpgNow, as it turns out, Clinton’s presidency (or rather the Monica Lewinsky scandal) weaves its way into the book. Not that President Clinton is an actual character in the book—he’s not; nor is Monica—but he’s talked about, primarily by the narrator… for thematic purposes.

Okay, I reasoned… so, this book is a contemporary read. In fact, I’ve noticed that many bloggers categorize it as such. Which means it must have been written in the late 90s or early 2000s, right?

I checked the copyright date.

2017.

Wait a minute. That’s last year! In case, you didn’t already know. 😉

So, is this book considered contemporary fiction? Or is it historical fiction?

Historical fiction is usually defined as a book where the historical setting is important to the plot of the book. It’s easy to categorize a book set in Japan during World War II, or one set in London during the time of Elizabeth I.

I would argue that the historical references of the 1990s in this book are rather important to the plot. (And it isn’t just the stuff about Clinton. It’s also the timing with regards to test-tubes babies and the days when infertility was discussed in hushed whispers; the nature of Mia’s photography and art; the Jerry Springer talk show phenomenon; an era before smart phones existed.)

Your Turn…

My question is this… Does all this make the book historical fiction? The 90s really isn’t that long ago, and I get the sense that many people don’t like to think of the recent past as “historical”.

So, how would you classify it? Do you call it “historical fiction” if it’s history of the recent past? Or do you consider the 1990s (or even the 1980s or 1960s or 70s for that matter) to be too recent to be labelled “historical”? (And if so, where’s the cut off point for you?)

These are genuine questions and I’d love to hear your thoughts! 

ARC Review: The Button War

button-warThe Button War // by Avi
Release Date: June 12, 2018
Genre: Upper MG, Historical (WWI)
My Rating: 4 Stars

**Note: I received a free copy of this title from the people at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Basic Plot: It’s August 1914 in a small village in Poland. The Great War has begun, but Patryk and his six friends are caught up in their own Button War… to see which boy can find (read: steal) the best button from the uniforms of the various occupying soldiers. Little do they know that this war is going to have deadly consequences.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Thank-you, Mr. Avi, for putting “August 1914” before the first chapter. It set the scene right off the bat. I knew exactly what time period I was reading about.

2) I love learning something new. This story takes place in Poland at the outset of the First World War. The inciting incident involves an aeroplane dropping a bomb. Now, I always associate bombs with WWII, not WWI, so I found this an extremely interesting plot point. (And I did some research. Yes, bombing did happen during WWI.)

3) The bickering between the boys. I love how this is portrayed, especially early on in the book. I reminded me of Stand by Me… the Polish version! The sausage-eating Wojtex… Drugi, the one who asks all the questions… Jurek who keeps telling everybody that he’s the descendant of King Boleslaw… and the narrator, Patryk, who’s trying to keep everything balanced.

Next moment, Wojtex said, “My father told me that more Russain soldiers were coming. Maybe Cossacks.”

Jurek said, “Love to see them.”

“Why?” asked Drugi.

Jurek said, “They’re the best fighters in the world.”

Drugi asked, “Who are the Russian going to fight?”

“Germans,” said Wojtex. …

There was a moment of silence. After which Drugi asked, “What’s the war about?”

We were silent. No one knew the answer.

(Chapter 7)

4) The buttons! Maybe because I’ve always had a thing about buttons, I loved the collecting and the descriptions.

5) I love how the button contest echoes what happening with regards to the Great War. The boys are vying to be Button King, just as the nations of Europe were going to war to be king of the world. You have Jurek, the bully who will stop at nothing to be king, dragging the rest of the boys into the Button War, whether they want to or not. And then, really bad things happen.

6) The foreshadowing is just… wow. I didn’t catch all of it, but peeking back at earlier chapters after completing the book, I definitely saw various instances of foreshadowing. Like the the mention of the Cosacks… And the fierce look in Jurek’s eyes after Patryk throws away the first button.

7) The ending is very sad. Although, it’s not necessarily an “unhappy” ending. The last quarter of the book or so, there’s a lot of bloodshed (off screen). Jurek’s claim at the very end is troubling; sad because it’s also so empty. Like, doesn’t he realize what has happened.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) The super short chapters. Argh! I don’t understand why authors choose to write super short chapters.

2) I found the names to be difficult at times. I could not always remember who was who. This might have been partly because of all the Polish names I wasn’t familiar with, but it’s also because there are seven boys. And not all the boys are as important to the story as the others are, so it was sometimes hard to keep track of who was who.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – I really enjoyed this book, if “enjoyed” can be a word to describe it. The book deals with some very troubling aspects of war. Actually, come to think of it, it has some overtones of Lord of the Flies. Very interesting on the historical side of things and I would recommend this to anybody who wants to read something something a little different about World War I. Definitely this book is meant for a more mature reader.

Photo Challenge #23 / Entrance

20180521ma_3345
“Doorway to Someplace Magical” / Theme: Entrance

A little about this photo…

This is the site of the ruins of the old Woollen Mill, built in 1824, near Jordan, Ontario. At one time, it was a grand five story building. This photo shows what is left of it. This doorway is probably an old window. And it is indeed an entrance to a creek below. And if you climb the rocks to follow the creek, you’ll get to a beautiful waterfall.

That’s the prosaic explanation. But, I always think it looks like a doorway to another world. Narnia perhaps?


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