A Few of My Favourite Reads… from 2018

My Favourite Reads of 2018! Click on any of the titles below to read my reviews…

84, Charing Cross Road | A Tale of Two Cities | Winnie’s Great War |

Louisiana’s Way Home | Code Name VerityCaroline |

The Duchess of Bloomsbury StreetThe Snow ChildOkay For NowSquint

goodreads2018Also, I made my Goodreads Reading Challenge. 100 books for 2018. Actually it’s 102 books, but I’m still reading one book so ???. Maybe I’ll squeak another read in before the new year!

In addition to writing reviews, I also wrote some discussion posts… I always find it interesting what other people bring to a topic. So, what were the most popular discussion posts from my own blog? Here are the top five posts that you (my blog readers) liked 🙂


What was your favourite post from 2018? From your own blog, or somebody else’s… Let me know in the comments!

 

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Photo Challenge #52 / From a Distance

20181103ma_5948“Celebration” / Theme: From a Distance

A little about this photo…

These are the fireworks over Niagara Falls. I took this photo back in November, but I thought it was appropriate to save for the time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Please note all the people taking video or whatever with their smart phones. It’s funny, but I always think to myself: Why don’t those people just relax and enjoy the firework display instead of trying to capture it in a picture? Then I look down at my big DSLR camera and shut my mouth!


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

2019 Photography Challenge

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A whole new year is coming up. And that means another photography challenge with a whole new set of prompts.

Come join me, each Saturday, in posting a photo. Above is a list of the prompts to help inspire us. The order of the photos won’t matter. In other words, you don’t have to start at the top and move toward the end. For this challenge, you may pick any prompt on the list and start with that.

Bonus! If you count the number of prompts, you’ll find there are more prompts than necessary to complete the year. That’s because I find it a little easier to complete some prompts over others. So, if there’s one that’s really stumping you, no worries! You can skip it.

Want to join me? Please make sure to include the tag #2019picoftheweek so I can check out your posts! I’d love to see what kind of photos you come up with.

See you in the new year! 🙂


List of Photography Prompts for 2019:

Frozen
Wonder
Mist/Clouds
Here I Stand
Peek-a-boo
Rule of Thirds
Historical
Isn’t it Ironic?
All in a Row
Road Worthy
Solo/Duet
Under Water
Leading Lines
Take a Seat
Urban
Technology
Round/Square
Which Way?
Pick a Colour
A Long Time Ago
Sunshine
Flower
Feet/Hands
Hidden
In Good Time
Opposites Attract
All’s Well
Good as Gold
Rainy Day
Bridge
Decay
Hello!
It’s Hot
Sunrise/Sunset
Bokeh
A Small World
Three of a Kind
My Favourite Things
Silhouette
Macro
In Your Hand
Pop of Colour
Nighttime
Delightful
Home Sweet Home
Soft
More Please!
Natural Beauty
The Great Outdoors
Delicious
Authentic
Playtime
Legacy
Enigma
Serenity
Contrast
Up a Creek
In My Book
Celebrate
Into the Woods

Scenes from a Book #3

Another of my favourite Christmas scenes in a book…

3 – Little Women // by Louisa May Alcott

Little WomenI love the Christmas sequence that opens Alcott’s masterpiece. “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbles Jo. And then on Christmas morning, as they’re about to enjoy their Christmas breakfast, Marmee comes and spoils it all. She suggests they give their breakfast to a poor hungry family!

The girls know their duty, and they agree to the charity. And they end up doing it cheerfully. Later in the day, they go on to giving a performance. And after the performance, there’s a surprise waiting for them them…

The Scene:

It was like Marmee to get up a little treat for them, but anything so fine as this was unheard of since the departed days of plenty. There was ice cream, actually two dishes of it, pink and white, and cake and fruit and distracting French bonbons and, in the middle of the table, four great bouquets of hot house flowers.

It quite took their breath away, and they stared first at the table and then at their mother, who looked as if she enjoyed it immensely.

“Is it fairies?” asked Amy.

“Santa Claus,” said Beth.

“Mother did it.” And Meg smiled her sweetest, in spite of her gray beard and white eyebrows.

“Aunt March had a good fit and sent the supper,” cried Jo, with a sudden inspiration.

“All wrong. Old Mr. Laurence sent it,” replied Mrs. March.

“The Laurence boy’s grandfather! What in the world put such a thing into his head? We don’t know him!” exclaimed Meg.

“Hannah told one of his servants about your breakfast party. He is an odd old gentleman, but that pleased him. He knew my father years ago, and he sent me a polite note this afternoon, saying he hoped I would allow him to express his friendly feeling toward my children by sending them a few trifles in honor of the day. I could not refuse, and so you have a little feast at night to make up for the bread-and-milk breakfast.”

Little Women, Chapter 2


What I Love About this Scene

I just love the March sisters. I like how each of their personalities come out in the above passage as they’re trying to figure out WHO gave them the breakfast party.

I also love how they do a really hard thing at the beginning of the book. They give up something they want. This leads to an even better surprise!

And I love how this is an excellent introduction to Laurie!

Photo Challenge #51 / It’s Pretty

20181117ma_6277“Tree Lights” / Theme: It’s Pretty

A little about this photo…

Magical Christmas trees made out of lights. The only thing that would make this photo prettier would be for there to be snow on the ground! (By the way, these are part of the Festival of Lights display in Niagara Falls.)


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

Quick Pick Reviews #12

The Christmas Doll // by Elvira Woodruff

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (2000)

christmas-dollMy Thoughts: This story seems to me to be a hybrid of a Charles Dickens/George MacDonald tale… It’s about two little orphans who run away from the workhouse and end up on the streets of London. I did like the relationship the two sisters had, and the boy they meet is a fun addition. I love the element of the doll-maker, so that was definitely a bonus for me.

In many ways, the story isn’t terribly realistic. It almost has a fairy tale quality to it. However, if you know that going in, you can enjoy it for what it is. A very nice Christmas story with a sweet and happy ending. [3 Stars]


The True Gift // by Patricia MacLachlan

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2009)

true-giftMy Thoughts: A sweet story about a brother and sister who are staying with their grandparents over Christmas. Liam feels like White Cow could use a friend, and so he goes out to find her one.

I really liked how the siblings worked together on Liam’s project. While I don’t think this book quite match the magic of MacLauchlan’s Sarah Plain and Tall books, it does stand as a nice and enjoyable Christmas story.  [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #6

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Response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #6…

Crimsonprose posted a photo of “Breydon Water, all that remains of the one time Great Estuary; it hides away at the back of Great Yarmouth.” And while I know the original photo has nothing to do with dinosaurs, my first thought when I saw it was that those were dinosaur bones peeking out of the water!

Note: This dinosaur is from my visit to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada back in 2015. I highly recommend this museum to any dinosaur lovers!


Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

Scenes from a Book #2

Here’s another of my favourite Christmas scenes from a book… this one comes from the prairies.

Little House on the Prairie // Laura Ingalls Wilder

little-houseIn this Christmas story, Laura and Mary are worried that with all the rain, Santa Claus won’t be able to get to the little house. But then, on Christmas Eve, who should show up but Mr. Edwards! And he’s brought them Santa’s gifts…

The Scene:

Mr. Edwards came and sat on the floor by their bed, and he answered every question they asked him. They honestly tried not to look at Ma, and they didn’t quite see what she was doing. …

Well, the first thing Santa Claus said was, “Hello, Edwards!” (“Did he know you?” Mary asked, and Laura asked, “How did you know he was really Santa Claus?” Mr. Edwards said that Santa Claus knew everybody. And he had recognized Santa at once by his whiskers. Santa had the longest, thickest, whitest set of whiskers west of the Mississippi.) …

Then Santa Claus said: “I understand you’re living now down along the Verdigris River. Have you ever met up, down yonder, with two little young girls named Mary and Laura?”

“I surely am acquainted with them,” Mr. Edwards replied.

“It rests heavy on my mind,” said Santa Claus. “They are both of them sweet, pretty, good little young things, and I know they are expecting me. I surely do hate to disappoint two good little girls like them. Yet with the water up the way it is, I can’t ever make it across that creek. I can figure no way whatsoever to get to their cabin this year. Edwards,” Santa Claus said, “Would you do me the favor to fetch them their gifts this one time?”

“I’ll do that, and with pleasure,” Mr. Edwards told him. …

And Santa Claus uncinched the pack and looked through it, and he took out the presents for Mary and Laura.

“Oh, what are they?” Laura cried; but Mary asked, “Then what did he do?”

Then he shook hands with Mr. Edwards, and he swung up on his fine bay horse. Santa Claus rode well for a man of his weight and build. And he tucked his long, white whiskers under his bandana. “So long, Edwards,” he said, and he rode away on the Fort Dodge trail, leading his pack-mule and whistling.

Laura and Mary were silent an instant, thinking of that.

Then Ma said, “You may look now, girls.”

Something was shining bright in the top of Laura’s stocking. She squealed and jumped out of bed. So did Mary, but Laura beat her to the fireplace. And the shining thing was a glittering new tin cup.

Mary had one exactly like it.

These new tin cups were their very own. Now they each had a cup to drink out of. Laura jumped up and down and shouted and laughed, but Mary stood still and looked with shining eyes at her own tin cup. …

There never had been such a Christmas.

Little House on the Prairie, Chapter 19

What I Love About this Scene

I love the friendship Mr. Edwards displays for this family. He knows how dangerous it is to cross the river, but he does it anyway… for Laura and Mary. (While “Santa” couldn’t make it across the raging river, Mr. Edward could and did!) And it’s amazing how he makes it into an experience for the girls. A whole story! (I also love how Wilder includes the little questions the girls have when they see a potential plot hole in his story. But Mr. Edwards never missed a beat.)

I also love how Laura and Mary are thrilled with the simple gifts they receive: their tin cups, candy, a little cake made with white sugar, and a penny each! What bounty!

Photo Challenge #50 / Black and White

20180819ma_4789“Bump, Bump, Bump” / Theme: Black and White

A little about this photo…

This shot was inspired by A.A. Milne. “Here is Edward Bear coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is, as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way… if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it!”


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

All Things Jane

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Every so often, I get on a Jane Austen kick.

I’ll go to the library to check out literary critiques of Austen’s works. One of the books currently on my nightstand is called Flirting with Pride and Prejudice (edited by Jennifer Crusie). The book is a compilation of various essays about the most famous of Austen’s books. My favourite essay is entitled “Plenty of Pride and Prejudice to Go Around” by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. In it, she compares Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet with the many incarnations of the Elizabeth in the movies either based upon or inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

Baratz-Logsted questions why the Elizabeth Bennet characters have been deteriorated “into characters who, however lofty their careers, however many modern choices arrayed before them, are charming ditzes at best, babbling and insecure bumblers at worst?”

Which makes me think of a comment made by one of my friends regarding Bridget Jones Diary a few years ago. It’s no great secret that Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones Diary was inspired by Pride and Prejudice. My friend pointed out that Bridget is in fact NOT really an Elizabeth Bennet. She argued that the book is really the story of Mr. Darcy and Lydia Bennet. And I think she has a point. Bridget Jones really does have more in common with Lydia. She’s just masquerading around behind the mask of the Elizabeth Bennet character.

But back to the book on my night stand (which is now on my lap since I had to look up that quote above). The book isn’t just essays. It also has some pieces of… what to call it?… fan fiction, I guess. Fictionalized mini-stories based on various characters from the book.

And for some reason, these type of stories always make me cringe. It feels wrong to me somehow. Here’s another person trying to take Jane Austen’s place and write Georgiana’s story. Or tell what happened to Elizabeth after she married Darcy.

The one account I did manage to read (it wasn’t long—about five pages) was “The Secret Life of Mary”. Boy, was it convoluted. I mean, a love story between Mary and some Irish footman named Rory who works for Sir William Lucas?! Where Mary becomes famous for writing Austen-esque sketches of her family?! Um…

It’s stories like these that make me NOT want to read Austen-inspired rip-offs works. It makes me want to shout, “People, please leave the Jane Austen characters in the capable hands of Jane Austen!”

Yes, it’s bad Jane-Austen-inspired-stories that make me shy to read the good ones. And there ARE ones out there that aren’t bad. But to find the good ones… That is the problem. It means wading through so many disappointments. (At least for me.)

Here’s a list of books I liked/didn’t like. And some I thought were okay, but nothing to get too excited about…

Books I Liked

Austenland and Midnight in Austenland // by Shannon Hale
A Walk with Jane Austen // by Lori Smith (this is more of a memoir)
Bridget Jones Diary // by Helen Fielding (although, it’s been quite a while since I read this book; and I haven’t read the sequels because they didn’t really interest me)

Books I Thought Were Okay

Emma // by Alexander McCall Smith
Sense and Sensibility // by Joanna Trollope
Pemberley // by Emma Tennant
Prom and Prejudice // by Elizabeth Eulberg

Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits // by Mary Jane Hathaway

Books I Did NOT Like

Eligible // by Curtis Sittenfeld (DNF)
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies // by Seth Grahame-Smith (DNF)
Confession of a Jane Austen Addict // by Laurie Viera Rigler (Not crazy about the time-travelling thing)
Longbourne // by Jo Baker (DNF)
Jane and the Man of the Cloth // by Stephanie Barron (Jane Austen solving mysteries? That was just weird.)

So… Sometimes I think I’m better off to just re-read the originals. And hey! Pride and Prejudice (or Emma, or Persuasion, et al) do very well on multiple re-reads.

Because Jane Austen was the master!

What about you? Do you like to read books inspired by Jane Austen’s world? Have you read any good ones that you’d recommend?