Crimson’s Creative Challenge #11

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In response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #11

Crimsonprose posted a photo of a sheep staring into the camera.

My response is a photo of a goat. The title of this photo: “Here’s looking at you, kid!” (Pun very much intended.)


Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

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Two Different Books, Same Topic

I recently read two middle-grade books that take place during Hurricane Katrina. What an interesting experience to read these books back-to-back.

finding-someplaceFinding Someplace // by Denise Lewis Patrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2015)

My Thoughts: This one had a lot of potential, but it got mixed up with too many characters and too many themes. It’s a book that doesn’t quite know what it is. The main character is Reesie, the only daughter in an African-American family living in New Orleans. It’s her goal in life to be a fashion designer. And guess what? It’s her birthday!

That’s when Hurricane Katrina strikes. So far, so good. We soon learn that she’s terrified of water! (Backstory: She almost drowned in a swimming pool once.) But here’s where things start to go downhill. When there’s water all around her, does she freak out? Does she have a panic attack? No and no. The only other time this fear is mentioned (that I recall) is when her neighbour says something about it toward the end of the book. Like “I noticed you were afraid, Reesie.”

Also, there was also too many characters. So many people came and went. They were developed, then BAM! They were gone. (And don’t get me started on the kiss that was not set up properly.) What I really wanted was to spend more time in the book as she connected with (and possibly have conflict with) Miss Martine!

That said, I did like Reesie! Perhaps they rushed publication on this one? The book needed to be longer in order to deal with everything Denise Lewis Patrick introduced to us. [3 Stars]


zane-and-hurricaneZane and the Hurricane // by Rodman Philbrick

Genre: MG, Near-Historical (2014)

My Thoughts: I read this book after the one above. But this book was so much tighter. In a lot of ways, it was very similar. But there are differences. Zane is half-black and comes from New Hampshire. But guess what? His mom sends him down to visit his great-grandma in New Orleans. And it just happens that this happens right before Hurricane Katrina strikes.

There is an old neighbour character (Tru), and there’s conflict with the sassy girl (Malvina). This book stays pretty much within the time-frame of the hurricane and the day or so after. (Unlike the other book which jumps us to Christmas in New Jersey and then back to New Orleans in the spring. Not necessarily bad in and of itself; but like I said, that book tried to cram too much into not enough pages.)

I really enjoyed the character dynamics between Tru, Malvina, and Zane. We got to know them and care about them. We wanted them to survive! [4 Stars]


So, if you have to pick between these two books? I’d definitely go with the second one by Rodman Philbrick. The one by Denise Lewis Patrick had potential, but (unfortunately) it did not live up to that potential. I wish it was so much more! Zane, on the other hand, was well-written and knew what it was going for.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think?

*Note: I’m posting this for the first time for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Photo Challenge #3 / Natural Beauty

20190102ma_0145“Water Falling” / Theme: Natural Beauty

A little about this photo…

This photo makes me feel cold! (Maybe I’m just remembering how cold my hands were when I took this shot. It was the one day I forgot to bring gloves. Not a smart thing to do in January!) This “waterfall” is part of the old Welland Canal system. It’s no longer in use for its intended purpose. The “new” canal was moved years ago.

I love how that one leaf makes such a pretty pattern in the water. Natural beauty!


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Quick Pick Reviews #13

Clementine’s Letter // by Sara Pennypacker

clementines-letterGenre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2008)

My Thoughts: This is another super cute story about Clementine. And she’s ready to conquer the third grade! Especially with her Teacher at the helm of their class. But then comes the news that he’s a finalist in a contest where he might get to go on an archaeological dig in Egypt. But Clementine doesn’t want her Teacher to leave them!

This is where Clementine’s letter comes into the story. I really enjoyed Clementine’s journey in this book. And I liked how the letter is used at the end of the story. She reminds me so much of Ramona Quimby, although I do think I like Ramona just a tiny bit better. Not exactly sure why. [3.5 Stars]


The Moffats // by Eleanor Estes

moffatsGenre: MG, Historical Fiction (1941)

My Thoughts: Definitely is a little old-fashioned… but this book about the Moffat family is a fun read. Mrs. Moffat lives with her four children—Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus—in a yellow house. Their landlord is trying to sell it… to the great dismay of the Moffats.

My favourite episodes were: 1) about Joe at the dance recital; and 2) how the children end up losing the Salvation Army man out of the back of his own horse and wagon. I also liked how the story does come full-circle at the end with what happens to the yellow house. (I can’t stand those Murdocks… trying to buy the house from underneath the Moffats’ feet!) [3 Stars]


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

Review: Towers Falling

towers-fallingBook: Towers Falling (2016)
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Deja lives with her family in what can only be described as a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. She’s at a new school, and she’s hoping to stay here. One day, Miss Garcia points out the difference in the Manhattan skyline–namely the absence of the Twin Towers. Deja is intrigued. She doesn’t know anything about those towers. However, when she brings them up to her father, his dark reaction surprises her. And now she’s afraid he’s going to take her away, not just from her new school, but from her new set of friends as well.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed watching the friendship blossom between Deja, Ben, and Sabeen. We get to see it from the very beginning, which is nice.

2) I like how the teachers were dealing with the tragedy for a generation that was born after the towers fell. As a teacher in Queens in 2001, I taught the kids who lived through it. So, I was indeed fascinated by this. What blew my mind was that Miss Garcia (the teacher) was in 5th grade during 9/11!

3) The scene at the site of the World Trade Center… The author captured this memorial in a really wonderful way. I was just there, so it was all fresh in my mind. The water fall footprints of the towers. The white roses. The names. This part was possibly the best scene for me.

4) The storyline with the father was nicely done. (Although, I will say, when he finally speaks, he almost says too much. Which I felt was a little out of character for him.) This was a very emotional and cathartic scene.

5) I loved Deja’s dedication to her family. She helps her parents out with her two younger siblings. I loved her for that!

6) I really like what they did with the cover art… how the Freedom Tower stands where the Twin Towers once stood. And how things are upsidedown and topsy-turvy.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Deja was a little too introspective for me at times. Especially when you consider that she’s only ten years old. In some ways, she seems like a teenager.

2) When Deja goes to visit her friend Sabeen for the first time–Sabeen is Muslim–the family makes a comment that Deja would make a good Muslim. I found that a REALLY WEIRD thing to say to a child the first time you meet them. Especially a non-Muslim child. It felt like they were trying to convert her??

3) At one point in the book, Deja brings her dad to the school. He seems to walk right in, down the halls, and enters her classroom. Ahem. I taught school in NYC and NO PARENT (and certainly no adult, unless they were a teacher) was able to enter the school at all. Doors are locked. The only way in is through the school office. (The student entrances are locked or manned by a teacher.) So, I had a really hard time with this part of the plot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is about the events of 9/11, but 15 years after the fact. Since I lived and worked in New York City during September 11, 2001, I feel a close connection. However, I don’t like watching the footage. But this book hit the right notes for me. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s worth the read.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Challenge #2 / Playtime

20190101ma_0087“Mary’s Suitcase” / Theme: Playtime

A little about this photo…

This suitcase holds good memories for me. It originally belonged to my mother and held her doll’s clothing. She kept the doll and gave it to my younger sister one year for Christmas. Ibeing the older and wiser sister (read: bossy)named the doll “Mary”. My sister didn’t complain. She was Mary’s mom. I was Mary’s aunt. And we had wonderful times!

I wish I had a pic of Mary herself, but alas, my sister has the doll. Somehow, I ended up with the suitcase… which is falling apart.


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek

Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

becoming-mrs-lewisBook: Becoming Mrs. Lewis (2018)
Author: Patti Callahan
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Basic Plot: This is the story of Joy Davidman Gresham and how she came to be the wife of C.S. Lewis. The subtitle kind of says it all: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C. S. Lewis

WHAT’S COOL…

1) C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time, favourite authors. And I have always been fascinated by this love story.

2) I loved the little glimpses into the home life of these people. I could just see them sitting at the typewriter, discussing books, and writing over a cup of tea! And I could also see the boys, Davy and Douglas, running off on their adventures.

3) One of my favourite sections of the book is the part when it discusses their collaboration on Till We Have Faces. Not only do I love that book, but I really enjoyed seeing these scenes play out. I knew that she had been instrumental to Lewis in writing the book, but it really was nice to see their collaboration in action.

4) Even though I knew the story and how it ends, I did find myself drawn into the suspense from time to time. This is a really hard thing to do for such well-known stories. Is it done perfectly? No, but at times, it’s done quite well.

5) Love the cover on this book! I thought it nicely captured the essence of the story. 🙂

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) I wanted a little more subtext in this story. I know that Joy was known to be blunt (and very American). But at times, I felt the dialogue was a little too on-the-nose. Would Joy have brought such things up? Was she never subtle?

2) There seems to be a lot of repetition in this book. I often felt like the plot wasn’t moving very fast and that I’d already read this scene before. (I hadn’t. The scenes were just similar.) Makes me wonder if the author could have cut out some of the scenes.

3) At times, I felt that I didn’t know Joy very well. Yes, the book is written in first person POV, yet I somehow didn’t FEEL for her. At other times I did, but it was a mixed bag.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3.5 Stars (out of 5) – An enjoyable read for anybody wanting to know more about this historic couple. Not the quickest read, but that’s okay. I vacillated between 3.5 and 4 stars. I think I went down because, despite the first person POV, I didn’t really connect with Joy of a level of knowing her. I would still recommend this book.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #9

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Response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge #9

Crimsonprose posted a photo of steps surrounded by water with this explanation: “The tide runs high on Cromer beach, North Norfolk Coast.”

My response is a photo of something else that really shouldn’t be surrounded by water… This isn’t exactly due to the tide (well, maybe partly). I took this photo back in 2017 when we had so much rain that they were worried about flooding in Montreal. (Montreal is really not that close to us!) They closed various dams and such, which caused flooding all over Lake Ontario… I love how the bench on the pier is completely surrounded by water!


Check out the original Creative Challenge post here

Review: Spy School Goes South

spy-school-goes-southBook: Spy School Goes South (2018)
Author: Stuart Gibbs
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Espionage
Rating: 3 Stars

Basic Plot: SPYDER is at it again. Murray, who’s been a prisoner at the Spy School since the events of the last book, is willing to lead Ben and Erica to SPYDER’s headquarters. But things (obviously) go wrong. There’s a plane crash and survival tactics come into play. And the best news is that SPYDER thinks they’re all dead, which is perfect when you plan to infiltrate the enemies hide out.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) Ben’s a great main character. I love how unassuming he is. And of course, juxtaposed against Erica… well, they make a great team.

2) The Farkle Family Reunion was a fun method for the team of spies to fit in at the resort. I also like that this also turns out to be a bad decision.

3) Love how Catherine Hale (Erica’s mum) shows up.

4) As always, the covers of these books are a fun way to introduce a basic plot of the novel!

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Okay, this is where I start pointing out things I didn’t like. And sadly, as this series continues, I find there’s more and more things I don’t like. Why is the CIA and SPYDER run by kids? (Other than Catherine Hale–and the body guards for SPYDER–there are no adults! Even Cyrus and Alexander Hale only pop in at the end, after it’s all over.) I get it. The CIA has been infiltrated by SPYDER. But I still don’t know why Joshua (maybe 18 or 19?) is the one in charge of the special red button that will blow things up!

2) Speaking of the red button… not the most original plot device. I guess this is a spy novel, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – This book was okay, but not as good as the first three in the series. I almost wish he’d stop writing this series as it becomes harder and harder to suspend disbelief. I’m guessing he’s going to do at least one more since he seems to have set that up. Do I recommend this book. Sort of. Maybe? Only if you don’t mind kids who make better spies then spies with years of training and experience.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Photo Challenge #1 / Leading Lines

20190101ma_0057“At End of the Pier” / Theme: Leading Lines

A little about this photo…

One of my first photos of 2019! Went down to the lake on January 1st and captured this shot. Among many others. I had a hard time figuring out which photo to use and which prompt to start the year off with! Well… this is the one I chose. The lighthouse at the end of the pier.

In the summer, this place is packed with people. On a cold winter’s day, we had the place to ourselves. (This is Lake Ontario, by the way. If you look closely, you can see the city of Toronto off in the distance.)


THIS WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE is posted every Saturday. Please join me in posting your own photos with #2019picoftheweek