Photo Challenge #11 / Calm


“Mist Rising” / Theme: Calm

A little about this photo…

I find this photo very calm and peaceful. The rainbow probably accounts for some of this. And the seagull, soaring through the mist. The river looks calm with the ice on it.

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


On Chapter Length


I like short chapters.

Okay. Not too short. One page chapters weird me out. Really. Weird. Me. Out.

As do two page chapters. They might as well be a one-page chapter.

No, I like chapters that are short enough that I can finish it in a sitting. I usually read before bed, to unwind after a busy day. So, that means I’m sometimes pretty tired. Sometimes I can only handle one chapter (maybe two).

And I hate putting a book down in the middle of a chapter. Which usually happens if a chapter is really long. Did I say how much I hate really long chapters? No? Well, they’re worse than the really short, one-page chapters.

Give me a nice-sized chapter. So, if I need to stop reading, I just put my bookmark at the beginning of the next chapter and I’m set for tomorrow.

Of course, if the chapter ends on a cliffhanger… I’ll want to read on. And sometimes I do read on. Even though I really should get to sleep. But sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I’d rather leave a cliffhanger for tomorrow. Because it’s something to look forward to…

What about you? Do you like long or short chapters? Or do you just not really care?

Review: The Journey of Little Charlie

journey-little-charlieBook: The Journey of Little Charlie
Author: Christopher Paul Curtis
Genre: MG Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Little Charlie Bobo comes from a poor, sharecropping family in South Carolina. When tragedy strikes, Little Charlie finds himself heading north with Cap’n Buck, on a journey to bring back three fugitive slaves in Dee-troit, Mitch-again.


1) Little Charlie is quite likeable, albeit he’s rather naive. He certainly takes a while to put two and two together. But, ultimately he does. I also like how “Little Charlie” isn’t really all that little. He’s 12 years old and 6’4.

2) I loved how Curtis handled Little Charlie’s diction. It definitely added flavour to these characters. I’m not always a fan of writing out dialect, because I often find it hard to read. But I had no trouble with this book.

3) Three scenes really stood out for me. The first was the one where Little Charlie returns with bad news for his ma. Wow! I thought this scene was superb in how it handled the raw emotions of the mother, and including Little Charlie’s reactions to her.

4) The second scene involves the slave-catcher. Cap’n Buck is the villain of the piece. (And yes, along with Little Charlie, we get to hang out with the villain for most of the book!) But there’s a scene where the Cap’n is trying to wash himself in the river. All of a sudden, we don’t just have a character who is pure evil. We see that he’s vulnerable, and we (like Little Charlie) feel momentary pity for him. Now, don’t think this makes him any less of a villain. It doesn’t. The Cap’n continues to be despicable throughout the story. But I like how Curtis makes him a little human. It makes him more of a well-rounded villain. (Note: Even better, this is the scene where Cap’n Buck drops the hint of the fate of Little Charlie’s mother… something Little Charlie only figures out much later. Something that just seals the deal on how despicable Cap’n Buck truly is.)

5) Third scene to stand out… Inside the barber shop in Detroit. It somehow reminded me of a Charlie Chaplin scene. (Charlie Chaplin from The Great Dictator.)

6) I liked when Syl and Little Charlie both realize that they are the same the same height and the same weight. (And the reader realizes, that they’re both a little gullible.) It’s an endearing moment. And slightly weird, since it comes at a time in the book when you want to shout at Syl to get out of there.

7) I love the Author’s Notes at the back of the book, explaining the historical nugget that inspired this book. A real young man by the name of Sylvanus Demarest…

8) Being from Canada, I love the Canadian connection! And I love the differences shown between the reactions of the authorities in Detroit (U.S.) versus the townspeople in Chatham (Canada). (BTW, if you ever get the chance to visit the museum in Buxton, Ontario, do it! Below are some pics I took last April.)


1) Okay, so this isn’t a huge criticism. (More like a warning. And “warning” is not really the right word either.) It took me a few chapters to realize that Little Charlie Bobo is a poor, white kid from a share-cropping family. I guess I assumed he was a black slave. The book cover is slightly unclear. So, I was a little confused for a few chapters because the historical stuff didn’t seem to mesh with Little Charlie’s situation. Like the date of the novel being set in 1858 in South Carolina, well before the Civil War. (Note: I don’t really like to read reviews/blurbs about books for fear of spoilers. Especially, if I like the author’s writing style. As for Christopher Paul Curtis, I love his books, so I went into this book blind.) I’m not sure HOW Curtis could have fixed this.

2) The dog and the horse have very similar names: Stanky (dog) and Spangler (horse). And speaking of the dog, I was waiting for her to come back into the story. I don’t know quite how. Maybe à la Incredible Journey?? So, I’m not sure why Curtis makes such a fuss about the dog when he has the dog drop out of the plot quite early on in the book. (Unless… did I miss something??)


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – Another good book from Christopher Paul Curtis. Going in, I was thinking this was going to be another Underground Railroad book. And it is, in a way… just from the slave-catcher’s perspective. Which is quite intriguing. I think it really only works because of the character of Little Charlie Bobo. (I’d recommend it for ages 10 and up. Maybe age 9?)

Photo Challenge #10 / Pattern


“Lantern” / Theme: Pattern

A little about this photo…

I took this photo during the “Follow the North Star” tour (about the history of the Underground Railroad) at the St. Catharines Museum back in February. For those who don’t know, St. Catharines is the city in Canada where Harriet Tubman settled during her days as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. This is where she brought her parents after rescuing them.

I’ve always been drawn to stories about the Underground Railroad and I greatly admire the courage those people must have mustered to make such a journey. They would NOT have had a lantern like this one, but instead would have used only the stars to guide them on their way north to Canada. But I love how the pattern on this lantern almost looks like it is a star-filled sky.

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

Books That Make You Cold

So… I was recently re-reading The Giver by Lois Lowry.

And I was struck by one scene. (Note: This may be a minor spoiler for those who haven’t read the book. But my question is this, WHY haven’t you read this book yet?!)… As Jonas and Gabe are on the run, they are attempting to hide from the heat-seeking aircraft. In order to avoid detection, Jonas transfers memories of snow to Gabe. The memories cool down their body temperatures.

Now, I don’t consider myself a scientist. So my question is this: Is this even possible? Would a heat-seeking device be fooled? Does a memory, such as snow, cool the body down?

(Note: I will give Lois Lowry gets a pass on this detail because of the nature of her story world. Technically, in our world, it’s impossible to transfer memories to another person by laying your hands on their back. But in the world of The Giver, well, this is exactly how it happens for Jonas, the Giver, and Gabe. So story world definitely takes care of this heat/memory/cool thing in the book.)

That said, here’s something I do know…

When I read certain books, they make me feel cold.

long-winterCase in point: The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In the book, Wilder encapsulates the whole feeling of winter. The never-ending blizzards. The family huddling next to the stove, trying to keep warm. Laura and Pa twisting hay in the freezing lean-to. The train that never comes. Christmas that never comes.

The isolation of the Dakota territory.

The snow. And more snow. And even more snow.

LongWinter1Wilder intended to name the book The Hard Winter… Because that’s probably how in later years they would refer to that winter of 1880-81… Can’t you just see them sitting around the fire saying: “Remember the Hard Winter? This snow is nothing compared to that!”

But the publishers ultimately changed the title to The Long Winter. (I mean, just look at those covers. Neither of them seem to be shouting “hard”.)

By the way, this book received a Newbery Honor in 1941 for its writing.

I know why. Because those words bring feelings of COLD.

Which is great if you’re reading beside a nice, warm fire. Or in summer. Yes, a nice, hot summer day might be the perfect for reading cold books.

What about you? Do you have any books that make you feel cold?

5 Reasons I Loved Caroline

CarolineSo, this book is the best book I’ve picked up this year. Yay!

It almost gets a 5-star rating. (But I NEVER give out 5 stars. Well, hardly ever.) And what’s weird is that I was hesitant to even read this book in the first place. But, once I started, well…

So what would I rate this book? 4 1/2 stars. Which is an amazing star-rating from me. Folks, it’s practically 5 stars!

Well, instead of 5 stars, I’ll give 5 reasons why I loved this book…

Caroline // by Sarah Miller

#1 – It’s Faithful to the Old

What makes this such a wonderful book is that it stays true to the original. Sarah Miller’s Caroline is a parallel novel to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie. Miller calls her book a “marriage of fact and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s fiction.” Let’s stick to LIW’s fiction for the time-being. If you are familiar with Wilder’s work, you may know that she fictionalized some of the events from her life… For the sake of story. (Probably with the help of writer/daughter Rose Wilder Lane who helped her edit the books.)

And I agree with her that story trumps history when it comes to novels. And that’s what LIW’s books are: novels. Well-crafted works of fiction. With a wonderful foundation of history.

But Caroline, like the Little House books, also stays true to history. In spite of the fiction, the history of the pioneers shines through.

#2 – …And the New

Which brings me to the “new stuff”. Or the stuff that didn’t make Little House on the Prairie.

The main event in Caroline that stands in contradiction to the original Little House books is the timing of the birth of Baby Carrie. Miller follows the historical record for this one; Carrie Ingalls was indeed born on the Kansas prairie. Which means… Some of the things that happen in the story are all that more amazing when you realize that Caroline was pregnant during this time! Like the building of the house? The event with the well? Talk about strong, pioneer women… Go, Ma!

To tell the truth, one of the most memorable moments in the original book is where Laura demands that her Pa get her the little, black-eyed “Indian” baby to have as her own. Reading this scene in Caroline takes on a whole new meaning. Here’s Laura, about 4-years-old. She knows that her ma just got a baby (out of nowhere). Suddenly, Laura’s desire for a baby of her own makes just that much more sense. And since she has no idea where Baby Carrie came from… well, why not want a baby that is right before you?

#3 – The Difference in POV

It was amazing to read this story, which I know so well, from a different point of view. Instead of experiencing this adventure through the eyes of a little girl, we get to see it all from a mother’s perspective.

And not just any mother, but a pregnant mother, heading away from family and friends. A mother who wants her children to grow up to have a proper education. And they’re moving to a place where there will be no schools! A mother who has her own fears, hopes, and desires.

One of the wonderful examples of the differing POV is the story of Mr. Edwards on Christmas Eve. Again, retold from a mother’s perspective of not having anything to make her children’s Christmas… Powerful.

#4 – It’s a Pioneer How-To

One thing I loved about the original Little House books is all the “how-to” information. Like digging a well, and building a house, and… well, everything. When I first read these books, I ate this stuff up. It made me feel like I could be a pioneer if it came down to it. I could dig my own well, and I wouldn’t make the same mistake as Mr. Scott. No siree!

And the “how-to” of Sarah Miller’s Caroline is also there, albeit in a different way. We don’t just get a rehash of Wilder’s descriptions. While Laura and Mary had plenty of time to shadow their Pa, watching his every move, Caroline doesn’t. She has plenty of her own work to do. And so, the book focuses on her view point. On the bits of how-to that effected her.

Which made by adult heart so happy. And yes, it makes me feel like I could be a pioneer if it ever came down to that.

#5 – No Politically-Correct Revisionism…

Just for the sake of being Politically Correct. And finally, I loved the fact that this book did not fall into some politically-correct retelling. It documents the prejudices of the settlers, warts and all. Now, I love that the book doesn’t condone it (which is a good thing!), but it documents it… like a good historian. Miller does have Caroline struggling and questioning her own fears and reactions. But, ultimately this book remains true to how the Ingalls family (and others like them) saw the world around them. The historian in me was pleased and satisfied with her treatment of the material.

(Mini Rant. I HATE books/movies/etc that attempt to make the people in history as “tolerant” as we are. First off, I have a feeling that we have our own little prejudices for which future generations will mock us. I feel that history should be told as it is. Not that we condone the prejudice. No, I don’t mean that. But when we acknowledge that the past, just as the present, and the future for that matter, isn’t and never will be perfect.)


I love the cover of the book! Although, I will say it reminds me of Caroline as played by Karen Grassle from the television show. The real Caroline would probably have been wearing a sunbonnet!

And finally, a Warning. Yes, this book is a reworking of a famous children’s book, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant for children. It’s meant for adults, folks. There are a couple sex scenes. Of course, we’re talking married sex. If you can get that into your head. (I know. Weird, right? It’s a little hard to go there with characters that are kind of like your own parents.)

Photo Challenge #9 / In Motion


“Through the Icy Waters” // Theme: In Motion

A little about this photo…
I love how this duck is gliding through the water. It’s a very black and white photo, without being actual black and white! (Note: At first, we thought this might be a loon. It’s not. Had to look it up and found out that this is a common goldeneye.)

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

Quick Pick Reviews #4

The theme for this set of Quick Picks is: Children Dealing with Loss.

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

Lemons // by Melissa Savage

LemonsThe cute cover of this book, plus the plot surrounding Bigfoot, makes this an unlikely book dealing with the topic of death and loss. But, it does.

Lemonade is the main character, and she’s dealing with the death of her mother and being suddenly dropped into the life of a grandfather she’s only just met. And then there’s Tobin, the neighbour kid whose father hasn’t come home from Vietnam.

Overall, I liked the book, but I thought the Bigfoot stuff a little odd. It certainly didn’t quite pan out like I thought it would. I didn’t necessarily hate the ending, but I didn’t super love the ending either. I did like the relationship developed between Lemon and Tobin. And I liked how Lemon’s struggles are portrayed in the book, often simmering like a volcano ready to explode.

(Side note: Does it bother other people when book mothers sack their child with a name like Lemonade? I know, she was born in the 60s, but still…)

Rain Reign // by Ann M. Martin

20575434Rose (Rows) loves homonyms. And her dog, Rain (Reign, Rein), is a 3-homonym name. But then Rain goes missing during a hurricane. Rose is devastated by the loss of her dog. But Rose has a plan and she’s enlisting the help of a sympathetic uncle.

This is a very realistic portrayal of Rose, who has some form of autism. I love that the book is from her point of view. Too often, we’re the ones on the outside looking in. Ann M. Martin was able to show the difficulties, but also makes Rose sympathetic.

I found the relationship with her father sad. But the uncle and his patience and understanding is beautiful to see. And it’s also wonderful to see Rose grow in how she interacts with the world around her.

Flip-Flop Girl // by Katherine Paterson

flip-flop-girlThis is the story about a family who moves to a new town after the death of the father. The girl (Vinnie) and boy (Mason) both deal with the loss of their dad in different ways. Mason refuses the talk, and Vinnie takes her anger out on her brother.

For Vinnie, it’s not only losing her dad, but also her best friend. A move means a new school. And that’s where she comes across the Flip-Flop Girl, who is dealing with her own loss. But she’s a little… weird. Definitely different from the other kids in Vinnie’s class.

I liked how Paterson connects the threads of Vinnie and Mason’s story with the Luce’s story, especially through Mason, the brother.

While this book is not as powerful as Paterson’s masterpiece Bridge to Terabithia, it’s still a good read. Vinnie’s reactions and thought-process is very interesting.


Review: Hunted

HuntedBook: Hunted
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genre: YA, Fairy Tale Retelling
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast… set in medieval Russia. When Yeva’s father doesn’t return home from one of his hunting trips, she goes out to find him. She ends up a captive in the castle of a Beast.


1) Yeva, aka “Beauty”. I liked her. I particularly like how she grows during the course of the story. For her recognition of her own faults, as she comes to see the good in the Beast.

2) I like what Spooner does with the story. It doesn’t follow the Disney storyline (you know, with roses and magical furniture). And it doesn’t fully follow the original French version either. (For example: Beauty’s two sisters are not quite the same as the jealous duo that end up as statues at the end of the actual fairy tale.) And yet, the elements that make up the story of Beauty and the Beast are definitely in this book.

3) I loved the inter-chapters that give us insight into the Beast. I particularly like that they begin as fairly cryptic. Then as we get to know him, they help us understand his frame of mind.

4) The imagery and motifs surrounding the Firebird, and what Spooner does with the Firebird plot-wise in this book, is nicely done.

5) Bonus points for incorporating the magical fairy tale “rule of three” into Yeva’s own story. It’s hard to explain how this is done, but it’s done very well. It’s almost a breaking of the fourth wall of sorts. But it doesn’t feel gimicky. It works with the plot.

6) The cover is beau-ti-ful!


1) The tag-line is “A Beauty deadlier than the Beast”. I thought this was a stupid tag-line. First of all, it almost turned me off to reading the book. Secondly, after reading the story, I don’t think it’s true. It makes the Beast sound like a wuss. (He’s not.) Nope. If I were on the marketing team for this book, I would have STRONGLY recommended to remove this ridiculous tag-line.


My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This is a delightful retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story. If you like this fairy tale, then you should have a blast reading this book!

Photo Challenge #8 / Negative Space


“Maple Leafs Forever” / Theme: Negative Space

A little about this photo…

Found these little details on top of an iron fence. I like how the negative space at the top draws you in towards these like black maple leafs. (And yes, for some reason, they are maple leafs, and not maples leaves. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the hockey team. Not that I’m a hockey person or anything.)

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