Tag Archives: children’s books

Following your heart, blog post images, games, kidlit and more {From My Haphazard Twitter Files, No. 8}

Haphazard-Twitter-Files7

The week has just flown by so fast! It’s Saturday again, and here are some of the links I tweeted on Twitter this past week. It was another eclectic week of links – I read such interesting things online!

  1. When You’re at the Crossroads of Should and Must really spoke to me, as I feel more and more these days that’s where I am, and I need to make the choice that’s right for me. The Should is so tempting because it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s what I’ve been taught to do, but as I get older, I find myself with so many regrets because I never had the courage to choose my Must. I’m hoping things will change this year, and I’ll be able to embark on a path that includes the things that are in my heart to do.
  2. We all need images for blog posts these days, and when I saw this list of 32 free image sources for your blog at Lifehack, I immediately saved it to Evernote. I know this list will come in handy!
  3. Writer, Get to Work! is a free board game “of procrastination and misplaced competitive angst for 3-5 scribes”. Created by Jill Murray, writer and game designer, all you have to do is download, print to two sheets of letter-sized paper, add your own die and game tokens and off you go! I haven’t tried the game yet, but it looks like a lot of fun.
  4. Elegy for a Dead World is an experimental game that turns players into poets and writers. It’s available on Steam and I’m thinking of giving it a try. It’s another game that looks like fun.
  5. If you’re a Harry Potter fan and haven’t seen these yet, you’ve got to click through and check out these truly awesome interactive illustrations created for the first Harry Potter book by artist Kincso Nagy. I found these via @TifTalksBooks – thanks, Tif!
  6. This post from Flavorwire is filled with famous authors’ handwritten outlines – I love love love handwritten notes and things, and it’s quite a treat to be able to see how famous writers like J.K. Rowling outlined their books.
  7. This Guardian article, Children’s books are never just for children, poses a really interesting question: “Many adults – many well-known authors in fact – re-read books that in childhood had a big impact. So why is children’s literature not considered worthy of major awards?” My personal opinion? Children’s literature is in no way lesser literature simply because it’s written for children. Perhaps one day a children’s book will win a major book award, when the judges finally lose their biases against children’s books.

Adding to Mount TBR: Top 100 Chapter Books

I swung by The Estrella Society yesterday and read about Kristen’s (of We Be Reading) 100 Chapter Books readalong.  Even though I’ve registered a big FAIL for all but two of the readalongs/challenges I’ve signed up for, I simply couldn’t resist, especially since I was already planning to read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book this month or next anyway. (I figured it was a sign – Belle, you can do this one, yes, you get to play in this readalong. Yes, you can do it!)

The readalong is based on a list of top 100 chapter books posted at the School Library Journal’s blog, Fuse #8 Production. I took a look at the list, and thought it would be fun to see how many of these books I’ve read, and even better yet, which ones I’ve read that I’d like to reread and which ones I haven’t read yet that I’d like to add to my TBR.

Books I’ve Read

I’ve read 48 of the books on the list – up until yesterday afternoon it was 47, but I just happened to read Meg’s review of When You Reach Me yesterday morning, and it inspired me to grab the book off my TBR shelves. I’m really glad I did – I finished the book late in the afternoon and loved it. It was a sweet, wonderful read. And it put my books read count up to 48!

Books I’d Like to Re-read Sometime Soon

I definitely think it’s time for me to reread these books:

           

(1) A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle (2) Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone, by JK Rowling (and the rest of the books in the series (3) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg (4) Anne of Green Gables, by LM Montgomery (5) The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien (6) The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander (7) All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor

Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game would be on the reread list, too, but I just did a reread of it a few months ago. It’s such a good book – so intricate. Other books I’ve already reread this year include The Dark is Rising series – I did these in audio earlier this year.

Books I’m Adding to my TBR

Here are the books from the list that I’m adding to my TBR list. My plan is to read them as they come up on Kristen’s list over at The Estella Society. (Mind you, as with all such plans of mine, I may or may not end up participating as fully as I’d like!)

                       

(1) The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner (2) The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall (3) The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (4) Gone-Away Lake, by Elizabeth Enright (5) My Father’s Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett (6) The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (7) The Twenty-One Balloons, by William Pene du Bois (8) Wonder, by R. J. Palacio (9) The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly (10) A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck (11) The Ruins of Gorlan, by John Flanagan (12) Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin (13) The Four-Story Mistake, by Elizabeth Enright

So there you have it: one post at The Estrella Society and suddenly my TBR list has ballooned …

How many books on the Top 100 list have you read? Which of these new additions to my TBR would you recommend?

Audiobook Appreciation

I’m done with this most recent clump of deadlines! I don’t think I’ve worked at quite a pace like this for a long while – it’s been three to four weeks of fourteen hour days. I am very, very thankful for my audiobooks – I think they kept me sane in the midst of all those deadlines.

Audiobook Treasure Trove

headphones I was lucky enough to come down with a head cold for Christmas and Boxing Day, so I had a grand time those two days: I got to loll around while everyone took care of me, and to top it off, on Christmas Day, I discovered a virtual audiobook treasure chest! I spent most of Christmas Day and Boxing Day lying on the couch, listening to some great audiobooks and snacking on the most delicious foods.

If you live in Ontario, you might be able to take advantage of this audiobook treasure chest yourself. The Ontario Library Service Download Centre is available to all library patrons of participating Ontario libraries, and it is just wonderful. There are loads of audiobooks available for download, much like you would for Audible. The files are deleted at the end of your checkout period, but you can checkout each audiobook for one or two weeks, which is nice.

So far, in the past two weeks, I’ve listened to Bill Bryson’s The Lost Continent, Ellen Degeneres’ The Funny Thing Is, The Green Witch and The Grey King from Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, and The Bunnicula Collection by James and Deborah Howe.

Other Listens

The Price of Butcher's Meat

Over the past three weeks, I also enjoyed the audio versions of Reginald Hill’s The Price of Butcher’s Meat (I listened to the British version, which is called A Cure for All Diseases) and Exit Lines. I’d already read A Cure for All Diseases earlier last year and loved it (my review is here) – it translated superbly into audio.

I also played several Agatha Christie audios while I was working – I find I can do “rereads” in audio, as well as memoirs and nonfiction, while I’m working; I somehow have the ability to follow along while getting my work done at the same time. Audiobooks don’t work well for work if they’re audios of books I haven’t read yet, though.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Links, Poirot Investigates and The Big Four helped me get through a lot of otherwise tedious work, so I’m very thankful for them!

Curtains for ThreeAnd finally, I listened to Rex Stout’s Curtains for Three, a trilogy of three Nero Wolfe novellas. I must admit, the first few times I listened to audiobook renditions of Nero Wolfe novels, I had a hard time getting used to the narrator, Michael Pritchard, because he didn’t sound quite like I always imagined Archie Goodwin would sound. But Pritchard’s voice has grown on me, and now my idea of Archie Goodwin sounds exactly like him! I like the way that worked out.

Coming Up

Thanks to the Ontario Library Service Download Centre, I have some more goodies waiting for my hearing pleasure this coming week:

About Face

About Face, by Donna Leon. I’ve been wanting to read a Commissario Guido Brunetti book for a while, and since this one was available for checkout, I decided to give it a try. I only just started listening to it last night, and it promises to be a good story.

Silver on the Tree

Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper. This is the final book in The Dark is Rising series. The version I have is narrated by Alex Jennings, and I started listening to a bit of it yesterday as well. I’m looking forward to finishing my reread of the series in audio.

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So Long as You Both Shall Live, by Ed McBain. This is my first 87th Precinct mystery; it’s a little bit challenging keeping track of all the names in audio, and the story line behind this one isn’t quite to my taste, but I will definitely be looking into reading more of the 87th Precinct series.

Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, by Bill Bryson. I’ve had Bryson’s memoir on my shelf for ages; when I saw it was available at the OLS Download Centre, I decided to check it out, as I really enjoy listening to memoirs in audio.

And from my local library:

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield. The audio version of The Thirteenth Tale came highly recommended – I seem to recall lots of people recommending it on Google Wave. So I thought I’d take the plunge and give it a first read in audio instead of in print.

I recently bought the following, which are waiting for me to get to them:

The Eye of the World

The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan. This is Book 1 of the Wheel of Time series – I began reading the series ages ago, but stopped at around Book 6 or 7. I recently received a review copy of the final book in the series, The Gathering Storm, which is written by Brandon Sanderson based on Robert Jordan’s extensive notes, so I thought it would be a good thing to reread the series. I’ve had so much luck with rereads in audio, I decided to give the audio version a try.

Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris. I have the first seven books in paperback, but haven’t read the Sookie Stackhouse series at all; a while back, I decided to give the first book a try in audio. I haven’t found myself in the mood for it yet, but I know I will soon – from what everyone’s been telling me, I’ll probably be hooked once I give it a try!

I also have two Audible credits to spend, and I’m thinking I’ll probably splurge on more Rex Stout and Reginald Hill.

So there you have it – audiobooks have managed to keep me on the reading track even while I was submerged up to my neck in deadlines! And yes, I’ve been feeling like a kid in a candy store …

Coming up this week: my giveaway winners! No, I haven’t forgotten about my giveaway. The winners post will be coming soon.

Photo credit

The Boy Sherlock Holmes: Eye of the Crow, by Shane Peacock

Despite appearances, I’ve actually had some time to read lately. Maybe “had some time to read” isn’t totally accurate – it’s been more like “squeezed some time to read” but regardless, it’s the end result that counts, right?

And I’ve been lucky, because everything I’ve picked up to read recently has turned out to be a good read. Eye of the Crow was a  really, really good read, in fact.

Eye of the CrowI picked up Eye of the Crow, by Shane Peacock, from the library one day; the “Silver Birch nominee” sticker on the spine caught my eye (as it turns out, it’s won a bunch of awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award for Juvenile Crime Fiction).

The book is about Sherlock Holmes’ first case, one undertaken when he’s a boy of just thirteen; I’m a Sherlock Holmes fan, and always on the lookout for good books about Holmes (Laurie King’s Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series is another favorite of mine).

But Eye of the Crow stayed sitting in the pile of books on my library shelf for most of the three weeks I had it out.

And then, luckily, one day I read Memory’s review of Death in the Air; it’s the sequel to Eye of the Crow. Memory mentioned that Death in the Air was a good read, but not as good as Eye of the Crow. I realized, “Hey! I have Eye of the Crow sitting in my library pile.”

So I dashed over to my library shelf, picked up the book, and started reading.

I didn’t stop until I’d finished the entire book. The day got darker, my to-do list stayed undone (which, when you think about it, is really not such a bad thing,  because it meant all I had to do was re-use the same list the next day, with a few more additions), but I finished the book, my heart racing because it was gloriously, gorgeously suspenseful.

I know this is a children’s book, but the fact is, once you start reading, you’ll find yourself drawn into the world of 1860s London – drawn so deeply in you can almost smell the grime and feel the grit. And you’re not going to be thinking to yourself, I’m reading a children’s book – you’re going to be too deep in the story to remember that you actually are reading a book.

And really, that’s the best kind of book to sink your teeth into.

Peacock has done an amazing job. His boy Sherlock Holmes gives the adult Sherlock Holmes exactly the right childhood background – all the pieces fall into place. The reasons behind why Holmes is the way he is are all there, in the childhood backstory that Peacock has created for the adult Holmes in Eye of the Crow.

Not to mention, the suspense builds and builds and builds. This one is a keeper, and for the Sherlock Holmes fan, a must read.

Comfort Reads (42nd Bookworms Carnival)

imageI’m just tickled to be hosting this 42nd Bookworms Carnival! Thank you to everyone who sent in their links on such short notice.

I chose the topic of Comfort Reads because there are always those times in life when a much-loved, well-read book is exactly what I need, and I’m hoping you all feel the same, too.

The desire for a spot of comfort reading hits me most often during the winter: usually at night, when it’s toasty warm inside and bitterly cold outside. I look at my special reading armchair and thoughts of a good, familiar book and a mug of hot tea come to mind.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the titles my fellow bloggers turn to when they’re up for some comfort reading; there are many old favorites of mine in the group, plus some new titles that of course I’ve now added to my list of books to get my hands on. All I can say is, it’s a good thing Christmas is just around the corner!

Classics

Ah, the classics! I have quite a few classics on my own list – especially Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster, and The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford. Only one person submitted a classic, but it’s a lovely one for reading on a cold night, all warm and cozy in front of the fire.

Heather from Age 30+ … A Lifetime of Books submitted Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. If you’re like me, whenever you think of Wuthering Heights you think of Heathcliff. I also tend to think of dark and glowering brows, too! Heather has included a great detailed list of the cast of characters that does a wonderful job of refreshing your memory about this classic if it’s been a while since you’ve read it.

Fantasy

There’s something about a good fantasy that gives that old favorite one an edge when it comes to being a comfort read. I think it’s because the world you dip into is so different and all-encompassing (with the best fantasies, anyway), that you literally are swept away for those few hours you’re re-reading.

Heather submitted as another comfort read, Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of my own favorite reads. I’ve always had a fondness for retellings of the King Arthur story, and I read this when I was a teen and just adored it. Heather says, “I guess I’d have to say that if you DO find it challenging, it is VERY worth the effort you put into it. For me, this is a “must read” for just about everyone.” And I agree totally!

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series is another series I turn to in my own comfort reading, so I was pleased to see it showing up in the submissions. Zee at Notes from the North recommends listening to the Dragonsinger series in audio, which sounds like a great idea. Jemi at Just Jemi has also included the Pern series in her list of comfort reads, and I am in complete agreement with her! I recently bought the first three books in the series in ebook format, so that I’ll always have them to dip into.

Zee also includes in her list a fantasy series by David Eddings, the Belgariad and Mallorean series; I’ve read a few books by Edding, and she’s reminded me it’s time for a revisit.

Jackie at Literary Escapism submitted three urban fantasy books that sound like fantastic reads; I haven’t read any of them, and have added them to my list. There’s Friday Night Bites, by Chloe Neill, a novel about the Chicagoland vampires, and Destined for an Early Grave, by Jeaniene Frost, another novel about vampires. And I’ve had the Riley Jensen series, by Keri Arthur, on my list for a while now; the latest installment, Bound to Shadows, sounds so good.

Sheila, from One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books, picks The Three Sisters Trilogy, by Nora Roberts as her comfort reads; I haven’t read very many books by Nora Roberts, but as soon as I read Sheila’s post, I immediately added these books to my list – I love the concept of three independent women who are all witches. In her email to me, Sheila wrote, “These three books are favorites of mine and are always a “go to” series if I need to just sink into characters that are like old friends to me. Even talking about them now makes me want to go visit them between the pages of these books.”

Mysteries

There’s nothing more perfect than curling up with a good mystery, and with the passage of time, I find that my memory of exactly whodunnit has dimmed enough for old favorites to be just as enjoyable as they were the first time I read them.

For Aarti, at Booklust, Footsteps in the Dark, by Georgette Heyer, is a favorite read. She says, “Footsteps in the Dark is a thriller mystery of the first order, complete with secret passageways, priest holes, skeletons and a cowled monk.” She definitely has me sold on this one! I’ve never read a Georgette Heyer, and one of her mysteries seems like a good place to start.

Candace, at Beth Fish Reads, submitted a book from one of my new personal favorites: the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton. In her review of Death of a Travelling Man, she notes that she started this series in audio mainly because of the narrator, Davina Porter. Candace likes to read her series in order, but I tend to grab hold of whatever I can find; I seem to have started the series at the opposite end, and the majority of the ones I’ve listened to have been narrated by Graeme Malcolm. I like Porter’s narration a bit better, but Malcolm does some great accents.

Zee’s picks include J.D. Robb’s In Death series. This is a series I’ve been meaning to read for a while; Zee writes, “This series makes me laugh and the characters feel very real …”

And I’m very glad Jemi included Agatha Christie in her list. She says, “Agatha Christie’s mysteries are kind of like chocolate for me,” and that’s such a perfect description of how the Christie books feel to me, too. My memory isn’t as good as Jemi’s, though – I’ve been rereading Christie in audio, and I find that I’ve forgotten who the culprit is in most of the novels!

Children’s Books

The books I read as a child will always hold a special place in my heart; one of the first things I did as a “real grown-up” holding down a job (ie finally having a bit of money to spend) was to start buying copies of all the old favorites that I’d borrowed time and again from the library when I was little.

I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, so I was so glad to see that Jessica, of The Bluestocking Society, and Jemi both chose Anne Shirley as one of their favorite comfort reads. I have read and reread the whole Anne of Green Gables series so many times, I can quote whole sections from the book. Jemi writes, “As a shy, serious girl, I wanted to be Anne’s friend.” I could have written that! I remember wishing I knew someone like Anne, too; the term “kindred spirits” will always hold a special place in my heart.

Jemi also includes The Hobbit in her list of comfort reads – another one of my favorites! I couldn’t decide whether to put this under Fantasy or children’s books, but since I’ll always associate The Hobbit with childhood, I decided this was the proper place for it. (I read The Hobbit long before any of other The Lord of the Rings books.)

Food Writing

There’s something just so comforting to me about reading about food; I go on occasional food-writing splurges, during which time I’ll read nothing but food writing. I also come out of these splurges with a few extra pounds, I think, because one thing about good food writing – it makes you hungry!

Margot, of Joyfully Retired, has submitted a book that’s one of my personal favorites: Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, by Laurie Colwin. As Margot points out, “Her tone is strictly conversational – just as if you are sitting in her kitchen talking about food.” That’s what makes this book such a charming book for me; I loved Margot’s example of having a conversation with the author as she was reading it!

General Fiction

A lot of the books in my own comfort reading pile fall into a general, non-genre category. When I look at them, I see that a charming, cozy feel is a common element.

I loved Jessica’s review of 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This is a book that has long been on my “I really want to read that” list, and her review is a good reminder that I really do need to get to it.

Amy, from Amy Reads Good Books, submitted Trouble, by Kate Christensen. I’ve never read any novels by Christensen, but Amy’s caught my attention with this: “it was a thoughtful meditation on how we do or do not bounce back from trauma as we age.” Another interesting book!

Jackie at Farm Lane Books has chosen The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp as her comfort read – Sharp’s books are out of print, but she was lucky enough to find three of them! Ever since I read Jackie’s review of The Nutmeg Tree, I’ve been on the lookout for books by Sharp. They sound like the perfect comfort read.

Myrthe, at The Armenian Odar Reads, submitted The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. This is a lovely review; she writes, “It is the one book that still makes me cry all through the last chapter, a book that I immediately want to start again when I finish it.” I haven’t read The Chosen yet; it sounds like such a beautiful coming-of-age story.

I was also thrilled to see that Melanie, at The Indextrous Reader, submitted Alexander McCall Smith: “My version of comfort reading must always include Alexander McCall Smith,” she says in her post. Me too! She has great things to say about both the Mma Ramotswe series and the Scotland Street series. I haven’t yet fallen under the allure of the Mma Ramotswe series yet, but McCall Smith’s Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie series are both very near and dear to me.

Melanie also submitted The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, by Eva Rice. The title is so charming. Melanie writes, “Full of eccentric English characters, revealing social conditions, ancient houses, True Love, teatime and Selfridge’s, I greatly enjoyed this lovely and unusual novel.” I think it will be one I’ll enjoy too.

Finally, Meg’s review of The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, at Write Meg is so enticing; this is another book I’m adding to my burgeoning list of books to get my hot little hands on. Meg calls The Sugar Queen a “seriously delightful, magical story”, and reading her review, it sounds absolutely charming and whimsical, with dashes of mystery and magic.

This ends the Comfort Reads edition of the Bookworms Carnival! I hope you’ve rediscovered some old favorites in this list, and perhaps added a few to your list that you haven’t read before.

Play along with us! What are some of your comfort reads?

Review: Flotsam, by David Wiesner

FlotsamI wish that I had known more about Flotsam, by David Wiesner, before I read it for the first time two weeks ago to Dylan, my six-year-old, at bedtime.

I might have done things a little differently.

For one thing, I would have had my husband standing by, camera in hand, ready to take pictures of Dylan’s face as we looked through this beautiful book.

It was such a pleasure watching his deepening look of wonder.

Flotsam, a wordless picture book, has a lovely little plot, and the best moment for me was the look on Dylan’s face when he realized what was going on. The amazement and wonder just blossomed on his face, and it’s something I’ll always remember.

Flotsam tells the story of an underwater camera, the pictures it takes during its journeys, and the children who find it. It is a gorgeous, magical and incredibly imaginative book.

We have read this book every night so far since that first night, and that sense of wonder is still there. The pictures are so beautiful, and have prompted many discussions. My personal favorite is the picture of the turtles with the cities of shells on their backs; Dylan’s favorite is the mechanical fish.

Flotsam mechanical v.1

When we have to return this book to the library, I will be buying a copy for our own personal library. It’s definitely a keeper.

And even if you don’t have kids – even if you don’t like kids! – check your local library and see if they have a copy. Flotsam won the Caldecott Medal, so most libraries are likely to carry it. Browse through it and see for yourself.

This book trailer also gives you glimpses of what the book is like:

Where to buy Flotsam:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Book details: published by Clarion Books, 2006, Hardcover, 40 pages

Some Saturday Ramblings

It feels like a “lost” week around here in a way. Monday was a holiday here (not that it matters much to me work-wise since I work when I have a deadline and take time off when I don’t, but there’s the not-minor matter of not having to get up with the kids in the morning as they get ready for school!)

Add to that the head cold I had for three days, which unfortunately came back yesterday and really, it feels like all I’ve done this week is loll around in the grip of cold medication that makes me drowsy.

Reading …

I did manage to get through a nice chunk of The Likeness, by Tana French. I’ve mentioned before that, for some reason, this novel hasn’t hooked me the way In The Woods did. I finally felt really engrossed at around page 189. I’m now very near the end, but (and it might just be because I’ve been under the weather) I don’t find myself racing through to see what happens. In fact, the book has sat on the coffee table, open to the page where I last left it, for the past two days.

I did much better with the audio version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I’m getting close to the end, and I just started listening earlier this week. (It generally takes me longer to listen to an audiobook because I only listen when I’m exercising, cleaning the kitchen and for an hour before bed.)

While I’ve reread the first three Harry Potter books a few times, I realized as I was listening to this one that this is my first reread of it. There were several things I’d forgotten, and one thing I was pleased to rediscover was that (tiny spoiler here, for those of you who haven’t read this one or seen the movie), unlike the movie, it wasn’t Cho who ratted everyone out. I hadn’t realized that the movie had parted ways with the book there (which goes to show how much of the book I’d forgotten by the time I saw the movie!).

Writing …

I’d meant to spend this week doing up character sketch thingies for my NaNoWriMo novel, but never lifted even a finger in that direction. I did, however, find a very handy set of free Excel worksheets right before I came down with that head cold. I’ll only be using the character worksheet, but for those of you who like to plot first, The Novel Planning Excel Workbook might come in handy (you can see all the worksheets in the novel here, but you need to go here to download it).

When I was writing NANTUCKET, I ended up taking a file folder and writing down all my secondary characters in it, because I found myself wasting a lot of time trying to remember names, especially the names of the more minor characters. I think using the character worksheet will really be helpful.

Fitness Challenge

I haven’t done that well this week with the challenge, logging in only two miles, on the day when I was feeling better. I was supposed to do another 1.5 miles yesterday, but kept postponing it, and then that head cold came back again. I really should get on the treadmill today, but I’m still feeling tired.

Ah … discipline. Nope. I don’t have it, not for fitness, anyway!

The Food Blog

Earlier this week, I posted about our Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend; I also mentioned that I was hoping my husband would start blogging at our food blog, Muse in the Kitchen, because I have been doing a terrible job of keeping it up-to-date.

The thing is, while I do love to eat, it’s Ward who’s really passionate about the cooking and the recipes. He’ll be so thrilled about discovering a new technique that creates a much better result, while I’ll be like, “okay, that’s wonderful, is it okay if we dig in now?”

So guess what? He wrote his first post at Muse in the Kitchen the same day I wrote about our Thanksgiving dinner! You can check it out here: 30-Minute Homemade Pasta.

Since that first post, he’s also written several more posts. And today he told me he’s having a great time blogging! My job with the food blog now is very much like my job in the kitchen. During prep time, I play the role of sous chef; at the blog, I do a bit of reformatting.

Life feels pretty near perfect right now …

Allergies, Lots of Reading, and Finishing a DNF

tissuebox4c After looking forward to The Word on the Street all week, we all ended up missing the entire event. On Saturday, with the colder weather and the rain, allergies began hitting us – not the tiny-sniffle type of allergies, but full blown sinus-pressure, drippy nose (you wanted to hear that one, didn’t you?), cough and non-stop sneezing type of allergies.

My older son, who, ironically, seems to have constant low-grade hayfever during late summer and early fall, was the only one who remained unaffected.

By the time Sunday rolled around, all my husband and I wanted to do was lie on the sofa with hot lemon tea and a box of tissues each.

The good news, though (I do love that there’s always good news): I ended up finishing up three books over the weekend, all of which I really enjoyed. Add to these books the handful of books I read earlier in September that I also enjoyed, and I can definitely say September turned out to be quite a good month for me, reading-wise.

I’ll be writing up reviews for most of this week, so stay tuned.

The Mystery of the Third LucretiaThere’s one book that I started a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t been feeling like picking up again to finish. It’s The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, by Susan Runholt. I thought it would be a did-not-finish for me, because I haven’t been able to really get back into it.

I can’t think of any reason why I’m not that interested in it, though, after reading about two-thirds of it already: it’s a well-written novel, with a fun and smart teenage protagonist and what looks to be quite a clever mystery. The author does have a tendency to overuse the gothic “if I’d only known” foreshadowing device (it’s a personal thing with me – I tend to think that even once is too often – and she doesn’t use those exact words, but there’s a lot of “as it turns out, this was a really bad decision, but we didn’t know it at the time”), but I’ve overlooked it in other books easily enough; I don’t like “if I’d only known”, but it’s not enough to make me stop reading a book.

I am so enamored of Blue Balliett’s middle grade art mystery series (I wrote a couple of reviews back when I first started MsBookish – I raved about The Calder Game here and enthused about The Wright 3 here); The Mystery of the Third Lucretia, another art mystery but with teen protagonists, is really a natural read for me.

Since I can’t put my finger on anything about the book that’s putting me off, I’ve decided to finish it tonight. I’ve already read so much of it, after all. Plus, it’s gotten so many good reviews, and I’m pretty sure I added it to my TBR because I’d seen a good review of it in one of the book blogs I follow.

On the theory that, for once, I’d hate to miss out because of my reading mood, I figure I might as well give it another go.

Have you ever done this – thought that a book was a DNF for you, but decided after a while to pick it up again and finish it anyway? It rarely happens to me, but then again, I don’t often read that far into a book before thinking, this one isn’t for me.

Harry Potter in Audio: Books 1 and 2

hprclogoFor the Harry Potter Reading Challenge, I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series in audiobook format.

I’d just like to pat myself on the back now, and say, “Good decision, Belle”.

I’ve always had a sort of strange envy for people who decided to start reading the Harry Potter books after book seven was published. I think to myself how delightful it would be to have that opportunity to sit down, new to Harry’s wizarding world, and polish off the entire series from beginning to end, one lovely book after another.

And now, listening to the books in audio, I feel like I’m getting the chance to experience the books that way, too. (Well, almost, anyway.) Jim Dale, the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks, is a superb narrator;he ably brings each story to vivid life, and I find myself caught up in the books almost as if I didn’t quite know what was about to happen.

I normally listen for an hour or so before bed, and it’s like my own personal bedtime story. Once again, I find myself drawn into Harry’s story, and there’s just such a good feeling when I come to the end of one book, and know that the next book is there for me, waiting for me to start it.

When it comes to audiobooks, I have a tendency to favor books I’ve already read before. That way, there are no surprises. I know beforehand that yes, I do like the book (and no, there aren’t any scenes that are too intense for me to handle in print, much less in audio, where you can’t flip through the next page or two, eyes closed).

So the books in the Harry Potter series are perfect for an audiobook re-read. Although they’re pricy (and I noticed that Audible isn’t currently carrying them, either), I discovered that my library has a few copies of each volume.

Audiobook bliss. That’s about all I can say.

And the Harry Potter challenge is definitely one that I will be completing (I’m afraid I’m going to have a generally woeful post coming up soon about the state of my reading challenges). So far, I’ve listened to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (that’s the UK title) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (finished that last night, smiling all the while at Dobby’s reward). I also started Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last night.

One thing, though: I do find that the images in my mind resemble to a great degree the images I remember from the movies. If you’ve re-read the Harry Potter books, do you find this happening too?

Kaleb Nation, Author of Bran Hambric, Talks About His Writing Process

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse"What if your mother was a criminal? What if her crime was magic? What if magic ran in the family?" This is the intriguing premise of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, a middle grade fantasy novel written by Kaleb Nation.

Kaleb initially got the idea for Bran Hambric when he was fourteen years old; he wrote almost five hundred pages of the book in six to nine months, and then over the next four years, he rewrote the book multiple times. The result? A fun and fast-paced read that middle graders who love magic and fantasy will be sure to enjoy.

I had the opportunity to interview Kaleb about his writing process. It was fun and exciting to learn about what went into the writing of the book, and I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did!

In an interview with Sourcebooks, you talked a little about how the idea for Bran Hambric came to you. When you began writing, were you writing toward an ending that had already come to you, or were you writing to find out where your idea was leading you? Can you describe how your original idea grew to become Bran Hambric?

KN: When I first wrote the story, I didn’t really plot it out much. All I had was a big idea, and I knew basically where it was going and who it would include, and what happened to some of the characters at the end. So as I wrote the book, many of the characters totally surprised me! I think I wrote about 5-600 pages in the six months following the first big idea. After I had all of that, I rewrote the book many times over the following years, until it was transformed into the book it is today.

You originally wrote 500 pages of the book in six to nine months. Could you describe your writing process during the writing of this first draft? Did you outline, or did you just start writing and let the story tell itself to you? Did you develop your characters first, or did they develop as you were writing? What were some of the things that drove you to write that first draft?

KN: I didn’t outline it much with the first draft: I really just wrote it out for a long time, and kept going with the characters leading the way. I did get stuck somewhere, and at that point I started plotting out bits and pieces of the book, just so I had a road map of where I was going. It was very much character driven for that draft though.

You spent six years working on Bran Hambric. I’d love to learn more about your editing process, the ways you refined your initial draft into the completed book. Did you have an "aha!" moment, when you knew the book was complete?

KN: I had a strange editing process. For the first few years, I just kept rewriting the entire book, and I’d get so far in it, then suddenly go back to the beginning and start over editing there again! I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I wanted the beginning to be really clean. I didn’t really have an "aha!" moment when I realized the book was finished, because I wasn’t even really sure it was: but I was ready to start hunting for an agent, so I sent it off!

[MsBookish: Just wanted to stick my nose in and say that Kaleb definitely accomplished a very clean beginning – the prologue that starts Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse is incredibly exciting, and pulls you right into the story.]

There is a lot of humor woven throughout Bran Hambric. Can you talk a bit about the humor in the book?

KN: I think my humor is derived from a lot of the radio dramas I listened to when I was very young, especially shows like Adventures In Odyssey and Jungle Jam And Friends, and from my dad, who was always making us laugh as kids. I think that having humor in a book makes it a far more enjoyable read!

Other than Bran Hambric, which of your characters did you enjoy writing about the most?

KN: Sewey was my favorite character to write about other than Bran. Sometimes even I find myself laughing as I write about his antics. He’s one of those characters that takes over the scene, so that it’s not like I’m even writing it at all, I’m just trying to keep up with what he’s doing.

[MsBookish: Sticking my nose in again to say that Sewey is very definitely a fun character; Kaleb has caught him so vividly, and I’m not at all surprised that writing the scenes with Sewey in them was more a matter of trying to keep up with what Sewey was doing!]

What are you working on now? Do you find your writing process is different than it was when you initially wrote Bran Hambric?

KN: I’m working on the sequel to The Farfield Curse right now. My writing process is quite different than with the first: far more organized, with a good amount of plotting and notes. That way I don’t have so much trouble with writer’s block… and I don’t take six more years on this one!

[MsBookish: I’m very glad to hear this, because I think once readers have read Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, they’re going to be looking forward to the sequel.]

What authors have influenced you the most as a writer?

KN: Lemony Snicket! I think his humor has affected mine greatly, because I loved his books growing up.

[MsBookish: I thought one of the most engaging things about Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse was the humor – it added such fun to the excitement.]

Thank you, Kaleb, for taking us for this behind the scenes look at the writing of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse!

You can read more about the book at Bran Hambric and visit Kaleb Nation at his blog, Kaleb Nation. He is also the Twilight Guy, and if you enjoy videos, be sure to visit his YouTube channel. And that’s not all! Kaleb’s composed a soundtrack for Bran Hambric, and you can listen to some of the tracks here!