Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It's a Good Day


Because sometimes, on a rainy day, I like Peggy Lee to remind me.

It is a good day.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Random Monday

* Why is it so cold already? I am praying for anyone in the path of the hurricane and anyone facing worse weather than I am (probably most of the US) but, wow, I do not like being this cold this early in the season.

* I didn't watch any of the last two games of the world series. So I had to look up the results today. Way to go, Giants, I guess. Sweeping the other guys is a pretty cool way to win. Also, it makes me feel less sad about losing in the play-offs. There's less shame in losing to the team that goes on to sweep the series. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

* My football experiment isn't going well right now. I've given up Yahoo (among other things) until the election is over and Yahoo is my primary sports news aggregate. So there's still time to influence me, is what I'm saying. Just don't suggest the Panthers. Even their own true fans have no idea what's going on with that team.

* Two of the girls and I were very excited to get back to school this morning after our unscheduled "Mom is too sick to do anything" break last week. The other girl was less enthusiastic but eventually came around. It felt great to have a stack of things accomplished before lunch time.

 Sweet Pea is now learning about the oh-so powerful silent E at the end of words. She seems to be getting it so far, but then today her sight word to memorize, because it breaks the "rule", was "have".

"How come words are allowed to break the rules?" She asked.

Her oldest sister chimed in, "That's just English for you."

But it was all in good fun, you understand. We're homeschoolers. We love English and grammar and writing and run-on sentences.

* This is how the Lili Monster greeted me when I emerged from my bedroom this morning (before hot cup of tea or visit to the bathroom or anything): "Hi, Mommy! Make me breakfast!"

Her current tricks include: talking (a lot), messing with the computer and protesting (once removed) that she was "Tryin' talk Jo-Jo!" (her similar age cousin that lives five hours away and whom we occasionally Skype), taking off all her clothes (seriously. The child is a nudist at heart. A church friend informed me last night that our youngest tried to strip down in the nursery at church.), and being generally into everything. No progress on the potty training front, yet. But she will tell us when she wants a diaper change so I suppose that's a good thing.

* When I was sick last week I went on a Ngaio Marsh vintage mystery reading binge. I thought I was reading them in order, using the publication dates inside. Turns out, I was not. So I printed out a list of the mysteries in chronological order so that I can continue the series as it was meant to be read. But it really annoys me that I read most of them in a mixed-up fashion.

Yes, this is the kind of thing that annoys me to no end. Books should be read in the correct order. And don't even get me started about how publishers are trying to get kids to read The Magician's Nephew before The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. It's not right people. It's just not right.

So, what's going on in your corner of the world?
 This post is linked to Random Monday at Not Inadequate.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Weekend Links - October 27, 2012


So hard to believe that October is almost over!

We took an unexpected, unscheduled Fall Break this week. I was sick (sick enough to go to the doctor and sick enough to need an antibiotic) from about last Saturday until Wednesday. I feel like I'm oh so slowly getting back to "normal" (whatever that is).

Of course no school work got done.
I didn't get to go with Philip & the girls to Children's Theatre, one of our favorite homeschool field trips. My brother (bless him and his 17 year old compassionate heart) took my place.
We spent an entire day doing a major search and rescue to find a CD that one of our daughters had borrowed -including moving furniture in their room - didn't find it. Decided the baby must have accidentally thrown it away.
Found CD the next morning. So I guess we didn't have to move their bed that weighs 2 tons out from the wall, after all.
Plus, we're signing a contract with a new real estate agent. Oh, and the main light fixture in our bedroom went on the fritz.

Jolly week, is what I'm saying.

Now to the links!
Pins of the week:
Again, not much. But this made me laugh out loud:
If I was ever going to write a parenting book, I should have done it long before now. Just when I think I have my kids figured out...I don't.

That's it for this week. What did you stumble on this week?
This post will be linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Five Question Friday

1. Who wakes up in the morning with the kids, you or hubby?
Well, it depends. Our flexible schedule means that there are many mornings when the girls are up (or at least out of their room) before we are. They know how to turn on a DVD (the only time of day they watch a movie or old cartoon) and pour their own cereal & milk if they're hungry.

Other days we're all up together. On Sundays, Philip has to wake all of us up. Sunday mornings around here = finely tuned chaos.

2. Do you watch the World Series even if your team isn't in it?
Sometimes. I've seen a little bit of both games so far, although I can't say I'm particularly excited about either team. I did watch most of the NL playoffs even after my team was out, and I'm glad I did. (Just so I could watch the Giants put the Cardinals in a world of hurt. Those last two games I almost wished there was a mercy rule to put The Birds out of their misery. Almost.)

3. What is the best compliment you have received?
Wow. I don't think I can remember a specific comment but I do treasure any time someone praises how our girls are turning out. I know I can't take credit for how amazing they are, but it is nice when someone notices we are trying to raise them right. Really, most compliments (provided they're not the "backhanded" kind) are wonderful. We are fortunate at our church to have several people who are amazingly encouraging and who take time to give real, genuine compliments.

4. Do/did you dress up to take your kids trick or treating?
Nope. I usually have to bundle up (seems like the end of October is usually freezing up here), but I'm not much for wearing a costume.

5. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? What is it and why?
So, so many. But this is the one I claim as my favorite most often (emphasis added):
Mark 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
Really, I could fill a blog post with favorite verses. Actually, I did. And if you'd like to see what I called my "30 Favorite Verses" you can read that post here.

How about you?
This post is linked to Five Question Friday at My Little Life.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Links - October 20, 2012

For Serious:
  • Why We Let our Teenager Manage our Budget.  I thought this was a great idea to remember for when my girls get a bit older. We'll have them take Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace course and then let them have a go at the family budget for a specific period of time, as a way to earn a "personal finance" credit.
  • I love Kevin DeYoung's list of Unlikely Debate Lines. Side note: the final presidential debate is Monday. I seriously doubt either of them will say any of these things.
  • Speaking of the election (and it seems like we are always speaking about it...), now would be a good time to review the John Piper sermon Let Christians Vote as Though They Were Not Voting. Now I'm going to go off on a tangent: I've seen some Christians around the blogosphere and Facebook post things along the lines of "the election doesn't matter because no matter what, God is still in control." Well, obviously God is still in control. You know when else God was in control? (Correct Answer: always) Oh, how 'bout when Nero was Emperor of Rome and using Christians as human torches? Or how about when Hitler came to power in Germany? Or how about any number of despotic regimes I can name that are in power around the world right now, regimes with no respect for human life and outright hatred for Christians? You see, God is in control but the things we do, the rulers we elect, the choices we make, those things have consequences. We have to live on this earth as it is, not as we wish it would be. Christians over the centuries (and many around the world today) would probably have given much to have the freedoms and choices we currently have in the US. So vote like it matters, because it does. Now I've said my piece and we can move on.
  • 10 Survival Tactics for Rescuing a Bad Day. So much good advice in one post!
  • Ghosts of World War II: period photos superimposed on modern images. Probably my favorite set of this new trend.
For Fun:
  • This is probably only of interest to my local friends and family: What Would Marty Do? (About the Cincinnati Reds) I think I agreed with his observations.
  • In further baseball related matter: I am not a Dodgers fan but I enjoyed this post about Sports and Education. Sports, in their proper place, can definitely be a positive thing.
  • Know anyone getting married soon? Make sure they're acquainted with these 10 New Rules for Wedding Dresses. Note: 9 of these reasons are silly but, seriously, I encourage you to rip off Kate Middleton. Her dress was timeless and classy. You could do far worse.
  • I loved this Advice from a 7 Year Old. My favorite is probably "if you do not have enough money get a Job," but really, it's all good advice.
  • The Five Worst Sounds in the Universe. I suppose I won't argue with this list but I really think my 5 year old's high pitched whine (or the scream her 2 year old sister has perfected) could have made the cut.
  • Check out this awesome refashion: Mod Cloth Inspired Plaid Dress Refashion. Our local thrift store is usually full of these types of dresses but I never saw their potential before this post.
  • Speaking of Fall Fashion, you need to know How to Wear Tweed. Laura Barton can help you out. Sense of superiority, here we come! {wink} *Autoplay video warning. Make sure the volume on your computer is at a manageable level. Wouldn't want to blast yourself out of your computer chair. Not that such a thing every happens to me.*
Pins of the week:
Still wasn't very active pinning this week. I did pin this recipe to try sometime:

And this, just for fun:

I have neither the inclination nor the money to go to a gym. Walking at our local park? Yes. "Working out" with machines other people have used or taking a class with other people who can see how uncoordinated I am? No.
This post is linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife. Come share your links or show a little love to some new-to-you bloggers.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Five Question Friday

1. Where do you hide junk when people come over?
Well, considering how small our house is, the basement is really the only option. Long ago I would have said that's why God gives us closets but we live in a house that was originally built in 1860. So, no closets is what I'm saying.

But really, if I like you and trust you, you're probably going to see some of our clutter.

And one good thing about having your house for sale: you pare down and your house at least gets all the way clean if you have a showing scheduled. I'm seriously trying to look for the good things about selling a house because, basically, it really stinks.

2. Do political ads help you decide who you are going to vote for?
Um, no, because I have these things called principles.  Incidentally, I hate political ads with a fiery passion, even those of my own "side". I always vote, even in those little off year elections. I have never missed an election or primary since I turned 18. I just don't require a manipulative 30 second TV spot to help me choose. I am always the opposite of an "undecided" voter. Soapbox: if you're "undecided" in the middle of October before a presidential election, just sit yourself down and let the grown-ups handle things. [/soapbox]

3. What's your favorite holiday party to host?
We don't really host any holidays. Maybe if we get a bigger house we'll be able to. So I guess the girls' birthday parties are my favorite things to host. And since we have on daughter with a December birthday, that's almost like a Christmas party.

4. You go to an island with your husband and can only take one personal item. What is it?
I'd love to be super spiritual here and say, "my Bible." But I do have a lot of Scripture memorized so maybe I'd take something practical like soap or toothpaste. Which, now that I think about it, I should probably take Baking Soda or vinegar. You can do anything with Baking Soda or vinegar.

5. If you found out your spouse was a Dexter style serial killer (only kills people to save others) would you rat?
I've never seen the show but here goes:  my spouse wouldn't be. Not ever. I can't even imagine this in the wildest hypothetical way.  And honestly? If I found out my husband was killing people, that'd be the end of my husband. And the end of me.

Yuck.

So, do tell, where do you hide your clutter?
This post is linked to Five Question Friday at My Little Life.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Enemy, The Victory, and The Hope

A few days ago I watched my Facebook and Twitter feeds fill up with lamentations about a character death on a popular TV show. Comments ranged from "what a bummer" to "Wow, that was depressing" and "do TV writers think they have to kill off every character?"

I thought it was ridiculous, all this sturm und drang for a character on a TV show? Seriously?

I was indignant. Where were all these people when terrorists killed - for real, not just pretend - our Ambassador to Libya (and three other Americans)? Did a fake death on a TV show really matter more to people than actual deaths with significant repercussions for our entire country?

My indignation grew. Sheila Gregoire is right, it really is a A Honey Boo Boo World.

Somehow, I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Why did it matter so much? Why do deaths of fictional characters on TV shows (or even books) have the ability to affect us this way?

My indignation slipped away as I gradually figured it out (I think): because death matters. Death is the enemy.

When we're reminded of death everything inside us cries out, "This isn't right!"

Monday, October 15, 2012

Random Monday

{Because "Organized Thoughts Monday" is just not going to happen around here.}

1. Yesterday was staff appreciation at our church. Which is always a lovely, if humbling, experience. Some folks give us gifts and such too, in addition to encouraging words and public recognition. Last night Sweet Pea {5} was looking at her daddy's stack of cards, gift cards, & such.

"Dad, you really should share some of this with Mommy," she informed him.

I've trained that child well.

2. I have decided to study up on American football. See, I have this theory that there are no genuine female football fans. Sure, there are many girls / women who profess to love football...

But I don't think so. These ladies are always fans of whatever team their husband / father / potential future mate happens to love.

I do not have that kind of peer pressure: my dad follows football only to mock the fans, teams, & ridiculous nature of sports fanaticism. My husband doesn't care about it at all. Seriously: the only game he watches every year is the Super Bowl. We watch it together in our own version of a Super Bowl Party.

So.

Here are my observations so far: College ball and Pro ball are really not the same game and people tend to prefer one over the other. I have no alma mater or parental alma mater to cheer for (we all graduated from small Christian colleges) so I am skipping college ball.

These are teams I am evaluating as possible "favorite team" for myself:
  • Titans - because I grew up in TN and I'd rather cheer for the Titans than the Bengals (current hometown team). I am not interested in sports related masochism. If I'm going to cheer on a team they're going to have to actually win a game every now and again. Yes, I am shallow.
  • Broncos - because Peyton Manning
  • Giants - because Eli Manning
  • Ravens - because they're doing well so far this year. And also because I have a soft spot for Baltimore based teams since Philip & I went there on our honeymoon. (I tend to cheer for the Orioles for the same reason. This does not hinder my love and devotion to the Reds in any way as the Orioles are American League and I am all about the National League when it comes to baseball. Or, as I like to call it, real ball.)
  • '49ers - and:
  • Redskins - both of these because they seem to be popular and I might as well be a bandwagon joiner at this point. I suppose I am also considering:
  • Eagles - for that same reason. However, if I was going to go by best record then I would have to go for:
  • Falcons - because they are undefeated this year.
You can see this a highly scientific process. So if you want to throw in your suggestions for my future favorite football team, feel free. I warn you that several teams are already out of the running for various reasons. (So please, no "Steelers!" or "Patriots!" suggestions. I don't know much about football but I do know I don't like the Steelers or Tom Brady. So those are right out.)

3. Speaking of things I can't quite get into: my husband is a Dr. Who fan now. I, despite my love for Sci-fi, including vintage, rather silly sci-fi, and intense love for all things produced in the UK, can't quite seem to sit through an episode. He has not yet given up hope that I will eventually like it the way he does. We'll see.

4. Now for a cute and highly random picture:
Miss Lili and her kitty friend in the little playhouse a few days ago. 

We've had some beautiful fall days recently. Now that it's colder we think our neighbor moved her cat inside. This makes us sad. OK, this makes some of us sad. Like Miss Lili who runs to the window every morning and calls, "Kitty? Where you, Kitty?"

Which makes me sad. If we weren't trying to sell this house I think we would have cat-napped that cat long ago. Or you know, asked the neighbor if we could have the cat since she likes us best anyway.

5. One Thing I Love the Most about Singing in our Church Choir: I get to start listening to Christmas music in October. Our cantata this year is going to be epic. I love it. I've listened to it every day since Sunday a week ago and I seriously think I could listen to it every day between now and Christmas and never get really tired of it.

OK, that's enough random for one day. What's up with you this week?
This post is linked to Random Monday at Not Inadequate.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Links - October 13, 2012

What a week. Bad things: funerals, allergies, a strong willed child on the rampage, the knowledge that we cannot sell our house for what we owe on it, massive baseball upsets.

Good things: almost signed with a new realtor, it's Saturday so the week will be over in {checks the clock} 15 hours, and the girls had fun at a Corn Maze / Hayride activity and got to stay up late (good for "fun parent" points).

I had fun too but between the dander from the farm animals, the corn, the dust from the straw bales, the smoke from the bonfire and the dropping temperature, I was practically curled up in the fetal position by the end of it. I don't mind the outdoors but it minds me.

Also, I am a bundle of joy this morning, apparently.

So let's just get on to the links:
Pins of the week: Nada.

But I do have a picture to share:
Dear Reds and Nationals, I know you had the two best records in baseball this year. I'm sorry it didn't matter. One thing sports teaches us: life's not fair and sometimes the bad guys win. As we say every fall: there's always next year. Come Spring Training, I'll be there cheering you on. Well, the Reds anyway. I probably won't be cheering for the Nationals unless I need to. You understand.
 Love, A Disappointed Ball Fan.

That's it for this week, folks. (Was that a sigh of relief I heard?)
This post is linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife. Come share your links and see what other people are linking. They can't all be as grouchy as I am.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Five Question Friday

1. Did you have any homecoming traditions?
Um, homecoming as in highschool, football and a dance? No.

I never attended a homecoming or prom. I do not regret this at all.

As far as other things called "homecoming", my grandmother's family reunion is called homecoming. Traditions for this include getting a motel room and swimming as much as possible, then attending the reunion and eating as much as possible.

Our church (113 years old) also has Homecoming every year. This involves a special service and a huge meal. (I'm starting to see a theme here...)

2. Do you ask your spouse before spending money?
Yes and no. We each have our own spending money in our own envelopes. We buy what we like out of that. So I don't ask him before I buy more scrapbook paper or a book.

On the other hand, we don't buy anything for our family our house without discussing it first. We do our budget together at the beginning of the month and we stick pretty closely to that.

I have never hidden the cost of anything and he doesn't micromanage how I do the grocery shopping or whatnot. Works for us.

3. If you could be famous for something what would it be?
Writing, I guess, if I ever finish that long gestating novel. Although Sweet Pea (5) thinks I have pretty rad "cutting things out" skills - it's so nice to have a child to impress. And on a given day, my children think I should be famous as "The Meanest Mom in the WORLD", so there's that too.

4. Have you ever seriously thought you were going crazy?
People who are going crazy think they're perfectly sane. I have a Christian Counseling degree so I'm prone to "arm chair" diagnoses, but no, I have never seriously thought I was losing touch with reality. There is no time for a nervous breakdown around here.

5. How do you eat your steak? Burger? (as in, well done, medium, still moo-ing...)
Steak I like medium rare or medium, depending on the restaurant. Burgers are usually supposed to be well done and I can't say I've ever ordered a burger and asked for it to still be pink.

Please tell me I'm not the only woman who would far rather have a big, juicy steak than a piece of fish or limp chicken breast. If I'm eating out at Outback or some place like that I am far more likely to order steak than something else. Chicken I can make at home (and often do). Steak is not a regular on our menu and I love it. (And yes, I was notorious for ordering Prime Rib when I was a kid.)

P.S. My apologies for the lack of posting this week. Every day except Wednesday I sat down to blog and then just got back up again. I'm not sure what this funk is but I'm hoping it passes soon.
This post is linked to Five Question Friday at My Little Life.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend Links - October 6, 2012

First a rant: our power has been out two times in the past twelve hours. The first time it went off at 11 PM and it came on somewhere around 3 AM. Then it went off again around 10 AM and came on about 10:45. Unacceptable, Duke.

There wasn't a storm, or strong wind, or ice. Which makes me wonder what's going to happen this winter if there's actually an ice storm or something.

Just had to get that off my chest. Now that the power's back on {fingers crossed}, let's get on with the linkage for this week:
  • Walk to Rest by Nicole at the Girltalk blog. Do you know why Christians are so worn out sometimes? It's because we aren't obeying. True rest comes when we're doing what God has told us to do.
  • I'm active in my church (and really, as a PK, I always have been) but I love this reminder: Your Marriage is Your First Ministry. I would also add that your children come before "outside" ministry. Jolene's post is blunt but I think we could all use the reminder at times. There's only so much of "me" I can give. My husband and my children get first dibs, if that makes sense. (And that's actually one reason why I don't work outside the home and also why we homeschool. As an introvert, people drain my energy. I didn't want to come home at the end of the day and have nothing left for Philip and my kids. You might not need that, but we knew that I did.)
  • Speaking of husbands coming first, Katrina of The Poorganic Life shared an interesting way she puts her husband first: Poorganic Splurge (allocating money in the budget for date night).
  • I liked Smockity's Ten Commandments of Courtesy for Kids (and Adults).
  • Found myself nodding my head and agreeing with two posts from The Common Room this week (which is not unusual, by the way). The first was: Addressing Biblical Femininity and Modesty with our Daughters. The three points I wish parents would really take to heart are 1. it's primarily an internal thing, not external, 2. don't be afraid of your authority as a parent, and 3. an excellent relationship with Dad is key.
  • The second Common Room post that I really want to share with every SAHM I know: Finding the Right Fit. Save this one and read it when you're discouraged.
  • An interesting how-to: How to "Unshrink" Your Clothes
  • Plugged In reviewed the new Mumford and Sons album. I love Mumford and Sons but I was wary because their first album had one song we had to completely delete due to profanity. Looks like we'll be doing that again, because "Babel" gets a glowing review except for one track.
  • October is the month when Nester hosts "31 Days" posts. This year there are 1233 entries, so there's definitely something for everyone. Here are some series that I'll be following:
31 Days to Write Your Story by Lisa-Jo Baker.
31 Days of Fearless Writing by The Write Day.
Which 31 days posts are you following? Are any of you doing one this year?

Pins of the Week:
I felt like I was on Pinterest a lot this week and yet I only pinned a few things. Not sure how that happened. Anyway, I must have pumpkin on the brain (doesn't everyone in October?!) because I pinned these two recipes:

So, what caught your eye this week?

This post is linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife. Come share your links and see what other people stumbled on this week!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Five Question Friday

1. What album/cd/download are you embarrassed to admit you have?
Oh, wow. Maybe ABBA Gold - Greatest Hits? Or the five Spice Girls songs I have in my "'90's" folder. Or that "James Bond Theme Songs" album, although, in my defense, that's actually my husband's.

2. What's the one thing your spouse does better than you?
I think the only thing I do better than he does is hold two thoughts in my head at once. He's very singular of focus.

Other than that, he's great at pretty much everything. But want to know something nice? He would say that about me. We're pretty big fans of each other, we complement each other, and our relationship is not a contest to see who does what better. [/soapbox]

3. When do you start buying Halloween Candy?
At the last minute possible or we would eat it. This year we're not doing the "Trick or Treat" thing, since Halloween is on a Wednesday. We'll have an alternative activity for our kids at our church. For that I'll have to have candy in by the Sunday before.

The best time to buy candy: after Halloween. Just remember that I call dibs on the  Almond Joy / Mounds bags.

4. Family closets - Yay or nay?
I actually love the idea. The house we live in now is far to small for such a set up. We've gotten pretty good at figuring out storage in an old house that doesn't have closets handy. I think I might try the family closet concept if we ever move.

5. Which home/cleaning chore do you hate the most? Why?
Well, hate is kind of a strong word. I'm not fond of folding & putting away laundry. And I wouldn't say I enjoy cleaning, under usual circumstances. But I love having a {reasonably} clean house. And I love to sit down at night with {relatively} all the toys & clutter put away again.

That said, I would never have an exchange like one I saw on FB the other day:

New Wife & Homemaker: I hate laundry!
Other friends: Me too!
Older Sister: Doesn't bother me!!!

That's when I'd tell that older sister to get over herself and also that I'd be dropping my laundry by for her to do, since it doesn't bother her. "Take it easy on the starch."

Come on people, if someone wants to vent about her laundry pile, that's A-OK. That's why FB is there, as far as I can tell. (Although, I admit, I wanted to say, "Hey, you think you have a lot of laundry with just the two of you? Come to my house. You'll see what a laundry pile really means.")

How about you? Got a least favorite chore? And please, do tell: what embarrassing album will you admit to?
This post is linked to Five Question Friday at My Little Life.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Theme Thursday - Kid

Theme Thursdays is a fun weekly event that will be open from one Thursday to the next. Anyone can participate in it. The rules are simple:
  • A theme will be posted each week (on Thursday)
  • Select a conversation/snippet/sentence from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
  • It is important that the theme is conveyed in the sentence (you don’t necessarily need to have the word)
The theme for this week is
KID , child, baby, toddler, boy, girl etc

My selection for this week:
"I looked after children, I babysat, I helped on the farm, I did my own washing," she says. "We did as much as we could and were always doing things with the children. But the landlady would insist on bringing us a cup of tea in the morning. One day she suddenly said: 'I shan't be here next week, my aunt will be coming to look after you. Actually, I'm having a baby.' We felt so awful that we had let her wait on us and we had no idea. She just laughed and said: 'You know, you're not the only ones who can keep a secret.'"

This is from the book The Secret Lives of Codebreakers: The Men and Women Who Cracked the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay, which is, as expected, excellent.

This post is linked to Theme Thursday at Reading Between Pages.
This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. Action taken with this link could result in compensation for me. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Books of 2012 - September

Question for you: are there many things on earth nicer than curling up with a good book under a cozy blanket while the rain pours outside?

I submit that there are not. And now to the "books finished in September" list:

1. Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir that Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and Downton Abbey. Non-fiction by Margaret Powell. Two things surprised me about this book: how mean spirited it was at times and how exactly it could have inspired "Downton" since the experiences of Margaret Powell are post-Great War and therefore quite different. The world changed from 1914-1919, as did the expectations of those who served in great houses.

2. Friendship for Grownups: What I Missed and Learned Along the Way. Non-fiction by Lisa Whelchel. I was interested in this one because I'm the first to admit that I'm not great at the "Friend" thing. That's partly because of my introversion and partly for some other reasons that I will not get into here. But anyway, I wanted some inspiration from someone else who had to learn to make friends as an adult and I've enjoyed a few of Whelchel's other books because she has an easy, accessible style despite her relative fame. When I finished the book (which isn't long, by the way) I told Philip, "It was OK but I have one question: where was her husband?"

See, here's the thing: my husband is my best friend. When something happens to me, when I'm hurt, when I'm happy, when I'm trying to figure something out: he's the one I want to talk to most. He's the one who helps me the most. I'm not saying I don't need other friends, I'm just saying that none of them can possibly know me, understand me, and encourage me the way he does. That's basically what marriage vows are: promising before God and human witnesses that we will be one flesh, best friends, and we will "know" each other in every sense of the word.

I didn't think a lot more about it until I read about a week ago that Whelchel and her husband recently divorced. I will not tell you that I saw that coming, I'm just saying I saw evidence in this book that indicated something was off. Your mileage may vary, of course.

3. The Creativity Cure: A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness. Non-fiction by Carrie & Alton Barron. Psychoanalysis a la Freud and "go take a walk" so you'll feel better. Not what I was expecting.

4. The Forgotten Affairs of Youth. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. These books about the philosopher Isabel Dalhousie who lives in Edinburgh have surprising depths.

5. Eve. Fiction by Anna Carey. Dystopian future America with a teenage female protagonist. Interesting premise, slightly obnoxious heroine, glaring failures of logic.

6. The Importance of Being Seven. Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith. Yet another series by Smith. Bertie is a fabulous character and I'm glad he (spoiler alert!) finally gets a little relief from his ridiculous mother and his over-scheduled, over-controlled life. I'm not sure how McCall Smith keeps turning out all these different books in such different series (Ladies' No 1 Detective Agency, 44 Scotland Street, Corduroy Mansions, Sunday Philosophy Club).

7. The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany 1944-1945. Non-fiction by Ian Kershaw. Kershaw's research is top notch. This one was a slog at times, but worth it to anyone studying or interested in scholarly works on the Second World War.

8. Heretic Queen: Queen Elizabeth I and the Wars of Religion.Non-fiction by Susan Ronald. Fascinating stuff here. Queen Elizabeth I remains one of the most interesting people, not to mention monarchs, who helped shape the Western world. Highly recommend this one.

9. Once: An Eve Novel. Fiction by Anna Carey. 2nd book in the series (see #5 above). Same strengths and problems as before plus another downfall: the secondary characters are not as interesting in this one.I'll still read the final book when it comes out. These are not difficult to read and I do want to know how the author winds it up.

10. Mr. Churchill's Secretary. Fiction by Susan Elia MacNeal. This author has obviously done her homework and research. And, considering the subject matter, I wanted this to be better than I ultimately felt it was. Here are some problems I had:
  • writing a fiction book that features real, historical people is really, really tough. Even if you use words that we know that person (in this case, Churchill) used, it's hard to suspend disbelief and accept that he or she is saying those words to your newly invented characters
  • The nominally American heroine (who happens to be a British citizen, how convenient) is a know it all. She is always, always right. She is also quite self-righteous about this. 
  • The main characters discuss and approve of "alternative" lifestyles in a way that is not period accurate.
  • A faked-out death cheapens some of the actual deaths later in the story.
  • The coincidences stack up: the heroine's knowledge of Bletchley Park, the circumstances of her father's disappearance, the conspiracy...I could go on. Coincidence happens (or seems to happen) in real life but it's a hard sell in a book.
  • Here's my main beef: the POV jumps all over the place. If you're going to be omniscient and know what every character is thinking, then be omniscient. Otherwise it's just sloppy third.
The positive: this book inspired me to get back to work on my own WW2 novel. I told Philip, "I think I can do better than this."

What he said: "I think you can, too. So get to it."

So I did.

And yes, I think I'll give this author another chance in the future. After all, she's writing about my favorite time period and my favorite setting. She may grow as a writer, improve some of those technical problems, and anyway, first novels are notoriously difficult.

Totals for September:
Fiction: 5
Non-fiction:5

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