My Inspiration

Normally, I’d do a post on books that I’ve read from the Summer Reading Program. I’ve got a post already planned out for next week (hint: it involves several adventure series, combined with a good deal of fantasy…) But today, I want to talk about part of what makesme, well – me.

Here’s to the most inspirational woman I know. Who suffers through it all and has somehow managed to keep on waking up every morning acting like Mary Poppins. She teaches, cleans, cooks, manages, schedules, overplans, and listens to us. She overachieves, pushes us to our limits, and drives me crazy with all the planning that she does (which I will always eventually thank her for). If there is one person in this world I would like to be, I’d pick my mom (sorry, Pop, but it’d be a bit awkward to have a goatee on my chin…). She is an endless source of inspiration for me. Her long-suffering, her charm, her wit, and most importantly, her love are always there for me. 

And when I get jealous of her good looks – well, at least everyone says I look exactly like her, right?

Thanks to the greatest woman in the whole world. I couldn’t have made it here without you.

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Summer Reading – Week 2

This week I’m reviewing a series rather than a selection of books from this week’s picks. I read this series a while back and decided to get them again to enjoy.

Enola is alone spelled backwards. And that is exactly what Enola is: alone. With her independent mother suddenly missing and her brothers trying to force her into finishing school to be squeezed into the monstrosity called a “corset”, Enola Holmes is on the run. With the help of gifts left behind by her mother, her ingenious brain, and a certain amount of deductive reasoning like her brother’s, she’s navigating London and solving crime – all whilst trying to solve the mystery that’s most important to her. What happened to her mother?

This series is loads of fun to read. It’s told from the perspective of an enigmatic and sympathetic character who manages to survive by her wits and solves mysteries while doing so. I also love that this series centers around Enola Holmes, who is quite as brilliant as her brother and shows a keen affection for him. The humanization of Holmes in any series is welcome as I have mentioned before and I happen to love the voice of Enola Holmes.

The one thing I will say is that I was dissatisfied by the ending to the series. I felt that the ending did not quite satisfy the frustration and anxiety of the main character’s hopes being thwarted again and again in previous books. I won’t say anymore; it’s up to you to find out why and make your own decision. 

Otherwise, this series is fantastic! It’s highly enjoyable, easily readable, and only a little bit of knowledge is required to read these books.

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Summer Reading – Week 1

With so much reading going on this summer, I’ve got too many books to post a review of just one book a week. So I’m doing a quicker review of selected books from my 50-book list of the week. This week’s three book picks all seem to correlate on the genre of mystery, all cleverly told in their own way.

First up is Effie Starr Zook Has One More Question. When Effie moves to Penn Creek to spend the summer with her aunt and uncle, she discovers family secrets and strange incidents. For example: Who are the Yonders? What does Mr. Odbody, the bookstore owner, know? And why does everyone seem to be hiding a secret that they’re not telling her? This book is sweet, funny, and well-told. Effie is a very relatable heroine and Penn Creek – secrets and all – sounds like a very quaint place to live.

Next is Spy on History: Mary Boswer and the Civil War Spy Ring. This book is superb in that it features audience participation. The readers – with the help of a spy decoder, acetate, maps, a page from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and queerly cut vellum – are invited to solve the mystery of Mary’s past. With the help of the clues on the page, the story, and their handy-dandy tools (included in the book), they can decipher what the answer is to the Vigenere cipher and where Mary’s hidden diary is. This book also includes the story of Mary Bowser, as she risks her life to discover the plans of Confederate president Davis. It’s a thrilling ride through history, earlier spydom, and mystery that will keep readers engaged and interested in reading more on all subjects.

This last book is my personal favorite, because it is a gift from my generous Tia Nene. May I present: The Lost Files of Nancy Drew! This book is similar to the ‘Ology books (Pirateology, Wizardology, Spyology, etc.) in that it is more of a scrapbook, with things to read, pull out, flip open, and explore. But I love it for that! This book is so great because it talks about the classic books, the evolution of Nancy, her tips and tricks, and features vintage art that is irresistible. Seriously, the inside of these pages is just a treasure trove of colorful illustrations and fun wonders to find. I own half if not more of the Nancy Drew series already, so I really am enjoying owning this “companion” book. It definitely makes me think about the books more when reading them. Once more a shoutout should go to my amazing aunt for giving me this book. She is too amazing and I can’t thank her enough for this book.

Well, that’s all for this week, folks! Along with these three books, I will be submitting about thirty or forty other books for collection on my Summer Reading list at the library. Yikes! Hope I can keep up the pace all summer long.

What’s on your summer reading list?

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School’s Out!

With the end of the school year – the official one, not ours – coming around, it’s time for us to pull out those dusty water guns, throw those bathing suits in the laundry, and check to see what days are free for the beach. It’s finally summer!

When I was little, summer was unlike most kids’. Though we got the two months, those two months were filled with academic activities to stimulate my mind and keep me active until we could return to “actual” learning. For the most part, this wasn’t too bad. To a six, eight, and then ten year old, this arrangement worked fine for me. But when my siblings got older, my mom noticed we weren’t retaining information as well as we should. Except for the basics and the portions we really loved, that year of schooling was just flitting away. So she made a decision, one that I imagine would be hard for any parent or teacher, especially the parent who loves their kid.

She decided to nix summer break.

This was sort of a shock, but luckily we were all at that perfect age where we weren’t too little or too old to get upset about something like that. According to Mom, we were losing our summers to give way to – hold on – another school year. Yup, that’s right. My ice-cream-eating-Beach-Boys-listening-pool-swimming-time was being given up to go right back to school. We’d have a three week-break, she explained. And every six weeks we’d get one week of break. It was a perfect arrangement and in the long run it gave us more breaks, she insisted.

Looking at the decision from a few years down the road, I can see her point and actually enjoy doing our year this way. It isn’t such a long haul from one break to the other and it gives us something to look forward to by the fourth week (my brother repeatedly asks my mom every week how much more until break). This also works well because we get bored easily. Getting past that first perfect golden week of device-and-sleeping-in-filled euphoria, we find ourselves quickly wanting something to do. A standard conversation goes like this: “M-om, I’m bored.” “Why don’t you read a book?” “I’ve read all my books”. “Why don’t you play outside or paint or”-  -“I don’t want to do that. I’ve done all that.” “Well then what do you want to do?” “I don’t know. Do something?”

It’s funny reading it, but this is the truth of the situation. We’re homeschooled kids. We’re used to always being active, always participating in some kind of fun activity, always learning. After the first week, our eager minds are looking for the next challenge.What challenge is that? Who knows! For now, I plan to spend my first week of break pretending I’m taking a vacation. Who knows, we may get around to taking a weekend trip somewhere in the three weeks.

Chime Time! Do you do year-round schooling? If so, how? If not, what do you do to keep your kids active?

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Lock and Key: the Initiation

James Moriarty is one of the greatest criminal masterminds the world has ever known. But before he became the scheming, remorseless villain he is now, he was just my older brother, James…At Baskerville, an elite private boarding school founded by our ancestors, James started drifting to the darkness. It was there he met his roommate, the insufferable Sherlock Holmes. From the very beginning, the two were at each other’s throats, literally and figuratively. But as much as the two frustrated each other, an incident at the school – and some would say destiny – forced the two together. 

One fateful day, during a vicious game of hide-and-seek (played the Moriarty way), Moria – along with her big brother James – hears something secretive being moved around in their father’s study. After an attack on the house, their father sends them to Baskerville Academy with instructions for Moria should the worst happen to him on his “travels”. But what travels would send kidnappers, a secret society, and mysterious thieveries into their lives? Meanwhile Baskerville Academy has its own brewing trouble. What with the impetuous Sherlock Holmes on the move, a seedy headmaster, and more family secrets, Moria isn’t sure who to trust. It’s a shadowy game against time, mysterious players, and uncertain forces that ends in a fantastic conclusion that will have you begging for more.

I should have reviewed this book before as I enjoyed it so much. I devoured it in one day, completing it despite the fact that we were out from about eight to three in the afternoon. It was so good and had me hooked from the first look (I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but…). This book is so well-told and actually sort of funny in some ways. I already am a fan of Ridley Pearson, having read Peter and the Starcatchers many, many times. I’ve also read Kingdom Keepers a lot – probably more than the previous series – so I was looking forward to the contents of this book. I was not disappointed.

The contention between the ever-darkening James, know-it-all Sherlock, and clever Moria adds to the story and I found it interesting that the author does emphasize the point that many of us think about Holmes: he’s intolerable. Don’t get me wrong; he’s a brilliant detective. But as a person, it’s hard to like him for the way he acts. He is insensitive and often rather annoying in the fact that he always presumes to know things (though even more frustratingly, he’s usually correct). So I thought it interesting that not only is it James who can’t stand him, but Moria as well. I thought it even more intriguing that she finds herself trying to prove to both Holmes and James that she is more than – in her brother’s mind at least – a stupid girl. Her relationship with Holmes (that of him annoying her and yet still giving her credit where credit is due) is also intriguing because Lock and Key shows us a side of Holmes that is less puffed up. The fact that he becomes friends with Moria makes him more human, which is to be appreciated.

As for readers, I think you will highly enjoy this. I believe there are a couple cuss words, so parents be forewarned. However, for older kids or parents, this is a highly enjoyable book with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end and begging for a second book.

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Willy’s Stories

Every week I walk through these doors and something incredible happens. I go on amazing adventures. 

Come with me and I’ll show you…

With colorful images and a fun, quizzical way of telling the story – or stories, one might say
– Anthony Browne’s Willy’s Stories is a wonderful book. As usual, I found this book while volunteering. This book is whimsical, well-paced, and interestingly told. It caused me to think and I’m sure it will cause you as the reader to want todo a little research. As with next week’s pick, this book really shows us the power of a good story. I know I am as captivated as this monkey when I read.

Chime Time: Which stories with anthropomorphic characters have you read with a fun twist?

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Cleopatra in Space

What do you get when you take one of the most famous characters in history and mash it up with science fiction? Cleopatra in Space

The first graphic novel in the series introduces us to our spunky heroine, depicting her discovery of a mysterious tablet which jets her into space thousands of years in the future! With no way to get back home, Cleo must try to navigate her way through an intergalactic military school, a prophecy surrounding her, and the looming threat of evil aliens on the horizon.

Book two picks up almost immediately after, giving us more information on the prophecy, the sword of Kebechet, Octavion (hint: he’s the evil mastermind), Cleo’s best friend Akila, and more! Packed with a ton of action and an amazing library, Cleopatra in Space: The Thief and the Sword is a sequel that will not disappoint!

As usual, I found this series while volunteering at our local library. The colorful art caught my eye and I was delighted to see after finishing the first book that it was a series. This comic series is extremely interesting, funny, and well-told. I also like that the artwork is highly saturated. Sadly, I have only been able to find the first two of this series, though there are four books out. Like The Nameless City I’m still waiting for the rest of the books to come to our library.

Your Turn! What odd genre mashup have you ever read and enjoyed?

 

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Ivy

In the charming, perfect little town of Broomsweep, magic is underfoot. Ivy and her grandmother are healers, and they welcome everyone into their home. Even magical 51nlUjeQS7L._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_beasts. When an injured griffin crashes onto their doorstep, pixies flit in, and a dragon with a cold drops by, the people of Broomsweep demand Ivy and their grandmother demand they turn their queer patients out. Ivy has grown to love the sweet Cedric, wise Balthazar, and the pixies in her garden, but with the arrival of the new queen and a pack of mischievous trolls on their way, what can Ivy do?

This book was so cute and so enjoyable! Written by Katherine Coville, wife of Bruce Coville (I reviewed his book from The Magic Shop series HERE), this book is filled with whimsy, sweet moments, and a valuable lesson. I loved the characters and the small illustrations throughout. It’s a short enough read for younger readers to enjoy as well. I recommend it highly; you will not be disappointed.

Chime Time! What magical creature would you want to take care of?

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Missy Piggle Wiggle and The Whatever Cure

Dear Missy, As you know, my husband, Mr. Piggle-Wiggle was called away some years ago by the pirates. After waiting so long for him to return, I have decided to take matters into my own hands and find out what happened to him. I’ll be leaving tomorrow. While I’m gone, could you stay at the farm and live in the upside-down house?

With this note from her aunt clutched in hand, Missy Piggle-Wiggle arrived in Little Spring Valley. Here in this world of magic and childish pleasure, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has worked her magic again and again. Now it’s her niece’s turn. Along with Lester the pig, Wag the dog, Penelope the parrot, and Lightfoot the cat, Missy Piggle-Wiggle takes her aunt’s place to fix all of Little Spring Valley’s mischief makers and mend all of the town’s bumps. In this volume Missy provides the “Whatever Cure”, the “Know-It-All Cure”, the “Gum-Smacking Cure”, and more!

9781250071699_custom-ae79202f54eba232b3596cb464a3f4d0d733066f-s400-c85I don’t know about you, but when I was little, there were several fictional women I had great respect for. I believed Mary Poppins was magic, that Nanny McPhee was scarily amazing, and that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was trouble’s worst enemy.

So imagine my delight when I discovered that there was a book titled Missy Piggle-Wiggle. It’s a fresh start on one of my favorite children’s series, but I have to admit, I was slightly nervous when picking it up. We own all four of the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books and I was sincerely hoping that this new author would respect the delightful books preceding it. I was pleased to see that Ann M. Martin honored the spirit of the original books with a wonderful book. This book is a fount of enjoyment. Families can read this, kids can read this, adults can read it. Anyone can sit down with this book and enjoy the simplicity and time-old wisdom of small-town America. It’s fresh, funny, and above-all a sweet ride with manners, kindness, and just plain quirkiness throughout.

I highly recommend this book and commend the authors and illustrator for creating such a lovable read. I will surely be looking for a sequel in the future.

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Happy Easter!

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May you be blessed today as we celebrate the bringing of new life and new hope. I hope we would all remember the real reason to be joyful this fine Sunday: Jesus’ gift of salvation. Whatever traditions you might hold or memories you might cherish, I pray we bring them before the Lord as we remember everything that he’s done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you.”  – 1 Peter 1: 3-4

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