Friday, May 26, 2017

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Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett, a book review

Where's My Cow? by Terry Pratchett is my first experience with a children's picture book to which I could easily assign the term 'plot twist'. Nothing about the cover or title prepared me for the way the story would turn and the change in the art within.

Melvyn Grant is a really talented artist. He created art for this book that looks so real as to look almost like a photograph at times, yet he also pulls off great more typical children's picture book illustrations. I dislike the garish reality of some of the picture-like illustrations later in the book. In fact, I dislike them so much that I'm beginning to think maybe I should prescreen children's picture books to make sure they are acceptable because at least three of the illustrations in this book were such that I didn't want my two youngest to see.

Together, author and illustrator won the Children's Winner of The Ankh-Morpork Librarian's Award.

The story is good. It's very much like something my husband would do with a story… changing it to entertain our children. I can well imagine the fun the baby in the story had at his father's antics!

The art is amazing. Even though I didn't like the presence of a few of the portraits, they are still masterfully executed.

Have you read Where's My Cow by Terry Pratchett?


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

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writing life: why I write what I write…

Have you ever felt compelled to do something? Like… it was just part of what you were here on earth to do? Like… if you didn't do it, there would be some humungous part of your experience lacking and you would fall short of heavenly expectations if you didn't do your best to do… whatever it was you felt compelled to do?

That's why I write.

I could end there, but I have so many more words to share on this… probably won't say anything more illuminating than the above. It wouldn't be like me to be so very short!

Growing up, I heard often about journal writing. I think my first journal hales back to when I was five or six years old. What a treasure to have… only to me, but still!

My Mom was early and often impressed with my writing prowess. She has and likely ever will be my number one fan… though, when my two oldest girls found out I considered her so, they decided they were in some sort of race, vying to be my number one fans. They are pretty funny. Unfortunately for them, my Mom has… like… 30 years on them! So, it'll take some pretty fantastic feats for them to overtake her.

As my number one fan, my Mom has been sure that I would and should be published for a great many years now. She has been sure FAR longer than I have! In fact, she has known and believe it longer than I even really thought much of my writing. See, how can anyone beat that? I mean… sheesh! Anyone else is jumping on the wagon that I've decided I should actually drive! Can you imagine… I mean, she's held on during all the time I wasn't driving… and now, when I'm still learning to drive and she's still stoically encouraging… I think, probably, sometimes wondering if I'll ever get this thing managed. I sure wonder, myself.

My genre isn't hers, yet she encourages me and roots for me and applauds my expressed plans and hopes. She loves historical fictions. I'm pretty sure she probably likes mystery as well. I know she reads plenty of 'self-help' type self-education books. She has only started to get into fantasy because my girls adore it and she wants to understand what they are reading and interested in. So, maybe by the time I have anything actually good written, she'll love part of my genre. Since I'm pretty solidly writing in the genre “speculative fiction,” the fact that she's beginning to enjoy fantasy is definitely a good thing.

I guess the above only illustrates that I wasn't really directed or led to my genre by my Mom's reading choices and interests. I started reading fantasy (and romance) because it was the easiest way to escape the doldrums I considered my life. Imagining other worlds… and aliens… and what it would take to make it there… and what ifs… that was exciting to me!

Now, I still feel a good bit of excitement about those things. Yet, I feel more desire to share what I see (in my imagination and otherwise) by way of a story that maybe could be… sometimes. Other times, I just want to share truths by way of a fantastical story that as far as I know really couldn't happen. Maybe those truths will be easier to understand in the context of the fantastic. Maybe not. Maybe in my stories, they will simply be one of the eight times our silly human brains need to actually GET something!

Either way, I'm doing something I truly believe Heavenly Father has directed. And what greater joy can there be but to live out His plan for our lives?

Monday, May 22, 2017

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Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne, a book review

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne is well written and very easy to read. This story follows a group of children who are stranded as a series of natural disasters begin. Thankfully, they are safe in a large Walmart-like store. Their experiences are interesting and I was hooked quickly and read it through in less time than many other books.

I recommend this book only for older teens (maybe eighteen and older) and adults. There is one scene with nudity and various characters use profanity throughout. Additionally, there are a few pretty gruesome experiences and descriptions. My children will not read it any time soon. I, however, am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Have you read Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 19, 2017

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What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla, a book review

What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla is a wonderful story about the uses of a rebozo. I thought rebozos were predominantly used in natural birth settings and with babies, so this children's picture book was wonderfully educational for me.

Amy Cordova created illustrations that perfectly support and clarify the story, which is what every children's picture book author hopes for in their illustrations, I think. The colors are bright and bold and convey a strong Hispanic flare. They keep young children's attention relatively well in my household.

Have you read What Can You Do With a Rebozo? by Carmen Tafolla? What did you think of it?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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my thoughts: on the Mandelbrot Set

Pretty recently, I made a comment about a possibility pertaining to the universe in a group for members of my church. The only person to respond to me directly was exceedingly unkind and taunted my comments. Basically, he acted like a bully and made fun of my thoughts. The most surprising thing about him, to me, is that he did this unabashedly AND he's old enough to be my Dad. Seriously.

I responded that he was acting in a manner that was beneath him. He responded that his reaction was completely appropriate because of the ridiculousness of what he understood in my comments.

The thing is, I didn't deserve to be taunted, laughed at, and made fun of. That was all about him and how intolerant and unkind he is. In the moment of reading his unkindnesses, though, I didn't feel the truth of what I know! How true it is, this thing I've taught my children: the devil loves to manipulate our feelings and drag us down to misery by them!

So, anyway… as a result of that most disagreeable interaction with a stranger who should've known better, I feel the desire to share about the Mandelbrot Set here.

This most amazing mathematical set is not just a fractal. It is one of many ways of understanding the world around us.

This set is believed to represent the skin where order and chaos meet. If we consider this for a moment in human terms, what would that “skin” be? The mind, heart, and spirit of human beings, of course. Our minds, hearts, and spirits are the place where chaos (the devil) and order (God) meet. We are where they win or lose.

In a regular fractal, we see the fruition of sacred geometry, as it is considered. And it is beautiful, as is the Mandelbrot Set. However, in the MS one can move into it (zoom in, as it were) and the picture changes. While this is also true of other fractals, I'm not sure the end of the zooming is also. You see, in the Mandelbrot Set, when you zoom in far enough, so long as nothing has changed in the original, you'll eventually return to the exact same image as where you began.

Which lends a relatively good segue to the next point: The Mandelbrot Set is a picture of a pretty organic looking amoeba or paisley-type thing. On the outer edge of it are various size repetitions of the same shape. On the same outside line of each paisley on the outside of the main paisley are more of them… and on to infinity, it is supposed. If one changes one small (even the smallest thing we could change) on any of those paisley shapes, the whole picture changes.

This mathematical picture is awesome to me because it is a representation of us! First, as I already shared, I believe it shows our mind/heart/spirit as the place where chaos and order meet. Second, we see that no matter our path and life's experiences, we will continue to come round to the same exactly thing… unless the third thing happens… a change. If we change one small thing in ourselves, our perception of the whole world changes. If we change (as one small part of the world), the whole world also changes in actuality.

Ghandi taught it by saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Jesus Christ taught it in many ways, with particular focus on forgiving others.
Awesome, right?

Can you see what I see? If you want to know that I'm not the only one who sees it this way, please watch.

Monday, May 15, 2017

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Dangerous by Shannon Hale, a book review

Dangerous by Shannon Hale is an awesome sci-fi tale about a one-armed girl who saves the world. Because we homeschool, I particularly like that Masie and Luther are homeschooled, at least in the beginning. The story is engaging and interesting. I started it in the morning and finished it before I slept for the night.

This book is free of curse words, even to the extent of the main character (who is the narrator) bleeping out curse words of other characters. I like that very much.

There are a couple kissy scenes and one that goes farther than just kisses, but Masie stops things and basically explains why both to the reader and the boy she stops. I like this very much. Especially because she is presented as a very smart even intellectual character, so her reasons are real and factual.

My eldest daughter read this book a while back and since my second daughter is older now, I'll probably let her read it, too. I definitely like it and I'm sure she will since my first did.

Shannon Hale has a number of other published books. I've read a few (and will re-read to review) and have enjoyed every one of them. I do highly recommend Dangerous.

Have you read Dangerous by Shannon Hale? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 12, 2017

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There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer, a book review

There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer should be familiar to me, it seems, since it's been in print for more than 25 years. I do not remember reading it to any of my siblings. Nor do I remember seeing it at all before now.

A little boy is certain there is an alligator under his bed. His parents don't find it when they look, so he takes matters in to his own hands and rids his room of the alligator. Find out how and where the alligator is relegated to by reading this fun children's book.

I think this is another case of author is also illustrator, which I love. The pictures in this children's picture book are fitting and helpful to the story. They are also very child-friendly, which I'd honestly not really even considered before I read one particular book. I like the way the illustrations move readily with the story.

Have you read There's an Alligator Under My Bed by Mercer Mayer? What did you think?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

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writing life: how and where do I sit down to write?

Sometimes I do have to make myself write. Okay… when I write, I've made myself sit down to it. Mostly, it's difficult for me to open the computer to write my story because I know there will be many stops and starts and that is exhausting.

When I have had the luxury of writing continuously and only stopping because of bodily functions and to feed my face, I had a much easier time sitting down to actually write. Life doesn't provide such luxury much any more. And that's okay. I just have to make myself sit down… and that's good for me, right? Working on that little thing called self-mastery. I obviously struggle with it (or I wouldn't carry more than 100 pounds on this fabulous rolly polly bod of mine!). I digress.

So, when I write, I have procrastinated a good bit before-hand. Usually doing necessary (but overmuch of the necessary) platform work that I do. My favorite distraction when I have enough signal is Pinterest. My second fave: working on things for my children's business. Of course, there are all the other parts of my “platform” including, but not necessarily limited to: Facebook, GoodReads, LinkedIn, Twitter… sheesh. It's a full-time job just to keep those succers up to par. I guess that's why they aren't. Up to par, I mean. Sorry about that, by the way. I have been working on being Mama more than ToriForReal, I guess.

Today, I'd hoped to work on my current main creative writing project. I have, at least, 20 stories I want to write and at least half of those have starts on my laptop (and backed up online somewhere). Instead, I've been working on book reviews. I like doing them, though admittedly mine have been pretty lame for the last while. That will improve eventually… I hope.

Incredibly, since I have been so focused on this necessary distraction, I completed six or seven youth fiction reviews and around four children's picture book reviews. So, yeay for lots accomplished! Boo for distracting and procrastinating. grrrr #sigh# Well, I did get a lot done! Oh… and this post. And maybe another one or two. So, that's a pretty good use of a few hours spread out over the course of the day.

I think I write best when I sit at the table. It feels more formal and I tend to be more focused. However, I might be able to write more (with fewer children coming to talk to me) when I sit on a bed in one particular part of our house. It is not nearly as comfy as it sounds, I promise. Right now, I'm writing at the table. Maybe that's why I've gotten so much done today!?




Monday, May 8, 2017

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Ungifted by Gordon Korman, a book review

Ungifted by Gordon Korman is an enjoyable story about a boy who is mistakenly transferred to the gifted and talented academy instead of suffering the consequences of an accident resulting from a bad choice. I enjoyed this book quite well at least partially because it was completely free of any intimate scenes and curse words. Even though I found this book in the teens' area of my library, I will let my two eldest daughters read it if they so desire.

One thing I particularly enjoy about this novel is the change the main character goes through as a result of his transfer. I also appreciate very much how one of the teachers considers all the things he could say to his students about the main character, which, in effect, teach the young reader about the character traits lacking in the main character. This is definitely a bonus and a huge plus in my mind because I think many youth are not being taught character quality traits like integrity, honesty, and so forth.

The story telling shifts between characters, which I thought was interesting, though confusing when I wasn't paying close attention. Each and every chapter title begins with a word that starts with 'un'. I found that slightly distracting because of it's negative connotation, especially when the overall message of the book (to my way of thinking) is a very positive one. Still, I really liked it and do recommend it highly for all ages.

Have you read Ungifted by Gordon Korman? What did you think of it?

Friday, May 5, 2017

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The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer, a book review

I was really looking forward to reading The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer simply because of the title. What a great title to and for any author/writer. While this is a beautifully illustrated children's picture book, my first reaction was that this must have been done by an illustrator to showcase her art.

My main reason for thinking this book may be an artist's way of getting her work in to the world is the difficulty of reading the story in the beginning of the book. If the artist was hoping the pictures would take center-stage by the weird placement and difficulty of deciphering them, this was not accomplished with me. I had to go back and look at the pictures in the beginning of the story to remember anything about them because I had to focus so intensely to discern the words and correct ordering of them. This problem does, for the most part, remedy itself a little way in to the story, thankfully.

I actually really like the story itself. It has a very good moral and is presented in a way so as not to be preachy. And the illustrations are beautiful. However, the way the story was presented in those first pages made it difficult to decipher and enjoy either. I have seen a few children's books like this and I sincerely hope it is not the way picture books are going, generally.

Have you read The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer? What did you think of it?