Today's Grateful List/31 December 2015

  • Going to get answers no matter what

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pagan's Crusade Review

I finished my #8 book for the month today, Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks. I enjoyed it! It's got lots of laugh out loud moments, and Pagan is a true teenager, despite the setting of twelfth century Jerusalem. There are three more books in this series, all of which I own (surprise, surprise, huh?) and I'll definitely be reading them, though it may be summer before I pick them up. I can recommend this one. Here's a link to my Amazon review:

Have a great weekend and stay tuned for more information on Angus McCann, the newest member of the McCann household...


Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Loss You Can't Deal With

Hannah called me at school yesterday to let me know she'd gotten home safely, which she does everyday. I expect it and often forget she's going to do it, but if the clock creeps too close to 3:00 p.m., I start getting antsy. But she's good about calling, and I know I breathe easier when she does.
However, when she called yesterday, it was her statement "Mom, did you hear about Mrs. Guss?" that just left me breathless. Joy Guss is one of her guidance counselors and a friend of ours from church, so of course I was curious and told her no. It was the next sentence that made me gasp involuntarily: "Her son was killed in a car accident last night." They had announced it at school that day, and just like that, we were all sucker punched.
Josh was only 15, a freshman at a local high school. He was a nice looking kid, and his mom was proud of him. He came to church with her some. We had had dinner with the Gusses not too long ago and had shared stories of the joys of raising teenagers. Joy had told us that when Josh complained, she reminded him that he was hers and she loved him. And now he's gone, one day after buying a book he'll never read, just minutes after completing baseball practice. Just like that.
As the parent of a teenager, I worry constantly about a lot of things, but car wrecks probably rank up there as one of the highest. Of course anything can happen at any time, but to know a life that one minute before had so much time before it is suddenly over literally makes me feel sick to my stomach. The fact that there is nothing that could have been done to prevent the accident almost makes it worse, because you can replay it and replay it and the outcome is still the same. I cannot imagine how Joy feels, though I'm sure at this point she's just numb. It will be the days, weeks, months, and years ahead that will bring the pain to the surface over and over again. I can be there for her as a friend, but I'm not her child and even her other child will never begin to replace the hole in her heart. There's one in my heart for her as well.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Yeah Me!

Yeah me! I was once again selected to be a member of Simon and Schuster's Readers' Advisory Board for the remainder of this year! I love getting the free books, some of which I might not have read had they not been sent to me, and some of which I wish I hadn't read but still love getting (does that make sense? Oh, well...). So I wonder what will be coming my way now? This past year I read several books from them that I really enjoyed, including Notting Hell, The Boleyn Inheritance, and Just Between Us. Ah, the joy of books! Can you ever have too many? I think not!


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Being Historically Accurate

I admit it; I'm a fanatic for historical accuracy in historical fiction. Minor discrepencies don't bother me much, and many authors use them to make the book flow better or to speed up the action. In fact, whenever I encounter such an inaccuracy, I can almost bet that the better authors will have a few pages toward the end of the book explaining what's gone on and into the reasoning for the change or inaccuracy. I can respect that. It's a nod to those who know the time period well, and it assumes that we will understand the rationale.

Last night I began a book I'd had lying on my nightstand for a couple of months entitled The Last Wife of Henry VIII by Carolly Erickson. It looked good, and the author is well-known for her biographies. Plus I'm a bit of a Tudor afficianado, though I'd never count myself among its experts. I made it to page 50 before chucking it; it's already been listed and requested at I almost felt like I should've warned the requestor away, though I suppose to some people the problems I had with the book won't matter. But they matter to me and it makes me wonder: Why on earth would a well-known author play so fast and furious with the facts, knowing that the audience she's seeking to appeal to will be the one most likely to find fault?

I understand that the book is FICTION and as such, the author can do whatever she likes with the facts. I do not believe that exonerates her, however. How many people will pick up this book, with its stylish, headless cover, and, not knowing the time period, believe every word as fact? Don't tell me it doesn't happen. Recently on a book list, another friend and I enumerated for a third reader all the inaccuracies in Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess. This reader took forgranted that the author simply brought to life the story of Catherine of Aragon by adding dialogue and a bit of intrigue. We extended the discussion into Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl, which is a wildly popular title (and a very good read as well, setting aside its inaccuracies). Once informed, the third reader spent a bit of time looking up facts herself and came up with a laundry list of inaccuracies in both novels, none of which she would have known about had we not brought the subject up.

So why does this matter? It matters in a day and age when history is pushed further and further aside in schools and students never learn the names and actions of past leaders such as Elizabeth I, King John, Henry VIII, or anyone else like them. Remember, when we don't know the history, we're doomed to repeat it! It also matters in that this is just another way rumor becomes fact; before we know it, the only view of Henry VIII is that of a fat, licentious despot (okay, maybe there's *some* truth to that, but only in his later years) based on works of fiction. Why do lots of people think Richard III was a humpbacked miscreant responsible for the murder of his brother's sons? Because Shakespeare said it was so, and few people have been bothered to learn the truth. And that's not fair, and it's just one more way we've managed to dumb down the population at large.

I could list the inaccuracies in The Last Wife of Henry VIII, but I won't list them here simply because this post is already long. And to be fair, perhaps after 50 pages, I might have found that this story picked up nicely and stuck to the details. I'm not counting on it, however; the missing Author's Notes pages at the end of the book told me far more about the substance of this book than anything else could. And that's a shame.


Friday, March 23, 2007

On the Porch Swing

I belong to an online group called OnThePorchSwing at It's a nice group of readers who share what they are reading and help us all add to our tbr piles copiously. However, it never occurred to me until this afternoon (caution: "Duh!" alert) that some of my favorite times reading come when I'm ensconced on our own porch swing, book in hand, chips nearby, telephone outside with me, birds swooping by overhead. It's one of my very favorite sites to take a book to, and I miss it horribly during those long, cold months of winter when it's just too darned cold to sit outside for long. Now that our weather has thankfully taken an upturn toward spring, I've found myself perched gloriously (okay, just perched) on my swing, gently swaying in the breeze, the late afternoon sun warming both my body and my soul. There simply cannot be a better way to live!

I finished not one, but two (yes, I said TWO) books today. The first was one I'd been reading for a couple of days: The Vampire Who Loved Me by Teresa Medeiros, picked up soley because I needed something light for spring break and I have a thing for vampires these days. My review can be found at the following web address:

Secondly, I picked up and read I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron in its entirety this afternoon. I wasn't sure I'd like this one because I'd heard it wasn't that good, but I surprisingly enjoyed it! It's a collection of essays of Ephron's observations on life. I particularly enjoyed her chapter on the importance of books. The review, found at, is linked below:

So there it is! I feel as though my reading is picking back up and I enjoyed my time off during spring break. Now if only I could win the lottery so I could spend all day, every day, reading...


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Yet Another Review

I completed another small book yesterday, Relax, It's Only a Ghost by Echo Bodine. A fun little book, it details the author's experiences ghostbusting (a term I despise, btw). In my fascination with ghosts (I spent much of last night watching Ghost Hunters on SciFi--a whole 'nother issues---why in the hell aren't they running the new episodes NOW?), I picked this one up off pbswap. I have issues with the author's "gifts"; I just don't think ghosts pick a house and hang out, sometimes up to twenty in a home. And the whole spirit guide thing? Don't get me started. But other than that, this was a fast, fun read, and interesting if most of it is true. As far as books on the paranormal go, this is one of the better ones.

Here's the link to my book review:

Visit and vote if you are so inclined. I can recommend it for what it is.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

When a Piece of Your Childhood Dies

Today we went to a funeral, and as funerals go, it was fairly normal: Christian songs (about hope), prayers, and lots of kleenex. The service wasn't too long, and it was punctuated by humorous and sweet tales of the life of the deceased. But what sets this one apart is the fact that it's another piece of my childhood dying, a piece I didn't even realize was so important to me until now that it's closed for good.

When my friend Treva called Sunday morning to let me know her father was gone, I wasn't surprised because we'd been emailing off and on all week about how much his health had declined since his cancer was diagnosed last fall. But somehow, though it registered, it didn't *register* until we met at the funeral home last night. In the south, viewings are a fact of life, even though I don't approach the open casket anymore because I just find the whole thing ghoulish. But when I saw her dad, even though in my heart I don't think it was still her father, it was just so... well, sad. Lying there, a cold body who had lost his fine, beautiful head of hair, it just hit home that this very sweet man, with the off-beat, dry sense of humor ("Hi, I'm Cliff, drop over and see me sometime") was gone forever. Having known him since I was in kindergarten, his life was intertwined with mine in ways I hadn't realized until just then. He was the involved father I wish mine had been, cooking and fixing things around the house and absolutely adoring his wife at all times. I recall him helping to paint our dorm room on the sly, and I remember him as he walked his daughters down the aisle. Though I hadn't been around him as much in recent years, whenever I did run him into him, he was always the nice, fun, loving man I'd always known and always assumed would be there. At age 67, he still should be.

So while I can rejoice that he's with his Lord and no longer in pain, it still leaves a hole in my heart to think he's gone. He had two wonderful grandchildren who will miss him dreadfully, and a devoted wife and two daughters who owe him much. But he also had those like me, who knew he was a true man with integrity, a man who could teach two goofy kindergartners a song about being in love with a garbage man, and still retain his own dignity; and I will be poorer for his loss. If this is what it means to be a grown-up, it's not what I was thinking it would be, but I can learn to deal with it. I'm grateful I had the chance to know this man.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hall. You've earned it.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lords of the North Review

I finished Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell today. It's the third in the Saxon Chronicles, kindly lent to me by book buddy Beth. (Thanks!) While I liked the first book in the series, I really enjoyed The Pale Horseman (#2) and this one. Uhtred, our hero, is over-the-top in many ways but just too cunning and full of himself not to love. Here's the link for my review:

If you do decide to follow the link, please vote one way or the other. I like knowing others have read my reviews and have a feeling about them, pro or con.

On a side note, I'm really depressed that this is only read #11 for the year. I just haven't been reading as quickly as usual. I'm not even sure what I'll pick up to read next. With over 200 books lying there just waiting, you'd think this wouldn't be a problem, right? Wrong. I'm such a mood reader. Right now I've got a Teresa Medeiros book waiting for me and I hope it's the light, engaging read I'm looking for next. I just hate it when I feel like I can't settle on a book. I did pick up The Boy in the Striped Pajamas to see how it fit this p.m., but only a few pages in I realized that it wasn't what I'd thought it was going to be, so it got put aside and listed at pbs ( It's already been requested.

So I'll report tomorrow on whether or not the Medeiros book pulls me in. It remains to be seen. I think I'm turning into a grump.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Middle School Teachers...

Apparently the NY Times has decided that middle school teachers are a special breed. Well, duh. How many people do you know would willingly face a class full of surly, social, insecure adolescents on a daily basis, trying to improve their character and test scores at the same time? And while I complain continuously about them, I cannot imagine teaching another grade level, because frankly, who knows what you're going to get from day-to-day: the upset, the silly, the agressive, or the shy? I find middle schoolers the most frustrating people on the face of the earth, but also the most interesting.

Anyway, here's the article, and it's food for thought. Yes, I definitely agree that people who consider teaching middle schoolers should have special training or else they'll be eaten alive. I've seen it happen too often. Right now we have the nicest man on our staff, trying to teach these urchins, and they basically run amok every day in his class because he just doesn't have "it." And if I knew what "it" was, I'd bottle it and sell it and retire to Hawaii tomorrow.

Have an awesome day!


Friday, March 16, 2007

And here we are...

And here we are, at spring break! I've been wishing and hoping for this week since Christmas, and it's finally here. Besides the being free of schedules, I think it's just the possibilities that lay out there for it...I could read until my eyeballs fall out, I could clean the house, I could go shopping, I could just veg in front of the tv....It's all out there and it's mine for the taking! LOL

But honestly, I'm not sure what we'll get up to this week. This is the first time in absolutely forever that Jeff is off the same week we are, and I'm not real sure how that will affect us. While I've complained in the past that he never gets stuck with the girls, I also like knowing I don't have to plan around him. He's already told me he's golfing a bit next week, and he's got something he has to go to for school on Wednesday. With that in mind, I may have to escape on my own for a bit, too. Though I'm such a homebody that I don't know where I'd go that I'd be as comfortable as I am here.

I'm kicking around an idea of going to England with some online buddies next summer (08). It was mentioned as a possibility and I think it might be growing into a reality. I can't imagine anything more fun than hanging out with these people who are just as interested in history as I am, and are nutty besides. Like I said, it's just an idea at this point, but I'd seriously like to look into it.

Well, off to play mind-numbing games and hide from the rest of the family.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Of Auras and Other Stuff

I've been recently conversing online with a buddy who is an author about her friend who can "read" past lives. Well, perhaps that's not precisely the way it should be stated; she doesn't do regressions--she can sense what happened at a certain point in history by "tuning in" to the correct psychic frequency. My friend does sessions with her friend for background use in her novels. After having been privileged enough to read many of these notes, I can honestly say I believe her friend is really accessing these people. She is also able to see auras around others.

So my next question is: Is this a gift you are born with or one you can acquire? I would love to be able to access historical figures because I'm nosy to begin with. Though at times the friend finds some things so unpleasant they make her physically ill, I do think I could probably handle it. Imagine being able to know who really killed the princes in the tower, or who Mona Lisa actually was. The possibilities seem endless!

I have to admit that I'm not particularly good at feeling vibes, though I think I might could be if I applied myself. But part of me wonders if, in my case, it would be more wishful thinking or my own projections than really tuning into the true vibes of a person or place? Can these things be taught and/or learned? The enquiring mind needs to know.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Reading and Stuff

Well, right now is not a good time for reading. I started Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell, and while it's very good, I just can't seem to find the time to concentrate on it. I'm looking forward to spring break March 19-23 and maybe I can actually get a bit of reading done. But my house needs cleaning, too...there are just too many distractions that keep me from what I really want to do!

This is not going to be a good week at school. The week before spring break is never good with the kids. I'm just hoping that it goes by quickly. At least we don't have any major stuff going on after school this week, which is always a plus.

We spent the weekend with Jeff's family; his middle sister and her fiancee and his 3 kids were in town from Chicago for a wedding shower. It was so nice to see them--we love his kids and are looking forward to going to the wedding toward the end of April.

I'll share some pictures below. Enjoy!


Katherine, Ari, & Izzy Niko and Jordan

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Review for Water for Elephants

I finished Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen last night. I loved this book! It has it all---love, intrigue, great relationships/characters...I could go on and on about what a delight this book is, but I'll treat you instead to my glowing review on I can highly, highly recommend this one! Check it out and see for yourself.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Water for Elephants

I just want to post quickly about a book I hope to finish tonight or tomorrow...It's Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and it's fabulous! Set in a traveling circus in the 1930s, it's about Jacob, the show's "vet", and his relationships with the circus performers and the animals. It's also set in present-day, with an elderly Jacob telling us his story of the time he spent with the circus. It's a page turner! It's certainly picked me up out a mini-slump. Watch this space for my amazon review!


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Review Update

A quick update on my Amazon review of Fall From Grace by Sandra Worth: Less than 24 hours after enquiring of Amazon what had happened, I received a reply that said there was some sort of glitch and my review would be instated today. And it is! Here's the link:

Secondly, I ditched Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore yesterday. I just could not get into it--just way too silly for my tastes right now. So I picked up Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and so far it's going well. Definitely a strange tale, but good. I really like the narrator. Hope it holds up well as I go on.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Amazon Review??

As you know, I'm an avid reviewer at I'm not precisely sure how many I've done over the years, but I have 14+ pages of reviews to sort through when I want to look at the books I've read (with the minor exceptions of books I reviewed for Simon and Schuster that weren't "reviewable" on Amazon before the publication date). Anyway, in all that time, every review I've done has been immediately viewable on the book site, or at least among my list of reviews I've done. However, I reviewed Sandra Worth's Fall From Grace last night and it has yet to show up on either list. Now this would not be a major tragedy but still, I took a lot of time and energy to write the review and I'd hate to have to redo it (and of course I will if it's not up by tomorrow). Wonder what's up?

And just as an aside, 7th graders are a pain. Just thought I needed to share.