Earth Day Reading With Little People

April 17, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo

Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun.  Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week.  Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.

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Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books.  We love these.  They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal.  Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best.  (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)

P1010638 Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.  It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.

Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening.  Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden.  It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.

That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us.  It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.

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When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.

P1010629Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend.  The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.

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GreenGreenerGreenest – Earth Day Every Day Part Five

April 17, 2014 at 2:45 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

GreenGreenerGreenestTitle: Green Greener Greenest

Author: Lori Bongiorno

Publisher: Perigee (Penguin)

Genre: Nature/Organic Living

Length: 310 pages

Written by a journalist and freelance writer, GreenGreenerGreenest is a concise but thorough way to get up to date information and advice on how to handle the green movement in your life.

This is a handy reference book that should be on the shelf of every self-proclaimed hippie, home owner, or human being.  Yes, it’s that useful and that important.

There’s so much information out there about how to live an eco-friendly life, and so many opinions on which way is correct.  GreenGreenerGreenest takes all the advice, all the information, and categorizes it for you so you can select which option works for your life and budget.  It helps people see clear cut options for how to go as green as you can in every area of your existence without shaming you for not being able to do it perfectly in all of them.  Sometimes going green is what you can afford, sometimes being greenest is easiest, either way Bongiorno helps clear the red tape of confusion and spells out what is what.

There are a lot of things discussed that I already knew about, things I thought everyone probably knows.  But there are twice as many things that I read that I had never given a second thought to.  For instance, I had no idea you could get reusable menstrual pads, not sure why it didn’t occur to me, but it didn’t.  It’s the greener option.  (Green being using chlorine free and chemical free ones made by companies like Seventh Generation.)  My response to that was similar to my response to Merriweather of Foraging Texas cooking June bugs for breakfast – I’m not that hippie yet.  Bongiorno makes me feel like that’s ok.  I can choose a greenest option in another category to make up for it.

Which I do in my house, little did I know.  We have ripped out all our carpets and have concrete flooring.  Mostly because we’re poor and concrete floors are cheap – your foundation is already there whether you like it or not.  I already knew carpets weren’t the best for your health (dust, dust mites, allergens, dirt, overall ick), but I hadn’t thought of it as “green” living.  We live with area rugs we can remove from the house to clean.  Area rugs last longer and keep you healthier… and apparently is better for the environment as most carpeting is made with petroleum products.

Food and Beverages, Personal Care, Babies and Children, Transportation, and more, Bongiorno covers it all, and provides links and websites when helpful.  Love it.

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Photograph by Joel Robison

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S. Smith Book Signing – Earth Day Every Day Part Four

April 17, 2014 at 12:18 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

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The Half Price Books Clear Lake store was a lovely host today for S. Smith’s first signing of her Texas Earth Day Tour.

The weather was gorgeous, a little chilly for we Texans, but quite beautiful.  A great day for an author from Oregon to set up shop in Houston.

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Last night, in preparation, I made seedling cupcakes. Yet another great Pinterest idea that the Texas humidity took a toll on. The fondant sort of got floppy the warmer it got throughout the day, and the green sort of melted a bit. But over all, I’m pleased with my first try.

We met new readers today, and enjoyed chatting with the customers in the store. Of course, the first and most common questions was, “What are the books about?”

If you’re stumbling across my blog for the first time, Seed Savers is a young adult series about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal.  So naturally, an underground organization is created to keep the art and know how of gardening alive.  It’s good garden sense mixed with the danger and adventure of kids on the run from the government entities hunting them down.

There are three books in publication that Sandy is signing and selling right now, but the series is set to be five volumes long.  The story is pretty epic, in my opinion, as you can tell if you read through all the past Seed Savers posts featured on this blog.  I adore this woman and all her work, and I hope that everyone who purchased her book today feels the same way when they’re done reading.

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S. Smith will be at Good Books in the Woods Friday night and then at Half Price Books Humble 1-3 pm and HPB Montrose 6-9 pm on Saturday.  If you missed today’s signing, please make time to see S. Smith at the other Houston stores before she flits off to Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas.  The author is from Oregon so this very well might be a once in a lifetime opportunity!

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Meeting S. Smith – Earth Day Every Day Part Three

April 15, 2014 at 11:01 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I couldn’t have had a more perfect day.  It all started with an amarP1010596yllis bloom opening and an email.  S. Smith had arrived in Houston and was looking to hang out before her first Half Price Books signing tomorrow.

Today I finally had the pleasure of meeting S. Smith, the author of the Seed Savers series.  I never thought this day would actually come, as I am a book reviewer in Texas and she is a young adult fiction writer from Oregon.  But lo and behold! She had a reason to come down south and booked a Texas Earth Day tour starting with Houston.

I was delighted that she wanted to go for a walk in the woods by our house.  It was a joy picking along the trails, chatting, with my daughter and her husband in tow.  We talked about the difference in the woods of Texas from where she lives in the Northwest.

Below, kiddo, Sandy, and her husband stopped for a rest on a fallen log.

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Sandy will be at the Half Price Books in Clear Lake tomorrow from 1-4 pm, Good Books in the Woods on Friday evening, Half Price Books Humble on Saturday from 1-3 pm, and the Montrose HPB store that evening from 6-9 pm.  Her books are works of fiction for young adults about a dystopian society where growing your own fruits and vegetables is illegal, a fitting discussion topic for an Earth Day celebration.

 

 

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Literary Journal Monday – Earth Day, Every Day Part Two

April 15, 2014 at 12:18 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Blackwood 1It’s April, it’s spring time, it’s RAINING! To bring May flowers, of course.  So, I jumped head first into an April 1968 edition of Blackwood’s Magazine, more specifically, Roy Neal Williams’ Mushroom Weather.

I’ve never heard of Roy Neal Williams before today, but I definitely can say I’ll remember him.  His memoir about his grandmother and their adventures foraging in the woods for mushrooms with his german shepherd mix, Shep, is right up my alley.  His prose is nice and playful, easy to get right in step with the spring time atmosphere he is describing from his childhood.

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The time spent in the woods and the property with his grandmother is looked back upon so fondly.  I hope that my daughter remembers her time with me in the woods as well.  And I like his grandmother,

“She stopped and looked at the flowers.  All was quiet.  There was only the sound of the water as it rushed along its way, cutting round stones and making miniature waterfalls from a flat rock or a fallen limb.  An occasional bird would chime in and, in the distance, we could hear Shep yelp now and then.”

He explains how they collected mushrooms, morel mushrooms, and then took them home and soaked them in preparation to eat the next day.  As he slept that night he would dream of the delicious dish that awaited him the following day.

The forager in me couldn’t help but come home and search the web for images of these tasty treats.  Below is a picture of morel mushrooms that serves as a link to the Morel Mushroom Hunting Club.  How exciting – and odd – is that?

morels

 

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Earth Day Every Day 2014 – Part One

April 13, 2014 at 1:27 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Spring time… the sun is out, the animals are about, it’s time for spring cleaning and for our family to start hitting the trails every day again. It also means April is here, and so my environmental awareness is in high gear. Earth Day and Arbor Day means Earth Day events at the bookstores and local libraries. It also means I start seeing my favorite color (green) plastered all over displays, and books with pretty leafy covers come out of the woodwork.  Thus begins the Earth Day reading highlight reel.

The Green BookTitle: The Green Book

Authors: Elizabeth Rogers and Thomas M. Kostigen

Publisher: Three Rivers Press

Genre: Nature – Environmental Conservation & Protection

Length: 201 pages

This is a handy little book that is easy to read and full of celebrity pep talks for going green. The writers have pointed out a lot of easy to remember ways to readjust your existing lifestyle to recycle more and waste less. I liked it.

It was published in 2007, so some of the information feels a little outdated.  It also gets a little repetitive for those who have the ability to apply one concept to multiple aspects of their life, but it’s a good little book nonetheless.

My favorite tidbit from this book – being a cyclist – is this:

“Try to recycle your old bicycle tires and inner tubes instead of throwing them away. You’ll prevent about two pounds of rubber from being landfilled and may help provide materials for a new handbag, a pair of hiking boots, or even a bike path itself. If one in fourteen American cyclists were to recycle his or her bicycle tires each year, the rubber saved could pave the current route of the Tour de France.”

Worth checking out from the library or downloading to an e-reader.  The only time I could see wanting a physical copy would be for your child’s library – and even the authors think you should buy these books used.

joel-robinson-surreal-photography-7This photograph is a Joel Robison piece.  I love all his work, it has been awhile since I’ve shared it, though.  However, some of his earthy pieces seem extremely appropriate this time of year as we’re reminded to enjoy our world and treat it kindly.  Click the image to visit his blog.

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People Aren’t Who They Say They Are

April 12, 2014 at 1:42 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

The most offhand statement, the smallest turn of phrase, a random word, can completely start my mind reeling for hours, days even.

A friend said to me, about nothing and no one in particular, “People aren’t who they say they are,” and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  As much as I try to let things roll off my back, I internalize and mull over everything and this statement today relates so well to a piece of fiction I started long ago.  In addition to that, about a dozen short story ideas popped into my head from the one phrase.

lieIt’s not a new revelation, it’s been the case since the dawn of time: people lie. And more than anything else, people lie about themselves.  Just watch an episode of “House.”

The thought that won’t leave me, though, is not that people lie, it’s that people don’t think they’re lying.  People aren’t who they say they are, but they are only capable of telling you who they think they are.

I can only tell the truth as I see it. I can only tell you what’s in my head, not what you perceive of my actions. Isn’t this why people read novels? In third person omniscient you get everyone’s version of the truth – and how very different it can look.

The Ugly Duckling kept telling everyone he was a duck, but in reality he was a swan.  He wasn’t who he said he was, but he was saying who he thought he was.

Along this line of thought, many novels and their characters come to mind: The Great Gatsby, The Fountainhead, the Harry Potter series, The Poisonwood Bible, and many, many more. But currently, what is most fresh in my mind is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

a tree growsThe book is about Francie Nolan, a bright, young, dreamer in a poor neighborhood at the turn of the last century. Her father, Johnny Nolan, however, is the focus of this discussion.

Francie’s father, Johnny is a talented, sweet, and incredibly handsome, alcoholic. He dreams and wastes away while his wife takes care of the family. He knows he’s a drunk, he thinks he’s useless and has nothing to offer, and his wife comes to a point where she believes this as well. Afterall, he has let her down over and over again with his failures. The only thing he seems to manage is to sing well and entertain his neighbors and friends.

Though he’s not conventionally a good man of the house, and is an awful care giver when it comes to providing food and rent money, but when it comes down to the children’s emotional needs he is there where his wife is not.

Francie’s mother admittedly doesn’t love Francie as much as she loves the son, Neeley. Francie’s mother sends the children to get their inoculations alone – the young kids were terrified and had no loving support from their mom. But she loves them best, right? She cares for them, keeps a roof over their head, and keeps them fed.

Clearly, both parents love their children the best they know how, that much is evident in the novel, but both parents are also not who they say they are – but they say exactly what they think they are.

Johnny meant what he said when he told Katie he would love her forever, that she was the one for him. He didn’t realize when he said it that he wouldn’t know what to do with himself once he became a father of two at age 20. He didn’t know what he was made of yet, or what he wasn’t made of.

A man like Johnny is a great babysitter, the best man to have on a family vacation, a little girl’s knight in shining armor. He will walk her to school, help her get into the school of her choice, because he’s a dreamer and by God he will teach his daughter that her dreams are relevant and important.

Johnny thinks he’s the worst father. He is dejected by his inability to hold down a job other than one as a singer/waiter, singing and bringing food and drinks for tips. He’s Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke) in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” had the man never managed to invent something and find Truly Scrumptious. [Completely random side note: Did you know "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was based on an Ian Fleming story (the author of the James Bond novels)?] An airheaded dreamer, but ultimately a good person with a big heart.

In Francie’s eyes, Johnny isn’t who he says he is – or even who other people say he is – but everyone says who they think he is, including himself.

“Part of her life was made from the tree growing rankly in the yard. She was the bitter quarrels she had with her brother whom she loved dearly. She was Katie’s secret, despairing weeping. She was the shame of her father staggering home drunk. […] She was all of these things and of something more.”
- Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ch. 8

Maybe if Johnny hadn’t started to believe that he had to be so ashamed, he wouldn’t have had so much to be ashamed of. Maybe if he’d let go of some of those bad thoughts and acted on the dreamy happy ones, life would have been better for everyone. The character of Johnny Nolan is a complete disappointment to everyone. I haven’t finished the book, yet. I’m not sure how it all turns out, but I do know one thing: Johnny may be a disappointment, but he isn’t useless no matter how much he thinks and says it. He isn’t who he says is his, but he definitely says what he thinks he is.

Obviously, that’s probably a reverse scenario than what is typical of that statement. Most people present themselves as better than what they are, I think. But unless you’ve been utterly broken, it’s highly likely that you think you’re better at things – at life – then others will believe or know.

Maybe it’s because they don’t see every aspect of your life, maybe it’s because you’ve had to shield yourself from truths that hurt too much, maybe you’re a little delusional, but I believe less and less that the majority of humanity is blatantly lying with purpose. The people I have met who do, are manipulative and underhanded and typically have large groups of people fooled, but these people are few.

Then again, maybe I see the world through rose colored lenses. Maybe Johnny Nolan is a useless piece of crap of a human, and I just only see the good in fictional characters. Sort of a difficult idea to embrace from such a self-proclaimed skeptic.  And maybe this is the worst piece of literary criticism and character analysis ever to come out of someone who pretends to understand literature so well.  But as we know, people aren’t who they say they are.

 

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Freelance Writing

April 11, 2014 at 3:15 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

RoyalPort30grnI wish this blog was a post about me receiving one of those… see Daphne, above, a royal portable from 1930.  Green, no less.

It’s not.

But it is pretty exciting.

I’m pursuing supplementing my income with freelance writing jobs.  So far, I have been hired on by Money-Fax.com and I’m enjoying it quite a bit.  Money-Fax has me writing about Kid & Family Budgeting, which is pretty perfect because I’m a homeschool mom chronically on an author budget.  (That’s code for mommy who lives off nothing.)

Here are links to my published articles, so far:

The Economics of Cloth Diapers

How to Entertain Your Child for Free This Summer

How Much Does it Really Cost to Homeschool

The more traffic my articles get, the more people will want to have me write them – naturally.  So, please, if you have someone in your life any of these articles would interest, share them.

There are more to come.  Keep checking Money-Fax.com for budget friendly pets and ways to celebrate Easter.  Browse through their site for other helpful articles as well.  They are an education service geared toward helping the public learn to improve the state of their finances.

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Follies Past – A Review

April 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Follies_Past_book_cover_BrownTitle: Follies Past

Author: Melanie Kerr

Publisher: Petticoat Press

Genre: Historical fiction/ Classic spin-off

Length: 272 pages

“Follies Past” should be the name of the file folder for every other Jane Austen spin off, because this book blows them all out of the water.

This is by far the best Austen spin off I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Most Pride & Prejudice sequels or prequels read like fan fiction, but Kerr has managed to construct a novel that reads like one of Austen’s own making.  It could very well have been a long lost manuscript of Jane’s, documenting the characters of Pride & Prejudice before they encounter the Bennets.

I was so happy reading this, I’ve always longed to get a bit more of Georgiana’s story.  Kerr does an excellent job of taking the small tidbits of information we know about characters and giving them a full and lush back story without straying from our vision of them.

I think Caroline Bingley was truly brought to life as well.  I both hate her more and less – how is that possible?  Through Darcy’s eyes:  “He ought to have known that a lady who is too sparkling and clever is also cunning and insolent and not to be trusted.”

Much is learned from Darcy’s perspective without the act of spelling everything out, something other books have done in diary form turning Darcy into an effeminate sap.  Instead, from Kerr, Darcy expresses himself naturally and in his own fashion: “Gibbon’s History is worth an entire library of your sentimental drivel.  The depth and breadth of his scholarship paints a picture of the Empire that may never be surpassed.  How can you compare such an achievement to your works of vapid sentiment.”

Kerr has stayed true to the characters, true to the time, and yet wielded a rich and elaborate story.  It’s beautiful and brilliant, and I cannot imagine an Austen fan who would not love it.

My one criticism is this: I ADORE the front cover of this book – but my first and continuous reaction is that it is not a cover that belongs on *this* book.  It’s a fun and awesome piece of art, I’d even hang it on my wall I like it so much, but it doesn’t truly portray what is within the pages.

Below, Miss Golightly is caught on film inspecting Kerr’s book.  She had the same reaction I did to the cover, “Oh I love that cover! Wait, her writing sounds like it could be Jane Austen! That’s incredible.  I’m a little confused by the cover now.”

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Five stars for the story.  Five stars for the cover art.  But only three stars for matching the cover art to the story.

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Bones of My Bones

April 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , )

Below is a very small piece out of a decently long series that is not yet published, but still lurking about on my computer.  The story is from ages ago, an angsty sci-fi piece I started writing when I was 14.  Things change and flesh themselves out when they see the light of day – or the eyes of others.  So periodically I like to post excerpts of things still in progress.

If you like this and you haven’t yet purchased my book, The Bookshop Hotel, please do.  Again – This is not from that book, but it is a sample of my writing.

She often wondered what her bones would look like after death. Bones tell tales. Bones are the memory book of all our scars, all our aches and pains, all our wounds. An autopsy would show her broken ribs, her smashed fingers, conditioned arms and legs… but would it also show the bruising on the inside? All the times her heart nearly burst and beat her sternum in anger and sadness from the inside?
They say that if old lovers can be friends they either were never in love or they still are. She wondered if that could be true, and if it was true then which was the case now? What would be worse? Thinking none of it was real before, or thinking there was still something there that neither one could acknowledge? Worse yet: if old feelings could bubble to the surface at any moment and disrupt the fabric of her current reality.
Then again, what defines lover? The problem with the world is that they apply emotional concepts to physical acts. By doing so, does that make the emotions with non-physical acts irrelevant? You can love someone and be loved by someone, you can be in love with someone, and never cross the line into the realm of ‘lovers.’ Lover implies physical contact, lover implies intercourse, lover implies bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh sort of contact.
It either takes serious emotional bonding or a vivid imagination to feel like you’re one flesh with someone you’ve never touched. To feel their absence like a stab in the gut. To feel their loss like a loss of your own limb. What if she just had the most vivid of imaginations? What if none of it had ever been real?
After death, would they see that too? Would her delusions be written on her bones? In her muscle mass… in her muscle memory. The heart having expanded too much, too quickly. Would they see that?

Copyright A.K. Klemm

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