Best Books of August 2017

Best Books of August 2017

What did I do with my summer? Did I really only complete two books in August? Yikes!

Since the two books were really different and would appeal to different readers, I’m not going to force myself to choose one; I’ll discuss both!

Rooms by James Rubart

Rooms by James L. Rubart

The cover blurb reads: “What would you find if you wandered into the rooms of your own soul? One man is about to find out.”

This was a really unusual read for me because I rarely read contemporary novels, rarely read novels with male protagonists, and don’t often read paranormal novels, but I read this. Why? Rubart co-led the continuing class Heroes, Villains, & the Heart of Your Story: Building an Epic Book from Start to Finish at the Realm Makers Conference I attended at the end of July. I’d heard he was a fantastic writer, and I wanted to read something by him before the class started.

Rooms was an excellent choice. It was haunting, it was exciting, it had me constantly urging the protagonist to make the choices I wanted him to make. My treat for the day after the conference was to finish the book. I read all day, in my hotel room, in bed, by the window, by the pool, and back in bed again. I didn’t want to put it down, and was satisfied but sorry when I reached the end.

Newts Emerald by Garth NixNewt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

This YA novel is a fun mash-up of regency romance, fantasy, adventure, and mystery. Lady Truthful, nicknamed “Newt”, inherits her family’s treasure, the Newington Emerald, on her eighteenth birthday. No sooner does her father reveal the spectacular, and magical, gem, than the lights to out. When they come back on, the emerald is gone.

This novel is a fun and exciting romp as Newt, her cousins, an eccentric aunt, and a mysterious stranger join together to recover the valuable jewel.

Your Turn

Now, just because I made it easy and made the title “Best Books” plural all by myself, doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. What’s the best book you read in the last month? You can even cheat like I did and mention two! Just use the comment box below. I love hearing from you!

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Alack and Alas…A Change of Schedule

New Blog Schedule: Literate Lives

Alack and Alas…

It has been fun blogging twice per week through my recovery from mono and over the summer, however, like summer itself, this too must come to an end.

While I love blogging, sharing my life, my reading, my love of writing, and my encouragement for parents and educators, I will be returning to the class room as an educator and will therefore have less free time for blogging.

A Temporary New Schedule

Next week I will begin blogging once per week, and next week’s post will come out on Tuesday.

However…

I will only continue the Tuesday schedule if I do not hear from you.

Your Turn

On what day of the week would you prefer to see Literate Lives bounce into your inbox? Please voice your opinion using the comment box below. Based on your preferences, I will determine and begin blogging on your chosen day for posting.

Best Book of July 2017

Whoa! I visited my reading log and discovered I have only completed one book this month. Yikes! (This is by no means an excuse, just an explanation–this was my “travel” month. First I visited my mom, then I attended a writing conference–more on that another time, and then my husband and I went on a road trip. Too often, I have fallen into bed exhausted at the end of the day instead of ready to enjoy a good book.

So, the only book I read is also my favorite book I read (however, please note, I recall thinking, multiple times as I read it, that any other book would have a hard time beating it out). Soooo…

The Best Book of July 2017 is:

A Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks.

This is an exceptional novel. The reader knows, from the beginning, that plague is going to strike the 17th century English village that is the setting, and as you read the tale of one woman who survived, the expected heartbreak and tragedy relentlessly unfolds. You witness heroism and horror, and you hope and despair right along with the narrator. The only thing that kept me from giving this a five-star review on Goodreads was the ending. I had hoped for so much more for our heroine…but I won’t give anything away. And even with what felt to me like an unsatisfactory ending, I kept hoping for something better (and enjoying the novel) all the way up until the final pages. Read this fascinating book! You will not be sorry.

Favorite E-Reads of the Month: July 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s already time to reflect on my e-reading this month. One of the things I love about summer is the increased time available to read the many blogs and newsletters I subscribe to, and to follow the trail of links to discover more on topics that interest me. Here is what I have enjoyed this month:

Media:

The Other Side of Anne of Green Gables  As an Anne of Green Gables fan, I was eager to watch the reboot of the franchise. As a grandmother, however, I was glad not to be watching with my granddaughter. While I enjoyed the miniseries, despite the missing pieces and added material, I would definite consider this an adult version of the popular tale, and when I read this article, I understood why; that was the intention of its creators. My only wish is that it would have been clearly labeled as such.

Writing

Are You a Writer or a Storyteller?  This was a really interesting and informative post about two major aspects of fiction writing. After reading, I realized, I started out as a writer first. Thank God for the complexity of writing assignments at Berkeley. I had to learn to outline, and it has served me well ever since!

SF/Fantasy World-building I am completing a major revision on my historical fantasy novel, The Swallow’s Spring, and have several novels in development that I am really excited about, so one of my great pleasures this month has been reading about world-building. Every article seems to prompt multiple ideas for existing or developing stories.

Reading 

In Case You Forgot, Reading is Important

Mental Health and Well-Being

Why Caring for Yourself Makes All the Difference

Social Sciences

Why Brilliant Girls Tend to Favor Non-STEM Careers

Your Turn

What have you read online that other Literate Lives followers might enjoy? Use the comment space below to include a title and a web address (and if you feel like it, a little blurb sharing why you liked it).

Enchanted Conversations Publishes My Poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”

This, and all of the fabulous art in the Donkeyskin issue was created by Amanda Bergloff, contributing editor and art director at Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine

In June, I sold my first poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”, to Enchanted Conversations  A Fairy Tale Magazine, and it came out this month.

Enchanted Conversations:  A Fairy Tale Magazine

I am so excited about the opportunities at Enchanted Conversations, a web-based magazine that publishes six times per year, each issue focusing on a particular tale and inviting both prose and poetic submissions. The issue my poem was accepted for was one exploring the story Donkeyskin.

Why Enchanted Conversations?

  • I still love to read folktales and fairy tales.
  • I love the opportunity to explore, play with, and retell folktales and fairy tales.
  • Enchanted Conversations is a really fun outlet for crafting poetry (I rediscovered my love for writing poetry a few years ago and have fallen more and more in love with the practice as time goes by).

Interested in Submitting to Enchanted Conversations?

The story focus for the next issue of Enchanted Conversations is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The deadline is the end of this month. Click here to view the submission guidelines.

Classroom Applications

Wouldn’t taking Kate Wolford and Enchanted Conversations‘ be a fun way to process a whole class reading unit? Students could submit stories, poems, and art to create a class magazine or webzine that could be shared with parents and community. I love letting students process learning through the use of imagination.

Your Turn

Do you know of any other magazines or webzines that focus on folktales and fairy tales? Do you have any favorite tales that you would like to play with? What is it? Go ahead and the give the exercise a try (and please, please post your results). Just use the comment space below. I love to hear from you.

Best Books of June 2017

Whew! I got a lot of reading done in June. (And it’s about time!) I did so much reading, that I can’t narrow this post down to just one book. But, because I’m mentioning two does not let you off the hook for helping make the word “Books”, referred to in the title, plural. So, with no further ado, here’s my best books read in June:

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal and The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell Hunt. Both are historical fiction, as were almost all the other books I read, besides the Harry Potter. Hmm, do you sense a theme here? The difference is, among many things, Valour and Vanity is historical fantasy set in Georgian era Europe (think Regency England and the Napoleonic wars of early 19th century), while The Golden Cross is straightforward historical fiction set in the 17th Century, on the Dutch colony on Java, Indonesia

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette KowalValour and Vanity: I love this series, The Glamourist Histories. In this novel, Jane and Vincent, official glamourists of the Prince Regent, head to Venice. On the way, their ship is waylaid by pirates. Although they reach Venice safely, they arrive penniless and are taken under the wing of wealthy gentleman who had been on board ship with them. But not all is as it seems… I could hardly put this book down as the plots twists and turns swiftly carried the tale in one direction and then abruptly in another. The cast of characters is fun and intriguing, as Jane and Vincent are befriended by the nuns of a local convent, a street entertainer, and Lord Byron! I can’t hardly wait to read the next book in the series. Expect to find it on my reading log soon.

The Golden Cross by Angela Elwell HuntThis second book in “The Heirs of Cahira O’Connor” series is, I think, my favorite of the series so far (although the first book, The Silver Sword was pretty awesome as well). The main character, Aidan, is a young woman gifted with great artistic ability who, through misfortune, finds herself a barmaid in a notorious harbor tavern. Feeling terrible shame at what she and her mother have become, she longs for a more respectable life. Finally she is given the chance to remake herself when a great artist takes her on as his student. However, many people want nothing more than to see her restored to the gutters from which she has escaped. This is a story of discovering ones gifts and value as a child of God. The threats to Aidan’s dreams and life get very intense, and I was glad to have had the time to gobble this book up in two days!

What about you? What book or books did you enjoy in June? Please, please, please use the comments section below to share. I’m always on the lookout for an great read.

Favorite E-Reads of the Month: June 2017

With the advent of blogs, I have slowly shifted my magazine reading to what I call E-reading. A perfect morning starts with a poor-man’s-mocha, a chapter of the Bible, and E-reading–reading posts from the blogs I follow. Many I read and then pin on my Pinterest boards, and some I read and delete. But this month it occurred to me: shouldn’t I share some of my favorites with you?

Hence…

Favorite E-Reads for the Month of June 2017

Here are links to the posts that really stuck with me this month:

  1. Is Self-Compassion More Important than Self-Esteem? by Stephen C. Hayes, Ph.D., on Psychology Today
  2. How to Cultivate More Self Compassion: Learning to be Kind to Yourself by Allison Abrams, LCSW-R, also on Psychology Today
  3. 10 Ways to Switch Up Your Sentences by Chris Winkle, on Mythcreants: Fantasy and Science Fiction for Storytellers
  4. Four Functions of Amazing Opening Lines, also by Chris Winkle, on Mythcreants: Fantasy and Science Fiction for Storytellers
  5. How Writing can Assist Sufferers of Mental Illness  by Cassandra Hawkings, on C.S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive
  6. Worldbuilding Demystified by Becca Puglisi, on Writers Helping Writers
  7. 5 Ways to Use Meyers-Briggs for Characters by K.M. Weiland, on Helping Writers Become Authors
  8. What Exactly Does Facebook “Friend” Mean? The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly by Kristen Lamb, on Kristen Lamb: Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi
  9. Heartened by Wonder Woman–The Case for Sincere Storytelling by Vaughn Roycroft, on Writer Unboxed
  10. Plot vs. Heart by Donald Maass,  on  Writer Unboxed

As you can see, they cover a range of topics.

The Self-Compassion articles really grabbed me because I am coming out of a “Debby can’t do anything right” period of thinking. It is a comforting topic, but moreover, it is also complements the Growth Mindset training which has been sweeping our school district for the past two years.

Mythcreants is my favorite blog for building fantasy writing skills. I love almost everything I read there.

Writer Unboxed has been a favorite general writing site for many years, and this month I was privileged to be able to hear Donald Maass teach on the same topic–getting more emotion into our fiction. He is an amazing teacher!

All these writers are amazing and enrich my life.

Happy Reading!

P.S. What is your favorite blog, or a favorite post you’ve read recently? Please use the comments space below to respond.