If you want to experience cultural differences, but you don't have the time or cash to travel the world, consider signing up to host an exchange student. It's work, sure, but it's also a fantastic experience and can be a lot of fun. Watch this short video for a taste of hosting sweetness!
1. A while back I took Trooper to the post office, something I avoid when possible because for some reason it's never a wonderful experience. Well, this time I let him wander around a little bit in the large room while I waited in the smaller room where the patrons lined up, hoping that greeting people would keep him entertained. I could see him through the glass, otherwise he never would have gone by himself. He still has a healthy fear of being kidnapped. I had just reached the front of the line when he came in to hang on my waist. And then, in a move that made everyone else laugh, he turned me red-faced with embarrassment. "Are you almost done?" he said in a loud, growly voice. "It's getting boring, and people keep calling me sweetheart."
2. While working on his reading lesson, Trooper read a difficult word much more smoothly than is normal for him. "Nice!" I said as he broke out into applause for himself.
When he had finished clapping, he looked at each palm, carefully yet futilely searching for some transgressor. Then he licked them thoroughly and turned back to his work. He must have noticed me staring at him because he explained, "I have to stop clapping. It hurts my hands to clap, so I licked them to make them feel better."
All I could do was shiver.
3. Trooper, working on USA puzzle: That's West Consin. Sometimes we call it East Consin.
'Teeth of the Gods (Unweaving Chronicles Book 1)' by Sarah K.L. Wilson
I enjoyed Teeth of the Gods not only enough to finish it, but to buy the next book. It's fantasy, with a thought-out magic system, a love interest, and a quest, but it feels different from any fantasy I've ever read. The world is nothing like traditional fantasy worlds; the main character isn't a nobody, she isn't trying to save the world, and the characters aren't white. Also, events sometimes surprised me, especially at the end. I didn't see that coming at all. The writing is smooth and pleasant to read, has few errors, and only once or twice did I pause because I was confused about the situation, minor instances along the lines of 'if she's back to back with this person, how can she look in his eyes.' That's not an exact example, but the kind of thing I mean.
Some things in the story were eye-rollingly (new word) predictable, like, anything Tylira did once I realized she really was a completely selfish, immature, ungrateful little snot. There's a reason no one likes her. This is my biggest hang-up with the story. She's supposed to be this way, it's not a flaw of writing, but it still made the book difficult for someone like me to enjoy. I think there was a little character growth, or at least she thought so, but she has a long, long way to go before she'll become a person I could sit down for dinner with and not be tempted to catapult something hot and saucy at her with my spoon. This leaves me wondering about the love interest. Why does he love her, exactly? She doesn't even have a sense of humor.
So, why am I reading a series about a girl I don't like? I guess the rest of the story made up for that. I'm curious about what will happen. The world is interesting. I wonder if the protagonist will change, and if she does, how will that effect change in the world since her insufficiencies have many implications and are central to the plot in more ways than I can explain without spoiling? I like the love interest, find him relatable even though I don't understand why he likes Tylira. I do wish I could be inside his head for a minute to figure that one out.
Sexual Content: None. Only mild romance.
Language: I can't remember anything foul. They use their own swear words.
Violence: Yes. Most of it isn't super graphic.
Diversity: Yes! Big high five for diversity.
Overall Plot/Message: The entire plot is pushed forward by the selfish desires of the protagonist. There is an unpredictable twist, and everything makes sense, so it was well done even if not exactly 'good'. If there's a message, it's 'Selfish actions feel good in the moment but their end is the way of death.' Sounds like a Bible verse.
Find it here.
Usually, when people speak of being inspired they mean that they were encouraged to be stronger, kinder, greater people. Today, I'm using the word 'inspired' in a different way because I'm talking about my dog of thirteen years, Alethea.
Alethea didn't inspire me to be stronger, although she did harass me to put in more miles. She didn't inspire kindness, but she did help me learn patience, which is a part of kindness. She may not have made me greater, but her insatiable need for exercise and dominion drove me to Cesar Milan, whose books and TV show taught me to be a calmer, more assertive person with firm boundaries and expectations.
Alethea also inspired a character named 'Milah' in Kergulen. For those who need a refresher, Milah was Driston's goatherd who drove him crazy and terrified Rima. When she was young, and not so young, Alethea drove my husband and me absolutely crazy, to nearly Marley and Me levels. One night about twelve years ago I was working on Kergulen, Alethea was whining incessantly about only walking four miles instead of sixteen, and the character Milah was born. I didn't expect the character to become important to the plot, more just a way to write out frustrations, but in the end she did something very important. And I could say the same for Alethea. She never saved anyone's life, so far as I know, but she played an important role in our family, several, actually--the roles of child, older sister, guardian, exercise partner, teacher, friend, ice breaker and playmate. We joke that she prepared us for an attention-challenged Trooper.
It will be a long time before I stop finding fluffy white hair in the corners and imbedded in fabric, a long time before I get used to walking without her or forget that I used to trip over her in the dark. I'll probably never forget bandaging her feet a couple times a year when she'd chase four-wheelers so far and so hard that the pads would wear off her feet, or how she loved to jump off the dock and splash everyone, and then come up on land, always waiting to shake off the water until she stood in the middle of a crowd.
This dog has been a pain in the butt and a family member for thirteen years. I'm really going to miss her. But she's traded in a crippled, unreliable body for endless swimming, running, and wrestling, for paws that never wear out and knees that never go bad. Cheers.
Things Trooper did a couple weeks back while I was sick with strep throat, in no particular order:
1. He watered his school project, cucumber plants, by filling his mouth with water and then spitting it into the cups. I believe he was pretending to be an elephant.
2. He took a large chunk of dried out, leftover cornbread and rolled it between his hands, systematically spreading it over two thirds of the kitchen floor. Pretending to seed grass with a spreader?
3. He got into the brown sugar to steal a few bites and oops! Dropped the bin on the floor. Lost a little more than one quarter of the bin's contents about ten minutes after we cleaned up the cornbread.
4. He went out onto the lenai to run the vacuum, just for something to do while I was busy, and I heard the machine making a struggling noise. It turned out that he had filled the entire canister with cat litter from the litter box. It has yet to fully recover.
5. He took knobs off his dresser.
6. He broke the vacuum into three pieces. One of the pieces I was able to fix, and the other was the cover to the cord winder, which is now exposed.
7. He got strep throat because no matter how much he might complain about me, he can't stay away.
8. He dug a 3x3x.5 foot hole in the front yard while I made lunch. We have sand, so that makes digging much easier than you might believe if you're from anywhere but here.
9. He has lobbied continuously to be allowed to keep his baby snails, even though he doesn't remember to care for them and he lets the food get disgusting. I brought up releasing them again today, and he said, "No, I want to keep them and be their uncle."
10. He poured approximately 21.3 ounces of bubble soap into the tub. Before there was water in the bath.
I have a long overdue update about Alonca's Quest, so those who have been wondering about it should read on. If you don't really care about my books, and only read the blog because you enjoy reading posts about my family, well, what's wrong with you?
I have good news, but bear with me as I lay it out for you in a less than abrupt manner.
Kergulen is kind of like an overly long prequel to the main story. More than anything it's Rima's origin story. The main story is Rima and her friends saving their world from invaders both Haran and other. Originally I had intended to have the entire Haran conflict in one book, but it became clear that I would have to rush through the story to make that happen in fewer than a thousand pages and ten years. So, following the advice of my good friend and book consultant, Winter, I ended Kings of the Red Shell where I did and continued to work on book three, now titled Alonca's Quest. AQ, as I generally refer to it, was supposed to finish up the story, resolve the conflict with the Harans and their allies, and lead us into a completely different arc of stories about Rima and her friends.
But once again, the story is too big. There are too many foes, too many challenges, and too many characters to fit in one reasonably sized book. To do it well, AQ would be far longer than Kergulen, which most of you know is a very long book. Also, AQ as it currently sits is broken into two sub quests, anyway. I feel it demanding that I go back to flesh out other characters and enhance subplots. I wish I had done this with Kergulen, (it could have been two or three much better books than it is) but I didn't. I was inexperienced, I didn't have a team of people giving me tough advice, and it never even occurred to me that I could break it up. Readers had to tell me that.
I can't go back and change what's done, but going forward I can learn from it and make the hard choices that will make Alonca's Quest the best book so far (and I hear that it already is shaping up that way) and make the fourth book even better. Actually, I almost can't wait for book four because I've worked a lot on it already, and it's kind of awesome. But AQ will be great too! It just won't have quite as big a climax as book four, which only makes sense since book four will conclude this part of the series.
So, as I said, good news all around. The books will be better, AQ will be coming out much sooner than it would have, and more characters will have the chance to shine. I finally feel mostly settled here in Florida, so I've been able to spend more time working on books. If you ever want to kill a hobby, move to another state. Yeesh.
In a few months I'll be looking hard for additional beta readers to help me work the kinks out of AQ. If you think you have time and would help, let me know.
Love to all,
1. Trooper to a girl at the park as they carry around Spanish Moss: Do you have a tractor? Why not? My grandpa has a tractor. We're gonna need a wagon for this.
2. "What did you do with the dead mouse?"
Trooper gave me nothing but a blank stare, afraid of confessing to whatever it was that he wasn't supposed to do.
"What did you do with it? Did you touch it?" He had been outside where it lay in the driveway, and knowing him, there was no way he'd gone without doing something to it.
"Oh, no." Trooper said, relieved that touching the mouse was the action in question here. "I just told it it was going to be dead for a long, long time. And then I did a maniacal laugh."
And then I pictured the neighbors listening to this creepy little monologue, and I thought that maybe touching it wouldn't have been so bad.
1. I learned something the other day that surprised me and made me laugh. You might wonder what could surprise me after six years of Trooper, well, here goes:
For years, Trooper has come up behind me and gently gnawed on my butt or the back of my leg, depending on how tall he was. It's always been weird, but he's kind of a weird kid, so no surprise there. Well, the other day he told me why he did it. It turns out that he was pretending to be a calf nursing, and that he thought that's where the milk came from. Who knew? Of course I immediately took him to the computer to see pictures of cows and various other animals nursing in order to clear up the confusion, and assured him that mammary glands are in no way connected to the urethra. Whew.
2. A couple of days ago, Trooper was eating a brownie when he heard a big truck outside. He shoved another bite in his mouth as he climbed down from his stool, eager to see what was going on. Then he paused before he reached the floor. "Um, Mom, can you put this in a to go box?"
3. One night we were sitting out on the back porch eating dinner, talking about something or another, when Trooper said, "Did you ever get fired?"
Jonathan and I looked at each other and then at him. "No," Jonathan said slowly, clearly as confused as I was.
Trooper's face brightened. "Do you want to know what it feels like? GET OUT OF HERE, YOU'RE FIRED!"
I almost fell out of my seat laughing, and Jonathan could barely catch his breath. Of course, this made Trooper laugh too, and we all had a good laugh fest. When it quieted down, Trooper looked at me. "Have you ever been fired?"
"No, I've never been fired. I've never even been close to getting fired…"
He interrupted me, "Do you want to know what it feels like? GET OUT OF HERE, YOU'RE FIRED!"
I do wonder what the neighbors think. But I'm afraid to ask.
Review of The Black Parade by Kyoko M.
Sure, there have been plenty of movies and books about people who see ghosts, but the twist in this story kept it fresh for me. The writer draws from relatively recent Christian religious mythology, the Bible, and paranormal folklore to create a strange mixture of demons, angels (nothing like the angels in the Bible), ghosts, and paranormal abilities. The mix could be hard to swallow for those with Biblical education, but if you can just let go and let the story be its own thing, you could enjoy it.
I liked the main character with her issues and determination, and enjoyed reading about her. The other characters could have been more fleshed out, especially the best friend who gets almost no time at all. Maybe in future books she'll show up?
I'd say my biggest beef really was that the story was kind of cyclical, like watching episodes of many TV shows with a villain of the week. That said, the main character did learn and develop some, and of course there was development of the relationship with the love interest. I felt that the romance element took away from the other plot of the book at times, as love interest often does, but it could have been far, far worse. Or, for you who are all about the romance, it could have been far, far better. I, for one, appreciate that there was no more focus on it.
The writing itself was great. I noticed very few typos and I can't remember being confused about wording or what was happening. Good job.
Language: Various profanity throughout the book, but never to the point where I wished the writer had gotten a thesaurus or anything like that. In fact, it was relatively clean. But still it had a few 'F' bombs so I'd have to call it R.
Violence: Yes, there are demons and people fighting each other, people getting stabbed and beat up. To me it wasn't especially graphic, though.
Sexual Content: Not exactly, just passionate kissing, occasionally at bizarre times.
Diversity: Woohoo! The cast is diverse, and probably would have been more so if there had been more characters involved.
Overall Message/Plot: I have no rants about this book, which is almost strange, now days, and I even stayed up late reading it sometimes. It was more of a slow-to-mature love story than plot or message driven, which isn't really my thing, but I enjoyed it well enough. If you really like romance paired with angels, demons, ghosts, and supernatural abilities, this may be the book for you.
Find it here.
1. We sat at the dining room table, eating a bunch of fried fish, shrimp, okra, and potatoes (I ate a mound of spinach to balance it out) when Trooper dropped a shrimp on the floor.
I said, "Shrimp are expensive. Quick, get it before anything else does!"
"What, like ants?" Trooper asked as he got down off his chair.
"No, like cats and the dog."
He found the little crustacean and held it up to the light, looking for any particles that might have stuck to it. He blew on it, then he brushed at it a little with his fingertips. Then he licked it. "Yep, it's still good."
2. I was washing dishes and Trooper was finishing up his lunch when Multiplied, my favorite song, came on.
Trooper said, "Oh, can I skip it? It gets stuck in my head."
"But it's my favorite!" I said. "How about I just listen to the first part of it."
"OK, just listen to part of it," he allowed, fidgeting with his lunch as I sang along.
Five seconds later, "Well, you can listen to all of it, but I won't sing."
I smiled. "OK, thanks, that sounds fair."
Three seconds later he sang, "I have surrendered…" as he looked down at his plate.
I continued washing as I sang, laughing to myself at the progression of the conversation.
Five seconds later he said, "OK, I'll sing to part of it. But it still gets stuck in my head."
3. Jonathan and Trooper sat face to face, sharing a little cuddle time, and as he often does, Jonathan rubbed his nose against Troopers.
"Why you do that, Dad?" Trooper asked.
"It's called Eskimo kisses," Jonathan answered. "They say that's how Eskimos kiss each other."*
Trooper cocked his head, understanding flashing across his face. "Oh. So that's what your big, long, pointy nose is for?"
*Eskimos, who generally prefer to be called Inuits, don't actually kiss by rubbing noses. It's an old myth, one I've heard all my life.
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