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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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5 Fine Reads for Fall (or anytime)

HAPPY FALL YA’LL!

Mom’s at it again. She’s skipping around the house chirping about sweater weather. Pumpkins. Leaves changing clothes. And FALL! I have no idea what that means. But you know Mom!

Squirrel!

Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah. Fall and reading. Like we noted before, Mom says fall is perfect for curling up with a good book and a cuppa hot whatever. She made a list of recent reads that fill the bill. Checked it twice. (I helped. The first list didn’t smell right.)

Anyway, here are some of our top picks for the season. In no particular order:

1.Gone to the Woods: Surving a Lost Childhood (Farrar Straus Girous Books/Macmillan, 2021)

By Gary Paulsen

Non-fiction/Memoir

Via: Library

“One of the most remarkable memoirs I’ve ever read” – Mom

Gary Paulsen has long been a favorite author. We love his simple, almost terse style of storytelling about nature and outdoor adventures. So when this book came along, we snapped it up quick.

Can’t Skim or Skip

Some books you can skim. Skip through pages or chapters like a game of hop scotch. Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood isn’t one of them. This is the kind of book you have to slow down for. You’ll want to savor each chapter. Suck the marrow out of every paragraph and sentence.

Gripping & Compelling

Indeed, the story of how Paulsen survived his turbulent childhood is gripping. Compelling. Contents include The Farm, The River, The Ship, Thirteen, and Soldier. All are vintage Paulsen: Real and raw.

Backstory

With absentee/alcoholic parents, Paulsen pretty much raised himself. There were only two places he felt safe: the woods and later, the library.

He describes living in a basement at age 13 to escape his drunken parents. It’s “blue winter.” Paulsen stumbles into a library to get warm. With the help of a kind-hearted librarian, Paulsen discovers the wonderful world of books and reading. It changes his life.

This is Paulsen at his most powerful and riveting. An exceptional achievement.

Hardcover Soldier's Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers Book2. Soldier’s Heart

By Gary Paulsen

Historical Fiction

Via: Library

“There’s always fear and there’s always a meadow.” – Soldier’s Heart

Charley Goddard didn’t really know what  a “shooting war” meant when he lied about his age, 15, to enlist with the First Minnesota Volunteers.  He didn’t really understand why he was fighting. He just didn’t want to miss out on “a great adventure.”

In this fast-paced, based-on-fact historical fiction, it doesn’t take long for Charley to discover the true face of war – and all its horrors – from the first Battle of Bull Run to Gettysburg.

Giving Voice

Soldier’s Heart gives voice to all the anonymous young men who fought and died in the Civil War. It is brutal. Chilling. Heartbreaking. And not to be missed. At just 102 pages, you can read it cover-to-cover in an afternoon. We did.

Another absorbing Paulsen read.

3. Neverhome

By Laird Hunt

Historical Fiction

Via: Library

A farmer’s wife disguises herself as a young man and marches into the U.S. Civil War to fight for the Union.

Compelling & Mysterious

In this compelling, mysterious read, “Gallant Ash” becomes a hero, a traitor, a madwoman, and a legend.

Told in the first person in short, staccato sentences, Neverhome makes the Civil War stand up and walk as “Ash” provides eye witness accounts of the bloody battlefield of war. Also intense longing. Suffocating loneliness. Sweat-drenched fear. Fierce devotion. Confusion and bewilderment as thick as a pea soup fog.

The narrative has an authentic first-person quality to it, with phrases common to the language of the period. It reads like you’re looking over the writer’s shoulder as she pens letters home or drafts entries into her diary.

Why?

Swirling throughout the story is the inevitable undercurrent of “Why?” Why did this woman leave her home and husband and join the war in the first place? Readers are kept guessing in this intriguing, unusual account of some of the bloodiest years in U.S. history.

4. Night Swiftly Falling

By Tricia D. Wagner

Fiction/Novella/Juvenile Fiction

Via: Reedsy/Discovery

Tragedy is narrowly averted when eight year-old Swift and his best friend and fellow pirate, Ash, suddenly discover the power of the restless sea.

The Story

After being warned not to play by the water alone, Ash tumbles into the deep. Frantic, Swift calls for help. But no one comes. So he dives in after Ash – and emerges with a fractured friendship.

Bewildered and confused by Ash’s sudden rejection post-rescue, Swift struggles with a friendship fabric torn asunder. As his older brother, Caius, helps Swift slowly realize he can’t control others, Swift discovers the anguish and frustration that accompanies the desire to help someone who needs help but can’t or won’t accept it.

How?

As Swift mourns a friendship gone south, he slowly learns that sometimes letting go is all that’s left. And that change “is the nature of life.” But “how not to lose oneself?” Swift wonders. “How not to lose those you love in the face of unstoppable pain?”

Tightly Woven

This is one of the most clever, contemplative books I’ve read in awhile. In addition to a tightly woven plot, the author demonstrates a masterful command of the language in every paragraph that’ll keep you turning pages until the end.

Propelled by delicious prose, Night Swiftly Falling is also poignant and heartfelt. It’s relatively short – just seven chapters. But this beautifully written novella packs a punch. It’s honest and hopeful at the same time. A triumph.

5. Listen to Me: How My Down Syndrome Brother Saved My Life

By Lynne Podrat

Via: Reedsy/Discovery

This book opens in August 2020 as the author watches the original Star Trek TV series with her Down Syndrome brother. “Brucie” has been diagnosed with kidney disease and pancreatic cancer at age fifty-three.

The rest of the book is a retrospective on Bruce’s life and the impact he had on not just the author but on many others as well.

Mission Change

Intent on becoming a veterinarian, the author’s life mission changes from saving animals to saving Bruce and children like him. While focusing on Bruce’s life and his unique challenges, the narrative also touches on family interactions and events such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, graduations, and later, trips to the hospital for Bruce as his health deteriorates. Through it all, Bruce remains a “source of heartache and inspiration.”

To ‘Open and Enrich’

The author writes that her plans for Bruce were “to open and enrich his world.” In the end, however, she realizes how being with Bruce “accomplished so much more.” She realizes how this “sweet small man” and “Brucie’s” capacity to love and to “just go on because there was no other choice” profoundly influenced her life. And how Bruce opened and enriched her world.

I’d bring tissue ‘fize you. 

 

 

What are you reading?


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ROCK Goes the 4th With These 25 U.S. Historical Fiction Books

Kimber here. Mom is busy rustling up some Independence Day eats. I’m not too sure about the potato salad and corn on the cob thing. But I’m all over the grilled burgers! Yeah, Lassie!

Well. The subject of “best U.S. historical fiction” came up the other night. We were watching videos of last year’s fireworks or somethin’. You know. The stupid Big Boom things. (Why do humans do this every Independence Day? I don’t get it.)

I was all ears. (For the book list. Not the Big Boom things. Mom got me a Thunder Shirt for that.)

Anyway, just in time for Independence day, Mom and I put together a list of the best historical fiction reads set in the U.S. Mom says we aren’t even going to try to cover books by decade, social movement, issue, or what not. That’d take us like, till the cat comes home. Gag me with Meow Mix!

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How a Real Life Love Story Propelled Christmas Carol Prequel, ‘The Red Button’

Did you know that a recently released prequel to A Christmas Carol is based on a real life love story?

Join us for a fascinating, wide-ranging interview with Keith Eldred as he explains the why, how, and who behind his A Christmas Carol prequel, The Red Button. (For our full review: New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance.) Take it away, Keith!

***

Hello, Kristine and Kimber fans! I am grateful to K & K for inviting this guest post and for reviewing The Red Button, my prequel to A Christmas Carol that focuses on the doomed engagement of young Scrooge and his fiancee, Belle.

I appreciate the opportunity to tell why I wrote it. You might be able to guess some of the reasons but probably not all.

First reason: I love A Christmas Carol!

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New Novel Reveals Untold Story Behind Scrooge Romance

The Red Button (2020)

A Novel That Tells What Became of Belle & Scrooge

By Keith Eldred

“I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!”

Belle Endicott’s goodbye to her fiancé, Ebenezer Scrooge, is perhaps one of the best known farewells in all literature. But what happened to this couple? Who was Belle? How did she meet Ebenezer? How and why did the two fall in love?

A delightful new prequel to the Dickensian Christmas classic reveals the untold story “of how the young lovers found and then lost each other. And how their doomed union stayed with Scrooge daily and ultimately prepared the way for his famous redemption.”

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6 Adventure-ish Titles For Great Outdoors Month

June is Great Outdoors Month. I love this month because… well… um… I love June because Mom loves June. And I love everything Mom loves. (Except broccoli. Gag me with roughage!)

Back to June. Check it out: Hiking! Frisbee tossing! Swimming! Canoeing! Frisbee chasing! Kayaking! Fishing! Frisbee-ing! Picnicking! Biking! Frisbees! The beach, the mountains, the desert, the plains!

Did I mention Frisbees?

Anyway, when it comes to books about The Great OutdoorsGary Paulsen titles top our list. Every time.

Mom says Paulsen’s a three-time Newberry Award-wining author. I have no idea what that means. Can you eat it?

More importantly, Paulsen is a super duper dog lover. Told you he’s brilliant.

Paulsen’s writing style is spare and lean to the point of terse. No excess fat. Brisk as an autumn breeze. Quick as a greyhound. Or me.

Reading any of the Paulsen books below would be a great way to celebrate Great Outdoors Month. You still have time to knock out a couple or more this month.

Some of our favorites:

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18 Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved Outdoor Classics

We’ve read and enjoyed these titles as a family. All include strong characters, engaging plots, and superlative story-telling. All have stood the test of time. (Kimber: You may detect a big canine bias here. Because everything is better with dogs. Including the Great Outdoors!)

Here, in no particular order, are our 100% unscientific, completely subjective recommendations for 20 awesome outdoor classics for older children. How many have you read?

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10 Terrific Books for Mom on Her Special Day (or anytime)

Does your mom love to read? Is her (or your) idea of paradise a quiet reading nook, a pina colada, and hours of uninterrupted page-turning?

Great! Then mom will appreciate our Best Books for Mom list.

Kindly note that books don’t necessarily have to focus on a mom to make the cut. Bonus points if they do. But our list is about compelling, captivating reads that mom can enjoy in that quiet nook with her chilled drink and some alone time. So our list is based on – but not strictly limited to – the following criteria:

  • Must be an enjoyable, uplifting read (who wants a downer on Mother’s Day? Ack!)
  • Superlative writing
  • Credible dialogue and a solid, poignant story
  • Strong, three-dimensional female characters who learn, develop and grow
  • Bonus points if all of the above include a dose of spunk and sass

That being said, Kimber and I are rushing in where angels fear to tread with our purely subjective, 100% unscientific list of Best Books for Mom on her special day:

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GUEST POST: The ‘Gentle Journey’ Continues With Author Cathay O. Reta

“Hey Mom!” says I. “How ’bout we do something special for Valentine’s Day?”

“What’d you have in mind, Kimber?” replies Mom. She’s doing that smiley eyes thing again.

“How ’bout we invite one of our new favorite authors to do a guest post? We could ask the Camino de Santiago walk lady. Cathay O. Reta and Keep Walking: You Heart Will Catch Up. Tell us what she’s up to. Any new books in the pipeline. Lessons learned. What’s next. What about Ray?  Perfect for this Valentine’s thingy!”

“Kimber, you’re a genius!”

Mom’s nothing if not quick.

So here, without further barking, is Cathay’s guest post. You’re gonna enjoy this! Take it away, Cathay:

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12 Most Romantic Movies of all Time

What makes a great romantic story or movie? One that tugs at the heart strings over and over? Makes you laugh and cry, sigh and buy stock in Kleenex?

The Basics

“Most romantic movie” is highly subjective. (IMHO, Hollywood hasn’t cranked out much worth seeing in this category in decades.)

But basic elements include credible dialogue and a solid, poignant script. Three-dimensional characters who learn, grow and develop. Superlative acting. A story that typically goes like:

1) Boy meets girl

2) Boy loses girl

3) Boy finds girl again.

Boils Down To

In between are all sorts of obstacles, angst, turmoil and tumult. Misunderstandings. Heartbreak. Despair. Tragedy and triumph. But the essence of a great romantic movie boils down to:

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16 Unforgettable Love Stories

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. And what better way to ring in the day than with a love story?

Now, I could line the bottom of my bird cage (if I had one) with most of what passes for “romance” stories these days. That’s not what this list is about. You won’t find any cheap dime store boiler plate trash here. This list focuses on timeless love stories that go above and beyond basic romance.

Some of these titles are relatively new. Others have been around for centuries. All reach straight for your heart. Climb in. And settle in to stay. B.Y.O. tissue.

Here are 16 of the most unforgettable love stories of all time, along with memorable quotes. Many have been made into movies. Some might surprise you:

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Jane Austen’s masterpiece of love and life among English gentility during the Georgian era. Mr. Bennet is an English gentleman living in Hartfordshire with his overbearing wife, one of the most ridiculous mothers in all literature. Mrs. Bennet’s chief goal in life is to see her five daughters married off and living comfortably. But fate intervenes…

Memorable quote:

“My good opinion once lost, is lost forever.”

2. Doctor Zhivago – Boris Pasternak

This novel traces the lives and loves of its two tragic protagonists, Yuri Zhivago, a physician and poet, and Larissa Antipova. Pasternak’s epic love story takes place between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and World War II. First published in Italy in 1957.

Memorable quote:

“Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.”

3. A Common Life – Jan Karon

Laughter and wedding bells ring as Father Tim and his artist neighbor, Cynthia, get ready to tie the knot. Finally!

Memorable quote:

“I am not proud, but I am happy; and happiness blinds, I think, more than pride.”

4. Message in a Bottle – Nicholas Sparks

When a woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, she’s determined to track down its author – and finds much more.

Emotionally intense story of love after loss. Set in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Memorable quote:

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.”

  1. The Princess Bride – William Golding

Six-fingered swordsmen. Murderous princes. Treachery. Gallantry. Sicilians and rodents of unusual size.

Buttercup and Westley’s love story is a classic that not even the Dread Pirate Roberts can sink. Did you know the 1987 movie was based on a book?

Memorable quote:

“As you wish.”

  1. Where the Red Fern Grows – Wilson Rawls

The powerful, poignant story of the unbreakable bond between a young boy and his two Redbone Hound dogs, ‘Ole Dan and Li’l Ann, reminds us what love really means. Set in the Ozarks during the depths of the Depression.

Once in a lifetime, a story comes along that inspires generations of readers. Where The Red Fern Grows is one of those stories. Bring Kleenex.

Note from Kimber: My personal favorite, friends! Even better than bacon! Mom always wants to snuggle up with this one. I’m a good helper, ya know. But I’m a World Class Snuggler and face-licker!

Memorable quote:

“I looked at his grave and, with tears in my eyes, I voiced these words: ‘You were worth it, old friend, and a thousand times over.’”

  1. Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen

Set largely in Kenya, East Africa, this sweeping epic is a story of discovery, loss and love.

Karen Blixen followed her dreams until her dreams became reality. She came to Africa from Denmark to search for something inside herself. There, she discovers a man and a country. And life as she’s never known it.

Blixen published her autobiographical Out of Africa under the nom de plume, Isak Dinesen.

The 1985 movie won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. It stars Meryl Streep as Blixen and Robert Redford as her lover, Dennys Finch-Hatton.

Memorable quote:

“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

  1. The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks

A touching story about what we long for. What we settle for. And who we were meant for. Full of longing and wistfulness. Despair and hope. And unexpected plot twists. Vintage Nicholas Sparks.

“I read to her and she remembers.”

Memorable quote:

“We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has only happened once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory. I’ll never forget a single moment of it.”

  1. Rome and Juliet – William Shakespeare

Don’t make me explain this.

Memorable quote:

“My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.”

10 – 13. The Last Promise, A Perfect Day, The Letter, The Sunflower, – Richard Paul Evans

  1. The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

How a brand new toy becomes Real.

Don’t think this “children’s” classic is a love story? Think again.

Memorable quote:

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

  1. Jane EyreCharlotte Brontë

Beloved love story between the plucky orphan and governess Jane Eyre and the dark and brooding Rochester.

Memorable quote:

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

 

16. Bid Time Return – Richard Matheson

A haunting story of the link between a man and a woman that transcends time. The novel upon which Somewhere in Time is based.

My husband rolls his eyes every time I drag out my SIT DVD. I just smile and grab some more chocolate.

This story and the movie that followed starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour prove how little critics know and how even a predictable love story never fails to tug at the heart strings.

An unforgettable John Barry score doesn’t hurt, either.

Memorable quote:

“Come back to me.”

What would you add?