Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery – A Review

I read two books from this classic series for the 2018 Reading Challenge. The first book, Anne of Green Gables, I read for the book with my favorite color in the title. And I read the second book, Anne of Avonlea, for a book with characters who are twins.

In the first book, we meet Anne for the first time as she comes to live with Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an aging brother and sister who have decided to adopt a child in order to help them with their property. The child was supposed to be a boy, but they get Anne instead. This misunderstanding turns out to be just the right thing for everyone involved. Full of dreams and prone to flights of fancy, Anne is a delightful, precocious child with a knack for landing in trouble.

The second book, Anne of Avonlea, continues Anne’s life after she finishes her schooling and takes on the role of teacher at the Avonlea school. Also, Marilla has taken in the twin children of her third cousin who has passed away after a prolonged illness. With these two, especially Davy, Anne gets to see some of what she put Marilla through in her own younger years. In this book, Anne faces the bittersweet changes that becoming a woman naturally bring.

I simply adore Anne. Her adventures never fail to make me smile. These books are delightful and heartwarming, even in the tragedies that must inevitably fall. These books are set on Prince Edward Island in the early 1900s, and speak of a time very different than our own now. Still, they are full of wisdom that transcends time. I look forward to reading the rest of this series when I can.

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Unlock the Muse – January 1, 2019

Welcome to a new year of Unlock the Muse! A weekly post intended to help inspire and encourage writers to keep on writing. I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season and are looking forward to a wonderful new year.

This year I’ve set the goal for myself to make progress on my novel series I’m working on. I have incomplete drafts for parts one and two of the five part series. My goal is to finish both of these drafts and ideally begin work on the third.

Inspire
Your writing prompt for this week is:

Document the weather. How has today’s weather affected you?

Keep a weather journal for the week. Jot down notes about how the weather affected your mood, your attitude, your actions. At the end of the week, write a few paragraphs, a story, an essay or a poem using your observations about the weather.

Encourage
New this year, I will propose a theme for each month and try to tie together the weekly post under that theme. For January 2019, the theme is Refresh.

The beginning of a new year is always a good time to take stock of where you are in respect to your goals. It’s also a good time to refresh your dreams and plan ahead for the coming year. Take some time to reflect on where you are as a writer and where you hope to go this year. If you’ve fallen into a slump, or have become discouraged with your writing, give yourself a break. Allow yourself the time to refresh your dream. Remember why it is that you write.

So, reflect, refresh and return to your writing.

Happy writing!

What are your writing goals for 2019?

2019 Reading Challenge – The Year of Finishing!

Happy New Year!

It’s that time again when we review the year we’ve just finished and look forward to the year ahead. One thing that means for me, is setting new reading goals. I accomplished so much more than I ever thought possible in 2018. I’m really excited to see what I can do in 2019.

One thing I decided I wanted to do in 2019 is to finish up at least some of the series I’ve started in the last couple of years. Two years ago my focus was on series books, and everything I read was part of a series. Many of those remain unfinished, as do several that I started this year. It is time to finish them. Or at the very least, continue with them with the intention of eventually finishing them.

I also decided that I’m not crazy enough yet and have opted to participate in not one year-long reading challenge, but two. While waiting for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge list to be released, I checked out the Around the Year in 52 Books (or ATY) 2019 Reading Challenge list. This may have been a mistake, because I discovered I could fit many of the books I already wanted to read into this list too.

So I now have a total of 105 books I plan to read in 2019. This will be a huge stretch for me, and not something I intended to do. The up side of this is that since most are series books, I can binge read the whole series without guilt, or worry that I will throw off my reading schedule.

Besides the two reading challenges, I set for myself three other reading goals for 2019. One, read at least one “classic” novel. Two, read at least three books from my backlog of “borrowed” books. Three, read at least three books from the Newberry Honors list. I think I’ve got these goals well covered:

Classics:

  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • War and Peace
  • I, Robot
  • Around the World in Eighty Days

Borrowed books:

  • Grave Peril
  • The Clinic
  • Time and Stars
  • Twisted
  • The Last Innocent Man

Newbery Honors:

  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon
  • The Wednesday Wars
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry!
  • Ella Enchanted
  • Joyful Noise
  • The Tombs of Atuan

My biggest reading goal for 2019 is to make a dent in the huge backlog of unread books on my own shelves, both print and digital. This is one reason why I think attempting two reading challenges might be doable. While I haven’t fully decided on all the books I will read, here’s the break down on what I have chosen so far.

  • 65% are off my physical bookshelves (in the interest of full disclosure, two are new books being released in 2019 that I will purchase)
  • 15% I own on ebook or audio
  • 19% I’ll borrow from the library
  • 1% remains undecided

So there it is, my reading goals for 2019. At 57%, the list is still skewed slightly toward men authors over women. It is predominantly books I already own, but I will still be frequenting my local library. I will finish fourteen series I’ve previously started and make progress on seven more. To be fair, I’ll start on another fifteen, but who’s counting?

I’ll be posting the full reading lists for the Around the Year and Popsugar reading challenges in the coming week. Though, because there are so many books to read, I think I’ll allow myself more flexibility this year with these lists. For my best chance at success, I need to be able to allow myself more freedom to change this plan as the year goes on and other books clamor for my attention.

What are your reading goals for 2019?

2019 ATY Reading Challenge list
2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge list

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan: A Review

I have had The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan on my bookshelf for a long time. I think I picked it up at a random second hand book sale somewhere. I knew it only by its reputation, and I wanted to see for myself what it was all about. When I set about putting together my list of books for 2018, knowing I wanted to focus on women authors, I determined to find a place for this book. I did that in the prompt “a best seller from the year you graduated high school.”

I really enjoyed this book. More than I thought I would, even. It’s a fascinating look into a culture I know very little about. It’s a beautiful picture of the relationship between mothers and daughters. I find it interesting how this often turbulent relationship is drawn so sharply into focus or conflict when shown against the backdrop of immigrant families. The generational differences are so much sharper than those who come from the same cultural background. Here, the American born daughters have the added conflict of a dual nature, dual culture. It’s a part of the immigrant experience I hadn’t considered before.

Tan weaves together eight lives – four pairs of mothers and daughters – into a single story that crosses generations and borders. It is written so beautifully. And I love how she frames the story with the viewpoint of the one daughter who has lost her mother. It is a very touching story of families, love and the wisdom we too often fail to see.

Unlock the Muse – December 26, 2018

2018 is nearly over and a new year is about to begin. For many, this is the time for setting new goals, or embarking on a new adventure. Maybe you’ve left some things unfinished in 2018 and rather than begin something new, you will continue your current course. This is where I find myself at the end of 2018, too many incomplete projects I don’t care to abandon. In this light, I’ve decided to make 2019 the “Year of Finishing” and I intend to make great forward progress on this novel series I’m working on. What will 2019 be for you?

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

In 500 words, write page 237 of your autobiography.

When I asked Google, I found that the average autobiography is around 250-300 pages. That means that page 237 should be about the high point of the narration. What is the key moment in your life so far? Write about it.

Encourage
I have personally never felt compelled for any reason to write about my own life. I find other people’s lives – real or fictional – more interesting than my own. I have read many biographies and memoirs that I’ve enjoyed, however, and I’m grateful to those who are willing to share their stories.

Maybe you’ve considered writing your memoir, or maybe you’ve never even thought about it. Here’s a few reasons why you might want to consider it. Whether you’re writing for publication or self-edification, a memoir is a worthwhile effort.

If you’re looking for a good memoir to read, this list might provide a place to start.

Equip
It’s play week! Here’s a roll of the dice from Rory’s Story Cubes. Use one, use them all, or some combination thereof to inspire more words. Have fun!

StoryCubes7

Remember, next week Unlock the Muse will move to Tuesday (Muse-day). Hopefully, it will be a newly revitalized weekly post focused on inspiring and encouraging writers.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee: A Review

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee fills prompt #31, a book mentioned in another book, on the 2018 Reading Challenge. I found it on a list, however, and not actually in a book, so I don’t know what book(s) it might be mentioned in. It was already on my list to read, so I would have found a place for it on this list somewhere.

This is the story of a black man on trial for his life. But it’s told through the eyes of the child of the defense attorney. I think this perspective shows us the gross inequities of the situation. Scout Finch sees the events of this story as it unfolds. She tells us what she sees. We hear her brother’s words, an older brother with an almost adult view on the world. We hear her father’s words, and the words of other adults around her. All of this is filtered through the innocence of a child.

While this book talks about racism and segregation, and uses words that will be offensive to many, it does so in such a way to demonstrate the ugliness of it. Lee shows her characters, particularly the children Scout and Jem, struggling to come to terms with prejudice.

Naw, Jem, I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.’
That’s what I thought, too,’ he said at last, ‘when I was your age. If there’s just one kind of folks, why can’t they get along with each other? If they’re all alike why do they go out of their way to despise each other?’

I think the choice of narrator is perfect for this story. Too often as adults, it is easy to get caught up in “this is how it always is,” where children aren’t burdened by such cultural “norms.” It is refreshing to see the world through innocent eyes. 

Unlock the Muse – December 19, 2018

Welcome to the next to the last muse-day post of 2018! The end of the year is often a time of reflection. A time to consider what has been accomplished in the past twelve months. I’ve nearly completed my largest reading challenge to date. I’ve written over 50,000 words toward a novel series. My blog continues to grow (if a bit slowly). I’m not yet where I’d like to be, but I’ve moved forward, and that’s what counts.

Inspire
Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Is there something that you would really like to write about? Construct a query letter on the subject and send it to five appropriate magazines.

Maybe you have a story about your dog, or a humorous poem for children. Whatever you’ve written, be bold and send your words out into the world.

Encourage
One thing this week’s prompt is likely to lead to is rejection letters. Learning how to cope with this sort of rejection is an important part of being a writer. Here are some tips on rejection from authorunlimited.com.

Remember, don’t take it personally. Rejection can be an opportunity to learn and grow.

Equip
In light of today’s prompt to write a query letter, I’ve decided to do my vocabulary study on the word, query.

que·ry

/ˈkwirē/

noun
a question, especially one addressed to an official or organization.

verb
ask a question about something, especially in order to express one’s doubts about it or to check its validity or accuracy.

According to etymonline.com, the word query originates c. 1530s from the Latin quaere “a question, ask,” the imperative of quaerere “to seek, look for; strive, endeavor, strive to gain; ask, require, demand.” Figuratively it means to “seek mentally, seek to learn, or make inquiry.”

Your task this week, then, is to “strive to gain, ask, require or demand” publication of your work. I’m thinking, though, that it might be best to go a bit light on the demanding.

As I’ve mentioned in previous Muse postings, I am considering a few changes to this weekly post. This weekly writing prompt post began as a way to push myself to write more and to help encourage creativity in others. In 2018 it became “Unlock the Muse,” and I expanded the weekly post to include more – things like grammar tips and vocabulary studies. While these things are interesting, it isn’t where I wanted this post to go.

Therefore, in 2019, I’ve decided to scale back the scope of this weekly post and focus more on the inspiration and encouragement aspects and less on the instructing bits. There are many blogs out there teaching writers the various points of the craft, all far more qualified than myself. My focus will remain on encouraging others to write more words along with me and to have more fun in the process.

I will also be moving Unlock the Muse from Wednesday to Tuesday. The first Tuesday Muse-day will launch, appropriately I think, on January 1, 2019.

Happy writing!

Please consider sharing a link to your response to the writing exercise. Got a question? Just ask!