Book Review: Slug Days

33509392“On slug days Lauren feels slow and slimy. She feels like everyone yells at her, and that she has no friends. Today there is a different bus driver; Dan and Sachi are sitting in Lauren’s seat on the bus; and Lauren’s teacher interrupts her reading time. It is definitely a slug day. But not every day is like this. On butterfly days Lauren makes her classmates laugh, or goes to get ice cream, or works on a special project with Mom.

Lauren has Autism Spectrum Disorder (an umbrella term that has included Asperger Syndrome since 2013), and she sees the world differently from many people. Sometimes this can be frustrating and makes Lauren want to flip her lid, especially at school where she learns differently from her classmates. But with support and stubbornness and a flair that’s all her own, Lauren masters tricks to stay calm, to understand others’ feelings, and to let her personality shine. She even manages to find common ground with her sticky, slobbery baby sister. Best of all, it is being different that gives Lauren insight into the insecurities of the new student, Irma.” (from Goodreads)

I have to start off by admiring the cover art–front and back. It is seriously cute and portrayed the whole story perfectly. ❤

I picked this book up because it deals with a topic I know very little about (and the cover art was cute). It did a good job explaining Autism Spectrum Disorder without focusing on the disorder itself but instead telling an entertaining, meaningful story from the perspective of a little girl. It was eye-opening to see Lauren’s day to day life–all the things she struggled with and all the things she loved. Her family was sweet, and it blessed me to see her parents and teachers gently help her learn to understand what other people were thinking/feeling. “Insectville” was very cute (I want to make a diorama too now), especially with the adorable illustration style. I couldn’t help but smile when Lauren read aloud to the baby. 😉 And I couldn’t be happier with the ending. ❤

Just a note, parental guidance is suggested to help young readers understand the main character’s tendency toward outbursts of anger.

Altogether, I’m glad to have discovered this book. 😉

 

A New Story and An Old One

Last week, I met five new friends. I had known a little about them beforehand–their names, life situations, and even a few of their faults. Now though, I really got to know them. I saw what they looked like, what they cared about most in life, and how they reacted to others. I even watched a pivotal moment in their lives happen.

You see, I started a new story.

Character development is one of my favorite parts of writing because it’s a time of exploration. It’s a little window where I can flesh out who these people are and who they will be before I throw a plot at them. 😉

Since it’s for my creative writing class, I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as my own projects, but I fell in love with it last week. Even on a close deadline. 😀

This story is a challenge for me with 5+ points of view. 😉 (A unique outlook for each character is key!) I’m also writing a male artist for the very first time which is super exciting. 😀 This story will be a mixture of our reality with one very special “sci-fi” element thrown in.

But the main reason I’m excited is because I get to tell the same Story over again in a different way. The story of God’s love for His children. Him calling out to His own with grace and forgiveness. My favorite story. 😉

Let the adventure begin.

4 Books to Induce a Reading Slump

What exactly is a “reading slump”? A reading slump is the scariest, most terrible thing that can ever happen to a bookworm. Scarier than running out of books. A reading slump is being unable to read because of exhaustion (probably caused by dry textbooks) or disinterest.

I have a theory about the cause of disinterest in reading. For me, this happens when the last book I read was sooo mind-blowingly good that I need to take a break to reflect on it, send it into long-term/life-changing memory, and get my emotions in order. 😉

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Here are four unforgettable books that sent me into a reading slump. And I’m so happy they did. 😉

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I was taking a big chance when I picked up Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. The front cover says “very dark, high fantasy” and the back blurb implies “shallow, irritating romance”. Neither of those is really my genre. 😉 It was well-beloved by some Goodreads friends and fiercely hated by others. It was a dark book, one of the darkest I’ve ever read but only because it’s an allegory (surprise!) of sin, misplaced love, and redemption. There is no other way to portray how helpless our state is. It was exhausting and heartbreaking and eye-opening and beautiful. (Read my review to find out why it’s a book I’ll never forget.)

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is not without its problems (grateful for whiteout!), but it’s a very unique, rich book. It focuses on the ordinary people of World War II and the power of art while being a literary delight itself. There are metaphors and word pictures in this book like none I’ve ever seen before. There are complicated characters. And the plot doesn’t follow the regular rules. 😉 I think I probably mention this one too much. 😀 (Read my review for more explanation and excited babbling.)

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Maybe I’m a little biased, but I love this book. Crossroads by Paul Willis is a heart-pounding, dystopian novel. At the end of my review, I literally wrote: “How can I ever read again?” 😉 Because of the themes, it was emotionally exhausting (in a good way) and very thought-provoking. I grew to love the characters, as well, and I’m holding out for a sequel. XD (Read my review here.)

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I discovered Beautiful Blue Word by Suzanne LaFleur at the library recently. From the cover, it could look like a very little kid’s book, but it has a depth of story and meaning that translates well to older readers. It’s a lot like The Book Thief in its theme, but much cleaner and shorter. It also had a neat twist on the classic Ye Old World War II Book by making it set in a realistic fantasy world so the themes shine without worries of historical accuracy. Pretty fun. 😉 (Read my review here.)

Reading slumps aren’t all that bad when the books that cause them are sooo good. 😉 Have you ever had this happen to you? (And if you’ve read any of these books, let’s fangirl. 😉 )

 

Book Review: Beautiful Blue World

28250850“Sofarende is at war. For twelve-year-old Mathilde, it means food shortages, feuding neighbors, and bombings. Even so, as long as she and her best friend, Megs, are together, they’ll be all right.

But the army is recruiting children, and paying families well for their service. If Megs takes the test, Mathilde knows she will pass. Megs hopes the army is the way to save her family. Mathilde fears it might separate them forever.

A reimagining of war, where even kindness can be a weapon, and children have the power to see what adults cannot.” (from Goodreads)

I have been looking for this book for forever. Like seriously, I always check the teen section at my library and it is never there. Well, it’s never in the teen section, that is. I just found it in the children’s section this time and probably squealed out loud. 😀

First off, that cover. Each time I look at it I discover more, and all of the elements meant more to me as I read the book. ❤

This book has aptly been likened to The Book Thief, but since it’s for a middle-grade audience, it was a lot cleaner which was nice. 😉 I’d almost classify this as historical fantasy, except there were no creatures or magic. One look at the map of that world and the events going on in it, and you’ll almost think that this is supposed to be a retelling of World War II. Except, the author made things just different enough to pique my interest and keep me guessing. I loved it. 😉

Mathilde and Megs had a sweet friendship, and I sometimes forgot they weren’t sisters. 😉 Father was darling with his “Bigs, Medium, and Little”, and I liked Mother as well. I enjoyed all the other kids at “school”, especially Gunnar and Annevi. It was interesting seeing all the different characters’ talents and musing (although I was pretty sure I knew) about what Mathilde’s could be. It was pretty special how she impacted the other characters.

But the colors. The blue and the green, the colors of the world and the flag, Mathilde’s and Rainer’s colors. That was the best. ❤ When someone learns to be compassionate and care for other people, there’s no telling what they’ll do. 😉

Just a note, there was a slight humanistic worldview and a mention of SPOILER ALERT! a school being set on fire and not everyone got out. Also, someone does let out a breath they didn’t know they were holding, so if that irritates you… 😛

Best quote: And then on the day after that, when I got up to leave, I heard behind me, “I like blue.”

Altogether, I very much enjoyed this book, and I am eagerly looking forward to reading the sequel. ❤ I wish I could make everyone read it. XD

Remember

I think one of my biggest problems is forgetfulness. I forget to put something away, do a chore, or say hello. Not that forgetfulness is unusual or that I’m especially prone to it. Forgetfulness causes big problems for me, especially when I forget something important.

I was looking at my old blog the other day. It’s one of the only places a family favorite recipe is stored, and I hadn’t bookmarked it well, so it took some searching. 😉 Looking through the archives, I remembered a blog column I used to write. Whenever life got too busy to properly savor, I would update my readers by writing a list of all the things I was grateful for. It was pretty similar to the plate updates I write now, but since they were more often, ordinary-er things got mixed in.

Which brings me back to what I’ve forgotten and what I’ve been reminded of. I’ve forgotten to look at the goodness of God in little things. I’ve let one “big” problem or disappointment in a day color the entire picture instead of looking at each gift separately as the beautiful things they are.

I’m reminded of a story I wrote about four years ago. Its main theme was gratefulness, and the protagonist was encouraged by a Christian mentor (cool lady, I miss that story) to write a list of five things she was grateful for every night. I wrote this for me, and I wrote it for others. Because sometimes, we all need a little help remembering. 😉

My Grateful List

  1. My reading glasses. They’ve been so helpful this week with all my homework and computer work!
  2. Ice, because it makes water taste gourmet. 😉
  3. Black Panther, the movie. I’m still thinking about it. Such a great film and the worldview discussion afterward was epic as well. 😉
  4. Library books. ❤
  5. Sewing projects.

I could go on, but even just these five have served to remind me that God is good especially in the little gifts. 😉

I’d love to see five things you’re grateful for in the comments!

Book Review: Wings of a Dream

10329469“Rebekah Hendricks dreams of a life far beyond her family’s farm in Oklahoma, and when dashing aviator Arthur Samson promised adventure in the big city, she is quick to believe he’s the man she’s meant to marry. While she waits for the Great War to end and Arthur to return to her so they can pursue all their plans, her mother’s sister falls ill. Rebekah seizes the opportunity to travel to Texas to care for Aunt Adabelle, seeing this chance to be closer to Arthur’s training camp as God’s approval of her plans. 
But the Spanish flue epidemic changes everything. Faced with her aunt’s death, Arthur’s indecisiveness, and four children who have no one else to care for them, Rebekah is torn between the desire to escape the type of life she’s always led and the unexpected love that just might change the dream of her heart.” (from Goodreads)

This book was like a scrumptiously perfect mini cheesecake–the right size, sweet but substantial, and utterly happy-creating. 😀 A very sweet friend sent it to me for Christmas, and I read it in a day. 😉

I’m not sure I’ve cared so much about fictional characters in a while. They really shone in this book! Rebekah was an interesting heroine, and while I couldn’t relate to her dreams, I did relate to her struggle in turning them over to God. This book did a good job of portraying just how frightening surrender to God can be but also just how right it is. 😉

It was also very nice to read about a main character who loves children as much as I do. Oh, my babies! ❤ Those children were the best. ❤ Each was unique, sometimes naughty, and utterly lovable. 😉 I chuckled everytime Ol’ Bob was mentioned, and the many adventures of Dan were too delightful. (I have a nephew who looks like him, so he was my favorite.) *grabs chubby little man and gives him a squeeze* I thought Ollie was nicely portrayed as a real little girl capable of being respectful one minute or rebellious the next. James broke my heart with his nightmares (and the well incident) since he’s usually such a sunny boy. And Janie was a sweet one! 😉 It was sweet to see how much they loved their Daddy and how much he loved them. I know I cried at one point during the book; I think it might have been when he came home. (And Will makes me want to cry just thinking about him.)

I haven’t read much World War I fiction, so that was a bonus. I enjoyed learning more about the time period. 😉

And the romance, guys, that romance! I have no complaints. There wasn’t too much mushiness or petty, miscommunication like I’d usually expect from this storyline. Sure they had their arguments (yay for realism!), but I loved the gradual way their love for each other came about and grew through ordinary life moments. Could hanging up laundry be any cuter?

Recommended for discerning readers because of the romantic element, a disturbing death, and an unhealthy mother/daughter relationship.

Best quotes: “I know it because the sun comes up every morning, no matter what. And the rain falls on the crops. And babies are born. I know it because even when death comes, we go on living.”

“Go on,” I whispered. The tortured look in his eyes wrenched my heart. “Please go,” I said again.

Altogether, this book was just loveliness. I will definitely be reading it again!

Revising Day!

Hello, all! In this busy time of trying to balance school and life and blogging and stories, I’ve missed out on my revising time for a couple weeks now. Today I decided to take a snow day and work on my novel “Kiera”. 😉 I asked God last night if He would help that work out, and He gave me an overcast day today. I always write better on overcast days. ❤

I made it through three chapters which is a record for me right now! I also got to add a new scene, which was pretty fun. 😀 It’s not crucial to the story, but I took the opportunity for more world-building, character development, and set-up of a minor conflict. 😉

I also just got to include a reference to this lovely song… It has meant so much to me in my own life and in this story. 😉

It am so grateful to have made progress on this story. I can’t wait to share it with you all! ❤

Short Story: The Dance

I wrote this short story for the Twelve Days of Christmas on Noble Novels. I was assigned Day 9 with a theme of nine ladies dancing and the nine fruits of the Spirit. It was a challenge, but I managed to bring it all together in this story! I hope you enjoy it. 

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        The schoolhouse looked almost unrecognizable under the garlands and lights that decorated its plain, white boards. One of the boys had dared another to hang a wreath on the bell tower, but the schoolteacher had put a stern end to the plan. They didn’t need anyone getting hurt before the big dance planned that night.

        “Everyone inside. There’s much more work to do in here,” he commanded.

        The handful of students shuffled inside and instinctively sat down at the nearest desks.

        Mr. Richards strode up and down in front of his desk. He wore overalls and a dark blue cap, but he still commanded attention from each student. “The desks need to be moved out of here first. Jonah, Theo, Robbie, and I will take them to the shed.”

        “Yes, sir,” Jonah said, saluting smartly.

        Mr. Richards ignored this and turned to the two girls who shared a desk nearby. “Savannah and Annslie, you’re my cleaning crew. Lewis and Nat are here to help you with whatever you need.”

        The younger boys groaned at the big boys who had landed a much more interesting job.

        Annslie’s hand shot up.

        “Yes, Annslie?” Mr. Richards asked. An amused smile played on his face.

        “When do we get to decorate more?”

        “Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle will be bringing decorations later tonight. I’m sure they’d be grateful for your help.”

        Annslie turned to Savannah with excitement. “This is going to be the most exciting evening ever.”

        Savannah smiled and squeezed her hands together under the desk.

        Mr. Richards clapped his hands together. “Class dismissed.”

        The students rushed out of their seats and set to work. For a while, things grew as dynamic as a dance itself, with the cleaning girls and their unwilling helpers staying away from the desk movers.

        “I don’t think they like this job very much,” Annslie said in an undertone, throwing a glance at Nat half-heartedly scrubbing the floor.

        Savannah looked at the boys and followed their gazes to the big boys carrying desks out the front double doors. Scrubbing floors could look very boring in comparison. Time to show her classmate a little kindness. “Lewis,” she said, sitting up on her heels. “I don’t like ladders very much, but the inside of the windows needs to be cleaned. Would you mind doing them for me?”

        His ears perked up and his blond hair stood a little straighter. “Definitely.”

        “I’ll show you where to find the cleaning solution and some rags,” Savannah said, dropping her rag and pulling herself to her feet.

        Nat watched them go, giving a dejected sigh.

        “Think we can finish this section of floor before she gets back?” Annslie asked with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

        Nat’s freckled face grinned. “Let’s race.”

        Meanwhile, Savannah rummaged through the cleaning closet, looking for a clean bucket. Lewis found a ladder and lugged it out to the nearest window.

        “Where in the world is that bucket?” Savannah groaned. “I hate closets like this. Never opened except once a year. Never cleaned out except once a century.” Her voice grew more muffled as she waded to the back of it.

        “It’s okay, Savannah. I can wait a little.” Lewis said, gathering a few rags.

        She let out a sigh. “Sorry, I was letting impatience get the better of me. Will you see if Annslie and Nat need any help while I keep looking? It might take a little while.”

        “Sure thing,” he grinned.

        Savannah felt calmer as she moved systematically through the piles and stacks and bins. “Sorry, Lord. Please help me to be patient, even if the job is unpleasant,” she prayed. She banged her shin into a metal cart. “Ouch. Ah ha! There’s a bucket.”

        Dragging it out of the cave-like closet and into the schoolhouse, she brushed the cobwebs out of her light brown hair and sent Lewis to fill the bucket. She was just about to look for Nat and Annslie when a voice above her head stopped her.

        “Little Miss Muffet, did a spider frighten you away?” Jonah pulled a spiderweb out of her hair. “Doesn’t look like you got away fast enough,” he teased.

        She bit her tongue and thought through what to say. A soft answer would be best. “Thank you for getting that one, Jonah. I don’t have a mirror with me today so I wouldn’t have caught it.”

        He looked surprised at her reply. “You’re welcome, I guess.”

        Mr. Richards signaled that the big boys’ task was done with another clap of his hands. “Now for the tables. We’ll need two on each wall.”

        Savannah slapped her hand to her forehead. The floors! She had completely forgotten she was helping Annslie. She ran across the room to the floor scrubbers.

        “Aw, man. She’s back,” Nat frowned.

        Annslie just laughed at him. “We had a goal to finish half the floor before you got back.”

        “You almost got there, though. You two are pretty fast at this.” Savannah plunged her rag into the murky bucket. “Sorry I abandoned you, though.”

        Annslie shook her head. “We knew you’d come back. You always do the jobs you’re assigned to.”

        “I just hope we get done in time,” Nat said then grinned. “I’m getting a little sore.”

        “Maybe the time would pass faster if we sang,” Savannah suggested. “It’d bring a little joy into this schoolhouse.” She looked around the room.

        The desks were gone, replaced by bare floorboards and the four long tables waiting for refreshments. Robbie and Lewis were nearly done washing windows. Jonah jabbed at the rafters with his duster, knocking cobwebs down.

        “What songs do you like?” Annslie asked Nat.

        “I’ve always liked ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing’. The ‘glorias’ are especially fun.”

        “Glorias” echoed around the room as they continued to scrub. Mr. Richards walked by with a few boards and lent his rich voice to the singing. Jonah whistled along off-key. After half a dozen choruses, the floor crew stood up, stretched, and high-fived each other.

        “All done?” Mr. Richards asked, coming over to approve their work.

        “All done,” Nat grinned.

        “Great job. Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle will be arriving soon, but until then, take a break,” their teacher said.

        Savannah glanced at the schoolhouse clock. The dance was starting in less than an hour. Now was the perfect time to run home and change into her formal clothes. Annslie thought the same and left quickly.

      The boys put away their ladders and dusters and flew out the front doors. Only Mr. Richards and Theo were left, assembling a makeshift stage for the fiddler to stand on. Savannah felt a little guilty leaving them when there was still work to do.

      A sharp cry of pain echoed through the schoolhouse. She turned on her heels. “What’s wrong?”

       Mr. Richards was holding his handkerchief against a cut on Theo’s hand. “Savannah, first-aid kit, please.”

     “Right.” She dove into the closet once again and easily found the red box.

      Theo clenched his teeth as Mr. Richards poured antiseptic onto the cut. Savannah put gauze on his hand and gently wrapped a bandage around it. She wondered if he would be a better soldier than Jonah pretended to be.

      “Thank you, Savannah,” Theo said. “Sorry about that, Mr. Richards.”

      “Accidents happen. It’s all right. Thank you for bringing the kit, Savannah,” the schoolteacher said.

     “You’re welcome.” Her eyes traveled to the clock again. Only half an hour left. Mrs. Howard and Mrs. Daigle would need her help. She’d better hurry.

      Savannah ran across the snowy schoolyard, stopping at the street to look both ways before dashing across to the little row of houses. Annslie stepped off the porch of one.

      “Savannah, you’d better hurry. We don’t have much time,” she called.

      “I hear you. I’ll be back soon.” Savannah went inside.

      Mama waved to her from the kitchen, and she stopped to give Baby Tommy a kiss on his curls. Hurrying up the stairs, she closed her bedroom door behind her and slipped into the special blue dress laid out on her bed. The full skirt swooshed around her as she walked. She ran a cloth over her dusty shoes and brushed one more cobweb out of her hair.

      A sound outside brought her over to the window. The ladies were carrying decorations from an old station wagon into the schoolhouse. No time to curl her hair. Settling for a twist at the base of her neck and a small blue bow to match her dress, Savannah ran back across the street moments later.

     “Just in time.” Annslie high-fived her.

     “Thank you so much for volunteering to help, girls.” Mrs. Daigle laid a gentle hand on each girl’s shoulder. “The Ladies’ Guild couldn’t put on this charity event without you.”

     Savannah smiled. “We’re glad to help. What can we do?”

     There were tablecloths to be spread on the refreshment tables. Decorative candles placed in holders. Holly wreaths hung on the inside of the doors. Boys on ladders hung Christmas lights and garlands from the rafters.

     “Gladys, whatever do we do about the chalkboards?” Mrs. Howard groaned. “Mr. Richards tells me they are permanent.”

     Mrs. Daigle put a finger to her plump chin. “We’ll write ‘Merry Christmas’ on one and ‘welcome’ on the other. That should be good enough.”

     Theo was adding the final touches to a chalk Christmas tree when the first neighbors arrived.

     “Probably time to get off the refreshment table,” Annslie said in an undertone.

     “Right.” He got down and put the tablecloth back in place.

     Robbie scuttled by with a ladder to stow in the cleaning closet.

     “Have you seen Savannah anywhere?” Annslie called after him.

     “Nope. Last I knew, she was sweeping the steps again, but you know her. Here, there, and everywhere.” Robbie grinned and shook his head.

     Savannah finally found a chance to rest when the schoolhouse was humming with people. She couldn’t dash back and forth anymore even if she tried. The room was packed with people—fathers, mothers, and children, big and small.

    She filled a cup with hot apple cider and took a sip. A few of the older girls wandered up to the table.

    “Hello, Savvy. Nice dress. Is it new?” one of them asked, taking a dainty bite of a cookie.

     Savannah smiled, even though she disliked the nickname. “Yes, this is my first time wearing it. I love the full skirt.”

     “It does look pretty darling,” another girl agreed. “Too bad you didn’t curl your hair, though. That twist looks plain with it.”

     Their comments stung. She had tried to look her best, but there just wasn’t time. She looked the older girls up and down. Perfect hair, stunning dresses, and nails painted. There was dirt under her thumbnail. She didn’t bother looking at the others.

     They turned back to the desserts, and she slipped away to the porch. She didn’t belong in the sparkly, joyful schoolhouse.

     “Savannah, what are you doing out here?” Mama asked, coming to the door.

     She sighed and focused on cleaning out her nails with a small twig. “Feeling sorry for myself, I guess.” She inclined her head toward the older girls. “Look at them. Perfectly dressed. They look like ladies right out of a storybook. And here I am. I have a new dress, but apparently, I ruined how it looks by not curling my hair.”

     Mama smiled and shook her head. She sank down on the bench next to her daughter. “You and I both know that you ran out of time because you were helping at the schoolhouse so much.”

     “I know. It’s just that now I feel like an eyesore.” Savannah turned to her mom. “Do I really look that bad?”

     Mama laughed. “Of course not. You look very nice.”

     “Thank you.”

     “Now, I’ve been talking to your friends, and according to Annslie, you’re ‘the most helpful creature that ever walked the face of this earth’. They all have something to say about how you showed them love or helped them find joy. Jonah remembers teasing you and how you controlled your tongue.” Mama put an arm around her shoulders. “The fruits of the Spirit you are displaying to others are beautiful in God’s eyes. Now go in there, forget what the girls said, and have peace knowing that your actions are pleasing to God.”

      Savannah smiled, happy tears glistening in her eyes. “Okay. Thank you, Mama.” She stood up and smoothed her dress then took a step forward into the music-filled schoolhouse.

      “Savannah, can you dance this one with me?” Lewis asked.

      She took the younger boy’s arm and grinned. “I’d be delighted to, sir.”

The End

 

All nine of the fruits of the Spirit are portrayed in this story. Can you find them?

 

Book Review: Paper Things

22747802“When Ari’s mother died four years ago, she had two final wishes: that Ari and her older brother, Gage, would stay together always, and that Ari would go to Carter, the middle school for gifted students. So when nineteen-year-old Gage decides he can no longer live with their bossy guardian, Janna, Ari knows she has to go with him. But it’s been two months, and Gage still hasn’t found them an apartment. He and Ari have been “couch surfing,” staying with Gage’s friend in a tiny apartment, crashing with Gage’s girlfriend and two roommates, and if necessary, sneaking into a juvenile shelter to escape the cold Maine nights. But all of this jumping around makes it hard for Ari to keep up with her schoolwork, never mind her friendships, and getting into Carter starts to seem impossible. Will Ari be forced to break one of her promises to Mama?” (from Goodreads)

Mom handed this book to me at the library, saying she thought it looked like a “Kate book”. Apparently, art + adoption/foster care + middle grade = Kate book. I really enjoyed it, though I’m not sure “enjoy” is the right word for a book about a homeless child. Even though I didn’t prefer the reason Gage and Ari were homeless, I sympathized with them. I didn’t sympathize with them because the author told me too; instead, she simply presented what it’s like to have problems you can’t share with other people, uncertainty about the future, and an inexplicable loneliness. It was really quite powerful.

One of my favorite things about the story was the rich cast of characters. Ari was just a regular kid. Seriously, quite normal which was nice to read about. Gage… oh, Gage. He made some bad decisions, but when he fell asleep at the bus station, it reminded me that he’s pretty much still a kid. (And after the ending, I feel like there’s some hope for him to fix his relationships and grow into a good guy.) Reggie melted me with his generosity even in his great need. Daniel was super, and Miss Finch surprised me. (Confession: I cried.) I also ended up liking Janna a lot. The daycare babies melted me! ❤

The title is one of those that just grows in dimension as you begin to understand the book. There were many paper things throughout, which was really beautiful because it reminded me of the desire God has placed in us all to imagine, remember, and create.

Just a note that, since this is a secular book, there are some modern lifestyle issues GROSSNESS ALERT! unmarried males and females sharing a house, teenagers at a party mentioned as using someone’s bedroom, and a couple guys talk to the middle grader main character in a less-than-desirable way but are busted by her brother. END OF GROSSNESS! There were also three blasphemies and one crude word used with a couple other expletives implied.

Best quote: “What should I…? If someone asks…?” “Tell them a friend gave them to you,” Ms. Finch says. “It’s the truth.”

Altogether, I was moved by this simple but real to life book. 😉 And I love paper things.

 

Lessons from Clearanced Chocolate

I was starving. Well, not actually, but I felt like I was. We stayed out late doing errands and stopped at the grocery store to get dinner. I guessed it would be at least another hour until dinner, and I was starting to feel “hungry sick” as I put it.

My sister wandered down the health food aisle, and I followed suit. We discussed different chocolate brands and how they were slightly healthier than your average candy bar. (We also discussed chocolate that is so healthy it’s 100% dirt flavored.)

She then showed me this bag of raspberry flavored chocolates and pointed out that it was clearanced. That was good. (Health food prices are terrible.) But, raspberry? Hmm…

Then I examined the packaging.

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At first, I thought the pink and purple were a little weird (I like earthier tones), but the adorable font and close-up chocolate squares drew me in. (I think that font always gets me.) Also, the sight of real raspberries reminded me that I like them. 😉

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But the copy on the back was the best. 😉 In case you can’t read it, here’s a transcript…

“Raspberry–so mind-blowingly delicious, you’re going to want to hide these. In a filing cabinet. Under a stack of sweater vests. Behind the beret-wearing ceramic cat figurine your aunt gave you. We’re into sourcing the best ingredients, keeping our Fair Trade game tight, and wearing sweatpants after 7 p.m. For more on us or to check out our full product line, visit [their site]. Try not to lick the screen.”

I was so amused and impressed by what they accomplished in this short bit of advertising, that I made everyone shopping with me read it. Since I was hungry, it was clearanced, and everyone at home needed to read it too, I bought the chocolate.

Thinking back on how successful their advertising was, I realize there are a few things lessons for me as an author.

  1. The outside of a product really does matter just as much as the inside does. 😉 A book’s cover helps us decide if we will look into the book further. In this case, I was drawn to the chocolate by the images and the font on the “front cover”. I was also willing to forgive some things (like the pink and purple colors) once I was looking at everything more closely. As authors, we don’t have to have a perfect cover, but it does need to fulfill the purpose of catching a reader’s attention and keeping it.
  2. Good back cover copy is crucial. I’m gonna go on about this for a while, sorry. 😀 This was really the part that impressed me…
    1. The back of this chocolate package spoke directly to its audience–quirky, health conscious, Millennials with a sense of humor. (I don’t fall into all those categories, but the last one was most important.) Our audience doesn’t know they are our audience until we tell them so. 😀
    2. It also made boring but important things interesting. For instance, they could have just said “Fair Trade” and “check out our site”, but they added humor and created kinship with [at least some of] their audience. (When I visited their site, I did want to lick the screen.) I’m not saying the back cover blurb of a book should be a joke fest, but we should include what will be important to our future audiences. What makes this book stand out? What are readers of this genre looking for? And don’t forget to give a clue to what they’ll find inside. 😉 Also, who else loves funny copyrights?!!

So, I ate the chocolate. (And shared with those I forced to read the package.) It was actually really good. 😉 A nice, yummy deal.

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There was one more surprise. 😉 When I tipped the bag over to get those last few crumbs out, just like they knew I would, I read this…

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Bwahahaha! That’s their audience right there, again. So make this lesson #3–include small details. 😉 It’s always a delight when I re-read a book and discover something new. It makes me want to add an “inside joke” to my story for my readers to understand later. 😉

I actually finished this chocolate a long while ago, but I was saving the package to show you all. I got a good laugh and some interesting lessons out of it. (Also, a nice snack.) 😉

What have you recently learned from an unexpected source? What is your favorite flavor of chocolate?

Special thanks to Anna for helping me with the pictures. You’re better at this than I am!