Thursday, January 30, 2020

Book Love Giveaway

Do you love books?  I certainly do.  With Valentine's Day coming up soon, I thought this would be the perfect time to celebrate the love of books by hosting a giveaway.  I'm trying something new and hosting the same giveaway both here on my blog and on my Instagram account -- people can enter either here or there.

There are TWO prize packs for this giveaway:

Prize 1 is a chalkboard print book sleeve from Book Gizmo, a "Fondness for Reading" candle from Northanger Soapworks, an "I read past my bedtime" sticker from Pure Joy Creative, and a set of 4 bookmarks from Mirkwood Scribes, which are printed on cardstock and laminated for extra durability.

Prize 2 is a perky pink book sleeve from Book Gizmo, a "Music and Reading" candle from Northanger Soapworks, an "I read past my bedtime" sticker from Pure Joy Creative, and a set of 4 bookmarks from Mirkwood Scribes, which are printed on cardstock and laminated for extra durability.

This giveaway is open for US ADDRESSES ONLY.  Sorry, my international friends, but this too heavy for me to ship overseas.

You can enter this giveaway in multiple ways:

1.  Follow me on Instagram.  Leave a comment on Instagram saying that you're following me.

2.  Follow this blog.  Leave a comment on this blog saying that you're following me here, and whether you're following by GFC or Bloglovin'.

3.  Leave a comment here on this blog post OR on my Instagram post about this giveaway, telling me which prize you'd like.  If you'd like either one, you may say so.

4.  On the Instagram post, tag up to 5 friends who share your love for books.  One extra entry is earned for each person you tag.

5.  Share the Instagram post in your stories there for 24 hours and tag me in the story (or screenshot it and send it to me if your account is private).

(NOTE:  You do not HAVE to follow me either here or on Instagram for this giveaway.)

This is a flash giveaway, only open for a few days.  I will draw the winners on February 1 and announce them both here and on Instagram in my stories.

This giveaway is not affiliated with Google, Blogger, Instagram, Facebook, or any of the shops I bought the prizes from.  If a person wins and does not reply to my notification that they won within one week (by February 8), they forfeit their prize and I will choose a different winner.

Monday, January 27, 2020

"The Number of Love" by Roseanna M. White

This book was very, very cool.  Not perfect, but really enjoyable.  I liked basically all the characters (except the bad guys, obviously, cuz I almost never like bad guys) and was really rooting hard for the heroine.  I'm glad book 2 is on my bookshelf so I can read it soonish.  Before book 3 drops this fall, anyway ;-)

Margot De Wilde was a secondary character in White's earlier book A Song Unheard, and probably my favorite character in that, so I was really excited that she got her own book.  This one is set several years after Song, and she's now working as a codebreaker for British Intelligence during WWI.  

Of course, there's a love story, with her slowly coming to like and then love a British spy named Drake Elton, who happens to be her best friend's brother.  But the story mostly revolves around Margot learning to trust God instead of her own vast intelligence.  She has some really hard things happen to her over the course of this book, including one that I don't want to spoil much, but which reminded me of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "The Body" in many ways.

In fact, this is almost more a coming-of-age story than a romance, which I appreciated.  I also loved all the stuff about spies and espionage and a few scenes of derring-do.  But Margot herself remains my favorite part of it, the way she thinks and prays in numbers instead of words sometimes, and the way she stalwartly strives to find her place in the world.

I actually identified with Margot in a lot of ways, especially her extreme annoyance with being dismissed by older adults just because she's quite young.  I hated that so much as a young adult.  SO MUCH.  Also, she wonders if there's something wrong with her because she doesn't love babies like other young women, and dude, that's so me.  I love MY babies, but not just babies in general.  And her skittishness about strong emotions... it took me years to learn how to feel without letting feelings control me.  I would just avoid feeling at all, which I eventually realized was simply letting feelings control me in a different way.  

So yeah, I dug this book :-)

Particularly Good Bits:

She hated being called young.  Hated it.  Too long she had been dismissed, her ideas ignored solely because she hadn't been alive as long as others.  She'd thought those days were beyond her now that she'd been part of the adult world for so many years. but no, this frumpish lump of a woman would speak down to her simply because her skin was smooth with youth.  And impressionable?  As if she hadn't mind enough to make it up for herself? (p. 128).

It wasn't wrong to feel emotion.  She knew that.  Especially in something like this.  but it was dangerous.  So dangerous.  Emotions didn't obey the rules.  They existed somewhere outside the set of axioms that governed the rest of her life.  They confused her (p. 134).

"And faith isn't just feeling.  We have to know He's still there, unchanged, even when we can't feel Him.  When the grief's too loud to let us hear His voice" (p. 273).

Not to say that God didn't factor it all into His plan.  He would use it.  But He didn't cause it.  The world caused it, their lives caused it, that inevitable probability caused it.  Because He'd set a world of order into motion.  a world of cause and effect.  Actions and reactions (p. 317).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for war-related violence and scenes of peril/danger.

This is my second book finished for #theunreadshelfproject2020 -- yay!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Up from Slavery" by Booker T. Washington

Wow.  Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

I have to say, 2020 has been spectacular so far when it comes to reading great books.

Booker T. Washington was born a slave, freed at the end of the Civil War, and ended up becoming a formidable force for change in America.  As a teen, he convinced the people running the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute to let him learn there in exchange for working as a janitor for the school because he had no money to pay for his tuition, room, or board.  After graduating, he was determined to use everything he learned to teach other young African Americans, so in 1881, he moved to the town of Tuskegee, Alabama, and set up his own institute of learning in two abandoned buildings there.  He taught about thirty students of varying ages, spending all his time and energy on building them up the way his own teachers had instructed and encouraged him.  By the time he wrote this book in 1901, the Tuskegee Institute had 1,100 students, 86 people on staff, was free from mortgage, and had 2,300 acres of land with 40 buildings, all but a handful of which had been built by the students themselves.

Washington insisted that his students not learn just book knowledge, but practical knowledge too.  They learned to build furniture and buildings, grow and cook good food, practice good hygiene, eat and dress and behave with good manners, clean anything and everything, and how to take part in various trades and professions.  He was equipping people to go be productive and useful parts of their communities, not simply educating them.  Over and over, while reading this book, I thought about how so many people today insist their kids go to college, when really college is not going to help everyone, because we need mechanics and truck drivers and farmers and fork lift drivers too, not just lawyers and doctors and professors.  I think the community colleges and trade schools and tech schools do an admirable job of continuing on with the sort of education that Booker T. Washington advocated for, and we need to not think of them as "lesser" or "secondary" to colleges and universities.

Anyway.  I was astonished by Washington's attitude toward white people in general, though I realize that his words may have been... tinted by the times in which he wrote and the audience he was intending to reach with this book.  He was almost militant about insisting that white people on a whole got along very well indeed with him and his students and were most supportive of the Tuskegee Institute.  But his attitude toward everything in life was relentlessly optimistic, at least as he portrayed himself here, so that fit with the overall picture of how he behaved and thought and taught.

Overall, I found this book very enlightening as to the kinds of efforts people were putting into educating and training and "raising up" the former slaves after the Civil War.  Washington's focus on helping others so that they could, in turn, help even more people was admirable, and I have a lot of respect for him after reading this book.  He also had a lovely writing style that made this book a fast and enjoyable read.

Particularly Good Bits:

I have great faith in the power and influence of facts (p. 15-16).

I began learning that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others (p. 32).

The individual who can do something that the world wants done will, in the end, make his way regardless of his race (p. 75).

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in plowing a field as in writing a poem (p. 107).

I pity the man, black or white, who has never experienced the joy and satisfaction that come by reason of an effort to assist in making some one else more useful and more happy (p. 143).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some mentions of conditions in slavery.

This is my 41st book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

"All the Mowgli Stories" by Rudyard Kipling

Ohhhhh, how I love this book.

As a teen, I read The Jungle Book and The Second Jungle Book over and over and over, mainly skipping the non-Mowgli stories and just reading about his adventures.  Which made reading this collection like a little journey back in time to my teen years, curled up in the basement with Bagheera and Mowgli and Kaa and Baloo.  Bagheera was ever my favorite back then, and he remains my favorite now, all wise and mysterious and sleek and a little mischievous.  I love black cats, and had several as a child and teen, but never named any Bagheera, weirdly enough.  If ever we get a black cat again, I will totally name it that.

Anyway.  There's one story in this, "In the Rukh," that I'd never read before!  That was such a surprising delight!  I learned from the Afterword that "In the Rukh" is actually the first Mowgli story Kipling wrote, and his first published story!  But chronologically for Mowgli, it's the last story, and involves him getting married and more or less settling down, his four wolf brothers still with him.  I really loved that story, as the end of "The Spring Running" is much too sad, with him having to leave the jungle and his wolf family.  And that's what I thought the last Mowgli story was, because it's the last one in The Second Jungle Book.  I'm SO glad that it's not!

Why do I love these stories so much?  Because they're fun, but they've also got a lot of wisdom in them.  Can you find a place to belong and build your own family from beings who are unlike you and unrelated to you?  Will that "found family" last forever?  What if it doesn't?  How does growing from a child to an adult both change a person and solidify who they have been from the beginning?  How do you take advice you don't like from someone you trust and love?  Oh, there's so much wonderful stuff in here.  I almost want to just begin at the beginning and read them all over again right now :-)

Particularly Good Bits:

Everybody knew Bagheera, and nobody cared to cross his path; for he was as cunning as Tabaqui, as bold as the wild buffalo, and as reckless as the wounded elephant.  But he had a voice as soft as wild honey dripping from a tree, and a skin softer than down (p. 7).

"Let them fall, Mowgli; they are only tears" (p. 16).

One of the beauties of Jungle Law is that punishment settles all scores.  There is no nagging afterward (p. 39).

Here there was some little difficulty with the catch of the door.  It had been very firmly fastened, but the crowd tore it away bodily, and the light of the torches streamed into the room where, stretched at full length on the bed, his paws crossed and lightly hung down over one end, black as the Pit, and terrible as a demon, was Bagheera.  There was one half-minute of desperate silence, as the front ranks of the crowd clawed and tore their way back from the threshold, and in that minute Bagheera raised his head and yawned -- elaborate, carefully, and ostentatiously -- as he would yawn when he wished to insult an equal.  The fringed lips drew back and up; the red tongue curled; the lower jaw dropped and dropped till you could see half-way down the hot gullet; and the gigantic dog-teeth stood clear to the pit of the gums till they rang together, upper and under, with the snick of steel-faced wards shooting home round the edges of a safe.  Next instant the street was empty; Bagheera had leaped back through the window, and stood at Mowgli's side, while a yelling, screaming torrent scrambled and tumbled one over another in their panic haste to get to their own huts (p. 88).

"I was rolling in the dust before the gate and dawn, and I may have made also some small song to myself" (p. 89).  (I loved this line so much as a teen, I memorized it.  I still quote it.)

A large, warm tear splashed down on his knee, and, miserable as he was, Mowgli felt happy that he was so miserable, if you can understand that upside-down sort of happiness (p. 145).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for danger and suspense and some violence.

This is my 40th book read and reviewed for my second go-'round with the Classics Club!  Only ten left to hit my goal!  I am really hoping to finish this list by the end of the year... so I can start all over again :-)

Monday, January 13, 2020

"Dear Author: Letters from a Bookish Fangirl" by Laura A. Grace

This is one of the sweetest little books I've read in a long time.  It is exactly what the subtitle says: a collection of letters to unspecified authors by a woman who loves their books.

Because Grace never reveals what letter goes to what author, I felt like some of them were written to me.  And that was incredibly encouraging.  In fact, I saved this book to read when I dug back into rewrites on One Bad Apple after taking a hiatus in December.  I'm so glad I did, because it really gave me a little dose of creative oomph every time I opened the cover and read a couple of letters.

If you're an author OR a bookish fangirl, I think you'll dig this book.  I saw on Laura A. Grace's Instagram account that the e-book version is FREE today ONLY, January 13, 2020.  So if you've been thinking of getting this, now would be a perfect day to do so!

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G because it's totally clean and sweet and innocent.

And yay!  This is the first book I've finished for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020 :-)

Monday, January 6, 2020

"The Blue Castle" by L. M. Montgomery (yet again)

This is my fourth time reading The Blue Castle.  This is the fourth time I have inhaled this book in two days.  I simply cannot read it slowly.  I really thought I was going to savor it over the course of a week or so this time, since I reread it last spring.  But nope.  Nothing doing.  Started it January 1 and finished it January 2.

Valancy Stirling continues to astonish me with her depth of character development.  I love characters who undergo a metamorphosis, and that's her whole story.  Dowdy, mother-hen-pecked, and joy-starved old maid at the beginning, she blooms into a contented, happy, useful, loving woman.  And her transformation is totally believable.  Wow, such good writing.

Also, Barney Snaith is officially my favorite fictional romantic hero.  Sorry, Mr. Rochester. 

Word to the wise: don't get buy the copy with the cover I've featured here.  It's riddled with typos. Very disappointing.  The edition from Tundra books is much better.  So is the one from Sourcebooks Fire -- I recommend either of those ones.

(Mine from my Bookstagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

She brushed the old years and habits and inhibitions away from her like dead leaves.  She would not be littered with them (p. 91).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for a couple of old-fashioned curse words, alcohol use, and discussion of an unmarried girl becoming pregnant.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"Before Freedom: When I Just Can Remember" edited by Belinda Hurmence

This slim volume is subtitled Twenty-seven Oral Histories of Former South Carolina Slaves.  It's a selection of remembrances collected up during the Great Depression -- part of the Federal Writers' Project that provided work for writers in need.  They interviewed former slaves and made detailed notes about their memories.  All their interviews are preserved at the Library of Congress, but those are inaccessible for most people, so Hurmence put a selection of them in this book so people like you and I can read them.

And they're fascinating.  Everyone in this was at least 10 when the Civil War ended, so they had clear memories of slavery.  But that's about all they have in common -- every story is different.  Some sadder than others, some clearer than others, some more bitter or more angry or even more wistful than others.

If you're at all interested in American history, this book presents some really wonderful first-hand accounts.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for discussions of violence, such as whipping, terror at the hands of the KKK, and so on.

Friday, January 3, 2020

"The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks

This is one of my absolute favorite books of all time.  I loved it as a kid and I love it now.  I hadn't read it in more than a decade, but I pulled it out to read aloud to my kids, and they loved it too, especially my daughters.

Omri's friend Patrick gives him a little plastic Indian for his birthday.  Omri's brother gives him an old cupboard he found in the alley.  Omri's mother finds him an old, old key that fits the lock on the cupboard, and he's delighted because now he has a place to put things.  Don't we all love places to put things?  I know I do.

Anyway, Omri puts his plastic Indian in the cupboard and locks it and goes to sleep.  And when he wakes up, he discovers that the Indian has come alive.  But is still only a couple inches tall.  But totally alive.  His name is Little Bear, and he is the most demanding, fierce, bossy tiny person you've ever heard of.  But also endearingly brave.

My favorite parts of this book are all about Omri scrambling to provide things Little Bear needs.  A tiny campfire, bark for a longhouse, food, and so on.  I love miniature things, which is a big part of why books like this and The Borrowers appeal to me.  And why I love playing with my kids' Calico Critters with them and keep buying them more for their birthdays.  Anyway, when Omri tells Patrick about this magical event, Patrick wants a tiny person too and sticks a plastic cowboy in the cupboard.  And the cowboy, Billy "Boohoo" Boone, is my other favorite thing about this story.  He's cantankerous and belligerent and softhearted.

I love everything about this book, and I've read three of the sequels too, though I didn't love them as much.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for some tiny acts of violence and for taking God's name in vain a few times.