Friday, September 30, 2022

"The Convivial Homeschool" by Mystie Winckler -- Guest Review

I reviewed The Convivial Homeschool for the homeschool blog Blest the House this week -- you can read my full review here.  Overall, I found it very helpful and encouraging.

I want to share my favorite parts here with you so you can get a taste of how good this book is.  And so I can refer to them whenever I need them.

Particularly Good Bits:

Our job isn't to figure out how to make everything go smoothly and easily; it's how to glorify God in all things (p. 14).

Tears are a normal response to difficulty.  However, we don't want to shelter our children from encountering difficulty.  Experiencing and overcoming hard work and natural consequences at home is a vital training ground for adult life when they will not have a mom smoothing their path for them (p. 22).

Our goal is to walk in step with the Holy Spirit, not to make each and every homeschool day conflict-free.  The goal needs to be handling inevitable conflict with the fruit of the Spirit (p. 24-25).

Sometimes homeschooling becomes not just our pet project but the core of our identity, causing us to take situations personally.  As Christians, our real identity is in Christ... Homeschooling is one way we serve God; it is not a part of who we are as people (p. 42).

...we think that choosing to homeschool means we are assuming control of and responsibility for how our children turn out (p. 47).

Being merry and festive is not the same thing as being lazy or carefree.  It is being cheerful and enjoying life while doing the work of life (p. 60).

Homeschooling is no solution to sin.  It does not prevent sin in any way.  It just changes the setting and the temptations (p. 76).

Even as we disciple our children through the phases of growing up, we, too, are being shepherded through our own idealistic, stubborn, or discouraged seasons by a Good Shepherd who knows exactly what we need and where we're going (p. 103).

It turns out that homeschooling is work.  It's much more than teaching; it is providing the structure that allows our children to build their work ethic and responsibility muscles (p. 109).

Not a single one of us is patient enough to homeschool (p. 159).

Kindness is love in little things, in our entire way of life with one another (p. 166).

Most of what we, as mothers, do all day is mundane: read a book, correct a child, make a meal, sweep a floor, change a diaper.  Our days are full of small tasks, but their smallness does not mean they are insignificant.  It is in these ways that we faithfully love our families; by loving them, we also faithfully love and glorify and enjoy God (p. 183).

Our role is not to impart everything they need to know... Our role is to see them, hear them, train them, love them, and hold them accountable (p. 194).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  No objectionable content here.

This was the 48th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

"Mary Poppins" by P. L. Travers

I liked this book SO MUCH BETTER than I did when I was a kid!  I read two or three of the original Mary Poppins books by P. L. Travers when I was young, and I just didn't find them very fun.  And I found parts of them downright creepy.  Or bizarre.  Or dark and weird.  I much preferred the Disney movie.

Don't get me wrong -- I still love the Disney movie.  But this book makes me laugh aloud multiple times now!  I used to think Mary Poppins in the book was kind of mean, and she IS much sterner and less cuddly than Mary Poppins in the movie.  But now, as an adult, I just see her as a woman tasked with caring for other people's children who has no use for fools and no time to waste.  She's not mean, she's just busy and tired.  And funny, but not in a way that kids would get.

I also love how you can kind of read the magical parts of this book two ways.  You can take them the way Disney does -- as magical events caused by a magical person.  Or you can take them as adding imagination and wishing to ordinary events.  Do they all really have a tea party floating in the air, or did they just have so much fun laughing and telling jokes and laughing some more that they felt like they were floating?  Did Mary Poppins and her friend Bert really jump through a painting and have a free picnic in Fairyland?  Or did they make up a fun "pretend we're doing that" story together because neither of them had enough spare money to go have tea in a shop?  That absolutely fascinated me, and I LOVED IT.

Particularly Good Bits:

"Don't you know," she said pityingly, "that everybody's got a Fairyland of their own?" (p. 32).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG because that part where Mrs. Corry snaps off her fingers and feeds them to children is really creepy, even if you tell yourself she's pretending to do it and giving them cookies instead.

This is my fiftieth book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list!!!  I am finished again!!!  Look for a wrap-up post about that soon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

"Crown and Cinder" by Kendra E. Ardnek

This is another completely delightful mashup of Jane Austen and a fairy tale!!  In fact, I think I liked this Pride and Prejudice -meets-Cinderella story even better than book one in this series, Rose Petals and Snowflakes.

Lizzy is a Cinder, which means things catch on fire if she touches them too long, and she can control fire to some extent.  She also has ties to the Forest, which was controlled by the evil Mistress until the events of the previous book.  The Mistress tried to use Lizzy to infiltrate the society of her home kingdom, so Lizzy has refused the status of her noble family and taken on the role of a servant in her family's house just to spite the Mistress and thwart her plans.  

Lizzy is very wary of the new Gardener, who seems to have a kindly interest in Lizzy and her stepsister Janet, but can she be trusted?  When three royal balls throw Lizzy and Janet into the paths of King Darren and his friend Liam, the sisters discover that love and status don't have to be mutually exclusive.  But their chances for happiness are threatened by a relative, Collin Wick, who is bent on destroying King Darren and taking his throne.  

Once again, Ardnek has tangled Jane Austen and fairy tales in a clever and charming way to create something totally new and magical.  I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series!

Particularly Good Bits:

"There's nothing nobler than doing the task set before you" (p. 112).

This king had no business being so distractingly handsome and strong (p. 203).

Life could be a fairy tale, after all (p. 214).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for a tense and perilous ending involving a dragons.

This is the 47th book I've read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Revealing the Cover for "My Rock and My Refuge"

Here it is!  I'm officially revealing the cover for My Rock and My Refuge, the next book in the Once Upon a Western series.  

I love the cozy, sweet feel, yet with a hint of mystery and danger.  It completely captures the feel of the book.

Here's a synopsis:

Beauty and the Beast... re-imagined...

When a German baker and her brother take jobs serving a wealthy recluse, they're only hoping to earn enough money to help their parents regain the family's bakery. But they soon learn that gold and silver aren't the only treasures to be found in the Colorado mountains.

My Rock and My Refuge is expected to release on November 8, 2022!  If you would like to get updates and release info about this book, and upcoming releases, click here to join my newsletter mailing list.  You'll never miss out on my book news that way!

If you're excited to read MRAMR, add it to your Goodreads shelf right here.

Let me know what you think of the cover! 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Giveaway Winners and Tolkien Blog Party Wrap-Up

Thank you for joining my tenth Tolkien Blog Party!  I will be catching up on comments and posts over the next few days, but right now, it's time to announce the winners of this year's giveaway!

Eva -- Prize 1 (Journey to Mordor Game)
CC -- Prize 2 (Sticker sheet)
Samantha -- Prize 3 (Four bookplates)
Rose -- Prize 4 (Four bookplates)
Bethani Theresa -- Prize 5 (The Battles of Tolkien)
Ivy Miranda -- Prize 6 (Coloring Book)

Congratulations, winners!  I will be emailing you this morning to get your mailing info, so please keep an eye on your inbox for that.

Here's the widget with everyone's entries, once again, just to make it easier for you to go visit each others' posts without having to scroll way back in my feed to find it.  ALSO!  The party runs THROUGH today, so if you have a last post or two you want to contribute, you are not too late!  Just remember to pop the link into the widget so we can find it.

Thank you once again for celebrating all things Tolkien with me.  Lord willing and the orcs don't invade, we'll meet here again next year for another round of literary fun revolving around his wonderful works!  Until then, may the stars shine upon your journeys.

Answers to Tolkien or Not? Quiz

Here are the answers to the "Tolkien or Not?" quiz!  Scores are below.

1.  In doubt, a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom.  Tolkien!  (Hama says this in The Two Towers.)

2.  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.  Tolkien!  (Gandalf says this in The Return of the King.)

3.  To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.  NOT!  (It's from Hamlet by William Shakespeare)

4.  Help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the wise falter.  Tolkien! (Mithrandir says this in The Silmarillion.)

5.  When heads are at a loss, bodies must serve.  Tolkien!  (Boromir says this in The Fellowship of the Ring.)

6.  I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me.  NOT!  (It's from the Bible, Psalm 44:6)

7.  There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.  Tolkien! (Aragorn says this in The Two Towers.)

8.  We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.  NOT!  (It's from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.)

9.  If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!  Tolkien!  (Gandalf says this in The Return of the King.)

10.  If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.  Tolkien!  (Thorin says this in The Hobbit.)


Charlotte - 10
Bethani Theresa - 9
Eva - 9
Rose - 9
Lydia - 7
Lissa - 6
Katie - 1

I'm not surprised this was a trickier game, but I love how many of you know that #8 was Jane Austen :-D

Answers to Middle-earth Locations Unscramble

Here we are!  Answers to this year's unscramble.  Everyone's scores are at the bottom.

Therolloin = Lothlorien

Beeror = Erebor

Boniboth = Hobbiton

Klownate = Laketown

Soreda = Edoras

Leldervin = Rivendell

Gloitisha = Osgiliath

Omira = Moria

Deemsdul = Meduseld

Workdiom = Mirkwood


Bethani Theresa - 10
Charlotte (MotherOwl) - 10
Olivia - 10
Rose - 10
Eva - 9
Ivy Miranda - 8

Well done, everyone!  

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Roll Your Own Middle-earth Adventure: A Party Game

All you need to play this game is either an ordinary six-sided die or an online number generator.  The numbers you roll determine how your Middle-earth adventure will go!

Share your adventure in the comments so we can all enjoy it.  (Yes, comments are still on "moderation" because of the previous games, but I will approve these as soon as I see them.)  You can elaborate on the different bits of your story as much or as little as you like.


Roll to determine what Middle-earth race you belong to:

1. Elves
2. Dwarves
3. Hobbits
4. Men
5. Ents
6. Maiar (wizards)

Your Quest:

1.  To reclaim your homeland from the goblins
2.  To buy a lifetime supply of pipeweed
3.  To find your family's lost heirlooms
4.  To learn to ride a horse
5.  To destroy all the spiders in Mirkwood
6.  To return a book you borrowed

Your Companion(s):

1.  Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli
2.  Gandalf
3.  Fili and Kili
4.  Merry and Pippin
5.  Galadriel and Celeborn
6.  Eomer and Eowyn

Your Adversary:

1.  Lobelia Sackville-Baggins
2.  Saruman
3.  the Goblin King
4.  Gollum
5.  Smaug
6.  Shelob

The Outcome:

1.  You all get eaten by a snake before you can complete your quest.

2.  You finish your quest and return home filled with quiet satisfaction.

3.  You abandon your quest in favor of trying out the latest batch of beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

4.  You succeed gloriously and return home in triumph.

5.  You succeed, but just barely, and spend the trip home debating whether it was all worthwhile.

6.  You complete your quest successfully and promptly set out in search of a new adventure.

Now just put them all together to make your very own little story!


I am a hobbit on a quest to find my family's lost heirlooms, some small but sentimentally important items that I would like to hand down to my kids.  Eomer and Eowyn agree to accompany me on this search, and I'm very grateful for their help since I'll be facing Saruman and he's pretty scary.  Or, at least, I thought he would be scary, but when we got to Orthanc, he just threw my heirlooms down at me from a high balcony and told us to leave.  I guess he had better things to do than argue with a hobbit and a Horse-lord and a Shield Maiden over a few trinkets.  Having completed our quest successfully, the three of us returned my heirlooms to my hobbit hole and promptly set out in search of a new adventure!

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Tolkien or Not? Quiz

All you have to decide with the quotations that are here given to you, is whether or not they were written by J. R. R. Tolkien.  More than half of them are his, but I won't tell you exactly how many.  But I will tell you that I got his quotations from his books, not from the movies, so they are truly Tolkien's writing. 

Put your guesses in the comments, which are on "moderation" and won't appear instantly (so no one can cheat off each other).  I'll post the answers and all your scores at the end of the week.

1.  In doubt, a man of worth will trust to his own wisdom.

2.  I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.

3.  To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.

4.  Help oft shall come from the hands of the weak when the wise falter.

5.  When heads are at a loss, bodies must serve.

6.  I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me.

7.  There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.

8.  We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.

9.  If you have walked all these days with closed ears and mind asleep, wake up now!

10.  If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Middle-earth Locations Unscramble

Our first party game this year is an unscramble -- I've mixed up the letters of ten locations in Middle-earth, and you need to unscramble them!  Put your answers in the comments (which I'll put on moderation when I post this so no one can cheat off each other), and I'll announce the answers and people's scores at the end of the week.











Have fun! :-D

Monday, September 19, 2022

A Tolkien Blog Party 2022 -- Kick-Off Post + Tag

It's party time!

Isn't it awesome that this is our TENTH year celebrating Tolkien together with this blog party?  I look forward to this event all year, so much so that I start collecting up prizes for the giveaway almost as soon as the current party ends!

Speaking of the giveaway, be sure to enter that here :-D

If you've never joined this party before, how this works is, everyone posts things on their own blogs that relate somehow to J. R. R. Tolkien or his creations.  We celebrate the author, the books, the world of Middle-earth, the movies, and so on!  You can use any of the official graphics in your posts -- you'll find all six of them in this post.

The only rules are that 1) your post must be related to Tolkien and his creations somehow, and 2) your post needs to be respectful and family-friendly.  This is a celebration, so please don't contribute any rants or whiny posts.  

I will be providing three games this year for you to play.  So pop back to my blog throughout the week to find new things!

If you don't know what to post, you can always fill out the tag, which you'll find below this handy link-up widget.  Enter each of your posts in the widget (including posts of tag answers) so we can all visit each other's blogs and share the Tolkien joy!

For the tag this year, I took one question from each of the previous nine tags, and then tossed the ever-popular "favorite quotation" onto the end, to make ten questions.

The Tag:

1. Who first introduced you to Middle Earth?  
2. Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life? 
3. Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character? 
4. What people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?
5. What Middle-earth location would you most like to visit? 
6. Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention? 
7. Would you rather attend Faramir's wedding or Samwise's wedding? 
8. How many books by J.R.R. Tolkien have you read? 
9. Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) that you recommend? 
10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.

Giveaway for the 2022 Tolkien Blog Party

It's giveaway time!!!

Six prizes this year, one each for six winners.  They are as follows:

Prize 1: The Lord of the Rings: Journey to Mordor game.  Brand-new, unopened.  The box says it's for 2 to 4 players, ages 8 to adult, and takes at least 30 minutes to play.  It involves rolling dice to race Nazgul and Orcs while taking the One Ring to Mount Doom.

Prize 2: A sheet of six Tolkien stickers.  I bought this from the Etsy shop Lucy in the Sky.

Prizes 3 and 4: A set of four LOTR book plates featuring Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas.  I bought these from A Fine Quotation, and they're not available anymore, so the two winners who get one set each of these will be lucky indeed!

Prize 5: The Battles of Tolkien by David Day.  This is a used copy of a really fun book.  It's in very nice condition except for a bit of sticker residue in the top right corner, which you can see below:

That residue shouldn't be too hard to remove, I just haven't had time to take care of it.

Prize 6: The Lord of the Rings Coloring Book.  This is a fun collection of illustrations, ready for you to color!  I do NOT know why they have Mjolnir on the cover, though.  I didn't notice that when I bought it, or I probably would have chosen a different coloring book.  Still, the pictures inside are very nice, as you can see:

I purchased all of these prizes myself, for the purpose of this giveaway.  This is not affiliated with any person or business besides myself.  Must be 18 or older to enter, or have parent's permission to provide me with a mailing address to send the prize to.  No purchase necessary.  Void where prohibited.

This giveaway is open worldwide.   

The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party by contributing a post, such as your answers to the official tag or another Tolkien-related post.  Once you've written your post, be sure to add its link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of my kick-off post (which is also where you'll find the tag questions).  

But, that isn't required!  You can also earn entries by doing other things like playing party games (which will start tomorrow) and telling me your prize choices.  And you can even get an entry just for being interested.

I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices. However, I cannot guarantee that you will win something you want/request.

Also, please be aware that mail delivery is still a little wonky. I will ship all prizes via the USPS, and they do not ship to every country right now, so if you are one of my international friends, please check this official list to make sure your country is still receiving mail sent via the USPS.

This giveaway runs through 11:59pm EST on Friday, September 23. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 24 and post the names of the winners on this blog, as well a notify them by email.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, October 1, I will choose another winner and award the prize to them instead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 16, 2022

Author Interview with Allison Tebo

Today, I'm taking part in the blog tour for Allison Tebo's new book, A Flash of Magic, which is a collection of short stories set in her Ambia world.  I got to interview Allison about this new book and her writing, and I'm sharing that with you today!  You don't want to miss the recipe she shares, and there's info about a book givaway toward the end of this post.  Read on!

Rachel Kovaciny: Do you like writing books or short stories better? Which comes more naturally to you? 

Allison Tebo: I actually prefer writing shorter stories! I’m a very visual writer and editor and it feels far easier to step back and evaluate the story as a whole when the book is more condensed and I can see the entire thing “at a glance.” 

I also love finishing projects and shorter works make it far easier to achieve the exhilaration of completing a project in a shorter amount of time. 

As far as what comes naturally, it depends on the project. I don’t think I’m naturally inclined towards one or the other. Some projects are short and others are (lamentably) long! 

RK: Would it be better to read all three Tales of Ambia novellas first, before reading these short stories? 

AT: You absolutely should. A Flash Of Magic is a collection of short stories featuring characters from the previous books and these short stories continue the respective arcs of the characters. It is only by reading the previous books that A Flash Of Magic will be understood and appreciated. 

RK: Could you share some inspiration behind creating Burndee, Ella, and their friends? 

AT: I wish I could share specific inspiration behind these characters but the truth is Burndee, Ella, Colin and Cynthia simply sprang into my head fully formed: as did the entire story. 

Characterization is the easiest part of the writing process for me and characters tend to just walk into my mind and make themselves at home. Poppy was the one character that grew more slowly. She began as a more classic archetype in A Royal Masquerade but a dear friend of mine inspired me to expand the character. Now Poppy is a multi-dimensional character partly inspired by some of my favorite book characters, and partly inspired by said friend! 

(Allison Tebo)

RK: If you could step into a fairy tale and take over for a character in it for a day, what fairy tale would you choose, and who would you replace? 

AT: I would like to step into Cinderella and become the fairy godmother! I honestly can’t think of anything nicer than making people’s wishes come true. I love helping people and surprising the people I love with gifts, so it’s a good fit for me. I’m also a bit of a fashionista with a love for parties, so I would definitely be the person to get you the right outfit for an event and an invitation to the ball. 

RK: Do you have any recipes you're particularly fond of baking, ala Burndee? 

AT: I love baking my great grandmother’s gingerbread! Every time I make it, I feel a special connection to past family and the previous generations of women who brought comfort and nourishment and love to the people in they care about through their baking. Here’s the recipe! 

2 1/4 cups flour 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 cup dark molasses 
1/2 cup butter or oil 
1 egg 
1 tsp. baking soda 
1 tsp. ginger 
3/4 tsp. salt 

Sift dry ingredients together. Add wet. Mix for 3 minutes on medium speed. Bake in 9 x 9 pan at 325 for 50 minutes. 

(note: I’ve actually found that baking this gingerbread in a mini bundt cake pan is superior to a 9 x 9 pan. The texture gets even better when the gingerbread is made into small cakes). 

RK: What are you writing now, or planning to write soon? 

AT: Right now I am drafting a retelling of Beowulf. It’s one of my favorite pieces of classic literature, so I’m both excited and intimidated to tackle it. This retelling is a very serious project, more in the style of Rosemary Sutcliff or Tolkien, so it’s typical territory for me. 

I also have a Wizard of Oz retelling that I’m in the process of outlining that is a return to my comedy writing and a salute to another one of my favorite classics. 

And, as always, I have the next Tales of Ambia story rattling around in the back of my mind. Ambia grows exponentially with every book and I can’t wait to unleash the next adventure!

RK: Thanks for answering my questions, Allison!

And now, a little more about this new book:

A Flash of Magic is a magical and rambunctious compilation featuring eight stories with eight irresistible characters navigating their way through the oddities and the wonders of fairy tales. 

The Tales of Ambia series continues with this charming collection of short stories and novelettes offering a deeper look into a magical land like no other. 

Whether it’s an intimate look at Ella’s wedding day, a hilarious glimpse of Burndee’s holiday baking, or an explosive first meeting between a prince and his fairy, there is adventure for everyone in A Flash Of Magic.

You can buy A Flash of Magic right here on Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats.

And, you can learn more about Allison Tebo and her writing at these places:

Allison is currently hosting a giveaway to celebrate this book's launch!  She's giving away one signed paperback copy.  You can learn more and enter that giveaway on Instagram here.

This book tour continues today at the following websites:

Thursday, September 15, 2022

"Flight" by Jan Burke

This book was a great relief.  I disliked the previous Irene Kelly mystery, Bones, so much that I didn't even review it here or on Goodreads.  I just want to forget it.  I put off starting this one for over a month because I was afraid it would be similarly gruesome and creepy.  But I do aim to read the whole series this year, so I finally started reading Flight, and it was great!  Not creepy.  Whew.

This book actually focuses more on Frank Harriman, Irene Kelly's husband who is a homicide detective.  He's tasked with solving a cold case from 10 years earlier, before he transferred to the Las Piernas PD.  The case involves a homicide detective who was accused of taking a bribe to kill a teen witness in a murder case, and then disappeared.  When his body is found, the case gets assigned to Frank because he's the only detective on the force who wasn't there earlier and doesn't have a preconceived attitude or ideas about it.

Because I happen to love stories of vindicating someone falsely accused of something awful, I totally dug the mystery here.  And even though it's "a novel of suspense" instead of a straight-up mystery (which means there are chapters from the villain's POV), the villain here wasn't super duper creepy like the one in Bones (which was also suspense, not straight mystery), so I didn't have to skip his chapters like I ended up doing with Bones.  


If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R for bloody murder, violence against teens, scary situations, and a little more sexual content than Burke usually has.

This is my 46th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: On the Map

This week, our Top Ten Tuesday prompt from That Artsy Reader Girl Is "Books with Geographical Terms in the Title."

I decided to go with titles that use words for geographical features you might find on a map.  Here's what I came up with:

(All photos are mine from my Instagram)

Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery (G) -- Anne Shirley finally, finally, FINALLY realizes what a gem Gilbert Blythe is.

Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright (G) -- Two cousins discover an abandoned town with two people still living in it

In the Glorious Fields by Emily Hayse (PG) -- Old and new enemies rise up against the forces of good trying to tame the Western Territory in this third and final book in the magical Old West series that retells the King Arthur legends.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L. M. Montgomery (G) -- A neglected girl finds love, freedom, and joy when her estranged father takes her to Prince Edward Island for the summer.

The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (PG-13) -- Cynical private detective Philip Marlowe solves a murder in a small resort town.

Land of Hills and Valleys by Elisabeth Grace Foley (PG) -- A young woman fights to keep and defend the ranch she has inherited.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George (G) -- A boy lives off the land in the wilderness for a year, alone, just for fun.

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (PG-13) -- A sick boy, his sister, and his father go on a journey with a mystically magical ending.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (PG) -- A boy, some treasure seekers, and some pirates all try to find buried treasure.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (G) -- A multi-racial Harlem family of creative, irrepressible kids tries to convince their curmudgeonly landlord not to evict their family.

Spot any favorites?  How did you interpret this week's TTT prompt?

Saturday, September 10, 2022

"The Cherokee Trail" by Louis L'Amour

When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Five Mile Creek (1983-85), which was "inspired by" The Cherokee Trail.  You can read my overview of that series here.

My whole family enjoyed Five Mile Creek -- we rented two episodes on VHS every weekend to watch as a family -- but I absolutely loved it.  (It's still in my top ten for favorite TV shows.)  So, my mom found The Cherokee Trail at the library (presumably at my insistence) and read to see if it would be something she could read aloud to my brother and I for our bedtime read-aloud.  I was probably nine or ten at the time, and I remember being really disappointed because, as I remember it, she said it wasn't appropriate for us.  She said it had too much bad language and was "too grown-up", and we wouldn't like it.  

So, I've resisted reading this book for thirty years.  But I've also been curious about it.  Recently, a couple of friends recommended it to me, and I decided to just take the plunge and read it.  And guess what?  I didn't hate it!  In fact, I'm kind of confused by my memory of my mom's judgement of it.  Because there's hardly any bad language, and there's no inappropriate content.  Like, there's zero romance.  The word 'rape' does appear once, in connection with something that happened years earlier and in a different place, but she could have just read over that if she had read it aloud to us, same as she would have read over the bad language.  

She was probably right that I wouldn't have liked it at the time, though.

Why?  Because it actually doesn't bear much resemblance at all to Five Mile Creek.  They're both about a stagecoach way station being run mainly by women, and that is it.  That's the only similarity.  The Cherokee Trail is about one widow and her daughter and an Irish girl running a way station along a Colorado stagecoach route.  Five Mile Creek is about an unmarried Australian woman and an American woman with her daughter running a way station along a New South Wales stagecoach route.  The book is extremely serious, and the TV show is fun, family-oriented fare.  The characters and the plot are entirely different.

In The Cherokee Trail, widowed Mary Breydon takes on the job of running a way station along the Cherokee Trail in Colorado, a job her husband had been hired to do.  But he was murdered in cold blood by the man who, a few years earlier, led a band of guerillas that looted and burned down their plantation and stole all their horses.  This man is now living in Colorado and has high political ambitions, and no word of his past behavior can be allowed to spread because that would ruin his high hopes.  But Mary Breydon knows who he is and what he did, and so, even though she rapidly wins friends and respect with her handling of the way station, her life is in serious danger from her husband's murderer.

It's an awesome story, and Mary Breydon herself is a marvelous character.  I want to hang out with her, which you know is about the highest praise I have for fictional characters.  I am SO glad that my friends urged me to try reading this!

Here's one random thing that surprised me, though -- I always thought this book was published long before Five Mile Creek aired.  But it wasn't!  It was published in 1982, one year before Five Mile Creek debuted!  My mind is blown.

Particularly Good Bits:

If a man could do it, why couldn't she? (p. 33).

Like many another western man, his past was his own secret, and he never spoke of it (p. 39).

"If one has a book, Mr. Boone, one is never alone. They will talk to you when you want to listen, and when you tire of what they are saying, you just close the book.  It will be waiting for you when you come back to it" (p. 61).

"Never read much, myself.  Seen a few plays from time to time.  That Hamlet now, seen that one twice.  There was some mighty fine talkin' in that play, but folks were makin' a lot of what they called his indecision, and that seemed kind of silly to me.  After all, he had no evidence of wrongdoin' there, on the word of a ghost.  Now, a man's got to be reasonable.  A man who would attack somebody or even accuse somebody on the word of a ghost would have to be off his trail mentally" (p. 99-100).

This was their land of Canaan, the land where dreams came true, but here there was a difference, for each on of them seemed sure that he had to make the dreams come true, that it would be the result of something he did (p. 179).

"A family is a place where a body can share the no-account things, can talk of the little matters important only to ourselves, where we can laugh and cry and tell of the day-by-day happenings and then forget them" (p. 193).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG for western violence and a little mild cussing.

This is my 45th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2022.