Books You Must Put Down and Movies That Transport You Out of This World

To be honest, if I’m reading fiction, I can’t put the good books down. If I’m reading non-fiction I have the opposite reaction. The better it is the sooner I put it down and start practicing what I just read.

Because I chose to take part in NaNoWriMo this month, I’ve read non-fiction, how to books to improve my fiction writing as I write.  Along with that I began blogging again, although not at the frantic daily pace I did three years ago when I started.

Writing the Breakout Novel

The first book I began, and hope I’ll finish is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. If you write seriously, you’ve probably read it, but I’ve done other things. His writing style is professorial with honest suggestions, examples, and a summary at the end of each chapter, so you don’t forget the main points. The problem is that I get a few pages into each chapter and I go to my new novel, and begin revising – from the beginning.  I may never finish either my novel or the book.  The good news is that this book is making a difference in how I write fiction.

Every Writer Needs a Tribe

This morning I just downloaded a free non-fiction book, Every Writer Needs a Tribe, from Jeff Goins who I know from My 500 Words. One of my favorite writing friends, Tonia Hurst, invited me to this writing group on Facebook.  This book is very short, 42 pages, and talks about building a writing platform. As a blogger, I have a platform that is pretty scattered, and Goins advises against that, but as most of what I’ve posted on this site has been about blogging, I think you all should know about this book.

The two movies I’ve seen in the last couple of weeks I recommend that you not get up in the middle and walk out. Both of them are still showing, at least in Visalia, where we get a smattering of the current movies.

The Martian, unbelievable as a science fiction should be, enables you to suspend reality and live on Mars with the astronaut that gets left for dead when the rest of the crew takes off to avoid certain annihilation by a fierce Martian storm. (Whew, try saying that sentence without taking a breath.) The photography and Photoshop tricks used to make this movie are every bit as enjoyable as the plot and the acting, both of which helped capture this movie a 93% approval rating.

The Intern entertains entirely differently. If you love Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, you will already love the film. No man is as perfect and loveable as the senior intern played by De Niro, but every romantic wants to believe in him.  I saw this chick-flick with four other retired, successful, busier than working-women friends for our birthdays.  We all loved the movie. The Rotten Tomato website rates this movie as a 60%, but if you believe chivalry didn’t die with your grandparent’s generation, this movie is for you.

Those are my recommendations for you. What do you recommend for me to make it through NaNoWriMo?

Reviews and Recommendations

A few weeks ago I read Breathing on Her Own published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas written by Rebecca Waters, a friend in a Facebook writers support group.  This book struck a chord with me because one of my friends in Visalia has gone through much of the same trauma.

Breathing on Her Own

Breathing on Her Own doesn’t sound like a lightweight romance, and it isn’t.  Waters walks us through the difficult healing process of a mother whose married adult daughter is paralyzed after a car accident.  WARNING:  Do not have unprotected sex if you think that parenting ends when your child leaves home at the end of… high school…  college… when they get married…

Molly Tipton, an active church-goer and Christian, battles God as she goes through the healing process after the car wreck.  Her daughter had been drinking, and the weather was bad.  Who got the blame for the accident?  God, of course.  It was HIS bad weather that made the road slick.  Well, maybe it was the “girlfriend” with Laney, she had always been a bad influence, but she died instantly, so it was hard to keep blaming her.

After the weeks Laney lingered in the hospital, Molly struggled through numerous changes and tribulations. That first night in the hospital watching her daughter struggle to breathe on her own, Molly never suspected that the caring officer, Officer Steadman, would later charge Laney with the manslaughter of one of her closest friends.  Molly and her husband, Travis, shared responsibilities for Laney’s children as the road to recovery wound around Obstacle Mountain.   When Laney left the hospital still unable to walk, Molly and her husband had hard financial decisions to make that threatened their retirement plans as they tried to help her daughter’s family cope with living with a disability.

 

Accidents are only a second away from any of us.  As she reached out to help , Molly discovered that her own life needed overhauling.

I recommend this book.  It’s an easy read, but then it’s not!

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A few days ago I told you that I switched to iPage. The switching procedure takes ended up being more complicated than I thought it would to switch, but I wanted to save $200 or so.  The service was great.  Eva called me, and answered my call.  However, I returned to WordPress because I had to transfer my own data to the hosting site.  Because my paid membership expired, I couldn’t do that and take my pictures.  I discovered that WP has a less expensive product to host the website, and give more room for storing my pictures.  I jumped on that train, and I’m back in business at WP.  For my simple purposes the $99 program is enough.  Just thought I’d share.

Book Review: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

Today I spent several hours at Barnes and Noble in Fresno doing market research for both picture books and romance.  I’ll describe that experience later.  Tonight I want to share the most touching book I have read, The Kissing Hand.  Written in 1993, I missed it since I stopped teaching kindergarten in 1985, so it was new to me today.

the-kissing-hand_r

Chester Raccoon does not want to go to kindergarten.  His wise mother tells him that we all have to do things we don’t want to do, but has a secret to share with him.

Chester is sad

Chester stops crying long enough to check out the secret.  Mom kisses his palm and tells him that he can touch his face with his hand and get the kiss any time he feels lonely or afraid.

Mommy and Chester

Chester loves his hand.   In the end Chester takes his mother’s hand and leaves her with a kissing hand to treasure in his absence.  Mom loves his gift and needs it as much as he did.

Trying to limit my books to 500 words is torture.  I was sure this emotional tale used many more words, but no, Penn packed tremendous love into merely 488 words.  However, at the end is a letter from the author, a must read for adults.  It turns out that this story stemmed from her experience observing a mother raccoon and her baby in the wild.  Mommy Raccoon actually imprinted her scent on baby in a touching move as the illustrations show us, twenty years later.

My goal is to write something this touching and helpful.  You must give this book to someone you love, and need to leave, no matter what their age.  The Kissing Hand – remember it!

Chester toy

Book Review: Off the Leash by Rupert Fawcett

Hi everyone,

Manny here, again.  Mom’s still busy.

Manny at home

Mom asked me to write a book report for you today on the book Off the Leash:  The Secret Life of Dogs by Rupert Fawcett.  First of all I have to say thanks to Ute because she sent us this book for Christmas.   I have never seen Mom and Dad laugh so hard in my life.  Here is why they were laughing.  It’s a comic book.  Yeah, my parents read comic books.

Manny reads to friends

My favorite page is p. 26.  This page is so Kalev.  I watch her do this every day.   She lies on the couch on her blue blanket where she is supposed to be.  Then she nuzzles her nose under whatever Mom or Dad is holding.  The next thing you know she is sitting on their lap.

My friends and I loved this book because it was so funny, and it was about dogs.  I love dogs, even Kalev.  She thought Roo was a toy when we were sitting on the floor.  Mom had to take Roo away from her and put all of us up here on the mantle.  This is where we live.  When Mom took Roo away, Kalev actually came after me, and messed up my Hawaiian necklace.  I was scared for just a minute, but Kalev knows better than to mess with me.  I won’t tell you what I did.

Anyway, this is an awesome book.  It makes a great gift for a friend like Mom and Dad and me, and it would probably make a great gift for your friends who like dogs.  Click here to see other books by Rupert Fawcett.

Please respond to my survey below.

One more thing I have to ask you.  I’ve been thinking about doing a blog just like Justin Beaver does.  You are all grown ups, and Mom is a grown up (most of the time).  Would you read my blog?  Would you follow it?  I’ll put another survey up.

Manny relaxing at home

Thanks everyone.

Here is the link to my new blog.  Invite your kids to read and comment on it, too!  🙂

Book Review: Through the Redwood Curtain by Robert Burke

Bob Burke is front and center at the Foundation Bologna Feed.
Bob Burke is front and center at the Woodlake Foundation Bologna Feed.

At a Woodlake High School Foundation Dinner I attended recently, Bob Burke, the 2011 San Joaquin Valley Council for the Social Studies High School Teacher of the Year, told me he had just published his first book, Through the Redwood Curtain.

Through the Redwood ForestI was thrilled for him, and anxious to read it, a story about places and times familiar to me.

McKinleyville collage

The main character, Steve, a long-haired student at the College of the Redwoods, transversed between his home, where he lived in a tiny trailer in an ultra-conservative, poverty-ridden McKinleyville trailer park with his brother and his brother’s wife, to his place of school and employment in Eureka, 13 miles away.  On the way driving south on Highway 101 in his rundown Volkswagen van Steve passed through the now progressive town of Arcata, home of Humboldt State University, just over five miles away from his home.  The two towns couldn’t have been further apart politically.  When folks for the two towns met and talked politics, it was like metal on pavement, driving on the rims.

arcata_420_redwood_park

Through Steve’s naive eyes, the reader sees the battle lines  being sketched between two ideologies, environmentally conscious students, and lumberjacks and fishermen barely scratching out a living as they destroyed some of the most pristine forests in the United States.  The destitution of the residents contrasted with the privilege and unappreciated wealth of the majority of the Humboldt State students from Southern California created a dramatic backdrop of political sparks that fueled this book’s plot from beginning to end.

COR

The drama didn’t end with politics, however.  Steve had his own internal combustion engine when it came to the love of his life, Cheryl, and their lonely times of separation, the abundance of drugs, family differences, friendships, and betrayals.  In addition, the death of Steve’s mother, the lack of support from his drunken father colored his emotions, and his own desperate financial situation added to the intense conflict of forces within the story.

firewood

Finally, the story wouldn’t have been complete without Steve’s $1.65 an hour job at Coastal Gardens Nursery in Eureka.  Steve worked with an assortment of characters, most of whom were paroles, students, or local tooth-free young women looking for good men – in all the wrong places.  Steve seemed to innocently bound through his mixed up world always seeing roses through his fog colored spectacles.

Rusty-VW-Van-for-Ascension-of-Jerry-prologue2

All of the dramatic facets and interludes of Steve’s life seem inextricably intertwined into the life of his rusty, fussy old VW van.   Could it be that the opposing forces in Steve’s life wouldn’t begin to come together as long as he had the troublesome VW?  Or would his troubles only deepen if the old van ever died?  To find that answer you will have to read the book.

Common Core Standards

While this is a work of fiction, I think most high school teachers could use this with their students studying modern U.S. history, and would find Through the Redwood Curtain more than just a fun read.  Of course they could analyze the characters and setting, both of which are part of the new standards.  One of the important aspects of being a historian is to know the author, and understand the lens through which the book is written.  Robert Burke graduated from Humboldt State in the 1970s, so is a primary source when it comes to the issues found in the book.  So did Bob have an agenda when writing the book?  Did he see like as a wealthy college student, or did he, because of his own lack of funds, identify more with the conservatives who also had financial troubles bigger than the Redwoods?  How would the book have been different if written from the perspective of the owner of Coastal Gardens Nursery?  These are topics with which students have to grapple in their Common Core classrooms.  In my opinion this story would be an excellent one for examining perspective.

If you know Northwest California, and love the complexity of the simple life found there, you will love this book.  Read it and pass it on to a friend or two that went to Humboldt State in the 1970s.  They probably knew Steve – even though he is fictitious.  I felt like knew him – back when.