Reading Challenge 2.0: Why I’m Going Back to Square One

If you’re on Goodreads, you probably know the average Reading Challenge for 2018 is about 51 books in 12 months. I read 136 books in 92 days for last summer’s adult reading program with the library. So what was a realistic but stretch-worthy goal for 12 months?

I set my goal at 200 books for the year. I was cruising along pretty well, picking up steam. The “brass ring” was in sight – six months early.

Until today.

Let me explain. First the not so good news. Followed by the good news and some reading highlights thus far.

The Not-so-Good News:

I was closing in on my target goal of 200 books. I went to my Goodreads account today to add a few more completed titles to bring my total to 181. Suddenly, my reading progress vanished. Gone. Poof!

Has this happened to you?

Because not a single title entered over the past five-plus months remains in my Reading Challenge. Zip. Zero. Nada. I know the site was having trouble cataloging dates and updates. But zeroing out 181 books just like that?!

Well I’ll be et fer a tater.

I can’t possibly recreate the entire list from memory. (Yes, I reported the matter to Goodreads. No solution yet.)

The Good News:

Of course I’m discouraged. Not to mention a wee bit miffed. But I’m still reading. And while it’s not exactly cheery to have five+ months of titles wiped out due to “technical difficulties,” I’m going to keep reading. In fact, I’m aiming for another target. Think of it as Reading Challenge 2.0:

200 additional titles by the end of the year.

How does that sound? (Good thing I took a few screen shots awhile back, eh?)

Meanwhile, from some prior notes I jotted down, here are some highlights from my Reading Challenge 2018 (before The Great Poofery struck):

Most Whimsical or Disarmingly Charming:

What-the-Dickens, by Gregory Maguire.

A natural disaster, three kids, a 21 y.o. Language Arts cousin/babysitter. Skibbereens and a flying thing nsmed “Pepper” with lots of sass. Teeth. What’s not to love?

The Faerieground series, by Beth Bracken and Kay Fraser.

Twelve quick, enchanting reads about BFFs Soli and Lucy. One is far more than she seems at first glance, esp, when soneone’s made a wish inside the Willow Forest!

Most Interesting Biogs or Autobiogs:

New York to Paris – Charles A. Lindbergh.

Flying by instruments-only through fog at 1,500nft. over the Mid-Atlantic? Ay! Yi! Yi! Also white caps, porpoises, and “Which way is Ireland?”, the London-Paris runway and the Eiffel Tower.

Man O’ War – Walter Farley

Gripping Historical fiction about one of the greatest Thoroughbred champions to ever set hooves on a race track.

Creepiest

Look For Me By Moonlight.

Forget the silver stakes and garlic. Find an artist friend with a cliffside workshop and a hot stove! And whatever you do, don’t fall for some sweet-talking “30 something” dude in black who comes to stay at your Dad’d rustic, isolated inn in thd dead of winter!

172 Hours on the Moon – Johan Harstad

After yeats of budget cuts and stalled space exploration, NASA is going back to the moon, this time with three teens aboard. Once they hit the lunar surface, everything goes sideways. And astronauts start dying. Will Mia, Midori or Antoine ever see earth again?

Most Intriguing or Surprising

The Adoration of Jenna Fox – Mary E. Pearson

Hauntingly poignant and powerful, this intriguing story explores family relationships, bio/medical ethics, how far a parent might go to save a loved one, and what it means to be “human.” Earned a rare five-star rating from me.

Fairest – Marissa Meyer

A taut, compelling tale dripping with palace intrigue, rivalry and jealousy, misplaced love, blind ambition and utter corruption. Masterfully crafted. Couldn’t put it down!

Anchor in the Storm – Sarah Sundlin.

Finally. A “romance”” novel that isn’t a romp through the local garbage dump.

This uplifting, engaging story offers solid characters who are both winsome and flawed. They’re wholesome without being sappy. The clever “whodunit” plot has perfect pacing while the love story deftly combines faith, hope, tenacity, and integrity. Superb historical fiction plus plenty of surprising plot twists to keep you guessing!

Old Faves:

Just about anything by Marguerite Henry, C.W. Anderson, and Scott O’Dell.

Note About My Reviews: I hold to the axiom: “The repeated use of profanity is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Hence, no book that uses same gets high marks from me. Ever. Far as I’m concerned, if an author can’t express him/herself without “turning the air blue,” then s/he is a lousy, lazy author. Period.

Now. Back to square one. And a new Reading Challenge.

How’s yours coming?

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And So It Barks…

If you’ve been reading along for any length of time – say, 20 minutes or so – you probably know I’ve always felt that the world should be divided into two main camps: Dog Lovers and Other. (If you’re a feline fan, sorry. Naw. Not really.) You may also know that I wrote a book about our good dog, Eve, who passed away around Christmas 2013. And that our house has been dog-less ever since.

In the finale of my recent blog post Christmas, Eve, I told you I’d have an update for you on the dog front. Well. Here she is:

Her name is Kimber.  About six months old. Isn’t she a beauty?

Kimber was quite the li’l nipper when she joined us in late August. She’s calmed down quite a bit since then. But she’s a puppy and excitable. If you come visit, I can pretty much guarantee she’ll think the sun rises and sets on you. And greet you accordingly. (I’d bring treats ‘fize you.)

Part Golden Retriever. Part Lab. Part Border Collie. All heart. Way smarter than me. I’m thinking of re-naming her. How does “Einstein” sound? Also in the running: “Cicero.” Or “Typhoon.”

wp-image-2116531908jpg.jpegIn the past few months since Kimber came to us via the local dog rescue outfit, she’s learned “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Down.” How to navigate 13 steps by herself. Let herself out. Open doors. Walk on a leash. NOT to eat Dad’s slippers. How to play football (sort of). Lie down while I write (most of the time. Nobody’s perfect.) And jitterbug.

Told you she’s way smarter than me.

I’ve called her “Eve” more than once. Call it a “Freudian slip.” They don’t even look alike. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to have a dog in the house.  After getting Kimber, however, I can’t imagine having a dog-less house again.

I may even have to write about it. Again. 🙂

Best wishes for a happy, healthy 2017 to your and yours, dear readers!

What are your writing goals for the new year?

Forever, Eve

Forever, Eve

A Dog’s Story

A Kitchen, a Corner and Christmas!

Fabulous chocolate fudge.  Spicy cocoa mocha mix.  Savory roast beef with red wine. Wassail with clove-studded oranges.  Fruitcake.

Well, okay.  Maybe not fruitcake.  But what are the holidays without festive food?

The Kitchen

Grandma Peggy's Kitchen Cover.1Is your mouth watering yet?  Good.  Because I’m opening a door to Grandma Peggy’s Kitchen (aka: my mom), an  ebook collection of holiday recipes, reminiscences and easy, inexpensive craft ideas to spruce up your home for the season!   Grab your copy here.

Man in the Corner

Speaking of which, Man In the Corner is another holiday-themed story based on real people. “Mr. Tom” is loosely based on my dad:

Man in the Corner Cover

Mae Taylor and her son Josiah just want to be left alone after the divorce. Their plans to start over solo are jostled when they move next door to Mr. Tom, a lonely widower and retired school teacher. Together, this unlikely trio finds a second chance at faith, hope and love with help from holiday traditions, cookbooks, an attic secret and two ‘Christmas ghosts.’

Find it here.

If you enjoyed either one, a kind review would be appreciated. Thanks!

‘A Likely Story’ Coming Soon!

A Likely Story: When Spiritual Abuse Comes Knocking is coming soon to Kindle!

Controversy clouds the departure of women’s ministry director Rhoda Pemberton after her sudden exodus from Maple Glen Community Church. No is talking, least of all Pastor Pearson.

Rhoda shows up at her best friend’s door in a downpour, desperate for healing from something she scoffed at until it happened to her. Can two lifelong friends – a soul-sick skeptic and the founder of LightLife Christian Counseling – battle an unseen darkness and fight their way through to health and hope? Or will shame and stonewalling short-circuit their quest for truth?

Includes ‘What Is Spiritual Abuse”‘, 13 Tips for Healing and Hope, and Resources.

Coming soon to Kindle:

A Likely Story:

When Spiritual Abuse Comes Knocking.

By yours truly.

Keep an eye out!

‘Once Upon a Story…’ Part 3 of 3

The best stories are often book-ended by Once upon a time and They lived happily ever after.  Once upon a time there were Three Bears, who lived together in a house of their own, in a wood.  Once upon a time there was an old sow with three little pigs…. A vain emperor who loved beautiful clothes … an east wind blew through Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane.  Once upon a time Gepetto found a piece of wood, Tom and Huck a robber’s treasure, Aladdin a lamp.  A wisp of a happy ending waltzes in the wind.

That’s it, isn’t it?  What most of us want, deep-down inside?  Isn’t that why something stirs within us when a great and noble struggle winds up with a superlative conclusion in which Good triumphs over Evil?  Aslan vanquishes the White Witch.  Kidnapped through the machinations of his Uncle Ebenezer, David Balfour claims his inheritance with the help Alan Breck Stewart.  Dorothy Gale discovers “there’s no place like home.”

Don’t such endings make you want to pump your fist in the air, stand up and cheer?  “All is well” endings to wonderful stories bring sighs of satisfaction.  Where does that come from?  And what about the stories that end with “all is not so well”?  Capulets and Montagues take pot shots at each other from opposite sides of the Verona tracks; Romeo and Juliet are caught in the cross-hairs.  Anna Karenina leaves her husband for the dashing Count Vronsky and a train.   Quasimodo grieves himself to death, clinging to the dead body of his beloved gypsy girl, La Esmeralda.  Don’t they leave us feeling a little… bereft?  Like our map has been misplaced, or we wandered into the wrong tale?

What is it within you and me that sighs when we read or hear these stories?   It’s almost as if “happily ever after” is a yearning etched into the wet cement of our souls at birth.  And maybe it is.  Have you ever wondered why?  Have you gone ahead of your story?

***

Excerpted from chapter 1 of Once Upon a Story, by yours truly.

‘Once Upon a Story…’ Part 2 of 3

“But I’ve gone ahead of my story. Denys would have hated that.

 Denys loved to hear a story told well.”

– Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa

It’s true, isn’t it?  Most of us love a story told well.  Especially a love story.  Elizabeth Bennet overcomes her prejudice and Mr. Darcy his pride to find true love.    Sydney Carton swaps identities so Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay can live happily ever after.  “Plain Jane” governess Eyre finds an unexpected soul mate in the brooding, taciturn Mr. Rochester.  Yuri Zhivago and Lara Guishar Antipova are united, lost, reunited and lose each other again during the Bolshevik Revolution and lots of snow.

Stories draw us in with danger, intrigue, suspense and the whisper of a happy ending.  A good story opens with all is well, moves into all is not well, and ends with an echo of hope.  Good is being overrun.  Evil, treachery or loss are on the loose. Sometimes all three.  Battle, sacrifice, hardship, courage, and rescue gallop across pages and plots.

A good story includes a dashing hero or an intrepid heroine who must overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to win freedom, homeland or true love. The Black Riders hunt Frodo with deadly intent.  Mordred plots King Arthur’s demise.  Farmer Brown chases Peter into a shed and Captain Hook loads Peter’s cup with poison. Will the beautiful heroine or gallant hero overcome?  Is all hope lost?  Will rescue arrive in time?  How will these stories unfold, stories that begin with lines like:

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. …

            It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, …

            Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.

            Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.

            Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.

            In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

A long time ago, when all the grandfathers and grandmothers of today were little boys and little girls… Pa and Ma and Mary and Laura and Baby Carrie left their little house in the Big Woods of Wisconsin.

            In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. …

Excerpted from Once Upon a Story…, which is looking for a reputable publisher.  Stay tuned for the rest of the chapter…

‘Once Upon a Story…” Part 1 of 3

Once upon a time, a king loved a princess.  Their love was epic.  Pure and unstained.  Then evil entered, followed by betrayal. The lovers were torn asunder, the princess taken into captivity.  The king sent his son to launch a daring raid into enemy territory to rescue his beloved: You.  
A fresh look at the greatest love story that ever bloomed, Once Upon a Story… mines nuggets of eternal truth from some well-loved stories, reminding us that we were created for relationship, live in a war zone, have an enemy, and that God’s love makes it possible for our stories to end with, “and they all lived happily ever after.”
***
Once Upon a Story is looking for a reputable publisher.  Excerpts from chapter 1 are coming up soon.  Keep an eye out!