Leonardo da Vinci

I have taken a dive into the world of nonfiction this year. I have always adored reading true tales, but I am incredibly drawn to real accounts of people and events throughout both ancient and modern history.

I don’t go for just one type of historical or nonfiction work – I love them all! From biographies to memoirs to heavy research regarding world events, I’m happy to undertake any type.

Lifelong learning was preached to my family and I by my grandfather during our time with him. I consider myself akin to him; a lover of books and learning as much as I can cram into my cranium.

What I Expected

  • An illustrious book of art history
  • A bird’s eye view into da Vinci’s personal exploits
  • For my hunger to absorb this work to finally be satiated

What I Got

  • Beautifully written insight into the mind of a true genius
  • A non-salacious view of da Vinci’s personal life
  • An incredible history lesson

What I Thought

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson has been on my bookish radar since my discovery of it in the stacks of my local online library over a year ago. Well, I finally got around to reading this work of genius and closed the final page in awe of one of the forerunners of the Renaissance movement in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Prior to my reading of Isaacson’s biography, I had learned tidbits about da Vinci sprinkled across pop culture. For instance, in an episode of Futurama, da Vinci is portrayed as uneducated on a planet full of smart people. I also learned of a few conspiracy theories surrounding the artist and his works on Ancient Aliens.

Of course I knew da Vinci had painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper; however, I formerly didn’t know that da Vinci was left-handed and created such painting styles as sfumata, a form of shading/shadowing with paint and in turn leading the the creation of very lifelike artwork.

I also did not know that among da Vinci’s contemporaries were the Borgia and Medici families, Raphael and Michelangelo. I find it fascinating that as opposed to admiring the elder da Vinci, Michelangelo viewed him as an adversary.

Leonardo da Vinci was incredibly curious and his interests waned from painting, to astronomy, to architecture, to the designing of cities, to dissecting human cadavers in order to understand and draw the internal man.

The artist’s intense study of such seeming nuances as which particular facial muscle(s) cause each movement of the mouth. This study no doubt highly influenced Leonardo’s portraiture and undoubtedly lent itself to the creation of the Mona Lisa, on which Leonardo worked for 16 years, only stopping his work due to his own death.

I also find it fascinating just how human da Vinci was, as portrayed by Isaacson. Leonardo often jumped from interest to interest, many times leaving work, including promising commissions, unfinished. Isaacson states that da Vinci could have published some of the premier science and anatomy volumes – if only he hadn’t moved onto other subjects.

Leonardo was fascinated by warfare and creating designs for possible military machines. Many of the machines he designed, which some scholars deem were to test the idea of human flight, many of them may have in fact been designs for pageants and parties held by the rulers whose courts included da Vinci.

Despite its being about 500 pages, my reading of Leonardo da Vinci never felt tedious or forced. I thirsted for more knowledge about the great master – this thirst grew even greater the more that I read. I certainly look forward to perhaps taking on another Leonardo da Vinci biography one day.

5 fine stars*

Dumbfounded, Maggie

Just Beat it

Hey, hey! It’s time again for The Novel Knight’s Beat the Backlist reading challenge! I must say that this is one of my most favorite challenges ever – not only does it last all year long, most of the books on my TBR list are on – you guessed it – the backlist!

I’m also participating in POPSUGAR’s annual reading challenge, which I have never before completed. All of the books I chose for that challenge, save for 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon, are on the backlist, so I’ll be counting them toward my BTB goal as well! The link to my POPSUGAR challenge page is [HERE]!

A huge plus to the BTB challenge is that it’s SO FLEXIBLE! While it’s required that participants create lists featuring books from the backlist they hope to read to sign up, no one is shackled to their list! I love no pressure reading challenges and I love making lists, so this will be fun and breezy!

In addition, the BTB challenge allows participants to choose the mini-challenge team of their choice – or to even play along solo! I decided I’d love to keep a tally of points I earn as well as contribute to a group’s total; therefore, I am joining the Multi-Taskers [purple] team! I have found myself reading seemingly millions of books at a time, so I see being a member of team purple as appropriate!

The [Tentative] List

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Bachelor Nation by Amy Kaufman

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

This is, of course, an incredibly small sampling of what I aim to read for Beat the Backlist 2020! The books I chose for this list are definitely ones I’ve wanted to get to for a while, so – knock on wood – I shall complete them this year!

Good luck to all of the Beat the Backlist 2020 participants!

Backlisted, Maggie

At First Blush

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl, is by far one of my favorite, and most consistently done, over the course of three different blogs, memes. Each week, a prompt for TTT inspires bloggers to create lists based on that week’s topic. This Tuesday is freebie topic day!

I admit, I try not to like the color pink – I don’t know if this is due to pink being stereotypical of the female sex or because SO many people seem to adore it. True confession – I cannot help but love pink; I just can’t help myself! With so many different shades, pink is truly a dream color!

So many books with pink covers exist – and here I have chosen the ones I feel are the most gorgeous! I am an admitted sucker for a an eye-catching cover – I did a Goodreads list search to locate my favorite pinkish books – I may have to add more of these to my TBR list!

  • I adore the Pretty Little Liars TV show and look forward to reading the series! The title of the 11th installment, Stunning by Sara Shepard speaks for itself!
  • This gorgeous edition of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility is a pinky book I actually own, not only because I want to read the novel, but also because it is SO PRETTY!
  • When I laid eyes upon Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, Vol. 6 by Naoko Takeuchi, I was truly enthralled by the cuteness!
  • Princess in Love by Meg Cabot has inspired me to read The Princess Diaries series!
  • While I had never heard of Fiona Dunbar’s Pink Chameleon prior to my pinkish search, I adore the title and most definitely the cover!

In the pink, Maggie

Mag 2.0

Hey, y’all! As you may have noticed, I’ve taken a nice little break from blogging – and reading, for that matter! But, I’m ready to get back to it, especially with the new year looming upon us. The only serious resolutions I’m setting this year are to let go – to stop letting my perfectionism get in the way and of course to read and write my heart out.

I’m currently 19 books behind on my Goodreads reading challenge – my goal is to have read 50 books in 2019. Normally, I’d be a weirdo and give up on completing the challenge. However, I have decided to go with reading short books in order to meet my goal – I hate it when I’m behind! In the past, I would’ve put so much pressure on myself to read ‘real’ books to finish the challenge – or to read no more at all until starting fresh in January.

Since I’d love to reread a bunch of books from childhood, such as the original American Girl books and the various Baby-sitters’ Club series, I decided to start now – as in today – and meet my 50-book goal! It’s really a big deal for me to stray from my OCD reading tendencies, so I repeat – THIS IS A BIG DEAL! LOL!

Also, as usual, save for 2019, I’m planning to participate in all kinds of reading and blogging challenges in 2020 and I’m not going to let myself give a damn if I don’t complete or do them absolutely perfectly. Typically, when I start something and feel that I could’ve done better or not missed a post or reading a book, I get down on myself and give up – I have a rotten tendency to do this in a variety of aspects of my life.

Therefore, I guess my ultimate resolution is to stop trying to live up to my often too lofty expectations and just go with the flow!

Just a bit ago, immediately before I got the serious urge to write again and reconnect with my fellow bloggers, I began rereading Valerie Tripp’s Meet Felicity. I still have the book I read as a child, when the American Girls debuted – it was published in 1991! I adore having gone through boxes of my old books and still have other totes to explore.

I’m toying with the idea of starting a feature in which I highlight the books I read to my boys – ages almost-five and three. We read nearly constantly and love every minute of it. My oldest son’s pre-K teacher has set a goal for each of her students to read a minimum of 100 books with their parents throughout the entire school year. We’ve read 170 thus far, so we’re kicking ass! Some days, we read up to five plus books together.

The competitor in me wants my J to have read more books than his classmates by May 2020. At the pace we’re going, I’ll be surprised if we don’t ‘win’! When I was in grade school, I won the first place trophy for having the most accelerated reading points in my class from second to eighth grade! While I loved reading anyway, the ACR program totally ignited my desire to win and prompted me to read A LOT, especially books worth 20+ points.

Anyhow, count on this newest feature soon – it will most likely begin in January – I need time to come up with a cute and catchy title for the category! LOL! In case you’ve never noticed, I put a decent amount of time into my bloggish entry and feature titles!

In conclusion, I’m back – for now! – and I’m anxious to see what all of my blogger friends have been up to! So, I’m welcoming myself back and saying ‘hi’ to all – once again! Hopefully, my writer’s/reader’s block will lift and I’ll be here to stay – at least for a while this time!

Making a comeback, Maggie

Anna Dressed in Blood

It’s only a few days before Halloween, so it’s time for a creepy review redo! I originally read this tale in 2017 and it still stands out in my mind; therefore, I deemed it appropriate for 2019 as well!

With Halloween looming in 2017, I read this book expecting huge scares and a seriously frightening plot. I mean, just look at that cover and the title – a ghost covered in blood, yes, please! However, Kendare Blake’s book did not live up to my too lofty expectations…

What I Expected

  • To be scared out of my wits
  • An apparition literally dressed in blood
  • An awesome, page-turning, horror-filled book of gore
  • An interesting and absorbing story

What I Got

  • I didn’t get the creeps AT ALL – I did, however, get a lot of cheese
  • A silly and incredibly weird lovey story
  • A sequel I have zero desire to read
  • A stupid backstory

What I Thought

I wanted to love Anna Dressed in Blood by Blake SO bad. Unfortunately, I believe I set my expectations for the book WAY too high. Judging from its title and creepy cover, I anticipated being scared to death while reading. There are admittedly creepily gross parts, but there are very few.

Since I rarely read summaries prior to picking up a book, I was wrong about the premise of this tale. Once again judging by the cover and title, I assumed the story would be told from the perspective of Anna, the apparition. Turns out it’s told from the viewpoint of a ghost hunter, Cas, which was very disappointing and definitely unexciting.

The primary thing about this book that freaked me out – not in a good way – is that it’s a pseudo-love story – between the ghost and the hunter. It was just too weird for me. I understand characters having connections with each other, but the reason for the draw between Anna and Cas was never clear to me.

I thought the book should have ended halfway through the drawn out and mostly convoluted story. After a resolution regarding Anna, which would have sufficed as the novel’s wrap-up, the reader is taken on a reluctant journey, as Cas is hunted by the ghost who killed his father. That’s when I really lost interest in Cas, who doesn’t impress me as a character. As a matter of fact, none of the story’s players are well-developed, which is frustrating.

Blake has written a sequel, Girl of Nightmares, which focuses on Anna’s story, as well as the love Cas has for her, even though Anna is STILL DEAD. I’m certainly not interested in reading the follow-up, even though it is told from Anna’s point of view rather than that of Cas.

Honestly, the way in which she initially lost her life doesn’t seem gruesome enough to warrant her actions toward the living following her death.

This book just left me wanting more – more backstory, more explanation of the ghost ‘killing’ rituals utilized by Cas, more reasons for the intense chemistry between boy and ghost, more discussion about Anna’s state, more story revolving around living characters – every element an awesome book should possess.

Furthermore, Anna Dressed in Blood didn’t excite me enough to hold my attention – it almost became a chore, homework, to read it. I started the book for a Halloween read-a-thon and didn’t get to the last page until the end of November, making it obvious that I just wasn’t into the story.

I ultimately forced myself to finish Blake’s book, mainly so I could move forward to a more enjoyable read.

1 star*

Love, Maggie

Ex-anniversary

I married whom I thought at the time was the love of my life on this day in 2011; our divorce was finalized on October 5, 2018. While I rode a roller coaster of emotions for at least a year following our mutual decision to divorce, I am so glad we ended our marriage.

The hardest part about divorce, for me, was grieving the loss of having a nuclear family, with parents staying together forever and raising their children in the same household. I also grieved the loss of my in-laws, with whom I am now close again, and my now ex-husband’s friends – I’ve gotten over that now!

I recall one night, we were sleeping in separate bedrooms, and I woke out of a dead sleep in the midst of a panic attack. I was so scared of being alone for the rest of my life, without an adult companion with whom to share my world.

I grieved for a little over a year about the end of our marriage, which I kind of thought would end, especially when I realized I wasn’t excited about our wedding day. My then husband didn’t even tell me I was beautiful on that day…which still hurts. My dress was magnificent! LOL!

I wasn’t even excited about planning for our wedding – I just wanted the amazing dress I ended up choosing. I didn’t even pick out my own wedding cake – which was disastrous-looking – or my flowers, nor the invitations. A big part of me would have rather eloped. I didn’t feel like our union was a celebration, which I knew at the time was odd; however, we married anyway.

We were married for six of our ten years together. Feelings nagged at me not to marry him; however, we ended up creating two beautiful boys – the best result of our going through with the marriage. I would like to dwell on and regret the decade I felt I’d ‘wasted’ on him, but I can’t – because of our babies.

I truly believe that two people, whether they’re meant to be together forever or not, are cosmically brought together sometimes simply to have babies, pure little souls who are meant to be in this world. I just have a feeling that things are meant to be – or not.

Of course, everyone has their own beliefs regarding fate, kismet, serendipity, whatever you want to call it. I just have a very strong feeling, faith, if you will, that, as I said above, things turn out the way they are meant to be.

Incredibly, I have reconnected with someone I had a huge crush on nearly 20 years ago, when I was a teenage lifeguard and he was a teen whom I watched do amazing tricks off the diving board virtually daily. It turns out that he had a huge crush on me at the time too, which blew my mind, as I thought he thought I was basically an idiot – I guess I felt like one when I was around him because he made me SO nervous at the time.

We’ve been ‘together’ for more than a year and I’ve forced out the ‘L’ word once. He didn’t reciprocate the words, but said he does have ‘strong feelings’ for me. I know, *eye roll.* Therefore, I stayed away from him for a while; my heart was broken yet again. Then, he apparently decided he wants to continue seeing me – we picked up right where we left off upon reuniting.

When I was apart from my boyfriend, I went through a little bit of a depression – lots of crying – and then decided to work toward getting over my intense feelings for him. Thank goodness he came back. I love him so much and I can only hope he loves me back, but is afraid to say the words just yet. I think the fact that he knows I’m in love with him and he’s still around is a good sign! *knock on wood*

I think I’m scared of love because I’ve had a tough time with it. My first love died at 19; I never had the chance to tell him I was in love with him, which still kills me. My second love fell out of love with me and we divorced. Now, my third, and hopefully, last, love gets cold feet every now and then – he was very hurt by his now ex-wife and the way in which their relationship ended, so I get it.

I’m still working on living life day to day and hoping for the best. I want to be with my current love forever, but don’t we all feel that way when we are in love?

Co-parenting is going pretty well, although I wish my ex would take the boys more often and help me out more with money for them. He truly wants to be a good daddy, but sometimes I worry that he’s messing up now to the point where the kids won’t care a bit about seeing him in the future. But, that’s his bed to make, not mine.

With one love, I wonder what could have been. My second love left me. Now I’m hoping my third love will be with me forever, even if we never marry and are simply companions in love. I have to have him in my life.

In conclusion, as I reflect on this day now eight years ago, all the signs were present that our marriage would not work. Now, this will blow your mind – when I was young, I just had this feeling that I would end up divorcing at some point in my life. Lo and behold, that gut feeling has been realized.

Love, Maggie

I Am Your Sunshine

I swear, the bookish blogging community is so sweet and generous! Although I only returned to blogging after a nearly year-long hiatus, I have been nominated by two separate and amazing bloggers for the Sunshine Blogger Award! I am truly humbled to have been nominated and tagged by E. from Local Bee Hunter’s Nook and by M. at Tirilu!

So, since I was sweetly nominated by two bloggers this week, I decided to combine the awards into a single post – which is probably pretty obvious, but I thought I’d let y’all in on that tidbit anyway! 😀

The Rules

  1. Thank the person(s) who nominated you and provide a link back to their blogging site
  2. Answer the questions provided
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers and ask them 11 new questions
  4. Notify your nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts
  5. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your site or post

E.’s Questions

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I can seriously read ANYWHERE – like in a humongous, loud, crowded room anywhere! I have this amazing ability to tune out anything – which is definitely a gift and a curse! 😀 I love reading in waiting rooms; I feel strange without a book or my Kindle before being called back for an appointment! I finally got a clue and downloaded all my reading apps – including my Kindle books – onto my phone, which is [almost] always with me!

Actually, I think I read better in loud areas; when it’s too quiet – like in a library – my mind wanders way too much and I can’t concentrate. I’ve gotten so damn good at tuning out racket – and people – that my favorite place to read is in public! I could totally read through a movie at the theater or even a concert! I guess having the ability to isolate oneself in a sea of people is rather odd, but hey, it’s who I am! 😀

I used to read magazines all the time while waiting; however, they just don’t appeal to me anymore. I feel that magazines have gotten too political – even Cosmo and fashion magazines. Regardless of which party’s side I’m on, I don’t want to be inundated with that shit while checking out cute outfits and/or reading gossip!

If you wrote a book, what genre would it be? (or subject if it were nonfiction)

Most likely, I would write a nonfiction tome; I have always loved doing research and learning. My granddaddy’s mantra was ‘lifelong learning’, after all! I’m really interested in Russian culture, especially that of the country’s historical royal families. I also love stuff like ancient empires and religions.

Growing up, I wrote stories and short books dubbed ‘The Cats Series’ for creative writing in school. I had a teacher who would give us a writing prompt once a week and I always found a way to twist the guide into a chapter that would fit with my writings. I adore my little made-in-class books and notebooks filled with those tales! They are something I cherish and I should probably stash them in a fireproof safe! 😀

What’s your first memory connected to books?

My first memories of reading in general involve being read to by my mother and reading giant – as in the letters were HUGE – books with my class’s kindergarten teacher. I began reading prior to kindergarten and had already fallen in love with it.

I also remember ‘going to bed’ and instead reading in my doorway by the hallway light or under the covers with a flashlight! I even remember reading in the dark by the light of my TV! That’s probably why I have to wear glasses or contacts!

What three words would immediately convince you to read a book?

  1. Twisty
  2. Creepy
  3. Symbolic

Who would you love to write a collaboration post with?

Well, thus far, I’ve only collaborated with one blogger, Jackie, 1/3 of my team from The Mystery Crew. Together, we posted a joint book review regarding Ellie Alexander’s Meet Your Baker, which you can find here!

I hope to do a post with Cass, the third curator of The Mystery Crew, soon! But, I figure all three of us are collaborating already, since we all contribute to our blog, which is – you guessed it – all about mysteries!

What’s a review you’re most proud of?

My favorite review that I have actually published here has to be that of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, which can be found here. I love Morgenstern’s flowy, poetic, and unique writing style most of all, although I adore the story as well.

What are your top three diverse books?

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is one of my favorite books of all time. I was surprisingly able to relate to the story – it resonated within me. I love everything about this book, especially Thomas’ inclusion of choice Tupac lyrics!

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is unlike probably anything I’ve previously read. A collection of interwoven vignettes, the book tells the story of Esperanza, a young Latina, as she navigates her way through life in Chicago.

I absolutely adore Sandhya Menon’s When Dimple Met Rishi! While reading the love story, I learned some things about India’s culture as well as some of the struggles first generation of Americans descending from the country face.

If you could change one think in a book you love, what would it be?

As you may know, I am in love with The Babysitter’s-Club books! I love the tales of the BSC members; however, there is one thing I would change: the names of the majority of the ‘charges’ or children being babysat! I mean, come on, how is Hannie Papadakis pronounced? Many other names appear in the BSC books that are unpronounceable and this fact has always bothered me!

Due to scientific advancement, you can enter a ‘world’ in a dreamlike state, either as a character or as yourself. You only have one ride. Where do you go?

I want to enter the world of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, specifically that of the first book, A Discovery of Witches. I love the story behind the adventures of the characters, but one thing nagged at the whole time I read the 550+ page book – a big focus of the story is an ancient book that can only be opened with spells.

What aggravates me is that the initial book discusses the fictional, magical tome throughout the story, but I have to wait until I get to at least book two, Shadow of Night, to find out what’s in THE BOOK! I’d totally step into Diana’s world and open that damn ancient book! 😀

While I did really enjoy A Discovery of Witches, I ended up giving it merely two stars. I did so solely based on the fact that the elusive BOOK is talked about continuously, but there is no resolution, or the cracking open of a spine – which I could not get over and had anxiety about while reading! LOL!

The prettiest cover!

Now this is a pretty tough question, E.! The first book that popped into my head is the Spanish edition of my favorite book, Anna Karenina. I adore that the cover features a woman – I’m guessing it’s the book’s synonymous protagonist – floating in midair and her red dress is gorgeous.

What is your next goal as a blogger?

My next goal as a blogger is to continue to post as often as possible without pressuring myself to blog – which nips the fun of blogging in the bud! I also hope that next year, my blog and writing will aid me in reading and actually reaching the bookish goals I set January 1st.

M.’s Questions

What is your favorite book of all time forever and ever and ever?

Two words – ANNA KARENINA

Bookstore vs. Library – which do you prefer?

As a lover of books, I adore both bookstores and libraries – they both have that book smell [library books smell mustier and well-worn] while bookstore books emanate that fabulous new book scent.

I love perusing the selves in both; I have fun poring over new releases and special editions in bookstores and discovering books both old and new in various libraries. I’d love to visit a library in a large city, especially New York – I’d probably make a special trip there just to hit up the New York Public Library!

Your favorite book character shows up at your door. What advice would you give him/her?

I would simply say “Don’t do it!” to Anna Karenina!

What’s the oldest book on your shelf?

My Grandmother was a big reader and she had a really old, special edition of Homer’s The Iliad, which sits on my shelf today.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

My absolute favorite ice cream flavor is mint chocolate chip! I remember being little and always ordering a mint chocolate chip waffle cone from Baskin-Robbins; I’ve actually never had any other flavor from the iconic ice cream shop!

I also remember constantly eating the flavor at home too. I loved the Purity brand, which had white ice cream instead of the green colored I generally see today. Anyhow, it gets on my nerves that years and years ago, Purity offered a much larger ‘regular’ sized carton of ice cream. I swear, the cartons are at least half the size they were!

This very day, I’ve had three Klondike mint chocolate chip bars and bought mint Oreos at the grocery! I just adore mint and chocolate together!

What book title would best describe your personality?

This is a really tough one…I’d definitely say a book that represents me would present me as a tough nut to crack, empathetic, kind, smiley, introverted, book smart, funny, and just all-around silly!

So, I could imagine a title called simply In Maggie’s Shoes.

What are the last three books you put on your TBR list?

  1. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  2. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
  3. The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Describe your perfect reading nook.

My perfect reading nook is basically anywhere I can read, but preferably cozy. However, as I answered in one of E.’s questions at the top of this post, I can read literally anywhere and be totally satisfied.

Do you ever research the author of the book you’re reading? If yes, have you found out any interesting details?

The short answer is basically nope!

What is your remedy for a reading slump?

Hm…I think my best advice to give myself and others being tortured by terrible reading slumps is to reread an old favorite! My go-to books are those I read in childhood. In 2020, I’m aiming to reread a lot, especially the Baby-sitters’ Club books by Ann M. Martin and Goosebumps!

I also plan to read standalone favorites as well as books I meant to read when I was a ton younger! I’ve also found that audiobooks are working for me; I can’t wait to get my radio fixed in my car so I can listen while driving!

You find a magical bookcase in an old house that lets you pick a book and transport you into the book’s world for as long as you like. Which book do you pick up first and what would you be doing?

I think I’d pick up the first Magnus Chase book, The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan. If I were to step into the story, I’d probably just follow Magnus around and ask tons of questions! LOL! I’d pin down anybody willing to talk to me and tell me EVERYTHING about the ancient gods, all of the things!

I Nominate

My Questions

  1. In what part of the world do you live? What are, in your opinion, the best and worst aspects of where you live?
  2. What’s your all-time favorite color and why?
  3. Are you dressing up for Halloween this year? If yes, what are you going to be? Either way, what is the best costume you think you’ve ever worn?
  4. What’s your favorite candy – pick one! – and what about it makes it so fabulous?
  5. How would you describe the way you dress? What’s your favorite accessory?
  6. Who’s your favorite children’s author and your favorite book/story written by that person?
  7. Have you ever been on an airplane? Have you ever traveled outside of your country? What’s the furthest distance you’ve ever been from home?
  8. Would you rather be burning up or freezing cold and why?
  9. What are your remedies for bloggers stuck in a slump of some sort?
  10. What social media platform do you most use and why?
  11. Are you athletic or do you exercise regularly? What’s your favorite sport? If you’re not sporty, what’s your favorite hobby – BESIDES reading and/or writing?

Have a bright, sunshiny day, Maggie

Ghosts

I am diving in headfirst with this introduction – I absolutely loved Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts and could not get enough of it! The review that follows will convince you of those facts, that’s for sure!

What I Expected

  • Um…GHOSTS!
  • A really cute story – I’ve read other graphic novels by Telgemeier and have loved them all!
  • Other than ghosts of some sort and adorableness, I had no clue what to expect

What I got

  • An education on a disease about which I knew VERY little about
  • My intense obsession with Telgemeier’s work grew greatly
  • A precious tale of the relationship between a pair of sisters

What I Thought

I read Ghosts in ALMOST a single day – it’s fast moving, the illustrations are precious and fun, the story is heartwarming, and there is just a tiny hint of romance. Centering around Cat and her little sister, Maya, the tale encompasses a variety of themes, among them cystic fibrosis and Latin American culture.

I may have mentioned before that I LOVE to learn as I read and that I did. The story focuses a lot on The Day of the Dead, which is celebrated on November 1st and, as the name suggests, honors those who have passed away and seeks to invite spirits to be comfortable in this world.

Cystic fibrosis is a disease about which I knew very little prior to reading Ghosts. Maya, the younger sister, is very outgoing and is pretty much the total opposite of her healthy, older sister, Cat. In spite of her sickness, Maya is incredibly upbeat and adventurous.

The tale begins with the girls’ family moving to a seaside town in California, mainly for the fresher air to help with Maya’s cystic fibrosis, which affects the lungs as well as the digestive system, of which I was totally unaware.

While Maya adjusts quickly to their new home and is anxious for adventure, Cat takes a while to adjust. While out walking on one of their first days in their new town, the siblings encounter Carlos, a boy who tells the sisters about the town’s rich history of celebrating The Day of the Dead as well as its ghostly population.

Cynical at first, Cat blows off Carlos completely, while Maya embraces him and the town’s culture immediately. However, when Maya becomes severely ill and must rest for quite some time, Cat ventures out on her own, makes friends at school, and even begins to embrace The Day of the Dead and the town’s other traditions. 

While there is a hint of sadness in the story, Ghosts left me feeling optimistic and hopeful, just like Maya. It was fun to read about Cat’s evolution and eventual adjustment to her new hometown. Cat transforms from being a negative cynic into a positive role model for Maya. Heartwarming and enjoyable, I very highly recommend this book and I cannot wait to read more of Telgemeier’s work!

5 shiny stars

Lovin’ it, Maggie

Adventures in Foster Care, Part One

I have been relaxing on the couch, watching Dr. Phil tonight. The subject matter of the particular episode I watched concerned a two-year-old child who is living out of a truck with his father. The story caused me to reflect on my experiences as a still green social worker. My first real job right out of undergrad was working case management for the foster care division of my state’s Department of Children’s Services.

Fresh out of college, a newly minted social worker, I began working for the State and thus began what I now understand to be a chain of learning experiences. Why I’m only realizing this now is beyond me. I figure that perhaps due to the fact I’ve had plenty of time to grow since that time that seems like lives ago, I’ve begun to simply realize just what I was dealing with.

I think a lot about where ‘my kids’ – the foster children who depended on me as their caseworker – are now. I do know that one particular girl, with whom I bonded and really wished I could adopt myself, has permanently lost custody of her baby and the last I heard, is missing, which frightens me greatly. I shudder when I imagine how she feels.

The parents of a teenage boy with whom I worked, I discovered a few years ago, were busted and arrested for the manufacture and sale of methamphetamine. I live in a small town, where news travels fast, especially when it’s all laid out in the local paper.

Another child I represented was very troubled and very much in need of positive attention and unconditional love. Her mother dumped her in my state, not the girl’s home, with her ex-husband, who ended up committing suicide in jail after being caught sexually assaulting his daughter during a stop on the way to drop her off at school.

The foster child was a teenager at the time and would now be in her twenties. I long to know where she is and how she is doing, as I do all of my kids. I did encounter a few of my kids through my work in agencies offering services such as shelter from domestic abuse and treatment for child victims of sexual abuse. I even counseled two of my kids during my stint as a therapist about two years ago.

When I learned of the molestation of a then six-year-old girl while working at the child advocacy center [CAC], I was devastated, but deep down I wasn’t surprised. The girl had been returned to the custody of her mother after a dramatic case with DCS.

The girl had entered foster care as a six-month-old, when it was discovered that she had broken ribs of an unexplained cause. Neither parent ever admitted fault. It wildly turned out that the child’s father wasn’t her father at all – it was found through a DNA test that the child had been conceived during the mother’s illicit encounter with another man.

Looking back, there are things I would have done differently had I known then what I know now. For instance, I encountered many situations during my work in the foster care field that I now reflect on and practically smack myself on the forehead for not acting then as I would now, 10+ years later.

I know I can’t change the past and that there is no sense in feeling that I failed the children with whom I worked, regardless of how their lives turned out. I like to think that I’m at the very least a bright, flickering light, nestled in the memories of the children whom I had the privilege of knowing.

At peace, Maggie

The Lovely Bones

I read Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones soon after its release in September 2006 – which is mind-blowing! What else is mind-blowing is how greatly excited I was to read The Lovely Bones. The book’s title makes it sound macabre and disturbing – sadly, it was neither.

What I Expected

  • A mystery regarding one of my favorite, if not creepy, subjects
  • A fantastic introduction to a new-to-me-at-the-time author
  • Riding an emotional roller coaster as I read

What I Got

  • Thus far, this book has the WORST ending I have ever read
  • A vow to myself to NEVER read Alice Sebold’s work ever again
  • A great story…until the ridiculous ending

What I Thought

Well, prior to picking up Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, I was excited to read it. I read the synopsis, heard good reviews from people I know, and was interested in the premise. I expected the book’s entire story line would be nice and creepy, something I wouldn’t want to read alone or in the dark.

The novel started out with a bang, introducing readers to a doomed little girl, Susie Salmon. Fourteen-year-old Susie meets her untimely end fairly early in the book.

Susie then moves on to Heaven, where she observes those she knew in her waking life as they experience turmoil, questions, and ultimately searching for closure due to her too early demise.

Then the story gets silly. I don’t want to spoil the ending for new readers, but it just gets absolutely ridiculous. One must suspend disbelief to get through the end, which I was unable to do. I skimmed the last chapters and put the book down upon finishing it and stared at it with incredulity.

How is it possible for a story I had so been looking forward to reading begin so intriguingly well, sucking me in from the very start, only to horribly disappoint me?

Needless to say, I will not be reading any more of Sebold’s work.

1 generous star

Hideously disappointed, Maggie

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