Things I Don't Understand

snow scene


I must admit this is just a random compilation of things that have been confusing me lately.  Or in some cases, just things that have been driving me nuts.  So here we go, a few things that make no sense to me.

Cake mixes and canned frosting make no sense to me.  Now I like to bake, but I understand that isn't true of everyone.  However, making a cake is not complicated.  The chocolate cake recipe I use simply requires you to dump everything in a bowl and mix it for two minutes.  There are no unusual ingredients and no complicated directions.  Why would you use a box mix if cooking from scratch is that easy?  And frosting is made out of only a handful of ingredients.  Simple.  I just don't get it.  Homemade tastes so much better.

People who don't ask questions also are incomprehensible. I worked with someone new today.  She was friendly and pleasant but she expressed zero interest in me and my life.  I don't think all conversations should be about me, I just think it is common courtesy to express interest.  ( I read a post by Forever Amber that mentioned the lack of questions.  I was glad to know I was not the only one who evaluated people on their ability to ask questions.)

I don't understand people who don't read.  I think this blog makes it obvious how I feel about books.  Just like with baking, I understand it isn't for everyone.  However, why do some people seem to take pride in not reading?  And how is it possible to literally have no books in your house?

And then there are the people who get annoyed with you for not keeping in touch but who never contact you. Don't they realize communication goes in two directions? Maybe you just got tired of being the one who always initiates contact.

At the risk of sounding as if I belong to a different era, why don't people dress up for special occasions anymore?  My husband and I used to go to the symphony with fair regularity.  We would see people there in jeans and sweatshirts.  Why not wear nice clothes and make it a bit of an event?  And don't even get me started on the people who wear their pajamas to the grocery store. If you are not a baby in arms you should not wear your pajamas in public.

Again at the risk of sounding ancient, why do people insist on abbreviating words in such a ridiculous way when they are texting?  Sometimes it looks like a communication in code. Why abbreviate a word that is already very short?  Do you really save that much time typing "thnx" instead of  "thanks"? I have to say, I feel very proud of my teenage son because he insists on texting with proper grammar and spelling.  I seem to be doing something right.

I realize I sound old and curmudgeonly with all these complaints.  Unfortunately, I feel old and curmudgeonly today.  Though I must admit my day has been immeasurably improved by the fact that I just used curmudgeonly in a sentence.








Young'un by Herbert Best

Young'un--Herbert Best


Some books have the ability to transport you right back to where you were when you first read them.  Young'un is one of those books for me.  From the time I was 5 until I was 13 we lived in a house that was a couple of hundred years old.  It had formerly been housing for the mill workers from the silk mills that used to operate in town.  I loved that house.  It was full of nooks and crannies and creaky floors and a strange hodgepodge of rooms.  There was an enclosed front porch that had been added on at some point.  We kept all our bikes on it in a tangle of wheels and handlebars  and we kept our books there on a long concrete ledge that went all  around the porch.  It was hot in the summer and cold in the winter and you had to clamber over and around bikes in order to look at the books but on any given day that is where you could find me.  The books were as much of a hodgepodge as the house.  Children's books were next to Shakespeare which was next to Jane Austen.  I was free to read whatever I wanted and I spent a lot of time dipping in and out of the books out there.  Young'un was one of the books that lived out on that porch and when I picked it up to reread it the other day I was immediately back in my childhood.

I don't think Young'un is meant to be a children's book even though the main character is young at the start of the book.  It is more a picture of a time period, a way of life, and a people that are all long gone.

Old Man Post returns to his farm to find his house burnt down and his wife dead.  He is a trapper and has never been comfortable settled on a farm but has lived that life for his wife and children.  When his wife dies he turns and walks into the woods leaving the children to fend for themselves.  Somehow they manage, though frequently only by the skin of their teeth.  The oldest daughter is not a huge part of the book, especially because part way through she leaves to marry the preacher.  Dan'l runs the farm, determined to manage as Pa would have done.  His image of Pa bears little resemblance to the actual man but the myth he builds up carries him through until he can stand on his own two feet.  The book is told through the eyes of Young'un.  Young'un sees how warped Dan'l's view of their father is but works beside him to save the farm. In the process she grows from a young girl who can almost best Preacher in a spitting contest to a young woman who has the wisdom to deal lovingly with her father when he does return.

The book is written in the vernacular of the day but surprisingly it is not as irritating as you might expect.  It is full of moments of humor that I really enjoyed.  For example, this description of a woman is fantastic. Can't you just picture her?

"Even when, like now, she wasn't wearing her silk, her clothes sot so close they looked to be her own pelt, and set you to wondering where you'd start to skin her."

I think this is probably set in the late 1700s in a small settlement in New York.  The picture of life it gives from back then is interesting.  Reading it, I could smell the acorn cakes baking in the fire, hear the ring of the blacksmith's hammer, and feel the cool water as Young'un dove into her swimming hole.  Some of the descriptions were beautiful.

"For it was a day when sorrow and laughter started off in opposite directions, only to meet, unexpected, like squirrels chasing each other around a tree bole.  And there was a sort of happiness lurking in the sorrow and when you laughed there was a kind of choke deep inside you."

It can be hard to judge a book that has been loved for many years.  Your emotions and memories are too bound up to give a clear judgement.  What I do know is that once again the story pulled me in, once again I was walking down the forest trail with Young'un, once again I felt a part of a little settlement in New York, and once again I was sorry when it ended.

Currently Reading

hyacinth


I thought I would show you a picture of my hyacinth now that it is blooming.  It is so pretty and fills the whole room with its scent.  I love having a bit of spring in the house.  We will just ignore the fact that we are supposed to get snow this weekend.  The kids are annoyed that snow might come this weekend because they want a snow day from school, so Monday would be better, and I am annoyed that it might snow at all because I want spring.

If it does snow (which I doubt, I think it will all just blow past us and all the hype will be for nothing) there is nothing better than curling up with a good book.  I have a few Persephone books that I have been saving for the right moment.  Maybe a snowy weekend will be just that moment.

Millions Like Us--Virginia Nicholson


Meanwhile, here is what I have been reading lately.  My obsession with the British home front continues with Millions Like Us by Virginia Nicholson.  It is a comprehensive look at women's lives during and just after the war. Through interviews and diaries she examines the way lives and attitudes changed over the course of ten years.  I have read a lot about the logistics of life during that time, about ration cards and the blackout and the blitz.  This is more an examination of how the women themselves changed.  Before the war women were usually at home and it was taken for granted that the home was a woman's place.  Then the war came, the men went off to fight and the women filled the empty spaces in factories, on farms, in offices, and in many, many other positions.  Many of these positions were ones of great responsibility.  For example, women who worked at Bletchley Park and helped in breaking the secret German codes were instrumental in helping to win the war.  Then the war ended, the men came home, and it was impossible for things to go back to the way they were.  Some men and women wanted life to return to what it had been.  Some men and women embraced the changes.  Either way, it was a time of great upheaval. If you have any interesting in this time period, I highly recommend this book.  It is absorbing and detailed.

One of the women extensively quoted in Millions Like Us is Helen Forrester.  She went on to become an author and also wrote a four volume autobiography of her life in Liverpool.  I was able to find ebooks of a few of her works on Open Library.  Right now I am reading Lime Street At Two which covers the war years.  I also read Liverpool Miss which deals with her early teenage years.  She had a difficult and unpleasant life in many ways but it is interesting to read the books in conjunction with Millions Like Us.  

Lastly, I just started The Claverings by Anthony Trollope.  I really haven't read enough to say much about it yet.  Other than that in the first chapter we have a woman marrying a rich older man (he is 36, hah!) for his money and position, and we also have the young schoolmaster who is in love with her and who she has pledged her love to previously.  So we start off with a love triangle and I am sure the drama will only multiply.  I do like Trollope.




Ten Reasons Why Reading Is Important

book scene
  •  Reading teaches empathy.  It puts you right inside someone else's thoughts and feelings.  You feel what they feel and you understand them.  Empathy, in turn, makes you a kinder  person, someone others will want to associate with.
  • Reading broadens your horizons.  Real life can surround you with people who are similar to you.  They live in similar circumstances, come from a similar background, and have similar viewpoints.  Books open up whole other worlds and force you to realize that the world is full of people living different lives from yours and that those differences make life interesting.
  • Reading improves grammar and spelling and the world needs more grammar police.  If you read enough you will slowly absorb the difference between their and there and you will realize that incase is not a word. In case you didn't realize, there you have two of my pet peeves.
  • Books can provide an escape from reality and sometimes we all need that.
  • Reading is educational.  Even fiction teaches you something, whether it is based around an unfamiliar culture or whether it is set in a time period you know nothing about, you can read a story and learn at the same time. Of course, there are also thousands of non-fiction books about any subject you might be interested in.  Do you want to know how to build a log cabin?  There is a book for that.  Do you want to know all about dinosaurs?  There is a book for that.  Do you want to know how to sew?  There is a book for that.  The opportunities to learn are endless.
  • You always have something to do.  Seriously, what do non-readers do in that inevitable downtime?  You can't just stare at a screen all the time, can you?  On second thought, don't answer that.  
  • Reading broadens your vocabulary. It is possible you will not be able to pronounce the word correctly because you have only seen it written, but at least you will know what it means. Please tell me it is not just me who has been occasionally startled over the years when I hear a word pronounced for the first time.   That wasn't how I was pronouncing it in my head.
  • Reading develops the imagination.  When you read you picture what is happening, what the characters look like, what the setting is like, and you imagine what is going to happen next.  Reading is active, not passive.  It is not all served up to you in a neat package, your imagination has to make it come alive.  
  • Reading reduces stress. A study by the University of Sussex found that reading reduces stress by up to 68% and it works better and faster than other forms of stress reduction.
  • Reading makes you attractive.  No, it isn't going to make you suddenly drop dead gorgeous, but it is going to make you an empathetic, open-minded, imaginative, person who uses proper grammar.  Who wouldn't want to talk to someone like that?

Weekend Meanderings

a girl in the snow

We woke up this morning to a dusting of snow and my daughter couldn't be happier.  She promptly went outside to investigate the footprints in the snow, (probably just the neighbor's cat) make snow angels, and create some complicated game that required paths in the snow and an involved back story.  I love that she is still young enough to be made happy by an inch of snow.  Of course, my son is also happy, because it is only an inch of snow so he doesn't have to shovel.


snow angel


Last night we went to my parent's house to celebrate my brother and sister-in-law's tenth wedding anniversary.  We don't see a whole lot of them since they live in central Massachusetts and it is a two hour drive to their house which makes popping in for a quick visit impossible.  It was nice to spend some time with them and with my little nephew.  I made a cake.  It was lemon with cream cheese frosting.

lemon cake

Now that we have had a bit of snow I am ready to move on to spring.  I just wish we weren't facing a few more months of winter and probably a lot more snow.  I did buy a hyacinth at the grocery store the other day.  It is growing by leaps and bounds and hopefully will bloom soon.  Then I can pretend it is spring.

hyacinth

At least if we have to have winter we are doing it with gorgeous blue skies.  Just look at this sunshine.

tree and sky

My daughter just came in the house, cold and insisting she is starving to death.  She read over this post and wanted me to add one more picture of her.  So here it is.

a girl in the snow


None of these pictures are particularly fantastic.  I took them on my phone and the screen is impossible to see in bright sunshine like this.  I just aimed it in the right general direction and hoped for the best.  If you keep that in mind they are downright amazing photographs!

Books Recommended By My Daughter

girl reading


I recently wrote a post about books my teenage son would recommend. My daughter thinks it is her turn now and has enthusiastically provided me with a list of books she has read recently.  She is a big re-reader so most of these have been read multiple times which is a recommendation in and of itself.  She is ten and all of these books easily fit into that age bracket.


children's books

First of all, we have a Nancy Drew mystery, The Clue of the Black Keys.  My daughter has been a bit obsessed with Nancy Drew lately and I enjoy watching it since Nancy Drew was a big part of my childhood too.  I wrote about it a bit here. They are fun, even if completely unrealistic, adventures.  Just notice some of the chapter titles: A Mysterious Diary, A Burned Letter, The Elusive Island, The Hidden Hut.  What more could you ask for?  Well maybe an amazingly retro inside cover.

book endpapers


My daughter actually mentioned the first Mary Poppins book but I couldn't find her copy to photograph it so I used Mary Poppins in the Park instead.  I know she has read all of them recently.  Mary Poppins in the books doesn't bear much resemblance to the one in the movie.  She is much more acerbic.  I know adults reading the books sometimes are bothered by that but I have never met a child who is.  Again, we have a fantastic inside cover.

Mary Poppins--endpapers


The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright was a book I loved as a child and it is wonderful to see my daughter enjoying it now.  It is the first in a quartet about the four Melendy children who live in New York in the 1940s.  They decide to pool their allowance and every Saturday one of them gets to take it all and do whatever they want with it. After all, New York is full of enough adventures for anyone. It is a sweet and charming story and all the sequels are enjoyable as well.  My daughter also just read the next book in the series, The Four-Story Mistake.

My daughter's last recommendation is Five Have A Wonderful Time by Enid Blyton.  It is one of the famous five series and she loves these books.  I brought this one home for her one time when we went to London and she has been obsessed ever since.  They are some of her comfort books.  Four children and their dog have adventures during their summer holidays.  There is usually some mystery involved, adults are usually peripheral to the story, and the children seem to always be eating and planning what they shall eat for tea.  I wish I had known about these when I was a child, I am sure I would have loved them.  My daughter finished one the other night and practically forced it into my hands, insisting that I read it because she just knew I would love it.  I appreciate any book that inspires such enthusiasm.

It is good to see that the appeal of some books never dies.  The world changes but kids still like to read about adventures and mysteries and picnics by a campfire.






Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go--Kazuo Ishiguro


This book is totally different from what I usually read and I am not sure how I feel about that.  Sometimes it is good to move out of your comfort zone but I am thinking that maybe I have a comfort zone for a reason.

The book is told from the viewpoint of Kathy, a thirty-one year old who grew up at Hailsham, a boarding school.  She and her fellow students know there is something different about them.

All the same, some of it must go in somewhere.  It must go in because by the time a moment like that comes along, there's a part of you that's waiting.  Maybe from as early as when you're five or six, there's been a whisper going at the back of your head, saying: 'One day, maybe not so long from now, you'll get to know how it feels.' So you're waiting, even if you don't quite know it, waiting for the moment when you realise that you really are different to them; that there are people out there, like Madame, who don't hate you or wish you any harm, but who nevertheless shudder at the very thought of you-of how you were brought into this world and why-and who dread the idea of your hand brushing against theirs."

The book is written in a very chatty, conversational tone with Kathy looking back at her younger years and what has led up to the point she is at now.  Nothing is ever very clearly stated but there is an ever increasing sense of horror about the "donations" the students will eventually make and the day that comes when they "complete."

I think my problem with the book is that it presents a truly disturbing premise and a story line that had the potential to be truly harrowing and I never felt  adequately harrowed.  The characters were flat and their reactions seemed unrealistic.  Did no one ever rebel?  Did no one ever question the future laid out for them?  Did they all just go ahead like sheep to the slaughter?  I kept waiting for the angst and the agony and the questioning of life and it never really came.  Even when two characters fell in love and faced the future ahead of them it never seemed like they really questioned that future It nevver occurred to them that it was possible to change things, only delay them. Even their dreaming had a fatalistic quality to it.   Real life people in real life situations do not always simply march ahead to their doom.  Even if they can't change it they might be angry, question, grieve. I felt this level of acceptance worked in the first half of the book where the characters were children and had no contact with the outside world but then it fell apart when they grew up and lived among other people. Surely that is what contact with other people and  other ways of thinking does for you?  It makes you examine your own life and your own future.

I know what Ishiguro was trying to do but for me it fell flat.  Maybe he wanted the acceptance of their fate to be horrifying in and of itself but it struck a jarring note.  I finished the book and put it down feeling as if  I had been fooled somehow.  As if all my emotions were supposed to be stirred up and my empathy engaged and it hadn't happened.  I could see how I was supposed to feel but I didn't feel it.

So if you have read this, tell me what I am missing.  Maybe this just wasn't the book for me.  But for now I think I am going to retreat back into my comfort zone.






Little Things #7

This weekend we went to Barnes and Noble.  I had a couple of gift cards and an afternoon spent wandering around a book store sounded peaceful.  Remind me never to go to Barnes and Noble on the weekend again.  It was crazy getting there and it was crazy once we were there.  So many people, and I am not a people person.  Despite that, we had a nice time.  The kids each found something they wanted and my husband kindly donated his gift card to me.  What a nice man.  I got this.

Pride and Prejudice--Jane Austen


I need another copy of Pride and Prejudice like I need a hole in my head but it is just so pretty.  I picked it up and I was lost right away.  I carried it around and kept telling myself I was going to put it back but somehow I was still holding it as we walked up to pay.  I am now madly rushing through all the books I have going so I can sit back and luxuriate in reading a pretty copy of one of my favorite books.  Buying books because they are attractive has never been my thing so I am not sure what came over me but I am just going to go with it.

I also bought All Our Worldly Goods by Irene Nemirovsky.  I recently read Suite Francaise and enjoyed her writing style.  This is described as "a novel of love between the wars" which makes it sound sort of corny. I am sure it isn't,  but I wish they hadn't used that line.  Why are so many books described in the same way in the blurbs on the back?  This one is also haunting, elegant, and poignant.  It is possibly all true, but the words are used for so many books that they start to lose their meaning.  That being said, prepare for a review in a little while in which I tell you the novel was about love between the wars and it is haunting, elegant, and poignant.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Suite Francaise--Irene Nemirovsky


This week I started watching Home Fires.  It was on PBS not that long ago.  I recorded it and never got around to watching it,  I don't know why.  A show about England during WWII is right up my street.  So far I am enjoying it.  I think I want to live in a little English village and wear 1940s clothes, just without the war.

I also bought suitcases this week.  I know, that doesn't sound wildly exciting.  However, they are really a gift from my parents since they gave us some money for our anniversary.  Plus, they are for our trip to London in April since the ones we had got pretty much destroyed on our last flight.  Anything that makes London seem closer makes me happy.  I have a list of book stores as long as my arm and I am trying to narrow it down to the essentials.  Maybe I should locate coffee shops nearby for my husband.  He likes book stores but not quite as obsessively as me.  He does, however, like coffee to an obsessive degree.  I am also trying to decide what else we want to do since it won't be all book stores all week.  We have been before so the main touristy things have been done.  I think there are some National Trust properties in London that we can tour.  I like touring houses and gardens and seeing how people used to live.  I am sure this won't be the last time I mention London on here.  I talk about it a lot.  If I am shopping with my daughter and stop to look at something, a purse or some shoes or whatever, she will look at it carefully and then pronounce judgement on whether or not she thinks it will be good for my trip.  I have trained her well!

It has been a rainy and miserable day but I made cinnamon bread and it  is just about ready to come out of the oven. The smell is wonderful.  It is the little things that brighten up a dreary day.  The smell of cinnamon bread, a pretty book, and plans for a trip.  Life isn't half bad.




Stubborn and Spunky

old family photo


I went to visit my Grandma last week. (She is the girl with glasses in the picture above.) She is 90 years old and in a wheelchair since she had a stroke a year and a half ago.  That sounds sad, doesn't it?  It is sad but at the same time, Grandma is the spunkiest lady I know. She is absolutely determined not to let a little thing like a stroke stop her.

Her right side was paralyzed.  Grandma is right-handed.  In recent years she has taken up poetry writing and oil painting.  She still does both, just with her left hand.  She painstakingly types out her poems on her tablet, which she has learned to use since her stroke, and sends them to my aunt who prints them out for her.  She attends a poetry class at her assisted living facility.  Her oil paintings are amazingly good, I would be impressed if she did them with her right hand.  The fact that she has not only taught herself how to paint but does it with her non-dominant hand is truly impressive.  She also used to be very into photography.  She can't manage the controls on a fancier camera but she still takes photographs with her little point-and-shoot camera.

Grandma is stubborn and sentimental and opinionated.  She loves a good cry over a book, if she hasn't soaked her shirt with tears then the book wasn't good enough.  She thinks everyone needs to be married, the sooner the better.  Jello salad is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.  My grandfather is the man every man is measured against.  My son is currently the favorite great-grandson because he is taking manufacturing in school and my grandfather owned a machine shop.  Grandma thinks every woman should wear stockings and scolds you if you don't.  She scolds the men in the family if they forget to wear their wedding rings.  Ice cream is a major food group.  She isn't crazy about being in assisted living because she is surrounded by old people.  She obviously doesn't really believe she fits into that category.  I think I might agree with her.  I hope when I am ninety I have half her zest for life and willingness to learn new skills.

quilt


While I was visiting I asked her about some family items she had given me when she had moved out of her condo.  I like to know the stories behind them.  The quilt was made by my great-great-grandmother about 75 years ago.  Grandma remembers coming home and seeing the quilting frame set up in the living room.  This was back when quilts really were made out of scraps of fabric and worn out clothes, not brand new material bought from the quilting store.  If anyone knows how to care for such an old quilt I would love to know.  I am afraid to wash it for fear it might be damaged but I would really like to display it instead of just having it in my linen closet.  It is so pretty.

pickle jar


This pickle jar belonged to my great-grandfather, except he didn't use it to make pickles.  He used it to make alcohol during prohibition.  He was German and liked his beer so when prohibition went into affect he had to do something.

sleigh bells


These are the bells off of the sleigh my grandfather had.  When he and my grandmother were courting (what a nice old-fashioned word)  he would pick her up and take her for sleigh rides.  Doesn't that sound like something straight out of These Happy Golden Years?  A different era, I know, but still I love the image I have of them all wrapped up and flying through the snow with the sound of the bells ringing around them.  It makes going for coffee or to a movie sound so prosaic.

These are just a few of the family items I have.  I love the connection to a past and to stories of people and times I never knew.  I love the stories of my Grandma, not the old lady sitting in the wheelchair but the girl riding amongst the sound of sleigh bells next to the man she loved.


Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Kindle-Bleak House--Charles Dickens


Secrets, poverty, a kind guardian and an unkind one, smallpox, disfigurement, an illegitimate child, a court case that drags on for years,  love, death, a half-mad woman, spontaneous human combustion, a prodigal son, renunciation, comedy, tragedy, strange characters with stranger names, (Guppy, Snagsby, Jellyby)  loyalty, suspicion, drama, murder. Bleak House by Charles Dickens has it all.

Bleak House is considered one of Dickens' best works and the reason is clear.  He takes a vast array of characters, plots and sub-plots and weaves them into a cohesive whole, in the process creating a book that is hard to put down.  The novel revolves around a court case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce, that has been dragging on for years. The story is told from two viewpoints, that of an omniscient narrator and that of Esther Summerson, the heroine.

Esther is raised by a stern and rigid woman who tells her that she is her mother's shame.  Eventually, she is sent to school and after that John Jarndyce becomes her guardian.  She goes to live with him at Bleak House along with Ada Clare and Richard Carstone, cousins who are connected to the court case.Ada and Richard fall in love but their lives are blighted by the court case.  Richard is unable to live his own life, instead solely focusing on the case and what it might mean for them.  He is a weak man, it is true, but never a despicable man.  Esther, like many of Dickens' female characters, is a bit too good to be true.  She is constantly amazed that people love her, always minimizing her own value and importance, and yet somehow I ended up liking her. Much of the novel has to do with the secret of her birth, which is not really a secret to the reader, and how the ramifications of that secret cause hurt and chaos.

Honestly, I have been sitting in front of my computer screen for ten minutes trying to figure out how you write a synopsis of a 900 page novel that has enough characters and plots for ten novels.  I don't think I have the time, energy, or stamina to do it and I am sure that I would lose my place in the plot.  Somehow Dickens never did.  I was amazed by how the two narrators wove around each other and how the many, many story lines eventually all connected.  I did occasionally find the switching between narrators a bit jarring, almost like I was reading two different books, but I eventually got used to it.

Dickens is a sentimental writer, it is true, and that is so with this novel as well.  He likes to squeeze the last possible tear out of his audience.  However, he does it with a purpose.  I didn't feel he was killing off characters purely for effect.  Many of the tragedies point a finger at problems in the social framework of the world he lived in.  The poverty was horrifying and he made that clear.  The court case that surrounds the novel points up huge problems with the justice system of the day.

Dickens' novels paint a picture of a world that is a mix of humor, sentiment, grotesque characters, and angelic ones.  With any other author you would end up feeling that his brush strokes are too broad but somehow he makes it work.

The BBC produces an adaptation of Bleak House in 2005.  I will definitely be watching it.


Books Recommended By My Teenage Son

Star Wars--Timothy Zahn


The other night I asked my children to tell me about some books they had read recently  that they would recommend.  The first thing they said was "Is this for your blog?" I can't imagine why they asked that.

  My son reeled off a list of books for me and said I could write whatever I wanted but he refused to let me take a picture of him reading to put at the top of this post, much to my disappointment.  Some of these are books he has read over and over, some are books he has read recently.

The first is Heir To The Empire by Timothy Zahn. It is the first in a Star Wars trilogy and is followed by Dark Force Rising and The Last Command.  According to the description on Goodreads,
It's five years after Return of the Jedi: the Rebel Alliance has destroyed the Death Star, defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor, and driven out the remnants of the old Imperial Starfleet to a distant corner of the galaxy. Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting Jedi Twins. And Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of Jedi Knights. But thousand of light-years away, the last of the emperor's warlords has taken command of the shattered Imperial Fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the new Republic. "
My son loves these books.  He has read them over and over since he was about eight.  They are not kid's books, he just was determined.  I asked him why he recommended them and he said "Because they are great."  So there you go.

You might notice that his copy of this book is water damaged and stained slightly pink. That was a tragic day.  I put his water bottle in his backpack and didn't tighten the cover enough and well, you see the results.  I offered to replace it but he refused because it wouldn't be the same.  He said it was part of his childhood.  Yes, I felt bad and yes, he knows it is ammunition.  Books matter.

Dragon and Liberator--Timothy Zahn



Next we have another series by Timothy Zahn.   The first book is Dragon and Thief.  This I have actually read, unlike the Star Wars books, and I enjoyed it.  It is a young adult book but you could almost forget that which I view as a plus.  Jack Morgan is a 14-year-old hiding out from people who are framing him for a crime.  When a space ship crashes near him he rescues the only survivior who happens to be a K'da warrior.  The twist is that the K'da look like small dragons and can only survive for six hours before having to have a humanoid host.  The two join forces and adventures ensue.

Redwall books--Brian Jacques



Third we have the Redwall series by Brian Jacques.  These are some more of my son's comfort reads.  He has been reading them over and over since he was very young.  Now my daughter likes them too but maybe not with quite the same devotion.  These are a series of 22 fantasy novels involving anthropomorphic animals and the adventures they have in the Redwall world which seems to be the medieval British countryside. These adventures usually involve some kind of expedition and battles against a vermin horde.  There are many, many descriptions of feasts. In fact, for a fourth-grade school project we found a Redwall recipe site and made blueberry biscuits for my son to bring in as part of his presentation.

Miles Vorkosigan books--Lois McMasters Bujold



Next we have the Miles Vorkosigan novels by Lois McMasters Bujold.  I actually recommended these to him recently and he hasn't quite finished the series yet.  Miles is the son of Barrayan Prime Minister Aral Vorkosigan.  A poison attack when his mother was pregnant with him left Miles with brittle bones and stunted growth.  His outsize personality more than makes up for it.  He runs at adventure full on, doesn't let anything stop him and his slightly obnoxious personality is infuriating and lovable all at the same time.  The books go back and forth in the time line but they are all fun, well-written and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.  Planets are always at war, Miles is always unstoppable, and somehow the craziest world seems believable while you are reading.  I agree with my son, read them. Even if you don't like science fiction, read them.  They are not just ships blowing each other up and crazy aliens though there is that too. Bujold does a great job at making her characters grow and develop and become real people even while they are having unreal adventures.

So there you have my son's suggestions.  They are a little different from the books I usually write about but that is good.  Variety is the spice of life we are told. Insisting your child discuss books with you so you can blog about them adds a little spice to life as well....