Friday, July 31, 2015

French Friday: Lisette's List

Lisette's List
by Susan Vreeland
published by Random House
copyright 2014

This is the final post of Paris in July, 2015, and I think the following quote from this fabulous novel is quite fitting:
In Paris, one's home is in cafes, in squares, on bridges, don't you think? They allow us to lay claim to the city.     (page 317) 
Ah.... c'est magnifique.

Let me start off by saying, I adore Susan Vreeland. 

Luncheon of the Boating Party (reviewed here) perfectly captures the life of several French Impressionists - or at least as I envision they must have lived. And Life Studies (reviewed here) is the first collection of short stories I have read from start to finish.

So it is no surprise that this novel completely captivated me.

The time period is a bit later than Impressionist Paris, although several of those painters, particularly the artwork of Cezanne and Pissarro, feature prominently in the story. 

The novel spans about a decade, from 1937 to 1948, focusing on World War II and Germany's desire to steal and/or destroy the art masterpieces of Europe.

Brief Overview:
Lisette first leaves her beloved Paris to venture south to care for her husband's invalid grandfather, Pascal. While she desires to help in any way she can, she finds the Provincial town to be old-fashioned and dull. She can hardly wait to return to Paris.

She discovers, however, that in his youth, Pascal sold pigment paint from the nearby ochre mines to the artist shops in Paris, as well as made frames for the canvases. He often bartered with the artists: his paint or talent in exchange for one of their paintings. In the end, he acquired seven masterpieces.

One of my favorite quotes from this first section of novel:
Pascal didn't complain when he felt nausea or pain. He simply said, "Bring me the third Pissarro" or "I want to see the still life," and I knew he wished to lose himself in a painting. I suspected that his absorbed study, his searching for something in each painting he had not noticed before, allowed him to rise about discomfort. 
... When I held up Pissarro's red roofs, the largest painting, Pascal murmured, "Such a pretty  orchard. You know, those blogs of paint protruding from the canvas, they catch light on their upper edges and create small shadows beneath them. That's not an accident, Lisette. That's genius." 
Even in this he was teaching me to notice details. But beyond that, he was saying good-bye to each of his paintings.     (pages 76-77)
This is why I adore Ms. Vreeland. She not only tells a compelling story - She not only writes in beautiful prose - But she teaches valuable art appreciation lessons that I failed to learn in school. After reading this passage, I want to visit our local museum and practice this skill of looking in detail at the painting. I want to love paintings as much as Pascal.

Other Lessons:
I am ashamed to admit that I had little previous knowledge about the Nazi's total disregard for and destruction of European masterpieces. Ms. Vreeland does not spend too much time on this subject, but she opened my eyes and expanded my desire to learn more. 
Oh, Lisette, the stream of trucks arriving at the Louvre and the Jeu de Paume to deliver paintings from across France to be sorted, sold or destroyed, other trucks leaving with paintings to be loaded into freight cars headed for Germany. My sister and I stood helpless and horrified, watching paintings by Klee, Ernst, Picasso, Leger, so many, go up in flames in the garden of the Jeu de Paume. Without its art, Paris, all of France, would never be the same.
One of the passages that left a lasting impression involved my favorite sculpture, Winged Victory:
I insisted that we climb the long Daru staircase in the Louvre, pausing at each step to appreciate the full marble glory of Nike of Samothrace, winged and victorious. Her commanding presence, well over three meters high and set on a tall pedestal, demanded that we look up in adoration. I was certain I felt the wind ruffling her gown. 
"What a victory it was to remove that for hiding. ... September third, the same day de Gaulle declared war. We volunteers gathered to watch, holding our breaths as she was lowered down the steps on runners and held upright by ropes. More than twenty centuries old, she is. It does me good to see her back in her rightful place, undamaged."     (pages 332-333)
As I read this passage I was immediately transported back to my visit to the Louvre in 2011. Didn't she perfectly capture the elements of this sculpture? Can you imagine the skill it took to safely lower her into hiding? I agree with Maxim, it is indeed good to see her back in her rightful place, undamaged.

There are so many other quotes I could share with you... or Lisette's List of 17 Hungers and Vows (essentially, the bucket list she creates to honors those she loves), but then I fear I would rob you of the opportunity to read this lovely historical novel for yourself.

Please do. You will not be disappointed.

* This post is a part of the Paris-in-July meme, hosted by Tamara of Thyme-for-Tea. Please visit her website for links to more French-inspired posts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Piazza San Marco

One good thing about traveling in the spring: when the weather is cool and rainy, the crowds are minimal. We waited only a few minutes to enter the Basilica and take the elevator to the top of the clock tower. Unobstructed photo opportunities surrounded us at all times.

Do you see the platforms set up around the square? They provide dry pathways for tourists to walk when the Grand Canal overflows its banks. Apparently the square flooded the day before, but all water drained away by the time we arrived. Fortunate...

*View other Wordless Wednesday photos here and Wordless (on Tuesday) photos here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Impression: Under the Egg

Book Impression is an opportunity to share my reading experience. 

For a more detailed explanation, please visit this post.

Under the Egg
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
published by Dial Books
copyright 2014

I adored this novel.

For fans of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (my brief review here), this is a similar modern-day story that incorporates a likable heroine, an interesting mystery, and a lesson in art appreciation.

While not an orphan in the traditional sense of the word, Theo is basically left alone to fend for herself and her eccentric mother. The situation is dire, and Theo is afraid they will have to leave the family's Manhattan townhouse.

One day she accidentally spills alcohol on her grandfather's favorite painting and discovers a hidden painting underneath. Could this provide the financial aid she desperately needs?

Since Grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the mystery takes Theo and her friends all over the city in search of clues to the painting's true identity.

First, I am in awe that this is Ms. Fitzgerald's debut novel. It is just as captivating, just as magical as E. L. Konigsburg's classic. While the mystery aspect of the story was fine,  I was enamored with the characters, setting, and historical references. The writing style is engaging, and the storyline draws the reader and holds her tight.

Secondly, I love the references to the World War II time period, and finished the book wanting to learn more about the Monument's Men. I have not yet watched 2014 movie, but plan to do so soon, as well as do a bit of research on my own.

Lastly, I relished the subtle art appreciation lessons woven into the story. For example on page 31 the author teaches us:
"What is the artist trying to tell you? There is a message here. Maybe the message is a feeling. Maybe it's a moment in time, or a lens on the world. Or simply the state of being in a single color. But if you just look at the surface, you'll see -- what -- a portrait, a saint, a myth, a man. But do you see the story? The meaning?"
I wish I had learned about art in this intimate way in elementary school. I fear I have missed out on much in life. But I subscribe to the theory that we are never too old to learn. Now I can hardly wait to tour the local museum with a new perspective on how to view -- and truly see -- art.

This post is a part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday. If you are interested in reading other MG books, please visit Shannon Messenger's blog for a complete list of this week's reviews.  I am always on the lookout for other MG historical fiction novels. If you have a favorite you think I would enjoy, please feel free to leave the title in the comment section.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

TSS: July 26, 2015

Just heard on the news we should expect triple-digit heat index temperatures over the next three days. I take that as a sign to stay inside and read and write, what do you think?

I don't have much reading progress to report this week.

I've read about 70% of Lisette's List, but I'm hoping to finish it within the next few days. I am still enjoying the story line and the art appreciation lessons.

I added several new MG books to my TBR list. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions - and if you know of other titles, I'm always listening!

In fact, that reading list has grown so large that I decided to add a new bookshelf to my GoodReads account:  MG want-to-read. This way when I'm out-and-about, I have easy access to my wishlist.

I hope to return to the MG reading routine this week. I have little on the social calendar and the weather forecast is calling for extreme heat - sounds like perfect reading conditions to me!

What I lacked in reading this week, I made up for in writing.

Last week I talked about using Myer's Briggs and the Enneagram as tools to help me develop fictional characters. I also researched famous people who exhibited each of those types.

In the end I decided my protagonist, 13-year-old Phoebe Cox, is a type 6 Enneagram (Loyalist) and is most like an ENFP (the Entertainer). I imagine her a younger version of Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, and/or Anne Hathaway.

Now that I have an idea of her personality and can picture her face in my mind, I will try to delve further into her character. I have several worksheets I can use, but it I think I might try the idea of keeping a journal as Phoebe.

While I love to journal, this is well outside my comfort zone - pretending to write as someone else? But maybe... just maybe... I can let go and have a little fun. I'll let you know how it goes next Sunday.

I followed my blogging schedule for the third week in a row. So far, I like this blogging pace, and the variety of post topics continues to hold my interest.  Hopefully I can remain consistent over the long term.

Here's a recap of this week's posts:
I have watched about a third of the OYAN DVD lectures. For the most part, I find the education outstanding! I have learned quite a bit, not only how to teach the class, but also how to improve my writing.

I am taking notes to help me organize class lessons, and I am also using the workbook to help flesh out characters and scenes of my own novel.

Since we announced this course offering only a month ago, no one has had an opportunity to enroll. I am hoping for six students (enough to foster class discussions, but manageable for a first-time through the curriculum), but there is the possibility no one will enroll this year.

I'm ok with that though. I am learning valuable writing lessons, progressing with my own work-in-progress, and preparing in advance of the next academic year.

I wish you all comfortable days ahead, filled with lots of literary goodness!

Friday, July 24, 2015

French Friday: Paris Plage

I discovered this marvelous Parisian tradition quite by accident.

I was on a two-day whirlwind tour of Paris in July, 2011, and we happened to take a ride on the Bateaux Mouches. This was my second time to travel along the Seine (the first being in 1977 on a high school exchange program), and while I never tire of the Parisian landmarks, I thought I knew what to expect. That was not the case.

The first Paris Plage (singular) dates back to 2002 when Bertrand Delanoe decided to provide a convenient escape for Parisians who could not leave the city on holiday. It began on the right bank of the Seine (Rive Doit) but in 2006 grew to include the left side as well (Rive Gauche). Now Paris Plages (plural) is considered a destination location and gives new meaning to the term "staycation"

I adore everything about this new tradition.

The colorful umbrellas and coordinated chaise lounges immediately connote images of Parisian style.  Families with young children mingle with millennials and co-eds. Relaxation is evident, and the hustle and bustle of the big city is almost non-existent by the water's edge.

One look at this photo and one would guess St Tropez... not Paris.

I'm not sure how much sand is trucked in for this event, but it must be TONS. Thousands take part in the festivities each day, but the city does an amazing job of keeping everything pristine clean.  Each morning the chairs are neatly arranged, and the sand is freshly grated.

While most visitors prefer to sunbathe and relax under the temporary Palm trees, there are activities to keep the young - and young at heart - engaged. There are some true sandcastle artists, and we all enjoyed the fruits of their labor.

Some creators took a more classic approach - like the one shown here.

Others were more whimsical, like the Mickey and Minnie Mouse characters in front of Cinderella's castle.

And then of course, there were the old childhood favorites, made with various sizes of plastic pails and shovels.

On this last trip I noticed the beach-theme extended beyond the banks of the Seine, up to the Hotel de Ville, where Parisian sports enthusiasts could partake in a game of sand volleyball.

I enjoyed Paris Plages from afar: admiring the scene from the bridges rather than experiencing the sand between my toes. But it still brings a smile to my face. Such a whimsical scene in the midst of the world's most cosmopolitan city.

Paris Plages lasts about a month, starting shortly after Bastille Day and running through the middle of August (2015 dates are July 19-August 17). If planning a summer vacation to Paris, consider going during this time frame. While the weather may be warm, this unique experience is well worth it.

* This post is a part of the Paris-in-July meme, hosted by Tamara of Thyme-for-Tea. Please visit her website for links to more French-inspired posts.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Doge's Palace, Venice

Doge's Place - otherwise known as the Wedding Cake - is located on the water just off San Marcos Square. We secured one of the gondolas outside the building and enjoyed the forty minute journey along the Grand Canal.

Just to the right of this building is the famous Bridge of Sighs, which will be the subject of next week's post.

*View other Wordless Wednesday photos here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Impression: Rescue on the Oregon Trail

Book Impression is an opportunity to share my reading experience.
For a more detailed explanation, please visit this post.

Rescue on the Oregon Trail (Ranger in Time Series #1)
by Kate Messner
Published by Scholastic Press
Copyright 2015

I LOVED this book!

While the target audience is sightly younger than Middle Grade, the story is  still compelling enough for this adult reader. Of course, it helps the protagonist is a lovable golden retriever who happens to travel through time.

While Ranger is obviously bright and well-trained, he is prone to distraction, especially squirrels. Ranger often reminded me of my own lovable lab, Jude, in this regard, but also in the way he shows love and compassion to those in need. Ranger is a delightful hero who quickly becomes the reader's best friend.

The story is told from Ranger's point of view, and in my opinion, the author nailed the voice - as well as his evolved sense of smell. It is interesting to experience the historical past from a dog's perspective.

From a writer's point of view, I recognize the depth of research the author conducted for this book. I learned much about this time period without feeling as though I was reading a textbook. There is enough backstory for context, but the focus is on the heroic quest. The author references several points of interest close to my home, which contributes to the intimate feeling of the story.

The second book, Danger in Ancient Rome, was released last month. I'm not sure how many books are planned for this series, but I look forward to reading each of Ranger's adventure across time.

This is my first time to participate in Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, but if you are interested in reading other MG books, please visit Shannon Messenger's blog for a complete list of this week's reviews.

I am always on the lookout for other MG historical fiction novels. If you have a favorite you think I would enjoy, please feel free to leave the title in the comment section.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

TSS: July 19, 2015

Summer is now here: temperatures in the 90s with triple-digit heat indexes. So... I spend my days writing at the library, and my evenings reading at home.

I decided to take a break from the MG read-athon and instead focused on Paris this week.

I am an avid fan of Susan Vreeland. Surprisingly, I have yet to read Girl in Hyacinth Blue, but thoroughly enjoyed Luncheon of the Boating Party (see my review here) and Life Studies: Stories (short review here). She tells a compelling story with fluid prose, but it is her masterful descriptions of paintings that I so enjoy. My appreciation of art is always improved after reading one of her books.

This week I started Lisette's List, which takes me away from the Impressionists and into the world of Marc Chagall. I find myself reading slowly, appreciating the subtle language and not wanting the experience to end. I should complete the book this coming week.

I also read a children's book that I heartily recommend to any fan of the Madeline series. Madame Martine by Sarah Brannen is about a sweet little old lady who lives in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. She is rather set in her ways, and believes the Eiffel Tower is nothing but a tourist trap (?!!) I briefly reviewed the book in my Paris in July post this week, but truthfully, you should obtain a copy from the local library and read it for yourself. I promise it is a delightful way to spend a few minutes on a hot July afternoon.

I also finished The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson. This book was not quite so delightful, as it touches upon some pretty heavy subjects like homelessness, morality of stealing if in want, prejudice towards hobos and gypsies. To by honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish it.

But I am glad I persevered. The end of the story ties up all the loose ends nicely and subtly presents a good moral lesson. I recommend the book... but with the following caveat. I think parents should read this story as well and then be prepared to discuss these difficult topics with your middle grade student.

For several weeks now I have tried to focus on character development. I know a compelling story demands a well-rounded and relatable protagonist as well as a riveting plot. I feel as though I need to flesh out my main character before I delve into scene reconstruction. I need to flesh her out and know her as well as I know my own children.

But every time I sit down to create Phoebe, I freeze. It is the equivalent of asking a student to sit down to the blank page and write an essay. I don't know where to begin; I don't know where to focus; I don't know how to materialize her out of thin air.

But I do know how to research. And I love to research. And since this writing gig is supposed to be fun, I decided to create Phoebe in a way that is fun for me.

I am researching the sixteen Myers Briggs personality types as well as the nine basic Enneagram types to help me develop Phoebe from the inside out. I am also using this book, Creative You, to help me understand myself as well as my characters. It is fascinating!

I've always known I'm an ISTJ (the organizer) but after doing a bit of research, I am learning that I also exhibit many traits of the INTJ (the architect). Knowing my type, and how I process life, can help me develop my own unique gifts and talents in a way that works best for me. I don't seek so much to be labeled, as to be understood. And I guess that I is what I would like to do for my characters as well.

This week I will start another weekly blogging goal.

In addition to French Friday (this week's post here) and Wordless Wednesday (this week's post here), I will also be a part of Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (hosted by Shannon Messenger).

At this point I have a list of about 25 middle grade novels I have read since January 1st, and I am anxious to share my book impressions with like-minded readers.

Tune in tomorrow for my first book impression: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner. It is one of my favorite reads of the year.

Friday, July 17, 2015

French Friday: Instilling a love of Paris in the Next Generation

It is no surprise to anyone who knows me well (or perhaps who barely knows me at all) that I adore Paris. It began in second grade when I first started to learn French, and coincidentally, met a young man who had just returned from his Junior Year Abroad.

At the age of eight I knew I would one day visit Paris for myself. To date, I have had the privilege to travel to my favorite city no less than four times:

  • as a junior in high school in 1977 
  • as a tour leader-in-training in 2006
  • as a Parisian wannabe in 2011
  • ...and most recently as a group tour leader in 2015. 
With each visit I learn to love something new about the city - and I will always long to return, just one more time.

I hope to instill this love of travel - and Paris specifically - in my granddaughter. And what better way than through books.

Of course, there is the Madeline series. When I visited Paris in 2011, my granddaughter was only  three months old, but I couldn't resist buying this delightful classic in the original language. We also own the English version, a remnant from my youngest's childhood library, so the story is familiar even if the language is not.

The pictures take precedent now - but some day I will read aloud the story in French, and share not only my love of the county, but its speech as well.

Recently I came across another picture book that tells a sweet story within a Parisian setting: Madame Martine by Sarah Brannen.

 Madame Martine lives alone in the 7eme arrondissement, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. She is rather set in her ways and enjoys the same weekly routine: shopping each day for a specific item at the Rue Cler market. Hmmm....I do believe I could be Mme Martine...

She rescues a lost puppy, Max, who teaches her a little spontaneous adventure can be good for the soul.

I am excited to learn there is a second book in the series, Madame Martine Breaks the Rules, which is scheduled to be released in September. This adventure will take her to the Louvre - c'est magnifique!

I discovered a few more picture books that beautifully illustrate the City of Lights, but I have not yet had time to read them. Perhaps you will enjoy checking them out yourself:

Do you know of any other Parisian books I could set aside to read with my four-year-old granddaughter?

* This post is a part of the Paris-in-July meme, hosted by Tamara of Thyme-for-Tea. Please visit her website for links to more French-inspired posts.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Hotel Colombina

The Hotel Colombina is the ideal place to stay in Venice. It is located directly on the grand canal, so water taxis pick you up at dock's door. While only a five minute walk to San Marcos square, it is tucked away on a quiet side street, offering a bit of solitude away from the crowd. It provides the perfect combination of old-world charm and modern-day conveniences.

I will return.... someday.

*View other Wordless Wednesday photos here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

TSS - July 12, 2015

After unseasonably cool temperatures this week (high Wednesday was only 68 degrees!), we are now in the throws of a typical Midwest Summer: hazy, humid, and triple-digit heat index all week long. I really can't complain though...  it offers me the excuse to remain inside and read and write.

I am continuing my middle grade reading marathon and must admit I'm thoroughly enjoying this genre.

While I prefer to teach higher grades, indulging in academic discussions which feature a variety of personal opinions, I find middle grade novels better suit my writing style. These books engage in relevant and sometimes difficult topics, but without the graphic violence, unnecessary vulgarities, or sexual romance that I don't feel comfortable writing myself.

This week I completed four novels:

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet

The premise attracted my attention: a 12-year-old girl moves to Paris with her family and discovers a mysterious cabinet that promises immortality.

I enjoyed the author's writing style, and the descriptions of Paris of course kept me entertained. However, there was simply too much focus on science and alchemy in this magical world to hold my attention.

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

I am surprised at the relevancy of this book, since was written in 1968.
However, human nature - and teenagers - remain the same.

There are a few outdated references, but I can honestly say I don't remember the last time I read a book where I became so enamored with the lives of the characters. I was sad to say good-bye to these friends when the story ended.

I adored how the story of Mr Pignati (the Pigman) was told in the alternating voices of John and Lorraine.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

A sweet story that somehow withstands the test of time.

Written in 1944, this story would appeal more to upper elementary students (or as a read aloud to lower elementary) since the characters in the story are that age as well.

I forgot how children quickly learn to tease others so they do not become the outsiders. Poor Wanda Petronski lives on the wrong side of town, has a difficult last name, and wears the same dress to school every day --- many reasons to make her an easy target for mean girls' criticism.

While the end of the book is a bit pedantic (I prefer a more subtle moral of the story), it is most definitely a worthwhile read.

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder

I picked up this book because I so enjoyed Seven Stories Up.

The author is a gifted writer, there is no doubt about that. And I am sure this story would have great appeal to its intended audience.

For me there was a bit too much suspension of belief with regards to the magic bread box, but the storyline was delightful and I could certainly relate to Rebekah's emotions after her parents' separation.

This brings my annual MG reading total to about 25 books (!) At this point I think I am ready to start writing brief Book Impressions for the blog as well as GoodReads. I hope to write one impression a week, with the hopes of catching up by the end of the year.


I have continued with my French Friday posts. This week I reviewed the book Doodling in French (and even offered photos of my own feeble attempts).

I also began to chronicle my recent trip to Italy by posting a photo of the Gondolas of Venice for the Wordless Wednesday meme.

I am also listening to the podcast, 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, by I am trying to walk on the treadmill at least 25 minutes a day (ugh...) so watching movies on Netflix or listening to an engaging podcast helps the time past. I would recommend this informative challenge for anyone who is interested in improving their blog site.

I tried numerous times to begin the revision process of First Impressionism (my MG historical fiction novel) but discovered writing a novel is completely different from writing academic essays.

When I write an essay or article, I tend to mull and ponder for days prior to putting pen to paper. Because of this, my first draft tends to be fairly polished. Of course it needs revision, but more in terms of tweaking rather than major overhauls.

A novel, however, has so many different components to evaluate: plot structure, character arc, consistent voice, theme development, natural dialogue... the list goes on and one. Every time I start to revise a single chapter, I am overwhelmed by all the considerations.

Fortunately Writer's Digest arrived in the mail mid-week and this month's focus is Revision.

I glanced through the table of contents and read this description of an article: The Great Revision Pyramid: Improving your novel draft the frustration-free way, layer by layer.

I immediately turned to page 28 and read the entire article, underlining practically every line.
The author, Gabriela Pereira, developed the website DIY MFA, which promises a Do-It-Yourself Master of Fine Arts program. She even has a podcast which I will now listen to as I take those daily walks on the treadmill. I may not earn a diploma, but I am anxious to glean the knowledge.

I am looking forward to another good week of reading, writing, and perhaps a bit of scrapbooking (I have a Christmas in July crop scheduled for Friday evening). I hope you find some time to pursue fun past-times as well.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Paris in July: Doodling in French

Doodling in French by Anna Corba
Published by: Chronicle Books
Copyright 2012

On a recent "artist date" I discovered this delightful little text at a quaint independent bookshop in Lawrence, Kansas.

Of course the title caught my eye, but a quick flip through the pages convinced me to review it more closely. Once I returned home, I immediately requested a copy from my local library.

I am no artist, but I do harbor dreams of sitting in a local coffee shop or on a park bench and sketching a few observations. Technically this book should help me fulfill that desire.

While only 144 pages, this short little tutorial is divided into seven sections - all reminiscent of the quintessential Parisian life:

  • Dans le Jardin
  • Le Cafe
  • A la Maison
  • Les Accessoires
  • Bon Voyage
  • Tous mes Reves
  • Et Maintenant

 Each sketch is shown in simple step-by-step instructions. None of the drawings are terribly complex, but each subject is very French and quite a good likeness.

It certainly seems easy enough....

Just follow the directions, pay attention to scale, and voila ... a perfect sketch of a fond French memory.

Well, that's the idea in theory....

Book directions...
My attempt

In reality, however, my croissant looks like a sickly snail. And my cheese wheel? ...well, who knows.

I must admit my expectations were terribly unrealistic. I thought a few simple lines was, well... simple. A curve here, a triangle there, and in 60 seconds I'd have a sketch of a delectable morsel. But as in any artistic endeavor, the process is far more complex than it seems. It takes time, patience, and practice to develop a new skill, and I was not willing to slow down enough to give it a fair chance.

For now I have decided to devote my time to writing. But someday I plan to purchase this book and j'essayerai encore une fois.

** For other Paris in July posts, please visit Tamara's website, Thyme for Tea.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Gondolas in Venice

Gondolas in line at San Marcos Square
While the weather was less than perfect - overcast, drizzly, cold - Venice exceeded all my expectations. Winding cobblestone streets surrounded by tranquil canals and colorful stucco buildings transport visitors to a distant past. The pace of life is less hectic and more relaxed. People stroll rather than rush; meals are leisurely events not just a drive through convenience; and motorized vehicles are prohibited on the island.

Gondolas are not only the quintessential tourist attraction, they are a primary mode of transportation.

* The subject for the next several Wordless Wednesday posts will focus on my recent trip to Italy in March, 2015. While this was my first visit to this beautiful country - and my husband's homeland - I guarantee it will not be last.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

TSS - July 5, 2015

Happy day-after the Fourth of July!

For my American readers, I hope you had a fun and safe celebration in honor of our country's freedom. We spent yesterday evening at home, but celebrated instead on Friday by attending the Royal's baseball game (with a win!) and watching fireworks afterwards at the stadium.

I have finally found my reading mo-jo. In the past week, I completed SIX middle grade books! I do believe that is a record for me. I still have a few left on my library pile, but I am always on the look out for more Middle Grade (early YA) books to add to my reading list. I would love to hear any suggestions you might have.

I plan to begin writing book reviews in the very near future, so I don't want to go into great detail here. But I will share the titles I have enjoyed this week:

Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney.

The plot had such promise: paintings coming to life at night;  a romance between the protagonist and a beautiful model trapped inside a masterpiece; an old curse which threatens the existence of great works of art.

But in the end, I simply skimmed that last half of the book. There was too much focus on the romance and too little attention on the art to hold my interest.

The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne.

A clever premise. Hamlet's parents are Shakespearean scholars and her seven year old sister, Desdemona, a child genius. In other words, Hamlet has a difficult time just blending into the 8th grade crowd.

To make matters worse, her sister is now taking courses at the middle school and becomes friends with the popular girls in Hamlet's class.

I felt Hamlet's pain, and I enjoyed the references to A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play I used to teach my 8th graders. The author's sense of humor helped make this a quick and enjoyable read.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

A young boy living within the walls of a Parisian train station. The perfect hook for this Francophile.

I am surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It is a quick read, as about a third of the book is comprised of pen/ink drawings that not only illustrate the text but actually move the plot forward.

I enjoyed the historical fiction component - I adored Hugo's quirky personality - and of course the setting was formidable.

Ghost Cadet by Elaine Marie Alphin

I enjoyed the author's non-fiction book, Creating Characters Kids Will Love, so I wanted to read an example of her character development.

I am not typically interested in military stories, but the concept of this novel held my attention.

While visiting his grandmother, 12-year-old Benjy tours the Battlefield of New Market where he encounters the ghost of a young Confederate soldier. Benjy has few intimate relationships in his own life, so he welcomes the opportunity to befriend Hugh. Together they try to find a family heirloom lost in the war so Hugh can finally be honored for his service and rest in peace.

Building Blocks by Cynthia Voigt.

I selected this book because of its time travel element.

Bramm Connell is the youngest child of a couple who epitomize "opposites attract" His mother is strong, determined, and ambitions; his father seems weak, resigned, and a doormat. Bram has little respect for his father and at times thinks his family would be better off if his parents divorced.

Escaping the shouting match of yet another parental argument, Bramm retreats to the basement where he builds a fort with some old blocks he finds hidden in the corner. This provides the means to travel back in time to the Great Depression and the opportunity to meet his father as a young boy.

I liked the time travel element - I liked the idea of meeting one's parents when they are still children - I was disturbed by this man's past.

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder.

I adored this book.  Apparently it is the sequel to Bigger Than a Bread Box, which I plan to read very soon.

Annie's grandmother is a cantankerous, hateful woman - even on her deathbed. Annie goes to bed wondering what could make someone so angry, and wakes up fifty years earlier with the opportunity to befriend her own grandmother as a 12-year-old girl.

Not only do we learn Molly's past (which offers an explanation for her angry disposition), but we discover that Annie has the opportunity to alter history for the better.

I'm still working on a consistent blogging schedule - slowly but surely I will get there.

This past week I wrote an introductory post to Paris in July - an annual meme sponsored by Tamara of Thyme for Tea. As I mention in that post, this is also the first post of what I hope will become a weekly blogging event for me: French Fridays.

This coming week I hope to add one more regular event: Wordless Wednesdays - where I hope to share my recent Europe vacation. I'm sure the post will contain a few words, but hopefully the pictures will be the focus.

I haven't made much progress in either of my projects but...

I did have the opportunity to attend a week-long writing conference for children last week (do not be fooled by the title, this adult learned SO much).

I will be using the sponsor's curriculum, One Year Adventure Novel, next year in my storytelling  workshop ... but this conference gave me so much writing goodness to share with you.

I finished the week with a renewed passion for writing in general, storytelling as a focus, and connecting with like-minded people who enjoy these activities as much as I do.

Yes, I enjoyed this productive week of reading... but I am excited to add a bit of writing and blogging to the mix.

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