Monday Modicums

I just searched the thesaurus re: the word BITS, and it gave me the neat word, MODICUMS. “The smallest amount or part imaginable.” And this post is going to be cobbled together bits of news and musings.

Speaking of cobbled together, I started reading a book yesterday. THE GIANT FOREST, by Bill Belew and his daughter Mia, is billed as a “Chapter Book for Parents and Grandparents of Preteens Who Love to Read.” I think they should have run it by an editor, too, as there are a few words missing and some misspellings.

The plot: Half a dozen children from one school go to Mount Hermon summer camp (in California.) Several of these children have parental and/or friendship issues which are detailed at the beginning. The first evening, five of them wander off into the forest, get lost, and have frightening experiences. In one case a girl is captured by giants who plan to eat her. Another trips over the edge of a cliff into a waterfall.

This is a fantasy of sorts; you see shades of C S Lewis in the way intelligent animals and insects rescue the human children. But the scenes flip back and forth between one child and another in their experiences, so the book becomes a cobbling together of small scenes. To add to the melee, the story of an original pioneer couple (not too bright, it seems) is mixed in, also in bits. Since I haven’t finished it yet, I can’t give you an overall impression, except that I’d prefer a more linear story. I feel like I’m on a merry-go-round reading this one.

Today is officially the LONGEST day of the year. How did that happen? We only just finished May, enjoying the spring, and now June is passing in a whirl. Life has become a merry-go-round time-wise, too, with Sundays coming around every few days.

I did more painting last week, including several “pour art” pictures. I have much to learn in regard to this type of painting! Adding a few drops of silicon oil to the paint before you pour it gives “cells”, but I haven’t tried that yet. One day I watched a demonstration where a woman used her hair dryer to blow the paint all over her canvas. That will be my next effort. 🙂

Yesterday was Father’s Day, but was a wipe-out at this house. I had my second COVID vaccination Saturday afternoon and the predicted sore arm by evening. Yesterday I felt so weary and light-headed, so I had several long naps and read some. Bob did about the same, so nothing memorable or exciting to celebrate Father’s Day. We missed the Youth singing at the Villa in the evening, as I was feeling too light-headed to go anywhere. Thankfully that “floaty” feeling has passed and I can resume normal life this morning.

Saturday morning I read an interesting article on the Battle of the Alamo (in Texas), which debunked a lot of the myths that have arisen over time. It wasn’t the “decisive battle” Texas history has made it out to be, and could have been avoided.

Have you noticed how history is full of battles that didn’t need to be fought, if only someone at the time had used some common sense? In Canada we had the Riel Rebellion, which could have been solved so easily without bloodshed if the federal government had only listened to the Metis and native people. They were being driven off their land and some were starving. Their complaints were legitimate, but the federal govt was way off in Ottawa and had no clue about conditions here on the prairies. So send an army; put down the rebellion.

I see where the city of Saskatoon is considering renaming John A MacDonald Road (he was Prime Minister at the time of the Rebellion) Reconciliation Road.

Usually someone at the time has a good handle on, and keeps a record of, what’s really happening. However, the rhetoric and fervor of the hour make so much noise they drown out wisdom. A century or two goes by and historians, no longer caught up in the dynamic, look at all angles of these past events. Just as our great-grands, if time continues, will look at the movements and battles of our day and analyze what all factored in and how it finally played out.

As they say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.

Books: Gone To Green

The Green Series, Book 1

© by Judy Christie;
Published by Brosette & Barnhill Publishing LLC (March 12 2016)
This book is free through Kindle Unlimited

One day Lois’s good friend and work colleague, Ed, tells her how he has planned his retirement from the hectic life of big city news. He’s bought a newspaper in the peaceful town of Green, Louisiana. Owning and operating a small-town paper was his dream, but just as he’s about to take the reins as owner of The Green News-Item, he has a fatal heart attack. He’d made a will and Lois is amazed to discover that he chose to leave this new business to her.

Thus Lois, a thirty-year-old single city news editor, finds herself in possession of a small town newspaper in the deep South, a world unfamiliar to her. While she had been hoping for a promotion in her own sphere, Lois goes down to Green and has a look around. The town and the small local newspaper appeal to her, so she decides to give it a whirl — for Ed’s sake.

Meeting the staff, learning the ropes, getting used to the community; she sees why the adventure had so much appeal to Ed. Most of the Green citizens she meets are kind, friendly, easy-going folks, great to work with. She also meets the kind high school coach who lives down the road from her new home and drops by often just to chat. She realizes this is someone she’d like to get to know better.

But even small towns can have their greedy types and corruption. Her main reporter gets a whiff of something rotten in some local VIP’s proposed property development and she gets glimpses of possible racial prejudice involved in the new development scheme. Ready to stand up for civil rights, Lois encourages her reporter to go after the story, but if they expose local dirty-dealing, the paper may be headed for a hot gumbo.

The plot thickens when she gets a call from another former colleague, suggesting an attractive offer’s coming up back home. “A great offer…you should grab this opportunity.” A big newspaper chain comes up with an offer to purchase the Green News-Item. Decisions, decisions!

I really enjoyed this book and give it five stars. It’s well written, believable, holds a readers interest, and has an old-fashioned flavor. No immorality — and the story line is great. Makes you want to visit the place, drop in on her and say “Hi.” And this is the first in a series, so we can keep on reading about Lois’s newspaper newspaper crusading adventures in Green, LA. I’ve read the second book and enjoyed it just as much. I see three more have been published since.

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today: COLLEAGUE

One More Day of To-Do’s

Hi Everyone,

I thought I’d give you another glimpse of life at my house, as I prepare for the grand event on Tuesday. I’m to be at the hospital and ready for my minor surgery at 7am, which means I have only this evening and tomorrow to accomplish a dozen things in preparation for having limited mobility for 4 to 6 weeks.

I’ve borrowed a few books from the library and downloaded a couple from Kindle Unlimited. (Not that I was ever lacking.) I’ve a tub of articles and verses to-key-in-someday, and this I’ve set on a dresser so I won’t have to lift it. I’ve visited Michael’s and bought a few more paints. I was going to buy canvas board, which is quite stiff, but then I spied a “Canvas Pad” – something I haven’t come across before. It turns out to be ten sheets of stiff prepped canvas duck, about the weight of card stock and ready to paint on. I bought this more for practice, but we’ll see how the finished painting looks.

One of the books I borrowed from the library is HOW TO WRITE A MYSTERY — © 1996 by Larry Bienhart. Random House. I’m finding it delightfully humorous! He starts by explaining the impulse that started him on his mystery-writing career: he read two mysteries in one day and both of them were awful. A conviction settled: if he wrote a mystery, no matter how pathetic it was, someone would buy it. “What was exciting, thrilling, illuminating, was that someone had published these meandering, illogical, poorly constructed, cliche-ridden manuscripts and – I presumed – actually paid the writers! This was attainable.”

I’m only in the first chapter and already he’s mentioned one of my biggest peeves in story lines: people acting irrationally, or contrary to human nature, just to make life easier for Syl the sleuth. Since the points he makes about mysteries is applicable to other genres as well, I’m eager to read more. Any story has to hang together and needs to offer the reader a reason to keep reading.

I also have a few jigsaw puzzles that I could do during my enforced idleness, and have invited a couple of seniors from the Villa here to play Mexican Train (a dominoes game) with me once I’ve up and around. I’ve a half dozen Sudoku and Word puzzle books to work on, and a few sewing projects I should complete. Actually, having reviewed all the things I could do, I’ve realized what I really need is six months on a desert island! Covid-19 hasn’t done it for me because there’s so much that can be done at home, right?

Reading FlyLady’s latest post, I’m encouraged to take small steps toward specific goals, rather than taking huge chomps of everything at once. We’ll see how I manage that in the coming month. One of my first steps will be to varnish the paintings I have finished.

Thanks to the live streaming we can access these days, I listened to a church service in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, which started at 7:30 am this morning, then we listened to our church service here at 10:45. In the afternoon I listened to a Christian Endeavor program from Fleetwood, PA, then our evening service here at 7 pm. Altogether a very inspiring day! Because Covid cases are dropping in a big way here in Saskatchewan, the govt is saying things will be opening up more by the end of this month, including more people allowed in meetings.

First thing tomorrow morning I want to do some loads of laundry and pack a bag for my over-night stay at the hospital Tuesday night. Yesterday I filled some flowerpots with fresh dirt; tomorrow – Victoria Day here in Canada – I want to visit a local greenhouse and get some bedding plants for them. We had a light dusting of snow Friday morning, which settled the dust for awhile; this evening we’re enjoying a drizzle and hoping the prediction of more rain tonight and tomorrow will pan out.

Well, that’s enough for tonight. It may be a few days until I’m back at the computer. Meanwhile, I’ll be hoping that you all have a great week.

Image from Pixabay

A Look At Book Reviews

Reader Reviews: A Collage of Lively Opinions

Image by Ben Kerckx at Pixabay

Do you write book reviews?
Do you read book reviews?
How much do reviews affect your choice of stories?
Have you ever been prompted to read a book just because the reviews were all over the map and you wanted to find out for yourself if it’s good or not?

Browsing on Amazon recently, I stopped to read the listing for a new western, then the reviews. And what a mixed bag!
“Childish time waster…start-to-finish nonsense…simplistic…lumbering text.”
While other reviewers said, “Good quick read…thrilling characters…

“Well-written traditional western…hero with high standards.”

Since I’ve started paying more attention to book reviews, I’ve marveled at the variety of adjectives used to describe a story — sometimes the same story!
implausible
poorly edited
unbelievable
far-fetched
ludicrous
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
acceptable
okay
satisfying
slow to start, but the pace picks up
adequate
good escapism
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
compelling
suspenseful
lovely
superb
touching

Some people wax eloquent with their descriptions:
“The inconsistencies are continual and grating…”
“Dialogue vaguely reminiscent of the Trixie Beldon series”
“The execution of the story was more like slaughter.”
I’m not sure what to make of a “western” reviewer’s point-in-favour, though: “Clean fighting by hand instead of shooting and wasting bullets.”

Sometimes a crossing of the Atlantic works, and sometimes it doesn’t. One of the British readers’ most frequent complaints is about American/Canadian writers who didn’t do their homework.
“Complete lack of research into English spoken in the UK.”
“Full of Americanisms.”
But the next reviewer, obviously not up on those differences, says:
“Brilliant read. Cannot wait for the next book!”

For me, the age of the main character makes a difference. If she’s a teen, I expect some immaturity, emotional explosions and moody, self-centered behavior. We’ve all been there. But when the character is thirty-one, has been in the work force for over ten years, and still behaves like a volatile teen, I note that in my review.

The situation of the main character appeals more to some readers, even if the character herself is kind of blah. One reader says, “I like the way a senior woman starts out on a new adventure.”
Other reviewers say that the story drags:
“Glad it was over. Not very interesting.”
“Reads like a travel brochure.”
“If you suffer from insomnia, read this book.”

I believe that some reviewers think more of encouraging the writer, and leave reviews that focus on the positives and skip over glaring faults like poor research, inconsistent behaviour or plot holes. Other reviewers are obviously writing to inform potential buyers.

A writer who wants good reviews must keep up-to-date notes on characters and changes made. Reviewers often note it when a writer hasn’t kept her facts straight:
“In the first chapter we read that her father died two years ago and she still misses him. In Chapter five we learn that he died almost ten years ago.

“In the first book of the series, her nephew was Peter. In the second book his name was Richard. But in the third book he was back to Peter again!”

Sometimes I wonder about the motive of the reviewer. After the majority of reviewers found the above book slow and the MC rather a dim bulb, along comes this enthusiastic:
“Fascinating and poignant story with lovely characters who made you want to know them as friends.”
Was this submitted by the writer’s best friend or beloved niece? Is this her honest opinion, or has someone been paid to write this review?

Now I’d like to hear what you think of reviews and how much you pay attention to them?

Our Poor, Neglected H

And now for one of the most misunderstood letters in the English language…

Rye Regular

Accused of being HIGH-BROW or even HAUGHTY, the use of an H is at least controversial. Some groups of English speakers do an automatic delete, and for sure the French do. We can’t blame the use of H and TH on the Norman invaders. Lately I heard a Cockney speaker explaining that if you want to sound like them, “Get rid of the H’s. Don’t need ’em.” Ditto with the TH’s. “Oo needs an H? Ged along royt wew wivoud ’em, we can.”

The other linguistic foible is to stick them in where they don’t belong. “H’Irvin h’Armstrong was here today. He wanted to h’ask you h’if you’d gotten his message?”

But H is here to stay, because we need to HALF– so many things, and because it starts out so many short everyday words we can’t do without:
HURT + HEAL
HOLD + HURL
HELP + HINDER
HIM + HER

Doing some research on the origins of our letter H, I discovered that our H words are mostly Germanic in origin, that their roots go back to a common Indo-European language, and they mostly began with a k or kh sound.
Here, Who, How < kho
Hind (deer) < Kemi
Hip < kheup
Heart < kadia or kerd
Hearth < kherthaz
Help < kelp

The Japanese are fond of their H, giving us words like HONCHO and HAIKU, and who knows how many more if the current linguistic melange continues.

Rye Regular

Dorothy Sayers, in her book, THE FIVE RED HERRINGS, waxed merry with various accents and dropped or added aitches in a realistic way. The book was published in 1931 and she died in 1957, so I’m hoping I’ll be okay reprinting this bit.

Investigating the suspicious death of Mr Campbell, Inspector Macpherson called on Mr. Gowan. When the haughty English butler opened the door, the Inspector asked to speak to the gentleman.
“Mr Gowan is h’out. He’s gone to London.”
In his Broad Scots accent, the inspector explains…
“I will tell ye, wi’oot circumlocution, that there is mair than a suspeecion that the puir gentleman was murdered.”
“So I h’understand.”
“Your name is Halcock, is’t no?”
The butler corrected him. “H’alcock,” he said, reprovingly.
“H, a, double l?”
“There is no h’aitch in the name, young man. H’ay is the first letter, and there is h’only one h’ell.”

Then the Inspector goes on to question Hammond, Mr Gowan’s chauffeur, described as a small, perky man, mongrel in speech, but betraying a strong streak of the fundamental cockney.

“Did ye drive Mr. Gowan onywhere on Monday last?”
“Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when I was ‘avin’ me supper, and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at 8 o’clock ter tike ‘im ter Dumfries. And I says, ‘Right-oh!’ I says, ‘an’ I can pick up them there pitchers at the same time.’ That’s what I says and that’s what I done.”

As I understand Cockney, this would have sounded like, ” ‘At’s Royt. Drove ‘im ter Dumfries. Mr. Alcock comes down when Oy was ‘avin’ me suppah and says Mr. Gowan wanted the saloon round at oyt o’clock… ‘at’s wha’ Oy says and ‘at’s wha I dun.”

(The WordPress Spell-checker doesn’t like this colloquial post. There are red lines everywhere!)

Hasty Haiku 2

Here are a few more verses I was inspired to write in haste Monday morning, polished now:

sedum leaves
no hope in my carpet
chubby little waifs

so many books
sampled for flavour
used book deli

the cat wants out
wants in wants out wants in
teens in love

who sees these
delicate white blossoms
weeds underfoot