Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thursday Book Review--Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

Enna Burning is the second, more dramatic installment of the Bayern series.

Enna became Ani's best friend and secret keeper in The Goose Girl. In this story, Enna discovers her brother, Leifer's secret--making fire--only he can't control it.

Bayern goes to war with the neighboring kingdom of Tira. Fire consumes Leifer on the battlefield. Enna finds the instructions for making fire on Leifer. She decides to only use this power for good, meaning she continues to fight Tira for Leifer's sake.

Unfortunately, she has difficulty controlling the need to burn. She goes on secret raids and sets fire to Tiran camps and villages. Her friends warn her that she is out of control, but takes matters into her own hands.

She is taken captive by a Tiran who convinces her that he loves her and tries to manipulate her. She finally escapes with the help of her true friends.

Enna burns nearly a tenth of the Tiran Army before they surrender bringing an end to the war. The burning nearly consumes her because she lost control.

She wakes up in the palace, dying of a fever. I order to save Enna, Ani (now called Isi), takes her on a journey to learn from a people who have survived fire-speaking. Isi is also at risk from her ability to wind speak, to the point that Enna is more concerned for Isi's well being than for her own. She senses that Isi  is at risk from more than just the wind-speak.

I like how the characters develop together in this story. Isi and Enna are humble enough to learn that they both need each other. Each is the key to the other's survival. How many times in real life do we think we are in control, whether it's pride, money, or whatever? How many times are we rescued by friends and family, the ones who love us unconditionally in spite of the mess we've made?

And Enna's love interest, Finn--goes from timid, gentle forest boy to Bayern's finest swordsman. In the end he gets his girl.

I give this book 4 1/2 stars out of 5.

Book #3 is River Secrets and Book #4 is Forest Born.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." ~Anonymous

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Taco Soup

1 lb fried hamburger, broken up
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion diced
1 green pepper diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
1 can corn
1/2 envelope of taco seasoning
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (half that if dried)

This cooks up quickly on the stove (hint: my daughter likes to cook up her hamburger and onions ahead of time and freeze in one pound bags), or you can throw all of the ingredients in your crockpot and set on low for about 4 hours.

To serve: top each bowl with a small dollup of sour cream, grated cheese (colby-jack), and crushed tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation

"To you women of today, who are old or young, may I suggest to you that you write, that you keep journals, that you express your thoughts on paper. Writing is a great discipline. It is a tremendous education effort. It will assist you in various ways, and you will bless the lives of many--now and in the years to come, as you put on paper some of your experiences and some of your musings."  ~Gordon B. Hinckley

President Hinckley--always a favorite of mine. He was a champion for women everywhere. I had no idea how noble writing is.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Don't you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouguet of newly-sharpened pencils--if I knew your name and address."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

The Goose Girl is adapted from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. It is the first of four books in the Bayern series.

Shannon Hale does an extraordinary job of fleshing out the details of this story. It is also a good study of how to write a novel. The characters are well developed and they grow as the conflict intensifies.

It is a coming of age tale centered around the Princess of Kildenree. Her official name and title is the Crown Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee. Her nickname is Ani.

Ani is timid and unsure of herself, living in her mother's shadow. She doubts her own gifts, and, in fact, is not aware of all of her gifts.

After her beloved father, the King, dies, she is forced into a marriage of alliance with the Crown Prince of Bayern, a full forest away from Kildenree.

On her journey through the forest to Bayern, Ani meekly puts up with the mutiny of her best friend and maid-in-waiting, Selia, along with most of the guards. Ani is forced to trade places with Selia and she is afraid to fight back.

As the story progresses, the conflict increases. With the help of her new, forest friends (people born in the forest are considered second class citizens in Bayern), she manages to hide her true identity and escape from Selia's clutches.

Ani learned animal-speak at home. She develops her innate ability to wind-speak. She falls in love with one of the royal guard. By the end of the story she becomes assertive and is able to do what needs to be done to save both kingdoms from war and expose Selia for the traitor she is. I won't spoil all of the surprises.

It is very well written and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

In the original Brothers Grimm version, the King tricks the false princess into naming her own punishment for betrayal. The false princess decides on a particularly cruel and brutal sentence. The King reveals her betrayal and her own-named punishment is carried out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cheese Soup

1 onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
2 cups carrots peeled and diced
4 cups potatoes peeled and diced
Cook vegetables in 1 quart chicken stock.
In another saucepan make roux with 1 stick of butter and 1 cup flour. Mix well. When vegetables are cooked until tender, take them off the heat. Add roux and mix well to prevent lumps. When roux has dissolved into chicken stock, add 1 quart milk and mix well. Return to medium heat and stir continually as soup thickens. Add 1 tsp paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving add 3 cups grated cheese (cheddar or colby-jack). Fold in melting cheese. This soup is perfect when served in homemade bread bowls (store bought works well, too).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quote of the Day

"Happiness often sneaks through a door you didn't know you left open!"  ~Anonymous

I love Mary Engelbreit art. It's old-fashioned and whimsical, and she always puts such uplifting quotes with her pictures. They bring me a lot of joy all by themselves.

I find myself envying the talents of people like Mary Engelbreit, Sandra Boynton , and J.K. Rowling. My talent is being able to appreciate their work.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thursday Book Review--The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

I'm fairly certain that most, if not all, fans of Harry Potter have read The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling and illustrated by J.K. Rowling.

I was absolutely wonder-struck by the imagination that went into this wee little book, translated from the ancient runes by Hermione Granger, with commentary by Professor Albus Dumbledore, and footnotes by J.K. Rowling.

These tales seem more graphic than Muggle fairy tales, but if you knew what I know about some of our traditional fairy tales and nursery rhymes, you would understand how truly graphic (and violent) they are, and how similar they are to Wizarding tales.

I'm always amazed when authors construct worlds so complete that they come with thousands of years of ancient history, like The Lord of the Ring series; and to be able to conjure five stories that teach values to any world and provide academic commentary in the voice of one of her characters is beyond magic. The reality and continuity of the Wizarding world remains intact.

I remember when word about this book came out, aside from dreaming about owning one of the leather-bound specials (that I could never afford), my first instinct was to find a way to somehow read the stories themselves. I read the review written by Amazon and wished I had been lucky enough to peruse those pages. A year or two later, Muggles everywhere were able to read, at last, The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Autumn Soup

1 med onion diced
1 qt canned tomatoes (or about 3-4 15 oz cans of diced)
1 qt water
6 cups potatoes peeled and diced in bite-sized pieces
8 cups carrots peeled and diced (I cheat and use small carrots bagged)
3 stalks celery diced
1 tsp dried basil
2-3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste

Fry up hamburger and onion first, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook about 20 minutes until potatoes are tender but not mushy. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for about an hour. Serve with more, out-of-the-oven biscuits. This also makes a great crockpot soup--about 5 hours on low and soup is ready and waiting for you when you get home!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Morning Motivation--Don't be a Troll

I recently read that a 'Troll' is someone who spreads negativity around the internet and blogosphere. I've heard about people who do this, but I didn't know they were called trolls.

Trolls vary in size, shape, and form. Some are simply hideous while other, more dangerous trolls disguise themselves as constructive criticism.

In order to be constructive, criticism should always be followed with suggestions on how to fix the problem. If teaching is the goal, start with something positive, then the problem and how to fix it, and end with something positive again. Try not to overwhelm the student with more than one or two items to correct at a time.

I follow several blogs and I have yet to meet a troll. I have found that writers, in general, are very cohesive and supportive. They strive for anything positive. They thrive on mentoring, and encouraging others like myself.

I believe 'what goes around comes around', so the more time and energy I waste on negativity, the more negativity I attract. There is plenty of negativity in this world and I certainly don't need to add to it. I do battle daily with my own little trolls--you know the ones. They lurk in the corners and shadows of my mind sewing seeds of comparison and self-doubt.

I think the positive things in this world outweigh the negative. So here's to focusing my energy on the positive. Attract the positive and spread the positive, and above all else, enjoy the journey.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday Book Review--Dearly Departed by Tristi Pinkston

Ida Mae and her co-hearts are at it again. This time Eden, Arlette's granddaughter is in the spotlight.

Through her job as obituary editor, Eden meets a distraught woman whose mother was a healthy, older resident of a care facility who dies unexpectedly.

As Eden begins to look into this death, a doctor from the same facility goes missing. Could these incidents be related?

At the beginning of the book Ida Mae takes a nasty fall and breaks her ankle. Later, she breaks her wrist. Needing a little extra care, Ida Mae goes undercover at the Shady Aspens Care Center.

I love Ida Mae. She is very relatable. She takes more of a back seat in this book, but we learn what she learns. She ends up on the receiving end of compassionate service; her most difficult lesson yet--to receive graciously.

Dearly Departed is the second installment of the Secret Sisters series. It's even better than the first, with more mystery and suspense. I give it 5 out of 5 stars. I can't wait to read #3 Hang 'Em High, which just came out this last August. If you enjoy cozy mysteries, you'll love this.