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Posted in Book Reviews, MG Book Reviews, Middle Grade Books, Ramblings

The Way Past Winter

by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Magical Realism – Middle-Grade

My Synopsis:

Mila lives in the dark cold, woods with her brother and two sisters in a small cabin. Their mother is dead, and their father left them for unknown reasons five years ago. Since then, the forest has become perpetual winter, and memories of Springtime and happiness are fading. One evening a stranger and his fellow travelers come to their home asking for food and shelter, but the next day when they are gone, Mila’s brother is missing. The sisters debate whether he left them to join the traveling men or was he taken against his will. Mila insists on going after their brother and so begins a daring adventure north through fierce winter landscapes mixed with magic and folklore that she and her sisters are afraid may actually be true.

Why I Picked This Book:

I love Middle-Grade books, and I was looking for something with a simple feel to it. I didn’t want a modern story and, (being on winter break), I was hoping for somethings snowy and cozy. It seemed to have the perfect amount of magic laced through it without being doused in magic and fantasy, and oh yeah – the book jacket mentioned sled dogs.

What Was Disappointing: 

I read it too fast. I wanted a book to last me through the winter break, but I finished this in about two days.

Why I Kept Reading:

I read it so fast because the author took me away from reality. The characters were so well-rounded I easily felt apart of their family. The simplicity of their home and family life was akin to that of Laura Ingalls, albeit without all the details. Although there was a bit of predictability, being a middle-grade novel, it was the perfect amount. The story unfolded not in a way that makes a reader disappointed because they knew the writer’s secrets, but in a way we all say in life “I knew it!” when we really didn’t, but suspected to arrive at a certain point or outcome. The longing for that affirmation and for the reveal of what we didn’t know, kept me going on almost as fast as Mila’s sled dogs flew across the frozen north.

Take Away: 

I will read this book again. I know I will. There are stories inside of stories with this book. Although the author could make this into a series of spin-off books and tales it doesn’t need to. It stands alone and stands strong. Much like its characters. The bond between sisters and the strength of their spirit is so beautiful and well done. The author very simply has females in most of the roles and if I weren’t telling you this now you may not have even noticed. There is no talk about being tom-girls, no talk about expectations for women, and the author also doesn’t shy away from letting the girls swoon over men. They are just unapologetically who they are, and they happen to be girls. I also love how there is no really clear “hero” in this story. Pieces of the puzzle unfold so naturally and those who need to be there to play their parts arrive to be in place so naturally it felt more like a true story than one about cursed forests and magical islands in the icy seas of the north.

Final Thoughts:

It’s been a long time since someone created a new fairy tale that had all the elements of actual folklore. No pretty princesses or beautiful castles, or handsome heroes. This is a simple tale and is told in a minimalist way without a ton of flare and fantasy that is saturating novels these days. This book has plenty of myth, gore, truth, and good old fashioned storytelling that will have a reader of any age turning the pages while pulling up their blankets around them to keep out the haunting winter that seeps out of its very pages.

Post-Script:

I have to wonder if Dusha and Dayna would have liked Flora the pig.

Posted in Ramblings, true story, Updates, writing

my Anti-Success story.

Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. Even though any successes I have had are NOT related to writing, I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! I am pushing through the extreme lack of successes and taking part. Not just for myself, but for any other disheartened writers that may stumble upon my blog- I’ve a crappy list but I’m still sharing it. Here is my list for 2020. Continue reading “my Anti-Success story.”

Posted in My Work, Ramblings

december

21 days left in 2020. Everyone talks about New Year resolutions, but what about end of year resolutions. And what about all those other sentiments such as “its not the destination but the journey” or “its not how you avoid conflict, it’s how you face it.” Well, 2020 is just about finished- how will it end for you? Will you start to make changes now or wait for something else to change you? Continue reading “december”

Posted in Ramblings

Historically miserable?

Trying my darnedest to be happy this Thanksgiving.

How does that work? How can we when the year has been so difficult? So trying, so scary, and for many, it’s been so sad, how can we stay happy? What do we cling to, and more importantly, why? Is it survival? Are we merely surviving, and happiness is an essential substance we require to properly exist? And what of those who are unable to scout out or gather any happiness for themselves? How can we help, and what does that helplessness do to all of us?

Continue reading “Historically miserable?”
Posted in My Work, Ramblings, true story

Blackout Tuesday – time to listen

I live in Philadelphia which, as you know, has had a series of protests, rioting, and looting.

There has been a city-wide curfew for days now. I was working inside a building while it was being boarded up by management and on my way home I saw my bustling city quiet and empty. Many businesses were boarded up either out of protection or because they had windows already busted. Last night I was woken by explosions across the city and the hashtag “phillyexplosions” was trending on Twitter at 2am.

On social media, I am seeing a lot of people sad and/or outraged but their triggers are sometimes different.

People are angry at looters.
People are angry at cops.
People are angry with government.
And some people are frightened as well.

A lot of people are feeling frightened by the looting and rioting. People are afraid their homes will be targeted if they have an American flag. They are fearing for their children who are yound and afraid. They are preparing to protect themselves and their neighbors by any means necessary.

Yes, it’s been an upsetting few days for many who have lost property, been targeted, and felt unsafe in their own homes.

I’m sorry if the looters and rioters have scared you, they scare me too. I’m sorry you feel unsafe in your own home or feel targeted for something like the American Flag. Imagine being targeted for something you can’t take down like say,  oh- the color of your skin.  And not for just a few days, but for a few hundred years. Are you scared? Maybe you should be. I am certainly not condoning rioting or looting, I think it’s terrible, but I think it’s a terrible side effect of something larger.  Here’s what I mean;

Rioting & Looting are very much like vomiting and diarrhea: alone they are stupid and ugly and no one needs to be told how terrible they are.  But oftentimes they are symptoms of a much larger health problem.  And this world is very unhealthy. Keep treating the symptoms if ya want, but I do not recommend ignoring the deeper issues at hand.

And let’s not even get into the part about how these people afraid of looting have every right and government support to protect themselves. That may not feel like a luxury but it is because not every American can protect themselves without getting in trouble. There have been too many videos of authorities allowing people to assemble with weapons to protect merchandise but being violent against people assembling to protest.

So here comes the “not are cops are bad” people”.

Not all cops are bad – sure, but the ones who are, do not receive any reprimanding. They get slapped on the wrist.  However, when there’s a bad black man, he dies.  Black men  who are maybe bad are dead. Black people who some think are bad-ish are dead.  Black people who “look bad” are dead. And black people who catch the wrong cop on the wrong day are dead.

So while I agree that not all cops are bad, I’m not terribly concerned with their well being as a whole. I know cops die in the line of duty and I fear for them and for those I know personally who serve. But they chose that life, that job, that risk, that stigma. God bless them.

Black people did not choose to be hated.

So when people worry about “all cops” being grouped together (not unlike a prejudice against skin color) or about the violence and selfishness of looters instead of the violence of humans against humans- authorities against civilians – I begin to worry.

A part of me is frightened and confused about where the world is right now.  We have a pandemic going on, innocent lives being slaughtered in the streets, and white supremacy seems to be rampant within our own political system. Yes I did just say that because that’s what it seems like and if I’m wrong; prove it to me.

Prove it to me.

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The History Of White Supremacy in America

 

Prove it to me.

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Racial Inequality in American Public Schools

 

Prove it to me with change.

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Breonna Taylor shooting

I also try to remember that right now I am a female who’s currently wearing pants which once upon a time was unheard of. I’m a female who is employed and owns property of her own. So I know the world has made some progress in some areas and that makes me hopeful.

Unfortunately, sometimes you do not see progress unless push really does come to shove.  And when you compare the shove of looters to the shove of that man’s knee on the neck of an innocent man I know which one outrages me more.

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That’s why when people see only the riots and wonder “how will they make a change.” To that I say, “well it got your attention”. And I ask: What will you do now that you’ve been emotionally affected? Will you choose to hate the looters, or try to understand the protesters? Will you be upset about commerce and economy, or will you mourn with the families who have lost loved ones? Will you read the news from today or remember history?

Time is a problem. Humans live in bubbles. And those bubbles are getting smaller. We struggle to understand Darwin’s “theory” (and let’s remember it is just that: a theory) because we cannot grasp the concept of time required for evolution to take place. Our great-grandparents lived through plagues and wars and told us to expect more but we separate ourselves from history and think we are different. People respected the Coronavirus until it became boring, then social distancing lessoned. People see rioters and have already forgotten that days ago an innocent man was killed in public. How do I know he was innocent? I know because this is America and you are “innocent until proven guilty”. That is why the theater killer and the church killer are still alive. Two white boys who were proud of their separate actions and neither was harmed when taken down.  One even tried to booby trap the police, but he’s still alive.

People cannot seem to go beyond the small circle of their own brains. They seem incapable of reaching beyond themselves to see hints of truth, let alone the harsh, blunt, painful truth. Perhaps they are too frightened to search.

So today’s blog is a challenge to listen. Listening is so important and so many people are emotionally and mentally deaf. Listen to history. Listen to the survivors of hate. Listen to the survivors of injustice. Listen to more than just the latest news brief, more than just convenient conspiracy theories. Dive deeper, learn more, try to heal yourself. Because if you are only worried about the looters & do not understand why they exist, you are broken. If you are only worried about supporting or hating the cops, the system has succeeded in creating another blind subject. You are more than today’s news. You are more than your own life. You are a product of generations, of evolution, of humankind. It is a vast and complicated history that plays host to some very ugly, horrific truths. But until we are ALL willing to listen, and learn, we will never be ready to evolve, and change.

And change, is clearly what we need. The old ways have not been successful, today’s methods are not successful, help humanity evolve into a better place, and broaden your mind.

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“Come up with a better way”

If that is too difficult for you, seek some assistance. We all need help sometimes. But do try. Do think. Do evolve.

 

“When we talk about systemic racism, we’re not just talking about Black lives killed by police with no accountability. We’re not just talking about Black lives killed by COVID-19. We’re not just talking about a third of Black children in our country living in poverty, and millions of Black kids going to totally inadequate schools. We’re not just talking about Black women having a maternal death rate three times the rate of white women, and Black families owning 1/10th the wealth of white families. Instead, we are talking about a system of pervasive racism that impacts every aspect of our lives. This has got to end. We need equity for Black people, for Brown people, and for all who are marginalized and made disposable in a system and an economy that treats millions of people as unworthy of the basic decency of human respect.”
-Bernie Sanders