Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The CNMC "Following Along in Spirit" Edition

Well, I still have the badge on the blog saying that "I'll be there!" to the Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas this week, but this year, it's just going to have to be in spirit, or on Twitter, or something.  A little more than a week ago, for far-too-long-to-explain-here reasons, I had to cancel all my reservations for my planned trip to this great conference.

Last year, when I followed along with several of the sessions that were streamed from Kansas City's CNMC, I had determined that I would work hard to make it happen this year.  The plans did get made, but now it's not going to work out this year.  Doubly sad, I was planning to see two young friends at The University of Dallas--a neice and a daughter of my best college friend.  Because I won't be in Dallas, visiting them and seeing their college home won't happen.

I'm super disappointed about all of it, especially since at the CNMC I was going to get to see friends that I know, and meet many others that I know only online.  The conference is going to coincide with both the Catholic Marketing Network and the Catholic Writers Guild.  It's going to be a great experience for those who are going to network, learn about great books, movies and other Catholic media, and just in general soak up the atmosphere.  Attending a conference the first year is often a "lost" year, getting one's bearings, etc., but I think with all the great topics and speakers and sessions, I would have gleaned a lot from attending even this first-for-me conference.

So, though I am Emily of Deep Valley sad about this (and you can read all about what that means here, in my literary pilgrimage to Betsy-Tacy land), I do hope to make the best of being at home.

The conference starts today, so if you are attending or en route, please do tweet and updating those of us at home about it.  I will be following along on Twitter and Facebook.  And have a great conference!

Worth a Listen: Popple's "Little White Square"

(Sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen")

I really enjoy Popple, who play "Catholic acoustic fun."  They have a lot of great videos online.  In particular, I love their "Behind the Ministry" humorous video, but I will share that another day.

Today, my main goal here is introducing their great, catchy, fun music, and I'm sure I will be sharing Popple songs often.  Several of their songs were turned into videos by an 8th grade class at Catholic School in Spokane, Washington.  Here is their version of "Little White Square."  Nice!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Worth a Listen: Britt Nicole's "Gold"

Worth a Listen (a new feature: sharing great songs that are inspiring, uplifting and/or are otherwise "worth a listen")

My oldest started high school today. High school! Several weeks back, a friend (thank you, Lord, for good friends for girls) introduced her to this song, Brit Nicole's "Gold."  We got it on iTunes and our whole family has been listening to it non-stop pretty much ever since. This "about the song" video is beautiful, and describes the song and its message beautifully. Well worth getting this catchy tune into your head.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Links List: Catholic, Local and Online

One of the trickiest aspects of being a "local" Catholic blogger for a diocesan Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Post, but writing about books, which are generally not specific to the diocese, is balancing the local and more general audiences.   I've wondered, and had a few discussions with my editor, about ways to make the blog more local-friendly or help it have a local "flavor" at the same time.  I've added a new links list to help with that.

If you look on the right hand panel of this blog, you'll see a new links list: "Catholic, Local, and Online"

For some reason, this idea never occurred to me before now, but now I'm very excited to share and compile local Catholic online sources.  You'll notice I have everything from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria to various bloggers and other local-interest sites.

I made the list relatively local--not just people from our diocese, but those nearby.  I considered Sister Helena Burns and her blog "Hell Burns" in this "local" category, since she is such a friend of the Peoria diocese, speaks here often, and is just a short drive away in Chicago.  I'm really thinking of expanding to include St. Louis people as well, since there are quite a few Catholic folks active online there.  I also couldn't resist adding Lisa Schmidt, who blogs with her husband at The Practicing Catholic, since they are just in the next state over.

I have a number of requests out to local Peoria-area bloggers that I know locally to see if they would like to be added onto the list.  I'm really on the look-out for anyone who is active online with a blog, Twitter presence or other online resource.  Can you share your favorites?  And if you would like to be added onto the list, or have an idea for someone to add (even if not "strictly" local), then please comment on this post and I would love to add you onto this.

Eventually, I might consider making this a tab on the top of the blog.  If you have any ideas on that, please share away!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Not Far from the Kingdom of God?

I have a Facebook friend (he's the husband of a delightful local friend, both with terrific senses of humor), who has a guiltily funny meme going whenever a celebrity dies.  Here's a basic example:  when Leslie Nielsen died, said friend posted a photo of Liam Neeson and writes as a caption, "Leslie Nielsen, you will be missed."

The comments at first (and even now) can be part of the fun, as friends write, "Hey, I think you've got the wrong person."  Etc.  Much silliness in the comments usually ensues, and some are much more guilty pleasures than others.

I happened to see the couple at a gathering late last week.  I confided in them that my first thought (instead of a prayer for the repose of her soul) when discovering that Helen Gurley Brown (HGB), the longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine, had died, was thinking, "I wonder whose photo for her will be on (friend's) Facebook page."

We laughed about it.  He mentioned how it has taken on a life of its own, with people messaging him whenever a celebrity dies.  I gave my mea culpa for the time last year when I myself did that, when some minor television celebrity I can't now recall, had passed away.  I sent a message along the lines of, "You should know that (minor celebrity) has died. And will be missed."  Mea culpa, indeed.

Fortunately for me and the state of my soul, I was driving at the time I learned of HGB's death, and so couldn't check Facebook.  (So, in fact, I did take a moment to pray for her; Facebook friend was unaware of her and didn't "feature" her).  Later that night, I discovered via Twitter and Facebook that another famous woman, Nellie Gray, founder of the March for Life and stalwart pro-life activist, had died the same day.

And so despite my initial first guilty thoughts about Helen Gurley Brown, learning that she had died the same day as Nellie Gray, gave me a kind of comfort.   I can imagine, because God has an excellent sense of humor, that Nellie Gray may have been invited to help shepherd poor HGB through the pearly gates, or at least in purgatory.  Nellie Gray could be pretty strict about things, and knowing that this quality of hers would certainly be sloughed away, I can picture these two contemporaries (they were born just a few years apart) being together and important to each other in some unknown-to-us way.

Later, I discovered via Deacon Greg Kandra of The Deacon's Bench blog that HGB had been a million-dollar contributor to Catholic schools in NYC, and Cardinal Dolan had "danced" with her.  (read about the story behind the photo here).  Another sweet image, and one that makes me think, actually more hope than believe, as I've said before and on other occasions, "Not far from the Kingdom of God."


Thursday, August 9, 2012

An 11-Year-Old Interviews Daniel McInerny, author of the Kingdom of Patria series


No, it’s not an interview that is 11 years old.  I actually mean that my 11-year-old daughter, Giuliana, here interviews author Daniel McInerny.

Here’s how this came about:  I was having trouble keeping up with my reading and previewing books for this month’s column on great fiction.  I asked Giuliana to read the first book of The Kingdom of Patria series and she quickly finished and raved about it, and moved onto the second in the series (and also loved it). Full disclosure: after Giuliana's enthusiasm, I did also finish Stout Hearts and thoroughly enjoy its silliness.

First, a few questions from me (Nancy), then I promise to step aside so that a young reader, actually from the target Patria audience (middle-grade readers) of the books, can ask the good questions:

Nancy:  Tell Reading Catholic readers a little bit about yourself, your family, and The Kingdom of Patria series.

I am the husband of the beautiful and talented Amy McInerny and the father of three adorable and perfect (so say their grandparents) children: two teenage girls, Lucy and Rita, and a son, Francis, who is eleven. 

I grew up the last of my parents’ seven children in South Bend, Indiana, and, after graduating from the University of Notre Dame (BA English, 1986), I eventually obtained a PhD in philosophy from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. I spent some 18 years in academia, teaching and working at various universities, but just over a year ago I decided to pursue a dream long deferred of launching out on my own as a writer. That’s when I founded my children’s entertainment company, Trojan Tub Entertainment, which features my humorous Kingdom of Patria stories for middle grade readers (the first anniversary of Trojan Tub’s legal “birth” is Friday, August 3, 2012). My family and I now live in Virginia.

The Kingdom of Patria books are e-books only, and the companion, interactive Kingdom of Patria website (visit here for that) is very popular with Patria fans.  The site has free short stories (both text and audio), character blogs, and clubs for kids to join. Folks can also "Like" the Trojan Tub Entertainment Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/trojantubentertainment) and follow along on Twitter: @kingdomofpatria. There's also a book trailer for the series here on YouTube. 

Nancy:  You are a son of Ralph McInerny, the noted Notre Dame philosophy professor and leading Catholic light, and one of my heroes.  (link: I wrote a little about his autobiography here.  Do you think your writing is similar to his, and are you influenced by your father’s example as far as writing goes?

Thank you so much, Nancy, for your kind words about my father and for your appreciation of his autobiography on your blog. He is much missed. Although I have learned a lot about the craft of fiction from my father, I don’t think my style is similar to his. My children’s writing owes more to the comic stories of P.G. Wodehouse and Roald Dahl, as well as to the more whimsical portions of the Harry Potter books. One of my reviewers on Amazon compared the first book in my Patria series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits, to the film version of Ian Fleming’ children’s novel, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I like that comparison. Rob Reiner’s film, The Princess Bride, also masterfully hits the tone I am striving for.

But about the principles of good fiction, and the discipline--and enthusiasm--required to produce it, I learned from my father a great deal. My father loved to say, “A writer is someone who writes.” Sound advice I try never to forget.

Questions from Giuliana:

Q:  How old were you when you first started to write, and what did you write about?

My first published work was the thrilling Danny and the Monsters, which I self-published around the age of six or seven with loose leaf paper and my mother’s stapler. The skin-creeping pictures of Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula, and the Werewolf, are all from my own hand. This book was quickly followed by Island at War, an epic tale which had to do, if memory serves, with an island and a war. I remember enjoying drawing the bullets flying through the air. The hero was a soldier named General Danny, who had been promoted due to his success in the previous encounter with the monsters. 

Q.  Who was your favorite author (or book) when you were a kid?

When I was very little I loved Enid Blyton’s Noddy books. In those years you also would have been hard pressed to pry a Tintin or Asterix book (what today are called “graphic novels”) out of my hands. (As I lived two years of my childhood in Italy with my family, my early book favorites are European ones.) When I was a little older, I grew to love John Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain series, probably my favorite series from childhood. There was also a series I enjoyed very much called The Happy Hollisters, written by Andrew E. Svenson under the pseudonym Jerry West. The Hollisters would have adventures and solve mysteries, and I really liked the fact that they did it all together as a family.

Interestingly, I did not read much fantasy as a child. If you can believe it--and I won’t blame you if you don’t--I never cracked open the Narnia books or The Hobbit until I was a parent reading them to my own children. I remember in an upstairs bookcase in my childhood home a big, fat paperback copy of The Lord of the Rings sitting on a lower shelf. Though my sister raved about it, I avoided it like Shelob’s lair. I found the sheer size of it, not to mention its ominous title, both attractive and forbidding. 

Q: What was your inspiration for the Patria series?

Some years ago, when my two daughters were small, I was reading Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, where Tolkien is quoted as saying something to the effect that, in imagining a new world, it was important for him (the professional linguist) to start with a name. So, for example, he began with the strange name “hobbit,” and extrapolated an entire mythological universe from there. That very night, in telling a bedtime story to my girls, I copied Tolkien, inventing the name “Twillies” for a microscopic guild of fairies who minister to their princess in various ways, by helping disentangle her hair, keeping soap bubbles out of her eyes in the bath, etc. In continuing to tell “Twillies” stories I elaborated upon the world that eventually became the Kingdom of Patria. 

At that beginning, in these family bedtime stories, Patria was a magical world, deeply indebted (I believe the more usual word is “stolen”) from the imaginations of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. But as I began to think about how to approach a written version of my Patria stories, I found myself increasingly disinterested in writing about a magical world. I suppose I was afraid of writing clich├ęs. But I also became very much attracted to the idea of a fantastic world that, given a rather wacky take on history, is very much part of our world. That idea is at the very heart of what Patria is today. Nonetheless, it took me a long time to bring this new world of Patria into focus. Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits was begun in earnest about three years ago, and only completed in the summer of 2011.

Twillies, by the way, being magical creatures, were left on the cutting room floor (as it were) in the re-imagining of Patria. But my daughters still miss them intensely. Perhaps there will be an occasion to work them into the series later on, to introduce the magical element. But at present I’m very happy exploring Patria as a tiny kingdom hidden in the midst of contemporary northern Indiana. 

Q: Is there a reason you put Thomas Jefferson in the first book?

Being that Ted Jooplystone was one of our tallest presidents, not to mention the only one with red hair, I thought it important to put him in the book. Actually, I think I originally brought Jooplystone into the mix because I was imagining Odysseus Murgatroyd (a character from Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits) being part of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, which was a project of Jooplystone’s. I changed that detail, but kept the tall, red-haired president.  

Q: I thought the Gentleman’s Etiquette Class in Stoop of Mastodon Meadow (and how resigned Miching Malchio was about it) was really funny. What’s your favorite funny part of either book?

I find Mr. Stoop a lot of fun to write, and reading back the scenes when he is first encountering the Patrians, or directing his colleagues in the Midwest War-Historical Re-enactment Association, always brings a cheerful tear to my eye. The scene from Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits in which Mrs. Stoop and Aunt Hazel bring the fast-food breakfast from Burger Land to the Patrian Royal Family will also cause me to giggle silently behind my closed office door. 

Q: Are you planning any more books in the series, or a different series of books?

I am most certainly planning more books in the Kingdom of Patria series. Though I am at present working on my second novel for adults, when I am finished I will turn to the next Patria novel, which at this point I am envisioning as a kind of prequel, explaining how the original refugees from the Trojan War found their way to Indiana. But I will always, I think, tell tales about Oliver, Prince Farnsworth, and Princess Rose, too. 

(Now a quick follow-up from Nancy about e-books versus physical books.)

Q. The Patria books are available only as e-books.  Do you have any plans to make them available as print books?  What in your view are the positives (or negatives) of e-book exclusive for a series like this?

In the last three years or so digital books, electronic reading devices such as Kindles, Nooks, and iPads, and the appearance of new book distribution channels such as Amazon, have combined to help introduce a series of seismic changes into the publishing industry. One of the very positive developments, to my mind, is in the area of self-publishing. Long regarded as a minor, even slightly embarrassing, aspect of the industry, self-publishing is becoming more and more a respected and established way for authors to get their work out into the world. Digital media now makes it possible for authors to to take their book and, with the help of Amazon and other outlets, make it available to a global audience literally overnight. It's an exciting phenomenon, and, given both Pope John Paul II's and Pope Benedict's call for Catholics to re-evangelize culture by making wise use of new media, it's an especially exciting time for Catholic writers with a mission. 

But with all this power comes responsibility, not least responsibility for the marketing of one's work. What one gains in immediate (and free!) distribution in self-publishing with Amazon, one loses in not having the marketing arm of an established publisher. All the burden now falls upon the author to make his or her work known to the public (in an increasingly competitive field of authors). But as even many traditionally-published authors will admit, the marketing arms of established publishers do not give the same attention and resources to all their authors, and so many traditionally-published authors find themselves having to undertake for themselves the same kinds of marketing efforts that self-published authors do. So having to hustle is not something that only self-published authors have to do. 

For me specifically, the main challenge comes with my choice of genre: middle grade children's ebooks. Self-published children's books are not (yet!) experiencing the boom that self-published adult fiction is enjoying especially in the thriller, romance, and (sad to say) erotic genres. Although there is evidence that more and more kids and parents are reading on electronic devices, it is still a nascent phenomenon when it comes to kids, especially, and when they do read digital books they are mainly still reading the established names such as J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. But, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, "skate where the puck is going, not where it's been." As time goes by I believe more and more kids and families will be reading electronically, and that self-published authors will become a more and more established part of the mix. I plan to be waiting with my Kingdom of Patria series when the boom hits!

As of this time I have no plans to make print versions of my Patria books available, but it is an issue I will revisit, as folks from time to time do ask me if there are print versions of the books. If I do go in that direction, it will likely be via a publish-on-demand paperback service (so as to avoid the problem of storing books). For now, however, my Patria ebooks are available at Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and iTunes. There's also available, from Worldwide Audiobooks, an unabridged audiobook of the first installment in the series, Stout Hearts & Whizzing Biscuits. All of these venues can be easily reached through the venue buttons on the homepage of the kingdomofpatria.com. 

Some of your readers may be interested in my first novel for adults, released this past Spring. It's a darkly comic thriller called High Concepts: A Hollywood Nightmare, which owes much of its inspiration to the early satiric novels of one of the greatest Catholic writers of the 20th century, Evelyn Waugh. High Concepts is available as an e-book at Amazon and barnesandnoble.com.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Meet a Reader: Samuel Mangieri III

This month's featured "Reader" is a seminarian I met when our children attended the stellar summer program Totus Tuus.  I am so grateful for the program, as well as grateful to Sam being willing to be featured here. 




How you know me:

I'm from Sacred Heart Parish in Abingdon, IL.  I attended Bradley for 3 years, and now I'm a seminarian for the diocese of Peoria studying at Mt. St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD.  I also served on the Peoria team this summer for Totus Tuus, a summer Catholic youth program.

Why I love reading:

Father Jonathan Steffen summed it up when he was featured as a “Reader” in The Catholic Post last year:  "Books are just wonderful places for readers to hide in for a while, and then reappear in the real world hours later with a sort of secret knowledge."

 I find this true, especially of poetry.  Even to take 15 minutes out of a day where "I just don't have time" to dive into a poem is so worth it.  We can emerge with an awareness of the grandeur of God that has been there the whole time, yet we had just not the time nor the eyes to see it.

What I'm reading now:

What's Wrong With the World by G.K. Chesterton.  I'm tip-toeing through this one because he is so rich.  Even though his brilliance is way out of my league, I am taking his advice that "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."  Even though I know there is a lot I miss, I know that it is worth it to seek the wisdom God gave him to remind us how to get back to a healthy and sacramental worldview.  More than anything, reading Chesterton enkindles wonder.

My favorite book:

The Sanctifier by Blessed Luis Martinez.  Martinez speaks about the Lord, the devout life, and Mary so beautifully.  He also often uses metaphors and analogies that I need desperately to learn.  I think it's accessible for anyone to pick up and read.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Salazar Coaches Two Athletes to Medals in London: UPDATED

I thought about making my "First, What Are You Reading?" post this month about the Olympics, since we, like most families, are watching the Olympics pretty frequently this.  But we aren't really reading any books about the Olympics.

I'm grateful that now I do have a a connection and a reason to write about the Olympics (I thought about labeling this post "my 3 degrees of separation from the Olympics").  No, it's not because Michael Phelps looks uncannily like my oldest nephew (though he does, really!).  It's because Alberto Salazar, author of the June book I reviewed for The Catholic Post, can now call himself the coach of two Olympic medal-winners, Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, who took the gold and silver medals, respectively, in yesterday 10,000 meter race.

Here's my review of Salazar's open memoir, 14 Minutes: A Running Legend's Life and Death and Life.  I asked Salazar about the Olympics in our Q&A (you can read the whole thing here), and here's what he said:

We are lucky to have some of the finest distance runners in the world as members of the Nike Oregon Project. They include Mo Farah, a citizen of Great Britain, who joined our team two years ago, and Galen Rupp, a native of Portland, Oregon, who I have been coaching for more than a decade. Besides being ideal training partners, they are also great friends. Mo and Galen will both be running the 10,000 meters at the London Olympics, where they will be competitors rather than teammates. It will be very interesting to see how that plays out. 

Well, we can all see how that played out, the joy both teammates had for each other as they placed first and second.  In particular,  I noticed that USA Today has a great article about Galen Rupp's silver medal and Salazar's long-term coaching strategy.  ESPN also reports about how Farah and Rupp worked with each other to help keep Farah (and Rupp, it turns out) paced well through the 10,000 meter race.  Here's a great photo from ESPN from just after the race:

Congratulations to Farah, Rupp and Salazar!  I'll be watching the 5,000 meter race later this week, and hope for more medals from the athletes of The Nike Oregon Project.

Update, Wednesday, August 8: Rupp and Farah both easily won places in the finals of the 5,000.  That race will be Saturday.

I also discovered today Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating (as usual) profile Alberto Salazar, "Alberto Salazar and the Art of Exhaustion," in The New Yorker.  He calls Salazar's memoir "absorbing."

Friday, August 3, 2012

De Gustibus, or Fiction for All Kinds of Tastes


Here is my August column that appears in this weekend's The Catholic Post.  I invite your feedback.

Some years back, I wrote an opinion piece for The Catholic Post about the then red-hot Twilight books, comparing them to junk food; not going to kill you, but not the bedrock of a healthy imagination.  I even offered some fun and soul-nourishing alternatives.

“You are what you read” still is my main media consumption rule, for individuals and especially for families. 

But to extend the food analogy, I’m not a paleo/vegan/low-carb/raw foods/gluten-free /this-month’s-hot-diet-fad absolutist.   You won’t hear me advocating for the non-existent Jane Austen “immersion diets” or St. Francis de Sales “detoxes.”.  Book-wise, I’m a flexitarian.

Let me explain by way of a great Latin expression, “de gustibus non disputandum est,” translating roughly as “there’s no arguing personal taste.”  Your favorite ice cream is strawberry, and mine is mint chocolate chip? De gustibus.  You’re a Bronte fan and I’m really, really not? De gustibus.  When it comes to books or food, there’s a lot of variety, and one person’s favorite might be another’s strong aversion. 

I don’t mean that anything goes—some books (and movies, etc.) really are poison, and need to be avoided by everyone.  And some people have particular sensitivities to books (like some do with certain foods) that might be especially harmful or helpful.

 Being mindful of what keeps you healthy, media-wise, is a great idea at any age.

That still leaves tons of great reading of all kinds for enjoyment and edification.   Consider fiction to be in the “nourishing treats” category—more chocolate than broccoli (not that there’s anything wrong with broccoli).    Here’s hoping some of these excellent recent releases will agree with your “gustibus.”

For adults and young adults:

Catholic Philosopher Chick Makes Her Debut by Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Regina Doman is a smart new read.  It would be best for college-age and young adults, but this middle-aged mom thoroughly enjoyed racing through this fun, fashion-y, and yes, philosophical novel.

The characters in Catholic Philosopher Chick are lovably annoying and well-drawn.  The healthy but “real” friendships between the young women feel especially true, and the plot moves along quickly.  My only dislike of this book is that a few characters smoke (occasionally).  For someone who hates smoking as I do, it seems unnecessary.

Shadows and Images: A Novel by Meriol Trevor is available in a handsome new edition by Ignatius Press.  Trevor was a prolific British author of novels for adults and children.  She’s also known for her careful biography of Blessed John Cardinal Newman, and this novel covers Newman’s time and new Catholics during that era.

I’m the kind of person who learns more about history through stories, so historical fiction is a favorite for me.  This novel brings Newman, the Catholic Church, and the Britain of that time, alive through the story of a young couple. 

Before Shadows and Images, I knew Trevor mostly as a Newman biographer and as a children’s book author, as youth publisher Bethlehem books has re-published a few of her excellent children’s novels.  Now I want to discover more of her grown-up fiction.

For the younger crowd:

*The Tripods Attack! By John McNichol, is first in the Young Chesterton Chronicles series.  This novel imagines G.K. Chesterton as a down-on-his-luck teenager, with friends fending off a Martian attack in a science fiction/Edwardian England. 

That description might sound pretty wild to those not familiar with steampunk, the fiction sub-genre that mashes Jules Verne-style fashion and “technology” with fantasy and science fiction, but it’s truly a refreshing summer read.  I know some Chesteron purists would scoff, but if GK himself wrote his The Man Who Was Thursday as a steampunk novel for teenagers, The Tripods Attack! just might be the result.

*The Kindgom of Patria series by Daniel McInerny (available only as e-books, from the usual outlets like Amazon and the excellent "Kingdom of Patria" website).  You’ll notice that I didn’t use the word “quirky” in reviewing The Tripods Attack!  That’s because I was waiting to use this adjective more perfectly to describe McInerny’s, yes, “quirky” and loveable Patria kingdom, and the children and stories that inhabit it.

I asked my 11-year-old daughter to pre-read first in the series for me.  She loved it, so I asked her to give me a mini-review.  She wrote:  “Stout Hearts and Whizzing Biscuits is a fantastical tale about a small kingdom named Patria in the middle of the USA. Warning: If you do not like absolute silliness and utter fun, this book is not for you!”

It’s obvious that she does enjoy “utter fun” in a book, and if you have a middle-grade child who likes it as well, The Kingdom of Patria would be a great choice.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

First, What are You Reading, Volume 24: The Quotable Edition

Here are my answers to the four questions I ask on the first of each month:
first, what are you reading?
what do you like best about it?
what do you like least?
what's next on your list to read? 

As always, I hope you'll consider your current reads on your blog and/or sharing here in the comments or on Facebook.  Happy reading!

First, what are you reading?  

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Also, Magic for Marigold, a lesser-known novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

What do you like best about them?

I’m re-reading the great Tolkein books to and with our 9-year-old son.  I’m not sure our family will be seeing the movie version of The Hobbit when it comes out at Christmastime (, but I want our family to be introduced to the real books before seeing any movie versions.   I haven’t seen the movie versions of The Lord of the Rings since they were out in the theater many years ago, when my kids were far too small to see them.  I’m not really sure if I’m ready for them to see those movies, but we are definitely becoming a more Tolkein-aware house at the moment.

The Hobbit has so many great quotes, I want to keep running for my iPhone (where I keep quotes these days) while I’m reading it aloud.  Because it’s usually downstairs “docked” for the evening, I don’t get to do so, and I want to remedy that somehow.  Maybe I’ll just have to keep a pen and index card with me.  Here’s one that I wish I could find a way to put up somewhere in our house:  

It’s the description of Elrond’s house, (also known as the Last Homely House), where the dwarves and Bilbo have their last respite before heading towards their dangerous adventures:

“His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.  Evil things did not come into that valley.”

My other favorite quote would have to be the frequent times when Bilbo thinks something along the lines of “Not for the first time did Bilbo wish he were back in his tidy hobbit-hole.” 

Magic for Marigold is a sweet story about a girl being raised by an eccentric assortment of relatives, and her adventures.  My favorite quote here is at the end of an exchange between Marigold and her melancholic mother.

“’I don’t think you were a coward at all, dearest.  You were very brave to go right on when you were so afraid—and keep going on.’

‘If I could have picked my mother I’d have picked you,’ whispered Marigold.”

What do you like least about them?

The Hobbit is just great through and through; there’s everything to like and love about this classic.

Though I hate to admit it, there is a reason that Magic for Marigold is not well-known. It’s not the best of LM Montgomery’s work—it’s more an assortment of vignettes than a cohesive story.  Still, the characters are loveable and it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read.  It’s especially worthwhile for Anne of Green Gables lovers, or young people who might want a fun summer read.

What’s next on your list to read?

Our family is recently back from vacation with extended family, and I have a lot of great suggestions from my siblings of good recent reads.  I’ve got a lot of library requests in at the moment.

So, what are you reading these days?  Any books you would like to share?