Pumpkin Patchin’ It Up!

The kids and I visited a local pumpkin patch yesterday with some of my amazing girlfriends.

My son of course found the biggest pumpkin he could find. (Guys, I paid $20 for a pumpkin.🤦🏻‍♀️) They’re only a kid with big pumpkin wishes once though, right?

My daughter was more sensible with her pumpkin selection. (Thank you for the photo Keisha.😉)

Do you like to visit your local farms? This is pretty much heaven to me.

Xoxo,

Rach

A Book Review: Rulers & Mages

Author Daley Downing was kind enough to send me an EARC (early advanced reader copy) of the second installment of her series, The Order of the Twelve Tribes, Rulers and Mages.

I was a major fan of Downing’s first book, Masters and Beginners and was won over again with Rulers and Mages. Mystery, magic, drama, and love abounds!

I greatly enjoyed that Downing wrote a series with teenagers who only rebel when they must, and show respect for themselves and their family. Downing proved it is entirely possible to hold a reader’s attention without sex, drugs, profanity, etc. This quality alone makes her stand apart from other YA authors of her time. For this reason, I hold her writing in high esteem, but that’s not the only reason I will keep reaching for more books from this series.

Downing’s characters are distinct and well created. I especially appreciate the fact that she included diversity in her characters, including two with autism. Through her characters, Downing taught me a lot about autism. We need more “own voices” in our literature to promote inclusion and understanding in our society. Downing did a fantastic job at that.

With all of the above-mentioned, wonderful qualities, Rulers and Mages was also a very well-written and thoroughly enjoyable progression of The Twelve Tribes story. I’m excited to pass this series to my own children when they are old enough to read.

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Please take a moment to check out Downing’s website, The Invisible Moth.  Her posts are very informative about the publishing and author world. I’m always so impressed by Downing’s thoroughness in her writing, whether it’s her blog or her book series.

-Rachel McKee

Magic: Age Isn’t Relevant

People of all ages love books about magic. (I also understand that people of all ages dislike books about magic.) Today we will focus on the former, and not the latter.

I remember when publishers redesigned the Harry Potter books to look more “mature”. I picture a man in a business suit, hunkered down with The Sorcerer’s Stone. On his way to close a multi-million dollar deal. Hat pulled low, in an airplane seat, giving the person next to him the side-eye, praying they don’t recognize what he’s reading.

Pardon the digression.

Anyway, I was just sitting here thinking about why adults continue to love fiction and magic. Here is what I came up with.

Escapism

Escapism is an appealing part of magic for everyone. Living in a world where there is still so much to discover. We can leave our assignments and jobs behind and live through the characters. How wonderful is that?

Possibilities

In magical realms there is an abundance of possibilities. Many of the rules from our world go out the window: gravity, time, travel, death, etc. In the magical realm anything is possible, but that’s not to say these worlds are without rules. As we know, there are still always rules to be broken. The rules in the magical realm are exciting, but they aren’t OUR rules.

Innocence

Innocence may be the strongest driving factor for adults who read books cpntaining magic. For those of us that still peak a little further into the back of a closet, or poke our heads into the attic, or who still hold on to the tiny shred of hope that our invitation to Hogwarts is on the way, we are reluctant to let our innocence vanish.

In a world that feels uncertain, it’s comforting to allow ourselves to believe. Not only in the possibility of magic, but that people can rally a together and beat “the bad guy”. That the good guy CAN get the girl, and that maybe, when we are challenged, we too will rise.

What keeps you reaching for those books about magic?

-Rachel

Stranger Things Season One

A friend suggested I give the Netflix series, “Stranger Things” a try. I binge-watched season one in two days.

The 1980’s set tugged at my nostalgic heartstrings. Stranger Things had the unsettling ability to bring me back to childhood and give me the comforting feeling of friends, family, and games, while simultaneously creeping me out. There is something immensely satisfying about watching childhood friends fight “the bad guy”like watching a scenario you imagined in childhood coming to life.

Cover Image Found Here.

-Rachel

 

 

A Book Review: “Masters And Beginners”

I’ve followed Daley Downing’s blog “The Invisible Moth” for a long time. So I anticipated the release of her new book, “Masters And Beginners”. I was thrilled when she asked me to be an early reader.

You may recall my post from last week, where I explained that I was having a rough day and was delightfully surprised to receive a (bookish) package. Inside Daley thoughtfully sent some treasures and the most precious of them all: her new novel.

Here is the synopsis of Daley’s first book “Masters And Beginners” in her series “The Order Of The Twelve Tribes”:

“When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

You had me at magical artifacts, faeries, and talking cats.

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But, what I really admire about “Masters And Beginners” is the world that Daley has created. She makes you believe that your neighbor’s barn/shed/garage could house magical cats and fairy documentation. I love when stories combine our world with a magical twist.

I enjoyed reading a YA story where the protagonists came from a solid, loving family and get this, both parents were alive!

(What…the parents are still alive AND wonderful people?)

I know, it was shocking and thoroughly refreshing. As an adult and a mother, I felt a special pull towards the Driscoll parents. I’m glad Daley included them as much as she did in the series. Often in YA writing we never meet the parents or we are repulsed by their behavior.

The main protagonist (Sophie Driscoll) is an admirable, likeable  teen. I adore the close relationship she has with her two brothers, especially her older brother Flynn. There is a story-line of romance between a few of the teens in “The Order” (humans (mostly) who protect the fay’s existence and magical artifacts), but romance doesn’t run the story. Mostly these kids are smart, adjusting “Order” kids, who are trying to do their best.

The excitement and mystery moves quickly. Daley has really mastered the art of pacing her story. (I read the book in less than a week. I was hooked.)

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series. I want to learn more about the many intriguing side characters like: Sophie’s love interest, her mysterious neighbor, Alex. Her cousin Madison. Flynn’s love-interest Emma. Really I just want MORE. (I’m a greedy book dragon.)

I’m honestly just so impressed with the quality of this one-woman writing/editing/marketing team. I know Daley has worked incredibly hard to release her novel and I can’t tell you how inspired I am after reading “Masters And Beginners”.

If you would like to experience the magic yourself, you may purchase a copy of “Masters And Beginners” here.

Happy Reading,

Rachel

A Delightful (Bookish) Surprise: “Masters And Beginners” Has Arrived

I was having an off morning. My almost two-year-old woke up very early. That led to a series of meltdowns. My patience was running on “E”. I was feeling the guilt-soaked isolation that only a stay-at-home parent can feel.

Then I got a knock on my door and I heard the plunk of a package being set down.

I saw that it was from New York and I was thoroughly stumped.

I opened up the package and discovered two adorable baby blankets, two beautiful wooden boxes filled with treasures, and….

Daley Downing’s new book, Volume One: “Masters And Beginners” from her series,  “The Order Of The Twelve Tribes”.

Daley has a fantastic blog called The Invisible Moth. (I highly recommend you check it out, like right meow. Lots of cute cat pictures and details of Daley’s life as an author.)

My eyes filled with tears for the personal and thoughtful gifts that she sent and my book-dragon heart raced with excitement to read Daley’s book that I have been anticipating for months.

“Masters And Beginners” Summary: When Sophie Driscoll’s grandmother dies, her parents take over running the Annex, a warehouse facility that stores magical artifacts and documents proving, and protecting, the existence of faeries. Sophie and her brothers, Flynn and Cal, happily adjust to a new house, new friends, and a new way of living, joining the ranks of generations who have kept the fey and mortal realms separate for centuries. Before the first month of their new life is over, they’ll encounter romance, elves, talking cats, ancient secrets, and potentially lethal danger. What could possibly go wrong…

Please stay-tuned for a book review for “Masters And Beginners”. If you would like to participate in the discussion and support an incredibly talented indie author you can snag a copy of “Masters And Beginners” here.

Thank you Daley and all of the other wonderful bloggers who make this community the special place that it is. You save this mama’s sanity over and over again.

-Rachel

The Difference Between Gaston And Beast

We watched Beauty and the Beast last night in honor of the 25th anniversary and because we bought a new DVD player. This movie is a part of my childhood. Like baking cookies, swimming in the river, and jumping on the trampoline, I watched Beauty and the Beast with a zealous obsession.

The first time I watched Beauty and the Beast I must have been five or six-years-old. I was enchanted by the music, Belle’s passion for books, and I loved Beast. I knew Gaston was the bad guy, he was the villain. I thought that the moral of the story was to love someone based on who they were on the inside vs. what they looked like on the outside. Gaston was ugly on the inside and beautiful on the outside. Beast was ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. (I understand that these are objective statements, but I think we can agree that this was the allegory that Disney was going for when they created these characters.)

Watching the movie as an adult, the enchantment was still there, but it was accompanied by a critical eye. I was disturbed by the scene where Gaston proposes to Belle. Gaston stalked Belle across her living room and she made a point to keep furniture between the two of them. He pinned her against the front door and she squirms away to avoid his kiss. She was at his mercy. She was his prisoner.

While watching that scene as an adult, I realized that even my six-year-old self empathized with Belle. This scene made me uncomfortable as a young girl. I felt Belle’s fear and vulnerability in that moment.

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I then scrutinized Beast’s behavior and I thought why is he any better? Why did I not fear Beast the same way I feared Gaston? I had every reason to dislike him as much as I did Gaston. Beast imprisons kind, little old Maurice. He then keeps Belle prisoner. He shouts at her and bosses her around.

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Beast and Gaston were both really quite awful. They both wanted Belle for different selfish reasons. Gaston wanted a beautiful breeder wife. Beast wanted to use her to break the spell. Beast was Gaston and Gaston was Beast.

My interpretation and the moral of Beauty and the Beast just went up in flames. The foundation of my childhood just crumbled. Both “men” were ugly.

Well, we all know that Beast softens. He protected her from the wolves, gave her the most envy-inducing library, and he waltzed her around a stunning ballroom, but don’t forget that she was still his prisoner while all of this took place. (Belle may have showed signs of Stockholm syndrome when she didn’t jump on Phillip and ride away after the Beast was down after the wolf fight.)

Beast was Gaston before the spell was cast. He was Gaston when he turned the witch away who was disguised as a poor beggar woman. He was Gaston while he kept Belle prisoner. He thought the world owed him everything.

So what is the difference between Gaston and Beast? What is the actual moral of the story? REDEMPTION.

The major shift towards Beast’s redemption happened when he set Belle free and  sacrificed the chance to break the spell and regain his former life.

The second major act that showed his character change was the fight scene between Gaston and Beast. The fight was really an allegory to Beast’s inner struggle. By showing mercy to Gaston, he proved his redemption again. When Gaston falls to his death that same selfish part of Beast died with him. That was when Belle realized her love and the spell was broken.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on Beauty and the Beast and what the movie meant to you.

-Rachel McKee

Where Whispers Willow: A Book Review

I met Justin Blaney the author of  Where Whispers Willow, and he was kind enough to give me an early copy of his book when the title was still The Whispers Willow.

I admitted to him early on that I tend to shy away from poetry books. I prefer novels where the story feels epic and character development is crucial. I hadn’t given poetry a try in a long time, but I was excited to read Where Whisper Willows. Especially because I was experimenting with poetry myself.

Blaney was quick to explain from the beginning that he didn’t feel his writing was poetry, essay, or philosophical. He described his book as such:

“Verse, Prose, composition, expose ~ nothing quite fit. Until I stumbled on the word reverie. Reverie is a day dream. A musing. A single thought. This described, better than any other word, the scribbles I’d been jotting down.”

Where Whispers Willow was unlike any of the poetry books I remembered from school. It had character development, and a deep, thoughtful story. Each reverie was a single moment, but bound together, revealed the life of Blaney. So many emotions were portrayed in his writing. His eloquent musings were incredibly honest and true. Blaney’s knack for expressing universal thoughts through his own contemplation makes his writing relevant to everyone. His ability to reveal our own musings on life, death, love, and God makes Where Whispers Willow an emotional and deeply satisfying read.

I would like to leave you with one of my favorite reveries.

Reverie 8

what do souls look like?

how easy is it to tell the difference between the soul of a homeless man smelling of urine and shit, yelling at passers by

from the souls of those who pretend he doesn’t exist

what makes a soul’s stench?

what makes it beautiful?

are all souls born the same in their beauty or are some created with defect?

or do defects add something unique and precious?

can we artificially make our souls more beautiful with tattoos or plastic surgery?

are we all soft somewhere deep inside or can we make ourselves permanently and unchangeable hard?

what do souls sound like?

do they bounce about and twirl when happy?

do they puddle when sad?

are some more talented, gifted, luckier, richer, born with better genes?

or is it in our souls that we are truly equal?

You can download a free version of Where Whispers Willow here. Or if you prefer a paperback version, you can purchase one here.

Top 10 Titles for Toddlers (Chosen By My Toddler)

Have you ever been shopping for a baby shower or a first birthday and thought to yourself, I want to buy the little one a book, but which one? Fortunately there are thousands of baby books out there, but my son will tell you, not all children’s books are created equal. Children are fickle, but no with their literature. My son is loyal to his favorite titles. He carries them around with him, and flips through their pages repetitiously. He implores me to read these books over and over again.

A toddler will also let you know quickly if the book is not his cup of milk. Mine will turn on his diapered bum and ignore me if I read him a story that is not from his “favorite” list.

Here are ten children’s books that have been proven tried and true by my toddler.

  1. “A Baby Is Born” by Melanie Zanoza bartelme (Author), Steve Whitlow (Illustrator)
  2. “Little Owl’s 1 2 3” by Divya Srinivasan (Author, Illustrator)
  3. “Red Truck” by Kersten Hamilton (Author) Valeria Petrone (Illustrator)
  4. Moby Dick: A BabyLit® Ocean Primer (BabyLit Books) by Jennifer Adams (Author) Alison Oliver (Illustrator)
  5. “On The Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman (Author, Illustrator)
  6. “Barnyard Dance” by Sandra Boynton (Author, Illustrator)
  7. “How Do I Love You?” by  P. K. Hallinan (Author, Illustrator)
  8. “Little Blue Truck” Alice Schertle (Author) Jill McElmurry (Illustrator)
  9. “In My Jungle” Sara Gillingham (Author) Lorena Siminovich (Illustrator)
  10.  “I Love You Through and Through” by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak (Author) and Caroline Jayne Church (Illustrator)

The best part about this list, is that you can find all of these books on Amazon. I hope this makes baby shopping a little easier for you.

Love & Cheers,

Rachel McKee

 

Me Being IS EXACTLY AS INSANE AS You Being You: A Book Review

Darren hasn’t had an easy year.

There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.

Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.

Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:

1. painful
2. unavoidable
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.

The theme of this novel that really stuck with me was the family unit breaking apart. A pivotal point in your life is when you realize that your family unit consisting of you, your siblings (if you have any), and your parents will lead separate lives. If you are the one who had a harder time grasping that concept, then I think you can relate to Darren.  I had a hard time with my parents divorcing and my older brother leaving for the military, I felt abandoned and alone. I don’t blame anyone for moving on with their lives and finding their own way, but it was fucking tough for me.

At one point in the novel Darren is talking to his older brother Nate and Nate tells him a story about being lost as a young boy when Darren was still a baby. Nate explains when his parents found him,

“Eventually, of course, they found me. And they were freaking out, crying, and pretty much hyperventilating, especially Mom, who was wearing you in that baby carrier they used to have. She hugged me, just smothered me, with your legs dangling in my face. And I was glad to see Mom and Dad, relieved I guess, because I knew living by myself was going to be hard. But, I don’t know, I as mostly thinking , Okay , that was some kind of test and I passed it, because I had to, I could be okay on my own. You were literally tied to Mom, but I was surviving on my own; that’s how I felt then.” Nate continues to explain to Darren that he figured out at a much earlier age than Darren that eventually your parents leave and you must learn to adjust and make it on your own.

As a teen you really start to see your parents as the individuals they were before they became your parents. They don’t work as hard to keep the image of innocence alive for their children. How would they ever help us grow and prepare for the “real” world if we didn’t get to see them as flawed humans? Their defects allow us to forgive ourselves when we make similar mistakes as adults.

I had a wonderful time reading this novel. With each scenario Darren comes closer to finding himself, and ultimately walks away from the family chaos and begins life as an adult.

I highly recommend this book.

Happy reading,

♥R♥