Mysteries of History Part Three: Roanoke

October 8, 2020 at 11:30 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The world is full of things we’ll never know and one thing I do know is that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.

As a child, the story of Roanoke was glossed over in history classes. It maybe earned itself a whole paragraph in a textbook… The colonists disappeared, most likely they were either slaughtered or absorbed by Native tribes. End of story. Now let’s talk about Jamestown and Pocahontas.

Wait, what?! That’s it!?

Jane Yolen’s picture book Roanoke addresses all the theories and just how big a mystery it actually is quite nicely, which I appreciate for my kid. At least she’s been given a bigger bit of bait than I had at that age. As a lifetime sucker for anything written by Jean Fritz, we’re also reading The Lost Colony together, it’s longer and one usually tackled by slightly older kids whereas Yolen’s picture book can be read in one sitting.

As far as information and writing style go, I prefer Jean Fritz––every time––and especially this time. Jean Fritz is my go to for all kids and young adult history books. We have a pretty extensive Fritz collection and still aren’t close to owning all the author’s work. I was so pleased to add The Lost Colony to our library, which in addition to beautiful illustrations, included all the most recent theories (as of 2001) and a summarization of Lee Miller’s Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.

I read Lee Miller’s book and found it completely enthralling. As a homeschool family, we pick up and take our studies pretty much everywhere, and the week of Roanoke we had the luxury of spending on the Atchafalaya Basin. The only thing that could have been more perfect would have been if we had been in the Virginia and North Carolina swamps and beaches instead of the Louisiana ones––but the ambiance for the unraveling of a sixteenth century crime was perfect.

The book truly had me on the edge of my seat, due largely because of content. The writing style, which annoyed many reviewers on Goodreads, was superfluous at times, but I got the sense that it was the genuine excitement of the author jumping full swing into storytelling mode. I find the premise she suggested not only possible, but plausible based on her presentation of evidence. It’s a great book to read to get a big picture view of both sides of the pond when it comes to early American history. Too many books seem to focus on the colonies or Europe, but rarely truly show what is happening on both sides of the globe at the same time during the era.

Miller brings everything back to Elizabeth I’s Spymaster, so naturally I had to find out if her claims could be substantiated. Up next, my findings in Stephen Budiansky’s Her Majesty’s Sypmaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage.

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Mysteries of History, Part Two: The Americas

October 5, 2020 at 1:58 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

From what I can tell from Felipe Fernández-Armesto’s Goodreads biography and résumé, the man is half journalist and half historian. Perhaps, that’s why I enjoyed his writing. He’s perhaps a better journalist than any writing for the papers these days (always pointing out his own biases rather than writing opinion pieces as fact) and keeps his research assignments to the point instead of meandering in and out of his feelings (which I’ve noticed modern-day scholars doing a lot of lately). I could be wrong about him as a whole, he has a rather lengthy list of books and I have only read two of them. But what I have read, I have loved.

The Americas: A Hemispheric History has an average star rating of 3.25 on Goodreads. I gave it 5 stars. Most of the complaints seem to be that he’s not a specialist in his field and wrote too general a book––which I found incredible that he took so much history and covered it so well in two hundred pages––or, that he used words and language people didn’t understand (apparently, if you’re a journalist, you’re doomed to two syllable words forever?). The book did tackle a very broad scope of history and condensed it to a cozy mystery length, but the fact that he did it without missing major broad strokes, still telling the stories of the North and South Americas without skipping things your average high school student should know about this hemisphere but rarely does… I found it impressive.

By no stretch of the imagination is The Americas an end all be all. It is a jumping off point for people who love to learn. It’s a book that identifies all the major players textbooks are required to mention, and a few they fail to, during the times of exploration and conquest. He poses a few philosophical questions about viewpoints so you know when there is a conflict of perspective so you can go forth and research from there. There are many things Fernández-Armesto says that I don’t entirely agree with, but I liked that he made his biases clear and actually referred to them as biases. I would much rather read differing viewpoints and discuss topics outside of an echo chamber than not, but I also greatly appreciate when people are able to step back and say, this is my bias rather than infer that anything coming from their mouth (or pen) is a universal truth simply because that’s how they feel.

For instance, for a historian, Fernández-Armesto seemed to articulate a very laid back view of how all history is just a matter of perspective, not fact. This made for great storytelling, as he presents all sides of a situation, but as a Christian and self-taught scholar, I do believe in the existence of universal truths. I believe modern society as a misguided view on which things are universal truths/ facts and which are not due to the hot button phrase “my truth.” I tell my kiddo, having empathy for someone’s perspective, understanding where they are coming from and how they got the ideas they have, does not make their ideas correct. Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, and those who do are doomed to watch everyone else repeat it, but I’d still rather go through the world with my eyes wide opened. I still want to go through the world with an ear that hears.

Maybe that’s why I find Fernández-Armesto’s writing style approachable and easy, when others have not. He doesn’t say all the politically correct things. He doesn’t perpetuate the required narrative, but shares the facts he has collected along with his own ideas (and is very clear about what are ideas). I pick his books up when I’m starting an in-depth study as an armchair book to whet my appetite for the topic. I’d recommend this particular one as a pre-requisite title before diving into source documents. I ordered a couple books he cited as I was reading, and even more as I read his bibliographical essay at the end of the book. I love that style of works cited. Is it a professional format used by scholars? No. Is it fantastic for a people in their homes wanting to know what books the author read to come to the conclusions he did? Yes. And honestly, how often do you get a chance to read someone’s bibliography for pleasure?

I’m excited, as always, to know more today than I did yesterday… and more tomorrow than today. I’m excited, as always, to find out all the things I don’t know, and learn them––only, of course, to find I don’t know even more things. I think this is why I “eat history for breakfast,” as a friend of mine once said, because I’m a detective always on the hunt for information, so I can understand the world God made a little better.

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Mysteries of History, Part One

October 3, 2020 at 7:35 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of the misconceptions of homeschooling is that one or both parents are doing ALL the teaching. Sometimes that’s true. But most of what homeschooling is about is the power and ability for the parent to pick and choose resources (including other teachers/tutors). As much as I love teaching history, this year history instruction became a duty I chose to share with another mom in our homeschooling group. The beauty of the heaviest portion of the kiddo’s history lessons being taught by someone else on a specific day is that it leaves me more time to read additional books that cover the same topics the kids are studying. The downside is, we’ve changed gears a little and are studying a different time frame than I initially planned. The good is outweighing the bad.

At home, we had cycled back through the American Revolution and I was pumping up to spend most of our spring semester on the Civil War. As we started the Fall semester, however, our “Early American History” course reset our timeline back to the Vikings and we kickstarted the year with Eric the Red and Norse Mythology to lay a foundation for the earliest known explorers and their encounters with the early Native Americans.

One of the fun things about studying history, is studying also the evolution of history, science, and mythology while you’re at it. We got to watch some neat documentaries on Norse Explorers and how for a long time people didn’t believe that Leif Ericson had ever actually touched North American soil, but archeology has a way of uncovering truth… and sometimes additional mysteries. As students of history, our job is to remember that education is a lifetime pursuit and keep digging (sometimes literally) for answers.

During the first half of this semester we also studied the Spanish explorers. Naturally, we covered Amerigo Vescpucci (I read Felipe Fernández-Armesto‘s biography earlier this year and loved it) and Columbus, of course. Kiddo did a presentation on Vasco Nuñez de Balboa after reading multiple books about explorers and conquest. While she was preparing her speech (my husband helped her wrap her horseback riding helmet in foil so we could add a plume and make it conquistador armor for visual aid upon her head), I read up on Cabeza de Vaca.

A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca has been on my shelf for awhile now. I knew I wanted to read it, I just wasn’t sure when. I’d read his journals before, and when reading Reséndez’s chronicle of the journey, I realized I actually had two copies of the source document. The copies of Cabeza de Vaca’s journals I have are at least different publishers, so I don’t feel entirely ridiculous. I do enjoy perusing annotations and notes in addition to devouring primary sources.

Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (and yes, his family name was Cow’s Head, due to a his ancestor placing a cow skull in a strategic place during a battle against the Moors) is considered the first historian of Texas by some. A journey to explore Florida quickly became a survival story full of starvation, slavery, building Native American relations, and faith healings.

I gave Reséndez’s book four stars on Goodreads when I logged it as read. It’s fascinating stuff, but I did find it a tad too easy to set down. It’s definitely an account worth having on any armchair historian’s shelf, though, and I will definitely hold onto my copy.

After that I jumped into The Riddle of the Compass: The Invention that Changed the World. I put Amir D. Aczel’s work on par with Dava Sobel’s and would happily hand this amusing piece of scientific history in the hands of any upper middle to early high school student. It reads a bit like a memoir of discovery as Aczel traipses around Europe trying to uncover who actually invented the compass and reveals some “truths” to be delightful legends and fabrication. Realistically, I wouldn’t call this book scholarly, and it has some poor reviews where people have lamented that fact, but I did find it great fun and would have gladly participated in this research adventure pre-publication. I secretly just want to chat up old Italian men in dank out of the way libraries. Reliving Aczel’s research trip would be a fabulous vacation, because, after all, our education is a lifetime pursuit and also our favorite past-time.

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Winter with Dogs (and Cats)

March 23, 2020 at 10:28 pm (Education, Obituaries, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

With the arrival of Disney+ came the magic of Willem Dafoe as the infamous Leonhard Seppala, musher who put in the most miles during the Serum Run of Nome, Alaska. As a homeschool parent I have the luxury to put aside some school books to build educational unit studies on a whim. We spent weeks on sled dogs and illnesses, tundra and survivalism in harsh weather.

Kiddo read the Dog Diaries book featuring Togo. I read The Cruelest Miles by Gay and Laney Salisbury (phenomenal) as well as a novel called Dead Run by Michael Caruss (pretty good). We watched the movie together. We became smitten with a beautiful picture book by Robert J. Blake.

All the while our own dog was dying. We said goodbye to him as we ended our dogsled reading binge. Our best boy who was the greatest protector we’ve ever had. Named after Tahmoh Penikett’s character Karl C. Agathon on the Battlestar Galactica, Helo, our Siberian husky-pit bull-German Shepherd lived up to his name. Handsome, loving, and always ready to defend us from any threat, I’ve never had a better dog.

“Any man can make friends with any dog but it takes a long time and mutual trust and mutual forbearance and mutual appreciation to make a partnership. Not every dog is fit to be partner with a man; nor every man, I think, fit to be partner with a dog.” – Archdeacon Hudson Stuck

Helo was my greatest partner in getting my kiddo from age one to nine. I trained him to stay with her, he trailed her as she played in the yard and on playgrounds. He slept in the threshold of our doors, guarding us from the outside world as we dreamed. He loved his ball. He could never have been a sled dog like Balto and Togo, he neither had the build or the heart for it, too barrel chested for his smaller legs to support for long distances (he had a hard time keeping up with his mother who despite being much smaller could outrun him in speed and duration), but he was perfect for the job he was given: preserve and protect us from all threats.

Through all this studying of harsh winters, learning about famous dogs, and burying ours (he was nine)… we had the warmest winter I can remember in a long time and many, many cats…

Well, caterpillars.

Living in the lower coastal plains region of Texas means we have some tropical tendencies sweeping up from the Gulf of Mexico. It also means Monarch butterflies! We’ve raised quite a few in our pollinator garden, have ordered books, and plan to study them more in depth as we observe them more regularly through various seasons. The photos below are all from this winter.

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The Small & The Invisible

August 16, 2019 at 11:59 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

Title: Dust

Author: Joseph A. Amato

Publisher: University of California Press

Length: 250 pages

I work at a used bookstore and am constantly confounding my co-workers with my eclectic taste in books. I like histories of things, biographies of objects, anthropomorphizing of trees and plants and bugs. Honestly, the weirder and more obscure, the better. So imagine everyone’s excitement when this came in… and the universal proclamation that Andi needed to see it.

When I think of dust, immediately three specific things come to mind:

  1. My older sister singing “Dust in the Wind” in our living room, circa 1994. There were choreographed dramatic arm motions worthy of Michael Bolton and Whitney Houston. It was a very serious affair. I’m not sure Kansas even took this song as seriously as my sister did. Her hair was way better, though.
  2. My fiancé and his dust mite allergies.
  3. Watching the speckles float past my window as a child when I was still tucked in my bed, but the sun was beating down hard through the panes. I imagined they were fairies, as I’m sure every child does.

Needless to say, my co-workers were right, I was VERY excited about this book. And it started out wonderfully, so promising! There were even a smattering of beautiful illustrations of small creatures known to reside in dust, which is right up my alley. Then it derailed into theories and modern commentary on germs and such, seemingly to reach a word count. I’d rather read science than political and social commentary.

Overall, I enjoyed it, but the conclusion went on far longer than necessary. Where I started the book excited and engaged, I ended it bored, with a sigh of relief.

That being said, if I ever wrote a nonfiction piece even half so interesting, I’d probably be pretty pleased with myself. I hope, regardless of my opinion, that Joseph A. Amato is pleased with himself – and I don’t say that lightly or sarcastically. He is a professor of Intellectual and Cultural History, so it is most appropriate that his book took the turn that it did, but I was still hoping for more of something a microbiologist would write.

I have in my possession a first edition hardback in near mint condition that I do plan to keep. I find the size and marketing of the book quite lovely, and the pages are high quality and the best texture. It is the little things I appreciate most, and for this title specifically I find that pleasingly appropriate.

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Back to School…

August 14, 2019 at 4:25 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Well, actually, we never left.

History in the hammock.

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King’s List

August 6, 2019 at 5:20 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As a classical homeschool mom, I encounter many lists, I don’t always remember their sources, and often I add to them. One list is my “Chronological Order of People to Cover,” scrawled out in a yellow, college-ruled, spiral notebook that I picked up for some ridiculously inexpensive price (11 cents sounds about right) at a school supply clearance sale post Labor Day. There’s a sloppy box around my ineloquent title, and my initial attempt at writing neatly at the top of the page, beginning with:

“Cheops, pharaoh of Egypt 2700-2675 BC

epic Gilgamesh legend by 2600 BC, written 2100

Hammurabi 1750 BC

Hatshepsut 1480 BC

Tutankhamen 1355 BC…

the list goes on, until I reach King David 1000 BC”

King David is often skipped over when you consult secular lists, after all he’s not just known as the King of the Israelites, he’s the scrawny kid on the felt boards in your Sunday School class who killed a giant with a slingshot.

It’s true that those most interested in King David’s existence would be those studying Judaism or Christianity, as there are not many references to his historical presence outside those sources. But it is also interesting that he appears in the Quran, as well as the Tel Dan Stele, a stone with Aramaic writings regarding the battle history and reign of King Hazel from the 840’s. In Hazael’s account of his rule and victories, he includes an account of having killed a man of the House of David.

I love history. I love archeology. Maybe one day I’ll do more with these loves than read a lot of books, maybe not. But this bit of history found on a basalt stone is enough for me to remember that the history of God’s chosen people is a history worth studying by all people, whether you believe in religion or not. The Old Testament, archeology, all of these things are stories and evidence that point to the good news of Jesus Christ and why He’s available for ALL people to accept. All of these people are relevant pieces to the giant web of life and affect religion and politics today.

During my separation from my ex-husband I read a Beth Moore study called David: 90 Days with a Heart Like His. It was my first Beth Moore study, despite being from the bible belt of Houston. I found it comforting, captivating even. During my latest revival of the ancient history cycle with my kiddo, I read David: A Man of Passion & Destiny by Charles R. Swindoll and I found it both theologically and spiritually educational.

Beth Moore’s study, as you can imagine, goes into all the great things we think about David. All the things that truly help us see why he was called a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll does a better job of addressing his sins, the parts of him that make us wonder how this man could possibly be considered a man after God’s own heart. Swindoll addresses what a non-believer might get hung up on: David was a warlord, adulterer, possibly a rapist (depending on how you view the story of Bathsheba), he wasn’t a great father, he had many wives and his household fell to shame and scandal more than once. But David always got back up again. He always repented of his sin, looked to the Lord, and asked how to fix it.

As a history enthusiast, my immediate reaction is to find more sources and do more research on this man. I know his heart, as presented by the bible and Christian commentaries, but I want to know his world. Naturally I made some requests from the library and pulled out a few choice titles from my boxes of ancient history books… yes, boxes – plural – of ancient history books, that I own. I have a bit of a book problem and a perpetually insatiable curious mind. However, I’m still lacking the focus to choose one particular thing to study, fancy degrees, and access to fabulous antiquarian documents.

First up, Robert Alter’s Ancient Israel. I invite you to join me, if you’re interested.

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Education is a Lifetime Pursuit

May 31, 2019 at 3:36 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

“Education is a lifetime pursuit.” I tell my daughter this constantly. It is our household motto, so much so, I would not doubt if I had already posted something with the same title before. I even hope that my readers already have read this phrase.

I am a homeschool mother. I am, in the deepest parts of my soul, a teacher. I always have been, and have been overzealous about it since I discovered the classical model. What I have loved about the classical model most is the ease in which I can continue my own education while I educate my daughter. She memorizes facts and dates in the grammar stage and not only do we supplement with rich literature to help her remember, but I get to pluck out related reading material for myself. Individually, I learn and teach the classical model… as a household, we are constantly involved in “unit studies” that are structured chronologically throughout history.

While she was memorizing history sentences about Christopher Columbus, the Pilgrims, and eventually the colonists dumping tea into the Boston Harbor, I was reading Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon.

First published in 1983, Changes in the Land is the earliest book I know of written directly about environmental history, not part of a political movement. Everything I’ve read published prior to this book are either beautiful transcendentalist nature essays (Emerson, Thoreau, Bronson Alcott, etc.), geological science books (Lyell, Stenson, etc.), or solely activist tree-hugger type stuff. In fact, I think it paved the way for books like the one I read recently (and thoroughly enjoyed) while she learned about the gold rush called Hard Road West: History and Geology along the Gold Rush Trail, whose author also crossed genres by highlighting the land, and all the things that make it what it is and the men who mar it, as the main character in the book’s story.

The biggest thing the two books have in common, for me, is at the end of each I thought, “This must be required reading for high school students.” After all, how do you learn history of a place without comprehending the blood, sweat, and tears, that was shed on it and ALL the reasons why, not the just the wars, but trails cut, deforestation, farms, dustbowls, mining… and not just focus on what it did to the people, but what it did to the land and how all that affects us today. Books like these are a beautiful marriage of history, social science, science, and more.

I love finding these gems as I sort through piles and piles of potential reading material, planning out lengthy lists of things to shape my kiddo’s mind. I love that my mind is also being shaped. I love that I am 35 and never done studying. I love that, in addition to growing my relationship with Jesus Christ and my daughter, education is my lifetime pursuit.

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The Reading Life – Hurricane Harvey to Now

April 29, 2018 at 3:35 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It’s been 8 months since Hurricane Harvey swept the Gulf, the flood gates of Conroe were opened post-storm, and our house was overtaken by 13-14 inches of water. We’ve done a lot of moving around, renovation, and – of course – reading.

Martin Luther: The Great Reformer – J.A. Morrison

Studying Martin Luther with my first grader was pretty interesting. Knowing enough about your denomination to explain it to an inquisitive seven year old is harder than I thought it would be. There are many things we do that we might not know why we do until we really dive into the history behind them, and celebrating Reformation Day on October 31st was definitely more exciting after having gotten to know Martin Luther a little bit better. Morrison’s biography is designed for middle grade readers, so it’s actually great as a read aloud to an elementary age student. Morrison also included sheet music for a hymn written by Luther, which fell in nicely to our tin whistle practices during the holidays.

Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) – Sarah J. Maas

Sarah J. Maas has become a guilty pleasure of mine. Assassins, fairies, War… yes, please. Naturally, there’s a romance because strong female leads can’t seem to exist without a love interest, but she rarely gets graphic enough to make me blush. The series is slated for young adult, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable handing them to anyone under sixteen.

Jorie and the Gold Key – A.H. Richardson

We are loving the Jorie series. So far we have read Jorie and the Magic Stones and its sequel Jorie and the Magic Key. Kids who are into Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or the Wrinkle in Time series should enjoy Richardson’s fun little saga. The books remind me most of The Last of the Really Great Wangdoodles. We can’t wait to read the next installment.

Tales of Pixie Hollow – Kiki Thorpe, Laura Driscoll

Kiddo is a huge Tinker Bell fan, and these stories never let her down. They are a fairly easy going chapter book series, tie into the well beloved movies (available on Netflix), and are beautifully illustrated in the typical Disney style. We will eventually read them all, but this year have only tackled the first 9 or so.

Will I Ever Be Free of You? – Karyl McBride

As its subtitle states, this book is a self help title to aid in navigating a divorce from a narcissist. I needed it, found it helpful, and am glad I read it.

1066: The Year of the Conquest – David Howarth

I absolutely love history books the length of a a novella. Dive in, get to the heart of the information, and move on. Howarth does this nicely with 1066, it is short and sweet, but an extremely detailed account of one year in history that changed everything. It should be on every high school student’s required reading list.

Nooks & Crannies – Jessica Lawson

Could a young adult novel be more fun and reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes?! I adored this. So did kiddo. We definitely both got a little more than choked up at the end and we look forward to more books from Lawson, she is both clever and gifted – like her main character.

Peter the Great – Diane Stanley

This children’s picture book is a great addition to any homeschool mom’s library, especially for history lovers. We read it for fun, and now that we are studying Peter the Great in our actual history lessons we are pretty impressed with how thoroughly Stanley wrote the great Czar’s story. Her entire account is quite memorable and we’re pleased to own a copy.

The History of the Medieval World – Susan Wise Bauer

As I teach my kiddo, I’m trying to keep up in my own studies as well. After all, Education is a lifetime pursuit. Bauer presents the history of the world fabulously for young students in her Story of the World series, but is also very efficient at the task for adults. I plan to use these books as core history “textbooks” when kiddo is high school aged, but for the most part they give me a glimpse into what I want to study in detail, pointing me to people and places I may never have known existed. They are great starting places for adult history students.

Twenty Shakespeare Children’s Stories: The Complete Collection Box Set – Shakespeare

Kiddo and sort of went on a Shakespeare binge this winter. We read all the stories, both in these chapter books designed for early readers, and in beautifully illustrated picture books. I highly recommend this set to keep on hand so that the stories of Hamlet and Macbeth, the confusion of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and the tragedy of Othello may always be a part of childhood memories.

Story of the World #2: The Middle Ages – Susan Wise Bauer

I honestly don’t know how I would homeschool without these books. Although we are currently a part of Classical Conversations, we look to Susan Wise Bauer for our day to day homeschooling structure. We love learning chronologically through history and kiddo is enthralled with these books. We recently acquired the entire set on audio as well and can’t wait to repeat each title as we repeat each “cycle” as per the Classical model.

The Five Love Languages of Children – Gary Chapman

If you have a kiddo and have never read up on love languages, this book is very helpful. I had read The Five Love Languages about twenty years ago and didn’t find the information for children all that unique, but it did help me relate to my child a little better and ask more pointed questions to ensure I wasn’t missing or misinterpreting how she receives love.

Adjustment Team – Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick just never gets old, and I love re-reading this old short, especially when I’m gearing up to re-watch the Matt Damon and Emily Blunt version titled Adjustment Bureau.

Eleanor of Aquitaine: A Life – Alison Weir

Alison Weir is one of my favorite biographers, and she didn’t fail me with this history of Eleanor’s time. There’s little known about Eleanor, so the biography is heavy with information about her family and the political world. It took me longer to read than her books usually do, but I still enjoyed it immensely.

The Double Life of Pocahontas – Jean Fritz

Jean Fritz is another must have for teachers and homeschool parents. We loved learning about the real Pocahontas and comparing her true life stories to those portrayed by Disney. Reality versus fantasy is always a riveting discussion topic in our house and Pocahontas offers a foundation for digging for truth in the half truths of legends.

Bloomin’ Tales: Legends of Seven Favorite Texas Wildflowers – Cherie Coburn

As a family, we tend to gravitate to legends, folklore, and fairy tales in our down time. We also spend half our time outside as eager amateur Naturalists and gardeners. Also, we’re Texas girls. Of course we love this book, of course! We were sold from the second we saw the cover.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Goldolphin Arabian – Marguerite Henry

Kiddo has been horseback riding for over two years now. It is P.E., it is diligence, it is empathy, it has become a cornerstone for everything in our lives. Naturally, we felt the need to highlight this in our reading lives and stumbled across a unit study prepared by Beautiful Feet. We pieced the titles they include in their study and lined them up chronologically to coincide with our existing school schedule as best we could. It’s a little off every now and then, but we’re learning the history of horses and the practices of keeping them along with our study of people. We also covered a lot of geography with this particular book as the Goldolphin Arabian made his way from Morocco to England. This was a childhood favorite of mine and I was so pleased to share it with my kiddo as well. I cried at the end, just like every other time I’ve read it. Marguerite Henry truly had a gift.

Anthem – Ayn Rand

The Fountainhead is one of my favorite books ever. That being said, I didn’t care for Anthem. I found it contrived, a tad annoying, and though the message was well presented, I wanted my hour and a half back.

Mistborn Series – Brandon Sanderson

When I met Brandon Sanderson while working Kevin J. Anderson’s booth at DragonCon in Atlanta, most my coworkers back in Houston were a little perturbed that I had gotten to bask in the glory of the most amazing fantasy writer of our day. I hadn’t read any of his work yet, so I admit it seemed a tad unfair. I’m glad I hadn’t read his books when I worked with him during his signing, it would have rendered me completely inarticulate, because I love the Mistborn series so much now. Finally diving in and reading them on my vacation was the best birthday present I could have given myself this year. If you haven’t read these yet, stop what you’re doing, and order them now. They are truly amazing.

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba, Angola Africa

How exciting it is to discover all these great female leaders of history. I was not familiar with Nzingha as a child and I’m excited that my kiddo has had the chance to discover her. We’re pretty smitten, and now when we’re practicing archery it’s not just Queen Susan from Narnia she pretends to be… sometimes she is Nzingha!

Black Beauty – Anna Sewell

Another childhood favorite. Another recommendation from Beautiful Feet. I cried over the last pages, Kiddo patted me. Oh goodness, sometimes I’m not sure who the books are for, but I am sure she is getting something out of them so I keep doing what I’m doing.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms – Amy Stewart

I have always enjoyed finding earthworms in my garden. My daughter and I tend to play with the worms and name them, both in the garden and when we go fishing. Amy Stewart propelled this love for the little Annelids further by being such a warm writer. I can’t wait to start my very own earthworm farm.

Madeleine Takes Command – Ethel C. Brill

Have I mentioned how much I love homeschooling? My kiddo is getting a rich and well rounded education and I’m learning so much too! Madeleine de Vercheres lived in Canada in the late 1600’s. This historical novel brings to life the events that made Madeleine famous: at fourteen she was left in command of Fort Vercheres, where her parents were stationed, and thwarted an attack by the native Iroquois.

The Earth Moves: Galileo and the Roman Inquisition – Dan Hofstadter

As kiddo was learning about Galileo and we began basic astronomy lessons, I wanted a deeper insight into the war between the Catholic church and the heliocentric view. I like these Great Discoveries books, and Hofstadter delivered exactly what was promised on the jacket blurbs, however it took me longer than anticipated to finish such a short book. It is well written, just too easy to put down. I’m still glad I read it, am happy to own it, and look forward to picking it apart with Kiddo when she is older.

Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers – Ralph Moody

A good friend recommended I read this out loud to Kiddo and I am so glad I listened. This is a new favorite, a must read for all, and we’re currently saving up to buy the complete series! I don’t know how I didn’t discover Ralph Moody sooner. Moody rivals Laura Ingalls Wilder and Mark Twain in my heart.

Niels Stensen: The Scientist Who Was Beatified – Hans Kermit

I constantly marvel at people who cannot understand my fascination for science as a field of study and my Christian faith. To me, those who think the two cannot coexist have not studied one or the other sufficiently. Niels Stensen is a comfort, an inspiration, and I’m certain if I had ever met the man in person I’d have been madly intrigued.

I Hope This Reaches Her in Time – R.H. Sin

Sometimes I am too tired to do much, but not ready for sleep. That’s when I read poetry, those moments between awake and dreamland. This particular collection is for Lang Leav and Rupi Kaur lovers.

If you wish to browse or order any of these books through Amazon, please click through my link here: https://amzn.to/2r72WPI

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Addleton Heights and GWP

December 12, 2016 at 6:52 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

15319117_1073863462722883_5887181406873428498_nI had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!

AddeltonHeights-Book.pngWho did the cover art? How did you find them?

God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.

I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.

Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.

Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?

That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.

How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?

Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)

I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.

I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.

How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?

First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.

Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.

cruel-devices-signingI love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller.  When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)

Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.

You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)

Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.

As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws.  She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.

I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.

Enter: Janae Nelson.  She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.

If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?

Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).

The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.

ah-mapYou’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go.  But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights  – is there a continuing series in our futures?

Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.

How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?

By contacting my publisher, Grey Gecko Press (www.greygeckopress.com) or by visiting www.georgewpadgett.com

Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
GWP

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George’s steampunk detective masterpiece releases 12/13/16. Order your copy online from www.amazon.com , www.barnesandnoble.com , www.greygeckopress.com, and everywhere else that sells quality books.

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