Musical Masterpieces #s 5, 6, And 7 – January 7th

We made it through our first week of 2019! I feel pretty elated at that fact; that and the fact that last week marks the first week since I started blogging that I published a post for five days in a row. To me, that’s a pretty big accomplishment for the blog, which I feel quite proud of. 😛 I was thinking of how to continue the Musical Masterpieces posts, as there is no posting over the weekends (???), so this is what I came up with. I’ll start with today’s musical piece and then briefly talk about the Saturday and Sunday ones. Sounds good to me! So, let’s get to today’s piece.

Today’s musical masterpiece is composed by a French man named Francis Poulenc. According to Burton-Hill, Poulenc was a homosexual who was all about the fun and pleasure seeking that life had to offer, in terms of ‘racy relationships’. His earlier pieces apparently reflect his personality and perspective on this.  But after losing a close friend of his in the 1930s, and dealing with the hardships of the 2nd World War, his later pieces take on a more serious and reflective tone. That can clearly be heard in the piece for today, Les Chemins de l’amour (The Paths of Love).

Saturday’s piece, Crucifxus, by Antonio Lotti, is a short choral piece, written to reflect the death and burial of Jesus. You can hear it here.

And yesterday’s piece I liked pretty well. Composer, Max Bruch, wrote this piece when he was just 26 years old, in 1864. And even though it took him over a year and a half to write it, Bruch was not 100% happy with it. However, it was quite popular with other people during his lifetime. I can see why. It’s filled with a lot of rapid and upbeat string playing; enough to bring up just about anyone’s spirits. You can hear it for yourself here. There were several YouTube videos I found that played this piece. I chose this particular video simply because I like the violinist and how well she plays the piece. 🙂

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Musical Masterpieces #4: String Quartet no. 13 in B flat major, op. 130 5: Cavatina: Adagio molto espressivo by Beethoven – January 4th

Today, we’re introduced to one of my favorite composers of all; Beethoven, followed after Vivaldi and Bach respectively in my order of favorites.

Even if you’re not a fan of classical music, you’ve probably at least heard of Beethoven and know about his unfortunate handicap of being deaf towards the end of his life. Besides being deaf, he was also an interesting individual. While he could be extremely moody, such as refusing to perform his music if he didn’t like the audience sitting before him, he could also be quite the humorous type. He once poured a plate of food on a waiter and then laughed about it. And you wouldn’t want to go to dinner with him at a restaurant, as he would often leave without paying the check and instead, write music on it. Like I said, interesting individual. 😛

Being the dedicated musician that he was, Beethoven cared little for hygiene and personal appearance. Never bothering to wash his clothes, his friends would exchange his filthy clothes with new clean clothes during the night when Beethoven slept, never noticing that the clothes that he put on in the morning were different from the ones that he wore the day before. Yeah…

“I am never alone when I am alone”, he was stated to have once said. I’m not sure if that was meant to be a sad statement about his condition, or just one of his many quirks that made him who he was. Kathleen Krull, the author of the book Lives of the Musicians, paints a very vivid picture of Beethoven’s life. I just gave you some of the interesting highlights. Check out her book to find out even more shocking facts about the famous composer!

So, on to the music piece. I must admit that even though this was composed by one of my favorite composers, I found this piece to be rather dull. I’m not really a big fan of the slower pace that this piece presents, and those that are like it. I prefer his piano and cello sonatas, which have the more upbeat, rapid sound that I’m used to. It’s okay for what it is, but is not something that I would want to listen to over and over again. You can check it out here.

However, I can’t completely dismiss this piece because according to Burton-Hill, author of Year of Wonder, this was one of the sample pieces that was sent into space back in 1977, along with many of Earth’s other kinds of music, with the hopes that other life forms that may be out there in the universe, will come in contact with the ever playing phonograph.  I like how the author ends today’s entry by saying that she hopes that whatever aliens that find this have a decent record player. I hope so too. And who knows? They may not even need such a device to play the golden record. I mean, they’re aliens, right? 😉

Musical Masterpieces #3: O Virtus Sapientiae by Hildegard of Bingen – January 3rd

Our first female composer! As much as I enjoy the works of Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi and the others, it’s nice to hear and learn about female composers as well. And this one, Hildegard of Bingen, is one of the earliest composers known, well preceding the more well known composers that we know about today.

She was a remarkable woman in that she did a little bit of everything. She was head of two monasteries, that she founded, a writer, a scientist (later being the strong foundation for science in Germany), a philosopher, a prophet and a nun. She was a woman after my own heart! And to top it off, she is basically the reason that women today can attend medical school, as she was a genius in the field of cures in medicine, and early feminists (probably around the late 1800s, as that was when the term was first coined) defended their right to attend school, with Hildegard as their demonstrable proof that women are capable of studying medicine too.

The two minute piece, heard here (out of a total of about 70 known pieces), sort of put me in a melancholic state of mind, but in a good kind of way, not a sad way. It’s similar to listening to a piece of blues or quiet jazz; a reflective kind of tone that makes you want to sit in your favorite spot, curl up with a good book and spend the day resting. I could sure go for that right about now! Let me know what you think!

Musical Masterpieces #2: Etude In C Major, op. 10 no. 1 by Chopin – January 2nd

How did you like yesterday’s musical piece by Bach? I’ve listened to plenty of Bach’s works over the years, but I must admit that I don’t remember that particular piece. That’s not surprising, being that according to Burton-Hill, he wrote around 3000 pieces of music in his lifetime. Bach was quite the character of his time. He spent at least a month in jail once because he wanted to leave a job that he was employed under by a duke, who didn’t want him to leave and got angry when Bach attempted to leave anyway. His time was not wasted however, while taking residence in the “gray bar hotel”, because while there, he ended up writing 46 pieces of music, according to Kathleen Krull, author of Lives of the Musicians. Now that’s some serious dedication to one’s art! He’s my kind of guy because he loved both food and coffee (like me) and even wrote a cantata about the caffeinated beverage.

While he was most confident in his abilities to write and play music, he was not a show off. He commented once on his being able to play the piano by saying, “There’s nothing remarkable about it. All you have to do is hit the right key at the right time, and the instrument plays itself.” I’ll be sure to remember that if I ever decide to take up piano lessons, ha! 😛

That’s it for Bach. His music is introduced several times in Burton-Hill’s book, so I’ll talk a little more about him later. I just wanted to finish up what I started in yesterday’s post as I wrote it with haste with New Years fast approaching.

Moving on to today’s piece, this one is composed by Frederic Chopin. You can listen to the piece by clicking here.

Like many of the composers that came before him, Chopin began playing at an early age; by the age of 4. Best known for his many piano works (over 230 to date), Chopin probably helped make the piano the instrument what it is today; showing everyone of his time, as well as today, just what the instrument can do. While I’m not as familiar with Chopin’s music as I am with some of the other composers’ works, whenever I do come across a piece by him, I find myself in a happier state after listening. One of the things that I like about Chopin is his personality. He was a sensitive individual in that his feelings easily got hurt and would spend an entire day brooding about it, which sounds a lot like me. I sometimes wonder how he would function in today’s world, with criticism being the way that it is now.

I like how Burton-Hill ends her entry for today by saying how the second day of January can be a bit anticlimactic. I can understand that. With the excitement and alacrity of the holidays being officially over, one can feel a little “let down”; returning to the banality of a regular schedule. But to me, a normal, predictable kind of routine sounds right up my alley. Holidays can sometimes be draining, both physically, as well as emotionally. And being an introvert, this is how I charge my “batteries”. I welcome a normal day!

 

Musical Masterpieces #1: Mass In B Minor, BWV 232 3: Sanctus by Bach – January 1st

Happy New Years to all of my readers and fellow bloggers! We finally made it to 2019! It’s hard to believe that we are almost 2 whole decades into the 21st century! For those of you who are old enough to remember way back when we hit the 2000 mark, did you ever think that we’d be nearly 20 years into this new century so soon? I didn’t think so, but here we are! 2019!

Well, I want to start off by briefly telling you all a little about this post, and those that will follow.

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to introduce a little bit of culture into the blog, in the hopes of drumming up some more readership. And though I have been thinking about this for a while, I just wasn’t quite sure how. In my early days of blogging, I think I attempted this, with little success. Well now, I’m ready to try a second time. And this time, I have a really handy book that will help me.

I recently came across a book at the library where I work at, titled Year of Wonder by Clemency Burton-Hill. It sounded intriguing and it had a really nice looking cover, so I decided to pick it up! And now I can say how glad I am that I did! It’s basically a day to day calendar type book that features a different classical music piece for each day of the year; sort of like those daily devotional books that you often see.

I was like totally blown away by this awesome book! I ended up buying my own copy so that I wouldn’t hog the library’s only copy of it, hahaha.

It’s a great way to introduce one’s self to classical music and learn a little about it at the same time. I, myself, have been an avid classical music listener since I was a young teen. I would sometimes hear it played on the radio, or on TV commercials and really liked what I heard. Once I got into it, I was hooked. Though I am not musically educated, I know what sounds good to me and am adding new types of sounds and music to my “internal music player” (my brain). I’m always “playing” some sort of classical piece in my mind, and is what I enjoy listening to when I am working or doing recreational activities (like painting postcards!).

With all that said, I am going to present these pieces (via a link to YouTube, which has many classical pieces to play) that are presented in the book, so that you can hear what I hear and follow along with me. Since these are daily pieces, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to do one every day, with my busy schedule. But I will certainly try. And hopefully, by the end of 2019, you will have become a classical music lover like me!

So let’s start with today’s piece. It’s a choir piece, written by Johann Sebastian Bach; the title of the piece seen in the title of today’s post. You can listen to this great choral piece by clicking here.

I will talk a little more about it later, so for now, just enjoy! Pay close attention starting around 2:54. The tempo picks up and it really sounds good!

Stay tuned for future classical pieces!

Best Five Of 2018; Wrapping Up

Wrapping up the end of a year and moving on to a new one can be quite a challenge for me, especially when it comes to blogging. I’m still a newbie at this sort of thing, so I am not 100% sure as to how to do this.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and have decided to make this last post of 2018 about what the blog is initially about: postcards!

While I had thought about doing a wrap up on other kinds of post that I have done this year, I’ve decided to just do postcards. The reasons being is that while I have participated in numerous SIA challenges this year, my “outfits” are not that interesting and not really worth reviewing. And as far as book reviews go, I’ve only read a measly 8 books this year (not counting the two picture books), which is pretty sad, especially considering my love of books. I am hoping to do better next year.

That leaves the postcards. While I like all of the postcards that I’ve done this year, a few stood out more, which I will briefly point out here before calling this a done deal. Sound good? Let’s get to it then!

Morning Glory Postcard

The first one I chose is Morning Glory, that I painted back in April. I really liked how I approached this one, both composition-wise, as well as content. It shows a nice depth of field and the color came out quite nicely in both the tree in the foreground, as well as the grassy field itself.

Sunset Behind a Mountain Postcard

Looking back, I don’t think that I actually blogged about this postcard. I think that I downloaded it to my WordPress account, but never got around to posting it. Opps! 😛 Well, better late than never, right? I call this one Sunset Behind A Mountain, which, as the name implies, shows a nice sunset lit sky, behind mountains. I chose this one for the simple fact that I really liked how the mountains turned out. Most times, my mountains look like really bad foothills. But here, I seemed to have gotten the shading and coloring just right!

Jungle Pond Postcard

Jungle Pond was a fun postcard for me to do. Done back in August, I chose this one because I simply had a lot of fun creating the background for it. As I stated in the original post, it didn’t start off that great, hence, the added drawn in leaves and the trees to give it a bit more depth. So overall, I’d say that this one went from worst, to first, with some simple, easy to do corrections. Superb!

Forest Island Postcard

This was another one that was ready for the recycle bin, like the previous one above. But thanks to some creative fixes by use of oil pastels, I’d say that Forest Island was one of my best postcards of all time. I am loving those mountains, as well as the shimmery water!

Winter Wonder Postcard

Finally, there’s Winter Wonder. Simply put, I think that of all of my postcards, this one tops them all. Almost everything about this one turned out perfectly (aside from a few discrepancies, of course). Being my very first winter scene that I have painted, I found it to be quite a challenge in getting the color of the snow just right, to putting it on the tree, to getting the perspective of the fence posts correct so that they look like they are receding back in space into the snowy forest. While there were some things that I wish that I had done differently, this painting is still one of my best and most favorite creations of all time. I look forward to doing more winter scenes in the future!

And that’s it. I want to thank all of you for sticking with me for another year, and I hope that you will stick around some more next year, as I attempt to put some of nature’s wonders on these tiny canvases, otherwise known as postcards.

With all that said, I need to make a quick but important announcement. Actually, two announcements. I am officially stepping down from the SIA challenges. If you have been wondering why you haven’t seen any new photos of me since October, this is why. For personal reasons, I feel that I can no longer participate in them. But if I may, I’d like to express my extreme level of gratitude toward all of the SIA co-hosts, for allowing me to be a part of their team for so long. I truly appreciate all of you and I will miss participating in the challenges.

However, that doesn’t mean that I won’t be a part of SIA in some way. I’ll still be working “behind the scenes”; supporting the SIA team on their respective blogs and offering up any suggestions that might help them to keep this great idea going. Keep on, everyone! Jess, Erin, Daenel, Jen, and most of all, Salazar, thank you all so much! I appreciate all that you have done in allowing me to be a part of your team and to help me be a better blogger. I’m still working on that one, but I’ll keep trying! Best wishes to you all and for a great year in 2019!

Also, I wish to say that with my SIA “slot” now empty, I will be needing to fill it with something else, to help keep the blog running when I’m not doing postcards. I won’t reveal it just yet. I hope that I can get it ready so that the post can go live the first day of the new year. Be sure to stay tuned to see what I have cooking!

Thank you all for your support! See you next year!

 

Postcard Post: “Winter Wonder”

It’s time for another postcard. The last few weeks have been rather busy, so I haven’t had much opportunity to do much painting (or blogging for that matter) lately.

But this post, as well as this postcard, marks something special. It is my very first winter scene! Looking back, I have yet to paint any sort of winter scene in postcard form. I have only done the other three seasons up until now.

So this is indeed a momentous occasion here on the blog. If I were the “party-type”, I’d celebrate with balloons, party hats and cake. But since I’m not that type, I’ll settle for a simple “whoo-who!” as my celebratory sentiment.

Winter Wonder Postcard

I call this one Winter Wonder. I have to say that for my first winter painted scene, it’s not too shabby. I will say that the brush strokes that are showing in the sky do bother me a bit, as well as the errors that I tried to cover up, using white out and a red oil pastel crayon in the red part of the sky. But in terms of placement and perspective, it’s pretty good. I really like how the snow on the ground came out (blue and white watercolor paint), as well as the snow on the tree (white oil pastel crayon). The fence posts really help add depth to the scene, as they recede back into the woods, and the shadows created by the fence posts and tree, make for a great finishing touch up (I added those and the posts highlights at the very last minute). Again, I’ll say that I wish that the sky was blended a little better. But other than that, I’ll give it a “thumbs up”.

One more thing to add. This postcard, as well as future ones, will have my own personal stamp and seal! A good friend of mine from work, had a custom made rubber stamp made just for me! You can see it at the bottom left corner. It’s a little difficult to see my initials, due to the art, but they’re there. How cool is that? It’s like having my own personal emblem. 🙂

Also, be sure to check out my friend, Salazar’s latest art work, seen on her blog, here. She’s doing a superb job with her watercolor paintings! I’m so proud of her for taking the classes and improving her skills. Her paintings are better than mine!

The Spectrum A To Z

I’m doing a special weekend post, just for fun, in order to break the monotony of my usual postcard postings. This post is based off of my friend, Salazar’s post on her blog, which you can see here. She did this post a few years back and I happened to come across it and thought that it would be fun to “piggyback” off of hers with my own version of it. And like with hers, you all can learn a little about me; some of my passions, some of my irks; you know, the fun stuff. So let’s get to it!

A – Age: 35. Yep, turned 35 less than two months ago. I am officially “middle aged”!

B – Bed Size: Twin. Because of the nature of our apartment, I have to share a room with my brother, who also has a twin bed. Truthfully, I’ve never had any other bed size. I’m not a “big” guy so it’s just the right size.

C – Chore You Hate: Washing dishes. I like everything else and vacuuming is actually my favorite chore, along with dusting and doing laundry. I like doing things that cause me to move. Little movement is involved with washing dishes. So boring…

D – Dogs: Eh… I don’t hate them, but I don’t really love them either. I’ve had some rather… bad experiences with peoples’ stray dogs in the past, so I’m not too fond of them to be truthful. However, if they are well trained, I’m okay with them. I would prefer cats as a pet over dogs.

E – Essential Start To Your Day: A shower, a cup of coffee and breakfast, though this last one is sometimes missed because I’m rushing out the door to catch my bus to get to work.

F – Favorite Color: Black. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, I make this one pretty evident. Although, I am trying to “lighten” my color palette a little and participating in the SIA challenges has helped me with that somewhat.

G – Gold Or Silver: I really don’t have a preference for either one. Now if we’re talking gemstones, I’d choose emeralds, no question. I LOVE that shade of green!

H – Height: The same as my friend, Salazar; 5 feet 5 inches (about 168 cm for my metric system using readers).

I – Instruments You Play: None, but if I were to choose one, it would be the cello, hands down. I’m a HUGE Vivaldi fan and enjoy his cello sonatas. I love the sound of all string instruments, but the cello is my favorite. You can hear a sample of Vivaldi’s music here.

J – Job Title: Adult Book Shelver, though my job involves many more tasks and chores than just putting books on the shelf in the right order. I “wear many hats” at my job.

K – Kids: Nope. See Salazar’s answer to this question in her post, as I love the answer that she gave for this one.

L – Live: I’ll just say Ohio for this one. The state known for its instant change in weather in a short amount of time.

M – Mother’s Name: Out of respect for my mom’s privacy, I won’t say her name, but will give you the first letter of it; “R”.

N – Nicknames: Most people and friends call me “Mike”, which I like well enough. Some people call me “Michael”, some call me “Micky”, or “Big Mike”, which I don’t really care too much for, but okay. When I was little, most everyone in my family called me “Little Mike” because I share the same name with my dad and that’s how we would know who they were referring to. “Big Mike” was mostly used to refer to my dad.

O – Overnight Hospital Stays: None that I can remember. Though I stayed at the hospital nearly 12 hours earlier this year when my mom had surgery.

P – Pet Peeves: Ah, so many; I don’t even know how to start. Well, I’ll tell you my top annoyances. First off, I absolutely HATE being called “young man” by anyone. Strange as that may sound, I will briefly explain.  When I was little, my teachers, or other adults, would often use this to refer to kids in my class (obviously boys) who were being naughty. And I would always hear it used in such a negative way that I really came to hate the sound of it. So to this day, I’ve never liked being called “young man”. I will even go out of my way of using this phrase by either saying “older boy” or if the person is past “boyhood”, I will say “man who is young in age”, or something like that. Anything to avoid saying “young man”.

Another pet peeve of mine is when people abbreviate the word “okay” with either “ok”, “K”, or worst yet, “Kay”. I mean, seriously?! It’s only four freakin’ letters! Just spell it out! I think the reason why I hate this so much is because there are some people who, when I type out a decent size e-mail or text, which requires a decent sized answer, they will reply back with one of these asinine answers, which annoys the heck out of me. It’s like they’re too lazy to even come up with a decent reply and I feel like I’ve wasted my time even writing to them in the first place. 😛 And there are other words they can use to confirm that they got my message if they don’t want to type out a sentence, which I can understand that. But I feel like they can do better than “ok”, “K” and “Kay”.

Q – Quote From A Movie: I’m not really a movie person so I can’t give a proper quote. But I can quote some of my favorite lines from some of my favorite anime shows that I like. Here’s one from the anime, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, where the main character, Kyon, who often has internal monologues with himself, says, “Good grief! We’ve got enough crap here to open up a pawn shop. But we don’t have a towel for her?! What’s up with that?!” [her referring to Mikuru Asahina, one of the other main characters, who gets tossed into a lake; the “crap” that Kyon is referring to is all of the camera equipment he and his group of friends have in order to shoot their movie for their school art festival] I really like Kyon’s character. He is very similar to my own personality. He’s cynical and critical with most everyone in the show, often snarking in his own head, much like I do whenever I’m annoyed with something or someone. I even find myself quoting some lines that he says in my own head because I’ve pretty much memorized the entire series. 😛

I also enjoy the anime, Lucky Star, which also has some great lines, referring to other popular anime shows at the time of its popularity and references to Japanese culture. In fact, my blog’s name is loosely based off of a line that’s spoken by one of the main characters. In episode 14, the main character, Konata, is talking to her friends and discussing what they all did with their old school uniforms. And when asked about hers, Konata casually comes out and says that she kept her uniform for “cosplay purposes” (anime and cosplay being some of her favorite hobbies). I really liked how she just rolled that line out so smoothly and I imagined myself saying something similar that represents my own favorite hobby. It goes something like this: “I kept my (whatever it is) for “postcard purposes”!, as making and collecting postcards is one of my favorite hobbies. I really liked the sound of that and decided to name my blog based on this phrase. So big thanks to both Lucky Star and Konata for helping me come up with the name!

R – Right Or Left-Handed: Right-handed.

S – Siblings: One younger brother.

T – Time You Wake Up: On work days, anywhere between 4:30 and 5 in the morning. On my days off, usually around 7 or 7:30, sometimes 8 or a little after, if I want to sleep in, but never past 8:30.

U – Underwear: See Salazar’s answer. Uh yeah, none of your business.

V – Vegetables I Hate: Celery. It just has a really weird after taste and I don’t like how it’s all “stringy” when you bite into it. Yeah, what’s up with that? By contrast, I love both broccoli and spinach. And yes, I eat my vegetables raw, though I can do cooked as well.

W – What Makes You Run Late: My sad attempt to try and eat breakfast and then run out to my bus stop to catch the bus to work. It takes me approximately 5 minutes to walk from my apartment door to the bus stop (if I power walk, which I often do). Another thing that makes me late is having to wait for the stupid elevator to come up to my floor and then it having to occasionally stop to let other riders on. Also traffic on the road as I’m trying to cross to get to my stop. And slick, icy sidewalks in the winter. Yeah, I just need to leave a bit earlier.

X – X-Rays You’ve Had: Just once a year when I get my 6 month check up and cleaning at my dentist office. I almost had to get an x-ray earlier this year, back in January, when I thought I fractured or sprang my foot. It swelled up like a melon and I literally couldn’t walk on it for days. Right when I was going to go have it x-rayed (after my doctor wrote an order for it), the swelling finally went down and the pain subsided. So no radiation there.

Y – Yummy Food That You Make: I’m really proud of my pancakes. I like to make huge pancakes on the weekends (when I actually have time to eat a proper breakfast). I’m really proud of this because when I first started trying to make them, I failed miserably. But once I got the hang of it, I became a pancake making fiend. Also, I make some pretty good tacos, if I do say so myself. My family loves them!

Z – Zoo Animals: Cheetahs. I’ve always been fascinated with them because they are so fast and I used to love things that moved fast when I was little. Also, probably penguins because they are my favorite animal. Now keep in mind that it’s been years since I’ve been to the zoo, so I’m not even sure that they would have either one there. But I’d like to see them as chances are, I’m never going to see them in the wild.

Well, that was a fun and rare weekend post. Thanks for reading! And be sure to check out Salazar’s post to see her answers!

 

 

 

 

Postcard Post: Leftovers From Fall

While winter hasn’t officially arrived here in my part of the country, it may as well be here because it sure feels like it. When temperatures barely reach above 32 degrees F (0 degrees C), I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that winter is 100% here.

But since it is still technically autumn, I thought I’d share these leftover postcards that I did earlier in the season, back when the leaves were still on the trees and changing colors.

Untitled Postcard 2
Untitled Postcard 3

Both of these are unnamed (hence, why I’m doing two in one post, and the fact that I didn’t type the names of them in the title).  I just couldn’t think of good enough names for these, to be quite honest. How about some of my readers out there give me some suggestions or ideas as to what I should name these? 😉

These aren’t my greatest works. I don’t like how the trees came out in the first one, as I ended up painting the trunks first and then the foliage, which makes them look a bit awkward. However, I like how the watercolor white (comes in a little tube that’s included with the watercolor set that I recently bought) came out on the trunks and really helps to give them some dimension. I also used the watercolor white for the clouds, which turned out to make a really nice effect in the sky.

The second one I painted from a photo that I took while standing outside, waiting for the bus to arrive at my stop. The perspective is slightly off, making it look a bit lopsided and enclosed, so it doesn’t capture the realism that the photograph has. But not bad I guess for a 30 minute postcard painting.

November Book Reviews 2018

Note: Due to technical difficulties, my book reviews post is a little late, which is why it’s launching in the evening, as opposed to the morning (breaking the rules again). But it’s hot off of the press and ready to go, so let’s get to it!

I know that its been a while since I last did book reviews. The last few months have been pretty hectic, in a number of different ways, so I wasn’t able to get any real reading done. And sadly, I only managed to get out two for this review, which is way under the standard amount that I should have for each month. But two is better than zero so I guess I can look at it that way.

And quality over quantity has been my way with these reviews anyway, so why stress over it?

And quality is certainly the optimal word to use for the books that I have for this review because I enjoyed them both.
The first is called Jericho Walls by Kristi Collier. It’s a historical fiction children’s novel, featuring Jo (short for Josephine) Clawson, an 11 year old white girl from the 1950s, living in Jericho, South Carolina, with her family.

Jericho Walls Cover

Title: Jericho Walls
Author: Kristi Collier
Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction
Pages: 209 (213 counting the Author’s Note)

Her father is the preacher of the local church; very traditional and conservative. As such, Jo is expected to conduct herself in a proper and respectable manner at all times, which also includes who she becomes friends with. She meets 12 year old Lucas Jefferson, a black boy who lives with his older brother and mother, who is hired to work at the Clawson’s household.
While desperately trying to fit in with some of the kids in her school, she does manage to “befriend” a girl named Bobby Sue Snyder, who serves as the “leader” of a group of girls, whose parents are all of the conservative type for this particular point in time.
So they are not so welcoming to her when they find out that Jo is slowly becoming friends with Lucas. Jo and Lucas hang our with each other more and more in the woods, their secret friendship growing, which leads Jo to later decide who her real friends are when faced with a situation in which she must choose to do the right thing and stand up against discrimination and racism.

Overall, the book was very well written and written in the style for the time period that it portrays; with a taste between Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird kind of dialogue. In fact, Huckleberry Finn is mentioned several times throughout the story and Jo and Lucas even attempt to play out the story of Huckleberry Finn, even going so far as to building a raft and riding down a river in the woods, like the characters did in the original story.
Jo and Lucas’s friendship is not an easy one to fully decipher because of Jo’s constant internal struggle throughout the story in deciding whether or not she should be friends with an African American boy and knowing that her father would most likely not approve of such a relationship. Her mother, on the other hand, would have no problem with this as she is the one who hired Lucas’s mother in the first place. And the reader often sees her constantly trying to persuade her husband to understand the importance of integration and equality in their church, which she does in a very powerful way. And the way that she tells Jo of how important this is, leads her to make a very bold decision at the end of the book, when her friend, Lucas, and his brother, are discriminated against at their local library.

I must say too, that I do enjoy books like this because even though it’s fiction, it depicts real life type events in history, much of which are lost, especially for African Americans. And being more and more aware of what the past holds, the better we will all be today. At least I hope so.

So I give this book a 5 out of 5.

The next book I have for you is called The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis.
When I first saw the title of this book while it was on the shelf, I immediately thought of those 1940s/1950s classic cartoons that I used to watch as a kid, which bear similar titles.

The Boy From Tomorrow Cover

Title: The Boy From Tomorrow
Author: Camille DeAngelis
Genre: Children’s Fantasy Fiction
Pages: 257 (261 counting the Acknowledgements Page)

And the title says it all here. The book features the lives of two main characters, living their lives seemingly simultaneously in two different periods of time. The boy, Alec, is living in our present time, 2015 (okay, just a few years behind our current time), while the girl, Josie, is living in 1915; 100 years apart.
But these two lovable characters share a special bond with each other, as well as communication with each other, through the use of a spirit board (and later, a phonograph) which allows them to seemingly converse with each other through texts (similar to cell phone texting I guess). And later in the story, by use of the phonograph, they are able to actually speak to each other in real time! And here we thought it was awesome to be able to talk in real time with anyone around the world. Imagine being able to talk to someone from 100 years ago in real time!

This story is really a sweet one. After Josie and Alec get over their initial doubt that they may each just be communicating with a ghost or spirit, they form a really nice friendship with each other and begin sharing about each others’ lives, like how pen pals do through letters and e-mail. What’s nice about the story is that the main characters don’t really have a lot of tension (if any) with each other, while yet, tension does exist and it comes from Josie’s mother, who catches wind of her daughter’s communication with her friend from the future and tries to use Alec’s knowledge of the future to further her own selfish goals. Josie, who also has a younger sister, Cass, eventually has had enough of their mother’s abusive ways (I won’t even go into some of the awful things that she does to Cass) and decides to leave their home and go live with their tutor/nanny, named Emily. And because they must leave the phonograph behind, their conversations with Alec must stop, which leaves Alec completely crushed and distraught in essentially losing his best friends. But all is not completely lost and the author ends the story on a good and happy note for Alec with a very special ending. It is well done and most certainly one that you have to read for yourselves to find out how it is done. Trust me; it’s great!

This was a great read. I admit that I’ve been thinking of something similar to what the author came up with for a while now; being able to communicate with a person from the past without the actual use of “time travel”, which is so overdone these days.
And because this story is not a time travel kind of story, the way that it is done, makes it even more unique and special. I will admit that I was a little creeped out at first at the mention of the use of a “spirit board”, as I don’t mess with any of that. And I did sort of skim over some of the parts where Josie’s mother was being used as a sort of “channel for spirits” or other such phenomenon as a spiritualist, as these parts were boring. And as I said, I don’t play with that kind of stuff. But other than that, it was a great story to read and I really enjoyed it.

I also give this book a 5 out of 5.

And that’s it for me. See you all for the next review (whenever that will be!). And be sure to check out my friend, Salazar’s book reviews, over on 14 Shades of Grey, to see what she is reading.

Later!