A Book Lover’s Challenge #bookaday

On Twitter I find the most wondrous things, including the #bookaday challenge which starts today. I’m not kidding myself that I’ll write a full blog post for every day in June, but I will attempt at least to Tweet my answers to the challenge. After all, what could be more appealing to me than “forcing myself” to stop each day and think about what books mean to me? It’s what I do.



It just so happens that I’m struggling right off the bat with “Favorite book from Childhood.” How can I choose just one? And, which part of childhood? My favorites evolved quickly from my early grade school love of Amelia Bedelia and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle to my obsession with “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. My discovery of Narnia moved on to my early teen collection to Sweet Valley High books. I’m sure I read (and re-read) every book by Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume in childhood.

Childhood favorites have become even more complicated now that I’m a mom. My mind is jumbled with the favorite books I’ve read to (and with) my sons. David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike and Margaret Wise Brown’s Big Red Barn top the pile, but I could choose from dozens of well-worn titles.

You can see where I’m going with this, so I will make a choice. (It’s only a Twitter challenge, right?)

When I think of the book(s) that brought me the most hours of joy, that continues to resonate in my heart and mind and that I look back on with the most readerly affection, I have to go with Trixie Beldentrixie belden

How did I become a Trixie fan? I thank my mom of course. She had read the series (first published in 1948) as a girl and found a few of them at a garage sale. I was instantly hooked, not just by the clever mysteries, but by Trixie and her best friends Honey and Jim. Despite the dangers and drama, they lived ideal lives to me. I wanted so badly to be a Bob White. I was 11 and I wanted to be Trixie — spunky, smart, brave and living a new adventure every day.

There was a hidden treasure. They had their own clubhouse. They traveled in a classy RV. And, by the end of each book, they had solved their biggest problems.

I think these books are where by love of intrepid young female narrators first began. To this day, whenever I begin the latest Flavia de Luce book, I think of Trixie. When I watch Anne of Green Gables declare Diana her “bosom friend,” I recall the bond between Trixie and Honey.

I still own a few hard-cover copies of these classic books which my sons, unfortunately, have never shown an interest in reading. I’m not sure why I hold on to them, except that they bring a smile to my face whenever I read them.

What more could you ask of a childhood favorite?

P.S. As I’m finishing my blog post, this is what’s happening across the deck from me…let the childhood favorites continue to evolve.

connor reading 2014



Time to Read

Far From Normal – Living My Dream

Many of us think of our lives as boringly normal, while others live the high life. Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might.

Basically, today’s Daily Prompt asks, “What is normal?” I am a happily married, mother of three. I work full-time, read voraciously and write a blog on the side. I struggle with my weight, love to watch sports, consider my husband and my mom my best friends and spend countless hours each week loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. I feel pretty normal.

We’ll just throw the idea of the “high life” right out the window. I haven’t been on an airplane in almost 10 years. I’ve driven the same car for 8. Watching celebrities and the super-rich is a source of entertainment for me, mostly in the way it’s hard not to look a car crash as you drive by.

But I’ll try, in the interest of the prompt, to look at my life as an outsider. Here’s what an outside might not see. I am living my dream life. Let me be clear. I draw a difference between the life I’ve always dreamed of and the occasional fantasy life I created. In that one, my Broadway career turns into an Academy Award acceptance speech and Hugh Jackman falls in love with me. (See? Even my fantasies are perfectly normal.)

So how can my ordinary reality be a dream life? It’s quite simple. I grew up wanting to build a solid, happy family. That’s really all. picture in your mind

Maybe it was the books I read. Trixie Belden’s family was just so good! Maybe it was growing up surrounded by parents, aunts & uncles and grandparent who all divorced. Or maybe I’m just a romantic girl who wants forever to be my reality.

So, luckily, I found a man who wanted the same thing. I don’t think our marriage is hard work or full of sacrifices. We are partners who sometimes need to compromise and sometimes get on each other’s nerves, but my husband makes me happy. I don’t want to be anywhere else. Our marriage has officially outlasted my parent’s marriage, which seems a little unbelievable to me.

marry a manWe have three sons, who do require hard work and sacrifices. This is my normal. Yes, I live in a male-dominated household. You know what that means? I am the undisputed queen.

I read (by modern standards) an abnormally high number of books. Again, living my dream. My mom would assure you that devouring books is a lifelong habit. It’s a quiet habit to be sure, but reading has opened my life to an incredible array of voices and new friendships. I wouldn’t trade my hobby for anyone else’s.

All of this boils down to what I think outsiders might find abnormal. I’m content. I see women of my generation looking around the corner for the next opportunity, for the life they’re “supposed to be” living, for the perfect balance, for more. I have what I want.

I am living my dream.want

Why I Love Flavia de Luce

(If you’ve visited alenaslife looking for my usual Monday Quote, I’m taking this Columbus Day off. Monday Quote will return next week. In its place, I offer a short review of my most recent audio read, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag.)

“You are unreliable, Flavia,’ he said. ‘Utterly unreliable.’
Of course I was! It was one of the things I loved most about myself.”

I just love Flavia de Luce, the precocious 11 year-old narrator of Alan Bradley’s entertaining mystery series. I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie a couple of years ago, based on its title alone. I never thought I’d be so engaged by a British mystery, but Bradley has a way of making me almost forget that there’s a murder to be solved. Instead, I’m swept into the mind of Flavia, the incredibly bright motherless chemist and amateur detective.

I am often thought of as being remarkably bright, and yet my brains, more often than not, are busily devising new and interesting ways of bringing my enemies to sudden, gagging, writhing, agonizing death.”

Indeed, Flavia spends many remarkable paragraphs cooking up concoctions in her laboratory, located in one of the wings of her family’s troubled estate, Buckshaw. Never one for chemistry formulas myself, I am still engaged by how her knowledge (obsession really) with organic principles, poisons and death, always seem to embroil her in Bishop Lacy’s latest drama. The trouble in these books just seems to find Flavia.

Flavia takes me back to my love of Trixie Belden as a young girl. The difference is that, unlike Trixie’s loving family and band of best friends, Flavia seems quite alone. Her sisters are “horrid;” her father is aloof at best; and there are seemingly no other children in the vividly imagined Bishop Lacy. When Bradley does introduce a heartfelt moment, as he does with Flavia’s aunt in this book, those scenes resonate even more for their rarity.

“There’s a lot to be said for being alone. But you and I know, don’t we, Flavia, that being alone and being lonely are not at all the same thing?”

This storyline revolves around the sudden appearance of a puppeteer and his female assistant. There is, of course, a dead body (more than one actually), and a cast of extremely complex supporting characters, most of whom are suspect.

It’s remarkable that over the week I listened to this book in my car, I was often reluctant to turn off the CD, and always eager to return to driving alone. The narration was charmingly British. I never guessed the mystery, which is an added treat, but not what makes me love this series. Flavia de Luce has joined Scout Finch and Trixie Belden as among my favorite young heroines, wise beyond their years and beautifully innocent at once.

I can’t wait to find out what awaits her next.