Positive, uplifting, and humorous reads

I’ve just realized how much time I spend looking for good, upbeat, contemporary fiction.

My friend said she doesn’t want to read depressing books and did I have any to recommend, so I browsed my yearly lists of books read for happy fiction. I was surprised at how many serious titles were on there and how few cheery.

Pilcher and Heyer

I am always game to check out older books, as you know, and I find most fiction between about 1950 and 2000–women’s fiction, romance, mainstream–usually cheerful and positive enough to enjoy. Rosamunde Pilcher, a U.K. author of women’s fiction, and Georgette Heyer, who wrote humorous Victorian romances, are two authors that never let me down.

I think I’ve read every one of Pilcher’s books, except some of her volumes of short stories. The first one I read was Under Gemini, and I was hooked with the location and the warm, intricate treatment of characters’ relationships. The Shell Seekers and September are my favorites, and they are nice and long. Click here to read my review of Winter Solstice.

Here are my three posts about my favorite Georgette Heyer books (so far!), Cotillion, Arabella and The Convenient Marriage.

New books

I do like to keep in touch with the new books, too. There are so many books to choose from, where do you begin? It can be overwhelming. I browse the categories on GoodReads and Amazon. But I like to hold a book and flip through it, so I browse bookstores and sometimes take snap shots of shelves with my cell phone, then try to find them at the library (it amazes me how many new books are in the library system!). The library, too, has its “New and Notable” shelves and racks of recommended reading, so I check out a lot of those.

Sometimes the new books I read are considered “important”. I certainly want to expand my mind and experience the lives and cultures of many of the contemporary authors. HOWEVER. What is with all the dark, negative fiction these days? Books or movies, I don’t know what has made it so popular, but it’s not popular with me.

I can get an important impression or message from a book without reeling at all the explicit details and closing the book feeling like I’ve gone through the wringer. I do wish authors would go back to being more subtle!

Contemporary books that bring a smile

When I want to clear my head, to do a re-set, I look for something intelligent, sunny, optimistic, and relaxing to read. But finding that is a challenge. I do a lot of searching shelves and online for good humorous fiction. Here are some of the fiction books I’ve read lately that have brought a smile, and provided an enjoyable, relaxed read.

Falling for June by Ryan Winfield

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Fanny Bower Puts herself out There by Julia Ariss (ebook)

Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel

Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus by Joyce Magnin

The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne

 

While browsing my library’s humor and other sections, I ran across plenty of funny non-fiction. Here are some that I thoroughly enjoyed.

You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry

I Remember Nothing by Norah Ephron

Reasons My Kid is Crying by Greg Pembrooke

Around the World in 80 Dates by Jennifer Cox

Surely you’re Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman (Nobel prize-winning physicist)

Contemporary books that are uplifting

And here are some more books on my recent Books Read lists that are not necessarily humorous, but are uplifting, intelligent and calming. All are fascinating accounts or stories of neighbors, family, goodness, kindness, and life-changes, without the cringe-factor.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Until the Harvest by Sarah Loudin Thomas (here’s my review–the author left a comment!)

Suncatchers and By the Light of a Thousand Stars by Jamie Langston Turner

Dewey: the Small Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron

Poems for a Good and Happy Life compiled by Myrna Reid Grant

 

What have you found?

Most importantly, if you’ve FOUND good upbeat contemporary fiction or non-fiction, PLEASE do share! I am sure that many people will appreciate it!

 

Photo credits: Pixabay and unsplash at Pexel.com

Buy books and support those in need at these great thrift stores in Calgary

Yes, there are still MANY places to buy books in Calgary!  Although many book stores have gone out of business, there are still many places where we can get books to hold in our hands.

Of course you can buy new books, but don’t forget the “gently used” option!  And best of all, buying from these “brick-and-mortar” stores (actual physical buildings, as opposed to online book stores) can have a double joy of supporting the less fortunate.  Woo-hoo!

Here are the thrift stores that I shop at that have a great selection of books, including some books that are practically brand new.  Most of these have a good selection of Christian books, and amazing prices!

West Calgary

Women in Need Thrift Stores – W.I.N.S Bowness: 6432 Bowness Road NW, Calgary, AB T3B 0E7, 403-288-4825. Revenues from W.I.N. stores fund women in poverty and their families through their Free Goods Referral Program and their Family Resource Centres.

 

wins-bowness

The Good Samaritan Thrift Store: 4628 Bowness Rd NW Calgary, AB T3B 0B3, 403- 288-4404. This store supports the Mustard Seed Ministry and other local Calgary charities.

good-samaritan-bowness

Mission Thrift Store – formerly Bibles for Missions –3423 – 26th Ave S.W., Calgary, AB, T3E 0N3, Phone number (403) 246-7298 (they also have stores in Lethbridge, Okotoks and Red Deer) – Free Bibles, low prices! Mission Thrift stores support the International Bible League and the Bible League of Canada.

bfm-sign

bibles-for-missions

 

W.I.N.S. Richmond/Killarney:  2907 Richmond Rd SW, Calgary, AB T3E 2J5, 403-242-4969

 

Central Calgary

“58th Avenue Thrift Store Row”

Goodwill on MacLeod Trail (just north of 58th Avenue): 5707 MacLeod Trail SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0J7, 403-252-1514 – “The largest Goodwill store in Alberta”.  Goodwill Industries of Alberta is committed to providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to enhance their lives through meaningful employment.

Salvation Army Store – 121 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB. All Salvation Army Thrift Stores, are 100 per cent charity-based and exist to generate funds to support Salvation Army programs and services that help residents in the areas in which they operate, including food banks, shelters, children’s camps, addiction treatment facilities and many other community programs. According to their website, the Salvation Army is Canada’s largest non-governmental provider of social programs.

World Serve Thrift Store – 105 58th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 474-4766.  World Serve exists to advance the Gospel, and impact nations. Learn more about them here.

Value Village – 104-58 Avenue SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0N7, Phone number (403) 255-5501.  Click here to see which organizations Value Village supports.

vv-chinook-photo

W.I.N.S Fisher Park: [a small store, not on 58th Avenue, but a bit south on MacLeod Trail then east on 71st Ave] 134 71 Ave SE, Calgary, AB T2H 0R9, 403-255-7514

 

Northeast Calgary

A cluster of great thrift stores near 32nd Ave and 34th Street NE

MCC Thrift Shop – Mennonite Central Committee – 2946 32 Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J7, Phone number (403) 272-0282.  AMAZING PRICES! Proceeds from sales go directly to developing countries for AIDS projects, education and water projects. They also have some projects right here in Alberta including services for our First Nations people.

mcc-image

Salvation Army Store – 3508 32 Ave NE #416, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J2, Phone number (403) 250-2110

sa-photo

Value Village – 3405-34th Street NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6J6, Phone number (403) 291-3323

Books between Friends – #14 – 3434 34th Street NE, Calgary T1Y 6X3, 403-291-3855, www.booksbetweenfriends.com – another book shopper I met at a thrift store raved about this one, I haven’t visited yet. They have been raising money for Calgary charities since 2003.

Urban Thrift Store – 3434 34 Avenue NE, Calgary, AB T1Y 6X3, Phone number(403) 769-1934, a small store with a boutique feel, Urban Thrift Store supports Haiti Arises, and a classroom in Haiti.

Southeast Calgary

(Not close together – they are all over the S.E. quadrant)

W.I.N.S Dover: 3525 – 26 Ave. SE, Calgary, AB T2B 2M9, 403-235-6448 – this location has their furniture warehouse!

Goodwill 10426 Macleod Trail SE Calgary 403-225-2258, daily sales!  More Goodwill Stores and a map can be found here.

Value Village Shawnessy: Unit #1, 240 Midpark Way SE, Calgary, AB T2X 1N4, (403) 201-5350 – One of my favorites! More Value Village Stores and a map can be found here.

Others

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair Bookstores are also a fantastic source of books of all kinds, plenty of near-new used books, and a huge selection among its several stores around Calgary.  You can get more information about them in my post here.

Better Books and Bibles on 16th Avenue NW is a wonderful store with new and used books.  See my post here.

And I just want to give another reminder of my recent post about Used Book Treasures, an organization that has beautiful new and used Christian books, especially many for children and youth.  Their sale at the church is over, but you can still contact them by email mgild@shaw.ca or call (403) 254-2686.

Also check the Christian newspaper City Light News for more locations of some of these stores, as well as loads of other news and great information.

Did I miss any?  Leave a comment and I’ll update this post with more stores.  Thanks!

A Personal Celebration

Joy to the world! the Lord is come; let earth receive her king.

–Isaac Watts, Joy to the World

All week I’ve had this song in my mind. I’d start many days with it as a way to counter my early morning tangle of thoughts and concerns. It has been refreshing to correct my thinking with this truth.

Today is Christmas. Shopping and wrapping, feasting and laughing and hugging, church and singing have all brought me so much joy. Now, at this moment I am alone. We’re not supposed to be alone at Christmas, apparently, but it can be lovely.

I have just walked through a snowy forest, said “Merry Christmas” to large families I passed on the path, breathed in the aromatic blue smoke of campfires and watched the children sled down the hill. I am also thinking about the true meaning of Christmas, and checking to see if I really do celebrate it.

Does Christ’s birth make such a difference in my life that I actually rejoice about it? Yes, I realize it does. God came to earth as a human being, and my most essential needs are satisfied by what Jesus accomplished.

He rules the world with truth and grace

I am truly at peace. I guess that’s because I believe that the important things are taken care of. I have peace with God, a clear conscience, and I rest in the hope of heaven and eternal life. The God of all creation forgave—and forgives—me, because Jesus paid for my life with his.

I have an overall purpose in life, and that is satisfying. I am humble when I sit down to talk to God, but I am not timid because he is full of grace. I feel important and valuable to him, and when I ask for his help for a loved one, or myself, I am certain that he is moved to action.

Wonders of his love

When things go wrong, when something frightens or upsets me, I know that eventually I can find understanding and guidance. The Bible is full of help and promises that God’s spirit will teach and comfort us. Even the very act of praying begins to set things right.

Now as I leave the forest and drive home on sparsely populated streets, I smile as I see empty parking lots in front of all the stores and businesses, because it means that as a society we have chosen to honor this day, and cease from our other distractions.

This holiday—this holy day—celebrates the fact that Almighty God wanted to draw close to us. He wanted this so much that he came to live on this earth through his human son, Jesus, and made himself visible, audible, touchable, loveable and most importantly, REACHABLE.

This is what I’m celebrating.

Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.

(Originally posted December 2011)

Favorite posts from some great blogs

For a long time, I have wanted to introduce you to some great blogs and bloggers, by way of listing some of my favorite posts.  A few of these have a similar focus to my own blog–books, writing, reviews–but some are completely different!

 

To start with, here are two posts from Susan Bailey’s blog on Louisa May Alcott.  We met through our mutual interest in this great author.  Of course I would go crazy for the antique music box!  The second link showcases a beautiful book that introduces young children to an author they might have otherwise missed.

Beautiful music box Renditions of Lizzie’s Favorite Hymns

Book review: Henry David Thoreau for Children

 

Mitch Teemley is relevant, humorous, a brilliant wordsmith, straightforward, spiritual – you’ve just got to have a look at his site, starting with these:

Don’t Love Yourself

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

 

Photo courtesy of Home Office by Unsplash at Pixabay (public domain), home-office-336373_960_720

 

Marcia is a children’s librarian and posts fascinating information (and gorgeous photos!) about books, travel and more.  See if these don’t make you drool…

New Library Books

Happy Valentine’s Day

 

Ready to laugh? Intrigued by controversy?  This hip lady will make you smile, give her opinions, and educate you at the same time!

Pre-Thanksgiving Joyful Mayhem and Large Appliances

How to Find the Perfect Swimsuit

mike-licht

I discovered that this next blog had a listing of vintage books, and the author actually set outs to read them all!  Wow.  Not only that, she has ongoing reading clubs and challenges.  Check out these posts…

What’s Making Me Happy: Week 1

Children’s Classics Suggestion List 2

 

Mary Phillips loves Bronte, Austen, Alcott, and her posts include poetry, pretty pictures, literary musings…and her sparkling personality!

Give it Away, Give it Away Now

Solitude vs. Social Activity–Cecilia by Frances Burney

 

These are just the tip of the iceberg!  I have the pleasure of following so many talented bloggers offering fascinating views and uplifting information to the world of online literature.  It will take more posts to cover them all.

I hope you found some new reading material and inspiration in these blogs!  If you have some to recommend to me, leave me a comment.  Thanks for reading!

 

Thanks also to these creative photographers…

Unsplash at Pixabay for laptop photo “Home Office”

Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, at Flickr for “Blogging Au Plein Air, after Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot”

Little Grain’s Big Adventure by Jacqueline Price

How very exciting! An adorable children’s book, with quality writing, unique and exotic locales and wildlife, gorgeous artwork and beautiful lyrical language!
bkmk-side-1

Little Grain is bored with his hum-drum life tumbling in the surf among all the other grains of sand, and asks his friend Little Bird to take him to see the sights of Hawaii.  He ventures even farther, all the way to the Gulf of Alaska, and a strong wind strands him on an iceberg.  Now poor Little Grain is scared, cold, and homesick for his family and his warm sandy bay.  If only he could get some help!

This book is full of exotic plants, fascinating land forms, and unusual animals of the ocean, land and air, each in turn the most beautiful thing Little Grain has ever seen.  And THIS BOOK is one of the most beautiful things I’VE ever seen!

front-cvr

The lyrical and alliterative words make Little Grain’s Big Adventure a joy-filled reading experience, and on each page we can find our tiny main character making comments in little white speech bubbles.  I am drawn in, re-reading it over and over, savoring the unique, calming imagery in the language.

This story of a little grain of sand was inspired by the author’s family trip to Napili Bay in Maui, and is enhanced with brilliant, bold illustrations. As a librarian at an elementary school, Jacquie discovered a talented fifth-grade boy who agreed to illustrate her book, and brought to life all the marvels Little Grain encounters from Hawaii to Vancouver Island and Alaska, and back.  After admiring the art, I could hardly believe that the illustrator was not a professional artist.  (Yet!)

back-cvr-crop-photos

I fell in love with this story years ago when Jacquie sent it to our children’s writers group for our feedback. How wonderful to find out she was doing a book signing at our local Chapters Indigo bookstore in Calgary!

20160917_144231

This book is such a treasure.  I highly recommend it!

You can purchase a copy of Little Grain’s Big Adventure at the author’s website, www.jacquelinedprice.com.

What a beautiful present it would make for a child’s birthday or a holiday gift.  (And…..psssst!   Jacquie has another book coming out soon!)

bkmk-side-2

A Story a Day in May 2016

2016story a day badgesq500x500 2I am writing a story everyday!

…and more importantly, I’m FINISHING each story.  As in, they each have an ENDING, which is one of my biggest struggles.

I often go hog wild with an idea and write a few pages or even a chapter, and then take a break. But then I don’t know how it ends, so I avoid it.  Eventually it goes in the thick “In Progress” binder.

So I decided to intentionally work on writing endings and Story a Day is one of the tools I found to help me do that. It’s Day 4 and I’ve finished every story!

JOIN US!

It’s easy.  You get an inspiring writing prompt in your email everyday, often from a famous author, some encouragement and tips, and jump right in to write and then share with the community if you like.

You can sign up at http://storyaday.org/signup2016 and yes, YOU CAN SIGN UP LATE. The more, the merrier!

Happy 100th Birthday Beverly Cleary!

I don`t normally forward a link to a news article, but I just found this and can`t resist.

I just adore Beverly Cleary. On April 12, 2016 she turned 100 years old–can you believe it!

tdy_jenna_beverly_160325__380510.today-inline-vid-featured-desktop

Whenever someone learns my name is Ramona, they ask if I read the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I tell them that I am pretty sure they were based on me. In the 60`s, my mom read Henry and the Clubhouse, Ramona the Pest and Henry and Ribsy to my brother and me each night, with our huge collie in bed with us.  I was very confused: how did this author I`d never met know me so well, and why did she write a whole book about me!  The illustrator, Louis Darling, even captured my unruly hair and untied shoes.

ramona-today-160324_557d8b5e7eccb2c8e36e0623d16c8fe6.today-inline-large

Look, I still have them on my book shelf!

May June incl books 229

Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for years and years of joy and laughter!

You can read a great article about her on Today Parents, here.  And if you haven`t already read one of her books, it doesn`t matter what your age, treat yourself to any one of them (especially the three above), and experience the warmth and feel-good humor of this dear author.

Also, check out my review of Beezus and Ramona (originally posted at Best Children`s Books)!

Does the Science behind Leap Year point to Intelligent Design?

I find it absolutely fascinating and inspiring that our solar system is so orderly!

Our massive planet Earth floats in space, revolving around its sun, travelling a total of 584 million miles at 67,000 miles per hour.  The number of days for one revolution has been consistent for thousands of years to the nearest millionth of a day.  How is that possible?

Could we replicate that kind of unvarying data?  If the top experts of the automotive field raced a car around a track every day using every scientific, technological controls known to man, would they be able to get results as consistent?

There is something Divine and beautiful about this.  To me, it points to an unchanging, faithful God who lovingly created a world of order for his children.

As usual, I also found a significant connection in literature, The Pirates of Penzance, a comic opera.  The story concerns Frederic, who, having completed his 21st year, is released from his apprenticeship to a band of tender-hearted pirates. He meets Mabel, the daughter of Major-General Stanley, and the two young people fall instantly in love. Frederic soon learns, however, that he was born on 29 February, and so, technically, he only has a birthday each leap year. His indenture actually specifies that he remain apprenticed to the pirates until his “twenty-first birthday”, meaning that he must serve for another 63 years.  Bound by his own sense of duty, Frederic’s only solace is that Mabel agrees to wait for him faithfully.

Here is a sampling of writings on Leap Year worth checking out, and I leave the best for last.

According to timeanddate.com, Leap Years are needed to keep our calendar in alignment with the Earth’s revolutions around the sun. It doesn’t take 365 days to circle the sun, it takes 365.242199 days – or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds. So if we didn’t add a day on February 29 nearly every 4 years, we would lose almost six hours off our calendar every year, then after 100 years, our calendar would be off by 24 days.

There are various other calendars that have Leap Years. The Chinese Calendar has 13 months with a leap month added about every 3 years. The Jewish calendar has 13 months in a leap year. There are 29 or 30 days in each month in a Jewish leap year, which has 383, 384, or 385 days. A leap year is referred to in Hebrew as Shanah Me’uberet, or a pregnant year.

The Iranian calendar is slightly more accurate than the Gregorian calendar. Compared with the Gregorian calendar, which errors by one day in about every 3226 years, the Iranian calendar needs a one-day correction in about every 141,000 years. The Islamic Hijri calendar has a 11 leap years in a 30-year cycle. An extra day is added to the last month of the year during the Islamic leap year.

The Hindu calendar includes an extra month, once every three years or four times in 11 years. A leap year in the Ethiopian calendar is similar to the Gregorian calendar in which an extra day is added to the last month of the year every 4 years.

To close with the best: First, an exploration of the various calculations used to define a year. Scroll down about 2/3 of the way.

And my favorite, a fascinating point of view that the calendar has actually always been in place, since before man was created.

…Thought provoking perspectives on time…space…and eternity.

Quality Romance worth Reading

I love Valentine’s Day because I love LOVE. And I love reading about love. I have been browsing through my binder of book notes that goes back to about 1995, and I’ve picked out my 20 favorite books about romantic love.Valentine fr Bruce

How did these make the cut?

What I look for in a story of love between a man and a woman, in addition to excellent writing, is the qualities of the main characters.  I like to get involved with authentic, realistic characters that I would actually want to spend time with, people with qualities such as integrity, forgiveness, kindness, humility and goodness. By the end I want to see them overcome significant struggles, go through a positive transformation, or experience a revelation that results in a better life for them and those around them.

I look for the author to go beyond the action to expertly convey feelings, motivation, and attitude throughout the story, teach me something new, provide a good pace, and include humor or at least a generally positive outlook. I will stop reading stories with a huge amount of introspection, lengthy descriptions of scenery or houses, a depressing tone, or overdone violence or immorality.  I like a gentle writing style as long as it doesn’t get boring, and as long as the story keeps pointing towards significance.

Here is my list!

Here is a mixture of classic and contemporary books, published from 1605 to the present, which include history, humor, mystery, chick-lit, inspiration, and various locales such as Scotland, California, Mexico, England, Colorado, and more.  I include the year of their publication.

My top 20, in alphabetical order by author:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 1813 – exquisite

What a Girl Wants by Kristin Billerbeck 2004 – hilarious!

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore 1869 – incredibly intense, especially the ending

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 1847 – a roller coaster with the perfect ending

what a girl wants_Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes 1605 and 1615 – idealistic knight, surpisingly funny

La Dame aux Camellias by Alexandre Dumas fils 1852 – true love’s sweet sacrifice

Sassy Cinderella and the Valiant Vigilante by Sharon Dunn 2004 – laugh out loud mystery

Reason to Believe by Kathleen Eagle 1995 – gentle story of two cultures

Nick’s Kind of Woman by Margot Early 1997 – fascinating relationship and action set in my home state of Colorado

The Well Beloved by Thomas Hardy 1892 – “a sketch of a temperament”

Arabella by Georgette Heyer 1949 – who knew the proper Victorian era could be this funny?

sassy cinderellaThorn in my Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs 2003 – the story of Leah and Rachel moved to 18th century Scotland

The Story of a Whim by Grace Livingston Hill – sweet, creative, upbeat surprise

Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson 1884 – love amid racial discrimination after the Mexican-American War

Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale 1992 – rakish mathematician Duke meets intelligent Quaker

My Favorite Goodbye by Sheila O’Flanagan 2001 – light and funArabella by G Heyer

The Promise of Jenny Jones by Maggie Osborne 1999 – never laughed so hard

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers 2001 – pointing to the source of love

Happy Ever After (also called Family Happiness) by Leo Tolstoy 1859 – light, easy, insightful

The Sunset Coast by Susan Devore Williams 1995 – gradual awakening of love and faith

I hope you will be inspired to read something off your normal reading track!  If you do–or if you have some to recommend to me–please leave me a comment!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

San Diego 527

I Bring You Great News

Christmas angel
Good tidings of great joy…Emmanuel…God with us.

 

Christmas, to me, is evidence that God wants to be with us—near us—not far away.

 

That changes everything I used to believe about God being a looming taskmaster whose main purpose was to hand out a list of rules and dire consequences with a warning, “Now don’t mess up!”

 

Christmas shows the fallacy of a distant, indifferent Higher Being, chuckling and sighing as we struggle on our own to figure out the mysteries of our spiritual path and the secret to happiness and peace.

 

Christmas is the most visible and tangible expression of God pro-actively coming to live our lives with us—first in Jesus over 2,000 years ago, and ever since then in his Spirit—simply because he loves us. And that reaching for us, pursuing us, walking with us in every experience we have, was not a one-time thing. It has happened since the beginning of humankind, and happens everyday. And if we look with eyes of faith we’ll see it.

 

That is the good news the angels told of in Bethlehem. “Good”? I would call this great news! No wonder they sang their highest praises to glorify God.

 

God reaching for us...by sending Jesus
God reaching for us…by sending Jesus

 

 

Photos courtesy of Waiting for the Word at Flickr:  Good Tidings 08 https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/6369654687, God the Father 11 https://www.flickr.com/photos/waitingfortheword/5546445177