Who Are We?

The NovelFriends are four writers who met through Wisconsin Romance Writers and initially became bonded by our love of books. That connection has expanded, grown, and deepened into true friendship over the years. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you, so follow the blog and join in the fun - we're always happy to have more NovelFriends!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - a book review

First off, I hope you all had a wonderful and thankful Thanksgiving.  Now, if you're like me, you're going to spend the rest of the weekend hiding out from rabid shoppers and enthusiastic deer hunters making one last play for the big buck.  If you're looking for something to keep you occupied during your self-imposed exile, I've got a great suggestion.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is NOTHING like I was expecting.  It's about a teen aged boy who, after the death of his grandfather, finds himself drawn to a remote island in Wales, to the place where his grandfather grew up.  All Jacob's life, his grandfather told him amazing stories about the peculiar children he knew growing up - the invisible boy, the levitating girl, and about the monsters he fought.  As he grew older, Jacob realized that these stories he'd believed so firmly in as a young child couldn't possibly be true.  But, then he arrives at Cairnholm Island and discovers that not only may his grandfathers stories about his past be true, but maybe his past is still alive as well.

Expecting maybe a haunted house or a ghost story, I eagerly opened it up and found something completely different, utterly unexpected and incredibly delightful. Using real vintage photographs intertwined with a fictional story built from a fertile imagination, Ransom Riggs brings you on a fantastic adventure in a brand new world full of peculiar children, the people who protect them and the dangers they face.

Plainly put, this book was freaking awesome!  I love the idea of creating a story around old photographs and wish I had thought of it.  It's certainly got me interested in digging through old photos at yard sales and flea markets and filling in the blanks with my own crazy imagination.  Bravo Mr. Riggs, bravo  *insert slow clap here*

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanks Giving and a Positive Attitude

"Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today."
My mom and sisters saw this saying while out shopping this past weekend. When they quoted it to me, it gave me goose bumps on my arms. Really makes it hit home how powerful being thankful, and appreciating what we have, can be.

For me, this means trying to keep a positive can-do attitude in all I do. I don't know about you, but the more I think about how hard something is, the harder it gets. If I think can't, I won't.

Case in point is exercising. I hate it. I actively say how much I hate it all the time, despite knowing how good I usually feel afterward. Tired, but good - and even energized later. Doesn't matter for the next day though, when I hate it all over again and put it off. It's funny how it literally just dawned on me as I'm writing this (and didn't exercise today) that I need to change my attitude about exercising the same way I do my best to keep positive in all the other things I do in life.

Yes, sometimes it takes effort, and I have my bad days like everyone else, but it's easier to keep my attitude upbeat than it is to be crabby and negative and still have to do the same work. Plus, life is just that much more enjoyable when you're smiling.

Now if you're reading this but don't believe in God, the saying still applies with a slight adjustment.
"Imagine if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you were thankful for today."
Just in the few days since I've heard this, I've been more aware (except with the exercising *grin*) and make sure I take the time to thank God (because I do believe) for the joy and blessings in my life. My husband, my  children, my family, friends, my life, the roof over my head, and food on my table. Those are the basics, and yet the most important.

May you all be blessed and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Stacey 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Comfort in the Chaos

Life seems like it is always throwing curves our way. Usually small things, sometimes big stuff. I do my best to try to take things in stride and not let them bother me. Most of the time I do pretty well. Once in a while though, taking deep breaths just doesn't cut it. This fall has been one of those times for me.

My oldest son is a senior this year so we've waded our way into the world of college applications, essays, scholarships and financial aid.  My youngest son just received his temporary drivers license. I now know for sure I was not meant to be a driver's ed instructor. After 20 years in our home we are finally remodeling our kitchen and getting rid of the mauve walls and countertops and the baby blue cabinets that didn't hold anything. I do not function well when the house is a mess, so I probably don't need to tell you how stressful it is to have our kitchen essentials all over our dining room. On top of all of this, I've been having some health issues that involve a series of tests that haven't exactly been a barrel of fun.

Dealing with so much at once makes it nearly impossible to get through the day in a relaxed state. When this happens I find myself seeking out some extra comforts. I have several fairly reliable sources that work for me.

Reading is a given. There is nothing like escaping into a good book. It's the next best thing to an actual vacation (sometimes it's even better!) Hand in hand with a good book, is a favorite movie. I have a few favorite romances that I can watch over and over and over again. How can a happily-ever-after ending not brighten your day?

Now, you can't get true comfort from a book or movie without the right accessories. Comfy clothes are a must. Comfort dress code includes flannel pajamas and slippers, soft comfy t-shirts or hoodies and a well-worn pair of jeans. A very specific menu is required for these chaos emergencies as well. Bring on the soups or stews and fresh baked bread. Chocolate (or pretty much any sweet) works well as a quick band-aid for most situations. If things reach a Code Red level, pizza from my favorite local pizza place is the only thing that will help.

When all else fails, one thing is guaranteed to make life better - a good old-fashioned hug. If the hug comes from one of my kids, it is a very special and rare treat. A hug from my hubby still gives me an amazing warm feeling like no other. Those hugs from my friends (even virtually!) let me know how much caring and support I always have. 

I'm hoping your life is mostly chaos free, but what comforts you when life does get a little crazy?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A hermit goes on vacation

I'm one of those rare souls who hates to go on vacation.  My theory is:  my clothes are here, my favorite foods are here, my bed is here, why in the world would I want to be someplace else?  Yep, I'm a hermit.  There are very few instances I can think of where it would be preferable to be someplace beside my own cozy little house.  A couple months ago, an instance came up.

A good friend invited me to go along with her to Washington DC to visit her daughter and son (and his family) who all live in the DC area.  I'm not too interested in monuments and memorials, but my dream has always been to go to the Smithsonian Museums.  She'd found some cheap flights, we had a free place to stay and, the topper, she wanted to spend all her time with her 6 month old grandson and her family are all busy people, this meant that I would be able to spend the day at the Smithsonian all by myself. The hermit in me did a little squee of excitement - I could go wherever I wanted to and take as much or as little time at each display as I desired with no one to feel responsible about.  So, heck yeah, I WAS GOING!

Our first full day was spent driving through the Shenandoahs.  Lots of trees, lots of mountains and valleys, yeah yeah, I can get nature at home, people, give me some good stuff!  The next day - jackpot!  A friend from the area offered to go with me to the city.  She taught me how to use the Metro, gave me a map of the city and spent the day with me at the American History Museum.  Since she'd seen it all before, she was fine just tagging along, letting me take my time and do my thing.  We had a great time at the display of First Lady inaugural ball gowns, critiquing everyone's taste in clothes.  Grace Coolidge is definitely the first lady with the coolest dresses. Of course, this may have something to do with her being First Lady during the 1920's, the greatest era of all time in my opinion, so there's a tad bit of favoritism going on.

The next day was my day on my own.  I went to art galleries (if you're ever in DC, the Renwick is a must-see, it's just covered in awesome sauce), visited the various war memorials and such, and generally just wandered the streets taking everything in.  This was definitely the highlight day of my vacation, especially since what happened next.  Did I mention that I started this vacation 2 weeks ago?

Yep, the hermit finally leaves the house to see the sights and gets hit with a hurricane.  What the heck is up with that?  Fortunately, we were in an area that was barely affected by the storm, but the wind and rain prevented me from going back out on the town to continue getting my Smithsonian fixes.  It also delayed our flight by a day.  I've already learned about myself that if I do leave home, four days away is about my max before I start missing the old homefront, so I already knew this week long vacation was going to stress me out, but when I was forced to stay an additional day, I was going bonkers.  I did everything but put on a cheesehead hat and dance the polka when we finally landed back in good ol' Wisconsin.  Granted, this vacation was not as stressful as the one where my husband caught some sickness and thought he was going to die.  We were in Grenada at the time - Grenada is a tiny little 3rd world island in the Carribean, in case you didn't know.  I told him that if he died on me in a foreign country, I would never speak to him again - I guess that scared him healthy, because we got out of there alive, which is always a good thing.  But, now that I've crossed "live through a hurricane" off my bucket list, I see no reason to ever do it again.