Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamillo

Once in a while a book comes along that makes you believe that you are actually sitting in the presence of a great storyteller and that they are telling you the story within the covers of the book ... the voice within their writing is just THAT strong. Such is the case with Kate DiCamillo's latest book,  The Magician's Elephant .  For that reason, I really believe that this is the perfect book for a family read-aloud - a book for the summer vacation road trip or a couple nights around the campfire, or a few lazy afternoons in the backyard hammock. The language and dialogue is magical and the phrasing is paced so gorgeously. You feel like you are listening to an antiquated recitation of a story from long ago. There are also quirky illustrations that do a beautiful job of complementing the storyline. Each illustration gives a glimpse of a key event or key character (s).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Neverwhere Discussion 2 - Going to the Depths

This week's reading has confirmed my feelings on my three most memorable characters. I continue to love Old Bailey even though he can 'bitch and moan’. When he’s really needed, he comes through. The marquis deC … the marquis deC!  I am so unsure of him … I have a sinking feeling when he leaves the Earl’s Court … is that SOB going to double cross and sell out poor Lady Door and hapless Richard? Hunter? I’m not worried about her. She’s a mercenary and has reconciled her life and life expectancy long ago, but is she what SHE seems to be? I somehow think that her future and Richard’s will entwine … it’s all about those dreams he has of a beast … and she IS a hunter, right?

The email has come, though, and more questions await.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Quilting

This past week, our weather has been as grey and rainy as it gets. I don't mind, though, because our lawns and gardens are as green as they can be and I have had a small sewing project going in the house. I recently joined a quilter's guild and the monthly block project is my way of getting my hands working on something that I can share with the members the next time we meet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Hammer of Eden - Ken Follett

I am a real fan of historical fiction and what I call 'chick lit'. Over the years, I have struggled to step out into other genres and expand my reading. I've always been comfortable with my favorite literary niches, but Ken Follett (and a handful of other authors) is slowly changing my mind.  He can write a highly digestible page-turner. I was first introduced to him years ago when I read his tome The Pillars of the Earth ... historical fiction at its best. It was later, though, that I discovered that he also wrote crime and political thrillers, a genre in which I have very little interest ... most of the time ... usually ...

Over the weekend, I was having trouble with a sprained ankle that I've been trying to heal. I had to keep my leg elevated much of the time and so, after a limpy-gimpy trip to the library, I came home with Follett's thriller about eco- terrorism and blackmail, The Hammer of Eden. I usually have three or four books going at a time, but in this case, I reserved all my reading time for this page-turner.  The only other time that I have stepped out into thriller genre and got totally lost in the book was when Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code hit the stands.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Once Upon a Time ... Neverwhere Discussion

Being in an online book discussion is a first, here. It’s been rather odd to force oneself to read only so far along in a book that has already caught my imagination. Gaiman’s parallel world of London Below is just such a strange and dangerous place …

From the moment I read of the little old lady taking Richard’s hand and telling his fortune in the rainy street outside the Scottish pub with its cryptic dialogue and nice bit of foreshadowing, London has seemed this sinister place that’s drawing poor Richard Mayhew … What does she mean about doors and why must he watch out for the doors? And then Door falls in front of Richard on a sidewalk and his life is forever changed. What does her appearance mean for Richard? Is he part of a bigger story than getting a job, moving to London, making a name for himself in Securites, finding a beautiful and driven fiancĂ©e, et cetera? What’s this strange otherworld all about?

So many questions and Gaiman is drawing me (us) further into the story. Now, Chip has asked us more questions. So … to the questions!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Garden Time

Is it true that we all think of our gardens as the prettiest, the most peaceful places in our lives ? I guess I am a hopeless romantic, because my garden IS the purest place I go to ... even over church. It is just as it was created by my efforts and other forces greater than mine. It always renews my sense of hope in one way or another. So what if the chipmunks ate my tulip bulbs? They left the Star of Bethlehem alone and now it pokes through and pops open in a blaze of white. That is cause for a happy exclamation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finding A Literary Niche ... Belva Plain

Women stay home to raise children all the time. They choose family over career or they put their careers on the back burner while they raise their familes, hoping to pick 'it' back up when they feel their children are on an even keel and they can place their concentration back in the working world outside the home. Belva Plain managed to combine both worlds. She married after having graduated from Barnard College.  During her early married life, she wrote short stories that were published in the likes of Cosmopolitan and other women's magazines. As her children grew older, she found time to begin work on a novel, using her degree in history to weave an historical novel that began during the late 1890's and ended in the 1950's. Once it was published, she was on her way. She had a very devoted fan base that followed her career over the course of thirty years, from the time that that first novel, Evergreen was published in 1978 to her final novel, Heartwood, published (posthumously) in 2011.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Everything Old Is New Again ...

I am a hound for old dishes and platters and flatware. My haunts are antique and consignment shops, flea markets and antique fairs. I love the feel of old textiles - the colors and stitchery and details of construction. My romantic side lingers over pieces that catch my imagination and I think on the families that used these items. What were their kitchens and dining arrangements like ? What foods did they serve on these plates ? What family dish came proudly to the table on this platter ? What toasts passed around the table ? Why did these pieces ever get lost from the families to which they belonged ?

We tend to be a throw away culture. It has gotten us into a heap of trouble over time. Maybe we should change that ... what do you think? Are we in too deep with production and jobs dependent on consumption ? Can we turn this trend and not have a complete economic meltdown?  Strange questions, I know ... all because I bought this old platter at a town auction for the benefit of our little summertime celebration ... and it got me thinking.

Another question ... what will others be posting for this week's Saturday Snapshot photoshare? To see, check out Alyce's post on her blog at home with books. see the links after reading her post and just enjoy all the fun and creativity!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Agincourt - Fighting Dirty in the French Countryside

I don't mean to be sexist, but this really was a 'guy read' ... and I wouldn't have stuck with it were I not a geek for history.  This was no romantic 'chick lit' take on the chivalrous Medieval period when kings fought over thrones and crowns during the summer months and wooed their ladies fair during the winter months. This take on Henry V's seige of Harfleur and subsequent retreat toward Calais with the decisive battle at Agincourt is all class warfare, spewing guts, religious decadence face-to-face with extreme piety, blood spatters and battle atrocities, and poor simple folk being caught up in the ranks of kings and nobles and fighting to make it home to their simple lives.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Mag - Fast Writing ...

 Image: River Irwell by R.A.D. Stainforth


I dreamt …

Shades of green pass by
As we skim along
I look downward
Your hand trailing under the water
You always have been one
For both worlds
I reach to splash
Look into eyes that reflect
The clouds and sky
Yes, you always have been one
With both worlds

I walked to the river this morning
Whispered down and up
Come back to me …

Dear Reader,

Fast writing is so very difficult, but that was the writing challenge for this morning .... look at an image and write to it ... the image is haunting to me, as is the mood of the 'fast write'.  I will return to it most likely and maybe it will lead to something new, maybe different words, maybe a title ... but, until then, here is an offering for The Mag ...


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Saturday Snapshot - Waiting ...

Waiting , waiting, waiting ... and then, you plan a baby shower. You watch all manner of sweet smelling, soft, sigh-inspiring gifts as they are opened. You eat sweet, soft cake and laugh over potential baby names. You help pack up all the presents and ribbons and hoop-la, so they can be taken home to feather the nursery nest. And then, you wait.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Writing Process ... and Time

A while ago I happened upon Magpie Tales, a  weekly writing exercise organized and guided by a writer named Tess Kincaid. Her blog, Life at Willow Manor,  has become somewhat of a muse for me. There is a constant outpouring of writing and photography at The Manor and I find it all very intriguing. Tess's weekly Magpie Tales writing share is a fun place to play with words. That being said, I must say that when I write poetry, I write s-l-o-w-l-y. I revisit pieces that I’ve begun over and over searching for just the right word or turn of phrase or ... oh, I don’t know. A piece has to feel right after a complete 'read through',  before I can leave it alone and consider it complete. Take the piece below. I have worked on "Miss Spent Youth" for a couple months. It came from looking at and thinking about the photo prompt of Andy shopping for his infamous soup cans, but it made me associate with a young woman caught up in the scene at The Factory … a confused and self-destructive young woman. There were more than a few that hooked themselves up with that wild crowd – Edie Sedgewick comes to mind. That free association became the impetus for "Miss Spent Youth". Perhaps I’ll work on it some more, but right now, it feels okay to me.

                                                                                                                                          Photo Credit – Bob Adelman 1965

Miss Spent Youth

It was all so red and white
The lines were razor straight
Just like Warhol
And soon the edges blurred

Garbled voices like supermarket banter
The sound system crackling and music
Somewhere in the mix
The Factory rumbled on at breakneck

Afterward I railed and writhed
Staring back at a party gone wrong
Borne away … a sad comment
On avant angst and avarice