Saturday, January 26, 2013

Feature and Follow - The Last Great Overnight Book

Welcome to the weekly F&F meme. This week's question: What was the last book that kept you up late just to finish it?

My answer lines up nicely with current feature of the top 50 science fiction books of all time - I stayed up to finish Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. Although it is an excellent book I am a bit confused as to why it is classified as science fiction. Sure Bradbury wrote primarily sci-fi but Dandelion Wine is primarily a romp through an idyllic (and sometimes not so idyllic) summer in the 1920s through the eyes of a late pre-teen boy.

It does have some fantastic parts but, to me, they sounded exactly like the stories of an intelligent and creative boy. Like when he "turns out all the lights of summer" from the cupola in his grandfather's house. I can remember many a night as a young child where I imagined I had the power and was "causing" the lights in the neighborhood to flick off one by one.

The book also shows very clearly the culture and mores of the time, a simpler time one might say, but the complexity and depth did not escape Bradbury's small protagonist. Finally, the book is about growing up. The boy at the end realizes that his childhood is ending and some of the wonder and fantasy will no longer exist. This does have its advantages but I, at least, was left with a definite sense of loss at the end of the book. A sadness that growing up means losing some of that wonder.

What do you think? Drop me a comment, please!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Beauty in the Little Things

It has been a very busy few months, starting with the "superstorm" through the holidays and now into the new year. I have to say it has been mostly good with the exciting fun of my first two blog tours and all the new contacts. But it has also been a bit of swirling, caught up in the moment craziness.

This past week I have forced myself to take a step back and take a deep breath. I just love it when I feel the calm oozing through every corner of my body and let the tumult of life give way to a state of relaxation, even if only for a moment.

So, when I was in that, relaxed, quiet, calm state my brain, of course, didn't stay still. I remembered one of my first poems:

Bare Branches

Sunlight falls on bare branches
Pale blue sky over-arches.
Peaceful winter solitude
Waiting beside a city street.
Who can see it? Who cannot?
Do you feel it in your heart?
All the beauty all around
Where you find it, if you look.
Hustle, bustle, race around.
Deadlines, meetings, have to do.
Time is short, can't slow down.
Too much work, too far to go.
But then you stop and look up;
Pause a minute, slow inhale.
Beauty, all around. Just one
Minute makes all the difference.
from Conditions 
And then I thought of how many little things really make me happy. And they are always there. A loved one's touch or voice. The dappling of the sun on the ground. The patterns of the clouds. The sound of the swirling wind or the patter of rain from safely under cover. The luxuriousness of a completely relaxed, sleeping cat. The twinkling stars on a cold clear winter night.

The devil is in the details. But so is the angel.


The wonder comes by, now, in the quiet times
Softly taking its place like some remembered rhymes
I find it now in the glow of your eyes
Or the fascination with a politician’s lies
No longer the thing of everyday
More like a friend once gone away
Who returns to pick up where we left off
Like nothing happened in between, laugh.
I like the wonder of the small things
Things lost before in the thunder of wings
Or the marvel of an immense buffalo herd
Reduced to the glamour of a single bird
The edges of your mouth when it starts to smile
The confusion of a teen when he sees a phone dial
The wonder is all that and more, by the bye
Little things that bring a twinkle to the eye.
from Observations

Friday, January 18, 2013

Feature and Follow - My Favorite Villain

My favorite villain...Hmm.

I think the Jaberwock has to top the list. Who else can strike terror into generations of children with not so much as a tidbit of description except to "Beware!"

A close second has to be the Walrus and the Carpenter who trick the oysters into being collected and eaten.

On a purely psychological thriller perspective, Hannibal Lecter has to be near the top as the embodiment of evil. In that same vein, Mr. Hyde from Robert Louis Stevenson's classic is another favorite.

Finally, as a person who reads a lot of history, a favorite real life villain is Banastre Tarleton. He was so villainous he probably did more to solidify resistance in the southern colonies in the American Revolution and help bring about these United States than any single "rebel".

This is my first Feature and Follow post. I look forward to participating in the hop. Please leave me comments - all are welcome!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Review of Manipulating the List by K. B. Lever

Manipulating the List is the first book in K. B. Lever's Immortal Companion series, the second volume of which is due out summer 2013. The book is suitable for ages 13+
Katherine Sheppard has a special friend. He is The Collector and his job is to “collect” souls of people when they die and transition them to the afterlife. She is the only mortal who can see and talk to him, and she has known him since she was seven. But now, at age 25, she is on the list of souls to be collected. Can she and her friend manipulate the list and keep Katherine alive?
That is the premise of the fascinating novel. I had a hard time putting it down. The pacing is swift and the plot full of twists and turns with vivid storytelling. Ms. Lever weaves the story of Katherine along with the stories of each of the people who are "collected" as well as giving a detailed environment for each scene in the book.

In a sequence of adventures Katherine’s life spins out of control when her name appears on the list. However,  in the end she learns two important things: “..what truly living was all about…after many years of failed auditions,” and, in the final surprising plot twist, a lot about the nature of the Collector.  It sets up very well for volume 2. I am personally looking forward to its arrival.

Part paranormal adventure, part thriller, part romance there is a lot in this 240-page book. My one nitpicking negative was that the pace was so swift I sometimes missed a detail or two and had to reread a section and the last person whose soul is to be collected kind of loses her story in the actions as the story reaches its climax. All in all the book is very well done.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Library

The following is included in my collection Observations available for Kindle or in paperback.
It is not classic, like Frost or Wordsworth, but if you're here, it likely makes sense to you. Enjoy it and please, leave me a comment on the poem, the blog, or life in general! Thank you!


The library beckons
With promises of adventure,
Of faraway lands and fantastic creatures.
Fascinating people
And puzzles whose solution
Is always revealed in the end.
Take me away from today
Show me the past, the future,
A different present.
Teach me, entertain me
In whatever direction I choose.
I’ve gotten lost in the library
More often than I can recount.
Pleasantly lost, willfully lost
Mayhap I’ll get lost today!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Classic-ness of Classics

Or, what makes a classic a classic?

Welcome to 2013 and my tiny part of the Classic Reads Blog Hop.

My favorite book of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Although I have read Pride and Prejudice I have to admit it is not on my favorites list. However, indisputably, both are classics.

This begs the question what makes a classic if, clearly, it is not whether I personally have the book on my favorites list or not.

My own personal take is that it boils down to characters. Can you, the reader, identify with the character of the book and experience their emotion? If the answer is yes for multiple generations then the book is a classic.

The reader, be they high school kids or experienced adults like yours truly, can identify with Scout's confusion over the differences in how people were treated simply because of their skin color. I can feel her terror that dark night walking back from the school. I empathize with her indignation when her sense of right is violated. Not only are readers now able to identify and empathize but readers in the early 1960s could also identify and empathize.

People I know who love Jane Austen say much the same things. (To put words in their mouths) they feel the conflicting emotions of Austen's characters and identify with their struggle. It is the emotion and the struggle that is the same even though the mores, the plot, the scene are vastly different than the reader's, the reader is transported and is part. That is a classic.

This follows in other areas of writing as well. My favorite young adult book has been thrilling, mostly boys, for over a hundred years - Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. Despite the much different setting, I was excited from the start with David Balfour and could experience the adventure through his eyes. This was true for boys when the novel first came out and boys (again, mostly, though not exclusively I am happy to say) now still grasp that excitement and adventure.

It is a similar vein for girls with Laura Ingalls Wilder's books (though, I admit, I read most of them, too!). My sister loved them and my daughter a generation later, and for the same reason. The characters were real, their troubles were real, and the reader invested in them and shared their fates, if only mentally.

I could go on with other genres and situations but, that, I think you'd agree would be beating the proverbial dead horse. Whether Scout, Elizabeth, Balfour, or Laura, it is the ability of generations of readers to connect, empathize, and see the world through the character's eyes that, for me, make a classic novel classic.

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