Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Unsatisfactory Books

I promise you, I am reading, but I've come across several duds recently, which is why I'm writing this post today and not a book review post.  Nearly every time I go to the library, I find a book that I don't like for some reason.  I've come up with a list of the various kinds of unsatisfactory books.   Accompanying this post are pictures of the latest unsatisfactory books I've read.

1.  The writing was dumb/the author/book annoyed me-  Oh dear, there's quite a lot of this.  There are just some writing tones that annoy me and sometimes the writing is pathetic.  Sometimes I can't even pay attention to the story because the author is just such a terrible (or annoying) writer.

2.  I just can't get into the book-  This doesn't happen very frequently, but I just had it happen recently.  In my book loot post two weeks ago, I listed South of Superior.   The story had everything:  a good plot, was well written, and had charming characters.   But for some reason, I just couldn't get into it.  I read up to about page 70, but the book just wasn't sticking with me and I kept looking longingly at the last Flavia de Luce.   So that book got packed back to the library.  Maybe my mood will change and I'll enjoy that book, but for now, I'm not going to read it.
I'm usually not a cookbook snob, but honestly, celebrity
cookbooks get on my nerves.  Whenever I read one,
I want to say, "Oh come on, the last time you cooked
was 3 years ago."

3.  I strongly dislike the character-  The book can be one of the most well-written books I've ever come across, but if I hate the character, there is no way I'm going to read the book.

4.  The book isn't quite right for the mood I'm in-  This fits a little into the 2nd category.  Maybe the book was just too dark and depressing when I was in the mood for something funny or light.  Or maybe I wanted a serious autobiography and instead am reading a romantic comedy.

So I think I've covered all of the problems that books can have.  Do you have anything to add to this list?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

My Favorite Movies

When I don't read in the evenings, I like to watch British drama.  That's really the only kind of movie that I consistently love.  Yes, I do watch other things (remember the Hunger Games?), but British dramas will always hold a special place in my heart.  So, I'm going to take a break from my usual book blogging today and give you my list of favorite movies, almost all of them British.

1.  Pride and Prejudice- The 1995 version with Colin Firth...swoon. This is my all-time favorite movie.  I would cheerfully watch this once a month for the rest of my life.  However, be warned- this movie is 4 1/2 hours long.

2.  Two of my favorite actors- Colin Firth and Judy Dench.  This movie is laugh out loud funny at parts and also just a good romantic story.

3.  Sense and Sensibility- Another favorite.  More wonderful actors and actresses and a good plot.  I am always pleased with movies that stick closely with the book.

4.  Oh, Sherlock.  This is a close second with Pride and Prejudice.  The actors are fantastic, the plot extremely gripping, and I love John Watson and Sherlock's friendship.  I think it's one of the most affectionate male friendships I've ever seen on screen.

5.  Another Jane Austen.  This one is a little more serious in nature than some of Austen's books, but still very good.


6.  Enchanted April- Oh, this movie was wonderful.  I read the book first and then somebody told me, "Oh, did you know that there is a movie from this book?"  I immediately watched it.  The ending is so feel-good and happy and the characters are all likable in different ways.

7. One of my favorite Dickens-based movies.  This is a mini-series and I kind of liked that because they could include more of the story than if it had just been a 2 hour movie.  Slightly dark, like all of Dickens, but a happy ending and redemption for the likable characters.


8.  Yes, I finally saw this.  And oh, what a wonderful movie it was.  I thought it was interesting to see a young Maggie Smith and Helena Bonham Carter.  This is the first time I had seen Julian Sands, who played George Emerson.  I am curious-is he still acting?  What kinds of movies?  I thought he did a fantastic job as the hero in this movie, but that was 30 years ago.

So those are my favorite movies.  What are yours?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I finally read Stardust this weekend.  And what a good read it was!  I normally read books before movies, but in this case, I just happened to see the movie first.  The movie was very good, starring Claire Danes and some other guy I've never heard of.  The plot was interesting with lots of twists and turns and combined fantasy and romance very well.  The book was all those things, plus Neil Gaiman's wonderful writing.
The book.

Stardust is the story of young Tristran Thorn, a romantic boy who is in love with the "prettiest girl in all England", Victoria Forester.  She, however, sees him as merely a shop boy with no prospects whatsoever.  So, Tristran makes a bargain: if he finds a shooting star that has just fallen, Victoria must marry him.  She laughingly agrees and Tristran sets off over the wall that separates a regular English village from the land of Faerie.  He ends up where the star fell and he is shocked to find that the star is not just a piece of glittering rock, but a woman named Yvaine.  He ties her up and insists that she come with him to meet his future wife.  She, with much complaining and eye-rolling, agrees to go.
The movie.

Meanwhile, there are two other people that are on the hunt for this star.  Three brothers who are up to no good must find the star before one of them becomes king.  Along the way, their four ghost brothers who are already dead provide commentary on the living brothers' quest.  Also, the Lilim, three ugly and wicked witches, are on the hunt for Yvaine because if they cut out her heart they will be young again.  Tristran and Yvaine have more adventures, from meeting the sky pirates to meeting a lion and a unicorn fighting for a crown.  And, of course, there is a happy ending.

I really enjoyed this book.  It was the perfect weekend read because I had the time to sit down and read larger chunks of it instead of just a page here and a page there.  I recommend this for anyone who likes a good fantasy story with a good portion of suspense.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunset

Here's a sunset picture for all you lovely readers.  I'm taking a little blogging
break for today, but I'll be back tomorrow with a review of the book Stardust.
Hope you all have had a lovely weekend and are refreshed for a new week!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Pigs

We have pretty much every animal on my farm: beef cattle, chickens, a few loud guinea hens, 3 ornery geese, sheep, goats, two dogs, and a bunch of barn kitties that roam at will.  Well, three days ago a kind neighbor called and asked if we wanted 3 little piglets.  After a few minutes of thinking, we said yes.  So now, there are three little piglets that are living in a horse stall until they are old enough to go out on pasture.  These pigs were born in an extremely conventional (for the United States) pig operation, called CAFO units.  Now these 3-week-old piglets are living in a wildly different setting at our farm.  They have will have lots of sunshine and grass and I think they're going to be very happy.

Piggy naptime.  They're babies, so they spend quite a lot of time
sleeping and chewing on things.
Contemplative pig.
I promise, this is the last time you will ever see a pig butt on my blog.
But look!  It's a perfect heart and no, that wasn't tattooed on.

Since we've gotten pigs, I am remembering all of these books and stories about pigs.   Of course, there's the classic Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, but there are many others.  In Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, there is a story about somebody taking a pig for a ride on a bobsled.  All I remember about that story is it was funny.  Then there's the Beatrix Potter book, Pigling Bland.  There's the famous Charlotte's Web, the pigs in the Richard Scarry books, the stories about Olivia the pig, and dear old Babe: The Gallant Pig.
The waterer.  It's just a pvc pipe with a little tappy-nipple thing like
rabbits use.  These smarties figured it out without any coaching on our part!
The shoelaces on boots make excellent chew toys.
Apparently chewing on the feeder and an old rag is very fun.

This is just a smidgen of the stories about pigs.  I've wondered why there were so many pig stories, but I'm starting to understand it since I got pigs.  You see, pigs are one of the most sensitive and smart farm animals.  They actually remind me a lot of dogs.  They can get very bored if they don't have something engaging to do, they get lonely if they don't have company, and they all have very distinct personalities.  The most rewarding thing about taking care of the pigs is that when you go out to the barn, the pigs have a special happy grunt when they hear people.  All this to say, I think I'm going to like keeping pigs and I can understand why people have liked them for a long time.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Speaking from Among the Bones

I'm done with Flavia de Luce # 5, Speaking From Among the Bones.  Well!  I finished the last page and shrieked a little when I finished it.  The very last sentence drops a huge bombshell.  I have recommended Flavia over and over on this blog, so I don't think I need to rhapsodize anymore about how wonderful the books are.  Instead, I'll give a brief summary and then some of my favorite quotes from this book.

In this book, the little Hamlet, Bishop's Lacey, in which Flavia lives is holding a five-hundredth anniversary celebration of Saint Tancred.  In this celebration, they will dig up his remains.  Flavia just so happens to be on the spot and is the first to discover the former church organist, killed and wearing a gas mask in the tomb of Saint Tancred.  Nobody can think who would have bad feelings for the mild mannered Mr. Collicutt, but Flavia is determined to find out.

Quotes (Some of these, I marked in the book because I liked them, and some are thanks to GoodReads, who helps me remember every book quote I ever forgot):

“I was the eighth dwarf. Sneaky.”

“There's an unwritten law of the universe which assures that the thing you seek will always be found in the last place you look. It applies to everything in life from lost socks to misplaced poisons. . .”- This is so true!  

“The word “actually,” like its cousin “frankly,” should, by itself, be a tip-off to most people that what is to follow is a blatant lie— but it isn’t.” -  And, I would add, "No offense".  Of course you are going to say something offensive, there's no need to add that annoying little preface. 

“History is like the kitchen sink,” Adam answered. “Everything goes round and round until eventually, sooner or later, most of it goes down the waste pipe. Things are forgotten. Things are mislaid. Things are covered up. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of neglect.” 

And finally, I have a poll for all you readers.  How do you pronounce the name Flavia?  When I read the first book, I pronounced it "Flahvia".  But here's the thing: Flavia nicknames herself "Flave", which makes me think that maybe it's "Flaevia."  I wonder if this is a British/American thing. I have a poll to the right and I'd love it if you would vote one way or the other.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A Letter to My Library

Dearest Library,

I really do adore you.  You are filled with fantastic, interesting books on pretty much any subject under the sun.  Many of those books are delightfully musty and smell of interesting places and times.  However, like most things, you have your faults.  I am writing to address the several small irksome things that bother readers everywhere.
A random lamb picture.  Meet Louisa May Alcott.

1.  Puhlease do not ever, under any circumstance, put the barcode right over the synopsis.  I'm not going to check out a book if I have no idea what it is about.  There have been many books that look very interesting, but are all covered up by stickers and barcodes, so that I can't see the cover and I can't see the plot and I can see about half of the author's name.

2.   I am begging you: don't get rid of the old, archaic books.  They are usually some of the most charming and interesting books.  I understand that they might not be as huge a crowd pleaser as vampire fiction.  However, the old dears have lived a long life and deserve a respectable old age on a nice library shelf, not pitched in the library sale bin.  If you keep them, I promise I will check them all out and read them cover to cover.

3.  Comfy armchairs- how would you feel about putting some really comfy armchairs in a cozy little corner?  I doubt that a squishy old armchair is any more expensive than the stiff chairs you have sitting rather awkwardly around.  That said, this is lower on the list than keeping the old books and the barcodes covering up important parts.  I understand that you have limited money, thanks to cuts in state funding, which is most definitely not your fault.

4.  I wish that I could have more book requests from inter-library loan.  Honestly, after 1/2 an hour with my book blogs, I have far more than 5 book requests.  I understand that if everybody got 100 requests, there would be no books left on the shelves.  But 10 requests?  Please?

And those, dear Library, are my simple requests.  However, I want you to know that if you don't fulfill my requests, I will still come faithfully every week.  I am so pleased with the great service that you do to my community.  One of the best services in the world is access to free books, wherever and whoever you are.

Your's Truly,
Clara

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

4/23/14 Library Loot

Here's this week's Library Loot from The Captive Reader.  I went to the library yesterday, so this post is just in time!  I got a good pile (I've been having great book luck recently).  I hope you find some titles to add to you TBR list!
                                       
1.  The Scent of Water is a story of a woman who finds consolation for a failed romance in a little country cottage and the people that she meets around her.  I love Elizabeth Goudge, so I think this will be good.

2.  Another Fred Chappell book.  I'm sure it's going to be just as good as Brighten the Corner Where You Are.  This is the story of Jess Kirkman, the son of protagonist in Brighten the Corner.  As his grandmother is dying, he looks back on the stories of the women before her.

3.  A 20s mystery about a husband and wife detective team who solve a murder case.  The back of the book says that this book has a lot of social commentary in it.  The book makes fun of murder stories, with the victim being shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, strangled, and poisoned!  This is also a very feminist book, with commentary about the helpless position that most women were in.  The very equal partnership between the husband and wife is emphasized.  I'm interested to read this!


4.  The 5th Flavia de Luce Book

5.  The 6th- and last- Flavia de Luce book.

6.  Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture- The title is pretty self-explanatory. I found this on some blog, I'm sorry I can't remember where.  As an introvert in the church, I think this is going to be a very interesting and inspiring read.


7. For some reason, the last two times I was at the library, I forgot to get the 3rd Emma Graham book.  I'm glad I finally remembered!



8.  I am so pleased that I found this.  (From another blog...blogs have given me so many good book ideas!)  I read Nancy Drew in late elementary school/early middle school and loved them, although I distinctly remember noticing that I could never remember the latest Nancy Drew I had read.  They all kind of ran together.  However, I have a real fondness for Nancy and it will be interesting to read about her origins.

So that's my loot for the week!  What did you get?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I am Half-Sick of Shadows

I got my Flavia de Luce book back!  I sat down and started reading.  I think this might be my favorite of the Flavia de Luce books so far because of all the developments in character and in the ongoing story about Flavia's mysterious mother.  I really was very pleased with what happened in this story.  The other new new thing about this book for me is that for the first time, I actually am interested in Dogger's character.  (Dogger is Flavia's father's valet of sorts and also a gardener/odd jobs man.  They were also in a war together and Dogger still has painful flashbacks.)  He seems to be developing into a main character and not just a background character.

In this book, Colonel de Luce (Flavia's father) is even closer to bankruptcy on the old mansion in which they live.  Finally, he hears about a film producer that is looking for an old English mansion for his latest film.  Colonel de Luce rents out the mansion and the set trucks and the famous actors start appearing a few weeks before Christmas.  This both disappoints and thrills the de Luce daughters, who are excited to have real live actors living with them, but also disappointed because it means that there will be no Christmas tree and presents.  However, things start to get very exciting when Flavia becomes friends with the selfish but strangely likable leading actress.  The night after a play that the actors give for the locals, Flavia can't sleep and so is wandering the halls.  Suddenly, she hears a movie that the actress starred in.  She hurries to the actress's room and finds her, hung from the ceiling with rolls of film.  But the odd and slightly chilling thing is that the actress was dressed and covered with make-up after she died.  Now it's up to Flavia, with the grudging assistance of the inspector, to find out whodunnit.  There are a pile of suspects, as half the village has been snowed in with the de Luces.
The quote on which the title of the book is based.
Each book title in the series is from a quote.

I am enjoying each Flavia de Luce book more and more as I go along.  Each story stands out in my mind and the characters are well-developed.  My next read will probably be the 5th Flavia book.  I'm also very excited because there is a TV show about Flavia de Luce being made this year!  I will most definitely be watching it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A View of Easter

I had a lovely Easter weekend and I'm going to share the pictures that don't have faces in them with you!  Starting off, here's the gorgeous sunset picture I got on Saturday night after a glorious campfire.  The glowing crack is a ventilation crack in the barn.  I caught the sunset pouring through.  This is one of my new favorite pictures.

This is the traditional lamb cake that we always make.  It's a bit of a rigamarole, but we love it and it makes such a pretty centerpiece, besides being delicious!

Easter Sunday, there was church, then a big extended family party with delicious ham and sides and plenty of desserts (I'm still recovering from a sugar headache!)  After I got home, I was fiddling with the camera and got a very pretty shot of a pot of hyacinths, an old crate-turned-plant stand, and a vintage armchair in the kitchen.
So that was my easter.  How was yours?  Was it a quiet gathering with a few people?  A big family wing-ding like me?  Or did you not celebrate Easter?  I'd love to know what you did.

If I ever finish blasted A Company of Swans, I'll review it.  It's a perfectly good book, but I have had so many other distractions recently that reading has been pushed to the back burner.  I'm looking forward to a quiet week with plenty of reading!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter


I hope that all of you have a very Happy Easter, wherever you are and whatever you're doing.

The easter sunrise this morning.  This captures just how vivid it was.


The sunrise to the west.  See the pinky-purple streaking over the barn?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Mary Stewart Books

I got cheated out of a library book.  I checked This Rough Magic out of the library, so pleased that I had found a book by Mary Steward that I had never read.  After reading through most of my library pile, I finally reached for This Rough Magic.  I opened the book and started reading.  Each chapter of the book has a quote at the start.  This one, from the Tempest, seemed awfully familiar, but I kept reading.  Two chapters in, I realized that I had read this book.  I wasn't in the mood for a re-read, so with a sigh I put the book back in the library box.  So now I know that I have read every Mary Stewart book in the library.


 If you haven't read anything by her (or if you have), Mary Stewart is a truly fantastic author.  Her writing is clever and really fits into its own genre: a mix of gothic, thriller, romance, magic, a smattering of comedy, and beautiful scenery descriptions.  I was introduced to Mary Stewart quite a while ago. 
She is such a good writer that I would confidently recommend anything she has written to any reader.

But, while I have read all the books, I haven't read them in these editions.  Just recently, the UK released all of the Mary Stewart books in beautiful new editions with lovely vintage pictures on the front.  I am feeling slightly light-headed.


Did you notice that Thunder on the Right, Nine Coaches Waiting, and My Brother
Michael all have the same dress.  I wonder if these illustrations came from a
vintage pattern cover... 
Sigh.  This is my biggest want right now.  Can you imagine?  The complete set of these (go to amazon, there are about 10 more) sitting on my bookshelf.  *Swoon*

Friday, April 18, 2014

An Extremely Cute Project

(I'm sorry, guys.  This has absolutely nothing to do with reading, but it was so cute I couldn't resist posting.)
After moving my sewing room around and getting a gorgeous new Bernina sewing machine for Christmas (thank you, family!), I was ready to start sewing.  I finished up a pair of fabulous turquoise overalls that had been languishing around and looked around for a new project.  My requirements were many: it had to fairly quick, it had to involve my lovely sewing machine somehow, and it had to be an item that was useful.  And so, I found this project from a book on appliquéing and set to work, cooing happily because it was so daggone cute.  I ended up not following the instructions at all, just cutting and appliquéing and then sewing up.
This is the first one I made.  First of all, I folded some plain oatmeal colored linen and lined the bottom of the hanger up with the fold.  Then, leaving about 1/2 inch seam allowance, I cut around the shape of the wire hanger.  Next, I embroidered four hangers in green pearl cotton and then machine appliquéd little clothes cut out of fabric scraps
                                         
This is what the back looks like.  I just sewed up the top of the hanger cover with black pearl cotton and did it in kind of uneven stitches.  I like the slightly unfinished look it gives to the hangers.

Now this is my absolute favorite.  I dug through and found scraps of fabric from clothing that I have actually made for myself.  The overalls I just finished, two summer dresses, a pair of flannel pajamas, and a skirt on which I sewed teensy weensy little pockets.  And did you see?  They're hanging on a rickrack clothesline!

I have two more up at the sewing machine.

A pistachio colored rickrack clothesline and a narrow embroidered red ribbon clothes line.

I can't sell these because they were somebody else's idea, but if you know me, drop an obvious hint and I'll make one of these for your birthday.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

I adored this book.  Even though I was in deep mourning over leaving Flavia de Luce behind, that didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying Brighten the Corner Where You Are by Fred Chappell.  The premise of the story is very simple: a day in the life of Joe Robert Kirkman, a schoolteacher who wants to teach about evolution, a philosopher, and a lover of pranks in a 1940s North Carolina mountain town.  The story is recounted by his son.

The tale opens with Joe Robert Kirkman shimmying up a tree at 3 in the morning to catch an opossum. Then he cooks french toast for himself while his family sleeps, breaking every pot and pan in the house and then splattering egg all down the front of his best suit.  We learn that he is going to be questioned by the school board about his beliefs because of his teaching of evolution.  While on his way to school, he sees a child flailing about in a small, fast-flowing creek.  He dives in, expels the water from her lungs, and takes her to the general store, where he changes into an odd collection of clothes that afford him odd looks all day.  The day is filled with many an adventure from ending up stuck in the chimney with a goat on the roof to a drastic interview with the paper.
The Author
One of my next reads.
This story is charming, gently funny, and full of beautiful language.  The writing is some of the best I have read in a long time and Chappell manages to capture post war North Carolina perfectly.  The characters are interesting and quite human, with foibles and funny quirks.  Joe Robert Kirkman is the funniest, quirkiest, most human of them all.  I highly recommend this to pretty much everybody.  Even if you don't have an affinity for southern novels like I do, this is a must read, simply for the beautiful language.  I am also excited because this novel is part of a sort of casual series, all written through Joe Robert Kirkman's son's eyes.  I will definitely be reading them all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Introverted Characters

People, I just had the most aggravating thing happen yesterday.  I was getting ready to finish up I am Half-Sick of Shadows (the next Flavia de Luce) when I forgot it at the dentist.  Argh.  So now I have no idea what is going to happen and I don't have a book review, but here's the other post I've been working on.
The silly kitten who likes to drink out of the sheep water tank.

I just noticed a phenomenon.  Has anybody else noticed the fact that an overwhelming majority of protagonists are decidedly introverted?  Just a little refresher:  An introvert is a person who needs to "recharge" after being in large groups of people.  It's not that they're socially awkward or unable to be in society, they just have to rest up afterwards.  They often tend to have a lot of inner dialogue and enjoy just thinking. This characterization must be just perfect for book characters.  Think about the last 5 books you read.  How many of them had an outgoing, busy character that spends hours talking to people and never sits and thinks.  As I thought about this, I realized that maybe a book character has to be introverted to be a book character.  Otherwise, the reader would have no idea what the motives were and what was going on at a whole other level.  With the exception of action cartoon characters and Nancy Drew, most book characters have a pretty busy internal dialogue, thinking through things and paying attention to their emotions.  Or, are most authors introverted, so it just feels normal for a character to spend lots of time thinking?  I'd love to hear what you think.  And now I'll close with several quotes that I found from books, just to illustrate my point.
The view of the barn through the trees

From my dear Flavia de Luce (*sniff*)- "Whenever I'm with other people, part of me shrinks a little. Only when I am alone can I fully enjoy my own company."

And another because I'm missing this book so much- "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?"
A coat of wool from one of the sheep, ready to go to the mill.

From Meg Murray of A Wrinkle in Time- "Meg, don't you think you'd make a better adjustment to life if you faced facts?" 
I do face facts," Meg said.
They're lots easier to face than people, I can tell you."


From Matilda- "“You seemed so far away," Miss Honey whispered, awestruck.

"Oh, I was. I was flying past the stars on silver wings," Matilda said. "It was wonderful.” "


From Ferdinand the Bull, one of the most memorable children's books- "And for all I know he is sitting there still, under his favorite cork tree, smelling the flowers just quietly. He is very happy."

I have a whole bunch of other quotes, but I won't bore you.  Start reading and notice all of the introverted characters.