Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Listening To

Sometimes I get in a music-listening-while reading mood.  I am immersed in the world of Belle Ruin right now (review coming soon!) and while I read, I've been listening to Scenes from Childhood (Kinderzenen in German) by Schumann.  This little collection of pieces is pretty familiar and they make surprisingly good background listening, although they're just as nice for sitting down and seriously listening to.

Here's the link from YouTube, so you can listen to these beautiful pieces while reading as well!
My favorites are #8 and #9.  I'm teaching myself to play them now.

And here's the Wikipedia link you that you can see the titles and order of the pieces.
Happy Listening!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Friendly Persuasion

I'm reviewing an old favorite today.  I've been doing more wander-y reading recently, with less intentional library book reading.  More poor library loot pile is suffering.  So, instead of reading Introverts in the Church like I had planned, I'm reading The Friendly Persuasion for the third (or maybe fourth) time.  Jessamyn West, the author of The Friendly Persuasion is a wonderful author.  I have loved everything I ever read by her and we even named one of the lambs after her.

A Friendly Persuasion is the story of Jess and Eliza Birdwell, a Quaker couple in Indiana during the Civil War.  Eliza is a non-nonsense, practical minister.  Jess runs a nursery and has a bit of a hot temper.   His love of horses and music is decidedly not Quaker and gets him into some trouble.  They have several children, all of whom are likable and entertaining.  Each chapter is a stand-alone story of some experience, most of them told from Jess or Eliza's point of view.  From having one of their sons join the army to the organ that appears at their doorstep, thanks to Jess, the family is endears themselves to the reader almost instantly.

It's quite evident that Jessamyn West was writing from experience, not just writing a story.  She know her history and she knows what a busy, happy family looks like.  I love reading books like this that don't involve a lot of turmoil and distress, just happy family life with some misadventures along the way.  The other great thing about this book is how timeless it is.  Sure, it's set in the 1800s, but there is something that is so classic about the occurrences and the characters that I think appeals to a lot of people.
The movie.  Is this movie good, or annoying because
it isn't like the book?  I'd love to hear what you think about it.

This book is definitely not a book for a niche audience.  It's quite appropriate for even a family read-aloud, yet it can be enjoyed by pretty much any reader.  There are some slightly sad stories, but more often, there is lots of humor.  This book has also inspired me to look for another Jessamyn West book.  I bet that all of her writing is going to be just as enjoyable.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Growing Up Born Again

I have no idea where this book came from.  It just kind of appeared in my library and when I saw it, I knew at once that I had to read it.  The cute 50s family on the front was enough to convince me.

I picked up the book, wondering what I was in for.  It turns out, this book is a charming, funny, whimsical look at what growing up in in evangelical Christian, 1950s American family was like and all that that entailed.  I think what most impressed me was the way that the five authors could laugh at that background, but not turn it into ridiculing their childhoods.  I did not grow up in this kind of church, but the story still resonated with me in so many ways.  I think it was in large part because I love reading about this era in America and also because little subsets of people fascinate me.

This book is a very light, quick read and it was perfect for this weekend.  The chapters have titles like, "Holy Bible, Book Divine" (a look at the Born Again family's view of the Bible), "If You're Saved and You Know It", and "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus".  The book is chock full of 1950s and 60s illustrations of church-related subjects.  There are funny pop-quizzes (I'll have you know I scored very high on them) and advice for what to bring to a church supper (jello salad or tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top).  There is a sample bulletin with notes showing when it is acceptable to shuffle your feet or run to the bathroom and musings on going to church camp.

This book comes highly recommended.  Even if you aren't (or weren't) a BA Christian or even a Christian, this book is extremely funny.  Of course, a few of the references make a little more sense if you have had some experiences like these, but for the most part the book can be enjoyed by anybody.  When I looked online, this book appears to be fairly easy to find, although it looks like it isn't printed anymore.  I found several used copies on amazon and you might be able to find one at your library.  If you know me and want to read this book, I'll be more than happy to loan it to you.  You're sure to enjoy this wonderful book.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Billy Collins

To finish up my poetry reading month, I read The Apple That Astonished Paris by Billy Collins.  Collins's poetry has always stirred and impressed me.  Collins uses words like no other poet has ever used them.  There's something timeless about his style; it's definitely modern (no rhyming, modern themes), but yet it makes so many references to timeless things that it isn't really modern poetry at all.

I thought that I would quote one of Collins's poems about books because it is so fitting for my blog and it also is a review of the book unto itself.
Billy Collins

Books   by Billy Collins

From the heart of this dark, evacuated campus
I can hear the library humming in the night,
a choir of authors murmuring inside their books
along the unlit, alphabetical shelves,
Giovani Pontano next to Pope, Dumas next to his son,
each one stitched into his own private coat,
together forming a low, gigantic chord of language.

I picture a figure in the act of reading,
shoes on a desk, head tilted into the wind of a book,
a man in two worlds, holding the rope of his tie
as the suicide of lovers saturates a page,
or lighting a cigarette in the middle of the theorem.
He moves from paragraph to paragraph
as if touring a house of endless, panelled rooms.

I hear the voice of my mother reading to me
from a chair facing the bed, books about horses and dogs,
and inside her voice lie other distant sounds,
the horrors of a stable ablaze at night,
a bark that is moving toward the brink of speech.

I watch myself building bookshelves in college,
walls within walls, as rain soaks New England,
or standing in a bookstore in a trench coat.

I see all of us reading ourselves away from ourselves,
straining in circles of light to find more light
until the line of words becomes a trail of crumbs
that we follow across a page of fresh snow;

when evening is shadowing the forest
and small birds flutter down to consume the crumbs,
we have to listen hard to hear the voices
of the boy and his sister receding into the woods.

And there is all the review that is needed for this wonderful poet.  I highly recommend anything that Collins has written.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

How the Poetry Went

In a previous post, I told you all about the poetry I was going to read.  Well, it was slightly overambitious, but I did get two of the poetry books read.

1.  Longfellow- I'm glad I actually read this whole book.  The poetry, particularly the nature poetry, was just beautiful.  I loved that, even though those poems were so old, they were still meaningful today.
I gave an overview of what I thought of Longfellow in this post, so I won't say any more.

2.  Billy Collins-  Once I realized that I just wasn't going to get around to reading all of the poetry that I had on the list, I picked up a slim volume of Billy Collins poetry.  I have heard and read Billy Collins's poetry many times, so I knew what a treat I was in for.  If you are a poetry foot-dragger like me, one of his books is the place to start.  I'm going to do a real post about this book because it was so enjoyable.

So I may not have quite reached my goal, but I did a little dabbling in poetry for April, so I was pleased with the results.  I may continue to read a book of poetry throughout the year, and if so I'll keep you updated on my poetry reading adventures.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mary Stewart Series: Thornyhold

So do you remember this post where I wrote about those beautiful editions of the Mary Stewart books? Well I got a bunch of them!  I am so pleased and excited to have all this lovely reading material.  So unfortunately, my library books have be pushed most definitely to the back burner.  I started with Thornyhold because I remembered loving it.

It's one of Stewart's most fantasy-filled romance.  It is set in the 40s and is the story of young Gilly, who inherits an old house named Thornyhold from her cousin.  This cousin was labeled a witch by the surrounding village and Gilly is fast discovering that she may have some of the same talents.  She also has to deal with the jealous neighbor and her dimwitted son who are out to get her.  However, not everybody dislikes her.  She befriends a little boy who is amazed at her abilities to cure animals and falls in love with the boy's writer father.  Along with a very good plot, there are wonderful cozy descriptions of setting up housekeeping in a little country house.

I will probably not be reading many of my library books until I finish these Mary Stewart books, so this will be a blogging series.  I'd love to have any of you read these along with me!  And the pretty editions are by no means requisite.  Most libraries, I think, have a good selection of Mary Stewart's writing.  I highly recommend all of them.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What I Do When I Don't Read

Okay, so actually, I do a lot of different things when I'm not reading.  I spend a much of my day not reading.  But one of the things that I love to do is sew.  I only briefly mentioned that in this post, but I do love sewing, particularly sewing vintage clothes.  My first sewing project was a baggy corduroy jumper from a 60s pattern when I was about 8.  I lost interest quickly and my patient mother finished it for me.  Since then, I've learned a lot about sewing and have come to love it.  So I thought I would post about the patterns that I'm currently planning on using for this year's summer clothing.

1.  A 40s house dress.  I'll do it in the shorter style, probably in linen, for those sticky-hot days in August.

2.  This pretty dress from the 50s will probably be a nice church dress for me.

3. I'll make the dress, but probably not the coat.  The note on my copy of the pattern says, "Mrs. Bob Barnard 3/24/55- Dress top not attractive!"  Well, Mrs. Bob, I'm going to directly defy you and make this dress.

4. I don't know if this skirt will every actually appear in my closet, but I do so love those fan appliqu├ęs! The part that makes me laugh is the tiny pocket for her own fan.  At first, I thought it was a knife and I couldn't figure out why she'd be toting that around on her fancy skirt.

5.  A want to make the belted version of this dress, but that blouse might be a part of my wardrobe in the near future.

6.  Such a practical skirt pattern!  I'm leaning towards the length and style of the blue skirt, but I also love the green skirt.

7.  A great late-60s/early 70s dress.  I think I would do a dress like the red one on the far right, probably with a few inches added.

8.  And finally, this fabulous suit.  I'm going to make the pleated skirt and jacket version.  I love the idea of the trim around the edges being the color of the skirt.

And what do you like to do when you're not reading?