Such a Cozy Summer…

June 13, 2016 at 6:26 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Cozy mysteries are where I go to find solace when I’m too tired for anything else… when my imagination is too exhausted to fly with dragons… my intellect burned out or otherwise occupied reading homeschool material to my daughter.  Cozies are for bubble baths, for “I’m so tired, I can’t sleep” nights (thanks, Sarah).  And right now, I’m hooked on a few new ones.

7457122.jpgManor House Mysteries

So far, I’ve read Grace Under Pressure and Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy.  The series stars Museum Curator (and mansion manager) Grace as she sleuths around a small town, helping the local police solve the murders that keep happening at her new job.  Naturally, there’s an unfortunate past relationship that didn’t go well, and a new budding one with the local landscaper to keep us involved in the character’s life as she manages to avoid looking like a serial killer – because in real life, how many people are tied to so many murders?  The touch of tourist seasons, southern drawls, and Civil War reenactments remind me of home.

Library Lighthouse Mysteries

ByBookorByCrook-1.jpgI’m now in my third installment (Reading Up a Storm) of the Library Lighthouse Mysteries by Eva Gates, which began with By Book or By Crook.  This series features a lighthouse that has been renovated into a library.  Book Nerds and Jane Austen references abound while the newest librarian and the library cat stumble across – yep, you guessed it – one murder after another.  Again, no one would dare think the Nancy Drew wanna-be is indeed a serial killer with no many murders suddenly happening right under her nose, and of course, she’s the heroine with a terrible romantic past and TWO attractive men vying for her attention. Brain candy indeed.  Each book in this series have occurred within weeks of the one previously and all during summer tourist months near the beach.  Southern drawls, check.  Meddling mothers, check. (Booked for Trouble) Food stuffs and baking references, check.  Also, weird guy who pretends to be British… this character confuses me, but I got used to him.

Next up, a Miranda James series that begins with a title called Bless Her Dead Little Heart. Seriously, how can I pass that up?

 

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Hope and Mirrors (Clans of the Alphane Moon Review Part Two)

May 5, 2015 at 11:21 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Unknown“[…] we’ve lost her. Nobody can claim this woman for long. It’s just not in her nature, in her biology.”

“She, as well as he, as well as everyone […] struggled for balance, for insight; it was a natural tendency for living creatures.  Hope always existed […]”

That line hit me like a train.  I loved it.  I loved the twist in Mary’s character. I love the terrible beginning and the hopeful ending in the midst of far worse circumstances.  I just got a tattoo last month “I am half agony, half hope.”  Hope in the midst of agony and agony that leads to hope is my mantra.  I loved this moment of humanity so brilliantly expressed.  The fact that I have a Jane Austen tattoo and binge read Philip K. Dick may not seem like two cohesive characteristics to other readers, but to me few other writers have grasped humanity so cleverly.

I have loved all of PKD’s work, but Clans of the Alphane Moon (four Philip K. Dick books into my discovery) just might be my favorite so far.

I said so to a fellow Dick fan and he said, “Funny, that’s one of his most disliked books.”

“Really? Why?”

“I don’t know.  From what I’ve read a lot of people criticize the plot.”

I looked into this, of course.

“Just as Phil breaks the rules of reality, he also breaks any and all literary rules at the same time. The result is a Dick vision presented in an inconsistent story that is not fully developed.” – Jason Koornick, http://www.philipkdickfans.com/literary-criticism/reviews/review-by-jason-koornick-clans-of-the-alphane-moon-1964/

I’m not a plot person. I don’t care about plots.  I like well written people and unusual circumstances.  I like to learn something new about the world around me and myself.  I could care less whether or not the story moved the way it *should* have.  Maybe this is why I like Dick.  He doesn’t seem to give a rats ass about the rules of writing.  He just tells his stories.

Koornick proves this bookish faw of mine when he writes, “Let us not forget that the most memorable moments of many of PKD’s best (and worst) novels are the “situations” rather than the characters or plot development. It is on this level that Clans of the Alphane Moon succeeds.”

If you’ve read my own published novella (nothing nearly as good or even in the same realm as any PKD story), you’ll see that plots are not my strong suit and that open ended ambiguous endings are my favorite.  I have no problem leaving someone hanging and asking for a wee bit more.  I’d rather be asked for more than be told, “Oh my gosh that story just wouldn’t end!”  Even if that means I jump to a random conclusion without spoon feeding anyone.  *SPOILER ALERT* So Mary and Chuck reconcile for no clear cut reason.  That’s marriage.  You don’t have to have a clear cut reason for making it work.  You just do – even if you’ve been screaming bloody murder for weeks (or years) on end… you have a moment and remember what you’re there for… even if it’s just a vague inkling of a thought you can’t express.

I like the ironies and the exaggerations in this one.  It mirrors my mind.  Constant ironies.  Always a hyperbole (or a thousand).  It may not be everyone’s favorite – it wasn’t even PKD’s favorite – but I like it a lot.

I think the most amusing thing about the novel, isn’t the novel itself but rather PKD’s own reaction to it:

“One night, after taking a great number of amphetamines, I sat up reading three novels of mine which I hadn’t read since the galleys: THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH, CLANS OF THE ALPHANE MOON, and UBIK. Of the three, only UBIK struck me as having any worth. I genuinely enjoyed reading it. But STIGMATA merely puzzled me, especially the last scene & ending. CLANS had one good item: the robot-body programmed to attack Bunny Hentman’s rocket ship (along with everyone else intending to attack it but not doing so) — the robot attacking the ship all alone, and the people in the ship saying, puzzled, “Who’s out there attacking us?” Very funny, I thought… and then the horrible wonder came to me, saying, “But when I wrote it did I intend it to be funny?” I’ll assume I did.” [Selected Letters, Vol. 1, p. 294]

As soon as I finished reading, I handed my copy to the librarians to check in and re-shelve and pulled out Minority Report, which I read all at once.  Although, if I had read the above quote first, I’d have grabbed UBIK.  Solar Lottery, however, is next.

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Book Nerds Romp and Raise a Ruckus

April 20, 2015 at 3:03 pm (The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

I needed a vacation. I’ve been needing one for quite sometime, but it took a bit of time, planning, impromptu not planning, and selfishness to make it happen.

I went to Dallas for a few days, with the nervous approval of my husband, left my daughter with my mother; where I ate, drank, and was merry.  And got a tattoo.

The tattoo occurred toward the end, but was the plan from the beginning.

It went a bit like this…

We didn’t book a hotel.  It’s Dallas.  It was Tuesday.  We thought we’d find one.  And we did.  About ten hotels later.  Note to self, book a hotel no matter how silly your destination.  I truly never believed this until this trip.  I very much enjoyed the fact that in the last ten years, if I wanted a hotel and was somewhere, I just arrived and walked in.  Then again, I haven’t gotten out much in the last ten years.

Post Hotel Finding: My old college chums and my best friend since high school all crashed into one group and found ourselves at Goodfriend, a bar and grill with amazing fried pickles and ghost ranch, on the first evening.  There I discovered what I shall now always call fancy whiskey, although it’s actually a Classic Whiskey Sour.  This is not your Chili’s or dive bar Whiskey with sweet and sour – this involves egg whites and shaking and frothy latte like smoothness and basically heaven in a cup of whiskey.  This is also where we discovered that there was whiskey in the water.  Not literally, we just found it very easy to become happily plastered there.  Props to Matt, the owner, who is amazing.  And to the bartender who got me hooked on those Classic Whiskey Sours.

Moving on… The Double Wide.  Yes, that is the name of a bar.  Complete with toilet bowls serving as planters that provide extra seating.  I laughed, I cried, I was in a ridiculous bar with an appropriately fitting name, and strange men trying to talk to my friends who handled them much better than I would.  My response would have been “Go AWAY.”  But my friends are way more classy than I am and found themselves saying, “It’s been nice talking to you, but you’re crashing girls night.”

Wednesday, we got pedicures and ate Mexican food.  Margaritas, bookstores (The Lucky Dog), lots of coffee, a Ton’s Mongolian Grill Reunion dinner at 7:30 with even more college chums.  More bars –  Bowen House (way overpriced but I got some more whiskey in) and The Ginger Man (fun beer).  It was good to see old friends.

Thursday morning involved Cultivar Coffee and the most delicious vanilla latte I ever had.  There was a little hole in the wall taco joint across from it on Peavy called El Ranchito.  If I lived in that neighborhood, that’s where all my money would be going… to $1.50 homemade breakfast tacos.

And finally, some shopping, lunch and coffee, another bar visit (The Libertine) where I refrained because I was about to get inked, I found myself at Death and Glory Tattoo.  Where a very personable guy named Cole Alexander Davis was able to put Jane Austen’s words and handwriting on my arm forever.

“I am half agony, half hope.”

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It was a shockingly cozy experience. My last tattoo happened in a place that felt very clinical to me. The guy was nice, but I don’t remember his name. Here, I realized why people find the practice so addicting. It’s like finding a bar you love, or a coffeehouse you can’t live without. It’s not just about the finished product, or the drinks being made properly, it is very much about ambiance and whether or not you have managed to find a place that seems like home away from home. They have a delightful front porch and a cat that lurked but didn’t touch me. I could have stayed there for hours after, but we had more drinking to do.

One of the guys there said that people tend to tell them their whole life story. They know everyone’s business because they are sort of treated like bartenders and shrinks. I can see that. I was too awkward to take advantage of that ambiance, but I definitely loved it.

My lovely JJ got a tattoo with me.  It is also a literary reference to a poem that was read at her wedding.  “And then this moment…”  This is us, back at Goodfriend, being incandescently happy.

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Friday… we had more tacos and Cultivar. We visited the Black Forest Cafe and the Flagship Half Price Books. We drove the many miles home, mostly listening to oldies.

Thanks for my trip, Danielle. I know it was stressful, but it was also lovely.

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Jane Austen Themes Soothe My Heart

June 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

mr-darcy-broke-my-heartTitle: Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart

Author: Beth Pattillo

Genre: Fiction/ Chick-Lit

Publisher: Guideposts

Length: 268 pages

This book is adorable.  There’s a lot of reviews on Amazon regarding it that I don’t understand because it seems people went into it expecting far more quality literature references and less cheesy romance – but I specifically picked it up because my brain hurt and I wanted to not think.  If you want to shut yourself off from life for two or three hours, this book is perfect.

Claire is invited to read her sister’s paper at a Austen fan club in Oxford.  Once she gets there, however, she finds herself infatuated with a fellow seminar member like a silly school girl.  Claire embraces a teen girl mentality for a brief few days away from home – appropriate for her character since she never really got to be a silly teen because her parents died in an accident and she had to raise her kid sister.

If you were a silly teen once, however, the idea that a grown woman would be so ridiculous is a little irritating.  Of course, there’s plenty of Jane Austen interludes to distract you from that irritation, and Pattillo’s version of what First Impressions might have been is fun.

This is not the best Jane Austen spin off or tie in. Follies Past by far takes the cake on the genre.  But it’s good fun, light-hearted, and makes for a great right before bed or bubble bath read.

 

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Follies Past – A Review

April 9, 2014 at 4:34 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Follies_Past_book_cover_BrownTitle: Follies Past

Author: Melanie Kerr

Publisher: Petticoat Press

Genre: Historical fiction/ Classic spin-off

Length: 272 pages

“Follies Past” should be the name of the file folder for every other Jane Austen spin off, because this book blows them all out of the water.

This is by far the best Austen spin off I’ve had the pleasure of reading.  Most Pride & Prejudice sequels or prequels read like fan fiction, but Kerr has managed to construct a novel that reads like one of Austen’s own making.  It could very well have been a long lost manuscript of Jane’s, documenting the characters of Pride & Prejudice before they encounter the Bennets.

I was so happy reading this, I’ve always longed to get a bit more of Georgiana’s story.  Kerr does an excellent job of taking the small tidbits of information we know about characters and giving them a full and lush back story without straying from our vision of them.

I think Caroline Bingley was truly brought to life as well.  I both hate her more and less – how is that possible?  Through Darcy’s eyes:  “He ought to have known that a lady who is too sparkling and clever is also cunning and insolent and not to be trusted.”

Much is learned from Darcy’s perspective without the act of spelling everything out, something other books have done in diary form turning Darcy into an effeminate sap.  Instead, from Kerr, Darcy expresses himself naturally and in his own fashion: “Gibbon’s History is worth an entire library of your sentimental drivel.  The depth and breadth of his scholarship paints a picture of the Empire that may never be surpassed.  How can you compare such an achievement to your works of vapid sentiment.”

Kerr has stayed true to the characters, true to the time, and yet wielded a rich and elaborate story.  It’s beautiful and brilliant, and I cannot imagine an Austen fan who would not love it.

My one criticism is this: I ADORE the front cover of this book – but my first and continuous reaction is that it is not a cover that belongs on *this* book.  It’s a fun and awesome piece of art, I’d even hang it on my wall I like it so much, but it doesn’t truly portray what is within the pages.

Below, Miss Golightly is caught on film inspecting Kerr’s book.  She had the same reaction I did to the cover, “Oh I love that cover! Wait, her writing sounds like it could be Jane Austen! That’s incredible.  I’m a little confused by the cover now.”

P1010470

Five stars for the story.  Five stars for the cover art.  But only three stars for matching the cover art to the story.

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Anthropology of Reading

April 3, 2014 at 4:59 pm (In So Many Words) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

bookstacksAnthropology
[an-thruh-pol-uh-jee]
noun
1. the science that deals with the origins, physical and cultural development, biological characteristics, and social customs and beliefs of humankind.
2. the study of human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals.
3. the science of humans and their works.
4. Also called philosophical anthropology. the study of the nature and essence of humankind.
Origin:
1585–95; anthropo- + -logy

Reading
[ree-ding]
noun
1. the action or practice of a person who reads.
2. Speech. the oral interpretation of written language.
3. the interpretation given in the performance of a dramatic part, musical composition, etc.: an interesting reading of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.
4. the extent to which a person has read; literary knowledge: a man of wide reading.
5. matter read or for reading: a novel that makes good reading.

 

This is a challenging post, in that I could talk for days and days, possibly write a whole website dedicated to the topic, so I’m going to do my best to remain concise and not chase too many rabbits.

The blogger of So Many Books wrote a post about the Anthropology of Read, which I reblogged (click the link and it will take you there). Follow that post even further and the blogger wrote another on Auden’s Eden Meme. Combining these two posts into one thought, this is my anthropological response concerning my reading habits.

“Though the pleasure which works of art give us must not be confused with other pleasures that we enjoy, it is related to all of them simply by being our pleasure and not someone else’s. All the judgments, aesthetic or moral, that we pass, however objective we try to make them, are in part a rationalization and in part a corrective discipline of our subjective wishes. So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dreams of Eden are his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments.” – from Auden’s “Reading”

So following Auden’s checklist, here is my Eden:

Landscape
Mountains that butt up against a beach, with open fields in between. I like oceans that beat against cliffs, good soil to plant, large trees to climb, and somehow still manage to lay in the sand whenever I want. Take about 10 acres of the Rocky Mountains and stick them in the Florida Keys. If you manage to surround it all with Texas landscape that would be even better. Clearly, it’s a dream world.

Climate
70 year round, I’ll take an occasional hot summer in the 90’s to 100’s. After all, I’m a born and raised Texan.

Ethnic Origin of Inhabitants
I’m a big fan of melting pots.

Language
“English will be the official language but all languages are encouraged (even Elvish and Klingon) and everyone should know more than one.” That’s a direct quote from the So Many Books response to Auden. I see no need to alter that statement in any way.

Weights and Measures
I’m not concerned with this. I’ll let someone who cares decide.

Religion
I’m a Christian hippie. I’ll take Jesus with a side of dirt & trees.

Size of Capital
Small indeed. Close, personal friends. If I want a break from this closeness, I’ll take a vacation out of Eden.

Form of Government
In very small governments, I’m ok with elected monarchies with limited terms. I like to call a spade a spade, and in my research I never see true democracy at work, it’s always bastardized into an oligarchy or some other nonsense.

Sources of Natural Power
Wind, water, solar… the idea that anything was ever anything but amazes me. Wind turbines, watermills, solar panels, this makes sense to me.

Economic Activities
Farming, arts and humanities. Science would remain of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang variety. I think science is cool, but a lack of tech would be such a nice reprieve from the rest of the world.

Means of Transport
Bicycles, boats, hiking and swimming. Of course, from the mountains to the beach and over some landscape… that requires at least one community zipline.  Also, I love horses and would definitely encourage horseback riding.

Architecture
Self-sustained, energy efficient estates. Design – To each their own.  Although, I see a lot of bungalows, Victorian estates, farmhouses, and hobbit holes.

Domestic Furniture and Equipment
Again, to each their own, but made by hand is a marvelous thing. In the kitchen, all I need is an oven, a French press, and a coffee bean grinder. If someone slipped me a bread machine, though, I wouldn’t complain.

Formal Dress
Simplicity makes me happy. But again, to each their own. If someone likes frills, I have no desire to stop them. There would probably be an abundance of denim and cotton in my Eden though.

Sources of Public Information
Newspapers, journals, and gatherings over food at a meeting house. My population is quite small, remember?

Public Statues
This would be up to the people. I see gnomes and literary-like shrines in public gardens.

Public Entertainment
Choirs, street theatre, and public readings of important books. Book clubs and bands… I come from a Baptist background, so weekly potlucks are sort of a must.

If this is my Eden… If this is end result of my reading… if 30 years of a life devouring books has brought me to this, where did I begin? How did I evolve?

Anthropology… archeology… the two go a bit hand in hand to me. I would like to go back to school and get a Baccalaureate in Anthropology & Archeology. I love that niche of history and science. I always thought the Indiana Joneses of the world were the most amazing. Amelia Peabody… As a child I was riveted by adventures, but was still very much a typical girl – no, correction, a typical tomboy with girlish tendencies.

I read an awful lot of Nancy Drew. I liked historical things like Little Women and Gentle Annie. Jo March, of course, my favorite of the sisters; Gentle Annie was a civil war nurse running out into the battlefield in the face of danger. I was, and still am, fascinated by doers.

Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra intrigue me, but I have a literary foundation in all things Jane Austen – the fierce butting heads with the feminine.

My reading is much like my real life – a black belt, with hair usually down to her butt, who loves to get her toes done. I look for brave warriors who want to bask in the sun with some flowers. I desire the intelligence to drive to take care of people, protect them both in battle and emotionally by serving them foodstuffs and coffee. Because this is who I am, this is what I look for in my reading – in fiction, in history, in science, in all of it. I try to find people in all the thousands of years of literature, who are (as Anne Shirley would say) kindred spirits.

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When Bookish Ones Get Engaged…

August 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , )

It looks something like this:

When the Bookish Ones Get Engaged...

Matt & Nicole, Incandescently Happy

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Happy Birthday Pride & Prejudice

January 28, 2013 at 11:24 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Jane

“[…] Jane Austen is the greatest writer ever – because she was the first storyteller to make me care about an old-fashioned love story.”

Adam Jones

I have to say, I think Jane Austen is one of the greatest writers ever, but not because she was the first to make me care about old-fashioned love stories.  I always liked those.

In fact, the first time I read Pride & Prejudice I was too young to catch all the subtle things that make Austen great, I think.  I read the book because I thought Emma was funny. It’s easier to recognize the humor in Emma, P&P takes a few more reading years under your belt. At least it did for me.

What is so awesome about Jane Austen is that shallow readers may enjoy the romantic notions of it all (hence loving the books in elementary school when I was devouring them along side Anne of Green Gables) and still have more to offer as you age.  The greatest of writers can be enjoyed by the young and reveal themselves over time with multiple readings. I think I was twelve or thirteen before I realized that most of Austen’s work is pure satire and subtle hilarity.

The first sentence in the book- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”- proves to be a reversal of the truth (Austen 1). Instead, it is the women who seek a husband of good fortune, and attempt to gain his favor. These small reversals show Austen’s mastery of the language, and imply that what is often generally accepted and thought of is simply a fantasy.  – Jackson Pollock

Even though I adore the Bronte sisters, the mastery of language and social fantasy Pollock talks about is what makes Austen’s work accessible to a much wider audience. Wuthering Heights is all dark secrets and emotion, whereas Pride & Prejudice is social commentary, comedy, romance, and more.

Look at Darcy, the most introverted socially awkward geek of all time. The only reason he is considered desirable by such a wide array of women is because he has money and a pretty face.  Without those two things, he would be Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. At least, that’s how I read him. Apparently, I’m not the only one or the movie made in 2005 starring Keira Knightley would have been a bit exasperating.  Instead, it has become a favorite on rainy sick days.

So Happy 200th Birthday Pride & Prejudice and well done, Jane.

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A Tidbit from Miss Golightly

January 19, 2013 at 7:04 am (Guest Blogger) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My boys 🙂 They’re so beautiful. (Top left is Henry Higgins, top right is Colonel Brandon, and bottom two pics are of Gil Pender.)

bettas

Follow Miss Golightly on Twitter @missjgolightly.

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“I can always live by my pen.”

May 11, 2012 at 11:21 pm (In So Many Words, The Whim) (, , , , )

The above quote is from the infamous Jane Austen.  And although I don’t get paid for my writing (yet!), I’d like to think that I too live by my pen.

Journaling has always been such a huge part of my reading experience.  So I don’t know why I haven’t thought of it before, but I was reading through the blogs I follow this morning and discovered a new one: The Journal Keepers.  Immediately, I thought that it was about time I had a post about journaling.

Journaling is a crucial part of the learning experience.  When you read, listen, or are shown anything its so important to take note of new information.  After your notes, discuss how it affects you, and make plans for its use in the future.

Journaling keeps your brain active, keeps you on your toes.  Its also good for documentation – keeping tabs on all you’ve discovered and how you’ve changed over the years.  Its how you avoid repeating history and all the bad things of your past, see your progress, revel in your accomplishments.

There are so many different ways to journal.  Some people keep strict notes or outlines.  Some people make lists, tell stories, or merely share their day.  I’ve seen journals full of poetry, and journals full of nothing but sketches and other art work.  I’ve heard of people who only journal using prompts either from websites, magazines, books, or sometimes simply from the journal.

Mine? A combination of all of the above, but the prompts I usually come up with myself or get from close friends.

There are so many different ways to partake in this enriching activity, and it doesn’t really matter how you do it, the important thing is the doing itself.  I can’t imagine writing a useful review with out sitting down with my journal at some point while reading the book, or at least immediately after finishing the book.  I don’t know how I would effectively sort through my TBR pile without my beloved notebooks.  My entire life is chronicled, book after book, with messy, sprawling ink from my pen – years and years of thoughts, events, emotions, lists, notes, quotes, and more.

Do you journal while you read? How do you journal?

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