Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Life According to Literature 2015

I'm copying this from All the Pretty Books because it seems fun.  I've done something similar before, but that was a couple of years ago, so figured it was time to try it again.  The original meme says to use only books you've read in the past year, so here goes!


Describe yourself: The Quiet Little Woman (Louisa May Alcott)

How do you feel today: Ain't We Got Fun (Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke)

Describe where you currently live:  North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)  (We live in the northern part of a Southern state.)

If you could go anywhere, you would go to:  The Blue Castle (Lucy Maud Montgomery)  (In a heartbeat, honey!)

Your favorite form of transportation:  A Snicker of Magic (Natalie Lloyd)

Your best friend is:  The Secret Fiend (Shane Peacock)  (And you KNOW what I'm talking about!  You had better keep that promise to not kill off my favorite character!!!)

You and your friends are:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows)

What's the weather like:  Fortunately, the Milk (Neil Gaiman)  (We got 2 feet of snow in 36 hours last weekend.  Fortunately, we had plenty of milk.)

You fear:  Death by Petticoat (Mary Miley Theobald)  (Doesn't everyone?)

What's the best advice you have to give:  A Jane Austen Education (William Deresiewicz)  

Thought for the day:  Let's Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)

How you would like to die:  In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (ed. by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger)

Your soul's imagination's present condition:  Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper (SARK)

That was fun!  Feel free to snurch this if you want to do it yourself.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 7

Right here in chapter seven is where this story grabs me by the shirtfront and won't let go.  Up to here, the tension is building slow and easy, and I'm just kind of ambling along, and then all of a sudden... wow.

I think this chapter is written so splendidly.  We know Shane's going to be violent, and we kind of crave that violence, don't we?  We can't wait to see just how he's going to take that braggart Chris down.  Just like some of the folks in the story, I guess.  And then the fight -- did you notice how we're getting it kind of third-hand?  Ed Howells comes and tells the Starretts, and now a grown Bob is remembering it and telling us.  But it's described so clearly -- simply, quickly, with a kind of bare-bones elegance that matches Shane's actions so perfectly.  I'm going to mark this part and come back to it whenever I have to write a fight scene, because this is how they ought to look.

So Shane wiped the floor with Chris, and Joe and the other farmers are pretty exultant about this, but Marian Starrett sees past the temporary victory to what this has cost Shane.  Sometimes I think she understands him better than anyone else in the story.  I wonder how long it's been since someone has understood him so well.

Favorite Lines:

It was crude.  It was coarse.  I thought it silly for grown men to act that way (p. 56-57).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Shane tells Chris (albeit while he's unconscious), "There's only one thing really wrong with you.  You're young.  That's the one thing time can always cure."  Why do you suppose "the thought hurt him" (p. 62)?

Shane "did not care what anyone anywhere thought of him," and yet, "he did care what they thought of father" (p. 57).  What kind of man cares more for someone else's good name more than his own?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

Kara has been raving about Katherine Reay's books over at Flowers of Quiet Happiness for a couple years now, and lately, so has Carissa at Bookshelves and Daydreams.  Since I'm gearing up for my Jane Eyre read-along (even though, yes, I'm still in the midst of the Shane read-along right now), I decided it was time to see what all the Reay-centered excitement was about and try The Bronte Plot.

Let's just say I'll be reading Reay's other two novels, Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane ASAP.  In fact, I've got a hold request in at the library for the latter right now.

In her review here, Kara said, that Reay's characters "sneak into my heart so subtly until suddenly there they are refusing to leave!"  And that's exactly what happened to me.  At first, I wasn't sure I even wanted to like the protag, Lucy.  I liked her love-interest, James.  I liked James' grandmother, Helen.  I loved her boss Sid from the first (doesn't hurt that I imagined him as a blond Tom Hiddleston for no good reason other than that he totally fit the role).

(This is exactly what I imagined Sid looking like.)
(Now you know.)

But Lucy... Lucy was a habitual liar.  Lucy had abandonment issues because she hasn't seen her father for twenty years.  Lucy falsified information and cheated.  True, her father was a con artist, which intrigued me.  (I'm fascinated by con artists.  I expect it's a great moral failing.)  But that didn't mean she had to mess with the truth too.  And then, throughout the book, she came to realize that as well, and that's when I started to like her.  When she realized that twisting the truth hurt people whether she ever learned about it or not.  

The basic story is this:  Lucy works for Sid in the interior decorating business.  She falls for a young and ambitious lawyer named James.  James catches her in a lie and breaks up with her.  And then his grandmother, Helen, asks Lucy to accompany her in a buying trip in England, which is when things got really interesting.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the rich descriptions of furniture, antiques, and decorations.  I'm not at all talented in the decorating realm, but I enjoy learning about it -- I used to watch Trading Spaces a lot on TLC back when I had cable in college.  My friends and I had our favorite designers and would get really into critiquing their design decisions and discussing what would would do the same or differently.  So I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, and the way Reay could use just a sentence or two to make me see the room she was describing.  I struggle with writing succinct, rich descriptions myself, so I hope I learned a bit from reading this.

The Bronte Plot isn't overtly Christian fiction -- the characters don't go to church, don't pray, don't think or talk about making decisions based on what the Bible teaches.  But it plainly comes from a Christian world view, and to be honest, it was more wholesome and God-honoring that some "Christian fiction" I have read that puts lots of religious sentiment into characters' mouths, then has them behaving in decidedly un-Christian ways.  I'm happy to say I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone.

Particularly Good Bits:

As the silence continued, Lucy's angst faded with the realization that no one could press the answers, force the change, or listen well enough to heal her.  She was on her own (p. 118).

"Did you know Dickens never killed his bad guys?  Well, he killed off one.  The others were cowards, bullies, minor villains, and general degenerates, but they were worth something and they lived.  If they didn't change on the page and find redemption, they lived with that promise still out there (p. 126-27).

"You are your own person and I wouldn't worry about the stories.  We all compare our lives to them.  That's why we love them:  they help us understand ourselves" (p. 130).

"Artists create things that point us to beauty, to truth, to God" (p. 157).

How much changed in a life, in a person, when one wasn't paying attention? (p. 163).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for serious discussions of death and dying.  There's no bad language and zero racy scenes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

My hearty thanks to Fawnabelle Baggins for giving me this award!

Here are my answers to her questions:

What is your favorite fandom?

If you mean, what's my favorite fandom that I'm in, then Combat!, my favorite TV show about WWII soldiers that aired from 1962 to 1967.  I co-run a fansite for it called Fruit Salad, where I share episode reviews and fanfic.  I've written or co-written more than 30 stories for Combat!, so yeah, it's my favorite <3

Are you obsessed with that fandom?

Not as much as I was about 10 years ago, but I do still love the show, and I'm still good friends with lots of people I met through the fandom.  Combat! has been an amazing blessing -- it gave me my best friend, and I continue to find new friends through it.

What is your favorite book and why?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I love the characters -- determined, strong-willed Jane and angry, remorseful Mr. Rochester in particular.

What is your favorite hobby?

Since I don't make much money at it yet, I think I can still call writing my hobby.

How much time and effort do you put into your hobby?

Um, not as much as I ought to?  I only spend 2-5 hours a week on my fiction writing, though of course if you add in blogging that number more than doubles.

Where would you live in any fictional world and why?

I think I'd like to live in Avonlea, in the Anne of Green Gables books.  It's rural, quiet, and full of people who care about each other.  Second choice would probably be Mitford from Jan Karon's books, for basically the same reasons.

What is your favorite movie and why?

The Man from Snowy River (1982).  I've loved it since I was 2 years old, when I saw it in the theater with my parents.  I love it because it's full of horses, it's got great themes of "proving yourself" and "doing what's right even though it's hard."  And as I said in this post, I think by this point, it's mostly because I have seen it so often, I am best friends with all the characters, in a way. Partly, it's because it inspired a life-long love of horses and Australia. This movie has so many themes that resonate with me: false accusations, forbidden love, proving yourself when others doubt your abilities... do I love the movie because of those themes, or do I love those themes because of this movie? At this point, there's no way I can know.

What is one meal that you think you can eat every day forever?

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I ate them for lunch for five years straight when I first got out of college, so yup, pretty sure I could eat them every day forever.

You just won the lottery. What would you buy first?

I'd pay off our mortgage (so boring, I know).

If you were a cookie, what kind of cookie would you be?

An Oreo.  I go equally well with milk or coffee!

I've done a bunch of tags recently, here and on my Soliloquy blog, so I'm not going to tag anyone today, for fear of overtagging my friends.  If you want to do this, feel free to answer Fawnabelle's questions yourself and consider you've been tagged by me :-)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 6

And now, having simmered merrily along for five chapters, suddenly our story begins to boil.  Mr. Fletcher has returned and is starting to ride prod on the homesteaders, so to speak.  This starts to get under everyone's skin... everyone except maybe Shane.  Bob says he used to "wonder how all the slow-climbing tenseness in our valley could be so focused on one man and he seem to be so indifferent to it" (p. 49).  Though of course, we get the feeling that Shane's not so much indifferent as... accepting?  Almost wanting the badness to focus on him and away from the Starretts and their friends?

So Shane lets Bob tag along as he goes to town and invites a confrontation.  And he gets a confrontation, though it doesn't go down the way anyone was quite expecting.

Favorite Lines:

"Why should a man be smashed because he has courage and does what he's told.  Life's a dirty business, Bob.  I could like that boy" (p. 54).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think Shane suspected how all this would end up, and that's part of why he decided to hire on at the Starrett farm?

What My Kids are Reading #4

I've been meaning to write this post for a couple weeks now, but am only now finding time.  Tootie's had a birthday since my last installment in this series -- she's FOUR now!  And very proud of being so.

Sarah (5) and Tootie (4)

Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas -- yes, this book is beneath both of their comprehension levels.  But it is quite funny, and Tootie requests it every couple of months.  Cowboy and I have taken to quoting one part -- "Whoa, Daddy's whiskers!" -- when something surprising or sudden occurs.

My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall -- a great book for Valentine's day!  The illustrations are all different animals that have bodies made from heart shapes.  We're thinking of trying that ourselves for our own Valentine cards this year.

Olaf's Night Before Christmas by Jessica Julius, illustrated by Olga T. Mosqueda -- yes, I realize Christmas was a month ago.  But I found this book on clearance at the book store and couldn't resist it.  It's an enchanting retelling of "The Night Before Christmas," beginning with the familiar words and using them here and there, but telling the story from Olaf's perspective.  He has no idea what all this Christmas stuff is about or who Santa Claus is!  So it begins, "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.  Stockings were hung by the chimney -- but why?  Had they gotten too wet?  Were they left there to dry?"  Olaf has an encounter with Santa and gets exactly what he wants for Christmas:  a warm hug.  The book came with a CD that has Josh Gad reading the story in Olaf's voice, which might be fun for a car trip next Christmas.

Sam (8)


The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede -- I picked up the first book, Dealing with Dragons, at the used book store a few weeks ago because Sam loves The Runaway Princess and The Runaway Dragon by Kate Coombs so much that he begged to get them for his birthday, and this looked similar.  Well, he loved the first book and asked if we could get the rest from the library, and we have, one book per week.  He wants to keep renewing them, and has read them over and over and over now -- except the last one, Talking to Dragons, which we just got this morning.  That one he's only read once so far. 

Aloud to All of Them

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden -- I'm reading this aloud to them, a couple of chapters every day or two.  I've been wanting to read something aloud to all three of them for over a year now, and I've finally gotten it worked into our daily routine.  This is above the girls' reading level, which is good for them, but still something they can understand.  Sam declares it is "boring," which is why he hasn't read it himself, but all the same, he laughs and laughs while I'm reading, and today he asked if we could please just read one more chapter, so he's more engaged than he wants to admit.  I loved this book when I was a kid, and am really enjoying revisiting it.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Women's Classic Literature Event: Group Check-In 1

Here's the question asked for the first Group Check-In, and my answer.

Without revealing spoilers (obviously), describe how the opening of your current read for this event draws you in. Is it the language? the suspense? the voice? Why are you compelled to keep reading?

I'm reading The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer right now, my first Heyer novel!  I must admit I have only read the Prologue so far, but even that short section has me intrigued.  A languid, bored nobleman who has just fought a duel over a woman's honor, which he insists he has not impugned, writes a letter to a friend and signs it "Devil."  This promises to be one of those "let's redeem the dissolute young man" stories, which can be heartily entertaining in the right hands.  I picked this book up for a dollar at the used book store and am pretty sure I'll get my money's worth, as lots of friends have assured me that since I enjoy Jane Austen, I'll also enjoy Georgette Heyer.  Time to find out!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"Anne of Green Gables" by L. M. Montgomery (again)

I reread this a couple of years ago, and as usually happens when I reread something I'd recently read, I noticed all sorts of things this time through that I don't usually pay attention to.  

In particular, I paid a lot more attention to Marilla than I ever have before.  I've always been so wrapped up in Anne's journey from painfully unloved orphan girl to happy and determined young woman that I've never paid a lot of attention to Marilla, who gets the thankless job of playing the bad guy a lot of times.  She's always scolding Anne, keeping her affection for the child hidden, reprimanding her for mistakes large and small alike.  I'm sad to say that, until this reading, I actually never liked Marilla all that well.  I mean, I didn't dislike her, but I never felt like, "Wow, what a remarkable and wonderful woman."

This time, though, I was really struck by Marilla's character arc.  She goes from a rigid, rule-bound woman who had only her brother Matthew to care for and about to a mellow, understanding woman who loves her adopted orphan fiercely.  She learns as much as, if not more than, Anne does during the years chronicled here, opening up slowly and sometimes unwittingly as Anne thaws her out.  Her quiet, orderly life got turned upside down by adopting Anne, and she was all the better for it.  

If you'd like to read someone else's thoughts on Marilla's journey, please check out this post, "How to Mellow Like Marilla Cuthbert."  I stumbled on it while writing this review, and it's excellent.

Matthew, I've loved for years.  He's gentle and shy and kind and generous from the get-go, and it would be a hard-hearted person indeed who couldn't love him.  And Diana, and Gilbert, and Miss Stacy -- I've always loved them too.  But Marilla, I'd only liked, until now.

I've read several reviews over the past few years where people say they don't like this book, or Anne herself, because Anne is such a chatterbox, she gets too carried away with her imaginings, she doesn't suffer enough consequences for her mistakes, or she's too vain.  I was a bit worried, going into this reread, that I might think so too.  Happily, I don't.  I still love Anne.  

Yes, she's a chatterbox, but the things she says delight me so much I wouldn't curtail any of them.  Yes, she gets carried away by what she imagines -- what a spiritless and dull girl she would be if she did not.  Yes, she always comes through her scrapes with a smile at the end, but she does suffer consequences such as abject humiliation, losing her bosom friend, having privileges revoked, and the like.  

And as for vanity, yes, she spends a lot of time worrying about how she looks, but she strikes me as the opposite of vain -- she's convinced she is ugly, while vanity is being excessively proud of one's looks.  She's concerned with fitting in and dressing like her peers because in her very horrible first eleven years of life, she was never allowed to even look even respectable.  After eleven years of dressing in the cheapest clothes possible while the children of the families she served dressed nicely, of caring for children while a child herself, and of being neglected in every way possible by "a world that had not wanted her" (p. 40), I would find it very strange if she did not long for nice clothes!

I love this book, that's all there is to it.  

Particularly Good Bits:

"It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will" (p. 37).

"Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them," exclaimed Anne.  "You mayn't get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them" (p. 94).

"There are so many responsibilities on a person's mind when they're keeping house, isn't there?" (p. 124).

"I think you ought to let Anne go," repeated Matthew firmly.  Argument was not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was (p. 150).

At that moment Marilla had a revelation.  In the sudden stab of fear that pierced to her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her.  She would have admitted that she liked Anne -- nay, that she was very fond of Anne.  But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything on earth (p. 186).

"I don't like green Christmases.  They're not green -- they're just nasty faded browns and grays" (p. 201).

"I believe in a girl being fitted to earn her own living whether she ever has to or not" (p. 242).

For Anne the days slipped by like golden beads on the necklace of the year (p. 246).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G for glorious.  Perfectly fine for all ages.

This is my 31st book read and reviewed for The Classics Club, and my third for the Women's Classic Literature Event.  

And it's my first book read for the Anne of Green Gables Reading Challenge!  Elyssa has kindly provided some discussion questions for this book, which I'm going to answer here.

Q:  This first installment of Anne Shirley’s story is about her finding a home after years of displacement. While we often consider ‘home’ to be synonymous with ‘house’, it’s also a state of being. What does home mean for you and what makes it special?

A:  Home is wherever I'm staying for more than a single night.  I used to refer to my college dorm room as "home."  I've sometimes referred to a hotel room as "home" if we were staying there for more than one night.  Home is where I go back to after sallying forth into the world, so it's a haven and a refuge, a place to return to.

Q:  Friendship is such a huge theme in this book. There are many elements that make up a great bosom friendship like Anne and Diana’s but if you had to pick three of those elements, what would they be?

A:  Mutual respect, loving each other in spite of one's flaws, and a willingness to do things together you don't particularly enjoy if your friend does.

Q:  Of course, we love Gilbert Blythe but the real sweetheart in the first book is Matthew Cuthbert. What makes Matthew such a great father figure in Anne’s life? And (if you’ve read the books before) what effect do you think his love and influence has in the rest of Anne’s life?

A:  I think he taught her that kindness with no strings attached is one of the best gifts you can give anyone.  And he taught her that listening to someone is another.  When she begins to mentor younger people, and eventually becomes a mother, you can see her giving them those same gifts that Matthew once gave her.

Begin Again: Inkling Explorations for January, 2016

I've spent like a week trying to decide on what "new beginning" in literature to highlight for this month's Inkling Explorations link-up on Sharing the Journey, and last night, I found just what I wanted, while I wasn't searching at all.  I finished rereading Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery last night, and while I was reading the last two pages, I found exactly what I want to share for this.  We're snowed in this morning and church has been cancelled, so I'm going to grab a minute before all the kids are up to quick post this :-)

DISCLAIMER:  This is obviously full of SPOILAGE since it's from the last two pages of the book.  

Halfway down the hill a tall lad came whistling out of the gate before the Blythe homestead.  It was Gilbert, and the whistle died on his lips as he recognized Anne.  He lifted his cap courteously, but he would have passed on in silence, if Anne had not stopped and held out her hand. 

"Gilbert," she said, with scarlet cheeks, "I want to thank you for giving up the school for me.  It was very good of you -- and I want you to know that I appreciate it." 

Gilbert took the offered hand eagerly.  "It wasn't particularly good of me at all. Anne.  I was pleased to be able to do you some small service.  Are we going to be friends after this?  Have you really forgiven me my old fault?" 

Anne laughed and tried unsuccessfully to withdraw her hand.  "I forgave you that day by the pond landing, although I didn't know it.  What a stubborn little goose I was.  I've been -- I may as well make a complete confession -- I've been sorry ever since." 

"We are going to be the best of friends," said Gilbert, jubilantly.  "We were born to be good friends, Anne.  You've thwarted destiny long enough.  I know we can help each other in many ways.  You are going to keep up your studies, aren't you?  So am I.  Come, I'm going to walk home with you."

If you know the story of Anne of Green Gables, you know that Anne has spent the entire book being angry at Gilbert Blythe because he pulled her red hair and called her "Carrots" on one of her first days in Avonlea.  He begged her to forgive him several times, and she always refused, but after five years of growiing up, Anne is finally mature enough to know how to let go of a grudge.  And so her life as a child has ended, and her life as a young woman begins.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 5

Time passes, Shane and the Starretts fall into a happy and mutually beneficial relationship, and everything goes well.  Did you notice that Joe left the homestead in Shane's care for several days, including his wife and child?  It's not made a big deal of, since this is told from a child's perspective, but you know Joe must trust Shane wholeheartedly to leave his wife alone with this man for several days.  And Marian must too, if she's comfortable doing so.  Shane certainly is a special guy.

Bob gets some gunplay pointers from Shane at the end, and gets a tiny glimpse of Shane's past in the process.  We still don't know much, but we do know he is uncommonly handy with a handgun, which implies quite a bit, considering he refuses to wear or carry a gun now.

Favorite Lines:

"Listen, Bob.  A gun is just a tool.  No better and no worse than any other tool, a shovel -- or an axe or a saddle or a stove or anything.  Think of it always that way.  A gun is as good -- and as bad -- as the man who carries it.  Remember that."

Possible Discussion Questions:

What do you think Shane's trying to explain to Bob about himself in the quote above?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 4

(I kind of really want this edition,
simply because the cover is so great.)
I love how Bob describes the effect Shane has on the whole family.  "They were more alive, more vibrant, like they wanted to show more what they were, when they were with him" (p. 30).  I guess you could call Shane a catalyst -- he's speeding up the events around him and changing the people who contact him, without himself changing.

The big conflict ahead is starting to glimmer, isn't it?  Joe mentions briefly that his last hired man ran into some trouble with Fletcher's men in town, and Shane tries to ask about it, but Joe deflects the question, and Shane lets it lie.  For now.  Don't you get the feeling he's been in this sort of situation before?  Possibly on the other side, as one of the men hired by the big outfit to crowd out the little ones?  Maybe that's why he's so willing to stay on -- he can see the warning signs that Joe's ignoring, and he wants to be there to help these folks who are so decent to him.

Anyway, I love the whole description of Shane's gun too.  Especially how "[t]he smooth invitation of it tempted your grip" (p. 37).  Ooooh, that's lovely writing.

Possible Discussion Questions:  Why do you suppose Shane doesn't wear his gun?  I know we'll get more into that in a bit, but from just what you've read so far, have you got any thoughts?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Blogoversary Giveaway at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea

Lois at You, Me, and a Cup of Tea is hosting a big book giveaway here right now.  I've fallen behind in my blog-reading again, so I didn't learn about this until just today, and it ends at the end of tomorrow (Sunday), so if you want to enter, hie you over to her blog and enter posthaste!

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 3

In which Shane and Joe uproot a tree stump, and Marian bakes apple pies.

Doesn't sound like much to write a whole chapter about, does it?  And yet, I find it fascinating.  The description of Joe and Shane attacking that tree stump is so moving -- how they start off with such fervor, but then settle into a patient, determined session of chopping.  By the way, this is totally an aside, but my goodness, what wonderful physical shape those two must be in!  To chop at a tree stump hour after hour like that?  I wouldn't be able to move the next day.  

I think one of the things I like best about how this book is written is the way that Bob freely admits that as a child, he didn't understand what was going on between the adults at times, but that he doesn't then try to provide his own adult commentary on it.  He tells it like he experienced it, and doesn't try to shoehorn his own morals and meanings into it.  I dig that.

Anyway, while Joe is out learning to he doesn't have to be self-sufficient, Marian is learning to be content.  She tries to change up her bonnet to look fashionable, the way Shane told her bonnets were being decorated in the city, then realizes she's being foolish and vain, trying to be something or someone she isn't.  She's pretty embarrassed by this, though, and it takes her the rest of the day to get over not only the embarrassment of trying to be fashionable, but also of burning an apple pie.  Poor Marian.

Don't you love Joe's response to Marian's hat, though?  He says that "whether you have a hat on or whether you don't have a hat on, you're the nicest thing to me that ever happened on God's green earth" (p. 20).  Awwwwwwww.  What a sweet guy.

Favorite Lines:

The silence was clean and wholesome, and this was one of the things you could never forget whatever time might do to you in the furrowing of the years... (p. 26).

Possible Discussion Questions:

I'll ask the obvious one here:  what do you think the stump symbolizes?  And how about the pie?  Why do you think Schaefer put the pie in there too, and didn't just stick with the stump?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 2

(This is the cover on the copy I'm using,
except mine is the 11th printing, not the 5th.)
This chapter is all about character development.  Shane has only been with the Starretts for a single day, and already he's changing all their lives.  Joe takes a rare day off, Marian bakes a pie, and Bob... Bob learns that a man can be equally attentive to details of clothing and manners as to farm work.  
And Shane is learning too -- learning that yes, there are good and kind people in this world still.

Favorite Lines:

And the rain outside was a far distance away and meaningless because the friendly feeling in our kitchen was enough to warm all our world (p. 12).

"I can admire toughness.  The right kind" (p. 13).

He was a man like father in whom a boy could believe in the simple knowing that what was beyond comprehension was still clean and solid and right (p. 17).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you think the stump is symbolic?  If so, of what?

After the confrontation with the peddler, "Shane's eyes lost their sharp focus on Ledyard and it seemed to me that reflected in them was some pain deep within him (p. 16).  Any thoughts on what that pain might be about?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Literary Collage of Sorts

You remember that I posted last month about my blogging friend Jamie opening a new literature-oriented shop?  The Books and Beverages Shoppe, to be precise.  I liked the postcards she sent me for a preview item so much, I bought a whole set.  I thought you might like to see what I've done with my three favorites:

This hangs beside our front door now, kind of a daily reminder for me to think about whatever my current writing WIP is.  And also an excuse to display some other postcards I've owned for close to twenty years now and never really done anything with.  The top one is John Wayne and his youngest son on the set of True Grit, the middle one is Montgomery Clift on the set of The Misfits, and the bottom is two actual cowgirls from back when the west was truly wild.  

Anyway, I'd said in my earlier post that I meant to hang up some of these to inspire myself, and thought you might like seeing what I ended up doing with them.  Though, now Jamie has added already-matted 5"x7" versions of these same quotes to her shop here, which makes me kind of wish I'd waited on framing these, hee!  Still, I like how it turned out overall.

Monday, January 11, 2016

My First Mailbox Monday of 2016

None of these actually arrived in my mailbox, but I'm linking up with Mailbox Monday anyway because I did buy them all this past week!  A local used bookstore is going out of business and had all its books 30% off, so you know I had to stop in.  Here's part of the treasure trove I brought home:

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer -- People tell me that since I like Jane Austen, I might like Heyer too, so I'm giving her a try.

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin -- I loved her "Wings of Glory" books and have been wanting to read this for a long time.

Mark of the Cross by Judith Pella -- I read a bunch of Judith Pella's books back in high school and liked them a ton.  This one is about England in the 1200s, so knights and stuff :-D

When Calls the Heart by Janette Oke -- My mom LOVED Janette Oke's books when I was young, and she owned the same edition of this one.  I read a bunch of Oke's books back then, and this is the one I remember liking best, so I decided that hey, for $1, it was worth revisiting.

North to the Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh --  About Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh flying around the Arctic Circle.

Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead by Anne Morrow Lindbergh -- I love AML's collections of letters and journal entries.  The only one I've read all the way through is Bring Me a Unicorn, so I snapped up this and the two following books because I'm eager to read more of these collections.  This one is going to be sad, though, because it's from 1929-1932, which means it will involve the time when the Lindberghs' baby son was kidnapped and murdered.

Locked Rooms and Open Doors by Anne Morrow Lindbergh -- Promises to be happier than the previous one because it's got more about the Lindberghs flying, and also them moving to England.

War Within and Without by Anne Morrow Lindbergh -- This one is about WWII, so it's going to be really interesting, because that was when Charles Lindbergh took a very unpopular isolationist stance about not joining the war.

My Little House Songbook -- A collection of songs that are mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books!  Complete with sheet music for the melodies :-)  I think my kids will enjoy this as part of their piano lessons before long.

And yes, I said these were "part of the treasure trove."  I also got a bunch of books for my kids!  But they rushed away with them before I could grab a picture.  I don't mind -- I'm happy they're excited about books :-)

Did you acquire any books this week, in your mailbox or otherwise?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Shane Read-Along: Chapter 1

Here we are!  Embarking on a new read-along adventure.  If you haven't done one of these with me before, the way I run a read-along is to post about each chapter in turn, usually every 2 or 3 days.  You can post your own thoughts in the comments here, discussing the book with me and each other.  If you also want to post things on your own blog as we go, you're most welcome to, but it's not required.

The thing that struck me the most in this first chapter is what a mass of contradictions Shane is.  Young Bob's first impression of the faraway stranger is that "there seemed nothing remarkable about him" (p. 1), but a pair of cowhands stop and stare at him, signalling he is remarkable after all.  Next, Bob thinks Shane would look frail next to Bob's father, but he also recognizes signs of endurance in Shane.  And so on -- Shane is easy and yet tense, dangerous and yet safe.  An intriguing man!  That little detail about putting a flower in his hatband is most uncommon as well.  So genteel, yet he's also cold and terrifying when he's on the defensive.  I'm enchanted already.

Bob's mother, Marian, also seems unusual, doesn't she?  Bob calls her "an unpredictable woman" (p. 6).  He doesn't seem to mean that in a bad way, but more of a "this keeps life interesting" way, don't you think?

Of course, our central conflict gets introduced here as well:  Luke Fletcher's big, traditional ranch across the river as opposed to the smaller, more modern spreads like the Starrett place.

The narration of this book always fascinates me.  It's told by a grown man remembering what he saw, experienced, thought, and felt as a young boy.  I like that it's not condescending about the way little boys behave, but yet doesn't try to make him seem like he understood all grown-up things either.  Strikes a nice balance, I feel. 

Possible Discussion Questions:

Have you read this before, or seen the 1953 movie version?

What do you think of Shane himself so far?  And the other characters -- what can you tell about them from just this first chapter?

How about the narration -- do you like it, or do you wish the author had made a different storytelling choice?

Any guesses as to what's in that saddle-roll that makes Shane take it from Bob and put it out of reach?  (I actually don't remember right now -- it's been like ten years since I last read this.  I started it this past summer and then had to put it aside.)

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Ain't We Got Fun" by Emily Chapman and Emily Ann Putzke

This is precisely the sort of light, cheerful fare I generally need over the holidays.  Something I can read in small bits, set down often because I've been interrupted yet again, and yet still keeps me interested enough that I want to pick it up again next chance I get.

Ain't We Got Fun is a collection of letters from two sisters during the Great Depression.  The older one goes to New York City to make it big and send money home to the family.  The younger stays home on the farm with their parents and little brother.  Both girls meet nice young men and gradually fall in love.  Nothing really terrible happens to anyone.  Everyone gets along quite nicely.  And they all live happily ever after.  It's got a little bit of the parable of the Prodigal Son going on with it, but it's applied lightly and never feels preachy.

Particularly Good Bits:

I was rather speechless.  I tend to be rather speechless when I meet young men whom I assumed dead in my field at midnight.

"Love ain't a feeling, Bess.  It's a choice."

"...knowing that something doesn't last forever reminds you to take nothing for granted."

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G, though there are a few tense moments involving a mugging.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

"The Mistletoe Promise" by Richard Paul Evans

Although this is a Christmas book, I am posting about it now as part of Heidi's Cinderella party at Along the Brandywine.  

I first read this last month, all in one afternoon while curled up by our fireplace, drinking coffee while my mom played with my kids.  It wasn't until page 188 that I realized it was a Cinderella retelling -- sometimes I can be really obtuse.  And when I did realize it, it was only because Evans basically hit me over the head with it by having one character discuss a sculpture of Cinderella and her carriage.  Oops!  Like I said, I can be obtuse.

Anyway, The Mistletoe Promise is about a lonely woman named Elise who works for a travel company, planning trips for other people to take, trips to places she'll never visit herself.  She's divorced and has a some tragic baggage from her past.  She's sad and hopeless, going through the motions of living a life when inside she'd rather curl up in bed forever.

And into her life one November day steps successful attorney Nicholas, who works in the same building.  He makes an interesting suggestion:  for the duration of the holidays, they could pretend to be a couple.  Attend each others' work parties and family get-togethers, the places you'd like to take a date if you had one.  Beyond her company at such public functions, he asks for nothing.  He does offer that if they'd like to eat lunch together during the week or go other Christmasy places they could, but they don't have to.  

At first, Elise refuses.  She's a little creeped out and suspicious.  But eventually she decides to just try it, because after all, she's bored and lonely, and he's attractive and nice.  This being a Christmas book with the word "mistletoe" in it, romance obviously ensues.

But that doesn't exactly sound like Cinderella, does it.  (Yes, this paragraph has some vague spoilage.)  Well, everyone believes Elise is plain and unlovable.  Her coworkers dump the unpleasant work on her.  One co-worker fulfills the "mean stepsister" role -- she's gorgeous and always surrounded by men, and not only makes snide remarks about Elise, but even tries to steal Nicholas at one point.  Nicholas is a charming rich man, basically a prince.  (And I'm pretty sure he's named Nicholas because he showers Elise with gifts like Saint Nicholas.)  Elise has an ex-husband who tries to keep her and Nicholas apart, much like an evil stepmother.  And later on, she undergoes a makeover and tries on all kinds of pretty dresses to get ready for a fancy party she'll attend with Nicholas.    She flees later on, like Cinderella, only to be pursued by her prince.  And, of course, they live happily ever after.

I liked this book a LOT, and am so grateful to Carissa for recommending it on her book blog, Bookshelves and Daydreams.  My mom read it while she was visiting over Christmas too, and liked it as well.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for a little mild smooching and a question of whether or not two unmarried people would share a hotel room (they don't).  Also some very emotional baggage and mention of an extramarital affair.  It's not something that would interest kids, anyway.

By the way, I'm doing lots of stuff for Cinderella Week over on my other blog, Hamlette's Soliloquy, including giveaways!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Hamlet Giveaway Winners!

Here they are!  The winners of my Hamlet giveaway.  Congratulations!

Hamlet (2000) on DVD -- Sarah 

Hamlet at Elsinore (1964) on DVD -- Cleopatra

Hamlet (1996) soundtrack -- Heidi

Sticker Set 1 -- Kelda

Sticker Set 2 -- Ekaterina

Sticker Set 3 -- Ekaterina

Thanks for playing, everyone, and for all the great read-along fun!  Winners, please check the email address you provided to the Rafflecopter widget for an email from me to get your mailing address.