Friday, June 3, 2016

Honestly

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Today I am going to talk a little about being honest. Honestly, I don't feel like writing much today, I haven't been feeling it all week. A lot of changes have happened in my world this week. All three of my wild things wrapped up their school year with parties, field days, awards ceremonies etc. My eldest wild thing has decided to graduate early over the summer, which has brought an avalanche of paperwork and deadlines that have to be met, on top of her birthday and planning for the impending celebration. My husband came down with shingles...Eek! Me, well I have just been trying to keep up. Getting to everyone's events, turning in paperwork, meeting with counselor's, soaking in websites, keeping up with cooking and house work, trying to help hub's all I can, and trying super hard not to lose every last one of my marbles.
     So, I have found it hard to focus on my reading and writing goals. I have stolen some moments to read, but have been working through two different books. The House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorne, but also a historical book about Major John Andre. I am really enjoying learning about him and his life, but also miss my fiction stories if not reading them so I have bopped back and forth. The book I am writing has stalled though, mainly because when the kids are out of school I don't feel like I have as much time to concentrate on work. I feel like I only have a limited amount of time with them before school starts back so I better soak it up and enjoy. Along with that the writing for the blog has taken a hit. I almost forgot it was time to post. I hope to get back into a rhythm though when things get a little more routine.
If I'm being honest though, it's been a fun week. I sure hope you have enjoyed yours!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Lighthouse at the End of the World by Stephen Marlowe...Review


The Lighthouse at the End of the World

Stephen Marlowe

Copyright 1995

Where to begin...I guess I will start with what was good about Stephen Marlowe's book. I liked the parts of the book that were realistic, and at least mostly factual about Edgar Allan Poe. It was interesting to read about him, not just from him (Poe is a favorite author and poet of mine). There were even a few good quotes I drew out of the book.
"Those nights I wrote were often still. Sometimes I would hear a soft footstep on the stair.
"What do you want?"
"I like to watch you."
The scratching of the pen fascinated her.
"I can hear the words." she said."
     When I was reading the parts of the book that were interesting and good to me, I felt Marlowe was a great writer. I could picture his Poe, Virginia, Muddy, and other characters. I could empathize with them, and felt like I agreed with his take and observations on what they might have been like. That can be hard to do when one is writing about people that once lived.
     In this story we get many chapters that are based on Edgar Allan Poe's life, and what we know about it, as well as the other people that were a part it. He has put them in story form, but followed the details that are known, and written about a theory of what might have happened to Poe at the end of his life, as no one is sure what happened to him. Then, he also adds a hmmmm... this is where he lost me. Alternate world? Strange thoughts that show Poe sinking into madness? Imaginary dimension that some people believe and others don't? I'm not sure if I am being honest.
     These unrealistic, real or imaginary parts of the book were interspersed throughout. There were more and more the further you read until they make up about the last fifty pages. They were boring, confusing, and I dare say a bit ridiculous to me. I was tired of it and had to force myself to finish.
     If you are looking to read something about Edgar Allan Poe, I would recommend reading a biography. I wish I had.

IMO,
Anderson

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the history of a Major obsession


Something Wild Thing One and I love to do is find television series on Netflix and watch all the episodes, the historical series are our favorites. So, recently I came across AMC's Turn: Washington's Spies, and immediately knew it was one we would like. It chronicles the lives and events surrounding the Culper Ring. A ring of spies during the American Revolutionary War that gathered intelligence about the British Army for The Continental Army led by George Washington. After watching all the episodes from season one and two I wanted to do some research about the characters and events that are portrayed in the series. One of my favorite characters was Major John Andre, a Red Coat.

I like his character, partly because the actor that plays him is super handsome J.J. Feild, but also because he is portrayed as being very charming, kind, artistic, and compassionate. Everyone seems to like him, the British and Americans alike. I wanted to know if that was a true portrayal, or if they had just given him those traits to make a good character for the show.
Anon. miniature of John André
As soon as I started reading about him I fell in love with the real Major Andre. The characters personality and traits were taken from the true persons characteristics and talents. Some of the events, and relationships are over dramatized with added content, but his nature matches historical record. He was artistic, good-natured, intelligent (spoke four languages), kind, handsome, well liked by both sides of the conflict, brave, and loyal to his country. He was also a spy, for the British. He was caught sneaking information to the Red Coats from Benedict Arnold. He was then hung by order of George Washington. Even the Americans were sad to see Major Andre go, but felt it was a necessary evil of warfare. He was brave to the end, drawing a self portrait the day before he died, and putting the noose around his own neck. So tragical!!!

     His self portrait is housed in the Yale Museum of Art in Connecticut.

After learning all of this about him, and more, I liked him even more. I found a fellow Major fan on Instagram, she had a Major doll and book collection....what?! I wanted a book collection and doll! So, I searched and found a 1909 edition of "An Authentic Narrative of the causes which led to the death of Major Andre, Adjutant - General of his Majesty's Forces in North America" by Joshua Hett Smith. It was Smith's house that Major Andre and Benedict Arnold met at when Arnold gave the Major the intelligence about West Point that he would then be caught with and hung for possessing.
The portrait on the left is another self portrait done by Major Andre when he was a younger man.
     So, my book collection is started!! Then, I talked to my oh-so-creative mom, and she made me a doll!!
He is so cute!! I can't wait to have many historical adventures with my Major, and keep growing my book collection.


Friday, May 13, 2016

to Finish, or Not to Finish

I think all of us at one time or another have started a book only to find it is not to our liking. It may be poorly written, boring, silly, too this or not enough that. There are any number of reasons that one could find a book hard to continue and want to quit on it. I have on many occasions found myself inside a book I didn't like, but I very rarely quit. It has to be bad, I mean REALLY bad, for me to give up on it once I have started.
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     By started I mean at least a hundred pages in. If I can't get through the first chapter it's gone, but if I've read a hundred pages before I've started to feel the tingle of 'this isn't going well', I will usually continue. It's not easy, and it usually takes me a lot longer to read them than it should, but I do try to keep pushing through to the end. I just set myself a goal of how much I want to read each day, or vow to read every time I have even ten minutes to spare so that I can get finished with it.
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     I feel like I committed when I sat down and got to that hundredth page, something made me think I would like it, and I never know what I might find if I just keep hiking through. There may be a beautiful waterfall, or majestic scenery around one of the pages. Maybe an inspiring quote that goes perfectly in my quote book, or an unforgettable character that stays with me when I am done. At the very least it will give me some fresh insight into what DOESN'T work when writing a book. I have a hard time knowing that if I don't finish there will be an orphan story floating around in my mind that I will never know the ending to, even if I did find it boring or poorly written.
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     Sometimes I leave and come back to it. There has been more than one book that I read half of it at one time, then several months later went back and read the rest. Sometimes that break is all I need to push myself through the rest, it can even help me find a little more enjoyment out of the remaining story. I don't like feeling like a quitter, and I guess that's how not finishing a book, even if I don't really like it, makes me feel. Like a quitter.
     How about you? Do you push yourself through hoping to find a treasure in there some where if you just keep putting your eyes one word in front of the other, or do you have no qualms at all about tossing it aside and choosing a different path to walk?
                                       May all your books be magical!
                                                      Anderson

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron...Review


The Dark Unwinding

Sharon Cameron

Copyright 2012

This Young Adult novel by Sharon Cameron caught me completely by surprise. I bought this flippantly from a Young Adult authors festival Wild Thing One and I went to a couple months back. I don't read much in this genre. I think most of the ones that get mega popular are a bit silly, and once one author hits on something that becomes celebrated it gets repeated so many times it becomes over done and dull. Plus, I like meat in my reading, and I find much of the Young Adult genre is vegetarian. I may almost be a vegetarian in my eating habits (pollotarian), but I am all carnivore where reading is concerned. Yet, while we were walking around the festival and perusing books this one, and another by her entitled "Rook", caught my eye. As I am working on my own book that may end up fitting into this category, I decided to try it. I am SO glad I did!
     In June of 1852 Katharine Tulman is 17 and the ward of an aunt that hates her. She is forced to travel to the enormous and wealthy estate of her uncle, because her aunt thinks he is insane and squandering the family fortune. When Katharine arrives ready to have him committed to an asylum, she finds a genius that is employing  a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. As she meets different inhabitants of the manor and village, and strange things start happening to her, she becomes more and more unsure about what she should do. Her future is entirely dependent on what happens to her Uncle Tully and Stranwyne Keep. She has big decisions to make that effect hundreds of people, but she can't seem to trust anyone, not even herself.
     Besides being Young Adult, this novel was predominately historical gothic with elements of steam punk and psychological thriller. Once I got about halfway in I couldn't put it down, I had to know what was going to happen next. It was imaginative, believable, and unique. I liked the characters, especially Mr. Tully, and fell in love with Stranwyne. The writing was well thought out, and not corny, self indulgent, or over romanticized as I have found others of this type. It was on the lean side being a Young Adult, but that didn't stand out to me so much. I think the enjoyment I got out of the story gave it a meatier texture, so I was able to forget I was reading a vegetarian novel.
     Although "The Dark Unwinding" could stand on it's own, there is a second book that continues the story of the characters at Stranwyne Keep entitled "A Spark Unseen". I have already ordered it! So, the moral of this review is: try things outside your favorite genres sometimes regardless of your prejudices, and don't be afraid to choose a book at random...it's lovely when you are rewarded with a page turner!!!

IMO,
Anderson




Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Master of Suspense

One of my favorite shows that I have been to at Bass Hall in Sundance Square, Fort Worth, is "Hitchcock!". Wild Thing One, my little sister, and I went in November of 2014.

They showed excerpts of several different Hitchcock movies and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra played the mood music that went along with each movie as we watched.
It was an evening of dressing up, feeling fancy at the performance hall downtown, watching some of our favorite suspenseful movies, and listening to the creepy music that goes with them live. The orchestra did fantastic, as all ways, and the movies were wonderful, of course!

They even told us some details about the movies
we didn't know, like what Hitchcock was trying to accomplish with different camera angles, how he used camera movement to mimic a person's gaze, would frame shots to maximize anxiety, fear, or empathy, and used innovative forms of film editing. He was truly "The Master of Suspense", he had stylistic trademarks, and pioneered many elements of the suspense and psychological thriller genres.
It was a fun, fancy, multi-medium-artsy filled evening that will always be a favorite memory!



Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Leavenworth Case by Anna Katherine Green...Review


The Leavenworth Case

Anna Katherine Green

Copyright 1878

This detective novel by Anna Katherine Green was full of twists and turns. I heard about this author through a literature class I took a couple of months ago. The author is known as "The Mother of the Detective Novel", as she was one of the first to write a novel in the detective style. Her writing inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series, and also the popular books of Agatha Christie. Green has many stories and novels that she wrote in her lifetime that are a pleasure for most detective novel enthusiasts.
     It grabs you from the very beginning when Mr. Raymond learns that a very rich and influential New York merchant, Mr. Horatio Leavenworth, has been murdered. Mr. Leavenworth has two young and beautiful nieces that he is the guardian of, they were in the house during the time of his murder, and are in need of the services of a lawyer. As Mr. Raymond is a lawyer he offers his help, but he soon finds himself swept up in the beauty of the two cousins, and in the middle of a murder mystery.
     This story was interesting from the start, Green wastes no time plunging directly into the mystery that the novel surrounds. Having said this though, I have to also say that this book was not all that enjoyable to me. There were things I liked about it, it was well written and plotted, I was unsure who the murderer was all the way to the end, and I loved the wit that Green added into her characters personalities and dialogue. As I like old English writing and ways of speaking I enjoyed the text very much.
     Yet, the story fell a little flat for me. I am not a detective novel fan, therefore it took me much longer to read this book than it should have as I had to make myself keep reading. I do not like the way that the main character in most detective writing talks to the reader. - What do we have here? So what am I to think of this evidence? You can see my confusion when I got this bit of information. etc. etc. - Sometimes I fancy I can actually here the "Dun, Dun, Dun!" you would hear from the mood music, and see the close up of the detectives face you would see from the screen in a detective movie. It takes me out of the story a bit, I feel like I am not a part of it but more a bystander being fed information. A bit like sitting in on a trial. Green's father was a trial lawyer and she learned a lot about cases and law because of him, that may account for this perspective. I would say this novel is a classic "Who done it".
     As I said though, many detective novel fans love her books and I can see why. If that were the type of story telling that I enjoyed, I think I would have found this to be a favorite. I did like her characters, and was happy with the ending that she provided. All the loose ends were tied up, and the ending seemed plausible. If the detective novel is a favorite genre for you I say read this! I think you would really like it. If you don't find that genre particularly enjoyable, my advice would be to skip it.

IMO,
Anderson

Thursday, April 14, 2016

There's Love in the Mail


This week I thought I would spotlight an organization I found and fell in love with on Instagram several years ago. I have been writing letters for them, or because of them, ever since. It is called More Love Letters, founded by Hannah Brencher. They put out a list of people who have been nominated by their friends and family as needing love letters for various reasons every two weeks. You write up a love letter, snail mail folks (yes, I know that's a dying form of writing, but that's one reason I love it so much...keeping something real, not virtual, alive), and send it on it's way. Then the person needing love gets a whole stack of love letters!! So simple, and so wonderful in so many ways!!
     To think, me writing a few lines of inspiration and love in a little card and sending it out into the universe to land with a stranger really needing some sunshine on a dreary day could be what brings a smile to a sad heart. Besides the benefit of helping a person that needs a little love, and besides helping keep the post office and a dying art form alive...have you ever tried to write a love letter and stay sad yourself? If you find yourself depressed or in a bad mood, go write a love letter. It will bring some rays of that same sun you are sending to your own life.

     More Love Letters and Hannah Brencher's movement do other things as well. Some people write little secret love notes and put them in random places. Like, library books, park benches, pockets in clothes at retail stores, and so on. They like the thought that someone needing a smile will find them. She wrote a book about her journey to founding More Love Letters as well, and has a stationary pack she designed. She does a lot of speaking engagements, is a loud and proud Christian, and holds writing workshops online periodically. I am signed up for her Spring Writing Intensive...Can. Not. Wait!!!
     The whole movement, and the girl who started it all is very inspiring. So, if you want to spread a little love in what can seem like a very self absorbed, hateful world sometimes...stroll on over to More Love Letters and smile at something that is WRITE in society!!
Here's some links to help you wander through the world of love letter writing a little less lost:

http://www.moreloveletters.com/

http://www.moreloveletters.com/new-blog/

http://www.hannahbrenchercreative.com/

https://hannahbrencher.com/

Much Love,

Anderson


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Naughty Little Monkeys by Jim Aylesworth...Review

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Naughty Little Monkeys

Jim Aylesworth

Copyright 2003

This adorable book that follows 26 naughty little monkeys and their antics after their parents leave for a date one evening, was one of my middle wild things very favorite books when he was little. It is an ABC book, and has catchy little stanzas to go with each little monkey. As I was looking at it I tried to think of what made him love it so much, he would go to it first every time and want me to read it more than once. There are many things about it I figure he liked. The illustrations are colorful and cute, all the monkeys are named to correlate with their letter of the alphabet and we always commented about their names, the stanzas are all catchy, but most of all I figure he liked that each monkey did something silly and mischievous but when mom and dad got home they still got to go to the zoo in the morning. He was MY most naughty little monkey, so I figure he was able to relate to their antics. I miss having him so little to snuggle up with and read about the Naughty Little Monkeys! I will keep this book, read it to my grandkids, and tell them how much their dad used to LOVE hearing all about the monkeys adventures. If you have a little monkey in your life that likes to hear stories, pick this one up and see if they love it as much as mine did!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Knowledge Seekers Delight



This week I thought I would write a little about a couple of great programs for any knowledge seekers out there. I discovered MOOC's (Massive Open Online Courses) this past summer and I have really enjoyed participating in them. I use two different sites to take classes, and I like them both.

Future Learn offers classes from European universities:

https://www.futurelearn.com/

Coursera offers classes from American universities:

https://www.coursera.org/

They offer classes in any and everything you can think of, from the arts to the sciences to math, human interest, health, and history. They also offer classes in hobbies/interests. My favorites are literature, history, and writing, but I also enjoyed a forensics class about how to identify a body. I took one about historical fiction literature and several authors gave guest lectures to watch, I enjoyed those very much. They were very open and informative about their writing processes, gave good tips to aspiring writers, and I found some new books to read. Another class I took was how to identify some of the constellations in the night sky, I thought it was a lot of fun and enjoy being able to pick some of them out when I look up into the sky.


When taking a MOOC you watch lectures by university professors, and interact with other people from all over the world interested in learning about the same subject you are interested in. You can sit right in your own home and work on them when you have the time, and at your own pace. The best part about them though, is they are FREE!! That's right, free! You just go to the site, create an account, start browsing classes, and Wah Lah....you are ready to learn anything you wish, magic!
If you are some one who loves to soak up new things, and consider yourself a knowledge seeker...check them out!!!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks...Review


Years of Wonders

Geraldine Brooks

Copyright 2001

This novel had a lot to say about human nature, and Geraldine Brooks did a good job saying it. It was set in a small, simple village in England in 1666-67 full of hard working, God fearing people of around 300 in numbers. When the Plague suddenly hits their village, first showing up on the tailor that boards at the main character, Anna's house, the town's people are scared. The story of how the minister of the town, Mr. Mompellion, is able to talk it's people into signing an oath not to leave but to band together, quarantine themselves, until the Plague leaves them, and how they handle the consequences there after is the central story. Most villages that were hit with the Plague at this time would see their inhabitants run far and wide to get away from it's Plague seeds. Every family save one stayed in this village, helping each other, but also turning on one another, as one by one their friends and neighbors started coming down with the deadly disease.
     The rhythm of this novel ebbed and flowed for me. Sometimes there was suspense, even horror, but other times it was dull and I had to push myself to keep reading. As it was focused on an entire village there were a lot of names and characters introduced, I found I had a hard time keeping up with who they all were, or really having any feeling for them as I never got to know them. The main premises of the story is based on a real village from the same time period that did the very same thing. The author imagined what it must have been like to go through the fear and loss they were subjected to. I thought she did a good job, I liked Anna, the story is told through her eyes. I could see how all the things she wrote about people, and how even the best people can turn ugly when faced with death, could happen.
     I would recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, marveling at what humans could be capable of doing to one another, and doesn't mind some slow spots. At 300 pages in length it is a short easy read. Geraldine Brooks is one of the authors I saw lecture for a class I took, she was my favorite of the five. She also has other fiction books I plan to try in future, and some nonfiction books about her time as a war correspondent in the Middle East that I look forward to reading. If you are interested in reading a novel of the Plague, pick this one up!

IMO,

Anderson

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Secret Garden

In 1936 Douglas Chandor and his wife Ina Kuteman started a garden on their private estate in Weatherford, Texas. Douglas was a successful portrait artist, painting U.S. Presidents and Queen Elizabeth among many others. He designed and planted most of the garden himself, as well as did a lot of the stone and brick work. He added many intricate details, had sculptures and pieces brought in from  far away lands, and incorporated both English and Chinese motifs throughout the garden.

Mr. Chandor worked on it until his death in 1953. It, and their gorgeous home are now open to the public to tour. To say they are beautiful is an understatement. The garden is magical, every little detail brings forth bursts of imagination and wonder. The history and it's location hidden back in an historic neighborhood make it feel very secret, like a treasure buried for the lucky humans whom chance to find it.
Wild Thing One and I decided to visit the secret garden this week, it was our third visit since discovering it several years ago. The artist's spirit and love for his wife are still very much alive in every nook and cranny of the property. We find ourselves in awe as we bask in the peace and tranquility of a living wonderland.
The Bowling Green...one of our favorite features.
Through the magic keyhole (actually called "Moon Gate").
Door to Neverland
What's in here?
Perfect little nook to stop and read awhile. Can you spot the door the garden fairies use?
WT One and I had a lovely, memorable day in the warm Texas weather enjoying nature's gifts, painted into the earth by the hands of an artist from the past for us to enjoy in the present. We can't wait to go back!