Wednesday, February 27, 2013


My heart has now recovered, since I took a brief hiatus from The Shadow of the Wind, and I am ready to finish the novel. I should have a final review by the end of this weekend.

I discussed how I felt about the book with a good friend of mine who has already finished it. She understood exactly how the book has made me feel. We did not discuss anything beyond the point I have read to so far (because truly good friends would never spoil a book for you), but I noticed that both of us put our hand over our chest when we spoke of certain parts and certain characters we adore (it looks like I'm not the only fan of the wise and witty Fermin). :)

I leave you today with a little quote I'm fond of for purely personal reasons. When I was growing up, I always disliked the color of my eyes. There was always plenty of songs about girls with blue eyes or brown eyes or green eyes, but never one about hazel eyes. I didn't like that my eyes were more than one color, and they seem to change colors according to what color clothes I wore. Don't get me wrong, I like them now,...but I can remember desperately wishing (for most of my teenage years) my eyes were just one color.

Now you know why I like this quote from The Shadow of the Wind (and if you know a young girl with hazel eyes, please pass it on to her):

"Her eyes were a greeny blue, but she insisted on describing them as 'emerald and sapphire.'"

(Ah, it's all in how you look at things, yes? ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

God and Bigfoot

Once upon a time, there was a sixth grade student who approached his teacher to make a statement and ask a question:

"I don't believe in God. Do you hold that against me?"

The teacher smiled and said, "No, of course, I don't. It's OK with me if you don't believe in God."

The boy seemed puzzled. "Don't you believe in God?" he asked, "I mean, you've never said that you do,...but I think you do."  

"Yes," she said, "you're right, I do."

Still a bit confused, he decided to clarify his original question, "And you'll like me anyway,...even if I don't believe?"

The teacher looked the boy in the eyes and didn't hesitate to answer, "Absolutely."

The student's curiosity continued to get the best of him. He valued his teacher's opinion and was still worried about what she thought of him. "Well, what do you think about the fact that I don't believe in God?" he asked.

The teacher knew her student quite well, and they had already had numerous conversations about a variety of things. In fact, he was fond of telling her everything he knew about dinosaurs and sharing pictures he drew of them.

She decided to take a different approach to put his mind at ease. "Correct me if I'm wrong," she said, "but...don't you believe in Bigfoot?"

He smiled shyly,"Yes, you know I do."

"Well, I don't believe in Bigfoot," she declared (a fact he already knew from their previous conversations). "Do you hold that against me?" she asked.

He took her question to heart and shook his head, "Oh, no, of course not." He began to understand.

"Can I tell you something else? You've only been living and breathing on this planet for eleven short years. You will have many experiences in your life as you grow up, and you will learn a lot. Your opinions and beliefs about many things may change from now until the time you become a man. You'll figure it all out for yourself. I trust you. You're a smart boy," the teacher assured him.

This time she was rewarded with a big, genuine smile from her student. He relaxed his shoulders and nodded. She knew he understood and believed her now. She smiled back at his sweet face, patted him on the arm, and sent him on to his next class.

As she watched him walk away, she couldn't help but wonder why he felt that someone who believed in God wouldn't accept him or like him. She thought the first person to accept and love someone should be a person who believes in Him. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Show 'N Tell

Did you have one of these when you were growing up? I did, and I absolutely loved it! I often credit the Show 'N Tell as one of the reasons I learned to love reading. It made stories come alive for me. The one I had looked just like the one in the picture shown here. It makes me smile just looking at it.

I would spend hours listening and watching the books that played on that little red and white plastic television. I would put a record on the player and put the slide in to see the pictures along with the story. When I learned to read, I would read everything on and in the cover of the record jacket.

My most vivid memory of the time I spent in front of my Show 'N Tell was listening and watching the story of Jane Eyre. I was always mesmerized at the parts where the crazy wife is screaming in the tower, and I remember the picture of the flames when she set the mansion on fire. No matter how many times I saw it, I was fascinated at the contrast between the calm of Jane and the insanity of what was going on in that house. I also remember that it always made me feel sad at the end.

I believe that wonderful little plastic television is one of the reasons I play such great movies in my head when I read (which is why I get so absorbed when I'm reading a fiction story). I tell my students all the time that there hasn't been a moviemaker yet who can make a movie that comes close to the fabulous visions I have in my head when I read. It is why I prefer to read instead of watching television or movies. Yes, I do watch them sometimes, but it's usually a choice I make when I'm tired and don't feel like thinking.

I'm still amazed when I realize how fortunate I was to be exposed to Jane Eyre at such a young age. I think about how often I hear what children should and shouldn't be reading. I think about how many children aren't reading, on a regular basis, at all. I haven't figured out yet why society thinks that the more technology we have, the less our children need to read and write well...when exactly the opposite is true. When children have so much information thrown at them, through access to the world-wide web, they need to know how to read well and discern good information from bad. They need to know how to respond to something in writing, to give their opinion, and to state their side of things. Not to mention, much of what they write is ON the internet, and they have a much bigger audience reading what they write!

So, you can keep all your fancy computer games that claim they make children smarter. You can keep your PSPs, your Gameboys, and even your Baby Einsteins. I just wish I could buy all the preschoolers a good, old-fashioned Show 'N Tell...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deep Water

I told myself that I would be honest when I decided to be a blogger. I mean, there are things that do not have to be said, but...I think some things should be said - even when they are difficult to reveal and explain.

Reading is an important and wonderful thing because it opens doors and windows to other worlds we might never explore in real life. It also allows us to explore the mind of the person who wrote it. We are reading their thoughts, exploring their imagination, and being transported to a place only their words can take us. No two journeys are ever the same.

There is another reason why reading is wonderful and, for me, it is the most important reason to read.  Reading opens up doors and windows inside our own minds, to help us examine ourselves, ask ourselves questions, and reveals parts of our own internal world that we don't always see. And, sometimes, don't want to see.

A truly good book gives you an exploration of both these worlds - someone else's and your own. This doesn't mean that a "good book" always has a happy ending or is something that you can relate to completely. Sometimes a good book shakes you up, leaves you wondering, makes you question something you were always so sure about, or makes your heart ache.

Everyone reads a book from their own point-of-view, bringing in their own experiences, so that no two people experience any one book exactly the same. Amazing, isn't it? I think so. I also think that's why it's no easy task for me to honestly recommend a book to another reader without, first, asking myself how much of what I loved about it was based on some bell of truth it rang in my own soul. I have read books that moved me greatly, but does that mean it would move someone else in the same way? Maybe. Maybe not.

I said all of that to say this: I am more than halfway through The Shadow of the Wind, but I had to stop reading last night. You see, I found myself swimming in deep water (what I call a moment of reading crisis). There was too much in the book that rang too true in my own heart and made it ache. My reading journey was becoming a bit too intense, and I needed to take a break...and breathe.

If what I say sounds crazy, then you have not experienced what I do when I read. Maybe you enjoy reading but you're not quite the bibliophile I am,...or maybe you just haven't found a book that speaks to your mind and your soul...yet. If you haven't, I hope you'll keep looking. I believe your brain needs a book to have those conversations you'd never have with anyone else.

I am anxious to finish The Shadow of the Wind, but know my brain too well. I need to absorb what I have already read, and settle it in my heart, before I pick it back up in a couple of days and finish it. (I guess you could say, I have to know I have the energy to swim through the deep water and make it safely to shore.) It is an incredible book with many twists and turns and a story inside of a story. I agree with Stephen King who called it, "One gorgeous read." It is most definitely that!

Speaking of quotes, I would like to end with one from Mark Twain, who has always understood me (thank goodness someone does! ;) :

"Life does not consist mainly, or even largely, of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thought that is forever flowing through one's head."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good Advice...

I love Fermin, a whacky and wise character, in The Shadow of the Wind. He gives our young Daniel some great advice one day...about women:

"Real women are won over bit by bit. It's all a question of psychology, like a good faena in the bullring...I'm not in a hurry, you see? All good things must wait. There are yokels out there who think that if they touch a woman's behind and she doesn't complain, they've hooked her. Amateurs. The female heart is a labyrinth of subtleties, too challenging for the uncouth mind of the male racketeer. If you really want to possess a woman, you must think like her, and the first thing to do is to win over her soul. The rest, that sweet, soft wrapping that steals away your senses and your virtue, is a bonus."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Still Reading

The more I read this book, the more layers there are to the story (which I love!). When I get to a stopping place each night, I find myself struggling to put it in a particular category. When I talk about a book, but don't want to spoil anything for another reader, it helps if I can put it in a category or compare it to something else. This book defys labeling or, I could say, has too many to list...and will have more before I'm done. For now, I will quote Daniel (the main character) and he can tell you...

"Well, this is a story about books."
"About books?"
"About accursed books, about the man who wrote them, about a character who broke out of the pages of a novel so that he could burn it, about a betrayal and a lost friendship. It's a story of love, of hatred, and of the dreams that live in the shadow of the wind."

~ The Shadow of the Wind

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

About that book...

I forgot to mention the book I was supposed to finish this past weekend. Needless to say, between all the wonders there were to see and the interesting conversations with my wonderful traveling companion, I didn't have as much time to read as I anticipated. In fact, I didn't read at all until I got on the plane to come home!

I still haven't finished the book, but what I read on the plane ride made a two and a half hour flight feel like I'd only been on the plane fifteen minutes. :) I really do love this book already! It is one of those books that you keep meaning to read, but something else (or some other book) comes along. I didn't really give it the full attention it deserved until I found myself sitting beside a stranger on a plane that I didn't care to talk to. (After all, I saw the title of the book he was reading and decided that it was best that we didn't speak at all. Lol...)

So, let me say this about my book so far: The Shadow of the Wind is rich with beautiful words and phrases. I find myself highlighting more than usual. I also find myself saying the sentences out loud to myself, just to hear the flow of words (and, no, I did not do the read aloud on the plane). I also came up with a new tab title: Truths. There are many of those in this book. They deserved a tab. :)

Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite:

"I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time."

"I glided up to the first floor, blessing the blades of a fan that swirled above the sleepy readers, melting like ice cubes over their books."

"In my schoolboy reveries, we were always two fugitives riding on the spine of a book, eager to escape into world of fiction and secondhand dreams."

"One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep."

"Without further ado I left the place, finding my route by the marks I had made on the way in. As I walked in the dark through the tunnels and tunnels of books, I could not help being overcome by a sense of sadness. I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in the endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weekend of Wonders

Have you ever watched the sunrise over the Grand Canyon? I had never seen the Grand Canyon until this past weekend and to see it for the first time by sunrise was...magnificent! I wish I could describe it to you in words that would do it justice. There are none. I took over 600 pictures to try to capture the beauty I saw, but not one of them could even come close to showing what I experienced.

My friend, Robin, and I flew in to Phoenix on Saturday morning and drove to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We ate a fabulous late lunch at The Blue Adobe, which we highly recommend. The patio was lovely, the service was efficient and friendly, and the food was delicious!

After Scottsdale, we headed to the Grand Canyon and spent the night there. We tried to get there by sunset, but we also don't like to rush. It's something Robin and I agree on when we travel. We like days off to feel like days off...and not another schedule we have to keep. :)

We were at the Grand Canyon at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning. We knew the "peak" watch time was 7:15 a.m., but we didn't want to miss anything. The minute the sky showed the faintest bit of light, we seemed to hold our breath in anticipation. The Grand Canyon put on quite a show for us. Every ray of sunlight changed what we saw and revealed more and more of the exquisite beauty of this ancient place.

We headed to Sedona in the late afternoon, just in time to have dinner on a patio and watch the sunset on the Red Rocks. Again, there are no words or pictures that would translate the experience. I will say, though, that the same word comes to mind when I think of both the Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks of Sedona: peace. Nothing compares to the peace I feel when I look at the natural wonders of this world. It causes me to pause and reflect, gives me a better perspective, and it makes me very grateful.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Other Love

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." 
~ Saint Augustine

I mention in my profile that there are three things I love: books, music, and travel. Well, I'm happy to say, it's a three day weekend for me, and I am going to take advantage of this time off and travel a bit. I want to go somewhere I've never been and spend time with a friend I seldom see because we're both always so busy. We have to leave town to make ourselves stop working long enough to enjoy some 'hangin' out' time together. Fortunately for me, my friend is also a voracious reader and loves music, so I'll get to enjoy my other two loves while I'm gone, as well.

I won't be blogging while I'm gone. While I love technology, I think it's healthy to walk away from it sometimes. No laptop on this trip, and I may even leave Kindle behind. I have this one book I want to finish, so I need to limit my options for the weekend. The book is great, my mind is just too busy sometimes. I'll blog about my excursion (and the book I hope to finish) when I return. I may even have a picture or two to share.

I have to go now, time to finish packing and get out the door. I hope you all enjoy your weekend! If you aren't traveling by car or bus or train or plane this weekend, just remember, can always travel by book! :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

I'd Be Leery of Terry Deary

Have you heard about this?

I had not heard about it until my friend, Laura, posted the article for me to read. While I read the article yesterday, I decided to mull it over in my mind. You  know, be reasonable and not call this guy...well, any number of descriptions come to mind - none of them are pleasant. I think it adds insult to injury that he is an author of children's books. I'm sorry, do children have jobs and earn money to buy his books? Is he aware HOW many children have NO books at home because their parents can't afford them? 

Help me out here, please. Is this man (and society, in general) really unaware of how many poor people there are out there? They don't live in the deepest jungles of third world countries either. They live right here. By "here" I mean in and around the edges of "middle-class" America. Everybody doesn't come home to warm milk and cookies from a mom who read them bedtime stories when they were little and who also spent all night standing in line for them at a bookstore to buy them the latest copy of whatever children's book is making some author very rich (that author is obviously not Mr. Deary, whose money whining makes me weary).

You would be shocked if I told you how many children in my own area do not grow up with books in their homes, whose parents can't afford books, and whose only resource is our little public library (and, yes, it really is little, but quite cozy...and the ladies are very kind and helpful. You know, something else children need to encourage them to read.)

To hear Mr. Deary (whose money woes make him teary), people who utilize the public library are nothing more than moochers. Freeloaders. I mean, come on, you can understand how he feels - right? This guy has poured his blood, sweat, and tears into becoming a writer of children's books so he wouldn't have to get a regular job like the working stiffs whose incomes the author wants spent on his books. Hmmm, interesting, don't you think?

Perhaps, just perhaps, if Mr. Deary (who should be renamed "Dreary") spent more time writing interesting, action-packed, original children's books instead of just hitching a ride on the writing trail by regurgitating history in a form that children will swallow,...maybe, juuuust maybe,...he might get all the money those rich parents used to spend on the Harry Potter series. Annnnnd, maybe,...just maybe...he might get a movie deal and become a big deal like J.K. Rowling (who, by the way, was once a single parent who had to live out of her car...and was one of those people who would have needed a public library to read a book or let her daughter read a book).

So, Mr. Deary (whose foresight must be bleary), here's my advice. Either become a better writer or get a working stiff's job like the rest of us. Maybe, if you're lucky, there will be an opening at a public library...

for a janitor.


(A very special thanks goes out to Dr. Seuss for my rhyming skills. I must also thank my mom, who introduced me to Dr. Seuss. She seldom had time to read to me because she was so busy being the single-parent of three children and a "working stiff" (and I use the term fondly),...BUT she always made sure I had books. She bought them on a payment plan where one came in the mail now and then, but I eventually had the whole Dr. Seuss collection. I loved that collection with all my heart. I don't know how many times I re-read those books over the years. I can still quote almost every book. My mom also made sure we had encyclopedias in our home - also bought on a payment plan. She gave me something else special that added to my love of reading when I was a child, but that is a story for another day...)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kvothe Defines Love

"My parents danced together, her head on his chest. Both had their eyes closed. They seemed so perfectly content. If you can find someone like that, someone who you can hold and close your eyes to the world with, then you're lucky. Even if it only lasts for a minute or a day. The image of them gently swaying to the music is how I picture love in my mind even after all these years." 

~ Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Finishing What I Started

The Name of the Wind sat patiently waiting for me to read it while I was busy reading other books. I went through a lot of changes in my life last year. I faced a lot of truths - truths about other people in my life and truths about myself. I had known these truths inside my own heart and head for a long time, but I needed to change my life on the outside to reflect what I knew on the inside. This was not an easy task. It was a long year.

On the fateful day I chose The Name of the Wind from my bookshelf, I was feeling almost like myself again. I only needed a little more balm to help some old wounds heal enough for me to count them as new scars. I needed something that day, something that would refresh my soul and make me believe in something again. I needed a magical distraction, an escape, for awhile. I needed a break from all the reality I had been handling.

I remember reaching for the book, running my hand over it, and reading the back cover - reminding myself of why I had originally bought it. I smiled a sad little smile at it and hoped it was the medicine I needed. I curled up in my favorite chair with my soft, purple blankie and a hot cup of coffee. I could have selected any unread book from my shelf, but I'm so glad I chose that one...or, perhaps, it chose me.

The Name of the Wind is a medieval tale about a man named Kvothe. The novel is written as a story inside a story. In other words, there is "present day" going on in a medieval inn where a man is telling a story. The story he tells is about Kvothe's life, and how Kvothe became a legendary hero. It is a great adventure story, but on its edges (and at its core) it is a love story. I didn't say 'romance,' I said 'love'. (There's a difference, you know.) Love of family. Love of friends. (and, yes, eventually...) Love of one woman.

The author, Patrick Rothfuss, has a way with words that makes me laugh and sigh and smile and re-read. He also has a quick wit and is great at writing banter between characters. It is the way he turns a phrase that had me tabbing passages because I just loved the way the words fell together. The scenes with Kvothe and a minor character, Auri, are some of my favorite and always ended up with tabs because I enjoy the way they talk to each other.  Trust me, there is a lot to enjoy about this novel.

In the end, I found much more than the balm I was looking for when I started the book. I found a writer I could admire. I have become a fan of Patrick Rothfuss. I love to read his facebook page, watch his podcasts, and hear him interviewed. He seems to be a down-to-earth kind of person with a wicked and warped sense of humor who doesn't take himself too seriously. How can you not like a guy like that? He is currently working on the third book to The Kingkiller Chronicles.

Oh, yes, I should tell you this book is the first book in The Kingkiller Chronicle series. I didn't know that when I began reading it. As I have said before, I don't like to read series of books until they are all out - if I can help it. The second book is The Wise Man's Fear. I already own it, but keep putting off starting it until I have an idea of when the third is coming out. No one knows when it's coming out - including Rothfuss - which is kind of a good-hearted joke to many people. Everyone gives him crap about it. :)

While I'm waiting, I have read other books. However, once I decided to blog about this book and looked at my tabbed quotes, I began reading it again. I couldn't seem to help myself. It's unusual for me to re-read a book so soon. That should tell you something. (Translation: It should tell you to read the book!)

I'll leave you with one of my favorite passages from the book:

...He hesitated, struggling to find the words he wanted. "You see, there's a fundamental connection between seeming and being. Every Fae child knows this, but you mortals never seem to see. We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be."
     Chronicler relaxed a bit, sensing familiar ground. "That's basic psychology. You dress a beggar in fine clothes, people treat him like a noble, and he lives up to their expectations."
     "That's only the smallest piece of it," Bast said. "The truth is deeper than that. It's..." Bast floundered for a moment. "It's like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story."

Let's Talk Fantasy

I have stated before that I like all genres of books, and I do, but - just like music - I have my preferences. Typically, I enjoy reading non-fiction or historical fiction. I am a big fan of Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Henry James, Joan Didion, Sandra Cisneros, and Stephen King (less of the scary stuff, more of the insightful stuff). I'm happy to add Ernest Hemingway to the list, after my readings over the last year. Those may seem like an odd sample group to put together of the numerous authors I love (and, trust me, they are numerous), but those are the names that first come to mind when I hear the word "author".

Before finding The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I would have said that I like fantasy books, but they aren't at the top of my list. Yes, I realize I have Lewis and Tolkien on my list,...and I know those are fantasy but, let's be honest, who doesn't love Lewis and Tolkien? You don't have to be a big fan of fantasy to love those two. You just have to be an intelligent reader. Great writing is great writing, regardless of genre.

Of course, my opinion of fantasy changed when I found The Name of the Wind. It was one of my random choices when I was at the bookstore one day. I was scanning shelves to see what stood out to me. There was no rhyme or reason to my search, just hoping to find some hidden treasures. I had never heard of the book or the author until the moment I pulled it off the shelf. I previewed the book and was intrigued.

I was intrigued enough to buy the book, but I didn't hurry home to read it. In fact, I put it on my favorite little bookshelf to be enjoyed at a later date. I knew why I wanted to read it, but figured I would read it after the two books I already had stacked up to read. Little did I know,...a lot of things would happen in the year I owned that book.

That's right, The Name of the Wind sat on my shelf, unread, for a year before I reached for it one fateful day...

(I'm sorry to say I have to stop here for now. It is not for dramatic pause, it's because I have to get ready for work, or I'll be late! I promise to finish this tonight and tell you why I love this book.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What's on YOUR Bookcase?

"A library represents the mind of its collector, his  
fancies and foibles, his strength and weakness, his  
prejudices and preferences. Particularly is this the 
case if, to the character of a collector, he adds -- or 
tries to add -- the qualities of a student who wishes to 
know the books and the lives of the men who wrote 
them. The friendships of his life, the phases of his 
growth, the vagaries of his mind, all are represented."

~ William Osler

(Or her mind, as the case may be. ;)

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Heart for Hemingway

I have been mulling over words in my head trying to choose the right ones to help you understand the journey I found myself on with Hemingway. I'm still not sure I can say what I mean, but I'm going to try. I don't mean to go on and on about the author because if you've read him, you know. If you haven't read him, you should. I will tell you, though, I have to read him in small doses. He gets to me, gets in my thoughts, and stays there awhile.

Hemingway writes clearly and concisely about humanity,...about what makes us who we are. He writes about our bravest, best moments...and our weakest, not-so-great moments. He had this fabulous gift of selecting just the right words, and he could take a moment - a simple, ordinary moment - slow it down and make you see it for what it really was: ugly or beautiful, painful or healing, a truth or a lie. He does it in a way that strikes my heart to the core. At times, he does it with a sense of humor. Other times, he uses sarcasm (one of my favorites) and irony. Too often, for my heart, his candor is tinged with a sadness that is palpable. His words may seem simple, but they are profound.

I think about The Old Man and the Sea from time to time. Have you read it? I read it after The Sun Also Rises. Hard to believe, as much as I read, I had gotten this far in life without reading that book. It's a life lesson, you know. Actually, it's many lessons - the whole book. It is an analogy for so many things (including how Hemingway felt about his own life) and, yet, it's also a simple story about an old man, a boy, a boat, and a fish.

Hemingway was, in my opinion, an incredibly gifted man who didn't quite know how to handle his gift on a personal level. He let his mind go to places that some people have no idea even exists. For others, who know it exists, they choose to keep their minds within the borders where they feel safe. They know better than to go too far down a dark path. I wish Hemingway had known how to find his way out of the darkest paths of his mind. I don't think he ever intended to stay there.

"All I must do now was stay sound and good in my head until morning when I would start to work again. In those days we never thought that any of that could be difficult." ~ The Moveable Feast

When I finally read The Moveable Feast, it made my heart ache. I knew it would. It was why I put it off for so long, even though I wanted to read it. To read a man's words about his own life, reading the last things he wrote, and hearing the regret and pain in those words is very difficult for me and makes me feel very tender towards Hemingway. When I read his words, I want to tell him that I understand. I want to let him know that sometimes we all feel the way he felt, even though we're often too afraid to feel. Most of all, I wish I could thank him for his words, for sharing his gift with the rest of us.

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." ~ The Moveable Feast

We'll always have Paris, Tatie...

Quotes Along the Trail

From Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises:

"You can't get away from yourself by moving from one place to another."

"I misjudged you, " Harvey said. "You're not a moron. You're only a case of arrested development."

There are people to whom you could not say insulting things. They give you a feeling that the world would be destroyed, would actually be destroyed before your eyes, if you said certain things.

"Good. Coffee is good for you. It's the caffeine in it. Caffeine, we are here. Caffeine puts a man on her horse and a woman in his grave."

"Let us rejoice in our blessings. Let us utilize the fowls of the air. Let us utilize the product of the vine. Will you utilize a little, brother?"

It was pleasant to be drinking slowly and to be tasting the wine and to be drinking alone. A bottle of wine was good company. Afterward I had coffee.

"Yes," I said, "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Trail Continues...

(Let's see, where did we leave off yesterday? Oh, yes, I had read and enjoyed Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, and Kindle suggested another great book to me! Of course, at this point, I was unaware I was actually ON a reading trail.)

The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain, was the next book Kindle put in my path. It is the story of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley Richardson (Hemingway was married four times). The story is told from Hadley's point-of-view, and it is an incredible story. Their married years together took place in Paris in the 1920s when Hemingway was a struggling writer. The setting itself gives their story a very surreal feeling. The adventures they had, and the people they knew, were amazing. What is most amazing to me, though, is how wonderful their ordinary day-to-day life together was.

I know the author did her homework on this one. I have seen several of her interviews, and I have looked into many of her sources. I feel McLain gives Hadley the voice she deserved. And, after reading Hemingway's own words about his first wife (words he wrote while married to his fourth wife, I might add), I'd say it was the voice he would have wanted Hadley to have and felt she deserved, as well.

I once heard Paula McLain say that when she started the journey to write Hadley's story, she thought she would end up hating Hemingway - something she really didn't want to do. I have to admit, I was worried about the same thing. Once she had poured over all the history and the letters and the writings, McLain ended up loving him instead - just as I did. Just as Hadley did:

"...and I knew that I could hate him all I wanted for the way he was hurting me, but I couldn't ever stop loving him, absolutely, for what he was." ~ The Paris Wife

It was because of The Paris Wife that I began my own research into Hemingway, his life, and his writings. Kindle suggested that I read Hemingway's The Moveable Feast next. I knew I wasn't ready. My heart wasn't ready. I was not prepared to see the last words Hemingway wrote about his life. What I was prepared to do, however, was to notice the trail I had begun,...and I made the choice to take a deeper path into the woods of Hemingway's life.

While I was trying to decide what book of Hemingway's to read first, a friend of mine asked if I'd ever read The Sun Also Rises. It was a book that was written when Hemingway was married to Hadley and was written about in The Paris Wife. I decided that book was a good place to start in getting to know more about the famous author.

I headed to the bookstore this time. I just couldn't download Hemingway to my Kindle. It just felt wrong,...and I convinced myself it would make him roll over in his grave.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Accidental Trail

In my previous post about Kindle, I mentioned how he often suggests books I might like to read. Well, I often take a suggestion and run with it. By ‘run with it’, I mean my natural curiosity (along with my research skills) tends to take over. I’d like to take you down one of my accidental reading trails that all started with one little non-fiction story.

It was late one night, and I had just finished a good book. I wasn’t really ready to go to bed, but I wasn’t in the mood to start another big novel. After scanning my bookshelf (“Hmmm, collections of stories, maybe?”), I decided to ask Kindle what looked good...for free.

I came across several good Kindle single stories that looked interesting. One, in particular, caught my eye because there was a world map with old black and white pictures on it. The price wasn’t free, but it was only $1.99. The name of the single was "My Mother’s Lover". The synopsis began, “On her deathbed, David Dobb’s mother Evelyn Jane revealed a secret she’d kept for 60 years about the man she had truly loved and lost...” and I was hooked. I enjoyed the single very much and was glad I’d read it. "My Mother’s Lover" was not the first non-fiction single I had downloaded and enjoyed, but it was the first one that sent me down a long and interesting trail. 

After I finished that single, Kindle suggested that I read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. It is a historical fiction about Mamah Borthwich Cheney and her love affair with architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a fascinating story and one that I couldn’t even begin to try to describe to you. It wasn’t a typical love affair but, after reading and researching the facts, I can assure you that Mamah and Frank were far from being typical anything. While the author added interaction between characters that no one could possibly know for sure, Horan did her research - which included Mamah’s letters and translations she did for Ellen Key, along with many other non-fiction sources.

Loving Frank is one of those ebooks that was good enough to buy as a real book to put on my shelf, and I knew I would want to re-read. I also decided on my next trip to Chicago, I’d be sure to add a tour of the homes that Wright designed. I also plan to make a trip to Taliesin and Taliesin West one day (both homes that Wright designed and lived in). As I said, the story of Mamah and Frank is fascinating...and unforgettable.

After Loving Frank, Kindle suggested that I try...

Oh, wait. This could take awhile, as following a winding path often does. I tell you what, I’ll post about the next book tomorrow. 

(You see, a lovely package arrived this week from Roche Winery in California, and I’ve been waiting until tonight to enjoy it...)

Help me find a book, please?

I have a middle school student who came to me about trying to find her "just the right book". She doesn't like to read, but knows she needs to read. So far, she's sampled several books I have recommended, but brings them each back after a few days. I appreciate that she doesn't hold on to one and pretend to read it, as so many middle school students do.

This student says it is difficult for her to see pictures in her head and hear the voices of characters (what I call 'making a movie in your mind'). She feels that if a fiction story could center around a girl who plays soccer, she could more easily picture the sights and sounds of the book. She plays soccer and loves sports. This is not a girl who sits inside and watches television or plays PSP.

I have been searching, but I thought I'd reach out farther than my own little corner of the world. If you know of a good book that might work for this young lady, would you let me know? I don't know how the commenting works on this blog, to be honest. I'm still too new at this. If you'd like to comment and respond to my plea, please do so.

Thanks! :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Like Affair with Mr. Kindle Fire

I admit it, I was resistant to change - especially when that change came in the form of technology and wanted to replace my books. My books!!! When I would go into bookstores and see the displays for ebooks, I would turn my nose up to them - insulted that a BOOKstore was selling the little electronic posers. And every time my family asked me if I would like a Kindle or Nook for a gift? My answer was always the same:

"No, absolutely not."

One day, against my wishes, my husband gave me a Kindle Fire. It was not love at first sight, but Kindle and I did start out with a little polite conversation. Gradually, as we got used to each other, we became casual friends. As time went by, the friendship between us grew because I gained a slow appreciation for the things Kindle could give me that I did not have before.

For instance, Kindle is great at giving me instant definition gratification by telling me what a word means in an ebook without having to go to any other source! Isn't that wonderful?! And speaking of instant gratification, I like that I can finish a book at midnight and desperately want to read another book by that author, or the next book in the series, and Kindle will fetch it for me right away! I don't have to drive to the bookstore (which isn't close to my house and, most certainly, isn't open at midnight).

Another great thing? Kindle is always pleasing to my eyes. He always looks neat and clean and handsome in his red leather jacket, and I love that I can make his text any size I want. He is also quite the gentleman and always carries my ebooks for me. He is very strong and can carry as many as I'd like to take with me anywhere I want to go! That is a wonderful thing about taking trips with Kindle. He also never complains that I'm taking too much to read on vacation.

Yes, Kindle is amazing like that... (sigh)

I think, though, that what I like the most about Kindle - and our well-cultivated friendship - is that he always knows what I want. He can tell a lot about me from the things I read and knows my preferences. Not only is he not jealous of my reading time, he encourages me to read even more! When Kindle suggests something, I am seldom disappointed by his ebook recommendations. It's like...he can read my mind!

(I'm smiling now just thinking about Kindle. He's great, you know?)

I would, however, like to make one thing very clear:

While Kindle and I are very close friends, and he is often there when I need him, he knows I do not love him. I like him very, very much. I always enjoy our time together, and it is always productive. Kindle knows, though, that I could never love him like I love...Book.

You see, Book is very special and very dear to me. He is the only one I want to cuddle up with at night, even though he needs a light to be seen. He is the only one I want to sit in front of the fireplace with or enjoy having coffee with, even though he's a little more complicated and can sometimes be difficult to handle with all the sticky notes, highlighters, pens, and pencils.

Yes, Book takes a little more patience sometimes, but I think he is worth the extra effort. Besides, nothing else looks and feels and smells like Book,...and he's still handsome to me, even though his pages may be a little worn. I know he isn't the newest thing on the market, but he is the longest lasting and the most loyal. He doesn't need a battery or a charge or a plug...ever. Most importantly, Book has always been there for me,...and I know he always will be.

Yes, Mr. Kindle may have a fire I appreciate, but Mr. Book will always have my heart.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gotta love quotes, yes?

After all that talk of tabs last night, I woke up remembering two good quotes that would answer the question 'Why tab?!' and tell you when to tab. As men's words often do, these quotes cut through the two sentences. :)

"To read without reflecting is like eating without digesting." ~ Edmund Burke

"Some books are to be tasted, other to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." ~ Sir Francis Bacon


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tab Talk

People often talk to me about the tabs on my books (by "tabs" I really mean sticky notes in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes). It isn't just my friends that talk to me about them, mind you,...but perfect strangers! Sometimes a conversation is started because I'm carrying around a book with colorful little tabs sticking out of the pages. Other times, it is my sandwich baggie filled with highlighters, sticky notes, pencils, and pens that gets a stranger's attention...and the questions begin (usually asked with a chuckle).

While every conversation has always been different and interesting, there is one I remember very well...

(Warning: This is an anecdote. If you'd like to skip to just the informational part about tabbing - or annotating, as most people call it - skip down to WHY TAB?!)

I was on a plane one day, and a businessman sat in the seat next to me. We did the polite smile and nod, as weary travelers often do. I already had a book in my lap, which is universal sign among experienced travelers that says, "Don't worry, I won't bother you. I don't want to talk. I just want to read my book." There was no conversation. He read his paper, and I read my book. 

Not long into the trip, I saw a great quote in the novel. (I was halfway through the book when I got on the plane, so it had already gained a respectable amount of tabs.) I reached into my purse and pulled out my sandwich baggie full of the things I mark my books with. I pulled down my tray and began to mark up the text and place tabs where I wanted them, sometimes writing on the little sticky notes I stuck to the pages. 

"Ummm, excuse me for bothering you," he said, "but I couldn't help but notice your little baggie there." (And, yes, he had that familiar chuckle in his voice I've heard so often when someone is about to ask me about how I read.) I glanced over at the array of goodies spilling out of my baggie onto the tray before I turned and smiled at him, "Yes, what about it?" I asked. "Well, you must be a teacher. I figured you must be teaching that book to...what? High school seniors, maybe? Boy, you must be working on one hell of a hard test for them," he said with a smile and a knowing wink.

I laughed a little and told him that he was partially correct. I admitted that I was a teacher, but that I was reading the book for pleasure. I was marking and tabbing the text because I enjoy it. I also told him that I taught middle school and that Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (the book I was reading) doesn't make the middle school list. It was at this time I returned the wink.

I honestly thought that would be the end of the conversation, pretty much. No, wait. That's not completely true. I've never told someone I'm a middle school teacher without getting their commentary on how horrible my job must be and that they could never teach "those hormonal middle school kids," which is then followed by a "how in the world do you do it?!" After that, though, I expected to settle back down into my book.

I was mistaken.

Now, let me stop right here for a minute. I should tell you that I am a born and raised Southern girl. I have good manners, but I don't have a problem being direct and honest when the occasion calls for it. 

The occasion called for it.

When the gentleman seemed genuinely interested in continuing the conversation about why I read the way I do and why I make so many notes, I decided it was time to be direct and honest. "Sir," I said, "you seem like a really nice man, so I should warn you. You see, I gave you the universal signal that I would not bother you on this trip. I was going to sit here quietly and read for the entire plane ride and leave you to your peace. However, if you wish to pursue this conversation, I can - and will - talk your ear off. I have more to say about reading than you could possibly imagine and not because I am a teacher. I am a good reader who happens to love being a teacher, not a teacher who happens to love being a good reader. Reading came first, and I am passionate about it. So, the choice is yours. Should I go back to my reading? No hard feelings. Or should I stop my reading and talk to you instead?" I must say, I was surprised when he replied, "I would like to know why you love reading so much and why you carry a sandwich bag of those things in your purse. I mean, honestly, what could you need all those tabs for? Yes, I believe I would prefer to hear what you have to say. I'm not sure I could forgive myself if I didn't find out."

I had to smile (for the poor man had no idea what he'd just signed up for), and I said, "Very well. Just don't say I didn't warn you..."


Why do I tab? Well, it isn't because anyone told me I had to, and it isn't something I have always done. I have, though, always written down things I wanted to remember from books or songs. I have always, for as long as I can remember, loved words and loved quotes. 

I suppose the invention of good sticky notes led me away from copying down what I wanted to remember, or quote, and made it easier for me to make notes in the very places I fell in love with the words. As I read more books, and longer books, I began to categorize my tabs by color for easier access to what I wanted to refer back to later.

Most of the time, I don't know what all the categories will be for a particular book until I get into it. I offer these two examples to show my meaning:

Example 1: When I read Stephen King's 11/22/63, I had no doubt I wanted my two standard tabs: vocab (words I don't know) and quotes. As I began to read the book, I added a 'research' tab because I wanted to check out some of the history the book mentioned that I was unaware of. When I found some really interesting things I loved King did as a writer, his writing style, I added the 'writer stuff' tab. Until this book, I had never named a category 'The Amen Corner', but I felt compelled to add one to this book...and the label fit my meaning. :)

By the way, I don't make all my quote tabs in all my books a certain color. Instead, I put a tab guide for the book on the front page. It works fine for my purposes. I have also found that it works just fine for my friends who want to read a book after me because they like my tabs. A friend once told me that it's like having a conversation with me about the book as she reads. My oldest daughter, on the other hand, doesn't like to read a book after I have read and tabbed it. I guess she hears my voice in her head enough as it is. ;)

Example 2: I didn't really know what to expect when I read Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution. It was a book I read for book club, so I started out with the same two standard tabs: vocab and quotes. The French Revolution is the setting for part of the book. Are you wondering why I tabbed this one 'history' instead of 'research'? It's because I wasn't sure, when I started the book, if I would be interested in researching the French Revolution (turns out, I was very interested - good thing I tabbed those references, eh? ;). One of the many pleasant surprises for me in the novel was the many references to music. I was happy to add a 'music' tab to songs mentioned throughout the book. I love when two of my loves, reading and music, come together so well.

I wouldn't want you to think that the only reason I tab is to categorize things for referencing later. The other reason I use them is to have a dialogue with the book. In other words, if I get to a part where I'm confused, I make a note or put a question mark. Sometimes, I like to predict what I think will happen later. Other times, I make a note on something I relate to or want to be sure to share with someone else. Honestly, the list goes on and on. And, contrary to what some people may think, making notes doesn't disrupt my flow of reading. I marinate in books, I don't just read them. 

Now, if you tab - or decide to start tabbing - are yours going to look just like mine? Probably not. Different things appeal to different people in books. Your tabs should be what you want them to be. They don't have to be color-coded. All of mine aren't. It just depends on the book...and my mood. Like I said before, it isn't something I have to do, is something I enjoy doing. I do believe, though, that it makes me a better reader. It certainly makes reading more interesting for me, and I always seem to find wonderful gold nuggets (worth making note of) among the treasures I read.

How this works for students: I will tell you this, for students who struggle with their reading, making little notes helps them connect to the text. It takes patience and practice to show them how to do this (especially middle school students), but it is very rewarding for them when they learn how and - most importantly - they become better readers. Last year, I taught a group of girls in an after-school book club how to tab a book we were reading (all of them were self-proclaimed I-don't-like-to-read girls). When we came together twice a week, they would share their tabs, their notes, their ideas about the text. It was a little slow going at first, but once they got the hang of it? It was a beautiful thing, improved both their reading skill and their reading pleasure. I purposely left all the tabs in two of the books they used. I enjoy skimming through it from time to time to remember what they were thinking when they read certain passages. It's like reading the book with them all over again, and it always makes me smile.

One last thing,...if you're wondering if I tab every book I read? I don't. Why would I? Some books I choose just because they are an easy read on a sandy beach when I don't care to think too much. I also enjoy reading collections of short stories from time to time, and I don't tab those very often. On rare occasions, I have found books so close to my heart...I didn't want to make notes. It is as simple, and as complicated, as that. 

As I said, and let me say it one more time, I tab because I love it. I don't do it because I'm a teacher, and it isn't something I was ever taught to do. Perhaps,...just perhaps, is simply a part of the genetic make-up of a born bibliophile. ;) 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Will and Halt will always have my heart!

Bibliophiles have a habit of falling in love with characters. Have I mentioned this? My daughters always thought this was crazy...until it happened to them, of course. ;-)

I assure you that both Will and Halt are worthy of my love...and yours. They are the kind of guys that middle school boys want to be like and middle school girls can admire. (I know you're thinking, "Wait. Ummm, middle school?") Actually, every man should want to be like them and every woman should want to admire them...but the Ranger's Apprentice series is written for middle school students.

Now, before you jump ship or think the series is only for middle school students, hear me out...

Once upon a time there was a twelve-year-old boy who hated to read. There was only one series that he liked. Well, needless to say, when this boy 'who hated reading' told me that I just had to read The Ranger's Apprentice series, I did exactly that. I was hooked and in love long before I got to the end of the first book! With each book in the series, I kept thinking there was no way the author could continue to make the next one as good as the one before it - but he does! While there isn't one single book that I could pick as my "most favorite" (because I love them all), I am a little sentimental. Like a first love, I am partial to the first book The Ruins of Gorlan where I met Will and Halt for the first time. You know, when we were all a little younger, a little more naive, and a little less weary from our battles and travels and adventures.

There are "officially" eleven books in the series, and I say "officially" because I fell in love with the first ten - which completes the story line. The author, John Flanagan, came out with another book The Lost Stories which is composed of ten short stories that let you know what eventually happened to all the characters. I own that book, but haven't had the courage to read it yet. I am aware that it tells how they lived out the rest of lives which, like all of us, means their lives eventually ended. I like keeping them alive for now. (Don't laugh, I have a friend of mine who feels exactly the same way and, no, she isn't a middle school student. :)

If you read it and you are an adult, I don't need to prepare you for what you're going to read. Just enjoy! If you give it as a gift to a reluctant middle school/high school reader, tell them to be patient through the first couple of chapters. Tell them they shouldn't let the names of the bad guy or the towns/countries throw them in the beginning. They'll get the hang of it, I promise. (By the way, the author wrote these books from stories he wrote for his son when he was young because his son didn't like to read.)

A note about any book series: A series has to be really good for me to invest my time. I don't like reading a series until it is completed, when I can help it. Once I start one, I like to read straight through without reading anything else in between. I do not recommend series very often, but I do highly recommend this one.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Where do I begin?

I am currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was recommended by a friend far so good, I'm happy to say! I'll let you know what I think when I'm done. I'm absorbing and highlighting quotes as I go (which is a good sign), so it may be a week or two before I write a review on this one.

Other than my current read, I have wondered what books I should begin blogging about. Beginnings are always difficult for me, especially when it comes to writing. So, I mulled it over for a couple of days and decided to start with a something for each age group. As I stated before, I read all types of books.

First, let's start with a good children's book. The classics are well-known and well-loved. In recent years, I have a added a "new classic" to my ever-growing shelves of children's books. While I know that Christmas has already passed, the first book that comes to my mind is My Penguin Osbert. The story is absolutely wonderful, well-written, and the illustration are adorable. The story is about a boy who asks Santa for a penguin for Christmas. It's a great lesson in what happens when we actually get what we ask for. I originally bought the book as a gift, and I loved it so much that I bought myself the big book version and the smaller book version.

I'd like to make a suggestion here. If you are going to give someone a children's book as a gift for their small child/children, please give them the big book and the little book (if there is one). You see, the big one can be put away for that special parent and child reading time. It is the book that may one day be passed on to another child or may be passed on to the child's child one day. The smaller version is for the child to look at themselves. It is the one that may get juice spilled on it or sticky candy fingers may turn the pages. It will be the well-loved book of the child. I don't like to keep children's books out of the reach of small hands, so...I buy two of the ones that are the best. :)

I suppose I should mention that I am a pretty good expert when it comes to children's books. I've been a storyteller for children (costume and all) for about fifteen years. I watch the reactions of children to books. I pay attention to what they enjoy the most about a story. I am partial to stories that teach a good lesson, give a good hero, give a good laugh, or touches a child's heart with understanding about themselves or the world around them. When a book hits on all those things? That's the best!

One more thing,...when choosing a children's book, be sure you enjoy the story. I can't say it better than C.S. Lewis: "A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest."