Beach Reading Survey 2017

I took a trip to the beach for Labor Day weekend. It was a short stay so that equals a short opportunity to talk to the readers up and down the beach. (And you know me, I’m gonna squeeze that in when I can.) To be honest, I didn’t find a ton of readers this time. That’s probably because I usually conduct my survey in the middle of the summer when there are more vacationers. Nevertheless, there are always some readers wherever you are, and I’ve discovered, even though I am a total stranger to them, readers like to talk about what they are reading. I don’t think I scared anyone. Here’s what I found:

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This is Melissa. She was the first one I talked to and she was absolutely delightful. We chatted and found out that both of our book clubs had just read our 50th books! She and I share the same reading tastes.

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This was a precious mom and daughter and they were happy to participate in my survey. I looked for them on the way back down the beach to get their names but I missed them. They were fun to talk to.

 

 

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And this is Chad, the only man I found reading on the beach this year. (That’s not typical.) I found him when I was heading inside for the day so I HAD to stop and talk to him. Turns out, we have a couple of mutual friends from high school! He was a great conversationalist and I’m glad I could include him in my survey.

There you have it! Tune in next summer for another exciting edition of the Beach Reading Survey. Happy Reading, friends!

 

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My Favorite Cover

I just want to share with ya”ll my favorite book cover ever.
If you know me you know that I love fine china. I love the beautiful plates, silver flatware, crystal; the impractical stuff that most people don’t make use of anymore. I like having my hot tea in a teacup and saucer and reading Jane Austen makes me feel like drinking tea, even if I really only read her in the summer.

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So this cover has this cute little cup and saucer with gold shimmers, but I realize that there are tons of books with cups and saucers on them. But ya’ll, do you see that cyclone coming up out of that cup? That is the truest picture I could ever come up with to describe my feelings about reading this book!!

I was so frustrated reading Sense and Sensibility. I am sure it was all my personal issue and not Ms. Austen’s talent but it really drove me nuts. I was in a constant state of eye rolling and “Oh my gosh, STOP WHINING, get over it, etc. I kept expecting a Pride and Prejudice feeling with all the wit and humor but I got none of that. I am certain that my issue was that I had read P & P the previous summer, then nine or ten months later I watched the six part movie so my brain kept thinking this next story of sisters and their need of marriage would be like the last one. Nope.

So when I saw this cover. I immediately fell in love. That pretty little cup and that crazy storm brewing there like the storm brewing in me while I was reading that sucker.
Sigh…I know, this probably only makes sense to me but if you only knew how much…

Anyone else out there care to share with me your favorite book cover? Do you just love it or is there a story behind it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emma by Jane Austen

Emma was my book of choice this year for August in August. I got a head start on this one and began reading in June. You people who can read multiple Jane Austen books in one month impress me and I applaud you for your literary skills.

Let us look upon the lovely edition of Emma that I won during Austen in August 2015. This copy is published by the Folio Society and they gave away two of these babies that year. (I’m hoping to see Folio Society again on a giveaway post this year.) I must admit that I only read this one a little bit. I scanned the illustrations and read some of it, but mostly it’s job is to sit on the top shelf of my living room bookshelf with my other special books and look beautiful. I mainly read from my kindle and listened to the audible production.

I enjoyed Emma. She was smart, but not wise. She was pleasant and clever and charming but she couldn’t see the truth right in front of her face. She was a meddler and caused trouble for her friend and sometimes others. She was a little bit stuck up but I believe she was just a product of her environment and her heart was almost always in the right place, even if her brain wasn’t. She was a loving and devoted daughter and that was admirable. Her commitment to her father’s welfare, mood and happiness, even when it affected her own, was commendable.

Let’s talk about a few characters:

Mr. George Knightley
He is Emma’s brother-in-law and he is a close friend of the family.
Emma’s friendship with Mr. Knightley was, to me, the best part and when they argued it endeared me to him even more. Their relationship was platonic and casual and so genuine that if I didn’t already know how it would all turn out, I might not have suspected it. Truly, he was like a big brother to her but in that way I guess it is good for you to love someone that you know so completely.

Miss Harriett Smith:
She is Emma’s friend and mentoring “project”.
I would have been pretty disappointed and might have thought Miss Austen to be heartless if she didn’t right the things that went wrong with Harriett Smith. She was a doll and she lost precious time with her true love because Emma thought she knew better than her. Harriett was a little sappy and wimpy and entirely too dependent on Emma’s opinions but overall she was a sweet character who’s biggest troubles came from her so-called “friend”….

Miss Bates:
Ya’ll, I like to talk and sometimes I worry about dominating a conversation when I’m with a group of friends because extroverts can tend to do that but my word…I hope I am never considered to be like Miss Bates. She was a middle aged, single woman that knew Emma all her life. She was a sweet character but either her nerves or her general personality kept her from knowing when to just shut-up. Ugh…she went on and on and on. And sometimes it was humorous and sometimes, especially when I was listening to the audio, it was super annoying and I just rolled my eyes. The narrator on audible, Juliet Stevenson, did a phenomenal job playing her. Because her life was not conventional or typical in the sense that she wasn’t married or rich, Emma was sometimes unkind to her and Mr. Knightey called her out on it. “Badly done, Emma!”

Mr. Woodhouse:
Emma’s father. He was a whiny, needy man. Mr. Knightley respected him and Emma adored him.

There are many other characters and there are plot twists and turns. Emma is an enjoyable read and so different from my last Austen book, Sense and Sensibility. The only thing that disappointed me in Emma was the abbreviated content from the long-awaited Ball. I wanted to read more about it, maybe see some drama or have more description of the dinner.  In my memory nothing really special happened in that scene and then it was just kind of…over.

Of course I am thinking of watching the movie now. Any suggestion for which one is best? I’m thinking about the one with Gwyneth Paltrow but only because Alan Cumming plays Mr. Elton. I’d rather see him play Frank Churchill to be honest. There is also the BBC version and I’m a little more interested in that one. What do you say? Let me know in the comments.

I shall leave you now, so as not to be another Miss Bates.

 

Austen in August 2017

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Hey everybody! It’s that time of year again! Adam at Roof Beam Reader is once again hosting the month long Jane Austen extravaganza and I am so excited about it. This event is for those who desire to read Jane Austen’s works or read about Jane Austen all month long. Rereads, movies, spin-offs, bios, they all count. It’s the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the Austen culture and join in with a community of Austen fans all reading along with you.

This is my fourth year participating in this event. In the past years I read Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and this year I will be sharing my thoughts on Emma. (Did I mention there are prizes too?)

If any of you bloggers would like to join in, you must be signed up by August 3rd. If any of my readers are up for reading Emma and just having some fun conversation with me about it, then comment below. We can figure out a time and place to chat.

Brew some lovely tea and spend some time with Jane and me.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My People
My people are scattered. Jonathan is in Canada for the whole month of July. He is WAY north. He’s working at a summer camp for the first time and is having a blast. He is in touch often, (thanks to unlimited international phone plans), he’s having all kinds of adventures and is managing to have a good attitude even though he sprained his ankle and has to wear a brace for a couple of weeks. He’s eating different food, which I haven’t gotten him to do in 18 years and he tells me that everything I’ve heard about the Canadians is true…”they are the nicest people I have ever met”.  He has gone on and on about the kindness of the people. I’m afraid my boy may move to Canada.

Lindsay is now in Uganda. She left a few days ago. We drove to Charlotte on Thursday, stayed with my parents, and she flew out around 7:30 am Friday. By herself. She is overwhelmed often by all the adulting she has to do but I am just plain proud of her. She met up with her team in Orlando then flew to Dubai. The pictures she sent from there were incredible! She spent the night in Dubai, had her own hotel room, which I thought was fabulous, and then made the final flight to Uganda. When she arrived she was greeted by Julius, the older of the two  Ugandan boys who stayed with us last year. I won’t hear from her quite as much in the next 12 days but I know she is in good hands.

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I got to see my brother while we were in Charlotte and I can’t tell you how much better he looked than the last time I saw him. He has put on about 35 much needed pounds and is eating like a champ. I am so relieved to see him progressing physically. There are other mountains before him but I’m thankful for every victory he can get.

Caleb is, well, hanging with us. Poor guy. He is plenty busy with work and hanging with his girl, Jenna, but she goes out of town in a few days. He will be house/pet sitting for her family. He just created a new youtube channel called Socially Inept People. I think he wants to just review movies and talk movie geek stuff. Feel free to check it out! We will  try to feed him good and watch all his favorite movies with him while it is just the three of us. And out of the three kids, he is the one most willing to just hang with us and watch stuff anyway. So, he’s good.

My Books
I’m still reading Emma for Austen in August. I’m a little frustrated because the whispersync feature is not working on this one. Normally, if I am listening to a book on my kindle, the whispersync feature holds my place and then when I crawl in bed at night and want to read with my eyes, my place is already marked and I can just pick up where the audio left off. But in this case, for some reason the audio and the book are not connected so not only do I have to make adjustments with where I am in the book, but the chapters are not even laid out the same. In the audio, the book is divided into parts, and chapters within the parts. And that’s how my physical copy of the book is. On my ebook though, it’s just continual chapters. So I might be in Chapter 8 of part two on the audio, then I have to do math and figure out what chapter that is in the ebook. Ugh. I’m calling Kindle support to see if that can be rectified. I don’t wanna do math.

I’m also reading Death and The Penguin by Ukranian author Andrey Kurkov, for book club. Not sure how I feel about it yet, but I know that for book club there’s going to be borscht. And I’m sure you’ll be seeing that here or on instagram.

My Food
I had some fabulous wings last weekend when Mike and I whisked Lindsay away for a quick beach weekend before she left the country. I’m not even a big wing eater, in general, but looking at Brian’s pictures of wings on instagram gave me an appetite for some and I mean to tell you, I hit the jackpot.  I’m finally getting my fill of tomatoes and basil this summer. Blueberries too. Gonna make another blueberry crisp today or tomorrow. (my third). I’ve made one quiche that was pretty average. It was the mushrooms. I waited too long to use them. I made pimento cheese a couple of weeks ago that also wasn’t my best.
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That’s it for now. I’ve had more down time this summer than I thought I would so I am trying to enjoy it to the fullest. Hope yours is going great too!

Thoughts on Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

It’s high time I talk a little more about books around here. But before I get to that, here is a quick update of life as I have known it for the past month or so.

My three kiddos graduated.
Lindsay received her Associates degree and is now looking to move forward with her Bachelors. We all thought she’d stop at this point. SHE thought she would stop at this point, but alas, she has decided to keep on trucking.
Jonathan and Caleb both graduated from high school. Jonathan was part of a Classical Conversations community. CC is a home school community that meets once a week, guided by tutors who cover all of their subjects in seminars throughout the day. The students do all of  their assignments at home and then come together weekly to read their papers, have debates, present projects and memory work and such. It is, as the name suggests, based on the classical method of education and is pretty rigorous. It was a perfect fit for him.
Caleb finished his last year of high school at the community college. He did very well and now has a year of college under his belt. Our long home school journey has now come to an end and even though for the last couple of years I have not actually been “teaching” them as much as I have been managing their education, I still feel like I just graduated too.

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If you read my previous post, then you are aware that my brother has had a very difficult time for the last nine months. He is still having a tough time in general, but he has been eating more frequently and adding more variety to his diet and he is at a much healthier weight. I still am in awe of the miracle that has occurred in his life. The ability to talk and to swallow food is such a gift for someone who has endured what he has endured. God has been good to him. He still has a ways to go but things are definitely improving for him physically.

On to the books:
I recently finished reading The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy and Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger.
I’m pretty sure that later I am going to do a whole post on The Prince of Tides. I just have too many thoughts and feelings about it to keep it condensed right here. I listened to it on audible when I was on the go and read it while I was stationary. The audible narration was outstanding and there is even a moment before the narration begins that Pat Conroy speaks to the listener and goes on and on about how pleased he is with the audible and how he felt like the narrator just made his book into a new piece of art. (Or something like that.) He was right, Frank Muller was fantastic. Actually, I feel like I hit the jackpot with the last two audio books I “read“.  Tides and Huckleberry Finn. Huck Finn was narrated by Elijah Wood and I just can’t say enough about it. If you’re on the fence about whether you like audios or not, listen to this Huck Finn. I was so incredibly entertained by it.

I also read Ordinary Grace for book club. This one started out with a Stand by Me sort of vibe. The book was pretty fast paced and the chapters were short, (a plus for me), but I really didn’t care much about it until about half way through. The author does a good job setting up the story, and there were two people I liked but really, I felt no attachment to any of it until a certain death occurs and then the rest of the novel is about the grief and pursuit of answers involved in that death. There is a mystery to it and I was uncertain of “who done it” until about 75% in and then after reading one scene I began to figure it out. There are rave reviews about this one on goodreads and  Mr. Krueger seems to be a well loved author. We had more discussion at book club than I anticipated. There are elements of story that are only touched on in the book that provided a great deal of thoughtful discussion. There was even one character, which wasn’t particularly likable, that I found myself relating to. Whoa. Overall it was a good book, with a few irritations for me as I’m never comfortable with abusing God’s name, but it’s often hard to find good literature that doesn’t.

A favorite passage:
Context: Frank, 13, wants Gus to dig a grave but Gus is in jail so Frank wants to spring him. The officer suggests another gravedigger…

“There’s something important Gus needs to do.”
“It’ll have to wait til Monday, son.”
“It can’t wait. He has to do it now.”

…….”Gus was digging __________’s grave. He didn’t finish it.”
“That’s important,” Officer Blake allowed. “Tell you what, boys, I’ll call Lloyd Arvin. He’s in charge of the cemetery. I’m sure he’ll get someone over there to finish the job.”
“I don’t want someone else, sir. I want Gus.”
………”Look boys, I can’t help you out here,” Officer Blake said. “I’m sorry.”
“But sir, this is really, really important.”
“So’s the law, son. I told you Lloyd Arvin’ll get someone else, and whoever that is will do a fine job, I’m sure.
“No, please,” it has to be Gus.”
Doyle put his coke down. “Why Gus?”
I wished that Doyle weren’t there and wished that I was older and bigger and could have finished the job Gus had started on him. I didn’t even want to acknowledge him let alone actually talk to him. But I was desperate.
I said, “Because he comes from a long line of gravediggers, and he won’t just dig a hole.”
“But son, that’s what a grave is,” Officer Blake said. “Just a hole.”
“No, sir, it’s not. When it’s done well, it’s a box carved into the earth that will hold something precious. I don’t want just anyone carving _______’s box.”

(I’m withholding the deceased’s name so as not to spoil if you decide to read it.)

I’m now on to reading and listening to Emma by Jane Austen for Austen in August. I’m also reading Forever with You by Robin Jones Gunn and a tea appreciation book by her as well. All kinds of girly reading for now.

Do drop in for a spot of tea and lively conversation, won’t you?

 

 

 

On Sorrow and Celebration

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, but it has not been the right time. In fact, I don’t even have time now but I’m writing it anyway determined to piece it together in whatever snatches of time I can grasp. I want to write about my life over the past six months and my reaction to other lives that are close to me.

One day last October I was on the phone with my mother lamenting the aches and pains I was having from adjusting to a new job working with preschoolers. Ya’ll, that is hard work. They are mostly precious and it’s mostly fun, but it is hard on this 48 year old girl’s frame. When I finished all my jabbering, my mother proceeded to tell me that my brother, who is 19 months older than me, had been diagnosed with stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma on his tongue. You can look up the diagnosis. It’s bad. The prognosis isn’t fantastic either. I was stunned and alarmed but I didn’t know anything about the illness at that time.

Later that day, my family of five hopped in my car to travel to Raleigh to see Switchfoot in concert for my husband’s 50th birthday. I didn’t say anything about my brother’s cancer to my family because I wanted to talk privately with Mike first so I held on to the news and waited for a time to talk to Mike alone. It’s about a 45 minute drive to Raleigh and when we had been on the highway for about 20 minutes, at about 3 in the afternoon, a deer ran from the other side of the highway and collided with us, totaling my car. Thankfully, no one was injured; including anyone else on the highway, traveling at 70+ miles per hour.

A new season of life was opening before me and I have been feeling the weight of it ever since.

A team of doctors collaborated and Jamie’s surgery was scheduled for two weeks away. For those two weeks, while I worked my new job and my family traded turns with the remaining cars, I grieved. I knew that my brother had two weeks of the rest of his life to speak normally. I began to assemble a group of friends to pray. I know it sounds strange to some but I just couldn’t pray. I was in shock and full of sorrow and so tired and I just couldn’t do it but I knew that my friends and my church would fill that gap for me. And they did.  I was so very thankful. We planned an early Thanksgiving so we could all eat together and arrived at the hospital the next morning at 5 am.

The plan was to remove the majority of his tongue, hoping to retain as much as they could, and replace it with a prosthetic tongue created from tissue in his thigh. This replacement tongue is called a flap. The risks of surgery were many including the possibility that he may never speak again or eat again. Even with a successful surgery we knew that a major, devastating life change was ahead for him.

My brother, machine that he is, came through 11 hours of surgery with flying colors. There were other procedures and incisions that were included in the entire process and he had not one single complication. The next day he was breathing on his own and within two weeks his trach was out.

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Me and Jamie, the night before his surgery.

I called my parents one day to ask my dad about how to get a smell out of my new to me car and in the background Jamie, who used to detail cars for a living, starts telling me what to do.
“Wait,” I say to my mother, who was also on the phone, “He’s talking??? When did he start talking???” She says, “Honey, he’s been talking for two days.”
I was absolutely giddy with thankfulness.

Then the 11 weeks of radiation began and the pain and depression set in. It’s been a pretty low ordeal ever since. Weight loss and low blood pressure and weakness became the norm for a few months until he finally needed a hospital stay. That hospital visit turned out to be a blessing in disguise. For it was then, 6 months after surgery, that he finally began to take in some pureed food through his mouth. Until then, it was strictly tube feeding. This was a game-changer in his disposition.

He has a long road ahead of him but his resiliency is incredible. I wish that I could change things for him. I wish I had all the money to meet his needs and the ability to ease his burden. I wish I could plan out every hour of his day and insure his healthy decision-making behavior but we all know life’s not like that.

And even when things are crumbling around us, life still goes on.

I remember one morning at breakfast, just talking to my husband and eating a bowl of Raisin Bran. I was exhausted and I just started crying, realizing that my boys were going to graduate from high school in just a few short months.  The excitement, joy, stress, busyness and expense of ALL THAT has been ever before me.  I have been determined to enjoy it regardless of what else is going on though because I am not going to get these days back.

At this writing, two of my three have had their graduations. Lindsay earned her Associates Degree on May 12 and Jonathan graduated from his Classical Conversations group on May 20. There is one graduation ceremony left where Caleb and Jonathan will both graduate with our local home school group. We will laugh and cry and celebrate like we should. If you follow me on instagram or facebook, you’ll be seeing all the pictures. You may or may not see my brother, depending on what his life is like on those days. He wants to come. He is so proud of my life and my family and I want him to come if he can. I want him to have joy filled days and things to look forward to in life as he walks in his new normal.

It has been a strange combination these past months walking in sorrow and pain and joy and celebration. Some days I do it well, some days I don’t. But it’s a balance I guess we all have to learn at some point in life. I have been graciously spared a lot of grief in my life and that makes me a little nervous about the days to come but I know that all my days were written in His book before one of them came to be. I’m in good hands. Psalm 139:16