All over the place…

December 31, 2012 § 21 Comments

books

The post-year wrap-up is all over blogworld and a great topic ‘specially for those of us (prob’ly just me) who hem and haw ad hilarium on what to write.  

And so I turn to books, more specifically, my top reads from 2012 as topic. Note: This list could vary, (as any bookreader will understand), depending on the day it’s assembled.

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
So now we have a new classic literature romantic couple:  it’s Celia and Marco. Sure, sure, sure, there’s also Isobel and Tsuchichi (or something close to that) and Poppet and Lainie and a cast of dozens and Bailey, the “real” boy and the twins and illusion, illusion, illusion.  I’m not gonna say “magic” per se: this book is not just abracadabra. It’s about creating and maintaining illusion, and two “battling” illusionists (oh, darn and now you’re thinking of those movies from a few years ago including THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE but this book bears little resemblance to those stories.
Further, do not mistake my enthusiasm for this book as a dictum to run out and get it; it’s not gonna be a hit with everyone.  It just happened to be the right book at the right time for me. And the storytelling is fluent – no bumps, no flaws, not missteps, no over or under telling.  It’s about a competition between two illusionists set in a competition from a very early age and the circus that becomes their platform as well as a number of characters who run in and out, populating the pages in some unforgettable scenarios.  Placed in the late 1800s western Europe and east coast USA, the book hits  so many right notes, you gotta love it. Well, you don’t “gotta” love it, but it’s worth a look, a try, a page…

2. Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy
Long, long long storyabout an American with Irish roots who returns to build a huge honking hotel in a quiet village of his parents birth and the uproar it causes among young and old. This is a perfect  book to read on the road; it goes and goes and goes and you keep reading it because Binchy can do that with her characters. Lotsa fluff, lotsa humanity and charming overall tho’  this one has a few hard edges. Still we cheer for the little family who owns the pub by the bridge. And some of us read anything by the Binchy, whose work we will miss going forward.

3. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
The book got better and better as I went along. This is the first one in the Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes series. Yup, a Holmes afficionado can love this “take” on Holmes’s life after Doyle stops writing.  If you love a British-y book, and Holmes and some mystery with a strong female character mixed in (and no, she’s nothing like Irani Adler), then ya gotta try this one.

4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Water. I kinda have a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s not scary, but it is.  And uncomfortable sometimes. And curious. And because it’s a book, it’s fiction, you think yeah, well, maybe everything will work out.  Ha.

5. Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon.  Just sit down and read it. The writing is great, balanced. Not too this nor too that. The story borders on myth but not like fantasy or anything. The story never lets up. Something on every page will make the reader sigh. Yeah, this doesn’t tell you anything. Just read it.

 6. Crossing to Safety– Wallace Stegner. Don’t know what took me so long to get to this book. I love it. I might not read it again, but I might. Everything about it was right, from the setting, the culture, the people and the story (ok, ’til the end, but honestly, what did I think was going to happen?), from the language and familiarity with some of the settings,  to its themes, it was a great book. It will always be a great book. I still muddle over the title and the story and the many meanings in the former relating to the latter.

 7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I danced around this one for ages. Then an author I met at a reading mentioned See as one of her favorite writers. And Lisa D also spoke highly of the See books. Then Snarl gave it to me for my birthday. I always take his gifts so seriously, honor them knowing he thought about choosing them and then searched it out. So the book was a surprise, a pleasant one (tho’the story is full of things that are tough to take not being familiar with Chinese culture at the time it covers, nor even now, come to think of it.) Anyway, if you love reading stories for character and a glimmer of cultural insight, this one is a must.

8. The Flight of  Gemma Hardy – Jane Eyre meets Cinderella. But I read it and it wasn’t half bad. And I”m putting it on this list so you’ll know that I try to read currently current stuff, too!

9. Bond Girl – forgot author’s name but she’ll be back. She wrote a good book and I liked it. Bright, chirpy and set in NYC finance world, it’s hip and entertaining.

10. The Book Thief – Yeah, I was late to the party on reading this one, but after all, even when I thought I didn’t like it cuz I just didn’t like the narrator, it was  a fabulous book, for its ending as well as every one of its pages prior to the ending.

11. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani – I LOVED it. Long, descriptive, plenty of good characters, turn-of-the-century time period, set in Italy and NYC. The plotsweave in and out, rather idealistically, to dish up a really good story which was right up my alley tho’ likely not for everyone.

12. I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron.  I don’t remember when I became a Nora follower/admirer/respector. Maybe it was after “when Harry met….” or maybe it was after I read her “Crazy Salad Days” or maybe it was after I saw a film clip of her praising Meryl Streep. I dunno. I miss her, that’s all. And this book was her goodbye. I didn’t realize ’til I was finishing it. It is a great little book, with humor and insight and stuff about writing and writers and NYC…I’m so glad to have it on my shelf rather than a library lend. Highly recommended.

I read 34 books this year – doesn’t it make you wonder about the other 22 not listed here? The complete list ranges from lite lit to writers-to-learn from and stuff in between.

Here’s to books and here’s to a fine if not fabulous New Year!

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Easy holiday edible…

December 30, 2012 § 7 Comments

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Short prep time, long enjoyment time…take a bag o’ organic cranberries from Whole Foods, stir into 4 Cs boiling water to which  1/2 C sugar has been added and reduce after a minute’s boil to cook for  8-10 minutes… or just follow your intuition. While northeast coasters may be more savvy about cranberry sauce, all will enjoy the value, compliment and use thereof regarding the charismatic cranberry.

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They’re great spooned alongside holiday roasts, they’re pretty on the table and the cran sauce also makes an excellent sandwich condiment!

 Note: The uncooked crans look great on a tray surrounding any larger food presentation (sorry, no picture – just trust me…we spread them around on the white turkey platter…looks yum….)

when snow is a good thing…

December 29, 2012 § 6 Comments

DSC_0498 It snowed last night. We all came out of a restaurant and into a transformation of the trees, the holiday lights, the shop windows and the ground underfoot! Nor took off her shoes to get to the car but HM hurried ahead and charged through the lot to get the car to rescue all of us from the slippery slopes that normally would be nothing more than easy pavement.

With no camera at hand, there was nothing more than memory to capture the moments of the snow: the delight as though we were in a huge carriage; the gladness for a warm coat; the reflections from fogged home-y windows sporting wreaths and lit garlands; the silence of the snow as tho’ all were paused, listening for the sound of snowflake on  trees; the quick memory of snow as a child and the wish to rush off and find a sled; the way laughter sounds in the thick white air; the “hush” that comes with holiday giving us time, giving us some sort of shelter in which to ponder all that is good and all that can be good.

This picture, taken from our front porch, doesn’t capture the tiny flakes and  swirl. Imagine.

December 28, 2012 § 7 Comments

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Christmas day “gifts” (chestnuts under the tree) for the little Archies (squirrels) that come around to eat underneath the bird feeder.
They did find these and went leaping joyfully into the backyard woods to stash them. (sorry, no pictures of their “shopping”and ultimate delight).

While yesterday it seemed a good idea to start de-decorating the house, today it has become impossible. In fact, instead, I’ve walked through the house, turning on all the holiday lights and candles to ramp up the “cheer”on this cold gloomy day.

And the question will soon become (after cleaning up the kitchen and a few other bits of chores), what to read? Pippa Middleton’s cookbook? Laurie R King’s 3rd book in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series? the current New Yorker magazine? more of Anna Karenina? The Discovery of Witches? or, more of Cloud Atlas?
The reading list gets curiouser and curiouser.

Holiday spread…

December 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

While “spread”might refer to one’s waistline, herein it does not! Rather it refers to those days around Christmas as we hover in the magic and meaning…
So while the birds are drinking from the nearly frozen birdbath and the squirrels are fiddling with the nuts I threw out there, deciding which ones they like best (and actually spurn some in favor of others – walnuts being the favorite), Christmas music plays very very softly in the background and staring into the winter fire brings some peaceful moments as the world rages on.  To all, everywhere, a hug and wishes for peace.

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Red and green…

December 22, 2012 § 4 Comments

There’s a bright cardinal in the bamboo forest just behind our house. He’s so like an ornament on a holiday tree.
I have a funny little fake tree and an extra red bow so today, I’ll put it outside on the back patio for the critters with some fruit and nuts and their beloved seeds in a bowl next to it.

Archie popped in earlier looking for a drink out of the little iron birdbath, but the water was frozen. I wondered if his tongue would get stuck to the ice as he tried to drink – it did not. He was delighted with the chestnuts I had tossed out there earlier while cleaning up the Christmasy kitchen counter.

There’s much to be done. And there’s no schedule!  Here’s to celebrating the season.

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Chiming in with warm holiday wishes…

December 21, 2012 § 13 Comments

DSC_0184 DSC_0182 DSC_0176 DSC_0177 DSC_0155 DSC_0156 DSC_0169 DSC_0166 DSC_0153 DSC_0150We attended our annual wreath-making class (where ARE those pictures?) at the Missouri Botanical Garden and then wandered through the Gallery to look at this year’s professionally done wreath-donations, always a delight.

Which ones make you say “ah?”

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