cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Six of One


Perhaps it’s because I’m basically an old-fashioned kind of girl that I tend to toss out old phrases like “don’t count your chickens,” “look before you leap,” along with one of my catch alls: “six of one, half dozen of another.” I tend to add that one in when there is a stalemate to a discussion. I can see there is more than one way to approach a matter so for argument’s sake I acknowledge we agree to disagree.

I then realized there truly is a different way to see and do a lot of things which can head up some fairly heated debates. For instance:

  • Storing glasses: rim down or rim up in the cupboard?
  • Shoes and socks: put socks on first and then shoes or one sock one shoe one at a time?
  • Chilled water: store water in the fridge or water and cubes as needed?
  • Bedsheets: pattern down or pattern up?
    Swimming: dash in or bit by bit?
  • And the age old toilet paper controversy

Over or under: click here for the definitive debate

Can you add your own “see it two ways” to the list?

 

Reading Rainbow Redeux


I grew up with Reading Rainbow. Well, kinda sorta.  The MEPA and I were fairly strict about television (that and we didn’t want to pay for cable) and pretty much the only TV the kiddos watched came via PBS programming.  Reading Rainbow won out over Sesame Street and Mister Rogers. I didn’t want the television to be their babysitter so I would plunk myself down on the couch with them and we would relish our R&R time together.

image: geocaching.com “Take a look. It’s in a book. Reading Rainbow.”

The Grammy Award winning program aired from 1983 to 2009–that’s a lot of books! Levar Burton became as recognized and as trusted as Big Bird and Mr. Rogers in guiding children towards enrichment.

When Reading Rainbow went off the air, the world seemed a bit dimmer. Even though I hadn’t watched the show for years since the progeny grew up and moved to other entertainment *sniff* I still nurtured a soft spot for Levar’s brand of book boostering; if an episode aired and I happened to have the time I would watch it. With the passing of Reading Rainbow I thought “Well, there goes that wish.” You see, I harbored the secret wish of writing a book that might be selected as a Reading Rainbow feature read.

All is not lost, because Levar has fulfilled one of his secret wishes and has purchased the Reading Rainbow brand and is creating an app for this generation.  He initially hoped to raise one million dollars on Kickstarter–that amount was achieved in only one day.  He recently ended his campaign with a staggering amount of over five million dollars.

For more information go directly to the website. I’m looking forward to introducing Reading Rainbow to the grandkiddo.  Heck, I might download the app for myself.

Are you nostalgic for a little Reading Rainbow. Check this out:

Or maybe this one:

It’s easy to see Reading Rainbow made an impact on one generation.  I foresee its impact on this one.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

Stacking the Odds


Barbie

image: Amazon.com

Now and then I try to squeeze in volunteer time at the library by shelving a cart or two of books.  Having worked at a couple of libraries I can do the Dewey sufficiently well.  In the future I should remember that the reason the non-fiction juvenile cart is up for grabs is because it takes a loooong time to do. I will have to say that it does involve quite a bit of aerobics stretching from whales to the Star Wars cookbook.

Besides the getting some calisthenics in and helping out the library, I volunteer shelve because I find all sorts of treasures for myself. And because I am on my own clock now I don’t suffer the guilt (and rebuke from my supervisor and coworkers) when browsing. Okay, I do feel a little bit of guilt.

Here  are some of the treasures I’ve discovered:

 

The Good, the Bad, the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone
Being a Boomer girl I had quite the Barbie collection. I even had the one in the zebra one piece. Had Midge, Skipper, Ken complete with a kitchen set and canopy bedroom ensemble. Oh, yes, I do wish I still had them. No, not because I’m a Barbie fan, but I’m sure my retirement account would have been a bit healthier because there are LOTS of Barbie fans out there.

Lincoln Lawyer (this was a series before the movie!)

Limitless–having watched the movie I was intrigued enough to read the book. Go with the movie.

Monk? based on the series? How could a book do him justice?

Deadly Pursuit–a Christian thriller mystery? I’m game. Toss it on the TBR list.

I also made some observations:

If I look like I know what I’m doing people will think I do know something. I felt really, really good about helping a patron find a book she wanted. We didn’t find it but I gave her information how to place a hold or a search for the title.

I had no idea how prolific Christie, Cussler, Jance, Patterson are as authors until faced with trying to alphabetize their numerous titles. SIDENOTE: I found out it’s okay to get the titles in place by author (you know how that’s dratted patrons just mix them up anyway–wait, I’m a dratted patron).

People really do read Melville’s Moby Dick.

And To Kill a Mockingbird still rocks the shelves! Big yeah on this one.

So don’t be shy, trot right on down to your friendly local neighborhood library and see about volunteering for shelving. You’ll feel good, the library folk will be happy, and you’ll have an even fatter TBR list.

Let’s Stop With The Cloning Around


STOP: SPOILER ALERTS for the following
Never Let Me Go
The Island
Moon
I, Robot
Oblivion
Frankenstein
Robocop

“For legs real, fake legs baaaad.” image: nature.com

What is this fascination with the humanity aspect of clones or artificial intelligence? Why do we want to inject a soul into something man has created? Or a more defined question is: why do we explore whether man-made creations have a soul?

Is it guilt? Afterall, creation is best handled by the Creator, the One who has the Master Plan. That statement could incite a whole firestorm of commentary in itself, which is fine, but I’m really after the literary and even film aspect of cloning/artificial intelligence.
For instance, having just finished Never Let Me Go by Ishiguro, I began thinking about other cloning works: The Island,Moon, Oblivion, and while there are other aspects attached to these films, the main takaway I had was “cheated.” The clones are cheated because even though they look human, act human, they are not, which becomes a matter of concern because there is an investment of empathy for these characters, yet part of me says “Wait! They aren’t real.” I feel cheated because I am tricked (seemingly) into believing and caring about something I inherently don’t subscribe to: cloning.
Have you ever tasted imitation crab? Once–thank you very much. Looks like (mostly), tastes like it (kind of), smells like (a bit), same texture (not really). After being duped into eating it I came away with the same feeling: cheated.
Duplicating sheep, crab, humans–it’s not the same, and can never be. I believe in science; I do not subscribe to Luddite philosophies, but there are moral boundaries and these boundaries keep reappearing in novels and films as guilt and even revulsion. Why?
I think we try to justify the curiosity to recreate human life through the compassion for the Creature, as in the case of Frankenstein. The Wretch had initial goodness until it met up with repeated rejection. However, Shelley pointed out the disastrous results of man attempting to recreate man.
We root for Tom Cruise (Oblivion) and Sam Rockwell (Moon) as clones, only because we thought they were human. Upon realization they were clones I immediately reneged my emotional investment–I had been cheated, someone had switched in that imitation crab.
I have no problem with robots though. The A.I. component works for me. I liked R2D2, who didn’t? And Sonny, from I, Robot? A charmer. They were machines with heart; they did not have a soul. Machines are machines. On the other hand, that fuzzy line is not so warm and fuzzy when it comes to cloning: Humans with no soul? Are these simply sophisticated machines with feelings?
Which brings me to my latest Ishiguro read, Never Let Me Go. Having heard raves about it, and having read two other of his novels, I looked forward to this particular one. Ishiguro’s style of unreliable first person narrative and undercurrent, deceptively complex plot is very much evident. It wasn’t until about halfway through I realized I’d been cheated. Here I thought Ruth, Kathy, and Tommy were victims of a cruel government experiment, only to discover (oh so subtly) they are clones. Dissapointment. I finished the novel, although I felt a detached flatness. No joy in that one. I did feel a resonance with Robocop, but then has man trapped in a machine. And even though he was mostly machine I rooted for him because people I can relate to–fake crab, not.
Anyone else have thoughts on cloning in literature in regards to character empathy?

Chalk It Up to Screevers


Being a word nerd, I’m always delighted to come across a new word, especially one that replaces a bunch of words with one word.

 

screever

scree-ver

noun Chiefly British .

an artist who draws pictures on sidewalks, as with colored chalks, earning a living from the donations of spectators and passersby.

Origin:
1875–80;  earlier screeve  (v.) (< Polari ) < Italian scrivere  to write (< Latin scrībere ) + -er1
I am not sure on the verb forms. “I scree.” “You all scree.” “We all scree.”  Something like that.
Besides blowing bubbles with the grandkiddo, we do like to scree upon the driveway when she visits us.  I get those big old fat chalks and we plant pastel flowers, birds, and suns all over. My first little screever was the Girlie Girl, our resident artist (she inherited the MEPA’s genes on that one). Our first house had a brick patio built all around the house, which made for a great trike raceway when the kiddos were way younger.  When the GG wasn’t going gangbusters around the bricks with her brothers she liked to chalk draw.  Her favorites? Three guesses.  No, not flowers.  Nope, not unicorns.  Not even trees and suns and clouds.  Spiders.  She loved to draw spiders.  She’d draw a circle and wiggle out some legs.  All over the place.  If they weren’t in friendly pastels it would have been kind of creepy to walking across an arachnid festival.
Other screevers of note: Bert from the Mary Poppins movie.  It would be fun to jump into a painting for an outing, wouldn’t it?

Book Booster Beckonings


 

Book Booster

I have been quite remiss in my blog hostessing. Usually I invite new followers to add their name to the Book Booster roster. If you are a recent follower, please accept my apologies for not having invited you sooner. What’s a Book Booster? This is the detailed link and here is the short version:
Read books? Recommend books? Buy or checkout books by the armload? Have a TBR list and stack longer and taller than Superman can leap over in a single bound? Consider yourself a Book Booster and consider this your invite.

What are the benefits?
If you are hoping for a Barnes and Noble discount, I’m afraid the details are still sketchy on that one.
And reserved parking at the library is still being negotiated.
I am still working on that secret handshake.
However, you can revel in the knowledge you are in great company and you can spend hours clicking to connect with other Book Boosters.

While I can’t guarantee all the links are still active I can ensure you will no doubt discover a few new blogs to follow, and in turn they will no doubt find and follow you and that Six Steps Separation thing gets one step closer to becoming a big blogging bunch of Book Boosters.

What? You’re not on the list and you thought you were? I can fix that…

So send me your “Of course add me to the roster” approval and then it’s happy browsing.

Blue Skies and Happy Reading,

C. Muse

Read Me a Story


One of my favorite classes in college involved learning how to read picture books out loud to children. Yes, and we did get credit for doing so. This class gave me real life skills. For true.

I learned there is a proper way to hold the book when facing the audience.

  • First of all, sitting down facing your audience, you hold the book’s bottom spine stretched out on your forearm.

*By the way if you are looking for a dazzling, scintillating meme-worthy Prezi, it ain’t happening*

  • You then read sidewise, yet facing your audience because eye contact is quite important. This is easier than it sounds because picture books usually have more illustration than words.
  • It is then important to properly turn the page. This is done by reaching over and across the top of the book, sliding the first two fingers done the present page and the next, and pulling the page over for the next spread. NOTE: though commonly practiced, it is not in the best interest in the book’s wear to turn from the middle bottom, especially towards the inside spine. Rippage and tearage can occur in doing so.
  • Proceed throughout the entire book in the proscribed method.
  • It is also important to use appropriate voices for characters, and it can be highly desirable to create separate voices for each given character. NOTE: characterization voices are best done by those who can do so without creating havoc among the audience. For example: if your Cockney mouse is such a smash hit your audience might laugh to the point of interfering with the story’s progress.
  • Body language is  also important. Leaning in to emphasize special junctures, or pausing for same can add a delightful amount of drama and dimension to the story.

I believe the course to be quite edifying and suggest signing up should the adult education flyer come through the mail. Today I utilize those skills reading to the grandkiddo, although I use my snuggle reading skills instead. I have read stories to my high school students. Yes, that is one reason I am known as the weird English teacher.

Then again, there are those who possess natural skill at reading and technique does not actually matter. Case in point is our boy Sherlock.

Have you a favorite technique for reading stories?  Or better yet–any famous readers you’ve come across? One of my most favorites is Meryl Streep’s audio book reading of Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter.

 

 

Rolling Over


Displaying photo.JPG

 

I glanced at the numbers clicking away the miles, rhythmically measuring off the coveted roll over. I envisioned the possibilities: fireworks, though it’d be daytime, a serendipitous cavalcade of singers and dancers ala Doris Day:

or at least the significant Beethoven four beat–da da da dum. None of these happen as I turn into my driveway. I am three miles shy of my goal. My anticipated day of Shazzam will not be happening today.

A bit dramatic, I know, but ever I was a little kid I held great significance in the reckoning of the great roll over. It only happens once in the lifetime, at least I have only witnessed it once. And it happened today. And I almost missed it. This is way the MEPA, the Most Excellent Personal Assistant, is valued beyond belief. He noticed the momentous occasion on the way to obtain yogurt and fresh bananas:
“Look, Hon–it turns over in one mile.”
“What?! Ack, I almost missed it.”
Fumbling for my iPhone I quickly recorded the event. Blurry, yes; however, it is recorded for always and forever.

Displaying photo.JPG

What about you? Have you owned a car long enough to record the reckoning of the rollover?

My parents traded out cars regularly every five or so years (part of the old American dream, you know), so I never actually witnessed the event, although my kidmagination just assumed something significant happened at 100,000 miles–a second chance perhaps? All fibs erased? A sharper remembrance for the eights of the multiplication table? Something. I knew something had to happen.
Of course something had happened: I have saved $20,000 because I replaced the timing belt instead of buying a new Honda. I can’t wait for the next ($)100,000 miles and what it will have in store.
This set of 100,000 has seen the progeny through driver’s ed and high school graduation, trips to visit the grandkiddo, jaunts to do book research, vacation wanderings, Sunday drive escapes, and has ushered us into glad tidings of empty nestering. New car? No, not yet. This one still has a few more memories to accumulate.

Blog Spotlight: Book to the Future


My latest spotlight is on another blogger whom I’ve exchanged commentaries since the beginning of my blogging foray.

In his own words:

Everyone calls me Ste J.
I am an obsessive book creature, in fact I spend more time between the (book) covers (I read in bed as well though) than I do with ‘real’ people.
Which means I probably spend more time with you guys than anyone else. Feel privileged.

Ste J is a bona fide bibliophiliac. He loves books. That’s a bonafide fact. Proof: he once read 100 books in 362 days, just to see if he could do it.  His blog is neatly organized into genre and with a mere click, a person can investigate reviews and titles. His tastes are eclectic, his insights meaningful, and his replies clever.

For a sampling of his classics page, click here.

Lately, his posts have wandered a bit off the original track of being primarily bookish in content and he writes on whim. I can relate.  I too have strayed from my original intent of providing astute book reviews that would dazzle and benefit bookdom and have taken to writing as serendipity taps the muse.

So, I hope you will check out Book to the Future and meet the intrepid Ste J, where as his banner states “more book than a mad ‘orse.”

A Little Birdie Told Me


One aspect of blogging that is a definite benefit is finding new titles to read. Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt is one of those titles. Considering it received the Pulitzer and had so many varied reviews–Loved it!” “Hated it!” I had to decide for myself. I will never truly know how I might have liked it. It’s been relegated to my rare “didn’t finish” designation on my Goodreads tab.  Why?  Admittedly, it takes quite a bit for me to *gasp* abandon reading a book.

image: nytimes.com

 

Here are my impressions:

  • Plot interesting although contrived. I work with teenagers and I have yet to come across any who talk like they are fourteen going on thirty-four.  I know. I know. It’s a novel and there are liberties called artistic license.
  • I’ve read BIG books; however, the story needs to justify the length. Melville or Dickens, this is not. Instead, I found myself getting more and more irritated as  Theo, the protagonist, reveled in TMI (too much information). It’s like being caught in a conversation with someone who keeps adding on instead of continuing on with their story.  I didn’t find all the extra detail to be that significant to moving the plot along.
  • I also found the stereotypes disappointing: the out-of-touch adults trying to counsel Theo; the genius, yet nerdy friend; the dysfunctional wealthy family; the unconventional adult who becomes Theo’s island of solace.
  • Here is the real clincher. I could have continued with the reading. There is enough intrigue and character investment that I had a desire to keep giving it a go, then the dreaded birdie kept flipping up unexpectedly. The boid, the random explosion of f-bombs finally annoyed me enough to say “done” and moving on. I understand profanity adds a certain aspect of verisimilitude; however, certain words remind me of pepper–sprinkle too much on and it actually hinders the flavor instead of enhancing.  The random f-bomb turned into a regular blasting zone and I began to wince. Here’s the deal: “Hey, Theo–you’re a nice enough kid, and you have a great vocabulary, so why the potty  mouth?”
  • I also wondered if this wasn’t  really a dressed out YA. A large portion of the book centers on Theo’s teen years. Then again, I didn’t mind reading Hunger Games; on the other hand, that IS considered YA.

Overall, I would have kept going to read the 700+ pages. It takes several elements for me to finally pull my bookmark and move on. I have way too many books I want to read to keep going with one that wears on me.

Twofold commentary requests here:

1. Anyone agree or disagree with my Goldfinch assessment?

2. How do you handle books that don’t live up to your expectations?  Do you continue or do you move on?

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