cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Movie Musings: Hamlet’s Ghost


I would be remiss to not admit that I do watch an occasional movie. I do prefer books and my ratio is about three to five movies a month I watch to the eight to ten books I read.

I usually get my movies from the library or the grocery store or occasionally from Hoopla. I rarely go to the movie theatre. Our local one has sticky floors and trounced seating. The big city multiplex is an hour away, and even with discounts it’s pricey evening out.

Books are preferred for the reasons of less cost, less effort, and the ability to lie down and read. Although we did go to a theatre a couple of months ago that had recliners. That was different.

If I watch a movie with the hubs it will undoubtedly involve action and adventure. Popcorn feast stuff. When I am by myself I pop in films that are odd or artsy: documentaries about Calvin and Hobbes, the science of bubbles, biographies of favorites like Audrey Hepburn or I watch indie films, ones with high expectations on a low, low budget.

I share my Reader Round Ups about my books, I thought “why not about movies?” The first installment is Hamlet’s Ghost

A download off my Hoopla favorites. The Hamlet part caught my attention right off. The plot involves a modern actor who gets caught up in time traveling back to the 1920’s and is the key figure in an unsolved murder.

Considering its obvious low budget limitations, the acting and plot kept me interested and entertained and of course, it had some great lines from Hamlet. I don’t know why it worked, but it did. IMdB trvia (hence the image) states it made it to the Academy Awards (?). I wonder in what category. Hmmm, another mystery to solve.

Any indie films watched lately you willing to share or admit watching?

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Winter Reset Terms


Valentine’s Day reset winter by delivering eight inches of snow. I would have preferred a FDT delivery of daffodils.

I am in need of spring, that event that is a long time in finally appearing, where greenery festoons the landscape instead of mutations of whiteness. Snow is no longer pretty after three months, after it’s been shoveled, blowed, and pushed about.

February’s snow tends to be fickle. It doesn’t quite have the tenacity of January’s snow days. It’s vacillating between being fiercely winter and nicely spring. It’s as if it is acknowledging March is on the move and will definitely arrive with a spring in its step. Forget about that woodchuck and his shadowy ideas about how long we have to wait for spring. Keep him sleeping, thanks.

Last week’s unexpected snow day led me to build my annual snow guy. My students liked my snowman show and tell photo, and one class named him Perceval–Percy among his friends. 

As the snow continues to fall, and continues to hamper greener days from arriving, I thought it appropriate to dust off my snow terms list:

▪ lookitsnow:  first snow of the season–Nov/Dec

▪ itzsnowing: comment of the day until mid-January

▪ ucksnow:  bridge between Jan/Feb when people begin getting weary of shoveling, scraping, and slipping around in the stuff

▪ snizzle: the on off dance of snow and rain found in late February

▪ snain: a more serious form of snizzle

▪ smush: slushy snow of Feb/Mar

▪ smud: ground showing with snow patches, squashy walking usually around early March

▪ ohnosnow: snow when daffs coming up and flakes coming down in March/April

▪ nomohsnow: snowfall and meltaway tease of April/May

(some days there is the occasional variety to the landscape)

Val Day Reset Blick


Between the rain and the uptick in warmer temperatures the landscape had shed its blanket of winter white. I was thrilled.

Snow is fine as long as it stays in the mountains. Let the skiers rejoice. Unfortunately, snow is pervasive and usually hangs around for four months, barely leaving until the daffodils give hint of their arrival in April.

Valentine’s day provided a mixed blick. A reset button of eight inches of snow created a snow day from school (yay!), but winter is back (blick!).

On the positive side I was able to rest and read and grade and beat back yet another round of getting sick. And when life hands you snowyou make a snowman.

Hope your Valentine’s day was delightful, and I hope your winter is going well.

Reader Round Up: January


January ranks 12th out of the 12 calendar months in my personal poll. Snow has turned grey and crunchy. The sky is unfriendly and uncompromising. Walking is tricky without snowshoes or cleats. And June seems so far away. Moping and complaining is an option worth pursuing, yet it is annoying to others. I turn to books as my medicinal reprieve. By the end of January the Good Read gnomes noted I was four books ahead of schedule, meaning I read around 12 novels during that bleak month when my usual goal is about 8. Books are my happy light in winter. Here are the top picks:

all images from Good Reads

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow

Fresh and original come to mind, even though they are trite descriptors for this mesmerizing story of Rachel, who tries to find her identity in world that wants her to choose between being black or being white. She just wants to be herself.

Durrow writes from her own biracial personal experience, which is why Rachel’s voice has so much authenticity. The interweaving of the other characters to fill out Rachel’s story, of how she alone survives a family tragedy, provides greater depth and understanding of who Rachel was and is trying to become.

The story ends somewhat unfinished; there is a lack of resolve of whether Rachel stays or runs. And yet, there are no guarantees of true happy endings in life, as Rachel discovers.

The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman

A genuine surprise. A story within a story that interweaves upon itself, building momentum until it intersects with a delicious denouement.

Two sisters, one artist, at least three mysteries to solve—missing persons, missing paintings, and relationship conundrums create a book that grabs ahold of the reader. It’s array of flawed, yet compelling characters is sometimes confusing, yet overall the plot is so intriguing it is difficult to resist. I delayed my travel departure in order to finish the book. Yes, it’s that amazing.

This would have been a definite five except for a couple of niggling little plot points that I needed tying up that didn’t happen. I give it a sound 4.5.

Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings

Amazingly I found this book right when I needed to do research about what is was like to go blind, especially as a teenager.

An engaging story of a girl who has slowly been going blind and how she learns to cope with her eventual blindness. Natalie resents having to prepare for her eventual blindness by going to a special school. It’s there that she learns a few tough lessons about how other teens cope with their abilities and disabilities. The story is a page-turner and only slightly pep-talky about handling expected and even unexpected situations in life.

As with the other Cummings books I’ve read, this one has realistic dialogue, believable characters, and amazing researched details.

I purchased this title for myself, yet decided it would be appreciated by my students for SSR. One student, usually shy, and not too positive about school, grabbed the book after my suggested picks talk and at the beginning of every class she wants to talk about it. She told me the other day she is reading it so much that her parents told her to put it down and do something else. Oh how my librarian’s heart went pitty-pat upon hearing that wonderful unexpectedness. How often does a kid get in trouble for reading a well-written, engaging book in these thumbswipe days?

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Like a bowl of Mycroft’s bookworms feasting on a thesaurus, I find myself exhaling superlatives: “genius,” “delightful,” “clever,” “witty.”

It’s stupendously incredible that 76 publishers turned down the opportunity to publish this wonderful homage to literature and the literary world.

Combine the whirlwind zany adventures of Dr Who and the secret agent literary skills of The Librarian, and Thursday Next comes into being.

The first of several books involving the intrepid literature agent, I consider it the best of the lot for the main reason it features Rochester of Jane Eyre fame.

Found this copy at the local Goodwill and had to add it to my SSR bookshelf, mainly for my AP Lit students. Years ago I was introduced to Fforde and when I came across this title I knew I had to take it home, to rescue from its bland bookshelf neighbors.

With January past I am looking forward to February, of hearts, Presidents, a long weekend, a short month, and a batch of hold books to arrive at the local library.

How are you holding up in this month between winter and spring?

In Between Aah Weekend


As I sit in my lounger recuperating from a week of giving finals, grading essays, posting grades, and planning next quarter’s lesson, I take a moment to breathe an “Aah.”

The weekend in between semesters is rather delectable. Finally–no papers to read and grade and no last minute adjustments to lesson plans. I embrace the leisurely weekend ahead. A good book to indulge in. A nice nap to appreciate. Maybe some shopping. No guilt. I am in between semesters and there is that hint of June frisking in the distance, even as snow falls.

Any other teachers out there feeling that in between “aah”?

Or maybe you’re a student feeling the same way.

Hoping you all have some “aah” time before Monday.

Why We Say: #33–“V”


This month we explore vaccinations, vagabonds, and villains.

Pintrest: “You want me to volunteer for what?”

VACCINES
Cows are the hero in this exploration of vaccinations. Way back when, smallpox was a dreaded disease that disfigured and could be fatal. Interestingly enough, doctors, particularly Dr. Jenner, noticed cows suffered only a mild case of the pox. Someone decided, “You know, by taking a bit of blood from a cow infected with the virus and injecting it into a person, that would probably give that person just a mild case of cowpox.” And because there must have been another astute doctor on this way back when research time, the additional reply might have been:

“Yeah–so if a person gets cowpox, he wouldn’t get smallpox, right? All we need is a volunteer.”

Did they found a willing volunteer or did they do a best Two out of three round of rock-paper-scissors?

By the way the “vacca” in vaccination means cow in Spanish. Consider mooing your thanks to a cow for their contribution to medical science.

VAGABONDS

well-dressed vagabonds

image: britishshakespeare.co.k

 
Before permanent theaters were established in Shakespeare’s time, actors traveled the countryside performing wherever they could. Taking the cue from the Latin “vagaries” meaning “to wander,” these wanderers became known as vagabonds. Eventually the term attached itself to anyone without a fixed home.

VILLAIN

 

image: fanpop.com “Don’t have a cow, Loki. You are a villain.”

Oh those evil people that cause our heroes so many problems: Snidely Whiplash, the Joker, Loki, just to drop a couple of names. Yet, originally there was no evil in the word; in fact, the Latin “villanus” means one who lives on a villa, which was often a farm. A villain was applied to one who worked on a villa or farm. And because these workers were usually poor or of low birth, the wealthy thought these villains to be evil (naturally, right?).

 

Maybe one villain test could be if the bad guy knows how to milk a cow–wait, Loki wears cow horns. Maybe there is something to this after all.

Reader Round Up: December


December is reading crunch time. School is winding down, Christmas stress is building, weather is all about keeping the driveway clear of snow, and that Good Reads Reading Challenge number smirks quietly–“gonna miss it this year-heh heh.”

YET–this year December proved quite complacent. Two snow days prior to the Christmas Break (which didn’t happen until 12/22!?!) helped calm the last minute crazies and allow for last minute holiday need-to-get-done. As for the usual Good Reads smirk? Didn’t happen. Remember? I had tremendous down time in August nursing my broken wrist and managed a huge padding of 20 books read that month. I finished the year well, being over my 101 goal plus 12. I don’t plan on breaking anything in 2018 or anticipate unexpected down time, but I will pluckily sign up for another 101 reading goal.

One really lovely aspect of late  Christmas Break is two weeks of reading guilt free. I really appreciate that break from grading, and cozying up with books is truly a balm to my frazzledness. Here are a few top picks from December:

After the Rain  by Karen White


Although somewhat predicable in plot [troubled woman on the run stops in a small town and gets accepted by all the usual stereotypes and then falls for the town good guy, and there are major problems getting together but of course you know they will], this nevertheless has solid writing and provides that comfy, light read needed after a long week.
Mockingbird Songs by Wayne Flynt


I surprisingly did not hear about this book until I found it whilst shelf browsing. Dr Wayne Flynt and his wife Dartie have the distinction of being within Nelle Harper Lee’s inner circle. The friendship began with professional correspondence, since Flynt is a noted historian, and warmed up to a true relationship lasting a couple of decades. In fact, Flynt provided Lee’s eulogy. While more of a epistolary than a true biography, the correspondence between Flynt and Lee reveals aspects of Lee’s personality that solidly establishes her as a national treasure.

Green Tiger’s Illustrated Stories from Shakespeare


A definite charmer. Ten of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays are paired with captivating artwork, and are retold by E. Nesbit. Aimed towards children, this is an adaption that is appealing for anyone interested in Shakespeare, or even those desiring a winsome read.

 Steal Away Home by Billy Coffey


Billy Coffey is establishing himself as a storyteller who combines faith with a tale that’s in no hurry to get there. The plot will travel forward some and then twist and turn and settle in for a culimating ending that is so surprising it makes a reader shout out loud. At least I did. This is a story of living with choices made, of loving with a divided heart. And baseball. Coffey flips his story around a live game and the past that brought a Cinderella minor player up to the majors for one night. A five star.

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings


Looking for books to plump up my classroom SSR shelf, I picked up this surprising gem at the local library book sale. Not being a huge fan of younger YA, I didn’t have high expectations for an engaging read. Wrong call. Cummings presents a compelling story of how one decision can affect many people, and she does it without a sermon. Her realistic situations and characters resonate well. I promptly set off to find the other two books in the series. Another five star.

Looking forward to another year of Good Reads. Any favorites from 2017?

Yearly Stats: a Good Reads bit of this and a bit of that


I really like this time of year. It’s not because of all the tinsel, lights, and cute kid Christmas programs (you should have seen the cow costumes–I even threatened to be annoying and hold up my iPhone and film the little critters singing away around the manger). I do appreciate and cherish the Reason for the Season. That’s an absolute. But I’m not “gotta go see the newest batch of Hollywood mega-movies” or a “hit the slopes!” warrior. Nope, I like all the pretties the various web sites I subscribe to send me, my stats for this year. At the top is Good Reads.

The tidbit I’m setting down here does not do their full display justice. They make it look like I’ve really contributed something spectacular by reading. Like reading is as special as I think it is.

TOTALS as 12/12/17–I do wish they would do a grand sum picture, but then I guess those little Good Reads elves need time off to go help out the jolly guy up North.

I read 32,438 pages across 112 books

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Good Reads images (for all)

SHORTEST BOOK

40 pages
Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk
by Jane Sutcliffe
One of those wonderful picture books that are just so amazing in illustrations and textual info that I can’t help but boldly go where adults usually don’t–the kiddos need to learn to share, right?
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
LONGEST BOOK
566 pages
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
by David Wroblewski
Another Shakespeare book. This is a contemporary retelling of Hamlet. Quite astute in following the plot, yet it is definitely it’s own story. It deserves the praise it has received.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
MOST POPULAR
3,781,416

people also read

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
LEAST POPULAR
2

people also read

Edward Lear: Selected Letters
by Edward Lear
Poor Edward, he didn’t even rate a cover image. The man who brought us all those pithy limericks and nonsense poems like “The Owl and the Pussycat” actually lived a fascinately dull life. Explore that paradox by reading this collection.
The Great Good Thing by Andrew Klavan
HIGHEST RATED ON GOODREADS and First Review of the Year
The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ
by Andrew Klavan
4.48 average
An autobiography of sorts of how a secular Jew came to his belief in Jesus. This is not an easy journey for someone to leave their cultural traditions because it causes such strong rifts in the family as well. Told well, as Klavan is an engaging writer.
Overall? It was a fabulous year of reading. I tried out new-to-me books, recommends, reread old favorites, and surpassed my goal of 101 books two years in a row. This shocks most of my students since many struggle to get one book read in a quarter for their book report. And yet, when they see me reading right along with them during our 10 minute SSR, I am hoping they see that I am reading different types of books, a variety of books of length and subject, and that I like reading books. Maybe they can find their way out of social media for a while and get lost in a book.
One someday goal is to be posterized along with all those notable folk, like Sean Connery, who smile down from the library walls holding up theirs book of choice. There I will be, holding up that someday bestseller cow joke book, the caption will read. “Cricket Muse is out standing in the field of reading.”

Quora: a questionable hobby


I don’t know how I got involved in Quora. I’m not a fan of collecting social media apps. I do like looking up information, as well as answering questions. Must be that librarian/teacher thing I got going on.

This year I tussled with Quora. In the backlash of extra security measures they weren’t accepting that my nom de plume of Cricket Muse was acceptable. Right. Like I’m hiding something? Plotting something? After a terse exchange and proof that Cricket Muse was being used professionally (book reviews, and author signify in a Chicken Soup), they relented and I dusted off my time out and returned to avoiding obvious homework inquires: “What are the literary elements found in chapter 8 of To Kill a Mockingbird?” and trying my best to answer uniquely interesting and entertaining questions: “What books are recommended for starting up a conversation?”

 

Your 2017 Highlights
202 1 27
ANSWERS QUESTION NEW FOLLOWERS

People enjoy your answers.
You ask insightful questions–(aw, thanks)
Your answers were helpful and earned:

138 upvotes
24.1k views
Additionally:
78 of the answers you wrote this year were featured in a Quora Digest

 

I admit I do not maintain my Quora profile, or do not even check my stats (I don’t check my WordPress stats much either. I just like writing). I do occasionally get time loss as I get involved in writing an answer. Sometimes a dialogue ensues and the same person keeps asking questions. Umm, then it seems weird and I retreat from Quora for awhile. So drop in to Quora sometime and ask me something. No, not about quantum physics, but I’m fairly adept at Shakespeare stuff and cows. No one asks about cows though. I don’t understand why.

Why We Say #32: U too


There is a definite variety of expressions for “U”, so many that you, too will become well-versed in U knowing why we say, for example:

Under the Weather

If you’ve ever boated in choppy waters, it isn’t difficult to figure out that sailing in bad weather can absolutely bring out up the topic of seasickness. Being under the weather can mean being over the railing.

Unlucky 13

What is it about thirteen? Why is it unlucky? While there are several ideas out there, my little sayings book suggests that the expression goes back to the Last Supper. Jesus and his twelve apostles sat at the table, making it thirteen. Judas betrayed Jesus. Thirteen was not his lucky number.

Up a Blind Alley

One of those “back then” explanations, as in back when gates were referred to as “eyes,” it was handy to have an eye on an exit when running down an alley. People who are running down alleys are usually in need of gates, doors, openings–you name it, they just need a way out. Going up a blind alley is probably a lot like being up a creek without a paddle.

Upper Crust

Crusts are often discarded. Just watch most kids eat a sandwich. Yet, long ago the upper crust of a loaf of bread was considered the best part and set aside for the best visitors. This is why those with clout are considered the upper crust. Yeah, they usually have a lot of bread in their possession, come to think of it.

Upset the Apple Cart

English farmers back in the late 1700s would hurry to the market in order to sell their fruit first. Competitive sellers would knock over the other farmer’s carts to wreck their ability to sell. And this is why when plans go awry we might say “don’t upset the Apple Cart.” George Bernard Shaw might have revived the saying with his play “The Apple Cart.” Maybe those who got their carts tipped suffered from sour apples (or is that sour grapes?) syndrome.

images: pinterest, Wikipedia

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