cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

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Movie Musings: The Birder’s Guide to Everything


I learned to appreciate birds from my parents, mainly my father. I have his set of adequate binoculars, purchased from J.C. Penney, which obviously indicates their vintage status.

I learned to appreciate quirky indie films from my days of attending the University of Washington in Seattle and frequenting the variety of theaters in the fair city of the Space Needle.

As for Sir Ben Kingsley, ever since his performance of Ghandi I have been a fan.

So–an indie movie about watching birds with Ben Kingsley? That was a quick grab off the shelf for movie night.

The trailer pretty much sums up the whole movie: boy loves birds, because his mom shared her love of birds with him, mother dies, father moves on, boy is passively resentful, boy goes on a Bildungsroman road trip.

There is more than that formula plot, of course. There is the humor of watching the provided stereotypes, knowing they know they are set up as stereotypes. There is the quirky enjoyment of watching people watching birds. And there is the brief appearance of Sir Ben, adding in the perfect blend of pathos. There is also a swear word about every two minutes.

We watched most of the movie muted due owning a DVD player installed with Angel Guard, a device that catches profanity before it’s uttered and mutes it. This is a leftover from our days of raising children with a conscious effort of protecting them from harmful influences in the world. Right. Somewhere there must be a study out there correlating whether this measure of parental watchfulness truly has any significant impact on protecting children.

The children are long flown from the nest–oh, an unintended birder metaphor, but the Angel Guard lives on and the Hubs and I haven’t a clue how to reprogram it. Then again, we’re not fans of profanity and muted potty mouth works. With no subtitles, in this PG-13 film, we filled in the blanks. There were a lot of blanks. What was available, though, was a thoughtful, sensitive, often humorous coming-of-age movie of living with loss and discovering that the pain of losing someone cherished doesn’t ever truly go away, but one can learn to cope with the pain.

One of the best features of the film, beyond the commendable performance of Kodi Smit-McPhee, witty script, and Sir Ben, was the bonus feature of a Cornell bird identification insert. A winsome plug for their site: All About Birds  . 

This film helped me to better understand the culture of birdwatching, although I haven’t decided where I am in categories. I am beyond the casual bird feeder crowd, not quite the dedicated birder, and definitely not a lister, checking off spottings of avian treasures. An appreciative fan? I know just enough about birds to sound like I know something about birds.

This film falls in the category of adapted John Green novels showcasing awkward adolescence pain mixed with humor populated by quirky people and moments:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

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Reading Round Up: August


Well, I am going to breeze by my Goodreads goal of 101 books this year. As of August 31 I have read 98 books. I read 21 books in August. I’m almost embarrassed by that statistic. It sounds as if I am holing up surrounded by books and don’t have much of a life.

In my defense, it’s summer and I am on break from school and this is what I do on vacation: read, read, read. It’s difficult to find time once back into the routine of teaching. August also proved difficult for outdoor activities. I did manage to work in the yard on mediocre air quality days and accomplished some projects. I also did some puzzling, and organized my files. What I didn’t do much of was finish up a couple of manuscripts. A big disappointment in that area. The fuzzy grey skies of summer this year definitely affected my creativity’s forward motion.

On the other hand, reading so many books did inspire at least three new story ideas which I framed. Plus, I did manage to send out three projects to assorted editors and agents–planting seeds with a hope of securing interest and contracts.

As for titles read in August…

A mixed shelf of classic and contemporary and genres jumping all over the place.

I began with H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and ended with Posted by John David Anderson. From “meh” to “wow”–a nice way to end up my summer reading.

I will detail the highs and lows of my summer reading in an upcoming post. If interested in detailed book reviews you can pop over to Goodreads (search: Cricket Muse)or check them out on my full blog site side boxes.

I will miss the lengthy leisure days of reading, yet I am looking forward to passing on my love of books to my students. Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s back to work I go…

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho it's off to work we go

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.

Happy Anniversary (to me)


Five years ago I jumped on the platform wagon upon the advice of an editor at a writing conference. Establishing a platform as a writer was, and seems to still be, advice that is to be embraced.

Five years ago, I thought it would be nanoseconds until my contract for my debut novel would be signed and my career launched.

As Shakespeare said:

 

image: Buzzfeed

I’m still dreaming and my dream of walking into a Barnes and Nobles and find my novel on the shelf (better yet–they are sold out). But I’m not asleep. I’m sending out manuscripts, still waiting for an editor, agent, publisher to sign me up, and my blog is now five years old. I’m okay with that. Okay, I’m fairly okay with that. I would rather have a novel published and celebrate that announcement on my five year old blog.

I’ve enjoyed writing a blog. I’m pleased that I’m keeping up with my posts and I haven’t had any lags of more than a week or so. The blog has changed, morphed, developed, and grown during its five years. If it were a child it would be potty trained, riding a bike, and getting ready for kindergarten. In dog years I think a five year old blog is roughly fifteen years old.

For fun, here is my first post. It’s been viewed a total of around 50 times since it’s debut in 2012, no likes, and 3 comments. I’m glad writing book reviews isn’t my day job. Since then I’ve decided writing about books is still my prime goal, but I’ve taken off the training wheels and I’m covering different topics as well, including the posting of my own writing such as poems, and short story tidbits.

I promised myself when I reached 1,000 followers I would sign up for the professional.com version of WordPress. I’ve surpassed that goal by a dozen or so. I just need to figure out what to name the professional launch. CricketMuse.com–hmm…

Paper or Plastic?


“I would rather have a hard copy, if that’s okay.” This is from a new AP recruit wanting the summer reading text How to read Literature Like a Professor in book format rather than the PDF version I found on-line. Curious, I asked why. Her response? She had difficulty connecting with the on-screen type. Not what I expected from eyes way younger than mine. I, of course spout off about how much I prefer hard copies to e-copies as well because of my need to connect sensory-wise and as I’m talking, I’m flipping pages and smelling them and listening to them and when I finally notice my student nodding and edging toward the door, like she’d really like to leave because I’m a looney lady (more than one student has commented on me being a bit crazy), I hand over the book and wish her a great summer.

I am a looney lady when it comes to books–hence the Book Booster thing I do. Books aren’t just a pasttime or a channel of information, they are an introduction. Ahem, a new quote from moi:

A book in hand is a friendship in the making.

Beyond making a new friend, there is joy, a celebration of the senses holding a book in hand. I’m talking honest to goodness REAL paper-in-hand book. I do so enjoy paper, maybe that’s why I always answer “paper” instead of “plastic” at the store. Perhaps it’s because paper comes from trees and trees come from the earth and holding a book bound in paper produces more connection to the world around me.  I have little or no sensory connection to my plastic e-reader even though it’s a book in hand.  Oh oh–I feel the looney lady coming on and before I go on about trees, books and their connection to the world and mankind, here is my list of reasons for preferring a book of paper when reading:

1. Smell: that inky pungency stimulates my imagination to anticipation

2. Hearing: the flip-swish of pages signifies my involvement and commitment and helps me to further escape

3. Taste: no, I don’t lick the book, but reading a paper book whets my appetite for setting aside time to open up the pages to fall into another time, another place, another person’s story

4. Touch: there has got to be a study out there concerning the connection between the tactile aspect of reading and brain synapse when communing with a book–I am so much more involved when I am holding the book instead of just listening to it by audio or thumbing up a new screen. Think about this: glass does not conduct electricity, which means no synapse boost. Plus, when I see my book lying on the bed, table, chair it beckons me to pick it up, so there must be a some kind of magnetism involved.

5. Visual: perhaps the most notable because of the cover has all those colors and interesting bits to feed my eyes and mind, and then, of course, there all those illustrations and photographs and drawings sometimes waiting inside.

I’ve shown this video before, yet it definitely illustrates the visual appeal of books.

Reading is definitely a sensory experience for me.  What about you?  Paper or plastic?

Review Roundup


I catch up on my blogs through my iPhone reader which means I miss any goodies that enhance that web page. And that means people miss my little extras as well, such as my Good Reads update feed. So, a new addition to my line up of features shall step forth: the Review Roundup in which I lasso a couple of books from my Completed Reads Corral and trot them out for all to admire. I’m in the midst of Cormac’s All the Pretty Horses, so horsing around is a given.

Last year I thought 50 books to be a good goal and I nearly doubled it by reaching 92 reads. This year I decided to go for 101. So far, so good as I read 11 books in January. Here’s my top three picks of January:

Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs

Fair is the song that remains in the heart,
That soothes the savage scorns that love inflicts,
Or brings joy to our lips as does the lark,
Causing fingers to snap and heels to click.Songs. Sonnets. Put them together, as has the very clever and talented Erik Didriksen, and you have a collection that is memorable and marvelous. His book started out as a weekly sonnet post on Tumblr which grew a following and garnered him a publishing contract. Ooh, I love those kind of success stories.

There is indeed something for everyone, from The Beatles to Cyndi Lauper to Frank Sinatra–sing the praises of Pop Sonnets.

I am in the middle of my “chase-down-every-D.E. Stevenson-book-I-can-find” adventure. I may owe our public library’s inter-library loan department some compensation once I reach my goal of finding all 40 plus novels. I am a professed Dessie. Stevenson’s books are old-fashioned, yet hold up well for story-telling. A big bonus is that many take place in Scotland, the land of my ancestors. I do like her plucky heroines. Here is a new fave:
Kate Hardy buys a country house unseen and makes her move from London to the dull quiet life so she can continue writing her popular hero-action books. Yet, life in the country is far from dull. Strange letters, neighborhood dramas, tangled romances, along with irritating relatives visiting, interrupt Kate’s solitude. And she doesn’t mind one iota.
A thoroughly likable plot and heroine, the book would have garnered five stars except for the ending. DES is terrible about her loose endings. Everything comes crashing to a big finale but she tends to leave loose bits trailing in the breeze. My hope is that Kate Hardy continues on in another book.
The Renaissance is an age like no other. There were so many accomplishments in so many areas of the humanities and sciences, it merits study to better appreciate the genius behind the works. One area of accomplishment, one that still leaves the world in appreciative awe is the art and artists of the Renaissance.
Barter’s reference book provides background and insights on several of the prominent artists of the time such as Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Raphael. Surprisingly, Botticelli is not part of the group; however, the artists featured provide a satisfying study into some of the most influential talent of that time period. A great reference for students, or for those looking for a quick, in-depth study.
Have you read any of these? Better yet, what was your favorite January read?
 

A Bit of Book Botherment


As much I proclaim to be a Book Bookster, I fear I’m not a proper one, for if I was,  wouldn’t I be scandalously boring about reminding everyone that September was National Get a Library Month (“get carded at your local library”) or that October was National Book Month? I’m not fully living up to my potential. I’m hoping it’s okay that I just read and blog about what I’m reading. Guilt does overtake me now and then that I should be organizing parties and perpetuating cute little cookies in the shapes of books or something. Perhaps I need one of those calendars that they tend to pin on the wall in the staff bathroom that spouts when it’s national Eat a Chili Pepper Day or National Hug Your Bank Teller Day. There must be a calendar app just for bibliophiles.

However-

In an attempt to make amends for not noticing October was National Book Month, I will reprint an article about books that have influenced a batch of Ted Educators. We do like our Ted Talkers.

If I were a Ted Educator and someone did ask me about a book which had influenced me, I would wholeheartedly reply: To Kill a Mockingbird for the reason that having read it I keep passing on my passion for it on to my students. It’s not just required reading. It’s required to read to understand our US country’s history better and how Jim Crow laws affect who we are today, and how walking around in someone else’s shoes should be a lifestyle commitment not just the answer to the question on the test of “name a famous Atticus quote.” I know the book makes a difference in my students’ lives because when they return to me three years later as seniors that unequivocally agree that TKAM  is “such a great book.”

As to the idea of books making a difference or creating an impact in live I provide for your entertainment and enlightenment John Green’s list of books he appreciates.

 

So, by the by–which book has changed your life? Or is there a book you want everyone to go and read right now?

Well, I Never…


There are so many lists out there dealing with resolutions of sorts these days: Buckets, Blessings, Brags, and I toss out my own B.I.G. (“Before I Get–too old, too lazy, too nervous…)

I think I’m on to a new kind of list. Instead of a wish list or a hopeful list or even a done it list, I’m starting a “Well, I Never and Glad of It List.”

Truthfully, aren’t there some things you’ve never done, and you are glad you haven’t?

Here are a couple of starters for me:

  1. I have never had a cup of coffee.
  2. I have never read or watched Harry Potter.
  3. I have never Twittered or Instagrammed.
  4. I have never been inked.

The first admission is usually met with surprise or doubt and sometimes an offer to buy me a cup of java.

The second one is met with shock, and once with outrage. Devotees can be so sensitive.

The third often involves a knowing nod and camaraderie, or a puzzled concern, as if the person is in the company of a technological dinosaur. 

The fourth is tricky as it involves which age group I’m talking to, since tattoos are seen differently by different generations.

Of course there are some “Well, I nevers” I shall never contemplate:

  1. Swimming with sharks.
  2. Spelunking
  3. Staying in an ice hotel.

    travelchannel.com

    So–do you have a couple of “Well, I nevers” to share?

And Now For Something Different in Playing Tag…


SFarnell tagged me and I’m both perplexed and delighted about it. I know that reading is right up there with feeding the mind and soul, yet I hadn’t quite made the connection that books can be considered food. The idea of this book tag is match a book to a pastry delicacy. That’s the delighted part. The perplexed part is that I am not much of a pastry foodie and only know a couple of the menu selections. Well, let’s just give it a whirl, anyway, shall we?

Here are the delicacies I do not know, so it’s hard to relate a book to something I’ve not actually tasted and so I will offer a possibility with no extra description (I would appreciate enlightenment of what these pastry treats are all about!):

Vol-au-vent: Name a book that you thought would be amazing but fell flat
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Pain au chocolat: Name a book that you thought would be one thing but turned out to be something else
I perked up at chocolat, but I am unsure how anything with chocolate in it can be anything else but tasty

Profiterole: Name a book or series that doesn’t get enough attention.
Quite clueless on this one, though I will offer the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde. They are hysterical.

Croquembouche: Name a book or series that’s extremely complex.
Pleading clueless once again as to the pastry–maybe C.S. Lewis’ Perelanda series? Lots of allegory going on.

Napoleon: Name a movie or TV show based off a book that you liked better than the book itself.
Oh my, I need to get out more. Napoleon had a pastry named after him? Umm, I did find the movie version of The African Queen to be much more satisfying in its conclusion. Plus I’m a Bogey and Katie Hepburn fan.

Empanada: Name a book that was bittersweet.
Finally one I’ve heard of, but mine wasn’t bittersweet. I would nominate just about any Dickens novel for this.

Kolompeh: Name a book or series that takes place somewhere other than your home country.
I can’t even pronounce it! How about Anne of Green Gables–love just about anything that’s British in setting.

Pate a Choux: Name one food from a book or series that you would like to try.
Nope, not trying anything that sounds like pate (I know what it’s made out of–thank you very much).

These I know! and can easily match them up to books.

Croissant: Name a popular book or series that everyone (including you) loves.

53367The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

I didn’t discover this series until high school and I simply devoured it. Having become a devoted fan of the books, I was thrilled when a new adaptation came out (not the old BBC puppety try, thank you) I loved the first movie, and was sad when they stopped at only the third installment. Lewis presents such a grounded, yet fantasyic tale of magic and allegory. I can’t wait to introduce the books to my grandkiddo. This series seems to be part of most everyone’s childhood.

Macaroon: Name a book that was hard to get through but worth it at the end.

264

Henry James is not my favorite author, due to his long descriptions and the over-the-top drama that the heroines face. Truthfully, I only read the novel because it was on the AP Literature list and I had inherited 90 copies of them from the former teacher, so I wanted to see if I would offer it in class. I shall not. Was it worth it? I stuck with it only because I hoped she would show some gumption and stand up for herself. No spoilers. You’ll have to find out for yourself.

Now I will tag the following five bloggers whom I believe will have fun with this venture into delicacies and reading:

Jilanne Hoffmann

Vanessa-Jane Chapman

Britt Skrabanek

Letizia: 

Sarah Loudin Thomas

Now, I’m not sure what happens from here…read, eat, tag?

No obligations to partake, yet, if you happen to be able to describe these pastry wonderfuls to me, I would be both enlightened and appreciative.

Mockingbird Winner!


I have yet another reading quiz result. This time I explored what kind of hero I might be–I am quite pleased with the findings. Honestly, I wasn’t peeking at the choices. Yet, here it is and *tadah* I’m feeling vindicated. Ready…

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Apparently because I like to read in my spare time, fight for what I think is right, and prefer my own company I’m an Atticus kind of hero(ine). All this time I thought I was a scrappy bookworm. This time I included the link. Do tell what your results are.

What kind of hero are you? Take the quiz!

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