cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “summer”

Another entry for my “What I Did Over Summer Vacation”


So far summer break has been great: a long-waited Hawaiian holiday, lots of hammock reading, editing projects, family visits–yes, an enjoyable break, that is until today. 

Today the break became literally great. Well, maybe not great but enough to earn an ER visit.

  This is prior to x-ray.

Highlights of the incident:

  • Renting bikes
  • Exploring bike paths
  • A sudden stop
  • Avoiding a major bicycle pile up
  • An abrupt encounter with the embankment
  • Bloody knee and that sudden epiphany I’ve broken my wrist
  • Thankfully I did not wipe out the grandkiddo
  • The kindness of strangers is a marvel–a shout out to James
  • Our smalltown ER staff is fabulous
  • My hubs missed his calling as a physician’s assistant
  • Life is going to be interesting the remainder of my vacation with my dominant hand in a cast
  • Oh–pain meds are my new best friend

So, tommorrow it’s off to the orthopedic surgeon for assessment.

Over sixty years of surviving various risky activities and I fall off my bike and break my wrist. Sheesh–

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Review Round Up: June


My Goodreads barometer blithely informed me of being 8 books behind schedule. The feeling was akin to having the ATM receipt indicating my miscalculation of my debit card ledger, which activated my overdraft. In other words–I was embarrassed. Embarrassed because I am always, always ahead of schedule by a couple of books and feel rather proud of that, thank you very much. Just as I cautiously enter and reconcile my debit transactions in my little brown bank book. I blew it both ways: book and bank account. But no real damage was done. I deposited a goodly amount back into my Goodreads account and my bank account. Whew–budgeting reading and bank accounts, both must be tended to judiciously.

While in Hawaii, I knew I would be sight seeing more than reading. Yet, I couldn’t wait to focus on reading what I wanted, when I wanted with school being out. Books are heavy to pack and wanting to pack light, I only took along three: one for the plane, one for the beach, and one for the flight home. I ran out of books on the third day. One reason is because my husband started in on my beach read, and what I can read in two days, he will read in a week. I’m a gulper and he’s a savorer. However, it’s amazing to me how much reading I can actually fit into the day when I don’t have to grade essays or create lesson plans.

No thank you. I don’t do e-books. But thanks for the suggestion.

Not having enough books to read created a wee bit of consternation. Fortunately, being resourceful, I located the hotel’s freebie library in the lobby. Unfortunately, the collection consisted primarily of romances and mysteries. I succumbed to reading one of the romances. The story wasn’t too awful. Okay, it was way awful. I skimmed much of the plot. I felt desperation set in and I didn’t want to bug the hubs too much ( “aren’t you done with that book yet?”). I think I began having withdrawals because I started devouring all the tourist magazines my husband had been bringing back to the room from the various stores and restaurants we visited. He consulted these as a general would plan an assault, carefully laying out our daily excursion menu. I didn’t mind seeing the sights as long as we included beaches. I got a temporary fix for my reading on our second day. While he explored the Princeville Shopping Center I explored its library. I scored a mystery about a library director who solves a murder(I kid you not) and he found a grocery store. We both made out well.

Overall, June’s Reader Round Up is a bit eclectic. Here are the top three picks. The rest of my choices are found, as always, at my Goodreads site.

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image: Goodreads

Bauer’s informative, approachable method of reading various subjects–history to novels to plays to poetry–makes sense. She presents a method to take reading, the means of furthering one’s education to a deeper level. It’s rated four stars merely due to being somewhat incomplete in its works list. The updated revised edition should remedy this.

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image: Goodreads

A reread–and I appreciated the story even more this time, having read most, if not all, of the books Mattie had devoured in her quest to further educate herself. As Mattie discovers for herself that life is not what books present. She learns that life is complicated, messy, unfair, and happy endings aren’t a given. Mattie also learns that sometimes truth and opportunities can become both a burden and freedom.

Found in the YA section, it’s one that is so riveting and so well-written, it should be read by anyone who seeks a well-researched historical novel that is a story within a story. A definite five star.

 

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image: Goodreads

I have read and appreciated Robert Whitlow’s books in the past and when I spied this on the giveaway shelf at the hometown library I grabbed it for the trip. This is the book I had looked forward to reading while sunning, the one I loaned out to my husband. The one I didn’t get to read until we got on the plane going home. At least I converted my only-reads-nonfiction hubby to expand his horizons.

Many people compare Whitlow’s writing to Grisham’s, in that he mainly writes legal thrillers, yet his plots have more faith-based aspects than Grisham’s, and Whitlow sometimes selects difficult, uncomfortable topics. For instance,  I almost didn’t read The Sacrifice since it is about someone planning a school shooting, which is  misleading. It centers more on a young attorney who is in the process how he handles relationships with family, friends, and faith, while he defends a troubled youth. Whitlow weaves in a couple of subplots that kept me guessing in terms of the identity of the school bomber. Fast-paced, excellent characterization, The Sacrifice is a legal mystery that provides a strong faith message without being preachy. I will be on the lookout for more Whitlows at the library. Five stars.

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image: Goodreads

The perfect summer vacation read. It kept me intrigued during the six hour flight to Kauai and helped me get through the early morning jet lag adjustment as I read it under the covers while the hubs snoozed. Heitzmann effortlessly weaves a tale of interpersonal drama that is laced with deep secrets that are need of airing so healing can begin. Faith, grace, and salvation are woven into the plot in a way that the message is a natural part of the story and not a tacked on sermon. Only a couple of plot holes or questions about Rese obtaining the villa and how the inn seems to function sufficiently with only a couple of intermittent guests, Yet it’s not enough to detract from such a well-developed story, one with plausible authenticity. The hallmark is that each featured character is developed fully. I look forward to the rest of the series. And I confess this is a reread, but isn’t summer the best time for reacquainting old friends while finding new ones? Four stars.

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image: Goodreads

A review book from BookLook Bloggers. An upbeat contemporary YA retelling of the Cinderella theme: good girl, harsh stepmother, stepsister rivalry, unfair favoritism, a prince of a fellow, a happy ending. Christina June saves the plot from being sappy with some snappy twists such as a spunky, creative protagonist by the name of Tatum who makes her dreams come true instead of waiting for a fairy godmother to change the situation. The fairy godmother in this case is a lively abuelita who plays bunco and watches reruns of The Golden Girls. As for the stepmother, she’s definitely harsh, but not evil. And the stepsisters? Only one–and she’s working out her own issues with her mother. The prince is a half Irish cello-playing musician who is almost too good to be true. Lots of plausible humor and drama with a healthy dose of life lessons worth noting. Four stars.

 

Poem of the Month: “Summer Silence”


Summer Silence
by e.e. cummings

Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial hills;
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
Limply down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence fills
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver, where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
The utter silence of the untranslated stars

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I do relish a summer storm. The darkened, rumbly clouds. The sudden whoosh of wind with purpose bestirring the trees. The muggy air that heightens until there is either the release of rain, thunder, complemented with staccato flashes of lighting.

Yup–e.e. cummings got it spot on.

Crisis Chronicles Cyber Litmag (2008-2014)

cummings


by E.E. Cummings

* * *

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Summer in, Summer Out


I began summer in the place I’m ending summer with a reverse visit switch–the same folk, different locale. 

Starting my break  with GiGi duty (grandma) proved an auspicious start to summer. After a week of reading Narnia, scoping out Portland’s playgrounds, tromping in summer rain, and frolicking in a water park I reloaded the car and headed for a self-imposed writer’s retreat, by borrowing my mom’s condo. I managed to get some solid work done on my authors and their cats manuscript.

Situated in my hometown, Mom’s condo is old (built in 1966) yet boasts amenities such as a pool and a large private balcony overlooking a tree lined creek. Veddy nice.

Quiet? Mostly, except for the occasional boomers who like to meet up in the community service parking lot next door after hours and their rap music bass rattles the sliding glass doors. Or the garbage truck on Tuesdsys at 5 a.m.

Peaceful is a better word. Most of the time it’s peaceful here. No constant interruptions of the trains, fairground events, traffic patterns, and ongoing construction behind our house, just a day’s drive away. The condo is perfect for decompressing.

I usually don’t need too much R&R after the school year ends. This year though… *sigh* It’d been one of those years where I wondered if it’s time I should retire. However, a rest up of two weeks in June and I was back planning lessons for the upcoming year. 

July spent at home with the Hubs,  I have the condo to myself after a visit my mom, who came up from Arizona to see the family, and to escape 114 degrees as well. She left, I stayed, thinking the peacefulness encountered at summer’s start would greet me once again.

I’m not quite finding it.

It must have something to do with the anticipation of school starting. Instead of reading books lounging at on the balcony in solitude, I’m polishing lesson plans. Instead of reveling in the quiet respite, I’m trying to persuade the Hubs to drop projects (even though I would really like the fact that the garage is being tidied, and the kitchen painted) and to pop in the truck and pop over. “Are you lonely?” he inquires. “Not at all,” I reply.

I believe I’m restless.

Well, dinner with my boyos and a weekend visit with my girlies and summer will be done.

It’s funny how different June can be from August in the same place.

A June donut even tastes different than an August donut.


Classic Movie Nights


Daytime in the summer is mainly working on my writing projects, wslking, yard work, and of course, reading, reading, and more reading.

Around seven o’clock the hubs looks at me and asks: “So what do you want to do tonight?”

There aren’t many options in a town of 6,000. It usually comes down to watching a movie. 

Our smalltown boasts one theater. It’s not fancy. It’s not AMC. The seats tip back because the springs are stressed. The floors are s bit sticky. The rows are offside instead of center screen. We have to really, really want to see a movie and not be willing to drive an hour away to the mega-complex to go.

There is also the fact if we wait a couple of months the movie comes out on DVD. Then we rent it for a buck fifty at the grocery store instead of paying box office prices. We start the movie when we want, pause it, subtitle it, enjoy it in our kickback loungers. We even sleep through the boring parts. I can catch up on my phone stuff. Or play another level of Candy Mania.

Why wouldn’t we choose to watch movies at home? 

Another option is that our local library has a HUGE movie section complete with TV series. I’m ever so patiently waiting for The Hollow Crown. We aren’t hooked up to commercial channels. The TV is basically a movie screen. That’s a whole  different post.

Being Baby Boomers, the hubs and I are partial to films where actors versus CGI is the primary billing.This means we tend to watch a lot of  classics. It’s like visiting with old, favorite friends when  we settle in to watch Cary Grant, Hepburns Audrey/Katherine, John Wayne and the rest of the screen star crew.

Some favorites this summer we’ve revisted:

Now and then a new movie comes along that’s based on an old classic. From some reason, we were won over by: 


mainly because we grew up with:

Guy Ritchie got it right. The light-hearted, comically serious tone, the Bondian flavor, the sixties style. Henry totally got Robert Vaughn and Hammer did his own Ilya. How come the critics didn’t get it? Then again, if I paid attention to the critics I wouldn’t watch movies at all. They either love something I don’t get or, like above, they pan what I deem brillaint. And that’s another post as well.

So–a couple of questions, if I may:

1. Do you prefer classics to new?

2. Do you prefer DVD to big screen?

3. Any new  films  you think might become classics?

POM: April 11


April is so close to May which is close to June and then it’s SUMMER!!

Here’s some Ella to remind us of that good, good season:

Good old William Blake also knew how to lay down one awesome summer poem, I will credit him for that.

O thou who passest thro’ our valleys in
Thy strength, curb thy fierce steeds, allay the heat
That flames from their large nostrils! thou, O Summer,
Oft pitched’st here thy goldent tent, and oft
Beneath our oaks hast slept, while we beheld
With joy thy ruddy limbs and flourishing hair.

Beneath our thickest shades we oft have heard
Thy voice, when noon upon his fervid car
Rode o’er the deep of heaven; beside our springs
Sit down, and in our mossy valleys, on
Some bank beside a river clear, throw thy
Silk draperies off, and rush into the stream:
Our valleys love the Summer in his pride.

Our bards are fam’d who strike the silver wire:
Our youth are bolder than the southern swains:
Our maidens fairer in the sprightly dance:
We lack not songs, nor instruments of joy,
Nor echoes sweet, nor waters clear as heaven,
Nor laurel wreaths against the sultry heat

And for something a little less dazzling, I turn to a fave: William Carlos Williams

Wanderer moon
smiling a
faintly ironical smile
at this
brilliant, dew-moistened
summer morning,—
a detached
sleepily indifferent
smile, a
wanderer’s smile,—
if I should
buy a shirt
your color and
put on a necktie
sky-blue
where would they carry me?


POM: April 8


dandelions

I wish I could grow like a dandelion,
from gold to thin white hair,
and be carried on a breeze
to the next yard.

—Julie Lechevsky

POM: April 4


Nikki Giovanni is a poet who knows how to capture a moment, a feeling, an event. She is a poet of note. This poem, never no matter it’s about Tennessee, gets me itching for summer. Summer and its treats is summer regardless of the state. Summer is a state all its own.

Knoxville, Tennessee

Nikki Giovanni, 1943

I always like summer
best
you can eat fresh corn
from daddy’s garden
and okra
and greens
and cabbage
and lots of
barbecue
and buttermilk
and homemade ice-cream
at the church picnic
and listen to
gospel music
outside
at the church
homecoming
and go to the mountains with
your grandmother
and go barefooted
and be warm
all the time
not only when you go to bed
and sleep

POM: SEPTEMBER


September heralds in fall and school. Being a librarian at heart with a day job as an English teacher, I have a soft spot for poems about books, especially those about libraries. This one hits the spot quite nicely.

My First Memory (of Librarians)

Nikki Giovanni
This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
       wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
       too short
              For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big
In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
       a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall
The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books—another world—just waiting
At my fingertips.

This summer was an odd one. In my part of the world June is usually a bit drippy around the edges until after July 4th. Summer decided to rev up early and we suffered through high nineties through most of the season, which caused a set of horrendous fires in the surrounding states.

We usually coast into a gentle fall, with chilly nights and warmer days, allowing the ability to sneak in sandals and linen skirts a couple of more weeks. Not so this September. We are nightly lighting chill breakers in the stove and I forlornly have folded away my summer stock of tank tops and capris.

As a farewell to summer, as fall officially begins this week, I have included an August poem.

August

Lizette Woodworth Reese
No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still

A Trio of Shakespeare 


Considering I had no exposure or any real knowledge of Shakespeare until I began teaching his works in high school, I’ve certainly made up for lost time.

In the twelve years of morphing from a displaced school librarian to an AP teacher I’ve developed an appreciation for Wm. Sh. to the point of labeling myself a Bardinator. *

“Yo, thou intensely doeth Bard if thy be a Bardinator.” image: flickr.com

Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal. 

This summer I have reveled in more Bard than usual. It began, appropriately enough on July 4th* when I landed in Washington DC to study Hamlet for a week at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Later that month I finally got around to Anonymous, which is actually anti-Bard, as it is a ridiculous conjecture that William Shakespeare was not a brilliant playwright but actually a drunken sot of an actor fronting for some earl who was a closet playwright. The only takeaway was how stunningly the time period and the theater was portrayed. I squirmed through this insulting and terrible premise to absorb the glory of the Elizabethean stage snippets. One star of note was Mark Rylance. This observation led me to–

Twelfth Night starring Mark Rylance in the role of Olivia. Yes, finally. A Shakespearen production as it might have been presented because of the all male cast. The play was filmed at The Globe with a live audience (groundlings included) in sharp, glorious HD. Mark Rylance and his troupe superceded expectations. It was unprecedented theater. I will have problems readjusting to women playing women now in Bard dramas because Shakespeare wrote the parts knowing men/boys would be playing women. Or in the case of Viola/Caesario-, a youth playing a woman disguised as a youth. The lines and meaning take on a whole new dimension with the knowledge it’s two men playing they are attracted to each other but the manly man doesn’t want to admit to it . But thr audience knows the fair youth is really supposed to be a woman since it’s a boy playing a woman dressed as a boy. The confusion is intentional, as is the jovial mistaken engendered double meanings.

“Yonder sun doth the moon, y’all.” Image: YouTube.com

To round out the summer I watched my first ever Shakespeare in the Park or more precisely, on the grass at the local fairgrounds.  A group of thespians out of Montana traversing five states presenting either Cyrano or Taming of the Shrew graced our fare (or fair) town. And what a turn out. Beginning at three o’clock people arrived to claim their patch of grass and browsed the various booths ranging from spun wool goods to sword play. A lively Renaissance trio added appropriate musical ambiance. At six o’clock the western-themed show begun and the audience whistled and hooted out their appreciation at all the puns and ribaldry. The best bit was unplanned when a wee little lass wandered onto the stage at just the moment when Petruchio instructs Kate to speak to the “maiden” (Vincentio).

“Speak to yonder maiden, Kate. Not that one–the other one.”

Not missing a beat, Vincentio grabs up the sweet interloper and announces: “This is my granddaughter” and managed to return her to an embarrassed audience mother.

A truly fun community event to commemorate the closing of summer. Soon I will be bringing Shakespeare to the classroom, but perhaps we’ll Bard out on the lawn. BOOC–bring our own chairs.

Did anyone else have a bit of Bard along with their beach and BBQ days this summer?

—————————-

*yes, there is a connection of studying Shakespeare during America’s independence week–Wm. Sh. became our nation’s first playwright when his plays sailed over from England. In fact, the Folger has the first Elizabethean stage. A regular Tudor de force (upon which I played a hammy Horatio).

*I just spent an hour hopscotching about the Net trying to find that nifty definition I stumbled across years ago. No luck. I did find a new blog concerning Shakespeare. I have created my own definition. This will be a work in progress and I am quite open to other interpretations.

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