cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “summer”

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

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Reading Round Up: May


May provided a mixture of titles. It was a grab and go find time to read as the month was filled with AP testing and finishing up curriculum units. Brain in a blender is how I refer to those mad days of teaching in overdrive mode. Sometimes it’s difficult finding enough energy to peruse a few pages without falling asleep. Book whap in the face is embarrassing.

Greenwillow by B.J. Chute

An enchanting tale with a warmth about it that makes it suitable for a cozy wintertime fireside session or as a drowsy summer hammock companion.

Reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting in how true love is shadowed by a family curse, with a bit of the charm found in D. E. Stevenson’s novels. Gently told and full of quaint characterization and imagery. I hope to find other novels by the author. A delightful five star read.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

A bit of Benjamin Button mashed with Dr Who timey-wimey stuff. The idea of someone who ages incredibly slow is intriguing as it has so many plot possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the story centers on how miserable Tom Hazard is concerning his condition. He is over 400 years old though he looks to be in his forties. Falling in love is problematic, as is staying in one place for more than eight years. The flip flop of Tom’s backstory mixed with present day is the stuff of novels these days, so that wasn’t the issue as much as the over-dramatic ending with serious plot holes. The overall premise is quite clever, the storyline fairly entertaining despite Tom’s grousing. The inclusion of Shakespeare garnered the four stars, otherwise a middling three.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

While some readers may appreciate yet another spin off of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is a universal truth that providing a refreshing retelling is difficult. This is the case for First Impressions by Debra White Smith, who begins her series of Austen retellings with the familiar love story of Darcy and Elizabeth. White attempts to freshen up the story by placing it in a contemporary Texas small-town. Some of the characters have changed, yet not so much for the better. Darcy is Dave, a millionaire hiding from his fame, Elizabeth is Eddi, a sassy lawyer, Jane is Jenny, ambivalent about the men in her life, and Bingley is Calvin, endearing, yet somewhat bumbling in his attempts at admiring Jenny. Lydia is Linda, the promiscuous sister. The Bennett parents still play their assigned roles of mother with no filter and passive father. The other two sisters didn’t make the cast. Wickham is a police officer gone wrong, and Connor becomes the awkward smitten cousin. Overall, the dialogue and attempts to match key dialogue and plot points comes off forced, such as making Connor a third cousin, with several reminders that it’s okay to marry cousins in Texas.

Retelling such a well-known story can be problematic, partly since readers have high expectations the characters and plot will provide similar vitality. Unfortunately, First Impressions did not impress, and it is with regret, as it held promise in its chosen format, but tried too hard to emulate Austen’s story and earns a two star.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrell

Piper loses her best friend Lydia, and is determined to find out what happened to her. This is no easy task for an eighteen year old society girl living the crime-prone era of 1920’s Chicago. As Piper begins her investigation into Lydia’s disappearance, she begins to jeopardize her own safety. Fast-paced, with notable era details, this is an engaging read. Odd, that it is labeled as a YA, since its history-mystery format is more inclined towards an adult audience interest-wise.

One off-putting aspect of the novel is the way Piper is presented: tomboyish, clever, yet emotionally immature. Her overly-dramatic behavior makes her seem much younger than eighteen, more like fifteen, which makes it surprising that a mature police detective like Mariano would be interested in her. The ending definitely hints at sequels, as there are a couple of loose ends that need attention. A four star in spite of Piper’s tendency towards being irritating in her enthusiasm in solving problems.

Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

One of those books that turn out to be a not what I thought after reading a trade review. I liked the cover and was initially persuaded this would be quirky graphic novel. The idea intrigued me of illustrating published stories, a blending of text and visual interpretation. Somehow the stories didn’t quite work. The art kind of did. But they didn’t necessarily work together. “Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.” is the best pick–fresh and funny. A middling three. A side note is that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After next week I am free to read anytime I care to since school obligations will be over. I already went shopping at the library and have a shelf of reads ready to go. I look forward to feasting with my reading sessions instead of the peck and nibble I contend with. As much as I enjoy teaching, it does get in the way of my reading.

Happy June–the gateway to summer. Aah, yes…

book cover images: Goodreads

hammock image: Pinterest

Hold it, Hold it


My idea of vacation is a quiet condo equipped with a comfy couch and a sunlit balcony–and being within walking distance of a library.

Fortunately, I got all that at a great price–free! Yup, I’m staying at my mom’s place for a couple of weeks while she is traveling. Perfect set up. It’s my old neighborhood, just down from my high school and I’m here for about two weeks.

No yard to tend. No tv to distract. No tempting pantry beckoning me. So no weeding, channel zoning, or needless snacking. Just reading. And yeah, I’m here to focus on my writing too.

image: roanoke.com
Upon unpacking I immediately trotted next door to the library, the one I grew up with from fifth grade through part of college, and scoured the shelves and ordered books not readily available. I’m thinking they would come in a bit at a time, kind of staggered in their return to the shelves.

Nope.

They all popped in within two days and I am reading, reading, reading.

Life should be so complicated, right?

I am now at 53% towards my reading challenge of 101 books. Ooh, I do so like having a batch of books at my fingertips. *sigh*

So far I’ve read:

Anna and the Swallow Man

The Wednesday Wars

Reduced Shakespeare

Blackberry Wine

Courtyard of Dreams

After Hamelin

As well as having thumbed through a couple of fun books:

Amazing Cows

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World’s Greatest Writer

Dante’s Divine Comedy: a graphic novel

How is your summer reading going?

POM: April 16


Dunbar was one of the first African Americans recognized for his talent in poetry. This is almost magical in its lyric imagery. I can’t even think of trying to find a photograph that could possibly capture its radiance. Perhaps a Monet?

les Coquelicots

 

 

Invitation to Love

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 18721906

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome

NPM: #6–of Hardy’s leaves


Where They Lived

Thomas Hardy, 1840 – 1928

Dishevelled leaves creep down
       Upon that bank to-day,
Some green, some yellow, and some pale brown;
       The wet bents bob and sway;
The once warm slippery turf is sodden
        Where we laughingly sat or lay.

The summerhouse is gone,
        Leaving a weedy space;
The bushes that veiled it once have grown.
        Gaunt trees that interlace,
Through whose lank limbs I see too clearly
         The nakedness of the place.

And where were hills of blue,
Blind drifts of vapour blow,
And the names of former dwellers few,
If any, people know,
And instead of a voice that called, “Come in, Dears,”
Time calls, “Pass below!”

As I get older, I realize autumn is replacing my favorite season of summer. The warmth is still there, the greens fading into muted colors–there is a peace, a tranquility to fall versus the frantic heat and activity summer requires. I think Hardy realized this as well.

image: RevWarheart/Morguefile

Sippers, Dippers, and Flippers


Now that it’s back to the 5 to 9 world of teaching (yes, 5 am to 9 pm–hi, ho, hi, ho work is all I know), I’m reflecting a bit on my splurge of reading over the summer.  I ever so did try to balance my reading and writing, but I admittedly succumbed to reading way more than I intended [see Writing Goals *lol*].

My reading proved to be rather eclectic and I found myself segmenting my choices into three distinct categories:

Sippers: Books I tend to read at night before falling asleep. My mainstay sipper has been Da Vinci’s Notebook. Unfortunately this is an abridged version so it does not have any illustrations. However, it still captivates my attention and I find myself sticky flagging all sorts of amazing insights. This man’s genius is truly astounding. Quotes of note:

The natural desire of good men is knowledge.

I obey thee. O Lord, first because of the love which i ought reasonably to bear thee; secondly, because thou knowest how to shorten or prolong the lives of men.

Good literature proceeds from men of natural probity.

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.

(And this is just 30 pages into the observations section. I need to read painting, anatomy, flight–and there’s more yet to explore! I may be sipping on this all year.

Dippers: These were titles I didn’t read cover-to-cover, only reading a page here, a section there, relishing a line or two, but not feeling the urge to sit down and absolutely, positively read it. This is the type of book to prop behind the cereal bowl, or lunch plate or pass the time with in the bookstore while waiting for the MEPA to finish selecting the perfect card for his sister. A fave dipper this summer:

and then we come to the major reads section, those books that I couldn’t put down, the ones where I meant to read a couple of chapters and return to writing. Uh huh.

Flippers: Flip. Flip. Flip. I’m flying through these books because–

A. The writing is soooo good I can’t stop reading

B. The storyline is amazingly riveting

C. I’m grooving on the combination of good read, soft breezes, comfy hammock

Titles that were so flipping wonderful:

These both claimed an afternoon each. And of course I had to read the sequel, and the other books in the series. And then write up my GoodReads reviews. Whoosh, there go those writing goals…

How was your summer reading? Did you also sip, dip, and flip?

Summer Rain


At this point it’s wishful thinking…is it me, or is this an especially warm summer?

SUMMER RAIN

 fat drops
sizzle steam
on sidewalk, parking lot–
glistening watered beads
cascading down windshields and windows
overflowing
gutters
generating puddles
drenching surprised picnickers,
dog walkers,
park bench people-watchers,
distracted paperback readers–
children frolic, gleefully pirouetting
on the grassy lawn.
I too frolic with them, safely at my distance
under a friendly tree

©C.Muse 2012

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Summer Read n Eat Poetry


Food and summer.  Yup.

Besides barbecue, picnics, reunions, vacation binges, craft fair nibbling, beach concession splurges and the like, there is also food found in our reading.  Take poems, for example.

This is just to say by William Carlos Williams

Watermelons by Charles Simic

Peach Blossoms by Carl Sandburg

A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme by Robert Graves

Orchard by Hilda Doolittle

Plums, watermelons, berries, peaches, oh my. Time to browse the Farmer’s Market!

For more summer foodie poems try this delightful site: TasteArt

Summer Sensory


Summer from my backyard…

comforting drone of the neighbor’s lawnmower

thrum of rising heat

tantalizing waffs of barbeque

smiling inducing laughter and squeals of the VBS children at play

drone of ovehead planes taking in the view

piercing horn blasts of the A-line trains traveling north and south

conversation snatches of runners and bikers passing by

bass thrum of teens cruising around

crescendo of motorcycles out for a spin

the dip and dives of swallows catching supper bugs

robin chirrup, chickadee beckon, crow squawk, dove wing chrill, chipmunk scold

sprinkler tick, tick, ticky, tock

aspen leaf lift and swish and sway in the cooling gift of breeze

Ahhhhhh, mmmmm, summmer…..

The Baby Robin Song


American Robin -- Humber Bay Park (East) (Toro...

American Robin — Humber Bay Park (East) (Toronto, Canada) — 2005, by User:Mdf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we have been watching the last batch of robins readying for their imminent departure I found myself humming a tune:

There were four robins in the nest

and the little one said:

“I’m squished.  Move over.”

So they all moved over  and one flew out,

and there were three in the nest

and third one said:

“I’m squished. Move over.”

So they all moved over and one flew out,

and there were two in the nest

and the second one said:

“That’s better.  You good?”

And the first one said,

“Yup.  Works for me.”

At least that’s what I think is going on.   I had received an update on the baby birds whilst out shopping yesterday (we take our baby birding seriously) and contemplated rushing home to watch the event.  Costco won out and by the time I got home one of the birdies had flown.  Towards the evening it looked like another might be heading out but then all three hunkered down into the nest so only the tips of the beaks were sticking up.

Smart birds.

A summer storm kicked in an hour later and that birdie knew the nest was the best place to be if being a baby bird.

This morning I heard a cacophony of cheeping outside my bedroom window.  Upon checking I found the third baby robin just below the nest and forlornly indicating its angst of separation anxiety.  When it saw me approach it flew up into what I call the launching pine (it’s where all the robins seem to fly from the nest).  It hung out there for the longest time.  It’s still there and I still hear its lamentable cheeps.  I wonder if it’s having second thoughts about leaving the nest?

As I listen to its pitiful cheeps this book came to mind

I think our little bird is saying, “Mom? Mom?”  And I hope mom bird stops by and encourages her baby to find flight, grab a worm, and enjoy the sights.  At least that’s what I’d recommend.

UPDATE: the birds are gone. Rats.  I came home from morning appointments and the nest was empty.  I hear scattered cheeps up in the pines and I hope to spot them on the lawn learning how to get their own grub.  A couple of pics to share:

Getting Ready

I’m out…now what?

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