Snowy Milkweed at Dawn - Sony NEX 5R, MC Rokkor 50mm [f2.8, 1/100s, ISO 3200]

Snowy Milkweed – Sony NEX 5R, MC Rokkor 50mm [f2.8, 1/100s, ISO 3200]

The light as the sun came up this morning was amazing – cold and blue. I headed out into the yard to get some pictures before it changed.

It’s a perfect day to curl up with tea and a good book — I wish I had taken out Breadcrumbs when I was at the library on Monday.

Need a snow-themed book to read?

Picture Books
Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

MG Books
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

YA Books
White Fang and The Call of the Wild by Jack London
Uncontrollable by S.R. Johannes
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

My favorite snow stories of all-time? The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson and Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson.

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When life hands you a one, two punch…

Oy. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. I’ve had one of those falls where every time I got my feet under me, life knocked me back down until I was SO horribly behind on everything I had no hope of ever catching up. Ever.
So, yeah, that’s where I’m starting the New Year. I’ve got things that I still haven’t finished that I started in JUNE.

So what have I been up to, other than trying to keep on top of life?
– I’ve been reading a bit. But haven’t had time to write or review for months.
– I haven’t been in my studio since June.
– I’ve renewed a hobby thanks to an amazing birthday present — so look for more photos.
– I’ve been put in charge of the bulletin board in front of the school library so I’ve been having fun with that.

I’ve missed Poetry Friday and It’s Monday, What Are You Reading.

Here’s a belated Happy New Years card to all my online friends.

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No PF Today

Sorry, all. Thought I was back on track but the world knocked me back down.
Fingers crossed that after today it will all be better and I’ll be back next week.

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Brave girls, strong queens

After spending a couple of weeks sick, I’m back.

What I Read:

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (YA, paranormal, ghost story, witch, mystery) ★★★★★
I loved it. Absolutely loved it. While the language is not as lyrical as The Scorpio Races, the pacing is faster and the story and characters so real I feel like I actually know them. My only quibble with this book is that the ending left me with more questions than answers — I prefer when each book in a series has a complete story arc.

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Chima Williams (YA, fantasy, high fantasy) ★★★★★
A thoroughly satisfying ending to one of the most enjoyable YA high-fantasy series I have read in a long time. I think this series may join the list of books I re-read when I’m sick.

Magisterium by Jeff Hirch (YA, fantasy meets science fiction, parallel worlds, ARC) ★★★★☆
I loved the first third, was lukewarm on the middle, and was frustrated with the cliffhanger ending. I wish the whole book had been as well-written and engaging as the first third.

I also re-read some favorite childhood series (I always re-read when I’m sick):
Harper Hall Trilogy (Dragonsong; Dragonsinger; Dragondrums) by Anne McCaffrey
Last Herald Mage Trilogy (Magic’s Pawn; Magic’s Price; Magic’s Promise) by Mercedes Lackey
The Dark is Rising (Over Sea, Under Stone; The Dark Is Rising; Greenwitch; The Grey King; and Silver on the Tree) by Susan Cooper

What I’m Currently Reading:

The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente (MG, fantasy, fairy tale, ARC)
I’ve really stalled on this book.

What I’m Listening To:

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (mystery, Sherlock Holmes, PG-13) narrated by Derek Jacobi
Enjoyable but B.J. Harrison (Hound of Baskervilles) and Patrick Tull (Sign of Four) were better narrators. I don’t like Jacobi’s Holmes; he’s too sardonic.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Japanese magic-realism, doorstop, rated R)

What’s on my TBR Pile:

Katya’s World by Jonathan Howard (YA, Sci Fi, ARC) — with a title like that, how could I resist?!

For more It’s Monday, What Are You Reading, visit Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Sheila at Book Journey.

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November is my least favorite month. Novembers in New England are sleety, cloudy, dark and gray; November has none of the beauty of October nor the promise of snow of December. Thomas Hood sums up my feelings about November pretty nicely:

No! by Thomas Hood

No sun–no moon!
No morn–no noon!
No dawn–no dusk–no proper time of day–
No sky–no earthly view–
No distance looking blue–
No road–no street–no “t’other side this way”–
No end to any Row–
No indications where the Crescents go–
No top to any steeple–
No recognitions of familiar people–
No courtesies for showing ’em–
No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all–no locomotion–
No inkling of the way–no notion–
“No go” by land or ocean–
No mail–no post–
No news from any foreign coast–
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility–
No company–no nobility–
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member–
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds–

For more Poetry Friday, visit Donna at Mainely Write.

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Emergency Storm Prep

Last year we lost power twice, once for less than a week thanks to Hurricane Irene and then for 10 days thanks to Snowpocalyse. After three massive storms in 12 months, I’ve worked out my own version of a storm-prep checklist.

My Emergency Prep To-Do List:

Fill the propane tanks, top off the cars, fill the gas cans for the generator & chainsaw. We use a 2 burner coleman stove attached to a propane tank for cooking

Pick up 2 cycle engine oil and bar oil for the chainsaw — this is one everyone forgets. Last year the hardware stores ran out very quickly and you can’t run a chainsaw without bar oil.

Get cash, 15 gal. of water, dry/canned goods for a week, paper plates/cups/bowls. Dishes in the dark, bleh.

Do all laundry. It’s terrible to go into a 10 day power outage almost out of clothes!

Gather radio, candles, matches, lighters, and flashlights into one central location or you’ll be hunting for them in the dark.

Make sure flashlights and radios have working batteries + extra batteries. When it gets dark by 5:30, you go through a lot of batteries.

Charge all cell phones, kindles, computers. Kindles are vital for long, cold, stormy afternoons. Keep the cell phone off except to check in with the world twice a day.

Put everything that can blow away or get crushed in the garage. Especially patio furniture.

Everyone forgets to do the laundry. Last year we went into Snowpocalyse with almost no clean clothes. With two kids, getting on top of laundry before 10 days without power is important.

We got really lucky this year. We lost a giant 50’+ tree in our back yard and a couple of chimney caps but that’s nothing. The kids got to stay home for three days because of blocked roads and power outages so we played cards, obsessively watched the news, and caught up on reading. We feel incredibly thankful that we were spared the worst of it. To all our friends and family who are still struggling without heat and power — we feel your pain. Our doors are open.

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Out sick today – No IMWAYR

I’m out sick today so no post.

The giveaway for Uncontrollable will end next Monday instead of today so there is still time to enter.

See y’all next week.

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The Vampire: Poetry Friday

When something I have put a lot of effort into goes wrong, I think “Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost/ And the excellent things we planned”. I was looking into where that line came from and it’s from a poem called The Vampire by Rudyard Kipling. I found the full text of the poem and so much more.

The poem is based on a painting — it was “written for a picture by Philip Burne-Jones exhibited at the New Gallery in London, 1897”. After doing a little hunting around, I found the painting:

The Vampire by Rudyard Kipling

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair
(Even as you and I!)

Oh the years we waste and the tears we waste
And the work of our head and hand,
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand.

A fool there was and his goods he spent
(Even as you and I!)
Honor and faith and a sure intent
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),
(Even as you and I!)

Oh the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned,
Belong to the woman who didn’t know why
(And now we know she never knew why)
And did not understand.

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside —
(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died —
(Even as you and I!)

And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame
That stings like a white hot brand.
It’s coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing at last she could never know why)
And never could understand.

* * * * *

The poem and the painting inspired a Broadway play called A Fool There Was by Porter Emerson Browne. The play is available for download from project Gutenberg. It’s pretty florid, melodramatic stuff:

“Schuyler came down the stairs slowly, leaning heavily against the broken balustrade. He laughed a little, wildly, with the mirthless chill that is of a maniac. His knees bent; he staggered…. And he laughed again….

At first Blake did not know him…. Then, knowing, he could not believe that his eyes brought to his brain the truth…. This was not John Schuyler. It could not be John Schuyler. It was not possible. John Schuyler was at least a man—not a palsied, pallid, shrunken, shriveled caricature of something that had once been human…. John Schuyler had hands—not nerveless, shaking talons…. This sunken-eyed, sunken- cheeked, wrinkled thing was not John Schuyler—this thing that crawled, quiveringly—from the loose, pendulous lips of which came mirth that was more bitter to hear than the sobs of a soul condemned.”

The play then inspired the first vampire movie — a silent movie called A Fool There Was. The colorized version is still available on DVD and includes the text of the original Kipling poem. The text of the poem was included in the movie as intertitle cards.

The movie is infamous for its risque intertitle cards. One of the cards was “Kiss me, my fool!” but Theda Bara mis-spoke the line and THAT is how we ended up with the catchy phrase, “Kiss me, you fool”.

Quite the rabbit-trail from one half-remembered line of poetry!

On a totally unrelated note, I’m hosting a giveaway of the ebook of S.R. Johannes’ Uncontrollable (YA, mystery, adventure, outdoors, winter) this week. If you want to be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on Monday’s post.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

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Second books and a giveaway (It’s Monday, What Are YOU Reading?)

What I’m reading
The second book in a series often isn’t as good as the first… this week I read three (THREE!) second books that were better than the first:

Uncontrollable by S.R. Johannes (indie, mystery, outdoorsy, winter camping, strong-girl protagonist, ARC, YA) ★★★★☆

I put off reading Uncontrollable because I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as Untraceable; it was better. The writing and plotting was tighter. The adventures, more outdoorsy and real and full of tension.

Uncontrollable picks up several months after the end of Untraceable. Grace is a bit of a mess as she struggles to come to terms with the disastrous aftermath of the raid. To get some extra credit and distract herself, she volunteers for a wolf conservation project at school. To her dismay, she is paired with her ex, Wynn, and his girlfriend, Skyler, for the project. And it all goes downhill from there for Grace. The participants discover dead wolves. Further investigation leads to threatening encounters with man and nature. Between unexpected winter storms, disastrous decision making, and the threat of foul play, danger is Grace’s constant companion. The pacing of this book is fast — it goes from one tense adventure to another. I had a very hard time putting it down when it was time to make dinner so y kids ate cold cereal one night last week thanks to this book.

My only (slight) disappointment was that I saw where the character of [SPOILER] was going the minute [SPOILER] was introduced. Which took some of the tension out of the ending.

There are some wonderful resources at the back of the book to learn more about red wolves and get involved in their conservation.

You can win a copy! Leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway of the ebook of Uncontrollable. Winner will be announced next Monday!

Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey (YA, witches, low fantasy, LGBT) ★★★★☆
Demon Eyes is the sequel to Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes and it also didn’t disappoint.
The writing is better. The dialog is wonderful — some of the snarky back and forth made me giggle. The descriptions of Braden’s magic got stronger and tighter — I could feel the swirl and chaos of his magic. And Drew. Drew was the surprise-and-delight of this book. He was much needed comic relief to Braden’s angsty drama.

If you were hoping that Braden and Trey’s Romeo-and-Juliet-esque story would reach a happy conclusion in this book, prepare to be disappointed. The two had some wonderful, touching moments but the bitterly sad ending left me heartbroken for Braden and Trey. In a good way. There is a faint ray of hope in the dismal ending.

Look for a full review later this week.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne Valente (MG, fantasy, ARC)
I’m 40% of the way through this book and enjoying it more than I enjoyed the first book in the series. And that’s all I’m going to say for now.

What I’m listening to

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (mystery, Sherlock Holmes, PG-13)
This a great Halloween listen — some of the passages gave all of us the shivers!

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Japanese magic-realism, doorstop, rated R)

What’s on my TBR pile
I have three books I’m really excited about this week:

• Raven Boys by Maggie Stieffvater
My husband is finally done so it’s all mine.
• Magesterium by Jeff Hirsch
• Once Upon a Time Machine by Lee Nordling

For more It’s Monday, What Are You Reading, visit Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Sheila at Book Journey.

To win an ebook copy of Uncontrollable by S.R. Johannes, please leave a comment. Comments about your worst camping or hiking disaster double your chances of winning.

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Goodnight, fish

First frost is just days away now and my pond is going to sleep for the winter. The cattails are turning yellow, the frogs are silent, and the water hyacinths are dying from the cold. My three fish no longer come up to greet me when I walk by the pond to pick herbs from my garden.

As we were reorganizing the books in our library, the boys and I looked at picture books we hadn’t read in years. One of their early favorites was a collection of poems called Animal Crackers. The book couples Jane Dyer’s beautiful illustrations with traditional nursery rhymes.

In addition to the traditional nursery rhymes, there are also several original poems in the book including Eve Merriam’s Lullaby. Lullaby stood out for us because it was so different from everything else in the collection — modern and lyrical. I love the way this poem sounds when you read it aloud and so does Gearbox. One of his first words was fish and this was one of first poems he memorized. He still remembers parts of it almost 10 years later:

Lullaby by Eve Merriam

sh sh what do you wish
sh sh the windows are shuttered
sh sh a magical fish
swims out from the window and down to the river

lap lap the waters are lapping
sh sh the shore slips away
glide glide glide with the current
sh sh the shadows are deeper
sleep sleep tomorrow is sure

So I’m wishing my fish goodnight for their long winter sleep.

For more Poetry Friday, visit the fabulous Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids.

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