Thursday, February 28, 2008


I'm trying to read River Secrets by Shannon Hale and am just not digging it. There are a couple of her books that are good enough to re-read but didn't blow me away, and there are a couple of her books that just absolutely astonish me with their brilliance.

I've never thought her writing was at all clunky. But in River Secrets there are some odd comparisons that just grate on my nerves. And, I don't know, I'm not that far in, but the story hasn't grabbed me yet. Isi's story did, and Enna's even though I had to force myself to read that one because it was so hard. But so far Razo's hasn't had that moment where something clicked and I just slid into the story and wanted to stay there for a very long time.

I'll give you a full report when I finish it. (I am determined to finish it. I will, I tell you, I will!)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The sandwich quiz

I borrowed this from VB. Have to say, it amused me greatly!

You Are a Ham Sandwich

You are quiet, understated, and a great comfort to all of your friends.

Over time, you have proven yourself as loyal and steadfast.

And you are by no means boring. You do well in any situation - from fancy to laid back.

Your best friend: The Turkey Sandwich

Your mortal enemy: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Part of a story revealed

I admit that I get most of my news from the front page of Yahoo. (In my defense, I don't believe everything they say and more often than not, my response is probably not what it "should" be.) Anyway, this morning they had an article about the mysterious boy that Anne Frank wrote about in her diary. It seems that they've found a photo of him. According to the article:
The photo of Peter Schiff was donated to the Anne Frank museum by his former childhood friend Ernst Michaelis who realized after rereading Anne's diary recently there were no known pictures of Schiff, a museum spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

If you're a history buff, or just like Anne Frank, check it out!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Elizabeth's poetry

I've been delving into the Elizabethan period recently, mostly by watching three movies about her life (about which more as soon as I finish the third one). The soundtrack to one of the movies I saw, The Virgin Queen, had a song based on a poem she wrote, which I found I quite enjoyed.

I grieve and dare not show my discontent,
I love and yet am forced to seem to hate,
I do, yet dare not say I ever meant,
I seem stark mute but inwardly do prate.
I am and not, I freeze and yet am burned,
Since from myself another self I turned.

My care is like my shadow in the sun,
Follows me flying, flies when I pursue it,
Stands and lies by me, doth what I have done.
His too familiar care doth make me rue it.
No means I find to rid him from my breast,
Till by the end of things it be supprest.

Some gentler passion slide into my mind,
For I am soft and made of melting snow;
Or be more cruel, love, and so be kind.
Let me or float or sink, be high or low.
Or let me live with some more sweet content,
Or die and so forget what love ere meant.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm in shock

Those of you who have been around for awhile know that in November I applied for my school's study abroad program, hoping to go to London for a semester next year. I expected to find out in March whether I would be able to go or not. Well, I went to check my mailbox this morning and there was a big old envelope from the Study Abroad office. I practically ran back to my room because I knew that whichever way it went, I needed to be sitting down when I opened it.

I'm in! I'm accepted to go to London in spring 2009!!! I can still hardly believe it!

The other thing is, I've been praying that if I wasn't going to be able to come up with the money to do it, I would just not get into the program. So now that I'm actually accepted, it's easier to trust that God will take care of me and I will find a way to go, one way or another.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Quotes from The Art of Prayer

I posted a few quotes from the introduction HERE.

"Training, then, must also be twofold, outer and inner: outer in reading books, inner in thoughts of God; outer in love of wisdom, inner in love of God; outer in words, inner in prayer; outer in keenness of intellect, inner in warmth of spirit."
~St. Dimitri of Rostov, p. 44

"[Inner prayer is performed] not only standing or walking, but also lying down, in a word, always--whenever you happen to raise your mind to God."
~St. Dimitri of Rostov, p. 45

"The heart is a small vessel, but all things are contained in it; God is there, the angels are there, and there also is life and the Kingdom, the heavenly cities and the treasures of grace."
~St. Makarios of Egypt, p. 46

"No unity with God is possible except by an exceedingly great love."
~St. Dimitri of Rostov, p. 47

"Because all have grace, only one thing is necessary: to give this grace free scope to act....the more our heart is purified the more lively becomes our feeling towards God."
~St. Theophan the Recluse, p. 59

"You must never regard any spiritual work as firmly established, and this is especially true of prayer; but always pray as if beginning for the first time. When we do a thing for the first time, we come to it fresh and with a new-born enthusiasm."
~St. Theophan the Recluse, p. 74

"But constant repetition is not required. what is required is a constant aliveness to God--an aliveness present when you talk, read, watch, or examine something."
~St. Theophan the Recluse, p. 83

It is important to remember that these authors are writing for other Orthodox Christians. They are assuming that their readers will attend church, confess and receive Communion regularly. St. Theophan says specifically not to regard the development of inner prayer as a substitute for the life in the Church or the Sacraments.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Amusing video

A Livejournal friend posted this video which I thought was pretty neat and amusing. 207 people freeze at the same time in the middle of Grand Central Station.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


I've been on a bit of a poetry kick lately. And since I hope that it will be spring soon, here is a spring-y sort of poem:

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and then,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

~A.E. Houseman

Book of a Thousand Days: A review

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale

I asked for this book to be sent to me thinking that it was the third in the series starting with The Goose Girl. Oops. As it turns out that book is River Secrets, which I have now ordered.

That mistake in no way detracts from this very excellent book. It was a bold choice on Hale's part to set a story that originally was European in a Mongolian-type setting. But she did it very well. The personal narration of Dashti made her character come instantly alive, and the little illustrations accompanying the text are beautiful. I'd say this book is in some ways darker than The Goose Girl, which is not to say that it is bad in any way.

Of Hale's books that I've read, I'd say that she does her best work when she is re-telling a fairy tale. This book is a lovely read; I gulped it down in one long sitting this afternoon. While I enjoy the Bayern stories, I am also happy to see that Hale can move to a different location and sketch it as believably and interestingly. A prime example of a good Young Adult book. Highly recommended for slightly more mature readers.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


About once a week someone will come up to the desk of the library, look around and say in a low voice, "Could I check out [lowering the voice even more here] the box of bones?" And we'll smile and nod and give them the enormous box of bones for their anatomy class.

Scratching my head

I sometimes wonder how any self-respecting author of speculative fiction can find fulfillment in writing novels for young readers. I suppose J. K. Rowling could give me 1.12 billion reasons in favor of it: get your formula just right and you can enjoy worldwide sales, film and television options, vibrating-toy-broom licensing fees, Chinese-language bootlegs of your work, a kind of limited immortality (L. Frank Baum who?) and — finally — genuine grown-up readers. But where’s the artistic satisfaction? Where’s the dignity?
Guess where it's from. How about an article in the New York Times?

I tell you, I wonder about people.

You can argue J.K. Rowling, to some extent. (I don't think she's a particularly good author. On the other hand, she's not the one making the toys and probably even she doesn't get all that much from the movies.) But to question how "any self-respecting author of speculative fiction can get fulfillment in writing novels for young readers" is both silly and completely denigrating to the wonderful authors who do just that.

Let's review here: Ursula LeGuin, Robin McKinley, Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, and Madeleine L'Engle are just a few of the many, many successful and, dare I say it, respected Young Adult authors out there. Oops, I forgot Megan Whalen Turner. And Lloyd Alexander. They don't make millions like JKR, but they write some pretty good books and to suggest that they're somehow less valid than all those 'self-respecting speculative fiction authors' is, in my not at all humble opinion, beyond silly.

Oh, I forgot Gerald Morris too.

I also find it silly to the point of ridiculous that the author assumes that only young people read YA fiction. Pardon me, but I know a good number of adults who are only too happy to pick up a YA book. I suppose I'm inching my way towards becoming one. (Does 20 count? We'll say it's close anyway.) I've read more new(ish) YA fiction in the last year than at any other time in my life.

This article probably wasn't really worth responding to. It's only the latest volley in an on-going battle. But my dander is up this morning I guess.

Hat tip to Bookshelves of Doom. (Such a cool name!)

The Orthodox mind

The subject sounds very grand and complicated, and I don't count myself as qualified to say much about it. These are just two quotes from Bishop Kallistos Ware's Introduction to The Art of Prayer. I do think that they are very indicative of the kind of mind that true Orthodox ascetics seek to achieve.

"Neither [St. Theophan the Recluse or St. Ignatius Brianchaninov] sought to be 'original,' but they saw themselves rather as guardians and spokesmen of a great ascetic and spiritual heritage received from the past. At the same time they did far more than mechanically repeat earlier writers: for this tradition inherited from the past was also something which they had themselves experienced creatively in their own inner life."

In our times when so many people long to be "fresh" and "original," it seems strange to think that guarding and fully experiencing the truths of the past is a better path. But I think that it is a better path. I also think that thinking you're terribly original often leads you straight into group-speak. Think of all the young people out there with long hair who play guitars and who are convinced that they're terribly counter-culture. Or, on the other hand, think of all the people who bake all of their own whole-wheat bread and cook all of their own meals and, again, are convinced that they're terribly counter-culture. I like guitar, and I like whole-wheat bread and baking it, and cooking. But let's not fool ourselves into thinking we're something that we're not.

"It is necessary, then, for the ascetic to descend from the head into the heart. He is not required to abandon his intellectual powers--the reason, too, is a gift of God--but he is called to descend with the mind into his heart."

This part is terribly important, in my opinion, because it shows the Orthodox middle road. On one extreme we have those for whom Reason is God. On the other we have those completely governed by their emotions. The Orthodox teaching steers neatly between the two. At first glance it might seem that it tends more towards the second extreme, but as Bp. Kallistos explains earlier in the Introduction:

"[The heart] is the primary organ of man's being, whether physical or spiritual; it is the centre of life, the determining principle of all our activities and aspirations. As such, the heart obviously includes the affections and emotions, but it also includes much else besides: it embraces in effect everything that goes to compromise what we call a 'person.'"

A little food for thought, on a grey Tuesday.

Monday, February 04, 2008


A quick quote before I run off to class.

"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Tell...a story. Make some light."
~Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

Sunday, February 03, 2008

January Book list

Finally, here it is!

Journey to Heaven--St Tikhon of Zadonsk: Good, inspiring book. It didn't bowl me over, but it was worth reading.
An Old-Fashioned Girl--Louisa May Alcott: A comfort re-read. Polly has always been one of my favorite characters. Although LMA does go into her preachy mode quite a bit in this book.
Archer's Goon--Diana Wynne Jones: Unlikely story which I quite enjoyed. Not for those who don't like sci-fi/fantasy. (I'm still not quite sure which one this is.)
The Tale of Despereaux--Kate DiCamillo: Read this book. It is lovely and wonderful and if you don't read it you will regret it. The tale of an unlikely hero with large ears, a rat who loves light, the Princess Pea, and Miggery Sow.
N or M--Agatha Christie: Tommy and Tuppence in war time. Huzzah for Tommy and Tuppence. Again, a comfort re-read.
Artists in Crime--Ngaio Marsh: When Alleyn first meets Troy. One of her best, in my opinion.
Court Duel--Sherwood Smith: The sequel to Crown Duel. Very different from the first, but I enjoyed it just as much. It was nice to see Meliara growing up a bit.
False Scent--Ngaio Marsh: I really like some of the minor characters in this one, especially Octavius Browne.
The Tale of Despereaux: Yes, I liked it so much I read it a second time in one month.
As for Dream--Saskia Hamilton: Poetry, for school. Beautiful, spare lyric poetry.
As For Dream: I read it twice for school.
Enna Burning--Shannon Hale: The sequel to Goose Girl. I didn't find it as absolutely gripping, but it was well written and I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Enna's character.
Sense & Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries--Emma Thompson: Very enjoyable, but language and content warning for the diaries.
To Love and Be Wise--Josephine Tey: Not my favorite of her books, but I had never read it before. If you're going to read a Tey, read The Daughter of Time, or Brat Farrer.