Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm hyperventilating!

The library website informs me that House of Many Ways has been shipped to my branch library. It may be in my hands in less than 24 hours. I cannot wait.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Of blueberries, life, and dreams

We picked blueberries this morning. Our departure was a bit delayed by the fact that my sister shut her finger in the van door, but we made it eventually. We picked 17.8 pounds and plans for blueberry muffins and other deliciousness are underway. It was at the blueberry place that I heard the Amusing Sentence of the Day:
"Learning more stuff is good!"

Folks, I couldn't make this up if I tried.

As we drove up, we saw what was evidently the girls of a large family getting into their van to drive away. They all had long hair and long skirts on. I felt that recognition--you know? When you see someone else who's trying to live differently than the rest of the world? And then I realized they probably wouldn't think I was trying to live differently because I have short hair and, horror of horrors, a skirt that only comes down a few inches below my knees. But that's all right. I know that I want to live a certain way and if that's not evident from the moment someone lays eyes on me, it might be a good thing.

The blueberry place was away out in the country and I realized again that I do want to live in the country when I'm older. Or at least, not-in-the-city--somewhere where we can have some land and gardens and a few animals. I know that's a dream of mine, but at the same time I wonder if that's what God wants. Maybe He wants me to help street kids in Chicago or something. I guess, in the end I have to just know that God knows who I am and what I need and what I can give better than anyone else, including myself. But...I really want that little bit of land and a nice old house.

And then I came home and ate left-over chicken and read I Capture the Castle. Now I'm trying to figure out what to make because I am in a baking mood and wish to feed someone. This is partly why I love Sunshine even though I don't usually recommend it.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Book notes

I am currently re-reading I Capture the Castle. How can anyone not love a book with that opening line? "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink."

I just started reading Farthing by Jo Walton. She thanks Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, and Peter Dickinson in the beginning.

Speaking of Peter Dickinson, I decided to buy Chalice, the new Robin McKinley without having ever read it. I never do this. (If you are puzzled over the connection, they happen to be married.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm back!

I actually returned home on Tuesday night, but I haven't had a spare moment to let you all know I'm alive until now. I had a wonderful, wonderful time. Pictures are already on Facebook, amazingly enough.

It was the best conference yet.

I wish it wasn't over.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Good-bye for now

I'm leaving eaaaaaarly Monday morning to fly to Indiana for the My Life in Christ Youth Conference. I won't be back until next Tuesday and I won't be online until Wednesday afternoon, probably. I don't know if I'll be on at all tomorrow, so good-bye for now. I'll see you when I return.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Big read

I think I may have posted this before, but I'll go ahead and post it again. Why not. Just a few questions though: Why is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe listed separately from the rest of the Narnia books? And why is Bridget Jones on there at all? There's nothing wrong with her, but really!

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Reprint this list on your own blog so we can try and track down these people who've read 6 and force books upon them ;-)


1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird
6 The Bible

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Which is a total of...forty-two, I think.


My weekly post is up at The IDD Blog. It's entitled "Mercy and Love."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Update on prayer request

Thank you all for your prayers! Both the monks and nuns have returned home, the monasteries having been spared from the fires. Here is the text of Fr. Damascene's last letter:

Your Grace, Bless, Master!

Thanks be to God, we just heard that the nuns are returning to St. Xenia Skete today. The fires in their area are now more under control, and those in our area are almost all put out. Today a fire crew walked along the top of our ridge with Monk Nicolas, to check for and put out spot fires. Over the past few days, we learned more from the fire crews about what happened at our monastery during our evacuation. It turns out that the monastery had been in even greater danger than we first thought on returning to it on Monday. The captain of one of the fire crews said that they had not done back-fires on the ridge directly above our monastery; they had only done a back-fire on the western side of the mountain, along western side of the road leading down from the monastery to the town of Platina. This means that the fire at the top of our ridge was not a controlled back-fire, but the actual wildfire that came shooting from the gorge to the southeast. The fire captain said that, when the wildfire reached the top of the ridge, the flames were up to 30 feet in the air. The fire crew thought that the fire might well jump the fire break they had created, igniting the upper branches of the trees on the other side. If that had happened, they would not have been able to stop the fire from going down the other side of the ridge and engulfing the monastery. By the Grace of God, and through the prayers of the faithful, the fire did not catch the upper part of the trees on the monastery side of the fire break. However, at the very top of the ridge, at Transfiguration Skete, some cinders from the fire started a ground fire on the monastery side, burning up the fallen leaves and the bottom of the trees for 50-75 yards. The firefighters were able to stop this fire when it got as close as 50 yards from the "Valaam" cell. Thus, they were able to save all the buildings -- just barely. It is amazing to see how close we came to losing the monastery to the fire, and it is both inspiring and humbling to see how God clearly showed His mercy by stopping it just in time. On the morning of the evacuation (Tuesday, June 11/24), I went to our Mt. Athos "skete" atop our ridge, blessing the area with holy water and singing hymns to the Mother of God, asking her to protect the monastery. I placed an "Axion Estin" icon of her, which was commemorated that day, on top of the altar table at "Mt. Athos," praying that she would not let the fire past that point. When I went to "Mt. Athos" after we had returned to the monastery, I found that the icon had fallen off the altar table, but that both the icon and the altar table were totally unharmed. The Mt. Athos skete was not on the monastery side of the fire break, but on the other side, where the wildfire was. The wildfire scorched the area around the altar table and the icon, leaving charcoal debris all around, and stopped right at the edge of the table. Also, the cross along the road past our monastery was totally unharmed, but the wooden bench right next to it had been burnt up by the fire. Such are little indications to us of the heavenly protection that our monastery received from our Lord Jesus Christ and His Most Holy Mother. Asking Your Archpastoral blessings and prayers, In Christ, hieromonk Damascene

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The June book list

Warning: Very long.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery: An old friend, met again and loved again.

Poison Study by Maria Snyder: Overall good story, but MAJOR content advisory. I can’t recommend this one, in all honesty, but I’ll read the next one in the series because I don’t think the content will be as bad.

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik: Second book in the Temeraire series. Excellent, as usual. Laurence and Temeraire are in China.

The Game by Diana Wynne Jones: Okay, but nowhere near as good as Jones usually is. I think this one suffered from being in novella form—it felt like it needed to be a short story or a full-length novel.

The Other Wind by Ursula LeGuin: The first Earthsea novel in lo, these many years. Lovely. Filled me with a deep satisfaction.

Where the Lilies Bloom by Vera and Bill Cleaver: Another old friend revisited.

A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson: The nicest thing about this book was that the author had obviously done her research where Russia was concerned. Overall, it was pretty much a generic clean romance. I might read it again, but it didn’t blow me out of the water.

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs: Not a fan. Strange story. Too Gothick for my tastes.

Lord Peter by Dorothy Sayers: All the Lord Peter short stories. I love Lord Peter.

Believing is Seeing by Diana Wynne Jones: Short stories by the ever-wonderful DWJ. YAY!

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: Short stories by the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Also YAY!

The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer: Not my favorite Heyer. The hero annoyed me.

Frederica by Georgette Heyer: One of my favorite Heyer books. It’s the supporting cast that really makes this one for me. I like Frederica and Alverstoke as well, but it’s Jessamy and Felix and Charles Taylor that take it to a new level.

Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie: Short stories by Agatha Christie.

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson: I didn’t enjoy this as much as the other two I read by the same author. It all seemed a little improbable and the characters veered a bit farther into the romance book category than I can reasonably stand.

A Song For Summer by Eva Ibbotson: This was definitely the best of the three I read by Eva Ibbotson. Slight content advisory at the end, which bothered me, but the rest of the book was good enough that I ignored that part.

Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer: Not my favorite Heyer, but it was all right.

The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones: Complex, lovely, and enthralling.

Tales from Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin: Short stories about Earthsea. I enjoyed the glimpse into the different periods of Earthsea history. And I loved the introduction. Even if you haven’t read a word of the Earthsea books, check this book out and read the introduction.

Black Powder War by Naomi Novik: Third Temeraire book. This one seemed a bit tedious to me in places, but still a worthy addition to the series. The excerpt from the fourth book in the back worried me. With reason, as I’m currently finding out.

Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie: Also known as the Boomerang Clue. For some reason one of my favorite Christie’s. No particular reason, it just is.

The Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones: Love, love, love. Seriously. I loved this book. Read it. Read the series. Diana Wynne Jones is amazing.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman: Hilarious goodness. I love the movie too, but the book has its own charms.

The Young Unicorns by Madeline L’Engle: Except for House like a Lotus, there is not a L’Engle I have read I don’t like. Young Unicorns is no exception.

Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery: Another old friend revisited.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: I kept hearing about this Neil Gaiman guy so I thought I’d better see why everyone was so wild about him. Now I get it.

The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer: I can’t make up my mind whether I like this one or not. I guess I do, but the heroine is so wimpy! I prefer the heroines along the lines of Frederica or Mary Challoner or Drusilla Morville.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggins: Yet another old friend revisited.

The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories by Agatha Christie: Typical short stories.

Eight Days of Luke by Diana Wynne Jones: Enjoyable, fun, but not the best.

Aunt Maria by Diana Wynne Jones: I liked this one a lot. It’s more along the Chrestomanci lines than the Dalemark lines, but I like both.

A Blunt Instrument by Georgette Heyer: Nice mystery from Heyer.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer: One of my favorite Heyer’s. Mary Challoner is great.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: I have to say, I read this and went, Anime? What? It seems so British. Oh, I loved it. In the same way that Temeraire is Patrick O’Brian WITH DRAGONS, this was Georgette Heyer and Miss Marple WITH MAGIC. Yay.

Wild Robert by Diana Wynne Jones: I liked this one, but it was too short.

Avalon High by Meg Cabot: So, not generally a fan of Meg Cabot, but this one sounded more along my lines than her usual type. I liked it. In a guilty sort of way. I don’t know why the guilty part, because it was well done and she obviously knows what she’s talking about. And she quotes P.G. Wodehouse.

The Doctor’s Sweetheart by L.M. Montgomery: Short stories. As usual with Montgomery’s short stories, some I loved, some I couldn’t stand.

False Colours by Georgette Heyer: (I read a lot of Heyer during June, didn’t I?) Only all right. I’m not sure why I’m not more excited about it, but I’m not.

Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer: Ditto.

Gifts by Ursula LeGuin: Loved it! This is the first LeGuin that’s not Earthsea that I’ve finished. I approve.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle: For some reason, I always think I’m going to like this one more than I do. It’s really the later books in the series I love, although this one certainly has its moments.