Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A big announcement

I feel weirdly nervous about this announcement, which doesn't really make sense, but there it is. ANYWAY.

I've decided to move this blog to Wordpress. This isn't because I've fallen out with Blogger in any way. It's simply that I like Wordpress's style. I like that I can create separate pages. I like the clean, uncluttered feeling I get from their blog designs. So from now on, you can find me at By Singing Light [Wordpress style].

I've transferred all the archives (but not the comments) over there so you don't have to switch back and forth. However, this blog will remain up in its entirety. I hope to see you all there!

Monday, September 21, 2009

So far this morning

I have:

+ gotten up [This was an Accomplishment]
+ gotten dressed and all that jazz
+ said prayers
+ had my tea and a quarter of a tomato for breakfast [I don't really do traditional breakfasts]
+ poked about online [really interesting articles on singleness/Christian relationships HERE and HERE and about contests HERE and HERE]
+ finished a homework assignment
+ washed the dishes
+ started lunch warming up

Now I'm listening to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. :)

It's the Nativity of the Theotokos today, Old Style. I...didn't really do anything beyond singing the Troparion and Kontakion.

I've still got lots of homework to take care of and Things to Do today.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Crisis averted. After posting about my recent reading doldrums, I picked up Graceling and so far I love it! (I'm 292 pages in.) All is not lost.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

State of the TBR pile

Mine is less of a pile and more of an overflowing basket.

I've been doing a lot of reading recently and I have quite a few more books to read. You can get a sense of how many by looking at the handy little widget on the right side of my blog, the one titled "Books currently checked out." So I've felt this pressure to keep reading, to get the book done and reviewed and sent back to the library so I can get on to the next one so I can order a new one. And so far I haven't been super wild about any of them. Savvy was lots of fun and I love Fire and Hemlock but the first was more of a romp than anything else and the second was a re-read. Besides the fact that I was so tired when I read some of it that I didn't enjoy it quite as much as I normally would have.

Part of the problem is that I'm not sure if I actually objectively don't like these books a whole lot or whether the mood I'm in (not wonderful at the moment) is coloring them. I am going to return A Bone from a Dry Sea unread though. I'm just not...okay, look, it's nothing against Peter Dickinson. I loved "Flight" and I remember liking his stories more than Robin McKinley's in Water. I think it's the prehistorical setting.

Planning to go to bed early tonight, which will hopefully help.

Unintentionally hilarious

For my Victorian Poetry class, we're currently reading contemporary critics on Tennyson (contemporary meaning Victorian). The first of them, by a William Johnson Fox, had a few moments which were quite hilarious.

Here's the first (I italicized the funny bit--the rest of it you just need as background): "Now whatever theories may have come into fashion, and gone out of fashion, the real science of mind advances with the progress of society like all other sciences. The poetry of the last forty years already shows symptoms of life in exact proportion as it is imbued with this science. There is least of it in the exotic legends of Southey, and the feudal romances of Scott. More of it, though in different ways, in Byron and Campbell. In Shelley there would have been more still, had he not devoted himself to unsound and mystical theories." That one might only be funny to me. But the second one...this is how the author described a merman: "the finny worthy."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Just weird

So, this morning I was in my apartment when the phone rings. My parents and I have been vaguely trying to connect with each other so I picked it up right away. This is the conversation that ensued:

Me: Hello?
Unknown male: Hello?
Me: Yes, hi?
UM: Are you there?
Me: Yes?
UM: What's your Social Security Number
Me: I'm sorry, I don't give that out over the phone. *hangs up*

o_0 I mean, what? Seriously! Is this some sort of new scam? Call people up and ask for their SSN and see how many of them automatically give it out? BIZARRE.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Astrakhan Farewell is playing on my roommate's iTunes right now and suddenly I remember a summer night years ago when we sat on a dark porch in the Virginia heat and my sister and a friend played it on flute and violin.

In about four minutes I'm going work, fortified with all sorts of things to do, so I don't get horribly bored.

We went to Saturday Market this morning where I bought a geranium and blackberry honey. Among other, more essential, things. The geranium was 50 cents. Even if it dies, it was still extremely cheap. But I hope it doesn't die. Geraniums are such cheerful things.

Now my roommate is making bread.

Tonight my group of friends is Doing Something together, unknown as of yet.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Unleaving: a review

by Jill Paton Walsh
(also known as Goldengrove Unleaving)

This book was in the children's section of my school library and I'm not sure why. Not that it's a bad book--it's well written and interesting and the prose often sings. ("And far out, in the distance, the lighthouse in a tissue of haze is just visble" (134).) There's a masterful interweaving of past and present which reminded me of several of Rumer Godden's books. But its themes are adult and though there are children in the book, the tone and philosophical discussions make it definitely not a child's book. Maybe young adult.

I'm still not sure if I like it or not. I tend to be fond of past and present interwoven, if done well and this was done well. And, despite the very gloomy outlook of several main characters, the book ends up affirming love and beauty. Madge is a very sympathetic character and Patrick, if not exactly sympathetic, is interesting. If you think you'd like a fairly quick read with some philosophical and moral dilemmas, set on the Cornish coast, you'd probably like this one.

Book source: my school library.

Fire and Hemlock: a review

by Diana Wynne Jones

Most people have only one set of memories. But things are a little different for Polly Whittacker. She has one set, normal, undistinguished in any way, and another set which her nineteen-year-old self struggles to retrieve. These hidden memories are all centered around one Thomas Lynn, a seemingly ordinary cellist in the British Philharmonic Orchestra. As she begins to delve into the true past, she remembers that they met when Polly gate-crashed a funeral. At first their friendship is simply a bright spot in Polly's life. But gradually strange things begin to happen and continue to happen.

The narrative structure of the book works very well, in my opinion. It would have been an easy one to mess up, but Diana Wynne Jones pulls it off (because she's awesome like that!). The fact that Polly's forgotten her own memories allows the whole story to unfold in the past while still moving the plot of the present forward.

Polly and Tom are both lovely characters--the kind that you just love from the beginning and never let go of. The minor characters are also part of the charm of this one. Tom's quartet are all magnificent and Granny is marvellous. Fiona and Nina, in their different ways, are also necessary to the whole book.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so I'll only say that the ending is one of those where no one seems to know exactly what happened. That's all right. Somehow it seems to me to fit into the pattern of the book as a whole.

One of my favorite books by Diana Wynne Jones.

Book source: my school library

Imaginary Lands: a review

edited by Robin McKinley

This the second time I've read this anthology. Oddly enough, I think I liked it more this time around. There were still a few stories I wasn't as wild about. But "Flight" by Peter Dickinson, "The Old Woman and the Storm" by Patricia McKillip, and "The Stone Fey" by Robin McKinley herself were all, in my opinion, excellent. They were also, interestingly enough, the stories which I felt best fulfilled the stated mission of the book: "the stories...must have a particularly strong sense of location, of the imaginary land each was laid in."

Having just read Fire and Hemlock, Joan Vinge's "Tam Lin" provided an interesting counterpoint. Fire and Hemlock is still my favorite (although Elizabeth Marie Pope's The Perilous Gard comes in at a very close second). It may have something to do with the length--book length lets Diana Wynne Jones build up her characters much more effectively. But I think it's mostly that I prefer Fire and Hemlock's conclusion. While both are somewhat bittersweet--something lost and something gained--Fire and Hemlock felt both more real and more hopeful to me.

"Stranger Blood" by P.C. Hodgell was another of my favorites. Again, there was a strong sense of the land and culture as something both distinct and real.

All in all, I'd definitely recommend this anthology if you enjoy reading fantasy, especially fantasy set in a specific location.

Book source: Southern Oregon University library

Reading list, Feb-Aug

Ugh, that is a ridiculous time span. I'm not going to review all of these--if you have questions about one of them, just comment!

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Othello by William Shakespeare
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
King Lear by William Shakespeare
The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Knife by R.J. Anderson
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Frederica by Georgette Heyer
As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
At the Altar by L.M. Montgomery
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer
Deep Secret by Diana Wynne Jones
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer
Lord Peter by Dorothy Sayers
Sleeping Murder by Agatha Christie
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
Fallen into the Pit by Ellis Peters
Piper on the Mountain by Ellis Peters
Rainbow's End by Ellis Peters
Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy Sayers
The Documents in the Case by Dorothy Sayers
A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters
White Banners by Lloyd Douglas
Green Light by Lloyd Douglas
Collected Stories of O. Henry
Crooked House by Agatha Christie
The Yankee Magazine Book of Forgotten Arts
The Tanglewoods' Secret by Patricia St. John
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
The Dark Wind by Tony Hillerman
The Fallen Man by Tony Hillerman
A Thief of Time by Tony Hillerman
Listening Woman by Tony Hillerman
Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
The Illuminated Heart by Frederica Mathewes-Green
Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska
No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Wouldbegoods by E. Nesbit
Jack and Jill by L.M. Alcott
A Tree for Peter by Kate Seredy
Listening by Kate Seredy
The First Woman Doctor by Rachel Baker
The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein by Carol Ryrie Brink
Missing May by Cynthia Rylant
The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
The White Isle by Caroline Dale Snedeker
Rider on a White Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Open Door by Frederica Mathewes-Green
A Pocketful of Cricket by Rebecca Caudill
Around the World in a Hundred Years by Jean Fritz
The Alley by Eleanor Estes
The House of Arden by E. Nesbit
Goody O'Grumpity by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Best-Loved Doll by Rebecca Caudill
Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge
Knight's Fee by Rosemary Sutcliff
The Mark of the Horse Lord by Rosemary Sutcliff
Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman
My Name is not Angelica by Scott O'Dell
Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? by Jean Fritz
Who's Saying What in Jamestown, Thomas Strange? by Jean Fritz
World's 100 Best Short Stories
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Strand
Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers
Sing Down the Moon by Scott O'Dell
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
General Store by Rachel Field
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Court Duel by Sherwood Smith
Flight of a Witch by Ellis Peters

Sunday, September 06, 2009

This week's menu

Pork chops with "Callie's Simple Pork Marinade" (Book Lovers' Cookbook, p. 119), mashed potatoes, zucchini, applesauce

"Chinese Chicken" (my recipe notebook); rice; vegetable

Tangy Pork Chops; vegetable

Leftover Bengali Lentil Soup

Bratwurst and Potato skillet (made up out of my own head)


I'll probably be posting about cooking a lot more because I'm actually doing it--cooking for myself.

Friday, September 04, 2009

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks: a review

by E. Lockhart (and [HERE])

I've begun the last two reviews with the character's name. I am determined to break the pattern. So:

P.G. Wodehouse? Check. Basset hounds? Check.* Secret societies? Check. Devious plans? Check.

This book has all of those, plus a spunky main character with a great vocabulary and the inability to take no for an answer.

And yet, somehow, I don't LOVE it. It's fun. I'm reading it for a second time, so clearly it isn't awful. I think most of my problem is that I never quite believe in Frankie as a real character. I feel bad for her and I rejoice at her victories. But she never quite jumps off the page.

Now, I know there are heaps and heaps of people** who love this book. And I do enjoy it. And yet.

I don't know. I may need to give it a few days to percolate.

Book source: my school library

*Incidentally, basset hounds always remind me of James Thurber, probably because I was a docent at the Thurber House for several years when I was younger.

**People whose recommendations I trust.

Savvy: a review

by Ingrid Law

Mississippi Beaumont, commonly known as Mibs, is about to turn thirteen. Normally thirteen is just another birthday. But for the Beaumont family thirteen marks the day their savvy kicks in. Mibs is looking forward to her day. A little nervously, given that her brother Fish started a hurricane and forced the whole family to move to Kansaska-Nebransas (the Kansas/Nebraska border). But just before her birthday, her Poppa is in an accident and everything changes.

Determined to make it to him, she sets off on a pink Heartland Bible Supply bus with an assortment of siblings, friends, not-so-much friends, and passersby.

I LOVED this book. Mibs' voice was so fresh and true and while every character is a little out there, none of them felt like caricatures. And the writing just sparkled. I opened the book to a random page and found this bit:
Before leaving the bathroom, I cheerfully added a paper-wrapped soap to the pocket of my dress that still held Will's birthday present pen. Then I joined the others and we all flop-flapped down the hall in our new Mega Mega Mart flip-flops, following Lill and Lester downstairs toward the Heartland Bible Supply bus like a gaggle of flat-footed goslings, keeping a lookout for any unwanted attention.

I also liked how Mibs seems to find church and faith genuinely important. It didn't feel forced in any way--it simply seemed like part of her character. She did seem older than thirteen to me. But I decided that in a way that fits--the oddness of the Beaumont lifestyle would probably make her older than most thirteen year olds.

Ingrid Law has a new book out next year called Scumble which looks like it will be a sequel to Savvy.

Book source: my school library
Recommendation source: the Andre Norton shortlist

Hattie Big Sky: a review

by Kirby Larson

Hattie Inez Brooks, having been orphaned at an early age, has spent most of her life being shuffled from one relative to another. Now, at sixteen, she is about to be pulled out of school when an unexpected letter arrives. Her Uncle Chester has died and left her his homestead in eastern Montana. Determined to build a life and home of her own, Hattie sets out for Montana alone.

Kirby Larson obviously did an impressive research job for this book but she also manages to avoid the throw-everything-in approach which can haunt historical fiction. I really liked the fact that she did not feel the need to over-explain the homesteading system. I had no idea that homesteading had continued into the 20th century, so that aspect was fascinating to read about.

The characters, with the possible exception of Aunt Ivy, all felt delicately handled and well rounded. I still don't know what I think about Trask Martin. Which is to say, he felt human. I also liked the resolution of the story which wove a delicate balance between realism and hope.

I'm not wild about the cover though. The girl doesn't look like Hattie, nor does she look accurate to the period. I think it would have been more effective with only the sky and the land. But maybe that's just me.

And...I don't know why, but I didn't LOVE this book. I liked it. I would recommend it as a different view into a certain period of history. I liked a lot of aspects. I'd say it deserves its Newbery Honor. But something kept me from fully engaging. It's entirely possible this reaction is me and not the book. I really don't know.

Book source: my school library
Recommendation source: Leila


I always think of the most descriptive and fascinating titles, don't I?

[Actually, incidentally, titles are not one of my strong suits in any respect. When I took my two creative writing poetry classes, the professor would consistently tell me that the poem was good, albeit with some issues to straighten out, but the title...There was one poem that went through about three different titles and ended up going to back to an earlier one because neither of us could come up with anything better. Maybe I should just start going the Emily Dickinson route.]

So, here I am, back at school. This first week has been a bit crazy. Last week was crazy too, which didn't help anything. Getting ready for two weddings, attending one, flying 3,000 miles, spending a day with my family and then driving up to school for a NEW school year with a NEW roommate and a NEW setup (i.e. a university owned apartment rather than a dorm room). And up until last night I hadn't had time to make up a schedule for myself. I need a schedule. Somehow they ground me--even if I don't follow it at all.

I did get several books out of the library and am devouring them. Two read--reviews soon--and I'm in the middle of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks which is one of those books that I liked the first time but didn't LOVE. I'm having pretty much the same reaction.

So, I'm looking forward to being around more. Hopefully you are as well!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


A lemon tree in a pot, from an old issue of Just CrossStitch. [Actually, when I opened the webpage, the design I'm doing was shown at the top right corner.]
My weekly post is up at The IDDblog. It's entitled "How to read a poem, part 1." Take a look!

[And if you're a regular reader, comment! It's very sad when you write a piece and a week later there are 0 comments.]

The Transfiguration

Today is the Old Calendar feast of the Transfiguration, when Christ went on Mount Tabor with Peter, James, and John and shone like the sun. I didn't make it to church this morning because I haven't been sleeping well (which is such a terrible excuse). But I did the first canon for the feast this morning--it reminded me that even when I'm not in a parish situation (i.e., when I go back to school) I can still do things.

"When Thou was transfigured on Mount Tabor, O Christ Our God, Thou didst show Thy glory to Thy disciples as far as they could bear it. Let Thy everlasting light illumine also us sinners, through the intercessions of the Mother of God. Giver of Light, glory to Thee!" (Troparion of the feast)

I have a lot planned for today--hopefully it will be a productive and blessed one.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Small pleasures

[As an aside, before the actual post, I haven't been responding to comments recently. I'm so sorry about that! I really try to make it a point to respond to each, but this summer has been a strange one in terms of online activity and one of the things to get cut has been responses. Fall should see me returning to more regular posting and commenting habits.]

We had a glorious storm yesterday. Everything was turned to slate blue and green and grey. And the air was so full of the smell of rain. There's a great exultation in a really good storm that makes me go all Bronte--want to run outside and stand in it. Or maybe I mean Marianne Dashwood. I didn't, but I wanted to.

Instead I went down to the church bookstore and kept it open, although no one came but delivery men. Mused on the similarity of the bookstore to a fortress against the storm and the fittingness of the same. Connected it to Ely Cathedral--the Ship of the Fens. And then felt slightly embarrassed over the ramblings and Elizabeth Goudge-ness of it all.

The storm is gone this morning and it's currently sunny. I'm eating a fasting burrito (lettice, walnuts, onions, refried beans and salsa) and considering a Course of Action. I'm hoping today will be a good writing day (I've been revising my 2007 NaNoWriMo novel) but if it's going to be, I have to actually sit down and do it.

This has strayed a bit far from the title, hasn't it? The storm is a pleasure, the burrito is a pleasure. The writing is sometimes a pleasure, but most of the time it's just hard work. Harriet Vane and Lord Peter are a pleasure, but not a simple one. On the contrary, they seem to grow in complexity every time I re-read the wonder that is Gaudy Night. Which I did recently, in case you couldn't tell.

Friday, July 24, 2009

In which we travel to Chicago, perform a Winnie-the-Pooh skit, get sick, and have a grand time

[I should never promise to post anything because somehow it never happens]

Two Fridays ago, four of us drove from Indianapolis to Chicago. The three girls were in a car and John M. drove the bus. Our goal? The 9th annual My Life in Christ Youth Conference, hosted by the Bulgarian Diocese. We had never been in Chicago before, or at a Bulgarian parish (as opposed to an American convert parish) so there were lots of questions and unknowns.

Our drive up was largely uneventful except for a) construction on I 65 which delayed us by about 30 minutes b) the first toll outside of Chicago when the car went through an I-Pass lane without realizing it. We looked back and there was the bus, off in a different area. We spent several minutes trying to figure out where John was going and what route he might have been taking only to discover, when we called him, that he was being a good law-abiding citizen and paying the toll while we were being illegal and driving through the I-Pass lane. Whoops. [She later payed the toll online.]

The first weekend was spent finishing the conference planning (!). As usual, we had a great group of young men and women for staff members. This year felt particularly blessed as we grew together in Christ. Stephanie K's fiance, whom none of us knew very well, was there and was a wonderful addition to our group. Knowing him better helps us be happy about their marriage instead of apprehensive and he's just a great guy in general.

On Monday the other conference attendees began arriving. The first ones came in at 5 am. Our main speaker for the week was Fr. Moses Berry, an African-American priest who spoke about his family history and his own journey to Christianity and finally Orthodoxy. We all agreed that he's the best speaker we've ever had. Fr. Patrick Tishel also gave a talk on the foundations of the spiritual life, which I found very helpful, mostly because it was so concrete, as opposed to vague and theoretical.

The week was full of music. It always is, but this year even more so than usual. Barbershop quartets sprang up out of nowhere, dish washing turned into an opportunity to pull out old folk song favorites. The question of whether she's the belle of Dublin or Belfast was hotly debated.

The talent show, which is often a difficult area for me, was great. Very much on the short side, compared to the 3 hour marathon we had a few years ago. Some of the staff and a few others did a Winnie-the-Pooh skit which was so much fun! I was Eeyore. Kathryn and Mara and I had come up with most of the casting and it was really inspired.

Towards the end of the conference we were all getting sick. On Friday, Popadija Junia estimated the ill count to be about 20. After the end of the conference it's risen to at least 33. And of those 33, several have been told by their doctors that they probably have swine flu but no one's testing for it anymore so they can't say positively. But apparently it's the only type of flu going around at the moment. We are distressed. What good is it being sick if you can't get some news coverage out of it? I personally believe that I have the other strain that went around--a virus but not the flu virust at all.

Anyway, the conference was one of the best, in my opinion, even though we had to work with severe space and facility limitations. We really pulled together as a group and the spirit felt so much more unified than it has in past years. It was truly a blessing for me.

And then after the conference, some of the staff stayed an extra night and we went out to dinner and got stuffed animals form a claw machine. Mine is bright green and named Kiwi. Stefanida and John M went back in the bus on Sunday night and Kathryn and I drove back to Indy Monday, having stopped at the church to pick up John's drill charger which he accidentally left there. We arrived in time for dinner. After dinner John and Kathryn went back to Ohio by separate routes and the conference really and truly ended.

I can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Long time, no see

I will post more tomorrow about the youth conference. I will, I will, I will.

But in the meantime, let me just said that it was a wonderful, crazy, grace-filled week which took a bizarre turn when we got home and found out that the illness decimating our ranks is probably swine flu.

I'm not kidding.

Now, I personally am sick but only with a common cold, as opposed to 103 degree fever, nausea, coughing, and dizzy spells. But there are a large number of us ill (i.e., well over half the conference, or about 30 people) and I'd say half of those are exhibiting the severe symptoms. So pray for us. We're sick and we're mad that they're not longer reporting cases and therefore we can't get on national tv. (What good is all of us catching swine flu if we don't get some press coverage out of it? Seriously.)

And we're hosting a bridal shower Saturday. I will try to avoid infecting everyone with my deadly contagion (remember I just have a cold).

And I'm typing up church services for my personal use and realizing how complicated it all is. And reading a Rosemary Sutcliff book. And working on an embroidery project. And trying to get better.

More tomorrow (possibly with pictures!).

Friday, June 19, 2009

I haven't posted very much lately. Somehow I've been feeling dry, thoughtless--not in the usual sense of the word but in the literal one, without thoughts. I read what others say so well and think, "Yes! Me too!" But sometimes it seems like that's all I have to add.

It's been hot the last few days, which hasn't helped. And I've had some hard news--two deaths in the extended church family--and some difficult news--the job I thought I had may not be mine after all (Elizabeth, it sounds like we had somewhat similar experiences).

So, I'm reflecting. On the one hand, I feel duty bound to write something. On the to write when you have nothing to say?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Bits and pieces

Still no job although a few possible leads have turned up.

Yesterday was hot so I came up with a cool menu: green salad, pasta salad with onion, garlic, red pepper, broccoli, zucchini, and chicken marinated in soy sauce and peanut butter.

Tongiht I'm going to the church to help make chocolate chip cookies for a bake sale they're putting on this weekend. There's an art festival on one of the nearby streets that it's meant to coincide with.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Of happiness and joy

Rebecca wrote about Pursuing happyness the other day. It got me thinking about happiness versus joy. I've grown up in a church that distinguishes between the two. Happiness is an ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Joy is a spiritual emotion--not even an emotion really. A gift. One of God's graces which we never deserve but which he gives us anyway.

Happiness is transitory. It's great while it lasts, but when you're done with the ice cream cone, you're done with the ice cream cone. That's it. No more. Oh, sure, you could get another ice cream cone, but sooner or later you would run out of ice cream or cones. And you'd probably be sick to your stomach.

Joy, on the other hand, may leave you, but it is a reaching into eternity. It's quiet, reaching into the corners of your heart and filling them with something both heady and sobering. And joy comes regardless of the circumstances. I believe that it is one of the marks of a great Christian that they carry joy and peace in their heart no matter what the outward aspects of their life. I know that's challenging. Believe me, I fail every day.

Happiness is great. But you can find it anywhere. Books make me happy. Cooking makes me happy. Chocolate makes me happy. Dogs sitting on my lap (nice, small dogs, that is) make me happy.

But joy? I can only find joy with God. So I'll seek joy.

Thursday, June 04, 2009


Well, here I am! I arrived late last Wednesday and immediately went haring off to a wedding in New York state. The wedding was beautiful and we saw many old friends there. It was nice to be a part of two lovely people's special day. We had a nice drive too, going the back way on the way there.

Haven't found a job yet. Hopefully something will come along. In the meantime I'm reading fluffy books and doing some embroidery. Maybe after all of my excitement and dashing hither and yon a time of rest will be good for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


SO. Tomorrow I head off to the land of corn and soybeans, aka Indiana (INDIANA CORN! I can hardly wait!). I'm working on packing and getting last minute things done today. Of course I got distracted by an excellent book, The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios, which I've spent a good part of the morning reading.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I've been re-reading the archives here for the past day or so, in connection with a project which will eventually be revealed. It struck me how much enthusiasm I had when I first started this blog. How much I posted.

So. I'm trying to refocus. Trying to capture some of that enthusiasm again. I don't know how much I'll be online this summer--I'm staying with friends for most of it and I have no idea what their internet situation is like--but I will try to post here as often as possible.

There's a corollary to all of this pondering. I'd like to know what you enjoy seeing here. It's my blog, etc, etc. But the best thing about blogs, in my opinion, is the sense of community they can create. If there's something I've done in the past that you've enjoyed, let me know. If there's something you've been curious about, let me know. It's a two-way street, so to speak.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

If I'm not around very much for the next week or so, know that it is not because I don't love you all. I'm leaving this Saturday (it seems so unreal) and I've got finals this week until Friday. And then I'm spending a few days in Boston with a good friend and meeting up with some fabulous folks. SO. A busy few days.

I went into Foyle's today, on Charing Cross Road, looking for books for others. And then I bought Howl's Moving Castle for myself. *weeps* I couldn't help it! I love the new UK cover! It's so much better than any other Howl cover I've ever seen. I mean, the horror that is this or even this or the serious prettiness that is this? If they had any of the new Elizabeth Goudge editions, I would have been completely sunk. I won't buy a book for it's cover, but if I already want a book, a pretty cover will drive me to actually take out my pocket book. I mean, look at this. *drools*

Speaking of drooling, when we went to Cambridge we went inside the Trinity College Library. I was practically a weeping mass when we finished walking through. I WANT IT. And then we stayed for Evensong at King's College Chapel, and yes, it was the boy's choir and incredible. There may have been actual real tears involved.

And then the next day, a friend and I went to Oxford where we happened upon an exhibition in the Bodleian entitled "The British Choral Tradition." They had the original manuscript copy of John Rutter's "The Lord Bless You and Keep You," Handel's conducting score for the Messiah, and the oldest extant copy of Thomas Tallis's "Spem in Alium." I choked up, especially with the Rutter because that's basically my favorite piece of his EVER and at least one of you knows what a nutty Rutter fan I am. I just...yeah. It was incredible.

All of that keeps reminding me, even though I don't want to be reminded, that going back is really going to stink for awhile. I just have this horrible vision of waking up and going, "A new day! What can I do?" and then realizing there really isn't anything except...going to the library again? *sigh* I may be making too much of it, but I think it really will be rough for a bit.

I will be staying in Indiana for part of the summer with my godmother and it looks like I'll be able to go to one of the weddings taking place this summer. Glory to God!

Congratulations if you made it through this very rambly, all over the place entry.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Stratford pictures

My program went to Stratford for Shakespeare's birthday celebrations.

Shakespeare's grave.

Wisteria at Nash's house

Elizabethan knot garden at Nash's house.

Rosemary growing against the railings at Nash's house.

Apple blossoms.

More apple blossoms.

And more apple blossoms.

The garden at Anne Hathaway's cottage.

Apple trees at Anne Hathaway's cottage.

The cottage itself.

Roses growing over the cottage.

Lambs in a field near Anne Hathaway's cottage.

Scenery from the train.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How can I keep from singing?

I've been humming this a lot recently:

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation.
I hear the real, though far off hymn
That hails the new creation
Above the tumult and the strife,
I hear the music ringing;
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
What though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of Heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Visiting London, part one

I wrote this for the IDD blog but thought I would share it here. Part two next week.

I've spent the last three months studying in London as part of a program through my university. It's been an amazing experience and I'm so grateful for it. As a sort of natural result I've picked up a few tips for visiting London.

*Use Pret a Manger and E.A.T. These are both chains all around London which sell fresh, pre-made sandwiches. I'm not sure of exact prices at E.A.T., but at Pret you can easily get a fairly filling sandwich for under three pounds. The cheapest is the egg mayo sandwich at a pound fifty. They also have coffee, soup, and a few pastries. TIP: Try to ask for take-away. Restaurants are legally required to charge a special tax if you eat in.

*Go to the museums. London has some fabulous museums, especially the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and Tate Britian. On the history side, there's the V&A (Victoria and Albert) and the British Museum. There are smaller museums and galleries that you can look up if you're interested. TIP: Go early. British school children are required to visit the major museums so with them and tourists, it can get quite noisy later on. Most galleries open at ten so you won't have to get up at the crack of dawn.

*If there is a musical performance you want to attend and you don't have tickets, go to the box office about 9:00 the day of the performance. Most of the major companies have tickets that are only available on the day. I'm not sure if this is true for plays or not, but the TKTS booths operate under a similar idea. TIP: Wear comfortable shoes.

*If you're in London for any amount of time, you'll probably hit rush hour on the Tube. Be prepared to be squashed up against the person next to you. There's really nothing any of you can do about it. TIP: If there are no handholds available, lean against the wall of the car and plant your feet.

*People in London walk fast. Now, so do I. If you walk more slowly or if you stop in their path, they will just push past you. TIP: If you feel like you simply have to have a photo of X or if you're lost, try to stop at the edge of the sidewalk or Tube platform. Walking fast is an added bonus.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

From death to life and from earth to heaven

It's already dark when we gather in the cavernous church. A few candles punctuate the shadows. We are hushed, exhausted after our long vigil. Friday's mourning services and Saturday's long service and preparations have taken their toll. Like the myrrhbearing women we have gathered before the tomb of Christ. Unlike them, we know the story and in our hearts the first thrills of expectant joy begin to stir.

At midnight all the lights in the church are extinguished. We stand together in the darkness, waiting. Time slips away and none of us could say how long until the first glimmer of light appears. Dancing across the ceiling above the altar, it is the first sign that the event we are all waiting for has come to pass. The clergy begin to sing one of the great hymns:
Thy Resurrection, O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing. Enable us on earth to glorify Thee in purity of heart.

Quietly at first and then with more and more strength until, still singing, they come out with lit candles. We hold our own to out to them and in a few moments the church is a blaze of light and song.

We process around the outside of the church. Our candles usually go out at least once and in the middle of the night the air is sharp. Our singing is a little breathless, but heartfelt nonetheless. As we return to the front door we re-light our candles from our neighbors'. Then the clergy sing for the first time the greatest hymn:
Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tomb bestowing life.

As we enter the church suddenly everything is bright and full of flowers. The miracle has happened. Christ has triumphed over death and sin. We go through the rest of the service, pausing to cry out, "Christ is risen!" and to hear the answering, "In truth He is risen!"

Then, because we are Orthodox, we have a feast. Our whole being is rejoicing.

In the early hours of the morning we make our way home. We are even more exhausted but there is a smile on our lips and song in our hearts because the Day of Days has once more come and our Lord is Risen.

Originally published on the IDD blog.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I really am sorry about the lack of posting here. All I can say is that my time is limited and even more so now that I have only a month left here. So hold on for a month and hopefully when I'm home posting will be much more regular.

In the meantime, here are some posts I've written about my spring break experience:

Sunday, March 29, 2009

National Poetry Month

It starts tomorrow! Unfortunately, given that I'm studying abroad and am without my poetry books I won't be able to do my traditional "30 days, 30 poems" series. However, here are the indexes to the past years: 2007 and 2008. There are some wonderful poems there so I encourage you to take a look at them. And next year I will be returning with the series.

I will also try to post some poems here. However, I don't want to promise you 30 poems and then not be able to follow through with that.


Here are a few links I've come across in the last few days that I wanted to pass on.

Excellent quote from Fr. Alexey Young at Mind in the Heart.

A good reminder from Study in Brown.

RJ Anderson has a thought-provoking post on double standards and Christian censorship.

And on a similar subject, the Common Room has a post about categorizations.

A few of these I'd like to return to in more detail later. Remind me of that if they don't appear within a few days. :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

A few Edinburgh pictures

The view towards Salisbury Crags, from just outside Edinburgh Castle.

The Scottish War Memorial, in the castle complex.

Edinburgh, from the castle.

Still at Edinburgh Castle, St. Margaret's chapel, built by her son King David.

Out towards the city.

Castle walls.

The view from Calton Hill out to the North Sea.

The National Monument and North Sea.

A spire near St. Giles'.

St. Giles' Cathedral.

A tombstone in Greyfriars Kirk cemetery.

A broken urn in one of the enclosed tombs at the Greyfriars cemetery.

Door of St. Giles' Cathedral.

Stained glass inside. I believe it's not the original.

Fields, sea, and sky.

On the train back to London: a white house and the sea.

Sea and cliff.


Where have I been? Midterms and then spring break. A glorious week in Bath, Wales, and the Lake District. I'll be writing more about that later.

I've put up a new post on our trip to Edinburgh. If you're interested, you can find that here.

I find this news somewhat amusing.

And I've been terribly distracted by Anthropologie's website. Especially their dishes. I love dishes. *drools*

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Happy-making things

Tea and buttered toast

Sunshine on an English garden

Wind whipping the trees around (sorry trees)

A swingy, silky skirt

London post

There's a new post about my Friday up at my London blog, entitled Friday, or the Day of Awesomeness. Check it out if you're interested.

I'm hoping to get a review of RJ Anderson's excellent Knife up later today but we'll see how that goes. The homework, it is looming.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I'm feeling distinctly lazy this morning. Not a good thing, as I have things I need to do before I go to class. Maybe some tea and food would help?

Did some editing yesterday. It's a difficult process for me because it doesn't have the kind of high that the first draft does. It's much more slogging through, trying to rescue the bad bits and leave the good bits alone. And sometimes (as yesterday) it definitely gets emotionally wearisome.

Also, I have an essay due in my Shakespeare class tomorrow. Almost done but I have NO motivation to work on it. BAH.

I guess I'm feeling a bit isolated at the moment. Don't get me wrong, I love being here. But...I have no idea what's going on in the lives of a number of people. *sigh* I've not had very good experiences in the past with people responding to me if I leave them a message or note asking how they are and I don't feel emotionally up to it at the moment.

Just reflecting on some things. Now I think I'll go have my tea.

Monday, March 02, 2009


We're beginning Lent today. I suppose in a sense we began it last night, with Forgiveness Vespers and the first reading of the Prayer of St. Ephraim. But this morning is the first Lenten morning.

I'm trying to figure out ways to observe the season of Lent without observing the Fast entirely. (That is, not completely abstaining from meat and dairy.) While ideally I would be doing both, this year it's just not practical to try to observe the Fast all the time. I will be trying to eat smaller portions and also trying to avoid meat.

I'd like to take this opportunity to ask all of you to forgive me if I've offended or wounded you in the past year. Forgive me a sinner!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


AUGH. I'm trying to figure out spring break and while I now have a rough idea of itinerary, lodging is proving to be a massive headache.

In other news, we're off to Scotland in the morning! I won't be online again until Friday.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Book connections

One of the very neat things about being here is noticing connections to books I've read. The first one of these to pop out at me was when we visited the British Museum. In the section on Roman Britain I saw the tombstone above. Just a piece of stone with an inscription, right? Then I looked at the plaque next to it. This particular tombstone was set up to commemorate one of eight men to return from the Ninth (Hispana) Legion. The Hispana is, of course, the Ninth legion referenced in the title of The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

Sutcliff had a great gift for bringing history alive. So to actually see the tombstone of one of the returned soldiers seriously gave me shivers up and down my spine.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Oh, and...

I've just responded to various comments so if you had a comment languishing without a reply, it has now probably been replied to. (I really hate having to make these kind of announcements. One of the reasons LJ software > Blogger software, in my humble opinion.)

Err, anyone here?

I have been a terrible blogger recently. I apologize. I've been finding myself, oddly enough, without that much to say recently. I mean, I'm in London. It's amazing. There are only so many times I can say that without it sounding redundant. But I suppose that I should just keep saying it. Because it's true. It's amazing.

The other reason is that this blog has turned so much into a book blog and I haven't been doing all that much reading. Aside from gulping down Jane Eyre and Shakespeare for class, that is. A few pages of The King of Attolia here and there while on the Tube has been about it. It's a strange experience for me, the person who usually reads 25-30 books a month. I suppose in a certain sense it's restful. I've just written off February-April as non-reading months so I don't feel that pressure to keep reading that I sometimes do. But I miss it. I keep thinking of books that I want to read and then realizing that short of buying them (expensive and bulky) there's essentially nothing I can do.

I did get a copy of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell from Foyle's the other day (I would pick out the most enormous book to buy) so I have that to look forward to.

This has been a very rambly sort of post. Hopefully it's not been too utterly boring! And I will post more here, I promise. If you're interested and you haven't seen it already, you can read about a recent trip to Bath here.

Monday, February 09, 2009

London posts

I've got two new posts up on my London blog: Orientation! and Catching up. I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

January Reading List

The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf by Gerald Morris: A re-read. Love these books, especially this one. A re-telling of Arthurian legend, complete with dwarves, enchantresses, the Seelie Court, and hidden identities. Oh, and some great lines. “You’ve clefted my dinner!”

Friday’s Child
The Black Sheep
Devil’s Cub
Venetia (twice)
Bath Tangle
The Grand Sophy
Charity Girl
The Quiet Gentleman
by Georgette Heyer: Okay, so I’ve been reading a lot of Georgette Heyer for awhile now. Quick run-down: Loved Devil’s Cub, Venetia, The Grand Sophy. Was so-so on the others. The Black Sheep and The Quiet Gentleman were okay, just not amazing.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: This was the first book in a long time, maybe ever, that made me scared to get into bed at night. (I used to get scared by Agatha Christie adaptations and be afraid that someone would poison me while I slept. Yeah, I know, logic was not a strong point.) Anyway, back to the book. Basically I thought it was fabulous, a weaving of history and legend and flat-out fantasy. All in all, I thought Kostova did a marvelous job of evoking the different countries, many of them unfamiliar to most western readers. I personally had a little more familiarity with the places since most of them are Orthodox. Rila Monastery, for instance. And I realized that I’ve had the salty cheese pastry she talks about at a couple of points. It’s a story of love and loss and quite fascinating. There were a few moments when I could tell she was writing from outside the culture but these were minor.

Death in a White Tie
Grave Secret
Enter a Murderer
Night at the Vulcan
Killer Dolphin
Death of a Peer
by Ngaio Marsh: I’d taken a long break from Ngaio Marsh but was glad to discover that I love Rory Alleyn just as much as ever. Seriously, he’s up there with Peter Wimsey. *swoons* Oh yes, and the mysteries are pretty good too. ;) I really enjoy Death in a White Tie, Night at the Vulcan, and Death of a Peer. Enter a Murderer is early Marsh, and you can tell.

Deep Secret (twice)
Charmed Life
The Lives of Christopher Chant
The Merlin Conspiracy
by Diana Wynne Jones: So, I could have (and should have) written a whole post on Deep Secret because I LOVE IT SO MUCH. Maybe not quite as much as Howl, which is probably the epitome of Diana Wynne Jones. But Deep Secret…man, I love that book. Hence reading it twice. In one month. Basically Rupert Venables is amazing. And all the other characters are too, but I can’t say much more for fear of ruining it. The Merlin Conspiracy follows one of the main characters (Nick) from Deep Secret. READ IT SECOND. There are huge whacking great spoilers for D.S. all over the place. I loved it too, but I really wanted Rupert and *mumbledy mum because of spoilers* to be in it and they weren’t. Not even mentioned. Sigh. This was strange on one level but made sense on another because Nick is just about the most conceited being in the universe and it’s a bit out of sight out of mind with him. Charmed Life and The Lives of Christopher Chant, being my favorites of the Chrestomanci series (although The Pinhoe Egg is lovely too), were also amazing.

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck: LOVE this book. It’s a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago, which is also nice. But A Year Down Yonder…I can’t even tell you. It’s the story of Mary Alice who has to go live with her crazy Grandma Dowdell during the Depression. It’s funny, tender, tragic, and realistically awkward, all at the same time.

Skin Deep by E.M. Crane: A shy, lonely girl accidentally winds up helping a local eccentric and in so doing gains a new perspective on herself and the people around her. Put like that it sounds kind of hokey, but this was a good book. While Hyacinth is definitely an earth-mother type, she has the lifestyle to back it up, so I didn’t mind that aspect. There’s a little hint of romance for Andrea but it never is explicitly stated and it certainly doesn’t take over the novel. I enjoyed this and I’d recommend it, but it didn’t blow me away.

A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute: A friend recommended this to me. Actually, when she learned I’d never read it, she ran out of the room, returned with it, and stuffed it into my hands. A story of romance during and just after World War II although it was set in Malaya and Australia. I enjoyed seeing WWII fiction not set in Europe. And it was a very sweet story.

City of Masks
City of Stars
by Mary Hoffman: I didn’t get to finish the series! *pouts* The first book was excellent. The second was good. The third…oh, I don’t know. I guess by the third book I felt like Hoffman had gotten herself stuck in a bit of an Issues rut—separated parents and major illnesses are all over the series. It just ended up seeming a little…improbable after awhile. Still, I’d like to finish that third book.

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn: I have major mixed feelings on this one. On the one hand, I really did like the main character and the mysterious detective, Nicholas Brisbane. On the other, well, there’s a reason this was shelved in adult fiction. And some stuff I can handle and other stuff I can’t. So, approach with caution.

Book of Enchantments by Patricia Wrede: Short stories by the author of the Enchanted Forest Chronicles (LOVE THEM!) and the Kate and Cecelia books. I must have read this years ago because I remembered all the stories. For some reason my abiding favorite is “The Sixty-two Curses of Caliph Arenschadd.”

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer: I was telling my sister that when I first read this I said it was like “Jane Austen WITH MAGIC.” I didn’t know what I was talking about. This is really like “Georgette Heyer WITH MAGIC.” Seriously. If you like GH and you like fantasy, read this. Hey, even if you just like one or the other, read this.

Crown Duel
Court Duel
by Sherwood Smith: I really like this series for no good reason. Well, I guess I have two reasons. One, Meliara is a wonderful narrator who manages to be spunky without feeling like A Man In Disguise, which some overly spunky heroines sometimes end up as. Second, I love the hero. With a deep and abiding love. Even though I could see the setup coming from the first book.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale: A beautiful, beautiful book. Goose Girl is probably my favorite Hale, but Book of a Thousand Days is a close runner up, if it’s not tied. The writing is crystal clear and gorgeous. A re-telling of a Grimm’s fairy tale, transposed to a version of Mongolia.

Beauty Sleep by Cameron Dokey: Another fairy tale re-telling, this time of Sleeping Beauty. It’s interesting to compare this to Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, which I also love. This was MUCH shorter, but very well done. I liked the fact that I really didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next. At the same time, I think I would have liked a little more volume.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: Short stories by the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I would have re-read if I thought I had time. Clarke continues her amazingly versatile writing style in this collection. I think you pretty much had to read Jonathan Strange for most of these to work at all. But if you read and enjoyed that, I think you would like collection.

The Road to Yesterday by L.M. Montgomery: L.M. Montgomery=joy. Although…these are all set in Avonlea and several of them mention Walter and…okay, I hope I’m not spoiling Rilla of Ingleside for anyone, but Walter was my favorite Blythe child and I cried buckets of tears in Rilla, and whenever anyone mentions Walter my throat starts getting all tight and my eyes start watering and I have to blink rapidly so as not to start bawling.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett: This was a lot of fun. A middle-school grade mystery, I’d say. It was nice in that there were a lot of puzzles but even if you couldn’t figure them out, you could still read the story. However, the solution left me annoyed because I don’t see any way the reader could have independently deduced the villain, except by the old Unlikeliest Person trick. And even that’s shaky.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Orientation...or not

We were supposed to have orientation this morning at ten. But it snowed and they cancelled classes. No orientation today. It's supposed to snow more this afternoon so tomorrow is questionable as well.

I knew I was going to have adventures. I just didn't realize there was going to be snow involved.

UK Yahoo article on the snow.
Both runways at Heathrow Airport in west London have been closed, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights. London City Airport has also been closed.

I'm so glad I flew in yesterday.

A picture of the garden, taken from my window:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I made it!

Here I am in London! My host is really sweet and there are two other American students staying in the house. They share a room and I have one to myself. Everything is unpacked but we'll see if it all stays as it is now or if I change the set up.

I wrote a post about my travelling experience and will be writing another shortly.

My host has wireless so I'll probably be able to update pretty regularly.

Friday, January 30, 2009


I leave for London tomorrow. I can't believe it. I know that I'll be there as a sort of academic fact but I don't believe it in reality. I've got pretty much everything taken care of. I need to get some pounds probably some time on Sunday. Hopefully I can figure that out with Alice. And I need to call the bank and make sure they set up the right thing on my debit card. But other than that, I'm pretty much set. I've looked at the route I need to take to get to my orientation on time and it all looks feasible. So...I'm prepared and yet I'm not. It's a very strange feeling.

London blog post about leaving.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Brief update

I'm now on Twitter. I'm not exactly sure what I'll use it for, but I think it'll be for random little updates, possibly book or travel related. Anyways.

ALSO, I leave for London on Saturday. SATURDAY. I will try to knock out a few reviews and such before then, but I'm not promising anything. I will get some up sooner or later.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Where have I been?

Moving into a new house in the same city, with the help of a number of church friends. We couldn't have done it without them.

Spending time with friends. Watching "Life is Beautiful" (wonderful movie), playing Quiddler, talking.

Sleeping. Very important.

Unpacking and organizing. Also important, if not quite so much fun.

So, what with all of that and getting ready for London, I don't know how often I'll be posting. I'll try to be somewhat regular, but I'm not promising anything!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The December Book list

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: A re-read. Always fun. Highly recommended for all of you bookworms out there.

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: Not my favorite Streatfeild, but all of her books are comfort reads for me, so I’m not complaining.

Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: Reviewed here.

Silhouette in Scarlet by Elizabeth Peters: These books are definitely a guilty pleasure, but such a fun one! I think this is the one where John is introduced, but I could be wrong.

The Moon and the Face by Patricia McKillip: A sci-fi ish two book series by Patricia McKillip. Interesting but probably not my favorite books by her.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: I love, love, LOVE this book. Not so wild about the movie (although it’s okay).

Ombria in Shadow by Patricia McKillip: This, on the other hand, was beautiful. Absolutely one of my favorite McKillips.

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce: I read these in middle school and haven’t read them since. I thought I might as well give them another try. Major eh. I think it’s really Pierce’s writing style which tends to consist of short little scenes that aren’t very well connected. Also, I get tired of Young Girl Overcoming Oppressive Society by Proving She’s Just As Good as the Men (although Tortall is strangely enabling for an Oppressive Society).

Party Shoes by Noel Streatfeild: I don’t think I’d ever read this one but I ended up really enjoying it. While it maintains the shoes theme, it’s distinctly different than Theatre Shoes or Ballet Shoes.

Trojan Gold by Elizabeth Peters: Another awesome one. I can’t help it, I just love these books. John! Schmidt! Vicky!

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner: I think we all know how much I love these books by now, so I’ll just leave it at that.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce: Second in the Alanna series. I was massively confused at the beginning because I had assumed that it would pick up immediately after the end of the first book. Nope, it started a year later. Despite my abiding love for Jon, I just couldn’t like this book very much.

Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters: This book was pure gold (erm…). I mean, the other ones I enjoyed. But this one! Schmidt! The pure awesomeness that is Schmidt blew me away. I laughed myself silly in parts. And did anyone else catch the Busman’s Honeymoon reference?

The Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia McKillip: A children’s book. Not particularly my favorite, but nothing wrong with it.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie: Sigh. This is one of those comfort reads that I pick up when life is a howling wilderness. Can’t help it, I love this one. Although I quibble about the hero a bit more than I used to.

Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
The Hollow by Agatha Christie
Nemesis by Agatha Christie
Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie
The Murder in the Vicarage by Agatha Christie:
Oh gosh, I read so many Christies. I’m just lumping them all together. Besides Poirot Investigates which was decidedly EH, these are some of my favorite Christie novels and I enjoyed them ALL.

After Many Days by Lucy Maud Montgomery: Short stories. It’s not my favorite collection but it was to hand.

Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip: Lovely McKillip. One of those slightly dream-like stories that she’s able to weave so well. Also has a GORGEOUS cover painting. I envy her the cover artist.

The Richleighs of Tantamount by Barbara Willard: Slightly weird and lovely story of four children accidentally cast adrift in their ancestral home. Nuanced and beautiful.

The Collected Short Fiction of Ngaio Marsh: These were very fun! I’ve had a soft spot for Inspector Alleyn for several years and I’d never read any of these short stories. Several non Alleyn stories as well.

Unexpected Magic by Diana Wynne Jones: I’d read most of the short stories in this collection before, but the novella Everard’s Ride was new to me, and I loved it! It actually reminded me a bit of The Richleighs of Tantamount which I’d read just before.

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer: Mmm, Georgette Heyer. And I’m very fond of Sylvester, containing as it does an account of the trials of a young author.

The Foundling by Georgette Heyer: I like this one as well, mostly for Gilly who is probably the most sympathetic Heyer male ever.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones: I love Howl. He would drive me insane within a week, but I love him. And I love Sophie even more.

A Christmas Book by Elizabeth Goudge: I admit that I sort of skimmed this one because most of the selections were just excerpts from longer works and I’d rather read the longer works, thank you very much.

Ain’t Nothing but a Man by Scott Nelson: Nelson tells of his struggle to find information on the real John Henry. Fascinating story, and it would be especially valuable to anyone interested in the process of historical research.

The Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones: I’m in the process of getting my sister hooked on Diana Wynne Jones. She liked Howl but I’m hoping that Dark Lord did the trick. Then I had to read it myself, naturally. Hilariously funny and yet deeply serious at the same time.

The Chaos King by Laura Ruby: I read The Wall and the Wing earlier this year and I was hoping this was a sequel. It was. Despite all appearances, Gurl and Bug’s troubles have not disappeared. What with the sudden loss of the Professor, snotty classmates, the trials of fame, and numerous misunderstandings, they have a lot to deal with.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Christ is born!

Glorify Him!

Troparion and Kontakion (hymns) for Nativity

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, has shone upon the world as a light of wisdom, for by it those who worshipped the stars were taught by a star to adore Thee, the Sun of Righteousness and to know Thee, the Orient from on high. O Lord, glory to Thee.

Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One and the earth offers a cave to the Unapproachable One. Angels and shepherds glorify Him; the wise men journey with a star. For to us is born a young Child, the pre-eternal God.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

2008 in books, part two

Part one here.

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb. I can’t quite decide if I liked this book or not but it certainly stuck with me. And the writing was excellent. Some adultish content.

The Other Wind, Tales From Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin. Two new books about Earthsea. Both of them are very worthy additions to the series. And Tales from Earthsea is worth reading just for the introduction.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman. My first Neil Gaiman. I enjoyed it a lot—more than either Fragile Things or American Gods (which I didn’t finish). Definitely some adult content.

Larklight by Philip Reeve. A wild, wonderful book which includes giant spiders in space, a house named Larklight, and space pirates. All set in an alternate Victorian universe. Great fun. I need to get a copy of the sequel, Starcross.

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. A beautiful, thoughtful YA novel about the community of scientists at Los Alamos during World War II. Told from the point of view of two young girls, it brings up big, serious questions without ever feeling preachy or impossible.

A Tiny Step Away from Deepest Faith by Marjorie Corbman. The journey of a teenager from a sort of pantheism into Orthodoxy. Simply but very well told.

Farthing by Jo Walton. Set in an alternate universe where Britain made peace with Hitler’s Germany. Jews are mildly persecuted. It combines the atmosphere of a good 1940’s-50’s murder mystery with a chilling depiction of what might have happened. Really wonderful book, with some adult content.

The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart. An examination of the problem of evil in the world from an Orthodox perspective. I found it very persuasive. Personally, I would like to see a few more citations from the early Fathers, to round out the picture from an Orthodox point of view. But overall, an excellent explanation.

Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead, Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card. These were all amazing. I started Xenocide, the third in the Ender series and found it much less so. Of course, it was also finals week. At any rate, these three books are all fascinating and complex and beautiful.

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall. A children’s book which reminded me of the Melendy series by Elizabeth Enright and the Bastable series by E. Nesbit. Excellent, even more so than the first book (The Penderwicks).

Chalice by Robin McKinley. I loved this book, which I think you probably already know. Of course, it’s by Robin McKinley, who is right up there on my grand list of Favorite Authors. But it’s also a lovely story of hope and struggle in the face of overwhelming odds. And it has bees. Several people have complained that it ended a little quickly, and I can see that. But I loved it so much overall that I didn’t mind that as much.

Patricia McKillip. One of my new discoveries. She kept getting recommended so I thought I should check out her books. And lo, they are many and wonderful. She often has this extreme dream-like quality to her writing and stories which I really love. I could easily see this turning some people off, however, so she probably isn’t for everyone. My favorites follow:
The Changeling Sea
Alphabet of Thorn
The Book of Atrix Wolfe
Harrowing the Dragon
The Riddle-master of Hed, Heir of Sea and Fire, Harpist in the Wind
Ombria in Shadow
Winter Rose

Dragonfield by Jane Yolen. Short stories by Jane Yolen. I don’t think I’ve read anything by her since middle school, but I got this book semi-accidentally during my read-through of Patricia McKillip because she (Patricia McKillip, that is) wrote the introduction. A good short story collection is a wonderful thing, and that’s exactly what this one is.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Well, technically I didn’t read this. But I listened to Neil Gaiman read it, and that was just as good, if not better. I loved lots of things about it, one being that Silas’ full identity is never revealed. I mean, you’re given lots of hints, but Gaiman never actually comes out and says it. If you know that particular mythology you’ll pick up on it; if you don’t, you won’t lose anything. Definitely fantasy, slightly dark, entirely wonderful.

At the Corner of East and Now by Frederica Mathewes-Green. One of my new favorite books about Orthodoxy. As I said in my original review, you can read this as someone with a vague interest in Orthodoxy or you can read it as someone who’s grown up Orthodox and either way you can find something interesting and helpful in it.

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. This is one of those embarrassing “I had to read it for school but I still loved it” books. There are lots of those in my past. At any rate, I thought this was beautiful. It wouldn’t be for everyone—it definitely deals with an adult situation—but it will go on my list of Excellent Books.

2008 in books, part one

Every year my goal is to read 365 books. I have actually made this goal in the past. This year was annoying because I’m so close! 359 books. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite able to make it, mostly because of October and November.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. A beautiful, elegantly written story. If you have a prejudice against books with pictures in them, ignore it. Read this book. Highly recommended for everyone.

Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale. I loved Goose Girl by the same author but wasn’t as wild about the other books in that series. Book of a Thousand Days is entirely different and beautiful. Highly recommended.

Rowan Farm by Margot Benary-Isbert. Some years ago I read The Ark, by the same author, and loved it. I knew there was a sequel but I could never manage to get my hands on it. And then when my library system had a copy, I hesitated. What if it wasn’t as good? What if I wasn’t able to enjoy The Ark any more? Life would be tragic. Then I read this and thought how silly I was. Of course Margot Benary-Isbert would write an excellent sequel to an excellent book. Silly me.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves. I enjoy books about history, especially the ones that make it come alive for me. I’d never done much reading about Roman history, but this book more than made up for it. Boy, you couldn’t top some of the crazy things they did if you tried!

Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour, The Mislaid Magician by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. When I originally reviewed these I said they were like Jane Austen with magic, but now I see that I was wrong about this. They’re really like Georgette Heyer with magic. Quite excellent, especially the first two.

Court Duel and Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. These feel a little campy, or something, but I can’t help really enjoying them. Meliara is a great narrator, able to somehow be adventurous without ever feeling like she’s just a guy in disguise.

East by Edith Pattou. I enjoy a good fairy-tale re-telling. One of the ones I’d never seen done was “East o’ the Moon, West o’ the Sun.” Edith Pattou did a marvelous job in this book.

The Silver Branch by Rosemary Sutcliff. I love The Eagle of the Ninth, so when I found out that there was a sequel (of sorts) I leapt with joy! Rosemary Sutcliff is wonderful and so is this book.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. One of my new favorite books. Beautifully written. Somehow it’s never dark, even though it deals with some very heavy subjects. Also, has a gorgeous cover.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. Actually, I read most of the others in this series as well, but I think the first book was my favorite. Delightful series. Best described as Patrick O’Brian WITH DRAGONS which, believe me, was two points in its favor from the beginning. I should break down and read the last book or two but I don’t want to because I’ve seen the plot summary and I know it’s going to be painful.

Diana Wynne Jones. I read almost all of her books during 2008. Below are the ones I particularly recommend. If you like fantasy, give her a try. She writes both hilarious (Chrestomanci), heroic (Dalemark Quartet) and something in between (Dark Lord of Derkholm). My favorites follow:
Dalemark Quartet
Dark Lord of Derkholm
Howl’s Moving Castle
The Merlin Conspiracy
Fire and Hemlock
Mixed Magics
Unexpected Magic

Georgette Heyer. An, um, guilty passion of mine. Yes, I admit it. I love her books. I’ve read practically all of them now. The usual sort (the ones I enjoy) are frothy Regency romances. Nonetheless, they are quite clean and great fun. An Infamous Army is a little more than that, since it tells the story of the battle of Waterloo. It had me crying and laughing, in that order, on the same page.
Devil’s Cub
Friday’s Child
Lady of Quality
The Black Sheep
The Nonesuch
The Grand Sophy
The Foundling
The Talisman Ring
An Infamous Army

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. One of my favorite books from 2008. Clarke’s ability to create a believable world which includes real historical facts and a system of magic, a history of that system of magic, AND a fascinating and wonderful story amazes me.

The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby. Beautifully written story of a girl named Gurl who can become invisible and a boy named Bug who can fly. I really enjoyed this one and its sequel, The Chaos King.