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!