Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review: The Bridges of Madison County

I promised to post about a book that I didn't love. Or recommend. Or even remotely like.

"The Bridges of Madison County"
by Robert James Waller

   Published in 1992, The Bridges of Madison County is set in 1960s Iowa. It is the fictional account of an affair conducted between a lonely housewife and a traveling photographer. It was one of the best selling novels of the twentieth century -

Because there is no accounting for taste.

   Let me preface with the reason I picked this book off the Goodwill shelf. I have noticed that, to date, my reviews have been confined to the genre of Young Adult literature. I thought to myself, 'Self, you have no credibility without a wider palette!'  'Self!' I said, 'You must broaden your horizons! You must read books for grown ups!'

   And for the sake of this blog, I finished it. I read the whole thing, and wiped the tears from my eyes at the end. I could not stop crying -

   Because I couldn't stop laughing.

   I could go on about the boredom that settles into the reader's soul when the only driving force of the plot is a sexual tension based entirely on animal magnetism. This is not a couple reunited, for a missed connection, or a slow awakening. It's a, 'I'm bored, you're bored, let's do this'.
   I could go on about the lack of motive, the unrealistic passion of the protagonist when weighed against her claim to love her family (which is somehow more important in the end, but not in the beginning?).
   I could get snarky about the, ahem, 'adult' moments.

   But what I really took away from the book was the real reason I adore young adult literature. Young adults, you see, are not naive and unaware of what is important in life. They understand complexity, and they can weigh conflicting needs and desires. Young adults are able to recognize short term urgency and long term importance. A good YA book will offer real dilemmas, real consequences, and measurable (positive or negative) character growth.

   What this book, with its claim to Real Grown Up Fiction, did was appeal to the most base instincts of the average, world-weary adult. It is an escape, the most purely selfish act that an adult can commit. Nothing about either character indicates their hope of pleasure for the other person, or anything more than a hormonal affection. It is the account of four days spent in complete self-absorption.

   I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. Then I wanted the two hours of my life back.

   In Summary? It's a D minus. Why not an F, you ask? Because I always give credit for correct punctuation. I'm not unreasonable. :)


Next week! Review and Book Giveaway!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Until That Distant Day - COVER REVEAL!

Paris, France

Colette DeMer and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.
Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?
Coming April 25, 2014


Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

(P.S. - She's also my HERO. :)

Opening of Chapter 1

I was born believing that the world was unfair and that I was the person to make it right.
One of my earliest memories is of Papa setting me atop a nail keg in the forge; I could not have been older than two at the time.
“Colette, give Papa a kiss,” he said, tapping his cheek.
“Come and sit on my knee.”
My response to every order was the same, asked with genuine curiosity. I did not understand why his watching friends chuckled. Why should I press my lips to Papa’s sweaty, prickly cheek? Why should I hop down from the keg, where he had just placed me, and run to sit on his knee, a most uncomfortable perch? I felt justified in requesting a reason for each abrupt order, yet he never bothered to give me one.
Mama, when thus questioned, provided an answer in the form of a sharp swat. This I could respect as definitive authority, although the reasoning behind it remained dubious.
My little brother Pascoe was born believing that the world was his to command. As soon as he acquired his first vocabulary word, “No,” he and I joined ranks in defiance of established authority.
Many impediments cluttered the path of destiny in those early years: parents, thirteen other siblings, physical ailments, and educational difficulties. And as we grew into adulthood, more serious matters intervened, even parting us for a time. But I will speak more of that later. For now, let me assure you that, no matter the obstacles thrown in our way, our sibling bond seemed indissoluble; the love between us remained unaffected by any outside relationship.
Pascoe and I were young adults when revolutionaries in Paris threw aside the tyranny of centuries and established a new government based on the Rights of Man. From the seclusion of our little village in Normandy we rejoiced over each battle fought and won; and when our local physician, Doctor Hilliard, who had first mentored then employed Pascoe for several years, was elected as deputy to the National Assembly from our district, a whole new world opened at our feet.
My story truly begins on a certain day in the spring of 1792, in the little domain I had made for myself in the kitchen at the back of Doctor Hilliard’s Paris house. Perhaps it wasn’t truly my domain, for it did not belong to me. I was merely the doctor’s housekeeper and could lay no real claim. Nevertheless, the kitchen was more mine than anything had ever been, and I loved that small, dark room; especially during the hours when sunlight slanted through the bubbled-glass kitchen windows, making bright, swirling shapes on the whitewashed walls, or each evening when I arranged my latest culinary creation on a platter and left it in the warming oven for the doctor to discover whenever he arrived home. That kitchen was my home. Not the home I had grown up in, but the home I had always craved.
On that particular day, however, it did not feel the safe haven I had always believed it to be. Loud voices drifted down from the upper floor where the doctor and Pascoe were in conference, disturbing my calm. When I closed the connecting door to the dining room, the angry voices drifted in through the open kitchen windows. I couldn’t close the windows; I might smother of heat. Yet I needed to block out the sound, to make it stop.
So I slipped a filet of sole into a greased skillet and let it brown until golden on both sides. The hiss and sizzle did not quite cover the shouting, but it helped. Then I slid the fish onto a waiting plate lined with sautéed vegetables fresh from my kitchen garden; and I topped all with an herbed wine-and-butter sauce. A grind of fresh pepper finished off my creation.
But my hands were still trembling, and I felt as if something inside me might fall to pieces.
Pascoe often shouted. Shouting was part of his fiery nature, a normal event. He shouted when he gave speeches at section meetings. He shouted about overcooked meals or inferior wines. He shouted when his lace jabot refused to fall into perfect folds.
But never before had I heard Doctor Hilliard raise his voice in anger.
Doctor Hilliard was never angry. Doctor Hilliard never displayed emotion. At most, he might indicate approval by the glance of a benevolent eye or disapprobation by the merest lift of a brow. Yet there could be no mistaking the two furious voices overhead. I well knew Pascoe’s sharp tenor with its sarcastic edge; but now I also heard the doctor’s resonant voice crackling with fury.
I managed to slide the hot plate into the warmer alongside a crusty loaf of bread and closed the door, using a doubled towel to protect my shaking hands.
Behind me the connecting door was flung open, and Pascoe burst in as I spun to face him. “Gather your things; we are leaving,” he growled. His eyes blazed in his pale face, and the jut of his jaw allowed for no questions. He clapped his tall hat on his head as he passed through the room.
I donned my bonnet and sabots and picked up my parasol. “What has happened?” I asked just above a whisper.
“I’ll tell you once we are away from this house.” His lips snapped tight. His chest heaved with emotion, and he grasped a portfolio so tightly that his fingers looked white.

I could not recall the last time I had seen my brother in such a rage.

I can't wait! Can you? Learn more HERE.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"The Thief" by Megan Whalen Turner

    [I hereby promise that next week, I will review a book I didn't like, just so you won't doubt my critical abilities. But this is not next week. This is the week I give you "The Thief", the corporately-adored favorite of my husband and me.]

 "The Thief"was published in 1996, and was made a Newberry Honor book, an ALA Notable Book, and the ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

   Pol handed me the pry bar, and it was a comfort to have it in my hand, even though I could be sure that there was nothing living in the temple. You can't keep watchdogs someplace that's underwater all but a few nights of the year. Snakes, though, I thought. Maybe you could keep snakes.
   I waited another half an hour until the water flowing through the slits in the doorway had lessened its force. Then I stepped into the pool. Standing up to my ankles in water, I turned back to ask the magus, "Do you know if anyone has tried this before?"
   "I believe that several attempts have been made," he said.
   "No one came back."
   "From inside?"
   "No one who has been inside has returned; no member of any party where someone went inside has returned wither. I don't know how it might happen, but if you fail, we are all lost together."

  How's that for an excerpt?!

  One of the greatest frustrations of my life is that Megan Whalen Turner is such an incomparable craftsman that I must wait at least four years for any new book. But the wait is always worth it.

   I have read/experienced "The Thief" three times now, and I love it more and more. The first time, I was frantically planning a wedding, and my fiance' would keep me company by reading aloud while I hand-cut 200 snowflakes -- --

    -- an aside: Don't get married too close to Christmas. It's cold. And paper snowflakes do not have to be unique. Just buy the big bag at the craft store and save yourself the hair-wrenching work.

-- where was I? Right. My fantastic fiance' read the book to me, and I would cuddle next to him and be swept away from the stress into the world of Gen, the thief. Gen, and the magus of Sounis, and their secret destination. A world ruled by a pantheon of Greek-like gods, a world of mountains and olive groves and the stories of a rich oral tradition told around the campfire. A world that evokes all the glories of the Aegean Peninsula while mixing such brilliant original details that I have no desire to visit Greece. I want to visit Attolia.

    What I remember most vividly about that precious time shared with my now-husband was my shriek of outrage whenever his voice was tired and he closed the book. And then I would demand, "How does she (Turner) do that?! How can it be so painfully slow, and yet I'm hooked? There's  nothing happening, no action, and I am still desperate for what happens next!!"
    He agreed. Which is how we became addicted and ended up taking her books on our honeymoon (but that's another story).
    As time has passed, I find myself going back to these books again and again. Every time, I am more impressed by the careful balance of characters and the elegance of her plotting. Ms. Turner is a master of the slow reveal, so much so that I am always looking forward to the book's ending - even when I am already aware of what will happen!
    And while I am waxing eloquent on this amazing work, let me mention my favorite part of this book: the untrustworthy narrator. [Please note that I did NOT say the 'unreliable narrator', as that is a term applied by cool English majors who thereby indicate that a storyteller's own bias or ignorance can effect the story's veracity.] Megan Whalen Turner does not place you in the hands of a narrator who is unexpectedly wrong, delusional, or even deceitful. She places you in the hands of a mastermind. 

    And it is breathtaking.

    You can read it, shriek, go back, read it again, and still shriek. And you can know its characters in and out, their secrets, their motives, their plans, and still ...
     It is breathtaking.

     Be forewarned - you may need to cancel all other plans once you begin this book. You won't want to put it down.





Monday, September 23, 2013

"Goddess Tithe" Cover Reveal!!

The Vengeful Goddess  Demands Her Tithe

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy 

on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil 

goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home.

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in 

clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at 

nothing to claim her tithe.

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has 

become his friend?

Dearest Readers,

    Let me introduce you to my absolutely-positively-most- favoritest author!

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including  Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and  Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and  Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.
  And I can't tell you how excited I am to host this event on my blog because I am her biggest fan. How am I her biggest fan? I named my only daughter after her. Not kidding. 
  Anne Elisabeth is the most exciting young author on the YA market, and I am so excited to share this moment with you: The cover reveal of her newest addition to the critically acclaimed Goldstone Woods series - GODDESS TITHE!!

That's right, ladies and gents - it has illustrations! (GORGEOUS, isn't it?) And more than that, the author herself talks about the creative process!!

Anne Elisabeth on the cover design: (See above)

I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (, whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.

The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I 

nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

Anne Elisabeth on the illustration:

There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.

I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.

Excited? Enthralled? Desperate to read it this very day??? Me too. So our generous author has provided this excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring: 

“And what do you make of him yourself?”

Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a 

stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”

“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned 

upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his 

fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.

The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I 

believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware 

of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”

 Munny made neither answer nor any move.

“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But 

he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We 

will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”

“I hope—” Munny began.

But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of 

voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door 

accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”

The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. 

“We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door 

Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, 

even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on 

the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to 

follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.

“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.

“It’s a sign!”

“She’s warning us!”

“It’s a sign, I tell you!”

Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, 

using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high 

enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the 

ocean. And he saw them.

 They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, 

even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, 

hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.

They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.

Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the 

frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, 

reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.

“I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring 

wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught 

in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”

There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not 

understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.

But it was.

Coming November 12, 2013!!!! 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: 'Dark Lord of Derkholm' by Diana Wynne Jones

   'Dark Lord of Derkholm' was published in 1998, and received the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature in 1999.

   A portal is opened into Wizard Derk's fantastic homeworld, and a scheming Mr. Chesney from the other side contracts the entire population into a live-action tourist destination. As part of Pilgrim Parties guided by Wizards, the tourists fight in planned battles, are captured by the Glamorous Enchantress, escape from besieged cities, and destroy the Dark Lord!  (Spoiler: this year, it's Derk).

   It's the perfect tourist experience and the perfect cash cow for Mr. Chesney -
                          perfect, that is, until this world's inhabitants have had enough.


   I'm not talking about the YouTube giggle fests (although I do love a 'Twilight'-mocking lipdub ). I'm talking about the subtle art of satire, the graceful use of irony, and the power to make a reader care while making them laugh.

   And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

   'Dark Lord of Derkholm' does more than poke fun at an insane bureaucracy in a fantasy world (the Dark lord is required to produce 109 specialty objects which can be found, deciphered, and then used by tourists in his demise), or the long-standing traditions of magical figures (the Glamorous Enchantress's contractually-obligated revealing wardrobe causes a great deal of consternation). There are flying pigs, (a magical experiment by Derk), unreasonably beautiful elves (who take themselves too seriously), a very grouchy dragon (woken from his 300 year old sleep), and my favorite, carnivorous sheep ("I got them a bit wrong somewhere", Derk admits).

    But more than these wonders, the book is a study in family dynamics (the griffins and children are raised side-by-side), and the difficulty of growing up coupled with growing into your own person. Diana Wynne Jones is a master of the omniscient point of view, brilliantly investing the reader in several different protagonists while keeping all the potency of action in the plot.

    And it is such a glorious plot.

    Be forewarned, that Ms. Jones is well known for treating her Young Adult readers as human beings with their own imaginations. She wastes no time explaining why a magical world operates the way that it does; she respects the reader enough to assume that they will:

     a.) know already or
     b.) make up a good reason for themselves!

   While her details will keep you gasping in awe at iridescent dragons and collapsing citadels, she never crosses the line between Author and Reader's Guide. I am always refreshed by her style, but I know that some readers may find her worlds confusing, so I think it only fair to mention it. But allow me to encourage that you try her anyway. The fact is, I find that not understanding every tiny point is a little more like Life, and makes all the Fantasy feel even more like Reality.

   And that is why she is one of my Beloved Authors.

   This review advises you to to buy 'Dark lord of Derkholm' and keep it handy for the next time you need a breath of fresh air, a hearty laugh, and a wonderful ending.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: 'Wednesday Wars' by Gary D. Schmidt

   'The Wednesday Wars' was published in 2007, and awarded a Newbery Honor Medal in 2008.
    (It lost to 'The Graveyard Book' by Neil Gaiman, which will forever remain a tragedy in the history of Young Adult literature. That's right, Newbery committee. I said it. I'm not afraid of you. Much.)

    Disclaimer: I hate reviews that spend all their time explaining the plot and characters. I can read the dust jacket if I want it ruined for me, thanks. I prefer to review the writing, the pacing, the artistry of the author and leave the glories of the book to the reader. So for all the reviews on this blog, you can expect that I'll give you the basics and (hopefully) convince you to read it on its greater merits.


   'The Wednesday Wars' is arguably the greatest American coming-of-age story produced in this century. The setting is 1967 Long Island, where a seventh grade boy's perspective paints the trials of middle school, and the travails of the world (the Vietnam War, protests, assassinations) around him. Most important is the complex relationship with the English teacher who introduces him to Shakespeare.

   Also, there are two enormous pet rats named Sycorax and Caliban. What more can you want?

   Gary D. Schmidt is one of my favorite living young adult authors. What sets Mr. Schmidt a world above his contemporaries is his incredible ability to capture the voice of a protagonist so completely. His use of language never stumbles into angst, while all the time pulling the reader so deeply into the heart of the character that every emotion is felt, not dictated.

    Fine. I'll admit it. I've cried both times I've read this book.
    And that's incredible, people, because I don't cry over books. I don't cry over movies. I can enjoy them, and engage both 'happy' and 'sad' without ever shedding a tear. But I have yet to escape a Schmidt work without bawling unashamedly, and - this is important - it isn't because the books are sad.
   'The Wednesday Wars' isn't sad, and isn't happy.
    It is true.

   And the glory of this man's writing is in his use of the clear and unexpected. Where certain authors insist on visually assaulting you with their every imagined color (*cough* *cough* Suzanne Collins), or clobbering the reader with a blistering pace (because YA readers are easily bored?), Mr. Schmidt's work is craftsmanship. His mastery of fresh language reminds me of John Donne's Holy Sonnets; English Literature buffs will tell you that the oft quoted No. 14 is exceptional because it uses secular language to describe the divine and sacred. The unexpected, the mixing of the incredibly dissonant, is what makes both authors unequaled.

    There is a moment in 'The Wednesday Wars', when a casualty of the Vietnam War hits close to home. Holling Hoodhood, the protagonist, is in the schoolroom doing chores while his teacher grades papers. The door opens and:

   Mrs. Baker stood. "Oh, Edna, did the find him?"

   Mrs. Bigio nodded.
   "And is he..."
   Mrs. Bigio opened her mouth, but the only sounds that came out were the sounds of sadness. I can't tell you what they sounded like. But you know them when you hear them.
    Mrs. Baker sprinted out from behind her desk and gathered Mrs. Bigio in her arms. She helped Mrs. Bigio to her own chair, where she slumped down like someone who had nothing left in her.
   "Mr. Hoodhood, you may go home now," Mrs. Baker said.
   I did.
   But I will never forget those sounds.

   Now look back over that excerpt, and search.

   What word do you NOT see?
   There is grief, unbearable agony, and the gut-wrenching bereavement that follows you even after you've turned the page. Did you feel it? Did you get goosebumps?

    But the word 'CRY' is not there. The words 'SOB' and 'WEEP' are not there.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Gary D. Schmidt is unequaled. It's why you must read this book, because there is another moment, a glorious moment, when he uses the same idea to convey the opposite emotion:

   Think of the sound you make when  you let go after holding your breath for a very, very long time. Think of the gladdest sounds you know: the sound of dawn on the first day of spring break, the sound of a bottle of Coke opening, the sound of a crowd cheering in your ears because you're coming down to the last part of a race - and you're ahead. Think of the sound or water over stones in a cold stream and the sound of wind through green trees on a late May afternoon in Central Park. Think of the sound of a bus coming into the station carrying someone  you love.

    Then put all those together.
    And they would be nothing compared to the sound that [character] made that day from somewhere deep inside....

    Did you hear it? Did you see it? And did he ever say that the character was happy?

    He didn't have to.

    That's why the book is genius, the author is my hero, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.


    Why are you still reading this?




Sunday, September 1, 2013

'Oywen' & 'Ray'

“We have not long to live in any event. Let us spend what is left in seeking the unpeopled world behind the sunrise.” 

- C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

     When I was a kid, I used to wake at sunrise and sneak out of the house with my best friend. We would  balance across a log bridge and scramble into the woods just as golden light pierced the trees and mist. We carried a bit of breakfast, a thermos of English Breakfast tea, and a book.

     Once, it was 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'.
     Then, 'A Wrinkle in Time'.
     And so many others.

     We made our way by secret signs marked on the trunks to our hallowed sanctuary: the Fallen Tree.

    The Fallen Tree was no ordinary tree. It was enormous, at least a yard in width, and it had been an ancient giant of the forest for so long that no other tree had dared to grow nearby. The clearing all around was a monument to its greatness, though the younger saplings showed no respect. We used their waving tops to guide us as we climbed it, for the Fallen Tree had cracked neatly in the middle and formed into a long, ascending path. It was just wide enough at the top for a body to perch.

    I remember the crackling bark against my shins when I sat cross-legged at the top, twenty feet up, and the ungainly manners at our precariously tilted breakfast.  'Oywen' and 'Ray' would share tea and savor the perfect silence --- I mean, the raucous sounds of North Carolina bugs and birds under our own constant chattering.
    We were girls, after all. 
    But when the crumbs were wiped away, and at least three items had fallen from the tree into the brush below, we would begin reading aloud in turns. At the most wickedly thrilling chapter endings, we would shriek and pass it to the other saying, "Hurry! Hurry! Read faster!" And when the long passages that described other worlds went on and on, I would lean back on the trunk and stare up at the brightening sky and wonder.
    I wondered whether I would find a wardrobe and step away into the fantastic.
    I wondered what sorts of worlds waited, and whether I would be brave enough to defeat IT. 
    I wondered how anyone could put pen to paper and create an aroma, a salty taste, or a shiver of goosebumps - and I wondered if I could be one of those Writers.

   I still wonder.

   But I think I might give it a try.
   I already write about my life as a walking comedy, and if you need a laugh, you can indulge in my daily catastrophes. But here, I am 'Oywen', the tree-climber, the reader, and, hopefully, the Writer. 

  Notes, notations, reviews, and thoughts to follow.

P.S.   'Ray' is already an award-winning author, and if you haven't read her Tales of Goldstone Wood, then go right now and buy them, find a tree, and don't leave it until you've read them all. (Better take a sandwich and some tea).