Friday, February 27, 2009

I am Rembrandt's Daughter

When I select YA books to read, I usually try to check out books from different genres. I was able to find a historical fiction title on my last trip among the display of new books to the collection.

Lynn Cullen's "I am Rembrandt's Daughter" is in many ways a very simple tale of family, family secrets and growing up. Cornelia is the daughter of Rembrandt's common law wife, Hendrickje. We see the story through her eyes and are often taken back in forth in time by her memories of life before her mother died of the plague and the 'present.' The story contains a small mystery which is nicely revealed at the end, no whiplash here, as well as insights into the fickle nature of art lovers, trends and innovation.

Cullen's end notes explain her inspiration for the story as well as a list of factual and fictional characters. I was intrigued by her use of two paintings as a launching point for this story.

I enjoyed this book's quiet simplicity and Cornelia's story. The frequent flashbacks may bother some readers who don't like to be pulled out of the main story current, but bear with them, clues lie therein for the mystery.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

library, birthday, Rembrandt

I'm off to the library for a bit today and then I will head for home to make a birthday cake. My oldest has her birthday today along with our town's mayor and my college roommate. I sent a lot of well wishes via facebook this morning!

Right now I'm in the midst of cooking a big breakfast for my birthday girl, so this post will be short. Nope, I can't make sausage and eggs as well as blog. Just not that talented this morning.

I'm reading the next YA on my TBR stack. This one is called "Rembrandt's Daughter" and is about, yes, Rembrandt's daughter. It has been an interesting read thus far, but the jury is still out. Guess I will have to wait and see how it ends.....after the last book, I'm a bit leery of that rapid and tidy ending.

Happy Feb 26!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

whiplash endings

I'm a sucker for trilogies. I love series books. I enjoy reading about the same characters and traveling with them on their journeys.

When I found the latest book from Cinda Williams Chima in her "Heir" trilogy, "The Dragon Heir," I couldn't wait to get home and start reading it. Once I began the book I realized that it had been longer than I remembered since I read "The Warrior Heir" and "The Wizard Heir." I had a bit of trouble at the beginning remembering all the different characters and their histories. Gradually I regained my bearings with the larger story arc and settled in to enjoy the book. Chima has created an interesting world peopled with strong male and female characters. She piles on the conflict and the 'gray' area in decisions/choices. This book, however, has so many plot threads to tie off and so many characters to deal with that at times I felt like I wasn't immersed in the story and was watching the author put together a very large jigsaw puzzle. It was akin to observing her say, "oh, what about that character, I need to wrap up that story line...let's put him/her over there...."

I've always admired JK Rowling's deft hand in juggling so many characters through so many stories. It is quite a talent and when it works, it is seamless. When it doesn't work, you can see every stitch.

When I reached the books' last chapter I had a major moment of whiplash ending. The two main characters of this story successfully resolved their issues in short order and then in the final two pages the author did a line by line synopsis of every other characters' conclusion. It was rushed. It was hurried. It was contrived. It was..."Oops, we've reached 499 pages and time to quit."

I was disappointed in this final book. Chima has a solid talent for writing teen characters, but this last book didn't leave me with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

spring cleaning

To continue the theme I started yesterday, I think I've fallen victim to the spring cleaning bug. I have the sudden and quite unexpected urge to take inventory of the closets and cabinets, clear out items that haven't been used in the past 12 months and box them up for Goodwill. If garage sales weren't such an effort and if soccer didn't dominate every weekend, I'd even contemplate doing one of those in the next few weeks.

How is it that we gather so much stuff? Some stuff is given to us, other stuff we actually purchase ourselves. Reminds me of the old George Carlin routine about stuff and how we need bigger houses and garages and storage sheds to hold all of our stuff.

The downside to this is that when this mood strikes I've been known to dispose of things I later regret. Balance and moderation, even in spring cleaning or a ruthless purging of stuff? I'll keep you posted.

Monday, February 23, 2009

I've got nada

Maybe it is the week ahead, but for right now my poor brain is filled with so many random and totally disconnected thoughts that I can't even come up with a basic theme to blog about this morning.

Crazy as it sounds, I think I need to clean out our 'family' desk. By wrestling that beast into order, perhaps I can exert some control over the rest of the stuff that needs corralling.

Friday, February 20, 2009

time to pay the bill

I procrastinated all week and did not stick to my usual schedule. The result is that today I'm under the gun to get the house cleaned and in good order while also getting ready to send the oldest off to a soccer tournament, prepare for the youngest's birthday bowling bash and keep the middle one from feeling left out!

First up for today, however, is taking the dog for a nice walk in the sunshine. I wish it was a bit warmer outside, but at least the sky is clear and the wind isn't blowing too hard. I need the exercise as he does.

Then I'm off to the grocery store and then home to pay the bill I've let accumulate all week long!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


I dug around in the attic yesterday and found a few old photo albums from my college years. I don't have many pictures from my years at IU. Those were the days before digital cameras when no one took 500 pictures of just one event, previewed them, deleted the poor shots and then uploaded them to a computer to fix, crop etc. Nope. You had to buy film, load it in the camera and then once the film was used, take it to the drugstore to have it developed. Needless to say, my entire IU experience can be boiled down to just a few pages.

But, those few pictures brought to mind lots of events, fun and good times. I've reconnected with some of my old college friends/roommates via facebook. I've uploaded a few pictures from those years and we are having fun remembering all the fun we had! I hope they can find their pictures and share as well.

While the digital cameras are easier to use, something has been lost with that transformation from film to computer memory chip. It reminds me of the same type of loss we will experience as handwritten and mailed letters wane due to the prominence of email.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

short week and The Shack

My three kids had the past two days off from school. Although I hate the fact that the school year will not end until after Memorial Day, I did enjoy having a small break in the routine. I took the oldest with me yesterday to the library so she could work on an English project while I manned the bookstore.

Hopping day at the library....lots of folks using computers, using the reference collection (what is it about the third quarter in school that dictates research projects), and shopping in our bookstore. She managed to get several new sources lined up for her paper and I managed to sell close to $100 in only 3 hours. Success all the way around.

Today I should be cleaning the house and completing tasks I've postponed in order to do other things with the kids. Hard to get back to work after playing for four days.....ahhh, the dust will wait. I hear the books on my nightstand calling.

Speaking of books......a copy of "The Shack" appeared in our donations pile and I quickly grabbed it to read. I've heard a variety of opinions and comments on this book from store visitors, soccer parents etc. Anything that stirs the religion pot has to be read! So, I spent yesterday afternoon reading. This is not a well written book, but it does pose some interesting views/ideas on the nature of God, faith and how we interpret spiritual matters. I could immediately see why some local preachers, according to comments I've heard, are actually preaching against this book from the pulpit. Organized religion and the idea of "us vs. them" in faith matters takes a hit. The biggest sticking point for some is of course Jesus' portrayal as a Jewish carpenter, no he doesn't look like an Anglo-Saxon from central casting, who actually says that he isn't a "Christian" and his life was not meant to be copied! Talk about stirring the pot!! The main message of the book is love and forgiveness....and those two points, I hope, are difficult for anyone of any faith, to argue.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

what I noticed at B&N yesterday

I took the kids out to lunch yesterday at Red Robin for a special treat. We then went over to B&N since the youngest still had a gift card to use from Christmas. He debated for a while between getting a book and getting a game or puzzle. The store had several tables full of toys leftover from Christmas. He wound up selecting a logic game involving arranging planes on a grid like an air traffic controller would. He loves it, and his sisters are enjoying it too. Priced at half off, it was quite a deal.

What I noticed as we browsed the store were the number of 'sale' tables scattered everywhere. Usually they are clustered in one section by this point in the year. Not tables in every aisle between the book stacks. Lots of books marked down and lots of other 'stuff' marked down too. I picked up a gorgeous Ravensberger puzzle marked half off for a niece. I may head back and do some other pre-event shopping.

A sideline note here....our used bookstore at the library is thriving. One of the big used book dealers shops us to stock his own store in the major metropolis west of me. He is coming in quite regularly of late, almost every 3 weeks. This indicates to me that his business is up.

It is all about price point. At what price do you let go of the money in your wallet?

Just so you won't despair, we did buy two full price items at B&N....middle daughter had to have the latest in the Clique series and the oldest loves logic puzzles and found a book full of them.

Monday, February 16, 2009


The daffodils in the flower bed outside of my kitchen window are blooming. These flowers came a couple of years ago from a farm in a nearby county. My neighbor goes to church with the farmer and he invited her out to dig up buckets of bulbs as he was selling the farm to a subdivision developer. She brought back several buckets of them and shared with me. These flowers are a paler yellow than the daffodils I've purchased via Breck's and they also bloom much earlier. They are shorter and more dainty in appearance, very petite daffodils, but they propagate more quickly and are quite hardy.

I love spring flowers and wish tulips flourished here. Tulips bloom once and then as the soil doesn't ever get cold enough to keep them from rotting, they just don't come back for an encore performance. They are the one flower I miss from Indiana.

So, for now I will enjoy the first daffodils of the season and nurture the itch in my fingers to go and clean out flower beds, weed and spread a new layer of mulch.

Spring is just about sprung.

Today is my parents' wedding anniversary.....I hope their weather is as nice as it is here. Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Friday, February 13, 2009

here lies Arthur

Yep, I managed to finish this YA gem while the oldest was running 3.5 miles with her soccer team at one of our local parks.

What a wonderful read. I've never had the pleasure of reading a Philip Reeve book before this, but you can bet I will be looking for more of his titles. Beautiful writing, great characters, a tight plot, wonderful conflicts of all was like eating a really, really decadent dessert. Yum.

I've read a variety of takes on the Arthurian legend for a variety of age groups. I've read them where the story has been told by the women in the legends. I even think I read one where an animal told the story. However, I do believe this is the first one I read where Arthur is presented as a small time warlord who pillages the occasional village. This Arthur is short tempered, ego-centric and not noble at all. This Arthur will order his own men killed to protect his holdings.

The story is told by Gwynna, a young girl whose family is killed by Arthur's men. She escapes the carnage by swimming down the river and is eventually plucked from the waters by Myrddin (Merlin). He dresses her as a boy and proceeds to use her swimming skills to create the whole sword coming out of the water scene. Yes, she is the lake-lady. She befriends the boys in Arthur's army and gets a first hand taste of battle. Eventually nature intervenes and Myrddin realizes she must disappear and reappear as the girl that she is. When Gwynna comes back she is placed in Gwynnhfar's household to spy on Arthur's Christian wife.

I don't want to reveal more of the story beyond that point, but I will warn that this YA book doesn't shy away from infidelity, murder and even gender roles. It also touches repeatedly on the concept that history is basically comprised of the lies that we agree to....and the stories we tell which most often are not based on whole truths.

Two major thumbs up for this book. Bravo.

Happy Valentine's Day to all....hug your sweetie.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

short and sweet

If I don't post this entry right now, it won't get done today. So, here goes......

I started to read Philip Reeve's book "Here Lies Arthur" and I'm so intrigued with his alternative retelling of this legend. Very, very neat and very, very well done. I can't wait to finish it, but it may have to wait until Saturday.

I didn't work on MB yesterday.....kept thinking and rethinking about whether or not I want to ditch the opening and rework the whole thing. The thought kept me from opening that folder. Can you say frozen like a deer in the headlights?

Today is library day and tomorrow is the super busy day full of birthday happenings, valentine parties and pre-dance dinner and such.

Off to get ready to haul the middle daughter to school. They are tapping for Junior Beta and she has things to do...which means I have to be ready to leave in 20 minutes. Yikes!

Zero to sixty.........hang on for the next 48 hours, it is going to be a bit crazy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

let the work begin

I procrastinated as long as I could yesterday and even sat and ate half a carton of Ben and Jerry's before I sat at the kitchen table and clicked the Maddy Blue icon on my desktop. The last time I opened that folder was in September. Urgh, ick, bad, bad, bad.

Spiral notebook beside the computer and pen in hand I began to read and take notes. Cut that scene. Beef that scene. Add more conflict here, there, everywhere. Tweak that plot line. I worked through ten chapters and then the oldest arrived home from high school and it was time for the afternoon to begin.

Yes, I climbed back in the saddle and the WIP and I are moseying along down a new trail. Any one have any Epsom salts?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I took the leap and thanks to the help of the Food Network's website, I found a schnitzel recipe and prepared it for dinner last night. All at the table proclaimed it delicious. Of course I then learned that my hubby never ate schnitzel the whole time we were in Germany. Not sure where I was, but he always ordered something else. He loved what I made last night and gave it two thumbs up. It was very easy and in some ways very cathartic to make that dinner. Nothing like a hammer and a pork chop to take away stress! The photo is of my first schnitzel dinner, complete with spaetzel, which I didn't try and replicate last night, as well as Scott's veal dinner. His skillet meal in is in the foreground. I have photographic evidence of his non-schnitzel eating vacation even if I don't recall what he ate.

So, here is the recipe for schnitzel.....

Hammer thin boneless pork chops; I managed to make mine about a 1/4 inch thin. Season with salt and pepper.
Have one bowl each of flour, 3 beaten eggs, dried bread crumbs
Dredge pork in flour, then egg then crumbs. Set aside.
Heat oil and butter in skillet....let foam from the butter subside. Fry each schnitzel, just flipping once. They won't take long to cook. Remove and drain.

That is it....easy, easy, easy and very tasty. Off to look for the spaetzel recipe.....and if I can find a good jager sauce recipe to put on the schnitzel, that would be great.

Monday, February 9, 2009

the week ahead

Beyond the fact I'm committed to diving into the Maddy Blue manuscript this week I have a lot to accomplish over the next five days. Of course, the majority of the 'stuff' will happen on Friday and it will take all week to prepare for one day.

Friday is my son's 10th birthday and my turn to read in his class and take him lunch for his birthday. It is also the day the hubby and oldest daughter leave for the first soccer tournament of the season. Friday is my middle daughter's last middle school dance; the Valentine's Dance is the big social event of the year for her and before the dance I host a 'fancy' dinner. So, even though menu is complete, I need to do the shopping and the prep work that goes along with a four course meal served on china.

The rest of the week holds all the usual chores and duties; I just need to chart them out and come up with a plan for getting it all done in such a way that I have blocks of time to work on the manuscript.

Mix into this the fact that I'm halfway through the latest Stephanie Plum novel, "Plum Spooky" and can't wait to get back to reading it.

Sometimes the calendar hanging on my kitchen wall just isn't big enough. I've joked for years about having the hubby spray paint a wall in the pantry with chalkboard paint so I can have a wall sized calendar. It is weeks like this when I come close to making the trip to Home Depot, buying a few cans of the stuff and tackling the job myself.

But that would be just one more thing to do.

Friday, February 6, 2009

friday recap

The first week of any month is always loaded with Friends of the Library stuff. From our regular monthly meeting to all the normally scheduled events, I just plan on being in the building for at least a few hours each day.

So, next week I am going to attempt to stay away as much as possible. Why? Because it is time to sit my behind in this chair and start to seriously edit Maddy Blue. I've been noodling over the plot all week and have jotted down concerns, threads and possible solutions. I have a rough roadmap of where I need to go with this manuscript.

I wrote the darn thing and it is time to shine it up.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

the to be read pile

I made it to the library early enough to have time to pick out a few books. I settled on three, although I was sorely tempted to check more out.

"Here Lies Arthur" by Philip Reeve
"I am Rembrandt's Daughter" by Lynn Cullen
"The Dragon Heir" by Cinda William Chima

I believe I have only read books by Chima before, and this title is actually the third in a trilogy. I had to get the Reeve book, still love a good Arthurian story and the Cullen title sounded like a good historical story.

This week has been full of library, Friends and bookstore stuff. I've been there every day for at least 2 hours if not longer. Today and tomorrow will be no exception. Today is book sort and stock the store day and tomorrow I'm meeting our president and a former president so we can begin auditing the 'books'...the financial ones. Ick. Nasty chore, but must be done. Sort of like taking medicine when you were a kid, hold the nose and swallow it down!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

on writing

I picked up Stephen King's book "On Writing" at one of our book sales. It was a fabulous read, had lots of great advice and was of course, very well written. So, when I saw the following article, it tweaked my interest.

Hope the link works....Mr. King's comments about Stephenie Meyer are rather insightful.

I'm off to the library again today. It is one of those weeks when I'm there every day it seems. I still need to pick out a stack of YA books to read. Perhaps before the executive board meeting I can fill a bag. I ran numbers on the store this week. I hadn't tackled my excel sheets since, gulp, July. So, I brought them up to date and learned just how much the store has made since we opened. It is a significant number and it gave me a moment of pause. I'd just finished reading an agent's blog about the future of bookstores and publishing. The whole brick-n-mortar store versus online retailers; e-books versus print books; the disappearing midlist author versus the sure thing author. Here is the link for that article.....

Just like the old saying goes, the only thing that is sure in life is that nothing is sure in life.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the need to read

I should have checked some books at while I was at the library yesterday. I'm in a YA mood and may just fill a bag and then have at it. I did finish the book I took with me to Pennsylvania and have started the sequel. When I complete the second story I will post reviews for both of them at the same time.

I'm off for the bookstore today and I believe I should have a new trainee to keep me company during my shift. The store did really well last month and brought in over $3300. Woot!Wednesday is our monthly meeting and we have a special guest coming. Our mayor will attend and I hope the audience asks some good questions. I know I have a couple to ask.

I'm feeling the need to read the newspaper and the dog is sitting patiently by the front door so he can do his job and get his treat.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Although I was only away from hubby and kids for three days, it felt like ten days. I missed them so much. My travels went smoothly, no delays due to weather and clear roads from Pittsburgh to Waynesburg. I had a nice rental car, a decent hotel room and good company for my trip.

The funeral and all the other happenings went smoothly and I think Grandma would have been happy with the number of her family who were there to send her off. She had planned the whole thing years ago, from what songs were sung to what readings were read. She'd told them how she wanted her hair to look, what she wanted to be dressed in, what earrings to put on her.

I know for sure my control freak nature is inherited.

I'm very glad I was able to go. I'm very glad I'm home safe and sound. I had a lot of folks praying for me.....every denomination and variety under the sun. All those good thoughts worked.

My uncle will be stopping by on his way back to New Mexico. He should arrive tomorrow after he stops in at my parents' house on the other side of the state. I'm so thankful he made the trip and that we had each other to lean on during last week.

I have quite a bit of library and bookstore stuff to keep my spare moments occupied this week. I've let a few things slide and I need to play catch up.

The biggest think I've let slide is my fiction writing. That will also be fixed in short order.

Funerals have a real way of putting life into perspective. My grandmother was an amazing storyteller and I've known for years that if I was ever fortunate enough to be able to pen a dedication for a book, she would be mentioned. It is time to finish and send that WIP out into the world.