Monday, January 31, 2011

lady lazarus

Book genres are an interesting thing. When I was little, I loved to read anything classified as fantasy. Then at some point, I began reading novels that fell into a darker fantasy vein. Monsters became more intriguing than kind hearted fairies.

I guess I wasn't alone. Urban fantasy burst onto the scene as a subgenre, but has become the driving force in the larger sci-fi/fantasy realm of publishing. Urban fantasy tends to be darker, grittier and the fairies even became bad. 

I stumbled across another new trend in urban fantasy when I picked up Lady Lazarus by Michele Lang. Classified as historical urban fantasy, this novel features a hereditary witch who happens to live in Budapest prior to WWII. Hitler figures into this dark book as well as witches, vampires and demons. I really, really liked the concept, but at times wished the book went a little bit deeper. I wanted to 'play' in this world more than the author allowed. It was a good story. I wanted more. I hope there is a sequel and Lang is allowed to develop this 'world' with more depth and the characters evolve a bit.

In some ways this book could have been classified as a YA novel, and at times it read more for that audience than an adult fiction piece should.

But, those reservations aside, I would ready more from Lang and I'm interested to find out what happens next to Magda Lazarus.

Friday, January 28, 2011

25 years ago today

People tend to remember exactly what they were doing when tragedy strikes. When the tragedy is of national importance, that day is burned into our collective memory and provides a common ground that other events just don't foster.

I remember standing in line at the Teter-Elkin dining hall when the news about the Challenger explosion was announced. I remember attending a lecture regarding media coverage of the event. I remember one of the local newspaper editors gloating over a colored picture of the explosion versus a black and white photo. I remember the laughing that followed.

I remember feeling sick.

I've never held a job in my 'field' of education. I switched my emphasis from broadcasting to magazine writing during my next advisory session.

Major events and their aftermaths change us. Our outlook is changed, sometimes for long term, sometimes for a few weeks or months. And it never hurts to reflect back, when those anniversaries roll around, on who we were at that moment and to evaluate who we are now.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

what to wear...hosted by Helena Bonham Carter

I adore Helena Bonham Carter. The woman has incredible talent. She did a fabulous job in "The King's Speech." She IS Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter movies. I've admired her in all of the other films she's done as well.

And she can work the red carpet at awards shows.

Of course all the fashion pundits put her on the worst dress list, year in and year out. I think she is laughing all the way to the 'bank'.  I don't think she gives a flying flip for looking elegant, or stunning, or breathtaking. I think she enjoys costumes, drama, fun and giving them all something to talk about.

The Vivienne Westwood number she wore to the Golden Globes was a hot mess and she took it one step further with the mismatched shoes. Brilliant! The big sunglasses were inspired. Fabulous! The ratty hair...hilarious!

I can't wait to see what she wears to the she can top that get-up and give them all something more to talk about.

Strut your stuff, Helena! All the world is your stage!! She seems to be one actress who doesn't take her role in the public eye too seriously....but I have a feeling that when the cameras are rolling, she is a consummate professional. And, that my friends, is where it matters.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

mid week melt

Yes, the snow came in last night, preceded by a very rainy day. So, while the white stuff coated all the grassy areas, it did not stick to the streets and the temps never fell to the point where ice formed. The streets and sidewalks are dry this morning. The sun is trying to peek through the clouds as the front moves east. It looks like we could have a pretty morning, made all the better for me as the kids will be attending school today.


Not sure what I will be doing today as I had mentally prepared to have them all underfoot yet again. Now I have a 'free' day to enjoy.

I did start to watch a BBC miniseries via Netflix yesterday. I just love watching those British productions and it is always fun to see actors from major movies like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings playing other roles. I may watch another episode, I may read a book, I may go out to lunch.

The sun is shining. The day is full of possibilities!  Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

what you leave behind

I've started my second year as president of the Friends group. I'm already thinking about my transition out of the group. I guess some might think those thoughts are a bit premature, but I feel a very keen responsibility to the person coming after me.

The president before me came in and hadn't been very active with our group. She struggled a bit at first getting to know the routine, but as we had seasoned 'managers' in place, they steered her along and she soon hit her stride. She was an experienced 'president' because she had been at the helm of several other groups in our town through the years.

This is my first presidential role, but I came into this position straight from managing the bookstore and I knew all the players, their personalities and the role I was taking on when I said yes to the nominating committee.

But the role of president and the responsibilities have never been written down or defined. I'm going to attempt to do that. I want to write down what I've done and why I did it. Whether the next person decides to follow that model or adjust it or ditch it will be up to him/her.

Part of this process will be to streamline our website and our media presence. I'm working right now with our website person to get our very beautiful site down to two generic pages. She wants to move on and as of now, no one in the group has the skill or interest in this aspect of our group like she does. 

The bottom line is I want to hand the reins over with a clean conscience. I want to give the next person as much guidance and direction as I can manage.

I love this group and I love our mission and I want the group to continue to flourish after I leave it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

dark road to darjeeling

It is always such a good moment for me when I find an author and a book series I enjoy. When I happened across Deanna Raybourn, I knew we'd have a long reading relationship. Her Lady Julia Grey novels are easy to read, very entertaining and well crafted. Set in Victorian England, these amateur sleuth stories are populated with interesting characters and feature well developed plots. I love the voice Raybourn uses in these novels. Her storytelling is lush and smooth.

In "Dark Road to Darjeeling" Lady Julia is in India with her husband Nicholas Brisbane in order to investigate the death of Freddie Cavendish. The Brisbanes had been on their honeymoon in Egypt when Julia's sister Portia and brother Plum arrived to ask them to investigate this suspicious death.

I look forward to more adventures with Lady Julia and her husband.

Here is to a full week of school for my children. Here is to only rain and no snow. If that happens, I will embrace the dark, gray, dreary skies and not complain about the sun being absent.

I promise!

Friday, January 21, 2011

snow day, part three

It started as rain and then turned into big wet snowflakes. Eventually it covered everything and the temps dropped. So we have snow on the yards and ice on the sidewalks and streets. School closed last night at 9:00 for today.  We have one week left in January to attempt a full five days of school. Ugh.

Well, the kids will be helping me clean house today before we have any 'fun' that involves things beyond a dust rag and vacuum.  I have lasagna planned for dinner tonight along with a tossed salad and some Italian bread.

We also have a movie to watch tonight as Netflix delivered 'Salt' yesterday. Last night we watched a combination of comedies, including American Idol.

So, happy Friday to all.....stay warm, stay dry and enjoy the day!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

when it isn't about the kids

We have some BIG stuff going on in our county.  The big city has a school district. The county has its own school district.  Complicated funding formulas, crazy districting lines, annexation, taxation, etc, etc, etc, are all supporting players in what is turning out to be one major drama. The city has voted, both the school board and the city council, to drop their school charter and force a merge with the county. A referendum will be held and the city residents will get to vote on this surrender. The county residents do not get to vote on this.

The county is left holding the bag as a school system of 100,000 plus kids is merged into a system half that size. But, even though the city surrendered, they will still want input and representation and jobs.

I've been reading. I've been watching. Bottom line is isn't about the kids. It's about the adults.  The fear in the county. The anger in the city. They talk about doing right for the city kids. They talk about protecting the county kids.

It isn't about the kids. It never has been. It is about money and power and ego. It is about control. It is about race...but no one will admit that.

The city schools, on whole, are a mess. The adults in charge have failed those children. The adults in the homes and the adults in the school corporation....have failed those children for generations.

One newspaper columnist said it was time to take a wrecking ball to the city schools and start over. The wrecking ball is set to swing March 8. In the meantime the adults will be arguing and posturing and preaching.  And I hope some of them begin planning.

The kids are here. They need to be educated. Bottom line.  And when you have a school system where a student had to petition the school board so he and his classmates could have books to study, books that were sitting in a warehouse and not on a classroom shelf, lots of planning is needed.

The vote will happen. The surrender will pass. The consolidation will be approved. Some folks will turn to private schools. Others will wait and see. The rhetoric will continue on both sides.

But at the end of the day, the kids still need to be taught. And having books to learn from would be nice too.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

the writing bug

Inspiration. Perspiration. Writing. Hmmmmm.  My creative writing bug has been absent from my life for a few years now. That itch to put words onto 'paper' has been soothed by the amount of writing I do for the Friends. It seems I am in a constant state of sending emails regarding our mission to fellow members or to the local newspapers or to the other nonprofit groups in our area. When I'm not working on those projects, I read and I read a lot. 

This is not to say that my writing muse has flown away for more fertile grounds. No, she is still alive and kicking. Story ideas, characters and plots are always rattling around in my head. I just haven't had the drive to jot those ideas down.

But, someone else in my family has been bitten by the bug and has the drive to do something with what her muse is giving her.  The oldest showed me the beginning of a story she is working with, a YA fiction piece. She had written the first few pages longhand at school during a study hall and over the weekend, typed those words into her computer. She did some editing, some tweaking and then asked me to read it.

What a voice that kid has! I was impressed.  She has a concept for a nice story. As we discussed what she had written, she realized she had a lot of plotting yet to do, but she had some general ideas on how to flesh out the larger story arc. Yesterday she came home and discussed back story with me and how best to incorporate those bits of information without just dumping them.

Does she have a natural flair for storytelling? It is too soon to tell, and having natural ability does not mean work isn't required. She has listened to me talk about writing and about books for years. She has floated in and out of rooms where my writing friends and I discuss plots, characters and stories.  She has learned at school how to analyze a novel, how rhetorical devices work and why the ebb and flow of action can make or break a plot. We've talked about why we love certain books and loathe others. We've talked about using concrete words and creating hard hitting, real images.

I'm interested to watch as she wrestles with this story concept and begins to work at putting those thoughts down.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I love traditions. Many of my favorite family traditions focus around the Christmas holiday. We have our traditional Christmas Eve meal, but I also started traditions for my children when they arrived in our family. The Elves bring them daily small gifts for their stockings the week before Christmas. Santa brings each of them a Christmas themed book as part of his gifts. We now have quite the collection of children's holiday literature.

A more recent tradition is the puzzle. For the last three years we've received a puzzle either as a gift from a family member, a family friend or from Santa. Working a puzzle together is one of the things we look forward to doing on our vacation. This year we didn't open and begin the puzzle until vacation was almost over, but that 1000 piece challenge was completed within a week. We each take turns sitting down at the folding table we set up just for this activity. Sometimes the girls worked together. Sometimes they worked alone. While they were at school, I'd try and further fill in the picture. The boys worked on it as well, often finding just the right piece, the one that had eluded us.  Even some of the girls' friends got in on the action and helped.

I met a friend on Sunday at B&N for a coffee and as I was driving there I got a text from the middle kid. She wanted me to get another puzzle. I was happy to oblige when I found the Ravensburger holiday puzzles marked half off. I'd purchased one, at full price, for Santa to bring. The one I had left behind was now on sale. We are busy working a puzzle featuring two angels facing off with music and mandolin.

This may be our last puzzle for the winter, but I'm happy to know that this tradition has grown legs. This may  be something we continue in the future, and perhaps the kids will incorporate this activity into their own families someday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

when you are off to a slow start

I have yet to finish my second book of the year. I am off to a very slow start as far as 2011's reading is concerned. It could be the book. It could be me. Either way, I need to kick myself into gear and get on with it.  This week's goal is to finish the current book, plus I have plans to visit the library tomorrow and checkout at least a two additional titles and begin those.

After our executive board meeting last week, I have quite a bit of Friends work to complete this week. Today is not the day to do any of that as the kids are off school for MLK day.  I think part of my slow start has to do with the odd way in which our post holiday return to school life has unfolded. From illness to snow days to a federal holiday, it is all conspiring against me.

Or at least, that is my current excuse.

Happy Monday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

lionel and bertie

I very, very seldom ever post on a Saturday, but the movie we saw last night requires me to do so. I absolutely adored "The King's Speech."  Fabulous movie. The acting was superb. The script was amazing. From the way the movie looked, to its pacing, everything was spot on perfection.  So nice to see Geoffrey Rush without his Barbarossa costume. So wonderful to see Helena Bonham Carter in something besides over the top theatrical garb as she portrays the insane Bellatrix in the Harry Potter movies.  Colin Firth is just wonderful, as always. 

I can't say enough about this film. Go and see it. It is worth the ticket price. The R rating is solely for 'foul' language used during a speech therapy session...and the audience we were in laughed through the majority of it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

movie night and money

I think I have hubby convinced to head out to the movies tonight. I really want to see 'The King's Speech' and it has finally arrived at our local cineplex.  No, it isn't some 3-D action adventure thriller, but I think we will enjoy it...or at least I know I will!

Today is our executive board meeting for the Friends followed by our lunch out at the local 'watering' hole.  Not that we will imbibe much beyond ice tea, but the option is there if needed.

I've been working on estimating budget numbers for our group as well as compiling the stats for the annual report.  We gave approximately $9,000 less to the library this past year. For the past four years we have contributed over $31,000, and this year we were at $22,000.  We have, however, saved almost $45,000 for the future expansion of the library. Our goal on that effort is $100,000 and we are almost half way there. That is exciting news.

The Library has their request in for 2011 and is asking for about $16,000. This won't be a problem, although we may have to make that donation in two sums, one before summer and one after.

But, all those numbers won't mean much if we don't get book donations.  We are down, just like last year, in the volume donated to us. Not good. I hope warmer weather and the spring cleaning urge can help us in a few weeks to fill the bins, boxes and shelves.

Movies, money and Friday trifecta.  Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

crazy heart

I've written before about how much I love Netflix. I've watched some great shows and movies that I might not have seen without having this service. When I put "Crazy Heart" on my list, circumstances delivered it right before Christmas. With the hustle of the season, the disc sat on the kitchen counter for weeks. I finally watched the movie yesterday. Now I know why Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his performance. This was a really good movie full of subtle and nuanced acting.  In many ways it was a quiet movie. The action was limited, but the driving force, the characters were intense, sympathetic and interesting.  What a mix of actors too, Robert Duvall, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell and of course, Bridges.

Good Stuff.

Needless to say, I didn't read my book yesterday. I enjoyed the movie, made a big pot of potato soup and stayed warm.

Up for today is my normal Friends/Library routine plus I need to buy an ink cartridge for the printer. Woot:)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

short weeks

With the kids have Monday and Tuesday off this week, plus the upcoming three day weekend due to MLK's holiday, it seems like we will never get back into a normal routine.  Or, when we finally do, it is going to be rough going for a bit as we adjust to a regular schedule.

We woke up to the cold air as promised. My laptop weather bug feature indicated it was a whopping 14 degrees outside this morning. Brrrrrr.  And we still have lots of snow on the ground. Brrrrr.

If I didn't have to go out today, I wouldn't. But, as I forget to put on my list several needed items, I think a Target run is in store for me today. I also plan on doing some reading. It is very difficult to read when the kids are around. Too many distractions. Too many conversations, arguments, noises, movement etc. to allow me to enjoy a book.

I started a new to me author, Carol Berg. The first book in this series is "Flesh and Spirit." It is basically the adventures of a ne'er do well young man as he tries to run away from his magical legacy. So far, so good.

Happy Wednesday...even though it feels like it should be a Monday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

snow day II

The county decided to close schools for today and did so last night. Nice for the kids to be able to sleep in again and not worry about watching the closing list scroll across the bottom of the television.

I hate those scrolling lists and the 'tab' graphics and the severe weather map graphic. By the time they are done loading the screen with all that information, you can hardly see what you tuned in to watch!  We were all ready to watch some quality TV drama, Lie to Me, my latest guilty pleasure starring that wonderful Brit, Tim Roth. The screen was so littered with information, it was difficult to focus on the show. Ugh.

Not sure what the kids will want to do today other than to make sure they are ready to go back to school tomorrow. I think they all have a bit of homework to finish for Wednesday. I also think they all have some chores they can do.

The roads look clear, but I imagine the decision to cancel school was based on some of the more rural roads and bridges that most likely got quite icy as the sun went down and the temps dropped. Just not enough salt and sand trucks in this part of the world.

Happy Snow Day II.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The flu and The snow

After a very nasty nasal swab test, the oldest was officially diagnosed with the flu. She is on tamiflu and an antibiotic. The rest of us get to take a preventative dose of tamiflu for the next 10 days.

Then our weekend was capped off when the snow began to fall on Sunday night. School was closed by 8:00, which allows the lovelies to sleep in instead of getting up early to watch the news and pray for those magic words letting them know about the cancellation.

It appears, upon measuring the snow piled on the patio fire pit, we have just shy of 4 inches of snow. The bigger news is the cold temps. It is going to stay below freezing until the weekend, which means the white stuff could stick around for a while.

I'm enjoying some coffee and going to get dressed, walk the dog (he loves snow) and enjoy an unexpected extra day tacked onto our weekend. I could even imagine the kids being out of school tomorrow...yep, it could happen.

Winter Wonderland in January in The Ville!

Friday, January 7, 2011


The oldest is home again today with a fever, so it looks like I will be spending some time with her at the doctor's office today.  She doesn't have the symptoms that forced hubby to visit the doc and get a prescription, but don't like the stuff I'm seeing in her.

So, we wait for 8:00 and make that call and hope we can get in early enough so what should take only an hour morphs into a 2.5 hour visit.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.  That will teach me. I should have made sure we all got flu shots!!!  Ugh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anne's book club in a bag program

Shortly before Christmas I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up four boxes of new books. Inside the boxes were 120 paperback copies of 12 different titles. Today I'm going to set up Anne's Book Club in a Bag program for our library. Each bag will hold ten copies of a single title, discussion questions, a brief bio about Anne and a list of the books available through this program. The library will roll this out to the public in February, but in the meantime, our Friends book club is enjoying having this many copies of a title available for their members.

I have a list of things to do in order to promote the program. I have a press release to write and basically a 'media' kit to put together. But, today is all about filling the bags.

The store, which she worked in every Thursday morning, has now grossed over $100,000 since we opened the door. Amazing. The amount of effort from our volunteers and the sheer number of books we have handled to earn that money boggles my mind.

Anne would have been so excited to hear that number and so proud.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

beautiful darkness

I've always thought it would be great fun to write a book with a friend. I've read books from hubby and wife writing teams. I've also read one that had a 'ghost' writer.  The Caster Chronicles, I believe, are the first books I've read from two friends.  I had the pleasure of being at our local library when Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl visited to promote the first book in this series, "Beautiful Creatures."  You could tell they were long time friends and they obviously had fun writing the book.

I enjoyed the first novel. They did a really good job capturing teen voices and creating a very interesting world where magic coexists with the rest of us. Setting it in the South allowed for a nice infusion of local color and custom.

This second book, "Beautiful Darkness" is an okay story. At times I felt the book included too much. Too many extra characters, too much teen angst, too much...well...stuff.  It almost read like they were trying too hard. The plot seemed to labor under a heavy load of extras.

My oldest has read the first book and when I commented to her my impressions on this current novel, she said that is how she felt reading Beautiful Creatures.

Whatever my impressions, I most likely will read the next installment. Garcia and Stohl left us hanging with two of the teen characters and I will want to see how their stories unfold.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

and so it begins

The second half of the school year begins today for my kids. They have a lot to accomplish in this semester. A final science fair project for the boy. ACT tutoring for the other two and then another shot at the test. College visits. Soccer.

And. So. It. Goes.

Beginnings can be rough, but they were up and into the usual morning routine today without too much grumbling or complaining. Maturity.

I have my usual routine to resume. I have Friends work to finish today. I need to restock the pantry so we can eat. Laundry always awaits in the hampers. Filing and getting ready for the tax packet to arrive from the accountant is on the agenda.

We can't be on holiday all the time because if we were, we wouldn't realize how lovely vacation is!

Happy Tuesday and here's hoping the sun shines on us today as we dive into 2011.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The new year list

Back in my 20's I'd make a list of things I'd like to do in the upcoming year. Not necessarily a list of resolutions, more of a wish list of goals, events and activities. I did that for several years and would squirrel away those pieces of notebook paper in my wallet. Unfortunately, that wallet was stolen in 1992 when hubby and I were visiting the library. Like a dunce I left my purse hanging on a chair while I returned a research book to a shelf. Stupid.

I haven't made a list like that since. Not sure what changed, except we began our family shortly thereafter and my self-focused wish list became 'mommified'.  The focus of my attention took a sharp turn and headed down a road where my goals, events and activities center around the three unique people I parent.

That is not to say that I don't do things for myself. Not at all. I've done some wonderful things in the almost 17 years since I became a mommy.

Last year I set a goal for myself to read 100 books. I fell three books short, by my record keeping. A tremendous effort and a lot of fun. I read a lot of new to me authors and several books out of my comfort zone. I didn't do any fiction writing this past year, but did quite a bit of press release and newspaper writing on behalf of the Friends. And I kept blogging. Almost every weekday.

It is still all about the words for me. If not mine, then others.

As I enter 2011, which officially begins for me tomorrow when the kids head back to school, I'm going to sit down and put together a wish list again. Because writing things down matters.