Holidays on Ice, a euphemism perhaps for the massive amounts of alcohol needed by many to endure extended December visits with in-laws, is a collectioHolidays on Ice, a euphemism perhaps for the massive amounts of alcohol needed by many to endure extended December visits with in-laws, is a collection of hilarious short stories both autobiographical and highly inventive that stray from the trite TV Christmas movies and novellas usually being foisted upon us. In it, you will glean such valuable knowledge as how to get and keep a job as a mall elf, along with how to stop brawls between mothers on Christmas Eve; how to use your annual Christmas letter to the max, garnering as many character witnesses as possible for your murder trial; how to turn your consumptive greed into the giving of your body parts to charity, quite literally giving till it hurts; and you will also discover that if you had only been born in the Netherlands, you would go to bed on Christmas eve packed and ready to go should Santa decide you should be beaten and kidnapped by his tall, skinny, Pope hat wearing self and his 6 to 8 black men. You will read a heart-squishing Christmas do-it-yourself kidney transplant miracle, as well as a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of death by bumblebee, Dumpster, sleeping near a train track, or masterbation. My favorite story, though, is “Jesus Shaves,” in which a college French class consisting of several nationalities tries to explain Easter to a curious Moroccan student: '"Our teacher then called on the rest of us to explain. The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, “a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and…” She faltered and her fellow countryman came to her aid. “He call his self Jesus and then he die one day on two…morsels of…lumber.” The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm. “He die one day and then he go above of my head to live with your father.” “He weared of himself the long haii and after he die, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples.” “He nice, the Jesus.” “He make good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today.”' The narrator of the story, whether it be the author’s own opinion or not, concludes that perhaps it is possible that an all-knowing God really did create us and watch over us, that maybe it all happened – the miracles, the Virgin Birth, The Resurrection -- just as the Bible story says. But a bell that brings chocolate from Rome to the children of France on Easter morning? “That’s fucked up.” ...more
True to form, Shakespeare again creates a simply enjoyable story, with a not-so-simple plot and characters, featuring two sets of rival brothers; a DaTrue to form, Shakespeare again creates a simply enjoyable story, with a not-so-simple plot and characters, featuring two sets of rival brothers; a David and Goliath boxing match; outcasts living in the forest like Robin Hood, where poems on trees lead lost lovers to one another; lovely young Rosalind disguised as a boy, who then pretends to be Rosalind, in order to hear Orlando’s proclamations of love for her/him; and two cousins who marry brothers, who then also become cousins. Whew! As always, this play is meant to be seen not read, however even in print Billy continues to rock the words centuries later....more
Pedantic plot and stereotypical characters made this novel by award-winning author of The Poisonwood Bible hard to finish. I think I would rather havePedantic plot and stereotypical characters made this novel by award-winning author of The Poisonwood Bible hard to finish. I think I would rather have just been told the punch line to avoid the whole experience. ...more
What a lovely ending to our trip to Cape Cod to spread my Dad’s ashes in the Atlantic: in the box of books allotted to me from his estate, I found thiWhat a lovely ending to our trip to Cape Cod to spread my Dad’s ashes in the Atlantic: in the box of books allotted to me from his estate, I found this paperback copy of Cape Cod by Thoreau. My family and I had just traversed these same shores, some two hundred years after its writing, yet so many of the places are still there, however changed. Thoreau compiles several separate holidays on the Cape into this account of its history, its people and its terrain as he takes us on a journey through the rains and fogs and shipwrecks of the “curled arm” peninsula. He uses his surveyor skills to describe the starkly inhospitable terrain, while inserting humorous anecdotal social commentary toward the characters that are as much part of the landscape as the flora and fauna to keep the story moving agreeably, though certainly not grippingly. You cannot help but grow wistful for the sound of the sea and for the abundant seafood feasts it provides, as well as the memories you yourself may have made at such a place as this, Cape Cod. ...more
Sena Jeter Naslund’s historical novel, Abundance, which could alternately be titled, “Being Queen Of France Is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be,” or, “DoSena Jeter Naslund’s historical novel, Abundance, which could alternately be titled, “Being Queen Of France Is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be,” or, “Don’t Lose Your Head, Marie!” etc., gives us a lovely, well-researched glimpse into the fabulous and turbulent life of Marie Antoinette. Written from Marie’s point of view, we follow her life story from the day she leaves her native Austria at the tender age of 14 to be wed to the Dauphin of France, an awkward and reticent teenager himself; we celebrate her gracious allegiance to her new nation, as well as her wildly popular acceptance by the already royal-leary populace; we experience heady luxury and scandal in the gilded courts of King Louis XV and XVI; we feel her heartbreak as her marriage flounders and she struggles to conceive an heir to the throne, with her every sorrow splashed unceremoniously across the daily tabloids; and since we know how it all ends, we cringe at her every miss-step that lowers her rate of popularity, such as her extravagant spending and gambling habits while her constituents fight wars for flour during a famine. With such a rich setting and iconic historical figures, this novel brings to exhilarating life the woman behind the pretty painted portraits. She is a friend, she is us....more
In this historical Newberry award winner of 1929, alchemy, magic, loyalty, heroism—and trumpeting—vie for the fate of this once peaceful medieval PoliIn this historical Newberry award winner of 1929, alchemy, magic, loyalty, heroism—and trumpeting—vie for the fate of this once peaceful medieval Polish city. The Charnetski family has fled to the city of Krakow after a hired Russian bandit, Peter of the Button Face, burns their country village to find the famous Tarnov Crystal, reputed to be in their possession. Though Peter pursues them to the great city, they enjoy a time of relative safety and companionship with powerful new friends who find them a home and a means of earning a living. However, strange things are brewing in the laboratory in the apartment upstairs, and soon the family becomes afraid for their lives, and for the future of their kingdom, once again. The wonderful combination of historical fiction and fairy tale makes history come alive for young readers and old....more
The Birth of Venus is an historical novel set in fifteenth-century Florence amidst political, religious and artistic upheaval. Her protagonist, youngThe Birth of Venus is an historical novel set in fifteenth-century Florence amidst political, religious and artistic upheaval. Her protagonist, young Alessandra Cecchi, born into a noble family and used to luxury, must scrape together her education as an artist at a time when women were not recognized for such talents. Her rebellious nature leads to dangerous byways in her increasingly tumultuous city, until her parents decide that her safety can only be ensured through an arranged marriage, where she will learn shocking new lessons about human nature--including her own. Alessandra provides a woman’s perspective of the extravagant Medici family’s loss of political power to a religious-ascetic regime that all but eliminates women's civil rights. In an interesting twist, the most boldly free character of all is Alessandra’s beloved and brassy African slave, who treads among the streets and Machiavellian family schemes with confident ease. Though Sarah Dunant’s writing is mellifluous, the plot line moves slowly. Nevertheless, I was able to plow ahead because of the lovely scenery and cameo appearances of famous Renaissance artists. ...more
God is determined to make me know that He is involved deeply in my life right now, whether I want Him to be or not. As I pulled into the KCC parking lGod is determined to make me know that He is involved deeply in my life right now, whether I want Him to be or not. As I pulled into the KCC parking lot today, the sign by the street said something along the lines of “do not grow tired in loving others,” or something like that. It just so happens that the book I brought along to share snippets of before worship, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, was a fairy-tale analogy of a stuffed rabbit named Edward who learns to love and be loved, only after many trials, near destruction, and ultimate healing by a master craftsman. At his lowest point, when Edward decides, “I am done with being loved…I am done with loving. It’s too painful,” a fellow doll, older and wiser, challenges his philosophy by asking, “I wonder who will come for me this time. Someone always comes.” She asks Edward “Where is your courage?” for “If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.” She urges him to open his heart to that someone who will come. Though love has caused him incredible suffering and loss, his heart does stir within him, and he dares to risk loving one more time. Unlike the familiar tale of the Velveteen Rabbit, this one ends much more happily, with the rabbit in the arms of a loving child, the daughter of the girl who loved him at the beginning of the tale.
I wanted to share with the ladies at SisterTime that, though life’s trials may cause us to want to give up on love altogether, there is always still hope. This message of hope is obviously directed as much to myself as anyone else, for when I sat down much later today to read White Oleander, another more realistic modern-day tale of trials and suffering and loss, the protagonist decides that it is better to press on in confidence that “something would always come along,” rather than always sulk about “humanity’s vast capacity for suffering.”
Does it startle anyone else besides me that the phrases “someone will come” and “something would always come along” are direct quotes from the two very disparate books I read today, one an award-winning children’s book, the other an “emotionally gripping…ferocious” #1 best-selling novel that was made into a movie starring Michele Pfeiffer some years back?
I admit that, yes, I often consider giving up altogether, on marriage, on motherhood, even on myself. Yet despite my own obvious lack of faithfulness, God proves Himself faithful in continually urging me on, through whatever means He can to get through to me. I hear Him. I know I am not brave, but maybe I can let my own heart begin to stir again. Maybe. ...more