Fall

I miss you. Like, a lot. I was never one for sun and heat and somehow, I ended up living in a place that often resembled the face of the sun to me. I am tired of the sun. It’s so…unrelenting. I want a crisp, cool morning with grey low-hanging clouds, maybe a bit of a mist in the air and if there could also be just a touch of woodsmoke hanging about, that would be heavenly.

Instead, it is will be 93 today. 91 tomorrow. If I’m lucky, we may get a thunderstorm through which means the sun will be gone for a few minutes but when it moves on, it will somehow be hotter and more humid than before even when I didn’t think that was possible. So I will leave these images here and drink my pumpkin spice latte and pretend for a moment that it’s fall outside my window and not a never ending summer.

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Back on Track…sort of

I am slowly making my way back around to my book challenge for the year. I chose some low hanging fruit (i.e. books I knew I could read in a day) to get myself started up again. I also went through and rearranged my to-read list a bit (some series had escaped me!). I have more left than I thought but I’ll do the best I can!

Low hanging fruit for me meant I could plow through some historical romance novels that were series-based. They are my potato chips of the book world. They are so bad for me and yet delicious and I love them and I can read a ton of them really quickly. So reading through 5 of them in the last two weeks makes me feel like I am getting somewhere!

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I like the redesigns of all the covers for the last book; they are dreamy [from Goodreads]

But, I also finished a series! Go me! Anna and the French Kiss I read awhile back but it was the start of a trilogy (of course) so this week I finished up the other two books. Anna remains my favorite but these other two, Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After were delightful except well…I am feeling my age. Let me explain. These are essentially chick lit novels for the teenage set. So, they are drama filled. To the max. Where drama doesn’t actually really need to exist. The characters are charming and clever but they’re also 18. And we’re idiots when we’re 18. We make the smallest problems into the biggest nightmares. Rather than talking out a concern with the person we love, we panic, break up with our boyfriend and run off to Paris while melodramatically weeping everywhere and driving our quirky best friend nuts. So in that, the series is quite believable but reading two of the books in quick succession also meant I felt old. However, one of the bonuses of the series, well of the first and last books anyway, is the city of Paris is as much a character as the rest and visiting the City of Lights is, after all, always a good idea.

Next up, more steampunk hijinks from an awesome finishing school on a dirigible and then back to Oz to see if Amy can finally kill Dorothy.

Quotes from Books

I have always been a big collector of quotes. Quotes from books, from movies, and from friends (do the kids still keep track of funny things friends say? We used to hang long pieces of paper on the wall in our dorm rooms and apartments in undergrad…maybe they just use SnapChat now…). Book quotes however are some of my favorites and GoodReads is magical and let’s you keep a running list of your favorites. So, for today’s reading, here are some I adore that you might not have come across yet (i.e. I went with books that aren’t the classics):

“Whenever I saw the sun, I reminded myself that I was looking at a star. One of over a hundred billion in our galaxy. A galaxy that was just one of billions of other galaxies in the observable universe. This helped me keep things in perspective.” – Ready Player One

“Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.” – The Night Circus

“I didn’t set out to discover a truth. I was actually sent to the Outer Fringes to conduct a chair census and learn some humility. But the truth inevitably found me, as important truths often do, like a lost thought in need of a mind.” – Shades of Grey

“Molly stood up. You made an error! She felt like saying. A bad throw. So what? It’s a baseball game. A game. Who really cares? A bad throw? In the great scheme of things? A bad throw? Of course she didn’t say that. She understood that your own errors always feel tragic.” – The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

“It’s against my principles to buy a book I haven’t read, it’s like buying a dress you haven’t tried on.” – 84, Charing Cross Road

“It’s funny. Dev had always said disposables were different. That what they contained was more special because you couldn’t instantly see inside. You had to wait. You had to invest in the moment and then wait to see what you got. And those moments had to be the right moments. You had to be sure you wanted this moment when you pressed the button, because time was always running out, you were always one click closer to the end. That’s what it felt like here. But that’s what made it exciting. I looked at the tin number at the top of the wheel. 1. Eleven more clicks. What would they be? Who’d be in them? What story would they tell?” – Charlotte Street

“Usually when I enter a bookstore, I feel immediately calm. Bookstores are, for me, what churches are for other people. My breath gets slower and deeper as I peruse the shelves. I believe that books contain messages I am meant to receive. I’m not normally superstitious, but I’ve even had books fall from shelves and land at my feet. Books are my missives from the universe.” – The Family Fortune

“So often, Jackaby said, people think that when we arrive at a crossroads, we can choose only one path, but as I have often and articulately postulated people are stupid. We’re not walking the path. We are the path. We are all of the roads and all of the intersections. Of course you can choose both.” – Beastly Bones

“She would be brave. She would be heroic. She would make her own destiny.” – Winter

The Best Beach (Question of the Month)

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North Central Shore, PEI

I am not a beach girl. I love water; would cheerfully live on the water if at all possible (I’m thinking a house boat would be awesome). However, I loathe sand. With everything in me. I hate that it gets everywhere and that no matter how well I rinse my feet off, there will still be sand on them. No matter how much I shake out my towels, there will still be sand on them. For a neat freak like me, it’s sort of the worst thing ever. I also burn to a crisp in the sun pretty easily. I bathe in sunscreen which helps for maybe an hour if I’m lucky before I need to bathe in it again. So, beaches have tended to not be my thing. I live in Florida now and can still count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to a beach in the last four years, including a trip to the red beaches of Prince Edward Island.

So, maybe for me, the best beach is the one of memory. I have very fond memories of my first time spent next to the Atlantic Ocean (or at least the first time I remember). We were staying in Cocoa Beach in Florida for a day or two before catching our first cruise ship. There were shells in the sand, like little treasures to find. I was a big rock collector at the time (growing up along the Great Lakes with their rocky shores, rocks were my shells) so it seems to me that this was the sort of beach I’d only read about in fairy tales and I loved it.

Another beach I remember fondly for a very different reason is Omaha Beach in Normandy. I visited as part of a high school trip my senior year. I still have the little film canister of sand from where I stood on that beach, looking up and marveling at the cliffs. Wondering what on earth had possessed them to think they could make it on D-Day; awed even more by the fact that they did somehow make it work. Later in the same trip I collected a small emptied hotel bottle of sand from the beach at Cannes but I hold the sand of Normandy a bit more dear.

Which brings me back to the red sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island. I should have emptied something to bring some of that glorious sand home with me. I sat and read on that beach and for a moment, lived out a childhood dream of dancing with Anne and Diana on the sand dunes as the sun set over the gulf. It was worth the amount of sand I had to shake out of my jean jacket later.

I will admit to a great fondness for the beaches on Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island and I’ll admit even Panama City Beach is slowly growing on me (I went swimming twice last week when I was there for work; I felt like I should alert the media or something). So I am deeply unqualified to really chime in on the best beaches but I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about the ones I remember fondly.

The Class I’ll Never Forget

 

I always meant to write a post about French class here. I have mentioned it in several posts, even shared my college essay inspired by Van Gogh and French class but I’ve never sat down and really explained what that class meant to me. Watching The Little Prince tonight on Netflix, I started to remember.

It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t so much the language I adored. Although beautiful, and when I used it right something that made me feel more accomplished than all my other classes combined, I was never good at it. I would get frustrated with it. I wanted to be able to say what I wanted to say and not trip over myself getting there. I lacked the patience of a true linguist. I would write my essays in English and then translate them back into French, utilizing my dictionary, 501 Verb book and a very early version of Babel Fish when the books failed me. But I loved French class. I loved the stories, the culture, the food. The holidays and history were fascinating; the resulting country even more so. Madame understood this; it’s why she taught the language as she did. How could you understand and appreciate a language if you did not understand the people and the countries who speak it?

I had found French rather boring until 11th grade. My teachers, while very good, had been uninspiring. It was a class that also made me anxious. I lived in dread of the moment the teacher would call on me to speak. It was a combination of tripping over my own tongue and not wanting to butcher a language that had done nothing to me. I also hated to not be right in class; the perfectionist in me didn’t like that the words that came out of my mouth didn’t sound like they did in my head.

I was nervous when I started class with Madame. Her reputation proceeded her. It took me only about a period and half before I adored her and that made French both wonderful and stress-inducing. I didn’t want to fail her or have her think I wasn’t smart enough. I always tried hardest in French of all my classes but I never did get it to sound right coming out in the end. Instead, I learned to love what it gave me outside of the sometimes tongue twisting sentences and headache inducing numbers (math was involved just to count…I didn’t stand a chance. I still have the cheatsheet Madame finally gave me). French gave me Le Petit Prince, the Impressionists, and Amélie. It gave me Normandy, Paris, Carcassonne. It gave me an appreciation for the traditions of a storied country, with all its own fairy tales, myths and legends that was so different from my own.

So as I teared up watching The Little Prince tonight, and everyone should go watch it ASAP and cry with me, I also remembered what else comes along side the story of the little prince who left his rose behind to travel the stars: the classes on verbs and speaking exercises, of listening to bad ’80s French pop songs and writing our own adventures for the little prince. We wrote our own fairy tales, learned the words to La Marseillaise and looked forward to La Bûche de Noël in December. The Little Prince reminded me of why I adored French class and everything it continued to give me since leaving school. All these years later, it is a class I think of all the time and use often. I have chased paintings across oceans because of that class, lectured friends through the Louvre, bought board books of The Little Prince for friends’ children and sacrificed DVD settings on laptops to watch Notre Dame de Paris one more time. It is not so much the language perhaps but the tools the class and the study of French gave me through which I can appreciate, understand and revel in the world around me in a way I would not be able to do so otherwise. Merci.

Long overdue book reviews…

So, slowly my moving nightmare at least seems to be stabilizing (I did get stuck in the bathroom this weekend when the doorknob decided not to turn but that’s a little thing at this point) so it’s time to get back to some semblance of a schedule. And I am WAY behind on some book reviews so here they come, drive-by style:

Parrot and Olivier in America: This was a quirky fat paperback book I found wandering Powell’s last September and I am only now getting around to it. I liked this book; both for what it was commenting on and the ludicrous characters. Peter Carey built an incredible ensemble to surround his two named heroes and I was happy with the ultimate ending as well; Parrot deserved a happy ending and I loved the wacky way he gets it. Olivier, on the other hand, needed a swift kick in the pants and even once he got it and was STILL ridiculous. I figure the France of the 1830s deserves him back.

White Teeth: This was one of the books I received through the Reddit Book Exchange earlier this year. It wasn’t bad; it had some laugh out loud moments but it ultimately suffered from the Contemporary Novel disease for me. At least it was a contemporary novel set in London so I could enjoy that aspect of it.

Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women: A friend recommended this to me as something to help process what was, at the time, still the primary season. Glass ceilings have since shattered but this is the book that looked at the giant crack Hilary put in it the first try and does an excellent job of discussing all the aspects of that 2008 primary.

From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals: I really enjoyed this when I read it but now I can’t remember a thing about it…another reason to write these reviews sooner.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: So many people have recommended this to me over the years and it was as good as they said it would be. Fascinating read; I didn’t know anything about the Lacks Family or Henrietta’s story before reading. Well presented and never over anyone’s head. It also is a book that makes you think about your own tissues out there floating in the world and what science might make of them (with or without your consent).

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2): In an effort to get back to what my actual reading challenge was for the year, I did pick up a few books in series I need to get back to. This series is getting more delightful by the book; this time Sophronia is on the hunt for the reason why her floating spy school is headed towards London with (gasp) boys aboard from an evil genius school and why the vampire teacher is acting so odd. Well, more odd than usual. Some days just call for a steampunk alternate timeline supernatural spy thriller complete with ball and tea party and this fits the bill nicely.

The Wicked Will Rise (Dorothy Must Die #2): So, apparently this is no longer a trilogy but longer? Sigh…That said, it still suffering from some “second book in a trilogy” issues but a solid installment nonetheless. Amy continues to be fun to watch develop as a lead (anti) heroine. I’m also not entirely sure where the series is headed which is fun and makes for a good and thrilling read each time.

Cinder & Ella: I don’t usually review all the romances and silly freebie ebooks I pick up on my Kindle but this one deserved at least a line since it is yet another Cinderella re-telling. This one is decent but the DRAMA…oy. This book was one act short of a teenage pregnancy and I feel like a few more chapters and she would have been there but the title characters are fun, actually have some depth to them and the stepsisters get played out well here (I always have a soft spot of the stepsisters) here so if you are a Cinderella re-telling junkie (like myself), this one is worth a few dollars on your Kindle.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry: This was lovely; if nothing else, now I REALLY want to go on a walking tour of England. Like, tomorrow. But, beyond that, Harold is such a wonderful character. Someone you want to reach in and hug periodically and assure him that it is OK, that he is not a failure. That he did his best and life spit his efforts back in his face. And that happens sometimes. But as long as you remember the journey, and the good times along it, the ending is really just another place to start again.

 

 

Pete’s Dragon

I was going to love Pete’s Dragon. No matter what critics said or didn’t say, I was going to love it. That said, I didn’t think I would love it as much as I did. For starters, there is no singing which is my favorite part of the original film. Some of my all-time favorite Disney music comes out of the original Pete’s Dragon. And secondly, Elliot was…different. I remember the first trailer and just sort of sitting there until I could spit out, “wait…Elliot has FUR?!” I adored the animated pink and green dragon of the original (my first car that I paid for, which was blue, was named for him. Yeah, I don’t know either. I just loved the character that much). So, while I knew I would still love it because of reasons, I didn’t expect to be quite as enchanted as I was.

Luckily, I was primed for the big difference because of a review I read last Friday before I went to see it. They talked about how it was a quiet film, one that harkened back to some of the classic childhood films like E.T. There are action scenes but the real story is the family, the relationships, the growing pains the main characters feel; not the explosions or chase scenes. It reminded me of my favorite live action Disney films when I was younger: the original Escape to Witch Mountain, The Apple Dumpling Gang, even The Parent Trap. It wasn’t loud, overcomplicated, or silly to the point of ridiculousness. They were usually about a kid, or a group of kids, just trying to find a place to belong and the friends they make along the way.

This new version of Pete’s Dragon is gorgeous; visually stunning. Its time period is slightly non-descript but probably the late 1970s? At one point, I remember thinking “a John Denver song would fit well here.” It’s harkening back to what seemed like a much simpler time, a safer time, though villains still lurk. The villain of misunderstanding, of fear, of ambition. Those people who must destroy what they do not understand. The worst kind of villain to me; the kind I wish I could just reach into the screen and shake for all I’m worth. Pete’s Dragon has a good one of those here. In the original, the villain is a cartoon in live action; here the villain is someone who is simply afraid and has the power to act on his fear and turn it to his advantage in the town.

For a villain, there must be a hero and Pete lives up to the title. They do maybe hammer it home a bit much (lots of the characters call Pete brave throughout the film) but Pete lives up to the word. His story is heartbreaking on many levels (why he meets Elliot is pretty devastating); but his character is one of curiosity and acceptance so he learns to adapt, to adjust and to thrive. Some will argue I’m sure that the character adjusts too quickly; to which I would remind them it’s an hour and a half movie. He is brave but I don’t think he’s ever thought of himself in those terms. He was simply living. Those he meets in his journey are much like him; curious about the world around them, trying to adjust and accept as the world around them changes. The forest ranger Grace who finds Pete, Grace’s father who swears he saw a dragon in the forest years before, Grace’s fiance and his daughter. Perhaps they are reluctant at first but as the movie builds, they see that a dragon can be a friend, not a foe.

Which brings us to Eliot. The animation is fantastic; at no point does Eliot looks like a cartoon out of place in the film. He blends with his scenery, interacts seamlessly with Pete and the other actors. The fur does make him a bit more cuddly, a bit more approachable and less like a dinosaur out of Jurassic Park so that did the job. But the character remains much the same as the original film; he’s still a bit of goof, clumsy at times, fierce when his friend is in danger and lost when he doesn’t understand something. His relationship with Pete is the heart of the film and honestly, that is what makes it sing.