Poetry for thought - The Mistletoe Bride

The Mistletoe Bride

by Carol Ann Duffy

The December bride who, bored with dancing, skipped from the castle hall to play hide-and-seek, a white bird flickering into the dark...

The groom, who searched each room, calling her name; then the bridal guests, flame-lit, checking the grounds...

The fifty Christmases till a carpenter jemmied an old oak chest; the skeleton with its unstrung pearls, loose emeralds, its rings of diamond, sapphire, gold...

The running feet, the shouting for others to see what he’d seen; mistletoe in the loose bones of a hand...

like love, patiently green.

image: flickr - laura dye


Best 'Morose' Reads of 2012

This picture has nothing to do with anything...just makes me laugh (image: flickr - Bede Jackson)

Selected from the books I read and reviewed in the year 2012. 

Worthy of Mention: The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
by James Weldon Johnson
Chosen for explaining the emotional torment of a man living a lie in order to survive. Its sad yet honest reflection on the question of race sheds light on a dark issue that is rarely acknowledged. 

3. Man Gone Down 
by Michael Thomas
Chosen for its gloomy depiction of a broken man in a broken family, trying to make the American Dream. The utter hopelessness in the stream-of-conscious narrative is raw, poetic and intellectual. 

2. Drowning Ruth 
by Christina Schwarz
Chosen for its somber portrayal of a family stripped down by shame, secrets and mental illness. The subtle mystery lining the flashbacks reveal imperfect characters that are perfect to read about and relate to. 

1. Coal Black Horse 
by Robert Olmstead
Chosen for its powerful language, and vivid and organic imagery of death. A seemingly impossible journey during a time of war instills unforgettable lessons upon anyone who reads them. 


Review - The Hobbit

The Hobbit
by J.R.R. Tolkien
300 pages

Description via Goodreads
Surely, you don't disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don't really suppose, do you that all your adventures and escapes were managed by pure luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all! (303)
I read The Hobbit as a read-along hosted at Unputdownables. Although the read-along is scheduled for another two weeks, I went ahead and finished the last 75 pages, so I can see the movie. Honestly, I don't want to over-analyze or even really analyze this book--why? because it's been done before, and I didn't feel too strongly about anything to offer up any commentary. But that doesn't mean I didn't like the story. I quite enjoyed it. Tolkien created a solid story of adventure, good over evil and self-discovery. (Of course he did, he's J.R.R Tolkien)

Many people have already read the book, or will see it in theaters, so I guess it might make sense to bring up what was discussed in the read-along...because there were a few things that others brought up that I couldn't understand...for example, I was met with slight  resistance when I suggested that Gandalf was an all-knowing figure and obviously powerful. Others said no (which is fine, I don't have to be right) but how they could deny his 'all-knowingness' was odd to me. They say he's 'wise'. I say yes, most definitely, but he knows way more about the direction of the journey than he lets on. They say he can influence the sequence of events, but can't predict the outcome...and in my head, if someone can influence the chain of events so that it almost always leads to a favorable ending, that's pretty damn powerful to me. But anyways, that was one thing. 

Maybe, I won't go into the other odd things from the discussions (it's related to ponies and handkerchiefs)...after all I did enjoy the book  Here are couple of passages that I really liked:
They walked in single file. The entrance to the path as like a sort of arch leading into a gloomy tunnel made by two great trees that leant together, too old and strangled with ivy and hung with lichen to bear more than a few blackened leaves. The path itself was narrow and wound in and out among the trunks. Soon the light at the gate was like a little bright hole far behind, and the quiet was so deep that their feet seemed to thump along while all the trees leaned over them and listened (139)
Paths had vanished, and many a rider and wanderer too, if they tried to find the lost ways across. The elf-road through the wood which the dwarves had followed on the advice of Beorn now came to a doubtful and little used end at the eastern edge of the forest; only the river offered any longer a safe way from the skirts of Mirkwood in the North to the mountain-shadowed plains beyond, and the river was guarded by the Wood-elves' king. So you see Bilbo had come in the end by the only road that was any good (189)
So, yeah. That's all I got...now to see the movie.

The Hobbit
Four stars.


Book Beginnings - Icy Sparks

Book Beginnings is a meme hosted by Rose City Reader. Share the first sentence (or so) of a book you are currently reading, along with your initial thoughts and impressions about the sentence or book. Remember to include the title of the book and the author AND link up at the Rose City Reader

Matanni, my grandmother, said it began deep inside my mama's womb, when she was pregnant with me. Mama ate those little green crab apples that grew beside the toolshed. She ate oodles of them, popped them into her mouth like rock candy, crunched, and swallowed one right after another until not one was left to ripen on the tree. "Green apples ain't no baby's nourishment,"she said, "but in the beginning they was all your mama could hold down." 
Wow, it's been a while since I've done a book beginning...because I haven't opened a new book in a really long time. I'm trying to finish out my reading year casually and without pressure in the holiday season. But this year is almost over, and next year will be an even better reading year. So I'm starting my first book for 2013 next week: Icy Sparks. It's my 'January' read for the Monthly Keyword Challenge

I love this beginning from the prologue. Everyone knows you're not supposed to eat crab apples--at least that's what I was told as a kid. They make you sick, right? I've actually never eaten one because I was told they're bitter and full of worms. But they were tempting as a child...those little cute green apples growing everywhere. So I think it's such an interesting angle that they were the only thing this pregnant woman could eat. 


Poetry for thought - On the Terrace

On the Terrace
by Landis Everson

The lonely breakfast table starts the day,
an adjustment is made to understand
why the other chair is empty. The morning
beautiful and still to be, should woo me. Yet
the appetite is not shared, lost somewhere in memory.

How lucky the horizon is blue and needs
no handwriting on its emptiness. I am
written on thoroughly, a lost novel
found again. I remember the predictable plot too late,
realize the silly, sad urgency of moss.

Image: Flickr- Nat Pikozh


The Walking Dead - S3 Ep. 8

Episode 8: Made to Suffer

Who are these new people?
The group from the opening scenes, the ones carrying around shovels and machetes...I'm wondering about their background and how they survived. If they've always been that small of a group or if they've had casualties. I'm wondering how they'll fit in with Rick and the crew. I don't think Rick will want them to join. Too many outsiders. First the prisoners, then Michonne...and Daryl is gone. I don't know. Maybe he'll allow them to join because his own numbers are dwindling...hard to say. Meanwhile, Carl is stepping up. Kudos to the corniest character on the show. Oh yeah, and they need to cull the woman that got bit. 

Glenn + Maggie = most hardcore couple ever.
Glenn detaches a walker's arm (with his bare hands!) and gives the ulna (I have no idea if that's the right bone) to Maggie as a weapon. Maggie then proceeds to stab the sharpened bone into the jugular of one of the captors. Badass. 

Michonne versus the Governor
I was a little worried about the end result of their scuffle, but I should have known better--Michonne can hold her own. Nothing like glass in the eye socket...and then Andrea walks in completely unaware and misinformed--annoying as usual.

Daryl versus Meryl
Thanks to the lying and conniving of the Governor, it seems there will be a face-off between brothers. I'm team Daryl all the way. He's the better brother, obviously. He's also another one of my favorite characters. He can't die...well he can, but it would upset me, gravely. Who's going to kill walkers with a crossbow and infinite amount of arrows?! No one, but Daryl. 

Mid season finale
This episode was it. What the hell am I supposed to do on Sundays at 9pm now? And then we have to wait until February for more episodes. FEBRUARY!


Poetry for thought - If the Owl Calls Again

If the Owl Calls Again
by John Haines

at dusk from the island in the river, and it's not too cold, I'll wait for the moon to rise, then take wing and glide to meet him. We will not speak, but hooded against the frost soar above the alder flats, searching with tawny eyes. And then we'll sit in the shadowy spruce and pick the bones of careless mice, while the long moon drifts toward Asia and the river mutters in its icy bed. And when the morning climbs the limbs we'll part without a sound, fulfilled, floating homeward as the cold world awakens.

Image: Flickr-DarrelBirkett


Smooth Criminals Reading Challenge 2012 - Complete

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012

Another challenge complete!

My Reading Selection:

A Demon In My View - With psychopath protagonist
The Feast of the Goat - "Why the hell am I doing this to myself" book
The Maltese Falcon - Hardboiled classic
The Monk - Gothic
Monster - Prison book
The Moonstone - With plot that revolves around a crime
The Picture of Dorian Gray - By author who did time
The Postman Always Rings Twice - Noir classic

A Demon in My View
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Maltese Falcon
The Feast of the Goat

The Moonstone

The Maltese Falcon
The Moonstone
The Postman Always Rings Twice
The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Monk

This challenge introduced me to Ruth Rendell, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, three authors whose work I intend to further explore, therefore it was a great experience. 

I noticed that not all the characters in the books I read committed crimes because they were marginalized (i.e, Dorian Gray, Arthur Johnson, Godfrey Ablewhite) No, they weren't 'marginalized' but they were still susceptible to social illness...and they did bad things because of those addictions, insecurities, impulses, etc.

I'm not sure if we're supposed to draw a certain conclusion on Dennis Lehane's statement (mentioned briefly on Ben's sign up post) about the social novel turning into crime fiction. Honestly, I don't know the entire context of that claim....but based on my reads for this challenge, I think it's safe to go with the idea that not all social novels are now crime fiction, but almost all crime fiction are social novels.

I don't know, it's tough. It's all connected I guess...and I would need to do more reading to support the idea I whipped together above. Either way, it's something to think about and it's something I'll keep in mind when reading other social novels and crime fiction. 

Monthly Keyword 2013 Selections (1 of 3)

I wanted to post selections for this challenge last month, but I couldn't decide on which books to read. 
I eventually settled on choosing books for the first third of the year (January - April) 
I'll include selections for months May through August in a later post. You can find out more about the challenge here.

Okay, so here are the selections thus far:




***Minor update: February's read has switched to The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCuller***


Review - The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray 
by Oscar Wilde
200+ pages

Description via Goodreads
It is a sad thing to think of, but there is no doubt that Genius lasts longer then Beauty. That accounts for the fact that we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place (14)
Basil Hallward paints a remarkable portrait of his friend and muse, Dorian Gray. It's his best work, something to be admired. Yet the piece of art becomes an object of hate and fear. Basil has given eternal life and beauty to the Dorian in the portrait, whereas, the actual Dorian will eventually be marked with imperfection, age and ugliness. To Dorian it's unfair and unbecoming, and somehow he inadvertently sells his soul for eternal youth.

Dorian undergoes an intellectual and moral transformation. The change of his psyche is contrasted with the stagnation of his physical being. He doesn't age. He becomes a fickle person, seeking sin, pleasure or any experience that can satisfy his search for what he considers beauty or novelty of the moment. He commits a heinous crime, develops shady habits and ruins his reputation. He goes from loved by all to detested by most. He has the face of youth, innocence and good, but not the soul to match.

I have such mixed feelings about this book. The beginning was rough for me because I kept running across passages like this: 
He was bareheaded, and the leaves had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads. There was a look of fear in his eyes, such as people have when they are suddenly awakened. His finely chiseled nostril quivered, and some hidden nerve shook the scarlet of his lips and left them trembling (23)
 ...and this:
As he thought of it, a sharp pang of pain struck through him like a knife, and made each delicate fiber of his nature quiver. His eyes deepened into amethyst, and across them came a mist of tears. He felt as if a hand of ice had been laid upon his heart (27)
Aren't they too--I don't know--mushy?

I suppose they're meant to be romantic and artistic, but I find the descriptions, in particular the use of the word quiver very irksome.

Maybe it's just me.

Anyways, once I got over that, I was annoyed with Harry/Lord Henry. His musings, while very quotable, are silly. However, he's such an important character in the book. It's clear that his haughty attitude and naturalist view of society influence Dorian Gray substantially. In fact, Dorian becomes Harry's social experiment. Harry poisons, pokes and prods hims; drops crumbs, which eventually lead Dorian to corruption. 

I didn't start liking the book until Dorian's final meeting with Basil...and his trips to the underworld of opium dens. And even then...not so much. All this talk of innocence and beauty and souls made me think of this song:

Listening to it repeatedly, while reading the last few chapters helped me get through it. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Three stars. 

Smooth Criminals, Reading Challenge for 2012