July 29, 2013

about that adventure...

Remember back in January when I talked about The Hobbit and how I felt like I was getting ready for an adventure?  Well, my adventure showed up, and what a ride it has been.

Back in March, things blew up at my job. Long story short, by the end of March I didn't have a job.  And while it hurt a bit, I wasn't as torn up about it as I expected.  And in April, a job that sounded really wonderful opened up.  I had had my eye on library jobs in Wyoming for a while, and this one was for a Children's Programming Manager in Converse County.

Well, things moved, albeit slowly, and I interviewed in May.  I had prayed a lot about it and thought this would be the perfect fit for me, but I was also in that strange place of peace, no matter if I got it or not.

And I didn't get it.

But they DID offer me a position as Public Relations & Information manager.  Apparently, my skills over the years (working in Communications, writing, my degree, etc) and my engaging personality made the library director feel like I would be the perfect person for the job.  It was in Wyoming, in a small town (both things I was interested in), and the pay was right.  So I accepted.

So I packed up my entire life and moved up to Converse County, Wyoming.  I work for the county library (which has two branches, one in Douglas and one in Glenrock).  Turns out housing in Douglas is almost impossible to get (if you rent), so I ended up finding an apartment in Glenrock.

I went from living in a city of half a million to living in a state that barely has half a million.  My new home towns have 6,000 and 2,500 respectively.

Talk about culture shock.

And I'm loving it.

For the first time in my life, I have my own space.  I get to make the decisions on where stuff goes, how hot (or cool) I keep it, where to park.  I have a job that is challenging and fun.  I have great co-workers.  I live in a community where people help out, where they wave as they pass you on the road (even if they don't know you).  It's just the fresh breath of air that I needed in my life.

I know for some people out there, moving to a tiny town (where there isn't even a stoplight) would be torture.  But for me, it's good.  I needed some place where I didn't feel quite so invisible.  Some place where people SEE each other.  Where I couldn't get lost when I wanted to.  I'm too good at being lost, at blending in, at making sure I don't get involved.  But life is about being involved.

So next weekend, we are having a Choke Cherry Festival, and I'm going to go (hello, I LOVE choke cherries), and I'm going to churches to meet people and find a church family.  And I'm getting to know the patrons at the library.

I might not be slaying dragons or running from goblins, but I am sure having an adventure.

And I'm loving every minute of it.

May 17, 2013

zee zee--don't fall asleep just yet!

We've done it--we have reached the final letter in the alphabet.  This one was hard, but I managed to find a favorite story that fits the bill nicely. 


Oh come on.  Do you blame me for picking it?  Plus, I am rather smitten with Antonio Banderas. 

It's a rags to riches story, and a redemption story, and a justice story, and a hero story.  And did I mention Banderas?  I really enjoy a fun film (and I am really just talking about the two movies with Banderas, because the old tv show was fun but not a favorite) that engages me on so many levels.  I know, I think too much, and sometimes find lots of things in stories other people don't, and I'm sure for many, this is just a silly movie where swords are brandished with flare.  But for me, it's a rather epic story, with a little romance thrown in (I have to give kudos to Catherine Zeta-Jones, for her fiery portrayal of the love interest). Oh, and did I mention that Anthony Hopkins is in there too?  He is!

So check out The Mask of Zorro and The Legend of Zorro so you can see what I'm talking about.

And thanks for participating in this fun, 26 day journey through some of my favorite stories!  Don't be a stranger, and I'll try to update on a regular basis with my meandering and sojournings and whatnots.

May 16, 2013

yo yo yodel...

Here we are, with just two letters left!  Want to know what my favorite Y story is?  Keep reading, you are in for a treat!


She's the main character of three of my favorite books, The Study Series (Poison Study, Magic Study, and Fire Study), and she is amazing. 

We first meet Yelena as she is given the option to become the food taster for the commander of her country.  And she either accepts the job, or she dies, since she's already in prison for killing someone.  She takes the job.  And from that lovely start, we follow her through many adventures.

Through the course of three books (and some small snippets that the author, Maria V. Snyder has available online), we get to see Yelena as the fully-fleshed out character she is.  She struggles against injustice and her own feeling of disconnectedness.  We see her fall in love without even knowing it, and having to then pick between freedom and love.  Oh, and she has these powers she doesn't understand and that happen to be illegal in the area where she lives.  Nothing like putting pressure on a girl.

Snyder's writing is highly engaging.  I find it hard to put down a book by her.  So far, Yelena is my favorite, but there isn't a single Snyder book that hasn't kept me up way past my bedtime.  If you check her out, read the Study series before the Glass series, as they are connected (I read the first Glass story before the Study series, so I already knew the outcome of some events, which for me, is a bit sad.)

Come back tomorrow for our final letter!

May 15, 2013

x out of that screen...

Ick, I don't even like that title, as I cringe every time someone says "x" instead of "close."  But it's all I could think of, so it gets to stay.  Let's find out what X story (not rated, come on!) is one of my favorites!


I'm not a comic book fan.  But I am a huge fan of the X-Men stories (at least the ones they have made into films).  Maybe it's Hugh Jackman (another favorite!), but I think a lot of it has to do with the way the stories grab me.  It's the epic fight of good vs. evil but also the misfits vs. the accepted.  And when you blend the two together (with the so-called misfits being the good guys) you are going to get drama, and probably an explosion or two, if they have anything to do with it.

In addition to the basic storylines, we get characters that are interesting and many-layered.  I mean, come on, Wolverine has great history.  And so do the rest of them.  Which always makes me think about how every person is a misfit in some way, and yet they are so insanely unique and wonderful, too. 

And a story that can help me see beyond the surface and into the heart of humanity is worthy of being one of my favorites. 

May 14, 2013

who, what, when, where...and why...

Wow, this has been a fun journey for me--I hope you are enjoying it as we surge towards the final selections. I have to say, this one was a toss up, because there is a Captain out there that I adore, but since he is part of one of my P selections, we'll go with the other choice for this letter. Time for the W--and let me tell you who, what, when and where...the why is up to you to find.

A Wrinkle in Time

I first encountered L'Engle's masterpiece in the fourth grade--and it was the first of the fantasy stories that I'm in love with (preceding both Narnia and Middle Earth).

The story captures me on many levels--I love Meg, I love the traveling around the universe, and how can you not love Mrs. Witch, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit?  The story inspired me, letting me know that kids can change the world, too.  It also introduced me to L'Engle, and for that, I am eternally happy.  Her other works are very enjoyable, and her non-fiction Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art has been a life changer for me.

While I love the follow-up books as well, this one has a special place in my heart as the first. 

May 13, 2013

venturing towards the end...

Wow, we are in the final five!  V is another hard one for me, but it just so happens that there is a lovely favorite that begins with V...

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My nickname isn't NarniaPrincess for no reason!  I'm a fan of Narnia, since the first time I heard the story (it was read to us by a teacher) back in the fifth grade.

This is the third in the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis (if you go by publication order, which I do, as that's the correct way :P ).  And it's my favorite largely because of Eustace.  I mean, come on, he's a very awesome character.  His arc is beautiful, even if he starts out overly annoying and YOU want to shove him off the starboard side of the ship, too.

I think what attracts me to this one over the other six is that it's more a quest for honor than a "save Narnia" tale.  War stories tend to bore me after a while, but this is more adventure and restoration.  Plus we meet some fantastic characters along the way.

Come back tomorrow to find out which story makes the cut for W!

May 12, 2013


Wow, we are getting close to the end of the alphabet!  Keep reading to find out what story the our final vowel gets to represent today!


Hello, it's Jet Li!  Also known as Danny the Dog, this movie is one of my favorite with Li.  The story is of a man who was taken as a child, raised to be a guard dog (he sleeps in a cage, and he is lethal in martial arts) for a mobster.  But then, his keeper dies (or so it appears), and Danny is free.  Only he has no idea how to really care for himself, he doesn't communicate much, and now he's on his own.  Talk about the ultimate vulnerable guy!  (Don't forget, he's also lethal, which is such a fascinating combination.)  Enter an old man (played by Morgan Freeman) and his daughter, who take Danny in. 

But, of course, the mobster isn't dead, and he wants his pet back. 

This one has lots of action, but also a lot of heart.  And Jet Li is amazing as the fragile yet deadly Danny. 

Come back tomorrow to find out what story captures V!

May 11, 2013

to the theater...

Welcome back!  Today we get the letter T.  Such a fun letter.  So which story do I love that starts with T?

Twelfth Night

This Shakespearean classic is one that I have studied much, and in doing so, I have fallen in love with it.  I remember the first time I read it, back in high school, and having long class discussions about the title (which stems from the holiday the play was supposedly commissioned for, but the subtitle is "What You Will", and the word "will" is a loaded one, for sure!).  And I loved Viola, and how she was trying to protect herself, and in doing so, causes all manner of trouble. 

And because women weren't allowed on stage, we get lots of delicious cross-dressing and people pretending to be other people.  And yellow stockings. 

I really like how the Bard took the traditional love triangle and makes it more overlapping circles.  We have Viola in love with the Duke who is in love with Olivia who is in love with Cesario (who is Viola in disguise).  Throw in a twin brother (Sebastian), an ill-fit suitor, a drunk uncle, a scheming fool, and you are sure to have a great time. 

The play is wonderful, but since plays are written to be watched, I highly recommend the 1996 version with Helena Bonham Carter as Olivia.

May 10, 2013

so so simple...

We've made it to S!  As a Sara, this letter has always been a favorite.  So it should be no surprize that I had a very hard time picking just one story for this letter.  I mean, just off the top of my head I can think of at least five (The Saint, Serenity, Stranger than Fiction, The Solitaire Mystery, and The Secrets of Jin-shei).  So which story makes the cut for being my favorite story that starts with S...

 The Sparrow

Those who know me well aren't shocked or surprized or even stumped at this choice.  It's one of my top five novels ever. 

Written by Mary Doria Russell (who is a very kind woman who answered my emails with speed and grace and smiles), this story is about Jesuits traveling to another planet, to make the first intergalactic contact with another species.  I know, sounds awesome, right?  Of course it does, because it is!

Our main character is Emilio Sandoz, a priest who loves God in theory (head-love) but hasn't ever really fallen into heart-love with Him.  Emilio is perhaps my favorite character ever--he is smart, witty, feisty, fragile, and oh-so-human.  And in this story, as he and his companions (who are just as fantastically written) travel to Rakhat, a planet from which a radio signal of music has been received. 

We follow Sandoz (another S!), along with Anne and George Edwards, Jimmy Quinn, Sophia Mendez, and a handful of other priests, as they make the discovery, put forth the crazy idea of traveling across space to visit the planet, their trip, and finally, their arrival on the planet.  And what happens on planet, and mostly what happens to Emilio after he has returned to Earth, alone.

Sounds like a nice sci-fi, right?  It is. But it is so much more.  It's about the human condition and the heart of who we are.  It's about how we mean no harm and yet can cause the destruction of an entire world in the name of friendship.  It's about how loving God isn't roses and clouds and angels playing harps--but it's about grit and brokenness and understanding that a life given over to God is His and His alone to use as he see fit. 

I do highly recommend getting both this one and the sequel (which is vital to read if you want the complete picture).  The writing is beautiful (I both praise and curse Russell in the same breath, because she can make me care so much and yet make me realize I have so far to go as a writer), and the story is epic and personal at the same time. 

Please note, for my younger friends, this book has very frank conversations about adult themes, and for my sensitive readers, it deals with some rather horrific topics.  If you are wondering if you can stomach it, just send me a message and I can help you decide.  

For CPers interested--check with me or Twinkie first.  This is the sort of story that can do more damage than good if you aren't ready for it, and since it is SO beautiful, I don't want it to hurt a single one of you!

May 9, 2013

ruby red...

Welcome to the Letter R.  I had only one choice for this letter.  Keep reading to see what it is!

Raven Stole the Moon

I have to thank my friend David for introducing me to Garth Stein, but I have myself to thank for picking up this gem by him.  I enjoyed Stein's writing in The Art of Racing in the Rain (even if I wasn't thrilled at the narrator being a dog) enough to pick this one up at a used bookstore, and I was not disappointed.

This story weaves Inuit myth with the heartbreak of a mother whose child has died.  It takes us on a journey through loss and coping and needing answers, through Alaska and into the heart of the raven myths.  Stein really weaves the elements together well in this one, and he always kept me guessing as to what would happen next.  And as a writer, I am always impressed when an author can do that (since I often figure it out way ahead of time).

Do yourself a favor and check out Stein and this amazing story.

May 8, 2013


We have come to that letter that everyone dreads in Scrabble--the one that's hard to use.  But let's quest and see if we can't find some way out of this quandry...

Questions About Angels

What, a poem can be a story.  And in this lovely poem by Billy Collins we get a very sweet story.  I'm just going to post it here so you can see how lovely it is.  I think it needs no other explanation.

Questions About Angels

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do they fly through God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

May 7, 2013

please pass the peace...

You would think P would be a difficult letter.  It's not highly popular in Wheel of Fortune, but I found I had a lot of choices with this letter.  In fact, I couldn't pick just one, so today, you get three favorite stories.

The Painted Veil

This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and some days, it is my very top pick.  Naomi Watts and Edward Norton star in the adaptation of Summerset's novel (skip the novel, watch the movie, you will thank me), and it's so wonderful.

The story is about a married couple in the 1920's.  She commits adultery, and he decides to punish her in the only way he can, by dragging her to a remote location in China where is he is going to work.

I know, doesn't sound very promising, does it?  But believe me, it's one of the most moving stories of love you will EVER see.  It's a story about deciding to love, about realizing you are unlovable, and about restoring (and in some cases, creating for the first time) love after betrayal.

And the cinematography is stunning, as if you needed another reason to watch it.


You all know I adore Jane Austen, and this is my favorite Austen tale.  I know, you thought I'd go with Pride & Prejudice (which I do love), but there is something about Anne Elliot that I adore.  So even though I am most like Elizabeth as far as personality, I feel like Anne's story is the one that gives me the most hope.  I love the book, and the movie version with Amanda Root is pretty fantastic.

This story is a second-chance love story. Anne was convinced by her family and friends to give up her engagement to Wentworth eight years prior.  And now he's a Captain, and made his way in the world, and he's back.  But does he still care for Anne?  Read it and find out!


The second book in C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, this one is my favorite (usually) of the three.  What I love about it is that we see a new world, a new race of beings, and they are being tempted just like Adam and Eve.  Only this time, God has sent a helper, someone to argue FOR not sinning.  And that helper is Ransom.

I adore Ransom in all the books, but in this one I feel like we really get to know him best.  We see him at his weakest points, and we see his humanity.  This book also has my favorite passage ever, and we also get a very adorable Lewis (the character and narrator) that I just have to adore.

There you have it--my three P's!

May 6, 2013

otherwise known as...

Let's continue on, safely past the middle.  We are over halfway through, and I'm glad you are still with me!  Today, we have O, and it was another easy choice for me.

On Fortune's Wings

Who doesn't love a tale of the Kingdom?  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should check out Cynthia Voigt's Kingdom series: Jackaroo, On Fortune's Wings, The Wings of a Falcon, and Elske. My favorite in the series is the second one, On Fortune's Wings.

This story is about a young woman who is engaged to be wed at the spring fair.  But she isn't sure she wants to wed, and when she spies someone stealing her father's row boat after dark one night, she decides to pursue (even though she is a girl and shouldn't be out in the woods at night).  When she overtakes the thief, a young man who isn't ready to claim his own future, they set out on an adventure together, not both as willing as the other, but since they happen to be both running away, it works to go together for the time.

Their story takes us down the river, into dark lands, into slavery and apprenticeship, through alchemy and restoration.  It finally takes us home, and then away again.

What I love about this story is that it's about a meeting in the middle.  The thief is high class, our young lady is an inn keeper's daughter.  But it's more than just compromise, it's about learning how to be yourself, and learning how to treat others as humans, not as titles or ideas.

I have read this book at least ten times since I discovered it in junior high.  I hope to read it at least ten more times in my life.  In fact, I might have to go pick it up right now.

May 5, 2013

notes and notions...

The other middle letter of the alphabet, N, was an easy choice for me.  Want to know what it is?  Read on, dear friend, read on!

North & South

You are thinking this is some Civil War story, and I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong.

This is a fantastic tale by Elizabeth Gaskell (who also wrote Wives & Daughters), set in the industrial period, in England.  We have a young woman who moves North with her family because her father has fallen on hard times (because he stuck to his principles), and they find there a vastly different world from the gentle South.

We also have a Jane-Austen-worthy romance between this young woman and a factory owner.  In fact, there are ways that I like this story more than P&P.  I'm sure Gaskell borrowed the plot line (all good authors do) and she made it her own.

While this is a book, I've only seen the screen version (with Richard Armitage, be still my heart!).  I have the book on my Kindle but haven't gotten to it.  I've read Gaskell before, and I like her work, so I'm sure the book will be just as wonderful as the mini-series, if not better.

May 4, 2013

marching on...

We've arrived at the middle of the alphabet.  Which is kinda ironic, given my story for the day...

The Monster at the End of this Book

Tell me you aren't smiling right now.  Go on.  Admit it.  You have fond memories of this book, too.

If you haven't read it, hurry to the library.  It's a Sesame Street book featuring Grover. 

Basically, Grover has heard a rumor that there is a monster at the end of the book he is in, and he very much doesn't want to meet the monster.  So he spends every page trying to convince the reader NOT to turn the page.  And oh, the heartache you cause him when you do. 

I won't give away the ending (just in case you haven't gotten to the library yet. Get. Go!) but I will say that this was one of the first books that really made me feel like reading was interactive, not passive.  And that's pretty fantastic. 

Tune in tomorrow for an epic tale that starts with N...

May 3, 2013

lovely, lonely...

Welcome to L.  This was one of the hardest ones to pick a favorite for--apparently I am lacking in L titles.  Want to know the one that finally won out?  Here you go..


I'm a sucker for horse stories.  I'm also a sucker for fragile heroes who don't know they are heroes.  And Dick Francis, that former jockey for the Queen (yes, of England!), combines both elements into all his books.  While Longshot isn't my most favorite Francis novel, it is one that didn't have to vie with ten other choices, so it gets to represent all of the Francis books I've enjoyed.

In this charming tale, we have a travel/survival writer who wants to be a novelist, and he's a bit down on his luck, so he takes a job to write a biography for a famous racehorse trainer.  But this trainer has something to hide, and our lovable writer gets thrown into danger and intrigue.  Being a survival writer means he knows, technically, how to survive, but he's never really had to apply the skills, until now.

All of Francis' books are mysteries, and his main characters are all very much alike, but what I love is that they are endearing.  And they each have a trade (often one that has nothing to do with horses, like wain merchant, gemologist, movie direction, etc) and they are well-researched.  Thus, every time I read a new Francis book, I feel like I'm learning a new trade.  And for this reader, that's like a cherry on top.

If you haven't read Dick Francis, pick up Longshot.  My very favorite so far is Proof, and To The Hilt is a close second.  Any book by him will do, but those three are fantastic gems. 

May 2, 2013

know thyself...

We've made it to the letter K.  Random fact about this letter--when I was in the fifth grade, my teacher decided she didn't like how I made my "k"s, so she failed me on an entire spelling test because every work included the letter.  I'm deeply scarred by that, as you can tell. Keep reading to see which story helps redeem this letter for me...


A Knight's Tale

This one had me at Heath Ledger, but then, unlike many such fluffy movies, it kept working the hook in deeper and deeper.  This movie isn't just some silly spoof of the medieval romance, no, it's a charming tale in its own right.  We have the boy who isn't a knight, but wants to be one, the lady who wishes to be seen as more than a prize, and a beloved writer who is shown to be human.  Not to mention the female blacksmith and the fake knight's squire, or sorts.  This ensemble reminds us that dreams can come true, and that nobility, honor, and chivalry are more than just words, they are actions.  My favorite part is when the Black Prince (who himself struggles with his identity) comes to release William.

With fantastic performances by Ledger, Paul Bettany, Mark Addy, Alan Tudyk Rufus Sewell, and James Purfoy, this movie is one that I can watch over and over without it getting old.  A wonderful blend of humor, truth, and romance.  And Chaucer wandering around in his birthday suit...

May 1, 2013

and just then...

Today we have the lovely letter J.  And there is only one real choice here for me.  What to know what it is?  Keep reading!

Jane Eyre

As far as classics go, I read this one early, and it captured me.  My aunt gave me both Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair one year for Christmas, and I must have been about 13.  I devoured Bronte's novel, but never could get a handle on Thackery (I've tried many a time to read it, but I only get about three chapters in before I abandon it--I watched the movie and felt like abandoning it, too, so I've given up on it for good now!).

But Jane, that austere, withdrawn-yet-deeply-feeling girl, she and I connected.  I have a feeling that many of my ideas of deep, romantic love, stem out of this story more than any other (even my much more beloved Jane Austen!).

I've only read the book two or maybe three times, but in the last ten years I've become rather obsessed with watching movie versions.  To date, I've seen at least four, if not five or six, of the versions.  And there are many more to track down and view!

Somehow, this young, mistreated governess speaks to me.  She tells me about strength, about doing the right thing, about love that is worth walking away from to make it even more pure.  That's a lot for such a young girl to teach.  But she does it well.

So far, I've enjoyed all the movie versions, but one (I can't remember which off the top of my head) left out the ripping of the wedding veil, which is one of the BEST scenes, and I just couldn't understand why you would leave out such a well-known and haunting scene, but one director did.

And my obsession with Jane led me to also venture into the world of Thursday Next (another literary character) who first appears in the book The Eyre Affair...yes, they are connected, in a most delightful way!

Note: Jane Eyre is the only Bronte story I have ever read.  I hated Wuthering Heights and never finished it, and I've never picked up anything by Anne...

April 30, 2013

the middle vowel...

We've made it to the middle vowel, perhaps the easiest letter to write, and one we use all the time (since we talk about ourselves constantly, right?).  I give you I!

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

A moving, based-on-personal-experience, story about a young woman and her struggles with mental wellness.  It takes place sometime between the 1950's and 1960's, and it follows Deborah as she goes into a mental hospital.  Her time there came after the lobotomy craze and before a lot of the drugs that we use now.

We get to see both how the institution works (or doesn't) as well as Deborah's struggles with her illness (schizophrenia) and learning that when it comes down to it, she is the only one who can decide to be healthy or "ill".

The thing that draws me so much to this book is the depth of honesty that we find from the author (Hanna Green, aka, Joanne Greenberg) as she handles both "her" illness and the sufferings of the other patients.  In this mental ward they don't pull punches, they have no reason to.  It's raw, it's harsh, and there is a stunning beauty to be found there.

I've read this one at least five times since discovering it in early college, and every few years I pick it up again because there is so much to be gathered up about what is sanity, can we take imagination too far, and to what lengths will the human mind go to to protect itself from threats both real and imagined.

(I recommend this one for those who are 18 and up since many of my younger friends would be highly sensitive to many of the themes.)

April 29, 2013

ha ha ha...

I thought this would be an easy letter to deal with, but turns out I don't have a lot of favorites with H, well, that's not true, I have two songs that fit the bill that are in my top ten favorite songs ever...so I guess you get to hear about them (even though many of you know them already).  Without more adieu, I give you H.


If you don't think this song is a story, well, think again.  It is so many stories wrapped up together, it can't help but touch most listeners somehow (I would venture a claim that those who can listen without being somehow touched are rather stone inside, just sayin').

I came up on the k.d.lang version of this song at a particularly dark point in my life, and it carried me, and in its own way, gave me peace and comfort.  The writer of the song, when he heard lang perform it, said that her version was the ultimate performance of it.  I tend to agree.

Give it a listen.

Hey Jude

This is my favorite Beatles' song, and as I said above, also one of my top ten favorite songs ever.  The funny thing is, the story I hear in it is vastly different than the one most of my Beatles-loving friends hear.  And, I found out, very different from the original inspiration.

What I hear in this story is a young man who is afraid to love, and yet there is love there for him to take.  This man tends to turn things to the worse, but he doesn't have to. The singer is encouraging him to pick love, to not fear it.  The singer is telling Jude that this is his destiny, and that love can save him.  How can I not melt at that?

Fun note: I am very drawn to such stories--another song, Desperado, has similar themes, and that one in my all time favorite song.

April 28, 2013

go golden...

Welcome back!  Today we are on the letter G.  There are a lot of contenders for this one, from Green Eggs and Ham to Gossamer by Lois Lowery, with The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing vying for a nod, and Ghost Story by Jim Butcher also a likely choice.  So what to pick for this letter?  Read on and I'll tell you.

The Goblin and the Empty Chair

I am not ashamed to admit I read children's books.  Some of them are very good.  A few of them are so beautifully written that your heart is likely to burst as you read them.  This gem by Mem Fox, is one of those.  The beautiful illustrations by Diane and Leo Dillion are the gilding on story that makes my heart ache and rejoice in the same moment. 

It tells about a very ugly goblin who is very lonely.  And a family that lives near him has suffered an incredible lost, and the goblin has seen that this family is heartbroken, and he decides to see if he can do something about it. 

I'm not sure why I picked this up in the library in January, I think someone mentioned Mem Fox as a good children's writer, or it caught my eye.  Either way, I'm every so thankful that I stumbled on this book in particular.  The story is simple but moving, and the characters are easy to identify with.  There's a life lesson here, and it's not overly subtle, but it's handle with such care that you almost want to thank the characters at the end for helping you become a better person, or at least for reminding you of who you should be. 

As a children's book, it's short, and most of you could read it in less than ten minutes.  Next time you are in the library, see if they have this one and treat yourself to a beautiful story.

April 27, 2013

a grade you don't want...

Yay, we have made it to the sixth letter, F.  While you wouldn't want to have to explain getting F as a grade, there are many stories found under this letter, and I'm going to share two of my favorites with you (because I just can't pick between these two).

The Fields of Athenry

This song by The High Kings, an Irish group, is a great ballad.  Every time I hear it, it makes me want to write a story.  Sometimes I want to write the story of how these lovers came to this point in their life, where he had to steal bread to try to feed their child, is caught, and is now being sent away, presumably to work across the sea.  Other times it makes me want to write about them in ten or fifteen years, when the child is grown.  And sometimes it makes me just want to write any story.  The harmony and melody get me just as much as the storyline.  It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for Irishmen singing, either.

If you haven't heard The High Kings, check out this song here.

The Fifth Element

Yeah, I know, weird one to pair with an Irish ballad, but hey, I have eclectic taste!

This sci-fi film came out in 1997, and I saw it sometime after it left the theater.  My brother was the one who introduced me to it, and he didn't figure I'd like it much, but that I would watch it because it has Bruce Willis in it (my brother has a crush on Mila Jovovich, who also stars).

The story is classic "flawed, angry washed up hero saves the world".  There is space travel and blue aliens.  There are trips to Egypt and far away planets.  What sci-fi fan could resit?  But the thing that really gets me about this one is that Willis is great at playing vulnerable characters who are tough but deeply hurt, and Jovovich is so very charming (not just good looking) as the precious "fifth element".  

Anyone needing a good "save the world" sort of flick that will make you laugh and might make you tear up just a tiny bit, this is a good one. And did I mention the supporting cast of Ian Holm, Gary Oldman, and Luke Perry (don't judge, he's adorable)?  Oh, and Chris Tuner (not Rock), though highly annoying, is also rather charming in this one.

April 26, 2013

second vowel to the left...

Let's move on now to E, that lovely vowel that is sometimes silent and makes for a lot of difficulty when learning English.

East by Edith Pattou

I'm a sucker for fairy tales, and in East, a young adult novel, we have a great one.  Pattou tells us the story of the polar bear king (if you haven't heard of this one, check out the Norwegian tale, East of the Sun, West of the Moon) who has to find love, but is thwarted by a queen, who happens to be a troll.

You get a little bit of Beauty & the Beast, a little bit of Cupid and Psyche, and a few lovely twists that Pattou devises on her own (I really like how she uses the compass rose!).

The novel takes us into various POV's that shift between chapters, and in a way, that helps this story.  Because you have to really pay attention, have to read behind the lines, see what motivates each narrator, and figure out what is going on as you see the various points of view.

As far as fairy tales go, this is one of my favorite "re-tells".

April 25, 2013

dum du dum dum...

Here we are at the fourth letter of the alphabet: D.  I love this letter.  And I know you are expecting me to wax on about how much I love The Dresden Files (a natural choice, I know.  What's not to love?).  But I'm going to throw you a curve ball.  Ready?

The Dark Tower by C.S. Lewis

What?  You've never heard of Lewis' Dark Tower!  For shame!

You'll find this fantastic short story in a collection of stories and essays by the same name.  The story itself is somehow related to Lewis' space books--you can tell it's related, but not often sure where it would have gone.  (Reports are that it was a possible sequel to Out of the Silent Planet, before Perelandra.)  It deals with interdeminsional travel, and time travel.

Some of our favorite characters are here, primarily Lewis the narrator, MacPhee (an early version of him, at least) and Ransom.  It's a fascinating little tale about automatons and "othertime".

The most tragic thing about this is that this story is incomplete.  It has pages missing.  At crucial points.  Talk about making a reader go insane!  

I always find it fun to discover obscure works by favorite authors.  And while there are some who say this isn't Lewis, I believe that it is.  It's Lewis exploring, as all writers do.  And I find it a fantastic compliment to the rest of his works. 

April 24, 2013

third in line...

Here here are, the third post in my alphabet series on favorite stories.  Are you ready?  Here's C!

Cold Comfort Farm

Can we say quirky? Can we say delightful? Can we say quintessentially British?

Hope so, because that about sums up Cold Comfort.

This is a story set in the early 1930's and tells how a young woman with only 100 pounds a year goes to live with distance relatives she has never met on their farm, Cold Comfort.  There's all the token characters: the poetic waif, the lusty farm boy cousin, the ranting father who becomes a hell and brimstone preacher, the nervous mother, the overbearing grandmother.  And then there is Cousin Flora, and she can't abide a mess.  So she sets about fixing up the farm and it's occupants. 

I've read the novel and watched the film, and I have to say, I prefer the film slightly over the book.  You get a better feel for the story with the very unique characters fleshed out.

I can't remember who introduced me to this gem (very possibly it was Dara, but it might have been a fellow English student during my Jane Austen class...the memory is vague), but I'm ever so thankful.

The fact that the story of young Flora Post hits on so many Austen truisms didn't hurt at all.  It's like a slightly updated Austen mash-up.  And you just have to love a girl who says, "I just love the phrase, 'A marriage has been arranged.' When I feel like it, I'll arrange one."

Save yourself a few hours and go straight to the movie on this one, and don't forget, there is something nasty in the woodshed!

April 23, 2013

and then came b...

Might as well blog while I'm thinking about it and have the time, right?

I started a series yesterday on favorite stories, and I'm picking one for each letter of the alphabet.  Today's letter is B.

The Book of Eli

This is a fairly new addition to favorites--I've only seen it twice.  But powerful story can capture you the first time around, and that's the case with this Denzel Washington film.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where there isn't lot to eat and water is a precious resource.  We meet our lone traveler, Eli (Washington), who is headed west.  Eli carries a book.  Turns out this book is THE book (the Bible), and that a wannabe lord has been searching for a copy for quite a while now.  When he and Eli cross paths, things get a bit crazy.

This movie is gritty; there is nothing really pretty to be found.  Yet there is beauty in the motivation, in the determination, and in the outcome.

I find in The Book of Eli a story about God's love, protection, and mysterious ways.  Which is sorta funny, since the movie wasn't made by a Christian outfit.  And perhaps that makes me love it more, because it reminds me that Truth doesn't require perfection or even someone who agrees with it; it will shine through if the storyteller is willing to honestly tell the story.

April 22, 2013

start at the very begining...

So, there is a thing going around the blogverse about doing 26 posts with each one being based on a letter of the alphabet.  I've been a very lax blogger as of late, so I think this might help get me posting on a regular basis.  I don't promise every day, but I do promise to make it to Z!

And because I need some structure, I'm going to tell you about my favorite stories--might be books, might be movies, might be a song or a person (hey, we are stories, too!).

Here we go with A...

The Abhorsen Trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen

Written by Garth Nix, this fantasy series is a bit more grit and dark than many offerings out there.  But somehow, that makes it feel so much more real to me.  The series follows Sabriel, a young woman who has gone to school on the other side of the wall from the kingdom she is born in.  Little does she know, her father happens to be a powerful mage (called Abhorsen) who has the power to send the dead back when they escape the boundaries of death.  Through the books we see Sabriel taking on the mantle of Abhorsen, then we meet Lireal, a woman raised in the icy north where she lives with the clairvoyant sisterhood but never receives her calling (though she gets to hang out and work in the most amazing library EVER!), and then on to the final book, where stories and characters collide in a final effort to keep the world from ending.  Classic fantasy mixed with some very unique features.  And of course, a mention has to be given to the Disreputable Dog, who is one of the only dogs in all of literature that can make me laugh.

If you can handle a bit of magic and things that go bump in the night, and you haven't read this series, I highly recommend it (15 and up).

January 5, 2013

unexpected journey...

It's a new year.  Welcome!

I have to say, never have I been so eager to leave a year behind.  But 2012 was a doozie, and I was more than happy to see it go.  I have to say, the best thing that came out of it was a movie and some renewed friendships.  Let's talk about the movie, because it really highlights a lot that is going on in my life right now.

The Hobbit (part one) came out in December.  Now, I waited for this movie with more than normal excitement.  Mostly because it has been far too long since we got to tarry in Middle Earth with fresh scenery and characters.  What I didn't know was how much my soul NEEDED this Hobbit story.

Let's be clear up front--this movie is NOT the book. It's more than the book, it's the book and lot of history (taken right from Tolkien), and it's also more than that.  It's not just an adventure for kids.  This is a story about a hobbit who is stuck, even though he doesn't know it.  He needs change, he needs meaning, and he needs to become so much more than he even knows he can be.

I've heard a lot of mixed reactions to The Hobbit--people who said it was a waste, people who were sad because it wasn't the book, and those that loved it.  A friend had a good theory--that people who are Tolkien fans would love it (because it adds so much more of the world Tolkien created, even with some minor deviations, they still get more than just The Hobbit story), that people who aren't familiar with the story will enjoy it (because it's a good story), and those who are "casual fans" (his words, not mine) will be disappointed because it is NOT the book, and they won't appreciate the depth the background story lends to the story at hand.

I have to admit, I love it.  Partly because I can't read a lot of the history because it's so dry (and I'm slightly ADD, so if it's dry and boring, I'm not going to pay attention), but I LOVE the world Tolkien created.  I get more of his creation this way, and in a way that I can appreciate and pay attention to.  But that's not the only reason I love it.  I love how this movie has made Thorin a sympathetic character.  In the book, I never liked him.  He wasn't fleshed out and he was too focused.  Here we get a very focused, a very passionate, and very driven young dwarf prince (and yes, he is also very good looking, which helps, but hey!).  This Thorin has capacity to grow, to change, to become a better dwarf.  I know how the story ends, but I'm still enjoying this Thorin, and I look forward to two more movies with him.

That's not all. I also love the Gandalf we get here.  A more mischievous, more tender in ways, and one who is humble.  I really love the part between him and Galadriel (and the smirk we get from Elrond).  It really builds a depth to the characters that we never see directly in the words, but it fits it perfectly.  I also adore Martin Freeman as Bilbo.  He is perfect.  He is delightful.  He IS Bilbo.  His performance is excellent and heart-warming.  And the scenes with Gollum are heart-wrenching and funny and sad.  It's fantastic.

But that's not the main reason why I love this movie.  I love it because, like Bilbo, I need an adventure.  I need to get out of my rut.  I need to believe that I am capable of so much more than I realize.  I need to fight for others that they might have what I have.  As I watched the movie again this afternoon (for the fourth time), I was deeply struck by the part where Bilbo explains to Thorin why he came back--because the dwarves don't have a home because it was taken from them. And if he, Bilbo, can help them take it back, he will.  Because he has a home to miss.  He has books and an armchair and a garden.  It reminded me so much of the scene from Fellowship when Arwen says over Frodo, "What grace has been given to me, let it pass to him."  Bilbo recognizes the grace given to him, and he wants to extend that grace to the company of Thorin Oakenshield. 

And if that isn't beautiful, I don't know what is.

And that's part of what I am longing for.

There are things brewing in my life that I am not at liberty to share just yet, but I can say that adventure and grace and being more than I can realize that I can be all play a part.

So yes, I love this movie.  Not just because it's a beautiful sojourn in a favorite place; not just because it's a good story; not just because it's well-acted with stunning performances that move my soul to laugh and pause; I love this movie because I'm just a hobbit who is in need of an adventure.  And I'm a little afraid, and Bilbo Baggins gives me hope, too.

(photo from TimeWarner)