Letter Writers Alliance

Letter Writers Alliance

I’m a member of an interesting group. As a girl with a passion for all things old fashioned and vintage, the Letter Writers Alliance just makes sense to me. Isn’t it sad that writing letters and sending them through the post has become such a rarity? I am an avid letter writer, but I didn’t know it until my brother joined the Marines. It really began when he was in boot camp.

I still remember the day the recruiter took him to MCRD San Diego. It was a little foggy that morning and I didn’t sleep from the night before. It was 4 in the morning and my family and I were wandering the house a little mindlessly. He was just himself even at the dawn of a new pathway in his life, he was confident, if a little pensive. I’d decided weeks before that I would give him a hug, say “Goodbye, I love you” and I wouldn’t cry… at least not in front of him.

So the moment came to test my fortitude, I said it, he hugged me and then all I remember from the moment the car turned out of sight was suddenly being at home. My usual response for intense emotional situations is to sleep, so I have a lot of times in my life where time seems to escape me. Anyways, for the 27 minutes it took to get home, my parents were silent and I strongly suspect I fell asleep. The very moment I strode through the door and into my room though, I became restless. I wanted to go into his room and say “Hey” or do something goofy to make him laugh, but he wasn’t there and he wouldn’t be for 13 weeks straight.

I remember picking up the nearest writing instrument (a fluorescent blue gel pen) and grabbing a notebook. At that time, something in me changed. I realized it was a way to express my life and my thoughts to my brother in a way I’d never do in person. How funny to suddenly want to ramble on and on about my inane thoughts and ideas. When the first few weeks of boot camp were over, he was finally able to receive letters. I’d been chronicling everything for days, so naturally it was time to send those out and get on with more letters. By the time he was in 3rd phase I was writing two or more letters a day and mailing them out. His DIs teased him for getting so much mail, but he said he loved it and he still wanted to hear anything I had to say. Mail call was his favorite time of day.

Letters were my way of still feeling close to my brother even when we were in two different worlds. On Sundays when he got a few free minutes, he’d dash off a letter answering some of my questions, telling me some funny stories and telling me he missed me. The things we couldn’t or wouldn’t say in person seemed to jump out of our pens and onto the papers. Each and every time the mail came, I haunted the post man. Normally he got jumpy at the houses with dogs; he’d sort of sprint up to the box, put the mail in and sprint off. With my eyes constantly searching for his arrival, my habit of leaping out the front door to make sure (a) he picked up my multitude of letters (b) he dropped off any and all personal letters and the velocity at which I sped out towards the box… He began sprinting up to my door and sprinting away. (Have you ever seen Keeping Up Appearances? I became Hyacinth with the scared post man.)

There were other times when I’d pen volumes of letters, but none so obsessively as when he was deployed. When several months lapse and you’re waiting for a Marine to come home, and you have my particular sleepy default condition, you tend to forget much of that time. But some things I do remember: the hours and hours I spent writing, crying and hugging a sandy letter, the two 100 packs of gel pens I went through and feeling that I could get through another day as long as I had the hope of more letters coming someday soon.

That habit has followed me to this day. I may not write scores of letters a day anymore, but I try to send friends and family something every so often just to remind them, and hopefully, give them the feelings I get when I receive mail. If you haven’t written a letter for a while, or you’re thinking of someone, sit down and write; give them that little thrill of opening an envelope. Join the LWA and begin chronicling things in your life, just write something.


Long Beach 5K

It's been a long time since I've posted anything... Between my new baby, work, church, KOTW and the 5K tomorrow, things have been hectic. But hey, here it is, October 8th and I'm ready to rock that run tomorrow.

International City Bank's Long Beach Marathon/Half-Marathon/Bike Race/5K is gonna be sweet, I'm very proud to be an official Semper Fi Fund team runner. So far, I've raised $245 from just 6 contributors! Thank you friends, family, and loved ones for your unfailing support and for caring about this awesome charity! If you want to donate, there's still time, check out the Rockabilly Semper Fi Fund page. (I receive no money, it all goes straight to SFF, I'm just the sponsor for that particular webpage)

This year: 5K... Next year I'm thinking the bike ride sounds fun :)



Pamela: or, Virtue Rewarded

First of all, let me say, thank goodness I got this novel for so cheap at Camelot Books. I would’ve been extremely upset if I’d spent much more than I did. Of the three disliked novels I’ve read recently, I suppose this one is better, not good, but better than the other two. The Expedition of Humphry Clinker still strikes fear into my very soul, I despise that novel with a passion… whereas Joseph Andrews just kind of bored me to the brink of death.

Pamela at least gave me some interesting thoughts to keep me awake. Again, as with Humphry Clinker, it’s written in an epistolary fashion, which can be mind-numbing at best. Here’s the basic gist of the story: Pamela Andrews is a very beautiful 15 year old servant whose mistress has just died, leaving her in the hands of her scoundrel of a son, Mr. B. Immediately Mr. B sets to giving Pamela extravagant gifts, not long after, he begins to test her fortitude by trying to seduce her. A kiss here, a kiss there and before you know it, he’s attempting to ravish the poor (extremely young) virtuous girl.

Here’s where the story sort of gives you something to think about: Pamela is a mere servant girl, however she values herself and her purity. She says “no”, and although she stupidly gets into many of these awkward moments by her own naïveté, it was sort of a big deal to write about a servant girl who valued herself enough to disagree with her master. If you’re like me though, you’ll read her self pitying “O, pray for poor Pamela” letters with an annoyed sigh.

And then there’s the “I want to hit myself on the head with this book lots of times so I’ll forget I just spent time reading over 500 pages of fairly obnoxious whiny letters” moment… ::SPOILER ALERT:: She falls in love with this total cad! What’s the reward for being virtuous? Apparently marrying your would-be rapist. Ick. There were a few other things that just made me roll my eyes when I read about the personality and history of Pamela’s beloved Mr. B. But like I said, of the three novels, this one was the most interesting. It makes you think, even if they are thoughts of “What the heck?!” It’s better than nothing.

Joseph Andrews

Is it possible, have I found yet another novel that I dislike as much as The Expedition of Humphry Clinker? Pretty darn near. Okay, it wasn’t as bad, but it was… dull. Now, I mistakenly read this before reading Pamela (which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Joseph Andrews, it was written as a follow-up sort of mocking piece in which Henry Fielding attacked the weaker morality points he noticed in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela), which could account for a bit of the dislike, but I’m fairly certain I disliked it for itself.

Another weakly written novel of the picaresque* genre (*a satirical story of a lower class hero or heroine navigating through life and coming upon many adventures), I guess I could cut Fielding some slack since he was merely attempting to parody Richardson, but… Ugh. Adventure is certainly not a word I’d use to describe this novel; it contains a bit of tawdry humor, mysterious parentage and totally unrelated effusive speeches.

Joseph, is introduced as the brother of Pamela Andrews (from the novel Pamela) and is immediately put into a similar circumstance of a very forward master (or in his case, mistress) trying to seduce him. The Lady Booby (yes, that’s really the name Fielding chose) unable to seduce handsome young Joseph sends him away, and thus begins a very tedious novel. I shudder to think about any time the irritating Parson Adams started on a self-righteous sermon-like speech. There's not too much for me to say, I didn't like this one. Glad I'm done with it, check it off the list.

Maybe I’m just too picky, I don’t know. I infinitely prefer the Dickensian picaresque novels to this sort of boredom, but one more down, lots more to go.


Shakespeare's Sonnets

I’m not going to bore you with a tedious analysis of these sonnets. I’m a firm believer that poetry should be read, felt, enjoyed, experienced… not torn apart or deconstructed, they ought to be left intact (without being dissected) the way the artist intended them to be. Prose should never be used to explain the beauty of a poem.

I love William Shakespeare, and I adore his poetry. His sonnets are marvelous and I can find one to suit any mood or situation from passion to despair, love to loss, it’s all there. Here’s a list of some of my favorites, depending on my moods…

18 – In junior high I memorized this sonnet and performed it at a student expo. Yeah, it’s one of my more embarrassing childhood memories (I don’t want to talk about it.)

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

71 – This appeals to my morbid side, it’s painfully beautiful.

No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Than you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so,
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot,
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
Oh, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse;
But let your love even with my life decay;
Lest the wise world should look into your moan,
And mock you with me after I am gone.

116 – This was the sonnet that affirmed my love of Shakespeare when I was a girl. It makes so much more sense once you’ve loved and lost. Thank you, William Shakespeare, for sonnet 116.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixèd mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his
height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

141 – Ah the blindness that takes over when you fall in love, embodied in one amazing sonnet.

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote;
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue's tune delighted;
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart's slave and vassal wretch to be:
Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

145 – I love the fear that Shakespeare lays open in this sonnet, it’s human and familiar.

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said, "I hate,"
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue, that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
"I hate," she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who, like a fiend,
From heaven to hell is flown away;
"I hate," from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying- "not you."


The Way of the World

I’m one of those people who loves reading plays… that being said, I suppose I should qualify that statement: I love reading most plays. This wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read ::ahem Humphry Clinker:: but it was far from dazzlingly wonderful. It’s a fair choice for a play from the Restoration comedy genre; I kind of had a geek moment when Congreve mentioned Ben Johnson’s Volpone That was honestly the high point for me.

To be fair, I’ll share a short synopsis, maybe you’d like to read the play for yourself. Like I said, it isn’t terrible; I’m just not generally partial to the Restoration comedies. The story centers on the lovers Mirabell (yes, Mirabell is a man) and Mrs. Millamant who love each other and want to marry. Alas, impediments exist! If Millamant’s aunt, Lady Wishfort marries someone, they will lose £6000 of Millamant’s dowry… Marriage is a possibility when a rich lady is in question. Lady Wishfort would rather her niece marry her nephew Sir Wilful and of course there are also the added complications of former lovers and mistaken identities, all characteristic of the basic Restoration comedy. It’s short, you can read it in no time, and maybe you’ll like it more than I did. Hey, I bought my Dover Thrift Edition from Barnes & Noble for only $1.00!



“If the accused could speak he could a tale unfold one of the strangest that have ever been narrated between the covers of a book.” James Joyce’s Ulysses has been accused of being unreadable and obscene; and its history is far from sedate. For a while it had been banned in the UK and the United States because of its unabashed and sometimes explicit descriptions (and choice of language).

Make no mistake, reading Ulysses is a huge undertaking but it’s something I think every serious fan of literature should undertake at some point (side note, since it’s based on Homer’s Odyssey, it’s doubly interesting if you’ve ever read the original… though it probably won’t really help to understand some of Joyce’s truly enigmatic phrases and slang).

I finished Ulysses on Bloomsday! Unintentionally, I assure you, I got so caught up reading it I read through the whole night of June 15th to the morning of June 16th. When I realized what day I finished reading Ulysses, I geeked out. There are almost no words I can use to explain how incredibly epic this novel is; you just need to read it to understand what I mean. Don’t be intimidated, pick it up, read it. Here are some quotes I either found amusing/insightful/funny/or a complete epitome of Ulysses …

Pain, that was not yet the pain of love fretted his heart.

Where was the chap I saw in that picture somewhere? Ah, in the dead sea, floating on his back, reading a book with a parasol open. Couldn’t sink if you tried: so thick with salt. Because the weight of the water, no, the weight of the body in the water is equal to the weight of the. Or is it the volume is equal of the weight? It’s a law something like that. Vance in High school cracking his fingerjoints, teaching. The college curriculum. Cracking curriculum. What is weight really when you say the weight? Thirtytwo feet per second, per second. Law of falling bodies: per second, per second. They all fall to the ground. The earth. It’s the force of gravity of the earth is the weight.

The first fellow that picked an herb to cure himself had a bit of pluck.

She swore to him as they mingled the salt streams of their tears that she would cherish his memory, that she would never forget her hero boy who went to his death with a song on his lips as if he were but going to a hurling match in Clonturk park.

On the other hand what incensed him more inwardly was the blatant jokes of the cabmen and so on, who passed it all off as a jest, laughing immoderately, pretending to understand everything, the why and the wherefore, and in reality not knowing their own minds… (Fun trivia: Brendan Fehr’s character in Roswell quotes a version of this fantastic line in the episode 285 South)

theres nothing else its all very fine for them but as for being a woman as soon as youre old they might as well throw you out in the bottom of the ash pit.


Reading Journal for Book Lovers

In my rambles through the sweet little book shops of Solvang a couple months ago; I picked up one of the most useful items I’ve ever beheld: A Reading Journal For Book Lovers. Yes, yes… I’m aware that I’m a total geek, but really, how practical for an avid reader! First off, I adore the cover design, but then you open it up and it’s equally impressive inside too.

The inside of the journal contains pages to analyze any books you’ve finished, little prompts about your personal reading preferences and numerous reading lists (i.e. BBC Top 100 Reads*, Pulitzer Prize Winners, Time Magazine: Top 100 Novels etc). Most of the pages consist of your own personal book rating system with areas to write the title, author, date published, genre, date you started/finished, your rating out of 5 stars, what the book inspired you to learn about and a whole page for notes.

Seriously, for like $13.00 you can grab this super cute reading journal, I think I’ll probably buy several more of these, just to keep myself well stocked for future reading endeavors.

*Side note… Has anyone noticed that the BBC’s top 100 list includes a strange Harry Potter book? (I myself, never having read a Harry Potter book find it ludicrous that they would be included amongst true classics such as Pride & Prejudice, David Copperfield, Middlemarch and Wuthering Heights but that’s not my point…) My point is, if you’ll check the list, number 22 is written as “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”. As I said, I don’t know Harry Potter stuff, but I do know Van Morrison, and I know for a fact that good old Van released an album about 13 years ago called “Philosopher’s Stone”… I’m pretty sure Harry Potter has more to do with sorcerers than philosophers. Am I way wrong here? I did a search on bn.com and found H.P. and the Philosopher’s Stone… But it’s in Greek, that doesn’t count and I doubt it would have been included in the BBC’s Top 100 list. I dunno, it just seems strange.


The Dream of the Rood

Where can I begin with this poem? It’s stunning. It won’t take any time to read, but oh my goodness, it’ll probably get you started on some serious thinking. I read this poem a few weeks ago with every intention of writing about it then, but it’s taken me this long to find any words about it.

The Dream of the Rood is a fine example of Middle English poetry, though the exact date of the poem’s authorship is still unknown. Perhaps that adds to the wonderful mystery of it all.

At any rate, you may wonder, what is a ‘Rood’? Ah, glad you asked. Rood is a Middle English word for ‘rod’, which was also a word used for a crucifix. Maybe the title makes you wonder: is this the cross dreaming, or is someone dreaming of the cross and then writing the poem (think about the title, it’s still unclear… the only answer is to read on and find out).

The poem is indeed a dream about the cross of Jesus and its experiences and viewpoint during Jesus’ crucifixion. Whoa, what an incredible idea, the use of the inanimate object to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. It’s interesting, all of the Easter church services I’ve been to in my life; I’ve never heard anything so abstract that made so much sense. The idea of a cross or tree speaking puts me in mind of one of my favorite Bible verses… check out 1 Chronicles 16:33.

I realize this isn’t my usual type of post, that’s simply because there’s almost nothing I can say. Read it, and you’ll see what I mean.


Howards End

It may be apparent to any readers that my all time favorite author is the great Charles Dickens. I love the way he details scenery, his character’s appearance and his descriptions can go on for pages… E.M. Forster is quite the reverse, yet I love his writing style as well. Forster seems to focus less on outward appearances and much more on the psychological side of things, internal thoughts and repressed feelings. The brilliance of Forster’s novel lies in its understated nature blended with well balanced intrigues, hopes and tragedies.

Any Jane Austen fans may note slight similarities between Sense and Sensibility’s Dashwood sisters and the Schlegel sisters of Howards End… Check it out and see what you think, it’s certainly a splendid novel.


The Canterbury Tales

Geoffrey Chaucer was certainly modern, considering he was an author who wrote it in the late 14th century. Maybe Canterbury Tales goes to show that despite how different it may look, society hasn’t changed that much. The chivalry (although seemingly nonexistent nowadays) still makes sense and isn’t unbelievable or too archaic, the humor seems like it was plucked out of a sitcom (though, I suppose considering time lines, it would be the other way round) and the quickness of the poetry is refreshing and not at all stilted. My favorite section was of course, The Knight’s Tale. Was this the best thing I’ve ever read in my whole life? Not quite. Am I glad I read it? Absolutely.

If you’ve not read The Canterbury Tales and you enjoy classics, check it out, it’ll take just a little while to read, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised!


Tess of the d'Urbervilles

How have I, a classic literature lover, gone so many years without reading this novel? This is what happens when you stick to what you know and only read the same authors and novels over and over; you miss out on some fantastic books!

I am still in awe of this novel, Thomas Hardy's writing style is so effortless to read, I found myself swept up and immersed in the story completely. It was so amazing; I finished this book in a day. Naturally with such an intense story, I felt exhausted afterwards but I have a new favorite novel to add to the list.

Tess Durbeyfield is such an amazing character, I was instantly enamored. Hardy combined such a mixture of strength and innocence, determination and independence that such a literary heroine is rarely found. Alec d’Urberville is sickening while Angel Clare seems diametrically opposite… However, if you take a closer look, you’ll notice one form of abuse hits Tess just as hard as the other. Early on in the story, Alec violates Tess an obvious form of abuse, then later Angel’s disgust at being deceived leads him to believe in an unfair double standard, and again Tess is the victim of a subtler abuse.

Hardy’s commentary on Victorian England’s double standard placed on women in view of their purity is stunning. Seriously, if you haven’t read this novel, do it, it’s fantastic.


Daniel Deronda

I'm back. I've still been reading, just slacking in the blogging department, which, let's be honest: isn't of much consequence. At any rate though, I've had a few people tell me I've gotten them interested in classic literature, score! Up next, George Eliot's splendid Daniel Deronda.

There's so much to be said about this novel, but I'll just touch on a few important points. Instead of making Daniel an impetuous youth, Eliot introduces a deep thinking, strong principled, handsome Englishman. Also immediately introduced is the exasperatingly spoiled yet beautiful Gwendolen Harleth.

Now, although Gwendolen is presented as a potential heroine who can become a better person, you’ll find yourself hoping desperately for a more worthy woman for dear Daniel. Enter Mirah Lapidoth. Mirroring Daniel in many aspects, she adds a touch of pathos and innocent sweetness to the love triangle.

But don’t be fooled, Daniel Deronda isn’t merely a romantic novel, George Eliot used her beautiful story as a way of conveying her frustration with English prejudices which focused strongly on the Jewish faith and culture. At a time when many English authors penned stories which included terrifying Jewish characters, Eliot saw the injustices and strove to correct people’s misconceptions. As much as I love Charles Dickens, think about the seedy, horrific Fagin of Oliver Twist (which it seems he tried to right with Riah’s character in Our Mutual Friend)… So, in George Eliot’s true brilliant fashion, she attacks social injustice while writing one of the most impressive love stories.

As a side note, the 2002 BBC film version of Daniel Deronda is certanly worth a watch.

Here are a few great quotes:

“No- no- it shall not be. It may be- it shall be better with me because I have known you.”

And while there is warmth enough in the sun to feed an energetic life, there will still be men to feel, ‘I am lord of this moment’s change, and will charge it with my soul.’

I know very well what love makes of men and women – it is subjection.

Yet when Deronda entered, the sight of him was like the clearness after rain: no clouds to come hinder the cherishing beam of that moment.

Among the blessings of love there is hardly one more exquisite than the sense that in uniting the beloved life to ours we can watch over its happiness, bring comfort where hardship was, and over memories of privation and suffering open the sweetest fountains of joy.


The Bryan Stow Fund

If you know me at all, you know I love the Dodgers with a passion. I was brought up listening to Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda was one of my childhood heroes, and dad told me stories about the great Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and countless others... All my life I've adored my team, which makes the recent tragedy hit home so much harder.

What can you say when some gutless thugs mercilessly beat a man simply for liking the other team? Yes, there's a heated rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants; but in the end, it comes down to basic human decency and respect. Please, let's not continue this vicious cycle. I've been hit and had things thrown at me for visiting Angels stadium while wearing Dodgers gear, violence is not unique to one team's fans... But if you're a true lover of the great game of baseball, please respect others.

If you can, donate some money to the Bryan Stow Fund. You can go directly from a PayPal account by clicking on the Send Money option then going to Personal: Gift and sending the donation to stowdonations@gmail.com.

"There's no room in the game for hatred and violence. This is America's national pastime, let's keep it that way." -Jamey Carroll


The Book Loft, Solvang, CA

The last store in my ramblings through the little town of Solvang was The Book Loft. It's unique in every sense of the word: embodying a Barnes & Noble-esque downstairs, a lovely used and rare section upstairs, the Hans Christian Andersen museum and the cozy little Bulldog Cafe.

Don't panic, I say Barnes & Noble merely because the downstairs is comprised entirely of new books. It's still a used bookstore at heart. Of course, I milled about downstairs and marvelled at the Authors Playing Cards (an item I fully intended to create myself), journals, puzzles, games etc... But the piece de resistance is upstairs. It contains a fabulous American/Military history section, a bit of poetry, a wall of fiction, cases of rare books and the lovely museum dedicated to one of my favorite authors.

As I wandered among the many shelves, one of the employees noticed my epic reading list and asked if he could help me find what I was looking for. Now although they didn't have the incredibly obscure book, he hopped online and found a copy he could order and ship to me. Now that's service! Go. Wander. Enjoy.

If you visit, here's a little tip: the stairs leading to the used section has a long bookshelf built into it... It has beautiful classics and poetry books for great prices!

Martin's Book Exchange, Solvang, CA

It's tiny, it's sweet, it's exactly what I love in a used bookstore. Martin's Book Exchange in Solvang, California is such a cute little store, I always find books to suit my taste. In the interest of writing this recommendation, I branched out and checked the other sections of books to give you an idea of what they've got. Of course, when I go in, I always make a beeline for the classics and poetry, but I saw romance, history, children's, foreign, health, art, science fiction and rare books (there are more genres than that, I encourage you to go check them out!).

Good prices, the owner is helpful and sweet, and it has that gorgeous book smell!


Valley Books, Solvang, CA

Be still, my beating heart! While on vacation for a few days this week, I scored big time. I found books all over the lovely little town of Solvang, California. What can I say, some people buy little windmill magnets, some spend their cash on Aebleskiver, I used all available funds (and then some) on my beloved books.

I'm recommending some neat little book shops because if you happen to love literature and you find yourself in the vicinity, you'll love these stores. First up, Valley Books. There's something incredibly comforting and wonderful about this store. Unlike some bookstores which are total dives, Valley Books is clean, easy to find your way around, well organized and filed, not to mention the fact that they only sell books in good condition. -This is a big selling point for me, being a girl who's more than once bought a book in a fever of excitement only to get home and realize it smells like my Great-Great Aunt Alice's living room. -

Back to the point though, you can revel in the used and new books, buy some yummy coffee and sit in the comfy chairs all around the store. Also, another big plus: the people who work there don't hover and bother you, if you have a question, they're more than willing to help, but they understand what bibliophiles require above all: time and space.

I found 3 more books off my reading list for under $10! Seriously, go check it out, it's worth it and you'll find some great deals!


Standing Out

I'm not a fan of conformity. So when I'm asked to undertake decorating a table for a women's tea, I take my job seriously and I make the most of my creative abilities. My eye is far different than most people, and my brain works in strange ways. In a group of white table cloths and huge floral center pieces, I aspire to show people what they can do when they stop conforming.

Here it is... my third year decorating a table, refusing to yield to the crowd mentality and challenging people's belief that teas have to be dull, pale and plain. My table was utterly me, a tribute to the 1940's, the military, and one of my favorite activities: letter writing. I put to use my personal collection of antiques (just what I could fit) including lipsticks, hand mirrors, brooches, handkerchiefs, threads, letters from military men to sweethearts and all sorts of things.

My Papa's first picture after joining the U.S. Army

Some V Mail, a V Loan pin, a postcard from a young soldier to his parents...

My beautiful hat made by a milliner, USMC matchbook, old stamps...

Sort of a side view of my table... I still had to include elements they wanted, but it was the best I could do with the limitations I was given.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Few things are as unrestrainedly beautiful and joyful as William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. To properly understand the play, I suppose it would help if you've ever been in love. That's not to say it can't be read by people who haven't experienced love and loss, I first read A Midsummer Night's Dream in elementary school, and enjoyed it thoroughly (but I now see many more subtle complexities that I had before missed).

Some people claim Shakespeare had sinister intentions in writing this play, relying on magic, incantations and fantasy creatures... I am not one of that group, I adore Shakespeare's literary genius, truly at its height when he penned the ephemeral love story. Not to say that the brilliance of this story is short lived, rather, though it's brief in its entirety, it's truly a love story for the ages. He covered all aspects of love between men and women, from the turbulence of passion between Oberon and Titania to Helena's steadfast obsession with Demetrius, love is celebrated. As a side note, Shakespeare makes use of one of my favorite of his devices, the play within the play (Pyramus and Thisbe, put on by Nick Bottom and his comrades).

It's short, it's splendid, read it and give William Shakespeare another try.

"Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth;
But either it was different in blood—"
-Lysander Act I Scene I

For an interesting take on A Midsummer Night's Dream, check out the 1999 version starring Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer and the gorgeous, sparkly Rupert Everett.


The Expedition of Humphry Clinker

Apologies to all who actually enjoy this novel. I am not a fan, and in being of such a low opinion of Mr. Smollet's so-called "finest work", this may seem harsh.

First off, if you'll notice by my previous posts, I can easily read a novel in a very short amount of time, if it appeals to me. It's nothing against the picaresque* genre (if you're not sure what a picaresque novel is, it's basically a long narrative, think The Pickwick Papers, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop...) I adore Dickens' picaresque novels, but Smollet's style of writing was mind-numbing at best. Which is odd since Smollett influenced Dickens greatly.

Now, considering the fact that this is 240 years after Mr. Smollet's 'Expedition of Humphry Clinker' you'd think I'd be less shocked at the contents of this novel. Not so. At times I was nauseous by the imagery, and uncomfortable with the unabashed nature of some of the occurrences within the story. In order to make sense of some of my problems with the novel, I'll present them in list form. I'll try to keep it brief.

1. Certain parts in the book reminded me of that icky 11 year old boy humor. You know, potty jokes, spitting, nudity etc.
2. The letters from the women ranged from the vapid schoolgirl to the completely unschooled moronic utterings of an air-headed servant (not to mention the fact that they were often riddled with such illiteracy that it was difficult to make sense of what was being conveyed). I wanted so badly to skip any section written by the stupid females, but to do justice to my goal, I read on.
3. Not to be outdone, the letters written by the male characters were pompous and full of the most infernal pretentious style.
4. Stories written by one character were then reiterated by another... sometimes a stupid insignificant event was recounted several times in a row. Talk about beating a dead horse.
5. Humphry isn't even introduced until well into this novel. He's a character impossible to relate to because you never read his own words. It's like you get to know everyone except for the novel's namesake.

I need some mental stimulation after this vacuous novel. If you feel the need for a few hundred pages of torturous ramblings, don't buy it, I'll give you my copy, I'd rather not own it anymore.


John Keats - Odes

It's been a while, I haven't stopped reading, only... I don't particularly enjoy the novel I'm currently endeavoring to finish. It's not really my style as far as character and plot development go, but I'll talk about that when I finish it and have a more thorough opinion.

I turn now to John Keats and his magnificent odes, my favorite of which being "Ode On Melancholy". His odes are all beautiful, and not long at all. But reading further past the superficial, especially if you study his life, you'll find that they're resplendent. By all means, read all of his poems, and marvel at the genius of John Keats.

His "Last Sonnet" (though, admittedly, not an ode which is technically what this post is about) is so beautiful it never fails to make me cry...

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.


Sons and Lovers

D.H. Lawrence wasn't kidding around when he wrote this novel. Seriously intense yet completely beautiful in an understated way. The psychological aspects of this story are stunning, especially if you've ever been in a tumultuous relationship. I think anyone can relate to at least one of these characters, if not to multiple characters at different points in their ever-thickening plot lines.

Visual imagery in this novel is incredible, whether it's the way a landscape is described or the appearance of characters... Lawrence really knew what he was doing.

I especially love the way everyone's feelings are laid bare for the reader to analyze and try to understand. In the course of one sentence, you'll read about the character's passionate love and sheer hate for a single object. It's a novel of opposites; of deep, misplaced love; of mothers and sons; and of the loves and hates of men and women.

"Now, when all her woman's pity was roused to its full extent, when she would have slaved herself to nurse him and to save him, when she would have taken the pain herself, if she could, somewhere far inside her, she felt indifferent to him and to his suffering. It hurt her most of all, the failure to love him, even when he roused her strong emotions."

"The girl was a romantic in her soul. Everywhere was a Walter Scott heroine being loved by men with helmets or with plumes in their caps. She herself was something of a princess turned into a swine-girl in her own imagination. And she was afraid lest this boy, who, nevertheless, looked something like a Walter Scott hero... might consider her simply as the swine-girl, unable to perceive the princess beneath; so she held aloof."

"It's because - it's because there is scarcely any shadow in it; it's more shimmery, as if I'd painted the shimmering protoplasm in the leaves and everywhere, and not the stiffness of the shape. That seems dead to me. Only this shimmeriness is the real living thing. The shape is a dead crust. The shimmer is inside really."

"She saw him, slender and firm, as if the setting sun had given him to her. A deep pain took hold of her, and she knew she must love him. And she had discovered him, discovered in him a rare potentiality, discovered his loneliness."

"Recklessness is almost a man's revenge on his woman. He feels he is not valued, so he will risk destroying himself to deprive her altogether."

"He hated her bitterly at that moment because he made her suffer. Love her! She knew he loved her. He really belonged to her. This about not loving her, physically, bodily, was a mere perversity on his part, because he knew she loved him. He was stupid like a child. He belonged to her. His soul wanted her."


Robinson Crusoe

Very rarely does one find a novel that perfectly mixes adventure and religion seamlessly, without making it seem too sappy or like the adventure was a weak attempt at making the story palatable to the average reader. As I've often said with other novels and poems, even if you're not interested in religion, Robinson Crusoe is wildly different than what you may be thinking. I'm intrigued at the idea of a 60 year old man penning such an incredible novel filled with wild animals, ship wrecks, inventions, hunting, gun fights, cannibalism and most of all a deeply rooted Christian center. The turning point of the story doesn't come until Robinson's transformation and his realization that he isn't alone in the world, that he's been under God's protection insomuch as he's escaped countless horrors. When you expect to find a depressing it's often filled with joy and triumph.

I am aware of the controversies surrounding Robinson Crusoe, but it's still a classic, and with good reason.

"Upon the whole, here was an undoubted testimony that there was scarce any condition in the world so miserable but there was something negative or something positive to be thankful for in it; and let this stand as a direction from the experience of the most miserable of all conditions to this world, that we may always find in it something to comfort ourselves from and to set in the description of good and evil on the credit side of the account."

"I had hitherto acted upon no religious foundation at all; indeed I had very few notions of religion in my head or had entertained any sense of anything that had befallen me otherwise than as a chance, or, as we lightly say, what pleases God; without so much as inquiring into the end of Providence in these things or His order in governing events in the world."

"In a word, as my life was a life of sorrow one way, so it was a life of mercy another; and I wanted nothing to make it a life of comfort but to be able to make my sense of God's goodness to me, and care over me in this condition, be my daily consolation; and after I did make a just improvement of these things, I went away and was no more sad."

"I learned here again to observe that it is very rare that the providence of God casts us into any condition of life so low, or any misery so great, but we may see something or other to be thankful for..."


Dickens, Doyle and Eliot

I feel like Darla from Finding Nemo.

All three of my fish died tonight. What the heck?! Rest in peace Dickens, Doyle and Eliot, mummy misses you.


Castle Rackrent

What a charming short novel this is! It’s almost like listening to your grandpa tell a story (unless your grandpa isn’t Irish… then I guess it’s just like listening to an old Irishman tell a story). It's written as a narrative and you can almost hear the voice telling the story aloud. Castle Rackrent is considered the first of its kind in many categories, the first regional novel written in English, the first novel to bridge the Anglo/Irish gap, the first history of a family generational line and so on. It chronicles a fictional family who live in Castle Rackrent, all from the point of view of emotional and deeply loyal servant, Old Thady. Castle Rackrent is short and sweet, and totally worth a read!


Vanity Fair

This is a major book and a huge undertaking even for the determined reader. Don’t let that dissuade you though, it’s just a warning. Most people take a look at the size of the novel and panic… But the truth is, it’s incredible. Thackeray’s “Novel Without a Hero” is pretty aptly named, and the humorous author cleverly keeps his reader oscillating between admiring and loathing his characters. Those characters sweep in and out of Thackeray’s great juggling act of a novel; it’s amazing how he could keep so many plotlines going at once! My favorite plotlines were the constantly skewing stories of Amelia and William Dobbin (Ah, Dobbin, the true hero of Vanity Fair).

All in all, I’m at a loss for words… aside from sharing some of my favorite quotes and highly recommending this novel.

“The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it and it will look back sourly at you, laugh at it and with it, and is a jolly kind.”

“It is in the nature and instinct of some women. Some are made to scheme and some to love…”

“How long had that poor girl been on her knees! What hours of speechless prayer and bitter prostration had she passed there! The war-chroniclers who write brilliant stories of fight and triumph scarcely tell us of these.”

“A woman may possess the wisdom and chastity of Minerva, and we give no heed to her if she has a plain face.”

“And so, if you properly tyrannize over a woman, you will find a h’p’orth of kindness act upon her and bring tears into her eyes, as though you were an angel benefiting her.”

“But have we not all been misled about our heroes and changed our opinions a hundred times?”

“He had placed himself at her feet so long that the poor little woman had been accustomed to trample upon him. She didn’t wish to marry him, but she wished to keep him. She wished to give him nothing, but that he should give her all. It is a bargain not unfrequently levied in love.”

“It was a fond mistake. Isn’t the whole course of life made up of such?”



It’s a strange book, yet quaintly intriguing in all of its naïveté. The world More created is simplistic to the point of being ridiculous, but that makes his ideas no less interesting. I first read his book when I was 11, it didn’t strike me as comical as it did this time around… In fact, in my childish and innocent mind, Utopia sounded kind of brilliant. Mainly because at that age, I was an idealist and I was optimistic to a fault. I hadn’t experienced the world yet, nor did I understand humans and the way we relate to each other.

Utopia has some very interesting ideas in it, but as you read it, you’re aware of a paradox: yes, these ideas could be great in practice, but there would never be an all around consensus... Therefore, it would end up being a heavily flawed socialist experiment (as history has proven). Maybe I’m too pessimistic at this point in my life, but many of More’s proposals in Utopia sound terrible to me. Rather than tear the book apart, I’ll give the main example that swam around my head the whole time I read it: an utter lack of artistic expression would be the death of civilization. More thought it would be wonderful if everyone looked the same, did the same things over and over, and there seemed no place for art in his “idealistic” world.

I found the novel to be considerably more humorous than serious, maybe because I am aware of the aforementioned paradox: try as we might, wish as we may, it is simply unattainable, so much the better because if there were no place for artists… what good would Utopia do me?


Dear Kindle, I hate you.

Ever just need to rant about something that drives you completely insane? I do. Hence this blog. Here’s the deal… I hate a lot of technological advances (odd thing for a blogger such as myself to admit). The truth is, aside from a couple of things, I believe technology on the whole is responsible for the downfall of our society. I could get into the use of Facebook as a serious form of communication, the practice of emailing thank you letters for gifts, E-Vites, the fact that you can’t sit for two minutes without everyone pulling out their cell phones to text or check the internet… But this is about my most hated item: Kindles, Nooks and anything similar to those wretched things.

Upon seeing the gigantic novels I drag around with me everywhere, I’ve had dozens of people ask me the same question: “Why don’t you dispense with the big books and get a Kindle?” My thoughts are usually along the lines of: “I dunno, why don’t you mind your own business, grow a brain and read a proper book?” However in the interest of keeping friends and keeping from angering family members, I calmly explain my thorough distaste for such contraptions and try to move on. I find those electronics reprehensible, gee why don’t people read anymore? Maybe because they’re busy tooling around on their stupid slim-line, electronic, downloadable, not-proper-book pieces of crap.

The first time I saw one of these stupid things in person, the friend showing it off to me tried to make me understand the wonder that was his Kindle. My only reaction was the sudden and dire urge to hurl it with a brutality hitherto unsuspected in my nature; I just wanted it to go away. Luckily I think the disgust showed on my face and he took it away to show off to someone else. Still shaking with anger and loathing, I hugged my novel (you know, those funny things with covers and lots of pages that smell like libraries) and decided then and there that Kindles, Nooks and I were sworn mortal enemies. The next one to cross my path will receive my full wrath. If you have one that you like, for your own sake, keep it far away from me!

Now let me get to another point greatly bothering me. Barnes and Noble’s terrible new Nook fetish. It seems to me that one can hardly buy books on their website anymore, because everything has that idiotic Nook icon. Why on earth would I buy an overpriced, overgrown calculator looking thing, on top of which I’d have to pay the same price I do for my lovely [tangible] books? You can get applications for it, you can dress it up in lots of little covers, you can download all sorts of things at once… Ah, but does it have that wonderful book smell, or the feel of the pages? Certainly not. So why this sudden obsession with those stupid eReaders? One can only hope they’ll go by way of Furbies, Giga Pets, Yak BAKs and other joke toy items.


Help Me!

I need help. I have a major impulse control issue when it comes to bookstores. It always happens the same way, I walk into a store, full of excitement, with my list in my hand. Every time I intend to buy something specific (note the use of the singular: "something" not plural, "somethingS") and then I walk out a couple hours later having spent way too much money.

Camelot: my undoing. Yesterday I thought, "I need one book, I'll go to Camelot for a minute, get it, and leave." Oh, what a simpleton I am! I bought considerably more than one book, but I kept seeing ones I absolutely had to have, not to mention ones I've searched for for years. From now on, I need to be very careful when I pick up a book, very rarely do I put them back once they've made the journey from the shelf into my hands.

Well, I've acquired a beautiful copy of Don Juan, Frankenstein, Sons and Lovers, Ulysses, The Castle Rackrent, The Absentee, John Donne's complete collection of poetry and my 5th copy of A Tale of Two Cities (Don't ask.) Hey, at least they have great prices there.

Did I mention I don't have any more room on my bookshelves? I'm getting extremely creative in my stacking.


Jane Eyre

This is one of my all time favorite novels. I deeply relate to Jane’s personality and innermost thoughts. How often she thinks things that simply cannot or ought not to be voiced, and yet remains silent with her musings… And the variance of thoughts and emotions she displays are so familiar to me it’s remarkable. Edward Rochester has that dark quality that I find insanely attractive in a man (if only a guy like that existed in my life… maybe minus being married to a violent lunatic and cross dressing as a gypsy woman). He is certainly one of my favorite literary men, if only for the fact that he’s so mysterious, passionate and brooding.

I thoroughly enjoy the matter of fact way Jane tells her story, and how she doesn’t see herself as a heroine, merely as a narrator who happens to be at the heart of this tale. This novel contains all of the necessary ingredients for a thoroughly romantic, lovely and dramatic story. Amidst the ups and downs, are some of the most interesting characters, such as inspiring Maria Temple, kind Alice Fairfax, contemptible Blanche Ingram and the severely devout St. John Rivers. If you haven’t read the novel, or you read it as an assignment in school and didn’t like it, please, please read it again, it's magnificent!

A few quotes I love:

"I knew you would do me good in some way, at some time; - I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not - did not strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies: I have heard of good genii: - there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, good-night!"

"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."
"Reader, I married him."


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

What is it about this novella that enthralls readers so much (myself included)? I still can’t figure it out; I think it may be the fact that it’s so wonderfully understated in its horror. It is by no means serene in its plot, yet it leaves you to imagine so much. In a very short amount of pages, Robert Louis Stevenson creates a respectable doctor and a dastardly monster; the proverbial “two sides of the same coin”. Though told from multiple vantage points, it in no way complicates matters to have a few main characters.

Oddly enough, it never struck me until this read through: I always thought of Hyde as the “evil one”, but what about the fact that the good Doctor Jekyll simply cannot contain his need for self expression (in the form of Mr. Hyde)? Ah, Doctor Jekyll seems to have more of that Mr. Hyde dark side than he lets on. Anyways, it’s quick, it’s fantastic and an absolute must read.

For a crazy-good modern twist on the well known story, check out Jekyll with the sexy James Nesbitt.


Paradise Lost

As many novels and poems I’ve read, I’ve never come across anything quite as breathtakingly beautiful as Paradise Lost. John Milton’s amazing epic poem is splendid and absolutely worth a read whether you’re interested in religious writings or not. No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to do justice to Milton, therefore, I’ll share a few of my favorite quotes.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

“They themselves decreed their own revolt, not I. If I foreknew, Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault.”

“Behold me, then: me for him, life for life, I offer; on me let thine anger fall; Account me Man: I for his sake will leave thy bosom.”

“O unexampled love! Love nowhere to be found less than Divine! Hail Son of God, Saviour of men! Thy name shall be the copious matter of my song henceforth, and never shall my harp thy praise Forget, nor from thy Father’s praise disjoin!”

“My fairest, my espoused, my latest found, Heaven’s last, best gift; my ever-new delight! Awake!”