Friday, November 2, 2012

Musings On: RIP VII Wrap-Up

All good things must come to an end and it's time to usher out the RIP VII challenge. I had a lot of fun participating in this challenge. I took full advantage of Peril on the Screen and watched The Moth Diaries, Frankenweenie, Steven King's Bag of Bones, Edward Scissorhands, and my girls and I did our annual viewing of Hocus Pocus.

I took part in The Graveyard Book read along. I listened via audiobook, which was wonderfully narrated by Neil Gaiman! I've said it repeatedly but if you have the opportunity to get this book in audio, please do it. I promise, you will not regret it.

I finished things off by completing Peril of the First. The challenge was to read one book that fell within the challenge's theme. I read the mystery, What Remains of Heaven by C. S. Harris. A review for this one is forthcoming!

My girls made a yarn wreath for the door. It turned out really cute. They were proud of it.

And I tried my hand at doing a pumpkin carving that was unlike my ordinary triangle eyes and nose with a funny mouth. I used a pattern and it turned out okay, though only a few people could tell it was a bat! Hubs pointed out later, that when turned upside down, it looks like a creepy pumpkin face. 

I hope everyone is enjoying the Autumn season!

Finally, I'd like to send well wishes to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Musings On: The Bird Girl

When I think of cemetery's, my mind quickly evokes the image of the solemn Bird Girl.

Probably one of the most noticeable figures in cemetery history, The Bird Girl became renowned when she appeared as cover art on the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Before she gained notoriety, she went relatively unremarked upon on a family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah Georgia. The whimsical bronze statue was originally sculpted by Sylvia Shaw Judson in 1936. She went on to sculpt four more, the final one named "Little Wendy" by the Trosdal family, who placed the statue on their family burial plot. It was photographer Jack Leigh who brought the statue to the forefront when he snapped her for the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. After the 1994 release of the bestselling novel, Little Wendy's image became synonymous with Bonaventure Cemetery. She was soon moved to Savannah's Telfair Museum of Art and that is where she still resides. 

This post is part of The Graveyard Book challenge and read along. For more graveyard perspectives, visit the discussion post.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Musings on: The Graveyard Book Group Read Post 1

This is the first official post for The Graveyard Book Group read hosted by Carl V. The read-along started on October 1st and this first discussion post will cover chapters 1-3. I'm listening to The Graveyard Book on audiobook. It is excellently narrated by author Neil Gaiman.

Chapters are as follows:

How Nobody Found the Graveyard
The New Friend
The Hounds of God

I went into the The Graveyard Book having avoided all spoilers, reviews and even the summary. I had no idea what the book would be about, other than a boy and a graveyard. So, to say that the opening surprised me would be an understatement. I wasn't expecting it of a children's book, but then reminded myself of the books I grew up reading by authors like Mary Downing Hahn, Pam Conrad and Alvin Schwartz. All books that dealt with death, spirits, ghosts and the like. With that in mind, my surprise settled into the comfort of nostalgia, then into intense satisfaction as I was transported by the tale told in Gaiman's own voice.

How Nobody Found the Graveyard opens on the heels of a gruesome murder involving the family of a boy, so young, he's still in diapers and is only toddling about. Oblivious to what has happened in his home, the baby gets free from his crib and wanders outside. He makes his way to a graveyard where he meets interesting spirits who are shocked to see a real, live baby amongst them. The baby is taken in by the ghosts of the graveyard, namely Mr. and Mrs. Owens who agree to be his parents and is cleverly given the name Nobody Owens aka Bod, and thus begins his new life.

The New Friend finds Bod aged a bit. He is old enough now to know that he is different from his graveyard family and to feel different. As the chapter title states, Bod meets a new friend. Scarlett is a five-year-old girl who decides, that Bod is about her age, too, since he's unsure of how old he is. Their friendship is instant and innocent. They play together and they become confidants. Bod tells of his life in the graveyard and Scarlett of hers in the world outside of the graveyard walls. To the reader, their friendship is tentative one, due to their very different circumstances and it makes you wonder if they can really remain friends for long? I found that a lot happened in this chapter and I was left intrigued by what one creepy discovery would uncover in future chapters.

The Hounds of God finds Bod parts disenchanted, lonely and bored. Bod's boredom, like in most cases, leads to trouble. He finds himself entangled with a nasty group of ghouls. Bod is tested in a way he hasn't been before. He doesn't have the safety of the graveyard to fall back on and must use his smarts to get out of the mess he's found himself in. Of the first three chapters, this one was my favorite. I enjoyed the suspense and action that takes place here and that there is a lesson to be learned. And though I know that there is more to come in the form of trouble for Bod, I liked that at least this chapter ended on a high note.

I am truly enjoying The Graveyard Book so far. I'm very glad that I chose to listen to it in audio because Neil Gaiman's telling of his story is masterful.

The Graveyard Book Group Read is a part of the RIP VII challenge. For more thoughts on this book from other readers in the challenge, visit the Discussion Post.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Musings on: Little Pink's Ghost

Isn't she lovely?

Little Pink's Ghost arrived today in the mail and I couldn't contain my squee as I opened the box and pulled her out. She's handcrafted by the superbly talented, Lisa Snellings. Her poppets are not only amazing, they are inspiring. When I found out that she was closing her Halloween Shop to orders on the 5th of October (today), I jumped at the opportunity to have a piece of her work as my own just in time for the Halloween season.

Little Pink's Ghost is sitting atop my current RIP read, What Remains of Heaven by C. S. Harris. I fell in love with the Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery series a few years ago. The series, particularly this book, lends itself well to the RIP Challenge, as it's centered around a mysterious murder. I love that Little Pink's cloak swings out hauntingly behind her in the same fashion as the books cover art. 

There is such attention to detail, from the texture of Little Pink's cloak, her delicate ruff, right down to her little rag rabbit that she carries close to her side. The effect of this little ghost is amazing. She has a special place on my night stand for the season.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Musings on: Anna Karenina Miniseries and New Adaptation

I guess I've been living under a rock because I had no idea until today that there is an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightly as Anna set for a limited US release on November 16, 2012. To say I loved the two episode miniseries, would be a gross understatement. I've also been listening to the audio version of the book narrated by David Horovitch for the past month or so. If you've never seen this miniseries, have Netflix, and enjoy period pieces, then what are you waiting for? Anna Karenina is a scandalous story of passion, pain, love, betrayal, and following your heart, even to your own demise.

Check out the trailer for the 2012 release. I'm having serious palpitations over the beautiful costumes and scenery.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Musings on: Peril on the Screen; The Moth Diaries

RIP VII Challenge Peril on the Screen

We had the rare rainy day moment here this morning and I took it as an opportunity to see what Netflix had to offer on the spooky, gothic, atmospheric front. A quick "gothic" search turned up The Moth Diaries. With only a 3 1/2 star overall review, I knew not to expect too much, but the premise sounded interesting enough, and it was just shy of an hour and a half, so I went ahead and gave it a try.

The Moth Diaries opens with Rebecca's first entry in her diary, promising to write a page every day so that "I'll be able to read it later and know exactly what happened to me when I was sixteen." Returning to school after Summer break, Rebecca is hopeful and happy. She has made a place for herself at Brangwyn's all-girls school, and now has a best friend, Lucie, who she loves and credits for helping her get over her father's suicide. Rebecca feels this new school year holds much promise for her and things do start out that way but her happiness is soon tested with the arrival of a new student, Ernessa, who is quiet, mysterious and distant to everyone but Lucie.

When Lucie becomes increasingly removed from her group of old friends in favor of Ernessa, Rebecca begins to find Ernessa suspicious. It doesn't help that she's studying the Gothic Vampire story, Carmilla in her lit class, either, as Rebecca thinks that Ernessa may be a vampire. When strange occurrences start happening, Rebecca's desire to prove that Ernessa is supernatural becomes obsessive. No one around her believes that it could be true and not even Lucie's strange, unexplainable illness makes anyone suspect Ernessa may be playing a part in it. On her own, Rebecca sets out to discover who or what Ernessa really is and stop her before she loses Lucie or worse, herself.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

R.I.P. VII Challenge

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, and it is fast approaching (even though we don't experience the season here in Hawaii *sad eyes*) With it comes the awesome RIP Challenge being hosted for the 7th year by Carl V of Stainless Steel Droppings. I've participated in this Challenge before, years ago, and have decided to give it another whirl this year.

Per Carl V:

The purpose of R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII is to enjoy books and movies/television that could be classified (by you) as:
Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.
Since I have a habit of being too ambitious in my challenge selections, I've chosen to imbibe in Peril of the Second which requires that I read two books that fall into the RIP category of moodily themed books. I may dabble in Peril on the Screen, too!

As of now, I plan to read at least two of these selections:

The Wednesday's by Julie Bourbeau
The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell
Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (in audio)

Lots of Middle Grade Readers in there and that's because they tend to be my favorite type of spooky story. I also absolutely love Daphne du Maurier and have been listening to the audio of Jamaica Inn off and on for a month. It seems like as good a time as any to buckle down and finish it up.

Musings On: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

I embarked on Sharp Objects after much twitter and goodreads chatter about Gillian Flynn's latest release, Gone Girl. I'm kind of a stickler for starting at the beginning of an Author's catalog and even though her books are not part of a series, I went with her debut release of Sharp Objects to see what all of the Gillian Flynn fuss was about. What I soon realized was that maybe I'm not made for Flynn's brand of crazy. I like my crazy with a helping of hopeful and Sharp Objects was anything but.

The story begins with the backdrop of two murders: Ann Nash and Natalie Keene, from really small town Wind Gap, Mo. The girls were murdered in such similar manner and close timespan that the cops are sure they are working with a serial killer. Camille, Chicago Journalist and former Wind Gappian is given the assignment of following the stories of the two murdered girls to report back to her newspaper, the Daily Post. With newspaper sales declining, her editor, Curry, is looking for a good story to help catapult the Daily Post into a more mainstream market. Camille, troubled by ghosts of Wind Gap past, doesn't look forward to the assignment and goes along with it grudgingly.

Camille arrives back in Wind Gap on the heels of the second girl, Natalie Keene's murder and she finds the town in the same state she left it in. Elitist and pitiful. The rich and powerful rule the town - right down to the young popular girls who preside over the lesser with their pretty faces, biting words, and in-your-face attitudes that demand respect or else, while the poor, less influential suffer them in silence. Camille's family is of the upper crust of Wind Gap but that doesn't mean that she had it good growing up. Her mother, Adora, makes Joan Crawford's depiction in Mother Dearest seem like child's play. She's emotionally manipulative and detached as a mother. Her lack of love for Camille led to Camille's need to self harm and is much of the reason why Camille has a dictionaries wealth of words cut into her skin. Her little sister, Amma, who Camille barely knows, is beautiful and popular like Camille once was. She has a cutting tongue and is prone to tantrums. Rounding out Camille's dysfunctional family is her step father Alan, who is oblivious and of little consequence.

Camille is in fresh hell back in Wind Gap. Her old friends are the same catty, mean spirited girls, only now a decade older. The town is virtually unmoved aside from a new retail store or two. The biggest excitement the town has seen in forever are the murders of Ann and Natalie.

With the help of lead detective Richard Willis and interviews with townspeople and the victims families, Camille starts piecing together the story that she's not sure is worthy of critical attention. As her story progresses, Camille regresses. She gets sucked into the Wind Gap vortex. It is a place she doesn't want to be but doesn't know where she'd rather be either. Her relationship with her mother is strained and deteriorating, and then there is Amma. Beautiful Amma, whom Camille wants badly to understand and to save before Wind Gap and Adora damage her sister the way they did her.

To describe this book in one word? Miserable.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Musings On: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 **I brought this review over from my children's review blog because I loved this audio book that much**

Reading Level: 12 and up

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness inspired by Siobhan Dowd

Publisher: Candlewick

Publication Date: September 15, 2011

Audio Reading: 3 hrs 59 mins

Narration by: Jason Isaacs

From the book:

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.
My Summary: Conor is a thirteen-year-old boy doing his best to deal with life in the wake of his mother's illness. Conor puts on a brave face for his mother, he helps her when she's weak and sick from her chemo treatments and he's self-reliant in her absence. He silently deals with bullying and the feelings of becoming unnoticed since his peers and school found out about his mom. He also suffers from a recurring nightmare that wakes him every night at the same time. Then one night a great, monstrous Yew Tree comes walking and shows up at his bedroom window. Connor should be afraid of the come-to-life tree but with everything going on in his life, he's more miffed than anything else. Especially when the Yew Tree tells him his reason for being there is to tell Conor three stories and then for Conor to tell the fourth (his own story) and that will be the truth.

Seems simple enough, but the truth for Conor is admitting something that he's absolutely terrified of and hasn't even come to terms with himself. The Yew Tree's arrival signifies a change in Conor. One that he's not ready for but has to live through, otherwise he will never be able to face what is to come.

On the Book: I spent my time listening to this book being simultaneously awed, amazed and heartbroken. It has been a while since I've been moved to tears over a story, A Monster Calls changed that. I listened to this audio telling each night before bed with tissues near by, just in case, and I used them. Oh, did I use them. The story is simple, yet beautifully told. The effects of Conor's mother's illness are many, and though it is not said what form of cancer she is suffering from, the reader can glean that it is aggressive and has taken a great toll on, not only her but Conor and his Grandmother as well.

The presence of the Yew Tree is so much more than what I thought it would be. It's not just there to tell Conor "once upon a time" stories. There are lessons to be learned in his retelling's. Lessons that Conor may not want to hear, but will come to understand in time. The horrific story of a monster I thought this story would be about, it wasn't, not in the literal sense, anyway. What it turned out to be was so much more, though.

A Monster Calls was inspired by a premise from author Siobhan Dowd, who died of breast cancer short of seeing it into fruition. With Dowd's notes about the story, Patrick Ness wrote A Monster Calls. Talk about inspiration!

On the narration: Jason Isaacs does a wonderful job narrating A Monster Calls. He conveyed all of the characters brilliantly, and his take on the gravelly Yew Tree was excellent. Gritty, hearty, full of emotion - he was the perfect narrator for this story. Bravo! The narration concludes with a 10 minute interview of Patrick Ness where narrator, Jason Isaacs is the interviewer. I loved this bit, as it gave a lot of insight to the story and the inspiration behind it.

Something of note, Ness remarked that he hopes that the best of both of he and Siobhan Dowd are found in the reading of this book. While I'm not familiar with Dowd's work, the story was beautifully told. I'm sure any author would be proud to see their work presented in such a way.

Notes: A Monster Calls deals with a hard subject matter for children with great care. The subject of cancer is simplified enough for a reader 12 and up to understand. The gravity of the Conor's situation will not be lost on them, though I think this book gains an overall better appreciation with age.

Final Thoughts: If you haven't read this, please don't hesitate to do so. It is a must read, in my humble opinion. I plan on getting the hard cover of this book for the illustrations - which are amazing - and also because it's that good that I must have both.

"Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak." - Yew Tree

Visit author Patrick Ness here.

*Illustrations are from illustrator's Jim Kay's website. The last illustration was found here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Musings On: A Taste of Honey (Stories) by Jabari Asim

A Taste of Honey was an impulse buy for me. I saw the cover, the title, and that it was a compilation of short stories and thought, why not? I was expecting the stories to be stand alone, and I guess they could be if one read them at random, but to read them in sequence opens the reading experience and makes the book that much more poignant.

Set during the summer of 1967 in St. Louis, Missouri, A Taste of Honey begins like a nostalgic tale that your father, uncle or grandfather would recount to you of their childhood. It's personal, intimate, reminiscent. Set around the fictional neighborhood of Gateway City, it includes a cast of characters and their stories. Nine-year-old Crispus Jones is at the heart of it all. Struggling with being the youngest of three boys, Crispus can't help but feel lacking, as both his brothers seem to have gotten all the good looks, charm and bravery. Teased relentlessly by his handsome brother, Schom, a sensitive Crispus stumbles through his awkward pre-teen years.

There is Rose. Her beautiful singing voice can hush the birds twittering and entrance a whole audience, but behind closed doors she is the victim of abuse at the hands of her husband. Downtrodden and desperate, Rose is at her wits end when a blessing comes her way.

Then there is Roderick aka The Genius. Brilliant and young, Roderick is his reclusive mothers pride and joy. But being too smart in Gateway City makes him an outcast and he's picked on by a gang of neighborhood kids called the Decatur Clan. An unlikely ally helps the head-in-a-book Roderick realize that there's more to life than just books. Sometimes friendship can make all the difference.

These are just a few of the stories A Taste of Honey offers. There are more characters to get to know, all with their own stories, each one as touching as the one before it. They thread together to create a wistful peek into a time period long gone. Coming in at 205 pages, A Taste of Honey reads like the title implies; short and sweet. The pages are filled with easy prose and vivid characters who are all, as Crispus Jones' mother would say, "going through changes." If you happen upon this book, don't hesitate to pick it up. You won't regret it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along, Part 1

I have wanted to read The Lies of Locke Lamora for a few years now. In fact, I have had it in hand at the book store and put it back last minute (for reasons unknown) on a couple of occasions. When I happened across the read along at Little Red Reviewer, I saw the perfect opportunity to finally get this story read,and jumped on board. This is my first time participating in a read along, which is exciting!

For part one we were to read from the prologue to the first interlude: Locke Stays For Dinner, then answer the 6 questions below.  

1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far?  If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?

This is my first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and so far, I'm wondering what took me so long? I can already see that this will be one fun thrill ride, full of twists and turns.

2. At last count, I found three time lines:  Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world? 

I actually LOVE the flashback element. It's surprisingly easy to follow. I'm not a fan of reading long bits of flashbacks in stories (I usually skim to get back to the story at present), so I find the way that Scott Lynch went about incorporating the flashbacks into the story to be refreshing, interesting and readable. It is, in a way, cinematic, and because of that, I can see The Lies of Locke Lamora translating on the big screen really well one day.

3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch's world building? 

World building is a stickler for me in Fantasy, Sci-fi, and UF. If the world is flimsy, it is hard for me to want to read the book. Up to this point, the world building is understated and not very in your face. There isn't an over-the-top feeling to the world, but just enough magical elements to make it fantastical. I'm not confused about any aspect, and Camorr appears to be a fully realized place. So, so far-so good.

4. Father Chains and the death offering. . .  quite the code of honor for thieves, isn't it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?

I'm thinking it is to help Locke understand what it truly means to be circumspect. Chains sees that Locke has the potential to be a great thief, but that he lacks the ability to think past the actual theft and see what consequences it may have. With that wherewithal, Locke will be fantastic at his profession and that's what Chains wants. Maybe?

5. It's been a while since I read this, and I'd forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer  set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what's happening?

Honestly, I didn't notice that there was so much set up until it was pointed out in this question. All of the set up was intertwined with action occurring simultaneously and there wasn't large amounts of info dumping. I would say it was pretty seamlessly done and didn't bother me at all.

6. If you've already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand

I already make it a habit to pick my husbands pockets every weekend for shopping. I'm afraid that I haven't tried picking my daughters' pockets yet, as I'd only come away with sticky, lint covered hard candies and the quarters that they've already pick-pocketed from me.

**For more of the read along discussion, visit Little Red Reviewer.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Musings On: Gathering of Waters by Bernice McFadden

There are books that I love and there are books that I treasure. When I finished the last page of Gathering of Waters, I knew that this book would be that latter. It is one of those books that after I'm done reading, I go back and read certain passages again and again, and then later go back and reread the whole book before mailing it to my sister and ordering another one for myself. The only trouble with a book like this one is finding a way to put my love of it into words.

Gathering of Waters is the story of many people and at the same time the story of one. It is told by the narrative voice of Money, Mississippi, a place that has known great tragedy through its years and one crime so heinous that it's hard to stomach nearly 60 years later. Money tells the story of the people who've inhabited it and the spirit of one soul, so wretched, that no good could ever come from it. It is a tangling of fact and fiction, harsh reality and the fantastical, and the moment in time where they converge.

The crime that was committed in Money, Mississippi in the summer of 1955 not only took the innocent life of Emmit Till, it also stole the innocence of those who knew him. Gathering of Waters is a back-story to his story, a backdrop for the events that led up to it, and a peek into the lives of the people who came to play a role in it all. It tells of a time where a nation was stripped bare and exposed was the evil that it was built on. It is the story of love that endures all, even death.

Every now and then a book comes along and leaves me spellbound. Gathering of Waters is one of those books. There are many adjectives I could apply to describe this book; beautiful, heart wrenching, stunning, painful, sad, uplifting. Each of them apt but still somehow fall short of conveying the impact of this book. To know what a treasure Gathering of Waters is you have to read it, savor it, then pass it along to someone else to keep the spirit of Money, Mississippi alive.

Visit Bernice L McFadden and find out more about Gathering of Waters here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Watched and Why I Loved It. North and South

During my downtime from Musings, I did some reading but more than anything, I did a lot of watching. Movies, television series, miniseries, -- you name it, I was watching. Since I'm just now getting back into books, I thought, to keep this blog updated regularly while I find my footing, I would post different shows I've watched over the past year and a half that left a mark on me. This feature will be entitled "What I Watched and Why I Loved It."

The first installment in this new feature is North and South. Way back when, In 2008, I signed up for the North and South Crusade that was being hosted by KristieJ of  Ramblings on Romance. At the time, I fully intended to watch, but I never got around to ordering it. North and South sat in my Amazon basket for years. Enter 2010 and a cross country move where everything was left in storage because where we'd truly end up living for the next four years was up in the air until Hubs finished school (whew!) and got reassigned. The only form of entertainment I had was my laptop and the few books I'd brought with me. I wasn't up for reading much during that time, so I turned to Netflix and streamed movie after movie. One day North and South showed up as a suggestion and I finally had my opportunity to see what all of the hullabaloo was about.

There, a love was born.

In the world of book reviews there is always hype about something; the latest and greatest author, book, series, genre, sub genre, etc. I don't always get the hype and I was almost positive that North and South would have the same effect on me. The "yeah, it was good, but was it really THAT good?" effect. In this case, the hype was warranted. North and South was great. So great that I've probably watched it four times since my first viewing. Ask my husband and he will tell you that I don't watch anything more than once, much to his triple-time-movie-watching annoyance.

What was there to love about North and South? Every darn thing, I say.

John Thornton is a brooding, determined, passionate man who, in my humble opinion, should be the prototype for all romantic hero's. He has come close to kicking Mr. Darcy out of the top hero spot in my heart. Pretty darn close. Then there's Margaret. She's pragmatic, smart, kind and outspoken. With John being from the harsh, industrialized North England and Margaret being from the softer, rolling South, the two couldn't be more different in their approach to not only each other, but the world around them. There is a romance at the heart of this story, but more than just John and Margaret make this miniseries special. The secondary characters (Mrs. Thornton for me, especially) and the overall storyline about Milton's cotton warehouses and the people who work in them, make North and South a success.

I really don't want to spoil it for anyone who may not have seen it yet. I went into the movie not knowing a thing about it other than it was loved. I think being completely unspoiled made it all the more worthwhile. So, here I stop and tell you, go forth and watch. If you have Netflix, stream it while it's still available. If you don't, order it. I promise you won't regret it. For those who have seen it, below is one of my favorite scenes.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones + I'm Back

*dusts off blog*

*taps mic*

Well HELLO! It has been a while. Like over a year, a while, but I'm back. The Hubs bought a new domain for me as a part of my birthday present and I couldn't just let Musings sit after that, so here I am!

So what have I been up to? Well, I relocated across the country and Pacific twice in one year. When I tell you that was not fun, I mean it. We welcomed a new addition to our family late last year, a baby, she's 8 weeks now and brings the total of my girls to three! YIKES! I can only imagine the trouble I'm in for in about 7 years.

 My reading during the break has mostly consisted of children's books, beginning readers, and now we're into "chapter books" as my 7 year old likes to call them. We're especially loving Nancy Drew, and the Magic Tree House series. Every now and then, I found time to read a good book for myself, mostly Fiction and Fantasy.

Anyway, I've scoured "the best of 2011" lists from countless blogs and have many books I can't wait to read and muse about!

Now on to my first review of 2011...

One book I had the pleasure of reading over my break was Silver Sparrow. It was a complete impulse buy and ended up being oh-so worth it.

My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother.

So begins Silver Sparrow.

Set in Atlanta during the 1980's, Silver Sparrow tells the story of two sisters, Dana Lynn Yarbaro and Chaurisse Witherspoon, their father, James Witherspoon and their mothers Gwendolyn and Lavern.The story is told in two parts, starting with with Dana's first person narrative. Chaurisse takes up the second half. The narratives, just like the girls, couldn't be more different.

Dana, with her pretty looks and wise-beyond-her-years attitude is very much the product of living her whole life knowing that she was second best. She lived in the shadows of her father's life, unable to be claimed publicly and being told that she was a secret, all while seeing her father with a family that he did claim and spend time with out in the open. Her father, a bigamist, had another wife and daughter that lived in the same city as she and her mother. Dana's matter of fact voice details the coming together of her parents, revealing how it came to be that her already married father ended up marrying her mother. There is a sadness to Dana that grips you through the pages. Her tough exterior is just a cover for the inner turmoil she struggles with. It's apparent in the first few pages that Dana, though her father's first daughter, feels she is second best in his heart.
"In my mind, Chaurisse is his real daughter. With wives it only matters who gets there first. With daughters, the situation is a bit more complicated."
It would seem that with daughters it only matters if they were born to the first wife, and in Chaurisse's case she reaped the benefits of being the daughter of James' first wife. Chaurisse, plain and plump, is naive and almost innocent in her narrative. She and her mother are both in the dark about her father's double life. He has always been a loving father to her and a good husband to her mother. The bitterness that tinges Dana's narrative is nowhere to be found in Chaurisse's. She is less frank and more self deprecating, seen quite clearly in her description of her parents and in essence, herself.
"If you saw them walking down the street, if you noticed them at all, you would think the two of them might produce invisible children."
If Chaurisse is invisible, she's that to everyone but Dana, who sees her in a way that she doesn't see herself. To Dana, Chaurisse has it all. A house, a family, but mostly, their father. She gets the recognition that Dana has never received. She is able to go out with their father and be claimed publicly by him. Chaurisse unknowingly gets first pick of everything that involves both girls, from what camp they can attend to what job they can have. If Dana happened to be accepted to something that Chaurisse had been also, Dana couldn't go. If Dana and Chaurisse got a job at the same place, Dana couldn't accept. Their father, so bent on keeping his second life a secret, forbids Dana from ever going anywhere near Chaurisse.

Due to the constant slights, a bitterness grows within Dana. It becomes inevitable that she will rebel, but how she goes about it and the results of her actions could be predicted by no one, not even Dana herself.

Silver Sparrow is a truly gripping novel that I flew through. Jones' writing is so crisp and readable that the pages just about turn themselves. I was completely engrossed in Dana and Chaurisse's lives and I was hopeful that somehow they would be able to make something good out of the mess they'd inherited.

The characterization is rich yet simplistic. The characters are not overdone, instead they quietly manifest through their actions and Jones' effortless prose. The premise of bigotry was taken on in a way that I haven't seen represented before in books. This is no Big Love where everyone is one big happy family. This has no religious backing. It is simply bad decision making and deceit. Tayari Jones took on the topic of bigotry and gave it a face, a family, and two innocent sisters. I enjoyed every minute of it. Grade A.

Visit Tayari Jones here.