Friday, September 26, 2014

Poem of the Week: Amy Lowell

This puts into eloquent verse what I have often felt looking at some pictures.

A Coloured Print by Shokei
Amy Lowell

It winds along the face of a cliff
This path which I long to explore,
And over it dashes a waterfall,
And the air is full of the roar
And the thunderous voice of waters which sweep
In a silver torrent over some steep.

It clears the path with a mighty bound
And tumbles below and away,
And the trees and the bushes which grow in the rocks
Are wet with its jewelled spray;
The air is misty and heavy with sound,
And small, wet wildflowers star the ground.

Oh!  The dampness is very good to smell,
And the path is soft to tread,
And beyond the fall it winds up and on,
While little streamlets thread
Their own meandering way down the hill
Each singing its own little song, until

I forget that 't is only a pictured path,
And I hear the water and wind,
And look through the mist, and strain my eyes
To see what there is behind;
For it must lead to a happy land,
This little path by a waterfall spanned.

Miss Melody Muffin

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lochinvar: A Book Review

A delightful novel I did not want to put down.


Samuel Rutherford Crockett

TYPE/GENRE: Historical fiction
LENGTH: 412 pgs.
RATING: 10 out of 10
READ ALOUD:    4 out of 5
SOURCES: Project Gutenberg

When Covenanter Kate McGhie arrives in Holland to stay with his cousins, exiled Walter Gordon, Lord of Lochinvar, falls in love with her immediately.  But Kate has not forgotten the incident that induced her to send him away a few years before.  She resists his apology and pleading.  Sore of heart, he goes from her a second time, resolved to prove himself worthy of her love.

But the errand Wat is sent on proves more dangerous than he could have imagined.  Wat is plunged into intrigue and treachery... and his life is at stake.  Meanwhile, Kate realizes how much she loves the young man she originally deemed false.

Escaping, Wat simply exchanges one hair-raising adventure for another.  For my Lord of Barra has seen Kate, and is determined to marry her... and he will let nothing stop him from reaching his goal.

With Kate kidnapped and Wat in prison, their case seems hopeless.  But true love never gives up....

My review:
Project Gutenberg has many gems hiding on its 'bookshelves'.  This one turned up in my 'Recently Added Ebooks' feed several months ago.  Sir Walter Scott's poem Lochinvar is one of my top ten favorite poems.  I memorized it when I was... around ten, I think, and taught it to some of my younger siblings years ago and it's time now to teach it to the rest of my siblings.  I have had two different ideas for stories based on the poem and years ago I even started a play based on it, which my siblings and I acted out scene by scene as I finished writing them.  Our favorite scene to act out (and one of the few completed scenes) was the wedding scene.  Lots of running around and yelling and hollering. :D  Naturally, upon seeing this title, I grew excited and wondered if someone else had written a novelization of the poem.  I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle, but only last week finally read it.

Was it based on the poem?  Yes and no.  The poem did influence the book, as evidenced by two chapters near the end ('Lochinvar Keeps Tryst' and 'The Bride's Loving-cup' if you are curious).  But it is never referenced and if you don't know the poem, you can still enjoy the story and not be missing anything.

I loved this story, and will definitely be re-reading it.  It is similar in style and tone to a Sir Walter Scott, but it has its own unique 'voice'.  I read it in two days, snatching a few moments here and there between canning and other work.  I did not want to put it down.  Wat and Kate are well-written characters and I eagerly looked forward to how their story would end.

Favorite minor or secondary characters...
Maisie: She is sweet, kind and understanding.  My favorite moment of Maisie's is when she stands up to Barra and her husband, telling them in no uncertain terms that Wat's folly was due to the harshness of something she and Kate said to him.  My second favorite moment would have to be in the Epilogue.  Read it and you'll know what I mean.

Jack Scarlett:
I laughed every time he came on the page.  His incessant grumbling is hilarious, and his loyalty to Wat is terrific.

Little Marie:
What a poignant thread in the story.  Little Marie, taken advantage of, mistreated, but when Wat is kind to her, what a change!  I love everything she does after leaving the inn to follow Wat in misfortune.  She knew that Wat's heart lay elsewhere and he could never love her in the way she loved him, but she unselfishly helped him anyway.  Her storyline definitely has shades of Eponine, so how could I not love her?

Jean Gordon:
Every person should have a housekeeper or nanny like her.  Seriously.  Her best moment was in scheming with the priest to help Wat.

Jan Pettigrew and Mehitabel:
Comic relief, especially in the chapters 'Wise Jan Becomes Even Wiser' and 'Love and Pignuts'.

I give this a rating of ten out of ten and would readily recommend it to anyone, especially someone who likes Scotland and Scottish history.   I give it a read aloud rating of four, because I would not read it to younger children, but children aged thirteen and up should have no problem with it.  This is the first book I have read by this author but I will now be looking for more of his books.

Miss Melody Muffin

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Summer Snippets: Some Mountains Cannot Be Scaled....

Snippets from my summer writing:

Ebony and Aubergine
     The dance ended and Nur leaned close to say in a low voice, “Be careful what challenges you take on, my Lord.  Some mountains cannot be scaled.”  She patted his arm with the familiarity of old friends and moved off through the ballroom.
    He stared after her, puzzled and a little stung.  She thinks I can’t win the challenge of taking on the Ice Queen.  I wonder how she is so sure....  Does she think saying that will deter me?  She should know me better than that....

     “However, I believe them to be staring out of curiosity.  Cathen society has speculated for the last three years on what would happen when the Snow King met the Ice Queen,” she spoke her nickname without any vanity or self-consciousness, simply, factually.
    “And now that the momentous event has actually taken place they are wondering more than ever?” he raised his eyebrows.
    “Of course.  They watch closely to see who will crack first.”
    “Is that a challenge, your Grace?”
    She swirled gracefully as he spun her under his arm in the next step of the dance, “If you choose to regard it as such, I have not the power to prevent you.”

    “I have heard it said that you possess a strange power- the power to cast a spell over men and women alike.”
    She smiled, teasing glinting in her liquid eyes, “Are you not afraid to trust yourself so near me?” her eyebrows arched provocatively.
    His eyes narrowed, “Should I be afraid?”
    She twirled under his arm again, “That depends, my Lord, on how much you believe the reports of my power.”

    Iskandar tossed restlessly on his bed.  The storm air was affecting his sleep.
    He dimly heard a noise and registered it as hoof beats.  But it wasn’t until a thundering on the door woke him fully that he realized that it was a courier.  He jumped out of bed, grabbing for the dressing gown thrown over a chair nearby.  As he raced down the stairs, he heard the other young men hurrying down behind him.
    The courier was still knocking, calling, “In the Name of the Capar!”

    Aqil reached out and grabbed Iskandar by the shoulders, “Don’t you understand?  You will be in even more danger!  Everyone will be suspect!  I know not what stance your uncle has taken, but I would not count on it being your protection.”
    “I know,” Iskandar replied calmly.  But someone has to make certain you arrive safely and I long for an adventure.”
    “Is that why you are doing this?” Aqil demanded incredulously.  “For adventure?!
    “Among other reasons,” Iskandar smiled, maddeningly unmoved by Aqil’s remonstrances.
    Aqil stared at him in horror, “Kandar you’re insane!”

    They turned to face her again.  “We understand what you are trying to tell us,” Bahadur said gently.  “And mother, we respect it.”
    “But, for the two of us, we have to know,” Zahira cut in.  “No matter what we find, no matter what secrets will come to light, we need to know.  And Suhayl deserves to know also.”
    Satha looked from the firm brown eyes of her daughter to the gentle brown eyes of her son.  The determination in the depths of both pairs of eyes scared her.
    It reminded her of Ismail.

    Barakat waited, tapping his foot on the floor.  “Well?”
    “Well, what, my cousin?”
    Barakat glared at him, “If you think I’m letting you off without particulars as to her family, how you met and, how serious it is, and last but most importantly, herself, you are sadly mistaken, Kandar.”

Future Lion and Rose books
    “Which will melt sooner, the ice or the snow?”
    Lujayn arched her eyebrows at him, “Ice is harder than snow, Tafa.”
    “True, but snow that has been well trampled takes fully as long to melt as ice does.”
    They exchanged a glance pregnant with meaning.

    Pale, their faces set against the pain they knew would come upon seeing their beloved in such a state, the two men entered the tent.  Sharyar nodded for them to come closer.
    Zahira Yasmin, darling of two courts and heroine to four lands, tossed restlessly upon the cot, eyes glazed with fever.

    Zahira finally tired of their bickering.  One day when she was seventeen and having dinner with both of them, they were sniping at each other as usual, or rather today Cirus was sniping at Almas and Almas was deflecting the strikes.  Zahira slammed her hands down on the table and stood up.
    Shocked that their cool cousin would behave so, especially in their presence, both stared at her.
    Her voice low and stone hard, she enunciated clearly, “I do not care to eat with the two of you if you will always be sniping at each other and arguing.  This is dinner, not a fight for power, and if you will not treat it as such, I shall leave the room.”

Pearl of Loyalty
    “But, we’re The Ruling Family,” Jaci argued, “We can have all the new dresses we want.”
    “That doesn’t mean we are going to,” her mother replied firmly.  “You don’t need that many new dresses.”
    Jyder suddenly groaned loudly, causing the whole family to pause and look at him in alarm.
    “Jyder?  What is wrong?” Kaduna asked quickly.
    “You’re all sitting here talking dresses.  Dresses!!  At the table!  In front of me!” he exploded.

    “We thought it wise that we should keep an eye on all tourists from there in the future lest one of them is a spy and attempts to communicate with Itimburi.”
    If humans could prick up their ears, Johari’s would have been standing straight up at this point.  Spies?
    “I agree, Minister, but do so cautiously.  I will not condone infringement of personal privacy.  They are here as guests and we will treat them as such, even if they should pose a threat to us.”
    Johari mentally rolled her eyes.  Her mother almost fanatically adhered to rules of courtesy, even when common statesmanship demanded otherwise.

Rewrite of Oath of Loyalty
    “What are we going to do now?” Jyder’s voice was hushed and his eyes were still wide.
    Johari and Jaris burst out laughing.
    “What’s so funny?” Jezi asked.
    “Jy’s face,” Jaris choked.  “Sorry, but it was hilarious.”
    “The world won’t stop just because the queen has been deposed,” Johari assured her younger brother.

    “Are you ready to go?” Jaris asked their siblings.  They were scattered around the living room, stuffing books and papers in their backpacks, tying shoes and putting on lightweight vests.  Qatana weather in early September could be slightly chilly when bike riding.
    “Almost,” Jyder’s head was bent over his CHATU.
    “Jyder and Jezica, shut those games off and tie your shoes,” Johari ordered them.  “Hurry up or we’ll be late.”
    “You always say that,” Jezi complained, grudgingly closing her game.
    “Because it’s always true,” Johari retorted.  “Now, let’s move.”

    “But, you still attend select Royal events, don’t you?  And you receive important news directly from the Palace?” Klondra still sounded confused.
    “Yeah, we can’t seem to get around that.  It’s some sort of clause in the Constitution, I imagine,” Jaris joked.  “All born Royals receive news directly from the Palace for the balance of their days.”

    “Will your family be attending the abdication?” Klondra looked from Johari to Jaris.
    “Probably,” Jaris answered her.  “It’s one of those events we’re constitutionally mandated to attend.”
    Johari wrinkled her nose, “And every time I suggest breaking that mandate, my parents threaten to send me to stay at the palace for a visit, so I’m also pretty sure we’ll be going.”
    Hiqueos was chuckling, “You two and your Constitutional mandates.  I’m pretty sure there is no such mandate.”

    "Your mission is to find these secret cities.  We know they exist.  We need to know where they are."
    "And then discover what they are doing in them, I suppose?" Yolina tilted her head saucily, with the freedom of long association with her agent handler.
    "Well, yes.  But, first things first.  Find the cities."

    "Yolina, please, can I talk to you?"
   " It looks to me like that is what you are doing already."
    "No, I mean, will you spare me a few minutes?  I have something I want to say to you."
    I studied him narrowly, "I think it would be better if we didn’t.  After all today is your birthday and out of common politeness, I wouldn’t want to fight with you on your birthday."

Miss Melody Muffin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hello, My Readers....

That is, if anyone still reads this blog. 

My sister informed me today that it has been nearly two months since I posted here.  Oooops.  I keep meaning to start posting more regularly... and somehow it hasn't been happening.

I need to schedule my life better.  Or I need more time in a day.  Yes, that's what I need- about six more hours in a day.

Alas, that will not happen, so I am left with making the most of the hours I DO have.  If any of you out there still read this, consider this my 'official' comeback to the world of blogging.  :)  Here, have some oatmeal cookies.

What I've been doing lately:

Canning, canning, and MORE canning.  Tomatoes, salsa, ketchup, raspberry jam, peaches, pears, relish, conserve, plum jam... and more.

Ebony and Aubergine, the first book in my Lion and Rose series.  It is TONS of fun.  A scarlet Pimpernel rewrite in Asian-type countries in a psuedo-medieval world.  Just my element!!

I just finished Dickens' Little Dorrit (finally!) last Friday.  It was very good. 

Today I'm reading Lochinvar by Samuel Rutherford Crockett.  It is a delightful book so far.  I'll post a review when I finish it. 

And this week I've been reading The Princess Spy, by Melanie Dickerson, which is interesting.  I'll also be posting a review of that when I finish it.

The OST of the kdrama City Hunter.

The Korean dramas The Three Musketeers and Joseon Gunman, Chinese drama Strange Hero Yi Zhi Mei (A Robin Hood type story), Psych and Once Upon a Time.

That the Good Lord really does know best, even when I don't think he does.

Tired of canning.  I'm not complaining, because I really am grateful for being able to can so much fresh food- but I'm also ready to be done.

Writing the next scene in Ebony and Aubergine, emails from my best friends, and watching the latest episode of the kdrama The Three Musketeers- hopefully tonight.

That I didn't live so far away from most of my friends.  Also that I could spread my wings and fly... overseas to visit my friend Jessica in Taiwan.

Researching the Tokugawa shogunate in Japan and Qing dynasty China.

Friends.  I have some of the awesomest friends in the world.


What have all of YOU been doing lately?

Miss Melody Muffin