Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas, weddings, storytelling

Christmas was followed by my niece's wedding! Family, family and more family. Almost all my sibs were there except for the farthest flung - in California and Japan.

Nieces - I have a lot of neices - and nephews - I have a bunch of them, too - made the Holiday visits fun and noisy.

So, now I am looking to the future and my next storytelling gig at Godfrey Daniels - on Jan. 3rd from 2 to 3 pm. I have a new riddle story so come out and stretch your brain. The program is part of the Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's Children's series - the kick-off event!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Books for Belize and others

Parkland Community Library patrons donated over 300 children's books in November, most of them in tiptop shape.  Some of them will go to Literacy Outreach Belize where the books will be distributed to school libraries in Belize.  Other donated books will go to Cops 'n' Kids, a local foundation that distributes books to children in the Lehigh Valley.

A handful of the books will go to the Friends of the Parkland Community Library's booksale, always a great event. 

Thanks go out to everyone who donated books.  They will be appreciated by children all over the Americas.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amazing new rug! Winter Reading Club and more

The Meeting Room - and YS office - has a wonderful new rug with colorful games boards woven into it.  It is so bright and cheery.  Stop by the next time you are in the library to take a look at this wonderful addition to our library.

Winter Reading Club 2009 - 2010 will begin on December 28th.  Readers and listeners in grades K through 5 can earn "points" towards prizes by reading - or listening to books - and recording what they have read or listened to online.  A link to the Winter Reading Club page will be posted on the library's website, soon.

Keep watching this blog for a Holiday Count Down of best books to give as gifts (according to the Youth Services staff).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Nanowrimo I WON!!

Well, I hunkered down and after a 15,000 word Saturday I can proudly claim to be a Nanowrimo 2009 winner!  (Anyone who submits a 50,000 + word manuscript is a winner.)  Yes, cue the Rocky theme.  Here I am dancing around in a satin robe with my clenched fists pumping above my head.  Whew!  That's a good work out.  The fist pumping I mean, tho writing 15,000 words in a day was a work out of another kind and very, very energizing.

Want details of my Nanowrimo novel which actually has a "kissing scene" and some serious flirtation ( but nothing else.  Do not get too excited.) going on?  Reply to this blog post and I just might tell YOU more about it.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I have been so busy with...work, the Craft Fair at LVMM, work, Nanowrimo, work, and house stuff that I have not posted here forever.  So sorry, my loyal reader(s).

So I am only up to 22,000 words for Nanowrimo and it ends next Monday.  Maybe I should request Monday off so I can get down and finish 50,000 words.  For those who don't know what Nanowrimo is, click on the link.  It's the only way I've been able to finish an actual novel.  Last year, I finally wrote through a story that I have started a dozen times in the last 10 years.  The year before, I started with a small thing that happened to me and in a month I had a real novel.  Not printable but not so shabby either.

This year has been hard.  I've had distractions and then this past weekend.  WOW!  My character became real to me and I liked her.  I really, really like her.  And I'm excited about what I have planned for her.

Now all I have to do is take part in National Novel Re-writing Month and get these stories in good shape.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Freaky doings

I was busy in the kitchen tonight, cleaning up and the doorbell rang. It took me no more than a minute to get to the door and no one was there. There wasn't even a car driving away or someone walking on the street. There was no....one...at...all.

But there on the porch railing was an old milk glass egg cup that I recognized. It had belonged to my Aunt Lee, dead now for more than ten years. I had been allowed to take it from the things she left at my parents' home. I know I took it somewhere and that I haven't seen it for a while.

When I picked it up tonight, it was dirty like it had lain somewhere, forgotten, and inside the cup was a fuzzy insect's nest. There was nothing...else...at...all.

Was it lying somewhere outside unnoticed and a passer-by picked it up? Did a neighbor - perhaps the neighbor right next door - find it in his yard? Was it in a brother's or sister's yard after a long-ago picnic, lying forgotten and just recently found?

The biggest mystery is this. Why didn't the person who found it and perched it on the porch rail wait for someone to open the door? Perhaps, no...one...rang...the...bell. Perhaps, it was my Aunt Lee returning her egg cup to me. Whooooohoooo. Did you hear that?

It is not too early for weird things to happen.

(It was probably the neighbors. They are pretty shy.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Friday Freedom

Today I had nothing I needed to get done. And so I have stayed in my sweat pants all day. I watched tv with my husband, did some exercises, emailed friends, and read. And I felt FREE!!
I like this feeling - of no schedule, no deadlines. I could get used to it.

By 2:30 I was feeling slightly stressed because my work-self kept reminding me of all the things I SHOULD be doing. So I did something. Guilt flew away. Bye bye guilt.

It feels like full Fall today, my favorite season. I am reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly about an 11 -year old girl on a farm in Texas in 1898. I just started it. Her grandfather is a naturalist and encourages Calpurnia, at a time when girls still only learn to embroider, play the piano and bake. He is horrified when Calpurnia has no idea what physics is.
In the book, it is summer - Texas summer - a nice counterpoint to the chill of Fall and the shortening days.

I had half a thought that I would say something deep in this post but today I don't have to do anything - so this is it for now.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I have learned a few things in the past two weeks.
1. Walking on dry land is not nearly as much fun as walking the decks of a ship in the North Atlantic - but dry land is safer.
2. Paris is beautiful, obviously - and so is the harbor of St. John's, Newfoundland!
3. Icelandic is a language with a lot of v's, k's and r's in it - oh, and g's.
4. Scottish people say the word "cow" funny.
5. Personal trainers enjoy other people's pain. (Not really, I hope.)
6. Nancy Howland Walker and Marshall Stern kick butt as comedy improv coaches. No lie!
7. I was "unpatriotic" when Bush was in office but now, anyone can say anything about Obama. Hypocrites!
8. Two weeks is not too long to cruise.
9. Water glasses do NOT refill themselves, alas.
10. Avi is a consistently fine author of children's books. His new book "Murder at Midnight", due out this month is an absorbing read and introduces a personable character in the orphan, Fabrizio. I hope this is the beginning of a series.
11. It took us approximately 30 minutes before Bill and I started talking about our next cruise. I wonder if this is an addiction.
12. Our friends, Dan and Doris, are excellent traveling companions!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

ARCs and Uncorrected Proofs - James Patterson

Well, I got another Uncorrected Proof yesterday. I have four or five at home. Here's my problem. What am I to do with all these paperbacks when I am done?

Sometimes, I send them on to friends or family. Sometimes, I share them with people at work. But sometimes, the books are too specific, or written for the wrong age group, or....

Any ideas?

For now, I intend to take a few along with me on vacation and leave them on the ship.

BTW, one of them is James Patterson's new series for teens, Witch and Wizard, written with Gabrielle Charbonnet. Though it's a quick, exciting read, it really is for teens. Here's the set-up; twins, a boy and a girl, wake up to find their community has been taken over by an extremely strict and punitive system. Magic, art, literature and music are all forbidden. Of course, the twins suddenly exhibit strange powers that they were unaware of before. They are imprisoned, tortured, escape, join forces with others and....Lots of action, a little too much unsophisticated philosophizing, still the characters are appealing and I had no desire to put the book down. Patterson fans will enjoy it. Fantasy fans will eat it up. And anyone who thinks that they must "rage against the machine" will feel validated! It's not due out until December. Anyone want the ARC? Bidding starts now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


So, I went to the Funhouse last Saturday night - the oldest inhabitant there by far, since the bar is designed for Lehigh students - just because the Locksmiths were playing. The guitarist and singer in the Locksmiths is my son.

Now, the music doesn't start at the Funhouse until after 9 and the place doesn't start rocking until 11 pm. I am usually snoring by then.

But I was really glad that I wasn't last Saturday because the Locksmiths are truly, truly, truly awesome. You can listen to their music online their Myspace page and the songs there are great. But you HAVE to see them in person. They are fun, funny and their music made me want to get up and dance. Only my extreme age stopped me.

The Locksmiths will be at the Hard Bean Cafe (Third Street in South Bethlehem) on Saturday, August 29th. Want to join me? I'll be there.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Monique and the Mango Rains

In 1989, Kris Holloway was a young college grad who wanted to make a difference in the world so she joined the Peace Corps. She relates her experiences there in the memoir she wrote with her husband, John Bidwell, entitled Monique and the Mango Rains : two years with a Midwife in Mali.

(Peace Corps trivia: 70% of Peace Corps volunteers marry other Peace Corps volunteers!)

Holloway's story is exceptional because of the character of Monique Dembele, the midwife. Holloway does a totally believable job recalling her own naivete. At the same time, the central character of this book is never Kris herself, but always Monique and Monique's relationship with Kris, the other villagers and Monique's extended family.

Holloway's book provides a close look into the culture of a small remote village in Mali, and insight into the way ritual and tradition affect how things get done. It describes how arranged marriages, ritual cutting, and a male dominated power structure made life hard for the women who lived there.

But it is Monique herself who is the star. Her photo adorns the cover and she looks at the reader with a wide smile, young, warm, friendly. Monique's hard work saved the lives of hundreds of mothers and newborns; her nagging kept those newborns alive. Her willingness to listen to other's ideas enabled this barely educated woman to make life in her village better for everyone there.

This was an eye opening book. Holloway intends to honor her friend, Monique, by donating the proceeds of this book's sale to the clinic that bears Monique's name.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I got an ARC of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood (due out in September). I've tried to read Atwood in the past with little luck. Her bleak futuristic settings just aren't any fun.

Well, The Year of the Flood wasn't a barrel of laughs but there is a hopefulness in the book. The story follows three women who met as members of God's Gardeners, an urban back-to-nature cult that preaches against the indulgences of a dystopic future society. The disasters that global-warming advocates warn of have already taken place in Atwood's novel. God's Gardeners teach their members how to find food in nature and in the city and they prepare their flock for the "waterless flood".

The flood comes in the form of a virus that runs across the entire world.

Atwood does a good job of piecing together the stories of her characters.

When I read the book, I didn't realize that it is actually the second book in a planned trilogy. So, this week I read the first book, Oryx and Crake. I liked reading them in reverse order. Both books end at almost exactly the same point in time. I liked not knowing the origin of the virus, just reading hints in The Year of the Flood, and then having my answers questioned in Oryx and Crake.

Oryx and Crake chronicles the story of Jimmy, a minor character in the second book, his friendship with the aloof biogen genius, Crake, and Jimmy's obsession with Oryx, Crake's mysterious and beautiful mate.

I preferred the characters of Ren and Toby in The Year of the Flood to Jimmy and Crake in Oryx and Crake. This might be one of those trilogies in which the books get better as the trilogy advances.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Storytelling Workshop! YAY

The Teens Telling Tales 4th Annual Storytelling Workshop ended last night with a performance by several of its members, and a couple of its leaders.

First off, I have to say that Teens Telling Tales excel!!! Josh, Kelly, Si, Erik, Alisha, Alison, Evelyn - are stupendous teens and wonderful game leaders. Of all of them, Josh is the BEST!! Watching this young man work with 8 and 9 year olds has been an education over the last four years. When he graduates from high school next spring, I don't know what I'll do. I'll actually have to lead games!! Si, whose acquaintance I just made, was a wonderful activity leader. She was great at getting the kids to use their voices well. I learned a lot from her.

Kelly is so good with those kids who feel a little out of place. She was able to turn tears to smiles more than once this week. She is truly unique.

Erik makes me laugh, brings excellent snacks and keeps things interesting. Alisha is dependable and bright. Alison has an upbeat nature and caring nature and Evelyn is steady and a up and coming storytelling whiz.

I also had Gabe helping since his little brother was a "camper". The kids loved him.

And college student, Danielle, is new to the library but she was invaluable in keeping me organized.

It was a great week. Storytelling is wonderful.

The camaraderie that the kids showed tonight in their ties and silly hats was wonderful. Josh got all the kids in a circle and they "Passed the Squeeze" before the performance. I wish I get a picture of that, truly. I hope I never forget that.

Larry Sceurman was a wonderful MC and he told three funny stories and did some magic, too.

If I get pictures, I'll post a few. Good morning. I need to sleep.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What would modern mystery writers do without the inimitable Sherlock Holmes? Conan Doyle's detective figures prominently in two of my favorite mystery series, The Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer, in which Holmes has a much younger sister, and The Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, in which a retired Holmes attains a much, much younger female partner and (I hope I'm not spoiling this for anyone) eventual wife, Mary Russell. (The first book in the series is The Beekeeper's Apprentice.)

I'd love to see Enola meet up with Mary Russell. My calculations make Enola approximately 15 years older than Mary. What could that brash, independent and strikingly intelligent younger sister have accomplished in the 20 plus years since her escape from the Holmes family estate at age 14? She and Mary have a great deal in common and both of them could do with a female family member to commiserate with when the Holmes men - all of them - become unbearable.

All of them?? According to most experts, there are only TWO members of this branch of Holmes', Sherlock and his older brother, Mycroft. In Laurie R. King's latest Mary Russell novel, The Language of the Bees, the reader is introduced to new members of the Holmes family, members that even the great detective himself was not aware of.

The Language of the Bees, (I'm not positive about that "the"), is the beginning of a longer story. Holmes and Russell become involved with a religious cult that might be responsible for a series of deaths at ancient sites. Those mysterious new family members are in danger and also suspected of evil doing. Mycroft's London digs are even raided by Scotland Yard!!! Disguises and the painstakingly slow research of a world before reliable telephones and Wikipedia are all part of this novel. So is a bone shaking aeroplane journey and fugitive status for the main players. And Holmes' bees behave badly. The ending has me waiting impatiently for the next book in Laurie R. King's acclaimed series.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How do people deal with those stretches of mental discomfort, those feelings of insignificance and lack of confidence, the questions of why and when and who cares?

I read. Sometimes, it helps. Sometimes, quite by accident, the books I pick up mirror my concerns. Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant chronicles several months in the lives of a 15th century convent in Ferrara, Italy. A new novice is there against her will and disrupts the life of the convent first by rebelling and then, even more disturbingly, by her total acquiescence. The language is rich and the questions of faith as a solution and a goal and of the political powers and weaknesses of convents in a frenetic religious atmosphere are posed again and again. The personalities of the novice and several of the older nuns are described with depth and empathy. (I read the uncorrected ARC. The book is due out next month.) The book took up my total attention but left my personal dilemma unanswered, even as it gave me deeper ways to look at it.

Polly Horvath writes about, and supposedly for, children. Her books are acclaimed and fun and frequently thought-provoking. My One Hundred Adventures is the story of one summer in the life of Jane Fielding, oldest child of poet Felicity Fielding, and at almost 12 (I think) ready for some adventures. The book deals with ideas such as Fate, and Prayer, and Adventures - Friendship, Fidelity and Relationships. The book is about Coming of Age. The adventures are not of the exciting suspenseful time, although an "accidental" hot-air balloon ride and several sea rescues make for some excitement. The adventures are more of the wondering-what's-happening kind - little things that make Jane worry and wonder. Jane spends a lot of her time protecting her mother from Jane's "mistakes" during the summer. And she has some uncomfortable revelations about grown-ups and their frailities.

The funny thing about this book is that it echoes some of the questions posed in Sacred Hearts. In both books, there are characters whose pursuit of the Divine make them blind to the world around them. In both books, a younger character is dependent on one of these seekers for spiritual guidance.

So, is this a form of serendipity? Is there some kind of Message in my choice of reading materials? Am I seeing parallels simply because of my melancholy mindset? More questions! Just when I think I need answers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

One day. That's all. I held off for one day - or less. I finished Catching Fire around 10 pm on Sunday. Sigh. I really meant to pace myself but...

So now, I have to wait until sometime in 2010 when the third book comes out. Cathcing Fire ends with an amazing cliff hanger. The WHOLE book is another roller coaster. The suspense is not quite as sharp because the first book prepares the reader for the breakneck speed of the twists and turns.

And that's all I can say. Read The Hunger Games - again if you must. And in September be prepared for another wild ride. After The Hunger Games, it was hard to imagine that Katniss and Peetah could get into any more trouble. Heheheheheheheheh (evil laugh). Yeah. You'll see.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Yesterday, at Book Expo in NYC, I met Greg Mortensen (Three Cups of Tea), Mo Willems (Don't let the Pigeon Ride the Bus and The Elephant and Piggy series), Ally Carter (The Gallagher Girls series) and Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author of Duck! Rabbit!, and the genius behind the YouTube sensation The Beckoning of Lovely. Watch it please. Then go to Amy's blog Who Is Amy to see what is happening with the Beckoning of Lovely Project.

I love Book Expo (sigh).

I also got an Advance Reader's Copy of Book 2 in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. I want to read it AND I DON'T want to read it. It's so weird. I know that once I start I will not be able to put it down and THEN I will want to know what happens next. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??? I get to know, 3 full months before the general public, what happens to Katniss and Gale and Peetah and Prim and Haymitch and ... and then, I will have to wait LONGER than everyone else to find out what happens THEN. I will succumb soon to the call of a breath-taking, suspenseful, gripping post-apocalyptic tale, I'm sure. How soon is anybody's guess. What odds will you give me?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

So much has happened in the past two weeks! My brother, Daniel, was home for a short visit from Japan, with his wife, Kana, and their son, Hugo. The visit was too short.

Then there was Children's Book Week, which will end tomorrow. So the library had a wonderful drop-in program to celebrate the week and the One Book, Every Young Child selection of this year, If You Were a Penguin.

AND, there was the Parkland Festival of the Arts that began on Thursday and finished up today. I hope that went well. I wouldn't know BECAUSE I am in Richmond, VA, as I type this. We attended the wedding of our best friends' youngest son.

The excitement will not end here because I have more traveling in the near future.

I finally finished Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and I want to read parts of it again. I was so involved in this book that I was actually shivering during some of the scenes in the Arena. Collins imagines a future so unfair, and so debauched that it is truly terrifying. No wonder Hunger Games won The Battle of the (Kids') Books this year.

I also read Saxby Smart, Private Detective - the Curse of the Ancient Mask and other case files by Simon Cheshire. Saxby is Britain's answer to Encyclopedia Brown. He's a bit younger and his cases require more work to solve. The reader is invited to guess what Saxby has deduced from several clues. Then he reveals all. I got most of the deductions right!! I could be a ten-year-old private eye, if I wasn't already more than 5 times that age. Sigh.

Right now I am reading the Klise sisters new book, Dying to Meet You : 43 Cemetery Road. A combination of letter, and newspaper clippings, Kate Klise's story and M. Sarah Klise's illustrations tell the tale of an abandoned 11-year-old boy, a ghost, a grumpy writer and a very old house and they tell it very well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Okay, I lied. My next post was a poem. But I'm ready to share book reviews and book review sites again.

I am surprised and distressed that I have not written about Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas. This is one of the books I found on "Read It First". I'm SURE I wrote about this already. But where?

Okay, so Hennie is 86 years old and her daughter, Mae, wants Hennie to leave Middle Swan, a gold mining town in Colorado. The year is 1936. As winter approaches, a new couple moves into town and the young wife stops by Hennie's fence where her late husband hung a sign, as a joke, that reads "Prayers for Sale." This meeting leads to friendship and stories, lots of wonderful stories.

I loved the way the book was structured. Dallas drops hints about the events of the last few chapters in a way that piques interest but doesn't intrude on the story at hand. When all the puzzle pieces fall in place, there is a sense of release and relief.

So here's the short version. Gold mining town, the Depression, Old Woman, Young Woman, friends, love, friendship, lots of local color and some hard choices.

Here's a new book review site I found on one of my other book review sites, Twenty by Jenny.
Jenny has been a book editor, and a teacher and a mother. She reviews books and book related toys that she considers the best for different age groups. Her reviews link to an online bookstore in case you just have to have the book.

My best experience with BookReporter.com was when I won a Christmas gift basket during their Christmas book giveaway. (Now, I KNOW there is a Santa Claus.) The site is text heavy with links to dozens and dozens of book reviews, some of the Best Seller/Hot Author variety, some more unusual. The people behind BookReporter also fuel the book review sites Teenreads and Kidsreads. I subscribe to those two newsletters so I don't visit the sites that often but the sites offer some great features, such as a link to reviews of Great Books for Boys.

So, I have kept my promise to share some more book review websites, though a post late. My work here is done.

She waddled beside me.
Pushed her bag up
on her shoulder
as I did.
Her head forward,
her coat flapped open.
As I closed my collar,
she did, too.

Did she realize,
I wondered,
she could be seen as
foolish, unkempt
and frumpy?

I arrived then,
and turned
to open the door.
And she stared me
in the face,
in the glass.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I WON! I won a book from Free Book Friday. I can't even remember what the book was, since I was notified two days ago but it was FREE and I WON it. OH! It was Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin. It looks very, very hip and intriguing. FREE FREE!!

Free Book Friday offers a new book every week - sometimes the email doesn't get to me until Saturday but who cares - with reviews and author interviews and other cool book related stuff. And every week, you can sign up to win that book! They have a Free Book Friday for Teens, too.

And that brings me to my favorite book related e-newsletters or websites.

For kids, I love Kim Chatel's website, Chatel Village. Kim offers reviews of blogs, books, YouTube videos and other very cool stuff. Her own blog is full of great parenting and kid-friendly ideas. Kim is an author/illustrator.

I have mentioned Shelf Awareness before. For a look at the independent book-selling biz, Shelf Awareness is where the action is. Publishers post a lot of ads on this site as well, so subscribers get a chance to see reviews, ask for advance readers' copies, and hear the publishing buzz on the new books FIRST.

Suzanne Beecher does Read It First for St. Martin's Press. I have found at least three very good books from this free daily email since I joined 3 months ago. Suzanne also does Dear Reader, a series of online book clubs that can be accessed through your public library's website. The Parkland Community Library offers 3 of these book clubs. (Go to Adult Services and click on Online Book Clubs in the drop down menu.) This is a fuss-free way to find your next good read. And if the book of the week doesn't appeal to you, you can just delete the posts for that week.

I also subscribe to publishers' children and teen newsletters. These weekly or monthly updates help me keep up on what is new for kids and teens. Next post will talk about websites and blogs from authors, publishers and booklovers.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dragonfly Pool

The Dragonfly Pool by Eva Ibbotson - even the title of this book is - I was going to say "luminous" but that word is used a lot these days. I don't want to sound hackneyed. Even the title of this book is inviting. Dragonflies are so beautiful and a pool where they gather must be gentle and serene.

Tally Hamilton hates the idea of going to a boarding school. But Hitler is gaining strength in Europe and her father wants to protect her. When Tally is offered a scholarship to Delderton School in Devonshire, Tally has to go. It is the beginning of wild adventures that take her into the European Alps. She and her fellow Deldertonians make friends with children from all over Europe. With their new friends' help, the Deldertonians rescue a prince, elude spies and the Gestapo and find out who they are - who they truly are.

And there is a still pool and clouds of dragonflies. This is a book about trust, friendship and the power of doing good. But enough about all the message-y stuff. This is an exciting page-turner of a book. So read it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

When I was growing up, my parents opened our house to many, many people. Two of them lived with us for about three years, our foster sisters, Raisa and Mayra Godin. Their parents finally got out of Cuba and came to live in Bethlehem and Raisa and Mayra went on to have lives that didn't include sharing the bathroom with seven other children.

Last weekend, Raisa and Mayra's father, Roberto Godin, died. He lived in Bethlehem with his wife for years, until she died and then he lived in Delaware with Mayra and finally in Philadelphia with Raisa. So where should they have the memorial service?

They chose my parents' living room. So tonight I joined some of my siblings, my foster sisters, their spouses and children, their cousins and aunt, their in-laws, their high school friends and even a nurse from Roberto and Amy's doctor's office to remember a man who loved his family fiercely enough to send them to freedom. If he had not had the courage to do that, I might have had different foster siblings - or none at all - and my life would have been poorer.

It was a lovely memorial service and it was a wonderful meal afterwards, eating my Mom's lasagna and her eggless-milkless chocolate cake and sharing stories, memories and making new friends.

I am grateful that I have the parents I have. I am grateful for my foster sisters. I am grateful to Msgr. Grabish who performed the memorial and for the years he has served the Spanish speaking parishes in the Lehigh Valley. I am grateful that I knew Roberto Godin and his wife, Amy. I am one lucky woman.

Good night.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

YTBN a photo

Something new! I will now add a photo of YTBN.

Isn't she pretty?? Her keys are a very very dark brown. I think they are supposed to be black but they look like dark chocolate. Hmmmm.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


YTBN is officially mine. So, of course, she has decided to balk. Two of her reeds have become uncooperative and she has to go back to the accordion fixer at the Accordion Gallery . I talked with Guenadiy Lazarov, the owner of the Accordion Gallery and YTBN's former owner, and he's sure it is a minor adjustment.

But YTBN - and someday I will know her name - is so versatile, all I have to do is combine sets of reeds or switch sets of reeds and I can play.

If I could remember where I put my camera I would post a photo here. Soon.

I have been reading - a lot. I finished the latest Jacqueling Winspear, Among the Mad. It was about terrorism among the discarded WWI veterans in England. Maisie Dobbs is a thoughtful protagonist. I love the setting of London and its surroundings in the 1920s.

I finished a great teen fantasy by an author named Stiefvater, Maggie Stiefvater. The title is Lament : the faerie queen's deception. Right there - fairy spelled f-a-e-r-i-e - that's a draw from the getgo. But the REAL hook is Luke Dillon, the dangerous, non-human immortal incredibly hot guy who woos the heroine Deirdre Monaghan, best known for her celtic harp playing and her tendency to hurl right before she plays in public.

Luke may not be Edward Cullen but they are close cousins. Luke's past is way worse than Edward's and he reforms just for Deirdre. Some juicy kissing goes on. Some clever manipulation of the "rules" of magic. Some negotiations among the various magical peoples. But Stiefvater leaves enough questions unanswered to open the way for a sequel. For instance, how did Deirdre's aunt end up with her sister's talent in singing? Hmmm???? And is Deirdre's aunt a danger to Deirdre since she has already made a bargain with the sidhe? The back cover announces a second book due out in the August, Shiver, but it has nothing to do with Deirdre and Luke - or Deirdre's best friend, James who is a hunky bagpiper. NO! Ms. Stiefvater, I protest. I want to know more about Deirdre, and her magical and non-magical friends.

What else? The New Policeman by Kate Thompson has been on my mind for a few weeks, since I read it.. More magic, more celtic music but no accordions, alas. Lots of Irish mythology, though, since the story is set in modern day Ireland and the mythical land of Tir Na Nog. J.J. is a teen whose family is known for its musical ability. But lately, no one has time for the arts. His father, a renowned poet, has not written anything in months. Just getting the hay in and running the farm is taking every second of his days. When J. J.'s mother asks for more time as a birthday present, J. J. decides to find out where all the time is going. The new policeman shows up - or not - in a random way that makes it pretty obvious that he's not a normal gardai. Every chapter begins with a piece of fiddle music. This is a lovely piece of fantasy.

I have off tomorrow. I will get my hair cut. I will dip peanut butter eggs in dark chocolate. I will listen to Jesus Christ Superstar. Good night.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New accordion?

I am in the process of "upgrading" to another accordion. (I first typed in "better" but that is not fair to my first accordion, who has been a good faithful instrument.) This is NOT an April Fool's Day joke, honest. In my house there are now TWO accordions, my increasingly tamer accordion, Silvano, and the New Kid in Town - possibly - yet-to-be-named (YTBN).

You all know Silvano. He's black and silver and has two sets of reeds and slightly smaller than standard keys but 120 bass buttons. YTBN is white - well, actually cream, and her keys are backwards. Her "white" keys are black and her "black" keys are white!!! I bet that was the height of cutting edge when she was first assembled! Her keys are about the same size as Silvano's but YTBN has THREE sets of reeds, 120 bass buttons and a built in microphone in case I want to deafen half of Northside Bethlehem some time.

I love Silvano. I know Silvano very well but.... for expressive dynamics - well, he lacks poetry, if you know what I mean. YTBN on the other hand, sigh.....I am getting a superior accordion crush on YTBN. Her bellows respond so well to changes in pressure. Whew...she's a beauty.

YTBN has a problem though. Bellows odor. Yes, YTBN has BO. I suspect that she has just recovered from being locked away - for years - somewhere musty and possibly damp and the stiff material from which her bellows are made has absorbed a strong smell, like old stone walls. It is this problem that has me waiting a week before committing to purchasing her. A liberal sprinkling of a carpet deodorizer has lessened the damp wall smell but not removed it.

YTBN and I have a lot in common. We're probably the same age. We are both women of character and attractive in unconventional ways. I think, we could have a long, serious and mutually beneficial relationship - if we can conquer the BO problem.

If you have a fool proof way of removing musty smells from items that can't get wet, please let me know.

I will try to get photos up of both of these accordions. I hope Silvano isn't jealous. Sibling rivalry among accordions... He has a much nicer case. That should count for something.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I went to Union Terrace School in Allentown yesterday to meet with the librarian there, lovely Donna Forsythe, and the Reading Specialist, delightful Barbara Mahoney. Barb is a BIG Twilight fan and was able to explain some of that series' appeal. I'm not so big on vampires.

I was there to set up a storytelling event sometime next month. On the way across the playground, I heard a little girl say to her friend, "Let me tell you a story..." Warms the very cockles of my heart.

Are you telling stories? You should! Telling stories helps you figure out who you are. No, really. There is something to be learned about a teller from the stories that he or she chooses to tell. If you have little people in your life, the stories they hear should come from you - not from the TV or the computer.

HOWEVER, there are some very good storytelling websites. StoryBee posts hundred of stories told by storytellers from all over the country, including our very own Chaz Kiernan. On StoryBee, he tells a story of a fish story gone awry.

Other stuff, in my life...I am on the hunt for a new accordion. Alex Meixner, Accordion God and my sometime teacher, is helping me. I will keep you posted and I might even post a picture of my new accordion, when I get it.

I found a series by Marion Chesney that is about far from vampires as a series can get. And it's not really new, just new to me. The Traveling Matchmaker is the series and the first book is titled Emily Goes to Exeter. It follows the adventures of former housekeeper, Hannah Pym. Left the sizable fortune of 5000 pounds when her master dies, Hannah decides to travel. She has yearned to take the stagecoach, the Flying Machine as it is called, for years. So, even though it is winter, she buys a ticket to Exeter. It is a trip of several days made much longer, and more perilous, by a blizzard.

Hannah meets a runaway bride-to-be, a jilted bridegroom, a rich widow and her gold-digging fiance and other colorful characters. She foils a murder, is almost robbed and saves a couple of people's lives. Quiet, little middle-aged Miss Pym has the adventure she always wanted. Next, she plans to travel to Bath. And I plan to go right along with her.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Whenever I see "Click here to get a free copy of this book", it's a real struggle not to click. And this is why I have piles of advanced readers' copies all over my house.

And it's also why I started reading Retail Anarchy : a radical shopper's adventure in consumption by Sam Pocker (Running Press, April 2009).

Pocker calls himself a "stand-up economist". This book is basically a rant about retail turned rancid. Pocker tells story after story of how he finds ways to get stores and manufacturers to "pay" him for using or, as the opening story shows, throwing away their products.

There are some interesting stories about couponing on steroids in this book. Two-thirds through the book, I lost interest. Pocker announces in the intro that the book has no plot. It doesn't. And it doesn't seem to have much purpose either.

So, I picked up my latest acquisition, When Skateboards Will Be Free : a memoir of a political life by Said Sayrafiezadeh, (Random House, due out March 24, 2009). Sayrafiezadeh's parents were loyal members of the Socialist Party. His father relished the thought of the violent overthrow of capitalism. His mother sacrificed everything, her career, her talent, even her needs for material things to work for the party. Said was their youngest child and spent most of his childhood with a "single" mother. Still married to her absent Iranian-born immigrant husband, his mother lived a lonely and destitute life with Said.

The book is written in shades of gray. There are some happy times in Said's childhood but he glosses over them. Happy stories are all alike but miserable tales are each miserable in their own peculiar ways - to paraphrase a classic quote. Growing up as a "young revolutionary" doesn't sound like a picnic. Said's story about going for months without grapes during the grape boycott made me wince. I didn't buy many grapes back then, either. I didn't allow my son to steal grapes as Said's mother did. Said justified these thefts as blows against capitalism while still in elementary school.

I am halfway through When Skateboards Will Be Free. I might put it down and read beach novels for a few days before I continue.

I hope Said ends up happy but his childhood experiences are keeping me awake.

Good night. Or good morning.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I am wearing my lucky Irish socks today - made in China - but I feel hugely unlucky. I have learned the hard way of the dangers of email. Some conversations should never be entrusted to cyberspace because once "sent" clicks, that message is out there for all to see.

So, Karen will use the phone or insist on face to face meetings in the future.

Never put anything in writing - typing - or texting that can't be seen by EVERYONE.

That's my advice for the day.

Oh, and journals should be burnt after a year just in case someone "accidentally" picks one up. Journaling is great for the journalist's mental health but dangerous for relationships.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Just how many dysfunctional families have you read about? The Guardian, London's answer to the NYT, posted this literary quiz recently. I got about half the answers, so I guess my reading tends toward the light and happy, rather than the glum and quirky. You might like to take the quiz, just for fun.

I just finished Going Postal by Terry Pratchett. His stuff is great on so many levels. There is the tongue-in-cheek social commentary. Then there is his clever dialogue and quirky use of words. He creates twisted plots. His characters range from complex to amusing caricatures. Alas, there were no Wee Free Men is this book, but Pratchett compensated with a scattering of werewolves, Igors, golems and and even a banshee, to say nothing of wizards, henchmen and assassins. Pratchett's stuff can't be called easy reads but his books are definitely romps.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I am in the series rut. Every book I have read in the past two months, (including the book I'm reading now), has been a book in a series.

I need some good stand alone titles to read. And I think it's time for me to woman-up and read the award winners for this year.

I'm not sure why that feels like a chore. I'm not sure why I shy away from books with "messages" or "literary value" these days. It is the way I feel though. So reading Philip Reeves' Victorian sci-fi romp, Mothstorm, is exactly what I want to be doing right now - and will be when this blog post is done.

Suggestions for non-series books that might not make me break out in hives will be gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who remembers The Baby-sitters' Club by Ann Martin. Four pre-teen girls - or was it three and THEN four and then five and then a guy and then they were teens - anyway, they ran a successful babysitting business and dealt with all kinds of dilemmas in a wholesome, addictive manner. The series eventually numbered in the hundreds with Special Editions and the Baby-Sitters' Little Sisters spin-off and another spin-off about the original four as teens.

Well, The Teashop Girls by Laura Schaefer may be the beginning of a new series for independent young teen girls. And this series includes recipes and beauty tips and lists. What is it about lists? Lists have become a new plot device, similar to "hand-written" journal entries at the beginning of chapters. I think "plot device" is not exactly the right term but I hope you know what I mean....ENOUGH.

Teashop Girls stars Annie Green, her best friends, Zoe and Genna, and her grandmother's teashop, The Steeping Leaf. Thirteen year old Annie gets a job as a barista at The Steeping Leaf just as her grandmother is about to lose the lease on the shop. Annie and her friends decide to save the shop but they only have six weeks and school and sports responsibilities that complicate things.

There are enough spats and a tiny bit of romantic tension to keep this light, fun novel moving. I'm looking forward to the next installment of the Teashop Girls, something I never said about the Baby-Sitters' Club. To be fair, I like tea better than babysitting and Ann Martin is an AWESOME author, whatever she's writing.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yesterday, I bought SHOES!! For years, the shoe-loving side of me was untapped. I bought reasonable, sensible shoes. And I wore them to the point of collapse. I had a pair of black Born (run a dagger through the "o", please) slip-ons that I wore for over six years until the sole split right across the insole. I LOVED those shoes.

I know that I am insinuating that I bought killer heels or princess shoes, yesterday. I didn't. I'm still that earth-mama who needs her comfortable shoes but...I bought FOUR pairs of shoes all in one day. I am - all in and of myself - an economic stimulus package - at least for the shoe industry. I never buy more than one pair of shoes and the moths fly out of my wallet when I do. Yesterday was different.

Hub-man and I went shopping this morning, too. I bought some blouses with a gift card and then we visited the newly opened branch of The Christmas Tree Shops. I'm thinking that the dollar stores and surplus stores are going to have a run for their money now that the Christmas Tree Shops are in town.

Books, right, books...that's what this blog is all about. Books and stories. Well, there is a story of my inner shoe lust above. Now, books. I just read the most recent entry in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, A Matter of Justice. This is a character-driven series. The book opens with a secret crime and revenge planned for that crime. So right off, the reader knows who is behind the eventual murder. This makes Rutledge's search for answers frustrating because without knowing about the secret crime, the murder doesn't make any sense and in the aftermath of the Great War, investigators couldn't Google their victims or their suspects. Rutledge perseveres, pokes his nose in where it's not wanted, asks the inconvenient questions and figures it all out by the grisly end. The largest tension arises from wondering how long Rutledge can keep his shell-shock caused demon at bay. I love these books.

On March 1st, I will be telling stories at Godfrey Daniels again - with the accordion, of course. The program is part of Godfrey Daniels/Lehigh Valley Storytelling Guild's Children's series and starts at 2 pm. Admission is charged. Kops 'n' Kids will be there handing out free books so the event is a BARGAIN, for sure. I hope to see you there.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Day off - that was yesterday and my clock is all messed up now. All day yesterday, I thought it was Saturday - just because I was off.

I got a new haircut, though. I went to Empire Beauty School for their 360 event. Students there have to solicit and complete a certain number of treatments, styles, haircuts and perms in a three week period. And their customers get those treatments, etc. FREE or at a very low price. Since my sister is a student there, I let her cut my hair and she did a FABULOUS job.

Do you live in the Lehigh Valley? There is one week left of this event. If you call, ask for a 360 student. Don't ask for a free treatment; ask for a 360 student. Do it now because Friday, Feb. 13th, 2009, is the last day.

I just spent two hours with the Winter Reading Club. Today was the Final Party. It's not quite over since there were families who could not attend. The party was fun. The Girl Scouts who planned it played games, read stories and led a craft. Kids and parents seemed to have a great time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

St. Martin's Press has an online book club for fiction lovers. Every morning, members get a portion of a new book delivered to their inboxes. Every week, members get to sample a new title. If the reader likes the book, he or she heads off the the bookstore - OR preferably, the public library - and checks the book out.

I found a new author using this book club, Louise Penny. Her series about Inspector Armand Gamache of the Qubecois Surete has given me several days of reading pleasure. The first three books concern the inhabitants of a small town close to the Canadian/United States border. The small town, Three Pines, is delightfully portrayed and the people are so nice - except for the murderers - what's THAT all about? - that there's a touch of fantasy. Remember "Murder She Wrote"? Yeah, like that. Gamache lives in the city - and is called to this idyllic small town for first one murder and then another. In the latest book, A Rule Against Murder, Gamache is on vacation and finds himself immersed in yet more mayhem - of course.

I've read Still Life and Fatal Grace. There is a third book set in Three Pines before Gamache gets to take his vacation is the latest book.

Check out Read It First. You might find a book you have to read to the very end.

Last Saturday's storytelling event at the Charles Brown Ice House was pretty well- attended and a lot of fun. The photo above was taken of the crowd. I did not use the stage. I am standing in front of it all the way to the right. That set was made by Doug Roysden of Mock Turtle Marionettes for his field trip show. Cool, isn't it?

Tonight, I attended the Lehigh Valley Drum Circle's Community Drum Circle at the Allentown Dave Philips Music and Sound. I am a lousy drummer but who cares? There were over 50 people there of all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, colors. With that many drummers no one could hear me anyway. Drumming is a great stress reliever and I hope to make this a monthly event.
I sat next to a great little kid - about seven years old - maybe younger and across the circle was a family of five. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, this is a great way to spend the first Wednesday evening of the month.

Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Jester's Guild" series by Alan Gordon has been keeping me pretty busy. I'm on Book 4, I think, and I have read all of them except Book 1 - "Thirteenth Night". The books take place in Europe and the Middle East during the early 13th century. And they follow the adventures of the jester, Theophilus, his jester wife, Claudia and extended family members who are added on gradually as the stories unfold. Gordon's premise is that there is a Jester's Guild and that jesters are entrusted with the mission of keeping peace and avoiding war. The books have plenty of violence and lots of mysteries, jests, jibes, jokes and jocularity as well - to say nothing of puns and ribald insults - oh AND political intrigue.

Well, enough about books. I have to tell you about my new style mentor, Michelle O. Yep, the day after the inauguration as I was getting ready for work, my eyes fell on a two page spread in one of my favorite weekly women's mags about Michelle's style and how to duplicate it. I was wearing a simple strand of faux pearls and there was a little blurb about adding brooches to pearls to add glitz. Off I went looking for brooches and I found an old clip-on earring that worked every bit as well. I may not be tall; I may not have a slender curvy figure; I may not have a coppery complexion BUT I can dress up my pearls - faux or not - just like the First Lady.
AND people commented on my stylish necklace all day long. I felt so fashion-forward-ish. Thanks, Michelle. Just another reason to be grateful that there are Obamas in the White House.

Saturday night, I was part of the madness at the Storytelling Potluck at Richland Monthly Meeting in Quakertown. Don't believe it when people tell you Quakers don't know how to have a good time. There was laughter and singing and silliness. We even had a few death scenes. John Callahan (NOT the mayor of Bethlehem, PA) was the Master of Cermonies with his bodhran and dramatic drumming. Chaz Kiernan and Betsy Whitman and I were the token "professional" storytellers. But those Richland Friends didn't need us - not much anyway. They spun tales that touched hearts and split sides. There was even a quilt story in there as well. I'm going to the next Storytelling Potluck Richland Meeting hosts whether I tell a tale or not.

I'm telling this coming Saturday, January 31st at the Charles Brown Ice House in Bethlehem, PA at 10 am. Winter stories and a Chinese tale or two because TODAY begins the Chinese New Year Celebrations. I get to do a storytelling workshop at 11 am as well. Go to the Family series page at Mock Turtle Marionettes site for info on times, cost and directions.

Good night.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year! Time for another installment of Things I Miss.

I miss Quick & Simple magazine. It was a women's weekly and none of the articles were more than two pages long. It had lots of sidebars, lots of photos and every week there was a different "Spot the Differences" photo puzzle. Unfortunately, it was too similar to a couple of other weekly magazines and it ceased publication last summer.

I miss meeting my friends at Barnes & Noble for Sunday morning coffee. We didn't do it too often but now we are "too busy". Boo.

I miss Christmas carols. Yep, one day after New Year's and all the radio stations are back to business as usual. We have a few more days of Christmas, guys.

I miss the little magazine I put out for family and friends for a couple of years, BackPorch. I miss researching different ways for people to live full lives without spending money.

I miss writing for the Parkland News, another weekly publication that bit the dust. The East-Penn Press family of weeklies was too well entrenched for the weekly News newspapers to get much of a market. But for a little over a year, I wrote about books and literacy.

I miss waiting for another Harry Potter novel to come out.

I miss snow. I mean REAL snow that falls soft and silent and stays for days. I also miss being able to stay home to enjoy the snow. So maybe I don't miss snow all that much. Maybe I miss the idea of snow.

I miss people - the ones who grew up, moved away, retired, flew off to be somewhere else. Luckily, new people enter my life. Still, they never fill the holes left by the people I miss.

I miss making stuff for the craft fair. This is, of course, a temporary missing because there will be another craft fair and another mad crazy rush of making things out of pudding cups and lightbulbs and old t-shirts. But I'm not making those things right now and I miss it.

I miss Nanowrimo. I can always try to write 1700 words a day WITHOUT the pressure but Nanowrimo is FUN. So, now I'm doing nanorewrimo or something. The book I wrote this year ROCKS! But it needs a lot of work.

I miss Nerdfighters - sort of. Now that Paper Towns has become this big best selling mega blockbuster book, I miss the buzz of the Nerdfighter tour and watching Hank and John Green get all excited and big eyed and crazy. Write another book, John. Maybe Hank can write a song about no more Harry Potter books.

There are other things I miss, like national fiscal responsibility and a stable economy. I've never known Peace on Earth but I miss it anyway. I miss gasoline for 99 cents a gallon and I miss not having to work for a living - but that was looooong ago, now.

Well, enough about all the missing. Change comes and takes stuff and people away and washes stuff and people into our lives. More things to love. More things to miss.