31 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 28

This is the last readalong post for Little House on the Prairie, and also the last post of the year for Shredded Cheddar (!!!). After this, we'll be reading Farmer Boy. I hope you're looking forward to it as much as I am! =)

Now a great many Indians came riding along the Indian trail. Indians were everywhere. Their guns echoed in the creek bottoms where they were hunting. No one knew how many Indians were hidden in the prairie which seemed so level but wasn't. Often Laura saw an Indian where one hadn't been an instant before.

Indians often came to the house. Some were friendly, some were surly and cross. All of them wanted food and tobacco, and Ma gave them what they wanted. She was afraid not to . . .

Jack was cross all the time, even with Laura. He was never let off the chain, and all the time he lay and hated the Indians . . .

Ma may be the family's barometer of emotional health, but I think Jack gives us some worthwhile "readings," too. It's a huge red flag, for instance, when he has to be kept chained all the time. And his increasing loss of freedom parallels that of the Ingalls family. There's something very wrong when a good watchdog can't do his job . . . and when the fear of a massacre holds good people hostage to strangers.

So now, as promised, let's discuss the Indians.

29 December 2012

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Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Six!


Welcome to Dining Rooms Day: The Movie Edition!

December has been a good month for dining rooms. We've managed to look at one from a long-running Middle Grade series, one from an award winning literary novel, and one from an enduring Victorian classic. Today, I feature a dining room from one of the most memorable comedies of my childhood--one I look at with totally new eyes as an adult. Perhaps I'll pick it apart in a Twelve Things post soon; but until then, I'll only say as much as will fit my Top Secret December Theme.

As for January, which is coming up soon, I don't think we'll be doing Locus Focus then. I'd like to give the "Two or Three" Book Club a lot more time, especially since I have an idea for the next novel that I'd like to sell to everybody. So that will be the bulk of the book content next month. We'll do another room of the house in February. I'm already open to suggestions for that!


28 December 2012

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Friday Night Sitcom: Charles in Charge

Welcome to another Friday Night live blog! I don't have a movie for you, but I do have a great sitcom episode! I hope you brought the popcorn . . . =)


0:04 They kept this theme song and the facade of the house for all five seasons! It's too bad they couldn't have kept the cast, but let me not get into that rant right now.
1:11 I can't be the only one who applauded at that carol! =P And not just because I like how economically the script alone could have set up this episode's time setting.
2:11 "How can you be homesick when you're not going anywhere?" . . . "Because he's home and I'm sick!" As the Mythbusters would say: PLAUSIBLE! I once knew a guy in uni whose younger brother had become so attached to the nanny that their parents let her take him back to her own country for weeks at a time on her holidays.
2:18 "How about your brother?" One thing that did bother me about Season 1 was the way Charles was doing things that members of the family should have been doing for each other . . . but then I remembered that that is what friends are often for.
3:03 "Grandma Irene thinks I'm weird." Oh, Douglas, that's what family members are often for. =P
4:49 I loved the 80s pop culture reference from Douglas and the American literature allusion from Charles, but I had to look up Beany and Cecil. =P Good one, anyway, Buddy! LOL!
5:23 How 80s are those banana yellow socks?!?! I wish I could be fourteen again--but only if I get to be Lila Pembroke!
5:54 If I ever create a Charles in Charge Season 1 Marathon Drinking Game, one rule would be: "Drink whenever Lila mentions popular girl Sally Stephanato"! LOL!
6:36 I'm actually on Buddy's side because Charles deserves a break . . . but I know Charles is going to stay and I love him for it.
7:45 "He'll just call Sally Stephanato--" DRINK!
8:07 Yes, that's Rue McClanahan! But before she was a Golden Girl. =)
9:27 Note that while we think of Grandma Irene as taking over Charles's room, she isn't happy that Charles has taken over her room. LOL!

Well, what do you think so far? As I've said, there have been episodes that made me think that Charles is doing Mr. Pembroke's job of raising the children, and that it is, as Americans would say, "inappropriate." But then I balance it against Mr. Pembroke's own paternal interest in Charles's welfare and realise that quite a complicated dance is unfolding in the former's household. The Pembroke children get some necessary independence from their parents by getting to turn to Charles instead . . . but all the while, Charles is also being solicitously mentored by Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke.

Let me know what you think of this arrangement in the combox, and then come back for what Grandma Irene thinks! =)

27 December 2012

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Twelve Things about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

12. If you follow this blog religiously (and of course you do!), then you know that I watched Breaking Dawn, Part 2 before this one. See my Twelve Things post about the last Twilight Saga movie to know why it convinced me to give this one a chance . . . and while watching, also to give it a break

11. Part 1 begins with different characters' reactions to Bella and Edward's wedding invitations--and at first I thought it should have opened with Charlie. Not only is Billy Boyd the best actor in the entire franchise, but his character is the only one who senses that Bella is passing beyond our reach . . . because she is passing behind his reach . . . and not just because she is growing up.

10. But I soon figured out why director Billy Condon decided to open the story with Jacob. In his hands, what drives Breaking Dawn, Part 1 is not the development of Bella and Edward's relationship, but the development of Jacob's character! Interesting, aye? 

So let's talk about "imprinting" for a moment, because it's kind of important. 

26 December 2012

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Wednesday Night Theme Song: "New boy in the neighbourhood . . ."

You may be familiar with the syndicated 80s sitcom Charles in Charge, which is about a young man in uni who has a job as an au pair to three children, but you might not recognise most of the cast in the Season 1 opening . . .


Until this year, I had never seen any episodes from the first season, which was the only one to feature Charles's first family, the Pembrokes. And now that I have, I feel deprived and downright cheated, because they are so much better than his second family, the Powells.

Heck, the whole show was better in Season 1: the characters, the plots, the writing, the styling, the twist on the Top Secret December Theme . . . Charles in Charge became a completely new show after it switched families on set and switched producers behind the scenes.

25 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 27

Mary Ingalls' wanting to be clean and neat and ladylike all the time was one thing in Little House in the Big Woods. She takes it to a whole new, frustrating level in Little House on the Prairie. That means that, yes, Shaz, I did want to smack her after I read the following passage. =P

Laura stirred her beads with her finger and watched them sparkle and shine. "These are mine," she said.

Then Mary said, "Carrie can have mine."

Ma waited to hear what Laura would say. Laura didn't want to say anything. She wanted to keep those pretty beads. Her chest felt all hot inside, and she wished with all her might that Mary wouldn't always be such a good little girl. But she couldn't let Mary be better than she was.

So she said, slowly, "Carrie can have mine, too."

"That's my unselfish, good little girls," said Ma.

After the covered wagon, it seems that the second most popular visual motif for this novel is the contrast between the conspicuously blonde Mary and the comfortably brunette Laura. It will be interesting to see how their relationship develops and how it will come to a head (later in the series?) when Laura finds more of her voice around Mary.

The more immediate conflict in this novel is that between the white settlers and the Indians. I've already written some notes down, but since I haven't read further than the Christmas chapter of this book, I will save that big political discussion for the next readalong post.

22 December 2012

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Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Five!


My favourite holiday dining room is not actually from today's featured novel. It is the Bjorkman Family's Dining Room, from The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer, and the only reason I'm not writing about it today is that I already wrote about it two years ago, in Take Thirty-Four! (Yes, click on the link. You know you want to read that post!)

This week (UPDATE: Yes, I know how late this is! I'm so sorry, but the holidays have kept me really busy and I can't even schedule posts in advance any longer!), I'm going with the most predictable dining room I could have chosen for this Locus Focus weekend. It sort of goes with the Top Secret December theme . . . but not as much as the others I've chosen. You probably already know what it is . . .

19 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 26

Once more, Shaz joins the readalong with her first post on Little House on the Prairie. Check it out at Scattershot and collect another clue about the Top Secret December Theme!

Something she brings up is a bit of that resistance to the big move which I mentioned last week. Unlike me, however, she hit the bull's eye: the character with the real mixed feelings about life on the prairie isn't Laura, but Ma.

"Dear me, Laura, must you yell like an Indian? I declare," Ma said, "if you girls aren't getting to look like Indians! Can I never teach you to keep your sunbonnets on?"

Pa . . . looked down at them and laughed.

"One little Indian, two little Indians, three little Indians," he sang softly. "No, only two."

"You make three," Mary said to him. "You're brown, too."

"But you aren't little, Pa," said Laura. "Pa, when are we going to see a papoose?"

"Goodness!" Ma exclaimed. "What do you want to see an Indian baby for? Put on your sunbonnet now and forget such nonsense."

The Ingalls may spend less than a quarter of the novel in their covered wagon, but that image is clearly a favourite with cover designers. =P And we can say that covered wagons bore the American spirit not just across a continent, but through many years of history, making possible innumerable little houses on a seemingly endless prairie.

18 December 2012

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Reading Diary: Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee

They walk back along an irrigation furrow. Lucy's bare toes grip the red earth, leaving clean prints. A solid woman, embedded in her new life. Good! If this is to be what he leaves behind--this daughter, this woman--then he does not have to be ashamed . . .

"Are you working on something in particular?" she asks . . .

"I have plans. Something on the last years of Byron. Not a book . . . Something for the stage, rather. Words and music. Characters talking and singing . . . I thought I would indulge myself. But there is more to it than that. One wants to leave something behind . . ."

"Doesn't being a father count?"

"Being a father . . . I can't help feeling that, in comparison to being a mother, being a father is a rather abstract business . . ."

When I pulled my copy of J.M. Coetzee's Disgrace from my shelves last weekend, all I planned to read was a certain dining room scene, which I then wrote about in Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Four. Of course, I ended up rereading the whole thing, and getting so much more out of it than I did back in uni. It all but demanded a Reading Diary entry.

And I would have been happy to oblige even if it didn't fit the Top Secret December Theme--which it does! =P

15 December 2012

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Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Four!


We're still doing Dining Rooms today, in line with the Top Secret December Theme, and I wanted to share a bit more about my "method" of doing Locus Focus.

Although last week's dining room came from a book I was reading for the first time (See Take Eighty-Three!), I get most of my featured settings from books I read in the past. What I do is stand in front of one of my bookcases, do a general scan of book spines, and let the titles exercise my memory. Some of them have great settings that I wouldn't have remembered off the top of my head. Today's dining room is one of these. 

14 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 25

First of all, if you haven't already read Shaz's second post for our readalong, then please do: Little House in the Big Woods (Part Two). It's got a really cool video of a "wonderful machine" from the same time period as Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood.

Now I hope nobody minds too much on behalf of their schedules if I announce a slight change in the readalong timetable. When I finally opened my copy of Little House on the Prairie earlier this week, I was surprised to see that it was twice as long as Little House in the Big Woods--and you already know that I regretted giving that one only two discussion posts. So this second novel is going to have a whopping four. How about that? =)

Pa said there were too many people in the Big Woods now. Quite often Laura heard the ringing thud of an ax which was not Pa's ax, or the echo of a shot that did not come from his gun. The path that went by the little house had become a road. Almost every day Laura and Mary stopped their playing and stared in surprise at a wagon slowly creaking by on that road.

Wild animals would not stay in a country where there were so many people. Pa did not like to stay, either. He liked a country where the wild animals lived without being afraid. He liked to see little fawns and their mothers looking at him from the shadowy woods, and the fat, lazy bears eating berries in the wild-berry patches.

In the long winter evenings he talked to Ma about the Western country . . .

The first few chapters of Little House on a Prairie were seriously traumatic for me. I hadn't realised how attached I had become to the first little house in the Big Woods--and I was surprised at how much I resented Pa for moving his family out of it and basically guaranteeing that they'd never see it again.

And I thought I saw some resistance from Laura, too, in the subtext . . . but that could just be me projecting. =P

13 December 2012

+JMJ+

November/December

Letting go of a good thing can be hard. I'm still mourning the end of "Are You Afraid of November?" and all the FF I didn't manage to write in time.

When I started that project, it had been such a long time since I seriously sat down to write fiction, that I was surprised to remember how demanding it can be. An author must be "on call" all the time--and the story can call at the most inconvenient times.

The long and short of it is that I simply cannot hold down a full-time job, host a readalong (and a weekly meme) on this blog, and write FF of any literary merit, all at the same time. Not without one of them paying the price. Only two are allowed to tango at this dance.

But it still breaks my heart that the FF had to go. I'm already committing the whole of next Lent to finishing the second of my "Before Midnight" Chronicles. (Ahem!) A very polished (but only by me) edit of what I now think of as Part 1 is already on FanFiction.net, in case you'd like to review it there:


How did the members of the Midnight Society meet each other when they all went to different schools and had different friends? This is how I imagine Gary and Kiki met. David makes a small appearance. A one-shot divided into short chapters, because that was how I wrote it. Complete.
Rated: K+ - English - Chapters: 5 - Words: 2,922 - Published: 12-14-12 - Gary & Kiki


And if you liked it enough to be looking forward to Part 2, then I hope you check back after Ash Wednesday.

Now I return all of us to our regularly scheduled Top Secret December Theme.

12 December 2012

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Awaiting the Poems!

Foam rubber stamp letter w ampersand & Rubber Stamp Letter Q
Stencil Number 2 number 6

I gave myself until this morning to flesh out a really great idea I had for my prompts . . . and then didn't quite get there. =P

But I do know that someone else may already be done with his and raring to link it up, so I'm putting this post up now and hoping that the poem gets here soon, too!

UPDATE: My awaited poem is finally here . . . but a little different from what I started out with. But the world itself is a little different from what I started out with.

11 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 24

Guess what?! Someone else wrote a post for our book club! Visit Shaz's blog Scattershot for READALONG: Little House in the Big Woods.

As you remember from the Pet Sematary readalong, I like featuring different covers whenever I write a new post. And it turns out that two posts per book was a good idea after all, because Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels don't undergo as many "makeovers" as other books. That kind of makes sense. What you see below is, as far as I can tell, the cover of the current UK edition.

Once Aunt Lotty came to spend the day. That morning Laura had to stand still a long time while Ma unwound her hair from the cloth strings and combed it into long curls. Mary was all ready, sitting primly on a chair, with her golden curls shining and her china blue dress fresh and crisp.

Laura liked her own red dress, but Ma pulled her hair dreadfully, and it was brown instead of golden, so that no one noticed it. Everyone noticed and admired Mary's.

"There!" Ma said at last. "Your hair is curled beautifully, and Lotty is coming. Run meet her, both of you, and ask her which she likes best, brown curls or golden curls."

Now why should I have been surprised that there was sibling rivalry in the Big Woods? It's not all Man vs. Nature all the time. We also get some Girl vs. Girl--though I suppose we all end up rooting for Laura over Mary, if only because we see everything through Laura's eyes . . . and her vision is beautiful.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, aye, little sister? ;-)

08 December 2012

+JMJ+

Locus Focus: Take Eighty-Three!


Welcome to Dining Rooms Day!

Why travel the world for great settings when some really good ones are already to be found at home? I'll be featuring the "basic" rooms of a "regular" house for the next few Locus Focus month-long challenges. We're starting with dining rooms because they're closest to the Top Secret December Theme. (I'm the only one still having fun with this joke, aye?)

You can find out more about Locus Focus on the Settings page. If you write your own post, I'll link it at the end of this one and at the start of the next one. =)

Laura Ingalls Wilder's novels aren't the only ones I've been reading this month. Last week, I also started going through the shorts in the latest book of popular children's series that I managed to find a copy of. It's probably the only series I don't mind reading out of order.

06 December 2012

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"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 23

If anyone is thinking that Little House in the Big Woods is a mad leap from our last Book Club pick, Stephen King's Pet Sematary, then he wasn't really paying attention the last time. As soon as I started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's classic, I felt nothing but uncanny continuity.

Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little grey house made of logs.

The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north in a day, or a week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses. There were no roads. There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them.

Wolves lived in the Big Woods, and bears, and huge wild cats. Muskrats and mink and otter lived by the streams. Foxes had dens in the hills and deer roamed everywhere . . .

As the list of wild creatures grew longer, I kept expecting it to include a wendigo. =P I'm not saying that just to be funny, either. I did check a map of North America to see how far apart Laura's Wisconsin and Louis's Maine are in geography and not just in time--but to be honest, it's all wendigo country to me at this point.

But just to be clear, the setting has nothing to do with the Top Secret December Theme.

05 December 2012

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All I Want for Christmas . . . Are Advent Poems

Brick Letter w ampersand Magnetic Letter Q
Magnetic 
Number 2 Magnetic number 6
Learn More about Word & Question!


For everyone who isn't the wonderful Shaz, the answer to last month's riddle is . . . the long-running British TV series Dr. Who. Well, wasn't that fun? ;-P

More seriously now, my one regret for November was dashing off another riddle instead of a proper poem. I feel that I still owe Dauvit a real return for his prompts, so a second poem, plus the December schedule, can be found after the jump.

Although I'm planning to make my official December poem fit the Top Secret December Theme, the one that follows doesn't.

04 December 2012

+JMJ+

Dear Father Christmas, I've Been Good

This Week's Theme:
Books You Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing You


First of all, yes, this post kind of fits the Top Secret December Theme! But don't look too hard for clues or anything.

I remember the first Christmas I no longer believed in Santa but still pretended I did so that I could get extra presents. My family should have known something was up when instead of asking for toys, I asked for cassette copies of Beatles albums. (Yes, Enbrethiliel, Santa has a recording studio . . .)

It is the memory of that Christmas that has inspired the twist I've put on my latest Top Ten Tuesday contribution. Although the bulk of my reading has been made up of "children's books" for years, I thought it would be a more interesting challenge to pack this list with "adult" books.


A Tenner:
Books for My Oversized Stocking

02 December 2012

+JMJ+

Twelve Things about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2

12. So that you don't make it all the way to the end and then get angry because you had hoped I was going to pan this, I'll lay everything out on the table right now.

I didn't hate it.

In fact, I even kind of liked it. =P

11. The opening credits won me over immediately. There was something about the imagery of a northern winter depicted in the Twilight palette of stark black, icy white and blood red that was just so arresting . . . and so stylishly done. I felt that the movie was going for real artistry--and the issue of whether or not Stephenie Meyer's source story deserved it seemed peripheral. 

10. But it's not peripheral, is it? It's important to be clear about what all this beauty is in the service of. Ironically, the answer is . . . not so pretty.

I can only call it the "rebranding" of vampirism as the perfect makeover that lasts forever. Or the ultimate superpower. Or a combination of both, really. And Breaking Dawn, Part 2 does it so well, that I find myself wanting to be a vampire, too.

9. So Bella turns and gets eternal beauty, enhanced physical and psychic abilities . . . and a ton of swag. It's really the swag I have an issue with.

01 December 2012

+JMJ+

"Two or Three" Book Club, Meeting 22

We have a winner! In line with Shredded Cheddar's Top Secret December Theme, behold our--and I do mean our--December/January read:


So are you surprised that the Little House books won? I confess that I am! =)

I really thought Percy Jackson and the Olympians would win by a landslide, and even worried that commenters would protest that Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't stand a chance against Rick Riordan. (Not necessarily because he's better but because his books are just "hotter" these days.) Which shows how much I know, right? =P 

My plan is to write two posts per book, and ideally, to read one book a week. The posts will go up on Monday and Thursday (or Tuesday and Friday, if I'm running late). If you are reading along, I would love to know your own impressions of these novels. Please feel free to comment!

And if you decide to write your own posts that link up to any "Two or Three" Book Club meetings, I will be happy to return the favour by linking back to you. =)

Image Source: Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder