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Search tags: January-2015
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text 2015-02-07 13:02
Four in a row

 one after the other, four books -- four stars. I don't even remember the last time that happened



" . . . it became clear to me that the important question was not “What have I become?” but more “What am I now to do?” How was I to return to myself and paint something of worth before I grew too old to care, too weak to try?"




"If novels were sinful, I should spend many nights in prayer, for this story was a delight. I could hardly bear to put Persuasion down long enough to retire."




 "If you build your own life around the secret lives of others, if you erect your house on the corrupt foundations of theirs, you soon come to regard all useful knowledge as your due. Information becomes your entitlement. You pay handsomely for it; you use it selectively and well. If you are not exactly trusted in certain circles, you are respected, and your name carries a certain weight. You are rarely surprised, and never deceived. Yet there may come a time when your knowledge will betray you.

A time when you will find even the brightest certainties— of friendship, of family, even of faith— dimming into shadows of bewilderment. When the light fails and belief fades into nothingness, and the season of your darkest ignorance begins."




"Ellie poured two whiskey sours and grabbed an ashtray. The regulars hadn’t trickled in yet, and the frat boys were still on summer vacation. They had the place to themselves.


'How goes life in the salt mines?' Ellie must have thought it was hilarious that Iris had to sit in an office every day. She didn’t give a shit what the world thought she was supposed to do. Ellie was a sixth-year art student with no plans of graduating. Pleasing the parents or the teachers wasn’t even a thought. She was free. At least, that was the way it seemed. . . . 

. . . She [Iris] didn’t want to grow up to be like her parents, whittling away the time, eating bran cereal and watching Wheel of Fortune . She didn’t want to be her mother, reading her grocery- store romance novels, pan- frying steaks for a husband who ignored her, and muttering her opinions into the clothes dryer. She didn’t know what she wanted, but it sure as shit wasn’t that. It all seemed so damned pointless."


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text 2015-02-06 13:08

Pearls Before Swine


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text 2015-02-05 19:39
Chapter two beckons.
The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque - Jeffrey Ford

and after the first chapter, I believe I'll be reading this one straight through.  I cannot contain myself, given how much I'm captivated by chapter one.  Here's an excerpt, because I want you to be captivated too.



MUCH TO my unease, Mrs. Reed positioned herself, all evening, beneath or immediately to either side of her new portrait. She had, for this occasion, worn the same black gown and diamond necklace I had requested she wear when posing for me. Given the situation, comparisons between God’s work and my own were unavoidable. I daresay the Almighty’s original was found somewhat wanting in the face of my painterly revision. Whereas, in His unquestionable wisdom, He had gone for the grandiose in the formation of her nose and saw fit to leave a prominent gap between the front teeth, I had closed ranks and reduced to beautiful normalcy those aspects of her features that made her her. By using a faint shade of rose and sparing the chiaroscuro, I had added a certain youthful radiance to the tone and elasticity of her flesh, turning back the clock to but a few minutes after that earlier hour when these corresponding changes would have seemed ludicrous.


Perhaps Mrs. Reed was wholly unaware of these discrepancies or, being aware of them, believed that by standing as close to her fairer double as possible she would permanently confuse artifice and reality in the minds of her friends and family. . . 


. . . Whatever the case, she appeared to be beaming with joy. As for the rest of us in attendance, we were all uneasy conspirators in a plot to ignore the truth. Thankfully, her husband had spent a small fortune on good champagne for the unveiling and encouraged all to drink freely. Many of the fifty or so guests felt compelled to approach me and offer praise for my work, which if not for the alcohol would have left my expression a permanent wince.


“Piambo, the rendering of the goldfish in the bowl on the table next to Mrs. Reed is spectacular. I can count the very scales from here.”


“The barely wilting nasturtiums in that Chinese vase behind her are so lifelike.”


“No one can capture the fold of a gown as you can, and my, how the diamonds sparkle.” I politely thanked them all, . .  [Then Shenz, his colleague in fine arts portraiture approaches . . . ]

“A nice bit of work, Piambo,” he said, and then slightly turned his head and shifted his eyes to look up at me.


“Have some more champagne,” I whispered to him, and he quietly laughed.


“Salubrious is the word I would use,” he said. “Yes, quite salubrious.”


“I’m keeping a running tally,” I told him, “as to whether people appreciate the goldfish or the nasturtiums more.”


“Put me down for the nose,” he said. “A truly ingenious economy of paint.” [Shenz leaves to mingle, and Piambo loses himself in champagne and people watching.]


In my daze it came to me that I not only wanted but needed to be elsewhere. I realized that of late I had been spending more time in chandeliered parlors, drinking myself to the verge of a stupor, than I did in front of the easel.


[he decides to sneak out, but Mr. Reed catches him before he makes his escape, and makes him wait while he fetches Mrs. Reed.]


 “Piambo has pressing business across town, dear,” he said to her. “He must, reluctantly, be on his way. I thought you would want to thank him for the portrait.”


Mrs. Reed smiled, and I fixated on that gap between her teeth. In the days that I’d spent in her presence, she had seemed almost devoid of personality. She had been an obedient model and not unpleasant, but I had never tried to get at her true essence, because it had been indicated to me in not so many words, by her husband, that inner spirit was not to be the point of the portrait.


She stepped forward in a manner to indicate that she was going to kiss my cheek. In that instant, as she came toward me, I caught a fleeting glimpse of something more than the dull affect to which I had grown accustomed. Then her lips grazed my face, and before she pulled back I heard her whisper in a voice no louder than the sound of a wet brush gliding across canvas, “I hope you die.” When she was again standing before me so that I could see her entire countenance, she was smiling.


i can't wait for what happens next.  happy reading. I'll be gone for a few hours.

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text 2015-02-05 12:01
I want one of those licenses please.
Huntress Moon - Alexandra Sokoloff

Thanks to So I Read This Book Today for her review of the book which has this excellent quote:


“Put just one of these monsters out of commission – the child sellers, the serial rapists, the mutilators, the torturers – lock just one of the breathing, crawling scum away for the rest of their miserable lives, and the entire balance of the world shifts. Who wouldn’t want a license to do it?"

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text 2015-02-05 07:24
Power bars and Persuasion.
Whisper Falls - Elizabeth Langston

Eighteenth century Susanna is an indentured servant whose master is cruel and miserly;  corporal punishment and scant portions are the norm.  Twenty-first century Mark has made it a habit to bring food with him to their meetings.


I wouldn’t go to the falls empty-handed. Susanna was getting protein bars. The Whole Foods store was crazy on Monday, as if everyone on this side of Raleigh had stopped in for heat-and-serve vegan meals. I walked past the deli and headed to the section devoted to energy bars. I liked to keep a stash on hand for those times when my parents forgot to get food I liked while grocery shopping. After today, Susanna would have a stash, too.


It was hard to know what she would like. Not peanut butter or chocolate. They might be too intense. Fruit might be good. Strawberry, apricot, or fig? I got all three. She could toss them if she didn’t like them.


After checking out, I walked out to the bike rack and stowed the stuff in my pack. As I was preparing to unlock the bike, I noticed a SALE sign on my mom’s favorite store, Meredith Ridge Books. A bookstore— where people bought novels. The devil’s missives. Oh, yeah. Tonight, Susanna would have food and fiction. [Susanna can read, but even if she had time, the household doesn't allow novels.]


 . . . I skimmed the titles, hoping for inspiration. It was a bust. Susanna wasn’t likely to appreciate demons, cheerleaders, or zombies. . . . [a clerk steps in and offers suggestions]


“Jane Austen? We have new copies, plus a few antique volumes.”


I felt like smacking my head. “Perfect. Thanks.” I waited to survey my options until the woman wandered away. The bookcase had six shelves, one for each Austen title. There were dozens of copies of each book, organized from newest to most beat-up. I read the blurbs. Persuasion won.  


[he purchases the book, a used leather-bound copy (the clerk approves), and he takes his power bars and the book to the Waterfall.  Susanna isn't there yet.]


I found a fallen log to sit on with a clear view of the falls. Two minutes passed— two minutes of nothing occupying my attention except kamikaze mosquitoes and decaying leaves. Okay, I was bored.


I flipped open Persuasion and turned to the first page. The first sentence was incredibly long, one hundred words or more, with commas and semi-colons all over the place. English teachers today had to be upset over that sentence. I read on. Jane Austen might’ve put a lot of words in the first sentence, but those words were doing their job. The dad was a total jerk.




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