Flash Fiction (1) Stormy

Boardwalk

(Prompt courtesy of L.S. Engler)

Rules (as per L.S. Engler (see above for link)) write a short blurb, about five minutes or so, to accompany the picture above. Then, from there, do with it as you will. Who knows?

Grey clouds were coming.  She could see it, but she would have known with her eyes closed.  The birds were quiet; hushed is the word she used to describe them. It felt, to her, they had simultaneously inhaled and were now waiting to exhale.  And she could feel the pressure building as the birds held their breath.  It weighed on her shoulders making her shawl feel heavy.  She pulled the shawl closer as the air took a chillier tone.

She turned around and with one last glance over her shoulder hurried back home.  If she was quick enough she would be back before it started to rain; if she was lucky enough she would be back before her mom knew she had left.  Yes, grey clouds were coming, and she knew it even though she had turned her back to them.

Oh yeah, please leave me some feedback.  I’m writing this to become a better writer, so if you see something you would change or improve upon please please please let me know.  Thanks!

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Imagination: The Pros and Cons

Overactive

Nightmarish

Disappointing (not in every way, but sometimes)

I’ve been having nightmares.  And I’m not even sure I can call them nightmares.  They happen at night, but I’m never asleep.  Dang me and my highly developed imagination!

I don’t normally curse my imagination.  After all, my imagination allows me to escape any mundane, irritating, or painful situation I’m in.  It let’s me explore new worlds and meet new people.  I feel very lucky to read a book and become completely immersed in the story being told.

But, there’s always a but, sometimes my imagination is more of a curse.  Like at night.  Especially when my fiance is out of town (thankfully he’s back now).  I recently read (and reviewed) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  I mentioned I found it scary.  And it was.  But, even worse, it’s still scaring me!  The monster in the book has carved it’s way into my psyche.

I see the monster whenever I get up at night.  And I have a 9 month old daughter who most assuredly does not sleep through the night.  That means I get up anywhere from one to four times a night to take of her.  And I am certain, every time, that the dang monster is in my home.  It’s on the stairs, or it’s in the room across the hall, or I hear a creak and I know it’s about to come in to the nursery and tear us apart.

I’ve started turning lights on when I get up to nurse my daughter.  It helps.  Then on the return trip I have to turn the lights off and make my way back to the bed.  I always look at my dog (he’s also a chicken) right before turning off the lights.  If he is sleeping (which he always is) then I know no monsters have sneaked in while I was with my daughter.  Then I quickly walk (I do not run, what if I trip? then I’m a sitting duck for the monster) to the bedroom and jump in to bed.

Once my body is completely under the covers I can breathe a little sigh of relief because, as everyone knows, monsters can’t get you when you’re under the covers.  Then I cuddle up a little closer to my fiance and feel my heartbeat slow, always certain I’ll never fall asleep before Daughter wakes up again.  Then I sink deeper in the mattress and let the comforting darkness of sleep keep me safe from all the monsters.

The Last Slice of Rainbow; Joan Aiken

Short

Fantastical

Fairy-tale

My mother gave me this book when I was a kid.  I though I loved it and read it many times I foolishly got rid of it when I was a teenager.  However, I have recognized that mistake and have recently repurchased (and revisited) this collection of short stories.

My personal favorite of this collection is the story for which the entire book is named: The Last Slice of Rainbow.  It’s about a boy who gets a rainbow of his very own to keep, if he can.  But, as he was warned, keeping a rainbow is quite challenging.

The rest of the stories are just as fantastical and imaginative.  These are simple children’s tales and when I was a child I found them quite delightful.  However, upon rereading them some of the magic was lost.  As an adult, the stories seemed a bit more contrived.  But, as an adult, I am no longer the Aiken’s chosen audience.

If you have a child who loves to play pretend and can disappear into her imagination for hours a day, this would be an excellent book.  If you, as an adult, are looking for a way to spend the afternoon there are more enjoyable reads to be read.

The Last Slice of Rainbow

Quest for a Maid, Frances Mary Hendry

Adventurous

Scottish

Heroine

“When I was nine years old, I hid under a table and heard my sister kill a king.”

That opening line was all it took.  I was hooked.

This book is a beautifully written adventure.

The characters are lovable despite their flaws (but let’s be honest, I think  I love the characters because of their flaws).  Regardless, they are complex and even the peripheral characters have strengths and weaknesses as well as motives for their actions.  The main character, Meg, has not only external conflicts but also internal ones.  She is an absolutely believable, albeit unwilling, heroine.

The book follows Meg as she grows up to be on the opposing side of her beloved sister during the battle for the Scottish crown.

Meg’s sister has magic.  The Lady for whom her sister works has money and an army.  And Meg, Meg has her courage, her wits, and her best friends Davie and Peem.

The most difficult part of this book is the dialogue.  And not because it’s exceptionally poor, but because it’s written with a Scottish accent.  To help the reader Hendry has included a glossary at the end of the book.  In all honestly, it only takes a few pages to adjust to the accent and then it simply makes the characters and the story that much more believable.

This is a book that I have read several times over the years.  I absolutely love Meg, I think she is a phenomenal protagonist and one that I root for time and time again.  All in all I would highly recommend this book.

Quest for a Maid

Pride & Prejudice; a review

Cute

Delightful

Counting

Don’t be alarmed.  I haven’t branched out to review a classic.  But I did just get the Little Miss Austen board book.  And it is as quaint and whimsical as I had hoped.  Did the kiddo love it?  I’m not sure.  But she certainly seemed to enjoy turning the pages and chewing on the binding (note to self: now that she has teeth must not let her chew on books).

This book is a charming little counting book.  And because I love the original story so much I’m sure I will be pulling this book out to work with numbers.

Pride & Prejudice, baby litPride & Prejudice, baby lit

The Wild Swans: Hans Christian Andersen

Beautiful

Moving

Long

As the inscription on the inside cover can attest, I got this book when I was 4 years old.  I don’t know if I could read it at that age.  I don’t know if I loved it at that age.  My memory of that age is spotty at best.  But what I can tell you is that I remember my mom reading it to me.  And that at some point in my life I could read it.  And that I loved this book and still do.

This story is one of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories.  It is a beautiful fairy tale about a little girl, her brothers, and their stepmother (I’ll give you one guess who the villain is).  The brothers are cursed and to lift the curse the little girl has to make them shirts from nettles, and she cannot speak until the task is completed.

It’s truly about a young girl who loves her brothers so much that she is willing to sacrifice anything to save them.  Her commitment and hard work pay off.  But not without a price.

This is not a short fairy tale.  And for younger kids it may take a few readings before the whole thing is completed.  But the story (along with the illustrations) make it easy to enchant a whole family and everyone will be ready to sit down for another reading.

I love this story.  And I think one of the reasons I love it so much were the pictures that went with the story.  My version was illustrated by Juan Alonso Diaz-Toledo.  And his watercolors captured not only the scenes and emotions of each page but also my imagination.  I have distinct memories of looking through this book, seeing one of the pictures, and then making up my own story to fit that picture.  Like I said, these illustrations are magical.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Wild Swans

This is the version I have at home.  I don’t know if it’s still in print, but if you plan on buying this book make sure whatever version you get has amazing art.  Enjoy!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Builds

Moving

Remarkable

This book started out slow, at least for me.  I wasn’t certain I was going to like the style of the book.  I was unsure about a story being narrated by death, and I didn’t like Death’s voice.  I also didn’t like that definitions and facts kept interrupting prose.  The book, as far as I was concerned, didn’t make the best first impression.

But, first impressions can be misleading and it didn’t take long for me to fall under Markus Zusak’s spell.

His characters became so real that I truly loved them.  Each character had their flaws as well as their strengths.  And by the end of the book the characters’ flaws made their goodness even more poignant.

Zusak managed to bring me to tears at multiple points through out the story.  But don’t think the story had only sadness.  Some of those tears were grateful tears or tears of joy (blame my daughter for the inappropriate reactions, my hormones are still a little wacky).  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is Zusak highlights the joy and humor that was found in a generally bleak and devastating time.

And the theme of books and words and their power over individuals was seamlessly woven into the story.  At first, the theme doesn’t even seem (no pun intended) to be there, but as the story developed I began to examine the power of words not just those of this story, or of that particular time period.   For example, Monday was Martin Luther King day, a man whose words of peace and equality are famous.  And yesterday was the internet blackout in protest of censorship, a protest against confining words and ideas (and yes, also images, but work with me).

Truly the argument that the pen is mightier than the sword has many examples.  This book is one of those examples.  A beautiful, poignant example.

The Book Thief