sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

November 30, 2009

into the stacks: snow
posted by soe 11:08 pm

Snow, by Tracy Lynn

From the jacket: “In a tiny Welsh estate, a duke and duchess lived happily, lacking only a chil — or, more importantly, a son and heir to the estate. Childbirth ultimately proved fatal for the young duchess. After she died, the duke was dismayed to discover that he was not only a widower, but also father to a tiny baby girl. He vowed to begin afresh with a new wife, abandoning his daughter in search of elusive contentment. Independent — virtually ignored — and finding only little animals and a lonely servant boy as her companions, Jessica is pale, lonely, and headstrong … and quick to learn that she has an enemy in her stepmother. ‘Snow,’ as she comes to be known, flees the estate to London and finds herself embraced by a band of urban outcasts. But stepmother isn’t finished with her…”

My take: This was one of the novels I picked up from Riverby Books last month. I’m always interested in retellings of classic tales and this one sounded like it had potential for being a compelling version of “Snow White.”

Although the story takes place in 1920s Great Britain, Jessica (and her stepmother, Anne, for that matter) is a heroine with modern sensibilities, placing it firmly in the category of steampunk fiction.

Jessica is still a young girl when her father, a man from whom she is mostly estranged, remarries a woman from far away. She looks forward to the idea of finally having a mother, but is disappointed when the English duchess seems more interested in spending time with her new husband and behind closed doors than with caring for her. Yet with Anne’s arrival also comes Alan, a boy musician only a few years older than Jessica, who is kind and interested in chatting with her when he isn’t helping the Duchess with her scientific experiments.

As with the original tale, Jessica, or “Snow,” as she becomes known, angers her stepmother, who is unsuccessful at giving her husband another child, by growing more and more beautiful as she matures. Eventually, Anne, whose earlier diabolical science experiments are merely hinted at, decides the only way to become pregnant is to create a Frankenstein’s monster-style child. The key to this is to procure a human heart — and the Duchess has a specific one in mind.

Alan, who wears a magical charm that forbids both his lying to the Duchess or to telling others of her madness, convinces Jessica that she must flee if she values her life. She makes for London, where, this being a fairy tale, she is promptly pickpocketed and left penniless and hungry.

When she is discovered squatting on turf belonging to a gang of five (not seven) misfits, she must begin to build a new life for herself, to learn to trust again, and to decide what — and who — makes a family.

Snow isn’t of the same caliber as some other fantasy stories, and it inconsistently crosses that line between storytelling and breaking down the barrier between reader and narrator. As an interesting retelling of a story we all know forward and back, though, it’s definitely worth the couple hours necessary to read it. I’d recommend it as a library loan for those who love fantasy and fairy tales.

Pages: 259

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November 29, 2009

into the stacks: no way to treat a first lady
posted by soe 2:13 pm

No Way to Treat a First Lady, by Christopher Buckley

From the jacket: “Elizabeth Tyler MacMann, the First Lady of the United States, has been charged with killing her philandering husband, the President of the United States. In the midst of a bedroom spat, she allegedly hurled a historic Paul Revere spittoon at him, with tragic results. The attorney general has no choice but to put the First Lady on trial for assassination.”

My take: When you’re the First Lady and charged with murder, to whom do you turn? In the case of Beth MacMann, you call up your law school sparring partner, Boyce Baylor, now a sleazy but successful celebrity attorney whom you last saw when you jilted him for the man who’d become your husband. When sparks still fly as you work together to unravel the President’s death, is there any doubt that eventually you’ll find yourself fighting not just for your life but also for a second chance at love?

I picked this up at my grandmother’s suggestion earlier this year and was pleased to have done so. The story pulls you along quickly, the surroundings are peppered with my familiar D.C. scenery, and if the characters aren’t always likable, they do seem realistic. You end up rooting for Beth and Boyce to solve things quickly and to sort out their various entanglements. Plus the secondary characters, which include Babette Van Anka, the president’s paramour and a former B-grade singer/actress, are laugh-out-loud-worthy.

Want to read a book that epitomizes the ’90s, that combines the media circuses of the O.J. trial and the Monica Lewinsky scandal? This is the tale for you.

Buckley also wrote Thank You for Smoking, a hilarious parody of D.C. lobbyists, which I saw on film a few years back.

Pages: 288

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just one of those days
posted by soe 3:48 am

Yet another nice day of vacation!

When Rudi and I overslept this morning, rendering it impossible for us to head south for breakfast out, I thought the day was sunk. Instead, it turned out to be a lovely Saturday.

Not heading to Middletown meant that I could start the day with a warm shower and breakfast. Tunes cranked, I pointed the car eastward to meet Karen for lunch in Pomfret.

We spent the afternoon exploring Putnam, a mill town that offered us a nice book store and yarn shop, as well as a charity shop and comic book store. A wide footpath hugged the river, and we spent an hour walking beneath blue skies and through hat-stealing winds. Afterwards, we returned to Pomfret to the Vanilla Bean for a tasty lunch and a less blustery opportunity to chat. When the sun sat low on the horizon, we agreed that it was probably time to part ways.

Rolling hills accompanied my drive westward. The horizon offered a gorgeously changing panorama, with mauve clouds giving way to salmon. The last vestiges of sunset disappeared into twilight as I pulled into my folks’ driveway.

Mum and I spent the evening making Christmas cookies, the dough for which Mum had prepared while I was out. We make a good team, as I don’t mind the rather tedious job of decorating spritz cookies and Mum is a seasoned pro at getting the cookie shooter to give us recognizable shapes most of the time. It’s necessary to sample the wares along the way because, of course, we’d hate for anyone else to end up with inedible cookies!

The night concluded with pizza and a Christmas movie in front of the fire.

It might not have been a perfect day, but it was pretty darn close and one I’m not likely to remember forget for quite a while.

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November 28, 2009

maybe just a hint of grey friday
posted by soe 2:25 am

Today was another nice day, although the weather was typical New England November dreariness. Gramma and I ventured out today to shop for Christmas, but only she came home with a lighter wallet. I looked, but didn’t buy anything.

Did you venture out? Or did you stay inside where it was nice and cozy and play board games or watch Christmas movies?

The evening was quiet, a nice contrast to the blustery wind that had picked up as the rain ended. We ate leftovers (including more delicious pie!) and played pool and dozed early and often. You can’t argue that we aren’t getting adequate rest during this trip…

To balance, Rudi and I are planning to get up early and head out for breakfast together before parting ways so that Karen and I can meet for lunch. The evening may hold cookie baking or movie watching or something else equally festive and relaxing.

I hope your Saturday is equally as pleasant. Have a great one!

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November 26, 2009

tableau, lights, and leaves
posted by soe 11:47 pm

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had wonderful celebrations with your loved ones. We spent a wonderful day watching the parade, cooking, eating, and touching base with friends and family, which I think pretty much embodies how the day is supposed to go.

I offer you here three beautiful things from my week:

1. Two women in purple pause during their workday to walk a pocket-sized puppy.

2. I notice the first Christmas lights on Hilliard where two small trees sparkled with silver lights. The next night, a full-sized tree adorns a front window near Whole Foods and a strand of multi-colored lights decorates a fourth-floor apartment window.

3. Tiny Japanese maple leaves turn scarlet outside the Colombian embassy. And Hilliard is blanketed with golden ginkgo leaves.

What’s been beautiful in your world recently? Or what were you particularly thankful for today?

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the beautiful things about a long drive
posted by soe 2:29 am

Our drive to Connecticut, which normally averages 8 hours, took 12 instead. It was a surprising turn-of-event, but not as painful as you might think. I did, after all, have my favorite guy, good tunes (including two new cds Dad mailed down for the occasion), and knitting to help while away the time.

Here are three beautiful things from our drive:

1. We drove up Maryland Route 40 instead of taking 95, from just north of Baltimore to the Delaware Memorial Bridge. At one point, while sitting at a light, we realized that although it was raining over the car there was sun behind us. We probably would have missed the rainbow in front of us if we’d been on the highway.

2. Road food is an important aspect of any trip. We stopped for a 5 p.m. lunch at a hot dog stand in Wilmington, Delaware, where delicious meals for two ran me a whopping $11. And we just squeaked into our old favorite pizza joint as they were closing. We were too late for table service, but we split our piping hot takeout pie while sitting in the car outside. We dripped cheese and sauce and our fingers ran with grease. I don’t think there were two happier people in all of New England. I kept sighing with contentment the rest of the drive north. (Thank you, Modern employees, for making us a final pizza of the night. We are truly, truly grateful.)

3. A later start meant we got to see the first Christmas lights in New Jersey (my favorite state for holiday decorations). And by the time we were driving on the Merritt Parkway, the fog curled around the trees in the median, offering ghostly shadows as car headlights bounced past.

Have a happy Thanksgiving tomorrow everyone. I hope you’re spending it with people you love.

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