A Weekly Offering of This n That

Rainy Day is my alter ego. She is the little angel that sits on one shoulder and whispers in my ear to forgo that 6" piece of triple chocolate fudge with the four scoops of ice cream on it; she is also the little devil who sits on my other shoulder and convinces me that I can eat just one bite of each and be satisfied, and then laughs with such great abandon when in fact, I eat the whole thing, she falls off my shoulder. Mostly, Rainy Day helps me see the humor in living and, mostly, she encourages me down the right path. Not necessarily the straight and narrow one (how fun is that?) but the path that offers the most adventure and fun.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Happy Holidays

Unless you're a true and bona fide Procrastinator, by now you should at least have most of your gifts, if not wrapped and or mailed, at least ready to wrap and or mail. And, at this late date, the books had better not go Media Mail if you expect them to arrive by this Gift Day.

Some of my friends celebrate the Solstice, which falls on the 21st of December this year. (A couple thousand years ago, in the Mediterranean region, the Winter Solstice fell on the 25th.) Some of my friends celebrate on the 25th, some started early with Hannukah, and some will wait until Kwaanza. It looks like my family will do gifts on or about the 28th, as at least one of them has to work.

My celebration will start this Friday when Favorite Grandson comes to town. He'll be at his mom's for a couple of days and then over here with me until he's ready to go home, sometime after the 1st.

Alas, this blog will probably be somewhat sporadic for a while. I will get back to writing, on a more or less full-time basis as soon as Favorite Grandson goes home. I will be doing some research for a couple of novels, but writing a series of short stories, which I hope to sell, and eventually put together in a collection. My protagonist is an old fartess, called Granny Hitt. The 'Granny' part came when she became a grandmother, the Hitt came earlier, when she married Ruben Hitt. Alas, Ruben is now deceased, and Granny is bored, and she hires on as a 'hit man' for the Mafia. But she has scruples. Sometimes.

I also want to work on some quilting projects. Mostly 'small quilts' — no more bed quilts. I've run out of places to store them ;-) Well, there might be a couple that I've already bought the pattern and material for. I'm eager to try my hand at smaller, more artsy fartsy quilts.

Speaking of small quilts, this is my latest. It is a bed scarf for my SOC n BOC (sister/brother of choice). This is just the top, and when quilted, edged, and complete, it will be about 118" long and maybe 27" wide to go over the foot of their king-sized bed.



I hope you have the Happiest of Holidays ever. Whatever holiday you celebrate and observe, whatever day you exchange gifts, may they be given with hugs, filled with love, surrounded by peace, and may joy fill your new year!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Week Two of the Countdown

Last week, as you may recall, I recommended five nonfiction books I thought you might be interested in picking up as gifts for yourself—or others. This week, the list of five is fiction. Believe me, it was not easy to distill the over 60 books I've read so far this year down to five I'd read again. And, again, the titles are linked to my full review. The books are available from your favorite bookseller.

As you, Gentle Reader, know, Rainy Day loves good historical fiction, and a good story, and when they are aptly combined, well, she thinks she's in Book Heaven! I bought this book because it intrigued me on a couple of levels. First, Robert the Bruce is one of my ancestors; second, they story is told, for the most part, through the letters of his sisters. After reading about the tortures his sisters went through, being kept in cages hung over the castle wall, open to all the elements and jeering of the crowds below, I found it amazing those women survived, let alone survived sane. If you're into time travel, I don't recommend Scotland of the 1300s, unless you've got an emergency out, and are pretty darned hardy! But the book is a page burner, and if you time travel through the book, you'll be warm enough turning the pages as fast as you can read them! For the History Lover on your gift list. As a bonus feature, Ms. Harvey maintains a fascinating blog at: http://sistersofthebruce.wordpress.com 

The Last Runaway —Tracy Chevalier
This book was my introduction to Chevalier's writing. As much as I've enjoyed all her others, this one remains my favorite. The story is of a young Quaker girl who accompanies her sister to America to be married. Her sister dies, and she finds herself alone in a strange land, filled with strange people, and an Underground Railroad. She meets, and marries, a young man, also a Quaker, but his family does not believe as she believes, and the laws of the land and her family are harsh as the winters. Had I begun this book in the morning, nothing would have been accomplished by bedtime, except the reading of an absolutely fascinating book! An excellent book of the Underground Railroad and life in early America.



Wizard of Pigeons —Megan Lindholm
This is one of my all-time most favorite books. I have two copies, both autographed by the author, to me! I do not lend them out. I first read this story 25-30 years ago, and have read it at least six times since. This story is relatively modern. It is about a Vietnam Vet who has been abandoned by not only his family, but also the VA, and lives on the streets of Seattle where he is known as the Wizard of Pigeons. They flock to him, and he feeds them from a never quite empty bag of popcorn. It is the story of the street people who help him survive. It is a story of beauty, a celebration of life, a book of hope and joy, and I guarantee once you've read it, you will never look at a street person the same way again. We need more Wizards! For that person in all of us who enjoys a great 'feel good' book.

Like the Moon —Mary Lewis Foote
Humor is not, to my way of thinking, easy to write, and unless one is really, really good at it, it isn't easy to read, either. I read this book and laughed so hard that when I got to The End, I flipped it over and read it straight through again, and laughed even harder because I knew what was coming.  If you've got a comfy rocking chair, that's the place to read this book. The book takes place in a nonexistent town in North Carolina, and if you've never been to that part of the country, it may take you a few pages to get into the dialect, believe me, that dialect is important. It is the story of people who may live a hardscrabble life, but they don't know it. They just know their lives are filled with love and humor, collard greens and ham hocks, corn dogs, and Beethoven. Love and humor are the key words there, but Beethoven is important, too. For the person in your life who needs a good laugh — again, and again, and again ;-)



A Cup of Light —Nicole Mones
This is a deliberately woven story, one thread at a time. It takes place in modern Beijing, where Lia Frank, an American who reads Chinese, but speaks it poorly because she is deaf, is sent to appraise several antique porcelains. Mones did her research on porcelains, and the book is filled with it, which I found as fascinating as Lia's 'memory bank.' Lia has trained herself to remember everything, and she has a system where each memory is stored for later retrieval. Some of the porcelains are the genuine articles, some are forgeries, but even those are so good, so beautiful, they arouse the same emotion.  There are many threads in this silk tapestry, and each one is brought in, and woven into place, at just the right time. By the time the book is finished, the tapestry is beautiful and worty to grace A Cup of Light.

OK, I know I said five books, and yes, I can count that high. But I would be sorely remiss if I didn't mention these two books, again, and remind you they, too are available at your local bookseller, or directly through the publisher, S & H Publishing http://sandhpublishing.com/index.html  Besides, I can't review them, I wrote them, or at least some of them, so of course you know they are really, really good books!

Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country —Lenora Rain-Lee Good
Heavily fact based historical novel about Marie Dorion, the first pioneer woman to come to the Oregon Country overland with a group of men, her husband, and two young boys.

Short & Happy (or not) An International Anthology of Short Stories —ed by Richard Bunning & Dixiane Hallaj

A collection of 36 short stories by 25 authors from both sides of the equator and around the globe. Perfect for reading while waiting for someone, riding the bus to work, etc.








Monday, December 1, 2014

The Countdown Has Begun - Happy December

I won't count the days, because not all of us celebrate the same holiday, but most take part this month, with some next. So, you'll have to do your own counting. Besides, I'm not a numbers person ;-)

First Annual Winter Gift Suggestion List:

For those of you who are wondering about what to get the person who has everything for their Winter Gift, may I suggest a vial of penicillin? Or, if that is a tad too drastic, a book. Perhaps several books. Following is a list of some of the nonfiction books I've read this year, that may be well worth your investment in both time and money. And, besides, I've read them, and reviewed them, so you don't have to buy them for me. The titles are linked to my reviews, the books are available from all standard sources.

Sex with the Queen: Nine Hundred Years of Vile Kings, Virile Lovers and Passionate Politicsby Eleanor Herman
History would have been oh-so-much-more-fun in school, if we'd had this for a textbook instead of whatever we had. Queens were rarely, if ever, mentioned, it was all about the Kings. It was, truly, a man's world. Well, let me, or better, Ms. Herman, tell you, those gals had quite the lives. This book is about scandal on a royal scale. It is history that you've never read. It is funny. Well, sometimes a bit sad. Is it all true? I don't know, but it was a fun read and I heartily recommend it. 

A Month in Mongolia —by Barbara A. B. Seiders
Dr. Seiders made a few trips (work related) to Mongolia, and this little book tells of her adventures while there. It is also chock full of her photographs. I bought an electronic copy, with hot links to maps, etc., but enjoyed it so much, I bought a hard copy. A perfect gift for the traveler, or wannabe traveler, on your list. 










The Farthest Home is in an Empire of Fire: A Tejano Elegyby John Phillip Santos This memoir tells history from an up close and personal perspective. It is memoir. It is told in past, present, and future. It is totally engaging. It is a book no one should miss. A perfect gift for the lover of history and or genealogy on your winter gift list.













Old Books, Rare Friends—Two Literary Sleuths and Their Shared Passionby Leona Rostenberg & Madeleine Stern
This is a delightful book by and about two women who shared a love of old books, and how they worked together to find them and bring them to the light of the modern world. It is a delightful read about Life lived to the fullest. This book belongs in every bibliophile's library. 









These are books for young readers, but chock full of facts and great photography. She writes about everything from Bears to Crocodiles to Dolphins to Dinosaurs. Her books are well researched, her approach is fun and accessible. For the budding scientist on your list. Buy them one, buy them all—you won't make a mistrake. 







Next Week, I'll give some suggestions for fiction.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Big Freeze is Over (for now)

The last few days, we've had some serious cold—it didn't get above freezing until a couple days ago when a nice early morning (3:00am) wind got rid of the clouds and brought some warmth. We were fortunate here, we had no snow, just cold. Lots of cold.

Still, cold is a good reason (at least for me) to stay inside and work on projects. Which is what I did, most of the time. I mean, one does need to go forth for victuals now and again, doesn't one? Or learn to eat from an empty plate ;-)

At the horrible prospect of losing some of my most favored Gentle Readers, I will confess that yes, I stayed inside; I also got all my Winter Gifts finished, wrapped, and ready to deliver or mail. I'm sure there will be some I've forgotten about, but the panic is over. I even have my tree up, but won't turn the lights on until Friday. After all, I do not want to be responsible for the deaths of those cute baby reindeer! (I know. Most of you long ago gave up believing in elves and reindeer, and even Santa Clause, but I not only still believe, I see no reason to change.)

Oh, and I also managed to speak the right incantation, and the Christmas cactus allowed one bud to open, which I photographed and now have ordered my cards, which I will pick up today or tomorrow. In other words, Gentle Readers, I am, basically, ready to sit back and relax while many of you haven't even thought about the fact that the Winter Gift Season is rapidly approaching ;-)

For those of you still in need a few giftees, may I suggest a couple of books? Books make ideal gifts, and they last forever. One size fits everyone, they are easily shared, and can be read and enjoyed as often as wanted.

I'm partial to an anthology of short stores by S & H Publishing, Inc., called Short & Happy (or not). The book contains 36 short stories by 25 authors (including yours truly) from 7 countries. It can be obtained from your favorite bookseller, or directly from the publisher at http://sandhpublishing.com/Anthology.html — there is also a trailer for one of the stories by Maria Elizabeth McVoy on this page.

And, of course, if you have yet to buy your own copy of Madame Dorion: Her Journey to the Oregon Country, you may buy that from your favorite bookseller or, again, order it directly from the publisher at http://sandhpublishing.com/Madame_Dorion.html.

If you want even more books, after all does one ever have too many? go to http://sandhpublishing.com/index.html and check out the many books available.  


 For reviews of either book, please visit either GoodReads.com or Amazon.com.

Now, I'm going to get another cup of coffee, and enjoy the sunshine from the warmth of my office. Y'all have an exceptionally fine and wonderful week and be sure to stop by next Monday to see what Rainy Day has been up to. It will be news for us both, I'm sure ;-)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Short & Happy (or not)

No, I am not referring to the status of my height, nor to the status of my emotions. Yes, I am short and yes, I am happy ;-)

The reference is to the latest book, an anthology published by my publisher, Short & Happy (or not) edited by Richard Bunning and Dixiane Hallaj. The book launch was Sunday, back in Purcellville, VA. Alas, too far for me to attend, so I'm doing the next best thing by 'launching' it from Living With Rainy Day.

This is a collection of 36 short stories by 25 authors from around the globe. From one Washington to the Other Washington, from Canada to Australia, from the UK to Greece. I'm pleased to say I know four of the authors in this book, and of course, I know me, so I guess that makes it five authors, eh?

Most of the stories are under 3,000 words—perfect to read as you wait for your appointment, or ride the bus to work, or while on your lunch hour. All of the stories are well written and will surely give you a few minutes of enjoyment, and perhaps, a few hours of escape. The stories appeal to all ages, from new adults to the silver-haired set.
 
Dixie Hallaj, my Publisher, signing a book for Purcellville mayor,
Kwasi Fraser with fellow author Bobbi Carducci looking on. Mayor
Fraser bought the first book of the Launch!
Short & Happy (or not) is available through the S & H Publishing, Amazon, and your local bookseller (they may have to order it for you). So far, all reviewers have given it either 4 stars or 5 stars. The contents of these stories will give something for everyone. One of the authors has produced a trailer for her story. Check it out here.


And the book is a perfect something for everyone's Winter Stocking. Beat the Black Friday rush, buy this collection of Short & Happy (or not) stories for your friends, your family, shucks, buy one for your dog, too. S/He will enjoy the delectable taste of the paper with the overtones of ink, if not the actual words themselves.