"The word is the making of the world." - Wallace Stevens

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A present from Ithaca!

My mom and dad were in Ithaca, NY for part of their vacation. And they brought me back THIS baby!

It's full of recipes: breads, pastries, and pizzas, as well as a cheese primer. It also includes a history of The Cheese Board, a bakery/cheese store/pizzeria that started in Berkeley, CA in 1967, and became a collective a few years later. I can't wait to get started on some of these recipes...Pecan Pear Muffins, Hazelnut Shortbread, Irish Soda Scones, Day of the Dead Bread, Saffron Bread, Roasted Eggplant Pizza w/ Red Peppers and Feta Cheese! PLUS a whole chapter on "The Cheese Counter"; how cheese is made, different kinds of cheese plates to put together and what goes well with other foods, cheesy bread recipes and of course, cheese recipes. The book is also full of local history tidbits and photos from the shop over the years. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Morbid Taste For Bones - Ellis Peters

At last! I have finally read a Brother Cadfael mystery! It's been a literary goal of mine for ages, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've watched quite a few of the BBC series with Derek Jacobi first. I decided to start at the beginning with the first chronicle, at the recommendation of several people. I haven't watched the television version of this story, so the story's mystery was fresh to me. 12th-century Benedictine monk Brother Cadfael is an ex-Crusader and herbalist, who has retired into monastic life at Shrewsbury Abbey. His quick intellect, keen observation, and compassionate understanding of human nature are his crime solving tools. This particular story chronicles the events that take place when his abbey decides to send a delegation to recover the relics of a Welsh saint. Being Welsh himself, Cadfael goes along as an interpreter. While the characters are fictional, the actual event of St. Winifred being moved from a remote Welsh mountain village to Shrewsbury, England in 1138 is an actual historical event. The only vocal opposition the monks encounter is with one local lord. Before they can come to an understanding he is found dead, having been stabbed in the back with a dagger and then pierced with an arrow in his chest post mortem. This sets the main plot, although there are other lesser dramas happening within the story as well, including a story line that illustrates the animosity between the Welsh and English at the time. It's impossible not to like and admire Cadfael, whose life experiences before taking his monastic vows have given him the poise that enables him to look at a situation from every angle. It might take me a while, but I'm going to read all 20 Cadfael mysteries! And I think I can mooch them from my medieval English professor mother, woot!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Stories from Afar

Take a moment and look at this. Tiny lives being saved and lived. Does that tug at the heart strings or what?!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Stolen Lake - Joan Aiken

I apologize about the very badly taken homemade pic, but I wanted you to see the cover picture by Edward Gorey on my copy. I couldn't find one online. This was a compulsive reread, I just love this story. My grandmother gave it to me years ago on some occasion, my birthday or Christmas. She had a distinctive all capitalized handwriting.

Sadly, it's the only Dido Twite novel I've read. I've always meant to read the whole series of the Wolves Chronicles (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea, and Nightbirds on Nantucket) but haven't yet. Someday! Dido's a very lovable character. This story involves various people she's adventuring with, little cats and a big cat, and Queen Ginevra (Guinevere) of the land of New Cumbria as the villian. I'm going to leave you with some quoted reviews and whatever your age, I highly recommend this book.

"A larky adventure story that boasts a free and spirited adaptation of Arthurian legend and a generous supply of menace and chills." - Kirkus Reviews

"Dido Twite is back again and what a treat! There is enough material in the book to provide a lesser author with years of work; Joan Aiken's uniqueness lies in her imagination and in the breathless quality of her storytelling." - The Horn Book

"Satisfies, with or without knowledge of the previous books in which Dido appears, and it offers many of the same pleasures as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Excalibur." - School Library Journal

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Face of the Waters - Robert Silverberg

I found a copy of this novel on my mom's bookshelf while I was visiting Ohio last month, and thought it sounded like a great Jupiter Voyage. I'm also including this one in the Speculative Fiction Challenge. (The only other Silverberg I've ever read is The Ugly Little Boy, originally a sci-fi short by Asimov, and I really enjoyed it.)

It was interesting to go from reading about the water world of Le Guin's Earthsea to Silverberg's planet, Hydros. Like Le Guin's world, Hydros has not yet been fully explored by the human population and communication between islands is primitive. Except in Silverberg's story, the humans are not originally native to the planet. Earth was destroyed generations before. Hydros was originally used as a penal colony and there is no way to leave the planet once you arrive; the native race called the Gillies or Dwellers have forbidden the building of spaceports, and the "islands" that the humans live on with the Gillies are artificial and constructed of organic materials. Having been warned once already by the native race not to abuse the natural environment, one island of humans is banished for killing local wildlife (sentient creatures called "divers"), and given one month to pack up and get out. The long and short of the plot is that they have nowhere to go but through the Empty Sea and into uncharted territory to face the Face. I think Silverberg is excellent at bringing out his characters' attributes and flaws, making them very relatable. The main character, Valben Lawler, is struggling to define his humanity as a human who was born on Hydros and will never leave it, and dreams about Earth and will never see it. When you're putting yourself in his shoes as you read this story, you can sympathize with him every step of the way.