Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Christmas Book Review - Part I

This might be kind of ironic, or maybe just annoying. I read two Christmas books in the past month. One I read at the end of November, and I haven't written a review for it yet. I will. I just keep leaving my notes on my desk, and not with my laptop.

The other book is a book I've read countless times, but I love it so much that I try and read it every Christmas. That book is The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff.

I might be a bit biased. I received this book when I was 10 years old as a gift from my teacher. (Which would be the lovely Dianne Salerni if I'm remembering everything correctly.) I'm normally someone who can't really get into books about characters much younger than myself, but this one gets sweeter each time, despite the fact that the characters are ten and six.

The Christmas Doll is a relatively short book about two orphaned sisters, Lucy and Glory, stuck in London in the 1800's. They live in a horrid workhouse and the sickness is going around. Little girls start dying, and then little Glory starts coughing, and her older sister realizes that if they stay trapped in the workhouse, Glory will not survive. So Glory breaks the two of them out and they try to survive on the freezing cold streets with nothing but filthy rags for clothes, and made up memories Lucy tells Glory to give her hope.

Then by luck, the sisters come across a doll that they find in a muddy river. What makes this doll remarkable is that it is the unique doll in Lucy's stories, with the smile the curves up on one side making it ugly and beautiful at the same time. It's Glory's doll -- Morning Glory. The only problem is that Lucy made up Morning Glory, and now they found her.

The story goes on from there. Morning Glory is probably the start of the turning plot, so I won't go on myself. Here's what I have to say about the story.

Dolls usually creep me out. Especially since I saw this video. But there is a certain magic within the pages of this book that makes these dolls friendly, loving, and warm. Maybe it's the kindly Miss Thimblebee, or Glory's huge heart, but these dolls don't scare me.

Another thing I like about this book is the imagery. Years later, and I still get sucked into their world. I can feel the gray light of the workhouse and the bitter cold of the city streets. I become desperate for the warmth from the oyster stand and the muddy river. And I can feel myself consumed by the warmth and atmosphere of the shop at Number 9 Mulberry Lane. Even more, I feel like I'm in 19th Century London.

Something so special about this book is the relationship between the sisters. Nothing means more to Lucy than her little sister. She would do anything for Glory, and probably couldn't survive without her. And there is such trust and loyalty between the two, where Glory would do anything for Lucy just because she's her sister. And the love continues right through the very last page.

I must also commend the publishers, or whoever did the layout (yeah, I should figure that out) for starting each chapter with a sort of banner at the top of the page that shows the city skyline of the time. It sucks you into the time. Although I can't be sure if this is in every possible edition of the book.

The only negative I really have, besides the "perfect" ending (although I would hate to see it any other way with how young and innocent these girls are), is this one paragraph. It's a "little did she know" paragraph. "Little did she know that this one action would change the future for her and her sister forever." (Not a direct quote.) I absolutely can't stand when those are stuffed into stories because they tear the reader away from what's happening.

Overall, I love this story. It's a nice, light, holiday read. I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

For the Love of Writing

Oh the things we do for the love of writing. I might have to suck it up and watch... *gulp* Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers.

Now let's be honest, that saying "girls love a man in uniform," doesn't usually fail to apply to me.

Yes, that is My Chemical Romance. Just go with it, I love that music video.

As much as I dislike history, historical fiction, any "history" class I've ever had, I have some sort of strange fascination with the World War II era. Actually, I have a fascination with that whole 40's through early 60's era. The dress, the hair, the mannerisms. Even the fact that they smoked in offices and women had way less rights (I'm not completely approving of those) I just love that era.

Well, a few nights ago, I was lying in bed, waiting to fall asleep, I came up with a new idea. Heh, I get a lot of good ideas while I'm falling asleep. Unfortunately, I'm too comfortable to bother getting up and scribble something down, and I lose it the next morning. This time, I refused to lose it. I turned on the obnoxiously bright light, found a pen and a notebook, and jotted down some barely legible notes. Actually, the handwriting was pretty legible, but the organization was a little... interesting.

Anyway, what it comes boiling down to is that this new story (that I will get to [at some point]) will be a modern day story, with parts that slip back into WWII. It'll be these history flashbacks that will push the plot forward. And I don't plan on basing it after real people unless I find a similar story. Chances are it's happened a few times anyway. Sort of.

So yeah. The funny thing is, I make such a big deal out of the fact that my dad loves Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. If either are on, he has to watch it, and I groan because I really don't care for war movies. (Despite my fascination with the time period.) And now I'm going to voluntarily watch them. The things I do for a good story.

(Don't worry, I plan on doing some real reading and additional research. This will just be the jump in.)

Christmas is Among Us

The first part of this post is in response to this week's Road Trip Wednesday. What would I ask Santa to bring me this year? That's a tough one. I don't really know what I want this year. How about a completed manuscript? But then I'd feel guilty for not actually writing it myself. An agent? Well, I suppose I should do that myself. A full time job! I need that. Or a boyfriend! That'd be nice. Seriously though, I actually don't know what I want besides a handful of books and music off of amazon.

Okay, I'll get into the spirit of things. What about this awesome bag? I'm a sucker for typewriters despite how utterly useless they are. Santa can bring me a cool colored vintage typewriter for Christmas. That'd be nice.

For the second part of this post, I wanted to share a little Christmas-time experience. It's that time of year, and a lot of the regular bloggers are sharing some Christmas stories and traditions, and mine is a little odd... just like everyone else, I image.

Every Christmas Eve, my family goes to Christmas Eve service at my Grandfather's church. It's almost an hour away, but my dad grew up there, and my older sister and I went there every Sunday until I was about 7, when we moved.

But I love it.

First, we head out to Ridley. (That's where I first grew up.) And the first thing we do when we get there is order Inside-Outs. But what is an inside out?

Oh gosh? What is that thing?

These things, as far as I can tell, are pretty exclusive. If you want one, you'd have to go to Double Decker Pizza in Ridley, PA. (Delaware County.) But what is it? Well, it's basically pizza dough that has been filled with sauce, cheese, and (optional: toppings,) folded over, and then thrown into a deep fryer. I guess that's basically the recipe for a calzone or stromboli, except for the fact that it’s deep fried instead of baked in the pizza oven, which is way better. Some people say it's nothing special, and refuse to admit that I'm right about this, but anyone who has tried it tends to side with me.

oh the hot, greasy mess! (wrapped.)

So we get them to go, and then eat them in the church parking lot. These things come hot so the cheese and sauce is melted, like liquid or magma or whatever, just sitting inside the dough. So when you take a bite, well the top is empty, but once you reach the mess, it drips, and it's hotter than hot candle wax. It's nearly impossible to eat a fresh one without spilling it all over oneself, but it's part of the tradition to spill it on our nice church clothes. You'd think after all these years, we'd learn our lesson and bring a bib or something, but no.

Then we go to church. A whole bunch of my Grandpa's friends whom I can't remember come up to me saying things like "oh remember me? I remember when you were just this tall." Thankfully, that attention has started to shift to my sister's daughter. We go in. The choir sings kind of out of tune to an organ that is out of tune. We listen to an odd message that I illustrate twice as odd in the program. (I'm still trying to live down the "Baby Jesus in a Bubble" year.) ...(The message was that God was the word, and the word was God, so I drew a picture of Baby Jesus in a bubble, and when the bubble popped he was born, and he told us the word was "God" like in Sesame Street... in case you were wondering.) My favorite part of that is when we turn the lights off and all light our candles and sing Silent Night. It's because of that I always associate the smell of candles that have just been blown out with Christmas. I even don't mind when the hot wax drips on my hand in the middle of a silent prayer.

So that's what I look forward to every year. Christmas day is great and all, but really nothing compared to the night before. (Hopefully I won't get scheduled to work. We close at 6, but I have to be at church by 7.) And we have a nice Christmas breakfast with Bacon (a rare thing our our house) and orange juice. But even as a young adult, the anticipation of "Santa" (or as my niece calls him "Tee-ta") is the best part.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Quick Break for a little Holiday Cheer

This song means a lot to me.

At my Alma mater (of high school) the winter band concert always closes with this song. The Wind Ensemble (the “better” of the two bands, the one you have to audition into with more than just basic instrumental skills) plays this song, and invites the alumni to join them and play on stage. Meanwhile, the Concert Band fills the auditorium aisles and sings each song with the audience.

It’s a long standing tradition. And although some of the more fun traditions have disappeared with the coming of a “more professional” band director (ie: percussionists bobbing up and down during “Deck the Halls” and the trombones standing up for their feature during “O Come All Ye Faithful”) it’s still a song that band kids of either band look forward to each year.

My Freshman and Sophomore years I stood in the aisles and encouraged the audience to sing along. My Junior and Senior years, I was lucky enough to play it. This year I am an alumni. I love this song.

Reminiscing over.