Thursday, December 3, 2020

Phantastes by George MacDonald Chapters 10 - 25

PhantastesPhantastes: A Faerie Romance For Men and Women.  George MacDonald (1858). Genre: Fantasy, Classic.

In chapters 10 through 25, Anodos continues his journey in Fairy Land. After leaving the village where the people were distorted, he enters a desert region inhabited by goblin-fairies who constantly offer him gold and jewels.  

Along the way he releases a white lady, meets a knight that causes him to think less of himself and enters a cave and must journey through to the other side.  This is a dark and lonely time. His shadow becomes bigger and it is difficult to go on.  

After getting through the cave he finds refreshment in the home of an old woman, who is a mother figure.  He feels peace in her presence and could stay there forever.  He knows he can't and she tells him that if he ever needs refreshment to look for her symbol and enter there.  

The story illuminates what we all go through in life.  We meet good people and bad people, those who help and those who hurt.  We have hard times and good times, times of despair and times of refreshment.  All of these things shape who we are as people.  Anodos was shaped by his journey as well and came out a better person.

As I said before, fantasy is not a genre I read from very often.  I am glad I read Phantastes,  but I am still not a fantasy lover.  

As I mentioned in the post I did on chapters 1 - 9, The Literary Life Podcast is doing a series on this book.  I recommend listening to those episodes as it adds a lot to your reading.

Quotes:

"They who believe in the influences of the stars over the fates of men, are, in feeling at least, nearer the truth than they who regard the heavenly bodies as related to them merely by a common obedience to an external law."

"His mind had never yet been filled with an absorbing passion; but it lay like a still twilight open to any wind, whether the low breath that wafts but odours, or the storm that bows the great trees till they strain and creak.  He saw everything as through a rose-coloured glass."

"I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence.  I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood."

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

November Reading Wrap-Up

 


My Christmas decorating always starts with putting up the Christmas village.  So, the day after Thanksgiving, that is what I did.  The tree will be next.

As far as reading goes, it was a bit of a slow month.  I felt distracted and had a hard time concentrating.  I finished 6 books from the following genres:

Non-fiction: 1
Historical Fiction: 1
Cozy Mystery: 2
Mystery: 1
Suspense: 1

Non-fiction:

God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet - A memoir about the author's time as a doctor at Laguna Honda, the last almshouse in the country.

Historical Fiction: 

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner - A dual timeline story about a woman who survived 9/11 and one who worked in the same building as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and was there when the fire happened.  She went on to work on Ellis Island in the hospital for immigrants.

Cozy Mystery:

Wonton Terror (Noodle Shop Mystery #4) by Vivien Chien - A bomb is set off in a booth at the Asian Night Market.  A friend of Lana Lee's family is killed.  Ronnie seemed to have plenty of enemies, but are any of them capable of murder?

Brandy & Bullets (Murder, She Wrote #4) by Donald Bain & Jessica Fletcher - A retreat center for creative people has opened in Cabot Cove.  One guest commits suicide, one attempts suicide and another has gone missing.  Jessica attempts to discover how the retreat center is involved.

Mystery:

The Vanished Bride (Bronte Sisters Mystery #1) by Bella Ellis - The Bronte sisters and their brother attempt to solve a murder with no body.

Suspense:

Under the Cajun Moon by Mindy Starns Clark - Dual timeline story involving a present day woman framed for murder in New Orleans along with a storyline in France from the early 1700's involving a goldsmith. (Review coming soon)

Challenges:

With just one month left in the year, I thought I would take a look at the challenges I have been participating in.

My List of Books to Read in 2020 - completed
The Literary Life 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge - 19 out of 20
Visual Theology 2020 Christian Reading Challenge - completed
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks - 47 out of 52

Currently reading:

Phantastes by George MacDonald 
The Way of Ignorance by Wendell Berry
The Christmas Angel by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer

How was your reading in November?

This month I'm linking up with the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.








Monday, November 30, 2020

Book Review: Murder, She Wrote: Brandy & Bullets by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

Brandy and Bullets (Murder, She Wrote, #4)Murder, She Wrote: Brandy & Bullets.  Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain.  Berkley Books (1995). 275 pages. Genre:  Cozy Mystery. 

First Lines:  "'The usual, Jess?'  'Not today, Mara.  Spring has sprung and I've sworn off blueberry pancakes.  Bikini season's just around the corner.'"

Summary:  Something new is coming to Cabot Cove.  Mr. Worrell has just sold his family mansion to an investment banking group who plan to turn the mansion into a retreat center for creative people.  Most of the town is opposed to this because everyone knows, "that writers drink a lot, and even use drugs", which invariably leads to problems.  Jessica encourages her fellow townsfolk to give the Worrell Institute for Creativity a chance.  She believes it could spawn a cultural center of which they could all be proud.  

Whether or not the people of Cabot Cove want the retreat center, the investors have purchased the mansion and proceed with their plan.  On opening night, Jessica is given a tour of the Worrell Institute for Creativity.  She notices an area labeled 'Behavioral Sciences Unit' and another labeled 'Addictions Center'.  She finds it odd that a retreat center for creative people would need these types of rooms.  

During the very first week of guests at the Institute, a woman is found dead in her room.  It is being called a suicide, but Jessica and Sherrif Metzger aren't convinced.  Sheriff Metzger talks through his doubts with Jessica and asks her to let him know if she comes across anything that might help the investigation.  Jessica has been asked to give a talk at the Institute so she has an excuse to visit and talk to people there.  Before long, there is another attempted suicide by a guest at the Institute.  When a third guest steals a car and drives to a bridge where he abandons the car with a suicide note inside, Jessica and Sheriff Metzger suspect that there is some foul play going on.  Will they be able to discover the evil plot before someone else loses their life?

My thoughts:  It is always enjoyable to spend time in Cabot Cove with Jessica Fletcher and her friends.  This episode takes place in the fall and we are given some beautiful descriptions of Cabot Cove, as Jessica takes in the beauty around her.  She also spends quite a bit of time at Mara's Luncheonette where we get to know some of the locals a little better.  Her friends, Mort Mezger and Dr. Seth Hazlitt, both have large roles in this story and it was fun to get to know them a little better.  The one character I really did not like was Dr. Michael O'Neill, the director of the Worrell Institute.  The author did a great job building his character.  Every time he entered the story my skin would crawl.  As usual, Jessica knew just how to handle him.

It was obvious that the Worrell Institute played some role in the death, attempted suicide and disappearance of the characters.  The mystery involved figuring out what that role was, how it was being accomplished and proving it.  This involved Jessica having to submit herself to some uncomfortable things in order to find out the truth. Fortunately, she was able to discover what was needed and Sheriff Metzger was able to solve the mystery.  

The story was appropriate for this time of year as Jessica celebrated Thanksgiving with friends.  This was definitely a cozy read and just what I needed.

Quotes:

"One of my favorite rites of passage each fall has been to take a five-mile walk through Cabot Creek Preserve, a wildlife refuge with soaring, full trees that boast the most vibrant primary colors during peak foliage."

"I am very thankful for the beauty that surrounds me every day, and for the good health that allows me to enjoy it.  Maine, and this town, is a joy to behold.  But even more beautiful is the beauty that emanates from wonderful friendships.  I'm one lucky lady to have so much beauty grace my Thanksgiving table.  Thank you for sharing this day with me."

Saturday, November 28, 2020

A Walk in Falls Park

 My husband and I were recently able to take a walk in Falls Park located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  This is a 123 acre park surrounding the city's water falls.  There are walking paths around the park and along the Sioux River.  It was a beautiful, sunny, cold day when we took our walk.



The Experience Sioux Falls website claims, "An average of 7,400 gallons of water drop 100 feet over the course of the Falls each second."  


The remains of the Queen Bee Mill are located along one side of the falls.  From the Experience Sioux Falls website:

In the fall of 1878 Pettigrew decided Sioux Falls needed its own mill so farmers could avoid the cost of shipping wheat to Minnesota or Wisconsin. Pettigrew acquired the land and then traveled east to locate an investor: New Jersey capitalist George I. Seney.

The mill opened on Oct. 25, 1881, and consisted of a seven-story main structure built of Sioux Quartzite quarried on site. Nearly $500,000 was spent on the construction of the state-of-the-art mill and its supporting structures. At the time of its construction, the mill was one of the most advanced in America. The mill could process 1,500 bushels each day. However, by 1883, the mill was closed - a victim of inadequate water power and a short supply of wheat.

Several companies tried in vain to make the mill a success in succeeding years. In 1929 it was converted into a warehouse. On Jan. 30, 1956, fire swept through the structure, destroying the wooden roof and interior floors. The upper walls were later knocked down to prevent them from falling.


 


The area inside the fence is what is left of the building where the grain was milled.  The area is now used for open air concerts when the weather permits.




The above sign told the history of the Queen Bee Mill.  It included an amusing story about Richard Pettigrew.  He was so desperate to impress potential investors that he would send some of his workers to the dam upstream from the mill before the investors arrived.  They were instructed at a certain time to open the dam.  The water would rush down the river and over the falls, causing the investors to believe the water power was greater than it actually was.  No wonder the mill only lasted a couple of years due to lack of water power!





This statue was called "The Farmer" and was located near the visitor center.

We enjoyed our walk around the park and learned a few things while we were at it.  If you are ever in the Sioux Falls area, Falls Park is an interesting place to visit.






Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

 










Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! ~ I Chronicles 16:34

Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation of Thanksgiving:

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State


I wish those of you in the United States a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are celebrating this day the best way that you can!


Monday, November 23, 2020

Book Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

The Vanished Bride (Brontë Sisters Mystery #1)The Vanished Bride (Bronte Sisters Mystery #1).  Bella Ellis.  Berkley Books (2019). 293 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Lines: "Haworth Parsonage, December 1851. Drawing her shawl a little closer around her, Charlotte adjusted her writing slope once more and dipped the nib of her pen back into the ink, her head bent low, nose just above the paper."

Summary:  Charlotte is remembering back to a time, a few years ago, when her sisters and brother were living at the parsonage.  As the sisters are sitting around one evening, Branwell, brother to Charlotte, Emily and Anne, returns from the pub and asks his sisters if they had heard the "terrifying and despicable" news.  It seems there has been a terrible, bloody murder in Arunton.  Charlotte realizes that her good friend is working as a governess at the very house where the murder took place.  The sisters decide that a visit is in order.  Branwell wants to come along, but they convince him that would look suspicious.

The following day the sisters make the two hour trek to Chester Grange to visit Charlotte's friend, Matilda.  What they learn on their visit is that Matilda entered the room of Mrs. Chester and discovered large quantities of blood on the floor and bed clothes.  However, no body has been found and Mrs. Chester is missing.  The constable has been to the house and interviewed Matilda; Mrs. Crawley, the housekeeper and Mr.  Chester.  Mr. Chester indicated that there was a group of gypsies squatting in the woods nearby and he suspects they may have taken Mrs. Chester.  Returning home after their visit to Chester Grange, the sisters discuss what they learned.  They think there must be clues pointing to where Mrs. Chester is.  So, they plan another visit to Chester Grange.  It seems as though the constable is not doing much investigating, so the sisters begin looking for evidence on the grounds.  They do turn up a few more clues and feel compelled to keep investigating.  Will they be able to find Mrs. Chester before its too late?

My thoughts:  Before reading this book I knew very little about the Bronte sisters.  But it seems that the author knows quite a bit as she explains in a letter to the reader at the end of the book.  She used some real life situations based on known biographical facts.  This made the book even more compelling.

I enjoyed the relationship the siblings had.  Each sister is shown as very unique with certain traits and physical attributes.  The brother, Branwell, has a smaller part in the story.  However, he causes his sisters concern because he has a habit of visiting pubs and drinking too much.  There is a poignant scene between Emily and Branwell when she finds him sprawled out on the front step early in the morning.  The sisters still argue and poke fun at one another which lends some levity to the story.  

The mystery is complex with many layers.  There is a gothic feel to parts of the story as well, which is fitting considering the characters.  

One small issue I had was that there seemed to be a negativity toward men by several of the women in the story.  I realize that times were different and women weren't given the same opportunities that we are now, but this felt stronger than it needed to be.  This idea culminated in the suggestion of a romantic relationship between two woman.

Overall, I enjoyed this mystery and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Quotes:

"Emily remembered how Mama never tired of answering questions or reading books - books she'd read aloud to her daughters whether they understood them or not. These were the things Emily held on to."

"Branwell had intelligence and wit - he had a deal of talent - and yet none of it was enough to bring him any happiness or contentment within himself.  It was as if all of his life he'd been waiting for his genius to be discovered, for his talents to be lauded, without him actually having to do anything.  Branwell thought of himself as destined for great things but did no great things to earn that distinction.  He failed them all again and again, and himself in every second.  And the truth was that it did mean Emily loved him less; she loved him just a little less for not being the man he could have been, and even less still for not even trying."

Friday, November 20, 2020

Phantastes by George MacDonald, Chapters 1 - 9

PhantastesPhantastes: A Faerie Romance For Men and Women.  George MacDonald (1858). Genre: Fantasy, Classic.

I am reading Phantastes along with The Literary Life Podcast.  They are reading four or five chapters a week and then discussing it on their podcast.  I thought that I would cover just a few chapters at a time as well.

I have read other works by George MacDonald, but have never read Phantastes.  

Summary:  It begins the morning after Anodos turned twenty-one.  As he awakens, he begins to recall the strange events of the previous night.  For his birthday he was given the keys to an old secretary in which his father had kept private papers.  The room containing the secretary has not been used in many years. Anodos begins imagining what he might find among his father's papers.  Finally, he decides to use the key and open the secretary.  It is full of pigeon holes and right in the middle is a small door.  He manages to open the door and is mulling over what he sees inside when suddenly a tiny woman appears and begins speaking to Anodos.  When she jumps to the floor, she becomes a full size woman.  Anodos is overwhelmed by her beauty.  She is quick to tell him he is foolish, because she is his grandmother and tomorrow he will find his way into Fairy Land.

And so the next day he does find himself in Fairy Land.  He wakes up in a bedroom that is not his own.  As he steps out from under the tree that he slept under, he notices a faint footpath and imagines this must be the path to Fairy Land.  So he follows it for a time until it leads him into the wood.

"Here I left it, without any good reason: with a vague feeling that I ought to have followed its course, I took a more southerly direction."

Here we all want to scream, "Don't leave the path!".  Things never go well when one leaves the right path. The first woman he encounters is murmuring warnings about certain trees.  She does not necessarily acknowledge that Anodos is there, but she seems to be warning him.

"I could not conjecture what she meant, but satisfied myself with thinking that it would be time enough to find out her meaning when there was need to make use of her warning, and that the occasion would reveal the admonition."

As Anodos journeys on he meets several more beings, some good and others not good.  Along the way he also unleashes his shadow, by not heeding a warning.  Now it won't leave him.  Near the end of chapter nine, he has come upon a village whose inhabitants appear to be human.  They seem to be avoiding him.  He notices that when he gets close to one of them, the appearance of the person changes.

"The nature of the change was grotesque, following no fixed rule.  The nearest resemblance to it that I know, is the distortion produced in your countenance when you look at it as reflected in a concave or convex surface - say, either side of a bright spoon."

My thoughts:  Fantasy is not a genre that I read very often.  However, I am really enjoying Phantastes.  George MacDonald had a large influence on the writing of C.S. Lewis and also J. R. R. Tolkien.  I see echos of both of their works in this story.  I also am reminded of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan.

This is the story of a journey.  A physical journey in a land not like ours, but also a spiritual journey.  While the land is not like ours, there are so many comparisons that can be made to our lives.  

I am really enjoying following along with The Literary Life Podcast and their discussions.  I am learning a lot.  

If you are interested in listening to the podcast, here are the links:

Episode 71:  Phantastes, Ch. 1-4

Episode 72: Phantastes, Ch. 5-9

The next episode will cover chapters 10-14.