Thursday, July 14, 2016

Books of Interest

Top Ten:

There is absolutely no way to narrow my favorite books to ten. So, I'll simply address books that are interesting in this part of my life: 

1. The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
Simply the best read in my library. Like buttercream icing. 
 “Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case.”
 “Learning became her. She loved the smell of the book from the shelves, the type on the pages, the sense that the world was an infinite but knowable place. Every fact she learned seemed to open another question, and for every question there was another book.”
2. Blood and Chocolate, Annette Klauss
The definitive work on werewolves. (The movie was crap.) Followed closely by The Silver Kiss, a really nice vampire love story. 
 "I am strong," she whispered. "I can run with the night and catch the dawn. I can kick a hole in the sky." And she struck out with a foot to prove her words. Then curled into a ball.
 "I want to lay my kill at your feet," he said, more growl than words, and held her tight by her hair as he marked her neck with his teeth.  
3. The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
Fantastic adventure story. Takes fifty pages to ramp up. Don't give up. It's worth it. The narrator is unreliable and totally honest in the same breath. 
 “I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.” 
 “Call a jack a jack. Call a spade a spade. But always call a whore a lady. Their lives are hard enough, and it never hurts to be polite.” 
4. The Thief (Entire series), Megan Turner
Best twisty ending in a while. Whole series is delicious.  Motives are never black or white in any human being--we are all made up of shades of grey. This is especially true of our teenage anti-hero Gen.
 “Sometimes, if you want to change a man's mind, you have to change the mind of the man next to him first.” 
 “He didn't marry you to become king. He became king because he wanted to marry you.”
5. Grimspace, Ann Aguirre
Not sure that this is the best book ever, but it's the best concept ever. And Sirantha Jax is my hero. Series is clever and interesting with a powerful, damaged female lead. 
 “Once exposed, a secret loses all its power.” 
 “They say an interesting life leaves its mark on your face, and if that’s true, she’s got one hell of a story.”  
6. Elenor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
Wonderfully awkward first romance story. Full of angst, abuse, doubt, first kisses, and hot mix tapes. 
 “Eleanor was right. She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something.” 
 “He made her feel like more than the sum of her parts.”  
7. The Stand, Stephen King
Still the best book I ever read in my life. I re-read it every few years. You could make a career analyzing this story. 
 “Show me a man or a woman alone and I'll show you a saint. Give me two and they'll fall in love. Give me three and they'll invent the charming thing we call 'society'. Give me four and they'll build a pyramid. Give me five and they'll make one an outcast. Give me six and they'll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they'll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number, and is always trying to get back home.” 
 “No one can tell what goes on in between the person you were and the person you become. No one can chart that blue and lonely section of hell. There are no maps of the change. You just come out the other side. Or you don't.” 
8. 11/22/63, Stephen King
This was a fantastic time travel book. Seriously. Don't underestimate the genre. Not horror, but horrifying nonetheless. 
 “When all else fails, give up and go to the library.” 
 “...stupidity is one of the two things we see most clearly in retrospect. The other is missed chances.”  
“But I believe in love, you know; love is a uniquely portable magic. I don’t think it’s in the stars, but I do believe that blood calls to blood and mind calls to mind and heart to heart.” 
 "Sometimes a cigar is just a smoke and a story's just a story”
9. Serena, Ron Rash 
Powerful female lead who is flawed from top to bottom. She wants it all and gets it. 
 “She’d never known fear had a taste, but it did.” 
 “A kind of annihilation, was what Serena called their coupling, and though Pemberton would never have thought to describe it that way, he knew her words had named the thing exactly.” 
10. A Reliable Wife, Robert Goolrick 
Disturbing, thought provoking. What makes us love someone? What makes us change course and decide between right and wrong when we have no moral compass? 
 “Catherine Land liked the beginnings of things. The pure white possibility of the empty room, the first kiss, the first swipe at larceny. And endings, she liked endings, too. The drama of the smashing glass, the dead bird, the tearful goodbye, the last awful word which could never be unsaid or unremembered. It was the middles that gave her pause. This, for all its forward momentum, this was a middle. The beginnings were sweet, the endings usually bitter, but the middles were only the tightrope you walked between the one and the other. No more than that.” 
 “She believed in the miraculous. Or she had, until she reached an age when, all of a sudden, she realized that the life she was living, was in fact, her life. The clay of her being, so long infinitely malleable, had been formed, hardened into what now seemed a palpable, unchanging object. A shell she inhabited. It shocked her then. It shocked her now, like a slap in the face.” 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Senior Class Cruise 2016

I just had the most amazing experience with the graduating class of 2016.

We took 13 people (9 students and 4 adults) and cruised with Royal Caribbean to St. Thomas and St. Marten. To say that the trip was wonderful is an amazing understatement. I was so honored and thankful that they invited me to be a chaperone and go with them adventuring.

Day one: We met at the church and left at 8:00 a.m. to drive to Orlando. We wanted to spend the night before sailing. The hotel was glorious--we stayed in suites with two bedrooms/two baths sharing a common kitchen and living room area. So, there were plenty of bedrooms, bathrooms and everyone had room to spread out. The pool was perfect, food was good, all was well.

Day two: We checked in and arrived at the dock by 11:00. We ate lunch on the boat in the casual dining room called the Windjammer. Food on the trip was wonderful every single meal. Entertainment tonight: we saw an amazing tribute to Broadway. Really, you just had to be there.

Day three: Today we took a tender to the cruise-line-owned private island of Cocoa Cay in the Bahamas. It was a perfect beach day--not too hot and not too cold. Sunny but not blistering. We swam, ate barbecue on the beach, and played non-stop the whole time we were there.

Tonight was the first formal night. Ironically, we dressed for dinner every single night, because that is what we have taught our youth to do--dress for the occasion. So, they looked spiffy every single night, naturally.

The kids in our school don't have much "game" in their dating skills (perhaps we need a class), so when I saw four boys on the stairs in the dining room taking Awkward Family Photos, I mentioned that I could make them Snapchat famous in five seconds. Then I arranged our girls on the stairs around them like supermodels and let their family take that photo.  (Formal Introductions 101.)

Sheepish grins, awkward posing, lots of giggling, photos taken, the girls then spent the next five days hanging around with their new friends in an amoeba formation. (Today we court in small groups instead of one-on-one.) The boys turned out to be from our state--a mere 1 1/2 hours away. It made the trip more fun for those boys and more fun for our girls for sure. Gave everyone someone to laugh and be silly with.

Entertainment tonight was this bizarre thing--a man played the xylo-synth. Yeah, I don't know either, but: Mind Blown. Trust me when I say if someone asks you to see a xylo-synth show you sign up for that post haste.  I've got to tell you this though--in the middle of the show I realized that the drummer was the ship band drummer. And he was reading the music. Like flipping the pages of the sheet music and drumming. I've never seen that one time in my life. Then the artist explained that the ship band had gotten the backup music like four hours before the show and were playing with only one real rehearsal. It was phenomenal.

Day four: We ported in Charlotte Amalie, St. Marten on the Dutch side. We got off of the boat and simply went with a cab driver for a tour of the island. Now, I preface that with the fact that I had been praying like a crazy woman that we'd be safe and have this amazing, unequaled experience. We met Mr. King who actually operated the touring van company. He gave us a personal tour of His Island. He was knowledgeable and interesting and engaging. We saw damaged homes from the last hurricane, expensive homes, the highest peak on the island, and ate wonderful island food.  We shopped in the straw market and came home with some quality junk for the friends and family.

Entertainment tonight: was a magician/illusionist who was also very talented. He used the ship dancers in his routine who also learned their parts like that afternoon (see amazing ship band drummer). The amount of talent on that boat was really impressive. I mean I don't think I've ever seen better group entertainment like that.

Day five: We ported in Philipsburg, St. Thomas. This day we booked a formal excursion through the cruise line. We played a game called The Amazing Race modeled after the show with challenges that took us through the town. We played on the beach, went into a grocery store and priced out local cuisine. We saw historic sites and played games. We ended by swimming in the ocean. It was a good day, but HOT as the surface of the sun. There is a reason May is the beginning of the off season in the islands. It felt like Alabama. And I was like a wet rag by the end of the day. It was fairly miserable, but the kids had a blast. Winning.

Day six: Day at sea. I'm not sure what we did exactly, but I remember it was relaxing. It was a little chilly since we moved up the Atlantic to get away from some rough seas. Becky (my ride or die) and I found the ship library. It had this huge picture window that overlooked the ship commons. We sat there a long time and people watched and laughed. We had the second formal night, but they were really all formal nights for us as we dressed up and looked fahbulous daaahhhhling.

Entertainment tonight was an ice show. No, that wasn't a typo--we saw an ice show at sea. And it was breathtaking.

Day seven: Day at sea. The show tonight was another singing/dancing farewell thing and it was also beyond any of my expectations. 

Day eight: We ported at 6:45 a.m. and drove home. The kids slept the bulk of the way home. (Staying up all night and getting up to see the sunrise daily will do that to you.) I, of course, had to stay awake and drive. We made it.

I'm so thankful that they took me along for their grand adventure.

One of the neatest meals of the trip--island food.

Part of our sofa series of photos.  We found sofas from one end of the trip to the other and posed cosmopolitan style.

Posing in our supermodel swag on the main promenade

Touring Charlotte Amelie

Some things can't be explained.