“Love is not a disease.”

"Beautifully written.  Some of the most interesting dragons I've read in fantasy." -Christopher Paulini

“Beautifully written. Some of the most interesting dragons I’ve read in fantasy.” -Christopher Paulini

I just finished reading a fantastic YA crossover fantasy novel– Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.  I categorize it as a YA crossover novel because while it’s intended for young readers it certainly packs enough action, suspense, and complexity to be appealing to a more discerning palate like mine.  [wink and smile]

Briefly an overview:  Seraphina is Hartman’s debut novel about a world where dragons and humans co-exist in relative peace.  I enjoy reading fantasy novels, but haven’t read enough to have come across many dragons or be very familiar with dragon-lore.  So I’m not sure if this compliment is misplaced, but one of the things I loved about Hartman’s treatment of draconian typology was that her dragons are able to adopt human forms.

This motif of degrees of humanness is what puts Hartman’s work in the top tier of fantasy writing because it is able to draw a universal parallel between this imagined world and our real world.  The complexities of living in a world where appearances are not necessarily trusted and that persons are judged by their parentage is reminiscent of our world’s continuing dialogue on race and privilege.

Love and friendship between species (human and dragon) is Hartman’s recurring theme.   The title of the post is a piece of wisdom imparted from one character near the end of the book when he begins to recognize that love between human and dragon is something to be celebrated and not condemned.  Fascinating thoughts and a good reminder that love is without borders.

Definitely recommend you pick up this engaging fantasy.  With the sequel due next year, I predict Hartman’s dragons are going to be the next “it” book.

-Margaret

Advertisements

An epic day and updates

Yesterday was in the words of Barney Stinson “LEGEND– wait for it –DARY.”  [smile] Perhaps that was bit of an oversell, but I’m so happy to be able to share that I was offered and accepted a job!  Stay tuned for further details when all the necessary paperwork is completed and I can make an official announcement.  For now, just want to say thank you for sticking with me through the ups and downs of the job search.

In other news, I spent some time yesterday afternoon updating the About: My Blogging Bio, Creative Reading, and Nearly Ordained Cafe tabs above.  After checking out some of the stats from yesterday’s “Nearly Ordained Cafe” post, I realized that I had gotten really far behind on updating what posts have actually been written under this category and the “Creative Reading” category and that it was hindering visitors from finding other posts they might enjoy.  I’ve rectified that issue and updated “My Blogging Bio” to reflect our graduation and move to Tennessee.  It’s about time, I guess.  We have been living in Kingsport for almost 3 months! [smile]

Finally, I have added a Publications tab under the About page.  Through the process of applying for jobs over the last few weeks, I have finally gotten up the courage to actually name one of the career aspirations that I’ve up to this moment have kept quite close the chest (particularly here):  I would love to write professionally at some point in the future. Perhaps this is not quite as big of a revelation to regular readers and those who know me in life outside the blogosphere, but naming this ambition here feels like a big step in a very right direction.  Who know what might come from it?  [smile]  So if you’d like to read some of what I’ve already published check out my “Publications” page and if you are publisher and you like what you’ve read, I would love to hear from you. Email me at margaret.n.frazier@gmail.com.

– Margaret

His and Her’s: Wednesday

It feels like we are on vacation here at my parents’ house.  Everything is so new and unknown it is a bit like we are living in a rented vacation house except for the absence of the beach or mountains to draw the tourists.  We are still surrounded by boxes and everyone is living out of suitcases for the most part– another vacation-esque aspect of life here. We have also been in a media deficit which is frankly beginning to make us all a little stir crazy.  [smile]  Cable and internet hasn’t been installed so we’ve been watching movies in the evening and mooching a very weak wi-fi signal off one of our new neighbors.  The frustratingly slow wi-fi and the quiet lull of vacation time that has set in all over this house are the cause of my not posting yesterday.  Well it was that and it was also, I must confess, the reading coma I slipped into yesterday afternoon.  [smile]   Thankfully Caleb found something fun to occupy him.  A brief account of mine and Caleb’s very different afternoons follow.

Her Wednesday afternoon:  It seems like at least once a year I have one book that captures my attention so greatly that I can’t put it down and I find myself camped out on the sofa, a bed, or the porch for hours at the time just reading.  During these periods of reading binges, my sense of hearing is cut off for a time and all awareness of the world around me is blocked.  I move only to readjust my body as my arm begins to cramp from holding whatever paperback has infected me.  It is the most glorious state and always feels like a gift.  [smile]

I started reading Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani a few weeks ago, but haven’t gotten very far into the story until yesterday when I think the vacation atmosphere; the need to veg out; and the lack of cable combined to create the conditions for the perfect reading storm.  I read at least 75% of the book over the afternoon hours and tried to finish it last night until my eyes, tired from reading all day, grew too heavy. Reading all afternoon and being completely distracted from all the change that is surrounding me was exactly what I needed.  [smile]

His Wednesday afternoon:
Caleb spent his afternoon mowing and edging the lawn!  It sounds like the least fun activity to me to occupy a lazy Wednesday afternoon and I worry that y’all will think I’ve allowed him to do all that work while I laid back relaxing, but he insists that mowing is his hobby.  [smile]

I’ve tried to figure out what he finds so enjoyable about an activity that leaves you feeling so sweaty and earthy smelling and we’ve had many conversations on the subject.  Occasionally catching a glimpse of him while he circled the house yesterday on the new-to-us riding mower that came with the house, I think I’m beginning to understand why he enjoys mowing so much.  First, he seems to be able to zone out while following the serpentine mowing path around the yard.  He’s also told me many a time that he loves the instant gratification of seeing your hard work turn into a beautiful and neat lawn.  He takes pride in the most precise edges and I think it is so cute how he wants to make sure I notice.  I think the fact that we don’t have a lawn that’s he’s responsibility currently is also appealing.

Two very different afternoons, but both enjoyable and renewing in their own ways.  Discovering new joys through seeing things from a bit of a different perspective is one of the things I love most about life together with Caleb.  Yesterday was one of those kind of discovery days.

-Margaret

If I Could Keep You Little

Book Review of If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond

I love happy coincidences.  Last week happily I ran across this little book just after writing about knowing that one day many years from now I’ll have to let our future little ones fly off on their own adventures.  I was out shopping for gifts for some of my friends little ones and “surprisingly” found myself in the book section. [smile]  I love gifting books, especially to children.  When I give children a book, I always feel like I’m blessing them with a greater gift– the joy of reading.  When I was born, a parishioner at my father’s church gave me a copy of Charlotte’s Web in which she wrote:  “Here’s something she won’t grow out of.”  [smile]  So I try to follow in her footsteps by sharing the wonderful blessing she once gave me.

If I Could Keep You Little is a precious book that is as much for parents as it is for children.  It is all about a parent opening up their heart to embrace the blessings that come with children who are growing older.  Each page adopts the same pattern celebrating the joy of little ones and then naming the joys of discovering something new as a child grows.

“If I could keep you little, I’d fly you with my feet.  But then I’d miss you seeing sky and cloud from your seat.”

As with any good children’s book, half of the story is revealed in the pictures.  I can imagine the conversations that must be sparked by Richmond’s simple yet rich watercolor illustrations.  Somehow Richmond captures both present joys of parenting young children and the future blessings of watching them “become the person they are meant to be.”  My mother and I were both almost in tears by the end of my reading it to her.  [smile]  With its tearjerker charm, this book has the potential to become the next Love You Forever.  I recommend that next time you find yourself in a bookstore you pick up a copy for yourself and for the present and future parents you know.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Expectations

Growing in Gratitude:  A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth!  Serve the Lord with a glad heart!  Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying).  Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible.  Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

While packing up the study last week, my mother ran across an old book she’d found years ago at a used book store called The Pastor’s Wife.  It’s written by Mrs. Carolyn P. Blackwood, a minister’s wife from Princeton, NJ and published in 1950.  I vaguely remember when my mother bought this book.  The whole concept- a serious how to guide for preacher’s wives -made her laugh since she felt like in some ways she’d thrown out “the book” through her many years of discerning how her call and my dad’s vocation aligned.  [smile]  When she rediscovered it on the book shelves, she decided to pass it along to me to enjoy as I begin to negotiate the same waters very soon.

I’ve started reading bits and pieces just for fun and for the anthropological curiosity of the history of the role I’m about to take on. The introduction by the Rev. Blackwood provides a good glimpse into the scope of his wife’s book:

This book deals with the mistress of the manse in a church of average size, or smaller.  The author views her as a full-time partner in the most important work on earth, and as largely responsible for her husband’s success or failure.  Kindly and clearly these chapters discuss her problems and difficulties.  Hence the volume will appeal to countless good women out on the field, and younger ones with eyes turned that way.

It’s hard not to smile when I think about how I’m one of those “younger ones with eyes turned that way.” [smile] Clearly The Pastor’s Wife  was written in a very different age, but even so a book like this helpfully brings forth the idea of expectations.  Each of the chapters examines a different expectation:  “As Her Husband’s Helper;” “As a Financier;” As a Worker with Women;” “As a Subject of Criticism;” “As a Friend to Everyone;” “As a Community Force;” and “As an Uncrowned Queen.”  So maybe society’s expectations for who a pastor’s wife will be has changed a bit, but that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared entirely.  [smile]

Frankly knowing that some people will expect me to act a certain way or participate in specific groups because of Caleb’s vocational choice sometimes freaks me out.  But… expectations are a part of life together- not just the small life together of our marriage, but the grand life together of living in this world.  So lately when I begin to “freak out” about the prospect of taking on this role, I’ve tried to remind myself that expectations can be good.  Expectations can be opportunities that provide spaces to explore something new both for the expector and the expectee. [smile]  At least that’s how I’m choosing to see them today.

Today I am thankful for expectations.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

The higher the expectations…

Book Review:  A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

I wanted to love this book.  All signs pointed to it being a great crime novel. For one, A Fatal Grace began a three year winning streak at the Agatha awards for Louise Penny.  (I’ve read a few other Agatha winners and have enjoyed discovering new authors that way.)  The review that really swayed me to make the purchase was by People magazine:

With superb characters and rich, dark humor, Penny… continues to deepen and modernize the traditional ‘village mystery.’

Unfortunately in the case of A Fatal Grace, I found that the higher the expectations the greater the disappointment.  I love crime fiction, especially the classic detective novel, but the mystery that Penny sets up is infuriatingly slow and unnecessarily complex.  I kept reading hoping that it would get better, but the neatly wrapped up ending was just as disappointing as the rest.

A Fatal Grace is the second of Penny’s novels featuring Chief Inspector Gamache and from what I can gather the second novel set in the quaint town of Three Pines, Quebec.  I will give Penny credit that she creates a beautiful little village.  If it weren’t for the extreme cold… and the propensity of people in the village to be murdered, I’d love to live there myself.  [smile]  The characters are equally intriguing creations, particularly the Chief Inspector and his staff.

Putting the murder of CC de Poitiers at the center aside, the plot ultimately revolves around belief.  At a particularly crucial point in his investigation, Chief Inspector Gamache quotes Mahatma Gandhi who sums up well Penny’s plot construction:

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your destiny.

In A Fatal Grace, misguided belief leads to death for CC de Poitiers and Gamache’s integrity and willingness to live with his doubts leads hims to the killer.

Next book on the nightstand:  Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle.  Read along with me if you’d like.  Also, I’m looking for some really great summer reads, I’d love to know your recommendations.  Please leave any suggestions you may have in the comments.

-Margaret

Creative Reading

ReadingThere is creative reading as well as creative writing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

This quote appeared in the side bar when I published my first post for this blog and immediately grabbed my attention.  I guess it appeared because some cookies in my browser alerted wordpress.com to my love of reading and philosophy and Emerson.  Whatever reason, it seemed perfectly timed to me because the next page I wanted to develop for this blog was one to track my reading. When I was trying to think about what kind of blog to write I asked Caleb his thoughts.  He said I should build it around my two loves:  reading and baking.  What can I say, this guy gets me.  I am going to take his suggestion to heart and incorporate both topics into this blog, but add in a third love too (the most important)–  sharing life with him.  He is the muse for my musings.  [smile]  Anyway back to our topic today, courtesy of Mr. Emerson, CREATIVE READING.

Emerson’s words resonate a truth universally understood by those who have discovered the joy of reading– reading and writing are linked in their shared identity as creative acts.  In a world in which we are bombarded by carefully constructed images, reading offers a respite from these images created for us and encourages us to take on the creative act for ourselves.  By taking on the role of image makers, we are reflecting what I think is the divine spark, the imago dei, the image of our creator.  Reading is such a deeply spiritual act and I’m of the persuasion that the spiritual act isn’t necessarily diminished by what we are reading, well at the very least the spiritual act of reading isn’t limited to only reading religious material or sacred writings.  Personally I have a short list of books that I credit with changing my life in some way and for alerting me to some universal truth and most of them are novels– Pride and Prejudice, Miss Rumphius, The Life of Pi,  Journey to the East and The Snow Childto name a just a few.

So I hold a high philosophy of reading, but that doesn’t mean that I only read books that I think will bring me some new truth.  That’s not to say that I’m not very selective about what I read.  I can spend and have spent hours in a book store searching for that perfect book, but I also think you’re not going to always know what books have to reveal.  The old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover” sticks around because it speaks the truth.  When I read I’m looking to be entertained and captured by a story and I’m looking to connect with the vision of another member of this awesome human race.

On this blog, I hope to chronicle my reading by sharing reviews of the books I read.  I don’t know if what I like to read will appeal to those of you out there reading, but maybe it will.  The “Creative Reading” tab above will provide links to the relevant blog posts about reading.  I’m also always up for suggestions about what I should read next.  Even though it can be done by yourself, I think reading is also a communal activity.  When I lived in Louisiana, I was fortunate enough to live a short walk from the local library that had an active book club.  Reading books with those sweet women, even when it was a book I didn’t love, was one of my greatest joys of living in that community.  I’d love to join another book club when we move or maybe even figure out a way to start a book club with my friends living in other places.  What could a long-distance/online book club look like?  If you have any ideas, let me know.

-Margaret