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May Poetry Event Advanced Notice

The Sound of Words: A Scheme to Rock the Writers Center
Featuring: The Caribbean (a rock band) and 32 Poems Magazine (a poetry magazine)
DATE: Friday, May 9
TIME: 8 PM
LOCATION: The Writer’s Center,
4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815

DESCRIPTION

32 Poems Magazine, The Caribbean (an indie rock band), and the Writer’s Center join
together to bring you outstanding poetry from Sandra Beasley and
Bernadette Geyer and songs from The Caribbean

Writer’s Center

32 Poems
32 Poems BLOG

The Caribbean
LISTEN TO THEIR MUSIC

The Power of Hurricanes

Finally, I finished Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson. I know it has taken me an incredibly long time to finish, and there are several reasons for that; one of which is the first 60 or so pages of meteorological history I had to weed through at the beginning. The second portion was the ending, which dragged on a bit much for me.

The 2005 hurricane season is still fresh in the minds of many Americans even three years later, especially the federal bureaucracy that hindered and still prevents New Orleans from recovering fully. The 1900 storm in Galveston, Texas, faced similar problems, though in relation to the Weather Bureau, which was in its infancy at the time. Political infighting between the Weather Bureau and forecasters in Cuba caused delays in storm advisories and other notices headed for Texas and other regions west of Florida.

There really won’t be a spoiler alert for this review because I do not intend to get into the intricacies of the bureaucracy and its failure to alert the residents of Galveston that a major hurricane with winds over 100 mph was headed in a westerly direction. Isaac, who lead the Weather Bureau office in Galveston at the time of the storm, was considered one of the best forecasters in the bureau and he prided himself on his abilities. However, the 1900 storm fooled even him, which to me signals that humans take too much pride in their abilities to realize their own limitations.

Accounts derived from letters, newspaper accounts, and other records make up the bulk of Larson’s research, but I think my main problem with the book was the drab writing. I was plugging along slowly because the descriptions did not jump off the page at me as much as I had hoped, even when Larson was recounting the storm’s destruction.

I am not a major nonfiction reader by any imagination, though some will intrigue me enough to read them without a problem. This one was a bit tough to get through, taking me over a month to read for a mere 273 pages. If people are interested in the weather, the history of weather and meteorology, and historical accounts, I say pick up this book. Otherwise, steer clear.

Sharpen Those Fangs…

The second part to the Blue Bloods series, Masquerade, is a whirlwind of revelations regarding the Van Alens and the entire Blue Blood society. I was anxious to get my copy from the library and continue reading about these young vampires and their families. I looked forward to Schulyer’s adventure to find her grandfather, Lawrence. However, that journey was short-lived. While I was initially disappointed that the journey started and ended quickly, my disappointment was overcome by curiosity.

***Spoiler Alert***

She finds her grandfather at the behest of her grandmother–a trip that takes her to Venice. She spies people who look like her mother and who remind her of people she should know from her past lives, but disappointments in her quest make her doubt her ability to find her grandfather, who holds the key to defeating the Silver Bloods.

After she finds her grandfather, her disappointment only deepens when he refuses to help her in her quest to uncover the Silver Blood and Blue Blood past and defeat the impending threat to her teenage friends at an elite New York prep school. Returning to New York thrusts her back into the thick of her teenage confusion over Oliver, her conduit and friend, and her crush on Jack Force, who is bound through blood to his sister, Mimi. Schulyer’s desire for the unattainable is palatable in this second book in the series–a desire that most anyone who has had a crush on a boy can certainly relate to.

The adventures in this book are even more dire than the first, with the Silver Blood presence even more apparent despite The Committee’s denials and entreaties that the Silver Bloods were defeated many centuries ago. Schuyler’s coming of age as a vampire is also wrought with risks to herself and her conduit, who soon becomes her familiar—further complicating her feelings for him and his growing love for her.

The intricacies of this world start to unfold quickly in the book, and as you may have guessed Mimi figures in profoundly because after all her rival for Jack’s bond is Schuyler. Jack is a character torn between duty and passion, and his actions clearly define his dilemma–stuck between his lifelong, eternal blood bond with Mimi and his passion for the daughter of Allegra Van Alen, Schuyler.

The history of these character’s past lives unravels quickly to reveal some shocking connections.

***End Spoiler Alert***

It’s a quick read, and held my attention much more than the first book. I was excited to see what would happen next. The end leaves the door wide open for a third book in this young adult series about teenage vampires, and I hope that Melissa De La Cruz does not disappoint. I recommend this book for people who enjoy YA reading and vampires alike. This not a horror series by any stretch of the imagination, not too much gore here. It’s more like a commentary on the teenage relationships in high society and coming of age, just with a vampire twist.

Inner Thoughts of Mr. Darcy

Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange is what you would expect it to be, and naturally, I had to include it as part of my most recent Jane Austen reading. Grange has a great mastery of Austen’s characters in this book. While she utilizes the text of Pride & Prejudice a bit too much for me, the parts where Darcy’s feelings and thoughts are revealed are eye-opening and in line with the character Austen created.

***Spoiler Alert***

The diary begins before Darcy meets Elizabeth (Lizzy) Bennett, and shows us what happened to his sister, Georgiana. The events leading up to the move from Derbyshire to the country with Bingley, his friend, help clarify Darcy’s feelings for his friend, which appears more fatherly. It was interesting to watch the interactions between Darcy and Carolina and Louisa, Bingley’s sisters. I was amazed to find he did not approve of Caroline’s effusive compliments, but knew what motives drove her to make the compliments. Here Grange’s imagination is fast at work, but I would have imagined a bit more acceptance of Caroline’s flattery by Darcy given Austen’s depiction of Darcy’s character prior to his meeting Lizzy.

My favorite parts of the book were his thoughts of Lizzy even when he’s just met her and even when he thought her not beautiful enough to tempt him to dance. His thoughts run away with him a bit, and certainly this is against his will for much of the book. I do like the diary entries that explain his odd behavior at the balls and assemblies; it helped to flesh out his struggle for me, compared to Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

I also liked his admission that he learned a lot from Lizzy about how to laugh and bear the faults of others in the name of love.

One surprise in the book for many Austen readers will be the “after-wedding” glimpse into the lives of Mr. & Mrs. Darcy. Those were a treat for me.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I do not want to give too much away about this book because every Jane Austen fan should read it. The one question I had was about the language used in the book, like the use of “blockhead” in the book. Was that a term commonly used in Austen’s time? I’m not sure, honestly. I would have to do further research on that topic to comment further, unless someone else happens to know a reference book or tidbit about it.

I was interested to learn from the author blurb that Grange is considered a historical fiction writer who creatively interprets classic novels. I think she has a firm grasp of the time period in Pride & Prejudice and its society. Darcy’s qualms about Lizzy and her family are well-founded for the time and are vividly illustrated in Mr. Darcy’s Diary. This unromantic hero is romantic once again, though not atop a pedestal as a flawless character–no heroes are ever flawless.

Addendum:

Anna showed me the use of “blockhead” in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, so that settles that question.

Classic Love Affair and Commentary on Society

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen is more than a romantic love story between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, it is also a commentary on the society of the times. It pokes fun at how mothers and fathers “conspired” to marry off their daughters to men for wealth, rather than, dare we call it, affection.

***Spoiler Alert (though everyone should have read this classic by now)**

Elizabeth Bennett may be the heroine of this novel, but her sister Jane, the county beauty, takes center stage as the newest member of the community comes to town–Mr. Bingley. Her mother is immediately set on marrying her daughter to him regardless of his looks or affections for Jane, simply because he is wealthy. Through several machinations, including sending her daughter on horseback to visit Bingley’s sisters in the rain, her mother pushes the two together. Luckily, Jane and Bingley really do enjoy one another’s company. However, several things come into play to separate the lovebirds, which aggrieves her sister Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Mr. Darcy who is berated and belittled by Mrs. Bennett and Elizabeth on several occasions appears to feel some affection for her in his glances and approaches to Elizabeth, but after being basically called common and not beautiful enough to tempt Darcy to dance, the battlefield between the two is set. And yes, I do mean a battlefield of wits. The interchanges between them and Bingley’s sister Caroline are hilarious and witty.

I want to comment on how this novel not only brings to light the ridiculous tradition of marrying one’s daughter for money and higher societal standing through dialogue and interactions between the wealthiest characters and the most lowly, but it also is a romance between Elizabeth and Darcy. How could a woman so uncivil to a man’s proposal of marriage against all societal predispositions still maintain his affection? How could he see fit to propose to her against society’s wishes when he is a man of position? I can tell you the answer to both of those questions: Pride. They are both proud of themselves and their demeanor and to have anyone think less of them is unthinkable. It spurs them onward to prove the other wrong in every sense of the word, but in the end, these characters realize they are just like one another and no one else would bear their behavior. They are in love with themselves and one another in spite of themselves. They are attracted to one another by circumstance, whether created by themselves or others, and are attracted to one another because of their mutual admiration for the other’s mind and behavior that contradicts society’s wishes and protocols. No one wishes to believe they have faults, but when one finds happiness it is usually with the one person who can tolerate those faults and love that person in spite of them.

***End Spoiler Alert***

What I love best about Austen is her heroines, written during a time when women were submissive and thought of little as little more than property. The heroines strive within the confines of their place in society to set wrongs right and to voice their opinion with a modicum of decorum. It is not like today’s society where women are so liberated that they use poor language to express themselves, much like proverbial truck drivers. While I enjoy such freedoms, I would love to see another writer in today’s society take on such societal norms and pinpoint their follies as well.

Austen is a woman to be admired even though her body of work is small compared to many males in the current literary cannon. I only wish that a small portion of my writing will garner this much attention after I have left this world. Though I guess I better spend more time writing and less time reading, but that is the rub here. I love both passionately.

This Book Also Was Reviewed Here:

The Bookworm

Blue Bloods, So That’s Why They Are So Powerful

Blue Bloods by Melissa De La Cruz is another vampire series. I tend to find those don’t I? Well, unlike Stephenie Meyer’s vampires and werewolves, this story centers on a secret society or civilization of vampires. These rich families are not only the Rockefellers of this fiction work, but they also are vampires; is that how they got so rich and powerful–mind control? Then again if you lived for centuries at a time, I assume you would cull enormous wealth as well. Schuyler Van Alen is a 15-year-old girl in a New York prep school, and she is an outsider. She doesn’t really think to highly of her classmates, Mimi Force and Jack Force, among others. She sees herself differently, and that could be related to her convoluted background and heritage. Her father is gone, her mother is in a coma, and her grandmother is the only one caring for her along with the driver and the housekeeper. But she does have one great friend, Oliver.

***Spoiler Alert***
Schuyler comes to a realization that not all is what it seems in her family, and her connection with her grandmother and with Jack Force are stronger than she realizes. A civilization dating back to the landing at Plymouth Rock and beyond has survived hundreds and thousands of years. This civilization has hid right under the noses of humanity, but they are the richest and most famous of all society. Models, rockstars, artists, designers, photographers; you name it and they are probably vampires–I mean Blue Bloods. It certainly is a different take on the term.

Generally, Blue Bloods are consider the highest of society members, usually due to birthright. But in this book, vampires are the Blue Bloods and their blood is not red. It is blue. Ok, so this sounds a bit lame, and it is.

However, what captured my attention is the interactions between the students themselves, regardless of their heritage. There are the outsiders, the bad boys, the elite group, the jocks, etc. I guess Stephenie Meyer was right when she said in a Borders’ Summer Book Club interview that high school and those years in adolescence are the easiest to return to for adults and it is something many of us share from one side of the fence to the other. I was an outsider in school, but some of my friends were in the “cool” group. Schuyler’s plight as an outsider is something I can relate to, but I can also relate to her sense of self and knowing that she doesn’t need her classmates’ acceptance to be a human being, or in this case a vampire with attitude.

The premise of the book is a hidden legend within the society, kept from all new Blue Bloods who come of age, and only known by very few of the Elders. The Croatan or Silver Blood that preys upon his own kind to garner more power. I liked this twist on the legend and its tie-ins with American history and the lost colony of Roanoke.

***End Spoiler***

I picked up this book to get me away from the seriousness of The Road, which is a great book, but a bit heavy. I wanted something lighter in subject that would read fast and keep my attention. I found that combination in Blue Bloods, and I am anxious to read Masquerade, the second book in the series.

Down The Desolate Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a highly praised journey involving the relationship of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic world. The journey itself is not as significant as the budding relationship between the boy and his father, who remain nameless throughout the novel. The dark, ashen road is cold, dreary, and yet full of hope as the boy and his father push onward toward the coast. I haven’t given much away about the plot and really there isn’t a whole lot for me to give away in this review.

In fact, the plot plods along, but what kept me reading was the mood as it was set by the language McCarthy chose to depict the road, the journey, and the interactions between the main characters. The suspense builds initially when you wonder about where the boy’s mother is and what happened to her, but once that is resolved, you wonder what the resolution to the book might be.

***Semi-Spoiler Alert***
This really isn’t going to be major spoiler, but I wanted to provide my impressions of the book overall and what I think the resolution is to the novel, if there really is one. The boy and the man journey down the road worrying about the bad people who are cannibals. The initial relationship between the two is a father dictating (of sorts) to his son about what to do and how to react to various scenarios. However, as the relationship matures, the boy convinces the father not to be so closed and provide food to a man less fortunate than them, even though the old man states he would not have done the same.

The boy is hope throughout the book; a hope that humanity will again mature beyond its basic instincts to merely survive. The man slowly realizes the boy has some good points about how he should act and treat others, but as a father, his main concern is the safety and health of his son. These sometimes disparate objectives conflict with one another in subtle ways.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Overall, I enjoyed the book, though it was not one of those books that I instantly loved or enjoyed. Then again, I’m not sure you are supposed to enjoy the desolate environment McCarthy creates. I also had to stop often and read something less “depressing.” Too much desperate survival is not good for my psyche.

I did enjoy the book, the characters, and the ultimate resolution to the book, though I wondered why the family did not stay in the stocked shelter they found despite the possible dangers the strategy posed.

Also Reviewed By:
Trish’s Reading Nook
Book Addiction
Behold, the Thing That Reads a Lot
Bellas Novella
Under the Dresser
Passion for the Page
Confessions of a Bookaholic
Care’s Online Book Club
A Novel Menagerie
Reading Reflections
Things Mean a Lot
Book Haven
Reading Adventures
Diary of an Eccentric
Page After Page
SherMeree’s Musings
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?
It’s All About Books

My Mr. Darcy…

Me & Mr. Darcy by Alexandra Potter made me want to pull out the old Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice again and watch the Keira Knightley movie, which I did last night. Potter’s dialogue can be witty at times and her parallels to the original work are uncanny and hard to miss, particularly between Emily Albright and Spike Hargreaves. Emily is much like a modern-day Elizabeth Bennett given her reliance on e-mail, text messaging, and other things. Spike, on the other hand, is no Mr. Darcy. Like any other nonsensical romance, there are unbelievable leaps of faith to be had in this book.

***Spoiler Alert***
The book opens with another horrible date about to end for Emily in New York City where a modern day man is asking her to put in more money for the restaurant bill because she ordered extra toppings on her half of the pizza. How dare he ask her to pitch in?! This part confused me, perhaps because I am not a New Yorker or because I am interested in paying my own way even on dates. I’m not sure, but she seemed a bit petty to me in the beginning…though he did ask if she had the additional 75 cents for the bill and proceeded to count her change as if he did not believe she gave him the correct amount. After her date and being left on the curbside when her date steals her cab, Emily swears off men.

At the bookstore she manages in SoHo, her co-worker arranges for them both to be off for Christmas and New Year’s so they can go to Mexico on a 18-30 binge. Emily, the bookworm that she is, doesn’t want to even think about the nasty, sweaty, drunk men she will meet there and makes up a vacation, which to her delight becomes a real vacation in the countryside of England–the home of Jane Austen and Mr. Darcy.

The trip to England has her butting heads with Hargreaves, who is no Mr. Darcy in stature, eloquence, demeanor, nor beauty. He’s an average guy with average looks (sorry, I did not find him appealing–call me a snob if you must) and an investigative reporting job with England’s The Daily Times. He’s on the literary tour to interview its participants, including Emily, because a recent survey of women discovered Mr. Darcy is their dream date.

Suffice to say, as the tour continues, Emily gets wrapped up in her fantasies of Mr. Darcy. Whether she hits her head a lot, faints, becomes unconscious, or what have you is unclear. What is clear is how real these encounters with the fictional character seem to Emily.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I won’t go into all the details that parallel Austen’s work here because they should be easily picked up on. Had the book been titled differently, I may have not gotten the connection right away.

Would I have made the same choice as Emily? Probably, but then again my fantasy dream date is not Mr. Darcy.

Now what I really need to check out is this Pride and Prejudice movie with Colin Firth. I hear from Emily that its a romantic’s dream.

For the moment, I’m traveling down The Road with Cormac McCarthy.

Double XX, Marks the Spot

Double Cross by James Patterson, the latest in the Alex Cross series, is a gripping continuation. There are two psychopathic killers on the loose and they are in competition with one another. Alex has yet another love interest, Bree Stone, who just happens to be a detective with the Washington D.C. police department, but Cross is no longer with the FBI or the police department. In fact, he’s become the family man, with his own psychiatric practice and patients.

This is the book I’ve been waiting to read from Patterson. The last two Patterson books I’ve read have left me wanting better writing and more intricate plots. This has most of both. The writing is better, the characters are sympathetic and varied, and the plot is definitely much less contrived than the previous two.

***Spoiler Alert***
Alex Cross has his patients and comes home for dinner with the family on a daily basis, which is something that his kids are certainly not used to. It’s good to see him with the family and the newest love of his life, but you know something will happen to draw him back into the game. First there are a series of killings by a serial murderer interested in having an audience for his crimes, and those audiences get bigger and bigger. Then, Kyle Craig, Alex Cross’ archenemy The Mastermind, escapes from the inescapable prison in Colorado. What is Craig after and how did he escape. I almost wished there was more with this storyline, rather than the DCAK murders, but I’m sure that Craig will resurface in the next installment.

DCAK is a ego-maniac in search of his own infamy…he wants to be larger than life, bigger than Kyle Craig, himself. It’s this desire to be better and then thinking he is better that becomes DCAK’s downfall. I love the meeting of DCAK and Craig. That is the best interlude in the book. The showdown in the alley near the end is suspenseful and nerve-wracking. I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Patterson does a better job in this book of maintaining my interest in this book. Overall, this series is the most well-crafted of the ones he has created and is probably why it remains so popular. The suspense in the latter half of the book is phenomenal, and I over-thought the book a bit when I was waiting for Bree Stone to turn on Cross and shoot him and reveal herself as part of the coup. It’s a great addition to the Cross series, and this time around the end gives you an even bigger lead in to the next book that is sure to come in the series.

Deposits Collected at the Blood Bank

The final book in the Tanya Huff series, Blood Bank, is not a novel but a collection of short stories with the Blood Book Series characters. I liked the short stories for the most part except “The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeakea.” It took me the longest time to read because I was not engaged in the storyline as much as I was in the others. The breakdown of the stories between Vicky and Henry Fitzroy were not very even, with more of the stories about Vicky and Celluci after her change. I really enjoyed the stories with Henry in them the most.

Blood Bank, however, was an apt title for this collection given the vampire characters and the variety of “blood types” or stories in the book. I am glad to find that Vicky’s commitment and abandonment issues are addressed in the last short story, “So This Is Christmas,” although it was a bit cheesy following the traditional “Christmas Carol” (by Charles Dickens) outline with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. I’m glad that the underlying character flaw is addresses, but I think that it could have been done differently.

Overall, the short stories are a great way to revisit the characters in a shorter amount of time, but the novels themselves are much better.