Friday, December 31, 2010

A perfect ending to the year

Jenn and Bonnie, old friends meeting for the first time.

Drew, Bonnie, and Kiki
It's been a long day, but a really great day!
  • David worked on my car from 9:30 a.m. until after 3:00 p.m.
  • I fed David a late lunch of baked potato and fried okra, then sent him home with my grandmother's table.
  • Jenn, her husband Don, and their son Drew dropped by to visit me on their trip from Atlanta home to St. Louis (photos above).
  • Friends and I had Chinese dinner this evening (photo below).
  • Now I'm off to bed to read Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson until I fall asleep.
Bonnie, Donna, Belita, and Catherine at Chef Lin's this evening.

David's a wonderful son

David's working on my car's loose gears while waiting for the alternator to arrive at the parts store.  The round thing among his tools is the old alternator, already out and awaiting replacement.  "Maxine," my car, is a 1983 Datsun Maxima, manufactured a year before Nissan started making the Maxima.

My deepest fear is that the car won't be ready to meet Jenn when she rolls through town.  At this very moment, David's on his way to pick up the alternator, and I'm making him a baked potato for lunch.  Just heard from Jenn, who'll be here within an hour and a half.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The World Religion Challenge ~ 2010

The World Religion Challenge, hosted by J. T. Oldfield (Bibliofreak), ran for the entire year 2010, from January 1st through December 31st.  Here's the Mister Linky for posting reviews of the books we read, and these are the books I read, in alphabetical order:
  1. Bare Your Soul: The Thinking Girl's Guide to Enlightenment ~ edited by Angela Watrous, 2002, essays (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, goddess worship, atheism)
  2. The Brother of Jesus and the Lost Teachings of Christianity ~ by Jeffrey J. Butz, 2005, nonfiction (Christianity)
  3. Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith ~ by Deborah Heiligman, 2009, fiction (Christianity)
  4. Daughter of God ~ by Lewis Perdue, 2000, fiction (Christianity)
  5. Evensong ~ by Gail Godwin, 1999, fiction (Christianity)
  6. Eve's Diary: Translated from the original MS ~ by Mark Twain, 1906, fiction (Judaism, Christianity)
  7. Extracts from Adam's Diary: Translated from the original MS ~ by Mark Twain, 1904, fiction (Judaism, Christianity)
  8. Father Melancholy's Daughter ~ by Gail Godwin, 1991, fiction (Christianity)
  9. The Gnostic Gospels ~ by Elaine Pagels, 1979, nonfiction (Christianity)
  10. Gods and Goddesses of the Ancient Maya ~ by Leonard Everett Fisher, 1999, children's nonfiction (Mayan religion)
  11. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ ~ by Philip Pullman, 2010, fiction (Christianity)
  12. Islam: A Concise Introduction ~ by Huston Smith, 2001, nonfiction (Islam)
  13. The Jerusalem Scrolls ~ by Bodie and Brock Thoene, 2001, fiction (Judaism)
  14. Putting Away Childish Things ~ by Marcus Borg, 2010, fiction (Christianity)
  15. The Secret Supper ~ by Javier Sierra, 2004, fiction (Judaism)
  16. This I Believe II: More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women ~ ed. by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman, 2008, essays (variety)
  17. The Triumph of Deborah ~ by Eva Etzioni-Halevy, 2008, fiction (Judaism)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cady in the snow

I told you earlier this month that Cady's ready for Christmas and winter's chill.  This is the snow she got for Christmas when her folks took her to visit her other grandparents in Cosby, Tennessee, at the edge of the Smoky Mountains.  Cady, my youngest grandchild, is ten.

Cady's mom is my daughter Barbara.

Fever 1793 ~ by Laurie Halse Anderson, 2000

I woke to the sound of a mosquito whining in my left ear and my mother screeching in the right.

"Rouse yourself this instant!"
Thus begins this compelling YA novel.  Mattie, the narrator, faces dire circumstances.  Notice that mosquito buzzing in her ear.  Are you aware that yellow fever is spread by mosquitoes?  Notice the yellow of jaundice in the eye on the book's cover.  WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates that yellow fever causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations, with about 90% of the infections occurring in Africa.  From the back cover of this novel:
"During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather.  Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen.  But then the fever breaks out.  Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie's world upside down.  At her feverish mother's insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather.  But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease."
My first real awareness of yellow fever came from paying attention to dates as I walked through a cemetery on my way home from high school. One lower section of the cemetery, I noticed, was filled during the year of 1878, which I later learned was when Chattanooga was hit by the scourge of yellow fever. Since then, reading or hearing about yellow fever has reminded me of the people of my town who died during that epidemic. It even killed our mayor, who just happened to come from the city that's the setting for Fever 1793.
Thomas J. Carlisle (1832-1878)
Thomas J. Carlisle, born in 1832 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, joined the Union Army in 1861.  Carlile fought in the Battle of Chickamauga (a few miles south of Chattanooga) before being transferred to the Quartermaster’s Department in Chattanooga.  He served the remainder of the war in Chattanooga, and after mustering out in 1865, he remained in the city.  Twelve years later, in 1877, Carlile took over as mayor.  As other cities across the south began reporting outbreaks of yellow fever or malaria, Chattanooga began to take actions.  On August 24, at a specially called meeting, Mayor Carlile asked for funds to create a Citizens’ Relief Committee to begin working with the refugees flooding the city as the yellow fever epidemic spread across the south.

When the epidemic became widespread in Chattanooga, he and the board of aldermen discontinued their regular meetings.  As the city emptied of people trying to escape the spreading illness, Mayor Carlile remained and worked among the sick.  He contracted yellow fever and died in late October.  When the board of aldermen reconvened on November 5, it passed a resolution calling Mayor Carlile a hero for his efforts in the face of yellow fever.

Fever 1793 is fascinating, and I rate it 9 of 10, an excellent book.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Laurie Halse Anderson ~ talking about "Forge"

Today, I reserved Laurie Halse Anderson's newest YA novel, Forge, at my library, which has three copies in process.  Forge, the second in a trilogy, follows Chains (click to read my review).  I have also reviewed some of her other books:  Speak, Independent Dames, Thank You, Sarah, and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School.

Here's a video Laurie made when she was in Austin for the Texas Book Festival.

Islam: A Concise Introduction ~ by Huston Smith, 2001

Islam: A Concise Introduction ~ by Huston Smith, 2001

I read this book for two challenges:  the World Religion Challenge and the Middle East Challenge.  Actually, I read it in 2002 and re-read it this week.  Each chapter has something interesting in it, but I want to start this review with the first surah (chapter) of the 114 chapters of the Koran, found on page 48 in this book:
In the Name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate:
Praise be to Allah, Creator of the worlds,
The Merciful, the Compassionate,
Ruler of the day of Judgment.
Thee do we worship, and Thee do we ask for aid.
Guide us in the straight path,
The path of those on whom Thou hast poured forth Thy grace.
Not the path of those who have incurred Thy wrath and gone astray.
Introduction (p. viii)
To start at the beginning, with semantics, the word islam means explicitly "surrender," but it is related to the Arabic word salam meaning "peace"...
Prologue (p. 2)
The proper name of this religion is Islam.  Derived from the root s-l-m, which means primarily "peace" but in a secondary sense "surrender," its full connotation is "the peace that comes when one's life is surrendered to God." (p. 2)
1.  Islamic Background (p. 4)
"In the beginning God..." the book of Genesis tells us.  The Koran agrees.  It differs only in using the word Allah.  Allah is formed by joining the definite article al (meaning "the") with Ilah (God).  Literally, Allah means "the God."  Not a god, for there is only one.  The God.  When the masculine plural ending im is dropped from the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, the two words sound much alike.
2.  The Seal of the Prophets (p. 13)
[The] appeal [of God's revelation to Muhammad] throughout was to human reason as vectored by religious discernment.
3.  The Migration that Led to Victory (p. 18)
The year [that Muhammad fled from Mecca to Yathrib] was 622.  The migration, known in Arabic as the Hijra, is regarded by Muslims as the turning point in world history and is the year from which they date their calendar.  Yathrib soon came to be known as Medinat al-Nabi, the City of the Prophet, and then by contraction simply to Medina, "the city."
4.  The Standing Miracle (p. 26)
The Koran continues the Old and New Testaments, God's earlier revelations, and presents itself as their culmination:  "We made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel [and] you have nothing of guidance until you observe the Torah and the Gospel" (5:70, 68).  This entitles Jews and Christians to be included with Muslims as "People of the Book."
5.  Basic Theological Concepts (pp. 34, 38, 39-40, 44)
  • God (p. 34) ~ Judaism was correctly instructed through it Shema -- "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One" -- but its teachings were confined to the people of Israel.  Christians, for their part, compromised their monotheism by deifying Christ.  Islam honors Jesus as a prophet and accepts his virgin birth ... The Koran draws the line at the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Trinity, however, seeing these as inventions that blur the Divine/human distinction.
  • Creation (p. 38) ~ It was created by a deliberate act of Allah's will:  "He has created the heavens and the earth" (16:3).
  • Human Self (pp. 39-40) ~ With life acknowledged as a gift from its Creator, we can turn to its obligations, which are two ... gratitude ... The Arabic word "infidel" is actually shaded more toward "one who lacks thankfulness" than one who disbelieves ... [and] surrender ... to be a slave to Allah is to be freed from other forms of slavery -- ones that are degrading, such as slavery to greed, or to anxiety, or to the desire for personal status.
  • Day of Judgment (p. 44) ~ ... each soul will be held accountable for its actions on earth with its future thereafter dependent upon how well it has observed God's commands.
6.  The Five Pillars (p. 48)

First, God revealed the truth of monotheism, God's oneness, through Abraham.  Second, God revealed the Ten Commandments through Moses.  Third, God revealed the Golden Rule -- that we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us -- through Jesus.  All three of these prophets were authentic messengers; each introduced important features of the God-directed life.  One question yet remained, however:  How should we love our neighbor? ... the Five Pillars of Islam, the principles that regulate the private life of Muslims in their dealings with God.
  • creed (p. 49) ~ "There is no god but Allah."
  • prayer (p. 50) ~ five times a day
  • charity (p. 53) ~ those who have much should help lift the burden of those who are less fortunate
  • fast during the month of Ramadan (p. 54) ~ fasting makes one think, teaches self-discipline, underscores the creature's dependence on God, calls one back to one's frailty and dependence, sensitizes compassion
  • pilgrimage (p. 55) ~ journey to Mecca
The Kaabah in Mecca

7.  Social Teachings (pp. 70, 74)
Let there be no compulsion in religion. (2:257)
[S]tandard greeting ... as-salamu 'alaykum ("Peace be upon you").
8.  Sufism (pp. 76, 81)
[T]he mystics of Islam [are] called Sufis ... In plain language, transcendence must be made immanent, the God who is encountered apart from the world must also be encountered within it.
9.  Whither Islam? (pp. 92-93)

Islam is a vital force in the contemporary world.  It numbers in the order of 1.2 billion, of which the vast majority are moderates and not radical fundamentalists.  Read these words at any hour of day or night and somewhere from a minaret ... a muezzin will be calling the faithful to prayer, announcing:
Minaret in Amman, Jordan
God is most great.
God is most great.
I testify that there is no god but God.
I testify that Muhammad is the Prophet of God.
Arise and pray;
God is most great.
God is most great.
There is no god but God.
This short book (100 pages, including the footnotes) was drawn from Huston Smith's bestselling book The World's Religions.  I highly recommend it to you as an overview of Islam.  Rated:  9 of 10.

Write It Right ~ cited, sited, sighted

I read on someone's blog (that muddled someone shall remain nameless) that a person had "sited a book."  That's when I decided it's time for another Write It Right post.  Today's words are cited, sited, and sighted.  First, notice that I'm using them all as verbs.
–verb (used with object), cit·ed, cit·ing.
1. to quote (a passage, book, author, etc.), esp. as an authority: He cited the Constitution in his defense.
2. to mention in support, proof, or confirmation; refer to as an example: He cited many instances of abuse of power.

–verb (used with object), sit·ed, sit·ing.
1. to place in or provide with a site; locate.
2. to put in position for operation, as artillery: to site a cannon.

–verb (used with object), sighted, sighting.
1. to see, glimpse, notice, or observe: to sight a ship to the north.
The blogger's usage of sited means a person had placed a book somewhere.  What she meant was that someone had cited (quoted or referred to) a book.  I rather doubt that the muddler reads my blog, but if she does, maybe she'll sight something worth knowing.

This Write It Right post is part of my new series about words and writing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Middle East Reading Challenge ~ with links to my reviews

Photo taken by Helen on a visit to Oman
Helen of Helen's Book Blog started the Middle East Reading Challenge when I was unable to participate because I was preparing and teaching a couple of classes at Chattanooga State in the fall.  The semester is over, so now I'm joining.

The countries
Helen defines the Middle East as these fifteen countries.
  1. Bahrain
  2. Egypt
  3. Iran
  4. Iraq
  5. Israel
  6. Jordan
  7. Kuwait
  8. Lebanon
  9. Oman
  10. Palestine (Gaza Strip and West Bank)
  11. Qatar
  12. Saudi Arabia
  13. Syria
  14. United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  15. Yemen
She explains her reasoning:
"The Middle East is a nebulous term with each person defining it in a different way (it's also a very Euro-centric term so please forgive me for that). However I am going to use it for lack of a better way to define the area covered by this reading challenge. So, what is the Middle East? Traditionally it included only the countries in Asia plus Egypt. Some define it as countries with Arabic as the dominant language, while others say it is all Islamic countries. For the purposes of this challenge I am going to stick with the more traditional/geographic approach including the countries around the Arabian peninsula. I struggled about what to do with Turkey and have chosen to leave it out as they currently choose to be associated more with Europe. Likewise, I am not including the 'stan' countries as they are culturally, linguistically, and ethnically different (and, officially, they are in Central Asia)."
The books ~ anything to appreciate and understand the Middle East more
  • Author from one of the countries
  • Fiction ~ set in one of the countries
  • Nonfiction ~ leaders
  • Nonfiction ~ religions
  • Nonfiction ~ historical events
  • Nonfiction ~ memoirs
  • Young Adult

Dates of the challenge
August 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011 (it began during Ramadan).

Sign up here
Write an introductory post and sign up with Mister Linky.

Share reviews
Use this Mister Linky to report reviews.  I'll come back here and add books as I read them, with links to my reviews.
  1. Barefoot in Baghdad ~ by Manal M. Omar, 2010, memoir (Iraq), 8/10
  2. The Jerusalem Scrolls ~ by Bodie and Brock Thoene, 2001, fiction (Israel), 6/10
  3. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced ~ by Nujood Ali, 2010, memoir (Yemen), 8/10
  4. Islam: A Concise Introduction ~ by Huston Smith, 2001, religion, 9/10
  5. The Septembers of Shiraz ~ by Dalia Sofer, 2007, fiction (Iran), 8/10
  6. x

I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced ~ by Nujood Ali, 2010

This one is unfortunately a true story, written by a brave little girl (with the help of Delphine Minoui).  Nujood had the courage to show up in a court of law to find out how she could divorce the man her father had -- I'm looking for a good word here, since she was too young to understand marriage -- let's say her father sold her to the old man, who promised to wait until she was older, but didn't.  She got out of the terrible situation, as you can see by the title, because she was smart, as well as brave.  My youngest granddaughter is ten years old, and she is a child.  A child, not an adult woman!  Can I imagine her in the situation Delphine Minoui wrote in the Epilogue?  No, I can't.
"On November 10, 2008, in New York City, the youngest divorcee in the world has just been named a Woman of the Year by Glamour.  With all the gravitas of her ten years, she shares this unexpected honor with the film star Nicole Kidman, the American secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, and Senator Hillary Clinton, among others" (p. 169).

I Am Nujood: Age 10 and Divorced ~ by Nujood Ali, 2010.  I rate this memoir 8 of 10, a very good book.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Jerusalem Scrolls ~ by Bodie and Brock Thoene, 2001

Mary Magdalene by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys, c. 1860
The Jerusalem Scrolls is a novel by Bodie and Brock Thoene that I picked up and put down several times, all because it's the fourth book in a series.  Finally, I took a chance and read it, and it turns out it really has nothing to do with the series.  There's a bit at the beginning (and even less at the end) trying to tie this volume to the series, but it's really a novel about Miryam of Magdala (Mary Magdalene) that a character in the series of book just happens to read.

First, I must say I was annoyed that the authors greatly emphasize Miryam's sinfulness, making her a notorious whore, known to sleep with lots of men.  She lusts after the first man who "slept" with her and, along the way, keeps company with a Roman centurion.  This is not who she was.  Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9 say Jesus cast "seven demons" out of Mary, a concept which is usually associated with healing from illness, not forgiveness of sins.  Yet Mary Magdalene "became" a prostitute in 591 when Pope Gregory the Great identified an unnamed woman as Mary Magdalene.  According to the Bible, Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus and the first one sent to share the good news about Jesus.  The Gospel of Mary paints a very different picture of this person, showing (as in the Bible) that Jesus trusted her to share his message.  The woman in this novel is a very different sort of person.  I can't say I much liked this version of the story.

This is one of the books I read for the World Religion Challenge (January 1 to December 31, 2010).  It's easy reading and, if you don't mind Miryam acting like an idiot about men, it isn't a bad tale.  It's just that I don't like it when people make up stories about women for the shock value, especially when women already get a bum rap from too many Christians all the time.  Rated:  6 of 10, above average.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Tis a white Christmas morning

This is what I saw when I woke this morning.
I am not just dreaming of a white Christmas
this year, and the snow is still coming down.

Have yourself a meow-y little Christmas

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

   ~~~ Bonnie

I wish you a Meow-y Christmas,
I wish you a
Meow-y Christmas,
I wish you a
Meow-y Christmas,
and a Happy New Year.

Kiki Cat

(I can't believe Bonnie chose a dog's picture,
and this is Caturday!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A burning beginning

Today's first lines are from the first page of The Jerusalem Scrolls by Bodie and Brock Thoene, 2001.
"The night sky glowed orange by the light of the flames that consumed the Great Hurva Synagogue."
Summary:  After days of brutal fighting against Arab forces in Jerusalem in 1948, Moshe Sachar escapes to a tunnel under the Old City, where he discovers sacred scrolls that tell the history of his faith and people. Opening a scroll, Moshe becomes immersed in the extraordinary story from the first century A.D. of Miryam, a beautiful yet troubled young widow, and Marcus, her Roman suitor.

Although I'd read the dust jacket summary, I was left wondering if this first line was about the burning of a synagogue in 1948 or in the first century BCE (Before the Common Era, which is used now rather than A.D., which is from the Latin Anno Domini, meaning "in the year of our Lord").  That is, I was confused until I got to this in the fifth paragraph:
"The grief of Jewish defeat was palpable.  As the flames licked the sky some spoke of the burning of the Warsaw Ghetto.  Others remembered the furnaces of Auschwitz.  Still others whispered of the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Roman general Titus led the Jewish populace away in chains and torched the temple and the city."
I know the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 70 CE (Common Era).  Auschwitz and the horrors of the Warsaw Ghetto occurred during World War Two.  The novel starts in the twentieth century, and I want to know what happens.

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading.  (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.)  Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Resuming my social life ~ with a vengeance

Margaret's birthday party
Last Friday I ate out with a teacher-friend to celebrate semester's end, then partied for hours on Saturday with over two dozen people while enjoying a band at the Foundry inside the Chattanoogan.

Sunday brought the church choir's cantata followed by brunch, and on Monday I had lunch with Raegan's part of my family.

I partied at a gathering of women at the home of a friend who happened to notice Tuesday was the solstice.

Children's Christmas Program
Emily brought me some of her frozen soup on Wednesday, when we caught up on all we've been doing.  Later that day, I picked up three friends and attended the children's Christmas program at the church on the mountain.

After an evening of good conversation (and cheese quesadillas) with a couple of friends, I look forward to tomorrow evening, when I'll be taking a new friend with me to a Christmas Eve communion service.

Then it will be Christmas Day.  It's been a busy week and so great to be back in the fun of things!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A teaser ~ from the Irish countryside

From the first page of In the Company of Others by Jan Karon, 2010.
The beams of their hired car scarcely penetrated a summer twilight grown dark as pitch in the downpour.
This isn't exactly the most exciting book beginning I could imagine.  However, "hired car" means they are not at home, and we know it's raining, wherever they are.  I have read more than a third of the book so far, and it doesn't seem to get any more exciting than this.  My daughter Sandra chose this book as a Christmas gift because she remembers that I enjoyed Jan Karon's Mitford series back in the 1990s.  In this story, Father Tim and his wife Cynthia hop the Atlantic for a long anticipated vacation in the Irish countryside. They settle in at Broughadoon, a bed and breakfast run by Liam and Anna Conor in County Sligo.  Here's another quote from the book, this one about Ben Bulben (p. 200):
After his walk to the lake with Liam ... he and Cynthia had taken off for Ben Bulben, where the Vauxhall climbed a rude track along the flank.  They slowed for sheep in the road, searched the views. ... [Later, Cynthia, an artist] stood at the chest of drawers, leafing aimlessly through the work of the day.  He looked over her shoulder.

'That's a good one,' he said.  'The great Ben as the prow of a ship steering through a green sea.'  He thought she might enjoy the imagery.
Ben Bulben in County Sligo, Ireland

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The girl likes to read

We read Seuss too, but here Raegan wanted me to read
her my new Jan Karon book.  The only picture is on the
back of the dustjacket, so she's looking at Mamaw Bonnie.
Being sleepy is no reason to stop reading!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Aww, Pooh!

Raegan fell in love with this big-headed Pooh Bear today, leaving Elmo behind.  Yes, I think that's her red Elmo doll on the table behind her.  Raegan has decided my name will be Mamaw.  Tomorrow, I'll show you the two of us reading a book.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

200 years in 4 minutes

Via the BBC, Hans Rosling examines the correlation between income growth and life expectancy in 200 countries over the last 200 hundred years in an amazing animation. Take a look:

If the YouTube video quits working, click here to go to the original site.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Caturday ~ and Bonnie's happy

I'm not sure if Bonnie is happy because she finished the semester and turned in grades or because I'm giving her a big hug.  But she's holding me tight, and I think I'll take credit for making her smile.

Kiki Cat, signing off

Friday, December 17, 2010

A key beginning

This morning, driving home from the college after I had made sure the grades were recorded at the end of the semester, I was thinking, Now ... NOW ... I will go home and read something for the joy of reading. A novel. Yes, I'll pick up a novel. And I thought of this book:  Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, 2007.  I mentioned the book months ago, exactly one week before classes started.  It has languished on my bookshelf since August, waiting, waiting.

I was tired when I got home, so I stretched out on the bed to read.  When I woke up an hour or so later, my elbow was resting on a bent bookmark and I discovered I had read to the middle of the second page before drifting off to sleep.  Here's the first paragraph:
The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door.  Her room was closest to the entrance of the apartment.  At first, dazed with sleep, she thought it was her father, coming up from his hiding place in the cellar.  He'd forgotten his keys, and was impatient because nobody had heard his first, timid knock.  But then came the voices, strong and brutal in the silence of the night.  Nothing to do with her father.  "Police!  Open up!  Now!"
I didn't turn back to the book when I woke to the sound of my phone ringing.  Instead, I jumped in the car and resumed my social life, meeting with another teacher relieved at having turned in grades.  We ate together and talked for hours.  I'll pick up the book again when I go to bed, less frazzled than earlier today and ready to fall into the fictional world of Sarah and her key.

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages.  Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading.  (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.)  Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

With bated breath

I left a comment on my friend Beth's Blue Ridge Blue Collar Girl blog that said I was waiting with bated breath for her next post.  When I thought about it later (I really should learn to trust myself), I wondered if I had spelled the word correctly and went in search of "bated" at  That's where I learned that "with bated breath" is idiomatic.
4. with bated breath, with breath drawn in or held because of anticipation or suspense: We watched with bated breath as the runners approached the finish line.
The Free Dictionary added:
If you wait for something with bated breath, you feel very excited or anxious while you are waiting.
I cross-posted this on my Joyful Noiseletter blog, the one that's all about words.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For unto us a child is born.....

My grandson Kendall holding his son Jaxon, born yesterday around noon. Jaxon, at 19 inches, weighed 7.1 pounds.  Even in his mother Whitney's arms, Jaxon's face is hidden by the baby blanket!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Authors I have met

When the BEA (Book Expo America) met in May, those of us who stayed home held our own Armchair BEA.  I participated in only one meme, the one about book signings and author sightings.  In my post, I tried to remember some of the authors I've met over the years.  I managed to come up with a few that day, but I'm still occasionally remembering others I've stood in line for, waiting to get a book signed.  The best meet-ups with authors, of course, are when I actually get to look her or him in the eye and talk a few minutes.  Here are the ones I remember specifically.

I've read three of Masha Hamilton's books, but have reviewed only one of them:  The Camel Bookmobile.  Donna and I had lunch with Masha when she came to Tennessee for a conference, and Masha also chatted with our face-to-face book club via speaker phone.  Take a look at Masha's web site.

Fannie Flagg came to town for our very first A Tale for One City event, when Chattanoogans read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  She's as funny in person as I expected her to be.
A Tale for One City is a citywide reading initiative designed to get Chattanoogans to read the same book at the same time. Started by READ Chattanooga, the purpose of this program is to build unity in the community and to stress the importance of reading.
Laurie Halse Anderson was here in March 2008, when A Tale for One City read her YA novel Speak.  She shared a meal with members of the committee, which gave me a chance to talk to her.  I've reviewed three of her books:  Speak, a young adult novel; Independent Dames, a children's book; and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, another children's book.

I've read two of Christopher Paul Curtis's excellent young adult novels: Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963, about the church bombing.  A Tale for One City chose Bud, Not Buddy as our YA book one year, and I chatted with him at a reception at the home of a committee member.

I first learned about Avi when my friend Donna insisted I read Nothing But the Truth, a wonderful YA novel in documentary form, which became one of my favorite YA books, ever.  Donna and I met Avi at a conference in Kentucky a few years ago.  Take a look at Avi's web site.

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan are friends and occasional co-authors.  In February, I'll be leading a weekend retreat in a study of Borg's The Heart of Christianity, the best book I've found that explains differences between two current streams of Christian thought.  Together, Borg and Crossan wrote The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church's Conservative Icon.  One of Crossan's most recent books is God and Empire.

The list keeps getting longer.  So far I've remembered Laurie Halse Anderson, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Masha Hamilton, Theda Perdue, Madeleine L'Engle, Robert Hicks, Susan Gregg Gilmore, Paul Von Ward, Fannie Flagg, Janisse Ray, Avi, and Christopher Paul Curtis.  That's a baker's dozen (thirteen, in other words).  Actually, I've met several others at the Conferences on Southern Literature I've attended (people like Lee Smith), but these thirteen are my most memorable "author sightings."

Update (1-27-11):  E. L. Konigsburg, who wrote The View from Saturday and lots of other young adult books, signed my book when she spoke at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Update (1-26-14):  I met Paul Von Ward, author of The Soul Genome, when he spoke at the Unitarian church.