Little Woman Review and Thoughts

A couple of years ago I hosted a Little Women Read-Along event here on the blog and…

*sigh*

I never really closed up the event.  It’s not really in the best interest of the blogger to begin a post in this negative fashion but I have to be honest.  However, this kind of neglect is going to work on my favor because I’m going to talk about a topic in the framework of my favorite piece of literature.  I’m going to spend the next several few lines talking about literature, translation and communication. Aaaaaaannd even though I have written about this book before, I’ve never properly reviewed it so I thought I’d knock out a few thoughts on the story as well and count this as my official review.  This will be quite different than my usual review format but stay tuned, it’ll be fun!

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Rating: 5.0 – 5.0

My Thoughts:

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is an American literary treasure that has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.  The story of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March is centered around themes of family, coming of age, friendship, life pursuits, heartache, and cherishing those things that are most important to us.

The story begins with the four sisters coping with the challenges of life in Civil War America.  While they’re used to a comfortable life, they now face the struggles of scrimping and pinching to help their mother, affectionately called ‘Marmee’, maintain their household while their father serves as a chaplain in the war.

The experiences of these four sisters are not so unlike those girls face today.  Meg and Amy deal with desires to be popular, pretty and well-liked.  Beth learns to come out of her comfort zone and stay diligent.  Jo, the heroine of the book and my literary doppelgänger, struggles with patience, social awkwardness, and finding a place for herself in the world.

Throughout the mishaps, tears, and triumphs, Marmee keeps the girls grounded and focused on what’s important.  She challenges them to do their best in life and rise above their weaknesses and struggles.  She encourages them to embrace their womanhood but also push past society’s narrow and sometimes silly expectations.  She values simplicity, hard work, and truthfulness and wants her daughters to do the same.  The story’s heroine may be Jo and the title may be Little Women but the woman behind these girls is a mother whose heart and soul helps to shape them into beautiful people.

And it would do no good whatsoever to not mention Laurie, the lovable boy next door and Jo’s BFFL.  He’s got his own set of coming-of-age challenges that I totally appreciate and enjoy reading about.  If you’ve read the book, you understand the struggle when it comes to Jo and Laurie.  I don’t need to say more. It’s been over ten years and I still struggle sometimes even though I completely understand why.  If you haven’t read the book, well, I’m not going to spoil it for you :).

I love, love,  love this book and will never tire of the book or the movie adaptations (there are 4 that I know of).  It’s very sweet and charming.  It’ll make you laugh, cry and may make you a bit angry at times but hey, that’s what a good story does right?  If it’s not there yet, I urge you fellow classic literature lovers, add it to your list of books to read!

Okay, let’s switch gears in the discussion for a minute and talk a little history and language.

This is a very American story.  Four young women growing up in a turbulent society and while the book isn’t at all about the Civil War or its aftermath, it can’t be ignored that these girls are finding their wings in a time in history when America was redefining so much of its own identity.  A lot was going on in the second half of 19th century America, including the world of literature.  Alcott’s father was a transcendentalist.  This was an American philosophy explored by several authors of the day including Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau.  Transcendentalists believe in the idea that people have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that transcends what we see, hear, taste, touch, and feel.  A transcendentalist believes that they can trust themselves alone to decide what is right and wrong.  This is not a philosophy I subscribe to but I recognize its place in American ideology, especially in this time period.

So what happens when a story so engrained in it’s culture is translated into another language and culture?  What must carry over into the new language in order for the story to retain its identity?  I don’t know anything about translating literary works but I do know this – there’s more to a story than just the words on a page.  If a translator can capture the life between the lines of a piece, then that is a job well done.  After all, we read literature not just to consume words strung together one after another, we read literature to capture a piece of another time or place than where we are.  Alcott’s Little Women evokes homey, cozy feelings in me as well as inspires a desire to pursue life to the fullest and do work that matters. That’s the beauty of a well-told story and each language, each culture does this in it’s own unique way.

The woman who read and loved Little Women when it first hit the bookstores is quite different from a woman like me who reads and loves it more than a century later.  But even though we have completely different lives, we both share an experience with the story.  The same should go for a translated work.  Little Women could be translated into any other language but the reader should still experience the warmth, the sense of home, and ‘Americaness’ that I imagine Alcott intended her readers to experience.

I think when groups and cultures share their stories, we not only become better intercultural communicators, but we also become more empathetic in our dealings with one another and better apt to treat each other with understanding and respect.  Translations of great works of literature, online content and conversations, and businesses can open people all over the world to wonderful experiences and add incredible depth to life.  After all, we were made to communicate with each other, right?   If the heart and soul that a writer or communicator puts into their work can be translated along with the words, translators and translation services like Smartling have extended the gift of that experience to those that the author could not originally reach.

And that, my friend, is a beautiful thing!

Happy reading y’all!

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twentysomething | book review

Hello, hello!!

I hope everyone has had a beautiful, adventure-filled summer!  My summer has been a whirlwind to say the least, leaving me with absolutely no time to read or blog!  But as summer winds down and a new season settles in, I enter a new life season of my own filled with many changes and life questions… But none of that right now, I’ve got a book to share!

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Twentysomething: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World by Margaret Feinberg

Rating: 3.0 – 4.0

I started reading this book back in the spring and only now just finished it this morning.  I wish I had finished it awhile ago, I could have used some of the counsel and encouragement this summer!

Like any season in life, the characteristics of being a twentysomething will differ from person to person.  For some of us it means the hustle and bustle of a brand new career, for some of us it means seemingly endless job hunts and wondering if, perhaps, you’ve started down the wrong path, and for the rest of us it means minimum wage grunt work until you get your big break.  No matter what twentysomething looks like on the outside, we’re all trying to figure it out – who am I, what do I want to do, how do I get there, and who do I want to do it with?  And further more, where is God in all of this?  What does He want me to do with my life? Feinberg offers great wisdom and encouragement on how to make the most of this great life season. Everything from making and keeping friendships to handling stress, facing hard times, taking risks, setting priorities and learning from mistakes, she addresses some of the questions you may have asked yourself and maybe some you didn’t think to consider.

I gave it a 3 star rating because sometimes you have to take what you read with a grain of salt.  I didn’t agree with all she said but it was worth the read and I’m glad I have a copy on my shelf.  It’ll be good to refer back to it in the future or lend to someone else.

If you are a twentysomething like I am, I recommend this one.  It’s a light, encouraging, read that could jumpstart all sorts of thoughts and considerations.  It definitely has for me!!

Happy reading, y’all!

to kill a mockingbird review//classics club

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To put it quite simply, I love this book. I loved when I first read it in high school and it remains one of my favorite novels.  I think it is one of the greatest pieces of American literature ever penned!  There is so much to love about it!  And then, of course, there is the film.  When I read Atticus Finch, I see Gregory Peck and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the way it’s meant to be!

SPOILER ALERT: This post does contain spoilers!! You have been warned ;).

Oh there so much to say about this book!  I keep typing out sentences and deleting them, typing more and hitting backspace.  Tom Robinson and Boo Radley and Mrs. Dubose and Miss Maudie!!  There simply isn’t enough time!

The brilliance of this story lies in the fact that its multi-faceted plot is seen through the eyes of a young girl.  Scout is spunkiness personified.   She’s curious about life and truly wants to know how and why things work the way they do.  She actually puts me in mind of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby a little.  Maybe it’s the hair.  Maybe it’s the unfiltered desire to know about everything, to understand people and have them understand you.  I think it’s a great coming of age story.

But of course, as much as we love to love Scout Finch, the real hero of the book is Atticus.  And rightfully so.  Here’s a man who knows who he is and what he stands for and doesn’t need to prove himself.  He simply lets his life speak louder than his words.  But oh, his words!  This book is filled with some great quotes from this southern lawyer!

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“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

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“If you shouldn’t be defendin’ him, then why are you doin’ it?”

“For a number of reasons,” said Atticus. “The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again.

“Scout, simply by the nature of the work, every lawyer gets a least one case in his lifetime that affects him personally. This one’s mine, I guess. You might hear some ugly talk about it at school, but do one thing for me if you will: you just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don’t let ’em get your goat. Try fighting with your head for a change…it’s a good one, even if it does resist learning.”

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“The one place where a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box. As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it – whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.”

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“Atticus said to Jem one day, “I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the backyard, but I know you’ll go after birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” That was the only time I ever heard Atticus say it was a sin to do something, and I asked Miss Maudie about it. “Your father’s right,” she said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

Yes.  Atticus Finch is pretty much the coolest guy in American literature.  His relationship with his kids is beautiful.  His sense of duty to his fellowman is admirable.  While he was out to fight for truth and justice, the knowledge that victory was pretty near impossible never swayed him.  He understood that the Tom Robinson case was more than defending an innocent black man – as important as that was – it was about proving that his morals were more than just talk.  Many people talk big but fail miserably when faced with the hard test.  Atticus may not have won the case for Tom, but he proved that as long as there were others like himself who were willing to sacrifice all for the sake of justice, racial equality would eventually become a reality.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

If you have never read this book, I HIGHLY recommend it!!  And then watch the movie :).

narrative of the life of frederick douglass review//classics club

The Classics Club Spin was such a fun idea!  And I’m so glad this book was my #14.  On the practical side, it was short enough to fit into my crazy March days annnnnnd it’s on my TBR list so two birds, one stone.  Oh yeah!
Douglass book coverYou can’t come away from reading a piece like this without a greater desire to develop a more noble character, to be the kind of person who doesn’t give up or take ‘no’ for an answer, who reaches out for higher things, who knows that value isn’t determined by what other’s think of you.  Fredrick Douglass, was and did all of these things.  He is an American hero.

SPOILER ALERT: This post does contain spoilers!! You have been warned ;).

The story of Fredrick Douglass is one of heartache and injustice and triumph.  It’ll make you mad and want to knock a few heads together.  It’ll have you cheering when a young man refuses to be whipped by his inane master and fights back or when a group of slaves quietly learn to read on Sunday mornings.  It will have you thanking God that we no longer live in a time where it’s lawful for one American to own another.  It will have you wishing you could search out the evil men in every dark corner of this country and the world who are still making money from modern slavery.

I’m not going to spin out the history he shares in this autobiography – it’s a short enough read that you can learn of it yourself in no time at all – rather, I want to share a couple of the quotes that I found especially poignant and awful in their searing truth.

“From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embrace; and in the darkest hours of my career in slavery, this living word of faith and spirit of hope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angels to cheer me through the gloom. This good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and praise.”

“I have observed this in my experience of slavery, – that whenever my condition was improved, instead of its increasing my contentment, it only increased my desire to be free, and set me to thinking of plans to gain my freedom. I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceased to be a man.”

“Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.”

But the part that got me the most was in the appendix when he talked about the “slaveholding religion of this land”.  The whole time I was like “Preach it!” It angered me to read about perhaps as much as it did Douglass to live through it.  This part, in my opinion, was THE best part of the book:

“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.”

BAM!  And that’s not even the whole thing, he goes on and it was…moving to say the least.  It’s like when the pastor says something that resonates with your entire being and you can’t help but say, “Well!” or “Have mercy!” or “Amen!”  That’s me anyway ;).

I read this book on my Kindle but really want to get a hard copy for my bookshelf!  It’s worth adding to the collection.  And I’m going to add Douglass’s other books to my reading list!!

Y’all have a blessed day!

the waste land review//classics club

I’m not even sure what to say about this piece.  Halfway through, I checked the reviews on GoodReads and was surprised at the 5 star ratings.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised cause this is such a popular piece of American poetry…but still.  I figured I had to be the one with the problem.

CAUSE I COULDN’T MAKE HEADS OR TAILS OF THIS POEM!

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Maybe it was because I read it on my Kindle and that might have messed with the lines, the flow of which are, of course, hugely important.  Maybe it was too modern??  The imagery was lost on me.  It jumped around and went in weird directions.  I don’t know, I just was not feeling it at all!  Sorry Mr. Elliot, but if someone were to ask me what your great work was about, I’d have no idea how to answer!

Any of you T. S. Elliot fans out there have any comments as to what I was missing in my Waste Land experience?  I just was not impressed at all :(.

On a bit of a lighter note, this book was not only on my Classics Club list, it was apart of A Modern March, and also counted toward the Nerdy Non-Fiction Reading Challenge 2013!  3 birds, 1 stone.  Booyah!

the happiness project review//nerdy non-fiction 2013

I really do need to hop into bed but I have to finish this review while the material is freshest in my mind.

Today I finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project as part of a book swap with my friend Eddie.  I must say, it was quite the delightful read!  It was light, funny and the writer in me jumped at the bits of lists, quotes, and tips!  I’m happy I read it ;).

The Happiness ProjectSPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet read this book and plan to in the future, keep reading. I won’t give too much away! ;).

Gretchen Rubin was happy.  Or so she thought.  One day, on a crowded bus, she realized that she wasn’t as happy as she could be.  She wasn’t taking the time to enjoy the present. She realized that “The days are long, but the years are short,” and if her life was going change, she would have to change it.  So after much reading, thought, and questioning, she set out on a year-long happiness project.

She decided to set resolutions for each month of the year targeting different areas in her life from ‘Tackling a Nagging Task’ to ‘Give Proof of Love’ to ‘Laugh Out Loud’.  All the while she continued to glean inspiration from her favorite writers from past generations.  Some of what she discovered along the way about herself and her family proved surprising.  Determined to be Gretchen, she remains honest with herself as she struggles to break bad habits, acquire new skills, play more often with her girls, and quit nagging her husband.

In the end…well I’ll leave that for you to discover.  Let’s just say that with all adventures in self-discovery, there really isn’t an end.  There’s always more to learn, more to work on, more to experience.

I, of course, couldn’t help but filter this book through the lens of the Christian experience.  Everyone is searching for happiness, contentment, and fulfillment in life.  While I think that it’d do everyone a world of good to look for the tangible things that can improve that which is intangible, I personally believe there is a peace that passes all understanding and that is something that can only come from knowing Jesus Christ for yourself!  And I may be grasping at semantic straws when I say that I’m not looking for a happy life so much as I’m seeking to live a joyous one.  And that idea struck me even deeper this afternoon when I went on the Christian Audio website to check out this month’s free audio book.  I chuckled when I saw the book cover.

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How funny is that?  I’m looking forward to what this author says about joy and happiness!  You can download the audiobook for free this month at christianaudio.com.

Have any of you read The Happiness Project?  Better yet, have you embarked on one of your own?  What do you think about happiness and joy? Is there a difference?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Good night!

Stay blessed :).

you are a writer book review//nerdy non-fiction 2013

I mentioned in my Betsy-Tacy book review (below) that all I’ve been doing lately is study for school and read.  I haven’t read so much in one month in a very long time and it feels so good!  I just need to crank out the reviews while I can (I may get three done today!!).

So here’s my first completed title for the Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge 2013 :).

I must say that so far, this book, by Jeff Goins, is probably my favorite!

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After reading his Writer’s Manifesto (and you can read my thoughts on that here),  I knew I had to check out Jeff’s other books.  This was totally worth more than the $3 I spent in the Kindle bookstore!!  In this book, Jeff addresses the fears that writers have when starting out.  We don’t want to say we’re writers cause we haven’t been published yet or the few posts on our blog haven’t given us permission to assume that title.  We seek perfection and success first before we think ourselves worthy of such a bold statement as, “Hi, my name is Elyssa and I’m a writer.”

Jeff says to quit it.

You’re a writer, he says, you just have to write.

This makes sense when you consider the fact that feelings don’t have to determine one’s mood.  For example, I can choose to be in a good mood by putting a smile on my face and keeping my words positive.  Sooner or later, whatever negative feelings I had begin to dissolve and I begin to feel good and I’m in a positive mood!  The same can be said for writers.  Say you’re a writer.  Now act on it.  The more you act like a writer, the harder you work at your copy, the more intentional you are about making a name for yourself, little by little, the more skilled you become and the more you’ll be taken seriously by yourself and others.  It takes a lot of time but it’s worth it!

If you want to be a writer.  If you are an aspiring writer.  If you are a writer, (old habits!) then YOU NEED TO READ THIS BOOK!  I want to elaborate more but I don’t want to give the whole book away.  Just read it.  Seriously, go to Amazon now and download the ebook.  You won’t regret it.   It’s inspiring and practical.  It offers advice and writing tools as well as the necessary kick in the pants some of us need to get going!!  I loved it and will probably be referring back to it for the rest of my life!!

And If you haven’t yet, you can check out Jeff’s blog at Jeff Goins Writer. Sign up for his email list and you can get a free copy of his Writer’s Manifesto which I also highly recommend!!

Y’all have a blessed day =)

betsy-tacy review//classics club

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My mother first read me Betsy-Tacy when I was a very little girl and I followed their story all the way up through their adult years.  I loved every page!  Revisiting Deep Valley and the Big Hill and the simple pleasures of a world gone by was very sweet indeed!  And I must, of course, mention Lois Lenski’s charming illustrations.  I don’t know if any of you have read any of her books but her work is especially nostalgic for me and my mother <3.

SPOILER ALERT: My comments do contain spoilers! You have been warned ;)

Maud Hart Lovelace (what a romantic name, yeah?) begins her story by stating that it’s difficult to think of a time when Betsy and Tacy had not been friends.

“Hill Street came to regard them almost as one person. Betsy’s brown braids went with Tacy’s curls, Betsy’s plump legs with Tacy’s spindly ones, to school and from school, up hill and down, on errands and in play. So that when Tacy had the mumps and Betsy was obliged to journey alone, saucy boys would tease her: Where’s the cheese apple pie?” Where’s the mush, milk?” As though she didn’t feel lonesome already!”

I think that is too cute!  And to see how much our language has changed over time!  I don’t know any child today who associates cheese with apple pie!  Peanut butter and jelly, yes.  And who eats mush and milk anymore?  Today it’s cereal and milk!

So the story of these two besties begins with 5 year-old Betsy Ray who lives in “a small, yellow cottage”, “the last on her side of Hill Street”.  She reminds me of little Laura Ingalls in Little House in the Big Woods with her brown braids and wide-eyed wonder and vivid imagination.  Across the street, stood a “rambling white house” which was, of course the last house on that side of Hill Street.  To her delight, a new family moves into the white house across the street and they have a little girl just her age!  After a rather humorous meeting cumbered with a bit of a misunderstanding, the two become inseparable!  Betsy, bright-eyed and full of stories and shy Tacy, eager to listen and ready to join in the fun.

Reading about their afternoons with paper dolls cut out of fashion magazines, dressing up in grown up clothes and going calling, coloring white sand with leftover Easter egg dye and selling it, and taking their supper plates to eat together on the bench on top of the hill, makes me wish that I had grown up in another time.  A simpler time.  Granted, I love technology and all the great conveniences it affords but sometimes I get tired of the constant bombardment and long for quiet afternoons, homemade laughter, and the sweet joys that can’t be bought with money or achieved with a smartphone, television or laptop.  But alas, God saw fit to place me in this period so I love it for everything wonderful it has to offer while occasionally slipping in the past to enjoy tea in china cups, buggy rides, and trips to the general store!

I must confess however that reading a book meant for such young readers was a bit of challenge cause I caught myself getting just a tad bored!  Over all, it was a pleasure and I intend to continue re-reading the entire series! =)

Y’all have a blessed day =)

king of the wind review//classics club

20130105_194430_zps75e7714aI’m not usually a huge fan of animal stories but King of the Wind is one of my childhood favorites.  As with many of the books I devoured as a little girl, I listened to this on tape before I ever picked up a hard copy.  I read it once or twice after that and thoroughly enjoyed it every time!  A couple months ago, I bought this beautiful red hardcover copy at a used book store since I no longer had my old paperback copy.  When I decided to participate in the Children’s Classics Event this month, I knew this book had to be on my list :).

SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet read this book and plan to in the future, do NOT read further!! You have been warned ;)

King of the Wind is a story of Agba, a horseboy in the stables of Moroccan Sultan, Mulai Ismael, and Sham, his beloved bay stallion.  I suppose, since the title is King of the Wind, it would be more correct to say the story is one about a bay stallion named Sham and his devoted horseboy Agba.  It could go either way, so deep is their friendship, so strong is their reliance upon each other, so intertwined are their lives.  It really is a sweet story of keeping promises, staying true to one’s duty, and becoming who you were born to be.

423156As I was reading, I was constantly amused at the fact that I kept hearing the story narrated in the voice from the audiobook I listened to so many years ago!  It’s funny the things your brain recollects!  The language Henry uses is absolutely delightful!

“There was no sound anywhere, not from the palace walls beyond, nor from the quarters over the stables where the horseboys lived. The whole world seemed to be holding its breath, waiting for dusk to fall. Small voices of insects and birds were beginning to pierce the quiet. Twilight toads piping on their bassoons. Crickets chirping. Wood doves cooing. And afar off in the Atlas Mountains a hyena began to laugh. These were forerunners of the darkness. It would be only a short time now.”

My favorite bit is her description of the Sultan.  Upon hearing that he is to go before Sultan Mulai Ismael, Agba is terrified that his life will come to an abrupt and untimely end.  His fears lessen considerably when he sees the great man himself.

“The Sultan held the boy transfixed. He wore a towering white turban and a dazzling white robe with a golden sash. But what struck Agba was that in spite of the fine mantle and a beard whiter than driven snow, the old man reminded him of a camel. His eyes were hidden by heavy folds of eyelids, like a camel’s, and his lips were thick and slit in two, and there was a big hump on his back. Even his feet were like those of a camel, spongy and broad and shapeless…

Agba would not have been surprised in the least to see him rise up and swing along through the garden, stopping to feed on the leaves of the orange trees and the jasmine bushes….

…Agba wanted to laugh out, for even the Sultan’s voice was high and shrill, like a camel that objects to being mounted.”

I don’t know why but that has always tickled me!  Perhaps it was the way the narrator on the audiobook read it, I don’t know!

In any case, the misadventures that Agba and Sham continually face in their travels are, at times, heartbreaking but in the end make their success that much sweeter.  I sometimes wonder how the story would have gone if Agba could speak but it’s foolish to consider because that’s a huge part of why the story is so poignant.  Here’s a boy who, handicapped though he may be, will fulfill his promise to Sham and carry out the Sultan’s orders, come what may.

It made me think of how much I want to use my weaknesses as a crutch and excuse as to why I can’t do what know I was meant to do.  It’s stupid.  It’s stupid to give room to negativity.  When you know you’ve got a job to complete, a mission to accomplish, a dream to fulfill, a promise to keep, you don’t listen to the naysayers, you fight for success.  You pray that you don’t miss opportunities and open doors.  You wait patiently for your next big chance.  You learn from your mistakes and pick yourself up when you fall flat on your face.  It’s one of the great things about life.  You try again and again and again until you get it right. And you will get it right.

I got all that from a story about a horse and his boy?  Yes.

That’s why I love the simplicity of childhood.  If you let it, it’ll continue to speak to your adult heart <3.

Y’all have a blessed day!

the virginia woolf writer’s workshop//book review

266205027945822409_ZJyljIao_bLast month I read this delightful little book by Danell Jones called The Virginia Woolf Writer’s Workshop: Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writers. In it the author creates an imaginary writing class conducted by Virginia Woolf.  She uses lines directly from Woolf’s diaries, essays, and letters to teach seven lessons to, as the title says, inspire great writing.

Through conversation between Woolf and her students, Jones teaches the following lessons:

  1. Practicing
  2. Working
  3. Creating
  4. Walking
  5. Reading
  6. Publishing
  7. Doubting

My favorite lesson was the first where Woolf tells her students to keep a diary or journal.  She explains that in her diary to practice her scales and experiment with creating different effects. When a student questions what Woolf means by practicing scales, Woolf replies,

“I mean, she says her voice rising with enthusiasm, just write. Write “nonsense by the ream. Be silly, be sentimental, imitate Shelley; give the rein to every impulse; commit every fault of style, grammar, taste, and sytax; pour out; tumble over; loose anger, love, satire, in whatever words you can catch coerce or create, in whatever metre, prose, poetry, or gibberish that comes to hand. Thus you will learn to write.”…”The habit of writing thus for my eye only,” she says was “good practice””

While I didn’t agree with all of Woolf’s ideology or even methodology, I did take her advice and decided to take the writer’s notebook more seriously.  When I finally decided to quit editing myself, I was able to write freely, something that I’ve struggled with for years.  It’s hard to keep from making sure every ‘i’ is dotted and every ‘t’ crossed but it’s completely necessary when getting your thoughts and ideas on paper.  When I made the conscious effort to just let myself write, I was able to crank out twenty pages in one day, something I hadn’t done in a long time!  It felt wonderful!!

The rest of the book was amusing and well put together.  Again, I didn’t agree with everything Woolf writes but I was able to reap great bits of advice.  If you’re a writer and need a pick-me-up, this book is worth a read.

What books have you read to inspire great writing?  I’d love to read your thoughts!

Y’all have a blessed day =)