Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Stills: Nature's Frames

Mother Nature wasn't too cooperative for this photo challenge. The Pineapple Express kept us pretty wet this week, and I spent half of our lone dry day on appointments and errands. I grabbed the camera for Indy's afternoon walk but didn't find any photo-worthy material.

So once again I snapped my photo at the front porch.

This was the closest I could come to the assignment. One of Kiyara's old shoes placed in a planter for some interest.

For those who may be wondering -- those are stud holes at the heel of the shoe. Like cleats on athletic shoes, studs give the horse more traction for jumping on turf. The size of the studs varies per the conditions. Once competition is finished for the day the studs are unscrewed and the hole is plugged to keep the threads clean.

To see how others met this week's photo challenge, visit Sunday Stills.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Club: The Lace Reader

After a two month break over the holidays our small group reunited to discuss Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader. Although one of our members was absent we welcomed a new member to the group. We all agreed that two months was too long between meetings and even though a book a month is ambitious for some of our busy members, we decided to stick with it.

When selecting the book for our January meeting we read the five-star as well as the one-star reviews. Most readers praised The Lace Reader. Those who gave it a low rating primarily did so because of the ending. So in reading this book we were expecting a twist at the end. Even so, none of us guessed correctly.

The author's web site describes the story as follows:
Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations. Now the disappearance of two women is bringing Towner back home to Salem—and is bringing to light the shocking truth about the death of her twin sister.

In the opening pages of the novel, Towner tells the reader that she lies, and that she is crazy. Barry does an excellent job of hooking the reader with tantalizing hints about convoluted family relationships. The reader struggles to make sense of Towner's past (she changed her name from Sophya) and the parts played by her mother and aunts. In the end we learn just how unreliable Towner really is as a narrator.

Although we all liked The Lace Reader, our discussion revealed just how convoluted the story is. Perhaps a sign that Barry did an admirable job in developing her theme of Perception versus Reality. It would require a rereading of the novel to verify that Barry played fair with the reader. I think she did. During our discussion we were repeatedly correcting each other as to which character knew and did what, and which events were real or imagined.

The Lace Reader does have its shortcomings. There were dangling story lines that were not completed satisfactorily -- at least for us. The first half of the book is written in first person present text. From the middle to the end of the book the point of view alternates between first person and third person and at times becomes confusing as to which POV we are reading. We wondered if the POV confusion was intentional or a breakdown in writing.

Interestingly enough, we found the title and the fortunetelling associated with the title to have little relevance to the novel. Each chapter begins with a snippet from "The Lace Reader's Guide" compiled by one of the characters. I expected these passages to have relevance to the following chapter but didn't always find a connection. Clairvoyance does play a part in the novel, but the vision of the future most relevant to the story's climax did not emerge from a lace reading. We decided the novel should have been titled Swimming to the Moon.

Despite the issues we had with the novel, it did spark a lively discussion about individual perceptions, how we carry and project our personal perceptions of events, and how people cope with trauma (in healthy or unhealthy ways).

Since one of our members had already started reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, we selected it for our February meeting. We are all contributing book ideas for the coming year and will choose our 2012 books at our next meeting. It sounds like we'll have an intriguing mix of fiction and nonfiction to sort through.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I recently read an article about a study on Middle Age. As defined by the study, "middle age" includes those 40 to 60 years old. Based on that criteria, it would seem that I am officially a Senior Citizen.

Now, how this happened, I don't know. Because I sure don't feel old. Oh, there are those physical signs like the arrival of a few arthritic joints and a metabolism running backwards. However, I've always been bad at remembering names.

But really -- when did my childhood toys become collectible?! And what's with the gray-haired woman in my mirror?

Oh well, I'll keep horsing around and learning new subjects as I conduct research for my books. And as long as I can keep up with Indy on our walks I guess I'm doing okay.

For a Senior Citizen.  ;-)

Monday, January 16, 2012


Indy at our favorite neighborhood high tech campus.
Here in the temperate Willamette Valley, snow is maybe a once-a-year event that causes temporary problems and then is gone for another 12 months. It's a special event. Indy particularly loves to eat the snow.

Snow nose.
I let Indy walk off leash Sunday morning before anyone else was about. Fortunately, he didn't see the wild bunny dash across the drive up ahead of us (I checked out the bunny prints in the snow).

The white stuff is a fun break from our dreary gray rainy days.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Stills: Corners

I almost forgot about this week's challenge. Indy got me up this morning before there was decent light to take photos, but thanks to digital cameras with their enhancement programs I managed to salvage a couple of snaps.

I like the following photo because of the rust.

The next one I like because of the depth of the picture as well as the metaphor that we never know where we will end up when we turn a corner in our lives.

Visit Sunday Stills to see how others were "cornered" this week.  ;-)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Hairstyle?

Pixelated, but you get the idea.
So I'm flipping through the December issue of Real Simple magazine and spy this model with an asymmetrical crop hairstyle. Now -- I don't look anywhere near as good as the model. And I don't color my hair so it's considerably more gray than this (see sidebar). But my short hair is in danger of looking too much like my high school gym teacher's. I may be an AARP member, but I ain't dead yet. So why not go for a little pizzaz?

With the help of the talented crew at Synergy Artistic Salon (thanks Michelle!) I took the first steps toward growing and shaping my hair in a style similar to that above.

And speaking of pizzaz, I've also been thinking about a single streak of neon color in my hair. No bleaching required prior to adding a splash of color to my grayest sections! Maybe I'll be brave enough once my hair has grown into the target style. We'll see.

Isn't it typical? Once you've grown out your hair you find a much shorter style that you want? And after you have it all whacked off, you find a longer style that you have to have. At least with long to short you don't have to go through the ugly-grow-out stage.

Nothing better to do during a wet, gray Oregon winter/spring than grow out a hairstyle. Switching styles keeps the moss and lichen from getting a firm hold.  ;-)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Books Read 2011

I seem to have accumulated a longer list than usual for 2011. So here goes.

Personal Reads

On, Off, Colleen McCullough; The Case of the Missing Servant, Tarquin Hall; Impact, Douglas Preston; You Only Die Twice, Edna Buchanan; Above Suspicion, Helen MacInnes; The Lost World, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Dinosaur Summer, Greg Bear; Three Men in A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), Jerome K. Jerome; The Jury Master, Robert Dugoni; The Double Comfort Safari Club, Alexander McCall Smith; Bellfield Hall, Anna Dean; Still Life, Louise Penny; Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, John Grisham; Too Many Murders, Colleen McCullough; Short Stirrup Club: Blue Ribbon Friends, Allison Estes; Short Stirrup Club: Ghost of Thistle Ridge, Allison Estes; Canterwood Crest: Take the Reins, Jessica Burkhart; Canterwood Crest: Chasing the Blue, Jessica Burkhart; Blackout, Connie Willis; The Surgeon, Tess Gerritsen; All Clear, Connie Willis; The Apprentice, Tess Gerritsen; The Inner Circle, Brad Meltzer; The Dinosaur Hunter, Homer Hickam; Standing in the Rainbow, Fannie Flagg.

Book Club Reads

The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton; Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah; Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier; Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill; To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis; The Lincoln Lawyer, Michael Connelly; Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese; In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson; The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood; Corduroy Mansions, Alexander McCall Smith; Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, Fannie Flagg; The Lace Reader, Brunonia Barry.

I'm getting off to a very slow start for 2012. I began George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, but I've put aside all reading to write Galactic Empress (my young adult space adventure tale). I have the binder containing the "shitty first draft" handy at all times. I am either scribbling scenes or editing as I type the handwritten scenes on the computer. So my reading list for 2012 will likely be much shorter.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sunday Stills: 2011 Favorite Photo

Happy new photography year. Nothing like reviewing snaps from the previous year before taking the camera out and about during the new year. Of course I couldn't limit my favorites to one photo.

Making a new friend.
I love the above photo for two reasons:  1) the very relaxed and soft expression of the very large warmblood jumper; and 2) the little girl's firm grip on Mom.

Playing at horses.
The above picture is just about every little girl at some point in her childhood. Most of us didn't have horses or ponies at the age we were yearning for one, so pretending to be a horse or riding a pony was the closest we could come.

As for 2012, I need to learn and become comfortable with all the features of my camera. Doing so will help me figure out how to take interior horse show photos, since the combination of sports action and low light are a problem for me.

Click on the link to see the favorites of other Sunday Stills photo buffs and their photo goals for 2012.