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Notes From a Reading Journal: The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Starless Sea,” by Erin Morgenstern.

“Why are you here? I’m here to sail the Starless Sea and breathe the haunted air.” — P. 234

“Occasionally Fate can pull itself together again. And Time is always waiting.” — P. 73

My only regret is not being able to cozy up by a fireplace in a country inn while reading this book! If you have loved: Stardust, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, and/or The Magicians, you will love this book.

Truly, truly, this is one of the most magical reads of recent memory. You have to put your logical brain on hold for this one, though, and just let the brain candy do its work. There is no “why” except story for the sake of story, and that was fine with me for this joyride. If you think about it too much, you may not get past all the unanswered questions you will inevitably have, and I think that is where the critics seem to strike. The reader is just going to have to use his own imagination to fill in the blanks. I loved that the ending leaves it open for a sequel!

Zachary stumbles across a mysterious book in his campus library and discovers that the story is about him. It leads him into a world far beneath the surface of the Earth. Down the rabbit hole, if you will. Drink me.

Fans of New York’s the “Strand” will delight in the references to the famous bookstore. Many kicks were had by me. It’s a bookmark of the Strand, from the Strand, inside a book that is talking about the Strand. “Are we at the Strand?”

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Giver of Stars,” by Jojo Moyes.

“We women face many unexpected challenges when we choose to step outside what are considered our habitual boundaries.” — P. 386

Book of the Month’s November selections were amazing! “The Giver of Stars” is a beautifully written story involving love and friendship (and even a murder trial) between the female librarians of the WPA’s Eastern Kentucky Packhorse Librarian program. It also will serve as a reminder that no matter what, women living in modern times are experiencing the best time in history to be women.

This is a perfect selection for your ladies’ book club. There are so many themes to discuss! Probably the biggest issue that will stick in your mind is just how hard life was for everyone in that region of the country during the Depression. From the miners and families being exploited by Van Cleve and the company, to the women getting abused and oppressed by their husbands and fathers, it was a real eye-opener.

It has been awhile, but I am vaguely reminded of Fannie Flagg’s “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

Suggestions for discusssions:

  • Discuss what Verna McCullough did for Margery O’Hare. Do you agree with what Verna did?
  • Discuss the marriage and father-in-law dynamics between Alice and Bennett, and the elder Mr. Van Cleve. What did you think about how Alice’s family over in England treated her?
  • Can you imagine how tough you had to be to actually physically do the packhorse librarian job? Discuss the physical requirements, along with the mental toughness it must have taken to be so bold during that period of time.
  • Discuss the importance of friendships and community. Do you see society still banding together so strongly like the female leads in this book, or do you see us all on separate islands, essentially disbanding as a society?

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Toll, by Neal Shusterman

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Toll,” by Neal Shusterman.

“And isn’t it wrong for me to pretend to be a god? Define ‘wrong,’ the Thunderhead said.” — P. 359

The much appreciated last book of the “Scythe” trilogy has arrived and wraps everything up perfectly for fans.

Scythe Goddard has removed quotas on gleaning, which means scythes are encourage to “make-up” for those scythes who choose to glean less. He’s the same psychopath he always was, except maybe worse if that’s even possible. Spoiler alert – we find out he was behind a historic gleaning. Texas secedes from his jurisdiction, and his response is to cut off goods and services to the region.

I can’t help but see parallels of our modern society within the themes of this series. Do others see them too?

Scythe Faraday has traveled to the Kwajalein Atoll to “unlock the secret of the atoll and access the wisdom of the founding scythes. Their contingency plan for the scythedom’s failure.” The Thunderhead also has a new plan for humanity , and boy is it a doozy. Getting too tough there on Earth? No problem. Let’s just pack up the ships and launch into outer space. It’ll be fine. Humanity won’t repeat the same mistakes on a new planet. Yeah, right!

Citra and Rowan have a good closure. What is inside the Scythes’ rings? You will find out. What does a Scythe do once rendered obsolete? You will find out.

The 1886 Crescent Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas

It has been 6.5 years since my first visit. The Crescent remains a timeless and charged place, but not the same to me. I guess I am changed, and there is no going back. Whatever I was looking for passing through this time, it was gone. I am gone. It’s funny the perceptions we hold of the past. We go back to a place, looking to recapture a moment. To capture something that can never be caught. What? It’s a special place, but ultimately it’s just another place along the road of my life. It’s just another stop. Have I seen too much? Have I stayed out too long?

The Crescent is fun, and every bit as crowded as The Stanley. It is best appreciated in retrospect, it seems, as while I was in it all I could hear were the other tourists. But it is fun. To explore the museum on the 4th Floor, and pass others as you roam the hallways. Exchanging smiles of camaraderie and perhaps a bit of embarrassment. Yes, we are all tourists snapping photos in a “haunted” hotel, trying to capture a moment. All looking for something we can’t place, but can almost feel in the air as we go up and down the back staircase.

What is here? I am digging into the corners of my mind trying to remember. But not too much. I don’t really want to know, after all. I just want to tread lightly here on the surface, never getting in too deep. Stay in the shallow end, where the water is warmed by the sun, and your feet can reach the bottom. People can and do drown in the shallow water, but I know how to swim. I am safe swimming here if I stay in my lane. Now, I hear what I want to hear. I see who I want to see. I will mostly just go quietly.

I couldn’t properly process the place until I had many hundreds of miles between us. There is place memory here. It could be the history and all of the death. It could be the geology. Or all of the above, most likely.

I wish I could’ve seen it after the Baker Hospital was cleared out. I wish I could feel it empty, pre-renovation. I wish I could time travel and see it during different periods of the past.

The sheets were fantastic in 401 and dinner in the Crystal Dining Room was great as well. The shower was not great. The foot traffic from the ghost tours might disturb some.

Pressing Play: A Look Inside My Play Journal (South Dakota)

Notes from a Play Journal. I know I said that Wyoming was “so cool,” but so is South Dakota in more of a touristy beaten-path type of way. Sioux Falls has a fantastic park! It was a little too cold for biking during our visit, but this is on our list for a getaway once we establish ourselves out West. Alltrails.com lists the Sioux Falls Bike Trail Loop as a 19.1 mile paved (and looped) trail.

The Corn Palace in Mitchell:

The Badlands:

Mt. Rushmore:

Hotel Alex Johnson – Rapid City, SD

The closest hotel that I have ever stayed in that has invoked the “American Horror Story: Hotel” feel.

Have you seen this Man? Colonel Eldridge and Hotel Eldridge of Lawrence, Kansas

Just a few souvenir photos from a short stay at the Hotel Eldridge in Lawrence, Kansas. While I did not pick up on any “energy” per se, there was something that fascinated me about the back left corner table area of the main lobby. Just a feeling. A fleeting impression of days gone by.

A Short Walking Tour of New York (Binghamton) Inebriate Asylum

Just passing through. Nothing to see here, folks.

Notes From a Reading Journal: The Glass Ocean, by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

Notes from a Reading Journal: “The Glass Ocean,” by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

“Oh, for Christ’s sake! You bloody Americans and your conspiracy theories. What are you trying to imply, Miss Blake? That my great-grandfather was some kind of secret agent? Maybe had something to do with the sinking of the ship.” — P. 48

Sarah Blake needs an idea for her next book. When she stumbles across an old chest belonging to her great-grandfather who died while working as a steward on board the Lusitania, inspiration strikes. She leaves New York for London, in hopes of engaging the help of John Langford, descendant of Robert Langford. Robert Langford gave her grandfather an engraved watch and Sarah is sure there is a story there about the events leading up to the sinking of the ship.

The historical mystery is told from three perspectives: Sarah (modern tale); Tess; and Caroline (set in 1915 with events leading up to the boarding of Lusitania; their crossing; and after). There are love stories; tales of espionage and double-agents; and of course, historical tidbits about the sinking of Lusitania. It is all wrapped up nicely in the end too, with no guessing needed.

P.S. The story in the beginning about a book club hosting an author when they pirated online copies of her book is real. Yikes! Buy the book or download from the library, y’all!

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