BOOK & BLOG
December 8, 2008
Book of the Week:
I’ve been reading odds and ends, including some books that haven’t been published yet, so my reading habits continue to be erratic. I was lucky enough to get a copy of J.R. Ward’s companion book for her Black Dagger Brotherhood series, and it’s wonderful. If you’ve enjoyed her series, you really need to have someone stick this book in your Christmas stocking. It’s a treasure chest, containing interviews with the individual Brothers (by J.R. herself), notes on how she came to write each book, a section for readers who want to be writers, and an original novella. An outstanding contribution to the series.
Misty Massey’s MAD KESTREL is a pleasant science fiction adventure, suitable for older teens and adults. Kestrel is a young woman who brought herself up on the streets after both her parents were killed trying to keep Kestrel from being taken by a secret society that trains children who are born with magic ability. Kestrel’s ability is her most closely-guarded secret. She’s a member of a pirate crew, and she has to prove her ability over and over again to the men on the ship. She’s horrified when her captain is arrested on shore, and suspects the captain of another ship (a very attractive man, incidentally) has caused this to happen. As she launches a rescue attempt, she discovers that her captain was not exactly what he seemed, and neither is anyone around her. Though the narrative is frank about what the men around her would like to do to Kestrel, there isn’t any explicit sex.
I have neighbors who put a whole panorama outside their houses at Christmas, and it does lift my spirits to ride around at night, seeing the bright lights change the ordinary into something special. I’ve always figured if I do the inside of the house, someone else should do the outside, and naturally, that person for years has been my husband. His record with the outdoor lights issue has been spotty. Some years my husband feels like stringing lights around the roof and the bushes, and sometime years he doesn’t. This year is a “no” year. I suspect that most years, now that he’s in his fifties, will be “no” years.
Getting the Christmas stuff out of the attic is a group effort. This year, we commandeered Oldest Son and his friend, when they were home for Thanksgiving. Oldest Son, as usual, commented unfavorably on our storage methods and the amount of mouse droppings in the attic, which is over the car port. We, as usual, ignored him.
After that, I pretty much fly solo, with occasional help from Middle Son and Daughter. Though someone else puts up the tree, I decorate it, and hang the other Christmas stuff around the house. Then comes the big job. Our largest Christmas effort is the Snow Village. I started collecting these ceramic houses over twenty-five years ago, and as you can imagine, I now have quite a few. Setting up my Snow Village is a huge undertaking, since I’m not exactly Miss Home Décor. (You should see BFF Paula’s Snow Village. Puts mine to shame.) I get the kids or my husband to haul in the folding tables from the tool shed, I get them set up, I clean them, I get out the old white sheets to cover them, and then the real work begins.
Each house has to be extricated from its Styrofoam shell, placed just right, and arranged in a logical setting. This is where the imagination comes in. These are ceramic houses, and businesses, and churches. You could put them anywhere, and they’re not going to look like a real town. But I have something specific in mind every year, and I put in a ridiculous amount of time getting it done. There’s downtown; and this year, the Christmas parade is taking place in downtown Snow Village. There’s a cross street that runs to the town neighborhood that’s on another table. (I think of the little gap between each table, where the electrical cords have to run, as a deep chasm with water running through the bottom. My Snow Village is a city built on the banks of an old, old river.) At one end of the residential street are the snootier homes. The lower income area is at the other, where the houses are about $30K cheaper, and the yards are a mess.
Then there’s the municipal building table, a smaller one, where Frost University sits on a hill (a box under the sheet) and the Village library, city hall, and police station are situated.
The built-in desk in my living room, cleared of all pictures and maps, is the country, where the ponds and fishing cabins are. There’s a farm with cows, and one of the families on the country road is having a garage sale.
There are always perils in my Snow Village. A wolf is about to charge a moose right by one of the country homes, and one of the men holding out a hand to a child is about to abduct him. A barking dog is about to spook the horse that’s pulling a sleigh in the parade, and who knows what disaster will follow? Maybe a tornado will knock the windmill over on the barn.
Other people see a bunch of folding tables with sheets over them, topped with ceramic houses and figures. I see life, danger, and happiness. I could stand there and look at Snow Village and tell stories to myself for an hour each day.
Have you heard about those people in Brandon Bungalow? They’ve put a pink flamingo out in their yard, and the neighborhood association is going to complain. What’s up with the family in Sonoma? No one’s seen them outside in days . . ..
Welcome to my glassy world.
© 2009 Charlaine Harris