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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Outcasts of Skagaray

Outcasts of Skagaray by Andrew Clarke

Skagaray is a harsh world, and its residents must be harsh to survive. They are mainly hunters divided into a strict class system, and they serve a cruel god called the Kirkil.

Tarran, however, is a teenager who is questioning the Skagaray way of life. That questioning, along with his compassion for animals and hesitancy to fight others, attracts unwanted attention from the Elders, who put Tarran to the Proving.

When he refuses to kill two bear cubs, he must flee Skagaray and live in the Wild. Tarran is expected to be dead by the next morning, but he survives and soon finds he is not the only Outcast. The conflict between the Outcasts and the people of Skagaray ultimately grows into a larger battle between good and evil.

This battle kept me tense, and I completely invested my emotions in what would happen to Tarran, the other Outcasts and the people of Skagaray. I was most touched by Tarran's character--his struggle to live in the best way possible and to learn the concept of sharing in a selfish world.

In this coming-of-age tale, Clarke subtly weaves Christian themes throughout a dark world in a style that is reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien. Yeah, it's that good.

For more information about Clarke, check out his blog Shared thoughts.

Favorite quotes:

Music was rare on Skagaray.

The greater the number of beasts a Slayer had overcome, the more hide he collected and had the right to wear.

Tarran had only ever known the ways of Skagaray. He had never seen a way of life that was not savage and harsh. But something inside him was sure that people could be different, that they could avoid acting like the wild animals they hunted.

He remembered how the ewe had licked Lelden's teary face on the night of the storm. They [sheep] were not just livestock. They were a sort of companion.

The True God was teaching these people not to be proud, because there are things they do not control, and even the strong can be left helpless...the True God will sometimes let humans have what they ask for to let them learn that it does them no good.

Tarran had learned that certain dreams were more than just idle stirrings of the brain.

Catching Up on Christmas

We had a great Christmas in Connecticut! As close to perfect as you can get. God provided for us to go in so many ways, and it was an incredible blessing to spend some quality time with my two favorite kiddos (and my brother and sister-in-law, of course). :) I took several hundred pictures, so this is just part one of catching up.

OK, being, um, financially conservative (a.k.a. somewhat broke) seminary students, Jason and I got creative with Christmas gifts this year and tried our hand at painting. I was inspired by those quote frames you see at Barnes & Noble, thinking "Hey, I can do that." Turns out, I sorta can do that. haha They turned out OK--some better than others. Anyway, here is a sampling of what we did...





Friday, December 19, 2008

Note to Self...

Perhaps it is not wise to belt out "Santa Baby" in what you think is an empty library. Just because we are not open does not mean people are not inside.

Oops.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas from the Norrises!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Look

*Update*
Oops! I forgot to thank Sassy Chic Backgrounds for the cute (and free) design!

So...it was about time for a new look.

I really like this template, but I apologize if I accidentally copied it from someone. Please tell me if I did, and I'll change it. :)

Meanwhile, have patience with me on the off-center header. I'm working on it. And by "I'm working on it," I mean Jason is working on it, and if he can't fix it, I'll change it.

Enjoy your day!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Links

Happy Holidays!

Here are a few quick links to help you celebrate...

Moving story about Alabama's first black librarian

Meanwhile, too many things clamoring for your attention? Here's one more. :) Read on...

Do you have trouble weeding your books? (Guilty!) Help is on the way...

Google's gatekeepers...oh, the power!

Digital editions of The Western Writers series...

An old library lives on...

Looking back at bookbinding...

And, finally, UA's own look at bookbinding

Hope you have a wonderful week ahead!

Time For Joy & Time For Cheer?

Problem: An uncharacteristic Scrooge-like attitude brought on, in part, by the ridiculously hectic pace of the first two weeks in December. Baking, baking and more baking...unexpected schedule changes at work...one party or event after another taking away my precious evening hours...loss of workouts due to loss of evenings...waiting to see if finances came together for a Christmas trip to Connecticut...the general holiday rush of cards, presents (many of which I made this year), wrapping, mailings...the list goes on, and can I get an amen? :)

Basically, I had too many holiday to-dos to do to actually enjoy the holiday!

Solution: Friday. Jason finished classes, exams and projects. All events and parties (and related bakings) completed. Schedules ironed out. All presents made, wrapped, distributed and/or mailed. Most of our Christmas cards finished. Sidebar: By "our" Christmas cards, I also mean Fred's, who is participating in a card exchange with his little puppy friends. Latest count: Fred: 30 (regular) cards & 20 e-cards. Tiff & Jason: 12 cards...one from my dentist, which really shouldn't count.

Back to Friday...which ushered in a delightful weekend of spending relaxed time with the hubby; running outside in perfect 75 degree weather; browsing the stores just to enjoy looking; getting a free birthday meal at Red, Hot & Blue; taking naps on Saturday and Sunday afternoons; reading; drinking eggnog and watching A Christmas Story (my all-time favorite Christmas movie).

*Sigh*

I still feel like Scrooge...only now at the end of the story instead of the beginning.


Meanwhile, here are a few of the gorgeous trees we saw in Tuscumbia during Thanksgiving. These were taken on the TVA reservation and the Tennessee River. Enjoy!







Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Christmas Time is Here

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends. Feel free to join in if you need some blog inspiration!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper. It's more old-fashioned. :)

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial. I'm allergic to real trees.

3. When do you put up the tree? Usually the day after Thanksgiving. No later than Dec. 1.

4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's Day

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, yes, oh my yes.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? My piano...with the Nintendo at a close second

7. Hardest person to buy for? My brother

8. Easiest person to buy for? Jason

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail...back to that old-fashioned thing. :)

11.Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A variety of soaps...I was in the 1st grade, and that was what my Secret Santa bought me! In 1st grade! I cried all day.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Tough call between A Christmas Story and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? The day after Christmas...yeah, I like to plan ahead.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Um...can I plead the 5th? ;)

16. Lights on the tree? White

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night...closely followed by Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas...and then Santa Baby (my ringtone right now) ha

18.Travel at Christmas or stay home? Usually travel

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Didn't know I could until this question--but yes I can!

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel...she no longer lights up, but she's still pretty.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? I like doing one on Christmas Eve, the rest on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year. The crowds at stores

23. Favorite ornament theme or color? My dad has given me a Hallmark Christmas ball every year, and I love taking those out every year!

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Sugar cookies--but for Christmas breakfast


25. What do you want for Christmas this year? To go to Connecticut to see my brother and his family. I think I'm going to get my wish. :)

The World Is Quiet Here...

From my favorite bookstore, Coldwater Books, in Tuscumbia, Alabama...

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Down to a Sunless Sea

Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias Freese

Down to a Sunless Sea is a collection of short stories written by a psychotherapist/social worker.

It is well-written, with believable characters and realistic glimpses of various lives. I'm a big fan of the short story format, and Freese's stories fit well--neither too long or short, appropriate endings and just nice "slices of life."

Unfortunately, while Freese does a good job of writing about these "slices," he seems to focus only on the dismal, burned pieces of life's pie. The collection is quite dark, pessimistic and a bit too analytical for me. For the most part, the characters lead sad lives, have depressing and even traumatic interactions with others and don't reach many resolutions at the end of our time with them.

True to life? Perhaps. But I personally prefer a sunnier side.

However, the book has received several awards and was a finalist in the "popular fiction" category of the 2008 Arizona Book Awards. If you're interested in the darker side of life, you can find out more about the book and the author at http://www.mathiasbfreese.com/.

Favorite quotes...

A sanctuary to read deeply, quietly, undisturbed, Adam frequented the local library on Oceanview Parkway near the Tuxedo movie palace. He sensed he was alone as a youngster for a long while, and cannot make sense of this.

[Juan] Peron loved his navy...his...tunic, a keepsake, a reminder of the braid and buttons we all admired from the balcony above with Peron, the blonde one, the military and those splayed hands of his, with palms as wide as dishes. Like umbrellas to shield us, his hands enveloped us, placed us in shadow, anointed us fools.

He'd listen to me. He'd consider what I had to say, go off with it, like a squirrel, examine it, pick at it, lick and gnaw it, and return having digested the Thoreauvian totality of it.

Picture-Ful Thanksgiving

After a couple of weeks of traveling, Christmas present making, Thanksgiving-ing, reading, picture-taking and, of course, workworkworking, I needed to catch up on blogging. But I wanted to read YOUR blogs first before posting one of my own. :)

So....done. It's nice to be caught up on your lives. Here is the rundown on ours...ok, the first part of the rundown.

Thanksgiving trip to Alabama...

Off to a good start...

Good times with Dad and Curly...



And with my grandparents...



And my Aunt Ruth...



Played a lot of Bingo...



Ate a lot of turkey and dressing...


Fred saw some old friends...


And met one new one...



We made it home in time to watch the Tide end Auburn's losing streak. Nice.


Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! More pictures and posts to come soon!

Read from the beginning...