Friday, December 1, 2017

Origin: Robert Langdon by the Numbers

I love Dan Brown. From Angels & Demons to The DaVinci Code, he was on-point. I'll never forget the early excitement and thrill of the chase with the brilliant Harvard swimmer — er, professor.

But my love for Robert Langdon and his adventures thins out in subsequent novels, and Origin doesn't revive it.

In fact, I stopped reading Brown's latest novel about a quarter of the way through.I feel like I kept reading a lot longer than I wanted, but I was trying to get to the "good part" before I surrendered.

Origin made me start counting how many ways smiles could be used as adjectives. The villain nearly twirled his big black mustache every time he appeared on the page. The villain was so much like Silas, deep in his misguided faith in his boss and his deity, I kept expecting references to albinism.

I appreciated Brown's patient, thorough, and loving description of the Guggenheim Bilbao; someday, I may return to the book just to see to what other geographic locations he spreads the love.

If the Robert Langdon series remain as formulaic and tedious as Origin, perhaps Brown can branch out and consider taking up travel writing, or write art catalogs; everyone wants to visit a place or view art someone else loves, and Brown obviously loves his locations, and the museums and art in them.

What I don't appreciate is Brown's repetitive story elements. Robert Langdon's claustrophobia. His athletic swimming abilities, and how that keeps him trim and youthful-looking. His ability to attract perfect specimens of femininity, and for them to have an instant, perfect, and lasting attraction. That aspect of his character is very "daytime drama," falling deeply in love with every beautiful, toned, and brilliant heroine with whom he shares an adventure, then having to explain away the deep, true love in the next novel because he's destined to fall in love as deeply and truly with yet another perfect woman. I've grown tired of the perfect physicality and intellectualism of Langdon and his partners, and the perfect villainy of Langdon's foes.

Somehow, other series I read don't inflect this tedium. Stephanie Plum, Flavia de Luce, Encyclopedia Brown, and Jackaby all seem to be fresh and new (though, to be fair, I'm not sure I can take Stephanie's love triangle much longer). I understand some familiar story elements needs to be re-introduced, or at least referred to, in each book to clue in new readers. However, it isn't supposed to seem to readers as if the author globally replaces words in an old manuscript to create a new book.

Robert Langdon doesn't have to save the world from God yet again. Maybe he doesn't have to save the world at all. Like Indiana Jones, who also doesn't know how to retire, maybe it's time for the Pilgrim to hang up the Mickey Mouse watch. Being a cranky professor who can recite his lectures verbatim from memory isn't a good look for such a dashing adventurer.

Have you read Origin? What did you think? Am I wrong? Comment below or email me!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday Poetry: Sekhmet, The Lion-Headed Goddess Of War


Sekhmet, The Lion-Headed Goddess Of War


He was the sort of man
who wouldn't hurt a fly.
Many flies are now alive
while he is not.
He was not my patron.
He preferred full granaries, I battle.
My roar meant slaughter.
Yet here we are together
in the same museum.
That's not what I see, though, the fitful
crowds of staring children
learning the lesson of multi-
cultural obliteration, sic transit
and so on.

I see the temple where I was born
or built, where I held power.
I see the desert beyond,
where the hot conical tombs, that look
from a distance, frankly, like dunces' hats,
hide my jokes: the dried-out flesh
and bones, the wooden boats
in which the dead sail endlessly
in no direction.

What did you expect from gods
with animal heads?
Though come to think of it
the ones made later, who were fully human
were not such good news either.
Favour me and give me riches,
destroy my enemies.
That seems to be the gist.
Oh yes: And save me from death.
In return we're given blood
and bread, flowers and prayer,
and lip service.

Maybe there's something in all of this
I missed. But if it's selfless
love you're looking for,
you've got the wrong goddess.

I just sit where I'm put, composed
of stone and wishful thinking:
that the deity who kills for pleasure
will also heal,
that in the midst of your nightmare,
the final one, a kind lion
will come with bandages in her mouth
and the soft body of a woman,
and lick you clean of fever,
and pick your soul up gently by the nape of the neck
and caress you into darkness and paradise. 

by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veterans Day, Armistice Day, Remembrance Day

At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, soldiers from nations around the world put down their weapons and climbed out of the trenches to end The Great War, The War to End All Wars. 

The United States joins nations worldwide to honor its veterans on this day. 

Whether it is in the hospital, the office, or in the modern-day trenches, whether in times of peace or war, we remain grateful for and to those who have pledged to protect us. May we stay as true to them as they are to us.



In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row, 
That mark our place, and in the sky, 
The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 
Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high! 
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

by John McCrae

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Poetry: Halloween Party


Happy Halloween! Enjoy this poem, and share it with everyone you can so poetry takes its place as a Halloween treat!

Halloween Party


We’re having a Halloween party at school.
I’m dressed up like Dracula. Man, I look cool!
I dyed my hair black, and I cut off my bangs.
I’m wearing a cape and some fake plastic fangs.

I put on some makeup to paint my face white,
like creatures that only come out in the night.
My fingernails, too, are all pointed and red.
I look like I’m recently back from the dead.

My mom drops me off, and I run into school
and suddenly feel like the world’s biggest fool.
The other kids stare like I’m some kind of freak—
the Halloween party is not till next week.


by Kenn Nesbitt
from When the Teacher Isn’t Looking from Meadowbrook Press


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Halloween Poetry Wednesday: All Souls’ Night, 1917


Have you read your scary book this month? Don't wait: start today!


All Souls’ Night, 1917

You heap the logs and try to fill 
The little room with words and cheer, 
But silent feet are on the hill, 
Across the window veiled eyes peer. 
The hosts of lovers, young in death, 
Go seeking down the world to-night, 
Remembering faces, warmth and breath—
And they shall seek till it is light. 
Then let the white-flaked logs burn low, 
Lest those who drift before the storm 
See gladness on our hearth and know 
There is no flame can make them warm.

by Hortense King Flexner


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Halloween Poetry Wednesday: The Vampire



There are thirteen shopping days until Halloween — and plenty of scary books to buy and read!


The Vampire

A lily in a twilight place?
A moonflow’r in the lonely night?—
Strange beauty of a woman’s face
   Of wildflow’r-white!

The rain that hangs a star’s green ray
Slim on a leaf-point’s restlessness,
Is not so glimmering green and gray
   As was her dress.

I drew her dark hair from her eyes,
And in their deeps beheld a while
Such shadowy moonlight as the skies
   Of Hell may smile.

She held her mouth up redly wan,
And burning cold,—I bent and kissed
Such rosy snow as some wild dawn
   Makes of a mist.

God shall not take from me that hour,
When round my neck her white arms clung!
When ‘neath my lips, like some fierce flower,
   Her white throat swung!

Or words she murmured while she leaned!
Witch-words, she holds me softly by,—
The spell that binds me to a fiend
   Until I die.


by Madison Julius Cawein

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Halloween Poetry Wednesday: Ghosts and Fashion


Here is another poem to help you get ready for Halloween, however you choose to celebrate!

Ghosts and Fashion

Although it no longer has a body
to cover out of a sense of decorum,

the ghost must still consider fashion—

must clothe its invisibility in something
if it is to “appear” in public.

Some traditional specters favor
the simple shroud—

a toga of ectoplasm
worn Isadora-Duncan-style
swirling around them.

While others opt for lightweight versions
of once familiar tee shirts and jeans.

Perhaps being thought-forms,
they can change their outfits instantly—

or if they were loved ones,
it is we who clothe them
like dolls from memory.

by Elaine Equi
courtesy poets.org

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Halloween Poetry Wednesday: Antigonish


In honor of Halloween, Hedgehog Lover will celebrate Poetry Wednesday with a Halloween-themed poem weekly in October, culminating in a poem on Halloween. Feel free to share your poetry ideas with me. Also, if you want more poetry, check out some of the other poems published on this blog.

Antigonish [I met a man who wasn’t there]

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish he’d go away...

When I came home last night at three
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door... (slam!)

Last night I saw upon the stair
A little man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away...

by Hughes Mearns
courtesy poets.org


Friday, September 29, 2017

2017 Summer Reading: An Interesting Mix in the Summer Sun

Happy autumn! 

It's been a busy reading summer. I tried to keep the pages turning relatively consistently as the summer progressed, but at times battled reading ennui


However, I refused to be thwarted, and managed to get a couple dozen books under my belt under the summer sun — or in the summer air conditioning. Either way, I read.


I didn't beat my personal best — that would be summer 2015 — but I read widely and bravely. Plus, I read multiple books at a time, so my TBR shelf continues to groan from books begun in the heat of summer.

I re-read The Magicians, because the author will be at this year's Fall for the Book Festival When I originally read it a few years ago, I really wanted to like it. This summer, I can honestly say I liked it, and have just begun reading the second novel in the series. 


I discovered some great graphic novels, including one about a young girl with cystic fibrosis and her older sister's understanding of loss. In contrast, I did not like a new-to-me graphic novel by Neil Gaiman — which may sound heretical, but is completely true. Graphic novels also taught me a little more about love, patience, and dementia.


As always, many — okay, most — of the books were not on my original summer reading list. I don't mind so much this year, in part because it was more important to me that I read, rather than read specific tomes. I wandered the library as an antidote to my self-diagnosed reading ennui, and I reminded myself the books I didn't read yet will be there when I'm ready.


Here is the list of the books I read for the 2017 Summer Reading Program between Friday, May 26 and Sunday, September 24:

  1. The Magicians πŸ“²
  2. Ghosts πŸ“²
  3. Gwendy’s Button Box πŸ“²
  4. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? πŸ“²
  5. Yesternight πŸ“–
  6. Paws and Effect πŸ“²
  7. My Cousin Rachel πŸ“–
  8. Murder Under Cover πŸ“–
  9. The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 πŸ“–
  10. Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire πŸ“–
  11. Other Wordly πŸ“–
  12. Wrinkles πŸ“–
  13. The Clockwork Scarab πŸ“²
  14. Star Wars: Jedi Academy 1 πŸ“²
  15. The Case Against Sugar πŸ“²
  16. Pride and Prejudice πŸŽ§
  17. The Handmaid’s Tale πŸ“² πŸŽ§
  18. Forgotten Bones πŸ“–
  19. My Best Everything πŸ“–
  20. The Lies That Bind πŸ“–
  21. Anna Karenina πŸ“–πŸ“² πŸŽ§
  22. Big Little Lies πŸ“–
  23. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life πŸŽ§
  24. Speaking From Among the Bones πŸ“–
  25. The Burning Page πŸ“²
  26. Ruined πŸ“–


I mixed up my media, spending time on the page via print (πŸ“–), e-book (πŸ“²), and audio (🎧) — and, in one instance, I used all three for a single book.

Only two books were read totally audio. I will always love the lyricism of Benjamin Ailres SΓ‘enz's prose, and I suspect Jane Austen was written to be read aloud.

The books I enjoyed least were, surprisingly enough, written by my favorite authors. I think Cat Winters really misstepped in her "adult" novel, and Forbidden Brides was, in my opinion, not one of Gaiman's finest stories.

I adored spending time with teenagers in the company of novelist SΓ‘enz, whose characters showed great maturity and restraint. Alas, Sarah Tomp's teens didn't show the same maturity, which may serve as a lesson as to what moonshine is capable of doing to reasonable people.

I got a few more classics under my belt, including a story that remains creepily prescient three decades after its original publication — and others that remind us that, in the words of a modern poet, love is love is love is love is love.


I tried steampunk and found it little gritty and weird. I didn't realize how important the "steam" was to steampunk, so I learned something new.

As always, my reading will help others: Main Street Child Development Center will receive $5 per book, and my public library will receive three new books.

How was your summer reading? Did you read more than you expected? Were you surprised by the novels you liked the most or least?  Do tell! Feel free to comment below, or send me your thoughts.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

August Reading, Had Me a Blast!

August was my month away from most social media (and a few other distractions), so I finished quite a few books.

I got into a groove with a few graphic novels. I laughed, I cried, I coveted the skill of illustration. (My stick figures frighten children, so I don't doodle. I take copious notes. Seriously, people, even my less than stellar handwriting is better than my doodles.)

I met a few characters I never knew, including relatives of daring adventurers pressed into service in a steampunk world and an impetuous man-child who really needed the very role model he lost.

I indulged my new interest in mystery novels with a couple of ridiculously fun novels that featured smart women and their cats. (I could have done without the romance, but at least one of the series isn't too sappy about it.)

I read a new novel by an old favorite author — and hated it.

I read a book I read once before, a few years ago, and all the while kept wondering why it was so familiar.


And, just hours before August began, I finished listening to what I think may have become one of my favorite books. A second Desert Island Book. What a treat!

Of course, many of the books on my TBR pile remain there, but I am okay with that. I enjoyed what I have read, and I can't wait to tell you more about my summer reading.

What have you been reading? Where did you get your books? Would you recommend any of them to others? Do tell!