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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Live the Best Version of You

“When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves.”
― Steve Maraboli

Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Fun with 10 Cygnets!

Today's Friday Fun... something to make you smile, courtesy of my local pond...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day and St. Avold

For eight years, while I lived in Germany, I took part in a service project at the Lorraine American Cemetery in Saint-Avold, France through Girl Scouts. It is the largest American cemetery from WWII in Europe and over 10,000 men and women are buried there. The project consisted of laying flags, one American and one French, on each grave and presenting wreaths to the dignitaries during the memorial service. Here are a few of my reflections and on why this remains important to me...

It is peace, not war, that burns brightest for peace is marked with the knowledge of sacrifice and a burden of grief for those left behind. And war is a desperate struggle, without time to pause or contemplate. Only action must be pursued. Peace is also a gathering of all the freedoms that those before fought for, died for, struggled against the darkness for so that light and life could prevail. It is the knowledge that friends stand arm-in-arm and that the American flag waving looks all the more beautiful and proud next to the French in the fields of France. Raising the flag above the place of rest for ten thousand in the early morning sun, at the age of ten, seared honor and liberty into me. St.-Avold is nestled into my heart, a part of the past, a part of the freedom of the future. It is a remembering that comrades in arms were separated by the dark curtains of grief, so that I could live in peace with my friends side-by-side.

Arm-to-arm, they still stand, and together we unite and salute back in the laying of the flags, the presenting of the wreaths, in extending a hand of friendship still. And when I presented the wreath to the American ambassador, at the age of 18, I knew that I too was a part of that continuing diplomacy, of those who pause to remember and strive for the light and peace and friendship that seventy years after the first landings of France in D-Day remain the guiding precepts of what is truest and best in life.

When I stood in Normandy and looked across the fields of crosses and the rolling waves, I knew that the story continued- far away to the east, near Germany that I too love- for it has emerged from that terrible darkness that it suffered under as well. Europe is so much a part of me- my heritage, my growing up and my present and future as well.
Those flags waving side-by-side are friends arm-in-arm and I remain always wonderfully proud to be a free American in a free Europe.
I remember.

My best to you all,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Writer Wednesday- Screwing up Babylon


It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. Today's pick is Screwing up Babylon by C.M. Keller.

This particular author is a friend of mine that I met through author forums. Besides being a very nice person, she's an engaging author. Screwing up Babylon is a YA time-travel story and the second in her series of the Mark and Miranda storyline in the Screwing Up Time series. Book three will be out next month, with a tentative date of June 6th.

What I like about this book is that it's completely unlike any other book that I've read before. Time-travel as a subject means that present with past is mashed together. Where else can you eat Hershey kisses in Babylon? Vibrant depictions of the color of time are one of my favorite parts of the story. Time travel involves journeying through colors, where the guardian of time stands as sentinel. C.M. also provides a compelling explanation of ghosts in the story. With humor and heart, this is a very interesting read that teenagers and adults (this author included!) are sure to enjoy.

For the most up-to-date information, visit C.M. Keller here.

My best to you all,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday- Literary Friends

Image from The Broke and the Bookish

Today, I'm participating in "Top Ten Tuesday", listing ten of my top friendship books. There are several important friendships that feature in Across the River, and my own friends are an important and treasured part of my life. Therefore, this seemed like the perfect Top Ten to participate in! 

In no particular order, my picks for top ten friendship books are...

1. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne  

Here is a perfect example of friendship. The entire series of events is based on the friendships of Christopher Robin with the animals and the animals with each other. Pooh Bear and Piglet's friendship is especially noteworthy. 

"'We'll be Friends Forever, won't we, Pooh?' asked Piglet.
'Even longer,' Pooh answered.” 

2. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows explores the world of animal friendships, not as toys as in Winnie the Pooh, but as characters in their own right. It's touching, funny and appreciated at any age. I didn't read it until I was in my twenties. Ratty and Mole are steadfast friends and Toad illustrates that even if friends aren't always the most reliable and get into trouble, they're still beloved friends. 

3. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

The companion to Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire rips into you. Rose, a young American pilot, is captured and suffers along with a myriad of European girls in a concentration camp. In their struggles, the girls form ironclad friendships. What's so remarkable is that, in any other circumstance they would have just been teenage girls. Singing "Make New Friends", a Girl Scout song, conjures the more innocent gatherings they might have enjoyed if they were not captive. 

"We'd stand in line swapping camp songs in French and English under our breath, and when we discovered we knew some of the same tunes, 'Tallis Canon' and 'By the Light of the Moon', our delight wasn't desperate- it was real. We should have had a chance to be friends."

4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Celia and Marco, both groomed for magic and a competition of dueling senior magicians, have a hauntingly beautiful friendship among the thrilling backdrop of Le Cirque des Rêves. How could anyone resist wanting to eat chocolate mice with them or their cinnamon confections or walk among the ice gardens?

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This was the first book that I read by Neil Gaiman and he paints a very interesting story, which mixes magic, metaphor and childhood yearning. At the heart of that story is the friendship of Lettie and the un-named boy protagonist. The best literary friendships show the effects that people have on each other and Lettie certainly leaves the narrator changed. 

6. The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill

This story features the friendship of Hannah Price (based on the scientist Maria Mitchell) and Isaac Martin. Their friendship defies the boundaries of color and societal limitations that have been placed on each of them. It is also, though, the story of Hannah's first love: comets. Hannah has a fascinating friendship with the night sky and her pursuit of it. 

7. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Perhaps, two of the greatest known literary friends are Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. They have stood the test of time for a reason. They are compelling characters, whose strengths and weaknesses complement the other and who are a stronger team because of their friendship. 

8. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker 

As previously illustrated through animals, there is no need for literary friends to be humans. In this captivating story told at the turn of the nineteenth century to the twentieth, two cultures and two magical beings unite in friendship, in understanding, in confusion and in adventure. Chava, the golem, and Ahmad, the jinni, do not naturally fit into the world of New York City. It is because of that other-worldliness- that they can understand in each other, that their friendship is all the stronger. 

9. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

Friends need not be in the same location for their friendship to grow. This is beautifully illustrated through the letters of Juliet and the whole town that she befriends, on the isle of Guernsey, especially Dawsey. Literary friends uniting over literature? Yes, please! 

10. Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanaugh

A favorite author of mine, since I was a teenager, Jack Cavanaugh's Dear Enemy is a poignant tale of unlikely friends: those pitted on opposing sides during WWII. The story explores what happens when all the rules of war are broken and the enemy becomes not only dear to you, but a friend. 

Those are a few of my top literary friendship picks. What are yours?

My best to you all,

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Freedom of Speech and Thought

"People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they avoid."
- Soren Aabye Kierkegaard

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Writer Wednesday: 1014 in Ireland

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book. 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Ireland by Morgan Llywelyn is a fantastic book about the history of Ireland.

In 1014, a massive battle was fought that is now known as the Battle of Clontarf. Vikings in Dublin allied with the King of Leinster fought against Brian Boru, his band of Irish tribes and a handful of Vikings. Llywelyn perfectly shows the character of the land, the Irish, the Vikings and the principle characters in this masterpiece.

It is particularly interesting because Llywelyn relates that when she originally wrote about Brian Boru in the '80s, she raised him from Irish folklore and planted him firmly as a historical figure. Visual and full of interesting facts, 1014: Brian Boru and the Battle for Ireland is not to be missed if you are interested in Ireland, history or the time of the Vikings.

My best to you all,

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Importance of Dialogue via Singin' in the Rain and The Artist


Words convey meaning, story and importance. In a way, the entirety of a book is dialogue between an author and the readers. More specifically, though, dialogue exists as the conversations between characters and can function both to progress the plot, as well as to color and deepen the characters.

The importance of dialogue is illustrated well by two movies about the introduction of sound into cinema: Singin' in the Rain and The Artist.

Singin' in the Rain demonstrates the importance of voice. Only with Kathy Selden's voice does The Dancing Cavalier work. With Lina Lemont, the picture is The Duelling Cavalier. The titles are telling. With Kathy, the dialogue flows and dances, mesmerizing the audience. With Lina, the words are struggling to break through and a duel does ensue, with the film's success as the casualty. Voice then is of visible importance - the right characters must speak with the right voice, including mannerisms, in order for the story to work.

The Artist also demonstrates the importance of voice. Although it is a largely silent movie, title cards throughout the film perfectly convey what material needs to be presented for the success of the audience's enjoyment. It is what is presented, as well as what is not, that creates the voice of the movie. The same is true for novels; knowing what to include, what to leave out and when to present the information can cause the story to sing.

What other movies teach about dialogue?

My best to you all,

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writer Wednesday- WWII and Chocolate

It's time for Writer Wednesday, when I discuss another author and his or her book.

Tomorrow marks the 69th Anniversary of VE day- Victory in Europe at the end of World War II. World War II continues to be a popular time period to read about and see in the movies. This can be explained for a few reasons:
1) It is far enough away from today that it feels historic.
2) It is close enough that we're amazed such things could have happened.
3) There are countless stories to be told.

Although there are many books in this particular time period, I'd like to discuss two today.
Jack Cavanaugh's Dear Enemy and Elizabeth Wein's Rose Under Fire, both present a heart-wrenching story set in Europe during WWII. Both of them also involve chocolate. Years after reading Dear Enemy, it is still Christmas Eve in the forest with chocolate that I think of. Months after reading Rose Under Fire, I still think of Hershey chocolate and Rose. I also think of the song "Make New Friends", because I'm a lifetime Girl Scout and a recipient of the Gold Award and so that was particularly memorable to me. Chocolate functions, though, for an even wider audience as a catalyst.

Why is this? Chocolate is enjoyed by many, but for us chocolate is also commonplace. In the war, it was gold- absent for many, until the allies arrived. It has even been said that American soldiers became sick of chocolate, because it was all that some of them were able to eat following D-Day, since it was the preserved ration in their supplies.

Chocolate also conjures instant images. For most people, it's welcomed and a pleasant food to savor. This stands in stark contrast to the unpalatable reality of war. This juxtaposition heightens everything unfavorable about war, while also making an era that most of us did not live through, instantly recognizable- at least in how it tastes. That is the secret to good historical fiction - caring about the characters and forming a realistic connection, even if their events are far removed from the readers' lives.

The next time you take a bite of chocolate, perhaps you'll pause to remember the atrocities that millions overcame for VE Day and  its lasting peace to happen.

My best to you all,

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Saturday's Quotation to Inspire: Live in Light

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato