Friday, October 24, 2008

On Agate Hill by Lee Smith

I reluctantly finished On Agate Hill last night. I initially got a slow start with the book, but that had nothing to do with the book itself. It was simply me being stressed and in a weird mood. The book is written as a series of diary entries with a few poems, letters and other documents scattered throughout. I usually like this style because you get inside the character's head. You know what they're thinking and feeling at all times. Interestingly enough however, in this case, that doesn't mean that I understood everything that was going on. I still have questions about certain things now. I guess that is truly the mark of a good writer. Smith uses this straight-forward form but still manages to make the reader think and interpret the action and motives of the characters.

The basic story is that of Molly Petree who is orphaned by the American Civil War. We learn about Molly's life with her Aunt and Uncle following the death of her family through her diary entries. From the beginning, you realize that she's ahead of her time. She isn't interested in the things that most little girls of the period are interested in. She has a burning desire to learn and travel and see the world. She wants to experience everything that she can. Unfortunately, she's stuck on a remote plantation, which has seen better days. Molly must face more adversity as things continue to go from bad to worse.

The next section of the book deals with Molly's life after she ends up in a boarding school due to the generosity of her benefactor, Simon Black who suddenly appears at Agate Hill one day. He was a childhood friend of her parents who promised her dying father that he would look after her. Molly seems to thrive at the school making friends and taking advantage of the opportunity to learn all that she can. Following an event reminiscent of something that happened to her as a child, she leaves the school and begins teaching in a remote mountain school. She has had no shortage of male attention throughout her life; however, she has never had an interest in a serious relationship. Things change when she meets Jacky Jarvis. Will she marry this reckless man or accept the proposal of the more steady Henderson Hanes who can finally offer her the one thing she has never had -- security. The rest of the book deals with her life after she marries. She goes through a great deal as a wife and mother, but through it all she remains strong and proud.

There is a great deal more that could be said about this book, but I don't want to give too much away. It is very well-written and thought-provoking. I still have a few questions in my mind regarding Simon Black and something that happens to Molly's husband. I think I'll head over to LibraryThing and see if I can join in a discussion about this one. I really can't recommend this one enough.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's Monday morning, and I'm back at work. We got home from our weekend trip yesterday evening. We had a great time. We left home early Saturday morning and stopped for a nice breakfast before we left town. I had a Belgian waffle, which was heavenly! During the week, I usually eat a bowl of oatmeal or some cottage cheese and fruit. So, a hot waffle that's crusty on the outside and soft on the inside with a huge dollop of melting butter and warm syrup is a special treat for me.

We got to Seagrove around 10:00 AM and found the visitor's center. Seagrove was not exactly what I had expected. I had a quaint little village in my head with all of these potteries within walking distance of the downtown area. Instead, it's a small town with potteries scattered here and there along Highway 705, also known as Potters Highway. So, instead of walking to all of the potteries, we had to drive to most of them. There are a few that are close together right in the heart of the downtown area. We did get a few nice pieces. My husband likes pieces that have a salt glaze (which has a speckled appearance). I got a beautiful cyrstalline bud vase in blue and yellow, which just happens to match my kitchen perfectly. They actually grow crystals on the pots somehow and it makes a really pretty design. I dont' know much about pottery and the different glazes, but the potters are very friendly and are more than happy to show you how they make these beautiful pots. Even though we saw a bunch of beautiful pottery, my favorite shop was actually a yarn shop. They were having a "hooker" party when we went in. For those of you who don't crochet or knit, that is what they call it when a group gets together to knit/crochet. My poor husband was such a good sport. There were about 40 women packed into this tiny shop, and then there was my husband. I bought some beautiful wool yarn on sale. She had some beautiful items already made, but I couldn't afford any of those.

We ate a delicious lunch at a little family restaurant just outside Seagrove. I had a marinated steak salad that was wonderful. We then made our way over to Pinehurst, which is an absolutely gorgeous little town. We didn't know it, but they were having an arts & crafts festival Saturday. So we walked around downtown looking at all the goodies. We stayed in the Pinecrest Inn that night. It's a lovely old inn that's probably 100 years old or more. Once again, the best part about it was the dinner and breakfast that was included in our stay. Yes, in case you haven't caught on already, everything seems to revolve around food for me. hehe I got a prime rib that was huge. I ate about 1/3 of it and hated leaving it there. My husband got a pork chop that was humongous. He couldn't eat all of his either. We were so stuffed, but we couldn't pass up the homemade key lime pie. We asked for it to go so we could eat it later in the room.

We got up Sunday morning and enjoyed a nice breakfast before checking out and heading home. The weather was so nice all weekend (cool with a little breeze and bright blue skies). So, even the drive home was nice. Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I love to watch the leaves fall as we drive along. It was a lovely, relaxing weekend -- just what I needed. Oh, and on the reading front, I jumped right back into On Agate Hill last night and read for about an hour. I think I was just stressed to the max last week. By the way, thanks to all of you who left me such sweet, encouraging comments. It means a lot!

Friday, October 17, 2008


I'm not sure exactly what's going on around here these days, but I think I'm in a reading slump. I've been sick and can't seem to shake it. I'm better, but I'm still exhausted by the end of the day and don't sleep very well. I finished The Graveyard Book, which I really liked, and I've started On Agate Hill by Lee Smith. But, I haven't gotten very far into it, at all. I love Lee Smith and the book seems like it's going to be good. But, I put it down before I really got into it, and I haven't been motivated to pick it back up.

Things have been pretty stressful at work, and I usually turn to reading for stress relief, but I've been knitting instead. I don't have to concentrate and the rhythm is quite soothing. So, though I haven't been reading over the last week, I have been knitting. I've finished one pair of socks and am about to finish the first sock in another pair. I'm surprised at how fast socks knit up. I was so intimidated by them in the beginning. Maybe one day if I get up the courage, I'll actually put a picture on here of one of my creations.

My husband and I will be leaving tomorrow morning to spend the day in Seagrove, NC. For those of you who may not know about Seagrove, it's a wonderful little town that is famous for it's pottery. There are numerous shops and galleries within a 5-mile radius of the little downtown area. It's only about an hour's drive, but I've never been. So, I'm pretty excited about that. The weather is really supposed to cool off tomorrow, as well. So, it should be a nice day for walking around. There's also a covered bridge in the area that I want to go see. After our day checking out the pottery, we're going to spend the night at an inn in Pinehurst. This is another little town, except this one is famous for it's golf course. However, we won't be playing any golf on this trip. The one night stay includes dinner and breakfast the next day. Pinehurst is a nice little town for window shopping, as well. So, we'll just hang around there on Sunday.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend and hopefully I'll have some reading to talk about next week. By the way, I have been keeping up with what everyone else is reading through your blogs. I'll be anxious to catch up with everyone who participates in Dewey's Read-a-thon when I get back.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I read this much-anticipated young adult novel over the weekend, and I have to say that I did enjoy it quite a bit. It's geared towards a younger audience, but I didn't really feel as if I were reading a young adult novel. The story is about Nobody "Bod" Owens who is being raised in a cemetery. His parents and sister were brutally murdered when he was just a baby by the man Jack. We don't know until much later in the story why they were murdered. However, Bod escapes the same fate by toddling up the hill into the local cemetery. After much debate among the residents of the cemetery Mr. & Mrs. Owens, who never had children when they were alive, agree to care for young Bod. However, the problem is that they aren't allowed to leave the cemetery and therefore won't be able to find food for their young charge. So, they turn to Silas who is neither dead nor alive and therefore can leave the cemetery to get the necessary things to care for Bod. As long as Bod doesn't leave the cemetery, he is safe from any harm. For he's told from a young age that his life is in danger if he ever leaves the cemetery. For many years, Bod seems content to live among the dead residents of the cemetery where he learns much about life lived throughout history. Of course, as he nears young adulthood, he longs to experience life for himself despite the obvious danger. At the same time, the forces of evil are gathering and Silas must put himself in danger to protect Bod once and for all. This is an enjoyable read and one that I think will be a big hit for both YA readers and fans of Neil Gaiman.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Secret Lives of People in Love

This is the September selection for the Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge. I had no clue what this book was about until I picked it up. It's a book of short stories that all deal with love in one way or another. Despite the title and the subject matter, all of them aren't "happily ever after" stories. The author looks at many of the complications that often accompany love in the real world. I read the stories over a period of a couple weeks and did enjoy most of them. However, now that I've finally gotten around to writing up a review, I don't really remember that much about any of them individually. I guess if I had to choose a favorite, it would be Snow Falls and Then Disappears. This is simply because of the way that the author (in just a few pages) lures the reader into thinking one thing and then slowly reveals the truth of the situation. It's quite clever. I found myself going back to reread the story to see if there were clues that I missed. I think these are the types of stories that would definitely reveal something new on each reading. So, I'll probably revisit some of these at some point.