Wednesday Poem: Harlem ~ Langston Hughes

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Harlem

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes

Wednesday Poem: You Can Be Whatever You Want To Be! ~ Unknown

dream

You Can Be whatever You Want To Be!

There is inside you
all of the potential
to be whatever you want to be,
all of the energy
to do whatever you want to do.

Imagine yourself as you would like to be,
doing what you want to do,
and each day, take one step
towards your dream.

And though at times it may seem too
difficult to continue,
hold on to your dream.

One morning you will awake to find
that you are the person you dreamed of,
doing what you wanted to do,
simply because you had the courage
to believe in your potential
and to hold on to your dream.

Unknown

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Wynken, Blynken, and Nod ~ Eugene Field

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Wynken, Blynken and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe—
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we!”
Said Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea—
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish—
Never afeard are we”;
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
‘T was all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought ‘t was a dream they ‘d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea—
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Eugene Field

Review: Photographs: A Journey Through Space, Time, and More ~ Peter Lean

PhotographsWhat is the connection between an old photograph, a planet with three moons, four friends travelling back home from Cornwall, and the number eleven?

And what ties together a battle on the lunar surface two thousand years from now, a Russian time traveler, and Napoleon?

Photographs is a journey through space and time by which the reader has the opportunity to remember that real life and fiction are truly not that far apart.

5 Thumbs-UpThis novella is a compilation of short stories… or is it?  The answer to this question lies in the hands of the reader as they progress through the stories that cover topics as diverse as dreams, choices, existence and time travel.  This book covers all these topics and more, and the Author skilfully tackles any questions that they cause by challenging the reader to stretch their mind and look at them from an angle they may not have considered before.

As with all short stories that only cover 20-30 pages, there isn’t enough time in any of them to develop any of the characters to a great degree but this isn’t an issue in these stories, as the Author manages to breathe so much life in the few pages allocated to each that the reader is drawn to the characters and, in some cases is even made to feel something for them, in the short time they share with them.  This shows great writing skill and an ability to engage the reader on the part of the Author.

I know it is clichéd to say that to write a review on this book would be hard without giving away spoilers or including excerpts, but that is truly the case here; this collection of cleverly interlaced stories will have the reader questioning their perception of what is reality and what is fiction.  The Author deftly ties everything together in a way that makes the reader think.  This is definitely a unique book filled with unique stories, despite the confusion that the settings can sometimes cause as the reader is taken from one unfamiliar place to another.

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good sci-fi, time travel, and parallel universe read that is not too bogged down with minutiae.

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Review: Daughters of the Teardrop Sea ~ H.M. Cooper

DaughtersAnyone who knows Laura can see that she is bound to be successful at whatever she chooses to do. The future looks promising. She is a psychiatric resident at a major urban hospital. She is six months pregnant. Her life is nearly perfect. She’s married to a surgeon who loves her completely and whom she loves with equal passion. She is challenged everyday by patients who test and develop her skills. She has friends who are devoted. What tragedy could happen to wreck all of this? It’s a freak accident that changes Laura’s life and sends her on a journey from which she may never return. A journey to save the one thing that matters the most to her; the life of her unborn child

3 Thumbs-UpThis book is the first in a series of books, and is a debut novel for this Author; it is also something of an oddity as it doesn’t have a foot firmly in any particular genre, which makes it possibly appealing to a wider range of readers.

It is hard to review this book on any level without revealing spoilers, but I will do the best I can starting with the main protagonist, if they can actually be called that.  Given the way in which the novel is written, through a series of dreams, there is very little in the way of character development.  The reader receives snippets as they progress through the book, but there are no in-depth, breath stopping revelations about motivation and this really doesn’t matter one bit.  Through the imagination of the Author, the reader is actually made to care deeply about this character, and it really doesn’t detract from the book in any way that we don’t know her deepest secrets and flaws; the reader just cares, plain and simple.  As she is the centre stage for the most part of the novel, there are no cluttering pages of other characters we need to keep track of and try to remember their place in the scheme of things as we read; I found this to be very refreshing and made the book easier to read than it would otherwise have been.

On some levels this novel could be classified as a broad horror story, not that I could see why, but it would take some stretch to firmly place it there; as I said earlier, it has no standing in any genre.  However, some readers may say it is a psychological thriller or even a sci-fi novel; for me it was just a very good and gentle read.  Through deft writing skills in the dream sequences, the Author weaves into his storyline characters from Greek Mythology such as Clotho, Lechesis and Atropos, The Fates who decide our destiny, and makes them  part of the dream reality of the protagonist.  So well does the Author paint the images of the dream world, that it comes as a shock to the system when the reader is brought back in to the real world, and we are reminded that they are just dreams.

This book is a journey, and at risk of sounding like the opening to the ‘Twilight Zone’ it is a journey into and through the human mind, and each step of the journey takes our protagonist one step further towards healing and acceptance.  As with most journeys, this is one with direction, subliminal planning and a purpose, one that the reader will travel every step of the way to its conclusion.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a print copy of this book, and was glad I did as the formatting of the book would have given me cause for concern if I had read in on any of the e-readers out there.  I’m not sure if it is because I like longer paragraphs in my reading selections or whether these were not intended to be short and choppy but I found these, along with some spelling errors in the first few pages to be quite distracting and they did pull away from my overall enjoyment of the novel.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read just for the sheer enjoyment of finding something new and interesting; I will most likely be looking out for the next instalments to see where this journey leads.

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Would you prefer the 70 percent?

Catcher in the Rye

This was going to be a regular On this Day in Literary History post, as I have no review ready  today but, after looking into the topic I was using, some other things came to light that really made me wonder.  So much so that I wanted to share them with you, and maybe make you wonder too.  With that said, I’ll start this post as if it were a regular literary history day then move on from there.

On this day in 1951 J. D. Salinger‘s The Catcher in the Rye was published. The novel, which was about a troubled 16-year-old named Holden Caulfield, exemplified common feelings of teenage angst and a resistance to growing up, it was also the first appearance of Holden Caulfield.

Book dealers regard a signed copy of the first edition as “one of the most elusive of 20th century books.” The last signed edition for sale, about fifteen years ago, was inscribed by Salinger to Harold Ross of The New Yorker; the first Salinger story that Ross bought and, it is said, was sold for over $50k

Despite being cited as one of the most influential books of the 20th century, it was reported in December 2012 that American literature classics are to be replaced by insulation manuals and plant inventories in US classrooms by 2014.  Some suggested texts include “FedViews” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, that thrilling page turner by the  EPA “Recommended Levels of Insulation,” and “Invasive Plant Inventory” by California’s Invasive Plant Council, I really can’t see those ‘interesting ‘ pieces of writing getting anywhere near my reviews.  So, let’s forget “Catcher in the Rye” (seems to encourage assassins), “The Great Gatsby” (too 1 %y), “Huckleberry Finn” (of course anything written before 1970 must be racist) and “To Kill a Mockingbird” (probably a Suzanne Collins rip-off, Mockingjay anyone?). Bring out the wood-chipping manuals! Oh dear, I feel my sarcasm service coming into play in this posting.

This new school curriculum which would affect 46 out of 50 states will make it compulsory for at least 70 per cent of books studied to be non-fiction, in an effort to ready pupils for the workplace, and would be approved by the Common Core State Standards.  These new educational standards also have the backing of the influential National Governors’ Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, and are being part-funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This brings the question to mind, are they only going to be able to be read through a Microsoft program?

What is the world coming to when we are taking out all imaginative reading and creativity in our school English classes; shouldn’t education be about more than simply ensuring that our offspring can get a job? Isn’t it supposed to be about making well-rounded citizens?  Supporters of the directive argue that it will help pupils to develop the ability to write concisely and factually, which will be more useful in the workplace than knowledge of Shakespeare.  But what happens when imagination and an ability to think outside the facts is required to achieve a goal; are we going to try to “train” this out of our youth, leaving a flat one-dimensional species that has forgotten how to dream and extend themselves to the impossible?

Surely instead of imposing this on our English Literature classes, it would make more sense to insert these kinds of materials into the relevant disciplines such as Mathematics, Physics, and Biology et al.  By trying to make the English class a platform for technical materials the school system is running the risk of turning those who love to read into those who hate reading and, therefore, creating more mindless drones who can only cope with reality if they have a ‘smart’ phone or the internet there to help them.  In effect creating a society where we never need to have a dream, or interact with others to achieve anything.  After all, the manual tells us we can do it alone and, hopefully (written with sarcasm) without actually having a face to face meaningful conversation with another human being.

Fiction allows us to stretch our imagination, and I know I’ve said this in a previous post somewhere on here, to travel to places we may never visit.  It helps the socially inept create bonds with other living human beings that have a shared love of a particular genre.  I can hardly see myself calling a friend and saying excitedly (there’s that sarcasm again) ‘Let’s meet up at Starbucks, I need to tell you all about this great read I just finished, it’s called “Recommended Levels of Insulation”; It’s not going to be top of any book club reading list I know of, and never make the best sellers list either.

In a world where it seems the norm to want our young people to become adults before their time, we are now looking at taking away from a lot of them their escape from this pressure to ‘grow up’.  Is this the really the future we envision for our species?  Which then opens the can of worms and the debate as to why many of the sci-fi books out there have such a bleak outlook for our species future; do the writers of these already know we are on a slippery slope?

Now I must away, my new Haynes Wallace and Gromit: Cracking Contraptions Manual, has just arrived (tongue in cheek).

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