Three Great Reads

Three Great Reads


There are plenty more, but the last three books I read really resonated, so I’m sharing them with you. Be forewarned, though – no light reading here.

Girl

First up – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book was published in January, and I’d been hearing and reading about it for months. Many comparisons to Gone Girl, although I read GG and liked TGOTT much better. Finally I downloaded the digital version to my Kindle app and once I started reading, it was hard to stop. Two sleep-deprived nights later and wow. Great use of the unreliable narrator to create a suspenseful mystery/thriller. Here’s the link to the Amazon page – or pick up the print version from your local bookseller!

still-alice-book-cover

Next – Still Alice. The movie came out, and I so wanted to see it. Didn’t get around to it in time. I knew this would be a difficult read (my mom had progressive dementia). If you can handle the topic of early-onset Alzheimer’s, this book is so, so good. Written from the point of view of the title character (Alice Howland, an esteemed Harvard psychology professor), this novel is brilliant as Alice journeys through her disease. Read all about it here.

hausfrau

Finally, I read Hausfrau. My friend Samantha Stroh Bailey said it ‘chilled her to the bone.’ Yep. This story, set in my beloved Switzerland (Dietlikon, a little town just outside Zurich), is about Swiss perfection and the main character’s falling apart. It’s been called ‘a modern-day Anna Karenina tale,’ and now, of course, I must read Anna Karenina. You won’t soon forget this story. Here’s the link.

So – there are my suggestions for your summer reading list. What have you got to recommend to me?

Reflections on the 2015 A to Z

Reflections on the 2015 A to Z


A-to-Z Reflection [2015] - Lg

This was my fourth year participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and possibly my most successful, in terms of getting new followers and visits to my blog. In 2012, while waiting for my first novel to be edited, I decided to take part (thanks to James Duckett), and used the theme of writers, poets, essayists, and lyricists for my posts. Ah, but I had done no planning, and found the task of keeping up with writing, proofing, and posting to be daunting (I did a lot of work on those no-post Sundays!). Lesson learned.

By keeping my posts very short this year (under 100 words, with a video under five minutes), I think I was able to get more readers (everybody’s busy). And by creating and scheduling the posts in March, it freed me up to do more visiting. I found some great blogs that I will continue to follow.

I prefer WordPress to Blogger, as a reader. It was easier to follow blogs that didn’t require a code, a magic word, or triple confirms to follow. It was easier to “like” a post when I didn’t feel a need to comment.

The A to Z team was fabulous! Thanks to co-hosts for following, liking, and commenting on my posts. I loved the inspirational posts throughout the month.

survivor-atoz 2015 - sm_zpsmfnq4uov

Listen Up! “Z” is for Zither

Listen Up! “Z” is for Zither


ZZither wasn’t my only choice, but it’s a beautiful musical instrument, and a lovely way to end this month of musical posts. I hope you’ve enjoyed them, and maybe learned about a new instrument!

The word ‘zither’ is a German rendering of the Latin word cythara, from which the modern word ‘guitar’ is also derived (source: Wikipedia). Zithers generally fall into three categories: the concert zither, the Alpine zither, and the chord zither. The zither became a popular folk music instrument in Bavaria and Austria at the beginning of the 19th century, and here you’ll listen to a traditional melody from the region:

Listen Up! “Y” is for Yangqin

Listen Up! “Y” is for Yangqin


YWe go back to China for the “Y” post. The yangqin, or yang ch’in, is a trapezoidal dulcimer-like instrument, originally from Persia (believed to have been introduced to China via the Silk Road). Hammered dulcimers are very popular in China, and also in the Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Eastern Europe.

With bronze or silk strings, the yangqin has a soft tone, although steel strings are more commonly used today.

Listen Up! “X” is for Xun

Listen Up! “X” is for Xun


X

You were so sure it would be xylophone, right?

The xun is a vessel flute that’s been around in China for about 7,000 years. It’s egg-shaped, with holes in front and back for fingers and thumbs. It was used mainly in palace music, and its sound is associated with ladies in sorrow. Listen up:

Listen Up! “W” is for Willow Flute

Listen Up! “W” is for Willow Flute


WThe willow flute is a Nordic folk flute with no finger holes. You play it by varying the amount of air blown into it, and by using a finger to control the hole at the bottom, covering it at times. Modern willow flutes are made from plastic, but originally, they were made from the bark of green willow branches. They could only be made in the spring, and when the bark dried out, they were unplayable.

Listen Up! “V” is for Violin

Listen Up! “V” is for Violin


VI love the violin. I wish I could play it. First seen in 16th century Italy, the best-known and most prized instruments were made by the Stradivari, Guarneri, and Amati families.

There are some notable violinists, but my favorite performer is without a doubt Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. I’ve never seen anyone play with as much passion.

Listen Up! “U” is for Udu

Listen Up! “U” is for Udu


U

The udu is an African instrument whose name – udu – means “vessel” in Igbo. It’s a water jug with an added hole! Usually it’s made of clay and played by hand (no mallets or sticks). Wait til you see this!

Listen Up! “T” is for Triangle

Listen Up! “T” is for Triangle


TNot the tuba. Or trumpet. Or trombone. Today, “T” is for triangle, a percussion instrument made of steel or copper bent into the shape of a…..yeah, a triangle. One of the angles is left open a little, which gives it some pitch.

The poor triangle is the subject of jokes. Remember Ed Grimley on Saturday Night Live? However, some triangle parts in classical music can be difficult – really! Watch here:

Listen Up! “S” is for Saxophone

Listen Up! “S” is for Saxophone


S

Usually made of gleaming brass, the sax was invented by Belgian Aldophe Sax in 1840. It gained popularity for its use in military bands in France and Belgium, and is featured in military bands all over the world today, as well as in classical music, jazz, blues, and popular bands.

Some of the world’s greatest saxophonists were Charlie Parker, Clarence Clemons, and this guy, Boots Randolph.

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