Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Miss Dreamsville, a book review

I decided to post an expanded version here of the review I wrote for GoodReads. I will probably get my Arachis Review pages going shortly and put it up there, as well --- my intention is to start AR as a review  site and then expand to full magazine.

Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society
by Amy Hill Hearth
ISBN13: 9781451675238

I will state right off that I grew up in the Naples in which this book is set. The author’s husband was a classmate. However, I actually missed a couple years when the story takes place, as my family went back to Ohio from 1961 to 1963 to take care of my grandmother in her final days and then straighten out her estate. But I know the years on either side.

Although I note a few of what I would consider minor inaccuracies in the details (Swamp Buggy Days are in the fall – to coincide with the start of hunting season – not spring), they do no harm to the plot. So they don’t matter. And I probably remember things differently than the author’s husband. :)

Still, Naples was never quite so backwards and ‘red-necky’ as portrayed here — my folks remembered Gertrude Lawrence hanging out on the pier back in the early Fifties, smoking and fishing, and Gary Cooper, Lawrence Tibbett, and Gloria Swanson all spent time there — it was a place for more ‘laid-back’ celebrities and well-to-do sorts who didn’t want to spend their time on golf courses or in fancy hotels (unfortunately, that changed, which is why I no longer reside there). A lot of residents were Northern by birth; the town was essentially founded by Yankees.

The first-person narrator ends up telling a good bit of the story in the third person. This does become a bit clumsy in spots and provides neither the immediacy of a first-person viewpoint nor the insights of true third-person, as the narrator gives her accounts of interactions to which she was not party. There is a certain amount of ‘she did this’ and ‘he did that,’ to the detriment of character development. Yet the characters do manage to find their way through, for the most part.

And this is a character-driven book, with the plot serving largely as a vehicle for their exposition and to chronicle their growth. It does this both well and economically. They are folks we find ourselves caring about by the end of the novel.

I might have appreciated a little more exploration and description of Collier County itself. That is, perhaps, an odd thing to admit for someone who frequently complains about ‘over-writing.’ The prose is, shall we say, a bit flat and reporter-like.

‘Miss Dreamsville’ could have been a larger and more ambitious book, had the author chosen to write it as such. As it stands, it’s a quite decent and interesting read. On a scale of one to ten, a pretty solid seven.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Glimpses, a poem


Reality and illusion
are the same scene
glimpsed from different
vantage points.
Stand here next to me
and see what I see.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

In the Presents

Although my birthday isn’t until Monday, I’ve already got my presents. Why wait till the last moment? I may be out and about on Sunday and/or Monday anyway.

I decided to attempt canning this year so I obtained one of the big kettles for a hot water bath. I’ve never tried canning before but I have fruit coming so I might as well give it a try. Plenty of jars here – I tend not to throw things out – but I will have to go buy some lids.

What will I be preserving? Pears, probably. There should be quite a few on my big old tree (the smaller ones won’t bear for a couple years, I reckon) and I do not intend to let them go to waste as in the past, when I simply didn’t have the time (being busy as a caregiver). Pear sauce, probably — that should be simple and since I use a lot of apple sauce in my baking anyway, it should be something worth doing.

No peaches this year, though. I went out and pruned and pinched off most of the fruit. Better to let the trees’ energy go to growth for now. Next year, though, I should have a load of peaches to deal with. Little seedling fruit, mostly, but that’s perfectly good for preserving in one way or another.

As far as my berries go — I doubt I’ll have more than a handful of blueberries this year. Maybe not even that from the elderberries, which are slow to get a foothold. The blackberries should be plentiful, however, and there are always the wild ones too. But I would just freeze any of those I don’t consume right away.

There will be plenty of mulberries, too, but I’ll most likely leave those to the birds!

Later in the year, of course, I’ll be seeing nuts. My one large pecan should produce well this year. The smaller ones I’ve planted since moving here are far from bearing yet. I may not last long enough to see them with nuts. But the hazelnuts have taken hold pretty well – better than I actually expected – and I might even have a small crop from them (though I wanted them mostly as hedging material).

My other present to myself consisted of ordering a copy of ‘Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women's Literary Society’ by Amy Hill Hearth ( It is a novel set in the Naples FL in which I grew up, written by the wife (and successful nonfiction author) of one of my high school classmates and friends. I’m interested in seeing how many characters I ‘recognize!’

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pear, in Blossom -- a poem

Pear, in Blossom

The pear, come to full glorious stench
of beauty, throws herself at spring

before all other trees. She blooms
into the sky. A promise hangs

upon her branches, to bow with
all green-gold homage in their season,

as ripeness comes to she who now
will stand so modest in her white.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

I jotted down a few words when the pear trees were blooming last month and went back to finish writing this short piece today. It is probably enough, as is --- I do hate to 'overwrite.'

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cold Again?

I’ve become a bit fixated on my music the last couple weeks, practicing, learning or relearning songs, even a little song writing. As a result, there is no progress on the novel or other fiction. Maybe a break was a good idea anyway.

Most of the winter I could barely play. My hands were stiff and swollen through the cold weather and they’re only now getting to where I can start sounding like my old usual inept self. I really don’t do well in the cold. Shoot, I had to leave the venue I visited on Sunday halfway through the show because the air conditioning was making it hard for me to breathe. I don’t like AC and it has bothered me more and more in recent years.

Oh well, I guess living on a sun-baked beach is out of reach for me. At least at the moment. But I reckon I can camp there some this summer.

Alas, we are dropping into the mid-thirties tonight. There was a horrendous thunderstorm last night, maybe the worst I've ever seen here, and loads of rain. Needless to say, the lunar eclipse was not visible. Now the front that was fueling it has passed through and cold winds are shaking the place.

* * *

With regards to my mention of maybe switching to Yahoo’s simpler, cookie-cutter, online website builder — ‘Site Solution’ — I checked it out and it is quite inadequate to my needs. So I needed to either try to get their SiteBuilder working properly or switch to editing html and just upload my pages. I like the flexibility of a designer-oriented software, rather than having to write html, but I need to be able to depend on whatever I use.

Fortunately, reinstalling (with a slightly updated version) and mucking about with Java got the program working again and the site is all updated (but needs work). Still, I’m seriously considering going to a simple html editor, even if it doesn’t let me design ‘on the fly’ like SiteBuilder. I hate to have to plan ahead!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Divides, a poem


The rocky divides of God
no longer fence us. We
grew our wings. We saw

that sky is but ocean turned
upside-down and any
deep-blue depth may be sailed.

On what tent-poles have
we hung the mountains, now?
What clouds sing onto

the valleys? We remain
unknown. We whisper across
the heights of each divide.

Stephen Brooke ©2014

Okay, another poem completed (in an early draft sense). Fussed around with this one for a few days. I think this is supposed to be Poetry Month or some such nonsense...I just write them when I feel like writing them.

On the Road and On Line

So, I finally got out and about yesterday after not going further than twenty or so miles from my home for the past four years. Drove down to Roberts Hall in Lynn Haven for the weekly “Americana” concert and open mike hosted by Lucky Mud. It’s not too bad a drive, 53 miles from door to door, so I’ll probably visit from time to time. That’s less than I used to drive from my former home in Steinhatchee to the monthly coffeehouse at White Springs.

Although I didn’t play this time, I do intend to take an instrument in the future. Maybe this coming Sunday — with family visiting (‘Mean Mary’ and her mom are in Florida for a couple weeks) and my birthday the next day, I am quite unsure about my schedule. How old will I be? Not telling but the Beatles wrote a song about it.

* * *

In completely different news, I have been having a lot of trouble with Yahoo lately (like a month or so). Trouble connecting to my account there, my mail, my website. That, I know, is partly due to my satellite internet connection which becomes iffy in some weather and always has a slight lag which can throw things off. And, no doubt, some of it is the fault of Yahoo. Still, I like having my site at Yahoo and do not plan to change that. I am thinking it might be time to switch to their simpler site-building software and editing online instead of repeatedly failing to upload my updates.

That would also make it much easier to update any time, any place, which is a definite consideration if I travel. Shoot, I could just go for a bunch of embedded WordPress blogs. Whatever I choose, I should choose it soon!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

wasp nest poem

last year’s paper wasp
nest is a fragile platform
for this year’s wren nest

SB 2014

Not a very good haiku (if one at all) but it's been a while since I've written or posted any poetry at all. I'm mostly in prose mode at the moment.

Wrens have indeed settled in and built their nest atop an old paper wasp hive up in the corner of my window. The cat has been supervising construction through the glass.