Tag Archives: just talking

Domestic Goddess Reads ‘Entwined’ by Heather Dixon

12 Apr

Did my past self promise that I would post the opening discussion post on April 11th? Yesterday? That was so cute and naive, past-Charis. It’s sweet how you still believe that future-Charis will do things on schedule! Past-Charis didn’t think through the fact that last week involved a big project (which you will hear about in Sunday’s post!) that took over most of our free time, and things have been a little behind, including the posting schedule here.

But now it’s 11pm on April 12, and I am about to lay some book discussion on you. Are you ready?

I’m going to keep my comments mostly to the first half of the book, partly because I know some people are still reading and partly because I haven’t had time to finish re-reading the book myself and coming up with thoughtful and intelligent things to say about it. So today I’ll talk about some of my general responses to the book, especially the beginning, and next week (if future-Charis gets her butt in gear) I’ll do another post focusing on the second half of the book.  And in between I hope that you’ll all comment on this post with your thoughts and reactions to Entwined (and please don’t feel the need to restrict yourself to comments about the first half–say whatever if on your minds!)

Here we go, In Which Charis Has Thoughts About Entwined:

One of the first things that comes to mind is how much I enjoy the setting. I really like the vaguely-Victorian/magical world, and I like the warm quirkiness of this odd and shabby castle. I think it makes a great backdrop for the style of the story, and makes a story about princesses and magic somehow very grounded and down to earth. I thought that the idea of the castle and its magical history were a good device for incorporating the fairy tale in a way that made sense–by the way, if you aren’t already familiar with the story of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, you can read it here at SurLaLune.

The story, of course, centers on the princesses, and I adored them–it’s easy to tell that Dixon is from a large family, and as part of a large family myself I definitely related to the dynamic of multiple siblings. Dixon captures the kind of organized chaos that comes with big families and the way that close siblings operate with a pack mentality, and even though most of the younger princesses only speak or are mentioned specifically a few times there’s still a sense that each one has a distinct personality, which I thought was very well done. I also like Princess Azalea–she is so absolutely an eldest sister. Being the oldest girl is, I think, a very distinct role, especially in a family with multiple younger siblings. I can spot an eldest sister immediately, and I definitely related to Azalea’s relationship with her sisters as not-quite-mothery, not-quite-teachery, but still a figure of vague authority.

The other sister that we see the most of is Bramble, and I adore her too–she provides a lot of lively humor and makes a great foil to Azalea (who is busy trying to be serious and hold up all of her sisters after the death of her mother). And how wonderful and adorable is the description of the sisters’ tradition of spying on the ball?

These are sisters after my own heart.

I’ll mention, though, that I did sometimes get distracted with wondering where is Princess Lily? Whenever she wasn’t specifically mentioned I would worry about who had the baby? Maybe it’s because in my last NaNoWriMo project I thought it would be hilarious to throw in a toddler, and then I spent the next one hundred pages forgetting about her and had to repeatedly go back and make sure I had one of the other characters keeping an eye on her. Maybe it’s just because I’m an eldest sister, and part of being the eldest sister is usually keeping track of who has the baby. I’ll also mention that while as I rule I’m not a fan of people naming their children in patterns (alphabetically or, worst of all, all the same letter then everyone has the same initials how is that not a terrible idea), the alphabetically names of the princesses in Entwined is very handy for keeping track of their order!

I loved that dance was such a strong thread throughout the book–it’s only natural, considering the source fairy tale, but none of the other retellings that I’ve read have handled it so well and made it so naturally central.

I don’t think that is snippet is meant to portray Azalea as shallow or silly. Rather, I love that Azalea experiences and understands the world through dance–it’s an integral part of her identity, of her relationship with her mother, of her relationship with her sisters. It’s part of how she processes emotion. This is a great device because it sets up the central element of the book and the fairy tale, the fact that the princesses are forced to sneak off in secret to dance at night.

Speaking of the King, I thought that the tension between him and the princesses was also well handled–reading it with my grown-up brain I can see that here is a man who is dealing with his grief (and has been during the two years of his wife’s illness) by making the rest of his world excessively organized and orderly, to the point of unintentionally damaging his relationship with his daughters, but of course Azalea doesn’t see that because her focus is on her sisters. This flaw in understanding and communication is kind of heartbreaking, but again plays into the plot as Azalea and her sisters promise to keep their dancing a secret.

And since we’re on that plot point, can I mention how much I like the fact that this story emphasizes the fact that decisions and promises made in anger and bitterness are destructive? I appreciated that element a lot.

These comments are really very broad strokes over the book–I don’t want to go on forever, so I haven’t dug into too much detail, and also it is now after midnight–but next week I’ll try to dig a little deeper. In the meantime, what are your thoughts, deep or general, about Entwined? Did you like the way the fairy tale was retold? What did you think of the setting and the characters? Tell me everything!

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Craft Challenge: January is for Sharon

13 Jan

Welcome to 2011!  Almost two weeks into the new year and I feel like I’m stumbling out of the Holiday Season Fog–you know, that place where everything turns into one long blur of Merriment and Stress and Twinkling Lights?  I love that place, but it can be a little exhausting.  I’m glad that life is slowing down a little so that I can focus on other things, like my Year of Crafts!

You may remember that a little while ago I requested some volunteers from the audience for a project that will (I hope) motivate me to keep actively crafting and creating throughout the year and also (I really hope) leave my eleven volunteers with items made Just For Them that they will really enjoy.

My first volunteer is Sharon! I’m really excited to introduce everyone to Sharon (this is because she is wonderful) and she graciously agreed to answer a few questions about herself:

Sharon, on the morning of her wedding

(she took some time for herself to sit down and read, because that is how awesome she is)

What is your name? Sharon

Do you have a blog or website? I started blogging at Bride Sans Tulle last year while planning my wedding and have kept it going since as a way of documenting newlywed life, our cross-country move, and my grad school adventures.  (Note from Charis: You definitely want to click on that link and read Sharon’s blog, because it is excellent!).  I’m @pensyf on Twitter and you can follow me if you like rambling commentary on (in no particular order): the mysteries of Bay Area microclimates, TV shows, politics, cooking, Phillies baseball, and a myriad of other random topics.

What is your quest? Currently, in the big picture, I’m trying to figure out if I want to continue pursuing a PhD in the humanities or go in a totally different direction with my career.  I’m also deeply interested in developing communities of women supporting women and have a project in the works involving that.  More frivolously, I’m always on the lookout for good reads, good conversation, and a good cardigan.

What is your favorite color? I don’t really have one, but I’ll admit to having a weak spot for teal household items/furniture.  I never underestimate the power of a good pair of mustard yellow tights to brighten up my day.

What is your life like at the moment? What do you do in a day? I’ve recently gone back to being a student after a few years of working in the non-profit sector, so right now my life involves a lot of reading, writing, and research.  A typical day finds me in the library, classroom, or at a cafe.  Evenings are mostly spent with my husband and we’ll usually do some combination of cooking, watching favorite TV shows, or playing computer games together.

What is your creative outlet? I love crafts and wish I had more time for them!  My crafts usually involve paper goods and calligraphy of some sort (like the centerpieces of favorite poems that I made for our wedding), though I have a not-so-secret desire to learn how to sew.  However, my main creative outlets are of the non-crafting variety.  I love to write (letters, blog posts, stories) and I love viewing the world through a camera lens.

What have you been reading and/or watching lately?  What is your current favorite thing to read or watch? I’ve been using my winter break as a chance to gorge on fun reading, which I don’t get to do much of during the semester.  Right now, I’m slowly rereading George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series as well as some young adult novels.  My current favorite read is actually a reread – I’ve been reading a chapter of Anne of Green Gables to my husband every night before we go to bed to introduce him to the series and am really enjoying getting to revisit my beloved P.E.I. and getting to see him experience a great book for the first time.  We’ve also recently started watching the first season of Fringe because we’re both die-hard J.J. Abrams fans.

What inspires you at the moment? This will probably sound pretty cheesy, but right now my husband is my greatest inspiration.  Jason inspires me daily by how hard he works to support our new family, how generous he is to those around him, and how much he believes that I can achieve anything I set my mind to.  My tendency is to approach life in very safe, risk-averse ways, but knowing that Jason will have my back with every success and despite every failure is really transforming me into a braver, more creative, and more loving person.

Sharon and Jason at the Georgia Renaissance Faire

Thank you, Sharon!  Stay tuned–my craft for Sharon is in progress, and will be unveiled in the next few weeks!

The Meaning of Meraki

20 Oct

According to an article at NPR called Translating the Untranslatable, which is all about the book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World, there is a word in Greek that I want to be able to apply to everything I do:

meraki [may-rah-kee] (adjective)

This is a word that modern Greeks often use to describe doing something with soul, creativity, or love — when you put “something of yourself” into what you’re doing, whatever it may be. Meraki is often used to describe cooking or preparing a meal, but it can also mean arranging a room, choosing decorations, or setting an elegant table.