Book Review: The Tollund Man and His Two Friends

Meet Me at the Museum

Meet Me at the Museum

  • Four and a half stars
  • Debut Novel
  • Letter format
  • Well worth your time if you love the artistic and quaint novel
  • Reminded me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Basic Synopsis: At 78 pages in, I found the hook factor.  It has the appeal of re-reading text messages.  In the beginning, she was just an ignorant woman looking for answers from an expert curator on the Tollund Man. (The Tollund Man is a naturally mummified corpse of a man who lived during the 4th century BC, during the period characterized in Scandinavia as the Pre-Roman Iron Age. He was found in 1950, preserved as a bog body, on the Jutland peninsula.  Find out more on him here.  WARNING: The pictures of the Tollund Man are interesting but can be disturbing. Proceed with caution.)  Though she reached out looking for one voice she found another.  At first, every letter she wrote, she expected to remain unanswered.  At first, he answered with facts and information thinking this is what she needed.  She shared her desire to visit the museum but she withheld the reason she couldn’t go. 

When he pressed her for more answers, as if she was a project he needed to research, she finally shared her pain with him.  She couldn’t go to the museum because she was supposed to go to the museum with her friend.  Her friend whom she’d lost to a terrible life and an awful disease.  She can’t recapture it because it’s too late.  She shares her wistfulness at the life that has gone by her.  She shares about her simple life she finds quite complicated. He, in turn, shares his pain with her.  He tells the sad tale of his wife’s death.  After her death, he couldn’t carry his briefcase because she used to put some random object in his briefcase.  A poem, a drawing, a recipe, an earring, a glove, a photo, etc. Since her death, the Widower has felt the loss of the extra occupant in his briefcase, until now.  Now a stranger’s, a friend’s letter rests hopefully inside. 

Here are a few of my other favorite moments in the book:

They slowly start addressing each other as “Mr. Anders Larsen, Curator” and “Mrs. Tina Hopgood” to “Dear Anders” and “Dear Tina.”  They are inching their way closer to each other, through nothing, through everything.  

The two share the joy and pain they experience in their families and find comfort in each others’ words.

They use a metaphor of raspberry bushes in their letters.  No matter how Tina tries as she picks the berries, she will always miss so many as she goes about the chore.  She compares this to life and how you will not be able to experience or appreciate everything in life.  You will always miss out on something. 

Within this story, there is another story called the Rag Man.  It is nothing short of pure poetry.

Tina and Anders go from “Regards” to “Best wishes” to “Warm wishes” to “Love, Tina,” and “Love, Anders.” 

Tina is afraid to make a trip to the Museum a reality.  What if it doesn’t live up to her expectations. She prefers the ritual of planning to visit someday.  Will she ever go?  What has to happen for her to take that leap?  WHat will happen to Anders if she doesn’t come?

Now, I think you can anticipate where this goes.  I am a happy-ending kind of girl.  But I knew I wouldn’t exactly get the closure I wanted.  So, instead, I kind of anticipated an ending I envisioned for myself. 

They are writing letters after all.  It would ruin everything if the ending was spoken from the perspective of a narrator showing up out of nowhere and telling us whether or not these characters meet, fall in love, live happily after, etc. etc.  I feel like this kind of ending is one of the most entertaining.  I often change the endings of movies I don’t like, or ones that I feel missed the mark and didn’t do the characters credit.  If you think about it, the title gives it away.  The mystery this writing style creates makes this beautiful book a joy to read.  Read it for yourself and tell me if you don’t picture them there, together, with the Tollund Man.  

Nixola Research

Hey all!

I bet you’re wondering…I wonder if Sarah is ever gonna finish that book she talked about writing.  Have no fear!  Life has been crazy and I’ve been thrown a few curve balls but I’m still here and I will bring Nixola’s story to life if it kills me!  Figuratively speaking of course. *wink*

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me tell you a little bit about my current WIP (Work In Progress).  Back in May, I graduated with a Masters in History.  In order to graduate I had to write a thesis.  I was allowed to pick from a vast choice of subjects but I felt drawn to journalism.  Specifically, I wanted to write about female journalists.  Next, I needed to narrow down a time period.  I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Gilded Age and the Industrial Era, so naturally, I wanted to see what happened next in the story of America.  What comes next is called the Progressive Era.  Note: Don’t think too much of the word Progressive.  It doesn’t mean today what it meant back then.  I started combing the time period for at least three female journalists that spoke to me.  Of the three I chose, Nixola Greeley Smith stood out the most.

Clipping from The Evening World - Newspapers.com

Nixola Greeley Smith is the granddaughter of Horace Greeley, a man who established The New York Tribune.  She worked on The New York World for most of her career as a journalist.  She interviewed well-known figures like Thomas Edison, Helen Taft, members of New York’s high society.   My favorites articles concern much more common issues of the day.  For example, for most of her career, she kept a love advice column.  (Think Sex in the City but just set in 1901, LOL)  She offered an award to “working girls” (prostitutes) to allow her to interview them so she could show the world what it was really like to become a “working girl.”  Nixola covered the Thaw Trial which was the first time a woman took the stand and had to describe her own rape in public.  She wrote about girls wanting to be boys so they wouldn’t have to follow so many rules.  She wrote about women cursing.  She wrote about marriage, about children, war, women’s votes and any other subject that struck her fancy.  This is where I think she shines.  She didn’t care if no one else would say it.  She knew the people wanted to hear the truth.

Recently I have made some tremendous progress in my writing.  I have finally finished 5000 words!  Eeeeeeekkkkk!  The most fascinating part of this process is the list of subjects I’ve researched.  It is an odd list.

  • Turn of phrase during the turn of the century
  • Curse words-native to the time period
  • Clothing for both middle and upper class
  • Vehicles, carts, trolley’s etc
  • Restaurants, vendors on the street etc.
  • Telephones, telegraph, messengers
  • Office environments, cubicles, set-ups
  • Brooklyn Bridge-when was it finished?
  • Common names for the time period
  • New or common food for the time. e.g. Gum

See what I mean.  I never thought about all these little things I would need to know a little bit about in order to recreate an authentic replica of the time period.  And I’m only three chapters in!

I didn’t think about needing to understand basic turn of phrase that fits the time period.  I found this to be the most fun subject I researched.  For example, a talkative woman was sometimes referred to as “a church bell.”  If you wanted to call someone brave, you might use the adjective “bricky.”

What is your research process like?  Do you use any particular sources?  Do you research before/after/during your writing process?  Let me know your tips and tricks!

Til then,

-Sarah the Nerd

My Theatre Shenanigans

Some of you may or may not know, I love to volunteer at my local theatre!  I’ve dreamed of auditioning for a long time and I think I just might later this year.  Currently, my community theatre is running Beauty and the Beast.  Though I miss some the fantasticness that comes with the animated film, I really do love this play.  Belle is by far my favorite princess.

I’m only a prop runner, which is an important but rather trivial role.  So, that means I have a lot of time to watch.  I like to learn from watching.  I watch the dressers turn the characters into completely new ensembles in under 30 seconds.  I watch the director give orders and the music director coordinate the musical numbers.  There are different kinds of actors.  Some actors concentrate very hard on their next lines, while others seem at ease even when they make mistakes.  I enjoy spending time with the actors who really enjoy what they do.  Even though they don’t get paid a dime for their time and effort, they really put everything into each performance.  They have such big hearts and they welcomed me like a second family.  ❤

Some actors are very kind to the dressers and the crew, and some are not.  They complain about being there and I wonder why they came in the first place.  I wonder if I’ve ever lost my passion for something I used to love.  Not ever second of volunteering is going to be fun or eventful.  I realize that, but shouldn’t you be able to find something you love even in those crummy moments?  Maybe I’m just rambling but what I mean is, instead of complaining, or quitting, I’d like to be like one of my favorite volunteers (let’s call her, Barbara) and be happy even when the director is grumpy, even when she gets bad feedback, even when her costume is heavy and hot, even when she can’t get other volunteers to help with a task.  She still wears a smile and genuinely has a blast almost every night!  Yeah, I want to be like her ❤

If you think about it…she’s a little bit like Belle.  She’s a little odd, but it’s her uniqueness that makes her so intriguing.  That’s why we love her.

Below: My personal copy of King Arthur that is currently being used as a prop in the play!

Til next time,

-Sarah

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Did I make it?/#40booksin2018

So I’m sure you’re all wondering if I finished my goal of 40 books in 2018. I am happy to report I did meet my goal! … by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin. Lol, I finished only five minutes before midnight but I finished nevertheless! Hopefully, in 2019, I will acquire better management skills.

I read a total of 11 books in December! Ahhhh! It was crazy and I’m looking forward to slowing down a little. Here’s the list of what I read to finish out 2018:

Three Days in January by Brett Baier

The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin

Tehanu by Ursula Le Guin

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #2) by Rick Riordan

The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #3) by Rick Riordan

The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #4) by Rick Riordan

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Which books would you like to see reviews on?

What are your reading goals for 2018?

– Sarah

My Christmas Present

Merry late Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year!  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with your families.  I know being with family is my favorite part of the holidays ❤

I know this post is late but I’ll make it up to you I promise.

For those of you who know me best, you know I love books…duh! But what you may not know is my dream to have my own library!  When I say “have my own library,” I am talking full-on, gorgeous, Beauty and the Beast, complete with a ladder that slides down the shelves, LIBRARY!  I don’t know what it is about shelves and shelves of titles, running my fingers across the titles as I walk by, judging the books by only their covers, but it’s simply heavenly!

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So, in my bedroom, I have a lot of shelves, but I have been wanting to add more (don’t judge me, lol).  My sweet dad created these amazing shelves for me out of mahogany and I have been dying to put them up.  He created six and once he completed sanding them down so smoothly they feel like butter, I got an idea.  I could potentially create a desk with some of them!

I have to give a big shout out to my dad who helped me with this awesome project.  Love ya Dad!

So we took three of the six boards and braced them with four pieces of wood across the bottom.  I ordered some hairpin legs from Amazon and some of those industrial pipe shelf brackets.  Dad helped me put it all together and I couldn’t be happier with the result!

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Now I have a great space to write and create!  Every time I look up at the shelves it makes me smile (partly because they aren’t full which means I can buy more books!) but also because the sight of books reminds me of how many adventures I’ve been on, how many countries I’ve visited and how many lives I’ve lived through books.

Ok, I know I’m nerdy, but just indulge me.  lol

I know it’s silly to think your location or environment has anything to do with your creativity but I’m DEFINITELY feeling inspired!

 

 

In fact, I’m feeling so inspired I think we are going to have not one but TWO blogposts this week!  That’s right, you heard me.  Besides, I owe you guys an update on my reading challenge for 2018!  Tune in this weekend to find out if I made it!

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Long story short, my Christmas present rocks!  What’s your nerdy kryptonite?  Shelves and shelves of books do it for me every time.

-Sarah

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What is Your Greatest Weakness?/Percy Jackson Series/Gods and Goddesses

percy jacksonI am officially only five books away from my goal of 40 books in 2018 and I can taste victory!  I wonder if I should give myself a laurel wreath crown when I’m done? lol

I absolutely adore this series.  I read the first book back in grad school for a mental break.  I was so surprised how quickly I read through it.  For a young adult series, a genre I hadn’t read in a while, it was pretty dope.

If you don’t have any idea who or what I’m talking about, I’ll give you the lay of the land.  First, our main character is Percy Jackson, a 12-year-old with dyslexia and behavioral issues.  He befriends outcasts like his best friend, Grover Underwood, a weird kid who wears a baseball cap over his ears and walks with a limp.  Percy, in a fascinating turn of events, learns he is a half-blood (half god, half human).  It comes as quite a shock when he learns his best friend is a satyr (half goat, half human) with hooves and everything!  In addition, his mother has known everything all along and has been protecting him from monsters that would very much like to kill him.

While processing all of this, Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood to be safe while he learns useful skills (like how to stay alive!), learns where he came from, why he exists, and who his father really is.  He meets a pretty blonde girl with gray eyes named Annabeth, the camp is run by Cheiron the Centaur (half human, half horse) and he receives a special gift.  It’s a pen that turns into a magical sword named Riptide!  How freakin cool for a 12-year-old boy!  He’s a hero, like Hercules!  Only he’s twelve, living in modern times, and he does not have superhuman strength, but the pen is REALLY cool! lol

I really love that Percy is dyslexic.  The idea of a dyslexic hero is just too perfect to me since my sister has dyslexia and I swear sometimes it seems like a superpower!  In the books, it’s used to explain Percy’s overactive brain and some of his other unique qualities.  In a way, the series turns a handicap (though I don’t even like using that word) into an inner strength.  The writing style is like a journal, where Percy talks right to you and he’s got an adorable sense of humor which again makes for a quick read.  As much as I adore this series as an adult, I can only imagine what I would have thought as a kid.

I love the lessons, or hidden messages if you will, that come within the storyline.  At one point in the series, Percy Jackson learns his greatest weakness, and it’s not what he expected.  Some might think of pride or fear as a weakness, but Percy’s greatest weakness is his unwavering loyalty to his friends.  Now you might think, “That doesn’t sound like a flaw to me!”  However, if an enemy can count on you to do something, it’s a pretty dangerous tool he can use against you.

Countless times, Percy put himself in danger when he had no idea what he was doing or how things would turn out, simply because a friend was in trouble.  When it is first brought to his attention, Percy doesn’t want to admit this fatal flaw, but there’s no denying it.  Time and time again he has rushed, without forethought in harm’s way for the sake of his friends.  Sometimes he even does more harm than good.  Does this mean loyalty is a bad character trait?  No!  What it means (or what it means to me) is that knowing yourself, the good the bad and the ugly, can help you win in life.  We are predictable creatures as humans.  We all have gifts, talents, strengths and yes, we all have flaws.  Yet, when we really know ourselves, when can use this to our advantage.   There’s no use in fighting who we are.  Embrace it and go kick some monster-butt!  lol  Or your Thursday work meeting, whatever! lol  You get the idea.

I am currently on book four of five in the series, and I can definitely see myself finishing it in record time!

If you’re up for an adventure, full of tears, triumphs, magic swords, gods and goddesses this is the series for you.  Don’t be like me.  I thought, “Eh, that’s for kids.  I’m too grown to be reading this young adult cr…..ooooooh he fights Medusa? Coooooool!”  Yeah, go ahead.  Let your bad teenager side out with this one.  Your inner child will thank you. 😉

May the gods go with you.

-Sarah

 

The Land of Dragons and Wizards/Earthsea Series/Ursula Le Guin

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Calm your jets GoT fans and you Harry Potterheads.  We’re not headed to see Daenerys, nor are we on our way to Hogwarts.  However, if you are in morning over finishing either of these popular obsessions, you are sure to enjoy this amazing series by the great Ursula Le Guin.

I have recently fallen back in love with this author due to a friend of mine (Let’s call him Barney) who is a very big fan of fantasy fiction.  I read the first book of the trilogy over a year ago and promptly shared it with my bookclub.  However, for some reason, I didn’t continue with the series.  Have you ever looked back on your life and realized you made a terrible mistake.  Yeah, that’s me now.  *oy*

How did I discover Ursula Le Guin you might ask…well I’m so glad you did!  I discovered her in a movie.  I know, silly but true.  If you have never watched “The Jane Austen Bookclub” you should….immediately…after you finish reading this blogpost, of course.  In the movie, Le Guin is mentioned as an amazing fantasy writer that found a place in the heart of one of the main characters.  The writers and the actor, made her sound so intriguing, I inevitably gave in and ordered the first book.

The tales of dragons, mages, cracks in time, the edge of the earth, with all the missions and fables and folk songs, took me to this whole other world.  I was so happy with the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea I gave it to a friend (Let’s call her Annie)!  Needless to say, it was a fast read, so when Barney mentioned it to me last week, a lightbulb went off in my head.  Fast read…40 books by December 31st, 2018….MUST READ NOW!!!

I have devoured the last two books of the trilogy in less than a week!  Here’s the low down if you’re still aren’t convinced.

A Wizard of Earthsea–First book: A young wizard, named Ged, is cocky and talented.  He believes power is wielded like a sword, powerful and unstoppable.  He tries to do what no wizard has ever done before and he succeeds, only to realize he has put the universe in danger.  His master risks his life to save his student.  Ged learns his true strength by trying to set things right.

The Tombs of Atuan–Second book: A young priestess, named Tenar, proud in her lack of identity as the head priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, lives a dull and boring existence until she is sixteen years old.  She finds and traps a wizard in the labyrinth beneath her temple.  Through her curiosity and courage, she learns who she is and who she is not.  Unfortunately, everything she knows to be true is a lie.  What will she do with her prisoner now?

Still need more….wait for it.

The Farthest Shore–Third book: A young prince, named Arren, is sent with a message to the wizards of old.  He tells of how the power has gone out of all mages and those who used to speak the language of dragons can no longer utter a single word.  The young prince is recruited to accompany a wizard to the ends of the earth to seek, exactly what neither of them knows.  Through enslavement, near-death experiences, and facing down the most powerful dragon of all time, Arren learns the danger of wanting too much from life, magic, and power.  He learns the limits of the powerful, and how eternal life is a double-edged sword.

Yeah, go ahead, let that sit around in your noggin’ for a little while and see if you don’t devour every book this woman has ever written.

Here are some of my favorite themes from the books:

  1. Names are so important.  You are given a name at birth.  However, your parents don’t give you your true name.  A mage gives you your true name.  You must not reveal this name to anyone, unless out of necessity and trust.  Some wizards are so powerful they know your true name by the mere sight of you.  I sometimes wish that we still held on to our Christian names more tightly.  I wish someone had to ask my permission to call me by my first name.  There’s something very romantic about that tradition.  After all, names have power…even today.
  2. Destiny plays a big part in the story of each character.  Everything comes back to what fate decides.  Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as said character would wish, but the truth of their destiny fulfills them more than any alternative path.
  3. There are little nuggets of wisdom in these one-liners throughout the books.  Such as:
    • “It is much easier for men to act than refrain from acting.”  I know this to be true in my own life.
    • Or when a character obtains eternal life in Earthsea, they become zombie-like.  There is no joy for them anymore.  You might see some Circe themes in that portion if you’ve read the book by Madeline Miller. *wink*
    • The last tidbit, “Is a good man, a man with no evil in him?”  We always try to make things so cut and dry, but even the definitions of good and evil, or right and wrong are subjective to mere humans.

Each story is a coming of age story, where a youth learns reality versus fantasy.  (Ironic theme since the genre is fantasy-fiction lol.)  Ged learns the repercussions of his magic.  Tenar learns who she really is by breaking every rule she’s ever known.  Arren learns the folly of thinking that magic can make a man invincible.

I really am enjoying this series and not just because it puts a pretty great dent in my grand reading total for the year 2018!  And guess what!  It’s not over yet!  There are THREE more books!

The next three are a part of The Earthsea Cycle series and I’ve already started on book four!  Tehanu (Earthsea Cycle), Tales from Earthsea, and The Other Wind are waiting for me, so I’ll leave you to dream of dragon tales, wizard staffs, and the fantastic worlds created by the amazing Ursula Le Guin.  Fare thee well, my fellow book-dwellers. *wink*

-Sarah