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Under A Gray Sky bio picture

    This is my little corner of the world where I can do whatever I some of my favorite (and not so favorite) books, whine about yet another gray sky, or just share a little of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest after a lifetime of living in the sun.

    Reading As you spend time on my blog, you may notice that my reading tastes are a bit eclectic. I used to be what I call a "book snob". That was before I began work on my master's degree and needed light recreational reading and discovered that while some books might not be "critically acclaimed", they could still be some great fun to read! Now I read a little bit of everything.

    Writing One of my lifelong dreams (besides meeting John Taylor from 80's Duran Duran fame) has been write the next great American novel . I'm sure many of you share this dream (you might even share my dream of meeting John Taylor, who knows). I've always been afraid to start writing. I put "writing" in the sub-title of the blog hoping that it will force me to begin writing something or else I will have to crawl away in shame...

    Living I'll also be sharing stories about my experiences living and parenting in the PNW. If you're expecting great tips on how to organize your schedule or how to prepare gourmet meals on a shoestring budget...sorry, you won't find that here. I am chronically messy, chronically disorganized, and chronically planning gourmet meals that never get prepared. It's just going to be me...sharing my trials and tribulations of not only leaving 365 days of sunshine for 350 days of gray skies but also the oh so fun adventure of parenting two "tweens" who think they know more than me.

San Diego Comic Con Bound

Guess who’s going to Comic Con?  Me!!!!!

Earlier this year, I attended my first ever Comic-Con here in Portland.  I only went for one day (with my kids and mom).  It was quite an experience!  This time tomorrow, I will be landing at the San Diego International Airport ready to brave the crowds and the insanity at the San Diego Comic Con.

I am so excited and nervous.  Will I get in to see one of the panels with Benedict Cumberbatch?  Will I be the oldest person camping out in line overnight to get into Hall H?  Will I snore while camping out in line overnight or Hall H? Will I spend through my life savings on doo-dads and doo-hickies that I just absolutely must have?  Will my children and husband survive without me for six days?

Did I mention that I am nervous?  Thankfully, I’m going with an experience con-goer, my friend Amy Nichols, who was able to get a PRO badge (as a soon to be published author, she can do cool things like that) for herself and one for a friend (Me!).  She knows the ropes and will be able to tell me what to do and what no to do and will hopefully be able to keep me from making a fool of myself when (if?) we get to meet Benedict Cumberbatch or John Green or Nathan Filion or the entire cast of Orphan Black or anyone from Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.

Of course, I will somehow find time to read this weekend (on the plane, while standing in enormously long lines for various panels, etc.).  I’ll try to make some blog posts but won’t be able to absolutely promise.  But, if you are interesting in following along with this 40-something’s first SDCC experience, be sure to check out my twitter page @underagraysky  I’ll be sure to post things/photos there.

Are any of you going to SDCC?


July 22, 2014 - 9:38 pm

Beth W - As a former SDCC regularly Pro, I wish you safe travels and best of luck. The best advice I can give is to pack high-protein snacks and take regularly breaks from the crowds (and from standing). It’s easy to become a Con Zombie. Also, don’t try to walk the entire floor in a day. Space it out.
And tell Nathan I said hi! ;)

July 22, 2014 - 11:15 pm

Je @ Underagraysky - Thanks for the tips, Beth! I think my biggest worry is constantly being surrounded by people a and not being able to get any down time. If I bump into Nathan, I will definitely tell him that Beth says hi!

Book Review: The French House

Title:   The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village That Restored Them All
Author:   Don Wallace
Genre:   Memoir/Non-Fiction/Travel
Source:   Pulisher/Netgalley
Rating:  4
Locate It:  Amazon or  Powell’s


When life gives you lemons, make citron pressé

When Francophiles Don and Mindy Wallace received an offer for a house on a tiny French island, they jumped at the chance, buying it almost sight unseen. What they found when they arrived was a building in ruin, and it wasn’t long before their lives resembled it. Plagued by emergency repairs, a stock market crash, and very exasperated French neighbors, the Wallace’s could have accepted their fate. Instead, they embraced it. The French House is the delightfully amusing and picturesque memoir about a family who seized life, rose from the rubble, and built themselves a home away from home.


My Thoughts:

I’m sure that I am not the only person who has fantasized about living abroad.  I’m not just talking about an extended vacation but something more like the adventure the Wallace family found themselves on when they purchased a crumbling ruin of a “maison” on the Belle Isle.  Wallace shares the path that led he and his wife to impulsively purchase their small home and the many struggles it took to rebuild the cottage.

The French House is a darling book that mixes local history, memoir, quirky characters, architectural challenges (what will the village elders do if they add windows to the second floor?) and humor.   I do recommend this book.  It was a lovely adventure and perfect for a summer read (although I could also see enjoying it bundled up on a cold winter day as well).  The French House is a book that I will probably read again and again.

*I received a digital copy of this book via the Publisher & Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Poem for Gaza

I’ve recently discovered a new poet, Remi Kanazi.  He is young and vibrant and from NYC.  He is a poet with a purpose.  His website it:  Remi Kanazi

A Poem for Gaza

by Remi Kanazi

I never knew death
until I saw the bombing
of a refugee camp
filled with
dismembered         legs
and splattered   torsos
but no sign of a face
the only impression
a fading scream
I never understood pain
until a seven-year-old girl
clutched my hand
stared up at me
with soft brown eyes
waiting for answers
I didn’t have any
I had muted breath
and dry pens in my back pocket
that couldn’t fill pages
of understanding or resolution
in her other hand
she held a key
to her grandmother’s house
but I couldn’t unlock the cell
that caged her older brothers
they said:
we slingshot dreams
so the other side
will feel our father’s presence!
a craftsman
built homes in areas
where no one was building
when he fell
a .50 caliber bullet
tore through his neck
shredding his vocal cords
too close to the wall
his hammer
must have been a weapon
he must have been a weapon
encroaching on settlement hills
and demographics
so his daughter
studies mathematics
seven explosions
eight bodies
four congressional resolutions
seven Apache helicopters
eight Palestinian villages
silence and a second Nakba
our birthrate
their birthrate
one sea and 400 villages re-erected
one state
two peoples
…and she can’t stop crying
never knew revolution
or the proper equation
tears at the paper
with her fingertips
searching for answers
but only has teachers
looks up to the sky
to see Stars of David
demolishing squalor
with Hellfire missiles
she thinks back
words and memories
of his last hug
before he turned and fell
now she pumps
dirty water from wells
while settlements
divide and conquer
and her father’s killer
sits beachfront
with European vernacular
this is our land!, she said
she’s seven years old
this is our land!
she doesn’t need history books
or a schoolroom teacher
she has these walls
this sky
her refugee camp
she doesn’t know the proper equation
but she sees my dry pens
no longer waiting for my answers
just holding her grandmother’s key
for ink

- See more at:  Poetic Injustice

Book Review and Birthday Wishes: The Essential Neruda

Today is the birthday of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.  He is one of my favorite poets and he would be 110 years old today.  If you haven’t read any of Neruda’s poetry, you are truly missing out.  I realized today that I never posted my review of  The Essential Neruda:  Selected Poems, so here it is:

Title:  The Essential Neruda:  Selected Poems
Author:  Pablo Neruda (Mark Eisner, editor)
Genre:  Poetry
Rating:  5

 This collection of Neruda’s most essential poems will prove indispensable. Selected by a team of poets and prominent Neruda scholars in both Chile and the U.S., this is a definitive selection that draws from the entire breadth and width of Neruda’s various styles and themes. An impressive group of translators that includes Alaistair Reid, Stephen Mitchell, Robert Hass, Stephen Kessler and Jack Hirschman have come together to revisit or completely retranslate the poems. A bilingual edition, with English on one side of the page, the original Spanish on the other. This selection sets the standard for a general, high–quality introduction to Neruda’s complete oeuvre.Pablo Neruda was born in Chile in 1904. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.


My Thoughts:

A relatively new collection of Neruda poems with some new translations. I loved the introduction to this collection. The editor describes how he (the editor) came about with the idea of creating a book with new and updated translations of Neruda. This book was a work of love by the editor…the love of Neruda, the love of the Spanish language, the love of poetry.

My favorite books of Neruda are those with dual translations (Spanish on one side and English on the facing page). Although my Spanish is fairly limited, there is something magical about seeing Neruda’s words in their original language.

I enjoyed the cross-section of poems that the editor selected and have only one complaint that I would have liked to see the poems separated in sections, perhaps by publishing dates/books they were originally published in/themes.

This would be a great addition to anyone’s Neruda collection or a wonderful introduction to someone new to Neruda.

Book Riot’s 35 Most Powerful Books

Book Riot recently took a poll on readers’ “Most Powerful Books”.  After over one thousand readers took the poll (not sure where I was when the poll was given, but oh well), Book Riot compiled the results and created this lovely little list of the 35 Most Powerful Books.

I’ve only read 17 of the 35 novels.  Honestly, I was a little surprised that I haven’t read more.  To make myself feel a little better, I’ll let you all know that I have read different novels by authors on the list.  Like I’ve read We the Living by Ayn Rand but not The Fountainhead and one of my all time favorite books is Franny & Zooey by J.D. Salinger but I haven’t read Catcher in the Rye.

How about you?  Have you read any of the books on the list?  Are there any that you think are missing?

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. 1984 by George Orwell 
  5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  6. The Bible
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  8. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  10. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  11. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  12. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  13. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  14. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  15. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  16. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  17. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  18. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  20. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  21. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  22. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 
  23. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  24. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver  
  25. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (15)
  26. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  27. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  28. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  29. The Color Purple by Alice Walker  
  30. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 
  31. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (14)
  32. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (14)
  33. Night by Elie Wiesel (14)
  34. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (13)
  35. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (13)
T w i t t e r
G o o d r e a d s
R a t i n g   S c a l e