Archive | March 2014

The Huntington Library and Gardens

Spring break is glorious. My family came to LA to visit me, and this past weekend, we went to The Huntington, a sort of museum/botanic garden in San Marino that comprises a research library, art galleries, and extensive gardens. The place is vast, and I feel as though we only scratched the surface of everything there is to explore there. We first visited the Library Exhibition Hall and then wandered through the Chinese Garden and a bit of the Japanese Garden.

The Huntington Library has huge collections, including many rare books, and a selection of the most dazzling specimens are on display in the Exhibition Hall. The prospect of seeing these treasures was, for me, the biggest draw of The Huntington, and I was not disappointed. The first glass case I approached upon entering the dim hall contained the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, believed to have been produced around 1410, and that’s when I knew this visit was going to be amazing. Illuminated manuscripts make me really excited.

The Exhibition Hall contains twelve mini-exhibits, each of which is organized around one stand-out item. For instance, the contextualizing documents for the Ellesmere Chaucer included an exquisite book of hours and a legal document recording a transaction by a London widow named Emma. The next exhibit featured an original edition (I believe) of Milton’s Paradise Lost, as well as a variety of documents related to the English Civil War (there were lots of cool seals attached to these). Did you know Milton held the position of Secretary for Foreign Tongues? What a fantastic title.

The trove of books, manuscripts, documents, and letters in this one room was almost too much to take in, and I couldn’t possibly list every extraordinary thing I saw. There was the Gutenberg Bible, the Declaration of Independence (which, I noticed, had a note scrawled in the margin, perpendicular to the original text, saying that this copy had been found among so-and-so’s possessions and could it be kept in the family, please), the Shakespeare First Folio, the letter Susan B. Anthony wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton right after the former voted illegally in the 1872 presidential election, the documents related to Chinese immigration to the United States in the early 20th century… But I think my favorite piece was the copy of the First Book of Songs of John Dowland, an English Renaissance composer who wrote music for voice and for lute. This book was opened to a page that showed the bass, alto, and tenor parts to a song all oriented in different directions so that musicians could crowd around the book and each read their own part.

After leaving the library, we stopped by the North American Clivia Society’s show, which featured prize-winning clivias whose flowers ranged in color from green to pale yellow to peach to deep red.


We then strolled through 園 (Liú Fāng Yuán), the Garden of Flowing Fragrance, which is The Huntington’s Chinese Garden. It is not yet complete, but already it’s very large, with a pond, several bridges, multiple pavilions… There were pink blossoms on still leafless branches, water lilies in the pond, wisteria heavy with purple flowers, and even a tree peony in full bloom!

Chinese Garden

These carved panels depicting traditional Chinese instruments are inside 清越臺 (Qīng​ Yuè Tái), the Clear and Transcendent Pavilion. This is a pipa (left) and an erhu (right):

Pipa Erhu

And this is a qin (left) and some sort of flute (right):

Qin and flute

The tree peony! In March! No wonder I never know what time of year it is in Southern California.

Tree peony

Finally, we took a quick look at the Japanese Garden, which was equally lovely. Here is a glimpse of it:

Japanese Garden

So that was my first visit to The Huntington. Many gardens remain to be explored, and I didn’t even start on the art collections, but really, I would go back just to pore over Middle English manuscripts and Renaissance music scores!

Another Lovely Blurb + The Prospect of Spring Break

Sparkers recently received another wonderful blurb, this one from Rachel Hartman. When I found out, I was momentarily stunned and then rapturously happy (that sounds like something Anne of Green Gables would say, but I’ll stand by it). Rachel Hartman is the author of the YA fantasy Seraphina, which I think I have mentioned before. It came out in 2012 and immediately became one of my favorite books. It’s actually eerie how Seraphina seems like it was written expressly to make me happy, combining all the themes and elements I love most into one fantastic book. But it will also make you happy! If you like medieval settings or music or dragons or mysteries or philosophical musings. Seriously, if you haven’t read Seraphina, you should go find yourself a copy posthaste.

Right, so here is the actual blurb:

“I love a well-built world, and this is as deep, delightful, and lived-in as any I’ve visited. It’s a place where combating terrible evil requires not just magic but music, friendship, and an abiding love of books. I hope SPARKERS is just our first foray into Glewwe’s imagination; I’m already ready to visit again!”
-Rachel Hartman

In other news, I am still wading through the Slough of Final Papers, but the end of the quarter is nigh. For weeks now, I have been putting things off until spring break, so that now the things I supposedly intend to do during break include: plotting a novel, finishing all the books I checked out from the library over a month ago, deciding what classes I’m taking next term, writing letters to friends, getting a haircut, and cooking something that isn’t pasta or chickpeas. And also, you know, having an actual vacation. That may be asking a lot of spring break, but what are breaks for, if not for the making of grand plans?

And the winner is…

The random number generator has spoken, and the winner of the Sparkers ARC is:

Cathy Y.

Thank you to everyone who entered. I hope you all have a lovely rest of Pi Day!

Ts’mindao Ghmerto წმინდაო ღმერთო

First, a reminder that you still have all day today to enter the giveaway for an advance copy of Sparkers! Entries will be closed at midnight tonight, and I’ll announce the winner shortly.

I’m rather swamped at the moment, what with final papers and all, so today I’m just posting this recording of a gorgeous Georgian hymn, Ts’mindao Ghmerto. It’s a setting of the Trisagion (isn’t that a lovely word?), part of the Orthodox Christian liturgy. We tried to learn this in Georgian chorus last week and, ah, didn’t quite get there, but we will! This recording is by the ensemble Kitka, which is not from Georgia, but I like their rendition very much.

ARCs, Crêpes, and a Giveaway!

I received a package this weekend, and this is what was inside:

IMG_1355ARCs of Sparkers! These are not quite finished books, as you can tell by the notice on the cover, but they pretty much feel like real paperbacks. It was amazing to hold one for the first time!

IMG_1354In honor of this milestone in the life of Sparkers, I’m giving away one ARC. This is your chance to read the book months before it actually comes out! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post (and, if you like, tell me about a great book you read recently!). I will accept entries until midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014. Once the entry period has ended, I will randomly select one winner. If you win, I will contact you by e-mail in order to arrange for delivery. This giveaway is open internationally; if I can mail a book to you via the U.S. Postal Service, you can enter.

Please feel free to spread the word! I’m looking forward to sending one of these ARCs to whoever the lucky winner is. And remember that you can add Sparkers on Goodreads.

P.S. Yesterday, in celebration of Mardi Gras, I made crêpes. Here is one filled with blood orange marmalade: