"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

A remarkable book and a possible literature pairing for it -- THE OTHER PANDEMIC

I just completed a YA memoir: THE OTHER PANDEMIC: AN AIDS MEMOIR by Lynn Curlee. I couldn't stop thinking about the 2019 masterpiece, THE GREAT BELIEVERS by Rebecca Makkai. Now these two books are married in my mind. What I've decided to do is to grab excerpts from the review I wrote for that book and incorporate my thoughts from The Other Pandemic. If you'd like to read my whole review of The Great Believers, here is the link.

Lynn Curlee is a gay man who lived in both New York and L.A. in the late 1970s and 80s when the AIDS epidemic starting hitting the gay communities very hard. No one knew what was happening, they just knew that the un-named disease (at the time) was striking gay men, Haitians, and needle-drug users the hardest. It was often referred to as "Gay Cancer."
I started teaching in the fall of 1980. I was a junior high teacher at the time teaching health and PE. As a college student majoring in health education I learned everything there was to know at the time about what we then called STDs or sexually transmitted diseases and I was prepared to impart my knowledge onto my students in hopes that they wouldn't get one of them...I remember the moment in 1983 or '84 when a parent questioned me about what I was teaching about AIDS. At the time I had no inkling of how serious and life-threatening the disease was and how it would dominate my curriculum for years to come. In 1988 or '89 our state required mandatory AIDS prevention lessons for every student from grades 5-12, every year. In my schools those required lessons often fell to me, though not always. Not only would students' eyes glass over during those lessons but so would the teachers'. An important topic became boring and tedious. I did a lot of personal education on the topic of HIV and AIDS, attending conferences, visiting AIDS hospice houses, interviewing people who were HIV+ about the drugs they had to take and the symptoms they were hoping to thwart. I remember throwing around terms like cytomegalovirus, histoplasmosis, thrush, toxoplasmosis, Kaposi sarcoma, and HIV-wasting syndrome. I knew more about HIV/AIDS on the educational level than the average person, but not much on the personal level.

As I started reading The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai this past week I was hit head-on with how very little I really understood about the AIDS crisis on a personal level.
As a health educator I knew a lot about AIDS and became very creative in my teaching techniques, trying to help my students understand how complex the treatment for AIDS was and how important it was to always practice Safe Sex. What I didn't know on a personal level was how devastatingly difficult it was to be a part of the gay community due to the fear and sorrow. Fear of catching the disease personally and sorrow/grief for the huge number of friends who were dying. Curlee said that he kept count in the beginning of how many people he knew who died from AIDS. He stopped counting at 41 because "what was the point?" Can you imagine losing 41+ friends to death in less than ten years? It is mind-boggling to think about, yet so many gay men lived through this reality.
When the AIDS epidemic begins to race its way through the gay community in Chicago's Boystown neighborhood in 1983, Yale Tishman and Fiona Marcus become good friends. Fiona's brother, Nico, was the first of the artsy friend group of gay men to die of AIDS. Since Nico was disowned by his parents, Fiona became his caretaker at the end of his life. Yale, who is employed at an art museum, was in the same group as Nico so he got to know Fiona. 
In the Great Believers Fiona not only takes care of her dying brother, but many, many others in his friend group who have no one else to care for them in their last days. It takes a life-long toll on Fiona, it was such a draining, all-consuming activity. Lynn Curlee, too, talks about the caretakers in his community. When John Martin, his life-partner, gets ill from AIDS and is placed on hospice, other friends step up to help care for John in his last days. Many of those men went on to die themselves from AIDS.
 Survivors of WWI were considered the "Lost Generation". This generation of people came of age during WWI where 40 million people died. The term "lost" also refers to their aimlessness and disorientation after the war.
In a lot of ways survivors of the AIDS pandemic are like the survivors known as the lost generation, disoriented by what has happened in their life. And though we don't often hear much about it these days, especially with so much focus on our recent COVID-19 pandemic, AIDS is still out there. There is still no cure for it, or vaccine to prevent it.
Fiona stands for all those women [and men] who ended up being the caretakers for AIDS patients. Fiona later become aware of their role in preserving memories which were never documented.

I was blown away by The Great Believers. The title comes from a quote in My Generation by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “We were the great believers, I have never cared for any men as much as for those who felt the first springs of life when I did, and saw death ahead, and were reprieved — and who now walk the long stormy summer.  I saw for the first time a new take on a topic which had dominated my life for the majority of my teaching life---a very personal take. I realize now that with each death there were friends, relatives, and caretakers who were asked to shoulder the lion's share of the burden. We also have been robbed of all of their memories.
When Lynn Curlee was approached about writing a memoir of his experiences with the other pandemic, he balked at first. What would it be like to dredge up all those old memories and hurts? But when he started doing the research for the book he realized that he was helping preserve the memories of those friends, most who died in their 30s, since many had no one else to do it for them. It became a sacred opportunity for his to be the memory keeper for those men, those friends who had once partied together at Fire Island Pines off Long Island so happily and carefree.

Though the book isn't a joy to read, it is real. At first I thought I might just sample the book but found myself compelled to read on, to allow myself to feel a bit of the pain and loss that came with the other pandemic. Published as a YA nonfiction memoir, I found myself wondering if that is the appropriate audience for the book. I probably feel that way since I had such a hard time getting teen readers to pick up any nonfiction books during my time as a teen librarian. Let's just say this, there is nothing about this book which screams YA! Look for it at your public library and pair it with The Great Believers by Makkai. You will be touched, I promise.


Monday, December 4, 2023

TTT: Christmas Songs On Today's Playlist

Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas/Holiday Songs on Today's Playlist.

Here's my Spotify list. Can't nail me down to one musical style. Have a listen!

Apparently, this list has just short previews of each song. You can follow me to Spotify, if you have an account, the listen to the whole songs. Click link here.

BTW- While you are listening to my eclectic playlist, please take part in my poll. I am trying to decide what book I will read in 2024 for my 2024 ONE BIG BOOK Challenge.
Give your answer in the comments. The poll is no longer functioning and I'm too cheap to pay for higher level functionality.


Sunday, December 3, 2023

Sunday Salon --- 2023 Advent season

Weather: Rain or threatening to rain.

Christmas Parade: We live in a little-ish town near two bigger cities where there is a lot of urban sprawl. It is hard most times to feel much sense of community or belonging. But every once in a while, though, our town makes us feel like we live in a small place with lots of community spirit. Our town's Christmas Parade is one of those times. Anyone, I think, can be in the parade. So girl/boy scout troops, local jeep or snowmobile clubs, school bands, and sports and dance clubs all dress up and march or drive down through the center of town. The end of the parade has Santa riding on a fire engine. No it is not snowing. The truck in front had a snow machine that was really pumping out the white stuff. I must admit that Santa really stands out in this photo. Our grandsons sat on the curb and came away with quite a haul of peppermint candies. We all laughed uproariously at the marching Christmas trees whose legs were so hampered by their costumes that had to take itty-bitty steps. 

Family time: Our daughter and two sons came to town for the Christmas parade and to spend the night with us. The boys were pretty wound up when they got back from the parade (all those free candy canes didn't help) and so some good Christmas stories were required to settle them down. First up: Dinosaur vs. Santa by Bob Shea, which is an hilarious book for young children. And then a family favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss. 

Prayer concerns:
  • For D who has been in the hospital this week for esophageal problems. That she would be able to eat without pain. That the doctors can cure what ails her.
  • For R who lost his younger brother this past week from a heart attack.
  • For M due to the fire at the home where she lives this week. She lost everything.
  • For K whose depression got to a point that she needed hospitalization for her own safety.
  • For everyone who feels overwhelmed by the holidays instead of delighted by them.
  • For R and M who are expecting their first baby any day now.
  •     What I read this week --- all books toward the finale of Nonfiction November. You notice that all the books have a rating but one. That book I just couldn't make myself care enough to finish.

  •      What I'm currently reading --- tyring get a few books checked off my 2023 reading list before the year wears off.

Holiday at the White House. You gotta visit this link to see all the beautiful and fantastical decorations at the White House this year. Wow. Here is one of my favorites...the library of course.

Please vote for my next 2024 One Big Book challenge book. What book should I read next year? Vote by following the link to this page, or by going out to the home page and the poll is available on the side bar. Thanks for helping me out.
Vote here

Happy preparation days!


Saturday, December 2, 2023

What should I read for my 2024 ONE BIG BOOK Challenge

Every year I pick one big book to complete in that year. Of course I will read lots of other books but this book, a big one, will be my number one priority. Usually the books are ones which have languished on my TBR list for years and years. Most are daunting to me because of length or subject. Help me pick next year's book. Take the poll. Thanks. Apparently so many people have used the poll I ran out of free (25) responses. If you are willing. I will tabulate the number using old fashioned math. Please leave a comment below which of the six choices you think I should read. Thank you.


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Review and quotes: HELLO BEAUTIFUL + Friday56 sign-up

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano

Book Beginnings quote:
For the first six days of William Waters's life, he was not an only child. He had a three-year-old sister, a redhead named Caroline after John F. Kennedy's daughter.
Friday56 quote:
Sylvie had read somewhere that the more times a story was told, the less accurate it became. Humans were prone to exaggeration; they leaned away from the parts of the narrative they found boring and leaned into the exciting spots. Details and timelines changed over years of repetition. The story became more myth and less true. Sylvie thought about how she and William rarely told their story and felt pleased; by not being shared, their love story remained intact.
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.

But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most? (Publisher)

Review: I finished this book in September in time for book club where we were to discuss it and then I had to miss the meeting. Darn. I would have loved to be there for that one. Here is what I said on my Goodreads review right after I finished it. I think you'll get the point that it was a very impactful book...

Okay. First piece of advice: Listen to the audiobook with the speed bumped up. I listened at 1.3 speed and that was almost too slow.

Second piece of advice: Drink plenty of Gatorade before or during the last twenty percent of the book. I didn't and I feel lightheaded and dehydrated from my tears. At one point I had to stop listening just so I could get control of my sobbing. SOBBING.

Thirdly, don't build up too much expectation about Little Women and the similarities. It is there, but just a tiny bit and if you wait around for it you'll be disappointed.

Fourthly, if you have any siblings, call or text them and tell them you love them before it is too late and you don't get any more chances. Wouldn't that be the worst thing? Not to fix what is broken while you still have a chance? 
Here come the tears again...

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. So that all past participants figure out where and how to find me, please post your URL to Inlinkz below and this post's URL on your blog. Thanks.

Freda, if you are reading this, we miss you. We've got this, so don't worry about us. Get well or take care of what needs your attention right now and we hope to welcome you back soon.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader and


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Nonfiction November Wrap-up, Week Five

Hi everyone. Another Nonfiction November is rapidly coming to an end. For Week Five I am supposed to report on all the nonfiction titles I added to my TBR this month after reading about new books on others' blogs. I admit I didn't do this. I did visit others' blogs but I am focused right now on a ginormous list of nominated nonfiction titles for the Cybils Award (over 240 books). As a Round 2 judge in that category I thought I'd use the month to get a jump on some of the books that may make the finalists lists.

Here are the nonfiction books I read this month, by category. No bragging, though it will seem like I am, but I read a lot of books this month:

Cybils Nominated Books -- Elementary Nonfiction



After reading these eighteen books, and several others completed in October from this category, I decided that I liked them all. The five star books are just a bit more interesting or engaging to me than the four star books. So I decided to spend the rest of my pre-judging period in November and December focusing on the middle grade and high school nonfiction nominated books. They take much longer to read and the quality seems to vary much more.

Cybils Nominated -- Middle Grades Nonfiction 

Cybils Nominated -- High School Nonfiction (Both read and currently reading)

And a memoir which is a graphic memoir (so it is not in the nonfiction category.)

Nonfiction/Cybils titles currently on my TBR at the library waiting for me:

I did manage to read one memoir not related to Cybils and attempted to read another but abandoned it during this month of read nonfiction.

Nonfiction books I've recently added to my TBR on goodreads (in the last two months):

So that is my Nonfiction November. I read 23 nonfiction titles, most of them children's books but I did learn a lot from them. I am currently working on two more books for Cybils, have nine in the queue at the library and five newly posted nonfiction titles to my Goodreads TBR. Whew!

Thanks to hosts for making Nonfiction November possible.

And thanks to my readers for your enthusiasm and support.


Monday, November 27, 2023

TTT: Books Set in New England

Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in New England

I've never visited this part of the United States, except through literature. Here are some good books set at least in part in New England: 

New Hampshire


New Hampshire








Apparently I haven't read any books set in Rhode Island recently. I only found one book, My Sister's Keeper by Picoult, that I've read but it was a long time ago. Help. Any good suggestions?


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday Salon -- Nov. 26, 2023

One family: half Beavers, half Ducks.

Weather: Cold and clear. It was sunny today but chilly. Temperatures at night are below freezing.

Fiasco, part 2: Last year (2022) our family Thanksgiving ended up being a fiasco. If you don't believe me, read this. Though on a much smaller scale, this year started to shape up into another fiasco but never fully developed into one. This time it was again related, in part, to disease, but the house also conspired against us. 
  • We were set to stay at Mom's house, while my brother and his wife would stay at my sister's house. When Mom came down with bronchitis earlier in the week, we shifted our plans to squeeze in over at my sister's house.
  • As we were driving down the freeway we got  message from my sister to be prepared -- the upstairs toilet was clogged and there was no time to call a plumber. No big deal they have two toilets downstairs. Just an inconvenience.
  • We got in late so everyone was in bed as we prepared for bed, we couldn't get any hot water to wash our hands and face. The next morning we discovered why, the hot water heater was malfunctioning. Not only were showers out but dishes had to be washed by hand, since dishwashers are designed to work with hot water. We had to heat water on the stove to wash the dishes. After our Thanksgiving meal, we started using paper plates to cut down on what needed to be washed.
  • Mom did not join us for the holiday meal, nor did my nephew and his family. A meal planned for thirteen was quickly pared down to seven. We had a lovely meal, though, and there was plenty of food, actually way too much.
  • The next day was the 'Civil War' football game between University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Our family is split in half. Half Beavers, half Ducks. Mom had planned to feed the football game goers before we headed to the stadium, but she still wasn't feeling up to it, so we dropped in, said hi, and headed to the game. After the game, we all ate pie intended for the Thanksgiving meal. Poor Mom stayed up to see us in and then took herself to bed. Don and I took a shower at her house after the game, taking advantage of her hot water.
  • Except for our worry about Mom's health, it was a very wonderful family time together.
  • Currently reading:
    • Babel by R.F. Kuang. This popular story with the subtitle: An Archaic History of Oxford is part magic, part historical, part sci-fi, and all wonderful. We are listening to this big book. We've  pared down the 21 hours to 10 1/2 hours left to go. 
    • Ruined by Reading by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. It is a short memoir about the author's life in books.
  • Recently finished:
    • The Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough. I've read this short book three or four times. I love it's simple plot. It was a fast read for me.
    • The Other Eden by Paul Harding. A fictional account about a true story. Back in the early 1900s families were evicted off a small island off the State of Maine. They were evicted because of their abject poverty and for racist reasons. I felt like crying the whole time I listened to this audiobook, a National Book Award finalist.
    • A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat. A graphic memoir about the summer between middle and high school and a trip that changed everything for Dan. This book was the National Book Award winner for Young People's Literature. Wonderful. 
  • What's Next?
    • Huda F. Cares? by Huda Fahmy. Another National Book Award finalist. This is a graphic novel and sequel to Huda F. Are You?
    • The Land of Lost Things by John Connolly. I loved the first book in this series, which was published in 2006, so I am really looking forward to this sequel.
Politics: Ha-ha. I actually ignored politics all week. What a refreshing concept.



Thursday, November 23, 2023

Review and quotes: A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING --- And Friday56 sign-up

A graphic memoir.

Title: A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

Opening quote:
"I grew up in a small town just outside of Los Angeles." pg. 1

Friday56 (pag 56) quote:
Charles De Gaulle Airport: "Okay, everyone grab your bags! After you do that we'll all end up at the south end of the baggage claim!" Okay, let's go get our stuff." Come on, Dan."

Summary: After being bullied all the way through middle school Dan has low expectations about everything, including the three-week trip to Europe with other students his age. "But during his travels, a series of first begin to change him -- first Fanta, first fondue, and maybe even...first girlfriend?" The book is heartfelt and heartwarming. It also felt so true. Do you remember those torturous middle school years? How did we survive?

Review: On November 15, 2023, just a few days ago, the National Book Award for Young People's literature went to this book A First Time for Everything. Since I always try to read at least two of the National Book Award winners or finalists, it was a no-brainer that I would select this book. I enjoy graphic memoirs if they are done well -- and this one is. It felt so true -- the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the mixed-up emotions, the abrupt shifts in moods. Dan Santat nailed them all. I loved the message about how travel can really help us get a new perspective on ourselves, too.

The book is labeled at a memoir for middle grade readers but I think it fits more in the YA milieu. As an adult, I loved it and didn't feel like I was reading a book for little kids either. I'd age range it 12 years to adults. If your library doesn't have a copy, be sure to request that they buy one.

Welcome to Friday 56 sign-up! I am traveling for Thanksgiving, so I might not reply to your comments until Saturday, but please sign up and enjoy visiting with other participants. I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving (USA) or a delightful end-of-the-week (rest of the world!)

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. So that all past participants figure out where and how to find me, please post your URL to Inlinkz below and this post on your blog. Thanks.

Freda, if you are reading this, we miss you. We've got this, so don't worry about us. Get well or take care of what needs your attention right now and we hope to welcome you back soon.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader and


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, November 20, 2023

TTT: Thankful for books

Top Ten Tuesday: I'm thankful for books because---

1. Entertainment. I don't get bored because I always have a book or two or three to read. Others may cast about looking for fun. Not me. I just jump into a book.

2. Conversation starters. I am pretty shy so small talk is hard for me. But I have found that books are great conversation starters. "Have you read any good books lately?" almost always works to break the ice.

3. Travel. I get to travel to new lands or worlds without leaving my chair and/or travel guides are very helpful when visiting new places.

4. Connection with my husband and daughters. My husband and I listen to audiobook when we take car trips. We often stop the book and discuss the plot or topic. Both of my daughters are readers. After years of reading to them, they are now making book recommendations for me. Family bonding over books/audiobooks.

5. Comfort and inspiration. I read poetry and devotional books. I often find comfort in the words of these books when I am low or hurting.

6. Help me relate to others. Through books I learn about people who are different than me and I learn tolerance and empathy by reading about their lives.

7. Knowledge. I read quite a lot of nonfiction. I crave learning new information and growing as an individual. Books help me do that.

8. Book clubs. Book clubs are fun and a wonderful way to meet to keep friends.

9. Time with grandsons. I LOVE reading books with my grandsons. Having them sitting next to me and us focusing on a story together is priceless.

10. Gifts. Books make great gifts. My mother especially likes to receive books.

And I am very thankful for you, my bookish friends. Book bloggers are the best!