"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=========

Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry...prepping for book club

This month I reread The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin in preparation for the book club meeting at my house on this coming Tuesday. I listened to the audiobook and loved the story as much as I loved it the first time. (Though, I apparently never reviewed the book so we can't look back on my precise thoughts at the time.) I had forgotten so many details it was almost like I read it for the first time. What I did remember was that A.J. Fikry owned a bookstore on an island and his preferred reading choice was short stories. I wanted to incorporate a discussion about both bookstores and short stories into the evening's questions.

Prepping for the club meeting:

  • First, I've decided to serve shrimp and mini-quiches and other foods available from COSTCO. Why? Because whenever A.J. hosted a book event at the store his friend, Lambiase, always suggested that he serve shrimp from COSTCO no matter the event. We usually have desserts at our club meetings, so I think I will serve the shrimp as an appetizer along with some bubbly drink or some summer beverage like lemonade. Then for dessert I'll serve up a COSTCO cheesecake or some such treat from their fresh choices. I usually spend hours making some elaborate homemade delight so this will be easy.
  • Peruse the print version of the book and reread all the notes to his daughter that he has titled after short stories. Select a few of my favorite short stories that I can talk about during the meeting. I reminded gals today about their assignment to come to club with a short story in mind, so I hope they follow through. 
  • Clean the house and wash off the patio furniture. The weather isn't very warm today. If it is this temperature on Tuesday evening, we'll be inside, but I am hoping we can sit outside on the deck. After I finish this blogpost, I'm heading outside to spray off the chairs.
  • Decide on questions for the discussion.
Discussion questions (Most taken from the publisher, with a few twists from me):
P: On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." In light of this story what do you think this means and do you agree?

1. At the beginning of the story, Amelia says she is considering quitting online dating. How would you compare the act of buying books online to the act of dating online? Is it relevant to the story that Amelia meets her eventual husband in a very analog location, a bookstore? What other examples of technology intrusions make their way into the story? Are they always bad intrusions?

2. Consider the setting. Why do you think the author chooses to set the book on an island? How does the island setting reflect A.J.’s character?

3. Do you think that Maya's appearance and adoption were handled or explained well in the writing? Explain.

4. Lambiase moves from an occasional or nonreader, to a reader, to a bookseller. How do you think becoming a reader changes him? Consider the scene where he decides not to confront Ismay about the backpack. Do you think Lambiase’s reaction is different than it would have been if he hadn’t taken up reading?

5. The author chooses to begin each chapter with a description of a short story. Discuss some of the ways the stories relate to the chapters with which they are paired. Is A.J. creating a canon for Maya? How does the book itself function as a kind of canon? If these are A.J.’s favorites, what do they say about A.J. as a reader and as a man? 

5a. What short stories have meant something to you in your life? A list of my favorite short stories is posted here. Zevin says we write stories to understand our world. Does that relate to reading them, too?

6. Did you find Ismay’s motivations for stealing Tamerlane to be forgivable? How do you think she should pay for her crime? Why do you think Lambiase lets her off?

7. At one point, Maya speculates that perhaps “your whole life is determined by what store you get left in” (page 85). Is it the people or the place that makes the difference?

8. When did you become aware that Leon Friedman might be an imposter? What did you make of Leonora Ferris’s reasons for hiring him?

9. How do you think Daniel Parrish might have changed if he had lived? Do you think some people never change?

10. Were you surprised by the outcome of the short story contest? What do you think of A.J.’s comments to Maya about why certain books and stories win prizes and others don’t? Does the knowledge that a book has won a prize attract you to reading it?

11. Compare Maya’s “fiction” about the last day of her mother’s life to Ismay’s version. Which do you consider to be more accurate and why?

12. How do you think the arrival of the e-reader is related to the denouement of the story? Is A.J. a man who cannot exist in a world with e-books? What do you think of e-books? Do you prefer reading in e- or on paper? Refer to the interview at the back about how Ms. Zevin feels about technology.

13. At one point, A.J. asks Maya, “Is a twist less satisfying if you know it’s coming? Is a twist that you can’t predict symptomatic of bad construction?” What do you think of this statement in view of the plot of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry? Did you guess who Maya’s father was? If so, what were the clues?

14. The author chooses to end the novel with a new sales rep coming to an Island Books that is no longer owned by A.J. What do you make of this ending?

15. What do you think the future holds for physical books and bookstores? (See page 257 for Amelia quote about bookstores.) What are some of your favorite bookstores. (Show book: Bibliophile) 

16. The Publisher summarizes the book this way: "As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love." Do you agree with this summary. What were some of your favorite quotes from the book?

Favorite quotes:
"But me-also-thinks my latter-day reaction speaks to the necessity of encountering stories at precisely the right time in our lives. Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vise versa. This is true for books and also in life."-27
"A place is not really a place without a bookstore."-200
" Your dad relates to the characters. It has meaning to me. And the longer I do this (bookselling, yes, but also living, if that isn't too awfully sentimental), the more I believe that this is what the point of it all is. To connect, my little nerd. Only connect."-247
"The words you can't find, you borrow. We read to know we are not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone. My life is in thes books, he wants to tell her. Read these and know my heart. We are not quite novels...We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works. He has read enough to know there are no collections where every story is perfect. Some hits. Some misses. If you're lucky, a standout. And in the end, people only really remember the standouts anyway, and they don't remember those for very long."-249
"We aren't the things we collect, acquire, read. We are, for as long as we are here, only love. The things we loved. The people we loved, and these, I think these really do live on."-251

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Friday quotes: The Overstory

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Currently I'm reading...

Title: The Overstory by Richard Powers

Book Beginning: (chapter called Roots)
First there was nothing, Then was everything. Then, in a park above a western city after dusk, the air is raining messages. A woman sits on the ground, leaning against a pine. Its bark presses hard against her back. Its needles scent the air and a force hums in the heart of the wood. Her ears tune down to the lowest frequencies. The tree is saying things, in words before words.
Friday 56: (from page 64 in the chapter called Trunk in e-book)
Tonight the trees are tight-lipped, refusing to tell him anything...The moon is a blazing telephone that anyone on Earth might call him on, simply by looking up and seeing what he sees.
Comments: The Overstory is my type of story. It takes a theme, in this case trees, and explores so many aspects of the importance of trees in our lives and our history. I am about 40% way through this long e-book (510 pages.) The quote in Book Beginnings sets the stage when the trees, in trouble, seem to come alive and seek help. The Friday 56 quote is one of the characters, a paraplegic, goes out alone at night in his wheelchair to look at a tree he remembered seeing as a child. In the dark he gets no inspiration from the tree until he does! As winner of the 2019 Pulitzer, the book is scrumptiously written, but it is also a bit confusing with a cast of over nine main characters which I understand will eventually all come together some how. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Wordless Wednesday...Roses

Gourmet Popcorn

4th of July

Oregon Garden rose

Abbaye de Cluny

Pure Poetry


Habitat for Humanity
Love Peace


Pope John Paul 

Monday, June 10, 2019

TTT: Unpopular bookish opinions

1. Not sure if this is THAT odd, but I really hate it when people loan me books. I never ask to borrow someone's books yet people still feel compelled to loan me books. Argh. They cause me so much stress because now I feel like I have to read the book even though I don't want to.

2. I love borrowing books from the library, better yet audiobooks. For some reason borrowing library books does not stress me out. If I can't get to them within the due date, no big deal. I just return them and try again another time. I think the difference between #1 and #2 is that the librarians don't care if I read the book or not whereas my friend who loaned me the book, does.

3. I see nothing wrong with marking or highlighting in a book if I own it. If I keep little notes in the book then it gives me an insight to where my brain was when I look back years later. But too much highlighting can be a problem.

4. Though I have a messy book shelf (I'm looking at it right now), I actually could happily get rid of 75% of the books on it immediately. I only want to keep books that I will reread some day or that hold some sentimental value. So why not heave-ho the lot? Most of the books on my shelf I haven't read. Either I bought and never read them or acquired the book some way. If I read a book, even if I like it but doubt I will ever reread it, I give it away.

5. I love audiobooks and I usually listen to them at 1.25 speed. I know. It drives everyone crazy in my family, too.

6. Poetry books are the exceptions to all the rules. I buy them and hoard them. Whenever I'm at a used book store I will always peruse the poetry shelves. Best finds are usually in university towns.

7. I prefer stand-alone books to books in a series. But if a book is in a series and the second book isn't published when I finish the first book, I usually won't go on and read the rest of the series later. I've moved on. Exception: Eragon, Raven Boys, Daughter of Smoke and Bones, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter.

8. I like reading award winning books, in fact I try to read the Printz, Pulitzer, and National Book Award selections every year. I try to figure out why the book was a winner.

9. My favorite books are often some of the most quirky, out-there books. These types of books are often called cult classics---books that people either love or hate, but the fans are super-fans. I usually love them. Examples: A Confederacy of Dunces; The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore; The Couch.

10. I consider myself to be a Janite---a Jane Austen fan. I not only like her books but I like books about her, and retellings of her stories written by someone else.

11. I haven't read one word or viewed one moment of the Game of Thrones books or TV series. I'm sure I'd like the shows but I just never got started.

12. I don't loan out my books. (See #1) The possible exception might be books for book club but since I usually get the books from the library (See #2) I can't really loan them out to anyone.

What book-related opinions do you hold that might not be too popular with other bookish people? which of my twelve opinions are at odds with yours?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Friday Quotes: We Set the Dark on Fire

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

And a review, of sorts, to follow---

Title: We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Book Beginnings:

Friday 56 (This week's quote from page 39):

Summary: Daniela Vargas and her parents came from the wrong side of the island, separated from the other by a high wall. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged papers so that Daniela could have privileges they could not give her if they stayed behind the wall, on the poor side of the island. But no one must know of her humble beginnings, especially the other girls at the Medio School for Girls where Daniela is training to be a Primera, the first wife of a rich and powerful boy who would secure her position in society. But once her marriage to Mateo takes place Daniela is more aware than ever of the inequality that exists on the island and is uncomfortable living in such luxury when her family and others are starving and cannot get medical care. When she is approached by the resistance to help their cause Dani has to decide if she is willing to sacrifece security for herself while others, including her parents perish due to the inequality.

Review: I became aware of We Set the Dark on Fire through the Goodreads Mock Printz reading group. It has earned four or five starred reviews from professional organizations, so I thought the book worthy of my reading time. It is not hard to figure out how this book relates to today's politics around immigration and inequality. The thinly veiled note of a "wall" was a dead give away. Though the book was full of intrigue and action/suspense, I found myself not buying into the drama and how quickly it developed. The book's two main characters, Daniela and Carmen (the 2nd wife), didn't even seem fully flushed out as people, making the suspense even more difficult to accept. It also ends on a cliff-hanger, which in my mind, removes it from Printz consideration, but will likely cause it to have a small fan-base of readers who want to find out how things turn out. I, on the other hand, don't think I care enough to find out so won't hold my breath waiting for the sequel.

Source: Audiobook checked out on Overdrive from the Pierce County Library

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Friday Quotes: Bibliophile

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.


Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Book Beginning:

Favorite Books

Friday 56:

Novels of the 21st Century reflecting a shrinking world


The artist, Jane Mount, has made a place for herself painting personal favorite books pages for people. This book is about different book lists which she has illustrated. Unless I missed it, I am not sure what master list she consulted to create her sub-categories. Here, on my blogpost, are a few of her categories and sample books for each. Every page is not a big page of novels, others show famous bookstores and libraries, and some author comments about their books. I love books about books so I am relishing every page of this artistic and attractive book.

Books listed:
To Kill a Mockingbird; The Great Gatsby; Catcher in the Rye; Pride and Prejudice; Harry Potter And the Sorcerer's Stone; Jane Eyre; The Lord of the Rings; East of Eden; Anne of Green Gables; Little Women; The Little Prince

Shrinking World:
The Round House; Little Fires Everywhere; The Story of My Teeth; The Underground Railroad; The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao; A Little Life; The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing; Homegoing; Under the Udala Trees; The Sellout; The Sympathizer; The nightingale; Absurdistan; What is the What; All the Light We Cannot See; A Visit from the Goon Squad; Lincholn in the Bardo; The Goldfinch; Americanah: Pachinko; How Should a Person Be?

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Re-thinking My Classics Club list

Sometime in 2011 I joined the Classics Club. As instructed I created a list of 50 books considered classics I'd like to read and hoped to finish my list in five years, as the club suggested. Instead of finishing the list in five years, I kept adding to the list. It now contains 95 titles and though I have read 45 books on it, I am clearly not making progress, as I'd hoped, on finishing the task. Each time I come across a list of must-read classics, I go back and add titles willy-nilly. See my Classics Club list here.

Prior to the Classics Club, I had launched into a personal project to read all the novels in the textbook room assigned by the English department. Most of these books I should have read when I was in school myself but somehow didn't. I never finished that project either, though I made a lot of progress. I read familiar titles like Nineteen Eighty Four, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, Bless Me, Ultima, Great Gatsby, and Things Fall Apart before I slowed down. Obviously I hadn't read many classics when I was in school. Ha!

To increase the likelihood that I would actually read the classics on my lists, I have joined the Classics Club Spins several times. Unfortunately the last four spin books have left me feeling flat. I hated one of them, Wide Sargasso Sea. I struggled with another, The Name of the Rose. I was unimpressed by a third, My Brilliant Career. And I am stuck in the first fifth of East of Eden and can't seem to make myself read it. Clearly I haven't done a good job picking books to add to my list.

This week I purchased a lovely book Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount. Ms. Mount, an artist, creates lovely pages of book covers on topics like: favorites, best children's books, cult classics, etc. As I have begun to look over her pages and illustrations it struck me that I should reorganize my list of classics into categories, rather than by titles only, so that I am not always reading books from the same time periods or same types of themes. Based on lists from Bibliophile I would create the categories, then list a few titles within that category I'd be willing to read, but I wouldn't be tied down to those only, just to reading a few books from that category.

Let me see. Where could I start, if I decide to reorganize my list? Here are some suggestions from Bibliophile:

  • Cult Classics: The Princess Pride; Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance; Geek Love; Invisible Cities
  • Novels of the 1800s: The Picture of Dorian Gray; Frankenstein; A Tale of Two Cities
  • Novels of the early 1900s (Disenchantment): The House of Mirth; Siddhartha; Metamorphosis; Grapes of Wrath
  • Mid-1900s (Losing It): Invisible Man; On the Road; Franny and Zooey; The End of the Affair; The Spy Who Came in From the Cold
  • Novels of the late 1900s (Greed and Growth): The Unbearable Lightness of Being; Lonesome Dove; The Joy Luck Club; White Noise
  • Novels of the Millenium: Cloud Atlas; Bel Canto; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle; The Fine Balance; The Hours
  • Southern Lit: As I Lay Dying; Known World; Interview With a Vampire; The Member of the Wedding; Savage the Bones
  • Love and Romance: North and South; Giovanni's Room; Romeo and Juliet; Anna Karenina
  • Mysteries: The Big Sleep; The Talented Mr. Ripley; Sherlock Holmes; Murder on the Orient Express
  • Fantasy and Sci-Fi: The Mists of Avalon; The Dark is Rising; Howl's Moving Castle; Foundations; Dune; The Martian Chronicles
  • Dystopia: We; The Parable of the Sower; The Red Rising
  • Technothrills: To Say Nothing of the Dog; The Time Machine; The Illustrated Man; Necromancer; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep; The Day of the Triffids
  • Historical fiction: The Scarlet Letter; Wolf Hall; The Pillars of the Earth: Silence
  • Short Story Collections: Nine Stories; This is What We Talk About When We talk About Love; Dubliners; the Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
  • Around the World: Under the Tuscan Sky; The Inheritance of Loss; Seven Years in Tibet; A Room With a View; The Sheltering Sky
  • Memoirs: Just Kids; Wild Swans; The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • War: Catch-22; The Killer Angels; All Quiet on the Western Front; The Art of War
  • Mortality: The Death of Ivan Ilyich; A Separate Peace; A Grief Observed; History Is All You Left Me
  • Finding Meaning: Man's Search for Meaning: Siddhartha; The Tao of Pooh; The Happiness Project
  • Sports: A River Runs Through It; End Zone; Fever Pitch
  • Formative Favorites: The Westing Game; James and the Giant Peach; Are You There God? It's Me Margaret; Hatchet
  • Girl Stars: The Secret Garden; I Am Malala; Pippi Longstockings: Harriet the Spy
  • Coming-of-Age: Dear Martin; Go Tell It On the Mountain; Annie John; Weetzie Bat
  • Picture Books: The Night Kitchen: I Want My Hat Back; The Lion and the Mouse
The list of books within each category are not the full lists that Ms. Mount listed in her book, Bibliophile. They just represent examples of books I haven't read yet and have heard of before. I can think of some categories she didn't name: Russians; Pulitzers; Westerns; Animals come to mind. And I didn't list some of the categories that she did because I wasn't interested in reading the books on her lists: Essays; Nonfiction; Science and Nature.

So if I were to reorganize my Classics Club list I could incorporate the titles into these and possibly other categories. I suspect I will find a lot of the titles fit into just a few categories. By doing this I could vary my classic reading more. If I participate in another CC Spin, once the number is selected I would match it up with the category and then make my selection of a book from within that category which would help me find a book which matches my mood at that time.

I'm like that idea.

What do you think? Do you think this is a workable plan? I would no longer have a definitive list to work off of when selecting my next classics book but would have many more options. Hopefully I will select some good ones.


Monday, May 27, 2019

TTT: Favorite reads in each of the last ten years

Top Ten Tuesday: 
What were my favorite reads each year for the past ten years?

Note: I started keeping track on my books on Goodreads in July of 2009. My slection for 2009 reflects my favorite books from the last half of the year, July to December. For all other years, I consulted Goodreads and based my choices on my recollections and the reviews I wrote for those books. Some books have weathered better than others, but to the best of my memory I selected books I liked THAT year, even if it hasn't remained a favorite moving forward.

(I read the book in the highlighted year. The books were not necessarily published that year.)
Couch by Benjamin Parzybok; Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann; Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese; Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey; Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline; The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater; Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
Ten Poems to Open Your Heart by Roger Housden; Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya; Looking for Alaska by John Green
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin; The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
West With the Night by Beryl Markham; The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman; Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka
2019 (first half)
Becoming by Michelle Obama; Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Friday Quotes and Review---DAMESEL

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

And a review, of sorts to follow---

Title: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Book Beginnings:

Friday 56 (Actually page 30):

Summary: In order for Emery to become King he has to slay a dragon and to save the damsel trapped in the dragon's lair. He does that. The woman he saves has no memory of her life before being rescued so Emery names her Ama and prepares her for her destiny---to become the queen and to bear his son, who will one day slay a dragon and save a damsel before he becomes the next king. The only problem is Ama is not interested in being Emery's wife and Emery is a bully and a cad. Ama is sure if she marries him her life will be miserable and lonely. And what about those memories that seem to hover at the corners of her mind? Didn't she have a life before Emery saved her? She wants to know the answers before they wed.

Review: This fantasy novel is like a mash-up of fairy tale and #MeTooMovement. Emery is an abusive, awful person in the beautiful robes of a king. He attempts to rape Ama. He manipulates her mentally, and threatens her get his own way. Ama is isolated and lonely. She doesn't understand what is happening to her and she fights back as best she can. When she discovers the ovens in the deep basement of the castle where glass is blown into bowls and the all-knowing eyes, she finally finds an outlet for her creativity and warmth for her ever-cold bones. She also starts to sense a bit more of her life before being "rescued". Finally, Ama has enough insight to challenge Emery's claim on her.

When my children were little I used to read a cute and funny picture book to them, The Paper Bag Princess. In this story the princess is supposed to be wowed by Prince Ronald, who is a real dud. Eventually, the princess decides she can do much better on her own and tells him off. I kept thinking about this funny book while I read this very unfunny novel by Alana K. Arnold. Ama clearly needs to get to the point where she tells off Emery and goes her own way but can she do it?

I liked this book a lot. It had a lot to say about how story-telling can shape a culture and expectations for genders. But it was quite full of trigger topics: rape, cruelty to animals, female subjugation, and a bit of violence but it ends on a satisfactory note. It is also a bit of a slow-starter. Both my quotes are from the part of the story before Emery rescues Ama. In this part of the story the reader is getting oriented to the world just like Ama is getting oriented to her new reality.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated rather slowly, but I came to like it a lot and sat for three hours today listening to it just to find out how things work out for Ama. It was a Printz Honor book last year. It really is spectacular writing and such a creative story.