"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, January 25, 2022

A super late review: A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING

Back in 2014 my book group read a bunch of wonderful selections, all books worth pondering over, many were great for reflection, books worthy of discussions that stayed with me long after we'd moved on to other books and other discussions. A Tale for the Time Being is one of those books. Seven years after reading it I am still contemplating its meaning and reflecting on its beauty.

Ruth Ozeki is a Japanese American/Canadian author who splits her time between New York, an island off British Columbia -- where her husband works as an artist, -- and Western Massachusetts -- where she teaches creative writing at Smith College. She is a also a Zen Buddhist Priest and a filmmaker. Many believe that A Tale for the Time Being is semi-autobiographical since one of the protagonists, Ruth, is a writer who lives half the year in New York and half in British Columbia with an artist husband. Sound familiar?

The title of the book is very intriguing, maybe more so if the reader understands the concept of time in terms of Zen Buddhism (which, of course, I don't but I'll share what I've learned.)

The story opens with a poem titled "For the Time Being" by Dogen Zenji. I won't copy it here because I don't want to get too far off track, but you can find it on Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge 😒. Suffice it to say, I think Ozeki is playing around with the concept of time in her marvelous novel. One other gal in book club, Margaret, and I really enjoyed playing around with the title. Did it mean that the character was a "time-being" someone who could move around in time and space? Or was it a more simplistic explanation, "for the time being" as in "for now; temporarily"? Or both? Uji could also mean: "once; on one occasion; at one point; [in the past] once; at one time; once upon a time" which suggests that Ozeki is telling us a fairy tale with a moral at the end. Another reviewer suggested that a time being is "deep time, not linear, chronological time and for all humans the end of time is death."

This is a book about the mysteries of time, how layers of time blend together, how time hurries by and slows down. It’s about our time, this big time we are all living in, this time of tsunamis, climate change, species extinction, undeclared war, Internet technology. And it’s about this time right now, this moment of hearing a crow calling on a branch, a moment that’s gone already. It’s about time past, the history we think we know about—World War II, for example—and about memory, and how when we look back and remember, or when we read journals and letters from the past, the layers of time get squashed together in the time being. Everything exists at once. Everything that has happened, or could have happened, all possibilities are present now (Tricycle). 

Hmm. Lots to think about. So now that I've got that all nailed down (snark), shall I tell you about the book?

The story is about two women: Nao and Ruth. They are separated by space and time. Nao is a teenager living in Japan with her parents. Everyone in her family is miserable. Nao (pronounced "Now") starts writing a diary which begins with these words: "Hi, My name is Nao and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you." She addresses her diary to a future "you" as if she knows that someone will eventually read it. The future reader is Ruth, who finds the diary inside a Hello Kitty lunchbox, inside the cover of Prout's book, In Search of Lost Time. This is all inside a plastic bag wrapped up in seaweed and barnacles found by Ruth on the Pacific beach of the island where she is living at the time. Citizens on the island have all been scouring the beaches for months recovering flotsam that has washed up presumably from the Japanese tsunami two years earlier.

As Ruth begins reading the diary she learns that Nao grew up in Silicon Valley where her father held a good job and everyone was happy. But when the dot.com bubble burst they had to return to Japan where her father has been unable to find another job. He is miserable and has attempted suicide. Nao is bullied at school where she is also miserable and has contemplated suicide herself. But before she does anything drastic she goes to visit her great-grandmother, old Jiko, who is 104-years-old and a practicing Zen nun and the abbess of an ancient temple near Fukushima, very near the spot of the tsunami a few years later. While staying with old Jiko, Nao learns about a great-uncle who was a reluctant kamikaze pilot in WWII. Nao decides that before she kills herself she must first write down their stories.  She pens these words, “I will write down everything I know about Jiko’s life in Marcel’s book, and when I’m done, I’ll just leave it somewhere, and you will find it. How cool is that? It feels like I’m reaching forward through time to touch you, and now that you’ve found it, you’re reaching back to touch me!

The chapters alternate between the two narrators, though Nao is writing her chapters in second person and refers to herself in first person, and Ruth's chapters are written in third person which is odd, but it works. Ruth's chapters show how she increasingly becomes obsessed with learning about what happened to Nao. Did she commit suicide? Was she swept up in the tsunami? Is she still alive somewhere in Japan? Instead of spending time writing and working on her own memoir, she finds herself spending all her energy on Nao and the "what ifs" of the girl's life. Ruth reads the diary slowly, so that only one chapter or entry reveals itself at a time. By the time that Nao writes her last entry, she has decided that she doesn't want to die after all. And to her great delight she learns that Proust not only wrote the one book, but seven. One of them is titled, Time Regained. She decides that she must find a copy of it because that is a perfect title for a book about old Jiko.

As Ruth finishes the diary she decides she must write to Nao, even though she doesn't know how to contact her. She closes the letter acknowledging this not-knowing:

In your diary you quoted old Jiko saying something about not-knowing, how not-knowing is the most intimate way, or did I just dream that? Anyway, I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think maybe it's true, even though I don't really like the uncertainty. I'd much rather know, but then again, not-knowing keeps all the possibilities open. It keeps the world alive
I can totally relate to this concept of not-knowing. I used to tell my students that my favorite book endings were the ambiguous ones. That I way I got to play around with the "what ifs" myself.

Clearly A Tale for the Time Being is not an easy book and I wouldn't recommend it to just any reader. I listened to the audiobook, which I am sure help me "get" the story easier. It is long and has lots of story lines to keep track of but it sure is worth all the effort in the end. I loved the way Ruth Ozeki played around with the concept of time and I was able to get lost in it for quite a while. Heck, I'm still lost in all the mysteries of this wonderful book.

Did you read A Tale for the Time Being? What did you think of it? Have you read any of Ruth Ozeki's other books? I noticed she published a new book in 2021, The Book of Form and Emptiness, which I hope to get to soon.


Monday, January 24, 2022

Youth Media Award Winners

The Youth Media Awards were announced today at the end of the ALA Mid-Winter Meeting. There are so many, many awards given out now it is hard to bring recognition to all of them. Congratulations to all the winners!

The Printz Award and Honor books, which I shall attempt to read this year, are:

Award winner:

Firekeeper's Daughter
By Angeline Boulley
Henry Holt and Company, and imprint of MacMillan Children's Publishing Group

Daunis, a half-Ojibwe, half-white former hockey player/aspiring scientist never feels fully settled in either her reservation or the outside world. She finds herself even more torn when she witnesses her best friend’s murder and is pulled into an FBI investigation centered on a lethal new drug running wild among her friends and family.

Honor Books:

Concrete Rose 
By Angie Thomas
Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
By Malinda Lo
Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House
-year-old Lily Hu can’t remember exactly when the feeling took root—that desire to look, to move closer, to touch. Whenever it started growing, it definitely bloomed the moment she and Kathleen Miller walked under the flashing neon sign of a lesbian bar called the Telegraph Club. Suddenly everything seemed possible.
Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
By Kekla Magoon
Candlewick Press
Revolution in Our Time puts the Panthers in the proper context of Black American history, from the first arrival of enslaved people to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Kekla Magoon’s eye-opening work invites a new generation of readers grappling with injustices in the United States to learn from the Panthers’ history and courage, inspiring them to take their own place in the ongoing fight for justice.
By Lisa Fipps
Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Bullied and shamed her whole life for being fat, twelve-year-old Ellie finally gains the confidence to stand up for herself, with the help of some wonderful new allies.


TTT: New-to-Me Authors in 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors in 2021

Most of the books I read in 2021 were by authors I'd not read before. This list is merely a few of them, all authors I hope to read some of their other works.

1. Maggie O'Farrell
2.  Jhumpa Lahiri
3. Jennifer Egan
4. Anthony Horowitz

5. Charles Yu

6. Jason Mott

7. Brendan Kiely

8. Frank Herbert

9. David Attenborough

10. Michael Cunningham

What new to you author did you enjoy finding in 2021?


Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sunday Salon---Mostly about books

Today I have decided to not be bothered by what bothers me.  That means, for today at least, no politics,  no focus on our horrible pandemic, or making fun of people who "don't believe in it." What does that leave me? Well, three things come to mind: grandsons, pets, and books.

Weather: Stagnant air which is cold and foggy. A few nights ago the meteorologist on the local news said the forecast was for beautiful, sunny days for almost a week. Well, apparently the weather didn't actually listen to him because we've been a soup bowl ever since that prediction. We just got back from walking the dog and all of us, including the dog, were miserably cold and wet when we stepped back into the house. My face is still thawing. I'm complaining now, but we did have a nice walk in the late afternoon a few days back at Chambers Bay overlooking the Puget Sound. (See photo above of Don and Bingley.)

Gnome hunt and house in progress

Grandson #1, Ian: Last Monday Don, Ian, and I made a trip to a favorite spot, Northwest Trek. It is a local wildlife park which also has a very popular play area for young kids. Ian loves to play there and he always makes a friend or two to chum around with for a short time. The park was festooned with gnomes, so we ran around and took pictures of Ian with all them. Afterwards we dropped by the family property where they are building a new house. Ian showed us the floor plan and explained everything to us. So cute. 

Grandson #2, Jamie: I babysit Jamie one day a week and he is at the stage where he needs opportunities for enrichment and action. Last week we went to the local mall which has a pretty cool free play structure. Jamie loved it, especially the elephant slide, which he is climbing in the photo. Fortunately for us, we had the whole structure to ourselves so didn't need to worry about other children and their germs interacting with us. Sad state of affairs, huh?

Books, blogging, and bookish-related topics:

  • SOTH Book Club -- we met on Zoom to discuss this month's selection: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It was a reread for me as my other book club read it three years ago, long enough ago that I needed to remind myself of details. I liked it just as much the second time around. But I have to admit that I don't care for Zoom book club meetings.
  • RHS Gals Book Club -- meets this coming week. We will be discussing The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. I was very disappointed in this story. It had so much potential -- the idea of being fully authentic and honest with self and others -- but the book just didn't deliver. I am leading the discussion which I do not think will go well. Sigh. At least we will meet in person, outside on a deck with a gas fireplace. Hopefully we'll stay cozy and dry.
  • Speaking of book clubs, here are two "favorites" lists:
  • Cybils Finalists -- Still working away on this project:
    • The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks (Young Reader's Edition) by Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert -- Rosa Parks was not a meek and unwitting participant in the Montgomery Bus Boycott when she wouldn't give up her seat on the bus. She was an activist long before her action started the ball rolling. This book is setting the record straight. Print. 44%.
    • Everything You Wanted To Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Reader's Edition) by Anton Treuer -- the book is organized according to topics -- History, Terminology, Religion & Culture, Powwow, etc. -- and can be used to look up the answer to one burning question such as "Why don't Indians cut their hair?" -- or read in its entirety, like I am doing. I am gaining so many insights. Print and audio. 55%.
  • Also reading --
    • The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles -- my library hold just arrived so I can continue reading this book after a short hiatus. Audio. 20%.
    • The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig. A reread. Print. 5%.
  • Super Past Due Reviews -- I am challenging myself to go back in time and recall information about books I read long ago and actually write reviews for them now. The list of the books for this challenge and other details I've explained in the intro post (hyperlinked.) So far I've completed one super late review for The Goldfinch (read in 2014) and I am currently rereading The Whistling Season (read in 2009 and 2015) for my next installment. I've only picked books for this challenge that I truly love and have inexplicably never reviewed. Stay tuned.
  • Completed this week --
    • The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren. A nonfiction book by the author of Lab Girl. Oh boy! If we make it out of this crisis alive, it will be a miracle. Audio.
    • Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang. A book club selection. I had to request this book from the library again after I didn't finish it in December. I really got wrapped up in this immigrant's story. Very well done. A memoir. E-book and audio.
    • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. A reread. Print.

Fred vs. the chair

Happy week!


Thursday, January 20, 2022

A super late review: THE GOLDFINCH

Back in 2014 my favorite book was The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It wasn't just my favorite book, it was everyone's favorite, even winning the coveted Pulitzer Prize for literature that year. 

Oddly, considering how much I loved the book, I never reviewed it at the time of my reading. That omission has been a sore spot for me ever since then. So today, a little over seven years later, I will attempt to rectify that situation by writing a review of sorts. In an effort to refresh my memory I read through several reviews on-line and have decided to allow those reviews to give me an assist.

To begin with, every review I read about The Goldfinch (but I didn't need their help on this one) mentioned its length, 771 pages. Stephen King, reviewing the book for the NYT, began his review by quoting Jack Beatty and his famous critique of James A. Michener’s Chesapeake which is 865 pages long: “My best advice is don’t read it; my second best is don’t drop it on your foot.” He goes on to remark about the commitment Tartt made in writing such a long book and at great personal risk to herself. What if no one liked her book after spending almost ten years writing it? Now there is an interesting perspective from one writer about another. I suppose King's comment comes from a place of knowing since he is also known for writing long books. Concerning this first concern, King assures the reader: 

It’s my happy duty to tell you that in this case, all doubts and suspicions can be laid aside. The Goldfinch is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind. I read it with that mixture of terror and excitement I feel watching a pitcher carry a no-hitter into the late innings. You keep waiting for the wheels to fall off, but in the case of  The Goldfinch, they never do.

I was well aware of the length of The Goldfinch but didn't need to worry about dropping it on my foot because I listened to the audiobook. The average audiobook is usually somewhere between 10-14 hours of listening time. The Goldfinch audiobook is 32.5 hours long. My commute at the time was about an hour round-trip so I clearly was at it for nearly a month. That is a commitment to one book when so many others are calling out for attention. (I just looked it up. If I was on a cross country trip I could get all the way from Washington State, where I live, to Indianapolis in 32 hours of driving time!) David Pittu, the voice actor who narrated The Goldfinch, won the Audie Award in 2014 for the best solo narration. 

The arc of the tale is fourteen years, and the book begins near the end of the story. The narrator is Theo Decker and his narrative begins with this opening quote, "While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed of my mother for the first time in years" (1) Kamila Shamsie of The Guardian, begins her review talking about the length of the book but she makes a different point than Stephen King.  

It is dangerous to write openings as compelling as Donna Tartt's. In The Goldfinch, Tartt has a 50‑page two-part opening. In the first section...Theo Decker, is holed up in an Amsterdam hotel, looking at newspapers written in Dutch, which he can't understand; he is searching for his name in articles illustrated with pictures of police cars and crime scene tapes. Before any of this is explained, the story moves back 14 years to the day Theo's mother dies, when he is on the cusp of adolescence....This is, of course, where the danger comes in: if, at the end of the kind of set piece to which the word "climactic" should emphatically apply, you still have 700 pages to go, aren't you setting your readers up for disappointment?

Shamsie answers her own question: "Astonishingly, the answer is no." In fact, all the professional reviewers said pretty much the same thing -- Don't be put off  by the page length. It is worth every page. 

The Goldfinch, 1654

As you learned from above quote, Theo survived a terrorist bomb explosion at the Metropolitan Museum which killed his mother. The two had ducked into the museum to get out of the rain that day and while there his mother wanted to show Theo her favorite painting --"The Goldfinch" by a Dutch painter, Carel Fabritius, who was an actual artist and was killed in a chemical explosion in the 1600s. This painting is one his few surviving works, and his best. Theo and his mother separate into different rooms just at the moment of impact. Theo eventually wakes to the mess all around him next to an old man. Theo narrates his own story, "I was fading out myself -- ears ringing, inane buzz and a metallic taste in my mouth like the dentist's -- and I might have drifted back into unconsciousness and stayed there had he not shaken me, hard, so I awoke with a buck of panic" (48) This old man gives Theo a ring with strict instructions of what to do with it before he dies. After Theo's head clears and he can't find his mother, he picks up the painting from among the debris and carries it out of the museum and home, where he is sure he'll be reunited with his mother. He can never explain why he took it that day, but once he has it he doesn't want to part with it and clings to it as a tangible memory of his mother.

Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a wealthy family of a school friend, the Barbours. Everyone understands that this arrangement is temporary but the relationship with the family becomes very important throughout Theo's formative years. Of course grief was ever present: “I had fallen off the map,” Theo says. The disorientation of being in the wrong apartment, with the wrong family, . . . groggy and punch-drunk, weepy almost. . . . I kept thinking I’ve got to go home and then, for the millionth time, I can’t.” Eventually the father does show up and removes Theo to Las Vegas, where the father lives with his girl friend, Xandra, and is always hatching get-rich-quick schemes. Basically alone, Theo finds a friend, Boris, who is from Ukraine and is also neglected by his father. The two boys chum around together, often participating in petty thievery and the use of more and more serious drugs. Several years later the boys reunite, finding themselves inexplicably involved in the underbelly of the illegal art trade business. Eventually they end up in Amsterdam.

Ron Charles, writing for the Washington Post finds  "While the world has been transformed over the past decade, one of the most remarkable qualities of  The Goldfinch is that it arrives singed with 9/11 terror but redolent of a 19th-century novel. Indeed, Charles Dickens floats through these pages like Marley’s ghost" (WaPo). He mentions several of Dicken's books but keeps coming back to Great Expectations. You know Pip, the orphan, who has dreams of a different life for himself. There is even a Pippa in the book who could fulfill the role of Estella. She is the granddaughter of the man who gives Theo the ring. But to me it seems like more of the characters are drawn from Oliver, with Theo playing that role; Boris is the Artful Dodger; and his dad is Fagin. Stephen King says of James Hobart (Hobie), the kind furniture restorer who takes in Theo later in his life, "a Dickensian character if there ever was one."

Apparently everyone didn't love the book or thought they shouldn't love the book just like some of the gals in my book club who weren't crazy about it or at least didn't like parts of it. Douglas Perry, writing for the Oregonian, talks about these literary critics who failed to convince people that the book may not have been worthy of all its praise.

And these criticisms of the novel -- "fantastical," "cliché-ridden," "coincidence-laced" -- didn't rise up only after The Goldfinch jumped to the top of the bestseller lists. The book-industry magazine Kirkus Reviews, which publishes reviews before books hit shelves, wrote that the "symbolic echoes Tartt employs are occasionally heavy-handed, and it's a little too neat that Theo discovers the work of the sublime Dutch master Carel Fabritius, (himself) killed in a powder blast, just before the fateful event that will carry his mother away. Yet it all works." (Oregonian).

See? I told you. Everyone liked the book. Even when critics are criticizing The Goldfinch, they can't help but say how well the book works, or how exciting it is, or how it brings to mind the great classics -- all good stuff. Now the movie made from the book, is a a completely different story. It is not worth the time it takes to watch it.

What did you think of The Goldfinch? If you didn't/haven't read it, why not? 

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  

Super Past Due Personal Blogging Challenge



Tuesday, January 18, 2022

A project for 2022

I retired in 2017 after 37 years as an educator, the last twelve as a high school librarian. Prior to 2017 my priority in blogging was writing reviews for the YA books I was reading. I purposely didn't review all the adult books I read, thinking my students wouldn't be that interested in them. Now I realize that many of the books I never reviewed are some of my favorites and I really, really wish I hadn't neglected them. I keep wondering if it is possible to write reviews for books I read years ago? Well, this project will be my attempt to go back and correct the record, writing super-duper past due reviews.

These are the books I hope to review in 2022:

1. A Man Named Ove by Frederik Backman
Read in April 2017
2. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Read in Feb. 2018
3. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Read in Aug. 2017
4. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
Read in March 2017
5. In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
Read in Nov. 2016
6. The Round House by Louise Erdrich
Read in January 2014
7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Read in Dec. 2014
Reviewed Jan. 20, 2022
8. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Read in October 2014
Reviewed Jan. 25, 2022
9. The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Read in Dec. 2015
10. Whistling Season by Ivan Doig
Re-read in Feb. 2015, first read in 2009
If I complete these past due reviews I may add additional titles. Come back infrequently and check out my progress. I'll hyperlink the titles to completed reviews.


Monday, January 17, 2022

My favorite book club selctions for the past decade, one per year

Favorite book club picks of the past decade. One per year.

I was chatting with a blogging friend the other day and in the course of the conversation she mentioned we should look back on our past book club selections to identify favorites (Thanks Deb@Readerbuzz). With a quick look back at my past twelve yearly posts of book club favorites, these eleven titles surfaced as the favorites of the favorites, one for each year.

2021 This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger The author said he wanted to write an all-American tale. So he set it during The Great Depression along the great Mississippi River, taking some inspiration from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Grapes of Wrath, and a lot from Homer's Odyssey. It was a fun book to read and to discuss.  (See the full list for 2021 favorites here.)

2020  Virgil Wander by Leif Enger---this book was a delight to read and a delight to discuss. Part of the discussion focused on the wordsmithery of Enger. Read my review, please, you will see what I mean as I included a few quotes in it. (See full list of 2020 favorites.)

2019 Educated by Tara Westover---This is on my list for the second year in a row. If you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for? An excellent discussion book on the topic of family dysfunction, education, abuse, and making one's own way. (See full list of 2019 favorites here.)

2018 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman--- At first I thought this was going to be an unfunny version of the Rosie Project. I was wrong. Eleanor Oliphant has lots of problems but she also has a friend who helps her to find her way and to grow to love and accept herself. (See full list of 2018 favorites here.)

2017 The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This was not only my favorite book club selection of the year, but it was also my favorite book of 2017. The story about a boy, his estranged parents, a 104-year-old-woman, and a cast of quirky characters is both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. Everyone in my club liked the book, too, and it generated a fun discussion. (See full 2017 list here.)

2016 In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner---An unlikely winner considering the subject matter: the reign of the Khymer Rouge in Cambodia and the devastation on the lives of the people involved. But this book was exquisitely written, simply gorgeous. We had a fabulous discussion about the book and about this despicable event in history. (See 2016 favorites here.)

2015 The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown---this book was featured as the All Pierce County Reads book of 2015. It is about the rowing team from the University of Washington and how they won the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. It is much more than a sports book, however, it also a book about the lives of the rowers and their coaches, the Great Depression, and Hitler and the beginnings of the Nazi movement.  (2015 book club favorites here.)

2014 The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver---Even though this book is a tome, weighing in at over 500 pages, everyone in the book club really liked it. And we had so much to talk about: the labor movement in the world, McCarthyism, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, WWII, The Depression, politics, Leon Trotsky, Roosevelt, friendship, and homosexuality. This book tops the list because of how much I learned about the time period and because of the spectacular writing. (2014 was a good year for book club choices.)

2013 Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver---I always learn something when I read Kingsolver. The theme of this book is climate change and personal politics that surround the issue. Very insightful. (My favs of 2013 book clubs)

2012 No clear winner. See the whole list here. 

2011 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese---set in Ethiopia starting in the 1960s this book had me from page one. It looks daunting at over 500 pages but it was pure pleasure to both read and discuss.  We discussed this book in January and I knew it would be my favorite book of the year, and I was right.  (My favorite book club selections of 2011.)

2010 The Help by Kathryn Stockett---set in the South in the early to mid 1960s.  Black maids are raising white children who grow up and become racist like their parents. This superbly-written book was almost life-altering to read...it really made us think!  It generated excellent discussions in both groups. Even if you aren't in a book club, read this book. (My first 'Best Book Club' selections list.)


Sunday, January 16, 2022

Sunday Salon...MLK Edition

Taken from the liturgy from today's worship service.

Foggy and gloomy. We lived inside a cloud all day yesterday and it appears that today will be the same. We called our daughter who lives at a higher elevation and she said yesterday was sunny and glorious. I think a road trip to higher climes is in order today.


Focus on political good news:


Link to tweet


Link to tweet

Link: Time Standard


5. DirecTV plans to drop One America News Network, the conservative, disinformation-spewing channel. (Link to tweet)

6. COVID Preventative Nasal Sprays Trials in Australia. Game changer. (DKos)


Link to a bunch of Pro-vaxx memes. Very funny.



  • Completed this past week:
    • In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race by Amy Cherrix. A Cybils Nonfiction finalist. Very well-done and interesting. I just have a hard time imagining that teenagers would pick this book up to read. Print.
    • Punching Bag by Rex Ogle. Another Cybils nonfiction finalist. A memoir about growing up in an abusive family. Tough topic but very compelling. Audio.
  • Currently reading:
    • The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Young Reader's Edition) by Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert. A Cybils finalist. This book's mission is to set the story straight about Rosa Parks and her accomplishments, adapted from the author's adult book published in 2013, it includes new information. Print. 6%.
    • The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where to Go From Here by Hope Jahren. A nonfiction book by the author of Lab Girl. Oh boy! If we make it out of this crisis alive, it will be a miracle. Audio. 67%
    • Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang. A book club selection. I had to request this book from the library again after I didn't finish it in December. A memoir. E-book. 31%.

On the lighter side:

Ever feel this way?

And now for some bad spelling examples that prove a different point than they think:


More inspiring thoughts:

Don't celebrate MLK day. Do something good for another person on the day.


Friday, January 14, 2022

Review and quotes: HARLEM SHUFFLE

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Book Beginnings quote: 

His cousin Freddie brought him on the heist one hot night in early June.


Carney's father was crooked, but that didn't make him so. It simply meant that he knew how things worked in that particular line.

Summary: Ray Carney owns a furniture store in Harlem and makes enough money to support his family but not enough money to move his family out of the rundown apartment dominated by the sounds of the above-ground subway train which runs nearby. Few people know that he descended from a full-time crook, his father.  

When Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either. Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa—the “Waldorf of Harlem”—and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes. Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. ---Publisher

Review: I was predisposed to like Harlem Shuffle because I am such a fan of the author, Colson Whitehead. Heck, the guy had written two Pulitzer Prize winners right before this novel, The Underground Railroad (2016) and The Nickel Boys (2019.) This book, unlike its predecessors, isn't a serious and maddening book about slavery and its tentacles, though the book contains plenty of racism and classism, it is a crime novel with racism nibbling at the corners. I, of course, added Harlem Shuffle to my reading list as soon as it was published but I didn't race out to buy it. Then my interest was reignited when Harlem Shuffle took the number one spot for the most best-of-books recommendations of 2021. (See list here.) It made it onto 22 of these end-of-the-year lists, far outpacing other literary heavy hitters like Hell of a Book, the National Book Award winner, which made it onto eight lists, and The Lincoln Highway, which everyone seems to be talking about, was listed on eleven.

At first I was a little put off by the novel. Somehow I started reading it without realizing that it was a crime novel, which was a little shocking. Ray Carney, the story's protagonist, is outwardly an upstanding man that gets pulled into criminal activity by his bumbling cousin Freddie. Ray, whose father was a crook, views himself as "only slightly bent when it comes to being crooked, in practice and ambition" (34). He keeps finding himself drawn into heists and the fencing of stolen goods with the likes of men named Miami Joe, Pepper, and Chink Montague. Yet, he struggles to maintain his upstanding reputation as a good guy. He is a man divided, one clinging to the self-delusion that he is not really a crook. The end of the story, which left the reader dangling a bit, left the door open for either side to win out: the good guy or the crook.

Though I may not have bought into the plot at first, I was all-in when it came to Whiteheads prose. I found myself chuckling more than once at his turn of phrase, such as the description of the sad Chinese restaurants where “the cookies were stale and the fortunes discouraging." And the feeling that one gets when you realize you've been had: “Humiliation was his currency, but tonight Miss Laura had picked his pocket.” And Whitehead's descriptions of life in Harlem in the 1960s made me wonder if the author was into time travel and had made his way back to that time and place to gather authentic images and aspects of the community. 

The title of the NYT review of the Harlem Shuffle should be enough to make you want to read the book, if this review doesn't do it: "Colon Whitehead's Warmhearted Crime Caper of the 1960s in Harlem." Who doesn't want to read a warmhearted crime caper? Give it a try.

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Monday, January 10, 2022

TTT: The Last Ten Books Added to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Added to My 'To-Be-Read' List.

Currently I have around 220 books I want to read that I've added to my TBR list. That number never seems to change much. I add new books to it as fast as I read ones currently on it. Here are the last ten books I added to the list:

                      Title:                                  Author:       Goodreads rating:             Date Added to List:

I hope you can read the titles from the screenshot of my Goodreads 'To Read' page. I'm feeling too lazy to retype them.