"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=========

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Pending reviews


Every once in a while I start feeling overwhelmed because I am falling behind on my blog reviews of books I recently, or not-so-recently read. Today I am making a list of these books, mainly as a catalyst for me to get going, to help me catch up on them. Hyperlinks will appear on this page as I finish up the reviews, if you care to read them.

1. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore, completed July 6th

2. This Book is Anti-racist by Tiffany Jewell. completed July 9th

3. Kent State by Deborah Wiles, completed  July 31st

4. Tinkers by Paul Harding, completed August 19th

5. Be the Bridge by LaTasha Morrison, completed August 21st

6. For the Love of Books by Graham Tarrant, completed August 26th

7. Finders Keepers by Stephen King, completed  September 1st

8. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, completed September 2nd

9. Bird Box by Josh Malerman, completed September 11th

There are several other books I've read that I am ambivalent about reviewing. I may get to them, or not. Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (Read in February) and New Kid by Jerry Craft (Read in March) are on that list.

-Anne

Review: READHEAD BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD


Redhead By the Side of the Road
is Anne Tyler's latest book and my first by the author. I found Redhead a calming, compact read, just right for these days of pandemic lock downs, polarizing politics, and confusing racial tension. 

In this gem, readers meet Micah Mortimer, a 43-year-old man who owns his own business, Tech Hermit, where he is the only employee. He lives in the basement apartment rent-free since he is the "super" for the building doing odd jobs to keep up the repairs and needed tasks to keep thing running smoothly. He lives a simple life full of little routines that give his life the patina of order. For example, he always mops on Mondays and vacuums on Fridays. Even when others tease him about his schedule, he doesn't alter his routine. He has a girl friend, Cassie, and they enjoy a warm and friendly relationship until suddenly they don't. Micah can't figure out what he has does wrong. Around the same time, a person from Micah's past unexpectedly shows up causing further disruptions to his ordered life.

Redhead By the Side of the Road has many positive aspects to it, starting with the title. I usually search for the meaning of the title as I read and this one finally hit me over the head about mid-book. It isn't a person, as I thought it would be, but is a metaphor for the different ways that Micah is blind to his own faults and perceptions. He needs help to see them clearly. 

According to what I've learned from my little bit of research on the author, Micah is a typical Tyler character. He is likable and quirky. "Whether she's writing about unfulfilled empty-nesters, lonely widowers or young control freaks, Tyler's novels demonstrate that it's never too late to change your life" (NPR). Even though Micah leads a perfectly structured life, which is the life he thinks he wants, relationships don't always fit into this kind of organization neatly.  Tyler lets us get very close to Micah as he starts to recognize this. Don't you love a novel where the protagonist makes good growth? I do.

Micah may be a man of routines but he is also goofy and funny. He likes to speak french to himself when he cooks and he thinks that the traffic gods are always looking down on him when he is driving, remarking about the amazing fetes that Micah pulls off on the road. I laughed every single time that Micah evoked a comment from them. When an immature teenager is seen wearing a t-shirt with the words "Grown Up" on the front I couldn't help but laugh at the irony. I was delighted when Micah was tripped by a coat left on the ground by children jumping rope while singing out what sounds like "mislaid mislaid." 

Redhead By the Side of the Road is a small story with a very small set of a characters. It was a calm book to read with just enough humor to keep it lighthearted even when worrying situations arise. I'd say it is the perfect book to read right now with all the turmoil in our lives and I'm glad I did.

I listened to the audiobook, expertly read by MacLeod Andrews. He voice is both warm and wry, just right to be narrating a story about Micah who is also warm and wry. It is the book club selection for September's meeting. I'll circle back after our discussion to update you.

PS-We had a great discussion. It was a fun book to dissect. Here is a list of good reader's guide.

-Anne

(RHS Book Club, September 2020)

Monday, September 21, 2020

TTT: Fall Reading List


Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my fall reading list (and how I did on my summer reading list.) 

Overdrive audio or e-books:

  1. Writers and Lovers by Lily King
  2. A Very Stable Genius by Rucker and Leonnig
  3. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
  4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  5. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  6. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  7. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  8. Princess Bride by William Goldman
Print books
  1. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie Mackesey
  2. Lifting As We Climb by Evette Dionne
  3. Poisoned Water by Candy Cooper
  4. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
  5. Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

How did I do on my Summer list? I had a lot of books on my list and I didn't do too bad. Checks mean I finished the book. A few books I started but didn't finish, look for those notes. Of the nineteen books, only four books were not started at all. Four books are half finished and I plan to finish soon. Eleven books completed from the list.

  1. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult☑
  2. Hinds' Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard☑
  3. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce☑
  4. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King✗
  5. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo✗
  6. How Lovely the Ruins: Inspirational Poems and Words for Difficult Times by Annie Chagnot☑
  7. A Very Stable Genius: Donald Trump's Testing of America by Philip Rucker and Corl Leonnig-Currently on my audio playlist
  8. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood Was returned to library before I finished it, I will request it again to finish it.
  9. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore☑
  10. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore☑
  11. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine☑
  12. The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd✗
  13. This Train is Being Held by Ismee Williams  Read half and did not finish.
  14. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins☑
  15. This Book is Anti-racist by Tiffany Jewell☑
  16. Tiny Habits: Small Changes that Change Everything by B.F. Fogg Set aside to tackle at a later date.
  17. Tinkers by Paul Harding☑
  18. The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom✗
  19. Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation by LaTasha Morrison☑ 

-Anne

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sunday Salon, RBG Edition


Weather: We've had a few days of rain and showers. The smokey air has lessened and the temperatures have dropped.


Family: Welcome Jamie Thomas Adams. Our second grandson made his entrance on Wednesday after a short labor. He has already captured our hearts.

Books:

  • Currently reading
    • Redhead By the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler---a book club selection. (Audio, 51%)
    • Writers and Lovers by Lily King---This one showed up on a list of best books of 2020. I like it so far. (Audio, 19%)
    • Princess Bride by William Goldman---a classic that I've never read. I've seen the movie many times, obviously. (E-Book, 10%)
  • Completed this week 
    • James Herriot's Cat Stories. A reread. Just what I needed. Calm, soothing animal stories. (Print)
    • True Trump by Ross Rosenfeld. I could barely make myself read this book because I hate Trump so much I didn't want to be immersed in his life for hours on end. Not the author's fault. (I don't think the author likes him either.) (E-book)

Please listen: "Lift Every Voice and Sing", also known as the Black National Anthem, sung by Alicia Keys, played at the NFL games last Sunday. (Thanks Kathy for sharing this with me.)


Super Sad: The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has hit me very hard. Yet, I can barely make myself read anything about her or the politics of what is to come now that she is gone. It helps to watch video tributes like this one on ABC News, or photo montages like this one on CNN. The photo below was taken at the spontaneous memorial that sprung up in front of the Supreme Court on Friday night. I think the little statue of RBG is so cute and the candle, with the words "Choose Happiness" partially obscured, so perfect. She would have loved this.

Good News:

1. Joe Biden has a great sense of humor. (From Day 62 of 100 Days of Loving Joe Biden)


2. Well, this is cool. Very cool. "Solar-powered Panels Pull Water Out of the Air for Navajo Families Who Have None." This is high-tech for a great use. (GNN)

3. Trump lied about Science. This is bad news. But in the early part of week the editorial board in Science Magazine called Trump out for his lies about the coronavirus. It is good news that finally Trump is being called out for his lies! (Science) Later in the week Scientific American, a publication that has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history, endorsed Joe Biden. Here is part of what they said---

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Joe Biden, who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future. (Scientific American)

4. Imagine what it is like to be a black man in America. Reality vs. Perception, a poem by Tyler Lockett, wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks (our NFL team!). Please watch this and ask yourself this important question.

5. RNC used Russian military images for its ad campaign...three times.

 6. Defund the police? This cartoon by Neal Skorpen does a great job explaining what it means.

On the lighter side:

1. A tweet from Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker:

2.The news often makes it seem like everyone in rural areas of America supports Trump. It's good to know that is not totally true.


3. I'd say I've fallen to these four horsemen:

4. I hope this is true...that everyone fights with their last ounce of strength to make sure their vote counts this year.
 

5. Sesame Street seems to understand us. (Contributed by Rita)


6. Hopefully this will happen: Reset to normal.
7.

Bonus. One more photo of little Jamie Thomas. Here he is hanging onto his mama's toe while he is having his first examination.

One more time. Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


-Anne


Monday, September 14, 2020

TTT: The Evolution of Book Covers

Top Ten Tuesday: The Evolution of Books Covers

1. Pride and Prejudice... so many to choose from now.

2. The Tale of Peter Rabbit...why mess with success?

3. The Hobbit... can you believe how ugly the original book was? But why not feature an actual hobbit?

4. Animal Farm...A Fairy Story? Really? Notice that part of the title is dropped.

5.To Kill a Mockingbird...the original cover is still available, too.

6. A Clockwork Orange...I don't like either of the covers or the book.

 7. A Wrinkle in Time...I think the version I read the first time had a creepy, Sci-Fi cover.

8. Slaughterhouse-Five...I don't think either of these covers capture the message of the book.

9. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...I love every edition.

-Anne

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Sunday Salon. Sept. 13

My favorite photo of Ian and my Dad. It was taken in September 2018, just months before Dad died. Ian is turning one here and Dad is 90. Love!


Weather: Smokey. Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday. It will not come soon enough.

Family: Today is Ian's 3rd birthday. We will help celebrate the day of his birth with other family members and friends at a county park near their home. Keeping fingers crossed that the smoke doesn't necessitate a cancellation.

Books:

  • Currently reading
    • True Trump: An Honest Biography of Trump for Young Adults by Ross Rosenfeld. I agreed to read and review this book for the author. I wish I hadn't. Not because the book is bad, I just hate Trump so much I don't like reading about him for long stretches of time. (e-book, 26%)
  • Completed this week
    • The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Futures of America's Presidents by Kate Messner. A Children's book. It takes an interesting angle---right now there are maybe as many as eight people alive who will become president some day. (e-book)
    • Bird Box by Josh Malerman. A thriller of a post-apocalypse in the near future. Also a book club selection well out of our normal type of selection. (Audio) After I finished listening to it, we watched the movie of it starring Sandra Bullock.

Bad News: 

I know I don't usually spend any time here on this post highlighting the bad news of the week but my thoughts and feelings these days are quite negative. We are living in what smells like a camp fire with forest fires not far from our home causing the need for the evacuation of several friends and church members. Out of caution my sister, who lives in Oregon, evacuated from her home to stay with our mother several miles away. The fire that threatened her home did destroy several small communities on the McKenzie River and it is still raging. The whole west coast seems to be burning.

In addition the news out of Washington, DC was very discouraging this week: President Trump knew in January how contagious the coronavirus was and how it is spread through airborne transmission. Yet, he spent months and months saying it wasn't too bad and no worse than the flu. Soon our country will exceed 200,000 deaths from the virus, after his followers decided to take him at his words, and not wear masks or successfully social distance. Some of his followers still consider the virus to be a hoax. He has also decided to disallow any efforts on the part of any governmental agency to conduct any anti-racism training for the employees. After last week's revelations that he called war heroes who died in service to our country, "losers and suckers," it is amazing to me that he still has any followers left. Yet, he does. How can that be?

Finally, we watched "Unfit" last night on 'On Demand'. It is about how Trump is unfit to be president based on his mental health and his authoritarian impulses. It is very upsetting yet I recommend that you watch and ask your relatives to do so, too. This man needs help. We do not need him running our country. (We had to rent it for $5.99)

 

Good News: A few positive pieces of news found their way through the smokey haze---

1. Look to God for the Strength to Transcend Our Divisions and Build a More Just America. OpEd by John Kasich. (USA Today) This is worth the time to read the whole thing, but here is my favorite paragraph that comes after the paragraph where Kasich, a republican, says everyone should vote for Biden:

Many of our great leaders, here at home and throughout the world, have seen fit to call on the power of God to intervene in the affairs of men or to inspire us to listen to our better angels. Consider the words of Abraham Lincoln, speaking to Congress in 1861: “…having thus chosen our course, without guile, and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear, and with manly hearts.” Consider, too, these words from Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936: “No greater thing could come to our land today than a revival of the spirit of religion — a revival that would sweep through the homes of the Nation and stir the hearts of men and women of all faiths to a reassertion of their belief in God and their dedication to His will for themselves and for their world.”

2. The Navajo Nation, reeling from so many coronavirus deaths, has now turned its attention to the election under its bipartisan leadership.  (ABC) If you would like to donate to their efforts to get-out-the-vote in Arizona, please follow this link. They currently have 22 paid workers in the field and need our help to support their efforts. (ActBlueNavajo)

3. Trump's idea to defer payroll taxes has turned into a liability for him. It was a bad idea which no one liked, but Trump made it an executive order anyway. Now he says if he is reelected he will make it permanent. That would spell the end for Social Security. It's turning out to be a very bad idea for Trump. (WaPo)

4. Dare I say it? The polls for Biden are looking very good right now. (dKos) Here are few tidbits that really intrigue me:

  • Trumps approval rating: Taken all together and aggregating the seven polls that were reported, average out to a margin of -11.43%.  
  • Predicted percentage of the vote: Trump 39.78%, Biden 54.58%. Just 4 days ago, on Sept. 5, the USC Dornsife poll showed a 9% margin. It is now a 15% margin.  In this poll Biden’s lead has widened by 6% over the last 5 days!//One week ago, on Sept. 2, the Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a 7% margin. It is now a 12% margin.  In this poll Biden’s lead has widened by 5% over the last week.
  • How does this compare to 2016? There are half as many undecided voters as there were at this time in 2016. Also 1% of Clinton voters say they will support Trump while 8% of Trump voters in 2016 now say they will vote for Biden. What I don't know is where are these 8% of voters living? If they are all in California or New York, it doesn't help.

5. Twitter saved me a few times this week, especially reading the thread from the tweet from Jon Meacham, a presidential historian, after Trump compared his actions of not telling the American people about the seriousness of the coronavirus to what Churchill told the Brits during WWII...


On the lighter side, and boy do I need a lighter side this week:

1. On a related note...

2. This goes without saying...

3. Ever feel like you are living in a Dystopian novel? 

 

4. I chuckle about this one every time I think about it.

5. And this one, forwarded to me by my husband...

6. As a teacher, I can't help myself...

7. Right about now Van Gogh is wishing he hadn't cut off his ear (forwarded to me from my daughter)

8. Sometimes we just don't seem to be communicating on the same level. (Shared by my other daughter). Here God and an angel have some miscommunication...



I hope next week I am a more cheerful version of myself. What will help make me happy right now is if you leave me a comment below or on my Facebook page. Thanks. I appreciate it that you took the time to read this.

-Anne


Friday, September 11, 2020

Review and quotes: DANCING AT THE PITY PARTY


Title
: Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Book Beginnings (page 1):

Friday56 quote (page 49, last on free preview):

Summary: Described as "part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life", Tyler Feder's debut work is touching and funny, sad but hopeful, while being brutally honest and raw. From beginnings as the oldest of three sisters to loving Jewish parents, through the first oncology appointments, through the progression of the disease and eventual death, sitting Shiva, and finally to the days, months, and years of being motherless, Feder draws you into her world in a touching and personal way.

Review: I admit that I am a fan of the graphic biography. I don't often read memoirs and biographies because they are so long and often full of details I don't care about. But the graphic memoir is a perfect medium to read about a life while being entertained with the artists' ideas of what is important. I read Dancing At the Pity Party in one go, stopping only occasionally to dab my eyes and blow my nose for crying. In addition to the story of her life, Feder includes lists of information tht are helpful to anyone who has a friend or family member experiencing the same thing. For example she creates a list of what to say to a grieving person and what NOT to say. I forwarded it to a group of friends in my church. It was so practical.

As I was looking through the reviews on Goodreads, I noticed this one written by Steven Feder (Hmm, same last name.) Yes, it was written by her father...

Steven Feder rated it: amazing. My late wife (and Tyler's mother), Rhonda, was a bright, beautiful, sensitive, loving and very kind woman, unlike anyone I had ever known. She was a wonderful wife of 21 years and an adoring mother. She epitomized the meaning of the word "mother" and was totally devoted to her children. Rhonda "walked softly but carried a big stick". She was respected and admired by all who knew her and her loss was and continues to be seismic. In reading my daughter Tyler's memoir, "Dancing at the Pity Party", I gained an even greater insight into the special relationship between them. Through my daughter's ever-lasting love for her mother, and her immense talent, I am so glad the memory of this amazing woman can be honored in this special way. Thank you, Tyler. I love you.

That alone should be enough to encourage you to read it. I found my copy as an e-book at my library. Check out your library to see if they have it. If not, request that they buy it. It is worth the effort.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
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.   

-Anne

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Reviews: Nonfiction Children's Books

For the past three years I have served as a judge for the Cybils Book awards the JH/SH Nonfiction category. I placed my name in nomination to be a judge again but this year the category is extended to include nonfiction children's and middle grade books as well. I don't know if I will be selected but I thought I'd better dip my toe into the children's nonfiction water to see what I think, just in case I am. I couldn't be more delighted with the books I've read and look forward to exploring more children's nonfiction as books come to my attention.

Title: The Cat Man from Aleppo
Authors: Irene Latham and Kirim Shamsi-Basha
Illustrator: Yuko Shimizu
Publishing info: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, c. April 2020, 40 pages.
Age range: 4-8 years old
Summary: Alaa loved his city Aleppo but now that the Syrian Civil war has come to it, the city is unrecognizable and so empty---all except for cats. There are so many cats which were left behind when people fled their homes. Alaa decides he will do something to save the cats but soon he needs help from others to feed and protect them.
Review: I was touched by this true story about Alaa, his city Aleppo, and the many cats he has saved. The illustrations really drew me in. I was especially heart-broken to see the illustrations of Aleppo before the war compared to afterwards. The book would provide a good jumping off spot for parents or teachers to talk about the consequences of war and how one person can make a big difference if they put out a consistent effort.

Title: Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights
Author: Beth Anderson
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Publishing info: Calkins Creek, c. January 2020, 32 pages.
Age Range: 5-9 years old
Summary: In 1854 Lizzie Jennings, a black school teacher, is denied a seat on the streetcar. She fights back against the discrimination and so begins the long struggle of equal rights on public transportation in this country.
Review: I am so pleased that publishers are finally printing books about aspects of black history other than Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Here, one hundred years before Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus, Lizzie Jennings fights for the right to ride a streetcar. Add this book to many others for young readers to learn about the many heroic stories of blacks fighting for their rights. It is a very timely read.

Title: The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
Author: Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Illustrator: Oge Mora
Publishing info: Schwartz and Wade, c. January 2020, 40 pages.
Age range: 4-8 years old
Summary: In 1848 Mary Walker was born a slave. After the Civil War she was freed but she had to work very hard to make a living and raise her family. In 1964, when she was 116 years old, Mary Walker learned to read.
Review: I absolutely loved this charming story of Mary Walker and her determination to learn to read before she died. And if I was handing out the Caldecott Award for best illustrations, Oge Mora would win for this book. The illustrations were created in collage style and I loved the color and the texture on each page. Young readers will be amazed that someone so old hadn't learned to read yet, and adults will marvel at Mary's long life and her final accomplishment.

Title: Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Publishing info: Neal Porter Books, c. Febrauary 2020, 40 pages.
Age range: 6-9 years old, but everyone will like it
Summary: Get up close and personal with one honeybee, Apis, as she embarks on her journey through life.
Review: Think you know a lot about bees? Think again. You will realize you know very little about bees when you read and revel in this masterpiece about the life of one bee. I read this to my young grandson a few days ago and he really got into the story of what Apis does on each day of her short life. At the end of each page the reader is asked if Apis is ready to fly yet. The answer at the top of the next page is "Not yet!" Ian got into saying "not yet" with me. Apis has to do a lot of tasks before she is able to fly and collect nectar. This book is not only a personal favorite, it has received starred reviews from SEVEN publications, and rave reviews from many others who don't give stars. The illustrations are simply gorgeous.


-Anne

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

TTT: Books My Teen Self Would Have Loved

 Top Ten Tuesday: Books My Younger Self Would have Loved
Note: When I was a teenager, there was barely such a thing as YA literature. So I read books written for adults which were much tamer than most adult books today. I remember one author would make her characters "kiss hard." I was innocent and thought that meant that their lips smashed together. Ha! So this is a list of YA titles I know I would have loved as a teenager, since I loved them as an adult. I was and are, a sucker for a tear-jerker, love story.

1. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
2. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
3. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
4. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
5. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
7. Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler 
8. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey 
9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
10.  The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
 

-Anne