"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=========

Monday, August 31, 2015

R.I.P. X Challenge

R.I.P. X Reading Challenge hosted by The Estella Society

Image used with permission, property of Abigail Larson.

 R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril  is what the title stands for. This reading challenge officially runs from September 1 through October 31. It is perfect for ushering in the Fall season. I am signing up for Peril the Third which is a one book commitment.  The only requirements are that the book fit into one of the following genres.

Dark Fantasy.

I plan to read Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

For more information and to sign up please go to this website:

TTT: Jane Austen Characters I Just Couldn't Connect With...or Like

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters You Can't Connect With...Jane Austen version
TTT is hosted at The Broke and Bookish

Today (Monday) is the last day of Austen in August over at RoofBeamReader, so I decided to select all my characters from the works of Jane Austen.

1. General Tilney
Northanger Abbey
Obsessive, mean, and selfish

2. Mrs. Norris
Mansfield Park
Jealous, controlling, thoughtless

3. Lady Catherine de Bourgh
Pride and Prejudice
Snotty and classist

4. Fanny Dashwood
Sense and Sensibility
Selfish and thoughtless

5. Mr Collins
Pride and Prejudice
Annoying, tedious, sniveling

6. Mr. and Mrs. Elton
He is unforgiving; she is bossy and a loud-talker

7. Mr. Elliot
Self-Centered, Conceited, and neglectful toward daughter Anne

8. Lady Susan
Lady Susan
Scheming and unscrupulous

9. Isabella and John Thorpe
Northanger Abbey
Conniving golddiggers

10. Caroline Bingley
Pride and Prejudice
Conceited and insincere

We All Looked Up by

Imagine if you wake up one morning and notice a big asteroid in the sky. You wonder if it is anything but beautiful. Later you learn that scientists believe there is a 67% chance the asteroid will hit Earth and end life as we know it. What would you do? Would you keep going to work or school? Would you continue your cancer treatments or stay on your diet? Would you apply to the college of your dreams or try drugs for the first time?

These are the types of things that Eliza (the school slut), Anita (the goody-two-shoes), Andy (a stoner), and Peter (school jock) have to face in We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. . They seem to form a "karass", a group of people somehow oddly linked together. Before the asteroid made its appearance the four barely knew each other and now, well, let's just say their lives become all tangled up together.

The story is set in Seattle, though a hardly recognizable one since almost the whole area is crippled as the infrastructure of the city starts falling apart as people stop going to work, including firefighters and doctors. The four decide to host an end-of-the-world party but plans are difficult to make and to carry out in these extraordinary circumstances.  Romances spring up and die. Crime is rampant. None of the old rules apply.

A few years ago a movie starring Steve Carell and Kiera Knightley called Seeking a Friend For the End of the World came out. The premise was very similar. A huge asteroid was heading to earth and people stopped behaving like a civilized society and chaos reigned. Both the movie and the this book make you stop and think, "if the end of the world was imminent how would I behave?" I like to think that I would remain a good person, law-abiding, helpful, and kind. But who knows. Each man is out for himself after all.

Parts of the book were so good, and so heart-wrenching I really felt for these teen trying to make something of their lives. But other parts of the book just seemed so far-out, odd, and unbelievable, I really couldn't embrace the book fully. I just had a funny thought, though, as I sat here typing this blog post. Who would have thought that things would have worked out the way they did in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina? With people being arrested and detained without legal representation for days, months? So maybe the things that happen to our karass of teens in We All Looked Up isn't so far-fetched as I initially thought.

The book is really quite entertaining and I think today's teens will find a lot to like in it.

Rating 3.5 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

29 / 30 books. 96% done!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Salon, August 30

Don at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma
Weather: Rainy. Yesterday we had a freak storm preceded by high winds that took out power to much of Western Washington for several hours, blew down trees, and generally caused havoc in the area. Much needed rain followed the wind. Today it's still rainy and overcast.

Power Outage: It is rare to lose power during the summer, rarer still to have the power out for over six hours. We had just climbed up to retrieve our oil lamps from their storage space above the refrigerator because the light in the house was waning when the power came on.  I did quite a bit of reading before Carly got home, then she and I played cards. The simplicity of our activities reminded me how dependent we have become on our technology.

Forest Fires: Our state is on fire. Hopefully the rain will make it to the east side of the state to assist firefighters with the Herculean task of putting them out. Our fires are so bad the Governor had to call out the National Guard to help fight them and firefighters from Australia and New Zealand are here helping us, too. The photo is a fire near Alder Lake which is not far from where my daughter lives in south Pierce County. We're hoping the rain has a positive effect on putting this thing out.

Adventure Monday: Don and I stayed closer to home this past Monday for our adventure day. We went to the Glass Museum in Tacoma.  In addition to viewing the glass treasure from the Chihuly Venetian collection we sat and watched artists actually work the glass into treasures in the hot shop. We are so lucky to live in an area that has so many opportunities to view art.

Don peeking around Chiluly glass
School starts September 8th: but I am back to work almost daily getting the library ready for business or attending in-service training.  This week we check out the iPads to all students in one day. Eek! Could be overwhelming. Before school starts we have one more road trip. We head south to attend the season opening UO football game on the Saturday before Labor Day. We will spend one night at the Oregon Coast before heading inland to Eugene. We are spending the night at Depoe Bay, which has its claim to fame as the world's smallest navigable harbor.

Reading assignments: last week I posted a blog about all the books I am reading that feel like reading assignments.  I am happy to report that I am making good progress on most of these books:
  • What Matters in Jane Austen? This is the book I selected for the Austen in August Challenge. I finished this book this week. Read my review, if your dare. 100%
  • To the Field of Stars. This is the new book club selection for this coming meeting. It is written by a Catholic Priest who was a pilgrim along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I am finding this very readable and enjoyable. 65% 
  • Great Expectations. This is my book for the Classics Club Spin. I haven't read Dickens since I was a kid when I read an abridged version of David Copperfield. My goal, so I can complete the goal on time, is to read 57 pages a week. I have nearly doubled that at just over 100 pages. I have also found a good audiobook for this classic which will help me stay on track. 24%
  • Ishmael. I am still plodding along on this book which is surprisingly deep and philosophical. I have decided I will need to challenge myself to read at least 25 pages a day or I may still be reading this book a month from now. 56%
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Don and I will listen to this together on our trip to Oregon this coming week-end. I made no progress on it this week. 16%
Books completed this week:
  • The Truth Commission by Susan Juby...a YA novel written in a narrative nonfiction style. I liked it a lot
  • What Matters Most in Jane Austen? by John Mullan...Twenty essays about Austen's writing. For Austen geeks only.
One more bookish task looming: I have fallen behind on my book reviews, AGAIN. Can I possibly write six book reviews before the beginning of the new school year? I hope so!

For your musical enjoyment: Peter White and Marc Antoine. Love it!!!!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

"Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he's pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he's never met."---from Amazon

Simon vs.  the Homo Sapiens Agenda is by debut author Becky Albertalli and I simply cannot say enough good things about it. Simon is a typical teenager and the tone of the book is both appropriate and realistic for that age group. It is a wonderful coming-of-age tale, too.

Simon is a not-so-out gay boy who is communicating with another boy at his school via a private email, set up just for it. When another boy finds the email and reads a few of the messages, Simon is afraid he will be outed so he goes along with that boys plans and schemes, even though he recognizes it as a form of blackmail. Like most teens, Simon just wants to have friends, do well in school, have fun, and get along. This potential outing is not in his plan and obviously rubs him the wrong way. At the same time, Simon does not know the identity of the boy with whom he is communicating via e-mail. He is ever on the lookout for signs as to his identification. As in most situations tensions arise with Simon's other friends as he struggles to gain some equilibrium in his life, yet in the long run his friends are very supportive.

With LGBT issues in the forefront of the news today it is refreshing to read a book about a boy who just wants to live his life, have friends, and come out on his own terms. The email communication between Simon and the unknown boy are so sharp, funny, and revealing. It is not often we are allowed to see the inside thoughts of boys, gay or straight, in such a candid way. I enjoyed the book a lot and will recommend to all my teen readers this Fall.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

30 books Summer Reading Challenge

28 / 30 books. 93% done!

Celebrate---August 29

Discover. Play. Build.

The  assembled group

At Elk Lake, a favorite vacation spot

Me and my siblings

Mom and Dad with grandkids
Mom is telling us a story of growing up in the part of the country. Lovely setting.

Today I celebrate family. Two weeks ago we had a family reunion and gathered in Central Oregon. My dad is 87 and his health is failing; my parents celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary; all my siblings and most of my children and nieces/nephews were able to be with us for a few days. Every day and every event with Dad is a day to celebrate.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Austen in August---Challenge complete

 I finished my Austen in August Challenge selection yesterday.
Austen in August is hosted by Roof Beam Reader. Check out his site.

What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved.
by John Mullan

Let me summarize the last five essays then I will review the whole book. Feel free to go back and read the weekly updates made prior to this post to get a fuller picture of the book and the questions that Professor Mullan is attempting to answer about the writing of Jane Austen. 

What Matters Most in Jane Austen? First update, Introduction to essay 6
What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Second update, essays 7-9
What Matters Most in Jane Austen? Third update, essays 10-15

16. Are Ill People Really to Blame for Their Illnesses? The early 1800s was a frightening time to become ill. Apothecaries and surgeons were battling it out as to whose methods were best. There were no antibiotics. Mercury and lead were not known poisons. The medical practice of bloodletting was common. Little was known about germs. Colds were thought to be caught from being out in the rain and getting wet. Frightening. Is it any wonder that so many of Austen's characters were hypochondriacs? The biggest of these hypochondriacs is Mr, Woodhouse who calls himself a 'sad invalid', and Mary Musgrove who foresees 'that she should not have a day's health all autumn.' Women were expected or at least accepted for histrionics. Mrs. Bennet completely falls apart when she learns about Lydia and Wickham; Marianne won't eat or even speak after Willoughby leaves AND this was before she knew for sure the relationship was over. Only in Persuasion do we see real illnesses and infirmities: crippling diseases or wounds. No doubt illness played a big role in the lives of people living in Austen's day, so it is not surprising she included it in her stories. 

17. What Makes Characters Blush? Here is a topic on which I have never thought about before. Blushing. "Austen requires her reader to be an interpreter of blushes." She also often using blushing to confuse characters. For example, Fanny blushes at something Mary Crawford says. Mary thinks she is blushing because she is happy or shy, really Fanny is angry or upset. Here are some of the wonderful blushing moments from her books: 'She blushed, and Jane blushed; but the cheeks of the two who caused the confusion, suffered no variation in color.' (Jane and Elizabeth blush, those who should be blushing, Wickham and Lydia, don't in P and P.) 'Elizabeth blushed and blushed again with shame and vexation.' (Mrs. Bennet is "so embarrassing because she is immune to embarrassment" in P and P.) Fanny has 'soft skin...so frequently tinged with blush.' (Henry Crawford notices Fanny Price because of her blushes in MP.) 'Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both overspread with the deepest blush.' (Darcy and Elizabeth happen upon each other at Pemberley in P and P.) When Lady Russell hints to Anne (Persuasion) at a 'possible attachment' and a 'desirableness of the alliance' with her cousin, Mr. Elliot, Anne 'only smiled, blushed, and gently shook her head.' So many blushes, so few books full of them. I am going to start paying attention to modern literature.  Do our characters still blush?

18. What Are the Right and Wrong Ways to Propose Love?  I guess we can all agree that proposing by letter is not a good idea. Poor Robert Martin in Emma learned that the hard way. Had he asked Henrietta in person I'm sure she would have said yes and the whole book would have fallen apart at that point. Unbelievably marriage proposals by letter were not uncommon in Austen's day, Apparently there were even letter-writing manuals which provided templates for doing so. Wouldn't that be a shock to discover that your beloved ask you for your hand in marriage by using a template? Lengthy courtships were not the fad, either.  Charlotte Lucas tells Elizabeth her sister Jane 'should...make the most of every half-hour in which she can command his [Bingley's] attention. When she is secure of him, there will be more leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.' Secure him first, love second. "In Austen, a man's declaration of love is (or should be) the same as a marriage proposal." Elinor thought Marianne and Willoughby were engaged because she was sure they had declared their love. It took us a book to learn that such words had never been spoken aloud.

19. When does Jane Austen Speak Directly to the Reader? I have always been shocked when Austen does this. I am reading along and suddenly Austen inserts herself into the story. What I didn't realize is that other writers of the day did this with some frequency. Usually she inserts herself near the end of the tale as in the ending of Pride and Prejudice where we learn of the happiness of Mrs. Bennet at marrying off three of her daughters when Austen breaks in, 'I wish I could say, for the sake of her family, that the accomplishment of her earnest desire of the establishment of so many of her children, produced so happy an effect as to make her a sensible, amiable, well-informed woman for the rest of her life.' Regrettably she remains a silly woman, "even Austen cannot change her." I love that idea that Austen created her but cannot control her. Ha! The author enters Mansfield Park "nudging us into accepting what the novel was not going to show." In Persuasion Austen again speaks in first person to the reader "in order to signal a withdrawal from the lives she invented." In Northanger Abbey the author is present throughout. This may account for why this book feels so different than her other novels "we are constantly reminded of the author's presence, arranging and commenting and speaking as herself." And in the last chapter sign-off she tells the readers she is aware she has compressed some of the details. Do we like Austen so much because we feel her presence with us while we are reading her books? Just a thought.

20. How Experimental a Novelist Is Jane Austen? "Jane Austen knew her novels were different...it can be seen in her book/booklet 'Plan of a Novel [1816].' Austen did not create perfect heroines, for one thing. "Austen's interest in her heroine;s faults and errors was in itself something extraordinary in fiction."Some critics believe that Austen was the first extensive practitioners of what is called the free indirect style." In this style both thoughts and actions are integrated into the narrative. Through Austen's mastery of this style we not only know how a character behaves but how these actions are affecting him internally. "Any novelist can tell us what a character feels; Austen developed a means of declining to tell us." I'm not sure I completely understand this writing technique (obviously) but suffice it to say that it is one of things that sets Austen apart from other authors.

For an Austen-geek like myself this book was a treasure trove of information and insights. I doubt someone who has not read all or most of Austen's novels would find it very engaging. Characters and plots are not introduced assuming that anyone who would pick up this book wouldn't need such introductions. In a few places I got lost, especially the last were her experimental style of writing was extolled. Oh well, I guess I just need to read and study more. I was fascinated by the insights Mullan provided about topics like marriage proposals, blushing, the games they played, and what they call each other. I shall think of these things every time I reread one of Austen's books. And speaking of rereading, I now have an insatiable urge to do just that. I have decided to reread Sanditon, this time with some help of the Internet to determine which bit Austen wrote verses the bits written by 'a lady.'

I'm assuming if you have read all the way to the bottom of this post you too are an Austen fan. For you, I do recommend this well-written and well-documented book.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Friday Quotes, August 27

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

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now: 

Book Title: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Book Beginning:
My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
Friday 56:
And now, when they were all in lively anticipation of ‘the two villains’ being taken, and when the bellows seemed to roar for the fugitives, the fire to flare for them, the smoke to hurry away in pursuit of them, Joe to hammer and clink for them, and all the murky shadows on the wall to shake at them in menace as the blaze rose and sank and the red-hot sparks dropped and died, the pale after-noon outside, almost seemed in my pitying young fancy to have turned pale on their account, poor wretches. 
Comments: I am participating in the Classics Club Spin Challenge. Great Expectations was my selected book. I have never read Charles Dickens before. I think it is about time, don't you? So far, so good. One of the things I understand about Dickens is how verbose he was.  Take a look at the sentence from page 56 for evidence of this. Joe is the town blacksmith, he is fixing a pair of handcuffs, and then he and Pip will go watch the military capture some escaped prisoners.

If you want to join the Classics Club Challenge, it is not too late.  Make a list of 20 classics books you'd like to read. Number them.  Then go to their website and check out the spin number. That will be the book you read. It is a fun and supportive way to read those classic books we all want to read but can't seem to find the time to fit into our reading schedule.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Austen in August...update, the third

Austen in August is a reading challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader. I am reading What Matters in Jane Austen? The book is divided into twenty essays that answer questions about different elements in her writing. My goal is to not only finish the book this month but to blog about it at least once a week. Below is my third weekly update. I will highlight a few things from each chapter, by no means are my summaries comprehensive.

10. What Games Do Characters Play? I've always liked it that Jane Austen's characters play game games because we are a game-playing family. I imagine that life during the Regency Period in England would be downright dull for the elite families if they never played at anything. Apparently Jane Austen and her family and friends were all great game-players, too. Though the chapter talks a bit about the actual games that were referenced in her books I had little interest in that. What I was interested in was how Austen used games to advance her plots and introduce plot twists. I've always wondered why Elizabeth didn't join in the game at Netherfield when she was invited by Caroline Bingley. The author, John Mullan, speculated that the game they were playing was likely a form of gambling and real money was being used. Elizabeth knew this and opted not to join in so she wouldn't have to admit to not having enough/any money. In Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford and her brother Henry were great manipulators. They played at life the way they played at games. "Everything really is a game for them, and all the better if they can flaunt their schemes in front of those whom they deceive." At one point Mary announces, 'If I lose the game, it shall not be from not striving for it.' After reading this essay I see the double meaning in her words. We know that she did lose ultimately because she could fool everyone with her games except Fanny Price.

11. Is There Any Sex in Jane Austen? This chapter, unsurprisingly, wasn't as titillating as I had hoped. Yes, some of the characters have sex and Austen even mentions a few. We know that Lydia and Wickham live together for a month before they are forced to get married. We also know that Lydia liked sex in the way she bragged about the experience. Isabel Thorpe has sex with Captain Tilney in Northanger Abbey and hopes the act will secure a marriage proposal. It didn't work out that way in Austen's time just like it doesn't work today. We also learn that several of the male characters in Austen's book rush to marry (Robert Ferrarrs marrying Lucy Steele; Henry Crawford attempting to marry Fanny Price) because they have sexual longings. "In Austen, as in the eighteenth-century novels from which she learned, premarital sex happens because a young woman gets into the hands of a rakish man, not because two people simply cannot resist each other."

12. What Do Characters Say When the Heroine Is Not There? "Austen's heroines are vivid to us because her novels are narrated from their points of view and suffused by their consciousnesses. Yet, one of Austen's devices is to leave her heroine behind, to give us a glimpse of what the world is like in her absence." Occasionally the heroine will leave the room and the narration will continue without her. This way the reader gains insights that the heroine doesn't have yet. For example, when Elizabeth joins Darcy and his sister at Pemberley when she leaves the room Caroline and Mrs. Hurst attempt to make fun of her forcing Darcy to break his silence about what he thinks of her. Sense and Sensibility begins with both Marianne and Elinor getting equal time as the heroine but soon the point of view shifts slowly to reveal mainly Elinor's consciousness. Only in Mansfield Park is one of Austen's heroines often outside the narration. "Her (Fanny Prince's) fate is always to be decided by others...and out of her hearing." We understand Austen's heroines better by "glimpsing things in their absence." This essay, more that any of the others, has really given me new insights into the brilliance of Austen's writing.

13. How Much Money is Enough? Unlike today, the topic of how much money everyone was worth was not a secret in Austen's day. Austen also had an uncanny ability to show the reader how money affected people and their motivations.

14. Why Do Her Plots Rely on Blunders? I am not sure this question was directly answered so I am not sure why her plots rely on blunders but suffice it to say that quite a few of her plots do rely on blunders. Emma is not only full of blunders but uses the actual word "blunders" a dozen times. The most powerful example is when Mr. Knightly finally decides to declare his love and Emma quiets him, thinking he is going to declare his love for Harriet. She quickly decides to allow him to speak his mind and we know the happy results. "Austen loves blunders because they show the difference between what we can understand of her characters, and they can understand of each other." I personally think that Austen gives a nod to her countryman William Shakespeare whenever she includes a blunder into her plot. Shakespeare was the master of misdirection and miscommunication.

15. What Do Characters Read? Jane Austen makes reading a vital part of her character's lives. "Her completed fiction begins in Northanger Abbey, with a heroine (Catherine Moreland) whose errors are entirely the product of books; the Gothic novels that she devours and then confuses with reality." In her last and incomplete novel, Sanditon, Sir Edward Denham has 'read more sentimental novels than agreed with him.' From start to finish her characters interacted with books. Emma was the least likely to read, but she did make reading lists. Marianne would judge people on how well they could read aloud. Fanny, though generally not taken by anything Henry Crawford did, was captivated by his wonderful ability to read aloud.  Even non-readers interact with books. Caroline Bingley, for example, picks up a book when she sees Darcy reading, but she stupidly selects the second volume to the book he is reading. Louisa and Captain Benwick fall in love over the reading of poetry. We are told that Fanny Price first fell in love with Edmund because of the books he recommended she read charmed her so much. "Nothing, we sense, can be more intimate."

Five more days, five more chapters. Will I finish the challenge on time?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Reading "assignments"

Remember that feeling of dread when a teacher says you HAVE to read a certain book at a prescribed pace? The whole process takes all the joy out of reading, right? Well, here is the weird thing, I have just done it to myself. I have started not just one or two "assignment" books but five. Five books that are "work" and all at the same time. What was I thinking?

First, I decided to read one of the books assigned as summer reading to our incoming senior class, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I had no idea it was so deep and philosophical when I started. I am just creeping along and will be lucky if I get it finished by the time school starts after Labor Day. I realize it was my decision to read this book and can abandon it at any time but I really am engaged with the premise and want to stay with it. Assignment #1.

Next, my book group selected an additional title to add to coincide with the pilgrimage our pastor and several members are making to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The book was written in a journal style by another pilgrim, Kevin Codd, and it is called To the Field of Stars. I really think I will enjoy this but I have not gained any traction on Assignment #2 yet.

For the past two years I have participated in the Austen in August Challenge. This year I decided to read a book about Austen's writing, What Matters in Austen? I am enjoying it very much but admit that it is not light reading. My goal is to finish this by the end of the month. I predict I will finish Assignment #3 first.

My husband works in higher education policy. At the last conference he attended a lot of time and attention was given to discussing the terrible problem colleges are having today with sexual assaults. It was recommended that everyone at the conference read Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer. We started listening to it in audiobooks last week-end. It is very well-written but extremely distressing. I am joining Don for his assignment and making it my #4.

Lastly, I joined the Classics Club spin this week and I will be reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. In order to stay on track I need to read 57 pages a week. I haven't started the book yet since I am working on the other four assignments first. I have found taking an assignment approach to reading the classics really helps me. Assignment #5 isn't due until October 23rd.

Just because they feel like assignment books doesn't mean I am not enjoying them. I am. Stay tuned and watch my progress.

Monday, August 24, 2015

TTT: books to read 101

Top Ten Tuesday: (I am modifying the topic) 
Top books I wish I could read in a college literature class, 
so I could have the help and insight of a college professor to increase understanding.

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez---I had to do a lot of "homework" on my own to appreciate and understand this book. I ended up really liking it but I would have loved to gain the insights of a college professor on this classic magical realism novel.

2. A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley---I read this book and wondered what I was missing the whole time. I think I would benefit from a lively discussion on this dystopian novel.

3.  Things Fall Apart by  Chinua Achebe---I know this book is routinely taught in high school English classes but unless it is done well, kids hate it and really struggle with it. I love to read it with a more mature group.

4. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Lesley Watson---bet you weren't expecting to see a recently published book on this list but I think this book, also a magical realism novel, would be an excellent choice to dissect in a college level class.

5.  Hamlet by William Shakespeare---can you believe I have never read this, Shakespeare's most famous play? I have a hard time reading plays by myself.

6. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner---I read somewhere that is is nearly impossible to read Faulkner and appreciate his writing without the help provided in a good lit class. This would explain why I haven't read it, yet.

7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens---OK. You caught me. I just started this book today for my Classics Club spin. When I read the reviews for it someone said it is considered a nearly perfect novel. I'd like to know why.

8. Poisonwood Bible, or Flight Behavior, or Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver---her books are always built around a theme. I love these books but think I would enjoy reading one of them in a class forcing me to dig deeper into the themes.

9. And the Mountains Echoed by Kahled Hosseni---this book is full of seemingly disconnected stories that the author masterfully draws together. I'd like to study this author's genius.

10. Bless Me, Ultima by Ruldofo Anaya---guess what? Another magical realism novel, this one with lots of religious symbolism. Help me college professors gain a deeper understand of this, a new favorite novel.

Classics Club spin number is...

Classics Club announcement
Today the announcement was made. 
The Classics Club announced the spin number and it is ...


Looking down my list I see that I will be reading GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens. Gulp.  I've always wanted to read something by this master but have always been intimidated by the length. As my daughter said when I made the announcement and then voiced my complaint, "You put the book on the list, Mom." Yes, I did and here I go, off to find a copy of the book.

The goal is to read the book by October 23rd. My plan is to divide the book into sections that match the weeks and that will be my weekly reading goal. I will attempt to blog an update weekly, also. But, I should say in my defense, we are nearing the the beginning of a new school year. I should be able to maintain my reading, but I may not be able to maintain the blogging schedule. We'll see.

So, if you are joining me in this spin, go look at your list and let me know what book you will be reading. Or, if you are working off my list, go find your copy of Dickens' classic, dust it off, and start reading.

Have fun.

Update: the version of the book in my library is the Every Man's Library published by Knopf. It has some really cool etchings included, and, of course, the requisite forward, no doubt written by some college professor. There are 460 pages in my version. Doing the math, that means I need to read 57 pages per week or around 8 pages per day. That is completely doable,

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Salon, August 23

Adventure Monday: Staircase Ranger Station Olympic National Park
Finally summer edition!

Weather: hazy and warm. We are worried that the haze is cuased by the wildfires that are ablaze in our state.

Finally summer: We have finally spent some vacation time as a family the past week in both Central Oregon and then the Puget Sound  region of our state. Though we have had mini vacations and adventures this summer, and I have helped my sister celebrate her 60th birthday, this week-end represents our first family vacation of the summer.  Just in time.
At Elk Lake with parents and younger sister, Grace.
My parents assemble family and celebrate 64 years of marriage: My family got together at the Seventh Mountain Resort near Mt. Bachelor a few miles outside of Bend, Oregon. The weather was lovely. There were three highlights for me: 1) the luncheon we had at Elk Lake, a favorite family vacation spot; 2) the family "church" session which we held on the banks of the Deschutes River. Dad, who is 86 years old had some important thoughts to share with us which felt so poignant because one never knows how many more years we will have with him;  3) the luncheon a few of us had at the Pine Tavern Restaruant in Bend with Mom and Dad. Mom grew up in Bend and the Pine Tavern was the site of their wedding reception 64 years before.  We called ahead and the staff printed our special menus with HAPPY ANNIVERSARY written on them. It was so touching.

Adventures in driving: Something awful happens to the traffic in the Tacoma area on the Interstate Freeway every summer.  Last Friday, as I drove to pick up Don at work before heading out to our second leg of the vacation, I passed a sign that said the exit I needed was 2 1/2 miles ahead, then another sign that said it would take 32 minutes!!!! I kid you not.  And it did take that long. Ugh. / En route to the first leg of our vacation, we had to take an hour long detour around a forest fire. Another Ugh!
Tangled roots, Olympic National Park

"I knew it was morning when I saw the light coming through the floor": Don't you think this would make a great opening line of the book? Just guess how it relates to our recent camping trip to Soundview Camp on the Puget Sound with our church family. (Leave your guess in the comment section below.)

Spending a few days with church friends in a camping setting is fun and relaxing: We are so lucky to live in such a lovely part of the earth. Today during our worship service , held on the basketball court at Camp Soundview, we sang the following song, I Could Sing of Your Love Forever. The first verse seemed so perfect.
Over the mountains and the sea
Your river run with love for me,
And I will open my heart
And let the healer set me free.
Books read the past two weeks:
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough---a favorite author reads his own audiobook about the famous Americans who were the first to invent an airplane. Don and I were able to finish this book while wandering around on Mt. Hood as we were detouring away from a forest fire.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston--- written in the 1930s, this book, now considered a classic, was actually out-of-print before Toni Morrison rediscovered it 1972.
  • The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose---WWII in Denmark, teen boys conduct acts of resistance.
  • The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith---another zany novel by Smith where the unbelievable ends up being believable or at least understandable.
Currently reading:
  • What Matters in Jane Austen? by John Mullan---Twenty crucial puzzles about the writing style of this popular, classic author.
  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn---surprisingly philosophical. It is slow going as I digest the information.
  • The Truth Commission by Susan Juby---Art students start a commission to encourage honesty and truthfulness, but for Normandy Pale she has to look far for the truth but she does need to look closer to home.
Slowly heading back to work: The school year starts very late this year, September 8th, but I have attended two in-service classes and have worked many days in the library getting things ready for the new year. I am slowly heading back to school.

Mom and Dad on the banks of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, a favorite spot.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Classics Club Spin #10!

Classics Club
The Classics Club is hosting their 10th spin.

Make a list of 20 classic books you want to read and number them. Then wait for the announcement of the winning number on August 24th. Check your list and that number is the book you commit to read for the next two months, by October 23rd. (Feel free to borrow my list, if you don't have time to make one yourself.)

Number, Title, Author

1. Little Women by Alcott, Louisa May
2. Henderson The Rain King by Bellow, Saul
3. If On a Winter's Night a Traveler by Calvino, Italo
4. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Cather, Willa
5. Great Expectations by Dickens, Charles
6. The Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, Charles
7. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky, Fyodor
8. The Count of Monte Carlo by Dumas, Alexandre
9. The Name of the Rose by Eco, Umberto
10. Middlemarch by Eliot, George
11. Invisible Man by Ellison, Ralph
12. As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, William
13. Dune by Herbert, Frank
14. Suite Fran├žais by Nimerovsky, Irene
15. The Trial by Kafka, Franz
16. On the Road by Kerouac, Jack
17.  Midnight's Children by Rushdie, Salmon
18. The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck, John
19. Letters to a Young Poet by Rilke, Rainier Maria/ plus anything by Agatha Christie
20. Wild Sargasso Sea by Rhys, Jean

We are told to add books we REALLY hope are picked as well as those we rather dread. For me it is the same book, for some weird reason: Middlemarch. I really want to read it but dread it at the same time. We'll see if it is picked.

Join me!