"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=========

Saturday, July 29, 2017

When I couldn't find what I wanted on the Internet, and then had to go to the Internet to get it.

Yesterday I went to the Internet to find a quote I wanted to include in the wedding card I am giving to my niece, who is getting married tomorrow. I couldn't find the quote anywhere. I knew the book it came from. I remembered keywords. Nothing. I tried all the tricks I knew to find it. Still nothing. How can that be? The Internet has everything, right?

Suddenly I HAD to find that quote so I decided to go on the road in an attempt to run down the physical book. I had a general idea where the quote resided within the book. Now all I had to do was get my hands on a physical copy. I hold library cards to two library systems, both of them cooperate with Overdrive to supply their patrons with free e-books. I started there. Nope, neither of the libraries had the physical book or the e-book.

Next I got in my car to drive to the neighboring town's used store. I live in a bookstore desert. We don't even have a used bookstore anymore. Anyway, I hoped I'd only have to drive a few miles out of my way to find the book, A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth F. Hailey, published in 1978, but made popular by a mini-series in the 1990s. It was a long shot, I knew, but I had hope in my heart.

Well, to make a long story short, I ended up driving to three used bookstores in the Tacoma area and two regular bookstores. Nothing. On my way home, I even stopped at Goodwill, which irritably doesn't organize their books by author. They organize their books by a method I will call "random". I looked through all of them. Nothing. I drove home empty-handed.

Back to the Internet, this time to get a PDF of the book if I would just sign up for an account. I did that and then found that this source also organized their books by "random", or else their search tool wasn't working. I cancelled my account.  It was not worth my time. Though, by now, I had wasted about four hours of my time in total.

Finally, I had to purchase the ebook because, remember by now I HAD to have the quote. So this is my story of how I couldn't find something on the Internet and then had to go to the Internet to get it. Sigh.

By the way, below is the quote I wanted. Now when I publish it, it will finally be on the Internet. Ha!

Snapshot Saturday, July 29

This week I dropped by the public library to pick up a book I had placed on hold. In addition to that book I walked out with four poetry books. Now that I am retired I will have to mine the public library shelves for new and fun poetry volumes more often.

BookSpeak! Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Sala
The Ordering of Love: New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle
The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins
Swan: Poems and Prose Poems by Mary Oliver

Passing the Unworked Field

Queen Anne's Lace
is hardly
prized but
all the same it isn't
idle look
how it
stands straight on its
thin stems how it
scrubs its white faces
with the
rags of the sun how it
makes all the
it can.

Mary Oliver, Swan

Snapshot Saturday is hosted by West Metro Mommy.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Friday Quotes: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue

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

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---

Title: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Book Beginnings:
On the morning we are to leave for our Grand Tour of the Continent, I wake in bed beside Percy.
Friday 56:
Lots of boys mess around at that age, I can still hear my father saying it, and it feels like a kick in the teeth every time.
Comments: Set in the late 1700s, Henry "Monty" is being given one last chance to straighten up and fly right by his father who will disinherit him if he continues messing around with boys, drinking, and other forms of cavorting around. The problem is that Monty is in love with his best friend, Percy. There is quite a bit of chatter on the blogosphere about this YA book and I see why. I read half of it today and it is 530 pages long.

Anne's Cookbook: Baked Ground Turkey Meatballs, choose your style

Lately we have been making lots of ground turkey meatballs, thinking, possibly mistakenly, that they are more healthy than ground beef meatballs. Even though they are roughly equivalent in fats and nutrients, we find them to be very, very versatile. We have made teriyaki meatballs, Italian meatballs, Swedish meatballs. And now we are ready to made Thai meatballs. By adding hidden vegetables, you do bump up the healthiness of these little gems. The possibilities are endless. I encourage you to be creative.
Teriyaki Ground Turkey Meatballs with Brown Rice

Basic Baked Ground Turkey Meatballs (basic)
  • 1 lb. ground turkey. Look for the organic kind if you can find it.
  • 1 egg, who need something to bind the meat together so it holds its round shape
  • Salt, 1/2 tsp is a good place to start, add more or less to your taste
  • Pepper, 1/4 tsp
  • 1-2 minced garlic cloves
  • Add ingredients below for teriyaki, Italian, Swedish, etc.
  • Shape all the ingredients into meatballs. Place on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake in a hot oven, 400 degrees F, for 20 minutes until lightly colored.
  • Serves 4.
Teriyaki Meatballs, to the basic recipe add---
  • 2 green onions chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated Asian pear, pear, or crisp/tart apple
  • Follow directions above for shaping and baking. While meatballs are baking, make sauce.
  • Sauce. Mix the ingredients in a pot on the stove top and allow to simmer and thicken:
    • 3 Tablespoons of agave syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, or honey
    • 2- 1/2 T. soy sauce
    • 3 Tablespoons white distilled or rice vinegar
    • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh ginger minced/grated
  • When the meatballs are done baking, add them to the simmering sauce in the pot. Roll them around to become coated.
  • Serve the teriyaki turkey meatballs with rice and a green vegetable like bok choy, snow peas, zucchini, or even a vegetable stir-fry, whatever you like.
  • Leftovers: serve in lettuce wraps with marinated vegetables like carrot twigs, bean sprouts, spiralized cucumbers, thinly sliced green peppers, etc.
 Italian Meatballs, to the basic recipe add---
  • 1/2 cup of grated (fine) carrots, zucchini, summer squash, or sweet potato. I use the finest grate for the carrots and they are so moist and wonderful!
  • 1-2 T. of Italian breadcrumbs, or plain bread crumbs and 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning mix 
  • 1-2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 T. fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Bake according to the above directions
  • Serve with marina sauce on pasta, or (our favorite) polenta, or blanched spiralized zucchini 
  • For leftovers, make these into turkey meatball subs with marina sauce and a slice of mozzarella cheese on a halved baguette, toasted (or broiled) to melt the cheese.
Swedish meatballs, to the basic recipe add---
  • 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped or grated onion
  • 1/4 cup finely grated sweet potatoes or carrots
  • 1/4 cup of plain bread crumbs
  • (Only use 1 minced garlic clove or none, as most Swedish meatball recipes do not call for any.)
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 t. allspice
  • 1/4 t. cardamom (optional)
  • 1 T. parsley, chopped
  • increase black pepper to 1/2 t.
  • Gravy Sauce: While meatballs are baking, as per above directions above, make the gravy.  (Swedish meatballs are all about the gravy.)
    • Make a roux with 1/3 cup butter and 1/4 cup flour. Whisk together in a saute pan over medium heat until slightly brown and thickened, slowly whisk in---
    • 1 qt of beef, chicken, or turkey broth (I've only used beef broth) when the roux and broth are nicely mixed, stir in--- 
    • 1/2-2/3 cup sour cream or heavy whipping cream
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • When the meatballs are done baking, add them to the simmering gravy and cover each one.
  • Serve on egg noodles or mashed potatoes. Garnish with more parsley.
Thai Turkey Meatballs and Peanut Sauce, to the basic recipe add--- (I haven't made these meatballs, yet, but I have made the peanut sauce and served it with cooked chicken pieces. Delicious.)
  • 1-2 chopped green onions
  • 1/2 c. finely grated carrots
  • 1 tsp. curry
  • 1-2 tsp. grated ginger, fresh
  • Bake according to directions above. While meatballs are baking, make peanut sauce in a saucepan on the stove:
  • Peanut Sauce:
    • One 14 oz can of coconut milk
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1 T. soy sauce
    • 1 tsp. chopped cilantro
    • 1 T. sugar or honey
    • 1 T. lime juice
    • Simmer until hot and all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Serve with jasmine rice (or whatever rice you like). Top each serving with several meatballs and plenty of peanut sauce. I bet this will become a family favorite.
Have fun experimenting with Baked Turkey Meatballs. Let me know if you have any favorite meatball recipes I can try.

Remember to PIN the recipes to your page for easy access when you want to give baked turkey meatballs a try.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

Francisco is a seventeen-year-old, half-hearted student living with his parents in Bolivia in 1999. His real interests lie in playing football (futbol) and making plans to open a shop to sell futbol jerseys, once he and his friend, Reynoldo, graduate from school. His father, a taxi-driving poet, wants Francisco to use his brains and go on to university after graduation. His mother mother is light-skinned, from the ruling class. Francisco looks like his father, dark-skinned from the Aymara tribe, so he doesn't ever feel like he fits anywhere.

When Francisco's father is arrested for a seemingly innocent action of carrying a can of gasoline to feed into his taxi, everything in the family is thrown into tumult. At that time in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, politicians tried to appease the United States and our war on drugs by arresting anyone suspected of anything related to drugs using a law called 1008. People in the lower classes. who could not afford a lawyer, would languish in over-crowded prisons without so much as a court case or any hope of ever getting out. If the family had no other form of support, they would be forced to move into the prison, as well. Francisco and his younger sister are forced to do just that when their mother, sensing the hopelessness on the situation, abandoned them. The title, The Uninterrupted View of the Sky, suggests that wrongful imprisonment keeps the family from enjoying the simplest of freedoms---a view of the sky.

Suddenly everything in Francisco's life changes. His old friends abandon him. He alone must care for his sister and find a way to help his father. Suddenly education and the knowledge it brings becomes very important. If Francisco is ever going to help his family he must go to university and study law. In the meantime, he must also get his sister to his father's family upcountry, even though he thinks their life there will be so unsophisticated and backwards. Poetry becomes a tool for expressing feelings and communicating across cultural and generational divides.

I became aware of Melanie Crowder after reading her astonishingly good book, Audacity, about the Triangle Shirt Waist fire and the rights of workers in the clothing industry in this country in the early part of the twentieth century. That book was written in verse. The Uninterrupted View of the Sky, though not written in verse, does include a lot of poetry which is really well done and advances the story and the understanding. Obviously Ms. Crowder has a gift with poetry. She also said, in the Afterward, that she wrote this book in response to a personal situation. In the 1990s she spent some time in Bolivia and she saw first-hand the corrupt justice system and the forced imprisonment of people too poor to pay for legal help, all done to satisfy the US war on drugs and Law 1008. Since the 1990s a few things have improved for the indigenous peoples, she reported. Now they are allowed to be part of the government and to make laws that don't unfairly target indigenous populations but in the 1990s, this was not the case. This book was a direct result of the inequalities she saw herself in this small South American country.

This YA book has heart, and I assure you it will touch your heart. Often it seems that YA novels deal with such small, first-world problems. That is not the case with The Uninterrupted View of the Sky.
This book opens the eyes of the reader to much bigger and life-threatening problems that exist elsewhere in the world. It does it gently and thoughtfully, with a touch of poetry, so the reader doesn't end up feeling clubbed over the head with the information. I highly recommend it for both teen and adult readers.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Salon, July 23

Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth
(aka Anne and Don Bennett)
Weather: Overcast. White skies, but once the clouds clear, it should be lovely.

Persuasion: a new musical: Last night Don and I went to the Taproot Theater in Seattle to see the world premiere of "Persuasion: a new musical" based on the novel by Jane Austen, written by Harold Taw, with lyrics and music by Chris Jeffries. What a fun production. I am not sure you will ever see this musical on Broadway, but with a few more bells and whistles, it could make it. We had a lot of fun. (See photo of Don and me as Captain Wentworth and Anne Elliot).

1979: In 1979 my friend Anne Marie and I took a college term in London. We lived with a British family and attended classes at the University of London, taught by US professors. We took courses in music appreciation, architecture, and politics. After that spring term finished, Anne Marie and I bought Eurail passes and traveled around the continent for another two months. This week Anne Marie came for a visit and brought the slides (yes, slides) of the pictures she took during the 4-1/2 months we were in Europe together. Her dad still had an old slide projector so we were able to view them and recall the details of our once-in-a-lifetime trip. We weren't able to identify locations of many of the slides which was frustrating. While on our trip, I had kept a fairly detailed journal. I located it in a box of books stored in a closet. The journal entries helped me figure out where some of the mystery slides were taken. The last two days has been a wonderful stroll down memory lane.

Book Clubs: Both of my clubs met this past week. The SOTH club discussed the book Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Malloy. It was not one of my favorite books and I think most gals felt the same way: a few too many characters and very unlikely situations. RHS Ladies BC discussed A Man Called Ove, which we all liked and the discussion was better than I anticipated.

Water Aerobics: After trying out three different types of water aerobics classes, I think I have settled on the deep water course as my favorite. It was the most sparsely attended, too, which meant I wasn't running into so many people. The Joint Care W.A. class had probably 30 people in attendance and the average age must have been 80. Ha!
Some of the books I ordered through Scholastic Books Order forms in 1970s
Scholastic Book Orders: A few days ago I looked through all the spots where I hide books around the house to see how many classics I have purchased and never read. While on the hunt I found a bunch of books I ordered when I was in junior high each month when the Scholastic Book order form was handed out in class. I would pour over the list and would order two or three books every month. Why not? The books cost 50¢ or 60¢. Smartly I bought mostly classics, but sadly I read very few of them. I still have them, all yellowed and aged and now I am finally determined to read all of them. I found 19 unread classics on my hunt, many I ordered in junior high. Almost 50 years after I ordered them, I hope to finally read them! ☮ (FYI- I have actually read all the books shown in the photo except Anna Karenina, but these were the books I was able to find from those scholastic sales of old.)

Books completed this week:
  • Loving vs Virginia: a documentary novel about the landmark civil rights case by Patricia Powell. Written in poetry, this novel about the actual court case of Loving v. Virginia didn't have as much weight as I would have liked. But since I knew nothing about the case but the bare bones, it was a good place to start my research. See my review here.
  • Of Thee I Sing: a letter to my daughters by Barack Obama. A beautiful children's book written by the President to his daughters, illustrated by Loren Long. This was a gift from Jean and Chrissy. Thank you.
Currently reading:
  • Dead Wake: The final crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. Another book club selection. I am having trouble with this book. So many details. Audio. 56%.
  • The Uninterrupted View From the Sky by Melanie Crowder. A YA novel set in Bolivia that deals with the corrupt judicial system. Very well written. Print. 33%
A retirement epiphany: I just had a light-bulb moment this week. I was reading a YA book which I really didn't like. All the sudden it hit me, "I'm retired. I don't have to read this YA book if I don't want to." Ha! (I set it aside to return to the library unread!)

From the kitchen: Boysenberry or Mixed Berry Compote. The recipe is so simple. In a saucepan, mix one tablespoon of  corn starch into a 1/2 cup cold water. Add 2-4 tablespoons of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until thickened. Add 1 qt of berries. Stir into the thickened syrup. Heat until the berries are slightly cooked. This is perfect for ice cream, cheese cake, or pancake topping. Yum. I made several batches and placed them in the freezer to enjoy sometime during the winter months for a taste of summer.

Happy Together: Somehow I missed seeing this video from the Piano Guys. Love it. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Anne's Cookbook: Green Smoothie

Anne's version of the Hippy-Dippy green smoothie: A new breakfast staple at our house is a homemade green smoothie. I copied the idea from a restaurant in Santa Fe where the ingredients were listed but not the proportions. Here is my version of the Hippy-Dippy. Try it, you really might like it.
Anne's Hippy-Dippy Green Smoothie (Serves 2) 
8 oz. of organic apple juice, unsweetened (I use Treetop Organic Honeycrisp Apple Juice or Trader Joe's Brand Apple juice---select the cloudy-looking juice) 
1 largish organic kale leaf with the center stem removed 
10-15 cilantro leaves 
5-10 parsley leaves, depending on size, remove as much of the stem as possible 
Fresh ginger, peeled and grated. I use about a half inch of the root and use a ginger grater. (This is the secret ingredient that makes this smoothie so delightful. Use fresh ginger for sure!)
Juice of one small lemon, seeds removed. 
Blend thoroughly. Pour into juice glasses immediately. The smoothie will separate into layers (see photo.) 
1-3 ice cubes, I like it cold. 
I have a KitchenAid  blender and it works beautifully, really pulverizing and juicing up the ingredients and grinding up the ice. If you don't have a good blender, this drink may end up being too pulpy for you. After suffering through many, many low powered, bad blenders I finally bit the bullet and bought this expensive one and it is worth every penny. 
You may want to use a spoon to stir it as you drink.  Yum!  I hope you enjoy it. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Loving vs. Virginia: a Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case

Loving vs. Virginia: a Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case by Patricia Hruby Powell is going to be a hard book to review accurately.

Aptly named Loving v. The Commonwealth of Virginia (1967) was a landmark Supreme Court case which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. In 1958 Richard Loving married Mildred Jeter in Washington, DC. Within days of returning to their home in Virginia they were arrested and charged with unlawful cohabitation. They were found guilty and were told to move out of the state and not return for twenty five years. When they returned to Virginia five years later for a visit they were re-arrested. Inspired by the civil rights movement, Mildred Loving wrote to then Attorney General, Robert Kennedy asking for his help. All the Lovings wanted was to be able to move home to live near their family in Virginia. After lower courts refused to reverse the decision, the Lovings' case, with the help of the ACLU, was heard by the Supreme Court of the United States. Mildred and Richard Loving did not attend the day that the case was being agued before the Supreme Court, but in a statement to the justices, Richard said, “Tell the Court I love my wife and it is just not fair that I cannot live with her in Virginia.” By a unanimous decision, the court agreed with the Lovings and struck down the lower court decisions ruling that state bans on interracial marriages were unconstitutional.

In Loving vs. Virginia, author Patricia Powell and illustrator Shadra Strickland take the Lovings' story and make it into a novel, written in poetic style and based on the facts from the court case and interviews done by the author with family members and friends who are still living. In addition, the illustrations done by Strickland add to the content and look a little like illustrations one might have found in magazines or books in the 1950s with a small color palette. Interspersed throughout the book are actual photographs from the civil rights movement and brief overviews of current laws and decisions.

The whole book was informative and very well done. I knew next to nothing about the Lovings and their famous court decision prior to reading this book. By making the book a novel, Powell was able to give details and conversations that may or may not have happened, to take poetic licence, literally!
By writing their story in poetry rather than prose the details are given beauty and majesty. The poems are very accessible, too, which allows the reader to speed through the book, which reads very fast. I found myself only lingering on the photos and the overviews of laws and court decisions. I tend to think that the poems in books written in the poetic style should be spectacular/special otherwise I'd prefer the usual prose style. I don't think these poems are spectacular except they lend some dignity to the whole story, so I didn't mind them.

But now I stop to quibble, not with the author but with the publisher. The book is being marketed as a YA book, though it certainly is excellent for both younger and older readers. That said, the book is not the standard size of a YA novel. It is larger, 26 cm x 19 cm, verses the more normal size of 21 cm x 14 cm. You might think that is no big deal and it probably isn't a big deal to adult readers, or even younger kids, but to teens the size matters.  When a teen reader sizes up a book they DO NOT want to pick up a book which looks like it might be a children't book. I know it seems trite, but if the size of a book is too large, teens won't read it because they won't pick it up. This is a problem for librarians who are trying to decide if they should buy a book for their library. If teens won't read it, why buy it?

Secondly, the quibble continues, where should the book be shelved in the library? As a novel it should be placed with other fiction books. But by placing it with fiction books, when there is so much nonfiction content to it, would diminish its value. But it can't be placed in the 300s with other civil rights or landmark court cases, nonfiction books because some of the aspects of the book are fiction. Another choice for placement would be to catalog it with other poetry books in the 800s (literature) section of the library. Oddly, the publisher did not give librarians any help because they eliminated the usual verso page on the back of the title page where there is usually some cataloging help for confused librarians.

Now to potential readers, don't let my quibbles with the publisher influence your decision to read this book. Just go to your public library and check it out. Don't worry about where they decided to shelf it. Just find it, check it out, and read it. By the way, my public library decided to shelf their copy amid other YA novels in the fiction section of the library.

My rating 4 out of 5 stars. Print.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Catching Up on YA book reviews: three short ones

With the end of the school year, retirement, and just-plain-life I got knocked off schedule for writing book reviews. In an effort to catch up, these reviews will be shorter than usual. The following books were all YA books published in 2017, making them eligible for the Printz and/or several other books awards given out by ALA and the Youth Media Awards committees. These books came to my attention because of their starred reviews from publications like School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.

Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson---
Mary Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. Even though she was a child herself, she was convicted in the court of general opinion before the courts also found her guilty. The whole time Mary never spoke up in her defense. But now that she has "graduated" from baby jail to a group home, Mary finally thinks it is time to speak in her own defense because she has Ted and is pregnant with a baby herself.
There were so many irritating things about this novel. Mary was never completely forthcoming with the information about the murder of the baby. Mary's mother is obviously a nut-job and the group home adults are horrible. And yet, there is something about the way the book is written that pulled me along and sucked me in. The word "allegedly" plays an important role in the plot and is used at crucial points in the plot. Just when you, the reader, think you know something, you will be given another piece of information that allegedly proves something else. The plot-twists in this book kept me interested and rooting for the protagonist. Or should I say the "alleged protagonist." This is Ms. Jackosn's first YA novel, making it eligible for the Morris Award.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Professional reviews with starred ratings: Booklist, Kirkus Review, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal. The reviewer at Booklist had this to say about the book: "Suspenseful without being emotionally manipulative, compelling without resorting to shock value, this is a tightly spun debut that wrestles with many intense ideas and ends with a knife twist that will send readers racing back to the beginning again."

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson---
When Tina is quite young, she and her mother escape as refuges from the Congo to Sangui City, Kenya. Her mother finds a job working as a maid for the Greyhills, a rich family. Tina grows up playing with the Greyhill's son, even though it was frowned upon by both mothers. At some point Tina overhears her mother and Mr. Greyhill fighting and when her mother is murdered, Tina figures it must have been his doing. For four years she lives on the streets of Sangui City, working with a local gang, plotting her revenge. But when it looks like revenge is within her grasp, Tina learns new information which makes her question her old suspicions as she meets back up with her old playmate.
This is an action, mystery novel with a decidedly African twist, where the landscape, animals, and local politics play a roll in the plot. Though a fictional book, Anderson based the story of actual stories of corruption in the mining industry in the Congo and her use of Swahili words sprinkled throughout the story lend it even more credibility. This is a hang-on-to-your-horses kind of story---with lots of action coming at the reader in a nonstop barrage of events. I enjoyed it a lot. Even if this book doesn't win a Printz Award it will be eligible for a Morris Award since it is Anderson's first YA novel.
Rating: 4.5 our of 5
Professional starred reviews (4) from: Booklist; Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books; Publisher's Weekly; and School Library Journal. The New York Times book reviewer said this about the book: ... a twisty-turny, chock-full-of-secrets, so-exciting-you-have-to-force-yourself-to-take-breaks-and-breathe kind of novel." 

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour---
Marin's mother died when she was young from a surfing accident. The only family she has ever known, really, is her grandfather. They live together in a small house close to the ocean. In a lot of ways they live separate, quiet lives. Her grandfather gives her plenty of room to be a teenager, and space to discover herself. When she falls in love with her best friend Mabel, Marin thinks her life is fairly perfect. Then grandpa dies and she discovers that he is not the man she thought he was. She leaves town without so much as a goodbye to her friends and tries to outrun her grief and loneliness. When Mabel visits her at college over Christmas break, Marin is forced to finally stop running and to face her life.
I really liked LaCour's book Hold Still, so I was excited to pick up this book to see if I was a fan or not. Unfortunately, I thought the book tried to do too much: only child issues; grief over death, loss of trust, and loss of friendship; beginning college; loneliness; LGBT issues; acceptance and belonging. It was overwhelming actually to try to wade through all the issues this book brought up. The writing was strong, but the story line was packed with too may issues while not developing the characters as much as I hoped.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Professional starred reviews (4) from: Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal. These reviewers disagreed with me, as evidence by this comment:  "LaCour paints a captivating depiction of loss, bewilderment, and emotional paralysis . . . raw and beautiful." --Booklist, starred review

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Please leave a comment below.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Salon, July 16th

Overlooking the Chambers Bay Golf Course and the Puget Sound
Weather: Cloudy and overcast. It hasn't rained for almost a month so it would be a good thing if it rained today.

60 for my 60th: This week Sandy WB and I took a walk along the Chambers Bay overlooking the golf course and the Puget Sound and ate a wonderful brunch at the Chambers Bay Grill, a restaurant attached to the club. Afterwards we picked blueberries and continued chatting about everything in our lives: husbands, books, kids, politics. Thank you, Sandy. I had a wonderful time. //Don and I hosted a dinner for some long time friends last night. Half the group was missing but we enjoyed our evening of food and conversation.//I also had an e-mail exchange with a long-lost college girl friend which I am going to count toward my 60. This brings my total up to 43.

Farmers' Market: Our town hosts a Farmers' market every Saturday of summer. Yesterday was our first time for the season and it appeared that everyone else in town was there, too. The place was a beehive of activity. We bought cherries, boysenberries, and beets. I got a new parsley plant and a bunch of sweet peas. Sometimes we forget to be thankful for the small delights in life like the scent of sweet peas or the fun of being some place in the sun, enjoying the weather and the fellowship of members of our community.
Sweet Peas from Farmers' Market

Anne's cookbook: This past week I made freezer raspberry jam and outlined the steps on my new blog post. If you have never made freezer jam, I encourage you to try it this year. Click the link for the recipe/directions.

Water aerobics: After a week of amassing the correct gear I finally took the plunge, so to speak, and signed up for a water aerobics class. Friday was my first day and I made it through OK. Though I found it to be a bit boring, perhaps because I didn't have a friend or sister there to chat with while I was splashing around trying to do all the complicated maneuvers. Ha! In preparation I purchased aqua socks after rubbing the bottoms of my feet raw while bobbing around in the pool at Whistler it seemed like a prudent thing to buy. I also purchased a new swim cap. With my wild and crazy hair I do not need to add chlorine into the mess. In addition, I also bought some hiking boots at REI with week. My toes are still in recovery from my torturous hike down Whistler mountain. Time to get something better than the dumb shoes I wore for that trip. So Don and I made a trip to REI and I am now set for more serious hiking with new boots.

Reading: In actuality I spent the majority of the week reading, or listening to audiobooks. That meant I sat around a lot of the time. Hmm. The ying and the yang of my life. Prepare to exercise and then sit around.

Books completed:
  •  The Book of Unknown American by Christina Henriquez---a Mexican family moves to  Delaware for medical/educational help for their daughter, who had a head injury. Their experience in America was frustrating as they had language barriers, were under-employed, and had cultural differences. In a lot of ways, this story broke my heart. Audio.
  • In Our Backyard by Nita Belles...About human trafficking and what we can do to stop it. A real call to action. Audio.
  • The Gift poems by Hafiz. Print.
  • Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia---a creator of a popular webcomic lives most of her life in the Internet. When she meets a boy, in real life, she doesn't share with him about being the creator of the webcomic, even though he is a fan. Print.
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson---Ursula's life begins over and over, every time she dies she starts over, giving her a true sense of deja vu. She is able to change a few details based on these premonitions. Truly a thought-provoking book. Audio.
Currently reading:
  • Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Maloy---this month's book club selection. This is an issue-driven book but none of the issues are handled well so I am making myself finish the book for club, not because I like it. 87%. Print.
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson.  Another book club selection. This one has been on my TBR list for several years. Nonfiction. Audio. 5%.
The Beatles obsession continues. I am still stuck on the Sirius Radio The Beatles channel. Yesterday I heard the audio of Peter Sellers, pretending to be Lawrence Olivier doing Shakespeare of "A Hard Day's Night." I thought of my mom since she is such a big Peter Sellers fan. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This past month my husband and I listened to the audiobook of the 2017 Pultizer Prize winning novel, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Neither of us knew much about the book but assumed it was about the Underground Railroad which was credited for saving many hundreds of slaves lives in the 1840s and 1850s. Well, that is partially true. Let me explain.

In an interview with John Burnham Schwartz from the Wall Street Journal, Colson Whitehead explained that he had been playing around with two "science fictiony" questions for several years before he wrote this book.
“WHAT IF the underground railroad was a literal railroad? And what if each state, as a runaway slave was going north, was a different state of American possibility, an alternative America?” (WSJ)
Whoa. That sounds different. The Underground Railroad as a real railroad and each state as an alternative America? This book no longer sounds like it is the book we were expecting. Whitehead decided to plow new ground with his story of slavery and its horrors by mixing in some magical realism. In a sort of Gulliver's Travel type of tale where the protagonist enters a very different state-of-being with each state she enters, the story encompasses many more aspects of the African-American experience than just slavery.

When Cora escapes from slavery and by miraculously traveling on the literal underground railroad, each state she gets to on her journey north holds a new possibility and a new set of problems at the same time: eugenics, medical experimentation, complete ethnic cleansing, underemployment, etc. Each time Cora thinks she has found a better life for herself, she is forced to look at these new horrors. The effects of slavery didn't end when the slave escaped the plantation and its tentacles touched every aspect of American life.

To add another literary allusion, this one from Les Miserables, Cora is chased relentlessly by a slave-catcher named Ridgeway, who is very Javert-like in his determination to find and return her to her master. No matter how far north she goes, she still has to spend time looking over her shoulder every moment to make sure he has not found her, again.

Whitehead took years to write The Underground Railroad because he didn't just want to write another tale of what he called "A novel of southern black misery." He went on to tell Schwartz that he was just as surprised as his readers by the final product.
 “Seeing how Cora learns so much from state to state,” he says, “her emotional and philosophical growth, how she changes from the first page to the last, and getting to a place where I could talk about so many different things in the book—eugenics and the Holocaust and debates between gradual black progress and more aggressive black progress—the sense that I was able to put in everything I wanted to say is truly gratifying.” (WSJ)
There was a lot to say. Some critics have been critical of that very point.  But Don and I appreciated it. The effect of slavery didn't end with the Civil War. Blacks in America have had to deal with a long history of a continuing degree of degradation. Because of the magical realism aspects of the writing, it is easier to apply the story to modern times and the current struggle with Black Lives Matter. We were left with a very clear understanding of the terrible cost of human slavery, and its toxic legacy.

This book is powerful and life-changing. It is not an easy-read, but it is an excellent-read.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, Random House Audio, 2016. Narrated by Bahni Turpin.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friday Quotes---Life After Life

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

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---

Title: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Book Beginning:
Nov. 1930- A fug of tobacco smoke and damp clammy air hit her as she entered the cafe. She had come in from the rain and drops of water still trembled like delicate dew on the fur coats of some of the women inside.
Friday 56:
January 1915- Pamela sighed the sigh of of someone with a lifetime behind them already and sat at the table. She stared blankly at the cloth and said, "I miss Daddy."
Comment: First off, I had to look up the word "fug" since I've never seen it before. It means "a warm, stuffy, or smoky atmosphere in a room."  The main character, Ursula, keeps dying and starting over, with only a partial knowledge of her last life, just enough to correct a problem. I am really enjoying the writing. The plot, not linear, is confusing but it is a little like figuring out a puzzle. Have any of you read this book? What did you think?

Anne's Cookbook: Freezer Jam

 Anne's Cookbook: Freezer Jam
Every year, at this time, I make freezer jam with fresh berries. My mother always made freezer jam when we were growing up and now my siblings and I, including my brother, all continue that tradition. My daughters grew up helping me make jam and now that they are not living here, I have a great jam-making partner in my husband. When I serve this homemade and delicious jam to guests, I usually get praised for making my own jam, like it is difficult to do. It is not. It is very easy to make freezer jam. Today I am hoping to demystify the jam-making process for you.

Step #1
Compile all the ingredients and implements

Berries, sugar, pectin (I use Sure Jell brand. the low-sugar variety), jars

Step #2
Open up the Pectin box for the recipe and directions. Even though I have made jam for at least 30 years, I still do this every time.
Note the directions are double-sided.
Select the directions for the Quick and Easy FREEZER Jam directions

The general directions are the same for all types of berries/fruit. They are listed here in 5 easy steps.
The chart shows the amount of crushed fruit to sugar. I usually make raspberry or strawberry jam. The amount of sugar is different for the two berries. I check this carefully every year.
Step #3
Wash and prepare the jars
I've been using the same jars for years, occasionally I will purchase new lids, but not often. I have a real hodge-podge collection of jars. The recipe says to expect 6 cups of jam, so plan accordingly. The jars need to be ready the minute the jam is done, so this is an important step at this point in the process.

Step #4
Clean, crush, measure the berries

I clean one basket of berries at a time so that I cull through them to make sure there are no leaves or rot. Then I drain them and place them in a measuring cup and smash them with a potato masher. DO NOT BLEND or PUREE, just smash them by hand. It usually takes about four to five of the baskets of fruit to reach the desired amount of crushed berries. This is the step where my husband comes in handy. He is good at smashing and measuring.
Watch your measurements carefully. Don't add extra fruit or the jam will not set properly. Put the berries aside to use later.

Step #5
Measure sugar into pot and stir in the pectin dry.
Make sure the sugar and pectin are well mixed before adding 1 cup of water.

Step #6
Add water and heat while stirring. Boil for one minute.

Stir in the water, before turning on the heat. Once the sugar/pectin/water mixture is smooth, turn on the heat under the pot on medium. Stir constantly so the sugar will not burn or stick to the bottom. Once the mixture starts to boil, put on a timer for one minute. Continue stirring constantly. Remove from heat at the end of the minute.

 Step #7
Stir in crushed fruit

Stir quickly. The pectin will immediately start thickening the mixture.

Step #8
Fill the jars. Leave at least 1/2 inch at the top for room when the jam expands in the freezer.
Note: the low-sugar jam doesn't set as firm as full-sugar jam and often the berries will separate a bit in the jar. We are used to it at our house and we just stir our jam to mix it up after it thaws.
Add labels, if you want (Not necessary for deliciousness.)
Leave jam on counter for 24-hours, then put the jars in the freezer.
I made two batches. DO NOT DOUBLE recipe, just make two separate recipes.

Easy peazy lemon-squeezy!

Fresh berries per basket: $1.90, we used 4 1/2 baskets per batch=$8.55
Sugar is about $.45 per cup, we used 3 1/2 cups per batch=$1.57
Pectin per box=$2.35
Jars (Mine were free since I've had them so long. But this is a good time to buy them at stores that carry canning supplies. Target had 12 packs on sale for $8.00 this week.)
Total: $12.47
I made six jars per batch. Each jar cost me about $2.08.
This is roughly half the cost of store-bought jam which isn't nearly as delicious.

Once you try freezer jam it will be hard to go back to store bought jam.
The color is so vivid and the jam tastes like the real fruit that was used to make it.
Low-sugar jam has almost half the amount of sugar as regular jam, which also allows the berries to be the star, not the sugar.