"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=========

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Friday Quotes---The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham

Book Beginnings: (Introduction, pg 1)
Friday 56:

Comment: My husband and I started this audiobook on a recent trip to Oregon. It is about the Presidency and the good and bad Presidents in the USA throughout history. Jon Meacham is a historian who is writes clearly and with so much authority. I am finding it to be fascinating and learning much that I didn't previously know. It clearly shows low points in our history like the quote from the Introduction about Strom Thurmond being upset about anti-lynching legislation. He also showed the steps that Lincoln had to go through to put forward the Emancipation Proclamation which would free all slaves at the end of the Civil War. The subtitle comes from a quote made my Lincoln near the end of his first inaugural speech. I really like it and agree that we need to battle for our better angels in politics and society today.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” -Abraham Lincoln, 1861

The Uncommon Reader --- And a wonderful book club meeting

Last night our book club meet to discuss Alan Bennett's "deliciously funny novella" about reading. It begins when the Queen of England stumbles upon a book mobile and feels duty-bound to check out a book. This begins a whole new chapter in her life which revolves around reading.
With The Uncommon Reader, Bennett brings us a playful homage to the written word, imagining a world in which literature becomes a subversive bridge between power-brokers and commoners. By turns cheeky and charming, the novella features the Queen herself as its protagonist. When her yapping corgis lead her to a mobile library, Her Majesty develops a new obsession with reading. She finds herself devouring works by a tantalizing range of authors. With a young member of the palace kitchen staff guiding her choices, it’s not long before the Queen begins to develop a new perspective on the world - one that alarms her closest advisers and tempts her to make bold new decisions. Brimming with the mischievous wit ...The Uncommon Reader is a delightful celebration of books and writers, and the readers who sustain them (Goodreads).
Published in 2007, I'd read The Uncommon Readers years ago so I thought a re-read was best since I was also leading the book club discussion at my house this month. It is such a short book, 120 pages, and quite straight-forward. I worried we would run out of things to talk about long before the end of the club meeting. As I re-read the book several quotes really jumped out at me and I made note of them to include in the discussion. But how to get the other gals involved in the discussion? It hit me that I could use the quotes and create different questions from them. I did it and the book club was a success. (See the questions below.)

Our meeting was last night and I handed each participant a card with a question on it. I asked them to take a few minutes to complete their homework by looking up their quote or to prepare their response. Each question was asked in order, 1-16. Each participant was directed to answer her question first before opening it up for the group to jump in if anyone had anything to add. I summed up the discussion with ten things I had found our about Alan Bennett from my research of the author. It was not necessary for the discussion but a bit eye-opening. For example, he has been an extremely prolific writer during his career; He turned down knighthood because he didn't want to feel like a suit-and-tie sort of guy; And he was pick-pocketed of £1,500 which he admits has made him less trusting of people. 

My lesson worked beautifully. Everyone talked and participated, which is rare. Everyone had something to say about their own question and quite a few of the questions generated a full discussion among the group members. By the end of the evening everyone was buzzing and to a person came up to me to talk about how much they enjoyed the book and our "lesson." Now I am not saying that your book club will have as much success as ours did, but it is worth a try. I am often given a lot of latitude in club because I am a retired teacher. When it is my turn to lead the book discussions, usually about once a year, people expect me to do something sort of "schoolish". But I honestly think this would work for other clubs, even if you aren't a teacher.

Here are the question cards and a link to the page where I found the ten facts about Alan Bennett. Hopefully you can just cut and paste the questions and print them out for your use. I hope you have fun!
1. The use of the word “ONE” in the book.
2. React to this quote: “But though it was called a library and it was indeed lined with books, a book was seldom if ever read there.” (18)
3. What were the excuses people gave the Queen for not reading? Why do you think most people don’t enjoy reading /take time to read?
4. React to this quote from Sir Kevin: “I feel, ma-am, that while not exactly elitist it [reading] sends the wrong message. It excludes.” (27)
5. React to this quote: “The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something undeferring about literature. Books do not care who was reading them…” (30)
6. Once the Queen started reading, she took books with her everywhere, even in the coach going to official events. (32) How does this compare to you?
7. React to this quote: “What the Queen had not expected was the degree to which it [reading] drained her of enthusiasm for anything else.” (59)
8. The royal family was relieved by the Queen’s reading because it meant she left them alone more. (45) How do/did your family members react to your reading habits?
9. React to this quote: “There was a sadness to her reading, too, and for the first time in her life she felt there was a good deal she had missed.” (47)
10. Even the Queen felt awkward around authors and couldn’t think of anything clever to say to them. Have you ever met any authors? How did you react to them?
11. Who are the “Normans” in your life or the people who you trust when it comes to book recommendations?
12. Why did the Queen have trouble with Jane Austen’s works? (74)
13. After Princess Di was killed, the Queen was required to show her feelings, which is not easy for her. Because of this when she found this quote from Shakespeare’s Cordelia, she jotted it in her notebook, “I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.” Do you do the same thing, jotting down notes from books you are reading? (90?)
14. Sir Claude was tasked with talking the Queen out of reading. He did. But what did he talk her into? (95) Talk about what the Queen wanted to do with his suggestion.
15. The ending. Were you prepared?
16. Alan Bennett is a playwright. Can you imagine this book as a play? Why/Why not?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad

When Ibtihaj Muhammad was a teenager growing up in New Jersey her parents required that she and her siblings participate in sports every season as a way to stay fit, keep busy, and to stay out of trouble. For Ibtihaj Muhammad this always presented her with a challenge since she was a Muslim who wore a hijab and modest clothing. Summer sports like Track and Field were especially brutal is one was to remain modest and cover the head with a hijab. Then one day during 8th grade Ibthihaj and her mother stopped by the local high school to pick up her brother and they noticed a sports team practicing in the cafeteria. It was unlike any other team they'd seen because of the uniforms. It was the fencing team. Both Ibtihaj and her mother recognized that the uniforms would allow a girl to practice and compete without drawing attention to the hijab. They set up an appointment with the coach to explore more about the sport. When Ibtihaj was in high school herself, she joined the team moving from the epee team to the saber team during her junior year and becoming a top state athlete. During this time she got additional coaching with the Peter Westbrook Foundation in New York. Ibthihaj found a home at the foundation since she and Peter had a lot in common, both being back athletes competing in a an almost exclusively white sport. Through college (Duke) and after onto the 2016 Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad always returned to the foundation for coaching and support.

And it was support that she needed because the world wasn't always kind or accepting of an athlete who didn't fit the "profile." The attack on the twin towers, 9-11, happened when Ibtihaj was a junior in high school. We know what kind of anti-Muslim racism that occurred in America after that event and Ibtihaj felt it at every turn, experiencing loneliness and isolation on most teams she joined including her college team and the National team she earned a spot on. Even her coach on the National team would ignore her, often not even informing her of mandatory meetings and then deriding her for not being there. It is a wonder she continued in the sport with so much opposition coming her way.

But Ibtihaj Muhammad had an incredible work ethic and the support and love of her family, and the strength one gains from a life of faith and she prevailed against the odds, making it onto the 2016 Olympic team and placing, with her team members, third place. A bronze medal! Along the way she and her family started a clothing line for women who want to dress in a modest way without looking like they are wearing a robe. She served on a National committee to promote international understanding and goodwill. She was named one of Time's top 100 most influential people. And maybe most importantly to Ibtihaj, a role model to other Muslim women and girls, who also find it difficult to keep their religion and participate in sports. At the time of publication, Ibtihaj Muhammad was still fencing so we may see her in the 2020 Olympics again!

I found the book to be very inspiring and I hope it is widely available at middle and high schools to find its way into the hands of readers who will also be inspired by the message that with faith, family, and hard work even hijab-wearing girls can burst past all their barriers and make it to the top!

I checked the print edition of Proud out of my local public library.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Review and Friday Quotes: Sea Prayer

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

Book Beginning:
Friday 56:

Review: This precious, short prayer is from a father to his son. The book was written by Khaled Hosseini, yes that Khaled Hosseini author of The Kite Runner, and dedicated to the thousands of refugees who have perished at sea fleeing war and persecution. The father tells his son Marwan that he wishes he could know the beauties of his country, especially his grandfather's farm and the bustling old city of Homs where neighbors "haggle over gold pendants and fresh produce and bridal dresses." He tells his son he wishes he knew good things that he grew up with instead of the things the son knows, like swimming pools made out of bomb craters and starvation.
The father prays that the sea will spare his son, his most precious possession so he can make it to safety. the illustrations done in water color by Dan Williams give a dramatic feeling of the ravishes of war and the fury of the sea, yet the gentleness of the father and his memories.

Hosseini was inspired to write this book by the story of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in 2015. Since his death, at the time of publication, 4,176 others have died attempting the same journey. Proceeds of this book will go to UNHCR, the UN Relief agency and to the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to help fund relief efforts for refugees around the world.

Monday, October 8, 2018

TTT: Longest books I've read

Top Ten Tuesday: The longest books I've ever read

A. And the Ladies of the Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer, 1184 pages. Though I read it years ago what I remember most about it was the length. I don't think I'd ever read such a long book before this one.

B. Centennial by James Michener, 1086 pages. Of course it was long! I started at the beginning of the world! Ha!

C. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, 1034 pages. Unlike the above book I was not aware of the page length on this book as I read it. For years I would tell people that this was my favorite book but it has been so long since high school, when I read it, that I am only left with impressions. I suspect it would bother me more today than it did years ago to read about the South's fight to keep slaves.

D. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, 974 pages. Another book I read as a young teen and the page length didn't seem remarkable. Believe me, if I was reading a 974 page book today I would remember it!

E. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, somewhere around 900 pages.  The original is around 1450 pages but I read the abridged version of this classic book and it was still long. Loved it, by the way. 

F. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, 870 pages. I think this was the first Harry Potter book that I remember thinking it could have used some editing...it was over-long.

G. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, 849 pages. This is the fourth book in the Inheritance Cycle series (Eragon). If we added all the pages from the four books it would be nearly 3000 pages!

H. Winter by Marissa Meyer, 827 pages. The last book in the Lunar Chronicles series. I went to the reveal party and then chickened out and did not read the book for six months because it was so long.

I. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, 771 pages. I loved every page of this book.

J. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, 536 pages. This may not be the longest book I've ever read but it FELT like the longest. Ha!

My TBR pile has a few lengthy tomes I haven't tackled yet.

AA.  The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, 1276 pages.

BB. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 964 pages

CC. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty, 843 pages. 

DD. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, 609 pages. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Is it a book haul or do I have too many books checked out, again?

Feast or famine (though famine is fairly rare)---I currently have way too many books checked out from the library in the print or audio format! Why do I always seem to do this to myself?

Here's the pile. Where should I start?

  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander---potential Printz or Newbery award book written in verse. I am about 20% into the book. I hope to finish this one by tomorrow.
  • She Love You Yeah Yeah Yeah by Ann Hood---I thought this was a narrative nonfiction about the Beatles, but I see it is really fiction. Target audience are middle grade students. I may skip it but want to at least read a bit to get the flavor.
  • And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness---a friend told me she wouldn't read any books I recommended until I read this one. It was on my radar since it is also a potential Printz award book. Ness went to high school around here and my friend is friends with him.
  • Goodbye, Brecken: A Story About the Death of a Pet by David Lupton---a children's book that I impulsively checked out of the library when I was there getting books off hold. It is super short so I imagine I can read it in a few minutes after I'm done with this post.
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini--- this book was on some "best of" book lists I perused this past month. It is also short and illustrated.
  • Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today---this book is on my list of JH/HS nonfiction books to read as a first round Cybils Judge. It is big and heavy. I may not read the whole thing, but enough to decide about the quality and appropriateness of the pick.
  • Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock---another Cybils contender in the JH/SH nonfiction department.
  • Proud: Living my American Dream by Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad---Another Cybils contender, I've read about 10% of this one so far.
  • Votes for Women! American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling---another Cybils contender.
  • Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett---a book club selection. I am 80% finished and the book is short. I should finish this one by the end of the weekend.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones---another book club selection for later this month. I am about 80% complete and hope to finish this book by Tuesday.
  • Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri---the author is often of a news show I like to watch. It is written as a message to a future female president. It is short. I hope to get to it before it is due back at the library.
  • The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey---Timing. I've been in line for this audiobook for months and it arrives the same week as everything else, of course.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate---for a future (January) book club. I thought I was much further back in line so I am shocked but not surprised that this one also showed up on an already busy reading week! I may turn it back in and hope I get a second chance later.
  • Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan---I have the CD set checked out but have no purpose in reading the book other than I saw the movie and want to see how it compares to the book. This is my last priority.
  • Fear by Bob Woodward. I own the copy of this highly controversial book but I am having a hard time making time for it. 10% complete.
The usual due date for my library is three weeks. Many of the books I placed on hold because they were NOT readily available when I ordered them. Those books will become my highest priority because I won't be able to renew them. I have until the end of December of Cybils books and my book club books need to be read before club meetings, which vary by groups. If I get started right this moment I should be able to make a big dent in this list before the due dates. Wish me luck!

Update October 17th: It's eleven days after I wrote this post and I am happy to report that I have actually finished eight of the fifteen books and have a good start on two others.
Completed print:
  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander
  • Goodbye, Brecken: A Story About the Death of a Pet by David Lupton
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini
  • Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today
  • Proud: Living my American Dream by Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad
  • Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
Completed audio:
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
  • Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri
Currently reading:
  • Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock
  • The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Review and Friday Quotes: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

Book Beginning: Excerpt from: "The Golden Rule" by Carole Boston Weatherford
Some form of the Golden Rule exists in every major world religion.In what may be the earliest version, the ancient Egyptians commanded: Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do.
Friday 56: Excerpt from "Where Are the Good People?" by Tameka Fryer Brown
Life's not always fair and sometimes it's scary. When safe spaces aren't safe, when protectors harm us, when leaders try to lead us toward fear and hate, there's nothing fair or reassuring about that.
Review: In the forward by Ashley Bryan we are assured if we touch this book it will lift our spirits. And "if you flip through all the creative gems put unto your hands and hearts by the gifts of people of color, we will hear your voices chanting praises." Bryan assures us that this book is not designed to be read just once and then put away, but a resource from any pitfalls of the day, one that should be read and reread as needed.

And boy did I need this book, a collection of 50+ poems, essays, letters, and illustrations by people of color aimed at young people, this past week. The week with all the political rancor and people lining up on one side or the other. I was so torn and upset, then I picked up this book with its colorful and hopeful illustrations and poems to soothe and to savor, letters to ponder and share, and essays that explain a lot. Each of the submissions are no longer than one page and the contributors are all YA/Junior authors or illustrators "Within this collection, there is a letter from a parent to her children on kindness; there's advice on how to become confident and mindful; there are words of wisdom about finding and keeping friends;...and how young people can change the world."

I devoured the book in one sitting and then had to go back and look more closely at the illustrations and try to match the art up with the written words. What a joy. Just the salve I needed for a nasty week. My only criticism is really a question. Who should the book be marketed to? If it is marketed to elementary and middle school librarians to add to their collection, I'm afraid the book will sit quietly unread on the library shelves. But if the book is marketed to teachers of middle grade/upper elementary students or to parents of kids in this age range, I think the poems will find their way to the targeted audience, pre-adolescent children. In fact, a friend told me she ordered the book after reading my tiny blurb about the book on my Sunday Salon post. She has a young girl who should enjoy the content, especially if she and her mom read it aloud together. The editors say that the book was designed to inspire, motivate, and encourage the readers to make a difference in the world.

I recommend it!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Salon: A reaction to the past week, with notes of hope

Teeny-tiny books in jail. A display at the Puyallup Public Library highlighting Banned Books Week.
Weather: sprinkling right now. It rained for a while last night and continues to do so very lightly.

My reaction to the events of this past week: I, like almost everyone I know, spent Thursday in front of the TV watching the Judiciary Committee to hear testimony from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court  nominee Brett Kavanaugh. My heart broke for the woman who had her life altered so dramatically altered one day many summers ago by two drunken boys, one who sexually assaulted her. Dr. Ford was very credible and clearly had very clear memories of the event seared into her brain. As I listened to her testimony and observed how she responded to the senators' (and their surrogate's) questions, I was certain she was speaking the truth. I wondered how the senators could vote to put a man on the Supreme Court who had done such a thing, even though it happened years ago? Then Brett Kavanaugh gave his testimony and the differences couldn't have been starker. He came out angry and deviant. He didn't answer questions. He repeated the mantra, "I didn't do it and I wanted a hearing to clear my name." Yet denied the need for an FBI investigation. He seemed angry and defensive. He even espoused conspiracy theories. At this point the senate committee seemed to fall apart and we witnessed real ugliness and partisanship. I knew Dr. Ford would not be given a fair vote. I went to bed that night with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. The whole process appeared to be a sham.
Cartoon by Adam Zyglis twisting words from Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony to make a partisan point
Then on Friday, after two brave women confronted Senator Jeff Flake and he turned around and said he would not vote to move Kavanaugh's nomination out of committee unless there was an FBI investigation of the claims, there seemed to be a chance that truth would win out. We'll see if that happens. I am cautious but hopeful.

As a Christian I am disgusted by this: 

Link: Patheos
So what other notes of hope did I experience this week?
1. I am not in church today because this weekend is our Faith in Action week-end where everyone goes out and does a service project instead of going to church. Don is doing yard work right now for an aging couple who can no longer prune their hedges. I spent part of yesterday at a local clothing bank putting away summer clothing and putting out winter wear. Two of the other volunteers explained how powerful the ministry to clothe people has been in our community. It was time well spent, an experience that made me feel hopeful for the goodness of mankind.

2. This rally for Beto O'Rourke this weekend in Texas drew 60,000 people to hear Willie Nelson sing and to support the candidate. Nelson rolled out a new song called "Vote 'Em Out". I agree. If we want change, we have to vote.

3. This book: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Hudson.
The book is dedicated to "those who advocate for and pursue a just society and basic human rights for all people. " Fifty-three YA/Junior authors and artists contributed to this project with the goal of communicating to the younger generation how to stand strong in the face of racism and acts of inhumanity and how to thrive anyway. Many other authors wrote poems, but others wrote letters or small essays. The book was illustrated by a variety of artists creating a delightfully pleasing and colorful book. In the forward, Ashley Bryan says. "If you flip through all the creative gems put unto your hands and hearts by the gifts of people of color, we will hear your voices chanting praises. Then you will realize this is not a onetime read but a resource from any pitfalls of the day...Reading opens treasures, and this book is a treasure to enjoy." It was the perfect thing to read after a contentious week

4. This boy...how can I not be hopeful when I get to spend time each week with this little guy. Here he is enjoying nobs.

5. This dog...things are going a bit better on potty training but accidents still happen. What joy exudes from this little guy. 

6. Women's Bible Study has recommenced. We are studying the book series by Beth Moore, Living Beyond Yourself: Exploring the Fruit of the Spirit.

7. The weather has turned and fall is here. This photo was taken two weeks ago when the Purple Mountain Ash tree in our backyard was just "thinking" about shedding its leaves.

8. And this funny. RBG:"Hey Brett, You think your confirmation hearing is unfair? For my confirmation they threw me in a river to see if I float."

I am still full of hope.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Friday Quotes and a short review: Drama

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Book Title: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Book Beginning:
The book opens with a behind the scene look at a dramatic production.

Friday 56:
Two boys find each other.
This is ALA Banned Books Week. Drama was one of the top ten challenged books in 2017 because there are LGBTQ characters in the story.

The note on the back of the book says---Drama brings us a funny, charming exploration of friendship, crushes, and all-around drama.

Are you reading a banned/challenged book this week? Check out this list if you want to participate but need some suggestions.

October 8, 2018---Review: I loved this little gem of a graphic novel. The main character is a 7th grade girl who loves drama and is also at the age where she gets crushes on boys. The book is really about her friends and the relationships she has with them, She learns that just because a boy is good looking or says something nice to her, they aren't necessarily looking for a relationship. She also learns to be accepting of differences in people, including her LGBTQ friends. Everything about  this books makes me smile and it is a real shame that the book is often banned/challenged because it is a powerful tool to show acceptance and positive friendships.