"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, January 29, 2018

TTT: I Can't Believe I Read These Books

Top Ten Tuesday: I Can't Believe I Read (or Finished) These Books (for a variety of reasons)

Freewill by Chris Lynch
I hated this book from start to finish, but I did, I finished it. It earned a 1 star rating on Goodreads from me. The only 1 star rating on my whole page.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: A Graphic Novel by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen
Defamation of my favorite novel and a graphic novel to boot. But it was short and I enjoyed it, sort of.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I loved the book but before I read it, I was terrified of it. I didn't think I could understand it, so I shunned it for years and years. When I finally read it I was blown away.

At Home in Her Tomb: Lady Dai and the Ancient Chinese Treasures of Mawandui by Christine Liu-Perkins
This is one of those little nonfiction books that sometimes end up in libraries to languish on the shelves. Well, I read it and found it fascinating. Then this year, when we were in China, I was able to wow our Chinese guide since I knew about Ladi Dai and her tomb. He was clearly blown away. When he recovered, he asked how I knew about her.  I told him I was a librarian and I read a book about her!

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart.
I LOVED THIS BOOK. But the Goldfinch audiobook was over 30 hours long! Can you believe it? I finished it and loved it. 30+ hours!!!

Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
This book was on my must-read list since I saw the movie named for it. I was so-o-o disappointed. It wasn't the main source of information for the movie, after all. Plus, it took me a LONG time to read, prolonging the torture. But I finished it. Check. Done with that one!

The Art of Barbie by Craig Yoe
I know. I can't believe I read it, either. And more unbelievably I enjoyed it.

The Singer by Calvin Miller
This one should read, "I can't believe that I finally read this book." It was given to me as a graduation or birthday gift in 1975. I told her I wanted it and then I never read it. I've carted it around with me for 40+ years. This past year that friend past away. My sorrow led me back to this book that she gave me so many years before. And I read it. I can't believe it took me so long.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My family and I watched the mini-series based on this book. We were enthralled and would binge watch episode after episode. The book was not nearly as exciting as the TV show. It was so different, in fact, that I really didn't like it and I can't believe I finished the whole book.

How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman
I can't believe I actually read this whole silly, humorous book. No, check that, I can believe I read it. I just can't believe I told anyone that I read it.

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry
A memoir about a man and his truck. Doesn't seem like my kind of book, but I really liked it.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I'm fired up and furious after reading Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Everyone is talking about it, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, so why shouldn't I join the conversation? After purchasing the e-book version, because no print versions were currently available, I immediately set to reading.

Since I started reading Fire and Fury I have seen the author, Michael Wolff, several times on TV shows: news, commentary, and comedy. He must be the hottest guy to get on shows today. The book is currently the #1 selling nonfiction book in the world. Wolff gained nearly complete access to the White House after Trump saw Wolff on TV giving an interview about how the media should tone down their attacks on Trump. During a phone conversation, Wolff pitched the idea of writing a book about the first 100 days of Trump's presidency -- an insider's look at the day-to-day workings of Trump and his team. With unprecedented access Wolff started frequently hanging out at the White House, scheduling meetings with staff, and being present while waiting for meetings. He conducted over 200 interviews between May 2016 and October 2017. Some of the material he uses are direct quotes from named staff  members. Other unnamed sources are quoted, though he might identify a source as staff, friend, or surrogate. Lastly he makes personal observations based on times he was in the room when a conversation or confrontation took place. One quoted phone conversation appears to be Trump speaking directly to Wolff.

After the publication of this book, the White House went into full denial mode with President Trump and staffers saying the book was all lies and that no one had given Wolff permission for such unprecedented access to the daily workings of the President and the White House. "Don't buy the book!" "It is all fake." "He's a liar, I never said that." In fact, Trump's lawyer sent a 'cease and desist' letter to the publisher that generally said 'don't publish or we will see you in court.' John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan/Henry Holt [publisher], wrote a gem of a letter to his employees about the situation. Read it here. In Sargent's letter, he cites First Amendment protections and important court decisions. He concludes the letter with the paragraph below, which gives me hope for the future:
There is no ambiguity here. This is an underlying principle of our democracy. We cannot stand silent. We will not allow any president to achieve by intimidation what our Constitution precludes him or her from achieving in court. We need to respond strongly for Michael Wolff and his book, but also for all authors and all their books, now and in the future. And as citizens we must demand that President Trump understand and abide by the First Amendment of our Constitution.
Though I had heard about many of the situations described in the book, it provided a source where all these snippets of information are put together and shed a light on the inner workings to illuminate my understanding. I also learned new, very disturbing things about our 45th president.

To begin with Trump didn't even want to president. He just wanted to be famous, the most famous man in the world. His friend Sam Nunberg asked him why he wanted to be president and Trump never answered. "The point was, there didn't need to be an answer because he wasn't going to be president" (4%).  (Sorry. My Kindle Fire isn't showing page numbers, so all citations for quotes will give the percentage of the e-book that quote came from.) Another friend, Roger Ailes, had suggested if Trump wanted a career in television, first run for president. Trump began floating a rumor about a Trump network. Running for president was a means to that end. Many of the issues that surfaced during the campaign would have sunk any other candidate, didn't matter to them because, "He wasn't going to win! Or losing was winning" (5%)

Several months before the 2016 election I had the thought that Trump's campaign was just like the musical "The Producers", where two men attempt to make money by creating a flop of a play. Only problem is, the play becomes popular, so their plan doesn't work. Apparently Michael Wolff had the same thought and made that comparison in the first chapter about Trump's unlikely election. He would win if he lost.

Almost every page of the book highlights this very disturbing detail:  Trump appears to know nothing about nearly every subject and doesn't show any aptitude or interest in learning more. "Whatever he knew he seemed to have learned an hour before -- and that was mostly half-baked" (7%). He doesn't or can't read (35%). If even the shortest of documents are placed before him, he will only read them if he sees his name scattered throughout the text. His brain seemed incapable of performing what would be essential tasks of his new job:  planning, organizing, paying attention, switching focus, reining in his behavior, even linking cause and effect (8%). By now, even if you are only paying attention to the news intermittently, none of this is news to you.

During the campaign Trump promised to surround himself with the "best" people. The opposite seems to be true. Steven Bannon who prides himself on helping to create conflict (20%); Sean Spicer, "whose job was to explain what people did and why, often simply could not -- because nobody really had a job, because nobody could do a job" (20%); Steve Miller was brought on to write speeches but he seems incapable of writing anything more than bulleted lists; Kelly Ann Conway, Steve Bannon, and Ivanka Trump didn't have any assigned jobs. Son-in-law Jared Kushner has been assigned to all manner of special projects like bringing peace to the Middle East and curing the opiate addiction crisis. Chaos reigned in the White House with Trump at the center of it all "like a Delphic oracle, sitting in place and throwing out pronouncements, which had to be interpreted. Or as an energetic child, and whomever could placate or distract him became his favorite (22%).

Lately much has been made of Trump's mental health. An eye-opening comment in the book has me very worried that indeed he is unstable. "He has had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one of the reasons he liked to eat at McDonalds -- nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade" (26%). And he expressly forbids anyone to touch his toothbrush. He won't even let his housekeeper strip his bed. These are not the thoughts and actions of a sane person.

The title of the book is from a Trump tweet: North Korea, if threats continue, "will be met with  fire and fury the likes the world as never seen." He is not only stupid, he is extremely dangerous. Is he talking about nuclear war? This terrifies me.

About the Russian debacle...well, I trust you will want to read the book to find out what Wolff was able to ascertain. It is so maddening and frustrating, yet revealing and enlightening, too.

I will end with a quote, the funniest one in the book. As you know, Trump is constantly announcing that every piece of bad news about him is 'fake news.' Then during a late night telephone call made during the first week in the White House, Trump said this:
They take everything I've ever said and exaggerate it. It's all exaggerated. My exaggerations are exaggerated (30%).
It may not be your favorite book. But I recommend you read it, anyway. It is very edifying.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Friday Quotes: Far From the Tree

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: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Book Beginning:
Grace hadn't really thought too much about homecoming. She knew she'd go, though.
Friday 56:
'Well, I guess the high was meeting Maya. And she's normal, I mean, at least she's not homicidal or anything.' 
Comment: Three teens discover that they are siblings they didn't know about since they were all put up for adoption as babies and adopted to different families. I'm about 1/3rd of the way through the book. It appears that the book is about them getting to know each other and looking for their birth mother. I could be wrong. This book won the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

TTT: Books I Liked When I Read Them But Now They Have Faded In My Memory

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Liked When I Read Them But Now They Have Managed to Fade in My Memory

I was actually surprised to see this book, History is All You Left Me, on my "Books Read" list on Goodreads. I didn't remember reading it until I read the brief summary. It has a lot of good press from reviewers but obviously didn't make a big impression on me. (Date finished: March 19, 2017)

I remember liking This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis, when I read it in March 2, 2017, but I honestly can't remember anything about it even after reading the preview. Sigh.

When We Was Fierce by e.E Charlton-Trujillo was such a controversial novel the publisher pulled it before it was released. Somehow I got a hold of a copy, read it, got caught up in the controversy and completely forgot the story line. (Finished date: September 2, 2016)

I don't remember the characters or the plot but I remember where I sat when I read this book---my back office desk. I would read it each day at work for a week while I ate my lunch. (Finished May 5, 2016.)

The Same Sky was a book club selection, which means we discussed the book and yet when I saw this on Goodreads I drew a complete blank. (Read in 2015)

I am a huge Rainbow Rowell fan so it is very odd that Landline isn't coming in clearer in my memory. (Read in November 2014)

A.S. King is a kick-ass author. All her books are so good, yet recently they seem to have formed an amalgamative mass of gel in my brain and I can't remember which story is which. Glory O'Brien's History of the Future just isn't clear in my memory anymore. (Read in 2014)

Oddly, these two books are linked in my memory even though I read them over a year apart (2014 and 2015.) I really like both of them and looking at both of the covers at the same time I can tell you which is which but if you just held up one, I'd be confused. One time I stood in front of a class doing a book talk and held up the book The Truth Commission and told the students the plot line of The Vigilante Poets. Egads. No wonder it was time to retire.

I love this book. At least I think I do. It got 5-stars on my Goodreads page.  My book review said it would be my go-to book recommendation for the year. Yet, months later when we were discussing it for book club, I could barely remember anything about the story except that I liked it and there was a book store. Pathetic memory.

Do you have book which you loved but now can barely remember? Let me know that I am not alone. Please leave a comment below.  Thanks.
P.S. I read over 150 books last year and around 120 books the year before. As I perused my reading list on Goodreads I had to go back to 2015 and 2014 before I found too many books I liked which I couldn't really remember very clearly. As a librarian I was constantly making book recommendations as part of my job. So plots and characters would stay in my brain for a while. Though I found these ten books that aren't clear in my memory, I don't don't feel too bad about myself. I'd say, in general, I remember the books I read and a bit about them.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Salon, January 21st

Our Anna's hummingbirds are still frequenting our feeder. I worry they will freeze. Photo credits: Jean Darnell
Weather: It is sunny right now but it was raining earlier. Welcome to weather in the Northwest.

Babysitting Ian: I am babysitting Ian two or three days a week now and I am still in shock at how much work it is to care for an infant. He is such a doll but he only takes short naps so I don't get much down time during the days. I have got to plan outings to break up each day otherwise I am afraid I will go stir crazy. This past week I brought him with me to Bible Study and he was really good, smiling at everyone and sleeping during the lesson portion. He even napped in the car all the way back home. What a trooper!

250 steps: I dusted off my first generation FitBit around Christmas so I could join in the fun with my husband and daughter who got a FitBit each for Christmas. Their generation of FitBit nudges them once an hour to make sure they get and move for 250 steps per hour, minimum. Mine doesn't give me a nudge but the APP does record them so I can check to see if I have accomplished that minimum. I'll tell you what. This is a great idea. 10,000 steps a day is tough plus a huge concept that often seems unattainable. But getting my butt out of the chair once an hour to do a little walking around the house, or out in the yard, is very doable. It is a great place to start. I have even been known to dance while the coffee is warming in the microwave or march in place as I brush my teeth. Do it!. It's only 250 steps per hour. I challenge you.

Government Shutdown: An unnecessary event manufactured by Trump. I am adding this one to my list of deplorable actions by this guy. The list is very long.

A first: I have written a book review for every book I've read so far in 2018. This is a first and one I don't think I will be able to maintain. But for this moment in time I am feeling proud of myself for staying on top of my reviews. Admittedly, I have read less books than usual. Click the hyperlinks to read them:

Currently reading:
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. Still plodding along in this book which makes me so angry I could spit nails. (E-book, 60%)
  • The Lost History of Stars by Dave Boling. About the Second Boer War in South Africa. It is very disturbing what the British did during this war, imprisoning women and children and burning their farms. Over 20,000 of these people died due to diseases and malnutrition from this group. A book club selection. (e-Audio, 75%)
Watching: " Poldark." Back in the 1970s my mother and I were addicted to the Masterpiece Theater show when Poldark first aired. It is based on the books by Winston Graham, part of a six book series. I read at least four of the books back in the 70s when I was watching the original series. Now Masterpiece brings back the series with a new cast and fresh story line. Just like Outlander, the series is already three years in before Don and I have started watching it.  But this way we can watch a show a day until we catch up.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Neverwhere---A Strange Book Club Selection

Underneath London, there is another city. A city that no one could even imagine. A city where all the people who fall through the cracks end up. The place is full of murderers, monsters, angels, and, of course, rats. Richard Mayhew discovers this other London accidentally. One day he is a businessman heading to dinner with his beautiful fiance, but when he stops to render help to a homeless girl the city as he knows disappears and he has no place else to go. He is an inadvertent visitor to the underworld but while he is there he discovers aspects of his personality that he didn't know existed. These are attributes he comes to appreciate in himself.

Neverwhere was Neil Gaiman's first published novel. It was published in 1996 and was a novelization of a TV show by the same name, where Gaiman was one of the writers. The TV series didn't become popular out of U.K. but the novel has been very popular and helped launch the writing career of a beloved author of many children's, teens, and adult books.

All of the Gaiman books I have read are multi-genre tales combining fantasy, horror, magical realism, and sometimes, a bit of humor. Needless to say this is not our typical book club fare. In fact, when handing out the books from our library kit to club members last week, a thought went through my head wondering how many of the gals will actually read it. In a funny exchange with one club member, she told me that she likes reading about science. She told me she had heard the book was a science-fiction novel. O boy, we are in trouble if she expects to learn any science lessons from Neverwhere.

This was on my mind as I started my research on the book for this review. When I ended up on Gaiman's website I was pleased to see that he actually has discussion questions for the book. So we aren't the first book club to tackle Neverwhere. Phew. I was worried we would just flounder around for an hour and then eat dessert. Ha! In fact now that I look at the questions I see there is a lot of stuff that my group, made up mainly of middle-aged, church ladies, can relate to. The concept of people falling through the cracks is one our church is very familiar with. We serve homeless people through several ministries---serving meals; opening our church on freezing nights for homeless folks to sleep; assisting a clothing/housewares bank for low-income people. Neverwhere satirizes our world. It should be fun to identify those aspects in our discussion. I am starting to feel much more comfortable with this book choice for our club.

By the way, since this is supposed to be a book review, here is a blurb found on Gaiman's website about the book. If this doesn't make you want to read the book, I don't know what will.
If Tim Burton reimagined The Phantom of the Opera, if Jack Finney let his dark side take over, if you rolled the best work of Clive Barker, Peter Straub and Caleb Carr into one, you still would have something that fell far short of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. It is a masterful debut novel of darkly hypnotic power, and one of the most absorbing reads to come along in years. (Gaiman)
One more thing. I don't normally read horror because it makes me feel afraid. But I can read Gaiman's horror. His monsters are scary but not terrifying. His characters always show growth as they face their monsters, which is the point, isn't it? We all have monsters we have to face in our lives. How we cope, the growth we attain, want we do after facing our "monsters" makes us into the people we become. That is what good literature is about and this book is good literature! If you haven't read Neverwhere, I recommend it. If you have, what did you think of it?

Format: Audiobook. Harper Audio, 2007.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Friday Quotes...Fire and Fury

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: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff

Book Beginnings:
Author's note (p. xi): The reason to write this book could not be more obvious. With the inauguration of Donald Trump on January 20, 2017, the United States entered the eye of the most extraordinary political storm since at least Watergate. As the day approached, I set out to tell this story in as contemporaneous a fashion as possible and try to see life in the Trump White House through the eyes of the people closest to it.
Friday 56:
The other point is that [Steve] Bannon, however smart and even charismatic, however much he extolled the virtue of being a "stand-up guy," was not necessarily a nice guy.
Everyone is talking about this controversial book. I had to read it to see what all Wolff discovered from his more than seventeen interviews with those working for Trump in the White House. Admittedly I can't read it very fast. It makes me so angry. For example: did you know that Trump didn't really want to win the election? He thought running for President would be good for his ratings so he could start a Trump media station.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah": Dreaming the Beatles

Hey, Beatles!!! She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah! We all love you, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Time for another moment in Beatlemania. Having just finished Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield, I have to say this book is way up there on the Beatles geekiness scale. Honestly. If you fancy yourself a Beatles fan, like I do, I challenge you to read this book and you will realize there are fans who are far more geeky about the Beatles than you.

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone Magazine and an obvious rock-n-roll aficionado. The guy seriously knows what he is talking about, not only about the Beatles but about other rockers and their songs.

From the very first page I knew this was the book for me and yet it was a little over my head. I often found myself reading it with iTunes open so I could listen to excerpts of songs that Sheffield referenced and the Internet open to look up more details about topics he brought up.

The book opens with a quick update about all the key players: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Liverpool, and Abby Road. Once that business was handled, the book diverted away from the usual biography format. It didn't rehash the old information about the formation of the band, the touring years, the clashes, and the breakup. It started this way:
The Beatles are far more famous and beloved now than they were in their lifespan. when they were merely the four most famous and beloved people on earth...They sincerely tried breaking up---it just didn't work. They've gone from being the world's biggest group to the act that's bigger than all the rest of pop music combined (7).
Sheffield spends the rest of the book reminding us why the Beatles are the best pop/rock group ever. He also lays down his ideas of why the Beatles are more popular today than ever. What a love fest!

The Beatles understood better than any other music group that their music was about the girl. They spoke to her and they spoke for boys to help them understand her. My husband and I were discussing this concept just the other day as I was telling him about the book. I tried to explain the "girl" concept and he countered with, "Yes, but I was challenged by the songs to understand girls better, or to understand what I was up against." Sheffield describes it this way:
And through it all, girls. Screaming girls, in the audience. Worshiping girls, in the songs. Girls, girls, girls. The girl is the whole reason these songs exist, right? (12).
A little myth has grown up about the song "Dear Prudence." John said they sang the song to Prudence, Mia Farrow's sister, who was locked in her room meditating, and they were worried about her so they sang her a song. That isn't really true, but the message is the Beatles knew how to sing to the girl and we are all that girl (even if you are a boy!)

And then there was "the Scream", as Sheffield referred to the fans. The Beatles fans were the most famous screamers in history. In fact, these screamers may have invented the Beatles. "Once you step inside the Scream, you get transformed into a different person. The Beatles spent years there" (72). Listen to clips of any of their live shows and you know what I am talking about. The Screamers are the "lead instrument" in many of the shows. And since the Beatles didn't have fold-back speakers, they couldn't hear themselves sing. Yet, somehow, they still sounded great. I am still jealous of those girls who got to go to a Beatles concert and screamed in ecstasy for a half hour. Ah, to have been in one with those audiences, a part of the whole crowd, a part of the Scream.

A central mystery of this book is trying to understand the John/Paul bond. They are the most prolific songwriting duo of all times. Was it camaraderie or competition or both? They certainly represent different things to different people. Everyone tends to decide at some point whether they are Paul or John people. "If you're the John in any relationship, you wish Paul would lighten up and stop nagging. If you're the Paul, you wish John could take more responsibility" (34). It's funny how we all do it. Ask around and see what I mean. Personally I am a Paul girl and I live my life that way.  Sorry about the nagging, family.

Many of the titles of the book chapters are named for Beatles' albums. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Learning what made each album special, new, and exciting for its time, most of this was news to me. For example in the chapter "Rubber Soul" we learn that it was during the making of this album that the Beatles starting taking control of their recordings but the "girl" theme still looms large. They grew up from boys to men on this album and the rest of the musical world took notice.

An odd but delightful chapter in the book is called "Instrumental Break" where Sheffield really shows off his Beatles geekiness. This chapter describes 26 songs about the Beatles by other musicians like Lil Wayne, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Prince, and others. This is when I had to break out the iTunes because I wanted to hear these songs for myself. Some weren't even on iTunes, like the Muppets on their "Exit"-themed week. The character does a John Lennon parody. Hmm. I didn't see that one. But if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, the Beatles win.

The book takes us through all the albums, through the trials that follow the death of Brian Epstein, the group falling apart, and the final breakup. It then follows the boys into their second careers as solo artists.
The Beatles ended their first career, because they felt they didn't have control, then began their second career, where they had no control at all. They tried to break the spell they'd cast and were genuinely surprised why they failed. When John sang "The Dream is Over" in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn't work, because the group didn't belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn't theirs to break...The Beatles are what they are because they are the most beloved humans of their lifetimes and mine. They had a unique talent for being loved, though they found it a strain and a puzzle and a trap and something they failed to understand and desperately wished to escape. But the fact that the Beatles were so good at being adored changed a lot of things (19-20).
I loved this book, obviously, but at times I was really overwhelmed by it, too. In fact, I've decided I need my own copy (I read a library copy and need to return it soon) so I can refer back to it and digest it in smaller doses.

The Beatles have remained popular for an astonishing fifty years, much longer than they were an active group. In 2000 their album "1" was released. It was an album of all their number 1 hits. It was the biggest selling album of that year and the next. "1 proved three things never change: (1) people love the Beatles, (2) it's a little weird and scary how much people love the Beatles, and (3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles" (307).

I love the Beatles (and I don't care who knows it), yeah, yeah, yeah!

Read the book. I recommend it.

Sheffield, Rob. Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and Whole World.  HarperCollins. New York. 2017. Print.

PS...Just for my own reference. Sheffield identified his favorite and least favorite songs and I wanted the partial list for myself so I can refer to it when I return the library book.

Best songs
Worst song
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
“Your Bird Can Sing”
“A Day in the Life”
“It’s Only Love”
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“For No One”
“Hey Jude”
“My Love”
“Here Comes the Sun”
“I Want to Tell You”
“Apple Scruffs”
“It Don’t Come Easy”
“Octopus’ Garden”
“Drive My Car”
“Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)”

Monday, January 15, 2018

TTT: Bookish goals and resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday: My 2018 Bookish Goals and Resolutions

(This is the first Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Of the six to eight books I read each month, at least two books, on average, need to be currently on my Goodreads TBR list. (Which has around 130 book titles on it right now.)

2. Read the Pulitzer Prize winning book for 2018 and at least three past winners on my Pulitzer list.

3. Read the Printz Award Winner (will be announced in early February)

4. Write book reviews for at least half of the books I read during the year.

5. Participate in the Classics Club Spins (usually hosted three times a year)

6. Read at least one Jane Austen-ish book in August and participate in the challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

7. Participate in at least one 24-hour-readathon

8. Participate as a Cybils Award Judge again in 2018. I really enjoyed being a round 1 judge this year for high school/junior high nonfiction.

9. Look for ways to update my blog which keep it fresh and pleasant to read.

10. Fulfill my Goodreads Challenge to read 125 books in 2018.

11. Locate some excellent board books for my young grandson.

12. Read all the book club selections for the year. (This past year I missed several books. Sigh.)

13. Re-read the whole Harry Potter series...at the urging from my daughter.

14. Everytime I visit bookstores, select something to buy. I want to make sure that they stay open and that will only happen if people spend money in their businesses. My purchase doesn't have to be a book.

What are your bookish goals for 2018?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Salon, January 14th

Ian, playing with Grandma on Friday.
Weather: overcast with skies threatening rain.

Sick: I've come down with some wicked cold and sore throat. According to my FitBit I slept 15 hours yesterday and never got out of my pajamas. Today I'm up but still similarly clad. Ugh.

Babysitting: This week I began my new job, babysitting my grandson two or three days a week, sharing duty with his other grandma. What a joy to be greeted by his charming smile when I arrive in the morning and what a lot of work babies are. I'd forgotten.

A friend visits: Wednesday Carly left for New York. Her last term in graduate school. I couldn't be sad and lonely for long because my friend, Anne Marie, dropped in for an overnight visit. I love reconnecting with old friends. Thanks for the visit, AM! Hope all goes well in your last term of college, Carly!

Book of Mormon: Don and I caught the traveling Broadway show of "The Book of Mormon" on Friday night in Seattle. Our daughter predicted that we wouldn't like it because it is so crass. We liked it, but it sure is crass. Ha! (This song is from the Tony Awards and it isn't crass.)

Books read this week:
  • Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of one Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. I thought I was a Beatles geek until I read this book. Sheffield has be beat by a thousand points, at least. This book is truly for the geekiest of Beatles fans, one who paid attention to the obscure stuff and to rock-n-roll in general because he does a lot of comparison to other groups and numbers (which I didn't necessarily know), but I have to admit that I loved it and I think my Beatles geekiness level has increased because of this book.
Currently reading:
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman...a surprising book club selection. It is classic Gaiman with horror and fantasy elements. (58%, audio)
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. I couldn't resist. But I did have to buy the Kindle version as no print versions are currently available. (10%, e-book)
  • Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. A YA selection which is getting good reviews. It has been pushed off to the side with my other readings but I must get back to it this week. (5%, e-book)
Quote from Dreaming the Beatles:
1 [the Beatles album released in 2000 was a blockbuster selling faster than any Beatles album before it] proved three things never change: (1) people love the Beatles, (2) it's a little weird and scary how much people love the Beatles, and (3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles (307).

Monday, January 8, 2018

TTT: Books I Meant to Read But Didn't Get To In 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I really meant to read in 2017, but, unfortunately never got around to it. (All are still on my TBR pile for this year!)

What books did you have to set aside in 2017 but hope to get to this year?

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Back in 1995 Australian author Garth Nix introduced us to the Old Kingdom and to the Abhorsens who protected the kingdom from the greater and lesser dead. They do this by ushering the dead to the 9th gate of death so they could cross over and not bother people anymore. Sabriel is forced to take over as the Abhorsen because her father dies leaving her as the last hope to save the kingdom.

In 2001 Nix published Lirael, the next installment in the series (called The Old Kingdom Chronicles in other parts of the world, but The Abhorsen Trilogy in the USA.) And in 2003 the final book of the trilogy, Abhorsen where big bad things are brewing and a huge fight occurs to protect the kingdom from the worst dead guy of them all. With its conclusion I was satisfied that the series was done and that it had wrapped up well.

Then in 2014 a prequel to the Old Kingdom Chronicles, Clariel, was published. It is set six hundred years before Sabriel's time. In this book we not only are introduced to the kingdom but to its magic---charter magic and free magic which are often at odds with each other. Clariel comes in contact with free magic which corrupts her ability to tap into the charter. Left on her own she falls under the spell of free magic. We figure out at the end of the book that she is indeed a character in the original trilogy. Once again I felt satisfied that this book was it, but it did fill in some holes that needed to be patched.

I was surprised, therefore, to find that Nix had one more Old Kingdom story in him, Goldenhand, published in 2016. Both of my daughters and I are by this time avowed fans of The Abhorsen Trilogy having read them several years ago all in one fell swoop. We also were delighted with Clariel and read it soon after its publication date. When Goldenhand came out I promptly purchased a copy of the audiobook from Audible.com. I was sure I'd get to it before year's end. Or so I thought. Over a year later I was finally determined that I had to listen to, wanting to escape into a fantasy novel after my months of reading almost exclusively nonfiction.

Goldenhand picks up several months after the exciting events in Abhorsen. Lirael is now the Abhorsen in-waiting, working under Sabriel. She is in charge for  a few weeks while Sabriel and her husband, Touchstone, are on a vacation. Things in the kingdom are quiet so it should be easy to keep things in order. Suddenly a messenger arrives at the Old Kingdom Wall wanting passage in. She has an urgent message for Lirael. When she is not allowed in she jumps aboard a flimsy raft to escape her pursuers. As others come to her rescue they too are now in the cross hairs of her enemies. At the same time that this is happening, Lirael finds herself called to rescue Nick from a free-magic being. Suddenly what looks like a calm period of time is turning into a turbulent one. Is Lirael up to the task? As with earlier books in the series, the action is so tense and the characters in such danger one has to wonder if the good guys will really win this time or not.

As I started listening to Goldenhand I was thrust back into the Old Kingdom and was reminded how much I like this world. Nix has created quite a place for his characters to inhabit. I was back among friends. My only problem, a small one, was I had forgotten a few of the details from Abhorsen since I'd read it several years ago and the plot of this book picked up where that book left off. I should have reread it in preparation for Goldenhand. But I got up to speed fairly quickly and found myself once again rooting for Lirael, Sabriel, Touchstone, Sammath, and even Nick to prevail over the evil trying to undo their kingdom.

There are so many wonderful fantasy series out in the literary world it doesn't surprise me if you aren't aware of this one. But I really do think it is worth your time to read it. Now I am fairly sure that the whole series has finished it is safe to start it. Things tidied up nicely at the conclusion of Goldenhand. As a teen librarian I had a hard time talking my students into starting this series but if they did start it, they were hooked. Hooked in the best way possible---absorbed into another place and time, where magic is real, and friends are friends for life.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Salon, January 7th

Weather: Rainy. Temperatures in the 40s. I am thinking of my friends in Australia today where we hear there are record high temps today.

Epiphany: Today is another church holiday, Epiphany. It is the day where we celebrate the three kings who visited Jesus and his family. The first Gentiles to visit him and worship him. It is a nice reminder that we, too, should just adore him today, two thousand years later.

Sisters:  this week Carly and I drove to Eugene to spend time with my parents and my sisters. We live in three different states so we don't often get together. It was a no-agenda visit...just visiting. And that is what we did. Love you Grace and Kathy!

Un-Christmasing the house: Yesterday we took down the Christmas decorations. They go down faster than they go up but it is not as much fun. I always think the house looks dull with a lack of color after we take down all the green and red decorations. My parents no longer decorate a tree and put out just a few decorations and I understand why. When there are no young kids around, decorating is less fun than in years past, that is for sure.

Bulletin board: The photo above is of my kitchen bulletin board. Every year I cut out the photos friends and family sent us for a holiday greeting and pin them to the board. Then for the next few months we are reminded of our dear ones every time we pass by. Notice who is front and center: Ian!

Fitbit: Carly and Don got Fitbits for Christmas so I dusted off my old one so I am not left out. We have all been attempting to get those 10,000 steps a day. That means we have taken quite a few walks and played a lot of Wii Fit games. One feature I don't have that C and D have on their next generation Fitbits is a reminder to take a least 250 steps per hour. It is hilarious how all the suddenly both of them will hop up and start walking around the house to make their hourly goals. I join them even though my device is not sophisticated enough to remind me.

Carly heads back to New York this week: I love having her here and will miss her. But she is heading toward her last term of school. Hopefully the weather will imrove so she has a positive experience getting through JFK airport. News reports about the airport are negative right now.

Books Completed:
  • My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. My Classics Club spin book. It was written in 1902 about a young girl in the Australian outback. Aspects of it I liked, others I didn't so I won't recommend it. Read my review here.
  • Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The 5th book in the Abhorssen (Old Kingdom) series which is a favorite for both me and my girls. The first book in the series, Sabriel, was published in 1995. It is amazing to me that Nix is still willing to complete the story of the Abhorssens in the Old Kingdom. The ending was satisfying so I think this will be the end.
Currently reading:
  • Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Robert Sheffield. This book might even be a bit geeky for me and I fancy myself a huge Beatles fan. I want to read it with iTunes open to the store so I can listen to an excerpt of the songs he mentions that I currently don't own. (Print. 30%)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is my current audiobook and a book club selection for February. (Audio. 5%)
Outlander: I am still obsessed with the TV series set in Scotland in the 1700s. We have watched all of Season 3 and now will have to wait a half a year until the next installment. I may even have to read the next book in the series to feed my current addiction. Here is a fun little tune from Season 1.

 Have a lovely week.