"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, May 23, 2019

Friday Quotes and Review---DAMESEL

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.

And a review, of sorts to follow---

Title: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold

Book Beginnings:

Friday 56 (Actually page 30):

Summary: In order for Emery to become King he has to slay a dragon and to save the damsel trapped in the dragon's lair. He does that. The woman he saves has no memory of her life before being rescued so Emery names her Ama and prepares her for her destiny---to become the queen and to bear his son, who will one day slay a dragon and save a damsel before he becomes the next king. The only problem is Ama is not interested in being Emery's wife and Emery is a bully and a cad. Ama is sure if she marries him her life will be miserable and lonely. And what about those memories that seem to hover at the corners of her mind? Didn't she have a life before Emery saved her? She wants to know the answer before they wed.

Review: This fantasy novel is like a mash-up of fairy tale and #MeTooMovement. Emery is an abusive, awful person in the beautiful robes of a king. He attempts to rape Ama. He manipulates her mentally, and threatens her get his own way. Ama is isolated and lonely. She doesn't understand what is happening to her and she fights back as best she can. When she discovers the ovens in the deep basements of the castle where glass is blown into bowls and the all-knowing eyes, she finds an outlet for her creativity and warmth for her ever-cold bones. Finally, Ama has enough insight to challenge Emery's claim on her.

When my children were little I used to read a cute and funny picture book to them, The Paper Bag Princess. In this story the princess is supposed to be wowed by the Prince, who is a real dud. Eventually, this princess decides she can do much better on her own and tells him off. I kept thinking about this funny book while I read this very unfunny novel by Alana K. Arnold. Ama clearly needed to get to the point where she told off Emery and went her own way but could she do it?

I liked this book a lot. It had a lot to say about how story-telling can shape a culture and expectations for genders. It was quite full of trigger topics: rape, cruelty to animals, female subjugation but it ends on a satisfactory note. The book is a bit of slow-starter. Both my quotes are from the part of the story before Emery rescues Ama...the slow part of the story where the reader is getting oriented to the word just like Ama is getting oriented.

I listened to the audiobook which was narrated rather slowly, but I came to like it a lot and sat for three hours today today listening to it just to find out how things work out for Ama. It was a Printz Honor book last year. It really is spectacular writing and such a creative story.

Monday, May 20, 2019

TTT: Books I wrecked (accidentally or on purpose)

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Books wrecked on my watch, either accidentally or on purpose (and how it happened)
[I'm off the board again this week. The actual topic, Books you won't let others touch, was a non-starter as I have no books which are off limits to others.]

Today I was reading my grandson a book which his mother wrecked when she was a little girl. It got me thinking of all the books that I still own, even though they were wrecked for some reason or another. Here is my list:

Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
This is my first book. I colored on every page. Actually, scribbled on the pages is a more accurate description. I still own this wrecked book. It is very dear to me.

Jamberry by Bruce Degen
This was one of my daughters' favorite books. Daughter #1 ripped several of the pages. I taped them up and this is the book I was reading to that daughter's son today.

The Holy Bible
This particular edition of The Bible was given to me at church when I was going into 3rd grade. It was sitting on a counter at home when we had a freak storm and the roof leaked. The leak was right above that Bible. By the time I found it, it was water soaked. Amazingly I was able to dry it sufficiently to avoid mold but not wrinkly pages. I still use it occasionally. 

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
I just bought this book within the month. It was sitting on the dining table when my hubby and I were eating pancakes with homemade blueberry compote. I stabbed a blueberry which exploded its contents across the table and hit the fore-edge of the pages with a big splat. Now I have a lovely purple stain on my newest book.

Families by Star Bright Books
This board books looks really old but it isn't. The dog got a hold of it and nibbled on all the corners, even eating a chunk out of the back page. It is still a favorite choice for my grandson.

Tikvah: Children's Book Creators Reflect on Human Rights
I had two copies of this wonderful book in the school library where I worked before retirement. I cut up one of them, laminated the pages, and created a lesson plan around a writing activity for English classes.

Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Larry Ulrich
I did the same thing with this book from my library collection. I cut up the pictures of the beautiful and odd flowers found in nature around here. The lesson plan was designed for students as a poetry activity. It was lots of fun when I partnered with teachers to do this lesson.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling
My daughters have first editions of all the Harry Potter books, that was they "had" until I wrecked this book by watering a plant too heavily right above the shelf where the books sit. This one took the brunt of the water and was dead. We had to visit second hand book shops until we found another first edition of this book. My name was Mudd until we found the replacement.

The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry
Our family loves this book and reads it every Christmas. We loved it so much that we wrecked the spine so it fell apart. A replacement was procured.

I'm sure I've wrecked more books but these are the ones which are coming to mind right now.
How about you? What books have you wrecked and why?

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Salon: May 19

Fort Point and Golden Gate Bridge, May 1st
Weather: woke up to rain but it is sunny right now.

Yesterday: was one of those perfect days. We had our grandson with us the whole day as his dad was working and his mother was participating in a team challenge course with inflatable things. (Don't ask me to explain but it sounded fun.) So Ian was with us and every moment was sheer delight. He went with us to the hardware store to buy a rose trellis and interacted with other shoppers. He played in the yard and then took a long nap. Then off to the park for a long session of swinging and climbing and sliding. Later his parents joined us for a BBQ dinner and cake to celebrate Don's 62nd birthday. Nothing that remarkable happened it just all came together in a big, complete way and I was very satisfied at day's end.

Politics: I can't even begin to express my dissatisfaction with the events this past week concerning full and total abortions. I read this tweet from a pastor in Alabama from a sermon he made last year. This pretty much sums up my thoughts.

I ask that you read it and think about what Dave Barnhart is saying, rather than shutting down completely. Thank you.
Ian wearing his new light-up shoes (not shown) and holding his new balls, with blankie, and the car dragon, Roar, who wait patiently for rides with his boy.
Mother's Day: Last week I didn't post because if was Mother's Day and my hubby was busy planting all the flowers we bought to put in the yard and in planters. Rita and Ian came over and we had a sweet little brunch. Ah, the joys of family.

San Francisco Conservatory in Golden Gate Park
San Francisco: the week before, we were in SF visiting Carly, our other daughter and we had perfect weather for all the touring we did: Alcatraz National Park, site of the old penitentiary in the SF bay, Fort Point right under Golden Gate bridge, the Conservatory and botanical gardens in Golden Gate park, an evening at the theater watching a play of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a tour of wine country. Wow we crammed a lot into a few days. Plus we got to see where Carly works (or worked, since her whole office moved after we left.)

Carly and Don wine tasting at Medlock Ames Winery.
Reading: I confess to be in a bit of a slump and I blame it all on East of Eden. I started this book as part of the Classics Club Spin challenge and I am not making good progress on it...I've only read 100 pages in the last month. Each night I try to read I only fit in a page of two before closing the book and my eyes. I've decided to re-work my plan for this book, admitting I won't finish it by the deadline for the challenge, and challenge myself to read 10 pages a day. If I make my own little daily mini-challenge then I am free to read whatever else I want to read the rest of the day. I'm hoping this will shake me loose of this slump. So far in May I have only finished three books, which might sound like a fine amount but isn't good for me:

  • The Friend by Sigrid Nunez---a Pulitzer Prize winner. Audio.
  • The World Accord to Bob by James Bowen---a sequel to the first book about the cat, Bob, and his master, James, and their life on the streets on London. Print.
  • The Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti---a Printz Honor book. Audio.
Currently reading:
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck---print, 17%.
  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin---re-read for book club, audio, 50%.
  • The CBS Murders by Richard Hammer---nonfiction, e-book, 4%.
Movies: I watched two movies that I borrowed from the public library:
  • The Hours, starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore. The story of the last days of Virginia Woolf. Three stories in one. What do they all have in common? Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf's novel.
  • Goodbye Winnie-the-Pooh starring Will Tilston as Christopher Robin, whose life was wrecked by the fame that came with the book.
Our backyard earlier this month.
The earth laughs in flowers.-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, May 17, 2019

Quotes and review: A Heart in a Body in the World

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.

And a review, of sorts to follow---

Title: A Heart in the Body in the World by Deb Caletti

Book Beginnings:
"Annabelle Agnelli is trying to hold it together in the parking lot of Dick's Drive-In. After what just happened, she's stunned. Frozen."
Friday 56:
“It's hard to be all that you can be on carrot sticks and criticism.”
Summary: Annabelle is experiencing PTSD from a traumatic experience that involved her and a boy. Everyone in the whole school knows what happened and she feels responsible for all the pain and unhappiness. When a man leers at her in the Dick's Drive-in parking lot she spooks and starts running. She runs from Seattle to Renton, a city over 15 miles away, before she stops. At that point she realized that while she is running she can keep her demons at bay and decides, with no preparation, to run all the way to Washington, DC. She tells her family and friends she has to do something, to make a difference. After her grandfather is tapped to go with her on the trip in his motor-home, Annabelle starts running a half-marathon a day. She learns quickly that she can't outrun her problems, but she does meet people along the way who are as angry as she about what happened and she starts to accept the love and support people are willing to give her.

Review: This book unfolds like a tightly folded piece of paper. Details arrive slowly and messily and one is not quite sure what happened or why for the longest time. But as the reader flattens out the paper they learn more about Annabelle and her relationship with "the taker", a boy she refuses to name. We also learn about how hard it is to be female in a male dominated world, one where women are supposed to be thin, but strong (hence, the Friday 56 quote), look good but not slutty, have desires but aren't supposed to show them. Guns and the ease with which a person can purchase them also factor into the story. It is a very timely book in terms of what is happening in our nation and world. 

A Heart in a Body in the World was a Printz Honor book last year, an award that goes to the best of the best in YA lit. I wondered at this as I started reading the book thinking, "oh no, not another book about a teenager running (literally) away from her problems." But as the story unfolded I realized how important and timely this book is and the message, though it comes out slowly, is delivered perfectly. By the time that Annabelle gets almost all the way across the country on her run, she is asked to deliver a message to a group of assembled college students on her purpose for the trip. The speech she gives is the most real and raw I've ever read in YA lit. It alone makes reading the book worth it. As I was perusing Goodreads' reviews on this book I couldn't believe the superlatives that many readers used:
"I can truly say, with every single ounce of my heart, that this is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s so quiet, but so loud. It’s so heartbreaking, but so healing. It’s so impactful, it’s so powerful, and it’s completely and utterly unforgettable." -Melanie
"I'm furious. I'm heartbroken. But more than anything else, I'm so grateful that this book exists." -Romie 
"This is one of the strongest YA contemporaries I've read in a LONG time. Caletti's writing is lovely and accessible, but it never feels dumbed down. I think she's particularly strong at using language to convey how trauma affects Annabelle's mental health/mental state. It examines how women and girls are so often are reduced to objects to be controlled by another. I was incredibly impressed with how Caletti dives into the nuances of this. When girls are ceaselessly conditioned to derive value in relation to the male gaze, what happens when that becomes internalized?"-Emily
 If my words didn't convince you, I'm sure that these other reviewer's words did: Read this book!

Trigger warnings: graphic violence, guns, language.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

'My Own Books' Reading Challenge is completed

Today is the last day of the 'My Own Books' Reading Challenge. My goal was to read at least ten books from my own bookshelves and then to decide what to do with the books now that they've been read. I didn't end up reading all the books I thought I was going to read, but I found others to fill in, so all-in-all it was a successful challenge.

The original list (click on titles for hyperlinked reviews):
  1. La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith -finished March 20th. Gave to my mother.
  2. Redeployment by Phil Kay- finished April 9th. Book belongs to my husband and he wants to keep it.
  3. Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield- started but decided it needed my full attention which I was unwilling to give at this time.
  4. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom- finished March 26th. Gave to my sister.
  5. The Four Things that Matter Most by Ian Byock, M.D.- finished April 15th. Will keep.
  6. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan- finished April 5th. It was a mini-book club selection so I placed it back in circulation for other club members to read. 
  7. The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street- finished on April 24th. Gave it to my daughter.
  8. Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver- started and read four or five essays but realized that my heart wasn't into it so set it aside for another time.
  9. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson- finished April 3rd, review hyperlinked here. Added to my church library.
  10. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka- finished April 12th. Want to donate to a friend who I haven't seen for a month. I'll try again soon.
I completed 8 of the original books on my list. In addition I read, or tried to read, the following books from my own shelves:
  1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (audiobook)- I got the audio CD set from the library book sales several years ago. I tried listening to it but the first CD wouldn't play. I could play the 2nd CD but didn't know what was going on. I decided to stop trying and threw the whole set away.
  2. A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen- finished April 19th. A friend gave this book to my daughter years ago, she left it behind when she moved. I hope to donate it to my other daughter or I will donate it to the library for their book sale.
  3. The World According to Bob by James Bowen- finished May 6th. Sequel to the above book, the two books will go out-into-the-world together.
  4. The Selected Poetry of Rainier Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Miller-I read the whole introduction which was over 30 pages but when I started reading the poetry I realized I am not sophisticated enough to like his poems, so I set the book aside.
  5. East of Eden by John Steinbeck- this is sort of cheating for this challenge because I bought the book during it. I am reading this tome for another challenge, Classics Club Spin, but have only read 100 pages or so of 600. I will be working on this book for a long time.
  6. The CBS Murders by Richard Hammer-I started this e-book last night. I purchased it when I got my Kindle Fire several years ago. I can't believe it is a true story and I've never heard of it before. It reads like fiction. I will finish it, but when?
In total I read ten books for the 'My Own Books' challenge and feel so good about it, I will keep going. And it is wonderful to actually free up shelf space on my book shelves by off-loading the books when I am finished. The photo shows some of my own books I want to finish by my new deadline of July 31st. As I considered the stack I realized that of the ten books shown, I purchased only three of them. All the rest were given to me or I selected from free-bins. No guarantees I will read these ten books, but my goal is to read ten more books from my own shelves by the end of July. Feel free to join me. Stay tuned. 

Monday, May 13, 2019

TTT: Good movies about famous writers

Top Ten Tuesday: Good movies about the lives of famous authors. 
(I tweaked today's topic since I have already done print-to-screen favorites here.)

Movie: Becoming Jane (2007)
Based on the life of: Jane Austen 
Books by this author: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Mansfield Park, et al
Starring: Anne Hathaway
Why I liked it: I love anything by or about Jane Austen

Movie: Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Based on the life of: P.L. Travers
Books: Mary Poppins series
Starring: Emma Thompson
Why I liked it: I love Mary Poppins and Disney. This story explains a lot.

Movie: Shakespeare in Love (1998)
Based on the life of: William Shakespeare
A possible story about the writing of: Romeo and Juliet
Starring: Joseph Fiennes
Why I liked this: I like to imagine Shakespeare as Romeo, the setting was also fabulous

Movie: The Glass Castle (2017)
Based on the life of: Jeannette Walls
Book: The Glass Castle (memoir); 
Starring: Brie Larson
Why I liked this: The book is incredible and the acting in this movie is so good.

Movie: In Love and War (1996)
Based on the early life of: Ernest Hemingway
Book: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Starring: Chris O'Donnell
Why I liked this: Seeing Hemingway as a young man explains a lot about his later years

Movie: Miss Potter (2006)
Based on the life of: Beatrix Potter
Books: The Tale of Peter Rabbit, et al
Starring: Renee Zellweger
Why I liked this: Who doesn't love the art of Beatrix Potter?

Movie: Capote (2006)
Based on the life of: Truman Capote
Book: In Cold Blood, et al
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Why I liked this: Capote and Harper Lee were friends. This movie expands on their friendship.

Movie: Julie and Julia (2009)
Based on the life of: Julia Childs and Julie Powell
Books: Julie and Julia by Powell and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Childs
Starring: Amy Adams (Julie) and Meryl Streep (Julia)
Why: Actually I thought Meryl Streep was amazing.

Movie: Finding Neverland (2004)
Based on the life of: J.M. Barrie
Books: Peter Pan series
Starring: Johnny Depp
Why: It seems possible that this is really how Peter Pan came into existence.

Movie: The Raven
Based on the last days of: Edgar Allan Poe
Short Stories and poems: "The Raven". "The Tell-Tale Heart", "The Pit and the Pendulum", et al
Starring: John Cusack
Why: Pretty gory but plausible explanation for Poe's untimely death.

Movie: The Hours (2002)
Based on the life and death of: Virginia Woolf
Based on a books: The Hours by Michael Cunningham, Mrs Dalloway by Woolf
Starring: Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf
Why: Amazing: Three stories in one.

and though I have not seen it yet, I plan to see:

Movie: Tolkien (2019)
Based on the life of: J.R.R. Tolkien
Books: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, et al
Starring: Nicholas Hoult and Harry Gilby (young Tolkien)
Why do I want to see it: I'm a big fan of his books and his imagination

When researching this topic I stumbled upon a few more movies about authors I want to see:
Sylvia (2003) based on the life of Sylvia Plath 
The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017) based on The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Invisible Woman (2013) based also on Charles Dickens
Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) about the life of A.A. Milne
Wild (2014) about Cheryl Strayed's walk along the Pacific Crest Trail

What movies about famous authors do you recommend?

Friday, May 10, 2019


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.

And a review, of sorts to follow---

Title: The Four Things that Matter Most: A Book About Living by Ira Byock, M.D.

Book Beginnings:
Please forgive me.I forgive you.Thank you.I love you.These four simple statements are powerful tools for improving your relationships and your life.
Friday 56:
Jennifer and Mary's story demonstrates the power and healing potential of forgiveness. Painful legacies can arise from damaging emotional patterns that are perpetuated from generation to generation. As one damaging emotion gives rise to the next, a destructive pattern can result, like the jarring, punishing washboard ridges in a dirt road. Forgiveness is a courageous way of saying, 'Enough is enough!'
Summary: The four statements highlighted in the Book Beginnings quote form the basis for the whole book. Dr. Byock gives power example after powerful example how lives can be transformed if we are willing to say these four things to our loved ones. Years of hard feelings and distrust can melt away. And relationships can be repaired or at least the person saying the words can move forward in a positive direction. Pretty powerful (and seemingly) easy stuff. Through the actual examples he gives one could feel the strength to try saying the following words themselves.

The Friday 56 quote is from the conclusion of one of the true stories shared in the book. Mary and Jennifer are mother and daughter. Mary was always cold and seemingly heartless as a mother. Her own mother was the same way. Six months before she died, Mary called her daughter to her home and asked for forgiveness. She recognized that her coldness was a direct result of the way she was parented and now she saw that Jennifer was starting to act the same way toward her own children. She said it was wrong and she was wrong. She didn't want her legacy to go on. She wanted it to stop now so that her grandchildren could grow up with an attentive, warm mother. The result of this conversation was a forgiveness that filled everyone with love. The last 6 months of Mary's life were some of the happiest Jennifer ever remembered.

Review: Two years ago for Mother's Day, my mother gave me and my three siblings copies of this book by Dr. Byock. She had read it and felt it had important messages for all of us. Like all families we have out share of misunderstandings and occasionally hard feelings build up. At the time when she gave us our copies of the book we had been dealing with family issues which caused people to line up on sides. Not a good strategy, by the way, for dealing with family issues. Anyway, I took the book and set my copy aside. I planned to read it but didn't get to it until this year when I added it to my reading list for a book challenge to read 'My Own Books'. The concept of the book is relatively simple. Take the first possible opportunity to say the four statements to keep lines of communication open and to help repair past hurts. They can even be said to a person who has died in the form of a letter or a heart-felt chat graveside. Sometimes it is hard to take the first steps when we feel that the other person is the perpetrator, but we need to speak these words for ourselves, too, in that we need to let go of grudges that have a stranglehold on our lives. If we say them, we can be released from the pain and suffering. Byock makes sure to say that forgiveness is not forgetfulness. We can say these words of forgiveness without forgetting the past.

I found the book to be a very powerful reminder to make things right with our family members and friends so that we can move forward healthfully. Like my mother, I keep thinking of people I'd like to give the book to, thinking about how a past grievance is hampering current happiness for them. It is not especially well-written but it certainly must have a struck a chord with many people because the original book was published in 2004 and I am reading the 10th anniversary edition published in 2014 with a new forward and several new and updated examples.

By the way, just in case you are wondering, I talked to one of my siblings and she said she hadn't read the book either but planned to now that I reminded her. I've encouraged her to do so. Now I'll have to snoop around and see if my other siblings have or haven't read their copies, yet. I also got a chance to thank Mom and talk to her about the book after I finished it. It was one of those meaningful and thoughtful conversations we all wish we could have with our parents before they are gone. The book did double-duty.