"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, July 18, 2019

Friday Quotes: The First Phone Call From Heaven

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.

I'm currently reading-

Title: The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Book Beginning: 
On the day the world received its first phone call from heaven, Tess Rafferty was unwrapping a box of teabags. Drrrrnnn!
Friday 56: 
"Hell, the Bible says God spoke through a burning bush," Fred said. "Is that any stranger than a telephone?"
Comment: I just started this book by a favorite author, Mitch Albom. Every book I've read by him has a spiritual aspect. This one is no exception. Members of small community start receiving calls from heaven, or people who have died. Is it really happening or is it a gag trick? No one knows.


2019 starred reviews on YA books (so far)

2019 is half over. What YA books do professional reviewers like best? They tell us by giving their favorites "starred reviews." Therefore, the more starred reviews, the more agreement among the pros.
Six different journals are used for the purpose of compiling starred reviews: Booklist, the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly.
Here are their favorites:

Six Starred Reviews
Two books:
On the Come Up. Angie Thomas. B, BCCB, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Shout. Laurie Halse Anderson. B, BCCB, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Five Starred Reviews
One book:
Lovely War. Julie Berry. B, HB, K, PW, SLJ.
Four Starred Reviews
Twelve books:
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America.
B, K, PW, SLJ.
Courting Darkness. Robin LaFevers. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Dig. A.S. King. B, BCCB, HB, SLJ.
The Gilded Wolves. Roshani Chokshi. B, K, PW, SLJ.
How It Feels to Float. Helena Fox. B, BCCB, K, PW.
Internment. Samira Ahmed. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me. Mariko Tamaki. B, BCCB, K, PW.
Spin. Lamar Giles. B, K, PW, SLJ.
Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. David Elliott. BCCB, K, PW, SLJ.
We Rule the Night. Claire Eliza Bartlett. B, K, PW, SLJ.
We Set the Dark on Fire. Tehlor Kay Mejia. B, K, PW, SLJ.
With the Fire on High. Elizabeth Acevedo. B, HB, PW, SLJ.

There are ten YA books with three starred reviews but I will stop at four, figuring I wouldn't have enough time to read many more than these books by the end of the year. Ha! I've hyperlinked the books already read. If you have read any of these books, please let me know what you think.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker

I recently attended an event with several friends. The host's mother was visiting from Montana and she and I always have a lot to talk about since we are both retired librarians. At one point in the conversation I asked if she had read Whistling Season by Ivan Doig, a Montana author and a book about one-room schools. She hadn't but then she told me if I liked Doig I should read something by Mildred Walker, another Montana author. At that point she disappeared into the house and reappeared a few minutes later with a book in her hands, Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. She pressed it into my hands and told me to keep it or pass it on after I was done with it. She assured me she had another copy. I normally don't like getting books from people because they make me feel so much pressure. But I was intrigued by this one sporting a big sticker, "One Book Montana."

I've heard of towns selecting a book for everyone to read, or counties, but not whole states. Winter Wheat was the first book to be selected for the all-state read. An article from the Missoulian by Sherry Jones (May 29, 2003) describes the One Book Montana this way:
If you're going to ask everyone in the entire state of Montana to read the same book at the same time - as the Montana Center for the Book is doing - it had better be a darned good book, one college students and townies and farmers and ranchers can all relate to, one good enough to find its way into classrooms, one entertaining enough to keep those pages turning and dense enough to keep those tongues wagging long after the back cover has been closed with a satisfied thud.
The committee selected Winter Wheat, published in the 1940s, as its first book because they thought it would "amuse, inspire, provoke, and uplift state readers." Not being a Montanan myself I am here to say that the book does all of those things, even if you don't live in the state.

The story is set on a dry-wheat ranch in eastern Montana. Dry, I came to understand, means that the rancher does not water the wheat and relies on nature for the amount of water the crop gets. Ellen Webb is the only daughter to a reluctant rancher from Vermont and his wife, Anna, whom he met during WWI in Russia. Ellen loves the land and her life but dreams of being a linguist. After one year at the University of Minnesota she has to stop her schooling because the she could not afford tuition after a year of a failed crop. When her boyfriend comes to visit, she suddenly sees her home, parents, and the landscape through his eyes and finds them wanting. When he calls off the relationship, Ellen's heart is broken not only for his love, but for the loss of her first love for family and home. A lonely year as a teacher in a remote one-room school house gave her lots of time to gain a perspective and to come to accept and once again relish the life she has always loved on a land she loves.

If there is a stereotype of a person living in the west, it is of a lonely white male who wants to do everything himself and not accept help from others. I would add that this person is probably wearing cowboy hats and boots, to my way of thinking. But in Winter Wheat, Ellen helps break that stereotype. For one thing, she is female. And the book is not so much about independence--- though Ellen is certainly a very competent and self-reliant person---it is more about the connections we have with other people and with the land. Though Montana is usually thought of as Big Sky Country, here we are looking down more often at the dirt and mud (they call gumbo), the flowers and the new wheat growth, and the snow or rain.

Winter Wheat is beautifully written. It is simple and straight-forward, kind of like the people I have come to know who are from the great state of Montana. It isn't flowery or especially sentimental, it is just solid, good writing. The kind of book I want to share with my mom, whose father was a homesteader back in the early 1900s, or my husband, whose grandfather grew up on a ranch in eastern Oregon.

A side note about the book. It was published in 1944 and WWII does enter the story. I used to tell students that books like this one would read as historical fiction but it wasn't written to be historical fiction. It was written as contemporary literature. I appreciate books from which I can learn something about what life was like during the days leading up to and the beginning of a huge event, like war. It feels like reading a first-hand account. The war wasn't the point of the book, but it gives today's reader a peek at the past and new insights.

Monday, July 15, 2019

TTT: Books with "Summer" in the title

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Books I've read and want to read with "summer" in the title.
(Today's topic: Must-buy authors. Since I don't a. usually buy books and b. have any authors I must read, I opted to go off the board today.)

When I decided to make a list of books with "summer" in the title, I thought I probably have read many, many books and would have several titles to pick from. Not so. I have only read six books with summer in the title since I started keeping track in 2009, and two others before that time, so I decided to add a few titles which I would like to read.

1. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
A graphic novel, one of the best coming-of-age books ever written.

2. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
It is astonishing how many events that we still talk about happened in the summer of 1927. I am a huge fan of this author, too.

3. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
If you haven't discovered the art and whimsy of Shaun Tan, you are missing a rare treat.

4. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
An interestingly different  Sci-Fi novel.

5. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
Very summerish but not my favorite novel by this author.

6. The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork
This book really inspired me and I quoted from it often.

7. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
 I read this book before I started keeping track of them on Goodreads. Set in a summer during WWII. It is a heart-breaking coming-of-age story.

8. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
If I have a must-read author, it is Kingsolver. This book carries a strong ecological message.

Books I want to read with "summer" in the title:

Martin Marten by Brian Doyle

I grew up in Oregon and lived in the Willamette Valley. My grandparents lived in Bend on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. I became very familiar with all the passes across the Cascade mountain range. One route from Portland on Hwy 26 takes drivers right past Mt Hood en route to the east side of the state. Right after the village of Rhododendron is a small community named Zigzag, both being part of the villages of Mt. Hood, known as the Hoodland Corridor. I remember driving through Zigzag thinking it was such a funny name for a village, not even realizing it was named for the Zigzag River, a tributary of the Sandy River which eventually joins up with the mighty Columbia River on its march to the sea. I often wondered what kind of people would live in such a place. Now I know. 

Martin Marten is set in Zigzag, which seems like a fun and quirky setting for a story about a boy, David, who is coming of age on the mountain, as is a young pine marten, named Martin. The boy and the marten live separate lives, though their paths cross several times in the story. This is not one of those cutesy books where a wild animal comes to live with humans, or vice versa. Rather it is a story set on the edge of civilization with a whole host of quirky characters, both human and animal.

There is 14-year-old David who lives with his parents and his precocious  6-year-old sister, Maria. Dickie Douglas, the trapper, who knows the mountain like the back of his hand. Miss Moss, the storekeeper and community know-it-all. Cosmos, the crazy bike rider who always wears orange suits. And Moon, David's best friend, whose parents work in the high-tech world which is the exact opposite of the rest of the folks in the story. Many of the characters are unnamed, including David's parents.

There are also odd animal characters, none of them talking. Besides Martin, the pine marten, there is the largest elk bull ever seen named Lewis, a wise old horse named Edwin, a silver fox, an old mountain lion with a huge territory, and a dog who lives with a man, but the man does not own him.

David loves nothing more than exploring his part of the mountain and running along its trails. It is here that he bumps into the pine marten, Martin. Martin enjoys running also and often accompanies David on his runs through the forest, but he does his running in the trees. At one rather dramatic point in the story, Martin plays a critical role in the safety of Maria.

Aside from the aforementioned scene, most of the book is made up of moments in the lives of the characters without a bunch of drama, though life on a mountain can be very hard for both humans and animals.  Author Brain Doyle, an Oregonian, has obviously done his homework on the flora and fauna of Mt. Hood, called by its Indian name in the book:Wy'east, and I learned quite a bit about animal life especially, which I found very enjoyable. My husband and I listened to the audiobook as we drove to Canada and back last week and we both enjoyed the story but didn't find it especially riveting. At one point, after we were restarting the story after a stop, my husband remarked that he didn't remember where we were in the plot. We decided to just figure it out as we listened without backing up for clues. We knew we wouldn't miss much.

I read the book for an upcoming book club. It was part of a library book club kit, which means that some librarian thought this would make a good discussion book. I hope we do have a lively, quirky discussion to match the book. (Discussion questions here.) I just learned that the author Brian Doyle, died recently at a age 60 and was eulogized by many in the writing world for his skills. Watt Childress, of Juniper books, said that Doyle "relayed stories like prayers" and compared his writing to the music of Van Morrison because it was so lyrical. Doyle is quoted in the same article as saying that writing is just "talking an idea for a walk." What a perfect way to sum up this book. Doyle, just took his characters for a walk around Wy'east and voila!


(SOTH Book Club July 2019 selection)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Friday quotes and a review: Lovely War

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.

Summary of the book and a review to follow---

Title: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Book Beginnings:
Friday 56:

Summary: (from Goodreads)
It's 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She's a shy and talented pianist; he's a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it's immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped  off to the killing fields. //Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who's played Carnegie Hall, he's a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that's before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who's already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans. //Thirty years after these four lovers' fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II.
     Lovely War addresses the age old question, 'Why are love and war inextricably bound together?'
     When Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, is accused by her husband Hephaestus of taking a lover in Ares, the god of war, she tells the story of the four lovers from the Great War over twenty years earlier. She asks Apollo, Hades, and Ares to add to the story as they crossed paths with the lovers themselves. Music, death, and war were all intertwined in the love stories.
     At first I was critical of gods and goddesses telling the love stories of the two couples who met during WWI. Having the gods as narrators felt like an unnecessary schtick. Weren't the love stories enough? But as I thought about it, I realized the author wanted to do more, she wanted to show the connection between war and love. It's about relationships that never would have happened under regular circumstances but they grow and bloom quickly in time of war.
     I enjoyed the love stories between Hazel and James; Aubrey and Collette. I didn't really pay attention to the drama between the gods and goddess. But what I liked best was the parts of the story that Berry took from history---about the 'negro' infantry called the Harlem Hellfighters and the band leader James Reese Europe, whose band took ragtime to Europe. Ragtime was the precursor to jazz and the war provided a chance to spread this very American music abroad. This was all news to me.
     I loved Julie Berry's The Passion of Dolssa so I had high expectations for Lovely War. I wasn't disappointed by the writing, I just didn't enjoy the story as much as Dolssa. I really do recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction and to someone who likes to learn new information.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Friday Quotes and a look at the works of an author: A.S. King, updated with brief review

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.

A summary and review of the book as well as a look at other works by the author to follow the quotes....

Title: Dig by A.S. King

Book Beginnings:
Marla Hemmings is hiding neon-colored plastic Easter eggs in the front flower bed.
Friday 56:
Her eyebrow is controlling me. If she lifts it, I feel I have to say one thing, if she lowers it, I have to say another.
Summary (from Goodreads):
The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family's maze of tangled secrets... As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.
Review: (NEW) At its core Dig, a deep and confusing surreal novel, confronts the reality of a family who is deeply poisoned by racism. Poverty, hatred, family violence, and disenfranchisement are the results. Each character, most we don't even know their names until late in the book, confronts the parent for the ugliness and scars left behind from the horrors of racism. One questions the information in textbooks as biased and racist, another thinks that blood from a black person is different than blood from a white person, another uses her friendship with a biracial boy as a way to get back at her mom, while another boy is befriended by a man during the winter so he doesn't see his racist tattoo until spring when the coats come off. The poison runs deep and destroys a family from the inside out. King, in the author's notes, asks readers to confront racism in all its forms, many we never even think of as problems. The surreal text sets the issue on its edge, causing the reader to look at the problem in a new way.

King is a brilliant writer, so sharp and precise at getting her points across in a new way. Where all of her books attack problems from a unique vantage point, this one really highlights the issues of racism and its many ugly tentacles. 

This will be a difficult book to recommend because it is so weird, so surreal. But if the reader is patient, the disparate parts come together and there is definitely a feeling that the characters, so hopeless in the beginning, may be able to DIG (get it?) out of their situation and a brighter future is on the horizon.

Other works by the author and a few of my thoughts:

I've read six other books by A.S. King. This is almost unheard of for me. I rarely stick with one author through so many years and books. I have loved her works from the very first book and every time I read one I feel like my socks are knocked off, her writing is so good. But, and this is a big BUT, all of her books are very similar. Let me explain.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz. I read this book in January 2011. It won a Printz Honor that year. The book just blew me away how King used movement back and forth in time to tell the story of a girl whose best friend, Charlie died under questionable circumstances. She covers up her grief with alcohol and with busyness. At times the reader is led to believe that Vera is going to have, or has had a mental breakdown. This was my first A.S. King book and the first blog review I was truly proud of. I read it too late to add to my Mock Printz list of selected titles for 2011 but each year after that , for several years we added her subsequent works onto our list hoping King would be a repeat Printz winner.

Everybody Sees the Ants. I read this in October 2011 and promptly added it to our Mock Printz list for 2012. It didn't win any actual awards but had an important message about the detrimental aspects of bullying and how things can improve if one takes action. But to get to that point the main character, Lucky Linderman, has to have lots of interactions with his grandfather who was a war hero and who is dead. Once again mental health issues play a prominent role in the plot.

Ask the Passengers. Read in late December 2012, I was a bit lukewarm on this book compared to the other two. It felt like a too familiar trope to me: Girl (or boy) questions her sexuality, people find out, tease and bully her (him), which causes a crisis of self-esteem. In this book, like others, this character talks to people who aren't in the room---passengers on airplanes high in the sky and certain long-dead philosophers. Mental health issue or just a crisis of identity?

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future. A November 2014 read. By the title, this book promised to be different than the other three, with a Sci-Fi aspect to it, I thought. It is about a girl whose mother committed suicide when she was young and she fears that her destiny may hold the same thing. Until one day she starts having visions of a disturbing future and she decides to write down her visions and do her damnedest to make sure these things never happen. Apparently I never reviewed this book, which was on our Mock Printz list and won the Walden Award, given out by English teachers. But on my notes of many books written at the end of this year I said this about Glory O'Brien's History of the Future: "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." This book WAS different. Were the visions brought on by mental illness or was it a true Sci-Fi book? Note---I am definitely picking up on a theme to King's books.

I Crawl Through It. Read in November 2015. I had to reread the summary of the book to recall deails but what I did remember was how weird this book was and how full of symbolism it was. This is perhaps the most surreal book I've ever read. In fact, I added it to the Mock Printz list that year, thinking it might win an award because it is so different. Four teens are stressed to the max and the adults in their lives aren't paying attention. One turns herself inside out, another splits in two, while another can actually see the invisible helicopter her boyfriend is building, but only on Tuesdays. Call it PTSD or mental illness, but the teens are definitely in trouble.

Still Life with Tornado. Read in November 2016. Sarah drops out of school when her art teacher says that nothing new is ever created but only redone. She looks for creativity to prove the teacher wrong. During her search she finds her younger self and an older version of herself. From each she gains some wisdom into her current circumstances but it isn't until her mother gets activated that Sarah is able to reintegrate all the broken pieces of herself. 

Though I've read most of A.S. King's books I did miss two YA titles along the way: Reality Boy (2013), and The Dust of 100 Dogs (2009). Now that I've read Dig I might reach back and give them a try. My favorite of the six is Please Ignore Vera Dietz, the first I read. I feel like I am forever chasing that book to find a new favorite by the author. You can tell from my summaries that each one has something to do with mental illness or a surreal representation of things falling apart. After adding her books to our Mock Printz list every year, we stopped in 2016 because we felt the real Printz committee would also note the similarities in themes and move on to other authors exploring a wider range of themes in their books. Either way A.S. King is a remarkable writer and I can't seem to get enough of her books.

Monday, July 8, 2019

TTT: Top Ten YA Characters who deal with mental illness

Top Ten Tuesday: YA Characters Who Battle Mental Health Issues 

1. Leonard Peacock in Please Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick  (2013)---Leonard Peacock is seriously depressed and suicidal. It is an intervention with a teacher that saved him. Cries for help are important steps in getting better.

2. Adam in The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Totem (2013)---Adam struggles with OCD yet he can help others members of his support group as he fights for equilibrium in his life.

3. Darius Kellner in Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram (2018)--- Darius has clinical depression and he is becoming more and more isolated. When his family makes a trip to their homeland, Iran, he finds acceptance and friendship and comes to embrace himself.

4. Aza in Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (2017)---Aza struggles with OCD and obsessive thoughts. She finally gets help for herself and acknowledges that this is something she will work on for her whole life.

5. Vivi in When We Collided by Emery Lord (2017)---Vivi spirals into a manic phase of her bipolar disorder. Jonah, a new love interest who is struggling with depression himself, notices and gets the adults activated to get her help.

6. Henry Denton in We Are the Ants (2016)---Henry thinks he has been abducted by aliens and the survival of the world is in his hands. He is never quite sure about reality (nor is the reader) but he is certainly dealing with deep depression over the suicide of his dear friend. Eventually he gets to help he needs to stay firmly in reality.

7. Vicky Cruz in The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork (2016)---Vicky attempts suicide and survives but she has a lot fo work ahead of her and she finds help in a small group run by a doctor. She is not only able to find helrself but helps others to find themselves.

8. Violet Marsh in All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nevin (2015)--- Violet meets Theodore when they were both on the school tower and it is not clear who saved whose life but the two seem to have a good impact on the other, that is until Theodore doesn't make it. Violet is able to reach out for help this time.

9. Caden Bosch in Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2015)--- Caden's life seems to be split in half---half regular life, and half life on the ship traveling to the lowest point on the planet under the ocean. He eventually gets help for this schizophrenia. Shusterman wrote in consult with his son who is a diagnosed schizophrenic.

10. Lia by Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)---Lia has an eating disorder that completely dominates her life. After the death of a friend, she spirals down until her family is finally able to get through to her and get her the help she needs to start taking steps toward health.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sunday Salon, July 7

Photo credit: Don Bennett, all rights reserved
Weather: Overcast, it looks like it will rain.

Waiting for the concert to begin. Photo credit: Rita Adams, all rights reserved.

Whistler, B.C.: We spent last week in Canada at our time share in Whistler. It was a near perfect week. Both daughters joined us, as did our grandson which added a new dimension to our family vacation. The photo of Ian was taken during a hike to Brandywine Falls, just a few miles from Whistler. He had discovered a big ant and was inspecting it on his finger.

Canada Day: As is often the case, we were in Canada on July 1st to celebrate their special holiday but missed ours on July 4th. To celebrate this year there was a parade down Whistler village with lots of maple leaves and bicycles. Later we attended a free concert in the Olympic plaza with The Tenors (used to be named The Canadian Tenors) as the headliners! Among the many songs they sang, 'O Canada' was especially poignant for the crowd since The Tenors sang it at the first NBA championship game for the Toronto Raptors who eventually won the series, a first for a Canadian team. None of us could believe our good luck at being in such a lovely setting with such incredible music and it was free!  (Even Ian seemed to enjoy the music, until he decided that playing on the swings would be more fun.) I tortured my family the rest of the week by listening to a rather select playlist of the Tenors on Spotify.

Photo credit: Don Bennett, all rights reserved

Hike to Brandywine Falls: The day was overcast but the setting was breathtaking. Don's photo could be printed as a postcard.

Ian and Grandpa playing in the water. Photo by Rita Adams
Meadow Park: We took Ian to a park which was a favorite spot when our girls were young. He loved running through the water tunnel and did it over and over again.

Train wreck art. Photo credits: Anne Bennett, all rights reserved.
Train Wreck hike: Back in the 1950s there was a big train wreck near Whistler. Five of the cars were so damaged it wasn't worth moving them from the spot of the wreck so they were left to rust in the forest. Years later graffiti artists found them and have enjoyed decorating them since that time. Three years ago a good trail and suspension bridge were constructed so that hikers and bikers could find this strange art installment.  Don and I hiked in and braved the rainy weather to enjoy this unique setting.

Books completed this past week:
  • Dig by A.S. King. A surreal look at five teens who find they have a lot more in common than they knew at first. Super weird but satisfying. E-book.
  • Martin Marten by Brian Doyle. The setting is a loosely knit community at the base of Mt. Hood in Oregon. Two concurrent stories interweave---that of David, a young teenager who is growing into a young man and Martin, a marten who is also growing up as a predator in the forest. This is a book club selection. Audiobook.
  • Lovely War by Julie Berry. A YA novel set during the first world war. The narrators are Greek gods and goddesses. Strange, but it works, especially the parts which expanded on the contributions made by the Harlem Hellfighters, a "negro" squad that fought with ferocity and valor.  Audiobook.
Currently reading:
  • Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker. I am enjoying this folksy style of Walker's writing. The book was given to me by a retired librarian who lives in Montana. It is set in Montana. Print. 14%
  • Circe by Madeline Miller. Another book club selection this one is a retelling of stories from Iliad and the Odyssey. So far I am not able to follow it and may have to change format to make progress possible. Audiobook. 5%.
Photo by Rita Adams, all rights reserved.
Wedding: We raced home from Canada so we could attend a family wedding (the daughter of my husband's cousin.) It was set at a resort, Alderbrook, on the Hood Canal about 90 minutes from our home. It wasn't a sunny day, but the weather held and we had a lovely time. In the photo, Don and I have our name placards stuck to our foreheads in an attempt to entertain our grandson who was ready for dinner before we were served. We wish Colleen and Balder a happy marriage.

New computer: My laptop crapped out so I am working out the kinks with a new device. Fortunately the old computer gave us notice so we were able to save all our photo and documents. Now to get things set up how I like them on this new one.

Yesterday: Last week my daughters and I went to see the movie about the Beatles music called Yesterday. Today I am taking my hubby to see it. So I've got to run. I hope to get a few more photos posted but I will publish now and finish up later.


Monday, July 1, 2019

TTT: Childhood Favorites

Top Ten Tuesday: Some favorite books from my childhood

Note: I had few books and rarely was taken to the library as a child, so some of the books I've listed were read in adolescence when I started using the school library.

1. Little Bear [I can read books] by Else Holmelund Minarik, illustrated by Maurice Sendak
This was my first book. In fact I may have been given it at birth since it was published in 1957, the year I was born. *Yes, I know. I'm old!

2. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Seuss
I remember this book in the little book shelf in my bedroom, a lonely book by itself. But I read it all the time.
3. Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
My younger sister was given this book written by the author of the Winnie-the-Pooh books when she was six. I was five years older than her, so reading it aloud was one of my jobs. I remember loving it so much and wishing I had the book when I was six.

4. Amelia Bedilia by Peggy Parish
I loved this series of silly books playing on turn-of-phrases in English. I loved them when my children were little, too.

5. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
I was always a little frustrated by the messes that the cat made in the home of the children whose mother wasn't home. But the book still provokes warm memories.

6. The Borrowers by Mary Norton
I don't remember if I read this book or if my mother read it to me, but I was quite captivated by the tiny people living in such close proximity to regular-sized people. When I children were little their grandmother gave them the whole series. I don't think I got rid of them, but I cannot find them, which makes me feel sad.

7. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
My best friend's mother gave me this book as a gift. It is such a sweet story by the author who is much more famous for her Ramona books, which I don't remember reading as a kid.

8. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
I read somewhere that this is best-loved children's book ever written. I loved it, too.

9. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
I read this book as a 6th grader and LOVED it. I think I made it into every book report or school project for a year or two after reading it.

10. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
I was blown away by this series when I first read it as a preteen. I've since read it three or four times in entirety.

11. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
I'm pretty sure this book was read to us in school. I loved it then and still do.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Review: America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

Imagine for a minute that you were not born in the United States and did not grow up learning about its history in school or seeing the sights as you vacationed around the country. To extend your imagination, pretend that you lived your whole life within an eight mile circumference of where you were born, so you probably didn't even know your own community that well. Or, imagine that you are from a country which really doesn't have a very long history and the formation of that country was really to just assign people to second class status. Now imagine that these two people come together for a tour trip around America, along with an America serving as a companion and that is what you get in the book America for Beginners.

When Pival Sengupta, a wealthy widow who has lived her whole life in Kolkata (Calcutta), decides she must come to America to look for her son, Rahi, who was disowned by her husband for being gay, a tour of the whole country seems like a good excuse to make the trip. Never mind that she has no relatives in America and knows very little about the country. She will book a tour with a good Indian company that promises an exceptional trip with some of the comforts of home, like Indian food at every meal. The company also promises an Indian tour guide and female companion for propriety for the whole trip.

Once in America Pival learns that her guide, Satya, isn't from India but from Bangladesh and he really knows very little about America himself but has learned to speak with authority even if what he says is not correct. Though Indians living in Kolkata share the cultural heritage and language of Bengali with those living in Bangladesh, they do not view them as equals. The companion, Rebecca, is from America but she is unhappy in her current underemployed state as a actress and takes the job just to make her rent payment for another month. So this ragtag threesome set off to explore America and in the process learn about themselves and become friends along the way.

America for Beginners may seem like a travel book but it is really a story about coming to a place of beginnings. It is not so much about the Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell, the Grand Canyon, or the music of New Orleans. It is about what all those things stand for and what a newbie can learn about him or herself as they internalize these things after seeing them for the first time. It is about finding yourself in a land of freedom and allowing yourself to untie the knots of bondage that encircle you. Mrs. Sengupta doesn't have to die because she has no family. Satya doesn't have to be a second class citizen because of his birth place. Rebecca doesn't have to be miserable living in New York when the whole country calls to her.

I started listening to this audiobook with absolutely no preconceived notions and I was delighted to learn new information about India and Bangladesh. It was fun to see places in America through a new set of eyes. Leah Franqui describes herself as a Puerto Rican Jewish native of Philadelphia who now lives in Mumbai. Her own cultural and religious experiences bring a a freshness of perspective to the story. For example, she shared that she was shocked to learn that homosexuality is still thought of as a mental illness in India, a condition from which one can be cured.

I read the book as a book club selection and I know we will have a wonderful discussion.

(RHS Book Club June 2019)

Monday, June 24, 2019

TTT: Summer Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday: What do I hope to read this summer?

I. Books from my own shelf:
  1. The Submission by Amy Waldman (I've started it already)
  2. Christy by Catherine Marshall
  3. If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  4. The Library Book by Susan Orleans
  5. The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom
  6. Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr
  7. Crooked Letter Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
  8. Winter Wheat by Mildred Walker
II. Upcoming book club selections
  1. Martin Marten by Brain Doyle
  2. Circe by Madeline Miller
  3. Astoria by Peter Stark
III. Books I've started but need/want to finish
  1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck 
  2. The Overstory by Richard Powers
  3. Fear by John Woodward
IV. Mock Printz/YA titles
  1. The Lucky Wars by Julie Berry
  2. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
  3. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  4. Sadie by Courtney Summers
  5. Dig by A.S. King
  6. Internment by Samira Ahmed
  7. I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

How did I do on my Spring TBR list? 

I did good. I read all but four of the books on my list, and three of them I replaced with other books.

Spring TBR. 
I. Books from my own shelf:
  1. La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith ✔
  2. Redeployment by Phil Kay ✔
  3. Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield 
  4. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom ✔
  5. The Four Things that Matter Most by Ian Byock, M.D. ✔
  6. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan ✔
  7. The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street ✔
  8. Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver
  9. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson ✔
  10. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka ✔
  11. Fear by Bob Woodward
II. I know a few upcoming book club titles:
  1. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa ✔
  2. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans ✔
  3. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue ✔
III. Books I've placed on hold at the library that likely will be available soon
  1. Shout: a poetry memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson ✔
  2. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott ✔
  3. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez ✔
  4. Sadie by Courtney Summers
I replaced all the books on the 'My Own Shelf' books that I didn't read with other books I own, so I actually read at least eleven books in that category. I've requested Sadie (the only other book I didn't finish) again from the library but am waiting my turn.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Salon, June 23rd

Ian (aka fire-fighter) and Grand-aunt Kathy playing giant lite-bright
Weather: Overcast and cool...not very summerish.

Today: Don preached in church since our pastor is on vacation. As an Elder he was asked to fill in and he did a great job. The theme came from the miracle of the swine. A man filled with many demons was restored by Jesus but the demons inhabited the swines, who ran down the hill, humped in the lake and were drowned. The man asked if he could go with Jesus but Jesus said no, go home and tell everyone what God has done. (Luke 8:26-37). Don's message revolved around that. Not the swine or the demons, but around the going out and telling others what God is doing in our lives.

Coming to stay (sort of): Our daughter and her family sold their house and hope to build a new one, but the process is slow. They have to be out of their house by this coming Friday then they will be homeless for the foreseeable future. They will stay at her in-laws for half the week and at our house for the other half until a rental property is ready to move into.That could be months away. In preparation, Don and I have cleaned out the old dresser that used to belong to Don's mom, then Don, then our girls, and was living in the garage full of art supplies, and flags. Now it is up in Ian's room ready for his clothes. I also transferred all the stuff out of the guest room dresser, so our daughter would have someplace to put her clothes. I'm pretty sure I have enough tissue paper saved to last for all gift giving until I am 100 years old.

Treasures: While I was moving all the gift wrap, tissue paper, and assorted items from one dresser to another in a different room, I found a few treasures. First I found a mood ring. I'm pretty sure that it belonged to the girls because it only fits on my pinkie finger. Also, I am not a good candidate to wear mood rings since the color stays a horrible brownish-yellow color...kind of a yellowish puce color. The name alone should tell you how awful it is. The second treasure I found, which I never remember seeing before, was an envelope full of handkerchiefs and other other items from Queen Elizabeth's coronation. I bet that came from Don's great-grandmother, who he described as a subject of the queen her whole life, even though she was an American. This one treasure I may explore to see if there is any value to it.

Visiting Grand Aunt: My sister came up for a short visit early this week so she could spend a few hours with my grandson. We took him to the Hands On Children's museum where he ran with delight from one area to the next as if he wanted to show off all the fun things to do. At one point he took off running to his favorite are of first-responder vehicles. We both laughed out loud just to witness his joy!

The wisdom of Ian: Wear costumes as often and as proudly as you can. You see the photo of him wearing the fire fighter helmet even is other areas of the museum.

Books read in June (and May, at least those since my last Sunday Salon post):

  • The Storied Life of AJ Fikey by Gabrielle Zevin---a reread for me and book club selection for this month. Check out my thoughts of getting ready to discuss this book here. Audiobook.
  • Damsel by Alana Arnold---a twist on a fairy tale. A damsel is saved from a dragon by a prince, but she doesn't like her life under his "care". See my review here. Audiobook.
  • The CBS Murders by Richard Hammer---true crime about murders which occurred as part of a cover up of other crimes. E-book. 
  • We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mehja---YA, modern themes but set in a myth-like setting. Review here. Audiobook.
  • Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount---love this illustrated book about books, bookstores, libraries, and famous writers. My review is here. Print.
  • Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue---An immigrant's story. Another book club selection for August. My review is here. Audiobook.
  • America for Beginners by Leah Franqui---A look at America through the eyes of others. Another book club selection. No review yet. Audiobook.
Books currently reading:
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers---I read almost half of this e-book 250 of the 520 pages, checked out from the library before it was due and automatically returned. I got back in line but it may take four months until I get it again. I may have to buy this one to finish up. Sigh. E-book.
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck---honestly I haven't read a word for a month or so but I hope to get back to it this next week while on vacation. Print.
  • The Submission by Amy Waldman---a fictional account of what could happen if a memorial to victims of terrorism is designed by the winning submission by a Muslim artist. Print.
  • Lovely War by Julie Berry---my Mock Printz reading selection of the month. Audiobook.
 Prayers for:
  • P, who lost his father this past week
  • M. and S, whose brother is dying of cancer
  • A, who is trying to find a graduate program that fits his needs.
Have a lovely week, the first full week of summer (or winter, depending on which half of the globe you live on.)