"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, January 17, 2019

Friday Quotes: Devotions

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

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


Title: Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

Book Beginning: from "I Wake Close to Morning"

Why do people keep asking to see
God's identity papers
when the darkness opening into morning
is more than enough?...

Friday 56: from "I Worried"

...Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Comment: Mary Oliver, poet, died today. In one of her obituaries it was mentioned that never has a poet sold more poetry that rarely mentioned other human beings. Sometimes she was described as a recluse because she gave so few interviews, but actually she just wanted to let her poetry speak for her. She won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1983 for American Primitive and the National Book Award for poetry in 1992 for New and Selected Poems. It is because of Mary Oliver that I love poetry and I go to her poems over and over again when I need a little solace or should spend a moment outside myself. Devotions is a compilation of over 200 of her favorite poems going all the way back to 1963, when she published her first volume of poetry. I'll let Mary Oliver get the last word with a portion of her poem, "When Death Comes":



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pierce County READS 2019!

It is earlier than usual but the Pierce County Library system has declared that 2019 is "A Year of Reading" and they are kicking off the year by promoting Kristin Hannah, author of The Great Alone, The Nightingale, and eighteen other books. The focus of the book discussions hosted at branch libraries all over the county will be on The Great Alone, her newest book which is set in Alaska.
Usually Pierce County READS selects one book and focuses a variety of activities around that book and the topic, but this year the focus will be on the author.

Kristin Hannah lives in the Pacific Northwest which makes her a good candidate for a Pierce County READS event. (I've heard she lives in Seattle but I can't confirm that.) On February 16, 2019 at 1 PM all interested persons are invited to attend an author event with Ms. Hannah at the McGavick Conference Center at Clover Park CC, 4500 Steilacoom Blvd, Lakewood. It is free.

My SOTH book club decided to suspend our upcoming book selection in favor of reading anything by Kristin Hannah, which we will discuss at our next meeting. Many want to read The Great Alone, since it will be one of the featured books, but we aren't sure about book availability at the library. We will also try to attend the author event together on Feb. 16th.

It just so happened that after months on the waiting list, I got the audio CDs for The Great Alone last week from the library. I am about a third of the way through listening to the audiobook. My daughter, who is in another book club, asked if she could borrow the CDs I've already listened to so she is also starting the book.

About Pierce County READS! A few facts I didn't know before now: 1) It is the biggest reading event in the State of Washington; 2) It started in 2008; 3) Selected books have been checked out over 50,000 times; and 4) more than 13,000 people have turned out at Pierce County READS events, over the years. My husband and I have attended the finale event seven times.

Guess I'd better get reading. Feb 16th is just around the corner. If you have read anything by Kristin Hannah, other than The Great Alone and The Nightingale, what do you recommend I read next by her?


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Meet Artemisia Gentileschi through two books (Blood Water Paint +1)

Susanna and the Elders, 1610
Artemisia Gentileschi was born in Rome in 1593. After her mother's death when Artemisia was twelve, she was given the choice to become a nun or an apprentice to her father, an artist of dubious and mediocre talent, learning first how to grind and mix pigments. She chose art. By the time she was seventeen her talent had far eclipsed her father's talents and he was using her to complete his works and commissions. At some point, her father hired another artist to help teach Artemisia about perspective. That man, a famous artist himself, raped Artemisia. Being a woman the 1600s in Rome meant you had no rights to bring charges against a man, so Artemisia's father had to bring the charges for the loss of his wages, since she was so traumatized and could no longer paint. The trial lasted for days and her perpetrator brought many false witnesses before the judge in an effort to free himself of the charges. One had a document said to have been written by Artemsia, but she was illiterate and didn't know how to write. Another claim was made by a man that she was his whore, but the man was dead so couldn't be cross-examined. Eventually,  after her hands were broken as a test of her innocence, she was declared innocent and her perpetrator was banished from Rome. Transcripts of the trial, all 300+ pages of them, still exist today.
Judith and her Maidservant, 1625

Unfortunately, the rape and the trial are what Artemisia Gentileischi is more famous for than her art, though many think she one of the most talented artists to live in the generation after Caravaggio. She painted Biblical scenes of Susanna and Judith which displayed much more passion and drama than those by her male counterparts. And she also is well known for her adeptness of painting the female figure, whether nude or fully clothed.

After the trial, Artemisia was married to a painter in Florence, so she could achieve some geographical distance from those people who would hold her rape against her, not wanting to be tainted by owning anything created by her. Several years after her move she was admitted to the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence, the first woman to ever be a member. She died between 1654 and 1656. Over fifty of her paintings still exist today. She had one daughter, Prudentia, whom she trained as an artist, also.



This past week I finished a fiction book about the young Artemisia, the rape, and the trial. The book is called Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough. It is written partially in verse and partially in prose. A portion of the text are imaginary conversations Artemisia has with her subjects: Susanna and Judith. Both were strong women who stood up to men or did what men could not do. She gained strength and perspective from these women as she stood up for herself in a court of law. This is Joy McCullough's first published book and Blood Water Paint has been named as a finalist for the Morris Award for debut authors. My absolute favorite part of the book is the way that McCullough incorporates artistic terms and practices into her descriptions. For example, when the judge peers down at her, she attempts to view the judge at a "perspective to do him justice". When he renders his verdict very quickly at the end of the trial, "I'd hoped/the court would/take the time/to study every nuance,/every brushstroke."

Unfortunately for me, I chose to start this book in the audiobook format. As you know, I love to listen to books and usually love audiobooks, but this is not a good choice for the audio format because I had no idea what was happening and I didn't even know about the poetry. I was just confused. Who was she talking to? Susanna and Judith? Aren't they Biblical characters? How can she be talking to them? Why is the dialogue so clipped, almost dreamlike? When I finally went to the library and found the print version, my questions were answered. I ended up really liking the story and the way it was written. Artemisia was a remarkable woman who reached back to other remarkable women for strength to survive the horrors of her circumstances.

Sources, both borrowed from the public library:
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2018. Print. YA.
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, Penguin Random House Audio Publishing. Audio.

The cover of the book shows a self portrait
by the artist Artemisia Gentileschi
Back in 2004, I read another book about Artemisia Gentileschi. It was called The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. This book is historical fiction at its best recounting not only the circumstances of her early life and the rape trial, but also the joys and trials she had afterwards as a talented and professional woman. Artemisia did not live an easy life. Here is what the book blurb says about the book:
From extraordinary highs - patronage by the Medicis, friendship with Galileo and, most importantly of all, beautiful and outstandingly original paintings - to rape by her father's colleague, torture by the Inquisition, life-long struggles for acceptance by the artistic Establishment, and betrayal by the men she loved, Artemisia was a bold and brilliant woman who lived as she wanted, and paid a high price.
I loved the book. In fact I recall being completely swept up by the story, doing extra research on the artist and looking at photos of her surviving works. When I became a high school librarian the following year, I promptly purchased a copy of it for my library. Unfortunately and apparently, it wasn't a good purchase. I could never talk any student in to checking it out. I finally begged one of the art teachers to read it and she checked it out only to let it live on the floor of her office for six months until I was able to rescue it. Sigh.

If you are curious about Artemisia Gentileschi I can recommend both books without hesitation, but I guarantee you will learn more about her as an artist from this book by Vreeland, and it is less confusing. I sincerely do not recall if I read the print version or listened to the audio version of the book, but if you can get your hands on either, I highly recommend it.

Source: public library.
The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland, Viking for Adults, 2002. Print.



Monday, January 14, 2019

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Hockey is a metaphor for life.

In Beartown, a small, dying town in Northern Sweden, hockey is IT. How goes hockey, goes the fortunes of the town. When the local junior hockey team, led by team captain Kevin, makes the national semi-finals, everyone is sure that when they win the whole tournament all the town's woes will go away. Gregory Cowles, writing for the New York Times, describes Beartown by Fredrik Backman as a sports book. Using this quote from the book as his rationale for describing it thus---
“Hockey is just a silly little game. We burn and bleed and cry, fully aware that the most the sport can give us, in the very best scenario, is incomprehensibly meager and worthless: just a few isolated moments of transcendence. …But what the hell else is life made of?”
Yet, life, like hockey, isn't that straight forward.

First off, there are a lot of people to consider and with people comes variables. Take the hockey team, for example: The old A-team coach, Sune, will likely be replaced by David, the Junior coach after the win. But Peter, the GM, is good friends with Sune and doesn't want to replace him. In the rink with Kevin are a bunch of guys that help him look good. There is Benji, his best friend and defender, who has a secret he doesn't even share with Kevin. There is Bobo who is large and slow and worries that this will be his last year on the team. Amat, an immigrant who lives alone with his mother, the custodian of the rink, is pulled up from a younger team to fill a need because he is so fast. Lyt, the team bully, also has a bully for a mother. Filip's mother, on the other hand, understands the need to compete as she was an international competitor in cross-country skiing when she was younger. Most of the boys look up to Kevin and defer to his decisions because he is so much better than them and will certainly some day end up in the NHL in North America. However, even Kevin doesn't have an idealistic life. His parents never even come to his games and often leave him home alone as they pride themselves on raising a resourceful boy.

After an exhilarating win, Kevin and the other members of the Juniors team meet up for a party where lots of booze and testosterone, a dangerous combination, lead to a rape and all the subsequent problems that occur afterwards. The whole town ends up weighing in on the situation. "Expressing thoughts like: Certainly Kevin, our Kevin, wouldn't rape a girl." "Just let the boy play hockey." "What happens in the rink, stays in the rink." Suddenly no one seems to be thinking as individuals any longer, and group think, or mob mentality takes over.

The cast of characters from town is also large. To mention a few there is Maya, Peter's daughter, who is the victim of sexual assault. Her mother, Kira, an attorney who doesn't care much for how everything in town centers around hockey. Maya's best friend, Ana, who loves and understands the forest that seems to want to engulf the town. And Ramona, the bar owner, whose wise insights often keep the town from completely falling apart. It is Ramona who sums up the situation in town as not one of right verses wrong, as most people think, but as good verses evil. Several characters' names are never even mentioned. They are either identified by the clothes they wear (the boy in the black sweater) or nicknames (Tails.) I'm sure there is a hockey analogy for that, too.

Yes, Beartown focuses on hockey but it isn't a sports book. It is a book about life---decisions and consequences; friendships; loyalty; coming-of-age; parenting; and muddling through.

At first, I had a hard time getting any traction on Beartown. I was just slipping around on the ice and not so sure I liked it. But as I read on, realizing I had to finish it as it is a book club selection, I came to really appreciate the writing. My favorite bits were the little quips or thoughts placed at the end of some of the chapters which always made me stop and think. Here are a few:
" If he gets a single chance to make a decisive move in the match this evening, there's nothing he wouldn't give to make the most of it."
"That's the last time they see each other in their childhood. That ends tonight."
"We can't protect our children we can't protect our children we can't protect our children." 
There was also a lot of foreshadowing which helped spur my sense of curiosity. The biggest tease was the first line of the opening chapter:
"Late one evening, toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."
If that sentence doesn't pique your interest, I don't know what will.

In the end, we get little glimpses of the future, ten years later. But it is written in such a way that the reader is not quite sure who is being talked about so one is left wondering. It is as if Backman wants his characters to live forever. Melinda Bargreen, writing for the Seattle Times, says that "readers may find they join the author in his unwillingness to say goodbye." The reviewer for Publisher's Weekly sums it up this way---"Backman veers close to the saccharine, but readers will be too spellbound to notice."

Yep, I'm one of them. Completely spellbound.







(SOTH Jan. 2019)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Salon, January 13th

Indoor spring garden
Weather: Sunny. Don is actually taking this moment in time when it isn't raining to get up on the house to remove the Christmas lights.

Ordinary time: (Ordinary time is the time on the church calendar that begins on epiphany, January 6th, and ends at the beginning of lent.) It is good to know that things will be ordinary now after a period of extraordinary events that occurred during the advent season. Dad has been gone now over a month. He died on December 3rd. The time between his death and his memorial service on December 27th certainly felt extraordinary with the grief and planning mingled together. The memorial service was especially special (is that redundant to say?) with the family gathered, the music sung, the scriptures read, the eulogies spoken, and the friends greeted. My sister Kathy said we were on scared ground during the service and afterwards. It certainly felt that way. A few days prior to Dad's service, we learned of the tragic deaths of our son-in-law Daniel's grandmother and aunt. They were killed in Washington, DC. While crossing at a crosswalk they were hit by a tour bus and died. Their deaths and the shock waves on his family hit us all very hard. No memorial services, at least that I know about, have been planned leaving us to grieve on our own. Thank goodness it is now ordinary time, so we can have a period of time for healing.

And yet: Is it really ordinary time? Just this week I learned that two of my friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Yesterday I learned about the suicide death of an acquaintance, a father of two teenage girls. This past month two friends signed divorce papers. One was married to his spouse for over twenty five years, the other was married for forty-five years before things came to an end. And our government. What can I say except I can't believe that our president is willing to shut down the government for over 20 days so far just because no one is willing to fund his wall? Argh. Hopefully none of these events will ever become normal.

Spring around the corner: Don's sweet cousin sent me a beautiful basket of spring bulbs which have started to bloom indoors. They hyacinths smell heavenly and the tete-a-tetes just opned their blossoms last night. Thank you, Diane, for the gift of "spring-to-come". The yard is full of signs of the upcoming season. The pussy-willows are ready to pop. The roses and hydrangeas had buds. A frog is often heard croaking nearby. Thank goodness for the ordinary turning the seasons.
Please read my essay about grief: In My Winter Garden With Grief.

The puzzle and the assignment
A puzzle and an assignment: Yesterday, while Don was attending a day-long conference, I worked on a new puzzle. (See photo.) He helped me finish it when he got home. As I worked, I contemplated the answers to questions that each book presented. I decided to not dig too deep or think too hard. I would just name the first book that came to mind in reference to the books on the puzzle. Join in. You try it and let me know your responses. Here are mine:

UNFORGETTABLE BOOK: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
BOOK MY BEST FRIEND GAVE ME: Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Eric Larson
BOOK THAT GIVES ME HAPPY TEARS: Going Bovine by Libba Bray
BOOK I READ AGAIN AND AGAIN: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
BOOK I WOULD GRAB IF THE HOUSE IS BURNING: My Bible (the one I've marked in)
BEST BOOK I EVER READ: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
CHILDHOOD FAVORITE: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
BOOK THAT MAKES ME LOOK SMART: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham
BOOK THAT MAKES ME LAUGH OUT LOUD: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
SUPER FANTASTIC BOOK: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
BOOK I NEVER FINISHED: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess


What does the Lord require of you?: Dad's favorite scripture was Micah 6:8. The scripture answers the question what God requires---to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Last week in church we sang a song which I had sung many times be before, but for the first time the chorus really hit me and I couldn't finish for the song for the tears. The song made me think of Dad, based on the words to the chorus: "We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another; to walk humbly with God." Grief is like that--suddenly overwhelming me, yet I do treasure moments that remind me of Dad.


Currently reading: Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Hockey is the metaphor for life. This book is something else! Love it. Up next: I Have a Right To by Chessy Prout.

Current audiobook: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Set in Alaska in the 1970s. Lots of references to period pieces like waffle stompers and Gremlins. Ha! Up next: Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Blessings,

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Friday Quotes: I Have the Right To

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

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


Title: I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout

Book Beginning (Introduction):
"You can't go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending."- C.S. Lewis
Friday 56:
"I knew I lived a comfortable life, but my parents never talked about money, and as a kid, I didn't really think about wealth, or class, or where my family fit in. I didn't understand what a rarefied world I was entering when I got to St. Paul's...The level of affluence and one-upmanship was astonishing."
Comments: I picked the second quote because Chessy, who was raped at boarding school, seemed to live in such a different world than the average teenager, yet, she still became a victim of sexual assault, too. She was fortunate that her parents believed her and were willing to stand by her side (and had the money and time to do so.) That is as far as I've gotten in the book, but from the book blurb, I know that she becomes an activist when she started the #IHaveTheRightTo hastag.

Nonfiction Review: The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels

Near the end of Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address he entreated those American's who wanted to leave the Union over slavery:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Unfortunately, just five weeks after that inauguration the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Ft. Sumter by secessionists and we all know where things went from there. Let's just say the "better angels of our nature" were not on full display when men killed countrymen in order for some to maintain their lifestyles which involved owning slaves.

Jon Meacham, historian extraordinaire, is the latest writer to invoke Lincoln's words in the subtitle of his book, The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels. Concerned, like everyone with troubling events surrounding the Trump presidency and our times, Meacham takes a historian's long point of view, explaining events from our history which were full of political turmoil and deeply divided citizenry. He then describes, through the actions and words of other presidents, mainly four--- Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson---how fear can be replaced with hope and how injustice can be combated through consistent efforts and thoughtful legislation. Meacham guides the reader through the century following the Civil War to the 1960s and the Civil Rights movement by using examples of how, when things seemed their bleakest, the actions of a few brave leaders helped guide the country to find their better angels. “In our finest hours, though, the soul of the country manifests itself in an inclination to open our arms rather than to clench our fists.”

Of course, and we all know this, there is no guarantee that this grand experiment known as the United States of America, will be able to weather every storm it faces. James Bryce worried in The American Commonwealth and warned us about the possibility of a renegade president. "A bold President who knew himself to be supported by a majority in the country, might be tempted to override the law, and deprives the minority of the protection which the law affords it." But Meacham tells us, Truman's comments give us more hope: "The people have often made mistakes, but given time and the facts, they will make the corrections."

Jon Meacham's The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels came along at just the right moment for me. Every night the news was full of the newest examples of ways that the Trump Administration could be awful to marginalized people: immigrants, Muslims, gays, blacks, Mexicans, etc. Every night my husband would come from work and ask, "What stupid thing did Trump do today?" It almost felt like I went to bed on November 8, 2016 and woke up in another country or world, one I didn't understand or like. Thankfully Meacham comes along and essentially says we need to hang on, things have been bad before but they have always righted themselves in time. But we must be vigilant and we must fight for our better angels. It was a little like having a salve placed on a wound. I have felt more hopeful about America since listening to it.

My husband and I listened to the first half of the audiobook together. It was read partially by the author himself with Fred Sanders reading the bulk of it. Both did an excellent job. Don finished it on his own. The next time we were in the car together I asked if he didn't mind re-listening to the bits I missed again, so Don got to hear the second half of the book again. This allowed us to process the book together after we finished it. My favorite parts included the inspirational quotes from various leaders throughout our history and how Meacham was able to draw a line right down the middle of our history so I could understand how one decision led to certain actions and reactions. It is really very inspiring and stuff. And, just in case you are wondering, Meacham really doesn't spend any time bashing Trump. He leaves that for the reader to do on his/her own time!

I leave you with this wonderful quote from the book:
Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass: Their voices, articulating the feelings of innumerable others, ultimately prevailed in the causes of emancipation and of suffrage. It took presidential action to make things official—a Lincoln to free the slaves, a Wilson to support the women’s suffrage amendment, a Lyndon Johnson to finish the fight against Jim Crow—but without the voices from afar, there would have been no chorus of liberty. The lesson: The work of reformers—long, hard, almost unimaginably difficult work—can lead to progress and a broader understanding of who is included in the phrase “We, the People” that opened the Preamble of the Constitution. And that work unfolds still.” -Jon Meacham
The Soul of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels, Jon Meacham, Random House Audio, 2018.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Bookish [and not so bookish] thoughts


In an effort to wrap up 2018, today I spent a bit of time cleaning up my Goodreads list by adding tags I'd forgotten to add when I read the books and going back and adding a new tag, "reviewed" to all the books that I wrote reviews for sometime during the year. It took a little time since I had to cross check Goodreads with my blogpost list. Sometimes I don't title my reviews with the name of the book, so that meant I had to open up different reviews to search for titles. It wasn't a tedious process. In fact, I had fun rereading some of my posts.

Here is the shocking (to me anyway) thing I discovered: I wrote 90 reviews last year. 90. Whoa. If you had asked me how I did at reviewing books last year, I don't think I would have said I wrote that many reviews. Breaking the stats down---I read 150 books, 27 of them I didn't finish (Cybils books mostly). Since it is very unlikely I would not write a review for an unfinished book, I am going to back those out of my list. This leaves 123 books that were review-worthy. I reviewed 90 of them, leaving only 33 books I didn't review. That is 73% reviewed, to 27% not reviewed. Woot woot. I am even impressed myself.

I had set myself a reviewing plan for 2018 to take a little heat off the pressure the "need" to review all books. The plan was to write reviews for: a. ALL book club selections; b. any books I thought were potential Printz Award books (YA); and c. all YA/Junior nonfiction books. Other books could be reviewed but I didn't need to feel pressure if I decided to pass on them. Based on this plan I still have several reviews to write before I can close the door on 2018.

  • Book Club selections:
    • Before We Were Yours (for book club this month, but read in 2018)
    • An American Marriage
    • Educated
  • Possible Printz Award books:
    • Darius the Great is Not Okay
    • The Astonishing Color of After
  • JH/SH Nonfiction titles:
    • Forget it, too many and most I didn't finish. I did review all but three of the finalists, though, so I might go back and attempt reviews on those three.
  • Just because books:
    • The Soul of America
    • The Wisdom of Sundays
I know it isn't necessary but it helps me, so I am challenging myself to write these seven reviews by the end of the month and I'll keep track on a little counter. Today I start with The Soul of America since I've had the physical library book sitting here for weeks and I have to return it soon.

On non-bookish topics---
  • We finally got our health insurance switched over but it involves lots of hassles. Ugh. The good thing though, once all the hassles are dealt with it will save a ton of money each month, especially on prescriptions. In the meantime I still don't have a flu shot and I need to get one!
  • Bingley, our male puppy, has finally figured out how to lift his leg to pee, well, sort of. He still sprays his underside quite often which requires frequent little baths. I just got done bathing him so now I smell like pet shampoo.
  • Don and I are stuck in the middle of four TV series: Poldark (PBS); Outlander (Starz); Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Prime); and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Hulu). It takes work just remembering how to find them.
  • We've put away all of the indoor Christmas decorations from the main rooms, but the guest room is still a junk pile of decorations that need to be tucked away.  Out of sight, out of mind?
My goals for today:
  • Shower...ha-ha, I shouldn't even have to mention it. Guess who isn't dressed yet?
  • Drop by the library to pick up the books on hold
  • Read 100 pages of Beartown. Without daily page goals, I'll never finish the book.
  • Start review of The Soul of America
  • Drop by the guest room and survey the scope of the task at putting away the last of the Christmas decorations, maybe even put a few things away.
            • DOABLE!

Monday, January 7, 2019

TTT: Anticipated Releases in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated Book Releases in 2019

Note: I don't often pay attention to what is coming up because I have so many books on my TBR which are already published. But today I spent a little time looking ahead and here are some books I could be interested in reading in 2019.

1. Place of Gold: Coming of Age in South Africa by Trevor Noah. (Nonfiction, memoir): I will first need to read his first book, Born a Crime, but I've heard such good things about it I'm sure I'll like it. Expected publication date: August.

2. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (Poetic Memoir, YA): From the author of Speak, we'll learn about the author's own story of surviving a sexual assault. Publication date: March 12th.

3. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Science fiction): Squee! The sequel to the Handmaid's Tale. I will definitely read this one. Expected publication date: September 10th.

4. The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden (Fantasy): This is the last book in the Winternight Trilogy. I've read the first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, so I will first need to find and read the second book, The Girl in the Tower first. Publication date: tomorrow, January 8th. (Ha-ha. That cracks me up!)

5. 1919 by Eve Ewing (Poetry): I just read a nonfiction book about the Chicago Race Riots of 1919. So now I am curious to learn more. Why not do it through poetry? Publication date: June 14th.

6. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Young Adult) by the author of The Hate U Give. Feb 5th publication date.

7. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See (Historical Fiction): I always enjoy Lisa See's novels and learn something at the same time. This one is about the Free-diving women of the the Korean island of Jeju. Publication date: March 5th.

8. The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Destination and Purpose by Oprah Winfrey (Nonfiction): I need this book. Publication date: March 26th.

9.  We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (YA Fantasy): I really know next to nothing about this book except it has already earned four starred reviews and it is compared to books by Anna-Marie McLemore, which I love. Publication date: Feb. 26th.

10. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong (Fiction): I am only aware of this book and the author because I saw this book on all the lists I looked at. Worth a peek! Publication date: June 4th.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION – FROM THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN TO...

SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION...THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN

Six Degrees of Separation. 
We begin with
The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
I read it a long time ago but I seem to recall that the story has two endings, one happy, one not so happy.
Atonement by Ian McEwan 
This book also has two endings one is more imaginary or wishful, the other is the upsetting truth. After finishing the book, I desperately wanted to talk to someone who had also read the book.
A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
This was another book I really wanted to discuss with others when I was finished reading it. I never did find that person. Sigh. But I have come to understand that it is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
This book is another modern retelling of a Shakespeare play: Hamlet. So, of course, there is an awful step-parent as one of the characters. We read this book in one of my book clubs.
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
Another book club selection that involves step or adoptive parents. It also involves undocumented immigrants to the USA.
Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
The juxtaposition between undocumented immigrants and the Americans they work for is very stark in this book. With the immigrants being treated unfairly and unkindly by their employers.
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
Includes a portion where the young rescued girl, Turtle, is adopted by a woman with the help of some "illegal aliens." These people help Turtle and her new mom even though they are reviled by others in the community.

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
Which brings us back to the beginning. One of the main characters of the story, Sarah Woodruff, is reviled by her community for being abandoned by the French Lieutenant and being a single woman is a world dominated by men and their rules.


I had no idea when I started this list that I would end here. Interestingly, with the exception of The Leavers, I read all the books on the list over ten years ago, though I did reread The French Lieutenant's Woman recently.
Join in the fun. Make your own Six Degrees of Separation list.

Hosted by Books Are My Favourite and Best

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Cybils Nonfiction Reviews: Apollo 8 and The Grand Escape

The Cybils short lists are posted and my work is done for the year, almost. I still have a few books to write reviews for. Three of the fourteen books we sent on to the Round 2 judges I wasn't able to complete due to time constraints or, in one case, because I didn't have access to the book so had to judge it on the short preview provided by Amazon.com. So I don't feel qualified to write reviews for those books. But today I am completing my work by reviewing two fabulous books Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin Sandler and The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb.

The authors of the books I am reviewing today are both excellent and prolific nonfiction writers for  junior/young adult readers. Martin Sandler, author of Apollo 8, has published over 60 books on a variety of topics, many that I had in my high school library. Last year his book, The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found was the Cybils winner for JH Nonfiction. He has won five Emmy Awards for his writing for television and two of his books were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Neal Bascomb, author of The Grand Escape, has published eight books, all narrative nonfiction, and three of them are for young adults. All of his inspiring stories are focused on adventure or achievements of individuals.

During the height of WWI, Allied POWs wage their own little war with the enemy by planning and executing the escape from the notorious German Holzminden prison. It is a remarkable tale about a band of pilots and officers who plan an ingenious escape by tunneling  their way clear of the prison compound. Eventually 29 officers escaped. Nineteen were caught and returned to prison but ten men made their way to safety in Holland by foot. Their escape inspired their countrymen during the dark days of war and infuriated their enemy. The book is stuffed full of over 100 photographs to make the incredible story really come to life for readers of today.

When I started reading The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century I was a little confused. I kept picturing in my mind the POW prison break of WWII, made famous in a movie starring Steve McQueen, called The Great Escape. But that actual escape was made possible because of the knowledge learned by the earlier escape made by countrymen during WWI. Several of the officers who escaped Holzminden went to work informing their countrymen in techniques for escape and how, even if the attempt isn't successful, escapes take enemy manpower away from the front line which helps the war effort.

The book reads like the best adventure novel I've ever read. I highly recommend it for high school and adult readers.

Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything recounts the NASA mission that changed things for the USA space program. America was desperate to beat Russia to the moon and the country was experiencing one of the most turbulent years of its history. A boost to the morale of its people and a change the focus to something good was desperately needed. So on December 21, 1968 the first manned spaceflight to leave low Earth orbit, Apollo 8, was launched. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders were the astronauts on board the flight that took them to the moon where they orbited ten times before returning to earth as heroes.

Willaim (Bill) Anders snapped the shot of the most iconic photo ever taken. It is of Earth as seen from the moon and is called Earthrise. The photo has “became a symbol of the Earth’s fragility, a reminder of just how small and insignificant the Earth’s place in the universe truly is.” The success of the Apollo 8 mission catapulted America's space program into high gear leading to the lunar landing of Apollo 11 just seven months later on July 20, 1969.

Earthrise, taken by Bill Anders from Apollo 8, Dec 24, 1968.
Students in both junior and senior high will enjoy this book which is full of beautiful, archival photos taken during the flight. Its publication is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8, a lesser known but very important spaceflight.




Friday, January 4, 2019

Friday Quotes: Beartown

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

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



Title: Beartown by Fredrik Backman

Book Beginnings:
"Late one evening, toward the end of March, a teenager picked up a double-barreled shotgun, walked into the forest, put the gun to someone else's forehead, and pulled the trigger. This is the story of how we got there."
Friday 56:
"You can't look a gravestone in the eye and ask for forgiveness."
Comments: I just started the book yesterday so I haven't even gotten to page 56 yet. I think the first line is very compelling. It and the book blurb, "Under a heavy burden, the semifinal match becomes a catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil", have prepared me for a heavy reading assignment. When I selected it, I expected something more like A Man Called Ove., which seems like much lighter fare.