"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=========

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Review: The Overstory by Richard Powers

Years ago when I was in college, my bacteriology professor went off-script and spent a whole class period lecturing us about the perils of the deforestation of the Amazon. I sat spellbound as he talked about this rainforest being the lungs of the earth where more than 20% of the oxygen for the whole earth is made. If we didn't heed his warning he feared we would all be doomed. That lecture was conducted in 1978. We haven't learned the lesson that old professor taught and now the Amazon is burning. Will we recover?

That lecture caused me to stop and think about the interconnectedness of life. I had never even thought about trees in the Amazon, a continent away, being important to me. I barely thought about the trees in my backyard or in the neighborhood park even though I had lived through the first Earth Day in April 1970s and did my part by picking up trash alongside the road. In fact, I may have fell under the spell of Earth Day when a marketing firm told us to "save a tree, use plastic bags instead" and I thought that was a good plan. I am ashamed to admit it, trading paper for plastic. Ugh.

While on my honeymoon I walked among the tallest trees on earth in the Redwoods National Park in Northern California. I was awestruck. There is something so majestic about those trees. If only I could slow down my wavelengths I was sure I could hear them talking. Many years later I found myself reading several books about trees. All had a huge impact on me: Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver questions the wisdom of cutting down all of the American Chestnut trees when they were struck by a blight in the early 1900s; Serena by Ron Rash showed the greed of timber barons in clear-cutting whole forests in North Carolina in the 1930s; The Big Burn by Timothy Egan talks about the formation of the National Forest Service after a huge forest fire that nearly consumed a whole state; Remarkable Trees of the World by Thomas Pakenham which contains photos of the world's most marvelous trees; and more recently Lab Girl a memoir by Hope Jahren, a geobiologist who opened my eyes to the wonder of trees and the ways they communicate with one another. Reading those books and my many walks among the trees of the Pacific Northwest were my preface to Richard Powers' amazing book The Overstory which is not only about the interconnections of trees but the interconnections of people.

The Overstory is such an epic story on such an important topic (saving the planet for trees through acts of resistance and and in the process save ourselves) I don't really feel qualified to review it. I will do my best but need some help. Therefore, I will point you to the sources I used to gain some insights. I recommend that you visit these sources, too.

First, visit the Pulitzer Prize website. The Overstory won the 2019 Pulitzer for Literature.
An ingeniously structured narrative that branches and canopies like the trees at the core of the story whose wonder and connectivity echo those of the humans living amongst them.
  • This link is a Q & A with the author Richard Powers. He gives a series of questions that would be very helpful for book clubs who choose to read his book. One of the many I'd like to discuss with someone is Can we free ourselves from the grip of groupthink, the parochial narrowness of human time, and the colonizing consensus of “the real world?
Next read the New York Times book review written by Barbara Kingsolver, titled "The Heroes of this Novel are Centuries Old and Three Hundred Feet Tall." Kingsolver gives a fantastic summary of the book and makes the case for Richard Powers being the real-deal---a man who knows what he is talking about when he writes about science.
Most novelist don’t know beans about botany. Richard Powers is the exception, and his monumental novel “The Overstory” accomplishes what few living writers from either camp, art or science, could attempt. Using the tools of story, he pulls readers heart-first into a perspective so much longer-lived and more subtly developed than the human purview that we gain glimpses of a vast, primordial sensibility, while watching our own kind get whittled down to size.
The book begins with what seems like seven short stories. The first story begins with Norwegian immigrants, the Hoels, who move to Iowa and plant a chestnut tree in their yard. The second story is another immigrant story. Mimi Ma's father puts too much stock on his mulberry trees but he does instill a deep love of nature in his girls. In the third story Douglas P. is shot at in the Vietnam War and is saved by an old fig tree which breaks his fall.  In the next story a young kid, Neeley, falls from an oak tree and his life is changed in an instant. Two other stories emerge and the reader will wonder at how the stories are connected. Up to this point trees are incidental in each story but in the seventh story we meet a girl, Pat, who loves trees and eventually grows up to study them.
As Dr. Pat Westerford she spends years alone in forests doing her research, initially mocked by her peers but eventually celebrated for an astounding (and actually real) discovery: A forest’s trees are all communicating, all the time, via a nuanced chemical language transmitted from root to root. As this revelation dawns, the reader is jolted with electric glimpses of connections among characters in the previous stories. (NYT)
In Powers' adept hands the stories interconnect but as Kingsolver says, their stories are mere shrubbery in the understory compared to the real protagonists with outstretched limbs in the overstory. Our characters all come together to try, often ineptly, in the defense of trees.

Lastly visit NPR for an interview with Powers. The author did a ton of research including moving to an area near an old growth forest as he wrote The Overstory. At one point in the book Adam, a psychology grad student, is asked if resistance efforts can make a difference. He says, “The best arguments in the world won't change a person's mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” Powers clearly believes that in order to change to consciousness of the peoples of the world we have to employ different techniques of persuasion and literature has a role in bringing about change. He said,
"There's a whole new kind of story that we're going to have to learn how to tell," he says. "We won't be dispensing with the social, or the political — not by a long shot. But to add in this environmental drama, that's going to be a marvelous task and a great source of meaning for the writers of the future."
There it is. The power of a good story to change the hearts and minds of a people. The Overstory is not an easy book to read. It is complex and at points confusing. The protagonists are really the trees. It is a long book but so worth the time and effort it takes to read it.

“There's a Chinese saying. 'When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago.' "
The Chinese engineer smiles. "Good one."
" 'When is the next best time? Now.' "
"Ah! Okay!" The smile turns real. Until today, he has never planted anything. But Now, that next best of times, is long, and rewrites everything.” 

 Go outside and marvel at a tree. And, if you can't find one, plant one. We can make a difference if we start NOW.

P.S. We have four BIG trees in our yard that we planted when we moved in a little over 20 years ago. I sat and marveled at the maple today, admiring how it has grown and filled in impressively just this past year. The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second best time is now.


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Friday quotes and review: Sadie

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

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

Title: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Book Beginning:

Friday 56:

Summary: Sadie and her younger sister, Mattie, are growing up in a small town, Cold Creek, alone. Their mother abandoned them to her drug addiction and there has never been a father in the picture. Sadie looks after her young sister as best she can, even dropping out of school to do so. But her best isn't enough to protect her sister from getting into a car with a stranger. When Mattie is found dead, Sadie's life crumbles and she goes on a mission to find her sister's killer. Sadie is sure she knows who did it based on what this man did to her when she was a young girl. When Sadie's car is found with her backpack inside, the police are sure she is just a runaway. Their surrogate grandmother doesn't believe that so after the police stop searching for Sadie, she contacts West McCray and asks him to continue to investigation for his podcast on life in small towns. The book beginning is West McCray setting the scene. The Friday56 quote is Sadie as narrator. The book uses different fonts to help the reader know who is talking. At this point in the story Sadie is on her search for her sister's killer in another small town which is a lot like her hometown.

Review: Sadie should come with a trigger-warning to teen readers since the man who Sadie is searching for is a pedophile. As the search progresses Sadie's story of survival opens up for the readers. Her reality is the stuff of nightmares. I was deeply moved by the book and was horrified that children have to live with such realities. This is not an easy book to read or to digest but it is a very important story. It is also well-written. I liked the way the book was formatted. West McCray interviews people as he searches for Sadie and those interviews are in transcript form. Sadie's side of the story is told in first person narrative making it even more impactful.

I listened to the audio version of Sadie and found myself completely wrapped up in the story, cheering Sadie on at every step and misstep. The book does not end as I wanted but the ambiguous ending left me with a sense of hope, if not for Sadie, then at least for other little girls in the future.


Monday, August 26, 2019

TTT: Books I Wish I Owned

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish I Owned

I don't buy as many books as one would think based on how much I read because I am a devoted library-user. However, every once in a while I wish I had my own copy of book to refer back to, reread, or to look good in a set on my book shelf.

1. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien---I used to have the whole Lord of the Rings series. Not sure what happened to it but I often wish I could reread my old copy of The Hobbit.

2. Poetry books by Mary Oliver---I own several of her small poetry books and one large one, Devotions, but there are many others I've read and don't own or haven't read at all. I'd like to start with her American Primitive, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984, and New and Selected Poems which won the National Book Award in 1992.

3. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai---I adore this book and would love to own my own copy.

4. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens---See note above.

5. Uncommon Type: Some Short Stories by Tom Hanks---I haven't actually read this book but I want a copy of it to take on an upcoming long trip. I   like taking lightweight paperbacks with me when I travel so I shed it when I am finished reading it. Has anyone read it? Are the stories good?

6. What to Read and Why by Francine Prose---I love reading books about books. And I often mark them up so I need my own copy.

7. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver---I own all of Kingsolver's fiction except this one. I've read it and want to include it in my collection.

8.  Hmm. Can't think of anything else right now.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Sunday Salon: August 25, 2019

Weather: Right now there are blue skies with nice white, fluffy clouds. Temperature in the low 70s. Earlier today it was overcast all morning.

Peter and Evynne Hollens concert: Yesterday I drove down to Salem, Oregon to attend a concert of Peter and Evynne Hollens, both have healthy YouTube channels where they sing their hearts out. My mom and sister also attended. It was such a fun evening. I have posted Peter's most recent video which is unusual because he is singing with a full choir, but I love the song. Visit their YouTube channels for more wonderful music. (Thanks Kathy for organizing us.)

Lunch with my aunt: On the way down the freeway I joined my mom and sister in Gresham to have lunch with Aunt Barbara, my mother's only sister. She is 95 years old. (My Mom is 90!) It has been over a year since I've seen her and obviously time is ticking, so it was wonderful to spend an afternoon with her.

Ian eating s'mores
The wisdom of Ian: Don't make a habit of it, but eat a s'more once a year (and don't worry if marshmallow gets on your face.) S'mores are fun food and heaven knows we need more fun in our lives these days.

I don't understand how any one can support Trump: This week alone he called himself "The Chosen One" and "The King of Israel". Does he honestly think he is The Messiah? I confess that I spent a bit of time this week reading scriptures about the anti-Christ. He seems to fit that description much better than the second coming of Christ. // In addition this week he said "I hereby order American companies to quit buying products from China." Who does he think he is, a king? A dictator? // Also, he backpedaled on his initial support of gun reform. He was in support of some changes until the president of the NRA called him, now he is against it. Hmm. // Today on Meet the Press it was reported that job gains from 2018 was over-reported by 20%. Double hmm... // Just about everything that Trump does or says embarrasses me. Look at photos of him at the G7 conference. In every photo he is scowling. I guess he doesn't have any world-leader friends except Putin and Kim and those guys aren't at this conference. (Eye-roll!)

Another "reading" issue this week: Last Sunday Salon I complained about getting four books from the library and was afraid I wouldn't have time to finish them before their due dates. Well, I was right and then a new issue popped up. If I check out e-books or e-audiobooks, they automatically return on the due date. This has happened to me several times in the past few months forcing me to get back in line to be able to finish them up. This makes me try to remember where I was, who the characters are, and details about the plot when I get the book again. This is the case of three e-books/audiobooks this week: The Overstory, Astoria, and The Girl in the Spider Web. I've get back to the book months after I began them and I can't remember everything I need to make the reading experience pleasant. You'd think that this retired girl could just read faster to avoid this problem.

Enough whining.

Here is some good news: A photography contest. The winners all make you feel good about being human. Check them out here. 

Have a good week, the last of summer.


Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review and quotes: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I remember where I was when I heard "the song" for the first time. I was in my pottery class in my junior year of high school in 1973 or '74. All we had to do was throw pottery on a wheel, listen to music, and goof around. I'm pretty sure the song came on when I was goofing around. I can't remember the actual song now but I remember the group:  Fleetwood Mac. "The song" made me feel so many things, including love and I wasn't in a relationship at the time. Sometimes special songs just do that, they make you feel feelings and transport you to someplace new and exciting. And those special songs usually imprint on the brain a permanent feeling, or remembrance of a feeling for life.

Fleetwood Mac became one of my favorite rock-n-roll groups from that day forward. I followed them and their music through my early adulthood until the band broke up sometime in the late '80s. So imagine my fascination with Daisy Jones and The Six when a fellow book club member said she had heard it was loosely based on the Fleetwood Mac story.  But as I started reading Daisy Jones the story didn't jive at all with what I knew of the rock band's history. This chased me to the Internet where I found this article by Taylor Jenkins Reid about her inspiration for the book. Apparently when Reid was a young teenager she ran across a video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham playing the song "Landslide" as part of their The Dance tour. She had been aware that Nicks and Buckingham had been romantically involved at one time but no longer were. As she watched the video there was a shot of Buckingham watching Nicks sing. He has his hands on his chin as he watched Nicks sing as if she were a miracle. In that instant Reid knew that the couple still loved each other.

Years later she watched The Dance show again, this time she paid attention to all the emotions given off by the singers on each song and she realized that good singers convey a plethora of emotions during a concert and those emotions change according to the song being sung. And she came to understand something her younger self hadn't known: Love makes no sense. Now she questioned the love between the two musicians. She hung onto to those thoughts until a few years ago when Reid decided to write a book about rock-n-roll, she saw how she could be use her impressions of Nicks/Buckingham in a story. She wanted to show how groups evolve and how tough it is to sing your emotions every night, about how sometimes the group has to break up under the strain of all those emotions. "I wanted to write a story about how the lines between real life and performance get blurred, about how singing about old wounds might keep them fresh" (Reid).

That is exactly what Reid wrote. When brothers Billy and Graham Dunne form a band which becomes The Six, they are good but not special. Only when a beautiful but messed up woman, Daisy Jones, joins the band and enters into a song-writing partnership with Billy does the band finally take off. But Billy who is a recovering addict and happily married man, is drawn toward Jones, as she is to him. The two recognize that they aren't right for one another but their chemistry on stage belies that fact. This push and pull is played out with other band members too until the band cannot survive under the pressure that is ready to implode from the inside. Outside they have the world's most popular album, inside they cannot survive together. And to the dismay of all the fans, the band breaks up.

The book is written in what I would describe as a transcript style. Each band member and other members of the team are seemingly interviewed about the events about the formation of the band through the eventual breakup. Each views the action from their own point of view, making the book almost seem like it is nonfiction. In fact there is a trick to make you think this right from the beginning. An "Author's Note" is really part of the story, not a note from Reid to us, the readers. HA! (See quote below.)

A friend who just recently finished the book said she enjoyed how "fresh" the writing was. I agree. There is something new and exciting about the book and I enjoyed reading it very much. I also understand that it is being made into a movie and the songs which Billy and Daisy wrote will actually be put to music for the film. That will be so much fun hearing for real what my head made up as I read about the songs.

Two quotes from the book are for Book Beginnings and Friday 56:

Book Beginnings:
AUTHOR'S NOTE---This book is an attempt to piece together a clear portrait of how the renowned 1970s rock band Daisy Jones & the Six rose to fame--- as well as what led to their abrupt and infamous split while on tour in Chicago on July 12, 1979.
 Friday 56:
BILLY: It did have that kind of feeling where...you know you're in a time of your life you'll remember forever.
In case you want to see the Buckingham/Nicks "look", here is the video. The "look" occurs around  minute 3:30.


(RHS Book Club selection, September 2019)

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Friday Quotes: ON THE COME UP

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.

The book I just finished reading (with a short review)...

Title: ON THE COME UP by Angie Thomas

Book Beginnings: 
I might have to kill somebody tonight.
Friday 56: 
I stop. The crowd is going bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S!
Summary: Bri wants to be a rapper like her late father who didn't quite make it big before he was murdered. She's like to make it great or at least get out of her neighborhood which seems like a big dream. Then her mother loses her job, they have to get food from a food pantry, and the heat and lights have been turned off. Now Bri wants to make it big to help her family. To begin with she has to get invited to compete in the Ring. The quote from book beginnings is Bri daydreaming that she gets that invitation to rap in the ring that night, but she hasn't got the call, yet. The Friday 56 quote shows the crowds reaction after she finishes her rap. They go bananas. This is only the beginning of what Bri hopes will be a big career in rap.

Review: Angie Thomas burst onto the YA lit scene two years ago with her book THE HATE U GIVE. She is a phenomenal writer and gives the reader a realistic view of life in an impoverished community where most of the people are people of color. In both books I felt like I was reading about another culture, it was so foreign to me. Thomas brilliantly lets her readers experience the hopes, joys, and challenges of Bri and her family without blinking. At one point in the story Bri's mother exclaims that she is being accused of being poor, as if poverty is a sin. That really hit me since so often people living in poverty are treated as if they are sinners. Bri is a very flawed character, but what teen isn't a mess of maturity and immaturity? Sometimes I just wanted to shake her for the decisions she made. And the language, oh the language. Be prepared for lots of swearing and slang.

On the Come Up has earned six starred trade reviews, which is almost unheard of. I think it deserved all the hype though as the dialogue is so authentic, the plot so realistic, and the character growth appreciable. Several reviewers have criticized the book for trying to tackle too many topics (poverty, drugs, family dysfunction, gang affiliation, school issues, profiling, rap music, friendship problems, and sexual orientation.) Reading over the list, it does sound like a lot but I think it is very possible that a high school student might have to deal with a whole plethora of issues every year. I recommend the book highly.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Top Literary Characters I'd Like for Best Friends

Top Ten Tuesday at Artsy Reader Girl
What Literary Characters Would I Like for Best Friends?
Note to reader:  My best friend in high school was male.  In fact, we are still great friends.  So while making my selection of potential best friends from the literary world I did not think it necessary to select same gender characters.  This list is in random order.

Additions from 2019-
  • Andy (An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green)- Andy and April May discover the original Carl, a visitor from another planet. While April May's fame goes to her head and she has a hard time coping with instant fame, Andy remains constant and calm. Points for being loyal, calm, and kind.
  • Raymond (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman)-Eleanor has worked for the same company for years yet she has no friends and weekends are a miserable time for her, until Raymond, the slovenly I.T. guy invites her to do things with him and helps her come out of her shell and get the help she needs to recover her mental health. Points for thoughtfulness, kindness, and willingness to be friends for the long-haul.
  • Sam (When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore)- Sam and Miel are best friends and they have to navigate a world dominated by the lovely yet wicked witches, the Bonner Girls. Sam protects and loves deeply despite so many dramas and secrets. Points for devotion.
  • Malcolm Polstead (La Belle Savage, The Book of Dust #1 by Philip Pullman)- noticed suspicious activity around the convent where the baby, Lyra, was hidden. Malcolm saved Lyra and delivered her safely, against all odds, to her father. Points for bravery
  • Travis and Lydia (The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner)- Dill is a senior about to graduate. Travis and Lydia are his only friends. This book is really the story of devoted friends who want what is best for each other but friends can't always save us. Points for being the kind of friends that everyone needs.
  • Hermione, Ron, Luna, and a host of characters (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling)-Need I say more?
This is a re-post, my original list posted in 2010.
  • Quentin "Q" Jacobsen (Paper Towns by John Green)- Q is completely devoted to his neighbor and friend, Margo Ross Spiegelman.  When she goes missing he dedicates all his efforts to finding her.  Points for loyalty and stick-to-it-ness.
  • Gonzo (Going Bovine by Libba Bray)-Gonzo is the death-obsessed, video-gaming dwarf who is friend and side-kick to Cameron when he goes on his epic journey to save the world.  When everyone else disappoints, Gonzo stays by his side to the end.  Points for loyalty to the mission.
  • Stargirl (Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli)- Stargirl is the eccentric new girl in town who is willing to show her courage by not conforming to the normal teenage standards and behaviors.  In the process, she brings out the best in many people.  Points for uniqueness and being willing to go it alone, if need be.
  • Corrigan (Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann)- The Irish monk who is willing to set himself aside and lovingly tend to the needs to the down-trodden.  Points for giving of self.
  • DJ Schwenk (Dairy Queen series by Catherine Murdock)-DJ an athletic girl who knows and appreciates hard work on her family's dairy farm.  She is very talented yet she is humble and loyal to her friends and family. Points for not letting her talents go to her head and for loving her family even when it isn't cool to do so.
  • Katsa (Graceling by Kristin Cashore)-Katsa is "graced" with the skills to protect and to kill yet she is loyal to her friends and fights on the side of good and justice.  Points for loyalty and good use of gifts.
  • Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)- Her maturity in the face of family disasters and her willingness to do what is right for her family even if it means she has to hide her own sorrows makes her a worthy friend.  Points for being calm and caring.
  • Karl Shoemaker (Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes)-Honestly, if you are a reader of my blog and you haven't read this book yet, you must! Karl is friend to all the members of the Madman Underground.  He is always rescues, listens, gives, drives, does what it takes to make sure his friends are OK. Points for devotion and determination.
  • Marcus aka wln5t0n (Little Brother by Cory Doctorow)-Marcus gets swept up and arrested in a terrorist event in SF.  When he finally gets free, he uses his knowledge of technology to expose the Homeland Security's techniques as illegal.  He also devotes much effort to freeing his friends, still in prison.  Points for using gifts of technology information to fight the good fight.
  • Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery)-Mark Twain proclaimed that Anne Shirley is the most delightful, moving heroine. Points for her romantic soul, her idealism, and her adventurous spirit.
  • Ed Kennedy (I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak)-Ed starts off in the book as a ne'er-do-well but all that changes when he thwarts a bank robbery and becomes the Messenger.  As he accomplishes his messenger tasks, he grows and matures.  Points for being an all-around good guy.
  • Jem Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)-Scout's older brother who actually attempts to fight off an adult who is attacking his sister.  Points for being loyal and kind, even to his younger sister.
  • Lucy Pevensie (The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis)-Lucy is my favorite of the four Pevensie children who enter the magical Narnia.  She loves Aslan and reminds her family of his love for them.  Points for being such a kind and gentle person.
  • Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien)- Sam is possibly the most well known "best friend" in the literary world.  He stayed by Frodo's side through all the trials on his epic journey.  Points for being the best friend a person could want and for being strong when Frodo was weak.
  • Piglet (Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne)
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  “Pooh,” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw, “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

How about you?  Do you know any literary characters you would like to have for a best friend? 


Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Salon: August 11, 2019

A lizard so intent on capturing a butterfly he let the photographer get quite close. (Credit: Don Bennett)
Weather: Overcast with a few rain showers, temperature is in the high 60s. It is unusual summer weather. Friday night we had a thunderstorm, also unusual for the Pacific NW.

A view of the Deschutes River near Eagle Crest. (Credit: Don Bennett)
Eagle Crest: Last week my family (minus daughter #2) joined my mom and my sisters for a vacation at Eagle Crest outside of Redmond in Central Oregon. The weather was lovely, not too hot like it can get this time of year. We swam, golfed, walked, played games, read books, and ate. Nature was a theme for the week, as you see from the photos on this post. The two pics above were taken during our trip by my hubby, who has a talent for photography even if it is only using his phone.

Mom and her daughters in front of her childhood home in Bend, Oregon (Credit: Rock Ruddy)

A walk down memory lane: My mother, who turned 90 last March, grew up in Central Oregon and always feels at home when we vacation near her old home. All week Mom guided her daughters, their spouses, and her granddaughter down memory lane as she talked about what it was like growing up in Bend during the 1930s and 40s. One evening she decided to host us for a dinner at the Pine Tavern where she and Dad celebrated their wedding reception back in 1951. As my sister drove the car, Mom tried to guide Kathy to the restaurant by saying things like, "Turn right after the street where the Pilot Butte Hotel used to be." My younger sister, Grace, and I were sitting in the back seat trying to muffle our laughter. How was Kathy supposed to know where the hotel USED to be? After dinner we drove past mom's old house and found it was for sale. Mom, the friendliest person ever born, got us an invitation to go in for a tour by the current owners. They remembered her from a previous visit and it was so nice to see how the house has been remodeled. A few days later Kathy and I escorted Mom to the church she attended as a child and where her parents were members until they died. Mom stood up during the service and introduced herself and said she would dearly love to talk to anyone who remembered her or her parents. It seemed unlikely that anyone would remember her since she's 90 and not many people live to that age. But sure enough, an old man approached mom and told her his name. Mom used to babysit him when she was in junior high and he was in elementary school. It was a precious moment for both of them.

A view of Elk Lake and Mt. Bachelor from the cabin. (Credit: Anne Bennett)
Saying goodbye: On Thursday of the vacation week the family jumped into three cars and drove 50 miles to a small mountain lake where my family has vacationed for decades. The cabin on Elk Lake is owned by old friends and a timely crease between their family visits allowed us to spend a whole day on the lake without impacting them. While there we held a brief personal memorial service for Dad, who loved Elk Lake so much. After sharing memories, and singing a few songs we spread some of his ashes in and near the lake. My daughter and son-in-law even rowed the kayak out to the old favorite fishing hole and sprinkled a few of his ashes there. It is lovely to think of Dad's spirit at Elk Lake forever.

Ian enjoying music played by "Ga" (Grandpa) [Credit: Kathy Kingsbury]
The wisdom of Ian: When you hear music you like, dance to it and ask for more. (Photo: Don is playing a guitar we found at the cabin and Ian danced and danced. Later the family sang the blessing before dinner and Ian kept asking us to sing it again and again. Such joy!)

Reader's dilemma:  I have too many books to read (consume) within the window of time I can have the books. Argh! Why does this always happen? I just got notified that Overstory (e-book) has been checked out to me by the library. I read a portion of the book back in June but wasn't able to finish it before it was due back. I have less than three weeks to finish it or back to the library it goes and back in line I go. Earlier this past week, I checked out a print edition of an upcoming book club selection, Daisy Jones and the Six. It is a special 'Lucky Day' book which means I get it for three weeks only and can't renew it. In addition, I'm listening to an audiobook, On the Come Up, which I've requested three times from the library and finally have time to start it. But then the library sent me the link to another book club selection, the audiobook for Astoria. I can't listen to two books at the same time so I am sure that one book will be returned to the library unfinished. Sigh!

Books finished since my last Sunday Salon: 
  • The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom. Albom is a favorite author and his books usually contain some spiritual aspect. This book is no exception. Print.
  • The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. A collection of over twenty vignettes of one summer's activities of a grandmother and her granddaughter on an island off of Finland. Translated to English. E-book.
  • Sadie by Courtney Summers. This YA book, published last year, has lots of rave reviews. I liked the book, too, but it deals with the very disturbing subject of pedophilia. Audiobook.
  • Red Bird Poems by Mary Oliver. Published in 2008, I found a lot in this small collection of poems which spoke to me and to the politics of today. Print.
  • Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay. Another YA book, this one set in Philippines. It addresses President Duterte's killing squads which have surprisingly a lot of support from the Filipino people. Print.
Very disturbed by racism in full view: This past week's shootings and the rhetoric coming from the White House and elsewhere is so racist and ugly. We must not stand for it. I recommend you watch the Rick Steves' special about how fascists came to power in Germany. This is a very thoughtful program which makes many good points to consider.Watch the trailer and then see if you can find the full program available on your cable or streaming service.


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Review: Red Bird Poems by Mary Oliver

Red Bird by Mary Oliver is another small collection of poems by my favorite poet. It was published in 2008 which makes it even more poignant knowing what happened that year...the economic crash and the election of our first Black President.

The title poem "Red Bird" reminds us to appreciate what we are given. Here the poet is grateful for the colorful little bird who colors the landscape in winter. "Red bird came all winter/firing up the landscape/as nothing else could." Just this past week I took a walk on a very dry, dusty trail. The  color palette was just versions of brown and green when all the sudden I was stopped cold by a profusion of yellow. It was a flower blooming despite the odds. What a gift.

As is often the case, Oliver urges us to stop and see what we may have overlooked before. In the poem "Invitation" to we are urged to  "...linger/for just a little while/out of your busy/and very important day/for the goldfinches/that have gathered/in a field of thistles/for a musical battle." And if we do listen to her advice to "...not walk by/without pausing/to attend to this/rather ridiculous performance.//It could mean something./It could mean everything. It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:/You must change your life." Oliver's advice to change our life always means to slow down and appreciate what is right before us.

My favorite poem in the collection, "Percy and Books (Eight)" is a humorous conversation between the poet and her dog, starting with the line, "Percy does not like it when I read a book." He wants to be out in the sun and the wind, playing with other dogs. After she counters with the values associated with reading, he answers, "Books? says Percy, I ate one once, and it was enough. Let's go." Percy, apparently, provided the poet with lots of inspiration. In "Percy (Nine)" the poet tells her dog that a friend is coming to visit and he runs to the door with his mouth in a "laugh-shape." At this point Oliver stops to contemplate Emerson's advice to live an examined life, but throws it off by asking, "How would it be to be Percy...not/thinking, not weighing anything, just running forward?" Dogs and young children are good reminders to enjoy the special moments in each day.

The longest titled poem in the collection is the shortest poem. It is very pertinent for today:

Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes

That God had a plan, I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

"Of the Empire" is the most pointed poem in the collection. It talks about how history will remember us for our poor treatment of most people so that the rich can have everything they want. We will be remembered for the ways we used politics "to accommodate the feelings of the heart, and that the heart, in those days, was small, and hard, and full of meanness." Ouch. That was true in 2008 and even more so today in 2019, when our President is full of racial hatred and his policies put children in detentions worse than any prison.

But Oliver does not leave us in complete despair. In another short poem, "Where are you?" she reminds us there is a way out:

Where are you?
Do you know that the heart has a dungeon?
Bring light! Bring light!

And Percy offers one more piece of advice:

I Ask Percy How I Should Live My Life (Ten)

Love, love, love, says Percy.
And run as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust

Then go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.

We've got to trust that God has this and has us, otherwise we can give ourselves over to despair. In the end all that matters is love.

In conclusion, Oliver closes her collection with the poem "Red Bird Explains Himself." Red Bird tells us that he is sent to teach our hearts that "...the body needs a song, a spirit, a soul."

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for reminding me of these truths today.


Friday, August 9, 2019

Review and quotes: PATRON SAINT OF NOTHING

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.

The book I'm reading now (with a short review)...

Title: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Book Beginnings: 
It was a day of soil, sunlight, and smoke.
Friday 56: 
'Pasalubong for the balikbayan boxes,' he explains.
Comment:   The book begins with a memory of the last time Jay visits his father's family in the Philippines. He remembers all the details including the dead puppy and how his cousin, Jun, comforted him after he found it. The book also contains a lot of words and Filipino cultural references throughout. The quote from page 56 is an example how the Tagalog words are incorporated into the text. Here the father is preparing boxes of Costco goodies for Jay to take to his father's family when he goes to the Philippines in a few days.

Summary: Jay is Filipino-American, living with his parents and siblings in Michigan, when he learns that his cousin, Jun, was killed by Duterte's killing squads in the Philippines for being on drugs. Jay is certain that his cousin wasn't a drug addict and he wants to investigate what really happened so he asks his parents if he can go to visit the family in the Philippines in hopes of discovering the truth. He does learn the truth, eventually, but learns a lot about himself and his culture along the way.

Review: I have heard of Duterte and his killing squads through the news, but I didn't know that a majority of Filipinos support the killings because they believe that they are ridding the country of a terrible scourge. I also have many friends and relatives who have family in the Philippines so my interest was high to learn more about the culture and the Tagalog language. The hook, the mystery of what happened in the death of Jun, was a good tool for introducing many aspects of Filipino culture, words, foods, and history into the story.  For example, Filipinos have patron saints for everything, thus the title of book relates to the culture. In the end Jay learns much about himself and is able to look toward the future in a positive way. I recommend this book, which has earned three trade magazine starred reviews, to anyone who wants to learn more about the Philippines or likes reading about other cultures.


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Author Toni Morrison has died

Toni Morrison receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Toni Morrison- February 18, 1931 to August 5, 2019.

Toni Morrison, author of eleven novels about the black experience, has died and the world, along with this blogger, is mourning today.

Here are a few morsels I have gleaned about this towering author today as I prepared to write this post:
  • Toni Morrison won the 1993 Nobel Laureate in literature. The Nobel Academy said that her novels were "characterized by visionary force and poetic import." And that she "gives life to an essential aspect of the American experience."
  • "Her prose, often luminous and incantatory, rings with the cadences of black oral tradition. Her plots are dreamlike and nonlinear, spooling backward and forward in time as though characters bring the entire weight of history to bear on their every act" (NYT).
  • Her novel BELOVED won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. It is an eye-opening novel about the experiences of American slaves and the ghosts that haunt all of us because of the travesty known as slavery. I could even get students to read this one, when they tended to avoid books they thought of as too schoolish, because of the ghosts!
  • Her novel THE BLUEST EYE broke my heart. It was my first Morrison novel and the first she ever published. It is so impactful.
  •  In addition to her eleven novels, she wrote many children's books and essays. After the election of Donald Trump in 2016 she wrote an essay, published in the New Yorker, titled "Making America White Again" (New Yorker).
  • Unlike most authors Toni Morrison's books were met with critical and commercial success. She was also featured often on the Oprah Winfrey show, which, of course, helped increase her popularity.
  • The Guardian newspaper printed an article today called "Toni Morrison-A Life in Quotes" (Guardian). I recommend that you hop over to their website and read it. The quotes will give you a fuller picture of this marvelous author who made no bones about being a black author, writing about the black experience. In one quote she says that she wrote for black people because she couldn't relate to Tolstoy as a fourteen-year-old black girl growing up in Ohio. "I don’t have to apologize or consider myself limited because I don’t [write about white people.] –  The point is not having the white critic sit on your shoulder and approve it."
  • About racism, a topic very much in the news again today, Morrison said, "The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being."
  •  Before she was an author, Morrison was a editor for Random House. She worked very hard to find black authors, to increase the canon of black literature. She recognized that most black entertainers were writing for white audiences. She wanted to find writers who would write for a black audience.
A documentary about her life and her influence on literature is likely playing in a theater near you today. I went to see it and was moved beyond words. What this woman has done for the literary world is astonishing. Go see it if you can.  The Pieces I Am trailer:

Thank you, Ms. Morrison, for your bold voice. It was needed and is still needed in the world today. Rest in peace.


Monday, August 5, 2019

TTT: Book cover redesigns which will make you want to read the books again

Top Ten Tuesday: Cover redesigns that are so wonderful you'll want to pick them up and (re)read the book.

1. Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Classics)

2. Emma (Penguin Classics)

3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic, 20th anniversary)

4. Scarlet Letter (Penguin Classics)

5. Black Beauty (Penguin Classics)

6. Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics)

7. Great Expectations (Penguin Classics)

8. The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe (Signet Classics)

9. Anne of Green Gables (Penguin UK)

10. Alice in Wonderland (Barnes and Noble)

11. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (not a book cover, but it should be. Available as a poster)