"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, October 31, 2019

Review: The 13 Clocks

A few months ago I was perusing the only bookstore in the eastern part of the county where I live. What I was looking for was a used copy of a short story collection to take with me on my overseas trip. What I found instead was a James Thurber's classic, The 13 Clocks. It is a smallish book written for mid-grade children with wonderful illustrations and a wacky plot. The introduction, written by none other than the king of all story-tellers, Neil Gaiman, made me want to read the book. Gaiman says in his first line of the introduction, "This book, the one you are holding, The 13 Clocks by James Thurber, is the best book in the world." Now that is some kind of recommendation, don't you think?

Gaiman goes on to talk about why it is the best book in the world. He said,
It was funny in strange ways. It was filled with words. And while all books are filled with words, this one was different: it was filled with magical, wonderful, tasty words. It slipped into poetry and out again in a way that made you want to read it aloud...
I did, in fact read it aloud, not to children, though I can't wait until my grandson is old enough for me to read it to him, but I read it aloud for myself and my pets sitting on the couch nearby. I wanted to experience the whole book, not just the one that lived in my head as I read silently. So my pets got to hear the whole thing out loud.

Now about the plot. Well, there is a prince, Zorn, who disguises himself as a penniless minstrel, and a princess, Saralinda, who is bewitched and can only say, "I wish him well." There is a Golux, who is born of an ineffectual witch and a drunken wizard. There is also an evil Duke, a Hush and a Whisper, and a Hagga, who cries gems. There is also a terrifying Todal. The mere mention of his name makes a guard's hair turn white instantly.

Prince Zorn decides he will rescue Saralinda from the evil Duke but is captured instead. With the help of the Golux, who doesn't have a very good memory, Zorn is given a task to find 1000 gems and to start all 13 clocks, which are stuck on 10 minutes to 5. This task must be completed in 99 hours or he will be chopped up and fed to the geese.

You can tell from the summary that much silliness ensues. And words are magical elements of the story. I found myself laughing at the ways Thurber put words together to make fun of the characters and of the readers. Gaiman described it this way, "Thurber wrapped his story tightly in words, while at the same time juggling fabulous words that glitter and gleam, tossing them out like a happy madman, all the time explaining and revealing and baffling with words." And, as often happens when masters put pen to paper, these words often have double meanings. Words might mean one thing to children and quite another to adults, which gives the book a timeless and often humorous quality.

Oddly, Thurber, who is known for his own illustrations, did not illustrate this book. Apparently by the time he wrote The 13 Clocks in 1950 he was legally blind so he sought help from other illustrators. In my mind the illustrations are just as goofy as the book, so they match. The book, which had been out-of-print for many years, was reissued in 2008 and is well worth the hunt it may take to find a copy.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

My Own Readathon/Blogathon

I  missed the Dewey 24-Hour Read-a-thon last week-end so I've decided to make my own. 

Here is what I plan to do:

1. Read and blog for 24-hours over the next five days. Keep a log of the hours.
2. Walk or exercise for at least 10,000 steps each of these days, too. (Which will mean a lot of audiobook hours logged.)
3. Attempt to get a blackout on the Dewey BINGO form (See below)
4. For each book completed, write a blog review for it. Even if very short.

Possible books:
Yes Again, Yes (audiobook)
Inland (audiobook)
Mother Daughter Me (e-book)
Called (e-book)
Brave Face
The Thirteen Clocks

Stay Tuned!

Monday, October 28, 2019

TTT: Bookish Halloween Cotumes for Kids

Top Ten Tuesday: Theme---Halloween Freebie. 

Bookish Halloween Costumes for Kids

1. Thing 1 and Thing 2 from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

2. Pippi from Pippi Longstockings by Ingrid Lindgren

3. Monsters from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

4. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

5. Jellicle Cats from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

6. Frodo from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

7. Camilla Cream from A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

8. Caterpillar from The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

9. Oompa Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

10. The Man with the Yellow Hat from Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey

I always encouraged my children to select non-scary costumes for Halloween when they were young. They continue, as adults, to select costumes which are fun but not frightening. This year my grandson will be the Owl from Daniel Tiger. So cute and creative.

It's Monday. What Are You Reading?

So it is Monday and time for an accounting of what I am reading and what books I've recently finished.

  • Mother Daughter Me by Katie Hafner---a memoir about a three generational family who have a hard time adjusting to life together. This is a book club selection. 24% completed. Library e-book.
  • Called: The Crisis and Promise of Following Jesus Today by Mark Labberton---a Bible Study group book. I'm working my way through it with eight or so other women. 62% completed. Personal e-book.
  • Great Poems for Grandchildren edited by Celeste Frost---I am reading through this large volume of poems slowly, enjoying every moment. Less than 10% complete. Personal print copy.
  • Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorador---This is a delightful YA selection which reminds me of an African Harry Potter. 85% completed. I hope to finish this book today. Library audiobook.
  • Yes Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane---This was the winner of the Tonight Show's Summer Reading Contest. Don and I listened to it on a recent trip but weren't able to finish it before returning home so now we will have to fight over who gets to finish it first. 69% completed. Library audiobook.
Recently finished (reading during the month of October):
  •  Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks---a collection of short stories by the famous actor, all involve something to do with typewriters. I didn't finish the book before it was automatically returned to the library on its due date. I decided to not finish it. I love Tom Hanks but I do not love his writing. Library e-book
  • New and Selected Poems, Volume One by Mary Oliver---I read very little on a recent holiday to Europe but I did finish this delightful volume of poetry. Library e-book.
  • American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson---a mystery recommended by Barak Obama on his summer reading list. I liked the ending but found the rest of the book to be just okay. Personal audiobook.
  • The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde---not sure if this is really considered a short story or a novella. I don't normally "do" scary stories but I found this one to be quite funny. Personal audiobook obtained from AudioSync.
  • Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson---another collection of short stories all about the residents of a fictitious town in Ohio in the early 1900s. I liked Anderson's writing a lot. Personal paperback book.
What's Up next (these books are waiting for me at the library or are in the queue on the hold list):
  • Inland by Tea Obeht---this audiobook was automatically checked out to me from the library last week. I hope to finish up the other audiobooks soon so I can start this one with time to finish it before time is up.
  • Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips---a book club selection. I'm in the library queue and am told it should be available in about two weeks.
  • Brave Face: a Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson---a YA, nonfiction selection. The print edition is waiting for me to pick up at the library.
  • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Another YA, nonfiction edition waiting to be picked up at the library.
I missed the 24-Hour Dewey Read-a-thon this past weekend but am determined to set aside a full day of reading in the near future. I'll make my own read-a-thon and be the only participant.

Monday, October 21, 2019

TTT: Books That Almost Had Different Titles

Top Ten Tuesday: A twist on today's topic: Books that nearly had different titles (but fortunately for them they didn't)

1. The Great Gatsby was very nearly Trimalchio In West Egg. That title would have been a disaster!

2. Pride and Prejudice was first called First Impressions. Not quite as memorable compared to Austen's most well-known book.

3. Gone With the Wind was almost Mules in Horses' Harness, among many options. That is the one of the weirdest titles I've ever heard. Whew, glad Mitchell's publisher talked her out of it. She also considered Tomorrow is Another Day even though it would give away the ending.

4. Catch-22 was almost Catch-18, or -11, or who knows what number. Hey, I thought Catch-22 was actually a thing. I guess Heller made it up.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird was nearly called Atticus. Apparently the publisher didn't think the book was that focused on just one character. Neither do I. Isn't Scout the number one person in the book?

6. Dracula has stood the test of time. Do you think it's original title The Dead Un-Dead would have?

7. Orwell wanted to name his book The Last Man in Europe instead of the much more memorable 1984.

8.  Nabakov's Lolita was nearly The Kingdom By the Sea. That title is not as creepy as what it became but I do not remember anything in the book having to do with kingdoms or seas so it is a head-scratcher why the author wanted that for its title.

9. Where the Wild Things Are, the classic children's illustrated book, was nearly Where the Wild Horses Are until Sendak realized he couldn't draw horses very well. Ha!

10. Do you think that The Very Hungry Caterpillar would be as wildly popular if it was published with it's first title, A Week With Willie Worm?

Another twist on the title topic could have been books titles that are different in different countries. Maybe I'll do that on a freebie week.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Sunday Salon---Fall Edition

Bingley standing on a bed of leaves from the Mountain Ash tree
Fall is here. And it is wonderful.
Weather: rainy and windy.

Fall is my favorite season: It is so wonderful around here in early Fall. The weather starts to turn but it is still warm enough to go outside with a light jacket and feel very comfortable. Favorite foods, pumpkin spice (everything), and fun activities like pumpkins patches and Halloween prep help turn our thoughts away from summer projects. Football games dominate weekends. It is fun to cheer for a favorite team with other fans. Fall is also the time when I start turning inward. It is a season when I can sit and read all day long and not feel guilty. Cooking and baking delicious foods like baked acorn squash, pumpkin muffins, and apple cake are tasks I enjoy.

A magical moment caught on film when Ian saw his pumpkin lit up for the first time. The magic of it took Ian's breath away and he stood transfixed for a full moment.
Today: I made a batch of chili and homemade cinnamon rolls. Both Don and I associate those two foods together because they were paired in our school cafeterias when we were school-aged. After dinner, Don caught me up in a hug saying, "Ah, comfort foods!" I used recipes I found online. If you want to give them a try here are the recipes: Homemade Cinnamon Rolls and Heartwarming Chili.

Pumpkin Patch fun
Leaves: Our Purple Mountain Ash tree is the first tree to dump its leaves in the yard. And dump it has. I love the leaves and wish I could save them in the variety of colors forever. This weekend we swept and blew the leaves off the deck four times. I guess it was a little like shoveling the snow when it is still snowing.
Our Mountain Ash a week before it dumped all its leaves
Books and reading: I actually haven't been reading much lately. I hardly read anything on the trip to Europe and then didn't pick back up the pace once I got home. I think I need to participate in the read-a-thon or something to spur me on. I missed book club this past week due to a sore throat and a stuffed up head, but it didn't matter since I hadn't finished the book. This coming week my other book club should be better since I finished the book for it before going abroad.

Rest in Peace Rep. Elijah Cummings: This week a Representative to Congress from Maryland died. He was an amazing man who always sought justice for oppressed people. He was a model of a fine person and will be greatly missed. 

"I want justice, oceans of it. I want fairness, rivers of it. That's all I want. That's all I want.         ~~~Elijah Cummings 

P.S.---Several readers have let me know that they want to leave comments but can't because of the Google restrictions. For this reason I am switching to allow comments from non-Google users but I will need to moderate all comments from now on to avoid SPAM. Also, if you do not have an account, your name will show up as anonymous in the from line. For this reason, I ask that you sign your name (at least your first name) in the comment box. Give it a try and see if you can write a comment now. Thank you.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Friday quotes and review: Winesburg, Ohio

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.

The book I am currently reading (with a summary and review):

Title: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Book Beginnings: from the beginning of the first story, "The Books of the Grotesque"---
The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty getting into bed. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window.
Friday56: from the beginning of the fifth story, "The Philosopher"---
Doctor Parcival was a large man with a drooping mouth covered by a yellow mustache...His teeth were black and irregular and there was something strange about his eyes. The lid of his left eye twitched; it fell down and snapped up; it was exactly as though the lid of the eye were a window shade and someone stood inside the doctor's head playing with the cord.
Summary: The fictional town of Winesburg, Ohio was based on Clyde, Ohio where the author grew up. It was a town of 1800 people in the late 1910s, where everyone knew everyone else. The book is a collection of short stories based upon these people. In fact, Sherwood Anderson suggested that "there are grotesques in all villages who are spiritually and psychologically warped by emotional or sexual frustrations." He sets about to write their stories. One person, George Willard, who writes for the local newspaper, is the only character to appear in more than one story. It is possible the the reader is supposed to think that George, who people find themselves drawn to talk to, is the actual writer of the stories.
Review: Like most short story collections I have liked some stories better than others, but one certainly gets the feeling that the town is indeed made up of a bunch of grotesques. When it was published in 1919 it won high praise from reviewers. One said, the book "contains two of the half dozen most remarkable stories written in this century. It is an extraordinarily good book." It certainly hearkens back to olden times made up of horse and buggies, candles and lanterns, and even a night watchman. The book, a classic recommended to me long ago by an English teacher friend, is my Classics Club Spin selection of the quarter. I wanted to read short stories on my recent trip and found a lightweight paperback edition of Winesburg, Ohio so I took it with me. Would I recommend this book to general readers? Probably not unless someone was looking for a book which had a general nostalgia feel to it.

European vacation: Switzerland. Part 4.

River Reuss and Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. Photo credit: D. Bennett
We've been home for over a week from our wonderful European vacation. We are over jet lag, at last, and both of us are recovering from colds we got when we returned home (airplane germs?). Today I am highlighting the end of our trip where we stayed with our brother and sister-in-law in Switzerland. We made daily sojourns to see the sights but came back to their apartment every evening for fun Swiss food like fondue and delicious raclette.

For updates and highlights from earlier parts of the trip, please click the hyperlinks: 

We left Munich and headed toward Zurich on a train. Though we had reserved seats someone was sitting in them so we sat across from the couple instead and struck up a conversation. They were fellow travelers from Australia (Darwin) and both were recovering from horrible headaches due to their Oktoberfest drinking the night before. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling. In London we made new friends at our B&B every morning as we sat and ate with other guests. In Prague we visited with other Americans staying at our hotel. In Nuremberg we chatted with Germans sitting nearby as we dined in a restaurant; one was a history buff who had lots to share. Our new Australian friends got off the train before it entered Switzerland so the four of us were able to sit together and make plans for the end of our trip.

Tony (Kathy's and my brother) has lived in Switzerland for just the past 6 months. He and his wife expect to live there for only two years so family members are flocking to visit them while they are there. Right before we got there, they were visited by a niece and her husband, a day after we left they expected three friends, and later in the week Becky's sister was expected. Whew. I guess everyone waited for September/October for a visit

Tony and Becky live in a little village about 20 minutes by train from Zurich and their apartment has a view of Lake Zurich. We didn't get to see this view of the lake with the Alps in the background while we were there, however, as it was cloudy and rainy most days.
View of the Alps and Lake Zurich taken from their apartment. Photo taken in February 2019 by T. Kingsbury
The day after we arrived in Switzerland Tony escorted us on a big adventure. We took a train to Lucerne. We walked around this beautiful and picturesque town before boarding a boat for the second leg of the adventure.

Lucerne: Chapel Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the River Reuss. It was partially burned down in the 1990s and beautifully restored.
Lucerne: Another view of the River Reuss
Lucerne: A lovely scene
Lucerne: Sweet street scene with my brother, Tony, and brother-in-law, Tom.
Lucerne: Cathedral spires. Uniquely Swiss.
Lake Lucerne, as viewed from a boat/ferry
Lake Lucerne: Aboard the boat/ferry. Out of the wind, the sun was warm. Left to right: Tom, Kathy, Anne, Tony. Photo credit: D. Bennett
The boat docked at Vitznau and we clamored aboard the Rigi Kulm cogwheel railway, the oldest mountain railroad in Europe. We ascended several thousand feet gaping at the scenery and at the small mountain farms as we passed. We had a steep climb by foot after we disembarked but the views of the countryside, the lake, and the mountains made it worth the effort.
Me looking at the scenery aboard the cogwheel railway. Photo credit: K. Kingsbury
A view of the scenery on the return trip
Don enjoying the view from the top

The crew at the top of Rigi Kulm
The next day Don, Kathy, and I headed to Zurich on the train alone. We decided to go to the Swiss National Museum because it was raining and sightseeing did not appeal to us. We are glad we did. The museum had a very well curated exhibition on the history of Switzerland. We learned so much and enjoyed many interactive aspects of it. We now know why Switzerland is and has been a neutral country and we suspect that is why so many prominent thinkers during the Age of Reason came from Switzerland. We also enjoyed the temporary exhibition about the Japanese artists who came to Switzerland in the 1970s to get inspirations for their anime series on Heidi. I really enjoy seeing artists preliminary diagrams to see how they create their work.

After leaving the museum, we joined up with Tom, who had taken a train to Buhler, a small village that bears his last name. Even though it was still raining we headed out to see a few sights recommended by Rick Steves in his guide.

Guardian Angel by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Zurich train station

Clock Tower of St. Peterskirche
Munster Brucke (Bridge) leading to Fraumunster. Still beautiful despite the rain
I loved the spires on buildings in Switzerland. They are more pointy than elsewhere.
The next day Tony was our guide again. This time we took a train the other direction to a small town, Einsiedeln, which has a huge monastery which houses a black Madonna. Photos were not encouraged so I grabbed a photo from the Internet. Apparently she is clothed in different finery depending on the time of the year. When we saw her she was wearing the golden cloth as pictured.
The Black Madonna poses a mystery. For centuries people have been making pilgrimages to see her and to pray at her feet. She is claimed to have a magical aura.
After visiting the stables and walking the grounds of the monastery, we stopped in a coffee shop to warm up (it was still raining.) I was on the hunt for the perfect piece of cake so I ordered one I thought look delicious not knowing it was about 90% proof alcohol. Yuck! Tony and Don ended up eating it. Our last night in Switzerland and the end of the adventure, Becky invited a Swiss neighbor to join us for delicious raclette. See the photo below. Raclette is a way of grilling vegetables and meats at the table while, on the lower tier cheese is melting to add to the foods after they are cooked. I am a big fan! Delicious and fun food!
Becky, standing, is explaining how raclette works. Photo credit: D. Bennett

All good things come to an end. We got up at 4 AM the next morning in order to board the first train out of Oberrieden going to the Zurich airport. By the time we got home at 4 PM with the time change we had been awake for nearly 24 hours. But look who greeted us when we got home. It is always good to come home.
Ian modeling his new shirt, which we hope says "Mountain climber"
Our trip is done. As I reflect upon the trip I laugh at how much dumb stuff I took with me. I was really concerned that I would get sick and not have what I needed, so I took Sudafed, Benadryl, Gas-x, anti-acids, Tylenol, in addition to my prescriptions, only using the Tylenol. I also took every foot thing I could figure out to take because I knew my feet were going to be a problem. They were and the stuff didn't help. I took sandals and shorts thinking it might be hot. It wasn't. I took dress clothes thinking I might want to dress up. I did. But I could have worn more casual clothes just as easily. Two rain coats took up room in the suitcase when one would have sufficed. We took 16 protein bars in case of emergency and only ate about eight of them. I carried a magnifying mirror, and only used it once. Same for the umbrella. I even took too many socks. Next time I will pack lighter!

It was lovely to end the trip with family and I am so grateful to my brother and sister-in-law to make room for us and to make our visit so comfortable. It was fun sharing the adventure with my sister and brother-in-law. We now have shared memories that will be fodder for stories in the future. I'm already trying to figure out how I can work in a trip with my younger sister in the future. Where shall we go? Maybe a sisters only trip? We'll see.

Thanks for reading this series of blog posts!