"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=========

Monday, October 19, 2020

TTT: Books I read in 2020 because someone recommended them to me

 Top Ten Tuesday: Books I have read in 2020 based on a recommendation


1. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtrey
Recommended by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz; read in April.

2. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 
Recommended by Rita and Carly, my daughters; read in May.

3. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Recommended by my sister, Kathy; read in June.

4. Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
Recommended by a public librarian; read in July.

5. Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Recommended by Yvonne, a member of my book club; read in July.

6. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Recommended by Sue at Book by Book; read in August.

7. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Recommended by Kathy, a friend and sorority sister; read in September

8. Redhead by the Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
Recommended by Debbie, another book club member; read in September.

9. A Very Stable Genius by Rucker and Leonnig
Recommended by Rachel Maddow on her show in MSNBC; read in October.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Salon. Faith edition.

Weather: Overcast and dreary. We are definitely turning the corner into Fall weather patterns. It was rainy and windy several days during the past week, followed by sunny and warm temperatures other days.

Family news and musings on faith:

  • Books. To be honest I have thrown in the towel on several books and practically on reading in general. Reading is difficult for me right now, I am so distressed about national politics I can't seem to settle in to read more than a few pages here or there, making poetry or essay books my go-to choices. I did finish a poetry book by Barbara Kingsolver and am finding solace in essays by Anne Lamott. I'm even having trouble making myself listen to the Trevor Noah audiobook.  I decided to NOT even attempt a finish one or two other books, one novel dealing with the topic of child sexual abuse and the other a nonfiction title about extinction. Both of those topics were way too serious for me and my moods right now.
  • Issues of faith. As most of you know, I am a devote Christian AND a Democrat. If you pay attention to the news you would think that those two conditions are impossibly opposed to each other. I am confident I am not alone. Many of my friends are in the same boat. When we hear about evangelicals voting for Trump, the most profane, self-centered man to ever hold the office of President, it sets our teeth on edge. In fact one of the things that irritates me above all else is when I either lumped together with those evangelical voters or treated like I am not a Christian because I won't follow their lead. This week I found several organizations who are appealing to people like me, calling people of faith to vote their conscience, not the party. Exploring these sites was soothing to my soul.
    • Vote for Common Good. Vote Common Good is inspiring, energizing, and mobilizing people of faith to make the common good their voting criteria and to pursue faith, hope, & love for a change on election day 2020 and prevent the re-election of Donald Trump.
    • The billboards (three samples on this blog post) contrast the words of Jesus with the words of Trump, encouraging people to vote their conscience, not the party this election cycle. (Fox17 for a three minute video about the project)
    • An evangelical pastor encourages voters to vote for Biden NOT Trump. (Time)
    • Jackie, a right-to-life supporter is now supporting Biden. She says, "I will not be bullied." (Stand Up Republic on YouTube)
    • Not Our Faith PAC. (YouTube) The ad, Associated Press reports, says Trump “has used Christianity for his own purposes… [Christians] don’t need Trump to save them.” it says. “The truth is that Trump needs Christians to save his flailing campaign.”
    • A record-breaking number of faith leaders support Biden: over 1600 of them. (The Hill)
    • A message to us all from Pope Francis:

    • Biden is a man of faith. (NPR)

      "All of you remind me of how Scripture describes a calling born out of the wilderness," Biden told the virtual audience. "A calling to serve, not to be served. A calling toward justice, healing, hope — not hate. To speak the good news, and followed by some good deeds. It's not just enough to speak the good news, but good deeds."

      This wasn't a one-off religious reference; this is how Biden routinely speaks.

  • Halloween is around the corner. That means a three-year-old I know and love is half-crazed with excitement. // We got flu shots this week. That is taken care of now! Whew! // Seahawks football is up and running and the season is going well. Happiness and harmony reign in our home when football is going well.

Good News:

1. On your mark, get set, VOTE!

2. Link to all pro-Biden, anti-Trump videos. Have fun! (Save America 2020)

3. Competing town halls. 15.1 Million viewers watched Biden on ABC and only 13.5 million people watched Trump on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. My theory is that Biden supporters watched him and Trump supporters watched the President. If I am right, that is another good sign that Biden will win.

4. Rudy Giuliani's daughter encourages everyone to vote for Biden, obviously splitting from her famous father. (Vanity Fair)

"We are hanging by a single, slipping finger on a cliff’s edge, and the fall will be fatal. If we remove ourselves from the fight, our country will be in freefall. Alternatively, we can hang on, elect a compassionate and decent president, and claw our way back onto the ledge. If I, after decades of despair over politics, can engage in our democracy to meet this critical moment, I know you can too."

5. I just love this list. Everything on it matters to me. What matters to you?

6. "43 Alumni for Biden. Team 46" (YouTube) Alumni working with George W. Bush's administration backing Biden. A lot of them!

7. Must watch! Peter Souza'a "The Way I See It." Souza was the White House photographer under the Reagan and Obama administrations. He is speaking out with his art about how Trump is not the right man for the job, by comparison to the other two men. Find it. Watch it. Tell others to watch. Wow. (King5 News Promo)

8.  Must read "End Our National Crisis (New York Times) Read the whole thing and all the links. (Figure out how to get past the paywall!) "Donald Trump’s re-election campaign poses the greatest threat to American democracy since World War II."

On the Lighter Side:

1. I guess Trump IS someone's crazy uncle. Ha!

2. Referring back to last week and all the fly jokes after the Vice-Presidential debate..

3. At a Trump rally on Friday the President threatened if he doesn't win, he'll leave the country. Talk about a bad loser. Speaking of losing...

Trailing in the polls and at a significant cash deficit compared to Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump attempted to argue that he was opting against raising more money as he enters the final stretch of the election.

“I could raise more money,” he said. “I would be the world’s greatest fund-raiser, but I just don’t want to do it.”  What Trump is saying is the classic thing every bully says when he knows he’s beaten and but doesn’t want to admit it.

4. Maybe this is why he wants to leave...

5. I love this part in Willie Wonka... (snark)

6. I just talked to a friend on the phone. She had to stop cleaning out a closet to talk to me. Me? My house is getting junkier by the day.

7. Do you think this is supposed to be the child (wild, unkempt) or the parent (wild, frantic, unkempt)?

8.Sadly, this is probably true...

9. The Biden campaign sure seems to have a sense of humor. Got to love cat videos...

10. And be sure to choose your humans wisely... White House Dogs.

Please join in the discussion below in the comments section or on Facebook. I'd especially love to hear from you concerning your thoughts on faith related to this election. Thanks for reading my blog. Two more weeks and two days to go.  VOTE EARLY! 


Friday, October 16, 2020

Review and quotes from book: BIRD BOX

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Book Beginnings quote: 

Malorie stands in the kitchen, thinking. Her hands are damp. She is trembling. She taps her toe nervously on the cracked tile floor. It is early; the sun is probably only peeking above the horizon. She watches its meager light turn the heavy window drapes a softer color of black and thinks, That was a fog.

Friday56 quote (from Chapter 5):

Online they are calling it "the Problem". There exists the widespread communal belief that whatever "the Problem" is, it definitely begins when a person sees something
Summary: Something is out there. No one who has seen it has lived to tell what "it" is. But it is known that if a person "sees it" they will instantly go violently and suicidally insane. Only a few survivors remain, scattered and disjointed, including Malorie and her two four-year-old children. Now that they are old enough, she has decided to attempt a trip down the river to find other survivors. But can they do it blind-folded?

Review: My book club usually reads books selected by a librarian and placed into a book kit convenient for club use. The kits are usually literary fiction or narrative nonfiction. We've rarely selected fantasy or Sci-Fi, so this thriller was a shock to our sensibilities. Here is a bunch of old church ladies reading a book about an apocalypse and post-apocalypse time and all the horrors that are contained within. I worried that no one would like it, but everyone found it thrilling. And thrilling it was. The writing wasn't especially strong but the pulse and beat was undeniable. Even when writing about mundane things like inventorying the food, the background thrumped with menace. After reading the book, my husband and I found and viewed the movie with Sandra Bullock in the lead. As with most book to movie adaptations, the book was better and the movie more compressed. I liked them both.

Book club discussion questions include spoilers, so only look after you've finished the book: Grand Rapids Library. 

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

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   


SOTH book club, September 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

TTT: Novels with extra-long titles

 Top Ten Tuesdays: Favorite novels with extra-long titles.

1. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Owning Making by Catherynne M. Valente. All the books in this series, of which this is the first, have deliciously long titles. I absolutely love this one. Say it out loud. It rolls off the tongue in an amazing way.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I think this is very clever. It gets the reader past the starting spot in a hurry.

3. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonnasson. The book is nearly as silly as the title and I laughed my way through it.

4. The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman. I just finished this gem. What a fun and unique book. Its subtitle helps set the stage.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Maybe not as long as some but a title worth repeating for the brilliance of the book.

6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. The heart and soul of this book is as big as the title is long.

7. The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by D.C. Pierson. The title once again gets the readers off to a good start.

8. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I was always trying to get students to read this hilarious book and never had much luck at it. Do you think it was the title that did it in?

9. The Girl Who Fell Below Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. I decided that I loved the first title so much I should share the title of the second book in the series.

10. A Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. A book as fun as its title.

Note: as I perused by reading list I noticed it is usually nonfiction titles with long subtitles that were the likely subjects of today's TTT. I decided to stick with YA and Adult fiction titles only. Hence I don't have any of those big, long, wraparound things that you find on nonfiction books.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Salon: October 11

                                                          Final harvest of cherry tomatoes

Weather: The weather is definitely fall-ish. The rain has arrived with wind and colder temperatures.

Family  News: This week I went to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park (all animals native to the Pacific Northwest) with my daughter and grandsons. We had such a good time and saw so many animals going about their active lives: a porcupine that was very interested in talking my grandson into letting him out of his confines; two badgers digging away; two bears playing in the water; a skunk who couldn't decide if he wanted to be in or out of his den; and two river otters playing. The park has a wonderful play area for kids. Ian loved the slide. The park was decorated for Halloween, so Ian found a lot of other things to distract him, like the circle of ghosts that invited him to dance with them. It was a perfect way to spend a fall day.


  • Finished this week:
    • The Princess Bride by William Goldman. What a fun and joyful book.
    • A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America by Rucker and Leonnig. Wow, just wow. The authors write for the Washington Post and have done meticulous research for this book which gives such a full picture of his biggest anti-hits.
  • Currently reading:
    • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. A memoir of growing up in South Africa. Audiobook, 24%.
    • Everybody Looking by Candace Iloh. A young adult book about an African American girl who wants to embrace her own culture and make her own way in the world. E-book, 12%.
    • How to Fly: in Ten Thousand Easy Lessons by Barbara Kingsolver. Poetry by a beloved author. Print, 58%.

Good News: (Very random news this week. The polling for Biden gets better every week. It seems like people are definitely locking in Biden. Yet...eek! I am afraid to take my eyes off the news for fear that I will miss the thing that turns things upside down.)

1. Time in Trumpville, where we all live now, seems to move at warp speed. Therefore it seems like this event happened several years ago but it was actually this past week that Joe Biden gave the speech of his lifetime considered the 2020 Gettysburg Address. Listen to the whole thing. It is worth the time and will make you feel hopeful again. (PBS)

2. Pope Francis's new message could sway Catholics over to the Biden side. (The Guardian)

In this weekend’s document he [The Pope] makes it clear that populism and nationalism – of the kind Trump typifies – are damaging, warning that “a concept of popular and national unity influenced by various ideologies is creating new forms of selfishness and a loss of the social sense under the guise of defending national interests”.

3. I guarantee you will shed at least one tear over this sweet exchange...

Do it for Shamar. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/zTWwKb7H3E

4. My mom's cousin is from Norway, where they are having quite a bit of success keeping the coronavirus at bay. He sent us an interesting article about the one word that explains why---"dugnad." (Noteworthy)

Dugnad (pronounced doog-nahd); a Norwegian cultural tradition where community members work together towards a common goal, for the greater good for all.

Imagine how wonderful it would be if Americans would be willing to work together towards a common goal.

5. My hubby and I attended a Zoom meeting with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Hillary Clinton this week. During their discussion Jay mentioned that Washington is ranked as the best state for teachers in the whole nation. That was news to me and it made me feel quite proud. I told you to expect random good news! (Ranking of best states for teachers.

6. Republicans know they need to make it as hard as possible to vote if they have a chance at winning. Therefore, they have been busy all year thinking up schemes to make voting more difficult. When challenged in the courts, though, their schemes rarely hold up. On Friday night a judge blocked an order from the governor of Texas to limit ballot drop boxes in each county to one, saying it placed an unacceptable burden on the elderly and disabled to turn in their ballots. (Statesman) In this campaign video, Samuel L. Jackson tells us to vote, not because he wants us to, but because Trump doesn't want us to. (I Will Vote)

7. Forbes Magazine has an excellent article about early voting and how it compares to what happened in 2016. As of 3 PM Saturday over 9 million people have already voted in the thirty states that are reporting these stats. (Forbes)


 "And then there was a fly" and other funny stuff.

1. With the Vice-Presidential debate well underway, I was tempted to turn off the TV and do something, anything else. Then a fly landed on Pence's head and stayed there for over two minutes. It seems I was not the only one to be mesmerized. Social media exploded with "fly" related memes. Below is the photo I took of the TV screen. I thought adding the "Fly" poem by Ogden Nash was a snappy choice but not very political.

2. The Biden campaign picked up on the fly right away. Some guy had this cartoon up before the debate was over. Ha-ha, I never thought I'd be in league with flies.

3. Within a few hours the campaign made 35,000 Biden/Harris flyswatters available for $10 each. They sold out quickly."Truth over flies." (Get it?...Truth over lies.)

4. Other people said it was Ruth Bader Ginsburg who sent the fly. Smart fly!

5. For years I've been warning people that things fall apart quickly when bad people are in charge. I use Lord of the Flies as my proof. Read the themes of this classic book and think about our country and our elected officials. Don't you agree with me now?



6. The Tweet of God, the funniest spot on Twitter for its irreverence, posted this--


Enough about the fly? Here are a few other funny things---

7. Quite often I am left scratching my head at the "logic" of some Republicans. This makes no sense.

8. Twitter users take over #Proudboys hashtag with photos of LGBTQ love. (CNN)  While we are at it, let's call that terrorist group what they really are: Nazis.


9. It is such a shame that schools can't be open or can only to be open in some hybrid arrangement so kids can't experience the full school vibe. (Sent to me by my daughter, a middle school teacher.) Maybe, in the long run, it will work out for them. I can still recall traumatic experiences when I was in junior high.

10. It sure seems like a year's worth of events happen in only a week during 2020. On the other hand, I hardly do anything personally except watch the Internet for each day's train wreck.

I really appreciate it when you leave me a comment below or on Facebook. Thanks so much for visiting. I hope this good news helps brighten your day.


Friday, October 9, 2020

Reviews: Books to help me become an anti-racist

After George Floyd was murdered by police while the world viewed the horrifying 8:46 minutes on live TV, I said to myself 'enough is enough.' I needed to find a way help however I could so that this never happens again. My first inclination was to get out and protest and march on the streets of Tacoma or Seattle. But my concerns about the coronavirus kept me indoors. Instead I opted to create a list of books I can recommend on the topic of black lives matter, or books I thought would at least advance the discussion. (See that list here.) 

In addition, I started reading furiously to educate myself. 

First our church book club had to scramble to find a book to read for the month since the library book kits weren't available. We opted to read Me and White Supremacy by  Layla Saad. (I hyperlinked the title. Please visit my review of that book by clicking it.) The book was an eye-opening experience for me. It was written by Saad as an Instagram 28-day challenge and then consolidated into a book with each chapter being one day of the challenge. I had to read it faster than was recommended because I didn't have enough time to digest it slowly before the next club meet. But the book certainly started me on my goal of educating myself to become a better anti-racist. I recommend you read this book, but give yourself longer than a month to read it and find a support group to discuss it as you move through the material.

A few weeks later my husband and I also joined a small book group at our church, one designed to start a conversation about how our congregation can move in a positive direction toward anti-racism and supporting equal justice in our community. Our group met once a week on Zoom with a facilitator and seven other participants to discuss the book, Be the Bridge: Pursuing God's Heart for Racial Reconciliation by LaTasha Morrison and the topics it proposed. In a lot of ways this book piggy-backed on my learnings and insights gained from the first book, Me and White Supremacy, but the material was written toward a Christian audience (or perhaps, a congregation of any faith.) It was organized into nine or ten chapters, each concluding with discussion questions which made us dig into the topic-of-the-week deeper and had us reflecting on ways we could apply what were were learning to our own congregation. When I read Me and White Supremacy I felt like I was being jabbed in the stomach with a sharp stick, this book caused a much milder visceral reaction but I still felt extremely challenged to pick up the mantle and to become a "better ancestor" through my readings and discussions. The biggest difference and value of this book over the first was the small group discussion and camaraderie that we formed with the other participants. To a person we all decided that the book provided a good jumping off spot but we needed more and hope that the church will continue to support and organize groups on this topic in the future. For me personally, I also enjoyed being in a small group discussing a book with my husband. He had a lot to offer to the discussion since he has helped organize group discussions on racial sensitivity at this place of employment and had insights from those experiences to share. It isn't often that I get to be a "student" with him and I enjoyed this shared experience.

One of the first nonfiction books I read on the topic was This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell. (I guess I am reviewing them in reverse order.) Prior to George Floyd's murder this book came to my attention as an excellent nonfiction title for young adults, so I ordered a copy for myself thinking I would donate it to a high school library after I read it. Oddly I wasn't quite finished reading it before I started the other two books, so the information is a bit jumbled in my head. What this book has going for it that the other two don't is cool graphics and colorful pages and illustrations to attract its target audience: teenagers. Each chapter is assigned to a section like WAKING UP: UNDERSTANDING AND GROWING INTO MY IDENTITIES, with four sections in all. At the end of each chapter the reader is given permission to journal their thoughts and feelings. It is less about answering questions and more about personal reflections. I started off completing the daily reflections but didn't find them to be very applicable since I am well beyond teenage years. Occasionally I would simply skip that step as I moved to the next chapter. I personally found this book to be the least challenging to me but if I were a young adult, I am sure I would have the opposite point of view. If you are a high school librarian and you don't have a copy of this book in your library, order one today! You need it in your collection. Or, if you have a teenager at your home, buy them a copy.

Several poetry collections caught my attention on topics related to Black Lives Matter. I especially found the National Book Award poetry winner Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine moving. This is what I said in my review of this astonishing volume---"Of all the books I've read so far, Citizen has brought me the furthest at the fastest pace. By page two I was seething, and cringing, and crying, and praying 'God help us find another way.'" I highly recommend it, even if you aren't a big poetry reader. Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith contains some very volatile poems where blacks speak from the grave about the issues that killed them. I had a harder time understanding this poems, though I certainly felt the anger and frustration that the poet was expressing.

Lastly, I want to direct you to a middle grade, graphic novel that won the Newbery Medal last year, New Kid by Jerry Craft. The author/illustrator said he creates books he wishes he had when he was a kid. Jordan, the book's protagonist, is not only in middle school, which is hard enough, but he is the new kid in the school and one of only a handful of black students. All the awkward moments of middle school and puberty are compounded by his race. One teacher keeps calling him by the name of another black boy at the school. When he corrects her, she is defensive or dismissive but never apologetic. It is not surprising that she calls him the wrong name over and over with similar non-apologies. Other teachers and students assume that Jordan is good at sports but have low expectations for the academics, another racial stereotype. Actually Jordan likes to draw and carries his drawing journal with him everywhere. In it he draws his interactions with others at his school. When he leaves the journal behind at his desk one day. The next day the teacher who retrieved it, gets angry with how he characterized her. (Yes, she looked inside his private journal!) The very point he was making with the characterization, that she can't get past her own racial blind spots to be able to see him as an individual, is what she is angry about. I was completely convicted by this book. As a teacher I would sometimes make assumptions about students or call them by the name of another student of the same race. How mortifying for my students. Ugh. I hate to think about what that must be like to go through a lifetime of that sort of behavior. I am so, so sorry. I resolve to do and be better.

I haven't read the book White Fragility by DiAngelo, but I have become familiar with the term and what it means. Since we live in a largely segregated society, whites are often insulated from racial discomfort, so that they fall to pieces at the first application of stress. Like the teacher in the book getting angry with the kid for calling him the wrong name. "Mostly unconsciously white people feel that they are entitled to peace and deference, so they lack the 'racial stamina' to engage in difficult conversations. This leads them to respond to 'racial triggers'.” I resolve to be more conscious of myself and my feelings around racial topics and to stop myself when I start to feel fragile. One (all?) of the above books spoke about the determination for folks to become a better ancestor. I like that. I am not perfect but I am determined to do better and be better every day toward my goal of becoming anti-racist.


Monday, October 5, 2020

TTT: Book covers with autumn-themed designs or colors

 Top Ten Tuesday: Books that make me think of autumn based on the cover colors and designs.

1. Commonwealth by Ann Pratchett

2. Ishmael: A Novel by Daniel Quinn

3. The Last Leaves Falling by Fox Benwell

4. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

5. Upstream: Essays by Mary Oliver

6. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

7. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

8. Strong is Your Hold by Galway Kinnell

9. Fairest by Marissa Meyer

10. The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig

11. The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins 

12. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

13. The Overstory by Richard Powers

14. The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa