"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review and quotes: MUSE OF NIGHTMARES

Title: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Book Beginning quote:

Friday56 quote:

Summary: Muse of Nightmares is the sequel to Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. Since it is a sequel to a wonderful book that ended on a huge cliff-hanger I hate to give too many details because that would mean I'm letting out spoilers. So let me ask a few questions which likely are answered by the end of the book: As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, will the mysteries of the Mesarthim be revealed? Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with the thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? As forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed will the heroes slay the monsters, or is it possible to save them instead? Will Lazlo be able to save everyone he loves?

Review: I LOVED Strange the Dreamer, published in 2017. So it is shocking that I didn't immediately read its sequel, published in 2018, the minute it was available. It's a pity I didn't because I'd forgotten a lot of the details making the first one third of this book a bit of a muddle.

The book was divided into five parts. At the beginning of each part a word is defined and described (see Book Beginning quote.) I liked challenging myself to find the word used somewhere in the text. The book introduced a lot of new characters but also reunited us with the whole cast of characters from the first. In other words, there were a lot of humans, gods, and godspawn to keep track of.

Though it took a while to get realigned with the plot, I loved the story. It was so intricate and surprising. Quite a bit of back-story filled in gaps and there was even a little peek at a mystery from one of the author's other series, The Daughter of Smoke and Bones. What a little thrill.

I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the production. Overall, I am glad I read it finally.

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. 


Monday, January 27, 2020

Best YA books of the 2010s

Top Ten Tuesday: Time for another decade list. 
Here are my favorite YA books published and read in the 2010s.
This was really, really hard for me. I read hundreds of YA titles in the last decade and I love so many of them. I initially added 20 books to the list and then decided to cull it down to my very, very favorites that I recommended over and over to teen readers. Click on the hyperlinks and read my reviews. You'll catch why I love them as you read those reviews.

9. The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016)

12. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson (2019)

What are your favorite YA books from the last decade?
- Anne

ALA Youth Media Awards 2020

The YMA Awards were announced this morning and the YA winners are: (For the full list click here)
My list only reflects YA winners(with a few middle grade titles thrown in here and there.)

1. Michael L. Printz Award (Best YA literature of the year) 
  • Dig by A.S. King- Award
  • The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi- Honor
  • Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki- Honor
  • Ordinary Hazards: a Memoir by Nikki Grimes-Honor
  • Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean- Honor

2. Schneider Family Book Award (Teen living with a disability)
  • Cursed by Karol Ruth Silverstein (Ages 13-18)-Award
  • The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais- Honor 
3. Alex Awards - 10 Best adult books that appeal to teen audiences   
  • A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World (Fletcher)
  • Do You Dream of Terra-Two? (Oh)
  • Dominicana (Cruz)
  • Gender Queer: a Memoir (Kobabe)
  • High School (Quin and Quin)
  • In Waves (Dungo)
  • Middlegame (McGuire)
  • The Nickel Boys (Whitehead)
  • Read, White, and Royal Blue (McQuiston)
  • The Swallows (Lutz)
4. Margaret A. Edwards Award (An author who has made a significant contribution to YA or Children's Lit)
  • Name of author : Steve Sheinkin
5. Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature (LGBTQ+) :
  • Black Flamingo by Dean Atta- YA Award
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi - Honor
  • Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian- Honor 
  • (The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy-Honor, Middle Grade title)
6. William C. Morris Award (First YA novel by author)
  • The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillippe- Award
7. YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 
  • Free Lunch by Rex Ogle- Award
8. Coretta Scott King Book Award (African American Author) 
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft-Award
  • The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
  • Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
9. Coretta Scott King Author-Steptoe New Talent
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams
10. Pura Belpre (Latinx Author) 
  • (The Award and honor books are all for middle grade or children readers this year.)
11Odyssey Award (Audio Book)
  • Hey Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett Krosoczka- Award
  • Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt- Honor
  • (The other three honor books are middle grade or children's books)
12. Sibert Informational  Book Award (Distinguished Informational books)
  • This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy-Honor
  • Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes
  • (The award winner and two other honor books for children or middle grade readers)
13. Mildred Batchelder Award (Translated into English)
  • The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi - Honor, translated from Japanese
  • (The award book and other titles were for younger readers)
14. Children's Literature Legacy Award (An author or illustrator whose work has had a substantial and lasting effect on Children's literature)
  • Author name: Kevin Henkes
15. Newbery Medal (Most outstanding contribution to children's literature)
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft-Award
  • Genesis Begins Again by Alicia Williams
  • (Three honor books are for younger readers)
16. Caldecott Medal
  • (All Award book and honor books are for children readers.)
17. The Sydney Taylor Award (Jewish experience)
  • Someday We Will Fly by Rachel deWosken - YA Award
  • Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz- Honor
  • Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
18.  American Indian Youth Literature award
  • Hearts Unbroken, written by Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee)- YA Award
  • Surviving the City, written by Tasha Spillett (Nehiyaw-Trinidadian)- Honor
  • Reawakening Our Ancestors’ Lines: Revitalizing Inuit Traditional Tattooing, gathered and compiled by Angela Hovak Johnston (Inuk)- Honor
  • An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, written by Debbie Reese (Nambé Owingeh) and Jean Mendoza -Honor
  • Apple in the Middle, written by Dawn Quigley (Ojibwe, Turtle Mountain Band)- Honor
19.  Asian/Pacific American Literature Award
  • They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, illustrated by Harmony Becker- YA Award
  • Frankly in Love, written by David Yoon
So many good books. Let's get reading. (Highlighted books or authors are those I have read.)

Thursday, January 23, 2020


Title: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow

Book Beginnings quote:

Friday56 quote:

With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe, revealing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing a surprising conclusion about why the Russian government hacked the 2016 U.S. election. She deftly shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia’s rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the West’s most important alliances, and the United States. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, most notably ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can’t really blame the lion. It’s in her nature.” Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world’s most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.” (From the publisher)
Review: I am hoping that my blood pressure goes down now that I am finally finished with Blowout.

Everything we have been hearing on the news lately related to Russia, Trump, taxes, cheating, Ukraine, everything...is related to the most destructive industry on earth---the oil and gas industry.

The title---"Blowout"---has a double meaning. For anyone who has a baby at home, you know what I'm talking about. So it is a perfect title...if you get yourself tangled up with the oil and gas industry you WILL BECOME soiled. Maddow shows the reader over and over and over with example after example of what this means. It is,
as a co-founder of OPEC, Venezuelan diplomat Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, reportedly once called oil “the excrement of the devil.” 

My husband and I listened to Blowout on audiobook, or at least the first half, we had to finish it separately, and each of us were horrified by what we learned. I could only consume it in short sessions and never before bed or before church. I'd get too riled up to go to sleep or to be prayerful otherwise.

Maddow is a commentator on MSNBC and as excellent a writer as she is in that role. She often makes information clear to me that was fuzzy before. In Blowout she draws together a whole bunch of controversies and shows the reader how they are related. I highly recommend the book but I warn you, it is not an easy read.

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.


Monday, January 20, 2020

Best Nonfiction Reads of the Past Decade

Here is my promised list of favorite nonfiction titles read and published in the last decade. I decided to leave Memoirs off the list. How knows? Maybe I will create a list of my favorite Memoirs of the decade soon. I hyperlinked the titles of those books I reviewed. The books I've selected represent those books which have stayed with me or I've referenced frequently in the past years. I recommend them all highly. Sorted chronologically.
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (2010)---A fascinating look at medical ethics based on the use of Henrietta's cancer cells without family permission. A book club selection. (Audiobook)
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande (2014)---Dr. Gawande reminds us that we are all mortal and with our doctors we need to plan our end-of-life goals. I think of this book often and its advice. I want to finish well. (Audiobook)
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (2014)---Stevenson is a lawyer dedicated to helping individuals who are trapped in prison without representation, particularly those on death row. A movie is being made of it, so read it first and watch his TED talk. (I also read the YA version of the book but I don't think it is as good. It is too pared down.) (Audio and print)
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough (2015)---We all think we know everything there is to know about the Wright Brothers but we are wrong. Orville and Wilbur were way more creative, innovative, inventive, hard-working, and capable than you can imagine. Any book by David McCullough is not-to-be-missed. This one is no exception.  (Audiobook)
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (2016)---Part memoir, part biology manual. For that reason I kept it on this list, though it is technically a Memoir. I fell in love with Hope Jahren and with trees. (Audiobook)
  • A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves That Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg (2017)---The only middle grade book on the list and the only one I evaluated for the Cybils Awards. As a dog lover I was fascinated by it. As a lifelong learner I was gobsmacked by how mush I learned from it. If you don't want to read it, at least read my review. (Then you will want to read it!) (Print)
  •  Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017)---This book reads like a murder mystery. David Grann does something most writers don't do, he inserts himself into the story as he reports his findings. A book club selection. (Audiobook)
  • The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham (2018)---Meacham is a historian and writes with authority about other times in our history when we faced crises, putting our current political climate into context. I felt soothed by his words and message. The title comes from a quote by Abraham Lincoln: We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” (Audiobook)
What are some of your favorite nonfiction titles published in the last decade?


Sunday, January 19, 2020

Sunday Salon: January 19, 2020

Weather: Today was overcast but no rain. Fine enough for a walk with the dog. This past week we've seen it all: snow, hail, rain, wind, and fine blue skies.

6000 years old: James Usser (1581-1656) decided to calculate the age of the earth. He went way back to the "beginning" in the Bible and used all kinds of calculations. He was very meticulous. He used over 2000 pieces of paper and it took him 10 years to figure it out. In 1650 he came to a conclusion: "Earth was formed on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC...around lunchtime." Nevermind that he was over 4 billion years off. He became known as the first geologist. In 1703 the Church of England printed Usser's dates in the margin of the updated Bible. From that point on many Christians have thought Usser's numbers were actually from God. In fact, Gideon's Bibles were also printed with this date up until 1978. Some misinformation really dies hard. (From the book: The First Dinosaur by Ian Lendler.)

"I want to finish my book before I die": My mother's dear friend had a small stroke this past week. She told her family that she didn't want to die, though she was ready, until she finished the book she was reading. It was too good to miss the ending. A few days later she had a bigger stroke which rendered her uncommunicative. Her family made sure to read the ending of the book aloud to her anyway. I sure hope she could hear them. She died yesterday in peace.

Snow-what?: The weather forecasters made sure we all were prepared for the worst: Snow, wind, freezing temperatures. When the snow arrived it amounted to less than two inches. I think one night the temperatures did fall below freezing, but just barely. Now we are back to regular winter weather: rain.

No reviews: This is the first time I have participated as a round two judge for the Cybils book award. After reading my first of eleven finalist books, I wrote a nice review and posted it here on my blog. Umm...That was a problem. Apparently, even though Cybils are awarded by book bloggers, we are NOT supposed to publish our reviews of the finalists until after the awards are announced on Feb. 14th. Not sure why, especially since I didn't say anything like "I will for sure vote against this book." Nevertheless, I took down my review and have it piled up with the other four I've written since then. Starting late in the day on the 14th of February, I will release one review a day for the following eleven days. I'm sure you can hardly wait.

Speaking of reading. Here is a list of the books I've read so far in 2020 (I've been busy):
  • Dreamland (YA Edition): The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. E-book. I've wanted to read the adult version of this book for the years since it was published so I am glad to be able to read this YA version now. Cybils, SH Nonfiction.
  • On This Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Print. A gay man writes a letter to his mother, a Vietnamese woman who cannot read English, as an explanation of how he has interpreted his life and interactions with her. 
  • Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow. Audiobook. The title says it all except that 'Oil and Gas' is the industry.
  • Playlist: Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound by James Rhodes. Print. Rhodes, a classical musician highlights pieces of music from the original rock stars: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. Cybils, SH Nonfiction.
  • Disaster Strikes! The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time by Jeffrey Kluger. Print. Some of the space disaster I'd heard of (Apollo 13) but most I hadn't. Cybils, JH Nonfiction.
  • 1919: The Year That Changed America by Martin W. Sandler. Print. Women get the vote, prohibition is voted in, the first red scare, the Harlem Rennaisance, etc. Cybils, JH nonfiction.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney. Audiobook. A girl and boy hook up in high school where he is popular and she an outcast. When they get to college, things are reversed. Read my review before you decide to read it. (Click hyperlinked title.)
  • The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth by Ian Lendler. Print. All the people who put their heads and minds together to figure out geology and paleontology to the point of naming the first dinosaur. Cybils, JH nonfiction. 
Currently reading: 
  •  A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein. E-Book. 28%. Cybils, SH Nonfiction.
  • The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out In the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman. Print. 46%. Cybils, JH nonfiction.
  • The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Audiobook. Part of the 'Strange the Dreamer' series. 5% complete.
Instead of publishing reviews, I've been creating posts like these:
Sanditon: PBS is running a mini-series on Jane Austen's unfinished novel, Sanditon. The creator of the series took her characters, setting, and plot beginnings and built the story from there. Don and I binge-watched all eight episodes this week. What fun to be back in Austen's world for a while. I must say though, quite a few circumstances were very 21st Century, not early 19th Century. And the ending...I'll say no more. Watch it.

Survey: 59% of Republicans think college is bad for America. (Pew Research, August 2019) How far we have slipped. Sigh.

On the impending Senate trial on the impeachment of Trump:
“The most important thing is that the American people deserve a fair trial. The Constitution deserves a fair trial. Our democracy deserves a fair trial. And we believe that a fair trial involves witnesses. It involves evidence. It involves documents.” (H. Jeffries, D-NY on Fox News)
Because I want to think about something other than politics:

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Do something good for someone in need!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Life According to Literature

THE RULES: Using only books you have read during the year (2019), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know below, if you've joined in too.
  • Describe yourself: Becoming | Michelle Obama
  • How do you feel: Called | Mark Labberton
  • Describe where you currently live: Inland | Tea Obreht
  • A place you like to hang out: The Library Book  | Susan Orleans
  • If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Astoria | Peter Stark
  • Your favorite form of transportation: The Walk | Richard Paul Evans
  • Your best friend is: The Friend | Sigrid Nunez
  • You and your friends are: The Great Believers | Rebecca Makkai
  • What's the weather like: The Sun and Her Flowers | Rupi Kaur
  • You fear: Life on Mars | Tracy K. Smith
  • What is the best advice you have to give: We Should All Be Feminists | C.N. Adichie
  • Thought for the day: Disappearing Earth | Julia Phillips
  • How would I like to die: Burial Rites | Hannah Kent
  • My soul's present condition: Crossing to Safety | Wallace Stegner
Guess I'll have to do this every year. It was fun and a little weird. What do you think of my selections?

Thanks Brona for the idea (Brona's Books)

Friday, January 17, 2020

Review and quotes: NORMAL PEOPLE

Title: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Book Beginnings quote:
Marianne answers the door when Connell rings the bell. She's still wearing her school uniform, but she's taken off the sweater, so it just her blouse and skirt, and she has no shoes on, only tights.
Friday56 quote:
He kept thinking of himself saying to Marianne in bed: I love you. It was terrifying, like watching himself committing a crime on CCTV. And soon she wold be in school, putting her books in her bag, smiling to herself, never knowing anything. You're a nice person and everyone likes you. He took one uncomfortable breath and then threw up.
Summary: Marianne and Connell grow up in the same small town in Ireland and attend the same school but that is where the similarities end. She is rich but a loner while he is poor but popular. Connell's single mother cleans Marianne's house twice a week. In the first quote Connell is dropping by the house to pick up his mother after her shift is over. Because Connell is often in her house he and Marianne start to interact with one another, but at school they behave as if they don't know one  each other. Often what they talk about it grades because both of them are good at school and get top marks. At one point Marianne confesses that she likes Connell. This comment leads eventually to a whole clandestine sexual relationship between the teens, while they still maintain the rouse of not knowing each other while at school. In the second quote Connell's friends have been teasing him when he realizes what he's done. He's fallen in love with a social outcast. The thought makes him sick.

A year later Marianne and Connell are off to college in Trinity College in Dublin. After ending their "friendship" the two never see each other at college until they end up at the same party. Now Marianne is the popular person and Connell is the one who has trouble making friends. For the next several years their relationship waxes and wanes. they are drawn to each other and then break apart. Over and over. It also becomes evident that Marianne is becoming more and more destructive with her body and Connell is having trouble with his mental state. Can they save one another?

Review: I was pretty excited to read this book after I saw it on lots of end-of-2019-best-books lists. I thought it was a fun premise that the roles of these two "friends" would reverse after high school. What I wasn't prepared for was all the sex. Lots and lots of it. I kept checking to make sure the book was truly written by a woman because it seems like only a male author would be so obsessed with sex scenes. And then the sex morphed into sadomasochism. Thankfully, those bits aren't very graphic. As the story opens up we learn why Marianne expects to be dominated by men and it is a pretty sad situation.

I listened to the audiobook of Normal People read by Aoife McMann who has a lovely Irish brogue. I simply loved the listening experience. I also devoured the book. Though I was horrified by the negative turns the book took, I was compelled to listen as fast as I could which meant I sat for hours listening yesterday, barely moving a muscle. I thought the title 'Normal People' played a prominent theme in the book, which I like. I like figuring out why an author titles their work with a particular word or phrase. Will I recommend that my book club read this book? No. Will I tell others about it? Probably not. Did I like it? Yes, sort of. There, I am like Marianne and Connell. My relationship with this book will remain a secret.

Oh, by the way, I just noticed that Hulu will be running a TV series of the book this spring. Last chance to read it before it hits the airwaves.

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.

PS. Candyce at The Book Duchesses: I cannot make comments on your blog. I have tried and tried several different times and different ways. Maybe put clearer directions on your blog how to join or open up your blog just a bit to allow other bloggers to comment on your posts.

Monday, January 13, 2020

My favorite books that were published in the decade.

My top twelve books published in the last decade

I am always compiling lists in my head and then sometimes, like right now, I publish them for you to see. This list is my favorite books that were published in the last decade. As with every list the top books would probably change somewhat depending on my mood. To help alleviate that moodiness vote, I have consulted my end of the year lists and my own reviews on Goodreads or here on this blog. I decided, at the last minute, to only include fiction works for this list which will give me an excuse to create a similar list for nonfiction favorites of the decade.

1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr---I even re-read this book soon after reading it the first time. The writing and the symbolism are just simply gorgeous. It helps that I met Doerr at a book event and he is such a fascinating guy. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize among its many awards. (2014, Scribner)

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman---Something about this book really spoke to me about the way we treat people who we don't understand. It also spoke to me about the importance of being a good friend. (2017, Viking)

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel---Another book which I reread in the decade, this is a book I think about every day because I suspect it may become true. It deals with life twenty years after an apocalypse. The writing is pretty spectacular, too, with the author leaving little dragon's teeth along the way which the reader collects as she reads. (2014, Knopf)

4. The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood---I can't even begin to tell you how much I love this book. It is chalk full of quirky characters and odd situations. It is also loving and kind at the same time. (2016, Headline Review)

5. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline---I know this is a niche book, but I really like it with it's quirky plot and characters. It is a throwback to the 1980s when everything was a little bit more innocent and then it jumps forward in time when everything is much more complicated and horrible. (2011, Crown)

6. The Round House by Louise Erdrich---This was the first book by Erdrich that I read and now I am huge fan. The Round House is Justice series. I don't think you can read books by this Native American author and not be changed. An unreviewed book by me. Sigh. (2012, HarperCollins)

7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt--- I enjoyed every minute of The Goldfinch and my reading experience was measured out in minutes, as I listened to all 32 hours of the audiobook. Of all the book reviews I've written, this is my favorite. This book is a Pulitzer Prize winner. (2013, Little, Brown and Company; 2014, Audible)

8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green---The only YA book on this list, though I have many that I love. This book was just extra special. In the decade I've read it once, and listened to the audiobook twice. (2012, Dutton Books)

9. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai---My favorite book read in 2019, this book gives a hard look at the AIDS epidemic from its start to current days. The loss of so many men in the prime of life is compared to the Lost Generation of WWI. (2018, Penguin Books)

10. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki---I like books that have interrelated themes and plots. This book is that in spades, with the stories relating across time and distance, plus there is a little magical realism thrown in for good measure. A book club selection. Our group lined up on both sides of the "like" question. I was on the love side. (2013, Viking)

11. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead--- Whitehead wrote this book on this premise: What if the Underground Railroad was a real railroad. This book stands the typical slave narrative story on its head and it is brilliant. Another Pulitzer Prize winner.  (2016, Doubleday)

12. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens---This book has a little of everything I like in books: flawed characters, interesting/new-to-me settings, mysteries, and poetry. I loved everything about it. (2018, G.P. Putnam's Sons)

I could go on and on. Maybe my next list will be my favorite nonfiction titles of the past decade, or my favorite YA titles...We'll see!

Happy 2020.


Friday, January 10, 2020


Title: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Book Beginnings quote:

Let me begin again.
     Dear Ma,
     I am writing to reach you---even if each word I put down is one word further from where you are.

Friday56 quote:
     In the Hartford I grew up in and the one you grow old in, we greet one another not with "Hello" or "How are you?" but by asking, our chins jabbing the air, "What's good?" I've heard this said in other parts of the country, but in Hartford, it was pervasive... Because being knocked down was already understood, already a given, it was the skin you wore. To ask What's good? was to move, right away, to joy. It was pushing aside what was inevitable to reach the exceptional. Not great or well or wonderful, but simply good. Because good was more than enough, was a precious spark we sought and harvested of and for one another. (212-214)
Summary: The narrator, Little Dog, a Vietnamese-American boy, now man, is writing a letter to his mother who speaks very little English, and cannot read any language. As the beginning quote states, he wants to reach his mother, but his words actually move him further from her as they form a barrier she cannot cross. Though born in Vietnam in a farming village, Little Dog, is now in America with his mother, and grandmother, via a refugee camp in the Philippines. The adults in his life are all traumatized by the war and the life they left behind. His father, who only makes a very small appearance in the book, is abusive to his mother before he leaves for good. His mother is traumatized and his grandmother, Lan, is schizophrenic but often steps in to save the boy from the mother's anger.
Before he could make out his mother's face, the backhand blasted the side of his head, followed by another, then more. A rain of it. A storm of mother. The boy's grandmother, hearing the screams, rushed in and, as if my instinct, knelt on all fours over the boy, making a small and feeble house with her frame (101). 
The letter that Little Dog writes, meanders around not in any chronological order, shining lights on events from his life and how these events shaped the boy, now man. For example, when Little Dog was fourteen he meets a boy, Trevor, while working on a tobacco farm. He instantly knows something about himself. "The boy from whom I learned there was something even more brutal and total than work---want (94).

In the end of the book, Little Dog tells his mom that he hopes, when she is reincarnated, that she will return and somehow find and read his book. And then she will remember.

Review: Vuong is an award-winning poet and in many ways this novel, his first, reads like one long poem, with phrasing and word choices to match that form. He also is a Vietnamese-American so the story feels like it is semi-autobiographical if not completely biographical. In fact, Jia Tolentino, writing for the New Yorker, commented that the first chapter was published by the magazine as a memoir. It is very easy to imagine that this was Vuong's life and as he writes down the details it is as if he is way off looking back, almost in a dream state.

At first I loved the book. Oh, the language. What imagery.

Then I hated the book. The cruelty and the confusing way that details appeared and disappeared. And the graphic nature of the gay sex. I'm not a prude but I don't like reading about graphic sex in any form so that was a big turn off.

Just about the time I was sure I couldn't finish the book, the form of the writing changed again and this time it was poetry. I was hooked again. (Pages 153-160.) By the time we make it to the end of the book it becomes clear that Little Dog (or Vuong himself) is grappling with his life and trying to make sense of his relationship with his mother. Is the letter more for himself? I'm not sure.

Will I recommend this book to you and to other readers? I doubt it. I know very few readers who really like to "work" while they are reading and one really does have stay sharp to keep pace with all the twists and turns and back-steps. However, if you like reading poetry and want to read an immigrants story from a different angle, this is the book for you. In so many ways, just as the title implies, this book is gorgeous.

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. (This week my quote was actually from page 214. I wanted to use it to make a point for the review.)


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Audiobook Book Challenge 2020

Caffeinated Reviewer

Challenge details:

  • Runs January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020. You can join at any time.
  • The goal is to find a new love for audios or to outdo yourself by listening to more audios in 2020 than you did in 2019.
  • Books must be in audio format (CD, MP3, etc.)
  • ANY genres count.
  • Re-reads and crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed.
  • You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads, Facebook, LibraryThing, etc.
  • If you’re a blogger grab the button and do a quick post about the challenge to help spread the word. If you’re not a blogger you can help by posting on Facebook or Tweet about the challenge.
  • Updates plus a giveaway will be posted twice during the year. The first update will be June 30, 2020, and the last update will take place on December 15, 2020.
Achievement levels:
  • Newbie (I’ll give it a try) 1-5
  • Weekend Warrior (I’m getting the hang of this) 5-10
  • Stenographer (can listen while multitasking) 10-15
  • Socially Awkward (Don’t talk to me) 15-20
  • Binge Listener (Why read when someone can do it for you) 20-30
  • My Precious (I had my earbuds surgically implanted) 30+
  • Marathoner (Look Ma No Hands) 50+
  • The 100 Club (Audiobook Elite) 100+
My goal: Is to try and beat the number of audiobooks I listened to in 2019 which was 42. So I find myself somewhere between Precious and Marathoner levels. I'll call my goal My Precious Marathoner. This challenge feels a little like a cheat to me since I love listening to audiobooks and try to get most of my reads in this format, if possible.

Currently I am listening to Blowout by Rachel Maddow.
Up next: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Other books I know I'll be listening to (because I am in the queue for them at the library):
  • Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Trust Exercise by Susan Choi
  • The Body by Bill Bryson
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford
  • Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham
  • Call Down the Hawks by Maggie Stiefvater

Sign up yourself at Caffeinated Reader or Hot Listens.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation---From Daisy Jones and the Six to...

Six Degrees of Separation

We start with 
 Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A rock group in the 1970s implode because of emotional pressure on the inside of the group. The story is told in a transcript style so narrators don't know what others are saying about the situation.
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
An aging punk rocker, Bernie, and his passionate employee, Sasha, whose stories are not known to the other, but the reader discovers them. 
Beatlebone by Kevin Barry
This is a story of another aging rocker also set in the late 1970s. The rocker is more famous, John Lesson. The book is written in a unique style with surreal elements.
 Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
Like John Lennon, Frankie Presto is an amazing musician. This book is also unique because the narrator is music itself.
Dancer Colum McCann
What dancer can dance without music? This book is loosely based on the life of a famous ballet dancer, but it is peopled with the likes of Margot Fonteyn and John Lennon. the main character is unhappy and trying to make his own way under difficult circumstances.
 The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood
An aging rocker, tries to untangle the mess he has made of his life by stepping in to replace his son's tasks after his death.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Rob has made a mess of his life. But he is still stuck on Laura and wants to make a mixed tape that will bring her back. But he has to work on himself first. Soon he is asking himself big questions about love and the meaning of life.
That brings us back to where we started
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Billy is attracted to Daisy but he realizes that his life with his wife and daughters is more important than the music they make together.

All of my selections have something to do with music this month. So maybe my trip from one book to the next isn't as surprising as usual. Also, I usually only make lists of book I've read. This month I have included several books I haven't read yet: Beatlebone, High Fidelity, Dancer, and A Visit From the Goon Squad. Want to play along? Sign up at Books Are My Favourite and Best.


Monday, January 6, 2020

TTT: My bookish goals for 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: My bookish goals for 2020. 

I hate to call them resolutions, but here are the goals I hope to accomplish this coming year of reading. (I am off-the-board since I don't often pay attention to upcoming books.)

1. Read a minimum of 100 books in 2020. (Keep track on Goodreads)

2. Read two of the latest National Book Award winners from 2019. This will get me current with a personal goal to read at least two of the five winners each year. Read two of five from the 2020 winners.

3. Read the Pulitzer Prize winner of 2020. (Announced in late March.)

4. Read the Printz Award and honor books, announced in late January 2020.

5. Successfully complete my role as a Round Two judge for the Cybils Awards for JH/SH Nonfiction books by February 14th.

6. Read sequels in the following series: Arc of Scythe; Winternight; Flavia de Luce; The Book of Dust; Strange the Dreamer; Anne of Green Gables.

7. Successfully complete reading at least three books for the Classics Club Spins.

8. Write a blog review for all book club selections. (This is at least 22 books every year.)

9. Read at least ten books from my own shelves.

10. Diminish my TBR pile (which is actually a virtual pile on Goodreads) by at least fifty books. (This does not mean I have to read all these books, but I can just remove them from it if I no longer want to read them.)


Best Book Club Selections of 2019

2019 Book Club favorites. I am in two book clubs. For this reason sometimes books will end up on my end-of-the-year list more than once. This year I asked the gals in my clubs, SOTH and RHS, for feedback. Therefore this list is part mine, part theirs. Keep in mind I select favorites based not only on how much the book was liked but also on how well the book generated a discussion. An educational aspect factor is also factored in. I want to learn something new when I read.  Of the 22 books we selected this year in the two clubs there was really only one clunker. I could easily make my list 21 books long for this reason. The titles are hyperlinked. Click on the title to read the reviews.

1. Educated by Tara Westover (2018, Random House)---This is on my list for the second year in a row. If you haven't read this book yet, what are you waiting for? An excellent discussion book on the topic of family dysfunction, education, abuse, and making one's own way. This was the #1 choice of SOTH Book Club this year.

2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2018, G.P. Putnam's Sons) I loved this book and found the mystery compelling. Our discussion, in part, centered around the author and her life and her writing career. This is her first novel. I recommend that book clubs learn as much as they can about Delia Owens. This was the #1 RHS Book Club book of the year, though at least one member said she didn't like the book as much as many of the other books we read in 2019.

3. Becoming by Michelle Obama (2018, Crown) Michelle Obama came to Tacoma on her book tour. Two of us went to hear her speak. Our discussion over this book was one of the best we had all year. It was the #3 RHS Book Club selection of the year but I jumped it up the list based on the quality of our discussion.

4. Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (2019, Doubleday) Oh boy, this book is really disturbing. It is a fictionalized tale of real events that happened in a delinquent detention center in Florida, ending in the 1980s. This book was one of the most recommended books of the year and it was the #2 RHS Book Club selection.

5. The Great Alone or another book by Kristin Hannah (2018, St. Martin's Press) Here is a fun book club idea---choose an author and ask members to read one of his/her books. Ask them to come to the meeting prepared to discuss what they liked about the writing/plot/characters. We did this with Kristin Hannah's books because our library was hosting an event around her books. We had so much fun with this one and created some big fans out of the readers. It was the #2 SOTH Book Club choice. The Great Alone was not chosen in my other book club as a top three choice, though we read it for that club, too.

6. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2016, Harper) This is a memoir of a family and culture in crisis. I was the host of club when we discussed this book. We had a great discussion but we couldn't think of any answers to the problems that Vance highlights for the conditions confronting "hillbillies" today. If you enjoy reading narrative nonfiction, this is an excellent choice. #3 SOTH Book Club choice.

7. The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (2018, Viking) This was my favorite read of the year. I found it compelling because it told a story of the AIDS epidemic form the disease's inception to present time. I used to teach AIDS education so it was a story of high interest for me. Other members of the club weren't as interested in the topic as me but we still had a lively discussion.

8. There There by Tommy Orange (2018, Knopf) This is a very powerful story about the lives of urban Indians living in or coming to Oakland for the Big Oakland Powwow. We had a lot to digest and to discuss. Some members found the book challenging because there was a big cast of characters, twelve, to keep track of. At the end of the book I wasn't sure if I should cry or cheer. Those feelings alone give fodder for discussion.

9. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. (2019, Ballantine Books) I loved this book about a rock band that could have been modeled after Fleetwood Mac. Though I wasn't able to attend the meeting where it was discussed, I understand that it went well. The format of the book, transcript style, was off-putting to some. Me? I found it refreshing. I was able to get the story from many angles without the help of a omniscient narrator.

10. Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips.(2019, Knopf) This book has the potential of being an excellent discussion book but we didn't have a particularly good one for a variety of reasons. I added this as my last choice because of the writing (spectacular) and what I learned about a corner of the earth I didn't even know the name of before (Kamchatka Peninsula). If you select this book for your club, I recommend that the discussion leader read the text with questions in mind, since the publisher offers no discussion questions.

Honorable mention:

11. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa. (2013, Little, Brown and Company) No one, and I mean no one, liked this book. But we had a fabulous discussion about it and about the WTO riots of Seattle in the late 1990s. My husband was invited as a guest speaker because he participated in the National Guard's response to the riots. Since we live near Seattle we all remembered information about the riots. I added this book here because I want to encourage you to select books that will be meaningful to your members even if you don't like them.

12. Circe by Madeline Miller. (2018, Little, Brown and Company) Pulled from Greek Mythology this is a modern re-telling of Circe's story. She was the bad girl of Greek mythology. Miller rewrites her story with a more sympathetic tone. I loved the story and so did one other club member. But the rest of the women hated the book. When we tried to discuss it all they wanted to talk about is how much they hated it. So, I guess, I really can't recommend this book for club meetings without this warning---everyone won't like it and be prepared for strong reactions.

13  Mother Daughter Me: a memoir by Katie Hafner. (2013, Random House) An excellent choice for a women's book club since this book is all about the relationships we have with our mothers and daughters. It was not a personal favorite but I did enjoy the club's discussion of the book.

Looking for more suggestions?  Click the links to check my past lists: