"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, April 30, 2020

Nonfiction review and quotes: IT ENDED BADLY

Title: It Ended Badly: 13 of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright

Book Beginnings quote:
You know what's amazing? That we become upset when a politician cheats on his wife. Remember Bill Clinton? Or would you like to discuss other of our country's leaders? And every time we, as a society, react with distress and disappointment, my heart sings a little. That sense of collective indignation would not have happened had we lived in ancient Rome.
Friday56 quote:
Every account of the English king Henry VIII's life should start with the same basic question. How hot was Henry VIII? That is a private joke that is only funny to me. Every biography you read about Henry VIII and his wives begins with a line like "It's essential to begin our account of Henry VIII by questioning the impact of religion upon the average person in sixteenth-century England" or "We must begin our account of the life of Anne Boleyn by asking the question that has plagued scholars for centuries... I am, however, able to answer my own question--the first question posed in this chapter--the answer is: smoking. Smoking hot.
Summary: These are the worst of the worst of romantic breakups throughout history. From being put to death, to imprisonment, to receiving a lock of your x-lover's bloody pubic hair these thirteen couples really take the cake for breaking up badly. "With wit and considerable empathy, Wright digs deep into the archives to bring these terrible breakups to life. She educates, entertains, and puts your own bad breakup conduct into perspective" (From the book jacket).

Review: The day before the current quarantine, I perused the library shelves for books on my reading list and ended up checking out nine books. It Ended Badly was one of them, though I couldn't remember why I even had it on my TBR list. I quickly read seven of the books, setting aside this book and one other, thinking they weren't for me but after making a stray comment to that effect on a post, Rummanah Aasi over at Books in the Spotlight encouraged me to give it a try, saying that it was excellent narrative nonfiction and her high school students enjoy reading it.

I'm still in recovery from my reading hangover of Lonesome Dove so I decided to pick up a book which was very different. It Ended Badly fit the bill. No bang-bang shoot 'em up, or so I thought. First, I should say, of the thirteen couples I had only heard of a few of the scorned lovers, and of those only two of the couples I'd heard of both partners in the pair/trio: Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn//Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, and Elizabeth Taylor. The rest like Nero, Oscar Wilde, Norman Mailer I had previously only heard a bit about the one person. So in addition to learning the sorted details of their breakup I learned quite a bit about people and historical figures.

While learning all the sorted details of the breakups was fun, what made It Ended Badly a fun read was the editorial tone taken by Jennifer Wright. She'd done her homework but she didn't come across and a snobby expert. In fact the opposite was true. She made little comments and snarks throughout her writing that simply cracked me up. You see a bit of that in the page 56 quote about Henry VIII being hot and the book beginning quote where she comments that her heart sings when people of today get upset with politicians when they have affairs. (The books was published in 2015, so she didn't have a chance to make a swipe at Trump.) I found myself wishing that I had listened to the audiobook so I could hear how her sarcastic and snarky comments were handled in that format, but then I would have missed all the funny photos and illustrations with her aside comments attached.

I didn't read this book carefully since I was just reading it for fun but I think it has great potential as an addition to a high school library collection if any teacher requires that students read narrative nonfiction. I suspect this one would become very popular with teen readers, as it should with adults, too. Jennifer Wright even comments on page 195 that she thinks it would be a cool teacher that buys this book for their students. Ha!

Thanks Rummanah for the recommendation!

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, April 27, 2020

Ten Books I Wish I'd Read as a Child

Top Ten Books I wish I'd read (or had read to me) as a child
(in no particular order)
This is a reposting of a TTT topic from years ago, Jan. 24, 2011

Before I launch into my list let me say---I'm old. :)---at least compared to lot of bloggers who I enjoy reading their posts.

This list reflects book choices that existed when I was a child.  Most are considered classics. (What does that say about me?) There are many, many children's books that I would love to read that were published after my childhood but I didn't include them for the above reason.

Secondly, I think my childhood was literature deprived. We had very few books around the house. Those I did have, I read hundreds of times. I only recall going to the library a few times and it was the rare occasion when either of my parents read to me and my siblings.  So rare, in fact, that those precious moments are seared into my brain and are some of my happiest childhood memories.

I have read a few of the books on my list as an adult either for my own pleasure or aloud to my children.  Those books are marked with a ***.  The rest are awaiting the time when I pick them up and belatedly enjoy them.

1.  Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

2.  The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawles***

3.  Black Beauty by Anna Sewell ***

4.  Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers

5.  Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll ***

6.  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

7.  The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster***

8.  Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

9.  Misty of Chincoteague by Margarite Henry ***

10.  Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne ***

11.  Little House on the Prairie series 
by Laura Ingalls Wilder **(incomplete)
12. Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery*** (incomplete)
13. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

14. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg***

15. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien***

Do you notice the recurring themes of animals and adventure?

What are the childhood books you wish you'd read, or did read and loved?


Friday, April 24, 2020

Review and quotes: LONESOME DOVE

Title: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

Book Beginnings quote:
When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake--not a very big one.
Friday56 quote:
In an effort to get the coffee going, Bolivar had spilled a small pile of coffee grounds into the grease where the eggs and bacon were frying. It seemed a small enough matter to him, but it enraged Augustus, who liked to achieve an orderly breakfast at least once a week.
Summary: The story, a Western, focuses on the relationship of two old Texas Rangers who, with a cast of likeable and unlikeable characters, find themselves driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana. It is set in the dying days of the Old West when most of the Indians were done fighting and most of the American bison (buffalo) were killed. Montana was as of yet to be "conquered" so they decided to be the first cattle ranchers in the territory. The book addresses themes of aging, death, love, friendship, and unacknowledged paternity.

Review: Lonesome Dove was published in 1985 and won the Pulitzer Prize the next year. But back in 1975, author Larry McMurtry sat down and typed out the first line, When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake--not a very big one. McMurtry, in the book's preface, written 25 years after the first publication of the book, said "I wasn't thinking about literary merit when I wrote that first sentence about Augustus McCrae, the blue pigs and the quickly consumed snake. I was just doodling at the typewriter, hoping to find a subject or a character that might hold my interest." That inspiration didn't come until many years and two books later when McMurtry happened to see an old church bus with the sign Lonesome Dove Baptist Church painted on its side. He knew at once he'd found the title to his book, which he started writing that day.

Back in the late 1980s a girlfriend and I spent a day watching the whole mini-series made from the book. In those days before Netflix and Hulu, one had to either rent a video or happen to catch the rerun on cable. I think we did the latter and watched all 6 hours of it at one sitting. I wasn't even aware that Lonesome Dove was a book at the time. Not much of that viewing experience stuck with the possible exception of snakes and dust, lots of both. Now that I've read all 858 pages of the original I am sure the story is going to stick better this time.

Even though I have never even visited Texas and I've only been on a horse two or three times in my life, the Old West seems to live inside me. Could it be that I was raised on a steady diet of Western TV shows: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Maverick, the Rifleman, and The Lone Ranger? Or is it something else? The epigraph for this book picks at this thought---
All America lies at the end of the wilderness road, and our past is not a dead past, but still lives in us. Our forefathers had civilization inside themselves, the wild outside. We live in the civilization they created, but within us the wilderness still lingers. What they dreamed, we live, and what they lived, we dream. ---T.K. Whipple, Study Out the Land
Whatever it is, I suspect that in Lonesome Dove all Americans can find a kernel of their own story.

My daughter was shocked when I told her that Lonesome Dove might be in my top ten books I've ever read. "What? Why?", she asked.

Well, for one thing I pretty much loved 90% of the characters and cared deeply what happened to them. As the story meandered along the characters would come in and out of focus but I was always happy to greet them again when the story circled back around. Several of the characters die and I wept big, wet tears at their passing. Others made decisions that were perplexing but always I cared what happened next.

And what did happen? Well, a whole lot of cattle herding for one. But also gunfights, barroom scenes, interactions with Indians, dust storms, locust invasions, hailstorms, horse wrangling, life on the prairie, whoring, a whole lot about friendship, unrequited love, and unacknowledged paternity. If you've seen it or heard of it from a Western movie or book, it probably happened in Lonesome Dove.

And what about the blue pigs mentioned in the first line? They walked all the way to Montana just to be eaten. "Life ain't for sissies," as Augustus might have said.

I might add that reading this book ain't for sissies either. Weighing in at over 850 pages of small, tight print I began to think I'd never finish it. Add that together with the whole coronavirus pandemic and I found myself unable to concentrate on any one thing for an extended period of time. I would read thirty of so pages a day before setting the book aside. At that rate it took me almost as long to read the book as it did to herd the cattle all the way from Texas to Montana. For me Lonesome Dove will forever be branded in my memory as the book I read during the great pandemic of 2020 which will add greater poignancy and depth to my memory of it.

Lastly, back in January I read an article in BookPage magazine where the editors identified one book they each were committed to reading in 2020. I liked the idea of doing the same thing and picked Lonesome Dove as my 2020 reading goal. Well, I've done it and I am so glad I did. What a book!

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, April 20, 2020

TTT: Titles That Would Make Good Band Names

Top Ten Tuesday: Titles That Would Make Good Band Names

A rather frivolous and funny  topic. Just about any title could be used by bands for the names of their groups. I live near a freeway sign which was used as the name of fairly famous rock band, Sleater-Kinney. So I know that anything can used as a band title.

1. Daisy Jones and the Six (Reid)---Ha ha. This is cheating since it is the title of rock band in a book.

2. True Grit (Portis)---Doesn't this have a nice ring for a country group?

3. Ready, Player One (Cline)--- A play on the word player. Fun idea.

4. Manhattan Beach (Egan)---Maybe a funky name for a jazz group out of New York.

5. Pachinko (Lee)---Take a Korean/Japanese game and name a K-Pop group after it.

6. Brazen (Bagieu)---How about this for a title of a kick-ass female rock group?

7. Artemis (Weir)---How about this title for a techno group?

8. Force of Nature (Harper)---Sounds like the title of some strong group, maybe a hair rock band.

9. The Great Alone (Hannah)---Would be a great title for a band out of Alaska since it comes from a poem by Robert Service about that state.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Sunday Salon/Coronavirus Diaries, April 19th

Photos taken at the 2018 Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, Washington. Photo credit: D. Bennett
Weather: Partially sunny. I worked in the yard for a short time and then Don and I went for a drive in his convertible. It wasn't very warm but good for April.

Staying at home: We venture out to the store to buy groceries and this week we went to a nursery and purchased a few azaleas to replace dead ones or to fill in spots that need some more color in the yard. Otherwise we are here. Don works from home and I piddle around. This week I cleaned off the kitchen desk which I use as a spot to pile up stuff. I  also created a new bulletin board display above the desk. I put new felt pieces on the legs of the kitchen chairs, a chore that should have been attended to months ago. Today we planted some seeds in a little "greenhouse" thingy in hopes to give the seeds a nice start before it is warm enough to reliably put them out. It has been so dry this April we actually turned on the sprinkler one day this past week. Otherwise you will find me doing puzzles (I'm on my 8th right now) or reading.

Good things about the Stay-at-home order:
  1. We are using almost all the vegetables and fruits that we buy instead of wasting half of them to rot because we neglected them for too long.
  2. Likewise, meats and foods in the freezer are coming in handy and allow us to not have to shop as often.
  3. Our yard is way ahead of where it usually is by this date in other years in terms of spring prep.
  4. We are both calling friends and family more often, staying in touch and catching up after months/years of neglect.
  5. The dog loves it. He gets walks almost every day.
  6. Don fired up his sports car, got it tuned up, replacing the battery and alternator so we can now take little jaunts and get some wind in our hair. Our first trip was to deliver a few things to our daughter and so we got to see our grandson, wearing masks, of course.
  7. We "attended" two church services on Easter, both of them remotely, one of them in our pajamas.
Bad things about the stay-at-home order:
  1. I'm pretty distracted finding it hard to do anything for a long period or stretch. This makes reading slow going. My progress on Lonesome Dove could be described as plodding. I'm over 80% done but I've been reading it for 6 weeks.
  2. My hair. Need I say more?
  3. I'm sitting around a lot. 
  4. Favorite things like the Tulip Festival are canceled.
  5. Toilet paper worries.
Coronavirus news is so depressing and overwhelming. It is time for a few funny items about what is going on:
1. Staying at home in levels

2. That's funny. I don't care who you are. That is funny.

3.  Whine. Whine.

4. Vaccine delays

5. Easter 2020

6. New skills

7. Where are you? I think I can hear you, but can't see you.

Fred below. George above. Photo credit: C. Bennett

Stay healthy. Stay home!


Saturday, April 18, 2020

Classics Club Spin #23

Classics Club Spin #23

What is the spin?

It’s easy. Before next Sunday 19th April 2020, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. 

You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you have been putting off, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients, non-fiction, books in translation — whatever you choose.)

On Sunday 19th April, CC will post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 1st June, 2020

Here is my list of twenty. All books are ones I own or was able to find a free e-book version of it, since my public library is closed due to the pandemic.

1. Anne of Avonlea by J.M. Montgomery
2. Christie by Catherine Marshall
3. Silas Marnar by George Eliot
4. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir. Arthur Conan Doyle 
5. Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
6. So Big by Edna Ferber
7. Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
8. Dune by Frank Herbert
9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
10. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey
11. Tinkers by Paul Harding
12. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder*
13. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume*
14. Breathing Lessons by Ann Tyler*
15. The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty*
16. The Hours by Michael Cunningham*
17. Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
18. So Big by Edna Ferber (repeat)
19. Breathing Lessons by Ann Tyler (repeat)*
20. The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty (repeat)*

Whenever I create these lists I am always aware of my choices and what I really want to read (So Big) and what I really don't want to read (Jungle Book). Several of the books, marked with * I was able to check out an e-book from the library. I wonder who many will be returned without being read?

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you the number that was spun. Join me? 

Follow me below the line for the Spin number....

The spin number is ...

I'll be reading: So Big by Edna Ferber

 Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber's crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago's high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler's daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges. This is the stunning and unforgettable “novel to read and to remember” by an author who “critics of the 1920s and 1930s did not hesitate to call the greatest American woman novelist of her day” (New York Times).


Friday, April 17, 2020

Review and quotes: THE TESTAMENTS

Title: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Book Beginnings quote:
Only dead people are allowed to have statues, but I have been given one while I am still alive. Already I am petrified.
Friday56 quote:
The really bad thing happened on my birthday.
"When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead for her--freedom, prison or death. With The Testaments, the wait is over" (Publisher). The story picks up fifteen years later and is told through the voices of three female narrators from Gilead. Each tell their part of the story until the three coalesce into a dynamic and satisfying conclusion, answering almost all of the questions that have bothered readers for over a decade.

"Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in." --Margaret Atwood
I was satisfied after reading A Handmaid's Tale over ten years ago. I kind of like reading books which end on a question mark. They allow me to fill in the blank and play with different endings. Well, apparently I was alone and Atwood, who had never intended to write a sequel to her classic tale, succumbed to pressure from her fans to finish the story. And finish she did. The Testaments is a marvelous book on its own, showing the depravity in Gilead and which lends itself to applications to headlines from today's news. Atwood also helped out readers like me who didn't want to go back and reread the first book, by giving plenty of information and tips to fill in the story we may have forgotten over the years. She did it in a thoughtful way so our intelligence wouldn't be insulted, however. Atwood is such a good writer.  If you haven't read A Handmaid's Tale, read it first. But if you read it a long time ago, you will be fine not rereading it.

I listened to the audiobook version of The Testaments read by five different voice actor. The female voices: Mae Whitman, Tantoo Cardinal, and Ann Dowd did very memorable performances.  I especially liked Tantoo Cardinal's voice for Aunt Lydia, one of the female leaders in Gilead who has a statue made of her before she is dead.

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, April 13, 2020

TTT: Books I Enjoyed But Don't Talk About Much

Top Ten Tuesday: 
Books I Enjoyed But Don't Talk About Much 
(at least not on TTT)







1. Virgil Wander by Leif Enger---Everyone in my book club loved this book. Enger has a way of putting sentences together that makes you want to read them aloud. (Grove Press, 2018)

2. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham---I recently re-listened to this book in the audio format. It is a funny, quirky who-dun-it with a twist--the protagonist has Tourette Syndrome. I recommend this as an audiobook.  (Viking Press, 1999; Recorded Books, 2001)

3. Inland by Tea Obreht---This is one of those books which sneaks up on you. At first you aren't sure if you will even finish it and then when you do you realize you love it and the author is brilliant. (Random House, 2019)

4. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom---The narrator is music! That should tell you why I like this book so much. It is indeed magical. (Harper Collins, 2015)

5. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan---This is the type of book I really enjoy--geeky, quirky, a bit of a mystery, off-beat characters. (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2012)




6. Artemis by Andy Weir---Set on the moon, it is an action, adventure, mystery, plus is has all the technology you'd need to survive on such an inhospitable place. (Crown Books, 2017)

7. Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Penelope Bagieu---a graphic book aboutfamous and not-so-famous women who did remarkable things. I love the illustrations and I learned so much. This book won the 2019 Eisner Award for International Material (First Second, 2018)

8. News of the World by Paulette Jiles---I keep thinking of this book in contrast to the one I am reading right now, Lonesome Dove. This is also set in Texas in the late 1800s, includes lots of horses and cowboys, but this one is short. (William Morrow, 2016)

9. Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger---Described as part mystery and part meditation. Everyone in book club loved it for it's beautiful prose. (Atria Books, 2013)

10. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson---If you were abducted by aliens and given the chance to push the button to destroy earth, would you? What if everyone was really awful to you, would you want to do it then? Thoughtful. (Simon Pulse, 2016)

What about you? What are some books you really like but you don't find yourself talking about much?


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Review and quotes: FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE

Title: Fleishamn Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Book Beginnings quote:
Toby Fleishman awoke one morning inside the city he'd lived all his adult life and which was suddenly somehow crawling with women who wanted him.
Friday56 quote:
That night, Toby took the children to synagogue like he'd done every Friday night before the separation. The problem with Rachel taking any Friday nights was she never took them to synagogue, and so it began to creep into their heads that maybe Friday night services, dinner, and family time were optional, a whim of Toby's that was subject to debate.
Summary and Review: At the end of each calendar year many publications create a list of the best books of that year. Last year FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE by Taffy Brodesser-Akner tied at 30 with NICKEL BOYS by Colson Whitehead as the two books on the most best-of-2019 lists. (See the lists here.) I had really high hope for Fleishman Is In Trouble since I loved Nickel Boys and they had the same number of high recommendations.

The book's description, which apparently I didn't scrutinize too closely, said that Toby Fleishman has recently separated from his wife of thirteen years. He is a 41-year-old doctor, a dedicated father, and a practicing Jew. His wife, Rachel, is a talent agent who works long hours and makes lots of money but has little time or patience for family life. Their marriage should have ended long before it did. Then one day she disappears after dropping off the children and doesn't respond to his texts or phone calls. No one knows where she is. Weeks pass. During this time Toby starts to examine his own life. Maybe he isn't the person he thinks he is, either. This all sounds good/interesting/compelling.

Unfortunately I did not like the book one bit and part of the reason is found in the description that I missed: "Toby Fleishman is suddenly, somehow--and at age forty-one, short as ever--surrounded by women who want him: women who are self-actualized, women who are smart and interesting, women who don't mind his height, women who are eager to take him for a test drive with just the swipe of an app. Toby doesn't mind being used in this way; it's a welcome change from the thirteen years he spent as a married man, the thirteen years of emotional neglect and contempt he's just endured." Read the words 'test drive' as sex, lots of sex. Yuck. There was so many women and such horrible and belittling text messages and photos I was disgusted. I wanted to close my eyes and chant la-la-la so I wouldn't have to hear the words spoken on the audiobook. Disgusting. If I had even bothered to read the first line, I would have had a clue, huh?

I didn't like any of the characters in Fleishman Is In Trouble. (Well with one exception:  Solly, the nine-year-old son.) I didn't like Toby, Rachel, their daughter, Hannah. I didn't like any of Toby's friends. I didn't like any of the doctors or Rachel's co-workers, and I especially didn't like any of the rich people in the story. Gag. Why would anyone want to have money so they could hang out with rich snobs like that? And why would anyone want to raise their children to be the same way. Awful. I suppose that was one of the points the book was making---one cannot buy happiness.

Oddly the narrator of the book was not Toby or Rachel but a female friend of Toby's from their college days, Elizabeth. She came in and out of the story, sometimes fulfilling the role of a '3rd-person-omniscient narrator' and sometimes as a character in the story. Not until the end of the book do we learn what qualifies her to tell the story in the first place. That chapter, by the way, is the only one I liked. In it this narrator friend talks about the challenges for women in competitive jobs and how they are judged much harsher then men. She made some really good points, but I didn't need to read a whole awful book for one good chapter.

So, you ask, why did I even bother to finish a book I clearly didn't like? Good question. I keep asking myself the same question, too.  I kept reading (listening) thinking it would improve. It had to, right? Well, it didn't. And I DO NOT recommend that you read it. You've been warned!

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.


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Books in a series. What should I do? What do you do?

As a high school librarian I often only read the first book in popular series because I wanted to get a feel for their plots and the writing, to be able to make recommendations and to determine future purchasing decisions. I would tell my students, when asked, that I didn't want to spend all my time on the same series but preferred to explore a new author or genre to widen my knowledge of the books in the collection. Now that I am retired I no longer have to hurry onto the next great book or author and can linger on a series if I want. And I can go back and read more books in each series that I liked, even completing those old series if I see fit.

That, however, is the rub. When I go back for the second of third book in a series and attempt to read on I usually find myself in a muddle, not remembering crucial details from the first book. I, unlike many of my past students, do not want to reread the first to go forward in a series. Which begs the question: Is it time to let these series go and/or not start future series?

Let me talk specifically. The following series are ones I consider myself still 'working' on.

The Flavia de Luce series.  I just finished the fourth book in the series, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley. What I found charming in the first three books started to irritate me in this one. Flavia, a precocious child, is always up to some project involving chemistry or poisons. She ends up being instrumental in solving the murder through her inquisitive and pushy ways. The murder in this story occurred on page 150, or half-way through the book. Too much pre-story before finally getting to the action. Perhaps it is time to let this series go. What do you think?

The Dreamer series, a side series The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater---
Another recently completed book, Call Down the Hawk, is the first book in the Dreamer series by a favorite author. I loved The Raven Cycle series so much that I had to try this one. I enjoyed it very much but now I will be trapped waiting for the second and third books to be published. I will probably forget critical details before that time.  I was in the same position with the Stranger the Dreamer series by Laini Taylor. I was in a holding pattern having finished the first, waiting for the second book in the duology to published and forgot many details of the first before reading the second. (Thanks for the correction, Proseandkahn.) Do you start series knowing that the subsequent books won't be published for several years?

Speaking of waiting for the next book in a series, how do you cope with books that end on a cliffhanger? That is what I am dealing with in The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman. Though I am committed to finishing this series, I love the writing and the characters so much, I just wish I hadn't started the whole series until the last book was published. The cliffhanger left me pining for days after I completed book #2. My daughter will not start a series until it is complete for this reason, among other things. I still want to finish the Arc of a Scythe series.  by Neal Shusterman. The second book ended on a huge cliffhanger but enough time passed before the third book, The Toll, was published that I didn't rush out and get it right away. And now even more time has passed...you get my point.

Other times I read a book as a standalone and don't hear until much later that it is actually a book in the series. I am never sure if I should read on or just be satisfied with my reading experience of the first. The Testaments, #2 of The Handmaid's Tale series by Margaret Atwood was one such book but I am so glad that I read it. I was surprised how much of the first story I remembered. The Cemetery of Lost Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is another series I am eyeing. I just learned that it is a four book series. I read the first book, The Shadow of the Wind, years ago and loved it. But should I keep going since I was satisfied and loved the book as a standalone?

Some series just seem too daunting to try and go back and catch up. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series is a case in point. There are something like 19 books in that wonderful series by Alexander McCall Smith. I stopped reading about nine or ten books back. The same goes for The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde. It has seven books in the series. I tried reading the third book after a substantial hiatus and couldn't do it. It is time to say enough and wipe the sequels off my TBR pile, don't you think?

Lastly, and I can't believe I am saying this, I am contemplating three classics series. I want to read at least the first book in The Dune series by Frank Herbert, The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov, and The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I want to see what all the fuss is about and, I pray, that I don't feel a strong compulsion to read all the hundreds (exaggeration) of sequels.

On my Goodreads account I have listed 155 books as books-in-a-series, of those I have only completed 13 series in the ten years of keeping records. Not a very good track record. How do you cope with sequels? Do you usually find yourself reading on or can you stop mid-series?

All this stay-at-home business has got me thinking that maybe it is time I read on...


Sunday, April 5, 2020


Back in 2018 PBS launched an eight-part series called THE GREAT AMERICAN READ "that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America's 100 best-loved novels (as chosen by a national survey). It investigated not only those pieces of literature but delved into the authors, what makes for good reading, how writers write, and how reading, even though we live in a diverse country, is such a human experience and can broaden our understandings of that diversity.

I only tuned in once or twice during the TV series but I did participate in the voting. Americans were encouraged to vote for their favorite book out of the 100 and could vote once a day. I changed up my vote every time I voted because I loved so many of the selections. On the last show of the series the favorites of the favorites were revealed. Take a look here for that list.

THE BOOK OF BOOKS is the print edition of the 100 best-loved novels. The text for this book was written by Jessica Allen. She did a very even job describing the reason this or that book made the list. At one point I wondered if she indeed had read and loved each of the books herself.

Only novels were chosen for the project. Each title is categorized into a genre and only one title per author was allowed but within the description of that book the body of work from that author would be highlighted. Oddly, in my opinion, some of the books didn't seem worthy of the list because they were so poorly written (Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, specifically) and several of the top choices seem to relate more to the current TV mini-series than on the books themselves.

 Of the 100 best-loved novels, I've read 59 of them. Many of the books on the list I have no interest in ever reading but many others are already holding a spot on my TBR list (to-be-read list) and the effort of reading this book has mad me want to add several others. For the rest of this blog post I thought I'd find the sentence or two from the description of these unread books that makes me want to read them.

Books I want to read and why, including a quote and the (page number):

-Alex Cross Mysteries by James Patterson---"The Cross mysteries share several characteristics: They drop readers straight into the action, with virtually no backstory or lengthy descriptions" (9). Also, for as prolific a writers as Patterson is I figure I should read at least one of his books. Should I start at the beginning with Along Came a Spider or just jump in anywhere?

-Americanah by Chimanmanda Ngozi Adichie---"In her fiction and nonfiction, Adichie seeks to further gender equality and espouse human diginity, with the understanding that every experience is unique" (13). I enjoyed her thoughtful booklet, We Should All Be Feminists. It is time I try her fiction writing.

- Doña Bárbara by Rómulo Gallegos---This novel is probably the most read and beloved of all Latin American novels and I've never heard of it before. For this reason I want to give it a try at least. Plus, it features "lush descriptions of the Venezuelan plains as well as its residents, the novel blends fantasy and suspense" (69).

-Dune  by Frank Herbert---I just bought an e-book version of this classic 1965 novel so I hope to get to this one soon. Herbert is from my state, a fact I just recently learned, which increases my interest. "In addition to its conservationist themes, Dune explores many philosophical issues, such as the way religion might be manipulated to achieve power, the nature of inheritance, and the use of drugs to expand the mind" (71).

-Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov---Like my rationale for wanting to read a Patterson book, I want to read something by this prolific Sci-Fi author. "In 1966, The Foundation series won a special Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series, beating out Tolkien's Lord of the Rings...It's a reading project worth the effort, though, as the Foundation books testify to an amazing mind with singular powers of creativity" (79).

-Frankenstein by Mary Shelley---This classic novel was already on my TBR list, but this description reinforced my desire to actually read it. "It's a novel of ideas, asking vast, thorny questions about science, ethics, and psychology. Who gets to play God? What is the price of knowledge? What do we owe those we usher into the world?" (81).

-The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck---Another title already on my TBR but I just finished East of Eden so I am not sure how soon I want to jump into another Steinbeck tome. "The book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award...Both Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt talked publically about their great respect for the book, particularly as they stumped for policies meant to pull Americans out of the Depression's lingering effects" (97).

-Hatchet by Gary Paulsen--- This book read by elementary students in my school district was hands-down the favorite among the boys. Even my daughters loved it and talked about it incessantly. "The Hatchet series has been praised for its ability to persuade reluctant readers to give books a try, and for its transfixing depiction of how one boy transforms into a man" (111).

-The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead---I'm a fan of this author. "The Intuitionist reads like a hard-boiled detective novel" (125). Sounds like a good enough reason for me to give this one a try.

-Moby-Dick by Herman Melville---I timidly add this book to my list of hopefuls. Deb Nance, another book blogger, says it is her favorite book. I've never really considered reading it before but D.H. Lawrence said it is, "one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world. It moves awe in the soul" (161).  Trying to categorize the book is difficult, too. "It's simultaneously a psychological study, an exegesis of the Bible, a work of philosphy, an allegorical treatise, a cautionary tale about the dangers of revenge and ambition, an epic prose poem and a textbook on 19th-century whaling."

-Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett---"Follett himself was excited to transform his lifelong interest in cathedrals into an epic tlae of adventure, war, romance, religion, and politics...the novel isn't a dry series of facts wrapped around a bunch of characters--instead, it's a compulsively readable saga about fascinating people undertaking a fascinating project" (181).

-The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan---As a librarian I was always having to organize this series back into its numerical order to make it easier for readers to find their next read. I never really considered reading any of the books myself until now. "Fate and free will, larger-than-life battles, ecstacy, agony, victory, defeat. All of it, and more, is right here" (237).

-White Teeth by Zadie Smith---Over ten years ago I read over 100 pages of White Teeth. I read it fast and ferociously, then I set the book aside and never picked it up again. I want to give it one more try. "Critic James Wood invented the term hysterical realism to describe Smith's debut and similar novels that combine social realism, stylized prose full of pyrotechnics and digressions, and elaborate, twisty plots" (241).

We'll see if my desire to read any/all of these books fades with time. Because, as Frank Zappa said, "So many books, so little time."

Enjoy whatever book you are reading right now. I am still making my way through Lonesome Dove, which, by the way, is on the list of 100 best-loved novels.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Death of a beloved pet

Rest in peace, Ichiro--2000-2020.

 If you have ever believed the adage that art imitates real life, here is an example for you. Our cat Ichiro, named for the famous baseball player, went to be with his maker today. When I sent my daughters a message about his death, I attached the photo of him, taken four years ago at our back door on a windy October day. I liked the way the leaves color the frame. My daughter, a Charlie Harper fan, took a photo of the art hanging in her house, titled "Purrfectly Perched", and sent it right back with a note how they look identical. Aren't the similarities sublime?

Rest in peace, old man, we will miss you and loved you from the bottom of our hearts. And from your new vantage point I hope you are perfectly perched to keep an eye on us.


Thursday, April 2, 2020


Title: The Secret Commonwealth, Book of Dust #2 by Philip Pullman

Book Beginnings quote: 
Pantalaimon, the daemon of Lyra Belacqua, now called Lyra Silvertongue, lay along the windowsill of Lyra's little study-bedroom in St. Sophia's College in a state as far from thought as possible.
Friday56 quote: 
The page ended there. As she read it, Lyra felt Pan drawing away. He laid down on the edge of the table with his back to her. Her throat tightened; she couldn't have spoken, even if she knew what to say to him.
Summary and review: I am a huge fan of Pullman's His Dark Materials series. I devoured it over a decade ago and yet the story of Lyra and her daemon Pantalaimon (Pan) lingered like a wonderful perfume in my memory. When La Belle Sauvage, Book of Dust #1 was published in 2017, I couldn't have been any more delighted and devoured it like I did the previous series. In it Lyra is a baby and she is saved from a flood, a horrible man and his hyena daemon by a young boy Malcolm and his little boat named La Belle Sauvage. That book ends with Malcolm delivering the baby to her father in Oxford where an order of protection is placed on her. The Secret Commonwealth opens up 20 years later and seven years after the events that took place in the 3rd book of the previous series, The Amber Spyglass. Lyra is a student at nearby college and still lives in her little rooms at Oxford. When a series of events occur, Lyra realizes her life is in danger and she turns to Malcolm for help. Through him she hears of the Secret Commonwealth. Her search for answers finds her traipsing all over Europe and Asia, always with danger one step behind her.

I love the world that Pullman has created with Lyra, her daemon, and the cast of characters who flit in and out of scenes. This book, the middle book of the series, starts abruptly and ends the same way. Hence I am on pins and needles waiting for the third book. Few fantasy series have caught my attention so thoroughly and completely. I love Pullman's spell-binding writing. Even after a decade I can be pulled back into his world within one or two pages. If you aren't familiar with His Dark Materials, read them first! Start with The Golden Compass. (But avoid the movie with Nicole Kiddman,) Make your way through those three books and then start on the Book of Dust series. I anticipate the answer to a lot of questions in the third book, which doesn't even have a publication date yet.

Source: public library audiobook: Pullman, Philip. The Secret Commonwealth: The Book of Dust #2. Listening Library, 2019.

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