"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=========

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

National Poetry Month Wrap-up

National Poetry Month has been a great success fro me. I managed to read thirteen small volumes of poetry this month, the most I've ever read in one month. They ranged from wonderful and inspiring to confusing and unexceptional.  The first six volumes I reviewed here, here, and here. The last seven I highlight below with a note of what I liked/didn't like, something surprising, and, a favorite line or phrase from one of the poems.


Day is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute by Maya Angelou*

Liked: This short volume of poetry was a wonderful farewell poem to a remarkable man how saved South Africa from apartheid without a war!

Disliked: I wanted more, it was so short. I wanted to sit with it longer than I did.

Surprised by: I had no idea that Mandela and Angelou were friends. Why would I?  I wish I knew more about their friendship. 

"No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn."

Why I Wake Early: New Poems by Mary Oliver

Liked: I love Mary Oliver's poems but I was especially delighted that this collection was full of new poems, most of her books are only about half full of new ones.

Disliked: Nothing. I liked it all.

Surprised by: This collection seemed more spiritual than I remember of other collections of hers.

"All things are inventions of holiness. Some more rascally than others."

Violet Bent Over Backward in the Grass by Lana Del Ray*

Liked: I adored the first poem for which the book is named. 

Disliked: There was little I could relate to in these poems. In fact I started to feel sorry for the poet as she seemed so lonely and almost addicted to bad men. Clearly I didn't understand most of the poems.

Surprised by: I had no idea who Lana Del Ray was until I looked her up after reading this collection. She is a singer/songwriter. This is her first poetry collection. (It makes me feel old to admit I have never heard of her before.)

"with the exuberance that only doing nothing can bring
waiting for the fireworks to begin

and in that moment
i decided to do nothing about everything


Scribbled in the Dark by Charles Simic*

Liked: I could understand what was going on in each poem, some were even humorous.

Disliked: For the most part the collection seemed uninspired but upon closer inspection it was probably me who was uninspired when I read the poems, not the poems themselves. I laughed once or twice but groaned outwardly a few times, too.

Surprised: I was shocked to learn that the poet was a past Poet Laureate since I'd never heard of him before.

"My childhood. An old silent movie."

I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark*

Liked: This collection of poems delved deeply into the impact racism has on people.

Disliked: The cover is terrible. It makes me want to fling the book away and I don't understand it at all.

Surprised by: Goodread reviews of this poetry collection were all 5s yet I had a hard time understanding most poems so I felt ripped off. I wanted a "5" experience with it, too, but mine was only a "3" experience. I'm guessing that my experience with this collection would have been improved if I heard these poems read out loud.

Concerning the death of Trayvon Martin...

"I think about eyeballs, the first impression,
the action that follows, George Zimmerman stepping

out of his car. I think what would have happened
if he'd just given him a ride home?"

Ledger by Jane Hirshfield

Liked/Disliked: I found myself to be fairly neutral about every poem in this collection.

Surprised by: This is the first collection of Jane Hirshfield poems I've ever read and my expectations were high. My expectations and the experience didn't match, sadly.

"Bees do not question the sweetness of what sways beneath them."

What Do We Know by Mary Oliver

Liked: I just like Oliver's poetry.

Disliked: Hmm. This is not my favorite collection of her poems but I can't put my finger on why.

Surprised: Her love for things that make my skin crawl, like snakes, often catches me by surprise.

"I rise

from the comfortable bed and go
to another room, where my books are lined up
in their neat and colorful rows. How
magical they are! I choose one
and open it. Soon
I have wandered in over the waves of the words
to the temple of thought."

The books denoted with * were part of grab-bag of books organized for me, upon request, from my public library. I requested small volumes of poetry and those books were a delight and a surprise for me. 

In addition to the four listed above, the grab-bag contained one more book: The Ancient Mariner by David Jones, edited by Thomas Dilworth. On first inspection the book appeared to be an illustrated version of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" so why is the artist credited with authoring the book, not Coleridge, the poet who authored the poem? I dug in a little deeper today and discovered the answer. David Jones not only created interesting copper engravings but also annotated the poem in two limited editions, one in 1929 and the other in 1964. Notes written by Jones about his process were written in 1964. So that is cool and interesting. Not interesting enough for me to read the whole thing, but cool nonetheless. Jones's notes, annotations, and the original poem by Coleridge take up 82 pages. The rest of the book is written by Thomas Dilworth who analyzes Jones's engravings and annotations, for thirty additional pages of text. Talk about complicated (and tedious.) I decided to not read the book, is it any wonder? But in case you are writing your doctoral dissertation on Coleridge or Davis, be sure to look for this book. I'll leave you with the only line I can remember from the famous poem, last studied by me in junior high school.

"Water water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Review and quotes: SAVING MY ENEMY--- A True "Band of Brothers" Story

Saving My Enemy: How Two WWII Soldiers Fought Against Each Other and Later Forged a Friendship That Saved Their Lives
by Bob Welch is a true "Band of Brothers" story. It tells a story not often told when one chronicles war--that of friendship and forgiveness.

Back in 2007 Bob Welch met and interviewed a WWII Band of Brothers hero, Don Malarkey, a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, E Company. Together Welch and Marlarky wrote the World War II memoir, Easy Company Soldier. During more than a dozen interviews that Welch conducted to get material for the book, Marlarkey mentioned befriending a German soldier after the war. Welch, more concerned with a looming deadline, didn't think much about it and went on to publish the book in 2008 without exploring the comment further. 

Malarkey was an outstanding soldier. He served more consecutive time on the front lines--177 days--than any other member of Easy Company. He and the other members of the company gained notoriety when their unit was featured in Steven Ambrose's 1992 book The Band of Brothers and later in a Spielberg/Hanks-produced HBO series in 2001. Before Malarkey died at age ninety-six in 2017 he had been the oldest living member of Easy Company. 

Several months after Malarkey's death his youngest daughter, Marianne McNally, contacted Welch to find out if he would like to write a second book about her father. This one about his friendship with a German soldier. This book is the result of that request. It is about "Don and Fritz's true-life adventure: the rare war story with a happy ending. All because a couple of former enemies who made the most of their own second chance" (Author's note).

Saving My Enemy is divided into five parts. The first is titled 'Youth' and compares the upbringing and lifestyle of Don Malarkey and Fritz Englebert. The first chapter, hilariously titled "Hitler Youth and Huckleberry Finn", sums up the differences. Fritz was only eight-years-old when Hitler came to power and he, along with most of his classmates, enthusiastically joined the Hitler Youth movement. By the time he was seventeen Fritz was completely indoctrinated by Hitler and wanted to join the SS but his father refused to sign the required papers. Instead he joined the German Army at age eighteen when he could do so without parental signatures. Don, on the other hand, grew up in Astoria, Oregon on the Columbia River where he hunted, fished, and made merry. He worked hard when it was required of him, but he was known for his high-jinx and 'Halloween tricks' as well. Don entered college in the fall of 1941, where ROTC training was required for all male students, and three months later USA entered the war. By the end of Christmas break that year Don knew he was going to war.

'War' is the title of the second part of Saving My Enemy. Both Fritz and Don were stationed in various locations around Europe but eventually both men ended up in Belgium, fighting on either side of what became known as the Battle of the Bulge. Each became very disturbed by the deaths they witnessed. Don was distressed by the death of a German he shot. As he went through the identification papers he discovered the person was only sixteen-years-old, just a child. Fritz discovered a dead and frozen American GI in the forest and was haunted by the look on the face of a dead Belgian teenage girl, a casualty of war. 

By this point in the narrative I am thinking that this book doesn't seem too different than many WWII memoirs and novels I've read before. One big difference, however, was seeing war through the eyes of a German soldier. Fritz the gung-ho, Hitler-enthused soldier became less and less enamored as the war drug on and the cold winter of 1944 set in. The accelerant for the shift in his thinking occurred as he witnessed the death of so many of his fellow soldiers and the cowardice of some of his commanding officers. If the book had stopped when the war was over, I don't think I'd recommend you read it. But there were three more parts and a lot more story to tell.

Part III follows Don and Fritz 'Home' and recounts the lives they made for themselves after the war. Both men struggled to gain purchase and balance as they attempted to assimilate back into their previous lives. They both married and started families. Don drank to anesthetize his feelings which caused a host of additional problems including financial worries. Fritz worked and worked, routinely putting in over 55 hours per week at his job. Both men were haunted by their memories of the war, often waking from nightmares. Neither man was warm and loving toward his children--Fritz had two boys and Don had a son and three daughters. Though they were willing to hide their feelings in drink and work, neither Don nor Fritz ever sought out counseling for what we would now call their PTSD symptoms. Whereas Don felt pride in his military service, Fritz felt shame for his. He felt like "a fool; a lackey; an accomplice; an evildoer; an imbecile; a hired hand of the devil himself, the perfect example of Hitler's insistence that 'people will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one'" (172). The more Fritz learned about Hitler the worse he felt about himself. He'd been duped by the biggest con artist who ever lived. He'd been an extension of Hitler's evil plans including the holocaust, though he didn't know about it until after he returned from his time as a POW. His shame grew and grew. Why hadn't he seen the truth in the late 1930s? "Your Hitler Youth leaders would not allow you to look up, to look beyond them and the Fuhrer", his father told him (183). Fritz's conscience felt deeply wounded.

The Band of Brothers book and the HBO series that followed helped Don start to make sense of his life. There were many reunions of the men in Easy Company and a modicum of fame. He also started to talk about his war experiences, especially with others who had experienced war first-hand. Slowly the ice began to crack for Fritz, too, as he started to read books which would have been banned under Hitler. He read books by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Wolfang Borchert, men who were opposed to Hitler and wrote about their opposition. Don and Fritz could not shrug off their internal wounds but both started to take a few baby steps in the right direction. Books and fame couldn't do it. What both men needed was forgiveness. "And not just from anyone, but from the enemy" (241).

'Absolution' (Part IV) came from a round-about route. The end result was a group of Easy Company men coming to Germany on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Bulge for a reunion of sorts. German soldiers would be invited to the reunion, too. After much deliberation and prodding from his sons, Matthias and Volker, Fritz decided he would attend the event. As it turned out, he was the only German soldier to attend that night. During the dinner one of the GIs sitting near Fritz started giving him a bad time. Instead of joining in, Don rose and gave Fritz a toast welcoming him to the Band of Brothers! From that moment on a bond was formed between these two men, men who were once enemies. The next day they stayed together as the group toured old battle sites and visited military cemeteries. In the evening, with the beer flowing, Fritz started opening up about his shame. "Fritz, you had no choice. You were forced into Hitler Youth. You were given a weapon and sent to war...It's not your fault, Fritz. Let it go. Nobody's holding that against you. You've done well. You're a good man. You've raised good sons" (272-3). The floodgate of tears which had been held back since 1945 let go and Fritz cried and cried. Later, as Don shared his shame and what haunted him about the war, Fritz was able to give Don the same absolution he'd received earlier. This time the tears belonged to Don.

Fritz and Don left behind an incredible 'Legacy' (Part V). The men only met together two more times after their initial and chance meeting in 2004 but their lives were changed forever. When they met again, family members joined the men and deep friendships were formed. Fritz died first in 2015. In 2017 Marianne, Don's daughter, invited Fritz's family to join them in Portland, Oregon for another Easy Company reunion. During the event this German family of Fritz Engelbert were welcomed into the Band of Brothers. Don, whose health was rapidly failing, joined in the festivities chatting happily with his German friends. He died five weeks later. A deep and abiding friendship developed between the two families of Don and Fritz. Later, during a Band of Brothers re-enactment event in Switzerland in 2018, the families were encouraged to write a book about their fathers. The Saving My Enemy project was born with both families contributing greatly so that there was fair and equal treatment of both men.

Bob Welch did an incredible job weaving together the story of these two men who fought and were damaged in the same war. Though I had previously read several books about Hitler Youth, I was struck anew by the similarity of the strategies used in Germany in the 1930s to what is happening today with Trump and his followers, and QAnon conspiracy theories..."Don't believe what you hear, believe me only. The media are bad. Don't listen to them. Burn books that don't say nice things about me. Turn against family members if they disagree with you/me." Welch didn't say these words. I was reading between the lines. But what I saw frightened me again with the thought of how easily millions of people can be duped by con artists the likes of Hitler and Trump.

At the end of the source notes Welch asks three very important questions which we should all ponder: What can war teach us about peace? Why do nations devote so much time, money, and energy preparing soldiers for war and so little to help them heal when they return from it? And when will we begin to respect the power of forgiveness? 

Just as I was finishing the book and pondering those questions, my husband, also named Don, asked me to join him in the hot tub for a soak. I posed those three questions of him as I climbed into the hot water. Don, a veteran of the Iraq War, had a lot to say about the poor mental health services that soldiers receive after they return home, though they are better than what the WWII vets received. As a long time member of a National Guard Brigade, he had the instant support and camaraderie of the men and women he served with in Iraq beginning the first month they drilled together once they returned home, and each month after that. The soldiers in WWII came home from Europe or the Pacific, separated from their units and dispersed across the country. They didn't have a built-in support system awaiting them during the next unit training assembly. Don also talked about how his relationship with other combat vets changed beginning during his deployment and continuing after he returned home. My uncle Gordon, two old WWII vets in our church, a Vietnam veteran co-worker, and even his father, a Korean War vet, all suddenly had a lot to talk to Don about. He said that his war experiences bonded him to these men. I was most moved by his altered relationship with my Uncle Gordon, who was probably a lot like Don Malarkey, a kind man but one who had trouble coping with his demons from the time he served in the South Pacific during WWII. Drinking and gruffness covered up his feelings and anesthetized his pain. Then my Don came back from Iraq and Gordon had someone to talk to about the horrors of war and the heavy burden of carrying memories of those who did not get to come home. What a relief.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to read this book. It is so inspiring and vital. We've heard the war stories before. We know our failures to care for the mental health impacts of war. Here we learn about a way out. A way that will hopefully lead to less war and more peace in the future: Forgiveness.

For further reading on this and related topics, I recommend:

Book Beginnings quote (pg. 1 of Prologue): 

It was three days before Christmas 1944, though most soldiers were too weary to notice the approaching holiday. World War II in Europe, now in its sixth year, clanked relentlessly on with the resolve of a German Panzer, grinding through whatever got in its way: Soldiers. Civilians. Christmas. Whatever it took to feed the beast.

Friday56 quote (from page 56, Chapter 3, "Off to War"):

Fritz Jr. now had justification for the militaristic bent of the Hitler Youth: We are at war. Shouldn't we support our own country? After the invasion, Fritz was champing at the bit to serve Hitler and his country. At seventeen, the minimum age, he aspired to be part of the Waffen-SS, the armed wing of the Nazi Party's SS organization. But his father refused to give his consent.

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.   


Dewey 24-Hour Readathon Wrap-up

It almost doesn't count, me participating in scheduled/named readathons because I do not interact with other readers during the event. I just read. And I break the rules. I try to read for 24-hours and I keep reading until I hit that mark, even if it takes me days. I should call it the 'Anne Readathon.' I am almost done. I managed to read somewhere between 22-23 hours over the course of four days. Ha! Not as impressive as it sounds at first glance, huh? What is the daily average? 5.62-5.75 hours, which is a whole lot more reading per day than I usually do. 

Here is the down of what I accomplished.

Books I started before the readathon and completed during it:

  1. Saving My Enemy: How Two WWII Soldiers Fought Against Each Other and Later Forged a Friendship That Saved Their Lives by Bob Welch. (Print)
    • I had barely started the book before Friday starting from page10. Pages read during readathon: 370.
  2. Dune by Frank Herbert (Audiobook)
    • I'd been listening to the audiobook for a month and was somewhere around page 580 when I started the event. Equivalent pages read/listened to during the event: 310.
  3. The Atlas of Happiness: The Global Secrets of How to Be Happy by Helen Russell. (Print)
    •  I was on page 206 when the event started. Pages completed: 82.
      • Total pages: 762

Books I read in entirety: 

  1. Fred Rogers: The Last Interview and Other Conversations. (Print) Pages: 97.
  2. His Day is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute by Maya Angelou (Print poetry) Pages: 43.
  3. Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Ray (Print poetry) Pages: 128.
  4. Scribbled in the Dark by Charles Simic (Print poetry) Pages: 72.
  5. I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark (Print poetry) Pages: 112.
  6. We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Print children's book) Pages: 40.
      • Total pages: 492

Books I started but didn't complete/progress made:

  1. The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. (Audiobook). I started the event at 9% now I'm at 52% on the audio settings. Page equivalency: from 33 to 192=159.
  2. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz. (Print). Pages read: 34.
  3. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka. Pages read: 10.
  4. "Bonnie's Big Day", James Herriot's Treasury for Children (Print children's book). Pages read: 32.
      • Total pages: 235
      • Grand total: 1489
        • That averages to 66 pages per hour, which doesn't sound like that much but listening to audiobooks is much slower than reading, usually around 32-25 pages per hour. (I was going to figure out the adjusted pages per hour if I back them out, but I can't figure out the math. Ha!)

I like to do these 'readathons' when I am feeling swamped by the number of books I have in a queue. Those books tend to call out to me and it can get pretty noisy when there are a lot of books waiting. Even though I finished nine books during the event, I still have five books waiting to be read/finished. Guess I should just keep going!😄


Monday, April 26, 2021

TTT: Animals in Literature


Top Ten Tuesday: Some of my favorite animals in literature 

(I tried to limit my choices to "real animals" in the books, not stuffed animals or toys)

1. Aslan. The LION in The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

2. Fodderwing. A DEER (FAWN) in The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings

3. Old Dan and Little Ann. RED BONE COONHOUNDS in Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

4. Enzo. A GOLDEN RETRIEVER in The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

5. Ralph. A MOUSE in The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

6. Charlotte and Wilbur. The SPIDER and PIG in Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

7. Mrs. Tiggy Winkle. A HEDGEHOG in The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy Winkle by Beatrix Potter. (Actually all of the Beatrix Potter Characters, like Peter Rabbbit and Tom Kitten.)

8. Pantalaimon. Lyra's daemon who settled as a PINE MARTIN when she turned twelve in His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.

9. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver. BEAVERS in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

10. Black Beauty. A HORSE whose father was a THOROUGHBRED in Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

11. Mrs. Frisby. A MOUSE in Mrs. Frisby and Rats of NIMB by Robert O'Brien

12. Crookshanks. Hermione Granger's pet PERSIAN CAT in Harry Potter and the Prisoner's of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

13. Winn-Dixie. A MUTT DOG in Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

14. Walter. A BIG DOG-- PART LAB MIX, in The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry.

15. Hedwig. A SNOWY OWL in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.

16. All the CATS (like Old Deuteronomy, Jennyanydots, Mr. Mistofles, Skimbleshanks...) in Old Possum's Book of Magical Cats by T.S. Eliot.


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday Salon---a brief update on the past week

I'll be brief.

Weather: It is sunny right now but will be sprinkling in a minute, I'm sure. One of those on and off days.

George Floyd trial: The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty on all three counts for the murder of Mr. Floyd. A alternate juror said she would have voted guilty because she listened to the testimony of the witnesses. There was no doubt in her mind as to the guilt of  Mr. Chauvin. Praise the Lord. Justice was done.

Waterwalk: (See photo above) We live near the Puget Sound. On nice days/evenings there is nothing so splendid as taking a walk along a series of parks on Rustin Way. We could see Mt. Rainier in the background. Lots of people were strolling, walking dogs, skating, or skateboarding when we joined the throng, most wearing face masks. We sat and ate our fish-n-chips looking out over the Sound where big ocean-going vessels were anchored and small boats of all types could be seen.

Freezer: This week I defrosted the freezer. Big whoop, I know. But oh boy, what a lot of wasted food in there. I found meat and vegetables that had been in there since 2015! I am determined to not do that again, so I am trying an app called AnyList where I can add and subtract inventory. That way I won't keep using the most recent foodstuff and ignore the items that have been in longer. Fingers crossed.

24-hour-readathon: I am participating in a readathon this week-end trying to knock off a bunch of books which have been on my nightstand for too long. Read about my progress here.

Zoom church: Look who joined us for church today---our daughter and her boys. 


Friday, April 23, 2021

April Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon

I've decided to participate in the April Dewey's 24-hour readathon this weekend, with modifications:

1. Instead of attempting to read for 24 hours in one day, which would involve staying up all night, I will attempt to read 24 hours during the weekend.

2. I will update my progress on this page, not create separate pages every time I post about my progress. Follow my progress below. I will attempt to update at 6-8 hour intervals.

3. My list of hopefuls:

  • The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict is for an upcoming book club. Print. Current progress 0%.
  • The Girl with the Louding Voice by Dare is for another upcoming book club. Audio. Current progress 9%.
  • Dune by Frank Herbert is my 2021 only reading goal. Audio and or e-book. Current progress 68%.
  • Saving My Enemy by Bob Welch. He has asked me to preview his book. Print. Progress 5%.
  • Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka. My Classics Club spin book. Print. Progress 0%.
  • The Atlas of Happiness by Russell. Progress 75%
  • Fred Rogers: The Last Interview and Other Conversations. Progress 0%
  • I've requested "Grab bag" poetry books from the library, allowing the librarian to surprise me with the selections. I hope to read one or more of these. Print. (See #5 below)

4. Want to join yourself? Here is the linkup spot: Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon  

5. I just got home from the public library. In addition to the books I requested I asked for a 'Grab bag' of poetry books for adults. These are the treasures that were sent home with me:

  1. His Day is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute by Maya Angelou
  2. The Ancient Mariner by David Jones
  3. Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz 
  4. Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass by Lana Del Ray
  5. Scribbled in the Dark by Charles Simic
  6. I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark

First Update: Saturday morning, 9 AM. 

  • Yesterday (and this morning) I figure I read/listened for about six hours worth of reading. Finished: His Day is Done: a Nelson Mandela Tribute; Scribbled in the Dark; We Are Water Protectors; The Atlas of Happiness. Progress made on Dune; Saving My Enemy; Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass.

Second update: Saturday evening, 7 PM. 

  • I had a few unexpected interruptions today, most of them pleasant, that kept me from reading as much as I had hoped. I figure that I managed another 5 hours worth of reading since my last update. Finished:  Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass, Fred Rogers: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, and Dune. Progress made: Saving My Enemy.

Third update: Sunday morning, 9 AM.

  • The family gathered to watch another Academy Award nominated film, The Sound of Metal, last night so I got little reading done after my last update but I got up early and have managed another 2 1/2 -3 hours of reading. Progress made: Saving My Enemy; Postcolonial Love Poem; I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood. I started The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by reading some of the introductory material but found myself not that interested in the minute details of Kafka's writing style so I skipped ahead and began reading the first short story in the collection, "Meditation." My eldest daughter and her young family are visiting us this afternoon so it seems unlikely I will accomplish my goal of reading for 24 hours over the course of three days so I may have to stretch out into Monday.😔

Fourth update: Monday morning, 9 AM.

  • I got little reading done yesterday with a three-year-old and a baby in the house. The whole day I tried to tuck in a little reading here and there and managed to cobble together 3-3 1/2 hours during the last 24-hours. That brings my total reading hours from Friday until today to 17 hours. But I am determined to finish this task of reading for a full 24-hours, even though it is really just reading. Ha! Finished: I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood. Progress made: Saving My Enemy and The Girl with the Louding Voice.

Fifth update: Monday evening, 9 PM.

  • I spent the majority of the day either reading or listening and managed to scrunch in 5 1/2 hours of reading in between life. I will likely read for another 1/2 hour before going to bed, so let's say 6 hours since the last update. That means I managed to read/listen for 23-hours over the past four days. Finished: Saving My Enemy. Progress made: The Girl With the Louding Voice and Postcolonial Love Poem.
 I'll write a wrap-up post tomorrow.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Review and quotes: READY PLAYER TWO

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Book Beginnings quote: (From the Prologue, called Cutscene):

Friday56 quote: (from page 23, the last page in free preview):

Summary: Ready Player Two picks up nine days after the exciting ending of Ready Player One when Wade (Parcival) and his friends win the James Halliday contest to discover all the Easter Eggs hidden in the OASIS, making them multi-millionaires and in full control of the OASIS. 'The Book Beginnings' quote comes from the prologue where readers discover that on this day Wade learns that Halliday has a few more surprises that he's left behind. One is an ONI headset, which allows users to experience the OASIS straight to their brains, giving experiences a realism not known before, and making the old headsets obsolete. It is ground-breaking. 'The Friday56' quote tells us what we are about to read is an account of what happened after the switch to ONI headsets is made and how things nearly fall apart completely.

Review (with the help of other reviewers): I was a big fan of Ready Player One. I loved the cultural references to everything '80s, even though I'm old so many of them I didn't experience first hand. I also enjoyed the twist on the dystopian novel, where the world is in a sh*tty state, yet there is something that gives people pleasure and fun for a little escape. I felt no need for a sequel. That book wrapped up to my satisfaction and let my imagine determine what would/might happen next. But Cline wanted to cash in his first success, so why not write a sequel? 

Tom Jorgensen, reviewing the book for IGN, offers this thoughts about the differences between RP1 and RP2: 

While just as fantastical as ever, the OASIS proves to be a more exhausting setting this time around. The first novel featured a healthy back-and-forth between the real and virtual worlds, giving us a lot more perspective on how the events in the OASIS were affecting the outside world. Due to the nature of the villain’s plot, and the fact that Wade sadly remains the only POV character in the book, nearly all of the action is locked into the OASIS this time around. That feels like a missed opportunity on two fronts. Not only are the real-world stakes of Wade’s quest massive and worth checking in on with more depth and regularity than they are, Wade continues to be kind of a tough guy to root for...Too often, it feels like Wade hasn’t carried forward any of the lessons about humility and connection he learned in his first adventure. A lot of his faults were more forgivable last time because he was an outsider, a poor kid with a lot to learn about the world and other people. But after that kid’s had a chance to learn those lessons and become one of the wealthiest people on Earth, you’re less inclined to cut him some slack, especially given how often he demonstrates a complete lack of self-awareness.  

I agree. I cut Wade slack in the first book because he was poor and lonely. Now he is rich and, let's admit it, an a**hole. It is hard to root for someone so unlikable. Life inside the OASIS with the ONI headsets is addictive, so the real world is completely falling apart as everyone prefers the imaginary world it provides. It seemed tedious to spend time in the OASIS without really understanding what awaits Wade, and Co. out in the world.

Laura Hudson, reviewing the book for Slate, is very critical of the way that Cline treats women and fun. Here she talks about how Cline missed the opportunity to spread some of the fun around.

The obvious swing at critics might make me feel like a bit of a killjoy, if there were any joy to be had between the front cover and the back. The book doesn’t even understand the criticism: Like Ready Player One, the problem with Ready Player Two isn’t its desire to play in a nostalgic toy box of ’80s movies and books and games, but its total failure to evoke what made them fun. There are no pleasures to be had here, only a reminder of things that once produced pleasure. A random page of dialogue from The Princess Bride does not inspire a sense of romantic, swashbuckling adventure. 

Hudson's review gave voice to my feelings. RP2 seemed to be a rehash of the first book, so I didn't find the delight I found from reading the first.  The novelty of the first wasn't there. If Wade and his friends enjoyed all the 80s memorabilia so much, why weren't the descriptions of their use more fun and exciting? Hudson goes so far to call RP2 a 'horror story' with Wade the biggest villain in the book. I'm not sure I would go that far, especially when I consider what we learn at the end of the book, but, as I said before, Wade is certainly very unlikable.

A teacher friend, KH, who shares my love of quirky books and is another huge fan of RP1, thought the RP2 didn't measure up to its predecessor and doubts she will re-read it like she has the first book. She did enjoy spending time with old friends: Wade, Samantha, Aech, and Og, though. I think she has a fair point. Sometimes we read a sequel because we want to revisit 'old friends' and re-experience the magic.

My daughter, another RP1 fan, and I listened to the audiobook of RP2 together. Doing this we were able to digest and discuss the book in current time instead of waiting to finish it before talking about it with anyone. Wil Wheaton narrated the audiobook for both RP1 and RP2. He is a delight to listen to and that, too, felt like a visit from an old friend. Oddly Carly and I listened to A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor right after RP2. In that book people put on a headset and go into an alternate reality which is so compelling and addictive that real life suffers for it. The juxtaposition of listening to the books one after the other like that was pretty remarkable.

Ultimately I gave the book four stars on Goodreads. That might shock you after what appears to be a fairly negative review. I had to read the book, being such a huge fan of RP1 and I was glad to spend a bit more time with the characters from the first. The ending was a pleasant surprise which probably led to an improved evaluation of the book at the ninth hour!

Have you read it? What did you think? 

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 19, 2021

TTT: Favorite lines from poems


Top Ten Tuesday

Another "Poetry Month" theme for my Top Ten Tuesday posts, today I am off-the-board listing-

 My Favorite Lines in Poems 
(Or... I Wish I Could Memorize These Lines of Poetry So I Wouldn't Have to Keep Looking Them Up!)

 (Sorry, I couldn't stop myself at ten! I hope you enjoy these.)

"Out Beyond Ideas" by Rumi
"To My Dear and Loving Husband" by Anne Bradstreet

"The Summer Day" by Mary Oliver

"Love at First Sight" by Wislawa Szmborska

"Forgetfulness" by Billy Collins

"The God Abandons Anthony" by C.P. Cavafy

"How Do I Love Thee" (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

"[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by E.E. Cummings

"Snipping snoppers" from Happy Birthday to You by Dr. Seuss

"Zombie" by Margaret Atwood

"Jenny Kiss'd Me" by Leigh Hunt


"The Journey" by Mary Oliver

"Today" by Billy Collins

"When Great Trees Fall" by Maya Angelou

"Last Night As I Was Sleeping" by Antonio Machado

"Happy Thought" from A Child's Garden of Verses (XXIV) by Robert Louis Stevenson

"The Loon" by Mary Oliver

"The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country" by Amanda Gorman