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

Monday, June 28, 2021

TTT: Recently published or upcoming book releases that are tempting me to read them

 Top Ten Tuesday: 

Recently published or upcoming book releases that are tempting me to read them.

I usually spend about zero minutes look ahead at new or upcoming books. I have too many books on my reading list to worry about books that aren't even published yet. So when I saw today's topic was about upcoming releases I decided to investigate to see what is coming out soon or has recently been published. I found these three lists from the New York Times -- May, June, July -- and decided I'd select a few from each list to explore further. Who knows maybe I will even end up reading them. (All the descriptions and quotes are from the NYT article by month. I included them here since most people can't get the pay wall of the NYT.)


Jake Bonner was once a promising young author, but his career has sputtered: He can’t find a publisher for his latest book and has resorted to teaching at a no-name M.F.A. program. A cocky student teases the story of his novel in progress, convinced that the premise will make it a best seller, and Jake grudgingly agrees. When the student dies, never having published the book, Jake seizes the story for himself. That’s only the beginning of the twists and turns in “The Plot,” which features a crooked Southern lawyer, a charming radio producer and a profoundly vexed mother-daughter relationship. Whoever said writers are boring?

Before he was portrayed by Matt Damon in the movie adaptation, the protagonist of Weir’s best-selling debut, “The Martian,” was stranded on Mars and had to improvise for survival. Weir’s new narrator, Ryland Grace, is also an astronaut in extremis: He’s floating around space with two dead bodies and can’t recall his own name. Slowly, he remembers why he’s on a spacecraft — and the nature of his mission, which is to defeat an existential threat to the human species.

'Mister Impossible' by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press, May 18) Not part of NYT list.

Do the dreamers need the ley lines to save the world . . . or will their actions end up dooming the world? As Ronan, Hennessy, and Bryde try to make dreamers more powerful, the Moderators are closing in, sure that this power will bring about disaster. In the remarkable second book of The Dreamer Trilogy, Maggie Stiefvater pushes her characters to their limits - and shows what happens to them and others when they start to break. (Publisher)


In this thriller, a British actress named Mia Eliot arrives in Los Angeles after a star turn in an adaptation of “Jane Eyre,” hoping to advance her career. Steadman, herself an actress who has appeared in “Downton Abbey,” is particularly acute when capturing the absurdities (and humiliations) of Hollywood, especially when Mia struggles to adapt. A young woman named Emily asks Mia for a favor, then vanishes — and no one else remembers ever seeing her.

It’s August 1983, and Malibu’s models, athletes and actors are preparing for the Riva family’s annual (and notorious) party. Nina, the eldest of four siblings and one of the most recognized surfer models of the moment, is hosting, despite a very public breakup. As the story ticks closer to the party itself, the novel loops back in time to the Riva children’s early years, which were overshadowed by their father, a well-meaning but absentee pop singer.


Thomas Neill Cream poisoned as many as 10 people in North America and Britain before his 1892 murder trial. Jobb recounts Cream’s life and evokes the societal attitudes that allowed him to kill: the blind faith placed in doctors, the power imbalances between Cream and the people who sought his care.

Feeling lonely? Raven’s memoir might help, which finds her after she completed a Ph.D. in biology, deeply alone in rural Montana — until she is visited by a persistent fox. It’s a real-life friendship that mirrors the one between Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince and his fox, full of tenderness and understanding.

Not ten, but I am being honest. It is unlikely I will even read all seven of these books.


Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Salon...HOT!


Weather report: HOT! See video for a reminder of just how hot...

Yesterday: Our niece and her husband, our daughter and her family, my sister, and Don and I had a BBQ. Bad timing. The temperature, hovering at around 100 degrees with a high humidity, chased us indoors. I joked, as we sat down to a dinner of hamburgers, corn, and watermelon, it was the first time we've ever eaten a picnic at our dining room table. Loved the company though.

Our lovely niece and darling grandson meet for the first time.

Day before yesterday: My sister, daughter and her kids, and I showed up at the local spray park. (Us and everyone else in town who has little kids.) Ian ran through the sprinklers with both joy and trepidation. Jamie sat in rapt attention watching all the commotion. When we got home we held a hot tub party. This photo is about as priceless as it comes.

Hot tub party

Book-related stuff: I finished one book this week -- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Click on the hyperlink for my review. // I'm reading one e-book -- Breathing Lessons by Ann Tyler. It is a past Pulitzer Prize winner and I'm wondering why. // I'm listening to one book -- We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. It is about Japanese Internment during WWII told from the point-of-view from several teenagers. It is a fresh take on a tough subject. // Book club this week we discussed The Exiles by Christina Beker Cline. It is about the penal system in England in the 1850s where prisoners were sent to Australia, a penal colony. Another tough topic. // Good advice. Please don't dog-ear your pages...

Want to think about something besides how hot it is? Try this video (1 minute long) of a table tennis match from 1979. Don't worry if you don't know Dutch. You'll understand what is happening.

Having trouble finding a word to describe the heat?

Can't think of anything else. Stay cool, if you can.


Saturday, June 26, 2021


I love trees.

Who doesn't?

Whenever we visit a new region or locale I pay attention to the trees, often asking locals for the names of the spectacular beauties I am seeing for the first time. Often people do not have a clue of the names or even of the particular trees I am addressing. "What tree?" "The tree on the corner of the nearby intersection that is covered with gorgeous purple flowers."  "Oh, I don't know. In fact, I don't think I've even noticed that tree." "Egads," I think, "How can you miss a tree of such spectacular beauty?" I want to fall on the ground and worship it and they don't even see it.

I discovered, after much digging and prodding, that the purple-flowered tree was a jacaranda and locals didn't see its beauty but were only aware of its mess when the purple blossoms fell to the ground and discolored the pavement. Imagine my delight when I turned to page 172 in Around the World in 80 Trees to discover an entry on the Blue Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) where the author, Jonathan Drori, describes the tree as one of the best imports from Argentina and explains that it is a popular and beautiful tree planted as street trees in many temperate-climate cities. "For two months the entire tree is densely blanketed in bee-beckoning clusters of fragrant, lavender-blue trumpets, hallucinatorily intense blossoms that compels the gaze and lifts the spirits." Clearly Drori and I think alike, though he uses even more evocative words than I. He has also encountered the grumps among us who complain about the falling blossoms. "As the petals fall, they lay a purple carpet underneath -- a joy to all except the neat-freaks and occasional mean-spirited motorists complaining about the stains on their paintwork." Opposite the text by Drori are gorgeous and fascinating illustrations of the tree being described by Lucille Clerc. Usually the illustrations include several aspects of the trees and includes blossoms and fruit, if applicable.

Text on one side followed by at least one full page of illustrations.

The book is organized to discuss trees in one region before moving on to describe trees in another region, highlighting only 80 trees altogether. But what a selection. There are, for example, eleven trees highlighted from Northern Europe, five from the Eastern Mediterranean, seven from Oceania, etc. Many of the trees I was familiar with, like the Sugar Maple from Canada, but I usually learned something new about the tree by reading Drori's brief description of it. But the unusual and new-to-me trees far outnumbered the familiar -- Cork Oak (Portugal), Argan (Morocco), Kapok (Sierra Leone), Sève Bleue (New Calidonia), Kauri (New Zealand), Quinine (Peru), Yaupon (USA) -- to name a few.

Here are just a few fun facts I learned:

  • The bark of the kapok tree of Sierra Leone is covered with menacing thorns, like those on rose bushes. They are the tallest trees of the whole African continent and the shade they cast provide pleasant meeting places for individuals or groups. They have a strong association with well-being, both physical and mental (81.)
  • The argon trees of Morocco or Algeria, though thorny and slow-growing, attract goats. It is not uncommon to see an argon tree full of goats who have figured out not only how to climb the tree, but how to avoid the thorns as they seek out its fruit (45.)
  • The sève bleue grows in a fairly inhospitable island of New Calidonia which has a lot of nickel, a poison, in the soil. If the tree is notched, the sap is bright blue and contains high levels of nickel. This puts a spin on an old adage, thrive where you are planted (158).
  • Yaupon or Indian black tea has a scientific name of ilex vomitoria because European invaders to North America thought erroneously it made people throw up. It is an excellent source of caffeine, can be easily found from Texas to Florida, and makes a tea that tastes a little like oolong.

If, like me, you love trees and enjoy learning new details about them, Around the World in 80 Trees is just the book for you.

My rating: 5 stars.


Friday, June 25, 2021

Quotes and review: THE FOUR WINDS

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

Book Beginnings quote: 

Elsa Wolcott had spent years in enforced solitude, reading fictional adventures and imagining other lives.

Friday56 quote: 

Mr. Martinelli came out of the barn and approached her; "Good morning," he said. "Walk with me."

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

Summary: The year is 1934. The setting is a small, rural town in the pan-handle of Texas. The Great Depression has been raging for five years. And now the earth itself seems to be raging, too, in great dust storms. 

Back in 1920 Elsa Wolcott, age twenty-five, lived a quiet and boring life with her parents who seemed to think Elsa should just accept her lot in life and be happy with her books and her drab looks. In an effort to feel alive she dressed up like a flapper and goes out alone. She ends up having a relationship with a man. When she ends up pregnant, her parents disown her and literally dump her at the home of the man, a farmer's son, and leave her without so much as a backward glance. In the Friday56 quote, Elsa is experiencing her first day on the farm which will end up being her home where her children are born but where she learns to love the land.

Fourteen years later, the dust and the poverty cause Elsa to leave the farm, heading toward California and a new life. Once there, however, 'the land of milk and honey' is anything but plentiful for all the "Okies" entering the state who can't find decent jobs or living accommodations.

Review: I had two conflicting reports rattling around in my head about The Four Winds. Several of my friends were delighted with the book and raved about the story, encouraging me to read it. At the same time a few other friends told me that they didn't like the book or weren't going to read it because of reviews they'd read that were not complimentary. At the beginning it did seem that the latter group was correct. Kristin Hannah's descriptions of rural life during the Dust Bowl weren't nearly as good as that provided by Timothy Egan in his excellent book, The Worst Hard Time. Then the narrative picked up as Elsa and her children make their way to California and get embroiled in the migrant labor movement which happened in the early to mid 1930s in that state. Having never heard anything about these strikes and riots, I found this new information to be interesting and distressing. The ending of The Four Winds was a shocker yet very satisfying. 

In an interview Kristin Hannah was asked how she comes up with her stories. She replied that after writing The Nightingale, set in France during WWII, she wanted to write a truly American story. As she was casting about thinking about ideas, she became very interested in The Dust Bowl. As she did more research she learned about the Migrant Labor Strikes and riots in California. Her decision was made...to write a story which included both topics since they were so entwined due to the migrations of thousands of families from the dust bowl states to California.

Rating: 4 stars.

Big Books Summer Challenge. Weighing in at 454 pages in length, The Four Winds is my second 'big book' of the summer reading season and qualifies for the challenge hosted by Sue over at Book by Book.

20-Books of Summer Challenge. Seventh 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.   



Thursday, June 24, 2021

Cybils Award backlist of books for social change

As a judge for the Cybils Award in the nonfiction category I try to stay current on what is happening over on the Cybils website. This week they published a list of books dealing with civil, voting, and individual rights. The books they listed are on the Cybils backlist of books that were nominated by a book blogger for a Cybils Award in the past five years. After checking out their list I realized that many, many of these wonderful books were part of my reading list as part of my role as a judge. (See Cybils original post here.) This got me thinking. Why not list all the books I've read/reviewed over the past three years that match this assignment?  Finalists were culled down from a list of around 60 nominees per category and winners were selected from the finalist list of six to eight books.

Civil Rights. Voting Rights. Individual Rights: A look at some great reading selections to enhance your knowledge.


Cybils High School Nonfiction Winner, 2020. My review.

Cybils Elementary Nonfiction finalist, 2020. My review.

Cybils Elementary Nonfiction Finalist 2020. My review

Cybils Junior High Nonfiction Nominee, 2020. My review.

Cybils Elementary Nonfiction Finalist, 2020. My review.

Cybils Elementary Nonfiction nominee, 2020. My review.


Cybils High School Nonfiction Finalist, 2020. My review.

Cybils High School Nonfiction Finalist 2020. My review.

Cybils Junior High Nonfiction Finalist 2020. My review.

Cybils High School Nonfiction Finalist 2020. My review.

Cybils High School Finalist 2019. My review.

Cybils High School Finalist, 2019. My review.

Cybils Nonfiction nominee, 2018

Cybils Nonfiction nominee, 2018

Cybils High School Nonfiction Finalist, 2018

Cybils Junior High Nonfiction Nominee, 2018

Cybils Senior High Nonfiction Finalist, 2018. My review.

Cybils Junior High Nonfiction Finalist, 2017.

Cybils Senior High Nonfiction Finalist, 2017. My review.

Please check out the Cybils website for elementary, fiction, or graphic novels selections  on the same topics. Since I was a Round 2 judge for the past two years, only finalists and winners will be listed for those years. Previous to that I was a Round 1 judge so many of the books may be nominees that didn't make it past the cut, but that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of attention.


Monday, June 21, 2021

TTT: My bookish wish is to change the ending of these novels

Top Ten Tuesday: My bookish wish is to change the ending of these heartbreaking novels

Ever feel that way when you finish a book, perhaps sobbing as you close the last pages -- if only you could rewrite the ending everything would be better?

Beware of spoilers ahead...

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Poor Gatsby does everything he can think of to woo Daisy over to his side. Even as he is dying, he hears the phone ringing and he's sure it is her calling to say she's on her way. Nope, it's just the neighbor checking in.

Where the Red Fern Grows
by Wilson Rawls. I tear up when I think of this one. How come BOTH Old Dan and Little Ann had to die? I'm rooting for some heroic measures that saves both dogs.

Mansfield Park
by Jane Austen. Yes, I know. Fanny and Edmund get together, finally, but only in the "fullness of time." Details. We want details about what happened after they got together. 

The Giver
by Lois Lowry. Kids everywhere are asked to read this dystopian novel yet they are left hanging. Do Jonas and Gabriel make it to Elsewhere or do they die in the end? There are millions of people walking around today wondering this same question.

Romeo and Juliet
by William Shakespeare. Do we love this story because of the double suicide or because every time we read it we think this time the monk will get there in time?

by Suzanne Collins. Come on. Admit it. This book stunk in comparison to the first two books in the trilogy. How about it the whole third book were rewritten and in this ending don't make Katniss faint every time ome big action occurs.

by Ian McEwan. I remember walking around for days in a daze after completing this book. That was not the ending I was expecting or wanting. In the end Briony writes a novel (fiction) where Cecilia and Robby forgive her and they all live happily ever after. In real life, none of that happened. I get sad just thinking about this tragedy. 

Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood. So here's the thing. We all want to know what happened to Offred.

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins. Super exciting book. Super boring ending. Come on. Time for an exciting conclusion. Maybe someone should get hit by a train?!

Sadie by Courtney Summers. I am cheering for Sadie throughout and then left stunned at not knowing what happened to her. The realistic ending is shocking.

Folks, I actually hate it when book endings are tied up too neatly and with a bow. I like to imagine what happens after the last page of the book and perhaps because these books are heartbreaking is what makes them memorable. In fact, I'm sure all these books have stood the test of time due to their ambiguous endings. Ha!

What are some books you wish could have their ending reworked?


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sunday Salon...animals edition

Our Dads. November 2005.

Happy Father's Day.
Today we are both remembering and missing our fathers.

Weather: Sunny and warm, possibly hot. The first day of summer is going to be a scorcher, according local meteorologists.

A squirrel, not of attacking fame. Photo credit: D. Bennett

"Nobody expects a squirrel attack." I took my grandsons to Northwest Trek on Friday, a local wildlife park that only has animals that live naturally in the Pacific Northwest. Ian, age three, was putting some trash from his lunch in the nearby garbage can. Unbeknownst to him, a little squirrel had just gone into the can to check if there were any tasty treats inside. As Ian reached his arm into the can, the squirrel was startled and bolted, scratching Ian's arm as it sprung from the can. Ian sustained three small scratches on his arm and was startled into tears. Later, when he told the story to his grandpa, Don listened carefully and then exclaimed "Nobody expects a squirrel attack" in the same tone as Monty Python's "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition." Ian thought this was hilarious. Now the attack of the squirrel has made it into family lore.

Bingley and Demi napping together. Photo taken a month ago.

Surgery: Our dog, Mr. Charles Bingley, had surgery on his leg to correct his luxation of the patella. Poor boy is now living a small life having to go on a lead every time he goes out to the yard to do his duty. Our old cat is all concern and follows him around the yard as we walk around on the grass. While Don worked outside yesterday, I had to stay inside, babysitting the dog. 😏

Champ, the first-dog, died: This letter was posted on Twitter by the first family after the death of their beloved dog. It is such a sweet tribute. (If you click on the photo of the letter it should make it big enough to read.)

Juneteenth! Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday. On June 17, 2021, it officially became a federal holiday.


  • Completed:
    • Love and Other Consolation Prizes by Jamie Ford -- a book club selection. The book is set in Seattle bookended by two world's fairs, 1909 and 1962. The book brings up lots of details about Seattle's not-so-wonderful history. It wasn't a favorite book but we had a good club discussion, especially concerning the world's fair of 1962 since several gals in the club went to it.
  • Currently reading:
    • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah -- a very popular novel about the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. It is a depressing, sad story. 70% complete, audiobook and e-book.
    • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler -- a book on my Pulitzer Prize Challenge list. So far I haven't made enough progress to decide what I think of it. 10% complete, e-book.

Adjusting: Carly and her cats, Fred and George, are adjusting to life back in San Fransisco.

Gay Pride Month: 

  • The White House hallway lit up to celebrate Gay Pride Month. Love the colors.

Cat humor:

If you have a cat you understand this. Let the cat out. Let the cat in. Let the cat out...



This would be Carly's cats. They try to fit into the weirdest spaces.