"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=========

Saturday, April 30, 2022


The Horse and His Boy is the fifth book published in The Chronicles of Narnia series and the action takes place in what would be the last chapter of the first book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, when the Pevensie children were co-ruling Narnia as the kings and queens. This story starts off in Calormen, the country south of Narnia, when Shasta, the son of a poor fisherman, overhears a discussion between his father and a rich traveler who wants to buy Shasta to be his slave. Hearing the bartering for the price of his freedom, Shasta runs to the field where the traveler's horse is tethered. There he discovers the horse is a talking horse named Bree. The horse wants to escape to his home in the north, Narnia, but he needs a rider to pull off his plan for escape. So the two set off together toward Narnia and the north! Along the way they link up with a young girl, Aravis and her talking horse, Hwin. Aravis is escaping her father and the prospect of a loveless marriage. Both Shasta and Aravis learn information during their journey about how the Tisroc's son, Rabadash, is planning a war with his country's neighbors Archenland and Narnia, because he wants to have Queen Susan as either his wife or his slave. The four escapees must race ahead of the advancing army to warn the King of Archenland before it is too late.

Unlike the other books in the series, no new people enter Narnia from our world. And though three of the Pevensies are brieflymentioned here and there it is chiefly a story about four beings making a very important journey across a big desert. One that is fraught with troubles and dangers and often involving encounters with lions (or a Lion!)

It is a quick and enjoyable read.

Now the Narniathon questions:

1. The Horse and His Boy has a distinctive Arabian Nights feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you, or not?

I was more aware of the discriminatory-sounding language than ever on this read through. The Calormen people were 'dark' and wore 'turbans.' I get it that fantasy books need to have villains but the similarities to Muslims or people living in the Arab world was undeniable. I spent a bit of time thinking about how Lewis could have drawn these characters and my only solution involved creating a whole new, unknown race with distinctive, nonhuman characteristics like say some villain out of Tolkien's novels. I didn't let myself be too bothered by the descriptions of the Calormen, however, because I got pretty wrapped up in journey the four individuals were taking and their encounters with Aslan along the way.

2. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points of view provided by Shasta, Aravis and the others?

In the past I have always relegated The Horse and His Boy as a side book to the series, I suppose because the Pevensies or other humans weren't the main focus. This time, I allowed myself to get swept up in the story and I enjoyed it so much it didn't matter that Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy barely made it into the story.

3. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really loved the way the four protagonists (children and mounts) interacted.  Aravis and Bree both being prideful due to their upbringing. Then Shasta surprising everyone with his bravery. 

I rarely notice literary allusions when I am reading, then when someone points them out, I am delighted because I agree or annoyed because I didn't catch it. This time, I looked it up first! Shasta, who we learn later (SPOILER ALERT) is actually the long, lost twin prince, Cor, of Archenland. Some experts have compared the twins Cor and Corin to the half-twins Castor and Pollux in Greek Mythology. Both were excellent horsemen. In this book Cor was an excellent horseman, taught by a horse himself. And Pollux won an important boxing match similar to Corin, who always wanted to box everyone in this book. Any time a book is about a journey with important stops along the way, one must think about the Odyssey and the initial questions referenced Arabian Nights.

Rabadash is punished by Aslan for being unrepentant. He is turned into a donkey, but can be transformed once he gets home as long as he never goes outside of the ten mile radius of the capitol city. Though he was mocked and made fun of, he ended up becoming a peaceful ruler of Calormen, since he could never go to war! In the Bible there is an example of God using a donkey to speak to Balaam, a prophet, (See Numbers 22-24.) But the parallels to this story end there. 

Planet Narnia says that Lewis meant to align The Horse and His Boy with Mercury. Mercury is the fastest of the planets to circle the sun so it is often associated with being a messenger. If we think about this story, Shasta was tapped to be a messenger throughout. Mercury is thought to have ruled over the constellation Gemini, the twins: Castor and Pollux (them again!) Mercury is also the god of boxers, thieves, and crossroads. I love it that Lewis hid these little tidbits inside his books. I am thinking now of all the times in the story when the children and the horses had to decide which road to take and how Aslan used those choices for the good of all.

I am more delighted with The Horse and His Boy than I ever remember being on previous readings thanks to the insights I've gained from Calm Grove and other participants of Narniathon21. Thank you.

One point of irritation -- The publication of The Horse and His Boy that I read was published by MacMillan and clearly states on the cover it is the 5th book in the series. When I searched Goodreads to find the correct edition it was incorrectly identified as the 3rd book in the series. I am a firm believer in reading the Chronicles of Narnia in publication order. Lewis published this book 5th. I'm not an editor on Goodreads or I would have gone in and changed it in a minute! (See cover photo above.)


Friday, April 29, 2022


The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

Book Beginnings quote:

Friday56 quote (from page 31, last page of preview):

Summary: Linus Baker is a case worker for the Department of Magical Youth. It is his job to make sure that all children are safe in the orphanages where they have been placed. And he does his job by the book. When upper management tells him to go on a special assignment to the Marsyas Island Orphanage for a month, he assumes he'll do his job by the book and them return. But when he is there he meets the most unique combination of children, a remarkable teacher, and caretaker who is magical herself. Suddenly 'going by the book' doesn't seem possible or such a good idea. While on the island Linus is also forced to confront his loneliness and eventually he discovers that 'home' and 'family' do not always fit into neat word definitions.

Review: A few months back my daughter, who is in a different book club than mine, raved about the discussion they had concerning The House in the Cerulean Sea. Having seen the book on a lot of 'favorites' lists in the blogosphere, I recommended we select the book for our club. I hadn't done any other homework on the book and didn't even realize it was a fantasy tale about magical beings. When I started listening to the audio version, expertly narrated by Daniel Henning, I was shocked. We don't normally select the fantasy genre for our club.

Honestly it took me over half of the book to get into the story, feeling vaguely irritatated about the repetitive nature of the writing. Phrases and information were repeated so often, they started to grate on my nerves. But finally I settled into the story and was eventually charmed by the characters and their interactions with one another mostly.  In an interview T.J. Klune said he wanted to write a fantasy book for all ages of readers about kindness. I'd say he succeeded.

After finishing the book I understood that it serves as an allegory for a greater issue, one we are all aware of with the villainization of so many people today: immigrants, Trans youth, LGBTQIA+, Muslims, Blacks, etc. We actually did have quite a bit to discuss at our club meeting and I, for one, thought the book was a catalyst for a thoughtful discussion.

"An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours" (Book jacket).

Book club questions that worked well to guide the discussion:

  1. Who is the target audience? The book was written for all ages juniors through adults. We felt it would especially appeal to the YA audience.
  2. Which character did you like best and why? We all had different answers. I liked Chauncey, the unknown type of being, who wanted to be a bell hop when he grew up. In a way, he provided the comic relief.
  3. What were the major themes of the book? Belonging, acceptance for differences including LGBTQIA+, family, and home.
  4. What traps people in unhappy jobs? We explored lots of reasons.
  5. Was this a good book club choice? Answers varied. One gal loved the book and she often doesn't like our selections.

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.  

RHS Gals Book Club, April 2022


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Three Poetry Book Reviews

It has been a good month for reading poetry. Here are three short reviews of poetry books I've read this month.

100 Poems to Break Your Heart
by Edward Hirsch
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021
492 pages

Edward Hirsch has written over ten poetry books himself and several books like this one where he analyzes poetry. The guy clearly knows what he is talking about when it comes to poetry. First, I am gobsmacked that anyone could locate 100 poems on any one theme, let alone heart-breaking ones. Secondly he was able to identify not only the sad stuff in each poem, which is often coded or unclear, but he also knew the type of poem, the rhyming schemes, etc. Wow. Just wow. I admit that I often breezed my way through his descriptions of the technical stuff, preferring to read about the poet or his explanations where and why this poem was so poignant.
The 100 poems were organized chronologically starting with Wordsworth's "Surprised by Joy" (1815) through Meena Alexander's last poem before her death, "Kishna, 3:29 A.M." (2018). Some of the poems really affected me, while many left me feeling flat, but I agree that all were heartbreaking to some degree. I had to laugh when I got to the poems written in the 1970s. What a weird period of time and the poems reflected it. I found the poems written during the 1940s and WWII to be the most impactful. Apparently, Hitler had it in for poets and other artists and so much talent was destroyed during his regime. Those poets left behind had to be their witnesses and their voices.

Here is an excerpt from a poem, "What the Living Do", and how Hirsch handled the discussion about it. The poet Marie Howe had lost a dear brother to AIDS. She wanted to eulogize him but finally settled on writing him a letter, as if he is reading it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I'm gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I'm speechless:
I am living. I remember you.

Howe is describing an intense, revelatory moment, a "moment of being" to use Virginia Woolf's phrase. It is no accident that the speaker becomes dumbfounded and astonished at the end of the poem. It's only when she sees herself in reflection that she is gripped by a sense of self-care, of being alive, out in the open, exposed. She is robbed of speech and therefore concludes with a simple living pronouncement: "I am living. I remember you" (Hirsch, 334).

It were those types of little pieces of information that made me go back and reread the poems and experience them with new eyes. Though the book was long and sometimes tedious or just clearly over my head, I did enjoy reading it a lot. In fact, I think I will look around for one of Hirsch's earlier works like How to Read a Poem.

Rating: 4.25

Home Body
by Rupi Kaur
Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2020
192 pages
Rupi Kaur is a poet, artist, and a performer. As a 21-year-old college student she self-published her first book of poems, Milk and Honey. It sold millions of copies and was translated into 42 languages. Her second collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, was equally well received. Home Body is Kaur's third poetry collection and it deals with some tough themes: love, loss, trauma, femininity, and migration. The poems are usually quite short accompanied by simple line drawings done by Kaur also. Just because they are short doesn't mean they don't pack a punch, however.  Many made me cringe or want to cry. Here is an example of one poem on kindness:

Apparently Rupi Kaur is taking her poems on the road, presenting them in a World Tour. She will be at the Paramount Theater in Seattle which is the largest theater in the city. Not sure how intimate that will feel but it shows she has a huge following.

Rating: 4


The Rain in Portugal: Poems by Billy Collins
Random House, 2016
108 pages

Billy Collins is just a fun poet to read. His poems, by and large, are witty and imaginative. Many of the poems seems to be mined straight from whatever Collins was thinking about or experiencing the moment before it was jotted down. The collection starts with the poem "1960" which relates to a joke and a recording of a jazz ensemble:

In the old joke,
the marriage counselor
tells the couple who never talks anymore
to go to a jazz club because at a jazz club
everyone talks during the bass solo.
It goes on to say that in actuality no one is really listening to the music, you just notice it during the quieter part when the bass has a solo. In fact, he is quite familiar with all the talking at jazz clubs because he knows exactly when the guy, who is making a move on his date, will speak out to be captured for all time on the recording. Collins' poems all seem to be witty like that. They might start on a serious subject and suddenly the reader will realize that they got fooled again by him, as the poem ends on funny note.

Though I would not consider any of these poems as favorite, I did read several out loud to my husband. It seemed like a nice counter-balance to the 100 Poems to Break Your Heart for their lighthearted nature. If you are poetry-shy, reading Billy Collins is a good place to start.

Rating: 4


Monday, April 25, 2022

TTT: Weirdly terrible classic book covers.

Top Ten Tuesday: These are really terrible covers of famous classic novels. They all seem to miss the mark on so many levels...themes, aesthetics, general appeal, you name it.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Barnes and Noble Classics, 2005. Okay, I take it the monster had teeth but is that the main point of his creation?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Heinemann Educational Books, LTD., 1966. Was this the school version used by students in the 1960s? Where are Scout, Jem, and Bo Radley?

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, CreateSpace Publishing, 2009. Way too modern for the story and why is someone self-publishing this book which is still in print?

Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Mass Market Publishing, 2003. The cover conveys chaos, but what is that brown beaver-looking thing in the middle? Ugly.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Penguin Classics, 2009. The cover isn't ugly, it just doesn't seem to have anything to do with the story. Odd.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Penguin Classics, 2000. Upsetting and ugly. I couldn't read this version of the story because of the cover.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Vintage Classics, 2016. Weirdly colorful and cheery, which doesn't seem to match the story at all. Perhaps because the book begins with the purchase of flowers?

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Modern Library Classics, 2004. The placement of the book's title is so odd. Why is it placed right over his head?

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, Public Domain Books, 1998. What the heck is this supposed to be? It is so weird it makes me laugh.

Dracula by Bram Stoker, Oxford University Press, 2011. Um, isn't this the wrong monster?



Sunday, April 24, 2022

Sunday Salon ... my weekly update this 24th day of April

Weather today: Beautiful. We just got back from a walk with the dog where I had to shed my jacket and my husband wore shorts We passed under a few flowering street trees (see photo in collage, upper right) that were alive with bees. Their buzzing was the happiest noise I've heard in a long time.

Our Saturday: See the above photo. We took a beautiful walk with the dog and then attended our grandson's first ever soccer match. Four-year-olds vs four-year-olds -- it was pretty funny. Ian was more interested in making friends than he was in kicking the ball. 

Everyone Welcome: Our church members are working hard at being an open and welcoming church. Today we arrived to see new and very prominent signage.

Prayers for:

  • C. who lost her husband this week. He never woke up from a nap.
  • J. who is having a lumpectomy tomorrow for breast cancer.
  • B. who just learned that she needs to have heart surgery, again.
  • S. who is going to have her sixth eye surgery soon.
  • J. who is experiencing severe symptoms of an autoimmune disease.
  • B. who had eye surgery for a detached retina -- may it hold!
  • B. who is traveling to be with her family of origin after the death of a brother.


  • Completed this week:
    • The Pioneers by David McCullough. I finished this nonfiction book just hours before the book club where we were discussing it. It was informative but pretty dense. Read my review here.
    • Home Body by Rupi Kaur. A poetry book that spoke to me as a woman. Lots about hurts inflicted on women but also about how we need to love ourselves.
    • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A Children's classic. I found the parental neglect a BIG problem. Review here.
    • The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins. Mostly fun and funny poems by a favorite poet.
  • Currently reading:  
    • The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. A book club selection. 91% complete. Audio. 
    • 100 Poems to Break Your Heart by Edward Hirsch. A tome at over 500 pages and it looks like I will make it. 84%. Print.
    • Good Enough by Kate Bowler. A Lenten devotional that I didn't complete by Easter but I am getting so much from it. 64% complete. Print. 

Fred and George: Are being very artsy this week.  They were so busy posing, they earned a collage.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Nonfiction review: THE PIONEERS

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story  of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West by David McCullough

Book Beginnings quote: 

Never before, as he knew, had any of his countrymen set off to accomplish anything like what he had agreed to undertake -- a mission that, should he succeed, could change the course of history in innumerable ways and to the long-lasting benefit of countless Americans.

Friday56 quote: 

But as weeks passed, John May, like numbers of others, began discovering not all was perfection in the promised land by the Ohio. "Myriad of gnats" were eating them alive.


As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough’s subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them.
(From the book jacket.)

Review: I am a woman of two minds about this book. First, I am a fan of David McCullough. He is a first-rate historian and excellent writer. This book is a testament to his skills at both research and writing. (As proof there are around 80 pages of chapter notes and an exhaustive bibliography listed.) But, perhaps, there was too much a good thing -- so many details, characters, settings -- it was hard to keep everything straight in my mind.

As a resident of the Pacific Northwest (Washington State) I confess that I had expectations for the book based on my own experiences. Namely, when we speak of pioneers in our history classes we are talking about those who traveled the Oregon Trail all the way across the country or those who came on the Mormon migration west to Utah a few years later. I've never once thought of those Americans who traveled from Massachusetts to Ohio territory as pioneers. And to call Ohio the "Northwest" was confusing to me. How can a state in the eastern-middle of the country be the northwest, as they referred to it? Even after I started reading the book I kept expecting McCullough to not just talk about the settlement of Ohio and the pioneers who settled there, but to continue the theme of 'pioneers" moving on west. Clearly I hadn't read the book jacket carefully or I would have known that this book could easily have been titled "Ohio."

The story is told with a focus on five men and their families. It took a good half of the book before I settled into that format and found myself interested in their lives and experiences, however. Many of the gals in book club confessed to giving up on the book before that point. 

Speaking of book club, we had a fairly good discussion, considering there were no questions provided by the publisher to aid us. I quipped that was probably because no one in their right mind would pick such a book for a club meeting. The one question that did get us going related to the book and what we found surprising, interesting, or educational. I was surprised at how often the men remarked about the President of the United States (whoever it was at the time: Jefferson, Madison, Andrew Jackson) being men they didn't like or respect. Gee, where have we heard that before? Could it be today? One of the men, a grandson of one of the original pioneers, even wrote about how he was upset that so many stupid people were trying to run the country and therefore he ran for the state legislature as a member of the Whig party. Mr. Cutler was concerned about making sure that everyone could attend school, even if it meant higher taxes. That, too, made me think of today. 

Another question, which we discussed at length, related to the terrible treatment of indigenous people in the territory. By the end of the pioneer period, the only thing "Indian" left were the names of places. We decided even though McCullough used primary documents, he certainly did not seem to give much of his research time toward reporting on what the original people thought or felt when the pioneers arrived and succeeded in pushing them out. We all agreed that has been a big problem with our history textbooks -- one-sided stories. Alas! 😞

My husband, who listened to about half of the audiobook with me, remarked that the history of the formation of Ohio and other states in the upper mid-west, was never part of our curriculum in school. We are both glad that we read it for that purpose but it is unlikely that I will recommend the book to anyone outside of hard core history buffs.

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.  


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Classic review: THE SECRET GARDEN

The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett was first published in 1911 and hasn't been out-of-print since that date. Honestly though, I am not sure why.

First the story doesn't seem like anyone, anywhere could relate to it. Two very bratty, spoiled children find themselves alone with only servants to tend them. The house, with over 100 rooms, is almost completely shuttered, and yet there is next to nothing to do except play outside. When Mary, the orphaned cousin to Colin, the heir of the property, finds the key to the secret garden which was locked and forbidden for the past ten years, she finds herself growing and changing as the garden itself is coming alive in Spring. When she invites Colin to join her in the secret garden, he too is transformed from a sickly to a very healthy young boy. Okay, lovely story and delightful if one enjoys talk of flowers and growing and thinks they can trick all the adults in the world.

What bothered me about The Secret Garden and caused me to wonder why it has remained on classic book lists for children to read for over 100 years, is all the abuse and neglect in the story! Honestly, the parents in this book, both sets, are awful. Mary's mother, a socialite in India even said aloud that she wished she'd never had a child and she couldn't be bothered to care for or even notice poor Mary for one minute. When she and the father die of cholera leaving Mary alone in the world, I didn't shed one tear. Mary was raised spoiled and headstrong and alone. She didn't know how to play or make friends, only having servants to boss around. Is it any wonder that she was unhappy? 

Illustrations by Graham Rust
Colin's mother died at his birth and his father was so overwhelmed by grief that he neglected his son, worrying that he was sickly and also likely to die young. Colin was extremely bossy with the servants, getting his way by throwing tantrums long after they were age-appropriate. His father would leave the house and the estate in the hands of the servants and be absent for months on end, barely acknowledging his son when he did return home. His neglect and absences from home were big determinants in shaping Colin into the hypochondriac he became.

Sloane Crosley, writing for NPR, describes the book as half summer, half winter. "It is always the flowers that one notices before inspecting the dirt below." Perhaps The Secret Garden was never intended to be a children's book after all. Perhaps Burnett wrote it as a cautionary tale to parents to warn them what might happen to their children if they neglect them -- they might become brats!

Recently a friend asked me if I would recommend that she reread The Secret Garden. My answer was a resounding 'No!' There are too many wonderful books that need to be explored to waste one's time on this one.

One positive note I would be remiss not to mention -- the illustrations by Graham Rust are simply marvelous and my favorite part of the whole reading experience of this children's classic was to look very carefully at each of them. I found myself quite busy admiring the way he seemed to capture the feel of yesteryear.


Monday, April 18, 2022

TTT: Bookish Paraphernalia I Own

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Paraphernalia I Own
My tweak of today's topic. I honestly don't collect or try to own many bookish items, other than books, but I did find these "gems" around the house when I marched around looking for them today. In total I found more bookish paraphernalia than I thought I would.

Book-related puzzles.  
I have several jigsaw puzzles on bookish themes. This one is a Jane Austen puzzle and the box is the shape of a book.

 A basket full of bookmarks. 
I honestly don't collect book marks I just seem to have a ton of them and one time I decided to put them all in one place, a little basket.

I have several pins with on bookish topics. This one says 'Austen is My Homegirl.' It has lived on this cat sweater for so long I dare not remove it or it would likely reveal a hole.

Actual letters (tee-hee) from both Captain Wentworth (Persuasion) and from Fitzwilliam Darcy (Pride and Prejudice). These were recent gifts from my daughter and have the text directly from the books.

Book earrings.
They are made of paper and have actual pages.

A bracelet I once commissioned with the charms being made from my favorite books at the time. It is so cumbersome, however, I never wore the bracelet, sadly. 😞

A wooden placard.
The message: "I cannot live without books" by Thomas Jefferson, was a gift from my husband after he visited Jefferson's estate in Virginia. I had this on display in my library all the years I served as the librarian.

A clever contraption.
It is weighted and allows the reader to read hands free (until it is time to turn the page.) Mine says: 'So many books...so little time.' Ain't that the truth?

A Jane Austen doll.
I'm pretty sure that J.A. didn't actually look like this but I still like the doll a lot. Another gift.

Beatrix Potter figurines.
I shouldn't really count this since these little guys belong to my daughter, but they are still in my house and I think they are so cute and I love all of Beatrix Potter's characters. Don't you?

Bookish art!
A decoratively folded page from an old dictionary.

Once again, something Jane Austen. This time is it a collection of magnets with sayings from her books and letters. 

From the NYC Public library with bookish quotes.

This necklace is doubled-sided. William Shakespeare on one side. The reverse is 'A is for Anne', a piece from a Scrabble game.

And my favorite....

My actual thumbprint turned into bookish art.
With the lines of the print being titles of my fifty favorite book titles at the time of its creation. This is a large piece of art, a gift given me and commissioned by my husband. The photo is from Cheryl Sorg's webpage. I removed the photograph of my thumbprint, not wanting some nefarious person to do something bad with it. Mine looks like the upper left corner of this photo with the print matted and framed.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Sunday Salon --- Easter!!!

Easter 2019


Happy Easter!

I promise to keep this post short.

The meteorologist promises that the weather will be fine Sunday, just in time for Easter Egg hunts. The weather all week has been cold and rainy. We even had snow one day. What a weird spring.
Family gathering:
After church we will host a meal and egg hunt for our family and for my cousin, his wife, and daughter and grandson. His son-in-law was killed last month in the line of duty as a Deputy Sheriff. We know it will be a tender time but we need to be together as a family during this time of deep grief.
 The photo (above):
Was taken at Easter three years ago when our now 4 1/2-year old grandson was just 1 1/2. Now his younger brother is that same age so we should have a pretty special day with the boys.

I finished two books this week, both poetry books:
1. Ten Poems for Difficult Times by Roger Housden--read my review here.
2. Patriarchy Blues by Rena Priest, the Washington State Poet Laureate.
I am working on five other books:
1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. A classic for Classic Club Spin. 90% complete. Print.
2. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. A book club selection. 47% complete. Audio.
3. The Pioneers by David McCullough. Another book club selection for my other club. Nonfiction. 70% complete. Audio and print.
4. Good Enough by Kate Bowler. A Lenten devotional that I won't complete by Easter (duh!) but will finish soon. 35% complete. Print.
5. 100 Poems to Break Your Heart by Edward Hirsch. This is a lot of heartbreak for one volume. I may decide to not finish this one. 60%. Print.

Funnies for the day:




Easter is all about hope. Hope for the future. Today we celebrate that hope.


Thursday, April 14, 2022


Back in April of 2013 I discovered the 'Ten Poems' series by Roger Housden and quickly read all six volumes, one after the other. In each, the author highlights only ten poems and discusses them with heartfelt insight and a poet's broad perspective. Not being a trained reader of poetry I completely respected Housden's thoughts on each poem and gained an appreciation for poetry, in general. After finishing all six volumes I found myself casting about trying to find something similar -- where an expert on poetry helped me draw more meaning from each offering. Finding nothing similar I was left to my own devices but continued to read poetry on a regular basis, becoming more proficient at pulling out inspirational thoughts. 

This April, National Poetry Month, after the death of our dear relative, I've searched every poem for some sort of comfort or solace. Then to my surprise I stumbled upon a new(ish) volume in the 'Ten Poems' series, Ten Poems for Difficult Times, published in 2018. I ordered it immediately and started reading it the moment it arrived.

In the preface Housden does a nice job explaining why poetry is the perfect medium for difficult times:

Poetry is a concise and elemental means of expressing the deepest of human emotions: joy, sorrow, grief, hope, love, and longing. It connects us as a people and a community; it speaks for us in a way few other forms of writing can do. [...] Poetry not only matters; it is profoundly necessary. Especially in times of darkness and difficulty, both personal and collective. [...] Poetry rescues the world from oblivion by the practice of attention. Our attention honors and gives value to living things... When I pay attention, something in me awakens... I am straightened, somehow, brought into a deeper life (1).

Poetry, he says, often says the unsayable. He uses a line from a poem by Robert Lowell as an example. It describes illness this way: I hear my ill spirit sob in each blood cell. Clearly the poet is speaking of someone who is not physically ill but has a sickness in their soul. The sobbing soul is accentuated by all the bs and ls. "All this makes the line thick and heavy in the mouth, which is what sobbing does. Lowell gives us a visceral experience, not just the information that he is sick." This is the kind of information and examples Housden gives for each of the ten poems, opening up my appreciation and understanding.

I'd read the first poem, "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith before but didn't realize why. Apparently "Good Bones" became a bit of an internet phenomenon in 2016, just a year after it was published, because of its dual message: the world is awful, but we still believe it is worth it for my children's sake. "Life is short and the world / is at least half terrible, and for every kind / stranger, there is one who would break you, though I keep this from my children. I am trying / to sell them the world." Can't we relate? Bad things happen every day, yet we still have Easter egg hunts, take our kids to swim lessons and on nature hikes. We still believe in the future and we want to shield them from the bad parts of our world for as long as we can.

"The Thing Is" by Ellen Bass is a poem which not only describes grief but embodies it so much so that "your throat filled with the silt of it." Here Housden compares Bass's ability to look inward and this gives the poem credibility. It spoke strongly to me, so embroiled in my own grief right now. Thank goodness for poets and their poetry that can speak to us where we are, not just where we want to be.

William Stafford's poem "Cutting Loose" also addresses grief, though the point is more related to our ability to recognize and listen for the "Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder / that a steady center is holding all else." We may feel adrift now but in the center of us is song, a sound that will guide us and hold us. Stafford is a poet I definitely want to read more. Housden says this, "His poems are intimate songs of praise for the beauty and innocence that thrives in the midst of a world of suffering." I don't need, right now, to read poems about problems. I need to read poems about healing and hope.

I enjoy reading Housden's comments almost as much as reading the poetry. For example, this is what he had to say about the fifth poem by W.S. Merton: "Except for the third line, the lines of "Rain Light" all have nine syllables, and the sustained harmony casts a spell, as all great poems do, that takes the reader into a state resembling a waking dream" (56). Through his guidance my eyes are often opened to deeper meanings in the poems. I like the idea of poetry being like living a waking dream, don't you?

Just last night I was attending a church meeting and the subject of God's light came up. We were talking about prayer and how to use a visualization of God's light permeating dark corners to allow for healing and answers. Jan Richardson's poem "How the Light Comes" seems to address this same issue without using the word God. "I cannot tell you / how the light comes, / but it does. / This it will. / That is works its way / into the deepest dark / that enfolds you..." What a lovely and hopeful message. Light finding its way into the deepest, darkest places that enfold us and keep us trapped. "May we open / and open more / and open still / to the blessed light / that comes." It gives my heart a jolt of joy just to type these words. 

Jack Gilbert "In Defense of Joy" is a wonderful reminder that even in and among all the horrors this world has to throw at us, we need joy. He is adamant about it, in fact, "We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, / but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have / the stubbornness to accept gladness in the ruthless / furnace of this world..." Later the poem reminds us about the arts and the role they play in joy, "We must admit there will be music despite everything." Several of the ten poems in this collection mention music and singing as a remedy to what ails us.

The new-to-me poet Nazim wrote beautiful, hopeful words while in prison for being a political dissident, in his poem "It's This Way." Even in prison he was able to find beauty so overwhelming that the scent of carnations blooming somewhere overpowered the rank smell of medicine. "It's this way: / being captured is beside the point, / the point is not to surrender." I doubt I will ever be detained for my political views, but I am often trapped by my circumstances. Thank goodness for poems that remind me that I need not surrender to them, but rise above, allowing the beautiful scent of carnations to waft over and fill me with wonder.

Every single one of the books in the Ten Poems series has done this to me -- has caused me to stop, to reevaluate, to ponder, to relax. Ten Poems for Difficult Times may have been published in 2018, but it is very relevant in 2022. I highly recommend it especially if you find yourself unsure where to turn in this confusing days full of turmoil and grief. Roger Housden provides us with a perfect place to start a journey reading poetry, also.

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