"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, July 27, 2022

Review and quotes: WASHINGTON BLACK

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

Book Beginnings quote: 

I might have been ten or eleven -- I cannot say for certain -- when my first master died.

Friday56 quote:

"The boy is my property." This the master said without even a glance at me.


Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born. When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.

He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.

What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.

From the sultry cane fields of the Caribbean to the frozen Far North, Washington Black tells a story of friendship and betrayal, love and redemption, of a world destroyed and made whole again--and asks the question, what is true freedom? (Publisher)

Review: Washington Black was a book club selection for a recent meeting. The book, a Booker Prize finalist in 2018, tells a slavery story never told before, using an imagining of "what if" slaves who obtain freedom were actually treated like equal human beings with whites and were allowed to claim credit for their contributions to science and inventions. These were thought-provoking ideas and worthy topics for discussion and in assistance to helping me become a more empathetic person toward the plights and past histories of BIPOC people. I did find the book frustrating at times, however, especially around tricky aspects of transition. How did Wash get from here to there? There were so many settings and characters, it was hard to keep track of all the details. How did society, as we understand it from history, allow for an interracial couple to become sexually active? What's with the ending? Is it a new beginning, a suicide attempt, or just a walk around outside? Though I was critical of some of the book's problems, by in large it was a very valuable read, one I would recommend for any book club looking for an interesting topic to discuss.

Trigger warning: the first part of the book, in particular, dwells on the horrors of slavery and the complete and utter disregard many white owners had for the lives of their slaves. To a person, ever member of the club mentioned how upsetting it was and worried that readers might be so put off they would want to stop reading.

Washington Black discussion questions.

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.  

 SOTH Gals Book Club, July 2022


Monday, July 25, 2022

TTT: Books From My Past Seasonal TBR Posts I STILL Haven’t Read

Top Ten Tuesday: Books From My Past Seasonal TBR Posts I STILL Haven’t Read

From the Spring 2022 list:

  1.  Unthinkable by Jamie Raskin
  2.  The Owl and Other Fantasies by Mary Oliver
  3. A Printz Award winner from this list 
  4. Classics club selection (From this list) 

From the Winter 2021 list:

  1. Peril by Bob Woodward
  2. Past Pulitzer Prize winner: The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck 
  3. Past Pulitzer Prize winner: The Road by Cormac McCarthy  
  4. Past Pulitzer Prize winner: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Jobook from my hnson
  5. Classics club selection:  (From this list)  

From the Fall 2021 list:

  1. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton 
  2. 2021 Printz Honor: Every Body Looking
  3. Classics club selection (From this list) 

From the Summer 2021 list:

  1. Break Shot: My First 21 Years by James Taylor
  2. The Clock Dance by Anne Tyler 
  3. Classics club selection (From this list) 

So these are the books on my seasonal TBRs for the past year I haven't gotten to yet, if I ever will. Other books crowd out past TBR lists and then interest wanes. 

How are you doing on your past TBR lists?


Sunday, July 24, 2022

Sunday Salon

Recent retirees: Don (husband) and Mary (friend). Mary is a teacher and her shirt says: "School's out forever."

Weather: Lovely. It is supposed to get warm/hot today but right now it is perfect outside.

Congratulations retirees: Yesterday we celebrated the recent retirement of my husband, Don, and a dear family friend, Mary. Several of our mutual friends and our families joined us for an afternoon of food and fun. One of those friends leaned over to me at one point and said, "This is the best party I've been to in a long time." To which I replied that I bet it is the first party she's been to in a long time.  Thank goodness the weather cooperated and we were able to spend our time mainly out on our back deck. COVID still seems to loom so large in all of our lives.


Adventure day with the grandsons: Don and I took the boys to NW Trek. The photo in the top left quadrant shows a badger in the background as the boys pose. We also saw the black bear and the grizzly bear very close up which is a rarity. And, of course, the highlight was the play structure which includes a man-made stream to wade around in. Both boys required a clothing change after the fun in the water. 

Reading and blogging: have sort of been a bust lately. I did manage to finish Washington Black just hours before the book club where I was was to lead the discussion on it. It is an interesting book from the standpoint of it's twisting of history. But it makes a good point about how Blacks and other people of color have rarely had their inventions and scientific accomplishments acknowledged throughout history. I also made a bit of progress on The Violin Conspiracy and have found it to be quite compelling though it isn't the book I thought it would be. Otherwise, I am already one book behind on my yearly reading progress, something that hasn't happened in several years. And blogging seems to have fallen off the same way. I'm blaming it on my eyes, since I am still recovering from cataract surgery. I can't seem to adjust to the new eyeballs. Ha!

We got our old hammock out of storage this week for the first time in years. The timing was great since it became the prime plaything for the kids during the party. Jamie and Don are taking a break on it.

Apparently I'm the last person on earth to find this hilarious video: My daughter shared it with me after I used the word "apparently" in a sentence. Apparently i think you'll enjoy it, too. It has been, apparently, quite popular and you'll see why. I can't get the word "apparently" out of my head. Click here for video or click on image below.


A bit of politics and a few funnies:

Here's a good ad. I hope it gains traction in Texas.

Josh Hawley, the senator from Missouri raised a fist in solidarity with the mob storming the Capitol. The Jan. 6 committee played video of him running away


Igniting the crowd and then running from them

Or another example:

Unrelated but funny:

The dog is ready for his walk. Have a great week.


Monday, July 18, 2022

TTT: Novels that enhanced my understanding of BIPOC experiences

Top Ten Tuesday: Novels that Enhanced My Understanding of BIPOC (Black/Indigenous/ People of Color) Experiences

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Indigenous experiences against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter movement

Firekeeper's Daughter
by Angeline Boulley
Indigenous experiences and membership on and off the reservation 

Interior Chinatown
by Charles Yu
Chinese-American experiences in Hollywood based on stereotypes

Hell of a Book
by Jason Mott
Black experiences with the justice system and societal expectations

The Night Watchman
by Louise Erdrich
Indigenous experiences, poverty, and culture (based on an experience of the author's grandfather)

We Are Not Free
by Traci Chee
Japanese-American experiences with incarceration during WWII

The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nahesi Coates 
Black experiences with slavery and African mythology

New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Black kid's experiences in a new, predominantly white school

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong
Vietnamese immigrants deal with language and cultural differences

Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
Torturous experiences of Black students in reform school

There There
by Tommy Orange
Indigenous experiences in urban settings

Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Latinx experiences in school and family life

Recommend more recent BIPOC titles that you have enjoyed, please! (Use the comment section .)


Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sunday Salon -- Mid July

Celebrating with family on the 4th of July

Weather: the skies were overcast yesterday during our long walk along a community to community trail. Temperatures were in the mid-70s. Today seems to be the same so far.

Cataracts: I had my second eye operation on Tuesday and the week seems to have revolved around recovery, which means a lot of eye drops, lower lights/sunglasses, and adjustments. One of the adjustments I've learned that my old glasses made me think I was closer to the ground. Now as I descend the stairs I feel like I'm a giant who is much taller than I was. My far and mid-range vision are quite good now. I only require reading glasses for close-up stuff. Because of this my post today will be mercifully short.

Today: We will babysit our grandsons with us while our daughters are off on an adventure together. I have a new stack of books from the '100 Books Every Child Should Have Read to Them Before Kindergarten' list. Nineteen of them, in fact. We won't spend the whole day reading, however. We will likely seek out a new play structure/park to explore.


  • Currently reading:
    • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. This is a book club selection for our Tuesday meeting. Guess I'd best put on a big push to finish it on time. Print and audio. 68% complete.
    • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I actually didn't make any progress on this tome all week. Print and audio. 27% complete.
  • Finished:
    • The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis. This brings Narniathon21 to its completion for me. Print.
    • The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Another book club selection. I rated this book 3 out of 5 stars. Not a favorite. Audiobook.
  • Reviews written:

Skimbleshanks and Sasha: We finally met the newest members of the family...darling sibling kittens.


Saturday, July 16, 2022


I completed a seven-month challenge, Narniathon21, after finishing the seventh book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle. Having read the book and the series several times in my lifetime, each time I found something new or was struck by a different revelation. Insights from other participants made this a very enjoyable experience.

As I read The Last Battle I couldn't help thinking about the political situation in the US right especially during the first part of the book where the ape, Shift, dresses up the donkey, Puzzle , in a lion's pelt and tells him to pretend he is Aslan. This made me think of Trump as I read about the Ape and how self-serving he was and later how he was at the mercy of his bad advisors as he clung to power. On page ten, Puzzle says he doesn't want to pretend to be Aslan, but Shift tells him they'll fix all the things wrong in Narnia. "'But isn't everything right in Narnia already', asks Puzzle. 'What!' cried Shift. 'Everything right? -- when there are no oranges and bananas?'" Clearly Shift, an ape, is the only one concerned about such things, but he wants to rule Narnia by deceit and lies to get what he wants. Later when the animals accuse Shift of just being an ape he lies and says he is a man, a very wise, old man. "'And it is because I'm so old that I'm so wise. And because I am so wise that I am the only one Aslan is ever going to speak to.'" (29) Reminds me of when Trump declared "I alone can fix the problems in America." Later in the story the Narnians overhear some of the Calormen soldiers talking about Trump the Ape, saying they've grown weary of him and calling him a brute, but admitting that he is a useful tool to get to their goals, to take over Narnia (76). It's chilling, actually, to compare Trump and the Ape.

Well, enough about Trump and Shift, the Ape. On to the Narniathon questions:

1. We’ve come a long way since the Pevensies entered the wardrobe that first led them into Narnia. What are the principal emotions that well up in you as you look back on all that’s happened since then?

Honestly I get very emotional every time I read The Last Battle. This time I focused a bit on Susan not being allowed to return to Narnia because she has devoted her life on Earth to makeup and fashion. This doesn't really square with my understanding of the gospel. This made me feel sad and perplexed. I even read the short story, written by Neil Gaiman, about what her life was like after her whole family died in the train wreck. I wouldn't recommend it. It also doesn't square with how I imagine her story ending. I enjoyed the reunion, of sorts, with all the humans who had entered Narnia, including the first king, Frank and his wife.

2. Many fans of Narnia, knowing the many adverse reactions to this final title, have avoided or otherwise refused to read it. Were you one of these and, even if not, what is your reaction now?

Once again I was more aware this read-through of the racially insensitive information in the book toward the people from Calormen than in the past. I cringed when the king had the children, Jill and Eustace, blacken their skin so they could blend in. Otherwise, I love the description of the new Narnia, further up and further in, as being more real than life in the old Narnia. I honestly hope if there is a real heaven that C.S. Lewis is right that it will be a wondrous place, more colorful and real than the life left behind.

3. At the end of the final chapter Lewis uses the metaphor of a book, whether the Book or another special storybook of which the Narnia tales are merely “the cover and the title page.” Does this metaphor work for you as it is intended to?

I'd never noticed this metaphor before. It is pretty hard to wrap my brain around the concept of eternity but the idea of all the stories we know would fit onto a cover page and title seems like a good place to start.

Lewis selected Saturn as the planet to represent the seventh book, The Last Battle. Saturn is thought to have been the worst planet, "whose influence could easily go bad." I don't know about you, but I'd say Lewis nailed "bad" with the end of the world. However, Saturn's influence might also bring about "godly sorrow, penitential wisdom, and contemplative insight." I love this. We certainly saw sorrow, penitence, and wisdom as Narnia is coming to an end. Father Time has been pictured in early pictures of Saturn. Even the Bible has something to say about Saturn's influence when the prophet Amos speaks against his people for worshiping Saturn (Amos 5:26). Lewis used all these known influences of Saturn to great effect in the book. (Planet Narnia)

I want to thank CalmGrove for hosting Narniathon21 and for being so faithful at communicating with participants. I lost a little steam on the challenge at times, but also enjoyed the new insights I gained from other contributors. I had a little flash of nostalgia as I finished this, the final book of the series. I've probably read it five times in my life and it is possible I will never read it again. At this point I certainly don't feel like I need to after reading it so many other times. But on the heels of that thought, a little voice spoke in my head said, "But what about the grandsons...?"


Friday, July 15, 2022


The Netanyahus: An Account of a Minor and Ultimately Even Negligible Account in the History of a Very Famous Family by Joshua Cohen

Book Beginnings quote:

Friday56 quote:

Summary: The Netanyahus is a fictionalized account of an actual event involving the famous Natanyahu family. In this novel, the father of Israel's longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Benzion Netanyahu interviews for a teaching position at Corbin University (fictional)and Rubin Blum, a professor of American History is asked to be the head of the hiring committee not because of his expertise but because he is Jewish.

The day that Benzion Netanyau arrives for his department interview and guest lecture it is snowing very hard. Unbeknownst to Blum who made the arrangements, Netanyahu arrives with his "horrible wife and children" who are all unprepared for the weather and have monstrous manners.

In preparation for the interview, Blum reads up on Jewish history, as viewed through Netanyahu's eyes which differs from what other academics see as history of the Jews in the Iberian peninsula, what many of us know as the Spanish Inquisition.

As dry as this summary sounds, the book is really quite humorous and I found myself enthralled by the story and the Jewish history I learned along the way. I also found Cohen's indictment of the snobbery of American academia to be refreshing.

Review:  In an afterword Joshua Cohen explains how come he decided to write a fictionalized story about a real family. He once interviewed the famous literary critic Harold Bloom, who relayed his encounter with the Netanyahus family when Benzion arrived for an interview at Cornell University. He elaborated very little. This is what Cohen remembered:

[Bloom] was asked to coordinate the campus visit of an obscure Israeli historian named Ben-Zion Netanyahu, who showed up for a job interview and lecture with his wife and three children in tow and proceeded to make a mess. Of all of Harold's tales, this was the one that stuck with me the most, perhaps because it was one of the last he ever told me, and following his death in 2019, I wrote it down, and in the process found myself having to invent a number of details he'd left out, and, due to circumstances I'm about to explain, having to fictionalize a few others.

So this book, The Netanyahus, is based, more of less, on an actual event. This, to my way of thinking, makes the story even funnier and more interesting. (And explains the subtitle, which, as you know, is a rare feature for fictional books.) I decided to read The Netanyahus because it won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It is Cohen's sixth novel and from my limited research I've learned that he has made a name for himself as a sartorial writer. As you can see from the two samples, he writes long, complicated sentences, too. Though I felt that his sentence structures added to humor. I listened to the audiobook, read by three readers: Joshua Cohen, David Duchovny, Ethan Herschenfeld . Oddly, I don't recall there was more than one narrator. I'm guessing their narration led to making the sense of humor so evident in the book.

I know that these types of books don't appeal to everyone, but if you are curious about what makes an award-winning novel, here is an excellent and very different option to feast on.

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, July 11, 2022

TTT: Favorite Book Covers -- July 2021 to July 2022


Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite book covers for books I've read the past year, July2021 to July 2022.  

I prefer to add books to my TTT list which I have read. Apparently, in my opinion, I don't read books with very summerish covers. So I tweaked today's prompt to include all my favorites for the past 12 months.

I like book covers which help capture my imagination, are artistic, and those which have something to do with the theme or the story-line.

What do you think of my choices?



Thursday, July 7, 2022

Short reviews of my vacation reads (with quotes)

We got home from our two week vacation last night. It feels weird not to have to pile into the car to drive over 450 miles in one day. Ha! Since we had such a long road trip, audiobooks were more prominent on my reading list than print books. When we arrived at our destinations we kept ourselves fairly busy and didn't spend as much time lazing poolside due to the extreme heat. In addition to those completed books listed below I did get a good start on Grapes of Wrath, my Classic Clubs spin book for August (20% complete), and cracked open Beach Reads, which I thought would be a good vacation read but I didn't have time to finish (7% complete.) In addition, we started a new audiobook on the last leg of the journey, The Immortalists, and got exactly to the midpoint in it as drove into our driveway. Over 2500 miles and we were home! Here are reviews and quotes from the five books I did finish:

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich
Audiobook read by the author
HarperAudio, 2021

I am a huge Louise Erdrich fan due to her ability to write stories about Indigenous people in such a way as to educate, enlighten, and entertain me at the same time. My husband wasn't sure if he had ever read anything of hers, so was eager to listen to this book first as we started our long journey together. Erdrich reads her own audiobooks and the cadence of her voice adds a unique quality to the experience. Another reason for our choice was one of relevance. It was written and published after the COVID pandemic had begun and the disease plays a role in the story line. It also spans the time frame of George Floyd's murder in Minneapolis and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement but viewed through the lens of Indigenous people who have also suffered greatly at the the hands of white oppressors.
All good books involve us in complicated issues through the stories. In The Sentence "a small independent bookstore in Minneapolis is haunted for a year by the store's most annoying customer. Flora dies on All Souls' Day, but she simply won't leave the store. Tookie, who has landed a job selling books after years of incarceration that she survived by reading with murderous attention, must solve the mystery of this haunting while at the same time trying to understand all that occurs in Minneapolis during a year of grief, astonishment, isolation, and furious reckoning" (Publisher). With a touch of humor Erdrich, who writes herself into the plot as a bit player, gives us a new and important perspective on lives on the margins during very tumultuous times. It is a very impactful book.

"While in prison, the first book I received was a dictionary. It was sent to me with a note. This is the book I'd take to a deserted island. Other books were to arrive from my teacher. But as she had known, this one proved of endless use. The first word I looked up was 'sentence.'" (1)
“So who was doing the beating? The uniforms or those inside them? How was it that protests against police violence showed how violent police really were?”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Highly recommend.

Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
Morrow Gift Books, 2020

Part two of the comic series where aliens explore Earth culture. I enjoy the sideways look at our idiosyncrasies through these aliens. Perfect for lighthearted enjoyment.

I did get a little star damage when I was out in the pool for too long mid-week during our vacation.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Random House Audio, 2022
Read by John Lee, Dylan Moore, Arthur Morey, and Kirsten Potter

The second audiobook we listened to on our journey south was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. I have wanted to read the book since I learned of its publication for two reasons. One, it is also published since the COVID pandemic which has altered our lives so much and though it is not about our pandemic it does touch on a future one. Secondly, I am a huge fan of Mandel's Station Eleven, a book I have thought about nearly every day since I first read it back in 2015. I had unsuccessfully suggested Sea of Tranquility for an upcoming book club meeting but was still keen to see if it lived up to its predecessor. 

It is a novel "about art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space." It involves four people and their moment of collision in a time fluke explored by a time traveler, Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City on the moon, who is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness. He uncovers a series of lives upended and in the process finds himself disrupting the timeline of the universe.
Both my husband and I found the book quite confusing. First there are the four people/time periods whose stories weave in and out. Then there is the investigator and in his attempts to uncover the time fluke, he ends up upending the timeline himself. Think of it as a tapestry whose picture isn't revealed until the final thread is in place. We wondered if this tale would be easier to understand if we'd been looking at a print book, which we could flip back to look at missed clues and details. 
I have two comments to make about my comparably low rating. First, sometimes books suffer due to their juxtaposition to other books. We enjoyed The Sentence so much, this one seemed pale by comparison. Secondly, two of the characters moved over from a previous book, one I haven't read, The Glass Hotel. Though it is not a sequel it irritated me that I was expected to know something I didn't. That said there are some great quotes in it.
“Pandemics don’t approach like wars, with the distant thud of artillery growing louder every day and flashes of bombs on the horizon. The arrive in retrospect, essentially. It’s disorienting. The pandemic is far away and then it’s all around you with seemingly no intermediate step.”  
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars. 

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
Hatchett Books, 2012
Last year I found The Time Keeper at a used book sale and purchased it as a little gift for my sister. When I gave it to her I asked her to share it back with me so I could read it, too. She did. She returned it with a comment that it wasn't her favorite of Albom's books. I agree with her. The story, a fable really, is about a man, Dor, who figures out how to measure time then is forced to serve as Father Time listening to all mankind's complaints about how they don't have enough time. In the end he is freed from this role as long as he can help two people to accept where they are in time. I felt the way the story was put together, jumping from story to story, was clunky. It was a good concept but poorly executed.
I agree with a reviewer on Goodreads, Laurel, who says this about The Time Keeper: "It's not that it's a bad book. It's a nice little fable and has good intentions. Many will no doubt find it comforting and life-affirming. I just found it all a bit too obvious for my taste. Perhaps I'm just not one who feels I need a fable to remind me how precious our time on earth is, or how important it is to try to live in the moment."
“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. an alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn 
HarperAudio, 2021
Read by: Saskia Maarleveld 
Based on actual historical events, The Rose Code is that rare and satisfying read which adds knowledge to what was previously known about a subject. In this case the subject was the WWII project at Bletchley park where brilliant people were set to the task to break the Nazi's unbreakable code, the Enigma. Three women join the ranks of those working at BP: Olsa, a beautiful debutante who is also dating the man who will eventually marry Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, she works as a German translator; Mab, who is a hard worker from her poor upbringing, works with the machines that help decode messages sent by Nazis; and Beth, who is one of the few females assigned to the arduous task of breaking the daily codes, she is a wiz with puzzles. As the stories of the three women, now friends, are teased out readers also meet a cast of characters, some who actually lived in real life and others who were composites of several people, all working in some way to support the war effort. Around the mid-way point of the book we are introduced to the possibility that there is a traitor in their midst but not until after the war is over do several of the people who worked together at BP get together to untangle their final puzzle to finally identify the traitor in their ranks by cracking the Rose Code.
My husband and I listened to the audiobook of The Rose Code, read by Saskia Maarleveld.  We were both transfixed for the 16 hours it took to listen to it while we drove up California's Central Valley and into Oregon on our way home. Don, who rarely expresses his delight in books unless I press him, was the first to say how much he was enjoying the book. 
“But something else went on at the same time war did, and that was life. It kept right on going up until the moment it stopped...”
Weighing in at over 620 pages, this book qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Not to be missed! 
I didn't follow the rules for the Friday56 and Book Beginnings memes this week by just adding random quotes. I hope you appreciated them anyway.

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.  



Sunday, July 3, 2022

Sunday Salon -- California!

Joshua Tree National Park. Clockwise from top left: fan palms thriving in an oasis; Don and Anne in front of one of many interesting/astonishing rock formations; rocks that look like a sleeping giant's foot behind the tree; and a Joshua tree, which isn't really a tree but a member of the yucca plant family.

Weather: Hot and dry! (We're in Southern and Central California.)

Hiatus: We've been on the road or vacationing for over a week and though I've had access to Wifi for most of that time I haven't felt like blogging. I realize now I should have taken an official hiatus so no one was left wondering about my welfare.

Day by day trip highlights:

  1. We left home on Thursday, June 24th. We had hoped to rendezvous with a high school friend, Rita, but had to settle for a zoom meet-up due to COVID. Sigh. But we did meet in the park with another friend for a few hours of yakking on a stop during our drive south. I miss seeing friends and love it when circumstances allow for touch points. That night we stayed at my sister's house in Springfield after a brief dinner and visit with Mom.
  2. Friday we drove a few hours south to Don's brother's home. Jon's wife, Laura, just got out of the hospital but still welcomed us warmly. Our one disappointment we didn't get to meet their two new cats. Too shy!
  3. Saturday and Sunday we drove most of both days, with a stopover midpoint at a hotel near the freeway. We had a nice 40th anniversary dinner and a stroll among the vegetation on the grounds. Lovely. We arrived at our timeshare condo in Indio (near Palm Springs) with enough daylight to allow us take a dip in the pool before we made a trip to the grocery store. The daytime high temperatures are hovering around 110 degrees so we avoid being outside for any sustained periods of time. Note: I can't remember if we did anything on Monday except try to recover from all the driving and trying to stay cool.
  4. Tuesday we made a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, not far from here. We entered the park from the south and often felt like we had the place to ourselves. The park is at the convergence point of two different deserts: the Colorado desert (part of the Sonoran desert) and the Mojave desert to its north. Though similar there were actually some remarkable differences between the two. We were thrilled by the experience and took way too many photos of the vegetation, the rock formations, and the plants living near tiny oases. (See photos above.)
  5. Same shirt, different hat (Anne). Same hat, different shirt (Don).

    Wednesday we took the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway up Chino Canyon (2 1/2 miles up, a gain of over 6000 feet in 10 minutes) to an elevation over 8,500 feet for spectacular views of the desert below and access to the Mount San Jacinto California State Park and Wilderness area. We hiked as far as our water supply would allow us. We were gobsmacked by the huge Jeffrey pines (see photo above) and other tall trees at such a high elevation. At home on Mt. Rainier, for contrast, the tree line is between 6500-7500 feet and the trees growing close to the line are small and short. We stayed up on the mountain for hours since the temperatures there were much more moderate than on the desert floor. We enjoyed the descent on the tramway more than the ascent. No talking about information, just music we could all sing along to, like "Sweet Caroline" and "End of the Line!" Such fun being part of a group of strangers who all have something in common -- singing the same songs loud and joyfully.

  6. Thursday Don got up early and golfed nine holes while I slept in and started this blog post. In the evening we attended Village Fest in downtown Palm Springs. It was a little like any street market we've ever attended except the temperature was hovering just above 100 degrees even after 7 PM. We found a fun Mexican restaurant with a live band for dinner rather than eating street food in the heat. Fun.
  7. Don knows me. When we visit new areas I often request that we find a botanical garden to see local plants. We found one in Palm Springs: Moorten's Botanical Garden and Cactarium. Friday we walked the grounds, dunking into shade whenever we could, and gaped at all the different types of cacti there are in the area and the world. See photo for some of the oddly beautiful plants we found. 

  8. Saturday we drove to Lake-of-the-Pines, near Sacramento, for a sibling reunion at my brother's house. It was a long day in the car. We got stuck for a while when the freeway was closed but we made it in time for a delicious dinner and a lovely boat ride on the lake with new family friends. Below is their dog, Remy, on the boat with us.

Politics: Just because we're on the road doesn't mean we aren't paying attention to what is happening in the world. In fact, Don and I listened to Sirius radio and the January 6th insurrection Committee hearing on the first leg of our trip. The supreme court's decision to destroy Roe and the troubling allowance of church and state issues are much in my mind. The following political cartoon, illustrations, memes, links, and tweets summarize my feelings.

1. The Myth at the Heart of the Praying Bremerton Teacher (Seattle Times) about the Supreme  Court case allowing prayer in schools. This op-ed is very enlightening about the real issue. 


3. About the Supreme Court decision to gut Roe v. Wade. Let's take a minute or two to mourn and then roll up our sleeves and get to work making sure the voters do something about it.


4. Time for a palette cleanser: "Bohemian Rhapsody" performed by Simply Three and William Joseph. Wow. Just wow. (Come on. Have a listen. You deserve it!)

5. The surprise fifth hearing of the Jan. 6th Committee had many revelations which were quite shocking. Will this be enough to finally bring Trump down? Not sure. But Mick Mulvaney, Trump's former Chief of Staff, thinks it might be. When Republicans turn, you know it is bad.


6. I've been thinking a lot about this quote from Dan Rather. I've seen some polling that suggests that the dial is actually moving and people are waking up to the need to vote for Democrats in November since the hearings have started. I have also seen polling that the anti-Roe (anti-women) decision will also be a needle mover. I hope.

Here is a screen shot of the polls taken since the Supreme Court announcement about abortion last week. The poll is for a generic ballot, meaning the question doesn't have any candidate names or district specific races, just "Are you more likely to vote for a Democrat or a Republican if the election were today?"

The biggest news for Dem fundraising this month (May ’22) is that May [2022] eclipsed May 2018 by a gigantic margin in contribution numbers, total dollars raised, and unique donor numbers. Since 2018 was a midterm election year, the comparison is important. In addition, dollars raised in May ’22 even topped May ’20 - a general election year!!!

Most important, of course, is why donor activity rose meteorically in May. First is the preliminary decision of the Supreme Court to gut Roe v. Wade.  The early release of a preliminary decision- now verified by the disastrous Dobbs ruling- created a firestorm of public anger & dissent.

Second and perhaps equally important, gun safety groups were propelled into action (DKos)…


LA Times

We have our first Black Female Supreme Court Justice: Ketanji Brown Jackson! (NYT)

Books: I've been reading a bit but not as much as I thought since I pictured myself reading poolside. It is too hot for that for sure. We have finished a few audiobooks so far.

  • Print:
    • Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle. A new favorite I enjoy the illustrations and twists on the English language and our traditions. Complete.
    • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. This is my Classics Club spin selection and my One-Book of the year. Progress: 9%.
    • The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom. I am a fan of this author but not a fan of this book. Complete.
    • Beach Read by Emily Henry. I hope to make more progress on this book now that I am someplace that actually has a beach. Progress: 4%.
  • Audio:
    • The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. A bookstore employee is haunted by a former customer. The book is funny and yet quite revealing about Indigenous culture and issues. I loved this book. So did Don. Complete.
    • Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. My second book by the author. Both this book and the one above were written/published after the COVID pandemic had begun, so the pandemic is a theme of both books. Sea of Tranquility is confusing and would probably be less so if read rather than listened to since we couldn't couldn't look back when we were trying to draw together all the pieces. Complete.
    • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. Historical fiction about the enigma project in England during WWII. Before we landed on this one, Don and I tried two others that just didn't seem to work as audiobooks, especially when dealing with road noise. Progress: 62%.
    • Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. When Don isn't around I am attempting to listen to this book club selection on my own. Progress: 9%.

Meet Skimbleshanks and Sasha: Our daughter picked up her new kittens last week and we haven't even met them yet. Now both daughters have two ginger cats.

Skimbleshanks (male) and Sasha (female) are siblings. I don't know who is who in this photo.

Here is Skimble getting some screen time.