"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, December 31, 2022

My Favorite Book Club Selections From 2022

2022 was a weird year for book selections in both of my book clubs. In my opinion my first book club, SOTH Ladies, none of our choices were outstanding, and a few of the choices were downright bad. The unfortunate aspect to that is I'm the one who chooses the library book kits we use, so I have no one to blame for poor choices other than myself. My second club, RHS Gals, had seven excellent choices and four clunkers. Now remember a book can be good, fun, or literary and still be a book club clunker because it doesn't help generate a good discussion. I did ask the members of each club for their input for this list. In club #1 the votes were all over the place, I don't think anyone felt there was a clear winner this year, either. Group #2 had three clear favorites, though all seven of the good books got votes.

1. The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. The Lincoln Highway was not only the #1 pick of the RHS Gals group but it was also my favorite book of 2022. It's an exciting adventure story, and it's also a road-trip novel, a coming-of-age tale, and a mystery of sorts. It is also a bit of love story and definitely a story about friends and families. From the title I was sure it would be a novel about a road trip, driving along the Lincoln Highway toward a western location. "But as it turns out NOT reaching the intended destination becomes the point and power of this mischievous, wildly entertaining novel" (NYT).  (#1 choice, RHS Gals-March)

2. The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. Sometimes we have the good fortune of hitting a home-run when it comes to picking our next book club selection. The Island of Sea Women is one such fantastic choice. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island, off the coast of South Korea, and the dramatic history that shaped their lives. Based on actual history and present-day events. We had the best discussion of the year with this book. (#2 choice, RHS Gals, July)

3. Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Everyone in the RHS Gals club loved this book and was surprised by it in equal measure. The book seems, from the cover and the opening few chapters, to be a silly, humorous book about working women in the 1960s. But it turns out to have a strong feminist message about how capable women really are and how they should not be undervalued in the workplace. It does have some very funny scenes as well. This was another personal favorite for the year. When asked, this is the book I recommended most often in 2022. (#3 choice, RHS Gals, November/December)

4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I've read The Dutch House twice, once in 2019 for the RHS Gals Club, and now in 2022 for the SOTH Ladies club. I am a fan of the book, especially the audiobook, read by Tom Hanks, but I honestly cannot remember either discussion. Described as a dark fairy tale on the book jacket, the story takes place over five decades and tells the tale of how two smart siblings, Danny and Maeve, cannot seem to overcome their past and at the center of the story is the odd but beguiling mansion, the Dutch House. (#1 Tied Choice, SOTH Ladies, January)

5. The Soul of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery. This a nonfiction book by a nature writer who really got to know a lot about octopuses by volunteering at the Boston Aquarium working with the octopuses; diving in Mexico and seeing octopuses in nature; and visiting the Seattle Aquarium to witness a Valentine's Day tradition -- to witness (hopefully) octopus sex. I was a little surprised that this book was selected as the number one choice of the SOTH Ladies this year, tied with the Dutch House. Three ladies picked it as their favorite of the year. It was very interesting and Sy Montgomery is a good writer. I always try to find good nonfiction selections for our club as some gals only want to read real stuff. This would be a fabulous selection to pair with Remarkably Bright Creatures by Van Pelt. It is a fiction story that involves an octopus at its center. (#1 Tied Choice, SOTH Ladies, December)

6. Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh. I confess that Mercy Street was not a favorite book for me but it generated an excellent discussion, one I have thought back on many times. This book couldn't be anymore NOW if it tried. No issue is always right and always wrong as we see through the characters in Mercy Street. Abortion providers aren't out there providing abortions joyously and anti-abortion people aren't necessarily kind, loving, and gentle people. Folks who buy and use drugs aren't always big money-grubbers, nor are all the people who use the drugs awful people. I saw in Mercy Street what I could see in my own community if I looked hard enough -- a lot of polarized people who think their position is right, often without context or compassion. The topics often made me uncomfortable and honestly, angry. But then that was part of excellence of the book. (RHS Gals, September)

7. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I was tremendously impacted by the events in Take My Hand, probably because I knew the story was based upon a real event involving two young girls that were sterilized without their or their parent's consent and that led to a court case, Relf v. Weinberger, which made such things illegal. The book also dealt a bit with abortion as Roe v. Wade had just became law the year before in 1972. The timing with what is happening here in the US with the courts striking down Roe and all the problems this has caused made the read very timely. We had an excellent discussion on Take My Hand, focusing a lot on the question: What does it mean to live a dignified life? (RHS Gals, October)

8. The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocomb. Growing up Black in North Carolina, Ray McMillian breaks the mold by aiming for something beyond a minimum wage, low skilled job -- he wants to be a world class classical musician. He has the skills to succeed but cannot seem to catch any breaks due to his race and his poverty. When he discovers that the fiddle his grandmother gives him as a gift is really a priceless Italian violin, everything changes. He is even invited to participate in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Things are really looking up... then the violin is stolen. Ray's back story is more interesting than the mystery itself. Slocomb, a Black classical musician himself, shines a light on a form of racism in the classical music world. I think I liked this book better than most of the other group members but I am still recommending it here. (RHS Gals, August)

9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michealides. I always have trouble "reviewing" mysteries because just about all the details will be spoilers. So let me say this -- the book is very good and there is a plot twist I didn't see coming.  In fact, since it was a book club choice, I can report that none of the gals in club saw it coming either. Both my husband and I enjoyed listening to the audiobook together. When the plot twisted, we both turned to each other with a look of 'what just happened?' on our faces. Even if you don't read this for book club, read it for yourself! (SOTH Ladies, April)

10. Maid by Stephanie Land/ So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. These books have little to do with each other but I am identifying them in a grouping because both are nonfiction and both have to do with the way we treat people we deem as "other". Maid is the account of a woman who works as a maid in people's homes and is made to feel like a ghost for her poverty and the lowliness of her job. So You Want to Talk About Race is written by a Black woman who identifies ways we can be better people when dealing with people of different races. Both of these books should have generated better discussions than they did, I am sorry to say. I am not sure why, but I will keep trying to bring forward topics which make us squirm but hopefully so we can become better ancestors! (SOTH Ladies, March and June)

Looking for even more suggestions?

Click the links to check my past book club favorites by year:





Thursday, December 29, 2022

Review and quotes: ALL MY RAGE

All My Rage by Sahaa Tahir

Book Beginnings quote: 

"The clouds over Lahore were purple as a gossip's tongue the day my mother told me I would wed."

Friday56 quote: 

“Each moment joins the next, a murmuration of starlings exploding out of the rafters of my mind and into the the heavens, moving as one, revealing a greater purpose.”


Lahore, Pakistan. Then.
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Clouds' Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.
Juniper, California. Now.
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. (Publisher)

Review: Once, not too long ago, almost all I read was YA lit. Now it is rare that I choose to read YA books at all. But when I became aware of All My Rage something told me I had to read it. And I am glad I did. First it is told from the point-of-view of three Pakistani transplants: Misbah, who came to the US with her husband; Salahudin, Misbah's son and light of her life; and Noor, an earthquake survivor living in the US with her uncle, her only living relative. Salahudin and Noor find each other in first grade, misfits in the American school they attend and a deep friendship is formed. Their friendship is strong until a misunderstanding and a fight their senior year and they don't reconcile their differences until it is almost too late. In the meantime, both of their live start to unravel. The story is both heart-breaking and heart-mending.

The author, Sahaa Tahir, is a Pakastani-American best known for her fantasy series, An Ember in the Ashes and its sequels. All My Rage won the 2022 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. She immigrated from Pakistan as a child and lived in the Majave Desert area of California, where the book All My Rage was set. Though the story is not autobiographical there are some similarities with the author's life and with her characters' lives. The book is full of touchy topics, in fact Tahir opens the novel with a warning of trigger topics,: drug/alcohol addiction, sexual abuse; physical abuse, bullying and racism, and drug dealing. When asked, in an interview for the Daily Bruin (the UCLA Newspaper, where she graduated) what Tahir wants her readers to take away from her book. Her answer is very revealing about her own lived experiences: 

"Having written for young people for years now, I would never dare to tell them what to take away from my book. However, I will say that I hope any reader who needs this book will find it. Any reader who needs to feel less alone, I hope they’re able to find this book. As a young person, I needed a book like this. That’s a huge part of why I wrote it."

This is an important and powerful book on so may levels. I highly recommend it.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.  


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022 End-of-the-Year Book Survey


Head Full of Books: 2022 End-of-Year Book Survey

  • Number of books read and completed: 198.
  • Number of re-reads: 15
  • Genre you read the most:  Poetry - - 73
  • Number of books started but not finished:  At least 4, probably more.
  • Number of children's books read: 59+; I read LOTS of books with my grandsons for the reading project: '100 books Every Kid Should Hear Before They Go to Kindergarten.'
  • Number of poetry books read or reread (including novels-in-verse): See above, 73.
  • Number of memoirs and nonfiction books read: 26
  • Number of graphic or illustrated books read, not children's books: 12


Reading Survey: (Click on book title if you want to read my review of it.)

1. Best books read in 2022:

2. Book(s) I thought I'd love, but didn’t:
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book: 

4. Books I “pushed” the most people to read: 

5.  Best series:

6. Favorite new author I discovered in 2022:
7. Best book from a genre I don’t typically read: 
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:
9. Favorite book club selection based on the discussion:
10. Favorite cover of a book read in 2022:
Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox

11. Most memorable character of the year:
12. Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of the year:
Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection by Kate Bowler
13. Most beautifully written book read in the year: 

14. Book I've never read UNTIL 2022. Can you believe it? 
15. Favorite passage/quote from a book read in 2022:
“In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise that it will light your way. And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.”
William Kent Krueger, Ordinary Grace
16. Shortest and longest book read in 2022, not counting children's books:
17. Book which shocked me the most:
18. Best audiobooks of the year:

19. Favorite SH nonfiction books I read for my role as a Cybils Judge (Round 2, out of five books) and poetry collection and novel-in-verse (Round 1, out of 60 books)
20. Favorite book by an author I’ve previously read
21. Best book I read this past year based SOLELY on a recommendation or peer pressure:
  • Cross Purposes by Bob Welch (review pending)
  22. Newest fictional crush:
23. Best 2022 debut: 
24. Best world-building/Most vivid setting I read this year:
25. Book which put a smile on my face/was FUN to read:
26. Book which made me cry:
27. Hidden Gem of the Year? There are several: 
  1.  My Name is Jason. Mine too: Our Story. Our Way by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin
  2. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin 
  3. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins Valdez 
  4. The Violin Conspiracy by Brenden Slocomb
  5. Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh
28. Anything odd about this year's reading list:
  • So many children's books and poetry books.
29. Most unique book:
30. Book which made me angry (due to the topic):
31. Favorite poetry or short story collection: 
32. Favorite re-read of the year:
33. Favorite classic book read during the year:
34. Books I didn’t get to in 2022 are now top priorities in 2023
  • Fiction--- Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Nonfiction--- The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • YA/Junior/Children's--- Mister Impossible (Dreamer series #2) by Maggie Stiefvater, the third book in the series is out now and I still need to read the second book. Argh!
  • Classic--- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Poetry/Essays: -- These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett.This was on my list last year in this exact spot. 2023 ! I will get it done.

35. Bookish goals for 2023

  • Write reviews for all book club selections.
  • Complete "My One Book" challenge: The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Read two of the five National Book Award winners. (Announced in November)
  • Read the Pulitzer Prize winner for literature (announced in March or April) and finish all the past winners on my list, five in all, counting the 2023 winner. 
  • Read at least five classic books on my list. (See list here.)

Blogging survey:

1. Favorite reviews that I wrote in 2022
2. Most popular review of the year based on stats:
3. Best discussion/non-review post:
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
  • Reading "One Hundred Books You Should Have Read To You Before Kindergarten" with my grandson who turned five and entered Kindergarten this year. I loved just about every moment of this project with him. Here is a post about the project: 'One Hundred Books.'
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2022
  • Several posts, generally my Sunday Salon posts generated discussions with friends outside my blogging world. I once was greeted at Bible Study by these words, "Thank you for your post about the elections. I feel so much better about what to expect on Tuesday."
6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
  • We read 60 poetry books for Cybils, Round 1, Poetry Division. More than half of those books were novels/memoirs-in-verse. Though I loved the project I confess to feeling crotchedy about several of the novels-in-verse whose poetry wasn't all that good. Because I was reading so many books in such a short period of time many of the reviews were for four or five books at a time.
7. Most popular post this year:
8. Posts I wish got a bit more love:
9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.):
  • Libby App. (Replaced Overdrive at my library)
10.  How did I do on my reading challenges or goals for 2022?
  • Read 100 books this year. (198+ books)
  • My Own Personal National Book Award Challenge
    • Seven Empty Houses
    • All My Rage
  • Read the Pulitzer Prize winner and past winners: I read only 2 of 7 ✔-
    • The Netanyahus
    • Grapes of Wrath
  • Read all the 2022 Printz winners, award and honor books. I read 1 of 5.  ✔- -
    •  The Firekeeper's Daughter
  • Read 10 Classics Club Spins and classics club books:  4 classics this year. ✔-
    • Murder on the Orient Express
    • As I Lay Dying
    • Grapes of Wrath
    • The Secret Garden
  • Big Book Summer Challenge. Five completed  
  •  Audiobook Challenge: My goal=25, I listened to 44+
  • I completed my 'one big reading goal of the year': to read Grapes of Wrath

-Gratefully turning the page over on 2022.