"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=========

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Review and quotes: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO

The Count of Monte of Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Book Beginnings quote: 

On the 24th of February, 1815, the lookout at Notre-Dame de la Garde signaled the three-master, the Pharaon, from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.

Friday56 quote:

The commissary of police, as he traversed the antechamber, made a sign to two gendarmes, who placed themselves one on Dantes's right and the other on the left.

Summary: Edmond Dantes is set up by two jealous individuals and their compatriots and accused of being a spy and a follower of Napoleon, the Emperor. On the very day he is set to wed his love, Mercedes, he is hauled off to prison on trumped up charges. None of his friends or family know where he is and he is left to rot in prison where he will surely die. Fourteen years later, he escapes with the help of another prisoner who tells Dantes where to find a hidden treasure trove. After finding the treasure Dantes sets in to action a plan seeking revenge on those whose falsehoods sent him to prison.

Published by: Word Cloud Classics in 2013. 1055 pages.

Throw me a party!!! I finished this classic, this tome. The version of the book I read was 1,055 pages long and the audiobook was over 42 hours long! It was no small project to complete this book but I confess by the time the book got to it's climax, around page 800, I was all in.

Here are a few of my observations, since the book has been around since 1846, no one needs me to review it. (If you want to know more about it, check on Snopes!)

  • I listened to the audiobook and the voice actor was fluent in French. Many words and names sounded very similar to me and I had a hard time keeping track of events and people. In addition several of the character names were changed after Dantes was imprisoned, as they went to a kind of hiding. I liked listening to the audio version but it would likely have been less confusing had I read the print version.
  • This tome could have easily been divided into three books: Imprisonment; The Set Up; and Revenge. I'm sure if Dumas had published the story today he would have been advised to do just that.
  • I was very aware that the book was set for the modern reader at the time (mid 1840s) of its publication. Dumas was clearly familiar with the dress and the social habits of the upper class of the day. A few examples: no one showed up at the opera on time because they wanted to make a grand entrance; most people had mistresses and thought little of the scandal; the addictive nature of opium was NOT understood.
  • Dumas wrote The Count of Monte Cristo with the help of a ghostwriter, Auguste Marquet. I couldn't help wondering what percentage of the book was actually written by Dumas.
  • The book was published serially between 1844-1846, then as a complete book in 1846.
  • According to Wikipedia: The story takes place in France, Italy, and islands in the Mediterranean during the historical events of 1815–1839: the era of the Bourbon Restoration through the reign of Louis-Philippe of France. It begins on the day that Napoleon left his first island of exile, Elba, beginning the Hundred Days period when Napoleon returned to power. The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book, an adventure story centrally concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy, and forgiveness.

With the completion of The Count of Monte Cristo, I have accomplished my 'One Big Book Challenge' of the year! This is a personal challenge where I select one book I've avoided because of size or scope and set myself the goal of finishing it within the year. It didn't take me a year, but it did take me almost three months to read this one!

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.The 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, March 29, 2023

Classics Club SPIN #33


I wasn't paying attention and I missed the announcement of the next Classics Club SPIN book event (#33). Anyway. No problem I'll just jump in and try to catch up. 

First I will create a 20-book list from my classic club list and post it.

Then I will peek at the number book I'm supposed to read this time. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it is a short one since I'm ten days late already.

Then I will announce the winner before I even publish this post.

And lastly I will finish the book before April 30th.

Note: I recently updated my list and removed and added books to accommodate books from the 100 Books Everyone Should Read Before They Die list. I sure hope I have enough time to finish it before I die. If I don't hurry up I may not make it. 😏

Here is my list:

1. Aleph and Other Stories

2. Charlie and the chocolate factory

3. Sherlock Holmes

4. Passage to India

5. Madame Bovary

6. Grimm's Fairy Tales

7. Scarlet Letter

8. Illiad

9. Sound of the mountain

10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

11. Excellent Women

12. Hamlet

13. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

14. Frankenstein

15. Tale of Genji

16. Dracula

17. The Optimist’s Daughter

18. Romeo and Juliet

19. Code of Woosters

20. Mrs. Dalloway

And the spin number is:  

That's Roman numeral for 18.

Romeo and Juliet!!!!

Perfect. I have seen the play several times but I've never actually read it. And...we will be traveling to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon the end of April to see it.


Weekly Blogging Challenge, 3/29/23

Today's blogging challenge: Best Nonfiction Books I've Read

This is an impossible task for me. I read a lot of nonfiction and I am fascinated by a variety of topics. Instead I have identified 15 17 nonfiction titles I have enjoyed a lot and either have or would like to reread.

I recommend them all without hesitation!


And unpictured --
(Click on titles for my reviews if hyperlinked)
My nonfiction reading tastes are very eclectic, as you can see from the list above. I like books about --
  • Sports: Boys in the Boat; Seabiscuit; All Thirteen.
  • Memoirs: Teacher Man; I Am, I Am, I Am; West With the Night; Lab Girl.
  • Science: A Dog in the Cave; Lab Girl; Around the World in 80 Trees; A Short History of Nearly Everything.
  • Written in verse: Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Graphic/illustrated: Faithful Spy; Brazen; Around the World in 80 Trees.
  • Essays: The Anthropocene Reviewed
  • About Social issues: Just Mercy; Brown Girl Dreaming
  • By favorite authors: John Green; Frank McCourt; Atul Gawande; Bill Bryson
  • About medical issues: Being Mortal; I Am, I Am, I Am
  • Adventure/Exciting: All Thirteen; Boys in the Boat; Seabiscuit; West With the Night
  • Feminists: Brazen; Lab Girl
  • Historical: West With the Night; Boys in the Boat; Seabiscuit; Brazen; A Dog in the Cave
  • Humor: Bill Bryson
  • YA: Faithful Spy; The Dog in the Cave; All Thirteen; Brazen; Brown Girl Dreaming; Just Mercy has a YA version.
  • The Beatles: Dreaming the Beatles
  • Where I learn something that has impacted my life: all of them!



Monday, March 27, 2023

TTT: Books for people who like X author

Top Ten Tuesday: Books recommendations for people who like author Barbara Kingsolver's books.

Starting with Barbara Kingsolver's newest book: Demon Copperhead

If you like this book and haven't tried any of her other books...

I recommend you give The Lacuna a try. It is one of those stories you can really get lost in.

Next give William Ken Krueger a go. This book, Ordinary Grace, is such a poignant, well-written and well-plotted book. This author writes stand-alones, like this book, and series books. I have not tried any of his series, so won't include them in this recommendation. Once you are done with this book try his This Tender Land.

I loved Rebecca Makkai's The Great Believers. It is a touching and heart-breaking look at the AIDS epidemic from the vantage point of those left behind. I understand she has a new book out this year, I Have Some Questions for You.

Back in the days when I was finding my way back to reading I discovered both Kingsolver and Sue Monk Kidd at the same time, so these two authors are always linked in my mind. My favorite by her is The Secret of Bees. I still haven't read her latest, The Book of Longings.

I like books which are beautifully written and where I learn something while I'm reading. Both Kingsolver and Maggie O'Farrell do this. My favorite by her is Hamnet.

Barbara Kingsolver not only writes fiction but also excellent essays on a variety of topics. So does another favorite author, Ann Patchett. Her collection of essays, These Precious Days, were all written during the recent COVID-epidemic lockdowns. My favorite fiction book by Patchett is Commonwealth.

I've only read The Overstory by Richard Powers but his writing reminds me of Kingsolver's: descriptive and well-crafted. This author have been around for a long time so I have much to explore. I do have his latest, Bewilderment, queued up on Libby for my next audiobook.

What can I say about Amor Towles? This guy is a first-rate storyteller. The Lincoln Highway was my favorite book of 2022 by a mile. His A Gentleman in Moscow is also excellent.

When Barbara Kingsolver publishes a new book, I read it. The same goes for Louise Erdrich. Her latest book, The Sentence, not only deals with Native American issues and rights, it also touches on the George Floyd riots, and includes ghosts. Her stories always move me.

Everything I've read by Colson Whitehead have been spectacularly well-crafted stories, though often hard to read for the subject matter. My favorite is The Underground Railroad.

I'd be remiss to not mention Charles Dickens. Kingsolver admits that her muse for Demon Copperhead was David Copperfield, Dicken's semi-autobiographical masterpiece. One thing you may not know about Dickens -- all of his books are quite readable, even though they are long. He first published chapters of his books in newspapers before compiling them into a book. Each chapter, therefore, leaves off on a cliffhanger to entice readers to come back and read more.



Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sunday Salon -- Spring!?

Lake Crescent, Olympic National Park, Washington State. Photo by A.Bennett

Weather: right this moment we have a blue sky with white puffy clouds dotting it. Earlier today, the skies were grey and overcast. Earlier this week, it snowed and hailed. Who knows what to expect? Spring in the northwest.

Hacked: Last week I didn't post my weekly update Sunday Salon. Why? Because my Facebook account was hacked. Really hacked...the email address was changed and everything. Once I went through the steps to recover it and prove to Facebook I was me, they locked my account for 24-hours as a precaution and then that time frame extended to 5 days. But I'm back on. I'm not a huge fan of Facebook but it is one of the only ways that I communicate with old friends and some family members so I didn't want to lose it. I was pretty bummed out. Now I am cautious to post anything and wonder what I did to draw attention to the hacker. Sigh.

Olympic National Park, Hoh Rain Forest. The only temperate rain forest in the continental US.

Olympic National Park:
Earlier this month some friends from New Jersey, my husband, and I spent a few days exploring the Olympic National Park. We hiked the Hoh River rain forest trail which takes you into another world, one dominated by moss. Then we hiked another trail to see the beautiful Marymere waterfall. The photo above I took on my little cell phone of Lake Crescent. Isn't the mirror vision of it beautiful, if I do say so myself. The road to Hurricane Ridge, the high point of the park, was closed due to snow. They only plow it on weekends and now they are closing it until the end of May for repairs and updates. So we will have to wait until summer to attempt the summit again.

Mom and her four children on her 94th birthday.

I just returned from Eugene where I joined my siblings in helping my mother celebrate her 94th birthday. It was so good to be all together, though two of our spouses were missing. We shared old family stories and two of us even told stories we haven't dared to tell each other until now. I guess that 50-year statutes of limitations has passed. 😁 Mom is a marvel and I bet we will all gather together next year to celebrate her 95th.

Reading/Books (since my last update):

  • Currently reading:
    • The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams -- A future book club selection. I chose it because, of course, I am always reading someone's reading list, usually my own. The first book on the list is To Kill a Mockingbird. Print. 26%.
    • The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. The end is in sight. I have 150 pages to go and all the bad stuff is happening to all the bad people. Ha! I am determined to finish this book this week! Print and audio. 86%.
    • Necessary Christianity by Alexander. My extra study for Lent. Lots of thoughtful insights. Print. 67%.
    • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. Don and I started this audiobook on our trip to the Olypic National Park and back. Likely we won't continue it until we take a trip to Southern Oregon in late April. Audio. 26%.
  • Completed books:
    • The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie. I liked this Poirot mystery quite a lot. It was different than the others I'd read, which kept me interested. E-book. 4 out of 5 stars.
    • Solito by Javier Zamora. A memoir of Javier's experience as a nine-year-old making the journey from El Salvador to the US without any other family members. The tale was so harrowing. I spent half the book infuriated by his parents for a. leaving him in the first place and b. for sending for him and expecting him to make the journey alone. Audio. Egads. 4.5 stars.
    • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Another future book club selection. I started and set aside this book over a year ago and remembered why I didn't finish the first time. But was glad that I pushed through my discomfort because the ending was very satisfying. Audio. 3.75 stars.
  • Favorite books: Last week a fellow book blogger, Deb Nance at Reader Buzz, posted a list of her 250+ favorite books. That list was a revelation to me. Why hadn't I thought of it, too. Why not put together a list of my favorite books that take into consideration time? What were my favortie books as a child, a teenager, a young mother, and so forth. My list of favorites is always changing as my memory dims or as I read new books, but why not give credit to those past favorites alongside the new ones? So here it is -- my living document of favorite books. It is likely to change quite frequently. But here is my list of my 150+ favorite books of all time: My Favorite Books Master list.

 Yay. This sounds like more nature and less man-made problems:

Prayers for: 

  • C--a past colleague who lost her husband, also a past colleague, this week to cancer.
  • R--a friend who had surgery for ovarian cancer this past week.
  • K--a friend who had surgery for lung cancer this week.

At the bird feeder this week we saw:

  • A flock of tiny bushtits
  • Dark-eyed juncos and black-capped chickadees (they live here)
  • Anna's hummingbird (a year-round resident)
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Pacific wren (in the Olympic National park)
  • Downy woodpecker (at the feeder in my mom's yard)
  • Yellow-rumped warbler
  • and we can hear an owl when we take the dog out at night, but haven't seen it.

And for laughs:

                                                                     A Redneck Liberal

This would be my dog. He is one of those irritating dogs who is always trying to drum-up business with other dogs. Always late at night, too.


Monday, March 20, 2023

TTT: Books I want to read by favorite authors


Top Ten Tuesday: (Freebie) Books I want to read by new-to-me authors

Maggie O'Farrell ---I first read O''Farrell in 2021 and absolutely love her writing.

  • Books I've read by this author:
    • Hamnet ---My favorite book read in 2021, hands down.
    • I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death
    • The Marriage Portrait
  • Books I want to read by her:
    • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox
    • Instructions for a Heatwave

Amor Towles --- I'm a sucker for lovely writing.

  •  Books I've read by this author:
    • The Lincoln Highway -- my favorite book read in 2022. It actually is one of my top twenty books of all time.
    • A Gentleman in Moscow
  • Another book I want to read by him: 
    • Rules of Civility

Amy Krouse Rosenthal --- a new favorite author discovered in 2023. Unfortunately she is no longer living so I will have to settle on looking back rather than forward.

  • Books I've read by this author:
    • Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life
    • Textbook: a memoir
  • Books I want to read by her: 
    • She published many children's books. I want to read them all but I will satisfy myself with reading the few my public library has available.

Kate Quinn --- the blogosphere is always singing her praises.

  • The only book I've read by this author:
    • The Rose Code
  • The other books I'd like to read by her:
    • Signal Moon (a novella)
    • The Huntress
    • Diamond Eye

Taylor Jenkins Reid --- 

  • The only book I've read by her:
    • Daisy Jones and the Six
  • The other books I want to read (have been on my TBR for a while):
    • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
    • Malibu Rising
    • Carrie Soto is Back

If I actually turn my attention to these authors, I will be one busy girl reading all these.


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Favorite reviews from first quarter of 2023

I was talking to a few friends the other day. One of the gals was telling another gal about my blog, mainly about my Sunday Salon posts. On these posts I talk about my life in addition to books. The thought entered my head that these friends probably only read that post, not my daily posts or any of my reviews. So, with that thought in my mind here are my twelve favorite reviews from the first quarter of 2023. Click on the hyperlinked book titles to read these reviews.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
Citizen Vince by Jess Walter
Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell
The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Aww... wouldn't ya know it? I decided to post this to Facebook and my account has been hacked (for real) and I have to wait 24 hours after verifying I am me before I can get back on Facebook.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Review and quotes: SO LUCKY

So Lucky by Nicola Griffith

Book Beginnings quote:

It came for me in November, that loveliest of months in Atlanta: blue skies stinging with lemon suns, and squirrels screaming at each other over the pecans because they weren't fooled; they knew winter was coming.

Friday56 quote: 

The counselor introduced herself as Wendy and asked the group to each offer one pearl of advice to me, the newcomer. What did they wish they had known when they were first diagnosed? One of the women in a power chair advised me to find a hobby I could do lying down, just in case.

Summary: Mara is at the top of her game. She's the head of an AIDS foundation, an accomplished martial artist, and is happily married. Then, in the space of one week, her wife leaves her, she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and she loses her job. Her friends all seem to vanish, overnight, too. Suddenly what was easy is hard and Mara has to figure out how to make her way in this new world all by herself.

Review: I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with a serious debilitating disease. On her blog she writes angry posts about the disease and the situation she is in. At first I was shocked by her language. I confess to be put-off by how abrasive I found her writing. Then, after reading So Lucky where the protagonist is so angry and upset, I had to re-evalute my friend's blog posts. Wouldn't I be angry, too? Shouldn't a person who is in this situation, good health to bad health almost overnight, be allowed to express their anger and frustration on their own blog? The answer is yes, but that doesn't mean I want to read it. That is the way I felt about this book. I understood why the protagonist is angry after losing so many things in one week, I just didn't want to read about her temper tantrums nor did I want to filter out her foul language rants. At one point in the story she also seemed to get herself wrapped up in paranoid conspiracies. If this book wasn't a book club selection and very short, 180 pages, I likely would have set it aside unfinished.

The author, Nicola Griffith is queer, which she says is not unusual or something to feel bad about. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis twenty-five years ago. Her symptoms came on so slowly that she didn't recognize the non-disabled people's dismissals until many years into her diagnosis. Now she wants to use her skills and knowledge to rewrite the old scripts on disabilities (NYT). I agree with her that stories have power and we need to have stories that help us all to embrace people who are living different lives than ourselves. I applaud Griffith for tackling this topic. Unfortunately, I just didn't like this particular story very much.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.The 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.