"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=========

Friday, April 28, 2023

Review and quotes: LUCY BY THE SEA: A NOVEL

Title: Lucy by the Sea: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

Book Beginnings quote: 

Like many others, I did not see it coming.

Friday56 quote: 

Years ago in New York City I had taught at a community college and there was a man who taught there as well, he was much older than I was, and he retired soon after I got there. He was a nice man, with thick eyebrows, and he was quiet, though he seemed to like me and we would sometimes talk in the hallways. He told me that his wife had Alzheimer’s, and that he could not remember the last word she had spoken to him, because she’d become gradually more and more silent and then she remained silent. And this man, her husband, could never remember the last thing she had said. — And thinking of this now made me think of something I had often thought before: that there had been a last time—when they were little—that I had picked up the girls. This had often broken my heart, to realize that you never know the last time you pick up a child. Maybe you say “Oh, honey, you’re getting too big to be picked up” or something like that. But then you never pick them up again. — And living with this pandemic was like that. You did not know.

Summary:  

As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea.

Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we're apart--the pain of a beloved daughter's suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love.
(Publisher)

Review: Back in March of 2020 when we all went into lockdown in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID, my husband and I found ourselves together and alone. We actually found that being together in this way wasn't so bad (we were lucky!) and we created a little safe bubble for ourselves based on a schedule of time alone and time together for walks, meals, games, TV-viewing, Zoom worship, etc. As the months drug on we found ourselves only wanting to watch TV shows which were either from the distant past or from the current now. Comedy became our most craved viewing choice but we wanted comedy which addressed our current state of quarantine. If a comedian talked about getting together with others and doing stupid stuff, we found it less appealing. How can you joke about getting together when everyone is stuck alone?

I tell you this little back story as a set up for my review of Lucy by the Sea because I could relate to Lucy and her ex-husband's experiences going into quarantine together after escaping Manhattan in the nick of time. Their experience was similar to our experience: fear of not knowing how the virus spread, isolating even when someone outside your bubble is in need of companionship, anger toward others who weren't taking the CDCs recommendations seriously for social distancing, masking, only meeting other people outside even in cold weather, and eventually getting the vaccine. Reading Lucy By the Sea was refreshing because it spoke to our shared experiences.

I read the first book of the Amgash series, I Am Lucy Barton, several years ago. Then when my book club selected Lucy by the Sea I had to tussle with myself wondering if I needed to read books #2 and #3 before reading this, the 4th in the series. I decided to just jump in and I found the book fine as a standalone. Strout is an excellent writer and she likes to pull in characters from her past books. Olive Kitteridge, the character in her award-winning book by the same name, even made a cameo in this book. We learned some back story on William, her ex, and her daughters, which I am sure was covered in earlier books, but I didn't feel lost or needy not knowing the whole story. If you haven't found your way to any of Elizabeth Strout's works, I highly recommend her as a writer. Her books also make excellent book club selections because one can discuss her writing as well as plot, characters, etc.

I rated this book 5 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. 

 

-Anne

Monday, April 24, 2023

TTT: Favorite audiobook narrators


Top Ten Tuesday:  Favorite audiobook narrators. This is a reprise from 2019 when I selected this topic for a TTT Freebie week. (If you don't like listening to audiobooks, give these readers a try and see if they help change your mind.)

1. Tom Hanks. I've listened twice to The Dutch House by Ann Patchett, read by Hanks. His narration mades the listening experience wonderful. Here is a list of books and samples of his narration on audiobooks. 

2. Stephen Fry. A humorous reader. Fry is a perfect narrators for funny books.  One of my favorites is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Here is a list and samples of his books.

3. Bill Bryson. Bryson writes nonfiction. If he narrates his own audiobooks expect to be entertained. He has comedic timing which makes the experience quite humorous. Note the books on the list that are narrated by Bryson. My favorites: In a Sunburned Country; A Walk in the Woods; Shakespeare; A Short History of Nearly Everything.

4. Jayne Entwistle. Entwistle has a unique voice, though she is an adult her voice makes her sound younger so she is a perfect narrator for teen characters. I first heard her reading the Flavia Du Luce series by Alan Bradley. I also enjoyed her narration of The Lovely War. Here is a list of her body of work.

5. Tim Curry. I fell in love with Tim Curry when he acted in Rocky Horror Picture Show but that love was renewed when I heard him read the Abhorsen/Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. He was too ill to read the last book in that series and I missed his narration a lot. Here is his a list of his body of work.

6. Jim Dale. The award-winning narrator of The Harry Potter series. Another favorite narrated by Dale is The Night Circus. His work is mesmerizing. Here is a list of his other works.

7. Bahni Turpin. Ms. Turpin has recently become one of my favorite narrators after I listened to The Underground Railroad by Whitehead; Children of the Blood and Bone by Adeyemi; and The Hate U Give by Thomas. Turpin is very versatile. Check out her list of narrations.

8. Will Patton. Will Patton is perhaps by favorite of all favorites. His voice is so deep and growl-y. He has a large catalog of works but my favorite of these is his narration on The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater. Be sure to listen to a sample here. 

9. Julia Whelan. Whelan has recently come to my attention through her work on Educated; Far From the Tree; and The Great AloneShe has a large body of work to choose from.

10. Adjoa Andoh. I first became aware of her through her narration of The Girl with the Louding Voice. Here is a sample.

11. Bill Homewood. Homewood narrated the 52+ hours of the audiobook of  The Count of Monte Cristo. His mastery of French made the experience so realistic. Here is a short sample.

12. Edward Herrman. He narrated two of my favorite nonfiction books: Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat. Sadly he is no longer with us so he will no longer be able to thrill us with hew material. (See more here.)

Bonus. Narrators who clearly have mastery of English and one or many world languages: Morven Christie (Burial Rites, Icelandic); Bahni Turpin (The Children of Blood and Bone, Nigerian accent); Zach Appelman (All the Light We Cannot See, German and French); and Ilyana Kadushin (Disappearing Earth, Russian).




Sunday, April 23, 2023

Sunday Salon --- All About Books!


Weather:
We woke up this morning to the sound of rain hitting the skylight in the master bath off our bedroom. It is supposed to warm up and dry up later in the week but we won't be here to appreciate the arrival of spring...we're heading south tomorrow.
General Grant


Road trip: Tomorrow we leave for for a road trip heading to several points south: Ashland, Oregon for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks both in California; Las Vegas, Nevada, from which we hope to make a day trip to Death Valley National Park. We hope to see some of the largest trees in the world but past snowy weather in the parks may curtail our plans to see many of these big tree. (Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park Largest Trees.) We will be visiting family on both ends of our trip. Doubtless I will stay connected, as I'll have my computer with me.

Books and blogging: Here's what I've been reading and blogging about the past two weeks (click on hyperlinked titles to read reviews and more):

  • Blogging:
  • Currently reading/listening to:
    • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon -- We will finish the audiobook of this Pulitzer Prize winner from 2001 the first leg of our road trip. We've been working on it since March and I'll be glad to finish it. Audio. 80%
    • Made to Explode: Poems by Sandra Beasley -- I actually purchased a copy of this collection. Print. 20%
    • When the Angels Left the Old Country by Sasha Lamb -- A Printz Honor book from 2023. I am enjoying this story which has surprised me as to it's topic and humor. I may not be able to finish it, however, before it will be returned to library automatically. I'll have to get back in line to finish it up after the road trip. Audio. 34%
    • A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende -- a book club selection that start in Spain during the Civil War and then moves to Peru. I just started this last night so I may switch to the audio. We'll see. Print. 5%.
       
  • Completed the past two weeks:
    • Bewilderment: A Novel by Richard Powers -- a modern retelling of the Flowers for Algernon type story which addresses the limits of technology and asks us to be aware of how we can help make our world a better place. Heart breaking and heart warming. Audio.
    • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak -- got to love the art work by this guy! Print.
    • Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare -- my first time reading (listening) to the Bard's most famous work. Loved it. Audio.
    • Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie -- this is the first book with Miss Marple. E-book.
    • Lucy By the Sea by Elizabeth Strout -- for an upcoming book club. The author won the Pulitzer for her book Olive Kitteridge. That character made a cameo in this book. Audio.
    • Gmorning and Gnight!: Little Pep Talks From Me to You by Lin-Manuel Miranda -- Based on the author's tweets by the same name. Inspiring. Print.
    • Such Colors: New and Collected Poems by Tracy K. Smith -- a poetry collection which contained many of the poets best. I didn't have time to finish the book before having to return it to the library. Will finish up next time! Print.
    • Spine Poems: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse for Book Lovers by Annette Dauphin Simon -- A new poetry favorite! Print.
  • Possible reading choices for road trip (I will not finish all these books, they are options):
    • Audiobooks
      • The Amazing Kavalier and Clay
      • The Long Petal of the Sea
      • The Mountains Sing
      • Black Cake
      • The Fox and I
      • When the Angels Left the Old Country (if I have any time alone during our trip)
         
    • Print
      • The Long Petal of the Sea
      • Made to Explode: Poems
      • The Return of Jeeves
      • The Financial Life of Poets

 Off to finish laundry and start the process of packing. Bye!

-Anne

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Review: SPINE POEMS: AN ECLECTIC COLLECTION OF FOUND VERSE FOR BOOK LOVERS


I've found my new favorite poetry book. It is different than any other poetry book I've ever read -- it is verse, art, quotes, quips, and little info blurbs. It is really everything I like about all of those things.

Author Annette Dauphin Simon started out as a bookseller in Florida in 2011. One especially busy day left the bookstore in a mess, with books all over the place that needed to be sorted and reshelved. 

"Everywhere, genres mingled together: science fiction mixed with business, histories and mysteries, and so on -- and we laughed as we read titles in their random arrangements. We were punchy, but had discovered a game. Not to be outdone by coincidence, we began our own arrangements....Since our constructions of the other people's words appeared almost poem-like, we called them 'found verses'...I was hooked" (10).

Since that time, Simon has discovered other poets who have discovered and used found poetry. Another recent favorite of mine is Kate Baer's 2021 I Hope This Finds You Well, which gathers erasure poems created from notes her supported and detractors sent her. Author Annie Dillard said, "By entering a found text as a poem, the poet doubles its context. The original meaning remains intact, but now it swings between two poles. The poet adds the element of delight."

That would describe my reaction to these spine poems -- DELIGHTED.

A little history of poetry / Your voice in my head / Floating in a most peculiar way
 

The book is set up loosely by categories. There is even a Table of Content page with headings like: Cooking, Parenting, True Crime, etc. Each spine poem is accompanied by a page of quotes/quips/blurbs on the topic or about the author. In other words, they are somehow loosely related to the spine poem on the opposite page.

Let me show you an example:

Spine poem. This is one of my favorites!


Opposite page: The found poem in print and six blurbs related to it.

 

I couldn't help myself. I had to share the spine poems with whoever was nearby.

I shared this one with my husband as he was doing the dishes ๐Ÿ˜†

Third bullet: "A 2016 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found when heterosexual couples share chores, they have more sex." ๐Ÿ˜‚

I shared this spine poem with my daughters who both had to work from home during COIVD lockdowns. Both have cats that potentially interrupted their Zoom meetings. ๐Ÿ˜œ

Lastly, I shared this one with the family concerning our last Thanksgiving which turned into a fiasco. Things definitely fell about. ๐Ÿ˜

Clearly I am quite taken with the spine poems in this volume but I also loved reading the little quotes and blurbs. They broadened out the reading experience. I bet you will enjoy them both, too.

Here's one more, for good measure:

The kitchen is certainly the heart of our home, our sanctuary.



-Anne

Friday, April 21, 2023

Classics Club review: ROMEO AND JULIET


For the most recent challenge, Spin #33 for Classics Club I read Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. Clearly no one needs me to "review" it since it has been published for five hundred years and is Shakespeare most loved play. Instead of a review I will share a few insights, interactions, thoughts and factoids:

I listened to the audiobook of Romeo and Juliet by ArkAngel: AudioGO. It was a full cast dramatization. I worried that this would be more like watching the play than reading it, and then would it count? Never mind that, it was an excellent choice of a way to consume Shakespeare's most famous play. I noticed many aspects of the play I'd never noticed before watching it in a theater or on the big screen.

My daughter touching Juliet in Verona.
I have seen Romeo and Juliet performed live twice. Once it was set in Elizabethan times with clothing to match. The second time it was set in modern times. All the props and clothing were black and white to represent the two "households alike in dignity": the Montagues and the Capulets. That was very clever but I still preferred the Elizabethan production better. BTW-- even if directors change the clothing/time period, whenever Shakespeare is performed, the words are not changed. The language is exactly as Shakespeare wrote it.

Of the eight movie productions of Romeo and Juliet I have only seen one: Frank Zeffirelli's version from 1968. In fact, I am sure the first time I saw it was in a high school English class. There is partial nudity in it. Imagine seeing that in school today? The actors who played the lead roles are so young and beautiful. Both of them. They ARE Romeo and Juliet in my mind's eye.

The play is set in Verona, Italy. We visited Verona on an Italian vacation and joined the queue to place our hand on the breast of a sculpture of Juliet. It is unlikely that Shakespeare ever visited Italy. My husband recently recalled seeing a balcony in Verona said to be the spot where Romeo climbed up to see Juliet. We laughed at the thought -- they were fictional characters, after all.

The opening prologue is delivered in the form of a sonnet, a 16-line poem that Shakespeare is well-known for. It tells the audience what will happen in the play. It starts with those famous lines I quoted above: Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean... The Renaissance audiences of Shakespeare's day would have understood how two rich yet feuding families could affect the whole town. Everyone was forced to choose sides. The death of the children from both families brought peace to the land.

Family crests of the two houses, both alike in dignity – Montagues & Capulets

Romeo and Juliet was not an original story. It was based on an Italian story called 'Mariotto and Gianozza' which, at this time, was over one hundred years old.

Shakespeare wasn't the first author to write about the Montagues and Capulets. Dante included a reference to them in his Divine Comedy, written some 250 years before this play: 

"Come and see, you who are negligent, / Montagues and Capulets, Monaldi and Filippeschi: / One lot already grieving, the other in fear. / Come, you who are cruel, come and see the distress / Of your noble families, and cleanse their rottenness."

Shakespeare stole the idea for this play from a poem by Arthur Brooke: “Brooke’s poem describes the ‘deadly’ feud between two wealthy, noble families—Capulet and Montague. Against this backdrop of ‘blacke hate,’ he tells the ‘unhappy’ tale of a beautiful youth, Romeus Montague, whose heart is entrapped by the wise and graceful Juliet Capulet.” (Paper and Packaging)

Juliet is thirteen. THIRTEEN! In Act I, Scene III, Lady Capulet says that Juliet is “not [yet] fourteen.” She is actually just about two weeks shy of her 14th birthday. Romeo’s exact age is never given. Too young for marriage? Apparently not, since Juliet's father arranged for her to marry Paris on Thursday, just a day after her untimely death.

What we know as the "balcony scene" wasn't called that by Shakespeare since the word 'balcony' wasn't even coined yet. It first appeared in literature in 1618, almost twenty years after Romeo and Juliet was first published in 1599.

When the play was first performed, Juliet's role was played by a male. The first time Juliet was played by a female was in 1662, long after the Bard's death. Mary Saunderson was the first female to play Juliet, She also played the parts of many other female roles in other Shakespeare plays.

The 1998 winner of  the Oscar for Best Movie, Shakespeare in Love, is a personal favorite. In it we see a possible explanation for Shakespeare's inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. In addition to this film, West Side Story is probably Romeo and Juliet's most famous adaptation. But there have been many: Bollywood Queen; Gnomeo and Juliet; Warm Bodies (Zombies); Private Romeo; and Romeo Must Die, to name a few.


The name 'Romeo' has become synonymous with a male lover.

How popular is Romeo and Juliet? YouGov conducted a survey of British people. 51% of Brits have read or seen it, second place is Macbeth. Have you seen it or read it? I can now say I've done both.


 

This week we travel to the Ashland Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Oregon. We have tickets to see -- Romeo and Juliet!

PS - The Oregon Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set the star-crossed lovers in modern times, they lived under a bridge and poverty was part of the theme. Odd but still touching. I really focused on the age and immaturity of the lovers.

-Anne

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Review and quotes: BEWILDERMENT: A NOVEL

Title: Bewilderment: A Novel by Richard Powers

Book Beginnings quote: 

BUT WE MIGHT NEVER FIND THEM? We'd set up the scope on the deck, on a clear autumn night, on the edge of one of the last patches of darkness in the eastern U.S. Darkness this good was hard to come by, and so much darkness in one place lit up the sky. We pointed the tube through a gap in the trees above our rented cabin. Robin pulled his eye from the eyepiece -- my sad, singular, newly turning nine-year-old, in trouble with this world.

Friday56 quote: 

They share a lot, astronomy and childhood. Both are voyages across huge distances. Both search for facts beyond their grasp. Both theorize wildly and let possibilities multiply without limits. Both are humbled every few weeks. Both operate out of ignorance. Both are mystified by time. Both are forever starting out.


Summary:  The astrobiologist Theo Byrne searches for life throughout the cosmos while single-handedly raising his unusual nine-year-old, Robin, following the death of his wife. Robin is a warm, kind boy who spends hours painting elaborate pictures of endangered animals. He’s also about to be expelled from third grade for smashing his friend in the face. As his son grows more troubled, Theo hopes to keep him off psychoactive drugs. He learns of an experimental neurofeedback treatment to bolster Robin’s emotional control, one that involves training the boy on the recorded patterns of his mother’s brain. And the results are amazing and miraculous...until they aren't. (Publisher)


Review: Back in 7th or 8th grade my class read Flowers for Algernon, a heart-breaking book about artificial intelligence and the its limitations. I honestly don't remember much about the book except it broke my heart because first the test mouse and then Charlie, the human volunteer, did great with their with their new intelligence and then it stopped working and both of them slid backwards. I desperately wanted a happy ending. But that was not to be. In Bewilderment when Robin and his father travel to North Carolina for their space-gazing trip they listen to an audiobook of Flowers for Algernon. Astute readers would pick this up as foreshadowing. (It took me a while, but I finally figured it out.)

Robin is a misfit by every sense of the word. He can't get along with children his own age and almost everything about the way humans live today hurts his sensibilities. When he sees a young activist on TV (a Greta Thunberg type) Robin decides he must live a life of activism, too. But he is so sensitive, even slight frustrations send him into tantrums. Until he is offered a chance at an experimental treatment which involves engaging with his mother's recorded brain activity, captured before her death. These treatments bring about a miracle in Robbie's life. He can think clearly and doesn't need to fall apart violently when things don't go as he thinks they should. He is creative and sensitive. But when the treatments are abruptly halted, his progress digresses back to the starting point. Another heartbreaking story. But what is the point?

Regarding the inevitable forms of tragedy with which this book is intent upon grappling — that loved ones die, that progress has its limits, that as a species we fail more often than we succeed — Bewilderment invites us to ponder not only our dominance of the planet and the ways that the unjust power of a few dominates the lives of others. It also insists we ponder this: At what cost do we allow our capacities for fear, jealousy and appetite to trounce other equally intrinsic capacities, like empathy, courage and forbearance? What if our worst enemy is not barricading himself in the White House or pelting our children with taunts on the playground? What if it’s right here, lighting up neural pathways inside our own skulls?

The conscience animating Bewilderment lobbies for the essentialness of plants, animals and those of differing needs and abilities.(NYT)

Lucille Clifton’s quote (above) asks us to shift our focus in order for our species to recognize its proper place in the universe, we must collectively admit to the beauty, the inviolable sanctity and essentialness of all life. The book asks it readers to address what it REALLY important and to get busy addressing ways that we, all humans, can change to save ourselves. It is powerful stuff. Not a very cheery message, I admit, but in the hands of a master story-teller, Richard Powers, beautifully wrought.

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. 

 

-Anne

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Three Short Book Reviews


 
A Thousand Steps Into Night by Traci Chee
Clarion Books, 2022.

Summary: A Japanese-influenced fantasy brimming with demons, adventure, and plans gone awry. In the realm of Awara, where gods, monsters, and humans exist side by side, Miuko is an ordinary girl resigned to a safe, if uneventful, existence as an innkeeper’s daughter. But when Miuko is cursed and begins to transform into a demon with a deadly touch, she embarks on a quest to reverse the curse and return to her normal life. Aided by a thieving magpie spirit and continuously thwarted by a demon prince, Miuko must outfox tricksters, escape demon hunters, and negotiate with feral gods if she wants to make it home again. But with her transformation comes power and freedom she never even dreamed of, and she’ll have to decide if saving her soul is worth trying to cram herself back into an ordinary life that no longer fits her… and perhaps never did. (Publisher)

Review: This YA novel is full of Japanese mythology, which I really appreciated. It is also long, 400 pages, and very involved. I don't often read fantasy in any form so I struggled with some of the magical aspects and had trouble picturing many of scenes, as they were quite elaborate.

Likes/dislikes: I liked that this book dwelt exclusively on Asian mythology. YA readers who enjoy fantasy or high fantasy novels will have a new type of fantasy to explore. It also has a surprisingly feminist message. That is refreshing. I have enjoyed Chee's other books: We Are Not Free, about Japanese Incarceration in America during WWII, and The Reader, another fantasy book, the first of a trilogy. She is a good writer. What I didn't like was the length. I want storytelling to be crisp and concise these days. Ha!

Quote: I think you believe you ought to be small,” he said softly, almost meditatively. “I think you have been taught that greatness does not belong to you, and that to want it is perverse. I think you have folded yourself into the shape that others expect of you; but that shape does not suit you, has never suited you, and all your young life, you have been dying to be free of it.

Rating: 3.5 stars



Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ballantine Books, 2021

Summary: Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.  Set in Malibu, August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva. Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them... and what they will leave behind. (Publisher)

Review: Loosely part of what could be called a crossover series, Malibu Rising would be the third book in the series. Each looks at strong but flawed female characters during a certain time period: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (1950-60s); Daisy Jones and the Six (1960-70s); Malibu Rising (1980s, with look back to 1950s) and Carrie Soto is Back (1990s). I adored Daisy Jones and the Six, the only other books I've read of the four, and looked forward to Malibu Rising with much anticipation. Throughout my listening experience I kept thinking, "Fame is not as great as it is cracked up to be." Fame sure seemed to cause a pile of problems for everyone.

Likes/dislikes: As it turns out I came away from my reading as a woman divided. I liked the writing, the setting, and the family dynamics. I disliked the sex and drugs, and the out-of-control party scene. I also disliked how stuck the characters all were. Stuck where they started. Stuck until maybe the last five pages of the book. That said, I listened to the audiobook compulsively.   

Quote: How were you supposed to change- in ways both big and small- when your family was always there to remind you of exactly the person you apparently signed an ironclad contract to be?”

Rating: 4 stars



The Hero of This Book by Elizabeth McCracken

Summary: A taut, groundbreaking novel is about a writer's relationship with her larger-than-life mother--and about the very nature of writing, memory, and art. Ten months after her mother's death, the narrator of The Hero of This Book takes a trip to London. The city was a favorite of her mother's, and as the narrator wanders the streets, she finds herself reflecting on her mother's life and their relationship.
The woman, a writer, recalls all that made her complicated mother extraordinary--her brilliant wit, her generosity, her unbelievable obstinacy, her sheer will in seizing life despite physical difficulties--and finds herself wondering how her mother had endured. Even though she wants to respect her mother's nearly pathological sense of privacy, the woman must come to terms with whether making a chronicle of this remarkable life constitutes an act of love or betrayal. (Publisher)

Review: Billed as a fictionalized memoir, The Hero of This Book is clearly about Elizabeth McCracken's mother. I wrestled with the word "fictionalized" as I read this otherwise compelling memoir. Then I settled on an understanding about fiction and nonfiction. Fiction allows for omissions and additions to a story. Perhaps even playing around with time. Nonfiction stays true to the facts, whatever they are, and doesn't mess around with time. This story about Elizabeth and her mother is considered fiction because a) her mother hated memoirs so Elizabeth could not write one about her own mother and b) she left out parts of the story, like for example that she has a brother who was not included at all in the story line. I used to tell students that Schindler's List was fiction because the author made up dialogues to make the true story more interesting, but of course, there is no proof those conversations every happened. McCracken did the same thing here. By fictionalizing the story she had room to deal with whatever truths she wanted to put in the story and leave out those she didn't.

Likes/dislikes: I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed this experience very much. It is set in London as McCracken retraces the steps she and her mother made together on a previous trip. I have recently been in London and could picture her as she walked around the city. I was pretty bugged by the "fictionalized memoir" aspect of the story throughout. Why not tell her story straight up? But in the end I saw her point about omitted details she didn't want to include. Either way, novel or memoir, I enjoyed it.

Quote: “Don’t trust a writer who gives out advice. Writers are suckers for pretty turns of phrase with only the ring of truth.”

Rating: 5 stars

-Anne

Monday, April 17, 2023

TTT: Excellent poetry book selections to read this April, National Poetry Month


Top Ten Tuesday: Excellent poetry books to read this April, National Poetry Month

I love to read poetry. But I get it that poetry can be very intimidating, especially when it is full of language from other centuries or the topic if so obtuse, it is impossible to understand what the poet is saying. What I love is poetry that speaks to me in a language I can understand, Poems that make me feel something or experience someone else's feelings are the best. But I also love humorous poems -- ones that make me laugh or at least smile. 

So with this in mind, I can wholeheartedly recommend all of these volumes of poetry. See if your library has any of them and check them out this month, National Poetry Month.


 

Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits
Concrete poems have shapes and this collection is full of shape poems to delight kids and adults alike. My two favorites have to do with volleyball and cheerleaders.
 
God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
Imagine if God came down to earth and experienced life as a human. My favorite poem is about God's fascination with hands. Target audience is middle grade kids, but I love this book so much.

Dog Songs: Poems by Mary Oliver
Poet Oliver loves dogs and so do I. If you do, too, this collection is for you.

Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins
Collins is one of my favorites and a very readable and often funny poet.

I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Joy and Hope by Hafez
Such a joyful collection of poems by a Hafez, a fourteenth century Persian poet.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur
A very 'now' poet. Ms. Kaur writes short poems about issues from her life. She also illustrated the poems herself. Appropriate for teens on up.

Dearly: Poems by Margaret Atwood
Atwood is the author of The Handmaid's Tale. I was completely taken by her poems as well.

Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope by Kwame Alexander
You may know Alexander from his novels in verse targeted to middle grade kids. This small volume contains beautiful and hopeful poems for kids on up.

Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman
This is not the easiest poems to read. Gorman found historical documents about the treatment of Black citizens. Many she made into erasure poems. When I figured out what she was doing, I was very moved.

I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer
Kate Baer first published these collection of erasure poems on her Instagram account in response to letters, mostly critical of her. I can't tell you how much I love this book and the whole project.

And one more recommendation...the poetry collection I am reading, and loving right now:
Spine Poems: An Eclectic Collection of Found Verse for Book Lovers by Annette Dauphin Simon


-Anne

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Reviews and quotes --- Two books -- almost identical reviews


Today I am reviewing two book club selections for upcoming meetings. Though the plots and characters are quite different, you will find my reviews of the two books to be almost identical.

Titles: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

Book Beginnings quotes:

That night, when Mrs. Chamberlain called, Emira could only piece together the words "... take Briar somewhere..." and "...Pay you double." (Such a Fun Age)

The doors are new: Automatic open. Fancy. That has changed since Aidan was here last. (The Reading List)

Friday56 quotes:

After Alix finally closed the door behind Laney and her family, she pulled out her phone again. CORRECTION, she texted her friends. I HATE EVERYONE EXCEPT MY SITTER. (Such a Fun Age)

Mukesh knew that last sentence came only from her frustration, but nonetheless it hurt. He'd noticed how over the past year, Rohini only ever mentioned "Mummy" to berate him, to tell him he was living in a pigsty. (The Reading List)

Summaries:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains' toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store's security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix's desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix's past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. (from the publisher of Such a Fun Age)

______________________________________________________

Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in Wembley, in West London after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.

Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a list of novels that she's never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she's facing at home.

When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list...hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again.
(from the publisher of The Reading List)
Review: After reading the summaries you see the stories are quite different, yet remarkably similar. Both have two main characters and all four characters are terrible at communicating what they are feeling. Each of the pairs are made up of two people who exist in different worlds of experience, age, race, etc. and this accounts for at least a bit of the miscommunication. In Such a Fun Age, Emira and Alix do not have an equal relationship as Alix is Emira's employer. Mukesh and Aleisha have a large age gap and cultural experiences that keep them from fully understanding the other.

Neither book is exceptionally written and both books only improved in my estimation because the conclusions brought the characters to a point of growth and movement, having been stuck in their bad communication patterns for the early parts of the books.

Oddly, the covers are super similar, too. This amounts to nothing but I thought I'd mention it since I am comparing the books and noting similarities.

I don't know about you but I hate it when I feel like I've wasted my time reading a book. I don't hate either of the books, and I'd probably use the word "liked" to express my feelings about The Reading List, but that is only because of the ending. I always read book club selections otherwise I'm positive I would have considered setting each aside and not finishing it in favor of a book which is well-written, or where I am learning something new. I guess you can tell from this review that I won't be recommending these books to you or to anyone. You've been warned!

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. 

-Anne

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. I know that but somehow I forgot it until today. This forces me to make a plan on the fly about how to quickly start consuming some poetry this month.

My plan---

1. Go to the library and peruse the poetry section. Find at least one volume that entices me. Check it out and read it.

2. Look through bookshelf at home. Find the three or four volumes of poetry which are unread or only half read. Crack them open and see what it inside.

3. Purchase a new volume of poetry. Gulp. I usually only buy used poetry books. This will be a new experience for me.

4. Share my favorite "finds" with you all by the end of the month.


-Anne

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Let's discuss -- Reading selections

 


Yesterday I watched a 30+ minute Pulitzer Prediction video over at Supposedly Fun. In the video the creator talks about 36 books which might possibly win the 2023 Pulitzer Prize for Literature in May. As I listened to his predictions and took notes on the books that interested me, a thought entered my head that I am rarely on the front side of these types of discussions. Of the 36 books he mentioned, I've read three. Of the 33 remaining titles I probably hadn't even heard of half of them. I have next to nothing to add to the conversation. Because the Pulitzer doesn't announce it's finalists for people to read ahead of time, the whole process is one gigantic guessing game. There is not really any way I can catch up and read a bunch of these early to be prepared for the announcement, like watching all the Best Picture nominations before the Academy Awards or making a commitment to read the five finalists for the National Book Award before the winner is announced.

Every year I add and subtract books from my reading list (TBR), like most people do. When the Pulitzer, Booker, or National Book Award winners are announced I quickly add them to my list. In December when the end-of-the-year best books lists are published I read through them like my life depends on it. I add and add more books to my TBR based on these 'recommendations.' Often the titles will languish on my TBR for months/years before I actually get around to reading them or removing the title with the delete key.

I hate this. I want to be one of those people in the know. I want to read the latest and greatest so that I join the conversation in real time. For example back in 2021 Bewilderment by Powers was a National Book Award finalist. A lot of people were talking about the book because the author had recently won the Pulitzer with his fantastic The Overstory. I added Bewilderment to my TBR. Two years later I am finally getting to it. After reading over 50% I happened to peek at the reviews on Goodreads and noticed that a blogging friend, Deb Nance at Reader Buzz read the book in 2021, loved it, and wished for someone to discuss the book over. Sigh. Once again, I'm behind.

That brings me to my discussion questions:

  1. How do you make your reading selections?
  2. When you add a book to your TBR, how purposeful are you about also reading that book in a timely fashion?
  3. How often do you make just random selections at the library or the bookstore, shoving aside your reading plan to get to the latest and greatest?
  4. Where do you turn for your book recommendations?

I'll start.

1. I am in two book club which meet monthly. I am certain I will read these 23 books. One club uses library kits so the titles are usually at least three of four years old, because kits have paperbacks, if possible. The other club chooses about five titles at a time, sometimes selecting the new books that everyone is talking about, but most often our selections were published about a year ago. That way most of us can find an available copy at the library. Book club selections are always top-of-mind when I am deciding what to read next.

2. I am pretty terrible, as I already confessed, of adding books to my TBR and then making little attempt to attain them. Just this year, I went through my whole TBR list and removed any titles which have been on the list longer than a year if my library doesn't have a copy. I think I cleaned fifty titles off the pile doing that.

3. I often will walk out of the library with a book I had no intention of reading next. It is almost like it jumped into my hands. But I am rarely unhappy with these selections. Oddly, however, I often find myself thinking I "should" be reading something else. Hmm.

4. I used to read School Library Journal and Booklist to assist my selections. Now I will read on-line reviews. I ask people I trust what they are reading, what they have liked in the past. I am pretty leery of making my decision on one recommendation, even from a close friend. So I try to do my homework.

How about you?



-Anne

Monday, April 10, 2023

TTT: Books with Animals in the Title

 Top Ten Tuesday: Books with animals in the title

Apparently I don't read many books with animals in the titles outside of children's books, so they dominate my list today.

Children's titles:
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright by
Hot Dog by Doug Salati
The Book Hog by Greg Pizzoli

Middle Grade titles:
Singing with Elephants by Margarita Engle
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

Adult Nonfiction
The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

Adult Poetry
The Book of Sharks by Rob Carney


 

-Anne

Saturday, April 8, 2023

Sunday Salon ---the Hope edition

Lake Crescent in Olympic National Park

Weather
:

Tomorrow is Easter: I've decided to post a day early since we are planning a big gathering of family after church for the traditional egg hunt with our grandsons and a brunch. In addition to my immediate family we also expect my sister/her husband, and our niece/her husband. Should be a busy, happy day.

Hope and happiness: With the indictment of Donald Trump by the State of NY this week it seems like all the news has been about that. But I wanted to focus on positive, even funny items I found this week. Here goes (take the time to click links, you'll be glad you did)---

1. One minute "rant" about one good aspect of our country right now (hint: it is young people):

2. Guitarist makes surprisingly good music from "songs" performed by dogs/animals. This is hilariously funny and cute. (Dodo, 3/31/23)

3. My grandsons, and other church kids, singing "I have decided to follow Jesus". Jamie (2 1/2) is a little slow but he gets there in the end, whereas his brother Ian (5 1/2) is right on until the end.


4. Quotes about HOPE---

  • To repeat something that needs constant repetition, “hope is not the belief that everything was, is or will be fine.” Hope is what sets you on a path toward a goal and keeps you persisting. Hope focuses on the long term, not immediate results. Hope allows you to see that you’re not alone, that your efforts are part of a larger fight for a better world. -- Rebecca Solnit
  • Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come. — Greta Thunburg
  • Everything that is done in the world is done by hope. Martin Luther
  • Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings. — Elie Wiesel
  • Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. — Robert Kennedy
  • To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing. — Raymond Williams
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

5. "This is the Song of Hope" by Avishai Cohen


6. Do not obey in advance. by Simon Rosenberg, April 4, 2023. There is hope for us if good people protest and stand up. If we are loud and demand respect. If we don't obey in advance. Read it.

7.


8. I've helped a friend several times this past week. She is just home from the hospital where she had an operation to remove cancer. When I heard this song I wanted to infuse it into her being, give her my strength to see this tough time through: "You Can Do This Hard Thing."

 

9. Trae Crowder, the Redneck Liberal, actually uses my word of the week: Hope. Wait for it.

 

10. The Tennessee Three. I pray that their bravery to stand up even in the face of threat (and the eventuality) of expulsion will serve as a catalyst for change. If you don't know what I am talking about watch this: Summary, or this speech by VP Harris about the situation, and/or a Good Friday speech of Hope by Rep. Justin Pearce.

Books:

  • Recently Completed:
    • The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas -- It took me almost three months but I finished this tome finally. Read my review here. Then throw me a party! Print and audio.
    • Adrift: America in 100 Charts by Scott Galloway. I saw this author on MSNBC and was intrigued by his premise that most information we hear on the news can be consolidated down into understandable charts. He was right. Print.
    • Necessary Christianity: What Jesus Says We Must Do by Alexander. My Lenten study guide. I liked it in the beginning and each chapter got less interesting and more confusing. Sigh. Print.
    • The Reading List by Adams. For a future book club. Two lonely people find each other and gain help from a list of classic books. The ending was very good, the middle was very average. Print.
    • Malibu Rising by Reid. The second book in a loosely grouped series which started with Daisy Jones and the Six. I enjoyed it. Audio.
    • Children's Books:
    • -The Knight Owl by Christopher Denice. The 2023 Caldecott winner. Darling.
      -Chopsticks by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. A new favorite author.  
      -Exclamation Mark by the same author as above. My 5-year-old grandson LOVED this book.
      -Very Good Hats by Straub. After reading it to my grandsons we had a lot of fun trying to make hats out of household items like they do in the book. FUN!
       
  • Currently reading:
    • Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. Guess I'm in the mood for Christie novels now. 12%. E-book.
    • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Chabon. For my personal Pulitzer challenge. 45%. Audio.
    • Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare. For Classics Club SPIN.
    • Bewilderment by Powers. My next audiobook. 3%
    • Long Petal of the Sea by Allende. May's book club selection. A famous author. Should be good. Audiobook.
  • Blog posts: 

On the lighter side:

What is double funny about this is that my husband and I always call dogs "Ralph" if we don't know their name.



Required pet photo:

My daughter's cat, Skimble, taking a nap.



-Anne