"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=========

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: June 28

 The prompt today for the Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge is ---

What is a song I've loved recently?

Thanks to this book about the Beatles, Tell Me Why, I started listening to music with my headphones on. Wow. What a difference it makes in being able to hear all the musical parts of each song. I especially enjoyed listening to Paul's amazing bass line in each song.

This inspired me to create a whole Spotify playlist of songs featuring strong bass guitar lines.

Here is my Spotify list. I hope you take time to listen to several of the songs, or parts of the songs. There are almost 100 songs on the list, proof that I usually don't do things by half. Ha! Don't forget to put your headphones on.


Songs with lots of bass guitar playlist by Anne on Spotify!



Monday, June 26, 2023

TTT: Anticipated New Book Releases for the Second Half of 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated New Book Releases for the Second Half of 2023

I usually don't pay much attention to upcoming books. Seems like I am always looking backwards at what I missed. But I did run into a few lists recently that had some upcoming books on it that caught my attention. They are:

Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead

July 18, 2023
The sequel to Harlem Shuffle which I read and enjoyed. Though not one of my favorites out of all the books Whitehead has written, I am interested what happens to the character. So it is likely I will read this sequel.

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

August 1, 2023
I've turned into a huge Ann Patchett fan after a few false starts on her earliest works. This one is about a woman who gets out of prison and tries to turn her life around. My book club is considering this for one of our future meetings.

Family Lore by Elizabeth Acevedo

August 1, 2023
This one is set in The Dominion Republic and is about female empowerment. I've liked everything I've read by Acevedo. I'm wondering if this is YA. Everything else I've read by her has been.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

August 8, 2023
Another book my club is considering for an upcoming meeting. This one is set in the 1970s in a mixed race community and it involves a mystery.

The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang

September 5, 2023
I really admired the one book I've read by Kate Quinn and do enjoy the genre of historical fiction. In 1906, a white singer and a Chinese embroiderer are caught up with a charming railroad magnate and the mystery of a fabled Chinese relic.

The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

September 5, 2023
Apparently I am making my decisions based on author's whose work I've enjoyed in the past. I've read two by this guy and they were fantastic. This one is set in the 1950s.

Holly by Stephen King

September 5, 2023
Holly Gibney is a character in the Mr. Mercedes series and she is a very compelling character. I didn't realize she had her own book (series). Squee! This one is the third in her series so I guess I'll stumble back and see if I can figure out the order of the books I should read.

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

September 5, 2023
The Fraud was already on my TBR before today. I want to finally conquer a Zadie Smith book. This one is set in Scotland in the late 1800s.

The Land of Lost Things by John Connolly

September 18, 2023.
I LOVED The Book of Lost Things, which I read over ten years ago. In fact, I was sort of obsessed with it. I didn't know I needed a sequel until now. Can't wait!

Threads That Bind by Kika Hatzopoulou

May 30, 2023
This one is already published but I just heard about it, so I'm counting it as a book I anticipate reading. It is a YA story where a member of the Greek Fates must solve a series of impossible murders to save her sisters and her city. Sounds delightful. 



It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Book Date

Here I am in Canada for a family vacation. My husband, younger daughter, and I traveled from our home to Whistler yesterday in our new electric vehicle. It was the first time we've had to charge en route and we were definitely novices at the whole thing. We finally ended up in the parking lot of a huge sports/events complex to find a charger we could use which didn't require us to be Canadian. Hmm. No one told us that would be a problem. Anyhow, we made it and this is what I'm reading...

Recently finished: NOTHING. I didn't finish a single book all week.


 Currently listening to:

Trust by Hernan Diaz. Our little family group listened to half of this book on our journey to Canada yesterday and will likely finish it up on our way home. This was one of the co-Pulitzer Prize winners for 2023.

Work Song by Ivan Doig. This is a sequel to one of my favorite books, Whistling Season. The voice actor is the same person, Jonathan Hogan, in both books, which is increases my joy in listening. I've had the both the print and the audiobook around the house for several years and I finally decided it was time to give it a try for my July Challenge. (See below for the link about the details.)

Currently reading:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This is my Classics Club Spin book of the season. Believe it or not, I've never read it. I have however seen the movie Young Frankenstein many times. Ha! I've just started it and am only 8% completed.

Queer Ducks (And Other Animals) by Eliot Schrefer. I am reading this book for PRIDE month and also because it won a Printz Honor this year. I'd better get a move on if I want to finish it before the end of June!

Up next: Or at least I have this book as a back up for vacation reading.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave. I actually know nothing about this book. I selected it from the in-library used book store shelves because I'd seen it on a lot of bloggers lists.

What are you reading today?


Join me?

Give It a Try in July Challenge. Read details here.


Thursday, June 22, 2023

Review and quotes: OUR MISSING HEARTS

Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng

Book Beginning/First Line Friday quote:

Friday56 quote:

She was always doing that, telling him stories. Prying open cracks for magic to seep in, making the world a place of possibility. After she left, he had stopped believing all those fantasies. Wispy, false dreams that disintegrated in the morning's light. Now it occurs to him that, perhaps, there might be truth in them after all.


Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.


Merriam-Webster defines the word "dystopian" as "an imagined world where the people lead wretched, dehumanized, fearful lives." The Oxford English dictionary also includes "great suffering due to injustice." Think of all the great dystopian novels you've read: The Handmaid's Tale, Fahrenheit 451, 1984. Now add Our Missing Hearts to the list. It is a dystopian novel set in America in what could be today, with issues not far from what we are experiencing now: book banning, morals police, prejudicial attitudes and violence aimed at one racial group (in this book it is Asians, especially Chinese-Americans) and the removal of children from their homes if the parents don't toe the line. Everyone becomes distrustful of their neighbors. Fear reigns.

Noah Gardiner, called Bird by his mother, is twelve and lives with his father in a dorm at Harvard, where his father works in the library. Bird's mother is on the run, leaving the family to save them.  She had published a poem called "All Our Missing Hearts" and the poem has been used during subversive actions by others. Though the mother had nothing to do with those actions, she is "guilty" because she wrote the poem. America is living under PACT — the Preserving American Culture and Traditions Act — which became law during a confused and economically disastrous period known as the Crisis.

One day Noah receives a letter addressed to "Bird" so he knows it is from his mother. Inside is one sheet of paper covered with tiny little illustrations of cats. Somehow he figures out that his mother is calling out for him to find her. His search leads him to New York City. But before he gets there he finds himself in several libraries and he learns that many librarians are working to discover where the "re-placed" children are. These are the children who were taken from their homes and placed in foster care because the parents were deemed to be subversive. When he gets to NYC the bus lets him off in Chinatown. He notices that the street signs have been doctored and changed, as if to remove anything Chinese. Someone — everyone — has tried to make the Chinese disappear.

I won't give anything away from Our Missing Hearts powerful and heart-wrenching ending but I hope you have figured out that it is about words and stories, and the importance that stories have in all our lives to save us.

Ng uses her afterward to highlight all the dystopian-type activities that have happened in the US in our history: Native children removed from their homes, Japanese internment during WWII, children removed from their parents at the border, racial discrimination against Blacks and other BIPOC people, book banning efforts that are under way right now. I shivered thinking this world, Ng's world, could end up being our world if certain politicians campaigning to be President right now have their way.

I listened to the audio narrated by Lucy Liu. I was mesmerized by it. I was completely caught up in this story and highly recommend it to you.  I hope that my book club picks it up for a future meeting. It will make a powerful discussion, I'm sure.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. First Line Friday is hosted by Reading is My Super Power. Share 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. 


Join me in Give It a Try in July Challenge. See details here.


Monday, June 19, 2023

TTT: My Summer Reading List

Top Ten Tuesday: My Summer Reading List. 
Below the line is how I did on my spring reading list.
Summer reading list:

Book Club Selections:

  1. Long Division by Laymon (August, Group #1)
  2. The Loneliest Polar Bear by Williams (September, Group #1) 
  3. Hello Beautiful by Napalitano (September, Group #2)

Challenge Books:

  1. Classics Club Spin Book TBA from this list -- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  2. A Past Pulitzer Prize winner from list -- Trust by Diaz
  3. Printz Award winner or honor book from this list (Possibly Starfish) 
  4. A Big Book (over 400 pages) for Big Book Summer Challenge (Possibly Babel by Kuang)

Books I've already started, recently acquired, and/or have on-hold at the library:

  1.  Pray First by Hodges
  2. After by Greyson
  3. The Wager by David Grann
  4. Victory City by Salmon Rushdie
  5. I Have Some Questions for You by Makkai
  6. Shrines of Gaiety by Atkinson
  7. Our Missing Hearts by Ngo
  8. It's All Absolutely Fine by Eliot
  9. House of Light by Mary Oliver

Update: How I did on my spring reading list.
Highlighted yellow: completed. 
Highlighted aqua: in progress or 
Highlighted green:  not completed but read note.  

Spring reading list:

Book Club Selections:

  1. Such a Fun Age by Reid (April, Group #1)
  2.  A Long Petal to the Sea by Allende (May, Group #1)
  3. Black Cake by Wilkerson (May, Group #2)
  4. The Mountains Sing by Nguyen (June, Group #1)
  5. Lucy by the Sea by Strout (June, Group #2)

Challenge Books:

  1. Classics Club Spin Book TBA from this list -- Romeo and Juliet
  2. A Past Pulitzer Prize winner from list -- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  3. Printz Award winner or honor book from this list When the Angels Left the Old Country

Books I've already started, recently acquired, and/or have on-hold at the library:

  1. The ABC Murders by Christie
  2. Necessary Christianity by Alexander
  3. Solito by Zamora
  4. Freewater by Luqman-Dawson -- I read a few pages and decided I wasn't interested. Returned to library unread.
  5. The Reading List by Adams
  6. On the Subject of Unmentionable Things by Walton -- Similar to the above "green" book I tried a few pages and set this one aside unread.
  7. The Hurting Kind: Poems by Limón
  8. The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
  9. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Kawaguchi
  10. Fox and I by Raven
  11. Malibu Rising by Reid
  12. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow by Zevin
  13. A Deadly Education by Novik -- I had too many audiobooks arrive at the same time, I requested a later date on this one and my next turn hasn't come up from the library yet.
  14. Babel by Kuang -- I purchased the Audible version of this one and haven't gotten to it yet. I will add this one to my summer reading list!
  15. Horse by Brooks
  16. Bewilderment by Powers
Note: I have figured out a system that works for me-- add books to my seasonal list and suddenly I make sure to read the books on it. This was a long list, yet all Spring I felt the tug of these books reminding me to read them. Try it and see how it works for you!


A reading challenge. Find out details and sign up here.


Three Book Reviews: Rome -- Antiracism -- Afterlife

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World by Anthony Doerr (Scribner, 2007)

Back in 2014 my family and I traveled to Italy. It was return trip for us, having traveled there also in 2012. Both trips were graduation presents for our daughters. Previous to those two trips I'd only been in Italy one other time, back in 1979 when I was traveling the European continent via Eur-rail Pass with a girl friend. I found Rome very disappointing that time. The city was stuffed to brim, or so it seemed, with gypsies who tried endlessly to scam us out of our money. And speaking of money, we had very little. We were trying to travel on $10 a day and having a rough go of it. So that might explain why I didn't think much of Rome, we were just trying to do the free stuff. Our one splurge was paying to see the Sistine Chapel. Anyway, I digress. Back in 2012 and 2014, I found the city of Rome to be quite changed. I decided it was not not only be charming and historical, but magical. It seemed that some surprise was waiting for us around every corner. The people were friendly, the sites remarkable, the food delicious, the slower pace of life was calming. Aside from the heat, it was wonderful in every way.

I tell you all this in explanation as to why, a person who rarely buys books, bought Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. Back in 2015 I was attending a book event sponsored by my public library and Anthony Doerr was the guest speaker. Already his fan, after reading and rereading his marvelous All the Light We Cannot See,  I was enraptured by Doerr, the man. He was so interesting and had done so many things. I decided I needed to know more about him. After his talk was finished I wandered over to the book table to see what I could buy to learn more about him. This book about Rome seemed perfect. I love Rome and I love Anthony Doerr, What could a be better choice? Besides, look at the subtitle -- On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. Talk about random, compelling, and disjointed topics.

As often happens, I bought my purchase home, stuffed it onto the book shelf and ignored it for seven years, until recently, when I unearthed it to take with me on a car trip. Back in 2004 Anthony Doerr won a writing fellowship. The day he learned of the fellowship award, his twin boys were born. The fellowship involved living in Rome for a year, a space to write, and a small apartment where he and his growing family could live. It was not required that he write any particular thing, but he had been working on a novel about WWII set in both France and Germany before he left for his year in Rome and he hoped to continue his work on it there. But Rome, twins, insomnia, and a tiny apartment had a different idea. As it turned out Doerr did very little work on his novel. He did, however, work on several other writing projects and wrote in a journal every day. His journal entries made up the bulk of his material for this book, I'm sure. While there he worked on his Italian language skills and had hilarious examples of botching his speaking attempts. His boys learned to walk in their tiny apartment and were doted on by every Italian person they encountered on their many walks around the city. Imagine being first-time parents of twins and not having the support of family and friends, or even an understanding of the language where you were living. Where does one get baby formula? Strollers? Diapers? In April, Pope John Paul II died, so Doerr got a front-row seat viewing a city in mourning and then the process the Vatican took to replace the beloved pontiff. His stories about this time were riveting.

Doerr didn't make any progress on his novel All the Light We Cannot See while in Rome, and in fact it wasn't even published until 2014, ten years after he started the book. I enjoyed Doerr's musings and reflections on Rome itself and what life was like for he and his family. I could picture the streets and many of the landmarks as he talked about his experiences. I enjoyed the book very much.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

How to Be a (Young) Antiracist
by Ibram X. Kendi and Nic Stone (Kokila, 2023)

Back in 2020 (remember that nightmare year?) after George Floyd was murdered by the police and everything in our country dissolved into chaos, I determined to learn as much as I could to become a 'better ancestor.' In other words, I didn't need to just say I wasn't a racist, I needed to understand how to move toward becoming antiracist. In fact, I even created a list of books to help me become an anti-racist with the help of friends and other book bloggers. I've read a lot of the books on that list but not Kendi's How to Be An Antiracist (2019). When I saw there was a YA version of his adult book, co-written by Nic Stone, I decided that would be a great place to start, since I understand his adult book is pretty lengthy and technical.

Just like with the partnership Kendi struck with Jason Reynolds to revise his book Stamped from the Beginning (2017) for young adults, Nic Stone had a voice in How to Be a (Young) Antiracist. She didn't just revise the book, she became a character in it. Reynolds did the same thing but his approach involved lightening the subject by adding humor, Stone seemed to confuse the subject by making herself a spokesman for Kendi. It is as if she were telling Kendi's story while he stood in the room. It was odd and at sometimes confusing. Aside from that the book tells Kendi's story of how he came to be a person who would earn a doctorate and become a person with a 'microphone' on the topic of antiracism. It also includes a lot of new vocabulary to enhance any discussion of racism/antiracism. Most of the terms I've read in other books since 2020 but there were so many of them in this book, I found myself confused and/or perplexed. If you want people to be open to a new topic why push them away by introducing so much new vocabulary all at once, often using words with similar but a tiny bit different meanings? For example one chapter talks about 'cultural racist ideas' while the next chapter talks about 'space racist ideas.' I understand that cultural appropriation isn't cool, but I am still not sure if I can adequately describe what is meant by space racists ideas, other than one shouldn't think that the White European way of doing things is best or even better.

If I were still running a high school library, I'd prefer This Book is Antiracist by Tiffany Jewell to this book, though I'm sure the shelves would have room for both. Jewell's book is more attractive to teens and I think, less confusing. As an adult, I learned more vocabulary to help move me toward antiracism from Layla Saad's Me and White Supremacy. Maybe that is because I read it first. I definitely think that all people should make an effort to move in the right direction toward being an antiracist. I suspect it will be a lifetime endeavor and we can all use whatever help is available to us on our journey. This book is one such resource.

Rating: 3.5 stars

After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal About Life and Beyond by Bruce Greyson, M.D. (St. Martin's Essentials, 2021)

Before my retirement in June of 2017 I was a high school librarian for the last twelve years of my career. I considered it part of my job to read as many books and as widely as I could in order to be able to make informed decisions about recommendations for both students and staff. Prior to my time in the library, I was a high school health and sociology teacher. I also considered reading as part of my job to stay current on new health or medical findings. Reading After by Dr. Bruce Greyson felt a little like an assignment to me. It was the type of book I would previously scour for new of interesting information to share with teachers in my role as a librarian or to enhance my classroom lessons as a teacher myself. But this time I was just reading it for myself and I found the task a bit arduous.

Let me summarize a few points I learned --

Dr. Greyson worked with Dr. Raymond Moody back in the 1970-80s. If you remember, Dr. Moody published the book Life and Life in 1975. In the book Moody recounted the 150 interviews he had with people who experienced near-death experiences. Many of the people reported stories of traveling through a tunnel, being surrounded by a light, and being greeted by loved ones or a divine being. I read this book in the late 1970s and was profoundly changed by it. It felt like a confirmation of my spiritual beliefs that there is indeed an afterlife. Greyson picked up where Moody left off and conducted real scientific studies to confirm the existence of NDE (near-death experiences) and found that somewhere around 20 of people who have died and been brought back to life experience them, though all don't have the same experience. He also developed a 20-question survey that practitioners could asked survivors to determine if they really experienced a NDE, standardizing the procedures.

In After Greyson sums up the different types of experiences people report after their NDE in chapters titled "Outside of Time", "The Life Review", and "Out of Their Bodies." There were less stories in their chapters than I would have liked but Greyson was making the point that not all NDE experiences were the same but many were similar. The middle chapters dealt with the biology of dying, the brain at death, and whether the mind and the brain are the same thing. I found the latter to be the most interesting as everyone who experienced a NDE experienced a freedom from their physical body and an unhooking from their minds. Most experienced comfort knowing that their soul will go on after death.

The last chapters tackled the spiritual experiences. What is "Heaven or Hell?", some people returned and recounted horrifying experiences, sure that they were saved from hell by coming back to life. Others were sure they were in heaven. Usually the words they used matched their own spiritual beliefs and practices, not just christian beliefs. And finally Greyson wrapped up with an accounting of what changes occured after people were given a second chance. Most, but not all, of the people who had a NDE came back as a new person. People saved from suicide never wanted to take their own life again, rough/selfish people did an about face and found love and empathy more important. Even a drug addict who died when he was withdrawing from his drugs, came back a changed man, never touching drugs again after recognizing how selfish he'd been.

I appreciate the book After for what it tells us about both life and death. I just felt a little like I was reading an assignment book so my rating reflects that feeling at 3.5 stars.


Sunday, June 18, 2023

Sunday Salon -- Mid June

Happy Father's Day! We spent yesterday celebrating with Don at our first Mariner's Baseball Game since before COVID. Our team lost but we did have fun.

Weather: Rain showers. Yay! It's been so dry for the past few months, the earth is screaming its appreciation for these refreshing showers

Give It a Try in July Reading Challenge: I am hosting a challenge to try 5-10 books in July. A try mean to read 50-75 pages of each book and decide if it is time to toss it or put it back on the shelf to read in the future. Find our more about this challenge here and sign up if you'd like to join me. 

Tumble: I fell during a dog walk two weeks ago and got pretty banged up. It hit my head but wasn't knocked out. My glasses broke and I bruised my knee, ribs, and right hand. I worried it was broken, but x-rays confirmed it is not. Fortunately the fall happened fairly close to home and my husband was working outside so he came to my rescue.  No more dog-walking for me in sandals, listening to audiobooks on my phone, without my walking stick. Sigh. 

Books: I finished one book this week, if you don't count the seven children's books I read by Amy Klouse Rosenthal. I am finishing up five others:


I hope you join me in Give It a Try in July Challenge.


Give It a Try in July Challenge

I am hosting a challenge this July, encouraging myself and others to give books a try which have been hanging out, unread on my bookshelves. Here is a link to intro post about this challenge. Join me.

In July I hope to try (read 50-75 pages) of each 5-10 books and then decide if I want to finish them (sometime) or toss/donate them. 

On my Goodreads page, I will keep notes about my thoughts on each book so I can remember my thinking when I do circle back to finish the book.

Here are my books:

 Secrets of the Vine by Wilkinson

The House of Broken Angels by Urrea

The Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Eggers

The Great Green Room by Gary

Work Songs by Doig

Bonk by Roach

Tattoos on the Heart by Boyle

Letter from Dachau by Wilsey

8 Minutes in the Morning by Cruse

The Financial Lives of Poets by Walter


Sign up: GIVE IT A TRY IN JULY Challenge


I don't know about you, but I am sick on looking at the same books on my bookshelves, some have been in place for over ten years, sadly unread. It is time to decide: do I keep them and eventually read them or do I toss them (in the library donation box)?

This July I am going to do something about my situation. I am going to select 5-10 of those unread books on my bookshelves and give them a try.

A 'TRY' means to read 50-75 pages of each book. That should be enough to help me decide if I want to read on or not. If the answer is 'NOT' then I will find a new home for that book. If the answer is 'YES', I'd like to read more then I can set it aside or I can read on and finish it. Up to me.

I got the idea for this challenge when I was asked to read  over 70 books in six weeks as a Cybils Judge.  We were encouraged to read enough of each book to judge it appropriately, which meant reading at least 50-100 pages. Often I would read on because I was interested, but sometimes 50 pages was enough to judge the book appropriately.

Want to join me? Here's how:

1. Create an intro post including a photo or list of the books you hope to try. Include the 'Give It A Try In July' poster (above) so others will know how to sign up, too. 

2. Sign up with your intro post URL on the linky.

3. Circle back around the end of July and let us know what you decided to do with each book.

This should be a low stress challenge. If you decide five is too many books, reduce the number. If ten isn't enough, then increase it.

Why not Give it a Try in July?


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter



Thursday, June 15, 2023


Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

Book Beginnings/First Line quote:

Friday56 quote:

Summary: Sam and Sadie meet in a hospital when they are both preteens. He is there for yet another surgery on his crushed foot after an accident, she because her sister is there getting treatment for leukemia. The first thing they do is play a video game together. This chance meeting leads to over 600 hours of time spent together playing and getting to know each other. After their friendship breaks apart, they don't see each other again for seven years until they bump into each other at a train station. He is now a student at Harvard, she a student at M.I.T, majoring in computer science. Their friendship is renewed and they decide to spend a summer creating a video game together. So begins a lifetime partnership built on the framework they started as kids, based on their love of gaming and a solid friendship. Though Sam wishes for romance, Sadie assures him that true collaborators are more rare and special.

Review: The book blogging world is of two minds about this book. There are those who say they couldn't get into it because they aren't gamers and those who could get into it even though they might not be into video games. I am in the second camp. Though I have rarely played any video games, other than the very first-- Pac Man and Space Invaders-- I enjoyed this story of friendship, competition, and gaming very much. Zevin, a life-time gamer herself seemed born to write this book. She brought her own love of the format to her story in such a way that people who didn't understand all the real-life gaming references didn't feel left out. She didn't burrow into the minutia and tedium of video game creation, but rather focused on the camaraderie and the art that goes into the successful creation of each new game. She also recognized how important good producers are to the success of the product and creates Marx, a lovable and loving friend to both Sam and Sadie, to fit that role. "Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise" (Kirkus Reviews).

Marx and Sam are both mixed-Asian heritage and some of the most interesting psychological aspects of the novel involve both of their feelings of "unbelonging." Sadie was the creative genius in the partnership but wanted little to do with the games promotions leaving that job to Sam. When the gaming world thought that Sam was the creator of their first baby, Ichigo, Sadie started to pull away thinking he was trying to usurp her efforts. This movement away from Sam didn't happen all at once but at one point it led to a chasm so wide one couldn't imagine either finding their way back to other.

It was Marx who provided the book with its title. He loved theater and acting and wanted the company they formed together to be called "Tomorrow Games" as a reference to Shakespeare's Macbeth --  “What is a game?" Marx said. "It's tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It's the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win. No loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.” This idea of beginning again, of starting over, of putting a new quarter into the Donkey Kong machine and getting high score, of playing a new game but loving it as much as the old game forms the theme of the book.

Now to be fair to my fellow bloggers who didn't love this book or didn't think they would so they didn't read it, I didn't rate Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow as high as you would think from this review. I gave it a 4.25 rating. The middle part just went on a bit too long for me. The miscommunication between Sadie and Sam irritated me, too. I listened to the 14 hours of recording on audiobook. It dragged for me in places and I felt compelled to bump up my listening speed (1.25.) But the ending was almost perfect and I think I cried for the last one hundred pages solid. I truly appreciated the world that Zevin created for us which allowed us to take a peek at the beauty and pain of friendships through a unique lens: video games..

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City Reader. First Line Friday is hosted by Reading is My Super Power. Share 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. 


Weighing in at 416 pages, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge. Unbelievably, this is my third big book of the summer so far! This never happens.


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Weekly Blogging Challenge, June 14th.

Question: Older Books More People Should Read

(I got derailed last week while I was putting this prompt together so I am sharing it a week late!)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, published in 2000

I just read this book this year so I know it is a book worth taken a second look at. It is about life in the world, but mostly in America in the late 1930s on around the time that comic books were becoming very popular. It also includes a view of WWII very seldom taken in literature, what was happening in the lead up to WWII inside the US, like the embrace of Nazism by many. This is a large book on my topics with a large heart. My review.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, published in 2003.

Set on the Hawaiian island, Molokai, at the turn of the last century. Rachel Kalama is sent there to the leprosy colony as a young girl. This is her fictional story of an actual place. This book is astonishing and interesting. A not-to-be missed book and a perfect book club selection since there is so much to discuss. My review.

Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem, published in 1999.

A murder mystery where the protagonist, Lionel Essrog, has Tourette's Syndrome, and his language makes for some very funny, often crass, vocalizations. I read this book in the early 2000s and again two years ago and found it delightful and hilarious both times. My friends, didn't like it nearly so much. The difference?  I listened to the audiobook, they didn't. My recommendation, listen to this one. It is hilarious in that format. My review.




Book: Tell Me Why: The Beatles, Album by Album. Song by Song, The Sixties and After. by Tim Riley (Knopf, 1988)

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a Beatles fan so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, including me, that I often am gifted Beatles paraphernalia (books, mugs, posters, etc.) Tell Me Why was a Christmas gift a few years ago from my sister and brother-in-law, both Beatles fans, too. I remember opening it and thumbing through it thinking, "oh, this one will take some work" before I set it aside, not returning to it until earlier this year.

The subtitle is correct. This book analyzes each and every album and song recorded by Beatles starting from their first album, "Please Please Me" and ending with songs they published as solo artists. The analysis is musical in nature. I've read books before which have analyzed Beatles songs but more from the aspect of who wrote it, who played what instruments on it, and details about its back story. If one visits the website The Beatles Bible a lot of that type of information is available there, too. The author, Time Riley, is a musician (pianist) and a composer. Today he is thought of as a music critic. Each album and song that he analyzes for Tell Me Why, he does so from a musician's point of view. He catches/notices things about each song that the average listener probably misses, I know I did. For example he mentions how the mood of a song changes during the bridge when it moves from a minor to a major key, or how this chord or that note change the meaning or the impact. Later in the book, when The Beatles started recording in stereo he comments on what is happening on the left verses the right side. It was super interesting but also over my head a lot of the time and I found I could only read a few pages before my brain was full and I had to set it aside for a day. Every once in a while he would inject a thought or a fact which would jolt me back and I'd have something new to share with whomever I could get to listen to prattle on. But by in large, I was pretty unmoved by my reading of Tell Me Why.

That is until I decided, since I have a lot of their music on my iTunes account, why not listen to each song as I read what Riley wrote? I started doing this for the "Revolver" album. This album has always been super special to me as it was my very first album that belonged to me (not the family.) My Aunt Barbara gave it to me for a Christmas present in 1966. I still had to read slowly because I would listen for the musical techniques The Beatles used in each song. As I was sitting out on the deck one day slowly going through "Revolver", my daughter dropped by for a visit and I told her what I was doing and how it was enhancing my experience with the book. She commented that I'd probably like it even better if I used headphones.

The next day I located my headphones, oddly tucked into a drawer of a desk I'd recently cleaned out, and plugged them in. And the world of Beatles music was made new. Oh my! I couldn't believe the difference. I was in heaven. Riley would comment on how this or that was happening in the left side and I could hear it. He'd mention how the bass guitar filled this or that and I was stupefied. What a revelation. For example, did you know that Paul mouths the bass notes for the song "I Will"? Me, neither. But with the headphones on I could hear his voice pretending to be the bass guitar. Wow. 

Suddenly a reading project that up to that point had taken me five month, now took me just days to finish. I finished Tell Me Why as fast as my listening ears would allow me. And then went back and reread and listened to songs from before I started using headphones. 

In the end, here are a few of my take-aways:

  • First, 1988, when the book was published, was a long time ago. Yes, The Beatles broke up in 1970 and John was killed in 1980, but the solo careers of the other three men were just in their beginning stages by then. For example, George's participation in the Traveling Willburys wasn't mentioned. Of course, it wasn't, TW weren't formed until April 1988, the same year this book was published. George's early death from lung cancer in 2001 obviously cut his career short. Ringo, who never had the best singing voice, had the wherewithal to put together his All-Starr-Bands. His first recording with that group happened in 1989. Paul, who has had the most remarkable career of the three, was dismissed by Riley as just churning out pop hits, songs people like but aren't incredibly complex. We just went to a McCartney concert last year and he is still going strong with his powerful music at age 80!
  • In fact, I got the distinct impression that Riley liked John the best of all The Beatles. Each song was discussed but John's songs got longer discussions than the songs by the the three, often several pages on one song by John, compared to two paragraphs for a George song, for example.
  • After the break up in 1970, Riley noted that the Fab Four were better together than their composite pieces. Each man had less success as solo artists than they had when they were The Beatles. I wouldn't quibble with that commit. In fact, I, a huge Beatles fan in my early teens and before, pretty much quit listening to them as solo artists in the 1970s. Only if a song, like "Imagine" got a lot of airplay on the radio would I even register that it was by John Lennon.
  • Riley makes a lot out of the difference between McCartney and Lennon in terms of world view and musical sensibilities. In a lot of ways the two songwriting partners kept each other in check during their recording days together. John's acerbic/sullen/questioning side was countered by Paul's sunny, upbeat one. And vise versa. Neither was allowed to go all-the-way down their disposition's path together. But when they broke up, each did just that and Paul's nature led him to not-so-complicated pop songs, and John's led him to some really dark, often unlistenable songs which were avant-garde and inventive but ones few people could stomach.
  • In the end, however, Beatles music, by and large, has stood the test of time. "That the tone of the Beatles records -- the emotional space four players could summon up together and the heights of feeling committed to tape-- continues to enthrall us is a comment on more than the music itself.. The Beatles expansive artistry exists as metaphor as much as music...[T]he fluid reciprocity they achieve as writers and players signifies much more than musical analysis alone can get at" (387).
  • The mass catharsis the world experienced when John Lennon was killed is an example of how the Beatles music brought the whole world together. They were the world's family and their music continues in its popularity today, even thirty-five years after this book was published.
  • Riley concludes the following statement, which is such a timely message for us in 2023.
[T]he world's continuing embrace of what they [The Beatles] produced demonstrates that our collective strength lies in emphasizing what we have in common. It's our connections with people that make us most human, the Beatles seem to be telling us; our interaction with others fulfills part of our humanity (388).

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

At 423 pages, which includes a selected bibliography and an index, the book qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge.