"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Classic book review: MRS. DALLOWAY

Title: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Book Beginning quote: 
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Friday56 quote: 
It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.
Heralded as Virginia Woolf's greatest novel, this is a vivid portrait of a single day in a woman's life. When we meet her, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is something much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with remembrances of faraway times. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices that brought her there, hesitantly looking ahead to the unfamiliar work of growing old. (Publisher)
Review: While Mrs. Dalloway may be Virginia Woolf's most popular novel but it left me feeling flat. "What just happened?" I asked myself. "Why is this one of the top novels of all time?" Obviously I had no answers so I decided to hop on over to Shmoop to discover these and many other answers to questions I had about this classic novel. 

One of the first things Shmoop said caught my attention: "We're pretty sure if Woolf were alive today she's be the master of the social networking scene -- facebook, blogging, Twitter, you name it." Hey, I can relate to that. They go on to describe her "up-to-the-minute, this just-in" approach to storytelling. Mrs. Dalloway is the story of two main characters, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith, and several secondary ones. We are let into their brains and hear their every thought, even the boring ones, though I am sure that literature profs would say that the thoughts show that lower and upper class people have pretty common thoughts.

Mrs. Dalloway is thought to be a fine example of 'modernist literature' (1899-1945.) It plays with time and order, perspective, and point-of-view. This doesn't sound all that remarkable to us in the 21st Century but before Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925 most novels adhered to a fairly strict storytelling format, usually chronological. Woolf also brought up topics which were a no-no, like the negative psychological effects war had on its participants. Men came back from WWI with "shell shock" but no on knew what to do or how to help. At least Woolf was willing to talk about the terrors the soldiers experienced once they were home as they relived the trauma from their experiences. "Mrs Dalloway not only tells us that Septimus is damaged, but it also shows us what the world looks like through his eyes. We also get to see in depth how our main protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, suffers from her own form of psychological damage: the more subtle, everyday oppression of English society" (Shmoop Editorial Team).

In the end, Septimus commits suicide. This is a terrible thing, but it relates to the writer. Woolf, who probably suffered from bipolar disorder, commited suicide in 1941. Was she giving her readers a peek into her brain, to let them know how much she was suffering? That is a compelling thought and leaves me with lots of questions, but it really doesn't help me like the book that much more.

One more thing that probably led to my estimation of the novel relates to the audiobook version I chose. Clarissa Dalloway is thought by many people to be a snob. Since we are privy to everyone's thoughts we know that a lot of people thought she is a snob. Well, the audiobook narrator, Lucy Rayner, must have decided to build on that idea of snobbery and she read the book in the most snobbish of tones I've ever heard. It was unbearable. I could barely stand to listen to her. Before I reached the midpoint of the book I let my library checkout lapse and then requested another audiobook version with a different narrator to finish up the book. This second audiobook was just fine, and the voice actor didn't sound like a snob. Whew!

I'm not sorry that I read Mrs. Dalloway, but I doubt I will ever urge anyone else to read it. I read it because once upon a time I placed it on my Classics Club reading list and it's number came up for this month's Classics Club Spin selection. I keep asking myself why I continue to read these classic books when I don't enjoy them that much, and then I answer myself that I want to be considered to be a well-read person and should surely have a large cadre of classics on my personal list of read books when I finish my days on earth. Now who's the snob?

Citation: Shmoop Editorial Team. "Mrs Dalloway Introduction | Shmoop." Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 17 May 2024.

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Don't forget to drop a comment on my post also! Thanks.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and First Line Friday hosted by Reading is My Super Power to share the beginning quote from your book.


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, May 27, 2024

TTT: Favorite audiobooks of the last five years, plus two clunkers.

Top Ten Tuesday: (Off-topic) My favorite audiobooks of the last five years based on the narration, plus two clunkers!

Weather by Jenny Offill
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Listening date: July 10, 2020
Listening time: 3 hours, 46 minutes
My thoughts (taken from my review of the audiobookWhen I started listening to Weather on audiobook I didn't understand what was happening because I wasn't seeing the spaces on the pages where Lizzie's thoughts were separated. Finally, at some point, I just settled in and enjoyed the zaniness of her thoughts and could appreciate how disjointed most of them were. Don't we all do that? We are thinking about one thing and then we see something, let's say its a cat, and suddenly our thoughts veer off in a new direction related to felines. The whole book of Weather is like that. Lizzie's thought populate the book and most of her thoughts are disjointed and many of these thoughts are hilarious. This audiobook is very short, too!

Narrated by: Trevor Noah, the author
Listening date: October 23, 2020
Listening time: 8 hours, 44 minutes
My thoughtsI enjoyed listening to the whole audiobook read by Trevor Noah himself. One of the things I loved most about this experience was the way Noah used language. He learned from his mother the value of speaking to people in their own language and he knows many South African languages at least well enough to converse in them.

Narrated by: Adjoa Andoh
Listening date: May 21, 2021
Listening time: 12 hours, 6 minutes
My thoughts: The audiobook recording of The Girl With the Louding Voice read by Adjoa Andoh, who is a British-Ghanaian actress. The book is written in vernacular and Ms. Andoh does a wonderful job with it and the Nigerian accent. As Adunni's English is poor, so is the written text on the page. As it improves, so does the writing. At first it was difficult to understand but  I gave it a few pages (or minutes) and the ears and the brain caught up.

Narrated by: the author
Listening date: June 09, 2021
Listening time: 10 hours, 42 minutes
My thoughtsJohn Green was the narrator of his essays which was pretty perfect since it just seems correct to hear the essays which are written from his point-of-view in his own voice. My husband and I  laughed. We cried. We paused the audio and discussed. We pondered the information we were learning and talked about it days afterwards.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Narrated by: Ray Porter
Listening date: August 11, 2021
Listening time: 16 hours, 10 minutes
My thoughtsDuring the summer of 2021 I listened to two near-perfect audiobooks with my husband during long car trips. The first was a series of essays by John Green, The Anthropocene Reviewed. The second near-perfect-audiobook-for-a-car-trip from this summer is Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. The narrator, Ray Porter, who I think sounds like Tom Hanks, did a great job and so did the production company since they had to come up with a way to make sounds when the alien entered the scene and began talking. It was genius! This is my favorite audiobook among a list of favorites.

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini, Marin Ireland, Dion Graham
Listening date: February 5, 2022
Listening time: 16 hours, 39 minutes
My thoughts: I listened to the audiobook, all 16+ hours of it and found it mesmerizing. If you read my review you'll be able to tell that I absolutely adored the book and got completely wrapped up in the story, or shall I say, stories. 

Narrated by: George SaundersPhylicia RashadNick OffermanGlenn CloseKeith DavidRainn WilsonBD WongRenรฉe Elise Goldsberry
Listening date: Oct. 23, 2023
Listening time: 14 hours, 44 minutes
My thoughts: A Swim in the Pond in the Rain was quite clearly one of my top five favorite books of 2022, maybe even the top. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Saunders himself, with my husband on two separate road trips and both of us enjoyed it so much. I don't think of myself as a writer, even though I write on my blog. I think of myself as a reader and a person who wants to think deeply about literature (and life itself.) This book was outstanding. Admittedly, it is not a book for a casual reader, since all seven of the Russian short stories are included.

Narrated by: David Calacci
Listening date: April 25, 2023
Listening time: 26 hours, and 20 minutes
My thoughts: I asked the Internet why The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay won the the Pulitzer Prize for Literature the year after it was published in 2000. here is what I learned:  One of the duties of Pulitzer committee is to select the best American novel of the past year, one which tells an American story. That thought kept running through my head as I listened to all 24+ hours of the audiobook version: I am reading an American story. While the world was consumed with WWII and rumors of war abroad, American children (and some adults), were completely enthralled with comic books here at home. David Calacci did a remarkable job on this audio recording.

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
Narrated by: the author
Listening date: Jan. 24, 2024
Listening time: 31 hours and 16 minutes
My thoughts: I listened to the audiobook narrated by Verghese himself. This was a rare treat because I got to listen to his beautiful Indian accent but also learned how to pronounce previously unknown words and locations to me. The 30+ hours of listening made me feel like I had practically moved to India and more specifically to Parambil, the family estate, built as far away from the nearby river as it could be for fear of the water.

Killer Angels by Micahel Shaara
Narrated by: Stephen Hoye
Listening date: April 10, 2024
Listening time: 13 hours, 44 minutes
My thoughts: During a recent road trip my husband and I listened to the audio version of Killer Angels, read by Stephen Hoye. Since the story is about the Battle of Gettysburg I guessed my husband, who attended West Point after high school and spent 37 years in the military, would enjoy the book, too. Listening to the audiobook together was a good choice. Stephen Hoye did an exceptional job reading the story, building up the tension preceding the battles to a perfect pitch. His accents for the both the Southern Generals and for the Maine men were spot-on and led to an even more personalized experience with the text. Even though I knew who won the battle historically, every time we stopped listening, I wanted to get back to it as soon as possible to find out how things worked out. I'm fairly sure this audiobook will win my favorite audiobook of the year award.

And now the two clunkers.............

#1 clunker:
West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
Narrated by Danny Campbell
Listening date: March 2024
Listening time: 10 hours, 28 minutes
My thoughts: I loved the story but hated the audio narration. The narrator of the story is an old man, over 100-years-old. I guess the audio production editors felt that the voice actor should be ancient, too, or at least sound ancient. Danny Campbell's voice sounded so old and scratchy I could barely stand listening to him. This is one of those times I wished I had the print rather than the audio version but all copies of the it were in use at the library.

#2 clunker:
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Narrated by: Lucy Rayner
Listening date: May 2024
Listening time: 8 hours, 2 minutes (I'm not quite done)
My thoughts: Oh boy, where do I start? This classic book set in London at the end of WWI is considered Woolf's most popular novel about about a women, Mrs. Dalloway, who everyone thinks is a snob. Well, the narrator, Lucy Rayner, must have decided to really play up the snob tone to her narration. I have never been so put off by an audiobook as this one. Listening to a "snob" talking for hours is worse that listening to someone pretending to be over 100. Sigh. I couldn't finish. Fortunately the library had a different audio version of Mrs. Dalloway read by a different narrator and it was fine.


Sunday, May 26, 2024

Sunday Salon -- End of May Edition

Lupine field near my home. Photo made into art on one of the art apps online.

Rain and a forecast for more rain.

Norway and Germany here I come: Tomorrow I leave for Europe on a sister's trip to visit family in both Norway and Germany, with lots of sightseeing planned. I am at the place I almost always am at this point before a big trip -- somewhere between excitement and dread. I am excited about the traveling and seeing new places, reuniting with family. I fear that I will forget something important in my packing, will not know how to navigate through all the travel plans, and, worst of all, will get sick and wreck the whole trip. Do you do that, too, before trips?

Packing: Actually I am in good shape. I have only the last minute items to slip into my bag and I will be ready to zip up and head to the airport tomorrow around noon. Don helped me repack my bag so that everything fits nicely and it weighs less than 28 pounds. Still heavy but not a back-breaker. Because I am ahead of where I thought I'd be at this point when my daughter and her family arrive for her birthday brunch I won't have to shoo them out once we are done eating. We might even have time to fit in a game of Wingspan, our new favorite game.

Books and Audiobooks: As per usual, half of what I think about as I plan what to pack for a trip is what what books/audiobooks to bring along. What I've decided for this trip is two physical books, both short story collections and a whole bunch of possible audiobooks: 
  • Print books:
    • Tenth of December by George Saunders  
    • Too Much Happiness: Stories by Alice Munro.
  • Audiobooks (options, mostly for the time on planes and trains):
    • The Great Divide by Cristina Henriques. I only have 2 hours left on this book and may very well finish it at the airport as I wait for my flight.
    • The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka. Four hours long. A short audiobook, 4 hours, may be consumed during one leg of the trip easily.
    • The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea.
    • The Symphony of Secrets by Brendan Slocumb. this is the longest of the bunch and a mystery. I put it at the end of the list on purpose.
  • Completed this week:
    • Go As a River by Shelley Read. For an upcoming book club. A subservient girl becomes a strong woman. I felt the book was a bit over-written but the story held. 4 stars.
Today, May 26th) is National Blueberry Cheesecake Day: In honor of this important, ahem, holiday, I am sharing with you a photo of me taken many years ago holding up the largest piece of blueberry cheesecake imaginable. My family (shown with daughter) and I were at the Stage Deli in NYC, not far from Carnegie Hall. Unfortunately that deli is no longer open. Sigh. You will have to enjoy the cheesecake through my photo.

In honor of National Blueberry Cheesecake Day

I have scheduled a few upcoming posts but it is likely I won't be very active with comments for the next two weeks while I travel! Enjoy the beginning of summer/winter!


Friday, May 24, 2024

Summer Reading Challenges

I am joining two summer reading challenges:
1. Big Book Summer Challenge
2. 20 Books of Summer

Big Book Summer Challenge is hosted by Sue at Book by Book.
She has been hosting this challenge for over a decade and I've been participating for nearly that long. Usually I am very haphazard in the way I approach this challenge but this year I am going to commit to reading at least three big books -- over 400 pages -- before the challenge ends on September 2nd.

Here are some possible candidates:
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel -- 653 pages.
The Women by Kristin Hannah -- 480 pages
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev -- 481 pages
The Bee Sting by Paul Murray -- 656 pages

20 Books of Summer hosted by Cathy at 746
Simple concept. Read books off a list then make a list of the books you've read. End Sept 1st. (Big books read count toward this challenge, too!)

Here are some possible candidates (but it is really likely I will only loosely follow this list):
1. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
2. The Women by Kristin Hannah
3. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
4. Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler
5. The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez
6. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
7. Wandering Star by Tommy Orange
7. The Collectors by A.S. King
8. Brotherless Night by V.V. Ganeshananthan
9. Sipsworth by Simon Van Booy
10. Night Watch by Jayne Anne Phillips
11. North Woods by Daniel Mason
12. The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters
13. Tenth of December by George Saunders
14. Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
15. The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka
16. The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
17. Gather by Kenneth Cadow
18. The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
19. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
20. Symphony of Secrets Brendan Slocomb

Join in the fun by following to the links to the hosts! And I'll keep you apprised of my progress and the summer moves along.


Thursday, May 23, 2024


Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Book Beginnings quote: 
Here was this man Tom Guthrie in Holt standing at the back window in the kitchen of his house smoking cigarettes and looking out over the back lot where the sun was coming up
Friday56 quote:
Quit, she said. Don't. Let's get out of here. It's starting to give me the creeps in here.

Summary: Kent Haruf reveals a whole community as he interweaves the stories of a pregnant high school girl, a lonely teacher, a pair of boys abandoned by their mother, and a couple of crusty bachelor farmers. It's as if Haruf has conjured up a whole community in the fictional town of Holt in eastern Colorado and then immersed the reader in its dramas. 

Review: My husband grew up in a small town in eastern Oregon. Holt, Colorado could be the same town as John Day, Oregon, where Don grew up -- a small, tight-knit community where everybody was into everybody's business but the sense of community is strong and important. Last time we visited his hometown we attended the County Fair and a concert. While there Don saw so many people he knew -- classmates, siblings of friends, teachers who remembered him, people who attended the same church including his Sunday School teacher-- so he couldn't take a step without someone stopping him and saying hi. It was a heartwarming experience one I've never experienced in my whole life. I wasn't from a small town.

The first sentence of the book starts rather oddly, don't you think? "Here is this man Tom Guthrie..." It is almost as if a drone is flying around Holt and it stops outside Guthrie's window long enough for the drone's operator to remark who is in the window. To some degree the whole book is like this with little snatches of action by the various characters as viewed from a drone with no transitions from previous action to the current situation. I decided, as I closed the book on the last page, this is the way real life is. We witness an accident downtown, let's say, and we stop to help. After making sure everyone is okay we get back in our car and drive away. There is no end of this story for us. We never find out what happened next. Did they have to go the hospital? Was the car towed? What car are they driving now? We don't know and won't ever know. That is life. Things happen and then it is over and something else happens. No wonder we like books where the author tells us how everything works out. We aren't left wondering.

The second odd thing about Plainsong is that Haruf does not use quotation marks. Notice the quote from page 56 above.  A girl is speaking to her boyfriend who is pestering her. But without the quotation marks it is as if everything is happening in a dream. In fact, the whole book has a rather dreamlike quality to it. It is as if the author purposely wants the reader to be at an arm's length from the action. It was odd but I have to admit I didn't mind. Is it possible that is why the book has been described by some as "delicate?" I'm not sure.

This is the second book I've read by Haruf and I admit I'm in his fan club. Perhaps it is because he also was a high school teacher and a preacher's kid just like me. He published six novels before his death in 2014, all of them set in Holt. Plainsong is the first book in a trilogy and it was a National Book Award finalist in 1999.

The book opens with a definition of plainsong -- the unisonous vocal music used in the Christian church from the earliest times; any simple and unadorned melody or air. I think the title is perfect for this book.

I half listened to and half read the book and I enjoyed the experience of both formats for different reasons. It is for an upcoming book club. I wonder how our discussion will go. I hope it goes well.

 6/18/24 I just returned from book club where to a person every women really loved this book. No one could really put their finger on it but all loved it. And we had a fantastic discussion more about our lives when we were growing up than the book. I recommend it as a club selection if you are looking around for a good book.

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Don't forget to drop a comment on my post also! Thanks.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and First Line Friday hosted by Reading is My Super Power to share the beginning quote from your book.


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Poetry Review: HOW TO BE PERFECT

How to Be Perfect: Poems
by Ron Padgett is a poetry collection for everyone. It is for people who really, really don't think they like poetry and for those who really, really do. It would appeal to those who don't understand most poems and for those who seem to get them all. It could tickle the funny bone of most readers yet cause others to stop and think, nodding approval. In other words, this is the poetry book for you.

I am new to Ron Padgett so I did a little (and I mean little) bit of research. I had to laugh when reading his bio, found here at the Poetry Foundation, the first accomplish it mentions is as a high school student he started an avant-garde publication with some friends. It ran for five issues! This piece of information just cracked me up as I looked at his many, many literary accomplishments but I guess it is there to let us know from a young age Ron Padgett was meant to be a writer and a poet. As a Fulbright Scholar in 1965 he spent a year in France translating French poetry. He now describes himself as a poet, an editor, and a translator. He has published 20 collections of poetry. This collection, How to Be Perfect, was published in 2007. His collection How Long (2011) was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 2018 he was awarded the Frost Medal for lifetime distinguished achievement in poetry. About his New and Selected Poems (1995) a reviewer said, “a fine sampling of a restless, hilarious, and haunting lyric intelligence, a ‘phony’ whose variable voices form a rare and raucous orchestration: the real thing.” I could say the same thing about this collection.

It was the humor I found so refreshing. As I was reading the poem from which the book was named, "How to Be Perfect" I was just humming along with everything it suggested: "Get some sleep. / Don't give advice. / Take care of your teeth and gums. / ... Wear comfortable shoes..."  All sensible stuff everyone should do. Then I turn a page, the poem is nine pages long, and see this: "Do not practice cannibalism." I just about fell out of my chair. Padgett was playing with his readers and up until then I didn't know it. Good one!

In another poem, which is really just a collection of thoughts, titled "Pikakirjotusvihko" I was intrigued from the start because of that title. Aren't you? This time Padgett isn't giving us advice on how to be perfect, he is letting us know what was running through his brain at the moment he jotted it down. None of the thoughts written separately would make much of an impact but together they make for a hilarious mishmash of impressions.
  • Fiddlesticks
  • /
  • "Morning ablutions" used to sound like something that people did in the nineteenth century. Now I do them.
  • /
  • It's almost midnight. No wonder it's late.
  • /
  • How many people, alone in the privacy of their own homes, have ever sung the national anthem? Probably very few. Maybe none! Solitude is not patriotic.
  • /
  • It is irritating to be almost old without having grown up.
These were so good I had to share them with my husband and we have been agreeing with and laughing about them ever since then. By the way, Padgett tells the reader about the title as his last thought in the poem. I won't give it away but you must know by now, it is funny.

I am not giving this collection near the tribute it deserves. I hope, though, you are intrigued enough to read more yourself. And I am off to check out the library collection to see if they have any more of Padgett's poetry books. I want to read more.


Monday, May 20, 2024

TTT: Books I was Super Excited to Get My Hands On But Had to Send Back to the Library Unread

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was Super Excited To Get My Hands On But Ended Up Sending Back to the Library Unread

This always seems to happen to me. I put a bunch of books on hold at the library, both print books and e-audiobooks, and they all come in at the same time. I can't possibly listen to five audiobooks at the same time and in only three weeks. I can read several books during the same time period. In doing so it slows me down considerably on each book.

Here are titles of recent print books or e-audiobooks I've recently sent back unread or have extended the hold borrowing date in hopes of getting the book next time when no other books are in my queue.

The Women by Kristin Hannah 
I pushed off this hold on the audiobook once by extending the borrowing date. I am scheduled to receive it again on June 14th.

Wandering Stars by Tommy Orange
I think I've pushed this audiobook off for a later borrowing date twice. My next window to expect it begins on June 8th. Let's hope it doesn't arrive the same time as The Women. It probably will. My luck.

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray
I've pushed this audiobook off so many times I just noticed it is no longer in my library queue. Should I do something about that right now or wait to see what happens with the other books ahead of it? Hmm.

I'll Start Again Monday by Lysa Terkeurst
I wanted this book so badly I accidently placed holds on two different copies of the same print book, both of them arrived and I checked both of them out. Now time is up and I haven't read either. Sigh.

Inspired by Rachel Held Evans
This has sat patiently in a big pile of print library books waiting its turn and I've never even cracked the pages open. I am leaving for a two-week trip soon. Should I renew the book and have it waiting for me when I get back, or should I return it and hope to get it again sometime when I am not so busy? And when is that?
Whoops. I didn't even realize until I published this list that I am one week ahead of the TTT list. Oh well. Here you go!

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Sunday Salon May 19th

Don has help blowing out his birthday candles.

It is sunny right this moment, temperatures in the mid-50s. Yesterday it poured rain and there was a thunderstorm, which is unusual around here. The dog went nuts.

Reading and blogging: I didn't do much this week except read and blog. I commited last Sunday to blog every day this past week and I did. However, four of the posts are scheduled for dates in the  upcoming weeks as I'll be traveling to Norway and Germany with my sisters and doubt I will have much time to blog.
  • Blog posts this past week:
  • Books read:
    • Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. My rating 3 out of 5 stars. Watch for review in coming weeks. (Audio)
    • Plainsong by Kent Haruf. A book club selection set in a small town in Eastern Colorado. My rating 4 stars. (Audio and print)
  • Currently reading:
    • The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez. Set in Panama during the time period when the canal was being built. The story of all types of people living and working together. (Print) 50%
    • Go as a River by Shelley Read. Set in the 1940s on a peach farm. A motherless girl is weighing her options. (Audio) 21%
  • Book club. This coming week both of my clubs meet. We're discussing --
Upcoming trip: as I mentioned above, I am preparing for an international trip with my two sisters to visit relatives in Norway and Germany. My younger sister missed out on another family trip to Ecuador and Panama last fall so we planned another family trip for her to be a part of. Yesterday I spent time ordering travel sizes of toothpaste and lotion. I also ordered a bag in which I can store all my cords...phone charger, electrical converter, Fitbit charger, etc. This is the kind of stuff my husband usually carries. Without him on the trip I will have to be in charge of my own stuff. ๐Ÿ˜–

Off to a baseball game with the family. Let's hope the weather holds!

The only photo taken of us at the ballgame. Jamie was busy getting very sticky after consuming cotton candy. Ah, the delight of that spun treat but also the sugar crash afterwards was not totally unexpected. When our girls were little and we went to a baseball game we wouldn't buy them cotton candy until the 7th inning. After they were done with it, we'd head home. Even if the game wasn't over yet. Ha!


Thursday, May 16, 2024

Nonfiction Review: PREQUEL

Title: Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism by Rachel Maddow

Book Beginnings quote:
(Chapter 1: The Glass House)  The reedy and excitable twenty-six-year-old recent Harvard graduate, full of anticipation, was motoring out to an open field in Potsdam, Germany, to attend a Nazi youth rally. Part of the draw for the Harvard man was the chance to see and hear, in person, Adolf Hitler, who was still several months away from ascending to the chancellorship of Germany but already the talk of Europeans and Americans in the know. Another factor in the draw to Potsdam was the opportunity to witness up close the dazzling spectacle reliably on display at Nazi rallies.
Friday56 quote: 
The way Johnson envisioned the Father Coughlin Labor Day event in Chicago, it would recreate the pageantry of a Hitler rally, not unlike the Hitler Youth rally he'd attended in Potsdam four years earlier. "The police were all pro-Coughlin, especially the Irish," Johnson told a Coughlin biographer fifty years after the fact.


Rachel Maddow traces the fight to preserve American democracy back to World War II, when a handful of committed public servants and brave private citizens thwarted far-right plotters trying to steer our nation toward an alliance with the Nazis.
In the 1930s there was a wild American strain of authoritarianism that has been alive on the far-right edge of our politics for the better part of a century. Before and even after our troops had begun fighting abroad in World War II, a clandestine network flooded the country with disinformation aimed at sapping the strength of the U.S. war effort and persuading Americans that our natural alliance was with the Axis, not against it. It was a sophisticated and shockingly well-funded campaign to undermine democratic institutions, promote antisemitism, and destroy citizens’ confidence in their elected leaders, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing the U.S. government and installing authoritarian rule.
That effort worked alongside an ultra-right paramilitary movement that stockpiled bombs and weapons and trained for mass murder and violent insurrection.
At the same time, a handful of extraordinary activists and journalists were tracking the scheme, exposing it even as it was unfolding. In 1941 the U.S. Department of Justice finally made a frontal attack, identifying the key plotters, finding their backers, and prosecuting dozens in federal court. These efforts at bringing the insurrectionists to justice largely failed.
While the scheme has been remembered in history—if at all—as the work of fringe players, in reality, it involved a large number of some of the country’s most influential elected officials. Their interference in law enforcement efforts against the plot is a dark story of the rule of law bending and then breaking under the weight of political intimidation.
The tentacles of that unslain beast have reached forward into our history for decades. But the heroic efforts of the activists, journalists, prosecutors, and regular citizens who sought to expose the insurrectionists also make for a deeply resonant, deeply relevant tale in our own disquieting times. (Publisher)

Review: On a recent trip my husband and I listened to the audiobook of Prequel read by Rachel Maddow herself. We watch Maddow every Monday evening on MSNBC and she mentioned aspects of this book and the podcast Ultra on the same topic. We were prepared mentally for the book's topic but I was not prepared emotionally. I got so angry and sad as I listened. It infuriates me that Americans would want to give away their (our) rights to an autocrat like Hitler and that is just about what happened.

If you have never read any of Maddow's books I want you to know that she does exhaustive research. I am fairly sure that all the facts and details in Prequel have never been pulled together in one spot before which increases the impact ten fold. There is no way I can even begin to touch on everything she includes in the book so I thought I would focus on just a few of the historical details that match what is happening today in politics.

Throughout the book we learned that many of the people who were pushing the American First/Pro-Authoritarian agenda in the 1930s and 40s were actually funded by the German (Nazi) government. Some were paid money and others, like some of the legislators who pushed the far-right agenda and attempted to stifle efforts to find out what was going on, were rewarded with money flowing to their pet projects and reelection donations. Sound familiar? We don't have 50+ years of research to back up these claims but the Mueller report did find that Russia interfered with our elections in 2016 and made attempts in 2020 and 2022. Putin wants Trump to be elected again so that Trump will withdraw support for Ukraine. The Republican agenda today is moving toward being more and more pro-Russia. 

The church played a role in the far-right agenda in the 1930s. Father Coughlin had a super popular radio show and his message was very racist, antisemitic,  and isolationist. He had a huge following with millions of people tuning in to his show every week. Today we know that evangelical Christians have thrown their support behind Trump and the Republican agenda, even though the message is the opposite of what Jesus taught his followers to do -- love your neighbor as yourself. 

The judicial system in the 1940s was overwhelmed and essentially swamped by the insurrectionists when they were finally brought up on charges. Delay, tomfoolery, and lack of respect for the justice system were all partially to blame. Essentially most of the indicted individuals never served a day in prison. Though many of the insurrectionists from January 6, 2021 have been convicted and received prison sentences but most of them are low-level participants, not the organizers. Of the 91 indictments Trump has received he has so far been successful in using delay tactics to his benefit over and over again.

 Those of us in the literary world all know that a 'prequel' is a book which was written after the first book about events that happened before. The prequel gives history and context to further the story and the reader's understanding. Rachel Maddow's book is a prequel to what is happening in politics today. She is giving us history and context to round our knowledge in hopes that we will thwart the efforts by many who seem eager to give away our democracy.

The book is a warning! Are we paying attention?

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