Sunday, May 28, 2023

Jumping from Iceland to Italy

The traffic lights in Akureyri, Iceland, have heart-shaped designs intended to evoke positive feelings among drivers.  Found HERE.

The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany
~ by Lori Nelson Spielman, 2020, fiction (Italy), 400 pages

A trio of second-born daughters sets out on a whirlwind journey through the lush Italian countryside to break the family curse that says they’ll never find love.  Since the day Filomena Fontana cast a curse upon her sister more than two hundred years ago, not one second-born Fontana daughter has found lasting love.  Some, like second-born Emilia, the happily-single baker at her grandfather’s Brooklyn deli, claim it’s an odd coincidence.

Others, like her sexy, desperate-for-love cousin Lucy, insist it’s a true hex.  But both are bewildered when their great-aunt calls with an astounding proposition:  If they accompany her to her homeland of Italy, Aunt Poppy vows she’ll meet the love of her life on the steps of the Ravello Cathedral on her eightieth birthday, and break the Fontana Second-Daughter Curse once and for all.

Sunday Salon
 is hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Duvet days

The main difference between a duvet and a comforter is that a comforter is just one piece of bedding while a duvet requires two separate pieces — an insert and cover.  A comforter is usually quilted with the filling evenly distributed, while a duvet has an insert that works as the fill.  Wait, you are thinking, what's this got to do with books?  After all, this is a book blog.

I read in Amy Azzarito's 2020 book The Elements of a Home (subtitled:  Curious Histories behind Everyday Household Objects, from Pillows to Forks) that some employers in the United Kingdom offer their staff  "duvet days" (p. 112).  That's like mental health days or personal days in the United States.  Letting folks skip work occasionally to stay in bed sounds good to me, though it wasn't a thing when I was still working.  
I wondered about the difference between a duvet and a comforter and found the top illustration HERE.)  I'm being wordy, as usual, but now we know.

Friday, May 26, 2023

Library Loot

The Great Upending ~ by Beth Kephart, 2020, children's YA fiction, 288 pages
When a troubled children’s book author moves to their farm, two kids with troubles of their own hatch a scheme to swipe the ending of the final book in a bestselling series to get a reward from the book’s publisher.  Twelve-year-old Sara and her brother Hawk are told that they are not to bother the man — The Mister — who just moved into the silo apartment on their farm.  It doesn’t matter that they know nothing about him and they think they ought to know something.  It doesn’t matter that he’s always riding that unicycle around.  Mama told them no way, no how are they to bother The Mister unless they want to be in a mess of trouble.

Trouble is the last thing Sara and her brother need.  Sara’s got a condition:  Marfan syndrome.  And that Marfan syndrome is causing her heart to have problems, the kind of problems that require surgery.  But the family already has problems.  The drought has dried up their crops and their funds, which means they can’t afford any more problems, let alone a surgery to fix those problems.  Sara can feel the weight of her family’s worry, and the weight of her time running out, but what can a pair of kids do?  Well, it all starts with — bothering The Mister.
I always love reading Beth Kephart's books.  She is an excellent writer.  Since I don't know anything about the condition, I also look forward to learning about Marfan syndrome.  If you have read this book, tell us what you thought and maybe your rating.  Here is a link in case you want to share your own Library Loot, which means the books that you got from the library.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Thinking about gratitude

When life seems negative, I realize I need to start thinking positively.  One way I've discovered to change my attitude is to start thinking of things that I'm grateful for.

(1)  I'm grateful that it is now okay to use the preposition "for" at the end of a sentence.

So I think I'll list a few things for which I am grateful.  (See?  I can also write a sentence the way my teachers taught me.)

(2)  I'm grateful for teachers.
(3)  I'm also grateful that some things change, like how we use words.
(4)  I'm grateful for my friends, even those I've never met (in person, anyway).

Have you read what I have at the bottom of my right sidebar?  "You might be a book blogger if you've never met some of your closest friends."  For example, I've never met Helen of Helen's Book Blog, but I know her and her family, in a way.  Are you one of my book blogger friends?

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

There's a word for that

The English language has some amusing words for things.  Here's one for word nerds:

Word of the Day #1

char·ley horse / noun (informal) = a cramp or feeling of stiffness in an arm or leg.  Example:  "She had a charley horse and limped as she went to the kitchen."

Word of the Day #2

roam /rəʊm / verb = to wander without a plan or a specific destination.  Example:  "Does your cat roam around the neighborhood all day?"

Why did I choose this word today?  Because someone mentioned that my cat roams the hall where I live.  No, she doesn't.  She walks beside me from our end of the hall to the other end and back again.  That is NOT roaming.

Word of the Day #3

gormless /chiefly British = dull, stupid, and lacking in intelligence.  Example:  "Professor Pigeon is not gormless."

I don't remember ever running across this word before, until this week.  So I looked it up.  I'd say Professor Pigeon is definitely the opposite of gormless.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Two more stories

Defense Mech (in the Ray Bradbury Super Pack) ~ by Ray Bradbury, 2021, short SciFi story, 8/10

Opening lines:  Halloway stared down at Earth, and his brain tore loose and screamed, Man, man, how'd you get in a mess like this, in a rocket a million miles past the moon, shooting for Mars and danger and terror and maybe death.

Lorelei of the Red Mist ~ by Leigh Brackett with Ray Bradbury, 1946, SciFi romance

Opening lines:  Hugh Starke had died, he was absolutely certain of that.  He had not survived when his spaceship crashed as he desperately tried to escape the authorities after pulling off the greatest lone-wolf heist in history.  And then he awakened in a new body to find himself a powerful, rich man on a world of bizarre loveliness.  He was pleased by his good luck . . . until he discovered that his new body was hated by everyone on this strange and lovely planet, and that his soul was owned by Rann, devil-goddess of Falga, who was using him for her own gain.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Amelia Bedelia books

Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping ~ by Peggy Parish, illustrations by Lynn Sweat, 1985, children's humor, 57 pages

Ever since the very literal Amelia Bedelia made her debut in 1963, young readers have been laughing out loud at the antics of this literal-minded but charming housekeeper.  Children learn to read with these classic Amelia Bedelia books.  The New York Times Book Review says "she's usually right when she's wrong."

Amelia Bedelia has never been camping in the great outdoors before.  She's trying her best to do exactly as she's told, but pitching a tent is not the same as throwing it into the bushes, and catching a fish with your bare hands isn't easy.  As usual, Amelia Bedelia makes this camping trip one hugely entertaining adventure.

Yesterday, I posted about how literally I took my mother's words when I was about four years old.  One person commented, "Oh dear!!  You were a very literal little child!  I'm guessing the Amelia Bedelia books were made for you?"  Oh, no, by the time Amelia Bedelia hit the shelves (no, no, don't hit any shelves, Amelia!), I was a mother of three.  Maybe my children read those books, but — really, folks — do you think I can remember everything I read to them sixty years ago?  Anyway, I've put Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping and the newer one below (by her nephew) on reserve at my library, along with that very first Amelia Bedelia, which was published in 1963.

Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School
~ by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynne Avril, 2011, children's humor, 32 pages

Amelia Bedelia goes to school and mixes up just about everything in this bright and funny picture book about the childhood of the iconic character.  Amelia Bedelia is sure that she will absolutely love school — after all, what's not to love?  But after hopping on the bus "just like a bunny" (hurry up, sweetie!), confusing her name tag with a game (we are not playing tag), and gluing herself to her seat (oh, dear), Amelia Bedelia discovers that what she takes for granted is not always the way the world works.

FYI ~ Herman Parish was in the fourth grade when his aunt, Peggy Parish, wrote the first book about Amelia Bedelia.  The lovable, literal-minded housekeeper has been a member of his family ever since.  Peggy Parish died in 1988.  She would be proud and delighted to know that her nephew is carrying on — for a new generation of readers — the tradition she began years ago.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

"Keep an eye on your brother"

Words, words, and more words

My brother was born a two-and-a-half-years after me.  Mother was taking us for a walk when I was about four, pushing him in a stroller similar to this illustration.  Mrs. England was in her yard, so Mom stopped to talk to her, saying to me, "Keep an eye on your baby brother."  I was so perturbed and so anxious that, to this day, I can vividly recall what I felt.  I wailed back her, "How can I keep an eye on him?  Do I take out my eye and put it on him?"  As you can see (see? ha!), I was very literal and took words quite seriously!  Are you surprised that I became a wordsmith and a writer?  Oh, and also an editor?

Word of the Day

word·​smith /ˈwərd-ˌsmith / noun = a person who works with words, especially a skillful writer.  Example:  My first business was called Wordsmith.  (I still have my old business license, framed.)

The Monster Maker ~ by Ray Bradbury, 2020, science fiction, 58 pages, 9/10

Blast off to adventure in this golden age space opera story!  Their orders were simple, to capture the dread Space Pirate Gunther and bring him in.  But once their ship crashed onto an asteroid, the two men's chance at success weren’t looking very good.  All they had to work with were an hour of air each, one gun, a news-reel camera, and their wits.

Morgue Ship
~ by Ray Bradbury, 2020, science fiction, 13 pages, 9/10

This was Burnett's last trip.  Three more shelves to fill with space-slain warriors — and he would be among the living again.

Lazarus Come Forth ~ by Ray Bradbury, 2020, science fiction, 18 pages, 9/10

The Morgue Ship had gleaned information from space that would end the three hundred year war, knowledge that would defeat the aggressor Martians — if Brandon could carry it to Earth.
Sunday Salon
is hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Questions, questions, and more questions

Questions Jesus Asked ~ by Magrey R. deVega, 2023, religion, 160 pages

Jesus was fond of asking questions, many of which cut right to the heart of what it means to be human.  Why are you terrified?  What do you live for?  Who do you say that I am?  This book explores six of the most provocative questions Jesus posed to others.  These questions reveal what Jesus really cares about.  These are things Jesus wanted to know about people around him.

Jesus Is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered ~ by Martin B. Copenhaver, 2014, religion, 192 pages

Contrary to some common assumptions, Jesus is not the ultimate Answer Man, but more like the Great Questioner.  This book points out that Jesus asks many more questions than he answers.  To be precise, Jesus asks 307 questions.  He answers only 3 of 183 questions he is asked.  In other words, for every question he answers directly he asks — literally — a hundred.

A reader commented:  "The note taped over the title on the cover implies that the book covers 307 questions which it. DOES NOT. I didn't expect a detailed discussion on each of the. 307 question, I didn't even expect a paragraph on each one. But at least a list and a reference."  Good point.  The first book above explores only six of those questions.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Beginning ~ with reason and revelation

Beginning  In this book, I propose that if we want to understand the ideas the Hebrew Scriptures were written to advance, we should read these texts much as we read the writings of Plato or Hobbes — as works of reason or philosophy, composed to assist individuals and nations looking to discover the true and the good in accordance with man's [sic] natural abilities (p. 31).

The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture ~ by Yoram Hazony, 2012, philosophy, 394 pages

What if the Hebrew Bible wasn't meant to be read as “revelation”?  What if it's not really about miracles or the afterlife — but about how to lead our lives in this world?  This book proposes a new framework for reading the Bible to show how biblical authors used narrative and prophetic oratory to advance universal arguments about ethics, political philosophy, and metaphysics.  It assumes no belief in God or other religious commitment and no previous background in Bible.  Here's a list from the Amazon page about this book (slightly edited):
  • People say that Bible is about obeying God’s commands, but biblical figures such as Moses, Aaron, and Pinchas [spelled Phinehas, in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible; see Exodus 6:25] disobey God and are praised or rewarded for it.
  • People say Abraham was praised because of his willingness to sacrifice his only son on an altar, but Abraham never decides he will sacrifice Isaac.  He believes God will back down, and the Bible tells us so explicitly.
  • People say that the biblical heroes are mostly men, but the Bible goes out of its way to emphasize that no fewer than five different women risked their lives in the struggle to save the infant Moses, suggesting that without every one of these women the Jews would never have left Egypt.
  • People say the Bible is about faith as the ultimate value, but the law of Moses includes no commandment to have faith, and the Bible tells us that Moses himself was unable to attain a perfect faith in God.
  • People say that God calls himself “I am that I am” at the burning bush, implying (as tradition has it) that he is perfect being, eternal and unchanging, but the original text actually says the opposite of this:  In Hebrew God says, “I will be what I will be,” suggesting that God is not perfect, but rather imperfect and changing.
  • People say that the biblical kingdom of the Israelites was destroyed because it turned to idolatry, but the fall of the kingdom begins with Solomon, his inability to control his desire for big armies, women, and gold, and the ruinous taxation and enslavement of his people that result from this.
  • People say the story of Cain and Abel is about hatred between brothers, but Cain and Abel aren’t just any brothers.  They stand for conflicting ways of life — the life of the farmer vs. that of the shepherd.  Abel is just the first in a line of biblical heroes (including Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and David) who choose the life of the shepherd and what it represents and thus win God’s love.
Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Thursday Thoughts

I told you on Sunday (a mere four days ago) that I'd be moving soon into my new apartment, and I posted a photo of the front of the building, adding:  "My apartment is on this side."  Nope!  Though it will still be on the same floor, now I'll have a different apartment facing the other direction.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Two books by Christina Soontornvat

The Last Mapmaker ~ by Christina Soontornvat, 2022, children's fiction, 359 pages

Joining an expedition to chart the southern seas, twelve-year-old mapmaker's assistant Sai, posing as a well-bred young lady with a glittering future, realizes she's not the only one on board harboring secrets when she discovers the ship's true destination.

A Wish in the Dark ~ by Christina Soontornvat, 2020, children's fiction, 375 pages

This Newbery Honor Book — about a boy on the run and a girl determined to find him — looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice.  All light in Chattana is created by the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city.  For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them.

But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars.  The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness.  Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name.  But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear.

Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, this twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Musing about Clover

~ by Dori Sanders, 1990, fiction (South Carolina), 184 pages

Clover is a 10-year old black girl from a small town in South Carolina.  She is forced to forge a new relationship with the white stepmother she hardly knows, when her father dies only hours after marrying the woman.

Word of the Day

mus·ing / noun = a period of reflection or thought.  Example:  "My musing was interrupted by a knock on the door."

Musing about this 10-year-old

When we read fiction, we put ourselves in someone else's shoes.  Right now, I'm in the shoes of a child, learning what it feels like to live with a stranger of a different race.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

What I'm reading ~ and our new apartment building

The Watchmaker's Daughter ~ by Dianne Haley, 2022, historical fiction (Switzerland), 280 pages

Hiding the worn piece of paper among her father’s watch deliveries, her eyes fill with tears at the memory of her brave friend walking towards the Nazi soldiers, and the sharp sound of gun fire.  Her friend sacrificed herself so that she could deliver this message.  But if she hands it over, the love of her life will die.

1942, Geneva:  As her radio crackles with heart-breaking news from occupied France, Valérie Hallez gazes towards the snow-covered Alps after a long day helping her father, a local watchmaker.  With a Nazi invasion looming, she is sick with worry for the future of her country, and for Philippe, her childhood sweetheart with soft brown eyes.  Valérie might not be able to join the army like him, but she is determined to play her part in the fight against evil.

In defiance of her father, Valérie helps the French Resistance by smuggling messages among her father’s watch deliveries.  And when darkness falls, she risks everything to hide Jewish refugee children in his old workshop.  Philippe fears for her safety, as her work for the Resistance could come with a heavy price.  But nothing will stop her delivering vital information and getting terrified children to safety before they are sent back to the Nazis.

But when Valérie is entrusted with an urgent letter for the Allies, she finds herself in an impossible position.  The information it contains could alter the course of the war.  But if she hands over the message now, it will cost Philippe his life.  With Nazi spies closing in on her, Valérie must act now.  But can she really trust the man she loves, and will she find a way to save both him and her country before it’s too late?

We're close to moving into our new building.  My apartment is on this side.

Bloggers gather in the Sunday Salon — at separate
computers in different time zones — to talk about
our lives, our books, and our reading.
We are hosted by Deb Nance at Readerbuzz.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Ghosts, anyone?

The Saturday Night Ghost Club ~ by Craig Davidson, 2019, fiction, 224 pages

This is a coming-of-age story about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends.  Growing up in 1980s Niagara Falls — a seedy but magical, slightly haunted place — Jake Baker spends most of his time with his uncle Calvin, a kind but eccentric enthusiast of occult artifacts and conspiracy theories.  The summer Jake turns twelve, he befriends a pair of siblings new to town, and so Calvin decides to initiate them all into the "Saturday Night Ghost Club."

But as the summer goes on, what began as a seemingly light-hearted project may ultimately uncover more than any of its members had imagined.  This novel poignantly examines the haunting mutability of memory and storytelling, as well as the experiences that form the people we become.

Word of the Day

mutability = mu·ta·bil·i·ty / noun = liability or tendency to change.  Example:  "I'm curious about the mutability of memory and storytelling in that book above."

Friday, May 12, 2023

Beginning ~ in 1970


It was a beautiful day; that needs to be said —
the first beautiful spring day in Kent,
after a long, dark, cold Ohio winter —

            And Nixon!

Yes, that speech.
Now we knew the war was going to go on.
And on.
We knew more would die.

            More would be us!

Kent State ~ by Deborah Wiles, 2020, YA historical fiction, 144 pages

From two-time National Book Award finalist Deborah Wiles, a masterpiece exploration of one of the darkest moments in our history, when American troops killed four American students protesting the Vietnam War.  May 4, 1970.  Kent State University.

As protestors roil the campus, National Guardsmen are called in.  In the chaos of what happens next, shots are fired and four students are killed.  To this day, there is still argument of what happened and why.  Told in multiple voices from a number of vantage points — protestor, Guardsman, townie, student — Deborah Wiles's Kent State gives a moving, terrifying, galvanizing picture of what happened that weekend in Ohio . . . an event that, even 50 years later, still resonates deeply.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Thursday Thoughts ~ and Book Beginnings

Someone made a snarky remark about what I'd just said, and I've been thinking about it for a day or so.  I remembered that my mother told me — repeatedly — "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  So I've probably already said too much and should just shut up.  On the other hand, maybe I ought to go read this library book that I've checked out.
People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys ~ by Dr. Mike Bechtle, 2012, psychology, 208 pages

Strange as it may seem, other people are not nearly as committed to our happiness as we are.  In fact, sometimes they seem like they're on a mission to make us miserable!  There's always that one person, the one who hijacks your emotions and makes you crazy, the one who seems to thrive on drama.  If you could just "fix" that person, everything would be better.  But we can't fix other people — we can only make choices about ourselves.

In this cut-to-the-chase book, communication expert Mike Bechtle shows readers that they don't have to be victims of other people's craziness.  With commonsense wisdom and practical advice that can be implemented immediately, Bechtle gives readers a proven strategy to handle crazy people.  More than just offering a set of techniques, Bechtle offers a new perspective that will change readers' lives as they deal with those difficult people who just won't go away.

Book beginnings

Someone said that if you took all the crazy people in your life and laid them end to end ... it would be best to just leave them there (p. 9).

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Words I've heard or used that have gone out of style

  • Poodle skirts (I remember seeing this exact shade of pink in the 1950s)
  • hunky-dory
  • You sound like a broken record
  • Hung out to dry
  • Having a lot of moxie

  • Pedal pushers (which came just below the knees; if they stopped above the knees, they were Bermuda shorts)
  • Heavens to Betsy
  • Gee Whillikers
  • Jumping Jehoshaphat
  • Holy Moley
  • In like Flynn
  • Living the life of Riley
  • Being a knucklehead, a nincompoop, or a pill
  • Beehive hair styles (illustrated above)
  • Not for all the tea in China
  • That would be swell
  • Wearing spats, knickers, fedoras, or saddle oxfords
  • Kilroy was here
  • Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle
  • Pageboy haircut (illustrated above)
  • Heavens to Murgatroyd!
  • Don’t touch that dial
  • Carbon copy
  • Straighten up and fly right
  • This is a fine kettle of fish
  • Pshaw
  • jalopy (like this one above)
  • Hey, it’s your nickel
  • Knee high to a grasshopper
  • Well, fiddlesticks!
  • I’ll see you in the funny papers
  • Don’t take any wooden nickels
  • More of [whatever] than Carter has little liver pills
  • See ya later, alligator (to which a person would reply, "After while, crocodile.")
These words are heard no more, except in the collective memory of old folks like me.

Oops!  There's a children's book using that last one as a title:  See You Later, Alligator by Sally Hopgood, illustrated by Emma Levey, 2015, children's picture book, 32 pages.

Are you old enough to remember hearing any of these words or phrases?  I've worn pedal pushers and Bermuda shorts.  Did you ever sport a pageboy or beehive haircut?

What does it mean to sport something?  To sport is a transitive verb meaning to have or wear something in a proud way.  Example :  "He sported a beard."  Another example:  "All the bridesmaids sported beehive haircuts at Mary Jane's wedding."