ADJUSTING MY THINKING

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher impressed on me that once you started reading a book, you had a “moral obligation” to finish it. One evening, after I was married, I was struggling to finish a 500 page book I was definitely not enjoying. My Better Half advised me to “Go ahead and quit!” When I told him I had to finish it, he said,” There are too many good books ‘out there’ to waste your time on one you don’t like.” Those words of wisdom led to my fifty page rule: If an author doesn’t capture my attention in the first fifty pages, I can categorize it a DNF (did not finish) and toss it aside.

This year (2020) I began the 2020 Alphabet Challenge, Author Edition

I had successfully completed (in a year) the same challenge, only the Titles Edition in 2019, that I thought this one would be a piece of cake. Sadly, I have completed “M” and am so “done.” Perhaps I shall resurrect the rest of this challenge in 2021, but for now, I am bidding it farewell. It was a lot of fun, but for now, I’ll take a break. The thing that encouraged me to take this step is that more than one of you mentioned on your blog or a reply to one of our posts that sometimes you didn’t finish a challenge, that reading the books you chose for the challenge was enough, that the challenge had “served its purpose.” Thank you, sweet blogging friends, for letting me off the hook. Knowing me, I will finish the challenge at a later date, but for now I am set free to adopt another challenge if I feel like it.

Keep on reading!

SUNDAY REVIEW

ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820  A book I read for the 2020 Alphabet Challenge, author edition sponsored by Dollycas is Robert Inman’s Old Dogs and Children. This is one of novelist Inman’s lesser known novels than his Home Fires Burning, but it had everything a reader would want in a Southern story: a family matriarch named Bright Birdsong, whose father opened the sawmill that founded the town and whose son is a state senator; civil rights protests ; and as the title suggests, old dogs (Gladys, who lives under the house) and children (Jimbo, Bright’s stuffy, city-reared grandson whom she soon changes into a real “country boy” complete with bare feet and bib overalls.)

The author has a true gift for description, whether it be the grand parade on the governor’s return to his hometown after a nasty scandal where he is literally caught with his pants down, or the road trip to the capitol by Bright and Jimbo carrying their lottery ticket winnings in cash in an old, beat up suitcase stuffed under the front seat of Bright’s decrepit old car. There are several zany scenes that made me laugh out loud, yet the book is warm in that it “shimmers with joy and wisdom, understanding and forgiveness.”

Bright is an impulsive woman who tries to right wrongs but doesn’t always think about the best way to do things. She is both strong willed and empathetic when it comes to what’s right and what’s wrong. Because of this she finds herself caught up in protests and marches reminiscent of the 60s in their little town. Bright’s philosophy is the same as her dad’s , “Something will always come along.” and in this moving delightful story, it always does–sometimes prompted by Bright.

I DID IT!

shopping-1ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820 I did it!! All 500+ (800+ for large print) pages!! And what a delight it was. There were many “faces” I’d met in documentaries and historical books about WWII, and the stamina of the English citizens made me proud for my grandmother’s people.

Larson never ceases to amaze me; his non-fiction facts are strung together in a way that makes his books read like a novel, tracing threads of family drama, political intrigue and biographical characterization.  I have read and enjoyed several of Larson’s books, but this one was as fascinating as it was informative. I never lost interest or was bored. I loved following the career and love-life of Churchill’s daughter,Mary and was entertained by the excesses his wife, Clementine put up with from The Prime Minister.

Any WWII fan will enjoy this book, but so will readers who enjoy a “darned good read.”

“J” and “K” ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE 2020

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Learning to teach on line has put me behind on this challenge, so I have read two children’s chapter books for letters “J” and “K.”

The Doughnut King by Jessie Janowitz is a book I would recommend to/for reluctant readers, especially boys in grades 6-8. Tris Levin’s family moves from NYC to Petersville,  due to a family situation. A dying small town, Petersville is very different from New York. Tris, a middle schooler, whose talent is baking, begins a donut business and puts some new energy into the town’s economy. Will Petersville disappear forever, or can Tris’s entrepreneurship save the day? This is a 2019 publication and should be available wherever books are ordered.

“K” stands for Amy Sarig King’s The Year We Fell from Space, which is the story of Liberty and her little sister Jilly who see and discover a meteorite. Is this a sign from the Universe that their mom and dad will get back together after a recent divorce? Will the family fall apart like something that fell from outer space, or will the efforts of the sisters make a difference? The answer might be surprising. It definitely is satisfying. This book was also published in 2019.

For letter “L,” I am continuing to read Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vileshopping-1 which I’ve had to return to the library, but I have requested it again, and may have to finish it out of order. Later today, I will search my TBR shelves for my selection for the letter “M.” Does”M” mean I’m halfway through the alphabet? I’m hoping to finish this challenge by the end of the year.

Until next time…READ ON!

Continuing 2020 ALPHABET CHALLENGE, Author Edition: Letter “H”

Naoki Higashda, the author I picked for the letter “H” is thirteen years old and autistic. His best-selling memoir, The Reason Why I Jump, is an enlightening, beautifully written and explained peek into the autistic mind. His autism, however, is not what makes this writer special, however; it is his always patient, sometimes poetic style of writing.ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820

One of my Advanced Writing students chose this book for her Memoir Project Assignment this semester, and she recommended the book so highly, I bought it to read for April, National Autism Awareness Month. I’m so glad I did.

I reviewed this book on “Powerful Women Readers” (Put the title in the search box and it will give you a link to “Literacy and Me,” my “other” blog.) earlier this month. If you are searching for an excellent non-fiction read, I highly recommend this one.

Letter “G” of the 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge, author version

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Elizabeth Gilbert is an author whose books I have always found pleasing. After reading her non-fiction offerings, I was intrigued as to what her novel would be like.Unknown.jpeg

City of Girls, which deals with life in New York City over several decades, held a special spot in my heart at this time because my  girlfriends’ trip to New York, scheduled for March 19th through 23rd, was cancelled thanks to COVID-19. Sighing as I read about landmarks and all things New York that I wouldn’t be seeing any time soon, I was soon caught up in the story of Vivian who tell of the “one true love of her life.”

To me, characterization is more important than plot, resolution of conflict, or anything else. To read of the personal growth of a character and the resulting actions (which of course have consequences) that character takes, makes for a fascinating read. Using questions suggested by a fellow blogger many years ago, I’d like to write this review in terms of characterization.

  1. Who was your favorite character? Definitely Aunt Peg, Vivian’s eccentric aunt who owns and runs the Lily Theater, and who has a hit on her hands, along with drama queens and complex social and sexual situations of her off-Broadway “family.”
  2. Who was your second favorite character? The primary character, Vivian is my second favorite character. Surely no one was ever so innocent or has ever undergone such change (and gained in knowledge) as this character was. She reminds me of myself and several other people who “just don’t think.”
  3. Would you want to follow these characters in future books? Because Vivian is an old woman as she begins to tell her story, a sequel would be unlikely, and Aunt Peg would be long deceased if a sequel were to occur, my answer would be no.
  4. What about the relationships between the characters in the book? That is exactly what made this novel a page-turner and a delight. The author never had her characters act out of character or in a way that wasn’t believable based on what the reader had been told about that character’s backstory.  

During the story, Vivian’s loss of innocence but lack of maturity cause her to “make a personal mistake that results in a professional scandal.” As a critic for The New Yorker wrote, this novel is “by turns flinty, funny, and incandescent.”What Vivian learned about life, in general, was “You don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person.”                                               

TUESDAY TEASER

Today’s Tuesday Teaser is from Robert Inman’s Old Dogs and Children, my selection for the “I” of the author’s version of the 2020 Alphabet Soup Challenge.ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820.jpg

“Suds flew. Bright sat on a stool next to the counter by the sink while Hosannah washed the dinner dishes. It was her second-favorite place in the house, next to the big green overstuffed chair in the music room where she snuggled with her father.”
This story which opens with Bright as a sixty-year-old woman greeting the morning sun from her front porch, flashes back frequently  to her childhood and upbringing in the Deep South from the storytelling author of Deep Fires Burning.

What are you currently reading? List the author, title, and a few lines from where you left off last. Maybe you will “tease” me into adding your book to my TBR list.

Wednesday’s Words/The 2020 Alphabet Challenge

ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820Today’s post is a mishmash of many memes.

61lkiZmMBvL-1 I want to tell you first why I ordered a copy of this particular book. First, one of my students read it for her Memoir Assignment, and her review made me want to read it. Second, in April I’m going to start a meme, “All Things Autistic” for the month, participating in National Autism Awareness Month; and third, because the author’s name begins with an “H.”

It is an easy read, done in the form of Questions and Answers, and it is written by a thirteen-year-old, autistic author. So far it is a great read.

WWWWednesdays

What are you reading?   61lkiZmMBvL-1

 

What did you finish lately?thumbnail_20200308_105121.jpg

What will you read next?

 

I will finish City Of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert .

 

Wednesday Word of the Day

audacious

Audacious is my word for 2020, and it means  “bold” / ” courageous” / “outspoken.  This is something I want to learn–to speak up for myself, to speak up when something is not right (I just finished watching the movie, The Hate U Give on Amazon. I highly recommend it.), to try new things: foods, techie skills, teaching on line; maybe you CAN teach an old dog/woman/professor new tricks! LOL

Let me know YOUR word for 2020. Write a comment in the reply box below.

AND…AS ALWAYS…KEEP ON READING. Books are cheap in a time when libraries are forced to close.

BOOKS “E” and “F” of the 2020 ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE, Author’s edition

Thank you Dollycas for such a great challenge. Here are books “E” and “F”ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820.jpg

BOOK “E”– Tony Evans, author of The Last Promise, set this 2002 romance at a Tuscan vineyard complete with Italian villa, resident artist, and asthmatic son. I had read Evan’s The Christmas Box years ago as a Third Tuesday December book club selection. When Promise showed up as a donation for my Little Free Library,A98244D5-A015-438B-BB9D-688C2EFD5E36.jpeg I set it aside where it sat on my TBR shelf for over a year.

The author is a great storyteller who makes the reader care about the characters. Eliana, an artist married to a womanizing, rich husband lives in one part of the villa. She meets another resident of the huge villa, Ross, an American turned tour guide at the Uffizi (an art museum) who is harboring a secret. The two fall in love, of course, but the path of true love is often rocky. What results is beautiful descriptions of Italy, intrigue and mystery, and heart-tugs galore. It is a darned good read.thumbnail_20200308_105121.jpg

BOOK “F”–This 2012 adventure novel by the mysterious author, Magnus Flyte (What a pseudonym!) is also a blog recommendation from a fellow blogger, thus killing two book objectives with one read: The Alphabet Challenge and to read 20 books recommended by blogging friends in 2020. The novel includes science, magic, history, and art in all of its forms.

Sarah Watson (a play on Sherlock Holmes’ assistant) is the strong, female protagonist. She has been invited to Prague, City of Dark Magic, by her old professor Dr. Sherbatsky, offering her a job as a musicologist specializing in Beethoven at the Lobkowicz Palace there. When she arrives, she is shocked that Professor Sherbatsky had died under mysterious circumstances that has been classified as a suicide. Sarah knows in her heart this is impossible and sets out to find out the truth of his demise.

“This deliciously madcap novel has it all: murder in Prague, time travel [in the most original, unique way I’ve ever seen it done] a misanthropic Beethoven, tantric sex [plenty of it–all in good fun] and a dwarf with an attitude” Connan O’ Brien.

This novel is a hilarious, page-turning romp with an especially exciting ending.

 

These two have me ready to go back to Gilbert’s City of Girls next for the “G” novel of The 2020 Alphabet Challenge.city of g

 

2020 ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE, Author Edition

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Book “D” of the Alphabet Soup Challenge is one I picked out at a library near the university where I work, Over the Hills and Far Away by Matthew Dennison. Published in 2017, it is a fine biography of Beatrix Potter, renowned children’s author and illustrator. I learned many fascinating facts about Potter that demonstrated how ahead of her time and what a resilient, versatile woman she was. The photographs and illustrations added a nice touch to the author’s description of a woman I have come to admire.