June 19, 2018

From Beginning To End

From Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum
Nonfiction - Essays
1995 Villard Books
Finished on November 14, 2017
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Here is the book of a lifetime: a celebration of our everyday lives. Births, weddings, reunions, funerals: These are some of the events that Robert Fulghum explores in this powerful new work.

How we change--yet remain constant--from moment to moment, year to year, from one stage of life to another, is Fulghum's memorable theme in From Beginning to End. Here, America's most beloved philosopher and essayist teaches us how to address our personal transformations, large and small, with dignity, love, and acceptance. Whether they are public rituals, anything from weddings to sales meetings; private rituals, such as the saying of grace at a family dinner; or secret passages, such as one's personal greeting of the day, these habits and routines are sacred, as they bring structure and meaning to daily life, enriching who we are both individually and collectively. "Structure gives us a sense of security," Fulghum writes. "And that sense of security is the ground of meaning." In this book, Fulghum prepares us for the whole range of meaningful and spiritual journeys that we take from childhood to old age.

Filled with unforgettable anecdotes and practical advice, and replete with Fulghum's signature wit, wisdom, and sagacity, From Beginning to End is a book to cherish, savor, and return to again and again for all the days of our lives.

From Beginning To End is another book I chose to re-read during the Nonfiction November Challenge. I wrote about Fulghum's essays here and don't have anything else to add other than that I wound up skimming the second half and that it wasn't as good as the first time I read it. 

Original Rating: 4/5 (Very Good) 

June 15, 2018

Looking Back - The Sparrow

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Science Fiction
1996 Fawcett Columbine
Finished in October 1997
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Sparrow, an astonishing literary debut, takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul. It is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a twenty-first-century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture. Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the mission's sole survivor--only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission's failure.

In clean, effortless prose and with captivating flashes of wit, Russell creates memorable characters who navigate a world of exciting ideas and disturbing moral issues without ever losing their humanity or humor. Both heartbreaking and triumphant, and rich in literary pleasures great and small, The Sparrow is a powerful and haunting book. It is a magical novel, as literate as The Name of the Rose, as farsighted as The Handmaid's Tale and as readable as The Thorn Birds.

My Original Notes (1997):

Wow! Excellent book!! This is one I plan on reading again. It was fun to read my first "sci-fi" novel and enjoy it as much as I did. I loved the extrapolation of technology. The characters were very likeable and I felt so sad when some died. A very thought-provoking book. Suspenseful. Funny. I'd love to see a movie of this. Kind of reminds me of Contact.

My Current Thoughts:

What can I possibly say about this amazing novel?! I've read it twice and it was just as wonderful as the first time around. I met the author at a book conference in Cleveland in 1998 and she was delightful and funny and so sweet to our small book club, all of whom were quite taken with the book and eager to talk to her about the characters and the possibility of a film. This is a keeper and one I'll read again and again. 

Click here to read my 2008 review of The Sparrow.

June 14, 2018


Night by Elie Wiesel
1982 Bantam (First published in 1958)
Finished on November 13, 2017
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family... the death of his innocence... and the death of his GOD. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

Original Yiddish title: Un di Velt Hot Geshvign/And the World Remained Silent

This is another book that I decided to re-read for the Nonfiction Challenge last November. It's a very quick read and I got halfway thru in one afternoon/evening. I found it to be much more powerful than the first time I read it, perhaps because I'm 21 years older than I was back then? It's still a keeper!

My Original Notes (1996):

I highly recommend this book. Short, concise and heartbreaking. How could anyone survive the ordeal without losing their mind?!

June 13, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Eel Lake
Lakeside, Oregon
June 2018

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

June 12, 2018

High Tide in Tuscon

High Tide in Tuscson by Barbara Kingsolver
Nonfiction - Essays
1995 HarperPerennial
Finished on November 11, 2017
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

In these twenty-five newly conceived essays, Barbara Kingsolver once again turns to her favored literary terrain to explore themes of family, community, and the natural world. With the eyes of a scientist and the vision of a poet, Kingsolver writes about notions as diverse as modern motherhood, the history of private property, and the suspended citizenship of humans in the animal kingdom. Kingsolver's canny pursuit of meaning from an inscrutable world compels us to find instructions for life in surprising places: a museum of atomic bomb relics, a West African voodoo love charm, an iconographic family of paper dolls, the ethics of a wild pig who persistently invades a garden, a battle of wills with a two-year-old, or a troop of oysters who observe high tide in the middle of Illinois. In sharing her thoughts about the urgent business of being alive, Kingsolver the essayist employs the same keen eyes, persuasive tongue, and understanding heart that characterize her acclaimed fiction. In High Tide in Tucson, Kingsolver is defiant, funny, and courageously honest.

"Barbara Kingsolver's essays should be savored like quiet afternoons with a friend.... [She] speaks in a language rich with music and replete with good sense." ~ New York Times Book Review

During last November's Nonfiction challenge, I decided to spend some of my time rereading a few of my favorite books of nonfiction. I loved this collection of essays when I read it in 1996, but this time wasn't nearly as enjoyable. I wasn't interested in a lot of the essays and the book started to feel like a slog. I had hoped for it to pick up, but at the halfway mark I was still frustrated. It was so disappointing to realize I no longer felt the same about it as I did in 1996. What I raved about in the past was now dry, pedantic and slow and I wound up skimming the last few essays, eager to be finished. Sadly, this is no longer a keeper.

The following is from my previous "Looking Back" post of September 1, 2016:

Actual Rating: 4.5/5

My Original Notes (1996):

Excellent! A variety of essays (25) exploring "themes of family, community, and the natural world." I especially enjoyed the essay about Kingsolver playing keyboard in a band with Stephen King, Amy Tan and Dave Barry. I know someone who saw them perform at ABA in Anaheim a few years ago.

Definitely a book to re-read. She sounds like a woman I'd like to have for a neighbor. I even considered sending her a fan letter... maybe I will. [I didn't.] I bought two copies of the book to give as gifts. I wonder if my friends will enjoy it as much as I did.

My Current Thoughts:

I have read (and loved) all but two of Kingsolvers' books. I still need to get a copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, as well as The Lacuna. I'm not sure why I've held off reading those... She is such a marvelous writer! With that said, I didn't care for her other collection of essays (Small Wonder) nearly as much as this book. I've had this one on my "keeper shelf" for a future re-read for 20 years and I plan to read it in 2017. I hope it lives up to my memory!

Thumbing through my dog-eared copy of High Tide in Tucson, I came across several passages that I will share when I read and review the book for a second time, but this one in particular caught my eye, particularly since I marked it with an ink pen and not a removable Post-It flag. (Gasp!) And since one of my earlier "Looking Back" posts is about Beloved, I thought it especially important to share it now rather than later:
I know, for example, that slavery was heinous, but the fate of sixty million slaves is too big a thing for a heart to understand. So it was not until I read Toni Morrison's Beloved that I honestly felt that truth. When Sethe killed her children rather than have them grow up in slavery, I was so far from my sheltered self I knew the horror that could make infanticide an act of love. Morrison carved the tragedy of those sixty million, to whom the book is dedicated, into something small and dense and real enough to fit through the door, get in my heart, and explode. This is how a novel can be more true than a newspaper.
What I love about a collection of good essays is that sense of validation of a particular belief or idea. It's nice to have someone share the same sentiments and express them in a literary or inspiring fashion.

Here is another passage that I'd like to remember:
Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job or a limb or a loved one, a graduation, bringing a new baby home:  it's impossible to think at first how this all will be possible. Eventually, what moves it all forward is the subterranean ebb and flow of being alive among the living.
In my own worst seasons I've come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.
Have you read this collection of essays? More than once? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

June 10, 2018

Two Old Women

Two Old Women by Velma Wallis
2004 Perennial (first published in 1993)
Finished on November 2, 2017
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Based on an Athabascan Indian legend passed along for many generations from mothers to daughters of the upper Yukon River Valley in Alaska, this is the suspenseful, shocking, ultimately inspirational tale of two old women abandoned by their tribe during a brutal winter famine.

Though these women have been known to complain more than contribute, they now must either survive on their own or die trying. In simple but vivid detail, Velma Wallis depicts a landscape and way of life that are at once merciless and starkly beautiful. In her old women, she has created two heroines of steely determination whose story of betrayal, friendship, community and forgiveness "speaks straight to the heart with clarity, sweetness and wisdom" (Ursula K. Le Guin).

I'm pretty sure I've read this before, but it must have been in my pre-blogging days. My book club chose it last fall and while it's a somewhat simple story with spare prose, we had a good discussion at our meeting. We all spoke about the strength and courage of the abandoned women and their struggle to survive in the wild. Their resilience was inspiring!

The book is a very quick read (140 pages) and can be easily be finished in an afternoon.

June 9, 2018

Olympic Peninsula Trip - The Family

Run, Jax, run!

A walk in the woods.

Lindsay, photographer extraordinaire!

June, Jax, Dad & Lindsay

Quinault River

Quinault Lake, WA

Quinault Lake, WA

Forks, WA

Quillayute River
Fork, WA

Port Townsend, WA

Port Townsend, WA

Our first big adventure was shared with my dad, stepmom June and (at Quinault Lake) my stepsister Lindsay. Dad and June showed us their favorite campgrounds and without their experience as well-seasoned RV travelers, we probably wouldn't have found these gems or done half as much exploring! It was a fun-filled two weeks and we were so happy to spend it with family. 

Click on the links to read more about our adventures.

June 8, 2018

Looking Back - The Stone Diaries

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1995 Penguin Books (first published in 1993)
Finished in October 1997
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Stone Diaries is one ordinary woman's story of her journey through life. Born in 1905, Daisy Stone Goodwill drifts through the roles of child, wife, widow, and mother, and finally into her old age. Bewildered by her inability to understand her place in her own life, Daisy attempts to find a way to tell her story within a novel that is itself about the limitations of autobiography. Her life is vivid with incident, and yet she feels a sense of powerlessness. She listens, she observes, and through sheer force of imagination she becomes a witness of her own life: her birth, her death, and the troubling missed connections she discovers between. Daisy's struggle to find a place for herself in her own life is a paradigm of the unsettled decades of our era. A witty and compassionate anatomist of the human heart, Carol Shields has made distinctively her own that place where the domestic collides with the elemental. With irony and humor she weaves the strands of The Stone Diaries together in this, her richest and most poignant novel to date.

My Original Notes (1997):

Fair to mediocre. I didn't care for the author's style. Not a very engrossing plot.

My Current Thoughts:

I only just recently read another book by Shields (A Celibate Season), which I liked quite well. I don't have any desire to go back and read this earlier work, though.

June 5, 2018

A Month in Summary - May 2018

Nehalem, Oregon
May 2018

What a fun-filled month! We started off by celebrating Rod's birthday with good friends and my mom, followed by two surprise birthday gatherings for my mom (who turned 85 this year!). My three brothers and one sister-in-law joined us at the Oregon Garden Resort to help with that milestone celebration. We all had a great time! Later that week, Rod & I took our new motorhome out for a five day shake-down "cruise." We boondocked at the Blue Heron in Tillamook on the first night, after a delicious lunch with blogmate Juli (of Whimpulsive) and Jeb at the Oar House in Pacific City. The next three nights were spent at the Nehalem Bay State Park, which is nestled in between the Nehalem Bay and the Pacific Ocean, just south of Manzanita. After our return, I joined a group of women from our neighborhood for a luncheon and behind-the-scenes tour at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. I didn't get to touch an octopus, but it was still a great experience. Rod & I helped with our neighborhood cove clean-up again this year, but it wasn't nearly as involved as last year since the winter storms didn't bring in as many logs and debris as in years past. We took my mom out to one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate our one-year anniversary here in Little Whale Cove and finished off the month with a great visit from my brother, sister-in-law and their two daughters from Lincoln. Phew! It's no wonder I didn't read very many book, work on any puzzles or watch much in the way of movies or TV series. And as I type, we're getting everything organized for another road trip with the motorhome. We leave on Tuesday for two weeks down the Oregon coast. Nope, we never get tired of exploring this beautiful area!

Books read in May: 

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos

First Lines:

Richard is playing the second movement of Schumann's Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, the final piece of his solo recital at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. The concert hall is sold-out, yet the energy here doesn't feel full. This venue doesn't carry the prestige or intimidating pressure of Lincoln Center or the Royal Albert Hall. Maybe that's it. This recital is no big deal. (Every Note Played)

That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. Water found its way into the smallest cracks and undermined the sturdiest foundations. Chunks of land that had been steady for generations fell like slag heaps on the roads below, taking houses and cars and swimming pools down with them. Trees fell over, crashed into power lines; electricity was lost. Rivers flooded their banks, washed across yards, ruined homes. People who loved each other snapped and fights erupted as the water rose and the rain continued. (The Great Alone)

It was what she would remember always: how the second she stepped inside, before she'd so much as taken her first full breath of new air, she was struck by the feeling--the understanding, the certainty--however improbable, that the house was Joseph. Not merely that it felt like something he would choose or that she saw his handiwork everywhere--fresh paint, thick as cream; refinished pine floors; green apples in a glass bowl--but that it was him, sturdy and open, light swooping in through every window, forthright and decent and kind. She would not have supposed that a house could be kind, but this one was. (I'll Be Your Blue Sky)

Movies & TV Series:

The Bridge - We are almost finished with Season Two, which is good, but not nearly as intense as the first season. 

The Age of Adaline - I thought this was a sweet, enjoyable movie, although at times, fairly predictable. 

Death in Paradise - I've given up on this silly series, but Rod is still hooked. 

Book Club - I saw this new movie with a couple of friends from my book club and we all thought it was highly entertaining. I don't care much for Jane Fonda, but Diane Keaton and Andy Garcia were wonderful and had great chemistry. I haven't laughed so much in a long time!

Outings & Trips:


We had such a great time surprising and celebrating my mom's 85th birthday. The Oregon Garden Resort is a lovely place for all sorts of celebrations. We stayed overnight and enjoyed catching up over drinks and appetizers before dining in the restaurant, which overlooks the gardens. After breakfast the following day, we wandered around the grounds admiring the gorgeous flowers.

After we checked out of the resort, we drove over to the Gallon House Covered Bridge in Silverton. It's one of the oldest covered bridges in Oregon.

After seeing the bridge, we drove to the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in nearby Woodburn. We just missed their annual festival, but the tulips were still beautiful and we enjoyed wandering around the beds, admiring all the different colors and varieties.

I have visited the Oregon Coast Aquarium on more than one occasion, but it was quite an experience getting a behind-the-scenes tour.

It was great to spend some time with Chris, Jen, Maddie and Emily. The weather cooperated and we had fun hiking Drift Creek Falls and exploring the tidepools at Moolack Beach.

I have a lot more pictures from all of these events, but I'll save the rest for separate posts. Thanks for reading this far! 

In Memorium:

2.17.81 - 5.28.05