June 30, 2018

Paris in July

It's that time of year! I rarely take part in any book challenges anymore, but Paris in July is one I still enjoy, whether I contribute to the group postings or simply read from my collection during the month of July. Here's what I've selected for this year's event. 

Paris in July 2018

It's a less ambition stack compared to previous years, but as you will see there are a few holdovers from 2012 that I hope to finally read this month. Now to decide which one to begin with.

2012 Paris in July Challenge

Paris in July is hosted by Tamara at Thyme and Tea. The challenge is a French themed blogging experience running from the 1st – 31st July this year.

The aim of the month is to celebrate our French experiences through actual visits, or through reading, watching, listening, observing, cooking and eating all things French! 

There will be no rules or targets in terms of how much you need to do or complete in order to be a part of this experience – just blog about anything French and you can join in! Some ideas might include:
  • reading a French themed book – fiction or non-fiction
  • watching a French movie
  • listening to French music
  • cooking French food
  • experiencing French, art, architecture and travel
For more instructions how to share your posts go to Thyme for Tea.

June 29, 2018

Looking Back - A Fine Balance

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.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
1995 Vintage
Finished in November 1997
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Publisher's Blurb:

With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall masters from Balzac to Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers--a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village--will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.

As Rohinton Mistry's characters move from distrust to friendship and from friendship to love, A Fine Balance creates an enduring panorama of the human spirit in an inhuman state.

My Original Notes (1997):

Great novel, although pretty long. (603 pages)

Wonderfully descriptive. Harsh realities of life during this time period. I learned a lot about India and the caste system.

I highly recommend this book!

My Current Thoughts:

When I was working at Barnes & Noble, this is one of those books that would often come up in conversation with customers when asked about some of my favorite books. I remember how much I loved losing myself in Mistry's marvelous novel, not wanting it to end, in spite of its length. I can still recall several scenes from the story, but most of the details are long forgotten. I've moved this book from Nebraska to Texas, back to Nebraska and now to Oregon, with hopes of reading it a second time. Will it still have the same magic? With so many unread books on my shelves, not to mention the investment in time to re-read it, it seems doubtful. Maybe I'll get it on Audible.com and give it a listen instead, but I'm not ready to get rid of my copy. Maybe I can suggest it to my book club.

June 27, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Eola Hills Wine Cellars
Salem, Oregon
June 2018

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

June 24, 2018

Bandon, Oregon - Day One

Sunday, October 22, 2017
Depoe Bay to Bandon, OR
Distance: 136 miles
Campsite: Bullards Beach State Park
Space: A39 (back-in)
Cost Per Night: $26 (plus $8 reservation fee)
Duration: 6 nights
Weather: 55 and cloudy (no rain)

After enjoying our two weeks on the Olympic Peninsula, we were eager to get back on the road for another adventure. Three weeks after our return, we were back on Hwy. 101, this time heading south. This would be my third trip to Bandon and my first time to camp at Bullard's Beach State Park. I couldn't wait! 

The drive down to Bandon was beautiful and (thankfully) uneventful. Not counting our lunch stop, it took us 3 1/2 hours. We didn't hit any rain other than a tiny sprinkle near Cape Perpetua. There was also some light fog there, but not enough to make for a stressful situation. It was actually a very nice day for a drive. There was some traffic following us near Yachats (pronounced "Ya-Hots") and Cape Perpetua, but the further south we drove, the more we had the road to ourselves. The curvy parts near the cape weren't bad since the signage to slow down was reasonable. Once again, I found that I had stopped thinking about pulling the trailer and just drove.

We looked for a nice place to stop for a picnic lunch in the trailer and wound up on a somewhat stressful detour, making our way into a residential area with narrow lanes and a couple of dead ends. Luckily, I didn't drive down those! (Backing up a trailer is not easy and backing up a trailer on a narrow residential street is no fun!) We made it back to Hwy. 101 and found a wayside (near Carter Lake) to pull into for our lunch break. Still feeling like a novice with the trailer, it can be pretty stressful to find myself in a situation where I might have trouble backing up to turn around. It's a learning process!

After arriving at our campsite and getting set up, we walked around the campground to check things out. It was off-season so there wasn't a ranger to check us in at the entrance of the park, but we had pre-registered, so all we needed to do was find our site. Later on, a ranger drove by in his truck and waved a hello to us. All good!

Loop A was quiet and with the tall shrubbery, felt pretty private. Each set of bathrooms (one per loop) has four showers with unlimited hot water at no cost. They were very clean and spacious. No complaints!

I hadn't planned for our arrival meal (something I've since learned to do!), but managed to thaw two hamburger patties to throw on the grill. Rod built a nice fire and we relaxed with our drinks before dinner. We could hear the soft murmurings of the folks two sites away, but they never got too loud.

Peaceful evening around the fire.

Click on photos to enlarge.

June 22, 2018

Looking Back - A Year in Provence

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.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Nonfiction - Travel Essays
1991 Vintage (first published in 1989)
Finished in November 1997
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January's frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. A Year in Provence transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.

My Original Notes (1997):

Marvelous! Each chapter consists of the happenings of the month. Very funny, as well as informative.

Definitely one to read again before a trip to Provence!

My Current Thoughts:

I no longer own a copy of this book, so at some point in time I must have decided it wasn't worth a re-read after all. I do remember that it was very funny, though!

June 21, 2018

84, Charing Cross Road

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
Nonfiction - Memoir
1990 Penguin Books (First published in 1970)
Finished on November 14, 2017
Rating: 5/5 (Excellent!)

Publisher's Blurb:

This charming classic, first published in 1970, brings together twenty years of correspondence between Helene Hanff, a freelance writer living in New York City, and a used-book dealer in London. Through the years, though never meeting and separated both geographically and culturally, they share a winsome, sentimental friendship based on their common love for books. Their relationship, captured so acutely in these letters, is one that will grab your heart and not let go.

I don't know how many times I've read this delightful book of letters, but I fall in love with it every time I pick it up. Last year I read it in one day for Nonfiction November and in spite of knowing the ending, I still got choked up when I read the letter to Helene from Frank's secretary.

You can read my previous post for 84, Charing Cross Road here.

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.