November 24, 2018

Promise Me, Dad

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose by Joe Biden
Nonfiction - Memoir
2017 Audible Studios
Read by Joe Biden
Finished on February 3, 2018
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

A deeply moving memoir about the year that would forever change both a family and a country.

In November 2014, thirteen members of the Biden family gathered on Nantucket for Thanksgiving, a tradition they had been celebrating for the past forty years; it was the one constant in what had become a hectic, scrutinized, and overscheduled life. The Thanksgiving holiday was a much-needed respite, a time to connect, a time to reflect on what the year had brought, and what the future might hold. But this year felt different from all those that had come before. Joe and Jill Biden's eldest son, Beau, had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor fifteen months earlier, and his survival was uncertain. "Promise me, Dad," Beau had told his father. "Give me your word that no matter what happens, you're going to be all right." Joe Biden gave him his word.

Promise Me, Dad chronicles the year that followed, which would be the most momentous and challenging in Joe Biden's extraordinary life and career. Vice President Biden traveled more than a hundred thousand miles that year, across the world, dealing with crises in Ukraine, Central America, and Iraq. When a call came from New York, or Capitol Hill, or Kyiv, or Baghdad -- Joe, I need your help -- he responded. For twelve months, while Beau fought for and then lost his life, the vice president balanced the twin imperatives of living up to his responsibilities to his country and his responsibilities to his family. And never far away was the insistent and urgent question of whether he should seek the presidency in 2016.

The year brought real triumph and accomplishment, and wrenching pain. But even in the worst times, Biden was able to lean on the strength of his long, deep bonds with his family, on his faith, and on his deepening friendship with the man in the Oval Office, Barack Obama.

Writing with poignancy and immediacy, Joe Biden allows readers to feel the urgency of each moment, to experience the days when he felt unable to move forward as well as the days when he felt like he could not afford to stop.

This is a book written not just by the vice president, but by a father, grandfather, friend, and husband. Promise Me, Dad is a story of how family and friendships sustain us and how hope, purpose, and action can guide us through the pain of personal loss into the light of a new future.

I enjoyed this honest story about Joe Biden's struggle with his son's illness and untimely death, but I would have had greater appreciation had it focused more on his family life and less on foreign affairs and diplomatic crises. I picked up the book, looking to read a tribute to Beau and learn how his family dealt with the loss of their son. I didn't expect to read so much about Joe's experiences in office or his dealings with unstable countries. It was just a little too self-serving for my taste. 

Note about the audio:

I listened to Promise Me, Dad on audio (which is read by Biden) and found Joe's voice evenly paced and soothing, although he frequently dropped the volume of his voice, making it very difficult to understand him as he read.

November 23, 2018

Looking Back - A Yellow Raft in Blue Water

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 Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris
1988 Warner Books
Finished in January 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Michael Dorris has crafted a fierce saga of three generations of Indian women, beset by hardships and torn by angry secrets, yet inextricably joined by the bonds of kinship. Starting in the present day and moving backward, the novel is told in the voices of the three women: fifteen-year-old part-black Rayona; her American Indian mother, Christine, consumed by tenderness and resentment toward those she loves; and the fierce and mysterious Ida, mother and grandmother whose haunting secrets, betrayals, and dreams echo through the years, braiding together the strands of the shared past.

My Original Notes (1998):

Fantastic novel! I loved it and really didn't want it to end. I even put off reading the last chapter, saving it to be read in bed. [No distractions or interruptions.] Ida, Christine and Rayona became my friends and I didn't want them to leave! Beautifully written. Michael Dorris captured the voices of these three women, narrating their thoughts and emotions with superb realism - more so than Wally Lamb did [with his female character] in She's Come Undone. This one did move me to tears. What a shame this talented writer is no longer living.

A saga of three generations. Hardship. Angry secrets. Kinship.

My Current Thoughts:

I'm not certain, but I think I read this a second time and may not have enjoyed it quite as well as this first time. It may be that I went into that second reading knowing about the author's past (alleged sexual abuse with his two daughters; divorce from Louise Erdrich; suicide). 

November 21, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, Oregon
November 2018

Click on image for full size view.

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

November 20, 2018

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Young Adult Fiction
2017 Balzer + Bray
Finished on January 22, 2018
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

This timely debut novel is a raw, shocking read. The night I picked it up, I couldn't stop reading even after I hit the 150th page. I went into the novel without knowing anything about the storyline, so I was stunned when I read the details about Khalil's death. This is a compelling story that deals with racial profiling and the unimaginable world in which many minorities live. My only complaint about the book is the over abundant use of profanity. However, it's not gratuitous given the nature of the narrative. 

I'm curious about the movie and wonder if I really want to see it. I'm afraid it will only make me more angry about what has become a common occurrence in our country.

November 18, 2018

Flagstaff, Winslow, and Petrified Forest NP, AZ to Gallup, NM

Thursday, September 20, 2018
Flagstaff, Arizona to Gallup, New Mexico (via Petrified Forest National Park)
Distance: 283
Campground: USA RV Park
Duration: 1 night
Cost: $33.59
Weather: Sunny and warm

We are really getting to be early risers. We were up, had a mediocre breakfast at Cracker Barrel and were on the road by 8:00! Anyone who knows us will find this very hard to believe, I'm sure. ;)

We arrived at Petrified Forest National Park by 11:00, but first had to make a stop and pay tribute to the Eagles in Winslow, Arizona. We arrived shortly after 9:00, took all the obligatory photos and were back on the road 20 minutes later. There really isn't much else to do in Winslow and we weren't hungry enough to try any of the restaurants. However, if we ever drive through again, I hear the Turquoise Room at La Posada is excellent, so we'll have to check it out.

Bet you can't look at this
without humming the song!

Well, I'm a-standing on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord
In a flat-bed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me

You can read more about the history of the song, co-written by Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey, here.

Highway 180

I wasn't sure what to expect from Petrified Forest National Park, but I was glad we took the time to visit. The Rainbow Forest Museum and Visitor Center is informative with a park film and fossil exhibits, as well as a bookstore and trail information. I walked the Giant Logs Trail (an easy 1/2-mile loop) where I saw some of the largest petrified logs in the park. "Old Faithful" is almost 10 feet across at its base.

Beautiful colors in these logs!

The view from the Giant Logs Trail.

We continued on the 28-mile drive thru the park and stopped at Agate Bridge to take in the sweeping views of the landscape and see the 110-foot long petrified log bridge.

Continuing down the park road, we pulled over to get some photos of the Tepees, which are incredibly beautiful. We also stopped at Newspaper Rock, which displays more than 650 petroglyphs, some of which are over 2,00 years old. Sadly, we couldn't get close enough to see very many and I left the good camera with the zoom lens in the RV.

The Blue Mesa Member consists of thick deposits of grey, blue, purple, and green mudstones and minor sandstone beds, the most prominent of which is the Newspaper Rock Sandstone. This unit is best exposed in the Tepees area of the park. The Blue Mesa Member is approximately 220-225 million years old. (

Still heading north, we reached the Painted Desert Inn (a national historic landmark). We ate our lunch in the RV, enjoying the beautiful day and gorgeous scenery. The sky was bright blue with puffy white clouds and it was warm, but not uncomfortably hot. We explored the Desert Inn and took in more views from Kachina Point.

The Painted Desert Inn reopened in the late 1940s under the renowned Fred Harvey Company, a business with important ties to Southwest, railroad, and tourism history. Fred Harvey started his company as a partnership with the Santa Fe Railroad in 1876. His facilities for travelers were well known for comfort and quality. The company’s architect and interior designer, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, arrived in December of 1947. She was already noted for her innovative Southwestern concepts when she came to the Painted Desert Inn. Along with renovations and repair, Colter created a new color scheme. She ordered new plate glass windows placed in strategic walls of the Inn to take advantage of the magnificent view.
Fred Kabotie, a renowned Hopi artist, was hired to paint murals on the dining room and lunchroom walls. The scenes are glimpses into Hopi culture: the Buffalo Dance, a trek to a sacred salt lake, planting time, and Tawa—the Hopi sun god. The sun face was also the logo of the Fred Harvey Company. Kabotie had previously worked for the company at the Grand Canyon and other locations. (

I'm glad we took the time to visit this national park. To take in the views of the landscape with all the rich and vibrant colors is like gazing at a portrait of the land as it developed over millions of years. Incredible! 

We arrived in Gallup, New Mexico and had no troubling finding the USA RV Park, which is right on Route 66. It's another gravel "parking lot" type of park with very little in the way of trees and shrubs, which seems to be the norm in this area. Full hook-ups, gravel pad, picnic table, showers, laundry, pool (closed), putting green and a decent little store. Nothing special, but for one night it was fine.

Click on images for larger view. 

Previous Posts:

Discovering Soshone Point (Grand Canyon)