June 15, 2021

Poem du Jour - If I Were


If I Were


There are lots of ways to dance and

to spin, sometimes it just starts my

feet first then my entire body, I am 

spinning no one can see it but it is

happening. I am so glad to be alive,

I am so glad to be loving and loved.

Even if I were close to the finish,

even if I were at my final breath, I

would be here to take a stand, bereft

of such astonishments, but for them.


If I were a Sufi for sure I would be

one of the spinning kind.


~Mary Oliver

June 11, 2021

Looking Back - The Feast of Love

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.



Fiction
2000 Pantheon
Finished in May 2000
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

The Feast of Love is a sumptuous work of fiction about the thing that most distracts and delights us. In a re-imagined A Midsummer Night's Dream, men and women speak of and desire their ideal mates; parents seek out their lost children; adult children try to come to terms with their own parents and, in some cases, find new ones.

In vignettes both comic and sexy, the owner of a coffee shop recalls the day his first wife seemed to achieve a moment of simple perfection, while she remembers the women's softball game during which she was stricken by the beauty of the shortstop. A young couple spends hours at the coffee shop fueling the idea of their fierce love. A professor of philosophy, stopping by for a cup of coffee, makes a valiant attempt to explain what he knows to be the inexplicable workings of the human heart. Their voices resonate with each other—disparate people joined by the meanderings of love—and come together in a tapestry that depicts the most irresistible arena of life.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Interesting novel. It started out great, but kind of went downhill halfway through. It wasn't bad, just nothing special. 

My Current Thoughts:

Nope. Don't remember anything about this one.

June 8, 2021

Poem du Jour - A Thousand Mornings

A Thousand Mornings


All night my heart makes its way

however it can over the rough ground

of uncertainties, but only until night

meets and then is overwhelmed by

morning, the light deepening, the

wind easing and just waiting, as I 

too wait (and when have I ever been 

disappointed?) for redbird to sing.


~Mary Oliver

June 4, 2021

A Month in Summary - May 2021

Little Whale Cove
Depoe Bay, OR
May 2021

May felt like a month of renewal and at times, I almost forgot about COVID. After our camping trip to Nehalem, we enjoyed a visit with my brother and sister-in-law who came up from San Diego to celebrate my mom's 88th birthday. They were our first visitors since December 2019! It was so lovely to see them and we even went out to dinner (indoors!) one night. We enjoyed eating out so well, we went out a couple more times during the month. The restaurant is still operating at 50% capacity and we were seated pretty far from the other patrons, so we felt very comfortable. Plus, it was quiet and we could hear each other speak. ;)

The rest of the month went by in a blur, as we were busy getting ready for our two-month road trip to San Diego. Sadly, my reading suffered quite a bit, but it typically drops off during the summer, so I wasn't surprised. What was disappointing is that both of the books were duds. Oh, well. At least we watched an amazing HBO series (Mare of Easttown)!


Books Read (click on the title for my review): 

Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie (2/5)

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck (2/5)

Abandoned:

A Door in the Earth by Amy Waldman 

Movies & TV Series:


Mare of Easttown - One of the best shows I've watched all year. Kate Winslet is outstanding. Actually, the entire cast is great. I could watch it again!


Atlantic Crossing - Meh. Too much of a soap opera. Not nearly as good as The Crown


The Dry - Pretty good, but I liked the book better. 


The Father - Outstanding performance by Hopkins and Coleman, but it's such a sad, depressing movie.


This Is Us - Caught up and now watching as each new episode is released. I'm growing tired of the show, but will watch to the end, just to see how it's all wrapped up.


Little Fires Everywhere - Just started this one, so it's too soon to know if it's any good.

Puzzlemania:







Visitors!


Birthday cake for Rod and Mom.


Beautiful bouquet from my daughter for Mother's Day.

We are on the road (currently in Myers Flat, CA - pretty much in the heart of the Redwoods), so I may not respond very quickly to comments (or do much in the way of blog-hopping) if our cell signal or WiFi is weak. I hope you are all doing well and that you are able to start venturing out as COVID restrictions ease up. Happy Summer! Cheers!


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.



Fiction
2000 Atlantic Monthly Press
Finished on May 20, 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Susan Elderkin's brilliant Sunset Over Chocolate Mountains explores our places in the lives of our loved ones and in the universe. Theobald Moon lives in a lonely corner of the Arizona desert, tending his spectacular cactus garden, his tiny mobile home, and his astounding appetite. He has fled a stifled, cardigan-and-tea-cozy life in south London for this unfamiliar country and is raising Josephine, who has known no other life than their cheerful yet isolated American one. But when a jangling ice-cream truck finds its way into the desert carrying two ill-fated lovers -- a pregnant Slovakian shoemaker and a mysterious ice-cream man -- it throws Theo's and Josie's careful lives into a chaotic state for which they're totally unprepared. Fantastic upheaval ensues, as well as an inspired redemption.

Innovative and accessible, funny and profound, Elderkin's "beautiful, touching story" (Bookseller) explores love and responsibility, and the joys and fears such emotions inspire. It is a rare and tantalizing first novel.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

When I first started this book, I thought it was going to be great, but it turns out it wasn't anywhere close to greatness. Wouldn't recommend.

My Current Thoughts:

Well, I do like the cover art!

June 1, 2021

Poem du Jour - And Bob Dylan Too

And Bob Dylan Too


"Anything worth thinking about is worth

     singing about."

Which is why we have 

songs of praise, songs of love, songs

     of sorrow.

Songs to the gods, who have

     so many names.

Songs the shepherds sing, on the

     lonely mountains, while the sheep

          are honoring the grass, by eating it.

The dance-songs of the bees, to tell

     where the flowers, suddenly, in the

          morning light, have opened.

A chorus of many, shouting to heaven,

     or at it, or pleading.

Or that greatest of love affairs, a violin

     and a human body.

And a composer, maybe hundreds of years dead.

I think of Schubert, scribbling on a cafe

     napkin.

          Thank you, thank you.


~Mary Oliver

May 28, 2021

Looking Back - The Kind of Love That Saves You

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.



Fiction
2000 Bantam
Finished on May 16, 2000
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Every now and then a gifted new writer bursts on the scene blessed with rare wisdom, dazzling eloquence, and a deep understanding of what it means to be human, to be alive. Amy Yurk is just such a writer, establishing herself with her enthralling debut novel, a tale of loss, friendship, and the resilience of a woman's heart....

Sarah Strickland and her best friend, Calista, have been like sisters since the first day of kindergarten, sharing good times and weathering crises for more than twenty years. Together they've navigated the terrain of school, friendship, romances, breakups, love, and marriage. Six months after Sarah's marriage to Gavin Strickland, Calista wed Gavin's best friend. Now, holding Calista and Mike's bright and boisterous eighteen-month-old, Sarah longs to follow her friend into the sometimes rocky, sometimes breathtakingly beautiful realm of motherhood.

But in one shattering second the world changes, and the landscape Sarah enters is one she could not have envisioned. And it is one Calista cannot fully comprehend. Now the growing distance between the two women threatens to deepen the devastating sense of loss Sarah already feels. Calista tries valiantly to be her guide through this dark emotional territory, tries to hurry her over the roughest places, but her attempts to help only alienate the friend she loves.

Suddenly, miraculously, someone walks into Sarah's life who understands every twist of the long, heartbreaking path life has set her on. Someone who is capable of guiding her through and showing her that there is a life beyond the pain she feels. But Sarah cannot begin to know if this new friendship, so desperately needed, will provide the healing bond between her and Calista...or become the wedge that will tear them apart forever.

A celebration of life, hope, and the healing power of love, The Kind of Love That Saves You is an electrifying debut, an unforgettable story that will make you smile through your tears...and treasure the loved ones in your own life even more.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Pure fluff -- and not even good fluff. Story of a woman who writes to her unborn child about her marriage, losses and friendships. Pure sap. A very quick, mindless read. Wouldn't recommend it.

My Current Thoughts:

I probably read this before I gave myself permission to quit on books that weren't enjoyable. 

May 25, 2021

Poem du Jour - Poem of the One World

 

Poem of the One World


This morning
the beautiful white heron
was floating along above the water

and then into the sky of this 
the one world
we all belong to

where everything
sooner or later
is a part of everything else

which thought made me feel
for a little while
quite beautiful myself.

~Mary Oliver

May 21, 2021

Looking Back - Chocolat

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.




Fiction
2000 Penguin Group (first published in 1999)
Finished on May 14, 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

When the exotic stranger Vianne Rocher arrives in the old French village of Lansquenet and opens a chocolate boutique called “La Celeste Praline” directly across the square from the church, Father Reynaud identifies her as a serious danger to his flock. It is the beginning of Lent: the traditional season of self-denial. The priest says she’ll be out of business by Easter.

To make matters worse, Vianne does not go to church and has a penchant for superstition. Like her mother, she can read Tarot cards. But she begins to win over customers with her smiles, her intuition for everyone’s favourites, and her delightful confections. Her shop provides a place, too, for secrets to be whispered, grievances aired. She begins to shake up the rigid morality of the community. Vianne’s plans for an Easter Chocolate Festival divide the whole community. Can the solemnity of the Church compare with the pagan passion of a chocolate ├ęclair?

For the first time, here is a novel in which chocolate enjoys its true importance, emerging as an agent of transformation. Rich, clever, and mischievous, reminiscent of a folk tale or fable, this is a triumphant read with a memorable character at its heart.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Don't read this book if you're hungry! My mouth didn't stop watering the entire time I was reading it. Entertaining.

My Current Thoughts:

I remember quite a bit about this book and think it would be fun to give it a second reading. The second book in Harris' trilogy (The Girl with No Shadow) is equally entertaining, but somehow I missed Peaches for Father Francis. It might also be time to watch the movie version of Chocolat again, which includes Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Judi Dench. 

May 19, 2021

The Oregon Trail

 



Nonfiction
2015 Simon Schuster Audio
Read by the author
Finished on
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axles that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since.

The Oregon Trail is a majestic, uniquely American journey of a lifetime.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, which my book group selected for our May discussion. I bought the paperback, but when my husband showed an interest in also reading it, I decided to download the audio and go that route. What a mistake! Rinker Buck (or the publisher) should have hired someone else to read this book. Buck's halting narration is not only jarring, but extremely annoying and I was tempted to return to the print edition, although I don't know if that would have made a difference in my overall opinion of this narrative. It is far too long-winded, with multiple digressions, and I was happy when I finally finished. (Remember the whale chapter in Moby Dick? Well, I now know more about mules than I ever cared to know!) I could have also done with out the negative commentary about all RVers, the numerous accounts of Buck's childhood and strained relationship with his father, and the overabundant use of F-bombs (which are easily ignored in print, but not so much on audio). I wanted more about the adventures the two brothers experienced on the trail. Sadly, Buck Rinker had a great story to share, but he is not a great storyteller.

May 18, 2021

Poem du Jour - The Gardener

 

The Gardener


Have I lived enough?

Have I loved enough?

Have I considered Right Action enough, have I

     come to any conclusions?

Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I'm just thinking it.

     Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,

where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,

     is tending his children, the roses.


~ Mary Oliver

May 16, 2021

Dreaming of the Bones

 


Dreaming of the Bones by Deborah Crombie
Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James Series #5
Mystery
2007 Avon (first published in 1997)
Finished on May 14, 2021
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)

Publisher's Blurb:

It is the call Scotland Yard Superintendent Duncan Kincaid never expected--and one he certainly doesn't want. Victoria, his ex-wife, who walked out without an explanation more than a decade ago, asks him to look into the suicide of local poet, Lydia Brooke--a case that's been officially closed for five years. The troubled young writer's death, Victoria claims, might well have been murder.

No one is more surprised than Kincaid himself when he agrees to investigate--not even his partner and lover, Sergeant Gemma James. But it's a second death that raises the stakes and plunges Kincaid and James into a labyrinth of dark lies and lethal secrets that stretches all the way back through the twentieth century--a death that most assuredly is murder, one that has altered Duncan Kincaid's world forever. 

Ah, well. They can't all be winners, now can they? I loved Crombie's previous installment in her Kincaid/James series (Mourn Not Your Dead), which I read last month, but Dreaming of the Bones fell short of my expectations and I had to force myself to finish. I found it necessary to create a list of the numerous characters in order to keep them straight, even after I'd read more than half of the book. The transitions between Lydia's letters and the current storyline were abrupt and jarring, adding to my confusion. I spent almost two weeks reading this mystery and was happy to be finished, but I'm still looking forward to reading Kissed a Sad Goodbye later next month. 

May 14, 2021

Looking Back - Summer Gone

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.



Fiction
2000 Crown (first published in 1999)
Finished on May 5, 2000
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Canadian best-selling author David Macfarlane has written a masterful first novel about love experienced and love remembered that flickers with fleeting passions and sudden tragedies, offering an elegy not only for the ephemeral beauty of northern summers but for an entire era.

Summer Gone is about that moment when everything stops. Like skilled canoeists, we briefly hold a perfect balance -- poised between innocence and experience, life and death, discovery and loss, the promise of spring and the melancholy of autumn.

Set among the islands and lakes of "cottage country," this beautifully crafted novel from one of Canada's premier writers explores the stories of three generations of lost summers: the girl in the blue bathing suit; the impenetrable and doomed camp counselor with the shifting features; the wife who comes alive to the rhythms of a cottage summer, wild blueberries, and lake gossip, though who remains blind to the secret that will change her life irrevocably. But the beating heart of this novel lies in the story of a divorced father and a young son separated by the silence of estrangement, and how during one extraordinary night on an ill-fated canoe trip the silence is broken. As the story unfolds and the mystery unravels, tragedy looms over father and son in ways they could never have imagined, and leads to the novel's gripping and startling conclusion. 

Graced by a spare beauty of language and a deeply humane intelligence and wit, Summer Gone is an exquisite novel.

My Original Thoughts (2000):

Not the easiest book to follow. Flashbacks overlap, leaving me confused as to which of the characters the author is referring to. I wasn't sure if I even liked what I was reading until I got a handle on the transitions (or lack there of) and then I began to see the beauty in MacFarlane's passages. His writing is very lyrical and it stirred a longing in me for a cottage on a lake with a canoe on the shore.

My Current Thoughts:

In spite of my high rating, I don't remember this book and doubt I'll read it again, given the struggle I had with the flashbacks and transitions. I don't have the patience to wade through something like this anymore.

May 13, 2021

20 Books of Summer - 2021

 



It's that time again for Cathy's (746 Books) 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. I don't expect to read all of these books by September, but I'm certainly going to give it a try. The first selection are the newest additions to my shelves and I've heard nothing but good things about all of them. The second group is comprised of books that I've owned for a long time and I'm looking forward to finally reading some of them. The final set of books is my "assigned" reading. The mysteries are part of my on-going "Deborah Crombie" marathon and the others are book club selections for June, July and August. These six books have priority over all the others, but I'm hoping to read at least 15 of the 20 that I've chosen. Wish me luck! 

Have you read any of these? Which would you skip?

Click here for more details about this annual event.






May 11, 2021

Poem du Jour - I Go Down to the Shore

I Go Down to the Shore


I go down to the shore in the morning

and depending on the hour the waves

are rolling in or moving out,

and I say, oh, I am miserable,

what shall--

what should I do? And the sea says

in its lovely voice:

Excuse me, I have work to do.


~ Mary Oliver

May 4, 2021

A Month in Summary - April 2021

Nehalem Bay State Park
Nehalem, Oregon
April 2021


After a year of feeling like I was trapped in Groundhog's Day, April felt like a fresh start, full of promise and a (safe) return to life as we know it. I got my second Covid-19 vaccination (Moderna), celebrated this milestone indoors with my pod (Mah Jong, cake and Proseco!), had a necessary procedure that I'd put off during the height of the pandemic, and ended the month with a week-long camping trip to one of our favorite campgrounds on the Oregon coast. 

My reading was just as successful and I managed to finish 10 books! Mary Oliver's poems were my main focus for National Poetry Month and I read four of her books over the course of the month. I gave up on two novels, which was disappointing. One had been recommended to me many years ago, but I found it too bleak and didn't care for the multiple POVs. The other book was a reread of a book that I loved 20 years ago, but after 50 pages of boring drivel, I tossed it aside. 



Books Read (click on the title for my review):

Three Hours in Paris by Cara Black (1/5)

Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2/5)

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett (4/5)

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Felicity by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (3/5)

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver (4/5)

Mourn Not Your Dead by Deborah Crombie (4/5)

Testimony by Anita Shreve (4.5/5)

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver (2/5)

Abandoned:

The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

Five Fortunes by Beth Gutcheon


Movies & TV Series:


Sneaky Pete (Season Two & Three) - I love this show, but Season Three drags a bit and doesn't have the same pizzazz as the previous seasons. 


Strike (Season One) - Enjoyed the first season and will watch more. Cormoran doesn't look at all as I imagined, but Robin is pretty close to Galbraith's characterization.


Atlantic Crossing - We've only watched a couple of episodes, but so far this is an excellent series. Love seeing Sofia Helin (Saga Noren in The Bridge) in a new role. 


Wakefield - Excellent performance by Bryan Cranston! There were several moments when I thought to stop watching, but it turned out to be a very good film.



This Is Us - All caught up!

Puzzlemania:







In the Kitchen:

Photo Credit: Mel's Kitchen Cafe

I am so glad I found this recipe! I've added it to my monthly rotation and plan to alternate between a green and red sauce to keep it from getting boring. I can't wait to stash some in the freezer for our upcoming road trip in June.


As I mentioned, I got my second vaccination at the beginning of the month and had a mild reaction (low-grade fever, chills, muscle aches and killer headache) the following day. I spent the day in the bed, too uncomfortable to read so I slept on and off between watching This Is Us. Other than a lingering headache the next day, I was ok and am so thankful to be completely vaccinated. Science for the win!


PSA - Do you get regular mammograms and skin cancer screenings? How about colonoscopies? I'm of the age that recommended tests are critical to one's health and since we have a family history of colon cancer, I have the pleasure of getting tested every five years. I'd much rather deal with the "nuisance" of the nightly prep than the horrible treatment of radiation, chemo and surgery, so I suck it up and drink my "cocktail." It could be so much worse...


I'm writing this post while sitting inside our cozy RV. We've been camping at Nehalem Bay State Park for the past week and it feels great to get away for a little while. We have another, much longer, trip coming up in June so we'll be busy gearing up for that adventure! I always like to do a lot of cooking in advance of those longer trips so we can enjoy our evenings without having a lot of meal prep (or dishes), especially for those one-night stops enroute. 


I hope you've had a good month! Stay well and thank you for reading (and commenting on) my monthly newsletters.