Category Archives: Challenges

November Reflections 2018

With the darker, colder days arriving, I found it much harder to keep my spirits up during November. That’s not unusual for me, or for many people at this time of year, especially in the Pacific Northwest.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. The change of light, the shorter days, and staying indoors more on colder days can lead to melancholy or depression. My reading is my personal antidote to that SAD feeling. It broadens my perspectives and gives me new ways of looking at the world. That cheers me up and also gives me a new appreciation for friends and family.

So with that said, November turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I enjoyed getting lost in a variety of books — a mystery, some classics, a Christmas book. I read a number of graphic novels this month, and I’m liking that genre more and more. I especially loved Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and look forward to her new book, Book Love, to be released in the U.S. on January 1st. My favorite book this month was Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, because it was full of courage and dignity, and hope.

For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, I hope your reading in November was enjoyable and an antidote to the darker, colder days. And for the rest of you, I also hope your November was spent immersed in wonderful books!

My November reads:

 

Currently Reading: My Spin Book

I’m up early this morning (thanks to the sounds of a squirrel in the attic) and so decided to start my book for the Classics Club Spin #19. The Spin number was just announced this morning and that number was #1. I made a large cup of tea and am starting Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, which was the first book on my Spin list.

Americanah is the perfect book for me to read at this point in time because this book, (along with her book, We Should All Be Feminists) was chosen by the Multnomah County Library for the Everybody Reads 2019 in Portland, Oregon!  Discussions start in the various libraries in January, and she will be speaking in Portland in March. Unfortunately for me, that event is already sold out. But how serendipitous that this was my book chosen to read at exactly the right time!

Don’t know what we’ll do about the squirrel in the attic, though…

October Reflections 2018

 

As Anne says in L. M. Montgomery’s timeless classic, Anne of Green Gables,  “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  This October was a particularly beautiful one here in Oregon! It was also a wonderful reading month for me. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading for the Readers Imbibing Peril-XIII challenge, and Dewey’s 24-hour Read-a-thon.  Here are the covers of books read during this very successful reading month for me:

My husband and I also did a little bit of traveling this month. We spent a couple of days in the Seattle area where I met with my former teaching teammates and had a wonderful reunion lunch while Byron went on a bike ride. Also while in the area, he and I visited our favorite garden center, and the Yakima Fruit Market, and went out to eat at three of our old favorite restaurants. It was a great get-away!

We also spent a couple of days hiking in Silver Falls State Park. We enjoyed our first hike there so much we returned a week later and brought our daughter with us. We all loved hiking amongst  gorgeous the autumn colors.

So all in all, it was a just a great October!

RIP XIII Wrap-Up

Tomorrow ends this year’s Readers Imbibing Peril-XIII challenge. For me, this one has been the best and most enjoyable of all the RIP Challenges I have participated in over the years. I just loved my reading this time!

Here is my list of books read for my “Peril the First.” The ones I reviewed are highlighted and linked to the review post. A big Thank you to Heather (@capriciousreader) and Andi (@estellasrevenge) for hosting the challenge. Can’t wait until the next Readers Imbibing Peril time comes around again!

  1. The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene
  2. The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith
  3. The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt
  4. This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart
  5. The Seer of Shadows, Avi
  6. Death in the Castle, Pearl S. Buck
  7. The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen
  8. The Seventh Seal, Ingmar Bergman
  9. The Witches, Ronald Dahl
  10. The Coroner’s Lunch, Colin Cotterill
  11. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury

Dipper of Copper Creek

Lithograph by Joseph Wolf, 1867

Dipper of Copper Creek, by Jean Craighead George, is part of her American Woodlands Tales series, a very interesting set of books for young people about the animals that live in the American woodlands. I love this series, and have read several of the books already. You learn so much about nature and about those individual animals from her stories. And I enjoy her beautiful descriptions of the woodlands.

The entire land had suddenly come into bloom. It was not the bloom of the lowlands, a season for the avalanche lily, the iris, the buttercup, the columbine, lupine, sun flowers, asters, and goldenrod. It was an upsurging of all of this at once. The days and weeks were not long enough for separate seasons: they were short, so that each subseason telescoped the others.

Each story also includes a variety of human beings and their interaction with and impact on the woodlands environment. In Dipper of Copper Creek, the story of the Dipper family is complemented by the coming of age story of a young boy spending the summer with his aging grandfather, a miner still living a very simple life in the woods. Both stories give you an honest look at the connectedness of all life in the woods. I think these would be wonderful stories to read and discuss in homes and in classrooms. They are kind tales and gentle reminders of the important environmental issues of our time.

 

This book was one of the books I chose to read for my 2018 TBR Pile challenge!

RIP XIII: The Keeper of Lost Causes

I read The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a few weeks ago and it is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it. The plot is complex, the characters very interesting, and the suspense keeps you turning pages long into the night.

When the story begins, Carl Mørck, a brilliant detective with an anti-social personality, is just coming back to work from medical leave after recovering from a tragic attack on his investigative team that resulted in the death of one of his partners, a crippling injury to his other partner, and a bullet wound that came very close to killing him. He recovered from the bullet wound, but he has not recovered from the emotional wounds.

Carl lay there a long time, as if he’d fainted, with his head full of desperate thoughts. They took his pulse and then drove off with him and his two partners. Only at the hospital did he open his eyes. They told him that his eyes had a dead look to them. They thought it was the shock, but it was from shame.

His return to the police department was not welcome. He was a difficult leader, a real loner, and nobody wanted to work with him. Fortunately, a new grant had just been given to the Chief to open up a new department that would investigate cold cases. It was to be called “Department Q” and Carl was given that job, with an office in the basement, and a huge backlog of unsolved cases, or “hopeless cases,” as the police chief called them.

The first case Carl chose to look at involved a popular politician who went missing five years earlier. Merete Lynggaard, had disappeared while on a ferry ride with her younger disabled brother. The case had been poorly investigated, no clues were found, the case had been shelved and everyone assumed she had fallen overboard and perished. She had not. She was still very much alive, but being held captive in very cruel conditions by an unknown assailant.

The course of solving this mystery was intricate and fascinating. Carl was given an assistant, Hafez el-Assad, a Syrian immigrant, to help him with the case. The two of them, both brilliant detectives, became quite an effective team. You got to know all the characters well enough to know why they each did what they did in the story. And it was one of those “unputdownable” books that kept you anxious and on alert until the very end.

Somewhere inside of him, where cause and effect were not weighed against each other, and where logic and explanations never challenged consciousness, in that place where thoughts could live freely and be played out against each other—right there in that spot, things fell into place, and he understood how it all fitted together.

This book is the first in a series by this author. I will definitely be reading more of them!


I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

RIP XIII: This Rough Magic

This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart: set on the island of Corfu, quotes from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, smugglers, murder, actors, young love, a dolphin. Who could ask for anything more?

From the publisher:

British actress Lucy Waring believes there is no finer place to be “at liberty” than the sun-drenched isle of Corfu, the alleged locale for Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Even the suspicious actions of the handsome, arrogant son of a famous actor cannot dampen her enthusiasm for this wonderland in the Ionian Sea.

Then a human corpse is carried ashore on the incoming tide …

This was a wonderful, fun read. I must read (or reread) more of Mary Stewart’s novels!


This was my fourth book read for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII  challenge.

RIP XIII: The Eyes of the Amaryllis

The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt, is one of my favorite books. When I was teaching, I read it aloud to my sixth grade students, year after year, and never tired of Babbitt’s lyrical, descriptive, lovely writing. My Grandson started school last week, a 5/6 grader now, and it triggered memories for me of those special books I loved and read each year. It was definitely time to reread this one.

It is an unusual story. Eleven year old Geneva (Jenny) Reade, went to help her grandmother, also named Geneva, who lived beside the ocean. Gran had broken her foot and needed some extra help. Jenny was excited to see the ocean for the first time, but not very excited about having to cook or help her grandmother with those kinds of things. However, that’s not the kind of help Gran needed. With her broken foot, Gran could not walk the shoreline each day, searching. Jenny would have to search for her.

Jenny’s grandfather had been a sea captain on the ship, The Amaryllis, and while arriving home during a fierce storm, the ship sank and everyone aboard was lost. Sadly, it sank within sight of the shore, and both Geneva’s father and her grandmother watched helplessly from the bluff. The trauma of watching his father’s ship go down was too much for young George, and he soon left the oceanside and went to live with an aunt who lived inland. Gran stayed at their home at the ocean, waiting for anything to wash up from the wreck…waiting for “a sign from her darling.” Nothing ever washed up, but Gran kept vigil checking the shoreline after each turn of the tide…for over 30 years, but nothing ever washed ashore.

Geneva soon learned that her grandmother’s life centered around the sea, the tides, her undying love for the sea captain, and for her hope that he would somehow send her a sign.

Your grandfather and I—what we felt for each other doesn’t just stop. Remember what we talked about the first night you were here? There’s another world around us, Geneva, around us all the time, and here I can be closer to it.

There is another important character in this book, called Seward, who calls himself the “guardian of the sea.”  His job is to walk the shoreline and make sure that nothing the sea values is taken, and if something of value is found, it must be returned to the sea.

Gran explained to Jenny that Seward was once a sensitive artist/sculptor who threw himself into the sea after being rejected by a woman he loved. His body was never found, but he returned mysteriously and walks the shoreline each day. No one but Gran has seen him. His story is fantastical, and Geneva can hardly believe it…except that she, too, has seen him.

“He really saw the ship on the bottom,” she said. “Yes,” said Gran. “Sailing. Keeping watch. The sea bottom was covered with treasure, he told me, and there were lots of wrecked ships, too, great ruined hulls, lying down there forsaken, full of holes and rotting away. But the Amaryllis, and all the ships with figureheads, are kept whole and clean, he said, to sail on the bottom and guard the treasure.”

It is the figurehead from The Amaryllis that finally washes ashore. And then the story gets really interesting.

I won’t tell you more. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But I will say that it was wonderful to share this story with my students! You wouldn’t think that sixth graders would necessarily want to sit through a story about undying love, but they listened with rapt attention to this one. It captured all our imaginations and our hearts!

This was my third book read for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII.

RIP XIII: The Silkworm

The Silkworm, by Robert Gailbraith, (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) is the second in the Cormoran Strike series of mysteries. Gailbraith’s mysteries are riveting and powerful. Cormoran Strike is a private detective and a war veteran who was severely wounded during his service. He and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, take on difficult and brutal cases. The solving of these crimes is fascinating, as is the growing, changing, relationship between those two main characters.

Summary from Robert-galbraith.com:

The Silkworm – It takes a unique mind to solve a unique crime.

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

My responses to the book: I didn’t listen to this audiobook straight through. When I first started it a few months ago, it seemed a little too gruesome and dark, and that wasn’t what I wanted to be reading at that time. So I set it aside for a while and then decided to go ahead and listen to it for RIP-XIII.  This time, I found it impossible to stop listening to it!  The plot was complicated and compelling, and the narration by Robert Glenister was excellent.

J.K. Rowling is an amazing and versatile writer, and I am now completely hooked on this series.


This was my second book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

RIP XIII: The Whispering Statue

When I was young, I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries (at least the ones that were available at that time)! My brothers and I would go to the library every week and I would come out with a pile of books, mostly Nancy Drew mysteries. They said to me many times, “Rob, you’re in a reading rut!”  Yes, that’s what good mysteries do to you, and I still love getting caught in a mystery reading rut!

The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene, is book #14 in the original series. All the Nancy Drew books were actually ghostwritten, and my favorite of the ghostwriters was Mildred A. Wirt Benson. She wrote the first twenty-three books in the series, and those are my favorites.

Another interesting tidbit about the early Nancy Drew books, which were originally published in the 1930s, is that they were rewritten and republished in the 1970s. The copy I read of The Whispering Statue was definitely a rewritten one from the 70s because the plot was significantly different and shorter than the earlier version, AND the word “groovy” was used two or three times in the story. That was a dead giveaway to someone very familiar with the late 60s and early 70s!!

I enjoyed rereading this mystery. It was pleasant to spend an afternoon on the porch with a fun book. My goal is to slowly reread as many of the Nancy Drew books as possible!

Penguin Random House: the publisher’s summary of plot:

Once again, Nancy faces two puzzling mysteries at once! The first concerns a valuable collection of rare books that Mrs. Horace Merriam commissioned anart dealer to sell–has he swindled her instead? The second mystery revolves around the baffling theft of a beautiful marble statue. To solve both mysteries, the famous young detective disguises herself and assumes a false identity. Despite these precautions, danger stalks Nancy’s every move. An attempted kidnapping, a nearly disastrous sailboat collision, and an encounter with a dishonest sculptor are just a few of the exciting challenges that Nancy is faced with as she gathers evidence against a clever ring of art thieves.

I read this book for the RIP XIII challenge, Peril the First