Two books to check out

 Cover for Chanel Cleeton's book The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
The second book I’ve read by Chanel Cleeton.

I finished reading two books this week. “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” by Chanel Cleetom and “The Matchmaker” by Elin Hilderbrand.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

I read a book by Cleeton earlier this summer called “Next Year in Havana” and absolutely loved it. Although “The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba” is good, it comes in second place to the prior book I read. This story takes place in Cuba and the United States during the Spanish American War amidst the battle of two newspaper empires, Pullitzer and Hearst.

The novel tells the story of three women, a reporter Grace Harrington in New York City based on Nellie Bly, the real-life Cuban revolutionary Evangelina Cisneros, who becomes famous as the “most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Marina who left the comfort and safety of her wealthy Cuban family to marry her love, a poor Cuban farmer and fighter.

I recommend this book, but it took me about a third of the way in to get engrossed. In both of Cleeton’s books I’ve read, she has the same main family of Perez’s. I enjoy following their stories from different generations. I’m starting a third novel by her today, “The Last Train to Key West.”

Bookcover for The Matchmaker
Elin Hilderbrand’s The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker

I have read at least a dozen Elin Hilderbrand books and enjoy them. I get lost in the scenery of Nantucket, the Caribbean, or the other backdrops which become as much of a character as the people in her novels.

I get caught up right away and find she creates easy, fun reads. Although there’s usually common threads of death and cheating spouses, her stories fascinate me.

This is the story of a high school couple who are madly in love their entire lives, although not together after college graduation when Clendenin takes a job in as a reporter on the other side of the world. The main character, Dabney stays on Nantucket and becomes the director of the Chamber of Commerce and literally runs the island as a single mother. Eventually, she gets married to a famous economist Box, who becomes a great father and husband.

I won’t give away more of the story, but I got kind of annoyed. This one requires a lot of kleenex and I just wasn’t in the mood.

Have your read books by these authors? What are your opinions of them? What are some good books you’ve read lately and can recommend?

How many books on this list have you read?

I have never copied and posted something from Facebook on my blog before. But this popped up on a childhood friend’s page and I played. I enjoyed it and as readers and writers, I believe you might find it interesting, too.

In fact, I rarely even look at Facebook anymore. I don’t know why I did the other day, but I did. So here you go.

Anne of Green Gables early book cover
One of my favorite series.

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. Want to play?

1 Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible –

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulkes

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife-Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26  Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34 Emma – Jane Austen

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tart

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante (Have it downloaded)

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell-

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Eupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100 Gaudy Night – Dorothy Sayersshared from Book Snoop Auctions

This list gave me ideas of what I’ve wanted to read but haven’t — yet. I scored 44. What is your score?

UPDATE: My son informed me the list is “BBC’s Top 100 Books You Need to Read Before You Die.” If you click on the link HERE you can check off the books and see where you stand compared to other readers.

5 takeaways from vacation

The beach at Padaro Lane, California
Afternoon beach walk.

As my days of vacation dwindle, I find myself focused on what makes me happy. I have a finite number of days — and I want to make sure I don’t waste them. I’ve decided I need to takeaway the optimism I’m feeling on vacation and stir it into my daily life.

I’ve listed what makes me smile on vacation:

ONE

I’ve discovered I need beach time every day. A walk on the beach in the morning. An hour or two in my beach chair reading in the late afternoon. I’m not sure how to incorporate beach time in Arizona, but maybe more visits to the lake? Or, maybe it’s time outside in nature.

TWO

I’ve found satisfaction from writing and working. During the last year of shutdowns, I lost motivation. Freed on vacation, I did an interview and had a story published and it gave me a charge that I haven’t felt for awhile. (Most likely I haven’t felt it because I haven’t been writing and submitting my work.) Clear answer to this. Write more often and submit my work.

THREE

Another thing that I enjoy is playing like a kid. On our morning walk, my husband I discovered the park below our house had two permanent ping pong tables. I love ping pong. My husband loves ping pong. We had a ping pong table in our garage at our old home that got covered with dust with years of neglect. We didn’t move it to Arizona. I foresee a ping pong table on the patio.

Summerland beach park ping pong tables
Concrete ping pong tables at the park above the beach.

FOUR

Reading is a big part of my vacation days. I read on the beach, I read in the middle of the day. I read at night. At home, I can definitely find more time to read.

FIVE

Drawing. As a kid, I spent hours drawing. I drew trees, houses, people, flowers. I loved to sketch. I was very judgmental of my work and felt I wasn’t any good at it. Especially when I compared myself to the two kids in my class who were “artists.” The teachers and kids would ooh and aah over their works. I took drawing and art classes in college as electives because it’s what I liked to do. On vacation, I brought a sketch pad and when I couldn’t find pencils or charcoal, I ordered a small set on Amazon. I like to sketch my surroundings here. I can take an art class, watch youtubes or keep on sketching at home.

Horses on Summerland beach
Horses share our morning walks on the beach.

What pleasures do enjoy on vacation that you can incorporate to your daily life?

My quirky habits with books

I’ve always loved to read. That’s why I wanted to be a writer beginning when I was a young girl reading all the Anne books over and over. My mom used to take me to a used book store at the “U District” in Seattle — that’s the area surrounding the University of Washington. I loved hanging out with the musty smells of thousands of aging books. I’d always find a treasure like “Little Women” or a book called “Liz” written by Jean MacGibbon. copyright 1966.

Anne of Green Gables book cover Classic

Back then, I treated the books and characters like old friends. I loved C.S. Lewis series, Anne, Harriet the Spy, and Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary. My parents thought it was odd that I could read a book more than a dozen times. I hung on to many of my favorites from my childhood. They have a sacred place on my bookshelf.

Liz book cover by Jean MacGibbon

Today, I rarely read books more than once. But here’s my new quirk. If I really like a book, I have trouble finishing it. I’m reading “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. I love the characters, the story, the setting. The house that’s a central character in the book. I have less than 20 pages left. But it has sat on my nightstand for the past two nights untouched. I don’t want to finish the book and leave it.

Cover art of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I had the same trouble two weeks ago with “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton. The characters and setting, along with the story about a family’s life in Cuba during Batista’s years and their escape to Miami under Fidel Castro was fascinating. So was the jump forward to the granddaughter’s life when she visits Cuba for the first time and tries to discover pieces of her grandmother’s life. It was a good story because the author had characters on every side of the issues. There are revolutionaries, debutantes, sugar cane millionaires. You get to view Cuba’s history through many points of view. Many Cubans who stayed resented those who moved to America and flourished. Definitely worth a read. But it took me so long to finish those final chapters. The good news is there another book about the same family in the works.

Next Year in Havana book cover

What are some of the good books you’ve enjoyed lately? What are your favorite books from your childhood? What are some of your quirks reading books? Do you have certain genres you read? Who are your favorite authors?

Week One After Surgery and I’m Feeling Good!

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The mountain where one bad turn and I’m down since January 2nd.

It’s officially one week since I had surgery after a ski accident. It’s been a long haul from the slopes of Utah early January to my home in Palm Springs with several trips in between including my daughter’s final dual meet in Salt Lake City and the PAC 12 championship swim meet in Federal Way, WA.

I was diligent about physical therapy and I can honestly say now how important that was. I’ve been told not to put weight on my left leg and I have to jump up from the sofa or chair on one foot and I have no problem with that. The toughest thing for me is getting around with a walker and one leg. I move the walker a few inches, hop on one leg and repeat. I’m going nowhere fast!

I asked my husband to get me crutches so I could whip around the house. He did and I hate to say it but the walker is easier for me to move around than the crutches. Both really, really hurt my upper arms. Yikes! I hurt more in my arm muscles than in my carved-upon-knee. But, I’m getting stronger and just think how strong my arms and stroke will be once I return to the pool.

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My view isn’t that bad!

So, what do I do all day? I sit on the sofa with the remote control, my laptop, and several books. I haven’t felt up to writing until today. So, I’ve been reading lots. I’ve read an Ann Patchett book, Taft, and recommend it whether you’re laid up or not. I haven’t felt bored despite being confined to a small space in the house. I guess that’s because I’ve never experienced boredom–at least not as an adult. Maybe I was bored as a child from time to time, but I don’t remember that feeling. There’s always so much to do that I haven’t gotten around to yet–and need to accomplish. I don’t have enough time to do everything. Whether it’s interviewing people, writing stories, rewriting a novel, reading books, hanging out with friends, doing the taxes, cleaning out closets–there’s a heck of a lot to get done.

One of the blessings of being hurt I’ve discovered is the support from family and friends. I can’t tell you how many calls and texts I’ve gotten with people offering to help out in any way they can. It’s really brightened my days and makes me appreciate the people in my life.

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Olive helping me recover by cuddling on my lap.

How have you passed your time when you’ve been injured or sick?

Parents influence how kids perform in school–in a good way!

images-7There’s some bright news in the parenting world. Low-income kids are catching up to middle and higher economic level children at school. Is it because of greater access to preschool? According to the article, “Parenting, not preschool, has the greatest effect on school readiness” by Jane Waldfogel, you can probably guess the answer from the title.

“Here’s a trick question: what’s the biggest influence on a child’s readiness for school? Preschool education, replies a confident chorus of policy wonks. But maybe you got the answer right: it’s parenting. Research evidence has long established that reading with young children, taking them to the library and having books at home are more important predictors of school readiness than preschool education.

Policy makers and practitioners sometimes forget this. Perhaps they despair of changing parenting in a fundamental way. Some imagine that stressed, often poorly educated parents are stuck in a rut, making the same old mistakes as their own mom and dad.

Well, the evidence suggests that these parents have been underestimated. While child development policy in the United States has largely focused on extending access to preschool, low-income parents have been busy transforming their practice. That’s making a real difference to their children’s learning skills and prospects. Intriguingly, they’ve made these strides at a time when income inequality has grown worse.”

It appears that parents from all economic levels value education. Lower income parents are reading to their kids more, taking them to the library, and have more access to books. According to research, low-income parents are acting more like those in higher economic levels. They’ve been told by educators that reading to kids is important for them to be ready for school. Guess what? They are taking that parenting advice to heart. I also wonder how much has changed with the whole world available on the internet and smartphones?

“Children are getting more of what the political scientist Robert Putnam calls “‘Goodnight Moon’ time”. Interestingly, this change has occurred during a period of rising economic inequality: among families with school-age children, income inequality between the rich and poor grew by roughly 10 percent from 1998 to 2010. Segregation based on income also grew by 20 percent among households with children.”

In the news, we hear about overbearing, helicopter parents who follow their children’s every step through preschool to college and into the workplace. This story gave a bit of positive news in the parenting world that sometimes it’s good to be involved. I read to my kids all the time and kept my favorite childhood books for them to read. My kids read many classics that unfortunately their schools no longer require. I’m thrilled to say my kids love to read today as young adults.

Isn’t it nice for a change to hear that parents are doing something right? Here are a few of my favorite books I read when I was young. I don’t think many kids read these today. What were your favorite books? Can you list your top books for middle grade and young adults? What books do your kids like?

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