Monday, April 27, 2015

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Motherless in Seattle (Family Ties)

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford is set in Seattle in 1934 as a twelve-year-old boy sees a woman on a movie screen he believes to be his mother who abandoned him five years prior.  With the help of a friend, a blind girl living in the same the orphanage, he sets out to find and reconnect with his mother. The story flips back and forth between William’s quest and his mother’s story in the 1920s, revealing why she would leave the son she loved behind.

I liked this book.  It held my interest with the heart-wrenching story of Willow Frost intertwined with the Great Depression, racial suppression, as well as Chinese tenets and superstitions.

This was a book club selection and my fellow readers also liked the book.  All around it held everyone's interest. We were outraged at the prejudices of the times and the hardships that women in particular had to endure.  We were saddened at the orphanage system and incidents in the book. In the end, we all gave it a thumbs-up. 

Happy Reading,


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Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Piggy Bank Challenge

Banking on Books (Reading Challenge)

Reading Reward

I found this challenge on the “Let’s Read” blog at

On her wonderful book blog Marianne posted the following challenge in English, which she discovered and translated from a German blogger. 

For every book you read, put $2.00 (or whatever you deem affordable) in a piggy bank, envelope, jar, etc.  Don’t touch the money until the following fiscal year and you will have some money to splurge on something fun. -- Probably not on books since that’s not a splurge, it’s a necessity, in my opinion.  :)

Marianne reads A LOT. Last year she read 72 books and saved $144.00 Euros!  I would have saved about half that, but that’s fine with me. 

This challenge is similar what I did to try and bribe my kids to read when they were small: for every two books they read, they either got a treat at Dairy Queen or $5.00, their choice.  I’m sorry to say, I didn’t have to shell out that much money.  My kids, for the most part, are not readers.  Unfortunately, I can’t choose their hobbies (not anymore since they’re all grown), but I still have this little hope burning in me that my (and my sisters’ and mother’s) enthusiasm for the books we discuss will ignite some kind of desire to pick up a book and find the genre that will inspire them to keep picking up more books. 

Special Savings

Another savings challenge a friend told me about is a weekly challenge.  Each week, she puts money in a jar corresponding with the week number.  So, at the end of week one of the year, she puts $1.00 aside, week two she puts $2.00 aside, etc.  At the end of the year she had saved $1,378!  That’s a hefty chunk of change!

My friend uses this method for vacation savings, but you could make it special savings for anything you want, maybe a Christmas fund, college fund for your kids, car fund, whatever.  If you stick to it, this may be the only fool-proof pyramid scheme truly working in your favor.

While this seems to work great for my friend, I can see that this may be a tad too rich for my blood.  Maybe I’ll tailor it to something more my speed, like ten dollar increments per month. For example, in January I will set $10.00 aside, February $20.00, March $30.00, etc.  By the end of the calendar year I will have $780.00.  Since it’s already April I’ll have some catching up to do, but I’m going to give it a whirl along with the book savings challenge. Next year I might start the monthly savings in reverse.  I’ll start with $120.00 in January, $110.00 in February and keep decreasing by $10.00 so come December I’ll have to put less aside instead of more.

Happy reading, happy saving!


Questions or comments?  Email

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Murder or Misfortune?  (Love and War)

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson is about a murder trial—the accused a Japanese American man in 1954 on an island in the Puget Sound.  As the trial is chronicled, we jump into flashbacks of the people involved in the case—flashbacks of life on the island off Washington state, of love, war, and internment camps.  The full descriptions brought me right into the lives of hardworking farmers and fishermen.  It also defined the racial tensions before, during, and after December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Even years after the war, racial tensions against Japanese Americans were strong, but were they strong enough to taint justice for the man accused of murdering a white man? Or—did Kabuo Miyamoto really kill Carl Heine? 

This was a good book. I enjoyed slowly learning the backgrounds of the key players, the possible motive of the accused, and the emotions of everyone involved.  As the trial unfolded and facts were revealed, it all started to shed more light on the matter.  It was sort of like turning on one of the new fluorescent bulbs that have taken over shelves in stores, the bulbs that make you stumble around in the dark while they take their good old time warming up until you can finally see everything clearly, only the book was a pleasant experience.   
I’m glad that after sitting on a shelf for years and years, I finally picked this book up and read it.  It probably wouldn’t have happened if not for “the book lottery.”  A few weeks ago I finally decided to try a Pinterest suggestion:  A Book Lottery. I compiled a list of all the books I own that I have not yet read. Quite a chore considering piles are all over the house:  on bookshelves upstairs and downstairs, mounds in almost every room, and one stack clawing its way up the side of my fireplace.  I discovered I have a LOT of books waiting for my attention, 75 books—good books that I forget I have when it’s time to pick the next read. After I made my list, I printed it, cut up and folded each book title, and put it in my “reading jar.”  Then I let my husband pull my next selection. 

I have to say it was kind of exciting not knowing what book I was going to read next.  My heart was beating just a little bit faster as I passed the jar to my husband.  Of course, they’re all my books—they’re all winners—but the awful truth was I did have a stronger draw towards some books more than others. It was like pulling a vacation destination out of a hat.  Sure, Iceland would be nice, but let’s face it, Greece and Hawaii are warmer and sunnier.  This game I was playing had the potential of turning from a friendly game of lottery into a round of Russian Roulette.  Shamefully, deep down I was hoping it would not be Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities

I breathed a big sigh of relief when he dangled Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson in front of me. It was also a movie, but I never saw it. So, I finally dusted it off and cracked it open—and I really liked it.

Happy reading and good luck with your book lottery.

This book met a several of my 2015 Book Club Challenges: Read a book set in winter, snow, or ice.  Read a book that has or will become a movie.  Read a book set on an island.  Read a book that has 400+ pages.

Happy Reading,


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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Felicitous Festival of Phraseology  (Humorous Word Play)

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn chronicles the island nation of Nollop and the outrageous laws enacted to omit certain letters of the alphabet in spoken or written form when those particular letters fall off a monument of local hero, Nevin Nollop, creator of the pangram The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Written in epistolary format, we follow the absurdity and consequences of these restrictions. Ironically, this tiny nation is dedicated to the education and celebration of language, which is evidenced in their eloquent and rich usage of speech. Their letters sound like correspondence from a different century.  So what can the islanders do in a race against time before they lose their ability to communicate?  You’ll have to read and see.

This is a highly creative, funny readI thoroughly enjoyed it and even found myself laughing out loudAfter finishing the book, I got one more huge chuckle when I realized something that was under my nose all alongThumbs-up for a delightfully original and amusing novel; a felicitous festival of phraseology!

If you enjoyed the lipogrammatic (written without specific letters of the alphabet) style of this novel, you may want to consider A Void by Georges Perec, written without the use of the letter “e.”

This book met several of my 2015 Book Challenges: Read a book set in a foreign country (although fictitious); Read a book set on an island; Read a book that makes you laugh out loud. Read a book from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

Happy Reading,


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