Books Read in August 2019

Ah vacation reading. So much time. So many good things!


Picture Book: Birds of a Feather
Middle Grade: Pie in the Sky
Young Adult: Queen of the Sea, Sorry for Your Loss, Ordinary Girls
Grownup Fiction: Daisy Jones and the Six, City of Girls

Picture Books:

Daniel’s Good Day
Micha Archer
Read for Librarian Book Group

Lovely soft-focused college-like illustrations of Daniel interviewing people in the neighborhood about what makes a good day.

You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks
Evan Turk
Read for Librarian Book Group

Big illustrations of many national parks (though not Crater Lake!) and an afterward that dissuades the nefarious methods by which the parks were obtained.

The Night is Yours
Abdul-Razak Zachariah and Kenturah A. Bobo
Read for Librarian Book Group

A girl plays in a courtyard with other children. I wouldn’t mind living in that apartment building.

Birds of a Feather: Bowerbirds & Me
Susan L. Roth
Read for Librarian Book Group

“The differences between a bowerbird and me are fewer than you might expect.”

Great first line! Great college!

Middle Grade

Pie in the Sky
Remy Lai
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s an immigrant story, in this case, the destination for the immigrants is Australia. I loved how well this book told the story of not understanding things because of not knowing the language.

There was great brother tension, because the older brother’s language skills were not progressing as quickly as the younger brother’s. This book also integrated the text with the illustrative panels, it was a book/graphic novel hybrid (though heavier on the book).

There were many amusing details, and sad feelings, and overall, this was probably one of my favorite middle grade books this year.

Young Adult

This Time Will Be Different
Misa Sugiura
Read for Librarian Book Group

One of the things I loved about this book was that it examined some of the ramifications of the Japanese internment during WWII. The book is set in present day, but the work done by C.J.’s great-grandparents and grandparents to recover from losing everything when they were forcibly relocated is still rippling down, many generations later. I think it’s important to trace things that happened back in the day and show how they still affect the present day.

It’s also chronicles shifting friendships (one of my favorite YA novel things) and there’s a very real mother/daughter relationship with a lot of nuance. Sugiura also includes a much-debated issue in an organic way that defangs it from the drama in which it is usually encountered, instead portraying it the personal matter it is.

Overall, this was a really great read that juggled a lot of things without ever feeling issue-oriented or too unweidly. Well done.

When We Caught Fire
Anna Goodbersen

I think I put this down four times to read other books. I probably would not have finished it, but I kept running out of books I wanted to be reading.

Things it’s got going for it: Chicago right before the great fire is an interesting setting; the social climbing aspect is interesting, as is one character’s navigation of being both the servant and the best friend of another character.

Unfortunately, this book suffers from a lopsided love triangle–there was no reason for me to believe that the choice was impossible and all the drama associated with the dithering was just dumb. Plus, all the characters made repeated idiotic choices and the ending was completely unbelievable.

Inventing Victoria
Tonya Bolden

This was an old fashioned book where we see the main character struggle through a childhood in reduced circumstances (in this case the daughter of a local prostitute in the Reconstruction-era South.) Then we see fortune’s wheel turn and a new and different kind of struggle to transform herself and leave her past behind.

Overall, Essie was interesting and I enjoyed accompanying her on her journey.

Ordinary Girls
Blair Thornburg

Holy cats, this book was fun! We’ve got a sister story, we’ve got a large, rambling, moldering house story, we’ve got a quirky family story, we’ve got an outsider story and we’ve got it all packaged together with sparkling writing, and astute observations.

If you’re a Jane Austin fan this is a book for you.

Also, what a great cover!

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Read for Librarian Book Group

It’s a make-up/break-up relationship. So very frustrating to observe in real life, it did make for a compelling narrative. When will she learn about Laura Dean? Be strong Freddy! Be strong!

The First Part Last
Angela Johnson

One of the many awesome things about being in a book group with librarians is that they know all the books. So when I say, “I haven’t read many books about teen moms,” they are handy with this recommendation which is a short book of beautiful prose about a teen dad making the best choices he can for his daughter.

Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
Read aloud

This was a great read aloud with a lot of tense moments. This time, I loved how much of Eleanor & Park’s relationship took place hanging out at Park’s house. It was cold outside, they didn’t have much money, and Park’s dad wouldn’t let him drive anywhere. It felt like a very authentic adolescent relationship.

Also, this book is full of large-body feelings.

How it Feels to Float
Helena Fox
Read for Librarian Book Group

An engrossing story of a teenager untethered and how she re-tethers herself. It’s set in Australia for people so interested in that setting.

Sorry For Your Loss
Jessie Ann Foley
Read for Librarian Book Group

I’m a huge fan of stories featuring huge families and they are few and far between, probably because multiple siblings make for more juggling by the author, and also probably because most of us don’t come from large families anymore.

But this book focuses on the underachieving youngest member of a family of eight children. One of his brothers recently died–hence the title–and he’s trying to get through high school.

It’s also a book about finding your “thing” which is always an enjoyable thing.

Queen of the Sea
Dylan Meconis
Read for Librarian Book Group

The first chapter of this graphic novel was confusing and off-putting. Thankfully, I persisted, because after that, this story of a young girl growing up on an island populated with nuns was both delightful and a page turner.

I loved seeing how life on the island work, getting to know the nuns personally, and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. Here’s hoping for a second book.

Grownup Fiction

Daisy Jones & the Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid

I enjoy a good oral history. Vanity Fair just had a great one with the cast of the television show Veronica Mars. But if I’m reading an oral history, I already am familiar with the subject.

That’s where the magic of this book comes in. It’s an oral history of a band that never existed yet Taylor Jenkins Reid creates the entire world using just interviews. Also included: behind the scenes of becoming famous; increasing band tensions; and a third act punch I didn’t see coming but elevated the book from “damn this is good,” to “this book is friggin’ amazing!”

I’d also like to give a shout out to Karen Karen, the keyboardist who wants only to be a musician, and not a female musician.

City of Girls
Elizabeth Gilbert

The author read the first chapter to me (and the rest of the audience at Revolution Hall) and I knew I was going to like this book. I mean, I’m in for slutty showgirls in any decade, but especially the early 1940s.

It proved to be a rollicking ride. There was a bit about 7/8ths of the way through where things were a bit draggy, but then it picked back up. I enjoy a main character who is intimately familiar with her flaws and strengths and this book made for good reading.

Young Nonfiction

Moth: An Evolution Story
Isabel Thomas & Daniel Egneus
Read for Librarian Book Group

Illustrated story of the peppered moth, made famous in textbooks and used to teach about natural selection. Lovely illustrations.

Grownup Nonfiction

Atomic Habis
James Clear

When I read the Power of Habit earlier in the year, I felt a bit shortchanged, wanting more in the realm of self-help. This is book I was looking for, and is a great companion to that book.

If you are looking for a way to change yourself through many small changes, James Clear has a plan for you.


Magnets are my current favorite souvenirs. They are inexpensive, they have a task besides being a memory, and they don’t take up a lot of space. Here are the three that I bought on this trip.

I’ve been collecting pressed pennies since 1985. My first one was from the Oregon Coast. Here are four from this trip.

You can see that we had older pennies (pre-1986) for the Ferndale and Face Rock pressings, but had to use newer ones for the Sky Trail.

I should start keeping a stash of older pennies just for this purpose and I should also probably add “pennies” to my packing list.

Trees of Mystery Does not Disappoint!

On our way back home, we made time for the Trees of Mystery, which was an excellent tourist stop.

From the parking lot, you can see Paul Bunyan and Babe. Unlike the Paul Bunyan that lives up the street from me, this Paul Bunyan talks! You can even hear This American Life‘s Ira Glass talk to Paul in this episode.

Here’s some info:

There was a huge gift shop (befitting any tourist trap worth its salt) and some chairs outside for resting.

And after we stop for a photo, we set off along the path!

I loved the signage in this place. It’s also a very popular attraction and has been for years, so it’s a well-oiled machine. The paths are nicely graveled and wide, the destination was clear, the things to see are fun.

Some of the signs could have used a bit more attention in the apostrophe realm.

These are signs commemorating weddings.

A lot of them recognized Mr & Mrs [husband’s first name] [husband’s last name]. Good job making the women disappear!

We made sure to take the Skytrail. Here’s half of a double picture in our gondola.

The Skytrail let us see the trees from the air, and get some good pictures when the cars stopped.

It was a long way down.

And here we are at the top.

Which provided great views, plus binoculars to better see them with.

We explored a bit and then headed back down.

Self portrait from inside the gondola.

A funny sign. Make your reservation now for 2620!

The path to the exit had redwood sculptures.

I like this one quite a bit.

Matt stopped for a picture with a statue.

Should you visit the California Redwoods, do make time for the Trees of Mysery.

With that, our last stop, we headed north. What a great trip!

Sara & Shawn in Northern California!

We had planned to visit northern California before Sara got a job at Humboldt State University, but it was a happy happenstance that she did, because we got to meet up.

We first visited McKinleyville, where Sara and Shawn are living temporarily while they get settled. It is a house full of boxes at this point because the moving company absconded with their stuff for many weeks before finally delivering it.

After picking up Shawn, we met up with Sara in Arcata, had dinner and walked to campus so we could see her new working environment including her office.

Sara told us that HSU, Humboldt’s initials are sometimes translated as, “hills, stairs and umbrellas.” While we had clear skies, we did climb a lot of stairs on those hills while walking around.

Including all the stairs to get to this building, the oldest on campus.

It was great to catch up with Sara and Shawn!

A walk on the beach.

We visited Redwood Park, but did not stay. However, in our brief time there, we marveled at the tableaus carved into trees. Here is one we took a picture of.

The fog was still hanging out as we got to the beach.

The purpose of this photo was to mark where we left our shoes, in case we couldn’t find them on our way back.

The tide was coming in, but there was still some good low-tide stuff.

So much fog!

It was windy, and this crow is looking ruffled.

By the time we made it to one end of this section of beach, the sun had appeared.

But the other end of the beach still had some clouds.

Sunny self portrait.

Driftwood shelter

We recovered our shoes without needing the photo. And then we needed to sit down to wipe the sand off.

There were a lot of these types of flowers in bloom. I liked their color and their upright nature.

I’m always a fan of a weathered beach house. Especially ones with round windows.

Arcata’s Charms

Post-beach walk, we headed into Arcata’s downtown area. First we stopped for a cupcake.

Downtown is bustling and includes enough bookstores that I could take a picture of two at once. The one on the left, (Northtown Books) plus the light blue building with the red awnings in the middle of the picture. (Tin Can Mailman)

I hung out in the square while Matt job spotted.

Then we took a walk and found a head in a hole.

We used Google Maps for directions on this trip and every time we entered our hotel address in Eureka, Maps always first suggested the same address, but in Arcadia. So we went to find it. It turned out to not actually exist, so I’m not sure what Google Maps was thinking. The closest thing to it was this barber shop.

And then it was time for the Finnish Country Spas and Tubs which was a thing Sara had alerted us about and which I was looking forward to.

Here’s the front entrance. Inside is a small coffee shop.

Through the back door of the coffee shop is this lovely oasis which leads to little cabins with hot tubs or saunas.

Here was our changing room and tub.

The design is very efficient. At your appointment time, you change in the changing room, then soak. When you are done, you go into a different changing room which allows you to change while the tub is being cleaned and reset for the next guest.

It was very relaxing and if I lived in Arcata, I would probably make time for this spa often.

Escape Eureka and Other Eureka Downtown Things

It turns out Eureka has an escape room and you can go there at nine in the morning. We did so!

The owner said that for the early morning slots, he mostly got tourists doing one last thing before they got out of town.

It was just the two of us, which was nice, as doing escape rooms with strangers is awkward. We escaped, and I enjoyed the variety of puzzles. The clues given came at just the right time.

We also happened upon the Wooden Sculpture Garden of Romano Gabriel, which is kept safe inside in a building downtown.

There was a lot to look at.

And I got my fortune told!

Dispatch from six months later: I do not believe I have yet received a letter that has changed the course of my life. Also, I think I’m hardwired already to avoid the flatterers. And I do wonder if I had played again, as the fortune teller commands me to do, would the next fortune have contradicted this one?

An early morning walk around Eureka

One of my favorite things to do when on vacation is to have a walk around the town. Here’s what I saw in Eureka.

I was interested in this bricked off area in front of this house. It would be kind of front-porch-like, if it had any furniture.

The Carson House is a gem. You can read about it in the picture of the plaque below.

It’s too bad this Map of the Movies didn’t turn up in our pre-trip research. Then again, we didn’t realize we were staying in Eureka.

I checked around to see if we could watch this 100-year-old film and the answer is no. In fact, it was thought to be lost until 2010, when Russia donated 10 silent films to the Library of Congress. Cool!

And there she is! The Carson Mansion, now home to the Ingomar Club. You can see it by googling Eureka California, or just go to Eureka and see it in person. Though only from the street. The Ingomar Club is a private club.

I looked for information about this private club and there wasn’t much. Here is a link to a 1995 newspaper story in which the articles lists a $3,500 initiation fee and $130/month dues (which includes $50 worth of food). The club at the time was males only and required formal wear.

The view from this side shows some additions, cleverly hidden from the front view.

A detail of the house.

Leaving the Carson House, here is another mural, this one giving us a view of the house it blocks.

I enjoyed the name of this shop.

Los Bagels was my favorite Eureka find. Their bagels and cream cheese were delicious!

Here’s a handy Eureka plaque.

Having purchased bagels and cream cheese for our breakfast, I headed back to the room.

Humboldt County Fair!

Advantage to staying in Eureka instead of Crescent City? The Humbolt County Fair coincided with our visit. The Del Norte County Fair was the previous weekend.

To the fair we went!

After our hike and drive through the Avenue of the Giants, we started with some fair food. Matt got some Pad Thai and I got a street hot dog which I had to eat quickly because the stuff on it was making the bun get soggy, but it was quite delicious!

I love a good “any other vegetable” category

Waiting for the start of the Ukel Aliens concert.

The Ukel Aliens turned out to be rad. Someday I’m going to have enough time to be in a community band that plays and sings songs from my younger years.

Look at how much fun they are having! They sounded great too. The woman on the right is Spanky McFarlane who sang, among other things “Sunday Will Never be the Same” with Spanky and Our Gang. She was a guest singer.

Having enjoyed the Ukle Aliens, we headed into the 4-H barn to watch a bit of the pig judging. I love their 4-H uniforms.

This girl eventually sensed I was taking photos.

A picture of a cow is required for all fair visits with livestock shows. I love how pretty the animals look at the fair. And I know they do not look like that on a day-to-day basis.

Into the handmade goods, I found this quilt, which should probably be the eighth wonder of the world.

I’m quite curious as to how it’s maker came by all the crown royal bags. Just the 15 in the bottom row would be more than a lifetime’s consumption of the blended whisky for me. I stand in awe of this quilt.

Some good race car driving.

Then we discovered the Willamette Pie company, which is from our neck of the woods, but which we could not resist.

I got Marionberry pie a la mode, and Matt got an ice cream sandwich. I would have liked smaller portions. However, both items were delicious!

We attended a performance of Special Head. His website says that Special Head “is an Entertainer, specializing in Magic, Levitation, Music, and Performance art. ” (I question the capitalization in that sentence.)

We didn’t know who Special Head (the guy on the right) was, but free shows are fun. Partway through his act an “audience member” started heckling Special Head and eventually joined him on stage.

And eventually showed off his cowboy skills.

Special Head’s act was hampered by a light rain. A few tricks didn’t work because of it, but both performers played off the hitches in their routine as best they could, which made the comedy even funnier.

Although at one point, Special Head said to the cowboy guy, well, at least your mother thinks you are doing well.” And by “your mother” he meant me. Which was not exactly how I was picturing our age demographic breakdown.

Special Head eventually convinces the cowboy to help out with the routine and we get the head in a box.

Plus, this full-on levitation.

Because we arrived early to the Uke Aliens show, we had time to people watch. The girl on the left in the picture above, and her brother were talking with the cowboy about tricks. They both demonstrated to him that they new how to make a pebble disappear from their hand by tossing it behind them.

“Well, there’s a little more nuance than that, but that’s essentially it,” he told them.

Matt and I debated if the kids were also audience plants, or just people who glommed onto the show. I was on the glomming side, Matt was on the plant side.

Special Head and his cowboy friend were a great part of the Humboldt County Fair.