Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

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Reader Round Up: April


Recently in an e-mail a student inquired how my coronacation was going. I can’t say I feel like a pandemic stay-at-home has the feel of a vacation. It’s not even a staycation since I am not electing to stay home to lounge out. I am staying home (when masses of people are not) because it’s the wise, safe, and healthy decision for the times upon us. Besides I’m working. My computer and I have a love/hate relationship going at present. I love that I have a reliable laptop, yet I hate how I’m chained to it 6-8 hours a day as I create lesson videos, watch webinars to create lesson plans, answer emails, write emails, log the emails and phone calls I make to students and families, and grade the assignments that trickle in. Then again, that sounds like I’m complaining I have meaningful work, and for that noisome whine, I apologize. I will say I have developed eye twitching from all the constant screen use. Blink more. Thank you. I will do that.

As for reading? I would usually be jumping up and down to have so much “extra” time to read. Having something to read, and having the inclination to read are needed to create a Reader’s Round Up. Honestly, when I do find time to read I end up napping. Maybe I will create a monthly blog post titled “Nap Chat” in which I discuss my best and favorite naps of the month. For now, highlight books read during April:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ *weighing in at over 600 pages of small print, it kept me occupied for at least a week Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, writes in the similar fashion of florid description, and memorable characterization within a complex plot. An intriguing tale filled with twists and turns, A Woman in White is a mystery that provides a grand story of mistaken identities, sleuthing, secrets, and deception. The BBC adaptation is similar to Collins’ novel, yet as they say, the book is the book and the movie the movie.”

Extras by Scott Westerfield ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ *one of the quick grabs off my classroom shelf before everything shut down—it’s a popular series with my students, so why not? The fourth book in the Uglies series is full of action and unique characters. At times the inventions seem contrived, and at other times ingenious. There is some surprising science interjected within the plot which balances out some of the silly fame banter.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens star ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Book hype usually puts me off of reading the title. I read it because it was in a bag of books dropped off to me, and I read it in one day. Somewhat implausible, yet a well told story with courtroom drama that rivals the glory of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lady Susan by Jane Austen ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Lady Susan is not usually counted amongst Austen’s titles. Speculation could be it is so short it’s not a novel but a long short story, at best a novella. Another speculation being Lady Susan is so totally unlike any of Austen novels that it is in a category of its own. Somewhat like that one really peculiar meal that a prestigious chef once made that, well, just wasn’t up to par with the other fine cuisine, so we just won’t mention it. Out of courtesy. Lady Susan is no Lizzie Bennet, not an Emma, and definitely unlike any of the heroines Austen has presented to readers. Lady Susan is an unscrupulous conniver—in fact there is no one worth rooting for in the story. On the other hand, it is Jane Austen—just nod and say it was delicious, but you probably won’t be asking for seconds.

Last minute squeaker of an April read
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
A combination of fact and lots of artistic license, yet provides a fascinating insight into Vincent Van Gogh’s tortured brilliance. Theo is real hero.

I should have rolled a wheelbarrow into the library and started emptying shelves. It doesn’t help that my Goodreads counter keeps nudging me that I am behind in my book reading. I know. I know.

Reader Round Up: March


March began in the usual way: school, home, the routine of routine. Then murmurings of a really bad flu flutter into the periphery around the middle of March (ironically teaching “Beware the Ides” with Julius Caesar walking to the forum). Routines are jarred as parents pull students from school and we watch and wonder if our school will also shut down with one week to go before spring week. We did and in two weeks all has changed and routine is a daily challenge.

Where does reading fit into this new normal? Reading used to be my anticipated reward, my stress reliever, my defrag from working with screens. Now, with only a scant handful of books (paper, not electronic, preferred) to last, who knows how long, reading becomes a quandary. Reading helps wile away the hours and keeps my brain from fogging over from too much screen time. Yet, I will clearly run out books on hand sooner than anticipated. Why didn’t I grab more books from the library before it closed?

Highlights of March:

The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird with a tomboy, an odd playmate, a mysterious neighbor and a life lesson.

Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ An old fashioned adventure in the style of Robert Lois Stevenson

In the Jellicoe Road by Marlena Marchetta ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A YA that combines the ruthlessness found in Lord of the Flies with the mind-warping plot twists of I Am the Cheese.

Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ One of those mad grabs off the shelf before the library closed and an unexpected joy as the book reveals the early days of Yellowstone Park through the witty and informative epistolary exchanges of a hodge podge of characters pursuing science.

Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Imagine Henry Fonda from his role in On Golden Pond and a teenage Queen Latifah, you then would have Norman Alvord and Epiphany Jones, better known as J. Norm and Epie. These two form a symbiotic friendship as they battle their dysfunctional families.

The Least of My Brothers by Harold Bell Wright ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A classic re-edited by Michael Phillips. Turn of the century story of the difference between being a disciple of Christ and a member of the church, with plenty of drama and characterization and a minimum of preaching making for a thoughtful consideration of what defines a Christian.

Ender’s Shadow by Scott Orson Card ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Having read Ender’s Game several years ago I thought it time to read its counterpart. Read it in a couple of days since I was able to dedicate that much time to reading a 400+ page book being on spring break.

A mixture of titles and interests as usual. As my library stash dwindles I will begin getting creative (or desperate) and begin prowling my meager collection which consists of read and reread classics or dipping into my hubs’ technical journals and how to manuals.

Bard Bits: April


Honestly, you don’t look a day over 415, Bill!
1564-1616
April 23

Yup, it’s birthday time for William. He had a much bigger party six years ago when he hit the big 450. All over the world people celebrated the genius of the man from Stratford-Upon-Avon.

How does a person offer birthday congrats to someone who has given so much to the world in terms of literature and themed studies of human nature? Royalties, maybe. Wouldn’t that be a welcome stimulus check in the mailbox? Films, books, plays, mugs, t-shirts, buttons, toys, business names, and so much more are derived from Shakespeare. From what I have researched about his personality, I’m sure he would be amused at the adulation. He would probably discount it towards misshapen apparitions of misguided judgement.

I must offer some sort of tribute to Bill on his birthday. Hmm, how about something acknowledging my appreciation for one of his most amazing works: Hamlet. Yes, Hamlet once again. The Muppets had their say last month, now it is time for Veggie Tales to lend their muse to this timeless play of the troubled Prince of Danes or is that Danish?

https://vimeo.com/247649481?ref=em-share

Maybe you have your own ideas for a birthday tribute. I would surely appreciate hearing how you appreciate Shakespeare. Stop in the comments and have a piece of cake.

Image result for shakespeare birthday cake
Yes, you can have cake and eatheth, too.

Igniting a Discussion on Happiness


In my day job as an AP teacher I have the privilege of introducing students to literary works of merit. I look forward to their insights and perspectives.

Image result for f451 images are you happy

We have just begun Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian tale of government control: Fahrenheit 451. This deceptively easy read contains complicated topics. One discussion topic is happiness. Guy Montag is not a happy fireman, or at least he was one until Clarisse asked him, “Are you happy?”

Image result for f451 images are you happy

So I put it to my students a discussion statement prompted by Clarisse: “Happiness is a choice, not a given.”

A lively discussion developed with a split between total agreement and a few who decided happiness was a complicated issue and they couldn’t come to complete agreement about it.

I then prompted them with this question: “What is the difference between happiness and joy?”

Their conclusions were opposite of my mine.

They said: “Happiness is long lasting, while joy is a temporary emotion.”

Hmm, I’ve always reckoned it to be the opposite. Happiness is a temporary state, dependent on outside circumstances, yet joy lives deep in our being, dwelling in our soul.

Nope. They didn’t buy that. Maybe I did have it wrong. I proceeded in the course of action that all teachers must do when wondering if what they are teaching to their students is baloney. I Googled it.

This is what I found: Joy or Happiness?

What are your thoughts? Is happiness dependent on outside circumstances? Does joy stem from emotional contentment from within?

Interestingly enough Guy Montag, F451’s protagonist, upon realizing he is not happy begins making decisions involving enormous collateral damage. Joy is never mentioned as Guy Montag seeks happiness. Does he find happiness or joy? I will have to reread it and decide if he actually did. And that’s why F451 remains a classic—it keeps asking the reader questions after the last page is turned.

Image result for joy vs happiness
What are your thoughts about joy vs happiness?

Reader Round Up: February


Oh, Yay—made it to March. January and February are the funky winter months around these parts. Too much snow mixed with occasional icy windy Arctic blasts with a rounding off of a surprising amount of rain. Indoors weather for sure, as I no longer ski having learned to appreciate my extremities staying in one piece, thank you muchly.

February might be the shortest month, but this year is leap year which calls for an extra day of reading. Nice.

To celebrate leap year, February’s Reader Round Up consists of the usual star reviews and links to Goodreads reviews with the added bonus of one sentence teasers.

Image result for on the beach nevil shute book cover

On the Beach by Nevil Shute ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ The rabbits win.

Image result for tommorrow is forever book cover

Tomorrow Is Forever by Gwen Bristol ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Fortunately the book was shorter than the war.

Image result for howards end book cover

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Sometimes the movie is actually better than the book.

The Breaking Wave by Nevil Shute ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ In this case, it wasn’t the butler who did it.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Some people have a burning desire to read a good book

Reading Round Up: January


January is a complex month: it’s a fave in how it ushers in a new year full of promise, yet it drags in with it the continuance of winter. There is also a remainder of the semester, about two weeks before a week of finals with a scant couple of days into the second semester.

Not that anyone is asking me, but I would like January to be a reset month. Turn the corner, flip the calendar over, and it’s a new year, new month, new semester, new weather. None of this leftover stuff. Until that grand plan gets off the drawing board I will continue to forge on and meet my goal of reading 101 books this year (I’ve met my goal for the last three years with a bonus reading *woo hoo*).

Setting up the Goodreads Reading Challenge is a marvelous way to keep track of my books. Some I remember clearly, some are hazy. Some are “I read that?” I should read as Francis Bacon suggests, which is to savor and digest slowly; however, even he acknowledges some books end up being consumed quickly since they are so tasty, like in that chocolate truffle was so yummy that I consume it in one bite and can’t really remember how it tasted, except it was really, really good. Some books are like that.

Here are the highlights from January. I have added the links should you be prompted to read the review. Reading gets me through the gloom of January’s continuous wintry days.

Mozart’s Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Conan Doyle ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Diary of River Song: Series One by Jenny T. Colman, et al ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The West End Horror: A Posthumous Memoir by John H. Watson, MD by Nicholas Meyer ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Breaking Wave by Nevil Shute ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Goodreads Challenge minder gently admonishes me to stay on track by letting me know how many books I am behind. This sets up a bit of panic as I imagine this growing pile of unread books trailing after me from month to month. I basically have to average eight books a month to hit my goal. Not always easy when there is a riveting PBS Masterpiece series on. We’ve been immersed in Howard’s End with Haley Atwell and Matthew MacFadyen. Of course the series prompts me to go and grab Forster’s book from the library. Maybe there will be a comparison between the book and the film (Emma Thompson) and the PBS series…hmm, is the library got late hours today?

First Review!


Good news, especially unexpected good news that pops up in the email agenda, is very much welcome. And when it is a good news about my debut book’s first professional review—well, that news needs to be shared!

Last week my publisher emailed me Kirkus Reviews reception of Someday We Will. I was told I had to keep it on the quiet until January 21. The calendar now provides an all clear…

And here is what Kirkus has to say:

While long-distance relationships can be a bit difficult to maintain even with the possibilities of today’s technology, this will surely encourage good strategic discussion to quell the impatience of waiting for the next welcoming stay at a grandparent’s home.Captures the eager anticipation of reunions with loving grandparents. (Picture book. 3-7).

I shared this good news with our local children’s librarian and she congratulated me, mainly getting my book reviewed, commenting that many children’s books don’t get reviewed.

So-

Good news received and shared with you. I am hoping for more positive reviews.

The book’s publish date is April 7th—getting closer!

Reader Round Up: December 


December, amidst traditional and expected festivities, is Christmas break. A lovely respite from the storms of education. Trust me, both teachers and students appreciate the time off from school. Parents might also appreciate the time with their kinder–that is a case by case decision (especially depending on the weather and inside time).

As an empty nester educator I look forward to getting some deep, uninterrupted reading accomplished. It’s my last push to hit my Goodreads goal, which is 101 this year. Oh, wait–I’m posting this in January so yes, I did make my goal and then some. Here are the highlights:

Surfacing by Mark Magro  ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

When Silence Sings by Sarah Loudin Thomas ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (Elizabth Rokkan, translator)⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (Stephen Snyder, translator) ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️


On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Revisit to a Perfect Club


Back in August 2018 I discovered the Perfect Club. This was my partial introduction:

I am always interested in reading what others are reading. Somehow I discovered The Classics Club, and the main requirement is to create a list of at least 50 classics and set a read-by date. This club and I shall become besties, I know it. They are friendly and flexible and have all kinds of reading activities going on all the time. This is a better discovery than a new gelato flavor.

I proposed I would complete my reading by December 31st, 2019. Well—that isn’t going to happen. I have strayed from my list a multitude of times to pick up a new shiny. No regrets. I do relish reading, new or classic. A good read is a good read. Below is my revised and tweaked classics list.

* indicates read and reviewed already in Goodreads.

  1. Green Willow by B.J. Chute*
  2. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli*
  3. Blue Willow by Doris Gates*
  4. This Rough Magic by Mary Stewart*
  5. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl*
  6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl*
  7. Charlie and the Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl*
  8. Housekeeping by Marilyn Robinson*
  9. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson*
  10. Princess Bride by William Goldman* (reread)
  11. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf*
  12. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin*
  13. The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier*
  14. The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan*
  15. The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty*
  16. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (reread)*
  17. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn*
  18. Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse*
  19. Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce*
  20. The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells*
  21. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisnero*
  22. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken*
  23. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving*
  24. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier*
  25. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome*
  26. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines*
  27. Swallows and Amazon by Arthur Ransome*
  28. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury* (reread)
  29. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver*
  30. Persuasion by Jane Austen* (reread)
  31. Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner
  32. Howard’s End by E.M. Forster*
  33. Woman in White by Wilkie Collin*
  34. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle*
  35. King Solomon’s Mine by H. Rider Haggard*
  36. The Breaking Wave by Nevil Shute*
  37. The City of Gold and Lead by John Christopher*
  38. The Empty World by D.E. Stevenson
  39. The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner*
  40. The Least of My Brothers by Harold Bell Wright*
  41. The Stranger by Albert Camus*
  42. Lust for Life by Irving Stone*
  43. . Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney*
  44. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke*
  45. Work by Louisa May Alcott*
  46. Lady Susan by Jane Austen (reread)*
  47. Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner*
  48. . My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin*
  49. On the Beach by Nevil Shute*
  50. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley*

Any of these titles look familiar to you? What would you add to the list? Are you going to join me over at The Classics Club?

Image result for december 31 2019

Reading Round Up: October


The ability of freely reading after a long day of teaching and grading becomes an increasing struggle. Books are still a go to for defragmenting my brain, yet I find myself falling asleep way too soon as I relax while reading. It’s taking sooo much longer to get through my TBR stack. Sundays are becoming my reading days. And napping days. I do a bit of both.

Here are October’s highlights:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Realistic slice of how one neighborhood copes with diversity.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Overall, a thoughtful contemplation about what to do when the realization that life might be shorter than initially expected. While the foreign names and places were sometimes difficult to keep straight, the challenge of absorbing deep truths proved worthwhile.

NOTE: As much as I appreciate Jeremy Irons, I found the film adaptation so different from the novel I had to resort to my “the movie is the movie and the book is the book” philosophy. The book, of course, is so much better.

  • Reading Goal Update

Though my usual reading time is cut almost in half with my attention diverted to school again, I’ve managed to read past my yearly Goodreads goal of 101 books, and I am now at 121 titles for the year. Should I reach for 135 like I have previously? Ooh, that might be a challenge to consider…

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