Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Reflections”

Reader Roundup: August

Ah, August. Usually it’s my last chance for leisurely reading since it marks the end of summer and the start of school.

Not this year.

The loveliest bit about retirement is that summer continues on through and past September. This means that big bag of books from the library will not languish because I will not be planning, grading, or worrying about classroom lessons.

I read in the morning. I read in the afternoon. I read before going to sleep. In between I do stuff like clean, cook, balance Mom’s checkbook, yardwork, write. I play too much Angry Birds Bubble Pop. Hey, no judgment, there are worse time wasters out there. Dr. Who reruns don’t count, either.

Dr Who binging is mindful, right?

I am almost embarrassed when people ask me what I am doing in retirement because my first response is: “reading books.”

It’s more than a retirement activity. It’s absolute sustenance. I fear I might wither without a book in hand.

Here are August’s highlights:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett

A fine read that has all the hallmarks of a beloved classic: Medieval setting, regency betrayal, a pipping hero or two, lovable secondary characters. An amazing fight scene and a thrilling, hold-your-breath ending. The three-legged trickster dog clenches the deal.

The biggest question is why is this book not as well known as other adventure tales like The Man in the Iron Mask?

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Lives of the Pirates by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt

Krull bio books deftly combine fact, along with some speculations, with a fun factor. Hewitt’s caricatures complement the text well. Krull’s pirate book provides a wide range of famous, infamous, and not so famous pirates. I read this because my mother did a stint as a pirate and I needed inspiration to write her story.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Lenz

Lenz provides a YA novel about competition rock climbing with authentic characters and laces the plot with issues ranging from family relationships to dating to introspective self-discovery. The additional literary and music references definitely add to the story.

Only three, you wonder?

August was an interesting month in that I read nine books. That part isn’t so interesting. What I found interesting, perplexing is the better word, is that I started nine books that I didn’t finish. Nine! Am I getting picky or choosing the wrong books?

Do you stick with a book once started or is there a definite standard for a DNF (did not finish)?

Grandparents Day!

Today is Grandparents Day. Probably not the most well-known holiday, then again, everyday as a grandparent or being with a grandparent is pretty special.

My debut picture book Someday We Will celebrates the joy of anticipating a visit with the grand folks. I was inspired to write the book based on all the wonderful activities I would someday share with my granddaughter, Zara. So, happy Grandparents Day to you, Zara from your Gigi.

Hoping everyone’s Grandparents Day is special!

What favorite grandparent memories do you have?

Starry, Starry Nights

I do so like the moon in all its phases. And the twinkly stars. And the shining planets. And all those flashy meteor showers. Oh, and I do like a good old eclipse, be it sun or lunar.

This summer I have diligently tried my best often a couple of times to venture in the wee hours to catch celestial wonder action.

I am more determined to catch a full moon, especially super moons, being that are usually breathtaking and enter the night stage with much aplomb. The past couple of years has seen a ratchet in my moon madness. My dedication is just short concern. Werewolves frighten the socks off me, so that is not an issue. I just really, like the moon.

The hubs ever happy to find a gift that brings delight (I’m not huge on stuff, being a minimalist) gave me a moon calendar this year for Christmas (not knowing I had picked one up from the Dollar Store). I was, over the moon, with his present. Especially when I heard what lengths he went to purchase it. He went on line. This from a man who owns a shirt that says “I hate cyberspace.” This is a love of true depth and devotion.

My backyard moon scape is not as profound, but still worth a watch

I have even subscribed to The Farmer’s Almanac web version to make sure I don’t miss any cool moon and planet action.

Like the planet alignment. You caught that, didn’t you? Wow! Right? I convinced the hubs to sit with on lawn chairs on our driveway and peer up into the night sky at about 4 am to catch this once in a lifetime event. Well, the next time it happens I might be too old to even care about celestial happenings, so I wanted this sighting to count.

There is nothing like getting up what seems like the middle of the night to sit outside bundled up and slightly cold and definitely sleepy, to wait for something that might show up or then again might not. I hear elk hunters experience this. No shooting is involved in star gazing unless it’s a star that took a wrong turn.

I followed the BBC Science Focus, suggested best time to see the 2022 alignment of between 3:39 a.m. and sunrise at 4:43 a.m. on the morning of 24 June 2022. At 4:30 a.m. the show began. An hour of stargazing in the early morn is one thing, but having the neighbor catch us at it is another. When we pointed to the sky at the planets queing as if waiting for their early Starbucks, he nodded and acknowledged the event with a “Cool” before going off wherever he goes at 4:30 in the morning.

Planetary alignment. Check it out:

Couldn’t quite see Mercury, yet I hear it’s a shy planet

July’s sky sponsored a super moon—the Buck Moon, the largest moon of 2022. Another required early morn venture. At 2:30ish of the a.m. that moon did rise up out the southeast as splendid as a Banksy rendering. Super, yes. More like superlative. The fact that super moons are more than once in a lifetime do not lessen their appeal.

Hey, it’s not all about you

Here it is August. What’s on the menu? The Pleiades Meteor Showers, of course. And of course they are best seen at “you want me to get up at 3 a.m.?” This time the hubs said give him the details later like after the sun and he was up.

The first night I struggled up at 2:30 a.m. Just in case the show started early. Not sure how to watch for meteors, and being sleepy, I stood up and leaned my back against the truck and watched. Nothing but a crick in the neck and an overpowering desire to go back to bed. The hubs was not impressed by my meager details.

What I hoped for…

Three nights later I found myself awake at 4 a.m. and this time I had a plan. I bundled up and went to the backyard and climbed into my faithful hammock. This is the best way to watch for anything in the night sky because if there is a starry night no show I can take a comfortable nap. A minute or three goes by. Wait—yes, a falling star. Or maybe that was a star taking a dive off of Venus, since it seemed to ever so slowly dribble downwards. Not too impressive. I’ll wait some more. Ooh—what’s that zipping across the sky with such purpose? Suddenly I feel like an extra from October Sky watching Sputnik threaten my American democracy. Okay, that was entertaining. Another minute or two. The hammock is dampish. I’m sleepy. Hungry, too. Wait—up in in the sky…Is it a falling star? Is it a satellite? A zipping vertical flash—it’s a meteor!

Fulfilled checklist. One lone meteor does not constitute the dizzying scurry of meteors I envisioned, but I’m hungry and the hammock is dampish.

and what I pretty much viewed.

This time the hubs met me at the door as I returned. What must he think about this nocturnal sojourning of mine? He’s happy that I’m happy. We read and go back to bed. I forgot to eat something. So glad for bananas on the counter.

The last super moon of the year will be Thursday, August 11th. The Sturgeon Moon will appear at the very acceptable hour of 6:30 p.m. Thank you. Consider this as my RSVP.

Nothing fishy about appreciating a full moon

And here it is September and the famous Harvest Moon is scheduled for Saturday the 10th. All this week we have watched fill in from a glowing crescent to a radiant cheese ball in the sky. It already is impressive. I am looking forward to its full prominence Saturday night.

Are you over the moon about celestial night viewing? What’s your favorite night sky item?

Neil Young helps to usher out the summer with its moon glorious adventures:

National Read a Book Day

It’s obvious I’m a Book Booster. Reading, reviewing, writing. Celebrating access to books. Promoting reading. A book in hand whenever possible. Today’s national recognition is an everyday celebration for me.

I couldn’t fathom not having a book handy to read.

How about you? Is this a special day or an everyday note of recognition?

Today is Waffle Day!

Waffles are wonderful

I follow the National Day Calendar and while I don’t relate to all the celebrated days (National Leathercraft Day did not do a thing for me, not even a summer camp memory of failed wristbands and key fobs), there are some like August 24th being National Waffle Day.

There are two breakfast camps: pancakes vs waffles. I could extol the wonders of waffles, how their warm and crunchy square golden perfection makes any dull morning sparkle, but then I might offend those who are satisfied with the blobs of dough identified as pancakes resting on their plates getting soggier by the nanosecond.

Clearly, waffles are winners in the breakfast arena of menu offerings.

My earliest memories of becoming a waffle connoisseur start when I am still in the finicky years of childhood, say sixish. My babysitter, a gem of an older woman known as Nettie, had such amazing patience. She had a waffle maker that was oblong, not the usual round variety, and it would produce four square delights of crispy dents that I would slather with butter and maple syrup. They had to be crispy, browned, not dark. Oh, I was demanding then.

Growing up I remember waffles more than pancakes, although there was a crepe phase for awhile. It takes many a crepe to make a decent filled effect. Pretty, yet not terribly satisfying. Waffles provide a square meal. Indeed they do.

Marriage and subsequent family days included a waffle maker. I can make a decent, even an exemplary pancake, but waffles are still the choice. When my sons had sleepovers their friends clamored for “Pamcakes” in the morning.

These days, in our empty nest era, waffles and pancakes are rare treats for we acknowledge the calories attached. By now, after 40 years of marriage, it would be ideal if my husband would acquire a taste for waffles, but he remains a pancake man through and through.

They do say opposites attract.

But we both agree that a waffle cone is the cone of choice for ice cream. Compromise will see us through to another 40 years.

How Cliché: That “F” list

Face the Music: to meet with consequences. An American saying that derived from the theater. An actor on stage would face the orchestra pit, and the audience. If the audience was a rough lot facing the music meant the actor had a tough performance ahead.

One way of facing the music (

Fair and Square: just with equity. Found in the 17th century the term is redundant since “fair” and “square” are similar in meaning. A “square deal” has similar meaning.

Fair to Middling: mediocre. In mid-nineteenth century America, Artemus Ward wrote in His Travels “The men are fair to middling” meaning things are so-so. Look over “Can’t complain.”

Mmm, average? (thefreedictionary)

Far and Wide: affecting those over great distances. One of the oldest clichés about, dating back to the year of 900. The Old English states it as, “feorr and wide.” Shakespeare added it to Romeo and Juliet with the line from Act Four, Scene Two: “I stretch it out for that word “broad”; which added to the goose, proves thee far and wide a broad goose.”

Feast or Famine: an overabundance or a severe deficit. The original expression stated: “either feast or fast.” During the twentieth century the original changed to the present form of “feast or famine.” Though cliché, it is a term that seems to remain applicable.

(Have a) Field Day: enjoy an outing or occasion. An expression from the 1700s that refers to the military proceeding with maneuver practices. The term then began to appear in the 1800s to civilian matters, such as schools taking students out on excursions. It can also mean to enjoy oneself away from the usual, expected routine or even to immerse in criticizing someone, as in the press having a field day with discovering an unsavory situation about a celebrity or politician.

My kind of field day (Reddit)

(To not care or not worth) A fig: worthless. In the Mediterranean area figs are plentiful, so if something is plentiful it’s not considered as valuable. However, in other parts of the world, such as England, figs have to be imported, so they would have value. This makes it interesting when Shakespeare used the expression in his Henry plays. Why did Shakespeare use the expression. I’m not sure–it’s Greek to me.

Filled to the brim: fulfilled to the absolute possibility. Both Shakespeare and Gilbert applied this cliché in their plays to create the meaning of utmost fulfillment as found Antony and Cleopatra (3:13): “He will fill thy wishes to the brimme” and in The Mikado‘s description of the three maids as “Filled to the brim with girlish glee.”

Or is this better for “My cup overflows”? (blogspot)

There are plenty more expressions for the “F” section. Stay tuned…

Any surprises in the discovered meaning?

Reader Round Up: July

In the past I considered July to be my solid summer vacation month. Leftover schoolish stuff in June and preparing for school in August meant July was free and clear for my favorite way to enjoy summer vaycay: hammock reading.

This July was totally different. Really hot, make that extra hot, days prevented hammock lounging unless I was okay with being sizzled while I read. Secondly, after ignoring my yard for too many years I decided it’s time to revamp and recalibrate. Working early in the cool morning and roughing it out until I felt melt status approaching, I weeded, revised, pruned, and created. This did not leave as much time for reading, but I managed to read 11 books as I recuperated in air conditioning in the afternoons and ventured out again the early evening. Here are the highlights of my July reading:

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

(big reading commitment of over 700 pages—didn’t realize what I was getting myself into when I blithely requested it from the library)

Going against the usual maxim of “book first, then movie,” it is suggested to watch the 2000 BBC version with Richard Coyle as John Ridd first and then embrace Blackmore’s story of love, hate, justice, and politics.


The BBC version plucks out the core story of Blackmore’s sweeping adventure epic which is the romance of the star-crossed lovers Lorna Doone and John Ridd. Seeing the pure and intense romance through the camera lens helps when it comes to reading the book as Blackmore tends to digress with panache adventures beyond John Ridd’s love for Lorna.

An Incomplete Revenge (Maisie Dobbs #5) by Jacqueline Winspear

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This fifth entry of the Maisie Dobbs series is more than satisfying—it truly is a really good read. Winspear continues some of her developed plot aspects such as Maisie’s concerns for her aging father and her schism with her mentor, Maurice. There is also long overdue closure with Simon, her wartime love. These important personal points add to the fascinating case Maisie takes on for family friends.
As always, Winspear injects aspects of WWI into the story, and in this story she adds in the additional details of the gypsy culture. Be wiling to sit up and finish the last few chapters in one read since the plot twists are riveting.

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

An impressive debut which explores loss through different perspectives.

Ethan loses a friend through a careless accident and struggles with survivor guilt. His parents deal with his breakdown by uprooting the family from Boston to live with Ethan’s grandfather Ike as a means of starting over.

The loss of a loved one, be it a friend, spouse, parent, even a way of life is explored with genuine characterization and realistic responses. The plot provides adventure, mystery, and sage wisdom in terms of dealing with situations that are out of one’s control.

Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs #6) by Jacqueline Winspear

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

As the Maisie Dobbs series continues, Winspear continues adding layers onto her lead character. In this book the title aptly notes Maisie is Among the Mad. Per her other books, Winspear discusses the aftermath of WWI, in this case how the majority of wounded veterans became “invisible” to society, often being ignored due to their injuries, both physical and mental. PTSD, known as “shell shock,” impacted thousands of people who were involved WWI, Maisie being among them. How people cope with trauma, not just from war, is touched on with Billy’s wife, who grieves the death of her young daughter to the point of physical harm.

A bit darker, and more philosophical than the previous titles, the plot is nevertheless intriguing in how Maisie tracks down her clues to a conclusion. The continuing development of Maisie’s character, as she heals from her own physical, mental, and spiritual war wounds adds fuller dimension to the mystery plot.

Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Absolutely marvelous! A standalone within the Discworld collection, and a delight. No prior Discology needed to embrace Pratchett’s genius dig at the Internet, his tribute to the Post Office, and the appreciation for an anti-hero by the name of Moist von Lipwig.

Pratchett’s creativity with character names, plot pacing, strange interjections, odd and unexpected insertions create a read worth multiple perusings.

The film adaptation has its own merits, as does the audiobook. Watching the film first firmly placed the characters in mind, otherwise how else to envision a golem (so different from LOTR spectrum). Do try reading along with the audiobook—the reader’s character voices are to perfection.

The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs #7) by Jacqueline Winspear

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Once again Winspear deftly combines another perspective of WWI with an unsolved crime. Her seventh entry into the Maisie Dobbs series has Maisie solving a murder in the trenches.

Winspear presents cartography and it’s importance to the war efforts with one Michael Clifton, an American who joins up to honor his father’s homeland of Britain. When his remains are discovered in a field by a French farmer years later after the war’s end, Maisie is hired by the family to find out more about his death.

In her investigation Maisie uncovers love and death, but also faces love and death in her own life.
Richly detailed, perfect pacing, unexpected plot twists, and continuing character development provide a read that resonates.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Young Nisha, half Hindu and half Muslim, writes of her experience during the 1947 partition in India. She addresses her concerns to her deceased mother who died during childbirth of Nisha and her twin brother Amil. Nisha’s father, a doctor, makes the decision to leave all behind due to the erupting violence.

As Nisha and her family travel, her diary entries succinctly describe the trauma of the situation, of dividing India, splitting up families and friendships, and facing death.

The author provides a powerful narrative through Nisha’s eyes, illuminating the search for home and understanding oneself when the world changes overnight.

An important story based on the author’s family experiences, the book spotlights a historical event perhaps as not well known to most USA children, but is timely as current societal issues reflect what happens to a nation when it is divided due to political, cultural, and/or religious issues. Well deserving of its Newberry Honor.

Is July your need to read month? Any picks off the list? Any suggestions to add?

Book BINGO update

My local library, which rates high for coolness, has initiated a summer reading program for adults.

I’m in.

Reading with porpoise

It’s an ocean theme this summer—perfect for beach read opps.

A week into the program and I already have a BINGO! In fact, I was the first patron to turn one in and no one knew what to do with my card.

JUNE BINGO so far:

Read a book by a new to you author
Read while listening to ocean sounds

+ Share BINGO with someone you know (the hubs even checked off a box!)

+ Read for 20 minutes (that’s all?)

Check out and listen to a music album

I turned in my BINGO and being the first patron to do so there was some confusion as what to do with it.

BUT— my entry is in and in August I will find out if I win a prize.

Onward to fulfilling more BOOK BINGOS!

I have three more BINGOs! I am off to the library to turn in my newest card. To get a blackout I am on the search to check out a book about pirates (does Sir Francis Drake count?), a cookbook (hmm–summer salads?), a graphic novel (looking for a redone classic), and I will need to attend a library program (book sale is coming up!), oh, and borrow an e-magazine (not the same as paper, but I’m game).

How is your summer reading going?

Reader Round Up: June

Though school had a smidge more to go, I was already in vacation mode. And this June marked the beginning of an endless vacation as I shut the door to my 20 years of teaching and embarked on retirement.

Summer has always been my read, read, read season. No lesson plans, no assignments to grade, no researching to add sparkle and sizzle to standards and their expectations, and of course, there is the lounging in bed early and late with a good book. *

Summer is a great big “Aah!”

Any hammock aficionados out there?

Starting out strong with nine books, I bogged down in the middle of June when I took on Lorna Doone, which took the rest of June and into July—but it was worth all 700+ pages.

Two ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ reads:

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

5 star read

Sharon Creech’s novels continually provide riveting portraits of family dynamics. The Wanderer is another exploration into a family mystery. Like Walk Two Moons, a young girl is a captive narrator with family members delving into her past while journeying towards her future.
In this story, Sophie is part of a crew sailing to England to visit with her grandfather “Bompie.” Although adopted, she sees herself immersed with the lives of her two cousins and three uncles, yet the closer they sail to England the more she realizes she has a past family that must be acknowledged.
Sophie’s lyrical journaling is intertwined with her cousin Cody’s off-the-cuff observations creating a unique journey story.

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

5 star read

The third book in the Maisie Dobbs series finds Maisie taking on three cases that push her to her limits of emotional, physical, and personal belief capabilities.
Two of the cases lead her back to her war years, causing her to revisit France, forcing her to face past “dragons.” She relies on Billy, her valued assistant, to sleuth the London case as her investigations take her deeper into her own past while searching the past of two former soldiers.
A layered plot, surprise twists, and full characterization create a more than satisfying read.

Four star ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ reads of note:

The Clearing by Heather Davis

4 star read

For fans of Tuck Everlasting and The Time Traveler’s Wife. A book that flirts with the possibilities and impossibilities of time pockets.
Amy moves in with her great aunt Mae in order to restart her life. Moving from Seattle to a small town takes adjusting, especially when there is mist in the clearing beyond her aunt’s house that divides the time between the 21st century and 1944.
An interesting premise that works fairly well, although the ending is a bit muddled.

The Worst Night Ever by Dave Barry

4 star read

If Dave Barry wrote a book for the juvie crowd it would be funny, right? It would be implausibly plotted, right? Hyperbolic humor, right? That is exactly what is found in The Worst Night Ever.
Although the second in his “Worst” series it reads as a standalone. It begins with Wyatt becoming a target for the menacing Blevin twins and moves toward an espionage recon rescue of a ferret to thwarting an evil plot involving killer critters.
At times darn right silly, often times snortfully funny, Barry writes a fun story for the middle school set.

The Fallen Architect by Charles Belfoure

4 star read

This murder mystery comes from the angle of a architectural point of view. A prominent architect is blamed for the collapse of a theatre’s balcony which kills over a dozen people. After serving a prison term of five years he tries to rebuild his life after everything has been taken from him: status, family, home. Plus, he is reviled by the public causing him to change his name, appearance and occupation.
A unique and somewhat refreshing approach to the murder mystery genre. A bit heavy on the emphasis of the variety theatre history, which slowed the plot down at times; however, plenty of colorful characterization and plot twists make for a satisfying enough read to seek out the other titles.

The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt

4 star read

With magical realism leaning towards a fairy tale, Babbitt creates a thoughtful story of everlasting love. When the Amaryllis disappears mysteriously during a storm, the young captain’s wife and son grieve differently. The son runs from his grief to live inland while his mother grows old in her seaside cottage watching for a sign from her beloved captain.
Enter in a visit from the granddaughter who is pulled into the grandmother’s need to know whether her true love, her lost-at-sea captain-husband still thinks of her.
The grandmother believes nothing is impossible, and once again Babbitt spins a story that makes readers willing to believe the unbelievable, just as she did in her classic children’s tale, Tuck Everlasting.

*This feeling usually lasts through July, until Staples, Target, Wal-Mart and the consumer world decides its time to get ready for school–while it’s still clearly summer vacation for most of America. Minor panic begins to set in as I align and adjust and realign and readjust my curriculum, class website, and start diving into district emails. August sees a big dip in reading.**

**Not this year. The <delete> button is a marvelous coping mechanism for retired school teachers. I look forward to bypassing back-to-school frenzy and continuing on in my Book Bingo adventure.

National Hammock Day!

Included in my bio is “hammock aficionado.” Summer is not summer without setting up and reveling in the joy of my hammocks. Yes, that would be plural.

Palm trees are not included in most locations

I have two: one for the sun and one for the shade.

I’m not sure when my fascination with hammocks began. There is something so richly rewarding being suspended above the ground, being cocooned.

I’ve owned the camper’s delight (find two trees and secure it), the classic macramé weave, and currently own a deluxe double wide frame complete with umbrella (for the sun), and my portable frame (for the shade).

Summer starts once the hammocks are set up. Double deluxe takes some thought as it is so unwieldy that once it is positioned that is that. Relishing the gentle early morning sun rays is a pleasant way to start the day. The umbrella helps stave off the intensity of the afternoon sun, and there is nothing like dozing in the double deluxe in the early evening when the sun drifts behind the trees, filtering the shade so there are paths of sunlight and shade whilst I recover from my landscaping projects. Aah!

My little shade model is not as comfy, but being on a lightweight frame it can be easily moved wherever is best. From mid June to end of summer it travels all over the backyard.

It is the end of summer once I acknowledge it’s too cold to hang out in the hammock. I have been known to wrap up in a blanket to catch the last bits of the sun before acknowledging summer is done.

Isn’t this hard to resist?

Hope you enjoy Hammock Day. If you have no hammock then treat yourself to this marvelous means of enjoying the summer.

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