Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “summer reading”

Reader Round Up: June


June was a strange month. At one point I found myself trying to survive 112 degree temps in Arizona. It wasn’t a planned visit. DO NOT plan a visit in Arizona in June. Or July. Or even August. Some consideration can be given to September on up to May.

Then there was a conference I had to attend barely having time to refresh my suitcase contents and reviving from heat prostration.

I will never take the greenery, nor the rain, of my region for granted–ever, ever again.

I returned from one conference long enough to appreciate my bed for a few nights, read a bit in the hammock, and repack the suitcase. Back-to-back conferences sounded like a good idea back in April when I scheduled them. You know, get business out of the way to leave the rest of summer to enjoy…

Unscheduled life events can throw neatly planned calendars right out the window.

I haven’t really started Summer Break (yes, it’s capped–because it is important) but I have snuck in a few choice books during my heat endurance trial. The site library had air conditioning. Fortunately.

Cormorant’s Isle by Allan McKinnon

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

A freebie from the library rack and I’m glad I grabbed it. Publish date is 1952 and has that old feel of a Mary Stewart mystery with a bit of Ian Fleming. I’m determined to find more of McKinnon’s books.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The librarian within thrilled to the idea of reading about the great Los Angeles Library fire–not because I harbor pyro tendencies, because such a huge event had gone unnoticed–a library fire that consumed hundreds of thousands of books and I hadn’t heard about it?

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Victoria Jones is 18 and is graduating out of the foster care system into an independence she is not prepared to handle. Almost feral in how she survives her emancipation, Victoria nevertheless has an innate, refined talent for flowers and finds herself immersed in the world of San Francisco’s flower world.

Charms for the Easy Life by Kaye Gibbons

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Reminiscent of Twain, Culler, and even Lee in its portrayal of a family full of memorable characters, Kaye Gibbons provides a story that reads like an autobiographical tribute to matriarchal families of yesteryear.

A Stranger’s House by Brett Lott

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Having read Jewel, I was prepared for the transparent rawness of Brett Lott’s writing style, that intensity in which he peels back the veneer of coping with life and shows the hurt, anguish, and truths of what it means to live with our humanity. The story still caught me sideways in the way Lott reveals pain and sorrow.

The Pool of Fire by John Christopher

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

The third installment of The Tripod series provides both action and a thoughtful commentary on world peace.

The Seven-Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Is it possible to reach Sherlock saturation? Apparently not. There are many, maybe too many, adaptations, reinventions, and suppositions of Sherlock, both in print and film out and about. Some better than others. Yet, in 1974, Nicholas Meyer provided a clever pastiche called the Seven-Percent Solution and readers, even Sherlockians, can appreciate the effort.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Tiffany. This is the place where dreams abound in its grand showcases and is multi-story wonderment of glitter and gold. What would it be like to work there? Marjorie Hart describes her summer working at Tiffany with her best friend Marty. The two girls, fresh from Iowa, find plenty of first time adventures as they explore New York as young adults, barely out of high school.

Told in first person in a light pleasing style, Hart provides a lively memoir of her “best summer ever.”

Had the potential for a higher review rating, yet vague details and a rushed ending dampened the otherwise enjoyable recollection.

June was an odd month filled with more than a few stress-filled moments; however, books, those paged balms, helped me cope.

How was your June?

Any memorable reads to share?

Summer Reads in the Making


Although school ended June 5th, I signed up for a workshop which prepares me for fall and pays me to be there, so I’m sticking it out until June 12. To celebrate my upcoming release into the almost endless days of summer, which for me involves LOTS of reading, I am finally sitting down to decide on my destinational course of action. I take my Reading Rainbow directive seriously “I can go anywhere. It’s in a book. Take a look…”

My room in its vacated student mode. I’m surprised the desks weren’t more in a tangle from students bolting out the door to summer’s beckoning…  
Here are some possibilities:

King Lear: I’ve watched at least two different dramatizations which were powerfully presented, one with Ian Holm. I even began reading Jane Smiley’s Thousand Acres, a modern retelling (didn’t get too far due to her plot restructuring). I’m drawn to this play, being fascinated by Shakespeare’s penchant for family dynamics and the fact he has three women instead of the usual one or two. It’s weird to realize that in Shakespeare’s day male actors having to project the wounds of a daughter, of trying to capture of how a woman would react to a father’s rejection is fascinating because women had to be portrayed by men. Then again, we also have men portraying women–did anyone really believe Dustin Hoffman was a woman? My choice of Lear is one of considerable contemplation. Basically I’m trying to determine if I can switch to Lear from Hamlet in my AP curriculm. Going from a son’s agony to a daughter’s makes for interesting analysis. Maybe I’ll do a comparison. Here I go again–working on my supposed two months off…

Of course Harper Lee’s Watchman is at the top of the list. I will request it at the library and figure my turn will come along in time for Christmas Break reading.

I plan to browse for some middle reads, revisit some friends from childhood such as Homer Price or Henry and Ribsy. I am open to suggestions for newer middle reads, especially series. I started reading Al Capone Does My a Shirts. It has promise to continue. A kid who lived on Alcatraz?

And I am game for trying out BIG name authors whom I have yet to make an acquaintance. Maybe Clive Cussler, or Janet Evanonich. I’m taking suggestions for commercially successful authors because I need to get out of my nineteenth century rut of classics reading. I think its healthy to read a book by someone who’s presently living.

Then there is my TBR. Time to blow dust off the list and begin whittling down the titles. 

And what will you be reading this summer?

Anyone try these out yet?

Boston Girl/Anita Diamant
The Remorseful Day/Dexter
Book Seller/Mark Pyor
The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction/James Thorn
Tipping Point/Gallagher
Bird by Bird / Anne Lamott
Loving/Living–Henry 
Hidden Talents-David Lubar
Love, Nina/Nina Stibbe
Juliet’s Nurse/Lois Leveen

Summer Wonders


Returning school goes beyond getting back into a routine because it means I also have to make adjustments to my practicing for retirement. No more rolling over and going back to sleep, no more schlepping around in jammies, no more naps, no more odd eating hours, or meals for that matter. And worst of all, no more diving into books for an entire day and barely coming up for air. Responsible English teachers don’t partake in any of the above behaviors. At least not during the school year. Yet, summer vacation does allow me to practice the art of retirement and one of those skills is thoroughly enjoying a really good read. I was fortunate this year and enjoyed more than my usual share of good reads:

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Breathtaking in its flow and style, I absolutely devoured Doerr’s novel about two lost children. Set in WWII, Doerr portrays the war in a way I’ve not encountered before. One perspective is through the blind eyes of Marie, a young French girl whose indomitable spirit carries her beyond the war’s cruelties. The other perspective is that of Werner, a German youth whose talents land him in the Hitler Youth. The parallel stories eventually telescope down to a satisfying denouement. Doerr, already an award-winning author, will do doubt increase his presence with this amazing tale of how the spirit can overcome its surroundings.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan

Sometimes I simply have to take a break from the pedantic pace of classics, or step away from serious literary excursions. Mr. Penumbra helped me to once again find the wit in wordsmithing. This foray into classic literature name dropping reminds me of Jasper Fford’s Thursday Next series, which is a delight in how it metafictionally pokes fun at how serious we tend to take our literature. Robin Sloan not only lovingly jabs at academia, he embraces our wanderings over to the dark side of technology via Google (those villains). Yet, bad guys (technology) aren’t so bad, once you understand them, and often they prove helpful overall because they are just misunderstood.

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

My first introduction to Ishiguro and of the three novels I read of his over the summer, this one is certainly the best in my opinion. The voice of nationalistic pride and misguided directive is so artfully penned in this memoir of a proper English butler. The bonus being how well the film adaptation captured the slow realization of how corrupted Steven’s outlook was after all.

The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills

As a TKAM devotee I jumped on ordering Mills’s account of her time with Harper Lee faster than freckles popping out during a July heat wave. Lee has become such a recluse over the years it has been feared this national treasure will leave little behind in way of knowing who she really was. Fortunately Marja Mills went beyond her journalistic assignment and got to know Harper Lee as friend and neighbor allowing fans and readers a delightful glimpse into what Scout might have been like in the real.

The Push Cart War by Jean Merrill

This cannot possibly be a kids’ book! The wit is droll in delivery and its lampooning so adroit I don’t see how children could appreciate it fully. Maybe I’m only bereft in my opinion since I missed this one growing up. I think I got sidelined by Encyclopedia Brown. Just like The Phantom Tollbooth or Alice in Wonderland is not strictly for children, neither is Merrill’s classic. I’m ever so glad I found it and I made up for lost time.

The_Pushcart_War_-_cover_image_1964

image: Wikipedia

One Whole and Perfect Day by Judith Clarke. A Printz Honor Award
YA reads are hit and miss for me. There tend to be riveting and noteworthy like Hunger Games and Divergent or fall into high school drama–been there done that and see it everyday. Now and then I do get to pick up a YA which should be in what I call the YA+ category, meaning it’s more towards literary then temporal contemporary (I think it has lasting merit, not trendy, and an adult shouldn’t be embarrassed reading it). Clarke’s novel concerning a girl’s desire to have one day where her family is not dysfunctional fills that YA+ bill. Set in Australia, Lily does indeed have an odd family and what is even more odd is Clarke’s approach to the Point of View–it’s omnipotent, which has fallen out of favor. With almost Dickensian flair for characters and situations, Clarke provides a plot that slowly builds to the becoming a whole and perfect story–pretty nearly.

What’s really the wonder of these summer reads is that they were all recommends found on blogs I perused. Following other Book Boosters definitely has its benefits and I no longer have to forlornly drift the stacks hoping to uncover the newest hot read or find a lost treasure.

How about you?  Any really good reads found and savored over the summer?  Any great recommends discovered while catching up on your blogs?

Dandelion Summer


It’s always a pleasure to discover a new author, especially one who is prolific. Such is the case with my discovery of Lisa Wingate and her novel, Dandelion Summer.

Set in contemporary Texas, this is a character-rich story  with two polar opposites.  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. Thrown together against their will, they reluctantly form a truce of temperaments as they launch out on a journey of discovery together.

One of the more delightful aspects of the novel is how Wingate swings the viewpoint from J.Norm’s to Epie’s, allowing the reader to fully realize the entire picture. Norman is a recent widower, ailing not only in health, but in regrets.  He is at odds with his only child, Deborah, a resentful professional woman who believes her efforts to run her father’s life is merely a way to honor her promise to her deceased, beloved mother. Epiphany is a troubled biracial sixteen year old who has it tough at home and at school. Both Epie and J. Norm want to break free of their circumstances and solve the mystery of who they really are.  The varying viewpoints provides the balance of age and youth, and it isn’t long before it’s clear that no matter a person’s age, status, or experience the basic need of family is foremost.  Epie and J. Norm form a family bond of sorts and what could have become oversweet in outcome turns into a realistic story of two hurting individuals who learn to rely on someone they least suspect of being a means of help to their situation.

My biggest takeaway from the novel is Norman’s letter to his daughter, Deborah.  He knows he wasn’t there for her when she was growing up and his letter is an apology, yet it is also an instructive that all fathers can learn from.  I plan on slipping this to my sons someday (never mind there aren’t married, or even have serious girlfriends yet), and maybe I can convince my pastor to read it for next Father’s Day. Here is an excerpt:

Dear Deborah,
Words do not come easily for so many men. We are taught to be strong, to provide, to put away our emotions. A father can work his way through his days and never see that his years are going by. If I could go back in time, I would say some things to that young father as he holds, somewhat uncertainly, his daughter for the very first time. These are the things I would say:
When you hear the first whimper in the nights, go to the nursery and leave your wife sleeping. Rock in a chair, walk the floor, sing a lullaby so that she will know a man can be gentle.
When Mother is away for the evening, come home from work, do the babysitting. Learn to cook a hotdog or a pot of spaghetti, so that your daughter will know a man can serve another’s needs.

The letter continues with sound advice and lyrical admonition to be all a man can be by being the best father a daughter can have and remember.  I read this to my writing compadres and the “oohs” and “aahs” circled around the table.

Dandelion Summer is definitely a book for perfect for the summer read list, yet  its warmth resonates long after the last word is read.

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