Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “summer”

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:

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?

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.

Summer Reading Bliss

National Cherry Popsicle Day!

National Hammock Day!

Reading Round Up: August

Well, I am going to breeze by my Goodreads goal of 101 books this year. As of August 31 I have read 98 books. I read 21 books in August. I’m almost embarrassed by that statistic. It sounds as if I am holing up surrounded by books and don’t have much of a life.

In my defense, it’s summer and I am on break from school and this is what I do on vacation: read, read, read. It’s difficult to find time once back into the routine of teaching. August also proved difficult for outdoor activities. I did manage to work in the yard on mediocre air quality days and accomplished some projects. I also did some puzzling, and organized my files. What I didn’t do much of was finish up a couple of manuscripts. A big disappointment in that area. The fuzzy grey skies of summer this year definitely affected my creativity’s forward motion.

On the other hand, reading so many books did inspire at least three new story ideas which I framed. Plus, I did manage to send out three projects to assorted editors and agents–planting seeds with a hope of securing interest and contracts.

As for titles read in August…

A mixed shelf of classic and contemporary and genres jumping all over the place.

I began with H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man and ended with Posted by John David Anderson. From “meh” to “wow”–a nice way to end up my summer reading.

I will detail the highs and lows of my summer reading in an upcoming post. If interested in detailed book reviews you can pop over to Goodreads (search: Cricket Muse)or check them out on my full blog site side boxes.

I will miss the lengthy leisure days of reading, yet I am looking forward to passing on my love of books to my students. Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s back to work I go…

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho it's off to work we go

Reading Round Up: May

May provided a mixture of titles. It was a grab and go find time to read as the month was filled with AP testing and finishing up curriculum units. Brain in a blender is how I refer to those mad days of teaching in overdrive mode. Sometimes it’s difficult finding enough energy to peruse a few pages without falling asleep. Book whap in the face is embarrassing.

Greenwillow by B.J. Chute

An enchanting tale with a warmth about it that makes it suitable for a cozy wintertime fireside session or as a drowsy summer hammock companion.

Reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting in how true love is shadowed by a family curse, with a bit of the charm found in D. E. Stevenson’s novels. Gently told and full of quaint characterization and imagery. I hope to find other novels by the author. A delightful five star read.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

A bit of Benjamin Button mashed with Dr Who timey-wimey stuff. The idea of someone who ages incredibly slow is intriguing as it has so many plot possibilities. Unfortunately, most of the story centers on how miserable Tom Hazard is concerning his condition. He is over 400 years old though he looks to be in his forties. Falling in love is problematic, as is staying in one place for more than eight years. The flip flop of Tom’s backstory mixed with present day is the stuff of novels these days, so that wasn’t the issue as much as the over-dramatic ending with serious plot holes. The overall premise is quite clever, the storyline fairly entertaining despite Tom’s grousing. The inclusion of Shakespeare garnered the four stars, otherwise a middling three.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith

While some readers may appreciate yet another spin off of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, it is a universal truth that providing a refreshing retelling is difficult. This is the case for First Impressions by Debra White Smith, who begins her series of Austen retellings with the familiar love story of Darcy and Elizabeth. White attempts to freshen up the story by placing it in a contemporary Texas small-town. Some of the characters have changed, yet not so much for the better. Darcy is Dave, a millionaire hiding from his fame, Elizabeth is Eddi, a sassy lawyer, Jane is Jenny, ambivalent about the men in her life, and Bingley is Calvin, endearing, yet somewhat bumbling in his attempts at admiring Jenny. Lydia is Linda, the promiscuous sister. The Bennett parents still play their assigned roles of mother with no filter and passive father. The other two sisters didn’t make the cast. Wickham is a police officer gone wrong, and Connor becomes the awkward smitten cousin. Overall, the dialogue and attempts to match key dialogue and plot points comes off forced, such as making Connor a third cousin, with several reminders that it’s okay to marry cousins in Texas.

Retelling such a well-known story can be problematic, partly since readers have high expectations the characters and plot will provide similar vitality. Unfortunately, First Impressions did not impress, and it is with regret, as it held promise in its chosen format, but tried too hard to emulate Austen’s story and earns a two star.

The Lost Girl of Astor Street by Stephanie Morrell

Piper loses her best friend Lydia, and is determined to find out what happened to her. This is no easy task for an eighteen year old society girl living the crime-prone era of 1920’s Chicago. As Piper begins her investigation into Lydia’s disappearance, she begins to jeopardize her own safety. Fast-paced, with notable era details, this is an engaging read. Odd, that it is labeled as a YA, since its history-mystery format is more inclined towards an adult audience interest-wise.

One off-putting aspect of the novel is the way Piper is presented: tomboyish, clever, yet emotionally immature. Her overly-dramatic behavior makes her seem much younger than eighteen, more like fifteen, which makes it surprising that a mature police detective like Mariano would be interested in her. The ending definitely hints at sequels, as there are a couple of loose ends that need attention. A four star in spite of Piper’s tendency towards being irritating in her enthusiasm in solving problems.

Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

One of those books that turn out to be a not what I thought after reading a trade review. I liked the cover and was initially persuaded this would be quirky graphic novel. The idea intrigued me of illustrating published stories, a blending of text and visual interpretation. Somehow the stories didn’t quite work. The art kind of did. But they didn’t necessarily work together. “Thursdays, Six to Eight p.m.” is the best pick–fresh and funny. A middling three. A side note is that Niffenegger is the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

After next week I am free to read anytime I care to since school obligations will be over. I already went shopping at the library and have a shelf of reads ready to go. I look forward to feasting with my reading sessions instead of the peck and nibble I contend with. As much as I enjoy teaching, it does get in the way of my reading.

Happy June–the gateway to summer. Aah, yes…

book cover images: Goodreads

hammock image: Pinterest

Hold it, Hold it

My idea of vacation is a quiet condo equipped with a comfy couch and a sunlit balcony–and being within walking distance of a library.

Fortunately, I got all that at a great price–free! Yup, I’m staying at my mom’s place for a couple of weeks while she is traveling. Perfect set up. It’s my old neighborhood, just down from my high school and I’m here for about two weeks.

No yard to tend. No tv to distract. No tempting pantry beckoning me. So no weeding, channel zoning, or needless snacking. Just reading. And yeah, I’m here to focus on my writing too.

Upon unpacking I immediately trotted next door to the library, the one I grew up with from fifth grade through part of college, and scoured the shelves and ordered books not readily available. I’m thinking they would come in a bit at a time, kind of staggered in their return to the shelves.


They all popped in within two days and I am reading, reading, reading.

Life should be so complicated, right?

I am now at 53% towards my reading challenge of 101 books. Ooh, I do so like having a batch of books at my fingertips. *sigh*

So far I’ve read:

Anna and the Swallow Man

The Wednesday Wars

Reduced Shakespeare

Blackberry Wine

Courtyard of Dreams

After Hamelin

As well as having thumbed through a couple of fun books:

Amazing Cows

Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure

William Shakespeare: Scenes from the Life of the World’s Greatest Writer

Dante’s Divine Comedy: a graphic novel

How is your summer reading going?

POM: April 16

Dunbar was one of the first African Americans recognized for his talent in poetry. This is almost magical in its lyric imagery. I can’t even think of trying to find a photograph that could possibly capture its radiance. Perhaps a Monet?

les Coquelicots



Invitation to Love

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 18721906

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome

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