Flashback Friday: Farewell To Manzanar

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/24/FarewelltoManzanarCover.jpg

Farewell To Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston & James D. Houston

(published 1973)

One of my new acquisitions this week is Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield, a new novel set in the Manzanar internment camp in which thousands of Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II. I’m very excited to be starting Garden of Stones, but in thinking about this book and this era in American history, I was reminded immediately of the classic memoir Farewell To Manzanar, which I first read in high school and remember to this day.

From Goodreads:

Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp–with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the  nation’s #1 hit: “Don’t Fence Me In.”

Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family’s attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States.

Farewell to Manzanar shocked me when I originally read it. As a young teen, it was almost impossible to believe that the events depicted actually happened in the United States. I understand that this book is now included in many schools’ required reading assignments, and I hope that continues to be the case for some time to come. As a personal glimpse into a disturbing chapter of history and as a finely-written story of one family’s struggles, Farewell to Manzanar is a modern classic that shouldn’t be forgotten.

… And I think I’ve just convinced myself to re-read this book.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!



The Monday agenda 1/28/2013

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Happy Monday! Looking back and looking forward…

From last week:

A little slower on the book front this past week:

Just One Day by Gayle Forman: Done! I liked it much more than I’d expected to. My review is here.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich: Reading now, only about 50 pages into it so far. 

I read a bunch of my son’s graphic novels and reviewed them here.

My long-awaited new Fables paperback arrived last week! I loved Fables: Cubs in Toyland (volume 18), but now have the usual complaint — I don’t want to wait months for the next one to come out!

I also read the first volume of a new (to me) graphic novel series, Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan. Very intriguing story; I think I’ll be be reading the rest as soon as I can get my hands on them.

And this week’s new agenda:

I think it’ll take me a good part of the week to read The Round House, which is quite good, but fairly heavy.

After that, I may tackle one or two books from my TBR pile, probably An Abundance of Katherines by John Green or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by David Levithan…

…although I’m also terribly tempted by my new arrivals, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and The Child’s Child by Barbara Vine.

I believe this is what’s called an embarrassment of riches! Having too many books to choose from is definitely not a problem I mind having.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Flashback Friday: The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

(published 1981)

I went through a John Irving phase during my college years and immediately thereafter, during which I read, pretty much sequentially, all of the author’s early works, including the more obscure Setting Free The Bears, The Water-Method Man, and The 158-Pound Marriage, as well as the extremely popular The World According To Garp. The one that probably struck the deepest chord with me, however, was The Hotel New Hampshire. So what’s it all about?

From Goodreads:

“The first of my father’s illusions was that bears could survive the life lived by human beings, and the second was that human beings could survive a life led in hotels.” So says John Berry, son of a hapless dreamer, brother to a cadre of eccentric siblings, and chronicler of the lives lived, the loves experienced, the deaths met, and the myriad strange and wonderful times encountered by the family Berry. Hoteliers, pet-bear owners, friends of Freud (the animal trainer and vaudevillian, that is), and playthings of mad fate, they “dream on” in a funny, sad, outrageous, and moving novel by the remarkable author of A Prayer for Owen Meany and Last Night in Twisted River.

This family drama features large and small moments; quiet tragedies and devastating hurts; and above all, love, strangeness, and connection. I adore John Irving’s writing in this novel. His quirky and deceptive use of language sneaks up on you at times, so that I’d find myself doing double-takes and saying, “Wait! What just happened there?”

It’s been many years since I’ve read The Hotel New Hampshire and the other early John Irving books, but I still have my ragged copies of all of these. There are some books that you just can’t part with, after all.

PS – Yes, there is a movie version. And yes, it’s pretty awful. Skip it, and read the book instead.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!



The Monday agenda 1/21/2013

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Happy Monday! It may be a holiday, but that’s no reason to skimp on the agenda.

From last week:

Three reviews and two books completed:

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley: I finished this lovely book the previous week, but didn’t have time to get the review done until I came home from a trip.

The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey: Done! My review is here.

Mrs. Queen Takes The Train by William Kuhn: Done! My review is here.

I also enjoyed reading a few of my son’s graphic novels over the weekend, and will try to write a mini-review/round-up about these books in the next day or so.

Online book group: I’m behind. The Outlander Book Club is doing a re-read of The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, and I am not keeping up. I love the series — can’t wait for the newest book to come out (fingers crossed) in the fall — but I don’t think I can devote time to re-reading a huge novel right now.

And this week’s new agenda:

Where to begin? I look at my shelves, and I want to read everything. Now.

I’m just getting started with the YA novel Just One Day by Gayle Forman. After that, I’m thinking that it’s time to start The Round House by Louise Erdrich, which I expect will take some time and a lot of attention. I doubt there will be room for anything more this week, but if there is, I’d guess that I’ll be wanting something a bit lighter to round out my reading.

My son and I are enjoying Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, which is quite good fun — although we seem to have less and less time to read before bed these days.

Updated to add: How could I forget? Fables, volume 18 is due out this week! And the second my copy arrives, I’ll be dropping everything else to read it.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Flashback Friday: East Wind: West Wind by Pearl S. Buck

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

East Wind: West Wind by Pearl S. Buck

(published 1929)

Pearl S. Buck, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, is perhaps best known for her masterpiece The Good Earth. But how many people have read her first novel, East Wind: West Wind?

From Amazon:

East Wind: West Wind is told from the eyes of a traditional Chinese girl, Kwei-lan, married to a Chinese medical doctor, educated abroad. The story follows Kwei-lan as she begins to accept different points of view from the western world, and re-discovers her sense of self through this coming-of-age narrative.

In East Wind: West Wind, the main character is an obedient and devoted daughter of a traditional Chinese family, raised to be a good wife according to the dictates of her society. She is taught to obey her husband, follow his opinion in all matters, and to serve him as he sees fit. However, her husband has been influenced by his exposure to more modern ways of life and wants a wife who is a partner and who can think for herself.

It is fascinating to see the culture clash that results from this marriage of tradition and modernity. Ultimately, a woman raised to obey her husband finds herself in a position where the only way she can obey him is by disobeying, in order to meet his desire for a wife who is more than a servant to him.

My copy of East Wind: West Wind disappeared years ago, and I’ve always wanted to pick up a new copy and revisit this wonderful novel. If you’ve enjoyed other works by Pearl S. Buck or more contemporary novels set in China (such as Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See), I highly recommend reading East Wind: West Wind.

And if you’re the person who borrowed my copy about ten years ago… I want it back!

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

The Monday agenda 1/14/2013

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

Happy Monday! It’s time to dive right in with this week’s agenda.

From last week:

I’ve just returned from a wonderful 3-day weekend in Victoria, British Columbia, which I shared with my lovely daughter — who happens to be a book fanatic just like me. We spent a good couple of hours haunting used book stores. Oh, what fun! Between the plane rides and some scattered down time in the hotel, I did manage to get in a bit of reading, although I’m now behind on my reviews and blog posts. Totally worth it, as the weekend was fantastic. So here’s where my reading stands:

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley: Done! The review is yet to come, but for now I’ll say that I really enjoyed it — so much so that I stayed up until about 1 a.m. to finish. I can’t wait to read more by this author!

Because I didn’t want to carry too much, I opted not to bring any hardcovers on my trip, and instead started The Cranes Dance by Meg Howrey (which was one of my Wishlist Wednesday books in 2012). I’m about 1/3 of the way into the book, and I’m hooked. (Side note: Are all fictional ballet dancers crazy? Discuss.)

In terms of my online book group commitments, I’ve bowed out of the Jane Eyre read, since I read it again just last year, but I did manage to start re-reading The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon so I can jump into the group discussions.

And this week’s new agenda:

It’ll probably take me a few more days to finish The Cranes Dance.

After that, I’m looking forward to my newest library book, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn. And if I manage to finish that one as well, I’ll have some choices to make: I may go back to Susanna Kearsley for one of her other books already on my shelves, either Shadowy Horses or Season of Storms.  Or, I could dip back into the YA world and read Just One Day by Gayle Forman. I’ve never read anything by this author, but I keep hearing good things — and I actually won this one in a giveaway!

For The Fiery Cross, we’ll be discussing chapters 2 and 3 this week. And if you happen to be a Diana Gabaldon fan and want to jump in and participate, just let me know and I’d be happy to connect you with the group.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Flashback Friday: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

(published 1966)

How crazy is it that a Google image search came up with all of these different graphics and book covers for Flowers for Algernon? That’s not even counting the various stage productions with their posters, playbills, and other paraphernalia. Clearly, this is a book that has staying power.

From Amazon:

With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

I first read this book many moons ago when I was a senior in high school, very keen on all of my AP classes and avidly interested in intellectual pursuits. (What a geek, I know…) Written as a series of diary entries, Flowers for Algernon tracks Charlie’s progress from low IQ to the upper limits of genius. What totally gobsmacked me in reading this book was that Charlie’s new-found intelligence enabled him to predict and track his own downward trajectory. Prior to the operation, Charlie leads a fairly contented life. After the operation, Charlie is elated by his mental powers but ultimately is plunged into despair as he realizes that he is destined to lose everything he has gained. Flowers for Algernon raises an interesting question: Would you rather be blissfully ignorant, or achieve intellectual super-abilities but only for a short time? If gaining a terrifically high IQ also brought you the certain knowledge that your intelligence would soon plummet to below average levels, would you still want the high?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read Flowers for Algernon, but I still remember the impact it had on me. I found it thought-provoking, moving, and disturbing — and I think the fact that it’s still widely read and that the stage version is still frequently produced is a testament to the power of this book.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

The Monday agenda 1/7/2013

Not a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

It’s post-holiday, back-to-work, back-to-reality time. And what better way to prepare than by getting my reading plans in order? Here’s the agenda for this week:

From last week:

Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel: Read the previous week, but finally got the review done last week. Loved this book.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: Done! A great book for starting off the new year on a happy note. My review is here.

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple: You win some, you lose some. I read it, but didn’t enjoy it. My review is here.

And finally, clearing up my library pile so I can start the new year sans guilty conscience over holding onto books for so long… I read Redshirts by John Scalzi. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to this incredibly fun book. My review is here.

This was probably a more productive week of reading than is normal for me. That’s what comes of not skiing during a family ski vacation — plenty of time to sit by a fire with a cup of coffee and a book while everyone else is busy on the mountain. Bliss!

And this week’s new agenda:

I’ve just started Mariana by Susanna Kearsley. I’ve enjoyed two of her novels so far, and this one has been on my shelf for a while now. The cover alone made me fall for this book — can’t wait to see if the story lives up to it!

I have three days of travel coming up at the end of this week, and I take my travel book selection very seriously. So far, top contenders are Mrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn (although, as a hardcover, it might not be the wisest choice for shlepping around), or one of the unread selections on my Kindle, most likely Arcadia by Lauren Groff, Dodger by Terry Pratchett, or Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr.

In the world of kids’ books, good news at last! My son and I seem to have finally settled on a book that we can enjoy together, after starting and abandoning several over the last few weeks. We’re now reading Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, and I think this one will actually stick.

My online book groups are heating up again! Next week, the Outlander Book Club begins its re-read of The Fiery Cross (book #5 in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series) and the week after that is the beginning of a re-read of Jane Eyre. I’ve committed to participating in both of these, but I’m a little worried that I’ll end up stretched a bit thin.

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

Flashback Friday: The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima

(published 1954)

I first read this novel by Yukio Mishima as part of a world lit class way back when. What I remember most is that I’d read one tragic, depressing book after another for this particular class. When we finally got to The Sound of Waves, I read it with my breath held anticipating some horrible event soon to befall the main characters… and then breathed a sigh of relief when I finally realized that this is, overall, a very happy love story.

I was unable to find more than a very brief synopsis on any of the major book sites (this one is from Amazon):

Set in a remote fishing village in Japan, The Sound of Waves is a timeless story of first love. A young fisherman is entranced at the sight of the beautiful daughter of the wealthiest man in the village. They fall in love, but must then endure the calumny and gossip of the villagers.

I don’t remember many of the details, but I do remember loving this book. Over the years, I’ve given away most of my old college lit books, but The Sound of Waves is one that I’ve kept. I’d say that’s it’s probably about time for me to reread this one and see if it still makes me smile.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!

Flashback Friday: Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

It’s time, once again, for Flashback Friday…

Flashback Friday is a chance to dig deep in the darkest nooks of our bookshelves and pull out the good stuff from way back. As a reader, a blogger, and a consumer, I tend to focus on new, new, new… but what about the old favorites, the hidden gems? On Flashback Fridays, I want to hit the pause button for a moment and concentrate on older books that are deserving of attention.

If you’d like to join in, here are the Flashback Friday book selection guidelines:

  1. Has to be something you’ve read yourself
  2. Has to still be available, preferably still in print
  3. Must have been originally published 5 or more years ago

Other than that, the sky’s the limit! Join me, please, and let us all know: what are the books you’ve read that you always rave about? What books from your past do you wish EVERYONE would read? Pick something from five years ago, or go all the way back to the Canterbury Tales if you want. It’s Flashback Friday time!

My pick for this week’s Flashback Friday:

Newest edition. Pretty, but really provides no clue what this book is about.

This looks like the one I read, way back when.

Second Nature by Alice Hoffman

(published 1994)

I have a love/hate relationship with Alice Hoffman. Not with her personally (we’ve never had the pleasure of meeting), but with her novels. When they work for me, I fall in love. But when they don’t, I tend to really, really dislike them. Second Nature goes into the “love” column, along with Practical Magic and The Dovekeepers, among others.

The Amazon description of Second Nature is a bit vague:

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers, Second Nature tells the story of a suburban woman, Robin Moore, who discovers her own free spirit through a stranger she brings home to her perfectly ordered neighborhood. As Robin impulsively draws this beautiful, uncivilized man into her world — meanwhile coping with divorce and a troubled teenage son — she begins to question her wisdom and doubt her own heart, and ultimately she changes her ideas about love and humanity.

Not so different from the generic chick-lit, suburban love story type of fiction, right? Well, no. What they’re not telling you is that the man who enters the life of the main character was raised by wolves — so when they say “uncivilized”, they really mean uncivilized.

A little more info from the Library Journal synopsis:

Hoffman continues her sensitive portrayal of outcasts, growing more bizarre with each book. Here she introduces Stephen, raised by wolves and about to be declared incurably insane, who is rescued by a woman in the midst of a messy divorce. This small Long Island town is complete with pettiness, busybodies, and interrelated lives. Robin’s estranged husband is on the police force, her brother is Stephen’s psychiatrist, and her teenage son dates the girl next door, whose sister is murdered. It is one of many murders (first animals, then humans), all easy to blame on you-know-who.

Okay, yes, bizarre might be an apt description. But it’s also passionate and lovely, and I love a good story that doesn’t follow along the well-trodden path. Maybe every single plot detail doesn’t quite hold up to logical scrutiny, but that’s beside the point. What makes Second Nature work, at least for me, is the depth of emotion and fire that practically drip from the pages.

So, what’s your favorite blast from the past? Leave a tip for your fellow booklovers, and share the wealth. It’s time to dust off our old favorites and get them back into circulation! 

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday bloghop, post about a book you love on your blog, and share your link below. Don’t have a blog post to share? Then share your favorite oldie-but-goodie in the comments section. Jump in!