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Jen Jen

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The Art of Ramona Quimby: Sixty-five Years of Illustrations from Beverly Cleary's Beloved Books
Anna Katz, with essays by Annie Barrows and Jacqueline Rogers

I was lucky enough to score this gem for Christmas! I grew up reading Ramona Quimby books. When I was sick as a child, my mom would read them out loud to me until she'd be nearly hoarse. I discovered I COULD get car sick after reading three Ramona books in a row in the car on the road from Oklahoma to Minnesota (or was it Minnesota to Oklahoma? Either way, those were long car rides.) This is a book I am savoring. There is a delightful, sometimes self-deprecating, introduction by Annie Barrows, the author of the Ivy & Bean series. There are short bios of the illustrators who have illustrated the Ramona books throughout the years—with, I grudgingly admit, a reasonable explanation for occasionally having new illustrations drawn.

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The Empire of Gold
S.A. Chakraborty 

This is the third and final book in the Daevabad series :( !

I can see why my husband was anxious for me to get to it. While I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series, I have to agree with him that this one is the best. In this book, the war is officially under way. Ali and Nahri find themselves in Cairo——yes, the human world! If you are a fantasy reader or know one, Tom and I highly recommend this series!

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Sally Sally  

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I’ve begun reading poetry again (and I’m not sure when or why I stopped.) I usually read two or three (or more) poems in the evening, often returning to re-read them following nights.

What the Chickadee Knows
Margaret Noodin

Jen and I oohed and aahed over this book when it came into the store, and she gave me a copy for Christmas. The poems were written in Anishinaabemowin and translated into English by the author, They face each other on the page, which is fascinating. Margaret Noodin is a professor of English and American Indian Education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and her work has a striking sensibility. I’m enjoying sitting quietly with it.

This is the last stanza of the poem “A Joyful Life:”

It’s easy to change our minds
to look through a window, fall into a lake
it’s harder to quit,
to wait or step off the main path
to discover a joyful life.

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Stone Gathering: A Reader
Deborah Jacobs, editor

Our friend Deborah Jacobs is the editor of a series she calls Stone Gathering. She issues five volumes a year, “Poems, Small Fiction, Essayettes,” in a pocket-size format. I’m reading the Fall 2020 issue, savoring each piece. I’ve also been contemplating the overabundance of “stuff” in our home, so this piece makes me laugh:

by Christopher DeWan

She buried her husband with thirty-two years of National
Geographic back issues on top of his coffin. Once, he’d sworn the magazines would leave the house “Over my dead body!” and
when he passed, she granted his wish. The new emptiness of the basement bookshelf was like the new emptiness in her life; it was
odd and unexpected, and she wasn’t quite sure yet how to fill it;
but she knew she’d find a way.

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The Night Watchman

Louise Erdrich

The setting is the Turtle Mountain Reservation in the mid-1950s. The story has two main characters. There is Thomas Wazhashk, based on Erdrich’s grandfather who worked as a night watchman and was a tribal leader. The other is Pixie, a fictional character who prefers to be called Patrice. She works at the Turtle Mountain Jewel Bearing Plant, a real place that was staffed mostly by women. In the early 1950’s the United States Congress announced a bill which would immediately terminate the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and four other tribes. The goal was to eventually terminate all tribes. The Night Watchman tells how a small delegation from the Turtle Mountain Reservation makes the trip to Washington D.C. to defend their tribe and fight for its survival. In addition, it is the story of life on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. Many unique and well-developed characters are woven into the story. We learn of past and present tragedies, as well as the tribe’s rich history and ongoing resourcefulness. The Night Watchman is suspenseful, engaging, and subtly humorous. I have enjoyed all of Louise Erdrich’s recent books, but this just might be my favorite.

Note: The paperback of this title will be released March 23, and may be pre-ordered now.




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Remote Control

Nnedi Okorafor

I’m back into Sci-Fi and this one is really unlike anything I’ve read before. It starts out with a 14 year old girl called Sankofa traveling in her native Ghana. She travels alone on foot but has few fears…... everyone knows who she is. It turns out she is powerful and is known by several names, Child of the devil, the one who sleeps at death’s door, Witch. And indeed she does have power over death….. but she wasn’t always this way. The book moves back and forth in time revealing how she acquired this “gift” from a small glowing seed that landed at her feet during a meteor storm. The story is fascinating and certainly drew me in. You don’t have to be a Sci-fi nerd to enjoy this book and it actually might be a good intro for you into such stories.

Note: the paperback version of the book will be released January 19.




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The Women of Copper Country
Mary Doria Russell

In 1913 there was a strike of the copper miners in Calumet, Michigan. What makes this strike different? It was led by the miner's wives. Annie Klobuchar Clements, at over 6 feet tall, walked at the head of the daily marches carrying a huge American flag. At that time miners made $1.00 a day. They were asking for $3.00 a day and better working conditions. Their adversary was James MacNaughton, General Manager of the Calumet mine. He was a proud and stubborn man, caring only about keeping the mine profitable no matter how many men were killed. He lived in a huge mansion looking down over the town. This book of historical fiction is based on real happenings in the real town of Calumet. The author brings to life the people and their fight for justice. This is a very exciting and moving novel, and includes a tragedy at the Italian Hall on Christmas Eve.

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Our Short History
Lauren Goldstein

Karen Neulander is a single mom with a six-year-old son, Jacob. Karen has terminal cancer and has made plans for him to be with her sister and family after she has passed away. Suddenly Jacob asks about his father and wants to meet him. The book is actually the story of Karen and Jacob's life together, to be given to him at age 18. But now Karen wrestles with what's best for Jacob, bringing his father into his life or not and also facing her own feelings. It’s a bitter-sweet story with humor, too.

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Chestnut Street
Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy died in 2014, leaving behind a number of books she wrote about Ireland and Irish women. She's been a favorite author of American women for years. This is a collection of short stories about characters on Chestnut street in Dublin. Maeve would write a short piece about a character, then throw it in a drawer. Now all these vignettes are collected into Chestnut Street. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but these were a fun read.

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Pancakes in Paris
Craig Carlson

Craig Carlson was unexpectedly awarded a chance to study in Paris and fell in love with the city. After completing his education in the U.S., he went into the film industry. Always in the back of his mind was the wonderful time he'd had in Paris. The only thing missing there was a good American breakfast. Craig decided to tackle the impossible, never having cooked or run a restaurant. He moved to Paris and opened BIA: Breakfast in America. Yes, with lots of trials and tribulations, he had to keep reminding himself that this is his dream. He now owns a chain of BIA's. This is a well written and fun memoir. I really enjoyed it.

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Persuader (A Jack Reacher Novel)
Lee Child

The cover of this book says the author may be the best thriller writer in the business! No, this is not something I would pick up to read but since we have one man in our Arizona Book Club, we thought we should have a "man" story on the list. Actually, the story was fast paced and kept you intrigued to the end. I did skip over the gory parts. I do recommend it to the men in your lives



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Miss Austen

Gill Hornby

Miss Austen is not Jane, but her elder sister Cassandra. The novel is set in part in 1840, with Cassy attempting to find and destroy some letters she doesn’t want published as they reveal too much about Jane’s private life. The novel also imagines earlier years of Cassy’s struggles as she, Jane, and their mother deal with the challenges of living as single women without means. Gill Hornby knows her subject: she’s the author of a Jane Austen biography for young readers, and researched more for this book. The story is bittersweet, a mix of joys and traumas. But it’s beautifully written, and it provides thought-provoking insights into the roles of women historically, and of the importance, or lack of importance, of marriage in building a happy, fulfilling life.

Note: The paperback is coming in March. It can be pre-ordered now.

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Mary B
Katherine Chen

You’ll never think of Mary Bennet the same way after reading this delightful novel. Mary is the ultimate middle child: her mother’s favorites are Kitty and Lydia, and her father’s are Lizzy and Jane. Where does that leave Mary? And Mary is also the only plain girl in the family. She tries unsuccessfully to get attention through music and reading, knowing she doesn’t have a great musical talent and that no one listens to her comments about literature.

This novel is from her point of view. The first section lets you see Mr. Collins in a new way, too. In the second section Mary goes on a prolonged visit to Pemberly to visit Lizzy and Darcy, and we see a new side of Lizzy. For a while I was worried that this would affect my understanding of my favorite, but this quirk leads to a surprising and very satisfying ending. I realized that Austen’s characters are so strong that variations are just that, they don’t change the originals. I highly recommend that you experience this one. I bet you’ll like the ending.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary
Helen Fielding

And then there are the modern takes on Austen's novels. In case we didn’t notice the plot similarities, one of Bridget’s lovers is actually named Mr. Darcy. I’ve seen the movie more than once, but never read the novel until now. It’s quite fun. The film picks up parts faithfully, but plays loose and free with other parts. It’s sort of a beach book, but starting in January and ending after Christmas.




The Arabs: A History
Eugene Rogan

I’ve been looking for an Arab history (more properly, Post Ottoman History) for a number of years. Some titles I’ve tried have been too scholarly for my taste, or too politically biased. Eugene Rogan’s The Arabs: A History was exactly what I was looking for. Remaining objective, factual, as well as readable (no mean accomplishment in the supra-emotionally charged atmosphere of today’s Middle Eastern politics). Rogan begins in 1250 and carries his readers through up until 2006. If you’re willing to invest some time and attention to discover how we got to this welter of present interests, motivations, hopes, and disappointments, this book is a fine introduction as well as an excellent read. ATTN: Current Events Book Group.



The Edwardians
Vita Sackville-West

People coming into the bookstore, often mention their stack of “yet to read” books. Works they’ve bought knowing they want to read them, just not yet. After finishing The Arabs (see above), I needed something different and interesting, a real change. I shuffled through my yet to read stack and came to Sackville-West’s The Edwardians, and wondered to myself, “Is it time?” Oh my God, Yes! I spent two weeks rationing myself to 10 to 20 pages at a sitting, just to make it last, and to be able to think about what she had said, her insight, and in absolute awe of her prose. This is simply writing at its best! You will never look at writing the same way again.

Vita and her husband, Harold Nicolson, built their garden at Sissinghurst together. Now I’m wondering if anyone knows about a book that explores the relationship between Vita’s gardening and her writing. Any suggestions?


Would you like to be a guest reviewer? Email Sally at

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