Did you notice I started this page on the first of the month? It has been a while since I’ve been able to start at day one because of my traveling, vandwelling, and general disorganization during #vanlife. I’m still sleeping in my van, but I’ve got a place to park it now.
February 2020 is a great time to rake the yard, start a new compost pile, and think about things that could grow as soon as the weather is reliable. This is also a great time to read books – something I do every day. This is my life.
My Word of the Month
My Haiku of the Month
Bird high in the tree
Yet this is still called winter
Cat walks quietly.
Bible Verses of the Month
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
What I’ve been reading in February 2020
✓ Recent Fiction: The Witch Elm, by Tana French
I meant to read this novel last year but didn’t get around to it… so I found it in my Audible library, and decided this is the perfect time. Guess what – I’m liking it! I like the writing style, the suspense and the characters. There is no witch or witchcraft in this book, which is what I was concerned about when I first saw the title. There’s a type of Elm tree called a Witch (or Wych) Elm. This is written in first person with what seems like an unreliable narrator. I guess by the time I finish it I’ll know just how unreliable he was.
✓ Recent Fiction: Daughters of the Lake, by Wendy Webb
Apparently I like suspenseful mystery books. This was a page turner for me. It is classified as Northern Gothic. The story is about Kate who has been dreaming about being a strange woman, but then that woman is washed up dead on the beach near her parents’ home. Who was she? Law enforcement wants to know.
A review by one of my Booktube friends…
✓ Writing: The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life, by Marion Roach Smith
This is a short, five-chapter memoir writer’s idea and inspiration book. Great advice for those of us writing memoirs, from someone who teaches classes on how that’s done.
★★ Christian: The One Year Pray for America Bible, NLT – Inspirational Daily Bible with Non-Partisan Prayer Prompts, by Tyndale, with an introduction by Chaplin Barry C. Black
I’m using this daily-read Bible this year… to possibly read the entire Bible in a year.
★★ Christian: The One Year Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, Nancy Guthrie
I’m using this devotional this year… it uses the same one-year Bible reading plan as the Pray For America Bible.
✓ Recent Fiction: Digging In, by Loretta Nyhan
A widowed woman finds solace in the act of digging in her yard. She has a troubled teenage son, still grieving for his father, and a job working in a PR firm that required her creativity and productivity. She spends time with a friend at the farmers market. This is an adorable and upbeat book of regeneration after a tragedy. I appreciated the positivity and hopefulness. I couldn’t find a video for Loretta Nyhan, the author.
✓ Recent Fiction: My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
This novel has mixed reviews. It reads like a memoir but is a novel, low on plot but with a nice writing style. It was recommended by a friend at the River Readers book club who wanted someone to discuss it with. I enjoyed reading this story about two girls growing up in Naples, Italy.
✓ Vintage SciFi: Native Tongue, by Suzette Haden Elgin
I finished this on February 14. What a weird novel it is, and oh yeah, it is the first of a series of three books. I don’t plan to read the other two novels. This one was published in 1984. It is about the repression of women in a future USA society. I read it for a 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt, to read a book with a made-up language in it – and this book is perfect for that prompt.
★★ Christian: Follow, by Andy Stanley
I’m currently reading this with my local women’s Bible study group.
✓ Classic Fiction: Beloved, by Toni Morrison
It is what a novel could be and should be. A work of art. Beloved. Aside from that, I’m speechless.
✓ Nonfiction: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A personal narrative about the perils of being black in America.
★★ Classic Fiction: Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson
I’m reading this with my local book club. It is a classic, originally published in 1884, about a half-Native American, half-Scottish girl living in Southern California.
Helen Hunt Jackson left this world in 1885, a year after this novel was published. This is a great biographical reenactment.
My February Reading Diary
February 1 – Yay, I published the page. Unfinished, but who really cares? I’ll finish it later. Today I had my first successful geocaching experience! It was so much fun with four children to share the fun with me, and my daughter as well. One of the girls (a neighbor of my daughter’s) found the cache. Yesterday we tried for another cache and finally had to call my son who knew where the cache was supposed to be – and he said it has been taken. Anyhow, books! I’m reading The Witch Elm by Tana French and very much enjoying her writing. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’ve heard her other novels are better. I want to read more… because this one is superb. It is a mystery story told in first person with a probably-unreliable narrator.
February 2 – I have a few more chapters to read (listen to, actually) in The Witch Elm . . . but first, it being Sunday and all – I went to church, and I have a Bible I’m reading this year … it is Pray For America … the NLT Bible to read in a year, with many prayers for America. After one month, I’m up to date… also pairing this with a devotional, Pray Through the Bible for Your Kids … it uses the same one-year Bible reading plan. Works well to pair the two books.
February 3 – I finished The Witch Elm last night and started reading Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb which is described as Northern Gothic. A woman is dreaming of another woman whose body is found in the lake. It goes on from there. I also started reading a book about writing by Judy Reeves – more on that later. Last night I finished reading The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith. That was excellent – and short . . . only five chapters. I have the audiobook and since I’m writing a memoir, found it to be very much worth listening to.
February 4 – Finished Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb last night. Today I went to the River Readers book club. Another member suggested we read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, the first book in a trilogy. My River Readers friend said she just read it and wants to discuss. I’m in.
February 5 – Last night I struggled to decide which book to read next – My Brilliant Friend or Digging In by Loretta Nyhan. So, Digging Inwon as it was the shorter of the two novels, and I’m glad it did. It is about a woman digging up her yard which is exactly what I need to do. I appreciate the inspiration and encouragement. I’m 20 chapters into it and expect to finish it tonight. Finally got this page finished today… except for adding more books and more diary entries!
February 6 – I spent most of the day sitting in my van in the driveway waiting for the kerosene delivery person, and catching up on my Bible reading. I’m reading the Pray For America Bible and loving it, but I was two days behind on the daily readings. I’m nearly caught up now. Last night I finished Digging In by Loretta Nyhan and started My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This book is beautifully written. I love that it is set in Naples, Italy. I recently read another book set in Italy, Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan, set mainly in Milan. I’m getting an Italy education this year. Che cosa meravigliosa! (What a wonderful thing.) I have yet to make any kind of reading plan for 2020. #Vanlife! It really interferes with my literary lifestyle.
February 7 – I’ve been struggling with My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, and decided to start the book over while taking notes. There are a lot of characters but mainly, Elena and Lila, the friends. While I read/listen a lot of other names come up and in an audiobook format you can’t just flip back a few chapters to see what a certain character did before. Confusing, but the writing style is beautiful.
February 8 – Great day celebrating Carl’s birthday with my children! Who is Carl? Well, if you knew me better you would know, right? Anyhow, wonderful to see the family. I’ve been working on websites more today than I’ve been reading. I started my page about the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists.. I’d like to read more from the list. I’m still working on that page, to place links behind the title of each book. Tonight I’ll be reading My Brilliant Friend again. I’m a little more than half way through right now. The girls (Elena and Lila) are no longer children; they’re dancing to rock’n’roll and having boyfriends!
February 9 – I’m getting close to the last quarter of My Brilliant Friend and to be honest, I’m looking forward to moving on to something new. The adventures of Elena and Lila are interesting because I’ve never lived in a poverty stricken section of Naples… but 350 pages of this? Maybe not for me. There’s no plot other than that two girls are growing up as friends and experiencing many misadventures… however it is a window into another place in the world, and some of us like that. Remember how I had trouble at the beginning, keeping track of all the characters? Yesterday I looked at the book’s page on Amazon and in the preview I noticed there’s a character list in the print edition of the book. This is another reason why a physical book is sometimes better than the audio version. In other news, I spent much of the day reading 2 days worth of my “Pray for America” Bible (I was a day behind again) and took a walk alongside the Klamath River Highway in a section I used to hike back when I lived on that side of town. Also went to church this morning and had lunch with friends. Lovely day. Sunset now.
February 10 – I finished My Brilliant Friend and tried to start Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke… I read the first chapter and decided the novel, a murder mystery, is not for me. I had chosen the book to be my “book by a woman of color” for the PopSugar Reading Challenge but was dismayed by some attitudes and political commentary in chapter one, and knew I didn’t want to read an entire novel like that, even though I liked the female character who left pies on her loved ones’ gravestones. I’ve subscribed to Audible.com for years for audiobooks and this is only the second time I’ve returned a book to them. The other one I returned was The World According to Garp by John Irving because he chose to use his recently updated edition to write an introduction broadcasting his political views. If I wanted to read about politics I’d buy a politics book. But no, I just wanted to read a good story and got blindsided into his opinions on presidential candidates… so I returned that book too. I think I’ll replace Bluebird, Bluebird with Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, another woman of color… a book I’ve wanted to read ever since I saw it in a bookstore a few years back. I’ve decided my next novel to read (listen to, actually) is an older sci-fi, Native Tongue … about a society oppressing women. It is a bit dated as it says laws protecting the rights of women in the USA were repealed in the 1990’s, and we all know that didn’t happen, however, looks like a good story anyway. It is for the PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt #18 – a book with a made-up language. Today was my women’s Bible study where we’re reading Follow, by Andy Stanley, and watching the video series that goes along with the book. I’m really enjoying that. I appreciate Andy’s sense of humor.
February 11 – I’m very much enjoying the sci-fi book I started reading yesterday – Native Tongue, originally published in 1984. The author is Suzette Haden Elgin. It was a popular book back in the day. It is about a society in the future USA that suppresses women. Today I went to the River Readers book club and Anne suggested a new book for us. We agreed on Ramona, a classic book by Helen Hunt Jackson about a half-Scottish, half-Native American girl living in Southern California. It was published in 1884 and was also very popular in its day, inspiring many places in Southern California to be named Ramona. For example, a town, Nuevo, renamed itself Ramona in honor of this fictional character. I got the Kindle version because the audiobook version is abridged, and I don’t like abridged audiobooks. I haven’t started reading it yet. I want to finish Native Tongue first. I know from years of experience that if I start a second novel, I’m very unlikely to finish either of them. One at a time seems to be working for me. I didn’t mention to the River Readers that I have a half-written novel manuscript about a girl who was also a California Native American, mixed with Mexican/Spanish heritage. I might be inspired to finish my manuscript by what I read in Ramona. Speaking of books I’ve written, I found out today that my novel, River Girl, is now in the Siskiyou County Library system… ready to be checked out.
February 12 – I’m still reading Native Tongue … I’m on the fence between calling it interesting, or calling it a slog. As often happens, the sci-fi really doesn’t work well for me. So much isn’t understood. On the other hand, with a woman killing her husband after he sells her baby (behind her back) so he can have all her attention, and the baby being killed by linguistic scientists, and another baby being kidnapped for linguistic studies . . . there’s hardly a dull moment. So, I remain on the fence, but reading onward. I’m all caught up on my daily reading for the Bible in a year book and devotional about praying for your children. Hope that lasts. When I have only one day’s reading to do in those two books, it is easy. I’ve set up a little reading nook in my cargo van and that’s working out well for me. I find it easier to focus on my book reading while I’m away from the computer. Also, I’ve set some reading goals for 2020 finally (more on that later) and watched the Hopewriters webinar interview with Beth Moore, and I started reading Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing From Your Authentic Wildness, but Judy Reeves. I also started a 2020 Reading Journal in a notebook so I can take notes on the books I’m reading. I bought one book, a Kindle version of a classic, The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope. It will be my choice for a book about one of the seven deadly sins… that’s a PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt this year. It is about greed, and has satirical humor. I’m looking forward to reading that but won’t start right away – I have several other novels to read first.
February 14 – Happy Valentine’s Day! If you want to be my valentine just leave a comment at the bottom of this page. I won’t cry if you don’t… but anyhow.. I skipped a day in this reading diary because I was so busy yesterday with writing a page for Valentine’s Day all about the Audible audiobooks I’ve purchased over the last year. That was fun! I really do love audiobooks. For me, they’re usually much easier to digest than print books, though I still am SURROUNDED by books and I have a full Kindle library as well. On my desk right now I have ELEVEN books and TEN journals – both art and writing journals – so that gives you some idea of what my life is like, notwithstanding audiobooks and Kindle! I’ still reading Native Tongue for fiction, currently on chapter eighteen. Yesterday I read 4 pages in my current art book: Creative License. I made a decision to read my art and writing books every other day, switching from one to the other. Today I’m planning to read chapter two in my writing book, Wild Women, Wild Voices. I’ll also be reading the Bible and my devotional, as usual.
Today I made this border in my bullet journal using Kuretake watercolors and a silver Uniball Signo pen, and 1 John 1:5-7.
Late at night on the 14th I finished reading Native Tongue. Next I’ll be reading Beloved, by Toni Morrison.
Here’s my Goodreads review of Native Tongue.
February 15 – Another day, another opportunity! What will I read today? I started listening to my audiobook of Beloved by Toni Morrison last night, read by the author! It immediately struck me as super well-written and interesting, and I’ll go back and listen to the first chapter again today, and take notes.
February 16 – Sunday – At church we read John 10:22-42. At home I listened to my audiobook of Beloved, by Toni Morrison and painted this in my sketchbook.
February 17 – Made a lot more progress on reading Beloved. This story is brutal and tragic. I’m listening to the audiobook version. The first chapter was over seven hours! The second chapter, three hours, and the third chapter, two hours. I’m near the end of chapter two. [Later] . . . finished Beloved. The first words that appeared to me are, “It is what a novel could be and should be. A work of art.” Truly a phenomenal novel. Now there’s nothing left to me other than to read Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson – which is via Kindle. There’s an audiobook version, but it is abridged, and I won’t buy an abridged version. It would make me feel like I never listened to the book at all.
February 18 – Between last night and this evening I listened to all of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ nonfiction treatise on the perils of being black in America: Between the World and Me. A good follow-up to Beloved, by Toni Morrison. I’ve also been reading Ramona on my Kindle. Also spent time today reading Creative License, Wild Women, Wild Voices, and How to Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.
February 19 – In the Praying for America Bible (a one year reading plan) we’re up to the seventh chapter of Leviticus, and the third chapter of Mark. Getting through it. I started a new audiobook last night – Lab Girl, a memoir. So far, I like it a lot. I’m 9 chapters into part one. I’m reading it for the PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt – #22. A book about or by a woman in STEM. Today also read a few pages in Creative License… and I’m still reading Ramona. Currently, on chapter five – not very far into it. Page 53 out of 382.