Bookmark Thoughts: Book 2 of “1Q84”

Hello, fellow readers!

It’s been taking me a long time to get through Haruki Murakami’s “1Q84”, but now that I finished Book 2, and before heading into the final part of this very long novel, I’ll share my thoughts on Book 2 here today.

Synopsis of Book 2 (Spoilers Ahead)

In Book 2, Aomame undergoes the task of killing the Leader of a cult group who is believed to sexually assault young girls. Undercover as a physical therapist, she is hired to treat the Leader’s chronic pain, but when she finally meets the Leader, she learns that his story is much more complex than she thought. Not only does he reveal that he has secret powers (which she sees for herself) but he also claims that the young girls were not quite human at all and that he was under their control. He describes the Little People that are portrayed in Fuka-Eri’s book “Air Chrysallis” as real entities and also reveals that he is Fuka-Eri’s father.

Well aware that Aomame is there to kill him, Leader beckons her to do so because he is tired of his pain and of being under the control of the Little People as a “Receiver.” Before Aomame carries out her task, she learns from the Leader that, in this alternate universe of “1Q84,” she is to die and sacrifice her own life so her lifelong love, Tengo, can live. She realizes that she, Tengo, and Fuka-Eri all have an important role in this new world that they have entered (though she doesn’t understand how or why they are in 1Q84.)

On this same strange evening in the timeline of 1Q84, Fuka-Eri and Tengo have a moment of intimacy. The situation is much as the Leader described to Aomame – meaning Tengo’s body is controlled in a similar way to how the Leader’s has been. In this moment, Tengo has a vision of the time he and Aomame first touched hands. After this night, Aomame goes into hiding, and Tengo seeks her out since he realizes that he doesn’t want to live life without her anymore. One night, from the apartment she is hiding at, Aomame sees Tengo at a park across the street gazing up at the two moons. She rushes out after him, but he is no longer there.

Later, she returns to the spot on the highway where she first took an emergency exit in Book 1 to see if that will return her to the normal world of 1984, but the spot is no longer there. She is about to shoot herself with a hand pistol in desperation to get out of 1Q84, but at this same moment, Tengo encounters an air chrysallis much like the one described in the book, and, inside it, he sees a young Aomame and calls out her name.

My Thoughts

Book 2 started out strong: I enjoyed the suspense and thriller-like aspect of Aomame’s mission. I also appreciated her encounter with Leader which took a different turn than I expected. I didn’t think that he would actually want to be killed nor that he would indeed have supernatural powers.

The book got a little too weird for me when Fuka-Eri and Tengo have intercourse because Fuka-Eri is only 17, which would make this quite unethical. Pointedly, Tengo did not do anything on his own accord (his body was controlled as he is the new “receiver” and Fuka-Eri is a “perceiver” – still a bit lost on this aspect), and it is not quite a moment of “pleasure” for either character but more like a ritual in which they are communicating into Tengo’s memories with Aomame and in which Fuka-Eri gives him insight into these memories. Still, there are other ways that this connection between “receiver” and “perceiver” can play out, and I don’t know why the book had to resort to this specifically. In my eyes, this idea (including that of the Leader and his “shrine maidens”) is problematic in terms of each character’s agency among other things, and I wish it was handled differently.

In another light, there are some thought-provoking ideas that I liked in Book 2, including the idea of writing out one’s own story. Many of the things that start to happen are just as it is written in “Air Chrysallis” which we also finally get to know more about since Aomame ends up reading it. Delving into “Air Chrysallis” was a fascinating part of the book, as it gives insight into Fuka-Eri’s background and why she escaped from Sakigake. Aomame starts to have a realization that she is part of this book since she is in a similar world to that which is described in “Air Chrysallis”. This makes Tengo a character that can possibly be the “creator” of this world and all the main characters, including himself, are now in a book within a book (if that makes any sense).

This is an interesting turn, and it makes me wonder if Tengo’s writing also has the power to change events. Maybe Aomame does not have to die. Maybe Aomame and Tengo can actually meet and live happily ever after. It can possibly be up to however Tengo writes out the rest of the story.

Finally, what I also liked about Book 2 is the romance between Tengo and Aomame. They have not met yet (not since they were children), but the fact that they both know deep in their hearts that they love each other (and that they have always loved each other) can’t help but make me excited for how their love story will play out. I’m rooting for them in Book 3 – maybe love can beat all odds in the strange-fated world of 1Q84.

Thank you for stopping by today! The next plan is to finish the book and share my thoughts on everything as a whole. I hope you are safe (and warm!). Until next time, happy reading! 🙂

A “Words Wednesday” Comfort Poem: “Song of Myself”

Hello, readers!

I hope you are safe and well. On my end, life has been busy, and, frankly, kind of tough. I got through a big hurdle in my job yesterday which I was very relieved about, and I thought the rest of the week would glide by. But then today happened, and it was one of those unexpectedly rough days.

Besides turning to a helping of ice cream to soothe the stress, I couldn’t help but also feel like writing – something that I haven’t done in a while. The other night, I was looking at stamps (of all things) online. This is because a beautiful friend of mine asked if we can become pen pals. While we live in the same city, we haven’t been able to see each other due to the pandemic, so this is another extra creative way we can communicate with each other.

I was excited about this idea, especially when I received her letter which made me even somewhat emotional because I hadn’t received a piece of handwritten words like that in a while. As it’s now my turn to respond, I realized I didn’t have any stamps and even had to look up how to get stamps. I browsed the USPS website and had some fun poking around at the different kinds of stamps being sold (and the extensive descriptions of each is amazing!)

The Walt Whitman stamps in particular caught my eye. “I definitely want these!” I thought, until I realized they had the label “Three Ounce 95 cents” under the title and, after looking up what this means (which I still don’t quite understand), it turns out for my simple letter, I only need a “Forever” stamp – I could be wrong about this but that’s what I understood. Anyway, this is a long-winded deviation from my original intent to say that, for one, I miss the idea of letter-writing and am fascinated by it, and, secondly, these stamps reminded me about how much I admire Walt Whitman’s poetry, which I know I’ve talked about briefly here on the blog.

Today, I remembered one of my favorite parts of “Song of Myself”: Part 18. Whitman writes about honoring those who have failed. Funnily enough, the idea of “failure” has been one of my favorite themes in movies, literature, etc., ever since I myself have experienced feelings of failure a couple of years ago. Whitman’s words stood out to me when I first read them because he spoke kindly about failure. He didn’t say that failures are losers like the lies we tend to tell ourselves when we fail at something.

Instead, he “plays marches for conquer’d and slain persons” and praises “the numberless unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known.”

While Whitman writes about war, soldiers, and battles in this section, it can’t help but feel relevant to life as a whole, since life itself is a battle. Instead of only acknowledging the victors and those who “win” he writes, “I also say it is good to fall, battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.”

This is my comfort poem whenever the feeling of failure begins to creep up, words of healing that mend the soul and help remind me that it’s okay to mess up and for the day to not always be a victory.

Thank you for stopping by today – I feel like my posts lately have been sort of personal and not very bookish, so I look forward to getting back on track with book talk soon. I am so very close to being finished with Book 2 of “1Q84”, and plan to share my thoughts on it next time because I miss book-blogging! I hope you stay safe and well, and, until next time, Happy Reading! 🙂

Wednesday Thoughts: The Simplest of Words

Hi, fellow readers! Have you ever found yourself unexpectedly inspired by words that are displayed somewhere ordinary and unassuming? — For example, by words found on the back of a cereal box or even in the little piece of paper inside a fortune cookie?

I have been thinking about this question for a few weeks now because every time I drive home from work, there is this electronic billboard display (not entirely sure what to call it) from a local school district that displays quotes. While at times the quotes can be cheesy and the same ones we’ve all heard before, there are actually quite a variety of quotes that are unique and even truly inspirational. And they always seem to be just what I need to read at that moment.

One of the quotes that has been displayed is, “Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness” by poet Katherine Henson who I did not know about until I looked up the quote (and now I want to read her book of poems!). This quote as it was shown on the display immediately struck a chord. I’ve often been viewed by people as having a “soft heart”, and, while some see it as a plus, there have also been some who have seen it as a weakness. Of course, what people think shouldn’t matter or stop someone from being who he/she is, but it was nice to find some validation in this quote. In fact, it even gave me some courage as I read it thinking what a radical idea it is that having a soft heart can be strength and not weakness.

Another quote read, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday,” which is from Dale Carnegie (This, I also needed to look up). As I read this quote one afternoon, I practically laughed to myself thinking that this billboard caught me red-handed! It has a simple logic, the kind that is so matter-of-fact that it’s easy to overlook, but one that is also spot-on and a much needed reminder for worriers.

These are just a couple of quotes from this electronic display that have somehow made life more meaningful in a small way, and one of the numerous examples in life that reminds me that words are powerful in many forms and places. On a side note, I wonder who the person or group is that is choosing these quotes because I’d want to thank them for making my day that much better!

Have you been inspired by the simplest of words found in the most ordinary of places?

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are safe and well! In the coming days, I look forward to sharing a review of Book 2 of “1Q84” with you all. 🙂

Happy Reading,


A New Year of Goals and Books (and Book Goals)

Hello, fellow readers! The New Year is here, “and I don’t feel any different” – a playful nod to a song from my favorite band “Death Cab for Cutie” – and while I guess this is somewhat true, I have some “resolutions” for this year which makes it a little different for me since I never really make any resolutions.

But as I get older, I’ve learned that life is not always easy. Maybe setting some goals for the things I feel the most unsure about is a way to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and to face each day with a confident humility. I’ve asked for trusted people in my life to help keep me accountable for the following goals because I know that it’s hard to do it alone. Here’s what I hope to do this year:

  • to continue with my job of teaching and push through all the challenges I may face
  • to start a library science program and begin a path towards becoming a school librarian (however long this takes!)
  • to continue learning to be more comfortable with myself

Additionally, one of my resolutions is, of course, to read more! It’s a new year and new (somewhat) set of books I’d like to read. I’ve gathered some books that I would like to read this year, with some other little rules I’m creating for myself. This includes not limiting myself to these books but to read whatever catches my interest and not forcing myself to finish a book if I really don’t like it.

With that, here are some books I’d like to try reading this year:

Listed in order from left to right, starting with the top row.
  • “When Montezuma Met Cortes: The True Story of that Meeting that Changed History” by Matthew Restall
  • “The Essential Phantom of the Opera” by Gaston Leroux
  • “Hope and Help for Your Nerves” by Dr. Claire Weekes
  • “What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life” by Mark Doty
  • Finish “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami
  • “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
  • Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd”
  • “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” by C.S. Lewis

Some of these are a step into genres that are quite new to me like “When Montezuma Met Cortes” and the C.S. Lewis works. And some are inspired by interests of mine like “The Phantom of the Opera” and the book about Walt Whitman’s poetry. But all of them sound intriguing and like a great way to expand the library in my brain. 🙂

And you may notice that one of these was something I had on my Christmas wish list: the three-book collection by Agatha Christie! I’m so grateful to the friend who gifted me this for a Secret Santa gift exchange we had.

What I am Currently Reading

I’ve been digging into Book 2 of “1Q84” and loving every bit of it. I can’t wait to share my thoughts on the blog soon. Meanwhile I’m also slowly trudging through “Blood Meridian.”

Thank you for stopping by today! I hope you are safe and well.

Happy Reading,


Bookmark Thoughts: “Blood Meridian”

Photo taken by my brother.

As we close out the year, I didn’t want to leave progress on my most recent book untouched. I haven’t been able to read as much as I hoped for because of spending time with family over the holidays, but I have read more-or-less the first half of Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian,” which I started reading in November, and will share my thoughts on the book so far today. 🙂

Currently, I’m on Chapter 9, and, up until this point, without giving away too much, the book has followed “the kid,” a nineteen-year-old boy who is journeying through south Texas and northern Mexico. At one point, the group of men he is travelling with is attacked by a violent tribe of Native Americans who kill almost everyone; After this, “the kid” ends up with a man named Sproule and eventually they end up with another group of men and continue traveling along the northern part of Mexico. “The kid” experiences different events along the way, including being witness to much violence and desolation.

My Thoughts

“Blood Meridian” has been a tough read. It’s not exactly a leisurely book – the kind that you can cuddle up and relax with – but one that really forces you to use your brain. While, of course, this is not a bad thing (my brain can use with some exercise!), it makes reading this book something that is more of an intentional action.

For one, it took a while for me to get used to the fact that McCarthy does not use quotation marks. This forces you to concentrate on who is talking and when. For another, there are lengthy but beautiful sentences that require me to re-read them to get the full effect (or partial effect) of their meaning. “The kid” is also constantly on the move, and so are the events of the book. In a matter of one page, he can be in a completely different location than the page before, which sometimes makes it a bit confusing. And finally, the book is very dark in its themes and plot. It’s been hard for me to read it even when I have the time because I have to consider whether I’m in the right mood and frame of mind for it.

While these are elements that definitely make this book a challenge, it is not without its great things. I’ve been pretty fascinated by some of the locations it mentions – some of which I’m actually familiar with since I live in the region of Texas that some of the book takes place in. This has caused me to do some research into some of the history of these places, and I can’t help but be in awe that these places are mentioned in a classic book such as this. The terrain that is described is also something that I can envision because of growing up in this part of Texas, which is neat, too.

Along these lines, I find it interesting to read something that takes place in Texas and Mexico (and the border) during the first half of the 19th century. McCarthy’s descriptions of the harsh land (and people) is interesting. The characters and people in the book have to put all their energy into surviving, not only the elements, but also from other groups of people. Death is everywhere in this book, and violence is around every corner. It has gotten me to think about how different times were back then and also about colonization in Texas and along the border, even causing me to veer off to question my parents (both who love Texas history) about the history of Texas that I ironically and sadly have never truly understood or cared to understand until the past couple of years.

“Blood Meridian” has also been great in the way that it has gems of sentences and phrases. One of my favorite quotes in the novel so far is found in Chapter 8. It is when the group enters a cantina in Janos, Mexico and listens to an old man who gives some profound and haunting dialogue:

“He looked up. Blood, he said. This country is give much blood. This Mexico. This is a thirsty country. The blood of a thousand Christs. Nothing.”

These lines gave me chills – especially when I think of the terrible circumstances that are taking place in Mexico today due to the war on drugs. It saddens me to think about how much the people of Mexico suffer due to the power that gangs and druglords have over everyone and the corruption in the country’s own government and police. It saddens me to think about how the beautiful people of Mexico have to live in a country, just across a mere river from where I grew up, where they can’t even feel safe. It really is a country that even now “gives much blood” and where many people sacrifice their lives like “a thousand Christs” as the old man in Chapter 8 says.

Overall, while “Blood Meridian” has been difficult to read – both in the way it is taxing on the brain and on the emotions – it has been worthwhile for the way in which McCarthy describes Texas and Mexico and brings to light the darkness and violence that mankind is capable of. It has also been fulfilling to experience and learn about McCarthy’s writing style which is dense but lovely.

On that note, I look forward to continuing this book (however long it takes me!), and, while I’m at it and long thereafter, to learning more about the history of my home and the people and places that surround it because this book has surely sparked that interest in its own way.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you have a safe and happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2021!

Happy Reading,

A Sloth/Christmas-Inspired Story, Written by Me

Merry Christmas, dear readers! I hope everyone is having a restful and peaceful holiday season. Today, I’m doing something quite different. While I usually share on what I read (and occasionally on what I watch or even listen to), today’s the first time that I share on something I write! I’m a bit nervous but also excited as this has been a goal of mine for a while. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

When I took a fiction workshop this past spring, it was one of the first times I experimented with fiction, and I really enjoyed it. Today, I thought I would share a revised version of one of the stories I wrote for that course, since the story is somewhat Christmas-inspired.

As a little bit of background for today’s piece, my family and friends like to playfully call me a “sloth” because I’m sort of slow in my actions. For example, I tend to be the one who lingers behind the group or the one who everyone is waiting for before heading out of the house.

Last Christmas, my parents gave me this sloth figurine pictured here. In my fiction course, we were prompted to write about an inanimate object and give it feelings and actions like a human would have. The story below is the result of my writing to that prompt, from inspiration based on this sloth figurine.

Isn’t it adorable?

I’m not a professional or experienced writer by any means, but I hope you enjoy!

And I wish a blessed Christmas to you and your loved ones. ❤

The Call of the Sloths

I am a sloth. But I was once only a mere imitation of a sloth. At 5 inches tall, I stand on the shelf of a bookcase that overlooks a family living room. Here, I get to see many things on a daily basis: the family going about their day, the T.V. always on to entertain a bored dog, this same dog chasing his tail in endless circles. Sheila is my baby sloth. She clings to me with her little sloth arms over my shoulder and together we simply stand and watch the fast-paced, uneventful life of an ordinary family.

Since I can first remember, we have always worn matching red and white striped scarves. I wear a Santa hat and Sheila wears earmuffs. All of this I learned from the mother human of the family who detailed every feature of our being to her friend over the phone, from whom I could hear a muffled, high-pitched “Awwww!” on the other end. The mother human has a sort of fascination with all things “sloth”: She has coffee mugs of sloths, a sloth throw blanket, and sloth knick-knacks – Sheila and I being one of them.

But don’t worry. I won’t bore you with an explanation of my life as a sloth figurine. Instead, I am going to tell you about one day in particular that changed everything I ever knew about myself and Sheila.

It was “the most wonderful time of the year,” according to the many commercials that played on the “Hallmark Channel” which the dog and Sheila and I were forced to watch while the humans were at work and school that day.

 On this particular evening, the mother and father humans and their two children set up the kitchen in preparation to make “gingerbread cookies.” The children danced and jumped around as they baked together as a family and sang Christmas carols. From our perch on the family room bookshelf, I could hear the clatter of dishes and the scent of something sweet and warm. Meanwhile, from a speaker somewhere rang the tune, “White Christmas,” sung by a deep-voiced man.

“Momma, I can’t wait for them to put out the cookies for Santa this year,” Sheila said from behind me. I felt the soft paws and the steely claws of my baby wrapped around my shoulders, and I longed for Sheila to experience something like the human children were experiencing. I longed to make Sheila happy.

That evening, after the mother human put her children to bed (and Sheila fell asleep on my back), she and the father human relaxed with a glass of wine on the reclining sofa beside the bookshelf, watching a channel called “Animal Planet.” They cozied up and tuned in to watch “All About Sloths.”

As a cheesy intro song played, a montage of cute, awkward-looking, hairy, tree-climbing, slow-moving creatures called “sloths” appeared. They didn’t look much different from Sheila and me, yet everything about them was so different. I stood entranced — not that I could really have been in any other position.

“Welcome to the Costa Rica sloth sanctuary!” a happy twenty-something-year-old girl wearing tan shorts and a blue polo shirt said to the camera.

“Today, Katrina and Linda are on a mission to teach the baby sloths an important lesson,” the narrator’s voice said over video footage of Katrina and Linda walking towards a tree with sloths hanging from the branches and others moving slowly down the trunk.

“Today, we’re going to potty-train the sloths,” the girl named Katrina chuckled. “It’s not exactly a very noble lesson, but it is crucial for them to know how to do this in the proper way.”

The scene transitioned to a little baby sloth, not much younger than my Sheila, at the base of a tree trunk, clasping the trunk in both of its arms, squatting, and moving side to side as it did what Linda commented on as, “The poo dance.”

The two humans on the couch giggled and looked at each other wide-eyed. “What? That’s crazy! I didn’t know they did that!” The mother human said to her husband.

Neither did I, I thought. I have never done a “poo dance,” nor have I ever felt the need to “poo.”

The episode continued, and Katrina and Linda explained the need to teach the baby sloths how to “poo” because they don’t have their mothers to teach them.

I thought about Sheila. I’m your mother, but I have never taught you this very important necessity. I glanced down in shame, but then my eyes were drawn back up towards the television.

The other woman with brown curly hair, Linda, held one of the sloths in her arms. It emitted a darling little “meep” sound from its mouth. I guess it cannot talk yet like my Sheila, I thought. Together, Linda and Katrina proceeded to feed the little sloth some leaves, and it ate slowly from their hands. The camera continued showing scenes of sloths as they climbed slowly across branches and gazed lovingly at viewers through the lens of the camera. For a brief moment, I felt as though I could see myself, and as though I could see my Sheila, both of whom I have actually never seen, gazing through the television, happily enjoying life in the rainforest sloth sanctuary of Costa Rica.

The show finished and the end credits scrolled up as the “All About Sloths” theme song played once more. The two humans got up, put their wine glasses in the sink, and dragged their feet to bed.

But I couldn’t sleep that night.

Who were these “sloths” that lived completely different lives from us? Why did they live in lush tree tops while we live on the shelf of a dusty bookcase, in front of some neglected encyclopedias? How come the baby sloths were learning something I have never taught Sheila? How can they move and we can’t? Yes, they move torturously slow, especially compared to the speedy humans who come in and out of the living room each day… but at least they can move.

Finally, I thought, what are we if we are not one of those things called “sloths”?

As the night continued, and my thoughts deepened to the rhythm of Sheila’s gentle snoring, I tried to think of all the ways we could live like them – the real sloths. I could hope that the dog takes us up in his mouth out onto the backyard and leaves us in the grass under a tree, I thought. But then what? Ooh I got it, I can hope that the human little girl will take us with her on her class field trip to the zoo! … But then what?

My options were becoming less and less reasonable, until I came to the most desperate and unreasonable one yet. What if I can move? For Pete’s sake, I could think, right?

I thought hard as I tried to lift my right leg planted in its ceramic base. To my astonishment, it lifted, not in a swift movement, but a painstakingly slow one. In fact, it took nearly ten minutes to move it even a millimeter. All this time… I thought. Sheila slowly began waking up. “Momma, what’s happening?” she grumbled. “We are becoming who we were always meant to be!” I exclaimed with excitement.

By the next two hours we stood in the center of the living room, just underneath the glass coffee table. We had taken a terrifying tumble straight from the shelf to the floor, but, thankfully, the floor is heavily carpeted and our fall resulted in nothing more than a quiet thud. One of the two hours alone was spent simply trying to get back on my feet – the other hour, making our way towards the front door.

Sheila and I held our breath as we passed the slumbering dog. But through the blinds of the living room windows, I caught sight of a light that was no cheerful boding for us at that moment. The sun began its routine of peeping through the gaps of the window blinds, and I heard the mother human in her fuzzy slippers, scuffling towards the living room.

“What are you doing down here?” she yawned as she picked Sheila and me up and placed us back on the bookshelf.

Sheila let out a sad sigh, “Momma, I’m sorry.” As the sounds of the mother human making coffee came through the living room from the kitchen and my emotions finally calmed down, I explained to Sheila who we really are. I could feel her face beaming from behind me. “I’m proud to be a sloth, Momma,” she said. “I am, too, Sweetie.”

And that is where we are now. Okay, you caught me. Nothing has really changed. But maybe you just wouldn’t understand. Yes, we may still be a ceramic figurine (technically), but we are sloths.

So what exactly was it about this day in particular that changed mine and Sheila’s life, you might wonder? I like to think it was the call of the sloths.

All I Want for Christmas Is … Books!

My Bookish Wish List

Hi, everyone! If you are a book enthusiast, I’m sure you are like me and usually ask for books for Christmas.

So I thought it would be fun to share my book wish list for this Christmas. I’m never picky when it comes to presents (socks are honestly never a bad idea!) But if I had to give a wish list of books I want for Christmas, this is what it would be.

Image from Goodreads
  1. “War and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy
    While I don’t know very much about this book, I know it’s a classic that people can’t seem to praise enough. It’s known for being a huge book (and I’m a slow reader), but the challenge sounds like one I would enjoy.

2. Missing 411″ Series by David Paulides
I love true-crime and mysteries, and from watching numerous YouTube videos of these categories, I’ve learned about the topic of thousands of people who have gone missing in national parks. David Paulides has written several “Missing 411” books which includes his extensive research in the matter. It sounds fascinating and I’d be so interested to read any one of his books.

Image from Goodreads

3. “Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident” by Donnie Eichar
Along these same lines, I’m very fascinated by the Dyatlov Pass incident which involves a group of hikers who were brutally murdered on a hiking trip in Russia. Who killed them? Why were their bodies found in different areas if they travelled together? So many questions surround this case, and this book sounds like it tackles these questions in an interesting way.

4. Any “Agatha Christie” Book
Again with the mystery genre – but this time in fiction! I’ve only read one Agatha Christie book, and I enjoyed it, so I’d be really happy to read more.

Image from Goodreads

5. “The Soul of an Octopus” by Sy Montgomery
A piano-streamer I watch on Twitch talked about this book one time and said she couldn’t put it down. I thought it sounded very unique so I added it to my “Want to Read” shelf on Goodreads. It’s about a naturalist who explores the diverse personalities of individual octopuses and other interesting features of these beautiful animals. It’s not something I would typically read, but it sounds neat!

These are some books I’d love to add to my collection and that I would “ask Santa” for this Christmas.

What books are on your Christmas wish list?

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are safe and well. Until next time, Happy Reading! 🙂

Mystery Blogger Award

I’ve never been tagged/nominated in an award post before, so thank you so much, Ashmita @The Fictional Journal, for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award created my Okoto Enigma! 🙂 Check out these bloggers to read some great content and thank you again!

The Rules

  • Display the award logo on your blog.
  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Mention Okoto Enigma, the creator of the award.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Answer 5 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
  • Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including 1 weird or funny question.
  • Share the link to your best post.

Three Things About Myself

  • I am a high school English teacher (still quite new to this profession!).
  • I enjoy reading and talking about books and literature.
  • Other hobbies include walking my dog, playing piano, and crocheting.

Ashmita’s Questions

  1. What do you hate/love about Christmas?

What I don’t like about Christmas is how much focus is spent on buying “things.” While I love giving and receiving gifts, I think the “buying” aspect can get out-of-hand (myself included), and it’s easy for people to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. What I love is all the coziness that surrounds Christmas: Christmas trees, lights, hot chocolate, etc.

2. Which song are you currently listening to on repeat?

“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell. My dad showed this song to me, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it!

3. Just one quote.

“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” – Sean O’Connell in “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013)

4. whisper/secret/cloud. first thing that comes to your mind on hearing these words.

Someone sending a secret to a friend via a text message that becomes stored in the “cloud.”

5. Favorite Avenger (Marvel) Character

Does Spider-Man count? 🙂

Link to My Favorite Post:

Book Review of “The Return of the King” and Final Thoughts on LOTR : I had fun trying to look at Tolkien’s classic trilogy from a different perspective than popular opinion – a daunting but invigorating task!

These were very fun questions! Now I think it’s my turn to nominate other bloggers and give my own set of questions. I’m not quite sure if any of the bloggers below have been nominated already or not, but no worries if you don’t want to do this (my feelings won’t be hurt!) or if you have already.

Side note: I’m leaving links to each blog’s home page. I’m not sure if you all will receive “pingbacks” or not, but I don’t really want to leave the link to this post as a random comment on any of your all’s posts. (Still trying to figure out WordPress logistics sometimes, haha.)

I Nominate…

Doris @Doris Tells Stories, Brett @Milam’s Musings, Savannah @That Savannah Life, Sarahi @Reader Gal, Mani @Mani’s Book Corner, Madame Writer @Madame Writer, Mehsi @Twirling Book Princess, Tessa @Tessa Talks Books, Reading Tonic @Reading Tonic, Mary @Sophril Reads, Sarah @The Book’s Whiskers, Julie @One Book More, Alice @The Alley-Cat7, Marjolein @URL Phantomhive

My Questions

  1. Who is one book character you relate to/identify with?
  2. Which author/poet would you like to meet?
  3. Where was the best place you have traveled to (in fiction or in real life)?
  4. What is your favorite “reading spot”? (For example: an armchair by a window, your backyard, etc.)
  5. Do you have a favorite movie adaptation of a book? Or do you believe “the book is always better”?

Hope you are safe and well. As always, Happy Reading!

Book Review: “Because of Winn-Dixie”

Photo of book taken by me.

A couple of weeks ago, we had end-of-course testing going on at the school I teach at, and, during this time, I was unexpectedly able to finish an entire book during the few days I monitored the halls. Not wanting to be bored during this time, I quickly picked up “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo from my classroom bookshelf. And while I wanted something quick and easy to read, I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did.

“Because of Winn-Dixie” is a middle grade book about India Opal Buloni and the events that play out after she takes in a stray dog she names Winn-Dixie (named after the grocery store she finds him in). Opal lives with her father who is a preacher. Opal’s mom, a free-spirit, left him and Opal years earlier. When her dad decides to move them to Naomi, Florida to take up a position at a local church, Opal is sad and lonely in their new town. But Winn-Dixie changes all of that for her.

Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal comes to befriend the local librarian, a pet-store employee, an elderly woman named Gloria and other kids in the town. In the first summer she spends with Winn-Dixie, she also learns to cope with missing her mother and understanding the loss of others.

“Winn-Dixie” was a book that I couldn’t put down. It grabbed me from the start, and it was so easy to fall in love with this book, the style of writing, and the characters. It also reminded me how much I love these simpler children’s books (sometimes more than “grown-up” books).

And while there were many cute and endearing moments, there were also many emotional ones that made me want to cry my heart out.

Some Spoilers Ahead

There are touching moments, such as when the librarian, Miss Franny, gives Opal a lozenge from her great-great-grandfather’s lozenge factory that he created after losing all of his loved ones during the Civil War. The lozenge is described as having a peculiar taste – a taste of sorrow. Another little girl, Amanda, is reminded of her 5-year-old brother Carson who died in an accident, when she eats the lozenge. While Opal does not know about Carson she asks Miss Franny, “Who’s Carson?” Miss Franny “shook her head. ‘Sorrow,’ she said. ‘It is a sorrow-filled world.'”

In another moment of the book, Opal momentarily loses Winn-Dixie who has a tendency to run off in fear whenever there is a thunderstorm. As Opal and her father run out in search of Winn-Dixie and Opal panics, she shouts at her dad when he announces it’s time they give up their search, telling him that he always gives up just as he gave up on trying to keep her mom with them, too. The moment that follows is heart-breaking: “‘I tried,’ he said. ‘I tried.’ Then he did something I couldn’t believe. He started to cry. The preacher was crying. His shoulders were moving up and down.”

Within this moment, Opal sees a vulnerable side to her father that he has never revealed to her before, and she comes to see how much he loves her. Even if her mom will never return, she is grateful to have her father – and Winn-Dixie who they later find was hiding at Gloria’s house all along.

As you see, the book is a lot more than just being a book about a dog named Winn-Dixie. However, Winn-Dixie plays an important role in all of it because he helps break down the emotional barriers people set up. In his playful and carefree way, he helps the characters of the book make connections with one another (especially since Opal takes him with her everywhere.)

I couldn’t help but think about my own dog, Cane. There’s quite the story behind getting him because my husband originally wanted him, and I wasn’t originally too fond of the idea of having a dog, as I grew up as a “cat person”. Two and a half years ago, when we got Cane as a six-month old puppy, I just about pulled my hair out every day (and if it weren’t for my husband, I honestly probably would not have kept Cane in those first couple months!) But if there’s one thing in life that has made me stronger emotionally, mentally, (and even physically!) it’s “because of Cane.” He’s now my best friend, and I can’t imagine life without him by my side. So I was able to relate a lot to Opal in the book. When she panics over losing Winn-Dixie, for example, I felt her fear as I would also be devastated to lose my canine best friend, too.

Cane and me

Have you read “Because of Winn-Dixie”? If so, what are your thoughts?

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are safe and well. As always, Happy Reading! 🙂

Words Wednesday: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Last week, I wrote about a Christmas song, “The Christmas Waltz,” and reflected on its tone of joy and light-heartedness. I realize that while Christmas is a time of joy for many, it’s also often a time of sadness. It’s a time when people may reminisce on their loved ones who have passed away or a time (especially this year) when people may feel lonelier than normal. I know several family members, friends, and students who are going through a particularly rough time right now, and I feel for them in their sadness and loss.

So for today’s look at some famous Christmas song lyrics, I’m writing about another one of my favorites, one that has a more somber message: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

I’ve always thought this song has a sad sound to it, especially in the Judy Garland version that I usually listen to. And I guess my instinct on this “sad sound” is not far off from the story behind the song’s lyrics, which I just learned about and was very intrigued with. According to a recently published article by Maddy Shaw Roberts on, songwriter Hugh Martin’s lyrics were quite grim when originally written for Judy Garland’s role in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). The lyrics included “Have yourself a merry little Christmas. / It may be your last. / Next year we may all be living in the past” and “Faithful friends who were dear to us, / Will be near to us no more.”

Thankfully, Garland refused to sing these lyrics and asked for a re-write. While Martin still stubbornly opposed, actor Tom Drake managed to convince him to re-write part of the lyrics. The song has undergone many small changes over time, even from that sung by Garland.

Garland’s rendition, which I’ll be focusing on here, is much improved from the original lyrics with “Let your heart be light / Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” and “Faithful friends who were near to us / Will be dear to us once more.” And yet, while these lyrics are more hopeful, I can’t help but still see/hear a hint of sadness in these revised lines.

Maybe it’s that the lyrics sound overly hopeful or are grasping at something that might not be entirely true: troubles will not exactly be “out of sight” and as depressing as it sounds, the same friends who gather with us one year may not be there the next (due to more than just the possibility of death but also changes in circumstances, spending Christmas elsewhere, etc.). In this way, the song is also somewhat sad in the way that it holds on to memories and the past: “Here we are as in olden days / Happy golden days of yore.” It’s creating a memory while also looking back at memories which one usually does with bittersweet feelings.

The song later acknowledges, “Someday soon we all will be together / If the fates allow,” which seems opposite to the lines that sounded optimistic and sure just a moment before. The lyrics continue, “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow,” bringing the listener to the reality that life has its troubles that we’ll have to muddle through. And while the lyrics earlier makes it seem as though Christmas will dissolve these troubles, it becomes none other than a mere wish that this would be true.

While this may make the revised version of the lyrics still seem quite somber, I find myself drawn to them, especially compared to the original words. To me, the revision shows that Martin cleverly kept the sadness that could encompass Christmas (as was his intention with the first lyrics) but in a more tactful way. He brings in glimmers of hope, which are nice and yet somber in their own way, and ends the song in a manner that shows a more truthful and realistic outlook on life during the Christamas season. Yes, “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” is not as uplifting as the following revisions that changed it to “hang a shining star upon the highest bough” (which I like too), but I think it’s fitting for a song that wishes a Merry “Little” Christmas to its listeners – a humble wish that Christmas need not be a huge event but a simple one in which you are surrounded by none other than love.

I know times may be rough during the holidays and especially during the pandemic, and I hope that, even if you can’t be with your usual group of loved ones this season, “soon we all will be together” as the song echoes.

What are your thoughts on this Christmas classic?

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are safe and well. Happy Holidays and Happy Reading. 🙂