Hi! My name is Margot. My blog is about the things I love to do. That could be what I'm reading, places we visit, my family, food, or whatever else is happening. I hope you'll stay and visit a while. Contact me by email: joyfullyretired (at) gmail (dot) com.

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"I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place." - Anne Tyler

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Book Review: The Buddha In the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Buddha In the AtticPublisher: Anchor

Picture brides, in The Buddha in the Attic, refers to Japanese girls and women who sent their pictures to Japanese men living in California. The men sent letters to the females offering marriage and life in America. Very few of the accompanying stories about themselves were true. They weren’t bankers or lawyers or big businessmen. But then, the passage was paid for by the men, and they did promised a life that was often better than their lives back in Japan.

The story starts with the brides’ boat trip and progresses on to their first night of marriage, a look at where they lived and the work they did, on through to talk about their babies and children, how the “whites” treated them, and ends with their enforced removal to internment camps during World War II.

There are no specific characters for the reader to follow in this novel. It’s written in the first-person plural which, at first, threw me off. The plot follows the whole group of women with occasional specific names mentioned.

For me, The Buddha In the Attic felt more like an essay mixed together with a good historical story. I liked it. It was very interesting, actually quite educational. Instead of connecting with a specific characters, I felt connected and very sympathetic to the entire group. Life in general wasn’t kind to them, but they were spunky and tried hard to survive and do well in their adopted country.

The writing was excellent. It often felt very lyrical, like a song or a beautiful poem. The author won the 2012 PEN/Faulkner Book Prize. She was also a finalist for the 2011 National Book Award. It was a short read but one that stayed in my head for a long time.

I read this book as part of Aarti’s A Diverse Universe challenge. The challenge is only for the last two weeks of September so, if you’re interested, you still have time to join in.

More Diverse Universe

Book Review: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

YaYa Sisterhood

Author: Rebecca Wells

Publisher: Harper, 1998

I’ve just spent nearly 15 hours with a group of female friends who live in central Louisiana. It wasn’t actually a physical visit. It was a mental and emotional visit via my iPod, but it felt so real that you can’t tell me those people aren’t still alive.

Vivi, Caro, Teensy and Necie met as young girls in the mid-1920s but they’re now nearing 70. They were full of fun and imaginative play. The girls loved to play pranks and were in sync with each other their entire lives. Their bond was as close as loving and supportive sisters. Together they formed the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The four of them have been there for each other, fixing everything as they go.

Now its Vivi’s daughter, Sidda, who needs their help. Sidda is a successful director of stage plays and is engaged to a wonderful man. But – Sidda decides to postpone her wedding because she truly believes she’s incapable of love.

Sidda has always had a rocky relationship with her mother. Vivi has so many demons in her past that they effected her ability to always be there for her children. Vivi didn’t always show love to Sidda and now Sidda feels she might be like her mother.

The Ya-Yas convince Vivi to to send Sidda a scrapbook Vivi has been filling all her life. Its called the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. The book is filled with mementos but it also takes an in-depth look at the events in Vivi’s life as well as those of the other women. For Sidda it contains the answers to what made Vivi a, sometimes, unfit mother.

Initially I did not like Vivi, but as Sidda began to uncover the secrets in Vivi’s life, my opinion changed. It softened as I saw what Vivi’s mother did to her and some other tragic events as well. The support Vivi received from her “sisters” was something not seen often. They trusted each other completely and rescued each other without question. In Vivi’s case, they saved her life. It was a beautiful friendship to observe.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood was a book club selection. We were in agreement in our love for the story and the characters. The catholic church played a part in this story which lead to a good part of our discussion. Over half of our members are catholic and I enjoyed how they compared their experiences with those of the women in the book.

The author has written two more books in this “sisterhood series.” It includes the same characters and, based on that, we all want to read at least one of those books. We felt we will need another visit with the Ya-Yas. This makes an excellent book club selection.

Highly recommended.

Wondrous Words #269

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I found a new word while reading The Competition by Marcia Clark.

unis: “We need to have the unis ask around about Otis.”

Unis is used often in this mystery set in the (fictional) Los Angeles Police Department. I figured it was some kind of “in-word” in the law enforcement world. I thought maybe it was like perp – short for perpetrator I hear on TV. I had to search widely for a definition, but I finally found it in the Urban Dictionary. Unis refers to uniforms police officers.

Have you heard/read the word before?

That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

First Paragraph: The Buddha in the Attic

I’m currently reading Buddha In the Attic by Julie Otsuka for the A More Diverse Universe challenge. I’m almost halfway through, and I’m overwhelmed by it. As you can see, the writing style is different. Trust me, its quite effective.

Buddha In the AtticOn the boat we were mostly virgins. We had long black hair and flat wide feet and we were not very tall. Some of us had eaten nothing but rice gruel as young girls and had slightly bowed legs, and some of us were only fourteen years old and were still young girls ourselves. Some of us came from the city, and wore stylish city clothes, but many more of us came from the country and on the boat we wore the same old kimonos we’d been wearing for years—faded hand-me-downs from our sisters that had been patched and redyed many times. Some of us came from the mountains and had never before seen the sea, except for in pictures, and some of us were the daughters of fishermen who had been around the sea all our live. Perhaps we had lost a brother or father to the sea, or a fiance, or perhaps someone we loved had jumped into the water one unhappy morning and simply swum away, and now it was time for us, too, to move on.

What do you think?
Would you keep going?

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea asks us to share the first paragraph of a book we are reading. As you can see it’s called First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. Visit Diane to read more First Paragraphs.


Book Review: One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson

One SummerPublisher: Anchor, October 2013

Prior to reading this book I could recall a couple of things I might associate with the late 1920s. My mom was born in 1920 and she talked a lot about her childhood, so I thought I knew the important stuff. But, once I started in on One Summer: America, 1927, I was quite taken aback by the large number of significant events that occurred all in one year. Here are the highlights:

  • Charles Lindbergh became a world-wide hero when he flew his plane alone, nonstop, across the Atlantic Ocean. He was the first person to ever do so.
  • Babe Ruth proved himself the best baseball player when he became the first person to hit sixty home-runs in one season, a record that would last for decades.
  • Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian anarchists, were executed despite very weak evidence at trial.
  • Al Jolson starred in The Jazz Singer, the first feature-length “talkie.”
  • Technology made strides with both radio and the invention of television.
  • Al Capone was at the peak of his power with control of illegal liquor sales, municipal governments and police forces.
  • The lower Mississippi River flooded after unbelievable rains across the south causing massive damage.

That’s just an outline of some of the events from One Summer. Bill Bryson looked at 1927 with his eyes wide open to not just the events, but the backstories. I love backstories. For example, Babe Ruth was a bigger-than-life person in 1927, but the author told me more than just the details of his amazing baseball achievements. I learned about the clothes he wore, what he did for fun, what he ate, how he squandered his money and his predilection for a wide variety of women. In other words, I saw Babe Ruth the person.

One Summer: America, 1927 is the most amazing nonfiction book I’ve read in quite a while. It was  juicy and fun and a great way to learn history. Why can’t all history books be written this way? Highly recommended.

Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the SunPublisher: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1941

Evil Under the Sun is one of Agatha Christie’s A-class novels. In my opinion. Its up there with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Murder On the Orient Express and Body In the Library – all books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and rated A+.

Setting: The Jolly Roger, an exclusive island beach-resort off the southern coast of England. An isolated setting is a classic technique Ms. Christie has perfected. It means all the characters are gathered together with very few people who come and go. That’s a key factor.

Characters: Too many to be listed. The resort has attracted a good collection of upper class, mostly English guests who have come to rest and play in the sun. All the guests get to know each other quite well. However, two of them have come to know each other a little too well. There are two married couples. The husband of one couple is having an affair with the wife, a beautiful actress, of the other couple. In the midst of the gathering is Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective.

Plot Summary: The scandalous affair isn’t conducted in a discreet manner. The husband of the actress pretends not to notice, but the poor little schoolteacher wife of the cad of a husband is distraught and pitied by everyone. It doesn’t stop anyone from swimming or playing tennis or any of the other fun activities.

And then — the actress is found dead on the beach. Of course, all the main characters were either in plain sight of everyone else or otherwise accounted for. Also, no stranger came to or went from the island. It has to be one of them. I thought it was either the actress’s husband or the poor pitiful wife. The police think it could have been the actress’s step-daughter or possibly a former girlfriend of the husband. Fortunately, Hercule Poirot has been quietly observing everyone and everything. His little “grey cells”  have other ideas.

As usual, Agatha Christie gave us all sorts of clever clues that could have lead the reader in the same direction as Monsieur Poirot but, again, I did not pay attention. I was completely shocked by the conclusion. And, that’s why I love reading the Grande Dame.

Of course, I highly recommend this one to you, but I have a suggestion to make the experience even better. I first read the story on my kindle, but then I saw an audiobook of the story on Audible.com. It was only 2 hours and 17 minutes so I said, why not. It was a re-ensactment of the story done almost completely in dialogue. There were seven different actors playing the roles but it seemed like thirty. It was published by BBC Worldwide and definitely lives up to the BBC’s high standards. Check it out here: Evil Under the Sun

Wondrous Words #268

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

Sadly, I didn’t find any new words in my reading this week. I’d like to share a couple of good words I found on my word-a-day calendar.

1.  apodictic:  “The apodictic tone of Lisa’s writing reflects her complete confidence in the correctness of her statements.”

Apodictic (apəˈdik – tik) means beyond dispute or absolute certainty.


2.  fleer:  “Adam half-expected to be hit with a collective fleer when he suggested that the firm’s partners do the work pro-bono, but the others readily agreed.”

A fleer (flir) is a word or look of derision or mockery.


That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the det

First Paragraph: The Competition

This week I’m featuring The Competition by Marcia Clark. So far, its a riveting story about a sad subject — a mass school shooting, Here’s how it begins:

The Competition10:45a.m.

Principal Campbell’s voice blared through the classroom loudspeakers. “As you know, it’s Homecoming, and I’m sure you’re all as excited about it as I am. Pep rally starts at eleven a.m. sharp. Show your school spirit and greet our new cheerleaders. See you there! Go, Falcons!”

Groans went up in nearly every classroom as the students rolled their eyes and traded disgusted looks. The truth was, they didn’t mind the break. Any excuse to get out of class.

What do you think?
Would you keep going?

Every Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea asks us to share the first paragraph of a book we are reading. As you can see it’s called First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. Visit Diane to read more First Paragraphs.


Book Review: Left Turn at Paradise: A Rare Books Mystery by Thomas Shawver

Left Turn at ParadisePublisher: Alibi/Random House, August 26, 2014

All it took was for me to read the first sentence of the book’s description and I said, “I want to read this one!” Read it and see what you think:

Michael Bevan is barely scraping by with his used bookstore and rare book collection when he discovers a timeworn journal that may change everything. Dating back to 1768, the tattered diary appears to be a chronicle kept during the first of legendary seafarer Captain James Cook’s three epic voyages through the Pacific islands. If it’s as valuable as Mike thinks it is, its sale may just bring enough to keep his faltering used bookstore afloat for another year.
Then he meets a pair of London dealers with startling news: Adrian Hart and Penelope Wilkes claim to possess the journal of Cook’s second voyage. Is it possible a third diary exists? One which might detail Cook’s explosive final voyage—and his death at the hands of native Hawaiians? Together, all three would be the holy grail of Pacific exploration. But before Mike can act, the two journals are stolen.
Chasing them down will sweep Michael, Adrian, and Penelope across the globe—past a dead body or two—and into a very sinister slice of paradise. High in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, in a remote and secretive Maori compound, a secret rests in the hands of a man daring enough to rewrite history . . . and desperate enough to kill.

My Thoughts:

It’s an old cliche’ but I’m going to say it anyway: Left Turn at Paradise was a non-stop page-turner! There is so much happening to the main character that I had a hard time stopping to take a break. It’s a good thing it was only 208 pages or who knows what would have happened.

Seriously, there were so many twists and turns in the story that it was more like reading an adventure story than a mystery. We go from Kansas City to San Francisco and the backcountry of New Zealand. If adventure isn’t enough for the average story, there’s a lot of interesting information of Captain Cook and, yes, the mystery as well.

This is the second book in the author’s Rare Book Mystery series. Unfortunately, I didn’t read the first book. The first chapter of this book started immediately with a recap of The Dirty Book Murder. I was a little put-off by that. I like a series where each book stands alone with perhaps subtle references to the main character’s previous life.

If mystery and adventure with the talk of rare books thrown in is right up your alley, get Left Turn at Paradise. Take my advice, however, and read the first book, The Dirty Book Murder, first. These books are a part of Alibi Publishing’s program of producing top-notch e-books. Good news: both books are inexpensive – $2.99 each.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: TLC Book Tours

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Wondrous Words #267

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog. I found two new words while visiting fellow bloggers.

1.  gradient: “My ex-wife said that my “nonexistent emotional gradient” was the main reason she was leaving me . . .”

Gradient has a couple of different meanings but, in this case, I believe it means an increase or decrease in the magnitude of a property such as temperature or pressure.

From the first paragraph of 11/22/63 by Stephen King as seen on Judy’s blog Busy Hands Are Happy Hands.


2.  rot: “But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded.”

I’m not sure about the definition for rot in this sentence. I know rot as a verb that tells me something is decaying. I checked the dictionary and learned that rot can also be a noun. In that case it means a process, such as the process of deterioration.

This word came from the first paragraph of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton as seen on Leila’a Reader’s Oasis.

That’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.