My Five Star Reads

StarlightRichard Wagamese

Knowing that Richard Wagamese passed away before finishing this novel, and believing that another writer had finished it for him, I was initially hesitant to read it. From the opening paragraph, Wagamese’s narration was so compelling and clear that my initial fears were intensified.

Unable to put the book down, I braced myself for the inevitable editorial change. never came. I panicked even more when I realized there were only a handful of pages left in my book. How could this novel end so quickly with a masterful pace?

The publishers wisely decided to publish Starlight unfinished. They put a lot of effort into keeping the story and writing 100% true to its author. The editors carefully reviewed the notes, manuscripts, and previously unpublished works to then roughly sketch the ending they believe Richard Wagamese intended.

Starlight is a captivating exploration of compassion, forgiveness, and the transformative power of the earth. Since it was left unfinished, it’s hard to rate it. Despite some inconsistencies and many questions running through my mind, I give it five stars. My rating is based on the beautiful writing, even in its crude form, and the editors’ respectful handling of Richard Wagamese’s final work. If you haven’t read Richard Wagemese yet, you’re missing out on hauntingly beautiful stories.

travel with charleyjohn steinbeck

Lately I have found myself falling down a Steinbeck Rabbit Hole. It all started with Grapes of Wrath, which took me to Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday and Travels with Charley,

I first read this book as a teenager. What I understood then of the political and philosophical content, I have no idea. The only scenes he vaguely remembered were heavily centered on Steinbeck’s dog.

Reading this 40 years later has been both uplifting and heartbreaking. It has made me think deeply. It offers fantastic material for discussion and debate, making it ideal for the right book club. And the controversy! Did Steinbeck fictionalize this trip? Since most of the evidence points to it, which parts are factual, which are embellished, and which are completely made up? More importantly, why did Steinbeck choose to novelize or embellish, and does this detract from the book?

To me, a book that makes you think deeply, captivates you with its language, and makes you want to passionately discuss it is a five-star read (even if it’s fictional nonfiction). As other readers have succinctly noted, Steinbeck’s humanistic insight, evocative descriptions, and this direct insight into his thoughts later in life are reason enough to read this witty and insightful book.

My four star reads:

cannery row and sweet thursdayjohn steinbeck
Sweet Thursday is the sequel to Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. I was hoping it would end my fall out of Steinbeck’s rabbit hole. Reading it cleared up a lot of my questions about the Cannery Row (Nick Nolte) movie. Doing one last quick check on the date of the movie, my eyes caught that Raquel Welch was initially cast in the role of Suzy’s Debra Winger, but was fired from her due to reportedly being difficult to work with. I really wish I hadn’t noticed as I now feel another dive down the rabbit hole looming. My brain froze at the fact that the Cannery Row movie was produced in 1982, 42 years ago. I had to quickly revise the math. How could 1982 be almost half a century ago? Now I need to stop writing this post and go to bed! But I do recommend these novels. They are short, hilarious, and at the same time heartbreaking. They are a thought-provoking exploration of loneliness and ostracism.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
My Classics Book Club currently reads novels on the “Top 100 Books of All Time” lists. Our current selection is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll.
I first read this book in elementary school (I still have that copy). I loved adventure, fantasy and fun. He taught me that the seemingly impossible can be possible.
Years later, I read ‘Alice’ as part of a children’s literature course. I was surprised at the amount of sophisticated content that could be gleaned from its pages, including scathing commentary on Victorian society. In our twenty-something focus groups, someone always pointed out (picked up) the references to drugs. Forty years into my college readings, I love how Carroll brilliantly transports readers young and old into a magical world that celebrates the imagination. For me, clever puns and clever puns take center stage.
As a beautiful coincidence, last night our seven year old grandson acted in a school play based on this book (he was a brilliant mad hatter… says his grandmother without much bias)


Bistro Kitchen, Patricia Wells
If you’ve ever wanted to be transported to a Parisian bistro, this book does exactly that. With over 200 recipes celebrating simple and flavorful French cooking, accompanied by concise step-by-step instructions, the delicious food of little backstreet bistros comes to life immediately. Bistro Cooking is full of tips to make cooking at home easier and more efficient, including tips for using up leftovers. The Kindle version is currently available (June 2023) in Canada for $3.99. It’s a great bargain for a quick trip to France!

Nothing fancy, Alison Roman
‘Nothing Fancy’ by Alison Roman is a very entertaining cookbook. I enjoyed his writing style and applauded his sage advice, especially “ask for help, pick your battles, accept your peculiar imperfections without apology.” I appreciated that it covered everything from snacks to cleaning. The recipes are easy to follow and the results are impressive. I especially like Roman’s philosophy that when she has “a special ingredient, say, a big piece of gorgeous halibut, extremely in-season tomatoes, a perfect peach,” she “does almost nothing.” She wants to try that ingredient that she is “paying half a month’s rent for and not fourteen other things piled on top of it.” This is excellent advice!
I would love for you to see the review of the Nothing Fancy recipes I tried. here. That post could currently use some love! ❤

What has been on your shelf lately?

Please let me know in the comments below. If you have a book post to share, include it here.…

published by retirement reflections

Before retirement, I lived and worked in Beijing, China for fourteen years (high school principal/Deputy Principal of Beijing Western Academy). Leaving international life behind, my husband and I retired to Vancouver Island in June 2015. To document both this transition and our new adventures, ‘Retirement Reflections’ was born. I hope you enjoy reading these reflections and that you are willing to share your own.
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