In which we are kept from harm.

I got my Johnson and Johnson one shot vaccine yesterday at Oswald’s Pharmacy. Some twelve year old, dressed up in nurse’s scrubs, launched the syringe like a spear into my arm. Then, she put her foot on my thigh and used two hands to pull it out. That’s what it felt like, anyway.

I have been lying in bed all day, listening to a gentle rain outside my window, which is the only soothing thing available to me right now. I can’t read. I can’t write in my Midori. My head is pounding, pounding, pounding, while my muscles burn, and my joints ache.

So, that’s how the vaccination is going for me.

But, my son brought me a bouquet of roses just like his father used to do when he was alive. They are so white and pure, a lovely reminder of all that we have which is good, and it is much.

The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:7-8 (NIV)

Truly Yours, Baum-Kuchen, and Planner Peace

I have been checking the mail every day with great anticipation. For not so long ago, I sent my new Midori passport notebook to Baum-Kuchen for a personal customization. I wanted my initials and a very important Japanese term embossed on the cover.

When I was up late at night a few weeks ago, my husband asked me, “What are you doing?”

“Filling in my 2022 calendar insert,” I replied, “for my new Traveler’s Notebook.”

“Meredith,” he said, “It’s March. Of 2021.”

He doesn’t understand, of course. That’s why I gave him my old, already gloriously worn in Passport TN, the one I used during our trip to Japan. It’s navy, his favorite color, and I thought he could join me in planning now that he’s retired. Maybe he will, and maybe he won’t, but it doesn’t detract from my utter joy in the notebooks, the inserts, and the filling in of them.

These are the inserts from 2020. There are more than I usually fill, but 2020 was a more than usual year. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred to them now that the pandemic seems to be dissipating.

“Mom,” I said this week, “do you realize we started walking together March 20 of last year?”

It’s so easy to refer to an occasion, a memory, an event, or a thought with these little beauties.

My newly embossed cover has wabi-sabi embossed in the center, with my initials down below. What is wabi-sabi? Quite simply, it means finding beauty in the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is so perfectly suited to the balance I yearn for between control and acceptance. It is a term I want to fully embrace, and now I can with this reminder on the cover of my new notebook.

It is just perfect.

The Fragile World by Kerby Rosanes…Look at this gorgeous coloring book!

One of my favorite “childish” pleasures is coloring with my Faber-Castell oil-based pencils. It is a great luxury to have the time, although not necessarily the ability, to sit with a book and contemplate the layers of color being laid down to enrich an already beautiful work of art.

I was thrilled that Penguin Random House sent me the Fragile World coloring book by Kerby Rosanes this week. Before I add my own touch to it, I wanted to show you a few of the intricate drawings of fifty-six endangered animals.

Fragile World is a coloring book to savor, exploring fifty-six endangered, vulnerable, and threatened animals and landscapes—from the Tapanuli orangutan to the hawksbill turtle, from the Philippine bay caves to the Baltic Sea. The illustrations are intricate, detailed and unforgettable, both magisterial and whimsical. And the result is a stunning tribute to Mother Nature. Fragile World is a coloring experience that is at once vintage Kerby and unlike any of his previous books.” (back cover)

Fragile World will be available March 16 for $15.00 from Penguin Random House.

Six Degrees of Separation, Starting With Redhead by the Side of the Road


Because “road” made me think of:


which had an Australian doctor bringing me to:

a novel set in Australia, about a man who must decide between his emotions and his ambitions, which reminds me of:

as Vronsky, and of course Anna, sacrifice everything for love. And because it is a Russian novel written by Tolstoy, I am reminded of:

a classic I have always meant to finish, maybe this is the year? But, the parts I have read reminded me, strangely, of:


because of the war, the manners and etiquette, the passion of each side convinced that they are in the right.

Find the Six Degrees of Separation meme here.

Before The Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (A Review and a Give-away)

I can picture the café with its windowless room in sepia tones, the three clocks all pointing to different times, and the aromatic coffee coming from a silver kettle, pouring slowly into the cup of the person who is sitting in that seat. The seat which is usually occupied by a woman in a white dress, who is destined to sit there forever, a ghost of her former self.

She didn’t follow the rules, apparently. The rules which state that if you want to go to the past, you are allowed to do so if the person you want to see has been to the café before, if you realize that you will not be able to change the present, and if you finish your conversation before the coffee grows cold.

The steam from the coffee shimmers as you gradually shift from the present to the past. And, there are a few people who wish to do exactly that. One wants to know why she didn’t stop her boyfriend from leaving for America. Another wants to give his wife a letter in a brown envelope, which he has been carrying around for quite some time. A third longs to meet with her sister, from whom she hid, before she was in a car accident; the fourth longs to see the face of her daughter…

What would you want to change, who would you want to meet, for one last time?


Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi would have been a good choice for the Japanese Literature Challenge 14 read along. So many of you have read and reviewed it already! I am getting to the party where the coffee is already getting cold, but what a fascinating book it is. If you would like to enter the give-away for a copy of your own, please mention it in your comment below. (U. S. only, please.)

Find more reviews at The Reading Life, Clearwater Daybook, and Real Life Reading.

Congratulations to the winner who is Words and Peace!

Six Degrees of Separation Beginning with Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet is the starting place for January’s Six Degrees of Separation. Because it is about the loss and sorrow caused by a plague, it made me think of Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

Geraldine Brooks wrote this book, but also March, a book I quite disliked for its portrayal of Mr. March as a less than honorable man. In thinking of male characters that I do admire, I think of John Galt in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand has written the book I want to read for the #1936Club, We The Living. Because Ayn writes of a time in post revolutionary Russia, another book I plan to read with the same setting is One Night In Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore.

Because of the horrors of life in Russia, (which make me somewhat fearful of occurring in America: Loss of freedom of speech? Loss of ability to worship? Loss of personal weapons?) I am reminded of the Nobel Prize winning book, Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich.

Another Nobel prize winning book is The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. Even though he is British, he was born in Nagasaki, Japan, which brings me to Japanese literature.

Of all the Japanese literature I have read, and plan to continue reading, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami holds a special place in my heart. For it, like Hamnet, contains a mother/son relationship.

This is the first time I have participated in this meme, and it was quite a pleasant task to think of books I love and their connection. Might I add that Hamnet is a most worthy starting point? It was one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Books Read In 2020

Books Read in 2020:

~January~

  1. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  2. The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  3. The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda, translated from the Japanese by Alison Watts (Japanese Literature Challenge 13)
  4. On The Bus in the Rain by Haruka Kimura (JLC13)
  5. The Dancing Girl of Izu by Yasunari Kawabata (JLC13/Deal Me In Challenge)
  6. The Drifting Classroom by Kazuo Umezz (JLC13)
  7. An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (JLC13)
  8. Malice by Keigo Higashino (JLC13)
  9. Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (Edgar Award nomination for Best Novel)

~February~

  1. The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths (Edgar Award nomination for Best Novel)
  2. Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland (Edgar Award nomination for Best Novel)
  3. The River by Peter Heller (Edgar Award nomination for Best Novel)
  4. Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné (translated from the French by Roland Glasser)
  5. Mr. Miller by Charles Den Tex (translated from the Dutch by Nancy Forest-Flier, for Boekenweek 2020)
  6. The Dutch Maiden by Marente de Moor (translated from the Dutch by David Doherty, for Boekenweek 2020)

~March~

  1. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (Japanese Literature Challenge 13, read-along)
  2. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  3. The Enlightenment of The Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar (translated from the Persian by an anonymous translator, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  4. Faces on The Tip of My Tongue by Emmanuelle Pagano (translated from the French by Sophie Lewis and Jennifer Higgins, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  5. Red Dog by Willem Anker (translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  6. Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann (translated from the German by Ross Benjamin, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  7. Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  8. Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  9. The Other Name by Jon Fosse (translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  10. The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara (translated from the Spanish by Fiona Mackintosh and Iona Macintyre, Booker International Prize 2020 long list)
  11. The Forest of Wood and Steel by Natsu Miyashita, translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel

April-

  1. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (free Audible book during Corona Virus, listened to while sewing face masks)
  2. Malicroix by Henri Bosco (translated from the French by Joyce Zonana, read along for nyrb)
  3. Backlight by Kanji Hanawa (Red Circle Mini Book, Japanese)
  4. This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerarld (#1920 Club)
  5. The Force by Don Winslow
  6. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
  7. The Cartel by Don Winslow

~May~

  1. The Border by Don Winslow
  2. Broken by Don Winslow
  3. The Book of V. by Anna Solomon
  4. Redhead by The Side of the Road by Anne Tyler
  5. The New Husband by D. J. Palmer
  6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize winner)

~June~

  1. Satori by Don Winslow
  2. Savages by Don Winslow
  3. Safe by S. K. Barnett
  4. The Gentleman’s Hour by Don Winslow
  5. Weather by Jenny Offill
  6. Shadow Garden by Alexandra Burt
  7. A Man by Keiichiro Hirano (Japanese)

~July~

  1. The Vacation by Logan
  2. The Cave by Jose Saramago (translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jill Costa)
  3. The Cathedral by The Sea by Ildefonso Falcones (Spanish Lit Month) Half-read
  4. The Death and Life of Bobby Z by Don Winslow

~August~

  1. A Million Drops by Victor Del Arbol (Spanish Lit Month) Half-read
  2. All This I Will Give to You by Dolores Redondo (Spanish Lit Month/WIT Month, translated from the Spanish by Michael Meigs)
  3. The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow

~September~

  1. S. by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst (for the R.I.P. XV)
  2. Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara (read-along with Wuthering Expectations)
  3. A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Book Club)
  4. The Bell in The Lake by Lars Mytting (translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin)
  5. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (for the R.I.P. XV)
  6. Find Me by André Aciman

~October~

  1. The Searcher by Tana French (R.I.P XV)
  2. The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck (R.I.P. XV, Finnish)
  3. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Women’s Prize for Fiction winner)

~November~

  1. The Lost Resort by Susie Holliday
  2. Too Good to be True by Carola Lovering
  3. You Would Have Missed Me by Birgit Vanderbeke (German Lit Month, translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch)
  4. Wolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen (translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett)
  5. Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci
  6. The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

~December~
Finished the ESV Study Bible begun in January, 2020..

The Year in Reading: 2020 Wrap Up

I have only read 70 books in 2020, and none in December, which surprises me because it was a perfect year to read as there was so little else to do. As one of my friends said to me, when the pandemic first began, “Quarantine is an introvert’s paradise.”

Yet, I found myself involved in many other things than reading, such as preparing lovely meals, walking in the woods, and caring for my family. And so, I wrap up my reading year with these brief highlights:

Read alongs:

Malicroix by Henri Bosco, translated by Joyce Zonana

Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara

The Makioka Sisters by Juni’chiro Tanizuki

The Booker International Prize 2020:

Joining the International Booker Shadow Jury as we read for the International Booker Prize 2020.


Reading Challenges:

Spanish Lit Month, hosted by Stu this July

German Lit Month, hosted by Caroline and Lizzy this November

Japanese Literature Challenge 13, hosted by myself from January through March

Women in Translation Month, hosted by Meytal

20 Books of Summer, hosted by Cathy

R.I.P. XV, begun by Carl

1920 Club, hosted by Kaggsy and Simon

Edgar Award nominations for Best Novel:

Top Ten Books of 2020:

Looking forward to:

I am eager to begin the Japanese Literature Challenge 14 with many of you (all are welcome!) in January. Let’s take the next month to read Breasts and Eggs by Meiko Kawakami, which won the Akutagawa Prize and is highly praised by Haruki Murakami. We can discuss it at the end of January, which gives us time to read and discuss it.

I believe I will also take some time to revisit some old favorites. If there ever was a time to read for comfort, this Winter May qualify. I would like to reread Possession by A. S. Byatt, The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber, Watership Down by Richard Adams. I would also like to read more Russian literature, of which I have quite a stack.

And, you? What were your favorite reads of 2020? What do you look forward to in 2021?

Merry Christmas!

Because my husband has French ancestors, he has always signed my Christmas cards with Joyeux Noel. But, it doesn’t matter which language we speak as we take the time to wish each other hope, peace, love and joy this December.

What an unusual year it has been with the pandemic and social/political unrest. Yet, there have been pockets of joy in my life, which I hope you, too, were able to find. My son just had hernia surgery, and so he is home with us recuperating. I love his presence at the table for meals, or how we read to each other each night by the tree, despite the pain that he must go through to heal.

I stop to count the happy bits of 2020, which include walks at Herrick Lake, coffee and laughter with my parents, tea parties in the pergola, birthday celebrations on the patio, being able to worship in church. There have been endless hours to read this year, although not this month (and I look forward to sharing more literature together in 2021). What we have been denied, only makes me appreciate what we do have all the more; there is no time that I go to the grocery store without being grateful for full shelves so unlike what I saw last March.

My theme for this Christmas, for the year to come, is found in the Old Testament:

And He shall be our peace.

Micah 5:5

I pray this peace for us, for today, for our new year. May we find peace in Him, for it is not to be found anywhere else.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas.