Tag Archives: California

Summer Read: Updating Anne of Green Gables

Destination: Northern California

Book: Ana of California by Andi Teran (NEW June 2015)



The most beloved books seem to be those with the most beloved (or at least most fascinating) lead characters.  That is certainly true of the book Anne of Green Gables about an orphan girl adopted by a farmer brother and sister who lived on Prince Edward Island.  Ten-year-old Anne couldn’t keep her mouth shut, had an enormous vocabulary and a run away imagination.  Every little girl who had been told to be sensible and sit quietly, wanted to be just like Anne. And now we have a teen version of Anne in Ana of California.

Anne of Green Gables:

…what a relief not (to) be told that children should be seen and not heard….But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?

The popularity of the original accounts for numerous spin-offs and today’s tourist attraction of Green Gables farm and village and a whole itinerary for fans of Anne on Prince Edward Island. Since somehow I missed Anne (with an “e” she points out, since Ann without an “e” is so ordinary) when I was a little girl pointing out to people that even though it was two words, Vera Marie was meant to be said as one name.

Because I was reading the Bobbsey Twins series and other books like Black Beauty and Heidi and Beautiful Joe instead of Anne of Green Gables, I was  not tempted to go to pay homage to Green Gables when I was in the area.

House of Green Gables
The house that inspired House of Green Gables. Photo by Peter Broster

However, I have been to the charming redwood country of northern California where Ana of California is set. Now I wonder if in years to come, there will be tours of Ana’s town of Hadley and the Garber Farm? My conclusion (read on) is probably not.

Giant Redwoods, Northern California

Ana of California, when Ana first sees the wild forests of northern California:

Sunlight zigzagged across the dashboard as the truck crept out of the density of the forest and coasted down the hill into a canyon dotted with pine trees.

“Holy—” Ana exhaled. “This view is insane.”

Anne of Green Gables, when she first sees the blooming apple trees of Prince Edward Island:

Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight, and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.

“Pretty? Oh, PRETTY doesn’t seem the right word to use. Not beautiful either.  They don’t go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful, wonderful.  It’s the first think I ever saw that couldn’t be improved by my imagination.”

Ana, a fifteen-year-old orphan of troubled Mexican immigrant parents is very different in many ways from the innocent Anne. Yet, the author clearly was influenced by the older book as she wrote this engrossing coming of age tale. Ana (“Ana like ‘fauna’  not Anna like ‘banana'” she points out with the same sensitivity about names as Anne with an ‘e’).

Both girls, redheads, used to being rejected and totally lacking rural experience, have been sent to a farm run by a sister and brother. In both cases the farmers were hoping for a boy to help with chores. Both girls are vivid personalities. But the differences are so vast, that I hardly identified Ana of California, which reads like a very well written young adult novel with Anne of Green Gables, a children’s book.  Both books have and will be read by adults because there are some charming moments and universal truths to be found.

Ana is well versed in music and art because she loves her time in the library in L.A.

“I’ve spent so much time in the library–it’s the only real home I’ve ever known.  And even though it’s open only at certain times, it’s always welcoming, no matter who you are or where you come from, it’s there without judgment.”

The publisher does not call this a YA novel, which is just as well, because it might miss an audience with that label. On the other hand, it reads like a YA. Ana’s story is at times heart-wrenching, and the supporting cast of characters are drawn with a depth of intricacy not often seen. I loved Ana and wanted to know what she and all those interesting folks around her were going to do. And because she’s a teen, there’s romance as well.

Teran has a real way with words–the words that come from Ana, mostly. But the novel still qualifies as a light-weight–a perfect summer read that you will breeze through. I say that despite the difficulties of a teen character dealing with being gay and the fact that the book touches on the issue of discrimination against Mexican-Americans, and Ana’s own life experience with gangs and violence. So your opinion may be different.

The focus on what styles and particularly what music is ‘in’ or ‘out’ frequently went over my head. When I looked up Ana’s favorite band, the girl band Hex,  I learned that it is fictitious, although she talks about real groups as well. That focus on contemporary teen life,  guarantees that Ana will not have the staying power of Anne. Ana of California speaks directly to adults who came up through the sixties and teens of the the 21st century. And it nails them and their culture. But in another decade it will be as incomprehensible as Joyce’s Ulysses without notes.

As a side note, I was fascinated by the farm and the things Abigail Garber cooks and preserves and hauls to the farmer’s market and sells to a restauranteur interested in locally grown produce. Ana learns what kale is and the difference between a Japanese eggplant and a turnip and how to tell weeds from parsley.  If you have not been to a farmer’s market recently, this book may inspire you to go. And Teran needs to publish a companion cookbook. I want the meal of roast chicken, carrot salad, rosemary corn bread and lavender lemonade. (She and the publishers, Penguin, have produced a Book Club Kit that does a include a couple of recipes, an interview and a play list of the music mentioned in the book. The pdf may take a while to load.)

Most importantly,  I loved Andi Teran’s style.  Hispanic herself, she even introduces a bit of magical realism.  This is her first novel, and I’m hoping she will expand her reach in the next one, and set free her imagination and ability to create oh-so-memorable characters. And I would love to see her set a novel in her native New Mexico, which she describes beautifully in a Paris Review article about the TV show Breaking Bad. Teran is an author to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, despite my reservations, I recommend Ana of California as a pleasing summer read, for adults as well as teens.


  • There are links here to Amazon.com. I am an affiliate, so when you buy something through those links, although it costs you no more, I make a few cents to help pay the rent on A Traveler’s Library. Thanks.
  • The Green Gables picture is from Flickr, used with Creative Commons license. The Redwood forest picture is my own.  Please inquire before reusing.

San Miguel Island, Haven or Hell?

San Miguel Island book cover


Destination: San Miguel Island, Channel Islands National Park, California

Book: San Miguel by T. C. Boyle



I have never given much thought to the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara, California, including San Miguel Island.  I was vaguely aware they are there–out in the Pacific just beyond view from shore.  And that they are wildlife preserves, suitable for visiting by sea, or going ashore if you want to hike and explore nature–but only with a permit, I figured.


San Miguel Island


In fact there are five islands, and they comprise the Channel Islands National Park, one of the least-visited of America’s National Parks. Because of their isolation, like the Galapagos, they are chock full of odd and singular species.

But in San Miguel, author T. C. Boyle is interested in the odd and singular species of humans who inhabited San Miguel Island long before it became a National Park.  His fictionalized history follows two families–the Waters family in the late 1800’s and the Lester family in the 1930’s.  Boyle deftly tells the story of these families from the point of view of the women. His novel explores not only human psychology but also sharply defines the enormous changes in attitudes, beliefs, and the effect of technology, communications and war on American life over a period that equals an average life time.

All the island inhabitants are refugees of a sort–from the horrors of war (Civil War and First World War), from illness, from loneliness, or from too much stress.

San Miguel Island seals

The narrator in the first section, Marantha, who is dying of tuberculosis is brought here by her domineering Civil War veteran husband with the promise that the pure air will help her. She loathes the island and finally, furiously demands to be taken off. The husband has invested her money in a sheep ranch on San Miguel Island, and the manual labor and chipped china, noisy seals, and constant filth make life unbearable.

Marantha’s adopted daughter, a bored teenager trapped far from civilization with only a none-too-bright teenage farm worker to entertain her, constantly schemes and tries to get her way by seduction. Edith, the daughter, narrates the second section of the book, and my heart went out to her.  A third woman in the household, who does not get to tell her own story, is the Irish maid/cook, nearly as young as the daughter, but without her big ideas.

The male author’s hat-trick of capturing the voice and personality of these three women and their various stages of disgruntlement is not the end of his genius. Next he turns to the story of Elise Lester, brought to the island after the first family has left so that she and her husband can care for the sheep and try to buy the land from the owner.  Her husband also relishes the peace and quiet to recover from shell shock suffered in World War I. The second family is as chipper and cheerful as the first is sad and resentful.

San Miguel Island

Where Marantha saw only the constant wind and the blowing dust, Elise sees beauty and opportunity. In their twelve years on San Miguel Island, the Lester family adds two little girls to their family, and their life progresses from once-a month supply ships to an airplane dropping in supplies; from loneliness to being overwhelmed with visitors; from isolation and quiet to the constant noise of the radio broadcasting news of War.

While the natural landmarks on the San Miguel Island are the same, minus the sheep, the two houses described so vividly in the novel are long gone. I’ll wager that the novel will leave you wanting to explore San Miguel Island on your own.  The larger question, still rattling around in my mind, is “How would I react to living on an island out of touch with the busy world I know?” and “Would I be an Elise? An Edith? A Marantha?”  “And how much of your happiness depends on the person you are sharing the life with rather than the place? ”

That’s what good novels do–they leave you thinking. And this is a very good novel indeed.

Travel to the San Miguel Island and the Channel Islands

The National Parks web site will fill you in on various methods of transportation to San Miguel Island and the other Channel Islands.

Start in Ventura, California, where the park headquarters is located, and where you will depart for the islands.

Take what you need with you, because there are no stores on the islands.

If you are spending a night or two–you’ll be camping.

The NPS leads hikes and dives.

But if you can’t get to the Channel Islands in person, you can watch videos of live hikes and live dives.  Here’s the archive of past hikes and dives on video, and you can find the times when you can watch a live hike or dive on your computer at the same website.

Here’s a look at what what it would be like to visit San Miguel Island  today. A 7-minute video on You-Tube.

The photos here are in the public domain and acquired from the NPS Channel Islands website. A link to Amazon is an affiliate link, which means that if you purchase something from Amazon through links on this page, you will be supporting A Traveler’s Library (even though it costs you no more to shop that way).  The book was provided to me by the publisher for review, which has no effect on my opinion. I tell you what I think.


Cheap CA- Oregon Hotel Guide for Road Trip


Road Trip California-Oregon Hotel Guide

Oregon Hotel Guide Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach OR
Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach OR

We recently took a road trip in Oregon with a start in northern California.  I will be sharing some other aspects of that trip with you in the future, but since this week at A Traveler’s Library, I’m reviewing a some very special guidebooks, I thought that It might be fun to do a little Oregon hotel guide. Very little. Just 3 hotels in Oregon and 3 in California.

If you’re looking for luxury digs, you’ll need to go elsewhere.  We were exploring moderate-priced stays on this trip (budget but not couch surfing). Research included Trip Advisor and Yelp.  You always have to weigh what reviewers say on these sites, but by throwing out the most obvious shills and the chronic complainers we found both these sites to be helpful .

The Road Trip

Our road trip started in the San Francisco Bay area  and took us up Route 5 to the Portland region, along the Columbia River Gorge, down the 101 Pacific Coast Scenic Byway back into California’s Rt. 101 and Rt. 1.  I will include three Oregon and three California stays in my little road trip in Oregon Hotel Guide.

Gresham Oregon: The Best Western Pony Soldier Gresham–two nights.

Oregon Hotel Guide,Multnomah Falls
Upper and Lower Falls. Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Location:  Gresham is on the northeastern side of Oregon and provides easy access to the Columbia River Gorge. We made this our base for two nights, while we spent a day exploring the Gorge. Because it is not a trendy area, the hotel rates are much lower than in Portland itself or some of Portland’s tonier suburbs. This motel is within walking distance of a couple of shopping centers, Starbucks, several restaurants, etc. Although we did not take advantage, the motel is 1/10 of a mile from the light rail station to go into Portland.

Amenities: We have generally found Best Western to be a reliable brand.  Each hotel is owned privately rather than run by one large centralized company (although the booking is handled from one place). That means that design is not cookie-cutter, but each hotel must meet certain standards.   When you walk into the lovely lobby of the Pony Soldier in Gresham with its glass wall facing the swimming pool atrium, you get the feel of a very nice hotel rather than a motel.

  • The Pony Soldier had free WiFi plus a computer for guest use located in the beautiful lobby area.
  • There is a small exercise room and a small sauna. You must retrieve a key from the front desk rather than using a room key, which can be slightly inconvenient.
  • Pets are welcome with a charge of $20 per night. You need to call directly to any BW you’re staying at because the pet policies vary.
  • There is a guest laundry, with a charge of $2 per load of wash and another $2 for a drier load.
  • Breakfast is included, and I considered it slightly above average for motel breakfasts, including hard boiled eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit with a good assortment of bagels and bread.
  • The restaurant across the parking lot called Heidi’s is not affiliated with the Best Western. We tried it  and we don’t recommend it.


We were delighted by the beautiful modern decor of the huge room. A king sized bed (same price as two queens) had a built in shelf as a headboard.  Plenty of  storage space in the room, a comfortable chair, a desk with multiple outlets for electronics, and of course a flat screen TV, a microwave and a fridge.  The bed was comfortable, the bathroom cleanly designed with wide counter space around the sink and nice big towels.


Total cost including tax for two nights was $222.72. Best Western has frequent specials on their book website, so it pays to check there.  This summer and fall they are running a terrific 20% off deal for Internet bookings.  They also offer a very good AAA rate. I would give this a road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating of 4 1/2 stars.

Oregon Hotel Guide Cape Arago
Odd rock formations, Cape Arago, Shore Acres Sate Park

Northern to mid- Coast

When we left Gresham, we drove along the Columbia River to the west of Portland and crossed into Washington to visit the Washington Lewis and Clark State Park, then back through Astoria Oregon to the Lewis and Clark National Park.  Because a friend had raved about the tiny fishing village of Garibaldi, we bypassed the popular (and expensive) towns of Seaside  and Cannon Beach.

Garibaldi, Oregon: Harbour View Motel and RV Park for a one-night stay.

Location: Garibaldi may be a little father down the coast than you want to drive in one day because there are so many fascinating viewpoints and other things to do along the way.  We consoled ourselves that we had spent two days tracking Lewis and Clark and would spend another two days exploring the mid-coast region, as we bypassed much along the northern part of the coast. The Harbour View sits right out on the edge of the bay, surrounded by fishing boat piers. Unfortunately, you don’t really have a view of the bay because the RVs are parked between the motel and the water on one side, and on the other side, a road divides the motel from the fishing boats crowding the basin.

Amenities: Harbour View is constructed in the typical old-fashioned one-story long line of rooms, except that rooms are back to back with parking at the door of each.  Since it is a very small town, you can find it easily and can walk all over town for your morning exercise.  The owners provide plenty of activities for people who stay there, like clamming, crab bakes, Saturday S’mores parties.  This is definitely the place for fishermen, as fishing boats packed with visitors take off every morning.

  • Wifi is free.
  • Small fridge and microwave.
  • Dogs are welcome, at a charge of $25 a night.
  • All rooms are non-smoking.

Rooms: The rooms are very attractive, with seaside decor touches. A table and dining chairs in the front room and another table in the back beside the small refrigerator, plus a folding chair to use outdoors. A partial wall separates the bedroom from the sink, closet and eating area in the back half. The shower and toilet part of the bathroom have a door.  Beds and bedding and towels all were just dandy. Everything is spotless, and they include lots of little extras like a corkscrew, and a cloth for cleaning up spills. However, there are not enough electric outlets.

We dealt with the male half of the couple who owns the motel and he helpfully suggested dinner and breakfast places.  He was very friendly and helpful. The desk is not manned all night in this mom and pop operation, but that was not a problem, and he did give us an emergency phone number.

Rates: We paid $75.21 for one night.

DOWNSIDE: Despite the fact that when we checked in this looked like a real find, I would not stay here again. A lumber mill stands right beside the motel (on the side where our room was) and it operated noisy trucks until 3:00 a.m. and started up again at 6:00 a.m. When we went out for breakfast, I asked if the operation is seasonal and was told that it is not.  You can’t predict when it will be operating. That means that the road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating is, sadly. 2.5 stars. (4 for the room, but 1 for the sleepless night).

Oregon Hotel GuideBandon Beach
Bandon Beach


Bandon, Oregon: Table Rock Motel, a two-night stay

Location: We chose to stay at Bandon because there are so many things that we wanted to do packed into this section of coast. It proved to be a good location for sidetrips, but besides that, a gem of a little town on its own. In fact, I’m determined to go back and spend a couple of weeks in Bandon.

The top amenity of Table Rock Motel is LOCATION.  The motel sits on top of the cliff overlooking Bandon’s enormous sea rocks–Table Rock, Middle Rock and Elephant Rock.  A public cliff walk and stairs down to the beach are practically outside your door.

Amenities: On the other hand, the units we stayed in are very old, quirky looking, and in disrepair, although they are clean.  If you look at the website, notice that the same owners rent out units in newer apartments. I sneaked a peak at the new apartments, and they are nicely done. The catch is the old units have a view (or at least a partial view) and the units in the newer 2-story building have no view and cost more.

  • Good cable TV reception
  • Free wi-fi (The router was attached to our kitchen window with a DO NOT UNPLUG sign. At one point we had to do the plug and replug routine because it stopped working, but otherwise, we certainly couldn’t complain about having a strong signal!)
  • Fully equipped kitchen
  • A bucket and squeegee stands outside the office so you can clean the salt spray from your car windows.
  • Dog friendly at $25 a night.

Note: Ask at desk for a space heater if your bedroom is cold–but also ask for an adapter plug because the outlets are the old kind that do not accommodate a three-prong plug. There is a baseboard heater in the living room which worked quite well, but a wall heater in the bedroom looked inoperative.

Owners and staff are extremely friendly and eager to please.

Rooms: Despite my complaints here, we were comfortable and appreciated having the kitchenette. Furniture looks like thrift-shop purchases with various styles jumbled together.  The spotlessly clean linens on the beds were the same jumble–some adorned with tiny flowers, or edged with lace. The room we stayed in was more like a small apartment with a kitchen at one end of the living room, a dining table in front of the window with a beach view.  The kitchen included a refrigerator (in working order but with no handle on the door); a full-sized aging electric stove and oven; a small microwave; dishes, glassware, silverware, pots and pans. The bedroom had two double beds and barely room to walk around. A huge dresser took up a lot of space, but there was no real closet for hanging clothes–just rods beside one of the beds.

Rates: We were upgraded from Rm 11(queen bed, partial view) to Rm 9 (queen and double beds and full view) at the lower rate. We paid $235.40 for the two nights. I’m still debating whether the price was worth it because of the fantastic location, despite the tackiness and need for some repairs. My road trip Oregon hotel guide rating hovers around 3 stars, although Bandon itself is a 5 star.


If you are driving up from California, you may find these  recommendations helpful.

On Rte. 5, we stopped at Reddington at the Thunderbird Lodge.  This was, without a doubt, the best find budget-wise of the trip.

If you are an aficionado of the old-style motels, like those found along Rte. 66, the Thunderbird fits the bill. But going from the historic-look of the exterior to the re-done interior can be a pleasant shock. Modern black and white and chrome dresses up the interior, which is equipped with flat screen T.V., access to WiFi and comfortable beds. The bargain basement rates are reflected only in the tiny slivers of soap and cheap shampoo.  In downtown Reddington, the motel could not be more convenient. And since we paid only $77.28, we didn’t mind skipping the offered free breakfast and going elsewhere. (The breakfast was an all-carb  processed food Continental Bkfst and we needed something a bit healthier.) The road trip Oregon Hotel Guide rating is a solid 4 stars.

On Rte. 1: Going back down the coast, we took a nostalgic detour from the 101 to California’s famous Route 1 at Ferndale.  We had stayed there on a 25th anniversary trip, in a Victorian mansion B & B.

This time we opted for one of the few modern places in town, the Redwood Suites. It is operated by the same people who own the gorgeous Victorian Inn on the main street. The Redwood is just one block off the (only) main street of Ferndale, which is lined with Victorian buildings.  The Redwood is clean and comfortable and your standard mid-class motel.  We paid $121 for the privilege of not climbing flights of stairs in one of the more historic buildings.

Oregon Hotel Guide Poppa Joe's
Poppa Joe’s Bar in Ferndale

By the way, visitors at the Redwood get a 2-for-1 breakfast deal at the Victorian Inn, but we will never regret going instead to Poppa Joe’s, a hang-out for retired Portuguese dairy farmers.  (I linked to Yelp here, because predictably, Poppa Joe’s does not have a website). Now there’s a place with character (not to mention giant pancakes). Both the hotel and the breakfast rate 4.5 stars.


And one more stop. Rather than drive all the way into the Bay area, which has budget-shocking high room rates, even for cheap chains like Super Eight and Quality Inn, since our plane did not leave until early afternoon, we decided to stay further out of town.  You really have to get north of Sonoma to save any money, and I started looking around Santa Rosa. I found the Best Western Inn, this one in a town I had never heard of, Rohnert Park. Just a few blocks off Rt. 101, it was convenient. Although we were a bit concerned about facing rush hour traffic (and Monday at that) getting into the Oakland airport in the morning, it only took an hour and a half, and the delay from a regular one hour trip was due to highway construction rather than traffic piling up.  Turned out to be a good gamble, and the Best Western Inn at Rohnert Park was a peaceful and comfortable stay for $85.50, using AAA rate plus the Internet discount.  The motel is located in the midst  of shopping and dining possibilties, so it could not be more convenient. Highly recommended. 4.5 stars.

(All rates here reflect a September stay and include taxes.)