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Fitness Tuesday


I’m challenging myself this week to do the workout from HIITMamas every day. I woke up this morning to thunder and lightning and rain. Most of the workouts have some running in them so I figured I’d have to make something up but this one was all inside.

  • 100 lunges (50 each leg)
  • 100 push ups
  • 100 sit ups
  • 100 squats

This kicked my butt.  I got through 50 push ups (on my knees for doing this many) and my arms were giving out.  I switched to sit ups and did 50 then alternated back and forth between push ups and sit ups until I finished.  Squats are no problem for me once the sit ups were over.  I did it in 29 minutes.


18 minutes of:

  • 15 box jumps
  • 12 push presses with 20 lbs
  • 9 knees to elbows

I did 8 rounds and 5 extra box jumps.  I’ve never been able to do box jumps.  I can’t jump off of both feet at the same time.  I decided to practice today on an itty bitty box jump.  I used a step.  I was able to jump off both feet most of the time.

I also followed a suggestion in the comments and did the knees to elbows on the floor instead of hanging.


Accepting a challenge is like mocking the gods.  I started getting a cold on Tuesday but went on with my life.  I never get sick.  Friday was the day that the cold combined with hormones laid me flat out.  Trying to breathe was my workout.

Saturday and Sunday

There are no HIITMamas workouts on weekends so I went for a 2.5 mile walk each day.  To add to the fun somehow I hurt my hip on Saturday’s walk.  I don’t know how.  I didn’t fall down or anything.  After I came home from the walk, my left hip hurts and tightens up whenever I sit for a while.


This workout is a quick one.  I didn’t time it but it was less than 5 minutes.  Do 21 reps then 15 reps then 9 reps of:

  • cleans – bar hip to shoulders.  I used 45 lbs.
  • bench dips

Because it was so short I was going to go for another walk but decided with the way my luck is going I’d either get struck by a falling tree or abducted by aliens.


Reviews posted recently

A Paris Apartment – What happens when an apartment in Paris is opened after being sealed for 70 years?

Calling Me Home – A 90 year old white woman asks her African-American hairdresser to drive her to funeral 800 miles away – tomorrow. On the way, she starts to tell a story about her interracial relationship in Kentucky in 1939. Also, why audiobooks need to come with spoilers!

Moon Called – The first book in the Mercy Thompson series about a shapeshifter living near a pack of werewolves.

Madame Tussaud – Historical fiction about the life of the woman who would become famous for her wax museums after surviving the horrors of the French Revolution.

Reading This Week

Belle CoraBelle Cora by Phillip Margulies

Based loosely on the life of the 19th-century prostitute of the same name, the book is written in the form of a two-volume memoir by one of San Francisco’s richest and most revered dowagers. In it, the heroine tells the story of her moral fall and material rise over the course of the century, carrying her from the farms, mills, drawing rooms (and bedrooms) of New York to the California gold rush. (from Goodreads)

Listening to This Week

NefertitiNefertiti by Michelle Moran

Nefertiti and her younger sister, Mutnodjmet, have been raised in a powerful family that has provided wives to the rulers of Egypt for centuries. Ambitious, charismatic, and beautiful, Nefertiti is destined to marry Amunhotep, an unstable young pharaoh. It is hoped by all that her strong personality will temper the young Amunhotep’s heretical desire to forsake Egypt’s ancient gods, overthrow the priests of Amun, and introduce a new sun god for all to worship. (from Goodreads)

Read-a-longs signed up for

I’m not much of a joiner but I signed up for these read-a-longs in September.



Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French RevolutionMadame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical Fiction

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax sculpturess but who was the woman behind the museums?

I knew nothing about Madame Tussaud other than seeing the museum in the tackier part of Niagara Falls and knowing an old Christian pop song called Meltdown (at Madame Tussaud’s) that has been in my head for weeks because of this book.

Marie Grosholtz came to Paris from Switzerland as a child with her family.  Her mother found work and eventually love with the owner of a wax museum.  Marie learned her trade from him.  The Salon de Cire was a popular attraction and they worked hard to keep it up to date with displays of the latest celebrities.  Think of it as the tabloids of its day.

The family also hosted a popular evening salon that attracted some of the leading rebels and intellectuals of the day.  Because of this the family bridged the gap of the French Revolution.  Marie was a wax tutor to the Emperor’s sister and a friend of some of the leading rebels.  Both sides considered her family as friends which kept them walking a tightrope.  When the country is collapsing, which friends do you support?  How do you decide who to feature in your museum when a wrong choice might cost you your life?

The book gets into the horrors of the French Revolution.  Marie was forced to make make models from the heads of people executed to appease mobs that appeared at her door.  She was in the middle as friends turned against friends in deadly ways.

I highly recommend this book for people interested in historical fiction, history of women, or French history.


September Read-a-longs

I don’t normally sign up for read-a-longs. I read what I want and YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!!!! Anyway, I saw two for September that actually interested me.


Travel the World in Books runs from September 1-14.  The goal is to read books from countries other that your own.  I already do this but it will be interesting to see what everyone else is doing.  I took a look at Goodreads and found that so far I’ve read 30 books this year from countries other than the U.S.

I’m part of the Around the World in 80 Books group at Goodreads.  Here’s my favorites from this year.

South Africa – The Housemaid’s Daughter by Barbara Mutch

India – The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley

Sweden – The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson

My goal will be to add a few new countries this week.

Sign up here.


The next one is Diversiverse.


The goal here is to read and post reviews of books written by people of color.  I figured that I already do that too.  I named off a list of authors that I like in my head but when I went back to Goodreads to check out the list from this year I only had four.  Yeah, four out of 74.  I need to up that total.

Books I read so far this year that I liked:

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor – One of my absolute favorites!  Written by a person of color and starring people of color in a future Sudan full of magic in the midst of a horrible war.
Devotion and Defiance: My Fight for Justice for Women by Humaira Awais Shahid – The memoir of a female Pakistani Member of Parliament.

In the Land of Invisible Women:  A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta A. Ahmed

Sign up here.


Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Urban Fantasy

Mercy Thompson is a mechanic in eastern Washington. She is also a shapeshifter who bought her garage from a gremlin, is fixing a vehicle for a vampire instead of paying protection money, and lives next door to the Alpha of the local werewolf pack. When a young unknown werewolf shows up at her garage asking for work, she gives him a job. She doesn’t realize that he has escaped from a group who is making werewolves in order to test new drugs on them. Why would someone need to make drugs targeted for werewolves and why are they following her new employee to Washington?

I’ve seen these books around on a lot of blogs and realized that they were probably something that I would like but for some reason never got around to picking them up. I found myself in front of a shelf of these books at the library so figured out where to start and dove in.

I liked the rules that this author set up for the world. Some of the more harmless, cuddly Fae are known to humans. Humans have tried to confine the Fae to reservations but don’t realize that there are many more creatures that they don’t know about. Werewolves are sort of an open secret and on the verge of being outed completely. Witches and vampires exist in secret. Mercy is a rarity because most of the Native American shapeshifters were killed by vampires when the vampires moved to America in an attempt to take over territory.

Mercy was raised by a powerful werewolf pack after her human mother found that her baby could change into a coyote. She is very knowledgeable about werewolves but isn’t subject to their rules. That’s a good thing because werewolves are not into powerful or independent women.

One character was a vegetarian veterinarian who decided to become a werewolf after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He didn’t like it. Good to know. I’ll keep that advice in mind in case anyone ever wants to turn me into a werewolf.

I think this is a good opening for a series and am looking forward to reading the rest.


Calling Me HomeCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction, audio

Dorrie is a 30 something African-American hairdresser in Texas. One of her favorite clients is Isabelle, a 90 year old white woman. Dorrie considers them to be close but it is quite unexpected when Isabelle asks her if she can drive her to a funeral in Ohio – tomorrow.

Dorrie is having problems of her own with her family and decides that a few days away might be good for everyone. Once on the road Isabelle shocks Dorrie by starting to tell a story about her romantic relationship with a black man in Kentucky in 1939.

I listened to this on audio (partially during a road trip through Kentucky) and it was very well done.  There were two narrators; one for each character.  The production was great.  That being said -

For the love of all that is holy, don’t listen to this book on audio!

Seriously, you’ll thank me for that advice.  Here’s the problem.  If I had been reading this book I probably wouldn’t have put it down.  It would have been a page turner for me.  But when you listen to it on audio you can’t go any faster.  It is going to take 13 hours no matter how much you want to know what happens.

The book is suspenseful.  You know any book talking about a relationship between a white woman and a black man in Kentucky in 1939 isn’t going to be all sunshine and roses.  I found myself saying “Oh, this is bad” a lot.  I also found myself driving through Kentucky yelling into my voice search on my phone trying to find out how this books ends.  I was still going to listen to it anyway but I wanted to know a few things because my nerves were about shot.  There are no spoilers for this on the internet that I found.  I’ve very annoyed about that.  Sometimes you need spoilers for your own peace of mind so I’m putting a minor one here. It is in white so highlight the next space after this paragraph if you want to know.  If you are looking for spoilers in a panic because you need to know if it is going to be slightly ok before your next stop – you’re welcome.

Robert does not get murdered because of his relationship with Isabelle.

I liked Dorrie and her story.  I liked her reactions to thinking that she was doing a favor for a nice old lady and suddenly finding herself swept up in this secret from Isabelle’s past.  I wouldn’t have been as patient as this character was in finding out what happened.  (See “yelling into voice search in Kentucky”).

I found the young Isabelle to be very naive and because of that she was annoying at times.  A lot of what happened might have been lessened had she made more of an effort to stand up for herself instead of passively going along once things got rough.

Overall it is a sad book because of the damage that was done to everyone involved with Isabelle because of the tension between black and whites in Kentucky.  I highly recommend it.

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Fitness Tuesday

It was a slow week for me. I’m not sure what happened.


3 rounds of:

  • 15 push ups
  • 15 sit ups
  • 15 hip extensions


5 rounds of:

  • 12 deadlifts – floor to hips
  • 9 hang cleans – hip to shoulder
  • 5 push presses – shoulder to overhead

This was a HIITMama’s workout and they said to do it with 20 lbs but I decided to do it with just a 45 lb bar.  I think it is actually easier than trying to use 10 lb dumb bells on the deadlifts and cleans.  I did it in 8:01.

To break out of my slump I’ve decided to challenge myself to do the daily HIITMama workout every day for the next week.  If I don’t have the equipment to do something, I’ll have to make something up.


A Paris ApartmentA Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fiction/Historical fiction

April Vogt is a furniture expert for an auction house.  She is flown to Paris to help assess the value of the contents of an apartment that has been sealed for seventy years.  The house is packed full of museum-quality pieces of furniture and a previously unknown portrait by Giovanni Boldini. 

This is the perfect time for April to get away.  Her marriage is strained and she thinks that time away will help her sort out her feelings.  As she digs deeper into the story of the woman who owned the apartment, a courtesan named Marthe de Florian,  she finds herself intrigued by the life of this woman who started from nothing and amassed this collection.

This book is based on a true incident described in this Wikipedia article:

Madame Marthe de Florian (Paris, France; 9 September 1864 – France; unknown date) born as Mathilde Héloïse Beaugiron was a little known French actress and demimondaine (courtesan) during the Belle Époque.[1] She was known for having famous lovers including Georges Clemenceau (before becoming the 72nd Prime Minister of France), Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau (the 68th Prime Minister of France), Paul Deschanel (11th President of France), Gaston Doumergue (13th President of France), and the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. Her story resurfaced when in 2010 her belongings were discovered in a Parisian apartment, untouched for nearly 70 years, like in a time capsule.


I liked the story of Marthe de Florian but wasn’t as interested in the story of April’s life.  I thought she was pretty whiny especially in the part of her story about her parents.  I tend not to care about anyone’s childhood trauma.  Grow up and move on.


Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

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Reviews posted recently

Some of My Best Friends are Black by Tanner Colby

Celebrating Chick Lit with Katie Fforde and Shanna Swendson

Dance of the Spirits by Catherine Aerie

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Reading This Week

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French RevolutionMadame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

The world knows Madame Tussaud as a wax artist extraordinaire . . . but who was this woman who became one of the most famous sculptresses of all time? In these pages, her tumultuous and amazing story comes to life as only Michelle Moran can tell it. The year is 1788, and a revolution is about to begin. (from Goodreads)

I’m on a kick of reading books set in France.  I’m not doing it on purpose but I am studying French so that’s probably influencing the books I pick up.  I’ll have more French book reviews this week.


Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin, #1)Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Ismae was sold into an arranged marriage but when her new husband sees the scars on her back that resulted from her mother attempting to abort her he flies into a rage. In Brittany those scars are known to mean that the bearer was fathered by the God of Death. Her husband feels betrayed and beats her savagely. She is rescued by the local priest and a healer and taken away to a convent dedicated to serving the old Gods.

She finds out that she will be trained as an assassin; an instrument of judgment for those marked by Death. Now no man will have power over her again.

Three years later she is sent to the court of the duchy of Brittany. The young dutchess Anne as not been formally crowned and the leaders of many kingdoms are looking to marry her to seize power. Ismae needs to find protect Anne and find out who is behind the attempts to steal her throne. But can she trust the orders from her convent or the men that they have placed her with in order to get close to the court?

This is the first of a series about the Convent of St. Morain and the women trained there. The main mystery was fairly easy to figure out but I enjoyed the story of the assassins hand picked by Death to serve him.


The Dance of the SpiritsThe Dance of the Spirits by Catherine Aerie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Spring 1951: The U.S. Army thought that they had won in Korea until the Chinese Army poured into the country. Jasmine Young is a doctor in the Chinese Army. When being sent to a field hospital near the front as a punishment for treating an American POW, her convoy is attacked and only she survives. American Army officer Wesley Palm rescues her when she is injured. During the course of the rest of the war their paths cross repeatedly at hospitals and prisoner of war camps.

This book gave great explanations of what happened in China as the Communists came to power. Jasmine is from a wealthy family that has their wealth and power stripped from them. A former servant now holds power over the family.

There are also not many fiction books written about the Korean War. You get to see all sides of the conflict – Korean, American, and Chinese – depicted here.

About the Author

Catherine Aerie, a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a
master degree in finance, grew up in China as the daughter of a Shanghai
architect. She was inspired to write The Dance of the Spirits while researching
a family member’s role in the Korean War, deciding to revive an often neglected
and overlooked setting in fiction and heighten the universality of resilient
pursuit of love and liberty. Her debut novel was finished after about two years
of research. She currently resides in southern California.

For more information please visit Catherine Aerie’s website. You can also
find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

The Dance of the Spirits Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August

Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Spotlight at Mina’s

Interview at Library Educated

Tuesday, August

Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, August

Review at Book

Thursday, August

Review at Queen of All She Reads

Friday, August

Review at JM Ledwell
Review at Based on a True

Spotlight at Passages
to the Past

Monday, August

Interview at Caroline Wilson Writes

Tuesday, August

Review at Book

Wednesday, August

Review at Unshelfish
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, August

Review & Interview Back Porchervations

Friday, August

Spotlight at Just One
More Chapter



Celebrating Chick Lit

Chick lit – Is there a more insulting literary designation? Oooh, women like this so it must be stupid. Let’s package it all in pastels.

Anyway, sometimes you need to read something light and fun. I LOVE this genre but I don’t always review them because there isn’t always a lot to say. Yep, SPOILER ALERT, there was a happy ending.

Here are two books I read recently that were fun and fast and perfect for entertaining my brain.

Practically PerfectPractically Perfect by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Anna is an interior designer who is betting all her savings on her ability to renovate an historic cottage in the Cotswolds and then sell it.  The place has been gutted which is entirely against the law since it is listed on the historic register.  Now Anna has to get it back in shape and up to the standards of the prickly inspector. 

No Quest For The Wicked (Enchanted, Inc., #6)No Quest For The Wicked by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
In book 6 of this series a previously hidden magical gem that gives its owner power over others is on the move.  It has been paired up with a pin that makes the wearer invincible.  Not a good combination for the people who need to destroy it.  Magical immune Katie has the best chance of getting near it with being overcome by the combined spells but the people and creatures drawn to its power are stronger than anything she’s faced before. 

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Fitness Tuesday


This is a HIIT Mamas workout.  It was run 400 meters and then rest 90 seconds.  Repeat for a total of 8 times or 2 miles.

I did this with speed walking.  I started out taking it pretty easy.  I wasn’t sprinting.  I figured that the first mile took 11-12 minutes once you take out the rests.   The second mile was about 10-11 minutes because I did some hard sprint reps in there.

I feel like 90 seconds was a little long to wait.  If I was going to do this again I might have some weights available and do some arm lifts during the rest.


I was in Nashville for the weekend at a Quilts of Valor conference so it was pretty sedentary. I did get a workout in at the hotel fitness center. They had a few dumb bells so I did 3 rounds of:

  •  10 lateral shoulder raises
  • 10 bicep curls
  • 10 shoulder presses
  • 10 tricep kickbacks

These were all with 12 lbs.


French Lessons

Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

I’m plugging along with my French lessons. I’m still using Duolingo as my main practice. I have the app set up so that I have to earn 20 points a day to keep it from sending me emails telling me that I’m a slacker.

Duolingo doesn’t teach tourist French. At least I hope it doesn’t. If these are the phrases I’ll need while I visit France I am going to start to get a little worried. I’ve learned about sharks eating dolphins, monkeys following girls, and snakes watching girls. Come to think about it France seems like a very dangerous wilderness. Sadly my life is such that when I had to practice the phrase Le chat es mort (the cat is dead) my first thought was actually “Hey at least this phrase is useful.”

Aside from teaching me a complete vocabulary about animals up to no good, Duolingo is actually doing a really good job of teaching me French. I’m now able to read articles in French on the Internet. I signed up for tweets from the Twitter account of Nice tourism. Twitter is good practice because the limitations cause people to use small words. A French article came up on Google last night. So I went and read in French about John Cleese’s daughter’s opinions on his divorce. Don’t ask why. I did pretty well. I understood the whole gist of the article. I didn’t get a lot of the fine details probably because Camille uses big words but I was impressed by how much I could understand in such a short period of time.

I’ve also listened to the Coffee Break French podcast. This doesn’t work as well for me because I need to be able to see the words. But it does help me learn to listen which is one of my weak points. So I’m going back and listening to the lessons that use words that I already know.

What has worked well for you when trying to learn a language?

Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in AmericaSome of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

During the 2008 Presidential campaign Tanner Colby supported Barack Obama.  Then he realized that he didn’t have any black friends to celebrate his victory with. 

In an attempt to understand why he didn’t know any black people Tanner investigated categories of integration in the United States. First he looked at housing and education. These are interrelated because local schools pull their students from the surrounding community. If the community is not integrated then the schools can’t be integrated. Government attempted to integrate schools in racially monolithic neighborhoods by bussing children across cities to make an ideal racial mix. This led to a lot of resentment in both white and black communities.

Most of the story of integration tends to be told from the perspective of black people whose lives were improved by integration. But Tanner looks at people who lives were not improved by integration. When schools that employed black administrators and teachers were closed, many of these professionals could not find equivalent jobs in integrated school systems.

He also examined his high school in Alabama which was created when people from the city moved out to the suburbs to avoid integration and the subsequent bussing of children from a poor black neighborhood that was ordered in order to integrate the school system.

The next area of integration examined is the workplace. Advertising is the industry profiled because segregation still occurs in most of the major advertising companies.

Martin Luther King Junior once said that 11 AM on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. Now the author examines the church. He goes back to his early life in Louisiana where everyone was Catholic. In most of the small towns in Louisiana there is a black Catholic Church and a white Catholic Church.

He tells the story of one parish that spent 50 years trying to integrate their black and white congregations with strong support for integration and resistance to integration on both sides of the racial divide.

The overall message of this book is not necessarily hopeful if you believe that integration is a worthy goal. This book brings the perspectives of people who believe that it is and people who believe that there is strength in segregation. It makes you think about incidences in your own life in different ways. If you lived in a racially segregated neighborhood why was that the case? If you lived in integrated neighborhood was that done on purpose? Do you go to a segregated church? Why or why not? Do you know?


Fitness Tuesday


I adapted a Hiitmamas workout to what I had at home.

  • 20 Front squats, 40 lbs
    30 Box jump, 18 inch box (I did step ups onto the second step on my stairs)
    40 Kettlebell swings, 20 lbs (I did dumb bell swings)
    50 Wall ball shots, 10 pound ball (Thrusters with 10 lbs)


I worked at a 5 K race that a friend was organizing.  That means I got a shirt with absolutely no running!


I warmed up with 15 minutes of walking on the track at the gym.  I did some easy racewalking which I figured was at about a 13 minute mile pace.  Then I did some laps at a 10 minute mile pace.  The laps are short distances on this track.  To end the warm up I did 10 step ups onto a step every lap for 3 laps.

I did 3 sets of:

  • 5 Bulgarian split squats on each leg while holding 12.5 lbs in each hand
  • 15 walking lunges
  • 5 back squats with 70 lbs

That was enough to get my legs wobbly.

I did some slow walking for a cool down and then did 10 kettle bells swings with 30 lbs and 10 with 35.

I need to stop doing leg work on Sundays.  Mondays are my longest, busiest days at work and I get up and down off the floor all day long.  I guess it helps me stay limber when my legs are sore though.


Reviews posted this week

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
– One of my very few ever 5 star books for the importance of the issues it presents in a fantasy story based in Africa.

Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu
– After a man from a family of pastors comes out as gay, he travels around America to see where he would fit in to Christianity today.

Reading this week

Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in AmericaSome of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America by Tanner Colby

An incisive and candid look at how America got lost on the way to Dr. King’s Promised Land. Almost fifty years after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, equality is the law of the land, but actual integration is still hard to find. Mammoth battles over forced busing, unfair housing practices, and affirmative action have hardly helped. The bleak fact is that black people and white people in the United States don’t spend much time together—at work, school, church, or anywhere. Tanner Colby, himself a child of a white-flight Southern suburb, set out to discover why. (from Goodreads)

Much Ado About Magic (Enchanted, Inc., #5)Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson

Katie Chandler is back in New York and at Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. – and just in time. The city’s in the grip of a magical crime wave from spells that wizarding whiz Owen Palmer thinks look awfully familiar, and the rogue firm Spellworks is raising its profile in the magical world by selling protective amulets. It’s Katie’s job as the new director of marketing for MSI to fight this battle of public perception while Owen and the other wizards try to uncover what’s really going on.(from Goodreads)

Listening to this week on a roadtrip

Diamonds, Gold, and War: The Making of South AfricaDiamonds, Gold, and War: The Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith

Southern Africa was once regarded as a worthless jumble of British colonies, Boer republics, and African chiefdoms, a troublesome region of little interest to the outside world. But then prospectors chanced first upon the world’s richest deposits of diamonds, and then upon its richest deposits of gold. What followed was a titanic struggle between the British and the Boers for control of the land, culminating in the costliest, bloodiest, and most humiliating war that Britain had waged in nearly a century, and in the devastation of the Boer republics. (from Goodreads)

Calling Me HomeCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler is a soaring debut interweaving the story of a heartbreaking, forbidden love in 1930s Kentucky with an unlikely modern-day friendship.

Eighty-nine-year-old Isabelle McAllister has a favor to ask her hairdresser Dorrie Curtis. It’s a big one. Isabelle wants Dorrie, a black single mom in her thirties, to drop everything to drive her from her home in Arlington, Texas, to a funeral in Cincinnati. With no clear explanation why. Tomorrow. (from Goodreads)

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Who Fears DeathWho Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


In a post-apocalyptic future in sub-Saharan Africa, the Nuru are waging war against the Okeke.  The Nurus believe in using rape as a weapon.  They know that raped Okeke women will be shunned by their families and that any children born will be Ewu.  Ewu children are identifiable by their skin color.  It is believed that children conceived in violence will be violent themselves so Ewu are kept outside civilized society. 

After a powerful Nuru sorcerer rapes an Okeke woman, she flees to the desert where she gives birth to a girl who she names Onyesonwu.  It means Who Fears Death.  Onyesonwu grows to be a powerful sorcerer herself but will her society reject the possibility of a savior who is twice an outcast – both Ewu and a woman?

I first heard about this book on a Book Riot list of fantasy books that weren’t set in a pseudo-European setting.  It is a powerful story that stayed with me because of the way it handles systemic misogyny.  From the opening scenes of women being attacked deliberately as a strategy to destabilize a population to the way all women in the book were kept in their very circumscribed place, the book shows example after example of why the rights of women are so important.  I was reading this book during the time that the #womenagainstfeminism discussion was happening on Twitter.  I just wanted to put this book in the hands of people who think that feminism is irrelevant now to show why women need rights.  The bleakness of a society that tells girls that genital mutilation is a special rite that will bring honor to their families when they don’t even know what is being done to them stayed with me long after the book was finished.  It was for driving the lesson home yet again that I gave this a 5 star rating.  I only give that to books that stay with me deeply and that I want to put in people’s hands tell them that they have to read it.

Other reviewers have complained that even though this is an adult book because of the themes, it is structured like a YA novel.  The protagonists are around 20 at the time of the main action.  There is a journey with friends to save the day.  There is a love triangle with some of the characters.  That didn’t bother me.

I wish there had been more world building.  You don’t know what happened to change the world from the world we live in.  It is never discussed.  The story could seem to be taking place in the past most of the time but then a high tech thing is mentioned in passing.  It is a little jarring.

I enjoyed some characters that I hadn’t seen before in fantasy books.  I particularly liked the tribe that lives inside the eye of a sandstorm that their sorcerer controls.  I want a whole book about them.

Don’t let the darkness of the subject scare you off.  (When I tried to get this from the library I couldn’t find it.  I had to ask and then that person had to ask.  There was a whispered conversation between librarians.  “She wants a book called Who Fears Death?”  They both tried to look at me out of the corner of their eyes to see what kind of a freak I was.  The fact that the card catalog page labeled it “Genocide – fiction” probably didn’t help.)  If you like fantasy or magical realism, you will enjoy this book.


Does Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian's Pilgrimage in Search of God in AmericaDoes Jesus Really Love Me?: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America by Jeff Chu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeff Chu comes from a family of Chinese Baptist pastors. When he came out as gay to his family his mother cried and cried. He no longer felt welcome in his church so he set off to find out what it means to be gay and Christian in America.

His story is told through interviews with people on all branches of the Protestant faith from the most liberal to the conservative. He visited Westboro Baptist Church to understand why they hate gay people so much. He met with gay students at the very conservative Harding University after they decided to publish the Harding University Queer Press.

After visiting ex-gay ministries and talking to former leaders of the movement who have left, he talked to a heterosexual woman who knowlingly married a homosexual man so they are able to be in Christian ministry. He interviewed gay people who have chosen celibacy and those who are active in ministry but closeted from their congregations.

I found the discussion of a church that was removed from its denomination interesting. They were removed for ordaining a gay person. Now their denomination has approved ordination of gay people and they are invited back. Should they go back or stay independent?

He finishes the book with stories of churches who are incorporating gay people into their congregations. From the gay-centered Metropolitan Community Churches to Highland Church in Denver, these churches don’t look down on people for their sexuality. But he wonders if sometimes they go too far.

If you are interested in religion and culture then this is a very enlightening read.  He questions why a faith that says that all sins are equal always lists homosexuality as one of the very worst sins that can be committed.

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I had a conversation with a person recently who was bemoaning her inability to eat healthy food because “vegetables just aren’t interesting!”

I thought of her the other day when I was making this meal.


Watermelon with honey and a little oil and lime juice and fresh mint from the garden

The husband requested vegan meatball subs that he then wanted to melt real cheese over. I pointed out the inconsistency. He didn’t care. The meatballs are made from mushrooms, kale, and quinoa. They were really good.
Get the recipe here.

Zucchini sandwich cookies with vegan cream cheese icing. Recipe here.

Yep, good to know that you can’t be creative or interesting with vegetables.


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