I am lucky enough to have a dedicated sewing room in my basement. When we moved in I wanted to get some storage built. The husband found someone to do it. The plan was brilliant if I do say so myself. I wanted two floor to ceiling cabinets with a huge ironing board overtop of stacks of drawers. The idea was to be able to lay out a whole quilt top and iron the longest seams.
I got the two cabinets fairly quickly. Then, crickets. He never came back to do the drawers. Never. The husband would see him around and ask and it was clear that part two of the project was never going to happen.
Fast forward to now. I was trying to figure out how to make it myself. I thought about getting dressers or stock cabinets or something. Then, we ended up breaking down Z’s room since she is not able to come back here anymore. She has a dresser. It was only 4 feet long so it didn’t fill the whole space but it was available and free. I cleared out the plastic tubs I was using to store my smaller pieces of fabric by color. The fabric lives in the dresser now. We put the dresser in that space on furniture sliders so I can move it around fairly easily. Ideally, I wanted it on wheels because the ironing surface needs to be a bit away from the wall so you can drop the already pressed area down behind the board. Since there will be a gap, I know I will drop other stuff. I wanted to be able to move it so stuff wouldn’t be lost forever.
I went to Lowe’s and got a very sturdy piece of plywood. I had them cut it to 2 feet by 8 feet.
I placed it on the dresser. I had some thick batting. I put one layer on the board and stapled it in place.
I bought 3 yards of Kona Steel for the cover. I stapled that in place making sure to pull it tight.
I moved the dresser back into place and centered the board on it. I had brackets to put on the side of the dresser to support the edges of the board but I forgot that the dresser had a fancy lip on it. The brackets won’t lay flat. The board I chose is very sturdy so for now I’m leaving it alone. If it starts to bow later I’ll find some way to fix it.
I added a flat wall plug extension cord to the plug behind the dresser. I used a command hook to keep the cord in reach. My iron doesn’t have an off button. If it is plugged in, it is on. I keep the iron to the left because I am left handed.
I still had the issue of the dresser not reaching all the way across the space. I wanted it to look more finished so I bought some tension rods and the cheapest curtains on Amazon to hide my scrap bin.
The whole project cost under $100 (not counting the initial purchase price of the dresser) and took less than an hour to complete. I have one unintended consequence though.
Now hanging out in the sewing room with Mommy is more comfortable. Soon after this picture he was sprawled out full length. He doesn’t understand why he can’t play with the iron though. I may need to find a way to wall mount the iron so this fool doesn’t burn himself.
Over on my Twitter feed I’ve been making a list of books I’ve DNFed this year and why. I’ve realized that I have a whole subcategory of books I don’t finish reading that could be considered “This is a really well done book but I don’t care.”
I think recognizing this in your reading requires empathy and the realization that if it isn’t right for you that doesn’t mean that it is automatically bad. These are books that I would actually recommend in the right circumstances to someone else.
Everyone loves Children of Blood and Bone. They should love this book. It is imaginative. It is well written. I read about halfway through it and then realized that I totally did not care to find out what happened. This is something that I find myself thinking a lot in YA fantasy. For some reason, many of the stories don’t draw me in enough to get invested in the outcome. I happily put this book down and don’t wonder at all about the outcome. But, you should totally read this book if YA fantasy makes you happy. It is very, very, well done.
I like this author on Twitter. I knew from her feed that her books were more explicit than I generally enjoy. But Beyond Shame is the free first ebook in the series so I tried it. I was not a fan of the premise or the explicit sex so I quit about a quarter of the way through. Big surprise. However, the writing was very well done. I would recommend this one if someone liked gritty dystopian-ish naughty books. That person isn’t me. I could have predicted that and now I know for sure.
I tried to like Ninefox Gambit. I really did. People rave about it. They also say sometimes that you have to power through the math to get to the good parts. I figured I could do that. I was the person in school who won all the math awards. I was also the person who hated every minute I ever spent in a math class and can still remember the feeling of walking out of the last math class I would ever need to take in college. It is still the happiest day of my life. But I could do this. I read The Three-Body Problem and I think I understood it. I could understand Ninefox Gambit.
I got about a quarter of the way through before running away screaming. Battle formations described as mathematical formulas that change based on calendars that change based on something… Not for me. I can see how if you have a mind that actually enjoys math that this is creative and wonderful. I’m not that person.
What books have you DNFed but would still recommend?
“All leaders are constrained by geography. Their choices are limited by mountains, rivers, seas and concrete. Yes, to follow world events you need to understand people, ideas and movements – but if you don’t know geography, you’ll never have the full picture.“
Praise for Nicola May’s books
‘This book will twang your funny bone & your heartstrings’ – Milly Johnson‘A fun and flighty read’ the Sun‘A funny and fast-paced romp – thoroughly enjoyable!’ Rosa Larkin is down on her luck in London, so when she inherits a near-derelict corner shop in a quaint Devon village, her first thought is to sell it for cash and sort out her life. But nothing is straightforward about this legacy. While the identity of her benefactor remains a mystery, he - or she - has left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it. Rosa makes up her mind to give it a go: to put everything she has into getting the shop up and running again in the small seaside community of Cockleberry Bay. But can she do it all on her own? And if not, who will help her succeed - and who among the following will work secretly to see her fail? There is a handsome rugby player, a sexy plumber, a charlatan reporter and a selection of meddling locals. Add in a hit and run incident and the disappearance of a valuable engraved necklace – and what you get is a journey of self-discovery and unpredictable events. With surprising and heartfelt results, Rosa, accompanied at all times by her little sausage dog Hot, will slowly unravel the shadowy secrets of the inheritance, and also bring her own, long-hidden heritage into the light.
It seems like I’m going with the unpopular opinion based on the reviews I’ve read from other people. From the description I expected a light-hearted, funny read typical of the chick lit genre. This book is not that. It is surprisingly dark especially considering how it is being marketed.
The main character is self-destructive. She drinks excessively and can’t keep a job. Her main human contact is a series of one night sexual encounters. She uses sex to help make up for the fact that she can’t always pay for the rent on her flat. The only thing she loves at all is her dog, Hot. Getting an inheritance is a way for her to get out of her current life and start fresh.
Usually in this type of book the small town the heroine goes to is full of lovely characters. Here that isn’t the case. In short order she is scammed, sexually assaulted, and her secret is outed against her express wishes. Then she is threatened to provide someone with an alibi for a hit and run.
She eventually finds some nicer people but they have secrets too. Then people keep breaking into her house, she ends up with a pregnant teenager living with her, she gets scammed a few more times, she finds out about a decades old affair, and her dog gets hurt (but he’s ok). This isn’t a bad book but I didn’t read it anything like the laugh a minute romp I’m seeing other people review it as. I read it more as a cautionary tale about trying to keep secrets and the need to have someone who you can confide in. Rosa is very damaged emotionally and trying to move past that in her own way isn’t easy. Trying to open up and let other people in when you have learned over and over not to trust is hard. When those people then repeatedly violate your tentative trust, what do you do?
I read an ARC so hopefully things have been cleaned up but there was an error in my copy. She was reading letters about a person who was only referred to by an initial. But when she thought about the person she thought of them by their full first name. She had no way of knowing that.
‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’
As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.
Each with a different personality and story, it is not just the family who rescue the horses, but the horses who rescue the family. Grey, the silver gelding: the leader. Brutus, the untamed colt. Princess, the temperamental mare.
One Hundred and Four Horses is the story of an idyllic existence that falls apart at the seams, and a story of incredible bonds – a love of the land, the strength of a family, and of the connection between man and the most majestic of animals, the horse.
What would you do if you had to leave your home in a few hours? Could you leave your animals behind knowing that animals left on other farms had been killed? That was one of the issues facing farmers in Zimbabwe when Robert Mugabe’s government instituted a series of land seizures.
The Retzlaff family didn’t leave Zimbabwe right away like many of the other white farmers they knew did. They moved farm to farm but the chaos followed them. As they moved across the country over a series of years, they collected animals. Eventually, they moved to the neighboring country of Mozambique.
I imagine that this is a book that could have a hard time finding an audience. Readers who care more deeply about people than animals might be offended by the effort and resources that went into moving and housing the horses when so many people were suffering. Horse lovers don’t like to read books where horses are mistreated. Horse lovers do need to be warned. Most of the horses you meet in this book don’t survive until the end. Many bad things happen to them regardless of the efforts of the Retzlaffs.
Another issue in this book is historical accuracy versus personal experience. Reading the book, the land reform movement seems to come on suddenly. I’ve been looking a bit more into the history because I assumed that there had to have been some colonial shenanigans that resulted in all these large landowners being white people. Yes, Rhodesia (the former name of Zimbabwe) had favored whites in land distribution. The black population was put onto the least productive land.
“Following Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence, land legislation was again amended with the Rhodesian Land Tenure Act of 1969. The Land Tenure Act upended the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and was designed to rectify the issue of insufficient land available to the rapidly expanding black population. It reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 45 million acres and reserved another 45 million acres for black ownership, introducing parity in theory; however, the most fertile farmland in Regions I, II, and III continued to be included in the white enclave. Abuses of the system continued to abound; some white farmers took advantage of the legislation to shift their property boundaries into land formerly designated for black settlement, often without notifying the other landowners.”
“In 1977, the Land Tenure Act was amended by the Rhodesian parliament, which further reduced the amount of land reserved for white ownership to 200,000 hectares, or 500,000 acres. Over 15 million hectares were thus opened to purchase by persons of any race.Two years later, as part of the Internal Settlement, Zimbabwe Rhodesia‘s incoming biracial government under Bishop Abel Muzorewa abolished the reservation of land according to race. White farmers continued to own 73.8% of the most fertile land suited for intensive cash crop cultivation and livestock grazing, in addition to generating 80% of the country’s total agricultural output.”
“The Lancaster House Agreement  stipulated that farms could only be taken from whites on a “willing buyer, willing seller” principle for at least ten years. White farmers were not to be placed under any pressure or intimidation, and if they decided to sell their farms they were allowed to determine their own asking prices”
“Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%.” – all quoted from Wikipedia
Ok, so they can’t say they didn’t know this was coming. They talk a little about the politics of it and how they weren’t paying any attention. They mention the vote on a referendum in 2000 only because their black workers asked to borrow transportation so they could all vote. It was the day before voting and they hadn’t really considered it?
“The government organised a referendum on the new constitution in February 2000, despite having a sufficiently large majority in parliament to pass any amendment it wished. Had it been approved, the new constitution would have empowered the government to acquire land compulsorily without compensation. Despite vast support in the media, the new constitution was defeated, 55% to 45%.” Wikipedia
It was after this failed that the government started to encourage mob violence to steal land without compensation. I understand that they were both born and raised in Africa and felt protected because they legally owned their land but the writing was on the wall. Things were about to get ugly and they were completely unprepared.
What happened as a result of the seizure of white-owned farms was a complete disaster. They were given as gifts to friends and family of powerful people who didn’t know the first thing about farming. Zimbabwe’s economy was based on farming and when the farms collapsed it collapsed. So no one is saying that this was a good and just plan but it couldn’t have been completely unexpected.
There are also some other statements that come across as very colonial. One time when they move to a new farm she discusses her family moving into the farm house and then talks about her workers settling into the huts around the property. She also has this quote – “John’s was a good old-fashioned cattle ranch of the kind the first pioneers in this part of the world had kept.” Sure, they were the first people in the area if you ignore millennia of existence before then. The author has commented negatively on reviews on Goodreads that bring up these aspects of the book. That’s never a good look.
As a horse person I wish there were more details. They talk about sometimes transporting horses in trucks. Where did the trucks come from? How many trips did you make? How many horses did you have at any given time? The synopsis refers to over 300 but the book doesn’t talk about that number. How are you affording all this?
What happened to this family is bad. But I can’t muster 100% sympathy for them. I would have liked to see a bit more self awareness. This book would have benefited from including the perspectives of the black workers who traveled with them. A few of these people are mentioned once or twice by name but generally they are described as a faceless group of grooms. That’s a big oversight in a book that describes many different white horse owners in detail.
A few years ago the husband and I went to Nice. We didn’t have any great desire to go to France specifically but it was a good place to be based to be able to also visit Monaco and take a day trip to Italy just to say we’ve been.
I planned the trip. I always plan our trips. I tried to engage the husband in the trip planning but he was dismissive. Anything I picked would be fine. But then, starting with the seats I chose for the plane ride, he had a negative comment on everything as it happened. He even wanted to do a day trip to Paris one day even though Paris is nowhere near Nice.
(“But they are in the same country!!!”
“If we were sitting in my parents’ living room in western Pennsylvania and you got an urge to go see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, it would be a mighty undertaking even though they are in the same state.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess so.”)
Of course then we got home and he sung my praises for what a wonderful trip I planned. He really did have a good time. He frayed my enjoyment though with his nit-picking. So, armed with that experience and reading a bunch about how women do so much emotional labor in relationships, when he started talking about wanting to go on a river cruise in Europe I told him that he was in charge.
Turns out that planning a big vacation is hard work. Who knew? (I did.)
He talked about it for few years. Then he decided to start setting money aside for it. He would randomly ask me how much money I thought we would need to save. “I don’t know. You’ll have to check the prices on the website.”
“But it is really confusing.”
“Yes, it is.” Take that, buddy boy.
Another reason I wasn’t an enthusiastic helper is that I’m not a cruise fan. I want to fly to a city, dig in, and explore the place to death. The thought of cruising up to Vienna and having to pick one or two things to see before sailing off again stressed me right out. I also don’t want to be one of the ducklings following a tour guide with a flag. Also, eating meals at tables with strangers is awful. The husband is the person that introverts like me are horrified to be seated with. He will know everyone’s life story before the appetizers are cleared.
In the end the decision was pretty much made for us. Last week he looked at the Viking Cruise website and saw that for 8 day cruises there were only 2 cruises that weren’t sold out for 2018 and each of those only had one room on one trip available. If we were going to do it, we had to book then. Our choices were a Danube cruise stopping at Bucharest and Vienna and a French cruise. I still got anxious just thinking about trying to see as much as possible in those cities. The French trip is on the Rhone. It stops at places I don’t have strong feelings about. I thought that would be a lot more relaxing. I could spend a day happily wandering around a small French town and seeing the local cathedral and Roman ruins and not feel like I was missing out on several other amazing things to see. We chose to do that cruise. I reminded the husband that this was France. He was not a fan after our last trip. Actually, he thought it was a lovely place full of rude people who yelled at bumbling Americans a lot. He said he was going for the scenery.
To schedule a Viking cruise you have to make a phone call. He loves to talk to people. I don’t know how long it normally takes to make this booking on the phone but he was on with his new best friend for close to 1.5 hours. Things discussed:
We can’t do any add on days because “they don’t like to let my wife out of the clinic that long.” It makes me sound like I live in a mental institution.
His tendency to get harassed in airports because “I’m a lovely caramel color.”
His experience trying to leave France where we got separated and he got pulled aside for extra screening on the jet way. “So they searched me in very rude ways while my wife was sitting on the plane marinating in her white privilege.”
The cost of living in Ohio vs California
Does the rep get free cruises? Does he get harassed in airports?
The trip is over my birthday (by total coincidence, not planning) so the rep wanted to know about celebrating. He told him to keep it subtle while I was yelling, “I’m fine with fancy desserts in my honor.” I think keep it subtle means no singing to me at dinner.
The trip ended up costing several thousand dollars less than we expected. I think a lot of that is because we are going steerage. We’re the people at the bottom of the boat with windows you can only look out of if you stand on the bed. That’s fine though because there are a lot of seating areas available to watch the scenery go by. There is even a library. The room is tiny. Our hotel room on the last France trip was tiny too. This was an issue that some people felt it necessary to comment on repeatedly during that trip. This time since he booked the trip it is perfectly fine and normal. The cruise operator is setting up our airfare too. That’s nice because it isn’t a round trip cruise and figuring that kind of thing out hurts my head. The price is included in the trip as a ridiculously low add on. It isn’t booked yet but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that we will be strapped to the tail of the plane on the outside for the duration of the trip for that price. It will be nice to have them pick us up and take us to the boat. For some reason coordinating transportation from the airport to the hotel is always the thing that worries me the most in a new city.
The trip isn’t until winter so I have time to brush up on my Duolingo. I tried to review the other day and failed miserably. I also told the husband that he can spend the rest of the year sidling up to other husbands and asking, “What did you get your wife for her birthday? That’s nice. Me? I’m taking my wife to France for her birthday.” That don’t have to know it was a total accident.
I am just not feeling my reading lately. I need something that is going to suck me into its world.
What Am I Reading?
“IN SPACE EVERYONE CAN HEAR YOU SING
A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented-something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding.
Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix – part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete.
This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny – they must sing.
A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London – Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes – have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.”
One Hundred and Four Horses
“‘A letter is handed to you. In broken English, it tells you that you must now vacate your farm; that this is no longer your home, for it now belongs to the crowd on your doorstep. Then the drums begin to beat.’
As the land invasions gather pace, the Retzlaffs begin an epic journey across Zimbabwe, facing eviction after eviction, trying to save the group of animals with whom they feel a deep and enduring bond – the horses.
When their neighbours flee to New Zealand, the Retzlaffs promise to look after their horses, and making similar promises to other farmers along their journey, not knowing whether they will be able to feed or save them, they amass an astonishing herd of over 300 animals. But the final journey to freedom will be arduous, and they can take only 104 horses.”
After innumerable suggestions, I read my first Tessa Dare book in March. Immediately after the first one I binged on her Spindle Cove series.
I loved the premise of this series. Spindle Cove is a small community that has become known as a place to send unusual women to get them out of society. As the series starts, an injured soldier has been given the title to the area. He is expected to set up a militia to defend this part of the coast. The last thing the women of Spindle Cove want is a bunch of soldiers messing up their happy settlement.
In the first book, A Night to Surrender, Susanna is the woman who has nurtured Spindle Cove to the haven it is now. She is the daughter of an eccentric inventor of firearms. She is furious that her father has handed over a ruined castle above the village and the earldom to this soldier who needs to retire due to his injuries. The male lead character in this book was just on the brink of being too alpha-male bossy for my tastes. Dare does a good job of having Susanna stand up for herself and her ladies. That’s not an easy job because it can be seen as falling back into the patriarchal society that they are trying to avoid or being forced against their will into relationships with these men. That could easily have been very off putting.
The second book, A Week to Be Wicked, is probably my favorite. It is the first to feature one of the Highwood family. Mrs. Highwood and her three daughters came to Spindle Cove in book one. Mrs. Highwood plans for her daughters to marry very well, especially her oldest, Diana. The pressure was getting to her and they came to Spindle Cove to rest. The second daughter, Minerva, is a scientist. She’s been submitting papers under her initials and now has been invited to speak in Scotland. She needs to find a way to get there. She decides to fake an elopement with one of the less scrupulous friends of the Earl as a way to travel to Scotland.
Kate Taylor is the music teacher in Spindle Cove. She has no plans to marry because she was raised in an orphanage with no idea where she came from and she has a large port wine birthmark on her face. In book three, A Lady by Midnight, an eccentric noble family shows up in Spindle Cove looking for her. They claim to have found out that she is related to them. At the same time the very grumpy Corporal Thorne of the local militia starts to pay attention to her. He seems suspicious of her new family. Is it possible that he knows something about her past that he isn’t sharing?
Any Dutchess Will Do is book four. A duke’s mother tricks him into accompanying her to Spindle Cove. She tells him to pick a woman, any woman sitting in the tea room, and marry her. To spite her he chooses the serving girl. Pauline has no time for this nonsense. She is trying to save up money to get herself and her developmentally disabled sister out of their abusive father’s house. Her goal is to open a small store and lending library. The duke’s mother says she can pass her off as a lady in one week. The duke promises to pay her enough money to start her store if she goes along with his mother’s plan and fails miserably.
One of the things that annoys me most about historical romances is the concept of women being ruined by being alone with a man. I know the books didn’t invent that but I hate the idea. People were so worried about what other people thought about a woman’s sexual experience that if there was even the possibility that she had had time and opportunity to have a sexual experience then she was “ruined”. It also presumes that no one has any self control at all and will fall all over a person of the opposite sex if given a chance. It makes me mad on behalf all humankind every time it is brought up. Do You Want to Start a Scandal‘s story is all about this. The youngest Highwood daughter, Charlotte, explains to the latest noble dude to show up in Spindle Cove that her mother will be trying to marry her off to him. She wants him to know that it isn’t coming from her and she is just as embarrassed about it as he will be. They are found alone in a room as a result of this discussion. To make it worse, they had been hiding from an unknown amorous couple whose sounds where overheard and commented upon loudly by a child. Now it is “known” that they had sex and have to get married. Now Charlotte is determined to get the real couple to confess and save her from this marriage.
I did enjoy all four novels. There was enough humor and sweetness for me to be able to not be totally annoyed by the sex.
There are three novellas that go along with this series.
I didn’t really care for these as much. I didn’t think the shorter format gave her enough time to develop the characters and their relationships before the story was over and they were married. The events of the novellas are referred to in the novels but you can get an idea what happened without reading them all in order.
On April 6, I attended a Woman’s March sponsored event called Power to the Polls. It took place in Cleveland and focused on the importance of getting people out to vote. This event was the first of a tour of 10 states. Ohio is always the key swing state in presidential elections. The speakers pointed out that no one wins the presidency without getting major support in north east Ohio.
The speakers were inspiring. Woman’s March co-founder Bob Bland started it off and then introduced Linda Sarsour.
She spoke about the need for progressive people not to destroy their own allies for having differences in ideology.
“Unity is not uniformity.”
The goals that she laid out for the Woman’s March’s activism this year:
Don’t assume that you are registered due to changes in laws. Check.
Take responsibility for the people in your life. Make sure they are registered and going to vote.
Get to know people. How can we protect people if we don’t know people?
Support organizations doing the work in your community
Don’t worry about what people think. Say you are proud to be a radical.
The next speaker was Nina Turner. From Wikipedia:
“Nina Turner is an American politician from the State of Ohio. Turner, a Democrat, served as a member of the Ohio State Senate from 2008 to 2014, and was elected to be the chamber’s Minority Whip in the 129th General Assembly. A supporter of the progressive movement, Turner has been characterized as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and became an active surrogate for him.”
She talked about being called an Angry Black Woman. She pointed out many instances of injustice that should make people angry. “If we aren’t mad, something is wrong with us.”
But then she cautioned people. “It is ok to be angry but we have to channel that anger into action.”
After the speakers the group broke out into one of four small group sessions. I went to the Get Out the Vote session. There were women from several grass roots political groups there. Some were candidates for local elections. I met a person who works with a political action group near me. I hope to be able to work with some of their projects.
I wish there had been a larger turnout. The church where we met is on a college campus but there were very few college students there. That shows how we need to be better at getting the word out about opportunities.
A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.
Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.
Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.
Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.
The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.
I didn’t know much about the causes of the war in Yemen until I read this book. It still doesn’t make much sense to me because it boils down to “Those people look different than us and think differently than us.” It is that kind of mindset that Mohammed Al Samawi was working against prior to the war.
The stars of this story of the activists around the world who play a high stakes game of Six Degrees of Separation. Who do you know? Who do they know? Can you get one man from Aden to Africa?
What struck me while reading this is the problems that are caused by Yemen’s patriarchy/toxic combination of masculinity and religion:
The whole conflict could be put down to this
He was unable to shelter with his uncle’s family because his uncle wouldn’t let him in the house where his unmarried female cousins lived. How messed up is that? Your nephew is alone in an apartment in a war zone but you won’t take him in because you assume he wouldn’t be able to sexually control himself around his female relatives?
Because he was male he was completely unprepared to live on his own without women to care for him. He moved to Aden and was living alone. He ate out daily since he didn’t cook so he had minimal food and supplies in the house when all the shops closed down.
After he was out of Yemen due to the help of a group of interfaith activists he was still too afraid to tell him mother (still living in a war zone) that he had been talking to Jews.
I found the beginning of this book with his entry into interfaith dialogue more interesting than the story of his escape from Yemen. I think that is partially because the writing is very plain. It reads like “This happened and then this happened and then this happened…” Secondly, I mostly just wanted to shake the guy. This is not a heroic memoir. Mohammed Al Samawi isn’t brave. He isn’t very good at planning. He moves from Sanaa to Aden but neglects to bring his passport even though he travels for work. These things all make trying to flee the country harder. He uses the distraction of a Northern man like himself being publicly tortured to death in the street by Al Qaeda to escape from his apartment while wondering why no one tries to help that man. He even refers to himself occasionally as a man-child. He was in his late 20s in 2015 when this happened.
In the end there were so many different lobbying efforts going on that it is not clear who succeeded in getting the order given to let him on the ship from Aden to Djibouti. I wish this had been investigated. It seems to be a very strange thing not to know who allowed his transport in a book about arranging his transport.
In the absence of facts, he falls back on the idea that God arranged his rescue. While comforting for religious people, this makes nonreligious people want to pull their hair out. Basically he saying that his God ignored everyone else stuck in a war (about religion and power) to concentrate on giving him special attention. It also diminishes all the hard work that people did on his behalf.
Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie's prayers. It's only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.
But is running away from your past ever really the answer?
Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there's Sylvia, who's clinging so hard to her past, she's in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.
Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia's little Duck Pond Café from closure?
Books set in cafes in England are my favorites. This story features both a bakery and a cafe.
This is the first of a planned series of three books in this small town. This section has the task of setting up all the characters and situations which is a lot to do in such a small space. As a result it felt a bit like the author was ticking off the boxes of what is expected in this genre.
A woman who just was dumped by her long term boyfriend for another woman
A conveniently single man at her new location complete with an adorable child
An aging proprietor of a failing cafe who wants to take in a total stranger
The story was enjoyable but it never rose above the predictable. There wasn’t enough depth of emotion in the story to draw me in fully. This may be a series read best when it is all completed so the characters have room to develop and grow.
I’m most interested in seeing the development of some of the secondary characters like the secret baker who is learning to stand up for herself.
1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.
The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.
Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?
I loved Helena. At the beginning of the book she has just been widowed for the second time although she is only in her early 20s. She is the youngest daughter in a large family. Because of that she has always been treated as a child. They even call her “Baby” although her brother is younger than her.
Helena is shocked by the death of her husband and is starting to get angry about the way her family has swooped in assuming that she is a problem that needs to be managed again. She declares that she is not going to be married off again. She is going to manage her own estate. She is not going to be pushed out of her own life any more.
Then her late husband’s doctor tells her that he doesn’t believe his death was accidental but that the other men on the inquiry panel ruled against him. Most of those men are related to her. What are they trying to hide?
There are several plot lines in this book.
How did Helena’s husband actually die?
Helena standing up for herself with her family
A tenant farmer’s death
I enjoyed reading about Helena’s relationships with each of the people in her large family. She’s always accepted the surface version of things but now that she’s starting to dig deeper into her life, things aren’t always as she assumed. Her little brother is overbearing and too enamored of his status as the head of the family but he isn’t always wrong about what she should do with her life. Her mother and father may not have had the idyllic marriage that Helena imagined. There may be more to her free-spirited artist sister than she expects. All these relationships set up storylines that can continue into other books in the series.
The book dives into disability during this time period also. Helena’s mother is in the late stages of dementia. She has a full time nurse but the mental toll on family members and on Helena’s mother is discussed in ways appropriate to the time period. Helena’s brother reads as autistic. At this time, that wasn’t a described condition so he is mostly considered odd and sometimes offputting. But, his wife loves him and understands him and helps him interact with his family and the rest of the world. Helena has a physically disabled nephew who she loves but who is treated as feeble-minded by his parents even though he is not. She helps him learn to stand up for himself as she learns it for herself.
I’m not a fan of books where lay people investigate crimes unless the story sets up a good reason why the authorities can’t be involved. In this case the authorities of the area are all family members who may be involved. The doctor is French and may be a spy. You never know quite who you can trust.
I will definitely read the next book in this series.
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Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.
Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.
Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.
Yeah, I did that. Everyone loves this book! Why did I quit?
It was well written. It was imaginative. But I got halfway through and realized that I just didn’t care to find out what was going to happen. That’s an issue with a lot of YA fantasy I read. I end up not caring at all about the resolution.
For this book at least, I feel confident saying that wasn’t the book, it was me.
What Am I Reading?
I have so many books out from the library right now. I’m ignoring most of them. I’m drawn mostly towards comfort reads right now and what I have from the library is most definitely not that.
I want to read all these books. When it is reading time I look at them, shrug, and download another romance book.
What Am I Listening To?
Seriously, no audiobook. I downloaded a few but nothing is sticking right now. What is sticking is the West Wing Weekly podcast. Sometimes I feel bad listening to podcasts in the car because I feel like it is wasting audiobook time. But, I’m shoving that to the side and comfort listening to this and rewatching The West Wing.
It is fun to watch even a pretend President say smart things.
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.
The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?
I don’t generally read contemporary romance but people have been raving about this book. I’ve also liked Alyssa Cole’s historical romances so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.
I laughed out loud to see that this story starts with a variation on the Nigerian Prince email scam. Naledi receives an email claiming that she may be the long lost betrothed of a prince of an African country. Now if she’s only send all the necessary information to establish her identity…..
There are many places where this book could have easily gone from entertaining to annoying. The author did a great job with keeping the mystery/suspense up but allowing pieces of the puzzle to be revealed in a natural way instead of dragging out conflicts.
There is a lot going on in this book.
There is the Prince and the Pauper aspect as Thabiso tries to live as a normal person for a week. He gains insights on how he’s been treating all the “little people” in his life.
Naledi is having to deal with white male colleagues who use her for grunt work in their lab. Any time she speaks up for herself she is afraid of being labeled a “difficult black woman.” I like the way another woman in the department was eventually able to stand up for her.
Naledi has a rich friend who overruns any boundaries Naledi tries to set up but who she knows cares about her.
Then there are the mysteries of why her parents ran away from Africa with her and what is the new illness that appearing in Thabiso’s country.
That’s all without adding in the romance aspect.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who likes romance books. It is the start of a series. Somewhere in this series I want a book about what happened with Thabiso’s assistant. She travels with him to the U.S., starts a whirlwind romance with a woman she meets on Tinder, has some sort of bad break up that she refuses to talk about, and then heads back to Africa with Thabiso and Naledi. There’s way more to that story than the teasing bit we saw in this book.
The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.
In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.
In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums. Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.
Debt-free living is a topic that is very important to me so I jumped at the chance to review this book from TLC Book Tours. (Free book – Look at me being frugal!)
This is a memoir of a couple who used frugality to save enough to retire to the country in their 30s. They have a blog called frugalwoods.com. I hadn’t ever heard of this before so I went into this book with no preconceived notions about what their story was.
I appreciated the fact that the book starts with a discussion of privilege versus systemic causes of poverty in the United States. She realizes that just by being born to married, educated white parents in the suburbs of the Midwest that she got a leg up towards being able to be debt-free in her 30s. She points out that her frugality is elective instead of a requirement to be able to afford her rent.
I wish this was more of a how-to book. It doesn’t really explain how they became debt-free. She says things like she saved $2000 of the $10,000 she was given as an AmeriCorp stipend. She was living in Brooklyn with roommates but how did she manage to do that? I want charts and spreadsheets. She talks later about merging living expenses by moving in with her fiance and living below their means by not trying to keep up with the standard of living of their peers. She says that even before they really committed to saving a lot of money in order to retire early, they were saving 40-50% of their take home pay not including 401K and mortgage principal. This is where I started to feel pretty inadequate reading this book. We’re debt-free but we are not even close to that kind of savings. (I know the problem. I eat out too much. If I cooked every meal at home, I’d be golden. I need to make myself a challenge or something.)
I feel like reader’s reactions to this book will be influenced by where they are on their financial journey. I can see her story of giving up $120 hair cuts seeming flippant to someone who is struggling to buy groceries. At the same time, I can see it being inspirational to people who have the ability to start saving money. I could also see it being frustrating and making people feel like they haven’t been doing enough to secure their financial future. I’d be interested to see how people respond to the message.
Let the shenanigans begin at the Best Boomerville Hotel …
Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!
Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun-loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.
With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?
This book wants to be a fun romp in the country with an eclectic group of people. That’s a fun premise for a book. I’m always on the look out for books with middle-aged or older protagonists.
I got a bit thrown off right at the beginning of the book with her definition of Boomers. She defines them as 50-69 which is a tad young for a book published this year. She then makes her main character 50. So this is supposed to be a book celebrating Baby Boomers yet she makes the lead as young as she possibly can. Then there are several comments throughout the book about how they don’t want “elderly people” at the hotel. Older women at the hotel are described as “ageing” in a disparaging way. That all seemed odd for a book that is supposed to be celebrating Baby Boomers.
There is a party that is held at one point in the book. They decide to have Indian food. That’s fine. Then they decide to make it a costume party where all these upper class white British people will be wearing saris, turbans, and other Indian styles of dress. That’s pushing pretty far towards creepy and inappropriate. Then they decide to make it a party celebrating the British Raj. Yeah. That’s pretty out of touch.
Then there is the Shaman. He doesn’t have a name. He isn’t seen often. He has both a “gypsy caravan” and a teepee. He does sessions of some kind in there. They appear to involve getting people high. Then he starts showing up and making mysterious pronouncements of doom while also healing people with a touch before disappearing from sight. One time he turns up to do a Shamanistic wedding ceremony and the guest indulge it as “a cabaret with a difference.”
So the guests are all rich white people who can take off for weeks at a time to stay at a hotel and putter about. The entertainment is a mish mash of other people’s cultures for fun. The “romances” in the book are pure insta-love. Our main character had two men fall for her on the first day she was there. They were just overtaken by her beauty. Once people decide to look at each other as a potential romantic interest, that’s it they are getting ready to get married. This is explained as people being old and not having much time left. I get not dawdling but this felt more like, “You’re breathing. You’ll do.”
I’d love to see this idea with maybe fewer characters so each could be well developed as a person instead of a stereotype – flighty artist, dirty old man, etc.
“I read a Tessa Dare book which everyone always recommends and now I’m going to have to read everything she’s ever written.”
Now look at what happened.
I absolutely hate romance novel covers like these. That’s the nice thing about e-books. You never have to see the covers while you’re reading.
I was reading in bed one night. The husband asked what I was reading and I said it was a romance novel. A few nights later he asked the same question and I gave the same answer. He asked if it was the same one. I had to think for a bit and then decided that there had been two or three since the last time he asked. I can’t help it that romance novels get read quickly.
What Am I Reading?
I picked these up from the library this weekend. They are both hefty books. They should keep me busy for a while.
What Am I Listening To?
I’ve only got a little bit of this left. I may even finish it before this posts. What am I supposed to do with my life then? This series gives me the worst book hangovers. I looked up the narrator to see what else she has read but this series is it. I don’t know what to listen to next.
While I was whining to myself about this I found this on Audible.
This is another of my major book hangover series. It just came out. Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’ll be finishing Lake Silence before this posts then and moving on with my life. My angst will be under control until this one is done.