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Tomlinson Hill: Sons of Slaves, Sons of SlaveholdersTomlinson Hill: Sons of Slaves, Sons of Slaveholders by Chris Tomlinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nonfiction – audio

AP journalist Chris Tomlinson knew that his family had been early settlers in Texas and that they owned a plantation named Tomlinson Hill. He was taught to be proud of his ancestors and was told repeatedly by his grandfather that the family’s slaves loved them so much that when they were freed they took the Tomlinson name.

LaDanian Tomlinson grew up visiting his grandmother who lived on Tomlinson Hill. He thought that the area had been named for his family until he read a historical marker that discussed the plantation.

Chris had always wondered about the Tomlinsons who were descended from his family’s slaves. He first heard of LaDanian when he was making a name for himself playing college football and then followed that with a career in the NFL. He wondered if there was a connection.

Chris spent years reporting on racial conflicts in Africa. He decided to write about racial tensions closer to home by exploring the dynamics of the two Tomlinson families.

This book goes deep into Texas history. It focus more on the white family than the black family most likely because of the availability of historical records. Because I was listening to it on audio it could get confusing at times when I would start confusing people with similar first names and not have a way to refer back to previous chapters.

It veers away from a strict family history often and goes into the larger picture so it definitely reads more like a history textbook than a family saga. I did learn more about the role of Texas in the Civil War than I knew before though.

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Life of a Blogger is hosted at Novel Heartbeat to learn more about the weird stuff in our lives.

The origin of Heather is Celtic and comes from the plant.

heather2

That’s pretty straightforward but my name confused family members. My grandfather had never heard a name as strange as mine so my mother finally explained that I was named after a flower. He understood that and called me Blossom. A few years later they had a pony who had a foal named Blossom and I’m still not clear if she was named after me or if he only knew a few names and had to recycle.

I have an uncle that insisted on calling me Tabitha. No explanation was ever forthcoming.

I used Rick Steves’ guidebook to prepare for our trip to Nice.

The most useful part of the book for me was the inclusion of the bus numbers that went to different sites and having the bus stops on a map. I don’t know where I would have gotten that information without this book. I was all over the bus system’s website and couldn’t find it easily.

We decided to try to take the bus from Nice to Monaco because Rick made it seem easy. Just jump on the 100 bus and for 1,5 euro you go to Monaco. He even suggested that you make sure you get a seat on the right side of the bus to get the best views.

Armed with this cheerful knowledge we strolled to the bus stop. Our first clue that this might be a bit different than Rick had led us to believe was the vast numbers of people milling around the stop.

We wandered towards the front of the line to make sure we were lining up for the right thing. That’s how long the line was. From the back we could have been lining up for anything. We were promptly yelled at by a man who accused us of line jumping.

Assured that this was a line for the bus, we got in the back. Two buses pulled up. One opened the doors right in front of us. Our part of the line got on whilst enduring the hateful glares of the people who were actually ahead of us in line but found themselves without a place on either bus – including Monsieur I Hate Line Jumpers himself.

There was no getting a seat on the right. It was standing room only and they were packing that bus like a sardine can.

I got a spot standing in a spot for wheelchairs just behind a group of four seats that were facing each other.  For the rest of story, do refer to this professionally drawn graphic.

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Seat A – Elderly British lady
Seat B – 40ish British lady
Seat C – a guy
Seat D – Elderly British lady

They were sitting in yellow seats which means that old people and disabled people are given priority.

So this French lady gets on the bus. She has an umbrella. (From this point on we will be referring to this as sa parapluie because that is my favorite French word. I was thrilled that it was raining because I got to use the word a lot.)

She starts yelling at the British people in French. Her point was that they were sitting in seats reserved for old people and she wanted the seat. Now she was noticeably younger than the older British ladies so they just looked at her. She started jabbing sa parapluie into the ribs of the guy in seat C.

The lady in seat D jumps up and offers her seat. Non! The angry French woman wants seat C. She keeps hitting the guy until he stands up. It is immediately obvious that he is disabled. He had severe balance issues. The angry French woman recoils. She starts yelling about how she didn’t know he was sick. This wasn’t an act of contrition. She was spitting out the words with scorn and hate.

The lady in seat B gives the crazy French lady her seat. The woman took it but sat with her knees out in the aisle (which was jammed with people) and glared at the world probably because she had to sit near a person she deemed inferior. She kept her back firmly to him.

After about 20 minutes the British people want off the bus. The French lady sprang into action. She let C and D go while making sure C didn’t touch her. She started then brandishing sa parapluie like a weapon. She was like a ninja with that thing. No one was going to get into those empty seats. She actually had the lady from seat A trapped up against the window for a bit until she snapped at the wild French woman. “You could wait until people get out!”

The French ninja sat in C and kept beating sa parapluie on A. She grudgingly allowed other old ladies to sit in B and D. Guess who she was saving A for? Her 20-something non-disabled daughter!

Crazy old bat! I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve ridden the bus in South America.

The bus did get us there though for cheap and with a story that we probably would have missed on the train. We planned on taking the train back but the 100 bus stopped in front of us as we were on our way to the train station so we got on. This time it wasn’t crowded and we got a good seat and the ride went much more like we read about it in the guidebook.

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What is #BookBlogWriMo?

Basically, it’s a lax version of NaNoWriMo for book bloggers. I created prompts for each day, discussing different topics around books, blogging, and books + blogging.

 

Day 1 History of My Blog

I started blogging in 2004 with a blog on another platform that I don’t even think exists anymore.  In January 2005 I moved to my own domain with absolutely no idea what I was doing.

I’ve been able to keep my blog separate from my real life.  I don’t want people I know reading it because I think that would cause me to censor my writing.  I don’t want to do that.  My husband knows about it but doesn’t read it.  The few times someone has made a connection I panic.  I like internet anonymity.

BookBlogWriMo-Schedule

Oh My StarsOh My Stars by Lorna Landvik
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression. She’s motherless and friendless until she starts working in a factory at night. There she starts to finally fit in until an accident destroys her world again. Depressed, she decides to go to California to jump of the Golden Gate Bridge but the bus she is riding in crashes in North Dakota and changes her life.

Violet is taken in by the Hedstrom family. The son in the family, Kjel, is a musician who is forming a band with two brothers. The band is mixed race which is controversial in the 1930s, to say the least. They take Violet on a road tour with them because Kjel feels sorry for her and she shows enough business acumen that she becomes their manager.

The author uses the framework of a touring band in the 1930s to discuss race relations and music and the role of women in society.

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The Sparrow (The Sparrow, #1)The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science Fiction

In 2019 a radio telescope picks up the first songs broadcast by an alien race. While the world governments tried to decide what to do, the Jesuits did what they always did when new civilizations were found. They went to explore them.

The Jesuits got a several-year head start on other exploration teams.  By the time the next people from Earth reached Rakhat they found only one survivor of the original mission.  Father Emilio Sandoz was physically maimed and emotionally broken.  They got him back on his ship and set the auto pilot to Earth.

Now it is 12 years since the radio reports of Father Sandoz’s rescue reached Earth and his ship has just arrived.  The Jesuits have secluded him in Italy to get his side of the sensational story that the other human team sent.  But Father Sandoz is not talking.

The story alternates from there from how the original crew of eight people met each other, traveled to Rahkat, and lived and died there and the present time with the interrogation of Emilio Sandoz.  I liked this format because it added a layer to the suspense.  You knew the mission was a disaster but you didn’t know how.  As you were meeting all these people and getting to know and like them there was always that black cloud ahead.

The writing is very good and draws you in quickly.  I read this book over a few days because I found it hard to put down.  I wanted to know what happened..  I enjoyed the flashbacks to before the mission and I liked the interrogation chapters but I found the time on Rakhat fairly boring.

There are some plot points that I want to complain about but I can’t without giving everything away so I’ve started my very own spoiler page.  Now I can rant about things that I want to in peace.

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Nice France

Dreaming of France Meme Eiffel

We just got back from a week’s vacation based in Nice, France. We also made trips to Vence in Provence, Monaco, and Ventimiglia, Italy.

I’ll be posting about our French adventures weekly with Dreaming of France. The Monaco and Italy posts will be at other times. I posted about the cathedral in Monaco.

We stayed at the Hotel Victor Hugo, which is actually a guesthouse. There are only a few rooms.

It is on the first floor of a building that also has medical offices and some apartments, I think.

This is the boss of the hotel.

Her name is Cosette. She comes with her person, who is the human manager, every morning at 8. She greeted us whenever we opened the door, accompanied us to the breakfast room in case we hadn’t read the signs saying not to feed her, and sometimes made herself at home in our room.

We had a suite of two rooms. There was a bedroom and a room with a table and chairs and a small refrigerator, sink, and microwave.

We booked the suite because we know that European hotel rooms are really small by American standards and we wanted the extra space. We used it mostly for the suitcases.

The only thing that could be a problem for visitors is the bathroom size. The shower head is high for tall people but the toilet is a bit tricky. I’m 5’6 and the husband is just a bit shorter than me. When I sat on the toilet my knees hit the wall in front of me. You sort of had to shuffle sideways to get to sit down at all. I’m not sure what contortions taller people would have to go through to fit on there.

The location of the hotel was great. It was a 10 minute walk to the train station in one direction, 10 minutes to the heart of the commercial district in another, and 5 minutes to the beach. The street was very quiet and had a very different feel from the rest of the city. You could tell when you reached it without even seeing signs.

There is a plan to build a subway under this street. Construction is starting this month and is supposed to be done in 14 months according to the signs. We don’t believe it. I’m going to keep watching the news on it just to see what happens.

There was a good Sicilian restaurant down the road. The husband’s family is Sicilian so we ended up there enough that the waiters knew his “usual” dessert.

Baking Cakes in KigaliBaking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fiction

Angel Tungaraza is from Tanzania, but she is living in Kigali Rwanda while her husband is teaching at a local university. They live with their five grandchildren in a compound that houses other expats working in Rwanda. Angel has started a cake making business. People come to her to order a cake for the happy moments in their lives and they confide their secrets to her.

There is not an overall plot to the book. People come to order a cake and we hear about their lives in post-genocide Rwanda. Some are survivors of the massacre. Others have family members in prison for participating in it. Some have come to help with the international reconstruction efforts (and to earn extra money for living in a “dangerous” area which confuses Angel who feels perfectly safe.)

This format allows discussion of the role of AIDS in central African society. Do you talk about it? If so, how? Do you acknowledge when people are sick and tell the truth about what they have?

How do you encourage women, expat and native Rwandan, to make more of their lives especially when there is so much misogyny? One of the first encounters is for a cake for a baby’s birth. They wanted a boy but this daughter is cute so they named her Goodenough.

The compound security guard has impregnated two women. One has already given birth to a boy and the other is due soon. He’s waiting to see who he will marry. If the other child is a girl he’ll marry the woman who gave him a boy.

On the surface the encounters about baking a cake seem like a light story but each of the people reveal more about life after tragedy.

The author is a white woman who was born and raised in Zambia. Many reviews of these books make an issue of that. “She was born in Africa but she’s not African,” is an actual quote which I think shows more lack of cultural understanding than what they are complaining about.

There is a sequel to this book which is told from the point of view of one of the grandchildren. I’ve put that on my TBR list.

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We’re back from our trip to the south of France. I’ll be posting France stories on Mondays for the Dreaming of France linkup but we spent some time in two other countries also.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-Immaculée is in Monaco.

It was consecrated in 1875. There was a church on the site beginning in 1252.

This is the church where Grace Kelly married Prince Ranier.

They are both buried here.

The altar

The husband, who is sensitive to ghost stuff, reacted badly to this church. As soon as he entered he said it was overwhelming. I am a supportive wife so when he said that the ghosts were yelling at him I asked, “In French?” I mean, how would he know what they were yelling if he doesn’t speak French? I just got glared at. He ended up going outside and I wandered around and took more pictures of the ceiling.

I really liked the side aisles.

They have a state of the art organ.

I eventually went out and found the husband. He’s never been bothered by visiting churches before. Maybe it is all the graves in this one.

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Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda's DaughterEnchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter by Maggie Anton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction/historical fantasy

Hisdadukh is the daughter of an important Rabbi in fourth-century Babylonia. As a child she was asked which of his star pupils she would like to marry, Rami or Rava. She answered that she would marry both of them. This set up a rivalry between them that worsened when Hisdadukh married Rami.  After Rami’s early death, many people including Hisdadukh blamed Rava, so how could she ever marry him?

This is the second book in the story of Hisdadukh.  They really need to be read together to understand the full story.  Jews in Babylonia at this time lived in a world of study and of magic.  The men in the story are all Torah scholars.  They spend their time debating fine points of law.  These debates and rulings were eventually written down and became the Talmud.  The characters in these stories are taken from references in the Talmud.

The women at this time lived in a world of magic.  This is based on archeological evidence of curse tablets and amulets found.  In these books the magic is real and Hisdadukh is a strong practitioner.  She treats illness and injuries and attends childbirths.  She makes protective amulets for children and pregnant women.

As she gets more powerful she becomes a rival to other women and needs to learn to defend herself and her family.  Rava also comes back to her.  They are drawn together even though she does not fully understand or trust him.  He seems suspicious of her also but their lives keep putting them together so they need to learn to deal with each other.

A lot of the conversations in the book is either detailed points of law or magic.  At times it gets hard to remember that you are actually reading historical fiction and not reading about a made up fantasy world.

I really like this author’s books so I was excited to be involved in the book tour for Enchantress.

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Enchantress Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October
6

Review at Unshelfish

Review at Book
Drunkard

Tuesday, October
7

Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Wednesday, October
8

Review at A
Dream Within a Dream

Thursday, October
8

Guest Post at Bookish

Friday, October
9

Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Monday, October
13

Review at Book
Lovers Paradise

Tuesday, October
14

Review at leeanna.me

Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Wednesday, October
15

Review at Based on a True
Story

Thursday, October
16

Review at Mari
Reads

Friday, October
17

Interview at Layered
Pages

Tuesday, October
21

Review at History From A Woman’s Perspective

Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Wednesday, October
22

Guest Post at History From A Woman’s Perspective

Thursday, October
23

Review at Layered
Pages

Spotlight at A Book
Geek

Friday, October
24

Review at Beth’s Book
Reviews

Interview at Mina’s
Bookshelf

Saturday, October
25

Review & Interview at A Cup of Tea & A Big Book

Monday, October
27

Review at TeacherWriter

Tuesday, October
28

Review at My
Book Addiction and More

Spotlight at Historical Tapestry

Wednesday, October
29

Review at A
Bookish Affair

Thursday, October
30

Review at Book
Nerd

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How to Afford Travel

This is the post I meant to write before I got distracted by discussions of privilege.

So many people think that foreign travel is a hugely expensive endeavor that they can’t hope to accomplish. I’m cheap and I do it. Here’s some things I do.

How to Pay for Flights Over Time with No Fees

I mentioned in the last post that I’m debt free. I think only bankruptcy will destroy your credit faster than being debt free. So when I decided that I wanted to get a credit card to accumulate frequent flyer miles, I couldn’t qualify for one. I had to take a stepwise approach. I applied for a poor-credit person’s credit card with a $1000 limit. I would use it for one meal a month and pay it off. After about 8 months I was able to get a card with a higher limit.

Then I booked my flights. I put them on the higher limit card. A month later I paid off half that bill from my bank account and put the rest on the old lower limit card. A month later I did it again – half on the first card and half from the bank account. Then I paid it off the next month. This only works if you remember to pay off the cards before you get any interest fees. I stretched out paying for my flights over several months.

You can do the same thing with prepaid hotel rooms or rental cars.

Stay Cheap

I don’t care where I stay. The husband is a super snob about it. Left to my own devices I’d stay in hostels or B and Bs and save more money. He won’t so we spend more than I like here. I do a lot of research to find deals.

Travel Off-Season

My job is most busy in the summer so we travel in either May or October. Prices are lower in the off-season. Rick Steves calls this the shoulder season when most things are still open but the crowds are gone.

Pick a Destination Based on Price

That’s why we went to Portugal. We looked at a map and acknowledged that Portugal was so much closer to us than Italy where we were researching. Shorter flights are cheaper usually. Lisbon in November isn’t a tourist Mecca so prices were low.

Self Serve

Public transportation instead of car rental – Americans aren’t used to combative driving so we probably shouldn’t try. We plan our trips around available public transportation. We get hotels near train stations. We look at local train routes to figure out what day trips we could take.

We don’t book with tour groups. It is so much cheaper to do your research at home and head out on your own.

Go With the Flow

There is a temptation to want to see everything if you are only going to be there once so people plan every minute. You know what our plan is for this trip to France? I know the names of the towns on the local train lines. I know what things are available to see in each area. That’s it. We’ll decide what we want to see each day. We aren’t locked into prepaid activities that we have to do even if we don’t feel like it at the time.

What a Privilege

I’m writing this in a wine bar in an airport waiting to head to France. In the last few days as people have realized we are going I heard a lot of amazed statements. I was planning on writing a post about how people should allow themselves to believe that travel is possible and then they would see that they can find ways to make it happen.

Then I read a few articles that all had the theme that the ability to travel the world is yet another example of privilege that people need to acknowledge. This whole “check your privilege” thing is getting annoying. Yep, I’m a white woman in a professional job who has the money and flexibility to travel. I’m lucky but consider how I got here.

The Money To Travel

I chose this job. It is not a job you choose for the money, by the way. I spent my entire life getting together the academic and personal qualifications to get into school to get this job. I wasn’t one of those kids getting drunk in high school or college and blowing off class.

My education came with student loans. It took me 15 years to pay them off.

I’ve chosen to live below my means. I live in a decent house but it isn’t a dream house. We could afford more but why be house poor just to show off? This meets my needs. My clothes almost all come from thrift stores. I don’t waste money paying retail. This frees up money that I could use for travel.

I drive a 10 year old Honda and plan on continuing to drive it until it dies because it is paid for. No car payment can equal one trip a year.

I’m debt free. That is a choice that was made because the freedom to be able to make decisions that are not entirely constrained by finances is a priority. It didn’t magically happen. We put in the work.

I’ve chosen not to have children.

Time to Travel

I can take time off with enough advance notice and if another doctor can cover the shift. It isn’t paid. I actually qualified for 1 week of paid vacation last year for the first time in a 17 year career.

Talking about privilege makes it sound like someone waved a magic wand and decided that I was going to be a lucky person who could travel and everyone else is just out of luck. It doesn’t take personal decisions into account. It says “Look at her. She’s a white professional person. Of course, she can do things I can’t.” It smacks of the racism and classism that it pretends to avoid.

Dawn (Xenogenesis, #1)Dawn by Octavia E. Butler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science Fiction

After a nuclear war and the nuclear winter that followed, the remaining humans on planet Earth were rescued by an alien race called the Oankali. The humans were put in suspended animation while the Oankali studied them to learn their biology and then started to repair the Earth so humans could live on it again. Now it is 250 years later and a woman named Lilith is awakened. The Oankali hope that she will be able to “parent” the first small band of colonists that they want to return to Earth.

When I was participating in Diversiverse I heard about Octavia Butler.  She comes up in discussions that start with “Any people of color writing science fiction besides Octavia Butler?”  I felt remiss in never having read her books.  Dawn was written in 1977 and is the first in a trilogy.

I don’t read a lot of hard science fiction but this book pulled me in immediately.  The writing is very accessible.  I read this all in the course of about 24 hours.

My one word description of this book is … infuriating.  I often say that I hate humans but this book really made me hate humans.  The only idea in Lilith’s head is to get back to Earth and then escape the Oankali.  What exactly have they done that is so bad?  Let’s see, they pulled her off Earth before she starved to death.  They healed her cancer while she slept.  They enhanced her intelligence and gave her increased strength and healing ability.  They fixed her planet for her.  Would a thank you be out of line?

She’s all bent out of shape because the Oankali want a trade.  They are a species that reproduces asexually so in order to increase their genetic diversity they want to mix some human DNA in with their own.  I’d be like, “Sure, whatever you want.  Here’s a cheek swab.  By the way, thanks for fixing my entire freakin’ planet.”

Lilith and the humans that she is eventually charged with waking and teaching about what has happened to them act like it is the End of the World  –  oh, wait, they already had that.  What is so precious and special about a species that wipes out their entire world?  They would already be extinct without the Oankali so having human DNA live on in a hybrid form should be seen as an unexpected bonus.

But, no.  The humans go all Lord of the Flies because they are idiots.  They are put in a training room on the vast Oankali ship that replicates the section of the Amazon that they will be colonized.  As soon as they are there they start thinking that they have been released on Earth even though they’ve been told repeatedly they are still on the ship.  They start yelling, “No, we’re not!  We’re running away!”  I kept hoping the Oankali would see that they were dealing with a bunch of morons and shoot them all and check their storage units for some smarter ones.

Lord, this book was pushing all my buttons.  The Oankali ship is alive.  It can make all kinds of plant material so they eat a diet consisting of any fruit or vegetable ever known.  So what is one of the first fights that happens when the group of humans is woken up?  “We’re humans.  We need meat.  Give us meat!!!!!!”  They are told that the Oankali won’t kill for them when they can eat as well as they want from the plants.  Good.  But, as soon as they are released in the training room they start hunting and fishing and ignore all the plant life around them.

I was seriously hoping that when the humans were released into the Amazon that they would immediately all be eaten by anacondas because anacondas need meat but apparently that isn’t what happens.

I’m giving this book 4 stars because any book that has this many issues that stick in my brain and make me angry every time I think of them has done a good job.  I’m not sure if I want to read the rest of the series because it appears to involve more humans being horrible but I am intrigued.

 

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The Heist (Gabriel Allon, #14)The Heist by Daniel Silva

Thriller

Gabriel Allon has one year of peace and quiet before he is slated to take over Israel’s intelligence service. He plans to spend it in Italy restoring a painting and spending time with his pregnant wife. But then his friend, English art gallery owner Julian Isherwood, finds a murdered man at a house in Lake Como and needs Gabriel’s help.

This is the 14th book in the Gabriel Allon series and one that probably could stand alone as long as you understood the idea of the series. Allon is a trained art restorer who was recruited by Israeli intelligence after the Munich Olympics killings. He has become a legendary figure and has been pressured into eventually leading the service.

The murdered man that his friend finds is a dealer in stolen artwork and a former spy. Investigating his death leads the Italian art police to link him to the Caravaggio Nativity, one of the most famous stolen paintings of all time.

Michelangelo_Caravaggio_035

The police want Gabriel to use his knowledge of the art world and his abilities as a spy to help find the painting. To do so he’ll need to tap into his network of spies and criminals around Europe to follow the money – wherever it leads.

I love this series and this book was a really good addition. The events in it are up to the minute and I like the character growth that is happening as a spy ages and needs to rely more on his brain than on brawn.

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Reviews Posted Recently

The Unexpected Earl – Regency Romance

Gutenberg’s Apprentice – Historical fiction about the invention of the printing press

My Soul to Keep – What happens when you find out that your husband is actually immortal?

Paradise Lot – Turning a small backyard into a food producing forest

Henna House – Historical fiction about Yemeni Jews in the 1920s and 30s

Listening to Now

Tomlinson Hill: Sons of Slaves, Sons of SlaveholdersTomlinson Hill: Sons of Slaves, Sons of Slaveholders by Chris Tomlinson

Nonfiction

Tomlinson Hill is the stunning story of two families—one white, one black—who trace their roots to a slave plantation that bears their name.

Internationally recognized for his work as a fearless war correspondent, award-winning journalist Chris Tomlinson grew up hearing stories about his family’s abandoned cotton plantation in Falls County, Texas. Most of the tales lionized his white ancestors for pioneering along the Brazos River. His grandfather often said the family’s slaves loved them so much that they also took Tomlinson as their last name.

LaDainian Tomlinson, football great and former running back for the San Diego Chargers, spent part of his childhood playing on the same land that his black ancestors had worked as slaves. As a child, LaDainian believed the Hill was named after his family. Not until he was old enough to read an historical plaque did he realize that the Hill was named for his ancestor’s slaveholders. from Goodreads

Reading This Week

The Heist (Gabriel Allon, #14)The Heist by Daniel Silva

Thriller

Gabriel Allon, art restorer and occasional spy, searches for a stolen masterpiece by Caravaggio in #1 New York Times bestselling author Daniel Silva’s latest action-packed tale of high stakes international intrigue.

Sometimes the best way to find a stolen masterpiece is to steal another one . . . From Goodreads

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Henna House by Nomi Eve

Henna HouseHenna House by Nomi Eve

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical fiction

Adela is a young Jewish girl in Yemen in 1920. She has no marriage prospects which is troubling because her father’s health is poor. Any Jewish children whose father dies in Yemen are confiscated and given to Muslim families to raise. The Confiscator has his eye on Adela as a pet for his wife.

When Adela’s uncle, aunt, and cousin arrive from the distant city of Aden, she is taken under their wings and taught about the rituals of henna. When conditions in her town become too difficult, they flee back to Aden but life is becoming difficult for Jews there also.

I had not previously heard the story of the Yemeni Jews in the time surrounding the establishment of Israel.  This is a story of a specific time and a culture trying to decide how to adapt to all the changes around them.

It is also a love story.  Adela is waiting for a boy that she was promised to as a child to give her another layer of protection from confiscation but who she hasn’t seen in years. She doesn’t know if he is alive and is starting to wonder if she should be putting her life on hold for a fantasy.

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One of the things that I absolutely love to do is to read anti-feminist websites. They amuse me to no end. I don’t tend to comment because my definition of feminism is the right for women to live how ever they want even if I think it is insane even if I disagree.

One of my favorite anti-feminist sites is Raising Homemakers. The best day is Wednesday because they have a huge link up and you can see all kinds of blogs dedicated to the idea that girls should be raised to be homemakers and mothers.

I’ve learned a lot reading these posts. I once saw a listing of skills that a homemaker should have and I had most of them up to and including the quilting. (They considered quilting a potential money maker and I consider it a money sucking pit of a hobby so we don’t always agree.)

Courtship

Dating is bad. Girls should only be approached by boys who have already talked to her father about exploring the possibility of marriage.

  • YES – I’m a relationship person. I didn’t like men who only wanted hook up. I like the idea of being straightforward with your intentions from the beginning.
  • NO – Are you kidding me? Ask my father first? No way, buddy boy. I’m a fully formed human who is able to make her own decisions and I don’t need to hide behind a man when important decisions are being made. I’m even way too offended when people talk about asking a father’s permission to marry his daughter. I think that is a crazy-offensive beginning to a marriage.

There is a blog that links up written by a college-aged man who talks about courtship with the authority of someone who has absolutely no real world experience whatsoever.  I’m just waiting for someone to come along and rock his world(view.)

Stay at home daughters

A stay at home daughter is a girl who has graduated from high school and then does not pursue higher education or a job outside the home. The idea is that if her goal is to be a homemaker, why should she be wasting her time doing anything else and getting in debt pursing an education that she isn’t going to use?  She should be home “contributing to the household economy” by helping in her father’s business, starting her own small business that can be done from home, or helping her mother with younger children.  Preferably all three.  Remember, girls should be able to run a household by the age of 14 because that’s when Mary had Jesus.

  • YES – College isn’t for everyone and if you can start a business that supports you – go for it.
  • NO – Where do I even start?  The idea is that girls are under the protection of their fathers until they have a husband to take over that duty.  Nope.  Just nope.  What are they going to do if they suddenly lose a husband?  Oh, excuse me, because of courtship and being serious about their marriages they won’t get divorced.  Guess what?  I’m a former good Christian girl who was serious about her marriage and my last husband took off anyway.  It happens.  You could be widowed.  Then what are you going to do with no skills?  Some folks say that the church should support widows.  Yeah, I’ll believe that happens when I see it.

Modesty

Women should not wear revealing clothing.  In this community it usually involves wearing mainly skirts.

  • NO – I don’t buy into the notion that women are responsible for the thoughts of men.  If you are advocating modesty for women so they are not a distraction for men, they I’m not with you.  That’s the step before mandating burkas.  Men need to learn to live in a world with distractions.  I get distracted by chocolate.  That doesn’t mean I get to ban it from my sight.
  • YES – I think women should dress modestly because they should have some class and self-respect.  I’m sure there are people in the world who are interested in seeing all your personal bits but that person is not me.  Please put them away.  And let’s get real.  You are going to be judged by your clothing choices.  You may not think that is right but it is the truth.  Look at this guy.

evolve-2-pack-muscle-tee-251x300 Photo from Target.com

Was your first thought that you imagine that he is a magnificent accountant?   If a woman comes strolling in wearing a shirt that shows her bra and a miniskirt are you going to think that she’s smart and likes to do charity work?

Because of my exposure to these sites, I started to notice all the women around me wearing maxi skirts.  They looked nice.  Too many of the modesty sites espouse a look that is “Amish chic.”  I tried maxi skirts this summer and felt like I was let in on a huge secret.  I wear leggings under them and it is just like wearing sweats when out in public but because there is a skirt covering them, people are under the mistaken impression that I am fancy and put together.  They don’t know that I just pulled a skirt over the nasty sweats that I had on at home in order to go out in public.  I’m getting credit for being sort of fashionable when in reality I’m just too lazy to put on pants with a waistband. Win!

If you want a more political look at the anti-feminist world, try out Ladies Against Feminism. This is a site that I sometimes just need to click away from before I say something I regret. They have a tendency to link to studies that are so very poorly set up that their conclusions are invalid (Ooops, I learned that in vet school. Look at me being too educated.) I do post a comment when they start twisting what an article actually says to make it mean what they want.

On this site I learned that I was emasculating my husband by having a job and making money.  I immediately went and apologized to him profusely and told him that I would quit my job in the morning so he could support me fully and feel like a real man.  He told me that I was banned from reading that website anymore.  Unfortunately for him, I had already learned that I was a bad, feminist type woman who didn’t listen to her husband properly so I just continued to ignore him like the heathen I am.

There are some sites of people with differing world views than mine that I genuinely like.  Fresh Modesty is written by a woman who is a stay at home daughter.  She does modest fashion that is not Amish-like and is starting a clothing business.  My Holy Joy is written by a woman from this background who went to college and is starting to realize that the world may not be exactly as she was told.  (See, that’s why you can’t go educating impressionable young women!)

Linking up to The F Word.

 

 

Paradise Lot

Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the CityParadise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre, and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City by Eric Toensmeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nonfiction

Eric Toensmeier was writing and teaching about making edible forests but he was living in an apartment with a few plants in pots on the patio. He enlisted a student to work with him and they worked on some larger farms but decided to finally buy a place that they could make their own. They bought a duplex in Holyoke Massachusetts with a barren 1/10 acre lot and set out to make a edible landscape in a very cold part of the country.

The plan was pretty ambitious. They bought a duplex so they could live in one side and rent the other to raise money. Eventually they hoped to each meet women who wanted to be with them and then they could each have a side of the duplex. The lot was small and in horrible shape but in eight years they managed to get it to support over 200 varieties of edible plants.

This book is more inspirational than a straight how to. There are some pictures and some diagrams of the layout. I hadn’t heard of a lot of the plants that they have. They concentrate mostly on native plants that can survive a New England winter. They have a small greenhouse which they use mostly for salad greens in the winter.

This is something the husband and I would love to do. Our dream house is a dome with solar power and geothermal heat surrounded by food. We had a good start at our last house with the massive raised bed that was kindly filled by compost made from my horses’ manure. We could grow anything in that bed.

At this house we have the space but it is very shady and there are lots of deer that demolished our first attempt. Then we got lazy. We may be moving again soon and if it looks like we might stay put at a new house for a while I’d really like to use most of the lawn space for a combination of small fruit trees and berries combined with vegetables. I’m not sure I’m up for some of the more obscure plants they have but they have gotten me interested in paw paws.

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My Soul to Keep (African Immortals, #1)My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fantasy

Jessica thinks that her husband David is perfect. He is caring and strong and smart. He’s written the definitive textbook on Jazz and he teaches Spanish for fun. He’s amazingly accomplished for a man as young as he is.

But David is hiding something. He isn’t young. He was born in Ethiopia 500 years ago. He’s part of a group of men who were made immortal in a secret ceremony and he’ll do anything to keep it a secret, including murder.

This book drug for me a bit in the middle but then picked up towards the end when Jessica finds out about David. 

Jessica ends up having a very different view on immortality than David does. This book is the first of a series and I think I’ll read the next one to see how the conflict between them plays out.

Linking up to R(eaders) I(mbibing) P(eril).

lavinia-portraitRIP92751

 

 

 

 

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Gutenberg's ApprenticeGutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Historical Fiction

Peter Schoeffer is about to become a master scribe in Paris when his foster father, Johann Fust, calls him home to Germany to meet an “amazing man.” The man is Johann Gutenberg and he has created a machine to make books without the use of a scribe. Fust is funding the venture and wants Peter in the workshop as his eyes and ears even though it means turning his back on everything he has been trained to do.

This is the story of the making of the Gutenberg Bible.

ransomcenter1_small Image from the Ransom Center

Gutenberg was a foul-tempered man who did not have a head for business. Fust was a bookseller who could see how this could revolutionize the world if they could get it to market without the Catholic church seizing the press for their own use and if Gutenberg didn’t bankrupt him along the way. Schoeffer is stuck in the middle.

The city of Mainz at this time was in the midst of huge political turmoil which complicated everything. That was one thing that slowed down this book for me. The politics are complicated and I got lost a few times in all the fights between the guilds and the church.

I thought this book captured the secrecy and intrigue of bringing a new technology to the world.

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