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18 Jun, 2018

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Bookish LifeReading


Finished This Week


Sharon Shinn writes one of my favorite series.  This is an early book of hers.  It was a cute standalone book but I didn’t love it as much as the others.


What Am I Reading?

I am being really lax about my reading right now.  I have lots of books from the library that I haven’t started.  Here’s what ebooks I’ve gotten recently.

The four Amir sisters – Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae – are the only young Muslims in the quaint English village of Wyvernage.

On the outside, despite not quite fitting in with their neighbours, the Amirs are happy. But on the inside, each sister is secretly struggling.

Fatima is trying to find out who she really is – and after fifteen attempts, finally pass her driving test. Farah is happy being a wife but longs to be a mother. Bubblee is determined to be an artist in London, away from family tradition, and Mae is coping with burgeoning YouTube stardom.

Yet when family tragedy strikes, it brings the Amir sisters closer together and forces them to learn more about life, love, faith and each other than they ever thought possible. “

Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret. A delicious premonition she shares every Monday evening with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls as they gather at the Sugar Spoon bakery for Batter Up night.

Investigative reporter Jason Levine just found himself as the man candy for a bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Roped into attending the Vegas nuptials, was he hearing things when the groom shares that the only reason he’s getting married is because a small town baker conjured up the name of his soulmate in her cake batter?

Sparks fly when Jason tries to expose Emma as a fraud, but reality and logic go out the window as he begins to fall under her spell.”





12 Jun, 2018

Fiction for Pride

/ posted in: Reading



This is the story of a Japanese man whose estranged twin died recently.  His twin lived in Canada and was married to a Canadian man named Mike.  Now Mike is coming for a visit.  Be warned that this book opens with a lot of homophobia that is slowly worked through.

This is a novella about a tea shop run by a robot named Sal.  Humanoid robots have been banned from being made for 300 years.  Sal meets a programmer who helps her get a new perspective on her life.  The human in this story is asexual.

Cat Sebastian’s books are known for having queer characters.  This one features a non-binary main character.

I’d recommend starting with the previous book, Karen Memory, if you want to start this series but this is the sequel.  It features an interracial lesbian couple in wild west Seattle.

This story takes place on a space station and features a lesbian couple.

This is the story of best friends who fell in love as teenagers but who were immediately separated by their parents who felt that lesbianism was sinful.  Now, 50 years later, they meet again.

I recommend this one all the time.  It is the start of the sweetest asexual, aromantic relationship series.  Ultimate comfort reading for me.

This book features an intersex main character and a f/f relationship that may be moving towards a poly relationship at the end.

I love this series featuring gay men and a genderqueer person.  I wish there were more romances that were actually written by gay men.


11 Jun, 2018

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Bookish LifeReading


Finished This Week




What Am I Reading?

“As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place…”

I love a later series by this author so I want to try this one even though it is very different.

“It’s not easy being an undercover restaurant critic—especially when you’re only twelve years old!

After successfully completing her first restaurant review for the New York Standard newspaper, Gladys Gatsby is looking forward to a quiet summer of cooking and eating. But her plans quickly go awry when her friend Charissa Bentley delivers Gladys’s birthday gift: a free summer at Camp Bentley.

As Gladys feared, camp life is not easy; she struggles to pass her swim test, can’t keep the other campers happy while planning lunches, and cannot seem to get away from the annoying new “celebrity” camper. The worst part is she’s not able to find a moment to sneak away for her latest reviewing assignment: finding the best hot dog in New York City. But when Gladys learns that her hot dog assignment might actually be a dirty trick made up by a jealous fellow critic, she fears her reviewing career could be over forever.

When the Imagine Network commissioned a documentary on mermaids, to be filmed from the cruise ship Atargatis, they expected what they had always received before: an assortment of eyewitness reports that proved nothing, some footage that proved even less, and the kind of ratings that only came from peddling imaginary creatures to the masses.

They didn’t expect actual mermaids. They certainly didn’t expect those mermaids to have teeth.

This is the story of the Atargatis, lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy. Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the bathypelagic zone in the Mariana Trench…and the depths are very good at keeping secrets.”

Indelbed is a lonely kid living in a crumbling mansion in the super dense, super chaotic third world capital of Bangladesh. When he learns that his dead mother was a djinn — more commonly known as a genie — and that his drunken loutish father is a sitting emissary to the djinns (e.g. a magician), his whole world is turned inside out. Suddenly, and for reasons that totally escape him, his father is found in a supernatural coma, and Indelbed is kidnapped by the djinn and delivered to a subterranean prison. Back in the city, his cousin Rais and his family struggle to make sense of it all, as an impending catastrophe threatens to destroy everything they know. Needless to say, everything is resting on Indelbed’s next move — and he’s got a new partner to help him: the world’s most evil djinn.







10 Jun, 2018

Eat the World – Sweden

/ posted in: Food


This month’s country for Eat the World is Sweden.  A few things came to mind when I first thought of Swedish food:

  • Meatballs, fish, and things I don’t eat
  • Lucia bread that my Swedish aunt used to bring to parties
  • Being upset that I’ve already read Marcus Samuelsson’s wonderful memoir because it would be perfect for this

I started to do some research and learned that:

  • Marcus Samuelsson’s website has some great recipes but everything I liked was not even remotely Swedish
  • Everything I was seeing on other sites seemed so bland.
  • Short growing seasons mean that this is a meat heavy cuisine.

Taking inspiration from I decided to make Korngryn och rotsaker – Pearl Barley with Root Vegetables – with a few changes.

I started by roasting carrots, turnips, and parsnips. Then I cooked my barley in the instapot. I used high pressure for 18 minutes. I used 1 cup of barley and 3 cups of a combination of mushroom broth, vegetable broth, and water. Basically, I had open containers of broth in the fridge and when I emptied one I went to the next until I had 3 cups. That was the ratio recommended in the book for the instapot. It turned out to be a lot of extra liquid but it was a very aromatic, starchy liquid so I decided to turn it into a sauce.


I drained the extra broth into a bowl. Then I poured enough back into the instapot bowl to have a layer 1/2 inch thick. I used this to saute the mushrooms. I let the liquid reduce as the mushrooms cooked. I added a few more spoonfuls of broth as needed to keep it from all evaporating.


This reduced to a very good sauce that added a lot more flavor to the dish.


Pearl Barley with Roasted Root Vegetables and Mushrooms


  • 3 Carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 Turnip chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 Parsnips chopped into bite sized pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Pearl Barley
  • 3 cups Mushroom or Vegetable Broth
  • 8 oz Mushrooms
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Spray carrots, turnip, and parsnips with olive oil on both sides.  Spread on a baking sheet.  Roast in an oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Set aside.

  2. Combine barley and broth in an electric pressure cooker.  Set on high pressure for 18 minutes.  Release pressure manually when done cooking.

  3. Drain excess liquid from the barley, retaining the liquid.

  4. Set pressure cooker to saute.  Pour enough of the retained broth into the cooker to cover the bottom of the pot to a depth of 1/2 inch.  Saute the mushrooms, adding broth as needed to keep from drying.  Allow broth to reduce to a sauce. 

  5. Top barley with roasted vegetables and mushrooms.  Pour reduced broth over the barley.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This still is a little bland for my taste.  I didn’t add a lot of other seasoning because I was trying to stay true to the ingredients I was seeing in other Swedish recipes.  If I was going to make this again, I would experiment with adding herbs to the broth while cooking the barley and while reducing.

See everyone else’s recipes

Wendy: Rabarberpaj
Camilla: Fläderblomsglass (Elderflower Ice Cream) for Midsommar
Tara: Våfflor (Swedish Waffles)
Heather: Korngryn och rotsaker (Pearl Barley with Roasted Root Vegetables)
Juli: Färskpotatis – Swedish Dill Potatoes
Evelyne: Swedish Egg Coffee recipe
Loreto and Nicoletta: Smorgastarta – Swedish Sandwich Cake
Amy:Rödbetssallad med Getost (Grated Beetroot Salad with Goat Cheese)

So what book did I read for Sweden?  I’ve already read a few very good Swedish books besides Marcus Samuelsson’s.  I’ve loved The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and DisappearedThe 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.




The Swede (Ernst Grip #1)The Swede by Robert Karjel
is a great thriller.




But this month I read a book that was already on my iPad, Never Stop Walking.

Like Yes, Chef, this is a book about an international adoptee. Christina was a street child in Brazil before she and her brother were taken to Sweden and adopted. This is the story of her travel as an adult back to Brazil to try to find her mother. I reviewed it here.  This story is absolutely heartbreaking.  The life she lived as a child was brutal and hard to read about but I think it is necessary to open people’s eyes to what happens to women and children in these situations.

08 Jun, 2018

Never Stop Walking

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Never Stop Walking Never Stop Walking: A Memoir of Finding Home Across the World by Christina Rickardsson, Tara F. Chace
on June 1, 2018
Pages: 249
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Setting: Brazil, Sweden

Christiana Mara Coelho was born into extreme poverty in Brazil. After spending the first seven years of her life with her loving mother in the forest caves outside São Paulo and then on the city streets, where they begged for food, she and her younger brother were suddenly put up for adoption. When one door closed on the only life Christiana had ever known and on the woman who protected her with all her heart, a new one opened.

As Christina Rickardsson, she’s raised by caring adoptive parents in Sweden, far from the despairing favelas of her childhood. Accomplished and outwardly “normal,” Christina is also filled with rage over what she’s lost and having to adapt to a new reality while struggling with the traumas of her youth. When her world falls apart again as an adult, Christina returns to Brazil to finally confront her past and unlock the truth of what really happened to Christiana Mara Coelho.


This is a heartbreaking story of a child living in extreme poverty on the streets in Brazil.  The things that happen to her are horrific including witnessing the murder of her best friend by the police, seeing numerous rapes, and killing another child in a fight over food. 

Because this all happened as a child she didn’t clearly know or remember the reasons why they lived like they did.  All she knew was that her mother loved her and her little brother but that there were also times when she wasn’t around.  The children were taken to an orphanage where they were eventually not allowed to have contact with their mother and then were adopted by a couple from Sweden. Nothing that was going on was explained to her.

As an adult she decides to go back to Brazil to try to find her mother and to find out what really happened to make sense of her childhood memories. 

She examines the disconnect she feels about being grateful for her good life in Sweden that wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t forcibly taken from her mother but also being angry about being separated from the person who loved her. 

The book is very simply written or translated.  That makes it a very stark read.  It is very sad but I think it is necessary to know what is going on in the poorest parts of society.  Once again in reading this book I was struck by how often male sexual violence towards women and children is considered to be an everyday thing.  I hate knowing that there are women who have to submit to being raped because they are told that it is her or her child.  Books like this just make me want to have a moratorium on men for a while.

06 Jun, 2018

Best Books I’ve Read in 2018 – So Far

/ posted in: Reading

We’re about halfway through the year so I decided to look back and see what I’ve loved so far this year.  As of this writing I’ve read 88 books according to Goodreads.  It has been a weird year for me so far.  I’ve been reading a lot of historical romance and I don’t remember the plot of those once I’m done so I don’t feel like I’ve read that much.  But looking back I’ve found quite a few books I’d recommend.

This is one of my favorites so far this year.  It is a story about an academically gifted girl who just immigrated to New York from Hong Kong.  She lives in extreme poverty with her mother while trying to find her way in school.  It is based on the author’s life.

This book is told in two timelines.  In the past a young Chinese woman flees from the ethnic cleansing of Seattle.  In the present a wealthy young white woman finds out about her family’s part in the racial violence.

This is a middle grade book but it is very cute.  A mixed race Indian-American girl is being raised by her white mother in the U.S. Her father went back to India before her mother knew she was pregnant and never responded to her attempts to contact him.  Now, for medical reasons, they need to find him.  It turns out that he changed his name and is a big Bollywood star. 

This is a unflinching look at life in the Kibera slum in Kenya and about the founding of SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities) that focuses on education for girls as a way to improve lives.


Cat Sebastian is a new to me author this year and is now absolutely an autobuy.  Her historical romances are full of queer and nonbinary people which makes them different from most of the other books in this genre.  Her writing is great and witty also.

I knew Alyssa Cole for her historical romances but this contemporary is wonderful.  It starts off with the idea of what if those “Nigerian prince” email scams really were an African prince’s staff trying to get in touch with you. 

A young woman who has been widowed twice decides to try to take control of her life away from her chaotic family but now there are questions about how her recently deceased husband actually died.

I liked this book for the character arc of the mother who starts the book trying to fit her daughter into a traditional life like she has lived but learns slowly to let go and let her daughter be herself. 

This is a book that combines a scientific look at therapeutic music with the personal story of a man who was a patient and a practitioner.


What have been your favorite reads so far this year?

04 Jun, 2018

Baby Elephant Fighting Crime!

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Baby Elephant Fighting Crime! The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan
on September 15th 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective
Published by Redhook
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Setting: India

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant. As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought. And he soon learns that when the going gets tough, a determined elephant may be exactly what an honest man needs...


I requested the first book of this series from the library as soon as I heard about a baby elephant helping in a detective agency.  Really, what more do you need?  Rush out and read this.

On his last day at work before his unwanted medical retirement, Inspector Chopra gets a letter saying that he has inherited a very special baby elephant from his uncle.  He hasn’t seen his eccentric uncle in years.  He has no idea why he had an elephant or even that his uncle had died.  He also has no idea why he would think Chopra would want an elephant.

That gets put out of his mind when he gets to work and finds a woman leading a protest in front of the station.  Her son died the night before and she knows that the police won’t investigate because they are too poor. He starts to look at the case but doesn’t get very involved because it is his last day and he won’t be able to follow through.

He doesn’t take to retirement well.  (Also the set up for the Indian series that starts with The Marriage Bureau for Rich People.)  He decides to go see what is going on with the case of the boy that died.  He realizes that no one is investigating so he decides to go have a look himself.  Soon he is splitting his time between trying to solve this crime and nursing this very sickly, very sad little elephant that was delivered to his apartment complex.

But how does a baby elephant help solve crimes, you ask?  Well, even a small elephant is an effective battering ram.  Elephants can also find people over long distances.  Ganesha is just a baby but his role increases in each book so far.

I’m not usually a fan of mysteries but this one is ok because even though his reason for investigating is mostly boredom and resentment at being made to give up his career, he is a real investigator and not just a busy body.  Well, I guess he starts out as a busy body but then formalizes it to be a real private investigator.  I’m not a fan of cozy mysteries with busy bodies messing up crime scenes.  I’m perfectly ok with elephants trompsing all over crime scenes.

		Baby Elephant Fighting Crime!
	The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown (Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #2) by Vaseem Khan 
on May 5, 2016
Pages: 353
Setting: India

For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess. So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone's principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man - and his elephant - can possibly crack this case...


I love the covers of these books. They are so cute and colorful. I’m usually indifferent to covers but I love these.


Mild spoiler for the end of the first book but not really – Chopra ends up opening a restaurant for policemen/detective agency office/place for Ganesha to live in the backyard at the end of book 1. The restaurant itself doesn’t play a huge role here but I’m claiming it for Foodies Read anyway because everyone needs to know about baby elephants.

Speaking of Ganesha, he considers himself a full-fledged part of the agency.  He has a special truck he rides around Mumbai in so he can go on stakeouts.  In this book he gets to go undercover in a circus performance and loves his sparkly costume.  He’s also making new friends at the restaurant and gets to help rescue one when he gets in trouble.

Meanwhile, Chopra is hired by an old colleague who was in charge of security for the Crown Jewels.  He’s been arrested and knows that he’s going to take the fall for this crime if the real criminals can’t be found. 

These books are fun.  I’m looking forward to reading more and seeing how this team learns to work together even more.

01 Jun, 2018

#BookBlogExpo – Most Anticipated Books

/ posted in: Reading

BookBlogExpo is being hosted at Girl Who Reads.

“Tell us all about the books you are most looking forward to this year (share even if your most anticipated book of the year has already come out).”

I am rubbish at knowing when books are going to come out.  I’m always amazed that people who say things like, “I’m starting a list of my most anticipated books of 2020.”  I don’t know what is coming out next week.  I like it that way.  Surprises are fun.  (I don’t look up what the weather is going to be ahead of time either for the same reason.)

But sometimes even I hear of books ahead of time.  Here are few that I have pre-ordered.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A SortabiographyAlways Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle

I’ve preordered this on Audible because I need to listen to him tell these stories. Eric Idle is my all time favorite. Coming out October 2.


Time's Convert (All Souls Universe, #1)



Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

I reread Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy at least once a year. I’ve been following the television show production on social media. This is a new book coming out about a secondary character in the original trilogy. So excited. Coming out September 25.


Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World, #1)Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I loved her prize-winning short story, WELCOME TO YOUR AUTHENTIC INDIAN EXPERIENCE, so I ordered this book.

“While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last—and best—hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much larger and more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel to the rez to unravel clues from ancient legends, trade favors with tricksters, and battle dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the disappearances, she will have to confront her past—if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.”

Comes out June 26.

A Duke in Disguise (Regency Imposters, #2)A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian

I got nothing on this one except it comes to my iPad in November. I love Cat Sebastian’s Regency romances featuring queer characters. I don’t know what this is about but she’s an autobuy now.

31 May, 2018

#BookBlogExpo – Bookstores

/ posted in: Reading

Book Blog Expo is being hosted by Donna at Girl Who Reads.

“Do you head straight to the new releases or bargain rack? Do you spend hours perusing the mysteries or perhaps you can’t drag yourself out of the young adult section? Or is there something unique about your local indie bookshop that makes it a must stop every time you pass it? Whether you shop in a brick and mortar or an online bookstore, what is your favorite section? Consider discussing the genre itself or providing a list of favorite (or recent) finds.”

I’m pretty sure I’m going to have the unpopular opinion here but:

I can’t stand bookstores

I’m a library girl.  There is nothing that a bookstore does that isn’t better at a library.

  • The books are better organized.  I don’t want to guess where you shelved a book.  Give me the Dewey Decimal System any day.
  • There is a better selection.  I love backlist and obscure writers. I don’t care if you have 25 million copies of the latest best seller. 
  • I’m too cheap for bookstores.  Libraries give me all the books I want for me.  I couldn’t afford my book habit if I had to buy them all.
  • I’m a minimalist.  When you buy a book then you have to figure out how to get rid of it.  The library will take it back.  When I buy books I want an ebook so I don’t have store a physical copy.

Pretty much the only books I buy are books that are recommended on Twitter that my library doesn’t have.  Since my library is pretty well networked that doesn’t turn out to be a a lot of books.  They are mostly romances that are only available as ebooks. 

Is it just me that doesn’t enjoy a bookstore? 

31 May, 2018

May 2018 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

One of my goals this month was to participate in Asian Lit Bingo.  Here are the books I read that had either Asian authors, main characters, or both.  They needed to have both to actually count.  You got one point per book and an extra point for own voices books. 

1 point for Once upon a Marquess and 2 points each for Picture Us in the Light, Abby Spencer, Mambo in Chinatown, Girl in Translation, Jewel in the Crown and Inspector Chopra – 13 points plus 4 reviews =17 points

Here are the other books I read this month:

The books were:

  • 0 nonfiction – I don’t feel like that is true because of bathroom reading.  I hear that people keep short, generally funny books in the bathroom for light reading.  Right now in my house we have a history of the Roman occupation of Gaul in one bathroom and a hefty history of The Silk Route in the other.  I think we are doing this wrong.
  •  0 audio books because I started from the beginning of The West Wing Weekly podcast and I’m only on season 4 right now.  Not listening to audiobooks has really dropped my monthly book totals
  • Set in England, India, and the U.S.

The authors were:

  • 4 unique white women, 1 African-American woman, 1 Indian man, 1 Indian woman, 2 East Asian women, and 1 biracial woman

Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

  • Read a nonfiction book about the country – or
  • Read fiction written by a native of the country or someone living for a long time in the country.

Nothing added this month.  Boring!




30 May, 2018

#BookBlogExpo – Introductions & How to Network

/ posted in: Reading

Book Blog Expo is being hosted by Donna at Girl Who Reads.

“Since networking starts with an introduction, we will roll these topics into 1 post. Gives us the 411 on you – who, what, where, when, why and how. Who are you, What do you blog, Where do you blog (also share where to find you on social media), When did you start blogging, Why do you blog, How do you go about your blogging and being involved in the book community (how do you network).”

Introduction posts are always hard.  You have to find a way to say familiar things in way that is interesting for both followers and new people.

My name is Heather.  I’m in Ohio.


I’m an old lady blogger. I’ve been blogging since before it was cool. (Was it ever cool? I don’t think so.) I started blogging in 2004 and moved to this site in 2005. I started out talking about my life and animals and stuff. Eventually there got to be less and less stuff I could talk about because of privacy issues so I talk mostly about books now. Get more background on the Meet the Cast page.

I read all types of books except westerns (I nitpick the horse stuff) and cozy mysteries (I want the amateur detectives to go to jail for impeding an investigation).  I really like books about food and I run a monthly linkup about it called Foodies Read

Besides book stuff, I sometimes write about travel or current events that make me mad or quilting. 

Why do I blog?  I started blogging because I was married to a person who didn’t like to listen to my thoughts on anything so I started writing as an outlet.  Why do I continue since that isn’t the case anymore?  I still like to air my opinions on things that most people wouldn’t care about.  Most people IRL wouldn’t care about my in-depth opinion about the book I just read. 


But if you find the right people online they will. 


I don’t think I’m very good at networking.  I’m most active on Twitter.  That’s where I hang out with most of the book people.  Litsy bored me to tears.  I tried to do bookstagram but got bored with that too.  I mostly post other things to instagram.  I don’t connect Facebook to my blog at all because most people IRL don’t know I have the blog. 

I like special events like this one to meet new people.  I went to BEA once.  I helped with Armchair Book Expo for a few years.  I like monthly themed reading events like #AsianLitBingo. 

What I’d love to see is an active and engaged community of adult book lovers that is as enthusiastic as the YA community. 

Where to find me:



29 May, 2018

All Four Stars

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading All Four Stars All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
on July 10th 2014
Pages: 288
Genres: Fiction
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: New York

Gladys Gatsby has dreamed of becoming a restaurant critic for New York's biggest newspaper--she just didn’t expect to be assigned her first review at age 11. Now, if she wants to meet her deadline and hang on to her dream job, she’ll have to defy her fast-food-loving parents, cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy, and battle Manhattan’s meanest maitre d’.


Gladys loves food.  She loves to read about it, cook it, and eat it.  Her parents don’t care about food at all.  They pick up dinner from fast food restaurants every night.  If they do try to cook, they believe that everything can be cooked just as well in a microwave as on a stove or oven.

Because of this Gladys as been cooking in secret for years.  She gets caught the day that her parents come home early just as she sets the kitchen curtains on fire while trying to crisp the top of a creme brulee. 

Now she’s in trouble.  Cooking is forbidden for six months and/or until she makes some friends and gets involved with what her parents consider normal kids’ activities. 

She’s trying to comply but when her entry into a newspaper essay contest in confused for a job application for a freelance food writer, she gets an assignment to review a dessert restaurant.  Now she has to find a way to get to New York City from Long Island for her chance to make it big.

This book was really cute.  It would appeal to anyone who is more into food than the people around them.  If your family doesn’t understand why full fat is better to cook with than nonfat or why you can’t use coffee shop sweetener packets instead of sugar when baking, then you understand Gladys’ troubles. 

My only complaint is that I wish there were recipes for the desserts she made.

28 May, 2018

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Bookish LifeReading


Finished This Week



I also read a short story included with Tricks for Free called:

The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork


What Am I Reading?

I’m halfway through this one.  I have a wild guess as to what happened.


Marianne is stuck in a loveless, unhappy marriage. After forty-one years, she has reached her limit, and one evening in Paris she decides to take action. Following a dramatic moment on the banks of the Seine, Marianne leaves her life behind and sets out for the coast of Brittany, also known as the end of the world.

Here she meets a cast of colorful and unforgettable locals who surprise her with their warm welcome, and the natural ease they all seem to have, taking pleasure in life s small moments. And, as the parts of herself she had long forgotten return to her in this new world, Marianne learns it s never too late to begin the search for what life should have been all along. “








25 May, 2018

You’re a Lovely Person but I Hate Your Books

/ posted in: Book DiscussionReading

Once upon a time when the internet was young, I loved a blog called Faster Than Kudzu.  It was funny.  It was insightful.  It belonged to Jocelyn Jackson, who is an author.  I would follow along on her blog as she was writing her next book.  She’d go on writing retreats.  The book would be submitted.  It would finally come out.  I was excited.  I watched this sweet little book being born. 

Then I would read the book. 

And I wouldn’t like it. 

It happened over and over.  Her books are much darker than her real life (or blog persona).  I gave up trying to read her books when in one the main character shoots her dog by accident.  She was aiming for her ex.  I had to sit myself down and forceably remember that she loved her dog in real life and would never hurt him so I didn’t hate her forever.  (Note that I was fine with the character shooting at her ex.)  It was my first experience with loving the author but not loving the book.  


Sadly, she shut down her blog a few years ago.  I miss it.  I haven’t picked up her latest books.

But she isn’t the only writer who I’ve watched birth books (and babies and lives) that I then didn’t enjoy reading.  With social media it happens more and more often.  I follow a bunch of authors on Twitter.  There are several whose tweets I love that I’ve tried to read a few times but haven’t enjoyed the books.  They would post times when their books were going on sale and I’d buy them.  I figured I liked their writing/tweeting so I want to support them.  I got maybe a chapter or two in and realized that it just wasn’t going to work for me.  I’d be bored. Then I feel like a bad internet friend.  

I’m not going to be naming names of the people I still follow and sometimes interact with but **whispers** I haven’t finished their books.  I feel bad enough already.

Do you have those authors in your life or am I just the worst internet friend ever?


24 May, 2018

Naked Protein

/ posted in: Reading

If you are ever looking to irritate a vegetarian, (And why would you want to do that?  We’re lovely folk.) the best way to do it is to sidle up and ask where we get our protein.  There is something about hearing that a person is a vegetarian that turns random bystanders who live on a diet of potato chips and ramen noodles into nutritional experts.  After this many years I have answers for this perennial favorite question.

Options depending on my mood:

  1. Protein deficiency is a rare condition in people who are getting adequate caloric intake because of … science, science, science until their eyes glaze over.
  2. Gorillas are vegetarians with a similar digestive tract to humans and they don’t have any problems with muscle mass.
  3. If you are really interested I can give you information about (insert athletes from NFL players to bodybuilders to runners who have written about their diets.)
  4. Do I LOOK like I’m wasting away to you?  (This works best if like me you are a fat vegetarian.)

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve been immune to the lure of protein powders.  I’ve used protein powders in smoothies before because it seemed like the thing you do.  It is an easy way to increase your nutrition especially if you’ve been eating a terrible diet the rest of the time.  I don’t use them routinely though.

When Naked Nutrition contacted me to offer their protein powder for review, I chose to try the brown rice version.  It is vegan.  It isn’t made with a lot of extraneous ingredients – hence the Naked label.


At first, I planned on just trying it in a smoothie.  But here’s the thing.  I’m terrible at smoothies.  I buy bananas and spinach intending to make smoothies every morning.  I get lazy.  I’m not sure why I think making a smoothie is such hard labor when I’ll gladly cook something instead but I’m not pretending to be logical.  Then the bananas go bad so I throw them away.  Then I buy more.  Basically I’m just subsiding the organic banana industry and taking bananas on a drive from the store to my house before they go in the trash.

I did manage one smoothie though.  My go to smoothie recipe is pretty basic.  I do a banana, frozen fruit, spinach, and coconut milk.  When I add protein powder it always makes it taste chalky to me.  Maybe I need to add more ingredients to cover up the taste.  When I used the Naked protein powder it was still slightly chalky but not as strong as others I’ve tried.

So then I decided to try the protein powder in different forms since I’d never remember to make enough smoothies to use up the whole container.

Test 1 – Rice Crispy Treats

The Bigman’s World  was my inspiration for this.  I used his Cake Batter Rice Crispy Treats recipe.  It is just rice cereal, protein powder, maple syrup, and peanut butter.  I put mine in a loaf pan instead of muffin tins and I didn’t make the glaze that he recommends.   See his recipe for proportions and directions. 
These are amazing.  They don’t taste like rice krispie treats to me though.  They taste like no bake cookies.  Maybe that’s because I’m not used to having peanut butter in my rice krispie treats so my brain interprets these in another way.  For my next batch I’m going to try mixing in some cocoa powder and then they will taste just like no bake cookies.  The protein powder taste disappeared totally in this recipe.  This is a winner.  The only problem that I had was that it took my batch overnight to set up.

Test 2 – Apple Dip

For this I combined a lot of recipes I’ve seen for sweet bean dips.


  • 15 oz Canned white beans drained
  • 1 scoop Protein Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla
  • Nondairy milk as needed to thin


  1.  Combine all ingredients except milk in high speed blender.

  2.   Add in milk a small amount at a time to thin to desired consistency.

This is like protein overload.  Beans, protein powder, and peanut butter?  I didn’t want the peanut butter in it because I’m not a huge fan but it wasn’t tasting like much of anything without it.  This also tasted better after a day in the fridge.

Test 3 – Mocha Drink

So if I’m not a huge fan of protein powder in cold drinks, what about hot ones?  I’ve been making this concoction when I want to feel good about myself for not wasting money at Starbucks.  I decided to add protein powder to it.


  • 1 scoop Protein Powder
  • 1 packet Hot Chocolate mix
  • 1 cup Coffee
  • 1 cup Nondairy milk
  • LOTS Whipped Cream optional, I suppose


  1.  Mix together the protein powder and however much of your hot chocolate mix is recommended for 1 cup of hot chocolate.

  2.   Add coffee.  I use a Keurig and select the large cup size.

  3.   Add the nondairy milk.  I don't heat mine because I like it to cool down the coffee.  You can get fancier if you like. 

  4.   Add on a slab of whipped cream because you know you want to.  


This was amazing. No chalkiness at all.  Now I can pretend that I am both frugal and healthy (if I leave off the whipped cream and the caramel sauce that I’ve been known to drizzle on this.)  100% will make again.


Thanks to Naked Nutrition for sending me the Naked Rice powder.  

22 May, 2018

Girl in Translation

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Girl in Translation Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
on April 29th 2010
Pages: 290
Genres: Fiction
Published by Riverhead
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: New York

When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family’s future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition. Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.
Through Kimberly’s story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about.
Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.


This book is heartbreaking.  From the beginning you just want to hug these characters and beat up anyone who wants to harm them.  It is immediately obvious that the author is writing about her life.  The details that are included about living in extreme poverty in a condemned building while relying on an illegal job that pays pennies for piecework have to come from lived experience and not research.

I was ready to fight the evil Aunt who oh so generously brings her little sister and niece to the U.S. and then knowingly dumps them in these conditions.  She pretends to be helping them SO MUCH out of the KINDNESS OF HER HEART while leaving them in a building with no heat.  She underpays them and then manages to steal back a lot of the money they earned.  She needed somebody to whup her.

Even people who were nice to them did not have the ability to understand what was happening to them.  One of her friends started to see but asked her wealthy parents and was assured that she must have the situation confused because no one lives like that.

This is a story that anyone who thinks that immigrants get handed new lives in the United States needs to read.  This is a story that wealthy people who think that children and poor people don’t work dangerous jobs that defy labor laws in the U.S. need to read. 

21 May, 2018

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Bookish LifeReading


Finished This Week



What Am I Reading?

“For centuries the Koh-i-Noor diamond has set man against man and king against king. Now part of the British Crown Jewels, the priceless gem is a prize that many have killed to possess. So when the Crown Jewels go on display in Mumbai, security is everyone’s principal concern. And yet, on the very day Inspector Chopra visits the exhibition, the diamond is stolen from under his nose. The heist was daring and seemingly impossible. The hunt is on for the culprits. But it soon becomes clear that only one man – and his elephant – can possibly crack this case…

More baby elephant mysteries!  How could I resist?

“Some people would call Lowryland the amusement park. It’s one of the largest in Florida, the keystone of the Lowry entertainment empire…but for Annie, it’s a place to hide. She’s just trying to keep her head down long enough to come up with a plan that will get her home without getting anyone killed. No small order when she’s rooming with gorgons and sylphs, trying to placate frustrated ghosts, and rushing to get to work on time.

Then the accidents begin. The discovery of a dead man brings Annie to the attention of the secret cabal of magic users running Lowryland from behind the scenes. They want the fire that sleeps in her fingers. They want her on their side. They want to help her—although their help, like everything else, comes with a price.”






16 May, 2018

Dread Nation

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Dread Nation Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 455
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Published by Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead. But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose. But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies. And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.


When  the bodies of the dead come back and attack people, the fighting in the Civil War stops. What doesn’t stop is the racism that was inherent in the United States. Now, 20 years after the shamblers first appeared, black children are taken and trained for combat duty.

The system replicates the hierarchy of slavery.  “Better” girls are trained in elite schools to be bodyguards to wealthy white women. They guard them from shamblers and serve as chaperones as the white ladies socialize.  Other girls end up working in the fields clearing shamblers as they approach towns.  Those people don’t have a long life span.

For me the story got most interesting when Jane and some companions are sent west to a planned community run by a pastor and his son, the sheriff.  Everything is set up for the safety and protection of white families but it is all run on the forced labor of black people.  The white overseers are so terrified of their black charges that they deliberately undermine their ability to fight shamblers by not giving them adequate weapons thus weakening the defenses of the whole town.  They won’t listen to the advice and expertise of black women until it is literally life or death.

This book didn’t interest me as a zombie/horror story.  It was at its best when showing off the absurdities of racism.  From phrenology to tell who is white and who is black to medical experimentation on unwilling black people to unequal distribution of assets this book highlights many aspects of systemic racism by placing them in a fantasy setting where people should be more interested in working together for survival than upholding an arbitrary hierarchy.

15 May, 2018

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk

/ posted in: Reading The Girl Who Wrote in Silk The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
on July 7th 2015
Pages: 391
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark

The smallest items can hold centuries of secrets...
Inara Erickson is exploring her deceased aunt's island estate when she finds an elaborately stitched piece of fabric hidden in the house. As she peels back layer upon layer of the secrets it holds, Inara's life becomes interwoven with that of Mei Lein, a young Chinese girl mysteriously driven from her home a century before. Through the stories Mei Lein tells in silk, Inara uncovers a tragic truth that will shake her family to its core — and force her to make an impossible choice.
Inspired by true events, Kelli Estes's brilliant and atmospheric debut serves as a poignant tale of two women determined to do the right thing, and the power of our own stories.


This book is absolutely tragic. I read it in one day and then it took me a while to break out of the emotional dead space this left me in.

This is a story about the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Basically, a lot of Chinese immigrants came to the West Coast of the U.S. to build railroads. When that work was finished, many towns decided that they didn’t want Asian people living there anymore. Mobs would form to force Asian people away from their homes with just what they could gather rapidly and carry.  Other towns just murdered their Asian inhabitants. This history isn’t as well known as it should be.  I read about it in detail for the first time in Sundown Towns.

This book is set during the ethnic cleansing of Seattle. Mei Lein and her family are forced onto a boat supposedly heading for China. When they suspect that the ship’s captain is up to no good, her father throws her overboard near an island because she can swim. It is remote enough that she is able to mostly hide with the white man who finds her but she is still treated horribly by the others on the island.

The second timeline in this book takes place in modern times. The daughter of a wealthy white family wants to develop her family’s island vacation home into a hotel. She finds an embroidered sleeve hidden in the stairs. The embroidery tells a graphic story of Chinese people being killed. In attempting to find out about the sleeve, she starts to uncover her family’s part in the ethnic cleansing of Seattle.

This book was written by a white woman. Some people may have a problem with the historical part of the story not being told by an Asian person. I think where this book shines though is in pointing out all the ways in which white people try to avoid looking at the impact of racism.

In the historical sections when Mei Lein can point out people who were there when her family was rounded up, the white person who is helping her has a hard time believing her. They are his neighbors. They’ve always been nice to him.

In the present Mara’s first instinct is to hide evidence that reflects poorly on her family. Other family members don’t want to hear that their inherited wealth is based in racist acts.

This is absolutely relevant to today where people are trying to decide on the legacy of historical people and people in our own families who have been found to be involved in hideous behavior.