03 Jul, 2015

Bath Abbey

/ posted in: Photostravel

There has been a church in Bath since the 7th century. This building was built in the 12th century. In the early 1500s it was left to decay and most of the expensive decorations were stripped out of it. By the end of that century a decision was made to preserve it. A major restoration started in the 1860s.

The building is famous for its vaulted ceiling.

I didn’t enjoy visiting churches in England as much as I like churches in Catholic countries. There is a very different aesthetic. The Catholic cathedrals are over the top with decorations paid for by taking money from people but at least they are pretty. The churches in England just aren’t.

There are pretty details but the overall look is cluttered. There are 617 wall memorials and 847 floor stones.

I also feel like I shouldn’t be walking on ancient engraved stones but that is the whole floor.

Bath Abbey isn’t as overdone as Westminster. I was really disappointed with that church. When we came to a less memorial-laden part, I whispered to my mother. “I’m going to say something offensive.”

She said, “Go on.”

“This feels like what happens when a hoarder gets a fancy pretty new house and then fills it up with crap they bought off the Home Shopping Channel.”

“It also wouldn’t hurt if they dusted it occasionally,” she added.

I’m a minimalist through and through. I do love the eagle though.

They did have a very nice display of quilts on the side. They were paired with paintings done by the same artist.

02 Jul, 2015

Shifting Shadows

/ posted in: Reading Shifting ShadowsShifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs
(Website, Twitter)Also by this author: Hunting Ground, Fair Game
on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Fiction
ISBN: 0425265005
Pages: 450
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
"Shapeshifter Mercy Thompson has friends in high places--and in low, dark, scary ones. And in this must-have collection of stories, you'll meet new faces and catch up with old acquaintances--in all their forms... In a time of fresh starts, Mercy is asked to use an old talent--ghost hunting--in the all-new story "Hollow." You'll learn what happens when an ancient werewolf on his last legs befriends a vulnerable adolescent ("Roses in Winter") and how Mercy's friend Samuel Cornick became a werewolf ("Silver"). The werewolf Ben finds "Redemption," and Moira, a blind witch, assists on a search in "Seeing Eye." From Butte, Montana, the copper-mining town that vampire Thomas Hao calls home ("Fairy Gifts"), to Chicago, where the vampire Elyna buys and renovates the apartment she lived in while human ("Gray"), you'll travel the roads that originated with Mercy Thompson and the fertile imagination of Patricia Briggs. Roads that will lead you to places you've never been before..."--Provided by publisher.

I’d seen this book around at the library and was waiting to read it when I ran out of the Mercy Thompson series and the Alpha and Omega series.

I finally decided to listen to it when I realized that it has “Alpha and Omega” in it. That is the story that starts the series and isn’t included in the books.  I’m not usually a big short story fan but I really like this world.

Some of the stories aren’t directly related to the book series.  Some look at the world from the viewpoint of minor characters.

“Seeing Eye” tells the story of how Seattle’s white witch Moira meets Tom, the werewolf who will become her mate.

“Silver” tells the story of how Bran and Samuel became werewolves and how they met Arianna, the fae woman they were made to torture and finally rescue.

“Gray” is the story of a vampire who buys and renovates the apartment she was living in when she was turned and has to confront the ghost that lives there.

“In Red, with Pearls” is a story about Warren, a werewolf who has become a private investigator for his boyfriends law firm.  He has to investigate why a zombie was sent after his boyfriend.

“Redemption” is from Ben’s point of view.  He’s a British werewolf who was sent to the U.S. because he was in trouble with the law.  He hates women so he doesn’t understand why he feels like he has to help protect a secretary at his office.

There are also a couple of outtakes – deleted scenes from some of the published novels.

This is a great book to read if you’ve read all of the other novels.  The only exception to that is maybe reading Alpha and Omega before starting that series.

About Patricia Briggs

“Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson series, lives in Washington State with her husband, children, and a small herd of horses. She has written 17 novels to date. Briggs began her career writing traditional fantasy novels, the first of which was published by Ace Books in 1993, and shifted gears in 2006 to write urban fantasy. ” from her website

30 Jun, 2015

Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year

/ posted in: Reading



Most Recommended Book

This is the book I’ve recommended the most in blog comments this year whenever anyone asks where to start with diversity or scifi books set in South America or anywhere I can make it fit.

The Summer PrinceThe Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

My review

Best Series Binge Read This Year

It’s a tie!

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1)Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

Charles insists that not only is Anna his mate, but she is also a rare and valued Omega wolf. And it is Anna’s inner strength and calming presence that will prove invaluable as she and Charles go on the hunt in search of a rogue werewolf—a creature bound in magic so dark that it could threaten all of the pack.

My review of Cry Wolf

Written in Red (The Others, #1)Written in Red by Anne Bishop

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut—a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg’s Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard—a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she’s keeping a secret, and second, she doesn’t smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she’s wanted by the government, he’ll have to decide if she’s worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

My review of Written in Red

A Feminist Romance Author I’ve Been Loving

The Suffragette Scandal (Brothers Sinister, #4)The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Miss Frederica “Free” Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women’s rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope…but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.

My review of The Suffragette Scandal

Rare 5 Star Fiction

DietlandDietland by Sarai Walker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls’ magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin.

Then, when a mysterious woman starts following her, Plum finds herself falling down a rabbit hole and into an underground community of women who live life on their own terms. There Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with her past, her doubts, and the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerrilla group called “Jennifer” begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.

My review of Dietland

Best Historical Nonfiction

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa ParksThe Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Presenting a corrective to the popular notion of Rosa Parks as the quiet seamstress who, with a single act, birthed the modern civil rights movement, Theoharis provides a revealing window into Parks’s politics and years of activism. She shows readers how this civil rights movement radical sought—for more than a half a century—to expose and eradicate the American racial-caste system in jobs, schools, public services, and criminal justice.

My review of The Rebellious Life of Mrs Rosa Parks

Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 by Lynne Olson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is due — to the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.

My review of Freedom’s Daughters

A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating OpportunityA Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With scrupulous research and on-the-ground reporting, the authors assay the art and science of giving, identify successful local and global initia­tives, and share astonishing stories from the front lines of social progress. We see the compelling, in­spiring truth of how real people have changed the world, upending the idea that one person can’t make a difference.

My review of A Path Appears

Best Translated Book

The Rabbit Back Literature SocietyThe Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: a young literature teacher named Ella.

Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as “The Game”? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried for years start to come to light. . . .

My review of Rabbit Back Literature Society

Book I’m Making My Husband Read

Loving DayLoving Day by Mat Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl, Tal, is his daughter, and she’s been raised to think she’s white.

My review of Loving Day

29 Jun, 2015


/ posted in: Reading DietlandDietland by Sarai Walker
on May 26th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 320
The diet revolution is here. And it's armed. Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you're fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls' magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin. But when Plum notices she's being followed by a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots, she finds herself falling down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House, a community of women who live life on their own terms. Reluctant but intrigued, Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with the real costs of becoming "beautiful." At the same time, a dangerous guerilla group begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her own personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive. Part coming-of-age story, part revenge fantasy, Dietland is a bold, original, and funny debut novel that takes on the beauty industry, gender inequality, and our weight loss obsession--from the inside out, and with fists flying.

I very rarely give out five stars to books but I loved this book! There is so much food for thought here.

Plum has been fat all her life.  During her teenage years she spent time in a Jenny Craig-like program run by a woman called Eulaya Baptist.  She ordered the meals and went to the meetings.  The Baptist Program promised that she would be thin in 9 months.  Before the 9 months were up, Eulaya Baptist died unexpectedly and her daughter shut down the programs.

Now, years later, Plum thinks her only option is a gastric bypass.  Then her real life can being.

But she notices a woman following her for several days.  One day the woman leaves a book for her called Adventures in Dietland by Verena Baptist, the same woman who ruined her life by shutting down The Baptist Program.

Verena inherited a fortune from her mother’s empire and sometimes now she tries to help people who were hurt by her mother’s weight loss program.  She offers Plum $20,000 if she agrees to go through her New Baptist Program before committing to surgery.  She gets to keep the money at the end regardless of her decision.  Plum decides that she has nothing to lose.

Meanwhile a series of revenge crimes against men who have hurt women are being reported.  An individual or group called Jennifer is taking responsibility.  The cable news shows are obsessed with finding out the identity of Jennifer.

Rapists are being killed.  People are being kidnapped and held until British newspapers replace the Page Three topless girls with naked men.  (London tourism booms when this happens.)

It all becomes personal for Plum when someone she knows becomes the first suspect.

Have you read this book?  I’d love to discuss it.

  • Are Jennifer’s actions justified?

I’m not a fan of violence for any reason but I understand the thinking behind it.

  • Are women guilty of thinking that they have to be attractive to be important?
  • Why would Jennifer target a porn star in addition to the men?  To me she seemed like a survivor and a person who was making a good life for herself outside of porn.
28 Jun, 2015

Loving Day

/ posted in: Reading Loving DayLoving Day by Mat Johnson
(Website)on May 26th 2015
Genres: Fiction
ISBN: 9780812993455
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
In the ghetto there is a mansion, and it is my father's house.

Warren Duffy is back in Philadelphia to look after his inheritance - a decrepit historic mansion that his father bought with hopes of repairing. He is getting divorced from his wife in Wales and his comic book shop has gone under. Now he finds out that he has a teenage daughter and she has no idea that she is part black.

Finding out you have a daughter is tough. It is even worse when she turns out to be racist.

Warren is a very light skinned black man.

(I understand this quote. My husband is of Southern European origin and grew up partially in the South. He was considered too dark for some company. I totally don’t get it. I look at him and see generic white guy. I’m passing this book on to my husband to see what he thinks.)

Warren is approached by a woman at a comic convention who asks him why he identifies as black when he is equally white.  She is from a mixed race group called Melange. Warren and his daughter Tal get more and more involved with them as Warren tries to overcome his daughter’s racist understanding of the world.

As Warren gets more involved with Melange he starts to wonder if it has been correct to always emphasize his black heritage and never his white ancestors. This doesn’t sit well with some of his friends. America has always worked on the One Drop rule – one drop of black blood and you are black. They think that embracing your European side is something only self hating black people do.

In the meantime, his house is falling down around him; he is dreaming of arson; the woman he’s interested in is not as interested in him; and he either has an infestation of ghosts or crackheads.

Loving Day is a comic novel that touches on many deep issues about race in America today.

  • How do we define ourselves and how does that change us?
  • How does our identity affect our relationships with other people?
  • Will any group segregate if left to its own devices?

About Mat Johnson

Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Loving Day, Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. He is a recipient of the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellowship, The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection, and the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature.

Mat Johnson is a Professor at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.
-from his website

26 Jun, 2015

The Pump Room and Thermae Spa

/ posted in: travel

Tea at the Pump Room was the first thing that we decided that we had to do on the Smut Tour.  After all, if you are going to do a tour of England to see everything you’ve read about in Regency Romances, you HAVE to go to the Pump Room.

The building was built at the end of the 1700s and was a gathering place for members of high society.  It is discussed in Jane Austin’s books and any other Regency book that takes place in Bath.

We had the champagne tea which was completely wasted on us because we don’t like champagne but it was part of the Spas Ancient and Modern Package that we had.

The food was ok. The sandwiches were sandwiches. It is hard to make those exciting. The scones were very good and inspired me to make some when I got home. The desserts were good but so sweet that it actually hurt your teeth to eat them. I didn’t think I’d actually ever use those words but I could only take a few bites of each. The tea was incredibly good though. I’m not a huge tea fan. It mostly tastes like weakly flavored hot water to me. We had the pump room blend and it was amazing. We had to figure out how to work it since it came with filters and things. We are so American. I also now know that I take two lumps in my tea in case I’m ever transported to a Victorian drawing room and need to have an answer to that question.

There was a pianist playing when we were there. His playlist included a lot of Elton John and the Muppet Show theme.

There is a fountain in an alcove where you can drink the famous spa water.

In my Bill Bryson audiotour of the Roman Baths next door he said that whoever decided to drink this water was a bad person. I’ve been to other spa towns like French Lick Indiana where the water is mostly sulfur so I was prepared to be very brave when trying the water.

It tastes like water. Supposedly it has 43 minerals and all kinds of stuff in it but it tastes like normal hot water. I was sort of disappointed.


That night we went to the Thermae Spa.  It is a new spa that lets you bathe in the thermal water that Bath is famous for.  Our package was for 2 hours.  When you get there you are given slippers, a towel, and a robe.  One floor is a bunch of cubicles where you change into a bathing suit and then stash your stuff in lockers.

Downstairs is the Minerva pool.  It is a warm pool with a small lazy river and massage jets.  Everyone gets a blue pool noodle to float around with.  After walking all over London and dragging around suitcases it was nice to just float in warm water for a while.

Upstairs there is an amazing steam room.  It is an open room with four round glass steam pods in it.
Each one was about 10 feet in diameter.  Each room has a different aromatherapy scent in it.  There are concrete benches around the walls of the steam pods.  These are the hottest steam rooms I’ve ever been in.  Sometimes the concrete was almost too hot to sit on.  I loved it.  Outside the steam pods there was a waterfall shower to cool off.  I would soak in pools for a while and then come here to warm up.  My mother doesn’t like steam rooms so she avoided it.

On the roof of the building in an outdoor pool.  This was the most crowded when we were here.  I didn’t like it as much so we went back to the Minerva pool.

This was a great way to spend a few hours relaxing in the middle of a vacation.

25 Jun, 2015

How to Annoy Your Non-Christian Friends on Facebook

/ posted in: Ranting and RavingReligion

Have you not caused enough non-Christian eye rolling and sighing lately?  Is it the wrong time of year to pull out your War Against Christmas gifs?  Try these helpful suggestions.

Be Holier Than Everyone Else

To quote the great St. Weird Al of Yankovic’s epistle to the masses–Amish Paradise – “I know that I’m a million times as humble as thou art.”

Some of the most effective posts using this technique are ones that imply you are ashamed of Jesus of you don’t share this post immediately.  It couldn’t possibly be that you aren’t interested in passing along stupid memes.  It means that you are denying Christ just like it said would happen in the Bible!

Thank God for Random Things

“I just took my car to the garage and my favorite mechanic was there!  God is SO GOOD!”

Let’s get this straight. God rearranged the entire universe so you wouldn’t have to interact with someone new?  Why didn’t he just make your car not break in the first place? Maybe you should send a cookie basket to the person who actually schedules the mechanics at your garage.

Claim Miracles

Your husband is in the hospital with a whole list of ailments?  After you list them all, immediately add “I give God all the thanks for this diagnosis!!”

Really? Did a set of these drop down on the foot of his bed – miraculously avoiding breaking his toes of course.?

Of course the 10 Commandments were written in English, silly!

If this didn’t happen, maybe you should add some medical professionals to your cookie basket buying list.

Aggressively Search Out the Bright Side

Find a Facebook friend who is having a bad time.  It has to be a real bad time like sudden onset of debilitating chronic illness, not just a vague “Prayers please” post.  Now everytime this friend posts something sad about her life blow up her comments with cheer.

Lines to get you started:

“Our God is bigger than this.”

“God has such a great plan for you.”

“You will have such a great testimony after this.”

“It’s just a flesh wound!” Maybe that’s something else….

Be secure in the knowledge that you are turning the thoughts of the non-Christians reading this to God. They are probably thinking that these are some really heartless things to say to someone who is suffering and if you God is so big why doesn’t he just fix it.  That would get people’s attention. But, they are thinking about Christianity!

My problem is that because of my former life I can understand the sentiment behind the trite phrases that conservative Christians use.  I don’t think that they understand how stupid and sometimes cruel most of it sounds to non-Christians though.

24 Jun, 2015

Actually Sewing

/ posted in: Quilting

Prepare to be shocked.

I’ve actually done some sewing.

I’ve made a few hedgehog faces for my Christmas quilt.

My mother gave me a bunch of my grandmother’s fabric. I want to make a quilt for my mother with her mother’s fabric. The problem is that it is all horribly ugly and some kind of cotton blend that is really rough. I’m thinking that it make it work I need to cut it up into really small pieces. I’m playing around with some small 9 patches. These finish at 3 inches. I’m thinking of setting them with alternating white squares. I’m not sure if I like it enough it commit to it yet though.

I just received a big box with a rainbow of solid fabrics.

I never use solids because I think they are boring and flat but I have an idea for a quilt that would require them. That’s why I need to stock up. Now I just have to map out the quilt design. I’m hoping I have enough here to make two quilts – one for me and one to give away. This project is everything I don’t do.

  • Solids
  • Working with a strict design
  • Making multiples of a design
  • Making a quilt for me

I don’t know what’s come over me.

I’ve even sewn a little more on my hexy quilt.  Hand sewing still really hurts my hand so I only let myself do a little a few times a week.  Someone who lives in this house recently inquired about the likelihood of this quilt being done by the time we are 50.  It might happen.

That’s row 4 of 10 being attached.

23 Jun, 2015

Fitness Tuesday – Pretzel Edition

/ posted in: Fitness



Every time I make big dietary changes I get convinced that I’m going to starve.

Spoiler alert – It hasn’t happened yet.

Since focusing on a gluten-free vegan diet, I’ve been feeling like a need to keep a supply of appropriate junk food close at hand.  It doesn’t make sense.  I never did that before.  But now I have to have gluten free pretzels in the car at all time.  Gluten free pretzels taste like regular pretzels that were burnt and have gone stale.  They are strangely addictive anyway.  I think I like to have something crunchy.

Earth Balance makes vegan white cheddar popcorn.  Not going to lie – the thought of never eating white cheddar popcorn again made me very sad and was the worst part of thinking about veganism.  I appreciate Earth Balance for trying but the problem with most fake cheese products is that they are made by people who don’t remember what cheese tastes like.  This is ok but tastes like garlic and not cheese.  Their cheese puffs are better.  Still not cheesy but they get delightfully stale like I like my puffs.

You would think that this embrace of junk food would be a bad thing.  Since I started this diet at the end of April, I’ve lost 11 lbs.  That weight I couldn’t seem to lose when I was trying and now it is melting off while I eat pretzels.  Life is not fair.

I haven’t even been working out all that much.  I haven’t been lifting at all.  My fitbit zip died after the trip to England.  I talked to customer support at Fitbit to try to fix it and they ended up sending me a new one so I’m back on track with that.

I need to get back in the swing of things and see how much weight I can lose if I am actually exercising and not eating my body weight in pretzels each week.


22 Jun, 2015

Troubled Waters

/ posted in: Reading Troubled WatersTroubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
(Website)on 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
ISBN: 0441019234
Pages: 391
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Zoe Ardelay has been living in the country ever since her father was exiled for giving advice that the King did not agree with.  Now her father is dead and immediately an adviser to the King appears to escort Zoe back to the city.  She has been chosen to be the King's fifth wife.

This isn't a request and Zoe has nothing keeping her in her village anymore.  She is numb and doesn't care what happens to her now.

In this fantasy world everyone is characterized by the element that they embody.  Zoe is coru.  Her element is water.  Every child is also given three blessings from strangers when they are five hours old.  The blessings are written on coins and are pulled randomly from a barrel in the temple.  People also pull blessings for themselves whenever they need guidance.

At first this seems like a typical parent dies/girl becomes queen out of no where story.  It doesn’t stay that way for long.  Zoe grew up in the city and as soon as she gets there she escapes.  She lives in a squatter’s camp on the banks of the river and learns how to make her own life.  Once her basic needs are met she starts to question what has happened since she and her father fled.  She knows that her mother was also part of a powerful family.  What has happened to them?

I liked the fact that Zoe changed from a very passive character at the beginning of this book to a woman who took charge of her own destiny.  Her father’s character also changed.  She saw him as a hero at the beginning and then she learns more and realizes that he wasn’t the man she thought he was.

I love the three blind woman who sit in the market square and give out knowledge.  People pay to ask questions.  If the woman feels that she gave more information than she received, she keeps the money.  If the questioner has information to share, she gives the money back.  Those three women know everything!

A good portion of this book focuses on building a life in the city and the squatter’s camp.  It seems like a peaceful, if tenuous, life with no extraneous belongings or responsibilities.  Zoe loves it.  When she starts asking questions and gets pulled back into the political life of the city she is very sad to let this life go.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book set in this world which features a character from this one who is a different element – air.

Joy’s review of the series so far



About Sharon Shinn

“I mostly write my fiction in the evenings and on weekends. It requires a pretty obsessive-compulsive personality to be as prolific as I’ve been in the past ten years and hold down a full-time job. But I do manage to tear myself away from the computer now and then to do something fun. I read as often as I can, across all genres, though I’m most often holding a book that’s fantasy or romance, with the occasional western thrown in.” from her website

Akata Witch
21 Jun, 2015

Akata Witch

/ posted in: Reading Akata WitchAkata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
on 2011-04
Genres: Young Adult
ISBN: 0670011967
Pages: 352
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she's albino. She's a terrific athlete, but can't go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing-she is a "free agent," with latent magical power. Soon she's part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?

Sunny is an American-born Nigeria girl who has been living in Nigeria for three years.  She isn’t accepted in school and is referred to as “akata” — a derogatory term for someone who is an American black person or any foreign black person who doesn’t fit in.  One night she is staring into a flame and sees a vision of the end of the world.  That’s her first clue that things are about to get weird.

Orlu is the only classmate of Sunny’s who seems to tolerate her.  He starts walking home with her and that brings her to the attention of his other friend Chichi.  She doesn’t go to school.  She lives with her mother in a small run down house filled with hundreds of books.

Chichi and Orlu are Leopard People — magic users.  Most of them come from families of Leopard People but they suspect that Sunny has power so they decide to test her to find out.  When she passes the test they take her to their teacher and all meet Sasha.  He’s an American who is in trouble for torturing a classmate with magic.  He’s been sent to Nigeria for punishment and hopefully some retraining.

The four children are grouped together to learn about their skills.  They find out that the ultimate goal of their training is for them to be able to work together to defeat a magical serial killer.

There is so much that I love about this book.

There is a wasp who makes sculptures out of chewed up paper.  If you don’t praise her enough for her creations she will sting you until she dies in a fit of artistic pique.

Everyone has a true face that is private and you need to be able to access it in order to reach the Leopard People’s village.

One of the most powerful people is the librarian because she holds all the knowledge.

The funky train is a magically powered bus driven by a man called Jesus’ General and covered in Christian signs that may or may not change to Islamic signs depending on where it is going.

Chittim is magical money.  Any time you learn a new skill or gain knowledge it falls from the sky at your feet.  I want this to happen.

I don’t know that the overall plot with the serial killer made a lot of sense.  It seemed like it wasn’t really necessary because so much was going on with just watching Sunny navigate her new world.  After not being thrilled with Okorafor’s recent The Book of Phoenix, I’m glad this one was a delight to read though.

19 Jun, 2015

The Roman Baths

/ posted in: travel


The first shrine at this site was built by the Celts who dedicated it to the goddess Sulis.  When the Romans invaded, they equated Sulis with Minerva and built a temple complex on the site.

Today the Roman part of the structure is below the modern street level.  The site is a combination of Roman ruins and excavations and 19th century buildings above it.

Entrance to the site includes a very good audio guide.  There are channels for kids to use and a separate one for adult commentary.  From the entrance you head out onto the 19th century balcony that overlooks the main pool on one side and Bath Abbey on the other.

The balcony is lined with statues of Roman people.

Both Julius Caesar and this tourist are displeased.

I was walking around the balcony taking pictures when I came across this sign.

This needs to be an option at ALL tourist destinations!

I punched 86 into my audioguide hoping that this meant what I thought it did. Yes! Bill Bryson’s voice came through giving his take on the baths. I followed his commentary for the rest of the time. I’m sure my mother was listening to fine grown up lectures about archeology while I heard about how much he loves petty curse tablets and the effects of coed naked bathing.

From the balcony you head down into the museum. Here you see the best of what was been dug up. It also explains how the baths and the temple complex appeared and functioned.

A decoration over the temple

It was crazy busy. We were there on a Thursday afternoon and it was hard to move in the museum. I know that if my husband had been there he wouldn’t have been able to handle the crowds. I don’t know if that is typical or if we got there at the same as a bunch of tours. I wouldn’t want to try it on a summer weekend.

At the end of the museum you get to walk through some of the partially excavated site and see this head of Minerva that was found in the 1700s.

Bill Bryson says she doesn’t look very nice at all.

Outside on the lower level you can walk past the pools and see the side rooms that housed the hot and cold pools.

This pool is so hot that people hung onto the rings on the side to stay out of the superheated center.

The water is green and you aren’t allowed to touch it. It is coming through the original lead pipes and people have gotten sick from various pathogens in the water. If you want to experience bathing in the waters you need to go to one of the modern spas that use the water from the aquifer through modern bore holes and plumbing.

King Bladud – legend says he and his pigs were cured of leprosy by bathing in the spring and mud on this site.

More Information

The Roman Bath Website
Discount Packages

Time Spent

1.5 to 2 hours if you listen to all of the commentary and look at everything

18 Jun, 2015

Adding a trip to Bath

/ posted in: travel

Bath vacation London

Our idea for a vacation to England started with the idea of going to Bath.  As the trip planning evolved, we decided to spend most of our time in London and take a side trip to Bath.

Here’s how we did it.

The trains from London to Bath leave from Paddington Station. Paddington also has an Underground Station so it is easily accessible from anywhere you are staying in London. There is a bit of a walk from the Underground portion of the station to the train station so pack light. (While you are at Paddington train station, check out the statue of Paddington Bear near the Number 1 train. You don’t need a ticket to get to it.)

Trains run often between the two stations — one or two an hour. It takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to get to Bath. I used to search the schedule.

You can buy tickets ahead of time if you know about when you want to go. That will save you money. I didn’t want to be tied to a time so we bought tickets the same day with a return on a specific date during Super Off Peak times. Peak time tickets are the most expensive and let you travel during rush hour. Off Peak is right before or after rush hour and Super Off Peak is late morning and early afternoon. On the weekday we traveled, Super Off Peak went until 4 PM.

In general seats aren’t assigned so you can sit anywhere you want. Some people pre-book assigned seats so if a seat has a paper ticket sticking up from it, don’t sit there.

The station in Bath is just south of the main touristy area. You can get taxis here or behind Bath Abbey to take you to your hotel. We used AirBnB to find a place about 1.2 miles from the station. Helpful hint – Once you get out of the tourist part, Bath is built on hills. Big Hills. Don’t think “It is just over a mile. We’ll walk.” Take a cab or else find yourself hiking a mountain while pulling luggage. Voice of experience here.

We bought the Spas Ancient and Modern Package for our first day in Bath. This got us discounted admission to The Roman Baths, champagne tea at the Pump Room, and two hours at the Thermae Spa. All these things are close to each other so it is easy to do even if you get to Bath in the early afternoon like we did.

Our Itinerary – Details to Follow

On Our First Afternoon

The Roman Baths
Champagne Tea at the Pump Room
Bath Abbey (These three are all next door to each other.)
Walk to The Circle and The Royal Crescent
Considered dinner at The Raven but it was so busy that we couldn’t get in
Two hours soaking at the Thermae Spa
Picked up some soup and microwavable rice at the Waitrose just past Bath Abbey because we were too tired to find a restaurant. Bath seems to close up fairly early at night at least in the central area.


Next Day

Day trip to Cardiff Wales

The Morning After – We dropped off our luggage at a hostel near the train station.  They keep bags for £3 a bag.

Jane Austin Center
The Fashion Museum at The Assembly Rooms
Lunch at The Raven – We got here when it first opened so we got in.
Headed back to London and arrived by 6 PM.

17 Jun, 2015

Books About a TV Universe

/ posted in: Reading

I’m a snob when it comes it reading books based on series I like. I’m not interested in reading anything that isn’t canon.

Canon – Anything that happens to a character that is part of the officially sanctioned story.


I think of it as “What Really Happened” even though it is all fiction anyway.  Fan fiction where people send characters careening off in different directions doesn’t interest me at all.

That’s why I was interested to hear about Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas’ plan to continue her story in a series of books.

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (Veronica Mars, #1)The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is not a simple missing person’s case. The house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.” from Goodreads

You can tell this book is by the writer of the series and the movie. The dialogue is similar and would probably sound even more familiar if you listened to the audio read by Kristen Bell.
I think it is accessible if you hadn’t seen the series but you may not understand exactly how all the characters fit into the overall story if you haven’t seen the show. There is enough intro of everyone here to remember who is who since it has been years since the show was on.


One of the main people who has embraced continuing stories after TV series is Joss Whedon.  There are graphic versions of life after Buffy, Angel, and Firefly.  The one story that I always wanted to read from Firefly is Shepherd Book’s backstory.  He is a holy man in the show who has a surprising knowledge of military tactics and ability to be violent if needed.

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale (Serenity, #3)Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale by Joss Whedon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of Serenity’s greatest mysteries is finally revealed in The Shepherd’s Tale, filling in the life of one of the show’s most beloved characters–Shepherd Book!

Who was Book before meeting Mal and the rest of the Serenity crew? How did he become one of their most trusted allies? And how did he find God in a bowl of soup?” from Goodreads

Like all graphic novels it felt way too short for my liking.  It gave the answers but it is a story that I would have loved to see in novel form.  There is a lot of room to develop it.  It feels just like an outline of a life but I’m glad to have even those answers.

Do you read anything based on TV shows or movies?  Fan fiction — yes or no?

16 Jun, 2015

Books I’m Looking Forward to This Summer

/ posted in: Reading


Today’s topic at The Broke and The Bookish is Top Ten Books on my summer TBR list.

I’m a mood reader and not a planner but there are some books that I am planning on reading this summer.



Armada – This is the sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, Ready Player One.  I’m nervous about this one.  Sequels to favorites can end in tears.  But Wil Wheaton is narrating the audiobook again and I’ll be getting this the minute it is released.

Lagoon – I don’t even know what this is about but it is Nnedi Okorafor so I’ll read it.  I’m waiting for it on reserve at the library.

Clean Sweep – I’m not a Ilona Andrews fan but a story about a bed and breakfast owner with a deadly broom is intriguing.  I’m going to have to buy this one I think because the library doesn’t have it.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – I know I’m late to the party on this one but I just found it at my neighborhood Little Free Library.

Loving Day – A man returns to the U.S. from Wales and finds that he has a daughter who doesn’t know that she is part black.  I’m on the list for this one at the library too.

The Soul of an Octopus – I love cephalopods.  If I was a biologist, I’d study them.  This is a nonfiction book about a person who did that.

The Star Side of Bird Hill – Two sisters are sent from Brooklyn to Barbados and see different aspects of the island.  Coming from the library soon.

Rebel Mechanics – I liked this author’s other series.  This is a retelling of the Revolutionary War where the British have magic and the colonists have inventions.  Coming out in July.

Guyana – The death of a friend leads a person to investigate her life which ties into the Jonestown Massacre.  This is a translation of a French-Canadian book.

Dietland – “The diet revolution is here.  And it’s armed.” Who can resist that description?

Have you read any of these?  What are you looking forward to reading?

15 Jun, 2015

Authors Who Love Africa

/ posted in: Reading

I recently read two books by authors whose deep love for countries in Africa shines through their writing.

The Book of Phoenix (Who Fears Death, #0.1)The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.” from Goodreads

I loved, loved, loved Who Fears Death. It was my favorite book I read in 2014. I was so excited that there was a prequel. Maybe my expectations were too high. I didn’t have the same love for this one.


The one thing that I kept feeling while reading this book was the author’s rage about how African people and their descendants have been treated. In this book all of the subjects of the medical experiments are African. In cause you are missing the reference to the history of medical experimentation on black people in the United States, one character is even named HeLa which will be familiar to anyone who has read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.


The only time Phoenix finds any peace is when she is living for a time in Ghana. It doesn’t last long but she feels loved and respected in Africa, unlike in North America. The author’s love for Africa comes through in the descriptions of the kindness of the people.


We Need New NamesWe Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Darling is only ten years old, and yet she must navigate a fragile and violent world. In Zimbabwe, Darling and her friends steal guavas, try to get the baby out of young Chipo’s belly, and grasp at memories of Before. Before their homes were destroyed by paramilitary policemen, before the school closed, before the fathers left for dangerous jobs abroad.

But Darling has a chance to escape: she has an aunt in America. She travels to this new land in search of America’s famous abundance only to find that her options as an immigrant are perilously few.” from Goodreads

I have mixed feelings about this book too.  This is more a series of episodes in Darling’s life than a story with a continuous plot.  Some of the stories are interesting like the joy children can find in imagination and play even when their circumstances are dire.  She talks about the distance that comes between childhood friends when one moves away.  She talks about American immigrants trying to balance the expectations of relatives in Africa with their lives in America.

But, there are other stories that are just weird.  Once in America Darling has a fascination with watching porn with her friends.  The book ends with a story about a dog being killed.  I didn’t need that.

The writing in the book could be wonderful though.  This is a description of being in Detroit during her first winter.

“When the snow falls it doesn’t even make a sound.  That’s why I am watching it — because it is just so sneaky.  You can wake up to find even more heaps and heaps of it without you ever hearing it.  How does something so big it shrouds everything come down just like that and you don’t even hear it coming? No sound — a crash, slam, bam, clatter, something, anything, so that this snow can carry a proper story.” pg 156


P1020717 copy
12 Jun, 2015

Trafalgar Square

/ posted in: travel
This is part of a series of posts about my vacation to Great Britain in May 2015.  Linking up with British Isles Friday.

At the end of our first full day in London, we had some time to kill after dinner so we wandered over to Trafalgar Square.

The most famous landmark in the square is Nelson’s Column.  It commemorates Lord Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  The column was built between 1840 and 1843.  The bronze lions were added later.  All the bronze is made from French and Spanish cannons used in the battle.

The Fourth Plinth is a column in the square that doesn’t have a statue on it permanently. Since 1999 it has been used to showcase modern art. Since March 2015, Gift Horse has been on display.


Yes, that is a metal horse skeleton with a working ticker tape tied in a bow around its leg. Take from that what you will.

After having a quick look around the square, we headed to our ultimate evening destination.



10 Jun, 2015

Soulless, or Why I Can’t Show My Face Around Audible

/ posted in: Reading Soulless, or Why I Can’t Show My Face Around AudibleSoulless by Gail Carriger
(Website)on February 9th 2010
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
ISBN: 0316056634
Pages: 400
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Alexia Tarabotti is labouring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette. Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire - and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Or will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart? SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

Somehow I missed that this was about werewolves.

Yeah, I know, it is prominent in the description and it is on the cover.  In my defense, I hadn’t really read the description because I had just heard that the series was good (Joy, I blame you. LOL) and I had downloaded the audio from Audible and didn’t really see the cover.

I started listening to this right after binging on Written In Red and Murder of Crows.  I was deep in that world with very particular rules about shifters.  Any other book was going to suffer by comparison but trying to go right into another werewolf world that is so different was a disaster.  So, I did something that I had only done once before.  I returned the book to Audible.

Did you know you could do that?  If you hate the book you can return it and get your credit back.  That’s pretty cool.

I moved on with my life and listened to a few totally different werewolf-free audiobooks – A Path Appears and Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.  When I finished the last one, I was driving around and I hadn’t deleted Soulless from my ipod yet and … I listened to it.

I liked it. 

Now I feel like a horrible human.  Probably the only recourse is to rebuy it from Audible because I sort of want to listen to more of them.  I feel like the Audible police will come to my house if I buy the second book after returning the first.

About Gail Carriger

Bestselling author Gail Carriger writes to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported from London. – from her website

08 Jun, 2015

Audiobooks to Binge On

/ posted in: Reading

I always have an audiobook on my iPod (I used to be high tech.  Now I’m old school).  I listen to them when I drive.  But sometimes one will grab me and won’t let me stop listening to it when I pull into the garage.

Side effects of binge listening include:

  • Ear buds permanently attached to your ears
  • Only feeling soothed by the sound of the narrator’s voice
  • The feeling of emerging from underwater when forcibly removed from your earbuds
  • Needing to reintroduce yourself to the real world when the story is off

The Others by Anne Bishop

These are the worst for absolutely sucking you in so you lose giant blocks of time! Vision in Silver is over 16 hours long on audio and I finished in under a week. That’s basically a part time job.

They also ruin me for other audiobooks because I love this world of shape shifters and the humans who should fear them a lot more than they do. Anything I try to listen to next is going to suffer badly.

Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

I love the Mercy Thompson series but I was able to keep myself under control and keep it in the car until I got to this spin-off series.  There are only four so far so I’ve been rationing myself but I’m up to date now unfortunately.

The Spiritwalker Series by Kate Elliot

Cold Magic was the first book that I let myself binge listen to.  I wanted to know what happened.  I’ve not let myself listen to the next book yet since I know how I get.

On the other end of the spectrum are the books I force myself not to binge on

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

I’ve never let myself binge on Dresden but I could.  I listen to the Dresden Files on audio because I know that it is going to be at least a year until the next book in the series and if I read it I will stay up all night to finish it.  With audio I stretch my enjoyment of the story out.  Besides, James Marsters narrates.
Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.40.28 PM


Armada by Ernest Cline

It is generally accepted that one of the best audiobooks of all time is Ready Player One.  The sequel is coming out this summer.  I squealed when I heard.  I don’t even know what it is about but I don’t care.


How Do You Do Audio? Binge or Slow It Down?



07 Jun, 2015

Week (and month) in Review

/ posted in: Reading

Sunday Post

Posted This Week

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan – A Victorian romance with a feminist heroine

The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy – The story of John Brown’s daughter’s work on with the Underground Railroad intertwined with the story of a modern day woman trying to find a purpose in life

May in Review

I ended up reading 13 books in May.  Two were non-fiction.  Three were audiobooks.  One was a graphic novel.  Three and a half were written by men (the 1/2 was a coauthor with a woman).  It was an overwhelmingly white month — only 2.5 books were written by women of color (again the half was the cowritten book).

The books were set in The United States, England, Ghana, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and fantasy worlds.

So far I’ve read 75 books this year according to Goodreads.  That’s on track to read more books than last year.


Coming Up


I just picked up my copy from the library yesterday.

Around The Internet

TonyaLee talks about fitting into the book blogging community

Juli wrote about the lack of books translated into English

A great post about the problems of trying to classify books as diverse. Is it author?  Is it setting?

In non-book news, Nigeria’s President signed a ban on genital mutilation.  Does it mean anything?

In Chechnya there are calls for women to be banned from social media.

In Indonesia you have to be a virgin to join the army — only if you are a woman of course.


Currently Reading


Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor


“Twelve-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born American. Her features are African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent,” with latent magical power. Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But will it be enough to help them when they are asked to catch a career criminal who knows magic too?” from Goodreads

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl GeeksThe Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs


“Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom. With delightful illustrations and an unabashed love for all the in(ternet)s and outs of geek culture, this book is packed with tips, playthroughs, and cheat codes for everything from starting an online fan community to planning a convention visit to supporting fellow female geeks in the wild.” from Goodreads