Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure
26 Mar, 2019

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure Mrs. Martin's Incomparable Adventure (The Worth Saga) by Courtney Milan
on March 26, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Love & Romance
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Setting: England

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of nine and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Author’s Note: Sometimes I write villains who are subtle and nuanced. This is not one of those times. The Terrible Nephew is terrible, and terrible things happen to him. Sometime villains really are bad and wrong, and sometimes, we want them to suffer a lot of consequences.

Goodreads

Any Courtney Milan book is going to be a delight but I was especially excited to hear that this novella was going to feature older women.  I’m a huge fan of stories that feature older heroines.  Why should we stop getting stories when we are over 30?

Miss Violetta Beauchamps has been fired by her employer just prior to being able to collect her pension.  He used her inability to collect rent from a boarder as an excuse even though he told her not to try because the boarder had a surety signed by his wealthy aunt.  Violetta needs money to live on so she decides to go collect the rent from the aunt herself.  She isn’t going to give it to her ex-employer.  It is going to fund her modest lifestyle through her old age.  It is just a little lie.

Mrs. Bertrice Martin was not what she was expecting.  She hates her Terrible Nephew.  She won’t even utter his name.  She isn’t going to pay his debts – not when he couldn’t even bother to spell her name right on the surety he forged.  She will pay Miss Beauchamps to help her make the Terrible Nephew’s life miserable though.

There is a time for well characterized, morally ambiguous villains and there is a time for just letting the world burn to annoy a horrible person.  This story is the latter and it is a glorious romp.  Bertrice knows that everything wrong in the world is the fault of men.  Even if she can’t really do anything systemically about it, she isn’t going to make it easy for them.  Sometimes you just need to hire a group of off-key carolers to follow a fellow around all day to make yourself feel better.

Bertrice appears to hold all the power with her wealth but it doesn’t make her safe.  Men still have all the legal power and her nephew can get her declared insane.  Her recent antics might just make his case for him.  Violetta can’t fight back against her unfair firing in a society that doesn’t give women any legal rights. 

I highlighted so many amazing bits of dialogue. 

“Fear at seventy years of age was different than fear at seventeen. At seventeen, Bertrice had been walking down the so-called correct path, trying not to stray with all her might. Her fears had not been her own; they had been gifts from her elders. They won’t think you’re proper if you do that. You might never find a match. Do you want to live in a garret alone for the rest of your life?

 

This might be my favorite.

“My husband, God rot his soul, used to bring prostitutes home all the time. After he’d finished with them, I’d serve them tea and double whatever he was paying them.”

“But why would you do that?”

“Why not? It’s good sense to be kind to people who are doing work for you.” Bertrice didn’t think that was so strange a proposition. “It was hard work fucking my husband. Trust me, I should know. I certainly didn’t want to do it.”

 

Bertrice respects the neighborhood prostitutes all through the story.  (I really want to read a story about Molly, the lace-worker turned prostitute turned philanthropist.)

This story is an absolute delight for anyone who has ever wanted to rage against the privilege given to men in society just for being born.  It is cathartic and will bring a smile to your face long after you finish reading.

 

About Courtney Milan

“C ourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.

Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.” from her website

Recently Added to the TBR
25 Mar, 2019

Recently Added to the TBR

/ posted in: Reading

I truly believe that the most dangerous place on the whole internet is the “Readers Also Enjoyed” area on Goodreads.  If I start looking there, I fall into rabbit holes of library requesting.  It happened again this weekend.  I never learn.  Luckily a lot of these are coming out in the next few months so they should come in a staggered times.  Fingers crossed.

Here are what’s new on my TBR.

A Modest Independence (Parish Orphans of Devon, #2)A Modest Independence by Mimi Matthews

 

“He Needed Peace…

Solicitor Tom Finchley has spent his life using his devious intellect to solve the problems of others. As for his own problems, they’re nothing that a bit of calculated vengeance can’t remedy. But that’s all over now. He’s finally ready to put the past behind him and settle down to a quiet, uncomplicated life. If only he could find an equally uncomplicated woman.

She Wanted Adventure…

Former lady’s companion Jenny Holloway has just been given a modest independence. Now, all she wants is a bit of adventure. A chance to see the world and experience life far outside the restrictive limits of Victorian England. If she can discover the fate of the missing Earl of Castleton while she’s at it, so much the better.

From the gaslit streets of London to the lush tea gardens of colonial India, Jenny and Tom embark on an epic quest—and an equally epic romance. But even at the farthest edges of the British Empire, the past has a way of catching up with you…”

I loved the first book in this series. I preordered this one as soon as I could.


On Hold At The Library

Bury What We Cannot TakeBury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen

“The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events.

Now they must flee their home on Drum Wave Islet, which sits just a few hundred meters across the channel from mainland China. But when their mother goes to procure visas for safe passage to Hong Kong, the government will only issue them on the condition that she leave behind one of her children as proof of the family’s intention to return.

Against the backdrop of early Maoist China, this captivating and emotional tale follows a brother, a sister, a father, and a mother as they grapple with their agonizing decision, its far-reaching consequences, and their hope for redemption.”

I loved her first book, Soy Sauce for Beginners, so I decided to see if she had written anything else.


There's Something About SweetieThere’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

“Ashish Patel didn’t know love could be so…sucky. After he’s dumped by his ex-girlfriend, his mojo goes AWOL. Even worse, his parents are annoyingly, smugly confident they could find him a better match. So, in a moment of weakness, Ash challenges them to set him up.

The Patels insist that Ashish date an Indian-American girl—under contract. Per subclause 1(a), he’ll be taking his date on “fun” excursions like visiting the Hindu temple and his eccentric Gita Auntie. Kill him now. How is this ever going to work?

Sweetie Nair is many things: a formidable track athlete who can outrun most people in California, a loyal friend, a shower-singing champion. Oh, and she’s also fat. To Sweetie’s traditional parents, this last detail is the kiss of death.

Sweetie loves her parents, but she’s so tired of being told she’s lacking because she’s fat. She decides it’s time to kick off the Sassy Sweetie Project, where she’ll show the world (and herself) what she’s really made of.”

Again, I’ve loved her other books When Dimple Met Rishi and From Twinkle with Love.


With the Fire on HighWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

“With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.”

I loved this author’s The Poet X. When I saw she was writing a foodie book I couldn’t hit request fast enough.


Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American MuslimThreading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman

“Threading My Prayer Rug is a richly textured reflection on what it is to be a Muslim in America today. It is also the luminous story of many journeys: from Pakistan to the United States in an arranged marriage that becomes a love match lasting forty years; from secular Muslim in an Islamic society to devout Muslim in a society ignorant of Islam, and from liberal to conservative to American Muslim; from student to bride and mother; and from an immigrant intending to stay two years to an American citizen, business executive, grandmother, and tireless advocate for interfaith understanding.

Beginning with a sweetly funny, moving account of her arranged marriage, the author undercuts stereotypes and offers the refreshing view of an American life through Muslim eyes. In chapters leavened with humor, hope, and insight, she recounts an immigrant’s daily struggles balancing assimilation with preserving heritage, overcoming religious barriers from within and distortions of Islam from without, and confronting issues of raising her children as Muslims—while they lobby for a Christmas tree! Sabeeha Rehman was doing interfaith work for Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the driving force behind the Muslim community center at Ground Zero, when the backlash began. She discusses what that experience revealed about American society.”

This sounds interesting to me because I like hearing how women have changed and grown with age.


The True Queen (Sorcerer Royal #2)The True Queen by Zen Cho

 

“When sisters Muna and Sakti wake up on the peaceful beach of the island of Janda Baik, they can’t remember anything, except that they are bound as only sisters can be. They have been cursed by an unknown enchanter, and slowly Sakti starts to fade away. The only hope of saving her is to go to distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal has established an academy to train women in magic.

If Muna is to save her sister, she must learn to navigate high society, and trick the English magicians into believing she is a magical prodigy. As she’s drawn into their intrigues, she must uncover the secrets of her past, and journey into a world with more magic than she had ever dreamed.”

This is the follow up to Sorcerer to the Crown so I have to read it!


The Love & Lies of Rukhsana AliThe Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan

“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective.”

I don’t remember how I heard about this one. I requested it a while ago and it is in now.


I Love You So MochiI Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

 

“Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She’s obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel brave, fabulous, and like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother sees this as a distraction from working on her portfolio paintings for the prestigious fine art academy where she’s been accepted for college. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi’s estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from the disaster of her life.

When she arrives in Japan, she loses herself in Kyoto’s outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival–and meets Akira, a cute med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. What begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind, and to figure out where her own heart lies.”

I was excited about the mochi mascot. Maybe this will end up being a foodie book? Sounds cute.


Searching for Sylvie LeeSearching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

“It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes.

Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love.

But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.”

I’ve enjoyed her other books, Mambo in Chinatown and Girl in Translation, so I’m looking forward to this.

North
19 Mar, 2019

North

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading North North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek
on April 10, 2018
Pages: 292
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library

From the author of the bestseller Eat and Run, a thrilling new memoir about his grueling, exhilarating, and immensely inspiring 46-day run to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail.

Scott Jurek is one of the world's best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he's finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning's elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.

When he set out in the spring of 2015, Jurek anticipated punishing terrain, forbidding weather, and inevitable injuries. He would have to run nearly 50 miles a day, every day, for almost seven weeks. He knew he would be pushing himself to the limit, that comfort and rest would be in short supply -- but he couldn't have imagined the physical and emotional toll the trip would exact, nor the rewards it would offer.

With his wife, Jenny, friends, and the kindness of strangers supporting him, Jurek ran, hiked, and stumbled his way north, one white blaze at a time. A stunning narrative of perseverance and personal transformation, North is a portrait of a man stripped bare on the most demanding and transcendent effort of his life. It will inspire runners and non-runners alike to keep striving for their personal best.

Goodreads

I’ve been interested in Scott Jurek’s career because he is known for doing ultraendurance events as a vegan.  A lot of people were of the opinion that it couldn’t be done when he started.  I’ve read his other book and enjoyed it so when I saw this one I was excited to read it.

The story is told in alternating viewpoints – Scott’s experience on the trail and Jenny’s experience heading up the support crew.  They were at a crossroads in their lives and envisioned the run as a personal adventure.  They underestimated the amount of help that they would require for it to happen. 

People show up to run sections with Scott.  Friends come from all over to coach Scott through hard sections.  Some of them have held the record previously.  Others are planning their own attempts to break the record.

The run is brutal.  I don’t know why anyone would want to run 30-50 miles a day or more for 46 days in a row.  I really don’t know why they’d want to keep doing it when they are injured or when it won’t stop raining or when they are too far behind pace to be able to stop and sleep.  Ultrarunning is definitely not for me but I do enjoy reading about it.

The epilogue talks about the next year when Scott goes back to the trail to be on the support crew for one of his friends who crewed for him.  There is a documentary on U.S. Netflix now called Broken.  It is about that attempt to break Scott’s speed record.  The film isn’t that great on its own but a lot of the same people crew (expect for Jenny Jurek) so you get to see the people you read about in the Jureks’ book.  You can also see sections of the trail to understand exactly how challenging it is. 

I am linking this review up with the Year of the Asian reading challenge.

 

Thoughts While Reading
18 Mar, 2019

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

 

Wild Country (The World of the Others, #2; The Others, #7)Wild Country by Anne Bishop

“There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the Blackstone Clan, outlaws and gamblers all, will uncover secrets…or bury them.”

 This is my current audiobook.

I love, love, love these audiobooks. I just want to wallow in them and this world.  I get torn between listening extra because they are so peaceful (to me) and wanting to ration my listening so I don’t finish them.  They are so relaxing for me.  That’s actually a bit of a weird thing to think because these books are dark.  Each one seems to be getting more gritty.  There’s torture and murder and abuse and attempted rape in this one.  But the narration is so upbeat and positive and warm and cozy that you almost don’t notice.

There isn’t actually a lot going on in this book.  New people are coming in to resettle a town that was previously purged of humans.  I’m most of the way through and that’s all that really happened and I don’t care because I’m wallowing.


My Soul to Take (African Immortals, #4)My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due

“Essence bestselling and award-winning author Tananarive Due delivers a heart-stopping novel continuing the story of descendants of an immortal line of people are the only ones capable of saving the world.

Fana, an immortal with tremendous telepathic abilities, is locked in a battle of wills. Her fiancé is Michel. But Johnny Wright, a mortal who is in love with her, believes that if she doesn’t stay away from Michel, they will become the Witnesses to the Apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation.

Fana and the Life Brothers are rushing to distribute their healing “Living Blood” throughout the world, hoping to eliminate most diseases before Fana is bound to marry Michel. Still, they cannot heal people faster than Michel can kill them. Due weaves a tangled web in this novel, including beloved characters from her bestselling Joplin’s Ghost, in a war of good against evil, making My Soul to Take a chilling and thrilling experience.”

This is book four in a series where I loved book 1, book 2 was ok but it took a weird turn from book 1, and I DNFed book 3.  Now I remember why I DNFed book 3.  Teenagers.

This series in what YA should truly be like.  There is an all powerful teenage girl at the center of this story.  She doesn’t make good strategic choices because she is a teenager.  The adults around her keep trying to tell her this but she blows them off because she is teenager and knows everything.  I want to smack her because … know -it-all-but-really-doesn’t-teenager.

Montly Sewing Update
15 Mar, 2019

Monthly Sewing Update

/ posted in: Quilting

Oh my gosh!  I’m doing so good.  I’m actually sewing on a regular basis.  Mind you, I’m bouncing project to project so I’m in no danger of actually finishing anything but progress is being made on the major WIPs I wanted to work on.

2019 Color Challenge

 

This month’s block color is navy blue.

IMG_0303.JPG

 


On Ringo Lake

I worked really hard on this last month.  I was so proud.  Yeah.  It is exactly the same as last month because I got distracted by other projects.

 


De La Promenade

Carousel_V1-FullQuilt_med-1024x663

I started the panel that makes up most of the left side of the quilt.  I already have the three blocks that make up the center of the quilt made and quilted.  The carousel horse in the picture on the pattern is blue with a white mane.  I found a blue I liked for the body but plain white seemed a bit flat.  I auditioned some very light blues but wasn’t sure.  I decided to ask the husband.  He panics when I ask quilt questions because he thinks there is supposed to be a right or wrong answer and not just an opinion.  So I prefaced this with “I just need an opinion.  There isn’t a wrong answer.”  I showed him both mane options.  He picked white because….(wait for it)…. because a light blue mane isn’t realistic.  A light blue mane isn’t realistic on a horse with a blue body.  He had no problem with the blue body.  I was wrong.  There obviously was a wrong answer.

 

I made the mane white but used a polka dot white on white so it wasn’t too flat.

You build the horse from all the pieces on a nonstick sheet and then peel him off and put him on the background.  The horse is considered part A in this block.  There are still parts B through D to go before I can put this block together.

 


La Tarantella

This is my never-ending hand piecing project.  (I get tendonitis if I hand sew too much so I limit myself to just a little bit a day and you know I don’t work on it every day.)  I forget when I started this.  I tend to work consistently on it for a while and then let it sit for a while.  Lately I’ve been pretty consistent. 

It is from Willyne Hammerstein’s Millefiori Quilts book 3.  The book doesn’t actually have much in the way of directions.  There are some diagrams of how a few of the pieces go together and then a diagram of how everything fits together and then the five shapes you need to use and that’s it.  Just make it from the pictures.  

tarantella

I was at a complete loss of where to start with this.  How do you even pick colors?  I decided to use a stack of really obnoxious fat quarters I had as the color selection.  I combined this with grey tone on tone fabrics and black/white fabrics in places where I wanted the eye to be able to rest.  I made up a few basic rosettes to practice and then picked a few that worked together and started combining them like in the diagram.  Occasionally it isn’t clear what piece is supposed to be used but I think I’m figuring it out.  I was pretty proud to finally get a whole chunk of it together this month.  It seems less scattered now and more like a thing that actually may be finishable.  

IMG_0302.JPG

I’m making a file to show how much is together.  Blue dots show the parts I’ve finished.  See why I call it the never ending project?

 

tarantellacompletion

My Mother and the Stove
12 Mar, 2019

My Mother and the Stove

/ posted in: Family

In 1982 my mother bought a stove.  She also bought the extended warranty.  Under the terms of this warranty if the store was unable to repair the stove – ever – they would give her a new one. 

They had no idea who they were up against.

The stove was a yellow color.  Over the years it chipped and she repainted it.  You just had to know what knob turned on what burner because the pictures were rubbed off.  Every so often something would break and she would gleefully call the repair service in hopes of getting a new stove.  Every time they would fix it.

Years went by.  She started saving up for a complete remodel of her kitchen.  Eventually she did remodel the kitchen and put this beat up, nasty old stove right back in place.  Everyone was horrified.  My husband offered to buy her a stove.  She declined.  She saw nothing odd about spending tens of thousands of dollars on a remodel but refusing to pay a few hundred dollars for a stove because she had a warranty.  She’d get her new stove someday.

Over time parts got harder and harder to find.  The repair service would have to search but every time they found the parts.  She would call me and complain about the fact that they came up with the part again.  She’d look forward to getting them next time. 

By now this stove had been rebuilt almost entirely.  It pretty much was a brand new stove in a battered shell.  The company she bought it from went bankrupt.  They sold the warranty to someone else.  She held out hope.

We showed her the house we bought to be a rental.  She admired the stove we bought for it.  The husband offered to order another for her right then and there.  She declined.  Someday her warranty was going to pay for a new stove.

Last week she texted us a picture of a new stove in her kitchen.  Immediately and separately the husband and I both texted back, “Who paid for it?” 

Her warranty had finally paid off.  It only took 37 years but she made them surrender and get her a new stove.

It isn’t even a super fancy stove.  It isn’t like she was picking out a $3000 industrial grade stove.  Right now the one she got is on sale for $600.  It is a lot like the ones we’ve offered to buy her over the years.  That wasn’t the point though.  She could have bought it herself any time.  It was the principle of the matter.  They were going to owe her a stove someday. 

She always gets mad when I say that she is the cheapest person I know.  She says that she prefers the term frugal. 

I didn’t ask but I’m sure she bought the warranty.

 

Thoughts While Reading
11 Mar, 2019

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

Finished this week

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian TrailNorth: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek

“Scott Jurek is one of the world’s best known and most beloved ultrarunners. Renowned for his remarkable endurance and speed, accomplished on a vegan diet, he’s finished first in nearly all of ultrarunning’s elite events over the course of his career. But after two decades of racing, training, speaking, and touring, Jurek felt an urgent need to discover something new about himself. He embarked on a wholly unique challenge, one that would force him to grow as a person and as an athlete: breaking the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. North is the story of the 2,189-mile journey that nearly shattered him.”

I love reading about ultrarunning even though I hate running with a passion.

 

 

An Unconditional Freedom (The Loyal League)An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

“Daniel Cumberland’s uneventful life as a freed man in Massachusetts ended the night he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. To then have his freedom restored by the very man who stole his beloved’s heart is almost too much to bear. When he’s offered entry into the Loyal League, the covert organization of spies who helped free him, Daniel seizes the opportunity to help take down the Confederacy and vent the rage that consumes him.


When the Union Army occupies Janeta Sanchez’s small Florida town, her family’s goodwill and ties to Cuba fail to protect her father from being unjustly imprisoned for treason. To ensure her father’s release, Janeta is made an offer she can’t refuse: spy for the Confederacy. Driven by a desire for vengeance and the hope of saving her family, she agrees to infiltrate the Loyal League as a double agent.

Daniel is both aggravated and intrigued by the headstrong recruit. For the first time in months, he feels something other than anger, but a partner means being accountable, and Daniel’s secret plan to settle a vendetta and strike a blow for the Union can be entrusted to no one. As Janeta and Daniel track Jefferson Davis on his tour of the South, their dual hidden missions are threatened by the ghosts of their pasts and a growing mutual attraction—that might be their only hope for the future.”

 

That Ain't Witchcraft (InCryptid)That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire

 

The eighth book in the funny and fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

Crossroads, noun:

1. A place where two roads cross.
2. A place where bargains can be made.
3. See also “places to avoid.”

Antimony Price has never done well without a support system. As the youngest of her generation, she has always been able to depend on her parents, siblings, and cousins to help her out when she’s in a pinch—until now. After fleeing from the Covenant of St. George, she’s found herself in debt to the crossroads and running for her life. No family. No mice. No way out.

Lucky for her, she’s always been resourceful, and she’s been gathering allies as she travels: Sam, fūri trapeze artist turned boyfriend; Cylia, jink roller derby captain and designated driver; Fern, sylph friend, confidant, and maker of breakfasts; even Mary, ghost babysitter to the Price family. Annie’s actually starting to feel like they might be able to figure things out—which is probably why things start going wrong again.

New Gravesend, Maine is a nice place to raise a family…or make a binding contract with the crossroads. For James Smith, whose best friend disappeared when she tried to do precisely that, it’s also an excellent place to plot revenge. Now the crossroads want him dead and they want Annie to do the dirty deed. She owes them, after all.

And that’s before Leonard Cunningham, aka, “the next leader of the Covenant,” shows up…

It’s going to take everything Annie has and a little bit more to get out of this one. If she succeeds, she gets to go home. If she fails, she becomes one more cautionary tale about the dangers of bargaining with the crossroads.

But no pressure


Still Reading

 

Wild Country (The World of the Others, #2; The Others, #7)Wild Country by Anne Bishop

“There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the Blackstone Clan, outlaws and gamblers all, will uncover secrets…or bury them.”

 This is my current audiobook.

 

 

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White NorthWelcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman

 

“By the time Blair Braverman was eighteen, she had left her home in California, moved to arctic Norway to learn to drive sled dogs, and found work as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska. Determined to carve out a life as a “tough girl”—a young woman who confronts danger without apology—she slowly developed the strength and resilience the landscape demanded of her.

By turns funny and sobering, bold and tender, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube brilliantly recounts Braverman’s adventures in Norway and Alaska. Settling into her new surroundings, Braverman was often terrified that she would lose control of her dog team and crash her sled, or be attacked by a polar bear, or get lost on the tundra. Above all, she worried that, unlike the other, gutsier people alongside her, she wasn’t cut out for life on the frontier. But no matter how out of place she felt, one thing was clear: she was hooked on the North. On the brink of adulthood, Braverman was determined to prove that her fears did not define her—and so she resolved to embrace the wilderness and make it her own.”

In honor of Blair running her first Iditarod right now I’m going to finish her book.  As much as I love Blair on Twitter, this book isn’t all that interesting.  Maybe it is because I know how the story ends. 

 

 

American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of PunishmentAmerican Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer

“In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison guard at a private prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meaningful background check. Four months later, his employment came to an abrupt end. But he had seen enough, and in short order he wrote an exposé about his experiences that won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones.”

 

 

My Soul to Take (African Immortals, #4)My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due

“Essence bestselling and award-winning author Tananarive Due delivers a heart-stopping novel continuing the story of descendants of an immortal line of people are the only ones capable of saving the world.

Fana, an immortal with tremendous telepathic abilities, is locked in a battle of wills. Her fiancé is Michel. But Johnny Wright, a mortal who is in love with her, believes that if she doesn’t stay away from Michel, they will become the Witnesses to the Apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation.

Fana and the Life Brothers are rushing to distribute their healing “Living Blood” throughout the world, hoping to eliminate most diseases before Fana is bound to marry Michel. Still, they cannot heal people faster than Michel can kill them. Due weaves a tangled web in this novel, including beloved characters from her bestselling Joplin’s Ghost, in a war of good against evil, making My Soul to Take a chilling and thrilling experience.”

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right
08 Mar, 2019

You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading You Can’t Go Wrong Doing Right You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right: How a Child of Poverty Rose to the White House and Helped Change the World by Robert J. Brown
on January 15, 2019
Pages: 256
Genres: Civil Rights, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Convergent Books
Format: eBook
Source: Library

An unforgettable account of a quietly remarkable life, Robert Brown's memoir takes readers behind the scenes of pivotal moments from the 20th century, where the lessons he learned at his grandmother's knee helped him shape America as we know it today. Called "a world-class power broker" by the Washington Post, Robert Brown has been a sought-after counselor for an impressive array of the famous and powerful, including every American president since John F. Kennedy. But as a child born into poverty in the 1930s, Robert was raised by his grandmother to think differently about success. For example, "The best way to influence others is to be helpful," she told him. And, "You can't go wrong by doing right."

Fueled by these lessons on humble, principled service, Brown went on to play a pivotal, mostly unseen role alongside the great and the powerful of our time: trailing the mob in 1950s Harlem with a young Robert F. Kennedy; helping the white corporate leadership at Woolworth integrate their lunch counters; channeling money from American businesses to the Civil Rights movement; accompanying Coretta Scott King, at her request, to Memphis the day after her husband had been shot; advising Richard Nixon on how to support black entrepreneurship; becoming the only person allowed to visit Nelson Mandela in Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town.

Full of unbelievable moments and reminders that the path to influence runs through a life of generosity, YOU CAN'T GO WRONG DOING RIGHT blends a heartwarming, historically fascinating account with memorable lessons that will speak to the dreamer in all of us.

Goodreads

My first thought reading this book was, “Why have I never heard of this man?”  My second was, “This is like real-life Forrest Gump.”  The man popped up at many of the major events of the 20th century in two countries.

When I finished I had to take a minute to review how this had happened.

  1. He was born in poverty in the south but was able to get an education over time.
  2. He took the police test for research but ended up scoring really high.  He became one of the first black officers in his area.
  3. He started doing undercover drug work which led to him getting hired by the FBI to do that kind of work in New York City.
  4. That got dicey so he quit to go back to North Carolina to start a public relations firm.  That was rough going.
  5. When students were protesting in Woolworth’s because of segregation at the lunch counters, he went to Woolworth’s and told them that he could negotiate a settlement.
  6. He became a fixer for companies that had racial issues.
  7. This led to him meeting and getting to know all the big civil rights leaders in the 1960s and helping them with corporate funding from the clients he had.
  8. He decided getting stuff done from the inside was more effective so he went to work for the Republicans in the Nixon White House to increase business funding to black people.
  9. Along the way he hired Stedman Graham who introduced him to his girlfriend Oprah Winfrey who was getting into television.
  10. He paid for the Mandela children to come to the U.S. for college.
  11. He ended up talking to the President of South Africa about whether or not to release Nelson Mandela.

I probably forgot some stuff in the middle.  It was a wild ride.

It was interesting perspective to read about.  At many points he was considered to be working for “the wrong side” by the black community.  He worked for companies being protested against.  He worked for Republicans.  But he was able to work behind the scenes to potentially make more actual progress that he might have been able to in more traditional civil right roles.


This is a long video but you can listen for a bit to hear him tell his story.

The Class
06 Mar, 2019

The Class

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Class The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero
on September 4, 2018
Pages: 448
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Ballantine Books
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

An unforgettable year in the life of a visionary high school science teacher and his award-winning students, as they try to get into college, land a date for the prom . . . and possibly change the world.

Andy Bramante left his successful career as a corporate scientist to teach public high school--and now helms one of the most remarkable classrooms in America. Bramante's unconventional class at Connecticut's prestigious yet diverse Greenwich High School has no curriculum, tests, textbooks, or lectures, and is equal parts elite research lab, student counseling office, and teenage hangout spot. United by a passion to learn, Mr. B.'s band of whiz kids set out every year to conquer the brutally competitive science fair circuit. They have won the top prize at the Google Science Fair, made discoveries that eluded scientists three times their age, and been invited to the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.

A former Emmy-winning producer for CBS News, Heather Won Tesoriero embeds in this dynamic class to bring Andy and his gifted, all-too-human kids to life--including William, a prodigy so driven that he's trying to invent diagnostics for artery blockage and Alzheimer's (but can't quite figure out how to order a bagel); Ethan, who essentially outgrows high school in his junior year and founds his own company to commercialize a discovery he made in the class; Sophia, a Lyme disease patient whose ambitious work is dedicated to curing her own debilitating ailment; Romano, a football player who hangs up his helmet to pursue his secret science expertise and develop a "smart" liquid bandage; and Olivia, whose invention of a fast test for Ebola brought her science fair fame and an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

We experience the thrill of discovery, the heartbreak of failed endeavors, and perhaps the ultimate high: a yes from Harvard. Moving, funny, and utterly engrossing, The Class is a superb account of hard work and high spirits, a stirring tribute to how essential science is in our schools and our lives, and a heartfelt testament to the power of a great teacher to help kids realize their unlimited potential.

Goodreads

Descriptions of this class made me a bit twitchy. Basically, anything goes. The kids do self-directed projects, maybe. If they don’t get started working on anything, ok. If they start working on something and then wander off and ignore their project for months on end, ok. If they ignore their project and then have to work nights and weekends to get it done on time, then the teacher has the lab open for them to do that. I would not be a very understanding teacher if these kids were wanting me to give up my personal time because they couldn’t be bothered to do their work in a timely manner in class. Your lack of preparation is not my emergency, etc.

I didn’t realize that science fairs were this big of a business. There are huge amounts of prize money on the line. Add this into pressure over getting into the “right” colleges and these kids are getting pushed hard sometimes by their parents. You know that parents are the biggest source of trouble in a class like this.

Greenwich is known as a super rich area even though there are students at all economic levels. This has added some tension around the program. Other schools think “Of course the rich school can produce fancy projects”. The book goes into a lot of detail about how the class is run on a shoe string budget but they do have a lot of contacts. Kids can go to professional labs and use a scanning electron microscope for free. The teacher gets a lot of used fancy lab equipment that other schools wouldn’t have access to. Some parents can pay for projects that others can’t.

The book follows several students through the year to see how they do with their projects and what life is like for them outside of class.  Who goes to prom?  Who gets into what college?  (Those college acceptances seem incredibly random.)  How do they decide what school to go to?  Should you even worry about finishing high school if you have a company producing what you invented in Science Research class and you’re in the running for a 7 million dollar prize?


Thoughts While Reading
04 Mar, 2019

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

 

The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the AmericasThe Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow

“The Pan-American Highway, monument to a century’s worth of diplomacy and investment, education and engineering, scandal and sweat, is the longest road in the world, passable everywhere save the mythic Darien Gap that straddles Panama and Colombia. The highway’s history, however, has long remained a mystery, a story scattered among government archives, private papers, and fading memories. In contrast to the Panama Canal and its vast literature, the Pan-American Highway—the United States’ other great twentieth-century hemispheric infrastructure project—has become an orphan of the past, effectively erased from the story of the “American Century.”

The Longest Line on the Map uncovers this incredible tale for the first time and weaves it into a tapestry that fascinates, informs, and delights. Rutkow’s narrative forces the reader to take seriously the question: Why couldn’t the Americas have become a single region that “is” and not two near irreconcilable halves that “are”? Whether you’re fascinated by the history of the Americas, or you’ve dreamed of driving around the globe, or you simply love world records and the stories behind them, The Longest Line on the Map is a riveting narrative, a lost epic of hemispheric scale.”

I think I’m going to ditch this one.  I’m several hours in and it is still all about maneuvering by railroad tycoons to build a Panamerican railroad that I guess will be the precursor of the road.  It just isn’t holding my attention.

I looked at Audible and realized that the next Anne Bishop book comes out on Tuesday.

Wild Country (The World of the Others, #2; The Others, #7)Wild Country by Anne Bishop

“There are ghost towns in the world—places where the humans were annihilated in retaliation for the slaughter of the shape-shifting Others.

One of those places is Bennett, a town at the northern end of the Elder Hills—a town surrounded by the wild country. Now efforts are being made to resettle Bennett as a community where humans and Others live and work together. A young female police officer has been hired as the deputy to a Wolfgard sheriff. A deadly type of Other wants to run a human-style saloon. And a couple with four foster children—one of whom is a blood prophet—hope to find acceptance.

But as they reopen the stores and the professional offices and start to make lives for themselves, the town of Bennett attracts the attention of other humans looking for profit. And the arrival of the Blackstone Clan, outlaws and gamblers all, will uncover secrets…or bury them.”

I’ve listened to all of these on audio and they are very good.  I’m glad I found out about this one just in time.


Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White NorthWelcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North by Blair Braverman

 

“By the time Blair Braverman was eighteen, she had left her home in California, moved to arctic Norway to learn to drive sled dogs, and found work as a tour guide on a glacier in Alaska. Determined to carve out a life as a “tough girl”—a young woman who confronts danger without apology—she slowly developed the strength and resilience the landscape demanded of her.

By turns funny and sobering, bold and tender, Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube brilliantly recounts Braverman’s adventures in Norway and Alaska. Settling into her new surroundings, Braverman was often terrified that she would lose control of her dog team and crash her sled, or be attacked by a polar bear, or get lost on the tundra. Above all, she worried that, unlike the other, gutsier people alongside her, she wasn’t cut out for life on the frontier. But no matter how out of place she felt, one thing was clear: she was hooked on the North. On the brink of adulthood, Braverman was determined to prove that her fears did not define her—and so she resolved to embrace the wilderness and make it her own.”

In honor of Blair running her first Iditarod right now I’m going to finish her book. I started it right when I started following her twitter account and then wandered off.


An Unconditional Freedom (The Loyal League, #3)An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

“Daniel Cumberland’s uneventful life as a freed man in Massachusetts ended the night he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. To then have his freedom restored by the very man who stole his beloved’s heart is almost too much to bear. When he’s offered entry into the Loyal League, the covert organization of spies who helped free him, Daniel seizes the opportunity to help take down the Confederacy and vent the rage that consumes him.


When the Union Army occupies Janeta Sanchez’s small Florida town, her family’s goodwill and ties to Cuba fail to protect her father from being unjustly imprisoned for treason. To ensure her father’s release, Janeta is made an offer she can’t refuse: spy for the Confederacy. Driven by a desire for vengeance and the hope of saving her family, she agrees to infiltrate the Loyal League as a double agent.

Daniel is both aggravated and intrigued by the headstrong recruit. For the first time in months, he feels something other than anger, but a partner means being accountable, and Daniel’s secret plan to settle a vendetta and strike a blow for the Union can be entrusted to no one. As Janeta and Daniel track Jefferson Davis on his tour of the South, their dual hidden missions are threatened by the ghosts of their pasts and a growing mutual attraction—that might be their only hope for the future.”

I thought this would be a quick read for me like other romances but it isn’t.  There is a lot of anger in this book that is making me take it more slowly. 


None of these books are any of the hoards of books that descended on me from the library in the last week.  I told ya’ll that reserving spree was going to come back to haunt me. 

Did you see that there is a movie version of this book out on Netflix now? 

It is a true story about a teenager in Malawi who couldn’t finish school because of famine but taught himself how to build wind powered pumps for wells from library books. 

March 2019 Foodies Read
01 Mar, 2019

March 2019 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Foodies ReadReading

 

Welcome to March 2019 Foodies Read!

We welcome your reviews of any books about food.  What are books about food?

  • Cozy mysteries set in food trucks
  • Romances between bakers
  • Cookbooks
  • Memoirs of farmers
  • Nonfiction about nutrition
  • Science fiction set on hydroponic farms
  • ….or anything else where food is a major part of the plot

Every entry is entered into a monthly drawing to win a gift card.  Once you win a prize you are not eligible to win for 6 months.

We had 22 links in February.  The winner of the drawing for a gift card is Wendy for her review of Crazy Rich Asians.

 


Inlinkz Link Party

28 Feb, 2019

February 2019 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

I finished 8 books and 4 graphic novels in February. I was focusing on reading for #blackathon.

 

 

 

The books I read were:

  • 2 nonfiction
  •  1 audiobook
  • Set in the U.S., England, Ghana, and one in multiple places in Africa (not counting Wakanda)

The authors were:

  • 6 African-American women, 1 Asian woman, 1 Asian man, and 1 white woman

Which ones would I totally recommend?

 


sign-up-post

 

I just heard about this and I’ve already read some qualifying books so I’m signing up. Sign-up info

What I’ve read so far in 2019:

  • Righteous by Joe Ide
  • Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
  • The Class by Heather Won Tesoriero

There are levels that you can shoot for. Each is assigned an animal. I’ve read 3 books in two months so if I continue that pace I would be in the 11-20 book range. But, that is the cobra badge. I have cobra issues. I saw the Riki Tiki Tavi cartoon as a kid and it messed me up. For years, I had to check the base of the toilet every time I went into the bathroom just in case there was a cobra curled around it waiting to kill me. In the United States. In the part of Pennsylvania where it gets really, really cold and cobras would be unhappy. Add that to my concern that there might be a wolf-man in the linen closet thanks to an episode of Spencer for Hire and I was a messed up kid. Anyway, I’m not signing up for cobra energy so I’m going for 21-30 books and the wonderful tapir.

 


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.

I did it!  I did it!  I read Homegoing and it was set in Ghana.  I’m surprised that I didn’t already have Ghana because I’ve read books from there before but they must have been before this challenge.  I also get to add Mauritana.  It was the location of one of the stories in A Moonless, Starless Sky.

 

 


 

27 Feb, 2019

What Did I Learn from #Blackathon?

/ posted in: Reading

I did the #Blackathon reading challenge in February.  The goal was to read books written by black authors or written about black characters.  I love these kinds of challenges.  So what did I learn during #Blackathon?

There are no unread black authors on my ipad

I have lots of unread ebooks on my Kindle app.  When I was browsing for books to read in February, I couldn’t find any by black authors.  At first I decided that I was a horrible person who wasn’t buying black authors.  Then I realized that wasn’t the case.  I had ebooks by black authors but they were all already read.  I realized that I have a mental list of auto-read black authors.  Their books don’t languish unread on my iPad.  I get them and I read them. 

What I don’t have is a collection of “second tier” black authors.  These would be people whose books I’ve picked up on BookBub or something because the premise sounded good but I just haven’t gotten to them yet.  Is it because these kinds of books aren’t being published?  Are there only the superstars in the world or are mid-level black authors not getting the promotion that we see for other authors?  I don’t see a lot of people being advertised to me in the genres I like.  

I pick up books I wouldn’t have normally looked at

I’m a huge Nnedi Okorafor fan but I hadn’t read her Wakanda graphic novels.  This challenge had a graphic novel part to it so I picked them up.  Also, I was looking at a list of black authors and saw the Carleen Brice book.  I hadn’t heard of her before so I got this book from the library. It was quite good and I wouldn’t have known about it if I wasn’t doing this challenge.

I did a lot of browsing on the Libby app for my library.  It has an African-American section which normally annoys me because they don’t break out any other author group by race, but it helped this month.  I reserved so many books.  I seriously overdid.  I think I had nine books on hold just because of this challenge at one point.  This will be the gift that keeps on giving with library books unless they all come in at once and I’m not able to read them all.  

Screenshot (2)
All but 2 are black authors and those are just the ebooks.  I have 2 more paper books already waiting for me.

It annoys me when I hear people say that they just read what they want and don’t look at who the author is or where they come from.  That’s a great way to just read American and British white people in my experience.  Those are the books that are going to be put in front of you if you aren’t looking harder. 

I’m not reading books that I’m not interested in just to get in more reading of books by black authors.  What I find is that if I have “I need to read more black authors” in my mind when I’m browsing then my eyes will pause for just a fraction of a second longer on those books.  I notice more that I might have just scrolled past. 

Thoughts While Reading
25 Feb, 2019

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve been duped!

I was doing really well only reading books for #blackathon this month.  If I tried to pick up a book by a white author I’d feel guilty.  I was browsing my TBR list for more books and realized that Prime Reading (which I didn’t even know was a thing) had a copy of JB West’s book.  I like reading about White House history.  I’ve read a lot about it.  This is an old book but I figured this was a good time to pick it up because JB West was black.

 

Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First LadiesUpstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies by J.B. West

“J. B. West, chief usher of the White House, directed the operations and maintenance of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue—and coordinated its daily life—at the request of the president and his family. He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings and funerals, gardens and playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For twenty-eight years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests—including friends, relatives, and heads of state.

In Upstairs at the White House, West offers an absorbing and novel glimpse at America’s first families, from the Roosevelts to the Kennedys and the Nixons. Alive with anecdotes ranging from the quotidian (Lyndon B. Johnson’s showerheads) to the tragic (the aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination), West’s book is an enlightening and rich account of the American history that took place just behind the Palladian doors of the North Portico.”

I’ve even watched a really old miniseries based on this book. But as I got into it (and it is magnificent) there were a few comments that made me pause. Eventually during the Truman years, I did myself a Google and…

JB West was a white man!!!!

How dare he! Thinking about it I have no idea how I convinced myself he was black. I’m sure in the miniseries he was probably played by a white actor. I admit that the idea of allowing a black man to run the White House during the years in question was probably completely out of the question, especially since I didn’t think all his underlings were black. Here I was thinking he was this voice of progress and equality all this time. Nope. I made it all up.

Anyway, the book is good. The man is respectful but he’s got the dirt on everyone. I got all up in my feelings and wanted to fight Mamie Eisenhower even though she’s been dead a long time.  I’d probably win because of that.  She needed a good smackdown in my opinion.


Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the OddsCan’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins

For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare — poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse colored his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name him “The Fittest (Real) Man in America.”

I picked this up because the ebook was available from Libby and it fit in with #blackathon. I’m reading it with sort of a fascinated horror. His childhood was bad but what he has done to himself is worse. I sort of want to pet him and ask if he has considered therapy. He is going on about how to you have to “callous” your mind to move past pain to unlock your potential. That’s good advice to a point. He goes far past the healthy point though to the point of seriously injuring himself over and over for no good reason other than outrunning the demons in his mind.

I’m retold parts of the story to my ex-military husband and he just shakes his head. He appears to think that there are gung-ho military people and then there are idiots. He is placing this author in the latter category. Not sure if I’m going to finish this one. If I do, it will just be out of morbid fascination.


The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in AmericaThe Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America by Heather Won Tesoriero

I finished this audiobook. I’m glad that my school didn’t participate in any science fairs or have science research classes. That would have been the kind of thing that I would have felt like I needed to participate in but I would not have enjoyed. I’m eternally grateful that I got into vet school early so I didn’t have to do my senior research in college.

I’m also completely appalled by the kid in here who was offered a full scholarship to college including a semester in England, research funding, and the ability to set his own coursework and turned it down to take a half scholarship somewhere else. Oh, sweet summer child, who has never paid his own bills. You are the embodiment of book smart but not practical.


The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the AmericasThe Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow

“The Pan-American Highway, monument to a century’s worth of diplomacy and investment, education and engineering, scandal and sweat, is the longest road in the world, passable everywhere save the mythic Darien Gap that straddles Panama and Colombia. The highway’s history, however, has long remained a mystery, a story scattered among government archives, private papers, and fading memories. In contrast to the Panama Canal and its vast literature, the Pan-American Highway—the United States’ other great twentieth-century hemispheric infrastructure project—has become an orphan of the past, effectively erased from the story of the “American Century.”

The Longest Line on the Map uncovers this incredible tale for the first time and weaves it into a tapestry that fascinates, informs, and delights. Rutkow’s narrative forces the reader to take seriously the question: Why couldn’t the Americas have become a single region that “is” and not two near irreconcilable halves that “are”? Whether you’re fascinated by the history of the Americas, or you’ve dreamed of driving around the globe, or you simply love world records and the stories behind them, The Longest Line on the Map is a riveting narrative, a lost epic of hemispheric scale.”

This is my new audiobook.

No, Seriously, France…
22 Feb, 2019

No, Seriously, France…

/ posted in: Familytravel

Yes, I did go to France all the way back in November and never even blogged about it.  I’m such a blogger failure.  So here is the start of the story…

AVIGNON Day 1

We flew into Marseilles and were driven on a bus to Avignon to meet our river cruise boat.  We were told that our trip was going to take a bit longer than normal.  They said there was a problem on the road.  Turns out that the Yellow Jackets were out.  This is a group in France who are protesting new gasoline taxes.  They do things like shut down roads or intersections.  We saw them in action (or their effects) a few times on the trip.

Avignon is a really cool place.  All I remembered about it when I heard we were going there was that it was the seat of the anti-Popes.  I did read a book in preparation for the trip that helped a lot with the historic background of the town.  Basically, in the 1300s Rome was a hot mess and the Pope was getting death threats and kidnapped and all sorts of nonsense.  His main supporter was the King of France.  At this time the town of Avignon was part of a territory known as the Papal Free State, which belonged to the Pope. It was located on the banks of the Rhone River which isn’t very wide and there was also a bridge here. On the other side was French territory. The Pope came here because it was safer. For about the next hundred years, the papacy was located in Avignon. It was a boom town because the Pope doesn’t come to town alone. After one of the Popes decided to move back to Rome, there was a contingent who considered him a traitor and installed their own Popes in Avignon. Those were the anti-Popes.

We got to Avignon in the afternoon and crashed. I know you aren’t supposed to do that and the city was literally RIGHT THERE outside our window but we had been travelling for about 18 hours at that point. Even I couldn’t muster up the energy to go exploring right then. We recuperated overnight and then hit the city the next morning.

We started with a guided tour. I was worried about this. I’ve never wanted to be part of a large group following a guide around like little ducklings. Now here we were doing just that. It was ok though. We had headsets so we could hear the guide without having to stay right on her heels.

We made our way through the city walls. Thank you 18th century people who decided not to tear them all down. You go through the walls into an alley that they opens into the town.

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We started at The Pope’s Palace which is a huge structure. It served the same purpose as the Vatican during the Pope’s time here. It was actually a disappointment for me after all my reading up on the subject. There was a fire here long after the Popes left that left the interior mostly just stone walls. What you see now is big cavernous spaces that are described as previously ornate. I know it is Avignon’s Big Thing but I’d read about it and skip the visit.

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We did really enjoy a garden that we found by chance on a cliff overlooking the Rhone. Even in November, it was beautiful.

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Avignon has a bridge. The bridge is important. This was built in the 12th century and was the only bridge across the Rhone anywhere near. It was part of a pilgrimage route from Italy to Spain. It washed mostly away a long time ago.

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It even has its own song. That is obvious to French people. Everything written about this bridge tosses in “from the song” like it is self-evident what song you are referring to. I am an ignorant American. I had to Google. There is a French children’s song about dancing on the bridge. It seems to occupy the same mindspace in French people where “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” lives in English-speaking brains. Everyone just knows it. No one can remember actually learning it. French guides tried so gamely. “The bridge is just down there. You know, from the song?” Blank stares from 20 Americans. French guide bursts into “Sur la pont d’Avignon” with the bouncy rhythm and embarrassment of an adult singing a children’s song alone in front of a group of people who have never heard of it.

The husband and I wandered around most of the town.  It isn’t a huge place so you can get a good feel of it in a few days.  Of course we stopped at chocolate shops for a snack. 

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We rode a carousel because you should never pass up a chance to do that even if your husband is going to start yelling, “Wheeeeee” as he goes around and will be waving to French people who are just trying to live their lives.

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Meet the coolest cat in Avignon.  This guy was playing music on the edge of a busy intersection while this cat just lounged.  He didn’t even care.  

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Hero Dogs
20 Feb, 2019

Hero Dogs

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Hero Dogs Hero Dogs: How a Pack of Rescues, Rejects, and Strays Became America's Greatest Disaster-Search Partners by Wilma Melville, Paul Lobo
on January 8, 2019
Pages: 336
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by St. Martin's Press
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library

Lola was a buckshot-riddled stray, lost on a Memphis highway. Cody was rejected from seven different homes. Ace had been sprayed with mace and left for dead on a train track. They were deemed unadoptable. Untrainable. Unsalvageable. These would become the same dogs America relied on when its worst disasters hit.

In 1995, Wilma Melville volunteered as a canine search-and-rescue (SAR) handler with her Black Labrador Murphy in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing. At the time, there were only fifteen FEMA certified SAR dogs in the United States. Believing in the value of these remarkable animals to help save lives, Wilma knew many more were needed in the event of future major disasters. She made a vow to help 168 dogs receive search-and-rescue training in her lifetime—one for every Oklahoma City victim.

Wilma singlehandedly established the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) to meet this challenge. The first canine candidates—Ana, Dusty, and Harley—were a trio of golden retrievers with behavioral problems so severe the dogs were considered irredeemable and unadoptable. But with patience, discipline, and love applied during training, they proved to have the ability, agility, and stamina to graduate as SARs. Paired with a trio of firefighters, they were among the first responders searching the ruins of the World Trade Center following 9/11—setting the standard for the more than 168 of the SDF’s search-and-rescue dogs that followed. Beautiful and heart-wrenching, Hero Dogs is the story of one woman’s dream brought to fruition by dedicated volunteers and firefighters—and the bonds they forged with the incredible rescued-turned-rescuer dogs to create one of America’s most vital resources in disaster response.

Goodreads

Once upon a time, I was a puppy raiser for a service dog organization so I have had a glimpse of what it takes to make a working dog.  So many of the trials and tribulations of the search dog scene in the 1990s sound familiar.  

It is hard to believe now but at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, there were only 15 FEMA certified search dogs in the United States.  Search dog training at the time was a volunteer effort.  People trained their personal dogs in their spare time so it took years to get a dog with enough skills to pass the national tests.  Wilma Melville had a FEMA certified dog and was deployed to Oklahoma City.  She decided afterwards that there needed to be a way to get more dog teams ready.  She started a foundation to train stray dogs (because they were cheap/free) full time to try to turn them into search dogs in less than a year.  She decided to pair them with firefighters because they were already trained in disaster response.  

The dogs needed to have high prey drive to want to find people.  They had to be athletic to climb over rubble.  They had to be smart.  She found it all in her first rescue dog, Ana, who was failing out of service dog school for being too active.  When Wilma pulled in the driveway to meet her, Ana the Golden Retriever was standing up in the tree she had climbed.  

Reading about deployments is frustrating.  They don’t find a lot of people buried because they often don’t reach the scene for a day or more.   More teams in more areas could decrease mobilization times.  

This book is both sad and funny.  Stories of fruitless searches and the abuse some of the dogs endured before coming to the school are heartbreaking.  On the other hand, they are still dogs despite all their training and sometimes escape or just refuse to behave at exhibitions.  I loved the story of the dog searching at Ground Zero in New York who found an intact wall of Beanie Babies (his absolutely favorite toy) in a ruined store and had to be taken off the deployment for the day because he was too awe-struck to move on.  

This is a great book for all dog lovers.  

Thoughts While Reading
18 Feb, 2019

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

 

 

 

Wakanda ForeverWakanda Forever by Nnedi Okorafor

I’ve read a bunch of Wakanda graphic novels this week.

  • I think that superhero comics are really hard to get into because there is so much lore and backstory that you are always going to be behind if you are just starting.
  • I’m glad to see how Wakanda is depicted in these stories vs the movie.  It didn’t make any sense that Wakanda was shown as a small town featuring buildings with grass roofs.  In the comics it is a major technologically advanced city.  That makes so much more sense.
  • I don’t see myself reading any more of these.  The short format doesn’t really grab my attention.

A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in AfricaA Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo

“In A Moonless, Starless Sky Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women’s basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram. This debut book by one of America’s most acclaimed young journalists illuminates the inner lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary–lives that are too often hidden, underreported, or ignored by the rest of the world.”

These four stories show people standing up to power to make their world a better place.

  • In Uganda, men who were kidnapped as children to be soldiers and the women who were kidnapped to be their “brides” are often choosing to stay together after they escape.  This is causing a lot of upset in the villages they came from because how can you stay with a man who raped you and possibly killed people you know?
  • In Mauritiania, slavery was just recently officially banned but no one has told the slaves.  One man has built an organization trying to prosecute powerful people who keep slaves.
  • A man in Nigeria decides to fight back against Boko Haram by finding neighbors and family members who are part of the organization and turning them over to the military instead of looking the other way.
  • In Somalia, women are threatened with death for playing basketball but continue despite the risks.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated AmericaThe Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Yeah, so I had this happen and I posted it on Facebook.

A person decided to perkily converse with me about the book I was reading at lunch.
“That looks like a fun book! What’s it about?”
“Um, racial discrimination in U.S. housing law.”
“That’s, um, different.” Then she rallied and got perky again. “Are you reading that for fun?”
“Yes.”
“Great! Have a good day!”
To be fair, the cover is colorful and that is all she saw before she started talking.  </end>

The book is interesting but I’m not going to finish it. I’ve read a bit about this before and this isn’t covering a lot of new material for me. It isn’t the most readable book. It is example after example of humans being horrible to each other and it wears on you after a while.

16 Feb, 2019

What I Can’t Say on Facebook

/ posted in: Ranting and RavingReligion

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This is me today. I have to have a rant.  I have to have it here because I am a grown up who understands that I can’t have this rant on Facebook where the people involved would see it and be made oh so sad.

I read a story this morning about the birth of a person’s child.  This child was premature but is doing well.  That’s good.  It is the telling and interpretation of the story that makes me livid.

It starts with her water breaking 6 weeks early.  She calls her sister who is a doctor.  For a long time, I couldn’t figure this part out.  Why?  Her sister is many, many states away.  She says that her sister helped her get into a hospital with a brand new NICU.  I finally figured it out and it made me even madder than the rest of the story already had.

She had to call her doctor sister because she was 32 weeks pregnant and didn’t have an OB/GYN.  She states later that she doesn’t trust doctors.  (Until you need one.)  She is of the ultra-conservative Christian, homeschooling (and now I presume, homebirthing) persuasion.  I would have hoped she at least had a good midwife and not just some lady from a homeschooling group.  However, a good midwife would have had a better emergency plan than “Call your sister” even if it just was “Call an ambulance.”

Ok, so how could her sister get her into a hospital?  She doesn’t have admitting privileges in a land far, far way.  I’m willing to bet she googled hospitals in the area and saw one that had just built a brand new NICU and said, “Drive there, stupid” or something similar.

But, you know where this is going.  God provided and she was able to get into the hospital.

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If you are a hospital and you have a brand new NICU and a woman about to make a premature baby wanders in off the street, I’mma guess you’ll probably take her in. I don’t know. Just my guess.

Anyhow, they admit her and put her in a bed. Labor stops. I hear that’s the treatment for that. I’ve heard tell there are drugs that might help too. Those aren’t mentioned in this story. They want the baby to stay cooking for at least another 10 days. God was faithful and it did. No thanks to those doctors and nurses and all their intervention and bed rest.

Speaking of interventions, she stated that she needed a lot of prayer to have the strength to endure daily blood tests. (Oh, were you being closely monitored by a team of professionals, maybe?) You don’t need prayer to endure. You just do it because you don’t have a choice. It isn’t going to kill you. You literally just lay there.

 

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So the baby at one point was going the wrong way but then it turned around. That’s what they do when they decide to vacate the premises. Nope. Miracle.

Also for a while it looked like the umbilical cord was in the wrong place but after a few scans it turns out it wasn’t. Miracle – definitely not all the moving around the baby was doing a paragraph before.

It was eventually born and she didn’t need to have a c-section. That was good because she knew she needed to be able to get up and take care the baby and her other children. (Your mother always did say your husband was a lazy, good for nothing…..)

The baby did fine and was able to go home (after a 10 day stay in the brand-new, state-of-the-art NICU).

She was writing all this on Facebook in order to be able to thank all the people who cared for her unprepared self who prayed for her during her ordeal.

via GIPHY

So of course everyone is commenting about how they prayed for her and how all this is proof of God’s love.  I so badly want to say, “Wow, sounds like you did your absolute best to have major birth complications.  Good thing you had great medical care.  Do you trust doctors now?”

There are times when I so badly wish I had the immaturity of an internet troll. 

There are few things I hate more than Christians on Facebook.

via GIPHY

Montly Sewing Update
15 Feb, 2019

Monthly Sewing Update

/ posted in: Quilting


It worked!  It worked!  I sewed so I would have something to say here.  

True confession time.  I didn’t finish the whole post last time before it autoposted in January.  I meant to list all the WIPs (Works in Progress) that I want to work on this year and then show if there is any progress in each one.

2019 Color Challenge

This is a new project.  I figured I could handle one beginner block each month and actually end up with a quilt for someone.  The second block was a simple one to be done in pink.  

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The word fabric was left over from a baby quilt for a kid who is about 6 or 7 now.

I found out recently that a few people I work with don’t like polka dots.  They find them creepy.  They are obviously wrong.  I love polka dots.  I have a lot of dot fabrics at home.


On Ringo Lake

This was 2017 (shut up) mystery quilt from Bonnie Hunter.  I did really well making all my pieces on the weekly schedule.  There are hundreds and hundreds of pieces.  And then it sat.  I had an unexpected day off work during the super cold spell so I decided to spend it sewing.  I went downstairs meaning to work on something else but I saw this and decided to work on it instead.

By the end of the first day I had turned this:

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into this:

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Typical behavior for me would then be to wander off never to work on this again for months. But that didn’t happen! I came back the next day and worked on it again. I ordered a backing for it even.

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Powder used to lay right by the sewing machine and I always told her that it was a miracle that she never got her tail sewn. She never really got close though. This was my first time sewing with the Lucy-kitten. She decided that she could catch the moving machine needle between her front paws. I screamed, “Noooooooooooooo!” at her so loud that she went off and pouted because I scared her. Better hurt feelings than sewn together paws.

I’ve even kept going.  I’ve decided to quilt this in a simple all over pattern.  I’m going to quilt this in sections using a Quilt as You Go technique.  I’ve ordered the stencil and received the backing fabric.  Here is the first section put together.

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Look what that kitten did to my high class design wall!

 


De La Promenade

 

This is destined to hang above the daybed in my cat/music room/library. The whole room was painted to show it off. Now I just need to finish it. It is fusible applique and quilt-as-you go. This is what I meant to work on when I got restarted on On Ringo Lake.

This is the third panel. This is fusible applique that is then sewed down/quilted in one step. I finished quilting the second swan so this panel is done. Now I need to start tracing panel four.

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Buttermilk Graffiti
13 Feb, 2019

Buttermilk Graffiti

/ posted in: Book ReviewFoodies ReadReading Buttermilk Graffiti Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee
on April 17, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Artisan
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

There is a new American culinary landscape developing around us, and it’s one that chef Edward Lee is proud to represent. In a nation of immigrants who bring their own culinary backgrounds to this country, what happens one or even two generations later? What does their cuisine become? It turns into a cuisine uniquely its own and one that Lee argues makes America the most interesting place to eat on earth. Lee illustrates this through his own life story of being a Korean immigrant and a New Yorker and now a Southerner. In Off the Menu, he shows how we each have a unique food memoir that is worthy of exploration. To Lee, recipes are narratives and a conduit to learn about a person, a place, or a point in time. He says that the best way to get to know someone is to eat the food they eat. Each chapter shares a personal tale of growth and self-discovery through the foods Lee eats and the foods of the people he interacts with—whether it’s the Korean budae jjigae of his father or the mustard beer cheese he learns to make from his wife’s German-American family. Each chapter is written in narrative form and punctuated with two recipes to highlight the story, including Green Tea Beignets, Cornbread Pancakes with Rhubarb Jam, and Butternut Squash Schnitzel. Each recipe tells a story, but when taken together, they form the arc of the narrative and contribute to the story we call the new American food.

Goodreads

Edward Lee is fascinated by what happens to food when people move to a new country.  For example, what happens when Korean immigrants move to an area where they can’t get the types of peppers that they are used to using and have to substitute South American varieties instead?  What new types of cuisines emerge?

He traveled around America to areas where new immigrant communities have grown up to sample the food.  Along the way he tries to ingratiate himself in restaurants to find the best food.  It doesn’t always go well. 

This book challenges a lot of deeply held beliefs in the foodie world.

  • What does it mean to call a food “authentic”?
  • If authentic means “the way it was made at a certain time in the past in a certain place”, does that imply that that culture’s food scene can’t evolve?  Must it stay stagnant so rich American people feel it is worth eating?
  • Who gets to be the judge of authenticity anyway?
  • Why is he looked at strangely if he decides to open a restaurant serving anything but Korean food?  Should he be limited to cooking the food of his ancestors?  Isn’t he allowed to evolve too?

There are a lot of recipes in this book.  I actually made a few which is really unusual for me.  I know now that I don’t like anything pickled except cucumbers.  I was making coleslaw at the same time I was reading this and he had a basic coleslaw recipe.  It was good. 

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