A while ago I signed up on Yes.Fit for a virtual race called The Tortoise Creep. It was 155.1 miles long. The idea was that you log your workouts and earn a medal. I like tortoises so I picked this one.
I did well for a while and then pretty much forgot about it. I think I’m at around 100 miles in.
I decided that I needed some motivation for working out in December so I decided to do another race. I wanted to walk about 2 miles a day. So I picked the Sea Turtle Exploration race. (You may see a theme…) It is 42.3 miles. I should be able to finish that this month and then get a good chunk of the Tortoise Creep finished.
They also have a race that starts January 1 that celebrates how far you go all year. Some people are doing that with just exercise miles. Other people are hooking up their fitness trackers to log all the distance they walk in a whole year. I may do that.
I just ordered myself a new Fitbit. I wanted to go old school with it. I like the ones that clip on. I don’t want to wear a watch. I don’t care if it does anything other than measure the distance I walk. I don’t need it to help me remember to breathe or track my sleep. I got the most basic fitbit and now you can get the clip but you have to pay extra for it instead of a wristband.
I have a conference and some time at amusement parks in January. That should be a good start at getting my totals up.
I have a lot of books. Well, compared to some bloggers I see I don’t have tons, but I think I have a lot. Of the books that I have at home, I haven’t read most of them. I’m sure I’m not alone in that either. So I’ve decided to give myself a challenge for 2020 to read more of these books.
I thought about this for a while. I didn’t want to make a list or set a number or anything that would make me rebel. I’m the ultimate mood reader after all. In the end I decided to add a section to my monthly wrap up post to highlight I book I already owned that I read. That way I hopefully would get at least one a month to put in that section. I started to think about how to define a book that would count – I couldn’t have bought it immediately prior to reading it, etc. – but decided in the end that I would know in my heart if a book counted for this or not.
It is the perfect plan for me. Low expectations and no rules. Feel free to steal the idea if you like it.
What do you do to read all the books that you have sitting around?
Everybody is putting out these end of the decade review so I have to join in. (Can we just take a moment to acknowledge though that it isn’t really then end of the decade just like 2000 wasn’t the beginning of a new millenium? Yeah, yeah, I lost that argument too.)
Anyway, I was thinking about the changes in how I read and select books over the last 10 years.
In 2009/2010 I was living in a small city in the middle of pretty much nowhere. It had a decent library though. I’d go all the time and browse. I’d always check out the new books and then have a wander through the rest of the stacks. It was small enough to do that. I’d decide what to get based on what I saw.
In 2012 we moved to a bigger city with an exponentially larger library with branches. I’m fairly close to the main library and started browsing there. I’d still scan the new releases for ideas mostly. This library was 3 stories. I couldn’t wander efficiently through all the stacks.
I’m not sure when that all started to change. It had to be after I started making a TBR on Goodreads. Maybe it was book twitter. (Today is my 6 year twitter anniversary. I only know that because it so helpfully told me this morning.) Now I never go and just have a wander around. I request books I want and pick them up at the most convenient branch. In and out in minimal time.
The only time I do any browsing is on the library ebook/audiobook app. I browse especially for audiobooks. I just tell it to show me what came out recently and I make a list of what sounds good.
I also try to get as much as I can in ebook now. That way I don’t even need to go to the library. It is instant gratification.
Is it just me or has everyone changed their browsing habits too?
I work with several people in their early to mid-twenties. One thing that I’m just amazed by in them is their level of fear. Do I just know a group of particularly scaredy-cats or is this common? Let me give you some examples.
One person lives with her parents. Her parents went on vacation. She was so scared to be in the house by herself that she made various people, including her grandmother, come over and stay with her at night. She said that she slept cuddled with her gun. She has several very loud dogs. No one is likely to try to steal her. Indeed, no one tried to steal her or anything else. In related news, I mentioned once that I sleep with headphones on to drown out snoring. (I listen to ambiance videos on youtube.) She was horrified. She wanted to know how I would hear anyone breaking in. I’m not worried about it. Could someone break into my house? Sure. Have they ever? No. Would I gain anything by worrying every night that it might happen? No.
Another was recently gifted a houseby her grandparents in part to get her out of her parents’ house and away from a slightly toxic family dynamic. She hasn’t moved in. At first she was terrified of the neighborhood. We went over and took a look around. The neighborhood is fine. (Even the person from the example above said she felt fine there.) She also has a large, loud dog. She is working up to staying there a few days a week. It is fully furnished. All she needs to do is get her clothes and go there. It has been several months now. She recently commented on how she couldn’t do something because she lives with her parents. I yelled at her. “You wouldn’t live with your parents if you went and lived in your own house!” She acknowledged that was true.
I’m taking these two to a conference out of state. For a few days the one is going to visit her grandparents. That will leave the one in a hotel room alone. I told her that the husband and I weren’t coming to sleep in her room with her. She said just knowing we were in the same hotel would be ok. The other one has never flown and is already super anxious about it even though it is a few months away.
Is it just me? I don’t remember life being this scary at their ages. By the time I was their age I had moved to a different state for school for 4 years, traveled internationally alone, led interstate travel with groups of teenagers, became a doctor, gotten married, moved to another different state away from anyone I knew, etc. I just want to shake them and tell them to get out in the world. You are missing out on living your lives! The knee-jerk response to any new thing shouldn’t be, “That’s really scary. I don’t know.”
Maybe I’m turning into a crotchety old lady. “Back in my day, whippersnapper, we went out in the world…” I’ve decided I’ll be doing my best to try to unshelter all the young’uns I work with. Take a peek at the world. It will be ok.
I’m at a bit of a loss right now for what to read after Nonfiction November. That gives such structure to my reading life. Now it is a free-for-all again!
I do have a few books to read to finish up my Asian authors challenge. I want to read Pachinko and The Queen of the Night this month. Can you believe that I got Pachinko as an ARC before it blew up all over the book world and I still haven’t read it?
“In the bestselling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.
Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.”
Bill Bryson is an autobuy author for me. I’m currently listening to The Body. I started it and then left it for a bit because it was a little too basic in the beginning. I guess I have to expect that since I’ve been to doctor school. But once it started to get into a bit more detail he is throwing in fun facts that are new to me. I also always love the way he choses to phrases things.
I think this is a good book for people who don’t have a lot of medical knowledge. I’m always amazed at how much people don’t know. I’ll be trying to talk to people about their animals and have to slow down to discuss very basic things about how bodies work before I can get into what’s gone wrong. Just the fact that I have a standard “Boys have nipples” speech that I have given to many men and women says it all.
Despite believing it all the way through the book, Adharanand Finn is not an Indian man. He is the child of white British hippies who gave their kids Sanskrit names. I was listening to the audiobook and was quite confused when I saw a picture of a white guy when I logged it on Goodreads.
What I’ve read so far in 2019:
Righteous by Joe Ide
Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee
The Class by Heather Won Tesoriero
North by Scott and Jenny Jurek
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder
Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan
Bury What We Cannot Take by Jean Kwok
Instant Indian by Rinku Bhattacharya
The True Queen by Zen Cho
Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam
A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee
Spices and Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai
Quit Like a Millionaire by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung
What the Eyes Don’t See by Mona Hanna-Attisha
I’m aiming for 21-30 books to be at the tapir level. 19/21 so far. Only 1 month left. I can do this!
In 1957, while most teenage girls were listening to Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue," watching Elvis gyrate, and having slumber parties, fifteen-year-old Melba Pattillo was escaping the hanging rope of a lynch mob, dodging lighted sticks of dynamite, and washing away the burning acid sprayed into her eyes by segregationists determined to prevent her from integrating Little Rock's Central High School - caught up in the center of a civil rights firestorm that stunned this nation and altered the course of history. Her critically acclaimed and award-winning memoir Warriors Don't Cry chronicled her junior year in high school, the year President Eisenhower took unprecedented, historic action by sending federal troops to escort Melba and her eight black classmates into a previously all-white school. Now, in answer to the often repeated question "What happened next?" Melba has written White Is a State of Mind. Compelled to flee the violent rage percolating in her hometown, young Melba was brought by the NAACP to a safe haven in Santa Rosa, California. This is the story of how she survived - healed from the wounds inflicted on her by an angry country. It is the inspirational story of how she overcame that anger with the love and support of the white family who took her in and taught her she didn't have to yearn for the freedom she assumed she could never really have because of the color of her skin. They taught her that white is a state of mind - that she could alter her state of mind to claim fully her own freedom and equality.
After reading Melba Patillo’s memoir of the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School, I wanted to know more details about what happened next. Instead of letting the black teenagers have a second year in Central High, the governor closed the high schools. This lead to increasing anger towards the families that were involved in the integration from both white and black families. Melba finally had to flee the state when a bounty was placed on her by Klan members.
Let’s talk about how she found out about this. Her mother had a cousin who was passing as white. That wasn’t that unusual at the time. In fact, she had several relatives passing. But this man was not only married to an unsuspecting white woman and had kids who thought they were all white, he was the sheriff of a small southern town and the head of the local KKK. You read that right. A black man was head of the local KKK. He found out about the bounty on his little cousin and called the family to alert them (presumably before putting the word out to his members). I want to know more about this. I want a whole book about him and then I want that book turned into a miniseries. Somebody make that happen.
She is taken to a safe house in California. The NAACP there was mostly made up of white liberals. It gets cringey. They want so badly to be helpful but they can’t understand why she was terrified. She came from an environment where she was only safe with (some) black people and now she is surrounded by white people. It was complete culture shock for her.
She came from a world where survival consumed everyone’s thoughts. She had never had the experience of planning to go do something just because it might be fun. She couldn’t relate to teenagers with seemingly trivial concerns. On the other hand, once she saw that a better life was possible, she couldn’t fit in with the survival mentality in Little Rock. She also had to face discrimination from black people in California who looked down on her for being southern.
She didn’t have an easy life but learned gradually to stand up for herself.
An electrifying look inside the wild world of extreme distance running.
Once the reserve of only the most hardcore enthusiasts, ultra running is now a thriving global industry, with hundreds of thousands of competitors each year. But is the rise of this most brutal and challenging sport―with races that extend into hundreds of miles, often in extreme environments―an antidote to modern life, or a symptom of a modern illness?
In The Rise of the Ultra Runners, award-winning author Adharanand Finn travels to the heart of the sport to investigate the reasons behind its rise and discover what it takes to join the ranks of these ultra athletes. Through encounters with the extreme and colorful characters of the ultramarathon world, and his own experiences of running ultras everywhere from the deserts of Oman to the Rocky Mountains, Finn offers a fascinating account of people testing the boundaries of human endeavor.
I’ve talked on this blog a lot about how I hate running with a passion that is only equal to how much I love reading about running. This book was perfect for me.
The author decides to learn about ultrarunning by getting a press pass to run the UTMB, a ultramarathon in the mountains in France. In order to use his pass, he has to qualify by getting enough points in other ultramarathons around the world. His journey to learn to love (and survive) ultrarunning and his interviews with the people he meets along the way are the heart of this book.
He covers the different types of ultrarunning – running 50-100 + miles at once, running a marathon every day for several days in a row, and running a short stretch of trail or on a track for 24 hours. Each has its own challenges.
He meets up with some of the best competitors and realizes that their lifestyles help them with their training. One person lives in a cabin 5 miles up Pike’s Peak. There is no road. You have to run in to get there and to leave. Others travel the world racing the hardest trails and mountains they can find.
He tries to talk top Kenyan marathoners into trying longer distances without a lot of success.
He talks to coaches and health care providers about how to stay fit for this and whether all of this is ultimately healthy or not.
I loved this story. I loved seeing what goes into pushing beyond marathon distance. I would never do it but I liked reading other people’s adventures.
Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 29) – New to My TBR (Rennie of What’s Nonfiction): It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book
I was home without another human a few days ago and decided to watch Good Boys. This is a movie about three sixth grade boys who get invited to their first boy-girl party where there is expected to be kissing. They don’t know how to kiss and decide to learn. They steal a drone to spy on the neighbor. She catches their drone and they need to get it back. It all goes even more wrong from there. I expected it to be a diverting silly comedy based on the trailer. I knew a lot of the comedy stemmed from the boys getting into one set of parents’ sex toys and totally misinterpreting what everything is. I didn’t expect it to be intellectually stimulating, is what I’m saying.
That’s why I was so surprised to realize that this was a delightfully feminist movie. Women aren’t the main characters. These kind of movies with a lot of discussions about sex usually have men and boys devaluing and objectifying women at every turn. That didn’t happen here. Instead women and girls were treated with respect and dignity in a movie about pubescent boys. It was amazing.
If you are wondering how that could even happen, here are a few examples.
When they try to spy on the neighbor and her boyfriend, we see her telling her boyfriend that she is going to spend the day with her female best friend. He responds by asking her to cut the day short and visit him afterwards. She says that it isn’t her plan and he starts to whine and harass her about it. Instead of trying to make him feel better, she just says, “You know, this isn’t working out,” and dumps him on the spot! When he lashes out at her verbally in response she just ignores him and goes back to her friend. No centering of male feelings at all. Delightful!
The boys have obviously been deeply schooled in consent. They don’t see it as anything weird. They accept it as part of the lead up to kissing. When they role play to figure out how to kiss on a doll, they remind each other that you can’t just touch someone. You have to ask first. It isn’t preachy. They are just reminding each other of the steps. See, that wasn’t so hard, was it, whiny internet trolls?
They have also been taught that their consent and comfort matters. When they get to the kissing party, some decide that they don’t want to participate. That’s fine with the group. There are other activities for those who chose not to participate. No one is shamed for it.
One boy ends up getting a girlfriend. You then see a montage of the girl breaking up with him, him getting another girlfriend, her breaking up with him, and the two girls going off together. Yay for showing girls that they can leave relationships and be happy without a boy. Yay for showing boys it is ok to cry when you get your heart broken. No need to think your manliness has been crushed forever so you need to become a hateful internet man (or worse).
All of this was shown as such a normal part of the world that I didn’t really even notice all of it until I thought about it later. Thank you for making a comedy about boys that didn’t have to degrade female feelings and sexuality and relationships in order to be funny. Yes, this is the world that hateful feminists want!
Week 4: (Nov. 18 to 22) – Nonfiction Favorites (Leann of Shelf Aware): We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.
I’ll read nonfiction about any topic. Sometimes I think that the topic is the least important part for me. If the book is well done, I’ll be interested in a topic that I never considered interesting before. So what does make a nonfiction book a winner for me?
Bring the author along for the ride
I love books that chronicle the way the author learned about the topic. I don’t just want to read a treatise on the history of honey when I can get a story about a woman driving around the country learning about honey.
Make truth stranger than fiction
I love books that make me sit up and say, “What now?” I still count almost swerving off the road at a key point in the audiobook version of Devil in the Grove as one of my favorite reading moments. If I’m compelled to tell the next person I see all about what I just learned, you have a hit book.
Tell me something I don’t know about what I do know
I feel like I’m pretty well educated on the high points of history but there is so much that slips through the cracks. I like hearing “the rest of the story.” (Yep, showing my age there.)
Week 3: (Nov. 11 to 15) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Katie at Doing Dewey): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert)
This week I’m recommending memoirs of people with disabilities. I’ve learned a lot about what needs to be done to make the world more accessible for everyone by reading these books.
“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book, If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t Your Body is a Wonderland.)
Zach lives by the mantra: when life gives you wheelchair, make lemonade. Whether recounting a valiant childhood attempt to woo Cindy Crawford, encounters with zealous faith healers, or the time he crapped his pants mere feet from Dr. Phil, Zach shares his fumbles with unflinching honesty and characteristic charm. By his thirtieth birthday, Zach had grown into an adult with a career in entertainment, millions of fans, a loving family, and friends who would literally carry him up mountains.”
I loved this book. I absolutely recommend it on audiobook which is read by the author.
To get an idea of Zach’s personality and see why this is such a fun book, watch my favorite video of his: The Quest for the Rainbow Bagel
“At the age of thirty-eight, Stephen Kuusisto—who has managed his whole life without one—gets his first guide dog, a beautiful yellow labrador named Corky. Theirs is a partnership of movement, mutual self-interest, and wanderlust. Walking with Corky in Manhattan for the first time, Steve discovers he’s “living the chaos of joy—you’re in love with your surroundings, loving a barefoot mind, wild to go anyplace.”
Have Dog, Will Travel is the inside story of how a person establishes trust with a dog, how a guide dog is trained. Corky absolutely transforms Steve’s life and his way of being in the world. Profound and deeply moving, theirs is a spiritual journey, during which Steve discovers that joy with a guide dog is both a method and a state of mind. Guaranteed to make you laugh—and cry—this beautiful reflection on the highs, lows, and everyday details that make up life with a guide dog provides a profound exploration of Stephen’s lifelong struggle with disability, identity, and the midlife events that lead to self-acceptance.”
The thing that amazed me about this book is that the author was raised believing that he needed to hide the fact that he was blind. He traveled, graduated from college, and became a professor without ever really acknowledging it. People around him thought his level of visual impairment was on the level of “needs very thick glasses” when it really was “legally blind so I really, really shouldn’t be driving this motorbike right now.” Deciding to live openly as a blind person was a major life adjustment for him. His family was not supportive. This book explains a lot about learning cane skills in order to navigate and how you need mastery of those skills in order to work with a dog.
“Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn’t see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents’ harrowing experiences during Eritrea’s thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.
Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.”
This is another book that highlights what is possible with technology, a supportive community, and a determined attitude.
The incredible life story of Haben Girma, the first deafblind graduate of Harvard Law School, and her amazing journey from isolation to the world stage.
Haben grew up spending summers with her family in the enchanting Eritrean city of Asmara. There, she discovered courage as she faced off against a bull she couldn't see, and found in herself an abiding strength as she absorbed her parents' harrowing experiences during Eritrea's thirty-year war with Ethiopia. Their refugee story inspired her to embark on a quest for knowledge, traveling the world in search of the secret to belonging. She explored numerous fascinating places, including Mali, where she helped build a school under the scorching Saharan sun. Her many adventures over the years range from the hair-raising to the hilarious.
Haben defines disability as an opportunity for innovation. She learned non-visual techniques for everything from dancing salsa to handling an electric saw. She developed a text-to-braille communication system that created an exciting new way to connect with people. Haben pioneered her way through obstacles, graduated from Harvard Law, and now uses her talents to advocate for people with disabilities.
HABEN takes readers through a thrilling game of blind hide-and-seek in Louisiana, a treacherous climb up an iceberg in Alaska, and a magical moment with President Obama at The White House. Warm, funny, thoughtful, and uplifting, this captivating memoir is a testament to one woman's determination to find the keys to connection.
The thing that impressed me about this book was her sense that her disabilities, especially her blindness, really aren’t that big of a deal. She repeatedly says that blindness is “just a lack of sight” like it is mostly inconsequential. I think this is because there is more adaptive infrastructure for blind people than for Deafblind people. She is able to use braille computers and books, cane skills, and her guide dog to get around the world. Adaptation for deafness like sign language aren’t as accessible to her because of her blindness.
It amused me that she could never understand why her parents were so “overprotective.” She couldn’t understand why they didn’t want her to go off and build a school in Africa. Most parents wouldn’t say their teenager could go on a several month trip to Africa during the school year without thinking about it a bit. That’s without adding in the additional issues raised when that teenager is Deafblind.
It was frustrating to read about people who wouldn’t inconvenience themselves a little bit to make adjustments that had huge impacts for her. I would like to think that people would want to help others but I guess I’m being naive.
This memoir is written as a series of essays on different points of her life so dwells for a while in one time period and then jumps ahead sometimes by several years. I liked this format because a lot of memoirs get bogged down in minutia during the less interesting times of the subject’s life.
I’d recommend this memoir to anyone who wonders what it is like to be Deafblind in a seeing and hearing world.
Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Sarah’s Bookshelves is back to host – Book Pairing: This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.
If you loved:
“Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program. Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘coloured computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets and astronauts, into space. Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of five courageous women whose work forever changed the world.”
I think by this time most people are familiar with the story from either the book or the movie. (The book is totally better of course!) If you haven’t read it yet, you really should.
Then read this fiction series where the computers fight to go to space:
“On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.
Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.”
Elma is a Jewish woman who is just as qualified, if not more so, than the men who are signing up to become astronauts. She was a math prodigy who is assigned to work as a computer to do the calculations for space flight. She starts to push for the inclusion of women in the space program. They have to go if there are going to be colonies in space. This doesn’t sit well with some of the male powers-that-be.
Elma has her own blind spots too. One of the strengths of the series is that they are confronted. She routinely forgets about African-American female pilots who are also as qualified. She is pushed ahead of Asian and Latina pilots in order to project the image that the U.S. space program wants. The books do a good job of creating a world of the 1950s and 60s where necessity pushed technological advancement forward but racial and social justice stayed static.
“The Fated Sky continued the grand sweep of alternate history begun in The Calculating Stars. It is 1961, and the International Aerospace Coalition has established a colony on the moon. Elma York, the noted Lady Astronaut, is working on rotation, flying shuttles on the moon and returning regularly to Earth.
But humanity must get a foothold on Mars. The first exploratory mission is being planned, and none of the women astronauts is on the crew list. The international Aerospace Coalition has grave reservations about sending their “Lady Astronauts” on such a dangerous mission. The problem with that is the need for midjourney navigation calculations. The new electronic computation machines are not reliable and not easily programmed. It might be okay for a backup, but there will have to be a human computer on board. And all the computers are women.”
Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julz of Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?
That’s a little less than last year at this point but not by as much as I thought it would be.
What about my favorites? This is always so hard. There is such a variety of topics and styles here.
As always I want to get a huge TBR pile from reading everyone’s Nonfiction November posts.
Gripping drama as Pennington's department store prepares for a glittering Christmas in 1911, but a killer stalks the women of Bath.
Christmas sees Pennington's at its most glorious, thronged with shoppers, its grand staircase and balcony adorned with holly, mistletoe, tinsel and lights. It should be the happiest time, but dramas are seething beneath the surface.
For Cornelia Culford, in charge of jewellery, a divorce hearing looms, where she could lose custody of her young sons to her overbearing and unfaithful husband.
For Stephen Gower, being head of security at Pennington's is the perfect refuge from a tragic past at Scotland Yard. But soon the past will call him back, as Joseph Carter and Elizabeth Pennington beg him to help solve the murder of Joseph's first wife, now that it seems as if the killer has struck again.
For Joseph and Elizabeth, their marriage depends on exorcising the past. But can it ever be laid to rest?
This is the third book that I’ve read in this series set in an English department store. Each of the books focuses on a particular couple but because there is a larger mystery that moves through all of them, it is best to read them in order.
Cornelia is a soon to be divorced woman who is working at the jewelry counter. Stephen is a policeman on leave pending an investigation into his role in a case that went horribly wrong. He’s working security at the store. Several people find out that he is from Scotland Yard and decide to enlist him in solving problems of their own. He doesn’t want to be involved in anyone’s affairs but he finds himself being drawn in.
I like the setting of the books. It is 1911. That’s isn’t a time period I see represented a lot in historical fiction. The backbone of this series is women who are trying to move themselves out of the domestic sphere that they have been pigeonholed in. One is trying to run a business. One is active in trying to get the vote. One is trying to get away from an abusive husband. I like seeing those perspectives.
I’m not a fan of the men in these books. I really learned to despise the man who was the romantic lead of book one. He’s obsessed with finding out who murdered his first wife. That’s fine but it is turning him increasingly nasty which is an interesting story arc for a person who was supposed to be a hero. He keeps saying that his first wife won’t be able to rest in peace if he doesn’t find her murderer. I don’t think that is how it works. She doesn’t care because she is dead. You care, sir.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the resolution of that story line either. For the buildup it was over pretty quickly. There was a connection between several victims that I have a hard time believing no one noticed. “Oh, 50% of our group has been murdered? Is that why we don’t need as many refreshments at meetings?”
But if you are willing to let that go, it is an interesting look at a time and place.
Author Bio – Rachel lives with her husband and their two daughters in a small town near Bath, England. Since 2007, she has had several novels published by small US presses, eight books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical. In January 2018, she signed a four-book deal with Aria Fiction for a new Edwardian series set in Bath’s finest department store. The Mistress of Pennington’s released July 2018, A Rebel At Pennington’s February 2019 and Christmas At Pennington’s September 2019. Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America and has thousands of social media followers all over the world. To sign up for her quarterly and new release newsletter, click here to go to her website: https://rachelbrimble.com/
The landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education, brought the promise of integration to Little Rock, Arkansas, but it was hard-won for the nine black teenagers chosen to integrate Central High School in 1957. They ran the gauntlet between a rampaging mob and the heavily armed Arkansas National Guard, dispatched by Governor Orval Faubus to subvert federal law and bar them from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower responded by sending in soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, the elite "Screaming Eagles" - and transformed Melba Pattillo and her eight friends into reluctant warriors on the battlefield of civil rights. May 17, 1994, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which was argued and won by Thurgood Marshall, whose passion and presence emboldened the Little Rock struggle. Melba Pattillo Beals commemorates the milestone decision in this first-person account of her ordeal at the center of the violent confrontation that helped shape the civil rights movement. Beals takes us from the lynch mob that greeted the terrified fifteen-year-old to a celebrity homecoming with her eight compatriots thirty years later, on October 23, 1987, hosted by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton in the mansion that Faubus built. As they returned to tour the halls of the school, gathering from myriad professions and all corners of the country, they were greeted by the legacy of their courage - a bespectacled black teenager, the president of the student body at Central High. Beals chronicles her harrowing junior year at Central High, when she began each school day by polishing her saddle shoes and bracing herself for battle.
You’ve seen the pictures of the Little Rock Nine being escorted into the school by soldiers and the famous picture above of the angry mob around Elizabeth Eckford. What I never heard about or considered was what happened after they got into the school. I guess I thought that everything was fine once they got inside. It absolutely wasn’t. This is that story.
I listened to the audiobook of this story. It is brutal. Every day after listening I was completely disgusted with white people. I’d tell the white people I work with all about what I had learned that day so they could be mad at our fellow white people with us. I proposed a road trip to Arkansas to beat up some elderly white people but no one has taken me up on it so far. That’s only because they haven’t read the book. If they had, they’d get over their reservations and join me in giving some old people some well deserved whuppings.
All day long the white kids in the school tormented the black students. It was completely ignored by the adults. That’s what amazes me the most. The adults seemed to give up control of the school. I understand that most of them wanted the black students gone too but you’d think that they would at least try to keep some order during classes. They didn’t. It seems like the whole school was ruled by packs of students.
On the first day the teenagers were in school a mob was threatening the school. There was actually talk by the adults in charge of giving one of the students to the mob to be lynched in order to settle them down. They discussed this in front of the kids.
Beatings happened daily. They were kicked all the time. White kids tried to set Melba on fire several times and she had acid thrown in her face. Lit dynamite was thrown at them in the hallways. I don’t know how many textbooks they went through because white students destroyed them routinely. This went on EVERY DAY FOR A WHOLE SCHOOL YEAR. I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine living through it and I can’t imagine hating anyone or anything so much that I could keep that level of abuse up for a whole school year.
Melba credits her family with the strength to get through. This is where I differ with her interpretation a bit. Her grandmother was a very religious woman who kept saying that god was in control of everything. As a non-Christian, this grated on me. I think it would have been better for the adults in her life to help stand up for her in any way they could (which admittedly was very little) instead of spouting platitudes. Melba did embrace these and gained strength from them so I’m glad it helped her. As a reader though they made me grind my teeth in frustration.
At the end of the book she talks a little about her perspective on the experience in retrospect. She says that she would have never put her own kids into that kind of abusive situation. That was something I wondered about. The cause was good and just but what they went through was child abuse. They sacrificed their mental and physical health for integration. There is a second book that discusses what happened in her life after this hell year. I’m going to read that. She was definitely damaged by the experience.
I would also like to read about this from the perspective of some of the white people. I kept trying to get into their minds and figure out how they were possibly justifying any of this. I can’t make that mental leap. I’d love to just be able to ask, “What the hell were you even thinking?”
This is a book I want to put into the hands of everyone. These teenagers were amazing. They took unimaginable abuse from both the white and black community. This is history that we can’t forget.