I love reading romance novels. I mostly like historicals and ones without a whole lot of explicitly-described sex. But, I have a confession.
I can’t remember the characters or a plot of a romance novel
I see people on Twitter answering questions about romance books like “Who are some of your favorite heroes?”
(1) books they liked with the
(2) name of the character and
(3) why they liked him.
I stare at my screen in awe. I couldn’t state any of those three things about most of the books I’ve read.
I feel really bad about this. I know people are working really hard to write these books. Then I go and consume them like popcorn and have no memory of the event afterwards.
I’m not exaggerating here. Traditional, white historical romances are complete black holes in my mind. I completely enjoy the ones I read. But then I finish a book and look for another and it goes bad.
Steps to reading a new romance:
See new book that doesn’t sound regressive and horrible
Check Goodreads to see if I’ve read it before
Be surprised that I have
Read the synopsis again and wait for any hint of recognition
I can’t tell you what these books are about. I liked the last one enough to read the whole series. No idea about any of those books either. I’ve read these all in the last month or so. Embarrassing.
It definitely tends to be books with white, upper class heroines that run together on me. I have a better memory for working class heroines and/or heroines of color. (I never remember the heroes of books.)
I can sort of tell you about these ones. A little. I liked them. You should read them. Likewise, I give a blanket recommendation to anything by Courtney Milan but don’t ask me to tell which book is which without reading a synopsis.
Is it just me? Does anyone else have books completely fall out of their mind?
From a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, the powerful story of how a prominent white supremacist changed his heart and mind
Derek Black grew up at the epicenter of white nationalism. His father founded Stormfront, the largest racist community on the Internet. His godfather, David Duke, was a KKK Grand Wizard. By the time Derek turned nineteen, he had become an elected politician with his own daily radio show – already regarded as the “the leading light” of the burgeoning white nationalist movement. “We can infiltrate,” Derek once told a crowd of white nationalists. “We can take the country back.” Then he went to college. Derek had been home-schooled by his parents, steeped in the culture of white supremacy, and he had rarely encountered diverse perspectives or direct outrage against his beliefs. At New College of Florida, he continued to broadcast his radio show in secret each morning, living a double life until a classmate uncovered his identity and sent an email to the entire school. “Derek Black…white supremacist, radio host…New College student???” The ensuing uproar overtook one of the most liberal colleges in the country. Some students protested Derek’s presence on campus, forcing him to reconcile for the first time with the ugliness his beliefs. Other students found the courage to reach out to him, including an Orthodox Jew who invited Derek to attend weekly Shabbat dinners. It was because of those dinners–and the wide-ranging relationships formed at that table–that Derek started to question the science, history and prejudices behind his worldview. As white nationalism infiltrated the political mainstream, Derek decided to confront the damage he had done. Rising Out of Hatred tells the story of how white-supremacist ideas migrated from the far-right fringe to the White House through the intensely personal saga of one man who eventually disavowed everything he was taught to believe, at tremendous personal cost. With great empathy and narrative verve, Eli Saslow asks what Derek’s story can tell us about America’s increasingly divided nature. This is a book to help us understand the American moment and to help us better understand one another.
It was interesting to listen to this book shortly after listening to Educated. Both books describe children who were indoctrinated into an extreme worldview and the way that their exposure to the larger world in college helped them break free of it. (Of course, I kept muttering “Well, that’s why you got to keep them locked up and not let them go to them heathen colleges” like a proper zealot the whole time I was listening.)
I found the responses of his classmates intriguing. There were basically two responses – shun him with the goal of making it so uncomfortable for him at school that he would leave, or befriend him in hopes of talking to him about his views. I’m not sure where I would have fallen if I was in that situation. Both approaches worked on him in different ways. He had never had a lot sustained pushback about his beliefs before. Arguments were just intellectual exercises for him. Now he was facing people he knew who were being affected by the policies that he had helped popularize. The people who befriended him took the risk of being thought guilty by association. They were able to work on him in different ways. His non-white friends could publicly be seen with him without people thinking they were white nationalists. They put faces to categories of “immigrant” and “Jew” in his rhetoric. His white friend was able to talk to him about his beliefs more openly because he didn’t automatically feel judgement from her based on her race but she was in danger of being assimilated by him or being thought to be a sympathizer.
I was uncomfortable with a lot of the decisions that his white girlfriend made. It worked out in the end but:
She was so naive and he had spent his life converting people to the white nationalist cause. She went to a nationalist conference with him. One picture of her there on the internet could have ruined her future. I wanted to slap some sense into her.
I thought the book dwelled a little too long on their developing relationship. Yeah, yeah, I get it. They are maybe-maybe not dating. I don’t need a play by play of their personal lives. I’m here for the bigger picture.
The book’s description of their reaction to the rise of Trump should put to rest any ideas that he isn’t playing directly to white nationalists. They point out all their talking points that he adopted. They discuss the proposals that they always wanted that he is trying to enact.
Jan Risher took the long way to get from Mississippi to Louisiana with stops in between in Slovakia, Mexico, China, Burkina Faso, and more than forty other countries. Since moving to Lafayette in 2001, she has been a Sunday columnist for The Daily Advertiser and has written a column every single week since March 2002.
Looking to the Stars from Old Algiers and Other Long Stories Short is the collection of these columns written over fifteen years. Arranged in chronological order, the collection creates a narrative of one woman's aim to build her family, build up her community, and weave the stories and lessons learned from the past into the present.
From her family's move to Louisiana, adoption of a daughter from China, covering Hurricane Katrina, travels near and far, author Jan Risher attempts, sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding, to do her small part to make the world a better place.
Meet the Author:
Jan Risher is an award-winning journalist and investigative reporter. She was managing editor of The Times of Acadiana. Before and after her time as a full-time journalist, she was an English teacher. She has taught English near and far, in its most basic and most lyrical forms. She continues her career as a freelance writer and now owns Shift Key, a content marketing and public relations firm. She, her husband and their two daughters have made their home on the banks of the Vermilion River.
1. What inspired you to collect these columns into a book?
Through the years, I’ve been blessed to gather a large following of readers, primarily across Louisiana and Mississippi. Readers have asked for a collection through the years, but finding the time to do so has always been an issue. When the University of Louisiana Press spoke with me about the possibility, I believed in the care they would offer the collection — and had a deadline, which is really the main thing I need to get something done!
I thought I had easy access to all my columns but was wrong. Even though this collection finds its beginning in the early years of this century, I ended up having to go to the local university library and digging through microfilm to locate some of the early ones. I had not done as good of a job as I believed in keeping up with them all!
2. When reviewing the columns did you find that your opinions had changed on any subjects?
Surprisingly, I found that my views on most issues had not changed very much, which I found to be comforting. In a couple of rare instances, I was even proud of myself for certain word choices or insights gained. Going back and reading nearly a thousand columns to select the 182 that were eventually used for the book was a head trip. I relived so many of the experiences I had as a younger mother — things I thought I had remembered, but in fact had forgotten. The experience was very powerful. I was grateful to have a team of editors working with me who were able to take a more objective approach in which columns to include or not.
3. What did you hope your newspaper readers gained from the columns? Is it different for book readers?
When my daughters were younger, we said night prayers together every night. Each evening, we would pray to do our best to make the world a better place. In writing each piece for the newspaper, I had the same hope and prayer — that each could serve to and find the right readers who needed a certain tidbit to do his or her part to make the world a better place. Though I failed on occasion, I never wanted to come off as preachy. This is not a how-to book. As a collection of columns, I do believe it connects some of the dots of my hopes. I continue to pray that it serves readers and the lives they touch in a positive way.
The memoir of a young diplomat’s wife who must reinvent her dream of living in Paris—one dish at a time
"Excellent ingredients, carefully prepared and very elegantly served. A really tasty book."—Peter Mayle, author of The Marseille Caper and A Year in Provence
When journalist Ann Mah’s diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment in Paris, Ann is overjoyed. A lifelong foodie and Francophile, she immediately begins plotting gastronomic adventures à deux. Then her husband is called away to Iraq on a year-long post—alone. Suddenly, Ann’s vision of a romantic sojourn in the City of Lights is turned upside down.
So, not unlike another diplomatic wife, Julia Child, Ann must find a life for herself in a new city. Journeying through Paris and the surrounding regions of France, Ann combats her loneliness by seeking out the perfect pain au chocolat and learning the way the andouillette sausage is really made. She explores the history and taste of everything from boeuf Bourguignon to soupe au pistou to the crispiest of buckwheat crepes. And somewhere between Paris and the south of France, she uncovers a few of life’s truths.
Like Sarah Turnbull’s Almost French and Julie Powell’s New York Times bestseller Julie and Julia, Mastering the Art of French Eating is interwoven with the lively characters Ann meets and the traditional recipes she samples. Both funny and intelligent, this is a story about love—of food, family, and France.
I had this book on my iPad for a long time. I had started reading it and then wandered off as I so often do. However, I realized I had this while on my recent riverboat cruise in France, so I decided it was the perfect time to dust it off and finish it up.
I was actually on the outskirts of Lyon when I picked the book back up just in time for the chapter on Lyon. Lyon is known as gastronomic hot spot in France. Their claim to fame are small restaurants that were started by women catering to working class people. They are called “bouchons”. They still exist and are considered some of the best places to eat. I appreciate this book for explaining that they still feature tripe heavily in their meals. Vegetarian-friendly is not a concept most of these have grasped. A few days later I was standing in old town Lyon turning in a circle looking at all the bouchons.
Whispering to the husband – “We aren’t eating anywhere that says bouchon.”
Him – “Why?”
Me, muttering like just saying the word would manifest it in front of me – “Tripe”
Him – “What?””
Me – “It is sort of like restaurants who claim they are Family Restaurants in the U.S.”
He understood my theory that any restaurant that claims that title is using recipes from some old lady who cooked meat and potatoes without any spices and believed that the way to cook vegetables is to boil them until they give up. Also, the soups are totally made with meat broth and if you order vegetable soup anyway odds are 50/50 that there will be unexpected chunks of meat in it. Yes, I am a vegetarian foodie snob.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes reading about local food traditions in combination with a memoir. She decides to write this book to distract her from the fact that she’s been left in France alone for a year. They just moved there. She knows no one. You see her personal growth over the year as she reaches out of her comfort zone to make friends.
So what did we eat in France? Stay tuned for that post in a bit.
I’m back! I came back from vacation to a hacked website. I couldn’t log in. It was redirecting to who knows where. I’m thankful for fiverr.com where I could hire someone to FIX IT! since I don’t know what I was doing.
So now here is my delayed November update.
Here’s what I read in November.
The books were:
1 graphic novel
Set in England, France, Scotland, and the U.S.
The authors were:
2 unique white women, 1 Asian woman, 1 African-American woman, 1 Arab-American man, and 1 white man
An unforgettable memoir in the tradition of The Glass Castle about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag". In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard.
Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent.
Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes and the will to change it.
Somehow I completely missed the point of this book from the previews I read. I thought this was going to be a book about a woman who received a college education after a lifetime of fake homeschool. What this book is actually about is how a lifetime of psychological and physical abuse leaves scars that no amount of education can heal.
This book is brutal. Tara is the youngest child of a Morman family whose father believes that they need to prepare constantly for the end times. The children are kept out of school to keep them out of the hands of the Illuminati. Half-hearted attempts were occasionally made to teach the children but by the time Tara came along, they weren’t even trying anymore. She was indoctrinated in her father’s way of thinking which included regressive attitudes about women.
Her relationship with an older brother, Shawn, was the worst of her problems. At times he protected her from her father’s plans for her. Other times he beat her. In between he manipulated her into believing everything was her fault because she was a weak woman who needed to be disciplined to keep from becoming a whore. The violence and psychological torture escalated as she got older. Any attempt to stand up for herself was brutally squashed.
Another brother convinced her that she could go to college and get out. She did but hid everything from the outside world. She had no idea how to function in society. Her training in conspiracy theories led her to reject help from the state or the church because she believed any assistance was the way they got you to start participating in their evil.
I was looking forward to reading about how she got out into the wider world. This is actually where the story gets worse. Her family’s attempts to reel her back in are monstrous. Her mind was so broken by their brainwashing that she couldn’t see who to trust. All she knew was that it was her duty to do what her family said.
As of the writing of the memoir, she is out and she is alive. It could have gone the other way many times.
While this book is extreme, I didn’t see it as far-fetched. I’ve read several reviews that consider the story suspect. While I don’t know anyone who has gone through this, I can see parts of people I know in many aspects of this story. I see the affects of growing up with mentally ill, abusive parents who I would have written off years ago, in loved ones who are still trying to connect with these parents. I’ve seen people struggle to rid themselves of the ideas that they were exposed to in childhood. They know they aren’t true but still there is that small voice that asks, “But what if is it is true?”
This isn’t a happy memoir of the power of education and pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. I think this is an important book but be prepared to be very disturbed by the level of abuse described and then almost immediately discounted as unimportant or worse, deserved.
“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind. This was the price I was being asked to pay, I understood that now. What my father wanted to cast from me wasn’t a demon: it was me.”
Week 5: (Nov. 26 to 30) – New to My TBR (Katie @ Doing Dewey): 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’m terrible at this one so I’m making this post at the beginning of the month so I can add books as I see them.
I come from a long line of racists on both sides of my family. There’s no sugarcoating it. Fortunately, now it appears mostly in the eldest living generation but they haven’t all died out yet.
I tried to explain this to the husband, especially about one uncle. This uncle has not demonstrated any untoward behavior at family gatherings in the decade the husband as been around. I, however, can not look at him without remembering the Christmas when he was casually asked to pass something and he started yelling, “Do I look like a (n-word)?” over and over like it was the greatest joke ever. This uncle likes the husband and talks to him. The husband is Italian. He’s dark skinned. The TSA views him as potentially Middle Eastern and a security threat. The uncle has never batted an eye.
The uncle has a grand daughter. She’s my cousin (once removed to be specific). She’s 19. She lives next door to him. They are very close.
My cousin has started dating a biracial guy.
You will not be shocked to hear that my uncle runs an uber-patriarchal household. My aunt has always been kept under his thumb. My aunt and her daughter realized that there was going to be a problem when the asshole uncle found out about the boyfriend.
So my aunt went and informed him of the situation. She asked if the boyfriend would be allowed in the house. He said no. (At this point in the telling of the story, my mother adds in her own commentary about how she wouldn’t be asking that jerk for permission to have anyone in her own house. I don’t know how these people are sisters. Also, my grandmother spent her life dreaming up new ways she could murder the uncle. I don’t know how my aunt ended up so submissive.) My aunt then asked if his grand daughter would be welcome back in the house. He said no. He said to tell her that he was very disappointed in her and that she was going against the bible. (Mom’s commentary – “She is not!” Me – “Has he ever cared about the bible before?” Mom, scoffing – “No!”)
When my aunt relayed this to her grand daughter, my cousin replied that she was very disappointed in him right back (good on her!) and that she had other relatives that she could eat with at Thankgiving. She’d just go to my mom’s house.
The husband and I are on vacation somewhere else. My brother goes to his wife’s side of the family for Thanksgiving and then makes an evening visit to the parents’ house for seconds of dessert. My mother was sort of reveling in the idea that she didn’t have to make Thanksgiving dinner this year. Now she’s bought a turkey because she has to stand up for equality via the medium of providing alternative anti-racist Thanksgiving.
(Me – “Mom, isn’t the whole point of Thanksgiving to eat with people of a different race and culture before you resume genocide?”
Mom – “Apparently he missed that part of the story.”)
Mom wants her sister to leave her husband home alone “to stew in his own juices” while she comes down for Thanksgiving. We all know she won’t do that. They will probably end up sitting home while the rest of the family is at my Mom’s. That’s best case scenario. Worst case is that their other child will support his father’s racism. I haven’t heard what his take on this is yet.
This uncle had another family way back when. My aunt was actually his four kids’ teenage babysitter before he left his wife for her. No matter what you envisioned there about what my aunt looks like, you are wrong. I’ve known this forever and still can not wrap my brain around how this is possibly true. Anyhow, I just found out that one of his first set of kids had a daughter who married a Black man. My uncle’s son was also a racist asshole so he cut the daughter out of his life. After she had her second child, he decided to visit. He fell in love with his grandkids. (This is hopefully how The Browning of America is going to take out racists.) They have reconciled. He took pictures to his grandchildren to show his father. My idiot uncle will not acknowledge his great-grandchildren.
So, I’m hoping from a distance that The Great Anti-Racist Thanksgiving Spectacular goes smoothly and is well attended.
The husband has been fascinated with Viking river cruises for years. I have been less enthusiastic. My idea of a good vacation is to get settled in a city for about a week and explore the heck out of it. Get off the beaten path. See all the touristy sites but then also have the time to explore a five story department store in Lisbon and go see a movie, for example. A day at each stop just isn’t enough.
But, he really wanted to do a river cruise and he’s been dragged up and down mountains because I read about “something cool up there” on a website. I decided to be a good partner and entertain his plan. He started saving money. Weird thing #1 about Viking cruises – You can’t really figure out how much they cost. There are listed prices but they are vague and subject to change and what about airfare? We saved until we figured we had it covered and then he called.
Thing #2 about Viking cruises – You have to plan ahead. We got serious about scheduling in the early spring of 2018. There were 2 cruises left available in 2018. By that I mean there was one cabin available on a boat for a specific week on a Danube cruise and another one cabin available for one specific week only on a Rhone cruise. Each of the cabins was in the bottom of the boat, or “steerage” as I liked to call it to harken back to my Polish immigrant great-grandparents and the fate of those on the Titanic. This was good for our budget though.
How did we decide? We picked the most boring one. That seems counter-intuitive but stick with me here. Reread paragraph one. Ok, now on one cruise we’d be hitting cities I’ve longed to visit – Vienna, Budapest – and then sailing away the next day. How do you pick what do in Vienna in that time frame? Obviously, the Spanish Riding School and then compress the whole rest of the city into an afternoon. When do you spend hours in cafes? Even thinking about it in my living room made me start to hyperventilate. So, we went with the Rhone cruise. I’ve been to Nice before. I never considered going to Avignon or Lyon. We’ll get two days in each small city and in between we hit some small towns. One day is enough to see each small town’s Roman ruins and fancy church. I don’t feel like we’re missing must-see sites.
Thing #3 about Viking cruises – They plan for you. The thing I stress over the most on European vacations in getting from the airport to the hotel and back. I’m good from there. Here other people are in charge of that. They also figured out the air connections. I was dreading that, especially with not arriving and leaving from the same city in France. They fly you from the closest airport to your house. Our closest airport is small. We are relatively close to a larger one. We offered to fly from there. They said no. We are going from small airport to Chicago to Brussels to Marseille and then from Lyon to Brussels to Newark to home. Guess what this cost per person? $300. Yeah. That took a while to grasp. I was convinced it was a deposit on the airfare. Nope. We paid $300 when we booked the cruise and then they figured out our airfare later. I want to fly to Europe all the time for $300. Heck, I want any flight in the U.S. for $300.
After we booked our cruise, the husband started haunting the website. When he noticed another availability pop up suddenly on our boat, he called and got us upgraded out of steerage to the cabin of the people who had just cancelled. There haven’t been any other cancellations on the boat. We’re classy now. I’ve apologized to the ancestors for getting uppity.
We have our free excursions booked. Each day we have a guided tour of the area. Our afternoons are free to do what we want. I just hope that our tour guides don’t have those little flags to keep the group together. I don’t want to be part of a big block of tourists following the flag like lost little ducklings.
Reads Like Fiction (Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction): Nonfiction books often get praised for how they stack up to fiction. Does it matter to you whether nonfiction reads like a novel? If it does, what gives it that fiction-like feeling? Does it depend on the topic, the writing, the use of certain literary elements and techniques? What are your favorite nonfiction recommendations that read like fiction? And if your nonfiction picks could never be mistaken for novels, what do you love about the differences?
I love narrative nonfiction. I definitely read nonfiction faster when it flows like a fiction novel. More scholarly approaches slow my reading but that doesn’t mean I enjoy them less. My husband and I have had this argument before. He is snobby about nonfiction. If it was too enjoyable he gets grumpy. He acts like reading needs to be like homework to be worthwhile. I point out books he enjoyed where he learned things and he has to concede the point which doesn’t make him happy either.
Crime stories come to mind as the easiest to make read like fiction. They tend to have a “stranger than fiction” element that keeps you coming back to see what really happened.
For nonfiction books that don’t read like novels, I need to be learning a lot.
I’ve actually been reading books. I know! I was shocked too.
I read this series because I had never read any Beverly Jenkins before.
I read them out of order. Book 3, then 1, then 2.
Either book 2 was by far the weakest or I was just getting bored by then
I finished it! I think I started this one in August or September.
It was a weird read for me. I would have to force myself to pick it up and then I’d start reading and get into it and wonder why I wasn’t reading this more often. Then I’d put it down for a while and start the whole cycle all over.
This is sort of a Need To Know book. If you aren’t going to be in Avignon soon (Me! Me!) or have a strong interest in church history (also me), it wouldn’t be of interest.
The more church history I read the more I wonder why anyone is still into Christianity. It is just a history of the same corruption and schemes over and over down through the centuries. At least make up a new scam for variety.
We had a 100 lb plus dog come in for his first exam at our clinic. He previously had had a toe nail trim. There were no comments on his file so presumably there were no issues. He was accompanied by his owner and her friend.
He was in for an injured leg. I watched him walk. He was limping on a hind leg. My assistant was nominally restraining his head while I started to feel his leg. With giant breed dogs, nominal restraint is all you can actually do. If they are going to walk away, you aren’t going to stop it. This guy was friendly and I palpated the leg. A minute or so into the exam the owner says in an amazed voice to the friend, “They aren’t even having to use the muzzle!”
The assistant and I freeze. We side-eye each other acknowledging that we are suddenly in a way more dangerous situation than we thought we were 0.01 seconds previously. We look at the dog. He is perfectly content. We silently decide to continue. I go back to running my fingers over every toe and nail to see if anything is sore just as the friend replies, “That’s because they aren’t touching his toe nails.” We freeze again. We don’t look at each other because we are both stifling inappropriate giggles of the type you get only when you are probably about to be horribly injured. The dog turn his head and licks the assistant.
I finish looking at the leg. He definitely has some joint changes. I discuss this with the people. They listen intently and ask questions. Then they say, “That isn’t even the leg he hurt.” Ok, amateur mistake going for the leg he was limping on instead of checking with the owner to find out what one was hurt.
I move to the other leg and find issues there. We discuss and then we stand up unscathed.
The friend says, “I have a question about my dog.” This dog is not here but whatever. I say ok. She says, “My dog has (insert chronic human disease that I actually have had since childhood).”
Now, I usually let people have their crazy. But I was already near inappropriate giggles so that lack of control must be why I heard myself say, “Dogs don’t get that.”
That woman was leaning on the exam table and reared back like I had slapped her. Then she looked like she was planning on coming across the table to slap me. I followed with, “Really. I have it. I know all about it. Dogs don’t get that.”
“Well,” she retorted hotly, “she has something!”
There was no arguing with that. I was getting the impression that maybe we had seen this dog previously so I asked for her name. I think that offended her that I didn’t know her dog. She gave me a super common dog name that could be spelled a variety of ways. I asked how she spelled it. She gave me a spelling at no one has ever used for this name. Unsurprisingly, it was not under that. We finally found it. Turns out the dog was in 6 months ago for fleas. She has not continued flea medication. She has, however, called once a month to complain about her dog’s skin and ask for home remedies. Yes, we log every conversation. No, she has not followed any of our advice but did give me a story about things that we have supposedly told her to do that were so outlandish that they could have only come from the depths of the interwebs. I decided that since she’s finagled 6 months of free advice that she ignored out of one exam where she didn’t even follow my suggestions, I wasn’t going to worry too much about it. I excused myself to make a treatment plan for the dog in the room.
I work at a low cost clinic. I tend to make my Dream Treatment Plan of what I’d really like to do and then a secondary plan in case the people reject plan one. In this case it was long term arthritis care versus a week of some pain meds.
The assistant went back in and presented the Dream Plan. It was rejected due to cost. That’s fine. We don’t shame people for anything like that. We work to provide the best care we can on their budget. The owner approved the short term care and cost.
We get the meds ready and send them to the reception area. We were giggling about not being eaten or punched when the receptionist appeared. “They don’t have any money.”
The assistant was livid. She said that they specifically approved the cost. The receptionist explained that they said they didn’t mean that they were going to pay it today. This isn’t our first rodeo. We have a procedure for this. The meds weren’t in their hands yet. The receptionist went back and explained that they couldn’t have the meds that they weren’t planning on paying for and here was a note to sign saying that they owned for the exam. They decided to get belligerent in the waiting room. Suddenly, we were wronging them not giving them free medication. They started asking for a different assistant by name.
Our youngest assistant has SUCKER written across her forehead. We’ve yelled at her for trying to help people too much. We had to flat out ban her from giving her home number to people who might not be able to keep their dog, stray cat, etc. We will not let her pay people’s bills. She’s been learning the hard way that people will take advantage of her caring. These people had been in her room for another patient once. They must have read the SUCKER sign on her forehead and remembered her name for such a time as this. They wanted to talk to her. The receptionist wasn’t having it. No, they couldn’t talk to her, she was busy.
In the middle of this the assistant in question comes out of a different exam room. If she moved too far away from her door she could be seen in the waiting room. We turned to her and whispered to stand against the wall and DON’T MOVE. We went back to listening to the receptionist deal with the people. After about 30 seconds the assistant whispered, “Are we being robbed?” in a very scared voice. She didn’t understand why this made us laugh so hard. “Does someone have a gun?” she asked as she flattened herself against the wall.
In the middle of all this hullaballu, a man walked into the waiting room. The receptionist had gotten the point across that they weren’t being given medication that they didn’t intend to pay for. He heard this discussion. Remember, it was World Kindness Day. He gallantly offered to pay their bill.
When the receptionist came back to retrieve the meds and told me what was happening my response was, “I don’t care if it is World Kindness Day. F— You.” She laughed and told me that she’d rephrase. They got away with it. They threw a fit until they scammed someone into paying their bill. I know that the guy was trying to do a good deed and that’s lovely and he had no idea what had already happened and I’m glad the dog got his meds but it just rankles. Scammers gonna scam, I guess. I wish they had scammed someone into paying for my Dream Plan though.
Postscript – Naive assistant finds out we aren’t being held up (at gunpoint at least). She goes home. She is in the process of slowly moving into a new house. Because of people coming and going the house was left unlocked for a few hours in the afternoon. They go to bed. They hear footsteps. Turns out there is a random stranger dude in a spare bedroom. They have a house full of large dogs. None of the dogs said anything. Not even, “Mommy, Daddy, we made a new friend this afternoon and he’s going to stay overnight. We put him in the spare room, ok?” Epic dog fail.
Turns out she actually was being robbed probably at the exact time she asked us that question. She’s fine. Dude was arrested.
OMG Post-postscript – While I was writing this at work (don’t judge me), I overheard naive assistant say, “My friend who’s missing always had a nickname for me.”
Me: “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back this up. You have a missing friend?”
Her: “Yes.” Totally calmly like doesn’t everyone?
Other assistant: “Where’s she at?”
Me, turning on other assistant: “MISSING!”
Other assistant: “Well, yeah, obviously, but like ran away or kidnapped?”
Her: “Ran away probably.”
I’m done talking to people. They are way too complicated. I need some peace and quiet and no drama. I’m on vacation next week. I feel like it might not be a moment too soon.
Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was an enormously influential figure in the history of television and in the lives of tens of millions of children. As the creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he was a champion of compassion, equality, and kindness. Rogers was fiercely devoted to children and to taking their fears, concerns, and questions about the world seriously. The Good Neighbor, the first full-length biography of Fred Rogers, tells the story of this utterly unique and enduring American icon. Drawing on original interviews, oral histories, and archival documents, Maxwell King traces Rogers’s personal, professional, and artistic life through decades of work, including a surprising decision to walk away from the show to make television for adults, only to return to the neighborhood with increasingly sophisticated episodes, written in collaboration with experts on childhood development. An engaging story, rich in detail, The Good Neighbor is the definitive portrait of a beloved figure, cherished by multiple generations.
This is the most perfect combination of narrator and subject. What could possibly be more soothing than listening to LeVar Burton reading about Fred Rogers? It was so perfect that I listened to this at 1x speed and did not speed it up even at points when the story started to drag.
This is a very in depth look at the life of Fred Rogers. I was fascinated by stories from his childhood. I didn’t know that he was born into a very wealthy family. He became a very accomplished pianist and composer before finding out about this new fangled thing called television and deciding almost on a whim to try it out. (It didn’t hurt that he was the son of some of the major stockholders of RCA which owned NBC at the time.) Later he split his time between working at a TV station and going to seminary to become a minister. These are all detours he couldn’t have taken if he had to worry about how to put food on the table for his family.
His mother instilled a sense of purpose in him. She was a philanthropist but not the kind that gets their name on flashy buildings. She found people in need and did what she could to support them.
One thing that was never addressed was Why Children? Everyone agrees that he had a child-like sense of wonder and that he related to kids more than adults but no one asked why. He had a very lonely childhood. He was bullied. I would think that would make him want to leave childhood far behind. He just always seemed to know that his purpose was to work with kids. I would have liked to see that addressed more.
This book is so detailed that it gets repetitive at times. That’s my only complaint. His life was fascinating. Anyone looking for a scandal in his life isn’t going to find it. Everyone agrees that the man you saw on TV was the real person.
Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Julie @ JulzReads): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three 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).
I read a lot of the history and politics surrounding food.
“Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.”
“When Brent Preston, his wife, Gillian, and their two young children left Toronto ten years ago, they arrived on an empty plot of land with no machinery, no money and not much of a clue. Through a decade of grinding toil, they built a real organic farm, one that is profitable, sustainable, and their family’s sole source of income. Along the way they earned the respect and loyalty of some of the best chefs in North America, and created a farm that is a leading light in the good food movement. Told with humour and heart in Preston’s unflinchingly honest voice, The New Farm arrives at a time of unprecedented interest in food and farming, with readers keenly aware of the overwhelming environmental, social and moral costs of our industrial food system. The New Farm offers a vision for a hopeful future, a model of agriculture that brings people together around good food, promotes a healthier planet, and celebrates great food and good living.”
“Barber explores the evolution of American food from the ‘first plate,’ or industrially-produced, meat-heavy dishes, to the ‘second plate’ of grass-fed meat and organic greens, and says that both of these approaches are ultimately neither sustainable nor healthy. Instead, Barber proposes Americans should move to the ‘third plate,’ a cuisine rooted in seasonal productivity, natural livestock rhythms, whole-grains, and small portions of free-range meat.”
“Chef José Andrés arrived in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island. The economy was destroyed and for most people there was no clean water, no food, no power, no gas, and no way to communicate with the outside world.
Andrés addressed the humanitarian crisis the only way he knew how: by feeding people, one hot meal at a time. From serving sancocho with his friend José Enrique at Enrique’s ravaged restaurant in San Juan to eventually cooking 100,000 meals a day at more than a dozen kitchens across the island, Andrés and his team fed hundreds of thousands of people, including with massive paellas made to serve thousands of people alone.. At the same time, they also confronted a crisis with deep roots, as well as the broken and wasteful system that helps keep some of the biggest charities and NGOs in business.”
From the ingenious comic performer, founding member of Monty Python, and creator of Spamalot, comes an absurdly funny memoir of unparalleled wit and heartfelt candor We know him best for his unforgettable roles on Monty Python--from the Flying Circus to The Meaning of Life. Now, Eric Idle reflects on the meaning of his own life in this entertaining memoir that takes us on an unforgettable journey from his childhood in an austere boarding school through his successful career in comedy, television, theater, and film. Coming of age as a writer and comedian during the Sixties and Seventies, Eric stumbled into the crossroads of the cultural revolution and found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of George Harrison, David Bowie, and Robin Williams, all of whom became dear lifelong friends. With anecdotes sprinkled throughout involving other close friends and luminaries such as Mike Nichols, Mick Jagger, Steve Martin, Paul Simon, Lorne Michaels, and many more, as well as the Pythons themselves, Eric captures a time of tremendous creative output with equal parts hilarity and heart. In Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, named for the song he wrote for Life of Brian (the film which he originally gave the irreverent title Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory) and that has since become the number one song played at funerals in the UK, he shares the highlights of his life and career with the kind of offbeat humor that has delighted audiences for five decades. The year 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Pythons, and Eric is marking the occasion with this hilarious memoir chock full of behind-the-scenes stories from a high-flying life featuring everyone from Princess Leia to Queen Elizabeth.
Eric Idle has always been my favorite member of Monty Python so I absolutely had to listen to this book. I can’t imagine just reading this book. Listening to him read this made the book.
This book was so much fun. He is an unapologetic famous person. He talks a lot about all of his famous friends. He points out that he has non-famous friends but that no one in interested in reading about them. He hung out with Beatles and Rolling Stones and all the other famous comedians in the 1970s so the stories are as wild as you’d expect. One of my favorite stories was when Graham Chapman had a party at his house for his parents. His parents were ready to go to bed at 10 PM but first they politely kicked the Rolling Stones out of the house. I can see how some people would think of these stories as name dropping or bragging but he is full of so much love for his friends and joy for his life that I loved hearing about it. What can you expect from a man who gave a toast at David Bowie’s wedding to Iman and once got mistaken for a Beatle while standing next to George Harrison (who was pushed aside unrecognized)?
He weaves the story of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life through the book. He wrote it to have a happy ending in his movie that actually ended with the main character being crucified. Since then it has taken on a life of its own. It started being sung during British military disasters and then at funerals. He’s sung it for the Queen and during the Olympics. He’s sung it in drag and in a tutu, as one does.
If you are a Monty Python fan who has watched the many documentaries about the history of the Pythons you’ll love this book. You’ll have already gotten a good grasp of the official history from those shows. This book will fill in what fun was happening behind the scenes and in the time since.
An elegant collection of the best artwork and photography from the National Geographic archives depicting the magnificence of birds.
Bird, nature, and art lovers alike will treasure this sumptuous visual celebration of the colors, forms, and behaviors of the winged wonders who share our world as they have been explored, displayed, and revealed throughout the years by National Geographic. The book moves chronologically so readers witness the tremendous growth in our knowledge of birds over the last 130 years, as well as the new frontiers in technology and observation--from luminous vintage paintings and classic black and white photographs to state-of-the art high-speed and telephoto camera shots that reveal moments rarely seen and sights invisible to the human eye. The wide diversity of pictures captures beloved songbirds outside the kitchen window, theatrical courtship dance of birds of paradise, tender moments inside a tern's nest, or the vivid flash of a hummingbird's flight. Readers will delight in seeing iconic species from around the world through the eyes of acclaimed National Geographic wildlife photographers such as Chris Johns, Frans Lanting, Joel Sartore, and Tim Laman and reading excerpted passages from Arthur A. Allen, Roger Tory Peterson, Douglas Chadwick, Jane Goodall, and other great explorers. Exquisitely produced and expertly curated, this visual treasury displays as never before the irresistible beauty, grace, and intelligence of our feathered friends.
The first thing I realized about this book is that it is absolutely massive. There will be no laying leisurely in bed holding this above my head while reading. I drop books and iPads on my face all the time. If I drop this book, I would do myself an injury.
The second thing I realized is that it is absolutely amazing.
This is a history of National Geographic’s coverage of birds from the 1800s until now. It is the best of their wonderful photography. There are sections about how birds have been covered in the magazine. There are articles comparing and contrasting articles on similar topics many years apart like this spread of what was known about hummingbird flight in 1957 and 2017.
This isn’t a book that you are going to sit down and read right through. It is a book to dive into a little bit at a time so you can savor the pictures and the knowledge. I’m looking forward to reading slowly through this book to properly enjoy it.
This is a high quality coffee table book that is perfect for anyone who loves birds and/or photography.
Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing (Sarah’s Book Shelves): 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.
A World of Three Zeros and Djinn City
This isn’t the most obvious pairing but I read them at about the same time and saw the similarities. Both are written by Bangladeshi authors. A World of Three Zeros is partially about economics in developing economies, especially microfinance. Muhammad Yunus’ work with finance is referenced in Djinn City as a character uses it as a model for working with djinn.
The Black and The Blue and The Hate U Give
I’d recommend this pairing to any white people who still think that all this talk about police brutality is over blown. Hear about it from the perspective of an African-American policeman and then the fictional account of the survivor of a fatal encounter with the police.
The Foundling and The Vanished Child
Both of these tell the story of a family mystery solved through new DNA science.
Well, I didn’t really forget about it because November is Nonfiction November in my brain but I forgot about the posts. I especially forgot that Nonfiction November posts start in October. So here I am late to the party with my year in Nonfiction.
“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?”
Here are the nonfiction books I’ve finished this year.
What’s my favorite? Why do people ask this question? Do they just want to torture me?
Ok, ok, I picked a few but it broke my heart. These are the ones that I would recommend most.