26 Nov, 2018

New to My Nonfiction TBR

/ posted in: Reading

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.

Silence: In the Age of NoiseSilence: In the Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

Recommended by Reading With Jade



From the Corner of the OvalFrom the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Recommended by Novel Visits




If Only They Didn't Speak English: Notes From Trump's AmericaIf Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes From Trump’s America by Jon Sopel

Recommended by Secret Library Book Blog




Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? 200 birds, 12 months, 1 lapsed birdwatcherWhy Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? 200 birds, 12 months, 1 lapsed birdwatcher by Lev Parikian


The Library of Ice: Readings from a Cold ClimateThe Library of Ice: Readings from a Cold Climate by Nancy Campbell

Recommended by Book Jotter



(I actually bought Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear!)

Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay LiberationTinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation by Robert W. Fieseler

Recommended by TBR, etc.




The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our FutureThe War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future by Andrew Yang

Recommended by Michael at Inexhaustible Invitations

22 Nov, 2018

The Anti-Racist Thanksgiving

/ posted in: Family

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.


About that….

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. 


20 Nov, 2018

The Husband’s Idea of a Vacation

/ posted in: Familytravel

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.

19 Nov, 2018

Reads Like Fiction?

/ posted in: Reading

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. 

16 Nov, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

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. 


14 Nov, 2018

I Guess I Hate World Kindness Day Now….

/ posted in: Current EventsWork

It was World Kindness Day yesterday.

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. 

13 Nov, 2018

The Good Neighbor

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Good Neighbor The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King
on September 4, 2018
Pages: 416
Length: 14:07
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
Published by Harry N. Abrams
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Setting: United States

New York Times bestseller

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.  


12 Nov, 2018

Be The Expert

/ posted in: Reading

 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.”

08 Nov, 2018

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Always Look on the Bright Side of Life Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography by Eric Idle
on October 2, 2018
Pages: 288
Length: 8:12
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Crown Archetype
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned

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.


06 Nov, 2018

The Splendor of Birds

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading The Splendor of Birds The Splendor of Birds: Art and Photographs from National Geographic by National Geographic Society
on October 23, 2018
Pages: 512
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by National Geographic Society
Format: Hardcover
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher

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.  

Tuesday, October 23rd: Doing Dewey
Tuesday, October 23rd: Just a Secular Homeschooler
Wednesday, October 24th: Minnesota Birdnerd
Thursday, October 25th: she treads softly
Saturday, October 27th: The Bird Blogger
Monday, October 29th: As I turn the pages
Monday, October 29th: Birdchick
Tuesday, October 30th: Well-Read Naturalist
Tuesday, October 30th: Instagram: @the_need_to_read
Wednesday, October 31st: Instagram: @dropandgivemenerdy
Thursday, November 1st: Helen’s Book Blog
Thursday, November 1st: Jathan & Heather
Tuesday, November 6th: Based on a True Story
Wednesday, November 7th: Instagram: @megabunnyreads
Wednesday, November 8th: The Birders Library
Friday, November 9th: Wall-to-Wall Books
Friday, November 9th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Monday, November 12th: 10000 Birds

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and National Geographic for hosting this book tour.

05 Nov, 2018

Fiction/Nonfiction Pairing

/ posted in: Reading

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.  

02 Nov, 2018

Nonfiction November

/ posted in: Reading

I forgot about Nonfiction November!

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.  



01 Nov, 2018

November 2018 Foodies Read

/ posted in: Foodies ReadReading

Welcome to November 2018 Foodies Read

 We had 22 links in October.  Thank you to everyone who linked up.  The winner of the drawing is Tina!

She won:

  1. A $10 Amazon gift card if in the U.S.
  2. A book of their choice (up to $10) from Book Depository if international


31 Oct, 2018

October 2018 Wrap Up

/ posted in: Reading

Here’s what I read in October.


The books were:

  • 3 nonfiction
  •  1 audio book and 1 short story
  • Set in England, India, Egypt, and the U.S.

The authors were:

  • 6 unique white women, 2 South Asian women, 1 Afro-Caribbean person, and 2 white men

Which ones would I totally recommend?

I made a gallery here but it was almost all the books.  I didn’t read a lot but what I did I really enjoyed.  If I really, really forced myself to pick one I’d say:

What books have I been nibbling at?

So, if I haven’t been reading much what have I been doing? Well, I started watching a lot of photography videos on YouTube. That takes up some former reading time. I’m also being a very bad person and watching pirated versions of A Discovery of Witches online. It is only available in England so far.

*Hangs head in shame but pops back up to watch next episode*

Reading All Around the World challenge from Howling Frog Books

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

So I totally have a book for Argentina.  I got it from interlibrary loan and just keep renewing it over and over.  I haven’t even read the first chapter.   




30 Oct, 2018

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony
on October 16th 2018
Pages: 368
Genres: Fiction
Published by Park Row
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Setting: Minnesota

A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel

Dearest loved ones, far and near--evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she's going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet's carefully constructed world.

In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year's Baumgartner holiday letter...

Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces--and the unexpected way they put it all back together.


I loved this book because I know Violet, or rather I know several Violets.  These are women who will always tell you how their family is doing ever so well.  They have a story for each member of the family to illustrate their points.  If you know their offspring, you generally know that they are the local drug dealer and you are left wondering if their mother has ever met them at all.  The other side of Violet is the control freak.  She has the idea of her perfect family in her mind and you are NOT going to deviate from it.  I might be descended from a person like this but I know better than to say that out loud because I’ve been well trained.  She would vehemently deny being a control freak.  She just knows what she wants and will passive-aggressively move everyone around until she gets everyone where she wants them.  She can deny the existence of anything that mars this perfection.  (There is a week in my life that my Violet refuses to acknowledge.)  Yes, I know Violet and found even her most outrageous plans to be familiar.  It was fun to laugh at it happening to someone else. 

There are three mysteries in this book.  Violet is obsessed with finding out who is the father of her grandchild.  I found that mystery fairly easy to unravel.  There is also the mystery of some political sculptures appearing around town and a mystery of what Violet’s friend’s husband is doing when he disappears for days.  Those I didn’t figure out.  

I tend not to read a lot of literary type fiction but this one was funny enough to me to keep my interest.  Maybe you have to be Midwestern and know people like this to find it this funny.  If you don’t you might think it is pretty over the top.  


26 Oct, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

  • This is my new audiobook
  • Eric Idle is my favorite Python so of course I had to get this.
  • He reads it so it is just as delightful as it should be.
  • He seems quite surprised to find that he knows a lot of famous people.  They tend to congregate so once you meet one (or become one) you seem to know them all.













  • I found this while I was purging books on my bookshelves.  It is amazing what you find.  This looks like just the kind of thing that I’d like which is most likely why I own it.
  •  I’m considering just reading books on my bookshelf for a while.  (I crack myself up.  How many times have I decided that and then I go slinking off to the library like a shameless book hussy?)
  •  Saladin Ahmed – love him on Twitter, haven’t read his comics yet (Abbot is on hold at the library…. crap, I didn’t even get through the next bullet point before cheating on my bookshelf), had mixed feelings about his novel – I liked his short story here about a man happily married to a demon
  •  Peter Beagle – couldn’t ever get through either the book or movie version of The Last Unicorn – His story here is about children of the Shark God. Has some interesting imagery but not my favorite
  •  Heather Brewer – She had two stories 
  • Jim Butcher – I love him.  I’m worried about him.  He hasn’t published anything in a while. (I check every so often to make sure he hasn’t died.  Is that wrong?)  This story takes place pretty far back in the Dresden Files timeline so it took me a second to remember who some of the characters were.  Dresden doesn’t appear but it was pretty good anyway.
25 Oct, 2018

Dominos are Falling

/ posted in: Family

I love the location of my house.  I love my yard.  I love the space in my house.  I hate, hate, hate the way the space is laid out in my house.  We’ve considered moving but can’t find a house that fixes what we don’t like here without giving up everything we do like about this house. 

It is completely illogical.  Think of the main living space as a big open square.  Now subdivide that into three long skinny rectangles for reasons that are totally unclear.  Put the kitchen in part of the middle rectangle.  Force a claustrophobic dining area into the rest of the middle section.  Make two living rooms in the skinny spaces on either side.  Add in french doors and a fireplace situated where you can’t sit and look at it and it all adds up to me dreaming about knocking down walls and moving kitchens and other things I can’t afford to do.

Down the hall there are four small bedrooms and two completely tiny bathrooms.  That’s not just a spoiled homeowner opinion.  In one bathroom the only one who can use the shower is Freckles because it isn’t wide enough for your elbows when you lift your hands up to wash your hair. If you can’t use it, it is just wasted space.

But all at once last year I had a vision.  It started with remodeling Z’s room since she isn’t visiting here.  If we made that into a library, then we could move our bookcases out of the one living room into that room.  That opens up space that we could move the dining room table into.  Then we rearrange one couch to face the fireplace.  Then we could move the computer equipment from one bedroom into the former dining room, freeing up that bedroom.  We open the wall between our bedroom and that bedroom and make a master bathroom.  The super tiny bathroom off our bedroom becomes a closet.  It is like dominos falling.  Do one thing and the next thing becomes possible.

I spoke of it as a possible dream.  Now it is starting to happen.  The room got changed from pink walls to grey.  The bookcases got moved in.  We got rid of the bed and put in a daybed.  The cat tree moved in there.  Now it is a library/music room.


The bookcases are across from the daybed. I got lots of comfy, fuzzy pillows to make a nice reading space where I haven’t read yet at all. I have however practiced my harp while sitting on my tufted blue toadstool which makes me very happy.

Elsewhere, the dining table has moved and the couch faces the fireplace. Now we just have to make a bathroom plan and save up loads of money!

24 Oct, 2018

Searching for Sunday

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Searching for Sunday Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans
on April 14th 2015
Pages: 268
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Thomas Nelson
Format: Paperback
Source: Library

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Held Evans comes a book that is both a heartfelt ode to the past and hopeful gaze into the future of what it means to be a part of the Church.Like millions of her millennial peers, Rachel Held Evans didn't want to go to church anymore. The hypocrisy, the politics, the gargantuan building budgets, the scandals--church culture seemed so far removed from Jesus. Yet, despite her cynicism and misgivings, something kept drawing her back to Church. And so she set out on a journey to understand Church and to find her place in it.

Centered around seven sacraments, Evans' quest takes readers through a liturgical year with stories about baptism, communion, confirmation, confession, marriage, vocation, and death that are funny, heartbreaking, and sharply honest.

A memoir about making do and taking risks, about the messiness of community and the power of grace, Searching for Sunday is about overcoming cynicism to find hope and, somewhere in between, Church.


I’m always interested in books that describe themselves as stories of people leaving evangelicalism. I want to know what was the last straw for them. How did leaving affect their lives?

I identified a lot with some of the things she talks about in this book. I could really feel her fear of leaving the community of the church. She was afraid of what would happen if they got sick or had a baby. Who would bring them casseroles? It’s a funny thing to think but there is no easy secular equivalent to that kind of community help in a functional church. I think that is what keeps a lot of people in the pews even if they disagree with what is being said.

I also didn’t like it when she talked about going to new churches and just waiting for them to do something that you disagreed with for theological reasons so you’d have something to complain about. That hit a little close to home.

Ultimately, I left the church and she is fighting hard to find reasons to stay. Me being me, I was thinking, “Why are you trying this hard? Just leave already.” But I guess she still feels connected to the god that she grew up believing in and wants to make a go of it.

This is a book where a lot of quotes jumped out at me.

I’ve gotten so spoiled reading ebooks that I’m not sure what to do with paperbooks that I want to quote. There’s no easy way to mark the quote in a library book. If I had them marked then I’d have to type the quote out instead of copy/paste? So much work. LOL.

Welcome to the laziest book review ever.


Yes, yes, yes.  I would get so mad when I was in vet school and going to church because there were college age groups and married people groups and a dismal single people group that everyone felt sorry for.  Being a doctoral student defined my status much more than being single.  Likewise, I always hated the Women’s Bibles that would have commentary about husbands and children like that was what defined what a woman was.  


Bouncers and Border Patrol Christianity are perfect descriptions.  

22 Oct, 2018

Castle Hangnail

/ posted in: Book ReviewReading Castle Hangnail Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon
on April 21st 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade
Published by Dial Books
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

From the creator of Dragonbreath comes a tale of witches, minions, and one fantastic castle, just right for fans of Roald Dahl and Tom Angleberger.

When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is twelve years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them she is quite wicked indeed (So wicked! REALLY wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately, it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.

This quirky, richly illustrated novel is filled with humor, magic, and an unforgettable all-star cast of castle characters.


This book has everything I absolutely love about fantasy books.  It is chock full of imagination and whimsy.  There are also dragons.  You must have dragons.

Molly knows that she is going to be a Wicked Witch.  She can do some magic.  She has an over-the-top Good Twin.  So she steals an invitation to apply for the job of Master of Castle Hangnail.  Who cares that she is only 12?

The Guardian of the castle cares, for a start.  He knows the castle is in danger of being decommissioned if a new master isn’t found who can complete all the tasks assigned.  There needs to be proper blighting and smiting and defending of the castle and capturing the hearts of the villagers (probably literally if the new master is an Evil Sorceress or a Vampire).  Can a cheery 12 year old manage that?

I love the staff of the castle. 

  • The Guardian has served under many truly evil masters and knows how minions should be properly treated.  He isn’t prepared to be given an actual name and thanked for things.  It just isn’t right. 
  • Pins is a stuffed doll who can sew anything, including waterproof sweaters for his goldfish
  • The goldfish is a hypochondriac
  • Cook is a Minotaur who is very angry about the letter Q
  • Angus is Cook’s son and general helper
  • Edward is an enchanted suit of armor with rusty knees
  • There is a woman made of steam.  This happens when a djinn mates with a human woman who didn’t know she had mermaid ancestry.
  • There are clockwork bees and all kinds of bats including one insomniac bat who stays awake during the day and sleeps at night.

Molly is going to be Wicked but not Evil.  Wicked will punish a person to make them think about what they did.  Evil will hurt people for fun.  So she blights weeds and asks around to see who is being mean and is in need of a good smiting.  When she finds someone who is mean to his donkey, she uses a spell to turn the donkey temporarily into a dragon to scare the mean man.  After that all the animals want to take a turn being a dragon, of course!  

This book was absolutely delightful from beginning to end.  I read it in a day.  I was hoping that there was going to be a follow up to see what happens next at Castle Hangnail but so far, no luck.  

19 Oct, 2018

Thoughts While Reading

/ posted in: Reading

      • Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood quit production in the mid to late 70s while he focused on television for older audiences.  It started up again in the 80s.  This means that the whole time I was watching, it was in reruns.  I feel sort of tricked by this.
      • He swam every morning.  They made a point of saying that he chose to go to one of a few men-only swim times at his gym.  I wondered why until they mentioned that he liked to swim in a cap and goggles only.  I didn’t need to consider that much of Mr. Rogers.  But really, if you are swimming nude in public why the cap?  And why are you swimming nude in a public place?  Why are men so nasty?













  • This is the most adorable middle grade book ever and you have to read it.
  • I’m a Twitter follower of the author based on her webcomic Digger, which is about a wombat who got lost and ended up involved in the affairs of gods which is really just too much for your average wombat.
  • There needs to be more wombat literature.
  • This is the only other book I have read by her even though I have others under other pen names.  Now I really need to read those because this was delightful.
  • I’m going to quit gushing now and go write a real review so look for that next week.
  • Read this book.








  • This is a complicated book for me.  There are passages that I want to force everyone to read and then I get frustrated by some of the choices that she makes that are different from what I would do.
  • I wish I was reading the ebook version instead of a library book so it was easier to highlight passages and copy them. 
  • I was hoping this would slide into place along Dance of the Dissident Daughter in my mind as wonderful books about women questioning conservative Christianity.  It isn’t quite there.