Monday, November 23, 2020

Week-in-Review: November

It's been a slow month for doing much of anything other than trying to not get Covid and checking in on my parents and making sure they're OK. It's gotten really cold with a few sunny days thrown in. One snowy cold day we played games and drank hot chocolate.

We're staying in for Thanksgiving and I'm trying a lot of new things this year that I don't usually do. We usually head up to my sister's house for Thanksgiving and we only bring a few pies and maybe a side salad. So it's up to us to bake all the things but toned down since it's only three of us!

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finished up 5 books since my last update: Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega, The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson, The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, and Autumn Light: Season of Fires and Farewells by Pico Iyers

I have started Barack Obama's book A Promised Land which I plan on reading for awhile to draw it out and make it never end...Wonderland by Zoje Stage. For November with G we started Blood on the River: James Town, 1607 by Elisa Carbone and 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving by Catherine O'Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac.

I'm still reading A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova with G. And I'm reading the fifth and final section in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. 

I'm taking my time with The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud. There's a lot to digest and I don't want to miss anything. I'm hoping I'll be done by the end of the month cuz I've been slacking a lot.

Classics that I'm reading: Still working on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I'm enjoying taking my time here. It's been a long time and it's the perfect classic to read as the weather gets chilly and the holidays approach. Also, I just realized I had bought on the Kindle the annotated version. So I read a chapter at night with my physical book and then read the annotations the next day. It's been fun!

Philosophy: At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir,  Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Others by Sarah Bakewell. We're getting closer to the end!

Listening to:

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Podcasts: Sean Carroll's Mindscape

New Books Acquired: 

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We've been watching the Harry Potter movies over the last couple of weeks. We seem to gravitate towards rewatching them around Thanksgiving and then we settle in for The Lord of the Rings series during Winter break!


It's been Schitt's Creek, which I just finished this week, The Great British Baking Show, The Undoing, and with G we just started His Dark Materials since we just finished up the books.


This week for Thanksgiving we're making(attempting) yeast butter rolls...I have never made them before so I am trying them early on Wednesday. It they don't turn out I have a huge bag of Rhodes frozen roll dough that I'll be using....yikes. Honey butter, garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, roast chicken with veggies. I'm making two cocktails for DH and me, G will have mulled cider and some Sprite. Snacks: a charcuterie board, and a relish tray. Dessert: A peanut butter cream cheese pie and a cream cheese pumpkin pie. I may make cookies too if I'm feeling energetic. Hopefully all turns out well this week....

Looking forward to Thanksgiving. I'll miss my family and friends this weekend. We usually do family on Thursday and a little Friendsgiving on Friday but of course, not this year. But we will make the best of it! I got a little Turkey and being thankful DIY project we'll be doing this weekend as well. So games, drinks, too much food, and lots of family time. I'm hoping all try to stay safe and that we don't end up with even more cases because of this weekend! I'm hoping to enjoy the weekend and be thankful for what we do have.

Joining in with Readerbuzz's Sunday Salon

Monday, November 16, 2020

Nonfiction November-- Week 3: Be/Ask/Become the Expert

Week 3
: (Nov. 16 to 20) – Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (Rennie of What’s Nonfiction): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert) 

I'm going to use a mix of all three this week. My friend and I have been reading philosophy books together for a few years now. I've been learning a lot about Western philosophical origins, specific philosophers and their philosophies, and even ones on whole movements and the philosophers involved. I'll share a few that are on my list and hope you share any books you've read that fit the topic!

For an interesting and somewhat entertaining overview of Western philosophy I highly recommend The Dream of Reason: A History of Western Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance by Anthony Gottlieb. Gottlieb really dives into the ancient Greeks and how their ideas were syncretized and adopted by Christian thinkers. It was quite an eye-opener to see how the threads connected. I highly enjoyed this one.

For individual philosophers and their movements/philosophies I can't recommend enough Sarah Bakewell. I'm in the process of reading At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails, which is all about Existentialism and its philosophers like Jean Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, and Edmund Husserl. She blends history and thought and biography seamlessly.

Her book on Montaigne is also quite good How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. You truly get a sense of what France was like, how it affected Montaigne and his philosophy, which is pretty revolutionary. His essays are on the mundane and day-to-day. As one person's inner thoughts are important so are others and we can gleam humanity and what's like to be human from that.

Another fantastic book on a specific philosopher is Rebecca Goldstein's Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity. She goes into some history of the Spanish Inquisition and the displacement of Jews either outside of their jurisdiction or as conversos (forced Catholic conversion). So we end up getting the history of Spinoza and his Jewish community in Holland in the mid-1600s. Fantastic history and it was incredibly interesting about Spinoza and how his ideas changed so many things.


Anthony Gottlieb has another book The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. My friend and I will probably read it after we're done with At the Existentialist Café. Since I enjoyed Rebecca Goldstein's book on Spinoza, I'd like to read her Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won't Go Away. And due to my Existentialism reading I'd really like to pick Beauvoir's The Second Sex and Albert Camus' The Plague and The Stranger. And then there's Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith that looks fascinating.

There are so many more I'd like to get to but if anyone has any philosophy-type books they've read and really enjoyed, I'd love to hear them!

Friday, November 13, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Mexican Gothic, The Vanishing Half...

Mexican Gothic
 by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Published: June 30th, 2020 by Del Rey
Genre: Horror, Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle, 304 Pages, Own
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

Noemí Taboada and her father receive a frantic and desperate letter from her newly married cousin who explains that she feels her life and sanity may be in danger. Noemi takes up the task to visit the Mexican high-mountain countryside and find out what's truly going on. As she arrives, though, she is both allured and repulsed by her cousin's Englishman husband, horrified at their father Howard Doyle who is decrepit both of body and mind, and High Place with its damp and fungal appearance and the nightmares she soon begins to dream...Is her cousin mad? What secrets and horrors lie beneath?

Noemi is a fantastic character. She's a socialite but one who thinks for herself and has a self-determination to see things through and get to the bottom of it all. I had to take breaks from the book because it was so disturbing in parts. The mood is dark and dank and damp and oppressive. She covers eugenics and colonialism and misogyny and patriarchy. But it all comes together for quite an ending. Go into this book without knowing much about it. It is a true Gothic horror from a fabulous writer. Near perfection.

Ms. Moreno-Garcia has also shared some highlights and quotes and insights from her book on Goodreads. So go check it out if you are interested in reading this one.

Cemetery Boys
 by Aiden Thomas
Published: September 1st, 2020 by MacMillman Audio
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, LGBTQIA+
Format: Audiobook, 13 hours, Scribd
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

Yadriel's traditional family is having a hard time accepting his gender and therefore they don't think he's a brujo. To prove them wrong he ends up doing the ritual himself alongside his best friend and cousin Maritza. But the ghost he ends up summoning is neighborhood badboy Julian Diaz and not his murdered cousin. But Julian refuses to pass on until he sets a few things right in the real world and Yadriel sets out to help him. But it soon becomes apparent that not all is as it seems. No one can find Julian's body nor the body of his cousin. It's up to Yadriel, Maritza, and Julian to find out what's really going on.

This is a beautifully written tale of Yadriel coming into his own and accepting who he is. We get to learn all about his culture and el Dia de los Muertos. His relationship with his mother who died a little before the books begins is so poignant. The fraught relationship he has with his father and grandmother who are trying but aren't doing enough to accept him for who he is. And the relationship he begins to have with Julian is also beautiful to watch.

The audiobook was well-performed and enjoyed it all. There is even an interview between the author and the audiobook narrator that is fantastic at the end.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Published: June 2nd, 2020 by Riverhead Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover, 343 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

Two Black light-skinned twins take two very divergent paths. The Vignes sisters Desiree and Stella runaway as teenagers from their town of light-skinned Blacks. Desiree ends up marrying a Black man who abuses her. Her sister Stella decides to pass as White to live the "American Dream." She ends up marrying her boss and moves away and cuts of her family. Desiree flees her abusive marriage to come back home to Mallard with extremely dark daughter Jude. What happens when we flee our origins and become something different? Does it free us or bind us? Ms. Bennett weaves a beautiful story that lets us experience the answers to these questions.

The book is all about the characters and their experiences. This is a beautifully character-driven novel. Brit Bennett knocks it out of the park again. We need more voices such as hers.

 by Jane Austen
Published: April 15th, 2004 by Barnes Noble Classics (Originally published December 23rd, 1815)
Genre: Classic
Format: Paperback, 462 Pages, Own
Rating: 3.5 stars

My Thoughts:

I read Emma for the first time back when the Gwyneth Paltrow adaptation came out in the mid-90s. So it's been awhile. The story always feel fresh because there are so many fun adaptations and retellings out there. But I really wanted to get a sense of Emma again now that I'm older and have seen so many versions of her story. I would have to say Emma is not my favorite but she is a more likeable character than Fanny of Mansfield Park. It's quite the little soap opera drama, actually. All the highjinx of a quiet country town with Emma at the center of it all as the richest and thus classiest citizen in its ranks.

I do enjoy the growth of Emma throughout the novel. From matchmaker of Ms. Taylor to failed matchmaking for her friend Harriet to finding love for others in her community to finally finding her own love. I may try an annotated edition and maybe grab a few more tidbits I know I missed. It's still a fun one to read and I'm sure I'll read it again in a few years. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Mini Book Reviews: Charlie and the Grandmothers, Pumpkinheads...

Charlie and the Grandmothers by Katy Towell
Published: August 4th, 2015 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 240 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

Charlie and his more adventurous sister soon realize something is very fishy when the kids in their neighborhood start visiting grandparents they've never met and for some reason they never return. So when their mother starts talking of sending them both to visit a pair of grandmothers they've never even heard of, Charlie knows something is wrong. And when they finally get there it's up to him to figure out how to save his sister and save them all.

I really enjoyed this one. We see Charlie grow and step up and figure things out. The grandmothers are super creepy and the world Towell builds is dark and delicious. Both my son and I enjoyed reading this one together in October for a spooky reading month and this one fit the bill.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell
Published: August 27th, 2019 by First Second
Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult
Format: Paperback, 209 Pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

Deja and Josiah are best friends while they work at the world's greatest pumpkin patch every fall in Omaha, Nebraska. It's their last night ever working at the pumpkin patch since they're both going off to college next year. Can they make their last shift a night of adventure? Taste all the yummy foods? See all the sights? And maybe even Josiah can finally talk to the girl he's always had a crush on? Who know?

I want to go to this pumpkin patch! It's fictional but it's also based on the real pumpkin patch in Omaha, Nebraska. The illustrations are scrumptious. The characters are adorable. Deja is my favorite! And where their adventure takes them by the end of the night was a place I was super excited about by the end. Perfect fall read to cozy up to and imagine the world as a sane place.

Where the Woods End
 by Charlotte Salter
Published: August 14th, 2018 by Dial
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 304 Pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

Kestrel lives in a dark and foreboding forest where no one leaves and the forest and its creatures are not so friendly. Her father hunts wolves and is almost never around. Her mother is an evil witch. And she even let her own grandmother die by a Grabber. Her only friends are a blood-thirsty weasel named Pippit and one boy from the village who lives in the trees. Her only task is hunting the Grabbers and the villagers despise her for it. What happens when her own Grabber comes for her? Can she find a way out of the forest and save herself and the village?

I loved, I mean absolutely loved this dark and twisted fairy tale. It's a true fantasy-horror. Dark things happen to Kestrel and her family. The way Kestrel makes mistakes and learns from them is truly heart-warming. It's dark but it's full of hope. There are so many questions and there aren't a lot of answers but that's what makes a fantastic world. Not everything is explained but that's OK. You can imagine something or just dive into this creepy and horrible world but it makes sense and it's well-built. And then you throw in some great characters and you have an almost perfect combination. Both my son and I adored this book. It's perfect for Halloween, fall, winter time to just curl up and read.

 by J.A. White
Published: July 24th, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
Format: Hardcover, 320 Pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

Alex gathers his nightbooks and heads down to the basement of his apartment building in order to destroy them but the elevator doesn't stop at the basement; it stops a few floors up. He wonders over to some sounds and lights flickering and notices that his favorite movie "Night of the Living Dead" is playing on TV. He just can't resist. He asks the lady in the apartment if he can watch with her and as soon as he steps inside...It's a trap. The witch Natacha has kidnapped him she needs his scary stories to keep her magical apartment working. Together with Yasmin, another kidnapped child, they must figure out how to escape.

My son and I loved the creepy factor. It's a retelling of the Scheherazade story from Arabian Nights and we get to hear all sorts of creepy short stories. It also weaves lots of writing how-tos and how to get rid of writer's block. So it's great for budding writers! We also get some Grimm Fairy Tales as well and it all comes together at the end. Another fantastic find for the Halloween season.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Week-in-Review: Biden Wins!

I haven't hardly written anything over the last two weeks but this morning I saw some light and figured it was time to celebrate! Biden wins! Celebrations all day on my end!!

Halloween went as well as we expected this year. Numbers continue to rise in my town, county, and state. No trick-or-treating but we had a bowl of candy and made sure we were masked and hand sanitized up! We only got a few well-known neighbors and their kids/teens. We ate chili, drank cider, and watched cheesy old horror movies!

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Pirates were the agreed upon theme this year!

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The pumpkin almost got us...we're only missing a limb or two

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We even made cookies! So yummy!

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I didn't actually see this but a friend said this was in her neighborhood! That is a big minion!

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G went with a cute kitty

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DH opted out of carving and went some nice stencil work. We'll be able to keep this around for November and Thanksgiving.


finished up 4 books since my last update. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen, Nightbooks by J.A. White, and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

I started The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson and Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer

I'm still reading Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega and A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader edited by Maria Popova with G. And I'm reading the fourth section in Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. We're discussing the third section tonight! I'm almost done with How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. One chapter left!

I'm taking my time with The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud. There's a lot to digest and I don't want to miss anything. I was hoping end of October to be finished but I'm now shooting for mid-November.

Classics that I'm reading: Still working on Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I'm enjoying taking my time here. It's been a long time and it's the perfect classic to read as the weather gets chilly and the holidays approach.

Philosophy: At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir,  Albert Camus, Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Others by Sarah Bakewell. 

Listening to:

I finished up my fourth book with Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Fantastic story. Loved it.

New Books Acquired: 



We watched some fun horror movies together in the week leading into Halloween and Halloween night!

This was such a fun movie. G and I watched this together and he loved it. It has some great things to say about gentrification! So good.

G finally saw the classic of zombie horror! Hopefully he'll grow to appreciate it as time goes on.

G also watched most of the Japanese original Ringu. He didn't find it quite as scary as I did! I had a hard time sleeping. The original is so good and classic and just so freakin' scary. Loved it.

Such a classic! Mostly DH and I watched this while G hung out in his fort and ate candy. But hey he saw some of it.

We watch this almost every year. It's such a great movie. Creepy and good and visually stunning.

On my own I watched quite a few before the big Halloween night:

This was a fantastic movie on Shudder. Creepy and weird and different. The ending was a bit ambiguous but overall super fun and creepy.

This is a classic anthology. First time for me but I see why. A must-watch for horror fans.

Fantastic horror featuring the trauma of being a refugee and in a new country. It's a haunting meditation that sticks with you.

I watched this via Amazon Prime watch party with a friend and we had a great time chatting about this one. It was fun but a few too many plot holes to be rewatchable.


It's been Schitt's Creek, and election news, and the Great British Baking Show.


We made cookies on Halloween. I made chili and cornbread. Drinks were mulled cider with shots of whiskey! Made for a very yummy Halloween.

Looking forward to Trump leaving the White House! And hoping for a smooth Interregnum.

Joining in with Readerbuzz's Sunday Salon