Monday, November 20, 2017

Nonfiction November Week 4--Nonfiction Favorites

Welcome to Week 4 hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey.  

Nonfiction Favorites: We’ve talked about how you pick nonfiction books in previous years, but this week I’m excited to talk about what makes a book you’ve read one of your favorites. Is the topic pretty much all that matters? Are there particular ways a story can be told or particular writing styles that you love? Do you look for a light, humorous approach or do you prefer a more serious tone? Let us know what qualities make you add a nonfiction book to your list of favorites.

I generally gravitate towards science-related books, history, and memoirs. I enjoy books that keep me engaged and interested, narrative nonfiction does that pretty well, and a lot of my favorite history books have been written like this.

I love memoirs because they are usually funny, poignant, and short, with a little moral to the story and lessons learned along the way.

While I'm no scientist nor did I excel in science classes in college and high school, I am still drawn to science book, pop science books in particular. They explain fascinating concepts that laypeople like me can attempt to grasp and while filling me with wonder and excitement.

I do have quite a lot of favorites over the years so these are just a few I decided to feature.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay is a memoir you will never forget. It's the most straight forward treatise on compassion and humanity I've ever read. While I will say I usually go for memoirs like Bossypants by Tina Fey and Yes Please by Amy Poehler (two of my faves), this one forces you to feel.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable was a pleasant surprise. I'd heard great things but decided to give it a try last year and was blown away by the brilliant writing and the complexity of Malcolm X. It gave me an incredible appreciation for him and what he stood for while also bringing into context his many flaws.

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Two of my favorite history books are Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht and Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz. Doubt focuses on well, the history of doubt and critical thinking throughout written time. So many great thoughts from amazing people are all brought together in this volume. Marriage focuses on the evolution of modern-day marriage. How it's only been recently that anyone ever married for love. Fascinating and eye-opening, to say the least.

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I love Carl Sagan! These are my two favorites. His prose is beautiful and his humility and excitement for his subject is contained on every page. He was a soul lost too soon.

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Pop astronomy! Phil Plait is for you! He's funny and explains things so well. These were both surprisingly fun to read.

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If someone wants to know more about evolution, this is the book I recommend. It's clear and concise and just fun.

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Christmas Spirit and Scary Read-a-thon

Michelle over at Seasons of Reading is hosting a mini Christmas-themed and horror read-a-thon from Nov. 20-Dec. 3. That's only two weeks but I have a couple of Krampus themed books I'm wanting to get to or at least one:

Krampusnacht:  Twelve Days of Krampus edited by Kate Wolford

Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

I don't usually like Christmas-themed books but throw a little horror into them and I'm a sucker!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Week-in-Review-- November 19, 2017

We've all been a bit under the weather around here. My DH is off to Taiwan for work. But I did manage to get a few things done this week.

Books Finished:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, and Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide by Rachel Wilkerson Miller

Currently Reading:

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reading with G), We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty. I've decided to focus in on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I also started Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini, which I'm reading with a friend.

Next month I'll be reading Shakespeare's Hamlet for my classic club spin number! I haven't read anything by Shakespeare since high school!

Listening To:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders on Audible. I'm almost done!


Movies about death and grief.

Death at a Funeral (2007): This was a funny story about the crazy relationships we have with family and how only a funeral can bring it all out in the open to heal.

Wind River (2017): I actually went into this one thinking it would only be a mystery/thriller but it ended up being a movie about grief and how we deal with it. There were so many layers to this movie. I ended up thinking about it long into the night after I finished it and it made me cry even after it was over. It was such a poignant look into how we deal with other people's grief and how it can permanently change us.

I also started the Six Feet Under series from HBO. It is quality programming. I'm loving their take on the funeral industry.


I've been trying to get my bullet journal going again. I picked up a book on dot journaling to give me a better overview about what to put in it and how to set it up and some tips and tricks. I've basically been using what I could glean from Pinterest, etc but this one book has really got me excited about getting into it again and starting fresh for January.

I'll be making whipped cheesecake, Thanksgiving themed jelly shots, red wine sangria, pumpkin chocolate chips cookies, mashed potatoes, and ham for three different Thanksgiving events this week! I'll be going crazy but we'll have a lot of fun.

Looking forward to:

DH left last Friday for Taiwan so the next few weeks are going to be more difficult but we shall persevere! We have 3 Thanksgiving events this week. Friends over on Wednesday night for games and good food.

Thanksgiving with my family, unfortunately, it'll be a sober event but we will have fun playing games and getting caught up. My niece and her family will be in from Nebraska and I love catching up with her!

Saturday is Friendsgiving at my neighbor's house. We'll have all the trimmings plus the fun beverages and jelly shots! It'll be a really good time.

G will be out of school for most of the week so I'm hoping to take him to the new movie Coco and maybe a small hike since the weather is supposed to be in the 50s! Crossing my fingers.

Pics from the week:

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All I got this week were two cats and a kid!

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Shadow looking adorable

Nov 12
G got into a bit of trouble playing outside with a friend. So to calm down he built this out of his Magformers. Very cute, I must say.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Classics Club Spin

The Spin # is.....4! I will be reading Shakespeare's Hamlet! Wish me luck!

I have not been reading my classics club list like I should have been this year. Well, thank the goddess that they do mini-challenges throughout the year to kick our(my) butt into gear.

I need to pick 20 from my list and then on Friday November 17, they will pick a number and I will "have" to finish that book by the end of the year! So without further adieu....

Five I'm dreading to read...(only because they're long or really ancient!)

1. The Histories by Herodotus

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (it would be a re-read from high school and I did not like it then so I hesitate now!)

3. Sophie's Choice by William Styron (I'm not sure how much I want to cry...)

4. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare always makes me nervous, though the movies and seeing the plays are amazing)

5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (I've grown afraid of all the whaling dialog in the book!)

Five I can't wait to read...

6. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

7. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

9. Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

10. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

Five I'm neutral about...

11. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

12. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

13. Middlemarch by George Eliot

14. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

15. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Five freebies and/or re-reads

16. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

18. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

19. Don Quixote of La Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes

20. Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-tales from the Gulf States by Zora Neale Thurston

Horror Movie Wednesday--Wolf Creek and Berlin Syndrome


Wolf Creek (2005):

This was a great little Australian horror flick. We meet the three backpackers as they get ready for their journey. The director wants us to care about what happens to them. So we see a lot of back story and tensions between them.

They eventually make their way to a giant crater (Wolf Creek crater) and hike in. But when they get back their car won't start and none of their phones have service, even their watches have stopped telling time.

They decide to stay the night in the car until a mysterious and quirky yet friendly enough man shows up and tows their car to his farm an hour away. They laugh, drink, eat, and have a good time with the mysterious man. But when one woman wakes up she's tied up in a closet or barn of some sort. She must find a way to get free and find her friends.

The show is bloody and horrific. You're not sure where it's going to go. Just when you think they've gotten away...nope.

If you have the stomach for this stuff, I definitely recommend it!

Berlin Syndrome (2017):

Australian Clare embarks on a solo backpacking journey to Berlin. She's there to take pictures and roam the city and country solo. She soon runs into Andi and German English teacher at a local high school. So he seems safe enough. He's good-looking and funny, she thinks. She decides to stay an extra day so they can spend more time together.

She wakes up the next morning with no way to get out of the apartment. She's locked in and the windows are reinforced but it's just a mistake, right? What unfolds is the terror that the man you just met has kidnapped you and never wants to let you go.

The story takes place over at least 6-8 months. They show a lot of down time along with her trying to escape. They show how she may even have feelings for him at times when things get dire.

It's a terrifying psychological thriller. But it was a bit too long. They could have trimmed it down to 90ish minutes and had a tighter and more gripping movie.

The actress Teresa Palmer was amazing in this one. Her fear was palpable. Overall, it was a great!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Nonfiction November--Be the Expert/Ask an Expert/Become the Expert

This week's topic is hosted by Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

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'm going to go with be and become the expert. This month I've been focusing on books on death and dying, especially within the United States. How has our death practices and rituals changed overtime as a culture? How do others handle their own grief? What makes a good death? Does modern medicine give us a good death or does it just prolong it?

So far I've read Caitlin Doughty's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons in the Crematory. Her focus was how her handling of dead bodies and their disposal changed her views of how we deal with death and the death of our loved ones as a culture. She has since gone on to create a series of videos called Ask a Mortician. She has also created the Circle of the Good Death that brings together experts and everyday citizens to help create the good death for anyone who wants it.

Her book has really made me think about what I want done with my body after I die and how I've directly and indirectly dealt with death in my own life.

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. I read this one a couple of years ago. She gives an often humorous but graphic detail of each step a human cadaver will experience, from heading off to medical labs for would-be doctors, experiments, to the embalming process. All were very surreal.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. This was a great treatise on what truly matters in the end. When we are growing old and the end of our life is upon we accept it? Do we prolong it unnecessarily? How can we get our assisted living places and nursing homes to take care of our loved ones better? These are all thoughtfully explored in this beautiful work.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel. This was a fascinating graphic novel memoir on how Bechdel deals with her relationship to her father after his suicide. It's funny, poignant, and just tragic. We never know what makes another tick and why our friends and families do the things they do. We're all just so human.

Honorable mentions go to: Henry Marsh's Do No Harm: Life, Death, and Brain Surgery. A neurosurgeon's perspective on all of this. American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning by Kate Sweeney.

Books I'm planning on reading this month and in the future:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Didion looks back on the death of her husband and the year that followed. I want to read this for personal stories on how others deal with death of their loved ones.

From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty. This is Doughty's new book. She sets out to discover how other peoples and cultures handle the death of loved ones. I'm excited to see how others around the world deal with death. What rituals are done? How do people show grief? What is expected of loved ones after a death occurs? How does that compare to how I deal with death and my culture deals with death?

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford. She exposed the predatory nature of the funeral industry way back in the 60s. It'll be an interesting classic to read on how the funeral industry became what it is now or was.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Week-in-Review--November 13, 2017

This last week G and I were a bit under the weather. I didn't get as much posted or looked at or done as I would have liked. I managed to cook a few more meals at home and we even headed out to go bowling over the weekend!

Books Finished:

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste and Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.

Currently Reading:

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling (reading with G), We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty. I've got a couple of classics that I'm starting and want to see which one catches my fancy before I commit!

Listening To:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders on Audible. I'm almost done!


Movies about death and grief.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them was a beautiful and poignant look at how we each experience grief differently and how it affects everyone around us. Quite a surprise for me.

Alias Grace was a great mini-series. Beautiful sets and the acting was flawless.


I made two different soups this week that went over well. Also spiced up my spaghetti with some meat. It's the little things. I'll be making some different cocktails and sides for Friendsgiving next week. And probably a pie for Thanksgiving with the family!

Looking forward to:

I'll tell you what I'm not looking forward to. DH is heading out of country to Taiwan for a few weeks. It'll be lonely having him gone, especially with Thanksgiving and our anniversary around the corner. But we'll make do. My plans are to come up with some fine ideas to do with the little one and hopefully make the time away seem a bit faster.

Pics from the week:

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Nala basking in the warm sun! So pretty!

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We got to help a friend out by babysitting their kitten Kimchi while they moved last weekend! Adorable!

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Bowling night!!!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Carl Sagan was born November 9, 1934 and would be 83 years old if he were alive today. He was a great science popularlizer during the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. He created the Cosmos series and wrote Contact and The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.

I grew up on Sagan. My mom loved him and instilled in me a love too. His life was taken too early. I enjoy paying a little homage to him every year on his birthday. I try to rewatch the original Comsos series at least once a year. He was a beautiful writer and eloquent speaker.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Goodreads Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Alma Singer is trying to find a cure for her mother's loneliness. Believing she might discover it in an old book her mother is lovingly translating, she sets out in search of its author. Across New York an old man called Leo Gursky is trying to survive a little bit longer. He spends his days dreaming of the lost love who, sixty years ago in Poland, inspired him to write a book. And although he doesn't know it yet, that book also survived: crossing oceans and generations, and changing lives... 

What I liked:

  • The characters were all very interesting and different.
  • The overall story was a beautiful concept.
  • I enjoyed Alma's search for the author of this amazing book.
Didn't like:
  • The story was hard to follow. There are various characters and there are various times in history as well. I'm still a bit confused.
  • I wanted the story to have more impact for these characters at the end. It felt a little lackluster. But maybe that's the point. Life is life and sometimes--well, most of the time life doesn't turn out how we expect.
Overall, it's a pretty story but a little harsher than I was expecting.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Nonfiction November Week 2-- Nonfiction/fiction Pairings

This week is hosted by Sarah's Book Shelves. Pick a fiction book you'd pair up with your favorite non-fiction book.

My pick would be Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Hate U Give by Angie Thompson. Coates' book gives you a perspective of being Black in America and what it's been like for him and what he hopes for his own son. The Hate U Give brings a lot of these experiences into a story for young adults. It's gripping and emotional; they complement each other.

Week-in-Review-- Halloween!

We had a great Halloween! The weather was a little chilly but nothing we couldn't handle. G looked adorable in his cat costume and he loaded up on all the candy. I told him he could trade in his candy for money but he hasn't taken me up yet on that offer....

Books Finished:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I haven't read a book like this in a long time. Smoke Get In Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. This was so good. So many thoughts....

Currently Reading:

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (reading aloud with my son), We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates, From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death by Caitlin Doughty.

Listening To:

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders on Audible.


Movies about death and grief. Obit-- a documentary of the obituary writers at the New York Times. What is their process and how do they make a good story?

The Big Chill--A group of old college friends get together after their friend dies by suicide. An interesting look on how an early death forces us to look our life choices and where should we from here.

The Descendants--This is one of my favorites. A look at how we face the death of a loved one, all the good and bad that comes out of our relationships.

My Life--Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman are fantastic in this. What do we do when we know death is right around the corner? How do we make sure we leave a legacy and patch up relationships before we die? All the feels in this one.


Lots of soups and breads and warm drinks! This week I'll be making some hearty meals of chicken and potatoes and creamy chicken noodle soup. They are new recipes so we shall see how the fam-fam likes them.

Looking forward to:

This whole month and season. I'm loving my readings and watchings on death and grief. I'm feeling the feels and it's been good for me. I'm reflecting more on my life and wanting to make sure my eventual death is a good one.

Also the weekend! Date night on Friday and fabulous soup on the weekend!

Pics from the week:

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Nala enjoyed her time by Death!
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Haunted Hustle 5K

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Cute black cat!

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Chilling with friends!

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This was a fun shot!

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DH and me

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Non-fiction November 2017

I love non-fiction. I love learning about new things, ideas, places, people, you name it. I was happy to hear about a whole month dedicated to non-fiction. I'll still read a few fiction books in there but this month I'll be focusing on books about death and grief. This time of the year puts me in that mood. It's a way to focus on life and what I'm grateful for.

A big thanks to JulzReads, Sarah's Book ShelvesDoing Dewey, Emerald City Book Review, and Sophisticated Dorkiness for putting on this fantastic non-fiction November!

My Nonfiction Year at-a-glance:

  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
  • Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance
  • H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald
  • Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West
  • Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg M. Epstein
  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • March: Book One by John Robert Lewis
  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  • The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage County Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
  • Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
  • Anything We Love Can Be Saved by Alice Walker
  • Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
  • Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathon Allen

Week One's questions:

What has been your favorite non-fiction read this year?

Easy. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay.

What one have you recommended the most?

Once again Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and close second is Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathon Allen.

What is the one topic or type of non-fiction you haven't read enough of yet? 

History. I have so many of them I want to get to but they are very big and it would take a lot of time to truly get through them.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in non-fiction November?

I love mini-challenges. I love seeing what other people are reading. It'll be a way for me to reflect on what I'm reading this month and engage with other nonfiction lovers.

Cat Thursday-- November 2, 2017

Welcome to the weekly meme (hosted by True Book Addict) that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s)

I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!

PetaPixel featured Japanese photographer, Hisakata Hiroyuki, who specializes in taking action shots of cats to make them look they're doing martial arts. Here are a few of my favorites:

Go check out the original article for more information on Hiroyuki's work!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

R.I.P. Challenge and FrightFall Read-a-thon Wrap-up

I had a lot of fun reading horror and thrillers these last two months. I'm sad Halloween is over but I am also ready to read differently this next month. I finished half of my original to-read list and added a few others along the way.

I finished:

  1. White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
  2. Black-eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
  3. It by Stephen King
  4. The Troop by Nick Cutter
  5. I Remember You: A Ghost Story by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
  6. The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
  7. Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  1. It
  2. Clown Town
  3. Jeepers Creepers
  4. Raw
  5. Friday the 13th
  6. Watcher in the Woods
  7. Stranger Things
  8. Dead Awake
  9. Gerald's Game
  10. Tremors
There were probably more shows and movies but those are the ones on my brain.

My favorite reads were I Remember You and The Last Days of Jack Sparks. My favorite movie was Gerald's Game and It, both Stephen King stories...

I can't wait til next year!


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