Saturday, June 22, 2019

Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 July-October Book Challenge

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I saw that a fellow book blogger had done this challenge earlier this year and she loved it and I thought "hey, why not? Summer is here and this will be a great challenge to try for! The challenge begins July 1 and ends October 31st. I added a couple of mystery/thrillers for Halloween time too.

Book Challenge by Erin 11.0. The rules and discussions are all on the Facebook page and the group on Goodreads.

• 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages-- Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

• 10 points: Read a book that starts with “F”-- Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-first Century by Dorothy Roberts

• 10 points: Read a book with one of the following words in the title: rain(s), thunder, lightning, or monsoon-- Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power by Robert Kaplan

• 15 points: Read a book with a picture of a building (i.e. a house, a castle, a school, a hospital, etc.) on the cover-- Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital by David Oshinsky

• 20 points: Read a book that the published author uses an initial in his/her name--Second Life by S.J. Watson

• 20 points: Read a book with an article of clothing or accessory in the title--The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee

• 25 points: (in honour of our co-admin) – Read a book set in India-- The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

• 30 points: (selected by Lyndsay L.) – Read a book that has won or been short-listed for the Booker Prize--The Sellout by Paul Beatty

• 30 points: (selected by Deborah D.) – Read a book about a human with superpowers or supernatural powers-- Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

• 35 points: (selected by Lorraine J.) – Read a book that has the same title as another book in a different genre-- Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, also the same title as Andrew Solomon's book.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Manual For Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown

Published: March 12, 2019 by W.W. Norton & Company
Genre: History, environment, non-fiction
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages, library
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Publisher's Summary:

Dear Comrades! Since the accident at the Chernobyl power plant, there has been a detailed analysis of the radioactivity of the food and territory of your population point. The results show that living and working in your village will cause no harm to adults or children.

So began a pamphlet issued by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health—which, despite its optimistic beginnings, went on to warn its readers against consuming local milk, berries, or mushrooms, or going into the surrounding forest. This was only one of many misleading bureaucratic manuals that, with apparent good intentions, seriously underestimated the far-reaching consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

After 1991, international organizations from the Red Cross to Greenpeace sought to help the victims, yet found themselves stymied by post-Soviet political circumstances they did not understand. International diplomats and scientists allied to the nuclear industry evaded or denied the fact of a wide-scale public health disaster caused by radiation exposure. Efforts to spin the story about Chernobyl were largely successful; the official death toll ranges between thirty-one and fifty-four people. In reality, radiation exposure from the disaster caused between 35,000 and 150,000 deaths in Ukraine alone.

No major international study tallied the damage, leaving Japanese leaders to repeat many of the same mistakes after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. Drawing on a decade of archival research and on-the-ground interviews in Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus, Kate Brown unveils the full breadth of the devastation and the whitewash that followed. Her findings make clear the irreversible impact of man-made radioactivity on every living thing; and hauntingly, they force us to confront the untold legacy of decades of weapons-testing and other nuclear incidents, and the fact that we are emerging into a future for which the survival manual has yet to be written.

My Thoughts:

I started reading this after I became fascinated with Chernobyl and its after-effects while watching the HBO series and listening to the podcast by Peter Sagal and series creator Craig Mazin. Mazin referred to Kate Brown's ground-breaking book on the environmental impacts of nuclear energy and the effects we'll continue to see now and in the future.

Basically, the USSR and the global communities refused to look at the effects of low-dose radiation over time, how it has impacted the local communities: their food, water, etc. No one at the time wanted to confront the fact that they had been exposing their citizens to nuclear fallout for decades from the time the first nuclear bomb was created.

According to one study: " 1961-62, the two superpowers blasted the earth in a last-minute race to discharge bombs before the 1963 atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty went into effect. That last grand finale of radioactive fireworks emitted an eye-popping twelve billion curies of radioactive iodine into the Northern Hemisphere and left its mark on everything, even fine French wine."

Plants and humans readily take up radioactive strontium, cesium, and iodine that mimic potassium, iodine, and calcium. The fallout is ingested by the plants, animals, and ultimately humans.

Even with the health risks known, governments refused to shut them down or make them safer, or even acknowledge how dangerous they were. Reputations and national security were more important than human lives.

Brown goes onto to show that accident at Chernobyl while the biggest and most disastrous, was only a point on a continuum of accidents, experiments, mining, bombing, etc. The territory "...was already saturated with radioactive isotopes from the atomic bomb tests before architects drew up plans for the nuclear power plant. And, after Chernobyl as before Chernobyl, the drumbeat of nuclear accidents continued at two dozen other Ukrainian nuclear power installations and missile sites." The forest surrounding Chernobyl turned red after the accident, soaking up all those radioactive material. What happens when it burns? Well, it did in 2017.

She goes on to say: "Instead of an accident, Chernobyl might better be conceived of as an acceleration on a time line of destruction or as an exclamation point in a chain of toxic exposures that restructured the landscape, bodies, and politics."

Nuclear powers have minimized the deaths of the Chernobyl disaster in order to dodge lawsuits and investigations in the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War, when records of decades of bomb productions were declassified. These records have shown how government leaders took little care or responsibility "...for damages caused by the detonation of the equivalent of 29,000 Hiroshima-sized bombs...The ill-advised detonation of nuclear weapons in Nevada delivered to milk-drinking Americans across the U.S. continent an average collective dose of radioactive iodine similar to that of people living in Chernobyl contaminated areas."

This line comes from the last chapter and sums it all up: "The period of nuclear testing qualifies as the most unhinged, suicidal chapter in human history. In the name of 'peace' and 'deterrence,' military leaders waged global nuclear war."

I don't think I could've been prepared for how emotional I'd become while watching the series, listening to the podcast, and reading this book. It's a heavy book. You realize how far we have to go to get our shit together, how much suffering we've caused, and how much people are still suffering due to our terrible and abominable policies and short-sighted thinking. We don't have a lot of foresight as humans. I can only hope we can come together before it's too late.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Week(s)-in-Review: Hiking, Birthday, and Camps!

Summer (well, the summer season, anyway) is in full swing at my house. G is out of school and has done two camps already and doing basketball this week! We have started our weekly (mostly) hikes. I celebrated a birthday and got new ear piercings! I recovered from a major sinus infection which left me feeling awful. G had his first camp away from home for 3 nights! It was tougher on me than it was on him! But he had a blast and he is home safe! Also, our weather has been crazy this spring. We had hail last week!

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We hiked the mountain with friends!

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My new fun ear piercings and my yummy whiskey sour for my birthday! Also, hail! What?!

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Space camp for G and he learned how to use chopsticks too!

Father's Day was almost a success...DH decided to open a package that was his present! Oopsie. Oh well, he got it early. G helped me make him breakfast and then we headed up to my sister's house for a barbecue and games later that day. Overall it was a success!

Last Week I:

Read: Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown...two weeks ago but didn't actually finish a book last week due to being sick. Sad face.

Listened to: Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson.



The Leftovers on HBO. I'm on the first season and it's so good.


Over the last couple of weeks I've seen: Greta, John Wick: Chapter 2 and 3, Always Be My Maybe (I really enjoyed this one. Cheesy but cute. Just what I needed), Crazy Rich Asians (Also fun and adorable), Into the Dark: They Come Knocking (from Hulu for their Father's Day horror movie. I really enjoyed this one), and Ma (Octavia Spencer kills it; she's worth the price of entry).

Made: I'm growing mint in my little garden and made a few raspberry mojitos before I got sick. Then I didn't make much of anything til this weekend and made cupcakes and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for Father's Day!

This Week I:

Am currently readingVoices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich, Ruff Vs. Fluff by Spencer Quin (G is kind of forcing me to read this one since he loved it so much!), Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi.

Am currently listing to: Haven't started a book yet but I'm thinking The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert or The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Am looking forward to: Camping next Monday! I was worried the campsite wouldn't be open but it just did so it's on!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Cat Thursday

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

Hi Homer brings us the birthday celebrations of Rubble who appears to be the oldest living cat in the world! He just celebrated 31 years!


Taken from article:

Rubble's human mom, Michele Foster of Exeter, took him in as a kitten back in May, 1988.It's hard to believe that Reagan was still in office when this little guy was born, or that he's as old as Rain Man, Die Hard, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?—especially when he's managed to maintain his youthful good looks.

She says he's gotten a bit grumpier in his old age but overall he is in excellent health. What a handsome kitty!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Horror Movie Wednesday: Us


Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Elizabeth Moss, Winston Duke
Released: March 22, 2019

A smart and horrific look at what we do to each other in the shadows. It's a strong and tragic metaphor for society. Pure terror and I loved it!

Director: Michael Chaves
Writer(s): Mikki Daughtry, Tobias Iaconis
Starring: Linda Cardellini, Raymond Cruz, Patricia Velasquez
Released: April 19, 2019

This is another movie in the Conjuring universe. I didn't realize that til I was watching it...but ok. Not great but not terrible. Better than "Nun." Funny moment, though. I saw it with my sister and there was one big jump scare that got her so good. Her hands flung out and she smacked me in the face and my popcorn fell all over the floor! Totally worth it.

Director: Kevin Kolsch and David Widmyer
Writers: Stephen King (novel), Matt Greenburg (screen story), Jeff Buhler (screenplay)
Starring: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow
Released: April 5, 2019

I've seen both versions now but I have not read the book so I'm not sure which adaptation is more faithful...but I loved this version so much more. The ending was perfect and creepy. But the first version is still worth a watch but the special effects are very outdated so they take you out of the story a bit. Truly creepy and disturbing!

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Writers: Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, David Kajganich
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton
Released: November 2, 2018

I saw the original a couple of Halloweens ago. It came out in 1977 so it did feel a bit dated but the score was terrifying and the ending...But this one had a more feminist feel to it. And I really enjoyed the ending a lot more. Both are worth a watch.

Director: Julius Avery
Writers: Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Ollivier
Released: November 9, 2018

This was a fun surprise for me. A World War II movie...which is already tragic and horrific and then you throw in zombie experiments...yeah, it all hits the fan. Fun.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Book Reviews: How to Live, Song for a Whale

How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne: In One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell
Published: February 16, 2010 by Chatto & Windus
Genre: Biography, Philosophy, History, Self-help
Format: Hardcover, 387 pages, own
Rating: 4 stars

My friend Stacie and I have an ongoing philosophy book club. She moved away a year ago and this is a way we can stay connected while we are far apart. 

Bakewell enjoyed writing about Montaigne and all his quirks. He was one of the first people to truly write about the self in all its boring detail. And not so boring. I loved getting to know his quirks and the history of France around this time. It was a troubled time, indeed. He inspired me to just keep writing and not worrying about if it's boring or not. Just living means everyone has something to write.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
Published: February 5, 2019 by Delacorte Press
Genre: Middle grade, contemporary fiction
Format: Hardcover, 303 pages, library
Rating: 5 stars

This is an adorable book. Yes adorable and thought-provoking. Iris is deaf and her parents are forcing her to attend a school that has no deaf children. She feels alone and defeated. But she soon learns about a whale that sings a song that no other whales can hear. She decides to make a song for this lonely whale and she is determined to play it for him.  She joins her grandmother on a cruise in order to find this whale and find another lonely soul.

Go read it.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson
Published: February 12, 2019 by Random House
Genre: Historical fiction, cold war
Rating: 3 stars

I liked it. But I didn't love it. It was a bit rough as a first novel. She writes in the form of a very long letter to her sons. It ended up making the overall story a little less dramatic and it sometimes took me out of the story.

I really enjoyed the overall plot, though. Marie Mitchell's story about her sister Helene and her mother leaving them while she was very young, and her treatment as a black woman in the FBI in the 80s was all interesting. I didn't buy her being a spy very well and I didn't really like the "love" story between her and Sankara. I feel like if she had just told the story in real time rather than afterwards as a letter to her sons, it would have been a more gripping and interesting story. It was a very short novel and thus I feel she had to cut a lot out and just kind of move the story along when she needed to and having it as a letter would make that very easy.

Overall, a very interesting story and I will pick up the next book by Wilkinson and I hope the writing and story development will be tighter.

Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog by Ralph Hardy
Published: May 31, 2016 by HarperCollins
Genre: Middle grade, history, fantasy
Rating: 3 stars

Argos tells Odysseus' story. He's not with him the whole time so he must get snippets from other creatures who meet Odysseus and his crew along the way. So sometimes the story-telling was a bit forced. Argos was stiff and the writing was a bit stodgy, but it's a fun way to get the story for a younger audience. 

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey
Published: January 9, 2018 by Soho Press
Literary Awards: Mary Higgins Clark Award, Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel, Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Mystery & Thriller
Genre: Mystery, Historical fiction
Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this historical mystery during the 1920s of India. So many cultural and historical things to learn and enjoy. Massey never once makes it feel like an info dump. I've read books where you can tell the author is straining the story in order to tell you how much useless info she learned from a book somewhere about the time period she's writing about. All the information and world and characters feel organic. You feel like you could be back there experiencing it all. 

Perveen Mistry is the only female lawyer in the area working for her father's firm. She can't even practice in court legally. But when the sequestered widows of Malabar Hill need to speak with someone and the only one they can speak with is Perveen...well, she becomes entangled in a murder and a mystery that leaves her in peril. 

Massey also shares Perveen's history. We go back in time until it all comes together with the present. I'm excited to continue with the rest of the series.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Week-in-Review: School's Out

May went by so fast! We had a lot of rain and thunderstorms this month. Even more than April. I don't remember the last time that happened here in dry, desert Utah. We had two reservations cancel on us due to extreme weather conditions at the camp sites over Memorial Day weekend so we had to head over to a primitive camp site at Yuba State Park. We had friends with a trailer so we survived with some of their gear and a bathroom! Whew! We got rained on the last night but our tent kept us dry.

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It was gorgeous! We had lots of beautiful rainbows and a lake to view. It got a bit chilly at night but other than that it was a perfect camping trip. Although, our friends' truck quit on them and had to call in some neighbors to tow them and their trailer back after our trip but it all worked out.

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For G's last school project they all had to read a biography of a famous person who has contributed in some way to society and do a "wax museum" presentation at the end for parents. G chose Harry Houdini and he did an excellent job! So proud. And a pic of Shadow cuz she's cute and why not?

Last Week I:

ReadMy Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey, Argos by Ralph Hardy, and American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

Listened to: HBO's Chernobyl podcast. It discusses all the things that happened in the previous episode. So many details get added and context. I love it.



Chernobyl on HBO--wow, so good. I'm obsessed with all things Chernobyl-related. Let's just say I have a big reading list this summer. The season finale of Killing Eve! Netflix's Quicksand. Also really good. It's a Swedish show and it shows what their criminal justice system is like. Sooooo very different from the U.S.


Over the last few weeks I've seen: Possum; John Wick; Pokemon Detective Pikachu; The Hole in the Ground; Intruders, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile; and The Perfection.

Made: Not as much as I would've liked. I got a couple of ready-made meals from Costco that were really good this week. But between camping and having a major sinus infection, it's been pretty nil in that area. Something's had to slide....

This Week I:

Am currently reading: Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future by Kate Brown, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, The Collected Schizophrenias by Esme Weijun Wang, Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Am currently listing to: The Library Book by Susan Orlean

Am looking forward to: My birthday is next week. I may get my first tattoo! Firepit this week with friends and making s'mores!

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Bram Stoker Award Winners and Nominees

Bram Stoker Awards were announced last month. I meant to get this post out sooner...but life. They have all the nominees listed and past winners as well.

Here are a few I'd like to sink "my teeth" into! Especially as summer turns to fall in a few months...

The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone--or something--is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck--the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions--searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand--evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves "What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased...and very hungry?"

Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

Dracul reveals not only the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator, Bram Stoker . . . and of the elusive, enigmatic woman who connects them.

It is 1868, and a 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself inside an abbey's tower to face off against a vile and ungodly beast. He is armed with mirrors and crucifixes and holy water and a gun - and is kept company by a bottle of plum brandy. His fervent prayer is that he will survive this one night - a night that will prove to be the longest of his life.

Desperate to leave a record of what he has witnessed, the young man scribbles out the events that brought him to this point - and tells an extraordinary tale of childhood illness, a mysterious nanny, and stories once thought to be fables now proven true.

Inspired by the notes DRACULA's creator left behind, Dracul is a riveting, heart-stoppingly scary novel of Gothic suspense . . . 

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

The Night Weaver by Monique Snyman

Shadow Grove isn't a typical town. Bad things happen here. Children disappear, one after the other, and nobody is doing anything about it. Parents don't grieve, missing posters don't line the streets, and the sheriff seems unconcerned.

Seventeen-year-old Rachel Cleary lives on the outskirts of Shadow Grove, next to the creepy forest everyone pretends doesn't exist. Usually the forest is filled with an eerie calm, and unmistakeable graveyard solemnity. But the trees have started whispering, forgotten creatures are stirring and the night feels darker than ever.

Something is stalking the residents of Shadow Grove, changing them into brain-dead caricatures of themselves. It's up to Rachel to find a way to stop the devouring of her hometown before all is destroyed and everyone she loves is forever lost.

These all look like great ones I need to dive into soon. This is only the tip, though. So many to go. Plus I've never really looked at these awards before so I have past years to dive into as well!

I have read one on the list this last year Dread Nation by Justine Ireland. It's a zombie historical fiction and I really enjoyed it.