Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Mini Book Reviews: Adulthood Rites, Imago...


Adulthood Rites (#2 Xenogenesis) by Octavia Butler
Published: 1988 by Aspect
Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopia
Format: Kindle, 277 Pages, Own

Publisher's Summary:

In this sequel to Dawn, Lilith Iyapo has given birth to what looks like a normal human boy named Akin. But Akin actually has five parents: a male and female human, a male and female Oankali, and a sexless Ooloi. The Oankali and Ooloi are part of an alien race that rescued humanity from a devastating nuclear war, but the price they exact is a high one the aliens are compelled to genetically merge their species with other races, drastically altering both in the process.

On a rehabilitated Earth, this "new" race is emerging through human/Oankali/Ooloi mating, but there are also "pure" humans who choose to resist the aliens and the salvation they offer.These resisters are sterilized by the Ooloi so that they cannot reproduce the genetic defect that drives humanity to destroy itself, but otherwise they are left alone (unless they become violent).

When the resisters kidnap young Akin, the Oankali choose to leave the child with his captors, for he the most "human" of the Oankali children will decide whether the resisters should be given back their fertility and freedom, even though they will only destroy themselves again.

This is the second volume in Octavia Butler's Xenogenesis series, a powerful tale of alien existence.

My Thoughts:

I loved the world-building and the philosophy behind this series. It's a way to explore what makes us human and who deserves to be treated as such. I enjoyed Akin's journey as he struggles to understand humans and the Oankali and how he fits into this new society.


Imago (#3 Xenogenesis) by Octavia Butler
Published: 1989 by Aspect
Genre: Sci-fi, Dystopia
Format: Kindle, 224 Pages, Own

Publisher's Summary:

The stunning conclusion to a postapocalyptic trilogy about an alien species merging with humans—from “one of science fiction’s finest writers” (TheNew York Times).
Human and Oankali have been mating since the aliens first came to Earth to rescue the few survivors of an annihilating nuclear war. The Oankali began a massive breeding project, guided by the ooloi, a sexless subspecies capable of manipulating DNA, in the hope of eventually creating a perfect starfaring race. Jodahs is supposed to be just another hybrid of human and Oankali, but as he begins his transformation to adulthood he finds himself becoming ooloi—the first ever born to a human mother. As his body changes, Jodahs develops the ability to shapeshift, manipulate matter, and cure or create disease at will. If this frightened young man is able to master his new identity, Jodahs could prove the savior of what’s left of mankind. Or, if he is not careful, he could become a plague that will destroy this new race once and for all.

My Thoughts:

A fantastic conclusion. I thoroughly enjoyed Butler's thoughtful story on whether humanity can change and if not, whether or not we're worth saving...


Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle
Published: June 16th, 2020 by Morrow Gift
Genre: Humor, Graphic Novel
Format: Ebook, 144 Pages, Scribd

Publisher's Summary:

In this eagerly awaited sequel, Nathan takes us back to his charming and instantly recognizable planet colored in bright pinks, blues, greens, and purples, providing more escapades, jokes, and p h r a s e s.

Nathan mixes his most popular Instagram comics with more than thirty original works created exclusively for this second volume to explore four major topics: traditions, nature, emotions, and knowledge. He inducts new and longtime fans into a strangely familiar world and its culture, from “cohesion” (marriage) to “mild poison” (alcohol) to the full lyrics to “The Small Eight-Legged Creature” (sung to the tune of The Itsy-Bitsy Spider).

Bright, colorful, and whimsical—yet charmingly familiar—Stranger Planet is out-of-this-world fun.

My Thoughts:

So funny!!! If you haven't read the first in the series go check it out. It's just such a great look at the weirdness that is humanity! And the second one is not any different. He'll never run out of things to make fun!


The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Published: first published in 1844
Genre: Action/Adventure
Format: Ebook, 1276 Pages, Scribd

Publisher's Summary:

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s.

My Thoughts:

I was surprised at how lively and fun the book was! I was expecting it to be a bit more droll like Les Mis...I'd call this a French Soap Opera! 

The thing that stuck out most with me is how much Dumas' ties Dantes' revenge to God's Wrath aka Vigilante Justice that's sanctioned by God. Not until the end does he question even a little bit about what he has done as part of his revenge. There are a couple of casualties that he did not plan along the way. But he makes it up by helping others along the way...I like that twist. Usually it's "revenge is a dish best served cold." And how revenge truly never works. Which I think is mostly true. But yeah it was just fun to see this side of it. Fun escapism. The baddies get their just desserts!

There is also a theme of memories and remembrance throughout the book. Of course, Dantes remembers; he is exacting his revenge slowly and carefully. The ones who are his friends ponder and remember their past and remember him. The enemies are the ones who only remember once the "guillotine" has dropped.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading it and glad I finally took the time to do so this year!

I also recently watched the movie done in the early 2000s...It was OK. But they switched it up and used the whole "revenge is a dish best served cold" idea. Irritated me. They took out key characters and completely changed the ending. But what do you do when you only have 2.5 hours to get in a 1200+ book! I'd like to see a limited series done.

*Read for Back to the Classics challenge and The Classics Club challenge


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Mid-July...Wait, What?

 Technically summer doesn't end until September but...for most the summer winds down at the end of August or first of September as our kids go back to school! So yeah, my brain is not processing that it's actually the 14th of July today.

We had a pretty good 4th of July weekend. A BBQ with friends and neighbors and some extra time to relax and enjoy one another.

We also had my friend's son over for a couple days while she and her husband dealt with her cancer appointments. Yep, F*ck cancer. Her son and my son get along so well. They both had a great time and I was happy to help in any way.

G and I managed a small hike last weekend. We got up really early and made it up to the trailhead so we could beat the crowds and the heat...but it's a windy road into the mountains for about 14 miles and G had been reading right before we got into the canyon...well, as soon as we got there. He got out of the car, went pale, said he didn't feel so good and proceeded to puke his guts out. After he got it all out he drank a ton of water and sat for a bit and declared he was ready to commence the hike! I didn't think we'd do the whole thing so I was happy he was feeling good enough to try. We made it to the first lake and that was it but we enjoyed some time in nature and we even saw two moose by the small lake on our way back down. Hopefully we'll be able to get back this summer and see the other two lakes.

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We're also getting CSA baskets over the summer. Farm fresh fruits and veggies all summer long. My friend did face painting on the 4th as well. And of course, selfies with Shadow!
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Can you spot the moose?

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So peaceful up there!

Grateful For:

1. Finishing off the baby blanket I promised for my friend's newborn son. The pattern turned out really nice. It's a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be but she should be able to use it for other things as he gets bigger.
2. No major fires in my city! All fireworks were banned and I think I only saw two or three fireworks go off on the 4th. I was really surprised more people didn't light them off. Bonus my cat Shadow didn't freak out like she usually does every year with the big fireworks.
3. CSA farm fresh veggies! I've been figuring out ways to actually get these veggies eaten. It's been fun finding new recipes and getting new ideas to eat them all up. I want to try my hand at canning some tomatoes and salsa this summer. I know we'll be getting a ton of tomatoes. Only G and me actually eat tomatoes. So between giving some away and eating them, I need to figure out how to can them for the winter. 

Reading Life:

Finished:

I have finished up quite a few since my last post a few weeks ago! Yay! Which means I'm still really behind in my book reviews....


  • Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind
    by Sue Black (I love Sue Black and everything about this book)
  • World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever (A short but sweet book with a lot of great thoughts about Bourdain and what he leaves behind) This also finishes off my food prompt for my Nonfiction Reading challenge! yay!
  • Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle (I think his first one is a bit better but these are all hilarious. A really funny and poignant look at the weirdness that is humanity)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (I was surprised at how readable this classic is. It's quite the little French soap on revenge and memory. The 19th century classic prompt is complete for my Back to the Classics challenge).
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (this one completes my psychological thriller prompt for my I Read Horror All Year Long challenge). 
  • Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell (Fantastic look at how language shapes our beliefs and vice versa. A great primer into cults and cult-like groups and how we all need to belong.) Read this!
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weis (hands down my favorite fun fiction read of the summer! I truly loved everything about this book).
  • Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala (a fun new cozy mystery series. I'm actually going to try my hand at chicken adobo next week because of this book!)
  • The Trespasser by Tana French (I finally finished of the Dublin Murder Squad series!)
Wow that's 9 books! A few have been books I've been reading for awhile now but still. I'm pretty proud of that.

Currently Reading:


Philosophy book club and Back to the Classics (classic by a woman): The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir.

Reading with G: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Back to the Classics challenge: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis (so good already)

The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn (listening to this one) This is her follow up to the Salt Path.

The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey (#3 in the Perveen Mistry series)

Nonfiction Reading Challenge (oceanography prompt): The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

Watching Life:


The best movie I've seen this summer is Luca on Disney+. I cried through most of it. It's a beautiful story on finding your own strength and taming your inner critic. Best kids movie in a long time!

We've been watching Lego Masters, Crime Scene Kitchen, and Making It as a family. DH and I are watching Loki (Love so much).

I've been catching up on Kevin Can F*ck Himself. So good. Highly recommend this one.

I'm watching the NBA Finals as well.

Making:

Lots of interesting salads! We've been getting lots of heads of lettuce in our CSA. Since it's summer and salads are always a healthy option, I've been looking at ways to make the typical salad even better. Lots of different ingredients and different vinaigrettes. So far only G has complained! But he still eats them!

Zucchini bread! We've gotten lots of zucchini. So bread has been made. I'll probably make one more loaf. I've made zucchini pizza bites for lunch once. Next week will probably be a kebab night with zucchini on the menu.

We've also been getting beets. I did not grow up on beets. I've been roasting them. But I'd love to find other ways to use them. Maybe in desserts? Red beets have that beautiful reddish purple color to them. I'm wondering if I can use that for a red velvet cake or something...

Looking forward to:

Today and tomorrow DH's brother and his family are dropping through on their big summer vacation. G will be able to play with some cousins! So he is definitely excited about that.

Friday we're heading up to Park City for a drive-in movie and a little swimming at the local hotel. We haven't gotten away since 2019....Nala kitty's anti-seizure meds have been reduced so we can safely take a night away. It's been a long time coming!

If you have any good beet recipes let me know!

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Cat Thursday--It's So Hot!

 

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!  

Summer is in full swing. We're hitting 100+ days all this week. At least it's a dry heat...I do really well in June and then July hits and I'm done...it's the cat days of summer and the beach reads come out with the cocktails in hand...










Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Reading Challenge Updates!


June was Sci-fi Summer Readathon hosted by Michelle at Seasons of Reading. I managed to get two books in

  • Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler
  • Imago by Octavia Butler
Which finished off the Xenogenesis series for me. A very thought-provoking series and I'm still mulling on it. Hopefully I'll some reviews up soon!

It's also been awhile since I updated my all year long reading challenges. I know I haven't done a few reviews and I KNOW I'm really behind on a couple as well. The summer is just getting away from me.



I've been really enjoying stretching my usual horror readings with this one. 5/12 complete. I'm hoping to catch up by the end of the month. I finished off The Upstairs Wife by Rachel Hawkins in June. I'm hoping to complete The Good House and Asylum this month.

  1. The Ascent by Ronald Malfi (Winter)
  2. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Spirits or ghosts)
  3. The Upstairs Wife by Rachel Hawkins (Psychological)
  4. Hide and Seeker by Daka Herman (monsters)
  5. The Route of Ice and Salt by Jose Luis Zarate (A body of water)
  6. The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling (scary book cover)
  7. Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand (A woman on the cover)
  8. Asylum by Madeleine Roux or The Girl in the Well by Rue Chupeco(written by a woman)
  9. The Good House by Tananarive Due (written by a best-selling horror author)
  10. The Rust Maidens by Gwedolyn Kiste (Indie author)
  11. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell (Historical horror)
  12. The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher (Folk horror)


I am super behind on this one. Classics are my nemesis which is why I chose to do this challenge...kick my butt in gear! 3/12. I am three behind. I am currently reading Black Beauty and The Little Prince so hopefully that will help me get back on track!

I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo! Clocked that bad boy in 6 months!

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1971 and posthumously published.
  • Go Tell It on a Mountain by James Baldwin

3. A classic by a woman author.
  • The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Epinay

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author.
  • Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autiobiography by Zora Neale Hurston

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read.
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read. 
  • Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird).
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

9. A children's classic. 
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin

10. A humorous or satirical classic.
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Slaughter-house Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure. 
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift
  • The Kon-Tiki Expedition by Thor Heyerdahl

12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category.
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry


This is by far my most up-to-date! I'm actually ahead on this one. I'm a big non-fiction fan. 7/12 complete! I'm hoping to read Cork Dork this month. I'm leaving a few more of the heavy hitters for later, though. We shall see how it all plays out later...

1. Biography

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe

2. Travel

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

3. Self-help

The Self-driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson

4. Essay Collection

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

5. Disease

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

6. Oceanography

The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson

Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves by James Nestor

The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery

7. Hobbies

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

8. Indigenous Cultures

Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present by David Treuer

9. Food

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Cork Dork by Biana Bosker

Wine Girl by Victoria James

Blood, Bones, & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

10. Wartime experiences

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City by Anonymous

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of World War II by Svetlana Alexievich

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich

11. Inventions

Broad Band: The Untold Story of Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel

12. Published in 2021

Cosmic Queries: StarTalk's Guide to Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going by Neil deGrasse Tyson and James Trefil


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco: Book Review

 

Source

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Published: 1980
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Format: Paperback, 536 Pages, Own
Rating: 3 stars

Publisher's Summary:

The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the theology of Aquinas, the empirical insights of Roger Bacon—all sharpened to a glistening edge by wry humor and a ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey, where “the most interesting things happen at night.”

My Thoughts:

I never thought I'd enjoy a book set in the 14th century at a monastery would be so intriguing! But It was. And I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Brother William and how he uses his logic and knowledge to figure out who is murdering all the monks!

The story is told through his novices eyes but when his novice is an old man and can look back on these events with a more discerning eye. 

Now, I'm not going to give it 4 or more stars because there are a lot of really slow parts, especially at the beginning that introduces us to the history of the time with the Pope and the kings and the different branches of sects that were dueling it out for power. Eco explains in an afterward section that he purposely added those boring sections to weed out his readers! Well, I stuck with it. lol.

And while it's a mystery in the sense that there are monks being murdered and Brother William is there to figure it out, I felt it was more about philosophy in novel form. How can logic and emotion fail us in equal measure? Well, this book will let you know!

Not quite what I expected but overall glad I read it. I see why it's a modern classic.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It's Hot!

June is not supposed to be this hot but it is this year. We're in the 90s and 100s almost every day right now. That usually doesn't happen til July. So hot! We are beating the heat with some early morning hikes...ok, not really but it's still pretty. Weekend cocktails and evening fire pits with friends definitely helps us all cool off!

Enjoyed a lovely birthday weekend last week. DH and I finally went out for some fantastic dinner and drinks. We have not done that in 14 months. It was so nice! The restaurant we went to had a vaccination card only policy. So we knew everyone in that restaurant was fully vaccinated. It was a very relaxing evening. We later learned that the restaurant has received death threats from anti-vaxers and threats of being Nazis...I mean, wow. We were very happy to support them!

This summer is full of house projects, work, and getting out into nature when it's cool enough.

We got good news on our kitty Nala. She is still seizure free and we've got about 4 months left before she'll be completely weaned off her meds as long as she continues to be seizure-free! We have a couple of trips we want to plan so this is very good news!

Here's a couple of pics from my latest hike. So hot so we didn't quite make it to the top but we still got some great exercise in the mountains.


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Reading Life:


I just started up Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind by Sue Black. I loved her first book All That Remains. True-crime from a forensic anthropologist. G and I also started The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. Disturbing but also very intriguing. It also goes along nicely with my sci-fi challenge this month...but it's mostly dystopia.

Reading Challenges:

For my Sci-fi Readathon

Abaddon's Gate James S.A. Corey (Expanse #3) and The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He.

I finished Adulthood Rites and Imago, the last two books in the Xenogenesis series by Octavia Butler and an ARC from the publisher for Dare to Know by James Kennedy.

I Read Horror Year All Year Round

The Upstairs Wife by Rachel Hawkins (psychological thriller prompt). Listening to this one. It's interesting and I'm looking forward to the end but it hasn't been as good as I was hoping.

Back to the Classics challenge:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (19th Century prompt and also for my 1000 Books Project: French classics edition). So close to finishing now! Just a few more chapters.

And Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (classic by a woman prompt).

The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir...I am no over halfway done and should be done with it by December to earn my 20 century classic prompt!

Nonfiction Reading challenge:

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever (food prompt). I'm listening to this one and it still makes me want to cry. I'm hoping to finish by the end of the month.

I'm pretty behind this month with some of these challenges. Hopefully I can catch up soon!

Watching Life:

Mostly the NBA Playoffs.

I added in the Crime Scene Kitchen which is weirdly entertaining though I wished they'd called it Mystery Kitchen...since no crimes were committed in the kitchen real or otherwise. I guess it's more catchy but not what I was expecting when I went to watch.

I also finished off Love, Victor on Hulu. Really good show, especially the second season where they try to deal with all the life stuff they kind of blew off in the first season.

Last weekend we watched Raya and the Last Dragon and In the Heights together. I wanted to like Raya better. It was cute and funny but didn't quite have that complex punch their movies usually have. It felt a little trite. In the Heights was really fun. Really enjoyed that one.


Come True
was my horror movie for the week. Really trippy but that ending was a bit off...overall quite a cerebral sci-fi horror.

Making and Doing:

I'm hoping to get to my painting of my door soon. If not this weekend then next.

I've been enjoying no-bake cookies and raspberry mojitos on the weekends.

I've been sticking to sandwiches and grilling foods recently.

Looking forward to:

Cooler temps for a few days this week. I think we will hit a hi of 75 on Wednesday. It goes back up over the weekend but it'll be nice to have such a cool day or two even for a bit.

I've got a little friend get-together on Saturday with DH and Sunday I'm hiking with a friend! Loving getting out a bit this summer.

Joining in with Deb from Readerbuzz's Sunday Salon


Friday, June 11, 2021

Nonfiction Reviews: Jane Austen: A Life...

 


Jane Austen: a Life by Claire Tomalin

Published: 1997
Genre: Non-fiction, history, biography
Format: Hardcover, 347 Pages, Own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

At her death in 1817, Jane Austen left the world six of the most beloved novels written in English—but her shortsighted family destroyed the bulk of her letters; and if she kept any diaries, they did not survive her.  Now acclaimed biographer Claire Tomalin has filled the gaps in the record, creating a remarkably fresh and convincing portrait of the woman and the writer. 

While most Austen biographers have accepted the assertion of Jane's brother Henry that "My dear Sister's life was not a life of events," Tomalin shows that, on the contrary, Austen's brief life was fraught with upheaval.  Tomalin provides detailed and absorbing accounts of Austen's ill-fated love for a young Irishman, her frequent travels and extended visits to London, her close friendship with a worldly cousin whose French husband met his death on the guillotine, her brothers' naval service in the Napoleonic wars and in the colonies, and thus shatters the myth of Jane Austen as a sheltered and homebound spinster whose knowledge of the world was limited to the view from a Hampshire village. 

My Thoughts:

I picked this one up earlier this year after I listened to a Great Courses lecture series on Jane Austen and her world and her books. I'm so glad I did. I learned so much about her family, especially her parents and her relationship to her sister and her brothers.

Her parents sent the older children away after they were born to local poor families to take care of them until they were old enough to not be such a nuisance in the house. Tomalin speculates Jane ended up not having a great relationship with her mother due to this early arrangement.

She spends a few chapters talking about her books and how things in her life and the people in it may have influenced her writing. Having Tomalin bring it all together really astounds me at what a genius Jane Austen was. There were years where she didn't really have a home after her father died and her and Cassandra were moved around from brother to brother and their families to help take care of children, etc. Yet she still found the time even through all of that to write works of genius.

But it's a tragedy as well. After her death, many of her letters were destroyed or lost even after decades of keeping some in tact. Her niece Fanny destroyed a huge bundle of her correspondence with her brother Henry. And she died too young. 


The Self-Driven Child: the Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson
Published: February 18, 2018
Genre: Parenting, Nonfiction
Format: Kindle, 384 pages, Own
Rating: 5 Stars

Publisher's Summary:

A few years ago, Bill Stixrud and Ned Johnson started noticing the same problem from different angles: Even high-performing kids were coming to them acutely stressed and lacking any real motivation. Many complained that they had no control over their lives. Some stumbled in high school or hit college and unraveled. Bill is a clinical neuropsychologist who helps kids gripped by anxiety or struggling to learn. Ned is a motivational coach who runs an elite tutoring service. Together they discovered that the best antidote to stress is to give kids more of a sense of control over their lives. But this doesn't mean giving up your authority as a parent. In this groundbreaking book they reveal how you can actively help your child to sculpt a brain that is resilient, stress-proof and ready to take on new challenges.

The Self-Driven Child offers a combination of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies drawn from the thousands of kids and teens Bill and Ned have helped over the years to teach you how to set your child on the real road to success. As parents, we can only drive our kids so far. At some point, they will have to take the wheel and map out their own path. But there is a lot you can do before then to help them find their passion and tackle the road ahead with courage and imagination.

My Thoughts:

Stixrud and Johnson carefully take us through each step and the science behind these steps of allowing our kids to be their own decision makers and how we as parents can be in the role of the "consultant."

There's a chapter on homework that I absolutely loved! Especially during the pandemic and homework was something that was a sore spot for awhile. But once I read this chapter I was able to sit down and talk with G and help him decide how and when he wanted to get it done. It ended up being his choice and his schedule. And the last half of the school year went was heaven. G gained a lot more confidence on how to work homework into his schedule. He also learned how to ask for help when he truly needed it and he also decided where he wanted to put his effort and which assignments weren't quite worth it compared to others.

He also talks about stress--"It's as minor as feeling unbalanced and as major as fighting for your life." Sonia Lupien from the Centre for Studies on Human Stress has an acronym to help sum up what makes life stressful--N.U.T.S. Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to the ego, and Sense of control.

Sense of control really stuck with me. As individuals we don't have a lot of it but how is our sense of control? They say..."if you have confidence that you can impact a situation, it will be less stressful. In contrast, a low sense of control may very well be the most stressful thing in the universe." This whole book is on how we give that high sense of confidence to our kids so they can feel like they have some sense of control over how their lives will go.

This is probably the best parenting book I've read since I was pregnant or right after G was born. I highly recommend it if you're a parent, if you work with kids, if you're a human because these are skills I didn't learn as a kid either and are helping me now!

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

June Is Here

First week of June is gone! I really wanted to get this off over the weekend but we spent it at the local carnival and then things get busy. It's the first time we've been to the carnival since G was a wee one. He also had his first sleepover since the pandemic began. Lots of first this weekend!

We even got out for a little hike this morning. I wanted to start acclimating him so he can go on more arduous hikes as the summer waxes.

Grateful For:

1. G getting his second dose this week!

2. Enjoying some sun and community over the weekend.

3. Vaccines: it's just been nice enjoying things normally once again. I've had two friends over for a couple of movie nights. I went to my first movie (still masked) since February of 2020...(it was Emma, BTW).

I really love June. It's still slightly cooler than the rest of the summer. School's out and it's nice to enjoy some lazier days as a family. My mint is in full bloom so mojitos on the weekends are always a must. It's my birthday month, too. But the older I get the less I enjoy the birthdays...but I try to embrace it even though I can get a bit depressed as it rolls around each year. And the sunsets! We get some great sunsets in the summer.


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Posts this last week:

Memorial Day Weekend

Sci-fi Readathon

Cat Thursday--Cats and Boxes

Reading Life:


I finally finished Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin! I really enjoyed getting to know more about Austen and her family and her inspiration for her novels. So many things I did not know. Fantastic bio of the great novelist. She died too soon.

I also finished The Name of the Rose by Eco Umberto. So interesting. It wasn't quite a page turner but it had some interesting historical tidbits and the mystery was interesting as well. Overall, I enjoyed the read, even though it was a bit slow from time to time. Glad I read it, though.

G and I finished up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. We cried the whole last 100 pages. Tear-jerker. But it was so good and we were able to talk about a lot of things like anti-Semitism and how it's on the rise.

I've got a couple of self-help books going that I switch between Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential by Carol Dweck and Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel J. Siegel and Mary Hartzell.

All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. I started this one after I heard about the Netflix movie adaptation...I'm about halfway through. I'm hoping to finish it up by the end of the month. But it's a bit slow. The movie looked like a horror and the book is more philosophical with some supernatural elements. But I shall not give up!

I'm also reading sparingly but enjoying it whenever I can get a chapter in The Trespasser by Tana French (#6 in the Dublin Murder Squad series).

Reading Challenges:

For my Sci-fi Readathon


Adulthood Rites
by Octavia Butler (book #2 in the Xenogenesis series) and Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Corey (book #3 in the Expanse series).

I Read Horror Year All Year Round

The Upstairs Wife by Rachel Hawkins (psychological thriller prompt). Listening to this one. It's interesting and I'm looking forward to the end but it hasn't been as good as I was hoping.

Back to the Classics challenge:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (19th Century prompt and also for my 1000 Books Project: French classics edition). I will be done by the end of the month!!! July will begin the unabridged Les Miserables by Victor Hugo! And Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston (classic by a woman prompt).

Nonfiction Reading challenge:

World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever (food prompt). I'm listening to this one and it still makes me want to cry. I'm hoping to finish by the end of the month.

I have two others I am going to try and finish before the end of the month but I have not started them yet. I need to get moving. I'm so behind...

Watching Life:

More NBA Playoffs and some WNBA games as well.


LEGO Masters
on Fox with DH and G. G and I also started up Sweet Tooth on Netflix. It's fantastically dark, sweet, and funny. I don't know how they get that balance but it works and G loves it. It kind of reminds me of A Series of Unfortunate Events series. Silly and dark all at the same time but I like Sweet Tooth a lot better.

G and I went to the movie theater for the first time in forever last week! We saw A Quiet Place II. Really well done and scary. We both enjoyed it highly. That was the movie to go back to the theater for!

I also watched Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It on HBO with my friend for our horror movie night. Not great. I don't recommend it.

Making and Doing:

Lots of grilling the last week or so. Trying to keep that oven and stove off. 

We've also made plans for some house repairs and upgrades. New blinds and screens, painting our door, staining our little deck, basement organizing and cleaning. We have a two-year plan to move so we gotta keep on our list!

Looking forward to:

G gets his second jab this week!

My birthday is this weekend and we're planning a little night out up at the big city(not super big just Salt Lake, but hey I'll take what I can get). The restaurant actually requires vaccination cards so everyone can feel comfortable at their restaurant. Looking forward to getting out with DH. It's been a very long time since we've done this!

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Cat Thursday-- Cats and Boxes

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!  

Cats and boxes...I had to find some good ones! All of these images are on Dodo....the article has a few more to look at too.






Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Sci-fi June Summer Readathon


Michelle over at Seasons of Reading is hosting her annual Sci-fi readathon for the month of June! It's the perfect excuse to dive into those sci-fi books on the TBR pile.


I have plans to finish off the Lilith's Brood series by Octavia Butler, Abaddon's Gate by James S.A. Correy (third book in the Expanse series), and The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He. 

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Memorial Day Weekend

This is has been a tough spring but so happy that summer is almost here and G is out of school. Online schooling is done and over. Such a weird and crazy school year. G is halfway vaccinated...two more weeks till his next dose. We're slowly getting used to no masks...very slowly. We still mask up indoors with lots of people but the summer is opening up and we're close to eating out as a family in a restaurant again! 

My neighbor also threw a little end of school party for her kids and invited some neighbors, her friends, and all the kids too. The kids got wet, adults had a few drinks, ate hamburgers and junk food and sat around the fire pit when the sun went down. It was a great feeling to hang out with friends again and relax.

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It's been a tough few weeks for one reason or another and I have not posted much this month. I'm hoping I can get back into a better schedule and visiting other blogs as well.

Reading Life:

I'm reading a couple of bigger books so I have not finished anything the last two weeks. It's been a slower reading month. I'm ok with that but sometimes I get anxious about it!

I'm about 2/3 done with The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, still reading The Trespasser by Tana French, Dust Tracks on the Road by Zora Neale Hurston, and I just started a book-for-review from Quirk Books. It's an interesting sci-fi thriller.

G and I are almost done with The Book Thief. Now that it's summer we're planning on doing a little comparative religion course/reading adventure. I think it'll be fun and informative. Hopefully he does too...

I also finished off the May reading schedule for The Count of Monte Cristo! One more month left and I will be done with that behemoth!

I'm about 45% done with The Second Sex by Simone De Beauvoir so I'm still holding out hope I'll get it all done by December 31st.

This week I'll be starting my sci-fi reading marathon for June. I've got a few on my pile!

Watching Life:

Basically, all I've been watching is NBA Playoffs! I'll watch a little Call the Midwife in between and Mare of Easttown finishes off tonight (Sunday) so...I did start High on the Hog, a Netflix limited food documentary based off the book with the same name, tracking how the African food diaspora has influenced American cuisine. So fascinating. Really good.


My son and I have been watching the Conjuring series to gear up for the new one coming out...The Woman in the Window was not great but it was somewhat entertaining. I definitely have no desire to read the book now...Saint Maud is another horror that I didn't love yet I enjoyed its ambition. And another great horror is The Vigil about an ex-Orthodox Jew trying to come to terms with his grief and religious transition. Great Jewish horror. Loved it!

Looking forward to:

Memorial Day should be fun. DH gets the day off. We'll be bbqing up some kebabs and corn and then playing games in the evening. It'll be good structured family time! lol. It needs to be planned or else it doesn't happen. Amiright?

I hope everyone has a wonderful Memorial Day!

Joining in with Deb from Readerbuzz's Sunday Salon

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

MidMay Already?!

 I don't know where the time goes! I've been wanting to get a post up since Mother's Day and now it's almost two weeks since. And it may be two weeks by the time I get this up and posted....

Mother's Day was really nice and low-key. I made up a very yummy tres leches cake for my own mother the night before. My son and DH made me French toast, blueberry muffins, and bacon for breakfast. G even made me a homemade card. I wonder how long I'll get those? I'll keep them close because I know one day I either won't get a card or it'll be store bought...

We finally got G a new bike. He learned last year during the pandemic in the spring but it was too small and heavy. Now he's got a nice big boy bike and we've been going out once or twice a week with the beautiful weather. He's almost taller than me and his feet are bigger than mine! He'll probably outgrow me by the end of summer!

We finally got out our fire pit and invited some neighbors to sit with us. It was so nice. We burned lots of extra wood we had from building the ramp for my mother earlier this year. It was kind of like burning away all those winter blues and troubles.

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I thought I took more pics...but I didn't. Oh well. Such is life. But the buds on trees have been gorgeous. One of the things I love about Spring.

Since my last review post I've posted only three times:

Spring Into Horror Wrap-up

Review of Braiding Sweetgrass

Mini Book Reviews: Fiction

Reading Life:

It's been a bit slower this month with my reading...I just finished off The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. I've been reading it off and on for 6 months now! It's been really good but I've been digesting it in chunks. I highly recommend it for parents of teenagers and younger.

And I just started Mindset: The New Psychology of Success: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential by Carol Dweck.

I've been listening to World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever. Makes me miss Bourdain that much more. I'm loving his tidbits from the food and travels around the world. His brother reads his quotes. Highly recommend if you were a fan.

I'm still making my way through The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin, Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston, and with G The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

And I just started the sixth installment of the Dublin Murder Squad The Trespasser by Tana French. I just read an article from Lit Hub on some big themes in French's novels. Like what's a home and what owning one means...she dives into almost each book. So read with caution if you haven't read her books already. But it gave me a new appreciation on French and the books she writes.

I have plans to finish off her most recent book The Searcher right after The Trespasser and then I'll be all caught up on French! I'd also like to read through all of Octavia Butler's books this summer. I need to finish up her Xenogenesis series and then on to her Patternmaster series and The Fledgling. She has some short stories but I don't think I'll get to those this summer. 

Watching Life:

I've been enjoying Mare of Easttown on HBO starring Kate Winslet. Really great mystery with lots of red herrings!

I just started Call the Midwife and am loving it!

Enjoying NBA basketball. The playoffs have just started and my team is numero uno! Very excited.

Movies: Saint Maud (Indie horror, weird but worth a watch) on Amazon and Mitchells Vs. the Machines (Netflix), we really enjoyed this one as a family. The Woman in the Window on Netflix...not great but fun to watch, overall. The pacing was really off on it, though. The climax was a big letdown.

Making and Doing:

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I made a amigurumi crochet cat a couple of weeks ago. I'm trying to make the whole lot and a few furniture items for them. I'll see how my collection comes along over the summer.

Made a new recipe bibimbap bowls last night! They were really good and hearty and healthy. I'll definitely be making those again!

Oh, and I bought flowers, a cherry tomato plant, and a jalapeno plant over the weekend! Hopefully they get established over the next week or so and do well! Fingers crossed.

Looking forward to:

G gets his Covid jab today (Wednesday)! He's nervous but we're both excited to have it done! Well, one more to go after today...

G is almost done with school. Next week is his last week. And what a whirlwind of having school done online all year due to a pandemic...It'll be nice to be done and to focus on other things this summer.