Friday, January 26, 2018

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry

Goodreads Summary:

The definitive account of what happened, why, and above all how it felt, when catastrophe hit Japan—by the Japan correspondent of The Times (London) and author of People Who Eat Darkness.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than eighteen thousand people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.

It was Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings, and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own. 

What really happened to the local children as they waited in the schoolyard in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?

Ghosts of the Tsunami is an intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe and the struggle to find consolation in the ruins.

Parry leads us through one of the most harrowing tragedies a person and community can go through. I read this in a day and I think that's what made this book so powerful for me. He lets us know through the words of those who experienced it the weight of their grief; it's palpable. It sticks with you for days after.

"For many of those who experienced it, the tragedy of the tsunami was formless, black, and ineffable, an immense and overwhelming monster that blocked out the sun. But to Naomi, no less stricken than the others, it was glittering and sharp and appallingly bright. This harshly illuminated clarity was the opposite of consoling. It pierced, rather than smothered, and left nowhere to hide."

Not only do we get a taste of what these people went through after the tsunami hit, we also get insight into the culture of Japan and how they traditionally deal with disasters, grief, and death. We get to experience to good and the bad and the in between. I found myself shocked at how the children died. Why didn't they do anything? This is what I would've done....but Parry helps us make sense of it. How it could have happened and why. And it's just a tragedy.

"It's easy to imagine grief as an ennobling, purifying emotion--uncluttering the mind of what is petty and transient, and illumination the essential. In reality, of course, grief doesn't resolve anything, any more than a blow to the head or a devastating illness. It compounds stress and complication. It multiplies anxiety and tension. It opens fissures into cracks, and cracks into gaping chasms."

"'The children were murdered by an invisible monster,' Sayomi Shito said once. 'We vent our anger on it, but it doesn't react. It's like a black shadow. It has no human warmth.' She went on, 'The tsunami was a visible monster. But the invisible monster will last forever.'

I asked, 'What is the invisible monster?'

'I wonder myself what it is,' said Sayomi. 'Something peculiar in the Japanese, who attach importance only to the surface of things. And in the pride of people who cannot ever say sorry.'"

There are so many more quotes just like these that make you feel what they feel. It's a beautiful and tragic book and I came away with utter sadness at the tragedy, compassion, and hope for those who are left behind.

*part of my 2018 nonfiction reading challenge hosted by Doing Dewey.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cat Thursday-- January 25, 2018

Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle at True Book Addict. Share all things cat and be sure to link-up!

Ursula K. Le Guin, the famous author of sci-fi and fantasy, died Monday. The New York Times wrote up an obit and shared a picture of her with her cat Lorenzo back in 1996.

While I have not read any of her works yet, they have been on my list for awhile now. I'll be sure to read a few this year. I'm so happy to hear she was a cat-person. Rest in peace, Ms. Le Guin!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Horror Movie Wednesday-- Happy Death Day

Happy Death Day (2017):

This was an interesting take on Groundhog's Day.

Sorority sister Tree wakes up in a random guy's dorm room...she can barely remember her name let alone his. He seems sweet but she blows him off. She continues back to her dorm and we see that she's not the sweetest or kindest person we've ever met. We do not like her. But as the day goes on she's attacked and killed in a tunnel....but she wakes up to the same day!

It's actually kind of funny. We see her change and try to be a better person. She gets to know people in her sorority. She forms a relationship with the guy who's dorm room she woke up in. And she continues to try and solve her murder. But each murder takes its toll and she doesn't know how many more deaths she can take...

I'm a sucker for change-of-heart movies. So throw in horror/thriller and I'm sold. It wasn't super scary but it was a great little thriller.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Week-in-review-- January 22, 2018

Let's see...this weekend involved G playing basketball! He made an amazing pass of his head right to his teammate...totally planned! It was adorable. We started a fun game called Hero's Quest together. G really enjoys these types of RPG games where he can fight and look for treasure.

Books Finished:

None. I started a bunch but did not finish any this last week.

Currently Reading:

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio (reading with G before bed).

Listening To:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I love listening to this one. I ended up listening to podcasts rather than finish off this one off...but this should be the week!

Caught up on RadioLab and Waking Up podcasts.


Beatriz at Dinner was an interesting movie for me. A bit too depressing and nihilistic for my mood this weekend but it had some insight as well. Exceptional acting by Salma Hayek and John Lithgow.

DH and I finished up The Orville's first season. I can't say I love it. It's not the greatest show on TV but it's goofy and fun and so we continue to watch!


I made fish tacos this weekend and they were amazing! They were easy and delicious. I'm hoping to get a recipe going in my InstantPot. Quite a learning curve here....

Looking forward to:

The wine night did not happen since my friend got sick but it's been moved to this Friday!

Pics from the week:

G took a power nap with Shadow. Talk about the winter blues in January. I'm noticing a trend of not getting out much...

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Goodreads Summary:

In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

In a humorous and breakout book by Williams-Garcia, the Penderwicks meet the Black Panthers.

My thoughts:

Delphine and her two sisters, Vonetta and Fern, head to Oakland, California to spend the summer with their mother, who left them right after Fern was born.

I enjoyed Delphine's view. She's the oldest and remembers her mother the most. Their mother is not very nice and acts like she doesn't want them there. She sends them off to the Black Panther center every morning for breakfast and summer camps. They meet some new friends. And they begin to see the community and haven the Black Panthers have provided for people who need it. Soon Delphine and her sisters are making signs and handing out flyers for a peaceful protest.

Delphine learns more about her mother and why she left and the true name of her little sister Fern. She learns that everyone has layers and nobody is what he/she seems at first glance.

It's a wonderful and nuanced story. It's a great one for kids and adults alike.

*part of the Monthly Motif Challenge--Diversify your reading in January hosted by GirlXOXO.

Cat Thursday-- January 18, 2018

Cat Thursday is hosted by Michelle at The True Book Addict. Join up and share anything and all things Cat!

A little kitten befriends a photographer!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

Goodreads Summary:

The outspoken actress, talk show host, and reality television star offers up a no-holds-barred memoir, including an eye-opening insider account of her tumultuous and heart-wrenching thirty-year-plus association with the Church of Scientology.

Leah Remini has never been the type to hold her tongue. That willingness to speak her mind, stand her ground, and rattle the occasional cage has enabled this tough-talking girl from Brooklyn to forge an enduring and successful career in Hollywood. But being a troublemaker has come at a cost.

That was never more evident than in 2013, when Remini loudly and publicly broke with the Church of Scientology. Now, in this frank, funny, poignant memoir, the former King of Queens star opens up about that experience for the first time, revealing the in-depth details of her painful split with the church and its controversial practices.

Indoctrinated into the church as a child while living with her mother and sister in New York, Remini eventually moved to Los Angeles, where her dreams of becoming an actress and advancing Scientology’s causes grew increasingly intertwined. As an adult, she found the success she’d worked so hard for, and with it a prominent place in the hierarchy of celebrity Scientologists alongside people such as Tom Cruise, Scientology’s most high-profile adherent. Remini spent time directly with Cruise and was included among the guests at his 2006 wedding to Katie Holmes.

But when she began to raise questions about some of the church’s actions, she found herself a target. In the end, she was declared by the church to be a threat to their organization and therefore a “Suppressive Person,” and as a result, all of her fellow parishioners—including members of her own family—were told to disconnect from her. Forever.

Bold, brash, and bravely confessional, Troublemaker chronicles Leah Remini’s remarkable journey toward emotional and spiritual freedom, both for herself and for her family. This is a memoir designed to reveal the hard-won truths of a life lived honestly—from an author unafraid of the consequences.

My Thoughts:

I've watched the documentary on HBO Going Clear based on the book by Lawrence Wright. So I was excited to learn about Leah Remini and her break with Scientology.

Her books main theme is Scientology and how it shaped her youth and early adulthood. She combines this with her desire to be famous and act. She writes about surviving both. Her personality has been to never back down and to stand up for herself and those she cares about. That got her into trouble in both places.

Remini opens herself up. We see she isn't perfect. She's brash and hot-headed but she's humble and loyal and fierce. Even when she was fully indoctrinated into Scientology she still watched out for abuse. She helped out the smaller kids in the Sea Org. She studied and cared about her religion and when the practice from higher ups was not aligning with her beliefs she called them out.

I identify so much in small ways with Remini's journey out of her church. I made a similar journey out of mine nine years ago and the thoughts of guilt and doubt and depression and loss of eternal glory were the same ones I felt as I left. While the church I left wasn't nearly as horrific as hers, the same types of manipulations and abuses were present.

I laughed with Remini and I cried with her through her journey. She's a class act and I wish her the best in her future endeavors. I'm grateful she's brave enough to share her journey with the world and help those who still need it.

She had a story about being a mother that really resonated with me. She said she really admired the parents who actually ran around and played with their children. "But they also left me racked with guilt--until one mother, out of dozens told me I shouldn't feel bad. 'You're not your daughter's playmate,' she said, and I nearly burst out into tears, because I needed to hear that so badly." She says she wasn't a "player," she loved spending time with her, protecting her and setting up her future. Yes, to this. My DH is the player and goofer.

My son did an art project for Thanksgiving where he put thankful feathers around a turkey. One was 'I'm thankful for my mom because she takes care of me.' Another one said 'I'm grateful for my dad because he plays tickle time with me.' Yup, that's OK. It made me feel weird for a bit because I want to be the player but then I remember I'm not and that's OK. I provide other ways to interact and love my son. Thanks, Ms. Remini, for letting me know I'm not alone in that sentiment!

"As long as I was a Scientologist, the church told me what to do and what not to do in almost every aspect of my life. If I had any doubts about leaving my faith, they vanished when I thought of Sofia growing up with that same kind of dependency. I didn't want her to group thinking her connection to the church was the measure of her success in life. I wanted her to be an individual. Belief and faith are great, but very few people have been led astray by thinking for themselves."

*Part of my 2018 non-fiction reading challenge.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Week-in-review-- January 16, 2018

We got the sickness once again in our house so I had a lot more down time. And I got quite a few books finished, which was so great. I haven't read a lot in a big chunk like that for awhile and it's something I need to do more of.

This weekend we watched movies like Space Camp and Wreck it Ralph and Coco, ate lots of popcorn and ice cream and finally ordered new blinds for our windows in the living room and kitchen! Yes!

We also watched a documentary from 2013 The March about the 1963 March on Washington. G learned some new things and we had a great discussion.

Books Finished:

The Power by Naomi Alderman, Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs by Pete Souza, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zones by Richard Lloyd Parry (best book I've read in a long time!), Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini, and A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I finished up a lot this week and read a couple of favorites. I need more weeks like this without the illness!

Currently Reading:

The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters by Emily Esfahani Smith, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II by Svetlana Alexievich, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio (reading with G before bed).

Listening To:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I love listening to this one. I should finish this week!

Catching up on More Perfect, such an amazing podcast on the Supreme Court.


The Voyeur, a documentary on Netflix. Black Mirror and The End of the F*cking World, all on Netflix.


Tacos and hoping to get started on making things in my InstantPot. I didn't realize how much of a learning curve and how intimidating this pressure cooker is!

Looking forward to:

Getting over illnesses and movie and wine night on Friday with a friend I haven't seen in awhile!

Pics from the week:

We didn't get out much this week so the only pic I have is of Shadow basking in the sun and loving our new furniture arrangement where she gets the sunbeams from the now open window!

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Nonfiction Friday-- Obama: An Intimate Portrait: The Historic Presidency in Photographs by Pete Souza

I got this one for Christmas and I finally made the time to just sit and look through and read the whole thing. It's beautiful. It took me back to so many great moments during Obama's presidency. All the class, all the triumphs, and the struggles. The beautiful moments are all laid out so I can go through them time and again.

I love the picture of little 5-year-old Jacob asking the president if his hair felt just like his did and the president leans over and says "Why don't you see for yourself?"

Pete Souza captured the moment Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan told him the awful news of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. It's a grief-stricken and haunted look. It guts you.

This book is full of them. Pick it up today. It's an amazing collection that records an historic presidency.

*part of my nonfiction 2018 reading challenge.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Alderman explores the question 'What if the power to hurt was in women's hands?' How would the world change? She explores this topic through four characters. Allie, an abused teenager who kills her foster-dad and becomes the world religious leader Mother Eve. Tunde, a Nigerian journalist who sets out to chronicle the sudden and drastic changes around the world with this evolutionary change in women. Margot, an ambitious small-town mayor in America's northeast with a daughter who has a disability in her new-found powers. And finally Roxy, a British crime daughter who has a ton of power and knows how to use it.

I found the four stories a bit distracting but also fascinating. They come together toward the end and it's a bit unbelievable but overall the characters feel fleshed out and the story is terrifying.

Alderman flips the script. Men start to feel scared like they can't walk the streets without a woman with them. Governments topple. Can women run the world any better?

It's a fascinating thought experiment and a must-read. You can see how ridiculous it is and yet how true these stories are for many women around the world.

All the characters are single and I wish she would have had one who was married or in a long-term relationship with a man to explore how those dynamics may have changed with this new shift of power.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cat Thursday-- January 11, 2018

Share all things cats! Link up with Michelle at the True Book Addict.

BBC One has a new series out called "Big Cats". You get to watch if you live in the UK but here's a little clip of one of the cats they got on film. The rusty-spotted cat, only the size of a guinea pig. It's adorable!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Horror Movie Wednesday-- Black Christmas

Black Christmas (1974):

I'm going to fan-girl all over this movie. This is as classic as a horror movie can get. This came out a couple of years before the iconic Halloween movie and you can see how this movie influenced that movie.

It's a simple premise. A sorority house full of college girls are getting ready to head home for the holidays. But one girl goes missing and the rest are continually harassed through obscene phone calls and mysterious noises. We get out-of-control Margot Kidder--she is the best in this movie. Funny and beautiful. We get the drunk and hilarious sorority mom. There are some aspects of Psycho in here and a stalker boyfriend who can't take a hint. Bumbling cops...I can't believe this isn't more widely known. Classic. Go watch it!

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

I am biased when it comes to anything John Green writes. I follow him and his brother Hank on social media. I watch their crash course history series. I listen to their podcast and their YouTube channels. John seems like a great guy. He cares about the world and he cares about young people. I think he writes young adult fiction because he wants to share all the thoughts about the world in them with kids who need it.

Green is a philosophy nerd and waxes poetic in each of his stories. Turtles All the Way Down is no different. The story focuses on Aza who suffers from severe obsessive compulsive disorder and crippling anxiety. Her best friend is Daisy who writes Star Wars fan fiction. There's a bit of a mystery as Aza searches for the billionaire father of her old friend Davis. But basically it's about the stories we tell about the world and the stories we tell about ourselves and each other.

"...I started thinking about turtles all the way down. I was thinking that maybe the old lady and the scientist were both right. Like, the world is billions of years old, and life is a product of nucleotide mutation and everything. But the world is also the stories we tell about it."

We have science and knowledge but we also have stories that connect us to the earth and to each other and to the universe. Yup, it's turtles all the way down.

So here's where my bias comes in. I love the philosophy in Green's books. He builds a story with meaningful characters around these ideas. Not everyone is going to love that. There wasn't a lot of story, not a lot happens in this novel. But there is a lot of character development and self-discovery.

If you like feel-good stories that make you think about the world then Green's books are for you and this one is a great one.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday-- 10 Books I Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn't....

hosted by the Broke and The Bookish

1. Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker. My focus this year is getting help for my insomnia and wanted to get started last year but didn't quite get to it! This is at the top of my pile for this year.

2. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I've been meaning to re-read this amazing classic for a few years now. I'm determined to read it this year.

3. The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Picked this one up right after I read his latest book Eight Years in Power.

4. Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini. Started it in December but got sidetracked by other things. Looking to finish it up soon.

5. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow. It'll totally happen! It may take all year, though....

6. Don Quixote by Cervantes. Another that'll take all year but looking forward to it.

7. The Changeling by Victor LaValle. I wanted to read this one for Halloween but other books held my attention. I started the first few chapters over the holidays but had to take it back to the library and I loved it. So it's the top one to read for Halloween this year.

8. Octavia Butler's Earthseed series: Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. An actual religion has spawned from this series and I really wanted to get to it last year so this is the year!

9. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Short stories are harder for me. I read one and then feel like I don't need to move on to the next story. But I am going to finish this one soon. Love her stories so much.

10. Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann. When the movie came out I put it on my list but never got to it. The movie was on best movies of 2017 list and thus I really want to get to it this year!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Week-in-review: January 8, 2018

After DH returned home from Taiwan, G got sick, then he got sick; I took care of them both, and then I got sick. So, it's been a tough few weeks but am so grateful for the downtime the holidays provided. We tried to do the best we could do considering all the sickness! We celebrated the Winter Solstice, Christmas, and New Year's without too much damage.

This last week was tough since that's when my illness really got me down and yet it was back to the grind. We managed to get the tree and holiday decor down this last weekend and we shifted everything around in our living room! It looks a lot nicer and more open and we now have use of our big window. It looks great and I hope it'll help me get back on track this month despite my sinus infection.

Books Finished:

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. Fast and interesting. He always provides good philosophical discussions in each of his books. This one was no exception.

Currently Reading:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I only have 30 pages left! I'm going to finish and not wait til next Christmas to get back to it!

The Power by Naomi Alderman. It's been on all the lists for best of in 2017 and former president Obama had it on his top ten list for reading. So I decided to get it read!

Listening To:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. I love listening to this one.

Finally catching up on podcasts like RadioLab and BackStory.


I'm almost done with Six Feet Under, which has been absolutely amazing. DH and I only have two episodes left of Stranger Things. And over the holidays I binge-watched La Mante a French Netflix original about a female serial killer who helps her son catch her copy-cat. Sooooo good! But the best new find for me has to be The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel! Wow! Blew me away at how good it is. Go watch it now. She deserved her Golden Globe!


Chicken creamy tortellini soup tonight. I need a good heavy and filling soup. Yum.

Looking forward to:

I've got philosophy book club coming up. My friend and I are reading Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder and are taking it about 3-4 chapters a month. We wanted to get our critical thinking skills up and thought this cute novel on the history of Western philosophy would do the trick!

Pics from the week:

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Winter Solstice wishes

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Our Solstice cookies

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Got our new PJs! 

Jan 2 Full moon
The full moon was still out in the morning!

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Shadow loved that tree.

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She also loves the new living room situation

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This was too cute. Nala being adorable

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday-- New-to-Me Authors in 2017

Check out other new-to-me authors at The Broke and the Bookish!

I don't read a lot of series so I don't usually stick to one author. But if I find a book I love, I enjoy seeking any other stories or articles that they've written.

1. Octavia Butler-- I listened to Kindred earlier this year and I loved it. She was an amazing author and her sci-fi/fantasy was well-done. I ended up buying the rest of her sci-fi series' on my Kindle and hope to finish at least one of her series this year.

2. Kelly Barnhill-- She writes children's fantasy and I read The Girl Who Drank the Moon. It was smart, funny, and beautifully written. I look forward to reading her other stories.

3. Yrsa Sigurdardottir-- She's a crime and mystery novelist from Iceland. Her book I Remember You: A Ghost Story scared bejeebies out of me last October and want to read more from her!

4. Joan Didion-- The Year of Magical Thinking had me crying all the time in the car. Her writing is poetic and she makes you feel all the feels. I bought two more of her essay collections and hope to read them this year.

5. Marcus Sedgwick-- White Crow. He writes a lot of fantasy horror for young adults. White Crow was creepy and poetic. I loved it. I look forward to more creepy stories.

6. Anne Ursu-- Breadcrumbs. She writes a beautiful fairy-tale retelling in Breadcrumbs. Her characters are flawed and human. Her audience is children and she speaks their language. My son and I had some great conversations while reading this one together.

7. Alice Walker-- She should not be new to me. I picked up one of her essay collection "Anything We Love Can Be Saved." Her stories and writing blew me away and I need to read her books.

8. Rebecca Skloot-- She's a science writer and her book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was science and human story-telling at its best. I hope she writes more books!

9. Lidia Yuknavitch-- The Book of Joan. She wrote an intense dystopia on where we're headed if we keep destroying Earth. Boom. I need to read her other stories.

10. Adam Gidwitz-- The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. A beautiful historical fantasy tale for teens (adults too). I loved reading it with G and look forward to more from him.