Friday, March 29, 2019

How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in 13 Animals by Sy Montgomery

Source: Toadbooks
How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

Published in 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Genre: Memoir, non-fiction, animals

Format: Audible, 3 hours and 42 minutes

Read: Listened in March

Goodreads Summary

National Book Award finalist Sy Montgomery reflects on the personalities and quirks of 13 animals--her friends--who have profoundly affected her in this stunning, poetic, and life-affirming memoir featuring illustrations by Rebecca Green.

Understanding someone who belongs to another species can be transformative. No one knows this better than author, naturalist, and adventurer Sy Montgomery. To research her books, Sy has traveled the world and encountered some of the planet's rarest and most beautiful animals. From tarantulas to tigers, Sy's life continually intersects with and is informed by the creatures she meets.

This restorative memoir reflects on the personalities and quirks of thirteen animals--Sy's friends--and the truths revealed by their grace. It also explores vast themes: the otherness and sameness of people and animals; the various ways we learn to love and become empathetic; how we find our passion; how we create our families; coping with loss and despair; gratitude; forgiveness; and most of all, how to be a good creature in the world.

My Thoughts

Source: Sy Montgomery's website
Every encounter she has with animals is one where she reflects and learns from each and every one. I love animals but I can't compete with the empathy and genuine love she has for each creature she has encountered. Her encounter with an exotic tarantula from Brazil was poetic. The way she was able to be apart of the emu bird group in Australia was brilliant. And these stories are only the animals she didn't take home with her! Her stories of her border collies and her pet pig Chris are truly tear-jerkers.

I listened to this and Montgomery reads her own memoir. You can feel the emotion and love and tenderness she has for each of these creatures and the memories and experiences she has shared with them. And she has literally given her life over to animals. They truly are her family. Her love and empathy is palpable. I just ugly-cried in the car when her animals passed away.

I'd like to buy the book because the artwork is so pretty and I'd love to share this one with my son as well. It's a gorgeous book on the variety of ways these creatures have taught her all about being a good human.

*Linked up with Doing Dewey's Nonfiction Friday posts

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cat Thursday-- Japanese Tebori-style Cats

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us (Michelle at True Book Addict) 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!

The site ArtFido has featured Kazuaki Horitomo, an artist/tattooist out of San Jose, who combines his love of cats and tattoos into one. According to the article, Horitomo is "...steeped in the Japanese tradition of tebori (a technique of tattooing by hand), and his illustrations reflect that."

Here are a few of his art pieces. Check out the original article for more of his art and how to find him on the interwebs.

*All images were sourced from ArtFido

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Goodreads Cleanup #1


  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by Ascending Date Added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

This little challenge has been thought up by Stacy over at Stacy's Book Blog. She started it in December and have been meaning to start in on it. It's such a great idea. I have way to many books on my to-read shelf on Goodreads and it's a great way to look back and see what I started adding to my shelf way back when....

I'm gonna start off small and just hit the first 5 books on my to-read shelf. I joined up in June of 2009 and I had just gotten into book blogging so I hit a lot of it books right back then.

David Sacks has embarked on a fun, lively, and learned excursion into the alphabet–and into cultural history–in Letter Perfect. Clearly explaining the letters as symbols of precise sounds of speech, the book begins with the earliest known alphabetic inscriptions (circa 1800 b.c.), recently discovered by archaeologists in Egypt, and traces the history of our alphabet through the ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans and up through medieval Europe to the present day. But the heart of the book is the twenty-six fact-filled “biographies” of letters A through Z, each one identifying the letter’s particular significance for modern readers, tracing its development from ancient forms, and discussing its noteworthy role in literature and other media. We learn, for example, why letter X may have a sinister and sexual aura, how B came to signify second best, why the word mother in many languages starts with M. Combining facts both odd and essential, Letter Perfect is cultural history at its most accessible and enjoyable. 

I bought this one from a little independent bookstore on Main Street. It went out of business like two seconds later but I'm a Linguistics major so I was pulled by the history of writing and language. I still own it and have started it a few times but something else comes up and I let it go. I think it's a keeper because it still sounds fascinating to me. I just need to set aside time for it and stick with it.

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir's choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

I also own this one. But I know the storyline and it's tragic. A movie came out awhile ago and I watched it and I just bawled. So it's still on the list but I don't know....

The son of a zookeeper, Pi Patel has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior and a fervent love of stories. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.
The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days while lost at sea.

I've also started this one a couple of times and have dropped it. I didn't even see the movie yet because I wanted to read the book first...still undecided on this one.

Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.
Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.
A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life ... as only a dog could tell it.
I have a friend who read this and really loved it. It's also on my shelf so I'd like to read it and pay it forward.

Here, in the only major one-volume collection of his writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections, is Martin Luther King Jr. on non-violence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, the ethics of love and hope, and more.

I've had this one on my shelf for years. I don't know if I'll ever read all 702 pages. But I'd like to make a more concerted effort of his writing and speeches. It's a keeper.

For those of you reading this, what would you keep? Have you read any of these?

Cat Thursday--CATable

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us (Michelle at True Book Addict) 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!

Have you ever been reading or working at your computer and your kitties sit right on your book or on your keyboard? Well, maybe it's time to get a CATable! This comes from the site Cole and Marmalade who introduce us to a new product, a table designed for cats to sleep in or walk through! The table was designed by Lycs Architecture, Hong Kong-based company.

Adorable! I don't know if they're selling it yet or what the prices are but I'd love to get a desk like that for me and my kitties!

*All images are courtesy of Lycs Architecture

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Blog All About It! Luck: The Witch Elm by Tana French

hosted by: Herding Cats & Burning Soup.

Basically there's a word each month and any time during the month you can blog about that word. In any way you want. Review, recipe, photos, stories, etc

 The Witch Elm.

This month due to St. Patrick's Day I chose to focus on reading something that took place in Ireland or was written by an Irish author. I decided on Tana French's new novel

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life: he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden - and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

The Witch Elm asks what we become, and what we're capable of, when we no longer know who we are.

 The whole book is from Toby's point of view. In the beginning he's clueless. He feels he's been a pretty lucky guy and that he was born with the bit of luck that is rare. Life is good and always has been. Until his luck runs out when he's robbed at home and beaten and left for dead. As he heads back to his uncle's home the Ivy House to recover and take care of his uncle, he learns that his childhood has not been what he remembers. He discovers that maybe his luck wasn't something he could live without, like it's been something that been excised from him.

The mystery is when his cousin's son finds a skull in the witch elm in the backyard and the police are called in to find out who it is and whether they've been murdered. It's soon discovered to be an old friend from high school...but Toby's memories are gone after being beaten so badly in the head. Could he have committed the murder and if so why? Did he truly have a good relationship with his cousins Shannon and Ian?

I enjoyed the disillusion of Toby's memories and how lucky he was to be able to set aside bad memories and ideas until they caught up to him. He is a white and privileged man who got away with everything and didn't understand the consequences left in his wake.

But the story was overly long and Toby was not the best protagonist. It's a depressing end but fitting. And I do understand the human tale French was trying to tell but she lost me a bit in the end with some of the events and consequences. But the idea of luck and how we can create our own luck by our thoughts and actions was definitely an interesting idea and something to mull on.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My List for Spring

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl....This week is all about what's on the list for Spring! Spring time usually leads me to gardening books, horror and mystery books, and books on the environment. So here are some I'll try to get to...

1. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle

2. Black Water Rising by Attica Locke

3. A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

4. The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine F. Weiss

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

6. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte

7. The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

8. How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery

9. Era of Ignition: Coming of Age in a Time of Rage and Revolution by Amber Tamblyn

10. The Library Book by Susan Orlean


Monday, March 18, 2019

Week-in-Review: Night Out

Last week was a bit dodgy. We had another snowpocalypse and G did not make it into school, unfortunately that day. Plus I ended up with a migraine for a day....Those big changes to the schedule threw me off a bit. But by the weekend we all ended up having a nice time.

Saturday was the Utah Jazz basketball game. G gets free tickets since he participates in the Jr. Jazz basketball program. The played the Brooklyn Nets and the Jazz won! Very exciting. We went up to Salt Lake early and had dinner and walked around. The weather has been pleasant and it was good to get a walk and some sun before the game.

Sunday I ended up baking all day! Just got my KitchenAid and have been baking up a storm ever since. Combined with that and my "The Great British Baking Show" binge.... So it was snickerdoodles and a lemon bundt drizzle cake. I was too covered in all the flour so I forgot to take pics but they all turned out great. Probably not up to technical standards but they weren't getting judged by Paul and Mary! Family had multiple servings and were edible enough to hand out to some neighbors.

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  • The Witch Elm by Tana French


  • And I Darken by Kiersten White
  • Wild Robot by Peter Brown (reading with G)
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe


  • A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean


  • Netflix: After Life-- I loved this TV show by Ricky Gervais. It's heart-felt and just a lovely show. I highly recommend this one.


Leprechaun (1993)

Starring: Warwick Davis, Jennifer Aniston
Written by: Mark Jones
Directed by: Mark Jones
Genre: Horror
3/5 stars
Watched: SyFy channel for Horror movie night

This was great fun. It's a little cult classic that takes all the Irish leprechaun stereotypes and runs with them. Jennifer Aniston is in this one. It was great to see her in something before her stardom in Friends. Basically an Irish guy steals a leprechaun's gold. The leprechaun seeks revenge but gets stuck in a box in the basement with a 4-leaf clover on top. 10 years later Jennifer Aniston and her dad move into the old home and accidentally release the leprechaun. Mayhem and murder and mischief ensue! It was a great one to watch for March.


I'm baking! I made a couple of items for dinner in the InstantPot but last weekend was all about the snickerdoodles and the lemon bundt drizzle cake. I need to remember to take pics next time.

Looking Forward to:

Spring Equinox! We'll be planning our container/square foot gardens and getting those prepared to plant our veggies and flowers. I'm planning on making bread and something special for dinner. If the weather holds, we may even bring out the firepit!

Also, spring cleaning. Finally got DH to sit down and watch one episode of Marie Kondo's tidying show so he could see what I'm aiming for and we could plan and get going soon. Everything needs to be handled and figured out whether to keep or go and then where should I put it???? She says once you know what you want to keep you need to figure out how and where to store it! Everything needs its place.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Non-fiction Mini Reviews-- Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry

Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Published in 2019 by Norton Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile nonfiction, science, astronomy
Format: hardcover, 192 pages, own 
Read: in February aloud with G

G and I had a fun time reading this together. I read Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry a couple of years ago and loved it so I was excited when his young adult version was released! His co-author Gregory Mone helped him speak to kids on their level and it really showed. The explanations were fun and simple and I learned more about Dark Matter than I ever have before. This is one we'll be looking at again and again.

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Published in 2018 by Graphix
Genre: Graphic novel, young adult, nonfiction
Format: Paperback, library, 320 pages
Read: February 23-26, 2019
Awards/Nominations: National Book Awards Finalist for Young People's Literature (2018), YALSA Award Nominee for Excellence in Nonfiction (2019)

This memoir packs a punch. We follow Jarrett's journey from childhood to adulthood and see how he deals with being raised by his grandparents, not knowing who his father is until much later, and watching his mom come in and out of his life due to her drug addiction. The subject matter is dark but hopeful and very human. It's one you'd want to read with your younger teenager; there are plenty of ideas to be discussed from doing so.

Drawing and art became his passion and his way of dealing with all of the crap. He shares real drawings from when he was a kid as well as some art from his mother. It's a poignant story and I'm happy he found the strength to share it with us.

The Cooking Gene: A Journey through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

Published in 2018 by Tantor Audio
Genre: Memoir/biography, nonfiction, food and drink, history, US history
Format: Audible audio, own, 15 hours, 20 minutes
Read: January 16-February 22, 2019
Awards/Nominations: Kirkus Prize Nominee for Nonfiction

I listened to this one on Audible. I loved Michael W. Twitty's voice telling his own journey and history. This was a journey for me. He throws so much history of food and the South and his own history, along with the history of slavery right on into the mix. It's a haunting story and history. I loved it. I actually want to buy a physical copy so I can go back through it again soon. There are so many tidbits I missed. His story and the way he brings it all together is mesmerizing. You won't look at history or anything quite the same again.

*linking up with Nonfiction Friday over at Doing the Dewey

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Spring Into Horror 2019

Michelle over at Seasons of Reading is getting ready to host the Spring Into Horror readathon! Join in all month long in April. I'm excited to start into some horror/mysteries again. I always look forward to this time of year!

Here are a few on my list I definitely want to get to:

  1. The Exorcist by William Peter Beatty
  2. Fledgling by Octavia Butler
  3. The Call by Peadar O'Guilin
  4. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  5. The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  6. The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
  7. Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke
  8. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
We shall see how many I can read through in April!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Week-in-Review: DH's Birthday

It's been a fun week. DH celebrated the big 4-6! Every year we head up to Salt Lake City to El Chihuahua for their Deathstar Duckie drinks and invite as many friends as we can. Then we head over to the bar literally right next door--A Bar Named Sue--and get our dart or ping-pong ball game on. It's been a tradition the last few years and it's something we all look forward to. I think we all need a little birthday tradition to look forward to as those age dates keep climbing up year after year...

G had his last basketball game Saturday. Bittersweet. I won't miss the practices or the getting up early on Saturdays but it's so fun to watch all the littles try their darndest to play ball!

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Can you tell which one's mine?! He cracks me up!

El Chihuahua party time!


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  • The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  • Astrophysics for Young People in a Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham
  • Lost Cat: A True Tale of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul


  • And I Darken by Kiersten White
  • Wild Robot by Peter Brown (reading with G)
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore


  • Witch Elm by Tana French


  • Netflix: Great British Bake-off. G's been sick the last week and we've been catching up on all the seasons!
  • Netflix: The second season of The Secret City. It's a fun political drama from Australia.
  • HBO: The Case Against Adnan Syed. I listened to the podcast Serial when it featured this case and have been looking forward to a more visual handling of the case.


  • Hulu: Into the Dark: Treehouse
  • Green Book
  • A Star Is Born
  • Widows


I made ropa vieja last week in my InstantPot and was pleasantly surprised. It definitely wasn't authentic but it wasn't too bad! I made cupcakes from scratch with my new Kitchenaid mixer for DH's birthday. The frosting was lovely but the cake was a bit dry...and I plan on making chicken and dumpling soup tomorrow in my InstantPot.

Looking Forward to:

G gets free Utah Jazz basketball tickets when he participates in their Jr. Jazz basketball program. The game is Saturday and we are all looking forward to that. Whether they win or lose, it's just fun to be there but hope there is an actual win!

Also Spring! The time change has been a killer but it's also a signal that spring is around the corner and I need to get my plans into place for my garden! We also need to plan a mini vacation for Spring Break the first week of April...where to go. Somewhere out-of-state but not too far. Hmmmm....

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry

Hardcover: Own
Publisher: Yale University Press
Published: 2011
378 pages
Read: Throughout January and February 2019

Jezebel's sexual lasciviousness, Mammy's devotion, and Sapphire's outspoken anger—these are among the most persistent stereotypes that black women encounter in contemporary American life. Hurtful and dishonest, such representations force African American women to navigate a virtual crooked room that shames them and shapes their experiences as citizens. Many respond by assuming a mantle of strength that may convince others, and even themselves, that they do not need help. But as a result, the unique political issues of black women are often ignored and marginalized.

In this groundbreaking book, Melissa V. Harris-Perry uses multiple methods of inquiry, including literary analysis, political theory, focus groups, surveys, and experimental research, to understand more deeply black women's political and emotional responses to pervasive negative race and gender images. Not a traditional political science work concerned with office-seeking, voting, or ideology, Sister Citizen instead explores how African American women understand themselves as citizens and what they expect from political organizing. Harris-Perry shows that the shared struggle to preserve an authentic self and secure recognition as a citizen links together black women in America, from the anonymous survivors of Hurricane Katrina to the current First Lady of the United States.

My Thoughts:

Harris-Perry does a wonderful job of telling the readers of the struggles black women have experienced and continue to experience in their fight to be seen and recognized as citizens in America. Her focus is specifically on politics. How can black women engage in politics when they are barely seen as rightful citizens in their own country?

Harris-Perry discusses what citizenship means. She quotes from Hegelian philosophy which states: "Citizenship is more than an individual exchange of freedoms for rights; it is also membership in a body politic, a nation, and a community. To be deemed fair, a system must offer its citizens equal opportunities for public recognition and groups cannot systematically suffer from misrecognition in the for of stereotype and stigma." She argues that black women have been denied this citizenship by their society and their government.

Harris-Perry discusses each of the stereotypes and their history and how they're experienced through the medium of literature and individual experiences. She also conducted polls where she asked African American women their thoughts and reactions to these stereotypes and experiences. How doe they affect their ability to be citizens in this country, to engage and make their voices heard? Basically, it's so freaking hard: "African American women not only struggle at the intersection of multiple forms of marginalization; they also find that their political labor often leaves them mentally and physically less well."

Until we can systemically treat African American women as fully recognized human beings and citizens of this country, we can't say we have equality for all. This book was an eye-opener. It was a tough read but one I think everyone needs to read.

Here a few quotes that really stood out to me:

" women's experiences act as a litmus test for the nation."

Harris-Perry quotes Anna Julia Cooper, a 19th-20th century educator: "Only the black woman can say 'when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole...race enters with me.'"

"African Americans bristle at the idea of color blindness because it suggests that race is irrelevant to identity. They want to be understood as black and thus tied to a history and culture associated with blackness. At the same time, they do not want to be reduced to their racial identity alone. Just recognition means being neither blind to nor blinded by identity differences."

*linking up with Non-fiction Friday at Doing the Dewy.

Cat Thursday-- A Day Late...

This is has been a busy week! My computer broke down and I had to get a new one and so I'm in the middle of getting everything transferred over and on to my new one. So it's been spotty this week and I've missed visiting my fellow bloggers. Here's an attempt to get back on track.

We had a rando snowstorm again here in Utah. Shadow looked peaceful staring out onto the beautiful falling snow outside. We sat together and just enjoyed the moment. I can feel Spring is just right around the corner. We may get an extra snow fall or two before but I'm going to enjoy this snowfall and know that it'll be all melted by tomorrow morning....(maybe?)

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us (Michelle at True Book Addict) 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!

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