Saturday, August 24, 2019

Week-in-Review: School Starts!

I cannot believe my little (not so little) G is in 5th grade. Where does the time go? He started Tuesday and so far he's been loving it this week. He's back in class with his good friends from last year. He's enjoying his teacher. The only thing he complained about this week was getting up early and that the backpack hooks in the classroom were too small to hold his backpack well. So, not too bad!

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On Wednesday my friend Melissa and I headed off for a fun day of hiking! Well, it took a lot longer than expected. We were thinking 3 miles...that ended up being 8 miles altogether. We ended up 2 miles from our car and had to call another friend to come rescue us. It was hot and we were tired and had run out of water. Those extra two miles were not happening. We now have quite the story to share, and we still managed to pick up our kiddos from school!

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Last Week I:

Read: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, and Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta.

Listened to:

I didn't finish any audiobooks but I've been catching up on RadioLab and Backstory for podcasts.



Endeavour on PBS-- I started the first season and am enjoying it. Good Omens on Amazon. I started the book but couldn't quite get into it so I figured I would just dive into the TV show. It's pretty funny so far! I also started rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. I own all of the seasons on disc. It's been fun revisiting good old Buffy and her Scooby gang!


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Saw this one in the theater with my brother. Not too bad. It's not as scary as I was hoping but I think G will be able to watch in a couple of years. We just finished up Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark last week! Cheesy but fun.


Chicken BBQ sliders. Turned out super yummy. Chicken stir fry. I made up the recipe and it turned out all right! We got together with some friends last weekend and I made a pitcher of raspberry mojitos using mint from my garden, pico de gallo with jalapenos from my garden, and guacamole with nothing from my garden but it was all still fresh from the store. My cherry tomatoes have not come in yet. It's so weird since they went crazy last year at this same time. I may be getting them in October...

This Week I:

Am currently reading:

13 Ghostly Tales edited by Freya Littledale, The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman, Black Water Rising by Attica Locke, Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Am currently listening to:

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Am looking forward to:

This weekend. Not for anything specific but just to relax and enjoy the dog days of summer. I still have lots of mint and jalapenos....

But next weekend we're heading out for our last camping trip of the year! I cannot wait! Mountains, lake, beer, food, and friends/family!

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Published: May 4th, 2019 by Soho Crime
Genre: Historical Mystery
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Sahyadri mountains, where the princely state of Satapur is tucked away. A curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur's royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic hunting accident. The state is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur's two maharanis, the dowager queen and her daughter-in-law.
The royal ladies are in a dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer's counsel is required. However, the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, Bombay's only female lawyer. Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince's future, but she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace's deadly curse?
My Thoughts:

This is a fun continuation of the Perveen Mistry series. Once again Perveen must head to a place that will only allow women. She's in luck since she's India's only female lawyer. 

This story was set up a bit differently than The Widows of Malabar Hill. In that one we get flashbacks to Perveen before she became a lawyer and those slowly catch up to her in the present. We get a lot of backstory and history and it was presented well. In The Satapur Moonstone, there are no flashbacks. A lot of the history and backstory to the setting come out a bit clunky. We "hear" a lot of Perveen's thoughts that don't seem really relevant to the story but come at as cultural or religious information. Those thoughts and explanations took me out of the story more often than I liked. I feel like the explanations and historical information could've been presented differently.

Perveen gets a romantic interest in Colin. He's British but he's intelligent and kind-hearted, just what she's looking for...well, she's technically unavailable, but let's hope that gets resolved in a future story!

The mystery was interesting. I liked learning more about the small ruling maharaja kingdoms before Indian independence. It's a slow burn but one that is thoroughly rewarding. Massey's series is character and world-driven. The mystery is more a way to talk about India's rich history and customs. She also does not shy away from the unfair treatment of women, children, and the caste society in India. And she has no problem tackling British colonization and the good and the bad that came out of it. It's a fantastic series and am looking forward to the next installation.

*read as part of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

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Published: September 1st, 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Historical Mystery
Format: Hardcover, 408 pages, own
Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads' Summary:

A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.  

My Thoughts:

The Kopp sisters live a quiet life until their buggy is hit by an automobile driven by Henry Kaufman, a local factory owner. Things are never the same again after they go after him for charges to repair their buggy. He comes after them with his local gang. Constance, working with the local sheriff, manage to gather the evidence necessary to take him down in the courts. Constance also manages to help a local factory worker Lucy along the way too. 

I loved these sisters; each is different in a very humorous way. I was surprised to learn Constance and her sisters are taken from history as well as the Kaufman case. Stewart pulls in actual articles and headlines to tell their story.

It's a fantastic story that would be fun as fictional but to get a sense of the time and place as actual history was an extra bonus. Times were hard back then to be a woman on your own and to be one as conspicuous and outspoken as Constance was. I look forward to more adventures with the Kopp sisters.

Also, Amy Stewart is a prolific writer of non-fiction so I was surprised to hear about this series. Check out her non-fiction work as well. The Drunken Botanist is a favorite of mine.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Cat Thursday-- Cat Photographer

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! 

Mental Floss posted an article on Walter Chandoha, a life-long cat photographer. He died this past January at 98! A book of his cat photography is coming out soon. Here a few of my favorite photos from the article.

Paula and Kitten

American Shorthair and Beagle

Siamese Kittens

The Mob

The article goes into some of his processes behind the scenes and how or why he captured some of these photos. Go check out the article for more on Walter Chandoha and his awesome cat pics.

*All photos sourced from article.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: Recursion, Fake Blood...

More mini book reviews! Yay! I've read a lot this summer. Go me!

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Published February 5th, 2019 by MacMillan Audio
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Format: Audio Book, 8 hours and 43 minutes, Library
Rating: 3 stars

My Thoughts:

It's a page-turner, or for me, an ear burner? It's quick and dirty and a fun twist. I didn't get it totally figured out but I guessed some of it so I can now pat myself on the back! Ha. Some of the character development was a little flat but overall it was a great summer "beach" read!

Recursion by Blake Crouch
Published June 11th, 2019 by MacMillan Audio
Genre: Sci-fi, Thriller
Format: Hardcover, 329 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

This was a fun one! Crouch knows how to make very smart sci-fi thrillers. It got a little bogged down toward the end but overall it came together nicely. Another fun summer "beach" read. This would make a great movie and then a spin-off TV series. Seriously.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner
Published September 4th, 2018 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Graphic Novel, Paranormal, Humor
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages, Library
Rating: 3.5 stars

My Thoughts:

This was a cute coming-of-age story about a kid who fakes being a vampire in order to impress a girl in his class who is obsessed with vampires. The illustrations were great too. Enjoyed this one.

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu
Published July 19th, 2016 by Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 235 Pages, Library
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

It's gorgeously illustrated. The plot was a little hard to follow but there are talking magical cats in this one. So bonus. It's a thrilling fantasy with a complicated protagonist. I'm looking forward to the next volume.

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux
Published February 21st, 2017 by First Second
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Format: Paperback, 250 Pages, Library
Rating: 3.5 stars

My Thoughts:

It's a fun sci-fi/fantasy graphic novel for middle schoolers. Plot is a bit convoluted toward the end. But it shows some promise. I'll probably pick up the next in the series. G also really enjoyed it.

Jukebox Joyride by Jacob Stein
Published June 6th, 2019 by First Second
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy
Format: Audible, 3 hours and 31 minutes, Own
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

Another listen in our long drive to and from Washington! A music box transports two siblings back in time to help save their uncle and restore order. It wasn't fantastic but it was cute and exciting and it kept G entertained. So an extra star just for that!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Week-in-review...Where Did the Summer Go?

Where did July go? And now we're almost halfway through August?! What?

Our big trip was up to Washington state to visit our friends and their two children, aka G's best friends ever! We had some major car problems and a pukefest right before we were able to leave for said trip. But we got a rental and spent the one day back at home and killed ourselves to make the trip the next day. All crazy problems were worth it because we all had a relaxing time hanging with our friends and seeing the gorgeous Pacific Northwest.

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We visited Seattle and hit up the Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. It was a nice cool and cloudy day and we enjoyed some good food and I, of course, found some used books to go home with! The Chihuly Garden was beautiful and definitely worth the visit if you're ever in the area.

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This picture sums up the crazy shenanigans these guys get into when they're all together. They don't miss a beat when they get back together!

We went to the beach, ate some amazing seafood and clam chowder, hiked in the beautiful forests, and just chilled at home. If only we could teleport back home without that super long drive!

On the bright side, we enjoyed some fun audiobooks on the way to and from Washington. Even G was thoroughly entertained with two of them.

A neighbor watched our kitties while we were gone. They survived but they definitely missed us. We found quite a few puke spots and one kitty accident in the kitchen but overall it wasn't as bad as I was imagining. Our kitties are growing up! ha ha

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Poor Shadow had so much hair since she didn't get her usual daily brushings. I took a pic of the hairball we pulled off of her but it was pretty gross....

Last Month I:

Read: Calvin by Martine Leavitt; My Sister, the Serial Killer by Okinyan Braithwaite; All That Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black; Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi, A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs,

Last Week I Read:

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux, Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner, Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu, Recursion by Blake Crouch, I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro, The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.

Listened to:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil de Grasse Tyson, Jukebox Joyride by Jacob Stein.

(These were all our vacation listens!) The Phantom Tollbooth was all of our favorites!



Veronica Mars the latest season on Hulu. I rewatched the first season and part of the second but the new season came out too soon and so I just dived in!

The Typewriter on Netflix. It's an Indian production and it's great. It's got kids in a ghost club and a demon trapped in a typewriter trying to take over the town. It's super weird and different and I'm loving it.

Dear White People the third season. There were a lot of tongue-in-cheek references to it being the third season of a Netflix show...that was weird. It's the weirdest season yet but it was still enjoyable but not sure where they're going with it. Shrugs shoulders.


Spider-Man: Far from Home, Into the Dark: Culture Shock (if you only see one of these anthology movies from Hulu, this is the one), Red Sparrow.


Bread! It turned out pretty well and I didn't have to knead a lot with my handy stand mixer so boom! With all of our auto repairs, we're on a tighter budget for a bit so I'm trying to make more meals from home. But last month I made this amazing garlic shrimp linguini. Yum.

This Week I:

Am currently reading:

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart, The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey.

Am currently listening to:

A few podcasts to catch up on but nothing specific yet. Probably won't start one until school starts again for G and I have more free time in the car and around the house.

Am looking forward to:

More camping with friends at the end of the month. School starts next week? Kind of excited cuz I can get back to a consistent schedule for transcription work and some online classes I want to take but I've been enjoying this summer of relaxation and not worrying about school!

Monday, August 12, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: A Map of Days, All That Remains...

Time for another round of mini book reviews! Between traveling by car for 10 hours two ways and some vacation downtime, I read quite a bit this last month. And I haven't had the time nor the inclination to post anything here ya go.

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs
Published October 2nd, 2018 by Dutton Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy, paranormal
Format: Hardcover, 496 pages, own
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts: 

This is the fourth book in the Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children series. I enjoyed this just like the others. But it's really a niche series now, in my opinion. It's getting a bit over-the-top. And I'm still slightly unnerved by the romance between Jacob and Emma...Let's just say she used to be in love with his grandfather 60 years ago and he's but a boy of 17? It's hard to come up with coherent stories when you're using old, creepy photographs to build from. But hey it's still a fun ride with all these characters!

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
Published Originally in 1960, Audiobook 2007
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy
Format: Audiobook, 6 hours and 19 minutes, own
Rating: 3 stars

My Thoughts:

I felt like this was almost a retelling of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," or a very long Dungeons and Dragons game! But it filled the time for our long drive to Washington and it had all the great trappings of dwarves and elves and the Big Bad! Gandalf, I mean, the Wizard is there to help along the way. I thought the children would get more parts but they didn't. They weren't really essential to the story. They kind helped keep the story going and held the stone? I don't know. It was a weird, no-frills fantasy.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Published Originally in 1961, Audiobook 2019
Narrated by Rainn Wilson!
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy
Format: Audiobook, 4 hours and 41 minutes, own
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts: 

I absolutely adored this one! I had no idea this was such a classic. It's funny and crazy and has all the puns you can handle and then more. But in a good way! It's a smart kids book and we all loved listening to this on our long drive! It's one we'll relisten to again and again. And Rainn Wilson was the best narrator! He's a voice man and it shows.

Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi
Published April 30th, 2019
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Fantasy, Myth
Format: Hardcover, 381 pages, own
Rating: 4 stars

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in the Pandava Quartet series. G and I both loved it. Great action and crazy characters and world-building, along with some lessons about friendship and second chances.

All That Remains: A Life in Death by Sue Black
Published April 15th, 2018
Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir, Science, True-crime
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages, Library
Rating: 5 stars

My Thoughts:

Sue Black fills us in on how she got started in forensic anthropology, her process, how they solve crimes, identify bodies, and handle all-things death. She tells us about her time in Kosovo and handling mass graves. It's heady stuff. I won't deny I shed a few tears throughout her memoir. I now want to go to Scotland and die by her university so I can donate my body to it and science! Read the book to find out why! Also, as one who has been surrounded by the dead her whole life, she has some pretty amazing insights into the human condition and Lady Death Herself. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Okinyan Braithwaite
Published November 20th, 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Satire
Format: Kindle, 228 pages, Own
Rating: 3 stars

My Thoughts:

I love the cover. Gorgeous. I enjoyed the thoughts of Korede as she struggles to deal with her serial killer sister, Ayoola. It's a satire but I'll admit a lot of it went over my head. Topics of culture and gender roles and family loyalty all play out in this quick novel. It would be a great book club book to explore the issues with others.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Cat Thursday-- Cat Con 2019

I had no idea but there is a CatCon in L.A.! What? It just had it's 4th annual event in June. I need to get myself over there one day. But check out the site and this awesome news report from ABC to catch up on all things cat!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

I'm Just a Person by Tig Notaro

Published: June 14, 2016 by HarperCollins Publisher
Genre: Memoir, non-fiction
Format: Kindle, 240 pages, own
Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's Summary:

One of America’s most original comedic voices delivers a darkly funny, wryly observed, and emotionally raw account of her year of death, cancer, and epiphany.

In the span of four months in 2012, Tig Notaro was hospitalized for a debilitating intestinal disease called C.Diff, her mother unexpectedly died, she went through a breakup, and was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. Hit with this devastating barrage, Tig took her grief onstage. Days after receiving her cancer diagnosis, she broke new comedic ground, opening an unvarnished set with the words, “Good evening. Hello. I have cancer. How are you? Hi, how are you? Is everybody having a good time? I have cancer.” Word of the set went viral instantly. This set was ultimately released as Tig’s sophomore album, Live, which sold 100,000 units in just six weeks and was nominated for a Grammy.

Now, the wildly popular star takes stock of that no good, very bad year—a difficult yet astonishing period in which tragedy turned into absurdity and despair into joy. An inspired combination of the deadpan silliness of her comedy and the open-hearted vulnerability that has emerged in the wake of that dire time, Untitled is a moving and often hilarious look at this very brave, very funny woman’s journey through the darkness and her thrilling return.

My Thoughts:

I didn't know much about Ms. Notaro until her Amazon semi-biographical TV show aired a couple of years ago. I devoured "One Mississippi" in one sitting and counted down the days until I could watch the second season. She has a rare honesty and a raw and subtle style to her comedy that I ate up. She allows people to see her humanity and in turn we see ours.

I'm so happy I finally picked up her memoir. She recounts her excruciating battle with C. diff, her grief for her mother who died very suddenly, and breast cancer all pretty much at about the same time. When you see Death looming at the door whether from loved ones or oneself, it changes you and her thoughts and insights come as no surprise.

"While you're alive, you should feel alive. I thought about how tomorrow or a week from now, or whatever date people tell themselves is the big day--a party, an award, show, a holiday--is no more important than the event of today. I thought: 'Every day is the day.'"

I enjoyed her perspective on the child-parent relationship. Her father Pat left her mother and her and her brother quite young. Her mother married Ric and he became their father for all intents and purposes. But he didn't quite know how to do that--how to show and feel all those complicated feelings. It took the death of Susie, his wife, to start expressing and coming to terms those feelings.

"He declared that he now realized it's not the child's responsibility to teach the parent who they; it's the parent's responsibility to learn who their child is."

I was saddened at how sick she got and how hard it was for her to reach out and let people know she's practically dying. I could feel how hard it was for her to be so sick and have to rely on others to help her out. 

Another awful thing that stuck out (Ms. Notaro didn't mention it) was how hard it was for her to find adequate health care, to find doctors who gave a shit. It took a friend who had a friend who was a nutritionist to help her get her microbiome in her gut back up to snuff. No follow-ups after C. diff, no follow-ups after breast cancer and a double mastectomy. And this is a woman who was doing pretty well for herself when all this happened. It just blows my mind. Or how the hospital sent out a survey to her DEAD MOTHER to see how her care in the hospital was! WTF!

Ms. Notaro's story is one of heartache and grief. But one where she has learned to keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep trying hard things, and accepting love and help when she needs it. I look forward to more Tig in the future. She's just a person but definitely one of the better ones.