March 2019 reading review…

March passed by in a flash and that speed-of-light passing was reflected in my reading totals for the month. At first, I thought this low number was quite strange, but when I look back at other past March reading totals since I started teaching, I can see it’s historically this way. I think I forget just how busy and occupying teaching can be sometimes. Plus – there were Spring Break travels!

Still, no worries. 

The reads for March 2019 included:

And wow. No review blog posts. Gasp. Never mind. I’m going to do a recap post with some reviewlettes in a bit to get me back up to speed… 

So to the numbers:

  • Total number of books read in March 20195
  • Total number of pages read 1,219 pages (av. 244). 
  • Fiction/Non-Fictionfiction / non-fiction.
  • DiversityPOC. 2+ books by women. (The + is because I read a couple of anthology-type books which included both male and female authors.) 
  • Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): library books, owned books and e-books.

Plans for April include continuing the POC author/topic focus, finishing up a read of a teaching skills book, and placing my focus back on my own TBR. 

The Halfway Point…

Goodness me. July already. It’s true that time flies as you get older…

It’s been a hot summer here in West Texas, and I should really be used to this as I’ve lived here a very long time now. However, I always forget just how high the temps can get (and for so long). We’re got another four months of heat, so it’s all in the pacing… 🙂

So – we’re halfway through the calendar year, and what do I have to show for it, reading-wise?

45 books in total for a total of 12,990 pages:

  • 24 fiction
    • Includes short story collections, poetry, and a play
  • 19 non-fiction
    • I’ve been on quite a biographical kick – 7 this year

I’ve also been placing a much stronger focus on reading books by (or about, but preferably both) persons of color and other marginalized groups. So nearly 50 percent of my total reads have fit under that category, so I’m happy with that.

I’m definitely going to continue to have that focus for the remainder of the year until, hopefully, I get to the point where it’s not a conscious decision to go out and seek POC authors. I still have to research it quite a bit right now to find overlapping titles.

I have found that one title will lead to another one really nicely sometimes, and I’m breaking new ground with quite a few authors, POC and otherwise. So that’s been fun.

February was African-American History Month here in the U.S., and I found loads of great reading those weeks. I met some new POC authors, and got quite a few TBR off the shelves and out of the door (to make more for new titles, naturally!)

And I’ve tried to throw in a few classics in at the same time: Native Son (Wright) and Go Tell It on the Mountain (Baldwin) were two notable titles that I was happy to read and complete (even if I wasn’t 100% sure that I understand the narrative – Mr. Baldwin, I’m looking at you.)

My summer is going very well. I’ve just finished that last summer session class (which I really enjoyed), and then this week, I start teaching my own summer class. This goes on for about a month, and then I’m on holiday with my mum and sister up there in Canada, eh? (Sorry, Canadians. Couldn’t resist it. I’m interested to see if Canadians do really say that a lot. I blame it on Mike Myers, really.)

We come back from that and then I’m off to Mexico to sit by the sea and do not much, and then it’ll almost be back-to-school time.

With lots of reading, movies and puzzle times, along with mucking about and weeding in the garden (which I love doing), it’s been pretty relaxing.

(I usually find weeding quite a meditative sport to do when it’s not one thousand degrees outside. This is a good thing as plants/weeds grow like crazy in the summer months.)

How’s summer (or winter) in your own world?

The Best of… 2017 Edition


As December comes to a close, it’s a nice end-of-year tradition for me to review my reading for the past year, and just see how it panned out. There’s no number goals or similar, but I do likes to see how I’ve spent my reading time over the last twelve months, just out of curiosity.

(Note: like a lot of other bloggers have noted, these titles weren’t necessarily published in 2017; they were just read by me in the last twelve months.)

First, a huge thank you to everyone who drops and reads my blog, whether you are a one-off reader or a regular. I appreciate your time and comments!


To the numbers:

  • Total # books read: 58 (about right for the average year the past few years)
  • Total DNF’s: 2
  • Total fiction: 31 (51.2%)
  • Total non-fiction: 21 (44.2%).
  • Total Pages: 15,542
  • Format of books (e-books vs. tree books): 3 e-books, 55 tree books.

Years Published:

  • Oldest title: 1897
  • Nineteenth century: 1
  • Twentieth century: 28
  • Twenty-first century: 27

TBR Progress:

  • Off the TBR: 28 (48.2%)

New books in:

  • Bought new/new-to-me:  16 books bought (compared with 27 TBR read (i.e. out of house)


  • Male vs. female/other identified authors: 26 male authors, 32 female/other
  • POC author or POC-related topic: 13 (23%)

Fiction: 29

  • Novels: 26
  • Plays/Drama: 1
  • Graphic Novel: 1
  • Short stories: 2

Top Five Fiction:

  • Lantana Lane – Eleanor Dark (1986)
    • Australian novel set in small community in outback.
  • Beloved – Toni Morrison (1987)
    • Second in trilogy, but also works as stand-alone. New York city life of troubled African-American couple set in mid-century.
  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel (2014)
    • Rollocking good dystopian read about (American) life after an explained/ unexpected epidemic
  • Ceremony – Leslie Silko Marmon (1977)
    • Series of interlinked stories set in First Nations community during modern times.
  • The Lizard Cage – Karen Connelly (2005)
    • Fictional retelling of political prisoner living hard existence in world of corrections in Burma/Myanmar.

Non-Fiction: 26

  • Most read about topic: history (especially social history), social justice, travel

Top Five Non-Fiction:

  • Dreams from my Father – Barack Obama (1995)
    • Autobiography from our former U.S. President. Reads like fiction when compared with our reality with the Orange Goblin. 😦
  • Medical Apartheid – Harriet A. Washington (2007)
    • Hard-hitting investigative/historical journalism closely reviewing the troubled past of how the U.S. medical establishment has treated African-Americans over the past century or so. Fascinating and disturbing.
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life – Sally Bedell Smith (2017)
    • No blog post, but trust me, this is a good read, however you may feel about the possible future King of England.
  • A Kim Jong Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, his Star Actress, and a Young Dictator’s Rise to Power – Paul Fischer (2015)
    • A very weird and very true tale about how a young North Korean dictator kidnapped a foreign filmmaker and his movie star wife to force him to improve the quality of the North Korean film industry. Fascinating and keeps you reading.
  • At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans-Son – Mary Collins and Donald Collins (2017)
    • A dual POV from a mother and her trans-son’s gender transition. Fascinating because the mother is so unsupportive and doesn’t seem to understand why the adult child should choose to do this “to her”. Really, people?

Movie of the Year:

  • Chicken People (2016)
    • Absolutely charming documentary about the world of competitive chicken showing in the U.S. It’s a real thing, and this was just lovely (even if you’re not into chickens that much). Over the course of one year, follows a small group of amateur (?) chicken breeders and how they progress in the competitive season.

Goals for next year? I am keeping it very open and laid back as I enter my first semester teaching college for the Spring, and with my new job responsibilities. Whatever numbers I read, they are less important than the quality of reading.

Here’s to a happy new year for all!

April 2017 Reading Review


So April fairly whipped by pretty speedily due to a general busy-ness of life and work. It was a pretty good reading month at the same time, but lower numbers than is traditional. (This would be due to a big mix of things, including my vision still having problems. Reading with one eye tends to slow things down, I’ve found.)

(To clarify: I still have my other eye, but the dodgy one doesn’t see very well a lot of the time. Thus the “one eye” comment. I didn’t mean that I was now Cyclops [although I might feel like that sometimes!]. I had no idea how much my reading would slow down due to this.  :-} )

The reads for April included:

So to the numbers:

Total number of books read in April: 5

Total number of pages read: 1,507 pages (av. 301).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction; 0 play.

Diversity: 0 POC (that’s a bit yikes for me.) 2 books by women.

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book, 4 owned books and 0 e-books. (Yeah. Good on working on the TBR pile.)

Plans for May is to read, read, read. How glorious is that?

October 2016 Reading Review


October went well for reading. Just as in other recent years, it signaled the end of my summer reading slump which means that I now have some interesting titles on my list of completed books.

I hope that I am back into reading now. The slump seems to have become quite regular in the hot months over the past few years – perhaps it’s due to the really long summers that occur in Texas and I just get fed up with the high temperatures? You’d think if that was the case that I’d retreat into the air conditioning and read, but apparently I’m retreating into the AC and doing something else. No worries. I don’t live and die by the stats, so this is just me pondering…

Planning ahead, I’m off to England soon so I’m expecting bookie-related things around that visit. I’m sure we’ll find a bookshop or two, perhaps buy a title or two, and get some reading done (I hope). I’m still contemplating which titles to take, both on my Kindle and in RL. I’m thinking that I could leave any physical books that I complete in England, and then free up some packing space that way. We’ll see. Sometimes the best laid plans…. 🙂

November also signals the start of the U.S. Holiday Season (capitalized because it’s a months-long event), and I just saw Christmas stuff out at Barnes and Noble last weekend. Crikey. It gets earlier every year (or perhaps it’s just me.) The holidays (here in the US) always mean some time off from work for me, so I am looking forward to that. We get a break for Thanksgiving, and then we also get a healthy break from work over the Christmas holidays. I work for a large state university and the general campus shuts down completely between Christmas and New Year’s, so that’s a great present from the State of Texas. Yee-haw. Last year, I had brain surgery during that break. Not planning for that to happen this year, so should be a bit more fun for all involved!

So – to the books:

I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Total number of books read in October: 6

Total number of pages read: 1725 pages (av. 246).

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 fiction / 1 non-fiction (including 1 graphic novel)

Diversity: 0 POC (Whoops. This will be addressed during November.)

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 1 library book and 6 owned book. 0 ILL and 0 e-book.

My favorite book, by far, was the Dayton Duncan NF about the American contemporary frontier. Totes a good read.

January 2015 Reading Wrap Up

januaryFor January 2015, I read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Devoted Ladies – Molly Keane (post to come)

The Victorian Hospital – Lavinia Mitton (post to come)

Like One of the Family – Alice Childress

Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley (post to come)

The Fifties: A Women’s Oral History – Brett Harvey

The Diary of a Nobody – George and Weedon Grossmith

The Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield

March: Book One – John Lewis (post to come)

Merle and Other Stories – Paule Marshall


Total number of books read in January: 9

Total number of pages read: 1977 pages (av. 220 pages)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 5 F and 4 NF

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 3 library books and 6 owned books. 0 e-book this month (although one in progress). (Total of 6 books off TBR pile this year. We’ll just quietly brush under the rug what have come in so far… )

(And guess who finally found the tool bar on WordPress which means colored text and other jazzy things…I give you my word that I won’t over do it.) 🙂

Catch-Up Time for a Cool November

catch_upLife has been great lately, most notably for its normal day-ness and just going smoothly along. It’s not that life has been hard, but it’s just noticeably going without any large unexpected bumps so that’s nice. Work has evened out a bit more and I seem to have broken my dreadful reader’s block which has been hindering me over the last few months. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to work around a reader’s block, and I had forgotten how it felt – Blargh. I was adrift in a sea of book pages, but couldn’t get anywhere. Frustrating, but after a while, I started to embrace the experience and did some other things for a while. (One new interest is that I have learned that I really enjoy editing doctoral dissertation work. Go figure.)

But now, for whatever reason, that block is now over and I’m back to enjoying reading loads of books and being interested in loads of things. Yippee. Recent reads which are good, but just don’t trigger a great deal of deep and meaningful discussion are as follows:

Dishes – Shax Rielger (2013) book320

This was a fun coffee table-type book (although very small in size, presumably for a very small coffee table :-)), and it featured lots of lovely photographs of lots of lovely dishes. More of a superficial worship of dish design than an in-depth investigation, this was packed with well composed photographs featuring both new and old dish graphic art, and although it wasn’t a particularly deep read, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon. (Great graphics and good photography are always a good combination in books.) So – nothing too deep and meaningful, but it does just what it says on the tin: looks at dishes. Nothing that I can’t live without, but a nice taste of something very outside my normal interests.

One of my favorite reads at the moment is a large collection of book-review columns by Nick Hornby. (He would be a fantastic dinner party guest, along with Robert Lacey. Still working on the rest of the guest list for that event, but would definitely invite those two.) The book is called Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books and is a compilation of Hornby’s book-related columns in The Believer magazine. (I’ve never seen this on the newsstands around here, but have heard about it.) Hornby is also the author of several other good novels (such as High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch et al.) and his blog is pretty entertaining. (Lots more Believer columns as well. <rubs hands with glee>) Plus – he has a new book (Funny Girl) out in the UK with a US release next year.

sailingNon-fiction, I’m coasting along with a travel memoir by Jonathan Raban (with whom I’ve only had good reading experience). Called Coasting (see what I did there? No? DIdn’t miss much. 🙂 ), it’s a description of the time Raban took to sail solo around the edges of Britain down the west side and up the east. It’s a mix of personal reminiscence along with some sailing and UK history bits popping up now and then, and although the book got off to a bit of a rough start (not enough wind), it’s good now and I’m enjoying it. (If you like travel journalism, you’ll probably like Raban’s works. The only other one by Raban that I’ve read is called Bad Land and describes his driving across the open land of North Dakota etc. It’s a very good read if you’re interested.) This is another title that’s been on my TBR shelf for far too long. What’s cool is that I happened to come upon a small paperback edition in a recent book sale which meant that I could ditch the HUGE imposing Scary Big Book that I had which meant that I actually picked it up to read. Score!

And it’s been all super-cold here that last few days which is FAB as I have had enough high temperatures (thank you). Yeah for cold weather (without the snow difficulties). cold_temps

April 2014 Reading Wrap-Up

mayI read the following titles (with links to blog posts about said book where there is one):

Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie (1937) (no blog post)

Wesley the Owl – Stacey O-Brien (2008)

Duct Tape Marketing – John Jantsch (2006) (no blog post)

A Fine Romance – Susan Branch (2012) (no blog post)

Sister Carrie – Theodore Dreiser (1900)

The Thirty Nine Steps – John Buchan (1915)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind – William Kwamwamba (2009)

The President’s Hat – Antoine Laurent (2012)

I Could Pee on This (cat poems) – Francesco Marcuiliano (2012)

Big House – Susan Susanka (2007)

Total number of books read in April: 10

Total number of pages read: 2723 pages (av.272)

Fiction/Non-Fiction: 4 F and 5 NF (plus 1x poems)

Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): 3 library books and 6 owned books, 1 e-book. (That’s a nice little total for the outgoing books. Let’s not mention the incoming books, shall we?…)


Lubbock Home and Family October Book Review


Each month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

YOpne This Book book coverOUNGEST: Open This Little Book – Jesse Klaumeier/Suzy Lee
This is a kid’s book that definitely improves with multiple readings. My first take was “meh”, but reading it again yielded details unseen and not appreciated before which added to the experience. The first thing you notice once you open the book is that the actual physical pages get smaller and smaller as the story progresses – the bigger the characters are on those pages, the smaller the actual size of the pages – which makes things rather fun. How does a giant open her tiny book with her huge hands? With lots of color and rhythm, this story has lovely detailed drawings to draw the little book reader in and the varying page size helps to keep it interesting. Not too much of a story, but it’s just right for little fidgets. Overall, a fun read for all involved.

MIDDLE: The Girls’ Book of Glamour – A Guide to Being a Goddess – Sally Jeffrie Girls' Book of Glamor book cover
A handbook designed to teach young girls and tweens how to be “glamorous” – be prepared to have your kitchen cabinets raided as this book details how to make your own soap and lotion using everyday ingredients. It also covers other areas such as how to walk in high heels (I can’t do that!), how to host a spa party with friends, and how to make sure your skin looks great. This is not a book focused on self-esteem or the importance of school, but it might help a young self-conscious person feel a little more confident in the world of elementary and middle school. (Warning: This book encourages (very light) make-up. Just FYI.) This would be ideal if you have a child who is *dying* to play with make-up and all that jazz. The one weakness to this book is that it’s not particularly multi-cultural, but quite a few of the ideas would work with any young person. A fun and light-hearted read for curious minds.

Tangles book coverADULT: Tangles – Sarah Leavitt
Subtitled: A Story About Alzheimer’s, my Mother and Me, this is a poignant graphic novel (sort of serious comic book and not for kids) about one family’s journey into becoming the caregiver for their mother. A person who was very independent, smart and who “loved ferociously”, this chronicle invites the reader to experience some of the family’s thoughts and feelings as Alzheimer’s affects the health of their mum. This is not the easiest reading experience, but it is very well done and effectively portrays how the disease took their mother’s bright personality away and replaced her with an unpredictable stranger who happened to look like their mum. This is sad, but it handles a real-life situation with grace and class without giving the impression of a perfect family (because who is?) After reading this book, I really feel for families who have to care for someone with this disease. A poignant and powerful read.

Lubbock Home and Family Book Review for September 2013

LHF_logoEach month, I write a book review column for a local magazine here in town. In collaboration with (and with permission from) the publisher, thought it might be fun to read here. So – here you go:

What Makes a Rainbow? – Betty Ann Schwartz
A baby rabbit asks its mommy what makes a rainbow and as you read the story, there is a charming surprise – a brightly colored ribbon threads through each page. Each real ribbon is a different color and as you read through the book, more and colored ribbons are added until, on the very last page, we have a lovely complete rainbow to look at. This is such a charming and gentle book which is fun to look at and fun to read. Just loved those ribbons! Apparently, there are several of these ribbon books in the series so there may be one that is just right for your youngest reader.
Level Up – Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham
A graphic novel about a young Asian-American man who is struggling to fulfill what he believes his parents’ dream for him: going to medical school. However, the character would much rather play computer games and is really very good at them. In trying to do what he feels he has to do (by going to med school despite his doubts), he learns about the power and the importance of being true to yourself as well as the value of respecting others. He also learns how unreliable one’s memory can be at times. It’s a quick read with a story that almost every person can relate to at some point in their life – the importance of sticking with your dreams while trying to please others at the same time. Great water-color illustrations bring it all together. Keep in mind that this is a graphic novel (not a comic book a la superhero) and so covers some more mature themes.

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts – Neil White
A non-fiction book about a man who was convicted of kiting multiple business checks and then assigned to a prison in Louisiana which was a former leprosarium, or care facility for people who had had leprosy (or Hansen’s disease). The authorities were in the middle of a transition from hospital to federal prison so when White entered as a prisoner, there was a mix of both felons and patients living on the same campus. It’s an interesting story. I found White himself to be a bit annoying in that he was not particularly contrite about his criminal behavior (he’s more annoyed that he got caught), but aside from that, the actual history of the hospital/prison and the stories of both the prisoners and the patients make for a fascinating read. This was written in the 1990’s, when leprosy was rarely mentioned in typical conversation and most people think it’s a disease that’s belongs in the Olden Times. So it was fascinating to see the histories of the patients who had chosen to stay in the hospital grounds despite the official gradual transition to being a federal prison. It brings up the question of “who was the prisoner” in the end? Short chapters make it a fast read, and it will give you lots to think about. This would be a good choice for book groups, I would think.