Books read in April 2017

April is an unusual month in which I’m most excited about the nonfiction selections.

Picture Books: Big Cat, Little Cat
Middle Grade: Better Nate Than Ever
Young Adult: Pyromantic
Young Nonfiction: Vincent & Theo
Grownup Nonfiction: Every Body Yoga

Big Cat, Little Cat
Elisha Cooper
Read for Librarian Book Group
Picture books are short and this one made me laugh and cry within the space of its 32 pages.  The illustrations of the cats are stupendous.  Recommended.

Wolf in the Snow
Matthew Cordell
Read for Librarian Book Group
Wordless picture book about a girl walking home from school in a snowstorm and what she finds on her way.

Barnett & Klassen
Read for Librarian Book Group
Not a book about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  Instead a funny little interlude between Triangle and Square.  Barnett and Klassen together don’t tickle my funny bone.  I recognize I’m in the minority with that opinion.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Schlitz, Floca
Read for Librarian Book Group
Fabulous illustrations paired with an easy-reader story about Princess Cora wanting more from her dreary days.

Out of Wonder
Read for Librarian Book Group
Poems written in the style of famous poets and paired with gorgeous illustrations.

Better Nate Than Ever
Time Federle
Read for Family Book Group

I adored this book, so much so that even the small detractions were steamrolled by Nate Foster’s approach to the world.  This is a great book for outcasts everywhere.

The Best Worst Thing
Kathleen Lane
It’s too bad that the adult audience who would really enjoy this book probably won’t find it. Maggie is a worrier in a way that I think will be off-putting to a lot of tweens/teens.  But Maggie’s nervous energy is something that adult readers would want to read about.  It’s a beautifully written story.

Fish Girl
Read for Librarian Book Group
Mermaid in rinky-dink seaside aquarium begins to question her situation. The answers she finds are illuminating  and cause changes.  There were a lot of problems with this story, but it had some good feminist and coming-of-age stuff.


Lish McBride
The sequel to Firebug, a book greatly enjoyed by me, this continues the story, bringing back all the favorite characters.  I was sorry I didn’t have time for a re-read of Firebug before launching into this, but it was an enjoyable tale all the same.

Wonderful Feels Like This
Sara Lovestam
Read for Librarian Book Group
Nice story of a young musician bulled by her peers who forges a friendship with a retired jazz musician.  The bullying is intense, with some of it rising to the level where the police should be involved.  The stories of the Stockholm jazz scene during WWII were nicely done and the author did a great job working in nuance of her portrayal of bullies.  The point-of-view switches were jarring.  While overall, this was a nice book, it was one I finished out of obligation, rather than pleasure.

The Book Jumper
Mechthild Glaser
Read for Librarian Book Group
This story includes a wonderful discovery: girl returns to ancestral home and learns that her family has the ability to jump into books.  While this would be an exciting development in my own life, I don’t think it made any sense for the plot.  I was never really clear WHY they were supposed to be jumping into the stories, as most of their actions in the books caused trouble that would have been avoided if they had simply read the books, not hang out in them.

I think there are some in-jokes that went over my head for not having read some of the books mentioned.  Much like the book from Sweden I just finished reading, this book also has abrupt point-of-view shifts I found jarring.  Other details about the book jumping also baffled me. So much so that the invented world didn’t hold up, which made for a so-so read.

Rivers of Sunlight
Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
Read for Librarian Book Group
The framing device “I am the sun” reminded me of a theatrical production written by a well-meaning older person, to show the poor youth of the ghetto the magic of the thee-ah-tar.

Steve Sheinkin
Read for Librarian Book Group
Sheinkin’s ability to make history sing is on display here, even for this reader, who isn’t interested in football.  I am, however, interested in Jim Thorpe and I found the details about the Carlisle Indian School to be interesting, in that terrible way.  There was too much football in this book for me, but I recognize that I am not the target audience.  I would have appreciated a little more unpacking of the special privileges afforded to athletes.  Overall, this was a solid nonfiction.

Vincent & Theo
Deborah Heiligman
Read for Librarian Book Group
Character-driven biography of Vincent Van Gough and his brother Theo.  I was interested in the brothers’ relationship, and how Vincent’s mental illness affected his family and other relationships.  This was big on detail, without bogging down.  I loved the color plates, which were apparently not present in the e-book version.

Every Body Yoga
Jessamyn Stanley
I know a goodly amount of people who will not get far in this book due to the salty language of the author.  However, I found her frank and funny, and I didn’t mind at all the copious use of the F-word.

Stanley, a large girl who grew into a large woman, describes how she came to practice yoga, her various feelings about her body, and provides recommendations for yoga practice for women of all kinds, including fat women. Her recommendation to practice at home was particularly freeing for me, as that is currently the only type of yoga practice that will fit in my schedule.

Pre-100 Days. Post #5 The plan for the tracking month.

I’ll write a draft post at the beginning of the week saying what the plan is for my areas.  At the end of the week I will report how my plans went, which will inform my plans for the following week.

The plan:

Vacation is Thursday-Sunday, so thrown out of usual routines

5/1 Monday–Swim
5/2 Tuesday–Tap
5/3 Wednesday–Swim, Square Dance
5/4 Thursday–Hike?
5/5 Friday–Hike?
5/6 Saturday–Hike?
5/7 Sunday–Hike?

Can do on M, T.  Wednesday might be tight.  T-Sun.  Vacation probably hard to work in. I will see if I can.

Food habits:
Note three food habits that could be modified.



Middle School Theater: Arsenic & Old Lace @ Beverly Cleary Fernwood

I’m a volunteer at the Hollywood Library.  The book group I lead had two students participating their middle school play.  The librarian and I made a plan to see their dramatic work.  Arsenic & Old Lace, here we come!

First of all, I was surprised to learn that a lot of people in my social circle have not seen the classic movie. Then, I was even more surprised when I gave a short synopsis (Cary Grant has elderly Aunts and they take in borders and kill them) people reacted with horror.  “No, it’s a comedy!  A screw-ball comedy!” I protested.  But they were not swayed.  It sounded like a terrible movie to them.  And middle school students performing it?  Aren’t they too young?

This group did a great job of putting us through our comedy paces.  The set, built on the stage in the cafetorium (that marvel of disinterest to the arts: cafeteria and auditorium combined in one) was also impressive.  The actors and stage hands started at a disadvantage, due to the many no-school days which opened the semester.

After, we clapped for the cast as usual.  Then we clapped for the crew, then the student directors, then the director.  And then the student directors each read the director a letter they had written for him.  And then they gave him an elderberry bush.  Which cracked me up.

It was a good afternoon at the theater.

Song of the Month April 2017: Gasoline by Handmouth

Some months, there is no problem finding a song for this series.  Other months, I’m down to the wire.  I discovered this song while taking the car to the car wash early one Sunday morning. It wasn’t open yet, so I took a rambling drive on Hayden Island to kill time.

Sunday mornings, KINK radio has what they call Sunday Brunch, where they play deep cuts, and quiet songs you don’t usually hear.  Or quiet versions of songs you usually do hear.

This song came on.  Happily, it was followed by a break, where the DJ told me the name of the song and the band.  She said that the singer, Katie Toubin had left the band. Reading the comments on the post for this video I see that many people on social media feel sad about this.

I love her voice and the harmony.  I also like the line “you know I am nobody’s girl/wasn’t made for no diamonds and pearls”

This band doesn’t have a ton of information on my usual internet search channels.  No wikipedia page, for instance. Their website doesn’t list member names in an obvious place.  And I had trouble even finding Katie Toubin’s last name.  The comments on this YouTube video all refer to her as “she.”  I found another video that referred to her as Katie so I googled “Katie who used to be in Houndmouth” and that got me this link, that tells me about her leaving the band.

My 100 Days Post #4 Where I am with food habits.

I’ve morphed the food section of the original 100 Days from “healthy diet” to “food habits.”  There are a couple of reasons for this.

One is that I have very healthy eating habits.  I cook nearly all the food I eat from scratch (including making the whole wheat bread I eat), I eat a variety of foods, I regularly eat fruits and vegetables and I’m working on increasing my consumption of beans and other vegetarian sources of protein.

The other reason is that I have an eating disorder and focusing too much on food triggers it.

I don’t have the acceptable kind of eating disorder, a.k.a. anorexia.  Even though we as a society have decided anorexia is something to avoid, we as a society champion a lot of anorexic things namely: very low body weight (models, most actresses), tracking food, weighing yourself daily, exercising to excess, avoiding certain “bad” foods, restricting food intake.

The eating disorder I’ve developed is binge eating disorder, which is a newly classified disorder characterized by eating large quantities of food (often very quickly and to the point of discomfort); a feeling of a loss of control during the binge; experiencing shame, distress or guilt afterwards; and not regularly using unhealthy compensatory measures (e.g., purging) to counter the binge eating. It is the most common eating disorder in the United States.*

Binge eating disorder is something that we’re just starting to talk about, but I’ve been binging for decades. My first memory of a binge was when I was younger than five (Bisquick lumps) and I developed all sorts of binging rituals over the years.  I was relieved when there was finally a name for what I did. I never purged, so I wasn’t bulimic, but what I was doing clearly wasn’t something that was good for me.

In looking for ways to treat this, I took an e-course through Be Nourished.  They call their method Body Trust Wellness and which draws from the principles of Heath at Every Size and Intuitive Eating practices. I’ve also done some reading.  Here’s what I have learned and how it applies to my situation.

  • Diets don’t work.  The success rate for a diet’s maintaining weight loss for five years is in the single-digit percentages.
  • Diets do a lot of harm.  They mess up your metabolism in ways it’s almost impossible to recover from.  They promote disordered eating.  They result in diminished self-esteem when they don’t work, which is always interpreted as a failure on the part of the person who undertook the diet.
  • People have different body sizes for reasons we don’t understand.  Due to the fact that we equate “healthy” with a very narrow weight range, there are almost no studies about health and different body types.
  • The BMI is total bunk. The BMI has made me angry for years.  This article validated all my non-scientific suspicions.

The bad news is that I have probably ruined my metabolism by dieting.  My first diet was when I was 15.  Every time I have gone on a diet I have lost weight, then gained it back with an additional 10-20 pounds.  Also, one of the ways I deal with anxiety is to eat, which also results in weight gain.  I may never again be in the (again, very narrow) acceptable weight range for my height.

The good news is that by stopping all restrictive eating and giving myself what I need or want, food-wise, I have decreased my binge-eating episodes dramatically.  I’ve also started regularly shopping for clothing that I enjoy wearing and, as reported in the exercise post, spend a lot of time doing exercise that I love.

I still have some food habits that aren’t so great for me.  One is that when I cook, I snack.  I don’t like how it makes me feels and I would like to stop.  I’ve also recently figured out that when I get over-committed my form of “relaxing” involves laying on the bed, reading, and also eating to the point of discomfort.

I also haven’t fully read Health at Every Size and Intuitive Eating.  So I would like to spend my 100 days taking in the information in those books, as well.

And I’m still not there with the Body Trust Wellness Core Competencies.

My plan during the pre-month is to purchase the above books, as well as notice some eating habits that leave me with feelings of shame.  Then, I can craft a plan to execute during the My 100 Days.

*taken from

My 100 Days. Post #3 Where I am with meditation.

Of exercise, food habits and meditation, I would say meditation is the habit most in need of reinforcing.

I learned to meditate in my early 20s.  At the time I was living in Boston and doing a bunch of Aryuvedic medicine things. One of the recommendations was to learn Transcendental Meditation.  It was supposedly going to change a whole bunch of things about my life.  I found a place in Cambridge to teach me.  The process involved an information session, four pre-lessons, some of which involved watching videotapes of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s lectures.  I had a mild worry I was joining a cult.  It turned out that once I completed my series, I had no contact with them other than flyers sent to my house (and the next three houses that followed) advertising various Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s things.

In my second-to-last ceremony I was given my special meditation word, chosen just for me.  I regarded this word a bit skeptically.  I felt like either they gave everyone the same word, or just picked a sanskrit word at random.

Set loose on the world, I was instructed to meditate twice daily for 20 minutes and to come yearly for a checkup. I kept to the twice daily schedule for a while, then slacked off to once daily, then abandoned my practice altogether.  I’ve been off-and-on ever since.  I’ve never gone in for a tuneup.

Learning TM wasn’t cheap.  It cost at much as one of my bi-monthly paychecks, and I had to pay in installments. Still, I think it was money well spent, because when I do meditate, it makes a difference.

I’m pretty wound up. I hadn’t really realized this until a few years ago, when describing my depression symptoms to a counselor, she said, “I see you as having more anxiety than depression.”  I briefly sketched my history of the views from my bed out the window in many different houses.  I definitely  have a history of depression.  But on a daily basis, I’m tight and anxious.

Meditation unwinds me.  If I do it on a daily basis, I don’t really notice it making a ton of difference until I stop. Then, after a few days I feel claustrophobic in my head and am not breathing as deeply as I should.  One line from a song starts to play on a loop and that’s my sign that I’ve been ignoring meditation for too long.

My current goal is 15 minutes, seven days per week.  My calendar reminder tells me that my stats for the last three weeks are 4/7, 5/7, 4/7. I don’t know if I’ve made 7/7 days at any point this year.

Sometimes, meditation is easy.  I come home from work, feed the cats, and then sit down for 15 minutes before going about my evening.  But some nights, I just don’t want to. And so I put it off, and then it doesn’t get done and suddenly it’s bedtime.

I’ve also read the book Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He’s kind of the  meditation-is-legit-and-I’m-a-real-doctor guy.  His goal is 45 minutes of meditation or yoga per day.  When I did this, several people asked me if I’d been on vacation.

I don’t have time for 45 minutes of yoga or meditation per day (I know that I should, but don’t, and I don’t want to make room) so I will continue my goal of 15 minutes per day.  Maybe I can tease out the ways I avoid meditation and find some good incentives.

Three sentence movie reviews: The Fate of the Furious

What is it about these movies that make me incredibly happy?  Plot elements, acting ability, general ridiculousness that would sink any other movie are gleefully enjoyed when it comes to the Fast and the Furious franchise. Jason Statham’s final fight scene was my favorite, but there were many other enjoyable moments in these 136 minutes.

Cost: $6.00
Where watched: St. Johns Twin Cinema (movie #3 on Movie Day)

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Three sentence movie reviews: The Face of Love

I loved the concept of a grieving widow finding a double of her husband.  Both Annette Bening and Ed Harris did their usual steller work.  I also appreciates Jess Weixler’s brief, but memorable scene.*

Cost: free from library
Where watched: at home (movie #2 on Movie Day)

*Probably the best freak-out I’ve seen in the past few years.

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Three sentence movie reviews: 45 Years

This was brilliantly acted with a lot of nuance and great performances.  It’s also a movie that trails off with no ending, which can be interesting and also as if the writer didn’t know how to end their story.  Overall, one of those films I don’t mind that I watched, but am not chomping to return to it.

Cost:  $1.50 from Redbox
Where watched: at home (movie #1 on Movie Day)

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