Nonfiction November: Expert Recommendations of Royal Books


This week in Nonfiction November, Doing Dewey is hosting Be The Expert/Ask The Expert.

Be The Expert

I am an armchair expert on the British Royal family from Queen Victoria to the present. One of my hobbies is playing “spot the error” in royal books.  There’s a whopper in one of this year’s royal biographies–Princess: The Early Life of Queen Elizabeth II (click to read the error).

I am also conversant in the proper use of titles of the British Aristocracy–the incorrect use of which is a major pet peeve of mine in historical fiction or in (nonfiction) history or biography. Yet, the misuse and incorrect use abound!

On Friday, I reviewed an otherwise excellent book of royal fiction–The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel by Georgie Blalock. The book is a very good read, but oh, my! The title problems were EVERYWHERE! (Publishers need to rehire fact-checkers).  You can read all of the corrections and get a great grasp of titles here.

In case you are wondering, NO, I no longer watch Netflix “The Crown.” I stopped after the fictionalized scenes of Philip’s father blaming him for his sister’s death and of Prince Charles being fitted for Eton uniforms when it had already been decided he would go to Gordonstoun.

You can read more of my Royal Family pontificating by clicking on “Royal Family” in the word/tag cloud in the right sidebar.

Nonfiction Royal Books That I Recommend

You can click on the link to go to my original Diana-Free Royal Books list on Amazon. Many are now out-of-print.

You can click on the link in this sentence to see the Five Royal Books I Won’t Let Anyone Touch in my personal library. (Hint: One is signed by a now-dead royal).

I’ve included The Little Princesses even though it is somewhat discredited, so I’ve included the huge tome of letters by the Queen Mother which show lots of things the Governess missed due to being on vacation. Princess Margaret’s biographies are all pretty vapid and the ones on Lord Snowdon focus mostly on his sexual escapades.

I’ve included two Romanov books since Alexandra was Prince Philip’s aunt (and Queen Victoria’s granddaughter) and George V’s cousin (and Kaiser Wilhelm’s cousin). I’ve included Royals and The Reich because they were Prince Philip’s brothers-in-law and were related to Queen Victoria in other ways. Princess Alice was Philip’s mother and her life was a fascinating story. It also illustrates why Prince Philip is the way he is. It is Philip and his family that makes the Royal Family much more interesting! After all, one of his uncles was Lord Mountbatten, the other, Mountbatten’s older brother, had a library of historic erotic and pornography that rivaled that of the Kinsey Sex Institute! And that gentleman’s wife was accused of an affair with Gloria Vanderbilt. And then there’s the Aunt who was in love with Nehru!

There is no “great” biography of either Edward VII or of his great-granddaughter Elizabeth II. There are biographies of them, just none worth recommending. I’ve listed instead, the book on Prince Eddy and the “biography” of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s marriage. George V was a boring King and his official biography is sleep-inducing, so I’ve included the far more readable book on Queen Mary and the newly released notes of her biographer which tell a whale of a tale! Queen Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren have vapid P.R.-type biographies except for Prince Charles. I’ve included two on him and one on Diana. I was not a fan of Diana, though in light of Meghan Markle I could now almost support Diana.

There you go! An expert experting on royal books!


Review: Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan


My Interest

I LOVED Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, so when I discovered this book in a desperate search for an available audiobook from my TBR. I had originally learned of this book from the blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy.

The Story

Techie Lois leaves a dull job in Michigan for a fabulous opportunity in San Francisco developing code for robotic arms. Dead tired one evening she orders take-out from a flier for a neighborhood place. Their “double-spicy” meal becomes her go-to take-out meal. It comes with amazing bread–freshly baked sourdough bread. It’s San Francisco after all! Then one evening, the worst thing possible happens–they guys who make this amazing meal are giving it all up! Lois is despondent. Finally one of the brothers brings her a crock of their amazing sourdough starter and it is the ultimate game-changer for Lois.

My Thoughts

Like Mr. Penumbra, or like Sarah Addison Allen’s books, Sourdough is a blend of “sounds real” and  “Wait, did you just stick fantasy in here?” It’s a fun mix that makes for a fast-paced story without any big-evil-Oprah-Book-Club-books stuff. In short–a very enjoyable read. I especially enjoyed the ladies of the Lois Club–I wish they’d had a bigger role. That was simply brilliant. The rest of the book was good, but it was not as engaging as Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Book Store though I appreciate how hard it would be to top that one. I look forward to more books from Robin Sloan.

My Verdict

3 Stars

I listened to the audio version


Sourdough: A Novel by Robin Sloan. For once I like the paperback cover WAY, WAY better than the dead-boring blue thing the book was saddled with on release. The paperback cover coveys much more of the fun and excitement of the book.


What is Sourdough? How do you make a Starter?

For those who may be curious, here is how to make a sourdough starter from, who else? The folks at King Arthur Flour (read the book and you’ll understand this reference!) Click the link below to read all about it!

Sourdough Starter


Review: The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel by Georgie Blalock


My Interest

If you read this blog, you know I’m a royal fan! Princess Margaret was both the Diana and the Harry of her day, so this re-telling of her story piqued my interest. That I happened to listen to the book on the birthday of David Armstrong-Jones, 2nd Earl of Snowden and son of Princess Margaret was just extra fun.

The Story

When her cousin brings her to an event Princess Margaret is attending, the Hon. Vera Strathmore [interesting choice of name–Margaret’s maternal grandfather was the Earl of Strathmore] hits it off with the 19-year-old second daughter of King George VI.  When Margaret is advised that Vera is the real name of novelist Rose Lavish the Princess takes her into her so-called “Margaret set” [think Harry’s Glossy Posse] as one of Her Royal Highness’s Ladies in Waiting–a role that combines nanny, friend, confidant, social secretary, and protocol chief all in one.

As the years go on and Margaret rejects any thought of marriage to the eligible future Dukes, Marquesses or Earl in her set, Vera, too, has to push aside ideas of marriage. Her future and her status as Lady in Waiting are too intertwined. Her life mirrors that of the Princess who cannot give up everything, as she had thought she could, to marry Group Captain Peter Townsend.

When photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones hits the scene Vera sees the future all too clearly.

My Thoughts

The story is well-told. Happily, the author did not try to create personalities for the entire royal family. She kept her narrative tightly focused on the small ensemble of Margaret, Vera, Charmaine Douglas (daughter of the American Ambassador) and a few others. Her characterization of Princess Margaret was very believable. At times, I had to remind myself I was reading about “Margot” and not her errant great-nephew Prince Harry and his wife. The Windsors have had many rebels. All seem to want what they can never be: to be “ordinary” in that they are ignored by the press. None ever wants to do without the deference, money, lavish lifestyle or the rest of it. Just the press “be gone”!

My Verdict on the Story

Four Stars


The Problems

If you are going to write about the Aristocracy and Royals GET THE TITLES RIGHT. Yes, it is fiction, so you can have your characters say whatever you want them to say, but….

Ms. Blalock’s inability to master titles, forms of address and even, in one scene, the basic assignments of servants, detracts from a story that was very well told.  Of course, many readers won’t know or care–but many others will. Fact-checking seems to have vanished from all forms of publishing today. This is the sort of thing an intern could have fact-checked by grabbing a copy or online free trial to Debrett’s!

And do your homework on slang!  Buckingham Palace is known as BUCK HOUSE! Not “Buck Place.” Since this was the single most overused phrase in the entire book, I have to point it out. It is fine to refer to it as “the Palace” and leave it at that.

Titles and Forms of Address Mistakes

The King and Queen are “Their Majesties,” not “Their Royal Highnesses”

The Queen and her consort, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh are “Her Majesty and His Royal Highness” as a male consort does not become a “King Consort” [though Denmark’s Prince Henrik died trying for it].

Prince Philip was always a royal and a royal Duke in the time of the story’s setting. No ROYAL Duke is ever “His Grace”. [Philip is a descendant of Queen Victoria and of Christian IX of Denmark just like the Queen and Margaret. He became “Philip Mountbatten” for political reasons].

The Earl of Somewhere is “Lord Somewhere,” not “Lord First-Name Last-Name” which is a designation only for the younger sons of Dukes and Marquesses.

A Duke would only ever have been “Lord Whoever Posh-Person” if he was born a second or lower son. He would never be referred to in that manner after becoming a Duke.

“Lady Imogene Spencer-Churchill” [in the book] cannot be referred to as “Lady Spencer Churchill” only as “Lady Imogene.” Geesh, watch Downton Abbey! Lady Rosilind explains it to Sir Richard way back in Season 1. “Lady Spencer Churchill” would be the wife of an Earl Spencer Churchill or a Viscount Spencer Churchill or a Baron Spencer Churchill or a Sir Chinless Spencer Churchill (but he would be Sir Chinless, never Lord/Sir Spencer Churchill).

“Sir Lascelles”???? NO!! Sir Alan! (i.e., Sir Alan “Tommy” Lascelles). Even “Sir Tommy”–that was his nickname, but never, ever, Sir Lascelles unless Lascelles was his first name and he was “Sir Lascelles Anstruther-Chinless-Scott” or someone. His wife would be Lady Lascelles.

Patrick Plunkett though WAS correctly called Lord Plunkett because he was Baron Plunkett.

“Group Captain” and “Captain” are not interchangeable. Peter Townsend would have been addressed as “Group Captain” (like “Sergent Major”) and never as “Captain”.

Other Mistakes

The Duke of Marlborough was Winston Churchill’s cousin, not brother, so the title “Uncle Winston” was simply a family custom. He was not the uncle of the Duke’s children. This only caught my notice due to all the other title mangling.

Ruby MacDonald would have DIED before she’d have said “the Queen Mum”!! She’d have said “Queen Elizabeth” for Margaret’s mother. Princess Margaret’s sister would be called “Her Majesty” or “The Queen” in conversation. Ruby was with Margaret until she [Ruby] died–was with her from childhood as her “dresser,” i.e. her ladies maid and had a very fraught relationship with Lord Snowdon (as Tony became).

Anthony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones was educated at Sandroyd and Eton and then went to Cambridge where he coxed a winning boat race crew. He was the step-son (and later the half-brother ) of an Earl and would never call Margaret “Your Highness” for he would KNOW that was a different, LESSER rank! [It last used in the British Royal family by two granddaughters of Edward VII (daughters of his daughter).]

A footman would NEVER be sent to pack a lady’s clothing! Maids looked after female guests–they did not just scrub floors.

Reader Mistakes: I listened to the audio version

It is “Ma’am as in ham, not ‘marm’ as in farm”

Lady Anne Coke’s name is pronounced “Cook” in spite of the spelling. Thank God  “Cholmondeley” wasn’t used anywhere.


The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel by Georgie Blalock


For More on Princess Margaret see:




99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

Review: Fire Season: Field Notes of a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors


Thanks to Words and Peace for alerting me to this book.

My Interest

Years ago my great uncle, artist Edwin Fulwider, suggested forest service fire watcher as a possible job for me. I was happy in my own company, preferred quiet, and could cope with isolation. I even looked into it. Alas, it never happened, but I’ve had the indoor equivalent most of my life: solo librarian jobs.

The Story

A man, who seems very like the fabled soulmate I’ve searched for most of my life, ditches his job with the Wall Street Journal (a tough call, but I understand it) to spend about 1/3 of his work year in a fire tower in a national forest. (His wife is so on board with this, she goes to nursing school so she can be the principal breadwinner and even lets him take the dog with him on his fire-watching stints.) Interweaving personal narrative and fire or forest service history, Connors tells a fascinating tale of life in the forest with a segue into his “Where I Was When the Towers Went Down” memory, now seemingly mandatory in any nonfiction story written by anyone in Manhattan that tragic day. I’m not belittling his experience for I understand that moment is seared on the memory of anyone there that day.  I just had a problem incorporating it into this book. True, his New York life was part of the book, but I felt the long foray into 9/11 was a bit forced and very jarring compared to the rest of his big city life memories.

My Thoughts

Aside from the odd clash of the 9/11 story’s inclusions, and truthfully even with it, this book brings the reader into the forest and up that tower. Connor’s prose and the reader’s excellent audiobook performance, caused me to fall in love with the author and to take a step back –seriously, where has this guy been all my life? And now I must wonder “what if?” —what if Uncle Ed’s job idea for me had come to fruition? No matter, I truly enjoyed every word of this book even with my small doubts about that one memory.

This book will be a classic of nature writing–I’m sure of it.

Fire Season: Field Notes of a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors

If you enjoy nonfiction nature writing check out this book:


Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook. My review is here.

Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes: What I LOVE to Pack For Big Boys


Years ago, my son received some sort of a Christmas shoebox gift in Ukraine. We do not know if it was from Samaritan’s Purse as there are other groups who do this sort of thing all over the world.  Anyway, that is why I love doing shoeboxes. That and the fact that it is one-on-one help to a child.


This box (above) has a backpack, small water bottle, pencil bag with full school supplies, notebook, coloring book, soap (not shown) in soapbox, wallet, watch, backpack “sushi” stuffie that clips on, ball, Hot Wheels (not shown), shorts, shirt, underwear, big washcloth, and more.

If you’ve read my shoebox posts in the past, you know that Toddler and Big Kid boxes are the ones most in need. Often I hear people wonder what to send big boys like it is a huge mystery! Since I raised a guy who loves to draw and loves art (and he loves the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, too!) Keeping in mind that a soccer ball isn’t the be-all-end-all for every boy or girl on the planet, (though I send many because they are fun!) here are some of my favorite things to send:

Tool Box: One popular idea in the shoebox community is to collect all the Harbor Freight freebies and start a toolbox for a boy. Add in a calculator, geometry set, work gloves, assortment of nails/screws/etc, nail apron and school supplies. You can even pack it in a Dollar Tree plastic toolbox if you like–they are accepted! I include a  “vice-grip” style wrench, too. I understand Menard’s does freebies like this too. While I OPPOSE sending kitchen stuff to girls, I agree with sending boys tools–both as boys’ “craft kits” or as a help in starting a career or because guys need stuff like this.

[I disagree with kitchen stuff because girls are forced into marriage too often–they don’t need to be ready to set up housekeeping to help their parents make that decision. Plus girls are already doing the cooking, cleaning, and childcare. Too many don’t get to “play house” or dream of a romantic life with a man they love in most cultures.]

Scientific Calculator and Geometry Set: I started sending these this year to 4 boys and 4 girls and will expand each year until every big kid box gets them. I want to see girls educated to reach their potential, but it is much more likely for a boy to be sent on to secondary school. Having the right tools lets him go farther. We all hope that a better-  educated man is a more generous and decent man to his future wife and children. [Sorry, I do not have a photo of a boy box with these included.]

Art supplies: Watercolors, colored pencils, notebook or sketch pad, geometry set, grown-up coloring books, how-to-draw books.

Sudoku books. The diagrams show how to play–no English needed.

Wallets and credit card-sized inspirational “cards”–such as The Lord’s Prayer or non-religious, but uplifting sentiments.

High-quality travel games with picture directions. Dominoes, checkers, chess, etc. This year I found very nice quality domino sets in a vinyl storage case at my independent dollar store. Mini Etch-e-sketch is good, too as are regular old decks of cards (I do not send “Casino” branded ones).

Big, heavy washcloth. Those cheap packs you buy everywhere do not clean real dirt from hard, physical labor. Also, in many African countries, young men may go away to work and live in a laborer’s hostel. They need things that last. I watch clearance at TJ Maxx, Marshall’s and others for these.

Underwear. I put underwear in every box. It is about dignity.

Flip flops or “slides” or sneakers. Under men’s size 8.

High-quality water bottles. Skip the ones at Dollar Tree. [Dollar Tree has lots of EXCELLENT products, too, but the water bottles are poor quality].

Envelopes: I put one or two envelopes in the notebook. Some places you still write an actual letter to apply for a job.  Paper of all types can be very expensive.

Soccer Ball and pump and extra needle. I look for the ones that have a small hose-like attachment for the pump that can then do bike tires, too. That alone can make a few cents here and there for the boy in rural areas, especially.

Shorts and Shirt or Light Jacket.  Keep to boys sizes or, at most, a man’s small. Puberty tends to hit around 14 in less-developed nations.


Mini Skateboards: These keep my son occupied for hours! Dollar Tree has them, but I skip those with skulls as decorations. You can change the wheels and some have stickers to use in “customizing” them.

Sports Trading Cards Especially for soccer, but any sport is fun.

Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars Always popular.


Backpack: Either very lightweight, folding/travel type or a “sting” backpack–all are useful.

Watch: A decent kids watch. Something durable but that looks grown-up.


Small stuffie: A found a lot of Shopkins-like tacos this year (see the photo at the top of the post). I sent a few of those in big boy boxes. Things like that can be fun and not as embarrassing as a Teddy might be. Some small stuffies start life as Christmas tree ornaments. I clip off the “hanger”. “Yukon Cornelius” from the Rudolph t.v. special was a fun choice for one box (see below) and a Bengal’s football stuffie made a nice addition to a themed box (below).

Don’t be afraid to add things YOUR son or grandson likes–yes, they like stuff other than video games! Do a box like the one above for a favorite team–I put a photo of the team on the inside of the lid and told in my note that it was a local team.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes





  1. Copper Beech: A Novel by Maeve Binchy. The title brings to mind copper-colored Autumn leaves. I’ve read and enjoyed most of her books.




2.  Walking With Henry: The Life of Henry David Thoreau. Although a children’s book, this is an excellent Autumnal read for any age. (Hint: The whole series is lovely).



3. At the Edge of the Orchard: A Novel by Tracy Chevalier. While I despised one character in this story, the tale of apples and orchards is pure Autumn! My review is here.




4. Southern Living Soups, Stews and Chilis: Comfort Food in a Bowl Fall eating at its best! [I’ve chosen this to represent all such cookbooks. I do not own this one]. I could have chosen a Crock-pot cookbook or a bread book or even a hot drinks cookbook.




5. Game-Day Fare: Over 240 Recipes. The other type of Fall food–tailgating food! [Again, I’ve chosen this one to represent all such cookbooks. I do not own this one, either]. My alma mater could certainly tailgate, even if they couldn’t win a football game most years. Indiana University has always done much better in basketball season.



6. NFL Century and The College Football Book. What comes to mind in Fall? Football! Including Lucy always tricking Charlie Brown! [I don’t own either of these]. There aren’t many marching band books–I’d love those instead.



7.  It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving. We grow up with these shows, don’t we? I was in the original generation to watch them! They are part of every Fall of my life. I’ve picked the book versions for this post since many families have them as well as copies of the shows.



8.  Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. Of course, we in the USA celebrate our Thanksgiving Day in late November–but it is still definitely Fall.  You can read my review here.




9. Top-Down Sweaters. Fall is “Sweater Weather.” This choice intrigues me. I’ve only knit sweaters starting with the ribbing–the bottom. I could have chosen sock knitting patterns or scarf patterns or maybe a book of odd ways to tie-a-scarf diagrams.



10. Death By Pumpkin Spice by Alex Erickson. Unless the product is topped with cream cheese and real butter frosting, I don’t really care one way or the other about PPS. I don’t even drink coffee, let alone do so in a sweater with an unnecessary scarf tied in a weird fashion that requires diagrams! This book about sums it up for me. I might even read it!



Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!



And One Song…

Nonfiction November: Fiction to Nonfiction Book Pairings


This week in nonfiction November, aka #NonficNov

Week 2: (Nov. 4 to 8) – Book Pairing (Sarah of Sarah’s Book Shelves): This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story. [Doing Dewey]

My Post

I supposed because I’m a lifelong nonfiction reader who is also a librarian, book pairing is just a natural thing to me. So, here are a few that have come to mind. Since I am picking books as I go and do not plan my reading, here are some that easily came to mind instead of one that goes with this week’s book.

A note on biographies:

I wanted to skip pairing biographies with biographical fiction if possible. I read and enjoy lots of historical fiction based on real people.


1. Hitler’s Forgotten Children and Some Named Eva: A Novel

The Lebensborn is a group around which mythology has grown. Born to increase the “stock” of pure Aryan children or stolen from parents in occupied territories due to their very Aryan traits, these children were to be raised to fanatically support Hitler. You can read more about both books here.


2. London 1945 and Girls of Slender Means [a Novel]

Muriel Spark’s Girls of Slender Means [links to my review]had a meager existence at the May of Teck Club, but then so did everyone in London in 1945. I own and have read selections from, London 1945: Life in the Debris of War.


3. Pearls and Pinstripes… and Biglaw: A Novel

Not an exact date/era match, but a “You’ve come a long way baby to get where you’ve got to today” pairing. Elizabeth Dole faced a very different law firm world in 1964 than that of fictional Mackenzie Corbett does at a modern-day Manhattan white-shoe law firm. You can read more about both books here.


4. I Don’t Know How She Does It and I KNOW How She Does it: A Novel



Okay, I couldn’t resist this one! Dead obvious, but fun. Both are good reads. You can read about I KNOW How here and, if you haven’t read I Don’t Know How She Does It I highly recommend it.


5. Factory Girls and River of Stars: A Novel


Young people flee China’s rural villages to make money in factories. Factory Girls tells the real story of living and working in China’s factories while River of Stars tells the story of a factory girl and the consequences of her affair with her much older factory manager. You can read about Factory Girls here or about River of Stars here.


6. A World Elsewhere and Women in the Castle: A Novel



In both stories, the women must cope with the end of the war and the approach Soviet troops who were determined to rape and pillage everyone and everywhere possible. You can read about both books here.


7. A Boat A Whale & A Walrus and Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel


Both are about great palates, great food, great cooking, great restaurant dinners. You can read more about both books here.


8. Circus at the Edge of the Earth and Water for Elephants


Read more about the Circus at the Edge of the Earth [Amazon link–I do not make money off your click] and Water for Elephants I highly recommend both.


9. The Women Who Wrote The War and The Race for Paris: A Novel


There are fictionalized accounts of Martha Gelhorn’s life with Hemmingway, but Race for Paris has fictionalized correspondents so this is not a biography to fictionalized biography match-up. I have read and enjoyed Women Who Wrote the War, but like a few others on this list, the review was on my old blog. Here is the link on Amazon: Women Who Wrote The War. You can read about Race For Paris here.


10. Havana Real and Next Year in Havana: A Novel



In the novel, a granddaughter goes to Cuba in the present day. Havana Real is now a few years old but still paints a reasonable portrait of the city at the end of Fidel’s days and looking forward to today. You can read more about Havana Real here or Next Year in Havana here.

Six Degrees of Separation: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


I’m Lisa and I’m an Alice-hater. There, I’ve said it. Weight of the world off my shoulders. So, that makes this month’s chain of 6 Degrees of Separation books just a bit more interesting, wouldn’t you say? bwahahaha!


Brief history lesson before we start


Prince Leopold, the youngest and hemophiliac son of Queen Victoria, named his daughter “Alice” for Alice Liddell who inspired Alice’s Adventures–she was the daughter of Lewis Carroll’s friend, you see. If I remember correctly, Princess Alice was the longest-lived of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren and one of the longest-lived British royals. Her brother was the Nazi Uncle no one wants to remember today, Charles Edward. She was known for going to her winter home by banana boat! Her husband was the most forgettable Governor-General in Canada’s history, though her relatives (her mother’s family) included the Dutch Royal Family, whom Alice took in at Rideau Hall in Canada when they initially fled the Nazis after the invasion of the Netherlands. Her memoirs are interesting, but sadly reflect the racism and phobias of their time (no mention is made of her father’s hemophilia). There. I’ve redeemed my dislike of this month’s book by educating everyone! [And, that sums up my interest in Alice’s Adventures and most things Lewis Carroll.]

I expect my chain will be about as odd as tiresome little Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were to me.


My Chain

  1. The Beatles Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds period

True, these are movies and albums, not books, but they ARE what first comes to my mind when I hear of the dreaded Alice. Both the song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and I Am the Walrus make me think they come straight from the dreaded Alice.

2. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf



My brain next brought up drinking the Kool-Aid, albeit not in Guyana with Jim Jones. Instead, I thought of the original Kool-Aid–Tom Wolfe’s book telling the tale of a grown-up adventure made psychedelic by using the drug LSD. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, bratty little Alice! (I have only read excerpts from this book.)

Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf


3. On The Road by Jack Kerouac



Yes, I know, this is not THE version of the book. But the cover was the coolest.

That groovy trip in the Patridge-family bus’s even cooler cousin-bus brought to mind THE road trip that inspired nearly all trippin’ road trips–On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I think Lewis Carroll would have liked this book. (I’ve only read excerpts). They didn’t even have Dorritos back then and nobody said “Dude….” so he has to be a great storyteller. It has since earned a reputation as one of the original pieces of radical or “Beat” literature. Beat that, hair-band girl Alice.

You can listen to it here so maybe I’ll finish it eventually.

4.  The Universe of Peter Max by Peter Max


All of this groovy stuff, road trips, LSD, make love not war, brought to mind Peter Max’s bright works could be pulled straight from ever-loathed Aliceland. This is the best-looking book of his art I could find. (I have not seen it).

The Universe of Peter Max by Peter Max

5. A Thurber Carnival by James Thurber


Whiplash, right? You are lost now, I’m sure. The Beatles, beatniks, drugs, psychedelic road trips–ok. But James Thurber? What? Well folks, according to ever-reliable Wikipedia, Thurber’s phenomenal creativity may have owed something to a syndrome that caused hallucinations! So, no off-brand mushrooms or strange green plants or funky kool-aid and Doritos needed for him to be creative and imagine worlds icky-Alice couldn’t even fathom! tapocketapocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa at you Alice!


6. Tommy a Rock Opera and Me: Elton John by Elton John


What could be more vivid than Elton in the early 70s? Vivid imagination? Check. Vivid Scenes created [albeit in music]? Check. Vivid clothing and glasses? Check. Vivid personality? Double-check. Like the Beatles albums and films I started with, Tommy brings me to detestable Alice every time. And who could be more vivid a personality than Elton, at least now that Liberace is dead? I haven’t yet read Me, his new memoir, aside from the parts the Daily Mail serialized, but it is well-know that Elton’s creativity was long enhanced by drugs. His imagination, though, has proved it can still churn out amazing song-stories even when he is still in full Rehab Grad mode.

Bringing this trip full circle

What’s more, Elton John is friends with today’s Royal Family–he was the singer at Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday party and then, of course, and at Diana’s funeral.  Well, it so happens the Queen is old Prince Leopold’s great-great-niece (Prince Philip is his gr-gr-nephew, but thru a different sibling of Leo’s–there were nine children in Victoria’s family) AND Leopold’s daughter, is not only some version of cousin but is Queen Elizabeth’s great-aunt-by-marriage because she married Queen Mary’s brother, Algy (Prince Alexander George of Teck).

So, there. Back where we started with Prince Leopold naming his daughter for the Alice who inspired it all.

Me: Elton John by Elton John



Kaleidescope Designs and kalediescopes


If I had real money, I’d collect kaleidoscopes! They remind me of ever-annoying Alice in a good way! Maybe Disney put kaleidoscope images in the cartoon? (I saw it in the 1960s and allowed it home from the library ONCE for my kids, so don’t really remember much) I actually own the model kaleidoscope shown here. It’s beautiful. It kept my son happy for nearly an hour! A record until video games.

A final note:

Disney’s dreadful Alice brought us memorable cartoon figures including the Chesire Cat. Disney’s Chesire Cat always brings to mind Theodore Roosevelt. See what you think:


See? No questions please on the source of my creativity or boost to same! I’m not into any of that, thanks.


Want to join the fun? Go read the rules at Books are My Favorite and Best. Next month’s chains will start with




Review: The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper


My Interest

This book started the chain in the book meme Six Degrees of Separation a few months back and I thought then that it sounded interesting. I also have a friend who lives in a rural community in the Australian state in which the story is set and that is affected in turns by draught and truly town-wrecking floods. So when I was going through my TBR looking for available audiobooks a few weeks back, I requested this one. I’m so glad I did!



The Story

A grizzly murder brings up old secrets forcing local boy-turned-federal-agent Aaron Falk to return home to investigate. Oh, and that old murder? Falk was suspect for a while! You know how small towns work–no one has forgotten. Was the husband jealous? Did he come home to something unexpected? Was it the girl’s father? Was she being abused? This story moves at the speed of whitewater rapids! Is a gun more dangerous than a cigarette lighter? So many who-what-where-why’s in this one!

My Thoughts

My first thought was the sheer amazement that this multi-layered story was being told superbly by a debut author! With a rolling style of storytelling reminiscent to me of the flow of Gosford Park or Downton Abbey (i.e. Julian Fellowes), the story’s pace never slows, which occasionally gave me trouble as I was driving and listening to the audio version.

I especially liked the moments when Aaron was looking back at his teenage self and circle of friends. Hindsight may not make 20/20 vision, but it helps. His thought that “what if Ellie was abused–why didn’t I see it then,” shows as much about the self-centered nature of the teenage years as it does about the maturity of middle life. I also was really “got” by him putting down the shotgun, unable to kill rabbits (which are a menace in Australia and must be culled).  This is a man who has learned a few lessons. Then there was the fact that he made mistakes. Those make the story much more interesting anytime. For what it’s worth, I had a giggle at the small town cop doing a firearms inspection and telling the man he was “letting him off” even though when there was clearly no violation–so small town!

Overall I was left breathless from the pace and wanting to move directly on to a second Aaron Falk book. Thrillers are not my typical reading. Chief Inspector Gamach, Anne Perry’s William Monk, and even the Ladies of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency are my “breaks” throughout my commuting year. I’m happy to have a new author to go to when I need a break.

Now to quit giggling over “Pokies” for online poker players and “fireys” for firemen.

The Dry: A Novel by Jane Harper, was recently made into a movie.


Take the 5 Item Challenge for Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Packing!


Sorry, I’ve never edited a photo before!

You may not know that there is a fast, inexpensive way that you can help! Take the 5 Item Challenge. Go through your house and find 5 new (meaning not used; not “fresh from the store” is fine) items that are appropriate for Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

  • Remember: Every box needs that WOW item! That really cool toy or pair of sneakers or soccer ball or ___________ [something that makes the kids say “Wow” when they open their box]. Hint: Dollar Tree sells almost none of these.
  • By starting a box or boxes with the 5 item challenge, you can afford a much nicer WOW item and shipping cost of $9.00 [$14.00 if you want to pay for the evangelism materials for The Greatest Journey course the child may elect to attend. They are not required to attend it to receive a box.]

There are photos of sample shoebox contents at the bottom of this post and in other Operation Christmas Child posts here on this blog.

Here are some ideas of what is acceptable:

 Logo-ed items that I consider acceptable:

  •               Water Bottles
  •               Drawstring backpacks
  •               High-quality canvas tote bags
  •               Ball caps
  •               Golf towels
  •               Notepads, pens, pencils
  •               Corporate toys like stress balls or slinkies or other
  •               Thin fleece throws
  •               Winter caps
  •               Lanyards

Other items you may have:

  •               That pair of socks in the pack that matches nothing you wear
  •               T-shirts not bigger than Men’s size Small
  •               Sunhats that fold
  •               Unopened decks of cards (No “Casino” markings)
  •               Pencil bags
  •               Cosmetic bags
  •               Small durable food containers
  •               Small decorative tin
  •               Travel leftovers—hotel soaps, sewing kits, combs
  •               Partial packs of pens, paper, pencils, index cards, colored pencils, gel pens, markers, highlighters
  •               Spiral notebooks (70 pages not  huge ones), notepads, post-its, journals, Composition Books
  •               Leftover pretty blank note cards
  •               Stuffed animals/dolls (please try not to pick ones bigger than a man’s hand though bigger ones are good for toddler boxes)
  •               “Duplicate” Barbies, darker skin tones preferred[Please no naked underneath the clothes Barbies—they upset many cultures. The ones with the painted-on swimsuit are great]
  •               Unloved or duplicate toys
  •               Unloved Happy Meal toys
  •               Cute key chains or similar size goodies
  •               Kids [never worn] year-round weight practical clothing [no cammo]
  •               Small toys that are not war-related
  •               Travel-sized games
  •               Hot Wheel/Matchbox
  •               Lego-type mini-figures or extra legos
  •               Grown-up Coloring books or Little kids coloring books with colored pencils (put crayon boxes in a ziplock bag in case they melt)
  •               Treat bag or VBS prize leftovers for “extras”
  •               Toddler dishes/silverware
  •               Baby blankets (for toddlers)
  •               Unopened needlework kits—make sure it has the needle.
  •               Other unopened or “homemade” craft kits that do not require glue [check to make sure everything necessary is included–latch-hook kits often need a hook]
  •               Tennis balls or similar
  •               Small household tools like wrenches, screwdrivers, bungee cords
  •               Men’s wallets or small ladies change purses
  •                Solar or scientific calculators (give extra batteries)
  •                Geometry tool set
  •               Plastic shoeboxes or women’s regular-sized cardboard shoeboxes (Not boot style boxes)
  •               Tween/teen appropriate costume jewelry
  •               Hair barrettes or hair bands
  •               Toothbrushes (toothpaste is not allowed), dental floss
  •               Band-aids
  •               Washcloths [please not microfiber cleaning cloths] or hand towels
  •               Sunglasses
  •               Pretty scented soaps for big girls
  •               Baseball, basketball or soccer cards [NO POKEMAN]

These are suggestions! I’m positive as good Americans we have stuff in every home that isn’t needed and won’t be missed that WILL be wonderful for the shoebox recipient.

Finish Your Box

First, read How To Pack a Shoebox Here

Remember, all lists are SUGGESTIONS--there are no required items except love.

Now pick a gender and an age group. Ages 2 to 4 and 10 to 14 are the most needed, but ages 5 to 9 boxes are great fun to do, too.

Do Not Include

Candy; toothpaste; gum; used or damaged items; war-related items such as toy guns, knives, or military figures; chocolate or food; seeds; fruit rolls or other fruit snacks; drink mixes (powdered or liquid); liquids or lotions; medications or vitamins; breakable items such as snow globes or glass containers; aerosol cans.

Please remove all packaging!! Keep pracitcal packaging like crayon boxes, or packaging with use instructions.

What Type Shoebox: You can use any standard shoebox–plastic or cardboard (approximately women’s size 7 is preferred, but any is accepted. Please don’t use a huge boot box–remember all children see all the boxes handed out. If you got a sandal box and your buddy got a work boot box… get the idea, right?). You can wrap your box, but wrap the lid separately. If you buy a decorated box put clear Contact paper over it so the tape does not destroy the design. You can decorate the inside of the lid. Secure the lid ONLY with rubber bands–use the whole package of rubber bands if necessary, but only rubber bands. Fill the box as full as possible with QUALITY items. Party favor-quality toys are ok for “extra” but should be just that–extra.

Write a note: You may choose to write a short note to the child and/or put in a family photo. I do not suggest giving your last name or address. Remember, do not give out a work e-mail address–the can be dangerous. Give a personal email if you want any contact. I personally do not do this. I was in Peace Corps and I STILL, 30 years later, get requests for money. I’m not cold, just realistic.

Pray for the child, the family, the village, the church that will be impacted by this shoebox.

Finally, pay your shipping and print your label (or print the generic label and put $9 in the very top of the box (checks are fine, but they can take ages to clear–I suggest cash or money order if you choose this option). These links are in How To Pack a Shoebox Here.


       Here are a few sample boxes so you can get the idea.

You can then add your Wow item and any items you want to purchase to the box and drop it off at a local site. Find Your Shoebox Drop Off Location Here.