Review: The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey



Josephine Tey’s murder mysteries are still so popular that she has been made into a fictional sleuth! While reading book blogs a few weeks back I fell upon a post that reviewed or included a Tey mystery and said to myself: “That’s just what I need–a Josephine Tey.” I looked up the e-audio versions offered by my library and downloaded The Man in the Queue immediately started listening.

The first jolt was shocking. Of course books that old use words that are not P.C., but not knowing it was coming, its use shocked me. The thing is, like with the N-word, people used ethnic slurs fully knowing they were slurs–it was just more acceptable to slur ethnic groups back in the day. I stopped and went to Amazon to the Kindle preview. It stopped before the first utterance. Smart marketing. I dug further–this time in Amazon UK’s preview. There it was! I tried search inside the book and got 36 results!!!! I can go with one or two instances, but 36 puts me off my game. I lost interest.

Yet, here is what happens in the book: A man is killed in the line for standing-room-only entrance to the theater on last night of hugely popular performance.  Killed, will a small silver dagger from a Southern European country often mentioned with either the Pope of the Mafia–killed possibly with the left hand. A beautiful, left-handed actress is in the show. Inspector Alan Grant is soon on the job!

You can see what should have been a great murder mystery! I went back to the previews and dug deeper. The American one had been “updated” [and was obviously NOT the version I got on audio]. Even a chapter name in the British [original] version was only the ethnic slur. It is true that sensitivity to words varies from country to country, culture to culture. America IS the obvious epicenter of all things P.C. and now, also of all things woke.

As a librarian I defend books from censorship. I caution readers not to throw out a good book because of one or two utterances of a now objectionable term. But 36 really is a bit much. I’m always perplexed. Should the book be updated with a footnote explaining it? I am opposed to changing an author’s work without any explanation. A situation like this though seems to merit intervention–but with an explanation.

What’s your opinion? Am I too thin-skinned? Is it ok to update–with a note? Without? Obviously this IS a book that has an updated version. Tey is popular enough still to  now be a fictional character herself. It was acceptable at the time to use that word, though even in 1929 36 instances is pushing things.


My Reviews of Other Josephine Tey books

Daughter of Time and Brat Farrar




Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Fall 2020

I was going to skip this week. I won’t be getting much reading done for this year–until late August at least. I’m doing a graduate certificate so that takes up nearly all of my reading time right now. But, I do listen when I’m tired or out in the car. I commute one day a week now to my office. At some point that will go back to five days though I wish I could work at home forever! So, here are some of the new fall books that have caught my eye.


511IMep1soL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_ You can probably read most of this one in the Daily Mail excerpts. I did not yet find an American release date so I may have to pay to get it from the U.K.  The Windsor Diaries, 1940 -45 by Alathea Fitzalan Howard. (Link is to Amazon U.K. You can click on the Daily Mail link to read the excerpts.)  [Why is Princess Margaret holding her poor little dog down with what appears to be a gardening fork???]


I’ve enjoyed a few of Jane Harper’s books recently, so I’m sure I will get around to listening to this one, too.  Amazon says February 2021, but Goodreads says September 22, 2020.  The Survivors by Jane Harper.


I’ve read most of Anne Perry’s William Monk series and two books in her World War I series. This one sounds really good, but I need to start with book one, which has been out for a while. Death in Focus is book one, A Question of Betrayal: An Elana Standish Novel is book two in the series by Anne Perry.


How to Raise an Elephant will be part of my celebration of finishing my first semester! It comes out in November when my COVID-scheduled classes are over until January. I only listen to Alexander McCall Smith’s series. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is the one I love most. After that is 44 Scotland Street. I’ve only read the first of the Isabel Dalhousie series. I’ve also enjoyed a few of his stand-alone novels.


I love Fannie Flagg’s books. I still haven’t read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe though. So, maybe I’ll read it first and then the new Wonder Boy of the Whistle Stop.



I really liked Love & Gelato–a sweet story for any age reader. I have high hopes for this one. Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch.


I love the sound of this story so much! A gal-pal road trip of sorts. Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce. Having loved her Music Shop and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I’m sure I’ll love this one too!


I’m hoping this will be my Christmas break reading. I get the days from Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day off as part of our benefits. It does not impact my vacation time. It is extra. I can’t think of a better than to do than read about royalty! Empress Alexandra by Melanie Clegg.


Ingrid Seward is editor of Majesty Magazine and the widow of Prince Charles’ Gordonstoun classmate, reporter and royal biographer Ross Benson. His book on Charles is one of the best. Her books are not usually very hard-hitting. This book, as excerpted in the Daily Mail recently dredgs up the 70 year old question of whether Prince Philip did or did not sleep with his many beautiful lady friends. His lame excuse is always that he had a detective with him. So did Charles, Anne, Andrew and other royals. Philip is one of my favorites, though, so I will buy and read it. Prince Philip Revealed by Ingrid Seward.  First Excerpt in the Daily Mail, Second Excerpt,  Last Excerpt.



This is an interesting idea. Churchill’s daughter Sarah, Anna Roosevelt and Kathleen Harriman, daughter of Averell Harriman each accompanied her father to the Yalta Conference (Averell was by then having an affair, with Churchill’s blessing, with his son Randolph Churchill’s wife. In their later years the two would marry and Bill Clinton appointed Pamela Harriman Ambassador to France). Anna Roosevelt had to help with her nearly dead father, FDR, and his lapses of memory and his times of “spacing out” as we’d now say. He was nearly on his death bed at that conference and it showed. This should be an interesting read. Sarah Churchill had made an “unfortunate” marriage to an older, Jewish comedian and actor. She was by then over the marriage and serving in the women’s branch of the RAF. I will be buying it for my Roosevelt and Churchill collections. The Daughters of Yalta by Catherine Grace Katz.

Want to join in the Top Ten Tuesday Fun?


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


Mango Book Tag!



Thank you to Zezee With Books for introducing me to this book tag created by Nandini at Novels and Nebulas.


Raw Mango: Your most anticipated release

My two favorite series update in the Fall

I’m listening to All The Devils Are Here right now when I can make time.

How to Raise an Elephant comes out in late November.


Banganapalli: Longest book on your TBR


The Last Million: Europe’s Displaced Persons From World War II to the Cold War by David Nasaw.


I’ll be honest–I didn’t go through the 1,000 plus books on my Goodreads TBR to find the longest! I just added this one and, by today’s standards, it incredibly long–over 650 pages.


Alphonso: A hyped book you love



Totapuri: A book with a green or yellow cover

Ok, I know! But I couldn’t decide! One with green, one with yellow, one with both!

Neelam: A rainy day book recommendation



Mango Pickle: A book that makes you feel nostalgic

Mango Pickle! Love it with rice, and beef stir-fried with only garlic! Delicious!




Mango Kulfi: A feel-good book recommendation



Consider yourself tagged if you love mangoes, want to eat a mango, Have never eaten a mango, don’t know what a mango is, hate mangoes, have a pet called “Mango,” are thinking about mangoes! (Nandini)




Operation Christmas Child: My “Musts”


My shoeboxes are nearly done. I’ve been putting photos of a lot of them on my Instragram. I do this to help people see what a shoebox can bring a child. Yes, I know that clothes or shoes may not fit. Guess what? They don’t necessarily shop like we do. They can go to the local market and swap or resell it for something that does fit. That brings me to my first MUST

The WOW item!

I’ve written before of how this did not seem like a big deal to me until I spent a week at the Processing Center in Boone, North Carolina [a trip well worth the motion-sickness on those mountain roads!

Suggested WOW items by age that I like to pack:

Ages 2 to 4

  • A small fleece blanket of their own. Cosleeping is only a great thing if you are upper-middle class and first world. The rest HAVE to do it.
  • A cute toddler backpack.
  • A big stuffie to hug often with it’s own blanket.
  • A soft baby doll.

Ages 5 to 8 Girls

  • A Barbie in a darker skin-tone. My boxes have never gone to a country with a predominately white population. In the USA kids are now very multicultural, but that is not true everywhere. Children need dolls that look somewhat like them. I prefer these so they are not naked. I get extra clothes on clearance or at Dollar Tree. I do NOT buy Dollar Tree’s “fake Barbie’s” they break.
  • A Playmobil carry case set–one with at least one dark-skinned character.
  • An age-appropriate soccer ball with pictures of women’s soccer teams.
  • Every girl this age gets a jump-rope–not as the wow, just a mandatory item.

Ages 5 to 9 Boys


  • A medium-sized Lego kit [age appropriate & found on sale or clearance)
  • A Playmobil Carry Case Set–especially the soccer one [even though it does not have an action figures that are non-white]
  • A large superhero action figure [that’s boy-marketing for “doll” the size of Babrie]. Great Christmas toy clearance item.
  • A soccer ball, pump & extra pump needle. [Buy these in a box of 24 for $24 at Dollar Tree. Do NOT pay normal retail–especially at Target who seem to think there’s a gold-plated! )
  • One of the cool new games I mentioned in last week’s shoebox post.
  • A packable backpack. (I get these on Clearance each summer at Walmart).

Girls 10 to 14

This is a really hard one because as of this year I have committed to supplying a “period pack” in each girl’s box in this age range. I also try to provide a scientific calculator and geometry set–after last year’s overspending [I’m not a math person] I get these at dollar stores. Still, I try to provide a WOW that isn’t about hygiene! [Period pack contains, 1 overnight pad [reuseable–buy them on Amazon, 2 regular, 1 panty liner, 1 extra underpants, 1 dark washcloth, safety pins [to help them stay in place better] all in a wet-bag.]

  • A pretty notebook or journal
  • A cute small stuffie
  • A fleece blanket
  • A craft kit such as those inexpensive “make a no-sew quilt” kits [hint: Shop after Christmas Clearance!] or hooked rug or whatever. Cross-stitch kits are another good one.
  • Though small, nice [cosmetic jewlery] earrings, necklaces, sunglasses are always fun. So, too, are fake-fake nails. That is, the kind you buy at the drugstore or Walmart–not at a nail place.
  • A nice, cute, small purse.
  •  A packable backpack. (I get these on Clearance each summer at Walmart).
  • One of the cool new games I mentioned in last week’s shoebox post.
  • A soccer ball–I send the “girliest” ones I can find so they boys may not want to take it away!


A lot of folks like to do toolboxes for boys. I go back and forth on this. I’ve never had a Dollar Tree screwdriver last more than a few jobs. If I remembered to look after Christmas for clearance toolsets then, then I might grab it. Tools are a great thing. And, they are not the same as what I call “Bridal Shower” boxes for girls this age. No girl in any of these countries needs things like plastic spoons or a one-egg cast iron skillet! They’ve likely been cooking since they were about 4. Cookie cutters? Who has an oven? Boys tools though can be a help. But I suspect these are mainly given due to no idea what older boys like and because Harbor Frieght does monthly freebies–no harm in that! One of their tarps could be a real God-send for a family–honestly. But I don’t like to see these sent with nothing for the “boy”–not just the young man. Where are the school supplies? Art supplies [though do not try to send pastel crayons–they melt into goo].

  • A soccer ball is the default for boys of any age. My kid wasn’t big on sports though. I suspect there are others like that in the world, but this year I sent a boatload of them! I do not buy them wholesale. I tried that. It felt too impersonal. I pick each one out of what is on clearance.
  • A Fleece blanket
  • A hoodie–I keep reading how folks need something appropriate for “their” winter. When you see folks in Malawi in puffy winter coats that is a fashion statement–a comment on their success, their status. A hoodie is about as much as anyone needs. Thankfully a lot of new fabrics are far less bulky. You can also put it in a gallon ziplock bag and sit on it to get the air out. Flattens it nicely!
  • High-quality flip-flops. Think Kohls or a teen store. With leather straps. My 25 year old offered to buy one such pair from me. I do not send bigger than men’s size 8/9. [More on this in a later post]
  • Sneakers. I do not send socks unless I send shoes. What’s the point? People love to stuff in cheap no-show socks from Dollar Tree. Really? To wear with what??
  • Nice basic tools
  • Advanced drawing book. Hobby Lobby or Michael’s clearance or Half-Priced books are great sources.
  • A great, discounted, Lego set for older ages. I got a super sports car one this year!
  • A replica international soccer jersey–if you travel, especially in a World Cup year, this woudl be good.

A Complete outfit with underpants

I shop Walmart, Target, TJ Maxx, Old Navy, Marshall’s, Gabes, and anywhere else. I have a friend who uses her Kohl’s cash for me for some of my girls’ dresses. There is a good variety. I have also picked up Pass-for-new or tags-still-on new at yard sales. My price point for a very nice, brand new dress is $5–that is the MOST I’ll pay. Usually, I get $1 to $3. Old Navy was a dream this year! Lots of dresses under $2 on clearance and all things my own daughter would have worn–that is the test for me. Shopping year-round makes this possible. There are a zillion Dollar General stores near my home [truly about 20] and we are equal distance from 5 Walmarts! My commute to work adds 3 more!

Everywhere has a warm season. I send clothing for that. A dress or skirt/top for girls, once in a while modest shorts or leggings, but usually a skirt or dress. For boys shorts and a shirt. Two pairs of underpants (more for the oldest girls).

Underpants go down to $1–3 dollars per big pack at Walmart at least once per year. I stock up. Target does the same, but never for $1. It’s not a burden at those prices. I mostly stick to clothes in the “top” size of the age-range so it isn’t hard to remember sizes. Ask friends with kids–did they buy any this year the kid didn’t like? See if they’ll  donate the unworn ones/



Photo: Dollar Tree.com

Unless shoes are the Wow! item.

Full School Supplies

My List

  • 10 Pencils–preferably the gold standard, Dixon Ticonderoga. I shop sales online and in stores. Last week I got many packs of 10 “rainbow” colored D-T’s for $0.75 each. That’s cheaper than Dollar Tree charges for 12! But, many do get pencils from Dollar General’s amazing back to school sale or from Dollar Tree or where ever.
  • 2-4 pens both black/blue. Toddlers may only get one if I run low.
  • 4 good quality cap erasers. I love these from Amazon.
  • Notebook–either normal 8 1/2 x 11 or 5 x 7.
  • Toothbrush [no it isn’t a “school supply, but I just put it in the pencil bag].

1-2 block erasers. This year it was two for big kids. I splurged and bought these (I love them) and the matching rubber bracelets for many of the bigger kids. Sadly, the “matching” pencils bags are poor quality and, like the notepads they do not all match up with the erases. I bought those a few years ago and have not bought them again.

  • Small pencil sharpener
  • Good pencil sharpener–when I can fit it in.
  • 12 Colored pencils
  • Ages 2-4 and 5 to 9 get crayons. I just snagged two cases for next year at $0.10 a box!
  • School scissors
  • This year–fun little erasers from Clearance at Target’s Dollar Spot

Extras if I’ve found them on clearance include: Post-its and highlighters for big kids, red pens, fun erasers, bookmarks, colored gel pens, cute pens, cute little post-its or notepads, rainbow pencils–whatever!

Ages 5 to 9 and 10 to 14 get one of those “How to draw” books from Dollar Tree–they are good!

A Stuffie

It is a rare box that doesn’t get some stuffed animal or some stuffed “thing” to love. My brother and I, my kids and I, my cousin, her kids–we all LOVED our stuffed animals. I get most of these free from donations. I do shop clearance at Dollar General for these and at one Thrift Shop that I know does truly use the disinfectant spray like daycares and hospitals are supposed to use. Any I get “used” are indistinguishable from new. This year these included “squishy” superheroes for big boys. They are too cute! Toddlers may get more than one. I look all year for small ones for big kid boxes–and silly ones that will appeal to big boys. Dollar Tree had little dinosaurs this year and I did a toddler box with them. So cute. Ask friends with kids if they are decluttering. They’ll likely overwhelm you with stuffies for free. Garage/yard sales have given them to me when I explain my purpose.


Toddler dinosaur box with Dollar General small $1 dinosaur stuffies. The cute flip-flops were also from Dollar General I think.

Coloring Book

This is one item I LOVE Ollies for! They have super coloring books for all ages for $0.79 to $1.99 and way nicer adult ones than Dollar Tree has! Ok, the Flinstones color books I got for little kiddos were in Spanish, but so what! Lots of my boxes went to Spanish-speaking countries last year! I look for big, simple illustrations for toddlers. The 5 to 9 age I usually do well at Dollar Tree, too. The adult ones are mostly from Ollies, but I did buy some great Dover Coloring Books car and soccer coloring books this year, too. I splurged and got 4 of each, an extreme sports and a horse coloring book, too. They were full-size, not those tiny ones Dover also makes.

For Toddlers

  • A bowl, cup, fork and spoon. My favorite cup/bowl are at Kroger each summer, but this year they went to Clearance way too early and I only got one or two packs. I found these Pillowfort brand sets at Target. They are very high quality, a little harder to pack, but worth it. Research shows toddlers who get their own servings of food, and do not eat from a parent or sibling’s plate, are better nourished. Every toddler box gets a set. I skip the plate–too hard to pack and so many cultures eat with their hands or a spoon for soup, that the tableware could be skipped.
  • Board Book. Dollar Tree has tons of these.

Wait? What about soap?

That’s a post for another Friday! Collection week is in November. I have a lot of shoebox posts to come this year! I LOVE doing shoeboxes! It’s a passion. I hope some of you will be inspired to even do ONE box this year!


Operation Christmas Child: Best New FUN Items to Pack in 2020


Big Kids: Ages 10 to 14

New To Me On Amazon


This Boggle set is 2.01 x 4.29 x 4.29 inches and weighs 0.8 ounces! It’s perfect for big kid boxes. I will definitely be buying more of these next year. So far, I’ve packed 3 this year–I bought by a friend off my Amazon OCC Wish List.



My kids and I used to play this game on paper. The board game version was pretty large–at least the one from the 1980’s or 1990’s. This version comes in a tight-sealing tin and packs nicely in big kid boxes. I’ve packed two of these bought for my boxes off my Amazon OCC Shoebox Wish List by friends. I hope to send more next year.

Note: This is an age group for which more boxes are always needed. Leave me a comment if you need more packing suggestions.

Middle Kids: Ages 5 to 9

New At Dollar Tree This Year



I LOVED Colorforms as a kid. Back then they came in a box and had a “platform” with the scene surface. Cost cutting has give us packable Colorforms! I’ve bought the “paper dolls” like this at Dollar General before, but this year I found these at Dollar Tree–even some boy-friendly ones! These are a great addition to a Middle Kid [ages 5 to 9] box.

Little LEGO Creator Sets


These little LEGO sets may be small and in packed in a bag, but they deliver BIG fun! I love the popcorn man! I found these in the checkout aisle at Target! I closed my eyes and bought 4! I didn’t even wait for Clearance, something I almost never do! Later I found a Frozen set somewhere else and one other. I’ve already packed them all.  Amazon charges a premium price for these, $10.00. Target’s online price for a Minecraft set is only $4.99 which is what I paid for the popcorn guy. Look around in brick/motor stores for a better deal. I rubber band a ziplock bag to the package for storage.


Not New, but Worth Repeating


Again this year, I sent a few of these. I love these carry case sets–this is soccer set is my favorite. What boy wouldn’t love this in a soccer-crazed country? There are many to choose from and Amazon runs them at around $8 to $10 so keep an eye on sets you like for the best deal. I sent a multi-sport one this year as well as a pony set which even features a person of color enjoying the horse, and a couple of others–1 bought by a friend off my OCC Amazon Wish List. There is even a Bunny set with bunnies and their hutches and the girl who loves them–perfect for blogger Girls In White Dresses (hint, hint, Susan!) I love these. I just wish the company would provide more action figures with different skin tones. My boxes have never gone to a majority-white country so I prefer to send darker skin tones. Walmart carries these, too, even some in the stores.


Little Kids

SPARK Car and Animals Set



Most all of my toddler boxes got 2 cars and many also got 2 animals. I LOVE these! I buy them in a big tube-like container at Walmart (I’ve found them at Ollies, too). About $5 for a tube of 6 well-made toys. I divide them among the boxes.


Not New But These Are Still My Favorite Toddler Toy


Almost all my toddler boxes got a Little Person of color. I buy these at Kroger, but Walmart and Amazon carry them, too. The come individually [how I usually buy them] in 2s or bigger sets. Kroger recently marked them all down so I got a cute Frozen set for one box to witch I added a Frozen storybook from Dollar General–a great source of shoebox items. They have AMAZING clearance sales.


You can still get this cute set at Amazon.

For wonderful posts about childhood memories featuring the classic Fisher Price Little People play sets, visit my friend Susan’s blog: Girls In White Dresses

What About You?

Leave me a comment on cool new stuff you’ve found this year, or favorite items to pack for FUN! I’ll be doing more posts on what I like to pack in terms of practical items, too.  Or, leave me a link to your own shoe box posts! To see more of what I pack visit my Instagram account which features my shoe boxes and the pencil/school supply packs I make for the Operation Christmas Child processing centers to put into under-filled shoe boxes. I do this with The Pencil Granny and Friends Facebook Group.


German Literature Month! November 2020

This year I’ve really enjoyed participating in various reading challenges! Irish Literature, Spanish Literature, literature of women writers in translation–you name it! So, having studied a tiny bit of German, why not do German Literature Month–I mean, it’s their 10th Anniversary! So, I’ll join in to help celebrate.

What I’ve Already Read Translated From German

Inkheart is wonderful–my daughter and I talked about it over a decade after listening to it together. The Swiss Family Robinson was so good–I’m glad I tossed back my brother’s Scholastic version from the 1960s and read the unabridged version. It was wonderful. I honestly cannot remember if I read ALL of All Quiet on the Western Front or just excepts. No matter, I’ve “read it” and won’t be picking it up for this challenge. Did anyone else watch the t.v. version with The Walton’s Richard Thomas (“John-Boy”) in the lead?


What I Might Read

These are the only books written in German and Translated into English that I am aware of owning right now. Given the reality of this year, both are a long shot at best.

A Couple I May Try


The Giraffe’s Neck by Judith Schalansky

Käsebier Takes Berlin by Gabriele Tergit

The Turncoat by Siegfired Lenz–there is a Read Along for this title, the week of November 22–28.


You can read all about the challenge and how it works at Lizzy’s Literary Life. Also go and visit Beauty is a Sleeping Cat--the other host of the challenge. Possibly the best blog title ever!














Review: Murmur of Bees by


My Interest

This book, free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, caught my attention when I was trolling through my Kindle to see what I had in translation. I struck gold for this a Women in Translation Month–appropriate book! I splurged and bought the audio narration and it was well worth it, for this is a longer-than-average book. 470 pages used to be pretty average, but with the change of centuries books just started getting shorter on average.“We walk without looking back, because on this journey, all we care about is our destination.”

“We walk without looking back, because on this journey, all we care about is our destination.”

The Story

Simonopio is found abandoned as an infant, with a cleft palate or other facial disfigurement, and covered in bees. He is taken in by a local land-owning family and raised as their own. Meanwhile, all around them in Mexico revolution is raging and the Spanish ‘flu of 1918 is doing its own damage. Simonopio and the rest of his adopted- Morales family go on with their lives, taking what is dealt out to them.

“The miracle would have been if those arrogant fools with the fate of the country in their hands had listened in time to the voices of the experts. Now it was too late.”

My Thoughts

I laughed at some of the comments about it being too long, with too many characters. We have become a nation of lazy readers! The story is slow–it has an old-world pace to it. I did not find there were too many characters, though, it did take me a while to understand who one of them “was.” There were times when a sort of folklore tale took over and I did nearly quit in that scene. The family saga, though, kept me going–I wanted to know what happened to the family.

I have studied little of Mexican politics, but this revolution was among what I did encounter in college so I was aware of the setting. It is helpful, but not necessary to making sense of the story. This book made me truly aware that Texas and California were once truly part of Mexico. No reason for that to be the case–it just really hit me. Like most Americans today who are not of Mexican heritage. I suppose, Those two huge states, along with neighboring Arizona and, of course, New Mexico, have always been part of the U.S. Woodrow Wilson sent troops down to the boarder during this revolution.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia and translated by Simon Bruni


Top Ten Tuesday: Books for My Younger Self

What a fun topic–am I right?? Who doesn’t love looking at, reading, enjoying books for young people! Here are some of the one’s I’ve found that I’d have loved at a younger age. Some are familiar to readers of this blog, hopefully a few will be surprises.


Toddler/Preschool me

Grumpy Cat


The Elementary School Years me


The Casson Family series by Hilary McKay


The Calpurnia Tate books


The Penderwicks series


The Traveling Cat Chronicles--My Mom would definitely have read this aloud to us


High School Me


I was a royal freak even then, so this would have been a good one.


ANYTHING by Julie Murphy, but especially Dumplin’


College and 20-Something me

I was a Kennedy-freak, too, thanks to my paternal grandmother’s Kennedy library.

I was a political science major.

And studied Russian and East European Studies

And was a political junkie.



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


If  you are interested, here are previous posts on my favorite childhood books:

Top 10 Tuesday: My Favorite Childhood Books

Childhood Memories: The Horse Years Updated



A Few Good Reads for Labor Day

We take so much for granted in this country–even as there is still so much to gain. No real maternity leave. Barely any vacation time. A living wage for many is still a goal. But, we have a massive book of safety regulations. We have workman’s comp and disability. It’s interesting to remember that one of my grandfathers was “labor” and the other “management.” Yet at rare two family gatherings, they would be huddled together in the corner happily talking. My “management” grandfather was nearly killed in an accident in steal mill. He was an electrical engineer with a PhD from Purdue, but trousers caught in a machine are no respector of status. He spent nearly a year in the burn ward of a Gary, Indiana hospital recovering and never went swimming nor wore shorts again. My labor grandfather drove his truck on DDay off the landing craft and onto the beach. He made it home. The next day he went to the trucking company and went back to work.

A Few Books for Labor Day


I’m not sure that the Jungle was the VERY first book to expose unsafe working conditions, scams against immigrants, and impure food–but it did get the attention of Congress and laws were changed. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair–still worth reading today.


I have not read this one, but it covers all the biggies. From the strikes against coal mine owners, to strikes against automakers, to Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers–they are here. A History of America in Ten Strikes by Erik Loomis.


Study Terkel’s other great book, Hard Times talks about the Great Depression. This book, Working, talks about what you’d imagine–working. All day, every day. For a wage.


I have not read this book, but have read tons on the Triangle Fire. We have these martyred women to thank for many of our workplace safety regulations. The Triangle Fire That Changed America by David VonDrehle.


The Woke will tell you this is a novel with a White Savior Complex. Ever wonder how Social Security got started? It started by leaving out farm workers, domestic workers, and Pullman car porters–i.e. black labor. This novel does for American domestic labor–the “Colored girls” of upper class suburbia, the maids of the rich and cleaning women everywhere what the Jungle, another novel, did for the slaughter house workers and industry.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett.


We can all debate the choices made in this book. The truth is, getting by on a minimum wage job is nearly impossible in the big cities. Out in rural American where I live, if you can get a 40 hour a week job with benefits at minimum wage, and have a paid-for car, you can exist. Many do. The Wal-mart workers and the full-time gas station mini mart workers even raise children on that. It isn’t a good life. This book shows how hard it is. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

And One Famous Documentary–Harvest of Shame or why iceberg lettuce is still well worth watching.

Continue reading “A Few Good Reads for Labor Day”


6 Degrees of Separation: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly book meme hosted by Books Are My Best and Favorite. A chain of 6 books is linked somehow–whether to all books or only to the one before it. A common book is given each month with which to start the chain.

My Chain

The obvious first link is the author’s previous First Lady novel, An American Wife, which I loved. It is the fictionalized story of POTUS #43 and his school librarian wife.

My second link is to another fictionalized first lady, this time the poster girl of the breed, Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis in The Editor: A Novel by Steven Rowley.

The Editor led me to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott which is not a book I’ve ever reviewed but one that is renown for it’s advice to writers on editing. It’s the book that says to write a lot of “shitty first drafts.”

Bird by Bird, led me to super bird woman Phoebe Snetsinger who made birding into an obsessive quest for the ultimate Life List of birds seen and observed: Life List: One Woman’s Quest for the World’s Most Amazing Birds.

Phoebe and her fellow birders were often friends as well as birders or even competitors. That reminded me of a little book I ran across, but have not read, that coincidentally is tied to Jackie Kennedy by virtue of its author being her step-father, novelist Hugh D. Achincloss: Love Without Wings: Some Friendships in Literature and Politics, which I have added to my TBR. “Hugh-D” knew everyone so it should be interesting.

Birds and editors and political elites all led me to H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. T.H. White, the other subject of the book, wrote about King Arthur and the political intrigue in his court at Camelot that involved friends and even lovers.. Jack and Jackie Kennedy ruled over the modern Camelot–at least according to the press of the day. The musical Camelot was a favorite of the President’s.

So we went from a First Lady who didn’t become a first lady in the novel to a First Lady who did become First Lady in the novel to a First Lady with a post-White House career as an editor to an editor on writing who titled her book Bird By Bird to a biography of a birder to a book of letters without wings to, finally, a book with birds, and a writer whose subject was political elites and their intrigues.