Top 5 Wednesday: The only Sci-Fi I’ve Ever Read


This month’s topics are all going to be difficult for me! Take this week–I’m so NOT a sci-fi fan. The Empire Strikes back was the worst date of my life. I pretty much loathe sci fi, though I did like an article in the 80’s in an academic journal on popular culture that compared the tv show Battlestar Galactica to Mormon Theology…..THAT was creative! Apologies to any LDS reading this (or to BG fans). Heck, I couldn’t stand Lost in Space as a kid!

For the record, I’m not hot on fantasy either, but have enjoyed a few of those. I consider Wrinkle in Time to be fantasy, not sci fi.

Please note: I make an exception for the original Star Trek. I’m not a trekkie by any means, but I can watch that. Especially the old Chicago one, the one with the love potion and the tribbles. And the cartoon of Spock’s childhood.



This book may well have spawned my dislike of sci-fi. I remember reading part of it in 5th grade and thinking (though we didn’t say that back then) WT????


These books were only marginally better than my other nemesis of my Freshman year in college–Waiting for Godot. They killed and I do mean KILLED an entire weekend holed up in my grandmother’s den hibernating reading these so I could get a respectable grade in the first course in my major–Intro to International Relations. Yes, these perfectly illustration the Uni-Polar, Bi-Polar and Multi-Polar political models of the world. I understand from a sci fi-freak friend who read them gladly when I offered them to her, that these are GREAT. If you are a sci fi reader, have at it. If not, move on. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov.



It took dogged determination to stay awake thru this one. Considering I listened to the audio on my daily commute that was essential. I love C.S. Lewis, but not this. Out of the Silent Planet.


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Top Five Wednesday: Future Classics of Social Justice



Ok, I tweaked the topic a little. But it’s what’s coming to mind today, so I just added the subtitle. Everyone else will have Harry Potter. This list is different.

My Choices


No question about it. This one is, will be and will remain, a classic. After students read Uncle Tom’s Cabin they will read the Underground Railroad. My review.

Underground Railroad: A Novel by Colson Whitehead


Students of late Colonialism and African Independence will read this for generations. I hope students in seminaries and Bible Colleges aiming for Missionary work will, too, if only to remember how badly done it used to be.

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.


The nonfiction book I reviewed yesterday, A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea, is another war book, like Zlata’s Diary , that hopefully will help the world learn about war and refugees and make us stop manufacturing both. There are many others in this genre that should be read along with The Diary of Young Girl by Anne Frank to emphasize humanity against in humanity.  You can read yesterday’s review here.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea by Melissa Fleming


T.C. Boyle’s book shows the staggering wealth of America against the equally staggering despair of so many illegal immigrants to the USA. It’s the Grapes of Wrath for today. Like Grapes of Wrath, it will be read for generations.

The Tortilla Curtain: A Novel by T.C. Boyle.

henrietta lacks

Let’s hope people in medical ethics, sociology and women’s studies, will all read this one attentively. I could have included several others here–Five Days at Memorial, for example. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot


On Future Classics in General

In 2012, The Smithsonian published predictions of future classics from 1936. The list was about 50% right. Read it all here.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Angsty Romances


Angsty Romances you ask? A bit of brooding? Yes, those with a bit of attitude or a bit of angst. We all know the big one, right? Heathcliff!

Emily Bronte about invented this genre! Heathcliff and Cathy. Say no more. Angsty, brooding, violent, horrible weather–you name it, its got it. Wuthering Heights It’s available in a zillion editions, but I love the new annotated one on the right.

Poe is a romantic to me–love lost to death is tragic. There is angst. There is brooding. These are poems so you get two for one. The Raven and Annabel Lee.

Another two-for because they are first and second parts of the same story. I found a lot of angst here and a lot of typical teenage/young adult uncertainty. I loved these books, too, which surprised me since I’m 55. If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman.

Another classic, but honestly can you think of anything more angst-inducing than vampires? Once again a fine new annotated edition and a zillion others. Dracula (Annotated).

Only four this week–I don’t read a lot of upsetting things. 50 Shades is not my thing. Dystopian and Vampires aren’t either.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Fictional Jobs I’d Love

Fictional Jobs You’d Want to Have





Just about anything in Jed Bartlett’s White House staff




Librarian at Hogwarts. These kids need some serious Bibliographic Instruction. But, there’s a spell you can use that teaches it. I just want to play with flying books.






Librarian for for the Larrabee Company–either version. I’d keep Linus up-to-date on important Deals and Mergers, identify target companies and other cool stuff.



An employee of any rank at Marks & Co.




A researcher and writer for the WPA West Virginia Guide

The Guides were real, but I’d want to work with the characters in this novel.

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Top Five Wednesday: Book Trends I’m Tired of


Titles that tell the whole story



Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems by David Rakoff. Saves me ever having to read it. It took an hour to get thru the title. There are too many examples like this to post them all. Fiction and Non-fiction are equally impacted by this awful trend.

Title: A Novel

And why do they tack on   “A Novel….”???  That really bugs me. It’s fiction. We get it.


Characters with stupid, unbelievable names

Slip? Alaska? Carson? Periwinkle?  Tibby? All for women?  I could go on and on with this.  Often they are such a turn-off I put them back on the shelf and forget them. Even when I do love the book ( Looking for Alaska or the Cherry Cola Book Club series) it doesn’t make me remember more about the character–I just get the name as a sort of literary earworm.

Ever since Harper Lee’s Scout came along this has gone beyond an occasional oddity. It’s now almost mandatory. And Harper Lee wasn’t even called “Harper” in real life!! It’s one thing in a certain category of Romance novels to have someone named Myst or something equally unreal, but I’ve honestly never known anyone with a stupid nickname, unless you count guys forced to answer to Bud, Chip, Junior or Skip. Yet they’re EVERYWHERE in novels. Some authors, like Pat Conroy or Anne Tyler, make this seamless. Everywhere else they mostly merit an exaggerated eye-roll.

Another aspect of this is names not even given in the years of the story. Do authors not know that you can look up the popularity of a name? I suppose the one girl named, say, Dimitri, who is 53 in the story was born in a log cabin to reclusive parents who feared the government and so never registered her birth and she magically made it thru life without need of a Social Security card? Please…. Keep it real.

The Name Claire

Or Clare. I’ve met one Clare in my life. One. Maybe it’s just the area where I live. I have heard of some girls with that name now. And, one of my great-grandmothers was named Clara–like in the Nutcraker. But in novels? If they aren’t named Kate or Tess, they are ALL named Clare! I honestly have started a spreadsheet to track them all! Geeky? Sure, but it’s that bad.

Graphic sex that doesn’t do anything for the story

Slipping in a memory of licking an eyeball made me throw a book across the room and never finish it. Then there was the book where the author just had to tell us her character licked the sweat from hubs a#& crack…yum….brain bleach please……Don’t even get me started on The Signature of All Things and the library closet….yick.

Copying Book Covers

I realize the author often has no say at all on this. But,seriously? Does the marketing department think I’m so wildly unfocused that I’ll pick up the wrong book?? Or that since I bought the original I’ll buy others with cloned covers?? So many best-sellers have cloned covers it’s ridiculous.

Plural narrative

I really don’t know what this style is called so I’ve Christened it “plural narrative.” On Amazon one reviewer put it best when she asked how she was to relate to this style of storytelling. “All our Marsha’s” and the rest just make it difficult to follow the story–and to accept it as credible. Both of these books should have been incredibly interesting. But they were like literature class poetry–forced. Make this go away and stay away. Do not write like this. All your Marsha’s will thank you.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Current favorites that aren’t books


This week is an unusual week for Top 5 Wednesday.

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from books and talk about some other things you’ve been obsessed with. These all don’t have to be in the same category. Mix it up! What TV shows have you been enjoying, makeup you’ve been wearing, food you’ve been eating, etc.?? 

So, here’s my top 5 of the moment!

Current Favorite Indulgence


My serious chocolate

Current Favorite Zone-Out Tool


I only allow myself to play in the winter. Then it gets deleted. Otherwise I’d be a zombie.

Current Pinterset Favorite


Love these cartoons

Current Favorite Writing Project


Photo Source

My still untitled contemporary romance. You can check out the book’s Pinterest board which includes the physical models for my characters and ideas for their “world.”

Current Favorite Background Music

The Chairman of the Board. I’ve listened to him exclusively the last week or so.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Underrated Books


This week we’re looking at our top 5 favorite under-rated books.Being poor at math, I’ve posted 6–but only because the last 3 are a triology.

I’m starting my list with two I’ve pushed a lot on this blog. One is my Must-Read Book of 2017 and the other was a very close runner-up. Both are nonfiction and both are such amazing reads!

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

My review

Barefoot at the Lake by Bruce Fogle

My review


Mr. Charwell, is a delightful little book–how odd to say “delightful” about a story centered on depression! But, it IS delightful! (The book, of course, not depression!) It’s the week of Sir Winston Churchill’s long-long delayed retirement from Parliament. Now in his 89th year and only months from death, Sir Winston’s “black dog,” as he called depression, has come to life and is visiting House of Common’s library clerk, Esther who soon is called to a rendevous with destiny at Chartwell, Sir Winston’s home, as his substitute secretary. “Black Pat,” the dog who arrives at Esther’s home to rent her spare room and calling himself “Mr. Chartwell,” is the palpable presence of depression in the most literal sense. He is a huge, hairy black dog who tries to suck the life, the will, the energy out of his “clients.”

As a sufferer of depression who has been in what I call “the fog” of depression at various times since high school, I loved this book for the very real way it describes just what the “Black Dog” does to those of us whose lives it entangles. As the parent of a sufferer of depression, I wish this book had been around when my child was younger–it’s such a great way to help someone understand what depression does in a life.

As for the fateful meeting of Esther and Sir Winston, I’ll leave that for you to read about! (This review was published on my old blog on May 6, 2011).

Portofino   Zermatt (book 2) Saving Grandma (book 3)

Frank Schaeffer’s Calvin Becker Trilogy is one of the funniest coming-of-age stories ever written. It is also regarded as heresy and sacrilegious by many, many Evangelical Christians. I couldn’t care less–it’s hilarious. It’s a not-very-nice fictionalized (barely) send-up of Frank’s rather neglectful parents, Fran and Edith, who are nearly Saints in the modern American Evangelical movement. [For the record–there IS much to admire about the Schaeffers and their daughters–and Frank, as well. I’ve read many of their books and admire much of what they wrote, but I can laugh at myself and I don’t take anyone too seriously].  Frank’s–well Calvin’s upbringing in Switzerland was hardly the typical missionary kid upbringing, but then with those parents, how could it be? From the cripplingly funny story of the Gospel Walnut, to father’s needs in the bedroom, this trio is a scream. Admittedly, I found Zermatt to be “less” than the other two books in every way. But the blasting Opera music, the profane Granny in the back bedroom, the girls and Mom being On The Roof.…stop I’m laughing too hard. Time for some of Calvin’s grease bread and a visit to an old Queen. I’ll probably have to re-read these now.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Polarizing Books


Books I’m FOR


Yes, everything they say is wrong with it IS really wrong. I don’t defend the racism of a 1930’s southern author. But this IS the great American novel. I don’t buy the feminist argument that Rhett “rapes” Scarlett. Come on, folks! She wakes up singing and happy as hell.  It’s a fabulous epic because, in spite of and regardless of it’s flaws. It was written by a human before political correctness. If I could change things I would. Gone With the Wind.


And, though the movie roles were demeaning, they won the first Academy Award for an African American supporting actress–an actress who wasn’t welcome at the Atlanta premier. This book and the movie both hurt African Americans with the grossly demeaning characterization of slaves and slave speech, and yet helped by providing visibility for the racism that was giving rise to lynchings and other unspeakable treatment of African Americans throughout the country during the Great Depression. It made history when the N-word was banned in the film. Gone With the Wind (movie)





Never say never. These are my brother’s all-time-favorite books, so I do keep trying with them. I made it about 2/3 thru the Hobbit last try.  Hobbit and LOTR



My daughter had to read the whole trilogy in high school English. I can’t even…. I tried. I really tried to read the first one. Unlike Twilight, where I gave up on page one, this one I got thru a couple of chapters before realizing that was valuable time I’d never get back. You can add Divergent in here, too.  The Hunger Games.



Given I’m an Anglophile and love British humor, I should loved this. I don’t. I did finish it. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.




Heroin is amazing? Sleeping with total strangers is somehow enlightening? Oh hell no! Gag on this whole book. Wild.


But wait! There’s More! A BONUS BOOK!!!!


Seriously? This gas bag of a book is a huge hit among many women. To me it was vapid and insipid. Just no.  One Thousand Gifts.


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Top Five Wednesday: Fictional Items I’d Give Myself for Christmas



Lunch With the Artist: Photographer Robert Kincaid




from Bridges of Madison County. Because, heck yeah I want to meet him! I have since I read the book. And, please, bring the motorcycle, ok guy? Wowser!




Fictional Gift Cards



Gabri’s Bistro in Three Pines


from Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series.–I’m dying to try all of the great food there, but especially the Cauliflower and Stilton Soup with Date and Pear Relish and the Scrambled Eggs with Brie (maybe I’ll finally like eggs?). NO SPOILERS PLEASE!!  On the left is the last book in the series that I’ve read–I don’t want to know that my beloved place goes out of business in book number X, ok? And, could I get a Tim Horton’s double-double coffee on the side? We don’t have Tim Horton’s here (maybe I’d like coffee then?) FYI: I LOVE this series!

Cluck in a Bucket



from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. What’s not to love about Lula’s favorite fried chicken? Heck, all the Trenton food spots sound good. I’d probably give gift cards to all of them!

$500 Gift Card to Marks & Co


from 84 Charing Cross Road. I’d love to shop here! I’d find all sorts of old biographies and leather-bound treasures from country house libraries! And I’d chat with Frank and all the staff about books. In those days $500 would have bought a huge array of superb books, Spy prints, old maps and other great antiquarian book treasures.




Well Animal Visit at Farnon and Associates, Skeldale House, Darrowby, Yorkshire



from the  All Creatures Great and Small series by James Herriot. Though, to tell the truth, I’d be a little upset that Helen wasn’t really Carol Drinkwater! I always thought Christopher Timothy was a bit wimpy though. And I’d want to smell the Woodbine smoke and see Tristian magically start shaking a bottle of something to show he hadn’t been sleeping. And then I’d want Sigfried to take me out to some great country house to check on a fabulous hunter. But most of all, I’d want James to check out my cat and then we’d all have tea and scones prepared by Mrs. Hall. It’s rare to love both the books and the film/tv version, but oh how I love both of these!


Free hair cut and blow dry at Truvy’s


from Steel Magnolias, as long as I can have some of the house wine of the South and take a wack at Ouiser! There is no such thing as natural beauty and time IS marching across my face. No one has ever been able to make MY hair poofy, but I bet Truvy or Annelle could! For one day at least, I could have lovely hair!

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Top 5 Wednesday: Series that just got worse


My First Thought….


Robert Bathurst as Sir Anthony Strallan in Downton Abbey


…was the destruction of a gentleman. What Julian Fellowes did to Sir Anthony Strallan was unforgivable. Doofy, sweet Anthony would NEVER have gone back on his word. Never mind that Edith got to outrank Mary in the end, this was the moment Julian destroyed Downton Abbey for me! Never has a t.v. show mistake obsessed me like this did. I wrote fan fiction and then, ultimately, my own fictional series, to recover from my shock and grief. You can read more about my obsession here.  Happily, Julian’s book, Belgravia, was a dud in my humble opinion. You can read my review here.

But then….

I remembered that this Top 5 is mostly about books.

The trouble with writing a series is making each book equally good. I have several series I love, but all have had their less-than-great additions. One series though stands out for getting progressively worse. In fact, I’ve given it up. It’s gotten that bad. I’m not sure if it’s greed on the part of the publisher, ennui on the author’s part of just what.

The One I Quit Reading


When I discovered Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series, I fell in love. Head over heels in love! Such vivid characters, so a nice story–not goody-goody but no one having sex on the village green. I loved Fingal and Barry and all the gang. But then….it got really popular. It started selling zillions of copies. A cash cow, you might say. Suddenly the books that once covered months of passing time, not covered about 15 seconds and took too many pages to do so.

Suddenly savvy doctor Fingal had to have his memory refreshed so often on medical procedures and naval terms that he needed an Alzheimer’s evaluation. And the amount of headlines worked in! Geesh. The citizens of Balleybucklebo must do nothing but read the Times of London! They were more up-to-date than the politicians.

This is the trouble with historical fiction. There’s an urge to explain every detail so no reader quits because they feel ignorant. But Google is the place to learn–not the story. I was so disgusted with the last volume I bought that I wrote an honest review–didn’t sugar coat it.

The Ones I Still Love, flaws and all.


As someone once said of the James Bond series, “put your brains under the seat and don’t ask too many questions….” Well, that applies to the Stephanie Plum series as well. I ADORE Stephanie, Ranger, Joe, Bob the dog, and especially Grandma Mazur and Lula. But I loved this series on audio until….yep, you guessed it! It changed readers.  C.J. Critt WAS the voice of this series. She was superb! The poor reader who took over on the Recorded Books editions IS an excellent audio book reader, but…. What the heck? She totally made Grandma Mazur sound like a cartoon idiot! I still want C.J. back. I tried–I TRIED–to stay with this series on audio, but I just couldn’t. So, I read them now.

I must say that since Joe and Stephanie and are would be age-mates in real time, I’m a little amazed that they’ve kept their looks! I do wish we’d get Christmas Story presenting Stephanie’s life in the future–one “future” with Joe and one with Ranger. I’m still hoping for Diesel though. Fun series.

The Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evonovich


Thankfully the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency still enjoys the services of incomparable reader, Lisette Lecat. Her command of the local accent is superb and brings these stories to life in a way that print just cannot. I adore each of these books, but there have been ones that have hit pretty wide of the mark. One even left out Violet Sephohto!And there was the annoying resumption of the Red Bush tea versus ordinary tea debate.

It was a peak literary moment though when I learned, first, that the great Clovis Andersen was from Muncie, Indiana, and second, that he had attended Ball State University. (I grew up in the shadows of BSU in a small town, now a bedroom community, by Muncie).

No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith


I love William Monk! And I adore Oliver Rathbone and I admire Hester Latterly. But, as often happens on t.v. when a romantic triangle’s tension has carried the show, the series took a dip after a couple married (no spoilers on which one). Then too, the series has now gone from gritty to possibly a cause of PTSD for some readers. I like the characters too well to give up on it, but I did ask myself why I was listening to a Christmas story about sex crimes. Regardless, Anne Perry writes these brilliantly. The characters are vivid and you can smell the stench of the Victorian Thames and its surrounding slums. You can also feel the caring of Monk, Oliver, Hester and a few others. Note: This series won’t make sense if you don’t read them in order.

The William Monk series by Anne Perry


Alexander McCall Smith is a series-writing machine! This series, which began when all were residents of the same apartment building in Edinburgh, has a large cast of characters. Cyril, the dog, is my favorite–with his gold tooth. But poor Bertie–stuck at age 6, stuck wearing crushed strawberry dungarees, stuck with his hapless father and bizarre mother. I just ache for Berite. I also love Angus and Dominica, but I’m glad the guy who played the Duke of Plaza Toro died. Now if Bruce would vanish. Bringing Bruce back wasn’t good. These books began as a regular feature in the Scotsman newspaper and feature a few real life characters like Scotland’s First Minister who occasionally has a walk-on.  Very fun.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith

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Lest we forget what should have been…. Andith forever


The should-have-been Sir Anthony and Lady Strallan

Downton Abbey