Top 5 Wednesday: Characters’ Fitness Routines I Want


Characters’ Fitness Routines You Want
“This [topic] can be interpreted a bunch of different ways! Fitness comes in many different packages. This can be about characters who are super fast, strong, agile, good at dancing, good at climbing, athletes, or foodies! Whatever it means to you. This is inspired by those routines you see in magazines for actors, but with more of an open mind and less body shaming.”

Okay then….



My fictional fitness idol has to be the Spandex-wearing, donut-slammin’, fried chicken-craving, Lula in the Stephanie Plum series. Lula wears neon mini skirts without a single moment of thought that Just Because They Make it in Her Size….. Nope–not a thought. She is a big-built gal and you got a problem with that? I don’t! Solidly packed Idol material–that’s Lula.

In reality, it should be Ranger‘s fitness regime I aspire to. Babe…






Mma Precious Ramotswe, a “traditionally built,” lady who never encountered a piece of cake she could refuse is another fitness idol of mine. I admire a woman who can do that. It takes a great sense of self. She’s really idol material. Believe me.







Willowdean is the ultimate Idol. The Fat Girl so does too absolutely deserve the guy! You go, girl! So what if Mama was a beauty queen! I loved this book from start to finish. Willowdean is every differently-bodied woman’s Idol. And, she’s only a teenager–she can only get stronger!

You can read more of my thoughts on this great book here.






Silvia Fine –Fran’s mother on the the 90’s hit show, The Nanny. Nosh–smosch. Of course she eats. She got to keep strong. And then there’s Morty–her husband. Like my great uncles after a big dinner, Morty undoes his belt and top slacks button–“Do up your pants,” she tells him before company joins him in the tv room. I love Sylvia–a seafood buffet cannot defeat her. She is an Idol with Flair!


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Marie Barone from another great 90’s show–Everybody Loves Raymond. Her bickering husband Frank, her skinny-you-know-what daughter-in-law, her two adored sons–it all adds up to power eating. And, pasta! Pasta and Braciole! Marie knows food is essential. I like that in an Idol. Plus, she’s pear shaped and has to always wear an untucked shirt to supposedly even-out her shape. Now that is Idol-worthy. “Are you hungry, dear?”


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books Outside the Western World




This week’s topic is “Books That Aren’t Set In/Inspired By The Western World“. Hmmmmm. I had to really do some thinking, but found a few really good ones!



I am a royal-watcher. Royalty IS my celebrity crush, my soap opera, my reality tv show fix. This novel is outstanding. It is a fictionalized account of the current Japanese Empress Michiko, and her courtship by the then Prince, now Emperor Akihito, who is currently in the news for wanting to for officially retire. The Commoner: A Novel by John Burnham Schwartz.



Best-selling travel writer Paul Theroux and I have something in common: We both served in the Peace Corps in Malawi. Theroux famously wrote a short story for Esquire called the Killing of Hastings Banda (the one-time Life President of Malawi) and lives on in Peace Corps history as solely responsible for getting Peace Corps kicked out of that country for many years.

In The Lower River, he tells the story of a Peace Corps volunteer who returns to his PC service “home” and sees all the wrongs that have struck the place. It was very hard to read this. I had to put it away from time to time and go back to it weeks later in order to finish. Why was it so hard? It’s so typical of what happens after foreign aid runs out or the program founders move on. Its why development projects are rarely sustained unless they are started by the citizens themselves–not by folks dropping in as volunteers or missionaries or foreign aid workers. The Lower River by Paul Theroux.





Noor is estranged from her doctor-husband and decides to take their all-American daughter, Lily, back to Tehran to be with her dying father. Culture clashes, sweet family times, coming of age moments, and a frightening look at life in a religious police state make this a very compelling story. The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan (see my full review here).




Dating and texting in Saudi Arabia? Kind of like the Duggar girls doing a wet t-shirt contest at Spring Break in Cancun! This book is written as a series of exchanges posted to friends in an internet chat room (anyone still use those?). This is a fascinating and not too overly fictionalized account of young adult life for upper class Saudi girls. It was written in Arabic and banned in Saudi Arabia. I enjoyed every minute of it. Girls of Riyadh by Rajaa Alsnea.


factory girls


Ever wonder who the people are making all that stuff we buy from China? Here’s your answer. Factory Girls is the only nonfiction entry this week. It tells the story of girls from rural homes coming into the new manufacturing cities to get factory jobs and have freedom the likes of which Chinese women have never enjoyed before. Very interesting book and it has been it has even been assigned as that “one book” all students are supposed to read before entering some college (sorry, I can’t recall which college or colleges0. It is very interesting reading. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. [To check out more assigned pre-college reading, see this post on What the Class of 2020 Was Assigned).




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Top 5 Wednesday: Protagonists You Hate to Like


Richard Grenville

King's General

Richard is unapologetically masculine, while also being weak. But Honor Harris fell in love with him and so did I. I cried a few times reading this book. It remains my favorite by Daphne Du Maurier–even more so than the older man -younger woman Rebecca.


Dexter Mayhew


I know, I know! I shouldn’t like him. He trampled all over Emma! It’s disloyalty to a sister to say that maybe Emma asked for some of it. Not like she tried very hard to get a life, is it?  So, yeah. I kind of liked Dexter. Kind of. Not in a “let’s spend a lifetime together” way. Just kinda. Sure he’s a jerk, but let’s face it, he was an appealing jerk!


Sir Richard Carlisle (aka Jorah)


Let’s be honest here. As dwerpy/sweet as Matthew was, he’d never have kept Mary happy. Mary would have raged with boredom after 22 more years at Downton Abbey. Being stuck riding to the hounds and in Point-to-Points would have have made her crazy. And don’t even mention umpteen nights of bridge with Edith and Aunt Rosamund!

Sir Richard was the very bad side of Mary–the ruthless, cut-throat side. He offered her a canvas large enough for her ego and large enough to ruin every man who didn’t have the brains (well, er… um…, balls) to ask her to dance over the years. There is a heat to Iain Glen that was in Sir Richard, too. Mary needed that. Sweet only goes so far. Heat keeps you warm at those house parties at Cliveden and shoots at Sandringham.

Plus, Mary was smart. She needed way more to occupy her time. Building a political career and grabbing a cabinet post for Richard would have kept her buys. And maybe, just maybe, she could get the explanation for how a working-class boy from Edinburgh got a Knighthood or a Baronetcy? But, it couldn’t happen….he had to do Game of Thrones one of the few t.v. shows more popular than Downton Abbey.


Lucius Malfoy of Harry Potter


Guilty secret time: I’ve always found Lucius Malfoy HOT. Very hot. And I don’t really like long hair. He is an arrogant, unrepentant aristocrat who believe he deserves all his rank and privileges. So be it. I can’t explain how nearly obnoxious can translate into hot, but it does.


Lord Sebastian Flyte of Brideshead Revisited


Never mind that he isn’t into women, or that for a few years he still drags around his teddy bear. He has the good taste to select Jeremy Irons as his best friend…well, Charles Ryder–played by Jeremy Irons in the original (and BEST) t.v. version. Sebastian is what happens when parents go to war with each other. Unlike the heir to the Marquess of Marchmain title, Lord Bridehead (his older brother), Lord Sebastian has been educated at Eton, not Catholic Ampleforth–his father’s ‘take that” to his estranged wife, the oh-so-Catholic-Marchioness.

Sebastian is a younger version of his father. But while his father chases unsuitable skirts, Sebastian has a penchant for obnoxious men like Anthony Blanche and his down-and-out German boyfriend. He is master aristocrat–effortlessly elegant, charming as all get out when he wants to be, perfect manners unless the family is involved, and very handsome. He’s a spoiled little boy in a man’s body. So, I shouldn’t like him. But I do.

I feel sorry for him. Bridey (his brother) gets Castle Howard (well, actually it just  played  Brdeshead in the t.v. version) and Marchmain House and a homes in Italy and probably others as well. And Mummy is so very …well…Mummy-ish. Thank heaven Nanny is there to dote on him, but let’s be honest–Nanny’s no fool. She knows who butters her bread and always has a good word for old Bridey. Sebastian–dear Sebastian. And poor Lady Marchmain. No heirs from her boys. Some 3rd cousin Matthew Crawley-type will inherit the whole lot in due course.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Minor Characters–Canine Edition


Last year I did a Top Ten Tuesday post on this topic, so I decided to spin it a bit differently. Today’s list–favorite minor DOG characters!



Norman the big, black, cow-sized, farting, loving, protector-dog. All kids who don’t mesh with the so-called popular kids deserve a real animal to love and to be loved and protected by.  Norman went above and beyond the call of duty for his girl. You can read my review here.

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes





Barnabas–Father Tim’s, big dog who can only be calmed with Bible verses! Love the big lug.




Anne Tyler is a favorite of mine and this is one of her best books.  I love Edward–the dog who is the catalyst for the story. It is Edward who brings Macon and Muriel together. He was even cooler in the movie since he was played by a tri-colored Corgi.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler






Salty is pastry chef Livvy’s wonderful dog who goes to work with her.

City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller






Arthur Guiness–named for the famed brewer of Guiness beer, is a black lab–a big lummox! He retrieves Wellington boots left out on neighbors’ back steps. But Dr. Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly and his housekeeper, Mrs. Kinky Kincaid, couldn’t get along without him

The Irish Country Doctor series

A Bonus dog


Hound Penderwick, loyal companion of Batty–the youngest Penderwick sister. He is the dog every kid should get to grow up with.

The Penderwicks series

Top 5 Wednesday is a group you can join on Goodreads. Every Wednesday members post blog or video posts with the week’s list.

Top 5 Wednesday: Summer Books for all ages


This week’s topic is what books remind you of summer and are your quintessential summer reads?

The Mom’s Choice


A reading/writing friend cites this as one of her life-long favorite books. I owned a copy that looked like this and probably DID read it in 1973 or ’74. I liked the movie when I saw it in junior high school, so I got the book. Hence, the tie-in cover. Very much a “summer” book and movie–only because of the title.

The Summer of ’42  by Herman Ruacher.

The Family Choice


The introduction to the Penderwick family series begins with the family going off for summer vacation and meeting Jeffrey. This is a delightful book (and series) that fans of Elizabeth Enright will love–well, that anyone who likes a true “family” book will love. I have loved listening to each of the books in this series–each as wonderful as the other. I love the way they are growing up. I feel like a proud Mom listening to them.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

The Little Ones’ Choice


My favorite childhood summer book–Harry by the Sea. Love Harry the Dirty Dog and No Roses for Harry, too. I have the one volume treasury of Harry in fact.

Harry By The Sea by Gene Zion

The Book Club’s Controversial Choice


I remember the books I read in the summer so much better than many of the books and short stories that were assigned reading in school or college. In the summer of 1976 I took a break from re-reading and re-reading GWTW to read Edna Ferber’s classic Showboat. I’ve chosen it as a summer book because its a great read. Sadly, how we classify people is still an issue. Who is African American, who is mixed race, who is white is still a question that divides our society.

I won’t kid you–racism is alive and well in this book, written in 1926 during the great Klan era of the 20th Century. There are words and sentiments that we make us cringe and rightfully feel ashamed today. But the story is still relevant today. Discrimination is still alive and thriving. My hope is that if more people read this for the story the racism will be seen as the vile shame it has always been. I do not post this to glorify racism–never. The story is well worth it. If your only knowledge of this book is Paul Robeson singing “Ol’ Man River” in old-time “slave” dialect, then you haven’t dug into the book and should.

This book also ties in with tomorrow’s great summer book review [tune in tomorrow–same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!]. Magnolia (Nola/Noly) and Gaylord are a classic couple, too. Who doesn’t enjoy a great summer romance?Especially with a roguish, rapscallion of a bad-boy too handsome to resist? And, with the 50th Anniversary this year of Loving v Virginia making inter-racial marriage legal, Steve and Julie’s story is especially poignant.

Show Boat by Edna Ferber

Note: Ferber’s other fabulous book, Giant, made famous by Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and James Dean in the movie version, is equally relevant for the same reasons. It explores the issue of fair treatment for Mexicans. It’s size makes it an entire summer’s worth of reading.

One More Note: Teachers & Professors who assign students the task of writing a book review on Amazon should definitely fail anyone who posts his review on the wrong book. Lots of reviews on the Show Boat by Edna Ferber page are for a book on Kobe Bryant.

The Aesthetic Choice


This series of incredible, mostly wordless picture books are a treasure. I have many of them. I love anything Edwardian so these are a joy to me. Although they are out-of-print they can be purchased used for reasonable prices and a few libraries have them, too.

An Edwardian Summer by John S. Goodall

But wait! There’s more!

The Beach or Pool Book


A few weeks ago, I reviewed this book about summer of 1914 in an English village. As you know, World War I began for those in Europe on August 4, 1914. The U.S.A. joined the fighting three years later.   My review is here, but you’ll need to scroll way down to read it.

The Summer Before the War: A Novel by Helen Simonson

Top 5 Wednesday is a group at Goodreads. Why not join the group and post your own list (or video) next week?

Top 5 Wednesday: Books As Event Themes–not the usual ones, either!


This week’s topic is books as themes for events. I love this! I tried to go beyond the one’s that will be over-used like Harry Potter, Gone With the Wind, Hunger Games, Anne of Green Gables,  Jane Austen etc.

Here are my Top 5


To celebrate leaving big law firm hell whether by choice or by “chance” (firing). Who cares if you can’t bill 2,000 hours! You CAN wait tables, right? Per hour its about the same money on Friday and Saturday! And think of the fun when you can spill a tray of drinks on your former “Mentoring Partner”  Biglaw by Lindsay Cameron.

Decor should be ugly, neutral, corporate art and those ubiquitous carpet squares. Or, if the firm had artsy inspirations, tacky art work like bad modern statutes.

Food should be picked over sandwich trays (i.e. left over catered lunches).

Gifts should be tacky logo-ed items [any logo] like Christmas ornaments. And, of course, a donation to the United Way.

Fun stuff:  Law Firm Partner Charades in which the partner gives a fraction of the information to a team of 3 to 5 people and they must all research and brief it. The one who actually gets ALL the information makes “partner” and has to pay the bar tab–you’re an “owner” now, hahahahahah!


To celebrate a woman’s 60th birthday or her retirement or both us No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club-a fun look at getting older, but still being fully alive.

Decor should be displays of the most overly-read book club books. You know, the ones no one actually has read?

Gifts should be Victoria Secret gift cards.

Food should be wine and more wine.

Fun stuff: Grace & Frankie marathon!


When your BFF’s scumbag husband leaves her for her younger work protege (double back-stab) [or simply a younger woman] then this is your theme-book! Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan.

Decor should be the items scumbag loved that your BFF got in the divorce for spite. A bass boat, the BMW, his fly fishing crap, his firearms, his baseball card collection, his NFL memorabilia or whatever it is.

Gifts should be the stuff the Scumbag vetoed over the years that she really liked or wanted.

Food should be the stuff  SHE loves that she never got to serve or eat while married.

Fun stuff would include Pin the Tail on the Jack A**, A strip-o-gram from [Pick her fave] a kilted Highland Warrior, a Smokin’ Hot Firefighter, etc…

Note: Great for a gal’s only getaway.


When a gal-pal of beyond normal college age goes back to school, use She Got Up Off The Couch as your theme.

Decor should be a well-used, preferably an ugly 60’s/70’s sofa and a pile of laundry or two–clean or dirty, either is fine. VW Bug toys cars or other VW Bug items and Herbal Essence Shampoo bottles. [Read the book and it’ll make sense]. CLEP test study guides are good, too.

Gifts should be B/N Gift Cards, Laptop or Tablet sleeve, backpack and some early 70’s college girl thing like a crocheted poncho for fun.  Homemade frozen meals are good, too as are TRULY redeemable homemade gift certificates for child care.

Food should be the popular thing food at that college and beer. Lots of beer. Or, if it’s a Christian college the beer “substitute.” [One college has Ginger Ale parties–that kind of thing is a beer substitute.]  Or, if it’s graduate school, Big cans of Red Bull.

Fun Stuff: Drinking games (regardless of whether drinks have alcohol). Or if graduate school, then a dissertation guessing game. Read off dissertation titles and guess the student’s subject (major).

Extra: Be sure to write her name in her coat and in her back pack. Offer to go to the campus with her and take a picture for her first day holding a sign with what she wants to be when she “grows up.” Walk her to her first class! Be there when she gets home so someone will listen to her tell excitedly about her first day (or express her horror at how much work there is!)


When the kids have fled the nest and your buddy and her hubby are ALONE at last then Fun Without Dick and Jane will help launch their delightfully empty nest.

Decor should a totally unadorned refrigerator, a soccer ball (substitute any sports crap)-free entry way, a full cabinet of BOTH matching dishes AND glasses, only one load of laundry left undone and no socks, dirty glasses, half-eaten sandwiches left in the living room.

Gifts should be classy nightwear but nothing TOO racy or the kids will come back and spoil it. [Raunchier gifts if appropriate to the friendship–it’s YOUR party].

Food should not include pizza (unless Artisan made, wood-fired and costing over $50 each) no mac ‘n anything, no hotdogs, no Bagel Bites no Hot Pockets etc.

Fun Stuff: Family Feud-style game of stuff we won’t miss our kids doing/bringinghome/eating/etc.

Top 5 Wednesday is a group at Goodreads. Why not join the group and post your own list (or video) next week?

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.

Top 5 Wednesday is a group at Goodreads. Why not join the group and post your own list (or video) next week?

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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