Top 5 Wednesday: Books With Witches


This week’s topic: These can be “witch books” or books that happen to feature witches as characters, whether they are main characters or side characters. 

My dilemma: I’m not into witchcraft, supernatural, spirit worlds, magic, fantasy etc. I’ve read most of the Harry Potter books and seen all but the last 2 movies. That’s about it. And, except for chocolate and Reese’s and Linus in the pumpkin patch I’m not into Halloween at all. I was never a witch for my school Halloween party or for Trick or Treating either. But then I’m so old that Witch costumes were about all girls got–that and nurse or bride outfits. And we only got to Trick or Treat ONCE–on Halloween. Shoot, I wasn’t even big on Bewtiched, unless Maurice or Doctor Bombay was involved.

Now that I’ve identified myself as the October Scrooge, here are my picks.





If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Shakespeare would be richer than Bill Gates and the rest.


Macbeth–the Scottish play. Witches in today’s culture owe much to the Bard’s portrayal of them.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

See what I mean? He wrote all their best lines….until J.K. Rowling came on the scene.


# 2

Let’s get this one out of the way. Most of this week’s posts will be an homage to H.P.


For the record, Molly Weasley is my favorite, followed by Professor McGonogall.



Yes, I know, I know! It’s really about McCarthyism….


…but, it is outstanding.



I re-posted about this wonderful book last Friday for Banned Books Week:


Mrs. Which (how cunning) is one of the trio of women with various strange abilities. And, she looks like a traditional witch.




I read the book as an adult. I never have really enjoyed the movie. Makes me a heretic I know! I was always too spooked by the flying monkeys to enjoy it. I was hiding behind the big red chair! But there’s the Good Witch (Glinda) and the bad witch who gets the house landed on her.

Bonus: The White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Read Without the Synopsis




I would allow a synopsis that only gives the time period of the story and the location. No other information. I hope someone will try reading one of these in that way! Get it from the library and cover it with brown paper. Or download it to your kindle and then skip the summary. Try it. You might find a new favorite book!




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Top 5 Wednesday: Classes Based on Books/Characters


  1. Storm Chasing with Dorothy Gale and Assistants



2. Identifying Potential Addicts with Professor W.W. [White Witch] Jadis



3. Ethics in Science with Victor Frankenstein




4. Tomorrow is Another Day: Reinventing Yourself After Disaster  with Scarlett O’Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler



5.  How the Other Half Lives with Margaret Hale


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Top 5 Wednesday: Bromances


Love this topic! So fun!


The Bromance in Chief I


President Barrack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. One of history’s great Bromances!


The Bromance in Chief II



President Jed Bartlett and Leo McGarry of The West Wing.

Bromance Abbey



Robert, Earl of Grantham and his butler, Charles Carson, on Lady Mary’s first wedding day. Downton Abbey.


The Dad Bromance



Harry, Bill and Sam–a Bromance unlike any other. Mama Mia! Indeed!

Did you know there’s a sequel in the works?


The Classic 80s TV Bromance



Magnum and Higgins (and “the lads”)–a classic tv Bromance. Magnum, P.I.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Books from Before You Joined

Top5Wed was launched at the end of 2006–or so my Google search tells me. I joined soon after. Therefore I have to dig back a bit to see what I read in 2005 and 2006 to decide on the top 5 books just prior to my joining. Back then I had a normal 20 minute commute so I didn’t listen to audio books. And, I had young children at the time. My reading was also pretty much dependent on what I could find at our very ho-hum, totally underfunded, un-networked public library or at used book stores. A splurge on Amazon or at Borders (a big thing then) was rare.  Happily I kept a reading log back then. Some of these have even been added to my Goodreads lists.



This book, sadly, came right to mind this week. What if Separate But Equal had been real? What if the South HAD won the war? This was an engrossing read back in the late 90s. I imagine it will find new readers of all political views this week. C.S.A. Confederate States of America: A Novel by Howard Means.



William Martin’s Harvard Yard is a sprawling great story about the hunt for a possibly unknown Shakespeare play. It goes back-and-forth in time and draws on the history of Harvard as well as of Shakespeare. It’s a great read–I recall racing home to read it after work and staying up till the wee hours of the morning, not wanting to put it down and go to sleep.  Harvard Yard by William Martin.



Sadly, too, various  books on the war zone countries of Afghanistan and Iraq came to mind this week as well.  How brave would you be? Would you sell people books the regime said were satanic? Would you risk death to do so? This man did. The Bookseller of Kabul.



I’ve written here in childhood memory posts about my horse obsession as a kid. My interest in horses is still very strong, so Seabiscuit caught my attention when it came out. I devoured it! It was so poignant! Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.



The movie came out last week and a friend went to see it (and loved it), so The Glass Castle came to mind. An amazing book of memoir and family dysfunction. The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeannette Walls.

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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.