Saturday, December 2, 2023

First Lines: November 2023 edition

Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in November.  My ability to retain what I read was low.  After all, we had an election and its aftermath to deal with.   My favorite candidate won, which is good and actually rather overwhelming to consider. 


Book 1

A Stranger’s Gaze

Bombay February 1921

On the morning Perveen saw the stranger, they’d almost collided.



Book 2

In October there were yellow trees.  Then the clocks went back the hour and the long November winds came in and blew, and stripped the trees bare.  


Dusk falls in North Park
November 18, 2016

Book 3

Toward the northern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, at the point where the East Coast ends and the great American Midwest begins, three rivers meet. 


Book 4

Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body.



Book 5

The morning was wet and it must have been raining all night, for a pool of water had seeped under the back door of Miss Selbourne’s cottage.



Book 6

The Civil Rights Movement was one of the most dramatic periods of American history, marked by rapid and profound change.  During this short span of time – from the 1950s to the 1970s – African Americans led the fight to free this country from the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow.  African American women played significant roles at all levels of the Civil Rights Movement, yet too often they remain invisible to the larger public.


The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

The Widows of Malabar Hill (Perveen Mistry #1)  by Sujata Massey. 

400 pages.  Published 2018.

The book takes place in 1917-1921 in British India, mostly in Mumbai (then known as Bombay), and introduces the interesting character of Perveen Mistry, the first woman lawyer to work as a solicitor in India.   It’s a murder mystery, but also provides a description of some of the distinct cultures of that time and place: Parsi, Muslim, including women living in complete isolation (purdah), British, Hindu.  I look forward to reading the next in the series. 


Book 2

Small Things Like These  by Claire Keegan.  187 pages.  Published 2018.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

I quite enjoyed this novella for the introspection of the main character.  To me it had a feel that it takes place longer ago than the year in which it was set - 1986 in Ireland.  The mix of sadness at past life, current struggle to commit to doing the right thing, and joy at arriving at doing the right thing, in spite of the cost, was poignant.   Recommend.

I read this for book club for our December gathering.  It is great to have a short and well-written book for December.  If you, Dear Reader,  know of any other well-written books that take place in winter-time, please let me know.


Book 3

Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance, by Mark Whitaker.  448 pages, but the text itself is not quite that long.  Published 2018.

I skipped the parts about boxing (my eyes utterly glazed over – just could not absorb any of that material) and skimmed over the parts about baseball.  But I found the rest of it fascinating, including the chapter on journalist Evelyn Cunningham and the chapter on playwright August Wilson. 


Book 4

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  176 pages. Published 2015.

Second reading.  This time for book club. This is a short and meaty text – one long essay, really.  Published in 2015 and definitely still relevant.  Highly recommend.



Book 5

Bramton Wick, by Elizabeth Fair.  200 pages   First published 1952.

It took me a while to get going on this one.  Part of my problem was that each house in the village has a name.  It was hard to keep track, at first, of which family lived in each named house.  I enjoyed the characters in this light romance, which is part of the Furrowed Middlebrow collection of “Twentieth Century Women’s Fiction” (whatever that means).  Includes tea drinking and dogs.

Book 6

Lighting the Fires of Freedom:  African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement, by Janet Dewart Bell.  211 pages. Published 2018.

The book is a compilation of the author’s interviews with women who worked in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s to 1970s.  I picked this book because I wanted to read more about Diane Nash.  I learned that she is a woman of unequaled courage.  She recognized that when the first Freedom Rides met with violence, if the rides ended then “southern white racists would have believed that a Movement project could be stopped by inflicting a great deal of violence on it.  And if that message got sent, we would’ve had so many people killed after that.  It would’ve been impossible to have a movement about anything.  Voting rights, desegregation, or whatever.”   

While the nine women interviewed for this book were interesting and the actions they took inspiring, the interviews could have used more editing. The speaker would mention an event that I had no knowledge of, so I was unable to fully understand.  There was a fair amount of repetition.  Nevertheless, it was worthwhile to read the thoughts, in their own words, of these important and often overlooked women.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Thanksgiving Survey 2023 - Wheel - Responses

The subtitle for this survey should probably be "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles".  This year there were a vast multitude of responses from many family members.

Survey Question 1.

What is a type of wheel, or a specific wheel, for which you are thankful?

 Family responses:

A.  steering wheel

B. Wheeling, West Virginia.  Per wikipedia, the name comes from the Lenni-Lenape phrase 'wih link', which meant "place of the head". This name refers to a white settler who was scalped, decapitated, and his severed head put on display.

C. The wheels on my suitcase

D. The Wheel of Time, which I have enjoyed talking about with my spouse because it is their favorite fantasy series. 

E. I am quite thankful for the little hamster wheels inside my computer – I don’t know of any other way my computer would possibly work!

F.  The Wheel of Time book series. It will always be one of my favorites and my partner just finished the series recently. So now we can share in it together.

G.  I am thankful for wheels of cheese because they are large and delicious.

H.I am thankful for the two wheels I had on Mariah, who was the Raleigh bike I rode through Europe in 1953.  I never had a flat tire.

I. The cam in a ballpoint pen.

J. The bicycle wheels on my Christmas present.

K.  My Cheerios.

L.   I am grateful for the roller wheels inside the DS200 machine. which pull the voter’s ballot in so it can be scanned and counted.

M.  I am most thankful for the pottery wheel

N. The wheels on the bus. (Great kids song)

O.  Color wheel

P.  I am thankful for my car tires. I am able to get to work to provide for my family as well as go to fun places where we make great memories. 

Bus at American Visionary Art Museum
in Baltimore, MD

Survey Question 2.

What is the earliest wheel that you can think of?

I purposefully left the question vague - some answered about the earliest wheel in their own life, and others attempted to answer about the earliest wheel in history, or in the universe. Some of these things are not actually wheels, in my opinion.

 Family responses:

A.  bacterial flagellum

B.  The spiral wheel of the Milky Way.  It formed not long after the universe formed,

about 13 billion years ago -- even older than Wheeling West Virginia, which formed

in 1793.  Wheeling West Virginia rotates around the Milky Way

every 212 million years.

C. The "Wheels on the Big Rig" song we would listen to as kids

D. I'm feeling like the Sumerians made giant stone wheels, but I wasn't there.

E. The earliest wheel I can think of is the First Wheel. I can easily imagine that

some wheel was the first one, and if I can think about that wheel, then it’s

automatically the answer!

F. The solar system, everything spins around the center point, our sun.

G. The wheel of time represented by the circular Mayan Calendar

H. I think I have some perception of the wheels on the baby carriage that my

sister and I rode in.  They were big wheels.  The carriage was in the attic until

we sold it to an antique store.

I. Ea-nāṣir's copper wheeling and dealing.

J. The car wheel

K.  My Cheerios.

L.  Obviously, the earliest wheels in history were the ones on Fred Flintstone’s car.

M. The earliest wheel I can think of is an animal with radial symmetry- such as

jellyfish and other cnidarians- just spinning really fast 

N.  Chariot wheels.  ( in Prince of Egypt… a must see)

O.  Toy car

P.  The earliest wheel I can think of is a wooden wheel that was used a zillion

years ago. I’m not great with history 😂

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Thanksgiving Survey 2023: Wheel

This is the flat tire on my car
on Election Day 2017.
I was thankful when it was fixed.

Just what you all have been waiting for - the Common Household time-honored tradition of the Thanksgiving Survey!  Because another poll is what we all need.  This one is the twelfteenth survey (but the eleventeenth one that I have published on this blog).  Thanks to Rabbi E.M. whose Kol Nidre sermon provided inspiration for this year's theme.

Thanksgiving survey:  


1. What is a type of wheel, or a specific wheel, for which you are thankful?

2.  What is the earliest wheel that you can think of?

Please participate by giving your answers in the comments.  Happy Thanksgiving Preparation Week!

Ferris Wheel within miniature railroad

Friday, November 3, 2023

First Lines: October 2023 edition

Below are the first lines of the 6 books I finished reading in October.   This month started with two  books with very difficult topics, followed by children's lit and a light romance.  It’s a heavy time.

Two of this month's books took place in medieval times.  When I searched my photos for “medieval” this is what came up:


Hogwarts at Universal Studios, Florida.
yours truly as a band chaperone

A gun sense rally outside a church in Pittsburgh.
The building looks plenty medieval but it dates
to 1902 and the congregation began in 1836.

Without further ado, the first lines:


Book 1

Chapter 1: The Cabin

My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.



Book 2

Almost everyone in Utah county has heard of the Lafferty boys.  That’s mostly a function of the lurid murders, of course, but the Lafferty surname had a certain prominence in the county even before Brenda and Erica Lafferty were killed.



Book 3

Robin drew the coverlet close about his head and turned his face to the wall. He covered his ears and shut his eyes, for the sound of the bells was deafening.



Book 4

This is for the unforgettable.

The swift and sweet ones

Who hurdled history

And opened a world

Of possible.


The ones who survived


by any means necessary.

Book 5

“You’re free!”

“That’s one way of looking at it.”

“Oh, come on,” said Hannah.  “You were buried alive in that place.  How long’s it been?  Ten years?”



Book 6

The Dung Heap

When animal droppings and garbage and spoiled straw are piled up in a great heap, the rotting and moiling give forth heat.



Did not finish 

World of oil

If history is seen as a sequence of progressively more remarkable energy conversions then oil, or more accurately a range of liquids produced from it, has earned an incomparable place in human evolution.

The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

Stephanie Land.  288 pages.  Published 2019.

Difficult topic; eye opening.   This book has been made into a TV series, which I haven’t seen but my husband has.  Based on our comparisons, it seems to me that the TV series vastly exaggerates the conditions described in the book.  Those conditions are bad enough and don’t need exaggeration to be horrifying.  I think everyone at book club  appreciated the chance to read this book.


Book 2

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer 

432 pages. Published 2003.

A violent and disturbing non-fiction account of men who engage in abuse, rape, incest, and misogynist treatment of women and girls, using their religion to justify their detestable, evil  behavior.  I read it for the other book club, to be discussed later in November.



Book 3

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. 120 pages.

Newbery Medal winner in 1950

This book is about a boy in the Middle Ages who becomes incapacitated after an illness – he can’t walk.  He was supposed to be a gallant knight but now that path is not open to him anymore.  With the help of a kind monk and some other folks, he manages to help save the castle and the village.  It’s a fine story, but seemed a little scant to be a Newbery winner.  It was the right book for me this month.


Book 4

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson (illustrator). Caldecott Medal book.  23 pages.  Published 2019.

I had thought that this was a Newbery Medal book, but instead it was a picture book.  A good one, though.


Book 5

The Littlest Library, by Poppy Alexander.  323 pages. first pub 2021.

Light, romantic, cozy lit.  A bit repetitive, as most books in this genre are, but I enjoyed it. I had need of this book, after reading Maid and Under the Banner of Heaven – brutal descriptions of life – and needing to deflect pre-election woes.  The book contains some drinking of hot tea, quite a lot of alcoholic drinking, the presence of bats and cats.  The plot totally overinflates the influence of a little free library, but, hey, an author can dream.


Book 6

The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman.  Newbery Medal winner in 1996.   128 pages. 

Yet another Y.A. story set in the Middle Ages in England, this time about a pre-teen girl called Brat who has no family, no home, and no purpose in life.  She finds a new name and makes a purpose for herself.   Recommend.  (Just a note - contains plenty of birthing scenes, which might not be for everybody.)


Did not finish 

Oil: a Beginner’s Guide, by Vaclav Smil.  224 pages Published 2010.  Second edition

I made it to page 125.  Good general description of the plusses and minuses of fossil fuels, how they affect the earth and the economy.  That was Chapter 1.  But in Chapter 2,  I couldn’t make it through all the alkanes and alkenes, anticlines and diapirs.  I want to better understand how renewable diesel is made and how it works, but I now doubt my ability to grasp such things.  Maybe after I’m done thinking about and working on elections.  Which, given the current state of things, will be never.