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  • Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

    +Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Philip Connors: I really loved this book! If you like to read stories about the outdoors, this book is for you. The premise is that the author is working as a journalist in NYC when one of his friends let’s him know that a fire lookout job is available in New Mexico. He’d previously spent some time in a tower with this friend and really enjoyed his time out there. Well, one thing lead to another and Connors ends up spending half the year looking for fires in the Gila Wilderness and the other half tending bar.

    What I liked about this book was that it wasn’t strictly about the life in a lookout tower but also about the history of the USFS, our country’s history with fire and fire control/suppression, and some interesting local knowledge about tribes that lived in the area. There’s an especially heartwrenching portion of the story about a fawn he finds—well, I can’t tell you about that, you will have to read it. Heartwrenching, though!

    Highly recommend this one!

    +The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: This book. This book was full of dumb-asses. I started saying ‘dumb-asses’ in my head so much I started channeling Red Forman.

    For starters, I’d flagged this book for a hold as it was recommended to me on my digital Overdrive account. The premise sounded interesting when I borrowed it: 1790s southern Virginia plantation, a six year old Irish girl who’s forced into indentured servitude because her parents died on their way to America, she’s separated from her younger brother who is sold to someone else. The first dumbass in this book is the captain of the ship and the plantation owner. He’s a dumb-ass because he never corrects his wife and young son’s thoughts that Belle, a mixed-race slave and secondary narrator, is his daughter and not his mistress. Gah, if he’d not had his head up his ass about this, everything else in the book wouldn’t have been so damned bad. The thing is everyone and their dog knew the truth the entire time I don’t understand how the wife, Miss Martha, never figured it out. Or how the son, Marshall, didn’t figure it out. Cue dumb-asses.

    Without going into crazy detail about this book, I’ll say that it started off well. It was a semi-typical antebellum story and moved along well which is why I kept reading it. Lavinia, the Irish girl, grows up living among the slaves but it is clear that she’s kind of in a limbo; she’s not high enough to live in the Big House but she isn’t quite low enough to be totally mixed in with the slaves. That’s another thing that bothered me, while it was apparent this was slavery and the issues of owning people was brought up many times, the use of the word servant was thrown about far too much for me. This isn’t Downton Abbey servants. Her slave family are slightly elevated slaves as they are the kitchen and house slaves, not the field slaves. The author does make a decent distinction between how each of those two groups lived, one fairly better than the other.

    Something I also had trouble with on occasion was picturing the scenes. I kept envisioning a modern kitchen, or at least a late 1800s kitchen, not a late 1700s kitchen. My kitchen kept having a sink. Yeah, I don’t think that happened!

    This book is full of death, rape, violence, child molestation, mental disorders, drug abuse (good gravy, the trope of laudanum!), alcohol abuse, and all sorts of other crap. The author pulled all the tricks out for this book and most of the time I couldn’t wait to see what other sordid thing she was going to bring out next. Honestly, the first half of the book I thought was decent. Lavinia was a little dense but I figured she’d grow out of it, that the elders in her life would actually educate her a little bit about the ways of the world. But no, the girl never gets any common sense and never becomes any kind of figure you are rooting for.

    I rated this 3 stars on Goodreads because it was a page turner and easily readable. I found a lot of fun in reading the 1 and 2 star reviews because they were all lamenting, like me, why on earth the book had so many 4 and 5 star reviews. I did find out there’s a sequel that just came out. I’m not sure I have it in me to read it, but I am kind of curious about how a few people ended up!

    In other words, don’t waste your time on this book!

    I thought this was another interesting take on this book: from

    +Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy: As I was reading this book I found several parallels in our hike as compared to his hike. As I said a few months ago I had held off from reading any trail memoirs as I was writing my book and found myself needing to know what some of the books were really about before I sent out book proposals. The writing was easy to read and enjoyable for the most part. Molloy hiked the trail in, I think 2005 or 2006, the book was published in 2008, so there were definitely some differences in trail routes from our hike in 2011. Like the The Florida Trail End to End that I wrote about last month, Molloy finished his hike at the Alabama state line in Blackwater River State Forest. It sounded like he had initially wanted to end at Fort Pickens but the effects of Hurricane Ivan were still on-going when he finished his hike and there were issues with closures along the beach, including at Fort Pickens. Also noted were more roadwalks than even we did, particularly in the panhandle. The Palatka-Lake Butler rail-to-trail hadn’t been added as a route to the Florida Trail at that point and so a lot of that was a road walk…which he opted to take a whirl on the rail-to-trail anyway and found it only recently cleared. Having barrled our way down uncleared rail-to-trail before I can’t imagine doing it on the Florida Trail! Also noticeable were longer roadwalks in the section from Econfina Creek west to Eglin. I’m so very thankful we got some new public and private lands to break up that roadwalk. One interesting item I noted, and even Molloy remarked about it a few times, was how he made a campfire every night and most mornings. Definitely not a common event among thru-hikers, even in areas along the Appalachian Trail, unless there’s a group of day or section hikers out. Overall it is a great book to introduce hikers to the Florida Trail. Easy to read and there was quite a bit of interesting facts about some of the locales that I didn’t even know about!

    +All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve had this on hold digitally and for a hard copy at the library for several months now. The internet has been raging about this Pulitzer Prize winning WWII novel and I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and begin reading it. The hard copy came up for me but unfortunately I got about 30-40 pages in and it wasn’t doing anything for me. The ‘chapters’, if you can call them that, are 1-2 pages long and jump between the stories of the two main characters. Just when you are getting involved in a scene you are pulled out and flopped back into the story of the other person. It was incredibly annoying. I lost patience very quickly and because I knew I wouldn’t be able to suffer through it by renewing it, as there are other people on the wait list, I opted to return it. I’ll likely try this again another day/year when I can purchase my own copy to take my time. Or not. Who knows?

    On Deck
    +Lab Girl by Hope Jahren: Erin at The Familiar Wilderness gave me a heads up about this book not long before it debuted last month. I put in requests for my Overdrive to get a digital copy and I also reserved a hard copy at the library. It looks like I’m next up for the digital copy so I’m holding off on reading anything else digitally for now. Looking forward to this!

    +Baby Birds: An Artist Looks Into the Nest by Julie Zickefoose: I first found out about Julie Zickefoose, gosh, maybe in 8 or 9 years ago when she was a commentator on NPR. I found her blog and followed her here and there but with our hikes on the AT and FT and then our field work, I stopped staying in the loop. Erin at TFW has been friends with her for awhile and I’d seen her post and converse with her in various social media outlets and so I started following Julie once again. She’s got a great blog and I love her perspective on the natural world! Well, she’s been working for years and years on this book, building a portfolio of baby bird paintings and finally the book was published. I opted to support her by purchasing Baby Birds directly from her site instead of Amazon as she retains more of the profit that way. I’ve just barely flipped through it but it is beautiful! Forest even liked the bird paintings but I have to be careful because I know he’ll go to town tearing pages!

    What are y’all reading?


    +Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: As I finish my third reading of this book, I have to say I have developed an appreciation for taking it slow and sussing out the details of this book and series. With any of Diana Gabaldon’s books, when they first come out it is a race to devour the story, to see where it leads. Often I finish mentally exhausted, which is to be expected after 800+ pages. And then I don’t pick the book up again for years. I’ve read the first four in the Outlander series multiple times and really need to pick up the last four once again. I’m curious how my opinion of the tv show’s rendition of the story will unfold having been so close to the story for these last several months.

    +The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: As I mentioned in the February book report about this book, I hadn’t realized it was a YA novel. It definitely had two of my favorite common threads of a YA novel: historical and a heroine. However, the story fell flat a few times. The premise of the novel is of a young girl of about 14, pre-WWI, who is living in an emotionally, and borderline physically abusive household. As primary caretaker to her father and brothers, there’s little love going around. She wants an education but has been forced by her father to abandon her schooling, not unheard of in that time, to run the household since her mother died. After seeing an ad in the paper about actually getting paid for work as a hired girl, she makes a run for it one day using money her mother had hidden for her in a doll.

    Eventually she makes it to a larger city and by weird circumstances comes to work in a Jewish household. There’s a lot of concealment of age, young crushes, and a coming of age story tied up in there. If I had been a teeanger I would have loved the story more but as an adult I saw a lot of faulty story going on. That said, if you want a light YA read, it’s worth checking out.

    +The Florida Trail End to End: A Father and His Sons Two and a Half Year Adventure Hiking 1100 Miles Across Florida by Mike Umbarger: I have held off for years in reading hiking memoirs in an effort not to sway my writing of my own trail story. However, when I began working on my book proposal I found out I needed to know the market of what was currently on sale for the genre. Being that there are relatively few Florida Trail memoirs out there compared to the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, it was fairly easy to pick a few books to scope out.

    I chose this as a Kindle read. It was self published by the author and hiker, and is a narrative, as the title suggests, of the section hike he went on with his sons. I hesitate to be too harsh because it is someone’s creative endeavor, but the book needed serious editing. However, I did find a lot of humor and inspiration threading through the book. I also commiserated many times with some of the stories, particularly with the wretched Lake Butler Forest. What I liked best was that he was taking his kids on a journey that most people don’t even attempt to do. As someone who actively tries to engage my own son in the natural world, I really hope that I can take Forest on section hikes or maybe even a short thru-hike in the coming years.

    Currently Reading

    +The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer: This is kind of an on-hold book only because I didn’t finish listening to it before it expired with the library. I was so close to finishing it, too! I’m now like 17th in line for it once again!

    If you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, she’s a musician and performance artist. She’s also married to author Neil Gaiman. If you want a little background on her you can see her TED Talk. I listened to this as an audio book and I highly, highly recommend it. Amanda read the book herself and is an excellent choice for doing so. She should narrate more audio books! Interspersed throughout is music from her solo work as well as her work with The Dresden Dolls.

    I won’t go into detail about the book until I finish it, which might be a few months since I’m so far down the list again! But from what I’ve listened to so far I definitely recommend you put it on your list of to-read non-fiction books.

    +Along the Florida Trail by Bart Smith and Sandra Friend: One of the books I purchased for my proposal research. Love it so far! I found a used book on Amazon and it was signed by Sandra. This is more of a photo book accompanied with narrative about each of the sections of the Florida Trail.

    +Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy: Molloy gets around in the hiking and backpacking book world. He’s had a ton of books published. This story is about his thru-hike of the trail in the mid 2000s. I haven’t read much of it yet but it is well written and very interesting so far!

    +Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Phillip Connors This book has been on my radar for several years now. I’m sure it was profiled in Backpacker or Outside which is probably where I found out about it. As I’d finished Umbarger’s book, I needed another Kindle read for Forest’s bedtime (he takes 45 min-1 hr to get to sleep…so I have lots of time sitting around in the dark!) and tried finding backpacking and hiking books from the Overdrive library app. Those searches yielded little results and so I tried ‘wilderness’ and came up with this book. I saw Finding Everett Ruess hiding in there, too, so it might be my next read.


    +The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

    +How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell

    +Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich

    +Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Allison Weir

    What are you reading?


    The Lady Elizabeth by Allison Weir: I started this back in late January but didn’t finish it until sometime in mid-February. It was fairly long and took a lot out of me! However, I really did enjoy it. The author has several historical fiction books of this era that I want to read at some point in time. What I liked about this book was that it followed the life of Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I) from about 3 years old until about 25 years old, when her sister Queen Mary died and Elizabeth became queen. The book picks up on the rumor that Elizabeth may have become pregnant from Thomas Seymour when she was about 14-15 and takes off with that storyline a bit. From my reading, that rumor seems to be unfounded. It’s an interesting thread, though.

    The writing was done well and I found myself Googling various historical figures in the book as I went along. I will definitely read more of her books in the future.

    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: I’ve been a Brene Brown fan for years now, long before she hit the popularity with TED talks. I just never got around to reading her books! I started this one back in early fall but never finished it. Finally, i took it with me to the gym and flipped through the last 1/3 that I had left. I definitely resonated with more of the first 1/2 of the book than the second half. If you struggle with perfectionism, either outwardly or inwardly, this book is worth reading. It deals not only with perfection but touches on shame, which is one of Brown’s biggies when she talks. Honestly, shame is a lot more related to emotions, feelings, and actions than I thought. It keeps coming up in so many readings and podcasts I listen to. While I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, there are some aspects on the creative front that I get in an all-or-nothing attitude with myself.

    Currently Reading

    Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve been rereading this with Elizabeth the last four to five months. We should be wrapping up this month before the second season of the tv show starts.

    The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay: I was looking for something to read on my phone while Forest goes to sleep every night and this sounded good. Just started it.

    The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: This has been in my queue digitally for quite a while. I just came into the slot for my turn and I’m probably going to be switching to reading it first before I finish The Map of Lost Memories. However, once I downloaded it I realized it’s a YA novel. Not a bad thing, I like some particular YA novels as an adult, so we’ll see. It has quite a high rating on GoodReads and Amazon so I’m betting it’ll be worthwhile.


    How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell: I’ve been hearing about stoicism and the Stoics for the last six to eight months in various online venues. They’ve piqued my interest and I tried to find something digitally from one of the more famous philosophers of that time period but came up empty from the library. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something from the original Stoics. However, I found this book about this dude Michel Eyquem de Montaigne a philosopher from the French Renaissance who had influence from the Stoics. This particular book isn’t his writings directly, and is instead more of a biography. It has been interesting enough for me to want to find his writings. Montaigne is basically the person who got essays into being. If he was around now he’d probably have a very popular blog or column in a newspaper. He influenced the likes of Emerson and Woolf.

    This is only on hold because I couldn’t renew my digital copy as someone else was in line for it. When it comes up again I’ll be reading it again.

    Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich: This one I began as an audio book. I’ve found that I have difficulty getting into audio books if I don’t like the reader. I ended up finding this one in paper from the library and will be giving it a go from there.

    Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Allison Weir: I jumped into another long historical fiction too soon after The Lady Elizabeth. Only a few pages in, I couldn’t read it and the Montaigne book at the same time. I let it lapse and will get it again another time. It’s promising, though!

    What are you reading?

    In my effort to read all the books this year, I made some progress with reading this month. Here’s the lowdown:


    • The Care and Management of Lies by Jaqueline Winspear. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction and as I was trolling through the Overdrive app for our library this one piqued my interest. I rated it 3/5 stars because of some character development issues and some weird language/writing at the beginning. The book is set in WWI England and we see the beginning of the war from three different vantage points. Because of this I believe it easily could have been split into two books. Also, there was a very compelling suffragette component to one of the storylines and frankly I found myself wanting to know more about that line and suffragettes. It made me want to read more about women getting the right to vote, what was done to them (HORRIBLE THINGS!), and to be a more well-rounded feminist. Mental note: read more feminist books this year!
    • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book. This book deserves 6 stars instead of 5. It is that good! It’s part memoir, part meditative/contemplative, part whip-your-ass-into-creative-shape…I will refer to this book for years to come. Read it straight through and then randomly pick it up and pull out whatever passages speak to you. I want to be Elizabeth Gilbert’s BFF.
    • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows by Diana Gabaldon. This is a novella of the Outlander novels set between/around books 7 and 8. I hesitate to say a whole lot about it so I don’t spoil things for others who haven’t made it through the whole series, but if you’ve at least read Dragonfly in Amber, the second book, there are several characters in that book that appear in this book. I know, I know, I’m confusing y’all! Just know there’s a sweet treat and more mystery when you finish the Big Books. LOVED this one!
    • The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon. This is another novella from the Outlander series and it takes place concurrently with the last released book, book 8. Definitely don’t read this one until you’ve finished the entire series as it is currently. It is about what happened to Roger’s parents. While I did like this one it wasn’t a ‘love’ as the other novella. Honestly, I wanted more. It was too short. Oh, and another mention of a Dragonfly in Amber character in this book. Yes, very intriguing!

    Currently Reading

    • The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. Remember I said I liked historical fiction? Yep, this is historical fiction and it’s Tudor fiction at that! I love me some Tudor fiction! I know I’ve gone through all or most of the Philippa Gregory books for this period and the earlier War of the Roses period. I also love to watch any kind of Tudor time period movies or tv…so of course this gets me! It is a lot slower reading, though, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be renewing this one when it comes up. Based on the author’s list of books she’s written, I’m pretty sure I can satisfy my historical English monarchy fiction reading for awhile.

    What are you reading?

    It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these and I really don’t have a whole lot to report. If I don’t write one now it might be a few months before I get to one!

    Finished Reading

    • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

      This book was making the blog rounds last spring and I wavered back and forth on reading it. I opted to listen to it as an audiobook via our library’s download system. It was a very easy listen, I think 5-6 hours, maybe a little bit more. The premise is that by keeping clutter and ‘things’, it can impact our mental status and can distract and affect our moods. It is built off of the minimalist living premise and culture. The author is Japanese and I believe the book was originally written in Japanese as sometimes there’s a weird flow going on with the reading/listening of the book.

      Downsizing our stuff five years back and then getting it once again when we moved into our house 3.5 years ago was overwhelming. We went from having just a little bit of stuff to getting all of our stuff back plus buying more stuff to round out what we didn’t have. And then getting stuff from various family memebers who were getting rid of their stuff and feeling the sense of obligation to take it. Honestly, we don’t need some of the things we’ve kept around. I’ve debated getting rid of holiday stuff for awhile (non-Christmas) (but I drool at pumpkins and fall decor at the stores!) and we have boxes of shells and decoration stored in various storage areas around our house and outbuildings and frankly we don’t need them. Things are always stored for ‘someday’ and usually someday never comes and it sits there taking up space.

      Kondo’s advice is to go room by room and just take it all out and ask yourself if each piece ‘sparks joy’. If it doesn’t get rid of it/donate it. She gets a little carried away and takes this a little too far with photographs and other more sentimental items, of which I absolutely didn’t agree with. However, I think her premise makes a lot of sense. The Root Simple podcast has talked about her a few times, too. I think they like her premise but their problem is like so many of us out there, the DIYers who keep stuff because it might be of use one day. It was a predicament they were working through, trying to focus on actual projects and crafts/hobbies they know they will do and enjoy and not trying to worry about trying this or that hobby out because it is out there and available. Basically, becoming a specialist and not a generalist.

      My problem is that I would like to do some of her techniques but I don’t necessarily have a spouse that’s on board with that. So, I could apply it to just things that are in my control like my craft room and my clothes but not necessarily to other items that are of shared use.

      Some of the reviews I saw for the book took things a little too seriously and got upset with the author for some of her premises but I say, read it, and apply what you can and want of it to your life.

      Moral of story: You don’t need a bunch of stuff.

      You can watch a video of her here

    • Wild by Cheryl Strayed

      Ok, I am really kicking myself for holding out so long to read this book. Part of me is glad for a delayed reading in that I am reading it outside of all of the hubbub surrounding the novel. I held out because I had a bad grudge against it because it wasn’t a thru-hiking book. This despite several reputable people (Patrice!) telling me that it was well worth the read. I finally bit the bullet and read it and was pretty much captivated from the start.

      I should preface this to say that I had watched the movie last spring so I was familiar with the storyline when I went in to reading the book.

      This is not a thru-hiking book but a thru-hiker can definitely identify with it. Was she well-prepared? Nope. That was part of her story. But there were so many other moments that, like I said, a thru-hiker can identify with. The hiker hobble. The hiker hunger. The worry about making the miles. Wondering what’s up ahead. The thrill of going to town. The not-so-thrilled feeling about leaving town with a heavy pack.

      The hiking parts I really, really loved. Her story about her mother and life before the hike, well, I liked her writing but I really just could not identify with how broken she was enough to wreck her marriage and set off for flings and take up shooting heroin. There are some really tough scenes in the book that she flashes back to and sometimes I was annoyed that she had to switch gears from her hike back to a point in her life. However, I get it. I often flash back to various scenes in my life when I’m hiking. And of course the story was about how she was overcoming the troubles she’d gotten herself into and those moments had to be in the novel.

      In all, I definitely recommend reading this book. Also, listen to Cheryl on the Longform Podcast.

    Currently Reading

    • The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. This is the first in a series of books from her I plan on reading. I’m only a little bit into it but I am enjoying it so far.
    • Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I’m listening to this one and it is kind of in the same vein of Marie Kondo but less about ‘things’ and more about strategies for life. Do Less, Enjoy More is the theme I’m getting from it so far.
    • The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling. I’m about halfway through this as an audio book and am thinking of abandoning it. I liked what I heard so far but I’ve read a lot about being an introvert and none of it is really new to me. It’s definitely for people just discovering their introversion or for extroverts wanting to figure out a friend or family member who is an introvert.
    • Illumination in the Flatwoods by Joe Hutto. *still* reading this one but haven’t really picked it up in awhile. I’d like to knock it out soon.
    • Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I’m re-reading this for the third time (and I started thinking about it, it might even be my fourth time) with Elizabeth and we’re discussing it on her podcast every few weeks in anticipation for the second season of Outlander on Starz. Yeah, we’re hardcore fans!!

    That’s about it. Reading is probably going to take a backseat in the next few months as I want to get some more creative things done around here and I am planning on using NaNoWriMo in November as NaNoEdMo and finish editing my book in a hardcore way. I keep putting it of and putting it off and it’s driving me nuts. Once it is edited I can call it done and if it gets published or not at least I’ll have something final for myself.

    What are you reading?

    So, July sped by! I did not read as much as I wanted and so I don’t have a whole lot to report on. You can see June’s report here.

    +The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
    I finished reading this book while we were on vacation in Port Aransas. I couldn’t put it down, though towards the end I did feel like things got a little repetitive. The short story is, Chris and Carine McCandless had very crappy parents. There’s emotional and physical abuse, not to mention the father was basically a bigamist–though technically not married to their mother when she had them but was living with her while married to another woman with whom he had several children—including having a child with the first wife right around the time Chris was born. Yes, you can do some oogly eyes at that! Oh, it was a messy, messy life.

    Carine wrote the book because she felt like she’d betrayed Chris by not letting Jon Krakauer tell the truth about all of the background history of the family in Into the Wild. At the time she didn’t want to air the dirty family secrets but had given that background knowledge to Krakauer so that maybe there would be some allusion. As the years went by her parents continued to perpetuate many myths and gained sympathy from the many people who mistook Chris for an unprepared idiot who abandoned his family and caused them grief. What they world didn’t know was the last people Chris wanted to be around were his parents, according to Carine and the rest of their siblings.

    I really enjoyed reading it but like others I was sometimes left with wanting more of a story that we will ever get. Chris has been dead for over 20 years and will never be able to give voice to his odyssey out west. We just have to accept it and move on.

    +The Art of Influence
    I grabbed this back in June off of the library’s books-on-cd rack. It looked interesting and self-help-ish in regards to business and positivity. It was incredibly short, about two hours, and ended up filling a gap on a day when the internet was down at work and I couldn’t stream podcasts. However, it was the most awful thing ever. I hesitated to even write about it because who wants to know about crappy books? But, I want to save someone else from reading it. It was the most smarmy business parable I’ve heard. Goodreads reviewers either loved it or hated it. I’m not sure how you could love it. The bullet points could have been written in a blog post and summarized simply instead of going through a roundabout storytelling session.

    Don’t read it!

    In the Middle Of
    +Illiumination in the Flatwoods

    I had every intention of finishing this book this month. Just haven’t gotten there. I think it’s a book to be savored.

    +The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon
    The library wanted it back when I tried to renew….someone else had requested it.

    +Small Victories by Anne Lamott
    Probably on hold indefinitely until I decide to read it in print. Just can’t handle the author’s voice on the recording.

    On the Radar
    SO MUCH!

    I don’t have anything planned to read yet but here’s what I do want to read:
    +Dragonfly in Amber—re-read with Elizabeth for the upcoming Outlander season.
    +Brene Brown books. I’ve listened to several podcasts with her and her TED talks and she just makes you think hard about a lot of tough topics. This year has been difficult for me and I think it is right up my alley.
    +The Signature of All Things and the soon to be released Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She just launched a podcast, too, and it is fantastic.
    +Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I really fought this book for so long but it took several reviews by various people for me to accept that it was *not* a thru-hiking book. We did watch the movie and I actually liked it a lot. I do have this one on hand that I’m borrowing from Chris’ mom so it will likely be my next read.

    There’s a lot on my radar—just not enough time!

    Ohhhh, I forgot…The Girl on the Train…the book that is taking the blogosphere by storm.

    What’s on your reading list?

    When I wrote my summer goals last month I mentioned wanting to read three books this summer. I am well on my way to getting that done and adding more to the list. I credit a few things for this, one of them being that I gave up Facebook back in late April. The last time I spent this much time away from the site was for the last half of 2009. I’ve done little hiatuses here and there, but it just got to be too much. I don’t have the personality where I can just say I won’t log in…because I will. I have to actually close the account. It got much easier as the weeks went by, though sometimes I felt like I was missing out on little news updates and tidbits, but I really don’t miss the drama or memes or people selling me stuff.

    So with my evenings, instead of reading status updates, writing my own, or reading the myriad of links that people post, I am instead doing things around the house, trying to write here, or reading. It’s incredibly refreshing!

    What have I read in June?


    +Eat and Run by Scott Jurek: I actually listened to this via a free Audible download. It had been on my radar for several years, particularly when I was vegetarian, and it seemed like an easy book that I could follow while listening at work. And it was. I really liked the book and the person who read it. Scott almost makes me want to run more than 3 miles at a time, but really, I’d rather hike all of those miles he runs in an ultra. It was interesting to listen to his story of growing up, how he got into running, running with the Tarahumara, and how he became a badass runner. It also reinforced my vegetarian ways…I want to go back someday. I might eat my weight in pulled pork before I go back, though!

    As a side note I only found out a week or so ago that he currently going for Jennifer Pharr Davis’ Appalachian Trail assisted speed record: read more here.

    +Becoming Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Hah, yes, I mention her above and I also read her first book about her first thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In 2011 she set the AT assisted speed record in 46 days but in her first thru-hike she did it as a typical NOBO hike. I bought this back in October when I was still on maternity leave as part of a Kindle bundle with her second book, Called Again, when they were on sale for like $3 total. I’ve been a fan of Davis’ ever since I followed her AT record in 2011. I went into reading this book ‘knowing’ one aspect of her persona put out on Facebook by her own page, and through news and blog articles. I really like her and support her.

    I really did not like her in this book. At first I did but then I started hating her a lot! At first I was excited to be back on the trail, but then some of her side stories just became entititled and obnoxious. It toned down a bit towards the end, though. She actually does address these shortcomings here, so it is nice to know that she realizes she’s changed and that she had some issues in the first book.

    That said, I did feel the book was poorly written. It could have been developed so much more! Maybe she wrote it a few years after the fact and forgot some details, I’m not sure. Some of the details she did write were harrowing, including hiking with a guy who was borderline stalker. I know that many women hiking alone are very cautious about who they hike with and their surroundings, so I can’t imagine being stuck around someone you just can’t shake.

    In all, it was an easy read and brought back memories from our hike. It is only my third AT memoir to read and I would be put it at the bottom of those three. The Barefoot Sister’s set is by far my favorite AT read, though I really need to Nimblewill Nomad’s account.

    +Mortality by Christopher Hitchens: This was an impulse grab off of my library’s audio book shelves. After having success listening to Eat and Run I wanted to pick up a few other books to listen to as a way to break up listening to podcasts. I was familiar with Hitchens but not really of his work. I knew he had died a few years ago and that he had quite the public profile as a writer for many major publications.

    This book is incredibly short, about two hours on audio, and it is really a very simply stated and truthful telling of facing death by cancer. There’s no sugar coating it, no glib remarks about putting on a brave face or having a battle with cancer…he pretty much just turns all the fluff about it on its head. I like his writing and I like the narrator for the audio book. I definitely shouldn’t have started here, with his death, but I think I’ll go back and read some of his other works in the future.

    In The Middle Of
    +The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless: For Into the Wild fans, this is Chris McCandless’ sister telling the rest of the story, what she told Jon Krakauer but did not have him publish. Let’s just say, they did not have a happy home life. I’m about halfway through it and will review it next month.

    +Illiumination in the Flatwoods: A Season with the Wild Turkey: I started this back in mid-spring and had to return it to the library before I finished. I love, love, love it so far. It’s set in the Appalachichola area of Florida, so definitely up my alley.

    +Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott: This is another impulse grab off of the library audio bookshelf. Unfortunately it is read by the author and I am having a hard time with her voice. I’m not sure I will finish listening to it or try to find it on paper to read later. This would be my first Lamott book.

    On Deck
    +Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis: Since I bought it as part of the Kindle bundle with her first book I am going to read this, too. I’m hoping for better writing and am definitely excited about the story.

    +The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon: Since I am all caught up on other Outlander novels and tv shows, I’m going to bide my time of Droughtlander with Gabaldon’s other novels that revolve around many of the same characters and other small characters in her novels.

    Got any recommendations for the coming months?


    I can’t believe it is nearly mid-June and I’m 28 weeks pregnant! Whattttt? Time has flown by. I’m slowly feeling the panic rise, that the summer is going to breeze by me and I won’t enjoy it as fully as I should, and then soon fall will be knocking on the door and I’ll be nursing an infant. It’ll happen like *that*. I know it will. So, I do my best not to foward-think too much and keep trying to enjoy June.

    Chris and I finished our last Bradley Method class the other evening. I’m so glad we took the class, it was a learning experience for both of us. I feel so much more prepared for a natural childbirth than before and I truly think that as long as me and the baby are healthy when 40 weeks approaches, there’s no reason for not having a successful natural birth. I know the cost and length of the class scares people off (10-12 weeks and $250-$300) but it was money and time well spent, especially knowing that many women desiring a natural childbirth go into it more unprepared than they think for birth itself but also for what they may face at the hospital intervention wise (based on stories I’ve read on blogs and forums…women with failed natural births the first go-round, realizing they weren’t as educated as they thought, end up making more an effort for a successful natural birth the second go-round). If you are thinking about having a natural birth, absolutely check into the Bradley Method and read the associated books that go with it (Husband Coached Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way).

    Now that we’re done with class I’m trying to stay focused on doing the daily workouts that are suggested, continuing to eat well, and focusing on my relaxation. I had my glucose tolerance test a week ago and I didn’t hear results for a week. Typically they don’t call anyway if there’s nothing wrong, so by week’s end I had decided that I’d probably passed the test. The nurse called me yesterday and said I did pass with a 134 and the level had to be below 140. I went online to see if I could read more about the numbers and it seemed a bit all over the board with what doctors consider passing, some say 130 and below, others said 140…but then there were women who had results in the 170s and higher so I didn’t feel so bad having a 134. What I thought was most interesting were a lot of the pregnant paleo bloggers who were failing the test, likely because their body’s weren’t even used to sugar and carbs anyway so downing the glucose drink probably threw everything into a whirl. I’m not paleo, but I have tried to watch what kind of sugar I’ve been eating, though probably not as good as I should (damn you seasonal Blue Bell ice cream flavors…and you 1/2 price Sonic shakes…), but that morning I only ate two eggs and skipped my usual morning snack of fruit and yogurt prior to the test. Anyway, the glucose drink was not awful, but it wasn’t tasty. It was an amplified Hawaiian Punch, with a twinge of a chemical after taste. If it had been offered to me as a soft drink I probably would have had two sips and called it good. Just too much sugar….blech.

    I’m realizing there’s so much to write about since the few weeks I last wrote. I’ll get to the books soon.

    Last week we also took our hospital tour. We wanted to get it out of the way so that we could work on finalizing our birth plan before my next checkup. The hospital only does tours once a week at 5pm, which was definitely annoying, but it worked out. We weren’t the only couple there, about four other couples joined us. The maternity ward itself was fairly nice and while the birthing rooms were huge, the recovery rooms were smaller and more hotel like but not nearly as nice, obviously. I’d written down a list of questions to ask and I was the only one with a list. I felt like a huge nerd, but at the same time I felt prepared. We threw the nurse giving the tour a few times, as I’m fairly certain they don’t see many natural births. While it seemed that most of our questions could be accomodated, the biggest one that we’ll have to resolve with our midwife is the issue with IVs. Since I’m not having an epidural and won’t be on pitocin, there’s no need for me to have an IV. I need to be able to move freely about without being tethered to an IV. And since I won’t have an IV I’ll be eating and drinking as I feel comfortable, hourly. I guess I worded the IV question wrong because the answer I got was “Everyone gets an IV. No food or drinks.” Well, something to that effect. Chris and I continued to prod her and finally she relented to say that they do whatever the doctor tells them to do, which reinforced to Chris and I that we have to talk to our midwife about it and get it on the birth plan that we don’t want an IV. (More information on actual evidenced based facts regarding IVs here). Our alternative if anyone insisted on having some portal set up to my veins was for a hep-lock to appease the minds of those not used to a natural/normal birth (or in the case that I end up Group B strep positive when they test in the last month and have to get antibiotics at birth.)

    So, the hospital tour really reinforced that we have to be firm in our wishes while weighing all of the benefits, risks and alternatives to suggestions by those in the hospital. But it also reinforced to labor at home as long as possible before arriving at the hospital. So many natural birth blogs and stories involve the phrase “show up pushing” if you want an intervention free birth as possible in a hospital setting.

    Finally, the books. That’s quite a stack, most of them thanks to the library. The top one and bottom two are mine, so I can take my time with them. I need to get through Birth Matters quickly since when I borrowed it from the library I was second in line. If I can recheck it I will, but I think it is a popular book. The other library books are all nursing or birth books that I want to peruse soon.

    I did start reading the top book, The Diaper Free Baby, which is about Elimination Communication. I first heard about this five years ago when we were in Florida from some friends of ours who were doing it with their son. I believe they had success with it and continued it with their second son. It really appeals to me especially after seeing all of my friends and family potty train their 2-4 year olds and how much of a pain it is to do so. The great thing about EC is that you can be a full-timer, such as the stay at home parent who starts it early and does it on a daily basis, or a part-timer such as the working parent who works with the baby mornings, evenings and weekends. There’s even the ocassional ECer who might do it a few times a week. The gist of it is that just as your baby sends you cues for hunger it is also sending you cues for the time to go potty. Since you learn the feeding cues you can learn the pee and poo cues, too. You then assist them in certain holding positions over a toilet or a small bowl when they are newborns and small infants, but as they get older and can hold their head up you can assist them to sit on infant potties, cueing them until they learn with a sort of “pssssss” sound. Apparently it works pretty well. I even asked the female half of our Bradley Birth coaches and she said after she found out about it when her son was six months old she tried it a few times and it worked, she just ended up not being consistent with it to continue. I’m definitely curious about this, so if you have input on EC please share! Plus, hey, if I can get my kid potty trained by 12-18 months I’ll be a happy camper. Chris is on board with it, too, so that helps out a lot.

    The other book I’m trying to work through is the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which is put out by the La Leche League. Breastfeeding horror stories abound just as much as birth horror stories, so I’d like to be as knowledgeable as possible about issues and alternatives regarding breastfeeding as they occur. I plan on attending a La Leche League meeting at least once this summer and will probably sign up for the hospital’s breastfeeding class. I personally only know one person who successfully breastfed and pumped for a year, whereas most people I know did it for just a few weeks or months, switching to formula for various reasons ranging from returning to work to latching issues. So, I’m definitely in a realm of my own in this category, with few people to really lean on to learn and ask questions. Actually, we’re in a realm of our own on a lot of this, but we’re ok with that. Learn, research, apply…do our best.

    I guess I should wrap it up…I think I’ll end up writing more soon since this one was already too long!

    Growing up, my hobby, other than playing outside, was reading. Now I don’t devote nearly as much time to reading as I should, though the internet is my source of reading a lot of times these days. Anyway, this is the stack of magazines I need to weed through. Chris’ dad gave me a stack of Outside magazines, a new Yoga Journal came in the mail, as did Urban Farm, and Backpacker. So did Texas Parks & Wildlife. I have a lot to flip through!

    And then there is this stack, too! I have finally worked up the nerve to start The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. The first one was excellent but incredibly disturbing and mind-provoking that I had to give the story a rest. I think I’m ready for Lisbeth Salander again.

    Me and Mr. Darcy is a chick-lit/Austen re-mix book that I am looking forward to breezing through.

    That Used To Be Us is a political snoozer but still very interesting. Received it from my boss at Christmas and I’m still trying to finish it. It is very interesting and up to date with information from the latter part of last year. If it was leaning any way I’d say it leaned left but for the most part it is non-partisan and hanging all sorts of politicians and media out to dry.

    And finally The Heirloom Life Gardener just arrived the other day unexpectedly for me, but not for Chris since he ordered it. It’s kind of a history of Baker Creek seed company but also about getting into gardening and the plants themselves. I loved the part where he describes wandering around Mexico looking for heirloom seeds at farm stands.

    Maybe I’ll finish these all in May?

    A few months ago we were in REI when I spotted this book, Paddling the Wild Neches. Having spent the better part of spring and summer working on and around the Lower Neches River near Beaumont I thought it would be a fascinating read.

    Ever since we did our two thru-thikes I have been intrigued by those who also paddle source to end (or sea) down rivers, particularly relatively unknown or lesser known rivers such as the Neches. I think many people in Texas know about the Sabine since part of it forms the boundary of Louisiana and Texas, or maybe the Trinity and Red Rivers, or particularly the Guadalupe or Comal since are tubing rivers in the summer time.

    But the Neches? Or the Angelina? Or the multitude of other streams, creeks and small rivers that surround those two rivers? Not many except those who are familiar with the land in east Texas and even then those will be a relative few.

    The author, Richard Donovan, sets out to revisit the river and surrounding lands that he grew up on. He had a history of working for Temple-Inland, well known for their pine plantations and logging in and around the Piney Woods/Big Thicket. In the late 90s and early 00s two dams were being proposed along the river, the Fastrill Dam which would help support Dallas’ thirst for water, and the Rockland Dam, which would also help aid in Dallas’ thirst but also the surrounding ares of east Texas. The Fastrill Dam has since been stopped by the Supreme Court (if you click on the Fastrill link). As far as I can tell the Rockland Dam is still being proposed.

    So, Donovan sets off down the river starting not at the source in Van Zandt county near Lake Palestine and ending at B.A. Steinhagen Lake in the south. A couple of years later he paddles the original route but then adds in the final southern portion all the way to Beaumont with a varying group of reporters and friends to join him.

    Overall I really enjoyed this book but was disappointed in some of the lack of detail. He includes great anecdotes of the history of the area, stories about bears and albino deer (that ended up being a goat), bootlegging and days of the ‘open range’ before barbed wire and folks were able to hunt and gather on any land they pleased. The days of fencing properties occurred when too many cattle were wandering around in the middle of roads causing accidents. The fencing properties led to game theft and trespassing and a spirit of debauchery that was eventually slowed when the timber companies began putting together hunting camps.

    He also writes about the impacts of logging, not only to the local economy but to the forests. The logging of the virgin pine and bottomland hardwood forests was done heavily in the early 20th century, but provided jobs for the local towns until the areas was cleared completely and they moved to another region. Then the towns were hollow shells of their former tent camp selves. I can only imagine what the vast stands of longleaf pine looked like prior to their near eradication and subsequent replacement by tight stands of loblolly pines.

    The river itself is mostly untamed with the exception of two lakes and the salt water barrier dam located in Beaumont. At the time of the book’s writing the dam was being built; this summer it was definitely in operation….or rather not because they wanted to hold back water to the north due to the drought. Donovan also tells tales of the river being traversed by paddle and steam boats in the 1800s and I can’t imagine that because the river isn’t all that large, but apparently they did make their way a good distance up the river. Then they would be log jammed, literally, because the loggers would send all the logs they cut upstream into the river to float down to Beaumont to the mills. Sometimes the logs would get stuck when the water level dropped; the author surmises that some of these logs are still under the water and in near perfect condition.

    If you are looking for a different book to read, something adventurous but also environmentally relevant to the current politics of the Texas environment, definitely pick this book up.

    +Paddling the Wild Neches via the Conservation Fund
    +A Trip Report
    +Article on the author in Texas Monthly
    +Transcript from an interview with Donovan
    +August 2011 article on how other places are tearing dams down, Texas is going for more.
    +Drought Schmout from 2009 about DFWs largest water users. Ross Perot is on that list.

    Now it is time for some frivolous reading as I have finally got hold of a copy of The Help.

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