Thursday, December 20, 2018

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Another one of my favorite genres of books is the young adult book. I started reading the YA genre when my daughter was about twelve years old, just to read what she was reading, and I enjoyed it so much that I began reading it for my own pleasure. Today's book is a book that I picked up from the teen section of the library the other day, drawn to it for some reason. The book flaps hooked me and I just loved the concept of the book. It's written for early high school level, probably.

Tell Me Three Things  by Julie Buxbaum is a book about two teens at the same school getting to know one another across social media, one of the teens initiating the friendship online and the other not knowing who their online friend actually is, but needing a friend and confidant. 

Jessie, our protag, has just lost her mother when her father, within a year and a half, marries someone he met online and he moves himself and Jessie to LA, to the VALLEY, of all places, and puts Jessie in the position of being a kid from Chicago now going to a prep school the Valley. What a freakin' nightmare. She's in desperate need for connection, so when she receives an anonymous message from someone calling themselves Someone/No one, or SN for short, she is just desperate enough to get past her fears that she is being punked and, slowly, she begins to trust SN.

As Jessie moves into her life at her high school, she experiences conflict both at home, at work, and at school and her friendship with SN becomes essential to her day with their wisdom and knowledge of the high school drama. Through work and school and life, Jessie now has three different guys in her life, any of whom, or none of them, who could be SN. She wonders and frets and lives with the unknown for most of the book. Sometimes angry that SN won't reveal themselves, sometimes going with the flow.

While one might be uncomfortable with books that rely heavily on texts, emails, and social media (I've seen it handled ham-handedly in other books), Buxbaum weaves these exchanges beautifully into the story. We begin to appreciate the supportive, humorous, affectionate SN and we begin to see the "real SN" in the daily messages. The witty banter is quite engaging and the supportive messages are meaningful and touching.

I enjoyed this quick and easy read.
I'm sure I could be critical of some aspects of the book, the standard trope characters for one, Jessie's almost complete inability to have compassion or insight about other people in her life for another, but instead I choose to enjoy it and to read it as the feel good  book it is intended to be.

One of my favorite passages from the book comes near the very end when Jessie and her father are having a reconnect moment after a fairly long period of disconnect. 
Beats making smoothies, I hope?" My dad's wearing his plastic name tag, his name printed under the words How may I help you? The way it dangles on a steel clip makes me feel tender toward him, as if he came in here with a milk mustache.

Here are three things I liked about this book: 1) the adorable and meaningful email exchanges between Jessie and SN, 2) guessing who SN would be, and 3) thinking about who I would cast as each you do. Overall, I give this book seven stars for the feel-good quality of it as well as for the authentic voice of Jessie and SN.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Octavia Butler's Kindred

One of my reading kinks is to learn as much as I can about the setting, author, historical events mentioned, etc, as I can while I am reading. I always look up new words and I highlight my favorite passages. I am a full-on book nerd.

So when I began reading Kindred  by award-winning sci-fi author Octavia Butler, I had to find out more about her. I mean, how many black, female sci-fi authors do you know? A multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, Octavia Butler became, in 1995, the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, unofficially known as a Genius Grant, a prize awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation typically to between 20 and 30 individuals, working in any field, who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" and who are citizens or residents of the United States.
Cool. A genius.

So, yeah, let's learn a teeny bit about Octavia Butler first.

By age ten she was already writing and reading sci-fi, and begging her momma for a typewriter so she could write like a grown-up. She had a bunch of notebooks already full of her writing and ideas as a very young girl. While in college in 1965 she was involved in the Black Power Movement where she got the kernel of an idea that, eventually, became this book, Kindred. Her main message of the book, as summarized from several interviews, that the book is written to show how a person can learn subservience as well as dominance.

She went on to write Patternmaster (1976), Mind of My Mind (1977), Kindred (1979), Blood Child (1984) for which she won the Hugo Award, Imago (1989), Parable of the Sower (1993), Fledgling (2005), several sci-fi series books, and many, many other short stories and novels. Though most of her writing was straight up sci-fi including aliens, future wars, super humans, and vampires, an underlying theme of slavery, classism, racism, and diversity weaves through all of her writing. Octavia was, above all, a storyteller who used all she had in her to write stories that were born in her amazing mind.

I have not read any other book by Octavia Butler before this book Kindred.  Though I now know that Kindred  is a book often read by students in race relations classes in colleges across the country; wish I was in one of those classes now so I could participate in a discussion of the book. Alas, I am not so I will be relying on my own dang self to write this review.

The protag of Kindred  is a twenty-something newlywed author named Dana. She and her husband are in the middle of moving into a new home in California 1976 when she begins to feel funny, dizzy, squiggly. With very little warning she disappears to her husband and appears in a wooded area where she can see a river in front of her. In the river is a young boy drowning. Dana rushes into the river and rescues the boy, including bringing him onto shore and administering CPR and mouth-to-mouth to bring him back from the edge.

Unknown to her, here's a hint, she has now time-traveled to 1815 Maryland. The boy she just saved is her ancestor, the son of a plantation owner. The boy's mother accuses Dana of wrong deeds that are untoward coming from a black woman and Dana is immediately on the defensive. She immediately begins to see that she is not in Kansas anymore. A few hours of recovery by the little boy, Rufus, and Dana is pulled back to her own living room with her husband watching her reappear. To him the episode lasted two minutes; to Dana it was several hours.

Over the course of the book both Dana and her husband Kevin move back and forth between their home and the plantation in Maryland. The interesting thing about this time travel is that, though Dana and her husband are tossed through time abruptly and for extended periods of time, these characters seem to accept this travel with waaay less freaking out than I think I would do. But, to be fair, in the past, Dana is constantly having to figure out how to move through whatever crisis she is thrown into, through antebellum slavery, and through the plantation politics of the time.

Each time Dana is pulled back into the past, into Rufus's life, it is because Rufus is in some life-threatening danger and Dana is there to rescue him. As we get to know Rufus better, the son of a typical plantation owner, slave owner, slave abuser, we begin to see that Rufus is, in some ways, as much a victim of his father's philosophy as are the slaves he "owns", many of whom we get to know fairly intimately in this book.

Rufus and Dana's relationship is an odd one, one I can only compare to the relationship of some characters in a book by Mary Doria Russell's book The Sparrow, slave and master, yet not. Equals, yet not. Educated human being verses differently-educated person holding power over them. Even while Rufus relies on Dana for emotional connection and guidance he is still the son of a slave owner and he behaves as such. We begin to hope that the actions and the teachings and the modeling of Dana to Rufus will have a large and a profoundly changing influence on him as he, one day, will inherit the plantation, and therefore, the people.

We also hope, as we learn about the other relationships in this slave narrative, that good things will happen to the people that we have come to know and love. Yet their circumstances do not bode well and our hearts, as we expect, will break.

One of my favorite quotes in the books comes from Dana musing about Rufus's father, Tom Weylin, and his general behavior as a slave owner: 

 His father wasn't the monster he could have been with with the power he held over his slaves. He wasn't a monster at all. Just an ordinary man who sometimes did the monstrous things his society told him were legal and proper. But I had seen no particular fairness in him. He did as he pleased. If you told him he wasn't being fair, he would whip you for it.

It's clear that Octavia Butler put a great deal of emotional research into the writing of this book. However, without having read any of her other books, and being a lover of good writing, I must own that I don't care for her writing. I did love the story. I loved the concept. I was hooked on the storyline. I read the book like greased lightening. But... her writing simply did not live up to what I would have liked. Maybe her style reads better in sci-fi and aliens..?

Still I enjoyed the book and I was moved by the humanity...and by the lack of it in characters. In fact, I would love to have seen more of some of the secondary characters in the book. In fact, I felt that there were many pregnant untold stories in this book that I would have loved to see some bones to. There is some beautiful symbolism in some of the actions in the book and a good deal of thoughtful prose. I continue to be appalled at the behavior of human beings who cannot or who do not acknowledge the equality of all human beings on the planet, with zero exceptions. And one must also see the threads of slavery that continue to run through our 2018 America. I wonder what Octavia Butler would make of our current administration.

I give this book five stars.
I wanted to give it higher, but the writing was a real and continuous draw back for me.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Kindred by Octavia Butler

I've been reading quite alot lately, mostly post-apocalyptic thrillers and the like (for some WEIRD reason! lol) but I've finally the need to switch gears. Having no idea where to go next, I picked up these books at the library this weekend and, because they all sounded fascinating, I deliberated on which book to read first for a day or two! I read reviews and Amazon pages and looked through each book; it was a tough call! I finally chose the winner: Kindred by Octavia Butler (1979).

The reviews on Amazon are extremely high, the time travel/historical fiction idea is interesting and unique, and the subject matter is compelling.

Dana, a 1976 feminist woman, is, several times, transported through time and space to Maryland in 1815, at the height of slavery times. As a black woman, she is treated with disrespect, disdain, and, eventually, fear as she can both read and write, she is obviously educated beyond what most white people were from that time, she is wearing pants, and she knows events from history that are not known to the common man of the time. Dana fears for her own safety, as well as the safety of people the she discovers to be her ancestors.

At this point, I am about half way through, I am hoping that her ancestor Rufus becomes a much better version of himself after meeting Dana and being influenced by her. I'm hoping to see a reunion of two characters who have not seen one another in many years, and I'm hoping that the writing improves. The story itself is keeping me very interested while the writing is a bit disappointing and lackluster.

I should be back in a day or two with my review.  😊

Friday, November 23, 2018

FILM: A Song to Remember

I have to admit that I am not a true lover of classical music, a term usually used in reference to music composed mostly in Europe during the Classical period, or the years 1750 to 1820, from Bach to Beethoven, but not limited to those years. I enjoy Vivaldi's Four Seasons, Pachebel's Canon in D, Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, Rachmaninoff's Rhapsondy on a Theme of Paganini, and a few other well-known pieces. Overall, though, my knowledge is bush-leaguer when it comes to sophisticated music. I understand there are better films on Chopin's life and legacy, but I'm starting here.

The film is a gorgeous representation of the 1830s and 1840s and I'm a huge fan of the beauty of film. Filmed in 1945 in glorious technicolor, a color process used in the US from 1922 to 1952, celebrated for it's highly-saturated color, think The Wizard of Oz, the stunning costumes and sets are a delight for a lover of film. Several times, I have paused the film (I'm watching via Amazon.Prime) just to appreciate the subtle color and texture of fabrics. Yes, I am a nerd.

Also because I'm a nerd, I have also had to stop the film about a dozen times for references to contemporary artists, authors, other musicians and events from the time period who are mentioned or shown in the scene, including Franz Liszt, Honoré de Balzac, Freidrich, Kalkbrenner (one of my favorite scenes in the film), George Sand (of course), Alfred de Musset, the Greater Poland Uprising, and more. Of course, with the references to Polish, French, and European events in history, I had a highly productive time researching tonight. All of which made this film a rich vehicle for learning about the time and place!  😉

I'm finding it interesting to see how George Sands is portrayed. She is certainly shown to be the villain; she is not characterized as, in any way, anything other than a cold and scheming, pants-wearing ...woman, a woman who ruined Chopin's life! In real life, though, although she's not perfect, and we can't truly know a person or a relationship from the vantage point of 2018, George was a revolutionary woman for the 1840s. And, though Chopin can't be known either, he needed the strength of this woman and, I'm sure he benefited from her encouragement to become stronger and more independent.

Of course, I could be wrong, but we can't know from this film. WOW, she was portrayed as the most evil woman ever while Chopin was portrayed as incredibly immature and passive. He was a sickly man, however, and that was well-played in A Song to Remember.

There is one montage of Chopin playing a concert tour across much of Europe in order to get funds to send to his beloved Poland, currently in the midst of a revolution. The montage was richly filmed. About ten different concert halls and pianos, as well as rich clothing and costumes...the sets!

It is the music that was the true star of this film. Whoever played Chopin's music or Franz Liszt's music is a true maestro. You will love it if you give it a listen. Overall, while the film is generally not historical but theatrical, I will give it a strong five stars.

Bach is an astronomer, discovering the most marvellous stars. 
Beethoven challenges the universe. 
I only try to express the soul and the heart of man.
Frédéric Chopin 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton

I don't always know what moves me to pick up one book over another. It's a mystery that most readers can relate to. In this case, I was at the local library, recently renovated, just walking down aisles and letting words and color guide me. The smells, the shushes, the search: I love the library. The other day I had used the handy dandy card catalog to find some post-apocalyptic fiction to read...and I found this one, Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton.

After finding a book that I am interested in, and don't tease me about this, I then go to Amazon and read about the book, read the reviews, look at similar titles. Amazon or some other book review site. I do this same type of reading for a movie I'm about to watch! lol My husband tells me that I'm wrong to do this! lol I tell him he's wrong for not doing it. 😄 Time is too precious to read crap novels...unless I choose them.

Lately I've been reading books by female authors. I'm sure this has alot to do with the fact that I'm not interested in violence, overt sex, thrill, testosterone. I'm interested in quiet, deep, indulgent, penetrating, character-driven, exquisite tenderness, poignant, poetic, ...exquisite. Surely there are thousands of excellent books by male authors that meet these guides; I've just decided to read females for awhile. I feel fed by them.

Good Morning, Midnight is a sci-fi post-apocalyptic book by a female. 

This book runs two side-by-side points of view. Augustine is an elderly, learn'd, isolating astronomer. He has taken a job in the far reaches of the latitudes, a research station in the far north, when an unknown emergency causes all personnel to evacuate the station. Augustine elects to stay at the now-deserted station; perhaps he recognizes that his time is running out and that he prefers the solitude of his polar home. Once the station is cleared out, however, he discovers a young girl named Iris hiding in one of the crew cabins.

He grudgingly begins including Iris in his daily routines, taking care of her physical needs, paying attention to her presence. Together the duo weather the deepest of the dark all-night winter days with very little conversation, but a growing connections in their shared desolation of the Arctic. Plenty of time for research, reading, resting, the situation is comfortable and relaxed for this unwitting duo... Augustine and Iris are not at all concerned when all radio and contact with the outside world stops cold the very day of the evacuation.

Augustine's musings, memories, reflections are deceptively quiet and drama-free considering this is a dystopian novel.  Brooks-Dalton is a true poetess. One of my favorite of Augustine's musings is this:
Only the cosmos inspired great feeling in him. Perhaps what he felt was love, but he’d never consciously named it. His was an all-consuming one-directional romance with the emptiness and the fullness of the entire universe. There was no room to spare, no time to waste on a lesser lover. He preferred it that way.

On their way back from a Jovian moon scientific journey, the Earth space ship Aether* carries a crew of six, including the second voice in this narrative, Sully. Mission Specialist Sullivan is also in her idea of magnificent desolation: in a space ship two years from planet Earth. The crew had just visited several moons of Jupiter, leaving monitoring devices on the surfaces of some of those moons and Sully monitored those devices all day long, learning of the secrets of the Jovian system. During her regular monitoring of the sensors, Sullivan discovers that all radio communication from Earth has inexplicably stopped completely. 

The journey back to Earth takes two years, during which time Sully reviews the many points of her life that led her to choose such a solitary project at that point in her life, when she had a young daughter and a husband. These introspective months move by for the crew as relationships become sharp, sleepy, pointed, rarified in the dark of space. Sullivan finds some comfort in the desolation of space during the journey. One of my favorite quotes from the exquisiteness that is Sully's musings is: she took in the overwhelming, infinite space that surrounded her. No beginning, no end, just this, forever. From here, the idea of Earth seemed like an illusion. How could something so verdant, so diverse and beautiful and sheltered, exist among all this emptiness?

Lily Brooks-Dalton
Science, religion, spirituality, philosophy: all fodder for Good Morning, Midnight. Most action occurs in the cold, barren north or the cold, barren emptiness of space, yet we are cocooned in the minds of two gutsy scientists who are living their lives on their own terms...isolated and lonely. Both tormented with and reveling in the desolation of their choices. Both wondering what lies in waiting in the outside world, on the planet Earth, both quietly bravely, humanly, entering into strange, new relationships that bring some meaning to their lives and to unknown waiting for them.

I have to give this beautiful, haunting book eight stars.
You don't often refer to sci-fi as lovely.
I have not stopped thinking about it since I finished it.

According to ancient and medieval science, aether also spelled æther or ether and also called quintessence, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Brooks-Dalton: Good Morning

I'm currently reading a book by Lily Brooks-Dalton called Good Morning, Midnight, a book that I KNOW I will have to give massive stars simply for the gorgeous language used by the author. I am well into the book and I have not stopped being moved by Brooks-Dalton's stunning prose of this sophisticated, compelling exploration of the likelihood of an unknown apocalypse on Earth.

I can't say why, but lately I've been reading tons of apocalyptic novels, post-apocalyptic. I don't find myself feeling particularly despondent or pessimistic in a general sense, but this type of genre often moves me, surprises me, emboldens me, even entertains me. It's kind of a philosophical place than I am rather than an emotional place, so it's possible that I may offer other sci-fi posts in the future.

As for this book, Good Morning, Midnight, I must talk about it here because of its unique voice. The primary points of view in the book come from two humans in varied self-imposed episodes of singularity or seclusion, living in places of magnificent desolation who have, nevertheless, found a surprising connection that change their lives. With very little conversation throughout the book, it is the musings and considerations of these characters that I am finding the most compelling. 

Check back soon because I'm nearly there!

Also, if you have any good books to recommend from this genre,
please post below!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Dreamers of the Day: A Novel by Mary Doria Russell

It all started when a friend was visiting and we were having a conversation about his passion, history. I had no knowledge or recollection of learning about the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference and Ron was explaining the reason the Cairo Peace Conference had everything to do with the current conflict in the Middle East. That made no sense to me until Ron explained it. I mean, Paris and Syria? What possible connection could there be?

Embarrassingly, I have a rather poor grasp of important moments in history. I'm trying to repair that. My conversations with Ron and my reading of this book  helped immensely.
Thank you, Ron. And Thank you, Mary.

So, the day following Ron's teachable moment with me, I picked up a book that I had had on my side table, a book that was simply next. I can't adequately express my surprise to discover that Mary Doria Russell's book Dreamers of the Day: A Novel was actually set during and around the freaking 1921 Cairo Peace Conference! Life is freaky and serendipitous and I just about shouted in excitement as I discovered more and more about this book and how prepared  I was to read it.

Enter a completely average school teacher from Middle America 1920, Agnes, who, because of a minor inheritance, is able to take herself on a fabulous dream vacation to a place that is to become a major location of world events, a place where she will tangle with important people and major issues, a vacation that will embolden her and change her very identity, all in one hot season. Before the end of her first week in Cairo she will be supping with Winston Churchill and others who were the key players in these momentous weeks.

The location of this book, the beauty of Cairo and the Middle East, plays a character in this book. It turns out Mary Doria Russell has yet to step foot on Cairo soil, but the reader will be as surprised by this fact as I was because I felt completely transported. From the blistering heat and unpleasantness of air conditioner-free Egypt to dark, rich coffee houses and parties, boat rides down the Nile, to dusty pyramids, the reader will be utterly saturated in the sensory explosion of Egypt and the Holy Lands. Furthermore, Russell's understanding of and explanation of the issues of the time, just wow. She made it possible for me to understand why there is such fanaticism and fear in the Middle East in 2018.

Mary Doria Russell's love of research carries the reader forward into this intimate experience of the far-reaching concerns of the Cairo Peace Conference, which, you will learn, was a series of meetings in the spring of 1921 by Britain's higher ups to determine what was to be the policy for dealing with and managing the Middle East. In our online friendship, I asked her why she had chosen this particular time and place to set a book and she told me that she had found herself wondering, one day, how the Middle East had become such a stewing cauldron of complex conflict, characters, and culture. She was also fascinated that this historic moment in time had never been fully explored by any other author. Mary decided that this rich tapestry of historical things would be a wonderful setting for her next book.

One of my favorite things about historical fiction is when an author can take the reader on a journey with real people, during real events, giving us an insiders knowledge of the proceedings without losing the fiction part of historical fiction. Through conversation, musings, journeys, and asides, we gain a rich appreciation for this pregnant moment in time. In Dreamers of the Day, it is Agnes, the fearless narrator of the book, that is the fiction. From Agnes's vantage point of after-death, she is able to give us an insiders view as well as giving us the long perspective of looking back at the event, as well as looking back at her own empowerment as a woman of the time. Now, if that isn't brilliant writing, I don't know what is.

One of my favorite quotes from this book comes from a character that I have failed to mention thus far, a spy named Karl who becomes involved with Agnes. The two of them have lengthy and wonderful conversations as only those in the unexpectedly exotic romance of a foreign country that can have over coffee, tea, or more. Karl introduces Agnes to many ideas that challenges her and opens her mind and her life (for a woman from 1920s Ohio, this is an extremely rare opportunity!). 

At one point in an intimate conversation between Agnes and Karl, he delivers the line Frankly, I think the world will be a better place when science has swept all religion into the dustbin of history. What is religion but a shared belief in things that cannot be known? When we substitute concurrence for fact, fantasy quickly replaces knowledge. Why? Because knowledge is much more trouble to acquire!  Dear Agnes learns, not only of atheism and historical Christianity, but also of Islam from our intrepid, romantic, and learned cloak-and-dagger man.

Lady Gertrude Bell
While reading historical fiction of this caliber I love to research every single person, place, event, and thing that is real in history and I had a field day with this book. I especially enjoyed reading about TE Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia. I had no idea that this character that I think of as Peter O'Toole was such a pivotal part of the proceedings. Nor did I know about Lady Gertrude Bell, now one of my favorite political scientists, historians, cultural advisor, and feminists.

Although there was a section or two of the book that I found challenging to my attention span, I have to give this book a solid 7 stars and a recommendation to READ IT if you love historical fiction. Use it as a beginning place for your own research into the current conflict in Syria. I give this book a seven because I have read other books by Russell and I ADORE her writing and I thought this one was a lovely quiet book that clarified some complex issues. And remember to check out other books by Mary Doria Russell, one of THE best writers to come along in a very long time. She is the author of one of the top books on my top ten favorite books list, The Sparrow.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Mary Doria Russell: Dreamers of the Day: A Novel

AW, the heck with it.
I'm doing it!

As a heavy reader, I'm not always sure what makes me run to this blog to post about books sometimes and what makes me just read other times. I'm sure it has something to do with being moved by a read, but there is more to it than that because I read some really enjoyable books.

After finishing Mary Doria Russell's book Dreamers of the Day: A Novel,
I knew I had to write about it here.

This author wrote one of my favorite books of all time The Sparrow. A book that has kept me awake many a night, both reading and reflecting. The depth and moving language and anthropology and philosophical discussion and character development and settings and before/after and revelations simply overwhelmed me. I read the book several times and it kept revealing and moving me. Listen, I don't gush about books much, (Oh yes I do!) but The Sparrow deserves all of it! So go and read it!  lol

I began researching some of Russell's other titles and chose to read a historical fiction book called Dreamers of the Day: A Novel and now I know I have to read everything else by her! And I can even partially say why!

She is a true lover of language, a student of culture, an anthropologist, a skeptic, a polemicist, a contemplative mirror, an appreciator of complexity, a pragmatist, a lover.

I'm going to give this book a little bit of thought and be back soon to say more. Stay tuned. Furthermore, I am friends with Mary Doria Russell, the author of this book, on Facebook. She and I spent some time talking about the writing of this book and, because she feels this book didn't get the readership that it deserved. I agree with that. So, I'll be back with more!


I would be willing to consider switching this blog to a reading and books blog if my readers would be interested? To give you an idea as to what I would be writing, here is a sample from my actual writing and books blog called Out of My Own Mind:

A Canticle for Leibowitz

I've got a good one for you.

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. is a real treat for the grey matter. If you're looking for book to really sink your teeth into, this book might be next for you, ahead of all of those other books on the pile next to your bed.

Written in 1961, Canticle is shockingly current and provocative. Let me tell you a bit about the story. It is starts out set a few hundred years after our current day politicians did the unthinkable: unleashed an apocalypse of nuclear weapons that decimated most of the population of the plane, an event now known as The Conflict. 

The survivors in the bleakness of the 26th century were (will be?) pissed. At the scientists.

It was the scientists and thinkers who created the bombs that made the devastation possible at the time of the nuclear holocaust. So for hundreds of years, generations upon generations of people burned and destroyed every single book, paper, written document, and every stored record of knowledge. They call this The Simplification. Everyone is illiterate. Everything scientific is deliberately expunged except for those rare, undiscovered bits of flotsam paper. Many people are physically deformed from the high levels of radiation. Somewhere in Utah the monks who live at the monastery are devoted to honoring the memory of Isaac Edward Leibowitz, a Jewish scientist at Los Alamos who was martyred for his efforts to safeguard scientific knowledge in the aftermath of the conflict. They collect and transcribe the “Leibowitz Memorabilia,” including shopping lists, technical documents, and circuit diagrams that they cannot even begin to understand.

The monks secret away the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz for centuries, occasionally attempting to fill in the blanks on some missing words or phrases, studying the words and phrases, often memorizing texts in case there is another burning of paper. All of the protected pages are kept in total secrecy as all knowledge is suspect.

Although this Dark Ages replica time period is bleak and...well, dark, the continuation of the Catholic church is interesting. The church is fairly barbaric and, somehow, funny. Always there are people attempting to do the right thing for the right reasons and discovering that religious dogma and the institution of the church will always find ways to undermine one's humanity. Humans are a weak species. Many people are born with unusual deformities and these deformities become quite normal to see among the sparsely-populated towns and villages.

As the centuries pass and knowledge is slowly being rediscovered, we observe three distinct periods of time in Canticle, time periods that might be akin to Medieval times, a Renaissance time, and a Scientific time. Time periods where the human race progresses through rediscovery of technology and knowledge that was so very deliberately destroyed in centuries prior. Centuries where the darkness of ignorance slowly dies to the light of knowledge.

About eighteen centuries pass in the book! Each new epoch of time brings about greater and greater scientific discoveries by mankind and new challenges to the Abbey of St. Leibowicz that seeks to protect the knowledge that is archived there in the Utah cloister. The development of political climate, the evolution of Catholicism, and the development of technology plays an active character in this novel and definitely kept me turning the pages. Superstition and ignorance is generally celebrated during times of fear and anger while technology begins to appear during times of plenty.

Again, in the final epoch mentioned in the book, the human race is again on the edge of nuclear Armageddon. It is the year 3781 and civilization has not only recovered but has developed beyond the level it was at in the mid-twentieth century. Nation-states once again have nuclear arsenals. Space travel between earth and distant colonies has become common.

A war is threatening. Will we have learned from our past? Can we humans avoid repeating our appalling and flagrant mistakes of the past? Only the bicephalic woman with the lolling tomato-like second head knows as The Tomater Woman knows for sure.


There were times I literally laughed out loud because this book is surprisingly funny and times I had to shake my head at the ridiculous rules and human foibles of both the church and of the people in power. There were many times I had to stick my finger into the pages, close the book, and really think about what I'd just read. I find it amazing that a book written in 1961 could be so very modern, thought-provoking, humorous, and fresh. I've not traditionally been a sci-fi reader, though I have devoured several excellent sci-fi books within the last year or so. 

This book? This book I recommend. You might lose your interest a bit in the beginning, but stick with it.
I give it an honorable eight stars.


If you are interested in this type of blog post, 
PLEASE comment below and I will continue to use this blog in this new way.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

This is the End, My Beautiful Friends

I have loved you and you have loved me but I have come to the place and time when it is necessary to move forward and away from this blog. I offer you my sincerest love and affection and I'm grateful to so many of you for befriending me off of the blog; you have brightened my life tremendously.

My kids are grown.
My atheism is a given.
Now I'm only angry about politics day after day.

So, to you, I wish you fair and fine roads.
May you continue to find happy and healing words here any time you wish to search for them.

And keep my love for I have given it to you for freely, fully, and fondly.


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Atheists Know There Really IS a God

You know, sometimes you just have to laugh; the cognitive dissonance must be unbearable for some believers. I say this because of some of the claims that some believers make about atheists, though I am aware that they are saying the same thing about us, the cognitive dissonance thing. 

I mean let's keep it simple. Atheists are simply people who are unconvinced of your supernatural claims. Not all atheists are the same and not all atheists fit into a box...just like all other humans, believers or not. If you make any claim about atheists in general beyond the fact that they are unconvinced of your deity claims, then you are no longer accurate. You might be describing an individual person that you know but you are not describing atheists.

But I can guarantee you several simple things.
Atheists do not believe in your deity.
Nor do we believe in any of your bad guys.
Nor do we believe in your afterlife fears or rewards.
Nor do we believe in the deities of believers other than you.

My heart is not hard.
I do not enjoy sinning.
I am not harboring evil.
We do not believe in any such things.

I've stumbled across more than one piece of writing by believers in the last few days that are making a truly hilarious and bizarre claim: Atheists really know that there is a god. And then there is the part that we atheists are ignoring their deity to keep sinning. Furthermore, some vocal believers claim that the fact that atheists actually, secretly, do believe should give believers confidence in their faith...

And their evidence of this claim?
The Bible. The Bible claims that everyone has received knowledge of the god of the Bible.

My reason for writing this post is not to try to convince anyone of anything; we all know how impossible that is. This blog post is about something that I would find truly comical if it weren't for the fact that so many people actually believe it. So I want to say one thing that I've been thinking lately.

Most believers that I know would lovingly say that, it's true, they actually do not know that there is a god, but that they have faith that there is one. I can clearly see some of my friends get that glassy, enamored look in their eyes that shows their complete goodness and well-intentions when they talk about their faith. It looks exactly like being in love when you look into their eyes.

I don't know it and neither do you.

So, the fact is that believers are actually not believers. 
They do not know that there really is a god. So some believers really know that there isn't a god...

Ironic, eh?

 What Do You Think?
Yes? No? 

You Might Also Enjoy:
The Virtue of Doubt
It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist
Atheists Believe in Nothing

Friday, September 28, 2018


I'm very glad the Kavanaugh proceedings are being televised in total for the people to watch because we don't have to rely on news sources to interpret them for us. Watching the proceedings, it seems obvious to me that this man is neither fair nor impartial and, therefore, not suitable for the highest court in the land.

 Remember, it's not about sex.
It's about POWER
and these men in power
won't let any of it go.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Six Years of Life

Guest Post: Kaleesha Williams

Kaleesha is a dear friend of mine. Our friendship started out right here on my blog. She and I finally met at an atheist convention several years ago and we really clicked. Our kids have also become wonderful friends to one another.
This post is something she posted on Facebook earlier today and I thought it was marvelous! 

Congratulations, Kaleesha, on your first six years.  💙

Saturday was a significant day. I didn't mention it then, but I treated myself to some celebration for being six years religion-free. Hallelujah.  

Six years ago my then-husband and I studied our way out of the Bible. On Sept 22, 2012, I laid down the book and rejected its god. For me, it meant freedom beyond words (but I tried mighty hard to find them and even published a whole book that probably didn't do the journey justice, though folks seemed to enjoy it anyhow).

I didn't lose faith, didn't get angry with God and reject him -- my belief simply dissolved in the light of reason. I asked the questions, I found the answers, I closed the book and opened my eyes, slowly shedding a lifetime of indoctrination. 

I had been a devout follower of Yehovah God and Jesus Christ my entire adult life. It shaped EVERYTHING and so EVERYTHING changed.

For six years now I have enjoyed the freedom and owned the responsibility of a life without a deity. I escaped a miserable marriage on the back of this, and as a single parent, I have learned to provide the stability my family needs, the stability that was under constant threat before, bound to a broken man (not a bad one, just very broken) by religious ideals. It's difficult; not gonna lie. But it's not as hard as trusting my life to the whims of an imaginary Father or bending my worldview to an ancient, misogynistic religion with the constant mantra of "my life is not my own."

Fuck. That.

This is MY life. Fleeting, achingly beautiful, wretchedly painful, whatever I want to make of it. Mine. None of it has been a mistake, not the religion, not the marriage, not the children, not the time in prayer. I embrace it all. It's mine. I own it. I will own my past. I will own today. I will own tomorrow.

But I will never again tell a child or another person that they are sinful, born broken, destined to always fall short. YOU -- yeah you, reading this now -- YOU are an amazing human being, exactly the way you are. Don't be ashamed of you! You were not created for a purpose -- make one for yourself. Enjoy your time on this rock because it's probably all you've got. Do the dew, climb the mountain, swim the sea, kiss the girl, get the tattoo, eat the soup, read the book, hug the friend, feed the wayfaring stranger.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I just wanna celebrate freedom this week as I think about how hard-won mine was.

Peace out.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Free to Be
My G2R Talk
The Greatest Gift

Please check out the links in the story.
They are to Kaleesha's book on Amazon.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

I Don't Want to Know!

It's been a little over a year now since Mom's death and I've been thinking about her so much. Our relationship was weird. On one hand we loved each other very much and we meant so much to each other. On the other hand, there was so much freaking contention between us that I hated so much. Among many other things I could mention, she was always upset that I am an atheist and that my kids are atheists too.

She brought it up quite often and I would often say something along the lines of Mom, we don't agree about this and I simply don't want to hurt you anymore. Can we not discuss it?  But we would discuss it.

Although Mom didn't follow an actual religion or go to a church of any kind, she carried on the beliefs of her mom, my beloved grandma, often saying to me Kay, what would your grandmother say if she would hear you talking like that?  To which I would simply reply, I don't know, but I do know that Grandma loved me, so I'll stick with that. I know I wasn't the only atheist in the family on Mom's side, but still, she was very uncomfortable with me being one.

Mostly because she truly didn't know what it meant to be an atheist, no matter how clearly and simply I explained it. No matter how I sat as a model for an atheist. I would explain to her that she knows me and that THAT is what an atheist looks like. But her fears could not be allayed. She had such learned fears of what atheists are, what atheists do, what atheists believe... It was quite sad because she continued to believe the things she had been taught rather than to what she could see before her very eyes, myself and my family. If you know me at all, you know that this continual conflict was extremely outside of my comfort zone, completely unlike anything I would like.

Unwillingly I would get into conversations with her about our differing beliefs. She often told me that she wasn't the slightest bit interested in science, saying I don't want to know!  Whatever evidence you bring, I will never stop believing.  I sincerely respected that and never ever sought to change her mind. I don't mean this in a mean way, but about these religious beliefs of hers, Mom was so weirdly juvenile. She simply accepted what she'd been taught as a very young girl and would not consider anything else.

And that's OK. I didn't need her to be an atheist. In her last week of life, she was able to make some jokes about our differences in belief, especially when my Aunt Mary sent a minister to Mom's house on her behalf. Mom laughed because she thought the minister would have been shocked to know that I was an atheist in the room. She was also entertained when the Hospice minister cornered me outside in order to give me comfort. She told me later that she would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation. 

The point is, Mom was fine in her simple, yet boxed-in way of looking at the world and at life. She fell into her belief system as a child, as most people do, and she was content to simply be there. Which is fine! My only thing was that her fears about my atheism and that of my kids brought her discontent, distress, and consternation and those things come directly from the religion itself. If religions could CHILL and be Live and Let Live, I probably wouldn't have as much problem with it as I do.

But they don't do that.

AW GEEEEEZ, you know what, I realize at this very moment that I've written a blog post about this exact thing again and again in an effort to figure out what bothers me so much about this. It's that the religion that she held onto brought Mom such pain, rather than comfort...and that's another reason why I know the world would be a better place without religion.

You Might Also Enjoy:

Whatever Made You the Way You Are?
There are No Atheists in Foxholes
Bibles, Bibles Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink
Did Something Happen to You to Make You Reject the Lord?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

More of My Music for Mary

The other night I was talking to my very dear friend Mary, a woman who knows her independent music. If you're looking for a little-known artist or cut, she's your contact. Mary and I were talking about music and such and she revealed that she has really taken to some of my music over the years, as surprising as that is, and she wanted some recommendations from me for some good music.

I've said before that my favorite instrument is the human voice and my favorite music reflects that. I love artists who carry the performance with gorgeous vocals. I love excellent music too, it's just that I really lean toward beautiful vocals. 

So, for Mary and for you, I'm posting links to my favorite music. I tend toward ballads and gorgeous lyrics but I've tried to balance that preference with excellent instrument playing in this list. So, if I have a favorite performer, I might include songs of vocals and of music. Get it? OK, here goes:

Luther Vandross:
I have loved Luther's voice for about twenty-five years now, so most of my favorites by him are from the end of his career, having missed all of his early slow-jam years. Luther died several years ago and I know I will miss him forever. My first favorite is a ballad called Can I Take You Out Tonight. Jerry and I danced our first dance at our wedding to Here and Now. Although I could post about two dozen excellent tunes by Luther, my last one is the lovely song by Luther and Gregory Hines called There's Nothing Better Than Love; I'll bet you didn't even know that the beautiful Gregory Hines could sing!

Eddi Reader:
Eddi Reader is a lovely and talented Scottish folk singer who I found on a TEDtalk and I instantly fell in love with her voice. I have some CDs with music that I adore that I cannot find on youtube, so I'll start you out with her song Kiteflyer's Hill, a lovely tune about lost love. She is a lover of Robert Burns poetry, so I would be remiss to leave out her rendition of My Love is Like a  Red, Red Rose. I love Eddi's version of Across the Universe that she does with another Scottish folk singer named Liam O'Maonlai. I also adore Dear John. I hope you give more of her music a listen. And I found one of my favorites after all, I Won't Stand in Your Way!!!!

Anita Baker:
Anita came out big in the eighties with a bang. She was already in her thirties and just entering the entertainment industry and I fell in love with her voice immediately. I don't know where to start with her so I'll offer this one called No One in the World from her 1986 album. You Bring Me Joy is a gorgeous tune that shows the beauty of her voice, as is It's Been You. She recently played in St. Louis and I couldn't go to the show...and I'm so sad! One more by her that is simply stunning is Giving You the Best that I've Got, a tune that really showcases her her soulful voice.

Kenny Loggins:
It's easy to think of Kenny Loggins at the Footloose, I'm Alright, and Highway to the Danger Zone guy. I'm not a fan of those tunes but I'm a huge fan of his ballads, seldom listening to those commercially successful songs. Instead I love This is It, Celebrate Me Home, and everything, ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING from the Conviction of the Heart CD like Too Early for the Sun and Will of the Wind. This gorgeous duet with Shanice Wilson called I Would Do Anything is just stunning. I spent almost a year of my life listening to this CD again and again and again. This entire CD was so beautiful and healing.

Toni Braxton:
I love Toni's voice so much. She's one of those people who was robbed by their manager early in her career so she had to start over! Makes me angry! Anyway, I love her beautiful songs Breathe Again, Another Sad Love Song, Seven Whole Days, and Spending My Time With You. Her R&B contralto voice absolutely soars and her song style is simply amazing. Some time in her forties she was diagnosed with lupus, yet she continued to tour and produce albums. She's gorgeous and her voice is soulful and extremely versatile. I love several of her duets too! OH, I also adore Let it Flow.

I think I'll stop there for now, but PLEASE, below in the comments, list some of your beautiful favorites!

 Love you, Mary!

Honorable Mentions:
Chaka Khan

Ray Charles
The Kingston Trio
Simon and Garfunkle

You Might Also Enjoy:

A Likely Dance Partner
My Friends' Music
Signs I'm Getting Older