Radio Shangri-La

Thoughts rslbyln1 by Lisa Napoli, Crown Publishers 2010, 279 pages

SUBTITLE: What I learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth

For the What’s in a Name Challenge – Country category

I am having a tough time thinking up what to write. Especially when I agree wholeheartedly with Nancy’s review from 2011.  If you don’t want to click over, she says this:

” Lacking in adventure but fascinating for its analysis of the people and the time, at times uneven but overall a decent memoir.”

Yes. I agree.

I read the very same book that Nancy read! Because she is the generous booklover who gave it to me. And I am willing to send YOU this book if you want to read it, too. Just be the first to request and I will email you for your mailing address and will eventually send it off. Eventually.

It looks like this:  rslbyln2

Also, it’s an ARC. It does have a few misspellings or typos and it got very VERY confusing with what I must assume were name swappings. She would be yapping about Sebastian and then refer to him as Benjamin. And Ngawang would be Pema and then back to Ngawang…  Just sayin’.

One more fun thing…  The author mentions a term familiar to all who loved Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein. Here’s the quote, do you know the word?

“The only not-so-smooth part of the plan came from my father, who couldn’t quite grok the adventure I was about to have.”

All righty, then. Carry on.

RATING:  Three slices of pie. (No pie mentions in this one.)



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First Book 2016


First Book is hosted by the lovely and talented Sheila at BookJourney. I will be reading Radio Shangri-La: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth by Lisa Napoli. Click on the book cover to go to

rslbyln2 rslbyln1

Lisa Napoli was in the grip of a crisis, dissatisfied with her life and her work as a radio journalist. When a chance encounter with a handsome stranger presented her with an opportunity to move halfway around the world, Lisa left behind cosmopolitan Los Angeles for a new adventure in the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan—said to be one of the happiest places on earth.

A big THANK YOU to Nancy the BookFool who loaned me or gave me this book way back in May of 2011. I can now soon return it to her. This book will satisfy the country category for What’s in a Name 2016, is a book “in the house” and a loaner. Three happy checks right there.



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The Free Men

Thoughts tfmbyje The Free Men by John Ehle, Press 53 2007 (orig 1965), 351 pages

Blurb from

This moving narrative by John Ehle describes the experiences of a handful of dedicated young students, both black and white, during the 1963-64 civil rights protests in Chapel Hill, NC. The movement began through the efforts of three young men: two white UNC-Chapel Hill students, John Dunne, a gifted Morehead Scholar, and Pat Cusick, the grandson of the founder of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, and one student from the all-black North Carolina College in Durham, Quinton Baker. First published in 1965 by Harper & Row, ‘The Free Men’ was controversial but won the Mayflower Award for Nonfiction. It is now back in print by Press 53 with a new Afterword by the former UNC-Chapel Hill student, ‘Daily Tar Heel’ editor, and Pulitzer Prize-Winning journalist Wayne King.

I read this for Nonfiction November which was focused on my desire to deepen my understanding of  US civil rights history. My local indie book store featured this book as important and sold me on the quality of the writing.

This appealed to me as a book with a timely and fresh impression of the activities covered. The first events happened in 1963 with court dealings mostly in 1964 and the book was published right after, 1965. This wouldn’t be a glossing over what happened way back but would deliver a true feel of the atmosphere of that ‘now’. I wanted to experience it truly like I was there with no 21st century ‘wiser’ perspective. Set in Chapel Hill, a town presumed to be the most liberal because it was the host of the flagship premier university of the state, the University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill is close to the state capitol of Raleigh and less than an hour’s drive from where I live in Greensboro.

I am not a native North Carolinian and to be honest, I’ve yet to set foot in Chapel Hill. But it is so on my list to visit and I want to see if I can be transported to the Franklin Street of downtown as it looked in 1965; to see the Post Office and the site of the original picketed restaurants. I know much has to have changed but I love the feels of old downtowns and the imaginings of the people who walked the streets years and years and years gone by.

He had come into the South to get to know the South, and now he was held by the South, but what he had not learned was the ponderableness of the South, …  The instinct of the South was not part of him yet. As is the case in any revolution taking place, the need for immediate action was inside him and was what he breathed.

This was a fascinating portrayal of the key individuals involved, how the movement got started in the town, the machinations of the politics, the fears and commitments and frustrations of good people who wanted things done right but had different ideas of the best way to achieve or promote or demand results. It also gives some time with the side against desegregation. Fascinating. Oh, and let’s throw in one crazy tough bastard judge.

Those who support the superiority of conscience often have the embarrassment of explaining how their system is to work on a practical level; those who support the superiority of laws have the embarrassment of the way their system does work, day in and day out, at the working level.

And it showed that not a lot has changed in 50 years.

I admit that it got tough keeping track of who was who and what was when. If I had kept notes and timelines, I probably would have rated this a 5 star read. So, my failings.

This amazing book is a very good example of how things might need radical happenings to force change. Also fabulous discussion on how both sides of the rightness to ‘radical happenings’ (my words). Any social justice warrior would find this book valuable. Any student of journalism history would find this book insightful.

I’m glad I read this. I aspire to such courage of conviction as these men and women demonstrated.

“They had been condemned by the court, and they knew they were in a sense guilty of breaking laws, but they were moralists essentially, and what they were trying to determine now was the nature of their deeper crime whether they had violated not only laws but also justice.”

This is one of those books that inspires MORE research. I was constantly looking up people in Wiki, places on the map, and other stuff. I found a 1989 interview of Pat Cusick who ended up in Boston after being forced out of North Carolina – click this link for fascinating discussion and reflection of the events described in this book and beyond. He recommended the following book as pivotal and now I want to read it. Click the cover to go to goodreads: ptwbytb

The best understanding of America begins, or so it seems to me, with the realization that this nation is young yet, that she is still new and unfinished, that even now America is man’s greatest adventure in time and space.


Wishing us all a sensible 2016 of peace and freedom.





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The Post In Which I Rank My Top Rated Books of 2015

Oh goodie! The year end review posts are starting! I’m having a grand ol’ time printing out and counting up and percentaging and all the jazz that comes with the last week of the year.


And trying to figure out which book will be FIRST of 2016. This question keeps popping into my head and then silence. So, for right now, I have NO idea which book will be first. It’ll happen, always does. For more on that topic, visit Sheila at Book Journey.

Now. Let’s look at my top books and find out – drumroll, please – which was the very best for me in my opinion of all the books I enjoyed in 2015:


The book covers above are in no particular order as far as I can tell. It is the order put them in.

Here’s MY order most loved first to only very slightly less loved last:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (on audio, rev)

The Good Lord Bird (review)

H is for Hawk (on audio, rev)

Between the World and Me (review)

The Elegance of the Hedgehog (review)

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy (on audio, rev)

Far From the Madding Crowd (on audio,rev)

The Snow Child

Dept of Speculation (review)

Station Eleven (review)

Big Little Lies (review)

Bad Feminist (review) *According to WP, this review was my most visited post…

 Death in the Garden (review)

All I Have in This World (review)

Heft (on audio,rev)

Inside the O’Briens (review)

Lost Lake (review)

Wow, I have some very different books here. And I know that I have some FOUR slice reads that might be worthy of jumping up into this list and maybe swap places with the lower tier but let’s just say, I had a REALLY good reading year, shall we? (Honestly, I really don’t recall much about Lost Lake. gulp.)

If tomorrow, you asked me to re-rank these, the order would likely be different. But overall, these books were the ones that hit the right buttons, the right mood, the right emotions, the everythings.

These account for almost a quarter (23%) of the books I read! 70% of my total 2015 books read were a 4 or 5 pie slicer. Wow, indeed.

Which genres do I like, you ask? Oh my, what genres these books cross! Science fiction, romance, chicklit, historical fiction, almost-not-quite fantasy, civil rights, memoir, medical lit, mystery-thriller, fictional travelogue, death and dying, feminism, experimentally-stylish?

Three of the books above are nonfiction; Between the World and Me won the National Book Award 2015. H is for Hawk won the Samuel Johnson Prize 2014.

The Good Lord Bird won the National Book Award for Fiction 2013.

Five were audiobooks.

Station Eleven and Dept. of Speculation, both pub’d in 2014, had all sorts of acclaim this year and maybe a slew of awards.  Of course, Far From the Madding Crowd is a classic (and Hardy’s least sad, I’ve heard.) My review for that was my least read and most fun to write. But you wouldn’t get it if you haven’t read the book, so… And why!??! it isn’t on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list is a travesty.

I read both Harold Fry and Queenie Hennessy books TWICE. Each both in print and on audio. I am now Rachel Joyce’s biggest fan.


The most popular book I read was Mockingjay. I gave it 3 slices.


My least favorite book of 2015 was The Importance of Being Oscar. Skip it, seriously. And I gave more one and/or two slices to books this year for 11%; whereas, last year I only gave 8% the dreaded 2 slicer. Any DNFs I had were due to mood and timing and not a reflection of the quality of the experience. I didn’t count any DNFs, in other words. Only a few put-back-on-shelf-for-later.

A good year. A fine year for reading, was 2015. On to more stats and stuff… Posts, they are a-comin’.


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What’s in a Name 2016 Challenge #whatsinaname2016

wian2016 Hosted by The Worm Hole blog. The button will take you there.


  • A country
  • An item of clothing
  • An item of furniture
  • A profession
  • A month of the year
  • A title with the word ‘tree’

My IN THE HOUSE choices are:  wian2016mine

The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (also for Classics Club)

The Kingmaker‘s Daughter by Philippa Gregory (a Kingmaker is a profession, yes?)

Professor Stewart’s Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities by Prof. Ian Stewart (ya’ll want this one, too, right?)

All About the Months by Maymie R. Krythe (nonfiction) pub’d 1966


What will YOU be reading? and WHAT do you have to suggest for item of clothing?

 I’m thinking Susan Jane Gilman’s Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress and/or Maugham’s The Painted Veil.





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Update on a December’s Eve

My blog is undergoing a transformation or experiencing metamorphosis; perhaps some great cataclysmatic eventing, too. Not sure. YET.

I just decided ‘eventing’ is a word. Deal.

Because I am sitting here facing a challenge at a time of year when I want to both cuddle with my dogs and watch movies while also furiously ranking my best-of lists and getting ready to chunk reading stats and making to-do and goals lists because that is what I love about December. I love the festive hustle-bustle and flipping through my many pie books to decide some new concoction for a Christmas gathering and wrapping of gifts! But I loath getting out the stuff to decorate and worrying about where the tree should go and the pounds I pack on while stressing about what to wear to office ‘parties’ where I have to smile at people who know of me but I don’t know at all. The competing forces of this time of year…

And now, you see, please understand… my blog has been sickly. If you have visited in the last few weeks, you may have noticed that my menu bar had disappeared. This was due to an unsupported theme. A theme that I had been using at least five (six? SEVEN?!) years and loved. I loved the look of my blog. I love(d) the clean-ness, all the white space, the uncluttered, everything-in-its-place feel. I had it just like I liked it, or at least had grown to fondly dismiss any of its weaknesses and those features that I couldn’t change anyway. But now!

Now! I have changed to THIS theme. Whaddya think? It still allows my customizable header photo. My search button is in the same place. And now I get the comment-link at the top. #sadface.  And the tags are at the bottom. #cantrecallifthatiswhatIusedtonotlikeandcouldntchange? And the font is BIG. BIGGER. Whaddya think?

Note: the menu bar is confusing here. You must click on the menu title to see THAT PAGE and not just the links to more pages. SO confusing. For example, if you only hover over the 2015 Challenges, you might think my only Challenge is the Classics Club and that’s not true – it is just one more page of specifics. Am I explaining that clearly?

Maybe this is good for me. Perhaps I *should* start thinking about going I have had such good times here, though and I feel like I’m deserting an old friend when the friend just happened to got a new hair cut. And I should. I really should get my fingers into the goo of really owning my own blog; cease my dependency on I should. I should think of it as adventure. #braveface

Updates. Here’s one: Welcome to this new theme! Don’t get used to it? Be prepared for an announcement that you will have a new url addy to follow! But don’t worry, I do not anticipate this happening soon what-with Christmas being a quick zoom of two weeks or so? Three? Feels quick. I have real life things to do a lot of in the next two weeks, I’m thinking with a side-glance at my calendar…

Updates, some more: NaNoWriMo. Yes! I didn’t finish with a word count of the goal of 50,000 but I DID write 15,000! I refuse to think of this as a failure even if I really didn’t write anything at all the last two weeks of November. Nor much of the second week. But for the first 10 days, I really applied myself. I had zero ZERO idea of what I was going to write about and I actually had a few characters come to a little bit of life and speak to me with ideas. The ideas didn’t pan out but maybe they needed to go to sleep til a later time. OR maybe I just need to actually take some plot-development courses and see what I got? cibbyiw Sure, I had some blahblahblah words that were typed and sentences strung out to multiply word (oh crap, I can’t think of THE word that should go here!) <— such as; this is a great example. I typed in a TON of notes to myself to “explore this further in detail, etc”. So, true, I didn’t “make it”, but I am not unhappy with my experience and I thank Nancy and Athira for checking in on me. Congratulations to all my buddies for their successful 50K counts!

What else?  Thank you Kim Lulu Becca & DoingDewey (a blog I need to spend more time with) for #NonFicNov! I am deep in my civics lessons still but am glad for the push to devote the reading time I did to these brilliant texts. Also, on Small Business Saturday, I purchased Devil in the White City by Erik Larson so I can jump into that in December, methinks.

Estella’s Revenge is cussing over at her blog… Having just purchased a book that I apparently already had on my shelf, I guess I need to spend some of my time considering this idea, too. ReadMyOwnDamnBooksbutton

On a plus note, I have zero books to hurry!!!-and-read to complete any 2015 challenges and THIS is something to celebrate. Reviews of I am Malala and The Bungalow by Sarah Jio (fiction for neighborhood book club) coming soon. Back to my audio of My Brilliant Friend, oh oh yes. Looking forward to this sinister-feeling Italian escape.

Something else to look forward to? TOMORROW, DEC 1, SHOULD GIVE ME BLOG-SNOW!  Squeeeeeeeeee (It’s the little things, really).

Talk to me! What are YOU up to?


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We Should All Be Feminists

Thoughts wsabfbycna by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anchor Books 2015 (orig 2012), 48 pages

Read this or watch her Ted Talk!

“All of us, men and women, must do better.”


Four slices of pie.



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Between the World and Me #NonFicNov

Thoughts btwambytnc by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau 2015, 152 pages

This book is a letter from Coates to his 15 year old son about what it means to be a black man in America based on his personal experiences and universal studies. Beautifully written, startling, fresh:  POWERFUL.

“This is required reading.” – Toni Morrison

Congratulations Mr. Coates on winning this years National Book Award for nonfiction. nbalogo

“Fear ruled everything around me, and I knew, as all black people do, that this fear was connected to the Dream out there, to the unworried boys, to pie and pot roast, to the white fences and green lawns nightly beamed into our television sets.”

I could mention and include all the quotes that struck me, but perhaps it best to suggest you go read this yourself and mark the quotes that strike you.

On education:  “I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom is a jail of other peoples interests.”

“Schools are not concerned with curiosity – they are concerned with compliance.”

Someone in my bookclub (we were discussing a much different book but her comment was startling) mentioned that she had viewed a documentary on how eerily similar our schools are to prisons.

I know I have biases and unconscious thinking that is reflects my privilege and my own experiences and that these don’t always allow for diverse expression, truth and understanding. I want to do better. This is a powerful read for my powerful November.

OTHER Reviews:  Aarti at BookLust, Page247, Estella’s Revenge, Lakeside Musings

RATING: Five slices of blueberry pie.

“That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream Sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyard with streams and glens.”


I hope that pie can be connected to a better dream, one of world peace, value and respect for all.



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Week Three #NonFicNov


Week 3: November 16 to 20 (Hosted by Becca)

Nontraditional Nonfiction: This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms. There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.  We want to hear all about it this week!  


I’m really not that particular about how my nonfiction is delivered. I suppose this post idea is to remind me to seek out the variety? I really do not but should know what ‘oversized folios’ are…

I like audiobooks but sometimes nonfiction on audio is tough. Mostly when I want to take notes – hard to do when I am usually driving a car when audiobooking. Now this can happen with fiction, too, so I don’t know why I think it is an extra big deal with nonfic.

With that said, I do enjoy the audiobooks of the comediennes. Comedy in the ears, it just WORKS.

And, if I have to pat myself on the back for something… I did read a nonfic graphic book: stbydc Science Tales. Just sayin’.



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Warriors Don’t Cry

Note: I wrote this review before the events at The University of Missouri. I know we still have a lot to learn and figure out. My wish is for everyone to BE KIND and NOT BE AN ASSHOLE. Call me naive. God Bless and Peace on Earth.

Thoughts wdcbympb A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rocks’ Central High by Melba Pattillo Beals, Washington Square Press 1994, 312 pages

From the blurb:

In 1957, well before Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Melba Pattillo Beals and eight other teenagers became iconic symbols for the Civil Rights Movement and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the American South as they integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in the wake of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling, Brown v. Board of Education.

Throughout her harrowing ordeal, Melba was taunted by her schoolmates and their parents, threatened by a lynch mob’s rope, attacked with lighted sticks of dynamite, and injured by acid sprayed in her eyes. But through it all, she acted with dignity and courage, and refused to back down.

This book was so startling to me. That the white students of Central High, organized by parents and with help from the Governor! could be so … mean, isn’t the right word, and hateful is accurate, but physically abusive is more true. Flaming firebombs and firecrackers, acid, kicks and punches with adults pretending not to see.

I just don’t understand. And don’t say, “Well, that was the way it was in the South back then.” Well, it was disgusting.

And we are only playing these same scenes still but covertly (OR: NOT COVERTLY:  swastikas drawn with feces?) and/or on different groups of underprivileged HUMANs. Because they are ‘different’? Get over it.

Imagine such a scene today if Federal troops were called to keep peace inside a school. Of course, parents would protest if armed soldiers were in the hallways of their children’s school now; but to think that these soldiers were protecting NINE kids from the hundreds attending. It boggles my brain. I don’t think I could would have been quarter as brave and courageous as these African American kids who just wanted to go to school and learn. They really didn’t quite have a grasp of the political undertaking they were about to begin nor the significance that bright September — oh yes, they certainly figured it out!  but this thought of the importance of what they were setting out to do and understanding that it was to be so very difficult; for it to be a sustaining principle to make the abuse ‘worth it’? Amazing. How can a 15 yo have the strength to start such and ‘see what happens?’

Applaud their fortitude and the unwavering support of their families.

And that the judge who ordered that integration should proceed had an armored guards protecting him 24 hours a day?! While these kids only had protection for a few months and only during the school hours – not getting to and from. They couldn’t stick up for themselves or show their fear because then they were the ones at risk of being suspended or expelled.


“Much worse than the fear and any physical pain I had endured was the hurt deep down inside my heart, because no part of me understood why people would do those kinds of things to one another.”

At one point Melba was so discouraged and lonely but she was to get NO sympathy from her very strong, loving and wise grandmother:

“Did you count on the central people for your spiritual food before you went there? Have you been waiting on them to treat you good and tell you you’re all right so you’ll know you’re all right? Does God know your value? You could never in this lifetime count on another human being to keep you from being lonely, nobody can provide your spiritual food.”


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