Author Archives: Andrea Sigetich

The Spirituality of Age

Robert L. Weber & Carol Orsborn

Nonfiction 2015 / 233 pages


My friend Kathy and I are exploring books on developing and affirming our spirituality in our latter years.  The Spirituality of Age is our first choice, and I must say I am disappointed.  I would like to re-title it The Psychology of Age.  It is filled with psychological advice, perspective, and counsel, that ties very loosely to spirituality, in my mind.  This is the major contribution of Robert L. Weber, PhD, a former Jesuit and clinical psychologist.  Carol Orsborn, PhD, has her doctorate in History and Critical Theory of Religion.  With her degree, and Weber’s former vocation as a Jesuit, the book is replete with religious and bible references that, try as I may to translate into secular experience or ignore, became tedious and boring.  Furthermore, the entire book is about the lives and stories of Weber and Orsborn.  There is nothing I find quite as irritating as an author telling his/her story because they are so egotistical to think it alone informs others.  A story here and there to elucidate a point is welcome.  But this book is almost 100% their stories.  Yawn me to death!

HOWEVER, my conversation with Kathy was enlightening!  She was less critical and gleaned some useful pieces from this book.  We had a good conversation about one of the questions incited by the book ... What does mature spirituality look like?  The words we used, for us, included acceptance, being present, spaciousness, quiet, prayer and meditation, being in nature, and being in our bodies.  A good question from the book we are both pondering is “What does the divine want to awaken in you now?”  My current answer is gratitude and clarity.  We also spoke about letting go of old beliefs AND creating new ones.

I think the most profound part of our discussion was around loss, and how loss contributes to our sense of the spiritual.  Health issues, loss of strength and stamina, and of course, the loss of very important people (and pets) in our lives, has raised a question for us, i.e., how to be with loss as part of our spiritual practices.

All in all, we had a great conversation, even though I am not enamored of the style of writing of these two authors.  For those of you who are tracking my posts on Buddhism and on spirituality, please note that Kathy and I are next reading Awareness by Anthony de Mello, and will discuss it in late June.  We invite you to read along if you wish!

June 2023

The Dictionary of Lost Words

Pip Williams

Fiction 2021 | 376 pages


A novel based on the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, we follow the life of Esme (Es, Essy, EssyMay), the daughter of one of the lexicographers (a person who compiles dictionaries).  As a young motherless child, she often stays under the table in the Oxford Scriptorium where the lexicographers do their work. Looking at the words with her Da, she learns to read, and builds a fascination and reverence for words. At a very young age, she finds a stray paper slip of a word that was dropped on the floor. Wanting to possess one of these special objects, she stashes it in her pocket. She instinctively knows taking it is wrong, but the possession is something so special, she cannot help herself.  Lizzie, the servant girl, offers Esme a hiding place in a small trunk under Lizzie’s bed. Thus begins Esme's collection. This collection becomes an important element in Esme's life, and eventually leads to the creation of The Dictionary of Lost Words.  The lost words are "women's words". They are words about women’s bodies, which many consider vulgar, and the men lexicographers refuse to include in their professional dictionary.  They also include words used by commoners, by poor people, by people not in sophisticated society. "Bondmaid" for example becomes an important word through the novel.

The dictionary was created during a time when social mores are in upheaval.  It is also the time of women's suffrage and the beginnings of WWI.  Esme is living at the end of the Victorian era when the roles of women are defined, restrained, restrictive.  Essy wants out from the shackles of these times.

I am a logophile; I love words.  If you love words, you may just be as fascinated by this book as I was.  Our language both defines us and reflects us.  Word usage changes constantly and is an anthropological study of the history of peoples and cultures.  The Dictionary of Lost Words is not a page turner or a fast read. It is a book to be savored and read slowly.  It is a beautiful history (herstory?) of the times.  The only challenge I had is picturing the Scriptorium and the printing processes.  I never created a fully satisfying visual.  For example, I was two thirds of the way through the book before I realized that "pinning" together the small slips of paper that have word definitions and quotes of the word in actual usage, was accomplished through the use of an actual straight pin stuck through the bits of paper!

This is our May book club read and will lead to a delightful conversation, I suspect.  Thank you, Louise, and Pam for encouraging us to read this novel.  It is a worthwhile read!

May 2023

Lessons in Chemistry

Bonnie Garmus

Fiction 2022 | 400 pages


From what I heard, I expected this book to be good.  I didn't expect to be astounding!  This is a must read.  Another debut novel to celebrate!

The story is set in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Elizabeth Zot is a chemist.  It goes without saying, a woman chemist at this time was more than an anomaly.  She was also dismissed, misunderstood, feared, abhorred, discriminated against, and pushed hard towards other, more appropriate roles, i.e., wife and mother. She is serious and cerebral.  No surprise, her cerebral-ness keeps her at arm's length from many people, but it also provides the reader with eye-rolling giggles.

She meets and falls in love with another brilliant chemist ... one who is no smarter than her, but is famous for his work, because he is a he.  Elizabeth and Calvin Evans are soulmates, as is their adopted dog, Six-Thirty (who knows 981 human words by the end of the book.)

Elizabeth Zot's story includes fighting to be seen and respected by the misogynist scientific community.  It includes battling blatant gender-based discrimination, sexual assault, and a man who puts his name on her research, which was funded by a man who believed Zot was a man.  Elizabeth Zot is eventually demoted and then fired from her research position.  I won't tell you why ... too many spoilers if I do!  She goes on to host an afternoon tv show called "Supper at Six" in which she teaches "housewives" the chemistry of cooking and becomes famous in spite of herself.

The sport of rowing, also dominated by men, plays an interesting role in Lessons in Chemistry.  It is its own character, with a personality all its own.  And then there is my other favorite character in the book, Mad.  But I will let you find out who Mad is.

It sounds a little heavy, doesn't it?  Well, Lessons in Chemistry is not arduous, despite the serious subjects it tackles. Bonnie Garmus' writing is fun, engaging, often humorous, and thought-provoking.  Garmus says in her follow-on interview with Pandora Sykes, "I wanted to salute that generation of overlooked women, to highlight their enormous and often underused capabilities."  This is the generation of her mom.

I like this sentence from a review at, so will steal it:  “Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist.”

No question, read this book!!  And post your comments when you do, please!  I am actually sorry it is complete.

May 2023


Rachel Wooten

Nonfiction 2020 | 311 pages


Tara is another book about Buddhism that disappointed me.  I was excited about this one, because Tara is the female Buddha, and she is sharing her wisdom with us in 22 meditations.  I was so excited, I bought the Tara cards so I could pull one randomly, when faced with a situation or question or dilemma. There IS wisdom here ... I read about and meditated upon many useful concepts such as patience, peacefulness, energy, focus, love, loneliness, clarity, richness, truth.

As with many Buddhist books I have read so far, there is much filler.  Wooten repeats the process ... the Tara Appearance, the Visualization, the Refuge Prayer, the Praise, the Mantra, and the Meditation, over and over in every chapter.  Once again, it feels like there are so many words in-between the pages and paragraphs of wisdom. And the cards have very little of Tara’s wisdom written on them.  Just a sentence or two; so they too are disappointing.

I will continue to develop my one Tara ... my own sense of feminine (and feminist) Buddhism, as with every aspect of Buddhism, taking what is right for me and what resonates.

April 2023



Akwaeke Emezi

Fiction 2022 | 264 pages


After a tumultuous childhood in foster care, Bitter, 17, is invited to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting, surrounded by other creative teens. But outside the residential school, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the city of Lucille.  Lucille is a hotbed of racial violence, though Bitter, Black herself, like many of the kids at Eucalyptus, is tempted to stay inside the safe walls of her school.  She is, however, pulled in multiple directions among her friends, her passion for painting, and a new romance.  Bitter isn’t sure where she belongs—in the studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, at what cost?

This young adult novel is being read by the Decolonization book club I used to be a member of.  It explores youth, protest, art, values, innocence, friendship, trust, truth.  It also has an engaging and fantastical component of magic, that is first introduced to us through Bitter’s art as a young child.

Many of the characters in Bitter have remarkable names like Bitter, Aloe, Blessing, and Hibiscus. The author tells us this in an homage to Toni Morrison.

It is a timely novel and is quite riveting.  Bitter and her friends are simply irresistible characters.  Sometimes I really like reading YA novels ... there is a freshness to them that is not always found in adult serous novels addressing similar topics.  (I have two more on my shelf right now!)  Yes, I recommend Bitter.  I believe it will cause you to think.

April 2023


She Comes First

Ian Kerner

Nonfiction 2004 / 22o pages


Yes, if you are wondering if this book is about what you think it is about, it is! She Comes First is about sexually satisfying a woman first. I can't believe someone actually wrote this book, so I had to check it out.

(Not to apologize, but I can imagine some blog readers wondering, “why is she blogging about books on sex?”  I realize it may seem odd from your perspective, but even when you are almost 70 (or maybe especially when you are almost 70!) and new relationships, new love, new sexual experiences present themselves, interest in sex re-emerges.)

This book is fascinating for women as well as men. Did you know there are 18 parts to a clitoris, some visible and some not?  I didn't ... and I learned much more about my own sexual body reading She Comes First.

While jam-packed with useful information and humor, I think it reads like a YouTube video on how to rebuild your car's engine.  It is very descriptive, with lots of "how to" ... prescriptive, detailed, informative.  I would not want to be a man reading this ... it is TOO directive in my opinion.  However, a thoughtful perusal to pick up an idea or two might serve us all?!

My disappointment is that Kerner does not represent older women and our unique challenges.

Overall, I do recommend it for anyone who enjoys or would like to enjoy more satisfaction in giving or receiving cunnilingus.  (Wow, did I actually write that line?)

April 2023

48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister

Joyce Carol Oates

Fiction 2023 | 297 pages


Beautiful Marguerite (“M” to her family) disappears from her small town in Upstate New York. But is foul play involved? Or did she merely make the decision to leave behind her claustrophobic life?

Her younger sister Georgene (G) wonders if the flimsy silk Dior dress, so casually abandoned on the floor, is a clue to Marguerite’s having seemingly vanished. The story is set 22 years after M’s disappearance.  The police examine the footprints and other (46 more!) clues. We slowly learn of G's love/hate relationship with the perfect Marguerite.

I don't know Joyce Carol Oates well, but a few reviewers called her "creepy."  Our narrator and main character G IS rather creepy.  This book is more a study of the psychological state of G, than it is about solving the mystery of M's disappearance. Oates' ability to create a character, if this book is a typical indication of her writing skill, is astounding. G is not very likable, is socially incompetent, is angry, bitter, jealous, and resentful.  She has moments of psychological distress and mental un-health, and creates fantastical stories.  The story is both fascinating and disturbing. There is an undercurrent of evil.  G will stay with you four days after you put this book down.

And, an ambiguous end to boot!

Yes, I recommend this book.  It is not a mystery in the truest sense of the word ... it is more a psychological character study.  And I found it quite interesting, engaging, thought-provoking, sometimes amazing.

April 2023


A Big Little Life

Dean Koontz

Nonfiction 2009 | 279 pages


I didn't know when I put this Dean Koontz on my library list, that it was nonfiction.  Koontz has written over 130 books of which five or so are nonfiction.  This is the story of Dean and Gerda’s first dog, Trixie.  Koontz assures us in chapter one, though he is a prolific fiction writer, every story he tells about Trixie is true.  And the Trixie stories are completely amazing; it is hard to believe some of them.  But if you ever wonder if dogs have the ability to remember, to recognize, to learn, to express love or joy, Trixie will convince you.

Trixie came to the Koontz’s in her third year.  Rescued from the Canine Companions for Independence, Trixie had a career as an assistance dog to Jenna, who had lost both legs in an accident.  Trixie needed elbow surgery that required her retirement from assisting.

Not only is the story of Trixie purely delightful, but you get a strong sense of the man, the author Dean Koontz, his personal life with his wife Gerda, his desires and likes and dislikes. A Big Little Life is reminiscent of Stephen King's On Writing, where we gain insight to the writer himself.

A Big Little Life will make you laugh, cause you to sit up in astonishment, and touch your heart on every page.  I read the end sitting on the floor, petting Charlie, as I know how sadly all books about dogs end.

This is a must read, even if you are not a dog person, I think.  It is very well-written and such a glorious tale!

April 2023


Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Fiction 2019 / 270 pages


There is a 100-year-old cafe in a basement in Tokyo that has no windows, three clocks that tell different time, and is always cool, no matter how hot it becomes outside.  It is small, with just three tables.  But one chair, at one of the tables, is quite unusual.  If you sit in the chair and obey all the rules, you can travel back in time for a few moments.  One if the rules is, nothing you do when you travel back will change the present.  Another is, you must return to the present before your cup of coffee gets cold.

The premise is sweet.  The characters are the manager and workers in the cafe, and a few regulars.  We watch as four women take the opportunity to time travel, to learn something they otherwise would never know.  Different from some other time travel books, there is neither technology nor science.  It is all about the women who travel and the most important relationships in their lives.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is an odd book; an unusual book.  It is difficult to say what didn't work well for me.  It was over overly sentimental.  All four characters who time travel are women, and I found that somewhat sexist.  Are women the only people who care about relationships?  And Kawaguchi is extremely repetitive.  He repeats the rules, and explains about the clocks, and tells about the making of coffee over and over again.  Nevertheless, it is tender; it is redeemable.

I can't quite recommend this book, and I can't quite not recommend this book. In the end, I give it three hearts ... it may be worth perusing and reading a few pages to see if it appeals to you.

April 2023

Fractured Infinity

Nathan Tavares

Science Fiction 2022 | 359 pages


At first, I was excited to read a science fiction book! It is a genre I don’t read often.  Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish an important documentary about his best friend, an AI named Genesis, when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up and kidnaps Hayes, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner– a mysterious device that can move people through various universes. This is after the second American Civil War, and the country as we know it today has been divided into multiple countries ... a quite interesting context for this tale!

It turns out an alternate self of Hayes, a man always referred to by their last name, Figueiredo, is an angry, obsessive, brilliant man who creates the Envisioner and sends hundreds of these machines throughout the multiverses.  The story is about Hayes and his lover, Yusuf, unlocking the secrets of the machine, and visiting multiple universes to attempt to save humanity and especially, Yusuf himself.  I found it interesting, surprising, and disappointing that the multiple universes (mulitverses) where Figueiredo sends his machines are, in fact, only on Earth and Earth’s moon. Oh yes, and one pivotal one on an asteroid.

Tavares’ cast of characters includes queer couples, people of color, robots, robots rights advocates, and scientists. As a matter of fact, there are no male-female love relationships in this book; they are all male-male.

The story SOUNDS intriguing.  The only thing I can say, humbly, and as only a reader who does not live inside Tavares’ head, is that I think Tavares is simply not a good writer. There is no tension; no real mystery; no page-turning “what is going to happen next” in reading this book.  It is slow and deliberate with many scenes (like Hayes and Yusuf traveling to a different multiverses) repeated over and over.  And though we see everything through Hayes’ eyes, I still l managed to find him a shallow character, with little substance and no soul.  Sort of like an outline of a character; a flat cartoon.

Clearly, I don’t recommend this book.  I struggled this morning to get it done so I could move on!  Let us know if you read it and like it!!

March 2023