Category Archives: Dusty Shelves

The Hour of Land

Terry Tempest Williams

Nonfiction 2016 | 400 pages


Terry Tempest William's writing is gorgeous, literary, torturous, visual, revealing, thought-provoking, sweet, humorous, powerful, inspiring, inciting, creative. This book portrays her personal reactions, responses, and thoughts about eight of our National Parks, two National Monuments, one National Seashore, one National Military Park, and one National Recreation Area. She inspires us to visit, protect, and preserve these national treasures, and understand what they represent for our future, if we are to be an environmentally healthy planet.

I am biased.  Canyonlands National Park is my favorite wilderness in this country.  But what she writes!  Oh my!  This chapter is filled completely with letters she wrote to the likes of Edward Abbey, John Wesley Powell, Sally Jewel, Tim DeChristopher and numerous news media editors.  Here, Williams gives us an intimate view of her values and principles and how this parks entices them.

A few chapters earlier, she shares Big Bend National Park with us through the lens of 13 colors, among them are purple, blue, red, and pink.  Clever; engaging.

You should read this book if you love literature.  You should read this book if you are inspired by our National Parks. You should read this book if you have any interest at all in protecting our environment.  I received it as a gift from Thom 18 months ago and wish I had not put I on the "to be read" shelf for so long.  It is a stunning piece of literature.

December 2022


Naomi Slade

Nonfiction 2018 | 240 pages


This is primarily a picture book of dahlia varieties, but if you happen to have developed a passion, this is a fine book for a cold winter day.  And it is Interesting to read about the origins of the names of some of the 42-49 species of dahlias, and the thousands of individual flower types, such as Happy Singles First Love, Franz Kafka, Rip City, Checkers, and Hootenanny.

December 2022

Women Who Run with Wolves

Clarissa Pinkola Estés | Fiction, 2009

2 hours, 18 minutes


I like Estés style!  She tells stories and fables, and the interprets them in Jungian archetypal terms, with an accessible lightness.  She is not heavy, heady, or didactic.

I found these stories to be meaningful  for my younger self, as they focus on discovering one’s power, identity, and freedom.  Still, they are interesting to listen to.

I am QUITE looking forward to listening to a Christmas gift from Thom that has not arrived yet, by the same author:  The Power of the Crone.  I anticipate Estés will be sharing with us tales that speak more to the older woman.

December 2022

Fairy Tale

Stephen King

Fiction 2022 | 608 pages


Once upon a time there was a 17-year-old boy named Charlie. Charles Reade, actually.  His mother dies in a terrible accident when he is seven, and his father turns to drink, but Charlie grows up to be a good, strong, clever young man. He promises God to do good as recompense in exchange for his father's sobriety. Which, yes, happens. Charlie then saves his neighbor from a fall off of a ladder, grumpy old Mr. Bowditch, who has an equally elderly dog named Radar, and a crumbling old house. The first half of this long book is a delightful story about Charlie, his father, Mr. Bowditch, and Radar.

And then Mr. Bowditch dies and all is revealed about how he can afford his considerable medical expense.  Out in his back shed is the entrance, long and steep, to another world, where gold pellets flow freely. Upon his death, Mr. Bowditch explains about this world and tells Charlie how to get there.  He is especially interested in convincing Charlie to go, because there is a sundial there that, when spun backwards, can revert someone who stands on it, to an earlier stage in their life.  Both Mr. Bowditch and Charlie want the German Shepherd Radar to take a spin on the sundial, as he too is dying.

Still fun, yes!  Soon we enter this other word, Empis, where its citizens suffer from a disease called “the gray” that slowly and brutally turns their faces into misshapen mounds of gray skin.  Charlie has many adventures and meets some very interesting characters who have lost much of their faces and often a sense – sight, hearing, eating, etc.

The Guardian and others call this book “terrifying.”  I am not certain I would have read it, if I had read these reviews first.

After Charlie and Radar travel deep into this land where evil creatures have overtaken the society and created the gray, depression, foreboding, and poverty, Charlie is thrown into prison.  Here is where the 200 pages of terror begin. The story here is brutal and murderous.  Even though I found this section of the book repulsive, still, I kept it at four hearts.  The tale is amazing, and woven throughout are stories, references, and metaphors that hearken back to numerous fairy tales.  Again fun!

With a grain of salt,  and a bit of self-surprise, I recommend this Stephen King.

December 2022

Buddhism is Not What You Think

Steve Hagen

Nonfiction 2003 | 255 pages


I was quite disappointed in this book, especially since I so enjoyed the other Hagen book I read, Buddhism Plan and Simple.  I just don’t think there was nearly enough content to fill this book.  I found it extremely repetitive.  He says the same thing over and over, sometimes not even changing the words.

That being said, here are some of the gems I took from his writing:

Pg 40. It's better instead to just look at the situation you're in and see immediately and directly what's going on.  If you do this honestly and earnestly, you'll see that you're already sustained, complete, and whole and that everything you'll ever truly need is at hand.

Pg 49.  The Buddha pointed out that any idea of existence or persistence is faulty. But he also pointed out that any notion of nonexistent is also flawed.

Pg 65. Instead of just seeing, most of us most of the time search for a better idea, a more useful concept, a clearer explanation that will at last crack open the world for us.

Pg 66, 67. We overlook that we cannot have "off" without "on."  We cannot have "this" without "that." In fact, no object can form in the mind without its very identity being wrapped up in all that it us not ... Nothing stands on its own.  Nothing has its own being. Each thing is inseparable from, and inter-identical with, all that it's not.

Pg 80. The Buddha said that he taught only two things:  dukkha--which can be translated as change, sorrow, loss, suffering, vexation, or confusion--and release from dukkha.

Pg 101.  It doesn't matter what the activity is.  If you really understand meditation, it can reach into every activity of your life, 24/7.

Pg 107.  The Way – Truth, Reality, Enlightenment – is always with people.  It's with you now.

Pg 123.  So what is the most precious thing?  It's not a thing at all.  It's this very moment.

Pg 180.  It is said that a Bodhisattva comes into the world forsaking understanding and being understood.  This is true.

Pg 185.  In this moment it is possible to realize that we do not need to understand, to be understood, to have the right idea.  All we need to do is awaken to here and now – to stop jabbering to ourselves and be present in this moment.

There's nothing to prove, nothing to figure out, nothing to get, nothing to understand.  When we finally stop explaining everything to ourselves, we may discover that in silence, complete understanding was here all along.

Pg 209.  That this will never come again is what it actually means to be born again and again.  We, and indeed the whole world, are born repeatedly, over and over, in each new moment.

December 2022

Bear, Otter, and The Kid

TJ Klune | Fiction, 2011

370 pages


The plot is delightful!  On his 18th Birthday, Bear (aka Derrick), finds himself completely responsible for his eight-year-old brother the Kid (aka Tyson), when their mother leaves them a letter with $135.50, and takes off with her boyfriend, never to return.  Three days later, Bear graduates from high school, along with his two best friends since second grade, Creed and Anna.  His plans for college disappear and his life is in disarray ... he will never abandon the Kid, whom he loves very deeply.  Anna (now Bear's girlfriend), Creed, Creed's older brother Otter (aka Oliver), and next-door neighbor Mrs. Pacquin all commit to fully support Bear and the Kid, with love, babysitting, school pick-ups, money (Bear won't take any of that) and whatever else is necessary for the care and feeding of his young brother, a brilliant vegetarian ecoterrorist-in-training who refuses to watch cartoons and instead watches documentaries on cruelty to animals, PETA, environmental change, and radical ecoterrorism.

The plot is pure delight!  Such love and support all around!

That is the plot, but the interwoven story is about Bear and Otter, and Bear, with considerable difficulty, coming to terms with being gay. I am a romantic, and I love reading about love, sex, romance, joy, and anguish.  However, I am giving this book three hearts because I want you to go into this novel with your eyes wide open.  There is A LOT of  love, sex, romance, joy, and anguish between Bear and Otter!!  If that works for you, you will find this novel enjoyable.

Bear, our main character, is expertly written in first person, and his inner thoughts are included in italics.  His inner thoughts are a riot!  There is much in this book to smile, giggle, and laugh at.  I guffawed loudly near the end a few times! Plus, of course, there is the pure sentimentality of a family (created) that we all perhaps deeply desire.  Heartwarming and funny, this is another TJ Klune success.  It is a tough call if this book or House on the Cerulean Sea is now my favorite Klune!


December 2022

Lost in Time

A.G. Riddle

Fiction 2022 | 451 pages


A small group of scientists creates a company called Absalom and invents a machine that can send people into the past ... way into the past, like the Triassic Period, 200 million years ago.  They were attempting to build a machine that would transport an object instantaneously to a different location.  (Watch out, FedEx!) Unsure of the market for transporting people, they discovered countries and governments found the technology useful for coping with hardened criminals … getting them out of this place and time, but not actually killing them.

And then, one of the Absalom scientists, Nora, is murdered.  Her business (and love) partner, Sam, and his daughter Adeline are prime suspects.  Sam quickly realizes he needs to confess to the murder, which he didn’t do, to remove suspicion from his daughter (who is also innocent!)  His colleagues send Sam back to the Triassic Period, as he is now officially a “murderer.”  Meanwhile, the scientific team improve and adapt the machine, making greater and more significant innovations, until they agree with Adeline’s intention to travel back to 2008, the year of her birth, and relive the past up to and through the time Nora is killed ... to find the murderer.  One the murderer is found, the advance time-travel machine can bring her father back, and life will continue on its journey!

The time travel is fun (though sometimes a bit confusing).  The character development of many characters … Sam, Adeline, Nora, Daniele, Constance, Elliott, Hiro … is astounding.  It takes great talent to develop clearly this many characters and A.G. Riddle is up to the task!  Eventually, many threads come together in the end of the novel, and confusing pieces make sense.  There is such a sense of compassion in this novel ... FROM some characters (Constance, e.g.) and FOR others (Hiro, e.g.)  This is a fun read!  I think I will try another A.G. Riddle.  He has written ten other novels.

November 2022

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L'Engle

Fiction 1962 | 236 pages


A Wrinkle in Time is a 1962 classic young adult novel about Meg, a 13-year-old girl who is unsure of herself, quite sensitive, doesn't know her place in the world, and has two scientist parents and three brothers. Meg travels across space and time to achieve her own coming of age. Though I am reading this classic 60 years beyond its publication, I found it fun, engaging, even if somewhat dated in its science.  What's not to like?  Some didn't like its Christian message.  Huh?  As an atheist, I consider myself somewhat hyper-aware of Christian messages.  I missed the "Christian message" completely myself!!

A Wrinkle in Time follows three children as they cross the barriers of time and space.  Mrs Whatsit, a very old celestial being disguised as a woman (and has two compatriots, Mrs Who and Mrs Which) visit Meg, her mother, and her younger brother Charles Wallace.  Soon Meg, her prodigious younger brother Charles Wallace, and friend Calvin travel across the universe in search of Meg’s father, who, once found, does NOT solve all their problems.  It is Meg, a girl who combines both the ordinary and the extraordinary, who overcomes the book’s villain with the power of a simple human emotion, love.

If you read this in fourth grade, as my friend Jen did, or missed it all together, it is a delightful quick read into the early days of science, science fiction, and fantasy.  Enjoy it now, as an adult!

November 2022


Ron Rash

Fiction 2008 | 362 pages


During the depression, in 1929, newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to harvest timber and create a timber empire.  Their story is dark, visceral, deadly, and, yes, loving.  Serena, our main character, is an unfathomably strong and powerful woman, capable and resourceful (an anomaly at the time) who knows her own mind.  She is also ruthless, ambitious, greedy, malicious, amoral, a megalomaniac, and a sociopath.  And a murderer.  The 100 timber workers, with the Pemberton’s at their head, struggle with death, maiming, poverty, issues of significant safety, and a government movement to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, right on their land.  (As an aside, the most-visited National Park in the US!)

Many reviewers write about the beauty of Rash’s writing.  He has a beautiful turn of the phrase; eloquent, descriptive, intense.  However, I did not find his writing quite as compelling as many did.  He solves every problem by murdering someone.  I found this very uncreative.  I think it would have been a more interesting story if he explored other means for solving problems.

We get to know Serena in depth, and to some extent, her husband Pemberton.  But the rest of the characters blur together in their superficiality.

Perhaps it is unfair of me to judge a book harshly by the story it tells, but I have.  There are many murders, along with countless deaths and loss of limbs by logging.  Virtually all the murders are not explained. It is unclear why these people must die.  I abhor gratuitous violence, and I believe that is what Rash writes about, his strong female characters notwithstanding.  I finished this because it is a book club read, but I do not recommend it. I am very intrigued to hear why the gentle spirit who recommended this book to us, did so.

November 2022