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The Errant Flock, by Jana Petken

The Errant Flock, by Jana Petken, is a “TBR” (To Be Read) choice for my 2017 Reading Challenge.



Errant Flock


This book has lots of great reviews, so maybe I'm just not the right market. I gave it over 50% before chalking it up as DNF, but I just wasn't as invested in it as I should have been by then. The only parts I really liked, and which kept me reading, were the portions from David's POV. Those piqued my interest but not enough to stick with the whole book.

I did feel uncomfortable with the large amount of anti-Semitism, even if it was historically accurate. It's not a fun read. I usually like dark, but by the time we finally saw the Inquisition come to town, I realized that I just hated the thought of watching further innocents be tortured and killed. There was nothing to keep pulling me forward. Also far too many typos, which should have easily been caught.

Reckoning of Dragons, by Rob May

Reckoning of Dragons: Dragon Killer, Roll the Bones & Sirensbane, by Rob May


Reckoning of Dragons


I enjoyed these stories enough to finish three books and two short stories worth of reading in this milieu, so that has to count for a lot. The story was decent, and Rob May is a skilled writer. The works desperately needed better editing though. Not in the usual sense of crappy typos and disappointing discount ebooks though. Mostly just for the many inconsistencies, and I did have some small nitpicks.

I do love my dragon stories, but we saw surprisingly little of dragons for what I was expecting. Book 3 didn't even have dragons. There was a sea monster that made a cameo, but the 'dragons' were mostly metaphorical. It was a pirate story about drug abuse, which ended up being more interesting than I expected, but it wasn't a dragon tale. I did end up enjoying it though.

I found the climaxes of each three books to be pretty iffy. Each climax included something that just didn't quite make my suspension of disbelief. Book one, Dragon Killer, particularly flipped my “Say what now?” switch, but the rest of the story – and some admittedly great worldbuilding – kept me reading on. I also didn't think that the swapping between third person and then first person flashbacks worked that well. It would trip me up whenever we had a tense change, or I would think the story was current because it's third person only to realize shortly that it's another flashback. It was just clunky and didn't work for me.

The author also hit a few of my personal peeves. I detest when authors (or adults of any kind) consistently refer to grown women as “girls”, and I also hate it when the viewpoint character knows something but the author makes a huge point of NOT letting us know what the character knows. Especially in very clumsy “So Kal shared her plans....[but totally not with you, dear reader]” passages that take forever to finally let us in on the secret. It's a cheap trick, and it rarely works to enhance tension (if that's even what the author was going for). It also seems like the author read some of that advice about adverbs being bad, so he just decided to leave “-ly” off of words whether it's grammatically needed or not. “Things were going pretty bad” instead of “badly”, things like that. I could overlook it in dialogue maybe, but not narrative.

So I guess I'm giving three stars. Better editing would have given this a strong 4, maybe even 5 if the climaxes were strengthened. I did like the books, and the last story was enough to pique my interest if May decides to further tell that particular tale. I'd love to read more. I think my overall 'meh' feeling right now might be attributed to three books and two (long) short stories just being overkill for me personally. If they were stronger, I might have sped through eagerly, but I come away just being glad to finally be done with it all.

But Here a Rain Falls Neverending...

It's still raining here in Missouri. We've had massive floods, even here locally -- though our house is safe, thank God -- and many towns are still in a state of emergency. Our neighbor-town has been ruined, from the sound of it. Many were evacuated and lost everything. Yesterday was such a lovely, sunny day and I thought it was all finally over. But this morning brought more rain.

I'm glad I was able to catch up on several loads of laundry yesterday. I have no drier, so I have to use the outside line or a few small lines we have put up in the house. Josh is starting to miss work because it's just raining too much. First most of the crew was flooded and couldn't get out, and then there just wasn't anything they could do when it was pouring so badly. He works at a charcoal factory, which relies a lot on fires and huge kilns. He said he's afraid he may be coming home early today, too. We really can't afford all the work he's been missing.

My lawn is a jungle already. Ticks and snakes get bad here, so I'm anal about keeping my yard mowed. My lawn mower is broken, and we had a hard time finding a replacement piece. We finally found one that is -close- but not exactly the same, and we're hoping it will work so I can get my mower back up and running. I think Josh gave away our old broken push mower, so if we can't get the rider fixed, we'll be seriously screwed. We have 4 or so open acres where the house sits, and I have to keep it mowed somehow.

My garden seems okay. I'm glad Josh talked me into doing hilled rows. I think that's helping keep everything from flooding. My onions still haven't come up, so I don't think they're going to, so I'll have to plant something else there. The weeds are already getting terrible in the big chunk of plot I hadn't rowed up yet. I hope it doesn't take over the whole thing. I'm still waiting for Josh to be able to fix my tiller, too (I pulled the start-up string out).

We lost a wounded chicken. He'd been hurt and was laying near our porch, but he went and hid when the bad thunderstorm started up. We couldn't find him anywhere, but we found him yesterday hidden up under my bench. He hadn't made it. I was afraid that would happen when we couldn't find him, but he'd been lying around doing poorly, so he might not have made it anyway. I still feel bad for him, even if he was the mean rooster.

I hope the rain stops soon. We really could use a longer break.

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Boosting the Signal

A dear friend of mine, whom I originally met long ago on livejournal, is passing away from pancreatic cancer. She's in her final moments and not expected to last the weekend. The family could use help with funeral expenses, so if you too hate cancer, please consider saying a prayer, lighting a candle, &/or donating to my friend Kali, a true warrior goddess.



https://www.gofundme.com/3pcgn8w

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Trans/Portraits: Voices From Transgender Communities, by Jackson Wright Shultz



Trans_Portraits


This was a very moving book. It's a collection of essays by 30-something transgender individuals, only their experiences are broken up based on various themes. I thought this worked better than offering big, long essays one after another. You get to see how different people's experiences vary, and you hear about them in their own words.

It's a must-read for anyone who wants to be a good ally, as well as those who might be going through the process themselves. It was very eye-opening to follow so many individuals through their own unique processes. I like that it spoke to intersectionality of other issues like race, class, disabilities, even the Deaf and kink communities.

Some of the stories are sad and hard to read, especially with regards to abuse or other victimization, but I'm grateful to those who spoke their truth. It's given me a lot to think about, and it will definitely help me be more mindful and, I hope, a better support to my friends and family who are transgender. I wish everyone would read this book and realize first-hand what so many trans people go through. We might see a lot less hate, or at least a lot more understanding, in the world if they did. It's easily accessible, being written in a conversational tone, but it's also very educational. I'd honestly recommend this for everyone.
The Total Money Makeover Workbook, by Dave Ramsey



TTMMW


On its own, I'd probably give this the same 3 stars I gave The Total Money Makeover, but with said book, I have to rate this 1 star.

I see why Dave is rich if all he does is sell the exact same book in multiple ways. This is no different from TTMM except that this one includes worksheets to fill out words and numbers, a lá open-book tests. He'll give a page or so of the same info in TTMM, repeated practically verbatim, then have you fill out the percentages or missing words on a worksheet to follow.

For people who learn best by filling out forms, I'd suggest this book INSTEAD of The Total Money Makeover. I do not recommend both books together at all. It's redundant and completely unhelpful. I skipped most of the “worksheets”. What good budgeting worksheets are included are also found at the back of the main book, so there's really nothing to set this workbook apart at all.

The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey

The Total Money Makeover, by Dave Ramsey



TTMM


I'm on the fence about this book, so I'll give it a middle-of-the-road 3 stars. On a positive note, it has stoked my enthusiasm for tackling my finances. I even got a few tips that will be very helpful.

However, there's a lot that rubbed me the wrong way. Ramsey uses a “hey, you're super-duper fat, flabby, and overweight” analogy for finances, and as someone who is indeed plump physically, I was extremely turned off (disgusted, even) with the amount of self-congratulatory fat-shaming throughout the entire thing. It was never-ending. I also didn't care for the HEAVY Christian slant and blatant sermonizing.

The book seems mostly designed for people who are in serious debt. I don't have debt – I just don't make enough money to begin with and wanted to learn how to make what money I do have work for me. If you are literally living in poverty, a lot of his advice and timelines simply won't work. I guess I'll revisit this after I've had time (more than a month or two) to work my way through some of his babysteps, but for now, I only found the investment advice to be helpful. Everything else was pretty much, “Easy for you to say!” He had one throw-away line for people making 20k or less. All examples assume you actually have good income coming in.

A great book for middle-class or higher Christian people who are swimming in debt and don't know what to do. Some okay advice for poor people who want to learn, but much of it was more discouraging than it was encouraging.

Dewey's 24-Hr Read-a-Thon: Opening Survey

It's that time again! I will be posting a lot about the read-a-thon today. I hope some of you will join me in this very fun event – starting NOW!


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

SE Missouri, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I actually don't have a TBR list this time. I'm just going to try to finish the books I'm working on and then see what I feel like reading afterward.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Leftover birthday cheesecake!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I love reading speculative fiction, books about homesteading, shamanism, Rumi's poetry, and self-help books. I could always use more friends on Goodreads if anyone is interested. I love friends who post reviews!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This time I'm not worrying about a 'to read' list and will just be reading whatever catches my fancy. I'm not going to try to zoom through, either, but really just enjoy the process of reading ALL DAY.

Ahavah's Grateful Dread Journey

Yesterday was not only my birthday, it was my three year dreadiversary! I don't think I've ever done a dreadlock post, so here we go.

I am aware of the debate about white-presenting people having dreadlocks (in fact, I lost a [white] friend over this in a really horrible situation that made me put off my dreadlock ceremony for two years). I did not and do not take my decision lightly. Believe it or not, as pale as I am, I have often been on the receiving end of racism. I'm Hispanic, and it doesn't happen as often since I married and my name changed, but it does still happen because I don't hide who I am and I speak out. I am absolutely aware of the white privilege I enjoy by being lighter than much of my family, let alone black people. However, I researched this for many years before I actually did it, considered it deeply, and decided this is right for me.

What it boils down to is, I don't believe anyone can claim something that has been in existence throughout a great many cultures forever and what is actually our natural state...and I have yet to hear any black people do so. It has only been white people, usually on the internet, who have accused me of being racist or oppressive. It is not my intention to ever be either of those things. However, if I am inadvertently making anyone feel oppressed, I sincerely apologize.

I have a great many reasons why I wanted to dread up, and a great many of those are private or too much to get into in this particular post. This is mostly going to be a picture post showing my dread evolution. I will say that the majority of my personal reasons are spiritual &/or energetic. I've explored headwraps/coverings both before and after dreading my hair for the same spiritual and energetic reasons, and I'll show some of those here as well.

I waited to do them until I could get my dandruff problem under control, which I did by going no_poo a year or so before taking the plunge. I cannot extol the virtues of no poo enough! Yes, I went through horrible detox stages (so glad I didn't have dreadlocks through that, tbh), but my hair is so, so much happier for it. Now, most people who no poo – which is basically just using natural ingredients for shampoo – use baking soda to wash. I did for a long time, but after I did my locks, I put a stop to that really quickly. I hadn't realized how horribly caustic baking soda was. It was making my locks brittle and horrible. I now favor a rosemary decoction, which both smells good and is great for dandruff issues. I use vinegar when I'm in too much of a rush to boil and cool rosemary water. I do wash my hair regularly, and the only difference I made after having dreads was that I make sure I wash my hair early enough that I don't go to bed with a wet head.

I originally started palm-rolling after my showers, which I heard so much about everywhere, but I would like to go on the record and say I do not advise palm rolling. Not regularly, anyway. I did it after every shower (a few times a week), and after a year or so, my hair started twisting around at the roots. You might think this would help the locking, but no, it made them start poking out in wild directions. I had one little dreadlock in front who kept poking straight out of my head like a unicorn horn. I'd use hair ties, tie him down to locks at the bottom, tightly tied bandanas, & even tried product out of desperation. He would always escape and point the way forward. I just had to deal with a unicorn horn for many, many months until he got too heavy and started hanging back down. Asshole dreadlock. I named him Vern. Don't be like Vern. Palm-roll with caution. It's about two years after I stopped palm rolling, and my hair still twists itself around whenever it gets wet, after showers or in the rain.

I've gotten by far the most and best info at the wonderful get_up_dread_up community. Their memories section is invaluable, and I've passed on their link to every person who's ever asked me how to make or take care of them. I can't recommend it enough if you are interested in or curious about dreadlocks.


Now, let's do some pictures! How about lots and lots of pictures?

Before

This pic was taken right after I tried no poo for the first time:

Before - 24 Jan 2013

First Dreadlocks

This was after my dreadlock ceremony, which I did on the one-year anniversary of losing my doggie soul mate. This was part of my healing, but I only did the first two this day. Back in my late teens/early 20s, I had two side locks that I would use to tie back my hair. I started with that again.

Meet Gilgamesh (on the right/my left) and Enkidu (on the left/my right):

1st Two Locs - 26 Jan 13

I started my full head on my 33rd birthday, 27 April, 2014. Apparently I have WAY more hair than I realized, because even after first cutting several inches off and then having friends help at my bday party, it still took almost a full week to get them all made. I started with backcombing and rip & twist, but we soon realized how much faster it was to crochet them. It was way faster! And I still didn't finish until 2 May (I did work full time, but I worked on them break and evenings). Apparently “thick” was an understatement.


Lots and lot (and lots) of pics are under the cut.

Full head, dread evolution, various hairstyles, headwraps, & general dreadlock funCollapse )
The Conscious Parent's Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child's Authentic Self, by Darlene Tando, LCSW



Conscious Parent's Guide_Gender Identity


This is my first “Conscious Parent's” guide, but I found it very helpful for tips in dealing with all of my kids. It does indeed offer insight specifically into approaching parenting non-binary children, and I appreciated some concrete examples of ways to respond. I liked the meditations they suggested, even if I don't feel I personally need to utilize them. It's a nice addition for people who respond well to visualizations.

I like that the author included how to respond consciously to all of your family, including extended family and local society. This is a great book for helping mindfulness in one's interactions. I appreciated the section on schools even though we homeschool, and I found advice that will help me in other interactions where my child is involved. Including info about the laws and our rights was helpful as well.

I think this is a great resource for anyone who is struggling with how to respond to a gender-expansive child, whether it is your own child or not. It strikes a good balance of showing things though the lens of parents in various stages of their journey as well as showing things through the children's eyes. It may have been a situation of 'preaching to the choir', but I enjoyed this book and will definitely be more mindful in my parenting approaches.

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