Mini Review: The Five, by Hallie Rubenhold

Need some nonfiction for Halloween? Here you go. cover of The Five
TW for discussion of violence against women.

In 1888, an unknown killer dubbed “Jack the Ripper” killed at least five women. Since then, multitudes of books and movies have been made about the killer, but none have been written about his victims. The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper seeks to redress this by telling the stories of “the canonical five.” These five women are the ones considered most likely to have been the victims of a single killer in 1888: Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly.


Because these women lived in a neighborhood known for crime, and because they were killed while outside at night (with the exception of Mary Jane Kelly, who was killed in her bedroom), the public assumed that they were prostitutes. The author challenges the assumption that all of the women were prostitutes and explores why this assumption was made at the time as well as why it continues today. She also challenges the assumption that prostitutes are unworthy of safety and dignity. By exploring the lives of these five women, she humanizes them and in the process illustrates the choices faced by women in the working and unemployed classes. It’s a sad, but fascinating, book.


Between the Lines Book Club: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Our next book club meeting is on October 26th from 10:30 – 12 at Arden Dimick Library. We are reading The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Comment in person or on the blog!

From the publisher:

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

In addition to Book Club in a Box copies, there are some copies in the library catalog and through Link+. For large print, reserve through Link+ and for audio reserve through Hoopla. Our wonderful librarians can help you if you haven’t used Link+ or Hoopla before. See you soon!





Mary Ansell, from “Dogs and Men”

250px-PorthosIn my research into the life of author J.M. Barrie, I came across this quote from his wife, Mary Ansell. One of her dogs, Porthos, is pictured at left. Pretty sure some of us can relate:

I have never really been happy with people. Some constraint tightens me up when I am with them. They seem so inside themselves, so unwilling to reveal their real selves. I am always asking for something they won’t give me; I try to pierce into their reserves; sometimes I feel I am succeeding, but they close in again and I am left outside.

But with animals it is different. An animal is so helplessly itself. I become one with them. I, too, become helplessly myself. They never withhold themselves from me as men withheld themselves. When the dogs loved me, they did it without forethought or afterthought, because they couldn’t help it. But men didn’t love me unless they wanted to; unless I fitted in with their idea of me. The dogs didn’t have an idea of me. They just loved me – me – me – me – with passion and warmth, without thinking about it.

I only loved clever men. And clever men, it seems to me, are made up of reserves. It is out of their reserves that they bring their clever things.

You think they will one day open their reserves, and that you will be the favored one who is admitted to the cupboards where they keep their cleverness. But that is an illusion. The reserves of men are as helpless as a dog’s lack of reserve is helpless. A man had to be clever, really clever, to please me. And I loved my dogs so passionately because they could never, never be clever in that way. They could never be as complicated as the men were complicated.


Happy Equinox

blood moon


Here’s a poem from T.E. Hulme, who lived from 1883 – 1917. Thanks to


A touch of cold in the Autumn night

I walked abroad,

And saw the ruddy moon lean over a hedge

Like a red-faced farmer.

I did not stop to speak, but nodded;

And round about were the wistful stars

With white faces like town children.


Between the Lines Book Club: Controversial Memoirs

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club pick is Bend Not Break, by Ping Fu. When it was first released, Bend Not Break received considerable critical acclaim and was popular with the public as well. However, Chinese readers noted several inconsistencies in the author’s timeline, and questioned a particular scene in which Fu claims to have witnessed an execution of a teacher. In response, Fu explained many discrepancies but admitted that the execution probably never happened. We will be discussing this book at Arden Dimick Library  on Sept 28, 2019 at 10:30AM.

Bend Not Break joins a long list of memoirs that are either completely or partially fictionalized. One of the most famous is A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey. Like Bend Not Break, this was marketed as a memoir and heavily publicized by Oprah Winfrey. Unlike Bend Not Break, which mostly alters logistical details,  A Million Little Pieces turned out to be almost completely fictionalized. Less famously, people who knew Madeline L’Engle, including her children and other family members, claim that her memoirs are almost complete fiction, especially her portrait of a happy marriage that never existed in Two Part Invention.

Some books market themselves as “fictionalized memoir.” While marketed as fiction, the Little House books fit into this category. Although the events come from author Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life, she picked and choose events and altered some events and characters so as to create a compelling story that wouldn’t be too dark. In A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, author David Egger includes fantasy sequences and points out sections to the reader that are fictionalized or otherwise different from reality.

Ping Fu claimed to write “the emotional truth.” Madeline L’Engle claimed that “there is no such thing as nonfiction.” Is it possible to write a truly truthful memoir? And at what point do deviations from fact make the entire piece untrustworthy? We will explore these questions on Sept 28 and below in the comments!




Revisiting Tarot For Yourself, by Mary K. Greer

cover of Tarot for Your Self
Tarot for Your Self
, by Mary K. Greer, is one of the first books about tarot that I picked up. It’s out in a 25th anniversary edition and I highly recommend it in any edition. Its suggestions can be interpreted equally well from a more spiritual/mystical/intuitive lens or a more psychological lens, and the book has practical tools to help you use the cards for yourself and for others.

I looked back through my old workbook today and realized that photocopied pages from this book form the majority of my notes in my mini-book-of-shadows ( a 3 by 5 size cobbled-together book of notes that I carry around with me). That’s because the pages are so clear and so concise and yet detailed. In addition to card meanings and correspondences, there are meditative exercises to help one form a personal connection to tarot, and practical exercises to help one with tough decisions or issues. If you are interested in things like astrology and crystals, the book has guidance for you, but a more skeptical practitioner might want to focus on exercises like meditations and suggested art exercises.

It’s fascinating to return to this and redo some of the exercises I did fifteen years ago. I’m still the hermit. Not a surprise. That first time around, I didn’t fill out the data for my Hidden Factor/Shadow/Teacher card, and now I’m ready to do so. Time to return to the exercises I didn’t get to before!


Care and Feeding of Newborn Kittens

week old kitten drinking from bottle
I’m helping bottle feed a week old kitten. I have nights. I am tired. The kitten is adorable but honestly to me he’s pretty much a blurry furry thing who gets milk all over me and pees on my shirt. I love him in a passionate but somewhat comatose way. I am REALLY tired.

With this in mind, here’s what to do if you find a newborn – 4 week old kitten:

1. LEAVE IT ALONE. Seriously. Mom is probably coming back. Just chill. The survival rate for newborn kittens separated from mom too early is awful. Just wait for the return of mom.

2.OH WOW MOM DID COME BACK – rejoice and leave it the hell alone for at least 5 weeks – 8 if you can. Then you can scoop them up and get them spayed or neutered and rehomed.

3. BUT WHAT ABOUT PREDATORS? Nature is red in tooth and claw and yet kittens are still better off risking being lunch than being taken away from mom too soon.

4. MOM HASN’T COME BACK. Wash it in warm water. Dawn dish soap helps get fleas off. They are too little for flea meds so let the water do its thing and then pick the rest off by hand, you lucky human.

5. HOW DO I FEED IT? Happily, there are videos to show you how, but basically you will buy kitten formula and fed it to your little infant about every 2 hours. You want their heads to be up, not reclined like a human baby, because if they recline while nursing they can aspirate the milk. If it’s asleep, wake it up. Around the clock. Enjoy.

6. I HAVE TO DO WHAT???? After every feeding you must lick the kitten’s butt. But since you are not a cat you can use a washcloth or tissue instead of your tongue. This stimulates the kitten’s muscles so it can pee and poop. It can’t do these things on its own.

7. Make sure it is warm. Kittens can’t regulate their own temperature.

dog sniffing kitten

Do not feed the kitten to your dog.




Happily, there are a lot of websites with charts and videos that show you all the details: how warm is warm enough, how much the kitten should eat, when you can stop bottle feeding, etc. Just don’t rescue kittens that don’t need rescuing! Here’s a good site:

Look at my little fluffy!

a very tired me with snuggly kitten