Today’s Tuesday Teaser comes from Tanya Maria Barrientos’ Frontera Street:

I am just a couple of chapters into this book and have already been surprised.

“I was seven months into my pregnancy, and my legs and ankles were perpetually swollen. The baby kicked whenever I stretched my arms over my head to reach the uppermost button drawers.”

This is said by Dee, a Gringa, who arrived at the fabric shop on Frontera Street in the Barrio one day and promptly fainted. Strangely enough, she stayed, and her story unfolds along with that of Alma, who already works there. This is a story of “friendship and forgiveness,” a story of women being there for each other, one which I am sure I am going to enjoy.

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In a hopeful, albeit futile, attempt to control the fates of 2021…

I am a Winter Warrior

and a Manifesting Angel

I’ve Finished Strong
and Started Stronger™

Unraveled My Year™

Found My Word

and my Theme Song

I did an Angel Card reading
and consulted the Runes

I’ve completed my Vision Board

committed to Read 50 Books

set my Intentions

and in a hopeful, albeit futile, attempt to control the fates of 2021,

I wrote my Resolution:


Poem ©2021, Jen Payne. Painting, Femme couchee, dormant by Felix Vallotton

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THE QUICKENING by Michelle Hoover: A Review

A former student sent me this book before Christmas, and it wasn’t until recently that I got to it. I finished it earlier this week and mailed it back because she confessed she hadn’t read it either. I think she will enjoy this debut novel as much as I did.

The word “quickening” means a coming to life, specifically the sensation a woman has when she holds life inside her womb, and it stirs. Two women, Enidina and Mary, neighbors on the prairies of the midwest during the summer of 1915-the winter of 1950, are the main characters. Their stories and their strange relationship unfold throughout the hardships of farm life during the droughts, dustbowl and Depression of the U.S. Frank and Jack , their husbands are as different from one another as are their wives. The story is “gripping at its very core,” and deals in spousal and child abuse, infidelity, repeated miscarriages, and dark secrets that accompany the characters hardscrabble lives. The characters are all complex and authentic, perhaps because Hoover is “the granddaughter of four longtime farming families.” She captures the women’s voices in their dialog and their sense of self-preservation in their thoughts. The novel is a page turner, written in “elegant prose.” I recommend it as a darned good read.


Thanks to Hoarding Books for the use of their meme

Today’s Friday Firstliner comes from Tanya Maria Barrientos’ Frontera Street.


There are fourteen verb tenses in Spanish, so much more than the past, present, and future. That’s what it said in the first sentence of the paperback I bought, thinking I just needed to brush up.”

I plan to start this one today.

2021 First Non-Fiction Book Finished

Grunge rubber stamp with word Finished inside,vector illustration

As a thirty-something year veteran of the college-level classroom, one would think I didn’t need this book. They would be wrong. Several things, including tips on holding discussions, tips on grading, and relating to students, I found helpful even though this coming semester I will be teaching strictly online. This is a book I will keep, to loan out, and to refer back to when it is possible to return to hybrid or face-to-face classes. I’m glad I read this book, learned from it, and highly recommend it to anyone facing teaching at the college level for the first time.


This first new week of the New Year, I returned two books to my library:

This weird cover would attract anyone!

This debut novel by a well-known Irish musician has been described as “quietly brilliant,” and I would concur. It is about “two single, thirty-something men,” who are friends, and belong to the “uncelebrated [population] of this world.” In one word, they are nice.

Unlike so many thirty-somethings of today, they seem to understand the meaning of life.

Not much happens to either character, and not much happens in the book. “Hungry Paul sat slumped in the sitting room and stayed there for most of the evening, catatonic with failure and looking out the front window as car after car ran over a lost glove in the road.”

One big thing happens to Hungry Paul:

“President Mike (of the Chamber of Commerce) handed Paul a giant cheque for ten grand…[Paul] accepted the congratulations of his family, the Chamber of Commerce members, and other well-wishers.”

A big thing happens to Leonard as well. After losing his mother and continuing to live in the empty house he and she had lived in, Leonard meets Shelly, then loses Shelly. How this eventually plays out, you will have to read for yourself.

It is an engaging, fast read, bordering on the Minimalist style of writing. It is not an in-depth character, nor is there much action in the novel, but, overall, it’s a darned good read.

Another book in the Minimalist tradition

Perhaps because it is a translation from the original Japanese, this “fable-like tale” feels more like a connected collection of short stories than a novel. It deals with the unfolding of human relationships and missed opportunities. It has been described as both “mysterious” and “quirky”; I would have to agree.

Four customers at an back-alley cafe in Tokyo travel through time when they sit in that chair when the ghost-lady leaves it once a day to go to the restroom. Rules govern their trips: they must sit in that seat and not leave it or they will return abruptly to the present; they must visit someone who frequents the cafe; they can not change the outcome of the present; they must return before the coffee gets cold. Interestingly, only one customer travels to the future.

All in all, it is a “very charming read.”


I don’t know how it happened so quickly, but my personal challenge, “Celebration of Color” is finished. I had set no time to finish because I started it so late in 2020, August 24,2020. But, this morning I read the last book. Here is what I have read for this challenge since August:

  1. RED The Light Years (reviewed last summer)
  2. BLUE The Dalai Lama’s Cat (also reviewed)
  3. YELLOW The Austin Escape (reviewed)
  4. WHITE The Lions of Fifth Avenue (by my favorite author and friend, Fiona Davis) I liked this one so much, I asked my Third Tuesday Book Club to read it, and they enjoyed it too. (also reviewed)
  5. BLACK Vesper Flights one of the few audiobooks and the first non-fiction book of the challenge (reviewed)
  6. GREEN Tell Me Why, my first Aussie Noir, which I won in a blogger’s giveaway (reviewed)
  7. ORANGE Dear Mr. Knightley (reviewed as well)
  8. PINK Backward and in Heels another non-fiction book (also reviewed)
  9. PURPLE Klaws a gift from a friend (read on my Kindle)
  10. BROWN home body not the only book of poetry I read during this time, but my favorite (reviewed)
  11. A BOOK WITH THE WORD “COLOR’ IN THE TITLE Black is a Rainbow Color, written by Angela Joy; illustrated by Ekua Holmes
This is a book you EXPERIENCE, not just read. It is for children, but this adult enjoyed it so much, she ordered a copy to give as a gift to another adult.

12. A BOOK BY AN AUTHOR OF COLOR Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

As with so many books, I saw this book first on the Today Show on NBC as a “Jenna’s Book Club” pick

This book is true “literary fiction,” which is my favorite genre, and one which is difficult to define. “Gifty,” the protagonist is a complex character, and the author makes us “feel” all of her complex emotions. She is a neuroscientist doing research on the brain, specifically seeking for the answers to what causes addiction and depression. Her brother, and her mother, and, in retrospect, her father all deal with these issues. One critic says, Gifty “turns to the hard sciences to deal with her family’s loss.” Her Ghanaian family has relocated in Alabama, finding life in a new place challenging; and thus, is an immigrant story as well.

The novel is “powerful, raw, intimate,” and deals also with faith and the loss of it.

That’s it! All twelve books in my “Celebration of Color Challenge…”

Cat Lady No. 6

What would she tell you, this Cat Lady? Do you know? Do you wonder? Find out in MANIFEST (zine), Cat Lady Confessions. Order your copy today!

IMAGE: Felix Vallotton, Squatted woman offering of milk to a cat

explores the oft-maligned life of the cat lady: crazy or contemplative? recluse or dancing to the beat of her own drum? You decide. Includes a curated Spotify playlist. (Color, 24-page booklet)

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