Starting May #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

I met my April goal of 1000 minutes, exercising every day. For May, I increased that by 10%, so I’ll be aiming for 1100 minutes. I’m off to a good start with 75 minutes. Yesterday, we did our first “normal” walk in weeks — that includes every hill that we can find in our neighborhood!

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.




Fourth Step: Empathy #CompassionateGoals

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), or empathy (The Fourth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


Today begins a new month and a new step, The Fourth Step, Empathy. For much of this chapter, Karen Armstrong retells the stories of the Greek plays, stories meant to lead Athenians to a place of more compassion for themselves and each other.

For modern-day citizens of the world, Armstrong advocates watching movies:

Films are especially emotive, because the big screen brings us even closer to the characters. We can find ourselves moved to tears, our mirror neurons firing as we witness the pain of characters in a movie, even though our rational minds tell us that their suffering is entirely fictional. (p. 98)

She notes, as I’m sure most book bloggers would, that reading novels can have the same effect.

Imagination is crucial to the compassionate life. A uniquely human quality, it enables the artist to create entirely new worlds and give a strong semblance of reality to events that never happened and people who never existed. Compassion and the abandonment of ego are both essential to art: it is easy to spot a poem, a novel, or a film that is self-indulgent or brittle with cruel cleverness. When a film makes us weep, it is often because it has touched a buried memory or unacknowledged yearning of our own. Art calls us to recognize our pain and aspirations and to open our minds to others. Art helps us–as it helped the Greeks–to realize that we are not alone; every body else is suffering too. (p. 98)

Books and movies energized my compassion from a young age. The Boxcar Children (Gertrude Chandler Warner) formed my image of the homeless, Going on Sixteen (Betty Cavanna) gave me sympathy for new kids who moved into our small town, and Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) prepared me for the grief of losing loved ones to death.

As an adult, this sort of education by story continues. Sharon Bolton’s books in the Lacey Flint series increased my understanding of immigrant issues. Between the World and Me, the memoir by  Ta-Nehisi Coates, deepened my understanding of the issues underlying #BlackLivesMatter. Havana Nocturne (another nonfiction selection but told like a story) by T.J. English showed me how Cubans could be open to Communism as a solution after experiencing government run by the American Mob. And, that’s just from the last few months!

How have stories — plays, books, films — impacted your capability for empathy?



Shakespeare, 400 years on #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed Prudence by Gail Carriger, set in an alternate history version of London and India. Jackie continued her recap of her trips to the British Isles with Ireland photos from 1991 (and some comparisons from 2005) — check out the bit about W. B. Yeats. Sim had another close encounter with Colin Firth, this time in the V&A. Becky read a book filled with quotes by the eminently quotable Winston Churchill.  Jean reviewed the book Home Fires — I hadn’t realized that the series was rooted in a book.


On the eve of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, we saw a Shakespeare play. Kind of. We attended a Shake 38 presentation in conjunction with the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis. Shake 38: 38 plays, 38 performances, 38 places is described as:

A free, five-day community festival with just one rule: Make Shakespeare’s 38 plays happen any way you see fit.

Power: A King John Story
Power: A King John Story presented by because why not? theatre company (logo artwork by Nancy Nigh)

My sister-in-law’s tiny theater company (because why not? theatre company) was assigned King John. Did you know that Shakespeare wrote a play called King John? Not one of the better known of his 38 plays. If you’ve seen The Lion in Winter, John is one of the sons of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. This is also the same King John who gets cast in a villainous role in the Robin Hood tales. And, it was King John who signed the Magna Carta.

Shannon Geier (my sister-in-law) and the because why not? theatre company re-interpreted King John as a mafia story and it worked! The family in-fighting, the power struggles between families, and the loyalties and betrayals all fit right in — whether it’s the medieval British royalty or the American Mob.

Did you participate in any 400th anniversary events to honor Shakespeare?



Finishing April #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

My goal for April, a recovery month, was 1000 minutes. I’ve reached 830 minutes, so I’ll get there if I can manage 35 minutes a day — very doable. I’m still having the occasional twinge in my back, but it’s much improved. I’m no longer afraid of re-injuring it with one wrong move. That’s progress!

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



Compassionate Goals #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step) or self-compassion (The Third Step), use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


It’s the last Sunday of the month. That’s the day that I take a piece of advice from the Reading Group Guide found on the Charter for Compassion’s website:  to resolve to introduce one new practice into my life, an action that will be “a dynamic and positive force for change.” At the end of the twelve months, I’ll have twelve new compassionate habits.

But, first, a confession. I’ve failed at the goals that I set for the first two Steps. Let’s hope that I get better at this goal-setting business as I proceed through this program. I’m going to set new intentions for Step 1 and Step 2 today, plus make a plan to continue the self-compassion of Step 3.

Global Read 2016
The Global Read is a new initiative by the Charter for Compassion to read three books about compassion together this year

The First Step was Learn about Compassion. I signed up for my first massive open online course, or MOOC, A series from Harvard that began March 1 with a four-week introduction about world religions and is followed by a course each about Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. It required more work than I anticipated, so I only lasted about three weeks. The topic turned out to be a bit far-removed from compassion to really fit in with my interest this year, too.

Fortunately, a new opportunity to learn about compassion surfaced recently from the Charter for Compassion (the organization set up by Karen Armstrong after she won the TED Prize). Three books have been selected for a Global Read in 2016. The organizers will send out discussion questions for each book ahead of time and a conference call will culminate the shared reading activity. The first book is The Compassionate Life: Walking the Path of Kindness by Marc Ian Barasch. It’s available in some libraries, but none convenient to me, so I bought the e-book for $4.99 at Amazon.

The Second Step was Look at Your World. My goal to add the Ferguson Commission Report to my planning process proved to be a little too nebulous to be useful. Since I keep mentioning the Ferguson Commission Report to people, I’ve become the unofficial expert in my circles. The problem is, of course, that I’m not. If I want to be more conversant with it, in truth, I need to read it again. I really enjoyed the interactive Forward Through Ferguson website, but if this is going to stick in my brain, I need to read it in a more conventional, linear fashion.

I downloaded a copy of the pdf to my phone and put it on my TBR list. I also put a copy on my hard drive where I can search for items quickly when I’m looking for something.

The Third Step, the one I’ve been studying in April, is Compassion for Yourself. I used the tools at self-compassion.org to help me with this, including the assessment test. I scored higher on my second try than the first — yay! It helped to re-read the Compassion for Yourself chapter and to work through some of the exercises at self-compassion.org. The exercises led me to that insight that, for me, compassion is a good plan and that I need to work with my inner critic and my emotions to stand a chance of making a good plan.

Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds by Barbara Sophia Tammes
I love the castle in the clouds in the metaphor and the subtitle

Although I liked the exercises at self-compassion.org, they kept leading me back to my Castle in the Clouds (Book Review: A Blueprint for Your Castle in the Clouds by Barbara Sophia Tammes), particularly the Head Office where I sort and re-sort my feelings into folders until I fully understand them.

As my new habit for the Third Step, I want to visit the Head Office more often — most days in fact. That page of my book is already about to fall apart, so I’m working on a kind of visual cheat sheet that I can keep on my desk to remind me that I want to take five minutes to look at my feelings at least once most days.

What practices, habits, processes, or goals help you sustain a focus on self-compassion?



Prudence #BookReview #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I reviewed the two most recent additions to the Lacey Flint mystery series by Sharon Bolton. Heather shared her DNA results with a lot more Irish and a lot less British than she expected. Tina gave us the Perfect English Cottage. Sim’s fantasy walk in London finally got to the V&A (I’d been waiting for that one!) — she got there for a very cool exhibit on the Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Jackie shared some of the photos from her 1991 trip to Dublin (with some 2015 travel photos for comparison). Becky reviewed Seasons Two and Three of Lark Rise to Candleford. She also re-read Persuasion and Much Ado About Nothing.


Book: Prudence by Gail Carriger
Genre: Steampunk fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: 2015
Pages: 384

Source: from the library as an e-book

Prudence by Gail Carriger
Off to India in a spotted dirigible

Summary: Prudence, first in the Custard Protocol series, is set in the same world as two of Gail Carriger’s earlier series, but a generation later than the Parasol Protectorate and two generations after the Finishing School series. It’s impossible to summarize this novel or even describe the main character without spoiling the Parasol Protectorate series, so skip to the Thoughts section if you haven’t read it.

If you’re still with me, you’ll remember that the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate series was Alexia Tarabotti, a preternatural with special powers that includes an ability to temporarily take away the supernatural power of other magical creatures. She marries a werewolf. What do you get when you cross a preternatural with a werewolf? A metanatural named Prudence. When she touches a werewolf, not only does he temporarily lose his ability to change, she transforms into a werewolf herself.

When her London-based vampire foster-father sends Prudence to India to establish a new type of tea plant in a dirigible she calls The Spotted Custard, Prudence discovers that there are many more shapes to borrow in the world besides werewolves. Of course, this changing of shapes plays havoc with Victorian sensibilities of dress. Bloomers are dangerous when, at any moment, you might have four legs instead of two.

Thoughts: I got a kick out of the slightly anti-colonial bent in Prudence. It turns out that the fictional British blow it when they interfere with native practices in this supernatural world in much the same way that they did in history. And, they blow it out of an arrogance that their way is better so obviously it’s better for everyone. Approaching the world with more humility is a lesson that modern-day superpowers need, too.

Appeal: Gail Carriger has such a fun and ridiculous sense of humor that I always know that her books are good for a laugh.

Have you read these books? What did you think?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll



Chasing Deer #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

I chased deer out of the yard last night for the first time this year. They devour our plants if we don’t take protective measures. Chasing deer always makes me feel like I’m in pretty good shape — running, dodging, and making myself look as big and scary as possible with the hope that they will be so traumatized that they won’t come back. I’m not sure that it works, but I suspect it amuses the neighbors.

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



Meet the Inner Critic to Improve Self-Compassion #CompassionateSunday

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

If you live in the St. Louis area, an in-person study group started working with this book and will continue for the next few months. Let me know if you’d like to join us and I’ll you hook you up!

If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step) or what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step) or self-compassion (The Third Step), use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.


For my adventures with the third step on self-compassion, I’m continuing to explore the exercises at self-compassion.org and they continue to be helpful. Last week, I discovered that a good plan is an act of self-compassion for me.

I learned, this week, that my inner critic uses an angry and judgmental tone and is really big on demands that begin with “You should….” When I was younger, I often identified this voice as my mother’s, but she’s been gone for ten years and that no longer feels true. I have long-since internalized the critic’s voice and it’s all mine, now, for better or worse.

My inner critic really does seem to want what’s best for me, she just doesn’t have any patience with the stuff of life that gets in the way of what I claim I want. My inner critic doesn’t take sick days, doesn’t deal well with competing desires, and doesn’t see any need for experimentation to see if what I think I want is really going to work for me. A pushy inner critic makes it hard for me to step back and make sure that what I wrote in my plan is the best action at this moment.

Putting these two weeks together, then, I learned that I want to be fully aware of my emotions before I make a plan. And, I want to revisit those emotions frequently to make sure that the plan is going to take me where I want to go. That’s not what I expected to be thinking about during self-compassion month, but it works for me!

What does self-compassion look like for you?



Two by Sharon Bolton #BookReview #BriFri

British Isles Friday logoWelcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!

Last week, I explained why all of Britain is talking about a 65-year-old radio soap opera, The Archers — check out my late addition of a link to Stephen Fry’s introduction to the show. Sim continued her virtual walk in London by staying in the same place to tell us all about the history and architecture of the Natural History Museum. Tina was disappointed by the lack of Austen in the book All Roads Lead to Austen. Jackie shared more photos from her 1986 trip to England — this installment covered Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon. Becky reviewed two children’s books: War Dogs, which she liked, and Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, which didn’t work as well.


Book: Lost and A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur and Bantam
Publication date: 2013 and 2014
Pages: 391 and 448

Source:purchased as e-books

Lost by Sharon Bolton
Lost (Lacey Flint #3) by Sharon Bolton

Summary: Lost and A Dark and Twisted Tide are the third and fourth novels in the Lacey Flint series by Sharon Bolton. Lacey Flint is a young London-based police detective with an impoverished background that, on the surface, makes her unsuited to police work (or life). Her flashes of brilliance due to her out-of-the box methodology and thought process help her solve crimes and save lives.

In Lost (titled Like This, For Ever in the UK), Lacey forms a fragile friendship with a neighbor boy just at a time when boys in her neighborhood are going missing and turning up dead along the Thames. In A Dark and Twisted Tide, Lacey has taken up the dangerous hobby of swimming in the Thames, which gets even creepier when she discovers a body.

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
A Dark and Twisted Tide (Lacey Flint #4) by Sharon Bolton

Thoughts: These two books wonderfully satisfied my cravings for more Lacey stories after Now You See Me and Dead Scared. Lacey is the kind of protagonist that you want to shout at to curb her obviously self-sabotaging behaviors, but she is so self-aware and always growing that you can’t wait to see what she learns next.

The London setting is wonderfully drawn. I particularly liked the explorations of the Thames and the canals after my fantasy visit to a yacht hotel in London a couple of months ago.

Appeal: This series is best read in order since Lacey and her relationships develop through the books. I love these stories even though they are grittier than my normal choice of mystery, so give them a shot even if your tastes are on the cozy side.

Have you read these books? What did you think?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll



Exercise Books #ReadersWorkouts

Readers' workouts
banner designed by Isi

Welcome to Readers’ Workouts, the weekly event where book lovers share workout stories, goals, successes, and challenges.

Since I’m easing back into exercise after injury, I decided this would be a good time to see if I’m doing it right — time for some books! I have a whole stack from the library to look through this week to see if anything speaks to me. Mostly, these books are about exercise over age 40, but I’m not sure that I wouldn’t benefit from other books — I just needed some criteria to narrow them!

Do you have suggestions for exercise books? I guess I’m particularly looking for approaches that prevent injury — that seems to be key for consistency and persistence for me.

How is your exercise going? Share on your blog and link your post below. Or tell your story in the comments. Be sure to visit the other participants for support and encouragement.



a librarian writes about books