#FBF: Great toys of the 1960s that we still love in 2019

We have a lot of cool toy that we can thank the 1960s for. Many of these you may still have in your house now! Check it out!

Invented in 1960, more than 100 million Etch-A-Sketches have sold. You can read more EAS fun facts here.
Little Sally can be a bake sale rock star with her Easy-Bake Oven (invented in 1963)! Thank goodness for those built in safety features.

My mom wouldn’t let me have one. I had to use the real oven when I wanted to charbroil a batch of brownies.
Barbie hit the shelves in 1959 but had to wait two whole years for her boyfriend, Ken! Poor girl!
1967 the moms of the world were introduced to the joy of little colorful pegs getting lost in the shag carpet. I bet they were all SUPER pleased to have a Lite-Brite in their house!
In 1964 boys got a doll of their own to play with. Ahem. Sorry. Action figure. GI Joe went on to have his own comic books and television show. What a guy.
Because dolls aren’t creepy enough, the 1960s decided we need one that could talk! Chatty Cathy (a nickname EVERY Cathy/Kathy/Kathi I know HATES) said such things as “I hurt myself”, “I love you”, and “Let’s play school”. Dads all over America were reported to be NOT upset with the pull ring broke, rendering Cathy less than chatty.

While we may no longer have Chatty Cathies in our homes today, we may have her offspring The Ferby.
Christmas of 1968 meant boys all over the place were going to get a stocking full of Hot Wheels. Well, and some girls, too. I mean, they’re cool.

Unless you step on them in the middle of the night. Then they’re horrible.

So many GREAT toys! So much FUN! Which do you have? Which did you enjoy when you were a kid?

And, just for a fun bonus, check out this TV ad for Chatty Cathy (and keep your eyes open for Marcia Brady):

Liver and onions, books, and a matter of taste

My mom loves liver and onions. I know this because she cooked them for us more than a few times when I was a kid, making our house smell like a dirty penny.

I, obviously, do not love liver and onions. I know this because I ate them when my mom cooked them. Sometimes the flavor made me cry because I found it so abhorrent.

See above comment about dirty pennies.

At one point in my life, I questioned my mom’s soundness of mind. How is it possible for someone to actually love liver and onions? Had her tastebuds been damaged by some freak hot coffee accident?

I believed with the whole of my existence that something was dreadfully wrong with her to make her adore such a vile meal.

Now, though, I’m not so sure that it’s a black and white as that.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think liver is one of the most horrific food items. It’s up there with cow tongue and bologna. But this is an opinion, not a fact.

A fact is something that is true and can be proven. An opinion is how I think of, feel about, or perceive something. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, but a matter of preference.

It’s a matter of taste.

De gustibus non est disputandum. There’s no accounting for taste.

In other words, matters of preference are not debatable.

The other day I finished listening to an audiobook that I didn’t care for. The writing was good, the imagery vivid, the literary elements spot on. But I just couldn’t manage to care about a single character.

It wasn’t my flavor.

But, I noticed on Goodreads that several of my friends LOVED it. They gave that book rave reviews.

It obviously WAS their flavor.

For a minute I wondered if I’d missed something. If maybe I was wrong in my opinion. But then I remembered that there’s no accounting for taste.

See, authors can’t write books that everybody will like. That’s just not possible. So we focus on a specific type of reader. And, in writing for those people, we offer the very best book that we can.

We refine the flavor of what we serve, happy when it’s to the liking of our readers.

And just like I let my mom have all the liver and onions she wants, filling my plate instead with the white meat of a turkey (which she’s not altogether fond of), I leave my reader friends to books they love while I enjoy stories I can adore.

In doing so, we all get what fits our needs most.

Happy reading!



#FBF: Favorite Books of the 1960s

If you’ve followed me around on Instagram or Goodreads you’ll already know how much of a book nerd I am. In fact, whenever somebody asks what my hobby is, I usually say, “reading”.

So, when it came time to research for All Manner of Things I just HAD to know what books my characters might read. I found that some of my favorite books were published in the 1960s.

What follows is just a sampling of what released from 1960-1969, all of which I’ve read. I hope you find a few great books to add to your to-read pile!

1960

Is it cliché to say that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorite books? No. Good. Because I wouldn’t care if it was!

Fun fact, in the first chapter of All Manner of Things Annie Jacobson has a copy of Harper Lee’s novel in her purse. Yeah. My protagonist is a reader. 🙂

I recently read Night by Elie Wiesel for the first time. It’s an extremely difficult, true account of the horrors of the holocaust. It’s one that we all should have the courage to read, if not just to remind ourselves of the potential for human evil and also the potential for people to survive and overcome.
I do, I like Green Eggs and Ham! I mean, who doesn’t, Sam I Am?

1962

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin is the nonfiction account of a white man who has his skin temporarily darkened so he could live, undercover, in the deep south and experience life under Jim Crow laws. It’s a stark, eye opening account, one that still has much relevance today.
I’m not a big fan of The Catcher in the Rye. That said, I have enjoyed reading about the Glass Family in books like Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories.
Steinbeck had a way with troubling, depressing, less than happily-ever-after ending stories. The Winter of Our Discontent is no different. Still, it’s Steinbeck.
Full disclosure: I don’t like peaches. BUT, I do adore James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. There’s just something about a little boy, bugs, and a floating fruit.

1962

My mom is a big Bradbury fan and I remember finding his paperbacks laying all over our house. My first Bradbury read was Something Wicked This Way Comes. So good. So creepy. So haunting. I need to read it again.

Hey, Mom? Can I borrow your copy?
Somehow I missed reading this one when I was a kid. So, I read it to my three and really enjoyed it.

Fun fact: This book also makes a VERY important appearance in All Manner of Things.
I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in a college literature class. It’s a journey into madness, empathy, and a look into mental health treatment in that era. One I need to pull out and read again.
Another Steinbeck. This time a nonfiction record of the author traveling across America with his cute pup. The careful reader of All Manner of Things will spot the reference to this book along with some parallels to my character Frank.

1963

While Where the Wild Things Are was never my favorite, it did give me pretty vivid nightmares when I was a child. That’s something, right?
While not technically a book, Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr. is an essential read for all Americans. It goes beyond the polite, inspiring quotes we typically see from King and goes directly to the heart of his purpose.
In Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut marries science fiction, religion, and satire. It’s whackadoodle, just like all of his books. And that’s why I love him.

1964

Interestingly enough, I’m currently reading The Book of Three to my kids. It’s the first of The Chronicles of Prydain, a fantasy series. I’m really enjoying it even if I can’t pronounce half the names…
Ah! Nothing makes me want to tear into a candy bar quite as much as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a favorite book around our house.
I remember when my elementary school teachers read The Giving Tree to my class and I felt like bawling my eyes out. I still get that way when I read it. Sniff, sniff.

1965

Ah! Who doesn’t live a motorcycle riding mouse?
This is, perhaps, my favorite Dr. Seuss book. It’s a tongue twisting challenge with great rhythm built in. I couldn’t even guess how many times I read this one to my kids when they were younger.

1966

I recently read Silence by Shûsaku Endô. It challenged my faith, motivations, and gave me a stronger appreciation for Christian martyrs throughout history.
I’m completely incapable of reading Flowers for Algernon without losing my composure. We’re talking ugly crying, friends.

1967

I first read this in fifth grade. Then I read it again as a nearly 40 year old. Ah. What a difference. I so appreciated it as an adult.
Stay gold, Ponyboy. Oh boy. That line gets me every single time. This is one of the books I read as a young teen that made me want to write powerful stories with characters that feel like friends.

Keep your eyes open while reading All Manner of Things to catch the reference to Hinton’s classic!
Ah! What a fun book! I read it out loud to my kids a few years ago and enjoyed it even more as an adult than I did as a kid.

1968

Okay. So this one isn’t a favorite. But I’d forgotten reading it when I was in middle school and was instantly taken back to a host of disturbing feelings I had while reading it when I saw the cover. Was anyone else scarred by this one? No? Only me? Okay. Cool.
Ah. That’s better. Corduroy makes all things happy once more.

1969

Vonnegut drew from his own experiences after surviving the bombing of Dresden in World War II to write this sci-fi, anti-war, satyrical novel. It is, so far, my favorite of his novels.
Anyone who wants to learn about the African-American experience should read this book. It’s essential.
After 50 years this poor critter still has the munchies!

What have I missed? What are some of your favorite books to come out of the 1960s? I’d love to add to my book list!

How audiobooks are upping my writing game

I’ll admit it. I’m late to the game.

For years, friends have been talking about audiobooks, recommending that I give them a try. But stubborn old me refused. I said that they weren’t for me. I shrugged them off.

Then I got a new car.

And that car has a bluetooth thingamabobber that allows me to stream from my phone.

“Maybe I’ll try one audiobook,” I thought, installing the CloudLibrary app from my local library.

Once I started, I got hooked. I can listen to books while I drive, clean the house, exercise. It’s this nerd girl’s dream come true!

But then, after listening to my 9th audiobook this year, I realized something amazing.

Listening to audiobooks is making me a better writer.

Wanna know how?

  1. I’m getting more time to read: I tell people all the time that the number one way to train yourself as a writer is to read. Read. READ! Listening to books is a great way to get more training in! Plus, it sure beats whining the whole time I’m washing the dishes.
  2. I’m trying books I might not otherwise read: Let’s face it. Life is short and reading time is precious. While my preferred reading method is done with a good old paper and ink book, there are just so many hours of the day for that. So — I admit it — I’m picky. With audiobooks, I don’t need to be. I can try out a book for size and if it isn’t engaging me, I can return it for another. That’s the beauty of the library, friends. So, I’m stretching myself and honing my taste by reading out of the norm books. It’s like adding squats to your cardio routine.
  3. Voice is EVERYTHING in audiobooks: Stephen King once said (in the author’s notes in the audiobook of Sleeping Beauties) that reading out loud is “unforgiving”. If there’s a word out of place, it’s very obvious. If the voice is inauthentic, it’s glaring. If dialogue is stilted, it’s painful. As I listen, I’m quite aware of the author’s choice of rhythm, tone, and words. I can’t alliteration and clever word play. I delight in the poetry of language. And, in listening, I am more mindful of my own choices.

I’m glad that I (finally) took my friends’ advice and added audiobooks to my day. It’s a great use of my time.

Oh! And this is a massively shameless plug, but…

Did you know that the Pearl Spence books are now available for audiobook readers? A Cup of Dust and A Trail of Crumbs released recently and A Song of Home releases on March 12.

If you are an Audible member you can download them from Amazon. If you prefer a disc check them out on the Oasis site. Or you can request that your local public library make them available. In fact, that’s more helpful than you’ll ever know.

So, what audiobooks have you enjoyed? Which should I add to my list?

#FBF: The Monkees

Yesterday we learned the sad news that Peter Tork of The Monkees passed away at the age of 77. In honor of my personal favorite Monkee I’m devoting this post to some fun facts about this goofy band from the 1960s (and 70s).

Their first four albums (The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones Ltd) were released between October, 1966 and November, 1967. Each hit #1 on the charts.

While the theme song for their hit television show is recognizable around the world, it never managed to get in the top 5.

Peter Tork was the only one of the band who actually played an instrument on the first two Monkees records. Even then, he only played guitar for one of the songs. Instead, a studio band covered the instrumentals.

Davy Jones was on The Ed Sullivan Show the same night at The Beatles’ first appearance. Davy performed a number from Olive Twist.

Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for The Monkees for seven shows before he left the tour. Maybe wasn’t the very best fit…

David Jones changed his last name to Bowie so as not to be confused with Davy Jones.

The fellas even had a series of comic books based on them!

According to Rollingstone, Daydream Believer is the fan favorite Monkee song. Enjoy!

What’s your favorite Monkee song? Did you watch the show when you were a kid or read the comic book? Who is your favorite Monkee?

I’m not as famous as Steinbeck

Last week I had the following conversation with one of my 10 year old boys.

Him: Hey, Mom. I think I’m going to write about an author who wrote a Dust Bowl novel for my Oklahoma state report.

Me: Oh, buddy! You’re going to write about A Cup of Dust?

Him: Well, no. I’m going to write about Steinbeck.

Me: But…I’m your mother!

Him: Steinbeck’s more famous.

Me: Yowch! Betrayed! By my own child!

Him: Sorry. He’s just a bigger name for my report.

And scene.

Now, for my kids, having a mom who writes books is normal. It’s no more exciting than having a mom who teaches or manages an office or is a nurse. In fact, they (rightfully) think moms who have those jobs are amazing!

Having a mom who writes?

It’s just regular for them.

You know what? I’m cool with that. It doesn’t bother me. In fact, I’m glad that they see my job as — well — just a job.

Besides, my boy is right. Steinbeck is more famous. He’s a bigger name. He won all kinds of awards and pretty much owned the bestseller lists in his day. He made bank from royalties and translations and movie deals.

Me?

I’m not as famous as Steinbeck.

And that’s all right by me.

Because I’m who I was created to be doing the work I’ve been given to do. I’m not John Steinbeck. I’m Susie Finkbeiner.

I’m a wife. A mom. A novelist. In that order.

But more than that, I’m a child of God.

And that?

It’s enough.

#FBF: 5 Love Songs of the 1960s

I know. I KNOW! I’m late to Valentine’s Day. But isn’t everyday a good day for some gushy, smooshy love songs?

Sure it is!

And the 1960s had a whole super ton of them. So, let’s have ourselves a little listening party here with a few of my favorites. I’m limiting myself to 5 because I could make this the longest post EVER.

Which songs am I missing? What would you add to our listening party?

How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you) by the golden voiced Marvin Gaye, recorded in 1964.
Later this one would be recorded by the likes of James Taylor and Michael Bublè…but Marvin sang it best, if you ask me.
Love Me Do by The Beatles was released in 1963, a year before they came to America.
Fun fact, Alvin and the Chipmunks covered this song in 1964. The jury is still out about who played it better.
Perhaps best known to Generation X from Dirty Dancing, Do You Love Me by The Contours released in 1962. Let’s just say The Contours had better moves than Baby.
ARETHA!!!!!!!!! How could I possibly have a list of songs that didn’t include my fellow Michigander?
Aretha Franklin recorded I Say a Little Prayer For You in 1968. This particular performance is from 1970…but it’s just SO GOOD!
Ah. Kathy’s Song by Simon & Garfunkel was recorded in 1966 and is still so beautifully poetic and musical. Swoon.

I could add so many more. In fact, I should probably make this a series. There are just SO many great love songs from the sixties. What would you add?

Book Recommendations for Black History Month

It can sometimes be a temptation to gravitate toward books authored by writers who look like us or who we perceive to have had a similar life experience. It’s easy, comfortable, safe.

But when we do that we stunt ourselves emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. This is why over the past few years I’ve been striving to reach for books by authors of different ethnicities, origins, and backgrounds from mine.

I’d love to encourage you to do the same!

To help celebrate Black History Month, I’m going to feature some books by black authors that I recommend and which are on my to-read list.

Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan is one of the most important books I’ve read. It’s also one of the most emotionally and spiritually difficult. Eye opening and heartbreaking, this collection of short stories accurately portrays the state of many living in modern day Africa. Each story is compelling and written with dignity. It’s a book that I plan to read again and again.


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is one of the most inventive, creative, out of the box books I’ve read. In it, Whitehead imagines the famed Underground Railroad as more than just a code for the path to freedom, but an actual railroad. It’s a read well deserving of the awards it won.

Zora & Nicky is one of the first Christian novels I read. Claudia took a lot of risks in writing this story. Written with vulnerability, grace, and beautiful prose, it’s a great option for lovers of Christian fiction.

One of the many great American novels, Their Eyes Were Watching God is among the first novels published with a strong black female protagonist. In fact, it’s for this reason that it fell out of print for decades before being rereleased in the late 1970s.

All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo is a collection of essays about community, marriage, society, mercy, and faith. It’s beautifully written and conceived with the greatest of love for the reader. Gopo has a profound way of seeing the world and I’m grateful for it.

Jesmyn Ward’s style brings to mind the best of Southern writing. Sing, Unburied, Sing a difficult story, a heartbreaking one. But it was written with accuracy, lyric narrative, and hope.

To Read List!

I’ve heard many good things about An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

Recommended highly by my daughter, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is high up on the to-read list.

The Hate U Give is soon to be released as a movie. I hope to read it before then!

Have I missed any of your favorites? Please post titles in the comments. I’m always happy to receive a good recommendation!

#FBF: Spaghetti Westerns

We Americans love our Westerns. There’s just something about the battle between good and evil fought by two gunslingers on the dusty road outside the saloon with Miss Kitty (because there’s always a Miss Kitty) rooting for the good guy (for whom she secretly holds a flame).

The good guy wins. The bad guy dies in the dirt like a dog. And everybody gets their own horse.

Yeah. Here in the old U.S. of A. we sure enjoy our Westerns. In fact, the 1960s saw a huge flux of Western movies and TV shows. The demand for this genre was so huge that film makers in other countries took up the mantel and made their own! One of the most popular such film maker was Sergio Leone of Italy.

Yup. That’s right. Italy. And Italian made Westerns were given an interesting name: Spaghetti Westerns.

At first, these Italian made movies were received by American critics with much criticism. They were made with lower budgets than their American counterparts with dubbed over English (most of the movies were filmed in Italian). They “borrowed” story lines from other, already released movies (oopsy) and some just felt like their genre was being infringed upon.

But a few of them have stood the test of time and are now considered classics. Films like The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Django are still well loved by film lovers.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Italian movie poster

In fact, the style of Spaghetti Westerns can be seen to have influenced Quentin Tarantino in films such as Kill Bill, Django Unchained, and Inglorious Basterds

(Note: All of these Tarantino flicks are rated R and contain all kinds of rated R language, violence, etc. Now you know)

But what I love most about Spaghetti Westerns was how much my Grandma Pearl enjoyed them. She’d get all wrapped up in the drama, the drastic camera angles, the intense close-ups of a young Clint Eastwood’s face.

They’re just one more pop culture treasure that we can thank the 1960s for.

If you enjoy reading about all things 1960s, consider following my blog. Each Friday I feature something fun and unique from the era. Also, check out All Manner of Things releasing this June. Preorder available now!

Good Reads for Kids and Families for Black History Month

February is Black History Month and while I encourage readers to add diversity to their reading list all year long, this is a good month to start!

This week I’d like to high light books by black authors that my kids and I have greatly enjoyed and a few that I’m planning to read aloud to them in the coming months.

Please note: These books may be classified as children’s literature, but every single one is great for adult readers too.

Jesus Power by Tonja Lynae-Gofoe Moyer and illustrated by Piper Adonya is a beautifully realized picture book about about the abilities we have through the Holy Spirit. Uplifting, hopeful, and artistic, this book makes for a great gift.

I have three words for lovers of middle grade fiction. Christopher. Paul. Curtis. Easily one of my favorite living authors, Curtis gives us some of the most vividly written characters in kids’ lit. Readers don’t even know that they’re getting a history lesson as they read the stories. CPC writes true, tender, and tenacious. My favorite? All of them. You cannot go wrong with Curtis.

You may have read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry when you were in school. Let me encourage you to give it another read as an adult. You’ll catch so much that you missed the first time. You’ll remember images that you’d forgotten when you were younger. I plan to introduce this classic to my kids this year. And I know that it will break my heart all over again.

Two summers ago the kids and I read One Crazy Summer. This sister story made us laugh, tear up, and really look into the history of the Civil Rights era. We hope to read the rest of the series this year some time.

I have two boys who are major sports fans so I know that Kwame Alexander’s Crossover Series is a good bet for them. And get this. They’re novels written in poetry. So…I can get my boys into POETRY! I feel like this is a major win. This series is on our list for Spring and Summer.

Recommended by a friend, Piecing Me Together is the kind of book I’m chomping at the bit to read with my kids. It’s about a girl who overcomes, which is a value I like in just about anything I read.

I love a story about how creativity can change the world for the better, and that’s the kind of true story William Kamkwamba shares in his memoir The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Great for kids who prefer nonfiction, stories about other cultures, and for families to share. This book will make hope spring in your heart.

Have you read any of these books? Would you add any to my list? I’m always happy to take a good recommendation!

Keep your eyes open for a list of adult books to add to your list next week.

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