29 Sep, 2016

Seducing the Marquess

/ posted in: Reading Seducing the Marquess Seducing the Marquess by Callie Hutton
on October 17th 2016
Genres: Regency, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: England

“Richard, Marquess of Devon is satisfied with his ton marriage. His wife of five months, Lady Eugenia Devon, thought she was, too, until she found the book. Their marriage is one of respect and affection, with no messy entanglements such as love. Devon’s upbringing impressed upon him that gentlemen slake their baser needs on a mistress, not their gently bred wives. However, once married, he was no longer comfortable bedding a woman other Eugenia. When she stumbles onto a naughty book, she begins a campaign to change the rules.”


This book started with an interesting twist.  Instead of being all about the courtship like most Regency romances, this story starts after the couple has been married for five months.  Eugenia hears the news that her husband’s mistress has died in an accident and decides to take this opportunity to convince him to not find another one.  At the same time she comes across a sex manual in a book store.  (Let’s just set aside the unlikeliness of a sex manual in a Regency bookstore in a place where a lady could come across it, ok?)

Up until now their physical relationship has consisted of scheduled three nights a week sex mostly clothed in the dark in order to produce an heir.  She was told by her mother that she should just lie still and think about redecorating and it would be over soon.  He was told that you do you duty with your wife and keep a mistress on the side for any of your desires other than procreation.  All this advice has resulted in some people with some very mixed up ideas and hang ups about sex.

Eugenia’s attempt to spice up their marriage does not go well.  Her husband is horrified.  He starts to avoid her.  No more scheduled times.  Now she has to try to seduce him to get him back.  He is convinced that she has taken a lover because of her new found knowledge.  It is all an object lesson about why people should talk to each other when they are married instead of making assumptions.

I did enjoy this twist on a historical romance.  This book would be good for Regency fans who don’t mind a little bit of explicit sexual talk and activity.

 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Europe
  • Travel the World in Books
28 Sep, 2016

AfroSF

/ posted in: Reading AfroSF AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers by Ivor W. Hartmann, Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tendai Huchu, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Uko Bendi Udo, Dave-Brendon de Burgh, Biram Mboob, Sally-Ann Murray, Mandisi Nkomo, Liam Kruger, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Joan De La Haye, Mia Arderne, Rafeeat Aliyu, Martin Stokes, Clifton Gachagua, Efe Okogu
Published by StoryTime on December 1st 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: Africa

“AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions of original (previously unpublished) works across Africa and abroad.”


Short story collections take me so long to read.  I’ve had this book on my iPad for years. Here are some of my favorites.

Moom by Nnedi Okorafor – This is the short story that was reworked into the opening of her novel Lagoon.  What if alien first contact on Earth was made by a swordfish?

Home Affairs by Sarah Lotz – I loved this story of a bureaucratic nightmare taking place in a modern city.  When I think of African sci fi I tend to think of monsters and countryside.  This turns those assumptions around and makes a nightmare out of the most annoying aspects of modern life – waiting in line.

The Sale by Tendai Huchu – Third world countries have been sold to corporations and citizens’ health is monitored at all times in these new perfect cities.  But what if you want to rebel?

Planet X by S.A. Partridge – A new alien society has made contact and the people of Earth are afraid.  One girl thinks that humans have more to fear from themselves than from the aliens.

Closing Time by Liam Kruger – Alcohol and time travel shouldn’t be taken together

 

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

27 Sep, 2016

Smile As They Bow

/ posted in: Reading Smile As They Bow Smile As They Bow by Nu Nu Yi
Published by Hachette Books on September 1st 2008
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 146
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: Myanmar

“As the weeklong Taungbyon Festival draws near, thousands of villagers from all regions of Burma descend upon a tiny hamlet near Mandalay to pay respect to the spirits, known as nats, which are central to Burmese tradition. At the heart of these festivities is Daisy Bond, a gay, transvestite spiritual medium in his fifties. With his sharp tongue and vivid performances, he has long been revered as one of the festival’s most illustrious natkadaws. At his side is Min Min, his young assistant and lover, who endures unyielding taunts and abuse from his fiery boss. But when a young beggar girl named Pan Nyo threatens to steal Min Min’s heart, the outrageous Daisy finds himself face-to-face with his worst fears.”


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I bought this book several years ago when I was trying to read books set in as many countries as possible. I had never seen any other books written by a Burmese author. I never got around to reading it though. I finally decided to get to it during the #diverseathon readathon. I’m glad I did.

I didn’t know anything about nats or the Taungbyon festival to honor these spirits in Myanmar. Worshippers, mostly women, come to the festival to promise the nats favors and offerings if they help their family in the coming year. The book opens with beautiful descriptions of some of the people coming to the festival – a pickpocket lamenting the poor pickings this year, a poor woman, and a rich woman. Once the stage is set, the story moves to Daisy Bond and Min Min.

Daisy is a natkadaw or spirit medium. He pretends to be possessed by a spirit to bestow blessings in exchange for cash. The women around him will hear about it if they don’t offer him enough cash too.  Min Min is his “husband.”  He acts as a manager for both Daisy’s career and house as well as being his lover.  Daisy is very insecure about his relationship with Min Min.  Daisy is in his 50s and Min Min is a teenager.  Min Min also isn’t gay.  Daisy bought him from his mother to serve this role in Daisy’s life.  He knows Min Min isn’t happy and is afraid that he is planning on leaving.  His paranoia is serving to push Min Min farther and farther away until he does make plans to get away from Daisy.

Here’s a video that shows what the festival looks like now.

This book is beautifully written and draws you into the festival that you’ve probably never heard of.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

26 Sep, 2016

Dancers After Dark

/ posted in: Reading Dancers After Dark Dancers After Dark by Jordan Matter
Published by Workman Publishing on September 28th 2016
Genres: Photography, Subjects & Themes, Sports
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“Dancers After Dark” is an amazing celebration of the human body and the human spirit, as dancers, photographed nude and at night, strike poses of fearless beauty. Without a permit or a plan, Jordan Matter led hundreds of the most exciting dancers in the world out of their comfort zones not to mention their clothes to explore the most compelling reaches of beauty and the human form. After all the risk and daring, the result is extraordinary: 300 dancers, 400 locations, more than 150 stunning photographs. And no clothes, no arrests, no regrets. Each image highlights the amazing abilities of these artists and presents a core message to the reader: Say yes rather than no, and embrace the risks and opportunities that life presents. “


It started with an offhand comment from a contortionist.  She’d be available for a photoshoot after her show.  It might be raining.  Maybe they should try nudes.

Jordan Matter had been photographing dancers and circus performers for years but now that work went in a new direction.  This is a book of photos of dancers naked in public at night.  There were no permits.  No closed sets.

The photographs in the book are beautiful.  Several of them I stared at just to try to figure out how they got into those positions.  I love one of a dancer balancing on pointe on top of a wine bottle.  Other times I could only imagine how incredibly cold they must have been. Here’s a behind the scenes video of one of the shots that made me freeze just looking at it.

The cover dancer is Michaela Prince, whose autobiography I reviewed.  Most of the rest are anonymous except for Alan Cumming.  At the end of the book there are some of the stories behind the pictures.  It wasn’t enough.  I wish there had been a story for every picture.  I wanted to know if the participants were ballet dancers or modern dancers.  Did they perform on Broadway or in circuses? Luckily there is video of the process that gives more background on his website.

23 Sep, 2016

In Memory of Bread

/ posted in: Reading In Memory of Bread In Memory of Bread: A Memoir by Paul Graham
Published by Clarkson Potter on June 7th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: New York

“When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with a serious wheat allergy at the age of thirty-six, he was forced to say goodbye to traditional pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and more. Gone, too, were some of his favorite hobbies, including brewing beer with a buddy and gorging on his wife’s homemade breads. Struggling to understand why he and so many others had become allergic to wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other dietary staples, Graham researched the production of modern wheat and learned that not only has the grain been altered from ancestral varieties but it’s also commonly added to thousands of processed foods. In writing that is effortless and engaging, Paul explores why incidence of the disease is on the rise while also grappling with an identity crisis—given that all his favorite pastimes involved wheat in some form.”


This is an unflinchingly honest account of what it is like to give up one of the things that you enjoy most in life.  Paul Graham loves to eat.  He loved bread in all its forms.  He loved beer.  Suddenly he found out that those foods were behind a sudden illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds and end up hospitalized.

The honesty of the writing can certain come across as whiny, especially for those of us who have had restrictive diets by choice or necessity for long enough to have moved past the first stages of grief.  He laments what it means now to travel without being able to eat anything and everything on a menu.  Eventually he learns to move past that and see that there is life after allergies.

“But the most sensitive have also come to know something that “normal” eaters do not often have occasion to consider:  to have anyone make food for you is an implicit extension of trust.  The more serious the consequences, the greater the confidence one puts in the cook.”

Yes!  I can be a nervous wreck when we go to new restaurants.  Honestly, I only implicitly trust food that I make myself for the husband because of his allergy.  The author laments people disrupting the orderliness of buffets so he can’t be sure anything is safe for him.  I can relate totally.

He discusses the privilege that he has as a fairly well off person with the skills and time to cook from scratch in order to accommodate his new diet.  He wonders how people how have to survive on prepared food do it.  The answer seems to be – not well according to the research.  He points out the irony that the foods that were once considered only good enough for poor people are now the rare grains and ingredients that cost more than wheat.

I’d recommend this book for any food lover or person interested in knowing what it is like to live with food allergies.

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Book received in exchange for review from BloggingforBooks.com

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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22 Sep, 2016

Unicorn Tracks

/ posted in: Reading Unicorn Tracks Unicorn Tracks by Julia Ember
Published by Harmony Ink Press on April 21st 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 180
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“After a savage attack drives her from her home, sixteen-year-old Mnemba finds a place in her cousin Tumelo’s successful safari business, where she quickly excels as a guide. Surrounding herself with nature and the mystical animals inhabiting the savannah not only allows Mnemba’s tracking skills to shine, it helps her to hide from the terrible memories that haunt her.
Mnemba is employed to guide Mr. Harving and his daughter, Kara, through the wilderness as they study unicorns. The young women are drawn to each other, despite that fact that Kara is betrothed. During their research, they discover a conspiracy by a group of poachers to capture the Unicorns and exploit their supernatural strength to build a railway. Together, they must find a way to protect the creatures Kara adores while resisting the love they know they can never indulge.”


I loved the world building in this story!

A safari guide who lives surrounded by mythical creatures including unicorns?  Yes, please!

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People come to Tumelo’s safari camp to get close to the magical creatures. Mnemba is one of his best guides in addition to being his cousin.  She’s been working for Tumelo ever since she left her village.  She was raped by a popular solider and many people in the town were hostile to her after her rapist was arrested.

She has to go back to her village in the story.  I thought this was well done.  She has to confront her father, the leader of the village, who she feels didn’t support her enough in the aftermath of the attack and arrest.


I didn’t buy into the relationship between Mnemba and Kara though.  It was too insta-love for my tastes.  Kara seemed too predatory in her approaches to Mnemba, almost like she thought sleeping with Mnemba was a perk of the safari.  There didn’t seem to be any type of relationship building.  They didn’t know each other at all or have any conversations before they decided that they were in love.

Kara was also a poster child for poor decision making.  If you have a top safari guide who you also claim to be madly in love with and she is telling you to get out of an area right now because it isn’t safe, you should do that.  You shouldn’t stand in place and pout and complain that she is trying to boss you around.  Bossing you is her job.  I was rooting for Kara to get eaten by the carnivorous mermaids.  (Carnivorous mermaids!  Seriously great world building.) Over and over again she blows off wiser people’s advice and it always goes poorly for her.  I don’t have much tolerance for that personality type.

Just so we are clear – Kara is white.  Mnemba is black.  Let’s revisit that cover.

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Yeah.  Totally whitewashed.  This is an interracial lesbian love story with unicorns but you wouldn’t guess from the cover.

Bottom line

I loved the world.  I loved Mnemba.  She could do better than Kara.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

21 Sep, 2016

Saving Delaney

/ posted in: Reading Saving Delaney Saving Delaney by Andréa Ott-Dahl, Keston Ott-Dahl
Published by Cleis Press on April 12th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: California

“Saving Delaney is the heartwarming true story of a baby who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and the unconventional family who fought for her right to life. Andrea Ott-Dahl, who with her partner Keston Ott-Dahl has with two other children, agreed to act as a pregnancy surrogate for a wealthy Silicon Valley family. When pre-natal testing revealed the baby would be born with Down Syndrome, Andrea was urged to abort the child. Instead, the Ott-Dahls chose to keep and raise the daughter they would call Delaney, overcoming their fears while navigating legal, medical and emotional challenges.”


I’m not going to lie.  I read this book for the chocolate.

I was at BEA and the authors were signing right next to another author I was in line for.  When I finished they had a short line and the BEA worker said that they were handing out chocolate with the book.  That got my attention.  I hadn’t been interested in the book because I don’t like babies.  I’m also pro-choice and didn’t care to read a pro-life screed.  Turns out I’m really more pro-chocolate than anything.  I went up and got a copy of the book.  Delaney even signed it for me herself.

SavingDelaneysignature.jpg

Now I’m glad that I read this book.

The book is told from Keston’s viewpoint.  When her mother died when Keston was in her early 40s, she went through a bit of a wild time.  She broke up with her long term partner and decided to just have fun for a while.  She wasn’t planning on meeting a woman in her late 20s with two young children and falling in love.  She certainly wasn’t planning for her new girlfriend to decide that she needed to be a surrogate for another couple.

Keston had always had a phobia about people with disabilities.  This view was formed when she did some community service in a residential care facility.  Since that time she had actively avoided any contact.

Trying to get pregnant as a surrogate wasn’t easy for Andrea.  Tensions rose between the Ott-Dahls, the prospective mothers, and the sperm donors as months passed with no pregnancy.  Right when they were about to give up, Andrea got pregnant.

Routine prenatal testing showed abnormalities early.  Andrea was the biological mother.  An egg donor was not used.  Now the question was, could she be made to abort her biological child if she signed a contract stating that the prospective mothers got to decide about any health concerns to the child?  Should they keep a child with Down’s Syndrome knowing Keston’s issues with disabilities?

This book is the story of growing up and growing together.  It is standing up for your family in the face of pressures from all sides.  It is about learning to overcome your prejudices and convincing others to do the same.

Regardless of your personal opinions on abortion or surrogacy, I’d recommend reading this book.  It gives the perspective of people wrestling with the tough choices that come with assisted reproduction that aren’t usually heard.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

toptentuesday
20 Sep, 2016

New to Audio? What Should You Start With?

/ posted in: Reading

I love audiobooks. I listen to them whenever I’m driving or working out or just going for a walk.

Lots of people think that they won’t be able to follow audiobooks. Give these ones a try if you are an audiobook beginner.

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

This book is always on the Best Audiobook Ever lists. Wil Wheaton narrates and is perfect.

 

 


In a Sunburned CountryIn a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson

You won’t go wrong with any Bill Bryson travel book that he narrates himself but this is my all time favorite. Follow Bill around Australia where everything is designed to kill you.

 

 


If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and DestinyIf at Birth You Don’t Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny by Zach Anner

I dare you to get bored listening to this hysterical account of life with cerebral palsy. Follow Zach into reality TV and to working for Oprah and then getting fired by Oprah.

 

 


Working for Bigfoot (The Dresden Files, #15.5)Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher

I love all the Dresden Files audiobooks that are narrated by James Marsters. This is three short stories in that universe that you don’t necessary have to know the rest of the series to enjoy. Fall in love with Dresden and his world and then go back and start the series.

 

 


Written in Red (The Others, #1)Written in Red by Anne Bishop

My love fantasy on audio. This series is so well done and the narration is wonderful for the characters.

 

 

 


Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega, #1)Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

More werewolves. I’m not sure why they go together with audio in my mind.

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19 Sep, 2016

How To Read More Diversely

/ posted in: Reading

This week has been #DiverseAThon on Twitter.  If you haven’t seen it, it is worth going back through some of the discussions.

One thing that keeps coming up is,

How Do I Find More Diverse Books To Read?

When you first notice that you are reading primarily (or only) white authors, you get confused.  These are the books that you want to read.  Why should you read anything else?  If other books were available and were any good, you’d know about them, right?

Let me tell you a story

I’m the poster child for whiteness.  I’m straight.  The only minority status I can claim at all is being female and we’re actually the majority.

A few years ago I took part in a challenge to read a book from each of the 50 states in the course of a year.  That was my first experience with reading with intention and picking books on criteria other than just, “That sounds good.”

I enjoyed the challenge so the next year I decided to join a group reading books from other countries.  I started to notice a difference in the tone and richness of books written by, say, an American or British author about Zimbabwe and a Zimbabwean author writing about her country.  (If you ever feel a need to read a book from a specific country, this is the best list on the internet. )

About this time I found #Diversiverse.  This was 2 week readathon every October devoted to authors from backgrounds other than my own.  This was the mantra:

“Reading diversely may require you to change your book finding habits.  It ABSOLUTELY does not require you to change your book reading habits.”  Aarti

Now, even with book recommendations by authors of color making up a lot of my TBR lists, I still end up reading majority white authors.  It is just the way the world is unfortunately.

I got nerdy last year and made charts for the books I read in 2015.

This is the racial make up of Earth.

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This is the racial make up of female authors I read.

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And male authors

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That’s with actively seeking out POC authors.  If you aren’t intentionally seeking out non-white authors, you aren’t likely to stumble across many accidentally.


Steps To Take

Set a Goal and Be Accountable

If you are reading all white authors now, set a goal to read one POC author a month.  Report how you did in your monthly wrap up post.  Something magical will happen if you set this goalYou will notice more diverse books around you.  You know how if you get a certain type of car, suddenly it seems like there are so many more of them on the road?  Same thing.  If you are aware and looking for something, you will see it. You’ll be shocked that you were blind to it before.

Now when I see a book review when I’m scrolling through Twitter or see a book by a POC author on a shelf, my brain gives it a quick second look.  Sometimes that pause that comes from noticing what is around you leads you to take a look at a book that you might have blindly walked or scrolled past before.

Follow People Who Promote All Types of Books

  • Check out the #diversebookbloggers and #weneeddiversebooks tags on Twitter.  There are loads of books discussed here.  Looking for a book in a specific genre?  Ask a question and get loads of recommendations.
  • Book Riot does a good job of incorporating a wide variety of books in their lists

Follow POC authors you like and see who they are reading and recommending

Here’s a few to get you started.

  • Courtney Milan is a Regency romance writer (@courtneymilan)
  • Tananarive Due is a horror writer who also teaches.  DJ Older was one of her students. (@tananarivedue)
  • Margret Helgadottir is a Scandinavian writer who edits anthologies with lots of POC authors. (@mahelgad)
  • Mona Eltahawy writes about feminism in the Middle East (@monaeltahawy)

Don’t Give Up if You Don’t Like a Book

Don’t be like, “See, I knew these books were no good.”  I am the Queen of the DNF.  There are too many books in the world to read to be forcing yourself through one you don’t like.  But, do you like every YA book/mystery/romance you read?  Did you let one boring book turn you off a whole genre or did you try another book to see if you liked it better?  Same thing here.  Not every book is a fit for every reader but when you are trying something new, it is tempting to write it all off as a loss if the first one or two aren’t your favorites.

 

For people who tend to read books that are out of the mainstream, how did you get started?

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16 Sep, 2016

Unidentified Suburban Object

/ posted in: Reading Unidentified Suburban Object Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic on April 26th 2016
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: United States

“The next person who compares Chloe Cho with famous violinist Abigail Yang is going to HEAR it. Chloe has just about had it with people not knowing the difference between someone who’s Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. She’s had it with people thinking that everything she does well — getting good grades, winning first chair in the orchestra, etCETera — are because she’s ASIAN.
Of course, her own parents don’t want to have anything to DO with their Korean background. Any time Chloe asks them a question they change the subject. They seem perfectly happy to be the only Asian family in town. It’s only when Chloe’s with her best friend, Shelly, that she doesn’t feel like a total alien.”


I don’t generally read middle grade fiction but the premise of this story was too cute to pass up.  Chloe can’t understand why her parents won’t talk about Korea.  It seems like Chloe knows more about Korea than they do and they were born there.  Any attempts to ask questions are quickly shut down with the excuse that it is too painful to talk about it.

When Chloe gets a new teacher who happens to be Korean, she is so excited.  Her teacher encourages her to look into her family history.  There is even an assignment to ask a relative to tell you about an event in their life and report on it.  That’s when things start to unravel.

The author shows what it is like to be the only person of a nationality in an otherwise homogeneous community.  He shows how books can be a lifeline.  There is a great section where Chloe tries to find science fiction books with Asians on the cover and can’t do it.  The only problem with having that in the book is this:

 

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

Yes, Chloe’s dad owns a fish store. But you’d think with a big part of the story focusing on the lack of Asian representation in sci-fi (and especially on covers), maybe, just maybe, there could be Asians on the cover?

Even if you don’t usually read middle grade, this is a book worth picking up.  Chloe is a believable middle schooler in the midst of an identity crisis.  Her story is worth the read to understand how microaggressions can add up even if the speaker had the best of intentions.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

15 Sep, 2016

Two Boys Kissing

/ posted in: Reading Two Boys Kissing Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on August 27th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 196
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads

“David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.”


I’d seen this book around but wasn’t really interested.  Contemporary YA isn’t my thing.  Then I heard last week that it was narrated by the spirits of men who died of AIDS and I had to read it.

I devoured this book in one afternoon.  When the husband came home that night I told him that a book made me cry – twice.  He was as surprised as I was that a book melted my ice-cold heart.

This is the story of three couples and of a single teenager.  Craig and Harry are exes who are looking to set the world record for kissing at over 32 hours.  They were inspired by a homophobic attack on their friend Tariq.  Craig isn’t out to his family.

Peter and Neil have been a couple for over a year.  Neil’s family is still not acknowledging his homosexuality.

Avery and Ryan just met last night.  Avery is trans and is worried about letting Ryan know.

Cooper’s family just found out that he is gay and the resulting argument drove him out of the house.

These aren’t the stories that got to me though.  I think that’s because I’m older than the typical YA demographic.  It was the narration of the dead men watching these boys openly live their lives in ways that the men of the 1980s couldn’t have dreamed of.

“You can’t know what it is like for us now — you will always be one step behind.

Be thankful for that.

You can’t know what it was like for us then — you will always be one step ahead.

Be thankful for that too.”

Those are the opening lines of the book and that’s when I started getting teary.  The passage that made the tears roll down my cheeks is later when Craig and Harry was going into the first night of the kiss.  They have teachers watching as official monitors so the record counts.  The teacher that is taking over the shift is recognized by the narrators.

“He’s Mr. Ballamy to his history students.  But he’s Tom to us.  Tom! It’s so good to see him.  So wonderful to see him.  Tom is one of us.  Tom went through it all with us.  Tom made it through.”

It goes on to tell the story of a man who lost his partner in the first wave of the AIDS epidemic and stayed in the community to nurse others.

“He lost years of his life to us although that’s not the story he’d tell.  He would say he gained.  And he’d say he was lucky, because when he came down with it, when his blood turned against him, it was a little later on and the cocktail was starting to work.  So he lived.  He made it to a different kind of after from the rest of us.  It is still an after.  Every day it feels to him like an after.  But he is here.  He is living…..

…. But this is what losing most of your friends does:  It makes you unafraid.  Whatever anyone threatens, whatever anyone is offended by, it doesn’t matter, because you have already survived much, much worse.  If fact, you are still surviving.  You survive every single, blessed day.”


I would recommend this book to everyone.  Younger people will likely identify with the problems of the teens in the story.  Older readers, especially those of us who remember the 80s, will think of all of those lost to the disease whose stories were never told.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

14 Sep, 2016

Use Later to Schedule Your Instagram Posts

/ posted in: Hobbies

Do you love Instagram but:

  • You’d rather take pictures with a camera instead of a phone and edit them on your computer
  • You’d love to schedule a bunch of photos ahead of time

Later can help

I love taking pictures with my camera.  Getting them to Instagram was awkward.  I’d have to download them to my computer, edit them, email them to my phone, download them on the phone, and then upload them one at a time when I remembered.

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Later is a website and an app that work together to simplify the process. When I’m ready to schedule Instagram photos, I go to the Later.com website.

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I can upload all the photos that I want to work with and drag them onto the day and time that I want to post them. This is perfect for photo challenges if you take a bunch of photos at once but need to wait until the appropriate day to post.

Selecting a photo brings up this screen.

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From here you can crop, change the date and time of posting, edit captions, and even make it add a link in your bio.

Ideally, Later would then publish the post for you but this is were it gets little bit awkward still.  Instagram does not allow third party software to post directly to the site. 

Instead, you have to have the Later app on your mobile device of choice.  At the time that you scheduled, you will get a notification that you have a post ready.  You open the app and select post.

The app downloads the photo to the device and asks you to select Instagram.  It also copies your caption to the dashboard.

You are able to do any additional editing like normal with Instagram.  Then you paste the caption into the text block and post.

Is a perfect solution?  No.  Does it help?  Absolutely.  I like being able to batch upload my challenge photos once a week and then not have to think about it again until I get a notification.

Your Bloggiesta Challenge

  1.  Sign up for a free account on Later.com
  2. Schedule a photo to post to Instagram before September 19 at midnight.
  3. Tag me so I can see it by using @dvmheather

Everyone who does this will be in a drawing for a $10 Etsy gift card so you can buy more props for Instagram photos.

 

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13 Sep, 2016

Favorite Historical Fiction

/ posted in: Reading

My All Time Favorite Historical Fiction

 

The Skystone (Camulod Chronicles, #1)The Skystone by Jack Whyte
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagine all the King Arthur legends. Now strip out all of the magical and supernatural aspects of the story. What could have really happened to inspire those stories?

I love this series! It starts with two men, veterans of the Roman legions, who retire to Britain. They realize that Rome will be retreating from the area eventually. In order to protect their lands they start a colony that can be self sustaining and self protecting. They call it Camulod.

Over the series you see the development of Camulod through several generations of these two families – ending with Merlin and Arthur. I reread the early books in the series often but I’ve never reread anything with Arthur. I hate him so much for destroying everyone else’s work.

This series ruined all other King Arthur stories for me too.  This is the definitive Arthur in my mind.


People of the River (North America's Forgotten Past, #4)People of the River by W. Michael Gear

You can pick whatever book you like to start reading the Gears but if you are in the U.S. I recommend picking the one set near where you live. The Gears are archeologists and write stories start with a controversy in archeology and then move into pre-Columbian historical fiction imagining the history of that archeological site or artifact.

 


The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great (Catherine, #1)The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak

This story of Catherine the Great was amazing. She was a young girl when she came from Poland to Russia. Her growth into a powerful leader is very interesting.

 

 


 

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French RevolutionMadame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran

I didn’t know anything about her before I read this book. She was fascinating. What happened to her during the Revolution was scary. She isn’t just the person behind the cheesy wax museums.

 

 


 

The Violinist of Venice: A Story of VivaldiThe Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi by Alyssa Palombo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful historical novel about the life of Antonio Vivaldi, the composer best known for writing The Four Seasons. He was a priest who worked in a home for abandoned children in Venice. He wrote many of his works to be performed by the female musicians there. These women were talented musicians who signed a promise never to perform again if they left the home to marry. In this book, he takes a private student from a prominent family who is wonderful violinist. As he teaches her they fall in love and begin an affair. When the truth of this comes out, her family is scandalized. The book follows both Vivaldi and his student, Adriana over the next thirty years to see what this affair cost them both.


My Name Is ResoluteMy Name Is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner

This book is the story of an upper class girl kidnapped in a raid on Jamaica. She is sold into slavery and eventually gets her freedom just in time for the American Revolution to turn her world upside down again.

 


The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Sarah Grimke was a southern woman who became an abolitionist. She was given a slave child, Hetty, for her birthday when she was 11. This is the story of the next 35 years of their lives.

 

 


My Name is Mary SutterMy Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira

Mary Sutter wanted to be a doctor but that wasn’t allowed in the mid-1800s. She helped out with nursing during the Civil War. This book teaches a lot about battlefield medicine or the lack thereof during the war.

 

 


Citizens CreekCitizens Creek by Lalita Tademy

Native Americans also had black slaves. This is the story of several generations of a family that was enslaved by the Creeks and then earned their freedom.

 

 


The Clan of the Cave Bear, the Valley of Horses, the Mammoth Hunters, the Plains of Passage (Earth's Children, #1-4)The Clan of the Cave Bear, the Valley of Horses, the Mammoth Hunters, the Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel

You can’t forget the classics. My favorite is Valley of the Horses.

12 Sep, 2016

If At Birth You Don’t Succeed

/ posted in: Reading If At Birth You Don’t Succeed If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny by Zach Anner
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on March 8th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 338
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: Texas, New York, California, Berlin

“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book,  If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”


I have a confession.  I hate YouTube.  If I am forced to watch a video because of a deep interest in the subject, it better be captioned so I don’t have to turn the sound on my iPad on.  It is no wonder that I’d never heard of Zach Anner before reading this book.  It is also a testament to my love for his story that I’ve watched several of his YouTube videos and shared them with others.

Zach has cerebral palsy which causes him to have limited fine motor skills and poor balance.  He describes his legs as mostly decoration.  He has a lazy eye and his eyes don’t track which makes it difficult for him to read.  He also has a razor-sharp mind, a wild sense of humor, and the compulsive need to express himself through pop culture references.  This leads to a laugh out loud funny memoir about the unexpected turns his life has taken.

The book is not organized chronologically.  I appreciated that.  How many memoirs have you read where you know something interesting happens in the author’s twenties but first you have to suffer through the minutia of their childhood for many, many chapters?  Here we start on a high note.  He entered an online competition to win a spot on a reality show on OWN, Oprah’s network.  The prize? His own TV show on the network.

His video went viral when it was discovered on Reddit and adopted as the favorite by 4chan purely because of the spelling of his name.  He went on to win his own travel show on OWN.  From there you can only go downhill through cancellation and strangers asking, “Didn’t you used to be….?” in stores.  He describes how he moved to YouTube to make the realistic traveling with disabilities show that he wanted to make.

Along the way we learn about his attempts to find love, his love for music, his time working at Epcot policing other people’s disabilities, and his failures in adaptive P.E. class in 4th grade.  Each story is hysterical but ends with a life lesson that manages to be uplifting without being sappy.

This is best experienced by listening to the audiobook.  Zach narrates it himself.  I can’t imagine this book without his upbeat and charming narration or without listening to himself crack himself up retelling the adventures that he’s had.
One of the first videos Zach talks about making is this one where his friends torture him at a trampoline park. I had to look it up.


It is even funnier when you hear the background story of what went into making it.

I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE! Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook and step into Zach’s world.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

09 Sep, 2016

Chaotic Goddess Swap Reveal

/ posted in: General

The Books 'n' Bloggers Swap at Chaotic Goddess Swaps

I participated in the Books and Blogger Swap. My partner was Beth from Happy Rambling.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

She recommended The Celestine Prophecy to me. I can’t believe I’ve never read that.

The Celestine Prophecy (Celestine Prophecy, #1)The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

 

 

 


 

The next two are books that I have been wanting to read.

Don't Tell Me You're AfraidDon’t Tell Me You’re Afraid by Giuseppe Catozzella

“Based on a remarkable true story, an unforgettable Somali girl risks her life on the migrant journey to Europe to run in the Olympic Games.”

 

 


The Miracle DetectiveThe Miracle Detective by Randall Sullivan

“In a tiny, dilapidated trailer in northeastern Oregon, a young woman saw a vision of the Virgin Mary in an ordinary landscape painting hanging on her bedroom wall. After being met with skepticism from the local parish, the Catholic diocese officially placed the matter “under investigation.” Investigative journalist Randall Sullivan wanted to know how exactly one might conduct the official inquiry into such an incident, so he set off to interview theologians, historians, and postulators from the Sacred Congregation of the Causes for Saints. These men, dubbed by the author as “miracle detectives,” were charged by the Vatican with testing the miraculous and judging the holy.”

She also sent along some tea and some really cute bookmarks.

Thanks, Beth!

See what other packages have been shared.

08 Sep, 2016

Renwick Gallery

/ posted in: Photostravel

My favorite Smithsonian museum by far and the one that I have to visit every time I’m in D.C. is the Renwick Gallery.

This museum is dedicated to crafts. It is directly across from the White House by Lafayette Park and next to Blair House.

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They always have some quilts on display. This quilt is a map of an area of D.C. Each of the exposed seams are roads. Each of the red pieces are houses that were foreclosed on.

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I always love art that fools the eye. Ghost Clock is one of my all time favorite pieces at the Renwick.

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This isn’t a clock covered in fabric. It is a solid piece of wood carved and then bleached to look like this. I so desperately want to touch it because even up close it still looks like fabric over a clock.

This is Impressions. It is made of marble.

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It looks more like marble in the picture than in real life. I thought it was a pillow when I walked up to it.

This looks like a typical quilt.

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It is made of 16mm film.

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I love the stained glass in this piece called The Birth of Eve.

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When I was there one large gallery was being used for a single piece.

Lying on the ground under an art installion.

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

A net-like fabric was hung from the ceiling. It mimicked the graph of the seismic activity during an earthquake that caused a tsumani. Beanbags were on the floor for people to lay down and look up at it. The light was a muted pastel. It was very peaceful.

If you can’t get to D.C. you can browse the collection online at Renwick Gallery.

06 Sep, 2016

Leftovers

/ posted in: Reading Leftovers Leftovers by Stella Newman
Published by Avon on April 25th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Great Britain
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: England

“According to a magazine, Susie is a ‘Leftover’ – a post Bridget-Jones 30 something who has neither her dream man, job, nor home. She doesn’t even own six matching dinner plates.
According to her friend Rebecca, Susie needs to get over her ex, Jake, start online dating – or at least stop being so rude to every guy who tries to chat her up.
But Susie’s got a plan. If she can just make it the 307 days till her promotion and bonus, she can finally quit and pursue her dream career in food, then surely everything else will fall into place.”


Susie is a girl after my own heart.  She has a theory that every type of emotional turmoil can be cured by the application of just the right type of pasta.

She spends her days writing advertising copy for a company that doesn’t appreciate her.  She’s counting the days until her promised promotion is here.  With the bonus money she makes, she is leaving that job and going into food full time.  In the meantime she is muddling through and obsessively watching her ex’s new girlfriend’s Instagram feed.

This is chick lit at its finest.  The cover is even pink.  I love books that combine food and a hint of romance.

The ending is one that any blogger will find themselves laughing out loud over (because it is so delightfully improbable but fun to imagine.)

There are also recipes for lots of types of pasta to full any need in your life.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

05 Sep, 2016

The Polish Boxer

/ posted in: Reading The Polish Boxer The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon
Published by Bellevue Literary Press on October 2nd 2012
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 188
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: Guatemala and Serbia

Translated by Thomas Bunstead, Lisa Dillman, Daniel Hahn, Anne McLean, and Ollie Brock

“The Polish Boxer covers a vast landscape of human experience while enfolding a search for origins: a grandson tries to make sense of his Polish grandfather’s past and the story behind his numbered tattoo; a Serbian classical pianist longs for his forbidden heritage; a Mayan poet is torn between his studies and filial obligations; a striking young Israeli woman seeks answers in Central America; a university professor yearns for knowledge that he can’t find in books and discovers something unexpected at a Mark Twain conference. Drawn to what lies beyond the range of reason, they all reach for the beautiful and fleeting, whether through humor, music, poetry, or unspoken words. Across his encounters with each of them, the narrator—a Guatemalan literature professor and writer named Eduardo Halfon—pursues his most enigmatic subject: himself.”


I look for books from different countries of origin and every year I find that I’m lacking in Latin American books.  I also am always on the lookout for books about Poland.  I was thrilled and intrigued when I found a book by a Guatemalan author that referenced Poland.

This books is a series of interconnected stories.  Like all short story collections, I felt like there was something that I was missing as I was reading this book.  Short stories feel like there is a level of symbolism or intent just under the surface that leaves the reader feeling like they missed something important.

Distant

A college professor in Guatemala starts his introductory literature class on short stories.  He doesn’t like his students because they don’t care about literature.  Then he realizes that there is one student who does care.  When that student drops out a few weeks later, he travels to his home in the country to find out why.

This story has little aside in it when a student named Ligia asks why all the writers were male.

“There are also no black writers, Ligia, or Asian writers, or midget writers, and as far as I’m aware, there’s only one gay writer.  I told her that my courses were politically incorrect, thank God.  In other words, Ligia, they’re honest.  Just like art.  Great short story writers, period.”

So, in other words, my habit of specifically looking for books outside of my English-speaking American existence which led me to find this book, is stupid.

Twaining

He goes to a seminar on Mark Twain where a real Mark Twain scholar makes fun of them all for overthinking.

Epistrophy

He meets a Serbian pianist performing in Guatemala.  The pianist is part Gypsy and admits that he’d rather be playing Gypsy music.

White Smoke

He meets an Israeli tourist in a bar.  He admits that he is Jewish.

The Polish Boxer

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How did his grandfather survive the camps?

Postcards

He gets postcards from around the world from the Serbian pianist explaining Gypsy music until he suddenly disappears.

Ghosts

He decides to go hunting for the pianist.

The Pirouette

He is in Serbia hunting for the pianist and trying to find out what does it mean when a Gypsy does a pirouette?

A Speech at Povoa

He needs to write a speech on literature tearing reality.

Sunsets

His grandfather dies and he finds out that maybe everything he thought he knew was a lie.


Did I like this book?  I’m not sure.  The writing was beautiful and could draw you in.  The stories had some interesting moments.  I liked The Polish Boxer and Postcards best.  The Pirouette bored me out of my mind.

This book would be good for people interested in Latin American literature who enjoy lyrical writing.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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02 Sep, 2016

Neither Snow Nor Rain

/ posted in: Readingtravel Neither Snow Nor Rain Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service by Devin Leonard
Published by Grove Press on May 3rd 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 288
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Goodreads
Setting: United States

“The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, forty percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service—more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. And the USPS has a storied history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing. Critics say it is slow and archaic. Mail volume is down. The workforce is shrinking. Post offices are closing.”


I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the post office.

I’ve never understood how they can sort all that mail and get it to where it is going.  If you told me that this was involved, I’d believe you.

That why I was so excited to listen to this book about the workings of the post office. I also had just visited the Smithsonian’s Post Office museum in Washington D.C. when I started the book. In all my visits to D.C. I had never known about this museum. It is right next to the train station.

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Did you know?

  • Many of the major roads of the United States were laid out by mail carriers
  • Mail used to be delivered up to four times a day in U.S. cities
  • There have been a few times when mail volume got so high that the system collapsed
  • It was illegal for anyone other than the U.S. mail to deliver letters
  • The United States Postal Service is now an independent company that reports to the government instead of a government department

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The Post Office is required to deliver everywhere. At times that has required mule trains to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, sled dog teams, and even reindeer.  Mandatory rural delivery allowed farmers to get daily newspapers.  This kept them informed of the best time to sell crops for the highest profit.  It kept everyone in the country informed about events.  The United States mail has helped to hold the country together.

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I particularly liked learning about the mail trains. Specialist clerks rode these mobile sorting cars, picking up letters at high speed and getting them sorted before the next town. There was one of these mail cars in the museum and a video of former clerks showing their system of sorting. It was amazing. I also learned about Owney, the famous mail dog.

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Technological advances have helped the mail be delivered faster and faster. Optical scanners were developed to read printed labels of bulk mailers and now can even read handwriting. After a few passes through the scanners, mail can be sorted into the order in which each carrier will deliver it. I think that’s just magical.

One thing that wasn’t covered at the museum but was well covered in the book was the Comstock Era.  This is a time of strict censorship of the mail.  Items that were judged to be obscene were not allowed.  This included information on contraception.  There was a lot of entrapment by postal inspectors who would order an item and then arrest the person who sent it.

Also not covered in the museum but talked about in the book was the wave of violence at post offices in the 1980s and 90s leading to the phrase “Going Postal.”

We all know the Post Office is having problems. First class mail is down as most people send emails instead of letters. The Post Office is not allowed to get involved in electronic forms in the U.S. by law, unlike in other countries. Amazon’s new partnership with them to deliver mail on Sundays is helping as is a renegotiation of the labor contracts of Post Office employees.

Those of us who love getting mail hope that they will find a way to survive and thrive.

I’d recommend this book for anyone who love learning about how everyday things work. The audio narration was very well done. The story moved quickly enough to keep my listening interest.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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01 Sep, 2016

September Foodies Read

/ posted in: FoodReading

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Welcome to September’s Foodies Read Link Up

Deb’s review of The Family Tree is our drawing winner for August.

Everyone who links up a review of a book about food this month will be placed in a drawing for their choice of:

Food Swap: Recipes and Strategies for the Most Irresistible Gourmet Foods to Barter and ShareFood Swap: Recipes and Strategies for the Most Irresistible Gourmet Foods to Barter and Share by Emily Paster

“Whether your goal is to start your own community food swap, or just make delicious treats to share with family and friends, this is the book you need! Part cookbook, part how-to guide, Food Swap features more than 80 recipes for artisanal items that will be coveted at food swaps and adored as gifts, including preserves, baked goods, granolas, cheeses, pestos, roasted nuts, flavored salts, and specialty spices — everything from salted caramel sauce and Meyer lemon curd to green tomato salsa, lavender shortbread, cultured butter, apricot jalapeno jelly, and rum vanilla extract. You’ll also find creative ways to irresistibly package your items, and the book even includes perforated gift tags ready for personalization.”

or

Not My Mother's KitchenNot My Mother’s Kitchen by Rob Chirico

“Serving up a tale that is part memoir and part cookbook, acclaimed foodie Rob Chirico shares his culinary journey after growing up with an Italian-American mother who was hopeless in the kitchen.

Rob Chirico learned to cook as a defense against his mother’s awful meals. After discover-ing that there was more to real food than canned ravioli and frozen vegetables, he decided to try his hand in the kitchen. His memoir offers recipes, cooking techniques, and tips he has cultivated over decades. He blends his expert experience with an engaging and humorous narrative on growing up with suspect meals.”


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