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30 Jul, 2015

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

/ posted in: Reading Lagoon by Nnedi OkoraforLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Also by this author: Akata Witch
on 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
ISBN: 1444762753
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Amazon
four-stars
Three strangers, each isolated by his or her own problems: Adaora, the marine biologist. Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa. Agu, the troubled soldier. Wandering Bar Beach in Lagos, Nigeria's legendary mega-city, they're more alone than they've ever been before.But when something like a meteorite plunges into the ocean and a tidal wave overcomes them, these three people will find themselves bound together in ways they could never imagine. Together with Ayodele, a visitor from beyond the stars, they must race through Lagos and against time itself in order to save the city, the world... and themselves.

Something strange is happening off the coast of Lagos.  The fish are changing.  The water is changing.  The oil isn’t flowing.

They’ve been having a bad night.  Adaora’s increasingly irrationally jealous husband hit her.  She fought back and was able to easily pin him to the ground.  She fled to the beach.  Anthony was doing a show but needed to clear his head so he went for a walk.  Agu almost killed his fellow soldiers when they decided to rape a woman.  He is running from retribution.

The three humans are brought together and then taken offshore.  They return different and with a visitor.

First contact with an alien species doesn’t go well.  Everyone has an angle.  Adaora’s husband’s pastor wants to convert the aliens to his form of Christianity.  Some people want to kidnap it for a huge ransom.  The army wants to capture the aliens.

The aliens decide that they really don’t like humans.


I like the fact that the aliens don’t contact humans until after they’ve been in discussion with the animals in the ocean to see what would make them happy.  Bats and spiders get enlightenment too but humans are a problem for them.

The humans are a problem for everyone.  There is rioting after the aliens take over all communication to announce that they are here.  With the city in chaos it is up to the humans who the aliens first contacted to show what humanity can be and it act as witnesses to what it will become.

The story is told from multiple points of view including people from all levels of society.  There are wealthy people and prostitutes and pick pockets and church people.  The city of Lagos comes across as an important character.  The mythology of the area also plays a role and gives the story a bit of a folktale feel in addition to sci-fi.

Okorafor’s books aren’t hopeful about the future of humanity.  Her characters are always surrounded by greed and evil and stupidity.  The hope in her books comes from outside forces changing people to be better.  The writing draws you into the story and keeps you engaged until the end.

There is also a quick The Gods Must Be Crazy reference that made me laugh out loud.

 

Public domain from NOAA

Imagine what the fish would become if they had their wildest desires granted!

29 Jul, 2015

The English Spy by Daniel Silva

/ posted in: Reading The English Spy by Daniel SilvaThe English Spy by Daniel Silva
(Website, Twitter)Genres: Fiction
ISBN: B00NLM6AQW
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Amazon
four-stars
After trying to avoid it for many years, Israeli spy Gabriel Allon is going to have to give up his cover life in Europe.  He is going to be returning to Israel to take over The Office and run Israeli spy operations.

The most famous woman in the world is murdered by an IRA bomber with ties to several of the people who Allon has fought over the years.  He is going to need the services of English-born assassin Christopher Keller to finish this last job before retiring from the field.

There have been a few times in the last two or three of the Gabriel Allon books where I have had to stop reading to do some math.  Let’s see, the character was recruited to hunt down the people who killed Israeli athletes in Munich in 1972.  Let’s say he was super young, like 20 years old, at the time.  That would make him how old now?  63.

I’d have these moments because as much as I love this series, it was getting a bit physically improbable that a man of his age could keep beating up younger opponents.  If you are going to have time pass in a thriller series eventually it will catch up to you.

That’s one of the reasons that I really liked this book.  In this book Gabriel Allon is getting ready to move (reluctantly) from a field agent to the head of his service.  He goes on a mission because it involves the safety of people who have helped him in the past.  He teams up with an English-born assassin who works out of Corsica named Christopher Keller.  He is one of my favorite supporting characters from previous stories.  In this book, Gabriel does more of the thinking and directing of the action and lets the younger people do most of the physical stuff.  I think it is a great way to handle the transitions in the life of the character.

I really want to have a quibble with that tired old spy novel trope of the aging super spy having a younger woman in his life.  In this series he is married to a woman in her thirties.  Because this isn’t James Bond, she doesn’t die a horrible death at least.  She’s about to give birth to twins because that’s a responsible decision when your husband is grandfather aged, has lots of people trying to kill him, and has a tendency to run off for months at a time.  I sigh heavily every time this part of the story comes up.  I’d love to see a book where a hypermasculine spy guy is romantically interested in a woman of his own generation.  The only thing that is holding me back from a full on rant is the fact that this is pretty much of the life story of my childhood best friend.  She married a guy about 30 years older than her and then gave birth to twins.  I have no proof that her husband is a super spy because his cover is really solid.

In any series with 15 books, new readers might wonder if they have to go back and start at the beginning.  Each book can stand alone if it has to but I think you gain a lot if you read them in order.  This book has enough detail about characters to introduce you to them or to jog your memory if it has been a while since you read the past books.  Part of the fun of this one is remembering the characters from past books.

Have you read any of this series?  What other spy novel tropes do you find annoying?

About Daniel Silva

“Daniel Silva began his writing career as a journalist for United Press International (UPI), traveling in the Middle East and covering the Iran-Iraq war, terrorism and political conflicts. From UPI he moved to CNN, where he eventually became executive producer of its Washington-based public policy programming. In 1994 he began work on his first novel, The Unlikely Spy, a surprise best seller that won critical acclaim. He turned to writing full time in 1997 and all of his books have been New York Times/national best sellers, translated into 25 languages and published across Europe and the world. ” from Goodreads

toptentuesday
28 Jul, 2015

Characters Who Are Fellow Book Nerds

/ posted in: Reading

 


 

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sunny is an American-raised albino girl who recently moved back to Nigeria.  She is befriended by a boy at school and his weird friend Chichi.  Chichi doesn’t go to school.  She stays at home with her mother in a shack.  Sunny is surprised to find that the shack contains thousands of books that cover every surface and Chichi studies them all.

My review

 


 

A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent, #1)A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lady Trent was a bookish young lady whose passion for learning lead her to go on an expedition to study dragons and eventually write the best books on the subject.

 

My review


 

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryThe Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A.J. Fikry owns a bookstore and has very certain ideas about what people should be reading.  These ideas don’t usually jibe with what his customers want to read.

 

My review


 

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1)A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All the trouble in this book comes from finding a missing manuscript with illustrations pertaining to alchemy.  Suddenly everyone wants it and the person who found it can’t make it appear again.

 

My review


 

Ink and Bone (The Great Library, #1)Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine if the Library at Alexandria had never burned.  Instead it kept getting more and more powerful until it controlled all the books in the world.  Everyone has access to digital copies of all books but no one is allowed to own a physical copy.  Paper books are the biggest thing on the black market.

My review


 

Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America's LanguagesTrip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages by Elizabeth Little

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The author of this book loves to spend her time reading grammar guides in different languages.  She sets off to find out the story behind small pockets of language in the United States, such as Crow in South Dakota, Norwegian in Minnesota, Creole in Louisiana, and Basque in Nevada.

My review


 

 

Gutenberg's ApprenticeGutenberg’s Apprentice by Alix Christie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The ultimate book nerds!  This is an historical fiction take on the workshop that produced the first printing press.

 

My review


The Fort at River's Bend (Camulod Chronicles, #5)The Fort at River’s Bend by Jack Whyte

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is part of my favorite historical fiction series of all time.  It is a retelling of the Camelot story without all the magic.  By this point, the series is focusing on Merlynn.  He is a very educated man who uses what he has learned in books to appear magical to the people around him.

I first read this one pre-book blogging.


 

 

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tuesday Next is a Book Agent. She can go into a book and interact with the characters. She’s part of the law enforcement for the Book World. This is one of my favorite fictional worlds.

I first read this one before I wrote a lot about books on the blog too.


 

 

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books,  #1)The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he is 11, Daniel is introduced to the Cemetery of Lost Books. He is allowed to pick one. He chooses one written by Julian Carax and falls in love. As an adult he tries to find other books by that author but discovers that someone in Barcelona is destroying them.

My review

27 Jul, 2015

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

/ posted in: Reading Ink and Bone by Rachel CaineInk and Bone by Rachel Caine
(Website, Twitter)on July 7th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
ISBN: B00OQS4BQQ
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Amazon
four-stars
In 48 AD, a fire set by the troops of Julius Caesar destroyed much of the Great Library of Alexandria. It was the first of several disasters that resulted in the destruction of the accumulated knowledge of the ancient world. But what if the fire had been stopped? What would the Library have become? Fast forward: the Great Library is now a separate country, protected by its own standing army. It has grown into a vast power, with unquestioned and unrivalled supremacy. Jess Brightwell, seventeen and very smart, with a gift for mechanical engineering, has been sent into the Great Library as a spy for his criminal family.

The Library owns all the books in the world.  Every person has access to any book she wants through a blank which is basically an e-reader.  However, no private citizen is allowed to own paper books.  Once this restriction was put in place, a thriving black market in paper books sprung up.  The Brightwell family runs an underground book smuggling operation out of London.

Jess has been running books since he was a child.  However, his father doesn’t think he is ruthless enough to take over the family business.  He likes the product too much.  Jess’ brother has more of a feel for the illegal business.

Jess’ father buys him a chance to apply to work in the Library.  All of his reading comes in handy and he does very well on the placement test.  He moves on to the second stage when applicants from all over go to Alexandria for practical training.

Working in the library is dangerous work.  Burners attack Library outposts trying to make the ownership of books a right.  Smugglers are always trying to steal books.  It turns out that the Library has some dangerous secrets of its own too.


I loved this first book of The Great Library series.  The best and brightest young talent is gathered in Alexandria to compete for a placement in the Library in a contest that is a lot more dangerous than you’d think working in a library would be.

The world building is interesting.  What would a thousands of years old magical bureaucracy look like?  If knowledge is power and the Library controls all the knowledge, can anyone stand up to it?

One of my major criticisms of YA books is that the teenage protagonists are always smarter than the adults.  This book was a nice change of pace.  Jess slowly learns that there is more going on in Alexandria than he is privy to and that the adults around him are knowledgeable.  They have distinct motivations that started long before the main character of this book showed up.  He isn’t a bright little flower who decided to take on a system that everyone else was blindly going along with before he came along.

My other complaint about YA is forced romance.  This book avoided that too.  There is a little bit of romance that could have easily been left out but at least stays mostly out of the way of the story.  There is no swooning that makes everyone incapable of doing anything but staring at each other.  Actually, an adult romance is more important to the plot.  The teen relationship may progress in later books.

There was an ending to the story.  I hate it when a book serves as just a set up for the next book.  It is obvious that there is room for a next story here but the major conflicts in this book are resolved.  I appreciate that.

Have any of you read Ink and Bone yet?

 

About Rachel Caine

“Rachel Caine is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 45 novels to date, and many short stories, including fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction, mystery, thriller, and horror. Her notable series include The Morganville Vampires, Weather Warden, Revivalist, Red Letter Days, and Outcast Season novels. She graduated from Socorro High School in El Paso, Texas, and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. Her first short story was published in 1990, and her first novel in 1991.” from her website

cardiffcastle
24 Jul, 2015

Cardiff Castle

/ posted in: travel

Cardiff Castle is in the middle of the city. It is an easy walk from the train station through a pedestrian only shopping area to the castle.

The stone keep seen above was built on the remains of a Roman fort and was started in the 11th century.  Over time more buildings surrounded this structure until the 18 century when all the surrounding buildings were either torn down or renovated in an incredibly elaborate style.

The mansion was home to a wealthy Cardiff family who eventually gave it to the city of Cardiff.

It was rainy and cold when we got there. There appeared to be some sort of program that was supposed to be going on but the rain was complicating things. No one knew actually what was supposed to be happening.

We started our tour in the mansion.

Every surface is decorated.

I particularly liked the Arab Room.

P1020833

As the two guys in front of me said, “That’d be a bitch to dust.”  What kind of person do you need to be to think, “You know what this place really needs?  Crazy elaborate ceilings.”

There is a library that I could get used to though.

There was a falconry with some dry but cold and grumpy looking birds on display.

Then we went up to the top of the stone castle. When we tried to come down though, we couldn’t.

The rain had let up a bit so they went ahead with the ceremony. Turns out it was for the 70th anniversary of VE Day. We couldn’t come down because there was a trumpeter positioned on the stairs leading up to the castle for dramatic intrigue. There ceremony was on the lawn with a choir and a cannon (A little kid waiting with us happily yelled, “Fireworks!” every time they set off the gun.). Then the attention (and TV cameras) shifted to the lone trumpeter on the stairs playing a song. Can’t have tourists going up and down the stairs ruining the shot so we hung out with the trumpeter in the first room until it was his turn.

P1020840

Cardiff Castle

Website

Open 9 AM – 5 or 6 PM depending on season

Admission £12

wright
22 Jul, 2015

The Wright Brothers

/ posted in: Reading The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David G. McCullough
on 2015-05
Genres: 20th Century, Biography & Autobiography, History, Nonfiction
ISBN: 1476728747
Pages: 368
Format: Audiobook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
four-half-stars
On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history. But it would take the world some time to believe what had happened: the age of flight had begun, with the first heavier-than-air, powered machine carrying a pilot. Who were these men and how was it that they achieved what they did? David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, tells the surprising, profoundly human story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. Far more than a couple of unschooled Dayton bicycle mechanics who happened to hit on success, they were men of exceptional courage and determination, and of far-ranging intellectual interests and ceaseless curiosity, much of which they attributed to their upbringing. The house they lived in had no electricity or indoor plumbing, but there were books aplenty, supplied mainly by their preacher father, who encouraged their studying. As individuals they had differing skill sets and passions but as a team they excelled in any given task . That they had no more than a public high school education, little money and no patron to open doors to their desires, never stopped them in their goal to take to the air. Nothing did, not even the self-evident reality that every time they took off in one of their contrivances, they risked being killed, or, at the very least, maimed. In this thrilling book, master historian David McCullough draws on the immense riches of the Wright Papers, including private diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, and more than a thousand letters from private family correspondence to tell the human side of the Wright Brothers' story, including the little-known contributions of their sister, Katharine, without whom things might well have gone differently for them.

Everybody sort of knows the story of the Wright Brothers but in listening to this book I realized that I didn’t know much about them as people.

They were the youngest sons of a preacher who traveled widely.  They were very well read and educated.  Even their sister graduated from college but Wilbur and Orville did not attend college.  They started a printing business and then moved to bicycles.

They had been fascinated with flight since playing with some flying toys as children.  To get started with real flight experiments they wrote to the Smithsonian and asked for copies of all the research papers they had.  From there they experimented.

They decided to go to Kitty Hawk North Carolina because of the constant wind.  They first built gliders that could replicate some of the wing movements of birds.  It didn’t flap but they could steer by slightly changing the angle of the wings.

They would spend the fall at Kitty Hawk and then go back to their store in Dayton Ohio to make enough money to finance the next year.

Eventually they were able to fly with a motor. They then moved everything back to Ohio and tried to convince the world that they could fly. No one would believe them. Local reporters wouldn’t cover the story and said they were cranks even though people went out to watch them fly all the time. They tried to get a contract with the government but the government said they couldn’t do that because there was no proof they could fly. No one from the government would come out to see. I was super frustrated for them while listening to this part of the story.

Eventually, they made contact with the French government and Wilbur and a plane went to France. Again, no one believed they could fly. French aviation was considered the best in the world so they couldn’t fly yet so there was no way some backwoods Americans were going to be able to. Public demonstrations were made and finally, the officials believed. Wilbur became a star in France.

Orville was doing similar demos in Maryland for the U.S. government until a crash that killed a passenger and critically injured Orville.

I’m impressed with the imagination it took to figure out how to do something brand new and then explain it to the world.

 


This book made me understand this other book better.

One Summer: America, 1927One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this book there is a lot of talk about the supremacy of French aviation. Now I know why they were so into it. Wilbur Wright was a sensation and he taught some pilots before he went back to the U.S. The French aviation industry was energized in the year Wilbur spent there.

21 Jul, 2015

Ten Books That Celebrate Diversity/Diverse Characters

/ posted in: Reading

toptentuesday

Today’s theme at the Broke and the Bookish is 10 Books that Celebrate Diversity.  I’ve been writing a lot about this topic this year and recommending a lot of books written by authors of color.  For this post I decided to focus on a different area of diversity.
Books Featuring Main Characters with Physical or Mental Diversity ,

Amputees

A Time to DanceA Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

My review here.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow BlyThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

 

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

My review here.
Hammered (Jenny Casey, #1)Hammered by Elizabeth Bear

 

Once Jenny Casey was somebody’s daughter. Once she was somebody’s enemy. Now the former Canadian special forces warrior lives on the hellish streets of Hartford, Connecticut, in the year 2062. Racked with pain, hiding from the government she served, running with a crime lord so she can save a life or two, Jenny is a month shy of fifty, and her artificially reconstructed body has started to unravel.

I haven’t read this one yet. I couldn’t be a good sci-fi/fantasy fan though without mentioning cyborgs though. Cinder would fit into this category too.

The IslandThe Island by Victoria Hislop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion.

My review here.

Autism

Almost PerfectAlmost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

My review here.

Noah's WifeNoah’s Wife by T.K. Thorne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

ForeWord Review’s BOOK OF THE YEAR for Historical Fiction (2009) Noah built an ark, but this story has never been told! Noah’s wife is Na’amah, a brilliant young girl with a form of autism (now known as Aspergers). Na’amah wishes only to be a shepherdess on her beloved hills in ancient Turkey–a desire shattered by the hatred of her powerful brother, the love of two men, and a disaster that threatens her world.

My review here.

Transgender

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much MoreRedefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.

My review here.

Intersex

None of the AboveNone of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

A groundbreaking story about a teenage girl who discovers she was born intersex… and what happens when her secret is revealed to the entire school. Incredibly compelling and sensitively told, None of the Above is a thought-provoking novel that explores what it means to be a boy, a girl, or something in between.

My review here.

Female Genital Mutilation

Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert NomadDesert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Dirie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Waris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu—the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N.

My review here.

Vitaligo

Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star BallerinaTaking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted.

My review here.


In compiling this list I realized that I don’t have any books with either blind or deaf main characters.  I’ve read books with blind supporting characters like The Fault In Our Stars and the Alpha and Omega series and all manner of blind seers popping up in fantasy books but no main characters.  Any suggestions?

What other books with physically or mentally diverse main characters do you recommend?

20 Jul, 2015

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly

/ posted in: Reading The Sacred Lies of Minnow BlyThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
on June 9th 2015
Genres: Young Adult
ISBN: B00O2BKKQ2
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars
A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too. Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Minnow is in jail for beating up a man who approached her as she was running away from the fire that destroyed her cult’s compound.  All her life she had been taught that the Gentiles would kill them if they were to go into town so it isn’t surprising that she fought.

Jail is the first experience Minnow has had with the outside world since she was five years old.  We learn Minnow’s story as she opens up to an FBI counselor in exchange for his recommendation at her parole hearing.

The story is not told chronologically.  It is told as Minnow feels comfortable letting details slip out.

I think that it is interesting that the religion that her family joined was made up especially for this book.  I think that highlights the stupidity of the choice to join this movement and to go and live in the woods in Montana.  Because it isn’t a Christian sect, it may help some people see how stupid this all is.

Of course, regardless of the religious worldview, it all comes down to suppression of the women in the group.  Why do some men feel that this necessary?  Why do the women take it?  The men take multiple wives and find sadistic joy in physically punishing any transgressions by women.


If you like this book, consider:

The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to JusticeThe Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

 

 

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent FaithUnder the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

About Stephanie Oakes

“Stephanie Oakes is a teacher and YA author from Washington State. Her debut novel, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY (Dial/Penguin, June 9, 2015), about a girl who escapes from a religious commune only to find herself at the center of a murder investigation, is based on the Grimm fairy tale, “The Handless Maiden.” from Goodreads

daleks
17 Jul, 2015

The Doctor Who Experience!

/ posted in: travel

The whole point of going to Cardiff was to get here.  I stressed about this part of the trip more than anything else.  The website says that you need to get a ticket for a specific time.  I didn’t know exactly when we would get there so I didn’t want to buy tickets ahead of time.  But, the website said they might run out.  I was horrified at the thought that I might not be able to get in so I aimed to get there as soon as they opened so I could get tickets.  It was no problem though.  We got right in.  Of course it was a Friday in May so not exactly peak visiting hours.

To get here from the train station we took the number 6 bus.  There is a huge bus depot just outside the station.  That isn’t where you get the bus. You turn right when you leave the station, go to the next big intersection, turn right, and the bus stop is down the road on the left.  You can remember that or you can ask the cop outside the station like we did.

My mother has no Doctor Who knowledge. She also doesn’t understand how into it I am. I spent more time deciding what to wear on this day than on all the rest of my clothes. I went with the Bad Wolf t-shirt but then had to layer a lot over it because it was the coldest, rainiest day of the trip.

We got off the bus in front of the building and my mother says to me, “I think there are enthusiasts behind us.” She made enthusiasts sound like some sort of contagion. I looked behind us expecting to see someone in full cosplay but there were just two people. I was thinking, “You’re walking around with the person in a Doctor Who shirt. You might have the enthusiast.”

While we were waiting for our tour to start I motioned to a Weeping Angel in the lobby. “I need you to take a picture of me with that at the end.” She asked if it was because I was such an angel. I decided to ignore her snark and said that the angels were bad guys who can only move if you aren’t looking at them and if they touch you they send you back in time. She looked concerned about what type of thing I had dragged her to.

The tour starts with a mandatory trip through the interactive part.  I could have done without this.  I’m not really an enthusiastic joiner.  I would have preferred more displays instead of marching through a canned adventure with a group.

Most of the displays are from 2005 on.  There is an older TARDIS set but not much else.  That’s ok with me because I’ve never seen the older shows but I would think other people would like to see the older props.

There isn’t as much signage as you’d expect either.  Some of the costumes were not labeled at all.  I sort of surprised myself by knowing exactly what most of the costumes were even if there weren’t signs.

 

I did get this dress wrong though. I thought it was one of Madame Pompadour’s but it was Queen Elizabeth I’s from the 50th anniversary.

Other props and costumes from the 50th anniversary.

Bille Piper’s costume

The War Doctor

I was majorly geeking out in my head, quietly so as not to alarm my mother. I got pretty excited though about the TARDIS control center from Doctors 9 and 10.

More Doctors

Costumes from 9 and 10

The 12th Doctor

Good Guys

The Ood

Madame Vastra

Bad Guys

I took my Weeping Angel picture with this much scarier angel inside the exhibit.

Me – saving the world

I told my mother exactly what picture I wanted of me staring at it. I was standing there and she said to me, “Get closer to it.” I actually panicked a bit. “What! No!” But, I also looked over at her when I said it so it would have totally gotten me and I’d be dead.

As I was wandering around in geek bliss, my mother was watching another woman who wasn’t as quiet of a fan as me. She was taking pictures of everything I was. I think she might have been my soul mate. At one point my mother whispers to me, “I think she is more than an enthusiast” just I as rounded a corner and screamed in my head, “IT’S THE FACE OF BOE!!!!!” I’m sure my mother can’t understand where she went wrong that her adult daughter was so excited to have her picture taken with a disembodied head. He is my Facebook picture now and my blog picture on the upper right.

I don’t know if she ever fully understood that I’m just as weird if not weirder than the other people.

As we left, there were two ladies sitting in the snack area waiting to go in. They appeared to be mother and daughter. The daughter was saying to the mother, “The angels are actually evil…”

The Doctor Who Experience

More Information

Tickets £16

merrygoround
16 Jul, 2015

Merry Go Round Museum

/ posted in: Hometown Tourist

After reading Carousel Tides I really wanted to go to the Merry Go Round Museum in Sandusky.

The museum has a collection of hand carved carousel animals from the late 1800 and early 1900s.

Horses

Cats

Dogs

Birds

Donkey!

Cows

There is also a workshop where carvers restore the animals in the collection and animals from private collections.

They have some of the animals from the stamps.

Three of their deer were at the White House for Christmas 2014.

There is a working carousel in the middle of the room that you can ride.  All the animals are restored from other carousels.  I wanted to ride the ostrich but he was high up and didn’t have stirrups.

Merry Go Round Museum Sandusky OH

Website

Admission $6 which includes one carousel ride

deer
15 Jul, 2015

Carousel Tides

/ posted in: Reading Carousel TidesCarousel Tides by Sharon Lee
(Website)on January 31st 2012
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads
four-stars
Kate Archer thought she could put magic and world-walking behind her by running away to an ordinary life–but destiny has other plans. With her grandmother suddenly missing, Kate must return to the bedraggled Maine seaside resort she grew up in, and take charge of the family carousel. If she doesn't–and it's by no means certain that she can–very bad things will happen, to Kate and to the town, for the carousel isn't at all what it seems.

The first sign Kate had of trouble concerning her grandmother was the notice that the carousel was about to be foreclosed on. That brought Kate back to Archer’s Beach on the coast of Maine.

She found that her grandmother had been gone for 6 months and the only clue was a leaf and a vague note left for Kate. Kate needs to take over running the carousel while she looks for her grandmother because six of the animals serve as prisons for the souls of Fae criminals and without a magical caretaker the bonds are thinning.

Kate’s search brings her in contact with many of the magical citizens of Archer’s Beach. There are selkies and shape shifters and runaway Fae. None of these are giving her as much trouble though as the local drug smuggler who built a house next to her land and with whom she is getting into a boundary dispute .

On top of her worries the Chamber of Commerce has decided to open the park early for visitors this year and the tourists are pouring in — just in time for a possible Fae war.


This was an interesting urban fantasy book.  There are creatures here that I haven’t read about often.  I liked the idea of tethering criminals to the horses as a punishment.  No one in this book is exactly what they seem to be at first glance.  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

I also went to visit a Merry Go Round Museum after reading this book.  They have a haunted horse but if there are any Fae around, they are staying quiet.

About Sharon Lee

Sharon Lee has been married to her first husband for more than half her lifetime; she is a friend to cats, a member of the National Carousel Association, and oversees the dubious investment schemes of an improbable number of stuffed animals.

14 Jul, 2015

Last Ten Books That Came Into My Possession

/ posted in: Reading

toptentuesday

The Sacred Lies of Minnow BlyThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

 

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking.

I haven’t read this one yet.  Library book.

Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2)Changeless by Gail Carriger

 

Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria.

Just finished this yesterday.  Library book.

Carousel Tides (Archers Beach, #1)Carousel Tides by Sharon Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carousel Tides pulls you into the chill foggy reality of peeling-paint sand-grit coastal Maine outside of tourist season and then hands you something else — the hidden world lurking in shadows or under the land’s surface or just offshore, where black dogs hunt the night and selkies toss unpleasant truths over their shoulders before diving into the next wave. In the center of this, Kate Archer tends and guards one of the spookiest carousels this side of Ray Bradbury and wonders what has happened to her grandmother. The old woman sent her a letter, left papers deeding over the carousel and old house and the Land (meaning much more than property), and vanished, telling the spirits of the land and sea that she expected to be back before the turning of the year.

This one was good.  I haven’t reviewed it yet.  Library book.

The Unnaturalists (The Unnaturalists, #1)The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.

Library book.  Review here.

 

Queen SugarQueen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.

They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

From my library’s audio downloads.  Review here.

Royal Airs (Elemental Blessings, #2)Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city.

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she’s stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her.

This is the second in a series so I probably won’t review it but it was really good.  The review of the first in the series is here.  Library book.

Loving DayLoving Day by Mat Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Warren Duffy has returned to America for all the worst reasons: His marriage to a beautiful Welsh woman has come apart; his comics shop in Cardiff has failed; and his Irish American father has died, bequeathing to Warren his last possession, a roofless, half-renovated mansion in the heart of black Philadelphia. On his first night in his new home, Warren spies two figures outside in the grass. When he screws up the nerve to confront them, they disappear. The next day he encounters ghosts of a different kind: In the face of a teenage girl he meets at a comics convention he sees the mingled features of his white father and his black mother, both now dead. The girl has been raised to think she is white.

This was a great book.  Review here.  Library book.

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl GeeksThe Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks by Sam Maggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Fanfic, cosplay, cons, books, memes, podcasts, vlogs, OTPs and RPGs and MMOs and more—it’s never been a better time to be a girl geek. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy is the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life, a fun and feminist take on the often male-dominated world of geekdom.

Yes, to everything in this book. Library book.

Artisan Vegan CheeseArtisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner

 

Gourmet restaurateur and vegan food expert Miyoko Schinner shares her secrets for making homemade nondairy cheeses that retain all the complexity and sharpness of their dairy counterparts while incorporating nutritious nuts and plant-based milks.

I actually bought this ebook. I’m starting my first cultures now. I’m not usually good at fermenting. I might die.

Blameless (Parasol Protectorate, #3)Blameless by Gail Carriger

 

Queen Victoria dismisses her from the Shadow Council, and the only person who can explain anything, Lord Akeldama, unexpectedly leaves town. To top it all off, Alexia is attacked by homicidal mechanical ladybugs, indicating, as only ladybugs can, the fact that all of London’s vampires are now very much interested in seeing Alexia quite thoroughly dead.

When I finished Changeless, I went to reserve this one on the library website and realized that it was available immediately as an ebook. Instant gratification is good.

13 Jul, 2015

Oyster

/ posted in: Reading

Have you used Oyster?

Oyster advertises itself as “Netflix for books.” That has always made me ragey.

“THE LIBRARY IS FREE NETFLIX FOR BOOKS!!!” I scream at my screen.

Generally, Oyster costs $9.95 a month for access to as many ebooks as you want to read. I wasn’t interested. However, they are having a summer special for 3 months for 99 cents. I decided to try it.

The Selection

They claim to have millions of books. The FAQs say they have “virtually every book” so I had to test that.

So far they haven’t had any book that I’ve searched for.

I’ve looked for the obscure like translated fiction and new releases like Loving Day and sci fi authors like N.K. Jemisin.  No on all of them and many more.   On the other hand, every time I’ve done a search it has recommended a book with a title close to what I wanted that I ended up being interested in.

Not every book is available to read with the subscription either. Some are purchase only. So my “unlimited subscription” has some limits.

Where It Is Better Than The Library

If they have the book, then you can read it. There is no waiting list. There is no time limit when your loan expires. Whenever I use my library’s ebook reader, everything always has long waits. Oyster is great for mood readers.

Where It Is Worse Than The Library

Is it worth $9.95 a month? I’m not sure. If I wasn’t a heavy library user with a great library system available, it might be. I’m pretty cheap though. I’m not sure yet if I would keep it after the 3 month trial.

The Reading Experience

I’m reading on the iPad app.  It is similar to reading on my Kindle app.  There is one weird formatting thing that may not matter to most people.  You can’t see the cover art in the app and the copyright page is moved to the end of the book.

If you would want to take a picture of the cover for Instagram, for example, you can’t.  The cover isn’t there. You can see it on your reading list but not full size when reading.  Weird.

One of my reading quirks is needing to know when a book was published. That gives me context especially with nonfiction or memoirs but it is nice to know if fiction is moving out of contemporary into historical.  On this app you have to look for that page at the end of the book.

 

The first book I read on Oyster was:

Desert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert NomadDesert Flower: The Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Dirie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Waris Dirie was born into a nomadic family in Somalia.  She fled to Mogadishu as a teenager to escape an arranged marriage to an elderly man. She worked for relatives as a house cleaner and eventually went to London with an uncle who was the Ambassador to England.  While there she was discovered by photographers and became a model.

She loved her life in the desert but wanted more than being the teenage bride of an old man.  One of the defining moments of her life was going through female genital mutilation at the age of five.  After becoming a model she started to devote her life to publicizing the issue  and educating people in areas where it is traditional.

suessheader
12 Jul, 2015

Weekly Wrap-Up

/ posted in: Current EventsReading

Posts This Week

A GIVEAWAY to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland

Books I’ll Probably Never Read

Review of QUEEN SUGAR

Review of THE UNNATURALISTS

A Day Trip from Bath to Cardiff – A must for all Doctor Who Fans!


Around The Internet

Tonyalee asks if your giveaways are legal.

I don’t understand bookish Instagram.  I can never take interesting book pictures (or food pictures).  My Instagram is all travel photos and nature.  Now I don’t feel so alone.  Book Lovers on Instagram vs Real Life.

Roxane Gay writes the best movie review of ALL TIME of Magic Mike.


What I’m Reading

Artisan Vegan CheeseArtisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner

I heard about this book today and I bought it (Ebooks be praised!) and now I want to make EVERY.SINGLE.THING.EVER. in this book. I’m visualizing melty nacho cheese sauce and mozzerella on pizza. I’m ignoring the voice in my head that keeps bringing up the fact that I’ve never successfully made any fermented product. I’m a great mold grower but not so great with yeast. If this works I will be raving. I may even try fancy food Instagram pictures.

The Star Side of Bird HillThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

 

“This lyrical novel of community, betrayal, and love centers on an unforgettable matriarchal family in Barbados. Two sisters, ages ten and sixteen, are exiled from Brooklyn to Bird Hill in Barbados after their mother can no longer care for them. The young Phaedra and her older sister, Dionne, live for the summer of 1989 with their grandmother Hyacinth, a midwife and practitioner of the local spiritual practice of obeah.”

LagoonLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

I don’t even care what this one is about. It is Nnedi Okorafor. ‘Nuff said.

 

 

 

Rebel Mechanics (Rebel Mechanics, #1)Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

 

“A sixteen-year-old governess becomes a spy in this alternative U.S. history where the British control with magic and the colonists rebel by inventing.”

alice
11 Jul, 2015

A Mad Tea Party

/ posted in: Reading

image

July 11, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  To celebrate we are having a tea party of course!

From Buzzfeed

Alice is one of my all time favorite books.  It is one of the books that made me love the whole fantasy genre.  I also love the words.  Every few lines there is an amazing quote.

Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland Quote

 

 

 

If I was ever going to get a tattoo, it would be something incorporating this Alice quote.

In honor of Alice’s anniversary, I’m giving away an unbirthday candle so you can celebrate at home.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Alice posts at A Fanciful Twist.

What is your favorite Alice quote?

 

Featured image from Pixabay.
welshflag
10 Jul, 2015

Day Trip to Cardiff

/ posted in: travel

As soon as we knew we were going to England, I started working out how to add a trip to Cardiff. Why Cardiff? I could say it is because my mother’s grandmother was Welsh but honestly, it was all about Doctor Who! I’ll apologize in advance if you have no idea what I’m talking about with my Doctor Who fan speak.

We caught a train from Bath Spa in the morning and it took about 1.5 hours to get to Cardiff. My main goal was to see The Doctor Who Experience (blog post about that next week) and to see some of the locations from Doctor Who and Torchwood. My mom has never seen these shows but she decided to play along. We also scheduled in time to go to Cardiff Castle.

We started out the day at Cardiff Bay to see the Doctor Who sites.

On the other side of this fountain is the secret entrance to Torchwood. Don’t believe me? Check out Google Maps.

If you zoom in on Roald Dahl Plass, the plaza near the Bay, you see Torchwood labelled. It is a little off on this screenshot but I was thrilled that the location of the fictional base on a television show was labelled. Roald Dahl Plass was used a lot in Doctor Who. Here’s an example of The Doctor, Martha, and Captain Jack during the Face of Boe discussion.

From here

I was so excited to be here. I spent the whole day completely geeking out – quietly, in my head so as not to alarm my mother. She was already alarmed from The Doctor Who Experience.

You can also see in the lower left corner of the map Ianto Jones’ Shrine. SPOILERS

Ianto was a character on Torchwood. The fans were angry when he died. All but one character on that show died but Ianto’s death angered people. So now there is a shrine.

People bring offerings. This was my mother’s favorite.

There’s a memorial book to sign. Some people don’t realize that Ianto wasn’t real. There are entries like, “I’ve never heard of you but you must have been a stand up guy to have this many people sad about your loss.”

I had picked out this restaurant to go to ahead of time. It is a Turkish restaurant but I picked it for the exterior.

This exterior shot was used when the Ninth Doctor took the last Slitheen out to dinner before returning her to her planet. Yeah, I ate there just for that.

Upcoming Cardiff posts:

The Doctor Who Experience
Cardiff Castle

09 Jul, 2015

The Unnaturalists

/ posted in: Reading The UnnaturalistsThe Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent
(Blog)on August 14th 2012
Genres: Young Adult
Pages: 308
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
three-half-stars
In an alternate London where magical creatures are preserved in a museum, two teens find themselves caught in a web of intrigue, deception, and danger.Vespa Nyx wants nothing more than to spend the rest of her life cataloging Unnatural creatures in her father’s museum, but as she gets older, the requirement to become a lady and find a husband is looming large. Syrus Reed’s Tinker family has always served and revered the Unnaturals from afar, but when his family is captured to be refinery slaves, he finds that his fate may be bound up with Vespa’s—and with the Unnaturals.     As the danger grows, Vespa and Syrus find themselves in a tightening web of deception and intrigue. At stake may be the fate of New London—and the world.

 


 

“Some people whisper the Old Londoners called this place Fairyland or Arcadia or Elysium, that Saint Tesla drew our ancestors all through a door that should never have been opened.  They say we don’t belong here.  But people say lots of things.  And whatever is true, it’s a fact that we’re here now and have been for nearly six hundred years.”

The New Londoners have kept themselves separate from the inhabitants of their world.  They don’t believe in magic.  They worship the saints of science like Darwin and Tesla and Curie.  But in this world, trying to believe that magic isn’t real requires you to turn a blind eye to a lot.

The world is populated with creatures labelled as Unnaturals – sphinxes and grues and kraken for example.  Vespa helps her father catalog them in the Museum. She has always just considered them interesting specimens until an encounter with a sphynx starts opening her eyes to the magical world around her.

Vespa doesn’t want to be a typical lady.  She wants to be a scholar but her family is relying on her to make a good match so they are forcing her give up her work at the Museum.

The Tinkers are a human race who live in harmony with the magical world.  They are despised by the New Londoners and rounded up to work in the power plants.  Syrus is the only member of his family left since the last Cull.  He is told by the Manticore to find the witch in New London because she is the only one who can prevent the death of the world.  Whenever a magical creature dies, a dead zone spreads across the world.  Saving the Unnaturals is the only way to save the planet.


 

The world building in this story is very well done.  There is a lot here that I haven’t read over and over before.  It is a mix of steampunk and fantasy.  Look at that outfit in the cover.  I want that.  I’d look fierce in that.

There is a little bit of insta love which made me a tad cranky but it didn’t play out to Happily Ever After in typical fashion so I’ve forgiven it.

About Tiffany Trent

Tiffany Trent is the author of eight young adult books, including the award-winning novel THE UNNATURALISTS and its sequel THE TINKER KING. Born and raised in Roanoke, Virginia, she has stayed true to her Appalachian roots with a deep interest in the natural world and folklore, which is apparent in both her fiction and nonfiction.

sugarcane
08 Jul, 2015

Queen Sugar

/ posted in: Reading Queen SugarQueen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
(Website)on February 6th 2014
Genres: Fiction
ISBN: 0670026131
Pages: 384
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
Amazon
four-stars
A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana. Why exactly Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles. They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man’s business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

I’m not normally a fan of books that use extensive descriptions, especially on audio.  However, this book used descriptions to firmly root you in Louisiana and the cane fields.

Charley Bordelon’s father grew up poor in Louisiana.  His dream was to escape to California.  Right before he planned to leave he impregnated the girl he was dating.  That child’s name was Ralph Angel and he grew up with his mother in Louisiana.

Mr. Bordelon did go to California and became wealthy in real estate.  (I wish the book had explained how that happened.)  He married an upper class woman and then had Charlotte, who they called Charley.  She grew up privileged in California.  Ralph Angel came to live with them but was sent back to Louisiana after making several attempts to hurt baby Charley.

Now their father has died and Charley and Ralph Angel are reunited in their grandmother’s house in Louisiana.  Charley is there because her father left her a sugar cane farm that she didn’t know he had.  She is an art teacher and knows nothing about farming.  She is a widow and has a daughter.  She needs to start her life over and thinks that this farm may help.  She doesn’t realize that her father’s absentee landowner status has allowed the manager to get out of keeping up the farm.

Ralph Angel was living in Arizona with his son following the death of his wife.  He is broke and drives a stolen rental car back to Louisiana to stay with family.  He is furious that his father cut him out of the will and is determined to get his share from Charley.


Charley – She’s a hard worker and is willing to throw herself into whatever needs to be done for the farm.  Sometimes she’s a frustrating character because she doesn’t always listen to the advice of people she should and sometimes she lets herself get pushed around by people she shouldn’t.

Micah – Charley’s daughter is horrible.  I get that she is mad because she’s gone from a rich life with her grandmother in California to backwoods Louisiana but she’s a brat.  I think that she is a realistic portrait of a girl that age though.

Ralph Angel – Oh, I hated him!  He thinks that he is entitled to everything with no effort of his own.  He refuses several jobs because they are beneath his inflated opinion of himself.  He has no skills and no work ethic.  He is mean to everyone but his son.

Miss Honey – She is Charley and Ralph Angel’s grandmother.  She helped raise Ralph Angel and will hear no bad spoken of him even when it is a truth she should be facing.

 


Overall, I really liked this book.  I know more about sugar cane farming than I ever expected to know!

Feature photo from here

About Natalie Baszile

Natalie has a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. An early version of Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writer’s Award, was a co-runner up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress competition, and excerpts were published in Cairn and ZYZZYVA. She has had residencies at the Ragdale Foundation where she was awarded the Sylvia Clare Brown fellowship, Virginia Center for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. Her non-fiction work has appeared in The Rumpus.net, Mission at Tenth, and in The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 9. She is a former fiction editor at The Cortland Review, and is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Natalie grew up in Southern California and lives in San Francisco with her family.

07 Jul, 2015

Books I Will Probably Never Read

/ posted in: Reading

Today’s topic is actually Top Hyped Books I’m Not Planning on Reading. I feel like I’m pretty immune to most hype. Maybe my taste is just weird but I’m not interested in most books that win awards or that everyone else is reading. When I do try to read them I get bored. I’m going to focus on books that I sort of feel I should read but just can’t.

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I read Jasper Fforde’s book The Eyre Affair about trying to prevent the ending of Jane Eyre from changing without really knowing the story of Jane Eyre. That added some suspense to the book since I didn’t know how it ended in real life so I didn’t know which ending was going to win. After I read that I got Jane Eyre out of the library (where the kid working the desk kept calling it Jane Eye-er) but couldn’t get myself to sit down and read it.


 

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

After the first season of Game of Thrones, I listened to the first book. I really liked it and meant to continue but then I watched the second season and kept getting ahead of the books. It would take so long to catch up to plot points I’ve already seen. I don’t even care to watch the show anymore. Too much gore and naked ladies. I’ll just find out what happens in the story from Internet spoilers.


 

A Thousand Splendid SunsA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

 

I’m putting all of Khaled Hosseini’s future books in this category. The Kite Runner was messed up. I don’t want to go back into that world even if it is real.


 

 

Raising Steam (Discworld, #40)Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

 

I’m a huge Pratchett fan. I tried to read this book. I read the first few chapters. But the whole time I kept thinking, “What if this is it? What if this is the last book he writes? What if there is nothing else to read?” I couldn’t read it. Turns out that he died soon after. There is one more book coming out and then it is done. Maybe someday I’ll read this one but it won’t be any time soon. I like the idea that there is a Discworld book left that I haven’t read.


 

The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

 

I worked with a person who got me into the Percy Jackson series. She would tell me whenever a new one was coming out. When I moved away I messaged her when I saw that The Mark of Athena was out to let her know that just because I had moved away was no reason to stop letting me know when the books were coming out. The Mark of Athena ends with a major cliffhanger and she was furious that she was going to have to wait a full year to find out what happened. She died in a car crash a few weeks later. One of my first thoughts was that she was never going to find out what happened in the next book. That was followed quickly by the thought that she may be haunting Rick Riordan to find out what happens before anyone else! Either way it felt weird to read the book and find out what happened if she didn’t know.

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03 Jul, 2015

Bath Abbey

/ posted in: Photostravel

There has been a church in Bath since the 7th century. This building was built in the 12th century. In the early 1500s it was left to decay and most of the expensive decorations were stripped out of it. By the end of that century a decision was made to preserve it. A major restoration started in the 1860s.

The building is famous for its vaulted ceiling.

I didn’t enjoy visiting churches in England as much as I like churches in Catholic countries. There is a very different aesthetic. The Catholic cathedrals are over the top with decorations paid for by taking money from people but at least they are pretty. The churches in England just aren’t.

There are pretty details but the overall look is cluttered. There are 617 wall memorials and 847 floor stones.

I also feel like I shouldn’t be walking on ancient engraved stones but that is the whole floor.

Bath Abbey isn’t as overdone as Westminster. I was really disappointed with that church. When we came to a less memorial-laden part, I whispered to my mother. “I’m going to say something offensive.”

She said, “Go on.”

“This feels like what happens when a hoarder gets a fancy pretty new house and then fills it up with crap they bought off the Home Shopping Channel.”

“It also wouldn’t hurt if they dusted it occasionally,” she added.

I’m a minimalist through and through. I do love the eagle though.

They did have a very nice display of quilts on the side. They were paired with paintings done by the same artist.