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27 May, 2017

River of Teeth

/ posted in: Reading River of Teeth River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tor.com on May 23rd 2017
Genres: Alternative History, Fiction
Pages: 152
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Louisiana

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.
Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.
This was a terrible plan.
Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.


She had me at alternative history novella about feral hippos in the Mississippi River.  I pre-ordered.

I didn’t read it the first day it came out because I wanted to wait until I could read it in one sitting.

I wasn’t disappointed.

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There are feral hippos in a section of the Mississippi. They are penned in by a dam to the north and a large gate to the south. The lake in between in controlled by a criminal who runs the gambling boats. Having large predators in the lake around his establishments is an important natural asset. The government wants the hippos out of the way so they hire a former hippo rancher with a grudge.

Winslow Houndstooth, a pansexual man from England who rides an opinionated black hippo named Ruby, puts together a crew for the job.

  • Hero Shakleby- a nonbinary black person who is a demolition and poisoning expert.  They ride a hippo named Abigail.
  • Regina Archambault (Archie) – a fat French conwoman who rides an albino hippo named Rosa.  Rosa likes to get her teeth brushed and eats pastries even though the vet said she needs to cut back.
  • Cal Hotchkiss – He is a white man who burned down Winslow’s ranch.  Winslow is planning to kill him but it helps to have a white man around to buy explosives.  His hippo is named Betsy
  • Adelia Reyes – A very pregnant assassin with two hippos named Stasia and Zahra.

I loved the world that is created here.  This reads like a wild west story with hippos instead of horses.  Of course, the job doesn’t go as well as planned.  The story is violent as fits the lawlessness of the time and place. 

My only complaint about this story is that I wanted more.  (That and I’m sad about Ruby eating a dog named Petunia.  Bad Ruby!  Note that I am not particularly sad about all the people who get eaten by hippos in this book because I like dogs better than I like most people.)  This is a novella that has a fairly abrupt ending.  I want to know what happens.  When do we get more?

September 12th, it turns out.  I’ve already pre-ordered. 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • LBGTQ authors/characters
26 May, 2017

Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories

/ posted in: Reading Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories Hold Me by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on October 25th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, LGBT
Pages: 313
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: California

Jay na Thalang is a demanding, driven genius. He doesn’t know how to stop or even slow down. The instant he lays eyes on Maria Lopez, he knows that she is a sexy distraction he can’t afford. He’s done his best to keep her at arm’s length, and he’s succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
Maria has always been cautious. Now that her once-tiny, apocalypse-centered blog is hitting the mainstream, she’s even more careful about preserving her online anonymity. She hasn’t sent so much as a picture to the commenter she’s interacted with for eighteen months—not even after emails, hour-long chats, and a friendship that is slowly turning into more. Maybe one day, they’ll meet and see what happens.
But unbeknownst to them both, Jay is Maria’s commenter. They’ve already met. They already hate each other. And two determined enemies are about to discover that they’ve been secretly falling in love…


I’m a big fan of Courtney Milan’s historical romances.  I wanted to read another one of her books for AsianLitBingo but they don’t qualify because they don’t have Asian main characters.  I decided to try one of her contemporary romances.  Most contemporary romances don’t work for me.  I like romances PG-13 or less and you don’t generally get that in a contemporary.

I chose this book instead of the first book in the series.  The first book is about a billionaire.  That’s one of my key NOPE words in descriptions.  I don’t want to read about billionaires in romances.  This one is billionaire-free although the said billionaire is lurking around as a secondary character.

Jay is:

  • a professor at a university in California
  • Thai/Chinese
  • bisexual
  • a frequent commenter on a website who moved to being an online friend of the creator of the website

Maria is:

  • an older undergrad at the same university
  • Latina
  • trans
  • a self-proclaimed girly-girl
  • the creator of a blog that examines end-of-the-world scenarios
  • the sister of one of Jay’s friends

Jay takes an immediate dislike to Maria when they meet in person through her brother because he perceives her to be overly interested in shoes and makeup and girl stuff.  He finds her shallow. He can’t even seem to make a connection between a woman he sees in front of him and the woman he has been flirting with through science and mathematics for two years.  They aren’t even the same species in his mind.

I’m not a big fan of books that are all about mistaken identity.  This book ends the mystery about halfway through.  The rest of the book is about them trying to translate a two year online relationship into real life.  Maria has some major abandonment issues that cause her to be very fearful of committing to a relationship.  Jay needs to deal with his dismissals of women who appear very feminine.  He considers himself to be a feminist but still thinks women in dresses and makeup must be dumb.

I thought these issues were handled well in the story.  There was a lot going on.  The author writes flirting very well.  I wasn’t completely swept away with the romance here.  I think that is more an issue of not being a huge fan of contemporaries instead of being completely the fault of the book.  If you like contemporary romances that deal with issues and aren’t purely fluff, I’d recommend this one.


So well then after I read this one I had to go back and read another one of her historical romances, didn’t I?  This one happened to be all about mathematical flirting too.

 
Flirting Through Math – Two Courtney Milan Stories Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
Published by Courtney Milan on August 19th 2014
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General, Victorian
Pages: 133
Goodreads
Setting: England

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.
All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.


This is a rare historical romance novella set in England that acknowledges that England at that time was not uniformly white.  Rose is black.  She is staying with her pregnant sister who is about to have her baby while her Naval Officer husband is at sea.  They are dealing with the horrible racism of the doctor who is supposed to be helping.  At the same time, a once in a lifetime astronomical event is about to take place.  Because Rose is just a woman who does the calculation in the lab, she isn’t going to be allowed into the prime viewing space to watch it. 

When she finds out that she has a suitor who is white, she is unimpressed by his assertions that everything will work out just fine.  She knows that he has no idea of the prejudice that they will face as an interracial couple. 

This is part of the Brothers Sinister series but it can be read alone.  There is great dialogue between the characters.  I like these stories because they feature women who know their worth (and it is based on something other than their money or their looks) and men who are actually nice and worth caring about.

About Courtney Milan

“C ourtney Milan’s debut novel was published in 2010. Since then, her books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist. She’s been a New York Times and a USA Today Bestseller, a RITA® finalist and an RT Reviewer’s Choice nominee for Best First Historical Romance. Her second book was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2010.

Courtney lives in the Rocky Mountains with her husband, a marginally-trained dog, and an attack cat.

Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.” from her website

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • LBGTQ authors/characters
  • POC authors
25 May, 2017

One Hundred Names

/ posted in: Reading One Hundred Names One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern
on May 6, 2014
Genres: Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Goodreads
Length: 10:56

Scandal has derailed Journalist Kitty Logan's career, a setback that is soon compounded by an even more devastating loss. Constance, the woman who taught Kitty everything she knew, is dying. At her mentor's bedside, Kitty asks her—what is the one story she always wanted to write?
The answer lies in a single sheet of paper buried in Constance's office—a list of 100 names—with no notes or explanation. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late.
Determined to unlock the mystery and rebuild her own shaky confidence, Kitty throws herself into the investigation, using her skills and savvy to track down each of the names on the list and uncover their connection. Meeting these ordinary people and learning their stories, Kitty begins to piece together an unexpected portrait of Constance's life. . . and starts to understand her own.


I was intrigued by the premise of a mysterious list of names that the protagonist has to find a connection between.  I do love a mystery.  Actually, that is a lie.  I hate a mystery.  I need to know the answer.  That’s what kept me going through this story.  I had to know the connection between the names.

Kitty Logan, a young journalist, is a horrible human.  She’s the worst kind of horrible person.  She thinks that there is nothing wrong with her at all.  Other people call her out sometimes on her callousness but she gets mad at them for being mean to her.

Kitty falsely accused a man of fathering a child with a teenage student.  He lost a lot of his friends and his marriage.  She is being sued for libel.  Don’t you know how hard this is in her life?  Her overwhelming urge is to get him to forgive her.  She centers herself in everything.

She is so clueless that she applies for a job teaching college level journalism soon after her libel trial.  She’s hurt when they tell her that they are adding her case to the curriculum but don’t want to hire her.

Kitty doesn’t like sick people.  She has avoided going to see her friend who is dying of cancer.  Later she can’t even bring herself to look at a woman with cancer who is getting her hair done for her wedding.

It would be one thing if she was a bad character who Learns a Life Lesson but that is not what is going here.  There is a character with a birthmark across her face who hides in her house cutting out pictures of models and putting them on her wall.  That isn’t Kitty’s POV. That’s the author’s description of the character.  There are racist/fetishizing comments made to a Chinese woman by a white man.  Other Chinese people only speak in stereotypically broken English. There is a young man who repeatedly publicly proposes to a friend of his in order to scam venues into giving them free drinks even though she is embarrassed and repeatedly asks him to stop.  There is also a casual anti-trans comment.  None of this is challenged.  I mentally subtitled this book White Folk Behaving Badly.

It is too bad.  The overall message of the book is a good one. I guessed the answer to the mystery but it still was a satisfying conclusion.  I just wish there hadn’t been so much tone deaf behavior written for the characters before you get to the pay off.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Audiobooks
  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Europe
24 May, 2017

Noteworthy – Acapella with a Twist

/ posted in: Reading Noteworthy – Acapella with a Twist Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Published by Amulet Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.
In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.


Reading this book was so stressful for me.  I’m not a fan of books that depend on misunderstanding or lies as a plot device.  I’m always wondering when the other shoe is going to drop.  That isn’t the fault of this book.  It is one of the few books that I felt did a good job with this type of story line.

There is a lot going on in this novel.  Jordan is a Chinese-American girl from a poor family in San Francisco.  Her father is disabled and her mother is having a hard time keeping a job while caring for him.  Jordan has a scholarship to this boarding school on the East coast but it doesn’t cover all her expenses.  This is a hardship for her family.  It also sets her apart from the other students who tend to be wealthy.

This story takes place at a high school.  I had a hard time remembering that since it is a boarding school.  It seems more like a college story until they discuss not being able to drive.

Jordan starts to live a double life – a girl during the day and Julian, the newest male member of the Sharps at night.  This leads to a lot of thoughts on gender and sexuality. She gets a lot of advice on how to pass for male from websites for transgender people.  She is uncomfortable with this.  Is she using other people’s real lives for her own selfish gain? Later, members of the Sharps decide that she must be a gay man.  She lets them think that instead of having them find out the truth.  Again she has to think about what it means to appropriating another group’s identity.

I wasn’t a fan of the romance aspect of this book.  It didn’t feel like it needed to be there.  It seemed like since she had spent a lot of time with a group of guys than obviously she had to fall for one of them.  I would have liked this more if it hadn’t happened.

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • POC authors
23 May, 2017

Books from BEA2016 That Should Have Gotten More Love

/ posted in: Reading

Here are some of my favorite books that I got from BEA last year. I haven’t heard anything about them anywhere else and they definitely deserve some more love.

Ghost TalkersGhost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

“Ginger Stuyvesant, an American heiress living in London during World War I, is engaged to Captain Benjamin Harford, an intelligence officer. Ginger is a medium for the Spirit Corps, a special Spiritualist force.

Each soldier heading for the front is conditioned to report to the mediums of the Spirit Corps when they die so the Corps can pass instant information about troop movements to military intelligence.

Ginger and her fellow mediums contribute a great deal to the war efforts, so long as they pass the information through appropriate channels. While Ben is away at the front, Ginger discovers the presence of a traitor. Without the presence of her fiance to validate her findings, the top brass thinks she’s just imagining things. Even worse, it is clear that the Spirit Corps is now being directly targeted by the German war effort. Left to her own devices, Ginger has to find out how the Germans are targeting the Spirit Corps and stop them. This is a difficult and dangerous task for a woman of that era, but this time both the spirit and the flesh are willing…”


Vivian In RedVivian In Red by Kristina Riggle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.
The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor— failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.”


IQIQ by Joe Ide

“They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.

This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.”

There is a sequel to this coming out this year.  It is on my list to read for sure.

 


The Littlest BigfootThe Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner

This is a story about a lonely girl who meets a Bigfoot girl.  I read this one out loud to the husband and the step-daughter who was determined not to listen on a road trip.  The husband and I love it.  There is a sequel to this one coming out soon too.

22 May, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

New In This Week

 Strange Contagion: The Suicide Cluster That Took Palo Alto's Children and What It Tells Us About OurselvesStrange Contagion: The Suicide Cluster That Took Palo Alto’s Children and What It Tells Us About Ourselves by Lee Daniel Kravetz

 This promises to be a cheery read.

 

 

 

Finished This Week

Mini Reviews

Not Your Sidekick

I really wanted to love this one. Everyone loves this one. An Asian-American girl from a family of superheroes dealing with not having powers and having a crush on a girl from school. But there was no completed story in this book. It is the first of a planned trilogy but if you are going to do that, please have a full story in each book within a larger story that unites the three. In this book nothing is resolved. There were a lot of tired superhero tropes too. The most annoying was not realizing that you are talking to a person you know because they are wearing a costume. It could have been funny if it wasn’t drug out so long.

I did like Bell’s story. He is a friend of the MC who is trans. I can’t say a whole lot more because of spoilers.  So:

  1. Yay for good characters
  2. Boo to not having much of a story

What Am I Reading?

 

This about an Afghani woman who is in jail for the murder of her husband and the Afghani-American lawyer who is working on her case.  I like it so far.  It is even better because I can drop “I’m reading a book about a woman who murdered her husband” into conversation with the husband.  Always fun.

What Am I Listening To?

I do love Trae Crowder’s videos even if the last one I saw had him comparing Trump supporters to Tennessee Volunteers football fans.  (I might be typing this while wearing a Tennessee Volunteers t-shirt.)


Have you signed up for Armchair BookExpo yet?  It starts on May 31.  The schedule is up for discussion posts.  I’m going to be helping out with the Twitter chats and other social media.  Hope to see everyone there!

 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading    

19 May, 2017

Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?

/ posted in: Reading Who Thought This Was A Good Idea? Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco, Lauren Oyler
on March 30, 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: Washington, D.C.

Alyssa Mastromonaco worked for Barack Obama for almost a decade, long before his run for president. From the then-senator's early days in Congress to his years in the Oval Office, she made Hope and Change happen through blood, sweat, tears, and lots of briefing binders.
But for every historic occasion-meeting the queen at Buckingham Palace, bursting in on secret climate talks, or nailing a campaign speech in a hailstorm-there were dozens of less-than-perfect moments when it was up to Alyssa to save the day. Like the time she learned the hard way that there aren't nearly enough bathrooms at the Vatican.
Full of hilarious, never-before-told stories, WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? is an intimate portrait of a president, a book about how to get stuff done, and the story of how one woman challenged, again and again, what a "White House official" is supposed to look like. Here Alyssa shares the strategies that made her successful in politics and beyond, including the importance of confidence, the value of not being a jerk, and why ultimately everything comes down to hard work (and always carrying a spare tampon).


This isn’t a run of the mill political memoir.   This is the story of what can and will go wrong.  It is the story of friendships forged in stress and sleep deprivation.  It is finding out how to stand up for yourself and your ideas when you are young and female in a job that has always been dominated by older men.

I loved a story that she discussed early in the book.  She was in charge of scheduling Barack Obama’s time.  During the 2008 campaign there was bad weather forecasted.  She decided to have him go ahead with a live outdoor event in spite of the weather.  It ended up being worse than expected and he was getting hit in the face with sleet through the whole speech.

We watched (in horror) as the event drew to a close, and Obama reached his hand to Reggie.  As we were turning off the TV, my phone rang.

“Alyssa, it’s Obama.”

“Hi!” I said, with my head down on the desk, girding myself for the inevitable and deserved.  “The event looked AWESOME! You heard John McCain canceled all of his events, right?  He looked like a total old man!”

“Alyssa, where are you right now?”

I was not sure where he was going with this, but I knew it was somewhere bad.  “My desk,” I replied cautiously.

“Must be nice.”

Click

 

She doesn’t shy away from discussing the very personal aspects of the job.  One of her proudest moments was getting tampon dispensers in the bathrooms of the White House.  Most of the people working there had been men and post-menopausal women so it hadn’t been thought a priority.  She also discusses her IBS and the problems that causes in a job where there is a lot of stress and questionable food choices.

She talks about the questions she gets about not having children.  She was working all the time during her twenties and thirties.  She didn’t marry until she was 37.  People ask her now if she is sorry that she didn’t have children.  I love that she is unapologetic about not being sorry.  She proudly proclaims her status as child-free and having cats instead.

Her job encompassed everything from setting up the schedule for the President to coordinating federal emergency response to Hurricane Sandy and the Haitian earthquake.  Where do you go from there?  She talks about how hard it is to leave the White House and decide what to do with your life.

One of the hardest parts of reading this book was remembering what it was like once upon a time.  You know, back when the U.S. Presidency wasn’t a total embarrassment.  I liked hearing about the personal side of Obama.  He introduced her to Mindy Kaling at an event because he knew she had been reading her book.  He got Bruce Springsteen to call her from a campaign event because she had to stay at the White House after setting up the concert and she was a huge fan.  He called her a year after she quit working at the White House because he heard her cat died that day.  (Everyone knew her cat.  He was famous.  She had a conversation about his health problems with George W. Bush on the way to Nelson Mandela’s funeral.)

This is a short book and a quick read.  I read it in one sitting.  I’d recommend this book to everyone who wants to know what it is really like to work in the White House.

I just have two criticisms.  First, she uses a lot of nicknames for people.  It can be a bit hard to remember who these people actually are when she is using nicknames long after introducing them by their full names.  Second, I feel like she underplays her accomplishments a bit.  She talks about women being conditioned to not stand up and present their ideas and it seems like she is still doing that some here.  If a man wrote a book about doing this job, I feel like it would be a lot more about “Look at me!  I was awesome!”  I wouldn’t necessarily like that book as much as I liked this one but what she did was pretty amazing and sometimes that gets lost. 

 

 

About Alyssa Mastromonaco

Alyssa Mende Mastromonaco is the Chief Operating Officer of Vice Media. She is also a contributing editor at Marie Claire magazine. She previously served as White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations in the administration of President Barack Obama from 2011 to 2014.She was the youngest woman to hold that position. Mastromonaco had worked for Obama since 2005 when he was on the United States Senate as his Director of Scheduling.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
18 May, 2017

The View from the Cheap Seats

/ posted in: Reading The View from the Cheap Seats The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
Published by William Morrow on May 31st 2016
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 522
Format: Paperback
Source: Book Tour, From author/publisher
Goodreads

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on myriad topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.
An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.
Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


I learned two things from reading this collection of speeches and essays.

  1. Neil Gaiman knows everyone.  Seriously, if you can work him into your 6 Degrees of Separation list you can link to anyone.
  2. He is the speaker that you want giving the keynote address at any event.

 

I loved this collection of his nonfiction writing from the very first essay.

“I believe that people and books and newspapers are containers for ideas, but that burning the people who hold the ideas will be as unsuccessful as firebombing the newspaper archives.  It is already too late.  It is always too late.  The ideas are already out, hiding behind people’s eyes, waiting in their thoughts.”

 

He writes about the importance of libraries and about how not censoring what children read leads to children who love to read.  He talks about how being too enthusiastic about supporting your child’s reading habits can turn her off Stephen King forever.  (Oops).  He writes about Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett and the importance of Doctor Who.  Is it any wonder that I’m a Neil Gaiman fan?

These essays and speeches were written over many years.  It is fun to read him talking about his next novel that has a working title of American Gods but he doesn’t know what it will be called when it is published at the same time that I’m watching the TV adaptation.  A few of the authors that he discusses I haven’t read but he makes me want to pick them up. 

This is a book that isn’t made to be read straight through but instead to be picked up and read a piece at a time in order to savor the words and ideas.  I’d recommend this for any Neil Gaiman fan but also for people who love discussing literacy and the need for the arts in society. 

 

 

About Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and Mirrors, Fragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.

Find out more about Neil at his†website, find all his books at his†online bookstore, and follow him on†Facebook,†tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and his†blog.

17 May, 2017

What Happened With My BEA Books One Year Later

/ posted in: Reading

I’ve been planning on doing this post for a year.  After Book Expo America last year, there was this sort-of controversy about bloggers at book events being the worst thing ever.  We get so many books and somehow that was supposed to be bad.  I didn’t fully understand it.

Full confession time – I am a horrible blogger that everyone was talking about.  Ok, not really, I’m not the person running over other people to get multiple copies of books.  I did however send home three boxes of books from Chicago.  I don’t understand how anyone could have gotten less.

My first interaction when I walked onto the floor set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Book guy, handing me a book – “Would you like a copy of this book?  It is a middle grade novel about a girl dealing with grief.”

Me, trying to hand it back – “No, thank you, I don’t really read middle grade.”

Book guy, walking away so I can’t hand it back – “Keep it!  You might like it.”

Short of throwing the book at his retreating head I couldn’t give it back.  I was also reverse pick pocketed where people put books in my bag as I passed by.  I tried to hand a book whose blurb I read back to the Hatchette person and I swear the woman picked up other other books and said, “If you don’t like that one, take these two too.”  On Book Expo weekend this year light a candle for the Hatchette reps.  They hand out books so aggressively that I got concerned that they are taken out back and beaten if they have any left.

I don’t buy the whole “bloggers take so many books that there are none left for anyone else” nonsense after seeing how aggressively people were handing out books whether you wanted them or not.

 

Once I got those books home what happened to them?  Was it worth it for them to give all those books to me?

BEA 2016 books

Based on that alone, it was not worth it to give me all those books. I didn’t read the majority of them. But is that the whole story?

Where are those books now?

BEA2016 giveaway

I gave away books to other bloggers who might like them. I gave more books away to people who participated in Foodies Read and most of those have been reviewed. I’m still working on adding some a little at a time to the Free Little Library in my neighborhood. I’m also planning a big giveaway to other bloggers during Armchair Book Expo this year.  The books are moving around and getting to more people.

 

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One thing I found interesting was how many of these books I used on Instagram. I hadn’t done a lot of bookstagram posts because I’m a library user and ebook reader so I didn’t have pretty books to photograph. Suddenly I had a bunch of books. I did 49 posts featuring one or more of the books I got at BEA 2016.

 

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So, is it a good return on investment to give bloggers books for publicity? Maybe not. But as I thought about that I realized something else.

I had thought that over the course of the last year that I would be seeing a lot of books that I first saw at BEA. I’d see them in the library and in bookstores and on blogs as they came out.

It Didn’t Happen.

I made a list of all the books that I got from BEA that I saw mentioned anywhere even once.

  • The Underground Railroad – obviously a huge hit last year
  • Pachinko
  • The Other Einstein
  • Stalking Jack the Ripper
  • The Peculiar Miracles of Antoinette Martin

That’s it.  There are five books that I got at this huge trade show that I ever heard of ever again in even one blog post or saw in the wild.  What’s the point?  Maybe it isn’t the bloggers that aren’t helping the industry.  Maybe all the buyers and librarians who are being courted by the publishers aren’t really pushing these books either. Granted I wasn’t lining up to get the hottest new releases but those were a minority of the books available.

Other bloggers who have been to BEA or other conventions – What happened to your books?  Did you ever hear of these books again after the conference?

16 May, 2017

The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

/ posted in: Reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke
Series: Malayan #1
Published by AmazonCrossing on November 1st 2016
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 474
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads

Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.
Amidst the smells of chillies and garlic frying, Chye Hoon begins to appreciate the richness of her traditions, eventually marrying Wong Peng Choon, a Chinese man. Together, they have ten children. At last, she can pass on the stories she has heard—magical tales of men from the sea—and her warrior’s courage, along with her wonderful kueh (cakes).
But the cultural shift towards the West has begun. Chye Hoon finds herself afraid of losing the heritage she so prizes as her children move more and more into the modernising Western world.


 

This is an historical fiction novel set between the 1870s and the 1940s in Malaysia.   In this area of Malaysia at the time it was common for people to be of mixed ethnic heritage.  But now the British have started to establish a presence.  Towns and cities are growing.  Chye Hoon’s father decides to learn English and move the family to a larger city to get ahead.  Although she is smart, she is not able to go to school.  She is headstrong and not beautiful so stays unmarried for a long time before becoming a second wife to a Chinese man who left his family behind in China.

This story focuses on the way the world is changing around Chye Hoon.  She is taken to a backwater town after her marriage.  She watches Ipoh grow into a mining center.  She sees her children grow up and learn English as their major language.  Even her daughters are able to be educated.  But her family traditions are very important. She longs to be able to pass on the stories that were told to her and the traditions of the families in her area.  Her children are not interested.

What do we lose in the name of progress?

I had never heard of the Nyonyas and Babas.  It took me a while to understand exactly what those terms meant.  This is from Wikipedia.

Peranakan Chinese or Straits-born Chinese are the descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago including British Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, where they are also referred to as Baba-Nyonya) and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia; where they’re also referred as Kiau-Seng)[4] between the 15th and 17th centuries.[5]

Members of this community in Malaysia address themselves as “Baba Nyonya”. Nyonya is the term for the women and Baba for the men. It applies especially to the Han populations of the British Straits Settlements of Malaya and the Dutch-controlled island of Java and other locations, who have adopted Nusantara customs — partially or in full — to be somewhat assimilated into the local communities. Many were the elites of Singapore, more loyal to the British than to China. Most have lived for generations along the straits of Malacca. They were usually traders, the middleman of the British and the Chinese, or the Chinese and Malays, or vice versa because they were mostly English educated. Because of this, they almost always had the ability to speak two or more languages.”

 

When you try to investigate Nyonya culture, the first things you see are food.  Food played a big part in this story.  Chye Hoon is widowed and has to make a living.  She decides to sell traditional Nyonya food to the men working in the tin mines of Ipoh.  Her specialties are cakes. Here is a video of a type of Nyonya cake.

I really enjoyed this book. I was immersed in her world that was changing so rapidly that by the time of her death it was unrecognizable. This series will be continuing and picking up with the story of her daughter-in-law in World War II.  That book comes out in the few months.  I’m glad for a bit of a break in between because I feel like a need to mourn a bit for amazing life of Chye Hoon before switching the main character of the story to the daughter-in-law.

 

 

About Selina Siak Chin Yoke

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • Foodies Read 2017
  • POC authors
15 May, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

New In This Week

Better Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved MeBetter Than New: How Saving Old Homes Saved Me by Nicole Curtis

“Part celebrity memoir and part self-help book, Better Than New goes behind the scenes with an entrepreneurial single mom who worked her way from waitress/real estate agent to home renovation expert, preservationist, and television star.”

I got this one because the ebook is $1.99 right now.

 

 

Finished This Week

What Am I Reading?

I’m in a starting phase.  I’ve started books instead of finishing much.

 Makeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek the Amazing Creations of Hollywood's Michael WestmoreMakeup Man: From Rocky to Star Trek the Amazing Creations of Hollywood’s Michael Westmore by Michael Westmore

I got this from the library because Patrick Stewart recommended it on Twitter. If Patrick Stewart tells me to read a book, I’m going to listen.

 

 

NoteworthyNoteworthy by Riley Redgate

I was on the waiting list for this for a while. I didn’t realize that the author and main character were Chinese so it works for #AsianLitBingo.

Speaking of that, how am I doing so far?

myasianbingo

Multiracial – The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds

Poor MC – Outrun the Moon

Contemporary – The Witch’s Market

Translated – Paper Boats

Queer Romance – DNFed The Lonely War

I’ve also started a whole bunch of graphic novels set in India for the South Asian MC spot but so far nothing is sticking. 

What Am I Listening To?

 I’m still listening to this historical fiction novel about a midwife who is a friend of Abigail Adams during the Revolution.  I’m still loving it.


Have you signed up for Armchair BookExpo yet?  It starts on May 31.  The schedule is up for discussion posts.  I’m going to be helping out with the Twitter chats and other social media.  Hope to see everyone there!

 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading    

12 May, 2017

Outrun the Moon

/ posted in: Reading Outrun the Moon Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on May 24th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 391
Format: Hardcover
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: California

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.
On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?


I started reading this book without really knowing what it was about.  I may be one of the few people who enjoyed the story of Mercy’s time at school more than I liked the story after the earthquake.

This book is split into two sections by the earthquake.  Before, Mercy is dealing with discrimination because of her sex, race, and class.  She is a Chinese girl who has finished the limited amount of schooling available to her.  She wants to be able to go to high school.  She has a plan to win a scholarship to an elite private school.  But once there she is disappointed to find it more interested in turning out proper young ladies than in the ladies increasing their knowledge.  She is also put directly into a world of wealth that she has never known before. 

The author does a great job of working in history lessons about treatment of Chinese people in California at the time.  She discusses the exclusion laws that prevented people from coming from China.  She talks about discriminatory housing laws that kept the Chinese population penned into a small area of the city. 

I was really into this book when the earthquake occurs.  Most of the girls at the school are boarding there from out of town so when the school is destroyed they have nowhere to go.  They end up living in a tent city set up in a park.  From here the book is a story of looting and cooking huge meals to try to feed everyone living in the park.  There was limited disaster aid at the time.  What help was available was out fighting the fires caused by the earthquake so survivors were mostly on their own. 

The author notes that group cooking situations like the one in the book were set up in the aftermath of the earthquake.  I’m glad she added that because I wouldn’t have believed it otherwise.  It seemed a little too feel-good for everything that was going on before.  I understand that the point was the discrimination can’t survive if everyone needs to work together when they have lost everything.  But it seemed a little too easy in the book.  No one seemed to really be grappling with the issues of loss and grief.  Maybe they were supposed to be numb and just focusing on survival. 

I’d recommend this book for a great look into life in 1906 San Francisco. 

 

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
  • POC authors
11 May, 2017

The Foundling

/ posted in: Reading The Foundling The Foundling: The True Story of a Kidnapping, a Family Secret, and My Search for the Real Me by Paul Fronczak, Alex Tresniowski
Published by Howard Books on April 4th 2017
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 368
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible, Owned
Goodreads
Length: 11:24

The Foundling tells the incredible and inspiring true story of Paul Fronczak, a man who recently discovered via a DNA test that he was not who he thought he was—and set out to solve two fifty-year-old mysteries at once. Along the way he upturned the genealogy industry, unearthed his family’s deepest secrets, and broke open the second longest cold-case in US history, all in a desperate bid to find out who he really is.


In 1964, when Paul Fronczak was 1 day old, he was kidnapped from the maternity ward of a hospital in Chicago.  Fourteen months later a child was found abandoned in New Jersey.  Very limited scientific tests were available at the time to determine paternity.  All the FBI could say was that they could not rule out the possibility that the child found in New Jersey was Paul Fronczak.  So they gave this child to the Fronczak family and considered both cases closed.

When he was 10 years old Paul found a box of newspaper clippings about his kidnapping case.  He had never heard about it before.  His parents refused to discuss it with him – ever.  He grew up feeling like he didn’t really fit into his family.  He wasn’t anything like them.

Then in his forties he decided it was time to investigate.  He took a DNA test and convinced his parents to submit samples too.  They later withdrew their consent but he sent their samples in anyway.  This proved that he was not their biological child.  Now he set out to answer two questions.

  1. Who was he?

  2. What happened to the real baby Paul Fronczak?

 

This book is a masterclass in the abilities and limitations of DNA analysis.  It investigates the possibilities opened up by databases on the major genealogical websites to answer long standing family mysteries.  (This happened in my husband’s family.)

What was fascinating to me was the reactions of the people around Paul during his search.  They did not want him to find out the answers to his questions.  I don’t understand that at all.  His parents and brother cut all ties with him.  If your child was kidnapped, wouldn’t you want to know what happened to him?  Wouldn’t you want to know the truth about the child you raised?  I don’t see why it would make any difference in your relationship to each other.

His wife wanted him to stop searching.  I understand that it was taking up a lot of his time but how could you expect someone not to want to follow the clues he was getting?  Maybe I just hate an unsolved mystery so much that I wouldn’t have been able to let it go.  I can’t understand people who are insisting that you walk away from it.

Reading about his birth family may be hard for some people.  A family situation that ends with dumping a toddler outside a department store is not going to be healthy and functional.  There is a lot of abuse described.

He met so many fascinating people along the way.  There were volunteer researchers who worked on his case.  He met distant relatives identified through DNA who dug into their own family histories to try to find a link to him.  He met other abandoned children who hoped that they would turn out to be the missing Fronczak child.

The book is not able to give definitive answers to all the questions that it raises but he does have a pretty good idea of what happened in his life and the life of his parents’ biological child at the end.  I would recommend this book to anyone who loves genealogy and the science of genetic genealogy to see how it works in real life.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Audiobooks
  • Books Set in North America
10 May, 2017

Mount Vernon

/ posted in: Reading

Since I was staying in Alexandria VA for the Ricky Martin concert, I decided to spend the morning at Mount Vernon.  I hadn’t been there since fifth grade.  I didn’t remember it at all.

I didn’t know that I was there on the day of a reenactment.  The security guard asked me who I was rooting for.  I said, “For what?”  He told me that it was Revolutionary War weekend.  I would have thought every day at George Washington’s house was Revolutionary War weekend but what do I know.

There were camps of Yankees and Redcoats. I’m not too sure about the Yankees. They can’t march at all. I think they are going to lose. They also had some cavalry there. They kept crashing into each other when practicing their battle. (They were also riding breeds that didn’t exist during the Revolution but only horse geeks like me would be bothered by that.)

In the 1750s George Washington marched to the French forts out on the wild frontier to tell them to leave. They didn’t. This led to the French and Indian War. My house was on the route. (Well, not at the time.  My house came later.) When I was young, it was a thing for Boy Scout troops to march the route that George Washington took past our house. This freaked little me out. I had nightmares for years about George Washington bringing a war to my house. I had hiding plans worked out and everything. Now here I was with a bunch of soldiers at his house. Serves him right. See how he likes it.  

20170506_112910.jpg

It was raining a lot so the battles got cancelled. The redcoats were sleeping in the museum. I did hear someone say over the loudspeaker that “horses still work in the rain” so they would have the cavalry demo. I don’t think anyone asked the horses about that.

Having a lot of people wandering about in costume leads to things like this.

P1040272

There were blacksmiths.

P1040274

And this dude carrying either a horse tail or a human head.

P1040281

I loved this Cedar of Lebanon.

Cedar of Lebanon

They did a good job discussing the role of slavery at Mount Vernon. This the is slave burial grounds.

P1040286

There was a lot of information about slavery in the museum too.

I came across a redcoat looking at a replica of George Washington’s casket. 

20170506_120555.jpg

The thing I was most impressed by was this.

Manure pit at Mount Vernon

This is the manure pit. If you haven’t had close contact with manure pits in your life, you may not appreciate how fancy this is. It had a cobblestone floor. I’m easily impressed.

09 May, 2017

My Ricky Martin Bucket List

/ posted in: Entertainment

I don’t really have a bucket list but if I did there would be one main thing on it. I wanted to see Ricky Martin in concert. If that seems like a weird thing to want, here’s the background.

1992

I spent 5 weeks in Costa Rica on a 4-H trip. Three of those weeks were spent with a host family. I was pretty useless as a non-Spanish speaking human but I did have one very important job. At 3:30 every day there was a music video show. My job was to watch it and whenever Ricky Martin came on I had to start yelling, “Ricky!” at the top of my lungs so everyone could watch. Everyone was my teenage host sister, her mother, and her grandmother. Her younger brother would come and scoff.

He had just released his first solo album. In this video he rides a horse, meets a donkey, passes out in a field, and finally goes swimming. The whole time he is unsure whether or not he really wants to wear that shirt or not.

See also, Ricky in the shower scenes in this next video. I think the whole marketing plan for this album was, “Let’s get him wet.”

When I went back to my group they said that we were going to see a concert. I hoped it was Ricky Martin but no. We saw Alejandra Guzman instead. I did manage to buy a cassette of Ricky Martin’s. Remember young’uns, this is pre-internet. There was no way I’d ever find it back in non-Latinx areas of the United States.

1996

I spent a month in Bolivia. This corresponded to another album release. Once again he was the soundtrack of my trip. No video shows this time but we sang along on the radio while we were driving around. I snagged a CD of this one too before I left.

So years go by and in 1999 Living La Vida Loca comes out in the United States. Finally, people know what I’m talking about when I say I like Ricky Martin. Internet access means I can catch up with Spanish language releases. Whenever I check though, he is never touring in the northern U.S. He comes to Orlando a few times but mostly stays in Latin America.

But then I hear that he is setting up a residency in Las Vegas. I was so excited. I was going to Vegas in March. He isn’t there yet. I decide that that’s it. I’m flying back in September and going to see him in concert. But there are two days added in May in National Harbor, MD outside D.C.

This weekend I drove down there and went to the concert.

It was so worth it.

Ricky Martin National Harbor 5/6/2017

I spent the money for good seats. I was sitting right next to the sound board. There were people in front of me on the floor and then there was an aisle. My seat was raised a little so I had no problems seeing. I realized that I did miss a few songs while trying to keep up on the internet. I’ve downloaded songs since I got home.

Ricky Martin National Harbor 5/6/2017

I also found out that it is really hard to take pictures of people singing without having them look really stupid. This is like the one decent one with his eyes open.

Ricky Martin National Harbor 5/6/2017

There is also going to be a TV show on MTV in June about setting up the residency. I’m excited to watch that but now I’m worried that I’m going to want to see him in more concerts since it was so good. 

People still don’t understand the Ricky Martin fascination if they only know Living La Vida Loca.  The husband asked me how long the concert was.  I said about an hour and a half.  He said, “He has that many songs?”  I explained that he didn’t even sing songs from about half of his albums.  He’s been recording solo albums since 1992 and had his last number one hit in 2016.  He has enough material for a concert. 

08 May, 2017

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

/ posted in: Reading

New In This Week

Both of these are review books for book tours through TLC Book Tours.

DNF this week

The Lonely WarThe Lonely War by Alan Chin I had started this and put it aside. I decided to pick it up again for #AsianLitBingo. It is the story of a gay Chinese-American Buddhist man in the Navy in WWII. I knew they were captured by the Japanese. He was forced to submit sexually to the commander of the camp in order to keep his friends safe. I was expecting gritty historical fiction about brutal, self-sacrificing choices in war. What I got was a guy wondering if he could be in love with his captor after first meeting him. Nope. Nope. Nope. Put it down. Not doing that.

Finished This Week

I’ve been on a roll this week.  It started with the announcement of #AsianLitBingo.  I read the announcement and thought that was nice.  I don’t usually participate in Bingo challenges.  But, reading more Asian books was one of my goals for 2017 and when I suddenly looked around my house, this is what I saw.

So there’s that. I was almost doing an entirely Asian authors month by accident. I found a bunch of other books by Asian authors on my ereader too since I took that picture. This week I’ve finished The Witch’s Market, Paper Boats, and Outrun the Moon.  

What Am I Reading?

“Facing challenges in an increasingly colonial world, Chye Hoon, a rebellious young girl, must learn to embrace her mixed Malayan-Chinese identity as a Nyonya—and her destiny as a cook, rather than following her first dream of attending school like her brother.“  

What Am I Listening To?

I found this entirely by chance.  I have a few audiobook apps on my phone and the one with my current book refused to open.  I skimmed through Audible on the off chance there was anything on there that I hadn’t finished.  I swear I’ve never seen this book before in my life but they seem convinced I own it.  Who am I to argue?

On a dark night in 1775, Lizzie Boylston is awakened by the sound of cannons. From a hill south of Boston, she watches as fires burn in Charlestown, in a battle that she soon discovers has claimed her husband’s life.

Alone in a new town, Lizzie grieves privately but takes comfort in her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams. Soon, word spreads of Lizzie’s extraordinary midwifery and healing skills, and she begins to channel her grief into caring for those who need her. But when two traveling patriots are poisoned, Lizzie finds herself with far more complicated matters on her hands—she suspects a political plot intended to harm Abigail and her family. Determined to uncover the truth, Lizzie becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could not only destroy her livelihood—and her chance at finding love again—but also lead to the downfall of a new nation.”

It is quite good.  I was into it from the beginning.  I had a quick trip to Maryland and back this weekend so I had lots of audiobook time.  I hate the idea of maybe running out of audiobook so I downloaded this one too. I found it because I was preordering Seanan McGuire’s sequel to Every Heart A Doorway.  I decided this other series of hers sounded like something I’d like.

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

  This is the one that I ended up listening to.  The other narrator was so soothing that I figured that wasn’t a good fit for a long road trip. It's Monday! What Are You Reading    

05 May, 2017

The Witch’s Market

/ posted in: Reading The Witch’s Market The Witch's Market by Mingmei Yip
Published by Kensington on November 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Canary Islands

Chinese-American assistant professor Eileen Chen specializes in folk religion at her San Francisco college. Though her grandmother made her living as a shamaness, Eileen publicly dismisses witchcraft as mere superstition. Yet privately, the subject intrigues her.
When a research project takes her to the Canary Islands—long rumored to be home to real witches—Eileen is struck by the lush beauty of Tenerife and its blend of Spanish and Moroccan culture. A stranger invites her to a local market where women sell amulets, charms, and love spells. But as she learns more about the lives of these self-proclaimed witches, Eileen must choose how much trust to place in this new and seductive world, where love, greed, and vengeance can be as powerful, or as destructive, as any magic.


I loved the synopsis of this book.  A religion professor finding out that she is a shamaness in the Chinese tradition and then meeting up with witches from another tradition?  Yes, please.

It starts out delightfully creepy.  She is starting to have visions of the spirit world.  She meets a coven of witches who bring her into a ritual and abandon her naked the next day and she doesn’t remember what happened.  A horse takes her for a ride to meet a mysterious sculptor.

But then it turns into a murder mystery.  Yeah, didn’t see that coming.

I lost a lot of interest at this point.  The weirdness was gone.  She still talks to ghosts but they just want her solve the mystery.  Also, suddenly every man is falling in love with her and wants to marry her the moment they meet her.  This isn’t even based on romance or attraction or anything.  They just suggest getting married.

I wish there had been a better sense of place.  She went to a culture that is unfamiliar to her but she is conveniently fluent in Spanish so she has no communication difficulties.  She doesn’t really explore the islands.  She holes up in a castle and in an abandoned village that could have been set anywhere.  I never read anything that I felt could only have happened in this setting.

Her exploration of her Chinese spiritual heritage was much better but I wish there had been more exploration of the witches she came to find.

About Mingmei Yip

Mingmei Yip was born in China, received her Ph.D. from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, and held faculty appointments at the Chinese University and Baptist University in Hong Kong. She’s published five books in Chinese, written several columns for seven major Hong Kong newspapers, and has appeared on over forty TV and radio programs in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, and the U.S. She immigrated to the United States in 1992, where she now lives in New York City.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Africa
  • POC authors
04 May, 2017

Paper Boats – Indonesian novel for New Adult fans

/ posted in: Reading Paper Boats – Indonesian novel for New Adult fans Paper Boats by Dee Lestari
on May 1, 2017 - translation
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Goodreads
Setting: Indonesia

For as long as she can remember, Kugy has loved to write. Whimsical stories are her passion, along with letters full of secret longings that she folds into paper boats and sets out to sea. Now that she’s older, she dreams of following her heart and becoming a true teller of tales, but she decides to get a “real job” instead and forget all about Keenan, the guy who makes her feel as if she’s living in one of her own fairy tales.


What do you have to sacrifice to be a “grown up”?

In 1999, Keenan and Kugy start university in Indonesia.  Keenan is being forced to go by his father.  Keenan wants to be an artist but his father wants him to take business courses in order to have a real career.  Kugy wants to be a writer.  She’s been writing fairy tales her whole life.

Kugy also writes notes to Neptune on paper boats and sends them out to sea.

Most of the translated fiction that  I’ve read has been fairly serious.  I surprised to find that is this a light hearted and fun book.

There were elements in this story that I generally don’t enjoy but that I didn’t mind here because they were well written.  Keenan and Kugy are attracted to each other but there are always obstacles in the way of their relationship.  Kugy has a boyfriend from home.  Kugy’s friend sets up Keenan with her glamorous cousin who can help him get his paintings shown in a gallery.  There are misunderstandings because people aren’t communicating with each other.  I was even okay with that for a while although it usually has me pulling my hair out in frustration.

I liked the writing of the secondary characters as well.  They are complete characters with their own story arcs who don’t exist just to serve the needs of the main characters.  In fact, it sometimes seems like they are just stopping in this story occasionally when it intersects with their real storylines unlike some books where it seems secondary characters hibernate whenever the main characters aren’t around.

Eventually though the repeated missed opportunities and bungled communication between the main characters started to wear down my enthusiasm.  Eventually someone just has to say what they are thinking.  I wish the story had ended a bit sooner with less “maybe I’ll say what I’m feeling or maybe I’ll just wait until next time” on repeat.

There was also a lot of black and white thinking here.  Either you can live a creative life or you can have a corporate job.  You can’t do both.

This would be a good book for fans of New Adult fiction.  Overall, I liked it and thought it was well written even if it overstayed its welcome for just a little bit.

About Dee Lestari

Dee Lestari, is one of the bestselling and critically acclaimed writers in Indonesia.
Born in January 20, 1976, she began her debut with a serial novel: Supernova in 2001.
Dee also has an extensive music career, producing four albums with her former vocal trio, and two solo albums. She has been writing songs for renowned Indonesian artists.
Perahu Kertas (Paper Boat) was turned into a movie in 2009, marking Dee’s debut as a screenplay writer. The movie became one of the national’s block busters.

About Tiffany Tsao

Tiffany Tsao is a writer, translator, literary critic, editor, and human being.

She was born in San Diego, California, and lived in Singapore and Indonesia through her childhood and young adulthood. A graduate of Wellesley College and the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned a PhD in English, she has taught and researched literature at Berkeley, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in Asia
  • POC authors
03 May, 2017

The Wicked + The Divine

/ posted in: Reading The Wicked + The Divine The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on November 12th 2014
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels
Pages: 144
Format: Graphic
Source: Library
Goodreads
Setting: England

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever. Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #1-5


I’m not a big graphic novel reader but I was intrigued by this story.

Every 90 years twelve gods take over the bodies of people. This is a well known phenomenon. People study it. For two years these gods are superstars. People flock to them. By the time two years are finished, they are all dead.

The art in the books is beautiful.

luci

This is Luci. She is the incarnation of Lucifer. You see the story through the eyes of Laura, a mixed race English girl who goes to all the gods’ concerts against her parents’ will. She ends up befriending Luci and that brings her in contact with the all schemes of the gods.

The first book was my favorite. You are drawn into Luci’s world. You see the glamor and the pain of knowing that you are going to die soon.

SPOILERS in the next descriptions


The Wicked + The Divine The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, Clayton Cowles
Published by Image Comics on July 1st 2015
Pages: 168
Goodreads

The second volume of the award-winning urban fantasy series where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. Following the tragic and unjust death of Lucifer, it takes a revelation from Inanna to draw Laura back into the worlds of Gods and Superstardom to try and discover the truth behind a conspiracy to subvert divinity. Includes issues 6-11 of the series, plus supplementary material.

Laura starts to investigate why Luci was framed for murder and then killed.  It draws her deeper and deeper into the world of gods.  Not all of the gods are friendly.


The Wicked + The Divine The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
Published by Image Comics on February 9th 2016
Pages: 200
Goodreads

After the detonation of FANDEMONIUM the gods-as-pop-stars of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE try living in the long dark shadow.
Team WicDiv are joined by a stellar cast of guest artists to put the spotlight on each of the gods. The multiple Eisner Award nominated series continues in the only way it knows how: darker, weirder, faster. Don't worry. It's going to be okay.
Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #12-17

There were guest artists for this book and I wasn’t a huge fan.  I did like seeing more back story on some of the gods that have been bit players up to now.

I must admit that I’m a bit lost on the overall story right now.  I thought it was me but then I started looking at other reviews and I’m not alone in feeling this way.  It seems like the story is starting to lag.


The Wicked + The Divine The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 4: Rising Action by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson
Published by Image Comics on October 5th 2016
Pages: 144
Goodreads

Every ninety years, twelve gods are reincarnated as young people. They are loved. They are hated. And sometimes - just sometimes - they fall into open Superstar wars. The fourth volume of the award-winning, best selling series from acclaimed creators KIERON GILLEN, JAMIE McKELVIE and MATT WILSON is the most explosive yet.
Collects THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #18-22

This book was back to the amazing art.  That’s good.  Now all the gods are fighting against their mentor/controller/I don’t know what she is.  I feel like the story is murky at best but I kept flipping through for the art.

 

AMATERSU

This is the incarnation of Amatersu, the Japanese sun goddess in the first book.  She is one of the few that is mostly trying to do good with her new body and powers.

Bottom line – Look at it for the art and maybe read the first two volumes.  Then wonder why the covers are so blah when the art inside is so colorful.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Europe
02 May, 2017

Colour Bar

/ posted in: Reading Colour Bar Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation by Susan Williams
on 2007
Genres: 20th Century, Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Goodreads

London, 1947. He was the heir to an African kingdom. She was a white English insurance clerk. When they met and fell in love, it would change the world.
This is the inspiring true story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams, whose marriage sent shockwaves through the establishment, defied an empire - and, finally, triumphed over the prejudices of their age.


I had never heard of Seretse and Ruth Khama until I saw an advertisement for the movie adaptation of Colour Bar.  It was only playing for one night here and I wasn’t able to go.  The story sounded interesting so as soon as I realized that it was based on a book, I got it from interlibrary loan.

Seretse Khama became the kgosi (chief) of his tribe at the age of four.  His uncle was installed as his regent.  They lived in Bechuanaland which is present day Botswana.  At the time this was under the control of England.  His uncle made sure that he was well educated by sending him to schools in South Africa and then sending him for a law degree in England.  There he fell in love with Ruth Williams, a white woman.

When he announced their intention to marry in 1949, opposition came from all sides.  They married anyway.  Eventually, he was able to convince his tribe that this marriage was acceptable.  He was not able to convince white people though.

The main objection came from South Africa.  They were in the process of codifying apartheid law.  They did not want the leader of a country on their border to be in an interracial marriage.  Since this was an hereditary position, the next leader would be mixed race.  If Bechuanaland was successful, it would make of mockery of the South African laws.  South Africa was an important part of the British Empire.  They fought to make sure that Seretse Khama was unable to lead his people.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 8.35.30 AM

What followed was years of exile from Africa and abuse at the hands of British officials. This book is exhaustively researched. It quotes from many, many letters and official documents to let the English racism speak for itself. It is brutal. There is also a lot of discussion about what type of woman Ruth must be to be willing to marry a black man.

This book was fascinating but it is a slow read. It is very dense with details of meetings. It focuses on the political aspects of the story, not the human ones. You don’t get much of a sense of Seretse and Ruth’s personalities except for in a few of their reactions to what is being said. It doesn’t delve much into what is going on in their minds or the true stresses on their relationship while all this is going on.

I wasn’t surprised by the racism that they encountered but there times when I had to take a minute to digest the absolute depth of the hatred and ignorance in the writings and public statements of British officials. They were so willing to appease the hatred of whites living in southern Africa that they would go to ridiculous lengths. There was always a problem of getting the Khamas to and from Bechuanaland from England. They had to land in Rhodesia which was strictly segregated. You’d think they were negotiating a nuclear treaty the way they had to deal to allow planes to land with them onboard or to let Ruth and the children stay in a hotel overnight. (They basically had to promise that the children would not be seen so they didn’t offend delicate white sensibilities.)

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Backlist Books
  • Books Set in Africa
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