On April 6, I attended a Woman’s March sponsored event called Power to the Polls. It took place in Cleveland and focused on the importance of getting people out to vote. This event was the first of a tour of 10 states. Ohio is always the key swing state in presidential elections. The speakers pointed out that no one wins the presidency without getting major support in north east Ohio.
The speakers were inspiring. Woman’s March co-founder Bob Bland started it off and then introduced Linda Sarsour.
She spoke about the need for progressive people not to destroy their own allies for having differences in ideology.
“Unity is not uniformity.”
The goals that she laid out for the Woman’s March’s activism this year:
Don’t assume that you are registered due to changes in laws. Check.
Take responsibility for the people in your life. Make sure they are registered and going to vote.
Get to know people. How can we protect people if we don’t know people?
Support organizations doing the work in your community
Don’t worry about what people think. Say you are proud to be a radical.
The next speaker was Nina Turner. From Wikipedia:
“Nina Turner is an American politician from the State of Ohio. Turner, a Democrat, served as a member of the Ohio State Senate from 2008 to 2014, and was elected to be the chamber’s Minority Whip in the 129th General Assembly. A supporter of the progressive movement, Turner has been characterized as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She endorsed Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and became an active surrogate for him.”
She talked about being called an Angry Black Woman. She pointed out many instances of injustice that should make people angry. “If we aren’t mad, something is wrong with us.”
But then she cautioned people. “It is ok to be angry but we have to channel that anger into action.”
After the speakers the group broke out into one of four small group sessions. I went to the Get Out the Vote session. There were women from several grass roots political groups there. Some were candidates for local elections. I met a person who works with a political action group near me. I hope to be able to work with some of their projects.
I wish there had been a larger turnout. The church where we met is on a college campus but there were very few college students there. That shows how we need to be better at getting the word out about opportunities.
A young man’s moving story of war, friendship, and hope in which he recounts his harrowing escape from a brutal civil war in Yemen with the help of a daring plan engineered on social media by a small group of interfaith activists in the West.
Born in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, to a pair of middle-class doctors, Mohammed Al Samawi was a devout Muslim raised to think of Christians and Jews as his enemy. But when Mohammed was twenty-three, he secretly received a copy of the Bible, and what he read cast doubt on everything he’d previously believed. After connecting with Jews and Christians on social media, and at various international interfaith conferences, Mohammed became an activist, making it his mission to promote dialogue and cooperation in Yemen.
Then came the death threats: first on Facebook, then through terrifying anonymous phone calls. To protect himself and his family, Mohammed fled to the southern port city of Aden. He had no way of knowing that Aden was about to become the heart of a north-south civil war, and the battleground for a well-funded proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. As gunfire and grenades exploded throughout the city, Mohammed hid in the bathroom of his apartment and desperately appealed to his contacts on Facebook.
Miraculously, a handful of people he barely knew responded. Over thirteen days, four ordinary young people with zero experience in diplomacy or military exfiltration worked across six technology platforms and ten time zones to save this innocent young man trapped between deadly forces— rebel fighters from the north and Al Qaeda operatives from the south.
The story of an improbable escape as riveting as the best page-turning thrillers, The Fox Hunt reminds us that goodness and decency can triumph in the darkest circumstances.
I didn’t know much about the causes of the war in Yemen until I read this book. It still doesn’t make much sense to me because it boils down to “Those people look different than us and think differently than us.” It is that kind of mindset that Mohammed Al Samawi was working against prior to the war.
The stars of this story of the activists around the world who play a high stakes game of Six Degrees of Separation. Who do you know? Who do they know? Can you get one man from Aden to Africa?
What struck me while reading this is the problems that are caused by Yemen’s patriarchy/toxic combination of masculinity and religion:
The whole conflict could be put down to this
He was unable to shelter with his uncle’s family because his uncle wouldn’t let him in the house where his unmarried female cousins lived. How messed up is that? Your nephew is alone in an apartment in a war zone but you won’t take him in because you assume he wouldn’t be able to sexually control himself around his female relatives?
Because he was male he was completely unprepared to live on his own without women to care for him. He moved to Aden and was living alone. He ate out daily since he didn’t cook so he had minimal food and supplies in the house when all the shops closed down.
After he was out of Yemen due to the help of a group of interfaith activists he was still too afraid to tell him mother (still living in a war zone) that he had been talking to Jews.
I found the beginning of this book with his entry into interfaith dialogue more interesting than the story of his escape from Yemen. I think that is partially because the writing is very plain. It reads like “This happened and then this happened and then this happened…” Secondly, I mostly just wanted to shake the guy. This is not a heroic memoir. Mohammed Al Samawi isn’t brave. He isn’t very good at planning. He moves from Sanaa to Aden but neglects to bring his passport even though he travels for work. These things all make trying to flee the country harder. He uses the distraction of a Northern man like himself being publicly tortured to death in the street by Al Qaeda to escape from his apartment while wondering why no one tries to help that man. He even refers to himself occasionally as a man-child. He was in his late 20s in 2015 when this happened.
In the end there were so many different lobbying efforts going on that it is not clear who succeeded in getting the order given to let him on the ship from Aden to Djibouti. I wish this had been investigated. It seems to be a very strange thing not to know who allowed his transport in a book about arranging his transport.
In the absence of facts, he falls back on the idea that God arranged his rescue. While comforting for religious people, this makes nonreligious people want to pull their hair out. Basically he saying that his God ignored everyone else stuck in a war (about religion and power) to concentrate on giving him special attention. It also diminishes all the hard work that people did on his behalf.
Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie's prayers. It's only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.
But is running away from your past ever really the answer?
Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer's block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there's Sylvia, who's clinging so hard to her past, she's in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.
Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia's little Duck Pond Café from closure?
Books set in cafes in England are my favorites. This story features both a bakery and a cafe.
This is the first of a planned series of three books in this small town. This section has the task of setting up all the characters and situations which is a lot to do in such a small space. As a result it felt a bit like the author was ticking off the boxes of what is expected in this genre.
A woman who just was dumped by her long term boyfriend for another woman
A conveniently single man at her new location complete with an adorable child
An aging proprietor of a failing cafe who wants to take in a total stranger
The story was enjoyable but it never rose above the predictable. There wasn’t enough depth of emotion in the story to draw me in fully. This may be a series read best when it is all completed so the characters have room to develop and grow.
I’m most interested in seeing the development of some of the secondary characters like the secret baker who is learning to stand up for herself.
1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.
The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.
Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?
I loved Helena. At the beginning of the book she has just been widowed for the second time although she is only in her early 20s. She is the youngest daughter in a large family. Because of that she has always been treated as a child. They even call her “Baby” although her brother is younger than her.
Helena is shocked by the death of her husband and is starting to get angry about the way her family has swooped in assuming that she is a problem that needs to be managed again. She declares that she is not going to be married off again. She is going to manage her own estate. She is not going to be pushed out of her own life any more.
Then her late husband’s doctor tells her that he doesn’t believe his death was accidental but that the other men on the inquiry panel ruled against him. Most of those men are related to her. What are they trying to hide?
There are several plot lines in this book.
How did Helena’s husband actually die?
Helena standing up for herself with her family
A tenant farmer’s death
I enjoyed reading about Helena’s relationships with each of the people in her large family. She’s always accepted the surface version of things but now that she’s starting to dig deeper into her life, things aren’t always as she assumed. Her little brother is overbearing and too enamored of his status as the head of the family but he isn’t always wrong about what she should do with her life. Her mother and father may not have had the idyllic marriage that Helena imagined. There may be more to her free-spirited artist sister than she expects. All these relationships set up storylines that can continue into other books in the series.
The book dives into disability during this time period also. Helena’s mother is in the late stages of dementia. She has a full time nurse but the mental toll on family members and on Helena’s mother is discussed in ways appropriate to the time period. Helena’s brother reads as autistic. At this time, that wasn’t a described condition so he is mostly considered odd and sometimes offputting. But, his wife loves him and understands him and helps him interact with his family and the rest of the world. Helena has a physically disabled nephew who she loves but who is treated as feeble-minded by his parents even though he is not. She helps him learn to stand up for himself as she learns it for herself.
I’m not a fan of books where lay people investigate crimes unless the story sets up a good reason why the authorities can’t be involved. In this case the authorities of the area are all family members who may be involved. The doctor is French and may be a spy. You never know quite who you can trust.
I will definitely read the next book in this series.
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Jane Steen was born in England and, despite having spent more years out of the British Isles than in, still has a British accent according to just about every American she meets.
Her long and undistinguished career has included a three-year stint as the English version of a Belgian aerospace magazine, an interesting interlude as an editor in a very large law firm, and several hectic years in real estate marketing at the height of the property boom. This tendency to switch directions every few years did nothing for her resume but gave her ample opportunity to sharpen her writing skills and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Around the edges of her professional occupations and raising children, she stuck her nose in a book at every available opportunity and at one time seemed on course to become the proverbial eternal student. Common sense prevailed, though, and eventually she had the bright idea of putting her passion for books together with her love of business and writing to become a self-published author.
Jane has lived in three countries and is currently to be found in the Chicago suburbs with her long-suffering husband and two adult daughters.
Yeah, I did that. Everyone loves this book! Why did I quit?
It was well written. It was imaginative. But I got halfway through and realized that I just didn’t care to find out what was going to happen. That’s an issue with a lot of YA fantasy I read. I end up not caring at all about the resolution.
For this book at least, I feel confident saying that wasn’t the book, it was me.
What Am I Reading?
I have so many books out from the library right now. I’m ignoring most of them. I’m drawn mostly towards comfort reads right now and what I have from the library is most definitely not that.
I want to read all these books. When it is reading time I look at them, shrug, and download another romance book.
What Am I Listening To?
Seriously, no audiobook. I downloaded a few but nothing is sticking right now. What is sticking is the West Wing Weekly podcast. Sometimes I feel bad listening to podcasts in the car because I feel like it is wasting audiobook time. But, I’m shoving that to the side and comfort listening to this and rewatching The West Wing.
It is fun to watch even a pretend President say smart things.
Between grad school and multiple jobs, Naledi Smith doesn’t have time for fairy tales…or patience for the constant e-mails claiming she’s betrothed to an African prince. Sure. Right. Delete! As a former foster kid, she’s learned that the only things she can depend on are herself and the scientific method, and a silly e-mail won’t convince her otherwise.
Prince Thabiso is the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, shouldering the hopes of his parents and his people. At the top of their list? His marriage. Ever dutiful, he tracks down his missing betrothed. When Naledi mistakes the prince for a pauper, Thabiso can’t resist the chance to experience life—and love—without the burden of his crown.
The chemistry between them is instant and irresistible, and flirty friendship quickly evolves into passionate nights. But when the truth is revealed, can a princess in theory become a princess ever after?
I don’t generally read contemporary romance but people have been raving about this book. I’ve also liked Alyssa Cole’s historical romances so I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.
I laughed out loud to see that this story starts with a variation on the Nigerian Prince email scam. Naledi receives an email claiming that she may be the long lost betrothed of a prince of an African country. Now if she’s only send all the necessary information to establish her identity…..
There are many places where this book could have easily gone from entertaining to annoying. The author did a great job with keeping the mystery/suspense up but allowing pieces of the puzzle to be revealed in a natural way instead of dragging out conflicts.
There is a lot going on in this book.
There is the Prince and the Pauper aspect as Thabiso tries to live as a normal person for a week. He gains insights on how he’s been treating all the “little people” in his life.
Naledi is having to deal with white male colleagues who use her for grunt work in their lab. Any time she speaks up for herself she is afraid of being labeled a “difficult black woman.” I like the way another woman in the department was eventually able to stand up for her.
Naledi has a rich friend who overruns any boundaries Naledi tries to set up but who she knows cares about her.
Then there are the mysteries of why her parents ran away from Africa with her and what is the new illness that appearing in Thabiso’s country.
That’s all without adding in the romance aspect.
I’d recommend this book for anyone who likes romance books. It is the start of a series. Somewhere in this series I want a book about what happened with Thabiso’s assistant. She travels with him to the U.S., starts a whirlwind romance with a woman she meets on Tinder, has some sort of bad break up that she refuses to talk about, and then heads back to Africa with Thabiso and Naledi. There’s way more to that story than the teasing bit we saw in this book.
The deeply personal story of how award-winning personal finance blogger Elizabeth Willard Thames abandoned a successful career in the city and embraced frugality to create a more meaningful, purpose-driven life, and retire to a homestead in the Vermont woods at age thirty-two with her husband and daughter.
In 2014, Elizabeth and Nate Thames were conventional 9-5 young urban professionals. But the couple had a dream to become modern-day homesteaders in rural Vermont. Determined to retire as early as possible in order to start living each day—as opposed to wishing time away working for the weekends—they enacted a plan to save an enormous amount of money: well over seventy percent of their joint take home pay. Dubbing themselves the Frugalwoods, Elizabeth began documenting their unconventional frugality and the resulting wholesale lifestyle transformation on their eponymous blog.
In less than three years, Elizabeth and Nate reached their goal. Today, they are financially independent and living out their dream on a sixty-six-acre homestead in the woods of rural Vermont with their young daughter. While frugality makes their lifestyle possible, it’s also what brings them peace and genuine happiness. They don’t stress out about impressing people with their material possessions, buying the latest gadgets, or keeping up with any Joneses. In the process, Elizabeth discovered the self-confidence and liberation that stems from disavowing our culture’s promise that we can buy our way to "the good life." Elizabeth unlocked the freedom of a life no longer beholden to the clarion call to consume ever-more products at ever-higher sums. Meet the Frugalwoods is the intriguing story of how Elizabeth and Nate realized that the mainstream path wasn’t for them, crafted a lifestyle of sustainable frugality, and reached financial independence at age thirty-two. While not everyone wants to live in the woods, or quit their jobs, many of us want to have more control over our time and money and lead more meaningful, simplified lives. Following their advice, you too can live your best life.
Debt-free living is a topic that is very important to me so I jumped at the chance to review this book from TLC Book Tours. (Free book – Look at me being frugal!)
This is a memoir of a couple who used frugality to save enough to retire to the country in their 30s. They have a blog called frugalwoods.com. I hadn’t ever heard of this before so I went into this book with no preconceived notions about what their story was.
I appreciated the fact that the book starts with a discussion of privilege versus systemic causes of poverty in the United States. She realizes that just by being born to married, educated white parents in the suburbs of the Midwest that she got a leg up towards being able to be debt-free in her 30s. She points out that her frugality is elective instead of a requirement to be able to afford her rent.
I wish this was more of a how-to book. It doesn’t really explain how they became debt-free. She says things like she saved $2000 of the $10,000 she was given as an AmeriCorp stipend. She was living in Brooklyn with roommates but how did she manage to do that? I want charts and spreadsheets. She talks later about merging living expenses by moving in with her fiance and living below their means by not trying to keep up with the standard of living of their peers. She says that even before they really committed to saving a lot of money in order to retire early, they were saving 40-50% of their take home pay not including 401K and mortgage principal. This is where I started to feel pretty inadequate reading this book. We’re debt-free but we are not even close to that kind of savings. (I know the problem. I eat out too much. If I cooked every meal at home, I’d be golden. I need to make myself a challenge or something.)
I feel like reader’s reactions to this book will be influenced by where they are on their financial journey. I can see her story of giving up $120 hair cuts seeming flippant to someone who is struggling to buy groceries. At the same time, I can see it being inspirational to people who have the ability to start saving money. I could also see it being frustrating and making people feel like they haven’t been doing enough to secure their financial future. I’d be interested to see how people respond to the message.
Let the shenanigans begin at the Best Boomerville Hotel …
Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!
Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun-loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.
With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?
This book wants to be a fun romp in the country with an eclectic group of people. That’s a fun premise for a book. I’m always on the look out for books with middle-aged or older protagonists.
I got a bit thrown off right at the beginning of the book with her definition of Boomers. She defines them as 50-69 which is a tad young for a book published this year. She then makes her main character 50. So this is supposed to be a book celebrating Baby Boomers yet she makes the lead as young as she possibly can. Then there are several comments throughout the book about how they don’t want “elderly people” at the hotel. Older women at the hotel are described as “ageing” in a disparaging way. That all seemed odd for a book that is supposed to be celebrating Baby Boomers.
There is a party that is held at one point in the book. They decide to have Indian food. That’s fine. Then they decide to make it a costume party where all these upper class white British people will be wearing saris, turbans, and other Indian styles of dress. That’s pushing pretty far towards creepy and inappropriate. Then they decide to make it a party celebrating the British Raj. Yeah. That’s pretty out of touch.
Then there is the Shaman. He doesn’t have a name. He isn’t seen often. He has both a “gypsy caravan” and a teepee. He does sessions of some kind in there. They appear to involve getting people high. Then he starts showing up and making mysterious pronouncements of doom while also healing people with a touch before disappearing from sight. One time he turns up to do a Shamanistic wedding ceremony and the guest indulge it as “a cabaret with a difference.”
So the guests are all rich white people who can take off for weeks at a time to stay at a hotel and putter about. The entertainment is a mish mash of other people’s cultures for fun. The “romances” in the book are pure insta-love. Our main character had two men fall for her on the first day she was there. They were just overtaken by her beauty. Once people decide to look at each other as a potential romantic interest, that’s it they are getting ready to get married. This is explained as people being old and not having much time left. I get not dawdling but this felt more like, “You’re breathing. You’ll do.”
I’d love to see this idea with maybe fewer characters so each could be well developed as a person instead of a stereotype – flighty artist, dirty old man, etc.
“I read a Tessa Dare book which everyone always recommends and now I’m going to have to read everything she’s ever written.”
Now look at what happened.
I absolutely hate romance novel covers like these. That’s the nice thing about e-books. You never have to see the covers while you’re reading.
I was reading in bed one night. The husband asked what I was reading and I said it was a romance novel. A few nights later he asked the same question and I gave the same answer. He asked if it was the same one. I had to think for a bit and then decided that there had been two or three since the last time he asked. I can’t help it that romance novels get read quickly.
What Am I Reading?
I picked these up from the library this weekend. They are both hefty books. They should keep me busy for a while.
What Am I Listening To?
I’ve only got a little bit of this left. I may even finish it before this posts. What am I supposed to do with my life then? This series gives me the worst book hangovers. I looked up the narrator to see what else she has read but this series is it. I don’t know what to listen to next.
While I was whining to myself about this I found this on Audible.
This is another of my major book hangover series. It just came out. Why didn’t anyone tell me? I’ll be finishing Lake Silence before this posts then and moving on with my life. My angst will be under control until this one is done.
In the glittering hotbed of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Vienna, one woman’s life would define and defy an era
Gustav Klimt gave Alma her first kiss. Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight and proposed only a few weeks later. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius abandoned all reason to pursue her. Poet and novelist Franz Werfel described her as “one of the very few magical women that exist.” But who was this woman who brought these most eminent of men to their knees? In Ecstasy, Mary Sharratt finally gives one of the most controversial and complex women of her time the center stage.
Coming of age in the midst of a creative and cultural whirlwind, young, beautiful Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. A brand-new era of possibility for women is dawning and she is determined to make the most of it. But Alma loses her heart to the great composer Gustav Mahler, nearly twenty years her senior. He demands that she give up her music as a condition for their marriage. Torn by her love and in awe of his genius, how will she remain true to herself and her artistic passion?
Part cautionary tale, part triumph of the feminist spirit, Ecstasy reveals the true Alma Mahler: composer, author, daughter, sister, mother, wife, lover, and muse.
I received this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.
Alma Mahler was a very interesting woman. She was ambitious in a time and place that did not reward that in upper class white women. She wanted to be a composer but was told that she couldn’t if she wanted to marry the man she wanted.
This book does a good job of highlighting the mental cost of requiring a woman to be a wife and mother if that is not their desire. Her depression and their martial troubles in the face of his refusal to see her as a creative human being was well written.
I wish this book had pulled me deeper into the story emotionally. Great historical fiction should immerse you in the time and place. It should take a little effort to get your focus out of that world when you put the book aside. This reading experience felt very surface level which is a shame. Early 20th century Vienna and the artistic world there could be a very lush setting for a novel.
I enjoyed learning about this woman that I had not previous been aware of.
Last Friday the husband and I went to see Neil Gaiman talk in Cleveland. This is a fine measure of how much I’ve corrupted the husband. He used to be an ordinary fellow. Ever so slowly I’ve been moving him over to the sci-fi/fantasy side of life. He is actually the one that heard that Neil Gaiman was going to be in town and wanted to go. He only really knew of him from the TV version of American Gods, although he had seen other movies and TV shows he had written for without knowing it was him.
We were only able to get seats in the balcony since we found out late. When we got there we found that the seats were very compact. My butt just fit into mine and my knees were touching the seat in front of me. I’m only 5’6. You have to be friendly with your neighbor. The husband doesn’t really do well in situations like this because he has big shoulders that take up more than his share of space. His PTSD doesn’t do well crowded in like that either so I always make sure to buy an aisle seat for him.
We started to notice that there were seats around us that weren’t occupied. The husband started talking to our sardine section. “When the lights go down, we should all just spread out to the empty chairs.” Then he got up and disappeared. I finally saw him surrounded by a group of female volunteer ushers. He was regaling them with some story.
Then it happened. I always this day would come.
An usher broke away from the group, came over to me, and asked, “Ma’am? Are you with that gentleman?“
I sighed and said, “It depends on what he’s doing over there.” That confused her.
Turns out he was getting official permission for us to scatter. Two ushers (one was the head person) escorted us to seats farther up in the balcony. They really wanted to make sure we were ok. I didn’t see the big deal. We were going to “worse” seats than the ones we paid for. He told me later that he might have played up the PTSD/wounded warrior angle for official permission. No one else in the sardine section moved but we got to spread out and sit a bit sideways to be able to stretch out our legs.
Neil Gaiman was great, of course. He had a stack of questions from the audience that he answered by telling stories. He interspersed a few readings.
The most exciting news for me is that he is working on a second London Below book. My favorite of his books is still Neverwhere. I am here for whatever he wants to write in that world.
He told stories about working with Terry Pratchett and the filming of the Good Omens series, including David Tennant being bit by a dog who didn’t know about acting and decided to defend the kids that were being threatened.
He talked about meeting his now-wife around 2008. The husband later said that it was good thing that he had found me first because Neil Gaiman was single at the same time I was in that year and I fit his definition of people he liked. That’s people who liked books and were a little weird. I was thinking, “Wait a minute. I was not aware that Neil Gaiman was an option at the time I was making life partner decisions” but I didn’t tell him that.
I loved the fact that he was talking against book snobbery. He wanted people to sample and get to know authors from all genres – horror, romance, kidlit, etc.
Then he read a full story from Norse Mythology. The husband started snoring but swears he heard the whole thing. He says that it was just that Neil’s voice was so “melodic and soothing.” He couldn’t have done that in sardineland.
So if you ever have a chance to hear Neil Gaiman on tour, we highly recommend it. Just remember if you spread out and get comfy that you might be lulled into a happy sleep.
I have a new rule. I’m only reading historical romances that have been recommended on Twitter. This week I tried two that I picked out on my own. I think they were from Book Bub. I had to rapidly DNF both. There are SO MANY historical romance books and authors that it feels like just randomly reaching into a hat and trying to draw out a good one.
I’m doing a thread on Twitter of all the books I DNF this year and why. Here the explanations for each.
Catching Captain Nash – Hero’s been gone for 5 years – His wife says that she will allow him to have sex w/ her as often as needed in order to control his emotions YEAH BYE – Also too many uses of the word ‘swive’ pic.twitter.com/V11KBzXBkg
So then I started picking books from romance recommendation threads.
I promised a list of historical romances with Indian characters that don’t make my head explode. I’m kicking it off with Meredith Duran’s DUKE OF SHADOWS, which is set partially during the Indian rebellion of 1857-58 (aka “the Sepoy Mutiny”).
Check out these lists if you are looking for well done romances. Also look at WOCinRomance too.
What Am I Reading?
I read a Tessa Dare book which everyone always recommends and now I’m going to have to read everything she’s ever written.
What Am I Listening To?
I’m so excited about this one. I loved her series about The Others. This is set in the same world but in a different place. It is assumed that you have a working knowledge of world. It doesn’t have a prologue explaining things as clearly as each of The Others books do.
I loved Meg and Simon’s story so much (Grumpy Ponies!) that I worried a bit about leaving that behind but I fell right into this story. I’m loving it so far.
An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.
At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents' master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.
With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can't bring herself to tell them the truth--that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.
But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?
This book is so good!
Conflict between immigrant Asian parents and their American-born kids is a staple in a lot of books. What I appreciated about this book is that it took a deeper look at the people involved to figure out their motivations. Mei is trying to be the perfect daughter because she has seen real world consequences of disobedience. Her brother was cut out of the family years earlier for dating a woman with some health issues that may impact her fertility. His parents would not accept a potential daughter in law who might not produce grandchildren. Mei is raised on stories of a local Taiwanese-American woman who was cast out of her family and the horrible things had (supposedly) happened to her. From an outsider’s perspective it is easy to wonder “Why doesn’t she stand up for herself?” This book does a great job of showing where she gets the idea that she has no other options.
The book features other characters who have been in these situations and examines the results of their decisions. There is:
A woman who became a doctor because her family decided she would be
A female relative whose life is taken up by caring for her mother
Mei’s boyfriend, who is from a Japanese-American family that has been living in the United States for several generations
Mei’s mother’s story was amazing. At the beginning she is portrayed as an overbearing, neurotic mother who has Mei’s schedule memorized and panics if she doesn’t answer her phone when she knows she should be out of class. Her phone messages are played for laughs. As the story deepens though we start to see her conflicts. She’s the daughter-in-law of a very traditional family in an arranged marriage where her role is very sharply defined. As she sees Mei start to branch out, she opens up a little about her life and you develop a lot of compassion for a character who very easily could have descended into a caricature.
It’s great. I would recommend this one to everyone. Go get it and read it and pass it on.
An enlightening narrative history—an entertaining fusion of Tom Wolfe and Michael Pollan—that traces the colorful origins of once unconventional foods and the diverse fringe movements, charismatic gurus, and counterculture elements that brought them to the mainstream and created a distinctly American cuisine.
Food writer Jonathan Kauffman journeys back more than half a century—to the 1960s and 1970s—to tell the story of how a coterie of unusual men and women embraced an alternative lifestyle that would ultimately change how modern Americans eat. Impeccably researched, Hippie Food chronicles how the longhairs, revolutionaries, and back-to-the-landers rejected the square establishment of President Richard Nixon’s America and turned to a more idealistic and wholesome communal way of life and food.
From the mystical rock-and-roll cult known as the Source Family and its legendary vegetarian restaurant in Hollywood to the Diggers’ brown bread in the Summer of Love to the rise of the co-op and the origins of the organic food craze, Kauffman reveals how today’s quotidian whole-foods staples—including sprouts, tofu, yogurt, brown rice, and whole-grain bread—were introduced and eventually became part of our diets. From coast to coast, through Oregon, Texas, Tennessee, Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Vermont, Kauffman tracks hippie food’s journey from niche oddity to a cuisine that hit every corner of this country.
A slick mix of gonzo playfulness, evocative detail, skillful pacing, and elegant writing, Hippie Food is a lively, engaging, and informative read that deepens our understanding of our culture and our lives today.
Obviously I had to listen to this book. They should have just titled it “A Book for Heather.”
This is a history of the health food and vegetarian food movements in the U.S. It starts with briefly talking about health food people like the Kelloggs and Dr. Graham at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century. It then segues into the macrobiotic movement which came to the U.S. from Japan. The bulk of the book focuses on the post-WW II push back to the marketing of processed convenience food.
What I really learned from this book:
White Folks Can’t Cook
The hippie/back-to-the-land movement was overwhelmingly white. That’s briefly addressed but not explored deeply. A lot of these people seemed to come from a background where they didn’t learn to cook without convenience foods. So when they tried to cook whole food ingredients, they pretty much failed. Spices? What are they?
That’s how vegetarian food got a reputation for being bland and boring. It only started to get good when they started stealing ideas from other cultures. Japanese influences came in through macrobiotics. This gets linked to politics because of the 1965 immigration reform that allowed more immigrants from non-European countries. Those people opened restaurants and suddenly people realized that you don’t need to eat food with the texture and taste of tree bark. If the movement was inclusive from the start, hippie food might not have had such a bad reputation.
I loved hearing about how all sorts of foods that we consider staples now came to the United States. Again this is presented from a white, middle class perspective. It talks about starting tofu production in the States but I’m sure there were people in Asian communities who were doing this before white people adopted it and started mass production. The same can go for different spices and/or vegetables that I’m sure were in use in black or Latinx communities. That’s my major criticism of this book.
I would get excited whenever some of my favorites where mentioned. Diet for a Small Planet! (Yes, her made up theory of the necessity of “complete proteins” has been repeatedly debunked. Can we let that die now? Please? Asking for all vegetarians who get asked about it ALL THE TIME.) The Moosewood Cookbooks! Those were some of the first I read.
Read this one if you love food history as it relates to personal ethics and politics.
A book for dog lovers everywhere. Celebrating the amazing relationships shared with our four-legged friends, each story recounts the love of dogs and the powerful ways dogs impact our lives.
In this heartwarming collection of stories, readers meet 38 incredible dogs who have gone above and beyond the job description of best friend. Each uplifting story provides an inspiring look at the animals who change our lives. Meet rescue dogs who learn to serve others, working dogs who go beyond the call of duty, and underdogs who surmount extraordinary challenges on the road to finding their forever home. This treasury of man's best friend features photographs and personal anecdotes from those who have been touched by the selfless love of a beloved pet.
Readers will be inspired by...* Extraordinary reunions: A dog is rescued from Aleppo, Syria, and reunited with his family in Canada, where they had relocated in 2015 after a missile destroyed their home.* Friendships meant to be: When a prosthetics clinic scheduled appointments for 9-year-old Avery and shelter puppy Hattie Mae on the same day, a fateful encounter leads to a lifelong friendship built on combatting disability. * Heroic acts: Shaya, a crime-fighting dog trained to track illegal poachers, hurt his leg chasing an injured rhino. The leg had to be amputated, but Shaya goes right back to work protecting animals.* True devotion: As he was participating in China's Four Deserts Gobi March, a six-day foot race, Dion Leonard met a dedicated pup who accompanied him for about 120 miles. Afterward, he decides to adopt the dog.
Of course I loved this book. How could you not? This is a book filled with beautiful pictures of dogs as you’d expect from National Geographic.
Each dog has a story that is 2-3 pages long. It describes how the dog was taken out of a shelter and found a job that they love to do. There are therapy dogs, security dogs, actors, medical dogs, and anything else you could think of. There are probably dogs doing jobs that you’ve never even thought of before.
I’ll be taking this book to my office for people to look at in the waiting room.
I don’t like reading about rape in fiction. Recently though I found myself reading a few books almost back to back that had rape story lines. That got me wondering about the different ways this topic can be covered and if that changes the reading experience.
Gender of the author
I don’t think that I would be willing to read a female rape story line in a fiction book written by a man. Even if it was written from the point of view of a woman, there is still the fact that it was imagined in the mind of a potential perpetrator instead of a victim that adds a layer of disgust to it for me. It feels too voyeuristic even if that isn’t the intent.
Surprise or Anticipated
In the synopsis of The Hollow Girl it says that the main character is raped so you know going into the book that this is a major part of the plot and can decide whether or not that is a book for you.
In another series I read recently, it was not discussed in the synopsis so it felt like being blind sided by it.
There has been a lot written about “fridging”. That’s the trope of having something horrible, like rape or murder, happen to a secondary female character in order to inspire the main character(s) to do something heroic. But what if that rape happens to the main character?
In The Hollow Girl the main character is a Romani girl who is learning magic. She is attacked and raped and the boy who comes to her defense is murdered. In order to bring him back to life she needs to collect body parts. She decides to collect them from the boys who raped her and those whose inaction allowed the attack to happen. The rape here sets up a horror revenge fantasy.
I don’t like stories that use rape of a main character to humble or humilate a strong woman. That felt more like what happened in The Godkindred Saga series.
This is a fantasy series featuring a female general who is anticipating retirement but is instead sent to a newly captured territory to be its governor. She is a great character – complex, competent, just – but then along the way she is suddenly raped while confronting a horde of half-feral men. These men had been keeping women in fear in the area. The danger from them and need to subdue them was explained well in the book but having the main character raped seemed like an odd choice. It wasn’t absolutely necessary for the story.
As the story progresses there are other rapes of high ranking females in this Army. None of them seemed to serve any real purpose in the story but to belittle them.
I love this author but I do have an issue with her use of rape in her books. She writes beautiful pastoral books and then she writes books that feature a lot of violence and rape. There are series of hers that I won’t read because they are specifically labeled as featuring a lot of sexual violence. The attitude towards this in her books is basically, “Suck it up and deal. This is what women have had to deal with from the beginning of time.” It is off putting to me.
In Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death, the main character is the offspring of military strategy of raping women. The attitude there is that she is going to make sure that this ends when she brings down the bad guy. It has the same kind of violence but somehow it is more hopeful (despite it being a much darker book) because they aren’t just putting up with it.
On page or Off
I have no interest in reading the details. In all these examples euphemisms are used and then the scene fades to black. In fact, in Flight of the Godkin Griffith, I didn’t realize that there had been a rape until the character references it later. I had to go back and look at the scene again to realize that was what that euphemism meant.
All of these examples I’m citing are fantasy.
I think for me that gives a distance that makes it a bit easier to accept these story lines. I find books like Stained, which is a contemporary story about a rape to be much harder.
I find nonfiction accounts easier to read. Some people may find that strange but to me it is an account of something that happened and needs to be faced. It is not something that someone sat down and imagined because they thought it would be entertaining.
Do you avoid rape plots in books? What standards do you have for what you will or won’t read?