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04 Apr, 2016

SeaSoned

/ posted in: Reading SeaSoned SEAsoned by Victoria Allman
on 2010-12
Pages: 200
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in the Bahamas and Italy and Greece

Victoria's Recipe for Marriage: Take two adventurous newlyweds and place them on a floundering yacht where the wife is the chef, and her boss, the captain, is also her husband. Add two inexperienced crew members, an anorexic diva and her bully of a husband, a CEO who thinks he's in charge, a drunken first mate, and a randy wife looking for diversion. Stir with a violent storm and a rapidly flooding engine room. Apply pressure and watch the situation simmer to a boil. Sprinkled with over 30-mouthwatering recipes and spiced with tales of adventure, SEAsoned is the hilarious look at a yacht chef's first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain, trying to stay afloat.

Goodreads

 

Victoria Allman and her husband have just gotten their big break.  He is going to be the captain of a yacht after years of working on crews.  To do this though they have to lower their standards.  They aren’t going to be on a big boat.  They are taking on a measly 100 foot yacht that isn’t in the best of shape.

I was very surprised when I heard her refer to a 100 foot yacht as a small boat.  I’ve seen those things in marinas and they are huge.  That’s your first clue that the lives of the rich people who rent these yachts are a bit different.

Victoria and her husband run the yacht with two crew members.  She is the chef.  She has to decide what to stock in the very small galley and what she might be able to find to cook with in ports that they call at.  If the passengers change their destination at the last minute or if they invite their friends from another yacht over, she might have to scramble.  She makes elaborate meal plans that can be crushed with a breezy “Here’s what I want for lunch…”

They start out doing charters in the Bahamas until the yacht is damaged enough that it has to go in for lengthy repairs.  They then pick up another job on a 200 foot yacht in the Mediterranean.  This makes Victoria happy because of the bigger galley but adds more crew member problems.

This is a behind the scenes look at a life of luxury that most people would never experience.  See what it takes to cater to another person’s every whim while living in cramped quarters with your spouse.

There are a lot of recipes in here too.  Most are meat based but there is one for a Santorini Eggplant Salad that sounds interesting.

I enjoyed the story telling in this book and wished it were a bit longer to immerse myself in this world for a while more.

14 Mar, 2016

Moving Pictures

/ posted in: Reading Moving Pictures Moving Pictures on 2010
Pages: 136
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, Crime & Mystery, Historical Fiction
Published by Top Shelf
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in France

"Moving Pictures "is the story of the awkward and dangerous relationship between curator Ila Gardner and officer Rolf Hauptmann, as they are forced by circumstances to play out their private lives in a public power struggle. The narrative unfolds along two timelines which collide with the revelation of a terrible secret, an enigmatic decision that not many would make, and the realization that sometimes the only choice left is the refusal to choose.

Goodreads

I’ve talked here before about not being a big comic/graphic novel fan because they are too short.  However, my library just got Hoopla which lets you read graphic novels from their collection on an iPad.  I figured I would be more likely to read them that way than getting multiple short books from the library.  After I read my first 25 page comic on the life of Ganesh, which was interesting, I realized that I could only download 10 books a month.  That killed my plan to read all the short ones about the Indian gods and goddesses.  So I started looking to see what books they had that were fairly long.

Moving Pictures is 146 pages.  It is the story of a Canadian woman working at a French museum during World War II.  She has been in charge of boxing up the non-important works of art and storing them in the basement of her museum.  She has decided to stay in France during the war for reasons that aren’t clear to her coworkers.  At the beginning of the book she is being interrogated by a German officer about her work at the museum.

 

The artwork is black and white and very minimalist except when a particular piece of art is being discussed. It shows up well in digital form.

The story is told in flashbacks to show how these people ended up in this interrogation room.

This is a good introduction to historical fiction graphic novels.

24 Feb, 2016

Inclusive Chick Lit and Bollywood Confidential

/ posted in: Reading Inclusive Chick Lit and Bollywood Confidential Bollywood Confidential by Sonia Singh
on June 28th 2005
Pages: 240
Genres: Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in India

After seven years of slogging through film roles too embarrassing to mention, twenty-eight-year-old struggling L.A. actress Raveena Rai has finally been offered a lead! A potentially career-making turn in a major Hollywood epic, perhaps? A meaty part in a serious drama with Oscar® written all over it? Not! To Raveena's great dismay (and her mother's delight) she's flying off to India to star in a new Bollywood extravaganza.
Oh well, a lead is a lead, after all. Never mind that it's a million humid degrees in Bombay, the Los Angeles of the East; that she has to live with a wacko distant uncle who sleeps under furniture and is the most stressed-out wannabe swami on the continent; that her director is a lecherous hack and his movie has the potential of being the very worst flick ever made anywhere! At least Raveena's leading man is the supremely sexy Siddharth, Bollywood's biggest star. But while their on-screen chemistry is electric-hot, off-screen the arrogant hunk treats her with total disdain ... or, worse still, ignores her.

Goodreads

 

Sometimes you just need something mindless to read.  This has happened to me twice in the past few months.  The first time I was mentally tired from being at a conference and needed something light and fluffy to read.  The second time I had the flu.  The second time I was on a self-imposed POC authors only challenge.  I didn’t know who to read.  I didn’t have a list of POC authors who write chick lit who immediately sprung to mind.  All I could come up with was Terry McMillian but I’ve read all of her books.

I search Listopia on Goodreads and came up the Inclusive Chick Lit list.  There are a lot of interesting sounding books on here.  The only one that I was interested in and was immediately available for download from my library’s website was Bollywood Confidential.

It served its purpose admirably.  I passed a flu addled afternoon reading about an Indian-American actress attempting to adjust to living and working in India.  It was funny and cute.

Here are some other books from this list that I’m interested in.
The Sari Shop WidowThe Sari Shop Widow by Shobhan Bantwal

 

“Since becoming a widow at age twenty-seven, Anjali Kapadia has devoted herself to transforming her parents’ sari shop into a chic boutique, brimming with exquisite jewelry and clothing. Now, ten years later, it stands out like a proud maharani amid Edison’s bustling Little India. But when Anjali learns the shop is on the brink of bankruptcy, she feels her world unraveling…”


Becoming AmericanaBecoming Americana by Lara Rios

 

“Ever since an article about Lupe Perez ran in the UCLA paper, she’s become the poster child for the American Dream: East L.A. bad girl who slashed cop makes good! She goes to school full-time, works in the food court, and volunteers at a center for at-risk teens. Against all odds, Lupe has turned her life around. The thing is, she never asked for all this attention. Now, her professor wants her to write a gigantic thesis about what Americanization means to Mexican immigrants-and she’s not even sure yet what it means to her.”


Pastries: A Novel of Desserts and DiscoveriesPastries: A Novel of Desserts and Discoveries by Bharti Kirchner

 

“Sunya Malhotra, a young American woman whose parents had migrated from India, is the head baker and owner of Pastries, a warm and cozy bakery in Seattle. Sunya loves baking and has transformed her fabulous cakes and tarts into delicious works of art. The success of her beloved bakery is put in jeopardy, however, when a chain bakery threatens to open up down the street from her. To add to her misery, Roger, her hip, Japanese boyfriend has left her for a “perfect” Japanese girlfriend and her mother has just become engaged to a man Sunya detests. Sunya hasn’t yet reconciled to the mystery of a father missing since her birth. Even a new relationship with a hot, young film director who is in town to cover the 1999 World Trade Conference, can’t help Sunya with her biggest worry – she has lost her touch for baking.”


Midori by MoonlightMidori by Moonlight by Wendy Nelson Tokunaga

 

“Too independent for Japanese society, Midori is a young woman who has always felt like a stranger in her native land. So when she falls in love with Kevin, an American English teacher, she readily agrees to leave home and start a new life with him in San Francisco—as his fiancée. Kevin seems to be the perfect man. That is, until he dumps her for his blonde ex, who Midori never even knew existed. With just a smattering of fractured English, not much cash, and a visa set to expire in sixty days, Midori realizes she’s in for quite a struggle. Unable to face the humiliation of telling her parents she’s been jilted, she decides to go it alone, surprising even herself as she proves she will do almost anything to hang on to her American Dream.”


The Village Bride of Beverly HillsThe Village Bride of Beverly Hills by Kavita Daswani

 

“After an arranged marriage in her native India, Priya moves with her husband to California, where they share a house with his parents. Playing the traditional daughter- in-law role, she’s expected to clean, cook, and —because she doesn’’t immediately get pregnant—find a job as well!
But the job, at a glossy Hollywood gossip magazine, isn’’t at all what Priya’’s in-laws had in mind for a traditional Indian wife. She soon finds herself with a secret life that she must hide from her disapproving new family.”

 

Do you have recommendations for light books by POC authors?

11 Feb, 2016

The Road to McCarthy

/ posted in: Reading The Road to McCarthy The Road to McCarthy by Pete McCarthy
on February 1st 2005
Pages: 384
Genres: Travel, Essays & Travelogues, Biography & Autobiography, General
Published by HarperCollins
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Pete McCarthy established one cardinal rule of travel in his bestselling debut, McCarthy's Bar: "Never pass a bar with your name on it." In this equally wry and insightful follow-up, his characteristic good humor, curiosity, and thirst for adventure take him on a fantastic jaunt around the world in search of his Irish roots -- from Morocco, where he tracks down the unlikely chief of the McCarthy clan, to New York, and finally to remote Mc-Carthy, Alaska. The Road to McCarthy is a quixotic and anything-but- typical Irish odyssey that confirms Pete McCarthy's status as one of our funniest and most incisive writers.

Goodreads

It all starts when the author hears that there is still a king of the McCarthy clan.  Not everyone agrees that this is a legitimate title but he wants to meet him.  The king is hard to find – enemies probably – and lives in Morocco.  From there, Pete McCarthy is off to follow the Irish diaspora.  He is half-Irish and half-English and grew up in England.  His English accent is sometimes a problem in discussions in the most Irish of strongholds.

After Tangiers he travels to New York and attempts to crash the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Then it is off to Monserrat, a small island in the Caribbean that was populated by a large amount of Irish people before an erupting volcano decimated the population.  He follows the travels of Irish republicans who were exiled to Tasmania.  A few escaped and one became the governor of Montana so it is off to Butte.  Finally he goes into the wilderness to McCarthy Alaska to see a town named after the family.

The tone of the book reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson.  It is chatty with a lot of history thrown in but in bite sized pieces with the absurd facts pointed out.

In New York:

“Fitness is an overrated virtue in a law enforcement officer.  In their way these guys are much more menacing. They’re putting out a subliminal message: ‘Don’t run away.  We can’t chase you, so we’ll have to shoot.'”

On the joys of traveling:

“This is what tourists do all over the world.  You see a sign for something you’ve never heard of and probably wouldn’t cross the road to see at home, and, bang, you’re there.  And then people tell you about other things you ought to go and see.  Once you’re in a small obscure are that the rest of the world knows nothing about someone will say, ‘Our big attraction is Satan’s Drain.  You really should go.’  So you do.  And you develop an interest in geological features and sea levels and all sorts of other stuff you’ve never cared about before…”

On finally reaching the end of the road in McCarthy Alaska:

“There are few more comforting experiences for the traveler than to journey great distances through unfamiliar and threatening landscapes, anticipating an austere and possibly squalid destination, only to discover that catering and interior design are not in the hands of heterosexuals.”

This is a great introduction to Irish history and the influence that the Irish people have had around the world.

08 Feb, 2016

Welcome to Night Vale

/ posted in: Reading Welcome to Night Vale Welcome to Night Vale on October 20th 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Goodreads

If you aren’t familiar with the podcast Welcome To Night Vale, here’s the scoop.  The story is told by Cecil, the radio announcer at the Night Vale radio station, where being an intern is a fatal position. Night Vale is a place where weird things are normal.  The dog park is off limits to everyone, including dogs.  The Secret Police are watching and no one believes in angels – including Old Woman Josie who happens to live with several.  A scientist named Carlos moved to town to study the weirdness of Night Vale.  Carlos has beautiful hair and Cecil loves him.

I’ve only listened to about 8 of the podcasts but it is enough to get familiar with the concept.  The book tries to put a plot to the strange happenings.  I don’t think that it succeeds very well.  I enjoyed this book in brief snippets of 5 to 10 minutes at a time.  Longer than that at one sitting and it got to be too much.  This is a book that you enjoy for the absurdity of the discussion and not the greater story.

 

05 Feb, 2016

Of Oysters, Pearls, and Magic

/ posted in: Reading Of Oysters, Pearls, and Magic Of Oysters, Pearls and Magic by Joyce Chng
on 2011
Pages: 79
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Enter the world of Mirra. She is a magic user, but her gift is scorned by the menfolk in her village. Men are allowed to use magic; women are not. So, after a tumultuous event, Mirra decides to leave and heads for the City to continue her own self-journey. This is her tale.

Goodreads

Mirra lives on a planet settled long ago by travelers from Earth.  Their planet is volcanic and prone to a lot of seismic activity.  Mirra’s village is on the coast.  The women work as divers who harvest oysters for the meat and the pearls.  The men in Mirra’s village are able to work with magic but that skill isn’t developed by women.

As a small child, Mirra finds that she is able to produce magical circles of light from her hands.  She is punished for this.  That is men’s work.  She stifles her talents until one day the Sea Witch, a reviled female magic user from a nearby village, comes to the village to see her.  This enrages the men of the village who throw Mirra into seclusion.  The consequences of this action are dire.  In the aftermath, Mirra leaves and moves to The City to attend a school the Sea Witch is running to learn about her magic.

Of Oysters, Pearls, and Magic is a novella.  It is listed as only 79 pages on my ereader and the ebook contains a few short stories at the end from the POV of other characters.  It tells the story of Mirra’s life as she is educated and finds love in The City, only to have to leave her home again because of natural disasters.

The setting of this book is a planet settled mainly by Asians from Earth.  I don’t think I’ve read anything with that setting before and now I’ve had two reviews of books in a row like that.  Also like yesterday’s book, The Stars Change, this story looks at changing family structures.  Here people choose to either be single, paired, or a triad.  Mirra becomes part of a triad.

Because of the brief length of the story and the many years that pass during it, there isn’t a lot of development of each story point.  This reads a lot like a detailed outline for a longer book.


Food is a major part of this story.  I didn’t anticipate that when I started the book.  Mirra associates home with the taste of seafood stews and oyster fritters.  Sharing food with strangers is customary.  There are several recipes for the food in the book shared.  Most of seafood based so it won’t be something I’m making but there is a recipe for rice balls that sounds tasty.

About Joyce Chng

I am Singaporean. I write SFF and YA. 😉

I also write urban fantasy under J. Damask.

04 Feb, 2016

The Stars Change

/ posted in: Reading The Stars Change The Stars Change by Mary Anne Mohanraj
on November 5th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Erotica, Science Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Outer Space

The Stars Change: an erotic science fiction novel-in-stories. On a South Asian-settled university planet, tensions are rising, and as they reach the brink of interstellar war, life (and sex) continues. Humans, aliens, and modified humans gather at the University of All Worlds in search of knowledge... and self-knowledge... but the first bomb has fallen and the fate of this multicultural, multispecies mecca is in question. Some people will seek solace in physical contact, some will look for spiritual answers, while others will find their strength in community, family, and love.

Goodreads

 

In the future people from South Asia settle a distant planet.  Their descendants have established a prestigious university that attracts students from all over the galaxy.  But tensions have been rising for years between humans and nonhumans and now the human supremacy movement has launched a missile into a nonhuman population center.

This story is told starting with short stories that introduce the main characters.

Kimsriyalani  – a feline-like nonhuman computer programming student who has sex with a stranger in the park that night

Amara a human woman who is married to the man Kimsriyalani has sex with.  He comes home and tells her and she grabs a bag and leaves him.  She doesn’t know where to go.  She can’t go home to her very traditional mother.

Narita – a genetically modified human woman who wanted to marry Amara nine years ago.  Amara knew her family wouldn’t accept a modified human so she left her and had her mother arrange a marriage.  Now she goes to Narita’s house to escape her marriage but Narita doesn’t want to let her in because she is sheltering a group of aliens who were injured in the blast.

Gaurav – a reptilian police officer who is the only one of his kind on the planet.  He got stuck here when his planned transport disappeared into a worm hole.

Chieri – a religious prostitute and empath who had a customer tonight who was celebrating the successful missile strike he set off.  She goes to Gaurav to report it.

When Gaurav’s superiors don’t believe the words of a prostitute who says that more attacks are coming at sunrise, it is up to these people to follow the clues to stop further attacks.

This is advertised as erotic fiction and it is that in the beginning but as the story progresses that aspect of it falls away.  There’s no time for sex when you are fighting for your life.  (Yeah, I’m still giving you the side eye Outlander.)

This is a short book and a quick read.  It shows how people of various creeds and species can pull together to protect what they love.

 

28 Jan, 2016

A Fall of Marigolds

/ posted in: Reading A Fall of Marigolds A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner
on 2014
Pages: 370
Genres: Historical, Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned

A beautiful scarf, passed down through the generations, connects two women who learn that the weight of the world is made bearable by the love we give away....

Goodreads

1911

Clara Wood worked as a nurse in a doctor’s office in a building that housed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory on the top floors.  She has a flirtation with a bookkeeper who works at Triangle.  After the fire happens, she doesn’t want to return to the building.  She gets a job on Ellis Island.  She nurses the potential immigrants who are too sick to be admitted to New York.

When a man comes in whose wife died on route, Clara is drawn to him because of his grief. When she finds evidence that things weren’t as her patient thought in his marriage, she agonizes over what to do with this info while also working through how to move on in her own life.

2011

Taryn Michaels was on her way to meet her husband at the World Trade Center when the planes hit. Now just before the 10 year anniversary, a picture has surfaced of Taryn and a man on the street just as the first tower fell. Reminders of that day make her realize that she is still carrying a lot of guilt about her role in inviting her husband to go to the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the Tower that day.

Clara and Taryn are linked by a scarf that Clara’s patient’s wife owned that eventually being worn by Taryn when her picture was taken on 9/11.

The story is told alternating between Clara and Taryn. I found Clara’s story to be more interesting. I had read about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire but didn’t realize that it was in a multistory building with other businesses underneath that were unaffected.

I also didn’t know much about the treatment of sick immigrants in the hospital at Ellis Island.

22 Jan, 2016

More Ketchup than Salsa

/ posted in: Reading More Ketchup than Salsa More Ketchup than Salsa by Joe Cawley
on December 9th 2013
Pages: 253
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Joe Cawley
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Set in the Canary Islands

A hilarious insight into the wild and wacky characters of an expat community in a familiar holiday destination, More Ketchup than Salsa is a must-read for anybody who has ever dreamed about jetting off to sunnier climes, finding a job abroad or flirted with the idea of ‘doing a Shirley Valentine’ in these trying economic times.

Goodreads

Joe Crawley’s step father bought a bar on the island of Tenerife and strongly suggested that his two stepsons and their partners run it. They all had dead-end jobs and no experience in the hospitality business but they moved from England to the Canary Islands to give it a go.

They quickly realized that running a bar and restaurant in a resort is very different than being on vacation yourself. They are surrounded by British people who want all the comforts of home – just on the beach.

“…at times it seemed like an imported little Britain full of patrons who thought that abroad was any sunny place bedecked in red, white and blue where the locals couldn’t talk properly.”

There was no call to go getting adventurous with the food either.

“For some stalwarts even our Hawaiian burger, simply chicken breast crowned with a pineapple ring, would prove too exotic for simple palates: “Hawaiian burger? Oooh nooooo. Foreign food doesn’t agree with me. Have you not got anything like curry or bolognaise?”

In between power outages, bureaucratic nightmares, the mafia, and hordes of cockroaches, they manage to make a go of it even if their relationships might not survive intact.

If you’ve ever considered quitting your job and going to live on the beach, read this book first.

You can also read-

A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the CaribbeanA Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean by Melinda Blanchard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the story of a higher class beach restaurant and has the recipe for the world’s best cornbread.

15 Jan, 2016

Ada’s Algorithm

/ posted in: Reading Ada’s Algorithm Ada's Algorithm by James Essinger
on September 28th 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Biography & Autobiography
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

Over 150 years after her death, a widely-used scientific computer program was named "Ada," after Ada Lovelace, the only legitimate daughter of the eighteenth century's version of a rock star, Lord Byron. Why?
Because, after computer pioneers such as Alan Turing began to rediscover her, it slowly became apparent that she had been a key but overlooked figure in the invention of the computer.

Goodreads

Ada Lovelace’s life sounds like it was made just for the tabloids.

Her father was the poet Lord Byron.  He was famous in England for his legendary affairs as well as for his poetry.  He decided to marry when he was in need of a major influx of cash to keep up his lavish lifestyle.  He married a heiress and soon fathered his only legitimate child, Ada.  His wife soon found out that he was still carrying on affairs, including one with his half-sister.  (Apparently, it didn’t count as real incest because they didn’t share the same mother.) She took Ada and left when the baby was one month old.  Lord Byron left England soon after, never to return.

Ada’s mother was determined not to let her child fall victim to the overactive imagination that she thought plagued the Byron line.  She had her schooled in mathematics.

Two events focused the direction of Ada’s life.  First, she learned about the Jacquard Loom.  This was an automated loom that used punch cards to tell the loom what threads to raise and lower.  Very complex patterns could be made this way.

This is considered the first computer program.

Secondly, she met Charles Babbage.  He was working on machines that could do complex mathematical problems.  She was fascinated by his work and started to help him figure it out.  She was also able to imagine the implications of the machine.  Her vision eclipsed anything Babbage had considered.  She published a translation of an article on Babbage and added extensive notes that explained what a future with computing machines could look like.

The combination of the “overly imaginative” Byron line and her mathematical education created a visionary.

However, as a woman, she knew she wouldn’t be taken seriously.  At first she didn’t even want to put her name on the article that became known as her Notes.  Babbage persuaded her to at least put her initials.  Over the years, her contributions to his work were downplayed.  Letters written late in her life when she was heavily drugged against the pain of terminal uterine cancer were used to claim that she was a madwoman.  However, letters to and from Babbage show that she was highly involved and that he valued her work.

Alan Turing referred to her work in the 1940s and 1950s when he was laying out the foundations for modern computing.  He called it the Lovelace objection.  She wrote that machines can only do what they are programmed to do.  He said that she meant that computers can’t take us by surprise.

Babbage ended up rejecting a proposal from Lovelace where she offered to essentially be his spokesman for his analytical engine.  She knew that he didn’t have the people skills to get it the exposure that she could.  She was right.  He never got it made.  Some historians now think that if he had listened to her about its potential that England could have had a technological revolution in the mid-1800s. This model was made later.

My favorite quote from this book sums up Babbage.  In college he and a group of friends “… founded a club which they called The Extractors, designed to help its members should any of them be the subject of a petition to get them sent to a lunatic asylum.”  Planning ahead is important.  It doesn’t seem that they never needed to invoke it.

This book is an excellent look at the life of an extraordinary woman.  She died at the age of 36.  Imagine what she could have accomplished had she lived longer.

The featured image at the top of the post is Ada’s Algorithm that she developed when working with Babbage.  My only issue with this book is that I found myself skipping over long passages quoted from her writing on mathematical theory.  My brain doesn’t like that kind of thing.

21 Dec, 2015

Write. Publish. Repeat

/ posted in: Reading Write. Publish. Repeat Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Write. Publish. Repeat.
The No-Luck-Required Guide to Publishing
In 2013, Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt published 1.5 million words and made their full-time livings as indie authors. In Write. Publish. Repeat., they tell you exactly how they did it: how they created over 15 independent franchises across 50+ published works, how they turned their art into a logical, sustainable business, and how any independent author can do the same to build a sustainable, profitable career with their writing.
This book is not a formula with an easy path to follow. It is a guidebook that will help you build a successful indie publishing career, no matter what type of writer you are ... so long as you're the type who's willing to do the work.

Goodreads

Write. Publish. Repeat is the story of three authors who write together and separately for independent publication.  They’ve made many mistakes, up to and including losing homes, but now make a living selling their books.

This is not a book that is going to give you a formula to follow to hit it big easily.  They write and rewrite a lot.  They polish and market their products and have built up a fan base.  This book is a look at how they run their business in case you want to try to do the same thing.

The bottom line is that you need to write.  A lot.  Keep making stories for people to read.  Don’t worry about marketing until you have an amazing product to market.  All the marketing advice in the world won’t help sell a bad book long term.

I also appreciated that the advice in this book was purposely ethical.  There was no sleazy tips to trick people into buying your book.

I would recommend this for anyone considering writing and publishing either traditionally or self-publishing.

10 Dec, 2015

Where Women Are Kings

/ posted in: Reading Where Women Are Kings Where Women Are Kings by Christie Watson
on April 28th 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in England

The story of a young boy who believes two things: that his Nigerian birth mother loves him like the world has never known love, and that he is a wizard   Elijah, seven years old, is covered in scars and has a history of disruptive behavior. Taken away from his birth mother, a Nigerian immigrant in England, Elijah is moved from one foster parent to the next before finding a home with Nikki and her husband, Obi.   Nikki believes that she and Obi are strong enough to accept Elijah's difficulties--and that being white will not affect her ability to raise a black son. They care deeply for Elijah and, in spite of his demons, he begins to settle into this loving family. But as Nikki and Obi learn more about their child's tragic past, they face challenges that threaten to rock the fragile peace they've established, challenges that could prove disastrous.

Goodreads

It is all Trish’s fault. It was a slow morning at work so I was on Twitter while waiting for patients when this happened.


I vaguely remembered hearing about that book and so I clicked the link to read about it and then Amazon 1- Click happened and then I was 25% of the way through the book before the day got busy.

Trish is a bad influence.


This is the story of Elijah, a seven year old boy who was born to Nigerian immigrants in London.  His father dies soon after his birth and his mother’s grief makes her unable to care for a baby.  She takes him to a church to look for help being a mother but is told that the baby is possessed by a wizard who the pastor can get rid of if she brings him some money.  This sets up years of abuse of both of them.

And we’re back to people misusing religion for their own gain and people being manipulated into believing it all – it seems like that’s a theme in the books I read.  Alternatively, that may be the theme I pick up on because that fits my world view.

Elijah is being adopted after being removed from his mother’s care.  His adoptive family is made up of a Nigerian man and an English woman who is white.  They are not told all the details of what happened to him because his birth mother is under psychiatric care and revealing what she has said would violate her privacy.

Elijah thinks that he has a wizard inside him who makes him do bad things and makes the people around him have bad luck.  Only his adoptive grandfather who is from Nigeria understands partially what he means.  No one else has the cultural vocabulary to discuss this with him.  Even though many of the caseworkers are of Nigerian ancestry they are English and don’t understand how real the wizard is to Elijah’s birth mother.

This is a short book that discusses some of the potential problems with transcultural adoption. It also highlights the joys involved too.

 

23 Nov, 2015

I Am Malala

/ posted in: Reading I Am Malala I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb
on October 8th 2013
Pages: 327
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Pakistan

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

Goodreads

Nonfiction-November-2015

 

For the last week of Nonfiction November, there is a discussion of the group read, I Am Malala over at Doing Dewey.

1. What did you think of the tone and style in which I Am Malala was written?

While the story is interesting and important, I don’t think that this is a very good book.  It is very choppy.  That is probably because it is written in collaboration with a teenager and an adult coauthor.  While you can’t be sure who wrote what, there are definitely style changes in the book between when she is talking about things that happened directly to her and her family and when the background history is being laid out.

Another confusing point is that there is a young readers edition of this book that has the same name.  I originally got that one from the library by mistake.  I read a little bit of that one and it didn’t seem so disjointed.

2. What did you think of the political commentary in the book?

The commentary is what I would expect from someone who has gone through what this family has.  I hadn’t realized that her father had run a private school that allowed girls to study.  He used Malala as an example of what education could do for girls.  She spoke to the media and had an anonymous column on a website about education for girls.  That’s why she was considered a target.

I think that the background of the situation that is included in this book is very important.  It shows how little decisions in the lives of the people can add up to big changes over time.  The thing I found most scary is the story of how an uneducated guy in town got a radio show and started espousing ideas that a lot of the population adopted to the eventual detriment of the whole society.  That can so easily happen here too.

3. Did anything particularly surprise you about Malala’s daily life or culture?

The emphasis on honor and getting revenge for every slight made me sad.  That is such a horrible way to live.  There can’t be any peace if you can’t ever forgive.

I was struck by her assertion that Pakistanis love conspiracy theories.  She mentions that people don’t necessarily believe that she was shot.  Just reading the reviews on Goodreads supports this.  Some are really nasty about how it was all made up.

4. Do you think you would act similarly to Malala in her situation? If you were her parents, would you let her continue to be an activist despite possible danger?

I don’t think her parents let her be an activist.  Her father made her be an activist. He was using her as a face and a voice of his defiance of the Taliban.  I don’t think that he thought that they would do anything to a kid.  I think it was hardest for him when she was shot because he realized that he had focused the attention of the Taliban on her and hadn’t set up any of the security protocols that he had for himself.

I think it was good and brave to stand up the brutality and anti-intellectualism that was sweeping over their country.  I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so open in my defiance knowing what the regime was doing to dissidents.

5. What did you think of the book overall?

I think this book should have waited a few years.  It ends rather abruptly.  There have been other interesting things in her life that would have added to the story.  Publishing this book so quickly doesn’t allow enough time to pass to be able to discuss what happened in response to her shooting.  I would have preferred to read a book written about five to ten years after the shooting to see what impact it had.  Then the book wouldn’t have had to be padded so much when the shooting could be the beginning of the story instead of the end.

19 Nov, 2015

Meet Me In Atlantis

/ posted in: Reading Meet Me In Atlantis Meet Me in Atlantis by Mark Adams
on March 10th 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: History, Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set mostly in Europe

A few years ago, Mark Adams made a strange discovery: Far from alien conspiracy theories and other pop culture myths, everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis comes from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. Stranger still: Adams learned there is an entire global sub-culture of amateur explorers who are still actively and obsessively searching for this sunken city, based entirely on Plato's detailed clues. What Adams didn't realize was that Atlantis is kind of like a virus--and he'd been exposed.

Goodreads

First line –

We had just met the previous week in Bonn, my new German acquaintance and I, and here we were on the west coast of Africa on a hot Thursday morning, looking for an underwater city in the middle of the desert.

Most people don’t realize that everything we know about Atlantis comes from Plato.  Basically, he tells a story about finding this information in some papers of his ancestor Solon.  Solon traveled all over.  On a trip to Egypt a priest tells him a story about a civilization that was destroyed by water 9000 years ago.  There are a lot of very specific descriptions of the size and set up of Atlantis.  People have been looking for it ever since.

But, is it a real story or an allegory?  If there is a kernel of truth to it, what part is true?  There are many ancient Mediterranean powers that were destroyed by natural disasters.  Any one of them could have been the basis of the story if you discount the 9000 years before Solon’s time part.

The idea that Atlantis was on an island in the middle of the Atlantic comes from an American named Ignatius Donnelly who I learned about in this book.

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the FreeIdiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

(That’s a good book too.)

Most everyone else is looking in Spain, Morocco, or on islands around the western Mediterranean.

This book doesn’t give you any answers but it is an interesting look at what is known and what can be known about ancient civilizations. Some intriguing work is being down with under water exploration because many ancient cities are now in areas that are in the sea.

I now know more about Plato than I’d ever thought I would know. I skipped the chapter on his numerical theories though. It made my eyes hurt.

11 Nov, 2015

The Birds of Panedomium

/ posted in: Reading The Birds of Panedomium The Birds of Pandemonium by Michele Raffin
on October 7th 2014
Pages: 218
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
California

Each morning at first light, Michele Raffin steps outside into the bewitching bird music that heralds another day at Pandemonium Aviaries. A full symphony that swells from the most vocal of more than 350 avian throats representing more than 40 species.
Pandemonium, the home and bird sanctuary that Raffin shares with some of the world's most remarkable birds, is a conservation organization dedicated to saving and breeding birds at the edge of extinction, with the goal of eventually releasing them into the wild. In The Birds of Pandemonium, she lets us into her world--and theirs. Birds fall in love, mourn, rejoice, and sacrifice; they have a sense of humor, invent, plot, and cope. They can teach us volumes about the interrelationships of humans and animals.
Their amazing stories make up the heart of this book. There's Sweetie, a tiny quail with an outsize personality; the inspiring Oscar, a disabled Lady Gouldian finch who can't fly but finds a brilliant way to climb to the highest perches of his aviary to roost. The ecstatic reunion of a disabled Victoria crowned pigeon, Wing, and her brother, Coffee, is as wondrous as the silent kinship that develops between Amadeus, a one-legged turaco, and an autistic young visitor.

Goodreads

Michelle Raffin didn’t know anything about birds when an injured dove came into her life.  She took it to an avian veterinarian and that experience led to visiting an exotic bird breeder.  She and her husband left there with several varieties of exotic pigeons.  Over time, she got involved in rescue and rehab until her suburban backyard was full of aviaries.

The learning curve when keeping birds is steep.  It is especially hard when trying to keep and breed endangered species that haven’t done well in captivity before.  A lot of luck and detective skills are needed.  I don’t think I would do well with this because it is more similar to ranching than keeping pet birds.  You need to focus on the good of the flock more than on what is best for an individual bird.  That can lead to making some hard choices if you are attached to the birds.

I am familiar with mostly with parrots and didn’t know much about the personalities of the birds that she focuses on.  It was interesting to hear about their lives.  She does have some parrots inside.  She has a morning dance party with them.  I’m trying to get my Senegal parrot to be more active so maybe I’ll try this too.

 

04 Nov, 2015

A Donkey’s Tale: Saving Simon

/ posted in: Reading A Donkey’s Tale:  Saving Simon Saving Simon by Jon Katz
on October 7th 2014
Pages: 224
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.   In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection.

Goodreads

 

I love donkeys.  I knew that reading a book about a neglected donkey would be tough.  The opening chapters tell the story of Simon being left for dead in a pen without after food or water except for what is smuggled to him by his owner’s son.  Eventually the son calls the authorities and Simon is taken away.

He ends up on the author’s farm.  He is nursed back to health over time. The author has learned slowly to love donkeys and understand their ways.

“They are agreeable creatures, but they do not like being told what to do, and if you show that you really want them to do something that doesn’t involve food, you may be standing out in the sun for a long time.”

The author uses the story of his recovery to contemplate the meaning of compassion.

“But it seemed to me, I thought, standing out in my pasture, that the love of animals has made many people less compassionate to humans.  The very idea of animal rights in our time is equated with hostility, rage, and self-righteousness.”

He is telling Simon’s story on his blog and his readers are outraged when he reaches out to the man who neglected Simon.  He doesn’t go to him in judgement but to hear his side of the story.

“And why, I kept asking, are people who love animals so angry at people?”

This is an interesting topic for me.  I’m definitely on the “love animals, don’t care about people” side of the divide but I’m not nearly as hostile as some people I see especially in the rescue community.

“The farmer was animal, a monster; he should be jailed, punished, tortured, even killed.  No one offered a single line of compassion or understanding or concern for him, or for his son, who had bravely helped Simon when he was starving.

The hatred and fury were shocking to me, disturbing; this idea of rescue was not compassionate for me.”

This reminded me of the outrage I saw on Twitter from civil rights activists around the time of the shooting of Cecil the Lion.  They didn’t understand why the world was upset over the shooting of one lion in Africa when people in Africa were dying all the time and when African-Americans were being shot by police.  I didn’t have a good answer for that.  I still don’t.


 

Spoilers

After reading this book I saw the author bio below.  See the issue?  No Simon.  I went to the author’s website to follow up.  It turns out that Simon died unexpectedly shortly after the publication of this book.  That was a downer but he had a few good years where he was loved and well cared for.  He turned into a bully towards the end of the book and I don’t know how I feel about the story of pony he terrorized.  It was disturbing all around.

About Jon Katz

Jon Katz is an author, photographer, and children’s book writer. He lives on Bedlam Farm with his wife, the artist Maria Wulf, his four dogs, Rose, Izzy, Lenore and Frieda, two donkeys, Lulu and Fanny, and two barn cats.

03 Nov, 2015

My Questions for Nudists after reading Naked at Lunch

/ posted in: Reading My Questions for Nudists after reading Naked at Lunch Naked at Lunch by Mark Haskell Smith
on June 2nd 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set mostly in Europe

People have been getting naked in public for reasons other than sex for centuries. But as novelist and narrative journalist Mark Haskell Smith shows in Naked at Lunch, being a nudist is more complicated than simply dropping trou. "Nonsexual social nudism,” as it’s called, rose to prominence in the late nineteenth century. Intellectuals, outcasts, and health nuts from Victorian England and colonial India to Belle Époque France and Gilded Age Manhattan disrobed and wrote manifestos about the joys of going clothing-free. From stories of ancient Greek athletes slathered in olive oil to the millions of Germans who fled the cities for a naked frolic during the Weimar Republic to American soldiers given "naturist” magazines by the Pentagon in the interest of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, Haskell Smith uncovers nudism’s amusing and provocative past.

Goodreads

The author of this book did a great job explaining what it is like to be at a nudist resort or activity and to take part even if it is something that you thought that you’d never do.

“There’s a refreshing honesty to shopping naked.  In the textile world, people always check each other out, imagining what the other person might look like naked — don’t be coy, you know you do — but when you can clearly see the breasts of the woman next to you or the penis of the man standing behind you — in fact, when all around you are bare breasts and dangling penises and buttocks and bodies — well, a lot of the puerile fantasy that is commonplace in our society just disappears.”

Buttocks Not Burkas! should be the new battle cry.

He talks about different societies’ takes on indecency laws.  Here’s the situation in a lot of the U.S.

“So, essentially, if some random dude, like a park ranger, finds your breasts erotic in some way, then it’s your responsibility to cover them.  It’s no longer your decision, but the dirty mind of a stranger, that decides if you’re indecently exposed or not.”

He discusses the history of different nudist movements.  It was big in Germany between the World Wars.

“Hermann Goring declared that nudism ‘destroys women’s natural feeling of shame, and causes men to lose respect for women, thereby destroying the basis for any real culture.’  Is he saying that real culture comes from women living in shame?  What does that even mean?”


I learned a lot from this book.  I feel like I can drop interesting factoids about nudism into conversation now.  I like that after reading a nonfiction book.  However, I do still have a few questions.

How are you not fried to a crisp?

This one was discussed.  He was very worried about sunblock.  I’m a burner.  Just going to the beach requires spackling on huge amounts of sunblock.  When I come out of the water I tend to lay with towels over me as a physical barrier to the deadly sun.  I still burn.

What about chafing?

There is a section on naked hiking in the Alps.  I don’t like wearing a skirt without bike shorts underneath because my legs touch.  How are people hiking naked?  I went to their website for purely research purposes and checked out the pictures.  Maybe I’m just fatter than everyone else but that has to be an issue.  Do you just put on a lot of Body Glide and hope for the best?

Ladies, isn’t playing sports painful?

I like quite a bit of scaffolding in the chest so my bits aren’t flopping all over and getting in the way.  Are other people’s body parts just better behaved than mine?

Why are there no men at the Outdoor Co-ed Topless Pulp Fiction Appreciation Society?

Yes, there is a topless book club in New York City.  They have a webpage.  They look like they are having a great time with lots of activities.

Are you all just preparing for the destruction of Earth?

Everywhere you go in these events you are reminded to always have a towel with you to sit on.  Am I the only one who thinks immediately of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s command to always carry a towel with you in case you need to hitch a ride off a planet?  Coincidence?


 

“So what if people want to go skinny-dipping at the beach?  If it really bothers you, maybe you need to take a long look at yourself and figure out why it bothers you.”

Have you ever been to a social nudist event?  Would you go?

 

16 Oct, 2015

Life From Scratch

/ posted in: Reading Life From Scratch Life from Scratch by Sasha Martin
on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Witty, warm, and poignant, food blogger Sasha Martin's memoir about cooking her way to happiness and self-acceptance is a culinary journey like no other.

Over the course of 195 weeks, food writer and blogger Sasha Martin set out to cook--and eat--a meal from every country in the world. As cooking unlocked the memories of her rough-and-tumble childhood and the loss and heartbreak that came with it, Martin became more determined than ever to find peace and elevate her life through the prism of food and world cultures. From the tiny, makeshift kitchen of her eccentric, creative mother, to a string of foster homes, to the house from which she launched her own cooking adventure, Martin's heartfelt, brutally honest memoir reveals the power of cooking to bond, to empower, and to heal--and celebrates the simple truth that happiness is created from within.

Goodreads

 

Sasha Martin’s life hasn’t been easy.  She grew up with her brother and mother in poverty in Boston.  Her mother had given custody of three older children to her ex-husband and would not tell her two youngest children who their father was.  Her mother was warm and creative and loved to cook meals with her kids, which instilled a love of cooking in Sasha.

After a few rounds of going into foster care and back out into their mother’s care, Sasha and her brother went to live with a family friend in entirely different circumstances.  Suddenly, she is traveling the world and living in Europe during high school.  That life ended when she went to college and had to find a way to make it on her own.

Years later, after marrying and having a child, she decides to start a blog and cook one meal a week from a different country of the world.  She starts with Afghanistan in week one and goes alphabetically through all 195 countries.


Although this is marketed as a food blogger memoir, most of the book is about her childhood and life before the blog.  The story is harrowing and sad and would be unbelievable if written in a fictional book.  Her mother is a larger than life character who is in turns inspiring and exasperating.

When the book turns to blogging there are interesting discussions about what went on behind the scenes and her decision making processes about what should go on the blog.  Should she admit that she poisoned herself with one meal?  How do you deal with furious commenters who are mad that her Indian meal was simple foods for a child’s birthday party?

There are several recipes in the book.  Some of them are incredibly intense and some are simple.  I’m not sure that I’m going to try any of them because a lot are meat based but there are some that could be adapted.  There is a chocolate rice pudding that sounds good.

This book would be good for people who like memoirs like Julie and Julia.

15 Oct, 2015

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

/ posted in: Reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin The Hundred Thousand Kingdomss by N. K. Jemisin
on February 25th 2010
Pages: 432
Series: Inheritance #1
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.
With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together.

Goodreads

Yeine is raised in Darr, a matriarchal society.  Her paternal grandmother is from the ruling family and her mother was formerly the heir to the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  She was raised to be a warrior and has been named the leader of the country.

But when her mother mysteriously dies, she is ordered to come to Sky, the capital Kingdoms and compete to be the heir to her grandfather.  Yeine’s mother was her grandfather’s only child and her abdication to marry a lowly Darr man set up a power struggle that Yeine is now a victim of.

Yeine isn’t prepared for the brutal politics of Sky.  Thousands of years ago there were three gods in the land.  A war between them killed one, elevated another, and enslaved the third and their offspring.  Now the rulers of Sky can command the captured gods to do their will and their will is usually monstrous.  Yeine knows that she is a pawn in the game between her cousins for control of the kingdom.  She doesn’t want to play their game but doesn’t want to see either of them win leadership.  She doesn’t know that she is a pawn in a long plan of the gods to win their freedom also.


N.K. Jemisin is an author that I’ve been planning on reading for a long time.  I told myself that I was absolutely going to read one of her books during #Diversiverse this year.  I’m glad I held myself to that.

What I Liked

The world building was wonderful in this book.  You slowly learn the limits that have been put on the captured gods and how the people use them for their own entertainment.

Yeine is an outsider.  She was raised by a mother that she remembers as kind but who everyone in the capital remembers as being wonderfully cruel.  She is trying to understand her mother’s life objectively and not through the eyes of a child.  She also wants to help her small country but every move she makes to help is countered by her cousins who are more used to playing political games.  She was trained as a warrior and it shows in her interactions with people.  She comes from a matriarchal society and is used to being powerful. The implications of that society come through in passages like this where she realizes the depth of Darr’s vulnerability to attack when she hears that the men are being armed.

What Could Have Been Better

For all the incredible elements this isn’t a book that is going to stay in my mind for a long time.  I can already feel details slipping and I just finished it yesterday.  It is an interesting read but isn’t deep enough to be a favorite.

I will be reading more of her books though.

 

10 Oct, 2015

Bento Box in the Heartland

/ posted in: Reading Bento Box in the Heartland Bento Box in the Heartland by Linda Furiya
on 2006
Pages: 307
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs, Cooking, Regional & Ethnic, Japanese
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

While growing up in Versailles, an Indiana farm community, Linda Furiya tried to balance the outside world of Midwestern America with the Japanese traditions of her home life. As the only Asian family in a tiny township, Furiya's life revolved around Japanese food and the extraordinary lengths her parents went to in order to gather the ingredients needed to prepare it. As immigrants, her parents approached the challenges of living in America, and maintaining their Japanese diets, with optimism and gusto. Furiva, meanwhile, was acutely aware of how food set her apart from her peers: She spent her first day of school hiding in the girls' restroom, examining her rice balls and chopsticks, and longing for a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. Bento Box in the Heartland is an insightful and reflective coming-of-age tale. Beautifully written, each chapter is accompanied by a family recipe of mouth-watering Japanese comfort food.

Goodreads

Linda Furiya grew up in rural Indiana, far away from the traditional Japanese culture that her parents tried hard to emulate.  She didn’t understand why her lunches were different than other kids’.  She was embarrassed to hear her parents trying to talk to people in public, especially when other people didn’t make an effort to understand them.  She didn’t want to invite people over to her house because it was so different than other peoples’.

Her parents had amazing life stories that she didn’t appreciate until she was much older.  Her father was a U.S. citizen who went back to Japan as a child.  He was then sent away as an indentured servant.  He ended up as a Russian translator in the Japanese army during World War II.  He came back to the United States and worked in the poultry farming industry because it was the only work he could get.

Her mother was the daughter of rice merchants in Tokyo.  Her mother died and her father remarried and had other children.  This dropped her status in the family to that of a servant.  After the war, she lived on her own and had a job but gave it up to marry a stranger who lived the United States.

Her parents longed to have familiar Japanese food but couldn’t find it in Indiana.  They made monthly trips to stores in Cincinnati or Chicago to find the ingredients they needed or had things shipped from Japan.  Japanese comfort food became a common link between people who were very different but only had each other to rely on.

The author tells the story of growing up as the child of immigrants through the food that they loved.  Each chapter ends with a recipe.  Most of them are heavy on the meat so I won’t be trying them but there is one recipe for Rice Balls that sounds good.  There is also a dessert recipe using agar agar instead of gelatin to make a Jello-like dish that I’d like to try since gelatin is made from animals and agar agar is from algae.

The author doesn’t shy away from talking about how she treated her parents horribly for being Japanese.  It wasn’t until after college that she lived in a city with a large Asian population and understood that being Asian wasn’t automatically a bad thing.  This book is a great look into the immigrant experience through the eyes of a child.

About Linda Furiya

Furiya grew up in rural Indiana, where her Japanese family went to great lengths to acquire traditional Asian ingredients. She became a journalist and food writer; Bento Box In The Heartland, her memoir of growing up in the Midwest, is her first book. She lives in Vermont.

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